One is Silver and the Other’s Gold

Years ago, I could not wait to turn eighteen, graduate and leave the childhood home I grew up in on Sycamore Creek Drive. I wanted a fresh start and I never wanted to look back. I had many happy memories in that place but my inability to deal with my grief as an adolescent left a lot of those happy memories in the dark shadows of the ever looming grief I kept beneath what I believed to be was a tough-girl exterior.

And for a few years after high school ended I was able to make a fresh start for myself in a new place. I moved my life to Kentucky, attended school, started my first job, met my husband and got married.

However, I still held my grief beneath a tough-girl exterior. I was able to numb myself with positive things during my years in college and the early years of marriage. Things like an over-achieving course load, good grades, and countless activities and all around busyness which was a step up from the numbing drugs I had chosen during my days in high school; troublemaking, chasing boys, skipping school, drinking and a severe addiction to mixed cassette tapes- the fast-forwarding, flipping over to the other side, the rewinding- all to orchestrate the perfect anthem for car dancing from the from seat of my purple Dodge Neon.

Either way I look at how I tried to bury emotion and grief, whether it was the accolades or the vices of addition, I found myself severely attracted to things and tasks and extremely disconnected from people. When I acknowledge where I am tender I can see that I have completely lacked deep emotional intimacy with others.

Relationships are such a tricky, tender place for me and as I follow up on my last post, Changing from the Inside Out this past year I discovered this one sentence in a beautiful book on vulnerability,

“When we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

When I was a child, I remember singing an old Girl Scout song with my mom while I wore the prestigious brown brownie vest laden with colorful patches, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”

And over time as my arms outgrew that brownie vest and my mother passed away from breast cancer when I was a freshman in high school it became extremely difficult to listen to happy songs or think about how precious people are because I had lost something so dear and so precious. My heart hardened in my grief and this childhood song along with many others became distant whispers. These are the happy moments I lost in the shadows of that looming grief. And this is the place where relationships became a tender place for me.

I had friends. The Lord has blessed me with so many amazing people in my life. So many more than I deserve. But in burying grief, ignoring it and not wrestling through it I completely lost the ability to be emotionally intimate with anyone.

Years later, as an adult I was introduced to the God of the Bible. The verses from scripture seemed to go from words in an old dusty book on a shelf to God’s words to me, His redemption story of the world and how my life was a tiny thread in all of it.

Even though I had heard stories from the Bible before and sat in mass almost every Saturday night I had never read the Word of God for myself; but once I read them, it was like the piece I had been searching for underneath the empty accolades and addicting vices was finally sitting right in my lap. I had ears to hear God and a heart prepared to receive His perfect peace.

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9

One of the very first verses that brought me so much joy and freedom was from 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old has gone, the new is here!

In Christ, I believed I could start over completely. This is what I had wanted for so long. To separate the old from the new. To just be new. To start a new book for myself entirely. I wanted to forget the dark shadowy places, completely. I misinterpreted this to mean I could completely let go of the person who I was before I had those ears to hear.

The young girl listening to Girl Scout songs, the sad motherless girl, the troublemaking-disconnected teenager and the over-achieving sorority girl. I was given a new life and the freedom to start new.

My first few years as a new Christian I experienced a major identity crisis. When starting my new story, I had no idea who I actually was anymore.

And then. After so many years of running away, God called me back to a place not too far from my home on Sycamore Creek Drive. Just sixteen-point-three miles away to be exact.

And after eight years of living sixteen-point-three miles away and thirteen years of reading that verse from 2 Corinthians, I have discovered that God wasn’t leading me to start a new book but simply a new chapter. That my whole life, my entire story is bound together in the same book. I can’t just forget about who I was or dismiss it completely. God was writing a story for me from the beginning and my story is incomplete if I leave out the moments I left in the shadows on Sycamore Creek Drive. The highest peaks and the lowliest shadowy places are all apart of God’s work in my life.

This past year, as I looked my grief in the face and decided I would not be defined by it I was lead to a rediscovery of relationships with the people who I left back in those early chapters. The people and the relationships I have worked at restoring have been like neat little bridges to the stories of my past.

