Category Archives: Family

The Truth in my Broken Spirit

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I am failing.

Every. Single. Day.

My heart is not pure. My mind is worse. My flesh is torn with old scars and I have no problem slashing them open again and again with a knife of longing for something I lost. I have a quick-tempered tongue, and a wayward tendency to always want something else.

I am not in the Word – not as much as I could be. My history distracts me from believing that I can involve myself in more than what immediately satisfies me. A learned behavior pattern from my youth, but it wasn’t always this hard…

When I was a small child, I remember vividly having a fire for the Lord. I did. It was important to me. It mattered. I shared it with my friends. I sat at my father’s feet and listened to him and my mother recite scripture and then explain its application to our young lives. I believed in God not as a supernatural being but as a tangible friend in my heart.

I lost this. Some time ago. With age comes a million wide roads, and I had no problem walking those instead of the narrow path that drew me close to God.

Sometimes, I think about this – I remember a skinny brown-eyed-girl with long legs and a brave, pleasing heart – I remember her and I weep. I remember that God sewn in my spirit an evangelical gift and I shared my faith with people confidently. A child, with little exposure to a world beyond Vancouver Washington… I wanted to share what I knew to be true, with no fear. I had purpose. I had knowledge of who I was, and who I wanted to be… I just needed stability, and people to believe in me, and keep showing me the way.

What happened to me? Where did that child go?

In the time since my childhood I’ve seen my parent’s divorce when I was in 5th grade because my mom wanted to be someone else, with someone else. I looked around me and from what was a family with two parents and their five children in one home, I could not recognize the two new lives they both led, and watched the utter abandonment of my parents to their children as they themselves tried to reconcile this new experience.

With this came me seeking approval and love outside of my two homes and halfway through my adolescence I found comfort in the arms of way too many boys. Sexual promiscuity became my identity, under an easily penetrable guise of self-confidence – my parents weren’t watching so they missed it entirely; I was lost, completely, and wanted love so badly that I reached for it wherever I could grasp, at the incredibly devastating expense of my self-worth – though I hid that part deep inside.

From that, I obviously struggled in school… It was my last priority, but deeper than this, nobody noticed how I was struggling. They just … did not care. I think about this now and I have begun in this moment to tear up. I was still a child – their child – God’s child… But I felt nothing but alone. I remember a counselor pulling me aside in 11th grade. He asked me what my plan was to recover my GPA so that I could graduate. I just started crying because he was literally the first person to notice. I went home that day and tried to talk to my mom but instead of help me, she got angry – I guess because I was a disappointment taking the same path she and my father did. That was the first time I was kicked out of my house…

After the first semester of my senior year, it was clear I could not recover and instead of fight for me, and try and figure it out, my mom walked into my high school and withdrew me. Against the advise of the principal, and counselors literally shaking their heads at her. I walked around school that day, my last day, with hidden tears and a smile as I said goodbye to my friends. My gosh I still cry even now, in this moment, because I remember it so well. The humiliation. The devastation. The feeling that I had failed and it was all my fault. I feel anger now because I think of Layla – she is struggling right now in 2nd grade. She is in several programs, counseling, and we hired a tutor. Because that’s what you do – you, the parents, don’t stand back and watch your child fail – I would never allow that, and I am still not sure why my parents did. This part of my history I don’t talk about, and few people actually know this, because I have spent all this time feeling so ashamed of this, but the older I get, and as I mother my own children, I realize it was NOT my fault – not entirely. I could have went the other way and buckled down in school, I know that, but all around me at home it just didn’t matter – nobody showed me it was worth it. At least not until it was too late and I was made to feel like a failure…

Shortly after my last day of high school, I got my first job working at Papa Murphy’s Pizza. I moved out on my own, and life moved on… Entirely different from how I had long imagined it would. Three years after this I said goodbye to my mother at the age of 39 because alcohol is a cruel beast and she could no longer fight it off… One month after that day, I boarded a plane and left everything I knew behind. Devastated. Lost, entirely. The man I moved to I barely knew, we met barely a month before my mom died, and my heart still loved another with everything I had, but I left anyway – I had no other choice.

Through all of this time, I can remember periods of time I would feel God pulling on my heart. I would know it was Him – with certainty – but I ignored it. I had failed. In countless ways. The little girl I had been was lost underneath the weight of my guilt and disappointment and sadness. I was more angry than faithful… How could He let all of this happen, hadn’t I once served Him, even in my childlike innocence and lack of knowledge of the world He put me into?

I am almost 33 now. Twice divorced, two of my children have different last names from each other and from me. Three daughters that call me Mama, and it is my charge from God to lead them, to guide them to Truth. To dedicate myself to them, entirely, but I fear this more than I fear much else: that I am failing them.

I fear… That is my first mistake. That I am nothing more than who I have been; all these years of history still tarnish my spirit, and I cannot rise above feeling less-than who I was meant to be. How can I lead them, how can I teach them truth, when I don’t hear it for myself?

So many “wiser people” have tried to counsel me that it is as simple as being in God’s word. That, if I do this … If I pray more, if I seek fellowship more than seeking solitude, if I stop living in the past or the future but live right now, if I… If I… If I… Then I would finally “get it”, and God would flood my heart with meaning and purpose again, and I would be redeemed. I’ve even been told my crippling anxiety is not so much a mental disorder but its satan, and I can fight it if only I were just a better Christ-follower.

I’ve heard it all. I’ve told myself maybe they are right, and so I try it. For a while. I read scripture more, and really meditate on it and apply it to my life practically. I pray, sometimes with many of my breathes directed straight to God, and then I listen, patiently. I fellowship with those wiser people, and I listen as they tell me how THEY “hear God”, and I try not to feel their superiority over me, because I just don’t seem to hear God talking to me at all, and so I must be doing it wrong.

