Parenting: Transforming big fear into bigger faith

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Soak that in for a minute.

“Let your faith be BIGGER than your fear.”

When my friend JUST posted this moments ago on her facebook page; I thought, “PERFECT”!  God’s so cool with His impeccable timing.  If we listen for that still, small voice… It’s there.  We just have to slow downlook, and listen.  Thank you friend for posting this!

“Let your faith be BIGGER than your fear.”

In order to allow our faith to be BIGGER, we have to figure out what our fear is.  What’s yours?  Sure, we all have the general same fears.  Put a random spider near me and I’ll throw down more advanced martial arts moves than Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chuck Norris could ever achieve in their lifetime of martial arts studies!

Nah, I’m not talking about that kind of fear.

I’m talking about the REALLY scary stuff.

You know… like “Will I ever feel good enough?”  “How can I provide for my family?”  “Am I doing the right things as a parent?”

That last one.  “Am I doing the right things as a parent?”  Ouch.  This one is a biggie for me.  Again, I’ll refer back to previous blog posts for a bit more information why it’s a biggie.

Of course I hope to do the right things.  The best things.

But I think there’s a better way to phrase that question to where it’s not even a question at all.

Let’s try this on for size.

“God, help me.  Help me seek YOUR will as I make parenting decisions.  Give me peace and a calm, loving, and forgiving heart at all times.  Our lives are in YOUR hands.  Thank you for trusting me to be a parent and for blessing me with this precious gift of life.  Thank you for showing me what a heart of sacrifice looks like.  I love you.  Amen”

Much better.  Lengthier, but better.

God wants us to call out to Him.  He’s here through the awesome and not-so-awesome times.  He’s cool like that.

Parenting can be messy.

I’m talkin’ red spaghetti sauce in the hair, up the nose, on the wall, on the white dog’s head because she has zero depth perception when the kid drops food kind of messy.

How’s that for some imagery, y’all?

It also hurts.

Consistency is very important in parenting in more ways than one.  Kids crave it.  They aren’t going to say, “please mom, serve me some more consistency please”, but they need it.  Consistency is more than establishing routines.  It establishes safety, security, healthy attachment.

Then it should be easy, right?

WRONG.

Our kids’ hearts get sad.  We get sad.  It’s easy to give in.  Appease the situation momentarily.  It really goes back to the whole “give a man a fish…” proverb.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Yep.

Teaching.  Scaffolding.  They go hand in hand.  Model the behavior you wish to see.  Your children will build themselves up and learn to self-regulate their own emotions and behaviors.  It’s very cool to see.  Not always easy to do.

Okay, so why all the parenting talk?

This past week has been rough in some ways.  Not all, but some.  Again, there’s that optimist comin’ out!

We have had super frigid temps and snow, so we have had several days together at home all together.  NOT complaining.  I love being at home with my family and would do it full-time if able to do so financially.  Of course, this brings about a few stressors.  Cabin fever.  Issues with returning to daycare after lots of family time.  Plus, when there are other stressful situations, we sometimes have associated feelings that cloud our thoughts and slam that faith door shut.

Those who REALLY know me know that I’ve often had to be a parent to my own biological mom, both as a child and much more frequently as of recent.  I spoke to my former guardian who received a message from my mom (mom doesn’t have my phone number).  Mom needed assistance as she has needed before.  Without giving every detail… it was one of those give a fish or teach to fish situations.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to be taught this particular life skill and it has been very seriously detrimental to her well-being.  She’s only 49 and is not in the best mental or physical health.  I advised my former guardian to call DHR (Department of Human Resources), which is like DSS (Department of Social Services) in Virginia for those in Alabama.  I told her that I would make a follow-up call.

I work in mental health.  I know that it is historically more how do I say… tedious for DHR/DSS to get involved with adults than it would be for children.  So many guidelines, criteria, etc. for agency involvement.

So, my former guardian called.  I was given the name and number of the APS worker assigned to mom.  I called immediately and left a message.  After a bit of phone tag on Thursday, we finally connected and discussed mom’s situation in depth.  Again, I can explain more in person but out of respect, will not post all details online.  I explained my fears for her well-being in regard to falls, health issues, lack of self-advocacy skills, and poor decision-making ability.

