Posted in Life Lessons

Staying the Course

This blog is about how my son taught me a valuable lesson. Stick with this one to the end.

But first, if you’re keeping up, this was my first week back at work post-hysterectomy. It’s been 6 weeks since surgery and I’m getting better gradually. My strength is far from where it needs to be. My incision isn’t healing well, but my spirits are up (well, except for today).

I struggled today. I quietly wrestle with feelings of unworthiness, being picked last, being unlovable. Today I struggled harder than usual.

I sat in the back of Gavin’s Vacation Bible School closing service tonight and cried. I’ll save the details about why for my personal journal. I just couldn’t stop. (I cried so much tonight I ripped one contact, ruined the other, and gave myself a full-on migraine. I had to switch to glasses for the drive home.)

Anyway, as I’m sitting there, the messages I kept hearing in the service were all about the Bible story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep and lost one, so he left the 99 to go find the one he lost. It’s a powerful story that illustrates how God loves us. The VBS theme was Game On – so we watched videos of kids struggling through being picked last for teams. Kids who lacked the ability for sports, but wanted to belong.

Do you see how my struggles (self-worth, feeling unloveable, being picked last) + these videos and messages were NOT helping me try to hide that I was crying? No – I just cried more.

So rah rah – VBS pep rally is over, outside for popcorn, bouncy water slides and obstacle courses.

While I struggled with torn contacts, Gavin went down the waterslide a couple of times. He was in 10-year-old bliss. And then came the obstacle course bounce house. Before I know it he’s through the first hole, up and over the next obstacle, and he began to climb. He got to the top and stopped (see his pic above), as kid after kid flew past him over the top and down the other side. But not Gavin. He’s stuck. I see the panic starting. I hear the kids taunting: “Hurry up. Let’s go already.” As they easily move around him and climb over the top.

I know what’s in his mind – fear.

Here’s what’s going on in his body: Gavin has a Developmental Coordination Disorder called Dyspraxia. His brain doesn’t send his muscles the right signals at the right time. He struggles with balance, strength, and coordination. But not willpower.

This means that while every other kid flies through the course, he’s trying 50 times harder and making 50% less progress.

After a long struggle, he looked at me, said: “I’m not gonna make it,” climbed down, and reversed himself all the way back out of the course.

When he got to me, he hugged me and said: “let’s go home.”

Now – I’m not a man, but I know when a man needs a man to talk to, so I found one in the form of my dear friend Pastor Lucas Pinckard.

He took Gavin aside and talked to him. I’m not sure what they said, I stepped out so they could talk. What matters here is this:

  • News Flash for single moms (boy moms especially): you’re not a man. Surround yourself with men of character who will mentor your son.
  • When you’re in a situation where everyone else is getting ahead and you feel powerless, find someone to talk to before you go home with your head down.
  • Try again.

See, because what happened next spoke volumes to my heart:

He went back and COMPLETED the obstacle course. He did the dang thing. He got to the end and said – “NOW we can go home.”

On the drive home I thought back over my day and the unforseen moment that made me cry for hours.

It wasn’t that anything had changed, not really. It’s just..I had climbed through some pretty scary obstacles lately, I found myself at the top of things today, felt amazing and like I was about to make it over, and suddenly, realized I may not make it over after all. I got discouraged. It felt like a punch to my soul. I could hear the voices in my head taunting: “She’ll always be prettier. You’re just not marriage material. Why do you even try anymore? Who would want YOU, anyway? Just face reality – you’re always gonna be alone.”

I know what’s in my mind – fear.

I also know what kind of God I serve and what he has promised me. And I’m still gonna stand on his promise.

But if you’ll excuse me, I just need a moment. I need to regroup and refocus. I’ll be calling my girlfriends for coffee this week. Be ready ladies.

But mark my words – I’m gonna conquer that course.

Because I AM good enough. Because I AM pretty enough. But mostly because I know what God promised – and he always keeps his word.

Thank you, Pastor Lucas and the VBS team at First Baptist Church in Lake Dallas.

