I Can’t Control the Church

When I was in 9th grade, I got kicked out of church camp. My dad showed up out of the blue to take me home and I had no idea what I had done or why I was being kicked out. Before my dad was called, no adult church leader had told me I was being kicked out of camp, told me what my church camp infraction was, or asked for my side of the story. My very disappointed father just showed up and a very surprised and confused me got into the car again with no official word from anyone about what had happened. After several hours of parental grilling, my parents understood that I truly did not know what I had done wrong, and they began to seek the answers to our many questions. Before I go further, let me provide some insight. I grew up in the church. My family religiously (pun intended) attends church every Sunday. On top of attending church weekly, I also attended Sunday school, Sunday evening youth group, church camps, mission trips, summer outreach programs, and other church activities throughout the year. I had attended private school or a private homeschool program until I was in the 6th grade. Outside of school and extracurricular activities, my social life revolved around church and church related activities. This particular church camp was a co-ed high school retreat and the topic of biblical discussion was Gossip. How as Christians, we shouldn’t engage or condone gossip. It was a relevant topic given it was directed at high schoolers but I had no idea how ironic the topic would become. I was excited to be there. Friends from church whom I had grown up would be there and I had some friends from my public high school who also attended. It was supposed to be a weekend of biblical guidance and  fellowship. I had been on other co-ed church retreats before, so I was well aware of the rules regarding contact between male and female participants and I had always adhered to them. After my parents demanded answers regarding my church camp transgressions, it was revealed that an adult leader had seen me and a male friend from school walking around the campsite alone together. She saw what appeared to look like us walking into the woods alone together. Upon seeing this, she assumed that we went into the woods to engage in prohibited male/female activities (you get the picture) and began to gossip about me and this assumed behavior to the other leaders and students at the camp. This gossip ultimately made its way to the youth group leader who decided I should be removed from camp without ever talking to either me or my friend about the situation. This was my first experience with overt Christian hypocrisy. To say the least, it was a devastating personal attack and at most it was a huge blow to my identity which was directly intertwined with the church.

To be clear, no illicit type of contact or behavior had taken place at any time during this church camp retreat. In fact, we didn’t even go into the woods together. I had made us turn around because I knew it would have been inappropriate. Honestly, at this point in my life, I hadn’t kissed or even dated a boy. Now, I will admit that I have always been an outgoing person who never had a problem talking with people of the opposite sex so walking around church camp with a friend, who happened to be a boy, didn’t seem like a big deal. My parents believed me and advocated on my behalf to the church. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to clear my name. This boy had to come forward and tell the youth group leaders that nothing had happened between us. After he did only one adult leader, a parent volunteer, apologized. The apology was in private and in secret. Not one official church leader apologized and there was no formal or public apology which told the entire youth group of my peers that I wasn’t the type of girl they had been told I was. Even though I was allowed to rejoin the youth group, the damage to my personal self-esteem and church reputation was already done. I was no longer the accepted sister in Christ that I was promised to be as a part of God’s people. This was my second experience in overt Christian hypocrisy. It had an equally devastating effect.

After this, I was embarrassed to show my face at church. In a place that used to be an extension of my home and my family, now was the place where I had been judged and shunned. Even though I had done nothing wrong, I felt ashamed. Needless to say, church was no longer the place I wanted to spend my free time. My parents understood but our family values still required me to attend church every Sunday. Thankfully, as soon as I was old enough to drive, my parents agreed to a compromise. I would attend formal Sunday morning church with my family and then I got in my car and drove down the street to another church’s youth group. I attended this youth group, made some friends, joined a weekly bible study, and went on mission trip. It was a much more enjoyable experience but I didn’t do those things out of my desire to be in fellowship with God and fellow Christians. I did it out of obligation and ALWAYS kept myself guarded.

In my personal life, I unconsciously decided to let this event define me. Up to this point in my life, I had always strived to be the good Christian girl I was raised to be. Yet, I still had received all the stigma of a label without any of the fun. So I did what most teenagers do when they are given a negative label, I let it become a self fulfilling prophecy. I started rebelling, dating, drinking alcohol, and at times I put myself in unsafe situations. These experiences perpetuated my low-self esteem and shame. When I left home for college, I also left behind my obligations to the Christian faith and especially the church. College was one experiment of worldly pleasures after another. Don’t get me wrong, it was A LOT of fun, but when the party was over, I was left with the hangover of years of bad decisions, inner emptiness, and, yup you guessed it, shame. I had also racked up some external consequences. After receiving my third Minor in Possession of Alcohol ticket, I knew things had to change. I decided get control over my life, to reign in my behavior, and become the responsible and pro-social adult I was raised to be. I did those things, but I didn’t return to my faith.

