The Art of Letting Go

Letting go of things is something I used to be really good at. I’m not sure at what point I surrendered that ability but I’d like to get it back.  My favorite saying is, “let go and let God”.  I like the simplicity of it how it sounds, yet the complexity of what it truly means excites me.  Letting go of control of our lives is foreign, no matter how long you’ve had a relationship with God.  Our human nature causes us to want to control things, some of us more than others.  And if we really get to the heart of why we desire control, it can stem from a number of things, but for me, it’s fear.  My last post was all about fear and how it controls us, but I realized that the need to control things is engrained in almost every single one of us to some extent. 

There are countless scriptures that show us the importance of trusting in God and not trying to do things on our own, but somehow we still cling to the lust of wanting to do things our own way.  The balance of letting Him lead me and me getting ahead of Him eludes me.  I want to trust Him to lead me the way He wants me to go, and at times, I succeed.  But there’s always this fear in my mind that I’m either not hearing Him correctly or I’m not actually going to receive such a blessing from Him.  I had three visions last year and prayed relentlessly about them (so as not to misconstrue what I felt He was showing me), and not one of them came to fruition.  I know visions can be subjective and not necessarily reference a specific time frame, but these all felt imminent.  When the last one didn’t happen despite my best efforts to believe I was hearing from God, I felt like I’d failed Him somehow.  Everyone told me not to worry, that these things may be true, just not in the time frame I felt I saw.  And that’s been the hardest thing for me to grasp, that God is showing me things, I just have to have more faith. 

One of my biggest struggles throughout my life is feeling good enough.  I know I don’t stand alone in that fear, but it’s hindered my spiritual growth because it’s caused me to feel that God is using the same measuring scale as the world.  It’s hard for me, a doer, to sit back and not feel that there’s something I could or should be doing.  I know I’ve felt the tugging in my heart to stop trying so hard, I just don’t really know how.  I feel if I could just do this “one thing” for God, He’d be pleased with me.  And when I fail my world falls apart.  It takes a while for me to get my bearings back and test the waters again, but I do every time because that’s the fighter in me.  It’s just a constant struggle inside to know whether I need to sit back and do nothing or get up and get into the action. 

At the beginning of the year I decided to make a few tangible resolutions. It goes against my nature, but I decided on things that seemed like more of an attempt to change who I was as opposed to a resolution that no one ever sticks to, like losing weight-even though I threw that on there as well as my, “why not, everyone else does it”.  Well, unbeknownst to me, I would be diagnosed with my third autoimmune disease, and that it would be the one that really prohibited me from actually losing any weight.  Nonetheless, I do see how God has changed me in ways I didn’t even ask for.  There have been some huge changes within myself and family dynamic that I am really excited about.  I still can’t help but feel like I could have done something else to enhance all that’s happened, or feel like maybe I just didn’t try hard enough to lose weight. My type A personality really gets in the way sometimes. 

A few months ago I blogged about a friend’s daughter who lost her battle to DIPG, and how much of a fighter she was.  Her favorite movie was Frozen because, as her mom said, she admired and was drawn to strong people.  She took Elsa’s character very seriously for obvious reasons, and every time I watch the movie with my kids, Let It Go makes me emotional.  I’ve concluded the obvious reason is because it reminds me of little Isabel, but it also resonates deep inside because I know that’s what God wants me to do, just let it go.  I have a tendency to over complicate things, I think we all do, because I just think it shouldn’t be that easy.  It’s perhaps a product of a chaotic life that, internally, I always feel like if things are going smoothly or seem to be too easy, something is bound to be lurking around the corner and will cause me to control the situation. 

 I think there’s a lot to be learned from that song.  When she says, “don’t let them in don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be”, it reminds me that I’ve always felt the need to be who I thought others would like or approve of.  That being good or perfect was the only way to be, showing my flaws was a sign of weakness to me.  As an adult and mother, and someone whom my kids look up to, I feel that pressure more now than I ever did as a child.  Somehow becoming a mother cast this huge magnifying glass over my imperfections and I feel like I’m letting them down.  My desire is to be someone they can look up to and see that I try my hardest to give them what they need to succeed in life.  And, sadly, my desire to control all these things has caused so much pressure and unrealistic expectations of myself, and certainly doesn’t produce the desired results.  But maybe that’s the point, that I can’t control everything, especially what they choose to see and learn from.  I suppose that when I feel the overwhelming sense to worry or wonder what’s going to happen next, if I  can remind myself that there are just some things I can’t control, it’ll help me focus on what’s important.  And at this point it’s showing my imperfections so people can relate and see that I am genuine, not perfect.

