Lost, but found

A miracle happened today.

The year of 2018 was probably the biggest year of change in my life. I’m going to spend the next couple of days talking about change, future goals, what have you with the introduction of the new year.

But as of today, a miracle happened.

One change that happened in 2018 was that my son’s best friend, the boy with the face tattoo, got kicked out of his house. In June we bought a bigger house and pretty much right after that, the boy moved in. We talked about having him live here full-time as a foster child. Paul and I were talking with him about getting his face tattoo removed, helping him finish high school and get a job, and working with him on getting his license. We were making him meals and doing his laundry.

There were signs that were unsettling, but we ignored them. After my ruby ring was stolen, we were convinced it wasn’t him. I bought a lock box for my valuables and within a week the boy was living with us again. We told Alex we trusted the boy. Alex’s relief over this was visible. He was Alex’s best friend since the early grade school years. We just didn’t believe he would steal from us since we have been doing everything we can to help him through a hard time.

This morning I found my lost ruby ring. It was a miracle since I never expected to see it again! But I found it in the pants pocket of the boy with the face tattoo when I was doing his laundry. I felt a great elation and sadness. My ring has been returned to me, but my son’s best friend stole the ring. He will never be allowed in our house again. I haven’t told my son yet and this is really going to be hard on him.

Why did we ignore the early warning signs?

This past year we also left our church which we have been members of for 10 years. There were signs over the last several months that it was no longer the right place for us. It took something big to finally get us to leave. Now we found a new church that is a better fit for us.

I think that most people know when something is over. I think we knew, but we didn’t do anything. We tolerated instead of taking action. Why does it take something big to move us from something we know?

For me personally, there has been so much change in the last year that I have been trying to avoid change. I have been clinging to everything that I have known and watching as it slips away. But sometimes change is for the better. I have to trust that God has a better plan for my life. I have to learn how to let go. I need to know when it is time to let go (before something valuable is stolen). There is also a price for not accepting change. I didn’t really realize that until now.

To be honest, I feel a tremendous amount of relief. I have the tendency to be overly responsible and want to fix things. Having the boy here was a big burden for me. I wanted to save him. I wanted to take the bird with the broken wing into my nest. I wanted to do something even his own mother was unwilling to do. Now it is over.

I got my ring back and that truly is a miracle!

 

 

The brewer’s wife

Recently I met someone new under unusual circumstances. We met through our realtor, at a party she was hosting with a stranger at the stranger’s house. Generally this was out of my comfort zone as an introvert. Paul, the extrovert, said that he didn’t care either way if we went. It was rare to have a weekend evening free at the end of summer. Even rarer was that the introvert was all excited to go. I wanted to meet some new people in the neighborhood.

The party had an eclectic variety of home brews that were remarkably good. Paul said that he wanted to thank the brewer for offering up his marvelous beer. We had a long conversation with the brewer and he stated that he loved sharing his beer with friends. I jokingly asked him how we could become friends.

Skip a month ahead…I was planning Paul’s 50th birthday party. I was wondering what to do about drinks. I was already planning on having the food catered in. Then I thought of the brewer. I asked him if he would be willing to share his beer with us for the party. I offered to pay him which apparently was illegal. Whoops! I didn’t know. He said he wouldn’t accept money, but would do it for a friend. So we set up his kegerator at our house with 3 of his home brews.

After the party, we invited the brewer and his wife over for supper and to pick up the kegerator. Now the brewer’s wife is a doctor of psychology. Most of her clients are autistic. She also works with their families.

I had my first one on one conversation with the doctor. I ended up telling her a lot of things that I don’t even tell my closest friends after knowing them for years. I told her about the day on the lake that my brother almost drowned. That day, at age 6, I was left alone to watch my 3 younger brothers swim.  Alissa would certainly yell if there was a problem, but Alissa didn’t. I told her that since I was in grade school I felt like an adult.

I told her that I was homeschooled from 8th grade through 10th grade because my autistic brother was too violent to go to school. I told her that I lived my late middle school and early high school years in great isolation from my peers. I told her how I was a caretaker for my brother. Instead of going out with friends on a Saturday night, I helped shower my autistic brother. I told her that for many years I was a massive bruise from when my brother hit/hurt me. I told her the hardest part was that he never was told that hurting me was wrong.

