Sunday, January 30, 2011

(flash): fwd --> a dream is a wish your heart makes

(flash): fwd

I sit her wondering and dreaming.  Ready to hear a big secret dream??

Well, me too.... 

It's going to take a lot of prayer, research, commitment, structure, and creativity -- but the dream includes me, you, a coffee shop, inspiration, pizza, tutors, art, people, teenagers, love, learning, clothes, classes, community, food, dignity, LOVE, hope, volunteers, and a heart for all of them.

The dream includes a lot.  It needs a lot of refining, a lot more prayer, and a lot of structure... It's still a dream, you know, and for right now a dream is all it needs to be.  But it's my dream and it keeps coming to heart and mind.

It just felt like a night to share a dream with you.  A dream I'm going to put more thought to, a dream that has potential to be a reality, a dream that needs perfect timing (timing that probably is years away).  

All this to say, keep hold of your dreams - God plants them for reasons.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chapter 7 - may we

Chapter 7: may we...

"May we never worry more about what others think of us than what God thinks of us." - me  :-)

I was about to do the unthinkable.  And by unthinkable, I understand the concept of divorce is very thinkable for 50% (or more) of americans in today's world - but I guess I had imagined myself one of the other 50%,

Every girl dreams of their perfect prince charming, the man who will lead them, provide for them, protect them, wow them - the man who will be chivalrous, who will sweep them off their feet, who they will never fight with, who they can have a happy ever after with...  I'm not saying that dream is impossible but I can say the expectation of Prince Charming doesn't always align with Prince Realistic.  

Even the most God fearing man is still a man.  And I am not in the position to judge my ex-husband.  It's not my job or role or desire - I did that for too long. 

The reality was that biblically I had cause to leave my marriage although emotionally I dealt with huge guilt in doing so.  I felt like a failure, and during those months I almost felt as if I had to justify every step I was taking to everyone I knew.  I couldn't do it, I could not make it right and although we tried and tried through so many resources we just could not do it.

The idea of being "biblically-justified" didn't keep me from constantly doubting if I had really given it the best I could.  Did I do everything in my power to save us?  How was I going to explain to my 3 year old and newborn that they would never know what it was like to have their mom and dad in the same home?

No matter how horrible things were and how unhealthy the state in which are marriage lied, I couldn't shake that I was ruining something for my children - that I was robbing them of the very things that I felt I did not have - the opportunity to have both parents.

I guess more than that weight I started questioning my own desires.  Was I being selfish in wanting more than what I had?  Was I giving up on a man who just needed more love and direction and maybe I didn't do a good enough job as a wife to fulfill our marriage?

The answer to all these questions was NO, and stop thinking.

As I met with my pastors, mentors, and yes even a counselor (and as a side note - don't ever be ashamed of going to someone for council - it's a biblical and healthy thing - it's not being weak it's being obedient), but as I met with these people I realized that all the feelings I had were okay.  They were normal, they were justified, and they were things I needed to allow myself to feel.

To go through a divorce is to grieve.  And grieving has steps.  The first step was simple ---

Stop caring what everyone thinks, and listen to what the Lord thinks.  His opinion is the ONLY one that mattered.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chapter 6.3 - the last "D" word

Chapter 6.3 - the last "D" word

So, God was moving mountains of healing in some areas of my life where other areas were being deeply pruned.  That's the thing about following Christ, it's not a guarantee of earthly happiness, it's a guarantee of being shaped, molded, and bent to understanding Him.  The eternal rewards for being obedient outweigh the earthly losses.

Those next few weeks came like a car wreck...you know the kind that is so horrible but you can't look away?  The biggest problem was this time I was the driver of the car, and my airbag felt as though it had imploded within me.  I couldn't look away because I was in it, not because I was curious...

I guess the biggest challenge arose when I faced a certain ugly - my marriage was not working.  It hadn't been since the start, and it was as if the unbearable ending was just as unbearable as the daily routine.  We didn't want the same things, we didn't believe in the same things, and only one of us was receptive to working on things.  

The first time I mentioned the last "D" word was the first time I really let it sink in that there was going to be an end to the life I had willingly participated in creating.

After years of counseling, prayer, celebrate recovery, more prayer, more counseling and much more betrayal I had reached my maximum level of unhealthiness within the home.  It no longer was a choice, but almost a sentencing.

Me, "do you think we should just get divorced?" 

"yeah."

There was no big fight, no let's work it out, as quickly as I muttered the words the reality that this was all he was waiting for -- hit me.  I was pregnant, he wasn't going to initiate it, but it he was relieved I had thrown it out there.

He was relieved.

I was blank.

In the movie and I'm sure the book, Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts character says something along the lines of "the only thing more impossible than the thought of leaving was the thought of staying."  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chapter now revisions

Chapter now revisions - my self-sufficient cycle

As I've re-read yesterdays post I found some significant errors in my writing - and by error i don't mean grammatical ones (although I know there's plenty of those too)... I mean heart ones.

As I sat in church tonight I realized I started falling back into a horrible habit with the trials I've had the past week... I started believing that I could sufficiently handle them.  I started relying on my own strength, my own ideas, my own coping mechanisms -- all in all I was focusing on me and not on Him.

It's the nature of that "survival" instinct that all too well tries to creep in every time crisis hits.  The problem with my version of survival is that most of the time it is when my faith either soars or tanks.  And not because I doubt God and His word, but because I allow my eyes to be taken off Him.

