The Invisible Heart

I backed away because I didn’t want to hurt you, yet again.

Nights upon nights I cried and prayed over your pain.

Can I say this?

Can I tell you how my times I held the phone in my shaking hands, your number queued, willing myself to press the button?

I remember so clearly the moment I knew… the blazing morning sun reflected into my tear-filled eyes. I set aside the phone. I knew. I knew that this thing would be the only straw. Something mostly beyond my control in either of our lives would be the nail that split the beam, but how could I ask you to hold it with me?

Can I tell you now, how at the same time I let go of you, that all aspects of my life were crumbling? Work, family, my faith, and my sanity…

Can I tell you that I could barely hide the hormone-induced near-psychosis I clutched so tightly to my chest? I don’t know who I was. I’m barely back to who I should be. The pendulum still swings between “fine” and failing most weeks.

How could I tell you then of my sorrows or my joys? I let you go because I couldn’t hold the weight of wanting. Another crushing weight bearing down on my heart because my joys would add to your sorrows.

My mother told me to never shine too brightly so I locked all the fire away with cold apathy. An ice queen still wears her heart on her sleeve, even if her emotions pass by unseen.

Poverty in the Soul

Why are we so convinced that our own pain is the only pain, or at the very least, that it is the worst? I’ve been writing this post for nearly two months. After reading posts and articles explaining why poor America is too ignorant to know better than to hate from people who have no idea what it is like to live in poverty, let alone the effects of it on the human spirit. (Not linking here, but a quick internet search will turn up plenty.)

The sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–know no boundaries, none of us are immune to them. How we express them–and if they do transform to hate–will be tempered by upbringing, life experiences, and personality. The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings. Think Rwanda 1990s. Tribal genocide from one tribe onto another. Germany 1940s. One man’s lust for power made use of political and religious phobia and the instability left over from the previous war to convince an entire nation of European people to condemn another group of European people.

The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings.

Noticing and trying to solve problems such as a stains in your shirt or how to best parent each child individually seems frivolous when you have to choose between gas so you can drive to the grocery store and enough food to feed the entire family. Children born and raised in this environment, especially in rural areas*, may have difficulty breaking the cycle. Even if children grow up to break out of their parents’ socioeconomic class, those habits they absorbed during childhood all too often live on in them. Self-destructive, ingrained habits limit their potential in adulthood.

I prefer highly processed foods because my snacks were ketchup sandwiches instead of fresh fruits. I overact to the slightest stress because my body seems to be stuck in permanent flight-or-fight mode. Childhood poverty has forever impacted my life from what I eat to how I dress as I feel each aspect of my life through the urge to care for that little girl I was. Poverty is never something people choose, but do they have a choice when they lack the resources to change it?

And when you can’t change something, you lose hope, and when you lose the hope, you’ve lost the drive to change. When poverty, be it rural or urban, reaches down to the depths of the souls of the people, when hope dies, horrendous things begin to happen. Forget those habits of highly successful people because they topple like dominoes in the wake of generation poverty.

  1. If you feel a spark, you lack the initiative to try because it feels that failure is inevitable. Why go looking for trouble when it will come to you? The other shoe will drop.
  2. How can you plan for the future when a haze of hunger, with no end in sight, clouds your judgment?
  3. Which ties right into the urgent versus the important. If the urgent affects your or your family’s well-being, what could be more important?

… and the list goes on.

Poverty of the soul is an emptiness, an apathy. Poverty saps the ability to derive pleasure from life and the joy from the soul. It intensifies loneliness and blinds to beauty. You accept not only as your own fate, but as the future for your children, continuing the cycle of poverty to the next generation. Parents have immense potential to spark life into their children’s dreams and to empower them to achieve them. What happens when poverty steals that? It leaves room for the sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–to burn hotter in them.

If it is difficult to break out of the cycle of generational poverty in the United States, can you imagine how much harder it must be in other countries where children have limited access drinking water or other basic necessities, let alone to any education?

