{This is for the Dads. I See You}

This blurry pic, a copy of a copy, is my father holding my son.  You cannot see it from this cropped copy but they are sitting on the floor.

This is for the dads, I see you.

Recently at wedding of two friends it hit me.  I’m past the feeling of broken-heart-ache when I see tiny babies.  For nearly a decade each time I saw a newborn I’d practically lactate with longing for just one more child.  My body kept telling me it needed another baby—even after two miscarriages, three unbelievable and healthy children, an exquisite step daughter, (who is now twenty-five, but only five when we met.)

and yet my body kept crying for more. 

At this wedding I noticed for the first time I was no longer at risk for snatching someone’s infant from them, out of a need to smell that baby’s goodness.

I tried holding a baby that night and my mother magic was gone.  I couldn’t console that child and I think that he read my fear.

This is for the dads who are afraid.

Petrified and yet cannot admit it, dads who take off work to “babysit” their own kids. But guiltily, if they’re honest, would rather go to a movie, or for a motorcycle ride or make music or read a book.  Don’t feel bad, you are taking time off work for your kids.  My dad never did that.

This is for the dads that shuffle meekly behind harried young mothers while they nurse.  Somehow showing solidarity?  I don’t quite understand it.  For the dads that never quite do it right—the bottles, the diapers, the comforting. You should understand that moms don’t mean to make you feel incompetent.

I sensed your fear, even pain, holding a baby that I could not console.  That I didn’t quite have it anymore.

Suddenly I felt weak, un-mothering, broken.  Something inside me hurt—but more than for my lost ability to have babies, I was aware of all the Dads in the room.  All the dads who perhaps feel like they don’t quite ever measure up.

This is for the dads who trudge off to work to earn an income for a family when they’d rather be making music, or writing poems, or doing whatever men do in “man caves.”  While their wives have ten year nervous breakdowns, while sitting at the pool and don’t even manage to have a meal cooked at 5 pm or throw a load of laundry in.

This is for the dads who never criticize.

This for the dads who are fair and good, “egalitarian”—mindful of their partner’s thoughts, and tears, and breakdowns, when what they really want is dinner and maybe if they’re lucky sex.

My dad, he worked. 

Came home and kicked us all around.  He didn’t listen to my mother— no matter how he pretended.  She couldn’t debate him, not about big or little things.  She was never quite good enough. When she asked for help, he told her to be stronger.

As for me, I shuffled in the background trying not to be seen.  I lost myself.  I lost perspective of my own center, that I was a human being who deserved (just as much as him) to have opinions, emotions, and take up space in the room.

I stopped breathing.

I’m a forty-six year Old Woman who was never a child.  I’m not saying it’s my father’s fault entirely, but this is to all the dads who need to know. You matter to your kids and your partner—You have power.

You can break your children. Or help them grow up into people of compassion and empathy.

You may “only” bring home the paycheck; causing your kids to think somehow you don’t care as much as mommy.

This is what I say to you Dads—Don’t buy into the bullshit of being less compassionate.  There is a type of empathy that all people have and God and nature intended.  It is not exclusive to women.  It’s not exclusive to mothers.  You may do it differently, but we need you.

This is for all the dad’s that need to know, it’s okay to let go of macho and give more hugs. To work less and BE more.  To change the diaper differently than your wife.  To cook dinner and throw in a load of laundry, listening all the while to your hapless sad wife.

This if for all the dads, no matter what the culture says, that step in the door of your home at the end of the day and get down on the floor—your kids need to know you. Stop rushing.  Say no once in a while to external things.

Be available.

This is for all the dads.  I see you.

At the end of his life, in the last months when my father was pretty sure he was dying (though he was holding out for a miracle) my Dad admitted to me this stunning truth.  That his “incompetence” as a father caused his anger and raging, his disapproval, his meanness, his perfectionist expectations; they all came from feeling like he didn’t know how to be a good dad. (Here’s a poem I wrote not long after his death titled: Good Dad, Bad Dad.)

When we were very young he stopped trying.

What a tragedy.  It’s too late for me and my dad, but it’s not too late for you.

This is dedicated to Tom.

