I’ve lost my mind.

 

“The only person that can change your life on a moment by moment basis is you. The battles already been won and you choose life or death. It’s all in the choice.”

This was the never ending phrase I heard endlessly for 9 months of my 17th year. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on those days. I even whipped out the Bible I got from that school and out fell a picture of mom and dad to which my kids said “wow dad had black hair? And mom. What is going ON with your hair?”

Yeah…good times.

All those annoying choice talks back in ALA a decade ago are coming full term. You can try to live it and fake it out, but the truth of the mess we saddle up with comes out. There was plenty I faked and feared for many years after probably some of the best days of my life. Arrogance is a deceptive thing.

Perhaps it’s too early, but I’m a huge believer in sharing stories. Stories have saved me, so I, in turn like to share mine because someone else might need to hear them too.

The last few months have been the hardest of my life. I thought starting a new school my senior year of high school and going crazy, almost going to juvi, and getting sent away to a program was the hardest. This definitely topped it. I won’t go into details. That’s not the point of this story. But 9 years of marriage and two kids later, there’s quite a different picture. In walks God.

I went into this season thinking one thing and it turned into quite another, just confirming further my addiction to being in control and thinking I’m God. (I never thought I WAS God per say, but looking back there were plenty of times I said it in action. There’s no point in telling a story if you’re not going to be honest.)

It started with a very large leap of faith, and shortly after my fear of losing control kicked in. Shortly after that I realized I was still acting in fear and me and the mirror had a very hard interaction.

There comes a time where you realize you just don’t want to let your thoughts and negative habits dictate who you are and how your life is going to be. It’s amazing what happens when it LOOKS like crap, and it FEELS like ending and you remember… That’s right NOW but I CHOOSE life. I CHOOSE praise. I choose I STAY. I choose to feel BROKEN for more than an hour to let healing begin. Go through the grief. (You can put your armor on and still cry.)But know your end choice and goal must remain the same… So your choices will either keep you on track or drive you quickly and quietly where you don’t want to be.

Choose to feel awkward and painful and break some destructive habits that are really just not doing anything in life. Because when it comes down to it–I am the only one allowing it. I am the only one adding fuel to the fire if I choose to live in those habits and let them control me.  
For years I thought “if only God would change him. If only God would give us better opportunities and an easier life and the kids had come later and blah. Blah. Blah.” 
Oh hunny. I just want to go back in time, wrap you up in a blanket give you some tea and slap you.

You’d lost the vision, the end life long goal. And it robbed you. Robbed you blind. Stole and destroyed plenty.
All that came to ruins. 

In thought, it didn’t seem destructive at the time. But the years added that debt total. Little compromises. Little oversights. But a lot of little grains of sand can be refined into a sheet of glass. And I realized after the glass house of lies I believed was built and standing in all of its hideousness and horror, no one was there to be deceived–no one but myself. Because it came down to me. That’s the only one I could see in that reflection. I’m where that glass house started. It’s time for it to come down.
There’s a reason Jesus death on the cross was meant to be so personal. He can only save you. Only you can make that choice. And you? You can’t save someone. But you can love them.
So where do you start? Repentence is a complicated word but a beautiful process. God got me to a point where I was willing to accept his debt forgiveness and begin demolishing that glass house with His help.

Every day I wake up and put my armor on with my kids. And every day where that glass house stood is nothing but empty land for His purposes. But it really isn’t empty because now there’s room for faith, hope, love, redemption, and restoration. That leaves plenty of room for grace in today. And plenty of room for hope for tomorrow.

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You’re not alone.

As busy as life is, it’s amazing that in the silence the loneliness awakens.

Many times, you think it will be peaceful, reflective, refreshing.

But really, sometimes it’s a slap in the face.

It’s those quiet moments that define you. They start showing you what’s really there. Maybe even what need’s to be worked on that’s pushed off.

But you’re not alone.

Working through the firsts in life never really ceases. We go from exciting firsts for the first decade or two into the firsts that jostle us. Then the next set frightens us to the core. And if you’re like the majority of humans walking this earth, it makes you realize why growing up sucks… and that in all realities your parents saying “it goes by fast, enjoy it before it’s gone” was really their way of painfully recognizing that the days of innocent simplicity were over.

Well now I’m there.

