The community that surrounds my husband, my daughter and myself truly has no idea how they impact us almost daily. I can say the words, “you mean a lot to us,” but those words show no depth as to how much we appreciate them and how often I go to bed thanking God for the loving words of encouragement, honesty, openness, challenges and playful banter they bring into our lives that bless me. With that said, a little bit of background as to what goes on in my head as a new (ish) parent, with a bit about how grew up, and why my community is so important to my husband, daughter and myself.
For any new parent there is always a voice of fear saying, “How am I going to pull this off?” or “I can’t do this!” No matter what kind of doubt is out there about raising a little human, it finds a way to creep into your mind. Such is the case for any parent, let alone a parent who didn’t have a mom or a dad, or either, and on top of that, someone who felt they were not wanted as a child because of certain words and actions, ultimately becoming an orphan. Sadly, this is the case with my life, but my mom and I have reconciled now. You may wonder how that’s possible, but that’s an entirely different (very long!) blog about forgiveness and grace. I love and forgive my mom, but the truth is, she lost rights to me. Even though I went to a foster family, it didn’t fix the hurt and abandonment I felt.
Even as I was living with my mom, I had to grow up faster than necessary. I was on the look out for her when she was partying with her friends. I let them know when the police were coming. I wasn’t asked to do this, but I took the job upon myself. In fact, I made this my job so much so that I convinced my mom that I didn’t need to go to school for most of 7th grade and all of 8th grade (all but the first day of school).
My mother was constantly in bad relationships and surrounded by people who didn’t make the best life choices. Yes, it was a community, but it was certainly not a healthy one that was certainly not built on love and support. It was very much a self absorbed, “what can I get from you” type of community. I did meet some interesting people, though! There were two guys who were our “friends” who were also gang members, and to this day I still think about them a lot. Both of them were actually really nice guys, and I remember how this tiny sassy girl (me), would sing “Walking In A Spider Web” to annoy one of the guys because he hated that song, but loved me and put up with my annoying-ness. I think most of my friends now can understand that. I guess my sassiness was always there. 🙂
I didn’t have the best upbringing from age 7 up. Being taken away at 14 years old from the person I committed my life to, who was my sole purpose for being alive to make sure she didn’t hurt herself, shattered my life. The situation was obviously unhealthy in many ways, as proven by countless stories, but with that said, I didn’t want to be a mom. Ever. Not just because of my mom, but because of other situations and people in my life. I wanted kids, but I was scared to have them… You know, the normal story of not wanting what happened to me to repeat itself.
Growing up, there were a lot of indicators that this wasn’t going to happen, but I needed healthy people in my life to point that out. I put labels on myself that were never meant to be there. I truly believe that God has healed me, and is still healing me, to realize that I can do this. A lot of that was thanks to people that were placed in my life, and to my wonderful husband and birth family that came back into my life. Because of the community that surrounded me, it didn’t seem so scary. It was still scary, but it felt more comfortable.
IT’S STILL SCARY! I know every parent struggles. The stories that other parents have shared with me about their struggles make me feel normal. I never feel normal. It’s a daily battle in my head to not worry that we’ll lose our home and be forced to live in a motel, or to be scared that if my daughter gets a scratch someone will think I’m an unfit parent and take her away, or thinking that because I let her watch TV I’m not a good mom, or if I decide to home school her I’ll fail her. The list goes on and on. Please hear me when I humbly say that in NO way to I think I’m the only one who thinks this way, or that I’m worse off than anyone else. I know this is a common theme for almost every parent. Judging by my own personal experience, which is all I have to go off of, as well as insight I’ve gained from talking to others, when you haven’t had role models or have been told and shown over and over again that you are unwanted, you are constantly battling. Even if you grew up in the “perfect” home, everyone has their issues.
Back to why I’m writing this blog.
I’m not writing simply to express how much of a failure I think I am. Rather, I’m writing to reveal a little of what goes on in my mind on a daily basis, the background to why that is and the reason why what I’m about to share is so important to me.
Unlike the community I saw while growing up, I have been experiencing healthy community for over 10 years. This community has shaped me. It has shaped how I become a wife, and even more so now that I’m a mom.
Those of you who are in our lives have NO idea how much we love you. Family means the world to me. I missed out on my biological family for so many years that when I get the chance to be with them, I drink it in. I feel as if I’m catching up on what I missed out on, and even at 31 years old, I need that so badly.
*** BUNNY TRAIL (Haha. That’s funny. I’m about to talk about Easter)*** Uncle Scott, I can’t express what our talk on Easter has done for me! You may not remember all that was said, but that conversation caught me so off guard. I left feeling so encouraged and loved. I called two friends on the way home to tell them about what a special talk I had with my uncle. I won’t express why here, but please know that even though that moment might not have seemed like a big deal toy you, you’ll never know how much your encouragement meant to me.