I appreciate you.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Grandparents’ 1940s Love Story – 70 Years Later

Today was Nana and Grandpa’s 70th wedding anniversary. A sweet family came over for a cookout to help us celebrate them. The family has 3 teenage daughters who love the Hallmark Channel. Grandpa’s telling of their love story did not disappoint.

We all circled up and asked them questions about where and how they met. Grandpa did most of the talking. Let me try to paint you a word picture of how their love began.

It was late 1940s. Grandpa had served as a sailor in WWII. He was a radio operator aboard one of the battleships. He was young, witty, handsome, and talkative. While all the other sailors went to the bars to drink and pick up women, he would throw his roller skates over his shoulder and find the nearest roller rink. “That’s where all the gals were,” he told us. Then he looked over at Nana – and blushed. But he was just as quick to say that “those gals didn’t want to date a sailor – they just wanted to dance with one.”

Every town back then had a roller skating rink. Each had a disco ball (which he described as a globe of reflectors they would shine a light on), a large wooden floor, an organ and lots of young people eager to couple up. The organist would sit up on a platform above the skating floor at one end and play. “It was a classy thing back then, a big deal – none of this rap music or rock & roll or all this junk the kids play these days. It was clsssy. You really had to know the steps for the circle waltz, the tango, the flea hop, the samba, the rumba, and so forth.”

They would turn down the lights, crank up the organ, and begin with the circle waltz. The music would play and they would just dance.

Grandpa describes throwing his roller skates over his shoulder and hitchhiking to the next town to find a rink so he could skate and dance.

This is just an image I Googled, but it’s what my mind pictured as he talked.

When he met Nana, she was a telephone switchboard operator. When you’d want to make a call, she was the one on the other end who would say, “may I have your number please” and you’d tell her like – 543 Pleasanton – and she would take the plug for your call and stick it in the proper jack to complete the circuit. This would cause the phone to ring at that address. I describe this here for my daughters’ sakes – in case they were on their cell phones during this lesson in history class.

It probably looked something like this:

This is where Grandpa came to see her during work one day and when he couldn’t find her, he climbed onto her grandparents’ roof and into a second-story window just to make sure she was okay. Pretty sure she wa just napping.

Nana was a looker (see the top pic), and when Grandpa saw her he said “that was it. She was the one. It was just a matter of time and overcoming obstacles.”

Obstacles like the fella she was seeing.

She was apparently seeing a quiet guy who was Grandpa’s best friend. Grandpa said, “I just walked right home, got my harmonica, went back to where my best friend was with her and began to play.” He told us “that guy didn’t stand a chance against my harmonica playing. Not a chance.”

At this, Nana interjected that she’d actually been won over because Grandpa was a talker. And then this happened:

He flew an airplane and took her up in it one day. They both flew.

Side note: Apparently the person who taught Nana to fly also taught Amelia Earhart. Her instructor had eaten with Amelia just before her ill-fated flight.

So Grandpa took her up and did a couple of barrel rolls just to see if it would scare her. All she had to say was, “Do you have any other tricks?” And the rest is history.

70 years, 2 boys, and several grandkids, great-grands, and great-great-grands worth – actually.

This afternoon Grandpa gave her this ring set and said, “this oughta do us for another 70 years.”

Happy Anniversary to two of the most awesome people I know, from a granddaughter who is grateful for their love and example toward her over the years.

God, please grant me such a love.

Posted in Life Lessons

Do Not Open Til Christmas

It was Christmas time. The year was 1984. We lived in a trailer park outside of the city. Trailer park life meant we didn’t get every new toy that came along.

That was the year I wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll so bad I couldn’t stand it.

I remember Mom and Grandma and probably half the town converging on some hardware store on University Drive in hopes of getting a Cabbage Patch Doll. Parents would even get these dolls for themselves. They were high on demand and short on supply.

One day after school I decided to go snoop in the closet and just see if there were any Christmas presents in there for me. I found a box the size and shape of the doll I’d hoped for. Unfortunately, the box was wrapped.

Ah! But I knew where the tape was, so I brilliantly decided to open the present carefully at the seams. (Audible gasp!)

Sure enough – there was a beautiful, adorable, red-headed, green-eyed Cabbage Patch Doll for me. FOR ME! Her name was Mary Ann. We even had the same middle name. My heart did a cartwheel.

