Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Story

In true, Angel-fashion, this won’t be short, so if you’re planning on reading you may want to go for a quick bathroom break and pop yourself a bag of popcorn, before you settle in.

I was born to a 16 year old, unmarried girl. The hospital I was born in was across the street from my mom’s high school. We lived with my grandparents for the first year of my life. Right after I turned one, my dad and mom were married. Not my birth father, but the only dad I’ve ever known.

My parents went on to have 2 more kids—all 3 of us born before my mom was 21. Since this is my story, I won’t go into theirs, but they lived a lifestyle that I would not choose to live with my girls during the first years of my life.

When I was 5, a teenager down the street invited me to ride the bus to church. Back then, they didn't have cartoons on Sunday mornings and we usually got in trouble for being too loud, so I was thankful to have something to do. It was there that I first heard about Jesus. I remember coming home week after week and asking Him in my heart--just in case He didn't hear me the last time. I got my sister, and my brother when he was old enough, up and dressed every Sunday so they could go with me. After a few years, my dad started going and we would ride home with him (which I didn't like because it meant we missed out on the candy they gave out on the bus ride home).

When I was 8, we moved to Texas and started attending church as a family. In fact, my parents started attending Bible college a few years later and worked on staff at a Christian school.

When I was 14, my mom chose to leave. Again, I’m going to tell my story from my point of view and not talk about why I think she did what she did. What I will say is that it was hard. I was always too responsible for my own good, and this just served to feed into that.

My dad raised the 3 of us through all the teenage drama. There were a lot of fun times, but, as since I have since found out for myself, working for a church isn’t the highest paying job out there. Dad usually had part-time jobs and I started working when I was 14 and except for about 6 months after Caroline was born, have worked ever since then. I learned at a very young age that when you pray specifically for a need, God will answer you. I remember trying to figure out a family budget when I was 16, and the numbers never adding up, but yet, we never went hungry and always had everything we needed and more.

I was blessed by a couple of women who taught me about ministry. I volunteered with kindergarteners because I wanted to get out of sitting in church. They gave me responsibilities that didn’t allow me to just hang out in the back of the room (I actually even lead the worship—or singing, as we called it). These ladies cared for me as a person. I remember a few shopping trips where they blessed me with clothes and shoes. At the time, I KNEW that they were God’s way of providing a mom’s influence—even though neither tried to push their way into that role.

I graduated high school as Valedictorian (before you start thinking I’m really smart, just know that there were only 22 seniors in my graduating class and my first semester in college I had a 2.4 gpa—which didn’t improve tremendously in my 5 years there). I worked hard at pretty much everything I did.

I went off to college and there, through Campus Crusade for Christ, I learned what it meant to have a relationship WITH God, and not just do things FOR Him. Through a summer project, God taught me tons about being a child of his (something that, to this day is hard for me to grasp—I’d rather think He loves me based on what I can do—as warped as that sounds). I was discipled by an incredible woman, had some great roommates and started leading my own group of girls--which brought me life.

I graduated college and hit a low. I had “coped” for so long, that it finally took its toll. I went to a couple of doctors trying to figure out why I lost so much weight and couldn’t sleep. They, of course, suggested depression, but I was unwilling to believe that, so I kept trucking until I hit a wall a year later. During that time, I was working a full time job, a part time job and keeping my nephew as much as possible.

Shortly after that time, I met Brian. In fact, the first time I went out with him was with a group to celebrate my 25th birthday. He was such a good friend to me that I knew if I allowed myself, I would fall head over heels for him. And I did.

We’ve had our rocky times, some of which are not too far in the past, but once, again, I am amazed at God’s provision. In high school or college, I would never have even looked twice at Brian as more than a friend and vice versa. But I couldn’t imagine a better person for me. He shoots me with Nerf guns so that I don’t take myself so seriously, he doesn’t let me get by with being mean and he loves me in a way that teaches me so much about God’s grace.

We found our current church in 1999—right before we were married. I still remember our first time there after trying several other types of churches. Brian’s comment was, “Wow. I’ve never heard the Bible taught that way. This place just feels right.” In 2006, much to my amazement and determination in my younger years to never work at a church, I joined the staff there.

In the midst of all of that, I am learning daily about where my self-worth comes from. And I still struggle with liking myself most days. And I worry all the time that I am a bad mom and wife (I just realized I never even documented my girls' birth in this long book of a post). And I am reminded by people who care for me that God loves me no matter how many times I get upset with my family. Or whether my mom thinks I’ve forgiven her or not. Or if I’m not “doing” anything for Him right now. My story is not finished—I am definitely being shaped daily.

