About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Days

So ever have those days when you step outside only to see the train tracks in front of  you are in serious need of repair? Ever worry they won't be able to carry you to safety? Maybe not but I have them often! The truth is after facing the beast, most of us feel fairly brave even if we don’t realize its courage leading the way out of our den of despair, into the darkness while the train of destiny is chugging along. We tend to overlook this strength so often we don’t even realize we have buried this ability deep inside us. It’s not that we aren’t unafraid, leading the way for those who follow behind us, it’s just we have been battling the beast so long, sometimes close to the death, we take it for granted. We  have been found our way out so many times we begin to believe we can rise above the trails of this world without feeling the pain of yet another scar. Then there are those days when we feel fairly broken down, as if cancer has had the last laugh, gotten the best of us and left us without mercy to the buzzards. You know those days I am talking about, when the beast roars her ugly head in those moments life can seem almost impossible. That lump on the back of your head, that pain in your leg or the cough that never seems to go away can be very distracting if you let them. Seriously, I may have beat breast cancer, but I still have days when I worry she may yet still get the best of me (and taking my breast was not getting the best of me!).

On an typical day I am neither a victim or a survivor to be honest, I am Christina, mother of Joshua and Micah, wife to my Johnny, daughter of Bobby and Patty giving all she can to be the best at all three. I don't obsess over where I have been, I don’t call attention to my scars sitting just under the surface. I don't even jump up and down shouting I am a survivor! Mostly I live a simple, very busy life. A life I am humbled to have each and every day and beyond thankful for. Each day I wake I am amazed by this gift I never truly appreciated until I had to face the truth a day may possibly emerge where my children would be raised without me. Today, in the years which have passed since my death match with the beast my days are primarily filled with taking care of those I love. I fight for them, sometimes with them, I listen, I laugh, I fuss, I clean, I cook and I love them beyond measure. I am moved by the small things, grateful for this second chance even if all the pieces don’t fit together all the time, I have today, the here and now. Plans may not always work out but having the opportunity to watch my children grow, find their first love, to experience heart ache alongside of triumph is not a small feat! I am not consumed so much by the what if's anymore, instead I am filled with the joys of today... the drumming coming from upstairs, the dubstep created on the lap top, the football ( even if I gripe) from the TV or the messes left everyday as my family heads out the door for the day. What more could I ask for, seriously I have today, and if God is good I have tomorrow. I have nothing to fear but fear itself and it’s just not an option! Life may have taken a few unexpected turns and this journey may not have been easy, but it has certainly been interesting and real!

I wouldn't change the course, the path my life has taken. All the back alleyways, the pot holes, missteps into 10 foot ditches, the flat tires and bumpy roads I have traveled down in order to keep moving have taught me one thing: strength comes through trial and error. I wouldn’t exchange the pain, the hurt or any of the uncertainty of my life for perfect sailing on the calmest of seas. These scars, the ones I own, are a part of me, left behind as a road map. All the failed attempts at happiness, the oops moments and the dance I have shared with both the beast of breast cancer and the devil have made me stronger, brought me closer to my Father in Heaven. My eyes are now open; I continually count my blessing knowing I have been blessed beyond any measure earthly hands could ever account for. Every detail of my life has had a purpose, good and bad; each one has been part of the process, the unseen hands molding me into who I am today. Yes we all have a story, we all have a past and our own idea of happy ever after, but it's not these things which truly define us. Nope it's what we do with all those things in life, how we convey our stories, how we move forward and how we allow our scars to both teach and bless our lives which truly define us. Honestly our lives are defined by how we rise above the suffering. The pilgrimage we take, embrace for that matter and how we let all the anguish, agony, affliction, distress, grief, woe, suffering, misery, wretchedness, despair, torment, tribulation, trial, torture and the ordeal of life tether our lives into a one of kind, unique and amazing beautiful tapestry is what ultimately defines us!

I have found peace in where I stand today. I am content with who I am in my Lord and where this life has taken me. I am so far from perfect it would make your head spin, but I know I am perfectly secure in where life has taken me all by His hand. I may not have a perfect temper; I may not make the best fry bread or keep up with the laundry like I should. I most certainly may not know the Bible from memory or speak eloquent words at just the right moment. The nitty griddy truth is I am not everyone's ideal mom or even the most beautiful wife, but I am happy with being a work in progress. By God's grace I am alive, I have this second lease on life and I don't plan to waste a moment!

Absolutely I have been hurt, I have felt the distress of bad decisions, I have grieved the loss of my breast, been wounded and injured by both good and bad news, trouble has found me, I have felt depression creeping into my heart, been saddened by loved ones actions, had sorrow cut me to the quick but these things do not own me, nor have they captured my heart. I am a survivor, and yes some days I feel like cancer's victim, broken and bruised, but mostly I am just Christina, Joshua and Micah's mom, Johnny's wife, Bobby and Patty's daughter and oh yes I am also very much a child of God, imperfections and all. I am simple, sincere, and at times insecure. I am not perfect, I make mistakes, take things too personally, have my feeling hurt and I turn into crazy ninja mommy when I feel my babies are threatened. But the real truth is my heart is strong even if my body may be weak. Sure I may fail everyone around me in my weak moments but I am never down for the count. Breast cancer came for my life, she attacked my breast, she invaded my lymph nodes and she tried to steal my joy. Yes, the beast took my breast and she held me down, caused all kinds of uncomfortable in my life, held me under water while laughing at my fear, but you know what, today I am alive, living by faith, sitting here able to tell the tale. No doubt I am a survivor even if I don't feel like one every day. So those days when I feel overwhelmed and worry the cancer has breached some invisible line, when I feel I have failed at everything, I know God’s got this! By God's grace and only by His grace do I sit here today able to smile, laugh, cry, to type on this laptop in front of me and acknowledge I have been given a second chance to experience life and all its joys and sorrows. So today no matter how rusted the tracks in front of me are or even if they begin merging with another train is speeding close by, I am not afraid, cause my journey is already planned and God's got this!   


Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Life

Life and all its stressors can seem out of control on any given day and the idea of a God who's for us can seem un- reasonable. On days like this we can feel forsaken, lost to the abyss and unlikely to find a shelter of any kind from the ugly, harsh and terrifying storms passing overhead. I, myself, have given in to fear countless times; I have lived in an ending darkness, my desire for something more clouding my vision. I have stood looking up from a pit of self-induced pity and turned my eyes away from the One who loved me even before I was born. Today, I am here to say, I have been there, truthfully I find myself in this place of worry, hurt feelings and uncertainty all the time. I fall weak, I give in to temptation, and I lose my self-control and panic, running around in complete darkness, stubbing my toe, looking for a safe place to hide all the time.

If I were to allow the pages of my life to fall open randomly I am not sure I would want anyone to just start reading. My life has been anything but easy, actually I ‘m willing to bet it’s more messy than clean. In my course of almost 39 years I have lived with and through 8-9 major health issues which affect me on a daily basis, everything from diabetes, breast cancer and blood clots. I have given myself over to doubt more times than I can count and the simple truth is my life has not been smooth sailing. Yet in everything I have been through, lived through, His grace has always arisen inside of me. Have I always allowed the Lord to shelter me, to be my strength or even to call me His own? No, I have not, many times I have simply given into doubt, rejected His grace, cried out for a resolution and at the same time pushed His healing hands away, and all as the flood waters rushed my life, ready to destroy this hope of mine.

