Love

Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

For my mother…

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My soon to be 80-years old mother has battled illness for most of my life. Even now, she is in a hospital several hours and miles of snow-covered road away from where I am.

Over the years, she has battled Diabetes, Congestive Heart Failure, Degenerative Disk Disease, Arthritis, Esophageal illness, and endured many, many surgeries. As if all these weren’t enough, just a couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Thankfully, she has been in remission for  just over a year.

Her current condition is a result of a seemingly innocuous injury that, combined with the complexities of her other health challenges, has developed into a very painful and threatening situation. A hematoma developed on her leg and ruptured, broke through the skin, and despite immediate medical attention, is not healing properly. She has been transferred to a large, metropolitan hospital where her oncologist and other specialists are able to address the situation and, hopefully, produce a positive outcome.

If you know my mother, you know that she is a fighter. Even her name, Marcella, means female warrior in Latin.  I almost laugh out loud when people meet my mom for the first time and tell me what a quiet, sweet and soft person she is. Of course, she can be soft and quiet, and sweet, but she is also a she-bear in the shadows, prepared to protect and defend to the last claw, if necessary. Has she always been this way? I don’t know. As far back as I can remember? Yes.

In the face of all our family stories, funny, fantastic, or tragic, she has been there. The she-bear. Of course, she is human, too 🙂 There are weaknesses, as there are for all of us. But, they are all wrapped up in this vibrating ball of fur and claws, and her sheer will to survive always wins. Always.

I could tell you lots of stories about her. Stories of hard times, stories of heart ache, stories of victory, stories of making something out of nothing, and of making the best out of something, anything. And, one day, I will share some of those stories. But, for now, consider this a little introduction from me to you, of the most strong-willed woman I have ever known.

Now, today, as she fights, as she braces her will against the forces of nature that would seek to lay us all to waste in time, I imagine the fur bristling. Her Madeira Wine painted nails growing long and thin and sharp. Fight on, Mama. Fight on. I am there with you, in spirit. We will fight together, side by side.

Loving you…

My Cup Runneth Over

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“Mommy, do you have to go to work today?”

I stop, turning from the door to give my little boy one more hug. He’s sitting on the couch in his pirate jammies, nose stuffed and eyes watering from the head cold that’s keeping him from school.”Yes, baby. I have to go to work today, but you’ll have fun with daddy.”

“But, I’m going to miss you.” His blue eyes cast their gaze downward.

I touch his cheek. “It’ll be okay, baby.” I bend to give his head a lingering kiss, taking the time to breathe him in. I will miss him, too.

Once more, I move toward the door. “Mommy?” He asks, a bright tone in his voice. I look back. “Mommy! I just remembered! I’ll be okay because I have lots and lots of loves in my heart!” I smile. With my face, my heart, and my soul.

“Yes, baby. You have lots and lots of loves.” We share a smile, the moment, and I walk out, closing the door behind me.

My heart is full.

For days, my son’s words float through me, and finally, they settle and I realize that my son not only feels loved, but he knows that he’s loved. In a world where so many words are left unsaid, and feelings are left for granted, I’ve purposed within myself to love my son intentionally. To me, that means capturing moments with him and reinforcing not only the emotion, but the meaning of my love for him.

I tell him I love you often, but at least once a day, I do it with intention.

I pause whatever we’re doing, stop in the moment, and look into his eyes. “Cub, I love you.” I wait until I see it click, and then I smile, and we hug. Sometimes he says it back, and sometimes he doesn’t, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he knows. What matters is that in that moment, and for the rest of his day, his week, his year, his life, he is loved.

His heart will be full of loves.

On the days that he’s home and I’m not, or he’s at school and I’m at work. On the days when he’s away at college, starting his first real job, or living on his own, I want his heart to be full. I pour it in even though I know the world will poke holes and try to drain it out. I pour it in because I know the world will poke holes and try to drain it out. And somehow, the love keeps coming. This precious gift from God that renews itself in a mother’s heart. It overflows. And, I know that one day, when I’m gone, the love will keep pouring down, into that precious heart. I love you.