When I became a mother, that covenant God made with me was to raise them with truth and purpose greater than my own – it was set ablaze in my soul. I look at them and sometimes, to be honest, the way that I love them – how deep that goes – it rushes to the surface and I feel this overwhelming and intense flood of tangible, fierce loyalty and devotion to them that I could literally scream as loud as I can – because it has to come out of me (I guess that’s a hard one to adequately explain…) My face flushes, my heart beats fast, and I tremble with love.

The purpose of being their mother is the greatest I have known, and I fear too often that I will let my past failures convince me that I am not going to be good at this. I hear my father tumble out of my mouth when I am impatient for no good reason, or when they spill the milk and I just can’t take such an offense. I hear my mother spill off my tongue when I snap at them to hurry up because I am late for this or that, and of course I make it their fault. I hear that little voice, so cunning, sneak into my thoughts and it whispers so cleverly disguised as the inevitable that I am going to fail anyway, so why even try to do better next time? It uses my history – it uses my shame, and regret, and pain – and it knows just how to grip me, stop me dead in my tracks…

It keeps me from picking up the Bible, because I’ve tried that, and I didn’t stick to it, because Christina never sticks to ANYTHING. It keeps me from all the good I could be doing, instead distracting me with meaningless tasks that don’t root my heart, or theirs, in truth and purpose.

I guess all of this – these thoughts pouring from me now – this trip down memory lane, it might seem like an excuse, but it is so much more honest than that. I come to terms with what cripples me here, and name it, and face it, and I think THAT is brave.

But it is what I do now. It is where I go from here…

I picked up the Bible this morning and read some of the Psalms. Delaney was restless and done with her cereal so I got her out of the high chair and together we trekked up the stairs. On the crook of our staircase the banister jets out oddly and I accidentally hit her head into it, leaving a little knot and her tears painfully soaking her face. I immediately prayed to God to take her pain away, and to forgive me for hurting my precious baby girl. It was immediately apparent to me that I was praying because I didn’t panic and cower underneath self-loathing, which is my typical pattern whenever I do anything wrong. I think it was that I sought God, intentionally, that my mind was able to go THERE instead of where it normally would go…

Perhaps there is hope for me yet?

I desire a child-like faith. The kind of relationship with God that I can write about, the kind that defines my life, starting in these frail moments when I am still floundering, and growing into something that permeates every avenue of my life, and my children’s lives. I want this so badly, and I am so tired of convincing myself, and letting the enemy convince me, that I cannot do it. That my history proves I will fail, because I always failed.

My spirit knows there is God, I was born knowing this, and for some reason, He made me especially aware of it and able to share it as a small child. I see this in my children, and I dream for them the kind of upbringing where that is fostered and grown and nurtured, and they see it from me – they model it from me.

I’ve got to stop ripping open my heart and seeing only the parts of me that have failed.

I want to be vulnerable to something more. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t hide from who she was, and has the strength to admit where I went wrong, but then lay that down – that is the part that I don’t do well. I can’t seem to let go of how easily I fall apart in the name of who I’ve been and what I’ve been through.

My eyes want to be stuck on the cross, and see the world as I did when I was a child.

I want to give my daughters the kind of example worth having – one of perseverance where they have seen me fall but I got back up, and I tried again, in spite of the difficulty of fearing I will fail. I want them to see that this IS worth coming back to, again and again, and that I will support them as they navigate this world, and I will be there – no matter what.

I look at my history and see that everything I’ve gone through has equipped me to be a pretty darn good mother… Because I’ve experienced almost every avenue of where NOT to go, and what NOT to do. And I know with certainty I won’t just stand back and let their life happen in front of me without helping to guide them to truth.

The truth is, as I see it, is that God is still here, inside of me. I cling to that. I unbury that truth with these tears on my cheeks because I am so grateful. I am so grateful that I can be who I have been, and to Him I am still that child on her knees, sharing Jesus with her Kindergarten class – I can be that girl again, because she never left me. She just got lost to this world, but not to Him.

I will hold onto that, and try this yet again… I will fail, but I will not give up, and I think that is one of the gifts He gave me. One I saw in myself as a child. Something I see in my own children. I cannot wait to see where God takes us now.

Before and After

The rhetoric familiar. A story told many sleepless nights upon deaf ears, poured onto blank pages and from my eyes; my very identity entangled in a mere twist of fate that has since absolutely altered my life completely. It is the reason I do not easily trust, but more than this, it is the potter’s hand shaping every relationship and emotional connection since.

Since…

I cannot remember her before. No, I mean bits and pieces are there, yes, – as if the overarching theme of my life was filled with the woman, “Mother”. But her – as an autonomous person, no. I have forgotten? No. I have pushed it so far down that recalling her face takes great effort, and most every attempt to do so forms a burning lump in my throat thus I would almost rather not try. It is an uncomfortable task. Because I feel shamed into believing I must be able to see past it, beyond it, before it… Alas, I rarely do. I criticize the immaterial while grasping the longing with clenched fists; I want to remember her, but more than devastating, I cannot.

Intellectually I recall that she was once a mother. A doting, boisterous, and enigmatic woman whom raised her five children with devotion akin to any holding such a title. She must have loved us for she cared for us from infancy to adolescence. She provided meals, tended housework, and tucked children in for slumber. She wore makeup and dressed with a carefree creativity, adorning her body and her home with sensible yet stylish furnishings unique to only Roberta.

Roberta. I cannot recall the last time I wrote that name with it expressly belonging to my mother… I sat here and stared at it for a few minutes. Trying. To remember. Deeper than intellectually, but emotionally.

What did it feel like to have her as my mother? When a child. When I needed her love, approval, and care more than any other person on this planet. I. Cannot. Remember. Bits and pieces is all I get anymore, and I cannot tell how frustrating and disheartening this is as typically I am one whom remembers details TOO well!

