A Place for Uniqueness, Questioning, Musing, and Celebrating
I mean that in the most loving way possible. I'm not just saying that because she's a teenager. I'm saying my daughter is a warthog because of this book...
I read this book for the first time yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mogo is a character I connected with, rooted for (pun intended). It wasn't until I had finished the book and placed it back on the shelf that this realization hit me. I don't even remember what I was doing. I do remember stopping in my tracks as my inner voice shouted "My daughter is a warthog!"
My daughter is living with severe depression and crippling anxiety. She struggles every day to find her inner strength, to be brave, and to face the world. Sometimes she messes up, makes bad decisions...especially when the panic takes over. But she tries every day. She gets out of bed. She gets dressed. She tries. She is Mogo.
Mogo struggles with anxiety and panic as well. He is known as the worrier of his sounder of warthogs. Others laugh at his weaknesses and underestimate him. He underestimates himself. So does my daughter.
Mogo fears change, resisting the need to leave his comfort zone and face unknown risks. As a result of this, he follows others who make poor decisions to avoid having to make his own. He avoids doing what needs to be done because it is intimidating. He fails to trust himself and what he knows deep inside is necessary. So does my daughter.
Mogo is a careful observer, noticing the smallest details and relationships. He proves to be a survivor, learning how to avoid danger by focusing on how to predict or deal with the bad things in his life. This is my daughter, too.
My daughter is a warthog.
Eventually, Mogo begins to trust others. Slowly, carefully. He learns from his mistakes. He learns from the mistakes of others. Survival becomes easier - but somehow not enough. Mogo makes a decision to do more than just survive. He makes a decision to trust in himself and his uniqueness, to use what he has learned for the benefit of others. Mogo finds a reason to live. To thrive.
My daughter is not there - yet. I am thankful, though, to discover that she is a warthog. Like Mogo, she is on the path to conquering the things that hold her down. It took time for Mogo. It will take time for her.
Like Mogo, she is a beautiful, beautiful warthog finding her way.
I love my warthog!
I have given a lot of though lately to beliefs and personal values. This seems to come to the forefront of the culture in election years, and this year is no different. So much nastiness surrounds elections in recent years that it has become disheartening. For the record, this is not a political post. I want to say that right up front. It's more of a personal inventory, an examining of the core ideas I value most. I just feel the need to inject some positivity into the conversations.
My Mothers Day began at midnight.
On the dot.
My children had been conspiring all evening, dropping hints about my fabulous gift and how much I would love it. At the stroke of midnight, they couldn't stand it any longer. Since it was officially Mothers Day, I needed my gift right then and there.
Let me just say, this has not been an easy year to be a mom - 2015 has been an unbelievably challenging year so far. I have questioned myself, my parenting, my life choices...and have found precious few answers. Watching your child struggle is incredibly hard. Knowing you can't fix it is even worse. This year has been plagued with uncertainty, fear, worry, and heartbreak. It has also been a time of renewal, in a way. We are rebuilding our bonds, learning how to support each other in different ways, and generally starting over. It's getting better, bit by bit, but it is still difficult.
This gift was a collaboration between siblings who, all too often, are fighting or arguing. Instead, they spent time together, hidden away in a bedroom so they could surprise me. They made me a jar that was filled with little notes, each sealed with a sticker. There are enough to open one every day for the rest of May and all of June (and I'm promised refills after that). Each note is a little packet of love.
I think this is my favorite Mothers Day gift ever. I have a journal, a gift from a friend, that will be the new home for all of my notes. Of all the things they could have given me, this is what I needed most. They put a piece of their hearts into each little note, and then they filled my jar with hearts. Maybe on days when I doubt, this will help me remember that I'm doing something right. On days when I cry, it will remind me that I'm loved. On days when I feel like I'm being pushed away, they can remind me that it's only on the surface and only for a while.
When my heart is running low, I can go to my jar of hearts for a refill. ❤️
This caught my eye the other day. I had to stop. I had to snap a photo. The tenacity of this flower demanded respect.
Despite the misfortune of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, this flower chose to grow. It was certainly in an unfavorable environment. The odds were stacked against it. It should have failed. It should have wilted. Yet, against all odds, it thrived. It took the best of what was available, worked around the obstacles, and grew into something beautiful.
I love things like this. They are reminders to stop and reflect. They are messages of hope. If a flower can grow and thrive in the unlikeliest and most hostile of places, so can we. We can be thankful for what we do have. We can persevere despite obstacles. And yes, we can flourish in the rockiest of situations.
That little seed sought the light when it was trapped beneath those rocks. It searched for a glimmer of light, rejoiced when it found one, and reached for the sun. Friends, we are the same. Seeking and recognizing the light when we are surrounded by darkness and difficulty is the difference between helplessness and hope. When we are between a rock and a hard place, we can also seek the light. When we do, and when we reach for the Son, that is where we grow - even in the hard places.
