Archive | March 2014

Flawed Intentions

I need to apologize. I put my own self before the true reason for this blog: to share stories and feelings relatable to all. I got my panties in a bunch and posted a few blogs that not only segregated many who might read this blog, but also muddled my own message.

If I am to be a true ambassador for Christ, as I hope to be despite my flaws, I cannot be purposely stirring the waters. I am sorry. I put my own human agenda before a much higher, more important one. I put my own thoughts out there, determined to “stand up” for people like my friend because “no one else was.” Instead, I just continued the debate raging through the interweb and beyond. I did nothing for her except polarize anyone who might read. And that, I have realized, is fruitless. I say I love all, but my words say that I only love those who agree. And really, there’s no reason for me to attach a sign to my forehead and parade around, pretending to be righteous.

So, I apologize. I let my human heart get in the way. I still believe that we, as the church, are called to love whomever may cross our paths. I’ve just come to realize that I wasn’t doing that.

Despair

Jeremy Howard - Abandoned Shack - Carrizo Plains

Jeremy Howard – Abandoned Shack – Carrizo Plains

You’d think that, after having gone to school 400 miles away from home, I’d have conquered home sickness. After all, I’m only 45 miles away from everyone now, much closer. That, though, might be what makes this all so much harder. They’re so close, and yet just far enough that I can’t see them.

Moving down south of our resident metropolis was and still is a great decision. It’s saved us money on gas and rent, and it’s allowed me to stay home with the boys, rather than working 40 hours for a $200 profit a month, just to make ends meet. I’ve found a great church that’s missionally and relationally focused, with open, friendly people and solid Biblical teaching. We’ve made a few acquaintances down here, and the basics like health care, banking, and grocery stores were a smooth transition.

And yet… I find myself feeling lost and alone.

I feel like there’s a disconnect. Before, I had a well-rounded circle of friends. I had people I could go to, people whose faces I saw weekly, if not more often. I had the closeness of my mother and a new, stronger relationship with her, as well as a growing friendship with my baby brother. I had a solid church home that I’d grown up in, and I felt like part of a team. I stayed with my little Sunday school sweethearts for a year and a half, wanting to grow with them and move up with them as time passed. I had a part-time job at a place I loved, while still getting to focus on my boys. Just as we decided to move, they even offered me a full-time position. The husband had a good job, if exhausting, and we were slowly healing after a rough summer of loss.

Granted, we welcomed the change. As much as I adore my mother-in-law, it was hard living in someone else’s space. And the cost of living where we were was crazy high. My husband’s job was exhausting and low-paying, with little room for growth, and we were both just a little ready to strike out on our own. So, before I give the wrong idea, we definitely wanted to move.

I just didn’t realize that it would be so hard. Maybe it’s because I stay at home all day, or because it’s difficult starting fresh. I’m not sure. I do know that I feel disconnected. The people I meet here are very friendly, but I have yet to meet someone I feel I can be myself around. There’s always that dance, that awkward space of “is this too much sharing or just enough?” I love my church, but again, I feel like I’m on the outside. One leg in and one leg out. They have been more than welcoming, but I still feel like the girl wanting to get into the boys’ clubhouse.

I’ve become apathetic. I’m shutting down. Things that once thrilled me, like the simple joy of a clean house or a well-cooked meal or the smiles on my boys’ faces – they’re empty to me now. I do these things because I have to, not because I want to. It’s a chore to get up every morning, and all I want to do throughout the day is sleep. Escape into the oblivion of a dream world where my loneliness can disappear for a moment. Escape into a place where I’m not depended on every moment of every day, where I can pretend like trips to trendy coffee places to discuss biblical studies are part of my weekly routine, where I’m able to talk freely and openly about my doubts and fears and joys and frustrations. I want to escape from what my life’s become: a series of unending, repetitive acts in a little globe world that includes me, my husband, and my boys. I want to pretend like all of these frustrations of living on our own don’t exist. Like we have enough money at the end of each paycheck to have a zero balance budget. Like we’re able to eat healthily instead of “saving money” on crap food. Like we have a yard that’s not full of cigarette butts and broken glass and beer caps from our upstairs neighbor. Like our bills get paid on time and we’re never wondering if we’re going to be short.

Most of all, I want to pretend like there’s one person down here, aside from my husband, that I can pour my heart out to without having to worry. And right now, I have none of that.