Breast Cancer, caused me to stop, to be still and to quiet my soul. I was forced to examine everything I wanted, everything I was living for and honestly living by. Even though I grew up in church, had accepted His invitation, I withdrew, living in the shadow of His grace for a period of time. I gave myself over to doubt, took my leave and danced around the truth for a while. I was hurt, I was even angry at the church and the division, hypocrisy, the judgment and condemnation I saw for years. I was lonely, longing for a place to be me, to be rid of conflict and the neglect I witnessed all around me. I wanted to see those mountains moved and yet I was tying myself and those mountains I wanted moved in my life down. Then the breast cancer invaded my world and I had to begin seriously examining my life, my choices and the direction my life was headed in. No, I wasn't a bad person, I wasn't cold hearted, I hadn't turned into a monster of a person but I had given myself over to a temporary lap of reason. I was running in the wrong direction and no one heard me, no one bothered to pull me out from the hopeless pit I had fallen in just outside the shadow of the cross, the trench dug along the outskirts of the church.

To be honest, I was so good at hiding my pain, not many even knew I had gone down a different path. My hurt was so deep, and my guilt so painstaking, as I bumped around in the darkness I became more and more chained down to the chaos spreading deeper and deeper into my heart. I knew there was freedom in the name of Jesus, but the truth was I wasn't ready to except He could love even me, with all my insecurities and doubts. To be honest, staring death square in the eyes, watching her circle what's left of your fleeting life, prancing around in her short pink mini-robe and sickle , eager and willing to deliver her final death blow over your head, well, it scars the Jesus back into you! On a serious note, that kind of new take on life changes your vision just a bit and if you are willing, His grace grabs hold once again, welcoming you home as a prodigal child, loved and longed for.

How does a life, torn apart by breast cancer, fear and denial break out into new life? How does grace cover all I have done, the places I have been or the time I have wasted pushing His love away? Truthfully, it's  done by His unyielding, undying and relentless love. Seriously, He does not care where we have been or what company we have kept. His love is so great, so vast and so encompassing  even when we can't love ourselves His unconditional love never fails. When we feel as if we have gone too far ,when no one can love us, He does. When all we see is failure and inadequacy God allows us to see ourselves through His eyes, through perfect love that has cast out fear. Oh by His great love even those days when it hurts, when it’s hard for me to accept His love, when everything is falling apart and my wounds are deep, I know He is the healer of my scars. The shame I have felt so many nights, when I want to run, to hide and never come out from the closet I’m in He knows, nothing is hidden, He has seen , and yet he loves me in spite of myself. The truth is I am covered, and all those times I want to hide, He is the rock that covers me. Everyone needs forgiveness, a well of mercy and an ocean of grace, He may be invisible to my eyes, but I trust in the impossible, my God is faithful forever, even if I am not. He conquered death, how could He not conquer my fear, my hurt and my insecurity? I had to lose myself, in order to understand who I truly was in Him. When my heart tried to divided me from the Lover of my soul, He came to me in the middle of the battle for my life, leading me back to the cross becoming the Healer of my wounds with a love deeper than the sea, providing a fortress in my weakness and giving me the strength to lift my hands to believe again.

I cried out, worried I would not receive a reply, yet there He was. I was never alone; He was there all the time, waiting on me even when I couldn’t see Him standing there beside me. I could not be separated from grace for His love is as flood waters washing over me, pulling me out of the cold dark waters of fear, doubt and into the arms of His grace and mercy, setting my life free. I can bet Jesus and I caught a few demons by surprise that day! Jaws dropped as I shouted His name above all others, as God Himself released the enemy’s shackles from my soul and set me free. As I rose up in the name of Jesus, no chains binding me, no darkness surrounding me, I became a sinner twice saved by grace. I had to step away from the faith moving mountains I grew up with, to experience what lay beyond the valley to know HIs grace was always there, was mine. My life is new; you can be assured of that, everything I was has been remade by the Giver of Life. I have no doubt I am dearly loved just as I am forgiven. In His presence where I stand, away from the shadows of guilt, I am not defined by my past; I am made new each and every day. I cannot drag anyone to the cross, to accept His grace, I can only serve as a light, a beacon of real, personal grace, not the five and dime Jesus many try to sell these days. In my personal life, I have been given a second lease on life and it's His grace lighting my way. I am not ashamed of the grace, mercy and the genuine love I have found here in His presence. I am at peace, knowing I am not lost in the darkness when it moves through my life anymore.

When is all is said and done, we just have to wait on His presence, especially when the world around us has gone haywire, when we feel empty and so in need. I have found a sweet, beautiful place where His grace flows down and covers me as I wait with my hands raised high in praise. My tears wash away the fear and the peace I find in this place ushers in His anointed grace. Oh but by His grace, by His scars, by His mercy and unconditional love when the Lord moves, when He stirs my heart, my spirit arises and I can feel His unending, unyielding and unstoppable love filling my soul. Thank you Jesus for loving me just as I am, a sinner saved by grace, a new life in You, safe in Your mighty arms.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Zombie Mommy ( When Good Moms Go Bad)

Do you ever have those days when you wake up, your feet hit the floor, and you feel just slightly off kilter? Kinda like one of those digestive ads where everyone is walking sideways, you know the days I am talking about, unbalanced, unproductive and fierce. I sometimes feel the world is beating my door down, mad skills and all that, picking the lock, barreling down, maybe even right through not just the front door, but my bedroom door. Seriously, who let Atlas and the weight of the world in the house? Not sure who was watching the front door, but come on, folks, Atlas? I don't know about you but those are the days I know I am done for even before I get out of bed.

The disorderly house, the household needs shooting at us from speeding trains whizzing by, the bills, the kids, the husband, the dog, it can all be very overwhelming. I may only be speaking for myself here but I am just about as human as they come, even if my family thinks I am some kind of super hero. The truth may be painful, but I am not wonder woman with a cape and golden crown on my head, able to save the day with my powerful lasso. Honestly since I am not the proud owner of x-ray vision, super strength or the ability to be in 2 or 3 places at the same time, I often fall flat on my bum so many more days than I'd really like to admit here.

Those kinds of days are miserable, let's just be honest. They pull at our heels, claw at our energy; drag us down into a pit of self-pity and denial, our desperate pleas for help, which frankly seem to go mostly unheard don't they, seem useless. These are personally my mood swing days, my run for the hills, hunker down, Katie bar the door, when mommies go bad, scream and hit the gas because mom has been turned into a zombie kind of days. These days are full of disorder to be honest, those never ending mixed up days I have to make myself reach really, really deep for a song, pulling back the curtains of my own discontent, and pushing aside the clutter and the muddle in my own life just so I can get out of bed. I kid you not, I just want to slam Atlas back through the same door he bullied his way past during my pandemonium mornings of topsy-turvi-ness and slam it shut in his face, singing to the smurfs la la la la la la tune, don't let the door hit you on the way out! How’s that for hospitality? Not my prouder moments, but it's about as real as it gets right now.

 As women, we tend to hold on to the turmoil circulating around our lives right up until the moment we just can't bare it any longer. The kettle starts to steam and then the whistle goes off and then our handle on the situation is completely lost. I know for myself, I stay calm, taking each blow on my chin until I finally lose my wits and the calm, harmonious Christina flies out the window. Actually my kids would probably say once the situation has become chaotic I go off like a cannon, as they all run from the fireball splitting and speeding in several different directions. Basically life isn't simple, as moms, wives, heck especially after you have been battling the breast cancer beast for a few years life gets really complicated. Many times we are trying so hard to keep it all together, for everyone around us, we end up completely falling apart ourselves. The disarray of waking up to the same mess you picked up yesterday and the day before, and the day before that one, on top of seeing Atlas standing in your bedroom, in fact over your bed asking you to hold up the world for him can be just a little too much! And so we tend to rummage through our days, responding to those difficult, jumbled up situations as if we are in some unending labyrinth with no outlet leaving us dazed and confused.