I told her of my restrictions because those things could set Matt off. I wasn’t allowed to use hair spray, wear nail polish, or perfume. We had to dip our tooth brushes in peroxide and baking soda for awhile. I told her that my dad was abusive. I told her how I sometimes have flashbacks.

She said that lots of times special needs siblings have issues with addiction or depression. She said that the depression rate of special needs siblings is 50% compared to 6% of the regular population. But she said that the state lacks funding to have programs for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I find that very sad.

I told the doctor that I would be willing to speak to parents or siblings about my experiences. I told her if my story could help a couple others who are struggling, it wouldn’t all be in vain.

That evening, they left the kegerator at our house promising to get together soon to pick it up.

The next day I apologized for being so candid. I told her that I don’t usually share personal things with complete strangers about my life (outside of this blog). She told me that she was honored that I shared my story and that for everything I’ve been through it’s surprising that I am a solid person. (She also said she would be sending a bill which I hope she did not mean!!!).

She said that she was planning on finding a way for me to share my story of hope with others who are struggling. I’m not sure if anything will come of it or not.

I’ve always felt like my purpose is to help others…to write about it…to speak about it…

God works in mysterious ways…sometimes he works through beer.

 

Luke’s visit, part 9

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We didn’t spend the whole time talking when Luke came to visit. Although I must say that I didn’t talk a lot. I spent a lot of time listening, transfixed by Luke’s words. It was the first time he spoke about our childhood with any meaning.

I think that through his struggles, he has gained new insight, wisdom, and purpose to his life.

Maybe our suffering wasn’t in vain after all.

Doesn’t a brilliant rainbow first need rain?

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We invited Luke and his family to our new house and out sailing for the first time. Luke’s youngest daughter wanted to jump off the balcony into the swimming pool. Not a good sign for the upcoming teenage years. She also wanted to buy a sailboat, but said that she didn’t have any money. She is so funny that I think the carefree comedian Luke is still living on.

Paul patiently taught the kids all about sailing. I think someday he would make a wonderful grandpa. My dad spent a lot of time ridiculing us for things we didn’t know and called us stupid when we came to him with questions. But as I watched Paul and Luke with the children, I was happy to know that they are both wonderful fathers without ever having had wonderful fathers.

Sometimes our struggles can become a blessing.

 

Vegas, part 2

I had a lot of time to myself with not a lot planned on this trip…which equates to having a lot of time to overthink and worry.

While I was in paradise, my 3 closest friends were at home suffering. My best friend Cindy was getting attacked for standing up for something she believes in. My friend Lisa lost her child in a car accident while I was gone. My friend Jen has terminal cancer.

It wasn’t as much fun in paradise alone worrying about things I couldn’t control. I’m not used to being alone, but I think I will have to start getting used to it.

I spent time alone at the pool and watched people. I saw the lifeguard pick his nose and riffle through his emergency bag in boredom. Did he think he was invisible?

There was a man who was alone listening to his music on a speaker over the music that was playing getting drunk with a bucket of beer. Out of character, I really liked a song he was playing and approached the man asking what the song was. I didn’t know it would result in a deep conversation about the meaning of life.

Why are you here? Have you ever questioned your existence? Do you believe in God? If God exists, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? What are your thoughts on other religions? I’m still waiting on a sign that God is here…

It felt good to have a meaningful conversation. I left the pool as the man was ordering another bucket of beer.

I was feeling anxious again. It was all encompassing. I called home and my husband said that he was having a hard time and wished I was home. We just moved and put our old house on the market. Both of my children were leaving that weekend on separate trips. I was not going to be home to help them pack.

My son Alex is going on a music trip touring Europe. He called me that night. He just turned 18 last week and is a smoker. He is planning on taking his vape on the trip. He was worried it would be against the rules and regulations of the trip. I have extreme paranoia that he is going to be kicked off the trip for being a dumb ass. But he is 18 and can legally smoke if he wants to. Then he said when he gets back he is planning on working 3rd shift at the vape shop. My daredevil hell raiser son will be the death of me! I started praying awhile ago that he has a kid just like him someday. I feel bad because he always dates the sweetest girls.

My daughter Arabella is on a church youth group trip out of state. The day the kids left, the youth director resigned. She recently got divorced and moved in with her boyfriend. It is tearing up the church. Some people are taking the stand that it is not Biblical for the youth director to divorce her husband and move in with her boyfriend…others are saying that her private life is her own business.

