The Choices We Make

My Dearest Sister,

While in my father’s house, you asked a very challenging question, a question I could not answer at the time.  I was barely able to process the issue at hand that had rapidly escalated your volume to maximum.  The shake of your body and the choice of your words stopped my brain and sank my freshly broken heart further than I thought it could possibly go.  In the midst of my grief, you heaped weight upon my already crushing burden.

I have had a few weeks to think on our most recent encounter.  It hasn’t been easy to process in light of the loss of my mother just two days before the last time we spoke.  With the help of a dear friend, who always does her best to guide me in the Word, even if it isn’t what I want to hear; I think I am ready to speak.

You asked me these simple but very loaded questions, “Would you like it if I made decisions for your children?  Who are you to decide for my child?”

My response is this.  I would never be okay with you making a decision for my children at any point in their life.  I would never be okay with my husband making decisions for my children at any point in their life.  I would never be okay with myself, my father, or any other human being on the planet making decisions for my children at any point in their life.

Once that sinks in, allow me to elaborate.  My children’s lives belong to them and no one else.  I, nor anyone else has the right to choose anything for them at any time.  There are only two people that ever have any say in their life – God and themselves.  I am their parent, not their dictator.  I am a “steward” of the precious, one-of-a-kind gift that God has placed in my life, I am not their commander.  My one and only job is to guide them and teach them of the Word of God so that they may be saved and make wise, upright choices that further the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is not to control them, or dictate what they will and will not do.  It is not to demand they be who I want them to be.  It is not to manipulate surroundings so that they only come in contact and have relationships with those I deem “worthy” based on my own finite understandings of the world around me.

That being said, I am very aware that these words are extremely easy to say. My children are only 9 and 6 and I have not even begun to experience the craziness that comes with teenage children.  My children are not adults either, so I have yet to experience the cold fingers of fear as I watch them stumble and fall.  I am fully aware that these things I believe are simple when the child is young and challenging as they grow and become more and more of the person God intended them to be.  Difficult or not though, it is where I stand and it is how I live my life with ALL people, not just my own children.

Which leads me to your second question, “Who am I to decide for your child?”  I am no one.  I am not his steward, because I am not his mother.  I am however a person he has chosen to have a relationship with; and in many respects biblically, I am considered an elder in his life, as is his Grandfather.  I feel confident in this statement given the choices I have watched him make and been a part of personally: your son has chosen these positions for us.  I can guarantee you, that at this point in his life, I have never, ever made a decision for him, and I absolutely never will.  I have always given him a choice and I have always respected his choice regardless of how I felt about it.

Regarding the issue at hand, even in that awful situation, I did not choose for him.  There were only a few roads either of us could have chosen to use.  Your son and I operated within these limitations.  Had he told me to wait for his phone call, I would have.  He could have borrowed a friend’s phone and called, instead of waiting for his phone to arrive in the mail.  Or he even could have chosen to Skype with me.  I contacted him out of respect for his relationship with his grandmother.  And he chose how to respond and in what venue the conversation commenced.  The only choice I made, was to have compassion and empathy for a young adult, newly on his own, far away from family and friends.  I chose to think how he might feel finding out too late that his grandmother had passed.

When he chose to come home I was elated.  When he chose to divide his time up the way he did, I was sad.  In my grief, I wanted very much to be selfish.  I wanted very much to demand of his time and tell him how I felt he should have spent it.  I wanted very much to tell him it wasn’t fair, that we wanted more, that we should have gotten more.  I did not tell him these things because it is his life to live and his choice how he spent the very short 5 days he had at home.  It is not my place to tell him how to divide his time, or manipulate his emotions to give me what I want, or simply create situations that give him no choice but to do things my way.  Could I have expressed my feelings? Yes, I could have, but I choose not to and I am okay with that.  In the bigger picture, my little feelings were not of importance.  What was important was grieving with my nephew in our own unique way, and allowing him space to grieve in his unique way.  So again, I did not choose for your son.