I wish letting go were a little easier, especially when my desire to do so outweighs my desire to control things that I know are better dealt with in God’s hands.  Fighting yourself internally is probably the hardest battle because it involves retraining your brain and automatic responses.  Trying to reprogram a mind that is so used to busyness and control is like trying to take candy from a child-it can be done, but not without a fight.  Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between learning the difference between actually controlling a situation and acting on what you know is what you should be doing.  My hope is that by the end of the year I’ll be able to feel like I’ve made progress in finding that delicate balance. 

Letting go is such a relief, I have felt it at different points in my life.  I just wish it were simpler to realize when I’m beginning to control something so I could tell myself to stop.  Maybe if I just listen to Elsa sing the song a few more times it’ll sink in.

 

 

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Blind To Fear

Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can either hold you back or propel you to greatness. All of us live with fear on a daily basis, and it’s not always a bad thing. It’s what you do with it that determines the outcome of your life. The key is to identify the different types of fear, Godly and debilitating. The Bible clearly states that we were not given a spirit of fear, so we know that if it’s associated with worry of judgment or magnifies your insecurities, it’s not from Him. Godly fear is highly beneficial and can prevent you from making devastating decisions, fear driven by satan can cause you to be reckless and careless.

The problem with fear is that if you don’t recognize or acknowledge its grip on your life, you can live with undesirable and unforeseen consequences. I’ve witnessed how it’s guided my relationships and prevented me from true vulnerability and acceptance because it hindered me from achieving what God’s plan has been for my life. Fear is tricky in that it begins to control you and the choices you make, short term and long term, and if not corrected can ruin friendships and relationships. Debilitating fear doesn’t come from God and is a mechanism the enemy uses as a foothold in our lives to keep us from true happiness.

I never realized how paralyzed by fear I’ve been all my life until literally these past few weeks. My husband and I just went to Magic Mountain and I was so excited to ride their roller coasters, I hadn’t been in 20 years. My anxiety kicked in after a couple rides and I ended up jumping off one just before they fastened us in. As I watched my husband fly into the air I couldn’t help but cry. I realized in that moment fear had been crippling me for a while and the build-up produced a physical reaction. Fear of disappointing someone, not being liked by people, being judged by people, the list goes on. I didn’t see how almost every decision I made was driven by an unrealized fear. Before we left for our trip, I’d thought about buying some shorts since the weather was supposed to be warm. I tried on two pairs, just two, because I was so disappointed in the size they were and cried at how horrible I felt I looked. What’s funny is, I never used to care what people thought about me. I really am not sure when I started subconsciously worrying about what others might think of me. Perhaps when social media became prevalent in my life and I started seeing what looks like perfection in a photograph. I can’t say that I sat there and every time said to myself, “I want to look like that”, or “wow, they look so happy; they must be happier than me”. But maybe that’s the way it works, it starts out by simply admiring something from a superficial standpoint and the envy slowly begins to work its way in, unknowingly.

I can, however, pretty much peg my instant self-esteem loss to when I got pregnant with my youngest son 4 years ago. I’d previously lost so much weight and was finally proud of myself for accomplishing something all on my own. At that point it was pretty much the only thing I could pride myself on because I didn’t have help or encouragement, I was my own motivation. Losing all that progress in such a short amount of time really damaged my self-esteem, and I haven’t fully figured out how to get it back. I can tell myself a thousand times a day that beauty is skin deep, that my weight is just a number, that no one cares as much as I do, but it never makes me feel any better. I have spent the better part of 4 years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and driving myself insane trying new things to help the weight from having two babies in under two years go away, with no success.

