Sunday, 24 August 2014

I did learn something....learning to pray for my Kid's Dad is a new idea.

When I was married to my Kid's Dad, there was a stream of books by Stormie Omartian on the market, the most widely read being, "The Power of a Praying Wife". I bought it. I pretty much memorized it. If I still had it today (I have no idea if I kept it or not) you would see that it's dog eared and underlined and highlighted and tear stained. The book didn't work for me (obviously) maybe because I was trying to use prayer to manipulate my Kid's Dad into loving me and wanting to stay. To steal a page from Bonnie Raitt, "I can't make you love me" neither can I pray you into loving me.

That was years ago, I've moved on. I've married again. Jarrett is the most wonderful man. Very different from my Kid's Dad, but we are completely compatible and I love him with all my heart. I thought that most every first marriage rip in my heart had healed, that every tear had been shed,  every dream given it's due release. And then I stumbled upon something I wasn't looking for.

John McElhenney is a blogger, and probably a counselor (I haven't actually checked) and someone who seems to be super "in touch" with his emotional side. He writes for "The Good Man Project" his blog is I often read his posts. He's divorced, and captures the pain and hope of that journey splendidly. On July 2 his post was called, "Prayer for Single Parents, and my Ex". I was intrigued, because although I strive to bless my Kid's Dad through my words and wish him well, to read all that encapsulated in a prayer was something different altogether.

The prayer read:

“I wish you happiness in your new life, I always want to see you shine, you are the other half, the partner in this parenting journey we accepted together. Your joy is joy for our kids. Your peace is their peace, and mine. As we walk separate paths we are blameless and grateful for the gifts we’ve been given. And to you, my dear ex, I give the deepest respect and love. Thank you for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going, still a family, still parents, still blessed.” 

Ugh. That was hard. The first time I read it I didn't get to the end of the first line before strong emotions welled up inside me. I can't pray these words. I can't bless him like this. And then I start to doubt my healing journey. Too soon? It shouldn't be, I tell myself. I thought I'd made such peace with every part that needed peace. I shouldn't be feeling anger, hurt, betrayal. And I begin to feel less of myself and my walk. 

I'm not there yet. Maybe I won't get there in this life. Maybe I will. And it's ok. Maybe I was never meant to pray those words. 

As I sit at my computer and bare my soul to you, my friends,  God whispers to my heart, "Those were John's words. Your words to bless your Kid's Dad will be different. They'll be words just for you."

Freedom. Good thing.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

I did learn kids watching the news on TV may not be the best thing.

When I was young I was a voracious watcher of the news. I'll never know if it was because I really had a predisposition towards the news, or because it was one of the few television shows I was allowed to watch. (other than the news, the shows I could watch that were longer than 30 minutes were: Little House on the Prairie, Lawrence Welk, Bugs Bunny and of course HNIC) Whatever the reason, very early on I became a lover of current affairs, I had a good understanding of our political system and I enjoyed speaking with adults about the conflict in the Middle East. (Yes, I'm an only child. If you didn't know until now, that just totally gave it away)

By the time I was 11, I had my own subscription to MacLeans.

My friends thought I was weird. My friend's parents wanted their kids to be more like me. And I couldn't wait to have kids of my own, so I could educate them in the ways of Peter Mansbridge and Knowlton Nash. Not to mention my high regard for Peter Gzowski, but that's a post for another day.