All it takes is one glimpse away from Him for me to lose perspective, so here is my correction of errors:

I am okay, I always am - because I'm always a child of God.  His will, direction, and plans are proof of that.  

Thanks, Lord, for reminding me I'm not in control, I can't be, and I don't need to be.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chapter now: there is no word for this

Chapter Now: there isn't a word
for this

Tonight I went to the visitation of a great woman, my Aunt Shirley.  This blog isn't as much about the amazing life she lived but man she was amazing -- instead this is more about the way tonight was, the cloud of grief, the melting away of an era, the uneasy emotions, the missing light that filled my family's eyes.

Death brings out weird emotions and reactions in people.  For some of my family, crying is the necessary routine, others cling to telling stories, some cannot cope with it and don't even show up, and then there's my grandma with bloodshot eyes (from crying so much the past few days) but exuding a strength and calm for all in the room.  

One look into her eyes shows her abundant sadness yet she stands tall as a pillar of strength and positivity for everyone else and no one seems to see her own emotions behind her smiling masked glow.

Or maybe they do.  

As I grow older, I realize just how complex each member of my family truly is.  They all approach life and react to it so differently.  I guess I'm no different in that.  Tonight I felt as though I was just watching a bigger picture unravel before me.  The picture of diverse emotions that somehow perfectly fit into an imperfect puzzle.

Each member (including myself) is full of beautiful quirks, inconsistencies, gifts, and imperfections but at the end of the day it fits perfectly.

On a board full of pictures my grandpa pointed out a picture of me and my aunt - centered among the others - centered in a sea of memories.  Her son came up and said how special I was to her.  She was special to me too.  She always made me feel loved, she was spunky, she was simple, she loved her family, and she treated people with kindness.  She made are lives better.

As I looked over at her laying peacefully, I really felt sick - she was not there.  I never like the visitation parts of funerals because the body makes it beyond clear that the soul has left.  I know some people need to see that to reach that sense of closure - I don't.  I already knew she wasn't there - we will see her again.  The real her.

I hope tomorrow we can celebrate her, and not mourn her.  She will be missed, not forgotten.  Our family will be okay - we always are.  I'll be okay, I always am, someone has to be.  My kids and husband are in bed so I'll go have my moment now, :-)

I love you all greatly.  

 

Country Girl with City Style








I love reading Kelly's korner blog - kellyskornerblog.com.

She is quite the little matchmaker and has encouraged friends/family of amazing single men and women to post their single on her site. She did this in the summer and it has resulted in 3 relationships - 2 of which are engaged. So, with my friend Jill's permission - I wanted to post something for her... I realize this is not at all like my normal blogs - but you had to link your blog to hers for it to work. :-)

I would like to introduce you to my amazing friend, Jill Hall. Jill is a awesome woman who loves the Lord and is beautiful inside and out. She is almost 32 and grew up in a rural community just outside Benton County, Arkansas and now lives in Northwest Arkansas.

Jill does not have any kiddos yet, but has a sweet black lab named Belle. She works for a vendor for Walmart, and enjoys spending time with friends, going out and doing fun things but also really enjoys being able to have down time at home. She has country roots, but city style.

She has never been married, because she has never found a man who shares the same passion and love for the Lord as her. Jill needs a man who can be a strong leader, who enjoys having fun, but also enjoys the simple things in life. Someone who can be funny, but also has tact. Someone who is respectful but not a goody two shoes.

Some of the best words I can use for Jill are: loyal, caring, beautiful, selfless, fun, not afraid to take some risks for the ones she loves, silly, down to earth.

Jill doesn't need just any man, she needs a champion. :-)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A time warping blog

A blog that time warps: flash forward (we'll jump back to the past next time)

The great thing about this being my blog is that I have the freedom to do whatever I want with it.  Tonight I want to write about right now.  My story can be woven into many chapters past, present, and future.  

Here goes a chapter for the "present" category.

The past couple weeks have been inconsistent - between steve and I starting new jobs, buying a new house, family members having severe health issues, and the death of my aunt - inconsistent is the only word that seems close to adequate.  But even in these crazy inconsistent moments there has been a new sense of balance that is refreshing.

I'm really enjoying a lot of things my new job is giving me.  I finally feel for the first time in years that I can go to work, get things completed and finished, and then check out of it when I leave.  This has provided me with much more energy and excitement for other roles in my life - getting to pick my kids up from school everyday, having true down time, being able to have conversations with my husband at night and giving him my FULL attention and even somewhat better sleep.

My new responsibilities are great with work - although my position is cross-functional for all the marketing in each area it's still such a different change of pace coming from my past job.  It's weird going from the one directing all the programs, marketing, volunteer coordinating, development, resource, event planning, etc. to specifically focusing on one area... 

Not a bad thing - it is actually wonderful for the season I am in life - for my health and family.  I'm extremely blessed for it.  I love knowing that what I get to do helps the community on such a large scale.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss my old job at all.  I do.  It's been a very bittersweet but very healthy and positive adjustment.  I love the marketing piece but I will always feel passionate about the one-on-one advocacy piece also.

I've been praying that God would open up other doors that I can use some of my other gifts when I'm not at work.  One of those doors has already been opened as I was approached about becoming a mentor for some young women who are single parenting.  I've been praying about it and I'm really excited for this opportunity.  

