The Apology

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in my car yelling at some woman I have never met because she fed my son. Actually, that’s not why I was yelling at her, but it is something she does everyday.

I had lost it. I lost my patience. And then I hung up. It was ugly. I was ugly.

I was already having a bad day, a bad week actually. And I know I was being tested.

Things just kept happening.

I had to take my mom to two appointments. Take my kids to theirs. Go to mine. Schedule more for my mom. Try to coordinate with work what times I could take off. My AC broke. My AC broke again. My daughter gets sent home from school with a fever and can’t be sent back. There are fraudulent activities on my debit card.

And then there is this woman who was just trying to do her job. Who doesn’t understand the issues I have with my son. Who doesn’t know our history. Who just…just was a person I could lash out at instead of a thing that was making my life more difficult.

Satan, I’m sure loved that. I felt horrible. I felt horrible not because of all the crap that was happening around me or to me, but I felt horrible because of something I did, something I could have controlled.

The feeling festered inside of me. And even though people around me were telling me I was justified and I shouldn’t beat myself up over it; we all make mistakes, I felt… unworthy, I felt disgusted, I felt I let God down.

That’s exactly the feeling Satan wanted me to feel.

This morning I heard a faint whisper, it was faint but it was clear.

You could call, and apologize.

It wasn’t a command. It wasn’t a should.

It was just a suggestion, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was right. I knew how to stop the self loathing, I knew how I could stand tall before the altar of God, again.

But I was scared! How can I do this? What will I say? What if she yells back at me?

Oh God, this is really something I need to do to make it right? I knew the answer.

Yes, I screwed up. Yes I am human. Yes, I am forgiven. But none of these made me feel any better about myself.

I picked up the phone. I called the school. I asked to speak to the cafeteria. And as the words fell from my mouth how deeply sorry I was for speaking to her the way I had, I became completely broken and I couldn’t keep my composure.

There was silence.

I was scared she was going to lash back at me for making her feel so bad. I deserved it. I was not Christ-like. I had misrepresented him. I should be ashamed. I was ashamed.

The pause broke, and I could feel her heart melt, as mine did, when she responded, “I am sorry, too.”

At that moment I felt the Grace of God, not only pour down onto me, but onto us, as we were lifted from this earthly realm, and risen to a heavenly state.

I felt Jesus today. I felt Holy; set apart. I felt transformed. I felt forgiven. I felt worthy. I felt loved.

LOVE ME, EVEN THOUGH I AM UNLOVABLE!

I felt God say, “I do.

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I Just Don’t Know.

Recently, I took my mom to get the results of her MRI and memory test, as well as recommendations from her doctor.

My whole goal of taking her was selfish. I have become so bitter towards her over the past 12 years. I don’t want to be bitter anymore. I don’t want my mom hating me when she dies. I don’t want me hating her when she dies, either.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to get over it. I need to ignore what she says. But inside of me I’m fighting so hard for her to hear me. She makes me feel unloved, unvalued, not important, not special. I wanted her to cherish me and to put me first or at least consider me, but she never has. And now that I’m an adult and I finally realize what I’m looking for in our relationship, it’s too late. She’s not the woman who raised me.

My mom died over 16 years ago. And oh how I loved her so much then. She was my best friend. I wish I could love her like that again. I forgave my mom for things she did, even if I didn’t understand what she had done.

I look at her now and I’m afraid if I continue to forgive; if I don’t call her out on how she makes me feel, if I don’t tell her she’s wrong every. single. time, that she’s going to take my self-worth away, again. I’m afraid I’m going to turn into the person I used to be. The one who let people walk all over me, who people took advantage of. But that won’t really happen. If she says she doesn’t like my hair, it doesn’t mean I’m not pretty. If she criticizes my clothes, it doesn’t mean I don’t look nice. If she complains I don’t help her, it doesn’t mean its true. If she doesn’t like my driving, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad driver. I can hear and identify the guilt she’s trying to make me feel, but I don’t have to feel it.

The first thing the doctor says, as he walks into the room was, “I’m impressed…but not in a good way.” He then proceeds to explain that my mom’s brain is riddled with extensive damage. I tell him we figured she has had about five strokes. By looking at the results of the MRI, he says he believes me. He shows me pictures of a skull that has more holes than anything else.

He then looks at her memory test. He explains that 80% of her deficiencies come from her strokes. It is that bad, but the other 20% is coming from signs of Alzheimer’s and depression.

It’s why she’s getting worse.

He recommends referring her to a stroke clinic as well as adding another antidepressant, considering the one she is on does nothing to treat the depression she has.

