Who I am now. Wow, what a declaration! Even a book, full of details, couldn’t provide a sketch of who I am now. However, I hope to capture a small detail of who I have become.
I have a family lineage of isolationists. At least some in our family isolate as in they hold up in their safe places and rarely come out. I throw no blame their way because I understand that tendency. As I have gotten older and hopefully more understanding, I’ve come to realize that my uncle isolated. He was a man’s man and a blue-collar worker. I doubt that he ever verbalized or even thought about depression. I suspect he was depressed. He dealt with it in a way that he knew, the way of my father’s father. He drank heavily, worked, and hid in his cabin. However, my uncle is one of my heros. Amidst his own issues he, and my dearest aunt, stepped up and took in my brother and sister. They gave them a home, when our home became too unsafe. I will be forever grateful to them both.
My father comes out occasionally but prefers home. My mother, before she died, was a shut-in. We all have preferences and cope with life the best we know how and sometimes this world feels so unsafe. I feel it too.
More than 20 years ago, I would have described myself as extra-extraverted. I had lots of friends and some friends wore out by 9:00 pm, which was fine. Because, even on work nights, that is when my other friend and I would watch movies. She’d feed me the delicious home-cooked supper that she made for her teen boy, who didn’t show up for dinner. I was happy and I loved being with lots of people. Everyday.
I held little fear of becoming an isolationist.
Looking back, I was. When I went home, it was a different story entirely. When I would finally go home, it was my safe place. I rarely had people over. I went out for what I needed and I didn’t have to cook, clean, or entertain. It worked for me.
People say I am discerning. I agree. I looked for and hung out with safe people, but shut my door to most. I could control who I saw, where I saw them and how long. I was in control of my encounters so that I could protect myself. I had so many people heartaches and abandonment issues from a messed up childhood, betrayals, and a failed marriage. Home “safe” home was my motto. At one point, God showed me that I hid in my home to protect myself. Ouch! Really? Really.
He was teaching me to let Him protect me. Because of the brokenness of my childhood, I learned how to cope with heartache by hiding. Hiding was my–or at least one of my–coping mechanisms. We all develop custom-made ways of dealing with pain and disappointment. Coping mechanisms can be good, but they can also get in the way of authenticity and God had a better plan for me.
As I began to change how and where I engaged people, God brought people INTO MY HOUSE! I had a string of roommates! They were beautiful women who loved me and loved God. I made room for them, one at a time, in my heart and a physical way in my home. Then God brought Tony into my life. My last roommate moved out, because I was getting married. She prayed me through the engagement and into his arms. Now he is my life-long roommate that God taught me to make room for. I’ve been married to him for 16 years now. Not only did Tony come into my life, he brought his very big family too.
The first time I met his parents, his father not only looked over every inch of my house–that I had cleaned the visible areas best I could–he opened my closet doors and looked inside!! That man’s normal curiosity felt like a violation and an invasion of my privacy! And, that was just the beginning.
God endeared my heart to my father-in-law. He is a very handy man who is the king of any castle his feet land in. I made room in my home and my heart for David. I let go and told God that He was in charge of David. David and his hands-on way, provided much love to Tony and me.
I had little idea that opening my door to Tony, then to his family, then to his extended family, would lead to an overhaul of my heart. We built a marriage, then a “family” was on “her” way, then a new home with a spare room to share. Now our home has people coming and going. We have friends and family stay. My brother’s family of six joins our three and they stay with us. And my sister’s family of seven–however many of them are available–join us for dinner and s’mores. It has become tradition.
Last count for dinner was fifteen. I’ve learned to keep it simple. And, I always have help, God, my husband, and now my daughter. What a great help they are. My husband got me into this, and he is right there down to every last dirty dish. I am not alone and I am tremendously grateful.
And, I enjoy it. I really, really enjoy it. Not the cleaning up before or the cleaning up afterwards, but the rest of it. When our daughter was little, my husband and I laughed that she would grow up hating when company’s coming. That is when she had to clean! Now she cleans and helps with food and reaps the blessings of happy cousins praising the Southwest Chicken Salad Bar, Chili with Stars, and Lemonade Cake. I enjoy the memories. As long as I am in my right mind, I will remember making room, in my home, for people and messes. Open door and open heart.
I am grateful I made room for David when I felt vulnerable. I am sure he feels vulnerable now. David’s health is declining and he cannot “do” like he used to do. I pray he knows his value has never been in his usefulness, but in his love for me. Part of my history, is that my dad wasn’t around for many of my younger years and while I am grateful that he is now back in my life, some of my “little girl” desires were left unmet. I always wanted a “daddy” that would take care of me and provide for me. Have I mentioned that my father-in-law can be crotchety and stubborn? No matter. God used David to redeem some of those unmet desires of a little girl’s heart. In the same way he invaded my closet, in which a closed door was no barrier, I hope to invade the closed doors to his heart. I love him, and will declare to him that he still matters, even if he cannot stand for long.
Along with David came Rosie. I cannot express how grateful I am for her. Tony and my first “retroactive date” was the day after my mother’s funeral. Months later, we were officially dating and I was invited to scatter seeds on behalf of my mom as an organ donor. I didn’t want to go. Tony asked me, “Why not?” I said that I might cry and he told me that it would be ok to cry. He would be there.
He was. I went and I did cry. As I found a private place away from everyone else, except for Tony, I scattered the seeds and cried. I cried for all of the brokenness of my mom, our family and I cried for her pain. I cried for me. In the moments of scattering the wildfower seeds, which my free-spirited, hippie mom would have loved, I realized that God brought a new mom into my life. As my mom left this earth, God gave me Rosie. Rosie was the mom who would bake me cookies and sneak money to me because she knew I wanted a pair of shoes. She makes me feel like she loves me best, all the while, making every person feel that special. At David and Rosie’s, Tony’s side of the family, 16 to 24 for dinner is normal during summer vacation. She’s shows me what love looks like, serving in love, in the face of pain and trials.
I am grateful that nearly two decades ago, God whispered to my heart, “Stop trying to protect yourself; let Me protect you.” I am glad that I trusted God enough to start down the path of a new journey.
I have one friend in particular, The Encourager, who will occasionally reflect to me how she marvels at how much I have changed. She knew me back then, when my house was closed. Now my home is open.
I have my moments and days of feeling broken and I fear can’t deal with life’s pressure. Sometimes I want to hide and isolate. I see a family history and I am aware that at any given moment life might attempt to crush me. But, by the grace of God, moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day, I live free and in the light.