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My Granny was one of my greatest spiritual mentors. It was not until she had a stroke and could no longer walk or talk that many of the words that she had spoken to me over and over throughout my life finally really sunk into me. It was like all of her teaching time was over, and the lessons were finally transferred to me, and I began saying the words back to her….reminding her of her own lessons as she suffered greatly at the end of her life. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.

“I finally get it Granny, and now we cannot talk about it together. You can no longer speak, and I am speaking your words back into you.”

But the good news is that although she is no longer with us I did finally get it, and she has left a legacy of spiritual wisdom here on earth.

Granny had many flaws and issues. She was far from perfect, but she lived a long life of fearless faith. She showed me the power of the Holy Spirit in a surrendered and humble human being. She never made a spectacle of herself when the spirit moved her. It was not for show with her. It was reality.

She taught me far too many things to mention in one short post, but a few small examples come to mind.

She taught me about the power of spoken words to create in our lives through faith or in fear. It is our choice.

She taught me that prayer works.

Everyone used to call her and say, “Will you pray for me about such and such because your prayers work.” She would always firmly tell me, “Your prayers work too! But, yes, I will agree with you in prayer of course.”

I will never forget walking into her bedroom as a little child crying with unbearable pain in my feet…..an odd ailment that tormented me many a night in my childhood. She whisked me upon the bed with Papa and her, grabbed my feet and began praying out loud for healing. She even commanded the devil to leave my feet alone which I thought was very strange even as a child…..but to my astonishment it worked! My feet instantly stopped hurting, and that had never happened before. It was a lesson in faith that bewildered me but that I also never forgot.

I sometimes quietly told myself that she was really an angel in disguise on earth. She had learned over her long life the art of  keeping a gentle tone in her voice when dealing with us kids, and her hair was even snow-white which fit the angel persona in my childhood mind.

Although she was quite the Alpha woman, a leader, a mover and a shaker….she was also gentle and compassionate in her approach…..a delicate balance of power and humility.

Even her death seemed divinely orchestrated. She passed away quietly in her sleep early one Thanksgiving morning when the family was already gathered in from out of town for Thanksgiving Day. And it seems fitting that she would leave us with one last message just by passing on that day…..Be grateful for all of life, but do not fear death for it is also a part of life.

Last year when my family suffered two horrible losses…..the death of a baby and the sudden death of a beloved young uncle…..my mom found a copy of a prayer tucked away in my grandmother’s keepsakes. We read it at our private outdoor memorial. It seemed like Granny’s contribution to us during this difficult time. It must have been a prayer that she kept close to her heart, and it is a prayer that I hope to live by every day. I will close with the prayer:

Keep us O God from pettiness: let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.

     Let us be done with fault finding, and leave off self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face without self-pity and without prejudice.

     May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

     Let us take time for all things: make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.

     Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight forward, and unafraid. Grant that we realize it is the little things that create differences and that in the big things of life we are as one.

     And may we strive to touch and know the great common human heart of us all, and O God, let us forget not to be kind.                                                                                                                                                                 Amen

 

I remember being about 12 years old when my 16 year old sister began desperately looking for an escape from our home. She had a very high SAT score so she saw entering college early as her way out. Ironically my mother did the same thing when she was 16, and I am not sure why.

My oldest sister had always been my ally. She saw it as her place to protect and defend me. She still feels guilt and remorse because she thinks that she failed or that she abandoned me by leaving. But she didn’t. I have never felt any resentments towards her for this.  She was a child too.

I did selfishly feel relieved when she did not get into college early because I knew that she would be staying, and I would have missed her terribly if she left. As I got older I had succumbed to sleeping with her every night. It felt safer with both of us in there. It seemed we were more difficult targets that way. She, being a teenager, sometimes expressed that she would like to sleep alone occasionally, but then I would just wait for her to fall asleep and slither into her room and onto her bed without making a peep or disturbing even a blanket. I could not sleep alone.

My relief that she was not leaving was short lived though. I walked into the dining room one day and saw her sobbing. She said that she had not been accepted early into school. Then she looked at me and said, “I have to get out of here Jess or I will kill him!” Those words cut right into my soul because even at 12 years old I had seen and experienced enough to know that this was no idle threat. She was serious. I then knew that I had to let her go. She had to get out. My selfishness flew out the window, and I felt the desperation for her to find a way out.

Thanks be to God some strings were pulled, and she was accepted into college early after all. She left, and as usual I tried to ignore the loss and keep moving. I had no trouble taking over where she left off….fighting my step father, protecting the little ones, and protecting my mom which was more of my own thing.

She had taught me well by example, and I could fight that man like no one else. I rarely coward from him. I always stood strong and fought after she left. I remember many times he would say, “You are just like your sister!” He did not mean it as a compliment, but I would bark back at him, “Thank you!”

