Friday, December 15, 2017

A Love Letter to My Children


Dear Children,

It's winter. A time when we pull out over a decade worth of tiny handprints on Christmas ornaments. A season when we focus on a baby, and a mama, and a family. A chance to reflect and remember all the Christmases before, holding tight to the good, and forgetting any bad...or trying to.

I have always said, "I hope my babies remember the best, and forget the worst."

And now, I wonder, will you?

I love you so much that my heart can hardly take the pride attack when you all achieve your goals, give us a glimpse at the people you are becoming, take the initiatives to step toward greatness.

My smile can’t be contained when I watch you all triumph in the face of adversity, even after we argue, even after words have stabbed like daggers, even after temper tantrums, and insecure parenting judgement calls.
Even though you roll your eyes, say heartbreaking things, choose everything else over me—I can’t help but love you.

I love you so much that I sit and watch each of you from a distance, allowing the worries to slip away, and admiring the differences I see between your childhoods and my own, and the similarities. 

You are the babies in my arms even when some of you don’t welcome hugs anymore. You are the little buddies who joined me at every grocery trip, every gas station stop, every morning breakfast table, and every evening snuggle time. One of you takes most of those trips to the gas station on his own now, and a couple of you just eat on the go. Snuggle time? Only half of you need that now...and sometimes, we are all too exhausted to even say goodnight.

My mama heart squeezes tight, and I want to forget for just a moment the fact that one of you is spreading his wings to take flight in a few short years. But, then, I struggle with a longing to speed through these days where every word seems to be a battle, and the angry looks are searing, and so many decisions shatter like glass.

I love you so much that even still, I wake up each morning to see what the day holds for each of you. You are my babies. And no matter what you think about me, I will be here for you until my last breath. You are my children. 

I pray only good things for you. Can you remember only the good things around here? Forget the bad? I can't help but wonder if you will. I can't help but worry. And most of all, I can't help but love you. 

Mom

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Mama Can Only Wonder


In my current work-in-progress, my characters have deep loss woven into their back stories, and they
must move forward regardless of the pain.

I think I just described every journey in the human experience. Hopefully, I can write the story in such a way that it's unique enough, yet familiar enough to find its way to shelves one day.

Lately, I've been good. After my enlightening walk through October (you can read it here), and a focus on my family this November, the first day of December promises a continued sprouting joy, and a promise of peace regardless of what's going on around me.

That's me. That's my condition.

But of course, I am not an island, and my heart's threads are strung up like Christmas lights upon the hearts of my children. Today, I can't shake knowing the loss in my children's life because of wrong words and painful rejection--at no fault of their own--and the curiosity is killing me to know how it's affecting them.
As an author, I dissect my characters' strife and hold it up to the light, looking for chances of redemption, but as a mama, I can't peek inside my children's souls and do the same. I can only pray for them. Sure, I can talk to them and rip off the bandaids of silence and try and doctor the wounds myself, but, as we all know, who wants someone digging up the garbage of their pain?

I just sit. And pray. And mourn the crap that they've found along this journey of human experience. Words hurt. Assumptions hurt. When I suffer from such things, I am forever licking my wounds trying to make sense of the why. Do our children do the same? Do they have the insight into pondering the why? In a selfish, ridiculous sense, I hope not. I hope that they just shrug it off, and let it roll away like  raindrops on a window pane--not caring deep enough yet for the crazy mistakes people make. My daughter seems to take life that way. At her young age of six, she is quick to change the topic when it's about a mean kid or a sad instance. But, I know the hurt's not completely gone. I know she's just pushing it aside because it's too much to feel for her little soul.

When will those grievances finally build up enough to push on her heart in such a way she can no longer ignore them?

Life is messy. It hurts to be on the outside looking in, and knowing you are out of control. Actually, that's one thing I learned in October. I try too hard to control others. I apologize because I want to control the peace. I talk waaaay too much and overanalyze so I can find compromise and common ground and be liked and like back. I pick and prod at my children's feelings so I can counsel them and lead them to joy and peace.

But it's not my job.

I am only effective if they are willing to listen. If they are ready to peek beneath the bandages and begin to investigate their hurts--with me guiding them.

My perspective on life has shifted in a good way, but my heart will always feel more than it probably should, and my mind will always travel the roads of others' human experiences--especially my children--aching to inspect how to find redemption for their losses.

Thank God for the calling to write. At least there, I can dive deep, and create alongside the only Redeemer who remembers no grief and wants to throw the bandaids away.

What's a mama writer to do with the non-fiction silence though? Right now, I know I just pray. Love my kids big, and pray that their character arcs are bathed in redemption that only One can bring in full.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Becoming October


About twenty-one Octobers ago, my husband, then-boyfriend, and I became exclusive--we said we were "together" and we said, "I love you," all in the same month. It was the month of hope, and love, and dreaming.