003_3

Hoyo de Bartola, “The Hole,” in the Dominican Republic, 12 years ago. A stream flows around the clusters of houses that are surrounded by mounds of uncovered, smoldering trash.

 

*Further reading on childhood poverty:

 

 

When You’re Not Holy

 

There’s no shortage of people out there ready to point out my mistakes or even just something that I do differently than them. From the shape of my stomach to the size of my thighs, I’m sure they even wonder about my bloodshot eyes.

Sometimes I’m so good at covering my flaws that the loudest critic is my inner one telling me over and over how I am an impostor, that I don’t deserve any of the good things in my life.

I’m learning that I need to forget all of the voices, because no matter which one is the loudest to call out how often or how big I mess up, this life… it’s about God.

And God is still holy.

God is always holy.

It’s so easy to forget that in the light of myself.  You and I have to let go of all that we are not and grasp all that we can be. 

Some people mock God. “He doesn’t exist,” or “That’s just a crutch,” they say. If holding onto a belief in God who is holy–and the loving way His Son Jesus taught–keeps us sane, even if there is no promise of a better afterlife, even if this belief saves us only from the darkness of depression and self destruction in this life, then you and I must hold fast.

 

Or Maybe Being on the Right is not Always Wrong

Please stop.

To every Trump supporter (overly) basking in the afterglow of a successful campaign: Please Stop. Stop arrogantly throwing around words such as “miraculous” and “prophesied.” I’m pretty sure there are some instances in the Bible that God’s chosen king was chosen for the express purpose of bringing destruction and ruin to discipline his chosen people. Whenever I hear the term “God’s chaos candidate,” I think back to those… let’s hope that’s not our fate.

There are so many people who need their voice heard, who need to know that they will not be trampled. Listen to them.

If we proclaim love and peace but do not show it, we are useless.

To every Clinton supporter bemoaning the fate of our planet with hashtags and staged protests: Please Stop. Stop promoting further division with wails and sensationalist predictions of the apocalypse. Please share your sadness and your stories. Keep mindful. People tend to tune out others who are overly dramatic because theatrics are not needed to express emotions.

Trump is a man. There are checks and balances in place. And despite what is being said, not every white Republican is out for your blood. There are so many of us who do hear you, who will cry out with you if Trump acts unjustly.

To all of you who reluctantly voted when it seemed like there was only evil to choose from: Please speak up. Let others know that no matter what is being portrayed that you are a human, with human hopes and dreams and struggles.

You see, we can vote for a candidate even if we do not agree with all of their words.

  • Maybe you voted for a third party candidate because you wanted another choice, any choice. You didn’t throw away your vote. You voted with your brain and your heart, as we all did.
  • Not all Clinton supports are educated, a minority, or in the millennial generation. Maybe you voted for Clinton but you disagree with her stance on abortion.
  • Or maybe you voted for Trump because of his promises but you can’t stand the delivery. You may be white but that does not automatically mean you are a racist backwater bigot.

We’ve all made our choices. I’m not here to explain my choice. I’m here to speak, to show my humanity. I’m here to listen to yours.

Based on my profile picture, you may guess that I voted for Trump and be ready to chuck aside me and my words because you see only a rural, flannel-wearing white girl. Someone on the right so she must be wrong.

100_1815-4

Please stop.

It’s a photo, staged with trees in the background because I love nature. I don’t actually live there.

And that flannel jacket? It belonged to my late maternal grandfather, whom I came to know as an older teen and young adult, only after grief and alcohol had stolen away most of his years. Who joined the Navy to serve his country and see the world. He spent his childhood dirt poor but found purpose and life and love. Yet in his lifetime suffered more than most of us ever will: his wife died at 42 to aggressive breast cancer, his middle son to addictions, his youngest and severely disabled son before 30, his eldest daughter to the same cancer at the same age as her mother. This photo of me wearing his jacket is all the more apropos because today is Veteran’s day. I sometimes wear it as a tangible reminder of a man I wish I knew.

