My shade of see-through

There’s been such a large, grand canyon sized gap in my blog postings because a while back I realized something clear as a summer’s day:

I am putting myself OUT THERE.  I mean really out there.  One would think that this concept is a no-brainer for the person who decides to blog – I mean this IS the WORLD WIDE WEB – but I guess I didn’t really expect anyone to actually read my blog.  So, when I saw that eighty-eight people viewed my blog in one day I started having all kinds of paralyzing conversations with myself.

“What do they think of me?”, I wondered.  “Am I offending people?”,  I pondered.  “Are they judging me???  They’re judging me!”  and “What if my family reads these perceptions on my life?”   My heart beats faster at the thought, even now.

But I still feel an obligation to write.  To tell my story as I see it, knowing full well that no one on earth will ever see my story the same exact way I do.  Never.  And it’s OK.  No one will ever see your story the way you see it.  And it’s OK!  I also know that people will read and will see this brutal, beautiful life and will see glimpses of themselves – and hopefully, Lord hopefully, be encouraged to get just a step further down the road when everything else around us seems to scream “STOP! Turn back!”.  I also hope to keep at the forefront of my mind that this is OUR space – OUR world wide web.  One which I share with my friends and family and that whatever I write should protect them and love them.

I also realized that I don’t really know where to start.  There’s so much to tell that every time I start to share I think “Oh! I want to tell them this part so they really get this other part” and find myself on a rabbit trail that’s not that far from Alice’s Wonderland trail.

So, I think if right now I ask for your forgiveness for the impending ramblings and sometimes contradictory thoughts of this American woman I might get up the courage to keep typing.

Here we go.

 

Rachel

 

 

 

The time my mom stood up for me

When I went to pickup my kids from the Grands last week I saw some small book that I can’t remember the title of on the kitchen counter. I picked it up while making conversation and started flipping through the pages.  My eyes caught a page titled “The Time My Mom Stood Up For Me” and, although the author’s story was not all that relatable to my life, the title drew me back to a time when I remember my mom stood up for me, and she seemed so tall in that moment.

My mom has dealt with a lot of challenges in my lifetime.  She dealt with teenage pregnancy in an age when it was NOT exploited by magazines and TV shows like Teen Mom – but instead, her Catholic highschool expelled her, as if this sort of thing were contagious or something – and she spent the summer in a home for unwed mothers (do these places even exist anymore?).

Although she managed to finish high-school – in spite of having a second child less than a year after my birth – drug abuse and a host of other challenges came into our household as she struggled for independence.

My mom and I have had an extremely rocky relationship and oftentimes several years would pass where we would not speak one word to eachother.  The relationship was restored, by the grace of God, when I found out I was pregnant with my little ones.

Recently, for the first time in 7 years, we have faced a pretty big disagreement which has caused us to stop communicating for a while – and so I grew particularly nostalgic when the title of that chapter, “The Time My Mom Stood Up For Me”, drew me back to that time.

I was about nine years old and had walked up to the park a block over from my house to meet my friends one afternoon.  To get to the park I would trek down the dirt path along the side of the railroad tracks and then down the street a half block.  This required passing the house where the neighborhood bullies lived.  They were a brother and sister duo who sometimes acted like the park was an extension of their rental property.  I was relieved to see that no one was on the porch.  This relief was shortlived, however, when my eyes landed on the group of kids already playing at the park and them there – with MY friends!  Ugh!  I joined the group – and surprisingly enough, it seemed they weren’t as rough as they put off when they would stare at you with those beady eyes and greasy spiked hair while shouting obscenities and throw things at kids from the front porch of their house.

Sid the Bully from Toy Story

Remember the bully kid “Sid” from the Toy Story? The image of him takes me back to the kids on the porch.  I digress, the afternoon seemed to be going pretty well until one of the “Sids” finished their punch and dared me to smash the glass container on the ground.  I was NOT a daredevil at this point in my life, in fact, I got my kicks doing what I was supposed to do.  However I succumbed to peer-pressure and being double-dog-dared anyways, since I didn’t want to seem like the scaredy-cat I really was.  I took the glass container in my hands, lifted it over my head, took a deep breath in and smashed it into a million little pieces on the concrete.  As soon as the ring of the shattering glass rang out shrieks and giggles as the group of kids scattered. My heart was pounding and my head filled with the rush of adrenaline as I stood there looking at the shards of glass reflecting in the sun.  Before I could revel in my new-found defiance, from my left I saw a figure barreling across the street towards us. “Sid-the-Bully’s” mom, of all people!  I knew that she was coming for me, and why she was, and every ounce of defiance I had ran away with my friends who were nowhere to be found.  I immediately stooped down to start picking up the shattered pieces of glass.

