Behind Closed Doors

10 years ago, my mom passed away in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Mom was one of those people who you couldn’t help but love because she had so much love and compassion for others. She had a faith that I can only aspire to. If you needed someone to pray for you, she’s the one you’d ask. Her sense of humor was something else, and her laugh was positively infectious. She was a strong woman, and had a stubborn streak that seems to be rather genetic. Mom was also in an abusive relationship.

I came across a book in this past year: Healing From Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas. I picked it up because it’s one of the rare resources I’ve found written by a Christian that deals with the aftermath of psychological abuse. I had to keep putting the book down and walking away because things the author mentioned were exactly the sort of things I saw play out in my mom’s relationship. I’d feel sick to my stomach and wonder, “How could I not see this for what it was before now?”

I was one of those foolish people who used to say things like, “Why don’t they just leave?” or, “Why don’t they just cut ties with them?” when hearing about someone in an abusive relationship. It’s funny the things that you get used to, the things you can explain away, and the behavior you make excuses for when you’re in the middle of it. The irony is, while I was judging all of those people who insisted on maintaining a relationship with someone who was mistreating them horribly, I couldn’t see the truth of my mom’s relationship, or the abusive one I spent decades in. Actually, it wasn’t until after the abuser cut ties with me a few years back that I started to see things clearly.

When someone asked me, “Why didn’t you, your mom, or your sister say anything?” I struggled to explain. The short answer is: I didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with what was going on. When you grow up in a certain environment, you just think it’s normal. But it’s more complicated than that. I was afraid to say anything because I’d been conditioned to be afraid of saying anything. I felt too embarrassed and ashamed to speak up. I believed that it was my fault — that it wasn’t really abuse, and so I felt guilty for being upset and angry about it. I know that all of this sounds crazy from the perspective of normal, healthy relationships, but psychological abuse is insidious. The stuff you end up believing is crazy, and on some level you know it’s crazy, but you can’t shake that deep belief that all of those lies are true.

So why write about any of this? I can’t change what my mom went through. I can’t change what I went through. Why say anything?

First, because I want to tell people that sometimes the person being abused does not fit any of the stereotypes. Sometimes it’s the strong, independent, outgoing person who’s being abused. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, and those closed doors are in every neighborhood and demographic. Sometimes the abuser is the person who’s in some sort of church leadership position. The kind of person who fills in when the pastor is on vacation and leads Bible studies. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Appearances can be very deceiving, and abusers can be very good at projecting a good front. The scary part is how good they are at getting the people they are abusing to help them put up a good front. We can’t assume because everything looks OK on the outside, that everything is OK.

Second, because telling our stories is a powerful thing. I’ve heard some truly awful stories, but sometimes those stories had remarkable things that came after all of the awful. Stories where people not only survived the abuse and survived getting out of the relationship, but stories of people who are healthier, stronger, and have a deeper faith than ever. It can take a really, really long time — many years — but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Those stories give me something to hold onto, something to look forward to.

I can’t change Mom’s story or my own and edit out the ugly parts, much as I might wish to. What I can do, is hold tight to my faith just like she did. By the grace of God, I’m going to get to the other side of this, even if it takes years.

Note: If you’re in an abusive relationship, or are dealing with the aftermath of one, please take care of yourself and stay safe. If you need to make arrangements for your own safety, or seek professional help for your mental and physical health, then please do get the help that you need.

Red Lipstick

Grammy Vivian was a tall woman with dark hair, and I’m told she was always stylish. She passed away when I was only two, and the only memory I have related to her is the hospital bed at our house. Still, I imagine her as one of those tall, effortlessly elegant women like you’d see in the “golden age” of films. My sister is like that too. Tall, gorgeous dark hair, blue eyes, and definitely stylish!

