Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Freeing.

Freeing. The act...of setting yourself free.

So for me...this was walking into our closet and feeling all the emotions that I have felt for so long...and choosing to be free.

Associations are powerful.  I would see a shirt...and remember when and where I wore it, if it was attached to a bad memory.  So this resulted in me having a full closet...and yet "nothing to wear".

Does that resonate at all?

The problem is...I love my clothes.  I only buy what I love.  And this means many of my pieces are 7 and 10 years old! SERIOUSLY.  (Doing the kids baby books...proved it!)

I stood in my closet a few weeks ago...holding pieces I didn't want to part with...crying...and choosing to be free.

99% of my wardrobe went to consignment.  Things I wasn't 'done with'. Things I 'still loved'.  Things I wanted to keep for years to come.  My 'favorite pieces'.   But it was time.

Time...to set myself free.

At least now when I walk into my closet and groan that "I have nothing to wear!!"...it's legit! I really...truly...don't. And you know what? I'm ok with it.  Because I chose freedom over stuff.

A few nights after that big moment, Dean came home with a Starbucks and an envelope.  The kids all gathered around for me to open it.  On the outside it said "Janice's clothing fund".  I opened it to see 5- $100 bills inside.  And I cried.

Yes. We share a bank account. Yes...what's his is mine. But he knows...I would never spend the money on me.  It was an amazing gift and the fun part? I still have $432 left.  I have spent it only on things I love.

Not things on sale. Not running to the clearance, as I have my whole life. But just buying things I love...that I will love to wear.

I stopped in the most adorable boutique a few days ago.  I found a shirt that I truly love.  In every other moment in my life, I would have choked on the price and put it back.  But this time...? Without hesitation I walked to the counter with my cash and bought it.  And for good measure...? Bought a pastry to enjoy on my way home.

Free.

This was so freeing to me...much more than I could have anticipated...that a few weeks later I walked into our little girl's room.  I saw our six year old's shoulders go up...her body freeze as I started pulling out dresses out of her closet.  I looked at her and asked if she saw happy memories or sad memories with each piece.  99% was sad.  I asked if she was ready to say good bye to the sad and get some new things with happy memories.  Bags of clothing later...they now love going into their closet to choose what to wear.

Free.

For you...it may not look like emptying your wardrobe.  It's really symbolic of something much greater. But I suspect each one of us can take a step towards freedom. An active step...towards being free.

This is a small step compared to what we are taking in a few weeks.  But really...should any material thing hold us back from freedom?  Isn't it all just 'stuff'...? Just a car...? Just a house...? Just clothes...?

If you see me...and I'm wearing what you saw me wear 2 times in the prior week....know this.  I am much freer than I was six months ago with a fabulous wardrobe.  In fact...I don't even go in my closet and whine about nothing to wear. Because everything in there...? Reminds me that I'm free.  Nothing has a powerful negative memory attached to it.  And it's all just clothes.  Just stuff.

My heart being free is worth so much more.

So is yours.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Four months.

March 23.  

It's really been four months.

Ever try so hard to savor something that you feel it just keeps slipping out of your grasp? 

Yeah. Me too.  

In a way, that's a good summary of the last four months.  Yet...I have savored every moment.  

This precious little bundle that...in many ways...saved me.  

Gave me a reason to keep eating.  To try to keep sleeping.  And then...one of the most surprising gifts was how getting up with her in the middle of the night to feed her...somehow kept me out of a deep REM sleep and the horrific nights ended. Abruptly.  That..was amazing. 

I went from shaking in the night, waking screaming...sweating...convulsing...to being woken by the sweetest newborn cry and dragging myself to the rocking chair to feed her. Where all I could see was a sky full of stars out our window. 

Who knew...that a nocturnal little tiny newborn could save me from the trauma I dreaded every single night as the sun set?  

There's so many times I catch Dean just smiling at me across the room...as I coo at this little face.  

He knows. I know.  We all know.  

The gift out of the ashes.  The gift we had no idea we needed.  The collateral beauty.

Oh Topaz Treasure.  I love her little face when she wakes from a nap (as her Mama does, by the way)...still kind of grouchy, puffy eyed but lights up into the most beautiful smile when her eyes catch mine.  I love how she talks and talks and talks to Tirzah. I love how she laughs every time Zion comes near.  I love how she watches as Nazara sings song after song to her all day long.  

If you have more than one child, you have likely wondered if you had the ability to love the second as much as the first. Remember those days? You smile at them now because...well...now you know.  You know that your heart somehow grows and is simply capable of more love than you ever dreamed. 

Well in this pregnancy, I honestly feared if my heart was capable.  I had been through so much pain. SO much loss. So much grief.  I was broken.  Could I feel all of those wonderful things again? What if I couldn't?