There were times when he would be having one of his violent adult tantrums, and the entire family would have scattered and gotten the heck out of dodge, but I stayed. I would plant myself on the kitchen counter and watch him. I would somehow find a strength within my self that expanded my spirit way above my tiny frame, and I would not flinch or move in spite of the craziness going on before me. Then I would coolly look at him and say, “Are you finished having your tantrum now?”

That pissed him off beyond belief, but he would end up leaving the room, and I had won in some strange way. This is the strength that my sister gave me when she left. This is the strength that I found within.

I remember finally one day getting the courage to go and look in her room after she left. It was not a room left for a child to come home to. It was totally empty. Even all of her furniture was gone. It was very final, and I finally felt the loss as the tears welled up in my eyes.

I then decided to paint her room lavender and move in there myself. Then my little sister could move into my old room next door, and my little brother moved into her old room on the other side of me. I could be mother hen really well from that vantage point.

I was still very afraid to sleep alone though. This was a huge hurdle for me, and I was terrified. But I remember drawing on that inner strength again and giving myself a pep talk saying, “I am 13 years old now. I am too old to be doing this. I have to get over this fear.” I white knuckled it night after night. I would lay in bed and frantically pray all night until I fell asleep early in the morning. Sometimes I would even grab my sleeping little sister out of her bed and put her in bed with me, but it wasn’t quite the same. Slowly though it got easier until eventually I had conquered that too. I could sleep alone in my room in the dark, and I was the one who woke everyone up for school every morning. Later my little sister would be the one begging to sleep with me.

Although my older sister feels guilty for “abandoning” me she did a good thing by finally making a choice to protect herself. She had taken enough. She had reached her limit, and staying probably would have lead to a horrible end. When she found the strength inside of her to do what she had to do to care for herself  she also allowed me to find a God given strength within myself. She passed on the fighting spirit that I would need to make it for the next 6 or 7 years in that home and on into the future, and I became a woman during that time.

By making one choice for her own health and safety my sister actually helped me too. It was hard without her, but I learned to dig deep, to exercise my faith in God, and that when needed there is a spirit in my tiny self that is stronger than even an angry big man!

I have been able to use these lessons through out my life, and I have even been able to use them to fight for my sister’s life in our adulthood when it seemed that no one else could do it.

My sister gave me many gifts. She gave me comfort when I was a child, and then as I began the transition into womanhood she gave me the gift of inner strength, and it has served us both well. I thank her and God for that.

Feelings of compassion are probably no strangers to most loving people, but I can still remember the exact moment when I came to the realization that compassion is profoundly painful. Sometimes true moments of compassion can be so unbearable that I think that many of us close our hearts just a little bit in order to bear it.

All of us being human have probably experienced compassion many times throughout our lives. I can think of many times that I have felt compassion for my fellow humans or even an animal. We have all felt that ache in our hearts when we see people suffering. That ache becomes stronger and harder to bear when it is a loved one such as our child, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or a good friend.

Sometimes it is easier to work really hard at cheering the person up, to try to solve their problem, or to try to change the subject and stop thinking about it than to allow ourselves to really feel the gravity of the pain that they are suffering.

I have found though that when we do allow ourselves to experience compassion in its fullness we connect to something more true and more real in our hearts. We learn something instantly in that moment about ourselves and about humanity. When we allow ourselves to actually feel someone else’s pain even for a moment we connect to the truth about their soul and our own. We connect to our very connectedness.

This is very different from feeling sympathy. I am talking about having a moment of actually experiencing someone else’s pain in its entirety, and this is not easy or fun to do.

I remember a time when I was about 17, and my mother had recently found out that my step father had been having an affair. She had decided to try to work out the marriage which did not work out in the end, but she was trying. Things were very uncertain during this time. Our lives were shaken.

My step father had been the source of extreme misery for our family. He was abusive, highly critical, negative, oppressive and wallowed in his own misery. He was messed up, broken, full of self-hatred, angry, bitter, and sick in many ways. And he took it all out on us.

But he had been the step father that I lived with the majority of my childhood. I lived with him from the time that I was 4 until I was about 18, and there were some good moments. There were some times that we laughed together, and there were a few moments that he surprised me with gestures of love, true affection, or kindness. This is a very confusing thing for a child. There is love for and even from an abusive parent in some strange way.

Well my mother told me that she was trying to work out her marriage with him, and she asked me to be kind to him (which was a strange thing for her to say I think.) Since I always tried to help my mother in any way that I could and had spent my life doing things to try to show her the love that I subconsciously saw that she never received from her husband…. like buying her tons of Christmas gifts, defending her in arguments with him, making sure she was okay, watching her back…etc….I got on board with her for this too.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to do this, but I got my step father a sweet card, and I wrote a pages long heart-felt letter to him. I do not even remember what it said, but it was something from a part of myself that is more loving than any other part of me because remember….he had abused and hurt me and my dearest loved ones repetitively. I left the letter for him to find.