I’m sort of the exact opposite. At 5’ 7”, I’m a tall-ish woman, but not remarkably so. My once-red hair has faded to more of a medium brown with a healthy dose of gray thrown in! If I have a personal style, it’s closer to weird and quirky than effortlessly elegant. I’ve made attempts to look more “grown-up” over the years, but it always left me frustrated and feeling like I needed to be someone that I wasn’t.

Now, I’m a firm believer that Mom was right in the sentiment, “Beauty is as beauty does.” It’s far more important to cultivate our faith, and to be kind to people, than it is to look pretty. We can definitely go overboard and become too obsessed with appearances too. On the flip side, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with taking some care in our clothing. While I don’t agree with the sentiment that makeup is necessary for all women, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing it if you want to. (If you feel like you have to, then I think it’s a good idea to explore why you are so uncomfortable if you’re not wearing it.) Like so much of life, there’s a balance to be found!

I find myself wanting to make an effort in this area again. Blame it on the gorgeous red lipstick that I got a week ago. My mom’s makeup routine consisted of Oil of Olay and bright shades of fuchsia or mauve lipstick. She totally rocked the bright lipstick! In a fit of nostalgia, I decided that I was going to try wearing red lipstick. I hate having to fuss with touching up typical lipstick, not to mention lipstick smudges on my teacups! That led to trying out a popular brand that a number of friends had raved about because it truly stayed put. It’s a bold lip color, but I really like it! Maybe it’s OK to put a little bit of effort into how I look after all. My goal is to develop a simple, pared down wardrobe and a basic makeup routine that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

My makeup routine is never going to be complicated. My eyeshadow palette and this stay-put lipstick are the only things I’m interested in keeping in my makeup bag. If Mom could get away with Oil of Olay and lipstick, then just pick the makeup I like to use and skip the rest.

My clothes style is going to be a bit harder to figure out I think. I can’t even walk on high heels. Skinny jeans are absolutely not going to make an appearance in my wardrobe. I don’t like most make-up. When it comes to jewelry, I’m definitely a minimalist. I don’t care if chocolate brown and pumpkin orange are my most flattering colors, because wearing them doesn’t make me smile. If it can’t be tossed in the washer and dryer, then it doesn’t belong in my dresser. (Hand knits are the exception to this rule!) I’m definitely keeping my bright teal crocs, tie-dye, and my favorite graphic tees. Most fashion trends end up looking ridiculous on me. Can we talk about the lack of any kind of rhyme or reason to women’s clothing sizes?!? Not to mention the appalling lack of decent pockets…

As you can imagine, I’m no one’s first choice to take clothes shopping. Unless you want someone to commiserate with you about how much we both hate clothes shopping while on our way to the ice cream shop, that is. In that case, let me know when we’re going out for ice cream!

The idea of these capsule wardrobes where you stick with a limited color scheme and fewer clothes appeals to me though. I prefer to keep my wardrobe pared down enough to fit in just one dresser. Sticking to colors that will pretty much go together has a lot of advantages too. It would be nice to be able to pull together either a casual or dressy outfit out of the same few basics. I’m still not touching skinny jeans or heels, and as much as I’m told I should pick “flattering colors”, I’m going to pick the colors that make me smile when I wear them instead. When I started pruning the clothes in my dresser, I saw a bit of a color scheme emerging. It appears that most of my clothes are black, gray, or navy, with a splash or two of red. I think I’ll add a few basic pieces following this color scheme. Maybe a couple of teal or deep purple items too because those are colors that make me smile!

Munchkin was intrigued by this capsule wardrobe idea, so we spent Sunday afternoon going through her closet. We cleared out a LOT of outgrown clothes, and pared the rest down to reflect her chosen color scheme and a good variety of pieces that she could easily mix and match. It was surprisingly fun, and she was thrilled when she discovered how much easier it was to find the items that she really liked to wear when we cleared out the rest.

