First Birthday, First Grade, First Holidays Alone

I’ve been silent here for a while.  A LONG while.  It’s been hard to not write, to not process through words on a screen.  But I wasn’t ready I guess.

Tonight I am more ready.

We are all looking back on 2013, reflecting on all we’ve done, seen, experienced these last 365 days before at new year starts.

2013 brought the first birthday of my baby girl!  It was quite a celebration considering all the difficulties of her first year!  In past centuries, and even in past decades, she wouldn’t have lived because of her heart defects.  But God gave us wonderful doctors, medicine and His healing and she was able to celebrate her first birthday healthy, happy, and full of energy!

Caleb started first grade!  It seems like we were just watching HIM smear birthday cake all over HIS one year old face.  But, he is now 6 and doing so well in first grade.  We have learned a lot about him and his Sensory Processing Disorder this year, as well as having some great tools in place to help him be successful at school.

We got our first snow blower this year!  After years of living on a long corner lot and shoveling…and shoveling….and shoveling, a friend was selling her snow blower and we grabbed it up!  How nice that has been this winter already!

But the most recent first has been spending my first holidays alone.  Without the man I’ve (literally) spend half my life with.

Tim and I separated the week before Thanksgiving.  Some things came up in our marriage that necessitated taking some time apart.  I don’t know how this separation will end at this point.  God hasn’t shown me that yet.  I really wish He would, but He knows this is a process and He can’t show me everything right now.  And I hate that.

This time of year has always been about family for me.  Celebrating together with all the family we can drag together as often as possible.  Eating too much food together.  Sharing gifts with one another.  As kids we could always count on seeing our cousins several times in these last months of the year.  We would play with our new Christmas presents together, or model our new clothes as we got older.  We had silly family traditions we enjoyed.  But family was always so central to this holiday season.

I still saw my family this season.  We still exchanged gifts.  We still ate too much together.

But it was so different for me.

Tim wasn’t there.  For the first time in 17 years, Tim wasn’t there.  We started dating in October and he came home with me for Thanksgiving that next month.  And we’ve been together for every holiday since.

But not this year.

And I’m really having to wrestle with God again.  I wanted so badly to FEEL His presence.  To keep Him the focus of Christmas.  To really concentrate on WHY we are celebrating this time of year.

But there were so many other emotions getting in the way.  So many other questions in my brain.  So much stress.  It seemed the more I wanted to feel close to God, the farther away He felt.

My heart and my head are in great conflict.  My head “KNOWS” the Truth.  My head chooses to believe that what the Bible says is true, that God loves me, that He has not left me, that He is with me and walking through this pain with me.

But my heart denies it.  My heart needs God to prove Himself in some way.  My heart doesn’t trust God right now.

I’ll be honest.  I’ll be vulnerable.

I am having a hard time trusting God right now.

I WANT to trust Him.  Because I feel so alone.  I want to FEEL His presence with me.  I want to let Him in.

But I’m scared.

Because as if all this wasn’t hard enough, Tim got in a car accident last night and his car was totaled.

HOW could a loving God add THAT to the stresses right now??  REALLY?!?!?

But, again, I know in my HEAD that God is not doing this TO me.  Because, really, Tim really could have been killed in that accident.  But instead walked away with aches and pains but no (to my knowledge) serious injuries.  God WAS protecting him.

But, still, REALLY?!?!?!?!?!

I’m taking a huge risk writing this and putting this all out there.  But, maybe, someone else out there is wrestling with God.  Wondering if there is a God.  Feeling far from Him during this time of year.  Maybe your head and heart don’t agree.  Maybe you feel lonely and alone.

I just want to say, you’re not alone.  Someone else out there feels like you do.

In the Jewish culture, after someone dies, family and friends gather around those who are left behind in mourning and they sit shiva.  They don’t offer advice.  They don’t try to make the grieving person “feel better” or tell them it will all be ok.  They just sit.  They are just there.  If the person wants to talk, they listen.  If they want to cry, they offer a tissue.  If they want silence, they sit in silence.

I don’t have all the answers.  I probably don’t have any answers you want because I KNOW I don’t have any answers I want!