My journey thus far has been like a flower unfolding, or pulling back the layers of an onion, to expose all the areas fear has driven me. I’ve been so consumed with myself and my appearance that I’ve neglected many other aspects of my life. Being vulnerable is a tricky thing and requires trust. Trust in the other person, ourselves, and ultimately, in God. I never grasped how much I was actually afraid to trust in God and His timing, or His plans. Sure, I could say out loud that I did, and there were perhaps times I actually did. But any time things would go bad or not the way I planned, I found myself questioning if I could really trust Him. I keep finding bits of wisdom in quotes and scripture that remind me God is God no matter what. No matter if my life is falling apart, I’m filled with fear, or things are going well. He’s immovable, unchangeable, consistent, and loving. The more I pursue Him and read about who He is, the more I want to know and experience Him. To run a video montage in my mind of all the times I’ve been so afraid brings me to tears. The times I’ve avoided a conversation, confrontation, or a stupid pair of shorts, I missed out on what God was trying to show me, the ways He wanted to grow me and I instinctively said “no”. I can’t imagine how heartbroken He must feel when we miss out on all He has for us because we’re so wrapped up in our own insecurities.

I’ll admit, it scares me to death and makes me incredibly uncomfortable to think about what people might think to themselves if I wear something that makes me cringe to look at in the mirror. The deeper question is why? Why am I so afraid and why do I care so much? I just told my husband the other day at Magic Mountain (while I was walking around hot in my yoga pants because I was too afraid to buy the shorts that weren’t the size I wanted) that I’ve realized in regards to my weight, I hate it mostly because it doesn’t reflect how I feel about myself or how I want to represent who I am. I’ve been in the gym daily for over 2 months and lost not one pound. To look at me, you’d never know I even go to the gym and that drives me insane! I know progress can be slow but there’s allegedly a thing called muscle memory that I have yet to experience from the years I spent working out. Plus, cutting calories and working out alone should produce some results, just from a physiological standpoint. I tend to be a perfectionist in certain aspects, and like most people, am my own worst critic. But in this struggle, I feel this annoying voice telling me, “it doesn’t matter”.  And I think, “how can it not”?? The whole point of working out is to look better and feel better. For me, just feeling a little stronger and more toned than I was before isn’t enough. That’s when I come back to, why not? Perhaps because I expect results, specific results. And perhaps that’s the lesson I need to learn. That, as far as I know, I’m not unhealthy and not overweight enough to cause any major issues-it’s just a nuisance.

I truly believe this lesson is multi-faceted. I have a tendency to want to control things and I realize there’s not a lot I get to control (probably a good thing), so I put all my focus on something I feel I should be able to control, like losing weight. I do what I can, eat right, exercise, stretch, etc., and I haven’t been able to control my weight loss. I just had some blood work done to check for possible hypothyroidism, and if that’s the problem, then hallelujah for modern medicine! I think the real answer lies somewhere deeper though, maybe in learning to love myself for once and not only accept, but appreciate, my true beauty. Beauty that doesn’t come from a number on a scale, the size of my thighs, or of a pair of jeans. Beauty that reflects the heart of the One who created me. I’ll admit, I don’t really know how to get there, but it’s certainly something I want to work on. I frequently see women who admit that they love their body, and I’m always amazed because these women are oftentimes larger than me. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t, I just don’t understand how they attain that confidence.

The beginning of any journey is always scary but if I have one thing to lean on it’s that it’s always worth it. I know there are no regrets on the other side of looking in the mirror and seeing something beyond the façade of perfection in my eyeliner, hairstyle, or wardrobe. I know learning to love who I am for what I have to offer is a beautiful thing and something I’ll be able to instill in my own children. I want to be able to see my qualities and gifts and not feel arrogant or conceited by being proud of them, I don’t even know why I ever felt that way. My pride gets in the way sometimes because being a natural-born leader, I want to be the one to help others, not the other way around. So I research all these ways to fix things, especially myself. But I know at this point I can’t do it alone. I need help and that is a huge milestone for me because I don’t readily accept it, I never have.

There are, however, things in life we have to learn to let go of. For me, I guess it’s my weight and body-image issues. Maybe I’ll never look the way I picture in my mind (God help us all if that’s the case). Maybe being a mom of 6 will keep me permanently squishy and a few jean sizes larger than I was two kids ago. Maybe I just need to learn perfection is an illusion and despite my disbelief, my husband thinks I’m sexy for something other than just my outward appearance. That, too, has been a contributing factor to my fear. I know men are visually stimulated and I just have a gut wrenching fear that I need to look a certain way or he won’t find me attractive, which I know is a lie but it’s hard to change that pattern of thought. I think most women have a fear of becoming a frumpy housewife, or maybe I stand alone in that, but that’s what I’ve become because of my fear. Why try if I’ll never attain that goal? I’ve been so enthralled in trying to attain a “perfect” physique that I’ve not grasped physical beauty also comes from who you are as a person, not just your shape.

