The Silent Abuse of a Narcissistic Mother

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As a little girl, I knew my mom was different than other moms.

Other moms were kind, caring, and affectionate.

Mine was harsh, cold, and inattentive.

Other moms took their kids skating and to the playground.

My mom only offered me the back of her head as she watched her morning-to-night schedule of television shows.

Other moms played with them.

I eventually stopped asking my mom to play with me; the answer was always “no”.

When my friends would return to school after a sick day, they’d tell of their time spent cuddling with their mothers and watching cartoons.  They bemoaned being back at school and wished they could have stayed home longer.

I, however, couldn’t wait to get back to school after a day spent sick at home.  For me, those days consisted of being forced to stay in my bedroom alone; I was only allowed to come out to eat a meal or use the washroom.  And then it was back in my bedroom, while my mom watched her lineup of daytime television.  I have one memory of getting to watch “The Price is Right” with her on a sick day, and her reasoning was because the illness had been so severe it had warranted that small privilege.  Consequently, I couldn’t wait to feel better and get back to school; back to my lovely elementary school teachers who bestowed on me the warmth and kindness I so yearned for.

I knew my mom was different than other moms when I scraped my knee after skidding out on my bike on the road one afternoon.  I shrieked with horror to see the blood mixed with gravel, and feeling the tiny rocks and sand embedded in my wound.  Hearing my screams and crying, my mom stormed out of the house, pulled me by the arm into the house, and hollered at me once we were inside the house.  I was rebuked for my reaction and for causing her embarrassment.  I shouldn’t have cried like that.  I learned that when I was hurt, to close my mouth and not have any needs; my needs got me in trouble.

I knew my mom was different when I spent an afternoon with my godmother and her son when I was about five years of age.  We went for a walk to the hill at the water tower, and I fell and cut my knee on some broken glass.  I remember holding in my hurt, and bracing myself for the tongue-lashing over the even small show of emotion.  I had been taught what happened when I cried or expressed my needs.  But instead, my godmother lovingly carried me to the nearby Family Resource Centre and Preschool, and bandaged me up with the supplies they offered.  I remember my little heart bursting over how kind she had been; why wasn’t my mom like that?   Oh, how I wished my mom was like that. Being jealous of other people’s loving moms was something I would become accustomed to.

I knew something was different with my mom as I grew older, too.  As I got more vocal in my teenage years, I was berated for being argumentative.  She never listened to me.  When I approached difficult topics with her, she threw up her hands, became the victim, and never heard the thoughts I would share.  I learned to scream and holler in frustration, which only caused me to get in more trouble (but at least it offered some temporary release).  I had so much anger well up in me; but my parent – my guide in this life – refused to help me with it.  In fact, she was the fuel to the flame, and then would defend herself in it. She never sought to draw out my heart and hear what the anger was about. She didn’t want to know. And so I held it in and suffered alone.

I knew all there was something different, something was “off” about my moms compared to other moms I saw, but I figured, “It’s just how she is”.  There was no one who understood, my siblings just shrugged it off, and I was left feeling alone and bewildered.

I started biting my nails in early elementary.  I developed a rich fantasy life as a young child; during the many hours that I was banished to my room, I would imagined someone coming to save me.  I easily developed crushes on boys, because I yearned for the love I didn’t get from my mom, or from my enabling father who was a workaholic and emotionally absent.  As a teenager, I started rebelling; I started abusing alcohol in grade 10, and by grade 12 I was partying every weekend.  I dated guys who weren’t good for me.  I lied to everyone around me because I didn’t want them to know.  At 20, I was diagnosed with depression and started taking medication.  I was still biting my nails.

But mom was just mom.  She was just different than other moms.  Oh well.

Meanwhile, I was falling apart and didn’t know why.  I was drowning my wounds in whatever I could find that was still socially acceptable enough to appear normal.

And the worse part was, I was berated by my mother for the very symptoms she had caused.  I was gross because I bit my nails; I should stop.  I was persecuted emotionally because I had rebelled. I was dirty because I had done the unspeakable (have sex before marriage).  I was crazy because I struggled with depression.  All of these things were used as tools against me, and reasons why my thoughts and feelings were never validated.  I was ostracized and my failings and my flaws simply made me easy prey.

Into my early adult years, I started getting help and healing for the wounds.  I began pulling back the layers slowly, and started realizing that I was not the problem; I was not crazy, and I was not the cause of the emotional symptoms I had experienced.  Maybe I wasn’t just flawed, after all.

But the dynamics with my mom continued.

I remember one situation very clearly, that marked the beginning of my pulling back from her.  I was pregnant with my first child, and we had been visiting my parents.  My husband had to go back to work, so he left and I stayed a couple of extra days by myself.  While out and about shopping with my mom, the subject of a particularly toxic ex-boyfriend came up (he had been abusive to me in very similar ways that my mom was – and he may as well have been satan incarnate, for how much she liked him).  I mentioned that he was a friend of mine on Facebook (because at this point, I had healed from the relationship and only saw him as someone who had once been important to me); my mom was indignant at this, and responded that her and my dad had seen he was on my friend list.  She got very upset, and tore up one side of me and down the other; how dare I keep in contact with such a terrible person?  How dare I keep in contact with him when I am now married?  Did Kris know about this?  I assured her he did and didn’t care, that he trusted me and didn’t feel threatened by some dysfunctional guy I had dated when I was 19.  I called her out on her awful behaviour, and told her how ridiculous she was being.  How was this about her, I demanded to know?  How did she have the right to be hurt – of all things – about this decision I had made that did not affect her?!  Of course, that escalated it further, and she clammed up, as she always did when she knew she was beat. With lips pursed (I can still see this common expression of hers so clearly), she didn’t say another word to me.  We got back to their place, and I went my room and wept, pregnant belly shaking.  I couldn’t believe she had treated me like that, carrying a child nonetheless.  As I lay there, I wrongly assumed that if she knew just how upset I was, she would surely feel remorseful and make it right with me.  (I can see now that I suffered for many years with Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonding – the only way to explain that I still had hope that she would be kind.)  I went upstairs to speak with her, and got another tongue lashing; her defenses all came out, she threw up her hands as she’s always done, and reminded me why she was the poor victim of her disrespectful daughter’s awful behaviour.  This was a small turning point for me: that she would be so insensitive and abusive to me – while I was carrying my child – didn’t sit right with me.  I was starting to see that this had always been the norm. But seeing it and trying to beat it didn’t stop it.

Her abusive behaviour and manipulations continued, and only worsened as I started speaking against it.  She has perfected the victim deflection, and my enabling father took part too. I started putting up boundaries, and they reacted harshly.  The Christmas I was pregnant and near my due date, my anger finally blew one day. Tired, overwhelmed, and annoyed, I lashed out at them for not helping at all when they stayed with us; I was carrying a child and was not feeling well, and thought that was normal that parents would want to help lift the load off of their pregnant daughter.  But instead of help once they knew how I felt, they tore into me about how ungrateful I was and how ridiculous it was that I expect help; my dad told me later that “my behaviour” had ruined Christmas for everyone.

