Breathe In, Breathe Out

                                                   “Breathe in: Lord, I receive.                                                                                                           Breathe out: Lord, I give thanks.                                                                                 So there’s that: You don’t get to make up most of your story.                                                                            You get to make peace with it.                                                                                             You don’t get to demand your life, like a given.                                                                                     You get to receive your life like a gift.”                                                -Ann Voskamp

I woke up this morning with this quote on my mind. In the past week, I’ve struggled. A LOT. There is a part of me that wants my old life back…but not really. Although I was unhappy most of the time, I had made peace with it as best that I could.

What began as an innocent discussion the other day ended up causing me to reevaluate my decisions from the past year and a half. You see, there is this young adult man that I love. And this young man wants to believe that his dad is broken and sad about the choices he has made. This young man wants me to know that his dad really does love his children. And I desperately want to provide him with the security of a father’s love. But that is impossible for me to do; it is not my role.

For myself, I have had to reconcile that an addict’s love is not the right kind of love. An addict’s love is filled with conditions, lies, and illusions of caring that deflect from their true actions. Unless an addict comes to grips with his need for help, for the rest of his/her life, they are incapable of making the changes needed to provide true love.

And my heart hurts. I want to erase the damage that has been done. I want to wash over all of the bad so that maybe my children can find peace, although it would be a false sense of peace.
Unfortunately, that is not my job.
My role is to be their mother. To love them unconditionally as they traverse through the painful realities of their lives. I cannot wash over what they have experienced. I cannot minimize their truths. I can only love and support them throughout this difficult, difficult journey.
In the past, I would have reached in and changed the story a bit, hoping that it would feel better to them. I now know that in doing that, I made the truth something false. But whenever I have softened things for them, I have also softened them for myself and allowed all of us to live in denial. That benefits no one.
As I sit remembering Ann’s words, I choose to make peace with the story our family has been given. I choose to see it as a gift that has made and is continuing to make me into the woman I am today. I pray that my children see the truth, see me accept it, and then see me grow from it.

Today is Father’s Day

I have an incredible dad and I have lived a life surrounded by good men who loved their families well.

And yet, I look at my children and my heart is filled with grief. They cannot say that about their dad. Code Red brought unbelievable shame into the lives of my kids and today, I am angry about it. I absolutely hate that his actions directly affected them.

Why, why, why does this have to be their story?

Not too long ago, one of them said that he was telling the story of when his dad slammed him into the wall and his head left a dent…his friends were appalled (and I was horrified). I never even knew that happened!! I had known that when Code Red got angry he was rough with the boys, and I’ve heard their stories of being held against walls. But I had no idea that it had gotten that bad. And I feel ashamed.

As I think about Father’s Day, I am so sad. I am sad that I couldn’t shelter my babies from their father’s actions. I am ashamed that instead of getting them away from him, I minimized it and tried to make it not as bad as it really was. It wasn’t until I began telling my story over and over again that I realized that we lived with abuse. I honestly thought that I was ridiculous and that I exaggerated everything. I am sad that they don’t have a positive and sincere relationship with their dad. One of them won’t even acknowledge him as “dad;” they refer to him by his first name.

Dammit, I am angry.

Today I choose to refocus. I step back and look around. My children have grown up with young grandparents. My children have witnessed good, solid men providing and caring for their families and neighbors. They have seen what it looks like for men to work hard and love well.

Even though their father failed them, the other men in their lives modeled what fatherhood should look like. I pray that they remember the legacy of security, firmness, and loving kindness their Papaw, uncles, and great-uncles have passed on to them from the distance. It won’t ever take away what they have lost, but hopefully, it will give them a bit of security.

With all of our struggles, it would be easy to forget the wonderful experiences that have blessed our lives. Although I am sad and angry, I choose to recognize the good men that have been a part of our lives.

Psalm 30:11-12

Before I begin my real post, I want to acknowledge Mother’s Day and say that I am the daughter of a woman whose love runs so deep that I honestly think that it sometimes hurts her. Her love for the Lord and her love for others fuel her to give beyond my comprehension…I truly don’t know how she does what she does. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. I love you.

And now. Y’all. The weirdest thing has happened.