But I will sit shiva with you.  As we grieve.  And wonder why.

If you’re willing, share along with me.  You don’t have to, and you don’t have to share more than you want.  But I would love to hear from you.

I’m hurting too.  A lot.  But I’m going to keep believing, at least in my head until it gets to my heart, that God is sitting shiva with us.

 

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Protect and Serve

Today I was fortunate to attend a “Stop Child Sex Trafficking Advocacy and Awareness Workshop” put on by Exploit No More.  Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies. (taken from their website)

The issue of human trafficking is such a ginormous issue – both worldwide AND in our own backyard.  We are focusing here on the Milwaukee area, but wherever you’re reading this, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you to find that this atrocity is happening with alarming frequency right where you live as well.

There are so many things I’m processing from today’s workshop, so I figured I would just START here!

Girls get tricked into human trafficking and sex trafficking in a variety of ways and in a variety of places.  They are “recruited” outside their middle and high schools, in malls (yes, in our own Bayshore, Mayfair and Southridge Malls!), outside group homes, on their own front doorsteps.

Men look for young girls who can be manipulated and groomed for this “industry”.  Oftentimes these girls come from homes where they don’t have love, security, someone watching out for them.  Their mom may work many hours, dad has never been in the picture.  Mom may numb her pain with drugs or alcohol.  These girls may not get 3 meals every day.  They don’t get GOOD attention at home.  They’re probably already been molested in their life.  So a man comes along telling her how special and beautiful she is.  He offers to take her out for a meal.  He showers her with attention.  He makes her feel some security.  She feels “taken care of”.

His manipulation is in full swing.  She wants to do whatever he asks because he’s taking care of her.  She becomes fiercely loyal to him.  No one at home notices her.  No one notices how long she’s gone or who she’s with.

He can now take her away easily.  He can get her hooked on drugs and/or alcohol because she trusts him when he says it will be fun.  It will make her feel good.  If she loves him she will do this with him.  It’s something they can do TOGETHER.

He has her hooked.  On him AND substances.  He can now use force, beatings, torture because she NEEDS him.  She needs him for her next fix.

He requires her to work for her fix.  He sells her and while she is out getting beat, raped, traded on the street as a piece of property, he is sitting back getting high and searching out his next girl.

Meanwhile her soul is getting crushed, obliterated.  Her self worth is being ripped away from her.  Her mind is getting warped beyond recognition.  Her body is full of bruises, cuts, sores, filled with disease and pain.  He keeps her drugged up so her conscience doesn’t come to the surface.  She has to be numbed out so she doesn’t fully grasp what is happening to her.

But where did all this start?  Did a little 3, 5, 7 year old girl look forward to the day when she could be traded on the street?

Of course not!

It started with an innocent child not getting what she needed at home to fill her up.  To remind her of her precious worth.  She didn’t feel secure, loved, valued.

So, what can we do about that?

We get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem and think, “I’m only one person.  What can I do?  I live in the ‘burbs, I don’t know anyone like that.”

But maybe you do.  Maybe YOU could help KEEP a girl from going there?

I got to thinking……

I can watch the children in my kids’ classes.  I can see the friends in Adara’s class (when she goes to school).  If one of those girls comes from a home where she is alone a lot, where she doesn’t get the attention she needs, I can provide some of that for her.  Is she lonely a lot?  I can invite her over for dinner.  I can take her home from school and help her with her homework.  When I take Adara out to a movie, I can bring her along.  I can use words that specifically tell her the value I see in her.  I can build her up.  I can help her feel a self worth.  I can show her where all that comes from – a God that is desperately in love with her and SEES her.  I can never replace her mom, but I can help her mom.

I can also give Adara this vision.  I can teach her to SEE her fellow class mates.  I will always PROTECT Adara, but I shouldn’t SHELTER her.  Sure, this friend is likely to use language we don’t use in our house.  She will likely wear clothes I won’t allow Adara to wear.  She will probably see movies and listen to music that won’t be approved of in this house.  I have the choice to shelter Adara from “kids like that”….OR I can engage Adara in conversations about those precious PEOPLE and she can have God’s heart for them.  We, as a family, can serve them and share God and ourselves with them.