One of the last times we stayed with my parents, this abusive dynamic played out yet again; they locked my husband and I (pregnant with #2 at the time), and our 2 year old son, out of their place after we had gone to the beach early one morning.  They didn’t call to tell us they were leaving and didn’t leave a key.  When I confronted my mom after hours of driving around waiting for them to come home, I was told I was being mean, and given the usual run-down of victim-speak.  I now knew that this was the norm, and there was no working things out with her.  But I was the problem, right?

Not knowing what else to do, I continued to speak my mind, willfully hoping they would eventually hear me; the conflict only escalated.  They started trying to find reasons for why I was acting like this towards them, but never pointed their fingers inward. Even though I had been off of anti-depressants and feeling great for a number of years by now, the family made assumptions that my “poor behaviour” was due to depression, or I wasn’t handling mother hood very well.  They couldn’t understand why I was acting the way I was. I was clearly the problem, not them.

With two young boys now in my life and in my heart, I delved further into healing so that I could be free to be the mother I needed. I wanted to be the mother I wished I had. And as it turned out, motherhood became my redemption.  Motherhood was what opened my eyes, over a period of many years, to what I was really dealing with.  I started waking up to realize that I could never imagine treating my children the way my mom treated me.

I took my kids to the library and the park, I sat on the ground and built train tracks, I chased and wrestled and giggled.  I was open to hear my kids tell me when they hurt my feelings, and I owned it, apologized, and made it right.  None of these were things I had experienced as a kid.  And I began seeing that how I was raised was not normal.  It was the opposite of normal. And it had affected me greatly.

Motherhood showed me that what I had experienced growing up (and as an adult) was not just “mom being mom”; it wasn’t just that my mom was different than other moms.

As I delved more into this, and began reading about it, I was shocked to fully realize what I had experienced as a child had a name.  There were words to describe what I had victim to.

Psychological abuse.  Emotional abuse.  Neglect.  Gaslighting.

My mom wasn’t just harsh.  Or dysfunctional.  Or just different from other moms.  My mom was abusive. My family system was abusive.

In addition to this, I came to learn that my mom has the covert version of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  And that is what they do to their children.  The lack empathy, they project, they defend, and they neglect.  They look after themselves first and foremost, and lack the basic instincts to care and nurture for their children beyond the basic necessities.  They twist the truth, make their children question their sanity, and are never open to hearing and reconciling conflict.  But will tell everyone else you are the problem.

Narcissists are incapable of empathy.  If you look to them for the nurturing, caring, and empathy that you needed as a child and a mother should provide, you’re looking in the wrong place.  They will not provide it, and looking for it will give them another reason to rebuke you for your errors and prey on your weaknesses.

All of that is just one part of the abuse.  The second part of the abuse is that they will never admit these things; they will never own any of it, never mind change their behaviour when they know how it affects you.

People with NPD can never recognize their faults.  In their minds, they just don’t have any.  They’ve never done anything wrong, therefore there is nothing they need to take responsibility for.  If you’ve been hurt, it must have been your fault.  If you bring something to their attention, they will flip it on you and become the victim.  They will tell you things like “I’m always the problem”, or “I can never do anything right” to avoid having to own their actions and apologize.  (And this act works with many of the people around them.  Some of these mothers have Munchausen Syndrome, in which they also create illness in order to be seen as weak and remain the victim.)

And change their behaviour?  Never.  They don’t need to change.  It’s you who’s the problem.  And on top of it, if you address their behaviour, your memory and your sanity will be questioned.

They will round up an army around them who will take their side and who will defend them to the death; they will always make excuses for their poor behaviour.  “Mom just doesn’t know any better.”  “She doesn’t mean anything by it.”  “Don’t be so hard on her – she’s old.”  She is an expert at appearing weak to remain the victim; as long as she is the victim, she will never have to be responsible or have to change her behaviour.  And she will always have a group of people who she has convinced of this, so anyone who questions the dynamic becomes the monster.  Never her.

She will gaslight you, and raise her children to be expert gaslighters too; if you have a problem with her, you must be depressed.  That memory of her lying to you or hurting you?  You’re remembering wrong, that never happened.  You’re just being over-sensitive and making a mountain out of a molehill.  That’s silly.  And her army of supporters will do the same thing to you.

She will project onto you the very thing she is and does.  She was the one who struggled with depression and lied about the purpose of that little blue pill on her placemat every night, but it must be you who has depression and isn’t ok.  She was the one who acted poorly and hurt people’s feelings, but somehow it’s you who does that.  She was the one who hurt people and could never apologize, but she will find a way to say that it is you who always does the hurting.

But the worst part of all of this, is that it’s hidden.  People outside of the family will rarely see these things; heck, people inside the family are often blind to it too.  Narcissists are experts at keeping up a facade of being a great person, a great mother, a great wife.  But behind closed doors, they are something different.

Nobody knew my mom locked me in my room every afternoon until I was 6 to make me take “naps” while she watcher her afternoon line-up of soap operas.  Nobody knew my mom forced me to stay in my room for days at a time when I was home sick.  Nobody knew my mom never taught me about sex and periods.  Nobody knew my mom lashed out at me and never heard my heart.  Nobody knew my mom didn’t comfort me when I needed it.  Nobody knew my mom, ironically, was the biggest reason I needed comfort.  Nobody knew there was a little girl who was dying inside who was waiting for someone to come and save her.

But no one came, because no one knew.

Survivors of narcissistic abuse usually suffer alone, because it’s often not obvious what is being done to them.  If they were to speak out, people usually don’t believe them.  Very frequently, the siblings themselves often can’t or won’t acknowledge it either; either they were the golden child who didn’t receive the same poor treatment, they’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and can’t see or admit to the abuse, or they are fearful of speaking out.

Sometimes we ourselves have a hard time pinpointing the abuse.  We spent a lifetime being gaslighted – told we were crazy, too sensitive, imagining things, or simply telling lies.  Our inner guidance system is like an engine who’s wires have all been disconnected, so trusting our gut is something we have to relearn.  Many of us who have suffered this type of abuse have a hard time trusting ourselves, because we’ve spent so much time suffering alone and coming to the conclusion that maybe we really are the crazy one.  No one else seems to notice, so maybe we are the problem after all.

What also makes the abuse difficult to see, is that Narcissists work really hard to keep up a facade that would refute anything that would accuse them of their behaviours – they are often well-liked people, are active in church communities, and even adopt children (more on that in a coming post, as I was adopted).  We don’t have physical scars to prove what was done; we only have a wounded heart and the lingering symptoms of trauma (nail biting, depression, anxiety, trust issues, hyper-vigilance, just to name a few).  And, we’ve been taught to be silent.

Often we’re not only taught to be silent, we’re threatened to remain so.  To speak out would be to expose the lies and the entire dysfunction system that the family works with.  The narcissist has their army’s full loyalty, and anyone speaking out will be the victim of more gaslighting, smear campaigns, and control tactics.

Speaking out is literally to stand in front of a firing squad.