That was enough to have a case opened.

That was fast.

Good, I know.

But think about this…

I’ve had to make these calls for my clients.  It’s not an enjoyable phone call, but is necessary when someone’s well-being is in question.  I get that.

But having to call about your own parent?

Ouch.

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Yep, like that pain that happens when you rip a band-aid off.

Only worse.

It’s just one of those things in nature that shouldn’t have to happen, ever.

I cried and cried.

I’m pretty sure I lost a contact while doing so, because when I tried to take them out later that night… I discovered one was just not there.  I did get a really awesome red eye effect though because I kept trying to get the non-existent contact out.

My heart ached.

But… I HAD to have faith.  I HAD to have my amazing, awesome God hold my hand through calling the DHR caseworker and talking with her.  I was blessed to have family (husband/former guardian) support.  But what I NEEDED was to have FAITH.  That amazing, reassuring feeling that can only come from God to let me know that HE’S GOT THIS!  Mom’s phones are out of minutes, so I couldn’t even let her know.

My heart aches because I know my mom values her independence like whoa.  It’s not likely that it’ll get fully taken away, but I don’t know how the whole investigation will turn out.  I have to have FAITH.

This was Thursday.

I also had a VERY stressful work email that I quite frankly couldn’t deal with at the time since I had just called protective services on my own mother.

Keelyn, our 5 year old daughter, had a rough day back to daycare.  Again, she had been home since Friday evening.  She likes being at home.  She enjoys school too though.  Anyway, she had been pretty upset all morning long.  I’m so thankful that she has loving, caring teachers to be patient with her and who are so concerned and just flat out awesome.

I know it had to do with being at home, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I talked to her midday on the phone and encouraged her to find something positive about school and let her know that it’s hard for mommy and daddy to go back to work after being at home for extra days too.  We discussed what she could do when upset, etc.

So, I get home and wait for the rest of the crew to get here.

Keelyn immediately asks to play with my phone.  I’m cool with electronics and all, but in moderation.  We’ve not really moderated it a ton BEFORE…  So this was a big upset in her sweet little heart.  I offered options, nope.  Even said “no”.  Nope.

It was heart-wrenching.

She was upset, but again… moderation is so important.  As mentioned way above, so is consistency.  No giving in at this particular moment.  She also knows we have a sort of “3 strike rule”.  3 strikes for non-awesome behavior and no TV.  Well, that happened.  She was trying to grab at her TV and it became an issue of safety.  It’s a small TV, but could still hurt a foot if dropped on anyone, so I took it and put it in the van.

That went well.  Not.

2 1/2 hours of crying, yelling, screaming.  No.  Shrieking.

That was new.

She’s so very sensitive.

My husband tried calming her.  Nope.

It was VERY crystal clear that we were in this storm for the long haul.

I cried right along with her a lot of the time.  I kept my voice calm, because really… when does yelling REALLY help?  I mean like really, REALLY help in these kinds of situations?

We finally ended the night by me holding my phone and allowing her to watch 3 videos right before bed.  Needless to say, she was tired.

This was a moment where I felt in constant prayer.  I NEEDED my awesome God to be beside me because my girl was very sad and I wanted to APPROPRIATELY make it right.

He encouraged me to ride out the storm.  I called on Him when needed and He was there each time to help me navigate those tumultuous waters.  (Thank you God!)

It was a very tough evening.

Allowing Keelyn to express how she felt (safely), while knowing mommy and daddy were both there for her was the best thing that we could have done.

No judgment on her.  Just freely allowing her to safely express her feelings.  She needed.it.

The cuddles and talk at the end of the night were all worth it.

I could have been more antagonistic and could have yelled (I’ve been guilty of this and HATE IT!), could have more easily given in to letting her have my phone, iPad, or her TV.

How would that help?

Where would that put my faith?

It makes my daily walk all about ME instead of me learning to trust HIM.

That makes my faith self-centered instead of Christ-centered.

The result of the situation would be more about what I accomplished and what I could control instead of surrendering and submitting to Him.  My daughter would have seen anger instead of acceptance.  Hatred instead of love.

Pretty much the opposite of what God is and what God does.

Thanking Him for those tough lessons can be humbling and it probably should be.  Was Jesus’ life here on earth easy?  Nope.

