Sunday, July 24, 2016

Living Through My Child and Proud of It!

I do the best I can to keep myself from living vicariously through Shelby. It’s not an easy task and I have done somethings like starting dance at a young age or letting her cheer that could be seen as me living through her, but I let her stop those activities when they no longer brought her joy. 

I say this, but I will tell the entire world that I will continue to relentlessly push my daughter to stay connected in youth group. That sentence brings back images from Sixteen Candles where a teenager is pushed into the dance by his parents and they hold the gym door shut to keep him in. I haven’t gone that far, but don’t let yourself think that I wouldn’t go to those lengths if I needed to. 

Why? 

Why am I so insanely insistent on Shelby being involved in Youth Group?

Because I did not have this. 



Or this


And I never experienced anything like this. 




When I made the decision to accompany 18 teenager’s to the LCMS National Youth Gathering in New Orleans I thought that the memories of my high school years would probably flood my mind. I would have the same thoughts I did as I sat with Shelby’s theater group during the end of year banquet, comparing the 17 year old me to the 17 year old them. 

When you terminate a pregnancy at the age of 14, develop a drug addition by16 and walk the line of prostitution at 17, you don’t have the same high school experience as other children your age. You don’t have strong friendships and you definitely do not have a solid foundation in Jesus. 

I had to bite the inside of my mouth (something I do to prevent myself from lunging into full on tears) as a stood behind three beautiful friends one evening.We had just completed a fantastic Mass Event, one where chills ran through my body as I looked from my floor seats at the 20,000 plus participants in the seats surrounding us. We were able to keep our seats to watch Rend Collective in concert. As I watched these three friends (two girls and one boy) dance with silly, made up, but perfectly in synch moves I was in awe of their friendship - one that has lasted through years, one that we will see bloom even more as they walk through their senior year in high school. 

As my eyes panned through our group I saw my daughter dancing next to the daughter of one of my closest friends and my heart sped up, I could feel the knot in my throat and I just knew that I could ugly cry all over the floor of that arena. 

I didn’t have that. 

When I was 14 - When I was 18 - I didn’t have that. 

The ability to have amazingly healthy, true friendships. Friendships with strong foundations. 



So many times this week I found myself just in awe over these young men and women. 



I was amazed by the strength of their faith. 



I was amazed at their genuine love for each other. 



I was amazed at their willingness to help each other and to help a stranger without hesitation. 



When I said “yes” I would go with these kids to New Orleans, I never imagined in a million years that I would fall so in love with each of them. It is like having children - I love each one of them, but for different reasons. My heart grew tremendously this past week as got to know some of these young people for the first time. And my love just increased for the ones I have gotten the privilege to spend time with before this trip. I just thought I was going so we would have one more adult, to put my dear friend at ease while her child was there and to see David Crowder. 

They look so excited, huh?

I mean, when they announced that Crowder would be there that kind of sealed the deal. These amazing young people had the privilege (which they probably now regret due to sure embarrassment I am sure) to accompany me to the Crowder concert. 

Let me tell you while I am in the “I never imagined” section of this post. I never imagined what seeing David Crowder live right in front of me would do to me. If you are long time or semi-long time reader you know that I have attached a many David Crowder song to posts I’ve written. 



It’s true I cried! I had to explain to Shelby that that bearded man was my One Direction, my Beatles, my Jim Morrison (she had no clue who that was). I owe so much to that man’s music, that man’s lyrics. I know the entire group thought I was insane, but I did not care - I showed them how you worship! At one point they wound up sitting on the floor next to me (I told them to sit because they were being crazy and they sat right down on the floor) just looking up at me as I raised my hands, as I clapped with all my strength and as I sang at the top of my lungs. It was absolutely amazing. 

Back to my topic - Shelby’s involvement in youth group. 



Shelby’s faith is extremely important to me - not that it isn’t to her and I want it to be her faith, not mine-and I will go to the ends of the earth for her to continue what she has right now. I will fight tooth and nail for her to remain in this group, to strengthen these relationships. I will stand in the face of the Enemy when ever possible to keep her in this environment. 

I will push her in that dance and hold the door shut - I will! 



For this girl, hell, for all of them to be able to get what I never had I will do everything in my power and when that’s not enough I will ask God for more power. She is, they are, that important to me. 


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Honesty and Authenticity


Our words matter. The words we say, the words we write and even the words we type across a snap to a friend. They all matter. They all can effect someone or something. 

