Everyday OK

My house is quiet. Everyone’s asleep except me.  It’s that time of day to take a deep breath and evaluate.  Plus it’s much easier to blog while my two year old snoozes and the only sticky fingers vying for my laptop keys are my own.

Ya know I’m kind of liking this “being ok” thing. Ok really liking it.

During Hurricane Isaac, I was blessed to have someone with me like Bex, who needed no coddling or special treatment. She gave me the space to mostly be silent and stare at the rain, and the grace to deal with my children through a difficult situation. I didn’t have to come up with fascinating topics of conversation and was able to just process the situation as it went on. That girl knows true friendship. In hindsight, probably the hardest part for me was that faith crisis brought about by possible impending disaster. Will God keep me and my family safe? What will I do if He doesn’t? Is it worth it to even ask? Can my faith withstand what would happen if things go badly? But I processed as I went, wanting to hold more tightly to God Himself than to my expectations of what He would or would not do. And through it all I was ok. Perfect, no. Ok, yes.

I’m also rediscovering some things I enjoy. Like taking my kids to the library:

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And being at least a little domesticated:  (Or a LOT domesticated since this from-scratch waffle recipe called for egg whites beaten until stiff peaks form and then folded into the batter.  My mixer bit the dust last month so, yes, I beat them by hand, all the while growing in respect for the women of former days without such conveniences as electric mixers and Bisquick.  But hey… if we’re ever alone on a desert island I can beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Aren’t you glad to know that?)

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Reading a great book: (This one I’ve read twice through at least. It’s from Jan Karon’s Mitford Series.  I’d call it the “macaroni and cheese” of literature as far as its ability to comfort and soothe.  Make that BACON macaroni and cheese. I never, ever get tired of these books.)

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And watching my sister sing at her church through their Sunday morning webcast. Thank you, technology!  Right after I took this pic came the best shot of all three kids giving the “mom’s boo-hooing again” look as I burst into tears at the sight and sound of Angie on the screen.  Too bad I was blubbering too hard to capture that one.

 

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Life and love, my friends, are good things.  Even just everyday ok is chock full of blessings.

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Dat Ain’t Nuttin’ Pretty

Talk about off the wagon, honey…

Remember my last post about not abusing myself by overeating? Yeah… pride goeth before a fall.

My husbands piece o’ junk car has finally given up the ghost. So we’re a one car family right now. Today started out so well… My husband drove himself to work this morning, and I left the same time he did. I put Caleb in the stroller, put on my C25K app and started walking/jogging to work (we work at the same place about 2 miles from home but I come in about 2 and 1/2 hours after he.) I picked up the car and drove it back home. Great workout done and car problem solved! I returned home, roused the big kids and jumped in the shower. Got myself dressed, and Levi to the school bus stop on time. Came back in the house and ate a nice healthy breakfast that involved the word “bran,” made the bed, emptied the trash in several rooms, did a load of laundry and then left for work.

At work, I added someone to the waiting list, planned Assisted Living Week, did all kinds of good stuff, and used the stairs, not the elevator. Somehow, though, when I arrived home, it all fell apart. Fast forward through a series of frustrating events and here I sit, having polished off four pieces of pepperoni lover’s and three brownies.

Yuck.

Annnnnd to top it all off… examination of the above paragraphs confirms a suspicion that’s been lurking in the back of my mind: I use commas too frequently and often inappropriately. SMH…

Perhaps there’s some key in one of the aforementioned frustrating events. (Ya THINK?) But right now, I don’t care. I’m watching Poise Pads and Downey Fabric Softener commercials on the Hallmark Channel. I’m praying Caleb will go to sleep. Now. And sleep until 11am tomorrow. I’m trying not to throw up. I’m telling you this, why? Because I hope you’ll know you’re not alone next time you find yourself doing the same. (Ya’ll know I love ya!)

But I’m also doing something different. I’m letting myself off the hook. Yup. That was me you just heard… read… comin’ unhooked. Yeah, when I think back over the last few hours… as my beloved New Orleans natives would say, “Dat ain’t nuttin’ pretty!” But I’m not going to obsess. I’m going to focus on the good, focus on the blessings, take a shower, go to bed, and start over again tomorrow. (You know, that whole “new mercies every morning” thing. Yeah… I love that thing.)

