Happy Birthday Bo!

I remember this  day twenty-four years ago like it was yesterday.  The day my son was born.  He was a happy baby.  Big blue eyes and wispy blonde hair, with a sweet disposition.  He was a baby that never napped.  If he slept more than ten minutes, it was because he was sick.  But, unlike his sister, he slept through the night much quicker.

I left my children’s father when our son was thirteen  months old.  I didn’t want my children to grow up in a home that was not healthy.  Trust me when I say, the marriage to my children’s father was not healthy.  Our son has no recollection of us being a married couple.

I remember  the first day that my ex-husband left with the kids for a weekend, it was one of the most painful  moments of my life.  I don’t know why it struck me so hard, but it did.  I then spent entirely too much energy and too many years insisting their father be a parent and see them every other weekend and one afternoon a week.  In hindsight, I wish I had not done that.  I believe that changed the course of their lives and for that I will always be regretful.

My relationship with my son is complicated.  I love him more than my life.  I would give my life for him and not blink, if I thought it would save him.  But he has not lived in our home since he was 15.  Even though he has not lived with me for almost a decade, I was completely involved in every treatment program he entered, every counseling session he had, I did everything I knew to possibly do to ensure he lived to see his 18th birthday.  I knew once he became an adult I would have no ability to keep him on a straight track.

Unbeknownst to me, however, my ex-husband wasn’t as worried about keeping our children on the right track.  For my former mother-in-law’s sake, I won’t go into a lot of details, but to say their relationships were toxic is an understatement.  Don’t get me wrong, he loved his children, but it was unhealthy.  It was more of a friend to a friend.  He never drew boundary lines as a parent.

Today I miss my son.  He is currently incarcerated.  He is frequently incarcerated.  He has addiction issues.  He has mental health issues that should be addressed.  He is grieving the loss of his father last year.  He has shown no capacity to make different choices, therefore we don’t talk often.  He knows I refuse to participate in his chaos,  or that of an addict.  He knows I will not fund his lifestyle in any way.  He knows that I will move heaven and earth to help him get healthy if he takes the first steps alone.

I realize people say mothers and son’s have different relationships than mother’s and daughter’s.  I know in my mother’s heart that my son has a tender heart.  He loves fiercely.  He is lost.  He is hurting.  He needs God.  I’ve prayed everything for him – laid claimed to God’s promises for him – asked God to bring a man of God into his life to mentor him, someone who can show him what it means to live for God . . . and I’ve even prayed he be charged with a felony so maybe we can get him help.

Today I’m heavy.  Today I am trying not to let my emotions control me.  Today I am trying not to wallow in regret for the way things have happened.  Today I am reminding myself that my children know I love them.  My children hear me.  My daughter told me in an email yesterday:  “yes mom, we always heard you . . . your voice is always in our head.”  That gives me some comfort.  Some modicum of peace.  Knowing that they hear me.  But they also know I can’t participate in their self-induced madness.

As I’ve said before – an addict’s capacity to love their families has nothing to do with their  addiction.  It’s not because they don’t love.  Sometimes they feel entirely too much and don’t know what to do with the thoughts or the pain.

I pray my son finds peace.  I pray he seeks God’s path.  I pray he takes that first step forward.  I miss him.  I don’t even know how to have an adult son in my world.  But I really want to figure it out.  Drug addiction and mental illness are vicious, especially when left untreated.  Our most precious can be consumed by either.

So – I love you Bo.  More than my life.  I’ll be waiting when you’re ready to “come home.”  As I reminded him – God forgives as far as the East is from the West – just move forward.

 

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Our Zebra Turns 4!!

Mercy – a little package of dynamite blew into our world four years ago today.  I remember it just like it was yesterday.  I was at work when my daughter called, hysterical.  She told  me something was wrong with her and the baby and that she needed me to meet her at the hospital.  Knowing the baby wasn’t due for another month, anxiety and worry set in.  I beat her to the hospital.  She wouldn’t let me pick her up  where she was working, but drove herself.  Once we got her checked in they told us that yes . . . the little man was making his appearance today!  To say that none of us was  prepared for this arrival is a huge understatement.