This past week I had the privilege to spend five days with 18 amazing teenagers in New Orleans. It was inspiring and eye-opening (and I have a whole other post about these kids and their awesomeness). 

Early on, like maybe the first or second day, I found myself saying “honesty and authenticity” to one of the girls. It was originally in jest as I called out her tall-tale, but it effected her. Those words mattered to her and by golly, that girl got what those words meant. 

The effect was long lasting as well (if you call about a week long lasting) because she used my own words to call me out last night, “Remember, Dana, Honesty and Authenticity.” She was even proud that she was able to spout out that mouth full of words with perfect pronunciation. 



If I had one word of advice for that group of 18 kids ranging in age from 14 to 19 it would be Honesty and Authenticity

Good ‘Ol Marriam Webster defines this words as

Honesty (Honest): good and truthful : not lying, stealing, or cheating

Authenticity (Authentic): real or genuine : not copied or false

I want them to know, I want that young girl to know that life is so much fuller when you embrace and live by these words, Honesty and Authenticity. 

Life is so so short to live in a world of deceit, to create a world that is false. Truth should be your baseline, your foundation. Be honest with your friends, but remember to be a friendly version of honest. I think that starts inward - be honest with yourself. You will find there are people you meet that are so easy to be friends with - it seems they were made for you. And there are people who are oil while you are vinegar - you just won’t mix. While, God has called you to love, that does not mean that that girl has to come over and do your hair every week. You should be nice (or as I say “be sweet”) to your fellow classmates, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with everyone. 

Oi Vey - where was I? Seems like I went on a tangent. 

I think we all get honesty, it’s something we are taught as toddlers, but we still struggle with as adults. I do, too. My “refreshingly honest” side doesn’t always come easily for me - I fight to remain honest, but little white lies are so easy somedays. 

Now, Authenticity, well, that is something that I could talk about for hours and hours. I was not authentic growing up - I chose to not be the person that God created me to be. I wanted nothing more than to change everything He had made.  

As Tammy Faye Bakker said, “God doesn’t make junk.” You were perfectly made to be absolutely, positively, perfectly you. Your build was no mistake, your eye color was no mistake, you laugh was no mistake - he pieced you together with his own hands. You are not a copy - you are authentically you - so share that with the world, with your friends. 

Can I tell you what has happened since I have become authentic with my friendships, with my life, with my love? Things are full, things are bright, relationships are rich! It’s not an on the surface kind of relationship. When you are authentic you let people see the core, what’s going on on the inside. 


Life is hard, sometimes. Circumstances suck, sometimes. We all mess up, we all need a do-over now and again. All of these are easier to walk through when you come from a place of honesty and authenticity. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Healing the Wounds - Dealing with "That Girl"


This time last week I was a big mess of emotions. I was anxious about a myriad of things. I was fighting this step of the journey and it took just about everything in me to get in the car. It was especially hard when I left my husband behind with no air-conditioning. The devil was upping his game as I walked out the front door, but I knew (and Matt knew) though it was hard I had to go. 

My Facebook post the morning I left


As the landscape changed from crowded businesses to open farmland, I let the anxiety lift and peace take hold of me. (Thank you David Crowder for being so amazingly talented and putting words to my feelings so perfectly) I made my normal right, left, right, left off of the two-lane highway in my favorite small Texas town. As I drove past the farm house, so many warm memories flooded my mind. I wonder if the owners of that property know the connection it has to so many women. I was greeted in the parking lot of the big house by familiar, loving faces. That warm welcome continue inside as I hugged women (and men) who have been beside me on this journey. It was the most amazing reunion that I almost forgot what I was there for - to unpack junk - yuck. 

Oh, there are so many details of the last week that I know I will share with you. Again, as I did with Rachel’s Vineyard, I will stop myself from giving you every detail because everyone’s experience is different and I would never want my experiences to taint yours. Today I am going to share with you the one thing I didn’t expect to happen - the one person I never expected I needed to confront, forgive and love again. 

The term “abuse” and “victim” had been haunting me since I was first asked to go through this retreat. As I prepared for my five days of Grief to Grace, I knew I would be facing the feelings of being a young girl who had relationships with adult men. I knew I would face my father issues. I knew I would face the verbal abuse received from my ex-husband. I knew I would face my prostitution. But I didn’t realize that God had a different plan for my time. Yes, I discussed these things, I put words to feelings and shared openly (those who love my “refreshing honestly” would be proud - I let it flow). 

