Identity Crisis Stage Right

I love to sing. It’s the one thing I’ve loved my whole life. Honestly, music is the only thing I can remember training for. I didn’t take classes to learn how to cook, clean, or be wife and mother. I had dreams, baby! By the time I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be the next Debby Boone or Amy Grant. I wanted people to feel what I felt when I sang their songs. I wanted to write songs that made people feel what I felt. I wanted to matter and to be known. I still do.

A couple times a month I get to sing with our Sunday morning worship team. It’s a blast to hang out with people who love music, truly enjoy expressing their love of God through music, and at the same time don’t take themselves too seriously. We always have a blast. Well, almost always.

About half-way into the rehearsal the other night I started feeling like I didn’t belong on the team. I was the oldest female singer on the platform standing with a few beautiful young women. Next to them I knew I stood out and not in a good way. We kept singing, listening to each other, trying to blend while my thoughts continued to drag my heart down.

You’re too old for this. You’re too fat for this. Your time is done. Find an ensemble for middle-aged menopausal women and be thankful you can still sing harmony. Quit trying to be something you’re not. Accept it and move on.

It was all I could do not to start bawling while we sang Oceans for what felt like the thousandth time. The words coming out of my mouth did not match what was in my heart. Instead I watched the clock on the back wall while coaching myself to hang in there a few minutes longer. As soon as it was over I put my microphone away, walked to my car and began a tearful drive home, unable to shake my thoughts. Before going to sleep I poured my heart out in a journal. I prayed. I couldn’t make the pain go away.

The thing is, I have studied God-given identity and worth and beauty. I have taught it. I have walked in it. So to find myself smack in the middle of a mid-life who-am-I kind of crisis on a Thursday night had me reeling a bit. This summer my oldest son graduated from high school. My role as a mother is changing. I’m looking at an empty nest in a few years. What will that mean for my marriage? Do I even know how to cook dinner for two people? These are real and serious concerns that keep me awake at night. It’s in this place that I feel the shame of not knowing how to be a woman at this age with these circumstances. I only know how to be what I have been.

I confessed my struggle to a friend via text because she specifically asked how she could be praying for me that day. (I love my creepy Jesus sister-friends more than they’ll ever know.) The pain and nasty thoughts stayed with me all weekend long. Even Sunday morning as I looked out into the sanctuary I wondered if anyone out there knew of a ensemble holding auditions for a middle-aged menopausal chick who sings more like a man every year. If I have mastered anything in my 44 years of living it is that I can do one thing while thinking about something completely different. I should have a signed framed certificate hanging on my wall for that alone! Universities hand out honorary degrees for much less worthy achievements. As soon as the service was over I booked it to the car not wanting to linger and chat with anyone. I was done.

The next day I thought about some things that had happened over the last week or so. First, I had shared with a friend that I want to record a song I wrote many years ago when my kids were little…even if they’re the only ones who ever hear it. I had forgotten all about that dream. I had also been asked to do some creative writing for our fall women’s conference at church that had to do with identity. Of course I helped with that! I knew the creative team was putting it all together.

Wait, what?

Suddenly the timing of my identity crisis seemed a little too coincidental. What if I was being harassed by Satan himself? I got mad. Because if he was doing this to me, he’s probably doing it to other women–especially the creative team working on the women’s conference which made me furious. Because I will become a sword wielding warrior princess on behalf of my sisters! DO! NOT! MESS! WITH! MY! SISTERS! But in order to fight for my sisters I have to fight for myself. I have to remember that I am a daughter of the King and NOBODY messes with His girls and gets away with it. I have to expose the lies of the enemy because that’s what they are. LIES. I get to offer grace to myself when I am drowning in shame. Because shame keeps me crouched in fear and there is zero fear in the perfect love of Jesus. He sees me. He knows me. He loves me as I am just as much as he loves who I am becoming.

Now that the shame and lies are exposed I can see the battle for what it is. The enemy wants to shut me down and shut me up. Guess what? I’m not going to allow him to do it because I have a God-given responsibility to the younger women to HOLD THE LINE and walk in freedom and truth. This generation needs me. I also need older women to impart wisdom into my life because I don’t know how to do this part. I need eyes and ears in my business. Lord have mercy, I need wisdom. It’s too easy to isolate and live a virtual existence. I can’t do it anymore.