Shortly after, I started dating a friend who is now my wonderful husband. I used to tell him he saved me from myself. At the time, I truly believed that. He was (and still is) a solid object in the chaos of my life. For the first time someone, outside my family, loved me unconditionally past and all. He never did and still has never made me feel unworthy of his love. To this day, he is the love of my life, my partner, and my best friend. He is the most trustworthy, respectable, and loyal person I have ever met. We have seen each other through the good, the bad, the fun, the ugly, and some really hard times. Together we have built a life, a support system, and a family. We both got great jobs. And we both have taken turns supporting the other when we decided to change careers, chase our dreams, and fulfill our purpose. Together, we take on the world. Together, we have thrived. I wouldn’t trade our marriage, our partnership, for anything in the world. But, he didn’t save me. Those feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and shame, started to creep back into my soul (See my previous blog post regarding my love language). I felt lost. I had changed my life around. I had gotten a good job helping kids, not just any kids but at youth involved in the criminal justice system. You know those kids with labels, those kids most people judge and shun (I digress, that is a blog topic for another day). I had made all the right decisions. What was missing? Feeling restless and discontented, I remembered a bible verse from my childhood. Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Knowing what I needed but no idea where to start, I went to the place where I know God resides, church.

Miles away from my hometown, my childhood church, and miles apart from the girl I was once, I went to church because I wanted to. Because, I was looking for something and I remembered a time when church felt like home. I didn’t feel worthy of God’s love, I just knew I needed it. I still wasn’t sure about it all, so I went alone and sat in the back. To my surprise, this church taught about Jesus’s love, acceptance, and restoration. Its message was about being a place where sinners could come, feel safe, and hear the gospel. I kept going. It stressed joining a small group so reluctantly I did. It was just what I needed. What I had been looking for. Just as God had placed my husband in my life right when I needed him, God had now placed Godly, yet imperfect women, in my group. These women shared their struggles, their desires, their lives, all their imperfections, their insecurities, and their Godliness with me. We connected and they accepted me, my past and current imperfections, as a fellow sister in Christ. It broken down my walls and reopened my soul to the possibilities of finding fulfillment by living a life dedicated to following Christ. I rededicated my life to Christ and began searching for his meaning and purpose for my life. But, I kept it to myself. You see, long ago I had vowed to NEVER be the type of Christian who had hurt me so badly. I never wanted to be the type of Christian, the hypocrite, who claims to be a Christian, claims to understand Christ’s love, dresses in their Sunday best each week, and uses the bible to shame, hurt, and condemn people. I didn’t even want to be perceived as a hypocrite and there is absolutely no way I could be the perfect Christian, so I kept it all to myself. But over the past four years, through biblical guidance at church, through the women and studies in my small group, I have grown in my understanding of God, Jesus, and how imperfect Christians, such as myself, are an extension of Christ in the church.

I can’t control the church. I can’t control what the leaders and the people who make up the church do, say, or how they act. I can’t control how this story, my story, will be perceived especially by other Christians. I can’t control how people will view me after I share it. And for the first time, I’m okay with it. Because I now know that my identify as a Christian isn’t with the church or with other people; It is with Christ. As a Christian, I have a personal relationship with Christ. I believe that God created the world and all its inhabitants. I believe that God has a unique plan and purpose for all things. I believe God is Holy and Just. I believe that God condemns sin. I believe that Because God is holy and just he can’t be close to people who sin. I believe that God wants to be close to us so he sent his son, Jesus, to live as a human on earth. I believe that Jesus lived a perfect life. I believe that Jesus was crucified and died on the Cross. I believe that three days later he rose from the dead. I believe that Jesus started the Christian faith and the Christian church. I believe Jesus saves and restores. I believe that by accepting Jesus as my personal Christ and savior and repenting my sins it makes me a Christian and ensures that I will go to Heaven when I die. I believe in the trinity which means I believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are one. I believe that God gave Christians guiding moral principles and commandments which to live by. I believe all of these things to be truth in my life. Because I believe these things, Jesus has saved me. He restored my broken, ashamed, and restless soul and replaced it with peace, joy, contentment, and purpose.

However, I won’t pretend my life is perfect. I know that I am not now nor will I ever be a perfect person or be a perfect Christian. I know that I am still a sinner. I know that I have to continually repent my sins. Sometimes, multiple times a day. I love Jesus but often I fall short of living out his perfect image. Sometimes, I let the pressures and the stress of my day to day life overwhelm me. Sometimes, I don’t have faith in God’s purpose and try to control everything. Sometimes, I still try to find fulfillment in worldly things. Sometimes, I still fall down a shame spiral (see my recent blog post about my son peeing the bed) Sometimes, I curse. Sometimes, I drink (responsibly). Sometimes, I get upset at my husband, my son, and other members of my family. Sometimes, I’m selfish. Sometimes, I have talked bad about people. Sometimes, I have even engaged in gossip. And it pains me to admit it but sometimes, I am a hypocrite. Still, I go to church. Sometimes, I show up in my Sunday best and blow it before I get out of the parking lot. Yet, I get up the next Sunday and go again. Now, with my family and I sit closer to the front. I don’t go because I am perfect, if I was I wouldn’t need Jesus or the church. I go to church because I need the weekly biblical guidance, weekly scripture reading, weekly corporate worship, weekly restoration, and I go because I can feel God there. I go because I now understand that the church isn’t what hurt me so badly. It wasn’t Jesus who had judged and shunned me. It was people. People can hurt, judge, and exile others but Jesus never does. People let other people down but Jesus never does. People are hypocrites but Jesus never is. People, even Christians, are imperfect but Jesus WAS perfect. People can’t act as the go between God and his people but Jesus can. People can’t save but Jesus can and he did. Which is why I choose to forgive the people who hurt me all those years ago. I choose to let go of the hurt and the shame that followed and accept that it was and it still is an important part of my faith journey. Because if I hadn’t been hurt so badly by Christians, I never would have left the church. And if I hadn’t left the church, I would have never known how much I NEED Jesus.