I wrapped her back up, matched seams, replaced tape, and asked “Santa” for a doll exactly like her.

Oddly, Christmas morning was a bit disappointing. Yes, I got exactly what I wanted. Yes, she was perfect and mine. But I had cheated myself out of the thrill of the surprise. And when Mom found out that I did this years later, she was quite disappointed.

I don’t know what it is about me that makes me want to know things ahead of time. I don’t know why I can’t just wait and be surprised.

I’m learning this so much this year.

For my birthday, my kids and parents and best friends all threw me a surprise party – and it was fantastic. For the first time in my life I didn’t plan everything down to the matching plates and tablecloth. I just came home to a painting party – and thoroughly enjoyed myself. And my daughters were especially excited that they got to bring me this unexpected joy.

I suppose I feel like I need to know ahead of time how things will turn out because that way I won’t be disappointed.

I’ve been so disappointed in the past, I continually prepare myself for the worst. This is something I’m actively working to change about myself.

Tonight I ran across this passage from Psalms 37 and some things jumped out at me.

Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord . Trust him, and he will help you. Be still in the presence of the Lord , and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Put your hope in the Lord.
(Bits and pieces from Psalms 37 NLT)

I just have to delight in him. He delights in every detail of our lives.

In case you don’t know me or if you do but didn’t put this together – I have two adorable red-headed daughters with green eyes.

See – every detail.

When I look at it this way, and realize that God is faithful at fulfilling his promises, it gives me confidence. I just need to walk with him, obey his word, and stop trying to open his good gifts before he is ready to give them to me.

If you’ve walked with me awhile and are aware of this in me, I give you permission to say – “Slow down, darlin. Just trust God. His promises are always perfect and right on time.”

And then let’s go sit at a coffee shop and talk awhile. Because waiting is always easier when I have a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte in front of me and a dear friend beside me.

Posted in Cancer, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Poetry, Uncategorized, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Playing Hide-and-Seek (my life story)

I was out shopping with the most beautiful girl in the world. She was 3 years old – with gorgeous red curls and bright, happy green eyes. We were at a major department store looking for a size 3T Easter dress – with extra frills, ruffle-butt tights, and those fold-down socks with the lace that look beautiful in patent leather Mary-Janes.

She kept running off – looking at the tiny purses and teddy bears. I was afraid I would lose her. So I did what any good mom would do to teach an object-lesson: I let her get lost.

hide_and_seek

This was the perfect moment – no one else was in this section. I got really quiet and just let her wander from rack to rack. Books. Toys. Purses. I didn’t let her see me. I kept hiding until I watched panic slowly set in – all over her tiny little body. Her eyes got wide. Her feet starting running. Her eyes darted all around looking for safety. Her little voice began calling out – “Mommy. Mommy? MOMMY!”

I let that go on for about 30 seconds before I scooped her up in my arms and said, “It’s okay, Baby Doll. You’re safe. Mommy’s gotcha.” And she looked up at me with her big green eyes and said, “I lost you, Mommy. I thought you were gone.”

She didn’t lose me. She only thought she did. I was right there all the time.

I’ve felt this level of panic set in before. Have you?

The first time I felt something like this I was 7. My 2 brothers and sister were all playing together behind the apartment building and I wasn’t allowed to play. They had formed a “no-Melissas allowed” club. I ran around the building to try to play anyway. They circled up. I just couldn’t believe it. Panic set in as I realized that I was alone – and left out. Big tears formed in the depths of my universe. Something shattered. I remember this being the first time I found solace in making up a story in my mind as a form of self-comfort. This was the beginning of writing for me. My parents figured out what was going on and they formed a “let’s-walk-to-7-11-to-get-a-Slurpee-club” that my siblings weren’t invited to. I learned from this to run to my authority figures for comfort. As an adult, I remember this incident when I feel left out and it reminds me to turn to God. I’m always welcome in his club.

