Breaking up with God

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There is a danger in sharing your struggles with a Christian, and I should have seen it coming. But at the close of the conversation, when she asked to pray for me, with me, I felt the panic of paralysis in a busy intersection. I had no choice.  So I choked out a “sure” and she obliviously launched into her one-way conversation with my ex.

I say “ex” because it is the perfect explanation for how I feel about God. Christians portray the relationship with Christ and the church as a husband/wife relationship. You promise to love Him your whole life, to follow Him and trust Him. You are given a book that tells you all about Him, a context in which you understand Him. In return, He cares for you, listens to your struggles and troubles, helps you in “mysterious ways.” (A quote, not a verse, FYI). But sometimes spouses disappoint and fail to live up to their side of the bargain.

People prescribe one of two things when you struggle with your faith, either try harder, or don’t try at all. The first method looks something like this, “Read your Bible, pray. Set aside a time of devotion in the day. Attend church regularly. Connect with Christians.” The second method is much like the first, but is actually a little harder. “Don’t try,” consists of not being a perfectionist with the exact time you pray and read your Bible, not getting worked up if you skip a day, or go on a walk instead of going to church. The second method supposes God will do the work and show up.

God was a terrible husband to me. I never knew when He was coming home. Sometimes He answered my calls, sometimes He ignored me for months. Sometimes He allowed awful things to happen to myself and others. He took my money and made me think I was “bad” if I didn’t give it up cheerfully.  I tried to make it work for 14 years. Sure, I cheated on Him a few times in those years. But who could blame me when He was never there? He was supposed to “change my life,” “transform me,” and “make me a new person.” Oh but apparently, He also loved me just the way I was. He was supposed to comfort me and bring me peace. He was supposed to be my security.

Back to the prayer. When someone tries to beseech my ex-love for me on my behalf, when He broke my heart so completely in two, I could respond in no other way but cry. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I was so thankful the woman praying could not see me. She did not know I held the phone away from my face because it was too painful to even hear her talk to Him about me.

I haven’t stopped totally believing in God, just God in a Christian context. I don’t know if I’m talking to a benevolent being or one that is indifferent. I don’t know if my prayers are wasted or important. I imagine they are only as powerful as I believe them to be.

I have found myself needing to justify what brought me to this place. But I won’t anymore. How hard I tried to make this relationship work is no one’s business but mine. I just hope no one tries to convince me to go back to Him. And definitely don’t make me talk to Him. I’m just not ready.

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Have a Beautiful Birthing

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32 weeks pregnant and hellbent on buying myself a DSLR camera, I set about the work of listing everything I could come across on Craigslist. The most difficult of these items was my own street bicycle, the palest shade of pastel pink. I bought it soon before getting pregnant with my oldest daughter, and got in one good riding season before I realized the risk of riding while gestating. Four years later, carrying my third child, I accepted that it would probably be a while before I could block off 2 hours at a time to ride.

It wasn’t long until I got a text from a buyer. Scheduling a meet up proved difficult, because this buyer apparently had their hands full with several children of their own. Eight to be exact. I assumed this was a harried mother, running from school pick up to sporting events.

A late model Honda Pilot parked in front of my house, and a 40ish year old man in business casual opened the passenger door for his 11 year old daughter to clamber out, all legs and blonde hair. I was shocked – although that should reveal something about society right there – that it was a dad who had been texting me. He had four children in the vehicle with him.

He was cool and collected. He spoke respectfully to his daughter, and made sure she was comfortable with the height of bicycle that he intended for her. The family was pretty active together, he explained, and it showed in their physiques. He asked me why I was selling, and I patted my obvious belly and told him I just couldn’t find the time to ride with my young children anymore. He nodded understandingly.

“How far along are you? About 7 months?”
Wow, did a MAN just guess how pregnant I was…and he was right?
“Yes, I’m due in a couple months.”
“You look well. You must be taking good care of yourself.”
“Oh really? Thank you.”

He paid me and loaded up the bike.

“I hope you have a beautiful birthing.” Then he got in and drove away.

Did he just wish me a beautiful birthing? I didn’t know men knew the word “birthing” anyway. He certainly didn’t seem the crunchy type, like myself. Or, as my husband would say, hippie. Nope. He was reserved and well dressed. No hemp necklaces or long hair in sight.

