Like Moses, My Arms Got Tired

Exodus 17 11-13

As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he lowered them, Amalek prevailed.  When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on each side, so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down.  So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his army with the sword.… 

Just like Moses, I was in the battle. Moses wasn’t on the battlefield, but he was having a profound effect on the outcome. I wasn’t in the high school, the hospital or the locker rooms, but my loved ones were and I was on a prayer mission.

Moses’ hands were in the air praying to ensure Joshua’s victory; and whether my hands were in the air praying in the car, or I was on my knees, or at church, or at the kitchen table, I had determined throughout my parenting years that I would be a prayer-warrior. And, I was. But my urgency and the amount of time spent in prayer really revved up during my kids’ later teen years. It wasn’t all about them, it was the onslaught of circumstances on top of parenting teens…

During the battle, I studied my Bible in a new way, went down on my knees more, read and prayed fervently. I spent countless minutes on the floor of my son’s room…aside my daughter’s bed while they were at school… One day kneeling on my son’s floor, completely perplexed as to why God was not answering my prayers how I wanted them answered, I lifted a photo frame off my son’s bed stand and whipped that sucker clear across the room. There is still a sharp, deep cut in the body of the NHL fathead on his wall. On that particular day, I was really angry which is rare for me. Looking back, I was just hurt that God was either saying “no” or “not yet” but either way, the more time passed, the less chance there would be for what I was praying about.

To make up for less-than childhoods of our own, my husband and I were doing way more than normal parents. We set out parenting with more enthusiasm than Dory and Olaf combined. And, we never lost steam. He is a man in non-stop motion. You will not see him reading the paper nor does he leave projects unfinished. I am just as productive on the home front, endlessly working on something to make the nest more comfortable while working outside the home part time. I invested time in my own friendships, invested in my kids and all the other kids they brought into the nest over many years, I handled group gatherings and hosted every holiday at my house.

Then, things started breaking down at a rapid-fire pace. I had small appliances given to me at my bridal shower that lasted 20 years. In the last five years, the replacements I purchased have broke down every other year. Then the oven stopped working. The fridge wasn’t cold anymore. And on it went. Between expensive kids sports and household nonsense, we were bleeding money.

Finances were tight on top of practices, games (traveling overnight for those games), driving, shopping, holidays, cooking, cleaning, talking, teaching, instructing, negotiating with teenagers in the kitchen and adults on committees, appointments, friends with diseases, extended family insanity, being lied to…

I felt like Moses. My arms were growing weak and the battles were still raging around me. My friend of 18-years was dying of cancer before my eyes and it was ripping my heart out. I was helping with her treatment visits, rotating time at her house and trying to support her daughter. My parents were embroiled in a disturbing family situation that had just come to light by a close relative. It was all-consuming and truly gut-wrenching. Despite the mountain of unpleasant circumstances, I was still mentally and physically operating at 110% as Mom, wife, worker, homemaker, holiday-maker, volunteer… just as I always had. Remaining silently overwhelmed by profound sadness and drama, I expended even more energy keeping the majority of my struggles from my children. Even though they were in their late teens, I still functioned as if they were ten. The details my extended family produced were simply not something I wanted in my kids’ heads. But, I could have exposed them more to the realities of death and dying.

One day I just got tired. All the prayer in the world didn’t seem to be making any difference at all and I eventually crashed.

I could not pray my way out of the haze draping over me. Like Moses, my arms that had held it all up for so many years were exhausted. So, I reached out just a little, looking for an Aaron and Hur. I was quickly reminded that many others had it much worse and, at minimum, they all have their own challenges. This knowledge does not deter everyone from asking for help anyway, but my type A, first-born self could not impose on anyone other than my closest friend. My dearest sister-in-Christ was the one who listened to a few of my sad tales (absent the gory details) and she agreed to be my Aaron. We still pray for each other regularly. But, I simply could not tell her all of the extended family depravity, nor could I tell anyone else about it. My own husband shrunk back, cutting me off as I shared only a sliver of what I had learned.

Everyone knows about Moses – even people who do not read the Bible or attend church or temple. They can talk about him floating in a basket, the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Not many can name his parents Amram and Jocabed. His parents no doubt, went through some stuff. His poor Mom had to eventually surrender him to Pharoah’s daughter. When they could no longer control their own situation, they reached out for help, even to the extent of having the enemy of their people raise their precious boy.

Moses’ parents’ life was not easy and neither was his. Life is life. There is good and bad and if I merely accept what is, and cease searching for reasons “why” that do not exist, I’ll fare much better. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon suggests eating, drinking and enjoying your work while you can. I had to start “enjoying” and stop thinking and analyzing and trying to figure out people because I discovered “nothing new under the sun”. There were painfully few real answers for all the sadness and stupidity. I was making myself crazy trying to understand circumstances, human behaviors and how God could bear to continue watching it all.

