The first Mother’s Day after my mom passed away, this girl was producing a northwest Indiana show for Mother’s Day called Listen to Your Mother. She invited me and I declined. I was appreciative and wanted to support her, but I didn’t think I could deal with the emotions. She emailed a few days later and asked if Phil would be an usher at the show. I asked him and he said yes. (sneaky girl. I love you for that.)
So many of my friends were there that night and I felt loved and I loved them and it was good for my heart.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was urged to submit something for the Eastern Iowa show and with moving and the chaos, I just didn’t think I could add one more thing to my plate. But then, one morning right after we moved in, I was looking in the backyard of our new home and I saw some lilac bushes I’d never noticed and I wrote it. I cried and I wrote it. Then I sent it without even thinking I’d ever be chosen.
But I got the email and the announcements are made and there is my name. I will (somehow) be reading my story on stage. I’m not a stranger to the stage, that’s not the intimidating part. It’s the part where my emotions will be uncontrolled trying to tell my story. So far, I can’t even *think* of reading it without crying let alone actually reading it. It’s probably one of the most emotional pieces I’ve ever written. (deep breath.)
As I was drawing that tree and writing on it “I am the vine” I also drew some wind and wrote on it “and He whispers on the wind” I heard that small, still voice in my head telling me “Give this drawing to the first person who tells you it’s beautiful.” But no one did. So I put the drawing away and I chit-chatted with some girls at a nearby table.
Then, this special friend I met, Stepahie Bowman, sits down next to me and says something…
“I saw you were drawing something. May I see it?”
In a moment I was hesitant and confused and a little excited, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The drawing was in my purse, so I dug it out, flipped to the page and handed it over to Stephanie.
“It is beautiful.”
I smiled knowingly, not knowing that I was something special, not knowing that my drawing was spectacular, but knowing that I was praying, God spoke, and I listened.
Because I usually argue.
Stephanie was staring at the drawing and I think I kind of snatched it from her. I started tearing the page from the sketchbook, she asked what I was doing. I remained silent. Handed her the drawing and said this is for you. She cried, thanked me, we parted ways. I didn’t tell her why I did it. I simply obeyed.
to obey is better than sacrifice
In the grand scheme of things, it seems less than important that I drew a picture while I prayed and gave it away. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t provide money for a well for clean water to those in need. I didn’t do something spectacular or live-saving, or live-giving for that matter.
but I obeyed.
The weekend was over as quick as it had started. The airport was bulging at the seams, splitting and leaking. Flights were so overbooked, passengers were sent in cabs to cities hours away. I was flying standby. I kinda knew I wasn’t getting home Sunday. Brooke McGlothlin, my roommate, offered to take me to her home five hours away so I’d have a better chance of getting home. Stephanie (and another Stephanie) were also in the car for most of that trip. Yeah…God already knew that would happen.
We chatted about the conference. Again, I felt a little out of place, misfit that I am. After we dropped off the Stephanies that were riding along, Brooke and I talked. It was a deep, spiritual talk. The kind that I’ve not had–I can’t even remember the last time. maybe never.
One of the subjects stemmed from this:
The day before I left for the conference, someone I respect immensely, took a kind of big risk and told me something I might have reacted badly to. (I didn’t, but could’ve) I lugged the burden of my iniquity around not realizing the weight or impact.
In hindsight…pun totally intended…there may be cause to believe that God timed this person’s comments in such a way as to cause a complete emotional breakdown. The comment wasn’t intended to send me tailspin.
In summary, the context of the conversation was regarding my position in ccPublshing. Paraphrasing, this person believes and feels that I come off as cold and unemotional at times and I sometimes don’t appear to be conversing, but want instead to be obeyed.
And yeah, I’m a hard ass. I know. But I didn’t think, for a moment, that I was being dictator-esque. I took those statements and tried to wrap my brain around them. I was pretty certain that in all of the discussions, board meetings, and brainstorming sessions, I’d prefaced my ideas with, “I think maybe…” or “What are your thoughts…” or “I wonder if we should…” or similar lead-ins. I’d learned years ago, from a book called Jesus, CEOthat to lead, you have to put yourself at the bottom of the flow chart. And dude. I take that to heart. So yeah. Those statements bothered me. A lot.
Enough that I kept discussing things with Brooke. She asked me some hard questions.
“You say you’re not emotional & tender. But you sure seem like it to me, why do you keep saying this?”
Because I’m not as emotional as most women. I have my moments, but for the most part, I’m just not.
“Is that who you are, or is it something you’ve done to yourself?”
