No hair, don’t care

My brother and I were sitting in the living room, watching cartoons one day after my mom started chemo. She had been in her room a long time, but I didn’t think much of it. She was spending more time lying down because the chemo made her very tired.

All of a sudden, Mama appeared around the corner.

“Bub. Do you want to shave my head for me?” Mama asked, clippers in hand.

Our heads whipped around to see if she was for real. Thomas’ eyes lit up. You could tell he was intrigued but also had some mixed feelings.

“Ma! Are you serious?!”, he said.

“Yep.” My mom’s resolve was strong. Fighting breast cancer will do that to you.

“Okay. As long as you’re sure”, my brother said.

He would move mountains if he knew it would bring some comfort to my mom at that time.

Then he blurted out, “I’ll shave mine, too”.

My eyebrows shot upward and my eyes bugged wide, matching my Mama’s expression.

“Me too, Ma!” I exclaimed.

Why shouldn’t we stand on solidarity with our mom as she fought that terrible monster?!

My mom was visibly touched, fighting back a wave of emotions.

She smiled as she said, “That’s so nice of y’all, but no. You don’t have to do that.”

She walked back toward her room calling, “Come on, Bub. Let’s do this now before I lose my nerve.”

My mom told me to sit in the living room during the big chop, so that I would stay out of the way. After what seemed like my lifetime and half of hers, my mom came strutting in the living room to show me her new ‘do. My brother was behind her but I didn’t pay much attention to him. I just couldn’t believe my mom had no hair and still looked like…well…my mom. She wore that red, black, and gold mumu – just as she always had. She looked regal and beautiful – just as she always had. I’m not sure what I expected.

Then my eyes focused on my brother…and the noticeable shine on his newly bald head.

He shaved his too!

My emotions went haywire. Why does he get to shave his head with Mama? Didn’t she want me to support her, too?

I was angry and hurt. I took that whole moment very personally, thinking this was one more way that I was second best to my brother – that my mom was only thinking of him and not me.

Reflecting on that moment now, I know that my mom didn’t let me shave my head because she was thinking of me. She knew her own feelings surrounding losing her hair. She knew that a woman’s hair is her crown; and any woman should be able to have her hair unless she chooses to get rid of it for herself. My mom also knew that I was only eleven years old and would probably want my hair back the very next day.

Well, I’m 35 now. If my mom was living and going through chemo – if she had to shave her head at this point in my life – I would proudly stand next to her, clippers in hand, feeling that vibration on my scalp. Because hair is NOTHING compared to what my mom endured during her battle with cancer. If my bald head could make her feel even an ounce more comfortable while living with that disease, call me “Baldy” – cause this mane would be GONE.

Here’s to you anyway, Ma💗

This entry was posted on October 9, 2019. 1 Comment

Healing is joyful sadness

I was 19 years old when I went to the water fountain in my dorm (I know…GERMS!) and prayed for some down time because I felt like I couldn’t make it one step further. I was super tired, feeling like I was getting the flu.

The next morning, I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I was a sophomore at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC. It was enough miles from home that I couldn’t be demanded to be at holidays, but close enough that when I wanted to come home my daddy would drop everything and come get me.

Perfect situation!

Anyway, I wasn’t hungover – that morning *wink, wink* – so I really wondered what was going on. I felt like “death turnt over” (if you haven’t watched the bootleg movie Ride, find it just for the comedic timing and genius of Cedric the Entertainer and John Witherspoon together). The fatigue and head to toe body aches overwhelmed me to the point of skipping class, which is something I NEVER did. I was on the Dean’s List for heaven’s sake! But I just couldn’t bring myself to get up and get dressed. It was like I was drained of energy and given extreme body pain instead. So, I stayed in bed…

For four days.

When I finally got up enough energy to attend class that Monday, it took me 20 minutes to walk the 5-minute distance to class.

I was embarrassed and confused.

I had no idea what was happening to me. My cognitive function was delayed. My body was in pain, achy, and stiff. My breathing was affected and I could barely keep my eyes open to do much, even after a long night’s sleep. My roommate, and her boyfriend at the time, even offered to take me to the emergency room because of these symptoms.

I was prayed for, prayed over, and cared for by my friends and friends of friends before I left for the hospital.

At the ER, they took tests for Lupus, MS, other autoimmune diseases and different kinds of things. All of my tests came back negative.

The embarrassment and confusion remained.