The next time I felt like this, I was in high school. At age 16, a boy I liked from school took an interest in me. I was over-the-moon excited. I had “his-initials-plus-my-initials” written all over my school notebooks. One afternoon, when I was home alone after school, he came to my house. I was so excited that I ignored the rule about not having friends over when my parents were gone. I let him in – only to find out that he had come with 5 grown men. They made me go to my room and would not let me out. One-by-one they came in and took turns doing awful things to me. The boy who I thought liked me left me humiliated, ashamed, and feeling very alone. They warned me they would hurt my family if I told. I never told. Not anyone. This may actually be the first time my family is reading about this.

In the middle of the whole thing, one of the guys told me he loved me. This shattered my heart. If that was love – and love was what I was so desperately longing for – I didn’t really want to be loved anymore. I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to live anymore. It was at this point when I made an attempt on my own life.

I looked around and couldn’t find anyone there to rescue me. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt led me to keep this a secret – even from God. Through counseling years later I was able to open this horrible memory up and see that God was there in the room with me that day. He was screaming at those men – STOP. THIS IS MY DAUGHTER. YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS.

But His voice was drowned out by the voices of Lust, Desire, Control, and Greed simultaneously screaming – DO WHAT YOU WANT, TAKE WHAT YOU WANT, SHE’S JUST THERE FOR YOU TO USE.

God showed me that He was there that night to comfort me. He was my pink teddy bear and the blanket I slept with over my head. He was there then and on so many other nights when I cried myself to sleep and felt alone in my shame. I didn’t lose him – he was right there all along.

These incidents plus the fact that my bio-dad left before I was born caused me to have a decades-long thought pattern that said – “You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy of real love. You’re just an after-thought, a second choice. You’re not wanted. Get lost – no one wants you around here anyway. If you want love, you’ll have to do something to earn it.”

Lies. All lies.

I had a fairy-tale wedding right out of high school that resulted in two beautiful redheaded daughters.

One day my husband came home and was acting strangely. We’d had a great first 7 years. We had our moments, but it wasn’t anything major. But I’d noticed that he had become violent with his words and sometimes with his hands. I confronted him and he said he did not love me anymore. His porn habit had turned into real affairs over the last 3 years of our marriage – resulting in his latest girlfriend becoming pregnant. I didn’t know. I guess I didn’t want to know. Devastated doesn’t begin to describe what I was feeling. Some words I have for the next months after that are numb, lifeless, severely depressed, and hopeless. Once again the voices crept back into my thought-space.

I was angry. Very angry. I was angry at my husband for hurting me in this way, angry at myself for not having seen this coming, angry at God for knowing this was coming and not letting me know for 3 years, and angry at life in general. I had to move out of my home and back in with my parents while he moved his pregnant girlfriend into my home. It was humiliating.

So how does youth minister/housewife cope with this kind of tragedy? In my case – I did not cope very well. I began a secret life of binge drinking on weekends when my kids were gone to their father’s house. They say bitterness is a poison you give yourself – hoping the other person will suffer. My drinking and lifestyle of masking my pain through any means necessary was a poison. I felt unlovable. I was taking out all of my frustrations alright – but all that I was doing was only hurting ME.

The lowest point for me was in the middle of the divorce. I was at a party one night at an apartment when everyone all went home at once – everyone but me and the guy who lived there. He kept pouring and I had kept drinking, but that last drink after everyone left must have had something in it – because the room began to wobble and I only remember bits and pieces of a torturous, sick, violent rape that must have lasted a couple of hours – and I was powerless to stop it. I woke up in an upstairs room – alone. I stumbled around, found my keys, and left – still full of liquor, or whatever it was I’d been given. I honestly think an angel rode in the passenger seat while I drove home that night – because how I got myself and my car home in one piece is a mystery. I decided that night I wanted to try to reconcile with my husband and make things right with my little family again. My kids deserved a whole family – and I was hell-bent on making sure they had one – even if it meant I had to do a makeover on my marriage. My husband agreed – but he had already told my parents about my having gone to a party and that I’d been drinking – so they kicked me out and, because I had no other alternative, I could not take my kids. I tried to explain about the night before and my transformed heart, but it was too late – the decision had been made. I was furious with what had just happened to me, and now I was furious that my desire to start over had failed. I lived the next two weeks out of my car, in the backroom of the store I managed, one night at a laundry mat, and at different friend’s apartments. After two long miserable weeks, I told my dad I was coming home – taking my kids, getting a divorce, and moving into an apartment. Enough was enough. I stopped drinking, reconciled with God, and tried to get my life back in order.