Please don’t misconstrue this. We have a great life. We have a beautiful apartment, working appliances, and food on the table. My husband has a great job and room to make some fantastic career choices. I adore getting to stay home with the boys, and willingly choose to forfeit whatever might come from my other options career-wise. I also understand that an apartment without a yard and with people so close is a sacrifice we need to make in order to have our dream home farther on down the line. I understand and welcome all of this.

It doesn’t change the fact that I long for connection. I have no connection to this place, and I’m beginning to hate it. I’m coming to the uncomfortable realization that I’m falling back into depression, and I have no one here to help me fight it off. We as people are built requiring fellowship, and I’m feeling more than a little fellow-less.

I’m home sick, and I just want to go home.

The Trail of Tears: Infertility

Mama and #2

Mama and #2

The hubby and I are currently in a phase of life that’s left us with some serious contemplation time. While we can’t share any of it now, I thought I’d share some of our thoughts.

While we ourselves have never experienced infertility, we’ve had quite a few people around us who have. My parents struggled for I’m not sure how long before they decided to do IVF. (In-Vitro Fertilization, for those of you not sure what that is. Essentially, petri dishes rock my socks off and all…) Thankfully, I cleared the way for my sister and brother. Another close couple spent multiple cycles trying other fertility treatments, only to finally toss in the towel. Amazingly, the very next month, they found out they were pregnant.

For lots of people, though, this isn’t the case. I watched the movie “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” the other day, and Jennifer Lopez’s character really hit home for me. At one point, she says, “It’s all my fault. I’m the one with the bad eggs. I’m the one who can’t do the one thing that a woman is designed to do. It’s all my fault.” My heart broke.

You see, while we haven’t struggled with infertility, we have had two miscarriages. They were very, very early, and the doctors were surprised I even knew I was pregnant. They happened within two months of each other, and to soothe my crushed heart, I’ve convinced myself that my 20 minute long soaks in a hot tub after work (as a swim instructor, which is darn cold work in the winter) is primarily to blame. Still, I had a little voice in the back of my mind tell me over and over again that I was a failure. I had failed as a woman. Here, I’d made this beautiful baby boy out of wedlock, at a young age, and with a guy I’d just met, and two years later I couldn’t do anything. Looking back, I’ve settled my demons about it, but the pain and the doubt and the self-abuse remain. Even if they’re just memories now, they remain.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant with #2, my heart exploded. All of my fears were magnified, but my joy was so much larger. I was creating life again. I was carrying the most precious person close to my heart. The timing financially and lineally may not have been ideal for those around us, but hubbie and I were thrilled. I can remember sobbing to myself at church during worship, utterly terrified and completely amazed and in love with #2. I was 6 weeks pregnant. The feeling never went away.

And yet some people can’t experience that. Whether it’s because of a disease or a physical abnormality or just some unknown reason, she can’t hold that life within her. She won’t experience the feeling of her heart bursting every time she touches her stomach. She won’t know the way that midnight ninja kicks to the bladder can be so uncomfortable and yet so exciting at the same time. She might one day hold a baby in her arms, and her love for that child will be just as strong as the love for her own flesh and blood child, but she will miss the experience of pregnancy.

I’m not trying to berate the mothers out there who have adopted, or the aunts or sisters who have taken a child into their hearts as if it were their own. They have a special place that is perhaps even above those of us who can have children, because it takes a special person to have such an open heart. I honor and respect those women (and men, because I know there are so many fathers and brothers and uncles out there who do just the same and feel a similar amount of pain and joy).

What I am trying to say is that I would do anything in my power to help those women who cannot have a child of their own.

If it’s something so simple as letting them cuddle my baby, I’ll let them cuddle him all day long. I have him forever. I can share.

If it’s praying with them as they go through more fertility treatments, go through surgeries, or go through the long process of adoption, I’ll do that, too.

If it’s being a shoulder to cry on, a friend to cry with, I will gladly grab the kleenex and come over. I would have given anything during and just after my miscarriages to have a friend come sit silently with me and just cry. To know that someone out there is mourning what will never be, too, is the greatest comfort, I find.

But what if the option that presents itself is not conventionally thought of or accepted? What if it’s something strange and foreign, only possible with our advanced sciences? Would I still do it? Surrogacy. Egg donation. Would I willingly give up my body or give up my DNA, my child? Would I be willing to lay it all on the line?