My Roomie and I had a heart to heart talk while she stayed in one night to play cards with me. I was practically bedridden, still unable to do much. I stopped going to class and was trying to decide whether to just go home or to stick it out. We talked during cards and I broke down in tears because I just didn’t know what to do and what was happening to me. My Roomie cried with me and the next day she began researching my symptoms. She spoke with our biology professor and she suggested they research Fibromyalgia together. They did, and my roommate came back with 80 pages of information for me. I looked at those symptoms and felt a sigh of relief. There was a name for what I was experiencing!

Now to get a doctor to help me.

Side note: I read stories of how doctors told patients with Fibro that it was psychosomatic – basically “all in their head”. So, I was prepared for some pushback from doctors but, MAN, I didn’t know the medical journey would be so difficult.

After about two weeks of no change in my symptoms and abilities, my brother decided he was coming to get me from school. So, thankfully, he and my dad drove down and picked me up so that I could get some medical help back home.

Months went by, I saw primary care doctors after neurologists after rheumatologists and no one really helped me. They all considered Fibromyalgia as incurable, untreatable, and they dismissed me.

Fast forward to the present and I have doctors who want to help me. They have figured out which symptoms are related to Fibro and which symptoms are because of other chronic, autoimmune diseases that I battle. I have medications to help me function as a normal person on their sickest day. That is a blessing!

This is my life until God decides to heal me.

 

 

Heal.

One word, a world of weight.

When the word healing is mentioned, a vast array of expectations flows toward the person it is referring to. People don’t always mean to send this flow, but it is inevitable.

Here’s a declaration:

“I am healed.”

That. There it is. Did you sense it? Do you even know you did it?

The expectation that usually accompanies that declaration is finality. Suffering is no longer because,

“I am healed.”

If a person shows signs of suffering in the future, what is one of the first questions you might think?
“I thought he was healed.”

Expectation…

Another declaration:

“I need healing.”

It’s there again. It’s different this time though. Do you hear it echoing in your mind?

You name this one.

Are you questioning why the person is bringing it up? Why they just won’t go get healed? Are you accusing them of being an attention getter instead of seeing the strength it takes to be this vulnerable about a need?

For chronic pain sufferers, health is a tricky and complicated thing. So, we need support.

If you see us today and we are moving well and seem better, do not assume we are healed. Today is a good day and we will enjoy it because, sadly, we do not know what tomorrow holds. We revel in the good days, but if you see our good days and translate that to “healed”, you lack compassion for us on our bad days. And we need compassion. We may not say it but it’s true. So, if you see us tomorrow and we are outwardly struggling with our chronic illness, think “heal-ING” – the process of being healed. We are still in the process and we would appreciate compassionate words and the offer to help us if you see us struggling.

And always remember what your Mama taught you: if you don’t have anything nice to say…well, you know the rest.

 

 

Finally Stood Still

I had a short but mighty time with God this morning after listening to a message and singing My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.

I cried out to God and thanked Him for being my Rock right now at a time when all other stability has been snatched from under me. At one point, I had so many words that I couldn’t even get them out; so I just moaned to God.

Thank GOD for the Holy Intercessor!

I moaned and cried.

Ya’ll, I wake up with anxieties every single morning – but this morning I poured them out through my moans. Then, as I stood up, I just wrapped my arms around my shoulders and IMMEDIATELY I felt God comforting me. I actually envisioned Him towering over me, with His big strong arms wrapped all the way around my large frame. I felt his cheek rest against the top of my head. I leaned backward in a sense of peace and awe at this moment that I was experiencing. Then, I envisioned God holding me with one arm while stroking my hair with His other hand – just like my Mama used to do for me.

I felt so comfortable and relaxed and calm and LOVED that I started smiling and laughing while crying. That sounds hysterical, but I must tell you it was the BEST feeling!

Right then, I realized I was standing still and allowing God to fight for me.

I spent my life fighting for myself and others. I feel the need to speak up for whoever experiences injustice. I hate to feel disrespected or see someone else being disrespected, so I am pretty confrontational. I like to talk things out and lay it on the table so that, when I am dealing with you, I know what I’m getting.

I’m always standing up for myself (that’s what I mean by fighting) and I really don’t let people do it for me. But God has been putting these types of messages in my face lately:

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10a

and

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still” Exodus 14:14

and

“When you’ve done all you can do, stand” {based on Ephesians 6:13}

And today…today I got to experience God fighting my anxiety while I stood there with my arms wrapped around myself.

He even fights me for me!

