Loving the little (and not-so-little) ones…

I am having a hard time with the whole growing up thing.  Not for me you understand, I am pretty sure most people who know me gave up on that a long time ago.  But for my children Boo and D, both for entirely different reasons.

It is perhaps a bit easier to explain in Boo’s case than D’s.  For Boo, for the first time, I am getting to experience fully the joy of being a full-time parent from birth onward.  I have been there for her first steps, her first words, teething, midnight feedings and the like.  But now, suddenly out of nowhere it feels like, I have a 2-yr old toddler who is convinced that she is ready now to take on the world.  And as much as I love watching her brain grown and her personality develop (although I am panicking a little bit at how to successfully raise a strong-headed girl), I miss the quiet times with her curled up on my chest, carrying her around everywhere and watching her grow.  If I could I think I would go through this with her 10 times and probably still find new things to marvel over.  And no, I don’t really want 10 more kids… I’m fine with the ones I’ve got thank you very much.

Boo_driving

As for D, the challenge comes in many more complex flavors.  D turns 18 this year and has successfully completed the HiSet test (which is the state replacement of the old GED for people who drop out of school).  D scored high enough on most categories that D is considered college ready and I really don’t feel old enough to have a college student yet.  Then there have been my recent conversations with D lately.  They are beginning to show glimmers of the adult that I had always hoped D would be, but that had gotten lost in the drugs and other poor choices D had been making.  It gives me hope that D will eventually come to terms with whomever D decides to be and that D can grow out of the past mistakes.  I just hope that when that time comes that both of us are in a place where I don’t miss the chance to reconnect with the person blooming now and that the consequences we have had to put in place to protect all of us don’t stay between us forever.

D auto-repairing

I sometimes wonder if I’m a good parent.  I think most any parent worth their salt does at least once every now and then.  But sometimes, I wish there was a way to know ahead of time, you know like a test.  Something empirical and scientific.  But then you have the results…  what happens if you get an “F”?

Part of me wonders about all this I think because I have had several acquaintances (friends of friends) lose their teenage children to suicide. And if I go back to look, the reason I started this blog in the first place was because my fifth grader handed me a note after school one day that said “Sometimes I think about killing myself.”  I have been most blessed in that D decided to NOT take that final fatal step.

Another part of me wonders about all this because of what happened to that little Syrian boy who drowned while trying to cross to Europe with his family.  What would I NOT do to help my little girl?  I am so very very grateful that my life has never been so desperate for safety, shelter and peace that I have had to make the decision to flee to somewhere else and face the many challenges that come with that, nor that I have ever had to pay the price these parents did…

syrian-migrant-boy-turkey

……

When will we learn that our anger, our intransigence, our pride are what are killing these precious ones?  As surely as any bullets fired from a gun.  Shame on us for acting otherwise.  Shame on us for not doing more.

As I start raising Boo, restarting the process as it were, and keep trying to build a positive relationship with my oldest, I look back on my previous mistakes and hope that I can learn from them.  I hope both my children grow into the promising young people I see when I look at them.  I hope they know how much they are still loved, even when they drive me nuts.

I hope the little boy’s family find their peace.  I hope he knew how much he was loved.

Because at the end of the day, I want my children to help create a world where pictures like the one above never happen again.  Where ALL people are welcomed as part of our common human family.  Where we can ALL find peace.  And where ALL people can come together in a moment of tragedy to say join in one voice and say, “No more!”

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Advent 2012

God has done great things….

Why is this so hard for me to find the words to say?  I know God has done great things in my life.  Me standing here is a great thing God has done.  He did not give up on me even when I did.

Advent… is about anticipation.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus.  We celebrate the gift of the one who came to show us the way and to give us ever lasting life.  But He did that through the cross.  This is also the beginning of the journey to the crucifixion.  Think about that a minute.  All the mania and crazy shopping lines, the funny/silly tv specials, food, parties and waaaay too much of our extended families….  All to celebrate the death and resurrection of the baby born tonight.

It’s often so easy to take for granted the blessings we receive the rest of the year.  I saw a tag line part of me wants to put up in my office to remind me; it said “Christmas, the time of year Christians act like they’re supposed to.”  And it made me laugh and take a minute to reflect upon this year.  The thought sobered me.  Have there been times when I have looked upon my brothers and sisters who needed help and turned away?  I’m sorry to say there have been.  Have I heard people who claim Christ as their savior talk about how certain people should be excluded from His love or turned away?  Yes.  Just turn on the tv.

