Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It Was Burgers and Fries and Cherry Pies

The bright orange sun reflected in the tiny dust particles that flew from under the tires of the old Chevy truck.  My body jostled about as we hit the large potholes in the old dirt road leading to my Paw’s simple farm home.  The cotton was in full bloom, and it made it appear as a fresh dusting of snow had fallen across the farm fields, but the sweltering August heat quickly reminded you that it was indeed not wintertime.  As I pulled up I caught a glimpse of a little red headed boy with freckles wearing tuff nuts jeans with the knees patched and a pull over shirt yelling “Annie over” toward the roof.  For a moment I was puzzled, but then I saw a green ball whiz over the roof. He caught it, and I heard an echo of the same thing yelled back to him.  He launched the ball over hoping to make contact with his sister on the other side.  The sun had barely had time to rise, and he had already gathered the eggs and done some work in the family garden.  It was time now to head to Steele Elementary for school.  It would be quite a hike, but one he made daily.  He grabbed his packed lunch and prized possession, a bag of shiny marbles.  He was hopeful to come home with more, but knew it was possible to return empty handed.  Playing marbles was serious business when you played for keeps.
            When he arrived at the schoolyard they had a bit of time before the reading lesson started. His buddy challenged him to a game of marbles. When it was all said and done, he had kept all of his marbles and gained four more of the other boys.
They arrived to class still a bit rowdy from the game of marbles. It was a nail biter, and already being compared to the infamous match played three years ago, when a fourth grader cleaned everyone out completely. His teacher, who he claimed to be at least two hundred and eighteen years old, approached her desk from the back of the class. She noticed that the he was not doing as he was told and gave him a swift hard whack across his knuckles with the ruler that seemed to be permanently attached to her right hand. He rubbed his hand and grumbled under his breath.  Hopefully she wouldn’t tell his parents when she saw them next.  His behind would be much more sore than his knuckles from the spanking his dad would give him for misbehaving in class.  When he was a boy you respected adults, especially your teachers.  He reached into his wooden desk and retrieved his favorite book. He opened the history book that he had read over several times, but still couldn’t put it down. He loved the book so much because the pages came alive with stories of real people, and told the story of the past.  Books were not easy to come by, but he didn’t mind as long as he could read the fascinating stories in his history book, his favorite lesson. He doesn’t have any books at home; he can’t afford them and frankly doesn’t have time while working in the cotton fields once he returned home.  Other than school the only time for reading was a rare visit to the library. His teacher began her lesson for the day they would be discussing the current commander and chief, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
School was coming to an end for the day, but there was still lots to be done.  Upon returning home he would head straight to the fields and start his job of picking cotton and carrying water for the farm hands.  This job earned him a whopping 40 cents per hour.  It seemed like a fair wage to a nine-year-old boy with nothing who wanted something as simple as a 5-cent candy bar.  There was no such thing as minimum wage during this time in history.  People today would riot if expected to endure such labor with barely any reimbursement.  At the very least they would refuse to do the work.
It was finally Friday.  His favorite time of day was upon him, lunchtime.  He opened up his lunch satchel to find a bologna sandwich!  He scooped it out and devoured it.  Having such a fancy lunch was a special treat.  At the end of a long workweek there would be no eating out in a restaurant.  His family couldn’t afford such luxuries, and they lived 100 miles away from the big city of Memphis.  No, life was simple back then.  No TV and no telephone, only the endless fun to be had outside on a huge farm with an abundance of siblings.  And so it continued as it began, life on the farm; born to his mother in their home in Lukesville, MO.
He continued to grow up a small town boy, thriving in Steele middle and high school as a member of the band.  He played the tuba with perfection, receiving a lyre award. He would graduate and marry a beautiful young woman named Betty.  They would have four children, their baby boy being my father.  Life has changed a lot from when my Paw was a boy, but one thing remains the same his love for his family.  I am thankful for the lessons he has taught me directly and through my dad. 
Although his life may seem too simple and humble for many, he looks back on it fondly with this quote, “It was burgers, and fries, and cherry pies. Life was good back then.” Maybe there is something to be said for a simpler life.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Be Someone's Biggest Fan