I can tell you Atlas and his "I've got the World on my shoulders" is no match for Zombie Mommy! My hodgepodge brain, my crisis zone and disaster area during these kinds of days probably seem like an endless area of devastation, desolation, disaster relief area, that is when I swing from crazy Zombie to compassionate nurse all in one breath. I can bet my husband runs out the door on those particular mornings feeling as if he is evacuating an earthquake zone, emergency area, flood zone, utter havoc, serious hot spot, fleeing a path of destruction, as far away as he can from the storm center and war zone erupting in front of him!

Yes, I am admitting I fall into the deep end of the ocean on a daily basis, falling off my rocker and into the commotion, the mayhem, the static, turbulence, turmoil, unrest, unruliness, uproar, havoc and unholy mess of who I become on a BAD DAY! I really hate those days. I don't really like myself too much either when Zombie Mommy emerges. I see the bad days coming, but I am flesh and blood, not a super human. The bottom line is: I am helpless to keep BAD days at bay forever. Sure I could just pull the covers back over my head, I could close my eyes and pretend Atlas hasn't been allowed into my personal, private, and most intimate places but I am human after all, and truthfully as my feet hit the ground so my resolve tends to fade as well. I really don't want to fall apart, or become calamity Jain, but there are just those times my wonder woman mask falls off and troubles and disruption have no choice but to follow me from room to room, out the door and back home again. I seriously become a black hole of sorts I guess, pandemonium in motion,  feeling as if our home has been turned into a madhouse, in shambles,  and I am in  an uproar, like some infected toxic zombie plundering through the day.

But I am an optimist, so I do believe there is always hope, even if it's a tiny spec wedged somewhere between hopeless and helpless. True once Zombie Mommy has come forth from the depths of annihilation, ravishing and ravaging everyone and everything in my path I usually end up acquiring a death grip on my zombie mommy vial of destruction. Ok let's get real; those kinds of days are the ones my hopes and dreams for a perfect life in a very imperfect world epically fail. But you know why they fall apart, well because no one has a perfect life. We all screw up, straddle the fence, make decisions too late, say the wrong thing, forget important dates, and when Atlas shows up full of himself, looking for a stand in we lose it. I am going to be really honest here: I don't just bounce back, I can be very unhappy, and I can stand with my hands crossed, pouting, complaining my life is not wonderful, shouting for the whole world to hear "no let's not all dance around the summer may pole". Perfect, nope, far, far from it in fact. I am as human as we come, a sinner saved by grace, imperfect in every way. So when Atlas shows up looking for a replacement I tend to freak out!  I will cry, rebel until my heart sees the light at the end of the tunnel, putting everything on the table, dirty little secrets and all. I am personally one to have to work through my lawless mess, to have to finally hand over my self- made mess to my Father, in order to let the toxic zombie virus overtaking my just another day in paradise life find a way out of my system. In the middle of my anti- Atlas tizzy I desperately want, no need to grab hold of my inner joy hidden deep underneath my lopsided bed, somewhere between the dust bunnies, no let's be honest the wreckage, of utter confusion and pure bedlam rioting inside my mind on my worst of the worst BAD days!

So when this good mom goes bad, what do I do? Well, I try to find my lull but does patience always find me quickly, does peace of mind, quiet, rest, restraint, serenity, silence, stillness, and tranquility suddenly take hold of my bad day just because I recognize I am having a bad day, no. I tend to have to push Atlas aside and go looking for myself out there somewhere when the truth is I really need to just speak softly to the situation, call the SSBG Center (Sinner Saved by Grace) in to allow my Father in Heaven to truly be the Lord of me. Somewhere between who I really am and this Zombie Mommy there is hope. My loftiness is the not the answer, I have to remind myself how truly blessed I am, how loved I am , how un-lost I am and acknowledge this grace He offers me is just waiting for my heart to reach out in spite of my self-pity. Sure I may feel worthless, utterly lost, like some kind of monster on the loose, but despite my total train wreck of a Zombie mess, I'm not passed by, God's mercy is mine. He alone validates my life even when I am totally sure I have lost my ticket.

When the ZMV attacks, and believe me it will again, my Lord is still loving me and even when those BAD days come, terrorizing my life, with their reign of terror hitting the full throttle peddle into my life I am learning to stop and wash myself in His grace. Nope, it's never easy and I don't always succeed but I am trying to take a deep breath, look Atlas and all his demands in the eyes and smile knowing God’s got this, He alone steadies me when I can’t stand on my own. It's those moments I can confess to myself I am not wonder woman. I am simply me, imperfect, yes strong, but not necessarily mighty, maybe a little courageous, but not without fear, fragile but not weak, a beautiful woman yes, who on bad days has a Zombie Mommy hidden somewhere inside her ,ready to attack if not kept in check and you know what, I am ok with that.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day ( Chasing the Monster's Under the Bed Away)

How do we ready ourselves for Mother's day? As we begin to think of lunches, family gathering and gifts exchanged I want to challenge you to take a moment to thank your mom not just with a material gift but simply remembering the times she chased the monsters away, the days she sat next to your bed, feeding you soup, or when she was up late finishing that report you forgot. Being a mom is never easy. It's down right exhausting to be honest, we are always three steps ahead, to have to take one back. Now try mixing it up and throwing something like cancer in the mixing bowl.  Sure the path of least resistant may look tempting, but then where would we be as moms? I really don’t understand why life brings pain and uncertainty but I do know this: While it is true pain holds no mercy sometimes the pain does hold grace. Maybe, just maybe, the pain life brings each of us isn’t so much about the hurt as much as it is about the journey, the dance and the beauty inside the clearing just ahead of us beyond the trees. Maybe, as mom's it’s about overcoming the struggles, finding the victory in life’s everyday joys before we come out of the darkness and into the sun! As mom's this is our dance, even if it is in the falling rain of illness. Bitterness may try to push in around us but I promise no matter how beat down we may become grace and love continues to hold us together as a family even if we are left holding a broken vase and our hands are super glued to the chair.

I am celebrating my 15th Mother's Day this year. To say I have seen a lot is an understatement. It's funny I have been asked many times what has breast cancer done to me, as a mother, how has this beast personally changed your life Christina? How has cancer changed your life a mom, a wife? To be truthful I am sometimes stumped by these questions, frankly because I generally don't focus on how much or even what I have lost or what the beast has broken inside me, I am usually trying to just be the mom I need to be despite the scars cancer has left on both my body and spirit. Before the cancer came I was a mother, a wife and I was happy with my ordinary life. Then the C word became a reality, as the beast stamped her intent across my chest. I was still a wife, a mother and  nothing really changed with the one exception  cancer and and her Grimm tended to hover in the dark shadows of my room at night. I still tucked my babies into bed at night, with kisses and hugs, reading stories that made us laugh, and our goodnight prayers stayed the same, with the new addition of asking God  to let mommy live. Ok let that settle in while I pause to catch my breath,to wipe my tears away as I think about how my kids were caught in the middle of life and death, Man this still haunts me, breaks my heart and shatters me in more directions than I can account for.

My babies were crying out to God, to please let their mommy live, not to take her from them as we spent Mother's Day that first year, my head shinning and bald. The thought of my boys pleading, not yet God please don't take mommy to heaven, the tears still fall from my eyes as I recall their small, tender, pleading voices, eyes closed tightly, hands in mine. I saw the bullying they faced, as kids taunted the boys about their ugly mom with no hair, no eyebrows. To those few I was a freak, and the boys were the sons of this freak. Life was not easy, no matter where we went folks stared, pity flowing or contempt recoiling in their faces. Fathers would sit with their children, chairs turned in our direction, mouths open, hitting the ground and eyes like radar on the freak sitting in the booth trying to eat her first meal in days. The turmoil, the lofty glances were overwhelming for me, for Johnny but for the kids they were indescribably painful, as they became the center of a freak show.