After all of this, may I dare say, that you are not angry that I “made a decision” for your adult child?  You are angry that I destroyed your control over the situation.  You are frustrated that things did not go the way you believed that they should.  You are angry that I did not agree with you.  And I think part of you is angry, that despite all that is between you and I, he still chooses to have a relationship with me (and Grandpa).

With Great Pain,

Your Discarded Sister

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Building Better Friendships

Building Better Friendships

Decided to put a few of my HUB pages blogs on here a little at a time to get my audience built up a little.  Click on highlighted words to go to new page. Please feel free to share anything you read that inspires, touches or motivates you. Feed back is always welcomed. 😀

Grasping for Perspective

The last six months have been emotionally draining for me.  I have spent the last 3 years investing in two close friends.  And both decided to walk away from me within 4 weeks of each other.  One friend consoled me while I cried about the other, told me she didn’t understand what the other was saying.  Then she turned and did the exact same thing to me four weeks later.  Unfortunately with the second friend, there has been no escape from the pain for the last two months because her family lives in my house.  For the last two months I have followed my husbands lead and done all the things that a respectful God-fearing woman would do to someone who has stomped all over her heart.  It is not what my “flesh” has wanted to do by a long shot and I have had to grab ahold of God’s promises for me firmly lest I drown, but I have succeeded in repaying every stab with kindness. 

I was doing well enough handling her cruelty until her and her husband turned their actions toward my husband and children.  That has been the hardest to deal with.  This couple claims that I am the only one who is a “horrible and hateful” person, so why have they also decided to be disrespectful to my husband?   How can a man claim to be a spiritual leader of his family and never say thank you for the birthday wishes from my husband and the cards my children made for him?  Why would a mom choose to hurt another mothers children by rejecting their gift for her infant son?  I know that “hurt people, hurt people” but it’s so hard to be on the receiving end of what appears to be blatant cruelty and disrespect.  Usually when hurting people lash out, it is a defense mechanism that they aren’t fully aware of it.  I have been on the receiving end of that — but this looks and feels very, very different.

I know that material possessions are not a major deal in the light of eternity.  I also know that the things I do for others does not give me any “right” to a certain type of treatment, nor do I do things for other with ANY expectation of anything in return.  God says that if you clothe those without clothes, feed those without food, and offer a thirsty man something to drink, then I have served HIM.  I am desperately trying to cling to this.  After seven months of supporting a family of three without asking for a dime and getting nothing but disrespect in return, I have NO choice but to cling to HIS promises for our family.  I know it shouldn’t make it worse, but it does.  Not so much for me, but for my husband.  I have to watch his pain as he wonders why a man that claimed to view my husband as his only true friend, would stab him in the back. 

I have spent the last two weeks counting down the days until they move out, looking forward to not having so much tension in the house, looking forward to the drama walking out the door and never coming back.  Tomorrow they will pack up their belongings and go, and I will probably never speak to them again.  This couple that I called family.  Their son was my nephew, the wife was a “sister” and her husband was like a little brother.  I was nearly finished with a custom quilt for their son and my children were cross stitching two bibs for their son.  I was at a yard sale today and saw the cutest little Halloween costume and I couldn’t buy it because I am not allowed to give any gifts. The pain was almost too much. 

We used to sit and talk about how family isn’t made by blood or marriage.  Family is made by our choices.  We had plans for the future, my husband and I were to be legal guardians for their son should they die at the same time.  I was the only one allowed in the hospital room (other than hubby) when their son was born.  We spent Christmas and Thanksgiving together for the last two years and now…….they will walk out my front door and never speak to me again.  I do not understand this.  I have never walked away from someone simply because we had difference of opinion and I do not understand a persons justification for doing the same to me.  Especially when they decide to be cruel in the process. 

When Your Soul is Torn

How does one deal with a huge contradiction of appearances? What do you do when everything appears calm like the surface of a lake, and your little boat suddenly capsizes? You discover hungry lake monsters and boiling lava instead of the ernest help of a friend. How can a brain rationalize and process such confusion in a relationship? Laughter, bonding, jokes and simple conversations for weeks; then silence, snubbing and a laundry list of faults thrown your way with no explination. No life jacket, no flares, no obvious signs of rescue and your loosing the strength to stay afloat. Words of criticism are flung and piled on top of you with no regard to your ability to swim. Already in a state of confusion, there is no hope of sorting through this new information. Sputtering and splashing, you offer up all you can; an apology for whatever slights you have committed. You know that you are not perfect so while you are given no hope for change due to lack of information you grasp the only life line left –sincerity and remorse, all the while praying and pleading to be thrown a life jacket or rope.