Of all the times I’ve wanted to change the way I felt about myself, this time feels different, real, like the goal is attainable. I still plan to exercise and eat right because it’s better for me and helps me thrive in other areas. But I know I need to realize the only goal I should be focusing on is learning self-acceptance and promoting a positive body image to the people around me. That, despite my outward physical appearance, I do take care of myself and I can’t always control what my body does. By recognizing the control fear had on me, I can make the conscious effort to see that when I’m feeling afraid it’s simply the enemy trying to keep me from pursuing the greatness that comes in trusting God and His plans.

So the next time you find yourself feeling fearful, rest assured you can overcome it by reminding yourself that it’s only a plot to hold you back from your destiny. Take cautious risks and trust that God will show you what His plan is. Don’t give into fear and prevent yourself from growing and learning more about Him, it’s always worth it!

Like A Tree

On a daily basis, at any given moment, we surrender ourselves to the things around us. Whether it be mindlessly watching TV, surfing social media, or even getting lost in a book. But we don’t see it as a bad thing, especially since certain activities we engage in are actually beneficial to us. On a larger scale, we often surrender our own happiness for things like giving another person power to control our attitudes. Granted, it’s not always easy to control our tongue when we’re offended. But if we stop and think about what we’re giving up, we likely wouldn’t be so quick to do it time and time again.

We give our power away when we allow another person to define us, whether it be in a marriage, friendship, or even people we work with. Our lives were never meant to be fulfilled by anything but God. He is the only true source of happiness and contentment, no matter how much money a person has. I have found that I tend to put my happiness in the hands of my husband. I never realized I did this until somewhat recently. I never would have defined myself as a needy person because I felt like it would drive people away. I suppressed all my needs to the point of thinking I actually didn’t have any. At the beginning of our relationship, I found myself becoming attached but I wanted to let him think I wasn’t like the “typical” girls he’d known. So I did what I do best and built walls around my heart so that I could protect myself from being hurt. Again, this is a habit I developed as a small child, so it’s the only thing I’ve ever known. Realizing I have needs is difficult, especially when I don’t know what to do with them. Do I list them, ask him to fulfill only certain ones, do I change who I am to accept who he is? It’s an intricate balance, and one I have yet to figure out. It can make navigating a marriage very difficult because I never know when to let my “neediness” show. And if I do, I feel like I’m being selfish because I know serving the other person is the best way to grow our character.

It can be very overwhelming at times, I must admit. I pray daily for guidance on how to show my husband I need him without expecting him to fulfill me in ways he wasn’t designed to. I know God is working in my heart because ultimately He’s the only one who can satisfy the deepest longings I have to be loved and accepted. I remember telling myself in my first marriage there was no way he truly loved me because he didn’t act at all like what I’d read in the Bible. It wasn’t until I found The Power Of A Praying Wife that I realized I was subconsciously expecting him to be all these things he would never be. It was a gut check moment, and I initially felt defeated because it seemed like there was no point to being married if he wasn’t supposed to love me the way I felt I deserved.

I have found that being married is the ultimate way to become a servant. It is the most challenging thing for our human flesh to completely abandon ourselves for the sake of our marriage. It’s counterintuitive and goes against everything we are as humans. Even being one of the most selfless people I know, serving my husband at times can feel more like a chore than an honor. But I know that goes along with doing things for the betterment of our marriage even when we don’t feel like it. Our feelings are like our looks, fleeting, transient. I read somewhere that they should be indicators, not dictators. When I’m feeling offended by something my husband has said or done, the last thing I want to do is serve him in love. But I know when I’m obedient to what God says, I’m blessed and it enriches my character. It also gets easier when we surrender to God on a daily basis and ask for His strength to help us navigate our feelings. It’s easy to be mad, pout, feel justified in our behavior. But God expects us to follow His word regardless of what our emotions are saying. If we stop and pray in the midst of our irritation, we will find that those instant frustrated feelings go away. There have been many times I’ve been preparing dinner and my husband will offend or irritate me, and I want to lash out or state my opinion. The times I choose not to and go back to my task at hand, I oftentimes find that I’ve forgotten I was even mad-God is funny that way.