Friends, you know I love social media more than the family dog. I do. I’m introverted enough that I could easily spend my days relating online and be perfectly content. But it’s a one way relationship. I was made for more and so were you. Who are you allowing to be eyes and ears in your life? Who do you know that’s a little further ahead in life that you would do well to allow them to show you how this thing is done? Pray and ask God to reveal a couple of people to you and then reach out to them. Take them to coffee or lunch or water. Whatever. Just reach out. It’s the first step to getting us out of our own heads and into truth. I’m committed to doing this too. (As I’m writing I’m thinking of the movie, War Room. Have you seen it? I think it’s time to watch that one again.)

Jesus, thank you for overcoming the evil one by your death and resurrection. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out fear and shame and covers us. Thank you for fighting for our hearts. Thank you for friends who fight for us when we’re beaten and bruised from the battle. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who reminds us of our identity and our inheritance in YOU. I pray that these words will shake the reader’s spirit awake and open their eyes to lies they are believing today. Set them free. May these words speak life and truth over their God-given identity in Jesus name. Amen.

Thank you for reading this. I know it was long. Please make sure you put it on a reading log or something for credit.

 

Therapy Sessions

I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy lately–physical therapy–with my hubby watching his body pushed beyond its physical and mental limits. Some days I wonder how much more he can take. It’s not easy to watch someone you love struggle, even when it’s for their own good.

Two surgeries after dislocating his right shoulder and fracturing the humerus, my man is working hard to regain strength and range of motion in his dominant arm. I can see pain and determination on his face as he tries to do simple tasks like walk his fingers up a wall. Sometimes I sing the itsy bitsy spider song while he does his wall walks. He does not think I’m funny when he’s in pain. Pain pushes him to his limits every single day and I wonder how much more it will take for him to recover.

The therapy process is slow because the injury was severe. I’ll never forget watching the therapist move his arm gently and slowly those first few weeks. Muscle and soft tissue damage in addition to the fracture had restricted him to passive motion only. He wore an immobilizer to strap his arm to his side. Movement was a big no-no because his body needed time to heal.

I listened one afternoon on our drive home from a therapy session as he vented frustrations about how it seemed like nothing productive was happening. The therapist had spent the entire 45 minutes stretching and massaging his arm. It felt like a huge waste of time. How was he ever going to get back to normal when he wasn’t even able to lift his own arm? He was completely dependent on others to bathe, get dressed, tie his shoes, and even cut his own food. He was so over it. He wanted to be independent and back at work. Truth be told, we both wanted those things. I tried to explain that if he did more than his body was ready for too soon that he could re-injure his arm and do more damage than good. I told him that we had to trust that the therapist knows what he’s doing and that in time he would regain some independence. Please, Lord, let the man be able to scrub his own armpit. Amen.

My husband’s body had been broken. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and we were living in what I call a haze of grace. There was a lot of HGTV, Food Network, and series binging on Amazon Prime. I ordered take out, made ice packs and tried to keep up with laundry. Oh and then there are the medical bills. We survived on the prayers of our family and friends and several pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But it wasn’t enough. I was falling apart. Again. My world had been rocked and I thought I could pretend that it was all just fine.
The trouble was that I didn’t have time to fall apart. This was not a good time for a breakdown. People needed me and I found myself reverting to a lot of old thought patterns because that’s what I do when I’m in crisis mode. I do what I know, even when it doesn’t help. Basically this looked a lot like beating myself over the head with a baseball bat for not being super woman every moment of every day. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I was the fattest person in the room all of the time. I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough Christian because if I were good enough probably none of this crap would have happened in the first place. Jesus was counting on me to suck it up and be a good example of mercy for heaven’s sake!!! I found myself wallowing in a pit of shame for not being enough for this crisis.