I can’t do anything about the color of my skin, but no one’s skin tone defines them. Jerks are going to find reasons to be jerks. Most of the time they just are without the reasons. I grew up in the rural heartland at a time when my school district was 99.9% white. My best friend was the girl who wasn’t. But I was born on the wrong side of the tracks with a last name to match. Do you know who the good ol’ boys and girls and most adults rejected, dismissed, and tossed aside? The poor girl in her brother’s stained hand-me-downs. So yeah, I can understand frustration and even anger at being assigned a role you never asked to play.

Your name, your skin, your socioeconomic class does not define you, but neither can you define anyone else by only those things. Nothing on this earth determines your worth or your fate.

We on the right know–now more than ever–that we have a lot of work to do to show you, and the world, that we are not all old uneducated, racist white men, but most importantly to show you that we are listening. If you lean left, we hear you. Please be open to dialogue with us, some of us may understand you better than you think. There is no logic in ignoring us.

via Daily Prompt: Or

to my boys: cherishing the now

I loved sharing chocolate with you while we snuggled on the couch.

I loved listening to crazy stories you dreamed up with me driving trains and you flying airplanes.

I love seeing through your eyes as you watch the world with wide-eyed wonder.

And when life feels too much for you, when it makes you anxious and afraid, I want to hold you in my arms and tell you, “It’s OK.”

I want to dream with you, and you with me, and show you how to reach beyond what you see.

I want you to go wherever I go, but there are some places that you can’t follow…

I hope that the war I face–that darkly pursues–never reaches you, even if it consumes me.

I hope you will forgive me for being your mother, for all my mistakes and wrong choices and character flaws, and that I haven’t turned you from hope.

And when we grow older, I hope you will hold my hands as my eyes dim, recounting days gone but not dead.

My sweet little loves, may you always know you will forever be my heart.

 

The Dream Life Versus the Daily Grind

How can we balance striving to realize our dreams and maintain our relationships?

Part of our culture tells us to sacrifice everything for the sake of seeing our dreams come true (for an intriguing take on this read Find What You Love and Let It Kill You). I can see why this article has pull. Most of us are stuck in the mundane tasks of scraping play-doh off the kitchen table, wading through the scattered kids’ toys, creating our latest DIY masterpiece, and scrolling through our Facebook feeds. We don’t even see the dream anymore. It doesn’t register. Then there are stories of how people gave up their livelihood, marriages, all other pursuits for their dream. The idea seems noble, inspiring…

I dunno, though…

I just can’t fathom rushing headlong in while declaring “I forsake all!”

Life is not made only of one thing and not the other.

You must firmly grab onto that first ring and bravely take the leap, though you may lose your grasp on the third ring or your risk may be rewarded when your feet touch the platform on the other side.

Make no mistake, your feet will touch the ground. Maybe it’s only the stubborn who get to the other side.

 

There and Back Again: An unexpected journey

there-and-back-again journey
Bilbo’s Journey Begins

I long questioned why Bilbo stepped out his door, albeit reluctantly, only to return and live out most of his days in the very place he left.

It’s been maybe 10 years since I’ve read the book but I don’t remember the Bilbo being the hub of his family or village before he left. He came home wealthy, and still pretty much rejected by his family and peers–only now he was envied instead of overlooked.

I now understand why he returned. He came home because he was changed. Because of his journey, he continued to let societal rejection roll off him and lived a life of long walks and wonder. Because he saw a world beyond the comforts of the Shire–filled with powerful people motivated by the forces of self-serving hate and self-sacrificing love– he was not caught up in the numbing trappings that so easily entangled others . And when he ended up taking in a young orphaned boy, he passed on his appreciation and awe of the forces of evil and good.

That boy became the man who answered the call to strike out on an even more difficult journey.

