A Message to a Mom

Walking the play ground I hear parents whisper to each other or their children, “well that was awkward”, “I bet she’s embarrassed” “can you believe that kid?”.  I look ahead to where they were walking from.  A mom, struggling with her son. It very easily could have been me, a few days earlier. I smiled at her, tried to communicate with my eyes that I’d been there, I was sorry, you are not alone. But the fierceness in her eyes told me otherwise, maybe she thought I was judging her too.

Stubborn. Defiant. Trouble. Spoiled. Brat. Pain in the ass. All words that we may have used or thought when looking at this scene or one like it. Just because it didn’t come out of your mouth, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook here.

“I wouldn’t let MY kid do that.”  :Oh my gosh…why can’t she control her kid?” “She needs parenting classes.” “If my kid ever said that to me, xyz.”  Judgements that do more than judge. They pierce the soul.  They breakdown. They cause defeat, destruction to a mother or father who has said more of that to themselves at this point. They don’t need any more discouragement, they feed on it daily. it is what they are used to.

She was desperate.  At her wits end.  I don’t know who she was.  But I want to say one thing, you are not alone.  There are others out there who struggle as you are.  Our hearts ache too, desperate for understanding and change. For the road to somehow even out because when you woke up, you felt like today could be a good day and for having those hopes dashed. I judge you too but in a different way.

Hey Mom, Yes you, the one holding on by your fingernails. You are strong, you are doing a great job.  Hang in there, there is hope, grasp hard to it. Ask for help, talk about it. Don’t hide, you do not need to be ashamed. You are mom and you are good enough, you fight because you love him. You persevere because you love him.  You’re winning. Keep going. Don’t give up.  You’ve got this.

Compassion

In a world of technology and social media, we as human beings are losing our humanity.  In recent weeks I’ve read many stories from around the world where this is becoming more and more true.  We are cruel, intentionally.  I ache when I read these stories, cringe at the vileness of the words and actions.

Social media and technology has given us a facade, that somehow our actions won’t have repercussions.  We can video tape atrocities because it will go viral before your slow working conscious can kick in.  We find it humerus to hurt others, shun them, treat the inhumanely simply because we can and from behind the lens nobody will know its us.

We read stories and point fingers in judgement at those who are failing under the weight of their burden, who are making poor choices and who are suffering from addiction.  We fail to realize behind that persons seemingly heinous actions, is a person, who is in need of compassion and love.  So do we let them go without consequences? No but it is not right for us treat this person in the same manner they may have treated someone else, you become no better when you partake in their actions. There is no room for growth if a person is not believed in.

 

I tell my children often “you are not your behaviour, you are not your emotions.  You are a human being, and all human beings deserve respect and should have the opportunity to be loved.”  How can I teach this to them if I do not hold true to those same values and life my life accordingly? 

I have had many wrongdoings done against me.  Things that never should have happened but we live in a sinful world with fallen people.  Yet, God didn’t just come for the loveable, God came for us all.  If God who is perfect can love someone who commits the vilest of acts, ultimately against something created by God, then how can I say that I cannot try to do the same.  We fail and struggle daily with this, and I appreciate the struggle.  The struggle keeps me honest, the struggle keeps me real, the struggle makes me human.

When we are down in the pit of despair the last thing anyone needs, is to be spat upon and reminded of their wrongdoings. We need compassion, empathy and the reminder that we ourselves are human.  The act of gossip or teasing can sometimes be as lethal as pulling a trigger.  There are many ways in which we can injure another person.

Lets step out from behind our technology and our social media, lets get back to face to face conversations.  Lets remind ourselves that we are human beings, not some robotic machine.  We are no better than the person beside us, no matter the actions of that person. 

 

Inspiration

Often when I share on my blog about our circumstances I hear words like inspiring, refreshing, honest, real…and to be honest, while I love to know that I’m helping others by sharing my story, I’m also a bit baffled. I truly didn’t understand why this isn’t fishing for compliments. It has made me reflect on why we respond this way to others stories, myself included.  I have many friends  whose lives I find inspiring and helps me to push forward.

When we listen to each others life story, we try and put ourselves with our strengths and weaknesses, into the story tellers life.  We try to imagine what we would do in certain circumstances.  But here’s the thing, I can’t live my friend’s life story as much as she can’t live mine. She does an amazing job, let me tell you about her and her husband.

I have a couple of good friends who are married with children. Their family decided to open their home and foster children. Babies! Babies who have needs and demands. They were comfortably out of the baby stage, out of diapers and midnight wake up calls. They knew it wasn’t easy looking after and caring for babies but they opened their home none the less.  It’s inspiring to watch as both her and her husband love these boys like their own. I smile when I think about them and the advocates they are for fostering and the need for more families to step up.  They are ambassadors in their community; helping to bridge the gap between faith community and the fostering community.

When I look at their life I’m very quick to stay, I could NEVER do that.  But the truth is, when it’s your calling, if even you imagine it to be too difficult. Somewhere from deep with in you, the inspiration rises.  You learn and grow and its often painful but one day you wake up to realize, you’re there and living the dream.  I know for a fact that these friends of mine struggled for awhile to make this decision but watching them now, its an old comfortable sweater that is your go to when you need comfort, its something natural, something they were born to do.