The youth director made it sound like she was forced to resign. No one asked her to. My friend Cindy was the one that asked if marriage was not sacred in the church anymore. She asked how the youth leader was going to explain her new relationship status to the children she was leading. Cindy never called her to resign. Now everyone is attacking Cindy for questioning. They are calling her judgmental. They are calling her a hypocrite because she is divorced.

What most don’t know about Cindy is that her ex-husband started another family on the side while he was married to her. This is very painful for Cindy because she has children with her ex and wants them to view marriage as sacred with the backing of the church.

Why can’t my life and the lives of my loved ones be worry free???

Next time it will be more about Vegas, I promise..

Moral dilemma 3

We recently found out that our youth director at church moved in with her boyfriend. She divorced her husband a couple of months back and shortly thereafter moved in with her new boyfriend.

This has been tearing the church apart.

There are those that say it doesn’t matter what she does outside of her job. If she leaves, then this group will leave with her. There are others that say they don’t want the moral leader of their children showing them that it is okay to leave your husband and take on with another man. If she doesn’t resign from her position, another group will leave.

I am not judgmental or a prude, but I personally believe that the person who is getting paid with my tithe money should ascribe to the moral teachings of the church.

I personally do not care what two consenting adults decide to do in the bedroom, I don’t. I could care less about the living arrangements of my child’s math teacher. But they better be good at teaching math.

I wouldn’t expect a drug and alcohol counselor to be out getting drunk in the possible presence of clients. There are certain things that are expected when you take on certain job positions.

So the battle begins…the ripping and tearing starts.

I feel so torn. I really like our youth director. She is great with the kids. I even like the guy she is living with more than her husband. But that is beside the point. I can’t make decisions based on feelings.

To make matters worse, our choir director and organist recently resigned from their positions due to an unrelated matter. I have become close to the organist. She has been teaching my son how to play piano the last couple years. My son has always been a difficult teen to raise and she has been a very positive impact in his life. It pains me deeply to see her go.

Maybe it is time to find a new church home. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even want to go to church anymore. I feel so much sorrow over this.

If my children decide they want to be in a relationship, I want them to marry one person and stay married. I don’t want them to be like our youth director…several broken marriages with children from each marriage growing up in broken homes acting like everything is rosy living with a new guy.

Would I still love and accept my children even if they don’t live the life I want for them?? Absolutely, without a doubt!! I made the decision to raise my children Christian. It is not easy and I want a church that will back me up on this. Is that too much to ask?

I am not even opposed to people cohabiting, or am I? Last weekend Angel’s best friend from out of town came home with her live in boyfriend. They wanted to stay at our house for the night. I really struggled with what to do. My daughter Angel is an adult and today my son is an adult. I have a really hard time seeing my adult children and their friends as adults. To complicate things, Angel’s friend also belongs to our church. I told Angel that her friends were welcome to stay but I would be setting up separate sleeping arrangements for them.

Would I respond differently if the adults living together were my age? Would I respond differently if I didn’t still have a child in my house watching every decision I make and using that as a moral compass?

Honestly, I really don’t care what other people decide to do. It is no concern of mine. But if that person is tasked with the paid position of teaching my children Christian morals, I feel really uncomfortable with that person not practicing what they preach.

Is nothing sacred anymore, even within the church??

Paul’s journey, part 6

I am going to skip ahead a little today…to when I met Paul.

Paul had settled down considerably since his college years when I met him.

We lived in the same apartment building. My bedroom was right above his. We met in the laundry room. I remember the day well. My cat puked up a hairball on my blanket. I was irritated that I had to make a special unplanned trip to the laundry room. But if it wasn’t for my cat, we wouldn’t have struck up a conversation.

Later that night, Paul invited me out to drinks with some friends. That really didn’t go well either. His friends were fine, except for one girl who dominated the conversation with Paul. She spoke and sputtered loudly looking only at Paul and frequently put her hand on his knee. I didn’t like her.

He kissed me that night out in the parking lot.

From that night on, I was hooked. He told me his story about growing up with a single parent in the inner city of Chicago…that was all it took. Paul played hard to get and I chased him relentlessly. There was a point when I thought that perhaps he wasn’t interested and decided to walk away. That was all I needed to hook him.