My life has significantly been shaped by the many women who have invested their time in meeting and mentoring with me - pouring love and direction into my life.  

So, here's to a new chapter.  God knew how much I've missed that personal interaction with working one-on-one with young people and He reminded me this past week that I don't have to make that my job --- I can make it my hobby and still do a job in other areas that I love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chapter 6.2 - more words that start with the letter "D"

Chapter 6.2 - more words that start with the letter "D"

Word nĂºmero dos - DAD...

Regardless of whether I personally wanted to forgive my dad or not, I really did want to finally get rid of my bitterness, loneliness, and most of all my victimization that I had felt from years of abandonment - I was so tired of playing all those roles and feeling the weight those emotions carried.  I was more than a statistic, I was a person, and it was time to deal with the ugliness so I could get to the beautiful.

I just didn't know how exactly I was going to do that.  I began praying with other women that I had confided this prompting to, and for two weeks I battled with how I was going to actually forgive him.  

Forgiveness does not mean we agree with things that have been wrongly done unto us.  It's not a word to just throw out there either.  To have true forgiveness means to accept that wrong-doings will happen to us, but because of the grace we have received then we must also give that same grace freely.  

When we give that type of grace - it's the type that comes with no strings, no judgments, and no further mention of the past problem.  It's a grace that none of us deserve but since we have it - then we are responsible to use it the way it was intended -- to point us all up to the Lord.

Forgiveness is more for self than the one you are forgiving - more for growth closer to the Lord and His promises than our earthly relationships.

So when I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to be more than clear on whether it was really necessary for me to do this and He kept prompting it again and again.  I knew I had to obediently listen.

One morning I woke up and felt great.  Despite my years of anger and sadness and any other emotion you could think of - on this one morning I just felt completely at peace.  It was the peace that I knew He had provided, because as the day progressed I saw His hand lay out people and things that totally aligned with what I was about to do.

I sat down at my computer midday and prayed for God to keep this sense of healing going.  I hadn't felt better - ever.  A weight was lifted, and as it was my fingers began to type - it had been almost four years since I had last talked to my dad.  

As I typed, God led and helped me express my forgiveness, my letting go, my hopes and dreams for myself and for him with no expectations but a definite desire of mending our relationship.  If he did not want further contact that was okay, but I had to tell him that I was no longer living with anything but healing.  I wish you well - hope to hear from you soon.  Love, Rachel -------> send button

Days went by.... Weeks went by... And then months.

My dad never responded, and guess what?  I was okay.  I was okay in a way that I never ever knew possible.  God was working in me and He knew it would be a loss for me but he also knew I was quite alright because I had given God all of me.  I was growing.  God was revealing new truths to me about himself and about me every single day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chapter 6 or so... "Words that start with the letter 'D'"

Chapter 6 or so:  words that start with the letter "D"

First word - DECISIONS...  As I sat in bible study - leading the study it was a week that we talked about forgiveness.  I as a leader was supposed to talk about how we forgive one another... Just as God forgave us - the ultimate sacrifice.

But wait.  A light bulb went off - I totally understand God's forgiveness and grace, and I knew what it meant to forgive people for everyday things...

And yet I didn't understand how to forgive myself... Even bigger -- how was I ever going to forgive my dad?  Or my husband???  Or myself?????

I felt like a fake.  I talked the talk - and I quasi walked the walk.  How on earth could I be leading a church group when I was unwilling to grasp the very concept I expected from others?  The very concept that my entire faith was based on.  I had to take a hard look within.  

And what was this voice that I had heard?  Was it God?  Pregnancy hormones?  My imagination?  

I knew deep down what it was... God has made Himself abundantly clear many times in my life... And this was one of those times - there was no escaping the prompt He was putting on me.  It was a call for obedience.  In one of the most broken times of my life, He was wanting every part of me - not just the parts I wanted to give.

"Okay, God, I'm listening.  What's your plan?" 

And if I had known then the storm that I was about to walk into, I don't think I would have had the courage.  But the storm was worth the sunrise... 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hitting the pause button

I'm hitting the pause button

I have to take a break tonight from the story and just talk about present day.  I haven't yet jumped to some of the best parts of my story.  One of those best parts is a healed amazing relationship I now have with my dad, and yes I will definitely go into that and those details as I continue to post.

Tonight though I pause to just express my gratitude.  My dad and I have a great relationship now.  We talk everyday.  He has some health issues and has to take a lot of medicine for heart-related issues - blood pressure, etc.  He's been in and out of the hospital a couple times over the past few years, but I have never had to experience that with him yet... Until tonight.

Tonight I got the call from his wife that he was in the hospital.  He had gotten sick at work and fainted, awoke with slurred language, blood pressure was extremely low and completely disoriented.  

It's funny, I haven't been the steady source during crisis for this family yet, but I naturally somehow became that again.  It seems that in the midst of crisis I am the girl to have around.  I have always been this way.  I morph into this logical, calm, and incredibly stabilizing being... And then hours later in the privacy of my own home (usually once my husband and kids have gone to bed) then I have my moment of bawling.  Tonight was no different.

As I sat and watched my dad in this vulnerable and weak state, our eyes met.  A weird thing about our relationship since we have reconnected was this instant connection and understanding we share.  I can almost always know what he's thinking by one look.  Tonight his eyes looked at mine, and he tried to talk, and really could barely get words out.  It was the first time I saw him have true fear in his expression.