Her wide shadow towered over me, haloed by the sun reflecting off of her bleach blonde feathered hair as I was crouched down near the scene of the crime picking up the larger chuncks of glass.  I struggling to fight tears back – as to not lose my new-found cool points – as she shouted at the top of her lungs about how irresponsible I was (which I was), and inconsiderate (agreed), and a host of other accusations including the statement “why would you do something like this!” (my nine-year-old self wanted to tattle, your kids made me do it, lady!).  There were many cuss words peppered in throughout this rant as she continued on, stopping me from picking up anymore glass and sending me home, threatening to call the police if she saw me around here anymore.  I apologized and apologized to her, finally losing my cool, tears a-streaming, offering to help clean it up and saying again just how sorry I was.  I can look back now and see the many ways she was right, not gracious, but still right.

When I got home with tears still flowing from my eyes my mom turned into momma-bear as I explained the wrong I’d done, how sorry I was, and how I couldn’t go back to the park anymore for fear of being arrested.  She grabbed my hand and we walked back up to the park to see if we could make this right.

We approached the park and before my mom could even say a word “Sid’s Mom” comes towards us to tell my mom just what a horrible child I was and all the details of what I’d done. Expletives included.  She began to tell my mom that I even swore at her when she came over to me to reprimand me for what I’d done.  My mom is not a fighter and hates confrontation, but still, she did not pause in her reply to defend me and ask the lady if she’d ever made a mistake in her life before.  She also knew my nine-year-old self would never swear, especially at an adult.  My mom reminded her that I had apologized and offered to clean up the mess and stated that I was a good kid who just made a mistake which didn’t warrant this type of verbal battering.  “Sid’s Mom” didn’t want to hear this, she apparently enjoyed confrontation and wanted to egg it on – my mom didn’t back down and told her that we would be dealing with this at home and that I would be back at the park to play when I was given permission.

We were quiet as we walked back home and this story never came back up, but I never forgot it.

Thanks for standing up for me, Mom.

Romans 5:8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

You’ve got cool points on my score card –

Rachel

P.S. Is there a time someone stood up for you? I’d love to hear it!

Magnify

It’s so much easier to look good from a distance.  I mean, from 25 feet away people can look pretty good.  Take me for example – when you stand across the room you can’t quite make out the newly forming fine lines around my eyes, and the scars from my scrappier days. (I ain’t no holla-back-girl – yeah, I said it – lol)  You can’t see the bonded chip in my front tooth when I smile or it’s crooked way.

The same kind of thing is true for our personalities.  And while mystery exists forgiveness abounds – right up until the point where we think we’ve got someone figured out.  Once we think we’ve got ’em pegged, the forgiveness stops and scrutiny begins.  This along with the unloading of suggestions on what we think will make a person, whom we’ve unwillingly placed under a microscope, look or be better.  Do you sometimes find it easier to be nice to strangers than to your family members? I know I’ve been there, as recently as today.  But under that microscope, things only APPEAR bigger – they’re not any bigger or smaller when the lens is taken away.  What are YOU magnifying in your life today?

Perfection is not what the world would have us think it is.  The wrinkles forming on my skin means I made it thru adolescence – something most of the adults who knew me in my teen years would’ve bet big bucks I would never do.  The scars I have are a reminder that God heals wounds, even for the agressors.  My crooked smile is one that reminds me that even when we’re broken gratitude is a powerful thing and a smile can change someone else’s day for the better.  How has someone’s positivity changed your day?

Related verse: Psalm 69:30 

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Your new-wrinkle-havin’-crooked-smilin’ friend –

Rachel

BTW…

BTW could be an acronym for many things; most popularly and especially in text-speak By The Way, or my closer circles it means Beyond The Walls (the name of the ministry I am blessed to be a part of).  

