He Heals the Brokenhearted

Psalm 147:3  (MSG)

2-6 He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

I am about as broken as a person can be today.  All my ideals have been smashed to the ground and stomped on in a public spectacle.  I don’t know which emotion to feel more fully – embarrassment, heartbreak, disappointment, disdain, anguish, disillusionment, disgust – they all seem relevant and yet so far away from me at the moment.  I am numb and overflowing with sadness.  Sadness for myself, for my children, for the plight of the justice system, for the path of this country…

While I am now legally able to reveal the details, I don’t think I can in this post…everything is still too raw and new.  I just need to write down this experience – to express how this step – these 24 hours have been in the path of seeking righteousness.  And how truly empty and dirty I feel at the end of the process – not what I had anticipated at all.

See, though I have strived to live a life of truth, to be that example of truth for my children and those around me, ultimately NO ONE within the walls of the Justice System cared about truth when all was said and done.   The irony of it all – the part that snaps my brain like a twig – is that I told a lie yesterday in front of a Superior Court Judge.  I plead to a charge I was not guilty of, accepted responsibility for something I most certainly had not done, and along with that plea, gave up 3 more years of my career potential.  Faced with 2 impossible choices, I had no other option but to choose the least damning to my children and my friends, all of whom would be swept into the wake of evil and hurt this system was intent on inflicting upon me.

God has molded me into an incredibly strong woman, and for this I am eternally thankful.  But there are days, like now, when I fall to my knees, broken and bruised – after giving my best effort for the last 26 months – and my heart and my brain are having a difficult time rectifying what the point of all of this was.  I know all of the clichés…God has a plan, you’ll get through this, you’re better off…and while I might actually hold stock in a few of these, today, and perhaps tomorrow – I don’t care about those rote answers.

I want to know when our world stopped being about truth and doing the right thing.  I want to know when people like me, with good morals and high values, became obsolete.  I want to know when innocent people had to prove their innocence instead of the other way around.  I have never been someone who simply takes something at face value, and I don’t plan on changing that about myself now.  I’m not talking about fair or easy.  I’m talking about right and wrong.

What happened to me – the whole situation – was nothing but wrong.  I will get over it.  I will move past it.  I have forever been changed by it, as have my children.  But I will never accept that this is the way it is.  There is something very wrong with this world…very wrong.  And until more good people stand up and take notice, these wrongs will continue to happen – to all people.

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The Truth Will Set You Free…Or Will It?

“The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever.”

I have always prided myself on my honesty.  Not in an “I’m better than you!” kind of way, but mostly in an admirable quality way.  I will always tell you the truth, even if it leads to trouble – certainly not my intent, but in my attempt to be transparent, the line between ‘brutal honesty’ and ‘loving kindness’ sometimes becomes blurred.  I often tell too much, as has been mentioned to me before, again, under the guise of transparency, rather than misrepresenting myself in any way.

I’m not exactly sure where this strong belief in truth came from.  I know as a young child I struggled with lying.  I remember my mother and her disappointment regarding this very issue.  I also recall the secrets that were necessary that I keep – secrets that no child should be required to keep.  I do remember vividly my resolve that once that ugly revelation met the light of day, I declared mostly to myself that never again would I ‘hide things’ from people.

I also find it more than ironic how we convince ourselves that we’re not really lying by giving little pet names to the acts we commit – white lies, fibs, stories, half-truths, omissions of information – the more glorious the name, the less guilt we associate with the actual act.  But the bottom line remains the same; any time we answer a question with less that the facts, we are in essence, lying…nothing glamourous about that.

For the past 2 years, this very premise of mine has faced some strong adversity that has challenged myself and my faith to its very core.  And while I cannot yet quite share the full extent of what I am referring, suffice it to say that the very moral fiber on which I stand has been called into question throughout this entire timeframe.  At each bend in the road, I have stood firm, opting to choose truth over the perhaps easier path of least resistance, all the while wrestling with my logical brain as to why it was this way.  Why in essence was truth the ‘loser’ in this battle at all?  It would seem only right that opting for truth would lead to freedom on several fronts, not the least of which included in the world’s eye.