And then she arrived.  And every fear just melted in the first moment. I was going to say...at the moment I saw her. But I heard her so much early than I saw her. I couldn't even open my eyes for, what felt like, minutes. I was crying too hard. But I heard her and I was holding her.  And I felt like my heart doubled in size.  Again.

Topaz.  Since the day she was born, people have commented on our "little redhead". I would laugh it off but here we are...4 months later and she's definitely strawberry ish.  Bright blue eyes.  A smile that lights up her entire face.  And one look at her and I melt all over again.  

I am so thankful for this child.  This gift given...at the very hardest time of our lives.  And I...I will love her forever. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Will you speak up?

So this last week has left our community reeling.

Devastated. Shocked. Horrified. Stunned.

There was a huge child sex sting where 26 local men were arrested for child sex crimes.

The community, I suspect, is not so much reeling from the fact that it happens...we all know that. But who the perpetrators were.  Ouch.

People we know. Loved. Respected. People in positions of authority...even with at risk youth.

No...they don't fit the profile we had formed in our minds.

In all of this...I've heard little about the victims of sexual abuse.  Now in this case since it was all a set up by law enforcement, there were no actual victims. But ... we don't really need to fill in the gaps do we?  There were victims. The night before. The week before. The month before. The year before.  There were so many victims.  Thankfully, this night...there were not.

This left us reeling for a different reason.  We are the parents of children...who have been sexually abused.

We know first hand the long, grueling, horrific, hard, heart wrenching road that lies ahead for these children.  Only hoping they get the help they actually need.

Will they have a voice? Will they have people that love them stand up and speak? Will they have people who will fight for them with every breath? Will people hide the awkward news articles that come out about perpetrators? Will people deflect and talk about how sin is sin (as if consequences of our choices are equal not matter the severity of the offense...)? Or will people take the heat and speak? Will they speak up and give a voice to these children?

Because that...? That is what it takes.  And time doesn't heal with sexual abuse.  No...time frees their little spirits up to feel safe enough to talk. And talk. And talk. And talk some more.

Our journey has been hard.  So...very...hard.  And so very hard that we had to fight for them to heal. Fight for their safety. Fight for their protection.

Perhaps it was my own naiveté...but I thought the world was on their side.  People would rally around them and us to fight for them.

I saw, firsthand, differently.  The victim's voice is hushed.  Shushed, even.

In moments of despair...I have cried out to God saying this road was too hard.  That we weren't strong enough for this.  So very tired of having to fight for basic human rights.  And then...Dean would remind me that no one would fight harder to protect our children...than us. That we would do whatever it took.  And that small flicker of a flame would be fanned again with new resolve.

The hours we have spent and ... will spend...in therapy.  The falling on the floor at the end of the day in sobs for what these precious children have endured...only to be reminded that they survived.  They...survived.  The longing to see them overcome and thrive in their lives...knowing God gave them...and us...a microphone in this horror. So many are hurting. Hushed into silence.  No...it's time for us to rise up and speak.  Give them a voice. No more sweeping it under the carpet. No more putting 'shame' on those who have been victimized.  No. It's time to empower them to overcome. They are more...so much more. As our counsellor says..."they are not victims...they were victimized."

Not a statistic. Not a nameless number.  No. They are children.  With futures. With hearts...albeit broken ones.  They have families who love them.  They need a village to fight for them.






Thursday, July 6, 2017

Still standing.

Raw.

Tattered.

Weary.

Battle wounds.

Bruised.

Bleeding.

Weak.

Tired.

Still standing.

You?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The lifter of my head...

Anyone who knows...has asked us how in the world we have survived. How have you lived that...? I could never live that.  How do you get up each morning...? How...?

I was sitting on the deck a few mornings ago. I was reading my Bible. I have read Psalms HUNDREDS of times. I have never...ever...ever seen this.

I stopped and looked up. It was beautiful and it's mine.  It was for me. No doubt in my mind.

There's a lot of descriptives of God in the Bible.  I have never read this one. I've never heard of it...but make no mistake...I've known and experienced it.

It was just so beautiful to read it.

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head..." (ESV Psalm 3:3)

I don't have any other answer. I'm sorry if you don't get it. Think it's a fairy tale or just positive thinking.  Let me assure you positive thinking would not have saved me in the last year.  No..it would not.  There was something so much more.

I had a 'lifter of my head".  How beautiful is that?

Last week at the Oregon Coast, Dean snapped this picture of me and all I could think as I saw it was "ahhh...the lifter of my head".  I don't have a lot of natural reason to look up and smile right now.  I don't.  That's not me being negative...that's me being raw and real.


I love this picture.  Because he caught me in a moment. My happy place...the sun...the beautiful gift on my chest...and my head lifted.

Maybe the whole 'chin up' is actually Biblical...or let Him lift your head.  Look up.