Bills, emotions, grown up issues, suck.

I’m not through the tunnel yet, but it’s been a while since I’ve written, and I cannot help but think someone out there reading this needs to know you’re not alone.

I may not be going through what you are, and yes, your road may be rockier than mine, but you’re not alone.

Our views may be different, someones grass may be a little greener; someone may have a few flowers, but you’re not alone.

Because no matter the view or the circumstance, the perspective of soul pain doesn’t change. The hurt of the growing pains doesn’t cease.

Your heart beats. Your lungs inflate. And so do mine.

You’re not alone.

This may lack a bible verse. It may lack a famous quote. Some profound pearl of insight. But I hope you walk away from my parable knowing, you are not alone.

Potty Training.

I remember as a kid always waiting for the next big moment. I was always the youngest, always the slowest, weakest… loudest. Somehow getting in the practice of having to be bigger, faster, and stronger gets exhausting.

All my siblings were 11+ years older than me. By the time I was old enough to start really remembering life’s best moments it was largely quiet, empty, and lonely. I spent a lot of man hours wondering what my older brothers and sister were up to in their big important lives being grown ups.

I’m 26 now (yeah yeah yeah, I’m YOUNG. Shhh.) but I have 2 kids, I’ve been married 8 years, and I have student loans and my oldest’s school work to keep up with. Since I was 18 I’ve been submerged in a world where I needed to start making responsible decisions. I held my first child 6 days before I was 19 and realized that beautiful little egg roll needed someone to protect him.

I’m 26 now. I’ve been adulting for 8 years. (Yes, adulting will be a word one day. Adulting–(n) the act of being an adult. A constant state of enacting adult life)

Admidst elementary homework, 3 years of poverty, 1 associates degree in psychology and multiple attempts at an internship to finish a bachelor’s degree, potty training, bill paying, job loss, job gain, job loss again, car problems, car loans, marriage good times, marriage bad times, health struggles, kids growing up and exploring, and growing some more… I sat down to dinner with my sister-in-law (as we do multiple times a week) and we looked at each other, sighed and said: When do I get to stop adulting?

We never really stop looking for the next big moment as kids. We just become bigger, older, children. With bigger, older, challenges. And the bigger and older I get, the more I realize how ass backwards we have it as adults (yes, I said ass).

When my 4-year-old daughter goes to the bathroom the basic conversation, however exhausting as it may be goes as follows:

K: I’m going to the bathroom!!
Me:Don’t forget to wipe.
K:Yup!
Me:And wash your hands.
K:Uh huh.
Me:With soap.
K:*UGH*Mooooom.

We have had this conversation 100+ times. Do you think my daughter wipes, and washes–with soap–every single time? Nope. It’s not because she doesn’t KNOW, it’s because she wants a quicker, easier solution. She wants the choice that gets her out of there quickly, without urgency to go potty anymore, and the filth? Doesn’t really bother her…too much.

Um, hello? Do we have to be 4 to understand this logic? Isn’t this daily life most times? We walk around until the discomfort, or stink of ourself is too much to bear and then we choose to make a change.

Jesus didn’t pound the truth in, scorn, or punish those around him. He confronted the situation with truth, and that was that.

You’re in sin? Don’t do it anymore.
You came to be healed? Take up your mat and walk.
You’ve followed all my commands? Sell everything you own and give it to the homeless people around you.

One step further. But always really the truth we knew was there all along.

Something happens when we intentionally do the little things we know we should be doing. If we wait for the big moments we will eventually want to quit “adulting” (insert hand raise here). If we intentionally wait for the worst moments to choose love and service of another stinking human being(pun intended), we just might realize we’re really walking for the first time after a lifetime of being crippled.

Too Full for Comfort.

About a year ago, I was doing the full time student, full time mom, full time wife thing. Psychology and Counseling studies by themselves can be comprehensive and repetitive, so after 3 years, an associates degree and nearing my bachelors degree, I was feeling like I had over eaten at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Enough was enough.

But much like feeling that way at Thanksgiving, sometimes we reach for the pumpkin pie assuring ourselves that it most likely won’t do any harm. It’s just dessert, after all.

I reached for one more class, assuring myself that at least I’d be a little closer when I decided to pick my degree back up… after all, it was just one more class.

