Peace and Trust Amidst the Pieces

Sometimes life just breaks your heart. And the smallest of things can push it over the edge and shatter it into a million pieces.

The smallest of things was the Pinewood Derby car.

Rewind to the weekend of January 13th.

Two weeks of constant hammering resulted in a very down, disenchanted me.

Girl Scout cookies were upon us. Anaiah usually comes in about last in her troop because, alas, I work outside of the home. I’m unavailable from 7:30 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. This town and all it’s organized forces are pretty much built on the idea that #1) Mom stays home and Dad works, or #2) there’s a huge local network to support Mom, Dad, or both if they aren’t together and both work, or #3) there’s a huge local network to support Mom and Dad if they are together and both work. Either way, we don’t fit and normally our cookie sales show it. We fell off the nuclear family bus somewhere in the bowels of 2012, and that pretty much determines our fate with the townsfolk. We can’t do booths or deliver cookies during the week and we don’t personally know many people here, so Anaiah ends up selling the bare minimum and I hear about it until the next cookie season. As a side note, “personally knowing” someone here apparently means I’ve gone from kindergarten to twelfth grade with them, or I am in their immediate or extended family, or I was once in their immediate or extended family, or we share children, and since none of those apply to us central Texas natives, our cookie sales and social acceptance hover around a solid D+. Cookie season is an adventure.

Work took an unusually trying turn. I love my job and most of the people there, but a few scattered weeks of projects that never quite end had my anxiety through the roof. I didn’t have a chance to adequately complete my normal job duties because of all of the last-minute additional tasks thrown my way, and no structure or routine makes me a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. Winter weather or even just the potential of winter weather makes work exponentially more frantic…. and brine season is upon us, friends.

Katy (my cousin), Jarrod (her husband), and I decided to start the Whole30 on January 7th. Jasmine (my best friend from high school) and Keith (her husband) happened to be starting at the time. Katy and Jarrod live in Waco and Jas and Keith live north of Ft. Worth, so my support is long distance, but they’re amazing and it works. I deemed it a perfect time to jump off into the challenging pit of no dairy, legumes, sugar, gluten, or alcohol… right as cookie, derby car, and brine season kicked off. Oh, and I also committed to working out at least four days a week, drinking a gallon of water a day, reading at least 24 books in 2019 and completing two Bible studies simultaneously with two different groups of people, which requires me to get up at 4:15 am and go to sleep around 11 pm or so.

Which brings me to January 13th, sitting in my car by myself in my driveway, sobbing maybe a little bit uncontrollably, with my kids standing outside of my closed car door, trying to figure out if this was the time I finally lose my ever-loving mind and drive away, or maybe my head dramatically blows off due to stress and self-deprecating mommy guilt, or we all get back in the car, head south to the mall and buy a ton of stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have, efficiently and effectively boarding the over-compensation bus, which always dumps us off in the same place it picked us up, just more empty, broke, and completely convicted of our failures as humans in general, where we just suspected it prior to boarding.

January 13th we had a Tiger Den meeting. We don’t have a den leader, so the parents are working together to get us through this year. We have really great kids with really great parents so it works out. The meeting went well… mostly us moms sweating over the glue gun making bird houses while *someone’s* son (mine…) taught a captive audience how to make fart noises with his armpit. You can only get so much productivity out of seven-year-old boys on a Sunday afternoon… and who’s to say the fart noises won’t take them farther in future circles than the bird houses.

The meeting was wrapping up, and we all went outside to scout for birds. While the boys are looking with one of the dads, the moms gather around and start discussing the upcoming derby car race. I do not join in the conversation. The overwhelming consensus is that the cars are taken care of… they’re in the garage in the dads’ domain and the moms haven’t really seen them since they came home in the box. If you’ve never had derby car experience as I never had, “in the box” means a single block of wood in a box. Eager Cub and Boy Scouts across the nation carve this block of wood into a car (with the help of an experienced saw-wielding grownup, usually who helped create them) and design it to their liking, with the end goal of it being the fastest in the pack. They race them together on a predetermined date and the Derby Car King is crowned.