I did not stick around to watch him read it, but later I heard him closed up in the bathroom sobbing loudly and uncontrollably. He was wailing, and I had NEVER heard this from him in my life.

At that moment I felt his pain in my heart in a way that I had never felt before. I felt his brokeness and all of the pain that caused him to treat us the way that he did. I felt his humanity, and I actually felt connected to him in a true way for the first and last time. The pain that I felt coming from his true self into my heart was one of the most unbearable feelings I have ever felt, and I could not even sit with it for very long. I had to consciously close my heart a little bit to it after a few minutes because it was so horribly painful.

It was in that moment when I felt true indescribable heartbreaking compassion for my abuser that I realized what compassion really is and the gravity of it.

I have never forgotten that moment because of the impact that it had on me and the immense lesson that I learned in that brief moment. Since then I have understood the reality of compassion in its truest form and the reality of its heavy burden. I have seen how I and others have to close ourselves from the fullness of it at times in order to protect ourselves from the extreme heaviness of it. I have realized that many times we mistake sympathy for compassion and that they are very different.

I have also realized that when we have the courage to keep our hearts open even for a brief moment to compassion in its entirety even with and especially with those who hurt us and perpetrate against us we learn lessons about the human spirit that we would never completely understand any other way.

I have been awakened to the fact that compassion is not about butterflies and rainbows like we sometimes like to think. It is hard. It hurts. It involves suffering, and it teaches us more about the purest and greatest form of love than most other things can teach us. And it is worth it.

I have found that in order to experience the freedom that we all long for whether we realize it or not we have to come face to face with our fears and walk right through them. We have to face our demons so to speak. We have to look at those demons straight in the eyes and growl.

That is the reason that fear is so paralyzing. Sometimes we will do anything to avoid facing our fears. Fear holds us back from our highest potential and our highest joy. Sometimes we are even afraid of our highest potential so we continuously sabotage ourselves out of…fear.

Fear is a force in this world. It is almost the opposite of love. “There is no fear in love.” It tries to oppose us at every point of growth. It binds us so that we cannot be free.

When we limit ourselves it is usually out of fear. Sometimes we would rather remain miserable than face our fears in order to be free.

Fear has been an enormous part of my life. I feared for my life on a regular basis as a child. When I grew up I had different fears. I even feared adulthood. I remember collapsing on my mother’s bedroom floor one night when I was about 20 and saying, “I don’t want to grow up. I am not ready. I cannot stop being sad.”

I still carry way too much fear….much of my own…but much of it is shared family fear. I have realized in my adulthood that I carry the fears of my father and mother. I also share the fears of my siblings. I am carrying generational fear.

And it has bound me and paralyzed me and made me miserable in many ways. I see it all around me in my family.

I always said that I would be the one to break free not only for myself  but for my entire family. Why did I say that? I must have had a period of fearlessness, which I have had from time to time, when I announced that mission to myself and God.

That is scary! I am not that strong. But I know that there is a greater strength that I can draw from because I have drawn from it before.

And I have to get free. I long for freedom like a caged bird! That is the reason that I am Grounded Angel. I am meant to fly and soar freely, but I am broken and bound to this earth.

So slowly ….slowly…only as I can handle it… I am facing my fears. I have done it before. I can do it again.  I have done it so many times actually that I am tired. Sometimes I feel there is no fight left in me, but I am going to find my fighting spirit again.

And I am going to surrender to a power greater than myself which is also frightening! But I am! I just have to keep telling myself that I am.

I will face these dark demons that are woven all through out the roots of my family like thick diseased vines. I will face them, and they will break. I will be free. I have to be free. There is no other way to live.

I think I can. …I think I can. ….I think I can.

As a very small child I had horrible nightmares. I remember a few vivid nightmares even as far back as my babyhood. As long as I can remember I was flooded with intense fear that escalated as night fell. I never slept. I would stay up all night and keep watch because I always had this feeling that someone was coming at any moment to brutally murder me in some gruesome way.

I am not talking about being afraid of the dark. I was afraid of something heinous happening, and I would not let myself sleep because I wanted to be ready to run or fight when this horrible event occurred. I always had an instinct inside me that said, “I will not be an easy target!” I was a little girl when this began….as young as four or five or younger.

I did not know why I had such horrible fear and such gory obsessive thoughts. When asked what I was afraid of  I would always say, “I don’t know.” But I was terrified, and my sleeplessness began in early childhood. I remember telling my mom when I was around nine years old that I just could not take it anymore….that the fear and the sleeplessness was too much for me to handle….that it was ruining my life. It seemed as if no one could or would help me though.

I still have a sleep disorder. My body is well-trained to be awake at night. I no longer have the graphic thoughts that scare me, but I just do not sleep well or sometimes at all.