My husband said something profound last night while we were talking and it stayed with me. He said, “Giving up a piece of you, like surrogacy or donation, that’s got to be the most Christian thing someone could do. Not everyone’s gonna do it, but you can’t get more selfless than that.” It made me sit back and think. After all, Christ gave his life for us. Would I be willing to give life to someone else, knowing that whatever child arose would be tied to me and yet would never know me? Would I be willing to love so strongly that I could love invisibly a person who I would never met, a child I could never see?

What do you think?

Confessions of a Sleepless Mama

baby in cribI’m at my wit’s end. I’ve never experienced this before. #1 was a fairly easy baby, especially once we figured out he had a milk allergy. And, up until now, #2 has been fairly smooth sailing. Up until now.

Now, I’m pulling my hair out in frustration. I’ve abandoned movies half-way through only to run into the bathroom to sob in silence – or in as much silence as I can muster through the baby monitor screams piercing my brain. I’ve woken at the slightest sound of him possibly waking to sit with bated breath, waiting for his hysterics to come. I’ve been wracked with guilt from leaving him in the crib, my heart tearing with each of those guttural, shaking sobs. I’ve been to the point of crying with frustration as he rolled and flopped across my bed as crocodile tears rolled down his cheeks, not content to be in my arms or to nurse. And before any of you “no crying it out” gurus out there jump on me, trust me… Sometimes it’s much better for them to be in the crib. I would neverever hurt my child, but I’d like to see you go 2 hours against a baby determined to be so exhausted that screaming is his only option without giving in to the urge to rip out your hair. I dare you to try it.

I wondered if it was some kind of pain. Ear pain, tooth pain, growing pains. Alas, today we had a lovely 2 1/2 hour scream fest complete with the works: puke-inducing screams, not content to nurse, not wanting to snuggle, determined to stay awake… And he had Tylenol in him. I rarely use Tylenol. I use it for emergencies only, like when #1’s fever spikes and I’m worried he’ll go into a febrile seizure emergency. That’s how frustrated I am. I don’t know what’s wrong, and I don’t know if he’s hurting, so I’m dosing up my baby. I’m at a loss.

I know there are lots of other moms out there who are going through this, too. I want you to know that I feel your pain. Before, I didn’t quite get it. Now, I’m in the corner of the closet with you, crying along with the baby. My husband thinks I’m losing it, though he’s been amazing at trying to help. There’s just something about a baby’s cries that pierce right to our hearts, and to not be able to do anything to fix it is a horrible, helpless feeling. We’re Mom. We’re supposed to kiss boo boos and magically make them better. We’re supposed to be that enchanted pillow where every little head falls to sleep. And instead, we’re rejected, left to wonder what’s gone wrong and why we have no power here.

It isn’t that they don’t love us. Just a moment with #2 proves that. I’ll be covered in slobbery 9 month old baby kisses or patted not-so-gently across the eye. They love us. And they know that we’re there for them. It’s just that those moments, at least for me, leave me full of doubt and frustration. The worst thing about it is that for once in my life, I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve faced milk allergies, I’ve faced illness, I’ve faced febrile seizures and dehydration and potty training a kid who insists on pooping in his pants. I’ve tackled baby care without the help of anyone else, and I’ve battled nursing issues. All of those, though, I was able to conquer. I figured it out, powered through it, whatever.

This, I don’t know how to conquer. I wake up dreading the day’s sleep times. I lay him down with my best attempt at hiding the panic and rush out just as he sits up to scream. I pray for peace and quiet, but expect to want to beat my fists against the wall come 3 AM. I’m just glad I’m not alone.

There Goes My Life

The sky outside today is stunning.  Even a blue sky cannot compete with the mystery of a pewter-colored expanse. It always calms me, leaves me mellow and contemplative. A blue sky is energizing, never quite the same color. I remember the first time I realized that a blue sky changed color. I was 10, standing on Mt. Egmont in New Zealand. There was a soggy, icy plastic bag in one hand and snow-soaked mittens slowly numbing my fingers, but all I could do was stare up. It was the deepest blue I’d ever seen, a blue I could get lost in. It faded to a lighter blue, then nearly white at the horizon, disappearing into the blanket of clouds below us. I was mesmerized. Today’s sky, though, holds a different allure. Grey skies have one color, a blanket of grey that mutes the soul, makes the green of the earth vibrant, and promises something, though it’s never clear what. I can just as easily get lost in it.

Today, the sky matches my mood. I’m hovering on the edge of nostalgia and contentment, desire and depression. The house is strangely quiet. The washing machine swishes away in front of me, Luke Bryant plays on Pandora, and #2 is playing on the carpet. The husband is still sleeping after a hard night of over-time. #1 is with his grandma, about to head out on a 4 day trip through America.

