Saturday, December 29, 2012

What it is.....

I had visions of peacefully writing....fresh warm cup of coffee with a little cream, brown sugar and cinnamon; snow falling gently from the sky and a very clean and remodeled home. I sit strengthening my 'flexibility' muscles. 

My sweet 97 year old Granny is in the hospital for something fluish and miserable.  My seventy something Momma is taking her turn sitting with her and my children and I are taking a turn spending time with my seventy something Dad at our family home.  My coffee is in a stryofoam cup left over from a wonderful breakfast with a beautiful friend this morning and what's left of it is rather cold.  I'll probably drink it anyway.  My 11 year old son sits across from me seriously invested in a game on my smartphone, my 7 year old daughter is in the other room making melodies of her own on the keyboard.  My hardworking hubby is at home sanding and preparing to stain new wood floors.  I am doing laundry a little laundry for my parents and the washer continues to beep and stop cycling until I go push pause and start again.  This is really testing my elasticity!  I guess I should be proud...things are insanely out of my control and the thing that irritates me most is an uncooperative machine.

A new year is about to begin and I am intensely aware of the changes coming with us.  As a matter of fact, the older I get the more life seems to be a flux of constant change.  Viewing it as an adventure and leaning into the adventure (even and especially when it's hard) is something I've had the opportunity to begin to learn these past couple of while I am afraid and apprehensive I am also greeting the changes with open (mostly) arms.

I will begin working as a Resource Coordinator for Sooner Start this week.  I honestly cannot say it is my deepest desire to return to work full time - I am perfectly happy being home full time.  I can honestly say that if I need to go to work full time (and yes, I NEED to do this), the way this job 'came to me' is a total God thing (I know some of my dear friends would call it coincidences or acts of the universe, I believe God has his hand on me and in this situation particularly and that there are no accidents) and I am (cautiously) very excited to begin this journey.


When our family was at Disney World, I observed many families with special needs children.  I am of the mind that all children are 'special needs' and being a parent is a tough job. I've spent lots of time observing how very lacking our society is in fulfilling parental needs on many counts.  Having a hand in helping families strengthen and be able to help their children to the best of their abilities is a passion of my heart. 

Knowing that I would need to seek employment, on the flight back from Florida, Nathan and I discussed options.  I shared that I was feeling very drawn toward working with special needs kiddos and their families.  I have been substitute para-ing and have greatly enjoyed it but it's not where I feel I will have the strongest impact.  If I am to find a career outside of home, I want to feel as if I am spending that time fulfilling a purpose and passion of my heart.

The irony of this...when I graduated college in 1995, I stated with confidence to a professor that I would NEVER work with special needs kids.  It was not because I didn't love them.  The opposite was's because I loved them so deeply that I believed I would not be effective working with them in any capacity because I would feel sorry for them.  I have learned that 'love' looks very different than what I thought at that time.

Over the past few years I have established deep rooted friendships with families who are privileged enough to have a 'special needs' child.  I have met them through church, work, Pathways, friends of friends and so forth.  I say privileged because they have taught me incredible lessons about loving someone where they are at and trusting that God meets us every step of the way; and mostly about reinforcing my conviction that our biggest blessings often come disguised as hardships.  They have learned these lessons through parenting their special needs gifts and countless people have been touched by their example of living.

Go back in time (I don't wanna!) to that 'big ole stroke'.  Looking back, if the therapists had not cared enough to get me motivated to learn to dress myself again so I could get up and have that utility belt strapped around my waist only to be led through hospital halls; I very well may not be walking as I do today.  If therapists had not cared enough to put boxing gloves on my right hand so I was forced to use my left side (which had been injured in the stroke), would I have developed the dexterity to hold a book and read or to cook a meal for people I love?  If the doctors had not played that stupid little game where they made me follow their finger with my eyes and touch my finger to my nose...would I have regained that focal strength I now have (not perfected but greatly improved)?  From this I learned...compassion = awesomeness and pity = stagnation.  Having my own special needs greatly increased my desire to help others with special needs. 

As I stated earlier, I have been substitute para-ing for special needs kiddos.  What an amazing and exhausting experience!  One little boy in particular I got to spend two weeks with right before Sooner Start called me really grabbed my heart.  He had no words, but he had a smile that could light up the world and a contagious laugh that I would go great lengths to hear.  He had eyes that sparkled with wonder and my time with him was full of life lessons.  Words are not always necessary to communicate on a heart level.  I watched his mother in awe (she has two other 'typical' children) as she advocated for her child in the school system.  A tough job!  This was the final cement I needed to know I wanted to be a part of something that involved special needs children and their families.