“These damn kids.  I swear.  They are on my nerves.  I just want to run away and not look back.  I’m sick of this house being a mess.  Every time I turn around somebody wants something.  I can’t have anything because of them”.   I overhear her talking to one of her friends.  I look around the house at the mess that I have indeed contributed to.  Why did you leave your things out?  You are so stupid and lazy. I scold myself as I start to clean the house.  She notices my attempts to pick up and scoffs.  I take in her gaze.  It is one of pure disappointment.  There is so much disappointment all the time. I’m not sure what to do to change this perception.  As a little girl I’m not even aware what perception is or how one would change it.  I just know that I am lacking.  I am always lacking and there will never be anything I can do to undo the disappointment in my mom’s face when she looks at me.  I know there is this perfect life that she could have had if I didn’t exist.  Her marriage wouldn’t be strained.  The bills would be paid with ease.  The house would be spotless.  Weekends would be filled with carefree adult activities without worry or guilt about where the kids would go.
            I was 17 before I got my biggest fan. A person who looked at me without disappointment and disgust.  A person who saw the good about everything I did and said.  It was a bit weird at first, but believe me it didn’t take long to adjust.  I soared.  There was nothing I couldn’t do with him backing me.  He spoke words of praise and encouragement.  He called me beautiful and the smartest person he had ever met.  It wasn’t long before he had me convinced.  The world was a better place with me in it.  It was as if someone had unlocked this amazing place inside of me where I was allowed to be flawed, but remain good.  Flawed and good?  Is that possible?   As the years passed I would goof things up.  I misbalanced the checkbook a couple of times.  I burned more than my share of biscuits.  I bombed a test in nursing school.  I backed into a pole with the car.  Yes.  I was human.  Yet every time I messed up in life, there was this person who I wanted to tell.  You heard that right.  I couldn’t wait to call him and tell him what I had just done.  You see this is the gold my friends.  This is what counts. I wanted to call him first, immediately.  For so many years I concealed my shortcoming and failures because I knew they made me even more unworthy than I already was.  I carried such a heavy burden of pretending to be perfect because I couldn’t stand for more disappointment to be heaped on me.  Now I found myself laughing at my occasional failures.  Laughing!
I would call my husband with tears in my voice spilling out the horribleness of what I had done.  I would tense up, waiting on the response I dreaded, only to be relieved when his gentle voice would return words of kindness and understanding.  Relief and comfort flooded my frayed nerves.    He would remind me that we all mess up and this too shall pass.  He would insist I calm down and quit crying over something so silly.  He would ensure me that we would fix it together.  Before we hung up he would make sure I knew that he still loved me. 
I walk into her bedroom and it looks like we have been robbed. I pick up the jacket from the laundry room floor and the pockets are full of half eaten candy.  I’m pretty sure the sticky mess is not going to come out.  I get a call from her teacher.  She hasn’t completed some of her assignments.  My natural reaction, one that was instilled in me young, comes with a furry.  My anger bubbles up at these infractions.  She knows better.  She knows she is supposed to clean her room.  She knows to not put candy in her pockets.  She knows that school is her only and most important job.  I want to scream at her.  I have indeed screamed at her, a time or two.  I look over at her.  I try to pause and remind myself that she is human.  I try to cool down and put things in perspective.  I play this out in my head.  I can act on my emotions or I can calmly talk to her, remembering that she is a human just like me.  I recall the time I misbalanced the checkbook, burned the biscuits, and bombed my test. I want her to know that it’s ok to be flawed.  It’s ok to not perform at 100% in this life every. single. day. However, I want her to know that life is tough and there are consequences for what you chose to do and not do.  So, I talk to her.  What is going on, kiddo?  You have things you have to do in life, and you are not doing them.  Why?  A lot of times I get back a dramatic 13-year-old response that is full of bologna.  A lot of times she is just being a teenager, who finds it easier to ignore responsibilities and just chill out.  I give her the ole mom speech that many before me and many after me will give their teenagers.  I remind myself of the words of wisdom bestowed upon me by her dad, my biggest fan, “This too shall pass”.  She will be grown tomorrow.  Soon after that she will be lecturing her teenager about their responsibilities. 