I had set out as a young wife and mama with the wrong mindset that if I worked diligently, life would be fairly close to perfect (try not to laugh). But the outside creeps into the nest, even when you’re really diligent. People get sick. Others make horrible choices. I internalized others’ decisions and heartache as if they were my own. I took on responsibilities that were not mine to take on. People were happy to pile their stuff on to me. It was unhealthy.

As I eventually emerged from that difficult time, I tried to see the lessons in the madness, where God may have been in the midst of some really unfortunate happenings. I refused to stay in defeat but it was not easy to overcome.

It’s hard to let go of being the go-to person because you feel you’re letting them down. And, it’s really hard to speak up to – and stand back from – crazy people, even those you may share bloodlines with. In my case, I thought I was being a good Christian by supporting others without boundaries. When you begin to draw necessary boundaries for the toxic folks, they do not like the new person distancing themselves. They want the “yes” “nice” girl back immediately. But distance and creating borders are required in order to preserve your own sanity and to have any personal semblance of happiness on this side of heaven. It also frees up mental space and physical time for enjoying the humans who truly care about you and yours.

My fellow Moses whose arms are tired, find yourself an Aaron and Hur to walk this nutty life alongside you, and enjoy yourself as long as you can.

Mama Duck 

About This Mama Duck…

Well, first, the “duck” title is a metaphor for being the leader of my nest (a home on a few acres of land that is in need of updating but with three ducks in college, we’re keeping the outdated kitchen!). The duck metaphor also represents the protector of the babies even if they are now 20, 21 and 21 respectively (did you see this back in April?). Ok, she’s technically a goose but wow, that’s a mad Mama! Apparently, this high school golfer walked too close to her nest! (Click image for goose story.)This Mama Duck is the food-hunter…The food-preparer…(click cone image)And all things home, family and faith. Oh yeah, I’m also an adjunct professor who is looking for a new career now that the baby duck moved to college last month (sniff sniff). This blog was started back in 2013. I took a hiatus from early 2017 until now. Much of the writing over the years was Mama-stuff that was sometimes serious but usually humorous or lighter-hearted. Life got a little harder in the last couple years and so did my heart, so I stopped posting. I didn’t think readers would be interested in the cynical, often depressing writings that were building up in my hard drive (the computer, not my heart…that is softening).

But, I will… maybe… eventually…post a few of the more miserable writings lingering around my office. Why? Well, I’ve been paying close attention in recent years to other 40-and-50-something year old Mama ducks and they too feel a bit confused, angry, struggle with the inequality of it all, wondering how it didn’t turn out quite as expected considering the insane amount of work and sacrifice that went into many relationships, jobs and situations. (Click image for earlier article.)That said, this Mama Duck follows Jesus. It’s shameful how ungrateful I can be when I start questioning God about what I don’t have, didn’t get, haven’t achieved, when I’ve been blessed so much. The cycle goes a bit like this: Injustice makes me mad. I tell God about it. I don’t always act Christ-like when I’m in these fits. I question Him. I get miffed (more on that later…don’t send mean comments…I love the Lord 🙂 ). I have gathered a few writings about wrestling with God….trying to reconcile His love and holiness with the depravity of the world (yes, I’m already highly familiar with the common Christian responses to this issue).  Ultimately, after spiraling through my questions, I end up in the same place: He is Him. I am not. He is the parent. I am the child. He is sovereign. It’s not about me. It’s about those He puts in my path, my church, my heart. It’s about Him. I am a student of His Word and have been serious about my faith-walk for over 20 years. (Click image for earlier article.)Some of the more popular past posts can be found under “Popular Posts” in the header above.

More about me and this blog can be found under About Me in the header above.

Thank you for checking out my blog. I look forward to reading your writings and thank you for reading mine!

 

Annul a 20-year marriage with 7 kids?

AnnulThrowback Thursday 5/26/2013

I ran into an old friend of my Mom’s a few weeks ago at the grocery store.  This woman’s husband left her 15+ years ago with 7 young children.  He left her for a younger woman and his relationship with the kids is estranged at best.

Embracing her in the store, we briefly caught up on all the happenings with her mountain of children and now, grandchildren.  The woman looked exactly as she did when I last randomly bumped into her: exhausted.  She had been working two jobs for over fifteen years, was uneducated, so she was making little money for hard work.  One of her daughters had a child out of wedlock and was living with her as well.  Barely able to make ends meet, this friend secured yet another 10 hour gig on the weekends to help raise the grandchild. Let me repeat:  she looked drained.

Through the ten minute conversation, she mentioned that the ex-husband was happily married, living in another state and hadn’t provided for the kids’ needs in many years.  Upset and distraught with the Catholic Church, she said her ex received the “right” to marry because he had the marriage annulled.