Today is Good Friday. The day that Christians remember and reflect on what Jesus did to save us on the Cross. Easter weekend is the pinnacle holiday of the Christian faith, my faith. On Easter Sunday, Christians across the world will go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is also the weekend that some, non-church goers, complimplate going to church. Some will go because that is what you do on Easter Sunday. But others will chose not to go. Maybe because they had a similar experience with the church or a with a Christian. If you have, I’m so sorry. But please don’t do what I did and accept the actions of an imperfect person to be God’s truth and Jesus’s love. That is not how Jesus intended his church or his people to be. Jesus spent his time on earth with sinners and with the lost. He didn’t shun or condemn them. He loved and taught them and because of this they chose to repent their sins and follow him. By doing so, they chose to adopt God’s biblical guidelines and purpose for their lives. By doing so, they lived out Jesus’ mission, spread the gospel, and started the Christian church. By doing so, they were persecuted. Leaving behind the church, and its imperfect people, to continue the mission. So it is on this mission that I share my story. My story isn’t pretty or perfect and sharing it isn’t easy. It is vulnerable and scary. But, it is real and authentic just like my faith. As is my invitation to you to join the Easter celebration by going to church. Where, yes some other imperfect people will be, but also where the message of the Good News of Jesus’ saving grace and love can be found. If you are local, I invite you to come to my church, Clear Creek Community Church. You can look up the many services and times here: https://www.clearcreek.org/events/details/2019/04/21/easter-all-campuses-3/. Happy Easter, He is RISEN!

I Can’t Control My Love Language

My husband and I met in college in criminal courts and procedures class. I had previously met him through a mutual friend, so on the first day of class when I saw him I decided to sit by him. A few weeks later, I invited him to study group. We became friends and started hanging out outside of class. Later that summer, we had summer school classes in the same building. One day I suggested we should go running together after class. We did and running through the hill country trail which ended at the famous San Marcos Sewell Park became our summer morning ritual. One day, in the middle of our run, we ran into a friend of his who seemed surprised to see him running. After a couple minutes of small talk his friend said, “I guess you are into two a days”. I was puzzled but at the time didn’t say anything. Later when I finally asked him about it, he told me him and his friend had been getting up every morning at 5:00am to run and train for their summer deployment. When I asked him why we would agree to run with me again only a couple hours later, he simply said, because you asked me to. Even though we weren’t yet dating, this was the first time I realized my husband loved me. We no longer run together through the sprawling hills of San Marcos. Let’s be honest, I couldn’t keep up then and I for sure couldn’t keep up now. Despite giving up our college ritual, my husband has never stopped demonstrating how much he loves me. He demonstrates his love through service. He is constantly serving me, our son, our dogs, our family. He cleans the house, he cooks meals, he tends to the yard, all while also putting his life on the line and serving his community as a police officer. I have never once heard him complain about any of it. He enjoys doing those things. He enjoys showing his love through his acts of service to others. Although he has never waived in his love and service to me, I don’t always feel loved by him. In fact, knowing someone loves you and feeling loved by them are two different things.

Although we both graduated with criminal justice degrees, after college my husband didn’t go into law enforcement. He went the opposite direction and took a job at a bank. I took a job as a probation officer and we settled into regular life of working during the day and spending evenings together. Four years later, my husband decided he wanted to change careers and become a police officer, I wasn’t surprised. I knew a desk job wasn’t fulfilling to him.  When he decided to do it, I was 100% on board with the decision. When he got hired on to a police department, we were thrilled he had finally landed his dream job. Life was good, but not for long. This decision had some unintended consequences.

Shortly after him becoming a police officer, he started working longer hours and different shifts. I still worked my day job so we saw each other less and less. We would rarely spend time together. For the first time, I was alone in the evenings and at night. Although I knew he loved me, I started to feel unloved and lonely. I didn’t know what had changed. He hadn’t changed. I hadn’t changed. But the way I felt in our marriage had changed. After several months of feeling this way, we had an argument where, in anger, I blurted out, “I feel you don’t love me anymore.” Offended by my accusation, he replied back with, “Everything I do is for you. I don’t see how you don’t get it.” It went round and round like this until we were too upset and too hurt to go on. We decided to agree to disagree. Misunderstood by him, I recounted this story to friends actually complaining about how much he cooks and cleans, Some thought I was crazy, but several of them suggested I read the book, The 5 Love Languages.

I did and I found out my love language is quality time. Which means, I receive and feel love by spending quality time with people. I crave and need quality time with my husband, my son, my friends, and my family. If I don’t get what I perceive to be quality time from them, I don’t feel loved. I have learned quality time means something different to everyone. It meant something different to both my husband and I. It has several different meanings in my family. To me, quality time means spending uninterrupted time together. It means prioritizing being together over anything else. If you hadn’t guessed, my husband’s love language is acts of service. After learning this about ourselves and each other, we were able to have a rational conversation about what we needed from the other person in order to feel loved. We have each had to work on it. I have had to learn how to serve my husband more. Which I can be honest, I am not the best at. On the other hand, he has had to learn how to stop doing things and just spend time with me. We have had to schedule nights where we sit down and do nothing else except talk to each other. Sometimes, it is hard for him but he does it because knows I need it. Learning our love languages and applying them to our relationship was a game changer and a life-saver to our marriage but life soon changed. After becoming a full time working mom, I craved to have quality time as a family. Our opposite work schedules limited this. After many discussions, we decided I would quit working and I would stay home for a couple years while I completed my graduate degree. We now enjoy family days during the week. My husband and I have reconnected and have enjoyed a lot of quality time. My son and I have quality time in abundance. Life should be all good right? For the most part it is. There are so many things I love about being home but I still feel something is missing. What is that saying, the grass is always greener on the other side?