When cancer banged on our door, the monsters under our children's beds become very real, clawing through their dreams, roaring, stalking , enforcing the fear of mommy's passing. I struggled with the fear their little hands would begin to slip out of my hands. How were they coping, still smiling they came face to face with their own monsters creeping out from under the bed at night? I had heard the whispers calling my own name , struggling with driving the monsters under the bed from not only my room, but theirs too. Goodness, I had been face to face with Little Miss Reaper packing an attitude so many times I didn't flinch anymore. Her sickle and dark pink robes  stalking , trying to control me, crawling out from under my bed, peaking out from the closet more times than I'd like to think about. Seriously how do we capture and keep our kids innocence during such times as these? Can our love and resolve be enough for them too? Nothing on earth can move us more as mothers as when our children are hurt or when they face their fears. I know because I have watched both my boys sport pink shirts proudly, hold my hand when all their buddies where watching and walk closely next to their bald mother while all eyes where watching them and the creepy lady missing her eyebrows. In the time since breast cancer charged into our lives I have seen such strength and courage in our children, in their love for life, the hope for tomorrow and the strength to deal with each and every blow the beast has delivered them. By the boys daily focus and inspiration I have learned to laugh and giggle and without knowing it Joshua and Micah have taught me to be brave despite the fire breathing dragon an inch away from my nose!

Life as we battle cancer is much like living upside down in one of Alice in Wonderland's adventures, chemo is comparable to sitting down with the mad hatter for tea and losing a breast felt as if I was listening to the Red Queen scream, " off with her head" with the exception she was after my breast. I can't tell you how many times we longed to be normal, yet we always end up  white roses in an all red rose garden, out of place, undesirable and needing replacing or a disguise of some sort to be accepted, wanted and not throw out with the trash. Come on, how do you ready yourself for such times as these? Honestly I have no idea,there is nothing shouting to me from my box of tricks, but what does resound in my heart is this: tuck away hope in your heart, dig it deeply into your soul, stitch hope into your spirit and allow the deep waters of faith drag you out of the shallow end of despair, wearing your floaties if need be.

 Gathering with folks we always felt "on", must smile, must be happy, must show no weakness, even if we were hurting, when life felt as if it was slipping away, when I was not sure I had the desire to survive the worry and the constant beat down cancer was giving me everyday, I knew I had to be strong even if my legs were wobbly. Chemo was expected not to break me after all Christina could handle it, she could do this, tackle this without anyone to help her stand strong. I knew I should be strong, rah rah in between pucking my guts up but truthfully all I wanted to do was cry, ask for someone to hold me, tell me I was not in this fight alone. Now don't get me wrong, I had one dear and precious friend who rallied around me, never left me crawling in the dark for the door, but all those folks who had been our friends before suddenly found other avenues to travel, away and apart from us. It was crushing, but to the boys it was devastating. So many times I had to remind myself to steady my heart, to let go of the fear, of the pain and look square in the eyes of my Lord and fall completely into His arms where he was ready to provide refuge. I can't know what the end will hold, what the end of the story will bring, but I know nothing in this life is predicable. So many things can be unbearably painful if not completely catastrophic  and it's easy to allow them to overtake us. Breast cancer is one of those things. She sure came into our lives with a sudden jolt! Life changed in a scary and terrifying way for  all of us, my boys included. But as time began to pass , as this cancer  monster took hold of my body I had rise above the terror of dying and realize I belonged to God and begin teaching my children to live life out loud, outside of the box, in spite of the beast breathing down our necks. In the years since the beast has come barrelling through our front door, my husband Johnny, the boys and myself, we have made so beautiful memories that may not have been afforded us otherwise, we have rejoiced in the victories and held our hope close even while through the beasts dark eerie marshes of horror.

Cancer is a lonely place, so the truth is my faith has not always been on track. The author of my salvation has had to wait on me many more times than I care to admit, calling me by name, whispering hope into my ear, waiting for me to reach out my arms to Him. Every ditch, mile, speed bump and sink hole I have climbed out of or gone through with my boys, with Johnny, has been because of His grace. I have struggled, cried out, even voiced my discontent to the God I call Father protesting all the whys of His plan in every bit of this craziness. Seriously I have asked God many times, why the the nightmares, the tears and  the sleepless nights, why my children have been required to face such misery. But then I've thought about the men my boys will grown into one day, what kind of husbands and fathers they will become. I have struggled with the emotional burdens both boys carry and the scares this life in wonderland will leave stitched across their lives. I have worried, tossed many nights over what I will leave both boys in the end.

As a mother and a breast cancer survivor I have looked at my boys at times with double vision. I have seen what life should have been, could have been if the boobie beast had skipped over us. But like all the other changes in our lives I also have seen what life has become since the enemies full on assault. My eyes have been opened , seeing true beauty surrounding not just my life, but all of our lives. I have experienced unending love like never before and felt such grace break the chains locking me to my own resentment and the fears I foresaw as  death's impending blow . Honestly at the end of each day , I find living to be beautiful despite the cancer. Yes breast cancer can be powerful and earth shattering but it can also fill us with strength and determination, awakening our inner depths of grace, hope and revolutions if we will just take off our glasses of discontent. My view on life now, even when I can hear the beast's roar in the distance, is this: faith arises and life becomes beautiful, tender, precious, humorous, heartbreaking and inspiring if we can just believe our heartaches are just blessings in disguise.

My Mother's Day gift, my blessings come in the form of my children... to live every moment determined to rise above the turbulence even if it may be my last. So I say: Be ready to take a deep breath, shake off your fears and go. Why, well, because when all is said and done, when life has completed it's course around the sun you will have lived life with no apologies. I love this quote, just as Jamie in A Walk to Remember says, " Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I had for myself. " By trail and application, I have found no greater love has ever been given to me,  as my children. This mother's day, as I fall to my knees in thanksgiving and prayer for my family,I can walk in this knowledge and embrace the hope that has come into my life by the trails of breast cancer. Love has been poured out and  no matter where the journey ends I know there's a plan greater than ourselves, because God's love is greater than any monster under the bed's. Because of God's amazing love, His grace, and the joy, determination and hope my children give me daily I can accept what may come with the knowledge I have truly lived a life to be remembered ...monsters and all under the bed.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Well of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one little word, simple yet so wrapped up in turmoil and trouble. Forgiveness carries so much doesn’t it? Just the thought of forgiveness and we are wincing, too many bags, baggage and burdens go with it. Most of us don't even want to get within 10 feet of the flashing caution sign forgiveness has attached to it do we? In fact we generally dance around it, poke at it with a stick or tread lightly with extreme caution.
For me personally, in my crazy life, I sometimes feel I am a magnet for drama and all its un-pleasantries. 

Seriously I wonder if our family has a bull’s eye on our front door inviting trouble in with a capital T. I can be minding my own business, just trying to care for those around me and BAM; I am knocked to my feet, looking up from where I have landed with a black eye and a sudden, unpleasant and unexpected blow out of right field somewhere. No matter how hard I try, I always seem to find someone somewhere who can't stand me, the optimism or the way I see this grace I have been blessed with. To be completely honest over the past 12 months our family has been through a really rough, tough, very trying time. In fact at times to say we have felt battered, bruised and abused is giving the year far too much credit.

True, breast cancer, other various health issues and just adapting to so many changes at one time has played a apart this year but it's not the whole story. The truth is I have had to reach deep down, to keep turning the rope until I hit the bottom of my own personal well of forgiveness. My heart has been shaken, there’s no denying this truth. I have fallen to my knees, crying out perplexed, frightened, feeling the earth beneath me tremble with my cries. I have had to face living in the land of the overwhelmed, betrayal, insecurities pounding against the walls of my very faith. I have felt the air sucked out of my lungs, while literally watching the ocean water rise and wash over us, crashing in on our securities. But you know what, the one thing I can tell you has always been true no matter what’s surrounded us, He was there. I can't tell you how many times I have felt less than capable, trapped and crushed under the weighted fears I was not the mother I wanted, needed to be, facing my own worries, the callous whispers in my ear, pushing away the slander trying to undo me and the tender, beautiful, amazing relationship I have with my Lord.