I failed the class. I had over eaten my studies and my mind and will to live through that semester were just done. I spent most of it laying on the couch staring at the course work or adventuring with my kids. The class just sat there, like a half eaten piece of pumpkin pie.

Once the semester was over, I finally decided to hang the hat and my last 12 credits to rest for a while. I realized it took more courage to be honest with myself and where I was at in my life, then to continue on in a learning coma, resenting every moment.

Seasons changed, and spring was leading into summer. A similar situation started happening in my spiritual walk. I remembered feeling a similar way in high school. Over done and full on studying the Bible and reflecting on God’s word.

But I often felt guilty.

Were my parents and teachers right? Was I not studying enough of the Bible? Was I not praying enough? (But really… a Bible class everyday at school, Chapel once a week, and church twice on Sundays….)

It’s only taken a decade and some horribly guilty feelings in life to realize the answer to that question is no.

The bite of pie that made me realize it was my son.

Wyatt has been my perseverance maker(sometimes I think I was just plain going crazy). For the first few years of his life, I loved him so deeply…but he threw temper tantrums like a banchie and I often asked myself what I did wrong. But the years went on, and frustrations, patience and sweat through it all… many prayers, both angry and sad…many apologies to my family and God and we were into 2nd grade.

I had become rather chummy with each teacher up to this point. We would frequent emailing weeks to months to bounce around ideas on how to help Wyatt pay attention in school and be considerate of other people. And then…2nd grade.

You’re probably wondering what in the world 2nd grade has been like. Well, his teacher and I are like BFFL (that’s best friends for life). At one point we were emailing two times a week. I deeply considered buying the woman a coffee card and having a rolodex of “Thanks for all you do” cards…

One day a month or two into the school year after the second email that week, I just wept. I had remembered not really liking school at his age for the same exact reasons: playing and art time were way more fun. In that time I remembered what it was like to just over dose on learning. And that’s when it struck me.

Some people can sit and learn for days, months, decades even, and come clean with A’s. Then, with a yawn, a stretch, and a sip of a juice box…go back to the books. But my son and I can do about a month… and we have learned so much that we need a week or two to let everything settle in. We aren’t stupid. We aren’t un-dedicated. It’s just the way God made us. We like to serve, laugh, smile, and explore…and get a little learning in.

The weeks following were much quieter, much more understanding, much better. He still has issues at school, but we both don’t sweat it… so long as he isn’t making his teacher’s job a nightmare.

All that to say… It was a few weeks later that I noticed my lovely Bible was quite dusty. The guilt and comments returned to my head like I was 14 again. I’m a failure. But this time, I looked at my son and thought about the lesson we had just learned together.

Why have I been pressuring myself all these years to be a textbook Christian? You know… the ones that pour over the Bible and study it and retain everything and smell like forgiveness and smile like heaven? The ones that make reading the Bible and praying for 3 hours in the morning before the kids wake up is a cake walk and a part of living out the divine nature? (not exactly…but you know what I mean.)

It was enough.

I’d over eaten.

I wasn’t done following Jesus. I wasn’t done reading the Bible.I was over the lie that I had to read the Bible daily and take part in every religious opportunity in order to maintain my relationship with Jesus when I just couldn’t do it that way.

I still read the Bible. One verse at a time. One day at a time. But I do it because I absolutely love that Jesus was born, lived, and died for the purpose that I could better understand who God is. I want to think about one thing at a time. I want to intentionally think about what I am doing, the way I know I can handle it. I don’t want to do it to purge and scorn myself and somehow get there faster. I’m a slower learner. I take smaller steps. (I don’t ever remember Jesus telling Thomas to quit asking questions and just trust him already. I mean, duh! Right?)

The Bible, communion, prayer… are all great tools and reminders of the freedom we have in Jesus,but they are not the way to Jesus. And honestly, if doing any one of those things makes you resent the life and death of Jesus, it’s never a bad idea to take a break, step back, and ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place.

God never wanted a bunch of brainwashed children coming to him out of obligation…He never wanted a pouty whiner who felt the “kingdom” just “couldn’t be the same without my help”…he never wanted a resentful child who stayed because that’s what they were supposed to do.