Being born a preemie meant that he spent quite a bit of time in the NICU.  I learned a lot of things about babies, and their development in the womb.  This little guy was born before he learned how to suck, so he had to learn that as he was growing.  Of all things, I remember thinking, I never thought about a person having to learn that.  During his tenure at the hospital, I saw him as often as possible.  My daughter has always been a great mom when she was sober.  She gave him love and attention and support while he was growing and preparing to come home with her to his new big sister and big brother.

Within three months, however, our lives were changing again because my daughter’s  addiction was becoming full-blown again and her life was beginning to deteriorate.  I sometimes ponder God’s mercy when I think about the fact that within his first year of life, she had begun to distance herself from this little guy.  It was easy for her to allow the man she named as his “father” to care for him.  It broke my heart.  It made me mad.  At the same time, however, I was working full-time and caring for the oldest two frequently, so I couldn’t do for our Zebra as I could for the Bear and Dozer.

Long story short though, I wonder if my daughter’s distancing of herself from her youngest child was God’s mercy shining through.  It allowed her to make the decision to give her youngest son a new life with a family that would love him, nurture him, advocate for him and raise him in a God-loving home.  Maybe she couldn’t have made that decision if her actions hadn’t caused the distancing or  the detachment.  It’s not to say that she doesn’t love him or didn’t love him enough – and that’s what I always told family members of addicts . . . their behavior has nothing to do with how much they love you.  That’s the truth.  However because she did love him, she chose to give him that gift of a new life.  I am forever grateful to her for that decision.

But what’s been hard about today is that I know he doesn’t know his biological  mother.  He “talks” to her on the phone.  He gets letters from her.  He knows who she is, but he doesn’t know her.  I hope that somewhere deep in his soul he will always remember her touch, her smell, her kiss.  She told me on the phone the other day that deep down she hopes her sons don’t have a lot of memories of her.  When I asked her why, she told me, “mom, I don’t want them to suffer the pain that K does.  If their hearts and minds don’t have those memories, then maybe God is sparing them.”  My child said that out loud about her children.  My heart felt like it would split in too when she said that.  I’ve pondered those sentences a lot over the past few days.  I miss her so much.  I miss who she was when she was sober.  I miss watching her parent in an amazing way her  two oldest for just a minute.  It was a good minute though :).

I think that I am so sad today because I realized again that this child who is remarkable, brave, funny, and a warrior in his own right doesn’t know her.  I  think about the exile she is in as a direct result of her choices and her addictions and I pray that God moves  mightily in her heart and her soul.  I am grateful for her words to me, as painful as they are to process, because it shows me her heart is being humbled.  I will  choose to look  forward to the future she can have with her children when she is no longer incarcerated.  I am thankful for my sister and her husband who eagerly took in our Zebra and have given him a new life.  I am thankful  my daughter gets the chance to build a relationship with her children, even from a distance.  But I am heavily laden with all of it.

The children my daughter brought into this world are a light for us that we never knew was missing.  They bring laughter, joy, frustration, anxiety and love to these old people who are learning how to be parents again, together.

My bible study this morning was about letting go of the past.  Being unencumbered so that  we can push forward – the future God has written out for us – for that day we get to see him in Heaven.  It’s hard sometimes  though to not allow the past to haunt you.  But tonight we are going to celebrate our Zebra’s life!  We are going to eat, laugh, open presents and absorb all three of these little ones under the same roof for a minute.

God tells us in Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for us and I pray this promise for my children often.  But one thing I have looked over in that same passage was this:  Jeremiah 29:12-14 . . . Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord, “and will BRING YOU BACK FROM CAPTIVITY.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

He hears me, even when I don’t have the words to pray.  He will bring my children back to the fold one day.  Then maybe their children will have them again as parents or allies in their lives.  Until then . . . our tribe will continue to love, teach and grow these children and thank  God everyday for their presence in our lives.

Happy 4th Birthday Zebra!!!!!  MaMaw loves you a bushel and a peck!!!

 

Can I tell you a Secret?

That’s how my day pretty much began yesterday.  A simple question that broke my heart.  I have to take the kids to school everyday.  When they came to live with us I was under the incorrect assumption that we lived in the school district that the Bear was already in.  I was wrong.  We live about 100′ from the district line, but the school where she was already a student was gracious enough to allow her to continue there.  At the time I didn’t want any more upheaval in her world, so it just meant that I have to take them to school.  Because Dozer is in preschool, he gets out each day at noon, so four days a week I make three trips to the school.  Good times.

