Day Nineteen: Worry About Yourself

When I first saw this video, I laughed to tears. This little girl is priceless. Her struggle, real. And I can relate to it on SO many levels. First of all, I can relate because she and I are kindred spirits in the “I do it myself” battle. I do NOT need your help, and even if I try (and fail) at something a jillion times, I’ve got it. If you offer to help, there’s a good chance things will get ugly – “No Kank You” (for reals). Part of my stubborn personality is certainly the nurture side. Robinson Drive gave me the tenacity to keep chasing the dream and fighting the fight. Knock me down, and I will get back up; wounded, but never defeated. And part of that personality is nature – the way God made me. When I set my mind to something and when I have a fire in my belly – look out!!

The other part of this video that I can relate to is the “worry about yourself” portion of the show. I am endlessly preaching this to my kids (and therefore do my very best to live it). I don’t give a rats rear that Jimmy gets three Twinkies in his lunch every day. Different house, different rules. And so-and-so may have a TV in their room, or no restrictions on social media, but this mom is cray cray, and will coach you endlessly about not being able to “unsee” things, about wearing leggings responsibly, and about being a good friend both online and face to face. We need to be far more concerned about our own opportunities for growth, than to be finger pointing and judging. Worry about yourself, and say “no kank you” to measuring others, or you will be endlessly fighting your seat belt on the struggle bus.

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Day Eighteen: Awana Wednesdays

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Wednesdays often remind me of the Awana years. I’d don the red vest, climb into the car and we’d make our way to the Baptist Church. Dinner was usually rushed, either beforehand or on the way, and as a working mama myself, I have nothing but compassion for that struggle. The other part of the struggle was the family clunker. We had one car (a Caprice, I want to say?) that had been involved in a storm before it came to us. The pleather roof was peeling (which made for fun sound effects), and I’ll never forget the day we were headed to Awanas and the driveline fell out, right there on Robinson Drive. Nothing to see folks, nothing to see. Character building at it’s finest.

I don’t remember a ton about Awanas – the vest for sure, and memorizing bible versus to add jewels to my crowns. I imagine my crowns were mostly full – that would have been important to Tracy of Robinson Drive. And I remember my Awana leaders – the people who welcomed me with open arms each week, and prayed with me, and for me throughout my childhood (and beyond). But, somehow, church was still a tough place for me. Even though I wore the same red vest as all the other Sparks, I sure felt different. It was probably the shame that I carried from home, but I never felt good enough to walk through those doors. And that’s the irony that I experienced with church – it should have been the safe zone, and a place of grace, but it often felt like the judgement zone and all my sins (and my father’s) must’ve been written out on that red vest.

I had the same experience when I moved 2000 miles away from Robinson Drive to attend a small, Christian College. I STILL felt like I was hustling the red vest, and just couldn’t get enough jewels in my crown to ever be good enough. I was surrounded by all these “Christians” and felt so utterly alone, and isolated, because this little light of mine had been snuffed out by shame, by the feeling that I would NEVER be worthy. And that’s the thing I’ve learned about grace – it isn’t earned like jewels in a crown, and it isn’t null and void when we mess up. Grace is free, it’s new every day, and it is WAY more powerful than the judgement of others. This (not so) little light of mine, I AM going to let it shine. On Awana Wednesdays, and always. 🙂

Day Seventeen: Bathroom Mushrooms and Built-in Watering Systems

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It’s pouring down rain here tonight, and that sound always reminds me of Robinson Drive. I imagine the house wasn’t always in a state of disrepair, but as the years wore on, it became harder to ignore. For instance, in the bathroom, either the pipes were constantly leaking, or there was some botanical force at work, as there were actual mushrooms (we affectionately called them the “bathroom variety”) growing along the floor boards near the toilet. Wish I was kidding. There were rumors that the entire house was held together by steel wool and duct tape, in an attempt to keep the mice out. “No self-respecting mouse would come crawling through those holes”, Ken would say. Mice must need lessons on self-respect.

And then there was the “don’t touch anything that isn’t nailed down” feature of Robinson Drive. The top shelf in the fridge was held up by the red pitcher (many an unsuspecting guest would reach for that pitcher, only to have the entire contents of the shelf cascade to the floor). Even my bed – it broke at some point, and I tucked a handful of encyclopedias under the broken board to hold it up. Pretty sure that’s how I became the valedictorian of the Class of 1994; wisdom by osmosis. I had to carefully choose what subjects to write reports on throughout the years as it was quite the process to switch those bad boys out!?

But, my all-time favorite feature of Robinson Drive had to be the way the ceiling in my bedroom became “pregnant” (the roof was in severe disrepair, and the drop down panels started to bulge from all the leaking). I told Ken that my ceiling was pregnant, but he just shook his head at me. Every time it rained, I would get so nervous that the bubble would burst and Ken would throttle me. And sure enough, one magical, rainy day, my ceiling gave birth. Ken came UNglued, and wasn’t especially amused when we took a plant from the living room and placed it under the leak, as a built-in watering system. “You have a sick sense of humor”, he would say. You kinda had to, to make it through those years on Robinson Drive.

So the house that built me caused plenty of tears and scars. But it also gave me determination to make the most of even the darkest moments, and quite the sense of humor (yes, a slightly sick one;). Besides – where else can you study plant life and/or practice the culinary arts, all while going to the bathroom??

In so many ways, the house that built me, was truly a gift. Today, when I hear rain pouring down, I smile at the simple blessing of a ceiling without a skylight. 😉

Day Sixteen: Always Trust Your Cape

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This epic picture showed up in my Facebook flashbacks yesterday. There are countless reasons why I am in love with this picture. Those are my babies. My little firecracker on the left – she came into this world screeching, and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion still today.  She’s pure confidence and sassy silliness, with equal measure ninja focus when the moment requires it. My old soul on the right – wisdom beyond his years and an unmatched sensitivity to the world around him. Lights up a room and knows how to work a crowd, yet saves space for his friends and melts my heart with his hugs. These (not so) little super heroes motivate me every day to get after it, and live life with arms wide open.