It takes everything I have within me to conjure her face. Beyond that day, before it.

The agonizing truth of the matter is I remember THAT day all too well. I remember her face, that day. I remember the looming darkness in that hospital room. The unspoken remorse, the idle apology, and the shared agony between those present to be anywhere but there. I remember hating what she had become.

It is truly not a day I’d like to define me. Most honestly, it is in fact a day I wish and have prayed to God to be able to forget. The burden, however, is clearly mine. The thorn in my side – the times I’ve cried out to the Lord to remove it from me were apparently in vain. . . I remember.

I would love the ability to see before it and truly know my mother again. To look upon my history, of these 21 years I had with her before and see the woman whom gave me my life, loving and protecting me.

That is the thing, though, really. I know, intellectually, why this one day stuck the way that it did. It was the loss of protection and love, for me, and perhaps for her (though I’ll never know so long as I live). It removed me from child and her from mother and put us against one another as women, both broken and lost in an instant – but one blindly at fault, and one blindsided.

Experiencing the loss of my mother in this way is an evil peril I would wish not on another soul. Give me at my feet my greatest enemy and I would spare them this pain. Truly. Because a mother should never have to fall the way she did. And a daughter should never have to endure such a confusing and bitter blow.

Before she died, I lost my mother. And to that end, I lost the ability to peek beyond that day, and this is very sad for me. It isn’t dramatic for the sake of writing or pitiful appreciation from those whom may read this, but merely and painfully my reality. One I have sought help coping with for ten years, but sadly, one that has defeated my heart more times than I can count.

Because I would give anything to go back. To safe arms and familiar skin in the arms of my mother. To a time when I was just her daughter and she was just my mom. She was flawed and impatient and selfish, but these things I am as well and who could fault a woman raising children doing the best she can. She was that, before, and I would give anything to have only known that person. That woman. That mother.

I struggle writing this as I do not want to appear a forsaken and weeping woman. . .

Truth is, I do well most days. I raise my children the best I can, and though I am flawed, impatient, and selfish like my mother, I do fine – most of the time.

It is the quiet longing that still defines my life, no matter how much I have tried to outrun it. It is in the quiet when I see a movie that she would have loved, or hear her voice in a song, or have to answer a question from my children about her…

Those moments I would give anything to know a before and only a before. The after kills me when I realize I cannot see past it. I know her face well, in that hospital bed. I know her face well, on a cold steel table, lifeless and cold.

I yearn for the BEFORE. The woman. The mother.

I lost her before she died, and I would give anything to have her back before it changed my life completely. I would give anything to have her back so I could change her life, completely.

You see, the worst comes in when I ponder whether forgiving her would have saved her life. Had I said those words, but more than that, felt them – had I not condemned her before God took her. Had I not turned my back in rightful agony and scorned the person she became. Maybe, just maybe, I could have changed it for her…

Then we would never have to know the vanishing of before. We would not, for many years perhaps, have had to know an after. I would be able to call her when I still get that urge, like a sudden desire to call her – I would pick up and dial and she would be there. She would know my children by name and be there for their births. She would have been redeemed in this life and not just the next. There maybe would not have been an after.

I live with these. These… Afters. And I would give anything to go back to before.

Motherless daughter about to have a baby

Without You, Ingrid Michaelson

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There within my soul it lingers. Almost tangible, as an exhale of breathe or the way my heart seems to beat stronger these days – a longing for something that I cannot grasp that I need now more than ever. I’ve spent the better part of the past nearly ten years dealing with this loss. Trying to make sense of it, to fit it into the context of the rest of my life. To recognize, over and over again, that she is… Gone.

Perhaps my longing is selfish entirely, but what does that matter? I am a motherless daughter about to have a child of my own. About to welcome a son or daughter, to make my girls siblings again, and make my husband a father when he holds his child for the first time and evermore. Is it wrong to desire a single moment wherein she shares this joy with me? To say, aloud, “Meet your Grandchild, Mama…”

Instead, it will only be a whisper and a pain in my heart that nobody here will understand. In the grand picture – this breathtaking moment I finally meet this life that has made a home within me for 9 months – the lack of my mother here will be small; I will be the only one whom notices a key player is missing, and as my baby is passed from John’s smiling father and mother, I will only briefly remember that the person I needed here most is gone. Her absence merely something I occasionally talk about because I don’t like making them uncomfortable, so I don’t blame anyone for not seeing that pain in the back of my eyes.

Right now, however, I feel it deeply. It is not just a passing thought that occasionally plagues the mind when I haven’t successfully masked it with idle distraction. Nobody knows this, though. I dare not speak it because then the loss is once again breathed to life outside of my heart.

Life has been hard these past few days. I am exhausted. I am physically slower than I’d like to be, and parts of me ache that I did not know could hurt. Emotionally, my heart is ready to conclude this chapter of motherhood and have this baby outside of my body – I had cried more these past few days than I’d like to admit, the strongest sign that I am not my self.

When life gets hard, this is when I miss her most. The thing is, the complication inherent in this for me, is that I am not even sure who it is I miss. The last few years of her life she was not herself so the only real representation I have of “mother” is pre-addiction when she was more my mommy than my mother; I an adolescent or a child – who she was to me then is probably not who she would have been had she lived into my adulthood thus I can only speculate. Honestly, I think that is part of what makes this hurt. The concept of having a mother, as I became and again becoming a mother, is foreign to me. But, nevertheless, I feel it as if the loss is something, as if she is someone, I still recognize in the present time.

Would she be here now? Taking a plane ride from Washington to Texas to help with my children as I rest. To relieve my husband whom has been picking up all my slack while still doing his full-time job, and taking care of the kids… Would she fold laundry and tell me stories of when she had her five kids? Would she be inclined to serve me the way I imagine I will serve my daughters when it becomes their time to become a mother?

