Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Birthday Wishes For My Son

Becca, Tristan, Baby Ezra and I
Sometimes I wonder if these birthday blogs are worth writing. Only one out of my three kids expresses gratitude. Which is fine. All three of my kids have different personalities and I accept each of them unconditionally. 

I started writing these birthday blogs after the year of funerals. That’s what I’ve dubbed 2008. During the many eulogies I listened to I wondered if the heartfelt sentiments were expressed when the person was alive.

In the midst of grief and regret we grow the balls we need to vocalize what we should have said when it mattered. Simple words. I love you. I’m sorry. I’m proud of you. You guys are the best things that have happened to me.

See? Why are those words so damn hard to say in the drudgery of our daily lives?

That’s why I write these birthday blogs to my kids. Because days go by when I don’t call, text, or e-mail them. Months go by without my telling them how proud I am for who they’ve become. They only hear my whining and complaints.

Like with Tristan.

Dude, seriously, CLEAN YOUR ROOM!
Helloooo can you answer my texts!? Ugh!
Your cell phone bill is due. Pay up!
Oh hell naw you blocked me on Instagram?!

I could buy a birthday card, I know. But the last time I dropped a good chunk of change on a card for someone I saw it lying on the floor discarded like a used Kleenex during flu season. So screw writing my heart out on a card.


Today you turn 23 years old. Yes, I do want you to learn to clean and I totally failed for not beating that in your head when you were younger. I still have hope, though.

But let’s not focus on the negative. It’s your birthday. And I know we have a hard time talking about our emotions or getting all sappy with one another. 

You think I don’t know but I’m your mama and I'm like the CIA. I find out information you think I'll never know. Yep, and I've got people reporting to me. I heard how well you do at your job working with the mentally challenged. It takes a special person to work with patients let alone those who have intellectual disabilities. You already know I couldn’t be a nurse like your sister and I surely couldn’t do what you do.

I’ve been told that you’ve been assigned the most challenging member to care for and you handle him/her efficiently, with compassion and the utmost patience. It’s not easy, I know. I’m sure you have your bad days, too. It's not lost upon me the significance of your job responsibilities especially when I'm here whining about being enslaved in the cube farm. 

So let me just say this, I am proud of you, Trey. Like above and beyond, proud. No cheesy birthday card could convey my admiration for how you've excelled at your job. 

It might not seem that I notice anything but I love how your relationship with Becca has helped you both grow in positive ways. Don't worry, I won't post photos of you playing guitar during church worship, or the video of you in the Les Miserable skit at church. 

It's funny, I was 23 years old when I had you. I doubt your 23rd year will be filled with chaos, uncertainty, and angst like mine was. 

My birthday wishes for you this year are geared toward your continual growth and maturity. That you will always have that gentle soul no matter what anyone says. I'm proud of the way you defended Becca's dad when he was being verbally attacked. I know I wasn't there but I heard. Oh, how I heard and how my heart filled with gratitude that you've learned to handle conflict without aggression. 

You're almost a foot taller than I am but in my mind I still spank you and hug you and would put you on my lap if I could! LOL! 

Make this year an even better one than the last. And remember, embrace the bad things, those perceived failures, because those are the tools you'll need for success. Life is about living and living is about enduring the good, the bad, and the ugly. It took me over 40 years to figure that out so I'm giving you that nugget of wisdom now. 

Happy Birthday to you, Trey! 

Love, Mom

P.S. Now, could you please clean your room? 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Solace In The Mountain

During a mission trip in Tecate, Mexico. December 2012
One of the things I love about The Branch is revisiting scripture I've read hundreds of times. You know how it is, you read something so much you become the annoying know-it-all.

We've been reading the book of John and last week we delved into John 6:1-15. It's a snapshot of Jesus feeding over five thousand people with "five small barley loaves and two small fish." Regardless of your beliefs I'm sure you've heard a version of this story. 

This time, I focused less on the miracle of Jesus providing minimal food to a multitude of people and more on how he took off AFTER he fed them. I envision the crowd's energy growing in its intensity while people murmur "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Kind of like the news segment I watched recently of crazed teens chasing after Justin Bieber's vehicle to catch a glimpse of the mofo. 

