I Poke at My Heart To Know It is Still There. I Hold on To Belief, Clutching.

1-DSC_0101I have so many things going on. The heaviest specifics, I don’t dare to write about.

These are Heavy, hard days of—if not Suffering —Pain.  But I know so many, many people going through Pain.  In that, we are not alone, but being a writer and photographer comes with a price.  I know what’s happening to us isn’t for public consumption.  Lives, hearts and souls are at play.  If I cannot write, what do I do? If I cannot Speak through images I fear I’ll drown in my grief.

I have been thinking hard about what’s useful for others. What I can pass on.

I was recently at a meeting for parents of youth, a “you rah rah” sort of meeting where a couple traipsed up on the stage as Master Parents (My words).  The pastor said: “If my children could turn out like anyone’s I would have them be like so and so’s kids.”

I thought to myself, “Damn. He did not just say that.”

This was before I went back on Effexor, when I could still cry.

I’m not a public crier. I actually try very hard to never cry in front of others, men especially because of the stereotype that women are overly emotional.  (This is one of the sexist ideas that I most loathe.)

So I ran from the room in grief and anger and disappointment (I know this pastor and I was surprised he’d say such a thing.)


Our recent months, even the last year and a half, were difficult. I have had moments in the last while that I was certain I couldn’t go on; as doctors, and friends, and mentors, and experts, all had no idea how to proceed with some of our challenges.

We’ve wept, we’ve prayed, we’ve read, and we’ve met with experts, We have done more than everyone can imagine, turned over systems, got to the top of the chain of command, advocated beyond what everyone said was possible.  And yet, after all that, life’s not much different.  Circumstances improve incrementally and then fall apart, then settle down. We adjust and we try again to find normalcy.

The same issues continue.   With a new normal, we have a new resolve.

I ran from that room coming face to face with the audacity that we might be able to DO something more to create a certain outcome for our kids.  As I slithered to the floor, I wept uncontrollably for our situation, for our lack of hope, and for all the kids growing up in homes where parents do think there is a formula to arrive at “a great kid, a healthy kid, or a spiritually grounded kid.”

And when I had composed myself, I very nearly walked out of the building to never return to youth group, just yank my kid out, because I’m impulsive like that.

I am rash.  And that kind of haste is wrong when it comes to an unfortunate turn of phrase with someone you trust.  I say things now and again I don’t even mean.  Second chances are important and I’d want one. I returned inside.

But I haven’t felt so alone in a long, long time. I sat in the back, on the steps so I could make a run for it.  Knowing the Church isn’t cognizant of how to help families with mental illness.  One, because we’re not sure we can talk about it, sure.  But also, they just don’t know to help.


I cannot pray.  It’s ironic and convicting as I spent the summer reading everything I could find about prayer since I was writing an essay on Praying without Ceasing, will be published next year in a book.  And today, these days, lately, I cannot pray.  I’ve always struggled with praying.

My heart feels like stone. Partly, this is the anti-depressant medication.  I know this because I’ve been on it before.  I didn’t cry for more than five years last time.  Yes, that’s a special hell.  Don’t make that decision lightly, to take antidepressants.)

I cannot feel, except a flat, emotionless, disorienting pain.  My heart feels like when they numb you before a shot; if I poke at my heart I know it’s still there but you get the idea.


So what then?  What’s the outcome of a Most Difficult Year?

We’re being strong.  We’re hurting, but we’re cognizant of a long-suffering kind of trust in God.  Right now doesn’t feel good but over our lifetimes God has been present, faithful, supplier of hope, our healer and God has sustained us.   That doesn’t change.

But most days are like today. Sitting here feeling isolated, feeling afraid, feeling unwilling or unable to be with humans. But I know, even still, God in Jesus is present.  God waits.

I don’t feel it. I know it. I hold on to Belief, clutching.  Today, it’s all we have.

{Nightmares and Day Dreams: For Our Children}

bad dreams
we free fall together.

an enormous wall, grows looming.
the waves rise and fall

the pull
of the tide, a wall

in the distance threatens drowning.
i grab for her,

“raise your head.”

and still, it comes.

8462158314_6dd9b2ae32“Childhood: that happy period when nightmares occur only during sleep.” (Unknown)

I have always believed that a parent’s job is to protect. 

Our children come squalling into the world, bloody and innocent, at risk.  As we push them out of our body we are committing to make their world safe.  We make a promise that we will provide every opportunity for them to thrive.

I have always believed; I was wrong.

We cannot protect our children fully.  At a certain point this safety net we so carefully construct around them hurts them. As they flail, or run away from us, as they pull and long to soar, our net of safety, it constrains them.

On the other hand, I always understood that scrapes on the knees were important.  The physical scars that come from running hard, playing insane and wild in the backyard, from jumping off the swings as

just for a minute, they imagine

they can fly!

These experiences toughen up a child and teach them about life.

In real life, you cannot fly.