Well, here I am.  I am speaking out.  Let the weapons fire.

Is it easy to speak up?  No, it’s not.  Isn’t it disrespectful to speak up, to tell the stories of others’ flaws without their permission?  No, it isn’t.  The very person who tries to hide the truth is the one who needs to be exposed.  A person who sees the wrongs they have done, and have sought reconciliation, aren’t scared of their stories being told; only the abusers who are still hiding their abuse are the ones who are scared.  It is not my job to protect the very people who should have protected me and didn’t.  It is not my job to protect those who hurt me and have never sought to make it right.  It IS my job to be honest, and to heal.

So honest I will be.  Because to heal, we need to speak.  We need to expose this stuff, so that even while we’re in the arena bleeding, we can let someone else know we’re here in the thick of it, and we’re doing okay.  Honesty about our stories encourages other people to step into the arena to take back their life.  Sometimes we need to see someone else do it to know that we can, too.

Because maybe there is someone out there who also knew their mom was different.  But hasn’t been able to really put their finger on it.

Maybe someone reading this is finally having their abuse validated, and feels a glimmer of hope thinking that maybe they are not inherently unlovable and worthless.

Maybe this will help someone who has struggled because they didn’t have the love and nurturing they needed as a child.  I hope this helps someone out there know that it wasn’t them who was the problem.  I also hope it helps someone realize this isn’t normal, and that they were done wrong.

So if you are also a survivor of the psychological abuse from a narcissistic mother (or any narcissist, really), I want to say, I’m glad you’re here.  Your experience is valid.  Your feelings are valid.  You are not crazy.  You are not the problem.  You are worthy of love and empathy.  You are loveable.  Having a narcissistic mother leaves a child alone and damaged, but the damage is repairable.

There is hope.

Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.  – Ephesians 5:11

Please Stop Telling Adopted People to be Thankful – and 9 Reasons We Don’t Need to Be

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As an adopted child, I’ve heard every ridiculous comment about adoption you can think of.  My whole life, I’ve had to navigate awkward conversations, questions I didn’t have answers for, being called names like “bastard”, and being asked why my mom didn’t want me.

But the worst one?  The most cutting one?  When people tell me I should be thankful.

Recently I had two family members on different occasions rebuke me for speaking out about my lack of intimate relationship with my mom.  One of their reasons they used to try to silence me?  I should “be more thankful” that my parents saved me.  Because, you know, adopting me was so selfless and sacrificial, and that should nullify any hurt or negative feelings I had or have.  I’m not showing my thankfulness very well if I am open and honest about my childhood.

But the sad thing is, this attitude isn’t just from family members who are upset about me sharing.  I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed from various places my whole life.

It’s an attitude that needs to stop.  It is hurtful and damaging to an area where there was already so much damage done.  Being adopted is a damn hard road for those of us who walk it, and we don’t need it to be any harder.

So here are 9 reasons why adoptees don’t need to be thankful:

1. Our lives began with major loss.

As adoptees, we experienced major loss at a very young age; we lost our mothers, our chance at a secure attachment, and often times we also lost a sibling or siblings.  Can you imagine as an adult losing all the people that matter most to you, in one foul swoop?  Never mind for that to happen when you were a vulnerable, innocent infant?  Can you imagine if someone were to take you away from everyone and everything you know, and put you in a group of strangers and told you this is where you’ll live now?

But we should be thankful for this?

2. We had to become someone else.

I don’t care who you are, your heritage and your genetics matter.  They are part of who you are.  As adoptees, all of that gets erased the minute we are adopted.  All of a sudden, we have to assume a new identity; we are often given a new name, a new family, a new heritage to take on as our own.  Often there is no more mention of our heritage or our family of origin.  Our genetic makeup, our geneology, and our cultural background is lost and forgotten, and we are given a replacement set of those things that we must accept and become.

But we should be thankful for this?

3. Information about our past is hidden or kept from us.

This one is not always the case, but in my case this is true, and for lots of others.  My adoptive parents knew that I had Indigenous and Scandinavian roots.  They knew I had an older sister.  They knew my birth mom had brown hair and brown eyes and had a small, slight frame (just like me), and they knew she had an aptitude for art and language (like I do too).  They knew my name was “Melissa Joan Carlson” when I was born.

That information belonged to me, not them.  Yet, they hid it from me.  I never got the privilege of knowing that my skills and talents were genetic, that I bore a striking resemblance to my mom, and that – above all – I had a sister somewhere out there.  Growing up with 5 older brothers, I always dreamed of having a sister.  But I was never allowed the right of knowing any of that.  I remember dreading the “Family Tree” unit that would come every year in school, because my true heritage was taken from me, and without apology.  I didn’t know where I came from, and that is an unsettling feeling.  Giving us a replacement family tree and a fake heritage doesn’t fix it.  We live like imposters being told who we are supposed to be.

But we should be thankful for this?

4. We often grow up in a culture of shame.

My parents hid the fact that I was adopted.  They did tell me, so I give them kudos for that at least.  But very few people beyond those that were around when I showed up at 15 months old ever knew I was adopted (and I attribute that amount of honesty to the fact that they had to explain my appearance somehow!).  And that’s the way they wanted it.  I was told it was better if people didn’t know; I would simply get hurt and people wouldn’t understand.  They said they were protecting me, but I know it was themselves they were protecting.  But I complied, trusting their word.  If people know I am adopted, they won’t like me.  Tell me – do you hide those things you’re proud of, or the things you’re ashamed of?  I didn’t have words to put to it, but it created a deep sense of shame within me to know it was a taboo subject.  If it was something to be hidden, it must be bad.  I must be bad.  I carried that burden for many, many years.

On top of that, I was never allowed to talk about it or ask questions even at home.  I remember having questions burning in my heart, but I knew they weren’t welcome.  In fact, even as an adult, my husband made the mistake of asking my parents what my original name had been – to which he received a sharp kick in the knee under the table from my brother, and an explanation afterwards that “we don’t talk about that”.  The indignant looks on my parents’ faces were a harsh reminder of the silencing and the psychological and emotional abuse I had endured growing up regarding my adoption.

But we should be thankful for this?  

5. Our birth mothers (where we come from) are often shed in bad light.

There is an assumption that if a woman gives up a child for adoption, they obviously weren’t fit to be a good mother.  And that assumption may be true in some situations, though certainly not all.  But to shed a child’s birth mother, where they came from, in a bad light is not only selfish, but damaging to a child’s identity.  How do you think it feels to have someone assume you came from a prostitute or a whore?  How do you think that affects the heart of a vulnerable child when you speak with disgust about the woman who bore the child you are now privileged to raise?  Growing up, I never once heard a positive word spoken about my birth mom.  Never once did we pray for her, talk about what a brave thing she did, or how much she might miss me.  We hardly talked about her at all, and the things that were said were hushed whispers about what a screw up she must have been.  Children aren’t idiots – when you talk about where we came from in that way, it affects them.

But we should be thankful for this?