Now I'm 16 years into this whole parenting thing, and I think it's gone pretty well. But this morning I began to rethink the whole "let's watch the news first thing every morning" component of our schedule.  I turned the TV to CNN because I knew Kent Brantly was being released from his Atlanta Hospital and I wanted to hear what he had to say. But before the news went there, my 12 year old saw:
1. a picture of James Foley and his beheader, shortly before the event
2. the violence and unrest in Ferguson
3. an erupting volcano in Iceland
4. a report on everything that could go wrong now that the Ebola strain has landed on American soil

We really never got past #1 in our debriefing of what had just been on. I was soon processing with my dear, sweet Chrissy:
1. Who is ISIS
2. Are they in North America
3. What could happen if they ever arrived in North America
4. Did only one person do the beheading or was there a group
5. Why would people do that
6. Does ISIS just hate Americans, what about Canadians, and do they hate their own people as well
7. Why do some people think they will be rewarded in heaven for killing on earth

It was all a bit much. I tried to answer honestly, without using any fear inducing language, but it was hard. I wanted to do justice to her intelligence while holding in tension the big questions about why there is such evil in world, especially when we hold to the fact that God is love.

It was a sobering parenting moment for me. I usually tell my kids that knowledge is power, but this morning I asked myself about the cost of that power.

Maybe tomorrow we'll just watch cartoons.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I did learn something.....if you make Cookie Dough Truffles, you will want to eat them.

These last few days I've been avoiding packing, avoiding processing, avoiding the emotions that come with moving from a house that I am wildly in love with, to a house that's fine. It will do, it will work. It's nice. It's on the Mountain, I have a view. I'm grateful that we've been given it.

But let me tell you the story of this house, that will be forever known as "Zanatta".

5 or 6 years ago, the place where we are living for a precious few days was a completely undeveloped side of a mountain. Basically, a big rock. But considering that we live in the Lower Mainland, if it can be developed, it will be developed. And as I drove past this lovely nugget of the earth several times a day and saw houses going up, something pulled at my heart strings and for reasons that I cannot understand, I said to myself, "That's where I'm going to live!"

So my Kid's Dad and I looked at 4 or 5 houses on the street not long after they went up. But we didn't buy one, for reasons that I don't even know. I suspect it was that we wanted the biggest and most that our mortgage dollar would give us. (that backfired, but that's a story for another day) And that's what we bought.

Fast forward a few years and I was living alone with my kids in our 4200 square foot bundle of financial destruction, and I decided that I could not live there anymore. I met with my Kid's Dad and explained the situation and we agreed that I would move out and he would move in.

And I had a month to figure out where I was going to go. So where did I turn?

Yep. Craigslist.

I had my wish list and as I combed though the listings there was ONE, yes, ONE house that would work for us. And guess which street it was on? The very street of my dreams. The street that had called to me years ago. And through nothing short of a miracle, I was picked as the new occupant of Zanatta. It was with joy and shouts of glee that my friend's moved us 13 short months ago. I vowed to those around me that this good gift that was given to me and my family was where I would spend the rest of my days. The plan was that I'd buy it in a couple years after my finances had rebounded from the shock of divorce and become best friends with everyone on the street.

And a lot did happen in that short year. I married a wonderful man named Jarrett and we welcomed him and his son, Jaremie, into Zanatta. Good thing I was smart enough to look for 6 bedrooms. We had space to be together and space to be apart. No fighting over bathrooms. It was ideal.

Then we got a letter that the Owners were moving back in. I went into shock. Denial. Anger. Tears. The whole grief cycle. Why would God give me this dream many years ago, and then the dream actually came true, only for it to be taken away after only one year? Why?

I don't know yet. I wish I did. So we go forward, I'll slap on my happy face and make it though. And this morning I finished making Cookie Dough Truffles for my kids (read: me) and whenever we eat them we can remember the great times we had in this great house.
                                 Oh ya - totally email me for the recipe. They are fantastic!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I did learn something...story is powerful.

I'm a Preacher's Kid, and I'd NEVER listen to my Dad's sermons. Oh I was there, in the building, sitting in a pew, but I was usually writing notes to my friends, or when I got older, I was harmonically analyzing the chords progressions from the Hymn Book. Until he told a story...

The I'd listen - couldn't wait to hear what he had to say. Sometimes it was even about me. (I liked those ones the best) Story is what makes even the most hardened of PK's listen to their Dad with rapt attention.