Just to clarify I asked, “how long were you married?”

“20 years.  7 kids.”

She continued to explain that after the divorce, the Catholic Church had not accepted her as a formal church member, since she was a divorced woman.  She was also forbidden to take communion.  This was especially painful to this woman, because she was a devoted Catholic – so devoted to the church rules that she did not use birth control – thus, the 7 kids.

Her eyes grew wet as I suggested she try visiting a non-denominational church where she would be lovingly accepted and could develop new relationships.  I emphasized that the “church” is a group of believers in Jesus…that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus and believing that God loves you – just as you are, right where you are in lifeChristianity is not about being alienated by your Sunday worship center just when you need love and help the most.

It’s important to note that as someone who was raised in a liturgical church, I respect and admire all the tradition.  Although I spent 25 years in a liturgical church, I am no longer familiar with the rules, having been in a different church the last 20 years.  So, upon arriving home I looked up the meaning of annulment.  “To reduce to nothing.  To obliterate. To make void; invalidate.”

Divorce is painful enough all on its own. Do we need our church to require an expensive piece of paper authorizing that a marriage was voided in order to move forward in life? In order to participate fully in our faith?

Are we seriously “invalidating” a 20-year marriage for one spouse at his request, after years of painfully rejecting the other spouse by isolating her from the church she devoted herself to?  How does this mentally impact the children?

That afternoon I had a very clear understanding of Gandhi’s words when he said:  “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Paying for Other’s Bad Behavior Is Making Me a Little Cranky

Lucy courtesy Charles Schulz via Cafe Press
Lucy courtesy Charles Schulz via Cafe Press

Now in my mid 40’s, I’ve officially experienced enough of life where paying (in time or money) for other people’s bad behavior, no-show tendencies, and last-minute procrastination is making me cranky. Over my adult life, when I or my kids have received unfair treatment, I’ve definitely handled it firmly, but always with respect toward others, even when they might not have deserved it. I’ve followed policies that were ridiculous because I “understood”.

Why have I attempted to do the right things? I have hoped to be a good example to my kids. I’ve thought that it would please God. Because I’ve observed that the senior citizens who are still nice after 80 years of living on this planet have made the effort to remain kind. Now that my kids are teenagers, I’m a little worn out from always doing the right things.

– For example, my son had his wisdom teeth out recently. I had written proof (and so did the office) that my insurance would cover the cost. The “policy” was that I had to pay $700 cash up front and wait 2 months for the office to write me a refund check. I was a little cranky. When I questioned the policy, the response was, “Well, so many parents weren’t paying their balance not covered by insurance.” But I’m not that parent!

– For years, the same 15% of the congregation at church did 100% of the work. Instead of being grateful, the 85% often complained about something. This makes volunteers a little cranky. The followers of the “serve your church” rule get piled with more until they learn that sometimes, you have to say “no”, and they hate to say no.

– One of my children takes instrument lessons and the teacher sent out a lengthy handbook about new policies. The book’s theme hinted: ‘I’ve been burned and now-no more.’ Extremely specific guidelines were printed and parents were asked to sign. Why? Because some Moms call to say they’re not taking their kids out of the pool for lessons. I’m not that parent. I’m a rule follower. I’ll bring my tired child to lessons even if they need a day off to rest because I respect the teacher’s time, not because I’m a Tiger Mom.

Other parents are paying late? Yes, I’ll be happy to pay in advance, even though I just paid the oral surgeon $700. But, when I’m asked to pay for days when I know 6 months in advance that I won’t be there – and, when I have to pay a mandatory fee for events my child isn’t participating in, I’m a little cranky. Guess what? The non-payers will still pay late or not at all. The same parents will still blow off their lesson times without a courtesy phone call.

– Three days ago, I applied for a new job online. I embarked on completing a tortuously-long application form, which took me over an hour and a half to finish. Every other paragraph inserted a “WARNING” that “IMMEDIATELY” after completing the application, a personality test was required, or the information would NOT be looked at. I submitted the application, resume, cover letter, and rights to a 4th child if I ever have one. Then, I began the insanely time consuming personality test. I followed the directions – “immediately” beginning the personality test, when really, I should have ignored the “warnings” like most everyone else apparently does.

The test was getting so complicated (I was doing algebra), I took a quick break and scanned my email. I emailed the application at 1:03pm and began the long assessment. At 1:05pm, I received an email from said company that after careful consideration, they would not be pursuing my candidacy. Two minutes after I submitted part one of a “mandatory” two-part process, I received the automated Dear John letter. I was already an hour into the personality assessment.