Yesterday morning as Dozer and I were waiting for his preschool teacher, we were at our normal area with other students in his class.  On this particular morning, however, there were a few students and family members that usually aren’t waiting with us, and every child waiting had a man with them.  As Dozer took stock of his surroundings and realized there were only men waiting with his friends he asked me:  “can I tell you a secret?”.  So I bent down and told him that he could and he whispered to me:  “all my friends are here with their dads.”  A very simple statement, yet rather profound in my opinion as this is the first time Dozer has said anything about his father’s role, or lack thereof, in his life.  I whispered back to Dozer that not all of the men we saw were his friend’s dad.  I told him two of them were actually with their grandfathers, who they live with like he does.  His big blue eyes just looked at me and he nodded and didn’t say another word about it.  Very soon afterwards, his teacher appeared and he was off to class.  That afternoon as he emerged from school and saw his PaPaw standing with me (it was his day off) he beamed and ran straight to him!  Telling his PaPaw he is the Main Man.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the healing we are helping the Bear work through, that we lose sight of the fact we also have a young fella here that truly doesn’t remember his parents as his caregivers, yet absorbs everything around him and has come to realize that maybe his family isn’t the “norm” like it seems to be for his friends.  Of course we only see what people present in public don’t we?  I’ve talked to both of them about the fact we really don’t know who people live with, what their family looks like, or what their home is like.  I’ve done that both in an effort for them to gain empathy and understanding for others, but also to know that they are not abnormal as it relates to who they live with.

Then last night, at bed time, the Bear called me into her room to ask me what would happen if an intruder gets into their school.  Suddenly she has come to realize that what happened in Marshall County is real – what happened twenty years ago at Heath was real – and how can anyone truly keep her safe at school?  We talked about their lockdown drill and we prayed to Jesus about giving her strength and thanking Him for “having our backs”.  She went to sleep and slept through the night.  Potential crisis for her averted.

Until this morning.  On the way to school.  The Bear suddenly began to tell me the order in which she thinks the kids in her class would escape from an intruder.  She told me that she will go out the window and that she is to run to the road, but she was getting anxious because she suddenly realized that she’s not sure of which road to run too.  I told her which road to head for and I assured her again that she is as safe as she can be – I can’t tell her it will never happen.   I reminded her that if God is for us, who can be against us.  I told her she is safe.  She and Jesus had a plan formulated to get through the day with good behavior and no anxiety and she bounced out of the car.  I sent a note to her teacher, explaining to her what the Bear’s concerns are and told her to just remind the Bear she is “safe” if it seems her behavior is odd today.  I want to be proactive in helping her when I can’t be with her to work through things.  The fact she’s got a teacher who is a kind, God-loving, child loving woman is a blessing.  She and I try to work as a team.  I think that’s crucial when you have children with behavioral issues or trauma, neglect, abuse issues that are integrating with “normal” children at school.

So having squared away the Bear for the day (hopefully), the conversations with Dozer began on our way home.  He needed to know how babies get out of their mom’s bellies.  Uh – what?!  “Do they get their bellies cut open?”  “Do they push?”  “Does the baby cry?”  “Did I cry?”  “Was I in Mama Paige’s belly?”  “How did I get out?”  and then he asked whose belly his little brother, our Zebra was in?  Aunt Brandi’s belly?  When I told him that he was in Mama Paige’s belly the look of disbelief on his face was easy to read.  And he argued with me about it.  So now I’m realizing he’s not only processing the fact he feels a bit different from the other kids in his class because he doesn’t live with his “dad”, but that he now is having to absorb the fact his little brother was in his mother’s belly, but lives with his Aunt, who his little brother calls Mom.  That sentence alone will eat up my “check your grammar” correction button and would confuse any rational adult – let alone a five-year old.  Good grief Gertie as we say around here.

But as quickly as the disbelief and the debate over whose belly our Zebra grew in, he says to me:  “okay now let’s talk about Army tanks.”  I kid you not.  So immediately we began a discussion about Army tanks, which led to him telling me a detailed dream he had involving him and a classmate being Army guys and walking through the woods.  That child cracks me up.