I have no idea where a tiny girl would get such graphic thoughts of being  violently brutalized. I never watched horror movies. I still do not watch them. They are not good for my soul, and I do not get any joy from being frightened in that way. I do not need a horror movie to add excitement or suspense to my life. I have had enough of that.

Somehow in my subconscious I just had a horrible feeling that there was a predator in my midst and that my life was going to end in some gruesome way.

And I have a waking memory that haunts me sometimes.

I was probably about 5 years old and my sister was about 9. We were sitting at the breakfast table in the kitchen, and my step-father was cooking omelets before school. I don’t think that my mother was home because we had just moved to another town when she married my step father, and she was still working an hour and a half away in our previous town. She was not there in the mornings, and she came home at night.

My older sister was sitting at the table across from me sobbing hysterically. She was yelling, “I want my dad!” through her sobs and her attempts to catch her breath. She was inconsolable, but actually no one was trying to console her at all.

I was very little, and I just remember staring helplessly at her across the table. My step father was banging around at the stove.

I just remember being frozen, staring, feeling helpless and hopeless. And I remember my sister not having a child’s tantrum but sobbing desperately, uncontrollably, helplessly…..hopelessly. And no one was there to comfort either of us.

My step father was getting more and more annoyed as the banging around the stove became more intense.

He walked up and dropped an omelet on my plate. I looked at it. I picked around at it with one hand while my head rested on my other hand. I listened to my sister’s cries and screams. My stomach turned. I got up and threw my food in the trash.

Suddenly to my dismay my step father stomped up to my sister and yelled, “Now look what you have done! You have ruined your sister’s breakfast!.”

I remember being shocked. I remember thinking, “No!”

I remember thinking, “How did I just get roped into being on his side. She did not ruin my breakfast. That is not what I was saying. Something ruined my breakfast, but it was not her!”

As a tiny five-year old girl I never said a word. I remained silent. I guess I went to kindergarten shortly after that.

I still do not know exactly what happened with my sister. I do not know what  happened to trigger her desperate cries although I have some good ideas. I cannot remember if this was an isolated incident or a regular occurrence. I know that this is a piece of a puzzle for me though because in spite of all that I blocked out for some reason this dark memory has remained with me and comes to my mind sometimes. It is like a dark shadow coming up behind me and tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear, “remember.”

I believe that deep inside a part of me knew that something heinous was going on and that there was a predator in my midst. I never felt totally safe. I just cannot remember details often, and in my baby mind there was a horror movie constantly playing. I could not understand or make sense of or accept what was happening. All I knew was that there was something nightmarish going on, and I was terrified for my life.

I have been totally sucked in to the Casey Anthony trial this week. I have had emotional reactions that are different from most people that I hear talking about it. I have learned that when I have a strong emotional pull to some drama that really has nothing to do with my own life that it is because it is pointing me to something emotional about my own life that needs dealing with.

Of course the loss of a two year old girl is too much for me to imagine because my daughter is two, but strangely my heart is broken for the young mother accused of murder, Casey, also. Most people seem to want to see her as the heartless cold blooded murderer of her own precious child, but because of my own experiences I can see it differently.

So far every single witness from her ex-boyfriends to her friends and family have stated that they saw her being a very good and loving mother to her child. They said that her daughter was always with her when she spent the night out. They said that she did not spend the night out often or drink much before this because she did not want to leave the child with her parents. Was she protecting her from something? They said that she taught her a lot and interacted with her in sincere and loving ways. They said that the love between the mother and child was obvious and genuine. So why do many think that she is the murderer?

It is because of her inappropriate behavior after the child’s death. It is because she says that the child died by accidental drowning in the pool and that she hid the death and pretended as if everything was normal, along with her dad, out of fear and desperation……basically an insane response to a tragedy.

She says that she learned this kind of extreme behavior from being a victim of sexual abuse by her father. Her defense is that she was raised in extreme trauma and dysfunction and so when a tragedy occurred with her own baby she and her father made horrible decisions and continued the cycle of hiding things and moving on as if nothing happened because she was afraid of the consequences. This snowballed out of control because she had to keep lying to hide it and to remain in the extreme denial that she was living in.

Now I have no idea what really happened in this case, but unlike many my heart tells me that there is something very wrong with this family and that it does not make sense for her as a loving mother to suddenly decide to murder her daughter so that she can go party. Even a very troubled lying young woman who likes to party and has learned to live life in denial and to hide crisis behind the mask of  a happy social butterfly does not a cold-blooded murderer make.

Why is my heart so stirred for this young woman’s story?

Because it takes a person who has come from a dysfunctional background filled with family members in deep denial….filled with smiling happy faces hiding trauma….filled with inappropriate responses to crisis to understand that this really could happen to a very young woman who is hardly even an adult.

When I was growing up I was known by my friends as a social butterfly. I was the life of the party. I was the captain of the cheerleaders and full of life and energy. I even heard one of my classmates describe me as “always happy.” And not one friend ever knew what I was really dealing with at home. I was not purposely trying to be this way. I was not putting on a show. That is just the way that I was. Somehow that is just how I learned to be.