Some of those bridges which I believed to be the strongest have collapsed for reasons in which I can’t explain or understand. But many of them, even with all my running away, even in the dark shadows, by God’s grace those bridges remained sturdy and strong enough to step on, to walk on. Those bridges left in the shadows have had a foundation that was strong enough to walk towards someone else on the other side of it.

It has been terrifying to walk on those bridges. But it’s been a journey back to who I really am.

Some of the bridges have collapsed completely while I was standing right in the middle of them.

Some of them have needed desperate repair.

Some of them were shaky but the person on the other side met me so much more than halfway across and walked alongside me all the way back.

Because it sucks to face the dark places of your life. It is scary to face the ugly parts of yourself. But it is good to have others help you gather up the happy places and uncover them from the shadows.

And as I have been walking on those bridges back to who I used to be I have been thinking about that song. The one about old friends, new friends, the silver and the gold.

New friends are silver. They are precious but more easily tarnished simply because of the newness of the relationship. But the ones who make it through without tarnishing are precious.

Both relationships, old and new are valuable.

But the old relationships. Those relationships are gold. Like gold, the old relationships, the ones where the bridges have surprisingly stayed intact in the shadows, those relationships are gold. They are solid.

The laughs are still the same. You can tell your horrible jokes safely because your sense of humor is known and (mostly) unoffensive.

Those old relationships like gold have been portable, I’ve been able to carry them with me, they have made me who I am.They cannot be counterfeited, they do not perish and those old relationships are much more rare.

I have been surprised that I could come back to where I came from after so many years of running away from it. But in walking those bridges I have found precious, rare treasures.

And as I walk these bridges to my earlier chapters I am discovering that the gospel frees me to be vulnerable and emotionally intimate with others. That God is making me new by peeling back my layers of grief and He doesn’t want me to forget the old chapters but to see them with a new lens.

And I have not completely arrived in the area of emotional intimacy with others. I am still very much scratching the surface.

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

C.S Lewis, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

But in Christ, God is making me new. He is calling me to uncover the shadows and walk bravely in His love. That the God of the universe knows the early chapters completely and in His redemption of me I am fully known and deeply loved.

The more I discover the people who knew my dark-shadowed times will still laugh with me and rejoice with me and the more I walk in the truth that you can be fully known and deeply loved- these things free me to grow confident in my emotional intimacy with others. A cure is beginning.

Even though I out grew that Brownie Vest, the song is still true. It necessary to make new friends but just as necessary to keep the old. Both are the bridges to all of our chapters in all of our stories. One is silver and the other is gold.

Unraveling Grief

This very week, nineteen years ago I was riding in the front seat of our silver Town & Country minivan with my father manning the wheel. I stared out the window as we drove down Sycamore Creek Drive, my eyes fixed on the greening grass that streaked alongside the concrete curb.

I was fourteen, six weeks shy of fifteen and my father was about to say something to me in the privacy of that car, a simple sentence which would change me forever. I knew the words were coming. Every adult around me had been locked and loaded with the words for weeks probably bearing the weight of them and waiting for just the right time to delicately let the words leave their lips hoping the words would come out like the gentle drop of a pin instead of like an earth shattering atomic bomb.

I felt the weight of the words before they were even said. I knew they were coming, I was preparing for the earth shattering atomic bomb. As I prepared for the news I rehearsed the best way I knew how. Just like anyone would prepare for an air assault, I toughened up my exterior and pulled up my bootstraps. I was going to face the worst but appear like a strong fortress, absent of emotion, cold, but protected.

As I stared out the window, I heard my father say, “Rach, mom is going to die.”

12885736_10154673070497067_2570128072939602323_o

The words enveloped me. I had prepared for this exact moment and I responded in the best way I knew how. I kept staring out the window and all I could reply was, “I know.” As I stared and attempted to let disengagement consume me I felt warm tears begin to cover my eyes, turning the strong streaking line out my window into a blurry green blob, even mixing up sometimes with the grayness of the curb.