My youngest wears a tiny, centimeters long scar on his chin which has lasted when other scars have faded.  He was running through, round and round in an utterly maddening and charming way, in my parents Colorado kitchen.  As a toddler, he was curious and strong. unafraid. Chubby, teetering, always about to fall, he loved to run the circuit of their kitchen, dining area, living room and back to kitchen driving my father mad!

But there was a rug and it tripped him.  Down he went. Down, with blood spurting from his beautiful chubby chin.

No stitches only a scar, which sits on his chin today to remind me that I cannot keep him safe even when I know the dangers.

I’ve walked the path of life; I know well certain things that are sure to trip them up.  That tiny, sliver of a scar reminds me, though I want to ignore it, that

children need to fall down.

It is Elizabeth Stone who said the truest of words, “Making a decision to have a child is momentous – it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

When your heart is hurting because children will get hurt, there isn’t much you can do.  I mean, these hard times of adolescence come quickly. 

I blinked and the wonderful days of stinky diapers and toddler-hood, learning first words, proud scribbling on paper and walls, putting blocks in the right shapes; those days of innocence are so quickly gone.

Overnight. They become small adults, a scrawny teen wearing pants the long length of a man and I wonder at it.  How did we get here?  I’m still holding on so tightly, trying to keep that net of safety around.

It constrains.

Our children need to run, to let go of the sweaty grip of our hand, to fly away from us little by little.

We cannot hold them, at a certain point.  We cannot choose for them.  We cannot do the hard work of homework, and friendship, and the heart searching for God in a big and wide universe, or for young love, and we cannot even do the work of mental and physical health.  We cannot do it for them.  In many ways, we must step aside and

let them fly;

Up and out the door of our hearts, taking our heart with them.

I feel the time slipping.

: I learn to be open-handed,

I must teach them to look up and out, not fearfully down.

To lean forward, toward life, hopeful.  To be filled, fully taking life in, not afraid.

And only then, we become – ears to hear them, when the troubles of life overcome. Eyes to see them when the world seems to not value how unique and incredible they are,

And then,

Less and less, we use our

Mouth to shape, advise and teach but from time to time, still we are doing the hard work of instilling day dreams.

Being a parent is difficult. What was once intuitive and charming becomes jagged and painful, a tidal-wave, the stuff of bad dreams.

Even as I dreampt of drowning, of not being able to pull my daughter from the waves

I woke, and knew that I cannot save my own children.

I have done the work of preparing imperfectly, of praying much less than I should, and now in many ways I must begin

again, by letting go.  And getting on

with day dreaming of my own.

{On Parenting and Being}

Parenting is undoubtedly the most difficult job I’ve ever done. It’s not instinctive for me or intuitive, though Tom frequently argues with me on this, the fact remains that I do not feel like a good mother.  

I’m a perfectionist. I’m hard on myself. Most days I fear I’m such a f-up that I can’t raise healthy kids.  I fear that things that made me the way I am will be repeated in my children.  I vacillate between fear that I am too hard on my kids and fear that I’m not hard enough.  And I know that no matter what I do, kids ultimately make their own choices. How does one become a good parent before it’s too late?

If we look at how we were raised we can compare but there’s so much left …

to sheer randomness,

to the personalities of parents and each child,

to the context or environment,

to the spirituality of every person involved.

So we observe others.  We learn from our friends. We work on our personal shit. I find myself hoping  that the days will s t r e t c h out.  And that time will slow down.

Who doesn’t need more time to improve upon themselves?   With life moving so quickly and my children dashing into their teen years, I suddenly want to press the slow motion button. I see how quickly we got here, If only there were more time.

If the Bible were a parenting manual (which it is not) I think perhaps it would say work on yourself (character) first and the fruits of your life (spirit) and then perhaps God will add to these things, but there are no guarantees.

One thing I know. The more you try to control the outcome, the less likely you’ll get it exactly the way you want it.

So what’s a person to do?   Getting my kids report cards, I felt as if I was back in middle school.  I want so much more for my kids than what I had, everyone does.  I don’t want their choices in life to be limited by their current lack of imagination, or willingness to work hard, or the incentives as they perceive them.  And as I rail internally against my own feelings of failure, I relive my wretched school years and I cry a bucket of tears, full of my own regrets and feelings of failure.

I am left with more questions.

How do we teach our children that we love them unconditionally – that no matter what they EVER DO, seriously I mean EVER — That our love is irreversible?  This is a super power, this unconditional love.  If they get this one thing I believe all the rest will fall into place for them.

I never believed I was unconditionally loved growing up.  I thought love I received or didn’t was connected to my behaviours, choices, failures and successes, “the B should have/could have been an A” because nothing was ever good enough to make my father happy.

How do we make it absolutely clear to our children that no matter what job they do some day, or what grades they get or what degrees they accomplish, or what hobbies, interests, sports or other talents they choose or naturally have, no matter, they are loved!

And I think perhaps parenting is a daily laying down of my life — giving up my rights — my power — my control, and sitting with the Holy One, admitting my weakness, my brokenness and that I cannot do it alone.