I feel like I skipped a lot of details, but this is so long that I hate to go back and add them in. I recently read a book called “The Glass Castle.” The book left me really frustrated because there was so much I could read between the lines about her childhood that she glossed over. I hope I did not do that here, but I also know that I don’t want to dwell on the past. It shapes us and molds us, but doesn’t have to define us.

I say all this not for pity, or to be able to brag, but to document it for history's sake. My girls are starting to ask some questions and I'm answering them as honestly as possible (although I've managed to side-step the question about whether Brian and I did more than kiss before we were married--so far). Though long, this is a brief snapshot of how I became who I am today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

At the Laundromat

Sunday night, I decided to throw a quick load of laundry in the washer—even though I knew it was leaking. Brian didn’t have time to look at it right then and I was in a time crunch. So, imagine my surprise when I made a quick run to the store and came back to a house where he and the girls were in the driveway and smoke was billowing out of our laundry area. The washing machine somehow caught fire. No, I did not say DRYER, I said WASHING MACHINE. Crazy, huh?

Normally, these kinds of things make me question God’s goodness. I know, I know—total immaturity on my part, but that’s where I go. Funny thing is I didn’t this time. In fact, it didn’t even faze me. Caroline was going on and on about how Brian “saved” them from the fire (which, btw, we never saw flames—just LOTS and LOTS of smoke) and how she needed to stay outside and breathe the “good” air. Brian pulled the clothes out of the washer and they were soaked, but smelled like my laundry detergent and not the smoky smell that had permeated everything else (the intake for our air conditioner is right next to the washing machine, so it was sending smoke throughout our house).

As we sat in the backyard, wringing clothes out and hanging them over the chairs and fence, I started laughing. I told Brian he should be glad I decided to do this load first instead of the underwear load—wouldn’t that have been a fun sight for the neighborhood!

Still not sure what caused it, but the washer is dead. Now, this is our 2nd hand-me-down washing machine. Both have been blessings, but each has had something wrong with it.

The next day, I went to the Laundromat to wash my clothes. I had a couple of offers from friends to come over to their house, but decided to knock it all out at once. When I think of Laundromats, I typically think of a hot, dirty place. Not so with our one around the corner. The air was blowing in there quite nicely and it was much cleaner than my laundry area. Lord only knows how long it’s been since I’ve wiped down the outside of my washer, but there was a man there meticulously wiping them down and keeping the place spotless.

As I was waiting on my laundry to finish, I sat at a table with my iPhone and Kindle and started to feel really guilty. And worried of what others around would think of me. I mean, who buys and iPhone and Kindle over a washing machine? If anyone noticed, they didn’t let on.

There were a few families in there. One was a beautiful young mother and daughter who looked to be about Hope’s age. She, too, had her iPhone and laptop with her and was making a list on a piece of paper with all of her monthly bills on it.

Another was a grandmother, mom and boy (who looked about 5 years old). They actually sat outside in the heat and I could hear the three of them laughing off and on. And they didn’t lack for conversation.

There was also a sweet man who looked like he was doing laundry for a big house-full. He brought in several overflowing dirty laundry baskets. He was quiet, kept to himself in the corner and had a very sad air about him.

So, as I sat there, catching up on facebook and reading my latest electronic book, I was thankful. Thankful that I had a peaceful place to wash my clothes and that God, had once again, provided for my needs. Sunday night and Monday morning, I really believed that God was going to bless us with a better washing machine. As I sat at the Laundromat, I wasn’t as confident of that anymore. BUT I was, and still am, confident that God will take care of my needs. The way He provides isn’t always the way I think would be best or easiest, but I’m really ok with washing my clothes at the Laundromat for a while. I’m sure it will get old, but it was a good reminder to me, sitting in that building, that God loves those people in there just as much as me. And that I am so very blessed with material things. Really.

I guess the thing that surprised me the most this time was that I didn’t have to consciously choose to be grateful, I genuinely was. That gives me hope. Hope that He isn’t frustrated with my pridefulness and selfishness and anger. Hope that He really does love me and is growing me in ways I can’t always see and appreciate.

Part of me is hoping we get to do our laundry there again—pretty crazy, huh?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Putting the “Fun” in Dysfunctional

Most of us come from some sort of dysfunctional. I always joke that my dysfunction is out there for the whole world to see—there’s no way to hide it. But, part of me does hide it. Not because I’m ashamed or even embarrassed, but because I do not want my past to continue to define me.

Our past shapes us—there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes, it’s good; sometimes it’s just plain scary.

This past weekend, my Grandma died. She’s not someone that I ever talk about, but I was born on her birthday. While I’m sad for my Grandpa and cousins that she is gone, I haven’t felt that sadness for myself yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. Maybe because I haven’t talked to her in a few years and haven’t had a relationship with her in a couple of decades. She wasn’t a bad person—she just chose to not be a part of my life.