My point is, if you give into your feelings all the time, they will control you. But if you see them for what they are, you learn to control them and become more and more obedient, which is God’s desire for us. We don’t grow or mature if we are constantly justifying our feelings or attitude. Think of children and how quickly they get riled up, and how quickly it’s over. If we create a habit of giving into what we’re feeling, we adopt a victim mentality. God doesn’t want us to live that way, that’s why children don’t stay little for long. God wants to continually grow and mature us, but we can’t do that living based on what we feel like doing. I know I’m currently in the middle of this process and it is difficult. But I know there’s a great blessing on the other side if I continue to press into God’s word and trust that He’s pruning me where I need it. Like trees, we have to get rid of the negative, dead stuff in order for the blossoms to come around again. It’s like I mentioned in my last post, sometimes discipline is painful but He only does it for our own good. We have to continually grow in our faith, our obedience, if we ever want to receive the full blessings He has for us.

Growth is often painful, physically and spiritually. But if done by God, we can trust that the result will be beautiful!

Rejoice In Your Suffering

I started to write a post on something I thought would be a good topic, only to realize God had something else in mind. I was trying to write and come up with ideas of my own based on what the topic was, to no avail. I got frustrated and put my laptop down and decided to read my Bible, reading God’s word usually puts me in a better mood.

I flipped from the back of the Bible and came across a prayer I’d written down (I’d forgotten it was there), and kept flipping. I came to Hebrews 12:7

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Wow, talk about conviction! There have been countless times I’ve felt like God was distant or didn’t care, or when situations happened that I felt were harsh I concluded I must have done something wrong. Perhaps I did, I know I did, we all make mistakes. To look at my life and realize some of the hardest times brought me to the best places is proof that God was disciplining me because He cares about me. It’s comparable to being a parent, we teach our kids right from wrong and discipline them to help them understand proper decision making skills. If we’re smart, we extend grace and show them God’s unfailing love through our discipline. Being a mom is by far the most rewarding, yet difficult task, I’ve ever taken on-next to being a wife.

When we mess up God is always there to help us learn from our mistakes, no matter how big or small they are. The past 5 years of my life have been the most challenging learning process I’ve ever gone through. I know I made mistakes and in the midst of the trial, it seemed the pain would never end. It seemed as though God had abandoned me, even though I knew in my heart otherwise. I believe sometimes God is silent because He wants us to understand the depth of our sin. Once, I was in the middle of a life-altering situation (I put myself in), and I never considered the effects of my sin on my children or the people around me. Part of me felt that God would protect them I suppose, or maybe I was just too scared to admit the truth to myself. We all leave a legacy to our kids, and I was deeply guilt stricken when I realized what I’d be leaving for my own children.

I feel like I’ve lived most my life on autopilot, partially due to not fully understanding consequences as a child and well into my teen years. I’m not sure if it’s the traumatic experiences I went through combined with the lack of being taught, but I always assumed I could do what I wanted without repercussions. Any time I would get into trouble I would shut down, I didn’t like knowing I’d disappointed anyone, yet felt helpless to change my behavior. As a small child I was yelled at and I’m sure that didn’t help. I lived with three sets of families throughout my life and they all had very different discipline tactics. Part of me wonders if any of them knew I needed a full explanation of how my behavior affected my life in the long term, they would have done more than just spank me, yell at me, or ground me. I’d have to say I was pretty numb to a lot without realizing it. As I mentioned in a prior post, my lack of proper decision making skills carried with me into adulthood. I think I always justified my sins with the thinking that God knew how messed up my life was and I was essentially ignorant to the impact they would have. I remember telling myself God would forgive me and fix the problems. I see now that He did fix them, just not how I anticipated or hoped.

Looking at the past year of my life, I can see just how much God has grown me and shaped me to be the person I am today. I have learned so much and have been surrounded by some pretty amazing people. People who love me and want to see me succeed and help develop the God-given talents I have. Being able to share my stories really helps me see the positive ways God has brought me through the deepest, darkest parts of my life. During a period of about 2 years, I felt like I was living in an outer-body experience, and one day I’m sure God will put it on my heart to share that journey. It taught me a lot about myself, who I was and definitely did not want to be, and that God always, always, ALWAYS, has a plan for our pain. Surely He doesn’t delight in it, and would prefer we learn things His way, but, we are human after all.