6. Lots of adoptive parents lack the tools to deal with the issues an adopted child might face.

This is especially true, I think, for those adoptees who are now adults.  (I believe, and hope, these things have started to change.)  My parents had an attitude that they would just bring me home, raise me like my brothers, and all would turn out fine.  They never sought out courses on parenting adopted children, on attachment issues, or reached out for help or counsel in any capacity.  In fact, I would even say there was an arrogance displayed there; an attitude of knowing how to raise kids already, because they had done this 5 times before.  I was expected to just adapt, and to never have issues.  But I did have issues; of course I did!  My birth mom had given me up, I had spent time bouncing around foster homes, I was neglected and physically sick for that time, I probably had trauma behaviours, and I was suddenly put in a family and expected to simply adapt.

And on top of all of that, I knew I was not to bring any of it up.  That hole in my heart was never given a voice; it just continued festering through my childhood, until I finally was able to seek help and healing once I was outside of my parents’ care.  So when people say, “but they did the best they could”, I don’t really agree.  And if that really was the best, it doesn’t mean it was good enough.  And it doesn’t mean they did right by me.  And it doesn’t mean I came out unscathed.  They never sought help, asked for support, read parenting books, or even admitted they didn’t know what they were doing raising an adopted child.

But we should be thankful for this?

7. Our adoptive parents are made out to be selfless saints.

Let’s face it – how good do you feel when you are the subject of pity?  How wanted would you feel if someone asked you out on a date and then told it they did it as a humanitarian effort?  As adopted children, we are often made out to be some charity case, and that is not okay.  Adopted parents wanted children, just like biological parents did.  No one fawns over a biological parent and tells that what a selfless act it was to procreate and bring a child into the world who wouldn’t have been otherwise.  So why would we do that to a adoptive parent?  People do it because adopted children are made out to be unwanted; praising adoptive parents perpetuates this attitude.  (And an even worse step is, “Oh, good for you.  But I could never do it.”  I won’t even touch on that one.)

Another sad reality is that a lot of children are being adopted by the very people who are looking for this attention.  Healthy parents are always looking to pour out of themselves into their children, and aren’t looking to get something back.  Often times, with adoption, a mother (or father, but often it’s the mother) adopts to fill a need.  (In my case, it was a need for a daughter, but it can also be a need to look good in the public eye, or to seek praise or recognition.)  Right from the get-go, this is a dangerous situation; it was never my job to fill a need for my mom.  But not only was I supposed to fill a need, and be the perfect little princess for her (my identity was taken away and I was made to be who she wanted me to be), but she gets praised for being a selfless saint for adopting me.  So this act that appears so selfless to some people, is actually the opposite, and creates further damage to the heart of the adopted child.

But we should be thankful for this?  

8. I would still exist if I hadn’t have been adopted.

The truth is, if my family wouldn’t have adopted me, another family would have.  Perhaps even a family that was healthier!  Of course, maybe a family that was more dysfunctional could have adopted me.  We’ll never know.  But the point is, I still would have had life without my adoptive parents “saving me”.  Biological children don’t feel the need to thank their parents for conceiving them, do they?  For “saving” them from the plight of non-existence?  Are biological children told they should be thankful their parents had some hot sex that one night and got pregnant with them?  No!  And in fact, if any child should be thankful, it’s the one who wouldn’t even exist unless their parents had fornicated at that exact moment.  I don’t go around telling people to remember to be grateful their dad and mom had intercourse and his sperm fertilized her egg, because they wouldn’t be here without that.  That’s ridiculous.  It’s just as ridiculous for anyone to expect an adopted child to live in a forever state of gratitude because someone took pity on them.

But we should be thankful for this?

9. We are talked about like we are stray dogs that someone took in.

One common theme that runs through all of these points, is that they all come from an attitude that adopted children are unwanted.  No one sees adoption as a humanitarian effort unless you see it through the lens of “nice family takes in poor, unwanted child”.  If we were to see it as, “family gets privilege of raising and learning from this child, and growing into a mutual love and bond” (and I’ve seen this attitude in adoptive families, so I know it exists), people wouldn’t say these things and hold these attitudes.  It doesn’t feel good to be looked at this way, especially when we already have other heart issues to work with.  Don’t add to it.

But we should be thankful for all of this?

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Please stop telling us to be thankful.

We shouldn’t be pressured into being thankful for things that non-adopted kids aren’t pressured into being thankful for.

And for the record: I’m not thankful that I was placed in a home that not only didn’t recognize my unique needs, but ignored them and then used them against me when I did start speaking up.  I’m not thankful that my being adopted is used as a means to manipulate me into allowing poor treatment of myself and my family, and then to silence me about it.  I’m not thankful that I am told that putting up healthy boundaries isn’t showing gratitude like I should be.

So no – I’m not thankful for any of that.

But you know what I am thankful for?

I’m thankful that in the midst of brokenness, God was there.  And still is.

I’m thankful that it was never His plan for me to be hurt or damaged.

I’m thankful that He had a will and a way for my heart to be healed, and that he put people in my life who support that path.

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to find ME – the real me.  I’m thankful to discover my heritage, my past, and my birth siblings.  I’m thankful for the parts of me that have been woken up, and to see how much genetics do play a part in who we are.  I’m thankful that after years of missing this, I now have people in my life who are related to me by blood, and that we can compare looks and mannerisms and quirks.  I never had that growing up.  I am thankful for it!

I’m thankful that my brokenness as a child has helped me become the mom that I am.  I am thankful for the redemption I’ve found in parenting, that I can be the mother I never had.  Sure, I make mistakes, but I am thankful I learned to hear my kids, validate their feelings, own what I’ve done, and ask for forgiveness.  I am thankful I am able to do for them what my little heart screamed for as a child.

I am thankful when I see adoptive families who do this differently.  I find hope to see adopted kids’ needs be acknowledged and met.  I am thankful to see adoptive parents seek support and knowledge, and put their kids’ well-beings above their need to be praised or thanked.

I am thankful for a husband who has loved and accepted me in my mess.  Who has held me as I’ve cried.  Who’s listened for hours when I’ve had revelations about the past, or pulled back a new layer of my heart.  Who has bore the most brunt of my woundedness, but loved me anyways.  Who is on the same page as me and wants to grow as a person too.

And you know what?  I am thankful for my adoptive family.  I’m not thankful for the reasons I’ve been told I need to be, but I am thankful.  God turns all things for good, and He has certainly kept His promise.

Lastly, I’m thankful to have found my voice and courage to speak up, even in the face of pressure to stay silent and keep things hidden, so that others can hear the truth and find support and freedom we all need.  I would be even more thankful if I knew these words resonated with someone and helped them, which is what my heart truly is.

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Please feel free to share if this resonated with you,

or you feel someone would benefit from hearing this!