Story is what drives social media today. Well, that and our own narcissism. Story is finding the intersection between your life and mine. Without story, we are strangers.

When I look at cultures and generations that have gone before, the most important thing they passed on to those who were just coming up were the stories. It wasn't a list of dos and don'ts. It was the stories that they had heard when they were young. Think of the bedtime stories you told your kids when they were small, when did you learn them? I bet they were the ones that were told to you. We don't forget them.

I like to occasionally get the new FB friend that I don't know all that well and then I start digging. (not to be confused with creeping, of course) Through FB, what have they disclosed to me about their story? And what do I tell people about mine?

Story of course has a downside. It can be voracious. I once took a class where the Prof said that gossip is to women what porn is to men. I don't know that I completely agree, but there may be a kernel of wisdom there. Did we really need to know how Robin Williams was found dead? What position he was in? No. After I heard it, my husband and I had a long talk about how long it would have taken, and did he pass right after he said good night to his wife and how long does it take for rigor mortis to set in and a whole lot of things that are honestly none of our business. Some stories don't need to be told to the world.

But having said that, I will never forget those details.

Because story is powerful.

This was at theologian Fred Buechner's blog a few days ago,  "It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life's story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others' lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

I did learn something...even if you hurt my feelings, good things will still happen to you.

That may seem like a bizarre statement. Of course - the rain falls and the sun shines on each of us. But for me, because I internalize things so deeply, and maybe because I read the Psalms A LOT where David and his cohorts confidently pronounce utter destruction on those who don't follow the straight and narrow ("Break the arms of these wicked, evil people! Go after them until the last one is destroyed." Psalm 10:15 - a good example) I expect that if you are unkind and hurtful to me, my friends and family, bad things will happen to you. Call it some sort of Christian Karma. Besides, I can back it up with verses like "what you sow, you shall also reap" - Galatians 6:7.

Except that's not the way it is.

I've seen people who have done horrible things to others given lavish gifts of beautiful homes, promotions at work, the ability to take exotic vacations with those who are close to them. How come? Shouldn't God have smote them by now?

Last year when I was on sabbatical, I had two profound thoughts occur to me. OK maybe they weren't that profound, but I did see them with much clarity.

Thought #1 - they are just as valuable and as loved as I am
Thought #2 - God wants good for them just as much as he wants good for me

When Jesus came to earth as a man he was heralded as the word Emmanuel - God with us. And if God is with us, who can be against us.

God is for me, yes.
But even if you have caused me great pain, God is also for you, and wants good for you.
And God rejoices when I am happy.
And if you've damaged my reputation by words that you've spoken, God is not plotting your demise. (We seem to be able to do that on our own)

Not to say God doesn't want reconciliation and reconnection and unity, that's a post for another day.

When I think about the idea of forgiveness, my goal is not about forgetting the past, the words, the actions. Instead, I look to celebrate the good things that have happened to those who have hurt me. Celebrate the God that loves me "to the moon and back" thinks the same of them as well. I've even tried to secretly arrange a promotion for someone who causes me grief. But that was just once.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I did learn something....the chasm between being ok and not ok, is probably quite small. Likely, most bloggers in the Western Hemisphere are writing about Robin Williams death today. We are stunned, we are sad. We need to process.
I've already read many great posts about mental illness and shame and brokenness in the past 18 hours. I don't think I have much new to add to the dialogue except for this:

At what point do we go from just having a bad day, to needing help? Or, how many bad days in a row does it take from just feeling blue to it being something more? If we are in position where we need help, how many of us are able to ask for it?

I can only speak for myself. When my kid's Dad left me several years ago, I did have the presence of mind to go see my Doctor pretty early on. I told him what was going on and that I needed two things. I needed to sleep and I needed to stop crying all the time. I had 4 kids to raise, I worked full time in a position where I was in a fishbowl, I wanted to make good, wise decisions and I wasn't sure I could without getting help. (Looking back, I'm not sure that all my decisions were good and wise, but I did try)

He gave me a half dose of Effexor which I've now been on for years. I wouldn't be surprised if I was on it for the rest of my life.