When neither comes – what do you do? When your soul is torn for someone you love because you know you have hurt them yet don’t know how or when. Your heart aches for their pain, because what hurts them, hurts you. But what hurt them IS you. As your life flashes before your eyes you see clips of months past. Same lake, same boat, same capsize. Same lake, same boat, same capsize.

The heart is broken, the spirit deflated and the body tired, you slip beneath the surface of the quiet deceptive waters and watch the bubbles of your last breath dance and rise to the surface in a mocking display of the victory you cannot seem to obtain.

Boundary Building in a Nut House

Being adopted means so many things to so many people. All my life I have struggled with the lie that I was less “family” than those who were related by blood. All my life I have given into the unspoken pressure that I had to outperform others or end up being less loved. Always jumping through imaginary hoops and letting others take advantage of me, all to be loved and accepted.

I have learned a thing or two along the way. I have experienced some deep pain on that journey. Some pain could have been avoided by making better choices, but a lot of it was inevitable. I cannot control what others choose to do to me. I can only control what I choose to do in response to their actions.

Sitting in church on Sunday, I found myself moved to tears. I could not figure out why, but I went with it. I allowed myself to feel my feelings, as much as I didn’t understand where they were from. Halfway through prayer, God gave me the answer. I was grieving for my family. I was grieving for all the missed opportunities, all the missed family outings, all the missing love because of our stupid choices. I was moved with compassion and a heavy heart for my family members, for people who had done myself and those dear to me great wrongs. I told my husband on the way home that I was tired of the full-grown adults in my “family” acting like four-year olds.

I have done a lot of growing in the last two years, and I have a lot more to do still. But I can already look back and see a lot things that I could have done differently. It probably would not have changed the outcome of circumstances, but at least I would have know that I had done my part to keep things clean and healthy. There might be a little less pain knowing I had placed better boundaries, heck in some cases placed ANY boundaries. There is so much I cannot change, there is so much I am powerless to control now, for the first time I am learning the fine art of holding ones tongue. I have watched the pain inflicted upon others and all I can do is tuck those lessons into my heart, pray I never forget them, never commit them myself and share them with others wishing to make better choices.

Remember this above all others — my memories are my memories, faulty and incorrect or otherwise and you can never in a million years change them. The same is true in reverse. You cannot change another persons memories or perceived slights against them. Accept it, accept the difference in memory and find a way to move forward.

Blood and Marriage Certificates do not make a family. Our choices make a family.

Blood relations or marriage certificates are not “get out of jail free” cards. These “titles” of aunt, uncle, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa etcetera do not entitle you in any way to do what ever you please. These “titles” do not insure you any special treatment or placement at wedding, baby showers, births, funerals, birthday parties, or any other occasion you can think of.  The other persons special engagement/occasion is not your special engagement, therefore, they do not owe you anything, nor should you expect anything because of it.

If it doesn’t belong to you, do not touch it, throw it away, send it off, give it away, burn it, change it, alter it, or in any other way make it so that the owner can no longer claim it or identify it.  No matter how unimportant it may seem to you, this is not a deciding factor.  Things that are not yours, are not yours, end of discussion. If they are in your house, take the appropriate, decent steps to return them to their rightful owner.  Make contact, arrange pick up, mail or shipment options and follow through.  No emotions are allowed to be involved in said transaction, regardless of infarction that caused the emotions.  I know this is extremely hard in some circumstances, but is still necessary.  Arrange for a third-party to handle the transaction if necessary, but be a big girl/boy about the whole thing.

Do not assume anything and do not take everything personally.  The world does not revolve around you.  Where a family member chooses to move, when they do or do not return your phone calls, why they said yes or no to any invite or offer of help, if they chose to take off work, or not take off work, the limit to which they are able to extend help or support these are all choices they make and you cannot control them.  Yes, we all know that sometimes things are decided in a hurtful way, but this is their issue and they need to work through that.    We are all human, and we all make decisions of our own, good and bad.