Anyway, this mom hadn’t looked at the block of wood, either, but it wasn’t in Dad’s garage awaiting clear coat. It was in its original box, in my center console, because I was hoping if I didn’t look at it it might go away or we might get the flu or Jesus would come back and I wouldn’t have to look at it and figure it out. How many days off, how many YouTube videos, and how many return trips to Home Depot and Hobby Lobby would I have to make to ensure that this block of wood evolved into something my son could take in public and race against his friends? Over the prior two weeks, so many situations had translated in my mind and heart to me falling short of enough, and this stupid block of wood combined with my son’s excited and expectant heart just broke me.

I said my holly jolly goodbyes to the other moms at the meeting and at least made it back to my driveway before the crazy came untucked. I found myself staring at this block of wood in my lap and couldn’t stop the tears, which soon became loud sobs that I couldn’t even pretend to reign in. About five minutes into my own personal train wreck, Jasmine called. She was calling about Whole30, but quickly asked what was wrong. I tried to dry it up, but thankfully twenty years of reading between my lines is an expertise of hers, and it saves me so many clumsy words. I very loudly told her that the kids were staring at me from outside the car and I had this block of wood in my lap that I could not transform into a car. She listened to me go on for a few minutes, then said, “When do you need it?” I said January 27th at 1 pm, and she said, “Easy. Keith is doing ours. He can make it, I can overnight it, Kannon can paint it, and you call it done.” I argued for about half a second, but I think that was out of some strange but innate southern politeness code, because honestly its close to the best thing I’ve ever heard. She told me to stop worrying about it and drink my water. I love her so much.

The derby car was built, primed, and overnighted on January 21st in plenty of time for Kan to decorate it and make it his own. It was sent via UPS, and was originally scheduled to be delivered on January 22nd. I tracked it the morning of the 22nd, and delivery had been pushed to the 23rd. The UPS guy usually comes as I’m heading back to work after lunch, so I normally get all of my deliveries in person. He’s pulling in my driveway as I’m getting in my car to go back to work. It is a beautiful dance we do. I went home for lunch on the 23rd, and he didn’t come. I closed the gate and let the dog out before heading back, as I do a few times a week.

When I returned home Wednesday evening after work, I fully expected to grab the package from the back porch. It wasn’t there. Tracking said it was delivered at 1:19 pm to the rear door. The gate was closed and the dog was out, but my UPS guy sometimes comes through the side gate and puts packages under the plant stand by the back door even so, which normally works out great. I started sweating a little, because if he said it was delivered, it was, and it was no where to be found. I walked to the front and back a few times to be sure and absolutely no sign of the car. I immediately started talking to God, and it wasn’t a “great is thy faithfulness” kind of conversation. It was a “why does everything have to be so hard” and “please don’t make me tell them it didn’t come” and “how am I going to replace this car” kind of conversation. I’m expecting the worst. I am expecting that my blessing is going to spoil right before my eyes, and I’m already taking the situation back from God, asking him to please, please fix it, all the while trying to fix it myself, and not knowing if it is even broken yet.

As soon as I laid down to sleep that night, the most horrible scenario hit me – the dog. Oh my goodness the dog was out. Violet is a sweet, beautiful, crazy, anxiety-ridden blue pit that absolutely obliterates anything she can get in her mouth. I have had packages left at the rear door many times prior, but they’d always been fairly big. She’d never bothered any before, but this package was smaller than a shoe box. I jumped out of bed, grabbed the flashlight, and walked the backyard in my pajamas and Uggs, trying desperately to find any sign of this poor car that I was now sure was being digested as I panicked. I covered every inch of the yard until it started pouring so heavily that I couldn’t keep my glasses clean. Off to bed I went, praying that it wasn’t so, praying that God would fix it, then taking it back from him and running scenarios in my head. I was sure there was no way this would end positively and there was some lesson to be learned. All I could see was my baby’s disappointed tears and another stamp of failure on my passport of parenthood. My stomach returned to my throat and I was back where I started. At some point in this loop, God said, “Trust equals peace, Chass. You can’t have the peace you’re asking for without fully trusting Me to take care of this. They go hand in hand.” Such a huge revelation brought on by a tiny derby car, but doesn’t it work that way most of the time?