I’ve had to go to battle on my kids behalf more this last year than ever before. Being honest, I have to admit it has not been easy learning to surrender the battle to the Lord and the fight to my kids. Oh how it has tried my soul to let go, watching from behind the battle lines as they’ve taken up their own swords. It’s been tough watching from the sidelines, watching my son grapple with slander, whispers of malicious intent, and the knowledge a pained, hurting and deeply wounded soul was out there, desperately longing to completely undo him all because he chose to do what was right in the face of what was wrong. We bring our kids up to do what is right but then when our kids chose to live it out loud, life gets messy doesn’t it? Seriously as parents, as a mom, how do you deal with this kind of wound, damage, defilement, harm and hurt in your child’s life and stay sane? The honest truth is I have had moments of complete anger and days I thought I was coming undone, ready to pull every last hair out of my scalp, but instead of going down in a cold ocean of un-forgiveness I have found myself more and more on my knees, before the One who sees all, knows all and who fits each and every puzzle piece together just where and when the time is right.

I don’t know how He does it, how He takes all the broken pieces in our life, making such beautiful stained glass from each and every shattered piece but He does. I had given myself over to doubt, wondering what did this woman have that I did not, how could I lack so much, how could I be such a failure, a disappointment? I was told time and time again, I was not enough. It was a lie, meant to undo me, undo my family but just when I reached my darkest point, it was as a baby's breathe across my heart I heard these words: You lack nothing, what do you really think you are missing? I have covered you, Christina. You have my love, my hope inside you, do you trust me? Do you believe I have a plan? From this still, small deep place within my heart I heard these words, this song ringing out from inside me somewhere, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, amazing love, now flowing down... His grace flows down and covers me.”

Forgiveness, just like grace, is a gift and we must be willing to give and receive. Is it easy, no way not in a million years, BUT even as we watch the attempts on our families come and go we have to remember they are not only hurting us, they are hurting themselves. Forgiveness offers us freedom, and if they are willing redemption as well. The sad truth is many times people will not accept your forgiveness, instead they will allow resentment to dig deeper, to be torn apart by torment and upset by things they don’t even understand themselves all while continuing to violate, impair and injure you. Oh the times I have hurt, when I have wanted to scream, to shout and to honestly tell someone off yet in those times He has been the healer of my overreactions, valid or not. I know without a second thought I can trust the Lord to oversee the healing of my scars. He knows my everything, the inside and outside of who I am, what fears control me, what joys fill me, He knows my heart, and He is patient, merciful and forgiving, so why shouldn’t I forgive? I have had to come face to face with understanding He will NEVER forsake me, that He is for me, not against me and that I need to trust His tender mercies above everything else. Let it go, speak the words, I forgive and let His beauty shine, burst forth from my life, in the life of our family, live in peace and know He is here, to know I am are NEVER alone.

I can’t tell you honestly I have chosen to rise above the hurt each and every time another offense has come forward but I can tell you I am allowing forgiveness to flow each and every day in my life. I start my day, with my sons in prayer and together we say those three words, I forgive you. I have had to face the truth, this hurt could keep me in the depths of despair, keep my family from flourishing or I could allow God to reach in and let His light shine through me. I had to make a decision to allow the pain, the lack of understanding, and this mom so ready to disgrace me, to allow her child to raid the playground, to bully, to agonize, taking her best shot at damaging my son’s spirit, putting him under distress, all by disturbing, harmful and resentful means to go free without holding my resentment and compassion captive. Yes we were afflicted, punished for a wrong doing that never existed, my son and our family put down with malevolence, mistreated for misdeeds the offended party was responsible for, and yes those violations, those flashes of wrongdoing on their part could have destroyed us but God spoke gently, with compassion and yet firmly to my own heart. I needed to lead my son by example, with compassion for those who mistreat us. How could he learn to forgive if I could not? By forgiving the source of his pain, the offense to his spirit, the pollution of his soul, the violation of his heart, and the wrongdoing against him, the hurt could truly be lifted away and released. 

Believe me being the first bat up to forgive was not easy. Seriously God and I have had some fairly major chit chats, playing tug-o-war over this forgiveness thing. How do you love folks who are determined to destroy you, to lie their way into the right and undo your child with no clear reason, except for the need to pull others into their own suffering, tortured, unhappy, warped and wounded souls? But wait, what did I just say? My answer was sitting right there in front of me; standing in the middle of a wide open door, shouting the agony was not just my own, it was theirs too. This family had been hurt deeply somewhere along their journey, they needed someone to cast their cares on, but sadly they were looking in all the wrong places, lashing out at anyone and everyone they felt stood in their way. Man, this was the answer I had been looking for all this time, somewhere between the whisper and the roars, after the back stabbing, leading to this back lash of pain was three words, waiting on me to say out loud, I forgive you.

Can I just say wow, what sweet release, not only have I found, but my son and our entire family has been able to embrace harmony in one simple, complicated word: forgiveness. We have come together, through the ups and downs of this crazy ride, in prayer, talking the hurts out and through, reaching for resolution as a family, asking our Father to enable us each in forgiving the hurt done not only to us, but to heal the grief and the hurt festering inside the hearts of our offenders also. Knowing our boys are growing into men of valor, of integrity amazes me, humbles me. Seeing our son, forgive and let go, to walk with courage and a greater thirst for life, a hunger for God, has opened my eyes, enabling me to wrap myself around this forgiveness thing calling my name, pleading with me to quiet myself, to allow the One who loves me more than I can ever imagine to comfort, heal, remedy, and soothe my broken heart. The pain, the hurt and the betrayal left us broken, for a time anyway, but the Lord, in His grace, brought so many more blessings into our lives out of the tears and the sleepless nights we first had to push through.

At the end of the day, life is hard, our messes can seem far too unruly to navigate an actual escape from, the worry can get under our skin but if we chose to forgive and embrace the grace forgiveness brings with her we WILL find happiness and thankfulness at the end of the tunnel. This year as a family we have seen God’s hand working in our lives, becoming a light unto our feet, holding us faithfully despite the turbulence surrounding us. Yes, we’ve had to keep pulling and drinking from the well of forgiveness during times of both joy and suffering many, many times but this I know, because of God’s grace the well has never come up dry!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Becoming Captivating ( In a Fake World)

I am about to get real, to lay it all out on the table ladies. Men, this is not to count you out, because truthfully this affects you as well, but just be warned I am about to talk bluntly to the ladies about our obsession with perfection. What brought on this sudden need to explore our fears, and how we as women see ourselves? Well, lately I have been struggling with my own body image. The truth is even though I always get over this hurdle, it still comes back around like some sneaky sly ninja desperately trying to catch me off guard me when I least expect it. Sharing the picture above is not my idea of a walk in the park on a sunny day, to be clear I am kinda nervous showing off the “real” Christina for the entire world to judge and critic. The reality is my flaws and all picture is the “me” most never see and who I really am under the makeup. So if I am going to be completely honest I have to admit I really hate my body and the way I look, but if I am going to be transparent I also have to say I am well aware I view myself through some pretty foggy glasses as well.

My weight goes up and my weight goes down, my nails spend most of the month unpainted, my hair has good days and then some massively bad ones too, I get tired of T-shirts and jeans and my boobs, well let’s just say they aren’t exactly what I hoped for in life but the one thing I can say is tiny about my very imperfect self is this: my feet. Yep I wear a size 6 1/2 so like everything else in life God has a sense of humor. I may not be tiny all around, but my feet certainly are!

