“It requires tremendous courage to be curious about our pain and lean into it.” ~Brené Brown
Yesterday, I was on the phone with my husband, when Chelsea’s text messages came through about the threat of a gun on campus. He had called me during a rare break in his meeting schedule at work in response to a text I had just sent him. All I said was “hi.” and he knew I needed to talk. With tears streaming down my face, I shared what had just happened.
While I was waiting for my youngest to finish her math assignment, I was casually thumbing through Instagram. I came across a sweet picture Christine Caine had posted of her daughter. I don’t always read captions, but for some reason I did.
[Back story, I met Christine 14 years ago when she preached at a women’s conference at a small, local church. She has only grown more passionate and gifted in her teaching over the years. If you haven’t heard her preach I strongly encourage you to check her out. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s got an amazing Australian accent! Grin.]
Anyhow, Christine’s caption read:
I love having a teenage daughter. My favorite season of parenthood yet… This girl is so much fun. I love you @catiecainee ❤️
My throat caught, my eyes welled up…and then the tears start flowing.
I immediately wanted to type a comment in response. If I had been brave enough it would have read:
I would have given anything to have those words spoken about me as a teenager.
It caught me off guard. You see, I have been estranged from my family for 25 years. Disowned, actually. For over half my life.
Few people know that about me. And, for years (and years) I’ve hesitated to even hint at it in my writing. I carefully write around it. You see, I didn’t want offend those who chose to step out of my life.
But then the tears surfaced and all of the deep anguish and loss I’ve worked so hard to push aside, ignore, pretend like it didn’t matter, didn’t affect me, came
pouring gushing out like an avalanche that had been building up over years and years. And, all of us sudden, all of my inner struggles suddenly became crystal clear.
There’s so much to unpack here, but I’ll save that for another day. (Maybe.)
In an instant, I suddenly became aware of two life altering truths:
(1) Being judged, abandoned, neglected, and rejected by my family of origin is the very source of my own self-hatred.
(Yup, there it is. I’m human. And, when cut, I bleed.) I’ve seen evidence of it over the years, I just haven’t been able to acknowledge it. I needed to stay tough and press through the days. I needed to survive. Because, no matter how much I’ve tried to deny it, it’s difficult (major understatement) to believe good about yourself when the very ones who brought you into the world deem you unacceptable.
~ and ~
(2) I want my teenage daughter (and my other children) to know without a shadow of a doubt how proud I am to be their mom. That no matter how much I’ve had to (and will need to) work through years and years of trials, loss, and utter cr*p (being real here!) I have endured, I will always, always, ALWAYS love them, be here for them. Geoff and I tell them regularly, “There is nothing you can ever do that will cause me to stop loving you. Nothing.” And, I will do whatever it takes to allow God to (completely) heal my heart so I can be the mom they need and desire me to be for them.
In response to my first truth, God has blessed me with an amazing husband and best friend who stood by my side when my family walked out on me. He has blessed me with 6 precious children. My 3 at home are beyond gracious and patient with me as I struggle to figure out this journey called ‘motherhood!’ And, He has surrounded me with incredible friends who have adopted me into their families and brought incredible healing through their love.
Here’s the thing. We all have our stories of pain and loss. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t suffered in some way.
Despite my above admissions, I have been incredibly blessed and have an amazingly-imperfect life. While significant trauma has blocked the majority of my memories before the age of 19, I’m certain I wasn’t the best daughter. Or sister. And, I made all kinds of bad choices and mistakes.
I’m definitely not claiming to be innocent or perfect. Not in the least.
The situation is complex. And I know we each have our own version of what happened. To repeat a phrase I’ve learned to abhor over the years, “It is what it is.”
But, no matter what has happened, I love my family. Still. And, I wish God’s best for each one of them. They aren’t perfect. Neither am I.
God has allowed me to accept that wounded people wound people. We all just do the best we can.
But, really, this post isn’t about them. They each have their own wounds and stories and reasons. Every story has two sides (or more.) And, it’s not my place to speak for others.
This post is about me. It’s about my journey and my need to finally acknowledge a truth that has been chasing at my heels for years, and years, and years. Nipping away at my peace and my ability to truly believe (and receive) God’s unconditional love and acceptance.
To those who deemed me not enough…too much…unworthy…unlovable:
I forgive you.
May you, my family, find peace and receive grace. May you know you aren’t too much, or not enough. May you know you are worthy. And lovable. And, I pray one day, you will each be able to forgive me for all of the big and little ways I have hurt and offended you. And, for anything I’ve said or done that has wounded you.
I am truly, truly sorry.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Photo credit: Amy Jo Ivey / “Closed” / Main Street, Franklin, TN / March 2015