The same can be said of many of us.  I have many friends who are inspiring in their every days lives, struggles that they deal with daily: single parenting, special needs parents, foster parents, adoptive partents, advocates, teachers.  My list can go on and on.  I find these stories inspiring because in all of them, there is strength, love, friendship, authenticity.

I asked a friend once, if I died what do you think you’d say about me.  What would be the quality that would stick out. He said something along the lines of you don’t bullshit..you are who you are and you tell it like it is.  My tendency to overshare my life comes from this point.  I’m the person you never want to ask “how are you?” socially because you might as well pull up a chair because you’re going to get told. I don’t ask the question unless I really want to know the answers.

Truth is freedom, it frees us to be who we are and it shows others that its ok to be authentic.  Life is too short to be fake. Be honest and be an inspiration to those around you as you share your story.

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Burden of Responsibility

We are in the midst of a very difficult time right now with our youngest son.  He is a really good kid most of the time but he has some serious anger issues.  We are doing the very best we can with him and are working very hard with community supports to get him all the help he needs.  Yet with all we are doing and have done there is one very difficult realization that I’m coming to: we can give him as many supports and strategies to help him cope and understand his anger and what to do about it, but unless HE is willing to engage with them, we are going to keep going around in circles.

We will keep offering him all the strategies and coping mechanisms we can as often as we can but I’ve also realized that I have to let this go emotionally and stop taking it personally.  It is affecting all areas of my life: my mental health and self esteem, my relationship with Steve and the other kids.  His behaviours are tearing apart many aspects of our life, but they are that, HIS behaviours, not mine.  I cannot take responsibility for his anger or his actions any longer.  They are his choices and do not reflect one bit on the person that I am or the mother that I am.

This is almost impossible to remember when you are daily torn down; physically, verbally and emotionally. Emphasis is on almost.  My faith is stronger than the anger of my 8 year old. I know that things will get better, but it will take time.  There are developmental issues that we know have affected him as he developed in his birth moms womb, we know that his brain signals are not strong and take a different path to reach a conclusion or thought.  We know that he will struggle with this his entire life.  There isn’t anything that we can do about it other than offer him all the strategies and coping mechanisms that we can and pray that he will start to engage them.

Mental health issues are not a license to do whatever you please, it’s not a free pass.  There are many accommodations that caregivers make for people with mental health issues but we should never accommodate to the point where the burden of responsibility is passed onto another person.  It’s not helpful for the person with the mental health issues nor for the caregiver to give a free pass. The truth is, no matter what our mental capacity is, we need to take responsibility for our actions. period.  

There is never an excuse for abuse, that is the motto in our house.  I don’t need to play a victim either, yes I’m often daily the target of many forms of abuse, but I get to choose how to respond.  Nobody really talks about it, but kids can abuse their parents. There are many of us out there, I know we’re not alone. I can honestly say it is totally embarrassing and humiliating.  It is scary and unnerving. But I’m hoping there is life on the other side of this. That somehow, somewhere, someone will be able to reach my boy, through Gods grace, and help him engage with these strategies to help him cope.

Please continue to pray for us. We have a long road ahead of us.  I’m hoping that sooner rather than later, our boy will realize that he does have the power within him to change, that he will see the good within himself, the boy that makes us laugh and smile, who can engage beautifully with music and instruments to create moving melodies and lyrics, the boy who loves any gadget out there and can figure it out in no time.  That he is more than his anger, that his anger does not get to define who he is. Pray for our girls who are caught in the middle of this mess.  For Steve and I to be a united front, that we would be able to offer stability to our children no matter the circumstances.

 

 

 

Difficult Circumstances and a Great Employer

Right now our family is going through yet another hurdle, I’m not going to go into details as of yet; it’s too fresh and lots still up in the air and I’m just not ready to. But because of the issues, I’ve ended up having to miss a lot of work and I know I was letting everyone down. My family needed me and work was depending on me, something had to give and work was my only option at this point, which was awful because I’ve finally found a job that fits who I am and I love the people I work with.

This morning I made the call to let them know my notice was coming because it frustrates me to let people down. I didn’t want to quit, as I got off the phone with one of the managers I totally broke down. I went to Steve’s office and sobbed. It’s hard to sacrifice something that you enjoy but I did it willingly because my family needed me. I told her that when things quieted down that I would reapply because I loved working and my time at the store.

 

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About 5 minutes later the phone rang. It was the owner of the store that I work for. She was incredibly kind and helpful and explained the options to me. She listened to what was going on and offered me hope. I didn’t have to give up my job afterall. They offered me a leave of absence (with a doctors note) and to adjust my hours in order to support my family.

My heart is at peace, something I didn’t think was possible right now. As I spiral out from the current hurdle in front of our family, I’m thankful to say that my employers are amazing. It is one less stress that I can let go of, a juggling ball I can throw out so I can focus on the other balls I’m juggling.

Is it a choice? Not really.