In the midst of all of this madness with the kids . . . there were a few very personal family issues that arose yesterday.  Ones that I will not speak about here.  Those who know me well, know what’s going on, those that don’t should know I’m respecting other’s privacy.  But it was two situations that were difficult because those that were most affected are people I love so much and worry about so much.  It reminded me that life can change in a moment.  We never know what our days are going to bring.

But some days I feel like the ball on the ping-pong table when it comes to raising these grandkids.  I was an okay ping-pong player maybe, on an excellent day, the few times I played.  But you know that ball can be hit and go anywhere, at great speeds sometimes.  It’s like you never know where it’s going to bounce.  That’s how I’ve felt the last few days.  Like that tiny little ball that can be pounded and knocked around, totally as a reaction to another’s actions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying or whining about it . . . in fact I’m kind of chuckling at the visual.  It’s  just that while raising these grandkids, I get hit with all kinds of statements and questions completely out of the blue.  I have to learn how to be proactive in helping the Bear deal with any triggers or situations that can fester in her mind and cause her to act out.  I have to know how to answer the Dozer’s questions as openly and honestly as I can while making sure his five-year old mind can process the information.  It’s a lot sometimes.   It’s a whole lot.  You certainly have to be on your toes – because if you’re not, one of those swats to the ping-pong ball could really send you flying out of control.  That would not be a pretty picture!

 

 

 

 

Dozer Turns 5!!!

Although this is a belated post . . . our Dozer Man turned 5 last week!  Birthdays tend to be a huge celebration in our family.  As a child growing up – birthdays always began with my mom singing Happy Birthday as loud as possible . . . sometimes followed up with . . . Good Morning Sunshine . . . and it ended with her singing as well.  As our children grew up, birthdays became that thing that caused me to be nostalgic, and a bit anxious because I always wanted them to have a good birthday.

We celebrated Dozer’s birthday for three days.  On his actual birthday I told him that he and I would go out and have lunch and do something fun.  What did he pick?  A trip to Rural King for a bag of popcorn for lunch and a chance to show MaMaw the awesome machete that we need.  We took off and headed first to get his birthday cake, which had an excavator on the top of the cake and it happened to be frosted in his favorite John Deere green color.  Now Dozer and I are a lot alike in that we love birthday cake . . . well, actually, we love the frosting and we deal with the cake part.  From the moment that child saw the excavator on his cake he needed it . . . to play with . . . for just a minute . . . then we can replace it . . . he’s quite the negotiator.  Whereas his big sister negotiates by having a full blowing litigated (one-sided) conversation with you . . . he charms, smiles, and kinda goes at it from around the corner.  As we were walking through Wal-Mart he stopped dead in his tracks at the end of an aisle with his mouth hanging open and said simply:  That is Magnificent!  What?!  Naturally that caused me to stop in my tracks as well and ask him to repeat himself and he said it again . . . magnificent.  What was it?  A set of knives with orange handles.  A blade.  He’s obsessed.  But we kept moving on.

Our next stop was at Rural King.  We each grabbed a bag of popcorn and began wandering the store.  He first had to follow the chick’s tracks to show me the baby chicks.  So cute!  No – we aren’t taking any home.  Then he made an immediate bee-line to the awesome machete that he needs to take home.  It was almost as big as he is.  It was awe inspiring I suppose – but there is absolutely nothing that tiny man needs with a machete at this stage in his life.  Once we worked through that it was off to see the “best thing ever” . . . a mini-chainsaw.  Perfectly his size.  He desperately needed that so that he could cut some limbs at the house.  He’s a very productive young man . . . always working, always coming up with maintenance outside that needs to be completed.  We walked out of Rural King with nothing but our popcorn bags, but he was as happy as he could be.

Because on the day of his birthday PaPaw had to work his late shift, we didn’t celebrate that day too much.  Dozer and the Bear were able to go out to eat with their paternal grandparents, see their dad, and go toy shopping with them that night.  Once they got home and began to get settled their PaPaw arrived . . . with a dog.  He had sent me a text about two hours bbefore his shift was scheduled to be complete saying a stray dog had been hanging around and if the dog was still there when he left, he was bringing her home.  We had actually been looking for a dog since Christmas.  We decided that it was time to get one, but we hadn’t been able to find the right one.  On this day – lo and behold – one appeared out of nowhere.  Literally.