Now? Sitting in this October and looking back after seventeen years of marriage, and fifteen years of motherhood, I can say that hope has slipped into disappointment more often than not, and love has become entangled with expectation more often than it should. Yet, in this October, while the leaves are falling, something different is budding within me, and I can't hope or love the way I used to anymore.

Forty has been a rough age so far. When you reach these soul-shaking milestone birthdays, people often tell you to shrug it off and age doesn't mean anything. And whether it is just our imagination or the [old] mind playing tricks on us, these kinds of birthdays do change you--even if it's in some weird self-fulfilling mental lapse kind of way.

Needless to say, I've not enjoyed forty-year-old Angie at all.

On the outside looking in, you see a newly published author, a proud mama of four kids, a wife of a super-hero kinda dad, and a woman who really shouldn't complain.

But on the inside...

It's been pretty void. I feel like my insides are a vacuum, and everything in my brain has been screaming, "ME", and everything in my heart has been shouting, "Get OUT".

It's like that commercial where the person unzips their current body and a whole different person is inside. You know what I'm talking about?

Well, if forty year old Angie had a choice, she'd unzip this person and escape the mess inside. How many times have I told my husband that I just want to crawl out of my skin? How many times have I said I just want to run away? How many times have I absorbed my children's bickering and melted into despair? How many times have I taken that sock lying on the floor so personally, that it makes me send the kids to bed without a kiss goodnight? How many times have I fought for something stupid like a clean kitchen and ruined the chance to have family time because Mama ain't happy?

Somewhere along the way, I've fallen for the lie that it's all about me and what I control. Somewhere along the way, I've become a consumer of my family, and my church, and my world.

And the vacuum inside me just sucks up the justification, the proven points, and the reprimands, and I realize that I have nothing but the crappy broken threads that wrap around the vacuum roller and eventually stop the whole thing from working.

Those broken threads are heartstrings that I've shunned, shamed, shut out from tangling with my own. It's all about me, and I'm just too busy trying to clean up messes without stopping and trying to mend what's going to break.

Well, I was the broken one. And I had wanted change for so long, but I just couldn't unwind those stupid messy strings from the roller. I was stuck.

I was the one who was sitting in a dark pit of despair, feeling hopeless and alone in this whole thing we call life.

So, one day at the beginning of October, I started to listen. I thought, "Maybe I should look for something different." When life feels completely stale and not worth trying for anymore, something different seems like a good change. And I took this tiny little step.

And something amazing happened.

That step took me outside of myself. SERIOUSLY. Like, the little step had me sit in a church I'd hardly ever been and listen to a speaker I'd hardly ever heard. And even though the sermon was hardly something to blow me away, a whisper within the sermon knocked the wind out of me.

And that's the beginning.

Over the next few weeks, EVERYWHERE I turn--whether it be my church services, my Bible study, a conference call for work, a parents' gathering for my son's youth group...EVERYWHERE that I am expectant for God's wisdom...about SEVEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE so far...some who are connected, some who don't even know each other...EVERYWHERE I TURNED GOD SAID THE SAME THING TO ME.

For someone who WAS hopeless, and self-centered, and trying to take control to a point of destruction, I was slowly aroused from my darkest slumber by these three concepts that each of the seven encounters have mentioned and centered their messages on:

Humility

Hope

Living Sacrifice

Coincidence? Go ahead, call it that. There's no special liturgical calendar the seven encounters were using to guide their messages to me. But, I am here to tell you, that the mess deep down inside me is so ministered by the resonance of each encounter speaking the SAME wisdom to me, in such a personal way--meeting me where I'm at--that I can't even begin to deconstruct my experiences and find a way to attribute it to my [old] mind playing tricks on me.

Something inside me woke up...and it wasn't a noisy vacuum. It was a flood of sweet repentance for my inward focus, and a swishing revival of faith--smaller than a mustard seed--but a faith that promises hope again.

This October, I am becoming again. I am not finished in this growing up business...forty really is just a number. I am still figuring this all out. And I am seeing myself outside myself again...but I'm not trying to run away. I'm outside looking further outside--at those I love, at this chance I get to commune with a God who put up with me in the mess, and still sits with me there when I inevitably stumble back again. I can actually see hope in the next step, when before, all I could see was the tangled mess.

October. A month I once fell in love--for the final time. And a month I once gave birth to a son. October. A month filled with changing color. And a month of changing me.