As I stood in this miraculously healing moment, the first two lines of this piece came to mind…and the rest just poured out of me:

 

As I stand still and let you fight for me

You also calm my anxieties,

 

You lord, are all I need

For it is only on you I can depend…

 

You shape and mold me through adversity

I’m learning a brand-new version of me

 

This one feels much better than before

I’m actually someone adore

 

Your healing hurts me, oh so good

I see the woman that I should

 

Should have been for all these years

No longer fighting back my tears

 

I’m letting in vulnerability

Cause this load I can no longer carry

 

I’ve always had someone to take it up

I’m just finally handing over my cup

 

You don’t always have to go to church to have an experience with God. If you can’t make it in the house on Sundays, just make sure you make it to an appointment with God and you will still feel what you need to get you through the week.

Be blessed everyone!

Chicken or the egg?

What came first? Physical pain or mental and emotional hurt?

Physical pain is something I deal with all the time. I have chronic illnesses and have been in pain ranging from a 4-10 (on a scale of 1-10) since 2003. I know how to handle the pain, even though sometimes it does become nearly unbearable.

Life forces me to push past the pain in order to function like a “normal” person. But when I am mentally unstable or dealing with anxiety or under the weight of depression, that ability to push past the pain just isn’t there. So, I stay home and try to deal – alone.

I walk under a gray, unyielding cloud during that time. The last thing I want is to bring my gloom around other people. And the thoughts I have when I’m that low make me seem pretty worthless:

“No one wants to be around someone who isn’t happy”, the enemy of my soul whispers.

“They don’t understand what you’re going through anyway”, he taunts.

I can’t battle the thoughts andencourage myself to go out and do something.

My motivation is on zero.

When I could normally think of the good time I would have, and that be my motivation, I am left with so many reasons why I am unloved and unwanted. Then the reasons to stay outweigh the reasons to go. So, I stay home and try to deal – alone.

This is what suffering in silence looks like.

You don’t talk about the physical pain, you just endure it. Then when it becomes too much, the discouraging thoughts crowd your hearing and you can’t even hear positivity. It’s like your irrational thoughts are a force field keeping out any positivity that is trying to get to you.

All of these, and a ton more, are reasons why I am missing in action at certain events or even just Sunday dinners. Most of the time I push past the pain. Sometimes, I just can’t.

So, if you are not feeling it today – if you struggled to get out of the bed just to do the norm – you have someone here to empathize with you. I know that you will have the strength to make it through this day…whatever that looks like for you. You have the strength to make it through.

See you tomorrow!

6*7*2018

You can’t be joyful if you’re resistant to vulnerability.

It’s been one year…one year since we stood outside of the Crisis Stabilization Unit. My husband handed me my duffle bag and I stared into his eyes – trying to find the glimmer of hope that I could not feel deep inside. We kissed and my eyes welled up with tears. Then I said for the thousandth time that day:

“I’m so sorry, Babe.”

My hubby reassured me each time that there was nothing to be sorry for; however, I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was admitting such dark, private thoughts to him and a bunch of strangers.

As open as I claim to be I realized that, at that time, I was unwilling to be vulnerable about present issues in my life. I freely discussed how I got through the pain of miscarriages and how the feeling of loss never really goes away. I spoke with the bereaved about what helped me deal with my mother’s death. When wives wanted to vent about their husbands, I was there and shared some of my own marital struggles. When moms needed the time away to admit how much they love their children but don’t always like them, I was sitting in their “Amen!” corner.

But if you asked me about anxiety and depression, I wasn’t free to tell you I dealt with symptoms of both every single day. I did not tell anyone how much my physical pain induced mental and emotional pain. I suffered in silence with how much my physical inadequacies equaled my lack of self-worth. Telling someone that I couldn’t physically declutter my house because of said pain, yet the clutter was breaking me down mentally…well, that just seemed a bit worse than just dealing with it all. So, I kept dealing.

Until I couldn’t.

Refusing to be vulnerable almost killed me. Believing the lies that my non-Pinterest looking life was less than my fellow SAHMs almost had me taking my own life. I almost “made room” for that Pinterest loving, homeschooling mom to come and take over my family. I almost gave in to the dark hype.

Thank GOD for His Word and those bold enough to share it with me.

The Bible is all about embracing who God made us to be and how He sticks close to us when we can’t do that. Scriptures like,

You created the deepest parts of my being. You put me together inside my mother’s body. How you made me is amazing and wonderful. I praise you for that. What you have done is wonderful. I know that very well. -Psalm 139: 13-14

And,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

I was very broken…so broken that I didn’t even know the depths of my hurt. I placed Bubble Guppies bandages over large, gaping emotional wounds – expecting the wound to heal. Over time, scar tissue developed and, in my ignorance, I thought that was healing. But now I am left with infected scars that need to be opened back up, cleaned out, properly cared for and THEN bandaged.