Seriously, as women we are constantly accosted by the media's ideal woman. It’s downright overwhelming to be a woman today in our bright new world! I bet back in Marilyn’s day those skinny women of today would have felt just as bad about themselves as most of us over the size of 5 feel today. We are constantly comparing ourselves not only to Hollywood, but to other women around us, never feeling good about who we are and without a doubt less than perfect at any given moment on any given day. The problem with society's version of beautiful is it is never what it really seems. The real deal goes something like this: once you remove the outer layer of makeup, peel back the fake nails, pull out those hair extensions, scrub off the spray tan, put away the tummy tuckers and drop the fancy clothing you have a normal woman, imperfect yes, yet extremely real and very beautiful in every way. It’s all in how we see ourselves. We always want to be more than we are because we always feel less than we should.

As strong as I may seem I fall into this pit at least 5 out of 7 days a week. You would think I should be comfortable with my misshapen, scared up and truly the world’s eye of un-attractive breasts. The truth is as comfortable as I am in my own skin, I still catch myself taking a deep breath, gulping and cringing at the sight of my imperfect boobs staring back at me on the mirror mirror on the wall with a haha, wicked laugh, got ya kind of moment. And don’t even get me started on my weight, my hair and my wardrobe or we may be here all day.Seriously what is it that makes women feel so ugly, disgusting, grotesque, hideous, homely, offensive, plain, repulsive, ugly, and unattractive?  These are all pretty awful ways to see ourselves don’t you think? So why do we swallow the lie Hollywood hand feeds us, brain washing us we are unattractive and unbecoming all because we are not skinny, or we don’t have hair extensions, fake tans or designer clothing? I for one am tired of feeling this way about myself. Even People magazine has gotten in on the natural band wagon, and why? Because women are seriously under attack and society needs to swing back to reality. The great beauties of the past were never tooth pick thin, Marilyn was a size 14 folks! Hum hello not a size 2, it’s seriously time to get real and own up to the fact we are obsessed with an imperfect ideal woman that we are literally killing ourselves to become. Now let me make this clear, this doesn’t mean being thin is unattractive, what I am trying to say is we are all beautiful, no matter what size we come in. I’m tired and worn out trying to be someone I can’t be. It’s downright exhausting!

I want to be able to look in the mirror or at a magazine, heck I would love to watch a movie with my family without battling with my mind and heart over my imperfections! It’s a warped world we live in when we have to feel so insecure with the beauty God has perfected in us. True we may not all be drop dead gorgeous but we are all beautiful, we are all alluring ( don’t choke, it’s the truth ladies), we dazzle, delight, and radiate the work of God every day, and we need to own it for the truth it is! I am so over feeling less than a woman because I am not a size 5 or because my breast was whacked off when breast cancer tried to steal my life from me. I am a survivor and these scars; they are reminders of the battle I have been fighting. They may not be breathtaking to the world, but you can bet your bottom dollar they are awe-inspiring to me, they are not dreadful to my husband, nope these scars stretched out across my chest are magnificent reminders of the deep love we share and the butt kicking beat down we gave breast cancer!

 It’s not the end of the world just because I don’t have ruby red lipstick painted across my lips! I am not dreadful, horrifying, awful, or daunting because I can’t live up to the Kardashian’s picture perfect image of a beautiful woman. I am not a fashion disaster because I choose not to break my neck in stiletto heels. Sure, we may not all be dainty but we are stunning! I am not ashamed to admit I am not fragile but I am delicate and all the negative influence on who and what I should be effects who and what I am on a daily basis! I don’t want to be 40 years old, still struggling to find myself, to accept my husband loves me for the graceful, breathtaking, stunning ( Oh man it’s killing me to say these things about myself), lovely ( ouch, never like to think this of myself), amusing, captivating and enchanting woman I truly am. I don’t know about you but speaking those words out loud was just about as painful for me  as banging my thumb with a hammer. Yet the truth is we have been wondrously created, we are beautiful, and we are precious, soft, fascinating (with or without a blond wig, trench coat, sunglasses and black boots on)  whether or not we have Hollywood’s goods or not, we are woman, captivating, bewitching and perfect in all our imperfections.

I am ready to make a resolution, to live by it even though I know I am not perfect. I am fairly certain I'm gonna have some really bad days, maybe even weeks, but I want to work hard at striving to overcome my own self –confidence mutilating ways reaching for courage so I can thrive as a woman, a mother and a wife. I can’t speak for all women but I know deep down inside of my own self-doubt I long to resolve this conflict inside my heart. I absolutely need to take back the fight. We need to be free ladies to be who we really are, to accept perfection is indeed the enemy, we are rare, precious, beautiful, individual, and amazing gems just waiting to be displayed, not hidden behind a fake facade of  artificial beauty. The phony, shameful and really fraudulent description of a women’s beauty in the media is honestly a betrayal of the worst kind ladies and until we can see it for what it is and reject it, we will continue to raise daughters who starve themselves to death.

Personally I am ready, even though I know that super; skinny, sneaky sly ninja is out there somewhere just waiting to take me down, smack me over the head and pin me to the ground when I am at my weakest point. Bruised, battered, you bet but strong and ready for the smack down if need be. I am choosing today to get off this crazy tilt-a-whirl and put my feet on solid ground. I’m going to let God tether out His place in my life, to speak to the beauty He has already placed inside my heart and let His love in my inner beauty shine through. Hollywood, you can take a walk into the painted sunset of props and stages for all I care; go on take a leap off  the fake cliff ahead or jump onto the speeding train on the way out of Dodge with all your artificial beauty and chaos. I have my ticket on the captivating express and while this is almost painful to admit or say out loud: I am beautiful, flaws and all, weight on or off, hair up, down, messy or curled, heck I am lovely and breathtaking with or without breasts. Right here, right now let’s decided ladies we are both captivating and beautiful and our beauty is brighter than the sun every day!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

High School Musical Gone Sideways ( The Life and Times of a Real Mom with Teenage Boys)

Do you ever feel your life should have a sign in front of it? Seriously, I sometimes feel like a “Caution: Children Texting” sign needs to be invested in at our home or how about “Leaving Normal” for right outside the driveway? If we had road signs available for all of life’s exists, they would be pretty much something like this: New Life, Old Life, Success, Failure, Right Way, Wrong Way, Changes, Choices, Decisions and Oops! Wow, I’m out of breath just thinking about all of those road signs. Moment of truth: Life with kids can feel beyond navigation sometimes. Personally, my road sign needs to say: “Welcome to My Life, Viewer Discretion Advised”.

The truth is I have exited an off ramp in my life and I am now entering a totally unknown, very much “are we there yet”, “do I have to”, and “you expect me to go where?” kind of on ramp. Seriously, the signs are a bit fuzzy if you ask me. I don't want to say it, nope, I don’t even want to have to admit it or accept this new place in my life, after all it’s a bit dark and scary, but the truth is I am the mother of two, yes count it out, one, two, teenage boys. Life on a daily basis is a roller coaster ride; hitting the highs and the lows sometimes at the same time but truthfully they usually loop DE loop simultaneously and at times leave me stuck, hanging upside down. Swinging from the rafters is not just a catch phrase anymore; it's a way of life. The day is continually packed with needs (Mom, I need lunch money) wants (Mom, I need, insert the word want here, headphones) and yes my all-time favorite, hunger (Mom, what's to eat? I'm, hungry). Life never stops and honestly I wouldn't want it any other way but as we cruise blindly into the teenage years I sometimes wonder how my own parents made it through the winding, crazy and twisting road of raising a headstrong teenage girl.