For a perfectionist it is hard to admit there is no perfect parent, that mistakes will be made, are made daily.  And ultimately I am not in control.

For a perfectionist it is hard to let go and accept that who my children become is entirely up to them!

Celebrate them.  Enjoy them.  Affirm them.  Give them every opportunity.

And also give them space to find themselves.

Just as I am.

{When You’re Not Qualified to be Alive}

So I’m trying something new.  Picking a subject at random that I seem to obsess about or fixate on, something that grips my imagination in compulsive and ugly ways, (I started with one of my secret obsessions.) I’ll write honestly without  a lot self-editing or controlling “the message” to see what comes out.  No answers. No over spiritualizing.  Just the real, gritty, sometimes awkward me. I’m trying to push myself in my style to loosen up a little. Have you noticed that I take myself a bit too seriously? This is my second excursion into a different kind of real. 

Parenting surely is the most difficult job I’ve ever had.  Many times in a day I think “I am not qualified.” But it’s too late, for those regrets.

No one is qualified to be a parent, not really. 

Yesterday, I was reflecting on our exceptionally verbal, strong as steel, at times tyrannical daughter  who is so like my father!  I just wanted to fall down on my knees, humbled by my own lack.  Again, as if a prayer, whispering this time as a lament: I am not qualified to be a mother.

I went through most of my life in some strange, surreal auto pilot. 

I went through forty years utterly afraid of life.  I sometimes think back, strange as it sounds and wonder aloud how I even survived the catastrophes of living in our home.  My father’s spirit and soul crushing rage destroyed me, my personality and I spent many years just grieving who I might be, might have been.  That sort of grief is debilitating.

Oh there were moments, especially outside of home, where I found  parts of myself.  I loved my youth pastor; he listened to me and allowed for my incessant questions about the Bible. He listened to my ideas and fears.  He never once yelled at me, or told me my sarcasm or sense of humor or quick thinking and verbal sparring was bad.  He somehow validated me and I loved him.

But for the most part I went through my tens and twenties and thirties heart-sick, depressed, and afraid.

So when my daughter rages at me (I told you she is like my dad) or the world, or she stands up to me, or questions … every little thing, a small part of me is cheering inside!!

She is alive.

She is breathing, kicking and screaming, going into the world believing that her thoughts, her questions, her jokes, her ideas matter and for that I am so pleased.

She is alive and I am slowly coming alive too.  I believe my father had to die for me to begin living.  A new friend, after hearing about the childhood that I had said to me yesterday “It’s a wonder that I have any faith at all.”

I am simply grateful I am alive.  Yes, this life of believing is really hard; harder for me than it seems to be for many people I know.  I’ve come to accept and understand this to be a part of what makes me, me.  And yes, this is something I embrace.

I may not be qualified, but I am grateful to be alive.

On Parenting Deeply and Well

Parenting is undoubtedly the most difficult job I’ve ever done. Can I admit it here — it’s not instinctive for me? It’s not intuitive. Though Tom will argue voraciously with me on this, and has, the fact remains that I do not feel like a good mother. Many times I wonder what I was thinking becoming a parent. But that’s me being negative and fearful, not living in abundance.

How does one become a good parent?

We look back at how we were raised. We observe others, although this can quickly turn into bad comparison for me. We work on our own s***. We pray a lot! (I know my father prayed for me every day. I felt that loss when he died.) And we hope that the days will s t r e t c h, time will slow down, much like a sci-fi movie. I mean who doesn’t need more time to improve upon themselves? Now, when life is moving quickly and my children are dashing into their teen years I want to press the slow motion effect. If only.

If the Bible were a parenting manual (which it is not) I think perhaps it would say work on your character and the fruits of your spirit and the LORD will add to these things, but there are no guarantees. The more you try to control the outcome the less likely you’ll get it .

So what’s a person to do?

Today I was thinking and wondering this.  How do we teach our children that they are unconditionally loved – that no matter what they ever do our love is irreversible. This superpower, called “unconditional love,” was modeled for us by Jesus Christ. I lay down my life, regularly.  Or,  is it more like giving up my rights?  My power. My control. Oh, we’re back to that again. Yeah, I was mightily controlled growing up so that’s one of my issues.

And I vacillate with my kids. Oh, how I hated feeling controlled as a child, and yet without boundaries children (and adults) flounder. So I regularly pray for a good measure of strength to apply appropriate boundaries with consequences without being perceived as or wanting to be controlling.

There’s a strange characteristic in kids — they believe in the live and let live, totally. Yes, even mom and dad.

If you loved me you’d just let me … stay up and talk to my friends on the computer. Leave my stuff all over the house. Lose my cell phone with no consequences. Not work that hard in school, I mean lighten up, Mom. It’s only grades. Not live up to my potential, I mean if it were important to me I’d do it.

Yup, true. But I definitely regret that I wasn’t pushed more when I was a child. I was left to flounder. So, I have to admit, I’m a bit befuddled.

What’s the best book on parenting you’ve read?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about parenting?

What did your parents do that was really right?  

Do you have any advice for a young mom like myself?