I’ll never know if this man was a physician or just a man who had been around enough birth to know (remember, eight children). But he sure knew the right thing to say to a girl.

This man got it. As a culture, we need to know how to talk to pregnant women. How to treat this complex and intricate state of being with the right amount of respect and awe. It’s time to stop asking women the same questions about how they are feeling and what they are having. Stop commenting on how big or small they are. Focus on what matters so much in a mother’s heart, this pivotal, spiritual moment they are about to undertake. It’s so simple.

Have a beautiful birthing.

And baby makes…5

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A good friend is anticipating the eminent arrival of her newest baby girl – her third. She reminded me via text that she would soon be “joining me” in the family of 5 category. So this one’s for her.

Remember when you bring home your second baby, and you can’t figure out how to do ANYTHING? You can’t figure out how to feed both of them. Changing a diaper seems like you should have crazy incredible stretching arms. You are mortified when the baby cries for a couple minutes because the oldest had a pressing concern. You think vaguely that you may be done having kids. Or at least, you would think that if you weren’t too sleep deprived.

Going from 2 to 3 is nothing like that. Adding a third is like bringing your heart all the way home. It’s like clicking together that last piece in the puzzle – the one right in the middle. All the foundations have been laid, and then this crowning beauty blesses you. It’s like having a three-tiered cake (your marriage), then the icing (the first two), then this lovely cake-topper (the third).

People expect you to have 2. That’s the American way. You don’t want to have an only child because they’ll want a playmate (or otherwise be all weird like me!). But having more than two? That’s just greedy. And you know what? It is. And it feels awesome. You do it because you CAN. Because you WANT to. Because they are fresh and perfect every time.

Your heart expands again. Sure, your life is busy. There are definitely times when they are all crying, all needy, all THERE in your face. But hey, you don’t pee with the door closed anyway, do you? You’re already so used to being woken by a sweet little body crawling in next to you in bed. You are already in the “trenches” of motherhood. It can’t get worse. But it can get better.

When you birth your first baby, your body knows what it’s doing. It believes in itself. When you birth the second, your mind starts to catch on. By the third, you know that you know you got this. It’s what those muscles were made for. You aren’t afraid anymore. You cannot wait to peer into those inky dark eyes that search for your face. You can’t wait to curl around that tiny little form and watch it sleep. (You will forget how MUCH they sleep when they’re that little and become mildly concerned something is wrong with them. Stop. Enjoy.)

Soak it up. Revel in the fullness your heart will feel. Drink up the completeness. You have been called, and you were not found lacking.

 
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I Will Not Compare Myself To You

Her perfectly immaculate house.
Her gorgeous body.
Her 6 figure income.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Compare.
How do I stack up? Is there even one thing I can do better?

But it robs me of the pleasure in my children’s dance. It makes me forget the caress of my adoring husband. I forget the comfort of a warm, soft bed.

I begin to fixate on how much better you must be at everything. You’ve got it all figured out. You’ve got a fan base to prove it.

Then I get bitter. I imagine the things that must be wrong with your life in order to make myself feel better. You’re probably a terrible cook and a closet alcoholic.

These are the things I used to do to myself before I learned. The passion and pain of my life are mine alone. I don’t want yours. I have a love story to ruminate on, a safe place where I belong, I have this wonderful person that I am. I am enough.

The Fear of Change

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I’ve always thought the reason people resist change is fear of being wrong. It’s hard to accept that something you’ve always thought was flawed and must be tossed out. But no. We resist change because we fit so comfortably with the people around us that if we changed too much, we would be tossed out.

My typical MO is to glean as much knowledge as possible in order to learn. I want to learn so I can grow. I want to grow so my eyes will be wide open. My open eyes will improve my life just like the world changes radically when the sun rises. I want my life to be a series of sunrises.

While it is true that knowledge is power, knowledge is also danger. It threatens your current existence. This happy bubble that I live in is made up of a worldview comfortable to those who live in it with me. And I love the people who live in the bubble with me. Will they still love me if I leave the bubble? Will we have any common ground? My heart gets enormously heavy when I realize they don’t want to change. They are perfectly happy with their worldview and they probably don’t want any of my crazy new ideas to rock the boat. There is danger here.

