The Backpack

There was a little girl and she was so excited when she got a new backpack.  This backpack was going to carry all of the important things she loved: her stuffed animals, books, and a notebook.  She loved to write and she would pretend that she could write in cursive making random squiggly marks as she pretended to take notes and be a Charlie’s Angel on roller skates.

She wore this backpack everywhere.  It became a part of her.  She began to place other things in her backpack.  She trusted others.  She trusted what they said and what they said must be true.  She was not as smart as her brother.  She was big boned.  She was mean.  They wished she was a boy.  She talked too much.  She whined too much.  She was in the way.

She put these things in her backpack.  Everyone had a backpack, she was sure of it.  She carried her backpack daily.  At night she would not take off her backpack.  She would shift it around in her bed, but she continued to hold it and she would think about all of things that were in there.

As she grew, she took the backpack with her.  Placing things in it.  Some things were big, some things were small, but they all mattered.  It had become dirty and worn.  It had become very heavy.  She couldn’t imagine herself without the backpack.  She carried it because it was hers.  It seemed that nobody else had one of these backpacks.

As the days grew into years, she would shift her backpack.  There were days when the backpack was light and she would forget she carried it.  She was around her friends and she would laugh.  There were also days that she felt so tired and overwhelmed.  The backpack was heavy and she wasn’t sure she could carry it much longer.  Some days she would open her backpack and the contents would spill out.  What a mess!!!!  She would quickly pick up all the things and shove them back into her backpack, looking around and making sure nobody saw it.  She would shove everything in and stand up tall.  I got this!  I am fine.

As she became a mom and a wife, the backpack bulged.  There wasn’t much more that could go in her backpack.  But before she knew it, she was asked to carry more and she would always find a way to shove one more thing inside it.

Until one day the strap and zipper broke.  After years of holding and carrying, shifting and rearranging, the backpack crashed to the floor.  The contents were everywhere in front of her, her eyes were wide with fear, sadness, regret, shame, and guilt.  What a mess she had made!  What a mess of things she had collected over the years. She kneeled down and cried.  The pain and relief of having the backpack off her shoulders felt wonderful.  At first, she looked around to see who was looking.  Nobody was.  People passed her going along their way.  They didn’t notice.  Relief.  Nobody needed to see this.

She then felt something on her shoulder.  A hand.  She looked around and nobody was there.  She felt warmth at the same time she felt pain.  She began to cry again because she needed to clean up this mess but she did not want a new backpack.  If she doesn’t put this in the backpack, where does she put it?

“Give it to me.”

She heard this in her head and had no idea what it meant.  She couldn’t carry anything anymore.

She did not clean it up fast, it was too much.  She took two big boxes. One she labeled “God”, the other she labeled “Treasures”.  Every day she picked up a small part of the mess and decided what to do with it.  Some days she just held it, examined it, cried over the memory of why it was in her backpack.  Some days those tears were sad and on other days the tears were happy.  She chose what box she would place it in and move along her day.  When she returned, the box labeled “God” would be empty despite the things put in it.  It was as if they had disappeared.  She would panic at the thought of it being gone, but felt peace not being able to see it.

She left the mess sprawled out and began living life without her backpack.  It was scary at first, but the light feeling made her giggle.  She decided what pain she would keep and the pain she would surrender.  Some of that pain was a part of who she would always be.  But, she would not carry that pain daily.  She did not have to become her burden.  She did not have to become her pain.  She could finally learn who she was and what she was created to be…on her timetable.  She slowly threw the backpack into the blazing fire and watched it melt away.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

And He does…maybe not instantly.  The process can take time.  Slowly and quietly, she learned to rest in the process.

 

 

 

When Nobody Sees…

Everyone knows how parenting should be done.  Everywhere on the internet is an article about research and studies to make you a better parent.  Do this.  Do not do that.  Be this.  Don’t be that.  Pinterest takes it to an entirely new level.   It makes me so tired.  I am really, REALLY tired.  I have parented hard and heavy these last two weeks.  I am over it today.  It is Friday afternoon.  I am pouring a cup of coffee (should be wine but I am driving all over the county tonight). I am sitting down and I am going to have a pity party.  If you are expecting a pep talk….I have nothing.  If your kids are perfect, please keep scrolling.  Click out now.  If you want to commiserate…welcome to the “mom of a teenager” pity party.  All moms are welcome because toddlerhood and teenagehood look similar…except the teenagers are savvier in their interactions.