You’d be living under a rock to not know that an icon has died, Robin Williams. The accounts of who he was as a person, as a colleague, an actor and beyond. Wonderful accolades for a man who has touched many generations with his comedy, his acting and his life.

The difficult part surrounding his death? Suicide. It’s personal, we all have an opinion and are quick to share. There have been many blog posts, tweets, conversations surrounding this very issue. The biggest factor is: Choice or Not a Choice.

It’s one thing if we only look at the circumstances in a persons life. It’s easy to say it’s a choice, hands down. Sure, when you look at it that way but here’s the thing. It’s not just circumstances. It’s been well documented through Robin’s life his struggles with mental illness, addictions, the ups and downs of rehab. it wasn’t circumstantial, it was illness.

Mental illness is not a choice, it is a real disease that messes with your brain and your ability to relate to life in a logical and meaningful way. It screws up your perspective to the point where you only believe lies and the truth has no way of reaching you. Your mind pushes it away, the disease takes over.

Think about what would happen if you let say diabetes go unchecked? Would you die? Absolutely. You can go into coma, you run the risk of blindness, heart issues, your body is forever altered and in the end, it can kill you. Or how about another illness, cancer. We all know the stats, you die without treatment, cancer kills.

Mental illness is no different. Sure you can’t physically see the person deteriorating, but lets face it, there is a lot that happens under the surface. The more depressive episodes you have, the less likely you are to go into remission. The more we try to self medicate, the worse it gets. Going on and off the medication given to us by professionals changes our bodies ability to metabolize the medication and thus making it useless in battling our illness.

Have you noticed my language? Us, We, Our…I’m Depressed. I have a lifelong illness that I will forever need medication for. I’ve been to the bottom and wandered around life aimlessly. The fog so thick I couldn’t see anymore, fact or fiction. I bumped around life so much I was lost in the forest in a dense fog, no way out.

I lived this way for as long as I could, but I wanted it over. I found no reprieve, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t see my way out. Death shouted at me every day. I was very sick. The only reason I made it out, God. God rescued me.

I spent 4 weeks in hospital, 1 week of that under 24 hour surveillance. I didn’t trust myself and the staff didn’t trust me either. The more time I was able to spend there, the more the fog lifted. I wasn’t bombarded by life and the demands placed on me. There was a solitude and quietness that my heart, my mind and my spirit needed and I found it on the mental health ward of a hospital.

There wouldn’t be a mental health ward in hospitals if it wasn’t a illness. We have cancer clinics, diabetes clinics, and we have mental health clinics. When people who have mental illness hit the suicide wall its not a choice, it is our illness that has run amok in our bodies, the darkness closing in.

In these times I hope that you are very conscious of the words that you use. I’ve heard people talk about acknowledging Williams suicide is glorifying the act. Please don’t think this way, it is another way that we can shed light on something that is very real in our world, mental illness that has been allowed to run amok in our bodies because society has allowed it to become a taboo. Something to be kept silent, but that is the worst thing that you can do. Allow us to talk, don’t judge, don’t placate and tell us you know just how we feel because you don’t. Each person with mental illness experiences it uniquely, the same as each person with cancer or diabetes experiences their illness uniquely.

Sure when a celebrity commits suicide mental illness is pushed into the spotlight but I challenge myself and others to talk about it. It’s not a dirty secret to be kept hidden, it’s an illness that needs treatment. Let’s advocate for those who need help because often times they don’t know where to start. Education makes it easier to locate resources for the individual and their families.

Intentional Rest

Sabbath. Rest. Time off. Solitude.

It has many names, many faces, many options.  Your rest will look differently than others.  Some may read, some run, some sleep, some climb, some hike…the choices are as far as the imagination can go.  One thing is certain though, rest is a vital part of life.  It’s a must, not an option, the only option you have how you are going to rest.

I know how difficult it is to rest, to make the choice to slow down.  Its hard, it goes against our societal practices that say that we must go, go, go.  But there is something sacred that happens when we choose to slow down, to connect with our creator, to take the time to be present, to be aware of the Spirit and listening to the still small voice that whispers to us “come and rest, take my yoke upon you”.

This past few days I have been away at the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec’s Annual general assembly.  It’s a time when representatives from Baptist Churches from all over Ontario and Quebec come together to vote and discuss the business of the coming year.  I know it doesn’t sound like rest, but here’s the thing, it’s 1 day, all the business then boom, it’s a conference, with options to go to workshops or to do something else.

This week was a time of Sabbath for me.  After the uncertainty of the last few weeks and the struggles with my kids, my time was well spent connecting with Steve, friends, learning from the speaker David Fitch. Then came rest: soaking in the hot tub, going to the gym, making time for me, for the things I enjoy doing.  It was time well spent.

I encourage you to move beyond your comfort zone and make time for rest. You will find that after you make time for it, you’ll need to make it part of your week, part of your day and your year.  My sabbath looks different, small amounts of time at the gym weekly, nights out with my husband or friends, and a vacation of sorts each year.  It is something that I’ve learned that I need in order to be the best person I can be, to connect with the Creator and creation.

 

 

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