But then God said, “it’s time for you to face you”. I foresee another, long post about compassion and an amazing young woman that God gave me this weekend, but right now I want to say with excitement that God had me work on me! Confused? 

Of all the people I thought I would work hard to forgive during this weekend, I never imagined that God would have me focus so intently on forgiving “that girl” - the 17 year old me, the 23 year old me, even the 30 year old me. He pushed hard and even though I fought, He would not let me stop until I could bring her to where I am today. 

At the end of that process I was asked (as other participants did the same) to write a letter to the child of god who survived. 

Here is my letter to “that girl”

I have always called you “that girl”, “that girl I mourn” - I’ve always kept you an arms distance away, shaming you with my thoughts and my words. I’ve always thought, “I should forgive her”, but now I realize I need to ask you to forgive me. 

Well, take a deep breath my love. 

I am sorry that my words have hurt you all these years. I am sorry that I have left you there in my box of shame - refusing to allow you to see the light of day - the amazing light of grace that I’ve been living in. Rejection is hard, it sucks and I have rejected you time and time again. 

I am sorry. 

I was afraid of you, afraid if I let you be close to me that I would mold into you again. In my running from you, shamming who you are , not having compassion for you I severed some of the best parts of me. 

You deserved (and still deserve) to be loved. Even in your awkwardness, you are loved. And I know that is all you wanted, someone to take your hands look you deep in the eyes and say, “I love you 100%, not matter how much you fight me I will hold on.”

Oh my crazy, wild, unique girl that I have muffled for so long, I love you 110%. Oh, I think I love you even more than that. I owe you my life. You surviving , even though through my adult eyes seemed like an act, kept us together, kept us hole. You helped us survive years of crap, crap that wrecks your soul. 

You did this (imagine my arms stretch wide spinning in a circle). Look around, this amazing life, this awesome husband, these beautiful daughters - you created this - you and God. God had a plan even in the darkness of our life and you held on. You kept us together. 

Where I am today is all because of you. 

As a dear friend said to me recently, “you will one day realize how luck I am you’re in my life, not vise versa”. That day has come, my sweet girl. I want you to know that I didn’t pick us up and save us - YOU DID! 

YOU saved us. YOU got us here. I want YOU here to enjoy the blessings of our new life. Take a deep breath, come out of the box and enjoy this life! 

I love you and I can’t do this life without you!

Oh, I have tears as I read through this again. I feel like I am talking about one of my children as I say, “oh I just love her so much.” 

That my friends is progress, that is healing, that is HUGE! 

And I am oh so grateful to God, to the team who led me through this and to the amazing people who lived those five days with me. And I am thankful for you, your prayers and your support. 


This is healing! This absolutely amazing, bone-chilling, Holy Spirit driven healing! 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Lord, I Need You



I am not about to get on either side of whatever line you or our nation is standing at this morning. 

This morning I am batting what I think most of us are - the force that got us to this place in the beginning - this morning I am battling the devil. The devil’s lies. The lies that say “stay inside, live in fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.” 

Then across my pandora I hear Matt Maher’s voice singing: 

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You



Oh Heavenly Father, 

I will not project my beliefs onto others this morning by making a public outcry in regards to our nation needing you, but I will say I need you. I need you, Lord, more than anything of this world. I need you. I need your hope. I need your peace. I need your Holy Spirit to fill me with peace, understanding and love in the midst of the violence in my nation, my state, the city I used to call home. 

I know, Lord, that I should probably not challenge you, so forgive my directness, but PLEASE HELP US FIX THIS MESS LORD! Please. 

Please give me the strength, the wisdom and the peace (without fear) to do my part in this world. Please Lord allow my legacy to impact the generations after me in a positive way. 

Please Lord, help us all to realize the devil’s role in this - his promotion of fear for fear is the key to all of this. Help me to release the fear to You, Lord. 

In Your Amazing Son’s Name

Amen

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dread


/dred/

verb: anticipate with great apprehension or fear
         “Dana was dreading the process of healing”

noun: great fear or apprehension
          “the thought of returning to the farm house filled her with dread”

Synonym: FEAR, ANXIETY


It’s the only word I can think of lately. 

The description is really unfair. It’s unfair to the retreat, unfair to the leaders, unfair to the process. 

But it’s the only word that comes to mind as I am two days away from my five-day retreat. 