Currently, I am a stay at home mother, police wife, and online graduate student. The days my son goes to pre-school, I spend behind a computer. My family doesn’t live down the street. We are spread out across the country. My closests friends live several hours away. I no longer work, so I don’t have a set of co-workers to go to lunch with and discuss our shared experiences everyday. I miss that. I long to go back to work. I do friends. It’s hard to find time to hang out. When we do, I talk about myself the entire time. Who wants to hang out with a person like that? I have other stay at home mom friends but we don’t have playdates every day because… well life. Kids gets sick, then we get sick, our husbands work opposite schedules, our kids are on opposite schedules. I have school work to do. We all have long lists of chores and errands to do. I am alone or alone with my son A LOT. It is nobody’s fault, it is life. And this is the life I wanted. The life I chose. The life I still want, I just never realized it would be so lonely.

I’ve tried to put myself out there. I’ve given my phone number to moms at the doctor’s office and to other mom’s in my son’s preschool class and said let’s get together. I talk to other mom’s at Chick-fil-A. I go to church. I’ve joined the gym. I’ve joined a book club. I’ve signed up to serve at church. I sell oils. I’ve volunteered at a non-profit I’m passionate about. There is always something that stops me from following through. My son gets sick. My husband works the weekend of the events. I can’t find a babysitter. I get sick. I have papers to write. Trying to do it all becomes too stressful to manage. It is always something. I’ve been so discouraged. Why would God give me the need to spend quality time with people and then make it impossible for me to do so? My family comes to visit and we don’t have my definition of quality time. I get angry and lash out. That’s counterproductive.

Last year, I did join a bible study. I went sporadically when I could find a babysitter or when my husband was off. Then I dropped out. Again, figuring out how to get there every week was too stressful. But, I crave and need quality time with other women so this year I decided to try again. I asked them if they would consider having bible study at my house so I could still attend when my husband is working. To my surprise they said yes! The first few weeks were great. Then, as usual, life happened again. My son’s tee-ball practices get scheduled for the same night. Since tee-ball started, I haven’t gone. This week, I had forgotten bible study was scheduled to be at my house until my friend texted the day of. When we got home from tee ball practice, she was already there. Thankfully, she played with my dogs and setup the video while I frantically gave my son a bath and got him ready for bed. Overwhelmed and stressed, I was half listening and half contemplating dropping out again when we started discussing what our next study should be. My friend brings up a study about feeling alone, on the outside, unloved, and how God can heal us and fill that need. Before I even think I blurt out, “I want to do that study!” It amazes me how God always brings me what I need when I need it. Most often when I least expect it. We spend the rest of the evening talking about my recent struggles with feeling lonely and unloved. They listened, they empathized, they loved on me, and then they gave me biblical guidance. I felt heard, affirmed, validated, and loved. And in that space, I was able to recognize the error of my ways.

I can’t control that my love language is quality time. However, I can control where I try to find fulfillment for it. I’ve been seeking it out in my worldly relationships. My husband, my son, my family, my friends, my job, my school, and in my commitments. By staying busy. In things I thought I could control to give me what I need, make me feel loved, and whole. When they don’t, I get disappointed, discouraged, and angry. Maybe God has put so many obstacles in my way to make me finally realize I need to turn to him for my quality time. Just as I crave quality time with the people in my life, God has been craving quality time with me. I’ve been looking for a constant companion not realizing I have one lying in wait. I spend time with God when I have time, but I’ve never made it priority. I always get too busy, overwhelmed, stressed, and forget about it. It’s time to change that. My faith, my relationships, and my sanity depend on it. So, I’ve decided to no longer let my desire to feel loved and included through quality time with others to control how I view my marriage, my family, and my friendships. Instead, I am going to look for God for fulfillment and spend some quality time with him. So over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to commit to doing this study every week and spend time in God’s word. No matter how busy I get. I’m going to have Faith that if I spend quality time with God, he will provide the time, and the energy, for me to do everything else. I might just find God speaks my love language.

If you are like me and feel misunderstood and unloved, I invite you to join along and do the Uninvited bible study with me. God just might speak your love language too.

I can’t control my needs

I have a lot of needs. I need to tend to my son. I need to feed the dogs. I need to make breakfast. I need to get my son dressed. I need to walk the dogs. I need to write a paper. I need to be a loving wife. I need to be an attentive mother. I need to write a paper. I need to call my sister back. I need to feed the dogs. I need to feed my son. I need to play with my son. I need to play with the dogs. I need to write a paper. I need to do it all over again. I need to write a paper. I need to hide. I need a drink. I need to scream. I need to runaway.