Fast forward to home from Florida....

I posted on facebook that I needed a job...who had ideas?  An old acquaintance emailed me and told me of the position at Sooner Start as a resource coordinator working with families of special needs children. This was no more than 12 hours after my conversation with Nathan.  She and I chatted a bit about it and she gave me the number of the supervisor.  When I did get to talk to the supervisor she asked me to get in a resume and application that night as they were winding down on interviews.

No matter what I or Nathan did, my application and quickly created resume would not send.  Nathan can fix anything on the computer and when he couldn't, I was in despair.  I did not want the supervisor to think I didn't care.  I also didn't think she would appreciate a call from me at nearly midnight.  I waited until 7:30 the next morning to text her and let her know what happened.  She asked if I could come fill this out in person before 9 a.m.  YES!  I don't believe it was accidental that I had to physically go to the office and meet the supervisor.  There I was pleasantly surprised to see that two of my favorite past co workers were also employed at Sooner Start.  I was so very hopeful, and as I walked out the door I believed I was walking out the door of my future employer.

I was called for an interview.  I met with a supervisor and her supervisor.  It's been a LONG time since I have interviewed.  I made a conscious effort to not act prim and proper but to share my heart and trust God in this process.  It was good!  They let me know it would be a while before I heard anything as this was a state agency and things took a while.  My friends who work there shared that their hiring process were two and four months long.  That was in October.  I emailed once in a while (hoping not to bother) to get an update which was always answered kindly and quickly...but still not a final answer.  I still 'felt' this job was mine but tried to talk myself out of any possible 'magical' thinking while still staying positive and hopeful.  And I tried, I tried so hard to utilize patience and trust trust trust.

The Friday before Christmas break was a rough sort of day.  I was headed out to get a flu shot when a man jumped off a bridge in front of me and ended his life.  I felt some weird sort of bond with the man whose truck he jumped onto and the other witness and feel I will see them again in life.  But the event was tragic in every way... that's a whole nuther' story to write but you can see the day started off difficult to say the least.  Next, I went to my Dad's dr appointment with my Mom, Dad and sister.  I tell these things to emphasize that I longed for some happiness in the day.  When HR called to offer me this job, I was thrilled and I'm pretty sure I EEEKKKKEEEDDD! in the lady's ear.  A God kiss for me. 

I am sure I left out a detail or two but isn't it funny how things work?  Life events that lead us from one end of the spectrum to another...that change our perspective 180 degrees?  I am eagerly anticipating what lies ahead and deeply grateful for what is now.

"And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been."  -Rainer Maria Wilke

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Justifiable? Faith

I was challenged a great deal last week by some dear friends.  My dear friends are self proclaimed atheists, extreme intellects, well educated as well as compassionate, loving beings..  I am a self proclaimed Christian, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ, intelligent and educated as well as a compassionate, loving being.  I believe that despite our great differences, we have more in common than seen at first glance and I believe we have much to learn from one another so it would be tragic to stop at first glance. 

Our facebook conversation was interesting...many varying opinions given, thought provoking discussions with some heated emotions thrown in.  This is what is to be expected when two opposite sides of the coin are attempting to get the other to see their side.  So...before and while engaging in this conversation, it was my hope and prayer to live out the love in my heart.  I wanted to find value in what the 'other side' said and at the same time keep in tune with my own values and heart...I wanted to live out what it means to me to be Christlike. And certainly, I hoped they would find value in my views but I do understand the outcome is not up to me...I can only live as I know to live.

 One thing written by someone was, "I like your Christ but I don't like your Christians."  I certainly understood that.  Loud and clear. As I understand, my friends would like me to defend my faith as Paul would have me defend it.  While I am very much a thinker and a feeler, I probably am not as geared toward feeling the need to defend my side.  Plain truth, I don't know how to define something I feel in my heart as sure as I see the sunlight bouncing off my eyes in the morning to someone who is insistent on hearing the 'defense' or the intellectual side of things. To me, it is a matter of the heart and to intellectualize it places my faith, my God and myself in somebody's box of who I am..  My faith has and continues to be a journey for me.  I have been through some hard times with God and have deliberately chosen the path of Christianity....I could write a thousand pages on that but I'm going to try to sum it up so that both the feelers and the intellects can understand my own faith. 