Instead of answers, I have emptiness. There is nobody here helping, and I am working really hard at not being resentful of this but it becomes difficult as my body tires and my brain wanders around these thoughts.

The loss of her came well before her death and as I process it, yet in another season of my own life, I am still someone angry that it came to that for the person whom God put on this earth to make five children – to what? Leave us before most of the things that mattered most in our lives took place. What has troubled me these ten years is that it just doesn’t make sense. I guess God does not need to give us sense, sometimes… Just hope that we will see her again? Maybe, sometimes, that is not enough… but we aren’t allowed to say that even if it is the most honest thing to come from this.

My baby will be loved. I know that. I love my children fiercely and with my whole heart, so if anything I know they will get by with that… This baby, and my two little girls, ARE loved… But sometimes, I wish that someone in our lives would fill the role of Grandma to them, presently, and love them all equally. Because of the family dynamic I come from, and the one my choices have made, this is not possible, and at least I am sure they get love from so many places. That in itself is a blessing, and I do not wish to deny it or downplay it – but I imagine and like to think it would have been different if my own mother was here to love my children.

Maybe the coping mechanism of dealing with this loss creates the exterior view of a world wherein things could appear exactly as my heart wishes. I could portray my mother as someone whom would have been here, loving my girls and anxiously awaiting another grandbaby, totally present and excited with her own daughter – cheering me on and reminding me I can do this. She would be at the birth, reminding me of when she had all of her children naturally and that I am capable of this. She would be one of the first people to see my baby, learn its name, and cry with me – watching the circle of life make our family bigger. She would help with dishes and take the kids to the park and not want to board that plane back home.

I can make her whomever I want her to be. I can miss that picture that I create – completely aware that it is make-believe, and who she was can never be the person I make her in my dreams – but the momentary imagination, no matter how unreal, comforts me more than this lack of… anything at all.

Any day now, this baby will come. My body will do the work hers did 31 years ago when she had me – her most dramatic birth that almost killed her when I made her a mother to a daughter for the first time. Any moment now, I will begin the labor that will bring into this world my first son or my third daughter, either way my last child. Any second now…

I pray that God gives me peace about what I am missing. That I can let this go as I write these words and simply exist in each passing moment – in today – and cease to long for something that was released from my control many years ago. The ability to make new memories. To have anything but what we lost. To know her as anything other than who she became after losing my mommy to someone that was no longer my mother.

I pray to God to let me move past the absence that is present when I look around my home and when I pick up the phone to dial a number never again answered. I pray that I can only miss her momentarily when John’s family comes to hold my new baby but my family is hundreds of miles away or gone altogether. I pray that, as this baby gives me a million reasons to find joy and peace and purpose, I can thank Him for the gift of being a mother in a world where my “mother” is a notion I can only narrowly grasp in dreams.

Why I Love My Sister

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Growing up, we did not always get along. As with all our siblings, we fought. One time, when we were about 14 and 11, I pushed the wrong pre-teen button and she got so mad she literally grabbed my head, threw me to the ground, and proceeded to bash my skull into the glass of the sliding back door. Yeah, I guess you could say my sister and me never really could see eye-to-eye…

But, we were kids. The two girls in a brood full of boys, there were times we were forced to form an alliance; those guys never saw it coming when we cocked our rubber band guns and shot them down like Clint Eastwood in a cheesy Western film. One thing always rang true, no matter if we were duking it out or joining forces – I always loved my little sister unlike I loved anyone in my life.

When I was 21, shortly after our mom died, I moved away from our hometown in Washington to the sunny beaches of San Diego. Amanda was a new graduate and on her way to University of Washington to pursue a Mathematics degree and me, well, I just wanted to get the hell out of town. We lost touch for the next few years, but eventually got better at using that crazy invention called the telephone; our relationship, as adults, was just beginning.

I became a mother at the age of 24 and suddenly realized how much I needed my sister. Always the more maternal one by nature, I sought out her years of nanny training and demanded she tell me the secret to raising a good child. She was by my side soon after Layla was born, and I can honestly say there were times I thought I would lose my mind, a crying baby on my hip with no clue how to soothe her, but my faithful sissy was always there to help me through… And this was well before she ever had kids of her own.

As I have gone through my adult life, with as many trials and heartaches as I have endured, she was always a constant force of encouragement, and occasionally that hard dose of humility and, well, reality that a woman needs once in a while. She never said things just to get her word in, but instead, she was kind, compassionate, and truthful – and as I have become a mother, twice now, and grown so much, there is a great deal of that wisdom that came from a young woman I have been lucky enough to call my sister.

Now, she is a mother herself. After a surprise double-visit from the stork, Amanda and Jennie now hold two precious baby girls, and Lexie and Vienna are the sunshine they had been craving for years. I was blessed to get to travel to Boston just a month after their birth and meet my two precious nieces, and I got to watch my sister perform the wondrous dance of motherhood for the first time.

It was… amazing. She is everything I want to be, as a woman – a mom, a passionate pursuer of knowledge, and just as the kind of friend anyone is lucky to have – and I just loved the opportunity to watch her in motion.

I am home now, and tonight I got to thinking how fast life moves. These moments we have with the people we love are often for some and few for others; her and me are hundreds of miles apart, as I am from my entire family, and the time we get together is precious and too-few. When I think about the fact that I am almost thirty, and realizing there is still so much I have yet to experience and do, I am grateful that as I live my life, I know I have a loyal, loving companion whom accompanies me on this journey even from miles apart. She is the reason I am still in college, frankly, because she’s all but forced me not to throw in the towel. She is my inspiration and I am so lucky to have her for my math classes (Lord knows I wouldn’t have passed them without my genius math-whiz sister!)

I think of Amanda and realize how much bravery she has. I admire her strength of conviction, and the tenacity she had to face who she was, and face this life, and instead of cowering to the pressure to be like everyone else, my sister is blazing a trail and making her life beautiful.