I wear a lot of hats. I am a mom, a wife, a dog mom, and a grad student. Often times, I find myself tending to the needs of others and forget about my needs. Especially, when we are in the trenches. The past few weeks we have been on the sickness mary-go-round. First, it was the flu. Then my son gets pink eye. Then, I got pink eye. Of course, my husband is also working over time. When it rains if pours. Finally, it stopped. We come out on the other side of the sickness but life hasn’t stopped. The life of a stay at home mom and grad student doesn’t come with sick time. My schools work, along with the dishes and laundry, has piled up. The other day, my husband had worked the night before so he was sleeping. I spent the morning tending to my son and our two huge dogs. During my son’s nap, I spent the entire time working on school work. As soon as my husband woke up, I had to take my dogs on a walk because they had been jonesing for one for hours. Half way through the walk, I started to feel lightheaded. I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I miss the days when I would get reprimanded when I worked through lunch. Although, I hadn’t eaten all day, I had drank four cups of coffee because I was tired from staying up late to write a paper the night before. At 5:00pm when I stumbled home, dogs in tow, I thought I was going to pass out. I sat down to eat and my son asks me to play with him. I lost it. I yell and tell him something along the lines of, “It isn’t my life purpose to play with you.” And “Can’t I just have a MINUTE to myself.” Later, I go to bed thinking if I am equipped to be a mother.

I wake up knowing I am equipped to be a mother, but I am not able to be a good and loving mother if I don’t tend to my own needs. But it is hard, because I have a lot of needs. I need to eat three meals a day. I need to drink more water and less coffee. I need to get a full night of sleep. I need to exercise. I need to do well in school. I need to spend time with my husband. I need to spend time in God’s word. I need to have a little fun. I need to write this blog. Sometimes, I need some me time. I need to remember the reasons why it is all worth it.

So, on Friday, I took some me time. I took my son to preschool, and instead of going home to do my schoolwork, I went and got a massage. Then, I went to the chiropractor. Refreshed, my son and I had a great rest of the day. Yesterday, my parents, GOD LOVE THEM, watched my son and gave me the entire day off. I went to one of my oldest friends baby shower. I went early and stayed late and I caught up with friends. Afterwards, I was able to help my friend unload her gifts and see her nursery. Then, I took another friend to a birthday coffee and got to play with her daughter. Later, I met up with my sister. We had dinner and deep conversations. Then we went to the Rodeo and saw the Aaron Watson concert. I spent the night at my sisters house and I slept in. I woke up and drank my coffee and finished my school work in peace. It was amazing. No, it was life giving. Because before I was a mom, to dogs and a human, a wife, and a grad student, I was a friend and a sister, and I loved going to Texas Country concerts. Sometimes, those parts of me get lost in the shuffle. It was a blessing to get a refresher course in, well me. Because, I have needs. I can’t control them. I can ignore them, sure. When I do, they always find a way to make themselves known. It’s never pretty. Instead, I can embrace them, lean into them, and fulfill them. It’s called self care and it is not selfish. It is needed and important. When I take care of my needs. I don’t feel the need to have a drink. Or the need to hide. The need to scream. Or the need to runaway. Instead, I am willing, with a joyful heart, and able to meet the needs of others.

Today, I was able to be attentive and loving to my son. I wasn’t distracted by what needed to get done or on what I might be missing. I had filled my cup and was ready to let the goodness overflow back into my life and onto my son. I wasn’t perfect but I was present. Obviously, the past two days were a rare occasion. Self care can’t always be an entire day off filled with fun events. It will always look and be different. That is the beauty of it. Some days it is stealing a second to apply my stress away essential oil and say a prayer for patience. Most days that’s all I need. Other times, it will be making sure I eat and have the strength to take on the day or at least the next meltdown. A few months from now, I don’t know what I will need. But, I promise myself, my husband, and my son, that I will meet my needs so I can meet theirs. So, if you are a mom, or a person, whose needs have been ignored. Lean into them, embrace them. Find your self care. We are worth it.

I Can’t Control My Body

My parents put me in gymnastics when I was 3 to try to harness my uncontrollable energy. And it did harness my energy an teach me control. As a gymnast I had to be able to control everything. I had to be able to control my emotions, my fear, my gravity, and most importantly my body. I had to learn to stretch, contort, and control my body in order to swing between and over bars, to flip on and off a four inch beam, to launch myself down a runway and over a vault, and to switch between being a graceful dancer and a powerful tumbler on the floor. The entire sport is about controlling the body to make it do things it was not intended to do.

After I quit gymnastics, I became a cheerleader. This sport was better suited for my extroverted nature and I enjoyed being part of a team but the premise of control pretty much stayed the same. I still had to control myself and make my body tumble, jump, dance, and stunt. During stunts, I not only controlled my body but I learned how to control your body while holding you over my head. Between gymnastics and cheerleading, I spent my first 21 years of life controlling my body. I have scars and all the aches and pains which prove my body was not intended to do all the things I made it do.