Now….pour yourself a drink of choice and let’s begin.

It was recently brought to my attention by a daughter of mine that my parenting skills could be better.  During this conversation, it was noted that she believed that I could get more things done in the day.  I didn’t hear how she thought this could be done because I was using all the self-control in my body not to grab her by the throat.

When I first stayed home with my babies I had high expectations to be Mom of the Year.  The first day I failed when I let her sleep the entire day and she screamed the entire night.  At that moment I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this parenting thing.  Ready or not, here we were.  I know.  I know.  NOBODY talks about this because every parent loves their kids, but really, if we are really honest, how many of us have thought…can I really do this?  For the rest of my life?  Yes.  We can.  We do.  And it is the hardest job we have ever had.

I used to measure my worth based on my to-do list.  I did this, this, this, this, and this.   Now, I base my worth on making sure they are alive, fed, kind of on time and nice in public.   That is it.  Why?  Because we do things as moms that nobody sees.

Laundry. Dishes. Meals. Appointments. More laundry. Homework.  These are the superficial things of being a mom.

Growing people in a broken world to become strong, kind, and independent thinkers and givers…this takes courage, tenacity, perseverance, strength, and grace.  On some days I have this.  On other days, I do not.

Nobody sees the angst we have when we need to discipline and the questioning of ourselves if we have responded in the correct way.

Nobody sees the sleepless nights that we hold our kids when they are sick.

Nobody sees the hours you listen to your child say they can’t when you know they can.  The encouragement that it takes to help them strive, try, and do.

Nobody sees the broken heart of the mom as their child cries when they did try, but they failed.

Nobody sees the physical restraint of the mom when she has to keep her mouth closed and let her child learn the process of something.

Nobody sees the changing of the hormones of children and the flexibility that has to come along with it from the parent.

Nobody sees the struggle between giving grace and holding the line on a discipline decision.

Nobody sees the mom on her knees praying for her child when they are not with them, praying for their child to have discernment and strength to know right from wrong.

Nobody sees the struggling parent dealing with different personalities and the different physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each child.

Nobody sees the mom that is trying to help the child with anxiety, depression, or the one that wants to commit suicide.

Nobody sees the mom beating herself up for choices that her child made.

Nobody sees the physical restraint it takes not to stop the car and drop off a teenager that knows it all on the side of the road, allowing her to get home the best that she can.

When we have teenagers, we have to remind ourselves that they will often see what we don’t do rather than behind the scenes of what we do.  That is okay.  We will never sit under the shade of the trees we plant.

Here I sit having two teenage daughters and I am buckling in once again for the ride.  I am a broken person raising broken people in a broken world.  Do I expect it to be easy?  No.  Am I ready?  No, not at all.

I do not need an award to tell me I am doing okay.  I do not need to be perfect.  I need to be the best mom I can be at the maturity level where I am.  I need to hold the line.  I need to give them the grace to grow. I need to apologize when I am wrong.  I need to hug one daughter more and give the other daughter breathing room.  I have to figure it out on a daily basis, sometimes by the minute.

I have surrendered to the fact that I am going to be tired.  I know my heart will never stop hurting.  I do have to be honest that it is really, REALLY hard.  It is emotionally draining now that they are older just like it was physically draining when they were younger.  I cry.  I pray. I pour another cup of coffee.

Instead of looking at the internet to tell me how I should or should not be parenting…I will instead look to the God that sees it all and knows the kind of parent within my own imperfections that I need to be to each child.  I will continue to grow with them as a parent as they grow into adults.  One day, one mood, one moment at a time.

And just like you, I will continue to do the things that nobody sees.

 

 

 

 

Black Like My Soul: Feeling The Pain

Before I have my coffee in the morning, I can be crabby and unresponsive to things of a girly nature.  My girls will say that my coffee can be black like my soul.  Unfortunately, there is truth to that.