I stand here on the edge. I see new roads I can travel. Just as Eve reached out to the apple, I reach out to new understanding – that may well poison my whole existence. Who do I deny? Myself or Those I Love?

Our Tongue and Lip Tie Journey

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This blog doesn’t really fit with my others, but I really wanted to write about Jack’s tongue and lip ties and offer information, hope, and encouragement to other moms. I wish I had pictures of how it looked before his revision, but I don’t so I’ll provide a link at the end.

When Jack was born, he didn’t open very wide when he latched on. I knew right away something wasn’t right since I had the same issue with my last baby. I requested his pediatrician evaluate him for tongue tie, which he did. He found a tie and clipped it in the hospital. I thought our problems were solved.

Fast forward to days 3-5. My milk has come in and I’m full-blown engorged. My normal B cups are now about an F. My nipples are cracked and scabbed. I literally screamed every time he latched on. I remember waking up at night to feed him and crying – something I had never done with my other two babies when breastfeeding (and trust me, I had my share of pain with them, too.) I vowed to go to a lactation consultant in the morning.

I went to a trusted IBCLC that I had used before. She looked in his mouth, weighed him, and watched us nurse. I asked her if he had a lip tie, and she said he did not. He latched a little better in the office so I thought I just needed to work on my technique. I saw his pediatrician the next day, who also said Jack did not have a lip or tongue tie. He said some babies just haven’t learned to open their mouths very wide yet.

Fast forward again to 10 days postpartum. A friend at the ministry I volunteer with began talking with me about her son’s journey with the same issues. She referred me to a board on Facebook, “Oklahoma Tongue and Lip Tie Support.” I began reading and decided the best coarse of action would be going to the DDS highly recommended by these moms.

We drove an hour and a half to Oklahoma City to see the specialist. She compassionately confirmed what I already knew was true – he had a severe lip tie. But not only that, he still had a very significant tongue tie. We will never know if the pediatrician just didn’t clip it all in the first place, or if it reattached because we were never told to do sweeps with our fingers over the area while it healed to prevent reattachment.

It was really hard knowing my baby was getting flesh lasered out of his mouth. But the staff and dentist were so incredibly sweet and compassionate, and Jack only cried for about 2 minutes while they did the procedure. He nursed right away afterwards.

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Jack’s laser goggles.

 

As warned, he was a little fussy that night. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Over the next few days, my nipples healed. So did his perpetual “milk blister” on his upper lip that previously gave him the “Bugs Bunny” look. His daddy and I did the recommended 2 weeks of sweeping our fingers over the places of his previous ties so they wouldn’t grow together as they healed. We did La Leche League International’s suck training.

After a few weeks, Jack was still “clicking” when he nursed, letting me know he wasn’t always getting a good latch. I scheduled Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, a gentle touch massage-like treatment to release tension and help babies muscles reset so they can unlearn their bad nursing habits.

But he still clicked. He still had trouble with my very fast let let down and spray. He came unlatched many times during nursing. I always had to hold my breast in his mouth for him, since his latch wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own. I posted on the Facebook support group I mentioned earlier, looking for understanding. While I wasn’t hurting, he was still not nursing, “normally.” (Thankfully though, he was gaining weight. 90th percentile to be exact.) They told me it takes between 10-12 weeks for babies to learn how to work their new mouth.

He’s 14 weeks now – that’s 12 weeks after his revision – and lo and behold, those moms were right. He nurses like a “normal” baby. No clicking, no unlatching, no soreness. Just a happy, chunky, healthy boy! I am so grateful to Heather, the mom who referred me to the support group, the group itself, and the doctor who performed the revision. Jack’s pretty grateful, too, I’m sure!

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For information if you think your child may have a lip or tongue tie, I found this blog a helpful first step: A Step-By-Step Guide to Diagnosing Tongue/Lip Ties

Why It’s Okay To Ignore Your Kids….Sometimes

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Before I launch in to why it is okay to ignore your kids sometimes, I have to start by defending myself. I don’t want you to get the wrong I idea. I spend my days making food, taking drink orders, and cleaning up…for my kids. I quit work to stay home with them ALL. THE. TIME. I stand at the refrigerator countless times a day with my two-year-old and ask, “Do you want turkey? Do you want cheese? Do you want peaches? Okay, well what DO you want? Juice? Again??” I get crayons out, I put them up. I think up art projects for my four-year-old. I play Woody Woodpecker school. Yes, that’s a thing. I am a co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering Attachment Parent.