So when it became time to use my body for what it was intended to do I thought it was going to be this easy amazing experience which would leave me feeling empowered to be a woman. I have never been so wrong. Nothing went the way it is supposed to go. Actually, the first part of my pregnancy wasn’t bad. For the first 28 weeks, I was in this blissful denial that I was still in control. Then everything changed. At 28 weeks, I was in a car wreck. After the car wreck, my pregnancy went down hill. I spent 3 days in the hospital with swelling, contractions, and with my child in fetal heart distress. As my contractions stopped so did the fetal heart distress so we were given the green light to go home. We left the hospital but the swelling never left. It only increased week to week. At 37 weeks, I had to be put on bed rest. I spent the last three weeks of my pregnancy and the first three weeks of my maternity leave laying on my left side on my couch. Waiting. Waiting for the pregnancy to be over and to be back in control of my body. Wrong Again.

As soon as the contractions started my son went back into fetal heart distress. Every contraction his heart would drop. For 14 hours, the doctors and nurses tried different things to get his heart rate under control. Nothing worked. Eventually, his heart stopped. The nurses rushed in and shook my body until they got a heart beat again and then I was rolled away to have an emergency c-section. I have never been so scared in my entire life. As soon as he was born and I knew that he was breathing and healthy, I remember being so relieved to be back in control. Nope, not yet.

Breastfeeding came next. He wouldn’t latch. I wasn’t producing. We tried skin to skin. We tried a nipple guard. We tried a lactation consultant. We tried until he started peeing blood. We rushed him to the doctor. He was dehydrated. The doctor told me to supplement with formula. She said it would be fine. But, breast is best so we kept trying. I kept forcing breastfeeding first and then I would supplement with formula. I pumped in between feedings. I would cry when I would only produce one or two ounces. I would cry as I feed my son formula. No matter how hard I tried or how hard I cried I couldn’t control or make my body do what it was intended to do. I couldn’t feed my son. It was heartbreaking. Sitting here writing this, it is still heartbreaking. At eight weeks, when I returned back to work, I hadn’t been able to produce enough to have any milk stored up. So, we had to switch to formula full time. I was devastated. But, it was a gift. It was a gift to my son and it was a gift to me. It allowed me to feed my son and to feel in control while I did it. Finally, I was back in control and for good this time. Not quite.

Everytime we discussed having a second child, I clung to that control. I would say I wasn’t ready. We had a good thing going. Why change it. Finally, I reluctantly agreed. We would try for a second child but under certain conditions. I quit my job and went back to school. School was going to take two years and we could try for a second child during those two years. Two years was plenty of time to make, carry, and have a baby. All the things I couldn’t control before were eliminated. I wouldn’t have to worry about bed rest, or maternity leave, or trying to store up breast milk because I was home and I didn’t have a timeline of when I had to go back to work. I was in control so I could do it. In October, we were so excited to find out we were pregnant. I was determined to do it right this time. I ate healthy. I walked every day. I did yoga. I cut out caffeine. I rested. I didn’t stress. I drove carefully. I was in control. We moved to a bigger house. We were financially stable. We were ready. We were happy. We were in control. NOPE.

I had a miscarriage. The doctor said I didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing I could have done differently. There was nothing I could have done to control it. I will never know the reason it happened. These statements were meant to be comforting. To a control freak like me they were the opposite. They confirmed my worst fears. They confirmed I couldn’t control my body. They confirmed my suspicions were true. I was done. I was hurt. I was angry. I was at a loss.

There has been a lot of loss. The loss of the joy that comes with being pregnant the first time. The loss of experiencing childbirth. The loss of excitement and accomplishment during the first months of being a new mom. The loss of my second child. But, if I am being completely honest, with you and with myself, the loss I have felt the most is the loss of my perfect plan. The loss of control of the situation. It isn’t a good time to try again. I have less than 9 months left of school. If I get pregnant again, it will coincide with trying to start a career. It will interfere with my sister’s wedding. Or we could try again and it all could happen again. All the things I can’t control and all the things that could go wrong are too overwhelming to even think about. They are too overwhelming to talk about. They are too overwhelming to face. They are too overwhelming to try to control. They are too overwhelming to do alone. YES.

I may never know the physical reason why I swelled up so much during my first pregnancy. Why I had to be on bed rest. Why I had have a c-section. Why I couldn’t produce enough milk to breastfeed my son. Why I lost my second child. I may never know the why but I do know the purpose. If they hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been brought to my breaking point. I wouldn’t have fallen to my knees and asked God to take control of my life because I can’t do it anymore. I wouldn’t have been open to going to counseling. I wouldn’t have written this blog. God used my body, the thing that I have been able to control my entire life, to show me that I am not in control of anything. To show me I can’t plan it. I can’t control it. I can’t do it alone. He used my body to bring me to a crossroads. Do I control my body and not try to have another child? Do I continue to try to control my life? Do I trust his plan for my life? Do I trust his plan for my son’s life? Do I trust his plan for any future children that I may or may not have? The answer is yes. I chose to let go. I chose to release myself from the burden of trying to control everything. I chose to transfer the burden of control to God. I chose to have Faith. And I chose to try again. This time knowing that I can’t control my body, or the situation, but that I can trust God.
*For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11*

I can’t control my son

As a young, naive, and childless, 20 something I remember being in the checkout line at Target and seeing a mom with a young child who was throwing the world’s loudest temper tantrum. She kept going along with her business, ignoring his screams and everyone’s annoyance, and I remember thinking I will NEVER be that mom. I will never be the mom to have a crying child in the Target checkout line. I will never be the mom to not be not be apologetic while my son screams. I will never be the mom who lets their child act out in public. I will never be the mom who can’t control their child.