I know the answer. It is hard for me to say it here, out loud, to forever be recorded–because I’d rather keep it hidden, where I can somewhat control it. Part of me fears someone in my family might read this and I don’t know what will happen if they do. Part of me doesn’t give a flying fuck if they do read it. It’s a two part answer. Maybe more. The easy answer is: both. Being less emotional than other women is actually part of who I am, who I was created to be, but the other part, I’ve done to myself. Maybe not intentionally at first. And it’s difficult to unravel the answer because it goes way back.
I don’t know where it all started, I don’t have access to those memories. My dad was a door-gunner in Vietnam. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and he’s also bipolar. But back then, these things didn’t have names and there was no help. What I knew then was I was the target of my dad’s anger. What I didn’t know was that he had no control of these things. I hated him. He beat me and I hated him more. He yelled at me and called me a slut and I hated him more. I disliked the fact that my mom didn’t leave him. I thought she should’ve protected me and removed me from harm’s way. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know he wasn’t in control. The fight of flight instinct? I’m a fighter (as if I had to tell you that?) I want to make it clear though, that several years ago, our relationship was healed. I’ll tell that story someday. And I have forgiven him. Fully. I’m telling you this stuff because it deal directly with what is happening in my life right now. This instant. I didn’t really make peace with my mom about it. I kinda did, I talked to her on her death bed. But that was just me talking to her and I don’t know if she heard.
Another facet to this thing I’m dealing with, whatever it’s called, is the fact that I was sexually violated as a child. My grandma (mom’s mom) lived across the alley from us and her father moved in with her. They both drank. a lot. He would touch me inappropriately in front of her and she’d pretend she was watching TV, pretend she didn’t see it, or she’d fall asleep on the couch in the living room and didn’t stop it and I didn’t know how to stop it. If there was more that happened, I don’t remember. This was violation enough. I talked to my grandma on her death bed, as well. But it was just me talking and I don’t know if she heard.
I did not have a safe place. And I didn’t believe there was a God. I didn’t believe that someone who loved me would sit back and watch all this. So truthfully, I didn’t think ANYone loved me. Because I’m sure a whole lot of people knew and saw and just sat back and did nothing.
That’s how it came to be that I shut down emotionally during stress or trauma, or emotionally charged times. It’s called survival.
I’ve worked so hard through the years at healing and learning to trust and I gotta be honest, I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it. Some of it happened during years I didn’t follow God and some it happened when I was walking with Him. I understand now, that He’s redeemed those years of pain and He knew all along how I’d best learn and change and be formed into this broken, but healed girl.
I’m pretty sure the deaths and grief I’ve had to deal with the past five years are bringing these things to the surface. Because honestly, I’ve not thought about this stuff. It hasn’t consumed me. I haven’t blamed all my shortcomings on my past. I have dealt with it, I have moved forward.
But it’s back and I guess I have to deal with it again. Different parts of it, I think.
Because the most influential adults from my childhood are now all dead.
I keep hearing this in my head:
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of sliver
Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice
He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
malachi 3:3. proverbs 25:4. john 15:2.
Along with the metaphor Brooke used when I argued with her that I didn’t think God would want me to go digging around in wounds that were already healed. The one where she told me that sometimes there are wounds that have little bits of shrapnel (for lack of a better term) and sometimes those pieces get infected. And I ended the metaphor knowing that if an infection gets bad enough, it will take over and poison the body.
I know this intimately.
While undergoing chemo, with really good chances of a full recovery, my mom’s white count dropped drastically, she developed several infections, which poisoned her body–and this is how she died. She was gone within days. Not because of the tumor, not because of the cancer, not because of the chemo, but because of the infection.
I could go all the way back to my childhood, which I will, but to tell a tiny portion, instead of a complete memoir. Most of it happens in present day. Or at least in the last few years leading up to the here and now.
This story probably started years ago on this very blog. At least the part where I was honest and open (and crazy!) So now, after unexpected detours, traffic jams, minor accidents, flat tires, snow storms, hurricanes, engine failures, and running out of gas…here we are.
So. Here goes nothing. God called me to write. (But this isn’t really about writing.) (Well, maybe a little.) (But mostly about holding things in.) I of course argued that I couldn’t and He told me I could. The reason I was reminded of His calling on my life is because this morning I read chapters 1-10 of Jeremiah. A few verses resonated with me (I’ll share those in a bit) which made me feel like if I should share this odd journey of mine.
That is the first story-line.