Dread I think is the product of fear, the outcome of anxiety. Along with dread there is just stress. 

I have too much to do. 

There is so much on my plate right now. 

I have to leave meticulous notes for my family.  how to pack the girls’ lunch…how to take them to school…how to pack their backpacks…

I have to lay out dresses and shoes for church. I have to find their 4th of July attire. I have to over prepare so that they don’t miss me. 

Urgh, the devil knows where to pull me. He knows just where to hit, how to get me all worked up. It pisses me off (sorry). It takes me writing this out to see how ridiculous it all sounds. I will, still do parts of it because I love my husband and even though he knows the difference between a night gown and a church dress, I still want to help. 

I have to pack myself too. Am I going for the jeans & t-shirt attire? Probably. I know I will take the t-shirts I love, jeans and converse, so please tell me why I am stressing about packing? 

I find peace in the crap that I have kept hoarded away in the dark parts of my soul. 

That’s it. 

I have opened boxes and dumped out so much crap , so much pain, so much ugly here, publicly, honestly. There are no new “stories” that will come out during this healing retreat (at least I don’t think there will be). 

But what will come out is or shall I say the fear of what I might have to unpack is the “hows?” and the “whys?”. I get to unpack it all, sort through it and decide what to let go of. I am quiet sure I am meant to get rid of all of it - every hurt, every bit of shame, every moment of my life that sends chills down my spine. The moments that replay and cause tears to stream down my face. The events mainly that this girl lived through. 



The things she had done to her by others, the way she was treated , the situations that she found herself in. 

You never know - I might actually get past this and refer to that young girl as me. Do you notice how I do that? I morn for that girl, for what she saw, heard and felt at such a young age. For the life she lived - multiple lifetimes worth of life in a handful of years. 

This week it’s even harder for me because my counterpart during that time of my life, my best friend during the muck and yuck, is still there. She still lives in that life that I was blessed to leave behind. I fear that she still experiences the hurt, the hurt is still a daily occurrence for her. 

I seriously mourn for her, for the girl (actually woman) who has not felt the other side of the crap we lived in when we were 17. I fear that the experiences that cause my heart to drop are still part of her daily life. It’s sad - I hurt for her. But I can’t reach her - I’ve tried - she’s not ready. 

Why this week? Why did she have to be in such a close proximity to me this week? And also facing trouble while she was so close. Why wasn’t my first instinct to reach out, to attempt to help? I prayed for her. I prayed she would see where her life as lead her, to take inventory of her life as she approaches forty and I prayed for her to turn around. It’s not too late for her. 

It’s not to late for the girl in the picture about either. Just because I unpack it, doesn’t mean that I have to wear that life again. It doesn’t mean that I will go back there. That girl is indeed me, but I am not that girl anymore. The life that girl lived needs be handed off, the shame needs to given away. 

Completely and Totally honest…this just came up on my pandora. 

God I give You all I can today
These scattered ashes that are hid away
I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame
The empty places where I've worn Your name
Show me the love I say I believe

O Help me to lay it down
Oh, Lord I'll lay it down

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my saviors loss
and In the crimson flowing from the cross
Pour over me, pour over me

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

O Lord I lay it down
O Lord I lay it down
Help me to lay it down
O Lord I lay it down

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all


Help me to lay it down, Lord. Help me give this all to you and not look back. This is it, this is the final pieces, this where I lay it down - once and for all. 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Headed Back to the Farm House

I am slowly starting to come to terms with the fact that I am headed back to the farm house. Well, not the same one, an even larger one - we are talking sleeps 30 (think), has as many levels as it has kitchens (three!) and each bedroom is perfectly decorated. I do wish you could see it, it’s amazing, but at the same time a bit creepy (especially at night without lights - I found this out during a search for a potato masher). 

It’s a large cream home (or mansion, or hotel) that sits in the corner of the retreat grounds. To the left hand side of what I refer to as “the big house” is the pond. The pond where my rocks of un-worthiness and un-forgiveness lay. I envision them covered in moss. The same pond where I watched another group of ladies toss in what was weighing them down a few months ago. 

