This morning’s church service really, really spoke to me. I was hearing Pastor Danny’s words, I was internalizing the verses he was sharing from the Bible and the quotes from other authors, and my mind was racing 100 miles a minute on how I was going to turn this message into a blog post. Not just any blog post; a blog post that would get this morning’s message out loudly to a wide range of people and also give you all a little bit of information about my past. Here is your warning: this post contains a lot of personal background information some call BAGGAGE. We’re going to get really personal today, with the hopes that it sheds light for one person. If just one person comes to understand that their past experiences don’t have to define who they become, if just one person decides to get help for the addiction their currently facing to see what their full potential is, if just one person decides suicide isn’t the answer, I will have done my job. My goal with this whole blog has always been to be helpful; whether it’s to provide a new dinner or lunch recipe, to make bedtime not the most dreaded part of your day, or to share a new experience with you for you to share with your own children. Helping others has always been my goal. Today, I’m hoping to help on a much deeper level.
Pastor Danny started a new series last week called “Adulting” and continued it today. This might be my favorite series he has ever spoken on, mostly because it has been so practical and applicable to my every single day. Today’s whole topic was that “adults choose to take responsibility.” Have you ever noticed how fun it is to play the blame game? Is it immature, yes, absolutely! But, it also takes the stress off of your shoulders and might make your consequence more bearable. It’s much easier to blame others for your current situation than it is to accept ownership of your wrongdoing. Theodore Roosevelt said, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” Isn’t this true? The talk this morning in church then shifted to the baggage we all have. Blaming your parents, your spouse, your children, economics, or the government for the bad situation you’re in, isn’t helping anyone at all, and you won’t be able to own your life and reach your maximum potential until you stop blaming others.
A lot of my followers at this point are people who know me on some personal level. Even if you don’t, you probably have some sort of preconceived notion in your mind about how I was raised and what kind of person I am. Would you believe me if I told you that my dad, although I have fond memories of him, was a depressed alcoholic who lost his driver’s license, spent time in jail, and committed suicide? Would you believe me if I said the relationship my mom and step-dad had was far from what I wanted my own marriage to be like? Chances are that when you pieced together who you thought I was, you had no idea those things were true. Statistics show that when your father has that track record, your own life doesn’t go quite like mine has. There was much more to him than those choices, and there is much more to me than a dad who made those choices.
Why…how, then, am I not an alcoholic without so much as a traffic ticket to my name? How have I managed to have a great marriage and a beautiful life? I can tell you why. The reason why is because I NEVER let those things define me. My mom was a strong woman who, with the help of those closest to us, dealt with every single difficult situation handed to her, while raising my sister and me. She did everything she could on her own, she asked for help when we needed it and I’m pretty positive she never stopped praying that our lives wouldn’t turn down the same path. There were several other people in my life that made absolutely sure my life would end up much differently than the statistics say it should end up: my Aunt, who was and still is, like a second mother to me, my friends (though they have changed over the course of my life), our extended family, and Chad. Through spending time with my friends whose parents had good, solid, happy marriages, I figured out what I wanted in a husband and ultimately, in a family.
I know that not everyone who has had an incarcerated parent has the same support I had. I know, and fully understand, that there are many, many children out there with way more bad going on in their lives than I had. Children only have so much control over their lives, as much of a youth’s life is actually out of their own hands and at the mercy of others. However, if you are an adult who had that type of tragic childhood, know that as an adult you can make a change. You can be different than the parents who caused you to have that childhood and you don’t have to do it alone.
I remember the first time my dad was arrested, I was in second or third grade. My mom sat down to explain it to me and I was so scared that someone in my new school would see my dad’s name in the newspaper and know that he was MY dad. I was not only confused and sad for my dad, I was really embarrassed. You see, the odds were stacked against me. They were stacked high against me. Never did I think that because my dad made certain choices, that meant I had to make the same choices. In fact, I was the opposite of blaming. I never tried any type of alcohol in high school, despite most of my friends at least trying something a couple times. I was so afraid that I would have a drink and immediately turn into an alcoholic (naiive thinking, but I’m sure my mom isn’t complaining). Luckily I have gained a lot more wisdom and understanding with my age. I understand that people shouldn’t judge me based on his choices and when/if the time is right in a conversation and they’ve earned my trust, I will share my experiences. With my gained life experiences, I’ve also learned that there is still quite a stigma surrounding parents who are incarcerated and suicide, especially.
Chad and I have definitely had our struggles in the ten years we’ve been together. We get through them when we take responsibility and figure out a game plan. Years ago, when we were first out on our own, our finances were a disaster. We lived paycheck to paycheck and used credit cards when we wanted something but didn’t have money in the bank. Guess when it all changed? Things turned around when we owned the problem and worked on a solution together (with help through the Dave Ramsey course). When we are feeling in a rut and disconnected, as all married couples do from time to time, we feel better when we carve out some one-on-one time to get to the root of the problem and take responsibility for ourselves instead of blaming each other or a specific circumstance we might be dealing with.
Taking ownership can mean a lot of different things for different people. It could mean taking responsibility for the mistake you made at work, it could mean taking responsibility for your health and doing something about the condition you’re in. Each person is fighting their own battles, some are just better at hiding it. We all have baggage, and taking responsibility is the FIRST step to recovering. No one says this has to be done alone. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, a church member, a counselor. Talk to someone before you throw in the towel and decide you’re not worth the life you were given. I PROMISE you there will be many more people missing you when you’re gone than you ever realized cared.
There is a second part to all of this. There’s a part where some of you are reading this saying, “yea, but this (fill in the blank) happened and it actually wan’t my fault.” I’m not here to disagree with you. For example, the loss of a loved one. How do you not use that as an excuse for your bad mood, eating disorder, or lack of energy. You are absolutely right! You are allowed some time to heal and to grieve. I love what Rachel Hollis said in her book Girl, Wash Your Face:
What it means is taking responsibility for your own life and your own happiness. Said another way – a harsher, more-likely-to-get-me-punched-in-the-face way – if you’re unhappy, that’s on you.
When I say unhappy, I mean unhappy. I don’t mean sadness. Sadness or grief brought on by circumstances outside of your control – like the soul-shredding loss of a loved one – is not something that can be walked through quickly or easily. Sadness and pain are things you have to sit with and get to know or you’ll never be abe to move on.
I also like what Pastor Danny quoted by Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” You really can choose to make the best of every situation. While anger, sadness, grief, frustration, and confusion might always be feelings that surface every once in a while when you think of those situations that you truly did have no control over, those situations that really shaped you into the person you are today, hopefully you’ve also found something positive about it to bring to your life. Lastly, if you pray and ask God for guidance, and do as He says, He will add his super natural to your natural. It might look different than you want it to, it might take longer than you want it to, but He will be there.
Until next time…
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”