Welcome to my pity party. One night I climbed the stairs to my bed after tucking my husband into his recliner, crawled into bed, grabbed my journal and wrote,
“The pain is really bad today. My pain—emotional pain. My brain is so fuzzy I can barely function. There are so many hoops to jump through on any given day. I don’t have the will to jump today. I’m sleepy. I just want to cry and let it all out. The trouble is that I’m not sure I can. I look at my mental list of things that should be done to make it all better and it’s like a wave of depression crashes over me and drags me down–way way down. It’s no wonder people don’t want to continue to live like this day after day. I wish I could just sleep it all off and wake up to everything being better. God, why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to make it never happen again? I wish there was a reset button I could hit on my life. So many mistakes. So many things I wish I could un-do. If only I could make peace with my messy life. But I can’t. I hate it…
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse. Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your word. {Psalm 119:25-28 The Message}

If this was a song I’d play it over and over again. It’s the cry of my heart tonight.
Jesus, help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. Build me up by the power of your Holy Spirit and your living breathing word. Thank you.”

I wish I could tell you that I woke up the next morning and everything made perfect sense. It didn’t. But somehow along the way I began to see that I was broken too. I didn’t have the physical injury that my husband had, but I was just as in need of healing. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and I needed to give this crisis the respect it deserved in my own life as well as my husband’s body. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to make it better. In fact, all of my trying to be better was just making it worse. I needed to trust the Therapist and let Him do his job. I had to stop trying so hard.

For my recovery I’ve been reading encouraging books written by people who dare to use their pain to help people like me see that my messy imperfect life is covered by more love and grace than I will ever be able to sort through in this lifetime. I’ve started praying more than reading my Bible. I’m allowing Jesus to tend to my broken heart and I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough when he is more than good enough. I sleep more. Sleep is good, like really good. I watch Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos and laugh a lot more. People are alive because of Jimmy Fallon. Finally, I told that mean bossy B in my head to leave and never come back and she did. We are all the better for it.

Some wonderful crazy things happened when I stopped trying so hard to be good enough. Joy returned. It had been a couple of years since I’d had any joy. Anxiety was the front and center drama queen demanding ALL of my attention. The slightest misstep would send me into a full blown meltdown. Something as annoying as being late for an appointment took days to recover from. Perfectionism once again had its hooks deep in my soul. I felt hopeless that I could ever get free. Guess what? Anxiety is not front and center any longer. I’m a total freaking mess AND IT’S OK. I’m not doing a single thing I thought I’d be doing at this moment in life AND IT’S OK. It’s really ok. I have peace again, and man, I have missed it. I stopped clinging to the HaagenDazs life raft and have embraced healthy food again. It’s so much easier to love people when peace and joy are actually welcome in my heart and mind…and I’m not jacked up on caffeine and sugar 24/7.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly believed how much God really loves us. What if we simply rested in believing that he is enough and we are loved?

Sometimes we have to stop trying so hard and let the Therapist do his job. It might not feel like much is being accomplished, but when we allow for rest and healing to take place in our brokenness we will be stronger for the people and the plans God has for our lives. The Therapist knows what He’s doing. He really does. After all, my man has started to do planks at his physical therapy sessions. His muscles are shaky and it hurts like heck, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

Thank you for praying for us. Your prayers are powerful. Don’t ever forget it. Thanks for stopping by.

When Mr. Steady Met Nurse Ratched

A few weeks ago I drove my husband to the emergency room. We didn’t leave the hospital for two and a half days. A few days later we went back for surgery. One moment he was fine, the next he was anything but fine.

My man has always been my rock. He is Mr. Steady. The truest friend. Old reliable. I’m the needy one in our relationship. He has stuck by me through major depression, chronic health issues, pms that would scare a badger, surgeries, and morning sickness that lasted 9 months–twice. On the rare occasion he manages to get sick I have to dig really deep to find enough compassion to nurture him. If he’s lucky he might get 24 hours to moan and groan about whatever ails him. After that I turn into Nurse Ratched. SUCK IT UP, BUDDY! GET OVER IT! He is one lucky man.