I first recall thinking about the true meaning of the words we speak when I was assigned to read the book To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee in middle school.  The main character (Scout) used the phrase “…by the way…” in a sentence towards his caregiver who promptly corrected him in his usage of that phrase.  I’m about to paraphrase here – but she revealed that “The Way” Scout referred to when he said “by the way” really refers to The Way of the Lord – and that is not what Scout intended when he used that phrase.

Until that point i used the phrase “By the way” pretty regularly as a segue from one point to another, or even out of thin air to bring a thought to life. Being a pretty literal, black and white kind of person, after reading this passage I could no longer use the phrase “by the way” without thinking that I was indicating I was following the Way of God when, at that point in my life, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that whole matter.

 

Since that time I have learned and believe that Jesus is Way, the Truth, and the Life.  John 14:6 – but I still don’t say “by the way.” What are your thoughts on this phrase?

And how often do we use words that REALLY don’t mean what the true definition of the word is… like “that’s cool” or “awesome” for something really mediocre and not awe inspiring at all.   Hmmm.

Chillin in my awesomeness –

Your friend – Rachel

 

Quarter-Life Crisis

This was written a few years ago, before I gave up cussing – please excuse me in advance, I didn’t edit the swear words out. 

I’ll preface it to say that turning 25 was a scary milestone for me.  (Don’t snicker). The fear started when I had heard once as a pre-teen that  (read this next part in your best naggy voice:) “if you aren’t on a solid path by the time you’re 25 you probably will never get anywhere on purpose”… and I lived the next 15 years with that quote nagging in my mind. I call the period before hitting that milestone my “Quarter-Life Crisis”.

O.K., I’ve successfully passed age 25 and haven’t dropped dead or instantly become a schoolmarmish kind of drab individual with the turn of the midnight hour on this epoch. Nor have I become the eccentric, overdressed woman, wearing gold-lame jogging suits and too much rouge with a bottle of some dark liquor in my pocket flask.

Believe me, my thinking, conscious brain knows that I’m only days older than 24 and that anyone older than 25 is laughing their ass off at my juvenile, ungrateful attitude that I should still be in the 20-something age group and be complaining about aging…

However, the events of my childhood that made me dread this particular year are resounding in my recalled memory.

I remind myself that things are pretty damn good right now. I have a house (by extremely fortunate circumstances), I have a job that I love, my children are fantastic, loving, and growing up with all of the characteristics I am working hard to instill. As I typed, things are pretty damn good.

Am I where I thought I’d be at this age while the idea of college was being shoved down my throat in my homeroom class 11 years ago? Not by 1000 miles. I lost the shot at those dreams when I skipped out during 2nd period and never went back, in trade for a waitressing job in an octogenarian-filled diner where tips were the leftover change from the bill that was paid near exact. But the reality of losing it didn’t materialize until the last quarter of my 24th year.

There I sit – GED, college credits with no degree, and a single mother of twins.  This is definitely not were I dreamed my life was going to be when I was sitting in that classroom more than a decade ago.

But, in turn, my life is better than it ever would have been had I followed the path of my teenage imagination. I am stronger, more aware and more self-sufficient than the girl who walked in those dream shoes.

And, I would have envied the person I am now if I were the person I thought I wanted to be. I don’t envy the girl in the reverie but I do mourn the dream.

Are you a 20-something girl who can relate to this?  Read this book by Christine Hassler.

Love and graceful aging – Rachel

 

Walking in these shoes

“…begin each day as if it were on purpose.”

I really like shoes – specifically stilettos, but any stylish pavement pounder will do.(See my newest shoe find – Only 10 bux and free shipping ya’ll!)  However, you’ll hardly catch me in sneakers or flats unless I’m heading to the gym or out for a run – and then you can’t catch me anyway, ha ha. (Here’s what I use to track my work-out efforts)

This affection for fashionable footwear wasn’t always present.  As a young(er) girl I used to love one pair of sneakers a little more than usual; so much so that even when the canvas fabric started to fray away from the thin rubber sole I still wore them with the same confidence that I had when they were brand spankin’ new.  In fact, I think I liked them a little better this worn-out way.  Even as the frayed edges gave way to expose the lil-bitty toes underneath, I still loved these shoes.