Thursday morning found me in my favorite chair mulling over the word I received the night before. Abundant peace requires complete trust. The car was still in the back of my mind, but I was brought to the entrance of a few more more situations in my life in dire need of peace. In each situation, I realized I was holding the bulk of the issue on my shoulders, running scenarios in my mind, much like I’d been doing with the mysterious missing package the day before. I tend to tell God, “Alright, I’ll give You this part of the problem. I’m going to go ahead and hold on to this other part of it, and wait and see what you do with the part I gave you, before I give you the rest of it.” And God says, “No deal. All or nothing.” Then I shuffle the parts around and try the same conversation with God again, expecting Him to say something different. Lesson learned. It will take me beyond a lifetime to get my peace/trust ensemble exactly right, but I am so excited to start practicing. Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

At sunrise on Thursday morning, I’m dressed and ready to walk the yard again in the daylight. It takes two careful inspections of the yard before I see something sticking out of the ground in the very back near the fence line. My heart sinks a little as I discover a soggy, mauled cardboard box addressed to my son more than halfway buried in the wet dirt. I dig it up and sneak it into the house under my coat. Kannon is finishing his homework at the dining room table and I desperately do not want him to watch me open this thing. I somberly open the completely destroyed box, and find the most perfect, little, primed derby car you ever did see. Absolutely perfect. Okay. Here’s where the “great is thy faithfulness” conversation happens, and it happens big. It’s my favorite Thursday morning in all of my 37 years so far.

Derby Day came and went, and Kannon won first place in his den. He was on top of the world and the win was so timely for his little boy’s heart. He needed it badly. I’m not sure which one of us was more excited, but honestly, the journey was so much more rewarding than the end result. I think that was the point all along. We needed the reminder that we are loved, cared for and worth some effort. Jasmine and I never solved this particular problem when we were cruising the town at sixteen and seventeen, but rest assured this is the most important one we’ve thrown in on to date.

God is good ALL the time. We aren’t faithful and He knows it and is still good all the time. He gives us people who are capable and eager to pick up the shattered peces and glue them back together when we can’t do it ourselves. Sometimes He loves us best through the people he gifts us. Blessings abound, y’all. We just have to trust in our God, in ourselves and in our people. Once we get out of our own way, the rest is cake.

“But he answered and said, ‘Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up’.” – Matthew 15:13

Spear thistles are my favorite. They have beautiful purple-pink flowers that contrast starkly with the deep, healthy green of the stem and leaves.  Thistles provide a substantial amount of nectar for all kinds of pollinators, but are almost unanimously described as “short-lived” and “sometimes annuals, sometimes perennials.” Fickle, fleeting, pretty weeds. Thistles are  beautiful, until they are used up, run out of nectar and serve no purpose. Then they are discarded and exterminated. I have cultivated and operated in thistle mentality for almost every single second of my 37 years. I’ve gotten excellent at it. Parts of it have become hard-wired as parts of me. 

My purpose has always been to make others feel good about themselves. Take all the nectar. Enjoy the pretty flowers. Sure, please take it all. I don’t mind… When they feel good about themselves, I, in turn, feel good about myself. I have entertained entire friendships and romantic relationships simply because I didn’t want to make another human feel bad about themselves or experience any kind of pain at my hand… Unwrapping a microwave around the tree at some poor fool’s family Christmas and thanking his parents with a robotic smile because I didn’t want him to feel less of a person because he bored me to tears. Being a people pleaser has created more hurt than disappointing honesty ever could. And, just so we are absolutely clear, being a “people pleaser” is code for looking for love in all the wrong places. For real, Johnny Lee. I see you. Unfortunately, my life was a country song… that one… for a really long time. Lest we lose steam, let’s journey on…

“People pleasing” in all forms is a sneaky, subconscious way to soothe bleeding hearts and coddle deep wounds still infected by past pain. Historically speaking, it has unfailingly served as a comforting, addicting way to pat myself on the head and tell myself I am pretty and smart and all the things when no one else feels tasked with the burden. When my nectar is gone and my kind of pretty elicits boredom from whosoever’s attention I’m craving at the present time in life, I have habitually exhausted every avenue available to give, give, give of myself, making the bearer of my self-worth “happy” and, in turn, gotten a little hit off of that… just enough to hold me over until the next time. All of those unsightly relationship choices that made no sense to anyone and lasted way past their expiration date? Life choices that were made solely benefiting anyone and everyone but myself? All the times I took the harder road because it would make a particular situation better for someone else who barely knew my name? The thistle is pretty and provides all kinds of nectar, but isn’t so much about self-care or self-respect. We’re uprooting them all. They’re clearly weeds. 

