Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday Meet Up for the Desperate who Need to Breathe

I am desperate and cannot breathe. I am not alone.

Perhaps you have many little feet pattering around your home while taking care of an aging grandfather in end stage Alzheimer’s.

Did your child walk in, drop a bombshell, and blow the ground out from under you?

Has a family court judge stared down at you and declared your husband free to choose sinful selfishness over you today?

Have you made the harder choices in life believing one day the tipping point would come? It has come and tipped you into the depths of an abyss you could never imagine.

Maybe you have cancer, and your employer said you no longer have a job.

The depth of human misery represented in my community of friends alone is staggering.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Is chaos crouching at the door? Are you weary? Can you breathe?

Do you hear the voice of the accuser echoing in your heart? He’s good. He’s had time to refine his act. He’s been practicing his craft since he and creation’s Eve sized up that infamous, history changing tree together.

He whispers just loud enough that you must strain to hear him, but that’s part of his plan too. He’s reeling you in, closer. He mocks.

Who do you think you are? What right do you have to call yourself a person of faith? Look at your life. That dude on television said you could have your best life now. Is this your best? Really? Faker!

He stalks off leaving you to lick your wounds knowing if he can defeat you now, his job just got easier. He knows we live in a world filled with desperate folks who cannot breathe.

He looks over his shoulder snickering as he departs. If he shuts you up, how many will remain oxygen deprived?  
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 

He uses your faith against you because that is your tender spot. He tells you only perfect faith, all spiffed up and television shiny, is the real deal.

Your faith is messy. Your life is messier. You are no match for him. Sit down. Be quiet. Hide. Under your blanket. It’ll be better that way.

The icy wind whipping down off the snowy mountain was no match for the icy wind blowing over my soul today.

I reached out from under my soul-hiding blanket to answer a text. Not long after, the phone rang. “Are you really o.k.? You aren’t, are you?”

One messy soul-faith sister reached out to another. A hint of air seeped into my lungs.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Strengthened by the call, I started to pay it forward. Before I could hit send, an incoming text popped up.

“Just checking in. I love you, and I am praying.”

“Weird,” I answer back. “I was just texting you to ask about you.”

“God,” she says. No further explanation needed.  

Emboldened, I text a friend I met a year ago. I did not expect to be forever friends. I never knew I would need her the way I did today – as desperately as I did today.

She lives on the other side of the continent. In this flat world, she is instantly available. “Pray?” I pour out my heart in 140 character bursts.

Before I can blink, her answer pours out of my text screen into my heart:

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
You have not failed your God. Listen to the Lover of your soul. He’ll whisper truth. He is at work in your life and in the life of your family. The truth: when God sees you, he sees Jesus.

Big ugly gasping breaths fill my lungs as tears pour down my cheeks. I can breathe.

I do not know who you are nor the cause and depth of the pain you bear. I do know that hiding under a blanket of protection  only serves to suffocate you.

It takes a while before you notice, but without warning there is no air. In those desperately, lonely moments when we cannot breathe, friends are God’s gift of CPR.

Our society makes it difficult to cultivate friends. I’ve said so often, the more interconnected we are, the less connected we are.

If you are looking for air, please consider joining the in(RL) community for a celebration of relationships on April 26th and
Join us? 
27th. Almost 500 groups are registered in 437 cities across the globe. So far, over 1,000 women are planning to participate.

Won’t you be the next one to join us? You never know when you may need a friend to help you breathe.
To see the trailer and register, c
lick here

If you are gasping for breath, Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe is chock full of wisdom and advice. To learn more: click here

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Co-ed in the Corner - a Story of Messy Faith

Picturesque implication of a stress free life . . . . 

Don’t let slicked up televangelists in designer clothes fool you when they tell you how easy faith is. Not everyone who embraces faith will live on Easy Street.

Some of us – we live in the trenches on the battlefield of faith. We live there every day. Trench warfare faith means putting one foot in front of the other and just doing the next thing.

It means clinging to faith when clinging no longer makes sense. We cling when clinging hurts and costs us something.  

When was the last time you ran and where? 
I’ve been in those trenches. In fact, if I could have run away today, I would have run all the way to New Mexico before I stopped running. It’s been that kinda week.

Today, I ran as far as I could which was all the way to the local deli. I had plans to batten down the hatches, lick my wounds, and ignore the world while I buried myself in words.

Life has been too untamed to corral this last month. So, words were overdue and ready to spill out of me onto my keyboard. I determined to ignore the world until I exhausted my cathartic words.