I hid things very very well. And I had a strong drive to create happiness wherever I could.

When I became a very young adult of 20, 21 years old my life started going off the rails on a crazy train. I made some very bad decisions that had traumatic consequences and once again I hid them not only from the outside world but even from my own family and kept going as if nothing happened. It was not until years and years later that I ever even began grieving over those things. And I still have the tendency to stay weirdly okay during trauma as I have written about before. I can also still keep a secret and carry it to my grave if need be. If you want someone to confide in….I’m your woman!

I have seen all of my family members engaged in some strange coping behaviors. I have seen a family member acting like a clepto from the time of his/her toddler hood. I have seen family members become compulsive liars so that they were lying about things for no reason, and so when it came to telling the truth about the abuse they had genuinely suffered people did not believe them. I have seen family members behaving violently and being committed or just having it brushed under the rug. I have seen severe addictions in many. I have seen most of  us hiding something major in our lives, and it was either kept in the family or hidden from even the family. I have seen two family members involved in cover ups together….sometimes siblings….sometimes involving a parent or even a grandparent.

So this is the reason that her defense seems possibly believable to me when others who are not used to this type of dysfunction cannot possibly believe that life could be this way.

This is the reason that my heart hurts for the young mother who acted insanely “just fine” after her little girl died.  This is the reason that instead of  strongly desiring to burn her at the stake… my heart longs to see redemption for her life.

I know from experience that a child does not grow up to be as messed up as Casey Anthony for no reason. A young woman’s life does not snowball into this horrible situation where her child is dead and she is in prison facing the death penalty just out of the blue. This kind of nightmare is exactly what it looks like when an extremely dysfunctional family just continues riding down the wrong side of the road at 100 miles an hour, and no one knows how to put on the brakes. This young girl did not happen in a vacuum. She is the product of something horrible, and that is obvious to me.

Now I am not writing this to plead her case. I could be wrong about her. I am just working on understanding myself. I am figuring out why I feel so angry when I hear people say that she is definitely lying through her teeth about the abuse that she claims she suffered. I have seen this in my own family.

I am working out the reasons that instead of hating her and wanting her dead my heart bleeds with compassion for her…..I see traces of my family members in her.

Thank God nothing ever got as far for us as it has for her.

My heart longs to see a tragic story of a tragic life filled with death, lies, pain, and soul sickness…… healed, redeemed, and restored.

That it what I am working towards for myself and my loved ones. That is what I want for all of us humans who share this kind of story.

Before I had my baby I thought that I knew it all, and comparatively speaking I kind of did! But nothing could have prepared me for what happened my first year of motherhood.

I was in my 30’s when I had her so I was no spring chicken, and I had spent all of my 20’s doing my own thing, growing up, and being young.

I had more life experience and book knowledge on raising kids than most new mothers. I had played a large role in raising my younger siblings. I had worked as a full-time nanny for a two-year old, a one year old, a six-week old, and a sick 8 month old at different times during my 20’s.

I had worked in day care full-time in an infant room with 13 babies under a year old, and parents would come in and see me juggling 3 babies at once and say, “I do not know how you do it!” ” You are the only one who can get my child to do….(fill in the blank.)”  I knew all of the tricks, and I had dealt with all of the different temperaments from high maintenance screamers to easy quiet babies.

I had a degree in early childhood education and a teaching certificate, and I had studied psychology. I had taught classrooms full of two-year olds, three-year olds, kindergarteners,  first graders, and second graders.

So honestly I had the resume of one of the most educated and experienced new mothers in all the land! So of course I thought that raising my own child would be a breeze. How hard could one baby be after all of that? I had no worries about it at all. My pregnancy was even relatively easy.

BUT…….

As confidence in myself and my experience cunningly and slowly turned into pride nothing could have prepared me for what happened.

It began on a Thursday night when the baby in my womb literally did flips all night long, and I stayed awake the entire night. Around 6:00am that Friday morning as I lay in bed still wide awake the pain and cramps began to come in waves and slowly I realized that I was in labor a week early.  By 7:00pm (13 hours later) that Friday evening I was having severely painful contractions every 3 minutes, and I was throwing up. This is when we went to the hospital the first time, and to make a long story short this was only the first day of a full 3 days of labor.

After being awake non-stop since Thursday morning and painfully laboring from Friday morning until Sunday night I finally had a C- Section Sunday night at around 10:00pm.

During that surgery I lost so much blood that I was not even allowed to stand up without help. I could not walk to the bathroom or even stand in the shower because I was so weak. For months afterwards I would literally shake uncontrollably just from standing up for too long such as in the shower, and I would have to sit. And the pain from the surgery made it difficult to move or walk for a couple of months as well.

