Friday, January 14, 2011

Beautiful Picture

I thought I'd share this lovely photo card created from pics of my amazing husband and girls. I am beyond blessed.

Mommy Guilt

I used to feel that mommy guilt is a complete waste of emotion. I used to ignore it. Yet the more I ignored it the worse I felt, the more anxious I felt, and the more guilty I felt even though I thought I was doing the right thing in ignoring it.

The worst case of mommy guilt for me is when it's related to medical issues. Salem is 8 and has Noonan Syndrome. When she was first diagnosed I often felt that somehow it was my fault. I did IVF and she was a surviving triplet. I would often look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I had a hidden case of Noonan Syndrome and unwittingly passed it on to Salem. The geneticist reassured me it was a spontaneous mutation (awful term huh?) and that it wasn't my fault. Thus we began the process of medical intervention, speech/PT and horse therapy, etc and I threw myself into being the best mommy I could be to give her all the help she needed. She's now a thriving 8 year old in 2nd grade and while we still deal with issues related to NS she's amazingly on track.

I have felt mommy guilt often over the years since Salem's NS diagnosis. Especially at times when I've lost it and screamed at my kids, broken a promise or broken their hearts by doing the right thing in disciplining them. But it was never as intense as it was when Salem was so medically fragile. I learned to stuff it thinking it was unfruitful.

Today I had to deal with the intense mommy guilt feelings all over again but this time with my youngest. Raina is 5 1/2. The kiddo has issues not quite so medically defined as NS. She has extreme social anxiety. When she was 4 they thought she was autistic but later we all decided that her social anxiety was mimicking a lot of autistic symptoms. So we started working on her speech, social anxiety and sensory issues. Now she's 5 1/2 and honestly she's come a long way in developing social skills but her sensory issues can at times be off the charts and I've not seen a huge improvement speech wise even though she's seen a speech pathologist twice a week since May 2009.

In December she failed her hearing screen at school. We went to the audiologist and we were referred back to her doctor to clear up fluid in her ear and then instructed to come back. That second appointment was this morning. We now know she has mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears. Neither ear drum responded today either. They'll send the report back to her doctor to get a referral to an ENT to see if she has fluid in her middle ear that we cannot see or if there is nerve damage or a bone issue.

I made it all the way to the car before I gave in to the guilt. It literally over took me. I just cried and cried and felt sick at my stomach. I could look back and see that what I thought was inattention or her zoning out was actually a hearing problem. So of course I feel guilty. Intensely guilty. I should have noticed this sooner. I should have been more in tune to her. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.

And when I gave in to those feelings and let myself cry and feel sad and overwhelmed something amazing happened. I self-talked myself out of it. I told myself I was being ridiculous. There as no way this was my fault. I am not an audiologist or a speech pathologist. There is no way I could have known. I am a mommy not a super mom - slash audiologist - slash speech pathologist - slash all around know it all (even though sometimes I may act like an all around know it all).

So I talked myself down off the ledge of mommy guilt by letting myself experience it without stuffing it deep inside. Then I remembered something Ty (my therapist) once told me. It's good for me to feel ALL emotion. Even the overwhelming ones or intensely sad ones. And I did. Probably for one of the first times. I didn't try to judge what I was feeling. I didn't try to stuff it. I just simply felt it and when I did the Leah that knew better spoke up. Now the anxiety is gone. It may be something major yet it may be something minor. I just have to trust God to mark our path regardless of what happens when we see the ENT.

So for today - at this moment anyway - I am not going to worry about it. Of course I am praying it's something as simple as needing tubes but I am choosing not to obsess over what if's. It is what it is - my emotions are what they. Rather than stuff them - I did the right then and began to experience them so I could process them. Before I always tried to process without experiencing them. That doesn't quite work.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You." Isaiah 26:3.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Super Mom Here

Growing up I dreamed of being a wife and mom. I wrote out my name as Mrs. John Smith (or whomever the love of my life was at the moment) on spiraled paper and came up with baby names for the children we'd have - 2 boys and 2 girls of course. I'd fantasize about the perfect home we'd have to raise our children in and the amazing wonderful life we'd life. I was going to be a Super Mom and have the life I always dreamed of as a child.