***

Here are a few of the people who've spoken God's words to me. By no doing of my own, except saying yes to the environment they met me at. Completely organic. But completely ordained:

James MacDonald (study, Think Differently)
Greg Hawkins (actually heard him on a conference call, then was led to this book--More)
Andy Stanley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMpj0cXldnk&feature=youtu.be)

(and....sermons on Hope at Lutheran Church of Hope, and on Solitude and Servitude at Meredith Drive Reformed Church...um...and I just realized, I named this post, "Becoming"...and that's the name of the sermon series at my church...BUT IT'S TRUE FOR ME TOO).





Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Living in the Grey


Our counselor of several years, once told us that kids tend to see issues through a black and white lens. It's up to us as parents to encourage our children to not fear the chance that there are more sides to an issue, and that it's alright to think beyond the status quo and come up with a thoughtful perspective.

Ooh, that sounds scary. Having these little minds around who don't accept truth because you say so? Believe me, I completely get that. It was my BIGGEST fear for my children when my husband stepped away from the church.

But, letting go of that fear has been my GREATEST freedom--a freedom that sometimes opens the gates for frustration when I see adults taking the black and white approach on an issue. When I see human brokenness treated as a mis-step from the "right" side of the issue, I cringe at the disregard that the issue might be the outcome of a deeper problem...a deeper wound...even an actual NEED that has yet to be met.

In the face of government fiascos, gender wars, sports figures' choices, sexuality debates, or even doctrinal differences, what if we didn't just choose a side, but saw the issues from all sides, and not just realize the topic, but dig deeper into the reason for the hurt, the need, the sprouting of such an issue?

What if those of us who just say "yes" to the one side of an issue because that's how it has been done, or SHOULD be done, are missing out on the chance to understand humanity deeper, and to realize the ultimate need for a Savior beyond even ourselves (even our "right")?

The only black and white Truth walked among all the grey and understood the brokenness. 

He didn't shame anyone for their weakness, but offered strength in something beyond a yes or no. He cared for the most colorful and diverse entity on Earth--the human heart.

I am not saying to live lukewarm. Or that we become lukewarm. On the contrary, I am suggesting that we stop shouting like clanging cymbals and getting fired up by the symptom, and start offering healing to the hearts that need us--every human, no matter their affiliation, opinion, or side.

I don't want to contribute to the divide on matters that don't matter as much as the people affected by them. I want to be the messy smear of black and white and show how we can step into the grey and find color again.

Find hearts again.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Everything is Right...& You are Miserable.


Ever like your social media self better than that person in the mirror?

I am sure you are thinking--wow, did she just say that? Honestly, I try and be as authentic as I can on social media, but we all know, it's a two-dimensional space. I can either put misery on the screen, or happiness. And when I have SO much good going on, HOW in the world can I dump my troubled heart on a FB status? Mixed signals, much? Two-faced? Hypocrite? Ungrateful...ugh. The slander continues in my brain as I assume every ill thing someone can spit at the screen boasting two different messages that are Angie Dicken.

But, believe me, even feeling these deep, dark emotions in light of my giddy steps through the door of publication and the joys of growing my children, makes my sub-conscious scream the same. 

YOU hypocrite.

It's that other dimension, you know? The one you can't see...the one I can't see--but oh, I can feel it more than the droplets of rain on my head this dreary Saturday afternoon. This gloominess is tangling with every fiber within me. I feel it. Too deeply. It eclipses all that is good.

It reminds me that the stuff of this world is just not enough. There IS a spiritual world at war here. No matter what naysayers speak so closely in my ear. No matter the denial I am exposed to day in and day out. There IS a battle going on in my heart and I am afraid I will suffocate by it.

I am exhausted. I am sad. I am heartbroken.

And it's because I let myself think I was okay for so long. And I neglected the condition of my heart. If you've been with me on this past three and half year journey, you know that the first year of that was valley walking. In the valley though, God had drawn close, and I crawled along the floor, ready to climb out. That upward climb was deceiving though, because even though I reached higher ground,  I had expected a lush spiritual revival. What I found was a dry desert, one where even my God decided to remain behind in the valley. Well, that's what it feels like anyway. Maybe He raced ahead? Maybe he's given me this strange time of external successes, only to show me how bankrupt my insides are. I need Him more than ever, and I can hardly see past the mirages on the coarse sand upon which I stand. Hazy fabrications of what I think I need, and no fulfillment in sight.

I need Him. I've always needed Him. And there is nothing in this world that can fill that hole. No matter how hard I focus on what I have, I don't have enough if I don't have Him.

So, I sit here, in constant gratitude for everything that's gone right, but miserable because I had believed it would fix me.

Only He can. And, I'll hold on to that. If there is one place that I've learned this most, it's in my journey as an author. The one place He's showed up time and again is when I gather with my fellow author friends. One external thing that meets my internal turmoil with healing, is my community of writer friends. 


I am holding on, waiting for Him to slow down ahead, and let me catch up. Just a few more days, and I hope the healing will begin.