When asked something, be honest, but polite about it.  If you ask for something and a person extends what they are able and you accept without expressing the need for more, you are not okay to then throw back in their face that they did not give you what you wanted.  Accept what they give freely and graciously and look elsewhere to fill the other spaces needing to be filled, or just accept that this situation might be of your own making and you might have to face some of it alone.  The same is true in reverse.  If a someone asks for help, do not offer more than you can give, or are comfortable giving.  It is not okay to over extend yourself on their behalf and then harbor resentments of time spent, money lost, emotional turmoil endured, etcetera when you did not place healthy boundaries to begin with.

Do not cut off contact with a family member out of spite, then throw in their face that they were never around.  If you don’t tell gramma about the dance recital, she can’t be held accountable for not being there.  If I don’t invite Uncle Charlie to Christmas dinner, is it his fault that I didn’t hear from him the whole season?

If it matters to you, maintain the contact in someway. Sending a thoughtful birthday card, or little note for no reason at all can really take a relationship to a different level.  Even if you do not get one from that person.  But do not do it because you feel that you have to, because we can see right through that.  Each person is responsible for some part of the relationship, no one person can carry it by themselves, nor should they feel obligated to.  Some of us are natural relationship nurturer’s, and others of us –  not so much.  But there should still be a little give and take.

Do not under any circumstances send bad information via text or email.  I do not care if the person you need to speak with ran over your dog, sent you hate mail and put bleach in your shampoo bottle.  If their mother dies and you find out about it first, a text is not acceptable.  A text from a third-party is even less acceptable.  Think of how your heart would wrench and your temper would flare being the recipient of such a text.  Find a way to make it amicable, keep it short and sweet, but tell them over the phone or in person if at all possible.  And please, for the love of Pete, do not Facebook it.

When you have done wrong, own up to and make it right — face to face if at all possible.  And no, a lack of motivation to bother to place it into your schedule does not make it “not possible”.  If you steal something, return it in person, and apologize face to face.  Nothing makes a lesson hit home like having to look someone in the eye and see the hurt you caused.  Nothing makes the healing happen faster than looking into those same eyes and seeing the grace and forgiveness that comes when you had the courage to do what was right.  Parents:  If your children are responsible for it, guide them in these steps.  Teach them now how to own up to their mistakes and make it right.  Show them that it is okay to make a mistake and that they can learn from this.  Mailing a stolen item when the victim is one city over is not okay and does not foster good relations.

Boundaries extend in both directions.  Your own, and others.  Your boundaries protect you, their boundaries protect them.  Getting angry when you run up against their fence does not help the fence come down or be moved.  This only stands to make the fence bigger, taller and longer.  This can be the hardest for us as humans, we want what we want, even if it means having double standards to get it.  This is can cause havoc amongst parents of now adult children, between now adult siblings, and even between spouses.  Do not ask for anything you are not willing to extend to others yourself.  Do not put up any boundaries that you cannot enforce.  Please remember to enforce with decency, there is a human being on the other side of that fence.

Grudges are going to be made and held, we all do it, even when we don’t want to.  Understand that as we try to work through the pain of others choices against us and our own bad choices things can be bumpy and rocky.  Their may be some distance involved.  Try your best to be tactfully honest with someone who has hurt you when you plan to distance yourself.  If the pain is still fresh, but you want to venture into relationship territory again, be honest about this as well.

Honest is always the best policy.  The worst thing you can do is lie or inflate the truth to save hurt feelings.  The disrespect you display when lying hurts far more than the truth, said in love, ever will.

Do not make decisions for others based on the “conversation in your head” you had with them.  It is not cool to assume what they will say in response to a question you might ask and so in turn you choose not to ask.  This is very disrespectful; allow each person the consideration of making their own decisions.  If someone else is going to over extend themselves, that is not your responsibility, nor should you feel guilty about it in the process.  This is a very hard decision to make, especially if you know the person who overextends themselves then treats you in an unpleasant manner in return for the resentments they created themselves.  This is were healthy boundaries and honesty come into play.

