Speaking into the void

"The Premonition" (digital photomanipulation), Michael Vincent Manalo
There's a gulf between them and I, created by the detritus flooding out of my soul after years of being locked inside. Sometimes you hide in a cave so deep that you have nowhere else to throw your garbage, so you live with it. The door has been guarded by the armed guards of fear and shame and no one gets past them alive.

They say self-hatred is as old as sin. You can tell me not to feel it, but I'll just put it in hiding again. It's like a lifelong addiction that has consumed you: you don't see any way out because you've been surrounded for so long.

Can you throw it off if you come out of hiding? Or will coming out into the open just trigger a new kind of hiding? 


There are no small questions these days. Distract with work, the pool, the children, the housekeeping. The inner monologue keeps rolling. Doubt is a snowball tossed down a mountain and you are in the valley right in it's path. Huddle up in a ball against the pain and it will roll over you and carry you further away from joy.

Should one keep writing when it's this dark? Sometimes it feels like the only window of hope is the flourescent computer screen hovering over the keyboard in the deepest part of the night. Writing feels as selfish as everything else right now. 

Is it an encouragement to anyone to share this heavy grief?

Or is it time to shutter the doors on this space that was once so hopeful, where I've wrestled my demons and counted my joys and poured my soul out in front of the world. It's hard to know if there's an end to this tunnel because I can't yet see the light.

Five Minute Friday

Memories of nightmares

My mama always sighs when the sunshine beams out from all around a cloud. Tonight it was a cool lemon yellow, the shadows all lavender and gray. I was bone tired, lazily listening to the children's chatter about their day, their art projects, watching the fields go by: corn 5 feet tall in the low ones, then a rusty sun burnt patch of soybeans, more corn, but this only up to my knee. The wind bounced off the mustardy corn tassels, almost like thousands of invisible fairies running across them. We were belting out "Jesse's Girl" to the classic rock station, and it was the fourth song I remembered. In a row. My thoughts caught a ride on that memory, how old I'm getting when my kids relate better to pop songs than I do, and all my favorites are on the oldies station. Then the mind swings and hooks on to the lyrics again. I am suddenly back in reality with a jolt, still singing along with all the rest. Except somehow I don't feel old any more; I feel like I'm sixteen.


I am awake with the stars, my loves all heavy with black velvet slumber, as if the night sky had descended and covered them in the dark. I'm running through memories that won't stop coming. Trying to fly and float simultaneously, for I could feel the undertow of the funneling brain dragging down into the darkness. I remember floating down rivers in gangs of high school and college kids, and going through the whitewater sections, we all would lift our arms and legs out of the water, pointing our toes, clutching tubes so that we wouldn't be caught by a sudden drop or a deadfall's rotting branches.

As each thought spins and catches the next, springs that and the next, and so on - one memory latches on to another. I am sixteen and singing with my best friend and driving way too fast. Then I remember doing my penance on the way home, trying to somehow defeat what fun or happiness I'd experienced. Emotions churned unnamed, almost unnoticed, the steel of my mind's resolution to contain emotion slowly descending like ice through my veins. Numb, I remember putting my hand to my face slowly, and I thought, this is what they mean when they say "her eyes glinted". My other hand slowly grips the steering wheel harder, I set my jaw, I swerve to the left into the oncoming lane, go over a hill almost flying. Then squeal back into my lane after playing chicken with the first car. That sudden, visceral mixture of extreme pain and extreme pleasure that burns up intensely and quickly, then suddenly is receding from your core. Sixteen has been gone eighteen long years and still the memory brings back all that sensation - WHAM! Just like that.

You ride out the adrenaline and rush of the memory of sixteen, fastforwarding lackadaisically through your life. You hit on twenty-one, when you graduated and moved to Minneapolis and bought your first house. You remember the numbing effect of work on all those vagrant thoughts and sensations, the more you could throw yourself into technical details, the quieter were the longings and the broken heart. And there the memories finally stop flowing. You pause, catching your breath. Yes, they're gone.