I think this has been the most difficult lesson of all – that the world, who at large never ceases to disappoint me, falls short on my expectations of holding up a measurable bar at all for values.  That in the choice of truth over covering your butt, hands down, covering your butt wins every time!  Even more, the fact that this shocks me has been the source of ridicule as well.  That a grown woman in 2015 has the audacity to stand for anything, let alone the truth, and walk out the courage of her convictions – well, apparently it’s simply unheard of…until now.

Now is when you’re going to want to scoot up in your seat…it’s getting good.  I don’t give a hill of beans what this world thinks of lying, covering your butt to stay out of trouble, saying the popular thing, looking the part, taking the easy way out…whatever.  Bring it on!  First, I don’t scare easy – my God is bigger than anything you could throw at me.  Second, I am raising 3 teenagers, essentially alone in this messed up world.  They are watching every move I make.  If I cannot be their good Christian example, who the heck will be?  Lastly, you know that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”?  I do stand for something…I stand for good values.  I don’t care how rare they are.  I don’t care how old-fashioned I’m called.  I don’t care if I’m ridiculed.  I don’t care if this crazy world doesn’t understand me.  I know who I am – I know where I’m headed – I know where I’ve been – I know the truth…and with God by my side…I AM FREE!

John 8:32

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Warrior Mamas – Heroes

It takes an incredibly special breed of mother to raise a child who is differently-abled, who comes to you not quite fitting the mold of those who came before, whether they came to you through 9 agonizing months of worry and weight gain, or a trip halfway around the globe.  Those of us who share the privilege of raising these princes and princesses with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally, interact socially with others, and  causes repetitive behaviors, have been given the term ‘Warrior Mamas” due in some small part to our incredible strength and never-quit tenacity.

I’ve had the great fortune to grow and know many Warriors here, as we’ve shared our journeys together – through tears of triumph and tribulation.  The sleepless night, the raging hormones, the School Board battles, the medication changes, the intimidating IEPs, the State Capital rallies for tax funding, insurance legislation and appropriate housing for young adults – we are a tireless bunch who won’t hesitate to raise our voices when our children are in need, but remain silent when the spotlight is looking for a soliloquy.  We take up our cause at least annually at our favorite walk, race, Puzzlethon™, fashion or art show, or auction – all in the name of research and support for this disorder that families deal with each and every day.  And while each of us hopes for a cure someday, we know in our hearts the time for that cure has passed for our children – the battle has shifted to better long-term care, more planning for adults with autism – the future they face is staggering.

One blessed woman I am lucky to call friend, Judith, ran the Boston Marathon yesterday, as she’s done in many years past.  The weather, as those from this area know, was atrocious – cold, windy, non-stop rainy the entire 26.2 miles.  Each year she runs for her son, soon to be a teen, on the spectrum.  She adorns her tiny body with the names of each and every student from her son’s school – the most perfect of placements for him to flourish and be all that he can be.  She begins her training months in advance, as do most of the seasoned marathon participants, running in the steeply stacked snow banked winter months, building her endurance in preparation for the big race.

The amazing thing about Judith, in addition to being a Warrior Mama (as if that weren’t already enough!) is she works tirelessly for Autism Speaks, an exceptional organization, where she is helping to promote insurance coverage to states where coverage for autism services, such as occupational therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech and language services and the like, are not currently mandated coverage for children.  She travels across the United States all week long, as those who follow her on Facebook are lucky enough to keep up with her current travels, and still manages to find time for her family, her faith and giving back.

