Monday, April 29, 2013

Sit Down and Shut Up

This morning, my 100 Days of Prayer Journal prompt was: What do you say to yourself about faith. Ask God to reveal what you need to be saying. Over the past week, I had to confront some long-buried issues from my childhood. I didn't want to deal with them. And, I still don't want to. Almost 100% of the time, I think that talking about things is the best way to deal with them, but in this particular instance: I don't want to talk about it.

Delving into the past did make me think about a lot of other stuff, like the fact that I'm glad my kids aren't going to have to deal with the resurfacing of awful crap from their childhoods. I'm not a perfect mother. My family is not perfect, but it isn't a nightmare. And I don't worry that some day my kids will wake up and question every person in their lives. I don't worry that someday they will wake up and feel as if their whole childhood was a sham.

My family of origin had a lot of laughs, but it also harbored a lot of secrets. Secrets that we didn't even admit to ourselves. Secrets that are buried with two of my brothers and my dad. Secrets that destroyed some of us and really screwed up others. Secrets that "aren't nice" to talk about as my mother would say. And some that are too awful even to remember. But if you peered through the windows of our glass house, the Swans looked fine. Looks can be deceiving.

I wanted what any child wants: to be accepted, loved, and cherished, but mostly I was criticized, belittled, and beaten. I never felt good enough. I sought acceptance anywhere I could find it--with friends, with alcohol, with boys...mostly with boys. Fortunately, God sent me the perfect boy when I was pretty young. One who would tell me nearly 25 years later, "I feel like you were mine before I even knew you." Swoon. The boy who wishes he could have protected me from everything--even my own family. The boy who walked with me and held my heart and my hand while we made the family of my dreams.

I'm off topic. Sorta. Back to my kids. They are amazing. I tell them all the time how proud I am of them. I'm not perfect. Sometimes, I yell. Sometimes, I swear. A lot of times, I'm impatient and nit-picky and neurotic. I apologize...a LOT. I always stick up for my kids when other people--people who should tell them how great they are--don't. I tell those people how great my kids are even though they don't care or they would see it themselves. I seek validation because I never got it from the people who mattered. There's the revelation: I sought approval from everyone because I never got it from my parents. My kids don't seek approval from anyone because they got it from us.

Wow. Make sure you're sitting down the next time you ask God to reveal something to you.

I read a million books trying to figure stuff out, but all I needed was God. Not the God of my childhood, who scared me. The God I found at MY church. I spent 39 years trying to do it myself, and in one short year, God completely changed my life. I never have to live another day seeking approval, because in Him, I am accepted, loved, and cherished. In Him, I am good enough. When people tell me they don't believe in God, I don't judge them. I pray for them. I pray that everyone's heart would feel as full as mine does now.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Just Because Your Name is Mary

Sometimes things shake you to your core and make you question everything you think you know. I have had a few of those instances: my brothers dying and getting pregnant with my girls--both were unexpected blessings with unexpected being the key word (I may or may not have extreme control issues) are a couple.

Recently my daughter wrote an amazing blog, and I realized that in trying to raise her differently than I was raised, I managed to instill in her a whole host of different issues. She was born at a crazy tumultuous time in my life. Imagine your life at 21. Drunk? Partying? Well, I was crazy in love with a tiny baby while finishing college, getting an amazing job, never weighing more than 100 pounds, and planning a wedding to man I never saw. At least those were the idealistic balls I was trying to keep in the air.

I approached motherhood pretty much like this: I'm not gonna be like my mom. Period. Yesterday, my mom mentioned that her doctor had gained a few pounds and that she hopes "he doesn't get fat as a pig." That should clear up any residual questions about my weight issues. Fat is the worst thing you can be in my mom's eyes.

I had a lot of self-esteem issues that took/are taking a good part of my life to sort out. I wanted acceptance and people to like me. My mom's acceptance came the skinnier and blonder I was--the more I was like her. But, I like to eat, y'all. So, 100 pounds wasn't in the cards for me. Although, this Fast Metabolism Diet might just help me get close.

Now, I love my mom, know that she loves me and was the very best mom she knew how to be. She was tremendously awesome in many ways, but she didn't exactly excel in the body image department, and body image is a big deal to girls. I accept her for who she is; good grief, she lives with me. This isn't about bashing my mom, that was context. 

I didn't want my kids to have self-esteem issues. I wanted them always to know how beautiful, smart, talented, precious, special and so forth they are. So, if they didn't hear it from the world, you better believe they would hear it from their mama. I am not that mom who thinks my kids are perfect and puts them on a pedestal; trust me if you came out of my womb, I'll put you in check. BUT, I am pretty sure that they all know I am always their biggest fan, cheering the loudest, and willing to do and be ANYTHING they need.

So that brings me to this earth-shattering revelation: Shouldn't I have that same attitude about God? Shouldn't I start asking what He wants from me? My sister gave me a book, Anything, by Jennie Allen, and more than any book I've ever read other than the Bible, it is changing my life. The premise: Be willing to do anything God asks of you. Do it when He asks.

Many times I've asked God what He wants me to do, but I don't think I've been listening well enough. Instead, I look at the gifts He gave me and try to figure out how He wants me to use them. But I don't have to figure it out. I just have to listen. The beginning of the week, God put two people on my heart. I said, "What do I do for them?" The answer was so simple: Pray. Last night, one of them sent me a message saying how much they loved coming to our church and thanks for inviting them.

Here's the shake-you-to-your-core part: I've been waiting for Gabriel to swoop down in all his angel splendor with a harp and a shield (maybe because my name is Mary?) and announce some great calling for my life, and I have been missing millions of little whispers.