Little snatches of conversation floated onto my auditory radar screen but vanished into nothingness until I heard her voice.

Courtesy of/in loving memory of Christina Jones Hooker - on her birthday
“I hate it here. All I’ve done is stare at the walls today. I’m so bored.”

I looked up thinking she must be a local college student stuck on campus for spring break until she mentioned her Sergeant. Then, I listened closer even as I tried not to be an old stalker lady – the kind who talks to herself and collects bony cats.

I busied myself with my own business again until I realized her phone call was over. Our eyes met when I looked up at her.

“May I intrude and ask you a question?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
A shy smile didn’t cover the hesitation in her eyes. “Yes?”

“Are you in the military?” I asked even though I suspected she was fulfilling her two week National Guard assignment. She confirmed my assumption.

I could have never guessed she was a veteran of four years and has already served in Afghanistan. She was young enough to be my daughter. No older than my son, I was sure.

My heart broke with an ache I cannot describe. Conversation began to flow as I told her how much I appreciated her courage and thanked her for her sacrificial service.

In bits and snatches she told me about her plans and dreams. Those are changing as the military endures funding cuts. Disappointment shadowed her features. Life is not fair.  

We talked about her once-a-month commute of one-thousand miles. A transfer to a unit in her home state can’t come soon enough. Maybe then she can have the surgery to correct an injury she received in theater?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I hesitate and slowly stutter out the words, “Are you a person of faith?”  

She nods, “Somewhat. I believe everything happens for a reason, and people are put in your life for a reason.”

Tears begin to glisten at the corners of her eyes as she shrugs unsure of where to go from there.  

I think of all the folks bustling by as she sat huddled in the corner. To them, she had been just another co-ed killing time on a rainy Saturday.

I think of my plans to run away from life for just a few hours. All the time, what I was really doing was running to.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
“A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” The words of Proverbs 16:9 echoed in my ears nearly drowning out her voice. 

This day had not really been about running away and writing at all.

Before I was ready, I knew life was moving her along to other places and people. 

“How,” I asked, “may I pray for you?”

She hesitated. I could see tears begin to glisten again. Was there something she was afraid to say? Did my request hit too close to home? Had I intruded too far and become the stalker I had feared I might seem?

The answer slipped from her lips along with a request of her own. “Could I . . . could I hug you?”  

I stood and met her halfway. I tried not to cling like a mother sending her child off to war, but boy was it hard. I whispered a promise that my prayers would follow her, and I asked her to stay in touch.

As she turned to pack away her things and head off to meet some friends, she turned back to me. “I’m so glad I met you. I’m really so glad.”

Then, mine were the tears that glistened. In a few seconds, she was gone. I might have wondered if she had ever really been there but for her email address recorded safely on my phone.

Despite my messy life and messy faith, God let me run away for just a little while because I was really running to the appointment he had ordained when he threw the stars in space.

And tonight, I have breathed a prayer just as I promised. Trench faith is amazing faith. Don’t be afraid to embrace it.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Hebrews 13:1-2 (NKJV)
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday Meet Up - Wk. 6

“Hah. You gonna keep that place as clean as she did?” Her zinger hung in the air like stale, acrid cigarette smoke.

Within the question, my inquisitor hinted at her own guilt over personal failure and begrudging admiration for the one in question.

I was new, but I sized up the reputation of the previous lady of the house right quick like.

She rose at four in the morning, ran three miles, and did chores. She taught elementary school full-time, hauled twin boys to after school sporting events, and was at all her high school coach husband’s important events.

I met her twice – both times early on Saturday mornings. She had on big yellow work gloves and apologized for things not being spic and span. 

I had last seen her version of ‘messy’ the week before my two-year-old was born when I was cleaning out furniture crevices with a damp Q-tip.

Taking a deep breath before replying, I tried not to sound as challenged as I felt by the question or the new neighbor posing it.

“We homeschool. That means we live in our house twenty-four seven. It’ll never look like hers did now that it’s mine. I’ll have a BH&G photo cover of a home again one day. I just hope I live long enough to see it.” 

In that moment, I felt as though the Stepford wives outnumbered me.

Most of my days consisted of dueling breathing treatments for two boys. The doctor’s office installed a revolving door just for us.

If we weren’t battling asthma flares and respiratory infections, I was trying to sort out the mysteries of sensory processing disorders, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and all the other complexities that colored our school days.

I’m not saying it was trench warfare or anything, but I woke up more than one sunrise sitting straight up on the sofa, a schoolbook open in my lap, and still wearing clothes from the day before.