I was raised with a half Catholic family and a half Protestant family.  My Dad's side Catholic and my Mom's side Protestant.  My Mom took me to church on occasion, my Dad never went unless there was a wedding or funeral so usually my Grandparents took me.

My Grandma took me to her Catholic church on Saturday mornings.  Sometimes my sisters on my Dad's side would go, usually it was just us.  My Papa never, ever went.  At that point, I think he didn't at all believe in God.  Anyway...she would take me to a little chapel at St. John's hospital sometimes and we'd go eat in the coffee shop afterward.  I remember loving the smell of incense burning and being fascinated by the ritualism and tradition of Catholicism.  However, it often felt very robotic to me.  Kneel....pray....repeat after the Father (who by the way was dressed in the same outfit each week and I thought it was kind of view) The sound of singing of the priest followed by the congregation was almost haunting to me. I didn't really like the priest at my Grandmas church, though he did stop once to purchase the wildflowers I had picked and was selling by the side of the road.  He then told my Grandma on me because he was concerned for my safety and I never sold wildflowers by the road again.  I recall going to light candles in a small room at church for people who were sick or who had died.  My Grandma taught me to say The Lords Prayer, which I still love.  She said many prayers with her rosary beads at night, Hail Mary Mother of Grace is the one that lingers in my memory....My Grandma's God was a punishing God.  He was watching my every move and whenever I was not a 'good girl' I knew there was a high possibility of my getting a trip to Hell.  He was scary and I'm not sure anyone could ever live up to this God's standards.  My Grandma wasn't so focused on the Bible...except her huge white Catholic Bible that was always open on her coffee table.  I can still feel it's pages, I used to love to flip through and read portions of it...I found them comforting.  In addition, my Grandma would put dried up flowers she'd been given along with a note of who gave it, why and when in Ziploc bags.  Those could be found amongst the pages.  My Grandma was very focused on serving in the church.  I often went with her to prepare communion.  I always loved doing this.  She was kind during those times and I felt proud and so important.  She always brought meals to families in need; that is a gift she passed onto me.  My Grandma was highly superstitious and made sure I behaved as a good girl should....always.  And that if I did not I knew how disappointed God would be in me.

Then there were my Granny and Granddaddy.  My Mom would usually drop me off at church with them and this I loved.  This was Jenks Church of Christ on Main Street.  There were lots of hugs for me from nurturing, motherly women, grandfatherly men with beautiful tenor voices and fun Sunday School classes.  I remember that sometimes my big brothers and sisters would do the puppets for those classes.  I LOVED it.  I loved it until that devil puppet with the horns scared the bajeebies out of me and I ran out.  Thankfully, my Momma was there and I know she tried to calm me but I don't think I went back to Sunday school for a good bit.  This church felt like home to me.  They frequently had pot lucks after church.  It smelled like church.  It smelled like comfort.  I loved the safe feeling here so much that I didn't care about the rules, I didn't care that no instruments were allowed, I only knew I felt God here.  I felt loved here and I loved it back.  This is maybe where I realized there was a different kind of God and he was a pretty loving guy.  After church, if there was not a potluck, my Granny and Grandaddy would take me to Arby's.  I would get the same every time...a ham and cheese sandwich, potato cakes and a small jamocha shake.  Lots of horsey and arby sauce.  My Granny would cut the sandwich into four perfect pieces.  Again, for just a while longer I felt so safe.  (I see some of my comfort with food patterns emerging...that's a different story). The best was when my Grandaddy would later take me to feed ducks and swans on Riverside Drive.  I didn't go often to their home...when I did I remember my Grandaddy softly scolding me for doing somersaults in the living room - he was scared I'd bump my head on the coffee table.  I loved him so very much.  I think I tied the gentleness and love of my Grandaddy in with the God they taught me about.  My Granny continues to live that love at 98 years of age.   The problems were that I knew when I went to this church my Grandma was going to act some kind of angry the next several days because she did was horribly jealous of me having a relationship with the 'other grandparents'.  I missed out on a lot because of my fear of her anger.  So...lots of confusion for a young kid.