When Dozer and the Bear realized their PaPaw had a dog in his arms they flipped!  It has been a long time since I’ve seen such utter joy and excitement in their eyes.  She’s not a year old, she has eyes of two different colors, she has an extra toe on each of her back paws (I didn’t realize until the vet showed me) and she is definitely an All American Heinz 57 kinda dog.  She is fantastic!  I’ve never wanted a dog in the house.  I grew up with dogs outside – big dogs – outside.  The one time Joseph and I tried to have a dog in the house it did not turn out well.  She hasn’t cried once when placed in her crate.  She’s only had a few bathroom accidents and she immediately made herself at home.  The kids are crazy about her.

We talked about how she found us – why she showed up out of the blue.  I simply told them that God knew our longing for a dog to love – he knew how good it would be for all of us to have the unconditional love of a dog – and he specifically told her where to go to find their PaPaw.  She found and adopted us . . . we are more than okay with that.  I’m sure there are those that would say God’s too busy to worry about something like a pet – but I believe God has many different ways to send angels to us in our lifetimes to help us in that particular moment.  Our kids are still healing – the Bear especially – and this dog has the potential to simply love them and want to be loved by them.  Pretty darn amazing I think.

We ended the Dozer’s birthday with a celebration with some school friends.  His very best friend was able to be there and that was all he needed for it to be his “best day ever”.  What would we ever do without this blue eyed, red(dish) haired, sweet talking, snuggly little man?  Five years he has been on this earth and I don’t even remember what my life was like without him in it.  There is absolutely nothing better than the love you get from your grandchildren . . . I struggle with wanting him to stay this way forever.

He is a funny, story-telling, imaginative, hard-headed, blue eyed boy that has a smile that lights up any room.  His tall tale is really just beginning . . . I can only imagine what God has in store for him.  For now we will try and remember to cherish these days because they truly do go by so quickly.

Get ready little Izzy girl . . . you have no idea what kinda ride you’re in for with the family you chose!

 

 

Glorious Sunshine!

I may have shared this before, but for me there is something therapeutic and almost healing in feeling the sunshine.  I am thankful  that I live in a region where I can witness the change in  seasons . . . but I’m not a winter person.  At all.  Not a bit.  Don’t like it.  I’m okay with snow if it does so around Christmas Day and doesn’t get on the roads and doesn’t linger.  Growing up we had neighbors down the road that were a married couple and her mother.  As  a little girl I always  thought they were “old”, but one thing Ms. Metcalf used to say when she heard you complain about the weather was:  it’s not any of your business what God chooses to do with the weather so quit complaining.  So I try real hard not to complain a lot about the inconveniences of winter.

One of the things  that I long for the most is just the warmth of the sunshine.  So far this winter has provided us one snow-cation that was a week’s worth of being house bound with the kids!  Yay me!  This week, however, God has allowed the sunshine to warm things up a bit and the ability to open windows and go outside with no shoes on (yeah I know but I hate shoes) is a tiny slice of heaven for me.

Yet the bright cheery healing sunshine is a bit ironic around here this week.  This week began with the promise  of warmer temperatures, the kids going back to school, and me finally having the ability to accomplish something.  I had stumbled across a possible way to supplement our income from home and hoped to make progress on that front, while also taking on the task with my sister to divide and conquer in order to find a specialist that we have more confidence in that can treat our Zebra’s condition a bit more aggressively.  Our goal is to at least get his symptoms to subside . . . and learn daily how to hang tightly to Jesus and the anchor he extends to us all.

Then the week turned tragic.  Another indescribable horrific school shooting in our  community.  I learned about the event as I dropped Dozer off for preschool and one part of me wanted to turn back and grab him and run, while another part of me wanted to go throw up, then find my father.  Instead I swallowed, I prayed, and I listened to the news.  Then I went to one of my happy places on this planet –  the horse barn.  For those of you who are unaware, horse therapeutic riding is phenomenal and Cassidy’s Cause is a place that is God filled, God blessed, and run by some of the most kind-hearted, loving people I’ve ever known.  But the whole time I was at the horse barn my heart was grieving.  Grieving for the story and the families that were still largely unknown to me.  Grieving for the loss of innocence of so many children.  Grieving for the hearts of the first responders that will forever bear this in their minds’ eye.  Grieving over the fact that lightning kinda struck twice.  Why God?