This picture also reminds me of another great song. “The Cape” by Guy Clark:

“Eight years old with a flour sack cape tied all around his neck
He climbed up on the garage, he’s figurin’ what the heck, well
He screwed his courage up so tight that the whole thing come unwound
He got a runnin’ start and bless his heart, he’s headed for the ground

Well, he’s one of those who knows that life is just a leap of faith
Spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape”

That’s the kind of courage that Robinson Drive taught me. I ALWAYS knew there was more to life than what existed in that wood-paneled place. I knew one day it would get better (or I would) and no matter what was thrown my way, I could always trust my cape. Today, nothing is more rewarding than watching my littles find their own courage to navigate life. I’ll teach them to spread their arms, and hold their breath and take the leap of faith. And until they figure out how all of that works, they can trust my cape. Always.

Day Fifteen: Who will love me for me?

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As I’ve mentioned before, music has always been my outlet and my way to make sense of the world. A few years ago, I came across the song “What Love Really Means” by JJ Heller :   https://youtu.be/PgGUKWiw7Wk

“He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story
No one would believe
He prays every night
‘Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here
Who will love me?’

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done
Or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means”

I prayed that same prayer countless times on Robinson Drive. And based on the stories that many of you have shared, I imagine I’m not alone. In my darkest hours, I leaned on my faith. Faith in a God who knows my tears and all my uglies, and loves me anyway. And even when I searched for that love in places that only created more wounds, I knew I was never far from His love. Never out of His reach. And my prayer for all of you, is that you will know this same love. He will love you for YOU. ❤

Day Fourteen: There Will Be Consequences

So I haven’t been completely honest lately. I’ve been back to living in shame in the shadows. I received a little feedback, that perhaps my story sharing was embarassing, and even hurtful to some. I retreated back and started writing about subjects that aren’t as revealing, in an attempt to say SOMEthing, but not hurt feelings.  Share some wisdom, but don’t “go deep” and all will be well. But it has NOT been well. It has not been well because I’ve spent my whole life protecting the secrets, tucking away the shame, and carrying the weight of events that were out of my control, and absolutely NOT my fault.

Recently, a well-intentioned friend, offered some advice about how to navigate some silly mama drama. I was upset about the way I was being treated, and wanted to confront the bully in the situation. My friend quickly warned – “just know, if you speak up, there WILL be consequences”. I was instantly paralyzed for a million reasons. First of all, she failed to validate what I was feeling in that moment (I was really upset) and second of all, she used THE line that ruled my childhood. That’s EXACTLY what my perpetrator would say when he was violating my trust and my body. “If you speak up, there will be consequences” So I would lay still, say nothing, and pray that it would be over quickly. But it went on for several years.

And when I finally spoke up, the consequences were soley mine. They never should have been mine to carry, but we lived in a time where sexual abuse was not discussed. We would just make sure it never happened again. Until the next time he came over. And the cycle of shame and guilt, and pain would start all over again. No child should EVER go through that, and sadly, it’s this sick cycle that seems to be passed on from generation to generation. We know the pain, because we also experienced it as a child, but we can’t quite find the courage to put an end to the cycle.

And THAT is why I share my story. Not to point fingers, or play the victim. Not to create a vicious blame game, but simply to make it clear – the cycle stops here. NOW. Not talking about it, does NOT make it go away. Furthermore, we have to be the voice for our children – we have to keep them safe, and defend them, and BELIEVE them when they speak up. Nothing is more damaging than leaving the burden of sexual abuse on a child. I can tell you, if I found out that someone was hurting my children in that way, I would lay down my life to protect them. There has been a hole in my soul for the better part of my life due to the consequences that never should have been mine. And I will stop the cycle.

So this post is for that little girl on Robinson Drive (and for every other victim of sexual abuse) who so desperately needed to be protected. I believe you, and I’m so sorry for what you went through. No more consequences. The cycle ends here. ❤

Day Thirteen: Objects in Mirror…

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This was the beginning of my Friday. I acheived this level of brilliance while backing out of the garage to go to work. Haven’t done that before. I contemplated duct taping the mirror in place so it would still be functional (yet stylish and subtle;), but in the end, chose to remove the glass so it wouldn’t cause more damage. And the show had to go on – I still needed to get out to my accounts and get work done. After a lunch meeting, I went back out to the car to show a co-worker my fine accomplishment, and noticed a HUGE nail in my back tire. I SURRENDER!! So that’s a busted mirror and a tire that could go flat at any moment.

While driving my character builder (it was dead to me as a car) to the dealership, I couldn’t help but notice how difficult it was to navigate without that mirror. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear? Objects straight up can’t be seen without that darned mirror!? And every time I needed to change lanes, I was forced to look all the way over my shoulder, to check (and triple check) that the coast was clear. I was constantly looking back, and not having the benefit of the mirror, was a frustrating reminder of the mistake that I had made while pulling out of the garage.

And in the midst of the battle (you know that’s what it had become;), it occured to me that life is much the same way. When we lack clarity on what’s around us, and on where we stand in relation to those around us, we get stuck looking over our shoulder at a past that we cannot change. We spend our time hustling for approval and we forget to stand tall in the confidence that we know where we are headed. It’s so easy to get lost. It’s so easy to compare ourselves with all the other objects in the mirror, and to question our path. And when we find it necessary to change lanes, we can take a quick glance, and have the courage to make that change.