Imagine

It’s “that” day again!  The day when hundreds of brave writers all over the globe come together to write freely and without condition – well, other than the 5 minute time limit.  No over editing, no polishing up – just you and your thoughts on the one word prompt.  Want to join us?  Head over to http://www.lisajobaker.com for all the details.

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  So says Atticus Finch to his young daughter Scout in one of my very favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird

I was in 7th grade when I read that book and that concept was a life-changer for me.  I wasn’t interested in anyone else’s point of view at that age – is any 12 year old?  But the idea that I could understand someone better by imagining myself in their skin was something I just couldn’t shake.  So I tried it.  I imagined myself in the skin of various classmates, and teachers, and neighbors.  I believe God used that little exercise to develop compassion in me and teach me to love people who seem to be so different from me, but really aren’t.

As an adult I find that imagining myself in someone else’s position keeps me from a lot of negative emotions because I can understand someone without having to agree with them.  If I see someone who seems to have more, do more, be more, than me, it helps to put myself in that person’s place – OK, let’s just say “her” because we all know I’m talking about women here – and remember that we ALL have problems, worries, temptations, etc.  Hers may be completely different concerns, but to her they loom just as huge as mine do in my own life. 

Time’s up but once again, I could go on on this subject for a long, long time.  Now let’s see what you’ve got.

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OK, this never happens, but here I am writing my Five Minute Friday post before I wake up Friday morning!  Wow!  Want to join a group of fearless writers who band together to rediscover the joy of writing free?  Come on over to http://www.lisajobaker.com and check it out. 

I wonder what the world looks like from her viewpoint.  So small, reaching high to hold onto the leaning down hands of her grown-ups.  We must look so tall to her, my little granddaughter, and so far away.  I imagine that the landscape she has in her sightline must be a parade of rear ends, crude as that may be.  To see the ones she trusts, the ones she depends on, she must raise her face and look up.  I pick her up in my arms and raise her face to the level of mine, and suddenly she has a whole new view of the world.

And me.  What I can see right in front of me is just a part of the whole.  I’m limited by my size in this world, and if I keep my focus just on what’s in my line of sight, what’s easy to see, I’m going to miss a lot.  Tunnel vision, if you will.  But if I tilt my head back and raise my face to the One I trust, the One I depend on, I’m no longer limited to what I can merely see in front of me.  He can raise me up and He can change my view of things, helping me see people through His eyes and love them like He does. 

Darkness

You should know before you read this that it goes totally against the grain for me.  I like to write about crises after they’ve been resolved, tied up neatly with a red bow.  I like to chirp about the lessons I learned and gloss over the hard stuff.  Writing about the hard stuff while in the middle of it is not my usual way, but I feel prompted to do this, like this story is necessary, for me or for someone else.

I love reading my friends’ blogs.  I love getting a peek into their lives, sometimes very much like mine and sometimes not, and gaining inspiration and encouragement from their words.  Lately, though, I haven’t been reading very many blog posts.  I haven’t been writing very many either.  I’ve been a little preoccupied the past few months and I don’t foresee it getting better any time soon so it’s time to come clean and lay it all out in the open.

You see, I have a problem and I’ve been trying to carry on like nothing is wrong.  That’s usually my way:  Fake it until you make it.  I’m tough, I’m independent, and I can handle just about anything life lobs my way.  I’m the child of divorced parents and I’ve been a single mother, not to mention many other obstacles that have been thrown in my path, and somehow, with God’s help, I’ve always come through, maybe not unscathed, but with lessons learned and faith grown.

But the fact is inescapable: something is very wrong here.  For starters, we have an anger issue at my house.  Well OK, we have two anger issues, and one of them is ME.  I have an extremely low tolerance for frustration.  Oh, I hide it from the world pretty well, but those close to me know very well about my tendency to slam cabinet doors a little too hard and snap out sarcastic and hurtful words.

