Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Scars of Life

I recently finished reading the book entitled Heaven is Here, by Stephanie Nielson.
She and her husband were both, seriously injured in an airplane crash in Arizona.  At the time of the accident, they had 4 young children.  In the book, Stephanie shares her personal journey, through this horrific challenge.  She is real.  She tells of the joys and the pain of overcoming, doing hard things, and smiling when she felt like crying.  Persevering when she wanted to give up.  She describes the depression and the incredible power of will involved in waking up everyday, only to realize that she was still scarred, and still hurting. Her story motivated me to smile more, give thanks often, and be grateful for the little things.  After reading her book, I realized that the main difference between Stephanie and the rest of us, is that her scars are on the outside and ours are on the inside.  Hers are visible to the onlooker, and her very presence provokes compassion, empathy, curiosity and perhaps a stare.  However, those who look at me and you, have no idea of how broken we have been, and the incredible pain we have suffered.  I too, was on a ride with my husband, a ride called, "life", when all came to a crashing halt, and our "normal and security" exploded into divorce and potential devastation.   And, when I woke up from the shock and pain of abandonment, I knew that I would never be the same.  Stephanie's story reminded me that I cannot expect to make it through this life without scars.  And, such scars simply indicate that my past was real.  I really was hurt.  And, I really can rise above it---- and soar even higher than before--- scars and all, better not bitter!!!
 Every time Stephanie looks in the mirror, or someone gives her a second glance, she is reminded of her past.  For me, it is Christmas day, when kids must leave our home, and visit their dad, leaving a scar on my heart.  It is the holidays, every other year and every other weekend, that I am reminded of the scars of divorce and betrayal, of broken trust and broken hearts, of weakness and vulnerability. Perhaps, it is the scars we can't see that are the hardest to heal.  Scars of death of a spouse or child, scars of addiction, scars of loneliness and emptiness, scars of depression and inadequacy, ultimately, scars of Family Change ---- these are deep and take time, and must heal from the inside out.  Reading Stephanie's story reminded me that though our scars may tell where we have been, they do not need to dictate our future.  I may be scarred, but I refuse to sink!!!  Stephanie's story caused me to think and ponder my own life, my own experiences, my own pains and my own scars.  In doing so, I realized the importance of He who was wounded in my behalf, and the powerful role of hope and purpose my Savior plays in my life.
He bears the scars, so that mine won't continually hurt, so that I can regain my strength and move forward, becoming better than I ever was before.  Better because my love for Him is deeper with each scar.  Better because of those scarring experiences that leave you feeling alone and abandoned in your very own Gethsemane.   Stephanie's story touched my heart and the hearts of many.  May we all realize the importance of not trying to hide our scars---- for they may be someone else's lighthouse in a storm!  Never be ashamed of your scars of life---- they only mean that you are stronger than that which is trying to take you down!  So, pain or no pain.  Trial or no trial.  Scars or no scars.  Get up!  Brush yourself off!  And, keep climbing!!  Scars!

Friday, February 21, 2014


My Discoveries!  My Confessions!  Here's me!!!  What do you do when you realize you are not happy in Happy Valley?  I remember the day, I woke up and realized I did not want to be a mother that day.  I was SOOOO incredibly tired and exhausted. I had quit my full-time job to stay home with my first child.  This particular morning, I woke up and thought, "I gave up my job that I loved, my income, my social life, and my emotional security, so I thought, to stay home and watch my newborn baby sleep???!!!"  It had been about a month, my husband traveled for work, so there I was, alone, with these thoughts.  Culturally, I knew I could not tell anyone how I felt. Something must be wrong with me---- No one hates being a mother!  Then, a few days later, those thoughts and feelings were long gone.  They would resurface from time to time, but I never shared them. A quiet discovery, I just kept to myself---- there are days that are hard.  Days that I just don't feel like I am doing any good.  There are days that I just don't like being a mom.

 Then, there was the time that I struggled with infertility.  For three years I wanted another baby.  I felt deep down inside there was another baby for me, but it just wasn't happening.  I kept smiling, and shared my struggle with a good friend.  As the months turned into years, I felt my prayers were no longer heard.  If family was SO important, and God hears and answers prayers, why did He not answer mine?  Why was I not pregnant?  So, over time, I just quit praying.  For the next while, I would mechanically pray with my family and go through the motions.  Then, for the next while, I would kneel and not say a word.  But, in my mind I would think, "I know I should pray.  They say when you don't feel like praying is the time you really need to pray.  But, my prayers are not heard, so why bother?!?!?!"  Then, shortly after that, I did not even take the time to kneel.  I felt abandoned by the God I had been raised to believe in.  I felt that I had always done the "right thing", and now, I was asking for this simple and righteous blessing.  But, still, my prayers were unheard and unanswered.  It was some time before I could pray again.  I could not share my this distance I had created between me and Diety, with anyone.  How do you tell those who seem to know everything about God, that He has forgotten you and that you just can't pray?  Overtime, I began to miss the feelings of the spirit.  I began to realize something was missing.  I began to throw myself into everything I was doing and focus on the three children I already had.  I realized there were some things I had control over and  other things were completely out of my hands.  I realized I wasting my todays, feeling sorry for myself about the past, and in essence, giving away my tomorrows.  After some time, and hitting rock bottom, I began to pray again.  Another quiet discovery I had kept to myself ----- I doubted in that higher power that I knew governed my universe. I doubted He whom I knew loved me and knew me like no one else.  I doubted in His timetable.  I doubted my own righteousness.  I doubted His ability to love me when I had built a wall in between us.  I doubted my testimony and experiences.  Doubts and discoveries that I could have shared, but felt I was odd and strangely alone in Happy Valley, not being happy.  A discovery that could have never been farther from the truth.