Verse 15: 
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. 

The sentence in my Bible wasn't in bold letters but the words stood out like a banner. 

I sat in stunned silence. 

Wow. I never noticed the impact of those words. 

The throng of hungry people Jesus fed with small loaves and two fish was on the verge of acting like crazed teens rabid for a Justin Bieber sighting. But Jesus didn't want the fandom. So much so that he said peace out, yo! 


I love that he took off, withdrew, to a mountain by himself! Solo! 

We are immersed in a culture fed by social media. I see it every day and I'm guilty of it myself. We've built our own kingdom on Facebook Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, 500px, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. where we crown ourselves king or queen of the royal palace. We are now defined by the number of followers we've amassed across all social media outlets, place our worth on the pedestal of adoration, then watch it tumble in comparison to those who have more "likes." 

Status updates, tweets, posts, and selfies are small cogs driving the machine of self-promotion. We've erected effigies in our likeness where our adoring fans can bow down in supplication and bestow us with their likes, comments, retweets, favorites, and reposts. 

We convince ourselves it's all for the promotion of our business endeavors and for awhile it becomes our truth. Our art, our business, and our creativity are affirmed. Justified. 

Until the likes, comments, retweets, favorites, and reposts subside. So we chase the fame and glory by mimicking someone's formula of success because self-doubt has put the brakes on the adoration. 

In our frenzied pursuit of fandom we lose our voice and identity, aborting the flow of our creativity. We lose the one thing that made us real to our followers and stuff our vulnerability deep down in fear of rejection. We are battered by our endless absorption of social media that we forget to withdraw from the noise. 

I'm guilty of all of the above. 

I've learned not to wait for a mountain to appear on the horizon. Sometimes my mountain looks like a quiet garage lined with vinyl records from floor to ceiling, or a dimly lit room fragrant with essential oils, or my silent car on the hourlong commute to work. 

Withdrawing to our mountain means reconnecting with the love inside us. 

Unplugging from our adoring followers allows us to accept our vulnerability without shame. 

In the silence we learn to face our flaws in order to accept and embrace them. 

Seeking solitude refuels our energy so we can give back in our compassion and meet the needs of those around us. 

My quiet mountain encourages me to shut off the abusive thoughts I've directed at myself all day because who needs enemies when I'm the master at solo beat downs? When all I have is my solitary space I have no choice but to view the limitations that's holding me back from experiencing the fullness of what God wants for my life. 

Days, weeks, and months flash by with me telling God exactly what I want, how I want it, and where I want it. But not once in my spoiled arrogance have I asked him, What do YOU want from me? And if his desire for my life deviates from my expectations will my heart be open to it? 

The answers to my questions can only be found in my quiet time where the still, small voice of the ONE who guides me is loud and clear. Like Jesus, I need to withdraw from the noise not one day, not once a week, but frequently. And maybe, instead of preening like a queen before my adoring fans I could invite HIM from the outskirts of the kingdom to sit on the throne where he belongs. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Set Free

Last Sunday at The Branch's service I sat in the back like I usually do during worship. I had my camera ready to photograph the baby dedication scheduled that day. 

When Marissa Engoy began singing the first line of Amazing Grace I almost buckled to the floor. It's a song that's more than special or symbolic for me. 

It's the anthem of my journey and a blatant reminder of how far I've come, the harsh lessons I've learned, and how amazing grace truly is. 

With my hands raised in the air and tears streaming down my face, flashes of the old me played against my closed lids. 

My chains are gone, I've been set free. 

Set free of drug addiction. 
Set free of people pleasing. 
Set free of self-involvement as a single mom when I should have been caring for my kids. 
Set free of an abusive marriage. 
Set free of my infidelity in both marriages. 
Set free of my deceit and manipulation. 
Set free of pursuing love outside of myself. 
Set free of ingesting the bitter pills of hatred and revenge. 
Set free of self-destruction. 
Set free of self-loathing. 
Set free of escaping reality through retail therapy. 
Set free of living lost and faithless. 
Set free of existing without passion or purpose.
Set free of not knowing the ONE who loves me. 

But God who called me here below, will be forever mine. 

Because of HIM, I've been set free.