I tend to over-think everything, being taught at a young age that things happen for a reason I’m sure is the source of that, so every time I mess up I sit in fear waiting for the backlash. Or, I rationalize to myself that any time I go through a challenge it’s because I messed up somehow. It’s not the best way to assess each struggle, and it’s something I’m working on as I grow in my walk. I know things happen sometimes and it isn’t always a direct correlation to our sin. We live in a fallen world and bad things happen, even to “good” people.

There’s a new song by Danny Gokey called More Than You Think I Am, and the lyrics spoke to me. I don’t think I’d ever realized how I saw God. The lyrics say:

Rumor has it there’s a gavel in my hand I’m only here to condemn

But let me tell you secrets you would’ve never known, I think of you as my best friend

I realized in that moment I’d been seeing God how I’ve seen all the authority figures in my life. It made me cry because the Bible shows us otherwise, and I felt so guilty for thinking He was just sitting there waiting for me to mess up so He could punish me. It was a reality check for me, and one I wished I’d had sooner. I’ve always been taught that we relate to our Heavenly Father the way we relate to our earthly father, that the way we’re treated and disciplined here on earth affects how we view God. Never in my life did that statement ring more true than it did then. The more I read the Bible and hear stories of how loving, kind, compassionate and caring He is, the more I see Him as the father I never had. It truly amazes me how experiences throughout our lives can mold us in ways we’re unaware of.
I remember one night I was reading through my Bible and came across a devotional that was talking about how God sees us all as His beautiful creations (Song of Songs). It said:

He loves everything about you, the way you walk, talk, and laugh and brush your hair. He loves you in more ways than you can ever know because He knows you through and through.

My reaction caught me off guard. I scoffed and thought to myself, “There is no way He sees me that way”. I tend to be oblivious to my thought patterns and I realized I’d been speaking negatively to myself for so long, it never occurred to me I questioned the way God felt about me. [We all crave and desire to be loved, admired, and appreciated. And when you grow up without affirmation, you start to search for it in all the wrong places.] I stopped myself in my tracks and began to cry, did I really just question something God was showing me?   Since that night I’ve tried to be more aware of the thoughts I think since:

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and your values become your destiny. –Gandhi

For the first time in my life I feel like a “grown-up”. It’s kind of a nice change to be aware of myself, my thoughts, my actions, my decisions as a wife and mom, and to pursue things that better my character. God’s love is never ending, never changing, never failing. The more I remind myself of this truth, the more clearly I see the ways He works in my life on a daily basis, e.g., choosing not to react or respond negatively when I’m frustrated, speaking words that bring life, showing my children the importance of prayer and trusting in the One who gave us life.

The events I’ve been through aren’t anything I’d wish upon my worst enemy, but the lessons I’ve learned are invaluable and the experiences were the catalyst to becoming who I am today.

Years ago, my younger sister would always tell me, “Rejoice in your suffering, Julia”. (Through rolling eyes, I’d think to myself, “you rejoice in your suffering). Though it drove me crazy to hear, I knew she was right, and I knew one day God would show me how to do just that.

Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-5

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

My sister, mom, and me
My sister, mom, and me

I have to preface by saying that this post will be quite sorrowful, today is the anniversary of my mom’s death.  Twenty-eight years later and I often feel like it was just yesterday. My sister and I, along with my mom and her boyfriend, had just moved from our apartment and were staying at a Motel 6. I honestly don’t recall why, or how long we were there. I just recall the disastrous events as if they’ve been etched in my memory with a scalpel.

Following is an excerpt taken out of the book I started writing in an attempt to heal from the tragic event that began a lifelong battle with anxiety and depression. I felt it was a great addition to this post and gives a little insight to what I experienced all those years ago.