I’m in the cleaning out stage of this lack of vulnerability wound. But there are other wounds where God is still scraping that scar tissue out and that hurts so good 😉

God is still revealing my many wounds.

The only difference is, this time, they will heal properly.

World’s Okayest Mom

It’s another Mother’s Day.

The most bittersweet day of the year…for me at least.

A day where I am told what a great mother I am. A day that is supposed to make every mom feel celebrated and loved. A day where you tell a mom who lost her mom, “You are just as loving as your mom was with you”.

But for someone who introspects, it’s hard to just bask in the loveliness of my mom role. It’s hard to accept the compliments, cards, and kisses. And I certainly feel like a baby standing in my mom’s high heels – looking at just how much I won’t ever fill them.

Instead of my meadow being filled with flowers, the invisible cloud over my head is filled with who I’m not. Yesterday, I snapped at my youngest daughter for happily “tap dancing” in the hair store. I told my oldest son that he won’t have any privileges at ALL if his behavior continues to stink. I rolled my eyes inwardly as my oldest extended her 5-minute story, even though I always stress “Talk to me. I want you to know I care about everything that goes on with you”. Then I turned my youngest away because we had already hugged “too many times”.

I don’t deserve flowers or presents or plants and kind words.

I need a time out!

But when I hear “Happy Mother’s Day, Teah! You’re doing a great job with your kids”, I am sure I will smile and say, “Thank you. You’re too kind”. Because you are. Your kindness extends way past what I deserve.

By the way, these aren’t ploys for more compliments or ways to “woe is me” myself into another bottle of wine. It’s simply…well…life. Just as people go through slumps, I’m feeling this mom slump.

And the accolades belong to someone better than just the “World’s Okayest Mom”.

For those who can relate, we want to flourish as mothers and enjoy our children more than we wish to run away from them. However, we simply aren’t there yet. Every day, mom life is kicking our bums and we are trying to get through it the best way we know how.

There are many reasons for our okayness. Some of us are fresh out of a mental health crisis. We might be dealing with a rush of inadequacies as we fight to be present for our children. Our houses are messy, and it feels like we’re in a whirlwind amongst our junk or we don’t even have a house but are still trying to create a sense of normalcy for our children. We’re battling anxiety, depression, urinary incontinence – better known as “peeing a little” – when we laugh (or cry or sneeze), perfectionism, idealism, reverse gender roles, hair crisis (to dye or not dye the wisdom sparkles?! that is the question!), rough feet from no pedis, medical conditions, the list goes on and ON!

Facing our slump as reality and having attainable goals in mind is how we will get to that next level – to “the flourish”.

So, feel free to tell us, “I see your effort, Mama. It matters.”

Or what my personal favorite would be: “You’re here, dressed, didn’t forget a kid, and are only 10 minutes late. High FREAKIN five!”

Don’t feel the need to tell us how amazing we are if…we really aren’t. See us for who we are in that moment and help us to celebrate that. Then we feel seen – and that matters much more than any flower you could choose. Face it…the flowers are gonna die anyway. And that just might send our fragile emotions even further left *wink wink*

 

 

When the training pays off

I saw the photo below a few hours after my son volunteered to pray for me this morning. My left leg wasn’t functioning when I woke up this morning and he had been eyeing me, asking was I okay, and asking if I needed help. Later, I could hear him say, “Hey guys. Wanna pray for Mommy?!” The girls had mixed feelings, but his brother agreed. As I heard the back and forth, I decided to tell him, “Hey man…because it was your idea to pray, that means God wants you to do it. So, you just go ahead. I appreciate you wanting to pray for me”. And he did! He asked the girls to pause the tablets and then I heard:

“Father God, we come today asking for help. I just want to ask for help for my Mommy to feel better. I just hope she feels better and you help her. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

I smiled so hard and talked to God myself, saying, “Thank you God for giving me him.”

You see, this little guy is the child I have the most trouble with because his strong will meets my strong will and neither one of us wants to budge. But it’s my responsibility to teach him when and how to bend – and when and how to flare that no nonsense attitude, to defend himself or defend others. It’s also my responsibility (with my hubby) to instill the values into our children that we hold close, as well. So, to see one of our children living out what we’re teaching them – my heart skipped a happy beat!

When I look at it all, though, I have no other choice but to wonder who is really teaching who? (I don’t know remember the “who/whom” rule so just go with the concept😉) Who is learning more – me…him?

Today, I learned from two of the best teachers – my child and tough times.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6