I wish I could sleep, shut off, rest. The hours creep by and the panic builds..."How can I live on 4 hours of sleep..." "oh, now we're down to 3 hours! Hurry up and go to sleeeep!" Often these days the gray dawn begins to creep into the bedroom, and I haven't yet slept. So I sigh deep and aching, shuffle out to the kitchen, have a cup of coffee with you. Some kind of mania or hyper-awareness comes occasionally. Almost as if my wires are too finely tuned and respond to the slightest signal. Vascillate rapidly between almost-awake and almost-asleep. Funny, I've always thought it odd to wish someone "golden slumber"; I crave complete blackness, unconsciousness, completely isolated from my mind and body, suspended in some netherworld of sometime dreams or nightmares and long periods of silence when the brain waves slow and the deep whir swelling from their revolutions lulls you into spellbound, still and staring.

Is it wrong to be looking for a shut-off switch for memories and ruminations? Could I dull myself to passive somehow, be less complicated? There is no manual for one's own deconstruction. 

Sometimes it all works out

There are some moments in your life you are pretty sure you can't get back. No do-overs, right? Just when you're sure the joy of that missed moment has escaped you forever, and you give up on healing and agree to making do - sometimes something magical happens right in that space. Sometimes, right in the middle of life's mess, everything goes into slow motion, and you think to yourself, "I think this is what it feels when it goes right." Tonight, in the midst of one of the most uncertain moments of my fledgling mothering career, I got to take a moment back.

And this story, friends, is how sometimes your trepidation turns into pure gold.


It's a moment we joke about as soon as we get over our own awkwardness. Once you have kids, it's an inevitable moment. One that comes with at least 200% of the awkwardness we felt hearing it from OUR parents. Or at least so I thought. Until tonight.

My children have suddenly become every parent's worst nightmare on the playground with the under 12 set. In what felt like one giant Hindenburg-esque fail bomb of parenting misjudgment, I had THE talk with all three of my girls last night. I wasn't planning on taking the "tell them early or you won't be the one telling them" approach this far. Seriously. I definitely planned on waiting until they could pronounce "sperm" and sign a legally binding contract to die virgins. Okay, okay - maybe just until they're 25.

Perhaps one shouldn't embark on such lofty parenting tasks as this armed only with Youtube, Google images, and one hastily selected parenting book from the Christian bookstore (back when you still went to there). I was counting on my wit, which went out the window about the time I turned purple from laughing and scared the living daylights out of the kids who thought I was going to die on the spot, choking on my ice cream sundae. I think it was around the time I got the question about what to call certain wrinkles or maybe it wasn't until someone wanted to rewind the "squirm" video set to the Jaws theme song so they could watch the egg "eat it" again. (Yes, I'm a feminist, but I swear, not that kind. This takes "man-eater" to a new, terrifying biological level.) At this age, just the facts, right? Unfortunately, the "squirm" video's death march music and the tape-worm looking sperm animation may have scarred them for life. Double unfortunately, I'm a nurse, and I have WAY too many facts in my head to try the "just the facts" approach.

I've been known to fail on this one before. The topic seems to induce some kind of language diarrhea that surreptitiously removes the "age appropriate" filter from my lips. My son asked me why he couldn't reach down my shirt once and somehow he ended up getting it out of me that when he was married, he *might* get to touch his wife's boobs. *Maybe*. He wanted to get married when he was like three, so I might have jumped the gun on sharing that little nugget of information.

This may be why I find myself gasping for oxygen and turning to my inner self with a look of utter shock ("did I really just say that?") at the end of such conversations. Somehow, we got from hormones, periods and pimples to what-WHY?-where, when, how and crescendoing waves of giggles that brought the males of the family to the door with questioning looks. (They, unlike the girls, had the good sense to take my firm advice that they resume watching How It's Made and reading Popular Mechanics in the front room.)

I never pictured I would end this hallmark moment uttering, "No, we canNOT look at the photos of dead people's [parts unnameable except in one's bedroom while laughing hysterically like a hyena]."

Sometimes I seriously wonder if living with nurse parents is scarring them, scaring them, or (maybe?) it's the coolest thing on earth.