We leave because we yearn to experience something different.

We return because we are changed.

We continue in our lives because we hope that the change in us can change the world.

We have to take that first step out the door, be willing to leave behind what we know so that we, too, can one day return.

It’s not where the journey takes us, but how we let the journey change us.

 

To the moms who have it all–breakdowns allowed

Have you heard about the mom (Australian celebrity Rachael Finch) who sends her child to grandma’s house every weekend? Leaving your child with a trusted sitter for 36 hours straight while you have some down time by yourself or with your mate… Sign me up!

Or how about the latest with Canada’s Prime Minister’s wife (Sophie Grégoire Trudeau) who publicly stated she needed more help to fulfill her role? But she doesn’t hold an official title and is expected to perform duties of such an office while also making public appearances with her husband and taking care of their three young children.

If these women were “real moms” they would be available for their children’s every need, be able to perform well at their jobs (unofficial or not), and keep their marriages intact. The one caveat is that to have it all they must do it all by themselves.

Before we feed these women to the unrelenting “real parents,” let’s consider that maybe they are doing the best that they can. The hardest thing to do is let your children go when you love them but you have nothing left to give.

Disclaimer: This isn’t one of those “I wish you were still little” letters about my children. This isn’t a post that diminishes your role as a mother by giving everyone and his brother’s cousin a best-mom ribbon nor a it’s-not-that-bad patronizing pat on the back . This is to you–you, in the trenches.

What’s a mom to do when the stomp-stomp of little feet sounds like the drumbeat of war and the shriek of “mommy” is the battle cry?

I have an ugly confession… This Mother’s Day, in a culmination of stress and defeat, I cried out “Happy Mother’s Day?!? Uh, I hate being a mom!”

But I love my boys. They are why I stay a mom. It’s not all fields of wildflowers and inspired projects and mind-blowing successes at potty training and the letters of the alphabet (in order). It’s the “failing” part that I hate.

I am painfully aware of how much I struggle at liking being a mom because I fall so short of some unspoken June Cleaver code of forever calm in heels with a plate of warm cookies in hand. In many ways, motherhood has helped me to find and define my voice because I’ve had to fight for it. I have to fight the guilt when leaving them with a trusted sitter or even my stellar husband, their dad… the haze of another sleepless night, whether I was taking care of them or working to provide for them… the sadness that a friend has miscarried or is dealing with infertility (and shame that I am not grateful enough).

Struggle is struggle no matter the cause.

Instead of pouncing on perceived weakness of others to boost our sense of accomplishment, we women need to try a new tactic. Let’s throw out the comparing and belittling. Let’s be a safe place for the boundaries of sanity and breakdowns from stress.

This is to you moms who mother–and everything else–the best you can. To you who are there and stay and refuse to give up, even if you struggle or have help along the way. Me, too. You struggle through because you love them. And let me tell you: it’s OK.

It’s OK that you struggle.

It’s OK to admit it.

And it’s OK to have help.

Hang in there.

100_1256 (3)

His Mistake Was His Red Flag

So why did I share this story of betrayal?

My immediate reaction was anger and the thought that our relationship was built on lies. When I took a minute to reflect on the course of our relationship, I realized how good this mistake was for him. He had been a great friend but when we started dating, he became… kind of a jerk. Because hurt people, hurt people.

A mistake is a mirror, a red alert for self assessment.

When he crossed his own line, he was left with a choice: to submit himself to the self-destructing habits that led to the circumstance or submit the circumstance to God. I’m happy to say that he choose to submit it to God because I noticed an immediate change in his attitude even if I didn’t know what prompted it until years later.

We can all predict the future: our hearts will be broken again and again.

Be it betrayal, loss, failure or bad decisions, pain is the nature of life.

We can’t change pain but it will change us.

It’s our choice to submit our hearts to God each time or to sacrifice ourselves to the circumstances.

Reminders to Submit the Circumstance

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)