I miss him. Watching his brother, I realize just how much #1 changed my life. It might not always be stress-free. It might be full of bumps and bruises and temper tantrums, but I needed him. I like to pretend that he needed me, too, but we all know that our children are really sent to us, just at the moment where our hearts are most open, most vulnerable to love.

In some alternate universe somewhere, I’m in graduate school pursuing my academic dreams. I’m probably debt-free, alone, and focused on myself. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, if I hadn’t left school for my new family. And then I get dive-bombed for bananas or drooled on by a happy, toothless creature.

My teenage pregnancy was something I struggled with for a very long time. Some days, I still do. According to my plans, it was horribly timed and totally insane. It tore me in half, leaving part of me longing to hide it while the other half wanted to rejoice. After all, I was 18. I was supposed to be a “good Christian girl.” My cover was shattered.

I’m learning that God’s plans and timing are much better than my own. He gave me the option to have free will and choose to act as I did. He loved me enough to use it to bless me. Would I change it? Before, a part of me would have cringed in shame and said, “yes…” Now, though, as I look around my house at the toys scattered across the floor, the dishes in the sink, and the baby biting my pj pants, I can 100% say, “Definitely not.” That alternate self would never have found love so unconditional, so unchanging, or so challenging. She would never have been forced out of her comfort zone, never experienced what it meant to depend wholly on God, to rely solely on one other person to make it through.

I will be the first to tell any young person that sex is for marriage. Of course it’s wonderful. Of course it’s addicting. The consequences that come with it, though, namely that of pregnancy, are not something a young person should be having to shoulder. No one should have the responsibility of another life until they are ready. Life happens, though, and thankfully, with help, we were able to become ready. It isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. Bills sometimes don’t get paid and fights are sometimes had, but this is a beautiful, wonderful life.

Today, I feel very much like the sky outside, blanketing my heart with memories I hold close. I might cry, I might blow away. I’m not sure. How I’m feeling exactly is a mystery, but I know that I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

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The Failure of Femininity

Libetry University's Modesty Code - 2012

Libetry University’s Modesty Code – 2012

There is an article, Naked and Ashamed, which I think every young Christian woman should read. It addresses the issues many of us have with our bodies, our sexual desires (gasp, I feel immodest even writing that), and our inevitable failure to achieve that purity standard. In it, Amanda Barbee writes:

“There is something about shame that separates us from other people through the fear of rejection. The shame perpetuated by the purity movement fits well into this definition because it is very clearly based in fear. The literature is full of threats of what might happen to a woman and her relationships if she chooses to have sex before marriage. Kendall and Jones warn, for example, “Allowing sex to enter into a relationship before marriage will almost always result in the loss of an intimate friendship with the one you desire to know you for you.”29 They warn of parental shame, haunting flashbacks, a ruined Christian testimony, spiritual pain, and separation from God.30 In short, the purity movement attempts to scare teenage women into sexual purity. The movement instills them with the fear that if they have sex before marriage, they will be rejected by their future husband, their family, their community, and even their God.”

I’ve written an earlier post on this, and I think I need to address that. When I wrote the post The Church Stole My Sexuality, I was bitter and frustrated and confused. Not confused on my feelings, but unsure where they were coming from and why. Amanda’s article helped clarify it and through away a lot of the bitterness, though the frustration remains and grief has joined it.

I don’t think that the church leaders, or even my parents for that matter, meant for any of this sexual frustration to happen. Really, they probably meant to save me from the pain and suffering they themselves experienced. Instead, though, they set up a dichotomy in my mind. I had this ideal set before me. I have journal entry after journal entry written trying to get my mind to wrap around the idea of “Jesus is my boyfriend.” Laugh if you’d like, but it was the only alternative to not having a boyfriend. I can remember falling to sleep at night, pretending that my pillow was “my husband,” for fear my brain might get some ideas, and trying to imagine what it’d feel like to have someone’s arms around me. Eventually, I stopped doing that because it was shameful. I broke up with the majority of my boyfriends, once I actually started dating, because they’d want to hold hands, or kiss, or one even grabbed my butt! I, as the female, was obviously more level-headed. I was the one, I was taught, who had to take control of the situation and get out. The problem was, I ended up leaving myself behind.