Night light

Moonset, 3 a.m.

If you keep the shutter open long enough, there is enough light in the darkest night to show us what our eyes alone cannot see. Time alone unveils the images of nightscapes as with time alone night passes into day.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright.
(Ps. 112:4a)

Can you get over the hump in a friendship slump?

The kids in the back seat are staging a conversational attack on public school when she piped up, in a soft voice, "I might actually make a friend." She paused, "I used to want lots of friends, but now I think I'd be happy even with just one." My heart fluttered, thudded, then sank. I remember that feeling. I had it so strong when I was a kid. Just one friend who really wanted you around. Just one whose mother hadn't forced them into playing with you.

You could hear it in the tone of your mother's voice as she answered the brand new cordless phone out on the stone stoop when evening was already starting to cool, sinking kind of, and then the sound of her lowering herself with a little thud onto the stair, holding the broom absolutely still and balanced next to her. You couldn't hear the words. I'll never know exactly what was said during this exchange, but I know the few neighborhood friends I had were reluctant ones.

What is it that I experienced, and now my children are experiencing? Is it the trifecta of friendship doom: living in the country, being homeschooled, and afraid of making friends at church?

This one, beautiful dear one, she holds her heart so openly. She has "friends for the day" - at gymnastics camp, swimming lessons, gym, the park on a sunny afternoon - that seem to partially fill her friendship tank. But she, perhaps the most, longs for true friendship where you see someone all the time and you can call them on the phone and it's not wierd at all.

The false starts at making friends feels like an almost visceral cycle - the leap, the balancing and almost falling, the inevitable dismount that jams your knees and makes you even less likely to climb up and try again. Does this get better in public school, I wonder? I always thought that was the key, when I was dealing with this myself as a tween. But I don't know, because I never went.

What has your experience been? Do you homeschool or public school (or were you home or public schooled) and what kind of friendship difficulties or successes do you remember as child? What made things work? What made things not work?

To the chipped, the broken, the flawed, the hiders and seekers

Humans can't freehand a perfect line. Tiny imperfections are the signature of all our work. Asymmetries, glitches in patterns, the aging, drying ink or paint leaving too faint a mark or too rough a texture in spots.

The timber was fluid, dancer-like, like all long, slim timbers, straight but swaying. The post borne of her is rugged, rough, scarred stiffness bearing the pock marks of human hands tieing strings too tight, the horse's weight at the end slowly sawing a slash through brittle skin. Only in the hands of us and the other living things do things go so crooked. Chance alone did not get us here. And this means there must therefore be choices that affect the very lifegiving marrow of our bones, distort them so that they slowly die after so many generations but only after tearing up all the soil of our lives.

It is those of us who have been to those crooked places that know, deep in our souls, the consequences of such choices. We know it isn't simply chance. The consequences deter us from going there again. Perhaps the saddest fact of life is that sometimes you can't stop. A certain number of us who party too hard or hide too deep and keep doing it long enough? Our bodies, our minds, they are addicted, and despite all the remorse in the world, we cannot stop doing that which we hate, that which destroys us.

Whether it's a big imperfection like alcoholism or a small imperfection, perhaps a character flaw, we try to hide it. We are on a quest for perfection, born seeking it, born longing for it, from our relationships to our careers, from our secret thoughts to our actions, we wish to be perfect. Happiness - that is something we expect to feel often and to feel perfectly, wholly. But when does that ever happen? As we push our impurities down again and again, their roots grow twisted and scar us in ever more silent ways, ways that linger and change the very core of who we are.

We forget, especially as we compare our own lives to those of certain lauded, 'perfect' people on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs - that imperfection is a gift. Imperfection is what makes us a species with deep, necessary relationships. It draws us toward others, draws us toward those who bolster us in the ways we are strong and draws us toward those who complement our weaknesses. Imperfection is what makes us human. Instead of the solitary perfection of a god, we are imperfect people with needs and longings and desires and connections.