As the mom of a teenager, I have cheered, prayed, cried, and yes - I have yelled. Probably more than I should have. Something about the almost casual dismissal I get from her at times is unbelievably frustrating. I want the best for her. I want her to be HER best. She wants me to leave her alone.
As the mom of a depressed teenager, I have learned some things the hard way. I would never have wished for these particular lessons to be learned in the manner they have been, but they were lessons I needed nonetheless. They have opened doors that I was beginning to worry were permanently closed.
1. Judge Less
By the time they become teenagers, kids know what you think about almost everything. I have always been so tempted to push my agenda for her whenever I saw my daughter taking a difficult path or doing something I wouldn't personally do. The thing is, she tuned me out. Imagine that. The more she strayed, the harder I would push - and the farther she would slip away.
By keeping my opinions to myself when I can (which is not always), she has become more likely to talk to me and share her feelings. Except on matters of safety, I have become Switzerland. She knows how I feel. Now we need to deal with how SHE feels.
2. Talk less, listen more.
This is almost the same principle, but it applies to "helpful advice" as well. It is so easy to try to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and give advice. It's almost second nature to a mom. We want to help. We want to make things better. We try to talk it into existence - or at least I did. The problem is, the more I would talk, the quieter she would get. You could almost see the wall go up.
I have discovered that by biting my tongue and listening, she talks more. I am trying to keep my feedback to the occasional question to keep the conversation going, but I have found that even that needs to be very limited. No pressure listening is something I'm really, really working on.
3. Don't push so hard.
I have watched this depression creep up on my child. I have tried and tried to help. Guess what? The more I tried, the less she wanted it. I have really had to work on letting her come to me. It is so hard when you see your child hurting...it is so hard not to scoop her up and try to protect her. I have repeatedly made the mistake of pushing too hard to get her to talk, to share what is upsetting her, and to let me help her. I certainly don't advocate letting a depressed teen deal with that depression alone, but we have reached a point where she is beginning to understand that I'm on her side. That changes things.
I have found that if I just make myself available, she is much more likely to come to me. Now that we've created somewhat of a system, she knows she can come to me...and I let her. I wait for it. It is HARD. It is so hard. But she comes to me. If I forget...if I push...I still get shut down. At least until I take a step back and respect her space.
This is not a season in our lives that I would have chosen. I wish things were different for her...better. But I am grateful for these opportunities to retool my parenting and be the kind of mom she needs me to be.
The idea of what it means to really love someone came up in conversation today, and it really got me thinking. What does love mean? We have been conditioned to think of love as a noun - a feeling you have, a romantic relationship, a thing to possess or find.
I don't think that is necessarily true - or at least it's not the full picture. Love isn't something you have...it's something you do.
Love is a verb.
Love is putting others first. It's sharing with others something you could have kept for yourself. Love is kindness shown to someone who may not deserve it, a smile given to the cashier who just got chewed out by the customer in front of you, a hamburger given to the homeless man no one even notices.
Love is a verb.
Love is sitting up all night with a child having nightmares even though you are exhausted. Love is encouraging someone who is really struggling. Love is making coffee for your spouse before they wake up every morning. Love is rescuing an animal from a shelter.
Love is a verb.
Love is giving your last five dollars to someone who can't buy lunch that day. It is sitting on the back porch watching the stars with your child. It is forgiving someone who hurt you and treating them with kindness anyway.
Love is a verb.
Love is a savior who died in our place, who paid the price for our sins, who made it possible to have a relationship with a holy God without sin getting in the way.
Love is a verb.
Our salvation is the result of a verb, not a noun. Jesus loved us through actions. That is not to say that love is NOT a feeling - it certainly can be - but luckily for us, it is much more than that alone.
Love is not something you have.
It's not something you find.
Love is something you do.
Go love someone today.
I think we are missing the mark if we buy into the idea that we all need to "be ourselves" to the exclusion of everything else. It occurred to me recently that we need to be ourselves, but better. How, you ask? I'm so glad you asked! ;)
Are you ready?
Are you sure?
Ok...here goes nothing.
The secret (if you can call it that) to becoming more is to become LESS.
Yep. Become more by becoming less. Think of others more than yourself. Inject some kindness into an unkind world.
Be yourself, but kinder and more compassionate.
Be yourself, but more generous with your time and attention.
Be yourself, but more humble.
Be yourself, but be quicker to forgive.
Be yourself, but listen more.
Be yourself, but reconsider your impact on the world around us. Do we really want to glorify self to the point where we become immune to the needs and emotions of those around us?
It is so easy to get lost in "being yourself"...and our culture encourages it. I humbly submit, however, that the person MOST deserving of glory became one of us and lived His life with a servant's heart, always mindful of the needs of others above His own. I don't know about you, but I don't want to just "be myself"...I want to be me, but better. I want to be myself, but also be more like Him.