I can't tell you the emotion that hit me in seeing this.  My dad is a man who never fears, is known as being very powerful, the one who is "steady, calm, collected, logical".  Sound familiar?

And yet despite his inability to talk without struggle, or other health issues going on - he still tries to entertain the rest of his family, reassuring them, asking them to go home.  He couldn't stop worrying over their worry.

I leaned over to him and whispered, "I'll take care of it.  You have to stop worrying about everyone else.  Let me take over for you now, ok?".  He smiled and whispered back, "you are the only one who could".  And so I did.

As the night progressed, he also progressed.  He held my hand really tightly at one point, and I could just see in him the fears and uncertainty that he tries to hide from everyone else.  It was just such a sobering night.

I am very grateful because he is doing a lot better now.  I'm also grateful for some of my friends who have been praying on our behalf.

As I drove home, a wave of emotion hit me.  I really love him.

It has taken me 20(+) years to actually really let myself feel that, but after tonight I have no doubt. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chapter 5: curve ball

Chapter 5:  

When I said, "yep, positive" at the end of chapter 4.5 - I was referring to yep, I was positively without a doubt going to have to pray and pray even harder - because I was also positively pregnant again.  This time it wasn't me as a defiant 18 year old who did not know to not take antibiotics without a backup plan.

  I was now a 21 year old that made a craptacular decision - after months of no intimacy with my husband, one night was all it took.  (sorry for that detail, even writing that makes me feel  incredibly vulgar, hah).  But it's important to make this fact known, as it plays an even bigger part in the overall story.

When I told my husband that we were going to be parents yet again - the reaction was the total opposite of excitement.  It was not good timing.  Our marriage had been on the decline for months, and this gift from God was not at all expected.  There was something in chris that kind of just checked out at that point.

As I said before, I was working in ministry at this point in human resources.  I remember just thinking to myself, almost hoping that God would somehow just use this to bring us together, and if that was not His will to just make it evident and give me the tools I needed to be okay.  

The next few months just kind of blurred together.  Until one day, I was sitting in a women's bible study, a few months pregnant and I heard God say something completely out of left field and by heard, let me be specific - YES, I actually heard a voice, a strong steady voice say - "You need to learn what true forgiveness is, it's time for you to forgive yourself".  I wished that would have been the end of the voice, but then the sentence completed - "and you also need to forgive your dad."

Really, God???  Really?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 4.5ish - the other side of the coin

Chapter 4.5ish - The side story: the other side of the coin

I feel it very important to talk about some other significant details that occurred during this time frame because to understand my life is to understand ALL of it - not just the relationship side of it.  There were other important things that helped shape me during those years.

When I was 18 and pregnant with Jacob I made my first "big" career move - leaving the store I managed at the mall and going to work as an executive assistant at a commercial real estate firm.  That job allowed me to explore my creativity in marketing, business planning, and networking.  I had transferred from the university to the local junior college.  

I still wasn't convinced I wanted to finish my degree.  I was making a lot more money than most of my peers (although now looking back at what I was making I have to giggle at my ignorance).  I was really good at what I did.  I don't say that about a lot of things, but I am a hell of an employee, :-).  

My boss was one of the best in his field, and he saw potential in me.  He was rigid with me when he needed be, but he taught what it meant to work hard and work within a multi-million dollar budget.  He taught me what it meant to work with business leaders - people who expected excellence who wouldn't settle for mediocrity.

In high school I was an honors student, in every scholarly club, and had a bunch of scholarships.  I lost a few of them when I left the university, but being pregnant and having so many changes I needed to transfer.  

I decided to take off a few months when I had my son, and decided to pursue commercial real estate full-time.  I went to school and became a realtor. About this time, at age 19, my son was a few months old and I got a call from my old boss.  

He was opening up his own firm, and wanted me to come help him with it.  And so, I did, for about a year, and then I realized I needed a job that offered a little more flexibility.

The first few months of my son's life he was a sickly kid.  Allergic to formula, frequent ear infections, all sorts of food allergies.  I have had a constant struggle since having kids of being absolutely torn between working and staying home with them.  

I was working a lot.  I was doing the very thing I never wanted to.  I wasn't being as present as I needed to be.  Reflecting back to the feelings I had as a kid of my mom working all the time, and I was doing that very same thing. I made a change.  I accepted a position doing human resources within a ministry.  It was a good position for me during that season of my life.

Chapter 4.5: the web that kept spinning

Chapter 4.5

Chris and I were great parents... We were mediocre husband and wife, and below average roomies.

We had a lot of great moments, but we had more difficult ones.  As our marriage grew, we both were growing too but in different directions - that's what happens when you get married young - you still have to grow up.

There were certain things I just couldn't be okay with.  I began trying to control and fix all the things that I knew weren't good for him and weren't good for us.  He didn't want to be controlled or fixed.  Who would?

When you get married you have to go into it fully loving the other person for who they are - not for who they could be. 

There are a lot of areas you can compromise on with your spouse but if you don't share the same values and beliefs and keep those things centered in your relationship - it will NEVER work.

As I have said in previous posts about how certain details are not mine to share about my childhood and my mom and dad's break-up - I also don't think it's appropriate to share the explicit details of my ex-husband's mistakes.  

We both made some mistakes in our marriage - mine was the need to control, his will remain his to share.  