If I could have even have of her courage, I would consider myself beyond blessed; when I am fearful about the choices I face, or when I am down and exhausted with life, I think of her and I realize how much more I have to give. Because she never gives up on pursuing her dreams. I want to be more like that.

We all have a journey to travel, and for the most part we do this alone. But there are reasons for the people we know, and the people we meet. Some of us get lucky to meet several great people in this life. Some of us are lucky to call them family…
I know several people, and I love many, but none so have my heart quite like the girl who was raised beside me. None so much as the one whom helps me marvel at life, and see things a little clearer. Because I’ve known her since her birth, and I believe our relationship is a testament to what real family looks like; we were destined to be sisters.

Please, cherish the time you have with your family. Appreciate the phone calls, the conversations, and the embrace of a loved-one… We are here and then we are gone, and it happens in a blink. Do not take the moments lightly, but instead, cherish them, because, after all, that is what life should be about.

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For my friend

In my greatest time of struggle, I knew a pain so deep and limitless that I felt, with absolute assurance, that I would never see the end.

When my mother took her last breathe, she was alone in this world. Alone in her apartment. Alone… But not. She had God beside her, and I believe He ushered her home to the great Kingdom of forgiveness and wholeness by His side. I remember, for me, it was a choice to believe that, because at first, from my earthly place in my dad’s living room in Vancouver, Washington, I saw no grace there. I saw no forgiveness there – in fact, quite the opposite. I saw devastation in the wake of her death, and I saw a hole inside my heart that would never be filled.

Drugs and alcohol steal joy, just as the devil steals joy, and I believe this without reservation. I believe it was the idle evil inherent in this world that stole my mother’s joy, and it stole her breathe as she lay there dying, alone on that big empty bed.

We saw, firsthand, what comes when a person loses the battle.

As the years have pressed on, they surely do, my perspective, and my own ability to see God’s hand in this ordeal, has improved. I know God has given me the choice to see my mother’s death as a tragedy, or as a perfect sign of His redemption. There have been good days and bad, wherein one moment I saw the grace in her deliverance, and then others, when I saw nothing but the dark, twisted fate of a woman entrenched in an evil, unholy place. I have had to choose – somedays multiple times a day – how I would see this… But God has been good to my hardened heart, and thank Him, I have begun to unwrap the layers of my emotion, and finally, I see mostly truth and hope in her death.

That may sound strange, especially considering there is ample proof, even in the history of my writing here, that I struggle with this greatly. However, I can say now that there was light in her journey, and in her death, because now, I know that God redeems even the most broken, heavy souls.

He never left her, not even in the worst moments, and so I know – without any hesitation – that He never leaves ANY OF US.

I don’t write about my spirituality as often as I write about my journey otherwise, though they are integrated, because I feel my relationship with God is my own, and I do not want to open it up to critics whom merely want to doubt me. But I feel that, right now, for very private reasons, because of a conversation I just had with a very dear, very long-time friend, that it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that I share this part of me nakedly.

Because he needs hope. He needs grace. He needs forgiveness. He needs… truth.

That he is not forgotten, worthless, and beyond help. He is not a pile of shit, though he tells himself this in other words; my heart hurts, oh it hurts, because I wanted to reach through the phone and hold him in my arms. I wanted to look into his blue eyes as he wept and make him believe anew that he is a wonderful, unique creation of our holy father. He is beautiful, even in his weakness… No… He is beautiful BECAUSE of his weakness.

In this fragile state, he is most open to the truth about who and what he is. He is most receptive to the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ, because on one’s knees, in the brokenness of flesh, we come to the Father and we ask, with no words but simply the falling tears on our cheeks, to be forgiven. In that moment, where he is now, all his yesterdays are gone. All his mistakes have already been forgotten.

If he could believe that, if he knew… If he would just listen, and believe, the healing would begin.

You know, there are days I want to scream at the top of my lungs because I want to see my mother again. I want to implore the gates of heaven to open up and send her back, for a single moment, so that I could look into her eyes and she would know that I love her still. She would know… That she is forgiven… For me, yes, but for her… Because that is what the lost, the forgotten, and the broken need to know – and if my words could do that for her, could they not do it for those still living?

My friend, you know who you are, and I know you will read this. Please. Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare straight into your eyes and KNOW that you are His. You are NOT dead. In fact, you are alive again, brand new, and worthy of love. Worthy of trust, and valued beyond measure.

This world may throw stones, and God knows they hurt, but the bruises heal, my love. The bruises fade, and the heart soon knows joy again. Even in the smallest things. A sunrise. A freshly fallen rain. In the faces of your children. In the warmth of a friend’s embrace. In the love in your mother’s beautiful, kind eyes.

Start here, please. Start at the truth. At the heart of everything the cross has done for us. Start here.

Know that you are loved. By so many.

Sure, there are going to be bridges to mend, but does not the mere opportunity that you can mend them prove you are loved? There are going to be hard conversations ahead, and serious work to be done, because this kind of healing is never easy. But these are worldly things, and as hard as it is, you cannot avoid them. They are worldly things, my dear, and that is part of your journey now. But think how that journey looks to God? Think of what kind of strength it took to stand up and walk out of your darkness, one step at a time.

YOU did that. YOU.

You had the courage to face yourself, even when you felt utterly hopeless. You had the strength to turn your back from the devil and walk into a new day.

I know how hard that is, because I saw what happens when someone is NOT that strong. My mother was not that person, but you were. You ARE.

It is in YOU, because God is in YOU. You have everything you need. Start where it hurts the most, face that, but remind yourself of your value and worth as you stare down the hardest parts of yourself. As time passes, the hurt will fade. Believe me. It fades.

You have support, and you have love. But believe that, don’t just know it. Seek it out. Do not fight this alone.