Tomorrow’s a new day, friends. And even if it never comes, I’ve had a heck of a lot of blessings already. Overall, not a good night, but still… progress!

 

 

 

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A Good Start

On the way to Florida to pick up my big kids, I did my traditional Cracker Barrel book on CD rental. I love those things!! Hoping for some “mind candy” but not seeing anything I was thrilled about, I went for the most interesting (to me) title they had: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth.

Geneen was on Oprah and everything, so I’m probably way behind the times knowing nothing about this book. I really enjoyed listening to it and came away with tons to think about. (Warning: this isn’t a Christian book, though it mentions God in the title. The author is not a believer in Jesus and there are a few f-bombs and everything. I found plenty of good things to glean from it, but there was plenty to filter out as well. Don’t try it if you are uncomfortable with cursing or with reading non-Christian self-help. If you try it and it offends you, don’t say I didn’t tell ya!)

One of the things this book made me ponder: It’s OK to take care of myself. Common ways I fill my longing for “something more” like overeating for one, are really ways I abuse myself. Stuffing down a whole sleeve of my signature comfort food, DoubleStuf Oreos, leaves me feeling guilty and yucky, not to mention getting me closer to the Type 2 Diabetes that runs in my family. Isn’t it odd that some of the things we run to for “comfort” or to “get my mind off the pain” are really causing us more pain? What’s up with that?

Why didn’t it ever occur to me to eat food as a way to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, not as a drug to numb pain or as a distraction from my problems? What does it really say about me when I’m doing whatever I do to avoid pain, be it eating junk or zoning out on TV, or you fill in the blank, not realizing that said pain avoidance activity is dragging me down more and more? Why don’t I just think to myself, “Ok, Rebecca, you are in pain right now. But instead of eating (or whatever) to distract yourself from pain, let’s just deal with the pain. A little at a time if you have to. But deal with it so it can eventually subside. Save eating (or whatever) as a way to nourish yourself, to love yourself. Don’t let your pain steal other good activities away from you by allowing them to become out of control.”

If I’m eating to nourish myself, that makes a HUGE difference in food choices, both in the type of food I choose and the amount I allow myself to eat. For example, why make myself uncomfortable by overeating? Why do that? If I’m nourishing myself, then I won’t want to stuff so much in that I feel sick or guilty.

I’ve already promised not to make this a weight loss blog, and I won’t. I’m simply using the food thing because I recognize that eating is something I do to cope with pain. However, I think this idea applies to most other unhealthy coping mechanisms. The bottom line is, by using an unhealthy coping mechanism, I’m refusing to take care of myself. Selfishly. Weird, but true.

I’ve got plenty of theories as to WHY I don’t think about taking care of myself: Southern girls are taught to take care of everyone else. It’s a mother’s instinct to give the best of herself to her children. That good ole’ Sunday School acronym, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Admitting my need for self care is admitting weakness. (that would be pride) I don’t have time. I have a guilt complex. Everyone else seems to be able to keep on giving and never run out, so what’s wrong with me? Blah, blah, blah... I could go on and on. But dwelling on all of the above doesn’t get me any closer to healthy habits. Really, no matter the WHY behind my self-neglect, it’s time to just DO IT. Time to just start taking care of God’s daughter. REAL care, not fake, half-hearted distraction techniques.

What does that look like? How about taking TIME to read… the Bible, my favorite books, Garden and Gun magazine, whatever. Feeding myself healthy things, when I’m hungry, and refusing to abuse myself by overeating. Letting go of work when I leave the place, and letting myself be thrown into the moment with my family. A retreat alone, just me and God. A retreat with my best friend. Plenty of hydration. Exercise. Good sleep. Doctors appointments. Letting myself be the creative person God made me to be, and therefore a much more enjoyable wife and mother. Getting RID of unrealistic expectations. I think those things are a good start!!

P.S. For any fellow food junkies, I loved Geneen Roth’s eating guidelines. You can find them here.

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Ain’t How It Works

There’s something some Christian people do that I can’t stand.  They say, or post on social media, statements like: “I had a car accident today but wasn’t hurt.  God is so good!”  or “So-and-so was healed!  God is SO GOOD!”  I hate this because to say God is good because you get what you want is to say God earns His merit upon His ability to please you.  Ummm… that ain’t how it works.