{On Staying in My Wonderful, yet Complementarian Church}

I’m pleased and immensely honored to have an essay included in the upcoming book, Finding Church, a Civitas Press community project.

This particular essay was difficult to write as it addresses the choice to stay at our wonderful and yet Complementarian church. Suffice it to say that I sweated blood, shed tears and lost sleep writing this one.

The estimated publishing date November 2012. I will let you know how to order it as we get closer.

Developing a Habit of Abundance

I am sometimes wrecked by my unbelief.  “Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief.” scripture says Mark 9:24.  I am coming to see.

Must I always put on habits?  It seems that I must choose daily, sometimes moment to moment.  I have to wear my belief like an new sweater or twist the rubber band on my wrist  to remind myself of what I want, what I know, what I need.  I am so full of need, so empty.

Like the havoc of the wind, I am wrecked by my unbelief.  The slang definition of the word wrecked is to be drunk or intoxicated.  I have always gotten high on all the wrong things – shopping, my own panic, books and other “things”, easily addicted even to the lack in my core, in my soul.  I am even hooked on my own sadness. In this I know what I need.  As I come to depend on all these highs that I choose for myself – my inner core isn’t worthy of my own trust.

Have I always been a vessel in ruin?  Shipwrecked.  Does that mean that I cannot be trusted?  That is what some believe and say that 1 Peter 3:7 means : that women cannot trust themselves. That man cannot trust woman who are the weaker vessel. What does that mean?  Others say that “Both Peter and Paul wrote about mutual, reciprocal submission in Christian relationships.”  If I believe I cannot be trusted, I’ll never learn to trust myself.  I’ll never trust anyone.  Can I then learn to trust God?

Growing up in the narcissistic family that I did, it is no wonder I do not trust myself.  Everyone in my family fluttered around one person, my father.  We existed to ensure his happiness and help him succeed at all costs.  The costs were many.  The price was high.   All my life I was told what to do by him.  I learned to always seek my father’s approval.  He was my universe.  What do you become when your “god” is cruel, selfish and destructive?  You cower.  You play the supporting role.  Never learn how to live your own.  Did he really become my god?  I don’t believe that is what he really wanted.  How did it happen?

I’ve been physically “free” of my father for eight years.  I am only learning how to breathe on my own.  Jesus is reshaping my view of the world and myself.  I am starting to see that I may be wrecked, like a ship cast to pieces against the shore and torn to pieces, but I did not create the storm.  And I am slowly being healed by the Jesus who healed, he healed women as much as men.  He empowers me.  He trusts me.  He is teaching me.

I have been fighting him, Jesus, and God, the Father.  As I fight, I am wounded like Jacob who wrestled with God and I am afraid.

I am afraid of my life.  I have been fighting and demanding.

I read and wonder if it is true:

“The Lord has to break us down at the strongest place of ourselves before he can have his own way of blessing with us. “ (James H. McConkey, Life Talks)

As I have healed, I have slowly demanded a purpose for myself, a big dream, a significant place to contribute, and God has been quiet.  At least it seems to be so.

“This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the one whom he has sent. ”  That means cling to Jesus, trust Jesus, rely on Jesus, and have faith in Jesus.

“God created the world out of nothing.  As long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” [Martin Luther]

Really?

I cannot lose this ever present need and instead of making me feel strong, it shames me.  I feel my lack of belief, my frequent anger and pain, absence of joy or gratitude; I feel powerfully this emaciated, hollow life.  Is this what I am known for?  I pray not.  I pray that I can surrender, even now.  Even today give up every part of me, the resilient and the faint fragments , to him.

I tell myself I do not fear my own flaws.  But I fear that it will be used against me to prove that women are weak.   I fear my own power too.

Jesus says, “Lay it all down.”   Let it all go again.  As I am developing the habit of abundance, I doubt that have never responded like Mary did.  “Let this happen,” she said, when told that she would mother the king of kings (Luke 1:38)

Whatever it is, “this life” for I do not know what it is yet.  For I cannot even imagine.   I am learning to respond.

Let this happen.

Melody

P.S. I am inspired by reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.