Maybe the hunt for perfection is what made Martha Stewart a millionare in the 1990s. Maybe it's why there's so many blogs on the art of being a housewife pouring out of my generation. Maybe it's why we choose dangerously sometimes - that seemingly perfect physical, emotional rush right after you shoot heroin, or the giddiness of a new relationship, however unhealthy, so much more "perfect" than our long-standing relationships that are now scarred with our failures.

I forget that my scars are beautiful. I forget that each one is the sign of a success. They are my history and they change my present and my future. I am stronger because of those imperfections. Each scar is the opportunity to encourage and engage with someone over the story.

With the courage to stop hiding, our imperfections can change the world. We can make it a safer place for the next generation of sinners. I want to live in a world where others don't judge you on the type of scars you carry and the type of imperfections that make you unique in your humanness.

I want to participate in shaping a culture that holds the aching and touches scars lovingly and celebrates the beauty of vulnerability. Care to join me?

*This post inspired by a beautifully imperfect book club, where all the breathing, heaving, aching pieces hidden deep within us were birthed to the surface, embraced and loved. We read Brené Brown's Daring Greatly.

Everyday miracles: A day in the life of a special needs mom

Patience is passion tamed. (Lyman Abbott)

My third daughter was born on a Monday, after a long and exhausting labor. Her appearance was a little shocking: she had large olive-colored eyes and a rug of dark blond hair sticking straight out from her head."Monday's child is fair of face." Yes, she was a little beauty and drew admiring remarks from many strangers as an infant. You could tell just by looking at her that she had a mind of her own - from the very day of her birth. As soon as I saw her, I thought there was something special about this baby. For three years, I marveled at her tenacity, her passion, and her precociousness. Anything she put her mind to, she could do or learn. She mastered her alphabet and was writing letters long before her 3rd birthday. She was athletic and driven. Any attempt to control her, though, was a little like putting a leash on a lion.

Little did I know that all those character traits would be used to their maximum capacity in her little life. On her third birthday, she received her immunizations to bring her up to date before she had her tonsils removed the next week, in a desperate attempt to control her severe childhood asthma. She was never the same after those shots. Although it took 2 weeks for the doctors to catch up, by the next day I knew something was wrong and, after a week's time, I was desperate for an answer. It wasn't until she was almost comatose, unable to speak or move normally, that a team of doctors at the ER of the closest children's hospital diagnosed her with encephalitis, a horrible brain infection that was threatening her very life.

Amy was initially given a 50/50 chance of survival, and as the days went on without uncovering a cause for the infection, those chances decreased to 25%. She did lapse into a coma at one point, and was whisked away to surgery for more diagnostics that eventually confirmed that the infection was a rare vaccine-related complication. She spent four weeks in the hospital and many more weeks after that in and out as the months went on and other complications cropped up. Eventually, she was discharged unable to walk, but speaking again, and able to pedal a tricycle. The alphabet - indeed all those milestones she had precociously obtained - were hardly a memory in the aftermath of this ravaging disease. We were just glad she was alive.

For months she drank from a bottle. For a year she was unable to eat any food that wasn't ground to baby-food consistency. For nine months, seizures went undetected and we threw up our hands in exasperation when she would morph into an infant who couldn't be comforted dozens of times a day. She was still unable to feed herself by age 4. She didn't learn how to put her own clothes on again until age 5. At age 6, she was starting to remember some letters and haltingly sang along with the Alphabet Song, but she didn't recognize them on paper and still couldn't draw a symmetrical circle. She still sucks on a Nuk despite the teasing of her peers.

One thing she regained quickly was control of her body. Although she spent 2 very uncoordinated years relearning how to run, skip, jump, and walk a straight line, she was helped immensely by weekly physical therapy and her own determination. This, apparently, was something she could force her body to do by sheer will. Soon she was climbing too fast, jumping from too high, and racing down the road on a two-wheel bike going as fast as her little legs could pedal.

We learned that she was an amazing swimmer when she took swim lessons. She mastered strokes long before her older sisters and had no fear of the deep end (which is both a good AND a bad thing, as any mother knows!). This summer, she wanted to try soccer. We found an affordable camp through the city's Parks and Rec department. And lo and behold, she's a little soccer protégé‎ as well! On the first day, she was learning to head-butt the ball, dribbling through cones, and stealing the ball from some very frustrated other kids much older than her. There is no doubt the girl is an athlete - and a star athlete at that!