Almost fourteen years later, that question still hangs in the air and turns my heart hazy blue with smoky self-doubt and regret.

I think of it every time another writer stirs the social media pot with the mommy war spoon. I look at something you do better than me and tell myself I’ll always be less than.

No matter what your heritage, this Facebook and Pinterest laden world can leave you in a state of despair. Who can measure up against those high bars?

What a comfort it has been to read Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. The words resonate with me because the tone is one of mentorship.

Sarah presents a problem while Sally reflects on the times in her life when she struggled with similar issues and failures.

Both offer insight into their journey through the wilderness seasons of parenting.  And, if you are one, you know parenting is sometimes a wilderness!

How wonderful it was to turn the page to Chapter Six and see them deal with the issues of lack of training and perfectionism.  I realized that in any season of life, we can all feel inept and inadequate for the task.

I found comfort, encouragement and a challenge this week. Here is the challenge:

While there is some validity to that excuse [I wasn’t trained], it has an expiration date: the day you decide to make a change. (p.70)

Here is the comfort:

Your relationship with your children and their ability to enjoy the comfort of your home are gifts you can give your family by choosing to accept and appreciate the limitations of a full and lively house. (p. 71)

Those truths resonate no matter your life experience or age. We can choose change at any age and begin to address our shortcomings. 

Once we decide to change, we can approach the journey in a way that fosters a spirit of joy and companionship as we go.

If you feel lost and alone and want a network of women with whom you can experience mutual mentorship, please consider joining the in(RL) event on April 26th and 27th.

Watch the trailer and meet Sarah, Sally, and a few other friends. I promise, if you watch it, you won’t be able to stay away!

To view the trailer: click here
To purchase Desperate: click here
Click here to read: Monday Meet Up - Wk. 1

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 (The Message)

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Mother

We were the same height, but she left me feeling as though she was staring down her nose at me. 

“Tsk. Not a thing wrong with that boy. You worked at that hospital so long all you do is look for trouble. You look till you find it. That’s what you do. He’s fine. He’s just a little boy. That’s all.”

My inner mother shriveled up, and second guessing began. Surely my mom knew more than I did. Was she right? Did my background in working with profoundly disturbed children lead me to imagine things that were not there?

I was used to other people looking at me with that, “Nothing wrong with that kid but his mamma,” look. Hearing the same sentiment erupt from my own mother’s mouth was more than I could take.

My blonde-headed stick of dynamite perplexed me as much as he delighted me.

Lazy, Hazy Perfect Parenthood Dreams
I envied moms that nursed in public as if it came second nature. My hyper-alert baby couldn’t stay latched on for whipping around to see what was going on near him. Imagine a hungry-cranky baby who can’t stay latched on? I barely left the house for the eight months I nursed.

They say sleep when the baby sleeps. If you’ve uttered the phrase, you presumed the baby sleeps. What about a mom so frazzled by a wakeful baby she can’t calm down to sleep before her barely napping napper awakens?

My hazy, lazy dreams of motherhood evaporated the first time I cranked the crib mobile. My six-week-old baby did not coo and wiggle in delight.

Memories of his blood curdling scream still raise the hairs on my head twenty-two years later. The vigor of his startle response lifted him completely off the sheets. That wasn’t how it was supposed to be, was it?

Doting Grandparents
By the time mom and I faced off, I had seen my own frustration and puzzlement mirrored in the eyes of church nursery workers, medical office staff, and pre-K teachers.

Most often it seemed to be quiet frustration with me. “If she’d just calm down, he’d be fine.” The eyes said it all.

I enrolled him in a gymnastics class thinking he’d burn off energy. I bounced into the gym invigorated from my little bit of breathing space. 

I came to an abrupt halt.There it was. The frazzled, harried coach (whose eyes were gunning for me) was coming my way. “How can a three-year-old kid fail gymnastics?” I wondered.

Treasures of Times Gone By
“Have you had him screened for ADHD?” she prefaced her let-the-mom-down-easy speech as she began to tell me he might not be "right for the program". 

My clinician’s investigatory mode kicked in even as the mourning began. I stood mourning the realization that my beautiful, inquisitive, bouncy preschooler was not really welcome in the class anymore. I mourned the loss of that hour of freedom a week.

I stood back and watched knowing it was my last chance to observe and figure out what was happening. The class lined up to jump into a pit off foam much like the ball pit at fast food play grounds.

While the other kids ran up and flew into the air with abandon, my little fella crept up to the edge. He stood watching as if the pit were full of poisonous snakes.

Future Photographer in Training
Finally, he sat down and ever so slowly edged into the foam pit. I’m sure it only took a few minutes. At the time, it seemed like hours and hours.