After being a principal, I was caught off guard at the reality of human nature.  I learned that behind closed doors the most kept up appearances are not what they seem.  The day I resigned and walked out of the building was the day I began feeling the weight of the world lift off my shoulders.  I was once an outgoing person. I became more introverted and not a lover of people.

When John became sick, I also went into super woman mode.  I retrieved my cape out of the closet and did all the things from working, appointments, practices, games, laundry to fixing plumbing issues.  I didn’t stop.  Everyone would say, “Wow!  You are so strong!” and I would do a cheerleader jump like ‘Yay me!’ when inside I was drying up…desperate for relief.

“And then she turned to God and it was all better….the end.”

I wish that is how easy it was, but it isn’t. I didn’t hear God.  I didn’t see God.  I didn’t feel God.  I didn’t feel anything.  And my soul became black…like my coffee.

Fear and angst have a way of doing that to you.  Fear sucks the life out of you.  Anxiety lies to you.  The pain doesn’t go away in the morning.  You really do not know what to believe and you are unsure of what is real.  You begin to protect yourself as you pull away from life and from God.  You feel that God should protect you from some of these things.  You then protect your heart by withholding it from the pain causers and the God that did not stop it.

We often have an immature belief system that we defer to that thinks, “If I am a good girl and do good things, good things should happen to me.”  The realities of life tell us differently.   In my maturity, I know that God allows me to experience pain so that I may know Him more.  The process of getting there can be long and enduring.

I once sat with a girl that had been sexually abused and her anger and pain were not only worn on her body, but in her mind and heart as well.  She looked at me and said, “There are no words that can describe this pain.”  And I knew her heart.  I knew her pain.  I knew the anguish of not being able to describe something so powerful, raw, and consuming.   Any pain, no matter what the cause, is real.  Sickness, death, abuse, divorce, stress, decisions made, addiction…it all leaves scars…hidden or seen.  It does not discriminate.

Of course, we shouldn’t talk about pain.  We do not talk about pain.  We suffer in silence.  We need to cover it up.  We need to hide it.

When I came out of the hospital, I was asked to leave my house for a length of time.  My mom couldn’t deal with me, my anger, and my eating disorder at the time and I lived with another family.  I was alone fighting a mental disorder that just didn’t go away like everyone wanted.  I would burn my arms (just like many girls cut) so the pain inside would rush to another place on my body.  Pain doesn’t just go away.  Pain needs to be dealt with.

When we are in the darkness, we hide well.  I didn’t make a decision to not trust God, but I slowly became afraid of Him and people.  The pain was deep, the uncertainty of daily life was scary, and trusting was hard.  I didn’t trust myself, people, or God.

At 44, I wish I could say that eventually pain goes away but it does not.  It can become worse if you do not deal with it.  You learn to carry it and manage it better.  You learn to not lie to yourself and others.  There are days that a single scent, comment, song, or occurrence will take me back to the source of different moments of pain.  Sometimes it knocks me to my knees and sometimes it feels like the wind was just knocked out of me.

Instead of pretending that I have it all together and I am fine, I take the time to feel the pain.  When this happens most people do not want to be around me.  I have allowed a few people to hold me during my darkest times.  I have never died during this time.  I want to sometimes, but I haven’t.  And those are the moments that you become stronger.  You learn more about yourself and others in the most vulnerable times.   You learn that you can trust yourself, a small handful of people, and yes, you can trust God slowly over a period of time that does not need a timeline.

I still do not have my shit together.  I am a beautiful mess and God knows that.  There have been pivotal points in my life that God showed up when I wanted my life to be over.  I am still here.  I am fighting.  I am breathing.  I am living well amongst the pain.  You may feel the same way.  Many women do.  It takes a large amount of courage to feel it and own it.  You can do it.  Be brave.

I have been walking in the darkness for some time now.  I have been honest with everyone, especially my kids.  I tell them that I am feeling and dealing with pain.  Pain that needed to be dealt with a long time ago.

Last night I asked my teenage daughters what I could do better to be a better mom.  Their response surprised me.  “Mom, you are doing great.  Don’t change anything.  You are just getting better and better.” Yes, I am not perfect, but I am better.  Time, honesty, good people, my girls, John, and God’s word add cream to my soul, just like my coffee.  The pain will not rob me of life….not when I am in the process of painting beauty with ashes.