I started thinking about what kinds of messages about beauty that I want to pass along to her. I want her to know that you don’t have to have a huge wardrobe with lots of fancy and expensive clothes to look nice, because a few carefully chosen pieces can let you put together an outfit appropriate for just about any occasion. I want her to enjoy experimenting with makeup and hair to find what sort of style she likes, but I don’t want her to ever feel like it’s necessary to wear makeup daily. I want her to be comfortable letting her personal style reflect her personality. I’ve taken a page from Mom’s book too and told her often, “Pretty is as pretty does!” I’ve told her that the prettiest women aren’t always the ones who look traditionally beautiful, but are the ones who have a beautiful faith, and show kindness and compassion to others.

Ultimately, our outside appearance is of much less importance than how our heart looks. It’s our heart that God looks at after all! And while we should take the Bible’s warnings about vanity seriously, thinking a bit about the clothes we wear and using makeup doesn’t automatically mean that we’re flirting with vanity or obsessing over our looks to a sinful or unhealthy degree.

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite wardrobe or makeup tip? How do you keep a balanced view of beauty in your life, and keep it from taking over your life?

White Shores

This week will mark nine years since we celebrated Mom’s last birthday, and also nine years since we said goodbye. I can’t help but be a little sad this time of year. Sometimes more than just a little.

Yet, as the verse in 1 Thessalonians says, I don’t sorrow as one who has no hope. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when watching Return of the King with my older kids. There is a scene where the hobbit Pippin and Gandalf the White are in the midst of a battle they have little hope of winning. Pippin remarks, rather sadly, to Gandalf that he didn’t think it would end this way. What Gandalf said next has stuck with me.

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it! White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.

That sparked my imagination and painted a lovely picture of Heaven in my mind’s eye. Hope. And in Mom’s case, I could quote A Tale of Two Cities, “…it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

If I must miss my mother, then at least I can take solace in knowing that she is at rest, in a place that I could only begin to dream of. That’s why we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.

As for me, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b NIV) I’ve been redeemed for a reason, and there’s still more here that He would have me do before I reach the white shores. I will press on, missing Mom, yet reminded that her journey didn’t end here nine years ago.

Hard Goodbyes

“Time heals all wounds.”

Who hasn’t heard that one a time or two? I get the sentiment behind it, but it’s clumsily put, implying that a healed wound is like the injury had never happened at all. Perhaps it would be better to say, “Time helps you get used to the scars from your wounds.” Admittedly, that’s much less pity and a bit too long for a fortune cookie! I think it’s more accurate, and so I’ll stick with the latter sentiment myself.

The thing about deep wounds, is that they leave scars when they heal. Scars are funny things. Move just right and you’ll feel the pull on the scarred tissue that just won’t stretch quite as well as the undamaged area. Scars themselves tend to be quite sensitive, and while that lessens over the course of time, there may be days, years later, when even the feel of clothing against the scar irritates and inflames it. Changes in seasons and weather patterns can make old scars act up again, reminding us of how deep those long “healed” wounds once went, and the damage that was done.

Time has allowed me to become used to the fact that my mom is no longer here. Most days, I can talk about her, remember the good memories and be fine. Then there are days like today, nearly nine years later, when all I can think is, “I want my mom.” I want to sit down at her dining room table with a mug of the tea she kept in the cupboard for me because it was my favorite. I want to hear her laugh again. I want her to tell me that everything is going to be OK. I just want to hear her tell me, “I love you, kiddo,” one more time. I know that it’s not possible, and most days that’s alright. Today though… today it really doesn’t feel alright.

Part of me says that I’m being foolish. After all, it’s been almost nine years! Surely that’s more than enough time for me to “get over it”. I’ve had elderly women tell me with tears in their eyes that they still miss their moms dearly, and that no amount of time will change that. I suppose that it is a little bit encouraging that I’m not the only one still missing my mom after several years have passed. At this point though, you sort of feel like you need to push all of those feeling aside and get on with your day. In the period immediately following Mom’s death, no one would have thought twice if I’d cried and said, “I’m just missing her a lot right now.” Nine years later? It’s a different story. I have work to do. I have kids to take care of. I have a house and dog to tend to. Taking time to let the tears fall seems like a silly luxury that I can’t afford today.