As I watched Judith prepare for this race the last few weeks, she really humbled me in a new way.  First, the sheer determination she possesses in that tiny body just blows my mind!  Second, as a nation, we all know what happened 2 years ago near the conclusion of the Boston Marathon.  Judith was present – shaken but unharmed.  Her family was on-hand, as they always are, awaiting her arrival, and as you can imagine the pandemonium…as an observer on television, I was gripped with fear for those I knew were near.  As many who stepped out in true humane style, Judith was taken in by someone on the route, fed and warmed up, and helped to contact her family…an act that still gives me chills today.  I long for a time when we as a country can stay still in that moment…and just be.  We know how to be wonderful to each other – we just can’t capture it for long.  To Judith, and all the others – especially those who were wounded during that awful event – that had the courage of their convictions to return once again; to not let evil win…I am in awe.  You are what I want my life to be about.

Lastly, for as many more years as Judith sees fit to run this race, she has left behind a legacy for her son that he can be so very proud of.  She has left her mark on this world in his name, and that is why I would dare call her ‘Hero.’  Judith…no more, no less…YOU ROCK, GIRL!!

To all my fellow Warrior Mamas: Please smile and take a silent bow!  I know you hate the attention, but from one WM to another, some days we need all the kudos we can get!

Dedicated to: (in no particular order…I love you all!)  Judith U., Beth K., Shannon K., Kristen B., Noreen S., Diana Y., Donna C., Beth L., Vicki P., Kim S., Darlene B., Onika B., Jennifer W., Annie C., Micaela O., Dianne M.

The Masterpiece in Me

‘You know my name, not my story.

You’ve heard what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through…’

I, like everyone else on this planet, am a person who comes with baggage.  I have lived 46 years on this earth so far, and in that time, I have done things…some things I would proudly write on my epitaph, and others I still beat myself up about daily; I have struggled with challenges – sometimes failing miserably, and sometimes surprising even myself with strength I never knew I had; I have made poor choices, some that impacted those around me, and some that brought me to my knees because there was nowhere else left to go.  But the one thing I know in my heart of hearts – I have done more good than bad in my life, helped more than I’ve hurt, and at the end of the day, I know I’m right with my God, so to me, I’ve accomplished my goal.

Reflecting on some of that old ‘baggage’ this past week, someone who didn’t know me really at all responded to some of my history in a way I felt was critical and hurtful – something others who know me well would have never said or even believed for an instant.  I immediately felt judged all over again, as if I were back in that moment of when the event first happened, defending an inexcusable action that was full of lies and mistruths.  In that moment, I allowed this person who knew a thimble-worth about me to cast me in the role others had set for me, instead of what I know truth and integrity say about me instead.  I was angry, not at this person, but myself, for allowing someone to hold power over what I thought of myself, swaying my opinion with such ease.

I realized that I am still – everyday – a work in progress.  That for as hard as I’ve worked to redefine who I am – what I know to be true about myself – I am a sandcastle…one mediocre wave, and what I’ve built comes crashing down, with little left to rebuild upon.  I need to be wiser about where I chose to build.  While I love the sound of the crashing waves and the tickle of the water on my toes, that same beauty is hazardous for what I’m trying to accomplish in me.  If I rebuild, but farther back from the edge, I can still experience the beauty – the sounds and sights will all still be present – I just won’t be so exposed to the dangers of lashing tongues, boisterous judgments, and harsh critics who lounge by the water’s edge.  The sand doesn’t shift as easily farther back, either – a better foundation for where I’m headed – a hope and a promise of what’s to come.  Sure, it’s more work to build your castle back there – but when I’m finished…wow!  Can you imagine the masterpiece?

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:13 –

‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’

Paul was in prison because of his decision to follow Jesus.  Imagine how low he must have felt.  If he could write books of the Bible while suffering for his beliefs, I’m fairly certain I can adjust my sails and keep rebuilding until I get it right.  That’s the resolve I want to wake up with each day – I can do EVERYTHING – no matter who thinks different.  It’s all up to me to start.

Asking the Wizard for Courage

I have said this before and I’ll say it again…a good piece of music moves me deep in my soul!  I don’t know if it’s my Southern roots or my Christian upbringing, but regardless of where it came from, I value the treasures I find in a song that rocks me to my core.

