Category Archives: Children

Seeing the Positive Space

As an artist, you are taught to use contrasting colors to define your positive and negative space within a work.  Normally, you want to highlight the focus of the piece and shade the non-focal areas.  You want to draw attention to the positive.  I realize artwork is not always positive in the way of subject matter.  That is not exactly what I am talking about.  I am talking about the area to which your eye is drawn.  In the picture to the left, there are two images, one in negative space in one in the positive.  Do you naturally see one before the other?  Usually it is the positive space.  But the same is not true when I think of myself.

My husband and I were having a conversation while sitting on the couch yesterday morning.  I mentioned some things I was struggling with emotionally.  It seems I have had many struggles lately.  Nothing overwhelming, just many small things that make my mind whirl.  Specifically, I was talking about a hearing test I had recently that revealed I have low-frequency hearing loss.  I guess my husband had had enough of my whining because he said, “Holly, I want you to think about something.  You are letting all these negative things define you–whether it is your bipolar disorder or hearing loss or whatever else is wrong.  I want you to think of the good things about yourself and let them define you.”

I was suddenly fighting back tears.  The sad truth:  I couldn’t think of anything positive about myself that defined me.  I feel like I fall short on everything.  I feel like I am failing my children because I don’t spend enough constructive time with them.  I feel like I fail as a housekeeper because there is usually enough dust on my ceiling fans to plant corn.  I fail as an artist because I have no time to invest.  The same goes for being a writer.  Other than knowing I am God’s Child, Redeemed, I can think of nothing.

This is something I desperately need to work on.  I don’t have a resolution or a happy how-to ending for this blog post.  Rather, I want to ask you, “What positive things define you?”

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Asking for Help

 

A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help.  “Why is it that you can’t ask for help?  What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.

She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up.  I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,”  the response tumbled out.

The truth is I hate asking for help.  I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes.   I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask.  I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of.  Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind.  But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place.  I have to learn to ask.  I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.

I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist.  And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God.  The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should.  Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate.  In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires.  (Something else I need to work on).

Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.  Keep on looking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”

My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life.  It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.”  They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met.  It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking.  I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity.  It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone.  God, however, will not let me down.  He is constant and He is omni-everything.  Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper.  But I need to ask.

Inner Peace

HPIM0524I just finished a book titled  A Testament of Devotion by Tomas R. Kelly.  In this book Thomas spoke freely of how to connect, spirit to spirit, to the Creator.  His words were so lulling so peaceful, that when I would finish a section, I would feel at peace with the world.  In his first chapter, Kelly states, “Protestant emphasis, beginning so nobly in the early Luther, has grown externally rationalistic, humanistic, and service minded.  Dogmas and creed and the closed revelation of a completed canon have replaced the emphasis upon keeping close to the fresh upspringins of the Inner Life.”  In recent years, I have struggled to have a meditation and devotion time be a consistent part of my life.  As a mom of four, it seems like I don’t even have time to pee, much less the take time in daily devotionals.  So yeah, maybe I am a product of that line of thought–that doing is more important than meditation with the Spirit.

I must confess that I long for that inner peace and joy from being in tune with the Spirit that Kelly spoke of.  I read such authors as Kelly and Wayne Dyer, hoping to obtain that peace.  However, I really want a book to tell me how to obtain peace while a toddler is yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommmmmyyyyyy . . .”

“What!”

“Nothing.  (giggle)  I love you.”

Sweetness laced with frustration.  All this happening simultaneously while I am trying to cook dinner and carry on a conversation with my oldest daughters.  Are all these peaceful of spirit people, do they have all this stuff coming at them?  I don’t know anyone who could keep inner peace while being pulled mentally and emotionally in 20 different directions.  Except Ann Voskamp.  I think she may be on to something.  The rest of us are struggling with “praising Jesus one minute and screaming at your kids the next.” (Lysa Turkheurst, Unglued).

So I do.  I keep the house clean and raise my children; try to be a good wife and mother and a woman of God all in the same breath.  I am normal.  But I desire a relationship with everyone around me that is beyond ordinary, including my creator.  I just don’t know how to accomplish that.  Maybe I am expecting too much from myself at this stage of my life.  I don’t know.  I just feel like I am falling short.  But then there is grace.  Grace from God and Grace from those around me.