It turns out that Mr. Steady isn’t quite as invincible as I thought he was. A severe injury has left him pretty beat up and needy. The bruises are fading and the incision is healing, but we are a long way from being back to normal.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve been the perfect wife and nurse and that he’s been the perfect husband and patient, but this isn’t a Hallmark Channel movie. The truth is that this has left us both vulnerable and exposed to pain and I’m sure we have both responded in ways that would be better suited for an R rated war movie.

In all of those times I needed him to be my rock I don’t think it ever ocurred to me that my pain wasn’t just happening to me, it was happening to him too. Dang. Realizing that doesn’t automatically make me a better wife and nurse, but it sure does humble me in areas that are in need of some fresh humility. Dang.

I wish there was a magic pill we could take to make all of this go away overnight, but there isn’t. We are in this for the long haul. For better or for worse, we are in this together.

Your prayers have meant the world to us. Thank you.

Thanks for stopping by.

No Time for Dog Drama

This winter when the polar vortex would not let it go my boys got a chance to attend a sledding day event with some homeschool families. I teetered between gratitude that they would be socializing somewhere other than at work with me and guilt that I wouldn’t be able to be there like the other moms. On any other Tuesday this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I had scheduled a hair appointment for our two Labs at our favorite boarding kennel. Carpets full of fur had gotten the best of me and even in the dead of winter I knew it was the only way we were going to make it until spring. Something had to go. Hair seemed to be the easiest way. Normally the boys would corral the dogs and save me some stress, but not that day. I decided to take one for the team and take the dogs in myself. I should have rescheduled the appointment and saved myself a lot of drama.

I drove ten miles per hour under the speed limit the entire way because of icy road conditions. The SUV’s outside thermostat read -4 Fahrenheit. My sons had given me the longest leashes known to mankind for the dogs and they were completely tangled by the time I got to the boarding kennel. As soon as I opened the back hatch of my car, the dogs jumped out while I tried to hold on to their leashes as they wound themselves around me. I began to shout like a mad woman.

Sit! Minnie! Mocha! Sit! Don’t you dare knock me down out here! I!!! Said!!! Sit!!!

It took a few minutes to get them signed in at the front desk. Before I could catch my breath I was back in the car on my way to work trying not to have a total meltdown because they had nearly killed me in the parking lot. I had become Cruella Deville and my husband was going to get what was coming to him! Heads were gonna roll! I’d had it with those puppies! Thank God I work near a Starbucks because I had more than earned it this morning! Venti! Breve! Pumpkin spice latte! Please. I was paying for my drink when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number on my screen, but answered it anyway. It was the boarding kennel.

A man on the other end of the conversation began to explain that our 9 year old black lab, Minnie, had been assaulted by another dog when she was introduced to the doggy daycare group. I cannot believe I just typed those words, but there they are. A more aggressive dog had bit her left ear and caused it to bleed. The staff was trying to get the bleeding to stop, but they weren’t having much success and wanted to make me aware in case they couldn’t get it stopped.

Here’s the thing: I am not a dog person. You probably already figured that out, but I struggle with being seen in public with our dogs because I feel like a fake. They are not my dogs. They are my husband and sons dogs. Get it? I just make sure they get fed and watered and let them outside no less than 476 times a day. I’m not a dog person.

I thanked the guy for telling me what happened to Minnie and then a wave of guilt crashed over me. I had been so angry because of these animals just moments before, and now Minnie was hurt. She was in a strange place with people she didn’t know.

I called my husband at work. I was planning on giving him a piece of my mind anyway. The call rolled to his voice mail and I explained what was going on with his dog and began to sob. I didn’t know what to do or how I should even be responding at this time. All at once I felt bad for the people taking care of Minnie, but I didn’t have time to deal with dog drama. I had to get to work and stop blubbering about the stupid dog.

Why couldn’t my dog to take a self-defense course and stop the cycle of being the victim? I knew it wasn’t her fault that she had been the runt of the litter when we brought her home almost 9 years ago. I had watched her be dominated by her sister and was constantly trying to get her to stick up for herself. Minnie just needed to get aggressive and fight the lies she’d believed from her past and refuse to accept that she was stuck forever. Because dogs can do that, right? Ok, maybe not.