*** BUNNY TRAIL #2 *** Aunt Barbara and Karen, I have no words. There’s so much I want to share. I love you and will be writing about that in depth way soon!
With all of that being said, my friends ARE my family. I consider my in-laws my real parents. I admire them for who they are and am thankful for their constant words of affirmation. Whenever they tell Chris and I that we’re doing well, I breathe a sigh of relief. I admire them so much. My brothers and sisters in-law are not in-laws to me at all! We argue and play as if we’d all grown up together. I hold to their opinions so dearly, more than others. You guys don’t know how much I appreciate you, and love you. I say it a lot, but words never feel like they’re enough. So I felt I should blog it. You’re welcome.
There’s a list of you who have helped shape who I am, whom I hold to so closely, whom I would do anything for and tell you I love you every time I see you! Whenever I say that, I want you to know that those aren’t just words. I feel it so deeply. I truly go to bed thanking God that we have each one of you and have been able to have you around for all these years. I love you so much, not because you love us, but because of who you are and how you interact with Arwen.
I judge myself all the time, but your words of encouragement stop the madness in my head and makes me realize that we will be okay, because Arwen not only has us, but has each of you. I’m not being cliché (at least not on purpose), but I feel calmer when we’re around you guys because I know she has so many people to turn to, to uplift her parents and make sure we’re doing well so that we can be the very best for her.
I love that when I’m having a day off, you all rally around me without me ever asking for help. You understand when we can’t go out, so you come to us so that we can have much-needed adult interaction! If I’m meeting someone that I’m uneasy with meeting Arwen, you drop your lives to support me even though it may seem like nonsense. You don’t question it. You just love me through it. You make me look up and see that not only are Chris and I loved beyond measure, but Arwen will never go without love.
A few months ago at church, Arie didn’t want to go into the nursery. I’m battling with being weary and feeling like an insufficient mother, since she’s running around everywhere. Everyone always says it isn’t disruptive and that she’s a part of our family, which encourages me, but doesn’t stop me from getting into my own head. A group of you came around her and I and formed a circle of people so that she could play, but have boundaries. You did this just so I could rest a bit. I don’t think you did it on purpose, but that’s the thing. You guys do this all the time. When you see she’s running off, you go chase her. You offer to hold her so that I can get prayer. You tell her you love her and you mean it. This may seem silly to you, but all the times that you come over and we watch her dance and interact and play with her remind me of how blessed I am. This is what a healthy community looks like.
Thank you for allowing us to come to you honestly during hard times, and for being a safe place where we can be real and vulnerable, and for the times we can be silly and sassy (Which is where I am personally more comfortable). Thank you for challenging me to feel emotion when I don’t want to and for allowing us to be a part of your lives. This feels a bit one-sided, but I hope you truly know the extent of our love for you.
When we went out for ministry at a place where kids are taken after being pulled from their homes, Arwen wanted to pray for someone who needed it and I honestly couldn’t hold myself together. Watching my daughter have compassion for someone else, as well as a heart to pray when something is wrong was so eye opening. At the time, I was with people who love me who told me, “You are doing such a great job. Look what she’s doing!” You have no idea how perfect those words were at that time.
I realize that a lot of what I’m saying sounds chaotic and maybe a little bit crazy, but please know that I’m not a depressed person. I simply feel that I need to be real as well as thank those whom we hold so dear.
The community I had growing up with my mom was centered around a group of hurting people who found a common ground and stuck together. That’s fine. But when you’re spiraling out of control and have no one to help, since everyone you know is in the same boat as you, I’m not sure how great that actually is. They couldn’t call each other out. They couldn’t point out that someone was losing it, because they were all spiraling together. When the going got tough, they did drugs, they ran as fast as they could from the situation in order to not feel.
The people in our lives today are not trying to get anything out of us. They aren’t our friends because they think they’ll get a reward. I know this because we don’t have anything. My husband and I have decided that it’s best for me to stay home with our daughter. With that, things are tight. Presents for birthdays are late and are NOT extravagant, and although we wish we could do more, we know our friends and family understand that we’ve made this decision for our daughter. Our community is so loving and honest. We all speak truth to one another, but with love and support. We don’t run from each other. We run towards each other and ask how we can help. Each person rallies around the next, in prayer and love. It’s not just about the tough times, either. We’re so close that we can all be goofballs and dance like crazy people (Lorraine and myself mostly). This is a far different community than the one I knew growing up, but I am beyond blessed to be a part of it. Again, there are so many people who impact me every week. I can’t even think of everyone, but if you read this, I hope you know who you are! I know you know that when we say we love you, and thank you, we truly mean it.
If you feel hopeless and lost, I want to encourage you to please find a healthy community of people to be with you! I stay home with my daughter and have a lot of time to think, or psych myself into thinking I’m messing up. Having people who will be real with me and encourage me has changed my world.
So, thank you!