Then I grew up. As often happens, my life took many unexpected turns and by the time I was married and finally having children after years of infertility, I realized how ill equipped I was. I didn't know the first thing about mother hood or cooking or cleaning, etc. I simply had been playing house. So I started looking at the moms in my church that seemed to have it all together and I began taking mental notes. Their homes were spotless, their children well behaved, their meals home cooked and they seemed to have time for everyone and everything.

Thus the definition on how to become a super mom began formulating in my mind. It was fairly unconscious but it happened none-the-less. I was still working when I had Salem but quickly went part-time as we dealt with her health issues during her fragile first year of life.

I left work to become a full-time stay at home mom when she 16 months old. My dream come true. But the super mom part of the dream often became a part of an ongoing nightmare. I struggled to keep the house clean and the laundry done. I was tired and struggled with what eventually became a rigorous speech/PT schedule and it only got harder when Raina came along. Throw potty training and nursing a newborn at the same time in the mix while Brian was working long hours and I guarantee you would NEVER have thought super mom when you looked at me. Or perhaps you would have because I hid behind a well groomed mask. But I guarantee you I was a super fake.

Now Salem is 8 and Raina is 5 1/2 and I am learning an important lesson - I wasn't meant to be a super mom. (Yes I can be a slow learner). That nagging sense of trying to be one still lingers. If you don't know me well and come to my house today you'd be welcomed into a nice clean living room. Every night the girls toys go up and the two rooms you see when you come in are clean.But if you REALLY know me you come in through the side gate of our yard and into the back door of the kitchen and what you see depends on the day. It might be a nice clean kitchen if I have had time to clean. If not who knows. If it's laundry day you might see laundry all over my kitchen floor as my laundry room is really a closet in the midst of my kitchen. And to the right of my kitchen is my office which is in a constant state of disarray to my husband's eye but actually I know where everything I need is. Usually.

For the most part I am ok those close to me seeing this. I still want things to be perfect. I still struggle with how to be a Proverbs 31 woman and what that really means. But in an effort to make the "main things" the "the main things", I decided I could be the best mom and wife possible by being simply being present in the present rather than the empty headed muti-tasking I had often done to simply get it all done.

My home can be warm and inviting without being spotless although you might see me cringe if you ask to see my bedroom. My goal is to concentrate on the relationships with my husband and daughters. More importantly I want to believe in the memories I am making with them. That matters so much more than what I got done on any given day. My to do schedule certainly won't completely go away, but some things can wait or be said no to. My girls won't remember a spotless house unless I turn mommy dearest on them. But they will remember me spending time with them as they play the Wii, as we scrapbook, as we play, or as we do whatever we do that day.

I am often guilty of tuning out. Thus, my goal in 2011 is to tune in. You won't find a super mom here. I didn't even get this new year's post posted until January 10 (my goal was the 1st of course). But you may find a mom who just wants to be the best mom she can be while sharing how she's figuring out the whole Proverbs 31 thing. You might also find some stories of how this ex-super mom wanna be became a the wife and mom God called her to be as she shares her successes, misfires and lousy moments.

For those that may have read my 90 days of solitude blog - I am sure that will creep in here. That's why it in the archives. I know that those 90 days of solitude coupled with my long surgical recovery last year brought me to the place where I am today.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Leah's God Story

This is the outline I used in church today as I shared my God story. Rather than give the long detailed soap opera version, I prayed and felt led to give some minor background information and then share what's changed the most for me in the last few years. I hope to share more details soon. This is the first time I've shared even a portion of my story in public.

I am the oldest daughter to a single mom of 3. During my childhood I was physically abused by a baby sitter and sexually abused as well. I grew up with some odd thought processes that helped shape me to become promiscuous as I searched for love and acceptance. Of course you don’t find love or acceptance in relationships like that but I couldn’t see that. All I could see was if I did whatever someone wanted me to do they’d love me and be there for me. That didn’t work with friends or in relationships. When things would fall apart I’d do something foolish, get depressed or even get arrested for incredibly stupid things many of which were done to get attention.