Matthew 15:13 grabs me with both hands every single time I cruise by it, or, every single time it is thrown at the dead center of my forehead, as it has been consistently for a few months. There aren’t coincidences when scripture is involved. I don’t know many things for sure but I know that. Sometimes I unsuccessfully attempt to ignore and disregard scripture when it is quite literally shoved in front of my stubborn eye holes. There you go, Chassati… circle that mountain for forty years and see how that works for you… I preach to my children daily about good versus bad choices resulting in good versus bad consequences, and my grown self has chosen to make bad choices for years and decades. I’ve basically been asking – praying – begging – for huge sweeping change, and I haven’t honestly been open to it. The actions have not matched the intent. I confuse myself, so I’ve been praying about and mulling over (which is often the same thing) what changes must be made. Die to self. Eyes on God. What prevents change? What keeps us comfortably underperforming and clinging to mediocrity as if every shred of life in our mortal bodies depends on it?

Habits. Debilitating situations and relationships have corroded the hardwiring, creating habitual, short circuits that subconsciously deploy when presented with forward movement and progress. An opportunity for positive change and growth, you say? No, thank you, Creator of the Universe. I have habits in place to protect me from such change. I will contentedly and securely sit right here and marinate in my functioning, numb apathy. Blind, trusted muscle memory and constant fear of the unknown have kept me repeating the same patterns and muscling through the same lukewarm, septic habits for longer than I care to admit. False security and mediocrity are comfortable, debilitating diseases. I have quite literally been circling the mountain for almost as long the Israelites. This could have taken around 11 days… or even 11 years would be better than almost 40. “You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward.” (Deuteronomy 2:3 ESV) Okay, God. I hear you.

We obviously have to rip out most of the hardwiring, uproot the weeds, and start over. The hardwiring is the most labor-intensive to reroute and replace and the pretty weeds are the hardest to uproot. However, after gross amounts of neglect over the course of decades, the wiring is corroded and the weeds have become so dense that we can’t see anything else. The wiring has to be redone and the weeds have to go. Not the tiny, insignificant periphrial repairs I hoped God would point out and disspell with the wave of His capable hand, but the big, huge cornerstones of what 37 years of being me and living like me and thinking and feeling like me have birthed. God, show me what changes need to take place. Show me how I can best serve you. Ask and you shall receive – and I am receiving. ALL. THE. THINGS. 

Things I know for sure: Changes required of me right now in November of 2018 are complete and staggering. Mo Isom says it best. “Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Wow, okay. Seriously, folks. Put on your leathers and get ready to ride. Also, truths and expectations and callings can and will flow in and out of the socially-acceptable perimeters set by our family, friends, and traditional church. AND they can change. Coloring outside of the lines is encouraged. 

Our little family is in a season of change and progress and growth. All three of us individually and the collective “we.” In order to lean into this season and be maliable, we have to surrender to God’s path for our lives and forget all traces of our own whims and fantasies. My fantasies have been a huge source of comfort for me since I was a tiny child, and its a security blanket that has been surprisingly hard to let go. I never viewed them as damaging before, but they are. I’ve spent a lot of my life in hurtful situations and relationships where being present meant being raw, exposed, attacked and bleeding constantly. My goal was to not be present in the present, and my own mind was the most effective and safest escape.

I heard a sermon about a year ago (that I can’t properly site because I’ve slept since then) that directed listeners to include God in all fantasies and daydreams and consciously note how different they looked when He was present. The before and after was a gut punch for me. My consistent prayer for about a year has been to clearly hear God’s voice above all of the others and to find my purpose and pursue it relentlessly for His glory, however, He was not included not once anywhere in the secret places I escaped to in my own mind and heart. He wasn’t ever there with me in my hiding places. I further discovered, quite alarmingly, that I was excluding God on purpose, because His path is the “harder” road to travel and my mind and heart, in the midst of the aforementioned situations and relationships, screamed for relief and ease and reprieve a lot louder than God knocked on the door. The knocks always come in the still and quiet of seeking. I was not wholeheartedly seeking, and I was definitely not still and quiet. I was just surviving. Physically breathing in and out and bracing myself for the next blow, and coping by retreating into the secret places in my mind and heart devoid of God or anyone or anything else that could potentially comfort me me but most probably hurt me. Including God in my fantasies and daydreams takes a lot of conscious effort and rewiring on my part, but grace and hope are powerful forces. The Holy Spirit, who embodies hope, alters the perspective of change from scary and downright offensive to new, exciting, opportunity and growth. 