This brings me to a lesson I’m learning:  Some tragedies in life make it seem that God is not at all good.  However, if our circumstances could change God’s nature, then in essence there would be no God.  If I believe in God, and I do, and if I believe He is good, and I do (see rising sun tomorrow morning if you doubt this.  If still in doubt, read something by C.S. Lewis) then my circumstances CANNOT change Him whatsoever.  He IS unchanging.  So He can’t be good when things are good and not good when things are bad.  I need a God who’s bigger than my circumstances, or else I don’t need a God.

When I was eighteen years old, I married the person I thought God wanted me to marry, and headed off to put my husband through Bible college.  With all my being I wanted to please God, and sincerely thought I was doing so.  I spent the next thirteen years enduring infidelity after infidelity in one form or another.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but you get the point.  Why would God allow that to happen?  Why did He let me go through all that humiliation? I gotta tell ya’ I’m not quite sure.  I have a few guesses, and of course, there’s plenty I’ve learned along the way.  But WHY?  I really can’t say. I CAN say that my faith still stands.  It has transformed… mutated perhaps, but it stands.

Still, I often find myself asking God for something. “Bring my children home safe” for example, and then thinking to myself, “He might not.  Probably won’t.  He doesn’t owe you that.  Plus, look at what He let you go through already.  No guarantees, honey.”

Some people think I’ve changed, or so I hear.  The way I practice my faith is certainly different than it was when I thought being a minister’s wife WAS what God wanted for me.  BUT, I’ve reached a different place with God.  For so long, I thought the same goofy things I complained of above.  I praised God for being SO good when things would go my way.  I never said He was bad when I didn’t get my way, a good Christian would never say that out loud.  But I wondered inside, how could I still trust Him when He might let it all fall down at any moment?  It’s at that heartbreakingly honest place, my friends, that something dawns on me like the meaning of Christmas dawns on the Grinch…

 HE defines my circumstances, my circumstances cannot define Him.  There is MORE to the faith and MORE to God than just what is going on in my life at any given time. It’s out here on the outside of accepted thinking, out here with the doubting thoughts that no one wants to admit, out here with the questions that have no good answers that I stand and yet here He is, and SO much bigger than I thought He was.  God is with me still, I know it in the depths of my soul. God is the ONLY thing still there when everything else falls apart.  Nope, I don’t know what His reasons are.  Don’t even know if it was He who allowed my saddest circumstances.  But I know He’s bigger than my circumstances.  I know He’s the only One who can hang with me ALL the way, no matter how crazy or whiny or messed up I get.

Bottom line is… if God must answer to me, then actually, I’m god.  And like I said… that ain’t how it works.

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Takin’ a Long Time

Another lesson:  Some things DO take time.  Healing takes time.  A long time.  Rushing will not help.

Last weekend I met my sister halfway between New Orleans and Lakeland to bring my big kids back home.  We spent a couple of nights together in the armpit of Florida’s panhandle, and ended up eating dinner at a greasy spoon known for it’s jumbo shrimp.  Everyone except me enjoyed their dinner (I’ve tried, I really have, but I just don’t LIKE seafood all that much.) and we all headed for the bathroom since it takes half an hour to get ANYWHERE in such a rural area.  Angie (my sis) and I entered the bathroom and wouldn’t ya know, one of the two stalls was out of order.  Inside the working stall, there were four little feet.  The door popped open and out came two little girls, one obviously a big sister helping out her littler sister.  Big sister stepped back and Angie entered the stall while little sister ran out to their table.  Big sister then just stood there, waiting in line.  “Do you have to go?” I asked her, “Do you need a turn?”  She grinned up at me and drawled in the cutest Southern accent, “I was jist lettin’ ever’body else go ferst.  I’m gon’ take a long time.”

I really did have to go, but I turned to the sink and said “I’m just gonna wash my hands.”  I didn’t have the heart to make her wait on me.

Lil’ Big Sister had business to attend to. It was going to take a while and she didn’t pretend otherwise.  Man, I could learn a lesson from her.  I’ve tried so hard to rush past my pain.  I’ve felt guilty and weak for needing what seems to be an inordinate amount of time to heal.  (Though as I’ve admitted, my avoidance surely has prolonged my healing process.)  But ya know what?  Good things… REALLY good things like fork-tender roast beef, oven baked mac n cheese, fully grown citrus trees, higher education degrees, and a good-quality hair color… ALL take time!  And some things, REALLY good things… are worth the time.  Things like pregnancies, rose gardens, fine wine, cheddar cheese, and yes, broken hearts… are WORTH the time they take up.