Rather than going over and applauding his bravery, the teacher/coach gave him an impatient prompt to clear the area for the next kid in line.

My little gymnastics failure no longer merited her curiosity or attention. She had decided he was someone else’s problem: the doctor with the medicine that would cure him of his disruptive presence.

Not long after, he jumped into the car after his K-3 class. The teacher locked eyes with me, and I saw it again. The look: “Don’t tell me I’m gonna be saddled with this kid all year . . . .”

From his car seat, his little voice rang in my ears, “Today! I bite somebody!”

World Traveling Photographer
Now, my mother’s words mixed and mingled with all these other words until my head was filled with a terrible dance of noise.

“What kind of horrible mother am I? I was such a good teacher. Why am I such a failure as a mother?” I cried inside.

I had no idea I was dealing with sensory processing issues, apraxia, dysgraphia, and would eventually hear the words “Asperger’s Syndrome”. The years of discovery were long and lonely.

Oh, fraidy cat. I remember the pain, confusion, doubt, despair as if it were yesterday and not nineteen years ago. 

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Are you there now? Are you wondering if you will always be the shell-shocked shell of a mother you feel you are right now? 

Walk with me a while? Let’s get through this wonderful, terrible, amazing, scary thing called parenthood together?  God is still writing our story, but it seems the time has come to share the early parts with you. See you soon? 

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Part 1 of this series: A Homeschooling Not So Fairy Tale

Part 2 of this series: He's Bright But Confusing - Sound Familiar?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Monday Meet Up - Week 5

I never heard more shocking words. I was a nervous first time mom about to give birth any day. My friend pulled me out of the office fray. Her eyes were earnest, dark with intensity.

I have to tell you something. There will come a moment in time, in the early weeks of motherhood, when you will be exhausted almost beyond what you can bear. You will find yourself wishing you could throw the baby against the wall. You won’t, but the thought will cross your mind.

When that fleeting moment comes, remember this conversation. Remember I told you every new mother has feelings like yours. You are not shamefully abnormal. You are just a new mother. 

People are afraid to admit what I’m telling you for fear of what others will think. Thinking about it is normal. Doing it is not.

Courtesy D. Scott
I looked around to find out where I could go to get out of this motherhood mess I had foolishly gotten myself into. Had I not known what a wonderful mother this friend was, I would have thought she had gone a little off her rocker.

Barely eight weeks later, I found myself sitting on the top stair outside my son’s nursery. It would be years before I heard the term ‘sensory processing disorder’, but I could tell you right then and there - the scream he let out when I cranked his mobile for the first time was anything but normal.

I was sobbing and promising I’d never crank that hateful mobile again when it hit me. I knew the desperation my friend warned me about. I felt alone, confused, desperate, and exhausted beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

How thankful I was my friend had assured me I was normal. I took a deep breath and knew we’d make it.

Chapter 5 of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe carried me back to those early, never ending days and nights of motherhood. I often say God gave me two children spaced seven years apart because none of us would have survived if I’d had lots of littles.

Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson speak candidly about the often ill-addressed reality of young motherhood: sleep deprivation and its twin depression.

When you are a mamma of littles, you are just tired and have to weather it. There is no solution. . . (p. 56) you don’t notice you’ve been falling into the dark until you wake up one morning and getting out of bed seems to be the most difficult task of your day. (p.58)

Sarah details the telltale signs of depression: feelings of isolation, failure, decreased motivation, and apathy.

Well, hello! Young mothers are isolated. Success is often measured by whether the day included a shower or not. Who can feel energized when you are in a constant state of state of microburst sleep?

Sarah was blessed to find a woman like Sally to guide her through the days of young motherhood. I think of how different her life is from the life of the young woman I met in the doctor’s office a few days ago.

That young lady was overwhelmed and alone. You could see it in her eyes. There was no one to turn to as Sarah could turn to Sally.

Our chance meeting left me desperate for older moms like me to carry copies of this book around just in case we meet a mom in the desperate mode.

While I am Sally’s age, I read her gentle guidelines for Sarah and saw myself, even now, peeking back from in between each line:

1. Do you need sleep?
2. Have you been reading your Bible?
3. Do you feel alone?
4. Have you been watching your health?
5. How can you get help?
6. What do you need to invest in the joy factor of life?
   (p. 61-62)

Courtesy and in Loving Memory of Christina Jones Hooker
No matter what stage of life we are navigating right now, those are issues with which we all wrestle in this hurry-scurry world.