We’re on to something for sure, y’all. Habits must change. Fields must be gleaned. Chains must be broken. Purposes and paths will be discovered and rediscovered and rerouted. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Key to Whatever is Next

Transparency is the key to whatever is next for all of us. I’ve just come into my own on that one, because for years I’ve been folding more and more into myself. Sunday’s message was a doozie, and so timely. I feel like Richard is in my head every time he’s planning a sermon. His sermons speak volumes to us, and that’s what we need.

The message was on a lot of things, but my takeaway was regarding relationships –  specifically how we need to fertilize and tend to our relationships. We can spread the gospel and witness to those closest to us with love, in turn creating a domino effect that reaches well past our front and back doors and property lines. Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” Substitute ‘Christ’ for ‘happiness’ and we’re exactly there. She also said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Both fully apply. There’s been a common thread in all of my goings on lately. The words spoken to me through various tangible and intangible avenues are all surrounding relationship, trust, abundance, and tenacity. So, somehow that all equals transparency. In order to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this hell-centric Earth, we need to give our real selves to the light of day instead of protecting our most vulnerable parts with the shadows of dark night.

I absolutely love staying in the shadows of the dark and praying no one will see me or even notice I’ve checked out. Its super comfy and self-serving. But, I’ve stayed there too long, checked out for too long. According to several professionals and books, it’s changed the way my brain works and my body chemistry. I’m a different person than I was because of my learned tendency to withdraw, which is not innate for me. Humans are created to crave fruitful community and, contrary to popular belief, I am still human. So, with that being said, Jesus is still in my heart, and God is still on the throne, and I’m not buying the neatly wrapped crap the greater “they” is gifting me.  I’m going to open up and vulnerably pray my way through the newness. I’m being lead down this path. Otherwise, you can bet your booty I’d never, ever pick it. Here we go. We will see where I’m lead. Spoiler alert – it will be into the light and away from the darkness for this season of my life.

Isaiah 41

Transparency won’t change some people’s perspective of me or you. Some people will toss it aside because their perceived version is more buttery and flavorful. You know these people, too. They usually don’t read blogs and are still buying into the 80s marketing ploy – hook, line, and sinker –  that whole grain is the way to weight loss (I’m lookin’ at you, Cheerios commercials). Side note: whole grains are not the way to weight loss. Eating a bowl of Cheerios is the same as eating a bowl of sugar. Not all wheat-eaters are judgy, petty meanies. However, I’m not editing my accusation out, because the ones I’ve interfaced with most recently love gross, 80s cereals. Quickly… let’s move on…

When we offer our true, candid selves, often times these people respond to the “you” they’ve created, which in no way, shape, or form represents or resembles the real you. You cannot help them with this and its best to consider it none of your business. The reality is that we are only a whipping boy for whatever they need to project emotionally at the time. We are an empty box. “I’m not empty,” you tell me. I know this, but the point is they do not care. They prefer you empty, to dress and decorate in whatever fashion best serves their insecurities and self-fulfilling madness. They have an itch they can’t quite reach under their scapula and you’re the backscratcher they got in their stocking last Christmas. They keep you beside the chair in the living room in case they need you. Then back you go, shoved in between an old Reader’s Digest and last week’s obituaries, just in reach of the miniature poodle, who chews on you from time to time, whenever he’s bored. We have to be totally okay with that. Because, also in reality, it has nothing to do with us.