I am numb. I feel nothing but continue to ask questions as he is quite literally, walking backwards out the door. His answers all become, “The Stroke Clinic will help you.”

She gets to start the new antidepressant, but we wait for a referral to the clinic.

I’ve been struggling to come to peace with mine and my mom’s relationship for a long time. It was important for me to understand the messages I was internalizing as a child, to be able to break free from codependent relationships I was drawn to, felt comfortable having, so that I can become healthy and break the dysfunction I was used to. I blamed my mom for everything.

I blamed her for my abusive relationships. I blamed her for feeling bad about myself. I blamed her for being treated as a doormat. I blamed her for every single bad thing that has happened in my life. And I still blame her.

But I am an adult now. I’m not a child. I have found my voice. I know my worth. Yet, I’m still here hating her. Hating someone who isn’t even here anymore. And when she passed, she meant everything to me. There was no hate, only compassion. I knew she wasn’t perfect. I knew she did her best.

But as this new person started to walk around in her old body that looked just like the mom, I knew I was becoming angry because she’s not my mom. She couldn’t make me feel loved like she used to, even as dysfunctional as it was. And then I started looking within me, trying to figure out why I was the person I was. And I grew angrier realizing the consequences of an unhealthy, and equally broken person who raised me, had on me.

And I was robbed again, because I couldn’t yell at her, at the mom who raised me, because she wasn’t her anymore.

Dammit Kim, why can’t you let this go? I look at a picture of her when I was young, and remember feeling love, but I look at a picture of her today and even though she’s not capable of trying to hurt me, I feel anger. This isn’t even the woman who had screwed me up! But I’m making her pay for it.

Within the last year, I have started praying that God would show me my mom through his eyes. The first time I realized how much he loved her was when I was explaining my mom’s unsafe relationships, to a friend, and she tells me, “Wow, Kim. I really thought you were going to tell me how someone was taking advantage of her, but honestly, it sounds like the other way around.” She’s not lying. You hear stories all the time of people luring vulnerable people into unsafe settings to either rape, beat or rob. But not my mom. She has found another male, not to rape, beat or rob, but definitely to manipulate and take advantage of. Shows how lonely he is too. But I saw for the first time how much God is protecting her. In fact, he always has.

And not only always has, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was His favorite instead of me!

She lost both her parents when she was young. She and her sister bounced around family until they were of age. My aunt explained to me they should have been in foster care.

Then she gets pregnant with me when she’s 17. She marries my dad right out of high school and six months before I am born.

Her aunt shames her by not letting her wear white.

She makes a ton of bad decisions with my dad, while raising two kids. She leaves us, divorces my dad. Makes a ton more bad decisions. Meets, falls in love with, and marries someone who’s seven years older than me! Oh, she continues to make different but still bad decisions, but this man loves my mom like no other.

And then she has her stroke, the last one. She’s 49. Within a blink of an eye, my mom is gone, but she’s not. Her shell survived. But her brain, her brain has more holes than not. And it takes a while, but she starts walking again, and talking again.

But still, he dotes on her like a queen for the next ten years or so. But now things start to change again. She’s not the same woman who was my mom, nor the woman who was his wife and now more things are changing in her, things she can’t control, and Alzheimer’s has begun and she’s making more bad decisions, but like I said, it’s not even her anymore. She tries to kill herself on her 60th birthday.

But she’s His favorite and her shell still survives. Oh my God, why? I know it’s not because she’s a fighter, but it’s because she’s His favorite too.

She’s moved into an assisted living facility. She’s bitter, angry, resentful, lonely and eventually divorced; again.

Is she His favorite, or is she cursed? She has pushed every single person who has ever loved her, or she has loved away. And aside from her two sisters who live very far away, she has one daughter who still has anything to do with her, and this daughter is angry and bitter but trying desperately to forgive her mom who has left long ago, so she can honor the shell she was left with. The shell that once, before 46 years of bad decisions, gave life to. And even that bad decision produced four amazing people who call her grandma.

One last thing, before the doctor leaves us sitting stunned in his exam room, “If she was right handed, she wouldn’t be able to talk.”

Immediately a different reality overwhelms me. Yes, I lost my mom over 16 years ago, but by the grace of God she can still speak simply because she is left handed.

Maybe, just maybe God loves her so much that after all the tragedy she has lived, she still has something to say. Maybe something I need to hear.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

God, I need you. I am here, once again on my knees, my face to the ground. Help me. Help me to love my mom. Soften my heart. Make this feel right. How can I possibly be there for her, and for what is to come, when I feel as crummy as I do?