My hope is that my daughter always knows that I am her biggest fan.  I want her to feel my love and the fact that I always see her heart and her good intentions, even when those intentions fall flat.  I pray that I instill responsibility in her all while keeping her self-worth intact.  I don’t want her to be 35 and struggling to find anything worthwhile about herself on a daily basis.  I want the core of her spirit to be filled with joy and understanding.  Understanding for herself and for those around her.  It is easy to pardon yourself at times, but difficult to give others space to fail.  When we allow ourselves to be human; we can give others that right as well.  This space is what makes good relationships.  When we do this we allow ourselves to find joy in our journey, as well as the journey of those around us.  Be someone’s biggest fan.  Everyone needs one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Certainly Blessed by an iPhone

The I log onto Instagram, scroll past a picture of my friend's pan of delicious pumpkin rolls with a funny note attached, "Do not eat until Thanksgiving", and I smile.  I scroll past another Instagram friend's bible verse.  I read it, and am thankful for her many post of God's word.  It's nice to feel his presence on my social media.  Then a picture pops up in my feed, and I pause.  It's my daughter posing for a picture taken by her new iPhone 6S Plus.  I'm not sure what the "S" or the "plus" stand for other than a bit of extra money, but they are there tacked to the end of the phone's name on the box it came in. The captions under her selfie reads, "I got an iPhone 6s plus and I am so happy!   Thanks @hannahsmom614 and James Howell a.k.a mom and dad for getting me this.  I am certainly blessed!!!" I read that last line again, "...I am certainly blessed."  For a moment it doesn't set well with me.  To be honest, it still doesn't.  Let me pause here because I don't want you all to think that I push my 12 year old to the brink of sanity with what is right and wrong every waking moment of the day.  At least, I don't feel like I do.  However, somewhere along the way Christians, myself included, have started watering down God on every possible level, and I am afraid I am passing this down to my daughter. This very post only confirms my fears. 

Somehow the world has convinced us that we need to put God into a box confined by reason and most importantly intelligence.  We, as Christians, want to at every turn justify why we believe in God.  Oh that miracle...well, what if God did so and so, which makes your science correct, but also makes my God possible?  I do this all the time. Why?  I get so tickled at us humans; we are a funny bunch.  We are all here on this Earth working so hard to prove we are superior.  We are better than everyone else at our jobs, our marriages, parenting, hobbies, and the list goes on.  Somewhere in this race, I have gotten caught up in the notion that my God has to run this race right along with me.  When one of my very intelligent friends ask me if people of the bible were riding dinosaurs or how Noah built a boat the size of Florida my immediate response is to come up with some scientifically sound answer that justifies the creator of everything.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I, Jodie Howell, 34 year old mom/nurse with a mere bachelor’s degree from a local university am trying to justify the actions and spoken word of the creator of EVERYTHING.  But, I play into this with people because... because they will think I am stupid for believing in something that can't be proven using their scientific reasoning. There is no hypothesis, experiment, or analysis that can prove my God to these people.  All the research out there seems to do just the opposite at times. So, the conclusion must be that I am a moron.  And, I don't like to be a moron.  Who does?  So, I tell myself to just nod and say something humorous like, "Hmmm.  I don't know.  He must have had a lot of patience and time to build a boat that big.   I think people in his time lived to be like 600!"  Then I smile and let them know that they've won the argument.  They are the superior minded non-believer who has figured it all out.  Why can't I just say, "Noah was working under the commission of God, and my God is great enough to produce a boat the size of the United States upon uttering the word "Ahoy"!  I'm sure he would pick a more majestic word, but the point remains.  He is God, and my faith should not waiver at someone who thinks they are so intellectually advanced that they no longer gaze about this planet and wonder.  It's absolutely amazing. I read a quote recently, and it really gave me comfort.  It read, "The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering.  Idiots are always dead sure about everything they are doing in life." -Vasudev.  I am not sure who this fella is, but I must agree with him.  From my 34 years of experience this holds true.  People who wonder realize their place in the universe, and more importantly they are comfortable with it. I personally know God is real in my life because I feel his presence. I feel is strongly. It is present when I experience peace amongst the madness that is life. And, that's enough proof for me. That is faith.