But there’s another anger issue, and it’s my 3rd grader.  She has just as low a tolerance for frustration as I do (if not lower), AND she lacks the emotional maturity to recognize and/or cope with it.  This has been going on since she was a toddler and has manifested in tantrums that cannot truthfully be called tantrums.  I call them “rages” and they are characterized by an uncontrollable, almost hysterical anger that can last for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, and longer.  These can be exacerbated by hunger or tiredness, or any other everyday discomfort.  During these rages, it is easy to see that she is beyond reason and cannot stop herself.  To my knowledge, there is no hard and fast parenting “rule” about how to handle these.  For a long time I would hold her in my arms tightly to protect both of us, and I would whisper in her ear about how I love her and I will always love her, no matter what.  As she’s gotten older and stronger (she’s a competitive gymnast and softball pitcher), it’s no longer possible to hold onto her while she calms down.  In addition, she has a strong will that cannot be tamed by Dr. Dobson’s or anyone else’s wise advice.  If she doesn’t want to do it, there is no way to force her short of physically making her body move.  She is not afraid of either parent, and is not motivated by guilt, shame, money, reward, or anything else you can think of.  There appears to be no sure way to gain her cooperation, which can be problematic when it comes to things like school or other activities to which she is committed.   What do you do when she refuses to go, short of physically picking her up and depositing her where she’s supposed to be?

I am sure that when we are in public and a power struggle ensues, most people around us think that we are overly permissive parents, or pushovers, or that this child just needs a good spanking or a stronger hand.  I can assure you that none of those are true.  I can also assure you that whatever “bad” behavior you may witness from her in public is only  the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  She reserves the worst for those of us who love her best.  I suppose it is a compliment of sorts to know that she trusts us to love her no matter what, and that frees her to let go at home.  Parenting this child is truly a case of choosing your “hill to die on” – we can’t be as strict as we’d like because that just makes things worse, so we have to pick and choose our battles.

Add her tendency to buck parental authority to my tendency to want control, and you have a volatile situation.  When she tells me “no” my first instinct is to rise up and exert my authority, and that doesn’t work, not even a little bit.  Yet I can’t give in to her without feeling like I have been bested somehow and she can’t always control herself to respond appropriately.  Emotionally, many days we are both just wrecked and exhausted by bedtime, and that’s assuming she actually gets to bed at a decent time.  After the storm has blown over, she usually does not remember what happened, what brought it on, what she said and did, etc., and she is loving and sweet.  Making things worse is that she prefers me and has a little separation anxiety going on, and we have the kind of push-pull relationship that can be excruciatingly painful.  So when she’s angry and spews hateful words at me, I have to struggle not to hold it against her when it’s over.  It’s hard for me to overlook the meanness because it hurts and yet I know she is small and these words are the only weapon she has, and if that’s the worst she can do, surely I can let it roll off me, right?  Not always.

While the family dynamic is not always determined by this one child’s attitude any given day, if she’s having a bad day it does affect all of us.  So on top of all the emotional rollercoastering with the one child, I feel guilty that the other one gets cheated out of a “normal” home life.  I wonder if we did something when she was little that started us all down this path.  I wonder if it’s related to her adoption somehow.  And I wonder just how much of it she learned from me.

I wrote a blog post (but haven’t published it) about a day a couple of months ago when my child screamed hate at me and wished aloud that I would die.  Since that day, we are seeing a therapist, she and I together, because we are the ones who clash the most.  And I have been on my knees over this child countless hours, begging for wisdom to know how to parent her and be the mother she needs, and for her to…well…. stop flying into rages and want to cooperate – or even better – obey.  I’m not entirely sure I’m praying for the right things, but I’m trusting in the Holy Spirit to help me out.  I’ve been a believer long enough to know that God answers prayers at His perfect time and not ours. But it’s so hard to walk in this part, in the darkness, not knowing when the light is coming.   And in the really dark days, when the storm of her anger breaks with the force of a tornado, I feel lost and completely helpless and I wonder if things are ever going to be better.

In a sermon recently my pastor commented that no experience we have is wasted.  God can and will use them all.  Nothing is wasted.  This experience is not for nothing.  I don’t know how it will end.  I do know that if we can’t get things going in the right direction now, I fear for her teenage years.

Lest you think she is walking around with a black cloud over her head every single day, that’s not true either.  She could never be mistaken for perky, but she has plenty of days when she is positively pleasant to be around, and I make sure to store those up and keep those memories for the days when it’s hard.   And friends, it is hard many days.  Just today we endured a 45-minute long fit of rage during which she said some very hurtful things to me, screamed at me, threw things, demanded that I perform the impossible and then screamed louder when I said I couldn’t, and so much more than would fit into one measly blog post.  And although it hurts my pride, I am here to tell you that I simply do not know what to do.  I want to run for cover when the storm starts but when it’s just me and the kids I can’t do that.  My 12 year old took her iPod and fled the house for the playground across the street.  She shouldn’t have to do that but I truly do.  Not.  Know.  What.  To.  Do.