I have only a handful of memories of my mom, and I’ve held on very tight to those because I lost her at such a young age. I never knew the kind of person she was, and I was too young to think about journaling to try and preserve any memories that were fresh in my mind. I do, however, remember the day she died like it was yesterday, I guess traumatic events are like that. My sister and I were sitting in front of our room at Motel 6 playing Barbies. I didn’t like my mom’s boyfriend and recall feeling annoyed that she was learning to ride the motorcycle I despised. I had looked up long enough to see her ride alone around a grassy area with a tree in the center to get the feel of the handle bars, then toward the main road. Her boyfriend jumped on the back and into traffic they rode, right in front of a semi-truck. I didn’t see that part, it was out of my view, but I can still hear the metal colliding in my mind as I retell this story. At the young age of 5, I somehow knew it was her, and that something very bad had happened. My sister and I ran to the street just in time to glance over into the street and see my mom lying in a pool of her own blood. I honestly don’t remember crying, I’m sure I did, or maybe I was too stunned to react. I was also distracted by my sister who was hitting and biting my mom’s boyfriend, sobbing and yelling at him. Everything after that is a blur, except later that evening swimming in the pool of the motel while the managers watched us. I recall not liking the pool either, every time I would swim to the bottom it would scrape my toes.

She died on the way to the hospital that day, in an ambulance, at the young age of 26. Though I firmly believe things happen for a reason, and I know she didn’t always make the right choices (does anyone?), I can’t help but feel robbed of so many great things she could have taught me. Things I’ve learned along life’s journey and only hope to share with my own daughters. Her death truly has been the driving factor behind my desire to be the best mom I can be. It never crossed my mind how significant that drive was until I became a mother for the first time. And though I was very young, I was wise beyond my years thanks to a strict upbringing and experiencing things most children never have to. I’ve become passionate about teaching my kids all I can and raise them to never take life for granted, but to appreciate every day for what it is. In the wake of my mom’s untimely death, it’s created something in me I may not have otherwise experienced or felt convicted to pass on.

One of my last memories of my mom is probably the day before, potentially the actual day, she died. My sister and brother were at school, and she & I were laying on the bed. Bon Jovi’s Livin On A Prayer came on and we both loved the song and began singing together. I started jumping on the bed and she said, “Boo Boo, this isn’t our bed, don’t jump on it because it could break”. I didn’t take her very seriously, mostly because she was laughing as she said it, so I kept jumping. She continued to laughed and pulled me down next to her so I couldn’t jump anymore, and we lay there giggling together. (Bon Jovi has since become one of my favorite singers and I was lucky enough to see him in concert in 2005.) One time, my sister and I were waiting in the car for my mom to be done with a doctor appointment. As she came out of the office and toward us, I jumped up and started running to her. She told me to be careful as I turned around to run back, and I tripped and hit my head on the open car door. It was busted pretty badly, I needed 7 stitches, but she bought me a Bon Jovi poster to make me feel better-and because I was such a good girl during my stitching. I stared at that thing every single day, I was ecstatic and almost thankful I’d hurt myself because of the reward I received.

I think about her often, and tell my kids about how they missed out on one amazing grandma-where do they think I got my “awesomeness” from? Every time I look at my kids and feel my heart swell with love, I think of her and how she must have felt about me. I can’t imagine leaving this earth and having my kids miss out on the significance of having a mom. Even though I got by without her, I sometimes feel like there’s a void in my heart of all the memories we never got to make. It’s like an emptiness that will never go away, no matter how much I’ve tried to suppress it. There have been times in my life where I’ve been so low, going through a difficult time and all I can think is, I want my mommy. Sometimes I feel like she’s there, comforting me and telling me it’ll be alright.

I have a photo on my dresser of us, from when I was about 3 or 4, that my 7-year-old daughter used to think was she and I. She was very confused the first time she asked and I had to tell her it wasn’t us, it was a sweet moment for me. She’s since reminded me that it could have been us, every time with a smile.

I don’t believe time heals all wounds, I believe God does. All time does is create distance in the memories and make it more bearable with each passing day. And I think when you experience trauma at an age where your brain can’t process it, you almost become numb-or potentially the polar opposite. For me, unfortunately, I began to suppress emotion that, in all honesty, I’ve only recently begun to process and heal from. As I typed out the experience of watching my mom die, a floodgate of emotion poured out of me. I didn’t anticipate that because I’ve told the story countless times over the course of the past 28 years. It amazes me how our brains respond and react.