Once at work I dove into the distractions (and joys) of my job. Somehow I managed to miss every single call from the boarding kennel throughout the day updating Minnie’s progress. Their final message said they had tried everything they knew to do to stop the bleeding but were unsuccessful and were taking her to a nearby vet. My mind was reeling. How did a simple grooming appointment turn into an emergency vet visit? They assured me that Minnie would be fine and updated me every step of the way. Minnie ended up getting four stitches in her ear by the time I left work.

When I picked the dogs up to take them home Minnie was wearing one of those plastic cones of shame. She was woozy from being sedated and anxious to get home. I had a stress migraine and felt as if I was going to vomit any moment and could have gone for some serious sedation myself.

Once we were in the front door, Minnie bumped into her kennel because the cone distorted her vision. She couldn’t even get past the trash can to go outside to do her business without our help. She thought she could, but she couldn’t. We felt so bad for her, even though it was funny at times to watch her so disoriented. My gut churned because I knew how she felt all too well. I know what it’s like not to be able to do the things that seem easy to other people…to try to do it on my own, only to get stuck and feel like a fool.

imageMy husband kept telling me she’d be fine. My brain knew that Minnie would be fine, but I wasn’t so sure about me.

The haunting memories of being bullied by my classmates in the 6th grade would not leave me alone. I could see their faces and I felt the shame all over again. It didn’t make any sense. I kept trying to push down the pain that happened 30 years ago! 30! I thought that I had dealt with a lot of that pain, but it had surfaced again because of my stupid dog. Why did she have to be such a wuss in the first place? What was it about her that made her a target for a bully? These kinds of questions kept pestering me and I couldn’t answer them.

I knew Minnie’s history and there was nothing I could do to change her. She was destined to play the victim from the very start. In the animal kingdom she was the runt of the litter which meant she got whatever was left of her mother’s milk. There were always bigger, stronger, more dominating dogs that got there first. She learned to not expect anything more than what she got. I watched it play out a thousand times in how she interacted with her sister. She unravelled when we brought Mocha home from the same set of dog parents just 2 years later. Mocha was anything BUT the runt of the litter and made her presence known from day one. Minnie acted out…she started peeing on the floor again. Even in my frustration I could see the pain in her eyes…please help me. I don’t know how to stop.

We could have given up in frustration that Minnie was a bad dog and taken her to the pound to become someone else’s problem. Honestly, the thought crossed my mind more than I care to admit. That would have devastated my children and broken a deep trust with them. That trust is sacred and I wasn’t willing to give it up without a fight.

And so my husband asked some friends at work about crazy dog behavior. We searched the internet. There was an explanation for Minnie’s relapse and there were answers to help fix it. She needed to be treated like an alpha dog even though Mocha clearly had the alpha instinct. She needed to be shown respect. It seemed silly to us, but we began to make extra effort to give Minnie what she needed. This meant that Minnie would be petted first when my husband came home from work. She would be allowed to go out the door before Mocha. She would be first. It didn’t seem like a lot, but it meant everything to Minnie. It didn’t take long before Minnie was back to her old self. No more peeing on the floor. No more acting like she was having a total meltdown. Whenever we left for vacation and had someone watch our dogs, I would leave specific instructions for Minnie because her mental and emotional health depended on it.

Funny the lengths we’ll go to for a pet, or our kids, or even a friend, but not for ourselves. Surely the care vital and necessary to our mental, spiritual, and emotional health is just as valuable, if not more?

As I thought about how Minnie was targeted and wounded, I couldn’t help but see how differently our wounds had been treated. Minnie had a team of caring adults with her all day long making sure she was comfortable and getting the care she needed. Sadly, that was not true for me. Nobody helped me when my classmates shamed and humiliated me over and over and over again. My mom tried to get my teacher to intervene, but it only made it worse. His idea of helping me meant singling me out to let me know how attractive he thought I was. No, that was not helpful at all. It was inappropriate and only confirmed the negative messages I had received about my body. Unlike Minnie I was not safe with the people who were supposed to be taking care of me.