… I never imagined my own history of hurt would be used for good. But this is NOT my redemption, it is God’s. My story is just my story. It was through God’s grace and love, and the light I know is in me, that I was able to overcome my own journey of hardship after hardship. God was there, every step of the way.

And He is with you now, my friend. He will never leave you. And those that really matter, those that really love you, will not leave you either. You have a rally behind you, and we are all so proud that you have the chance to come out of this stronger; healed.

Just believe. Because that is the first and the last step. Everything in the middle is just the work along the way in this swiftly moving world, but the reward, oh the reward, that is eternal.

Why I have the Best Dad In the World.

When my life began, my father had been dad to two for over two years. He tenuously clutched a tiny premature newborn between his fingertips and wrist – all the space needed to contain my struggling, sick body – all the while understanding that two little boys, both still in diapers, waited at home. He was 19 when he had his first daughter, so if you do the math perhaps you get only a glimpse into what it must have felt like for this young man facing so much responsibility.

I have written a great deal about the loves in my life, but focus solely on the romantic partnerships that have passed through me on this journey. Today, I feel inclined to portray another love I have known my entire life… My dad’s name is Jim, and he is perhaps the best man I have ever known.

Over the years, I watched my dad mature into the funniest, most loyal person. It feels kind of funny to say that I recognize my father’s maturation process, but I think this is a very accurate portrayal of what has occurred, especially when one considers how observational I am (I think, also, it is a middle child thing). You see, when I was young, I recall a very different dad than I have today. I still remember some birthday celebrations we threw for him when he was still in his late twenties (can you even imagine this? If you had “normal-aged” parents, probably not!) He was always playing pranks on us and my mom, often showing up from work with duct tape around pseudo-chopped-off appendages, spewing fake blood all over his bewildered audience. Mom rarely fell for his antics, but the kids, we all thought dad was about to die (this feeling a relatively common one) because how can someone bleed that much and not die?!

He engineered a face mask once that was merely a plywood cutout of a man’s profile, and he retrofitted it (using technical HVAC terms – he is going to be so proud of me) to his head – all this effort so that, as he drove down the street in his Area Heating work van, people did a double-take at the weird big-headed face next to them at the stop light! He built us a double-decker tree-fort over the creek, and then laughed hysterically as we played in it, hearing ping-ping-ping. What was that sound, you wonder? Bb’s from a pumped-up bbgun aiming straight for a few frightened kids just trying to play in their awesome fort. Of course, however, he taught us to shoot back – because what kind of father-child bbgun war would be fair if we didn’t have our own supply of pellet guns and ammo?

There are so many stories I could share here to illustrate the kind of dad I grew up with. The kind that was “young” by standards relative only to someone strapped with too much responsibility at too young an age. I never blamed the guy then, at least I hope not, and I sure as hell do not blame him now.

I would not trade my clay-canyon riding, potato-gun shootin’, toilet blow-upping, hide-and-seek playing childhood for any alternate life I could have had. Not in a moment.

Because my dad did something else unconventional, but just as perfect for his five children. He talked to us. Every week. We had our family meeting. Not about all the things we did wrong, but all the things we can do right. How to love each other. How to show respect. What is right and what is wrong. Why we love God, and why God loves His children. My dad spent the time to teach us about the world in in-depth conversations perhaps way beyond our eager minds’ capability to understand, but he did it knowing at least he tried. I think, really, because he lacked that growing up in his own life, so he made it a priority for us in ours, that we would know, even when he was shooting at us with a cocked-and-loaded rubberband gun or chasing me with a “spider” that was really a rolled-up ball of string… We would know he loved us. That I always knew.

I became a teenager and there are many chapters to skip here, merely to save myself the embarrassment of revealing all of my bad decisions. Nonetheless, my dad continued to provide for us, and continued to take part, however I would allow him to, in my life. He painstakingly taught all of my three brothers the trade of HVAC and groomed them to all be, in their own right, true upholders of the Geddes’ legacy of service, hard work ethic, and respect in the workplace. He taught all of his children how to drive a stick-shift so that, no matter what, we would always be able to drive whatever car we could find. He encouraged good choices but stuck by all of us during bad ones.

Then comes the part of my life, in my story personally, where my dad became a key player – and this is how our relationship has strengthened, the starting line if you will, to the rest of our life as father and daughter. When I fell in love for the first time, it was to a hard working tradesmen. A machinist who owned a carhart jacket that was just like my dad’s. They met and instantly liked each other, but my dad found a rare treat in Tim that he hadn’t even known he was missing: Music. Their love of the same classic rock, and Tim’s mastery on the guitar, struck an instant chord with my dad, and soon enough, they were playing Led Zeppelin together in our music room each Saturday night. Dad would wail on the drums and of course the guitar played by my wide-eyed fiancé; we shared countless nights waking neighbors, laughing, and making music. I learned that my dad had many more talents than I knew and I admired how well he integrated into my life. His visits were always a point of great excitement for me, and for him, this was the first time he got to see his oldest daughter in love.

Gone were the days of bb-guns and hide-and-seek, and soon, so we all thought, he would be giving me away as a young bride to a man I adored. Favor turned on me, however, and my father’s love and support became paramount as I endured the brutal loss of that relationship. His support during the time kept me afloat, and I spent many nights curled up on his couch, happy just to be near him as I tried to piece back together who I was.

