unplanned life

Those that know me, (even those that don’t know me that well) are aware of a few things about me:

I plan. I love planning, making lists and basically “knowing” what lies ahead… I like to know what’s for dinner, what the weekend holds, when house guests are leaving, and  around what time my husband should be home.

Jesus says: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I also say, “People plan, God laughs.”

“Each day has enough trouble of it’s own”, of course. There are many times “my plans” fall apart. There are days that bring seasons of trouble, of pain, sadness, grief and tears.  If I would have had known the  “plans” for what lay ahead of me two years ago, I probably would have burned my day planner and never gotten out of bed.

Over the past two years,  our family fell apart, when my stepdaughter I raised 9 years left to live with her biological mother. I felt defeated, abandoned and resentful.

Over the past year the unthinkable happened to my own daughter, and we worked through the trauma of abuse. I felt helpless, lost, and confused.

Over the past six months, my father began the final months of his life, and he crossed over on April 7th. I felt sadness, guilt, and emptiness.

And, finally over the past month a hope I had for many years was laid to rest.

I felt hopeless.

The past two years have not been all misery, however. The past two years held gems of memories, of healing, hope and victory.

Healing of families. Reunification of mothers and daughters that belong together.

Healing of trauma. There is life after abuse. Things do get better.

Healing of grief. Make every day count. Make the best of whatever time you’re given. Make memories. Don’t stress.

Finding hope. This is probably the most difficult…

Hope is like a small treasure, that can easily be lost in the grasp of the enemy.

I lose hope often. Most people don’t know that about me. I am usually that friend that will cheer you up and help you to see the brighter side of things…. I just have a hard time doing that to myself. I lose hope more than people lose socks.  So, when I find a treasure of hope glimmering in my thoughts, I say “don’t get your hopes up”. I crush it every time.

This time I’m not.

I know that He didn’t put me through these last two years of rainy seasons for nothing. I know that His plans are greater than mine. I know that His storms brought me back to His shore, and His path that lay ahead.

Can I say I’m ready? No. Nobody is  ever ready for any of the “curve balls” of life. I am never completely  “ready” for the unknown. But, being more aware of my trials, and recognizing  that each trial birthed a new fragment of  myself.

I realize that it’s not these past two years that has shaped me… it has been my ENTIRE  life.  Memories from years ago, resurfacing to be exposed and used for the  good. For empathy, for sympathy. For healing. Sometimes, when things resurface, you can finally see them, and answer the question why.

I’m staring to see all the “whys” of my life. I’m finally seeing the answers float to the surface like life savers in the sea.

As a child, I was the caregiver for my mother as she struggled with addiction, one day, a social worker followed me home from school . She was assigned to do a welfare check.

I remember the fear,  unlocking the door, her pulling up in the driveway just behind me, instructing me to get my mother.

My mother was sleeping.  This was the norm during this period. On days she picked me up from  school, it was well after the teachers and faculty had left. Some days I walked home because I knew it would be faster to walk than to wait.

“Mama,” I said. “You need to wake up. A lady is here. I’m scared she’s gonna take me.”

My other staggered up, put on a robe, and put the dogs in the back.

“I have the flu.” she said.

The social worker sat down, asking questions about my dad, abuse and why I had missed 46 days of school the year before. Then she took me aside, and asked me if my dad or anyone ever touched me.

“No.” I said. “I’m happy here”

And, she picked up her clipboard and left.

As bad as things were at my home, it wasn’t bad enough to remove me. Today, it would have been different, I’m sure. I would have been removed long before that day.

The thing is, it’s happening still. There are kids out there with less than perfect lives, and they are not safe and it’s not healthy for them to stay. But, no matter how bad it is, they still don’t want to go.

They don’t know it can be better.

They don’t know that their moms and dads can get better.

They don’t know hope.

And, the people come, and the storm arises. Children are removed and placed in systems across the country. Sometimes, they are placed in a family home- the closest thing to a “normal” family is best. Other times, there are no families that are licensed, there are no rooms. Then, it’s an institutionalized group “home”.

I was placed in a group treatment center as a teenager. A chronic runaway, “something had to be done with me”, the authorities told my parents. I was 13. My mom had just completed treatment and was now attempting to restrict me, while my life I had grown accustomed to caring for her. The roles were reversed and I could not cope. I was angry, resentful and bitter. Toss in some hormones and boys and I was a toxic stew of teenage angst. I was placed in a long term  teen treatment center.

My first hour  there, a female nurse had to do a full cavity search. Apparently, kids here liked to smuggle drugs in various parts  of their bodies. I didn’t do drugs. I was just mad.

I hadn’t eaten, I was thirsty… outside my room I had seen a fridge that kids were getting milk cartons and juice cups from. I finally got so thirsty I quietly made my way to the fridge to get a juice.

“What are you doing?” A nurse sternly questioned me.

“I… I’m thirsty.” I stammered.

“It’s not snack time.” It’s lock down and you are not to leave your room. You have a pitcher of water in there.

But, I didn’t. And I was too scared to ask for one.  The next day, I learned the strict routine of meals, snacks, school and group after group…

I had never had routine. I had never had “regular” meals. There, I awoke to a feast of bagels, jams, cream cheese, cereal and plenty of juice.  And there were the daytime nurses. They were nice, caring- different from the nighttime ones. The new day, brought forth order, security… and food.  I loved looking at the color coordinated white board, and seeing the perks of working up levels. You could work up a level and eat at the cafeteria. Where, the kids said: “the food was rad.” You could work up to a level and go outside. There was a playground and a pool. You could even work up a level and get a three hour pass with a parent and go off the compound.  “I could run away and see Darby” I thought. (Darby was my boyfriend, and clearly I needed some therapy if this was my mindset) Over several months, I worked through the program and levels, the structure and order… and, finally I got to go home ready to adjust to my now “normal” life.

This period in my life, although moments of it still haunt me in dreams… the hard cold plastic beds, the crazy roommates, and the nighttime nurses.

But, it taught me. It taught me structure, order, and most of all coping skills I didn’t know I needed. Sometimes, the parts of life you detest at the time, actually grow you the most.  Although it may take decades…. the waiting for the pieces to fit.

They will all fit together one day.

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