As I write this I have a knot in my stomach.  Adara is only 20 months old right now.  What happens when God calls me on this?  What happens when Adara IS in school and I’m required to make good on this “idea” right now?  And Caleb – he’s in first grade.  This could happen right now.

I pray that what God showed me today will be burned in my heart and I will gladly open my heart to these precious children and “make good” on what He has showed me today.  That I will SEE them and pour His love and worth into them so they DON’T end up being easily manipulated by someone who only wants to use and abuse them.

Naming Yourself

I process best out loud.  In college I studied best in a group.  If I was left to study alone I was a mess!  Get me together with a study group and things were clicking, I was more able to organize, I remembered more and retained more.

So, as I’m reading this reading plan in my YouVersion Bible app, sometimes I feel the need to process here.

The particular study I read was about the book of Ruth.   More specifically, about Naomi in the book of Ruth.

Naomi lost her husband, then both of her sons.  In that time, if you didn’t have a man, you had nothing!  She was in bad shape after losing her husband and sons.  She did, however, have two very devoted daughters-in-law.  They wanted to stay with Naomi after their husbands died.  One did eventually go back to her family (after much pleading from Naomi to do so), but Ruth stayed with Naomi.  She left her own family, her “gods”, her everything and stayed with Naomi and adopter her faith.

As Naomi and Ruth entered the land and people Naomi was from, she renamed herself.  She asked everyone to call her Mara meaning “bitter”.  She felt that God had brought such tragedy in her life that she needed to rename herself.

This got me thinking about the names we rename ourselves:

Fat

Ugly

Worthless

Bad friend/wife/husband/mother/father/sister/brother

Failure

Depressed

Broken

Stupid

Hopeless

Unlovable

Judged

No good

Invisible

Forgotten

I don’t know about you, but I have used many of those names on myself.  Some of us have probably been called some of those names to our faces!  Repeatedly.  Others we repeat to ourselves over and over and over.  They become our identity.  We believe wholeheartedly that those are the words that characterize and describe us.  They become our names.

But what if….

What if we looked at the names we SHOULD be naming ourselves?

It’s so much easier to accept these negative names.  We look at our lives, our choices, our circumstances and, like Naomi, think, “God has dealt me this hand.  God did this to me.  I did this to myself.  So why shouldn’t I be named __________?”

And yes, our choices in life do come with consequences.  And sometimes the choices of OTHERS affect our lives and our circumstances greatly.

But what if……

What if we work to look through our circumstances, what if we fight those names and look at what God calls us?  The names He gives us KNOWING FULL WELL what we have done and what has been done to us?

BELOVED

FORGIVEN

CHERISHED

TREASURE

WORTHY OF GREAT SACRIFICE

DAUGHTER OF THE KING

SON OF THE MOST HIGH

BEAUTIFUL CREATION

GIFTED

LOVED

CREATED WITH A PURPOSE

FREE

KNOWN

SEEN BY THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE

HEALED

WORTHY

HOPEFUL

Why is it so much easier to hear, accept, and take on the names from the first list?

The names from the second list are our true identities!

Can we help each other rename ourselves with our TRUE names?

It’s hard!

But if we treat each other as if these are their names, maybe we can help each other to retain our true, God-given identities.  Who knows, you might actually change someone’s life!

YOU are God’s beloved, cherished child!  Live like it!  And treat others as such!  Let’s change our names!

It’s Not Just a Job

1005507_10151669234036158_600362390_nI think we all have days when we go through the motions.  We go to work and just “put in our time” to get the job done and make it through the day.  Even in a job we love, there are days when we are just getting through the day.  If it’s a job we don’t like…YIKES!  Then MOST days “it’s JUST A JOB!”  A means to an end!

But in parenting, that’s really not an option.  Well, not a GOOD option anyway.

I’ve had some days lately where I find myself just getting through the day.  I’ve realized there are moments when staying home with the kids all day is “just my job”.

And I’ve realized how damaging that attitude can be.

It just snuck up on me.  It wasn’t an intentional decision.

I think like most parents I just keep going.  Keep pressing on.  There’s always a list a mile long of things that need to get done between meal prep, naps, playing with the kids, cleaning up, changing diapers and answering a zillion questions.