In many ways twenty years is a lifetime.  In some ways twenty years was yesterday.  Twenty years ago at the high school myself and my siblings graduated from there was another horrific school shooting and lives were lost and forever changed.  It’s funny how when I heard the news Tuesday morning it was like my mind went back twenty years instantaneously.  The surreal feeling that the entire community felt.  The grief that was so raw.  The families that were forever changed and torn apart.  The look in my father’s eyes as he relived the horror that he bore witness to, that still haunts him.  The gravity that we felt as members of the court system as the case moved forward in court.  The juggling act that you are forced into as an officer of the court to maintain dignity and control in the system while respecting and honoring the victims and their loved ones, not to mention the deluge of media outlets that were like . . . well . . . all wanting a story, some forgetting what compassion meant.

As I sat at my kitchen table with my dad Tuesday morning I was at a loss of what to say.  This man who has always been larger than life admitted he can’t be a “robot” anymore – which aggravates him.  He shared details I didn’t need to know about what he witnessed and what his thoughts were in route to the scene.  We cried together.  I told  him what a good man he is.  Because he is.  He was trying to think of how to prevent “his men” from having to do the unthinkable because there were children involved.  This is what our first responders do.  They think of everyone else before the thought of their safety enters their mind.  I have the utmost respect for our first responders.

Then the week goes on.  Day turns into night, the page on the calendar flips, and I’m certain I’m not alone when I say that although I go through the motions and tend to the lives around me, I have done so with a heaviness.  The moments that I’ve been short-tempered with the Bear  or Dozer I’ve quickly admonished myself because I am so thankful that they are here with us.  As we keep getting more troubling news as it relates to our Zebra, I remind myself that God is allowing him to be in our world.  God placed him purposely in the most amazing home – one in which there are extra hands to help, extra umph to research and keep all the medical ducks in a row – one in which love abounds – and most importantly, one in which he can grow, prosper  and have a future. He will because God promised it.

Today the sun is shining.  Windows are open.  Grief still weighs heavy on me for all the families that have been affected by this tragedy.  But God is allowing the sun to shine today.  It feels warm.  It feels healing.  I may  not be able to touch my two biological  children but I still have a chance to.  Someday.  In the meantime I get to love on and be loved by the Bear, Dozer and Zebra . . . and watch a new generation grow.   Hopefully one that will be more forgiving, love deeper, and be ever alert to those around them that may be hurting.

Anyone reading this:  please pray constantly for Marshall County and all affected, as well as the people affected twenty years ago at Heath High School.  God heals.  I don’t know how.  Some things seem too big but as I heard in a song the other day . . . God sees bigger than my eyes can ever see.  Love deeply those around you.

John 11:35 – Jesus wept.

Maybe one of the most powerful sentences ever written.

Moving forward

Life happens,  doesn’t it?  As  we make plans for tomorrow, next week, or our retirement, life twirls and swirls  around us.  Who was famous for saying: “life happens when you’re busy making other plans”?  Such true words.

The Bear came  swirling into the living room the other day laughing about something and asked me a question.  Laughingly she said “Mamaw, what’s the meaning of life?”  Seriously?!  Thankfully as only our Bear can do . . . she swirled back out of the room laughing and did not wait for my reply.  Which is a good thing because I sat there with my mouth hanging open for a bit when she asked.  I hadn’t recovered by the time her attention was  diverted, because I realized I had no idea what to tell her.

Now I can come up with a dozen things to tell her – life is about loving and being loved – life is about striving to overcome obstacles – life is about seeking God’s path that He purposely created for you – life is about . . . what do you tell a seven-year-old?  Because she hasn’t asked any more, I chose not to bring the subject back up with her but it’s caused me to question what I truly think life is about.