So I’m appealing to my blogging sisters:  pray for us, please?  The FMF prompt this morning was Song.  I wrote a nice post on that theme, but what I didn’t write is that the song I am singing right now is “Change My Heart, O God”.  I need Him to change my heart, because giving vent to MY anger over HER anger is not helpful at all.  I need Him to love her through me.  I need to see her through His eyes.  I don’t even know what I need!  But during my desperate prayers this morning (long before this afternoon’s storm) as I was sorting through all the emotions that get stirred up in those times, I distinctly heard Him say, “Let love win.”  I should have known then that something was coming.  You know that old saw about how God won’t give you any more than you can handle?  That’s totally untrue.  God does give you more than you can handle alone but never more than you can handle with Him.  Because if God only gave us what we can handle, how would we realize our need for Him?

So if your children are mostly obedient and cheerful, give them an extra hug and cherish that sweet spirit.  But if you have a child like mine, let me know.  I’d love to pray for you, too.  I’ve never before met or known of anyone who is dealing with a similar situation.  My guess is that they are hiding out, like we were, and still are mostly.  But unless I stop pretending all is well, I haven’t faced the problem, and if I don’t face it head on, I can’t make the changes I need to make in myself.

Pray for me and my sweet girl, please.  Thank you.

Song

It’s that time again!  Time to link arms with a group of fearless warrior writers for Five Minute Friday, where we write recklessly and freely for five minutes, no editing or backtracking allowed.  Want to play along?  Go to http://www.lisajobaker.com for all the fun.  And now…

START

With apologies to my hometown boy, Kenny Chesney, “Every time I hear that song, I go back”.  I have always had what I like to call a musical soul, and certain songs can literally take me back in time, with all the smells, sounds and emotions of the time in my life when that song was important to me.

For instance:  “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Love Lifted Me” take me back to a warm day in the back yard of a little 2 bedroom bungalow in Knoxville, TN, when I couldn’t have been more than three years old.  i sat in the swing with my Mama and she sang me those songs.

“I’ll Fly Away” takes me back to a little country church we used to go to when I was a kid.  There was no air conditioning in that church and it was HOT, but boy could those believers harmonize on the old hymns.

“Thriller” makes me remember a summer afternoon at the public pool, complete with the scent of Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Oil (SPF of 2 – what were we thinking??)

In the same way that some couples have “Our Song” (mine and my husband’s is “Beautiful in My Eyes” by Joshua Kadison), I have a song for each of my daughters.

For my oldest daughter, “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant is our special song.  It was written for Amy Grant’s oldest daughter and it’s bouncy and cheery, just like my daughter was as a baby.

My second daughter’s song is “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed.  I listened to that song over and over while I was waiting for her, and it conveyed all the hope and promise I felt inside.

The song I chose for my baby girl was originally “Swept Away” by Geoff Moore, which is very appropriate because it was written for a child adopted from China.  Over time, though, I may have changed my mind.

“Unredeemed” is a song on Selah’s “You Deliver Me” CD, which is full of great music.  the lyrics talk about how anything that’s shattered we can lay before the Lord and it will not be unredeemed.  It’s a powerful song about how no experience is wasted, and nothing is beyond God’s capacity to make something good of it.  At the very end of the song, the words are:

It may be unfulfilled
It may be unrestored
But when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see
It will not be unredeemed

Places where grace is, soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled
It may be unrestored
But you never know the miracle the Father has in store
Just watch and see
It will not be

Just watch and see
It will not be unredeemed

THAT song makes me think of many different things, but most especially my baby girl.  All the years we prayed for a third child, all the heartbreak and anguish of loss, God redeemed that.  Living proof of His redeeming love lives in my house.  We had no idea of the miracle God had in store for us, but when we laid our shattered dreams at the altar He picked them up and made what I thought was a mess into something good.

STOP

Well, I had lots more to say, as usual, but it’ll have to wait for another blog post.  🙂

Comfort

It’s that time again!  Time for a grace-washed group of brave writers to band together and create.  5 minutes, 1 prompt, 0 editing.  If you want to play, you can find all the specifics at http://www.lisajobaker.com.  And here we go!