Faith can be messy.  Much like parenting.

The cool thing?  God is always there to help us wipe up the messes of life.  Huh… He’s like the Quilted, Quicker, Picker-Upper.  Cool!  We just have to trust Him to be able to help us and know that it takes crazy faith to know that He can handle the biggest of messes, the scariest of fears.  Another cool thing?  He wants us to learn and grow.  He’s there when we have our tantrums and is that calm, loving parent.

It’s true though.

Think about it!

I leave you with this song.  “Always” by Seventh Day Slumber.  It’s beautiful.  Though it’s more geared toward a father/son relationship… it is EASILY relevant for a mother/son, mother/daughter, caregiver/child relationship.

Even when I’m far away
I will dream of you tonight
I will pray to God to bless your life
Always, always
As you grow and start to change
I will love you just the same
Always, always

And when you feel like giving up
I will walk you through the pain
And when you feel like life’s too much
Remember Jesus is your strength

“Always” by Seventh Day Slumber

This is where the healing begins…

The following is a glimpse into my past, it’s only a chapter in “my” story.  Or, as an incredibly encouraging, amazing, uplifting friend at church said… it’s really NOT mine.  It’s SO much bigger than that.  🙂  Writing this was hard… it’s personal – very.  But folks, it’s my testimony!  I.  Have.  No.  Shame.  Writing this was a big step to my spiritual healing.

Struggle…

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “struggle” as the following:

To make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition.  To proceed with difficulty or with great effort.

I can attest to the accuracy of this definition.  My life has been a series of struggles if one wants to think of it this way.  Sometimes, when I am in the midst of a trial, such as now, I tend to see things through those not-so-rosy glasses.  I hate those moments when I think that way.  I am a hopeless (or is it hopeful?) optimistic.  I can find the good in most any situation.  I like to move past those periods of struggle and trials to better and brighter days.  Anyway, I digress…

Several of those who have known the intimate details of the struggles I endured growing up have always encouraged me to write about it.  “Write a book!”  “Create a memoir.”  This is not that… yet.  Down the road, maybe.  This?  This is just a pouring out of pent up emotions and a release, more relating to personal historical accounts and current events as they affect me.  However, to get to understand me – I should start out with some history.

So, in a not-so-tiny nutshell…

I lived with my mother, off and on, until I was 15.  She did the best she could with the tools that she had as a parent.  Hear me… I know she did the best she could.  I had times where I stayed with friends, various family members, grandparents, and the occasional abandonment.  Grant it, that abandonment sometimes ended up with me staying with friends – so that was “okay” to me.  There was the one time when I was around 6, and my mom dropped me off at our local police station.  I discovered this not so long ago.  Some of my memories just kind of mush together and things get foggy.  I came to know the police chief and his wife very well!  I remember, and this may have been during the “let’s drop Amanda off at the Police Station” event, that his wife took me to get my hair done!  I was SO excited.  Grant it, it wasn’t all just for fun.  I apparently had horrendous head lice and was going to be treated.  I remembered feeling beautiful and so much better after.

Another time, I was 6, and my mom had been using medications, prescribed and OTC, irresponsibly.  There was also marijuana and alcohol use involved.  I remember mom going to sleep as she always did, as did I, but then I recall getting woken up to mom telling me that she had thrown up.  I will never, ever, forget what that pile of vomit looked like at 4:00 am.  I actually recognized some of the pills.  I was six.  Six years old.  She was still feeling high from the medication, so everything was funny to her.  She sent me, in my little summer nightgown, to walk through the apartment complex to find someone with a phone that I could call 911.  I walked around to people’s homes that we knew with no luck.  Everyone was asleep, go figure.  Luckily, my last stop was a lady that lived in the “other half” of our apartment.  They were set up akin to duplexes.  I remember the song playing on her radio and what she wore, even her perfume.  She of course let me call and of course ambulances came out and took mom.  I was again at the home of the police chief and his wife.  How gracious were they?  I am still amazed.  I think I spent two nights there and then stayed with my “aunt” until my mom was released from the psychiatric hospital.  I think this was the first psychiatric hospitalization that I truly do remember.