Back to the newest product of the most intellectually advanced of them all, the iPhone 6S (don't forget the plus)!  By whatever means I have managed to water down my God's power and authority, I have also managed to water down his blessings. I love social media.  I log on daily and enjoy stories from my friends and family members, who like me, love the Lord and are very thankful for his blessings.  We get a new home, a new piece of jewelry, a new car, a relaxing week in front of blue waters, and we are #blessed.  We are not just blessed, we are hashtag blessed.  This is a blessing beyond anything we can articulate less a pound sign.  Do you hear me fellow Christians?  Let me be the first to tell you that I am one of the most #blessed people you will ever meet.  I live in White Hall, AR right smack dab in the heart of the USA.  The main stream discord with my religion has not yet reached my hometown, positioned comfortably in the Bible belt.  Thankfully, we run just a beat behind mainstream.  As a matter of fact, it wasn't until just this year that my local school district was threatened by the ACLU to stop our prayers before school sponsored events. I live in a beautiful home, my husband and I drive fairly new cars without any pesky engine issues.  We have all the modern comforts one could hope for, and likely not live without, such as flat screen TVs, iPhones, pillow top mattresses, matching dinnerware, and hand towels.  Funny story about hand towels and bathroom sink soap.  This is something I did not realize you were supposed to have when I was younger.  We never did in my childhood home, but we were lucky to have toothpaste and a toothbrush.  Anywho, you can certainly see why hand towels fling me right outta the blessed bucket over into the #blessed one. Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, "Jodie.  This all does seem a bit blessed.  What is your point?"  Well, my point is this: What if being blessed had less to with your hand towels and more to do with what you have done for God.  What if instead of considering an iPhone 6s Plus a blessing my daughter considered winning souls for Christ a blessing?  What if we, as a family, felt the gratification of serving God equal to that of getting a new item or a bigger pay check?  What if we mentioned the fact that we were Christians when it did not benefit us, instead of when it does?  Because, right now to be a Christian where I live is a benefit.  The title means you are a good trustworthy person, who is covered by God's grace. When good things happen to you, people "like" your #blessed post and think to themselves, "God takes care of his children."  When something bad happens to you people are crushed, and assure you that this is merely God preparing you for better things ahead. After all, God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. But, soon I fear a time will come when being a Christian is going to mean something much different for the ones who proclaim it, right here in my little town.  I fear that this will certainly happen in my daughter’s lifetime.  I fear that she will not understand what it means to be "blessed", and because I have not taught her what that means she will question God's presence in her currently very comfortable life.  

If my family woke up tomorrow in a shack with a dirt floor forced hide in a dark room to pray together, memorize the words of the bible because to carry one was unacceptable, and praise him in secret for fear of retribution would my daughter still feel blessed? Would the ability to just to call herself a child of God be enough?  How much value have I, her mother, placed on this?  Sure, I have said all the right things.  We go to church on Sundays.  Extra Points... She even goes on Wednesday nights for youth!  We love to listen to K-Love.  It is very uplifting as we drive in out temperature controlled car to various places.  She learned the books of the bible and the Ten Commandments.  She even has a bible app on that brand new phone! All of these things, very important.  But, does she comprehend that above everything: the material things, the social things, the learning experiences, the praise times, the family bible studies; the one thing that she should consider a blessing is her relationship with God.  If we woke up tomorrow with literally nothing outside of his love, would my 12 year old feel very blessed? Would I feel very blessed?

I realize there is nothing wrong with having material things. I cannot explain why God placed me here and another one of his children in a country where death is a possibility for serving him. But, I hope that I can help my daughter to really understand the power of the God we serve, and with that understanding an appreciation for the blessing of simply being his child. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dear Daughter: You're Doing Great. Really.

My mind is frayed.  I swipe my badge to clock out, sprint across the parking lot of work, and jump in my car.  I’m about to turn the key in my ignition when my phone buzzes.  I know before I take it out of my pocket who it is.  I pull my phone out and see the name.  Hannah.  The message reads, “Hey”.  I smile because I know she has so much to tell me about her day, and the “hey” is merely to see if I can take her call.  I’m not in a late meeting baby girl… I think to myself.  I slide my finger across the screen and skip texting back.  I just go ahead and make the voice call.  A sweet little voice comes over the phone, “Hey mama.  How was your day?”  “Super boring!” I answer back in an exaggerated tone, which makes her laugh.  “Did anybody get mad at you?”  I smile knowing that she listens to her Dad and I talk too closely.  “Just a few crabby people, but you know the computers drive people nuts.” I assure her.  She giggles because it baffles her that computers could be difficult for anyone.  She has been using them since she was a toddler.  The tech generation, I guess. I’m on my way out of the parking lot, and I go ahead and ask the question, that I know will not receive such a simple answer.  “So how was your day?”  The floodgates open.  We go period-by-period, first through eight, and talk about her day. 