Then, the day I discovered my husband of 20 years had been unfaithful, and struggled with same-sex attraction.  How do you share THAT with those in Happy Valley?  "Hi, I know it's hard to can all those tomatoes, but what's really hard is when you're husband thinks he is playing for the other team?"  It just doesn't culturally work, or so I thought!  The night, after doing all that seemed right and good, you find yourself alone in your bed, with the burdens of the world and the destinies of four children weighing heavily on your heart and mind, and you realize that you are a single mother, and it's all up to you. I remember sitting in church meetings and feeling like everyone else had the perfect marriage, family and kids, while mine was anything but perfect, and crumbling by the minute.  And, as a matter of fact, mine was so imperfect that I could not even articulate the words.  Another quiet discovery, my eternal family falling apart at the seams.

I have since discovered that behind every door is a challenge or two.  That behind every smile is a tear.  That behind every perfect lawn is an imperfect mower.  And, behind every woman, is a myriad of quiet discoveries that are shared by many yet rarely spoken.

My Discoveries--  I love Mexican food and mangoes.  I do not like hamburger casserole (sorry Mom) or strange meat.  I love to clean and organize.  I do not like clutter.  I love music that inspires.  I love watching my children sleep, however, I am short on patience at bedtime.   I loved being a stay-at-home mom, I do not like having to divide my time between my kids and work and school.  I love newborns and babies.  I tolerate toddlers.  I love teenagers but, do not always like their interpretation or expression of agency.  I actually love peanut butter and honey, but am not a fan of sandwiches.  I used to love shopping, but now, I do all I can to avoid it.  These discoveries are mine because of who I am and where my life has taken me.  I used to love to shop.  I loved a good bargain and the hunt for that bargain was just as much fun as the bargain itself.  Then, as Families Change,  I found myself strapped for time, energy and money.  So, shopping is no longer fun for me, but a chore.  It's hard to go and see the many things your kids need and want and not have the finances to fulfill such needs.  It is difficult to go shop when you should be home doing homework or cleaning, because you are a single parent and you are on your own.  It's hard to go with friends and feel like you must have done something terribly wrong, as your challenges eat you like a cancer and their families seem to be growing and hitting the milestones you longed and worked for.  And, shopping means going out and seeing all the perfect woman, with perfect families, perfect hair, outfits and bodies, perfect children, all the while knowing, everything you knew, loved and had worked for is quietly crumbling around you.  So, shopping is no longer fun.

One of my greatest discoveries has been the realization that most have trials and challenges.  Though they may not be exactly like mine, they are not living in the blissful perfection  I once thought.  And, as I have pondered my feelings, experiences and discoveries, I have found that in sharing my struggles, my bucket is filled with more faith and courage from others, to continue another day, to write another post, to parent one more time and to try again.

So, what do you do when you are not happy in Happy Valley?  Share your anger.  Share your frustrations.  Share your feelings of loss and abandonment.  Realize that maybe someone else likes Mexican food and mangoes too.  Maybe someone else is struggling being a mother, a wife or even praying, and your experience will give them courage.  Perhaps, sharing of yourself will help them realize they are normal when the culture seems to shout otherwise.  You might be just the answer that someone else is waiting for, even praying for.  An answer of courage to help them dust themselves off and keep running, keeping their eye on the finish line, because of you.   Challenges are just those scary things you see when you take your eyes off your goal!!  I have learned that when I felt my prayers were unheard and felt alone---- it was then that I was truly being carried.  There was indeed, a plan, and He was in charge.  That very God I knew and believed in knew the plan, and was there, waiting to listen and comfort.  He does hear.  He does answer.  He will listen.  There is never a busy signal and you are never sent to voicemail.  And, when you feel like you are, leave a message, pour out your heart, your tears, your feelings of inadequacy and abandonment and your bucket will be filled.  Then, go fill another!!  We will discover that as we get to know ourselves, we may even lift another, all because of our darkest hours, and most difficult challenges.  We will discover that we can create common bonds through experience, good and bad, bitter and sweet.  We discover for ourselves.  We discover for others.  We discover for our families.  We discover that we may be His hands, when someone else feels alone, empty and unheard.  But, those discoveries only help, when they are shared.  What do you do when you discover that for today, you are not happy in Happy Valley?  Realize that you are not alone.  That you are normal.  And, most of all, that it's OK!   Open your mouths and your heart to He who knows, hears and answers all.  And, open up to others.  Discovery is not just seeing new tomorrows, but seeing today with new eyes.  I love Mexican food.  Being a mom is hard!  Being patient is even harder.  I have learned to love to discover!  He hears.  Discovery!