Staring at the green gray blob became too much so I drew my gaze in and I caught my reflection in the window. I saw the tears in my eyes reflected back at me and immediately I remember being overcome with disappointment in myself for not holding it together enough. For not being strong enough. For not preparing well enough emotionally to handle the news. And then the shame flooded in. I knew if I could see my reflection, my father could see it too. I knew he knew I was crying. I didn’t want him to know I was weak nor did I want to appear too emotional.

I felt the responsibly to be strong and brave in the waves of uncertainty and the shattered earth beneath my feet.

So the best I knew how I tried to go back inside my fortress to hide from my pain. I built walls. I hid behind a heavy mask and protected myself with layers of armor.

The armor I hid behind looked different in different seasons. In high school my armor was a tough girl exterior. I don’t think I wore it well but I flirted with rebellion, disengagement, relationships with men, drinking and recreational drugs. Anything I could get my hands on to help me escape my pain, I tried it. But my fixes weren’t fixing. My band-aids weren’t able to hold together the still open wounds underneath the armor and the masks.

I became exhausted from hiding beneath the bad to the bone girl I was trying to be in high school so in college I tried on some new ways to hid my pain from the world. For a season, during my days at Eastern Kentucky University I tried on the armor of busyness. Twenty-two hours a semester, 4.0s, overly-involved, mentor, sorority girl, chair of the committee, changing the world kind of busyness.

I never wanted to be known as the girl with the hard story so I ran from my hard story. Buried it so deep it even became difficult for me to remember my actual mother. I spent so long trying to be strong and burying pain that I lost even the happy pieces of the times I shared with her.

mom2

Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly,

“When we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”

I had spent so many years hiding from where I was tender that I wasn’t even sure anymore how and where I was tender.

Brown also goes on to write from her own experience,

“Slowly I learned that this shield was too heavy to lug around, and that the only thing it really did was keep me from knowing myself and letting myself be known. The shield required that I stay small and quiet behind it so as not to draw attention to my imperfections and vulnerabilities. It was exhausting.”

From my own experiences in unraveling my grief over the loss of my mother I could not agree more. I spent so many years hiding behind strong personas, I forgot who I really was. I lost myself. And I felt isolated because I never let anyone know the real me. And I didn’t have my mother present to tell me how to snap out of it.

For so many years I hid and then I lost myself. I felt like a balloon, not tethered to anything at all, just floating around.

It has only been in the last five years that I have been able to slowly unravel my misconceptions about my grief. When you are fourteen you think you know everything about the world and about strength but truth is I knew so little about strength, I knew nothing about it at all.

I thought strength and vulnerability were like that greening grass and the hard concrete I saw streaking outside the window on that April morning. Two very different things which before I felt tender I believed would never blur.

But it turns out, today I believe strength and vulnerability are actually a lot like the blurry blob of grass and concrete I saw out my window when I was feeling tender. To see them both blurred together as one thing. That strength requires vulnerability and it takes a whole lot more strength to be vulnerable than it does to pretend that you can just keep marching on and hide beneath armor and masks.

Now I understand that to hide my pain is not strength at all. It is weak, cold and inhuman.

So I have loosened the bootstraps, tried to get rid of my solider boots all together and I am slowly unraveling unhealthy patterns.

I am trying to be more tender. To learn and remember where I am tender.

I am trying to remember my mom. To cry and sometimes shout to myself, “It sucks that my mom is not here.” Sucks is not apart of my regular vocabulary but it seems to fit there for now.

When I let myself remember the emptiness I feel when I think about her it helps me remember that this life is just not the way it is supposed to be and I long for heavenly places where there is no more crying and no more tears.

I try to talk about my mom with my kids because they ask about her.

I try to remember my mom with my brother and sister. Though my vulnerability with them causes tears. I can only share a little and try to remember the blurring vision my tears cause and what I believe that means. Grief is not black and white, or green and gray streaks or little neat steps. I can’t check off the boxes when it comes to my grief.

Grief is jagg-ed and criss cross with both hard edges and smooth shining surfaces. Grief requires a constant unraveling of our hearts.