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* I suspect already this post will receive some heat, either to my face or behind my back.  I have been told that to speak out when you’re not reconciled with people involved is not okay.  Here are my thoughts on that:  1) Reconciliation only occurs when both parties will acknowledge and validate the others’ feelings, take responsibility for hurts both ways, ask for forgiveness, and then change future behaviour.  All of those things have to happen for true reconciliation to take place.  2) If the door has been open for that to happen, and it has not been walked through, it is no longer my responsibility.  My openness is my responsibility; I am not responsible to make other people open to this.  And truthfully, it may never happen, so my life needs to continue regardless.  3) I am not going to hinge the fate of my calling on someone else’s life choices.  4) These actions were wrong the moment they happened, not the moment I decided to share about them.  5) It is not my job to protect anyone, but it WAS their job to protect me, and that didn’t happen.   6) This is the most important one to me: I have been inspired, changed, challenged, renewed, healed, and encouraged by the stories other people have taken the courage to share.  A lot of those stories were shared in the absence of reconciliation (because then it would hinge on other people taking part), but in the presence of pure motives and a heart for those who would read it.  It is a risk, for sure.  But I’m diving in.  And above all, I care more about what God has called me to do, then what other people think.  I will not allow the enemy to shut my mouth to the things God has called me to open it about.  He is my refuge, even when the storm rages. 

The Heart Behind our Parenting Opinions – and Why It Matters

Today, with social media, it’s not uncommon to know another parent’s opinions but to know nothing of the heart behind it.  We read about other moms’ passions as we scroll past on our Facebook newsfeed, but the disconnection from her heart and her story makes her passions easy to dismiss and even easier to judge.

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Every parent has an area of passion when it comes to parenting; a mountain they are willing to die on, so to speak.

For some, it may be car seat safety.  For others, it could be limiting screen time.  Perhaps a friend of yours is adamant their children remain gluten-free, and maybe your neighbour down the way is equally as adamant that kids never climb slides.

Being a parent is very different today than it was 30 years ago when our parents were raising us; it’s not because they had less concerns, but because they didn’t have social media.  In those days, the only way you knew another mom’s opinions about parenting, was because she was someone who was present in your world; she was someone who you had over for coffee, or met through church, or had children at the same school as yours.  You heard her thoughts and ideas directly from her, and they were directly connected to her heart and her past experiences.   You knew and understood her and her experiences alongside knowing the parenting mountains she would die on.

Today, with social media, it’s not uncommon to know another parent’s opinions but to know nothing of the heart behind it.  Which, I believe, is why it’s so easy to get into the judgement game.  We all do it.

For example:  The thing I am probably the most passionate about when it comes to my parenting is what I am putting in my kids’ bodies.  Anyone who is friends with me on social media will know that I somewhat regularly share about current findings about what is good for our bodies and what isn’t, and I’m not a believer in conventional medicine.  But what you don’t know when you see my posts is the WHY behind my passion.

A few years ago, shortly after weaning my youngest child (she’s now 4), I had a major health crash.  I all of a sudden was hit with insane insomnia (and I never struggle with sleep), I had no appetite and lost weight, and just felt off.  The doctor shrugged and said I must have postpartum depression, because he couldn’t explain why an otherwise-healthy woman in child-bearing years would be experiencing these symptoms.  I told him I didn’t feel depressed or down, except maybe being concerned about why I was feeling this way.  I felt like this for a few months before seeking out some alternative health advice.  I was told I had a hormonal imbalance (they weren’t balancing themselves out after weaning) as well as lots of gut inflammation.  Long story short, I changed my diet (removed processed foods, decreased my gluten/dairy/sugar intake, and ate more whole foods), and felt great 6 months after the “crash”.  I’ve experienced first hand how food played a major role in both the cause of the terrible feeling, as well as the healing and recovery.  That’s a big reason I’m so passionate about what goes into our bodies.

Another “why” to my passion for healthy eating, is because shortly after my episode of not feeling well, we started noticing some strange behaviour in our one son.  He couldn’t walk more than a block without crying that his legs hurt.  He had no energy, was often grumpy, started developing allergies, and was completely insane if he had sugar.  I sought out medical advice just to cover my bases, but again – they had nothing to say about it.  This kid would have ended up on Ritalin if we had continued with that route.  Instead, we knew that outward symptoms are just a sign of inward issues.  And sure enough, with some help of a naturopath and some diet changes, we saw HUGE changes.  Other people saw the changes, too.  He started having energy.  He was calmer and happier.  He stopped wetting the bed.  His eyes were bright again.  All changes that came when we started taking crap out of his diet, and putting good stuff in.  His behaviour can still be affected by sugar and dyes, so we limit those as much as we can (but also let him be a kid as much as we can).  Anyone who has seen their child act like a drunken, angry fool simply because of what was put in his body has to start questioning if those things should be going into any of our bodies.  I sure did, anyways.

On the outside, maybe all you see is a health-obsessed mom who doesn’t know how to let her kids have some fun.  Maybe you roll your eyes because I don’t let my kids have Halloween candy, and you think I’m controlling.  Or maybe you think I’m ill-advised and jump on whatever health bandwagon comes my way.  It’s okay, you probably didn’t know my story.  Because we usually don’t, and so instead we judge.  We didn’t hear the story from our fellow mom as we sat on the park bench while our kids played; we read it as we scrolled past on our Facebook newsfeed, and the disconnection from another mom’s story makes her passions easy to dismiss and even easier to judge.

So here’s the thing I want to remember:  That mom that’s obsessed with car seat safety? Maybe she was in a car accident as a teenager.  That neighbour who never lets her kids watch movies? Maybe her only childhood memory of her mom is the back of her head while she watched daytime television all day.  That friend who won’t let her 10 year-old walk to the park alone?  Maybe she was sexually abused by her friend’s older brother under a playground structure when she was a child.  That mom from school who won’t let her kid touch food that’s not organic?  Maybe her dad died from a brain tumour and she can’t stand the thought of putting chemicals in her kids’ bodies.

And also, I want to be okay to own the reasons why my passions are what they are, but understand they don’t need to be other peoples’ passions.  I might be really adamant about limiting sugar, but you don’t need to be.  You might be really into keeping your child rear-facing until they’re 3, but I don’t need to be.

So even when I don’t hear the stories behind the passion, even if I might never know the “why” that drives it, I really want to learn to give grace.  I want live with the assumption that we all have reasons/experiences/beliefs that drive us to make the decisions we do as parents. And those things aren’t wrong, they’re just different.  I want to give more of this grace, and I’d like to receive it, too.  (But I’m pretty sure I know which of those needs to come first. 🙂 )

So what is your parenting “mountain” that maybe no one else understands?  And what is your “why”?

 

Fighting Battles But Forgetting People

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Are we so busy fighting the big battles and the things that threaten the spreading of the Gospel, that we’re forgetting to actually spread the Gospel?

Lately I’ve see so many articles and posts on social media that are waging war on all kinds of hot topics: Divorce.  Abortion.  Substance Abuse.  Homosexuality.  Islam.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it doesn’t sit right with me.  I’ve been struggling with the idea of us as Christ followers spouting messages about “abortion is a sin!”, and “make your marriage work!”, and “stand up against the muslims taking over our country!”, and most recently, “don’t let those school board heathens take verses from our Bibles!”.