A father bears many burdens in his life, and few I know of have endured more than my dad, but this especially shows the mark of a true spirit: The night he had to look into the eyes of each of his children and tell us we lost our mother, his ex-wife and the person whom gave him his children… I remember watching him, so stoic, his mouth moving in slow motion, as he said words that no doubt tore at the core of his soul. About an hour after we all learned the news, dad came back downstairs to his living room where we all had gathered, and he held in his palms an open bible, turned to a special passage. And as he read it aloud to us, tears welled up in his eyes again, and he reminded us of God’s promise that even the worst sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. That even our mother, whom died of her addictions and left us with a void we could not fill, was redeemed and would be in the presence of God, celebrating with Him. He chose, my father, in that moment to give us hope. To remind us, especially true for me at that time, that God still cared, and loves us, and that He loved our mother. The kind of strength and courage, and not to mention pure faith, it takes to do that – I am not sure if my dad knows this but that one act he did that night as I began the mourning process for my mother is something I will never, ever forget.

My dad has said goodbye to both of his daughters in marriage. For me, this has ultimately resulted in unions that have not worked out, but he has stuck by in support of my decisions even when I make the wrong ones. He loved me through it. He continues to love me through it, and he has welcomed me into his arms, time and again, even when I falter repeatedly in love. He said goodbye to his other daughter, my sister, when she married her best friend whom just so happened to be a woman. He walked her down the aisle in her big pink dress, and he kissed her cheek as he gave her away. When the rest of the country was arguing over who should be allowed to love each other, our dad stood by his baby girl and gave her away to the person she chose to marry. Could he have known he would ever do that? In the same way, could he have guessed that my marriages would fail? You see, these things do not matter to my dad, because all he cares about is that we are safe, we are loved, and we are happy. Whatever we do to get to that place he allows us the freedom, and gives us the love we need, while we grow to be exactly who we are.

He has watched his sons all go through their own various stages of life, some of these through addictions, abuse, and great financial strain. He encourages and supports us through all of us, losing many nights of sleep for sure, but all the while his motivation is love.

My dad married again and chose the best wife any man would ever want. Consequently, because he chose so well and Cathy is so freaking cool, my dad’s wife just so happens to be one of my best friends ever. She brought with her two young girls who are now well into their late teens, but instead of shy away from the responsibility of raising yet another set of children, he embraced them and thinks of them as no less or no different than his own children. He loves them greatly, but they know a completely different father in my dad than I ever knew when I was their age.

My dad began parenting as a child, respectively, and he has since raised five of his own children and two that came later, and we all have our own journeys to travel. Some of us have moved away. Some of us are now parents of our own. We have given my dad 6 grandchildren so far, with two more little girls on the way because my sister is about to have twins. He is wealthy in love, and the richness of his life as Grandpa suits his quiet soul perfectly.

He has matured into a quietly sophisticated, well-rounded man. A loving husband. A loyal father. A smart, respected business owner. And the kind of friend that has had the same best friend since he was a teenager. He talks to his brother every day on the phone, and he drives 10 hours if his mom’s air conditioner goes out at 3am just so he can service it. He thinks of something funny and calls me just to make me laugh, and I swear he is the only person in the world who actually appreciates my sense of humor, but I think that is because I derived mine specifically from his.

I have known a lot of love, but most of it has changed or gone away completely through the years. My dad did not do a perfect job raising his children, and he was not the perfect husband to my mom. But what he always did right was that he gave 100%. All the time. Misguided efforts at times thwarted his intentions, but he never gave up. He never walked out, even when it meant he had to walk to work in the snow. He never tired of raising children, even though he had five before he his late twenties. He never turned his back on any of his kids, arguably when it may have been best to do so in some cases, because he felt, and feels, that at least loving us through our lives is better than leaving us with nobody who really cares.

He would say, if you asked him and he felt like going deep, that he feels he made many mistakes in his life. But, as his adoring daughter, I do not see it this way. My life, from childhood to now, went exactly as planned. Because I had a daddy, through it all, who never let me doubt how much he loved me. That kind of love, encouragement, and support – well, it means more than a thousand “good” decisions in place of poor ones, especially when those supposed bad decisions merely means replacing a bb-gun with, perhaps, something a little less harmful. But, hey, if that is the trade-off he refers to, I would correct him and say none of that was a mistake, because I can build one hell of a tree fort and I think I am one of the only girls I know who knows how to construct a potato gun, or bend sheet metal, or bondo and sand an old classic car.

I am so thankful for my dad because he taught me what I want in a mate. I finally understand, after so many failures, that I want the kind of man who isn’t afraid to sacrifice for his family. The kind of man that can talk about the world logically, but still can express his feelings when the time is right. I want the kind of person that is loyal to me even when I make huge mistakes.

I found that person, finally, and today it occurred to me that John is a lot like my dad, and I think that is why this time it will work. And not in a weird way, but in an obvious way. Because my dad is the best example I have of what a strong, dedicated father and husband looks like. I could not have asked for anyone better, and that is what I want for my own children. So, when it comes down to it, the greatest man I have ever known is the man I call my daddy. And because of his examples, even the ones that were not so great, I know now what to look for in life when I want to find someone worthwhile to know.

I love you, daddy. Thank you for all you have given me, taught me, and shown me. All of us. The world is a better place with you in it. My life has been blessed because of you always here to give me love and support. I am a better me, when I really sit and think about my life, because I know that you love me.

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When my children will finally know how much I love them.

Every person experiences it when the second arrives. It happens in an instant. Everything anyone ever told you before that moment will just not do it justice to when you feel it – truly experience it – for yourself: When we became parents, we finally, absolutely understood about unconditional love. The blossoming of a soul happens in the blink of an eye, from one final push to the first breathe of a brand new life; we change from merely grown-up children into parents – we see life in an entirely different light. The light of our children.

When it happened for me, nearly five years ago now, I was 24. Many people whispered about the joys of parenthood, and the challenges that would accompany them. From those conversations, I recognized it would surely be love, but quite honestly, nobody is ever prepared… The love overtakes you. It truly does.