As she begins explaining all of her day I think to myself, You’re doing great. I’m beginning to feel like the only parent who remembers puberty and middle school.  It was pretty atrocious.  I mean if we just count the hormone shifts alone, it can easily be counted as one of the most confusing period of one’s life.  I listen to her first catastrophe.  One of her teachers said she didn’t turn in an assignment.  She knew she had.  She was just about to have a complete “anxiety attack” when she found it.  It literally took her all class period to calm back down.  I smile. You’re so smart and responsible baby girl.  If you miss one assignment, it’s no reason to have a panic attack… The thought rolls through my head, and I decide to share it with her.  “You know honey.  You aren’t perfect.  You will miss assignments.  You will do things you want to kick yourself for, but it’s not the end of the world.  It will remind you to be more aware and keep up with things better in the future.  She pauses, “Well, I still panicked, mom. I mean I can’t just miss assignments! I’ll get bad grades.”  I smile and laugh. “I know honey, but you always turn your work in.  I really don’t think you are going to start just not doing your work.”  She agrees and we move on. 

The conversation shifts to the social aspect of her day.  “Let me tell you what this girl said to me today!” She goes into great dramatic detail about how a girl she once considered a friend has now made it a personal mission to make her life miserable.  “She just goes out of her way to be mean to me!  I don’t get it.  I’m not going to just sit around and let her keep being this way toward me.  Do you think I should?  I’m going to just tell her we aren’t friends anymore?”    I pause for a moment because the mom in me momentarily wants to assume the best of my daughter and make her out to be a complete victim in my head.  But, I am a realist and I’m sure she is not 100% innocent in whatever spat has come about with this little girl.  I then remind myself how absolutely normal and even healthy it is for girls her age to figure relationships out, to a certain extent.  There is no bullying or physical fighting, so to me it’s all perfectly normal.  You are learning how to manage relationships sweetie.  It stinks, but not everyone is nice.  Not everyone you consider a friend, is truly a friend.  So I offer my two cents.  “Hannah, are you asking me if you should confront this person and tell them you are no longer their friend?” I ask.  “She pauses considering my tone, I suppose.  “Well, yes.  I mean I am just over it and I want to tell her.” She replies slightly defensive of her position.  “Well, first I am not you.  You are your own person and you are going to do what you decide, but my advice is to not do that.  Let me just ask you this, what are you hoping that conversation will accomplish?”  She thinks it over, “I don’t know, mom.  My feelings are hurt…” I cut her off, “ …And you want to hurt hers back?” She immediately responds, “No! I do not.  I stay quiet for a minute and let her ponder it.  “Honey.  I can’t imagine what else this would accomplish.  You can distance yourself, and create boundaries.  If she is rude to you, let her know that she can’t talk ugly to you and expect you to want to be around her.  But be kind.  You have no idea what is going on in this person’s life.  Sometimes you take your home life for granted.  Not everyone has a peaceful happy secure home, like you.  They are fighting battles you know nothing about.  I share some of my childhood to drive the point home.  I’m trying to help her associate the feelings of love and protectiveness she has with me to this little girl.  Her tone lightens and she adds, “ Plus, I represent God.  He would show love.  I smile into the phone about to pull onto her grandpa’s street.  That’s it kiddo.  You see what is right.  You’re heart feels what is right…listen to it.  You will lose your temper.  You will say things you regret, but you can try to be the best person you can be.