But this time of year is about celebrating the absolute leveling of the playing field.  “Life’s not fair~!”  How often do we hear that?  Anybody who’s ever been a kid has heard it at least once, coming from their own lips if no other time.  But Jesus came to show us that life is absolutely fair.  Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.  God loves everybody, the nice, the mean, the laughing ones, the crying ones.  And He loves us equally.  To prove it He sent His son to live, breath, die and live again for us.  The great equalizing fact of this season is that no one is alone or unloved.  We may feel that way.  The weight of the world may feel like it’s crashing down on us but the truth is, there is still hope for the future, peace is still available to everyone who searches, joy is present in every moment and love is coming.  Despite our best efforts to prove otherwise at times God continues to move in our lives and provides countless blessings we often are not even aware of.

This does not mean life is easy or that things won’t get rough.  We are not promised that.  The scripture today talks about how God has done great things for us.  But that’s only part of it.  It also speaks of those who go out weeping carrying seeds to sow.  One of the interpretations I read of this indicated that it meant the people were taking out the last of their seeds, the last of their food, to plant.  It was being given as an offering with the hope that they would be able to last until the harvest and have more than enough to eat.  The next verse reflects this hope with the response that those who weeped will return with songs of joy.  We are not offered a safe sure road.  God requests that we give our all, just as He has.  We are not called to be part-time workers for Him.  The joy comes in living full-time in God’s love.

But what is this thing called joy?  Too often in our society joy equals happiness and I’d like to set the record straight.  While they are definitely related, in that after someone has experienced one they want more of it, happiness is a fleeting thing, requiring satisfaction of some sort, having a need met.  Joy is more nuanced and complicated and is deeper.  Joy is about finding the good in any situation.  And there is good in any situation, I honestly believe that.  When my nephew died, there was nothing I wanted more than to have him back.  I don’t feel like he died for a cause or that there was some deeper plan behind it… but there have been joyful moments remembering our life together and in those times when what has happened has opened doors for me to talk to people I otherwise would not have been able to bring a ministry to.  Do I still miss him?  Absolutely.  Do I still grieve?  Yes.  But neither of those things can take away the joy of his life, even if they can take some of the happiness away for a while.

The same was true when my grandfather died.  We spent the day visiting with my grandmother and other extended family members.  Telling stories about him, sharing memories.  It was one of the most wonderful times of my life.  I got to hear things about this man I had never heard before, hilarious episodes from his past before I was born.  I got to spend time sharing with family I rarely got to see.  But he was dying.  And it was in the dying that my grandfather taught me the greatest lesson about joy, because I will stand here and tell you again today that the day he died, his life brought more joy to my heart that it ever had before, or will again.  I finally got it, in my gut, what he meant, when he told me as a young man that man is that he might have joy.

Nothing is for certain, other than the love God bears each one of us.  That love was on full display that day and it was that love that lifted the joy from the bottom of my heart to the top.  And it’s that joy that we celebrate here today.  God’s joy in this moment and season of advent is bittersweet.  On the one hand He is giving us the greatest gift of all, the life of His son.  On the other He is going to have to watch Jesus grow, suffer and die, before the resurrection.  This moment is still going on.  It is still being lived out.  Only we who are finite beings experience it as being in the past.  God loves us.  God’s greatest act is one of selfless love.  It’s to bring us up out of the darkness of the places we find ourselves, for whatever reason.  Maybe not in our time or in the way we want, the primary definition of “fair,” but in God’s time.  I have struggled with God my whole life.  Not in believing that He existed but that He could love someone like me or that if He did, what did all this bad stuff seem to keep happening to me.  I have stood the brink, trying to die and because of the gift offered here today, His love and the love His son showed to us, I was brought back.  I would run and run again throughout my life, still do sometimes.  But God continues to pursue and Jesus continues to open His arms to me.  To bring me home, to offer me the joy of His presence.  Tears, warts, mistakes, anger and all.  Jesus is our companion on the journey, not our magic wand.  But that’s the greatness of it, in something as small as a little baby.  God’s joy is alive in every moment of every day.  WE are blessed because He lives.  He lives~!

Pushed beyond our limits…

It’s not the anger, pain or sadness that I can’t take.  It’s not the anxiety, the demands on attention, the impatience that I can’t understand.  It’s not the depression that I can’t sympathize with.  It’s the desire to be “NOT here” with teeth so tightly clenched I can barely understand, stated with tears streaming down his face that I can’t face.