Now, I am edging closer to 30 than I would like, and Layla has a sister in the throes of the wonderful, dreaded two’s, and together, they hold my heart in their small effectual mouths – Jemma screams because she wants more candy, and big sissy tattles on her, as if I did not know what drama was unfolding already she feels it her duty to inform the authorities. I am mother; Jury, Judge, and Pardoner. I am the see’er of see’ers, the do’er of do’ers, and the final axe to the grindstone. Reverse the rolls, however, and who are my children to me? My greatest reward, the most tenacious challenge, and the purest example of God I have ever known…

I am, in all ways, entirely, and absolutely in love with my children – I never knew love could be so deep…

Which inevitably speaks to the reality that my daughters, my precious, tiny baby girls – well, they’re growing. Where once I held a wee-one whom relied on my every move to sustain and keep her safe, now replaced by two opinionated, loud, and reliant beings.

I loved them both, wholly and without fear, the moment they were born – one January 19th and the other August 27th – on those days, I celebrated life, and the motherly pursuit of infant bliss wrapped safely in my arms.

Now, they are heaping sacks of burning coals; they keep me warm and motivate me to move, but sometimes, I am so burnt out it does not make sense that tomorrow, I will have to get up and start the same day all over again. Now, they are not babies anymore – I am both reverently nostalgic about this and at the same time overjoyed that we enter into new stages of development constantly.

Layla understands multiple languages. We can speak to her in Arabic, French, Spanish, and English – she translates words when I do not understand what she says, and she is teaching me things I am not familiar with. She can write the entire alphabet, and all her numbers, and she understands complex emotional problem-solving situations, expressing herself articulately and with little frustration when an idea is new or foreign. She speaks eloquently, uses cordial language, and knows about respect and honesty. She loves to dance and sing, play dress up, and dig in the dirt. She loves to look through books and hear stories… And she loves to cuddle her family. She is FOUR.

Jemma is hilarious, a total cheeseball. Her comprehension of language is vast, and she can speak more articulately than most children her age. Her ability to pick up and carry a tune, after hearing a song a handful of times, astounds all those whom hear her do it. She loves people but especially her closest family, and when she spies someone she loves, she always comes running with a big, gap-toothed grin. She can sing songs in French as if she was singing the plain old Itsy Bitsy Spider in English – in fact, today in the drug store, she sang “Frère Jacques” to a complete stranger whom just so happened to BE a French woman – and almost made the woman cry she was so impressed! She is TWO.

I am not certain where the time has gone. I really do not comprehend it myself and I am the one who has lived the past four years as their mother.

We have lived a hell of a lot of life together – these girls and me. I can go back through pictures in my mind and remember when I told two different men that I was pregnant, and I can remember the day both chose to walk away. I remember becoming a single mother once, then twice, and the heartache Layla endured because Jemma’s father was so demanding and hard on her. I can think of the cries my second daughter had when daddy wasn’t there anymore – she was only 6 months old, she could not have understood. The joy and heartbreak I have known with these children in-tow, I believe, is what has made my love for them more fierce and true than anything else I have known.

I choke back tears now when I think of the sheer fabrication of it all – how it created the kind of mother I have become – and why most of the time I allow my children to act as they please because I feel I owe them at least their individual freedoms… But there is no sense in regretting any time spent and gone; I did the best I could, but at least I know that time, loving them throughout the struggles, has made me realize why our bond means so much to me. Still, though, it feels rather crazy – how fast the time has gone – and how true it is that one cannot stop nor slow it down…

One of the common threads that always accompanies the inevitable phrase, “you have no idea how much you will love your child…” is this, “… But just wait – it goes so fast – do not blink!”

I can remember holding both of my children for that first moment of their lives. I recall staring down at this pink-skinned, squinty-eyed newborn baby and falling into a consuming love. It was like nothing I had ever known. I have been fortunate enough to experience this twice.

As I sit and remember that, for both Layla and Jemma, I almost tear up at how much has already changed. But, it is for the best – I have to remember that – because growth, and change, are really the only things we can earnestly count on in this life. They have to grow. If they stopped, that means death. I would never dream or want anything, then, but their continued maturity.

But I am slightly feeling bittersweet at the pace of it all.

One day I found out I was pregnant and then, poof! Five years later, here they are – these little people who like Dinosaur Train and Super Why on PBS. They love yogurt and cheese and ice cubes. They prefer to shack up in my bed than sleep with each other in their own room. They fight but then hold hands. They scream at me for reprimanding them but then chase after me to cuddle. They can enrage me sometimes too easily when my patience meets its end, but then, I feel immediately remorseful and crave closeness to get us back to what feels optimal: Love.

Relationships take work – it does not matter with whom. They ALL do.

But, with children, it just feels so worth it to give them all of me. It feels so natural – almost as if I was born to do it. And no, I do not mean merely in the biological sense because I have a vagina, but in the belief that Layla SaMaya Roberta and Jemma Anne Ileen were meant to be my daughters. That they were placed with me on this earth so we could teach each other about life.

They remind me to slow down, but to be honest, I do not do it enough. I cannot even recall the last time I wrote something purely about parenting or simply about/for my children. Life gets in the way so often. Priorities change – plans change. A year ago I would never have guessed I’d be in this beautiful home with a wonderful man and my daughters all together. I never imagined I would be here…

My girls were once my babies. I was told I would love them, but man, do we ever under sell THAT experience!

To love them is like breathing. Absolutely essential. That is what it feels like; I could not ever imagine life without them in it, and I do not want to try.

As they grow, I will only love them deeper – we encounter challenges together, we laugh, and we cry. They will watch the lines around my eyes deepen and my hair change color, as i too watch them grow to one day soon become women, and someday, I pray I get to tell them how much they will love their own children. I will hold the memories of having my precious tiny newborn daughters in my arms, as I watch them give birth to their own tiny miracles. Then, and only then, on that special day, will they ever know how much they mean to me. How much I love them… Nothing I would or could have said will do it up until then. Unconditional love is not explained, it’s born.

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