Raising boys can feel like a daily Wipe Out challenge, on the outside they can seem very different from the teenage girl and in truth boys are made up very differently from girls. Boys grunt, girls weep, boys want to brood and girls want to talk it out. Either way they tend to crash and burn, and as parents it’s not easy trying to balance the Hormone Mountains and valley’s alongside of both the emotional and physical changes happening all at once is it? I feel most days I’m running a boot camp and to my kid’s dismay (and my own) I play the role of a drill sergeant. Yet at the end of the day, the truth is boys are not so different from girls, in the sense that we have to unscramble the language and the back roads of youth together. As a mother of boys I have not had the pleasure (Lord help those who have) of dealing with bras, the issue of womanhood and navigating fashion ups and downs. But as a mother of boys I have had to deal with the blows of bullies, low punches, hormones ( just of a different beast), embarrassing high waters due to rapid growth rate, B.O. was a fun side show and the sometimes migraine inducing drama girls continually bring into their tender lives. Now that's not to say my boys have not had their own drama but man there is nothing like the mean girls of today. We've already dealt with our share of dramas, broken hearts and yes even our very own teenage stalker; broadcasting to the world she had put eyes and ears on him. Really, where was the detour sign for that one? I sometimes wonder if this mama bear will ever come out the other end of what seems to be a very long, narrow tunnel. Breast cancer could have never prepared me for the likes of high school musical gone sideways and turned upside down in the modern age! Seriously hair loss and chemo have nothing on zits and social networking in the teenage world!

As keyed up as living with a teen is, life as a teenager must be just as frustrating having to listen and acknowledge mom giving directions, instructions, you know how we nag about homework, putting a belt on, clean shirts, fussing over that new leg hair or hugging and kissing them in front of their friends. I will admit to all of the above! I have no shame, I love my kiddos but I also realize they are truly growing up and are more than on their way to becoming grown men than staying little boys. I know I am one of those mothers most roll their eyes at, somewhere between helicopter pilot and army sergeant. Our home is always open to the boy’s friends; I will feed an army of teens before I send them off to belt out a song and dance at the local high school musical review. From my point of view as a mom, if our home is open, then I am aware who is who and what my kids are up too instead of banging around in the dark. Yet for all my hovering I have always stood back when needed and allowed my boys to take those first steps on their own, to experience accomplishment and the joy of succeeding. Here’s the catch, it's still not so easy allowing them to fight their own battles is it? Heartache is not easy to watch, to allow, but our kids need to experience all of life's ups and downs. Knowing they are entering into the ring with only our love and the knowledge we have strived so hard to impart to them, understanding they are ready to take on the world is downright scary, a real pant wetting moment if we are going to be completely honest here. Letting our kids take the wheel for the first time doesn't mean we don't sit in the dreaded shotgun seat shaking from head to toe with our hands over our eyes, peaking at their progress through slightly open fingers does it? We willingly, strap our seat belt, sit beside them and try to offer our love and support. Once our children reach their destination, as parents we have to take more than one deep breath and find our seat, knowing we have prepared them to take whatever the fight is, on. We can rally, we can shout , we can have the water and pep talk in hand as long as they see us as the coach, not the challenger, sitting in the corner, behind the ropes of whatever boxing match they have landed themselves in. Surviving the teenage years as a parent means you are hands on, lacing up the gloves, never out of touch but it also requires us, as painful as it is, to allow our children to make their own way. Watching our children suffer, fail at something, lose a friend, or have a girl (from a boys perspective) dice them up like crushed tomatoes can be excruciating, but then something very interesting happens: they find their stride, they realize they actually have legs underneath  them and just as you feel your kids have fallen into the deep, our kids rise up stronger for the scars.

Our children, really do endure, with a firm belief in the Lord above, fixed on leading the way through the darkness, secure in who they are, warriors on the front line, unafraid, steady, tenacious while answering the call to honesty, integrity and courage, all while standing up for what they believe in and it’s really quite amazing to see. As the drama's rage all around them, as the show goes on, curtains fall, as friends fall to slander, gossip, back stabbing and bad choices our kids unmistakably surprise us by simply choosing to do the right thing in a bloodthirsty, callous, cold, ferocious, insensitive, ruthless, vicious and yes savage high school musical for the real world!

I look at my boys now, knowing they are well on their way to becoming men and I am struck by how strong they really are! I spent so much of my time worrying over them as babies, concerned what breast cancer was inflicting on their souls, but now standing here, where we are today I can see the Tango with cancer and the struggle with the enemy was not all a bad thing. The beast came for us all, she crawled at our backs, took our certainty and tried her best to take us down, to destroy and brutally tear us apart. But, and here’s the wonderful part, despite all her chaotic shenanigans God took our brokenness and molded our boys into beautiful young men after His own heart. Even in the midst of the thunder and lightning our boys have become strong, bold, courageous men and it's amazing to behold and gaze upon. God heard my cries, He heard my prayers, as a mother down on her knees, pleading for my children and even as the enemy has come, like a creeper in one of Micah's Minecraft games, the antics of the teenage years have not torn down the fortress we have built side by side, instead these trials have only made our foundation together stronger.

Sure we have our moments of craziness, when the boys seem unfocused, when I am more like crouching tiger rather than easy going let’s bounce around Tigger. There is no How- To- Instructional handbook when it comes to raising boys. Honestly day to day is more like learning what not to do by means of a failed attempt back roads recipe. As a mom I am always on the lookout, to my boy’s dismay maybe a bit too vigilant, sometimes over protective and wary, watchful, keeping a close eye on my little ducklings. Being a mom isn't easy and there is such a fine line as mom's to constantly define between fostering our kids and suffocating them. As a mom of two teenage boys I am finding I have to let go more and more than I have ever done in the past. I long to hold them as I did, when they were babies, to kiss their cheeks and debate crayons VS markers. No, those days are not completely lost, we still talk about their days, girls and I do get hugs and even a kiss but honestly more and more I find myself listening, ministering, and when they let me, nurturing more than my old role as protector, tending for their every need or watching over them on the playground.

The truth is I can't ignore my boys are growing up, have you seen them lately? Both tower over me for goodness sake. Joshua is a good 6ft tall these days and still growing. I will gladly admit I am not ready for the young women who steadily bid to steal my son's heart from me on a daily basis nor am I ready to accept both boys will be driving soon, but I can't hold back the hand of time. All I can do is guide and direct my sons, pray for them steadfastly and trust they will live a life on their knees with lifted hands to the One who loves them even more than I do. My prayer as a mom is to see them rise up with gentleness and strength, and grow into the amazing men I already see cultivated inside of their hearts. I can try but no matter how hard I protest, scream and yell I have to allow my boys to experience heartache, and in doing so my children will learn to take up their own armor. Ah, the horrors of this high school musical they’ve been cast in, and the teenage years ahead of us, yep they are despicable but when I stand back I can see the pains of this chorus line will honestly bring joy and a sure footing our kids need to become adults. Even when we want to drag them back to the playground, the truth is the whole world is ready and waiting on them to make their entrance and we must as parents to be able to let go, to give them the green light, approve and support our kids as they take their first steps as young adults. It doesn't mean we always agree, and though we may seriously want to prevent or veto their decisions we can't hold back the floodgates forever. I can tell you being the mom I am, my kids will always know when I disagree but the one thing I can tell you is true and I will shout from the rooftops: I will always be there for my boys, ready to catch them, routing for their success.