I remained in the hospital from Sunday until Wednesday, and I did not sleep one night while I was there. I got very little sleep during the day because of all the visitors and nurses coming in. One nurse even came in my room (I think it was the last night, but it is a blur) and said, “You never sleep.”

“I KNOW!” I snapped back at her.

So from Thursday until the following Wednesday I did not sleep one night. I was already so sleep deprived that I had some hallucinations. I barely had enough blood to function. I was recovering from a hard labor and surgery, and I had a newborn to care for.

On top of that I was breastfeeding which became very painful when I got engorged and had bleeding scabs caused by the baby’s constant suckling, and even that got more complicated when they made me give her formula at the hospital the last night which completely messed up my milk supply.

When I got home the sleep never came. My baby never slept even one hour in her bassinet. She was high maintenance and had to be held at all times. The only time she ever slept was while I was holding her…..EVER.

She never sat happily in a carrier or bouncy seat or swing. She never laid on a blanket for more than 5 minutes. She had to have me holding her at all times, and she breast-fed every 45 minutes. This meant that I never slept, and I only showered once a week! When I was in the shower I could hear her screaming bloody murder the entire time….How relaxing.

My body has never been so depleted in my life, and my entire body was in so much pain that I could hardly bare it all year. Even when the baby slept I could not sleep. And all of the nutrients from my already anemic and depleted body went straight to the baby when I nursed her.

And so then the depression and anxiety set in. I sobbed and sobbed all the time. I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted. I had horrible nightmares that my baby was dead. I had anxiety that caused me to stay awake and check to see that she was breathing all during the night, and I had thoughts of suicide and of running away. I could not imagine being without my baby though so that is why I did not run away or overdose. Postpartum depression is a monster that is very frightening and cannot be described appropriately. It is unlike anything else even other types of depression.

Even though I really did know what I was doing, and I knew things that most new mothers have no clue about I still thought that I was a horrible mother because my baby was fussy, and I was so depressed and sleep deprived that I was almost delusional.

The horrible depression lasted about a year, and my baby did not sleep through the night for 15 months. I never slept through one night that entire time, and remember I had been awake for four nights already when she was born.

As much as I loved my baby and had always wanted her more than anything else….it was not the ecstatic experience that I had hoped for and had seen in the movies and TV.  It almost sent me over the edge.

My point is not just to write a “woe is me” story. My point is that no matter how much difficult hands on experience or college education a person has sometimes life throws us a few curve balls that nothing at all can prepare us for. Sometimes things happen that are so far beyond our control that we could never have planned enough for them. Sometimes people are going through things that we have not experienced and so there is no way that we can understand it or judge it. Sometimes people might warn us about something or tell us about an experience but until it happens to us we just do not get it.

I had a little pride and then I got pumbled in ways that I could never have imagined. My body, mind, and spirit took a beating that year and then got kicked with steel toed boots. Now when I see a mother struggling, exhausted, losing her mind or crying…..I get it!

I had another mother tell me that when she had her first baby she just did not understand what all the fuss was about. She said that her baby was so easy, and she did not comprehend what other mothers were so wound up about……then she had her second child. And she got it! That second baby cleared it all up for her!

So if you have had a pretty easy time with your baby, and you see another mother looking pale with black eyes pulling all of her hair out of her head piece by piece and cussing someone out……don’t throw stones at her. Or if you see a mother who cannot seem to function normally in the world for a season. She cannot ever go anywhere or do anything because her child will scream the entire time…..don’t assume that she is just a rookie or a drama queen. Pat her on the back. Giver her a hug. Look at her with love because you never know what things are like for her, and one day it might be you.

I am happy to say that I survived, and my daughter sleeps through the night now. She is in the terrible twos, but for me that is a relief  compared to the first year. She is the light in my life. She is my little side kick. She is more than the daughter that I always dreamed of, and I would do it all again right now for her.

I also have a happier more inspirational story about her birth that I hope to tell soon, but this one is for all the moms who have been to hell and back and have lived to tell about it. My hat goes off to all of you. I understand! I get it now!

What on earth would possess me to tell such intimate secrets and air such dirty laundry in a blog for the world to see? That is so against my nature and out of character for me. I am a secret keeper. I am a protector and a defender of my family and our secrets. Have I gone stark raving mad?

There are several answers to this question. One is that truthfully I have no clue why I would suddenly begin to tell the world about my personal and family secrets, but I am following an inner nudging, my intuition, the voice of God (call it what you will.) I am so familiar with this quiet inner voice because I have always been in tune with it, and it has always served me well. When I ignore it I always regret it, and when I follow it I am never lead astray. I believe that my ability to hear and follow my inner voice is part of the reason that I have survived. As I surrender to the flow of God’s breath and love I am compelled to blog about very intimate things in my life.

Another reason is that we are only as sick as our secrets. People recovering from various hurts and habits know this very well. The secrets that we keep out of fear, shame, and loyalty to family dysfunction will eat away at our souls and our bodies. And I am tired of being soul sick.