Not sure if I should laugh or cry at how I had just spent an afternoon of my life, I emailed the Corporate Recruiter a friendly suggestion about how his Human Resources division could operate a little more respectfully of qualified candidates who actually read and follow the directions. After a little investigating with them and another large institution, guess why testing is required? So many people lie on their application forms, they need a “better” assessment than a resume. Guess why automated “not selected” responses are sent 2 minutes after submissions? The companies aren’t always recruiting for an existing position, they are bulking up their files to demonstrate a “commitment to diversity” for possible future examination.

– I’m sure you have countless examples of your own frustrations. I won’t torture you or myself with the broader issues of national health care and the number of people living in America who impressively avoid paying their taxes for 20 years.

Those who brag about “beating the system”, and who circumvent every other routine responsibility that is a normal part of being a grown up:  have mercy on us do-gooders that you mock. Please obey the rules. Be honest. It’s getting really hard for us to stay sweet toward you. 🙂

“We can’t allow ourselves to get tired of living the right way.” Galations 6:9 GWT

10 Things I Believed at 25 That Proved False by 45

Ahhhh, to be 20-something… Like most during those years, I had very definite impressions about how my life would progress. I would eventually learn, and after serious resistance – accept – that life has a way of detouring, surprising and wearing down a person, leaving a few disappointments along the way.

You may detect a touch of mid-life cynicism, but however you label the post, women I know in their later forties are experiencing a few discontents. We tend to hide them, worried that if we share our disappointments, it will replace the otherwise pleasant image people have of us. We fear earning a reputation as a complainer if we dare talk about the thoughts that dominate our 2am insomnia. For those of us “in the church”, we definitely don’t want to be judged as being ungrateful.

At 25 I believed…

1. What goes around eventually comes around.
What you send out often does come back, but life is unequal.
Some really bad people live into their 70’s without consequences.
Some really good people get really bad cancer.
Life is unfair in many ways for many people.

2. Maturity will finally belong to everyone – women will stop gossiping and men will stop gawking.

I was the naive 20-something who sincerely believed that once everyone became an adult, immature behavior would cease entirely.
Most often, what you see in someone at 25 will hold true at 45.
The scarce numbers of people who become better humans practice self-discipline and work hard to change. The effort is worth it, but few will bother.

3. My life would be anything but ordinary.
While marriage and parenting are adventures all on their own, it’s not the cocktail parties, fancy dresses and life of relative ease that I expected.
My life has been largely conventional. And there is blessing in ordinary.

4. Being nice always pays off.
I was stunned for many years that no matter how caring, nice or genuinely thoughtful I was toward a person, some people were still unkind.
I’ve tried to jump start my kids on this truth: people will find fault with anything-even good things. Not everyone will like you and that’s ok. We answer to God, not them.

5. Blood is thicker than anything.
Many people have sweet, fun and tender-hearted relatives who would rather die than upset each other.
Other families go out of their way to intentionally hurt each other. After years of confusing heartache, I learned that spending time with blood out of obligation is just wasting time. Perhaps not entirely applicable here, but even Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mat. 12:48) Friends are the family you choose.

6. That one, brilliant pastor would finally be able to explain to my inquisitive, deeper-than-most mind the harshness of life.
No one can.
I’ve met some intellectually gifted, deeply genuine pastors whose hearts eventually lead to the same place as mine: on this side of heaven, we simply will not understand the unconscionable suffering.
While a significant amount of earthly sorrow is the result of a person’s poor behavior, much suffering is simply enigmatic.

7. Unlike everyone around me, I would enjoy a pain-free marriage. Hands down, my husband and I are among the most normal and committed couples you’ll meet in a world of truly crazy marriages. We have been married for 22 years, and are both utterly devoted to our family. But marriage has peaks and valleys and all couples are imperfect.
I love Hallmark movies and every Disney princess story, but real life is not a fairy tale.

8. Those 40-something women were eating way too much McDonald’s.
Hormones-schmormones. That’s what I thought at 25.
After going through early menopause at 40, I gained 10 pounds in a month and never ate fast food. Then, clothes that fit the new me 10lbs. heavier, suddenly didn’t fit me at 45.
Hormonal changes are real. The weight can go up or stay the same, but the dispersion of the weight is fearfully unpredictable.

9. Those 40-something women weren’t exercising.
It takes double the effort at 45 to earn the same physical results I did at 25. Who has “double the time” while raising three teenagers?
At 25, I was only doing three things: working on my Master’s, working, and working out.

10. Having faith will eventually get easier.
I know my bible better than I ever have and for me, faith is harder.
Years of observing our global, moral deterioration. Depraved abuse, abductions, perversion, lies, seemingly endless unanswered prayers…
Living in a society that names what is blatantly “wrong” as “right” makes it seem like the dark side is winning. Of course, the days are numbered and we know the Good One wins. (Rev. 22:20)