I try to sit and wait with a hurting heart. I wait because if I try to bandage it on my own, I will never truly heal. I sit and wait on a Good God who sees me while I wait and promises He will bind up the wounds, I only need to wait and be still. (Psalm 147:3)

2a4a6e737093d186c9df84e1c2dad58c

In the jagg-ed and criss-cross places of grief, I have unraveled enough to know now that it’s okay to lean into uncertainty and earth shattering grounds, to be tender and broken, exposed and known because I don’t have to appear strong at all. That I can delight in the broken and tender places. It is there where I find God glorified. It is there where I see him holding all the threads of myself together. Taking away threads of misconception and binding me up with His promises to me and His truth.

2-corinthians-12_9-10

And I’m not all the way redeemed in my grief. I still have so much more unraveling to do. I may have only begun to chip away at the surface. But I have so much more hope. I know there is a real and good God at work in my heart because I never could have been called out from behind the armor on my own. Little by little God is working on me. Making me more aware of where I am tender and helping me see that to grieve is to simply be human.

Am I Doing Enough?

 

I know you know the days. The rising, eyes barely open at the first murmur of a child and one tiptoe in front of the other with them down the stairs as not to wake the others. You crack open your Bible over their morning show and digest a few verses before someone else needs you.

You simply pray, “Lord, help me be enough today.” Because those six words are all the time you have to pray.

Then it’s breakfast, teeth brushing, packing lunches and socks and shoes. Kisses and waves for your big kids and then off to cleaning up breakfast.

You almost make it up the stairs to brush your own teeth and comb your own hair before someone else is needing you again. So you rush through your routine to read a book to the one needing you. Then it’s onto blocks, more books and the more fastening up of costumes.

I know you know the days when the clock moves faster than the needs and you feel like you can’t. So you one foot in front of the other are onto making the lunches, sweeping the crumbs off the floors and wiping the jelly off the tables.

And you breathe. You pray again, “Lord, thank you for these moments.” Because again, six word prayers are just about all you’ve got.

You fold and you vacuum, you do what work you have set before you for the afternoon while littles are sleeping and those minutes seem to swoop faster around the clock than the others.

You squeeze in that cup of coffee before the bus comes up the road and you pray again. “Lord, help me be enough for today.”

From bus drop off to dinner is utter chaos and you are barely hanging on. Every creak in the house or drip of the roof sounds like the garage door. You long for your helper to be home. To share the reading, the wresting, the conflict resolutioning.

It’s all a gift but a blur until those tiny babes are fed, bathed, pajamaed and tucked in.

You are thankful for the moments but exhausted and wondering if the Lord helped you be enough today. Because honestly, somedays you just don’t feel like you are enough. You fret and you worry if you met every need and listened to every heart. You wonder if you are caring for those God has given to you well.

And during bear hugs, kitty hugs and good night prayers your son whispers, “Mommy, you are God’s masterpiece.”

And you haven’t showered, changed out of your pajamas, read enough of your Bible or prayed more than eighteen words for the entire day. You feel like you are barely hanging on. But you recognize that to someone, you are more than enough.

Somehow in some crazy way, even though we are barely hanging on we are enough. On the days we feel like we are at our best, at our worst or mostly on those days we feel just like one foot in front of the other.

In Christ. In some crazy way, one foot in front of the other. He makes us a masterpiece to someone, somewhere and at sometime.

He is really making us new and using our daily one foot in front of the other.

I know you know too.

Thank you for passing this on to someone who needs it.

For The Love

A few years ago I had my very first school Valentine’s Day experience as a parent. I took my then one-year-old, two-year-old and four-year-old boys to Target the week before V-Day and bought some valentines in the seasonal section. I believe that was the year we picked some kind of Transformer cards. I signed their names for them and sent their valentines to school in a ziploc as requested by the teacher.

It was easy, the boys had fun picking out a manly valentine and I felt really good about what we had accomplished.

Until days later.

I had been out of town the day of the parties and I remember coming home to neatly stacked papers from school and both of the boys’ Valentine’s Day bags sitting on the counter.