But sometimes I say no.

Sometimes I say not right now. In a minute. Later. After Daddy gets home (which may or may not happen depending on if we remember).

And that, dear mothers, is OKAY!

I am so sick of reading all the articles floating around Facebook telling me to enjoy every moment, to stop saying no, to put down my phone.

Kids are resilient. And they are also smart. Do I want to train these little people that they can boss me around? That I will meet their every demand any given second? That I live to serve them? No!

I am a human being. I have interests outside of them. (Not entirely true, since my main hobby these days is cloth diapers, but for the sake of argument, bear with me.) Being my own person in front of them is positive. They NEED to see me watching Flip That House (even if it only happens for 15 minutes once a week). They NEED me to kiss their Dad first. They need me to say, “Mommy has to eat lunch, too. You can wait.”

I read an article today written by a mom who was apparently feeling guilty that her kids stopped asking her to cuddle with them “one more time.” Seriously. It’s okay lady. You have to decompress at night. You’ve loved them thoroughly all day. You gave them baths and sang them songs, you brushed their teeth, you read them stories. They will not grow up and say, “Mom, you stopped cuddling me at night when I was 5. It made me feel so unloved.”

When my oldest grows up (the little ones won’t remember), I imagine she will sum up these days of her childhood something like this, “Remember how Daddy always played silly games with me? I don’t know how he could make life so fun using nothing but his imagination. I missed him all day at work and I loved the moment he came home. But sometimes I still wanted you to put me to bed. I loved twirling my fingers through your hair and smelling your skin while you read to me. Even though you wouldn’t let me get out of bed unless I had to potty, and I know it irritated you when I disobeyed, you would always kiss me when you tucked me in. Even if you had tucked me in 5 times already and warned me I was getting a spanking if I kept it up. You still always kissed me.”

How do I know this? Because I know my mom worked and went to school when I was my oldest daughter’s age now (4). I know she wasn’t there a whole lot. But that’s not what sticks out in my memory. I remember crawling in her bed after she had a 12 hour shift at the hospital (and spilling fish food all over her hair, which she did not yell at me for). I remember when she bought our house and gave me a bath and realized we had no bath towels and wrapped me in her shirt. I remember her holding me on our egg crate mattresses that we used as a couch. And I am okay, and loved, and my kids are, too.

God in color

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When my children go with me somewhere in the van, there are few things they should do, a few they should not, and only one thing they need to know.

Things They Should Do:
1. Stay inside the vehicle
2. Remain calm
3. Trust me

Things They Should Not Do:
1. Anything unsafe
2. Freak out

And the one thing they should know is that I’m in control. They do not need to know where we are going and they certainly don’t need to know how to get there.

Today I asked God to demolish everything I know. Tear down the theology, the arguments, the words words words that obviously are not working in my search to be close to Him. I’ve been battling a spiritual crisis. I cannot find my way out of this bag. One thing makes sense one second, and the next, it doesn’t. And no matter what kind of sense I make of it, my relationship with God doesn’t change. So I asked Him to level it. In it’s place, build a tower in my heart to Him. (Not that I believe God has a gender.)

Almost instantly, my head exploded….in peace. Nope, that doesn’t make sense, but if you have ever had a spiritual revelation, you’ll understand. Religion and theology are for us. It makes us feel better to know where we are going and how to get there. Just like my children. who might ask where we are going. They don’t need to know, but I do tell them. Sometimes my 4 year old asks, in her limited understanding, how to get there. I usually give a vague answer, such as that it’s past such-and-such place she’s been to before.

This thought, that I don’t need to know how to get to God, gives me great peace. It will certainly irritate the crap out of a lot of people. Some people are so hellbent on being right, they can’t see the merit in anything that doesn’t 100% line up to what they believe.  You can bet the baby is going right out with the bath water. I’m really getting fed up with the religious superiority lately. I love the line in the song “Take Me to Church” that says, That’s a fine looking high horse / What you got in the stable? / We’ve a lot of starving faithful.