The passage goes on to say this..."I lay down and slept; I woke again for the Lord sustained me".  And yes...that's my story too. There were many nights I thought I wouldn't wake.  And when I did, I wondered how I had.  Then I read this.  I woke for one reason...He sustained me.



Friday, June 9, 2017

The gift of 'Today'.

Our life came to a crashing halt. And it was the worst of the worst of the worst...yes, of the very worst... of all of my fears combined.  And...nothing could be worse. It was it.

All we did was take the necessary one step at a time...sometimes choosing to just keep breathing to survive it.

But this week I've been thinking...in hindsight.  Woah.

What was horror then...was only the beginning.  And had I known then...what I know now...? I may not have survived it.

While I wished at the time I had known it all immediately...I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge there's no way I could have handled it all then.

The horror multiplied. And then again.  What we didn't think could ever get worse...did...indeed.

But this makes me think how looking back...the gift of one day at a time...saved me.

If you are like me...and like to at least feel like you are in control (silly...silly me) then you want the full view right up front. Tell me what's coming, tell me all the bad, the good...just lay it out on the table. I'm a realist...I can take it.

No...no...I couldn't.  And though that part of me still struggles with not having known it all right up front...it was God's grace that we didn't.

Could it be that the slow unravelling of all we once knew to be true...is one of the core reasons we've survived...?

Today.  Today is all we've got. Each stage along the way...I've only had 'today'.  I had no idea what would unfold 24 hours later. I had what was right in front of me...today.  And now only a tad bit removed from the situation...I can see that was one of the greatest gifts along the way.

God only gave me 'today'.  One day to chew off at a time. One day to process...feel...hurt...forgive...love...at a time.  Just one.  I could have never handled even two.

We all know stories...people...who have perhaps been diagnosed with cancer.  The first time they fought with everything in them. Gave it all they had...and they survived.  A few years later...the horrible news came again. It's back.  And they pick up their fight and go for it.  Every day being a choice to survive.  And how many times do you hear those stories of people that have fought 2-3 times over their life? Had they known with the first diagnosis that there were 2 more coming in the future...do you think they would have fought as hard as they did?  Or was it the gift of one day at a time?

We think we can handle the future...but we cannot.

I cannot.  I could not.  And here with my head finally above water more than one inch...I can see that.  I can see looking back that though my 'need to know', 'ultimate realist' personality hated never knowing what was around the corner...in large part it's what kept me breathing.  I only had one day to get through.

One day to fight my hardest for what matters the very most. One day to love 100%.  One day to be intentional. One day to laugh. One day to cry.

Just one.

Thank you God...for the gift of a day at time.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mourn with those who mourn.

Early in the journey of our past year...with a broken, shattered heart...I cried out to God.

I remember it so clearly.  I could barely catch my breath between sobs.  And my question was not "why?" it was a deep longing to know that Heaven cried.

I stood in my bathroom looking at my swollen, blotchy, mascara-stained, notably sleep-lacking face...and sobbed.  All I wanted to know is that God Himself wept.  Did Jesus cry...? Did Heaven mourn as the worst of the worst had occurred?

I think far too often we awkwardly tip toe around people that are grieving. We don't know what to say...so we (wrongly) say nothing.  Perhaps try to distract them and talk about happy things.  No. No one is looking for you to solve their deep pain. No one expects that of you, so why do you expect it of you? In fact...most of the 'wisdom' you have to offer is going to come across as trite at best.

Want to know what we want? We want someone to mourn with us.  Though you could never fully enter in to someone's pain...you can for a moment...try.  You can cry with them. There is an odd comfort in knowing that someone is crying with and for you.

Don't worry...your tomorrow will be cheerier than theirs.  You'll get up and go about your day. It's momentary for you. It's ok to go there. And honestly? It's all we want.

Not your words. Not your wisdom. Not anything you are afraid you don't have to give.  Just someone to say "I'm so very sorry".

My dad had reminded me that Jesus did weep. At the death of His friend (even when He knew He was about to raise him from the dead...) He allowed Himself to go there.  To enter in to the pain of His friends...and weep.

And that's what I needed to know.  I actually longed for rain.  I wanted the sky to wail and lament with me.  I truly did. I hated that I woke to beautiful blue skies and sunshine as if all was well in the world...when in my world...? It was not.

The very best advice I could give...please take it from someone who has lived through unthinkable grief...is in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice...mourn with those who mourn.

I remember calling my friend and we both just sat on the phone and sobbed.  She said nothing that I recall. I could just hear her sobs.  And somehow that lessened my pain.

Can you be the one to cry with your friend who is suffering? You don't need the gift of words, lots of money or anything else...you just need to be willing to enter in to their pain and...weep. Mourn.


My friend sent me this song today...



https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nfXwzMi1FxA&feature=youtu.be