As I opened their bags, I was expecting tiny store bought cards just like ours but I soon realized I was actually looking at tiny works of art, hand-crafted by two and four year olds. It then occurred to me that preschool valentines weren’t exactly as I remembered them.

My store bought Transformer cards brought me shame as I pieced through the Pinterest inspired mountain of love and friendship in front of my eyes.

So the following year I gave into my shame. The haunting shame shaped how I felt about my parenting. I caved into hurtful phrases like “What kind of mother sends their children to school with store bought Valentines?”

This may seem laughable to you but at my very core this is truly what happened to me. I let something as simple as measuring up my preschooler’s valentine to someone else’s shape the way I saw myself as a mom.

I found my worth and value in a piece of paper passed out at school, instead of the deep ultimate satisfaction that can be found in my identity in Christ alone.

I let comparison steal my joy. And that stolen joy and the shame that went with it had me living to be someone who God just hadn’t made me to be.

Unknown-9

I felt pressure to do Valentine’s Day like everyone else instead of being secure in who God made me to be, a store bought valentine kinda mom.

Year two I stressed about valentines. I researched Pinterest a month before Valentine’s Day. I selected a homemade craft valentine which included one hot wheel car per classmate. I was even impressing myself with my new found craftiness and I felt the ugliness and pride of a stroked ego when I thought about how other families may be impressed with my accomplishments as well.

There was no joy in making valentines with my kids that year. I trudged through the process. I was stressed and I was irritable over the valentines being perfect. There were even tears and some yelling at the boys because it all had to be just right.

Even when their bags came home and their valentines really had been some of the cutest, I still felt shame. The high I had felt from my impressive valentine was over before it even began. There was no lasting joy or pleasure. I had pressed on towards the goal of bringing praise to myself instead of bringing glory to a great God.

Unknown-10

I became angry about how I let comparison steal my joy and how the valentines I made with my boys weren’t a reflection of sending out love and kindness to friends at all because our valentines were actually made as a byproduct of a month of stress with the intention to impress a crowd.

I took a step back and in the quietness of my heart I was convicted when I asked myself, “Who were those Valentines for?”

Even after ten years of walking with Christ it seems to me that I still find myself slipping in to old patterns. It is still so easy to find myself standing on the shaky, insecure ground of wanting to impress others and stroking my ugly ego instead of standing firm on the secure foundation of living for the glory of God alone.

I felt sick when I realized what I had done in year two.

Year three I found myself back in the seasonal section at Target with my kindergartener and my two preschoolers. I thought I had learned my lesson but just recently I found myself, here in year four, perusing Pinterest. I am thankful for my failure in year two because I now know for the love of bringing glory to God I have to ask, “Who are you doing this for?”

For the love of your reputation as a mom? Or for the love of doing something uniquely you and spreading love and kindness the store bought way with your kids.

homemade valentine

Truth is, I am the kind of mother who buys store bought valentines and sends them to school for my kids to pass out at their class parties. It doesn’t make me worse or better. But it makes me uniquely me. And being uniquely me is enough for my kids, they told me they actually prefer buying their valentines from the store.

As I fight the valentine battle this year in my own heart I am hoping to find beauty in being ordinary and remembering that I am enough as a mom with my store bought cards. God says I am enough just as I am and that is the truth I am clinging to this February season.

I am enough with my store bought cards.

Unraveled Motherhood

Hello. I am glad you are here. I’d like to forward this post with the obvious message that I am not at all a baseball player and I know very little about the game. I am simply a fan of baseball but other than that I am very unclear about how this post began to lend itself to baseball analogies. I don’t even think I played t-ball as a child. Maybe it’s living most of my life in the two greatest baseball cities, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Or maybe it’s all these sons I have starting to love the great game.

If you aren’t into baseball analogies I write other things too.  Please stop by my about page, check out some of the most shared posts on marriage, parenting or faith and connect with me via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or by entering your email in the box to the right. 