Sharing the struggle with someone is problematic because you don’t know how they will react to your admission that it still hurts and you still dearly miss your loved one. There are some people who would understand, typically the ones who’ve also suffered a deep loss. A number of people would be confused about what the problem was because they haven’t been through that kind of loss yet, but they are sympathetic and kind at least. Some people roll their eyes and mentally label you a “drama queen”. There are even a few people who would take it upon themselves to be “helpful” and impatiently tell you to get over it like everyone else has, or worse, like they have, implying that they are better and stronger than you are.

I think that maybe Winnie the Pooh was onto something when he said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” How much we miss someone is tied closely to how much love and closeness there was in the relationship. The fact that I can still have a day, years later, when I miss Mom this much, means that there was a lot of good there. I had something that makes saying goodbye really hard. Maybe the fact that it’s still hard from time to time, isn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be thankful for. Maybe it’s not just OK that I still struggle with grieving the loss, maybe it’s actually a good thing. We don’t grieve all losses this deeply, just the loss of people who impacted us deeply for the better. The kind of people who made us who we are, and loved us through everything. The kind of people like Mom.

Whether you lost that person recently, and the grief is still fresh, or whether it’s been years and this is just one of the days when that scar is particularly sensitive, it’s OK to still miss them. You don’t have to get to the point where you don’t miss them at all, and neither would you want to. It feels very lonely sometimes, the hard goodbyes, but we need not walk through it alone. Isaiah 41:13 is my reminder that I am not alone, “For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you.” In the middle of struggling to hold back the tears, God is beside me, holding my hand and reminding me that He will help me. That’s the most comforting thought of all.

Worth Missing…

You would have been 62 today. I wish I were baking a cake for you right now. I’ll always be glad that we had that one last birthday party though. I never quite understood how much the word bittersweet could apply to a memory until after you were gone, and I thought about that evening. Nearly eight years have passed, but in my memory you still look exactly the same. The rest of us have aged of course. I imagine if you saw me today you’d say, “You’ve gone gray, Kiddo!” Then we’d end up teasing each other about getting old.

Scan0022 (2)Munchkin is the only one who really remembers you out of the three oldest kids. She still talks about Grammy Kathy from time to time. That girl is a delightful mix of her two grandmothers, with a healthy dash of her dad thrown in. I often chuckle over something she does that reminds me of you. Mr. Q and Camo don’t remember you, but they love hearing all of the stories I tell about Grammy just the same. You would smile and tell me that Mr. Q is a Welch through and through. I’ll bet your fridge would be covered with Camo’s artwork too. You never were able hold Little Guy, but you would laugh over how much he has all of us wrapped around his finger. (Of course, you’d be the worst of any of us!)

I know that you knew I loved you, because I learned from you not to leave things like that unsaid. I thanked you for a lot of things, but there are so many more that I never thought to. The longer I’m a mother, the more things are added to the list of things that I should have thanked you for, and things I wish I could apologize for. You made all of this look easy Mom, a lot easier than it is.

I found a quote on Pinterest that seems appropriate:

“It’s hard when you miss people. But, you know, if you miss them it means that you were lucky. It means you had someone special in your life, someone worth missing.” – Nathan Scott

Thank you Mom, for being someone worth missing.

Parenting Lessons from Mom: The Tween Years

When my daughter entered the tween years, I panicked a bit. I’d just barely started to feel more confident in my parenting and now we were entering uncharted waters. While praying for guidance, it struck me that I had a great example to follow in my own mother. So, I spent some time identifying some of the key things that she did to maintain our relationship though my angst-filled tween years.