I think my problem comes in when I rush myself.  I try to sprint through what is nothing less than a tri-athlon. I’ve refused myself the patience it takes to allow mending stitches to be sewn.  No more.  My heart wants to be healed and I will give it the time it needs.

So if you need to, “I’ll letcha go ferst… I’m gon’ take a long time!”

 

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Round Three: Some days

Round Three:  DING!!!  (OK, I’m getting sick of the boxing metaphor so from here on out, I’ll just tell ya stuff I’m learning, ok?  OK.)

Here’s what I’m learning:  Some days will be better than others.

One major trigger for my sadness and depression is when my kids have to go visit their father.  I miss them terribly.  It is during those moments without them that I feel most vulnerable, scared, and alone.  This summer, their leaving and then some subsequent difficulties that my daughter experienced while far away from me, had me at an all-time low.

The kids are back home with me now, and I’ve felt a small measure of relief.  The last several days since I picked them up have been good ones.  Then last night, Caleb, my littlest, would NOT go to sleep.  Until midnight I dealt with his crying and screaming.  By then, I had enough adrenaline pumping to give me some kind of super power.  Around about 2am, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.  Fitful sleep not good… since I’ve learned from my beloved counselor that REM sleep is the only time the brain produces serotonin… and honey, I NEED that serotonin.  Do you hear what I’m sayin’?  About 4am, my little insomniac climbed up in my bed, sealing the deal on a sleepless night for me.

Did I mention my husband slept through all of this???  I believe the word “comatose” accurately describes it.

Now, before you get your hackles up (YES that is a REAL expression.  Google it if you’d like.  My boss did just a couple of days ago since he didn’t believe such a phrase existed.) you must know that my husband rises very early in the morning for work.  He functions with a level of energy that would easily outrun a 20 year old.  Then he comes home before I do in the evening so most nights he has dinner ready when I get home.  You should, indeed, feel at least minor annoyance with me for complaining that he slept through this, but I’m just bein’ real here.  In spite of him having perfectly good reason to sleep like a rock, I still felt frustrated and alone and a lil’ bit angry that he didn’t lend a hand with El-Scream-o.

By this morning, I was in tears.  Dwayne was heading to his mom’s house with the kids.  He was off today.  I missed my mom.  I wanted MY mom.  I wanted to be at home with my children. Nothing made sense and the sadness was taking over.  He dropped me off at work, and I exited the car as fast as I could.  I cried in my coffee cup when I got inside, then sucked it up and started work.  Throughout the day, my head pounded and my heart weighed 1,000 pounds in my chest.  I went ahead and let myself feel it.  I refused to check out, but tried during the spare moments I had, to sort out what I was feeling.

I chalked up a good bit of today’s angst to last night’s lack of sleep.  The rest, I talked to God about, and we’re one step closer, one day closer to wholeness.

Some days, my friends, will be good ones.  And some days won’t be good at all.  Every day is still a gift, an opportunity to learn, a chance to grow.  Even the bad ones can bring breakthroughs.

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Round Two

OK, I’m back.  Squirt some water in my mouth and hand me a towel while I tell ya something else I’m learning “in the ring”…

Anticipating pain is often worse than the actual pain.

When my kids have to get immunizations, I never tell them ahead of time.  I refuse, for one, to listen to all the whining and worrying and constant attempts to get out of the shot.  I feel just as guilty about them having to get it as they do apprehensive about getting it.  As an expert on shots (I took three each day, in the belly, for ten months while bringing my youngest son into the world) I can tell you that the anticipation of the actual shot is worse than the shot itself.  I just can’t have my kids going through a whole day knowing that in a few hours, there will be a needle stick.  Might as well stab them with a sword.  They’ll go through the same pain once they’ve agonized about the impending shot all day.  I remember as a kid what fear there was in the possible shot at the doc’s office.

But now I’m grown and I’ve given myself three painful injections in the stomach every day for a ten month period of time.  Where once I swooned at the alcohol smell and the sight of a needle, now shots are nothing to me.