So yes, my mother has been diagnosed with mental illness.  The diagnoses vary, and have since around 1979 when she was first diagnosed at the age of 14.  I believe the first diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia.  Then came bipolar disorder.  Then later came schizoaffective disorder, paranoid subtype.  I have my own opinion about her diagnosis, but I don’t work with her as a professional.

Growing up was a series of sick-cycles with mom as I called them.  I remember totally normal conversations with her as she told me very descriptive and detailed recollections of different personalities that she had within her.  That was my normal.  Skewed?  Maybe.

There are so many bizarre happenings that I could discuss.  Maybe eventually I will.  I’m sure I will, but there’s a lot that I want to get off my chest.

I grew up as that child who needed the extra love from teachers at school.  It was appreciated!  However, I felt that because of the smallness of our town and the bigness of mom’s issues… all eyes were on me in that “poor pitiful kid” way.  I don’t mean that in a weird paranoid way… but mom did some really strange things at times and I had a lot of pity from others.  It felt weird.  I’ve dealt with it for the most part now.

Was I abused?  Understatement.  By mom?  Physically and emotionally, of course neglected too (knowingly being fed expired food and then being taken to the ER for food poisoning).  I remember telling my AMAZING elementary school counselor that my mom called me a “GD MFing SOB.”  I think that’s how I wrote it too.  I couldn’t say those words.  I was in fourth grade.  Mom was furious because I wanted to stay at my grandparents’ home, so she pulled over in a grocery store parking lot and spoke those words to me, or yelled them.  I’ve been on the receiving end of hands resulting in strong bruises, some of the most beautiful and fierce penetrating shades of purple and red that fade out to drab, olive green and faded yellow.  I’ve had hands against my throat a few times as well.  Then there’s the “typical” belts, branches, electric cords…  That about sums it up from her.

Abuse from others?  Mom’s long-time boyfriend used to try and expose himself to me.  He was attempting to be an exhibitionist.  He always wore those creepy light heather grey sweatpants with the white drawstring cord.  He’d reach for them and pull them down below his genitals.  As soon as his hands reached for his waistband, I’d look away until I knew he had given up on the prospect.  Gross.  Sick.  I had an uncle that would display some signs of frotteurism by intentionally rubbing up against me.  Eww.  He had some other really strange tendencies similar to this when he was drinking.  Nothing sexual with either of them other than that, thank goodness!  I did, very unfortunately, have the experience of sexual abuse by a female family member when I was around 3 years old.  It happened twice that I can remember.  It is a memory that was very deeply repressed, obviously.  I have very vague memories of her performing cunnilungus.  For crying out loud, I was THREE YEARS OLD.  That’s younger than my own daughter.  Am I angry?  Sure.  More hurt than anything after this memory came out though.  It was by a family member that I lived with and loved nearly more than life itself.  My stability.  Or so I thought.  Again, skewed?  Definitely.  Oh, same person ended up, shortly before she died of endocarditis, huffing gasoline from lawnmowers.  Random.  She would sneak out of the house and I’d catch her stumbling in the laundry room.  I had to keep it a secret.  Her husband knew though.   (May they both rest in peace.)

Fast forward to the summer I turned 15.

I was “dating” this guy.  Awesome guy, GREAT family.  I was surprised he was interested.  The middle school (and high school) years sucked for me.  Someone started a RIDICULOUS rumor about me that wasn’t true and it stuck.  Small town social hierarchies… gotta love it!  Anyway, his family was fantastic.  They knew about mom and her issues.  They wanted me OUT of there.  It was to the point that they were willing to let me stay with them.  The sad thing is, this was during a period of time where mom was “good”!  (Sidenote:  I had many good times with my mom and our relationship is constantly improving.  I’m just focusing on the opposite of things right now.)  I do remember mom slapping me in the face sometime during this time – which again was “nothing” to me.  She did wake me up from sleep by banging a butcher’s knife into my bedroom door, YELLING, “WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP!”  That was pretty intense, even by my standards.  That was only feet away from me potentially being very seriously injured.   So, I was going to church with the boyfriend and his family.  There was another family whose matriarch worked at the school in the cafeteria.  Great woman, great influence.   Wonderful family.  They got together with my then boyfriend and said it’d be fine for me to live with them.  So I did!  I could say so much about them!