They_Can_Hear_You.JPG

I had the best intentions when I started out on this journey called motherhood seven years ago. Really, my intentions for my own personal journey of motherhood were good and perfect from that first moment when I recognized that relentless first trimester fatigue that sent me into a drooling 5:30pm nap was actually a baby and not in fact narcolepsy.

In those early days of hopeful motherhood I was pregnant with a child but also pregnant with expectations. My husband was finishing up seminary and I was a first grade teacher. As parents we would be a teacher and pastor combo with a double dose of extroversion. If I was the order and schedule, he was the life-giving fun and kindness. I believed we had this thing totally in the bag – like motherhood for me was going to be a walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth; an easy swing that may even leave the crowd cheering, impressed and talked about for days on the highlights reel.

I really had the best intentions of knocking this thing called motherhood right out of the park. But on the journey of motherhood I have learned that my eyes for the fence and my longing to impress the crowd with the appearance of good intentions really were keeping me from what I had coming right down the middle and in front of my eyes.

My swings became misses and not anything to talk about the next day or even something that was tweet worthy. I had eyes for that walk-off-homer when I should have just been focusing on making positive contact with the ball I had right in front of me; focusing on making a small advance in the right direction to first base. I had big expectations clouding the clarity of the simplicity of one day at a time.

My big rookie dreams of swinging for the fence were well intended but I had forgotten about the simple basics of the game.

Motherhood is HARD. <In all caps> H-A-R-D.

No matter who I thought I was, what kind of swing I thought I had, or even if I happened to have had good coaches and models; motherhood has brought more curveballs and wild pitches than I ever could have dreamed of. And with eyes for the fence and a heart to please the crowd I have found myself constantly striking out.

I’ve had to unravel my expectations for what kind of mother I had built myself up to be in my head and focus on the mother I really am and the children I actually have in my lap.

I’ve had to say to myself, “Rach, you may not knock it out of the park today but you can breathe, make contact and take today as it comes. Watch for the curve and adjust your swing.”

I’ve had to remind myself that being ready for the curveballs and wild pitches has little to do with your aptitude, post-grad degrees or upbringing and actually has more to do with how well you can deal with what is coming at you under pressure, how well you can focus on what is being thrown at you and how much better you can forget what you thought you were suppose to do, change your stance and hit the pitch you have been thrown the best you can.

To stop aiming for the fences and take this thing one base at a time. Sure it is exciting to see a walk off homer every once in a while but the game is really advanced one base at a time.

I am educated, my husband is educated, we love our kids with a crazy email writing to the teachers level of love.

But when I (I really don’t want to speak for the hubs) rely on my know-how, the how-to books and the expectations I have for our four children the curveballs frustrate me.

When I have eyes for the fence in motherhood I notice I am more irritable, more frustrated and less satisfied in the things God has placed in my lap and declared so beautiful and so wonderfully made. 

So I fight to forget about that fence.

To forget about who I think I am trying to please.

I remember I am a rookie.

I remember I have an amazing team on the field with me. My husband, some bloodline family, some “adopted” family from my community in my church and a God who promises to be at work in me, who pursues me when I wander back to my lofty expectations and who has been faithful to remind me when I focus on what is right in front of me, that is enough.

I remember to give myself grace and I watch for the curve.

I remember making contact is enough.

DSC_1362

It’s really the focus and consistency no matter what is coming at them that make a true player great.

I am learning, seven and a half years after feeling that relentless 5:30pm fatigue that motherhood is not at all about what kind of mother I thought I’d be.

I have had to unravel those aiming for the fence expectations I had for myself and rest in simply making one step at a time contact.

I am just like everyone else. Watching for the curveballs and hoping to get on first on a good day.

Unraveled motherhood for me is letting those big expectation threads I had for myself fall away and realize who God made me to be and is making me to be is enough for the journey.

10712738_10153178454992067_956832864739136576_n

 

And, thank you for making it to the end of this post. We have been crazy here in this house living life with four kids under six. My goal is to be a blogger in process and not leave things all pretty and finished and solved.

If you liked this at all it would be a great encouragement to me if you’d positively feedback by way of sharing on Facebook, Twitter or commenting below. Cheers and Thanks.