I am rambling, so back to meditation and living life fully.  There are a few things that help me to be at peace and feel more connected to my creator.  I will share them with you:

1.  Get up before the kids and have time with God. Read scripture and pray or journal.   This is soooo hard for me, but it starts my day with peace, which spills over into the rest of my day.  I literally have to go to bed as soon as my pre-schoolers do in order to do this.

2.  Get organized.  It amazes me how much physical clutter around me translates to emotional and spiritual clutter.  I stay at home with my children, and I am trying out a schedule for us.  So far I am really liking the results.  It is a work in progress.  I just have to careful not to make everything into a “check off the to-do list.”  I have to remember to enjoy the moment.

3.  Simplify.  It seems like something is going on in our life all the time that we “must” attend.  A birthday party, a sleepover, extra curricular activities.   This is why Shabbot is so important.  Take time to rest.  It is okay to say “no” sometimes to request.

Those are my tricks.  What are your tricks for finding inner peace?  Please share.  I really need more advice than I am giving.  

The Pain of Beauty

As women, we go through great pains in order to be Beautiful.  Although I am not much of a froo-froo girl, I still endure my fair share of torture.  Take those eyebrow waxings for example–ouch!  And although pedicures are a way to pamper oneself, I have to admit they hurt a bit.  Then, we don elaborate jewelry before we leave the house and have a ritual of putting on make-up every morning, oh, and the hair.  Living in the South where “big hair” rules, taking the time to do hair can take up most of the morning.

We do all this to feel beautiful.  It is a woman’s yearning to be the Beauty.  To feel like she is Beautiful.  John Eldridge in Captivating describes a woman as Beautiful when she is “fully present” and at “rest” within herself.

But how does one come to be at rest within themselves?  John Eldridge answers this question as well.  He states (paraphrase), “that a woman becomes Beautiful when she knows who she is.”

About eight years ago I had no idea who I was.  I really had no idea of my own identity.  There are many pages in my journal from that time where the words, “Who am I?” are sketched across the top or off to the side.  I felt lost without an identity.  I didn’t know who I was, yet, I felt that I was more than just a wife and mother.  The questions of “Who am I?”  and “What is my purpose in life?” haunted me day and night.  It had to be more than just who I was in relation to other people.

I was not at peace or at rest within myself.  I was anything but beautiful.  In fact, I ducked and dodged other people because I thought I had nothing of myself to give.  No light to bear.

During those years I hated myself intensely.  I hated the void of who I had become.  I lived in fear of being asked to do things, and more fearful of just being a wallflower and no one noticing I existed.  But wallflowers have to bloom, right?

Not necessarily, I think blooming is a choice we make.  We have to pursue the blooming process.  I did.  I wanted more than what I had, so I chose to learn to bloom.

I started hearing God through the voices of my children.  They taught me so many lessons during that time.  They taught me that it is okay to involve God in the minute details of my life.  That if I ask God for something as simple as to make the bees in our yard go away He will.  They also taught me there is Beauty in imperfection.  That was a very important lesson for me to learn.

I also discovered that God knew my name and that I undoubtedly belong to Him.

The Psalms repeatedly speak of God pulling the Psalmist up from the mire or the pit of despair so that others can see and be amazed at what God can do.  It takes a journey of dark to light to have a testimony.  Those who have made this journey can bear so much more light to those who have never walked the darkened road before.

“Weeping may continue through the night , but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

It is God’s desire to pull you up out of the pit of despair.  He wants His glory to be seen through you.  God’s desire is for you to reflect the ultimate Beauty–His Beauty.

What “pit of despair” has God pulled you out of?  I want to hear your story.  

Sticks and Stones

My daughters who are three and four years old are into a stage of name calling.  “You’re a tiny baby” one of them will say.  Of course, the other then retorts with, “No, you’re the tiny baby.”

This eventually leads to the one who is younger by only a year running to me and saying, “Elle is calling me a tiny baby.”

Usually this ends in me reprimanding them both for name calling.  Lately though, I have taken it to a different level.  My first tactic was to say something along the lines of, “Well, mommy says you’re a big girl.”  But then, after a few times of saying that, it dawned on me:  What does my youngest daughter, Caroline,  believe about herself?  She seems to be so easily swayed by either my definition of her being a “big girl” verses her sister’s definition of her being a “tiny baby.”  So I changed my tactic again.  When Caroline would run to me with the latest name she had been called by her sister Elle, I would stop and ask her, “What does Caroline believe about herself?”  At first this conversation required prompting, as Caroline would just look at me like I had two heads.  “Does Caroline believe she is a tiny baby or a big girl?”