It was a busy week and I didn’t have time for revisiting 6th grade hell. I had a birthday party to plan, but I could not be present because my dog’s wounds had uncovered my own. Finally I sat at my kitchen table with a pen and my journal and asked Jesus to help me. The tears came because I could no longer hold them back. Jesus gently took me back to the young places in the 6th grade so that this older me can move forward. He saw my pain. He knew I was struggling and invited me to take His hand. This time I wouldn’t go alone. He would go with me.

I wrote down the names of the classmates who had made my life a living hell. Their vicious schemes replayed in my mind as if they had happened yesterday. The pain washed over me and I sobbed.  I wanted to ask them why they chose me as their target. What was it about me that invited that kind of cruelty? Why me? Why did they perceive me as a threat to their social structure?   

It was time for someone to tend to my wounds. I kept hearing Jesus say, “I bind up your wounds.”  It’s core to who Jesus is and what He does for us. He heals the brokenhearted, binds up our wounds, and restores us. But in order for Him to bind anything, I had to be willing to allow Him access. I could no longer ignore the meanness and the affect it had on my heart…the affect it was still having. I had to stop blaming myself.

The truth is that I deserved to have teachers and people in authority come to my rescue. I deserved to have justice. I was worthy of all the care and attention required to stop the cycle of abuse. That’s what it was and it’s ok to tell the truth about it. The truth is that I had no idea how to navigate the abuse and pain I experienced when I was 11 and 12 years old. It shattered my heart and I pieced it back together as best as I could. Looking back, I can see how I mishandled my wounds in every way, but it’s not too late.

Receiving healing meant I needed to let go of the pain. It meant forgiving the kids (and adults) who inflicted the pain and letting them go. It didn’t mean that what they did was ok. It meant taking that power from them. I had been afraid for so long of being made fun of. I would often assess everyone when I walk into a room full of people I don’t know, assume the worst and work my way backwards. If you happen to be a man, consider yourself condemned until proven you otherwise. I’m only beginning to realize how fear has dominated my interaction with the opposite sex for far too long. Jesus has been showing me how He has put good men in my life and that I don’t have to be afraid. I have never been alone. Nor am I alone now. Jesus has always been there. He’s here now.

It’s never too late for Jesus to heal and mend a broken heart. Healing comes in such unexpected ways. It often comes when we don’t have time for it, but it does come and when it does it is beautiful.

I’m not a dog person, but I am forever grateful for the dog that Jesus used to help heal and mend this broken heart. She loved me well. I hope her story encourages you today. It’s never too late for Jesus to heal and mend your broken heart.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Mac with Minnie Sue Christmas Eve 2006

In memory of Minnie {April 4, 2005-April 24th, 2014}

The World’s Worst Compassion Blogger

A few years ago our family began sponsoring a child through Compassion International. I was at a concert sitting in the front row feeling particularly blessed that night and even though I had heard the Compassion pitch no less than 15 times at other events, this was my night to respond. My husband agreed, and since we had NEVER been on the same page about sponsorship I took it as a sign. We chose a girl since we had sons. In my mind it would go something like this: I would supernaturally mother this daughter from another continent with my generous monthly support. We would pray for her and write her letters every month. The boys would come to love her like the sister they never had and the Glory of the Lord would shine around us day and night, night and day. Um, yeah. Not so much.

Our sponsor child was removed from our family after the first month. Compassion International sent a letter explaining why along with information about another child in case we wanted to continue with sponsorship. It was bizarre. I felt obligated to continue sponsorship because we were blessed and I had received two CDs at the concert just for signing up. I’m responsible that way.

So we began corresponding with the new girl. (When I say “we”, I mean “I”. That’s how we talk around our house.) At first it was sweet. I read about how she loved going to school, and loved washing the cups, and loved Jesus. She thanked us and told us how much she loved us. Instead of feeling blessed by her letters, I felt guilty because my children hate school and we most certainly do not love washing the cups. No we do not. I read her letters to my boys hoping to spread a little guilt and make them realize how blessed they are to be educated (by their mother!) and have a dishwasher to unload. I might as well have read the letter to the wall.