A number of years ago I suffered from an “electrical glitch” in my heart rhythm.  At the time, there were many stressful events that I was processing and living through in my life, which exacerbated my glitch.  Because my physician wanted tests done when I had an “episode”, my husband took me to the emergency room one day.  I’ve never seen medical professionals move as quickly as they did when he uttered the words, “it’s her heart”.  I was hooked up to an IV, my heart pounding, and a doctor came in and explained to me he was going to give  me medicine that would literally stop my heart for a second,  then re-start it.  Um,  excuse me?!  I could barely talk at the time, but you know you just roll with those things, so they pushed the meds.  I can literally feel the heaviness on my heart as I type these words.  I’ve never,  ever in my life experienced a feeling like that.  My heart stopped – then re-started – but it was still not correct.  So the doctor then told  me he was going to push the medicine again and asked  me if I was okay.  Are you kidding me?!  I motioned for him to lean down so I could ask if he’d ever had this  medicine before and he said “no”.  I then told him that he could take  the next dose, I was done for the day.  He didn’t find humor in that.  Neither did I.  Thankfully the second dose that stopped my heart caused the rhythm to go back to normal.  Praise to God that shortly thereafter, we went to a hospital out of state and I had an ablation done and have had no residual effects.

After that episode I also wondered about life.  What makes us get mired down in the complacency and ordinariness of each day?  What causes us to stop looking at the people we love with respect, honor, love, humor and grace?  I can say that after the repairing of my heart-wiring, I began to view my marriage in a different way.  I began to heal in regard to some hurts that I refused to let go of.  I purposely decided to move forward.

But life isn’t always so easy as to just move forward is it?  That’s easy enough to do when there are no tragedies, no hard times and life seems fair.  But sometimes life doesn’t seem fair.  If I feel  that way does it mean I don’t think God is fair sometimes?  Uh oh . . . here comes the guilt for thinking that, not to mention the fact I just typed it.  On a blog post.  For others to see.  Yikes.  But it’s my truth right now.  I know that in God’s infinite wisdom He alone knows the outcome of any of our lives.  He alone knows how to heal our Zebra and make him whole again.  He alone knows my children’s heart and the timetable for their healing.  He alone knows what it will take to break the barriers down the Bear has erected around her heart.  He alone knows what I need every moment of every day to move forward.  Having faith in God and hope in His promises allows me to move forward regardless of the questions, the doubts, the fears, the sheer impossibility (or so it seems) of some requests I make.

We have all had those moments when the preciousness or the fragility of life presents itself to us, usually at unexpected times.  We have all had those moments that have taken our breath away or caused our heart to either want to burst with joy or pain.  Yet we keep moving forward.  For  me, in my journey forward, I will admit that I sometimes work real hard at just looking up.  It’s very important for me to keep looking up because if my eyes are looking up and  my soul is reaching up then the trees in the forest surrounding me can’t overtake me.  It’s too easy for me to get caught up in my mind’s own flawed logic when I’m not focused upward and forward.  I am simply not meant to know all that God sees and knows.

The Psalmist said:  I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will NOT let your foot slip – he who watches over you will NOT slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (121:1-4)

I suppose that’s what I think life is . . . our continual forward progression along the path that God has drawn for us, because if we follow that, while loving deeply those he has allowed in our lives as part of our journey, it will be well with our soul.  And sometimes as you move forward . . . you have to recognize the neon signs God flashes at you so you know which way to turn.

Guarded

Oftentimes as I walk the tight-rope between being a parent to my adult children and parenting two of our grand’s I feel as if the winds that always cause my safety line to sway a bit can become blustery and make walking that tight-rope difficult.  In the instance of my relationship with my daughter, I am beyond grateful to God that He has allowed her to remain on this earth, for there is always hope for a new future.  That is an unequivocal fact.  However, as often has happened, just when I begin to take a breath and feel as if I can share certain things with her, something happens that causes my guarded walls to reinforce themselves.

This week, during a scheduled phone call from baby-daddy to check on the kids (he still can’t consistently do it twice a week as promised), he let slip the fact  that my daughter had informed him of some issues our Bear has experienced at school over the past week, as well as letting me know that he was aware that I had received his last email explaining why he missed his last scheduled phone call.

As always I ended the phone conversation as quickly as possible and then the realization that they are communicating began to seep into my thought processes.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who would say it doesn’t matter that they are talking or they might even understand that in her position she needs as many contacts with the outside world as possible to not feel so isolated.  I get that.