And while it has been sheer joy to find things she excels at, there has always been that underlying problem of school. I have certainly learned a lot about parenting a child with special needs. I've read countless books about how to help her control her intense emotions, how to teach her various tasks of daily living, and how to teach a child with learning disabilities their letters and numbers. We've written with our fingers with paint and in piles of flour and cornmeal. We've purchased countless learning aids. We've played with WikiStix and Playdough, wood letter parts and crafts sticks, sand and clay and plastic toys and sections of PVC pipe. We've used music, dance, we've laid on the floor making letters with our bodies. We've memorized several versions of the Alphabet Song, and, hilariously, she memorized the one in German long before English.

But what we couldn't conquer was the fact that the part of her brain that interprets visual information was no longer connected to the parts of her brain where her long term memory storage was. No matter what she learned in one day, by the next day - or even the next lesson - it was forgotten and had to be learned again. Letters were as foreign to her little mind as a secret code that couldn't be broken.

Every few months, I tried something new. I despaired many times. I imagined dark and dingy futures for this brilliant little child - maybe she could be a dog-walker, I thought. Or an artist. Maybe sports will be her ticket to a paycheck. I wondered if she'd ever be able to pass a driving test or fill out a job application.

I never let her in on the little secret that maybe her brain was so permanently damaged that she'd never have a "normal" life.

Instead, we focused on all the things she did well. We recently added soccer to the list, and she is looking forward to joining a fall league. Whatever team she joins, she'll no doubt be filled with strategies for winning. With all that determination, she is an excellent leader. As a third child, she's also learned to be a diplomatic and charismatic one that other kids love to follow.

We were facing another school year. I was trying to come up with new ideas for curriculum. We put the kids on a waiting list for a Montessori school. I had even begun to doubt myself - despite my PhD and all the doctoral classes I took on educational strategies and how brains learn and the "unofficial" degree I'd given myself in special education techniques in elementary school children. Maybe a special ed teacher could do better than I.

And then, a miracle happened. She learned the Alphabet Song this spring. It was a huge break-through. Next, she started to remember letters when she would see them - first the letters in her name, A-M-Y, then the letters of her brother and sisters names, and soon letters for her favorite activities, like "S" is for Soccer and it looks like a Snake. She amazed me as I watched her build little reminders for herself - almost like filing tabs in her brain that helped her call up the necessary information. She was actively "scaffolding" - linking new information to old information to strengthen the wiring that connected her conscious mind with unconscious memory. I could literally observe her building new pathways in her brain.

With all this new learning, we noticed a new development. When she focused 100% of that mental energy on learning letters, her body seemed to spiral out of control. She might look at letters while standing on her head, jumping on one foot, or climbing up and down off my lap. Her tongue stuck out at odd angles and sometimes her eyes even crossed! I called her neurologist and neuropsychologist down at Mayo, describing the new symptoms with a modicum of concern. The answer? When a child is building new pathways in the brain, so much of their physical and mental resources are consumed that behavior and physical control goes out the window. It is a common phenomonon among brain-injured children and makes them a classroom teacher's worst nightmare.

When the Montessori school called to say she and her brother had a spot - but none for the older two girls - I hedged. I simply couldn't picture this little girl in a classroom, even one she could move around in. No teacher on earth has enough time to allow one child to go berserk physically while trying to come up with the name of a letter. Not only that, but putting two kids in school and keeping two out sounded like a disaster in the making - even more stress for mom, not less, and probably two little kids would often fight to stay home instead of going to school.

I needed one last little reassurance, and I got it on August 6th. I needed to have confidence that I could teach this child successfully. That I wasn't the thing hindering her progress. And on August 6th, she crept into my arms and asked tentatively if I would teach her how to read. We got out the Speller I used with her two older sisters and began the first lesson. A-aaah-apple. B-buh-ball. C-kuh-cat.