I felt like I was swimming in a tank of loneliness and disappointment.  I had lost a lot of my confidence and there was no trust in our relationship.  I felt sick everyday.  I was always waiting to hear the next disappointment.  I couldn't get over anything he did.  I was trapped in a marriage that I had created.  Was this my punishment?

  I finally convinced him to come with me to get help for us.

Over the next three years, we tried to rectify what we had through counseling, celebrate recovery, and bible studies.  We even tried a secular therapist that Chris wanted to go to so he wouldn't feel "judged".  I was experiencing healing for myself.  We were not experiencing marital healing.

The only thing keeping us together was our son - he was the light of my life.  I love that smiling boy and he brought out a maternal sense in me I never knew I had.  I was going to do whatever it took to keep my marriage together - I wanted him to have a mom and a dad.  

Chris was a good dad, and chris needed our son in his life as much as our son needed him.  I will always believe he is a good person, no matter what bad choices he may have made.  Lord, knows we have all made poor decisions at some point in our lives.  

We would have pockets of happiness - where our marriage would actually feel right.. It would usually last a couple weeks or maybe a month - and then it would crumble down around me again.  And each time it crumbled down it broke me in a new way.  

I was clinging to God in a way I never knew.  I kept going to the counseling - most of the time by myself - many times without chris even knowing.

I would return home and try to practice grace and Proverbs 31 - not having a sharp tongue, practice not having to control... Trying to be meek and mild.  Sometimes it would work - other times I just couldn't take what he was doing.  We both knew how to get under each others skin.  

Our relationship could easily be compared to that Katy Perry song "hot or cold" whatever its called :-) we were either - amazing or horrible - in love or in hate.  There was nothing steady about us.  And yet we both put on a great show for all of our friends and family.  We were the "happiest" couple around them, because to admit that we were struggling was to admit we were wrong.  Neither of us wanted anyone to know....

We hadn't touched each other in months.. We went out to dinner one night and had a great night - "a pocket of happiness".  The next day we were back to the hell we had created.  A few weeks later I woke up and I just knew.  Yep, positive.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chapter 4: let's do this thing

Chapter 4 - let's do this thing

By the grace of God, I started to feel like I was growing close to Him again.  As afraid as I was to tell my family, friends, and people at church - God saw me through it.  It was pretty rough for those first few months.  Most of my family was in a state of shock - I had a lot of shame that came with that also.... BUT as time tends to do - we found healing.  

And just as God always does, He provided me with what I needed - mentors, women of faith who I met with regularly, who prayed for me, believed in me, and treated me with dignity.  

Chris and I were going to make this work - even if it killed me.  He wanted to be a dad - the dad we both always wanted for ourselves.  Both of our families, and almost all our friends put pressure on us to get married.. "it was the right thing to do". 

We didn't want to get married because we were having a baby, and we convinced ourselves that if we waited to get married until after our son was born than somehow it would be for the right reasons.  We did love each other, there is no denying that.  We found something in each other that we both had never had before - a deep sense of understanding surrounding our shared void and sadness of not understanding why both our dads were gone. 

So after knowing chris for only 4 months, we had a baby on board and we planned to get married after the baby arrived.  We had grown very dependent on one another in that short time - dependent to an unhealthy state.  

As I started renewing my relationship with the Lord, I started putting that same expectation on Chris.  I wanted him to go to church, become a spiritual leader, and meet with men who could help him stay on the right track.  

He didn't really want those things.  Chris had gone to church as a teenager, believed in all the same things I did, was "saved", but never had the same wants, desires, and values.  I'm not judging him for that.  When I met him, I was in one of the darkest periods in my life.  I wasn't acting like someone who knew the Lord.  

It wasn't that he was against me doing those things either, they just weren't a priority for him.  

He was complex.  Church hadn't always been a positive experience for him.  He never had the example of what men seeking the Lord looked like.  The little he did see was of men who went to church only as if to check it off their to-do list each week.  A personal relationship with the Lord did not make a lot of sense to him.

And yet - here arose another problem within me - I had become the "fixer" and was convinced he would grow into those things - I mean, he was "saved" - that meant we were "equally-yoked" right?  :-(

A few months later, our son was born.  He was beautiful.  Our marriage followed 7 weeks later.  I had willingly participated in every decision that led to our new life together.  I walked in with eyes wide open, and I had no one to blame for what was about to happen - but myself.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chapter 3.2

Chapter 3.2:  it's time to put your big girl pants on and step up

I was in trouble.  I just got the biggest news I would ever receive... I was going to have a baby.  This reality brought a swell of thoughts, fears, decisions...  Although I instantly knew what the decision would be.  I would be a mother.  

As liberal as I am in letting others make choices regarding this difficult decision - there was never a choice for me.  I made the decisions that led to this, I was going to take responsibility for that choice.

My boyfriend was thrilled, and so was his family.  My family was, well, the opposite.  

I was just a scared kid, but I knew what I had to do and that was -  grow up.  My number one priority now was being the very best I could for that baby.  I didn't want my baby to have the same beginnings that I did or it's dad did.

Now what did this mean for me and chris?  We had been dating for only 3 months.  We didn't even know each other - let alone know ourselves.  

Just two years before I had been leading in cell group (bible study) as a 16 year old that was committed to the Lord and His promises.  I was going to do things the right way.  The name "Rachel" in Hebrew means - ewe and mother.  I was asked to teach a lesson in my bible study about God as our Shepherd and how we were His sheep.  And just like the shepherd will leave his herd to go after the one missing sheep - God will seek us out when we are lost if we call on Him.