In 1995 I became a Christian. I did truly fall in love with God but I was 27 at that point. I had a lot of learned behavior to unlearn and to be honest I did a poor job of it. At the church I was going to then I felt as if I were being taught that once you become a Christian everything tends to come together afterwards. That’s not really what happens. God is certainly with you every step of the way but there are still consequences to past actions, still things to work on and you still have your past behaviors to work through. On top of that I remember being really zealous and excited and sharing my story in a variety of places and seeing a lot of people shocked and doors even shut. Since a lot of my issues have always been with relationships this destroyed with me. I remember making a conscious decision shut off. I decided it would be easier to just be me and Brian and eventually our family then deal with the people around me.

Life went on. We struggled to get pregnant and then when I did I was on bedrest – a very lonely bedrest – for 14 weeks. Then our beautiful Salem - our surviving triplet - was born. She consumed my life and I never really realized how lonely I was or what was missing until I was pregnant with Raina. At that point I had a couple of girl friends but I was truly terrified for them to know about my past. I prejudged based on others responses and worried so much about what they would think that I could never relax and just be. I always felt completely guarded around them. In the fall of 2008 my walls started crumbling. I did have a wonderful husband and children but my life lacked relationships. My walls even effected my relationships with my husband and children. I wanted to be a loving wife and mom but often I felt tired and drained. Basically I just felt empty. How can you pour into someone’s life if you’re empty?

I was at a breaking point and knew something needed to change but had no clue how to do that. I struggled through prayer and bible study and eventually decided to reach out to a Christian therapist. That was the first healthy step I took. It took a while but he got through to me on the importance of needing healthy peer relationships with other women in my life. At this point I really distrusted most women. Yet I also wanted to be able to trust friends with my past so I didn’t have to tip toe around it. My therapist helped me work through that and challenged me to tell a few people. After a lot of arguing with God (God won of course), I did tell a few people general details and received positive feedback. But the first person I really broke down and shared my complete story to was a friend named Tammy. She completely encouraged me and love me through it all. Throughout the next year I did try to make new friendships that never really went anywhere. This is natural. Sometimes friendships are meant to be and sometimes they aren't. At times that made me want to crawl back into my shell. But I was encouraged to keep trying.

This past year winter and early spring I was seriously ill. I was in the hospital for 8 days and at home with home health taking care of me for 8 weeks. That loneliness seemed to set in again but I realized this time the loneliness wasn’t real – it was a trick of the enemy. I had people who loved me and cared about me. They brought me lunch or treats, they helped me feed my family, clean my home and take care of my children. I had the relationships I needed but realized I needed to do more on my part to cultivate them.

You can plant beautiful flowers in a garden but if you don’t water them or pull the weeds they die. There is even a gardening process called dead-heading. Basically when a flower blooms and then dies and you have to pull off the dead head so it will bloom something new and beautiful. That’s what I had to do. I had to dead-head the unfruitful and unhealthy relationships in my life and tend and cultivate healthy ones.

I am constantly reminded by God that life was made for love and community. We can do this life on our own but it’s not the plan and it’s not healthy or wise and we won’t be living the life God created us for. We can also live this life with unhealthy relationships. Those need to be dead-headed. They are even more destructive than being alone. God wants to bless us and speak to us and sometimes he uses his word, sometimes a preacher, sometimes a podcast or a random act of kindness but sometimes he uses people closest to us. Relationships are necessary. Since I got well this Spring I have really worked on that and God has blessed me with friends like Rebecca who welcomed me and family into her home and that taught us the importance of family relationships. Our families studied and fellow-shipped together all summer. It was a huge blessing for me. When it ended I wasn’t sure what would happen but our friendship carried on and we have made new family friends – The Emery’s and The Dodds. My life is full with friends and I believe it was God's plan for me and my family all along. I know our lives are busy and sometimes our schedules do not lend to spending a lot of time together, but I do know that I could call Rebecca or Tammy or Amelia or Heather or their spouses and they would be there for us in a second as well as Allison or Joann or my family. It's wonderful to have a wide support network. I can't do this life on my own and thankfully that was never God's plan. Even long distance friends can support me with love and prayers.