Truthfully though I do have some uncomfortable and guilty feelings about some of the things that I write. I do not desire to hurt any of my family or throw anyone under the proverbial bus. My intention is not to expose others, but I do have to tell some of my own story, and my story does involve other people.

Like I said earlier it is my nature to protect and cover my family not to expose them. So this blog is not always easy for me to write. I have to make it clear that I love both of my parents dearly. I have a relationship with them and a bond with them. Sadly they, for whatever reason, were troubled wounded souls, and that got passed onto me as their child even though that was never their intention. So now I have many stories about my own woundedness to tell.

I now have a two-year old daughter of my own and so I realize that I have to work twice as hard and twice as fast to release myself from the dysfunctional patterns that I have always known so that I do not pass them on to her. I am sure that there will be some things that I cannot protect her from because as humans we all experience brokeness, but I do feel a sense of urgency to allow healing to occur in certain parts of myself  so that I can stop some of the cycle before it comes around to her. That is part of my compulsion to write about some of my intimate secrets.

If we are only as sick as our secrets then I am ready to be done with the secret thing!

Believe it or not there are secrets that I have about things that I have been through, things that I have seen, and things that I have done that I will not include in this blog. Yes…….there is more……and it is too big and too juicy for me to blog about at this point in my life. Those secrets will be revealed only to certain people, and possibly later I will be able to write them but maybe not.

So in spite of the difficult things that we have been through and the things that we have done….. I have a love, and an attachment, and a deep connection with all of my family.  It is just that now it is time for me to reveal some of my secrets and get out from under the oppression of the family code of silence. I have to get free, and I pray that my family can be free as well.

I was not the typical bride. I was not the stereotypical girl rushing towards the goal of getting married. I avoided marriage for many years, and I ran away from several marriage opportunities. I was terrified of marriage really!

Yes, I did always enjoy watching weddings on television. I enjoyed watching the Royal Wedding today. I still love seeing beautiful flowing ball gowns on gorgeous radiant girls, flowers in bloom cascading throughout venues, and sparkling jewels catching the light. I am a feminine woman, and I am always drawn to beauty.  My own actual marriage did not come so easily though, and it was not because of my husband. It was me.

I was one of the last ones from my high school class to finally get hitched. When I attended my class mates’ weddings people would always give me those reassuring and pitying looks and say things like, “It will be you one day.” Little did they know that I was not at all worried about that! I was putting off marriage for as long as I could!

When my husband proposed to me we had lived together for about 5 years already. Yes….we were living in sin (insert sarcasm,) but instead of being all teary and girly at the proposal……my first honest reaction was a wave of fear and shock.

I in no way intend to dishonor him or his beautiful proposal in writing this. That is not the point. The point is that I have issues! I have never seen a healthy marriage up close and personally. I have seen my parent’s marriage and both of their remarriages, but…..none of it looked so inviting. My parent’s marriage only lasted until I was 3 years old. They both quickly remarried, and I lived with my mother and step father after that, but I had visits with my dad and step mother.

The examples of marriage that I saw were cold. They were not affectionate. They did not include much encouragement. There was infidelity. There was abuse. There was criticism and degradation. There was screaming and slapping. There was intimidation, lack of support, and honestly lack of love.

When I was around 17 I remember my step father sitting on the edge of my bed and telling me that my mother had caught him in yet another affair and that she had left. He apologized for not coming home the night before, and he said, ” I do not know why I cannot love your mother.”

This weird conversation came the night after I had come home the prior night from cheerleading practice or something to an empty house. I waited and waited for my mother, younger siblings, and step father to return,…….but they never did. I had no idea where they were or when they would return. I ended up calling my high school sweet heart to come and stay with me because no one ever came home that entire night. I guess they forgot about me or just assumed that I would be okay on my own with no idea where they were.

I remember seeing my friends’ parents holding hands and showing affection and being totally shocked! I could not believe that grown people were acting so affectionately! I thought that kind of behavior was just kid stuff for teenagers like myself at the time. I had never seen such a thing before.

So when I went wedding dress shopping for my own wedding it was not what I expected. I felt exhausted and fatigued the whole time like I weighed 1000 pounds. It felt like a chore. When I put on the first gorgeous gown and saw myself in the mirror I literally began dripping with sweat. I felt all of the blood rush out of my head, and I began to see spots. I also felt nauseous. My reaction embarrassed me so I tried to play it cool and hold it together so that no one would know. I wish that I could go back and do it again and actually enjoy myself.

Somehow I got through the whole ordeal of planning a wedding and getting married, and my actual wedding was absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed the day because on that day I finally surrendered it (the wedding itself that is,) and in spite of a few things that went wrong I managed to remain totally calm, peaceful and genuinely happy that entire wedding day. The wedding day itself is a good memory for me even though the year leading up to it was quite horrible.