She doggedly repeated my examples and followed along with her finger. On the second time through, her eyes began to burn with some new light. And by the end of that second time through, she GOT it! She understood, finally, that letters represent sounds and sounds put together make words and all these crazy symbols on the page were USEFUL for something! It wasn't just an abstract memory game anymore. She understood, for the first time, why it's important to learn to read. The muscles all over her body tightened. Her eyes widened. She began losing control over her arms and legs. And then it happened.

She looked down at the page, and made the sounds for each letter: C - kuh. A- aaaah. T- tuh. Kuh-Aaah-Tttuh. CAT. She looked up at me in wonder, and repeated the word. Then she ran screaming and hollering for a pen and paper. She wrote out the letters and said THAT MEANS CAT!! I CAN READ THE WORD "CAT"!!!!

After that light-bulb moment, she read the page over and over, sounding each word out. There it was - she COULD read. She COULD be taught this difficult skill! And in that moment, I watched her horizons open up in my imagination - and hers. If I can read, she said, I can do any job I want. I can even go to college where you teach, Mama.

Without a word on the subject, she had known all along that this difficulty she was having? It was a game-changer. And the game had finally changed in her favor. So, with the tenacity - bordering on ferocity - she used when she learned to walk again, learned to zip her pants, learned to climb steps on her feet not her knees - she is now learning to read. Every day we read together, and every day it gets easier. The new tracks have finally been laid, and now we are zipping along on them. What seemed impossible a week ago has become her new normal.

For everyone who has prayed for this little girl in the past four years, thank you. For everyone who has treated her like a normal kid, thank you. For everyone who believed she was capable of it, thank you. For everyone who suggested a new method or bought me another book or spent time with her teaching her these things, thank you.

I hope her brain keeps healing itself. I know she will continue to work around the roadblocks that are "built in". She is a master at finding another way. I can only imagine what a kid like this will turn out like as an adult. And I'm looking forward to that day with more joy and expectation than ever before.

Walking in fog with both eyes open: Facing temptation armed and dangerous

“We were never meant to be completely fulfilled; We were meant to taste it, to long for it, and to grow toward it... The secret to living life as it was meant to be is... to befriend our yearning instead of avoiding it, to live into our longing rather than trying to resolve it, to enter the spaciousness of our emptiness instead of trying to fill it up.” (Gerald May, The Awakened Heart)

It was just last week that I sat on the porch with my mom in the pre-dawn and watched the fog rolling into our valley. Fog is a lonely weather, slowly, stealthily surrounding us with the mystery of mist instead of the flesh and blood, solidness of our real surroundings. It feels almost like a pillow you could fall into. But if you try, try to have it swallow you completely, you will find it a fickle friend. It will soon leave you to stumble through the harsh sunlight of a real world you no longer recognize.

We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (I Corinthians 13:12 MSG)
About 9 months ago, just before I walked back into the fog of depression, something began to sneak up on me just like the fog. It was an old and familiar temptation, but I hadn't faced it in over a decade. As the vines grew in and began to entangle, I frantically hacked at the stems wrapping themselves around my feet, my hands, my eyes, my mind. At the same time, I told no one. I was embarrassed. The shame kept me walking in the dark.

Quietly this temptation came to the breaking point. A friend asked me a question deep in the two worst weeks, quietly - as if she were almost scared to ask: "Do you want to walk away from God?" It was almost a whisper through the miles of phone line. My answer, from the deepest places of my soul, buried under all the confusion, was No. And so, with one confession of His name, the Living Water trickled back in, drops at first, and soon a torrent. It washed the twisted weeds from around my limp and lonely form. I was able to move, to speak. To bring those I loved back in. To let the light in.

My mother's voice read with conviction, punctuated by my father's interruptions with another version of the Word, a word that made a difference.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man... (Romans 1:18-22 KJV)
The whole chapter read like a script of what I would be choosing if I chose to revel in temptation, engage it. Almost as powerful as a bolt of lightening came the realization that my choise was really very, very simple. The choice was between darkness and loneliness or light, joy, and my silence peopled by the children, husband, family I've been blessed with.