While talking to my dad the other day, he asked, “How are you, girl?” After stammering with the typical, “I’m fine” for a minute, I realized that I am happy. Really happy…who knew?! It is such a strange feeling. As an adult, I honestly cannot remember ever experiencing this much peace.

Oh, I have emotional issues that crop up off and on. A kid annoys me and I lose my mind. My memories go crazy and I can’t figure out the grief. I don’t trust people so I’m skeptical…but I am happy. Deep, deep in my soul, I am filled to the edge of overflowing.

It is the most incredible thing that I have ever felt. And yes, it is a feeling, but it is also what I would call a settling within my soul. It doesn’t feel as if I have a weight pulling me down or backwards. I am not afraid of what might come next…I honestly cannot imagine what could be worse than what I have already experienced. (Before you think anything snarky, remember, most of you do not know the whole story. It’s was baaaaaad.) Anyway, you know in movies when the girl is twirling around and around on a beach with her hair flowing and a smile on her face? That is me right now…corny as hell.

Psalm 30:11-12 says, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory might sing praise and not be silent. Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

I didn’t know if it would be possible to recover from the barrage of disgraceful actions that have surrounded my marriage. But recovery is is possible and continues to occur. I never thought that I could be free.

I honestly believe that I have weathered the worst of the storm. And I pray that this next season will be a time filled with simple joys. That I will be able to be fully present for whatever life brings my way. That my kids will continue to heal and find their path into independent adulthood. That they will see their mama lean on God, acknowledge the bad situation, and allow it to catapult her into something new and beautiful.

I have wrestled. I have fallen. I have gotten up. And now, I am moving forward.

My 26 year marriage will always be my story and I hope to be able to share it with others who need to hear it, but that marriage and the actions surrounding that marriage do not define me.

With God’s leading, I get to step out into something new and something beautiful…even if I have no earthly idea what that is yet!

Parenting Through Trauma

When my home got turned upside down, my thoughts regarding my kids went something like this, “Please God, let me walk this out well for my children. Please don’t let me fail them now. Please, please, please help me model how to lean on You.”

And then BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! Literally every single week for months, there was a new discovery or a new event that caused significant trauma and grief. I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through all that occurred from last February until August. The blows were constantly coming. And they weren’t just directed at me. They were hitting my kids as well.

My children were exposed to more information than they should have ever even known existed.

In those moments of crisis, rather than try to cover up and do damage control, I decided that we were going to hit it head on and talk about it. I believe STRONGLY that when overwhelmed imaginations are left to come up with their own ideas, things get out of control really fast. And partial truths do nothing but breed distrust.

A pastor friend once told me that preparation is better than protection. It was already too late to protect my babies. It was time to have difficult conversations and to show them that we were going to be there for one another throughout this entire ordeal.

And that is exactly what we have done and continue to do.

There have been no lies and no evasive comments. If I cannot tell them something, I simply say that I cannot tell them what they want to know.

So what does parenting look like during this time? It looks like giving them room to express their emotions. (It took a little while, but everyone finally grasped that expressing emotions did not mean punching holes in walls or destroying our home.) It looks like allowing them to say bad words. It looks like giving them space to process what was happening. It looks like developing an artistic gift. It looks like hanging out in a bedroom until feeling ready to talk. It looks like working a lot. It looks like playing board games. It looks like hanging out on the sofa together. It looks like increasing the animal population inside of our house. It looks like a beautiful, lovable mess.

I don’t always like every aspect it but I have chosen not to interfere with it. I continue to stand beside them as a constant reminder that I am here. I want them to know that I am their mom and that they are safe with me. They can totally lose their sh** and it will all be okay.

I certainly don’t always walk it out graciously. I have hidden in the garage and cried. I have gone to an “anger management” place and taken a baseball bat to a room full of breakables (only to fall apart sobbing, causing the owner to come in and hold me until I was calm again…that was really awkward). I have disappeared and lain in bed for hours at a time. I have fed them boxed mac and cheese, ramen, and a whole lot of fast food. I have said and continue to say way too many bad words.

But we keep going. and going. and going. It might not be pretty, but it is forward…even on our lowest of days.

Parenting through trauma is not about doing it perfectly. It is about being present and letting them see that you know that what they are walking through is really hard and really painful. And that it is OK to have all of these feelings.

And to my beautiful children, no matter what, I love you and I am not going anywhere.