A Lesson From Mom

There are just some things in life you have to do that you don’t want to.

My mom taught me that. There were several things as a child I was forced to do. I didn’t want to expose my breasts to the neighbors. I didn’t want to lift my nightgown, to show everyone who entered our house, that I ONLY had two chicken poxes on my back.

But I had to.

That and more pretty much messed me up. What I learned is I didn’t have a say. Often as children, we don’t.

Or do we?

I really don’t know. For me, I didn’t. My mom was the puppet master. I was the puppet. I didn’t like upsetting my mom. She was often upset as it was. I didn’t want to be the cause of anything more.

So, I was stuck between wanting to make my mom happy, and not doing what I didn’t want to.

Now I can’t say my kids get away with EVERYTHING, but they do get away with a lot. It’s hard for me not to make them do things they don’t want. I understand the importance of it, but it’s still hard.

Sometimes, it’s just not a battle I want to fight. Like whether they want to keep their shoes on at 15 months. I really don’t care. They’re not walking around outside, unless they are and then they do. But if I’m carrying them from their car seat to the doctor’s office, I’m not going to fuss over it, when I’m just happy we got there on time.

I don’t care if their clothes match. They are old enough to dress themselves. If they don’t want to search for a shirt that matches their shorts. That’s on them. I don’t care.

I will make sure they brush their teeth, but I don’t care if they don’t brush their hair. I just don’t. Once they hit a certain age, their appearance is not a reflection of who I am.

But I truly do understand the importance of learning and teaching there are somethings you just have to do, whether you want to or not.

Like doing chores. Taking baths. Doing homework.

Growing up, myself, I learned a couple of coping skills my kids are probably not learning. Well, not very well.

  1. Don’t think so much.

As a child, I really had no idea when I was going to go do something I didn’t want to do. So, I really COULDN’T think too much about it anyway. At any time, my mom could, and would tell me to do something…and I would. Of course, then I would have to convince myself everything was ok. That’s not weird. It’s not wrong, my mom told me to do it. I don’t want to upset my mom.

So, this brings me to my second coping skill.

  1. Instead, think tomorrow, at this time, it will be better.

That’s what you think about when you’re doing something you’re not thinking so much about.

  • This is temporary. It will end. Tomorrow, at this time, you won’t be doing this. It will pass.

Not to be confused with, I won’t be doing this again; because that’s not true.

I just don’t think too much about that, well not right now, anyway.

As soon as this is over, my days and nights will be consumed with those thoughts, but not right now. Not in the middle of the act.

Right now, I’m just going to shut down mentally, do what I’m told to do, and think tomorrow will be better.

So yeah, what a mess I became. I’m still trying to understand how all that impacted who I have become and how not to pass that on to my kids.

But I’ve been challenged to think about the good that my mom as done for me. So today, as I sit at my bathroom vanity, starting my morning rituals, and contemplating all the things that I don’t necessarily want to do, but need to do so I can do what I want to do, I think about what my mom has taught me.

Don’t think so hard. Just do what you have to do. Shower, hair, makeup, pack a lunch, go to the gym.

And… (with a slight modification) so then after, things will be better because then I can do what I want.

I mean really, these are great coping skills. Life skills really.

First, don’t think so much about what needs to get done. Just do it. Secondly, remember its only temporary. The faster you get it done, the sooner you can have fun.

And these don’t have to only pertain to everyday mundane stuff, either.

Its helped me step outside my comfort zone too. I really wanted to meet my neighbors because relationships are godly, but I really didn’t want to go knocking on every neighbor’s door to invite them to a block party.

But I didn’t think so hard about it.

I made the invitations. (This step was easy to get stuck in since the longer it took to do this, the more time I had before I had to do something I didn’t want which was…) then start at the end house and knock on each door, up and down the street.

At each door I had a goal. Get their name. So, it sucked. I hate small talk, but I did it and if I got their name, it was a bonus! I can tell you it takes roughly an hour to knock, talk and deliver an invitation to everyone on my block. Oh my gosh, it’s still hard for me. It is one of my least favorite things to do. But I do it because why?

Well, sometimes they come to our parties. Sometimes they don’t, but like my second skill states, something better is coming! They still wave at me as I drive down the street. Or they will say, good morning Kim, as I walk. I still get relationships from it.

So, its God who motivates me to want to step outside my comfort zone, but it’s my mom who has taught me how to do it.

Could she have taught me a different way? Well hopefully because I would like my kids to learn the same lesson, but I don’t want to teach them the same way.