 I pull into the driveway.  She comes out of the door with her heavy book bag on her shoulder, her lunchbox in one hand and her flute in the other.  I’m certain she has a mountain of homework, and wants to practice her flute.  She will have to eat, study, practice, and generally keep going until bedtime.  I know you are tired sweet girl, but you are learning about dedication and commitment.  You are learning that If you want something in life it will never be handed to you.  She climbs in my car, and shuts the door.  We start to back out.  “Do you have a lot of homework?”  Yes, but two of the subjects are pretty short, and my other one is kind of interesting.  I’m looking forward to it.”  She says in a serious tone.  I smile.  “Well, that is good I suppose.”  You need to do the dishes when we get home, ok.  I momentarily consider doing them for her, but change my mind.  Dishes are her chore and she needs to learn that the money we give her is only ours because we work for it.  She needs to have the feeling of accomplishment that comes when she is paid $20.00 on Friday for a job well done all week.  “Okay.” she says as she moves on to another topic, continuing our phone conversation.  She continues to talk non-stop until we arrive home.  She stops doing dishes approximately 1,000 times as she recalls yet one more thing she has to tell me about, while I maneuver around her in our tiny kitchen to cook. 

Her Dad walks in the door, and we are happy to see him.  We ask how his day is, and he says, “Fine.”  He asks me how my day was, and I give my standard uneventful answer.  He turns to Hannah, and asks her.  The conversation starts all over again, but something wonderful happens.  She talks to him with new perspective.  Perspective I’ve offered earlier.  She is more confident about the weaknesses she has discovered about herself on this day, and more sure about the decisions she has made.  We pray over our dinner and she continues to talk.  Oh how she talks.  Her Dad and I nod and interject when we can.  I sit and think this is amazing.  Being your mom is amazing.  You are a beautiful ball of imperfections figuring out this crazy thing called life. 

To my daughter:
You are doing great kiddo.  Life is complex and confusing.  As you grow you will realize that things and even people aren’t what you assumed they were.  Sometimes that will disappoint you, but sometimes it will delight you.  You make me proud everyday, even during times when you feel like a complete failure.  So many times I just want to tell you what to do, but I know that you have to figure this all out on your own, with my motherly advice of course.  The good thing about you is that you are harder on yourself than Dad and I could ever be.  You have a kind heart and a sweet spirit.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Life is never about perfection, but about learning how to use your imperfections to improve yourself and inspire others.  You are covered in God’s grace and love.  I know he has great plans for you.  Everyday you grow and mature.  My heart breaks a little, because you are my baby, but mostly it is just filled with pride at the remarkable human being you are becoming.  I hope, if nothing else, Dad and I show you the importance of a genuine and real life.  Celebrate being human. Embrace the imperfections, because it reminds you daily why you need God in your heart.

Love Mom

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Big Sister

The wind was howling and the rain was hitting the old trailer house glass window angrily.  I could feel the coolness of the air seeping around the poorly sealed windows.  A shiver ran down my little spine.  I was scared.  I sucked on my thumb and clung to my pillowcase in a vain attempt to sooth my nerves.  I looked around my room and suddenly every shadow was the possibility of danger.  I squeezed my eyes shut and decided to make a run for it.  My little feet hit the floor and quickly padded past my parents room and to the only person who could console me and make me feel safe.  I opened her door and whispered, “Beck beck are you asleep?” I saw her covers lift up and I knew I was in.  I leaped into her waterbed and snuggled up beside her tiny frame.  She put her arm over me simultaneously covering me with the blanket.  “You get scared because of the storm?” she asked.  I shook my head ‘yes’ without speaking because my thumb was still in my mouth.  “You know you can just keep sleeping with me if you want.  You don’t have to sleep in your bed…mom wont really care.”  But I knew Mom wanted me to start sleeping in my own bed, so I just nodded.  I put my ear to her chest. I could hear her heart beating…her breaths grew more rapid and shallow and she drifted to sleep.  My little eyes grew heavy… I was safe now. I was in the arms of my big sister. 

When I started writing this blog post I thought about including some of the tragedy that we faced and how we overcame it, but I think the victory is pretty evident and those memories have become something that both of us like to visit less and less.  I will tell you that having an adult relationship with my sister has been difficult.  You see dealing with the abuse brought about many emotions through the years, that were only complicated with our mother being gone.  We both had so many questions and so much anger…then I had Hannah.  Man! The birth of my daughter made coping and understanding almost impossible.  It was like being slapped in the face. My sister still hadn’t had her precious girls, so for the first time she was unable to relate.  During my weakest moments dealing with what happened to us, the one person who had always understood suddenly didn’t.  I dealt with my emotions being a new mom; finding acceptance and reconciling all of the emotions the best I could.  Our relationship was bumpy and then settled down, but there was still a divide that neither of us could fill. 

