On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

This parenting gig is kicking my butt. These kids of mine are barbarians (in the most endearing sense of the word). Here I am, during nap-time, gulping down the sage wisdom of Siegel and Bryson in The Whole- Brained Child and rehearsing using my hand to model the upstairs brain and downstairs brain to my children so that they might get a better grasp on their flimsy emotions. An hour ago, I was yanking my almost three year old into the shower to clean up his poop-smeared body, dumping his poop-drenched sheets into the washer, and wiping off his poop-painted wall for the fourth time this week. The kid’s supposed to be potty trained. 

Yesterday, my sweet neighbor observed my daughter’s thirty minute melt-down in our yard and said, “I think we need to work with her on these fits.” 

Yes. Yes, we absolutely do. And we need to quit having our walls painted with poop.  But I’m wondering how? Where is my dang handbook?  How in the world do I raise these volatile little maniacs into kind, loving, Godly members of society who are not going to get kicked out of school or arrested? Will they ever keep their clothes on? Will they ever eat a full meal? Will they ever actually pet the cat rather than yank her tail? Will they  ever learn to listen? Will they ever respond to direction? Will they ever sleep through the night? Will I ever parent well enough to feel like a competent human being?

I believe that my experience is not unique in this crazy venture called parenting, though it feels incredibly unnerving and isolating.  When we moms get gut-honest with each other and share our darkest, slimiest, most downstairs-brained moments with one another, we breathe a collective sigh of solidarity and recognize that we can march on in our journey of raising little humans. 

I have never in my life encountered a responsibility so humbling, so exhausting, so disgusting, and so life-giving. 

When these little barbarians that I birthed take off their monster masks for a few moments, look up into my eyes and say, “mom, you’re the best,” I’m reminded that God’s grace is filling in the gaps where I am falling short. 

When the three of us huddle in our blanket fort on my daughter’s bed as we draw out bedtime, I can’t imagine a single place that I would rather be.  

When we are cuddled together, belly-laughing to our favorite books, I believe that I tap into the laughter of God.

When I feeling like I am completely done with fighting this battle for my life, wanting to yield to the pain and illness and throw in this proverbial, worn-out, thread-bare towel, those tiny, sweet feet thud-thud-thud on the carpet into my dark room, and in an instant, I remember why I fight this battle. I don’t want to miss a second with them. Those wild, crazy terrorists are my beloved children, and no matter how many poop-smeared, hissy-fit filled days we encounter, I am better with them than I was before they came along. 

Thank God for grace as we climb this steep mountain of parenthood. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the full-of-heart, and it fills my heart to overflowing. I march on in this journey wielding as many tools as I can carry, but knowing that grace is really what carries us. 

White-hot Forgiveness

White-hot Forgiveness

I wrote this article back in March, in the middle of the Lenten season.  It was shared here at Annesley Writers. I realized that I have not shared it here, on my personal site with you guys. 

I have this propensity to explode. When my blood pressure fluctuates, when blood doesn’t adequately pump to my brain, when my pain medications are wearing off, I am unpredictable.

The most difficult part of this issue is that I am agonizingly aware of my irrational temper-tantrums, and I live in fear of my explosions. One of my family’s biggest complaints about my struggle with my chronic illnesses (aside from my horrific memory) is that I have anger issues.

No amount of awareness of the neurological basis for this weakness can relieve me of the guilt that comes after snapping at my empathetic kids or my beloved husband.

I try to stay seated as this position helps with the blood flowing to the brain issue. I take medications to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure and to reduce the gallons of adrenaline my broken nervous system dumps into my body. These physiological interventions only work minimally.

I still fall into non-coherent, flames-shooting-out-of-ears nuclear blasts. They usually end with a humiliated chuckle, and an embarrassed muttering of, “Sorry, Mommy’s head turned into a volcano again.”

Internally, I am thrashing myself, resolving to control my temper better. Externally, I am emailing my doctor, desperately begging for some kind of medical intervention that will stabilize my labile physiology that seems to have my psychology hanging by a thread.

Cognitive decline, neurological conditions, and anger outbursts can bring even the greatest saint to her knees, and these deficits pull out the parts of me that I never want to have exposed to the light of day.

Lent seems to do the same thing, and the season of Lent this year has corresponded with a heightened awareness of my short-comings.

Hot tears, intermingled with hot bath water, Epsom salts, and essential oils, meet me in the rare moments of solitude and reflection during my Lenten morning bath times. Bathing is tricky with toddlers around, so I strategically schedule shower and bath time for early in the morning before my husband leaves for work. The tears flow more freely these days, triggered by my wrestling-matches with my volatile temper.

As my body is wrapped in the warmth and comfort of oil, magnesium, and sulfate-infused water, my spirit feels cracked and raw. I squeeze my eyes shut to find my heart hemorrhaging into this cleansing pool.  I can’t do this on my own.  I am at the end of my pathetically limited internal resources, self-sufficiency, functionality, and medical options.  My false sense of self dissolves with the salts in these purifying waters, and I ugly-cry until my fingers and toes are wrinkled and the water is luke-warm.

Lent is a time of preparation for Jesus’ cross.  We let go of something that feels important to us, and we take on spiritual disciplines that may have fallen to the wayside over the year.  We strip away the flesh in order to put on Christ.

I am so quick to judge these 40 days as tedious, but Lent, in fact, is designed to be the church’s springtime, as we pull back winter’s layers of death and rise with a spirit of repentance, embracing the full gift of forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and experience a fresh empowerment of the Holy Spirit to embody and further the Kingdom of God.

