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maintaining regret

broken wagon in a field of daisies — Russell Lee, June 1939

Today my head is consumed with fires.

With the passing of my favorite screenwriter.

With seminars and webinars from successful authors.

With a plea for this Puget Sound summer to begin in earnest.

There is no time to sort these thoughts. To weave them.

There is work, and breakfast, and a lesson, and appointments, and insurance calls. There are phone messages, email messages and facebook messages to return. Friends to see. Children to love. A house to clean. Meals to plan. Shopping to do.

I want 5 a.m. back. To rise early and greet the day.

I want 6 a.m. back. To read alone in the quiet. To pray.

I want 7 a.m. back. To undistractedly answer my husband’s phone call. To listen.

But the hours will not return to me. They are gone. It is useless for me to mourn them. To waste precious minutes in a busy day.

* * * * *

What would I take from this house if raging wildfire forced me to leave?

Five minutes? I would spin — overwhelmed. (I’m not the most level headed in crisis.) The time is too short.

I would take only what matters: a man and four children.

Thirty minutes? I would grab the memories because my mind is full of today and I would forget all of yesterday without them.

The journals. The letters. The hard drive.The photos — conveniently still in boxes.

When we were away from danger, I would hold my family tight. Grateful to be alive and together.

. . . but, eventually, the years would provoke me with regret.

Why didn’t I stay awake and watch for the flames? Why didn’t I grab the box of videos? Why didn’t we take both cars? Why did we even buy that house?

My heart would remind me: you survived. You. Your husband. Your kids. Let go.

* * * * *

But we do this. This mourning the past. This regretting. 

We regret until we are unable to move. To sort thoughts. To be present.

We wonder had I drawn the line years ago, could I have prevented this grief? Had I noticed . . . Had I stopped . . .

But it is useless.

We cannot add a single day to our lives. We cannot add a single cubit to our height.

Still, regret persists. Insists on consuming.

I should have been there. I should have told someone. I should have prayed more.

Years wasted in hurt, in hiding, in shame.

Daily, our failure is before us. The mess. The debt. The disappointment.

Discouragement burns, fueled by regret.

My heart reminds me: You survived this fiery trial. This addiction. This shame. Why are you destroying today by regretting the yesterday you cannot change?

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Lamentations 3:19-23

I will have another chance at 5 a.m. tomorrow.

To pray. To write. To work. To love. To be.

And if tomorrow never comes, and I pass into eternity, I will not hold tight to regrets and take them with me.

I can’t take them with me.

I know this. In my soul. I know it. The years are what they have been.

Hardship. Loneliness. Hurt.

But it isn’t hopeless. We are together. We sift through the ashes and find beauty:

Love that endures all things.

The love of Jesus. A love we are learning.

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way — He loves us. Oh how He loves us.” — David Crowder

what if we all quit being super woman

Women in War. Supercharger plant workers.
Library of Congress Collection.

Lately, I’ve been working on the uncomfortable habit of being real.

For a significant portion of my life, I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but over-committed, over-the-top, make other people’s contributions to the task look like poo kind of busy.

Being busy kept me distracted. Too much time on my hands gave me time to worry about Dave and his pain, his addiction and then his recovery.

Doing above and beyond rebuilt my self-esteem. Putting my nose to the grindstone earned me some badly needed kudos. I felt destroyed by the hand I’d been dealt in life. Work and volunteerism showed me again that I had value.

A full schedule kept me from being social. I lost the ability to entertain. At one time in my life, I felt like I had control. Over my home, my kids — even at times my husband. As that illusion wore away and was eventually shattered, I withdrew.

I was trying to make it up to the kids. I thought they’d been cheated out of an incredible life when we had to leave camp. Regular life seemed so dull without constant activity. In a quiet moment, they might miss it. And I couldn’t bear that.

And I was working toward a place where my own income would be enough in case Dave didn’t make it.

* * * * *

It’s been nearly two years since I realized I didn’t need to be like that anymore.

I was exhausted. So much so that I didn’t know it. So used to trying to keep up a frenetic pace that I had no idea what real peace looked like. So sure that because I could do something, I should do something.

Two years, but I’m just now beginning to act on it.

* * * * *

I’ve been learning to say no. Even to good things. Learning to not care what people think. Learning not to try and justify. No excuses. Just no.

Because I’ve tried the explaining. And someone always has more kids, more work, more responsibility. If you are a people pleaser or discontent with your life, it’s easy to get roped in.

And that’s the key. I’m less of a pleaser. I’m not as discontent. And though I have a long way to go, I’m on that path. And it looks different and acts different and says things people who are looking to please don’t say.

* * * * *

But I’ve been struggling lately with my inability to multi-task a million mom things. And feeling guilt about ministry and church. And I’d reached that overload point at work, yet again. Because I’m a pleaser.

And then, in lieu of narcotics for the pain in my jaw, the endodontist prescribed a steroid. Just four days of it. To get me through to the root canal.

For four days, I had a tremendous amount of energy and combined with regular pain relievers that finally helped alleviate the pain in my jaw, I felt good. I worked 53 hours in four days, flying to California and driving hours and hours each day through LA traffic without even a moment of panic.

As I was driving across the Southland to the airport to go home, I thought, I wonder if there’s something I can take all the time. 

Performance enhancing drugs for moms.

I know there are. I know plenty of moms who take them. For depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, pain . . .