I love to listen to a song for many reasons:  for its bone-shaking rhythm, its heart-rattling lyrics, its soul-moving chorus, its stop-you-in-your-tracks melody.  I love just about every kind of music, and I don’t care where I am – church, the car, the mall, wherever – I let that melody unashamedly work me…and yes, I dance like no one is watching, and often!

Many times I don’t absorb the true meaning of a song the first or even the second time through.  Who does really?  We hear something, we know we like it, we jam, and that’s good enough for us.  Other times a song strikes me immediately, with words that draw me immediately in to the artist’s meaning, as if I were right there, during their heartache and loss, their jubilation during their experience, each powerful step of the creative process.

Today I was listening to some of my recent favorite tunes as I worked on laundry, and I found a song I’ve listened to several times before, but until today, apparently never really heard.   Because if I had heard it before today, I would have immediately known it was my ‘swan song’ – the epitome of where I’ve come from 2 years ago.  Listen…

I would have followed ‘him’ anywhere.  I loved him, and I would have stayed forever, had he not told me we were done.  Unfortunately he didn’t have the courage to finish what he started, or even have that conversation.  And that is where my need for courage came in.  Realizing I could stand up, step up, walk away – because he would not.  This song – so powerful – so perfect.  Looking back…while so difficult, is so liberating.  I would have stayed…forever.  But I didn’t.

I won’t speak to his current status, but me – I am so much to the better for that giant step of courage.  And I haven’t stopped dancing since…

Enough

“Do not be sad I am with you always; close your eyes…listen.  Can you hear me?

I am the music in the trees, the song of a light rain, the rhythms of your heart beat.  Can you hear me?

Find the afterglow of my smile in every whisper of a bird’s song, feel the warmth of my touch in every crescendo of the ocean’s waves.  Can you hear me?

Feel the reverberation of my life, the happy times and bright and sunny days we shared and let you tears of grief be dried by the sun; I am the music of life, and my song will play on.  Listen…and you will find me.”

 

Tonight I spent a few hours at the wake of a young man of such promise.  He was the brother of my daughter’s friend – a senior in high school – an honor student, accepted to an excellent college for the fall, plans for the future, for a life full of LIFE.  A bad decision – one with terrible and permanent consequences – cost this young man his life earlier this week.  I watched his devastated parents, numb from grief, go through the motions – stand in line and hug family, friends, and strangers alike, all who thanked their God that it wasn’t them who stood in their stead, that it wasn’t their child each guest knelt before, praying to whomever they believed in, all with the same look of disbelief that I had as I found my seat.

How could this happen?  How could you think you’d done everything right as a parent – raise a seemingly exceptional kid who checked off all the boxes, but when push came to shove, you had possibly missed the glaringly obvious signs that your child wasn’t prepared for the toughest challenge of all – stepping onto life’s stage and living?  Please hear me when I say I am in NO WAY judging these poor parents.   There but for the grace of God go I most assuredly.  I just find myself at a loss as a parent – as I watched the evenings events unfold, surveyed the roomful of memories, observed countless high school friends experiencing their first loss with their parents in tow – how can I do all I can to prepare my teens for life as it races to meet them head on?  How can I assure them that they are enough in this world when I still doubt my abilities?  How can I trust they will turn to me when they question themselves, their worth, their value and that I will be there in their moment of need?

The world has faster, cooler, and smarter answers than I have.  Their friends are available at their fingertips, always at the ready.  I am who they come to when they’ve exhausted their other options.  I want to change that scenario.  I know I’m not going to ‘replace’ their best friends, but I also know I’ve implanted in them the knowledge that they can trust me – good or bad – they can come to me with whatever is on their minds.  We can talk it through and I can help them, even if they think it’s the end of the world…I’m always going to help them.  I may not love the choices they make, but I am always going to love them.

As I walked my daughter through this first wake experience, I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be any more for her to experience such as this.  Her innocence on what to do, how to react and where to go reassured me that I still had time to plant more seeds within her.  She’s growing into an exception young woman, and my prayer is that the pressures of this world don’t overwhelm her ever.  But if they do, I hope she remembers my subtle reassurances that she can always come to me – even if she thinks I’m goofy – and I am going to help her.