If I’m with you and you have a glass of wine and I politely decline, this is why. I’m not judging, it’s just that it reminds me of where I’ve been – and that’s a place I’d rather not remember.

Three years later I was back on my feet, studying for my undergrad in English at the local university, and raising my two girls. We moved out of the apartment after a year and back in with my folks so that I could focus on my studies.

During my time at the university, my brother died of cancer and my sister decided to leave the family – for good. Just because I don’t give these incidents many words here doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt me to my core.

Life thus far had been a hide-and-seek game with God – mostly hide. But what happened in 2007 changed the entire course of my life.

It was July 2007, right in the middle of my summer session at the university. I was taking what amounted to Poetry 101 and it was my day to be “workshopped.” I had printed enough copies of my poem for each member of the class and was expected to distribute them and have everyone critique my words. I was nervous. It was Texas Summer hot outside. I was suddenly overcome with nausea. Breakfast became a memory.
After the grueling 90-minute poetry workshop where my writing was called mediocre, at best, I made my way to the on-campus medical clinic.
I gave blood, endured the necessary pee-in-this-cup moment, laid down on the paper-covered table, and waited.
I must have fallen asleep because the Nurse Practitioner shook my shoulder.
Miss Fairchild?
Yes?
I figured out what’s wrong.
Okay?
You’re pregnant.
I almost fell off the table.
My mind raced to an awful night four months before. I looked at her calendar and pointed to the date.
Yes – I remember. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just one lonely moment during March Madness. Just one.

I pulled into my driveway 15 minutes later and spied my Mom on the porch swing reading to my 6-year-old, whose auburn pigtails wobbled as she flew into my arms. My 11-year-old was inside getting ready for the water park trip I’d promised them that afternoon.
Mommy’s home!
My heart felt sick. How do I explain this to my girls? How in the world was I going to make ends meet with another kiddo on the way?
I sent the kids to their bedroom to finish getting ready for the water park and began to weep uncontrollably. My parents noticed.
All I could think was – my folks are gonna kill me. They are pastors at a local church. How do you tell your Dad, who is also your pastor, that you’re unmarried and pregnant?
Between sobs, I finally formed the words – I’m pregnant.
The truth escaped my mouth with finality. I repeated it to myself. Wow.
Mom started to ask several questions all at once, but Dad quieted the room.
He looked at me, right into my heart, and he slowly and deliberately spoke these words:
“You are my daughter, and I love you.

In one sentence, years worth of feeling less-than, feeling used, abandoned, abused, picked last, feeling unlovable, unforgivable, unworthy, and like I just didn’t belong came to a grinding halt.

In one sentence I felt God speaking through my father’s mouth.

He spoke to my identity “You are my daughter,…”

He spoke to his identity “…and I love you.”

I belong to him and am fully loved because he IS love.

I’ve had many more adventures and mishaps since this day. I’ve written or will write about most of them—just look back or wait for the next blog if you want to see what else has happened in my crazy life. But since that day I’ve had a deep-seated knowing in my gut that I’m not alone. And I’m not alone because God is with me. And because God is with me, he won’t let me panic for too long.

And in the times where I’ve panicked and looked around, frantically searching for God where I’ve thought – “I lost you, God. I thought you were gone,” He has been so faithful to remind me that I didn’t lose him. I only thought I did. He was right there all the time.

I hope you feel God speaking to you from your screen, “You are my daughter (son), and I love you.”

And I hope your life will change – starting today.

If you’re going through any of the things I’ve gone through – please email me or message me and let’s talk about it. I’m always good for coffee and conversation.

And if you don’t know the God I’ve been writing about, please let me introduce you.

He’s a good, good Father. The best way to find him is to stop hiding and start seeking. Let’s seek him – together.