“NOT here, not as in I don’t want to live with you, but NOT here as in on this earth.” – quote from my 11 year old.

It’s funny how things at times come full circle.  It was my son’s declaration to his counselor that he wanted to kill himself that started this blog, and while there has been much progression on a lot of fronts we still find ourselves stuck back at the beginning.  And I’m not sure what to do.  For those of you I talked to, I think that’s what upset me the most on Sunday night.

I understand his desire to push, to separate, to create identity.  It’s just such a tangled mess.  He’s upset we can’t spend more time together but then when I offer to he turns me down.  I’ve dealt with reactive attachment disorder before and this isn’t it, but it could develop into it.  I try not to borrow trouble but some days I struggle.

He played beautifully in the ministry of music on Sunday morning.  I was so proud of him and told him so.  Posted on FB about it and showed him the responses of other people to his gift.

I try to surround him with love and with people who care deeply for him, but I can’t give him the one thing he thinks he wants – a new mom.  He feels the loss of my ex walking out on us keenly.  Every mother figure in his life, barring my mother (his grandmother) has left him for one reason or another, in one form or another.  I’ve written before about my past relationships and the issues with them.  I’m working on bettering myself, acknowledging my mistakes and learning who I am and who I want to be.  But right now how does that help my son with his pain?  His need?

He’s told me several times he just feels like he can’t take it anymore.  Not having a “normal” family (whatever that looks like anymore).  Having to switch between two homes, one here and the other many states away.  Losing family members to death, divorce, etc.  I can’t really blame him, it’s been a rough road we’ve walked these last few years.

But I want to reassure him that we are not pushed beyond our capacity to take it.  I want to tell him how strong he is and how well he has weather the storms of his young life.  I want to fill him with the love that so many of us have for him.  I want to share the hope that comes with knowing God.  But he is too full of hurt and anger to hear and fears that opening up will just lead to more disappointment and pain.

And it’s not necessarily about what I want…

That’s another hard lesson to live with.

There are times I feel pushed beyond my limit, but I know I’m not.  I know I am loved and cared for beyond my understanding.  But I don’t know how to share that sense with the one I love the most.  I sometimes wonder what Jesus thought of this life, how he felt about losing family members (if he did), if he ever struggled with depression.  There are passages that lead me to think he did and believe in a Chirst who was/is BOTH fully Human and fully Divine in a way that I know I can’t fully understand.  There’s a great song by Todd Agnew that ties this together for me called Did You Know?

http://www.imeem.com/crystalillusions/video/iQa0Feow/todd-agnew-did-you-know-shortfilm-video/

Suicide

I’ve been journaling for the last six months.  Ever since she left.  I look back at it periodically but it just drives the spike farther in and I don’t see as how it’s helping.  And then, just about the time I think things might be going okay, I get a message from my son’s therapist…

“Your son has something he needs to talk to you about…and I’ll follow up with you in the morning.”

When I pick him up from my parents house after I get off work, I ask him what it is that we need to talk about.  He hands me a sheet of notebook paper.  Standard rule.  It’s been folded multiple times like you do when you’re in the 5th grade and paper folding is just about as cool as it can get somedays.  There’s only one line on the whole thing.  Printed in neat block letters is the following sentence…

“Sometimes I think about killing myself”

From my 10 year old soccer playing, great hugger, super smiling, creative writer son.

The one who has been as lost and in more pain than even I.  And although I saw it, I did not know what to do.  Now, I have worked with children who have run away from home, who have been abused, who come from split familes, who have learning or developmental disabilities.  I’ve had years of trainings and seminars on depression and how to talk to children about pain, grief and loss.

And I’m speechless…because now the child who’s lost is mine…

because the child who’s in pain, is mine…

And I can not be the healer.

So I’m writing in this blog at 12:40 at night, listening to soothing music, trying, searching, crying to find some sort of answer.  To make some sense of things that are by their very nature insensible.  I told him I love him.  I told him I was proud of him and why.  But I can’t bring his mother back, or his step-mother.  I can’t take away the memories of the things they said to him, screamed at him, yelled at him, when they were really angry at me.  I can’t bring him peace…he just sleeps the sleep of the exhausted, not the innocent.  I’ve been running from my past for the last 15 years.  I can only hope he doesn’t run from his future for the next 15.