I believe our salvation is holistic. We come to God completely broken and alone. Sometimes even though we have Jesus in our heart we have a lot of issues to work through and sometimes in Christian culture that’s become taboo. It’s as if the thinking is if we’re saved and going to heaven why on earth would we need anything else? I do believe going to heaven is the glorious reward to serving Christ in this life. But there is SO much more that God wants for us and there is nothing wrong in reaching out for help whether it be via a recovery group, a Christian therapist or your pastor.

We are all in this life together. The simple thing is God uses everything around us to grow us and prune us - to dead head what needs to be removed. It's a holistic endeavor meaning it encompasses our entire being - physical, spiritual and emotional.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Size Fits All

As I've struggled on this journey to try and figure out where I am in this world, what my calling is and how to fulfill that calling through a balance of solitude and community, I've realized something. Our world seems to have a one size fits all mentality - especially about relationships. Women in particular it seems.

We all want to be like the mom who has the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect physical appearance...but what is she like down inside? Is she perfected by the perfectness? Perhaps she is. Some are I am sure but I would guess that the majority would have some sort of "what else" question in their hearts. As moms how many of us feel the need to do it perfect...To do what's popular even if it goes against our discernment...To do what everyone else is doing. Yet we try to teach our children the dangers of following the "in crowd".

I think that's where my struggle comes in. I am not a go with the crowd person. I can be opinionated even though I've learned to temper it. As a mom, I did things like extended nursing and cloth diapers in a crowd where it wasn't so mainstream. I was never really labeled a hippy but I often felt like my "mothering" didn't quite fit. And perhaps I put some of that not fitting in on myself but I know none of my friends were quite as excited about my newest cloth diaper or the fact that I finally night weaned at 16 months.

As a homemaker, my house is seldom spotless. It's picked up (usually) and certainly not filthy but there are crumbs on my floor and usually a few dishes in the sink until I load the dishwasher at night. Toys laying out usually doesn't stress me out until someone comes over. And on laundry day(s) there is usually laundry on the floor of my kitchen as I don't have a separate laundry room. I've even been known to put all my clothes on my dining room table as I wait for that perfect time to fold them. (By the way that perfect time NEVER comes. I need to just do it and get it out of the way.) I love going into some one's perfectly put together house. I feel at peace. But honestly I am at peace in my home - unless someone unexpectedly shows up. Then I'm not quite so okay being myself around others. I think that stems from trying to be the mom or homemaker the world thinks I should be (other moms and women especially). I put most of those expectations on myself, but where did I learn to do that?

As a friend I do think I am more go with the flow. This is where I am more purposeful to try to fit into the one size all option. Like a square peg in a round hole I try to perfect my personality to fit in with others. If they like going to play dates at a certain place I do it as well even though I HATE it rather than suggest we occasionally do something different. If they call me for lunch I will change my schedule to accommodate rather than suggest an alternative date unless it's something I cannot change. Lately I've realized I just don't like that one size all. I would rather go to the gym everyday and not miss a class to go somewhere for an hour in the hopes that I might really click with this person and have a sustainable friendship. I would want to go to lunch but would rather not give up a class that I love. I'd rather say - hey can we try Chick Fil A this week (since we went to McDonald's the last three?). I'd rather have friends who don't judge me by my messy home or scattered desk. I am actually quite put together and accomplished most days with my multi-tasking abilities. You just can't tell by the look of my desk or home even though that's something I desperately want to work on.

Why do I find the need to fit into a one size fits all society whether it be via parenting or friendships or Christian service or even my relationship with God? I am an individuals. Thus perhaps we should bridge that individuality through community but not lose that individuality. But in a desire to fit in we often do lose ourselves. And most of the time we aren't told to do something or not do something. We often put that on ourselves. Why why why? How can we stop this? How can we bridge this gap or actually forge a new road? To be honest I have no clue. Did you expect some glorious epiphany? I'm not the one with all the answers. I am looking for answers and I'd love some feedback.

I do think when you forge a new road it can be a lonely journey at times. Sometimes those closest to us don't understand. But lately I've already heard from women who feel similarly as me, so I don't feel quite so at odds with myself in this world. Their circumstances might be different but our feelings are similar.

Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not So Alone

I've had a lot of time to think today and have strongly realized how I am truly not alone. I feel the spirit of God with me most days in strong tangible ways. I have beautiful children that I spend most of my days with and to be honest even though I have hard moments with them most of my days with them aren't hard. Thus I am really not alone either physically or spiritually. For the most part if I really needed someone I could find someone. Knowing this doesn't erase those intense feelings of loneliness that seem to suffocate me at times or make me less envious of those that seem to have beautiful relationships outside their spouse and family. But it does help.

And the more I think about this the more I think that there are other women out there like me who, for whatever reason, don't click well with friends and wonder what's wrong with them and their relationships as well. I think it's far more common than most people realize. Women are mysterious creatures. We want the world to believe we have it all together when really we don't. We set ourselves up for failure from the start. We want to be the perfect wife, mother and homemaker. We want the world to think we have it together and don't need help, even when we're drowning and need help the most. I think some women have attained that balance of relationships and when to reach out for help without drowning others in the process (i.e. being too needy). But the more I think about this the more I think women are scared to reach out. We're scared to be real.

I remember something else Ty asked me on Monday. He said if all this were for one purpose what would it be? I said to help someone not be so alone in going through something painful. But in order to do that I must experience it. That's the not so glorious side of it.

I am a great motivator. I love to plan and encourage and educate and help others. And in those strengths I think I am reaching out to others to motivate and encourage and help me in return. But it's a silent outreach. By being motivating and encouraging I hope to be motivated and encouraged in return yet I never verbalize that. But sometimes you just need to tell people what you need. That's what I am going to work on this week.

In the last 24 hours I made a great advance towards this. I emailed two new friends a large portion of my "God Story" and I found that there are women out there who struggle the way I do and I am having lunch with someone with a similar struggle as mine next week.

I am very thankful God led me to blog so openly. It was so very hard to do at first but not only is it developing me spiritually it's helping me reach out when I really do not have the words to do so.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Being Alone

I sat in therapy yesterday emotionally spent. And of course I cried. I always do, even though I still don't want to even after 19 months of therapy. As I knew he would, Ty said - you know this is a safe place to cry, why are you trying not too? And I do know it's safe there. Of all places I can let go, I can let go there. I know Ty prays for me and he helps me in therapy through the Holy Spirit. I know it's safe. Yet it's still hard. Even though this process has been long and hard it's been healing, but I am somewhat tired of it all.

I talked about my loneliness and need for friendship and how I felt my friends were closing out of my life due to moves and other circumstances. I felt as if a part of me was back where I started in the friendship department. I do know a lot of people. I have a lot of social connections. But I have very few deep friendships and have found them hard to maintain especially when life changes and people move or our life circumstances change. I have often looked at other women and I perceive that their relationships with one another are easy to maintain but mine are not. Ty reminded me not to judge that. What I see on the outside is never everything. I am still slightly envious of the relationships I see others have with the same sex. I still feel somewhat alone in this area.

As we continued to discuss this we talked about how lonely I felt and then Ty led me through a visualization that really helped me differentiate between loneliness and being alone.

As I closed my eyes and found a safe spot to visualize and we continued through the exercise, I felt the presence of the holy spirit almost lay completely on me. It was heavy yet peaceful. In the past I may have fought it feeling as if I were suffocating but the heavy presence was healing. As I felt him laying upon me, I was reminded that it's okay to be alone.

Perhaps that is what I have been missing in my solitude journey. The realization that I will be okay if I do not develop those deep and lasting relationships. It might not be perfect or exactly what I want, but being alone isn't the same as being lonely. I just have to learn to be at peace in my solitude and realize ultimately I am never alone.

The presence of the holy spirit comforted me and while the exercise itself was short I walked away from this session realizing how sweet the presence of God truly is.

I am reminded of the scripture in Hebrews 11:1. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen". I cannot see God but I felt him. He sustains me in this journey. I feel alone but my faith reminds me I am never truly alone.

It's okay to be alone...
In my "aloneness" I turn to God...
Through that submissive turn I see God, I submit to God, I am healed by God...

Leah's Other Blog

My "other" blog is more about day to day life with my husband and kids and rants and raves about a variety of subjects. Hope on over.

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