These people say they know you well. They genuinely think they do. “Oh, Chassati? I know her very well. I’ve worked with her for XX years.” “Oh, Chassati? Yeah, her ex-husband is in prison for drugs. I feel bad for those kids.” “Oh Chassati? Yeah, I know her. I’ve never understood why she moved here. I’ve heard she has a shady past.” These people walk among us and believe they know us, well enough to actually converse with others about the intricacies of our lives. But they don’t. Not even close. It’s easier to pretend to know me (or you) and slather interesting, juicy icing all over the top of whatever meaningless conversation they were having at our perceived self’s expense while silently judging one another, than to actually sit down in the quiet and have a cup of coffee with themselves. Therein lies one of the tragedies of the human condition. What we see inside us hurts us, disappoints us, and is more difficult to compartmentalize than external strife, so we project on others, because for those smuggish moments, we feel superior and validated. And also, humans are the laziest of animals and it’s really hard to be honestly introspective. Like, the hardest.

Nayyirah Waheed

I will tell you who I am and what matters to me, and you will receive that as truth or you won’t. Chatter amongst yourselves. Project all kinds of dysfunction and blaspheme on my little family of three. Prophesy on how my life will turn out desperate and desolate, plagued with bad decisions, and how my children will struggle and suffer at the hands of their parents’ iniquities and sins. Can you believe that there are actual people in this small town that have wasted their bandwidth searching the internet for the reasons Ren went to prison, instead of coming by my cubicle, popping their head in, and asking? Not-so imaginary person could ask, “So why is your ex-husband in prison, if you don’t mind me inquiring?” to which the real me (not their perceived, catty, whorish me) would reply, “Not at all. Assault and drugs. Lots of drugs.” Why do these people not just ask at work, or in line at the tiny HEB, or while waiting for a table at the Mexican food restaurant? Because their perceived me is shameful and secretive and elusive about the skeletons in perceived me’s closet, when in reality, the skeletons are pretty much in the front yard and a lot less interesting than the emotionally projecting masses had hoped. Oh, here we are back at the honestly introspective thing. Interesting how that tends to happen. If God is for me, I am not bothered by little ole’ Petty Mayonnaise, or her mom n’ ’em, or her ex-husband’s new girlfriend… You get the point.

Audre Lorde

Trust puts an interesting twist on transparency. I’ve been telling myself for years that I don’t trust people so, for the love of her mom n’ ’em, quickly lock up everything of worth and throw away the key. Build fences and walls so high and so solid that nothing can penetrate. But how ignorant is it to trust people in general? That shouldn’t even be a thing. People will absolutely always fall short of what trust seeks. We trust God and love people. Reserve trust for the One who is constant and omnipresent and absolutely will never hang us out to dry. Love people and God will connect the dots. He always has, even when I have not been faithful or deserving of provisions. He’s always made the crooked paths straight. I’m the one who generally screws up the plan and runs, screaming, into the bushes and finds myself back on the crooked path, needing my Father to give me another hand to find my way back to the straight one. If we’re honest, we can surely all admit that we are never that faithful or deserving of God calling us his own. That’s kind of one of the huge points of Christianity.

viola davis

It’s taken me an entire lifetime to arrive at this place, and I’m not slipping back into the black hole from which I emerged. We are not defined by our past or our hardships or the horrific people who we have entertained at our tables and in our beds for whatever length of time. We are defined by our right to a place at God’s table in his home with all of our brothers and sisters gathered. Abundance. That’s where that one comes into the conversation. Put your hands out to receive. Internalize this and get your worthy hiney out of the pits of desolate desperation, too. Hey, I don’t deem you worthy. God does. Who are we to argue? I promise, freedom is so much better. Grace is my favorite, y’all. My absolute favorite.

A few questions for the road:

  1. What is your favorite thing about yourself? How would sharing this favorite thing more (being more transparent) create positive change/growth/evolution in your life’s relationships?
  2. What is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to you? How would sharing this most horrible thing more (being more transparent) create positive change/growth/evolution in your life’s relationships?

Share the answers to these with me, or your best friend, or your journal. Relationship with God, relationship with ourselves, relationship with family, relationship with community. This is the formula to changing the world. We start with ourselves, and the people in our immediate world. Then the wildfire catches wind.

I’m going to leave you with some thoughts from two of my favorites, Brene and Bec. Brene wrote it and Bec posted it. I simply stole it.

Brene and Bec

One Size Does Not Fit All

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, a fairly common meme posted by a well-meaning acquaintance caught my eye and, honestly, instantly pissed me off. Y’all have probably seen it a thousand times before. It says, “A child that is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” There are a lot of variations, but the point communicated is always “Your child’s behavior is a direct reflection of what you ALLOW.”