I understand that we need to stand, we need to have convictions and believe in them. And we need to pray.  But in the wake of our social media convictions there lies a lot of carnage; carnage made up of broken human hearts.

Behind that divorce is an exhausted woman who needs some support.

Behind that abortion is a woman living in shame who doesn’t know how she can raise a baby on her own and how she can manage the looks of judgement.

Behind the social drinking is a person who is dealing with a childhood of neglect and abuse.

Behind the homosexuality is a person who feels judged and condemned.

Behind the hijab is a woman who fiercely believes in her Koran and doesn’t know any other reality.

Behind a school board decision is a person who has hurt from the church and is trying to do what she believes is the right thing.

And all of these people, what do they receive from Jesus followers?  They usually receive more shame, guilt, condemnation, and judgement.   These people won’t benefit from a Facebook post that further pushes them away from what they need most.

When I watch how Jesus walked out his short years here on earth, he never addressed the sin or the issue without addressing the heart.  He never did one without the other, except maybe when it came to dealing with those who were religious, the Pharisees.  (I think He knew their hard, proud hearts weren’t open, but the heart of a hurting person would be.)  When a woman was caught in adultery (a sin punishable by death), He restored her dignity in front of her accusers, treated her with love and valued her as a person, and THEN  told her to go and sin no more.  It’s a similar story with the woman at the well.  When He healed people, He never asked them what sins they committed first (though He DID rebuke his disciples for inquiring who’s sin made a boy blind – John 9:2-3).  He took the depravity of the human condition and put it up against the Love of His Father.  And that love won EVERY. TIME.

I really think we have it backwards.  We address the sin in peoples’ lives, and then tell them how to live opposite of that.  We tell them not to get divorced, that abortion is murder, that alcohol abuse is wrong and hurts people.  But we’re not really doing what Jesus did – appeal to the broken heart first.  When Jesus gave love and grace to the sinners he encountered, it was a given that they would turn around and do something different.  Because meeting Love in person form has a way of changing people.  Imposing rules and fighting big issues don’t.

Let’s not forget that behind the “big battles” are people.  People who need love, not hate. People who need what Jesus has to offer, not more of what the enemy offers (judgement, shame, guilt, isolation, condemnation).  What are we offering them when we share politically/racially-charged articles on Facebook?

What are we offering them when we’re fighting so hard for our rights to spread the Gospel, that we’ve forgotten to actually do just that?  None of these issues affect my ability to spread the love of Jesus where He calls me to: which is everywhere, at all times – I need to grow to that!  (Remember that the Gospel is being spread even in places where that very act is punishable by death, so surely we can get around any restrictions imposed on us.)  The big issues don’t stop me from telling one person about the love of Jesus and how He can change our lives.

The big issues matter, but Jesus is teaching me that they don’t matter more than a person.

Jesus fought the big battles by going after one heart.  Then another.  And then another. Let’s go after peoples’ hearts and the big issues will diminish.

Letter Boards by LetterPoet

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I interrupt your regular blog reading for a quick infomercial about my newest project – Letter Boards by LetterPoet.

Please check us out, and read our latest blog post!

 

 

Hope

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Let me tell you a story of hope.  And a story about someone who’s lived without it.

Lately I’ve been feeling an urgency to bring Jesus’ love to the unlovable people in our world.  I’ve always had a passion for people living in the inner city, and particularly for women working in the sex trade.  I’ve been feeling challenged recently about what I’m going to do about that.  Am I going to walk out my passions?  Or let my life and my comfort overrule?  If I’m really head over heels for Jesus, why don’t I share it more often?  Why am I not walking on this earth as Jesus walked when he was here?  Fear.  Comfort.  Insecurity.  To name a few answers to that question.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  (James 1:27)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to walk this out in Edmonton’s inner city.  In my fear, in my wondering, in my insecurity.  But also, in Jesus.  In the confidence I have in Him.

Earlier that day our family had gone skating.  As we were piling out of the van,  my 6 year-old son piped up out of the blue and said, “HOPE.  That’s a nice word.  Hope.”  Our 8 year-old son agreed, and added that we should have named our 3 year old daughter “Hope”. We agreed it was a very nice word.  I honestly didn’t think much of it in the chaos of hockey bag and stroller and busy parking lot.

This was probably not the first time I’ve missed hope in the midst of my own agenda.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit obviously wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the message this time.  He tried again.

When I arrived in Edmonton, I made a quick stop at H&M to grab a few items before heading into the downtown area.  I noticed the cashier had a 4 letter word tattooed across the fingers of her right hand.  I looked harder and saw – you guessed it – HOPE.  I told her of my kids’ conversation of just a few hours before.  She chuckled and said, “That must mean something!”  It must.

I drove downtown, and kept my eye out for whoever it was who God wanted me to minister to.  I felt a bit discouraged when I didn’t see anyone out on the streets.  After some twists and turns, I spotted a lady limping down the street.  She was really labouring just to walk, and her legs bowed out.  I parked up ahead of her a bit, then got out and went to talk to her.

I asked her if she had heard of Jesus, and wheezing and panting she said she did.  (She was not in good shape, she could hardly breathe.)  I asked if I could pray for her, that I had noticed she was having trouble walking.  I told her Jesus wanted to heal her.  She was totally open to being prayed for.  She asked if we could sit, so I helped her to a nearby curb.

I asked her name, and she told me it was Tara.  I told her mine too.  I asked if I could put my arm around her.  I believe that touch is so unifying.  It says, “I’m here with you.  I accept you.”  She agreed and leaned in.

We chatted about her legs.  She told me the pain in them were unbearable.  Then she told me she was angry at God.  I told her that was ok.   I told her He understood, and that He could handle her being mad at Him.

She paused for a few moments, and then said, “Can I tell you something?  A few days ago, I was in such bad pain I almost ended my life.  But you know?  Something stopped me.  I don’t know why, but something stopped me.”

I responded, “Or maybe someONE?”  She chuckled and agreed.

I said, “let’s pray for your legs now!”  I was excited to see what God was going to do.  I just knew He wanted her well.

I got down in front of her, and held her legs (checking with her that she was comfortable with that).  I thanked Jesus for this beautiful woman and then out of my mouth I heard the word HOPE come out – the Holy Spirit had me pray for hope in her life.  For a new season of HOPE like she hasn’t known in a long time.  What is life, what is a healthy body, even, without hope?  Now I knew why HOPE kept finding me that day.  You don’t realize how important hope is until you meet someone who doesn’t have it.

After speaking hope into her life, I rebuked the pain in her legs and commanded healing into them.  I looked up at her.  She was staring deeply into my eyes, and looked totally at peace.  She had a slight smile on her wrinkly face.  I asked her how her legs felt.  Sometimes healing doesn’t happen instantly.  I was ready for this and was intent on persevering until the pain was 100% gone.  To my surprise – and delight! – she said, “There’s no pain.  The pain has left completely.”  She smiled really big now.  “Praise Jesus,” I said!