Coffee with Mom

Every morning found Mom at the kitchen table with her coffee and her Bible. She kept the coffee that I preferred on hand, and invited me to join her at the kitchen table after waking up in the morning. Sometimes we had deep, serious conversations, and sometimes we just chatted over the latest copy of a recipe magazine. If she had come across a particular scripture in her morning devotions, then she’d show it to me, but she resisted the temptation to turn our morning coffee time into just another series of sermons. Life has gotten busy for me, but this is something that I want to practice more with my own daughter.

Talk, but Listen Too

As much as I’m described as a quiet person, I can go on and on about a topic of interest to me. It is so much harder for me to listen to someone talk about something that I find incredibly boring. I’m positive that there were plenty of times when my topic of choice was the last thing in the world that Mom was interested in, but she bit her tongue and listened. She didn’t tell me that my ideas were stupid, or act disinterested. I have to actively work at this, but it is so important for me to listen to my kids and not monopolize our conversation time. Even if it means biting my own tongue now and again!

Along for the Ride

Moms run lots of errands, and mine was no exception. Just about every time she got in the car though, she took at least one of us with her. I know that it sounds ridiculously simple, but it was a great way for us to spend time together. Car rides seem to be made for conversation, and we had a lot of good ones over the years. At times, we turned on the radio instead. Neither of us could sing on key, but we still had fun singing together! As nice as a quiet car ride sounds, it’s worth exchanging the quiet for some quality time.

Offer Hugs, but Don’t Push

I went through a phase where I would barely tolerate Mom’s hugs. I certainly was not about to hug her back! Now I realize how much that must have hurt her, but she never let on or made me feel guilty. She still hugged me, still told me that she loved me, but never forced the issue when I didn’t reciprocate. I don’t know if this is something I’ll encounter with one or all of my kids. If I do, I’ll take my cue from Mom and patiently let them know that they are loved, while waiting for them to respond in their own time.

Pray Without Ceasing

Ultimately, we don’t have as much control over how our kids’ lives turn out as we’d like to think we do. After we’ve done everything that we can, we can keep praying! I know that Mom prayed for me daily, and I had no idea as a young person how much I’d come to appreciate that later.

I know that I didn’t always make it easy for Mom, but I’m so grateful that she put so much time and effort into our relationship. Now, it’s up to me to do the same with my kids.

Thoughts for Tuesday, March 1st

Outside my windows… There isn’t much snow on the ground, but it’s still cold enough to assure me that winter is not yet over.

Inside my house… I’m trying out menu planning again. I think I need to set an alarm to go off in the afternoon that lets me know it’s time to start supper though!

Counting 1000 gifts… a wonderful visit with the woman who was our midwife for all four children! It was exactly what I need this week.

Prayers of the heart… this is a hard week for me, and for many of the people who loved Mom. I’m praying for all of us.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… using LEGOs to create their own games. It marvelous how creative kids are!

From my playlist… Leonard. I’m just finishing up this book about Leonard Nimoy that was written by William Shatner. It’s been a fascinating one to listen to. There have been a few times when I’ve said to Aaron, “Being a photographer sounds a bit like being an actor!” I think there are a lot of things that are common to any of the creative fields.

From my reading list… Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Nish Weiseth. I’ve just started reading this one. Of course, I didn’t exactly need to have another book in my “currently reading” stack, but it seemed like an appropriate book to pick up considering my word for 2016 is “story”.

From my needlework basket… I finished another pair of socks and cast on one using a colorway called “Live Long and Prosper” by Lorna’s Laces. Yes, it’s a Star Trek themed yarn! I’ve also got some Star Wars themed yarn waiting to be knit up. I already have a pair of socks out of the Doctor Who yarn…

In the learning room… The kids and I have been using these great Scripture writing plans from Sweet Blessings for copywork. I’m even copying out the longer passages in a journal myself. I find the writing soothing, and it’s been a wonderful way for me to slow down and ponder the verses. You can find the March plans here.