Ladies and gentleman, this is a problem. I understand that If I had tallied the source and number of times this gem of advice came across my news feed since the existence of social media, I can without a doubt guarantee that it comes from nuclear families with neurotypical children every. blasted. time.

I have a very important piece of life’s puzzle to offer you right now at this very moment. This piece of advice is valuable and actually applies to every person on the face of God’s green earth. Are you ready? Here goes: You cannot control another human being ever, under any circumstances. Game changed. It doesn’t matter if you married them, gave birth to them, or they gave birth to you. You cannot control another human. Guiding our children in the way they should go is crucial, and our hearts, minds, and hands should always be prayerfully involved in shaping them and motivating to be their best selves. This includes teaching right from wrong which requires consistent discipline and follow through. But, notice, “guiding” and “teaching” are actually pretty much the opposite of “controlling.”

When my son was in PreK 3 and 4, we were blessed to have an exceptional teacher (Mrs. Susan Scott) and teacher’s aide (Mrs. Barbara Bedford) to love on him and teach him, in that order. He kinda requires it to go in that order, and they were intuitive and passionate enough to pick up on it and execute the formula beautifully. He loved school and his teachers dearly. However, because of his behavior challenges, developmental challenges and the interpersonal dynamic life has fostered between he and I, it was consistently very hard for him to leave me and go with them in the mornings. He would have better days than others, but usually dropping Kannon off meant hitting, kicking, biting, definitely verbal assault and 65 pounds of boy beef thrashing about in the middle of the hall at my feet. The same person who posted this nugget of wisdom walked by me probably a hundred times during just such displays from my youngest, and the judgement was no doubt, “She needs to teach that child some respect.”

The really hard part about all of this is that child knows respect. He loves me harder and purer than anyone I’ve ever known. But, that child also has behavioral and emotional developmental delays that create huge gaps in logical thinking and make it next to impossible for him to compartmentalize emotion. When pressure is applied to him in any way, positive or negative, its like pulling the pin on a grenade. When a person or situation makes him feel sad, angry, embarrassed, excited, overjoyed or in any way overwhelmed, the dynamite is detonated. His lashing out at me was the response to transitioning between “how I feel with mom” and “how I feel at school.” It was his response to transitioning between “unconditional, hands-on, obvious, warm, maybe-sometimes-grouchy-and-a-little-impatient” love to “conditional, hands-off, cordial, carefully measured” love. Time and consistency will help this little, intense boy learn how to negotiate himself in the world, but he isn’t there yet, and we can’t rush him. We continue to guide and teach. Controlling is a joke with this one, I assure you. But, the common consensus is, “he’s acting like that so there is a problem with the way he is parented.” I am definitely not perfect, but God gave ME Kannon and no one else, so turns out He has faith in ME and no one else to parent this child and be his mother. I love that so much and I take it very seriously. No amount of shade anyone can throw our way will ever alter any part of how I guide and teach my boy as we do life together.

Y’all, we’ve worked really hard to get to where we are in this journey together. I see shimmers of improvement in my boy daily, and I can only hope he feels the same about me. Grace is so vitally life-giving in every second we spend on Earth. Kannon is a person before he is my son. I am a person before I am his mother. We have to learn and grow together and as individuals simultaneously, and we are killing it, World, we really are. Some amazing resources that have helped us use the challenges as growth opportunities are Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child, The Explosive Child, Sacred Parenting, For the Love, Of Mess and Moxie, Boundaries, and many more. While these resources are so worth the money and time to buy and read, they pale in comparison to the amazing support and nuggets of applicable wisdom I have soaked up from my very own tribe. You’re either with us or against us, but we hope you’re with us. The party is over here here, y’all.

My Favorite Force of Nature

My son’s birthday hits me hard every year. It makes me reflective, honestly seeking out and isolating parts of myself that must improve. September 12th signifies a time to begin tackling a few stubborn, carefully chosen Goliaths in my life, because if we are all honest, we should only choose two or three to battle at a time. Kannon, by God’s design, forces me to be better and do better simply by meeting the spectacular challenges he presents hour by hour and day by day. He was born to shift perspectives and paradigms, and while change makes him uncomfortable and grouchy on a personal level, his spirit is crafted to force forward movement on those around him, assuming they don’t fall willingly into the rhythm of his current.