“I’m a big girl,”  she would exclaim.

“Then you don’t need to worry with what your sister thinks or calls you,” would be my reply to her.

So simple of an argument, but yet, so relevant.  Even as adults, we often let other people’s opinions of who we are, what type of person we are, what we are good at, what we are not good at define us.  We have to remember though, that everyone’s perception of who we are is influenced by who they are and the lenses of life through which they view the world.  Those lenses are colored by their own past, things people have said to them, their own views and life experiences.  Any remarks they would make you is from their own perception.

So if someone should tell me, “Holly, you are horrible.”  I should not give much credence to it.  It is just their perception. On the same token, should they say, “Holly, you are wonderful.”  It should not matter.  It should not matter because I should have my own definition of who I am.  If I have one editor tell me I am a good writer, yet another tell me I need to give it up.  Who do I believe.  I believe what I am told from the Spirit of God — He tells me to write.  So I do.  Sticks and stones.  .  .

This was a struggle for me for a long time.  I have many journal entries where the phrase, “Who am I?” is doodled in the margin.  I had no sense of myself.  I went to college in my thirties to try to find myself.  I allowed my paranoia of what other people thought of me define me.

Through it all, I kept hearing the voice of God calling on gentle breezes, “You are mine.”  For a long time I argued that of 6 billion people on Earth, God could not possible know who I was.  I was wrong.

A voice that said, “You are mine, and I am calling you to me,” persisted.  For many years I did not allow myself the believe the voice of God telling me I was of value.

“I am calling you to me, and you are to be a light bearer to others.”

No way.  Not me.  You got the wrong person.  I can’t be a light bearer.  I have too much darkness in me to bear light,” my thoughts would reply back.

Slowly, and through a couple of traumatic events, God revealed Himself to me.  He does know my name and He does believe that I am of value.  I have worth to Him.  So much so, that He has pursued me for years.  He has been patient with me.  Through listening to what God believed about me, my definition of who I am started to change.  Casting Crowns song, “The Voice of Truth” became a mantra for me.  If I believed God was truth, I had no choice but to submit my own beliefs to be in alignment with His.  I had to believe for myself what God believed of me.

I am worth fighting for.

I am worthy.

I am a light bearer.

I make mistakes.

He delights in me.

He raised me up.

I am valuable.

I am loved.

What do you believe about yourself?

What an awesome privilege!

I recently had the awesome privilege of baptizing one of my oldest daughters.  She had been wanting to be baptized for quite a while and my husband and I kept asking her more in depth questions.  Finally, she chose a date.  A very special date.  The Sunday before Thanksgiving.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving is a very special date for us because that is the Sunday my father passed away two years ago.  I thought it very fitting that on the day he took a step closer to God, my daughter chose that day to also take a step closer to God.

To baptize my daughter is an experience I never thought I would have.  Not only because my daughter could choose from a myriad of family members and mentors, but simply because in my Christian denomination tradition, men typically are the ones who do things in leadership roles such as baptizing.  I go to a church, for which I am very grateful, that they are trying to change and expand the role of women in the church.

So I got to baptize my daughter.  There was so much I wanted her to know.  I had prepared a speech for her, but in the moment, I became very nervous and forgot about half of it.  I think I will write it all down in a letter to her so she can have it as a keepsake.  I want her to know that God has plans for her.  Jeremiah 29:11 states:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for you to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I want my daughter to know that by taking Christ on in baptism, it allows her to go perfect and blameless before God, since Jesus made the atonement for our sins.  I want her to know that she does not have to wear the robes of spiritual shame, but can shed the for a robe of righteousness.  I want her to know that she is going to mess up, but that God loves her radically and will pursue her all of her days.

I think I hit most of those points when I baptized her.  I think I just forgot to elaborate on many of them as I had planned to.

Nonetheless, It was a very special day for me not only because I got to baptize my daughter, but because I am wanting to go into women’s speaking ministry.  Although there is much I need to overcome in the way of nervousness, my daughter’s baptism for me, in many ways, was like my initiation into that role from a spiritual perspective.  I hope that continues to be true for me.  For the church family that stayed, I thank you.  For my family that came, bless you.  And for those who were only there is spirit, that was a gift.