As temping as it is we can chart out our kids’ lives all we want, we can even put up all the signs on the highway of life we want pointing to problems, defeat and success but the truth is what makes our children’s lives memorable VS average is all in how we let go, allowing our children to navigate their own life road map at the right time, putting up and taking down signs as needed. Sure the road ahead may be full of things spelling out disaster with narrow winding roads but the truth is we know deep down no matter what road our boys and girls take they are certainly going to hit some pretty big bumps along the way. There’s no avoiding them, so my goal as a mom is not to over direct, nor to under direct, no my goal is to inspire my children to experience life with all its pains, bruises and scars. I don’t want my children to witness me along side of the road digging in, standing by a sign that reads, “Caution: life approaching next 70-80 years. Nope what I really want, what I pray every day for my boys is they see the sign just ahead in big letters reading, “Destiny; life ahead”.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love Story

Today I want to go back and take a walk down memory lane if you will indulge me. Many times in the course of our lives we hear old love stories, whether they are folks we know or not. Some of them are funny and some are sad while others are sweet but no matter who you are, you have a love story of your own. With that said, last week Johnny and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. We didn't plan anything major, instead we shared an evening  of adventure at a local Japanese steak house. And yes chose to take the kids with us for dinner simply because they are our joy, our purest  love brought to life  and they have shared so much of this journey with us. We laughed, shared a few stories and  simply enjoyed a great dinner with  one another. I sat there as I watched Johnny interact with the boys thinking about earlier in the day  when I began a  letter to our children.

I 'd sat on the laptop typing  Friday morning pouring over the story of our very own love story when I realized how much I wanted to share with our children, especially as we have entered into the ( BIG sigh, I don't want to say it) world of dating and girls.  This deep desire to give them a direct line to their own history, the love that has gone into creating their lives today pulled at my heart and so the letter below is  where I found myself  Friday.

 But before I speak to my boys, I want to say this: Johnny I am so thankful you took a chance on love 16 years ago. Folks thought we were crazy, clearly out of our minds, getting married before anyone had time to blink. But God had a plan didn't He? No matter what others thought, or even said when we weren't looking, God made a way, He had a design. You were His FIRST and ONLY plan for my life and what an awesome plan, what an incredible journey it has been so far! Johnny I love you more today than I ever have. You are strong, and bold and courageous. You are kind and loving and each day you become a stronger man of God. I am so blessed to have you as my husband and the boys as their father. And with that.....

Joshua and Micah,

We have been talking about LOVE AND MARRIAGE and where God’s place is inside of a marriage over the last few weeks at church, so today, on your dad and I’s anniversary, as we celebrate a year that has only made our marriage and family stronger, let me share with you where it all started and  the story of how your dad and I fell in love. Boys, I know you are probably rolling your eyes right about now, thinking, “yuck “, " mom, really?" but the thing is this: you come from a long line of love stories, your Nana and Paw Paw, Your Apo and Ole, and your parents very own love story. Nope it’s not some grand Hollywood scheme or idea of love or even a happily ever after, but a real, it’s hard work, things get tough, “love, marriage, baby carriage” kind of story. The truth is all these stories of how your parents and grandparents found love are gifts, and one day you will understand how grand a gift  this line of commitment truly is.

Boys, your dad and I met 16 years and 6 months ago. We were both very young and very determined to find and experience true love. I was only 22 years old and your dad was just barely 24 when our lives collided, crashing full force into one another. Way back when in “our day” we didn’t have open access to the Internet like you do now. A place on line like e Harmony wasn’t an option, so we resorted (after a BIG dare) to the dreaded Singles pages of the Houston Chronicle way back in 1995.

Your dad, Johnny, was a reckless kind of guy, my version of a bad boy if you like, in a very quiet kind of way and your Paw Paw knew this too as he stood by the front window of our home with binoculars watching us from afar. He knew this boy, was like no other he had run off before and that your dad had come to steal his little girl from him. See I had been raised in a very conservative, religious, Christian, sheltering home. I was actually the daughter of a soldier turned preacher. I was wide eyed and innocent to the ways of the world so when this amazingly, dark skinned, dark eyed handsome man walked into my life with his wild, mysterious ways you can bet he took my breath away. I was hooked and there was no releasing me from the bait. I was in all or nothing!

I have always said we were connected from the get go. I knew the moment your dad said hello it was my undoing. Deep down, we both knew our souls were meant to share this life together despite how far apart from ideal we were for one another. Your dad and I were as opposite as two people can be, two completely different worlds, cultures colliding. I came from a boisterous, Scott’s-Irish, Scandinavian family while his lived on an American Indian reservation. I was the pale face as he called me. A" blue eyed", the exact kind of woman your great- grandfather had warned him to never trust. I was loud, talkative; I hugged everyone, every chance I got, I taught kindergarten, chased little ones around all day, stayed home reading books and went to church every Sunday. Your dad, on the other hand was quiet, reserved, a non-hugger, worked in a warehouse, drove a truck all around town, couldn’t name a top 10 book to save his life, and you can bet your bottom dollar church definitely wasn’t on his weekly schedule of places he needed to be and boy did he like to party every weekend.

I had grown up here, there and everywhere, a real world traveler; he hadn’t traveled farther than Del Rio and had lived in the same house your grandfather built for your Apo, all his life. He liked red heads, in cowboy boots. I was more of a brainy girl with dark hair and sneakers. I was drawn to guys with glasses, on the skinny side, generally attached to a computer somewhere. Johnny really didn’t fit that mold at all, he was a football jock, a linebacker in the day, a popular guy who would have never looked my way in high school but when we met for the first time sparks flew, we knew there was no going back and there was never going to be another “us”. We fell hard, fast and married just six months later.

I won’t tell you married life has been easy breezy boys, because it has been far from it and you know it. We were young and immature, coping with life as best as we could all while life came at us with everything it had. But I can honestly say today after being married to the love of my life for 16 years, love is truly a journey. When your dad and I said in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, we had no idea what that really meant, or how life would test those vows we were making to one another under a tree canopied spring afternoon. Then January 2006 came along, barely 10 years into our married life when I was diagnosed with the breast cancer and all our lives where changed. Believe me when I tell you boys our love was put to the test but you want to know what LOVE has taught us? Sacrifice, determination, and being opposites aren’t always bad things. In fact those very things can be the glue which holds you together when all else fails.  Your dad and I know this personally because our own love story defied preset ideas, paths, set out for us by the world’s idea of happily ever after.

Just remember no one’s story is ever truly at an end; we all change, we grow wider, shorter, our hair turns gray, heck it may even fall out! But if you see only with those outward eyes of yours then you may just miss out or even lose the love of your life one day. Love is about change, endurance and commitment to both God and each other. If your dad, had only been in love with who I was when we were young and not who I became as a woman in my thirties, we would have fallen out of love more times than I can count. Our love story continues to write itself, adding new chapter’s every day, why, because your dad genuinely loves me, my worst faults and all, he can see the real me, the woman he has grown to love deeper through the years despite what cancer has done to my body. Like any good love story, underwritten with tragedy, I have been pulled apart, cut, scared and sewn back together and even when I lost all my hair, when I woke up from a life changing mastectomy at the age of 32, your dad was right there, loving me, in spite of the physical changes taking place right before his eyes. Why? Because love is more than a feeling, it’s more than one chapter in a book, it’s a deeper knowing that you are not only meant for one another but a commitment to remind each other daily love is an ever changing, yet constant journey.

I know it’s awkward to think of your parents as being star crossed lovers, rebelling against all odds but that’s how fate, true love and the hand of God work. It's why time and time again young men and women continue to reinvent love stories for each generation. The truth is when doubt wants to rip you away from one another, when the world says you aren’t a fit because oil and water don’t mix, because cultural lines can’t be crossed, when no words can comfort, it’s real, true love that reaches into the deepest darkest part of you and inspires some very interesting adventures along the way. Every love story has a different tale to tell, but in each story you will always find two people stitched together, weaved forever in each other’s hearts by God’s grace. This is exactly how your Mom and Dad have written our own love story.