Emotionally, however?  Different story.  Instead of dealing with pain, I run.  I wring my hands, furrow my brow, eat chocolate, go out with the girls, hide, ANYTHING but face it and deal with it.  I’m convinced that many, many people are eating, drinking, or internet surfing themselves sick, simply trying to avoid pain.  Eating is one of my choice methods.  I’ve even been known to pick the occasional fight with a certain gorgeous husband of mine rather than deal with my anticipated pain.

But guess what’s going on while I’m running scared, wondering how I’ll EVER live if I face the pain of adultery, of rejection, or betrayal or failure?  I’M STILL FEELING THAT PAIN, only worse because I prolong it with anticipation.  It’s still there in the pit of my stomach, waiting to hijack my emotions at the next vulnerable moment.  Waiting for that last straw so it can come exploding out like lava from a volcano. It’s not as though I’m actually escaping pain with my avoidance methods.  So why run?  Why not just brace myself and face it?

I’m not saying dealing with major trauma is simply a matter of gritting your teeth and facing up to the pain.  I know that things are much more complicated than that.  I know that some pains ARE too much to be faced all in one sitting.  I’m only making the point here that running isn’t any good either.  I’m saying that the pain is already there, and if I haven’t died from the anticipation of feeling it, I probably won’t die from the actual feeling either.  Especially since what I imagine is often worse than what actually is.

Plus, DEALING with pain actually gives me some element of control over it.  Running only makes me a fugitive and allows the pain, or my need to avoid pain, to control my life, and I end up more screwed up than I ever intended.  I may not be able to conquer it all at once, but facing up to it… simply deciding to stop running… means I’m back in the driver’s seat.

I like the driver’s seat. (Imagine my slow grin)

Now, buckle up for round three.

 

 

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Ringside

Alright, so I’ve told you, dear readers, that I’m fighting some monsters from whom I’ve been running. I’ve decided to share with you some things I’m learning. Picture us, ringside, me in my bright pink boxing attire (I’m thin and gorgeous with biceps for this dream. I’m not sweating but merely glistening.) I’ll just be sharing with you some lessons I’m learning in the fight.

Round One: The hurtful actions of another say NOTHING about me.

My first marriage involved repeated incidents of infidelity. I left that marriage with the idea that my first husband’s cheating habits were a big ol’ billboard to the world. They said “Rebecca is UGLY! She’s inadequate! She’s undesirable and gross!!” A few miles down the road, another billboard boasted,”Rebecca is a FOOL! She has NO CLUE.” Then another saying, “Rebecca is stupid and fat and definitely NOT SEXY.” I’ve carried this idea into my new marriage, living in total fear that my new husband will see the billboards and change his mind once he knows these things about me. I’ve let it affect my confidence and my ability to love.

Guess what?? There are NO SUCH BILLBOARDS. My first husband’s cheating habits say this: My first husband cheated.

That’s it.

There is not one piece of information about ME contained therein.

Sure it’s part of my story, part of my darkest moments, and I can’t change what happened, but as far as making a statement about ME… it doesn’t.

Ick… I shudder to think how I’ve worn it like a badge. I’ve identified with it and allowed myself to believe that the cheating MUST have happened because I’m deformed in some way. Not true.

I hope you are rolling your eyes right now, thinking, “DUUUUH! How could it have taken you this long to figure this out???” But if you aren’t rolling your eyes, then…Please. Please don’t get stuck in the tar baby I’ve been fighting with all these years. If someone has hurt you, if you’ve been abused, if you’ve been betrayed… please don’t let those hurtful actions define YOU. Sure it might make you FEEL rejected, unloved, miserable and worthless. But that doesn’t mean you ARE rejected, unloved, miserable and worthless.

Really the only actions that can define me are my own. The only ones that say anything about ME are the ones I carry out. OK, so maybe I’ve been a wimp about it sometimes. Maybe I’ve hidden from my pain. Maybe I’ve had a lot of bravado but haven’t really dealt with things as bravely as some might have. I’ve tried to trust God, and I’ve questioned Him, too. I’ve made rash decisions in painful moments. I’ve checked out of life rather than face my pain head-on. I’ll take these statements any day over the billboards quoted above.

Man, I bet the road of life is full of some amazing scenery now that those ol’ lyin’ billboards are out of the way.

OK, there’s the bell! Time for round TWO!

 

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