And the best for last….if you buried the hatchet, do not dig it up again.  If a problem was talked out, resolved, apologizes spoken and steps taken to foster healthy relationships, leave it alone.  If NEW memories or perceptions arise, talk it out with a safe alternate person first.  Find out where these feelings are coming from and whether or not it is appropriate to bring it up with the other person.  If it is determined that it is safe and appropriate to discuss, do so with “I” statements, not in an attacking manner.

 

Even When It Hurts

A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a heated debate with friends over the subject of marriage, or more specifically, the definition of it.  It amazed me as to how easily we all got ourselves wound up over such a seemingly innocent subject.

I really think the main reason for the conversation getting so out of hand had far more to do with the fact that none of us were really listening to one another.  We were all too busy trying to make our own points known to listen to what everyone else thought.

There was one woman who made a statement that stuck with me.  “What’s wrong with divorce?  Why should I force my husband to stay with me if he decides he wants out?”

Sadly, I did not have an answer for her.  I had no response to such a seemingly normal question.  But the more I thought about it, the more it rubbed me the wrong way, both the simplicity of the question and my lack of a response.  Then finally one night, it hit me.

Why should I force my husband to stay with me if he decides he wants out?

Because —   He gave you his word that he wouldn’t leave until death parted one from the other.

It’s that simple.  It may not be a simple thing to stick to, but the concept itself is indeed extremely simple.

For those of us that are “married” in the conventional sense, we stood before family and friends and said: for better OR worse, in good AND bad, rich OR poor, in sickness AND health, until DEATH parted one from the other.

If you don’t plan on holding yourself or your spouse accountable to those words then you should have said:

“Until I just don’t freaking feel like it anymore.”

Otherwise, why did you bother in the first place?

I don’t see it as forcing my spouse to stay when they are “unhappy”.  I see it as expecting this person who gave me their word that they would do something, to do it.  It’s that simple.  What kind of husband/wife do I want to be?  The kind that walks out and throws in the towel?  Or the one that stands his/her ground and fights for what is mine?  Even when it hurts, I want to know that I didn’t give up; I want to let my spouse know that I think they are worth it.  They were worth it “x” number of years ago when I said the words; they are worth it still even today.  I want to hold myself to a standard that I hold them to.  I will not simply let them out of the bond they knowingly and willingly committed themselves to, just because they don’t want it anymore.

That is where the degradation of marriage has come from.  It used to be that a word was spoken, and it was so.  There didn’t need to be a vow, or a promise or a binding contract.  Your simple spoken word was your bond, end of story.

It goes so much deeper than that though.  It not only means that yes you expect your spouse to stay and work things out, it also means that you expect your spouse to stay faithful to the vows in other ways as well.  Yet, it goes even deeper than that.  It means processing and working through the pain and finding a way to forgive when they have broken their word.  It means setting boundaries for yourself to protect yourself from their lack of care for you, but without walking away from the promise you made.  Forgiveness is an undercurrent to the AND’s and OR’s of the vows we made.  They are unspoken, but they are there nonetheless.

Whether it “feels” right or not, one would hope that in the face of a grave mistake and true remorse, that they could be forgiven.  Forgiveness has become such a nasty word for us.  It carries with it all kinds of lies and deceptions.

It does not mean that you allow a person to continue to hurt you.  It does not mean that you deny their act was wrong.  It does not mean you hand them flimsy justifications to base their actions on.  It does not mean that you place the blame on yourself.

It means that you recognize the ability for every person on this planet to really muck it up, including yourself.  Then you take the yardstick you have been using and burn it.  It means allowing yourself to see that people in pain, instinctively and subconsciously cause pain tenfold for those around them as a way to ignore the pain in themselves.  It means you allow yourself to see that you do the same thing, just in different ways.

In the midst of the pain and mistakes, how could we be so cruel as to walk out?  What kind of message are we sending to each other when the ONE person who made the CHOICE to say: for better OR worse, rich OR poor, sickness AND health, good OR bad also chooses to deny those same words and walk away?