START

When I saw this morning’s prompt, I knew where a lot of the FMF posts were going to go.  There would be lots of posts about Mama, and how she was such a source of comfort, and how home was such a safe and loving place to grow up.  And that made me a little sad, because I don’t have that kind of story.  If that’s not your story either, it’s OK.  Our stories still have value because they are OUR unique stories.  Here’s a piece of mine:

My mother loves me, and I know she loved me as I was growing up despite my conviction that I was left on the doorstep by Gypsies – which I believed because we were so different in looks and personality.  She was not a toucher because (I believe) that conflicted with her desire to avoid forcing herself on others (part of her shy nature), so once I hit school age I cannot remember a single instance of my mother hugging me.  There were a few times that *I* remember hugging *her* but for the most part we just don’t touch.  I tried to convince myself that didn’t bother me, but really it does.  As an adult I used to avoid being hugged and pretend I didn’t enjoy it, but truthfully I did.  I’ve gotten better about it and lately, I notice that *I* am even sometimes initiating a hug.  There’s just something about the comfort of a hug from a friend or loved one.   I want to be able to offer that comfort to those I love.

Maybe because I didn’t have that kind of comfort growing up, I’ve looked for comfort in lots of places, most of them inappropriate.  Growing up with divorced parents does not help a child to feel safe and secure, however loving the parents might be.  There’s still a void there, still a space we are left longing to fill.  And so we try to fill it with “stuff”.  Food.  Friends.  TV.  Books.  Rushed relationships.  Money.  (Sadly, I must tell you that comfort cannot be found at the bottom of a tub of Peanut Butter & Chocolate ice cream)  But it wasn’t until I found myself a divorced mother of a 3 year old that I discovered I had had the ultimate comfort all along.

So many people love Romans 8:28 that it’s almost become a cliché, but it still rings so true for me.  God works ALL things to the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.  No experience is wasted – He works them all for good.   I’ve been through some rough times in life and if I hadn’t been able to hold onto the fact that HE could work it out for good, I might have been tempted to give up.

STOP

Brave

It’s beautiful meeting of minds and words every Friday at http://www.lisajobaker.com.  The lovely Lisa-Jo provides a one-word prompt and hearts all over the world open up and spill real-life encouragement all over the screen.  Want to play?  New friends are always welcome!  Here we go!

I love this word “brave”.  It’s strong, solid, brief but to the point.  It sounds brave.  But what does it mean to be brave?

Brave is looking straight into the eye of your fears and doubts and standing your ground.  Brave is wrestling those fears and doubts to the ground and then climbing over them to get to the other side.  Brave means you don’t stop when you reach a wall – you build a ladder and you climb over it because brave means you do it anyway.  Brave is moving forward despite the whispers of fear and doubt that blow from every direction.

Brave is a little girl with cancer who walks into a treatment center with heart beating loudly, but with a tremulous smile on her face and a skip in her step.

Brave is a firefighter rescuing a family from a burning house.

But brave isn’t always loud or obvious.  Sometimes it’s quiet and almost…ordinary.

Brave is a 13 year old girl walking into school every day even though she knows no one is going to speak to her all day and that she’ll eat lunch alone.  Again.

Brave is getting up out of bed when you just don’t know if you can face One.  More.  Day.

Brave is walking into your office not knowing if you will have a job at the end of the day because your company is in the midst of layoffs.

Brave is clicking “publish” on a blog post not knowing if anyone will ever read it.

Brave is a single mother who is exhausted by life’s demands and doesn’t know how she can do it all alone, but she does it anyway.

Brave is being the first one to apologize.

Brave is volunteering to host a meeting of women you’ve never met in an effort to build community.

Brave is driving up to the home of someone you’ve only had contact with online, and then getting out of the car and ringing the doorbell to join a meeting of women who are strangers to you. (Hello, inRL!)

Brave is laying your soul bare with your words, peeling back the layers one by one and exposing the tender places to public view and potential humiliation.   You might squinch your eyes closed and turn your head to soften the blow, but you do it anyway because you believe it’s what God told you to do.

Brave is a group of warriors who meet every Friday online and use words as their weapon of choice to beat back the fear and doubt in not only their own lives but the lives of others, and in the process offer some encouragement to someone else.