In that moment, I knew it to the core of my being: there is no one I love more than my husband and children. There is no thing I love more than them. To ever leave them behind to search for happiness in this vast and lonely world is foolishness. I am not alone. I am gloriously surrounded by the ones I love best. Would that I could give that gift to others trapped in the in-between.

And so, easily, the decision was made. The temptation was emptied of all temptation. I was turning around - that sacred act of repentance - from the wrong and toward the right. For me, at least, the path is sure and the choice simple.

Are you dangerously close to walking away from your life or your beliefs in some way? Do you know someone who is? Perhaps you can glean some helpful Truth from things realized through my walk through the valley. Can you ask yourself (or your friend) the following questions?
  • Is the temptation threatening the very foundations of your life and routine?
  • Why would you want to give up your life as it is now? Do you even want to?
  • Do you think you might be able to "have it all", and that's why you keep pondering the temptation? Do you know anyone who has successfully balanced the two things you're deciding between and managed to keep both?
  • Are you acting in a way that's congruent with your normal personality or are you acting like someone you can't even recognize (or even someone much younger than yourself)?
  • Can you look backward to those "monument" moments of faith in your own life? Is this dilemma congruent to how you've acted in the past or is it contradictory to other seasons of your life?
  • When you really get down to the core of yourself, do you think God is in this with you, or do you have that sinking, sick feeling that He will withdraw if you choose the temptation?
  • Who will support you in the new life if you choose to change it? Can you manage to lose the people who would leave your life? Would there be anyone left? Would your choice change even those relationships that remain?
  • Can you walk away from God? Do you want to? If so, why now when you haven't before?
I feel this will be on my mind for a very long time. That this choice was pivotal to the rest of my life. It will bear fruit. It has changed me to walk through this process. And I am not in the fog any longer but in the bright, warm sun!

Five Minute Friday

Forgiving the past one moment at a time

I've cried countless tears about our story, how you're woven into mine and I into yours and the threads cannot be teased out from each other. In China they say that a red cord runs through us, those of us destined for each other's lives, a cord that we all hold part of inside. Mine has frayed edges where I've tried to pull it out. For once I truly believed you were all better off without me.

When your eyes have been trained for hate every time they look in the mirror, you forget that someone had to train you to see yourself this way. I remember when I look at the photos of my childhood. I vaguely remember seeing a lovely self with the same equanimity I saw the rest of the people I loved. I remember being proud of my thick head of hair, how everyone said it looked like my grandma's. I remember the swelling up of love like a drenched sponge in my chest when my grandpa held his ear to my tummy and said he could hear me growing like corn. Then he'd wrap me up in his pipe-smoke and down feathers smell, his enormous arms swallowing me whole just like his love for me, and for those moments I sighed into his arms, gangly and brown and warm and cherished.

That urge to disconnect from my story, to disconnect from my life, to disconnect from my loved ones - really it's fear baring its ugly teeth. I am afraid of being lost, forgotten, dismissed or left behind. I am afraid my story is too messy to fit in this Christian family of good people. I am afraid I am the ugly duckling for a lifetime swimming among swans.

I added one little phrase into my daily thoughts and words this year: "You're doing the best that you can." That one phrase has revolutionized our story: children who aren't being willful but still can't get a task done? They don't get punished, they receive help and grace and understanding for where they are at. They're doing the best they can. House messy at the end of the day and no supper plans yet? I did the best that I can. 

This is not a permission slip for halfway effort. It is not a get-out-of-jail free card for consequences. It is a way to forgive the past so you can live in the present. It is a way to recognize the good instead of the bad. Saying, "I'm doing the best that I can" dismisses the failures of the past hour and seeds hope for the next. 

Next time you send your child to wash his hands and he makes a mess of the sink and still has dirt on his face? Try saying it instead of "why did you..." with a furrowed brow. Even if it comes out with a sigh, this phrase allows us all to be where we are without the constant comparison with where we think we should be.

And if at the end of our story that is what they say of me? "She did the best she could." What a victory that would be.

Five Minute Friday