Then, years later, I became a mother and the reality smacked me clear in the face. I can’t control my son’s behavior. I can love him. I can teach him. I can give him expectations. I can give him choices. I can give him consequences. I can explain to him that his choices have consequences. And I do all those things. I do them well. Still, doing those things does not give me control over him or his behavior. I can’t control whether or not he will have a meltdown in the Target checkout line. I can’t control if he will sit through an entire meal at a sit down restaurant. I couldn’t control him when he cried through his entire 2nd birthday party. There are so many things about him which I can’t control but I was serious when I told myself that I would never be that mom. So, I decided to control what I could. I started controlling his environment. I controlled what type of situations I put us in. I stopped taking him to Target. I stopped taking him to sit down restaurants. I stopped taking him to places that were unfamiliar. I stopped going to events unless he had gotten a good nap or unless we were with trusted friends. When we did go places and he had a meltdown, I started leaving. I started apologizing to everyone around us. I started saying no and choosing to stay home. Home is safe. Home can be controlled. As, I think back on the past year, we have had some great times. I am happy and thankful for each and everyone of those. But I am also sad. I am sad because we left your daughter’s birthday party early because he cried when he couldn’t help her open her presents. I am sad we dropped out of soccer because he had a meltdown the first three practices. I am sad we left an empty movie theater because he wouldn’t sit still. I’m sad we haven’t gone to Chili’s together as a family. I’m sad that I thought our only choices were to leave places early or stay home. I am sad that we have missed out on so experiences and so many teachable moments because I never wanted to be mom who couldn’t control her son.

Today is my son’s 3rd birthday. We threw him a huge birthday party. We bought him a cake. He got presents. In fact, he got so many new toys we could stay home and play with them the entire year. But, we won’t. This year, my real present to my son is to accept that I can’t control him but I can be that mom. I can say yes to your child’s birthday party which is scheduled during his nap time. I can decide not to drop out of T-ball. I can take him to the movies. We can do unfamiliar things with unfamiliar people. If we are feeling really crazy, we can even go to Chili’s on a Friday night. Not only can we do those things but I can choose to stay. Even if he has a meltdown. I can be the mom to wait out the tantrum in order to discuss the lesson. Because if we don’t, how will he know if he is good at t-ball? How will he learn how to act at a restaurant? How will he learn to persevere when he is tired? how will he learn that he can work through hard things? How will I learn how to overcome my need to control everything. So, if you see us in the Target checkout line and I am unapologetic while my son is mid meltdown, shoot me a smile and give me some grace, because I am trying to be THAT mom who walks by Faith.

I can’t control my dogs

I can’t control my dogs

About four years ago, me and my friend had a brilliant idea. We would meet at a trail to walk our dogs. She had two dogs and so did I so we thought it would be fun. She walked her dogs with confidence and her dogs rarely stepped out of line while me and my dogs were a fumbling mess. We kept getting tangled, the dogs wouldn’t listen to me, my feet kept getting caught in their leashes. By the end of the walk, I was in tears and felt so defeated. That day I resigned myself to think that I couldn’t control my dogs and so I won’t walk them anymore. Walking the dogs would be Matt’s job because he was bigger, stronger, and the dogs listened to him. So, instead of making my dogs listen to me, I just gave up and gave that task to my husband.

Now, let me stop right here and tell you about my dogs. My first dog Astro is a yellow Lab who weighs 115 pounds. He is a BIG dog. He is loud. He is loud when he walks, he is loud when he breathes, he is loud when eats, somehow he is even loud when he sleeps. Everything he does is loud. On top of him being big and loud, he craves attention and to be apart of the family. Most of the time, this is annoying because this means that a big and loud dog wants to be on top of me or sitting right next to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, being around Astro and hearing him breathe loudly all day long is so annoying that I have actually said, “Astro, go away and stop breathing”. I don’t mean for him to stop breathing and drop dead, I just want some space and some silence for five minutes to gain my sanity back. I tell Astro to go away so often that my sweet innocent son now tells Astro to go away more times than I care to admit.

My second dog Ranger is the exact opposite. Ranger is smaller, he only weighs 78 pounds. Most of the time, he is calm and quite and likes to be left alone. I constantly have to tell Luke to get off Ranger because as much as he wants Astro to leave him alone, he wants Ranger to play with him. Ranger is so quiet sometimes, that I forget that he is here. UNTIL, a car drives by or the wind blows and all of a sudden Ranger will BARK so loudly that my heart jumps out of my chest and I prepare for the home invasion I am sure is happening because why else would this calm and quite dog be barking with so much vigor.

Another thing which Astro does is he will eat anything in sight. If you are making a sandwich and you turn your back to put the bread back in the pantry, Astro will jump on the counter and eat your entire sandwich before you turn back around. If my son leaves his food on the table, or the counter, or the couch for just a minute Astro will get his food. This happens AT LEAST once a day, some days it happens at all three meals. Every time it happens, Luke cries in agony saying Astro got his food and lately he tells me Astro needs a time out. I agree, and I need a break from him, so I put him outside. The minute the door shuts and Astro is outside he starts barking. Remember, everything he does is loud so he is barking really LOUD the entire time you leave him outside. It could be five minutes or it could be three hours. Yes, we have tried shock collars, we have tried giving him his own area, we have tried to let him bark it out but in this battle of wills he wins everytime. I live in a constant catch 22 because I can’t have the dogs inside because Astro is always too close to Luke, or eating Luke’s food, or Luke is on top of Ranger, or Ranger is barking out the window at the comings and goings of the street. I also can’t put them outside because Astro will bark for hours until you break down and let him back inside which starts the entire merry go round all over again.