I remembered this a few days after I found out.  I was a child of God, regardless if I lost my way and left the herd for a while.

I remember sitting in my bath tub, crying, and I called out to the Lord out loud - "God, help me.  I've messed up.  I don't know what to do.  I don't know how to tell my mom.  I don't want to give up on my dreams.  I want to be a good mom.  I want to know You again.  I want to do Your will.  I need strength and courage."

As my tears rolled down my cheeks and into the water I remember feeling... Just feeling.  For so much of my life I was told not to feel, not to dwell in things, but to put on my big girl pants, to suck it up, and move on.  I never knew what it was like to process emotions or to learn how to feel.  I just knew how to keep emotions buried, and walls built up.  

As I sit there in one of the scariest, loneliest times, a wave of peace melted over me.  When I called out for Him, He answered.  I was going to be okay.  In that moment, I remembered the prayer I asked for as a little kid over and over again throughout the years- I had wanted a baby and marriage by age 19.  Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy?  This wasn't the way I had planned that prayer.  

When you ask God to give you, your will, and not His will be prepared to understand that may mean serious challenge and struggle.  

God was going to take care of me, even if I had made a mess of doing it my way for too long.  I just had to fix my eyes on Him.

The context behind the story

Why rehash 25 years?  Why write down my story?

As I look into rediscovering myself, I also have to acknowledge certain truths about my own life, my past, and how it shapes the way I think, the way I relate, and the way I "do" life.  This blog is for myself, my journey, and my continued healing and moving forward.  It's also a step of obedience and a step of faith.  Many men and women have gone before me in sharing their lives transparently.  Because of their openness, and willingness to be used - God has gotten the glory..  Their stories give me courage and bright hope for my own.

 It is in our brokenness that His light may shine.  My story like many others is the story of continued redemption, grace, and healing.

Writing is the best vessel I have in expressing thought, and in a way it makes me acknowledge and be accountable for certain truths that I often brush off.  Even if I'm the only reader, the story still needs to be written.  And if somehow someone does stumble across this and it can resonate with them then may they find this to be a place where healing is welcomed.

My husband said it well "you can't talk about growth without talking about what taught you to grow".  

I find that people who fear sharing themselves, often don't know themselves.  I'm over trying to impress the world, it's time to just live.  The Lord keeps prompting me, and I will keep listening.  Keep writing.

May God's love be with you

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A mini-chapter.

I don't know if I am ready to write this chapter, :-). Every time I start to, its hard for me to articulate what I need to...

So, I think I'll make it a mini-post.  

I first met Chris when I was 18.  We had a mutual friend set us up.  I wasn't looking for a relationship, I was looking for identity of my own.  I wasn't looking for a distraction, but we instantly connected.  He was a tough guy, a boxer, scrappy, and the "protector" type.  I noticed he also was raised by his mom and grew up fatherless.  Our stories of dad were almost identical.  Someone who finally got it.  Someone who allowed me to feel, who listened, and who wanted to take care of me.  

I really thought I had met my match - ignoring all logic, blindly I leapt into another relationship... 

The first few months of our relationship I began changing, I began losing my friends and my new friends consisted of his friends only.  My hobbies became his hobbies.  My style became his style.  I subconsciously changed myself because being like him was giving me a new sense of validation unlike I had ever had before.

Meanwhile, God kept putting people in my life to steer me back, but I didn't want to listen.  I wanted to have something of my very own.  I made some very poor choices that ended up affecting my life in a very big way.

2 months into that relationship, I had a bad ear infection and was taking antibiotics... A few weeks later I started feeling very sick... It couldn't be what I thought.  I was a smart girl.  

It was.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chapter 3: the longest chapter

Chapter 3 -- four years in one blink 

If I tried to break my story down year by year I would be writing forever and the theme would become more than redundant... I'm not in the mood to bore myself or anyone who might actually read this... So you are going to get - four years in one blink.

At age 14, the desire to meet my dad peaked.  I had held onto his name for two years, and although that seems like a very minimal amount of time - it was 730 days of feeling like I had something but just couldn't quite reach it. 

My mom agreed to let me call him.  His voice sounded very nice (not the picture  I had imagined).  He seemed excited.  He wanted to meet me.  So, it was really happening - I was going to meet the man who helped give me life... 

So when the day arrived - I was nervous.  I was partly angry, partly sad, partly excited, and partly scared.  I really didn't know what I was - but I knew what I wanted - answers.  And those answers never came -- not then anyway.

We had a wonderful visit - a little too wonderful.  I really liked him, and part of me was very mad that I liked him.  I think in some weird way I had hoped he had been a loser, a low life, maybe even a drug addict... Anything that would help justify him not wanting to be my dad for so many years... But he wasn't any of those things - he was great.  

So what was so wrong with me that an awesome guy like him walked away?  Why had he started a family with someone else - raising other peoples' kids?  

I knew it wasn't my fault.  I knew he did not even know me, but part of me felt an even bigger sense of personal rejection and inadequacy.  Logic told me it wasn't me - my heart couldn't help but feel...

Over the next 4 years my dad and I grew a quasi-parent/child relationship. He moved here to take a job, and made a lot of promises... Many did not pan out.  I was happy that we got to talk every so often and had the occasional meal out together once every couple months.  