One fall evening when I was ten years old I ran away from home after I heard that if I didn’t like the way things were going on I could go ahead and leave. “Freedom!”, I thought, and off I went.  This escapade only lasted a few hours before I was picked up by our friendly local authorities, but I quickly learned that certain shoes just won’t do in certain situations, especially hole-ridden ones.  I mean, even if you love your winter snow boots as much as my son does, you probably shouldn’t wear them in Ohio mid-July – like my son would if I let him.  Similarly, my favorite new stilettos wouldn’t have done me much service for getting around in the middle of this week’s snow storm, like my fashionable wedge boots didn’t help me out much while trekking on a recent impromptu hike through the woods.  So, as I’ve learned to wear the appropriate shoes for the task or weather at hand I’ve also gained a greater understanding of how a little preparation can add much ease to your day.

In the same way, I’ve learned that I have to prepare my heart for the day as well. when I wake up and get dressed in the morning, I consider my schedule and the weather when choosing what to wear – I am learning now how much more important it is to prepare my heart, clothing it in love and grace, before I go out to meet the world.  I used to just get up and go, go, go.  Whatever thoughts flooded in upon waking for the day were entertained.

I am NOT a morning person.  But, I’ve realized that this is the case because of the negative thoughts that I have allowed myself to entertain upon waking.  Now, when I wake I am practicing the act of expressing immediate gratitude for the day I have been given and thinking positive thoughts intentionally.  In the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith, his character Hitch says “…begin each day as if it were on purpose.”  This is taking some work and it’s still a work in progress, but it’s working for me.  I am gradually seeing less of that cloak of disappointment that used to come over me when the alarm clock would shout me awake.  The greater effect is that this has is my attitude changed towards others for the day, even during my commute to work, because of this one change made at the start of the day.

Sometimes I feel a little like those worn out old sneakers.  I know that I’m a little beat up and frayed around the edges, but I am loved.  Through my relationship with Jesus Christ I am learning how to shod my often high-heeled feet with the preparation of the gospel (good news) of peace.  But first He’s teaching me peace.  The kind of peace that comes from the inside out.  The kind that we get to decide to have no matter what we’re wearing for the day.  Take action –  “… seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

Present Time Consciousness

Present time consciousness: Athletes call it being in the “zone”, I call it “paying attention.” This is a practice I’d like to get better at.  I often find myself drifting off in a daydream to a far away past or to thoughts of the future.  These thoughts are necessary, in the same way that a melody needs notes played before and after the current notes to really be a song. In the same way we must be in the “now” in order to actively participate in the song of own lives.

I digress, I remember making the determination that I liked to sing when I was three years old.  I was in my grandparents family room and a jingle came on the TV that I wanted to mimic with the goal of hitting the high note.  Apparently, my vocal dexterity had not developed and the Mariah Carey-esque note I was trying to achieve sounded more like the shrill holler of a toddler in need to the adults around me.  Grandma asked “What are you doing??” I proudly answered “Singing!” Like most little girls, I was promptly signed up for dance classes and as a result I can stroll pretty smoothly in just about any high heel shoe.  (How to walk in high heels).  (How NOT to walk in high heels).

*Video disclaimer for karma’s sake… I have tripped in public before, in both flats and heels. So there.

 

Back to the now: Presently, I am a single mom.  I have seven year old twins who love Jesus, and who are brilliant, kind, funny and gorgeous.  I live in a great house in the suburbs that has an amazing story behind it’s acquisition (I’ll tell that story later).  I have a great car because of the great Grandparents (a.k.a. “The Grands”).  I have a job that I (according to the American educational system’s standards) am not qualified for, with awesome employers who have become awesome friends.  I’ve been surrounded by people who really care about me just for the sake of caring.  I don’t appear to the naked eye to be a former junkie-street-runner-rebel, which I am.  My relationships with family have been (almost) fully restored – by the grace of God – after I destroyed them.  I have all of my faculties, minus average  joke telling abilities.  Most importantly – because of God’s grace, I have a relationship with Him.  He did not abandon me, leave me or forsake me, even though I asked Him to.

I am sharing these things with you so that you can know the glory of the Lord in my life as you continue to read my blog in which my not-so-cheery past will be shared.

(Hebrews 11:19) Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.