He came as a child because He wanted us to see how vulnerable He really is.
That the God most powerful could become flesh to bridge the gap between perfection and complete destruction.
He stayed as a human so we could see that we had the same struggles.
He died when it was time because love does.

In his whole journey, Jesus took time away. Jesus took naps. Jesus pleaded with God. And when it came time, He knew it was time to lay down His life, so He did it.

Somewhere in it all, I put a corporate suit on Christianity rather than the hands of service and honesty of the human flesh. Somewhere in it all my faith, or rather, my religion told me I could never slumber, or sleep, or feel tired, or exhausted. I had to USPS the crap out of Christianity.

I can’t do it all…but I can serve.
I can laugh.
I can read a few Bible verses a week.
I can chat with God.
I can take a day off and breath.
I can have grace on others because a lot of the time…life is hard and graceless.

I can sit at the Thanksgiving feast and never feel obligated to eat more than I can handle again.

Grace happened. Freedom is right now. And love does.

Thank God.

Hope.

My girl’s prayers and conversation lately are filled with ‘I hope’s’. Anywhere from “I hope my daddy’s hand feels better” to “i sure hope it doesn’t rain today”. She sets her hopes high sometimes, but it sure does not stop her from hoping some more the next morning.

As I listened to her hope prayers at dinner, I realized that’s what it is.

Hope. Where is it?

In the last few weeks in the high hopes and good things covered by the lowest lows and deepest pains; between joyous hugs are heart wrenching pains and spilled over tears. A lot of silence. A lot of reflection. Some loss, some gain… many lessons and reminders.

If anything has come out of this, it’s a longing to be more intentional, more faithful, more hopeful.

Sometimes in growing up and the lessons in life, hope is stripped and we are left with a hard cynical shell of resentment and hatred towards our past. Most of the time completely unrealized by the teachers and role models that raised us, instead of being raised and nurtured to be faithful, hopeful and loving, we were raised to be logical, rigid, and discipline oriented. The ironic part of all of it is it was done so with the hope that we would turn out faithful, hopeful, and loving.

Well that can leave you feeling hopeless. The never ending generational struggles.

But, maybe the hope isn’t found in the sunrise, the upturn, the changing… it’s found in the moments before in the darkness, the sadness, the struggle. That’s where we are desperate. Would I even need Jesus if I wasn’t desperate? Would I even care to call out to him if there wasn’t an urgency for Him to intervene?

I have no idea where you are in this moment. Maybe you’ve been a long time reader of my writings, or maybe this is the first time you’ve looked.
Maybe life is good, or maybe you are almost divorced, broke, and no where close to a happy ending.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter where you are at in this moment. The Jesus I’ve journeyed with and seen over the last 9 years just says “Come as you are.”

Come broken.
Come angry.
Come humble.
Come lonely.

Come wherever you are, because wherever it is, He is.

Hope.
There is already hope where you are. Just come as you are.

The journey continues.

Sometimes the cost of not listening as a kid was a dirty look and no TV for the night. But at times in the journey I realize that God isn’t in the business of dealing out consequences when I’m not paying attention. My inability to slow down and align myself with the Creator of the universe is consequence enough. Opportunities get overlooked, I fall short, or there is not enough of me to go around.

A few years ago I started believing something toxic. I believed doing all things through Christ meant I could literally do anything in Jesus name. In the last few months defeating this thought has become a thing I don’t want to do.

Because of an imperfect world I still have to realize that at times there may be something in front of me that I am not able, or not supposed to do. Likewise, there may be something in front of me I am supposed to do, and don’t want to finish. When I allow God to come into these moments and face these situations with honesty, God has already begun filling the gaps. The impossible is already becoming possible, and I am already doing something “in Christ”…even if the largest part of the moment is God changing my heart a little bit more.

I came to believe that being a Christ follower, having a relationship with Him, or letting His way of living control how I was going to live meant having a sword and boldly proclaiming that I loved Jesus. I think I was terribly wrong.

Love and grace play such a larger role in this way of life then I ever expected. I find myself relating to Paul, a person who I originally thought was a complete wimp. There is something much larger at play in facing the true image of ourselves, and choosing to pick up grace and love each day of a God-man who died for people who could care less. There is something real about knowing I am a person who could care less, and love anyway believing one act of love changed everything for everyone.