When it was time to respond to these letters I would sit at the computer and stare at a blank form on the monitor ready to share our lives with her. However, my fingers would not type. I couldn’t think of anything to say to her because I could only think about how our lives were so different. We were spoiled rotten Americans living in a house with more stuff than we know what to do with. We were a Dave Ramsey nightmare with debt up to our ears dreaming of trips to Disney World. She lives in a hut in Uganda. What would I even say?

My letters were about our weather, the crops in our region. “Hey, we grow corn in Iowa just like you do in Uganda! Isn’t that great?” I’d think of some scripture to write and tell her we were praying for her blah blah blah. Then I’d upload a photo of my family and hit send.  It was pathetic.

Her letters would come in the mail and I was busy. So I’d set them aside in a pile with mail that needed to be dealt with and filed. There her letters would sit unopened. If I didn’t read her letters, I wouldn’t have to write her back and then I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about being an American.

As if all of this wasn’t pathetic enough, I began to pray about discontinuing our sponsorship. I mean, we are really bad sponsors. Sure, we have the monthly donation automatically deducted from our checking account, but that wasn’t enough for this girl. She wanted letters.

I made the mistake of reading one of her letters last summer. In it she wrote about how she prays for my family. She loves us. She thinks about us every day. I am her best friend. She hopes I will one day visit Uganda. And just for fun she hopes that she’ll be as fat as me when she grows up. I threw the letter on the counter and tried to wrap my mind around the part where she wants to be as fat as me. Hello! I know I’m fat, but it’s not polite to point it out. I didn’t want to think about the fact that maybe she was just so hungry all the time that she couldn’t imagine having a little extra meat on her bones. It was time for God to let me off the hook. I couldn’t respond to her letter. I could not. I could not get past how it made me feel about myself. Me, myself, me, myself, me, myself…you get the picture.

Finally, I confessed to someone who loves me that I’m a really bad sponsor parent. I told her what had happened and she listened and we laughed together about some of the funny stuff. I wanted her to give me confirmation that I could end the sponsorship. She did not. Instead, she encouraged me to just sit down and write this little girl a letter and move on. I made my case for how I didn’t connect with this girl at all. Our lives are just too different for me to have anything worthwhile to tell her. Why can’t Compassion International have an option for people who can afford to give, but not afford to write letters? Surely there are letter writers we could partner with?

Later that day I prayed and asked God to help me because these letters were haunting me and I needed to be free of them. What do I say? What do I do? Instead of picking me up and shaking me until my narcissistic head rattled, He gently whispered, “What did you need to hear when you were 12?” I tried to remember who I was at that age and how I felt about myself. Then I began to pray for her. I prayed that God would bless her. I prayed that she would know she has value, that she is beautiful. I prayed that she would know that God has called her to do something great for His purposes and she can do all things through Him. I prayed that she would be protected from harm and that the enemy would not succeed in his evil schemes. I prayed that her hopes and dreams would draw her closer to Jesus every single day of her life.

This girl says she prays for me. She prays for my family. She has not given up on me. It’s not her fault that I’m a spoiled rotten American and can’t quite get my act together enough to get over myself to sit down and write a dang letter. It’s not really about her. It’s about me. It’s about me needing to grow up and get outside of myself and what makes me feel good or not so good. Jesus is not letting me off the hook with a mindless donation. Honestly, $38 a month is a drop in the bucket for my family. Truth be told, I spend more than that at Starbucks every single month and we are still a Dave Ramsey nightmare, but we’re working on it.

Yesterday I wrote a letter, attached a family photo of our chubby selves and hit send. As pathetic as all of that sounds, it was a breakthrough. I wanted to run through the house cheering like I do for my boys when they do something I know they were afraid of doing.

Writing a letter doesn’t make me a missionary. I’m still the world’s worst Compassion blogger. I still don’t want to visit Uganda. I still feel guilty about being an American. I’m still pathetic, but there’s hope. There’s always hope. 

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:40 NIV

Do you sponsor a child? I’d love to hear how your family does this. Thanks for stopping by.

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