Posted in Letters

Dear Me(lissa),

Tonight I allowed my heart
To envision myself
As I sometimes envision
My daughters:
7-year-old dimples with
Auburn ringlets
Spilling out of a
Bobby-pinned bun
With tattered ballet slippers
And a fresh recital bouquet.
Carefree, joyful, graceful feet
Pirouetting across the stage.

Grandma used to say
“Beauty is only skin deep –
Ugly goes to the bone.”
But she meant bitter.
Bitter lives inside and eats a person up
Until callous actions flow out of a
Bitter, hard heart.

Whereas
Beauty bursts out through the
Kind of smile you can see
In someone’s eyes.
Beauty lives inside a heart
But can’t be contained, so it
Flutters out in
Thoughtful words and kind gestures.

So I wrote myself a letter that I should probably re-read often:

Dear 7-year-old-me,
Your heart is full of kindness and grace.
You are worth fighting for, being faithful to, and being loved unconditionally. You never have to chase love or earn it. You don’t have to give anything to receive it.
God IS Love.
Love created one unique Melissa with a blonde mane, ocean-water eyes, and a sassy, creative, caring personality.
He didn’t mess up.
He didn’t give you used parts.
He methodically, wonderfully designed you exactly like he wanted.

Unfortunately, this world has made a mess out of what God designed. Because of this you will be hurt, abandoned, used, discarded, abused, and rejected.
God didn’t order any of this, but when it happens he promises he can bring beauty, growth, love, acceptance, grace, peace, solace, order and joy from it.
But hear me – you have to let him.

Don’t let bitter dwell within.
Don’t even let it knock at your door.
Bitter (ugly) takes up residence in you when you:

  • Delay grieving
  • Keep reminding yourself you got hurt
  • Stay in a bad situation too long
  • Take on responsibilities that belong to others, not you
  • Willfully sin
  • Join in with mockers
  • Close your mouth in prayer but open it to gossip
  • Fail to guard your eyes, ears, and heart
  • Keep your Bible closed, but your TV on
  • Rely on yourself rather than him

You’ll have 3 amazing kids, adorable future grandkids, and be a bonus mom to so many hearts in need of a mother’s love.
Above all, baby doll, remember to walk in beauty.
Remember you are worthy of love – in fact – you were born with both a capacity for receiving love and the capability of giving love.

Keep walking with God and never get too old to enjoy the promise and beauty of a sunset.
Go be amazing.
Love,
Me(lissa)

Posted in Life Lessons, Love

Just Start Walking – Together

The longer I spend walking beside someone through life, the more comfortable we get with each other. The more comfortable we get, the more we find we have in common. Eventually we find we’re sharing all of the important things with each other. Eventually even the shared silences are comfortable and being present with each other is enough. Sometimes we get a ways into our walk before we realize just how comfortable we are and how much better our lives are for walking beside each other.

This accurately describes my walk with Jesus lately. Sharing, laughing, being quiet, loving, talking, sharing sunsets. The more we walk together, the deeper I fall in love with Him.

If you don’t talk with someone daily, it’s a lot harder to really know each other.

So I challenge you today to just start walking and talking, and then wait and see what happens.

Posted in Poetry

Hold On

When you’re struggling
Like a clothesline in the wind
With the weight of all you have
Hanging on the line

When you’re running
Like a freight-train-Friday night
When what’s behind you keeps on coming
Up from behind

When you’re low down
You’re feeling lower than the floor now
When all that’s weighing on your heart
Feels like a rug

Hold on
Hold with everything you’ve got
Reach out and take my hand
And don’t let go –
When the storm is finally over
And you survey the damage
You’ll find that all that matters
Is by your side
And you’ll find
That your hand’s in mine

When you’re praying
And the words seem to hit the ceiling
And your tears just won’t stop streaming
From your eyes

When you’re faking
When a smile is what you’re portraying
But the cracks in the side of your mask
Say otherwise

When you’re anxious
When your mind can’t catch a break and
When the demons play hide and seek
Within your mind

Hold on
Hold on
Hold with everything you’ve got
Reach out and take my hand
And don’t let go –
When the storm is finally over
And you survey the damage
You’ll find that all that matters
Is by your side
And you’ll find
That your hand’s in mine

Melissa Fairchild (c) 2018