Monday, September 5, 2016

Miracles and Memories

So back in June I had an incredible experience, and it's caused a rollercoaster of a ride this summer. If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably already seen these, but rather than write them out I'm going to copy them here----

JUNE--Today. I went into a tattoo parlor for my tattoo I’ve been wanting forever to cover up scars from hurting myself as a teenager. A compass, but instead of North- South, I have my kids initials.

The tattoo artist opened her shop early just for me. We chatted as she drew out the design. After a moment, she grew silent before blurting out, 'You know, you remind me of someone I used to know.'

I looked at her carefully. Two of us from such different worlds. 'Where did you know her from?' I asked.
She took in a deep breath. 'From a hospital.' She said.

I felt a tingle down my spine… the one that tells you something big is about to happen. 'What hospital?' I asked.

She named the one that takes suicidal teens. My mouth dropped open. 'I was there too.'

She screamed, 'I knew it!' And grabbed me in the biggest bear hug ever.

Yes. She was there. When I was a teen. When the scars on my arm were fresh and covered in gauze. And now, she was the one to put the tattoo over them that says “Sozo”— healed, whole.

I look at it now… My arm, a place that once represented hopelessness now represents love… More beauty from ashes than I could have ever dreamed.

AUGUST---What's on my mind.... hmmmm. First-- I'm sharing from the heart, so the words might not come out right. Second, this might be a trigger to some. Many of you know that I had a tattoo done in June. It was to cover scars from a suicide attempt as a teenager. Not really cover up, but to make a new memory, if that makes sense. 
So, if you followed the story, by some weird coincidence, the tattoo artist remembered me. She was with me in the hospital all those years ago when my scars were fresh, from her own suicide attempt.
It was an incredible, serendipity moment. It should end there, right?
After the tattoo, I fell into a horrible panic/survival guilt dark period. Because when I was in the hospital, my best friend killed herself. 
I have to pause after I type those words because it still hurts so badly, and I can barely see the screen. She wanted to do it with me.... but I was in such a dark place at the time I didn't understand what she was asking in the card she gave me before my attempt.
The survivor's guilt was, and in some ways, still so hard. So hard. I couldn't save her, my precious friend who'd saved me more than once. I wasn't even able to go to her funeral because I was in the hospital. 
So, today my husband had his appointment for his tattoo. I knew I was going to see the same artist again. 
I dreaded it. Dreaded the memories once again. That sounds so terrible, I know.
It went well. The artist asked for my number so we could meet for coffee and talk. I might be a bit scared to meet her, but I will do it. 
Suicide and depression are hard subjects. What my friend did has had an effect on me All These Years later. A part of my heart will always hurt. A permanent consequence to a temporary problem. And it could have just as easily been her writing this post, if I had been the one not found instead of her. 
If you ever, ever, EVER feel like you are in that dark place, and no one is there....I'm here. I'm not a licensed professional, all I can do is listen. And Care. You aren't alone, and there is light at the end of every tunnel. Your life is important and has a reach so much more than you Can Ever realize. 
((((((((((((((Big hug to anyone who needs it)))))))))))))))))))

Suicide prevention hotline-  1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak at MOPS

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at a MOPS program. Now, just for the record, although I'm a public speaker, I'm not a teacher. I just speak on my own life experiences. This is my joy; to share my story with others about what God has done for me. 

It was an amazing experience. Looking out at all those beautiful moms with their babies and foster children, well it didn't feel like it had been all that long ago that I was in their place. Does anyone else think raising kids is the fastest slowest thing that can happen to a person? :) 

Being a parent of young kids is a strange phase in life. I was hardly away from my own past hardships when I was raising babies of my own. It can be very weird to reconcile a painful childhood with raising your own children. My experiences made me determined to teach my kids how much I loved them and how valuable they are. 

But, despite my best effort, I was constantly being hit with guilt, almost like a background “voice” that accused me of things I was failing at. It constantly pointed out how I could have done things better. 

It wasn't until years later that I recognized the "voice" was the same disappointed one of my moms. I don't say that as a slight against her, but to show that those feelings of failure and "not measuring up" are often not from ourselves, but "ghosts" from accusations in our past. 

I remember one particularly difficult day, when the kids were grumpy and fighting, and the house was a disaster. My hair was in a sloppy bun on the top of my head and I still wore the t-shirt from the day before. My husband was on his way home and I was trying to fix dinner as I tripped over toys and the dog. Two kids pushed past me squabbling over something. Another child screamed my name over and over in frustration over a broken toy, and the fourth upended a box of Costco size cheerios all over the floor. 

I felt like I was drowning in chaos. I ran to my room nearly in tears and started to pray. What came out of my mouth was, "I can't do this. I can't get it together. I'm going to ruin these kids." I was so overwhelmed. 

After a minute, I felt like I heard God tell me that my job wasn't to be my kid's perfect parent. Because if I was, why would they need Him? But my job as a parent was to show them unconditional love, and they learned to show it back as they loved me. My job was also to teach forgiveness as we all forgave each other. This thought birthed our family motto--We aren’t the perfect family, we are the forgiving one. And it gave me my first taste of freedom that my job wasn't to be the perfect mom, even though I continued to give it my best effort. 

It was soon after that I began using the "Mad bed" which is a ridiculous name but one the kids understood well. If they felt mad, guilty, or frustrated they could ask to talk with me on the mad bed. This was my bed. As we walked into my room it gave me a few moments to get myself into gear to just listen to what they had to say. The kids knew they could share what they wanted without me responding. I'd just listen. The cool thing about this was even if the child was really frustrated, being able to have that space and security to be heard was enough for them to begin to sort out whatever it was they were struggling with. 

It wasn't always easy for me to stay quiet, but it helped as I saw the fruit of that in their lives. 

The Mad Bed was good for me, too. I realized I had that same freedom with God. To just share whatever was on my heart and not worry about angering Him. That He cared and wanted to hear what I was feeling and just wanted me to be Me, real and transparent with Him. 

This was a new thing for me since I didn't experience that kind of unconditional love growing up. It was a safety that took some time to grow in. 

Through raising kids, and my own heart as a parent, I saw how God cares about us so much. God gets that raising kids is a challenging time. He sees all of our worries and fears, and ways we feel like we fail. He sees our places we are starting to feel weary. He’s not disappointed in us when we struggle. 

Maybe someone needs to hear it today— It’s going to be okay. He loves you. You are good enough. God has a plan, He’s going to get you through this. He gets how hard it is, and will help you to continue. He loves you as a parent. He loves your children. He will never lose you, never not listen, never tire of you, never forsake you, always fight for you. 

He stands with you in every battle you are in. He will never let go of your hand. Even when life looks messy, when life looks the opposite of what you expected, God will bring beauty from those ashes. 

He's brought beauty from mine. I don't have all the answers and I definitely don't have it all together. But I have this-- I know what Love is, and it's because of Him. So for the rest of my life, I will point to that love. 

((((((((((Big hug to anyone who needs it))))))))))))))