These realities increase my excitement regarding the in(RL) community and events scheduled for April 26th and 27th. If you are a young mom who feels desperate and alone or an older woman who has wisdom to share, come be a part of this world-wide event? 

Last year, some groups were as small as two and others were larger. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of throwing a party only to find no one’s coming. See, that’s the fraidy cat in me.

Nevertheless, God has burdened my heart to see older and younger women connect. Women just like you and me. I hope you’ll join me wherever you are.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Grab a copy of Desperate, and reach out to an older or younger woman. Sign up for in(RL), and let’s begin to build community right where we are. You know if a fraidy cat can, you can! 

To see the trailer and register for in(RL): click here

To read the story of the desperate young mom in the doctor's office: click here

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
To purchase a copy of Desperate, click the book link at the top right of this page.

Psalm 27:5 (NASB) For in the day of trouble, he will conceal me in his tabernacle; in the secret place  of his tent, he will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.


Friday, March 1, 2013

He’s Bright but Confusing – Sound familiar?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The library is abuzz. My childhood librarian is probably spinning in her grave. Back in her heyday, if you breathed heavy, her dagger filled look pinned you up next to the moose head above the library door as a warning for other heavy breathers.

Upon spying the pinned specimens, whisperers were known to blanch and run back out the way they came. O.k. Not really, but you know what I mean. My, how times have changed.

Just behind me sits a young man and his tutor. The timbre of his voice signals he’s only recently beyond the great divide and into the land of razors and girlfriends. I don’t have to look at him to know what’s happening.

His tutor’s first words said it all. “I’m so disappointed in you,” was quickly followed by a muttered sermon about wasting their time. I can tell he’s slouching under her disdain.

The topic at hand is math as it relates to circles. It’s just how every young man bursting with pubescent energy wants to spend his Friday afternoon and early evening.

I sigh deeply and fight my inner homeschooler. I want to turn around and interfere. I want to rescue him. Thankfully, they find a bit of common ground before I have to pack up and leave to keep from embarrassing myself.

I look out the window. The clouds contain, per the weatherman, a forty percent chance of snow. Their voices lull me to once upon a time, long ago and far away.

A little boy, all decked out like a train engineer, was toddling around the waiting room. I was thankful they had a lull because it meant he could wander around without invoking the doctor’s-waiting-room-wrath-of-Kahn.

He was a wanderer, that one. If you tried to pen him up, energy built up as if he was a living breathing static charge that had to seek release. He made up for it with white blonde hair, blue eyes, and rosy lips that melted onlookers when they parted to smile.

He toddled over to the other waiting room captive and worked his magic. Not quite two, his language skills were emerging at a logic defying pace. He grinned and began to talk.

I smiled smugly to myself about all the days I read to him in utero. Within hours of his birth, I was already reading chunky board books to him. (Insert Barney Fife of Mayberry satisfied snort.) Yep, yep, yep. Parent of the year. That was me.

The lady looked over at me and smiled that smile I secretly lusted for. It was a nonverbal signal meant to convey that, as a parent, I simply rocked.

“He’s so smart! He’s gonna be his teachers’ favorite.”

My heart froze. “Really? Do you think? Thank you. I’m not so sure. I think . . . “ my words trailed off as the nurse called her name freeing her from our mutual waiting box.

Not long after, I confessed my fears to my husband, “He’s really smart and engaging. But, there’s something I can’t put my finger on. I think . . . I think he is not going to be able to put down on paper what the teacher wants the way she wants it. I think he is going to be the bane of her existence. I’m afraid.”

My little train engineer was not quite three when his Sunday School teacher met me at the door of his class. She had inherited the ‘problem child’ from the nursery.

He was the one whose cries for his mom only quieted when they could distract him with car lights. Specifically, brake lights. Meaning he was never distracted during daylight.

“He’s amazing!” Her exclamation melted the icy fear that flash froze my heart every time I reached the nursery door. We’ve already cleaned up, but you should have seen the creation he made with Tinker Toys. If you don’t have them, you need to get him some.

We chatted for another moment or two. She said enough to tell me that she saw my conundrum. My son was amazing, articulate, and intelligent. And yet, there was something . . . something confusing . . . going on.

He was above ninety percent in his height and weight percentiles, potty trained at eighteen months, and spoke like a five or
six-year-old. I told myself the confusion hinged on folks forgetting he was only three when he acted like a three-year-old.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
It would be three more years of watching, waiting, and searching before that ‘something confusing’ had a name. 

For the link to part 1:
click here

Psalm 139: 16 The Message

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you,The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.