I sat back on the curb with her.  She continued to tell me a bit about her life growing up in a foster home.  She told me how she meets some Christian girls around downtown and how our smiles look different than everyone else’s.  She said she could tell I was a Christian because of my smile.  She told me how her friend started hitting her and how her last boyfriend was the one who gave her the black eye she had.  She gave me a Kinder egg out of her bag.

I asked her what she really needed, what she really wanted, and what I could pray for her for.  She said she wanted not to smoke anymore, she wanted prayer for her family, and she wanted to have a place of her own to live, where she could watch TV by herself without roommates around all the time.  I said, “let’s pray for those things too”.  So I prayed for her again, bringing her requests before our big Daddy.  Afterwards, she smiled at me, and told me how much better she felt.  I asked if I could take a picture of her, to remember her.  She agreed, and I asked if I could take it of her hands, as I noticed how beautifully she took care of them and how she had done her nails so nicely.  We all need something to make us feel beautiful, don’t we?

We got up to go on our ways.  I asked how her legs were, wanting to make sure she went away with no pain.  She said they were great.  They had been throbbing terribly when I had walked up to her. Now they were fine.

She asked me where I came from.  I told her God had sent me to pray for her, that I had driven an hour to come find her.  I told her that God loved her so much He would do that for her.  She giggled.  She said, “you know, Sarah, I’m around this area a lot.  If you ever come back, you can find me down here.”

Oh, Tara, I’ll be coming back.

She pointed down the street and told me she was heading in that direction.  She asked for money for bus fare.  I gave her $5.  I know a lot of people would say, “She’s probably using that for drugs or alcohol”.  I say, I’m ok with that.  Why?  Because I’ve never known what it’s like to need drugs more than I need food.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in foster care and sell my body on the street and live in homeless shelters and be beaten by men.  If she did use my money for her next hit, I hope the Holy Spirit reminds her of God’s love while she taking that hit.  I believe we need to use wisdom and be lead by the Spirit in our giving, but I also don’t believe we are to judge.  Why would I expect an unhealthy, addicted, wounded, lost person to make a wise choice with my money?  I don’t.

She was very thankful for the money, and then gave me a big hug.  She headed down the street.  I got back in the car and drove away, past the building that was her destination:  HOPE Mission.  And then it hit me as I read those words:  God had sent ME on a Hope Mission.  A mission to bring hope to someone who had none.

My heart grieved as I realized those were the roommates she was referring to.  My heart grieved as I realized what a blessing it is to have a home, a place where I can watch TV by myself.  My heart grieved to think of her sleeping on the floor, surrounded by people on drugs, people getting sick, people acting out beyond their faculties just feet away from her, people who smelled.  My heart grieved to think of how this innocent little girl had been abandoned and so wounded, that she had ended up wandering the inner city in her middle age, instead of living in a home and enjoying grandbabies and hobbies and travelling.  My heart grieved as I recounted all of this to Kris, and asked him, “Where were all the Jesus-followers while she was growing up?”  One.  It could have taken just ONE person to have brought the hope of Jesus to this little girl before drugs and men and a life on the street became her reality.  But Jesus is all about redemption, and I believe that is still His plan for Tara.  And for all the Taras out there.

 

 

 

 

What it actually means to be pro-life

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To be pro-life means you are advocating for a life, not just a birth.

Abortion is one of those controversial topics that has a huge influence on the way people vote.  I can’t remember any election in recent years in which the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” issue wasn’t a part.  And there is certainly no shortage of passion coming from either side of the argument.

In all the articles that fill our social media newsfeeds, and all the televised debates, one question that always remains in my head is, “What happens to those babies?”

You might assume that this question is referring to all the fetuses cut out of their mothers’ wombs and disposed of.  That’s a real concern for many.  I certainly share the concern.

But you know what?  I have a larger concern for those babies who’s lives we are advocating for.  I’m asking about all the babies who live.  Where do they go?  What happens to THEM?

When a woman chooses abortion, she does not want a baby.  Simply telling her she should – or has to – remain pregnant and birth her baby solves very few problems in my mind. It’s great that she remained pregnant and gave birth.  But now we have a baby that wasn’t wanted.

A baby that wasn’t wanted, grows into a child that wasn’t wanted, and becomes an adult that isn’t wanted.

It’s all fine and good to fight for the life of a precious, innocent infant.  But when that infant grows into the behaviourally-challenged bully that targets your child in the classroom, or becomes the drunk, homeless man who stinks and begs you for change on your way to work everyday (“and why doesn’t he get a damn job like the rest of us do!”), it’s not so cute anymore.  It’s not so simple anymore.

We want babies, but we don’t want needy adults who are a drain on society.  We want babies, but we don’t want to get messy.

I’m not saying that every unwanted baby become a bully, a homeless man or a prostitute. Certainly that’s the extreme.  What I AM saying is that it is not right to advocate for lives just to the point that they make it out of the womb, and then think your job is done.  Regardless of the socio-economic status of the mother involved.  I am saying that to be pro-life means we stand for life – the mother’s, the infant’s, and whoever that infant becomes in the future.

Being against abortion means that we are going to have many babies – people – born among us who were not wanted.  Being against abortion means we will have women in our midst who need support and help.  Being against abortion means being willing to foster a child, adopt a child, or to simply step up to help a mom.  Maybe it means volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Maybe it means supporting a single mom financially.  Maybe it means working with a ministry that helps street people find and secure jobs.  Maybe it means being available to babysit for the worn out mom who didn’t want another child.

One thing I know for sure, is being pro-life DOESN’T mean sporting a sign outside an abortion clinic or sharing a Facebook post to voice your opinion, without any intention to support a mother with an unwanted pregnancy or a child who WAS the unwanted pregnancy.

I know that I want to be pro-LIFE – and all that it entails – and not just pro-birth.   Lord, help me be okay to get messy.

 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

-Sister Joan Chittister

The dishes can wait, but they don’t go away

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One of the pieces of parenting advice whose short-sighted thinking is positively correlated with its frequency of being heard is this:

“The dishes can wait; your kids are only young once.”

One part of that piece of advice is true.  And the other one… maybe partly true.  Yes, my kids are only young once.  And yes, I suppose dishes can wait.  But waiting dishes ≠ disappearing dishes.  Waiting dishes ≠ clean dishes.

No.

Waiting dishes multiply.  And smell.  And attract the kinds of critters my kids would love to keep in a jar.  In a jar?  A’ight.  On my countertops and sink?   Um no.

The same rule applies to a similar piece of advice regarding laundry.

“Leave your dirty underwear, play with your kids!” they say.

Sounds like in-the-moment-ridiculous-planning-oh-crap-I-have-no-clean-gitch-for-the-next-day kind of thinking.  How does not having clean undergarments for the next day – or clean bowls for the next morning – help my kids stay young?  How does a growing mountain of sticky peanut butter plates make more time for me to give to my kids?  How does ignoring a pile of clothes with last week’s spaghetti sauce crusted on it afford me more enjoyment and presence with my family?

It doesn’t.