How many nights do I cuddle with my precious three-year-old daughter in her bed, whispering words of repentance into her ear? “I am so sorry that I yelled at you tonight, Baby. Mommy lost her temper again, and I was wrong.” Or how many times do I have to sit down with my husband after accusing him of something completely absurd to ask his forgiveness?

I keep asking forgiveness, and they keep forgiving.

My temper issues are only one example of a deeper condition. One thing has become certain over this Lenten season:  I am in desperate need of forgiveness and grace, every day, every hour, every minute. 

I frequently feel like Paul: I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes … Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7: 17-20, The Message).

My illnesses are getting the better of me. They capitalize on my weakness. This is such a hopeless feeling, except, except, I can hear a whisper…

  “Come now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18).

Lord, what reasoning do you have to offer? I whisper back. I’m a white-hot flame, ready to singe the next victim. I am lost in this chaos of a broken body and broken brain. The weight of it is smothering.

I died for this too. I died for you, with all of your struggles and all of your illnesses. I beat death for you too, Megan, my beloved child.

My tearful bath time comes to a close, I cannot lament any longer, and I feel a sense of closure, or exhaustion, as I rise to face the day.  Pandora switches songs as I wrap my diseased body in a towel.  God sings the second verse like a fresh breath of life.  I laugh out loud with the joy that only can come in the morning following a long night of weeping:

When Satan tempts me to despair,

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there,

Who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.”

(Before the Throne of God Above, Charitee Lees Bancroft, 1841)








Reflections on a Year of Boundaries

It has been almost a year since I cut off contact with my parents. It has been a ravaging and soul-restoring year. I remember the prayer retreat last March that propelled me into a two-week march toward liberation and the beginning of breaking their 32-year stronghold. 

It has also been about a year since my health began to rapidly decline. It’s hard to discern if the separation and progression of my illness were related, but I don’t know if I could have handled the deep vulnerability of becoming so sick while being in relationship with my mother. My illness would have served as an open invitation for her to uproot and plant herself in my town, and quite possibly my home. I would have had to erect extreme protective walls around myself and my children just to have to peace of mind to rest at night. Myself in the sick role would have re established mother-daughter dynamics that I never in a million years want to relive.

Oh, how I was spared from so much mental and emotional anguish. If I get really downright honest, I think that I managed to dodge the bullet that might have sent me straight to looney-town.

God in His mercy knew, a year ago, that I needed safety and distance from the dangerous people in my life because I was about to enter an extremely vulnerable season. He knew what He was doing. When He made it clear that it was time to cut the ties, he knew that those ties were about to strangle me, even though I could not see around the corner.

It has been a treacherous year. But I have lived it in a place of freedom and sincerity that I was unable to experience before. Sickness is so terrifyingly vulnerable, and it is so easy to find oneself in a place of potential exploitation. Praise the Lord that those who were geared to exploit me were finally out of the picture.  

I am safe, and I am free to be vulnerable and have needs. I am surrounded by people love me and want what is best for me. I am so beyond blessed and thankful.

So Loved

I’m reading about motherhood and balance and our perpetual state of busyness, and I feel so horribly inadequate. These moms who work and shuttle children to and fro and go to the gym and invest in others and are involved in church. Next to them, I am so pathetic. My husband goes out of town for a week, and I drag my one and two-year-old across town so that we can crash at my in-laws’ house.

 I could never be a single mom. I can’t even spend the week alone with my kids.  I need more sleep than my toddlers in order to function. I require IV fluids weekly on top of my 80 ounces of fluids daily. I can’t stand for more than a few minutes. I need so. Much. Help. And I feel so horribly guilty. I can’t produce. I can’t perform. Heck, some days I can’t even drive. I have anywhere from three to seven specialist appointments every week just for myself. 

Being sick feels indulgent. Being chronically ill feels so horribly selfish. Why do I have to do all of these things for myself? What kind of mommy chugs her own Gatorade in the morning before she gets her baby a cup of juice? What kind of mommy can’t get off the couch to have a dance party with her wild and wonderful toddler? This is self-shaming, and I am pretty sure that it is not helpful. 

I think, however, that being sick in a works and performance-based, shame-driven culture is particularly challenging.  I am not the typical stay-at-home mommy that I encounter at my children’s playgroups. I have to heavily weigh out the consequences of even going to playgroup (will I pass out there or while driving home? How far will I have to carry the children in the parking lot? Can I do it safely? Can I care for them the rest of the day afterwards?). My assumption is that most mothers don’t have to go through this type of check list before outings. And, honestly, for the record, none of those questions seem particularly selfish.  

Maybe there isn’t a one-size-fits-all expectation for productivity. Maybe our culture is a little bit off the mark when we make judgments on the value of an individual based on his or her performance level. Maybe in an upside-down kingdom where all is grace, there is more room for disability and limited performance. Maybe awareness of great need opens up windows of vulnerability that allow the light of love to pass through more clearly.  Maybe it’s okay. Maybe I’m okay, and my babies can still know how very cherished they are even if we don’t make it to the zoo once a week. Maybe cuddling and story-telling are as valuable as dance-parties and outings. 

Yes, I think that we are doing just fine. And I think that I probably still have to chug my Gatorade before anyone else gets taken care of. Because, truly, no one can be okay if mommy is unconscious on the floor (that’s my version of “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy). God’s grace is wide enough for my sickness, and His love is large enough to manifest through me within my weakness to my beloveds. I surrender my need to conform and perform.  I am weak, and I am so loved.