So you see....already I knew two different Gods.  There was the one who was going to get me for any minor wrongdoing and the one who loved me just because.  Earned grace vs. redeeming grace

Wow!  This is longer than I thought.  Lots to process. My Momma started taking me to church again after my brother Brent died.  I was close to 16.  The church was lovely and I knew my Mom had great friends there.  Being the shy, guilt ridden person I was (my Grandma did not like me going to church with my Mom either - I think she had aspirations of my being a good Catholic girl one day) - I had a difficult time making friends at church.  I was probably awkward and a bit reclusive and I know I was a late bloomer.  I liked the conversations, I liked the youth group, I just didn't 'belong'.  So...I spent much of my time volunteering in the church nursery and gaining babysitting jobs from the parents I met.  I had a much easier time engaging with adults than youth because in hindsight, I'd been a grown up for a very long time.  At this time, I also attended a private Christian school.  It was there that I 'accepted Christ' into my heart.  At fourteen, I had no idea what this meant but it felt right and my friends did

My best friends throughout school were Charismatic, Pentecostal, Jewish and Muslim.  My Mother trusted God enough to let me explore.  I learned about being slain by the spirit, speaking in tongues, Passover, Bat and Bar mitzvah; men and women praying to Mecca in separate directions all in a matter of a few years.  I watched many different examples of faith.  In college I explored astrology, new age mysticism, out of body experiences and levitation, etc.  I searched high and low for the God I so desperately wanted to know.  In my heart, I knew all along that my path was Jesus, but I was deeply angry with him.  (I would've never acknowledged good Christian girl would).

Add in more life experiences. I cried out to God countless times during my teen years for him to take my life.  He did not.  As a matter of fact, although I would not acknowledge Him, it is only He that gave me life in the midst of those horrid years.  When my brother Brent died, my parents were so out of reach for a while.  I was alone again...just like with my Grandma.  I felt the same peace I did previously while begging to die and although I didn't name that peace as God, I knew I had a saving grace somewhere, somehow.

I got baptized at 32 (my Momma could not believe her youngest had slidden by without being baptized as a child).  I did this because the spirit was moving in my heart and life.  I read everything I could get my hands on regarding baptism, I prayed and I knew in the depths of me this is what I wanted.  When I heard our pastor, Tracy say that this represented forgiveness for all sins of all time and I spoke my desire to follow Christ, I was overcome with relief and tears.  I have never looked back.  I have however struggled tremendously to change my view of God as my persecutor and know that he is indeed my savior.

 When I met my husband, he wanted to be a youth minister.  This is a dream come true for such a 'good girl'. Over the years he decided to hate God, he decided he was an atheist.  This wounded me but my precious husband was so deeply wounded my a church and it's members.  Deeply. Once I realized this was not my battle to fight, or to make right and I handed him back over to God...things began to change.  (It only took me 14 years to get it).  When I dealt with crippling panic and anxiety I thought I wasn't good enough, faithful enough, something was missing for God to let me suffer like this.  Then I had that stroke and boy was I pissed.  Tired of being God's little chess piece to move as he pleased I resigned myself to the fact that if he was out to get me I'd at least be a thankful martyr....I mean really, he only puts the strong through this crap, right?

I didn't even know these were my ingrained views until I went to Step Beyond.   When I decided that I am a 'whole and surrendered woman basking in the warmth of God's love' and decided once and for all that this is MY TRUTH - my life turned around.  I make choices daily to surrender. Knowing that this doesn't mean I hand myself over so God can punish me and use me as he pleases.  It means that I can surrender this life to my heavenly father and crawl up in his lap for a snuggle. 

One thing I feel I must address to my precious friends and to anyone who has been deeply hurt at is made up of people. People are not God.  People (even well intended) hurt people.  People at church are some of the most imperfect ever and thankfully God has grace enough to cover us all.  I wonder what it costs someone to shut off all experiences that cannot be explained.  It is in things unexplained that I find great beauty.  My friend assumes I believe (as a Christian) that he is going to Hell.  I believe we can be in a Hell of our own making all through life.  I believe God is loving and trust that he works through this in the hearts of people who do not see and feel him.  I believe God is there but he is not pushy and will stay right outside your walls until you invite him in. I believe his grace is sufficient and I believe I am not in a position to judge things I cannot comprehend.  i.e.  I believe God loves the madman who killed these innocent children on Friday as much as he loves the children.  I believe evil and mental illness permeate out society.  I believe people make choices and the outcomes are between they and God.  I cannot fairly fathom this...I do not choose faith as an easy crutch.  In these circumstances, faith is far more difficult for me to choose because judgement and hatred are way more comfortable.