I really don’t think He cares if we have a map and we follow it. He just wants us to stay with Him, inside the vehicle, and to try not to freak out.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

Ceasefire

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I have spent an inordinate amount of my life creating expectations for people around me and being angry with them when they didn’t meet them. Realizing this now, I recognize its absurdity. Why have I wasted so much of my energy in this pursuit?

When people have pissed me off, they were acting as particles blowing in the wind of their circumstances. When I have pissed others off, I may or may not have done it on purpose. Whether it was premeditated or not isn’t the point. At the bottom of it all, none of it was premeditated. I was responding to a number of factors. My upbringing, my worldview, my mood at the time, and so on ad infinitum.

You may have come in the crossfire of that. Or I may have come in the crossfire of your factors. Perhaps there are so many elements in our discord that we cannot really stand to interact at all. Fine. Let’s not pretend that we are superior or more dignified and set about the pretenses of forgiving one another, as if we are in need of each other’s forgiveness. But let’s not stew in our supposed slights any longer.

Let me not be troubled any longer by these affronts. Let me relax the muscles of my mind and find peace. Whatever strife I have been caused shall pass. Do this for me as well, after all, I am only human. I am ordinary and extraordinary and hateful and vibrant and full of love for everyone and nothing depending on the day, the hour, the moment. Let us not be afflicted by all the circumstances of another’s moments, rather, let us find serenity in armistice.

Losing My Religion

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That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
-R.E.M.

That hit song came out when I was 5 years old but was such a huge hit that I heard it my entire childhood, and still often today as an adult. The song isn’t even about religion – ‘losing my religion’ is an expression about coming to your wits’ end. But even that works in this situation.

I have tried my entire life to “keep up” with everyone else spiritually. I’ve attended revivals, I’ve been saved & baptized (twice), I’ve done the devotions. I’ve been in the group of teenagers with our Bibles spread across the floor, sitting in a circle, and someone is bound to play acoustic worship songs in the next 20 minutes. I’ve belonged to several churches, always hoping the next one will change something for me. It doesn’t. I’ve also been surrounded by Tarot cards on the floor, looking for answers. I’ve used wood stain on handmade wooden Runes cut out and carved by my husband and mom. I’ve read the Tanakh. I’ve humored solo Christus (only the words of Christ are true Christianity). But nothing finds me any closer.

Atheism is the most depressing state in my view. To think that humanity is the most intelligent, most organized, most benevolent that it gets…That we are alone. That no one is looking down at us in love….those are dark thoughts to me. I could never subscribe to such beliefs. I could never turn away from God.

But turn away from all the systems that supposedly point to Him? You bet. I don’t want to. It is a sad time for me spiritually. I sincerely hope I find my way through it and come to a peaceful resolution sooner rather than later.

I know there is absolute truth. Surely, you can see that around you. Do I absolutely have brown hair? Of course. Is the world absolutely round? You betcha. So there will absolutely be one truth that occurs when we die. We will all experience whatever it is. But how can I accept a belief system that mandates loving God or else burn for eternity? How is that free will? How does a just God punish anyone for all eternity?

And even more important for me, where is this elusive “personal relationship with Jesus”? I hear phrases get tossed around in church all the time – lover of my soul, my best friend, the bridegroom. There is only one lover of my soul, best friend, and bridegroom for me and he is flesh and blood and emits massive amounts of body heat. I wanted these feelings. I wanted them so badly. You could frequently find me singing worship songs with tears rolling down my face – not because I was passionately singing to my Savior – because I was desperately wanting to experience a love for Jesus that I was supposed to feel. I wanted a belief so strong that I would die for it. But that never came. Christianity promises God will create in us a new person, He will transform us. If we try to transform ourselves, that is Legalism. I’ve tried it both ways – prayerfully waiting for transformation as well as trying by my own strength – and both have failed.

I want to believe in something. I want to clutch words and know they are true and they are life. I’ve prayed “God, change me. Take this heart and make it one you would bless.”

But I’m done trying and stretching and hurting and failing. Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.