But I have to make peace within myself that she still taught me. She did good. We all have our experiences to overcome. Some experiences are harder to survive.

Growing up, I truly believed childhood was not something you lived. It’s something you survived.

My mom didn’t survive her childhood. Physically, yes, but mentally she didn’t. She wasn’t trying to teach me to survive because she didn’t know how. I learned it from her anyway. I’m grateful for that, because even though she’s mentally still stuck back there in her childhood, abandoned and alone, I was able to pull through so that I can hopefully teach my kids the same lesson, but in a different way.

I’m not teaching them how to survive. I’m teaching them how to live.

So, I’m going to go cry now.

Thank you listening.

Redemption Through Shame

I can’t remember which of these happened first, but they haunt me just the same.

I was once with a man, who on the surface, could be quite charming. He had the right words, when he needed them. He was a fast talker, and a risk taker.

He made me feel important and loved, but I hated who I had become.

Back then, I’d say he had a big heart. He would drive up and down the freeways, looking to help someone in despair. He would change their tire, bring them some gas, give them a lift. One time even, he gave someone our spare tire.

Well… he didn’t give it to them. He sold it. Come to think of it, 99% of the time he was given money for his “good deed.”

One time he was given a check for a couple hundred dollars from a driver of an RV. They were on their way home to California when they ran into trouble. Yeah, he brought it home to me and guess who ate the fines once they got home and cancelled the check?

But the tire… it wasn’t our tire. It was my tire.

Oh, he always promised to get me a new one. He promised a lot of things.

Everyday, in fact, up until the day we found ourselves on the side of the road with a flat and no spare.

It just so happened, on this particular day, we pulled off the side of the freeway behind another vehicle who had been abandoned by it’s driver; in search of help I suppose.

What are we going to do? I was furious we were in this predicament. I was frightened, because I didn’t know how we were going to get out of it.

By this time, I didn’t have any friends that I could turn to, and he had pretty much ran off my family. There was no AAA. He didn’t have any support. All of his friends had become wise to his ways, and no one owed him any favors.

We were stuck.

I could drama it up, and say it was a hot summer day and we had a van full of kids. But honestly, that’s not what I remember about that day.

He had this great idea.

Well, I never thought it was great, but it was an idea, and I didn’t see any other options at the time.

He took the jack from the trunk of my van, walked up to the abandoned vehicle, and proceeded to steal one of its tires.

To this day, this memory still haunts me.

Why would I allow him to do this?
Why would I have not told him, no?

“Didn’t I tell you I’d get you a tire?”, he would say.

He always had a way of twisting things. This was somehow going to make everything alright. And it did.

We got home and I’ve never spoken of it until today.

A different day, maybe before the tire fiasco, maybe after. My time with him is pretty much a blur.

This morning, we had one of his sons with us.

He had four children, but only one of them he was allowed to spend any time with.

We went to an IHOP for breakfast. I enjoyed spending time with his son. It made him look normal to me. I saw a good dad, because I wanted to.

At the end of our meal his son and I were going to use the bathroom. Not realizing they didn’t accept any cards for payment, he told me to give him my debit card, and he would use the ATM by the front door, then meet us at the car.

We were maybe two, three miles away when he asked me how I liked my free meal. What was he talking about? I gave him my debit card, it was anything but free.

“I didn’t use the ATM. Here’s your card back.”

WHAT!?

I felt sick to my stomach. I had never done anything like this before. Who was I turning into? And why wasn’t I telling him to turn around?

I can tell you why, now.

I didn’t know my worth. I didn’t know I had value.

I thought this was the best I was going to get. I was over 30, single, and had three kids.

He was handsome, charming, and interested.

Oh, he saw me coming. He knew exactly what to look for.

There are many things that had happened during our relationship that brings me shame, but these were the worst. These made me, him.

I wanted to share, because I know I’m not alone when it comes to doing something we’re ashamed of.

What we’ve done, may look different, but I assure you the feeling is the same.

Shame robs us of our feeling of worth and value. But I have to tell you, what you do or don’t do does not give you your worth.

It is who you are.

A wrinkled up, faded, crumpled $100 bill has the same value as a crisp, clean, freshly printed one. If you don’t think so, give it to me!

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. – Romans 7:18

But I know who I belong to! He is a King. And he loves me not because I’m good. But because I’m his.

Don’t let your past describe who you are. Don’t let it determine your worth. There is nothing you can do that would increase or decrease your value. You don’t have that kind of power.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38

Lord,
thank you for your grace, forgiveness and love. For now I know my worth.
I am Yours.