It was time for Paul to meet my parents. I instructed him on what to say and what not to say. My mother asked point blank if he believed in God. Paul said that he did not believe in God. In fact, he said that he believed in evolution. He went on and on about Darwin and natural selection as I kicked him under the table.

The following week, my mother set me up with my ex-boyfriend Brad. She came to my apartment under the guise of going out to eat. When we got to the restaurant, Brad was sitting there waiting for us. Brad cried the whole time telling me how much he missed me. I took him back to my apartment after lunch and gave him back everything that I still had of his. It took a long time for Paul to forgive my mother for this.

I believe that my mother started praying harder after the dinner date with Brad. At the time, Paul was in graduate school and was approached by the campus ministry with a Bible. Also, a friend of his who became a missionary came back into his life. Eventually, God wore Paul down. God knew I wouldn’t be interested in chasing a nice church going guy. I wanted a bad boy.

After I was already hooked, God changed the direction of Paul’s life.

The sign

A couple of weeks back the doubting Thomas in me asked for a sign…and God delivered..

The story really starts a few days after my doubting post. Paul flew out of a small town airport after visiting with our daughter Angel. He had two connecting flights from there to get to his destination. Each layover was an hour long. He almost missed his second flight. The third flight was considerably delayed due to bad weather from a hurricane.

Paul was in much thought and prayer about this trip. He was going to a business meeting that would require making a decision that he was unsure about…one that could have a big impact on our future. After the third flight was delayed, Paul sat down at the airport bar and struck a conversation with the man sitting next to him. The man started talking about recently being faced with the same decision that Paul was contemplating. Unbeknownst to the stranger, he was an answer to prayer.

Paul did not think that the meeting with the stranger in the airport was a coincidence. He decided to take the fork in the road. I really can’t go into the details at this point…but I can say that having an answer has been freeing…a burden lifted.

The following day, I spoke with my mom on the phone. She told me that my brother Luke wanted to step up as the future guardian of my brother Matt. I instantly felt free. A lifetime of being my brother’s keeper…gone. The chains of being my brother’s lifelong caregiver…broken. The weight of a heavy burden…lifted.

I only have 3 1/2 years of parenting left. Then I only have to be responsible for me.

I feel like a caged bird that has been set free. It’s not that I will leave my cage, but that I can. I will no longer be trapped. For the first time I feel like I can fly unfettered. I never thought that this would be possible.

I kept thinking over the past few weeks that if God can take care of the birds, why can’t He take care of me??

Maybe I am asking too much, but please give me a sign…I’m worried that I have to do this whole life thing alone..

In church on Sunday, a duet sang His Eye is on the Sparrow…The lyrics of the hymn echoed through my mind…I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me..

But I still didn’t get the message until I turned to the last few pages of the bulletin. There was a picture of a bird with a message that said something like…listen and you will hear God speaking..

Matthew 6:26-27   If I just remember this, I feel better.

I finally saw the sign…God does care about me. I might not know where He is leading, but I know that I won’t be traveling alone.

 

 

What is the meaning?

Are you there God? Just show me a sign. Let me know that I am not walking alone. Sometimes I feel alone.

I am angry dealing with a rebellious 17 year old. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this. Maybe it will be like the time when his buddies and him mooned his classmates at recess in grade school. I laugh about that now.

Even though I am angry, I still feel love. He is a good person. He said that most teenagers would jump at the chance to have a cabin to party at with free alcohol. Perhaps that is true. He didn’t partake of the property destruction.

Last week my son texted me about saving a bird. He saw it as he was leaving for school flapping on the ground. The bird hit the garage door and was bleeding from the head. I tried to save it, but it was too far gone.

Doesn’t God care for the sparrows? Doesn’t God care even more about me?

I have been thinking a lot the past few days. I don’t think I feel angry about my current situation as much as I do about the past. It brings me back to a time that I didn’t feel like God was there for me, for my mom..

My mom is right up there at the top of God’s most faithful servants list. I, perhaps, am at the top of the doubting Thomas list.

You see, my mother’s life has been difficult since her first premature breath in a foreign country. I can almost understand if God is not there for me…but my mother??

She had to deal with 4 teenagers at a time…two that were severely depressed. One that was into alcohol and drugs…and my brother Matt, the Helen Keller of mental illness…anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, and tourette’s. He was often violent. My dad was also depressed. When he wasn’t depressed, he was angry and cruel…

God, were you with my mother the many nights she cried alone??