An extremely (in my eyes) social friend of mine — someone to whom I’m always comparing my feeble hospitality — admitted to me recently that she had to have a glass of wine at certain events to get through the evening. And when she realized it had become a habit and decided to break it, the events suddenly became stressful and she dreaded them.

And I recall a conversation with a friend some years ago in which I confessed to her  my guilt that I didn’t think I could deal with a mutual friend who had made me miserable without going on anti-anxiety drugs. That I didn’t understand how she could be such good friends with her and what was her secret. Well . . . she said.

I’m not saying these things to judge anyone taking medications or who have a glass of wine at a party.

I’m saying them because I had been comparing myself to a false standard. Berating myself needlessly.

* * * * *

It hit me hard on Saturday. When I came home.

All my pleasing doesn’t please. It only makes me miserable.

And if Super Woman on steroids working overtime doesn’t make everyone happy and pleased with my work, I’m not going to feel guilty about what I really have to give anymore.

I wrestled all last weekend with this whole persona I’ve attempted in my own feeble way. Wrestled with my pride. Because I know I can do a lot of things. Just not all of them. I have to choose.

So I’m reclaiming my priorities of wife and mom and I’m choosing to make time for people who are going through hell because of addictions and to write about our experience for their encouragement. And that means means I have to give up a whole lot of other things. Or at least being amazing at them.

The truth is, there’s no reason for this relentless pace.

All of my former excuses — distraction, self-esteem, guilt, pleasing, fear of sudden poverty — just don’t cut it anymore. That’s not who I am now.

* * * * *

It’s a process. And I’ve had a lot of help. A lot of exposure of my flaws. A lot of learning to be okay with who I am, where I am. That I’m not anywhere near a perfect mom. Or wife. Or anything.

And I pretty much don’t care who knows it now.

Because what I’ve discovered, now that I’m not trying so hard to be amazing, is that the people in my life need me to be real more than they need me to be awesome.

And, I need me to be real. 

Being real this week has given me a totally unexpected but long-sought for answer to prayer.

What about you?  We’re not in a competition. There is no real prize.

And please read this article: Moms on Drugs: The Prescription Pill Epidemic

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have problems. And we need to make it okay for people to ask for help without making them feel like a failure.

Maybe it would be easier all quit being Super Woman at once.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

power in a parking lot

Yesterday, I had a Jesus moment.

That moment when everything around you, all the stuff you are trying to do for Him is stripped away and your eyes are open to what ministry looked like to Jesus.

I’ve seen it before. Many times. On the other side of the world. Healing. Feeding. Preaching to crowds.

And I’ve seen it twice now, in the parking lot of a church.

Twice.

Twice.

And I wonder if you’ve ever seen it. Because we don’t do this.

We make it so complicated. Discuss and let outreach die in committee. Allow naysayers and negativity to squelch the passion for reaching the “marginalized” in our community.

When we finally do set out to reach them, we set up barriers — give them hoops to jump through.

We set the pace of recovery and give up or write off.

We disagree on a point of doctrine and pass up the opportunity to work together and show we are Christians by our love.

We look for an ROI on our community healing investment, forgetting that only 1 in 10 lepers returned to thank Jesus.

And we are missing it.

Imagine a church that looks out at their struggling community — joblessness, broken homes, addiction, hunger — and says, we have the answer.

Not just the words.

I’ve seen it.

I arrive around 4 pm, and see a dozen or more people — men, women and children — setting up canopies and tables in the church parking lot. They haul boxes of food, donations from the community. From dentist’s offices, food distributors. Others from the church were working before them — they’ve sorted and packed the donations into boxes holding a week’s supply of staples for a family.

Nearly 80 boxes are hauled out to the parking lot.

And then people gather. Some look haggard and worn. A mom who doesn’t want me to take her picture, but will talk to me. Telling me about real hunger in her family. Right here. In America.

I talk to a woman who lived in her truck for seven months. She looks lovely. You would never, ever guess if you saw her… I have to ask her questions. It’s my job. And she catches her breath when she tells how she found this church at Thanksgiving. She was hungry. And they do that thing — the making a feast and going out into the highways and biways and inviting in.

Nearly a hundred are gathered in this hot parking lot by the time the preaching begins. And they all sit, quietly listening. Drinking in words of hope and life.

And I talk to the people and am amazed. They are there not just for the food that they could really get from any foodbank.

They want to hear about the God who loves them. Who hasn’t forgotten them. Who sees and cares. They want to be prayed for. To know they aren’t alone.

So Eric preaches. And Estelle translates. And there is nodding of heads because he’s telling them about David, who was type-cast as a shepherd and no one would ever guess he’d defeat a giant. And Eric names the giants in their lives. Alcoholism, abuse, drugs, unemployment, poverty, hunger.

Some of them go to the church now. In fact, since they started this outreach five years ago, more than 200 have joined the congregation.

I watch the scene. And the parking lot looks a whole lot like Galilee.

* * * * *

Eric will be the first to say this is a tough job. That it takes a lot of people. That they are doing this outreach together. Although he is passionate and fiery, he could not do it without the people willing to pack boxes and move them and pray.

It takes a church.

And I think about the bystanders in Jesus’ day. The naysayers. The ones with the theological differences. The questioning of whether this person was in trouble because he sinned or did his parents.

And I wonder where we are. Who we’ve become. And what we’re missing.

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