It just delays the inevitable and makes me feel like I have just opened up a window of time.  It tricks me into thinking I’ve gained something I didn’t.  I certainly did not gain time.  But I suppose I did gain something: I gained more to do later.  I also might have gained ants in my house.  And I might have even gained some odours I wasn’t planning on.

Waiting dishes do not disappear or create less work for me.  Waiting actually creates more work for me, because it gives the oatmeal one more day to strengthen its resolve to never never never come off.

Sometimes leaving chores is okay.  Sometimes an adventure is calling and the benefits far outweigh the risks.  But that is not everyday, and that is certainly not a way to live all the time, at least not for me.  I’d rather a mole hill of laundry regularly, then a mountain that will drown me for an entire day.  Leaving a chore doesn’t mean it decides to stop demanding my time.  (If it did, I would certainly be game to heed this piece of advice!)

But I do kind of get it.  I think when older ladies say this, they are trying to say, “I worked and cared about housework too much while my kids were young, and now I regret it”.  The thing is, we all will do that.  I think all parents will look back and think, “I could have done more ____ and less____”.  It’s easy to look back and forget how tired you sometimes were, or how you needed a break (and staring into space while washing pots in the quiet ain’t half bad), or how much work it is to keep a home running and feed everyone.  I think lots of things about parenting are easy to say when you’re no longer in the throes of skid-marked underwear left on the bathroom floor and old cornflakes left in bowls everyday.

But the thing is, when you’re 60 and looking back on your life, you’re not remembering the laundry.  You’re not remembering the dishes.  You’re remember your sweet cherubs – who have now all grown up – as they slept in their beds, or the time you played memory and laughed all afternoon, or the time you read books and accidentally missed bedtime.  You wished you had done more of that, so the obvious solution is to skip the chores and just DO more of that.  But the reason you did the chores, is because they had to be done.  And you forget that.

I’m not advocating that our homes be pristine and we are constantly on top of things. Or that we don’t sometimes just have a “screw the laundry” attitude and go on an adventure.  But I do think we shouldn’t feel bad for having our kids wait to play a game until the laundry is in.  Or tell them that right now, our goal is to get the kitchen tidied.  Sometimes chores wait.  Sometimes kids do.  But as moms, we get to decide that, and we shouldn’t feel guilty when the pee-stained toilets win.

Like for all things in life, I believe in balance.  We can have (semi-)clean bathrooms AND kids who’s hearts are full.  We can make sure our clothes and dishes and toilets aren’t growing mushrooms or penicillin, AND make sure we spend time with our kids.  It’s not one or the other.  I want to teach my kids to have adventures and also honour responsibilities.  I want to teach them – and model – balance, character, and how to do hard things that we just don’t want to do.

And I will try not to tell them that their dishes can wait when they have kids.  I want to tell them that it’s okay to do the dishes first sometimes.  It’s okay if the kids are the ones to wait sometimes.  Heck, I’d love to be the older lady that says, “why not have your cake and eat it too?  I’ll come do your dishes, and you go do that paint class with your kids?”

So instead of those guilt-inducing memes about cherishing our kids’ childhoods (because, seriously, who isn’t trying to do that every.single.day?), how about a meme that tells us to not feel badly about washing stains out of our clothes and having clean plates to eat on and getting the sticky spots off our floor.

Because dishes CAN wait, but they don’t go away (unless the older lady who tells you that is willing to make them go away for you…!).

So moms, if you sometimes say “no” and choose dishes instead, don’t feel bad.  The dishes won’t go away, but neither will you children and your love for them.

Why Christians need to stop hating prosperity.

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“Health and wealth”.  “Prosperity gospel”.  Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give.  These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.

I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind.  In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed.  So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all.  You know, lest someone be offended.  Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.

This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion.  If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it?  If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars.  Right?  “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity.  I can’t accept that.”  If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?

The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad.  Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?

Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”.  In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God.  When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it.  They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things.  Seems a little backwards to me.

So who’s the source of the things we have, then?  If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it?  There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:

  1. You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life.  “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.”  God is not part of the equation here.
  2. The enemy has provided it for you.  (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here.  We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.)  God is not part of the equation here either.
  3. It’s just kismet.  Fate.  Good luck.  Again – God is not part of this equation.

Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it?  It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence?   It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?

There is something so, so wrong with this picture.  Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t.  And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t.  Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).

But what does the Bible say?  Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13).  Super rich in material things.  But it wasn’t just for him.  He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2).  The Bible also talks about Job.  He was extremely rich too.  “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?”  Yup, it was.  And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more.  Even more material things.  God did that.

This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.”  Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings.  And those are far greater than earthly ones!  In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us.  We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc.  But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.

In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“.  I didn’t say it, the Bible did.

Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough.  Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have.  “Well, I need this van.”  Actually no.  You don’t need a vehicle.  “I need a house to live in.”  Again, no you don’t.  You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty.  So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed.  So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed.  Blessed beyond measure!  “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.”  Who are you to say that?  Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large.  So who’s to draw the line?  That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have.  You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not.  I know these things, because I did them.  All of them.

So here’s the thing.  Here’s the reason all of this matters:  Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else.  If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it.  I earned it, it’s mine.  But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom.  I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.

And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it.  How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?

It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.

It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.

It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.

It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.

It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.

You don’t NEED money to bless people.  We should be blessing any way we can!  But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways.  So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.

We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them.  And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.

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My heart in this is not to pass judgement.  If this is where you are, I get it.  I really, really do.  Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you.  None of us have arrived, none of us know it all.  This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.

 

What Do I Need to Let Go Of?

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When I struggle or I’m working through something (whether it’s a deep relational issue, cranky kids, or a pile of laundry), the first place my mind goes to is, “Okay, what do I need to do here to make this better?”

Usually the answers I come up with are along the lines of: be nicer to the kids, get that load of laundry done, try to change my thought and behaviour patterns, respond differently next time, etc. etc.

But I recently figured out that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

God spoke to me last week about this.  I was feeling overwhelmed and all over the place, and about to go over the same old mantras of figuring out what I need to do to fix it.  God gently said to me, “it’s not about doing, it’s about letting go”.

So He said that in those moments, I need to ask Him:

What do I need to let go of?

See, doing just puts more pressure on.  And typically, the only reason I am wanting and needing to do something different is because the pressure is already on.  Another thing to do really doesn’t help.

But letting go of something?  I can do that.  I need to do that.

Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is something concrete:  an added task that pushes your day over the edge, a toxic relationship, a box of junk that just clutters up your space.

And sometimes the thing we need to let go of is an expectation:  an expectation that my to-do list is empty, or that my house will stay clean, or that my kids will behave perfectly.

Doing puts pressure on.  Letting go takes it away.

Doing fills my plate.  Letting go clears it.

Doing makes me tired.  Letting go helps me to breathe again.

Doing is a burden.  Letting go lightens the load.

The great thing about this is that even when we don’t know the answer to this question, if we will quiet ourselves and listen, we have a good, good Father who will tell us.  He always knows what we have been holding on to that is not good for us.  He knows what we need.

So, what do you need to let go of today?

Trust me, you’ll feel lighter when you give it up.  🙂