THAT is a resolution I can stick to!!!
I have been having an especially difficult time with my oldest today. She is pulling away from me, and it's breaking my heart. I was on my knees (literally) tonight seeking comfort and guidance, praying the armor of God over my stubborn child, and sat so long my lower legs went to sleep.
I was listening for a response at the time, so I shifted into a more comfortable position so I could focus - and my breath was taken away by the pain and tingling that came along with the blood rushing back into my legs. Then I was struck with a thought. When something - a life, a relationship, a heart - has been deprived of the blood (Jesus, anyone?) essential for proper functioning, pain may be part of the process of correcting the deprivation. It may get worse as it gets better. Did you hear the AS? Not before - AS.
The two conditions - pain and progress - may be happening at the same time. The pain may, in fact, be ESSENTIAL to the process of changing hearts, relationships, and lives - particularly when it involves admitting faults and shortcomings that have added to the problem.
The good news is that change can be happening in the midst of that pain. You don't have to wait it out - you have to LIVE IT OUT! Live it out and let God do the heavy lifting. Don't run from the pain - it may be the very catalyst that brings about the changes you seek.
Thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love in the midst of all our failings. May you use this pain to refine and reshape our relationship with each other and with you. In the precious name of Jesus I pray - Amen.
My husband's Hispanic grandmother used to make tamales every Christmas and send them out to all the family too far away to enjoy them in her own kitchen in southern California. They were delicious - we looked forward to them every Christmas. A few years into our marriage, they stopped coming. She was getting old enough that they were too big of a job for her to handle anymore. I wanted to learn how to make them, so I started asking my husband's aunts in California. I found two problems - one, none of them knew how to make them; two, she barely spoke English and didn't use recipes because she couldn't read or write. I have read every tamale recipe I can find, and with a little experimentation I have gotten my own version pretty close to the original. My father-in-law says they taste just the same. Now I make tamales every year for the whole family. I love it that the tradition is still alive! Here's the recipe if you want to start a tradition of your own.
Ingredients (I'll explain the measurements later):
The first thing you want to do is cook your pork roast. You can do this two ways. You can put it in a Crock-Pot overnight, or you can boil it. Either way, you cut it into fist-sized chunks so it cooks evenly. Be sure you save the broth - you'll need it later. You can cook the meat in the morning for afternoon tamale-making, or you can cook it the day before. It's really up to you.
When the pork roast is cooked and cooled, shred it into small pieces.
At this point, you want to start soaking your corn husks. Take them out of the package and put them in a bowl of hot water to soften up. They will need to soak for 2 or 3 hours before you can really work with them.
Mix the following ingredients into a paste:
When these are all mixed together, add them to the shredded pork and mix well with your hands.
Next, you put about 2 pounds (usually half a bag) of masa flour into a large bowl. Add the following spices and mix well:
Then you add 2 c. corn oil and about 2 quarts of the pork broth you saved (1 cup at a time), mixing well after every cup of broth. You know it's right when it looks and feels like peanut butter.
You're almost ready to make tamales. First, you need to shake the water off the corn husks and let them air dry for a few minutes. Then you lay the husk in front of you with the narrow end to your left. Spread a thin layer of masa on the husk, leaving some space at the left and top with no masa. You can do this however is easiest for you - some people like to use a spoon. I like to use my hands.
Then you put a line of the shredded pork in the middle of the masa. I like to make mine with lots of meat, but not everyone does. Then you can roll your tamale.
This is the part where it gets tricky. All the recipes I read said to roll - for the life of me, I can't do it. I fold mine - I take the bottom and fold it up to the top, then sort of peel the edge of the husk away from the masa and use it to squeeze the tamale in nice and tight - THEN I roll it. It's hard to explain, but once you get your hands on it, I think it will make more sense. Anyway, you roll the tamale from the bottom to the top, then fold the narrow end up against the edge of the husk.
After you roll the tamales, you place them in a steamer with the folded side down. You can buy tamale steamers, but I cheated and made my own. I have a canning pot with a basket for the jars. I line the basket with foil and poke holes in it, then set the handles on the edge of the pot so the basket is raised. (If you have ever used a canner, you know what I'm talking about.) Fill the bottom of the steamer with water, but DO NOT put in so much you get the bottom of your tamales wet - you'll have soggy tamales. Cover your steamer and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, turn the heat down and steam for about 2 hours. You will want to check every now and then to make sure the pot doesn't boil dry.
That's it! When the masa is firm you know you're done. Then all you have to do is eat and enjoy!
You know the song "No Rain" by Blind Melon? The one with the video where the weird little girl dressed like a bee tap dances through life trying to find kindred spirits and a place to be herself? That's me.