Not that I'm advocating for drugging ourselves into oblivion. I also had a counselor who I saw every week. I had a life coach that I saw once a month. I had an army of people praying for me. I meditated. I read. I prayed. (I also screamed and cried - but not all the time)

Last night was an odd night in that I couldn't sleep. (an upside to my medication is that I can pretty much sleep anytime, anywhere) My mind was full, I was irritated and I was processing Robin's untimely departure. And I thought about stress and how much I still carry. There are financial concerns, we're moving in 3 days, concerns with the kids, learning to be a step parent to a special needs child, being newly married but having 5 kids and how exactly does one have any alone time in that scenario, difficult conversations that I need to have with people at work, disappointment at work, and the list goes on.

At what point do we get to say - it's all too much? Or are we just expected to shoulder it because we live in affluent North America and we live in nice houses and we drive new cars. When does stress stop being "healthy" (because I know the way I'm wired, I need a certain degree of stress in order to get anything done) and become detrimental?

Where's the tipping point?

Monday, 11 August 2014

I did learn something.... If you can't do something well, maybe you should just leave it for a time when you can do it well. You don't have to do everything just because it's there.
This is completely contrary to how I'm wired. I am wired to plow through whatever circumstances and obstacles are coming at me. I will achieve and I will finish and it will be done no matter how ugly the outcome is. A classic example from another Mom: last night my kids and I watched last week's "Amazing Race Canada" and we watched Mother and Son team Nicole and Cormac at a road block. Nicole had to ride her bike for a kilometer and then get down and shoot 5 perfect shots with her biathalon gun. It took her forever. Like, hours. She cried. I cried along with her. I think it took her 22 tries to get it. They ended up being eliminated and we were all so sad, but she finished - that was the important lesson she wanted to leave her son with, (never give up) and he got it, and it was powerful. That is fantastic "first half of life" thinking, and there is a place for it, but as I'm comfortably in my 40's now, I see things with a bit of a different eye.
(By the way, "first half of life" thinking is a Richard Rohr thing. He's a Franciscan Monk that lives in New Mexico and I'm a fan of many things that he has to say - I will talk about him again.)
The grey hairs on my head tell me a different story. Sometimes less is more. You can't force success. (or even completion) You can't control an outcome just because you really, really want it, or because you're a really, really nice person. Sometimes it's better to graciously bow out of a situation rather than doing an "OK" job. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is sometimes just what you need to do.

I remember at the end of Soccer Camp one year I had no money in my budget for "thank you" gifts for my coaches, so I gave them each a pad of post it notes and told them how "attached" we were to them. Lame. A heart felt thank you would have been much more appreciated, I'm sure. All a pad of post it notes said was that I was out of money but felt an obligation.

For the past few years at church we've had a "Church in the Park" service at my kid's Elementary School as a kick off to summer. We booked the field months before the date but a few weeks before it was scheduled to happen, we were told we couldn't use the field. So I decided we could just have the picnic in the back parking lot of the church. So what had traditionally been potluck and games and water balloons turned into pavement and hot dogs and crazy UV rays. I mean, it wasn't a total disaster. But 3 legged races on asphalt just aren't the same as frolicking through meadows of perfectly coiffed fields of green. Maybe I should have just left it for this year. Not done it until I could do it well.

I've had relationships where I tried and tried and tried. Tried so hard to make people happy. Tried everything to make them like/love me. Prayed and prayed and prayed. Nothing. The healthiest thing I've been able to do is to give those relationships distance. I can't see clearly when I'm right in the middle of my emotions. I don't have to be everybody's friend just because they're there. And there ARE seasons for everything.  I think I read that somewhere.