Random ramblings… March 3rd always reminds me of how much I miss having Mom in my life. I’m honestly happy for her, because I know that she’s OK. She’s laid down all of her burdens, and struggles. She’s completely healed! I’m glad for her sake, but I’ve still got more of my journey left to finish, without her. Most days, I can just remember her and smile. This week… this week the tears are a little closer to the surface than usual.

Profound ponderings… “I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are evil.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Caught on film…

We had a lovely visit with our friend Andrea today! She was our midwife for all for kiddos!

A photo posted by Teish (@teishknits) on

Bright Pink Lipstick

“It’s hard when you miss people. But, you know, if you miss them it means you were lucky. It means you had someone special in your life, someone worth missing.” – Nathan Scott

Six years. Mom has been gone for six years today.

Last year, I finally emptied out the tin of coffee that had been sitting in my kitchen cabinet for five years. Try as I might though, I couldn’t bring myself to throw out her lipstick and perfume though.

IMG_2214[1]Mom used to wear bright pink lipstick. She didn’t tend to wear much of any makeup, but before she left the house she always put on her lipstick. Today I took the caps off her lipstick and smiled over how bright they were before finally letting them go.

Mom didn’t buy expensive perfume. I was never particularly fond of the kind she wore, but over the years I always associated that scent with Mom. When I opened one of the bottles today, there was a lump in my throat. One of the bottles went, and one is still sitting in my bathroom cabinet. I guess I’m not quite ready to let go of everything.

IMG_2212[1]Six years is a long time. Not so long that I don’t still miss her terribly though. I’m used to it most days, but some days are harder than others. As much as I miss her, I wouldn’t wish her back. That may sound like a bit of a contradiction, but I don’t think it is. I think of Mom finally laying down all of the burdens that she carried here on Earth. How could I ever ask her to pick them up again?

2 Timothy 4:7 fits Mom perfectly, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Mom finished her journey. She is in the presence of the King! Knowing that she is well and at peace brings me comfort despite the grief.

I have my own path stretching out before me, and missing Mom is part of that. I wonder about what she might have said to me and I think she would have told me, “Just keep going. Keep trusting God no matter what.”


My mom would have turned 60 today. It’s a little strange thinking about that because that last time that I saw her, she had just turned 54. So I find myself wondering about random little things…

IMG_2212[1]Would her hair be more gray than black now?

How many more laugh lines would she have accumulated?

Would she still perch her glasses on top of her head whenever she was reading or doing handwork?

Would she have a smart phone? (I seriously can’t imagine my mom liking smart phones!)

What would she think of e-books?

Would she still be sneaking sips of her coffee to my kids? (Pretty sure that’s a yes.)

I still miss her very much. Yet, I’m reminded that if I miss her this much, it’s because there are so many wonderful memories.

I’m reminded of a quote from Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Mother’s Day

“Mom made this look easy.”

I find myself saying that often. I also wonder if she ever felt half as unprepared as I do when one of the kids throws me a new curveball. I’ve discovered that she was right when she said, “Just wait until you have kids…” And I really wish that I could say all of that to her.

Thankfully, mom and I didn’t leave things unsaid. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t have the chance to speak to her one last time before she died. She knew that I loved her very much, and I’d thanked her for many of the things that she’d done. But five years ago, I didn’t know what I do today.

Five years ago, I had no idea that time and hard work that it took to homeschool. Sure, I was glad that she’d homeschooled me, but I had no idea what that really took.

It used to irritate me to no end that she always saw through whatever front I’d try to put up. She knew when there was something wrong. I think that moms always do. I had no clue how much I’d miss it.

I want to sit at her table over a cup of tea, and have her hug me and tell me that everything will be OK. Most of all though, I want to thank her once more for all of the times that she did that.

I know I’m not the only one out there who will be desperately missing my mother tomorrow. I wish I could send hugs to all of you. I hope the good memories make you smile.