When I think about my story, I often wonder what I would think if someone else told me this story and it was their past. Would I feel sorry for them? Would I admire them? Would I think less of them? The answer varies depending on the day.

When I started this blog, a big part of it was to overcome my fear of what people think of me. Over the past couple of years, I’ve shared lots of stories of my girls and my angsts, but I’ve never really shared MY story. I’ve had several reasons for that. #1—I don’t want pity. #2—I don’t want to add fuel to the fire for people who read this blog, who are not a part of my life anymore. #3—I don’t want to bore you any more than I already do.

But, I feel an urging inside of me to tell my story. So I will. And I hope it doesn’t change your view of me. But if it does, then I pray that it serves as a reminder to me that my value is not dependant on what you think of me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Living with Girls

I've said it before and I'll say it again--it's never dull living with girls. In fact, most days I wake up hoping for a dull day. You know, one where everything goes the way it's supposed to and nobody has any strong opinions on why it shouldn't be that way. The day when nobody yells at anybody else for hogging the bathroom mirror, locking the bathroom door, hiding the toothpaste or taking her brush. A kind of day when everyone is thankful for what is in their lunch and nobody walks out the door sad or mad.

BUT…I live with girls. That means those days are few. Instead, our days are filled with talk about boobies (and other body parts) and friends and why looks are not the most important thing about someone. And they are also filled with soccer talk, stinky smells emitting from shin guards, socks, cleats and bodies. And by bodies, I’m not just talking about sweat. Some days I wonder if I’m the only mom of girls who has to listen to a daily conversation about farts.

All in all, living with girls is good. I know others would kill for the opportunity to have daughters (my mother-in-law lives vicariously through my girls). And I am thankful for them. I call them passionate and strong-willed and pray those character traits will serve them well—I just wish they served them OUTside my house and not always IN.

So I’m off to see what the day holds. I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast (and by “made” I mean that I opened up a can and put it in the oven). The last time I made these, we had a total meltdown that resulted in me having to explain to the school nurse that my daughter (who was in her office with a tummy ache because she didn’t eat breakfast) DID have the opportunity to eat, but chose not to because she decided that morning she didn’t like cinnamon rolls anymore (Yes, this truly happened—I don’t make these things up, people).

So, Happy Wednesday, Y’all! May yours be as drama-free as mine!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Remember the teeter-totter? Or maybe you called it the see-saw…whatever. Every playground used to have a set of teeter-totters and most even had a merry-go-round (not one like in the mall—the old-fashioned metal one that didn’t have a motor and required a person to spin it for you).

Remember when you were on the teeter-totter with someone heavier than you? They would sit their side on the ground while you were in mid-air and make you beg to come down (“Farmer, farmer let me down. How much money do you have Charlie Brown?”). If you were the heavier, you got to have “control” of the game and decide if you were gonna be merciful or mean. The best was when you had that friend who was the same size as you and you would sing as you went up and down until the teacher blew the whistle and recess was over.

Remember the merry-go-round? Some kids could get it going sooooo fast. You had to position yourself just right—with a metal bar in your back and butt—so that you didn’t fall off when it started going fast (and we all probably have a story about a kid who went flying throgh the air at some point). There was always that person who you wanted to spin the merry-go-round because they would do it really fast, but would stop when you asked (unlike the bully who would keep going until you were practically crying and your hands were sliding off the metal poles and you thought you were gonna pee your pants).

One of my prayers the past several years is for God to give me balance in my life. We juggle a lot these days. Unlike a lot of moms, I KNOW God has called me to work outside the home. I’ve spent years feeling guilty, years trying to make excuses, etc, but I have embraced the fact that, while I love my family, He does not have a big plan to keep me at home with them. That said, they are my first priority—next to Him—and I cannot let work (even though its “spiritual” work) take first place in my heart.

Many days, I feel like I’m back on that teeter-totter…begging God to give me a day where I am going up and down at an even pace. Some days, that’s what it looks like. Others…well, I’m usually the one in the air—fighting to regain control. Same with the merry-go-round…some days, life is going by at a fun pace—I can see everything around me. Others…things are a blur and I’m focused only on hanging on so that I don’t fall off.

Often (especially lately), I think I’ve figured out the balance thing and am patting myself on the back for finally “getting” it. Then reality sets in and I realize I am not the one in control—which causes me to be even more out of balance. Of course, when I let go of it all and rely on His balance, things are smooth again. But, like the playground, I seem to forget that until I am up in the air or barely hanging on.

How about you? How do you handle it when you are “in the air?” What causes you to hold on with all your might so you don’t fly off?