The second is with Relief Journal and The Midnight Diner also known as ccPublishing. The brief history is I submitted to a contest for Relief, was told the story was too genre–submit it to The Diner instead. I did. Told the story was too literary submit it to Relief. sigh. Shortly after, I was asked on as an editor for The Diner then the next year, asked on as Editor-in-Chief and the next year, asked to accept nomination of President of the Board of Directors of ccPublishing. I took over operations in January. Got the “office” delivered to my house around March. Had our first conference appearance with me leading the charge in April, the very same weekend my mom was admitted. I was with her almost every day until she died in June. While I was with her in her hospital room, I tried to keep up with the demands. Learning to run a company coupled with learning to be editor-in-chief of a publication all while your mom is dying and you’re trying to homeschool and be a mom and a wife–
Not at all.
No college education, no formal training in writing or publishing, not even a single published piece of work, yet here I stand, at the helm of one publication and overseer of both. The titles make me cringe because I don’t think I’m qualified for these jobs (I know I’m not!!) Though I was entrusted with their care.
I have neglected not only the business of ccPublishing, but the people. Not totally by choice. But a little by choice. Mainly because I was overwhelmed with everything piling up. Partially because I thought maybe after praying for a month about accepting the position of president, maybe I’d made the wrong choice and God was showing me the way out. A teeny bit because the things I had to do flat-out were not fun.
And I was tired of being stressed out.
I did turn to God when it came to my mom, her illness, and her death. Like several times in the past, He saw fit to make me a pillar of stone, not to be toppled by grief. He blessed me, allowing me to sing mom into eternity. I was grateful. I was peaceful. I was His.
For the (Christian!) publishing company though, I, for whatever reason, didn’t turn to Him (aside from praying in the beginning as to whether or not that was in His will for me.)
I turned to blogging. Weird, huh? I also started painting. I had already been doing Visual Prayer, messing with painting here and there but this unexplainable deluge of urgency poured over me, forcing my hands to create. Plus photography. My grief was coming out in all of these creative outlets.
I’d paint, take a photo, create, and blog it. It was very satisfying. (Still is, to be honest) Not because I want or need to be told people like me, I could care less who likes me. But in the creation itself. In the gift of creating given solely by the Creator. That He would allow me time to do these things and He would use them to fill the awful emptiness of my soul. He didn’t punish me for not asking Him to fill me. He let me grieve.
I also started taking on more and more sponsors and opportunities for this blog. Some companies (see the Buick post) treat you like royalty–and y’know what? Being wined and dined and given free stuff for a little review is FUN!
It was probably about this time I made some bad choices. (I didn’t know they were bad.) (I truly didn’t) (They seemed all right.)
When grandmas find their youngest sons, dead by their own hand…when those grandmas slip into dementia and mini-strokes overtake them, even when special grandmas die
I Still Believe.
Though the questions still fog up my mind
With promises I still seem to bear
When moms have brain tumors and lymphoma and when prognosis looks good and things are hopeful hopeful. Even then, when she dies anyway
I Still Believe.
Even when answers slowly unwind
It’s my heart I see you prepare
When friends…people who call themselves friends, kick me while I’m down and knowingly inflict unbearable pain
I Still Believe.
But its now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip washing away my pain
When I run away from home because I’m too pissed off to be around “friends”
I Still Believe.
The only place I can go is into your arms
Where I throw to you my feeble prayers
When You say in no uncertain terms, “Go back to your friend. Put up with her abuse.” I understand you are Jehovah Roi, the God Who Sees Me
I Still Believe.
In brokenness I can see that this is your will for me
Help me to know you are near
When I submit to Your authority and go back–and I hit a fawn still new with spots and it flies in the air and smashes down on the top of my car and I see it hit the road in the rearview mirror. Even when I see it’s mama right behind it. Even when the pain is too great to bear and I can’t see through my tears
In September of 2008, God allowed me to sing my grandma into eternity. She was a strong woman and fought to the very end, but went peacefully. A gift such as this would come along only once in a lifetime.
Not so much.
In the wee hours of Monday June 7, 2010, I was getting ready to sleep for a couple hours in the adjoining bed in mom’s hospital room. In these final days, we all knew her time was short, but only God knew the minute and hour he’d call her home. The nurse came in to take mom’s vitals. Asked me if I needed anything. I brushed my teeth. I leaned over mom and talked to her. Told her I was going to nap in the bed next to her, I wasn’t leaving the room, I’d be right there.
In that moment, her respirations dropped in half. I got closer, kissed her forehead, caressed her cheek, told her I love her. I said, “Ok mom. I’m not going to sleep. I’m just going to stay right here with you, ok?” And I did. More talking. More kissing. More breathing in her scent.
Without even knowing what was happening, I said, “Mom? I don’t know if you want me to sing to you like I did grandma, but I sure will.”
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
Mom’s mouth moved for the first time in days, as if she was singing with me. I started over because I couldn’t remember any other words.
How sweet the sound
And she breathed her last.
Twice in a lifetime I sang the two most important women in my life into eternity. There is no such thing as coincidence.