Anaiah was carefully planned. Ren and I lost two babies while trying for Anaiah and we were desperate to get pregnant. After I found out I was pregnant for the third time at ten weeks along, the first trimester was the longest few months of my life. I worried about every tiny thing under the sun that could go wrong. I read every book I could find on vitamins, development, folic acid and the Ferber method versus the Sears method of sleep training. I was adamantly against co-sleeping, rice cereal and formula. I was the poster child for What to Expect When You’re Expecting and homemade baby food. In short, I was the the epitome of injury prevention and had no real world knowledge under my belt. I knew nothing, but felt really good about it.

I was on birth control and breastfeeding when I got pregnant with Kannon. I didn’t go to Dr. Wang until I was between four and five months pregnant. I was sure stress and lack of sleep were responsible for my weight loss efforts tanking after having Anaiah. Ren was already not Ren anymore, our life was crumbling faster than I could glue it back together, and a baby was absolutely the last thing we needed to add to our stormy, tumultuous equation. Ren would be home some, then not at all, then come by randomly at 3am and take off with my wallet and my car… Such was our life for all of 2011 and 2012. I had no idea what was happening to my husband and, at that specific time, I didn’t have the emotional, mental or physical energy to completely attack the demons on his back as I had consistently and successfully done in the past. I was about to bring a perfect, baby boy into all of this horrible, broken mess and I was completely overwhelmed at the prospect. I had to practice saying, “I’m pregnant” out loud in front of the mirror for two weeks before I could verbalize it out without bursting into tears.

My son was scheduled to make his entrance into the world via c-section a week early. I registered my friend, Gina, to be with me at the birth because Ren was hit and miss. He ended up being there for Kannon’s entrance into the world, but left the hospital a few hours later. Kannon’s first night was spent right next to me in the hospital bed. We both fell asleep breastfeeding and there he remained, asleep snuggled next to me, until the nurse woke us both at 6 am to take our vitals. I looked around the dark, empty hospital room then down at him and thought, “It’s just us.” It was the first time I internalized the cold, hard facts that were slowly weaving in and out of life as I knew it and changing it forever. My husband was a stranger. It was Kannon, Anaiah and I. That was it. Kannon forced the three of us to turn a corner by simply entering the world. He was a catalyst for stretched limits and uncomfortable progress from birth, and continues to offer growth opportunities to all of those in his life.

The intensity of who my son is at the core matches my own, and matches the intensity of the conditions under which he was brought into this world. My intensity is quiet, simmering at my core. It is pensive and flashes are reserved for maybe ten people in the world. Kannon’s intensity burns hot and bright and loud. He is a bonfire. He’s a gorgeous ’56 Chevy with a huge, burly engine and absolutely no power-steering. He reminds me that amidst this horrific, chaotic world and weaved in the folds of the wake he creates by his simple existence, there is still magic, brilliance and wonder in leaves and caterpillars and rain. Slow down. Be quiet. Listen. Even when the demands of being a mom and a decent human and million other things are screaming about laundry, groceries, email and Haitian orphans. Those eyes. That smile. They take me amazing places when I have no choice but to stay right here for right now.

Kannon’s favorite song at six years old, besides “Jesus Loves Me,” (someone clap approvingly for me, please and thank you), is “Hurricane” by The Band of Heathens. It is so very fitting for him. He has a stubborn will of steel that makes me completely crazy but will serve him well as an adult in this world. He was born into a figurative hurricane that is seemingly impossible to navigate at times from my perspective, but he continues to surprise and encourage me by beautifully cruising in and out of tough spots seamlessly, and is only picking up steam as he rolls through life. Such a big man in a little body, struggling to get all of those emotional, mental, spiritual and physical levers balanced just right, while trying to please those directly in his path the best he can, if it fits into his agenda. This guy has an innate purpose to come in with guns blazing and shake things up. I absolutely cannot wait to meet 10-year-old, 16-year-old, 32-year-old and 55-year-old Kannon and look forward to every single twist, turn, hug, smile and side eye before, after and in between.