When I first started my book, my heart was wanting some form of closure. I wanted to learn about her; who she was, what she liked to do for fun, what made her happy/sad, how much of me and my personality comes from her? I’ve been told at different points in my life, by several people who knew her, that I remind them of her. When people tell me I look like her I’m always flattered because wow, was she was gorgeous! I’m sure all children innately admire their moms, but there’s no disputing her beauty. From what I remember, and what I hear, she was just as beautiful inside as out. Maybe that’s why people were attracted to her, men and women. I’m told she had a magnetic personality and was always a blast to be around.

My hope is that through this book I can finally heal from the pain I’ve experienced from her passing, perhaps offer a little hope to someone who’s experienced the same kind of heartache. And on this somber day, I think I’ll hug my kids a little tighter and make sure they know how much I love them, so that if the unimaginable happened, there would be not a shadow of a doubt that they are loved beyond measure.

Taking A Stand

With all the hype in the news this week over Bruce Jenner, it got me thinking about how people in general, but especially Christians, don’t stand up for what they believe in. And if they do, they’re condemning and criticizing people and using scripture to do so. It’s no wonder churches aren’t seeing the attendance they used to, or why more and more people are turning away from religion in general. While I don’t agree with what Bruce did, I would never sit here and pretend to be holier than thou and say he’ll burn in hell for his decision. I’m not God and I don’t know what His decision will be on judgment day. For me to say hurtful things about someone else would not only show my lack of maturity, but also contradicts my beliefs. You can disagree with someone’s choices, and perhaps show scripture of why or how it’s wrong, but to sit and act like our sins are less than is the epitome of hypocrisy.

I think certain things going on in the world today have been going on for years, but with the constant flood of news and easy access to it, thanks to social media, we’re hearing about it at an alarming rate. Quite frankly, I’m tired of it. The news is beginning to report things that, in my opinion, aren’t news-worthy. Maybe they feel “hip” reporting about Kylie Jenner’s lip injections or Miley Cyrus’s latest antics, but it makes me cringe. Celebrities have their own Instagrams, Facebooks, Twitters, etc., and don’t need every news channel reporting it. I feel inundated with the “latest in news” around the world and I couldn’t care less. I’d much rather hear about all the positive things going on and not what the most popular celebrity just ate for lunch. It’s like they’re grasping at anything to report, they’ve gone way overboard in my opinion.

Recently, all I’ve heard is people saying, “Only God can judge me”, which is a fairly inaccurate statement. Everyone judges, in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s the actions thereafter that make it negative, which is what everyone is up in arms about. As a Christian it’s my duty to judge others in a way that helps me decide if it’s in my best interest to be friends with someone or not. I can love people without being influenced by their behavior, and that’s sometimes the best option. I have learned in my life as a people-pleaser that not everyone is meant to stay in my life just because our paths cross. But I have to judge the situation and that person and decide what’s best for me. I’m just so tired of the clichéd phrase, “don’t judge, you’re not God”. I think people need to take a step back and reexamine their faith, what scripture actually says, and learn to use it properly. That being said, not every battle is ours to fight. It’s important to realize that taking to social media to argue with people we don’t know isn’t helping the situation. You’ll never win anyone over using condemnation or a holier than thou attitude. I’m not saying to be passive either and never take a stand. I just feel we need to get back to the basics these days. Showing compassion, mercy, grace, love, and empathy are the quickest way to share your faith without saying a word. And what’s the worst that could happen? At least that person wouldn’t walk away and say, “And that’s why I don’t believe in God”.

We desperately need more people willing to defend their beliefs and be prepared for a debate. Differences are what make us unique and we really need to stop fighting over every little thing or being offended at someone else’s viewpoint. At our core, we’re all the same. No one is better than another regardless of race, gender, religion or job title. Humility goes a long way and should be practiced on a daily basis. If we could learn to appreciate the things that make us different, it would drastically change the world. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve been taught from an early age to treat people how I want to be treated, but it’s the way I live my life. It doesn’t always get reciprocated and that’s okay. It doesn’t change my attitude or turn me away from attempting to be a positive influence in the lives of those around me. I’m not the first to pick a fight or throw my beliefs in anyone’s face, but after all the banter I’ve seen on Facebook this week, I couldn’t stay silent. It just astounds me that America is behaving like my 2 and 3 year old children.

Take it for what it’s worth, this is just my standpoint on what’s going on all over social media. Let’s be adults, Christians if you are one. And if you’re not, that’s okay too. Kindness is a universal language and costs nothing to share. Stand up for what you believe in because as the saying goes, you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.