Marriage is still a struggle for me though. I still don’t really know how to do it. I am doing it, but intimacy and affection are so foreign to me in the marriage arena. The whole thing makes me feel like I am from another planet.  I know that marriage is difficult in general, and believe me, I have never had romanticized expectations of it, not in adulthood anyway.

I have watched all of the marriage seminars. I know what I am supposed to do, but re-learning everything that was ingrained into me from 0-18 years old proves to be like swimming upstream in heavy rapids. There is so much more to it than head knowledge. There are emotional and physical reactions that are extremely difficult to combat.

I am trying to figure it out, but it is like reinventing the wheel. People can tell me all day how to do it, but nothing replaces actually living in a real working model as a child which I did not…..ever.

It has always been my desire to break the mold and to change the negative patterns that have been created in my lineage. That is so much harder to do than it is to say. I keep hope that this will click for me in time as other things do, and I am committed to the journey.

Spirit of God, purest love…….help me…..carry me…..I surrender it to you.

My older sister has defied death several times. The most recent time was the most miraculous, but the first time was the most mysterious.

About 12 years ago I lived in a tin roofed four room shack that stood on cinder blocks in the “hood.” When I say “hood”  I mean that the projects were basically in my back yard. This house looked a lot like a crack house, but when I moved in I noticed that instead of the normal gang related or obscene graffiti that you might expect to see in this house there was a verse from scripture written on the wall inside. It said,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”     James 1:17

And even though I was not at all “living for the Lord” by all religious standards, I had a deep love for God. I was definitely living a worldly life because that is just where I was at the time, but I did have a relationship with God, and He had his hand on my life in spite of my hedonism. I know that whole idea may stump some people, but all I can say is that is just the way it was. Many supernatural things happened in my life while I lived in that crazy house, and my sister’s brush with death was just one of them.

My older sister and my younger sister came over one day to hang out with me and my boyfriend. My older sister did not seem to feel quite right, and she complained of a headache that made her feel like her head would explode. My boyfriend (now husband) got up to go to the bathroom and my older sister started babbling in a way that made no sense. I tried to make light of it at first, and I said to her, “Are you talking to little green men?” She then just continued to talk completely out of her mind. My little sister and I just looked at each other in a questioning and worried way. Then before we could even say anything my older sister just literally passed out.

I immediately jumped into action and ran to her. I felt her body, and yelled, “Oh my God! She’s burning up!” I started pulling her sweatshirt off of her limp body and barked at my boyfriend to grab an ice pack. We put the ice on her head, and my boyfriend picked up her lifeless body and threw her in the back seat of my little sister’s car.  I instructed my little sister to drive, and my boyfriend to drive his car in front of us because I was too stressed to even remember how to get to the hospital. I jumped into the back seat with my still unconscious older sister. I could see that she was breathing but not regularly. She was taking a breath every now and then.

I laid my hands on her and started yelling out prayers of protection and healing over her as well as commanding her to stay with us and wake up. I did this the whole way to the emergency room. When we got to the ER I told little sis to run in and get help, and my boyfriend was still trying to park. I tried to carry big sis in myself, but a limp body is very hard to pick up.

After what seemed like an eternity some help finally arrived. When the doctors got to her they went into action mode, and they were running with her down the hall and into a room where they shut the door. My little sis and I ran behind her until the door was shut in our faces. We sat against the wall in the hallway holding hands and speechless. Doctors were running in and out of the room, and we could see that this was the most serious thing going on in the ER.

The next thing that I remember is sitting in another room in the ER with my older sis, and she was still totally lifeless and unconscious, but she had machines breathing for her. The doctor told us that she had stopped breathing and that this was very serious, but they had no idea what was wrong. They were running many tests and spending much time looking things up on the computer. This was a mystery to everyone.

After about six hours I finally decided that it was time to call in the rest of the family. Things were not looking good at all. She looked dead honestly. The family showed up, and they moved my sister to a room in ICU. By this time my little sis, my boyfriend, and I had been there for about 12 hours. There was still no change, no movement, no responsiveness, no diagnosis, and no breathing on her own.

We (the original three) finally decided to leave the hospital and go home just for a quick break. It was around 10pm. Right when we got back to the little shack and sat down the phone rang, and it was a hospital phone number. I picked up the phone in horror, and to my astonishment I heard my big sis’s voice on the other end of the line saying “Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I am okay.”

I almost fell out of my chair, and so did little sis and my boyfriend when I told them who it was! Apparently she just suddenly woke up as quickly as she fell out, and she seemed as if nothing was wrong! To this day it is still a mystery as to what really happened to her that day.

Looking back I ask myself why we did not call an ambulance. I guess that it is just another case of me being so programmed to handle crisis on my own and not to ask for help. The doctors said that we saved her life by getting her there when we did though so….Thank God.