I wanted him to be more present... I needed a dad, but I also didn't want to have to ask him to be there.  I wanted him to want to.  He usually didn't, and I was not about to act like I cared or wanted that.  I would be strong - he wouldn't have an affect on me, :-/

There were many disappointments that came through those years.  My moms fears of it being more hurtful to have an inconsistent dad than any dad at all were justified.  BUT there were also many things I did not understand and even though I thought I knew everything I didn't.  I barely knew a tip of the iceberg.  There were details that had been kept from me, big ones...  But as I said before - this isn't a blame game and it's not about airing juicy details.  If it was, there would have been a lot of blame to go around to everyone and the details aren't juicy - more like depressing.

At 18, my dad and I had a huge tipping point... A conversation that led into an argument that led into a huge blow-up that opened up emotions in me I never knew I had.  Just as quickly as my dad had walked into my life, he was out again.  

I didn't care (but i did).  I was mad at the world and no one understood me.  I had proved my mom right - that it was a mistake to have let him in.  I had been hurt too much, and I was not going to have the dad I had hoped for.  In fact, I was back to being completely fatherless again.  

I was burnt out, starting college, working full-time, partying most nights, acting out in pure rebellion.  I didn't like my mom thinking she had warned me and somehow won a weird argument.   I definitely didn't like my dad, and I hated myself.  God never left me, but I left Him for a while.

I really thought I knew everything there was to know about life.  I managed a store, was making good money for my age, and maybe I didn't even really need college.  I ended a relationship with a boyfriend who I had dated all through high school... A boy that made me laugh and feel special, a boy who fell into the wrong crowd and started making decisions that were extremely unhealthy.  Someone who I really knew I wasn't supposed to be with, but somehow made me feel trapped that I needed to take care of him.

I finally got the courage to end it.  That relationship made my view of men go from really horrible to even worse than horrible.  I had watched another really awesome guy turn into someone who continuously let me down.  It was bad but my expectation level was worse.  I wanted someone to rescue me.  He just couldn't.

Two months after the break-up I met someone else.  

CORRECTION: 2 months later I blindly leapt into another relationship.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

chapter 2.5

Chapter 2.5 

I am tired and therefore this blog post will be brief, but I wanted to pick back up where I left off 2 blogs ago...

As I sat on the top of the mountain gazing at the stars I had one of the realest most beautiful moments I had ever shared with my mom.  She told me his name.  You might think, really a name?!  What's the beauty in a name?  

The beauty does not rest in the name of my dad ---  but in the moment of transparency and love my mom shared with me in that night.  

You see, she chose me when he did not.  She adjusted her life and her dreams when she could have chosen a different path for herself and for me.  So for her to give me the name of the man who changed her life and had not had any hand in being there for me must have been one of the greatest challenges a mom could ever face.

As a mom who sacrificed, I can't imagine how hard it would be to know your life was about to change and your child sought something more than they could comprehend and if your child pursued that something - there would be no guarantee of a positive result - in fact the opposite was more plausible.

As much as I didn't understand so much of what my mom did when I was a kid she was the only constant I had.  She taught me something that is almost impossible to teach - the art of surviving, achieving, and thriving regardless of what life throws you.  I'm grateful for all she did for me, for the person she is, for the person she helped shape me into even when it doesn't make sense.  There is a rhyme to her reasoning.

And because she did the very thing I never thought she would, I didn't do anything with that name for two years.  I grew to respect her in a brand new way.  My search for dad, for understanding my roots came to a halt when I saw the humanity, the love, and the bravery she had that night.

She had become my hero and she had become my friend.  A light bulb went off.  Our relationship would never be the same.  

A quick chapter intermission - "my bag of outs"

A break in chapters -- my bag of outs

I am about 2/3 done with reading John sowers book "fatherless generation".  This book has meant more to me than any other "self-help" book I've ever read.  For those that know my story, you know it's the story of a little girl who grew up looking for dad.  A little girl who masked her emotions well, and who really craved attention.  A little girl who was never content in anything because I was always waiting for some additional sense of acknowledgment or always onto the next way I could achieve something... I wanted the spotlight, but what I really wanted was a dad to give me affirmation.  

Over the many years my faith in men had been lost.. It was not until I met my husband now that I could clearly understand what it meant to have a man I could trust - who I could depend on, who did not love me with conditions --- BUT even still with his sweet consistent love and leadership I have problems letting him in too close.  

I call it "my bag of outs" -- in everything I do I have to have an out planned.  Everything - I mean it - a contingency plan that is setup so if something does not go the way I feel it should I have a back-up.  This isn't always a bad thing, but it can easily change from a good thing to a horrible thing.  Always waiting for the pin to drop, the other foot to fall, and when it does I can say I was prepared, and when it doesn't I feel like I spent my time with walls built around me.

I don't perform for people anymore like I did when I was a child, but I did perform for God a LOT over the past few years.  God, watch me take good care of my kids, God watch me get a job to help teens like I was, God watch me love this person and serve them... God watch me try to do Your commands.  All the while waiting for His pin to drop --- and it never did.  

There is something in growing up without a dad that deep inside me craves what little girls do who want to feel like they were a princess, that they were enough, and that dad was proud of me.

After 24 years without a dad - I have my dad in my life for the first time in my life now over the past year and he says the things I always wanted to hear... And I still have a hard time being content with those words, of believing them, of even understanding how he could have those feelings about me.  But to hear the words are sweeter than to never hear them.  To see his smiles and hear the pride in his voice, is better than to never had.  