There is little time left to recharge before you pass out from exhaustion.

But this Parenting Position is not just a job.

These are actually little human beings!  Who will grow up to be big human beings all too quickly.

While that perspective adds more pressure to my already tense psyche, it’s true and needs to be remembered.

I can’t just do the bare minimum to get through the day.  I can’t just keep the kids relatively clean and fed with mostly healthy-ish food.  There’s so much more to these little human beings.

They have a spiritual element that needs to be fostered, an intellect that needs to be challenged, a creative side that needs to be explored, a self esteem that needs to be built up….they are complex little beings!  Just as we all are.

And these little human beings are quite amazing when you take time to look at them.  To really see them.  Their silly faces.  Crazy comments.  Funny perspectives they have.  Their sense of humor.  Their “dreams”.  They are whole human beings!  🙂

Sometimes I wish I could just punch in 9-5, put in my time, and be done with my job.

But God has chosen to give me the two most precious gifts in the world.  They are gifts, not burdens.  Parenting is a privilege, not just a position.

Leah’s are Adorable too!

A few girlfriends and I meet every other Monday to chat, enjoy each other’s company, and have some “spiritual” conversation.  (Between us we have 7 kids age 1.5 – 8 years old running around too, so conversations are a bit fragmented!) We’ve been using the app YouVersion to read some of the Bible between the times we get together and then briefly discuss some of what we read.  We’ve done this just a few times but I always look forward to my “Girl Time”!

These past couple weeks we’ve been reading from one particular reading plan that includes a “devotional” with each section of verses we read.  We all have found we prefer that – it gives us a little focus of what to get out of the verses we read.

Anywhoo….

One that I read last night (I always do it in bed before I go to sleep…it’s quiet then!) hit my heart big time.  It was about Leah and Rachel.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel because she was so beautiful.  He worked for her father for 7 years to earn her hand in marriage.  But, at the last minute, her father switched her with her older sister Leah and he was married to her instead.  It was not custom for the younger sister to marry first, and apparently her father wasn’t sure he could “marry off” the older/uglier sister.  So, Jacob worked ANOTHER 7 years so he could actually marry his love, Rachel.

The verses talk about how hurt Leah was because she KNEW Jacob didn’t love her.  His love and adoration belonged to Rachel.  God saw her pain and blessed her with 6 sons which Rachel couldn’t give him children.  Leah thought for sure all these SONS would earn her favor in her husband’s eyes.  But that didn’t happen.

The gist of the devotional was that we all feel like a Leah at one time or another.  For some of us we may feel like her all the time.  Or at least often.

But God doesn’t see us that way.  He looks adoringly at us ALL THE TIME.

We are to look for that love, those glances of recognition and adoration from God and THAT should fill our love tank from the inside.

Speaking as one who has ALWAYS felt like a Leah, that hit me hard.

I’ve NEVER been “the pretty one”.  I’m pretty plain.  And as the years wear on it ain’t getting any better!  😉

As a teenager I remember several times I was passed over by guys I was interested in for close friends and my more beautiful and vibrant cousin.  Guys would talk to me simply because I was with those girls.  I’m totally serious!

My sister is drop dead gorgeous!  She is the younger “Rachel” and I’m the older “Leah” for sure!

And as someone who was cheated on, it’s hard to fight those “Leah feelings”.  It’s very hard to fight feeling like I’m not “good enough”.

But I shouldn’t be looking to what other people think of me.  I shouldn’t even look to Tim to fill that part of me.

I need to work on accepting love from my Abba again.  My Daddy’s love for me needs to be enough.  I need to LET him love me, hold me, heal me, fill me, guide me, even try to believe that He adores me.

The Bible says He does.

I need to make my heart believe it.

I have prayed that for Adara so many times!  I pray that for Caleb as well, but there is something different about that for a girl.  I don’t want her life to be spent needing approval, affection, or adoration from others….ESPECIALLY GUYS!  I want her to be so filled with love from GOD FIRST, and then from her family that she has a sense of security that others long for.

And I need to pray that for me too.

Maybe she and I can work on that together!  😉