It’s not about throwing scripture and “Christian” terms all over people. It’s about living life in such a way that they are taken back 2,014 some odd years and see the face of forgiveness without me uttering a word about my beliefs.

I thought the biggest consequence of not “evangelizing” someone was a deep agonizing guilt that I had let God down. It turns out, there is a much bigger feeling of loss when I don’t love someone when I am having a rough day myself. That I have chipped away at their view of Jesus, and robbed them of the truth about His amazing grace.

If I’m being honest with myself, The world isn’t what’s getting in the way of others seeing Jesus. I am what is getting in the way. And the only way to remove myself from obstructing other’s view of Jesus is to quickly reconcile back to the way He lived, even when it hurts. Jesus doesn’t need me to carry the Bible like a sword, slaying other’s views, beliefs, and lifestyles. He wants me to live like He said so His love can change the deepest part of their souls.

Turns out the biggest thing in my life isn’t what bill came in, what job is on the line, or if my kids behaved for the day. It’s if I lived grace.

Technologically Challenged.

New Jersey was cold in the winter (That’s putting it mildly if anyone remembers the blizzard of ’96. Good year for the Olympics. Bad for weather.)

So I remember the first signs of warmth. I was the first one in the house with the blinds up glued to a sunny window. The first one with a blanket out on the somewhat wet grass to lay out and soak up some warmth in between shivers. The first one to ask when we could picnic, and swim in the lake, and ride bikes until I couldn’t see anymore because it was so dark outside.

I remember the moment school let out one summer. The blanket was laid out under the huge tree at my neighbors house that crept over their rock wall and left a perfect canopy. We would lay under it and stare up towards the sky through the sun-illuminated leaves. I couldn’t even tell you how long we would lay there. It didn’t really matter.

I was drawn back to those days this week watching the sun shine through the trees walking with my girl listening for birds.

There were no cell phones.

There was no agenda.

As kids we’d be gone for hours until the parents would phone one another to get the other’s child home for dinner. We’d scarf it down and beg to go back out to soak up the last minutes of the sun (and secretly wait to hear the ice cream truck and promptly beg for a few quarters.)

Something robbed my kids of those carefree days. Something robbed me of those carefree days.

I could say it was 9/11. I could say that parents got smarter locking in on their kid’s every moves. I could say the world’s a better place because everyone is more careful.

But I’d be lying.

Somewhere in the jumble of growing up and becoming an “adult”… while we put on our big kid pants and go to college, and get big kid jobs, and mortgages, and insurances… we take off carefree exploration, and stopping to savor, and creativity, and adventure. We’ve taken on immediate communication and “on-demand” and sacrificed the anticipation and joy of waiting.

I never thought I’d say it, since I was one of the first kids begging my parents to get AOL to IM(that’s Instant Message), but I miss only having a home phone. Getting mail. Being legitimately bored. Having 2 TV’s… not like 7 screens (phones, iPads, laptops, computers…and the 2 TV’s).

All this instant access has corrupted the beauty of family and community. What’s instant access if you have no one to share it with?

We wind up trying to talk to each other between pings and walls made from tech screens that have our attention glued. I read a post somewhere this week that I totally needed to hear: We love our gadgets and use our people. (Ok God, you’ve got my attention.)

Jesus and his group of followers were intentional. Jesus invited, the disciples came (Matthew 9). They ate meals together (Jesus various teachings to the people included shared meals, and don’t forget the last meal they shared). They did life together. They hung out with the outcasts (tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes), and stopped to spend time with kids(Mark 10:14). Jesus own home town didn’t accept him, but he frequently plugged into places that would accept him.

Possible offenses aside, I really need to ask myself: Is my current use of technology helping or hurting my relationships? Am I watching My Little Pony and playing Fruit Ninja with my kids… or catching up on The New Girl and trying to get the high score on the latest word game with my kids dancing around (no, most likely hitting each other) for my attention? Maybe I can stand being a little more difficult to get a hold of, leave the cell phone at home, and possibly delete a few apps to communicate the old fashioned way… log on to my computer. (Or even waiting a few days until I see so-and-so to talk to their good-looking face). Go on a run with no playlist or iPhone. Watch a DVD, or play a board game.

Maybe even play outside with my kids until the sun disappears.

#SigningOff