So see....if it's intellect one is searching for, I cannot give you a justifiable intellect.  If you want my heart, there it is.  From deep in my belly to the ocean of my soul - I know my Jesus loves me and I know I love him.  I don't know this because someone quoted me a scripture (though I do love my Bible), I know this because I have been loved.  Can you see love? You can see it in action, but can you 'see' love?  Can you touch love?  Probably not. Can love touch you?  I hope so.  Same for me and my faith.  Can I see it?  I can see it in action.  Can I touch it?  nope.  Does faith touch me?  absolutely.  That's all I have and that is more than enough for me.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The real ugly truth

Oh goodness, the last few times I have written my heart has been so heavy.  The difference is that I have not sunk into the despair as I have in the past but I have truly allowed myself to feel what I feel.  I have only momentarily gotten lost in the sadness but I continue to climb out and look around at the blessings around me.  My babies, my husband, our fur babies, the warm house we live in, the love from family and friends that keeps me going, the possibilities...the's there even when I have to reach deep to find it.  However, this is real life and real life is HARD HARD HARD sometimes. This is one of those times for us.  Same stuff as in my recent writings and add to the 'list' that my Nathan's work is beginning layoffs.   Ugh! and trust so often go hand in hand for me.

 This week, I worked as a para sub for a very special little boy.  This child has no verbal words; but the lessons he teaches me are endless.  His laugh can melt any ice in a room, his eyes twinkle enough to light up a sky and when there are no words the only choice is to look right into each others hearts to feel what is being said.  I have been blessed.  I have also been reminded of something in myself that makes me cry a river of tears. 

 When I attended Pathways core training, I was given the name 'two face'.  At the time I received that name, I thought to myself that it could've been much meaner and it was actually pretty sweet.  The value I found in it then and now was to say (as if in a recited script) -"this doesn't mean two faced like in the mean, gossipy way.  To me it means that the world got a lovelier, kinder me that my husband, children, parents and siblings got.  It meant I gave all of my good energy away and had none of the best left for my family.  It meant that although I constantly wore a smile for the outside world, inside I was so numb and hurt I didn't even know how to feel true emotion.  Two face.  That's what it was.  Living a different life than I felt...unauthentic."  And certainly those things are true, and certainly I have found HUGE value in those truths. a conversation with my brother (whom I treasure beyond words), I pointed out to him the definition of his 'con man' name.  In order to be helpful, and let him know I acknowledged my own special 'two face' name...I also looked up the definition.  Interesting that a full year has gone by and I (lover of  linguistics) that I am - have never looked this up.

Two face = double sided, hypocritical.  BLECH!  That's funny, I thought...hmmm...different value in that for me.  As I subbed this week, there was a situation that hurt my heart on many levels and I felt helpless and frustrated.  As a result of these feelings, I did something abhorrent (in my view).  When the door was opened, I chose to tell a few of the wrong people all about my hurt feelings.  They weren't 'wrong' people because they weren't trustworthy or friends, they were 'wrong' because they were NOT the person who hurt me.  And I realized I could've either kept my mouth shut at school and shared at home, I could've journaled my feelings, I could have (novel idea!) gone to the person I felt wounded me and spoken to them directly.  In doing that I may have not guaranteed a happy and safe outcome but I would've used my voice in a healthy way. I would've lived out being brave and worthy.   I would have not been playing both sides.  I would've not been a hypocrite (because I cannot stand gossip and untruths).  I chose to play both sides.  I chose to participate in what I despise.  I chose two face and I wore it well.  This is the unpleasant truth of the matter.

I do believe we are given opportunities for growth every single day, and I will take this lesson to heart.  I can't go back but I can move forward and do different.  Yay for second (and third up to a billion) new chances!

This morning my husband and a dear friend are working hard getting a room ready for our wood floors to go down.  My sweet children and I are in our bedroom watching Brave in our pj's.  Well...they are watching Brave - it's part of my background noise as I write.  It's finally fall weather and fall weather makes my soul sing.  I drink my yummy Heath creamer decorated coffee out of my fancy 'S' cup from my beautiful friend Darla and I breathe in this moment of peace.  Knowing full well that in the next moment I may be clinging to that peace with every fiber of my being and knowing again that I must stay in this moment...revel in it.  For as the cliché goes...this moment is all we have.  Somehow feeling and understanding that brings me a calm.  No need to rush forward, no need to go backwards, only an ache to stay right here, right now.