Quick side note: I had the privilege to see the ladies (and one man), that I cooked for during their time at Rachel’s Vineyard, a few weeks ago during their reunion. As they shared about their life post retreat, I cried (none of them did, but I did) because I was overwhelmed, again, with the blessing I was given to witness their transformation. The women who walked through the front door of the farm house on a Friday evening where scared, closed off, even angry. They were hurt from years and years of shame. I knew them, without even knowing their name. I knew what the decay of shame looks like and oh, how I know what it feels like. Then, a month later, with not even knowing their full stories (one downside of being the kitchen) I knew them. And as they said things like “I no longer cry” and “I feel lighter” God confirmed I knew them way more than I ever thought. Is that making sense? It was amazing and gives me a lump in my throat. 

I foresee myself, on the first Saturday in July, being one of those women again. Though, I have left the shame of my abortions behind along with rocks, now get to face the lie that pieces of my story were my fault.Don’t get me wrong, I will not fall into the victim mentality that I dislike. I have even fought going on this retreat because the word “victim” is used to describe who Grief to Grace is for. But I think God is pushing me to accept that title, that word, when comes to the sexual experiences I had as a young person (because 14 is young) with adult men (because 19 and 21 are adult). 

I cannot say that the five days I spend unpacking the sexual, mental and physical abuse I lived through will be the end of my healing, but it is one of the last puzzle pieces I need to be whole again. Wow, “whole again” brought me to think, “how long has it been since I was whole?” I hope to do more grieving for that girl. 

It could be humorous or God’s amazing timing that I will be at this retreat during the 4th of July - Independence Day. I think the humor is my mind automatically singing a song with the same title by of all people a country artist (I am not big on country music). 

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today
Is a day of reckoning.
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day.

Let’s not think about the fact I think the wife in the song my have killed her husband and burn down their house (lovely country songs), the lyrics in my head on repeat are let freedom ring, let the white dove sing, let the weak be strong. Yep, I think that is why that song popped into my head. 

I am blessed by the fact that I know most of the team on this retreat, they are friends and there is peace in that. I am blessed in knowing that though I will be challenged, I will cry and it will be painful to my soul, I will make the drive out of Round Top better. I will receive healing and areas of decay will be removed. This will fall over into my life at home. it will strengthen my relationship with Matt, it will make me a better mother and I hope that it will help someone else, maybe you. 

Now, while I know that my prayer warriors will be praying for me next weekend, I invite you to pray for our entire group. Prayer is just as much a part of these retreats as the food and trust me we feel it. As with Rachel’s Vineyard, New Heart of Texas has created a prayer vigil for the entire five days. I ask you to please sign up for a time to pray. 


I am not pushing away prayers for me, but please consider praying for the women and men who have not yet experienced a retreat by New Heart of Texas. Pray for a calming peace for them, pray for an open heart so they can receive healing, pray for tears to flow and for relationships to be mended. Pray for Mary Lee and her team as they take us through things that aren’t pretty all the while loving on us. Pray for glorious weather so that walks alone to process things are possible. Pray for safe travel and calmed nerves. 


Monday, June 20, 2016

Shut Up Devil

Oh, the devil has a hold of me good, lately.

And what do I do when I feel this way?

Yep, I come on here and type it all out hoping and praying in the end I will accept just how stupid my thoughts are and fully understand that I am falling into the lies. 

The lie that I struggle with the most, the one I just cannot get past is that I am Unqualified

The lie screams at me when things happen that make me feel like …

…my opinion is not valued
…others opinions are valued more than mine
…my voice isn’t being heard
…I accidentally say something stupid (or what I feel is stupid) (which when I am in this mood I feel like is just about everything that comes out of my mouth - because why else would I not be valued)
…I feel like I am being judged - oh hell, for anything, but the “how many framed diplomas do you have?” or the “you weren’t raised Lutheran?” (the later doesn’t get to me as much as the feeling like someone who has been through two more years of college than I have has a more valid voice than I do. 

I do not like being talked down to, I don’t like being shown “my place”. Not that this is a daily occurrence, but it really burns my hide. 

I have been told (by a licensed professional) that the anger that comes from being talked down to is a result of the life I have lived through.

And that’s the thing, I get hung-up on my perceived hang-up that I would be taken more seriously if I had a degree (especially from a school that most people in my denomination go to). And then that thought pattern leads to  - I would be taken more seriously if I was thinner, if I was taller, if I could spout bible verses (more that Proverbs 3:5-6), if I…urgh I don’t know. 

How insane does this all sound? 


Somedays I can see just how uniquely made I am and how that is a wonderful thing, but there are days like to day where the devil barges in and steals my joy. 

*blog title courtesy of my husband