However, I also understand the toxicity of their relationship.  I understand what their relationship with one another led too: excruciating drug addiction; neglect of their two children; and lengthy incarcerations for each of them.  I bear witness as their children are learning to come to terms with their parents addictions and subsequent decisions, that forever changed their lives; and, the Bear has expressed multiple times her fear that when her mom gets out of prison she and her dad will get back together and “things will start all over again.”

I felt my walls go up.  I’m not a fan of science fiction but I could visualize myself pushing a button and a wall suddenly beaming up from the floor.  I became guarded.  I felt that old sense of dread as I processed the truth of their recent communication.  At  the same time, I don’t  want to overreact.  I don’t want to begin anticipating the worst, because after all, what could the worst really entail?  We have the kids.  They are safe.  My daughter is “tucked away” for a number of years and although they somehow skirted the rules of communication with a convicted felon . . . I know that the prison she resides in would not allow him to have a physical visit with her.

But I also know this.  I know that he is obsessed with her.  I know that he would move heaven and earth for her to be in his life.  I know that without her on the street, he has been completely at a loss as to how to move forward in his life or be a parent of any kind to his children.  That works in our favor.  However, now that there is communication with her, he has a reason to “step up” his game so to speak.  He now will be hearing from her directly and trust me, this big old 6’7″ guy bows down to anything that little 5’2″ female says.  Maybe she’ll insist he see the kids or stay consistent in their lives because she believes it will help the kids.  I don’t think so.  I know she’s commented to me more than once that she does not want these children to have the same relationship with their dad that she had with hers.  I want his relationship to heal with his children organically, if it’s going to at all . . . not because he’s doing it to prove something to her or for her.

I was just beginning to let my guard down with her and share some things the children have gone through or are processing and dealing with.  I will continue to share things with her about the children, but I will now being extremely wary in what I do share.  I have that old detective mentality and know that I will no longer type in emails information that I do not want to share with their father.   There are some things he has no right to know.

I hate this feeling.  I hate the thought that I can’t have an open dialogue with  my child and relax my guard.  Yet at the same time I am rejoicing with this child over good news she received yesterday about her tenure at one of our nation’s  federal prisons.  As happy as I was to hear her news it was twinged with regret because in my view, she’s betrayed my confidence.  She knows how I feel about this man and their relationship – heck, even he knows how I feel about it.  I know that by her not telling me she is communicating with him, she is lying to me by omission.  That bothers me.  A lot.

Then I begin to remember our past . . . the last fourteen years . . . and particularly the past seven or eight.  Then I feel bad for that because I am taking my eyes and my thoughts off of God and His plan . . . His love . . . His provision . . . His mercy . . . His grace . . . . for all of us and I’ve started allowing my brain to churn.  That is in no way healthy.  I  know all too well  the pitfalls that come from allowing my brain to have free rein with the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s – not to mention the if’s . . . and I know I have to purposely not allow that pattern to rear its ugly head.

Being guarded can be a self-preservation action.  It allows me to work to protect myself from hurt or unnecessary drama and chaos.  It also sometimes causes me to shut down emotionally and that I can’t do anymore.  I have to learn some lessons from the past.  I have to push through my churning thoughts and remind myself:  God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  It would also behoove me to remember:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

This reminds  me that it is really not my business what my daughter’s relationship is with her children’s father.  It is really not for me to figure out motivation on either’s part.  It is not for me lash out or punish either of them because they are communicating.

However, it is my place to not attempt to “figure things out” or trust what I have known to be true in the past.  It is my place to trust in God – to know He has all of us in His hand – and He will guide myself and Joseph as we grow these children.  It is also my place to love my daughter unconditionally, and even if I do speak the truth, I should do it in love, not accusation and condemnation.

I will  remain guarded . . . I can’t help that . . . it is our job to protect these children, especially at this young age, from influences that are not positive and productive and God filled.  They still have healing to do.  We will move heaven and earth, regardless of whose feelings get hurt, in order to make sure they have the peace in their lives to complete that healing.  So yes I will say something to my daughter.  I won’t ask her if they are communicating, I will just tell her that I am aware.  I will tell her my concerns and then we will move forward.  In the bottom of my heart I continue to grieve over the fact I can’t be as open and honest with her as I would like, but that is the reality of where we are, due to the damage and pain that has been caused over the years.

We will all heal.  We will all grow.  We have no choice . . . we are God’s children and He will have it no other way!