Oh and did I mention they also dig, or that Luke is allergic, and Matt is trying to sleep because he worked the night before. Just writing all of this down makes me remember why I hid in my closet and screamed HELP! I’m being held hostage in my own home by my own dogs and by my own fear. That day I asked God for strength. For the inner strength to set myself free and the physical strength to take my dogs on a walk. And he did. Even though I had told myself that I could never walk our dogs again, I put my son in his stroller and leashed up all 200 pounds worth of dogs and we headed out the door. To my surprise, we survived that walk. It wasn’t the most graceful walk we had ever taken but we did it.

That was about a year ago and I continue to walk both our dogs every day. Have we had some bumps in the road, of course. There was the time when Astro’s leash came off and he ran away. Or the time when I let go of my son’s stroller to keep Ranger from attacking another dog and the stroller, with my son strapped into it, went tumbling down a hill. But we also survived those walks and, fortunately (or do I mean unfortunately), Astro found his way home. Then, there were other days when we stopped at the park and played so hard the dogs were so tired they slept the rest of the day. Or there are walks like this morning, when we stopped to look at the pond and noticed a rainbow. And so this daily ritual which was born out of survival is now my daily outlet and sometimes our daily adventure.

Now, there are still many things about my dogs which I can’t control. I can’t control how loud Astro breathes or stop my heart from jumping out of my chest when Ranger starts barking out of nowhere. I can’t control how my son continues to lay on top of Ranger several times a day no matter how many times I tell him not to. And I can’t control that Astro eats Luke’s food. But, I can control if my dogs get a walk. I can free myself from the stress and anxiety of navigating all the chaos they cause by getting exercise and fresh air while I walk away their crazy. Walking my dogs empowers me to do other things I never thought possible. It empowers me to write and share this blog. It empowers me to keep going, even when I am a fumbling mess. Because, there is so much I can’t control but I can overcome if I have the Faith to step out and walk.

Control Freak

It has been brought to my attention that I like to be in control. My husband has been saying it for years but what does he know…right?. But then other people started mentioning it. Co-workers, friends, my sisters, my father in law, my dad, the sermons on Sunday mornings. Some in subtle ways, others in not so subtle ways. I would dismiss them all as not understanding me, not liking me, or not caring as much as me. But then my counselor said it. After only three one hour sessions, my counselor said some words that hit me like a ton a bricks. And this time I heard it. Maybe it was because she doesn’t know me AT ALL. She didn’t grow up with me, she didn’t raise me, she doesn’t work with me, she doesn’t live with me. She only knows the things that I have chosen to share with her in our first three sessions. And from three hours of talking to me she summarized my ramblings and reflected back their interpretation. She said, “It sounds like you like to be in control.” WOW. Could it be true?

The reason that I have had such a hard time acknowledging and accepting this fact about myself is because I used to be the exact opposite. The girl that I was 15 years ago couldn’t wait to lose control so surely 33 year old me and that girl can’t be the same person. But we are. There was a time when I had no real sense of control and I loved it. I was fun loving, care free, funny, I spoke before I thought, and yes I was the LIFE OF THE PARTY. Sure, I did what I needed to do, I went to class, did my school work, showed up for cheer practice but if there was fun to be had or chaos to be found, I found it. I found it a few too many times. The chaos that had become my life was slowly revealed to me as I floated down what seemed to be the longest and slowest river while holding my third Minor in Possession of Alcohol ticket up out of the water the entire time while everyone around me continued to drink themselves into oblivion. That day, I told myself that I needed to get control of my life. And I did. I walked away from that river changed and I never looked back.

Thirteen years later, I build a great life. I’m a wife, a mom, and a graduate student. I have already accomplished some incredible things in my first career and I have a whole slew of things that I plan to accomplish in my next career. From the outside, it looks like I have it all together. That I have it all under control. Clinging to that control makes me feel safe and secure but lately I haven’t been able to control anything and I feel anxious about everything (Hence, why I started counseling… wait for it there will be an entire blog on this subject). Over the past four years, I have become acutely aware that I can’t control anything. It makes me dizzy just thinking about all the things in my life that I can’t control. I don’t want to feel this way any more. I know that the first step to working through a problem is to acknowledge it, so here it goes:

Hi, My name is Faith and I am a control freak.

The irony of that statement is not lost on me. The fact that my name is Faith yet I have none. I haven’t walked by Faith in so long that the thought of giving up control and trusting God with my life terrifies me. Except, I have no other choice. I need Jesus. I need to lose control. I literally need to let go and let God. So that is what I plan to do. I plan to take Rachel Hollis’s advice and no longer keep everything hidden. I plan to write it down and release it so that the things that I can’t control no longer have control over me. I plan to embrace my chaos. I plan to walk to by Faith and see what happens.

So join me on my journey as I lose control and walk by Faith. I invite you along with me on my journey because it will help me. It might help you and because we all need a little bit of Faith.