Six years later things changed, my sister gave birth to her first daughter.  I watched helplessly as the realization of pain and disbelief that I had faced, years earlier, hit her hard.  Again, dealing with all that pain as an abused child is one level of pain.  Holding your newborn child with overwhelming feelings of maternal love and protection…well your first question is, “Why didn’t anyone love me like this?  Why didn’t anyone want to protect me from the abuse?  I would KILL anyone that even thought of harming this baby girl!”  There are no answers.  Not only were we not protected from abuse, but also we were subjected to the abusers even after our mother knew about it! How? Why? No answers. Again, you gaze at your helpless infant with so much love, and so much sadness for the little girl inside of you who was neglected. 

As my sister struggled to reconcile her emotions, and our relationship continued to crumble.  I knew exactly how she felt, but I was scared to go back to that place of anger with her.  It had been so hard for me to let it all go and give it to God.  I would lie down at night and here her little voice, “Jodie, when he comes in here you pretend you are asleep ok.”  I would close my little eyes and endure her abuse as she protected me the only way she could yet again.  I couldn’t give up on us.  I couldn’t give up on her.  I knew she would never give up on me and even at our most tumultuous times I knew that she was only a phone call away if I truly needed her.  After all, even though we had been dealt this horrendous hand in life, she was my big sister.  The one who protected me from the storms of life.  I knew without a doubt under all of the pain we both suffered that had surfaced as anger…those two people who loved and protected each other were still very much there.

It came to a point where it was evident we both needed to have time on our own to deal with all the emotions.  We had both gotten to a point where we weren’t helping each other…we were only tearing each other down.  Neither of us wanted to pass this legacy of negativity to our daughters.  So, we did the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do…we stopped talking.  A year passed and the day came that I had been praying over for an entire year. We were ready to try to have a relationship again.  Now, some people will never understand the need to stop talking.  That is ok…most people have never had to deal with a tenth of what the two of us have.  When life gives you such circumstances you rarely handle them perfectly.  You handle them the best you can. That is exactly what we did.

Yesterday was our Christmas.  It was the best Christmas I can ever remember in my life!  We were both at peace.  Both of us had obviously come out of this storm on the other side and our hearts were finally calm and ready to accept all of God’s blessings.  I looked around at our families and tears pricked my eyes.  I mean…talk about an abundance of blessings! My sister and I have the most handsome and loving husbands.  Both of them would lay their lives down to protect our girls and us.  They are faithful God-fearing men who provide for their families, both financially and emotionally. Our babies are healthy and happy…running around playing and laughing.  Not one of those girls will EVER KNOW the hardships we had to face in their lives.  They are loved and protected above all else on this earth and that gives us both peace.  It’s amazing!  How did we become so blessed?

My sister and I were briefly discussing our lives and I told her, “It would have been easier for us had we gone through motherhood together.”  She agreed.  But, last night as I thanked God for the day and his guidance in our lives he whispered this truth to me.  Becky needed to be strong when I was weak, and I needed to be strong when she was weak.  So, God’s plan was best all along.  It was a huge blessing that we become new mother’s years apart! Wow! What an awesome God he is. Everything that happened to us was unfair and awful.  No one should have to endure it, but I have to say it is an awesome testimony to our God and it definitely makes us more humble and even more awesome moms.  We are pretty awesome at that anyway! Sometimes I get angry with people out age that had “perfect” childhoods…and squandered them.  I think to myself, why would someone take such a perfect gift and not propel themselves to more in life?  You were given such a strong foundation… My sister and I weren’t and we have both accomplished so much.  We had to fight for every victory in our lives at no fault of our own. Then my question is answered.  God doesn’t give you what you want.  He gives you what you need to choose your life and legacy.  It is up to you to take what you are given and glorify him.  My sister and I have definitely done that.  Not perfectly…but then again…it kind of is perfect.  Because...look at us now. Victorious. Highly favored.  Very loved.  Blessed beyond measure.  

My heart is full.