Journey

For years I have been trying to find the path God wants me on.  There was so many obstacles in my way that I could not find my way.  I always thought that one day I would write a book.  One day…… one day when I was more mature in faith, or one day when I was older and wiser, one day when I had more time, one day….. well, I think God is telling me that one day is here.  I feel completely unqualified to do what I am currently pursuing, but I feel that it is the path God has placed before me.

First, I was just going to write a book about my bipolar/Christian journey.  Then things began exploding.  As I worked on my book proposal, I realized there is so much potential to get my message across.  So I think I am being led into a speaker/author combination.  I have now spoken at 3 events, two of which was a large class and one Ladies night of Worship.

This feels so right.  After I spoke last night, so many people came up to me telling me of their own struggles and stories of emotional pain.  Coming out from the other side of depression, I feel that the message and lessons I have learned are something that needs to be focused on.  There is not really alot of people willing to bluntly share their experience of failure within the church and what they learned from those things.

It is easy to preach what is in the bible and the lessons it contains without bringing yourself and your own struggles into the picture.  But when you add your own faults it becomes something so much more tangible.  To admit my weaknesses…. Paul said that In my weakness may God have Glory.  That is how I feel.  The hardest part of this is going to be talking to my children about my faults.  It is much easier to talk to a group of 2000 women and tell them what all I have done and how God has rescued me than it is to tell my daughters.  May God grant them peace.

My journey has been a long one.  I feel like I am beginning a new volume of my life.  One that is wrapped up not in my faults and my bipolar/depression journey, but one that is wrapped up in bringing God glory.

Last night I had the pleasure to speak to a group of about 75 women at the Pegram Church of Christ.  I am so grateful for that church opening it doors and arms to me.  I was so nervous about the content I spoke on, because it is a very heavy content.  I use the word “pissed” in my speaking.  Not exactly a church word.  But they loved me anyway and seemed we both seemed to have learned something from the experience.

sleepover

I must really be crazy.  I agreed to let my daughters have a sleepover last night.  Six 10 year old girls, can you imagine?  So far, all has gone well.  Cooking has been the hardest part, but that wouldn’t have been so hard if my one year old and seven month old had not gotten cranky in the middle of my cooking dinner.  That so far has been the hardest.  This morning my dear husband cooked breakfast and I only helped with getting everything together.  It really has not been as hard as I imagined it would be.  After all, here I am blogging while they are all still here.

The girls started arriving shortly after school let out yesterday.  I had fruit and veggies waiting on them for an after school snack.  Strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, broccoli, carrots, and ranch.  Some chips to balance it all out.  Then we had spaghetti for dinner with side salads.  It was some of the best spaghetti I have made in a long time.  In the middle of my cooking dinner my one year old, Elizabeth become extremely whiney and just wanted me to hold her.  Nothing would please her except for me to carry her around.  Trying to make dinner was almost impossible because of holding her and trying to cook with one hand.  Every time I put her down she screamed.  I can’t stand the screaming so I pick her up.  I finally get dinner on the table and then my seven month old Caroline demands to be fed.  She starts screaming.  I think all the crying was starting to upset all the girls.  It was mass chaos for about an hour.  Not something I want to repeat.

This morning we had a fruit tray with blueberries, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and chocolate chips to balance in all out.  We had pancakes, eggs and sausage.  It was soooo yummy.  And my dh cooked while I organized.  The girls have been great.  They have been girls, but they have been great.  One has already had to go home.  I wish she could have stayed.

The girls all stayed up until three a.m. giggling.  I can only imagine the crankiness that will follow later on today.   Wish me luck.

Changes

I started Caroline, our seven month old, on cereal last week.  She does not like it.  It is a big change for her going from milk to a solid substance.  She does not gag on it, she simply refuses to eat it by spitting the gooey substance back out.  It runs down her chin.

I think Caroline would prefer to just be a milk baby forever.  But change is in her future.  She must change over from being a milk baby to eating baby mush, then to more solid foods.  She must grow, both physically and emotionally and like so many of us, she is resistant to this change.

Changes.  Most of us do not like change.  Just like Caroline.  But changes can be good for us.  Someone who knows better than us starts force feeding us that baby mush and we don’t like it.  We resist, but we must change in order to grow.