I hope this young man felt surrounded by the overwhelming love of his parents, even as he made a costly mistake last weekend.  I hope he knew without a doubt he was cherished, special and enough.

In Memory of ABR 4/12/15

What A Difference A Year Makes…

‘Knowing when to walk away is wisdom.

Being able to is courage.

Walking away with your head held high is dignity.”

April 14…a date marked in history.

Last year on April 14, I stood alone before a Judicial Magistrate as she told me I was about to break the contract I had made some 22 years before, an action I did not take lightly by any means.  She asked if my estranged spouse was present, and as I explained he had been, but he had left angry, she paused to question what had upset him, then struck her own comments from the record.  She trudged through the formalities I’m certain she had cited many, many times before – about alimony, name changes, child support, living arrangements, custody and the like.  I listened intently with my brain; my heart had left the building quite some time before.  As she finished, she thanked me for taking the children – a comment I thought odd at the time, but would all too soon realize the wisdom of, and wished me well.  I walked out the double doors, the sun shining on my face, grabbed my phone, and posted my first Facebook post as a single woman, “I AM FREE!”  I walked down the street to my car with a pep in my step I’d never experienced before…a huge weight had been lifted off me, and it seemed like it was visible to all those around me.

The first few months were awkward but manageable.  He wasn’t going to make it easy, by any stretch, but we’d left things flexible enough to work through them.  The summer came and he took the kids half the week, and I had them the rest of the week, as agreed verbally.  I was working a job, working on myself, personally, to figure out who I was without him and who I wanted to really be and trying to redefine myself as a parent in the wake of the damage left behind by his hurtfulness.  This went along fine through summer, and I was rebuilding the me I’d lost as some point along the way.

Then school started back up for the kids.  And something inside of him broke for good.  There really is no other way to describe the events that took place – or the person he became – from that point forward.  He started following us, threatening me with evil and angry texts and phone calls, texting the children in inappropriate ways, breaking into our home, staking out our home – he basically was a predator.  My personality morphed instantly into one of paranoia and intense fear for our safety – quickly transitioning from the locked car to the locked house, my cell phone constantly at the ready to call for help.  I was forced to seek out police support, and eventually obtained a restraining order to protect all 4 of us – against the man I had built my life with; the father of my children – he was now no longer to come into contact with us directly and only had minimal contact with his children.

The most important constant during all of this has been my resolve to work on ME through anything that comes forward.  I have come last for so very long, when I started the process, I hardly recognized myself.  I was a mere shell of myself – beaten down so badly – emotionally and intellectually…the only way I could build was upward.  Looking back over the last year, it’s painful to see where I was, and yet so glorious to see where I’m headed!

I am so incredibly happy right now – happy…I may have never been happy in my entire life, and after all this time I’m learning what happy is all about.  I am learning what the purpose of feeling my emotions is all about – and how truly beneficial that simple act is.  I have learned that coping strategies that worked as a child no longer work effectively as an adult, and that I need new strategies – I’ve gained them, had the courage to use them, and realize their worth.  I am excited when I see someone who hasn’t seen me in a while – the change in me is VISIBLE.  I am whole – not fixed…because I wasn’t broken.  And I certainly still have work to do…as we all do.  But with the dead-weight of that broken, defective relationship off my back, I am free to work on my junk, my issues, my life – it’s so incredibly freeing…I just want to shout it out!

Most excitedly and terrifying, I am dating!  Yes…I am dating…and it’s crazy and complicated and ridiculous.  But one thing is certain – and a year ago, I never would have said this out loud – I am worth it!  I am worth a great guy and happiness and the old-fashioned love I am looking for.  And if that takes another forever to find, I’m worth waiting for!  And that statement alone – that took me a lifetime to realize…but this year, this past 365 days were not wasted on me.  And neither will the next 365.  I can hardly wait to see where I’ll be!