Does what I went through have purpose?? What is the meaning? Did I even help one person live another day besides myself??

Are you there God? Can you show me a sign?

 

Birthday blessings

Today is a special day because it is the golden birthday of the child we recently sponsored in Togo, Africa. I’m sure he won’t be complaining that the birthday money I sent will be a little late.

This child comes from one of the poorest countries in the world. He has a big head and a tiny little emaciated body. Almost half of the people don’t have electricity. Most don’t have indoor bathrooms and have to walk for miles to get clean drinking water. That is their normal. I feel grimy if I can’t shower everyday. Showering is probably the least of their concerns.

The average annual salary in Togo is $400, so the $30 that we are sending him every month is considerable. But what is it to us? We probably spend close to their annual salary in one month of internet and cell phone charges. We are giving $30 out of our excess. Pocket change..coffee for a month..

It reminds me of the Biblical story of the rich man giving a lot of money and the poor widow giving the last of her money. Who gave more? The rich man. But did he really when the widow gave everything she had?

We had the opportunity to sponsor a child years ago but didn’t. Money was tight starting a business on one income with 3 little mouths to feed. It seemed practical to not spend any extra money. We didn’t give when we had little to give.

The child we sponsor sent a letter saying that he was praying that God would bless us for our giving. I’ll admit, it did give me warm fuzzies. But am I really that great if I am giving out of my excess? Maybe I should sponsor 100 children…but I would have to give up blogging to write all of those letters.

To tell you the truth, it is really hard to relate to a child whose favorite toy is a ball. He would be overjoyed to receive a new ball for his birthday. A ball? Not the newest iPhone? Or how about a fidget spinner? Or is that fad over now?? That’s right, most of the children in Togo don’t have the opportunity to stay in school. The literacy rate is horrifying, not to mention how the kids become easy target for sex trafficking.

Someday we would like to visit our child in Togo. I think it would be a humbling experience. Paul and I always spoke of doing a mission trip. We would love to help people rebuild their lives. But we wouldn’t be able to commit to anything until after our children grow up.

Paul mentioned how nice it would be to go to Togo to bring our sponsor child home with us to the land of milk and honey. Or the land of beer and cheese depending on how you view Wisconsin.

Can you imagine what it would be like to place an iPhone in the hands of a child who lived his whole life without electricity? He would be sickened by our excess.

Is it arrogant to think that our way of life is better?? I mean, my kids don’t call me a blessing every time they nickel and dime ($5 and $10) me. Which, come to think of it, happens pretty often.

I bet the food our country throws away in one day would be enough to feed another country. Remember the guilt trip our parents took us on about the starving kids in Africa when we didn’t eat all of our food? If only our parents could’ve sent our food there.

I think the average American would love to help those in desperate need if they could. If they can’t physically help, they would love to send money. The problem is that we are afraid. We all know of someone that was scammed. We cannot trust that our money is going to where it is supposed to go. There are some bad people out there that really ruin things for the people that need help.

Regardless, I feel blessed to help a child. Happy birthday to my other ‘son’.

 

 

Day 4: Vow Renewal Ceremony

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Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.  Ruth 1:16-17

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Captain Tom officiated our vow renewal ceremony on the beach. I read my original vows from the book of Ruth. Paul found a few words to speak online as he no longer had the original words. I sang Morning Has Broken and read a few words that I wrote.

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It seems like yesterday that I said these words to you.

I chose my vows from the book of Ruth. I remember getting criticism for stating the words ‘may the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me’. Could I keep that commitment not knowing the path before us? To think that Ruth said these words to her mother-in-law!!!

It has been a wonderful 20 years. I would like to think that we already encountered our hardest days in life before we met. Those struggles strengthened our determination to fight for us.

I recently heard it said that nothing changes much in a day but when we look back everything changed. What is 20 years? It is 7,300 days to be exact. Days that go by in tortoise speed but looking back it went by as quick as a hare.

I’ve heard that slow and steady wins the race, but not in any race I’ve ever competed in. But this is one race I want to face hand in hand slow and steady with you. I am not ready to finish this race fast and can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring.

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The day before our 20th anniversary (the vow renewal ceremony)

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Our wedding day.