It was incredible.  It was HARD at first too…  Talk about culture shock!  It was all for the best though.  For the first time in my life, I had sisters (I have a half sister by my biological father who never acknowledged me until right before he passed away in his 40s from cirrhosis of the liver)!  I had STABILITY!  That was awesome.  Purely priceless.  When my family is able to go home to Alabama, this is where I stay.  This is my family.  I do still see my mom.  We visit several times when we’re down.  She and I talk fairly frequently on the phone and I update her about my life and how the kids are doing.

Okay, so I moved in with my guardians.  I graduated high school and began undergraduate school at Judson College.  AWESOME experience!  Now that’s another narrative!  So, Judson is a female college… with a military school right up the road.  That’s how I met my husband.  We met in the Fall our freshman year and started dating in Spring.  We got married after he commissioned as a 2LT.  I still had one more year to finish up, which I did online.  I graduated with my BA in 2007.

So, we were married in 2006.  I graduated in 2007 with my BA; he graduated in 2008 with his BS.  I started my Master’s work in 2008.  We were blessed with a great pregnancy and delivery of Keelyn in 2009.  Shannon was gone a majority of 2008 and 2009 preparing for deployment, which occurred in 2010.  So, I took a year off of school while he deployed to take care of my sweet Keelyn.  I went back to work since it was ridiculously hard for him to find employment after returning from Iraq.  Keelyn started daycare.  In 2011, we had a miscarriage on April 18.  It was a surprise to us too… believe me.  In July, Kavan was conceived – we found out early August.  He was due April 17, 2012,  but born April 7.  I graduated in May 2012.  Good timing.  Add in a ton of job transition and that’s pretty much our marriage timeline.

So… those current struggles?

They’re there… believe me on that one.

A part of me wants to discuss each of them in very great detail, but it’s not the time to do that… yet.  There are some very real struggles happening.  I know, I know… that’s vague.  Just don’t ask.  If you don’t know, there’s a reason.  If you think you know, you most likely know some – but not all.  I know that’s harsh and I apologize.  I’m generally not very harsh (I think).

One particular struggle in the area of jobs.  Can we say transition?  I was so blessed with an awesome job right out of graduate school as a community based mental health clinician.  I stayed in this position for 13 months.  There were some budget changes for the agency and this position on the particular team I was on was eliminated.  So, I ended up turning down an opportunity to move into a different position because I’d miss out on several activities that were very important to my family and myself.  I was granted the opportunity to go into private practice.  Yay!  Awesome!  Under age 30 and to be granted this chance… I was thrilled.  I loved it.  I honestly loved my clients and my co-workers.  However, after a month and a half (such a short season!), this time in my life was over.  There are A LOT more details as to the reasons why this happened… but out of respect and (gasp!) professionalism, I will keep the details to myself and the select few who already know.  I will say that it has been agreed by others that it was unjust and unfair.  There were some awful things said to me when meeting with and talking to this person on the phone during this time.  Moving on…  Beyond that fact, to the person who made the choice to release me from duty… you’re forgiven.  You said I’d be angry… you were wrong again.  I wish you nothing but abundance and blessings, happiness and growth.  Beyond that, I wish you peace!

Beyond the job stuff… there are personal struggles.  Several people know some, but fewer know all details.  My heart has hurt.  It has broken.  It has healed.  It has broken again.  And so on.  It’s on a cycle, if you will.  The great thing though, is that I am so strong.  Unless information has been volunteered to you… my stoicism will not give way to my pain.  Lucky me?  Things can only bottle up so much.  We are all like walking pressure cookers to a degree.  How do I do it?  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t know.  I just do.  Life happens.  Hurt happens.  Pain happens.  Love, joy, grace, peace happens.  Negative and positive.  It happens.

I think I’ll end on this note for tonight…  People, use your past and your present events as hurdles.  Use those pains and hurts as the ground that is propelling you to move forward.  Don’t consider these happenings as crutches, devices to lean on, further perpetuating weakness and inability to heal.   Move.  Forward.  You will get healthier.  You will get better.  It gets better.  It. Gets. Better.

So… straight up – this is a recycled post from a note I created on my facebook account.  I thought I’d share it here on my new blog so that it may hopefully touch others as I gain more followers!