Regardless of what I believe, there is healing in just being in relationships with people.  He carries around guilt, and I carry around a sense of earthly inadequacy.  Not inadequate in being God's girl, but inadequate as an earthly child who may never feel that void has been filled from a dad who was gone too long.  But oh how I am grateful to have this special time with him now regardless of the years that were missed.  

No matter how much God is my eternal Dad, and trust me I stuck to that promise for years.  There is still that glimmer of us that never forgets there is another dad out there who is not choosing us.  

I don't feel bad about myself, or lack self confidence or esteem.  I lack the desire to be stagnated - to do nothing - and I'm not looking for a pat on the back for the things I do.  The only true audience we have is an audience of One.  Learning to be content in how He feels about me is liberating.  It's a healing like I've never felt before.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

chapter 2

Chapter 2

Before i continue my story, let me re-iterate a few things... I was a lucky kid in many ways - I always had my needs met, I was always loved, and I never had to suffer like many kids in today's world.  My story is not a story of loss, it's not a story of me feeling bad about my childhood, or a story trying to place blame on anyone -- my story is just that - my story.  What life looked like through my kid lenses and how what I experienced help to shape me into who I am today.

With that being said, let me pick up where I left.  I was 8 and about to welcome my little brother into "my" world.  Since I was little I analyzed everything - I have always had a lot of thoughts - I have always felt more than most people.  My mind is hard to turn off.  

So when my mom and stepdad told me I was having a sibling, I was excited at first and then I realized what that meant - I would no longer be the only kid, I'd have to share my mom, I would have to fight even harder to feel like I kept the spotlight.  (even though now I realize I always had it)

When my brother was born I was jealous.  He was getting what I wanted.  Don't get me wrong, I still had all my needs met, I had toys, I was in sports, I made good grades.  I should have been a happy content kid.  Instead I looked at him - a cute little boy who had his mom and dad, and it made me jealous in some way.  He brought us all much joy, especially his dad.  I never saw that kind of happiness in my stepdad until he was born.

During the next year, I was determined to understand this life/creation thing.  When I was nine I got baptized.  I knew what I was doing.  I understood who Jesus was and I wanted to learn more.  I had "accepted" Him into my heart when I was 6, after going to a "walk the aisle" revival at my cousins church, but I didn't know what I was doing then.  I just knew I didn't want to burn in some fiery place when I died.  :-)

But when I was 9, my mind understood, we went to a church that practiced grace and had a children's ministry that knew exactly how to answer my questions.  It was the first place I had ever been that made me realize there was a much bigger picture and world than me, my issues, and I had a Father there.  The idea that God was our dad floored me.  I had to know more.  How could it be that I did have a Dad?

From age 9-14 my faith sparked.  I grew into a young faithful learner of Him... But I had a lot more to learn, at age 12 I learned one of the most significant things I had been wanting.

After what I call one of the worst blow-ups my step-dad and I ever had I told my mom I deserved to know who my real dad was regardless of whether I never met him or not...  I did not want to believe that my step-dad could understand me.

 And she took me in her arms and we drove up to the top of a mountain and looked at the milky way starry sky, it was there that she told me what I had always wanted to know... A name.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chapter 1.5

Chapter 1.5

As a kid we all in some way desire to understand what created us.  I was very aware from the beginning that my life was different than most.  All of my cousins and friends had both a mom and a dad.

I would pose questions "where is my dad?"  "why don't I live with my mom and dad?" "who is my dad?"

The answer was always the same, "don't worry about it.  You live with us because we love you". Therefore, the only assumption I could make was that I had a dad somewhere who did not love me.

But that answer never really sat well with me.  I suppose it sufficed my curiosity in my toddler years, but I quickly came to realize that there were some things I was being kept in the dark about.  I felt like I was missing something, even though my mom and grandparents were very supportive of me.  Why didn't I have a dad?  The question never left me.

So when my mom got married right before I began kindergarten to my step-dad, I think in some way it was more for her to have provided a dad to me than a husband for her.  

Unfortunately, I always knew he wasn't my dad and I never wanted him to be.  He was the man that made me leave the only home I knew or understood - my grandparents house.

Now as an adult I realize these things are normal - people get married - kids have to transition, life goes on..  BUT as a kid my world was changing and I didn't understand it.  All I knew was that I was going to live with a mom that worked a lot and a stepdad who thought he had me all figured out.  

I would say "rebellious" would be the understatement of the year, but I became the strong-willed child overnight.  I gave them all a run for their money.  I would say part of my rebellious nature stemmed from being able to have anything I wanted with my grandparents - I had been spoiled.  The other part was knowing the truth was being kept from me and the expectation was that I was supposed to just adapt to the things going on in my life.  

Years passed and my relationship with my stepdad was more than shaky.  He was a man set in his ways, and I was a child trying to find my own ways.  He was my scapegoat for all things I didn't like in my life - and I was his.

My mom and I drew closer and she left her job at the news station to take a position with walmart corporate office - another job with a high work load, but she always made sure I got to everything - girls scouts, sports, day camps.  I never missed an event... But I was missing something.

Fast forward to my 8th birthday... A baby brother was on the way.  The son of my mom and my step-dad - his child.  My mom was older - now the typical age to have a child.  

Everyone was very excited, and I watched.