I wasn’t just seeking an emotional connection, but my normal, innately human and God-ordained desire for a physical connection was deemed “bad” by the studies and books I’d read. I internalize things a lot more than others, I’m beginning to realize, so perhaps there aren’t many others like me out there. Still, I know there are bunches of you ladies like me who were told to write a list in your small group of the characteristics you wanted in a man and not to settle until you found that. One of my biggest that I realized early on was nearly pointless was a man who was sexually pure in his thoughts and his body. Giving that up was hard. Facing the fact that I was not so pure, either, was impossible.

I was taught that if I think about sex or intimacy at all, I’m marked. If I fail to keep myself modestly dressed, if I cannot keep a boy’s “sexual self” in line, I have failed. There was no fall back, no comfort for the times I had to “give up” relationships or had relationships shoved into my face because of my “purity.” And there was no forgiveness offered or allowed for any kind of sexual act. Especially self-forgiveness. It was ingrained that purity was the ideal, my body was the stumbling block, and I was the one who needed to keep it all in check.

And I failed. Just like anything, the moment you start to slip, it feels like you might as well just give up entirely, because there’s no point in going back. You can never be perfect again, you believe. You can never fix what was broken, and obviously these desires, these wants, this need for connection, is bad. If it’s bad and you can’t control it, can’t keep it down, you might as well give in. You’re already messed up and useless as it is.

And so we enter marriage, carrying along our little Failure Mentality, going into our wedding nights with a “here’s all I’ve got” thought and an image of broken, rusty, disgusting pieces. And it stays with us. Forever. Intimacy is stripped away. Love struggles to appear. Why? Because in our minds we. are. not. worthy. We aren’t worthy of it! How ridiculous is that? Yet I still believe it. I still believe that I am not worthy of connecting with this man because I defied my God and somehow failed to stop the other men from wanting me. I failed to “dress modestly.” I failed to squash my own sexual desire. I failed to shoulder all the responsibility, as we’re taught, and “just say no.” I failed to remove my own humanity. I wanted to be held too much.

What was my saving grace? My husband. While he is not perfect, was not “pure,” and wasn’t necessarily a strong Christian, he was exactly what I needed. Why? He hadn’t grown up in the church. He didn’t have all of these ideas about purity or love or intimacy. He did what he knew, and that was to love unconditionally, faithfully, and to adore me, both mentally and physically. His attitude of “so what?” to my flawed past has let me begin to crawl out of my shell and experience both life and marriage as God intended: without judgement or reproach, but full of acceptance and joy and enjoyment. Pleasure, even. Am I all the way there? Most definitely not. It’s taken me nearly six years on constant, unwavering love to get even to this point. What makes me the saddest is that there so many women who have experienced this removal of self, and not many men willing to put up with the after-effects.

It is so wrong, this burden of shame and responsibility that young women must bear. It is all over the place. It is corroding the young women of our Christian generation. At the least, it corroded me. Thank God that He knew better than some well-intending authors.

Cabin Fever for Amateurs

Both boys have it. Heck, I have it! And it’s only been three days, with the temps only at 40*. For those of you up north, you’re probably rolling your eyes and handing me a t-shirt you save just for those days it breaks freezing.

I’m not from up north, though, and this winter I came to a conclusion: I live in Texas for a reason. That reason is warmth. If it’s below 50* outside, we aren’t going out. Really, it’s quite logical. It’s just too much effort to force #1 to bundle up, manhandle #2 into jackets and mittens galore, and pray my fingers don’t freeze off, since I have no idea where my gloves are. It’s just too much work!

That, and there’s nothing like a beautiful 75* spring day down by the river. Nothing. That beautiful, emerald green grass waving gently in the breeze, the water spread out before you like a diamond-crusted scarf. The kids playing at the water’s edge, the baby pulling up at my knee, and that blissful warmth that can only come from the sun’s rays caressing your face… Ah, to have Saturday’s weather back again…

Alas, it is 32* outside currently, with ice on the bushes and sealing shut the cars. Even worse, it’s wet. There is nothing so disgusting as icy, cold, wet weather. It gets into your clothes and sinks into your bones. No sir, I am not taking the boys outside in this muck.

Which leaves me a little at a loss. There is only so  much you can do with a 4 year old who puts the energizer bunny to shame. Maybe I’ll bundle just him up and send him outside, or I’ll have him run ten times up and down the hallway. Or, I’ll have him jump twenty times on the rug. I don’t know. Cabin fever is way over-rated… Texas, get your stuff together and stop sending this yuck our way.