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There is no bad guy

04/11/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Apparently in the world of social media there are all kinds of days set aside to acknowledge or celebrate little things in our life and the world that we really have no control over…like siblings. Yes, yesterday was national sibling day…who knew? Much of my childhood memories have been reduced or enlarged…however you chose to look at it…by only the good memories, the treasures and stories that make up the vibrant pattern of the quilt being made that is the tapestry of my life. I often wonder, agonize and stress over what my kids will remember, if they will have good memories of their adolescent years or if they will be filled with me telling them to “just be quiet or I am going to go crazy”, or “really, you really think that is a smart answer”, or…my favorite…”go use your imagination and stop fighting!” I also wonder how much of the past few years will define them, if they will notice or remember the turmoil they lived in, or if what they are going through now…being in two different houses…adjusting to “dad’s” house and me not being there. I am so thankful for the relationship and memories I have with my best friends in the world..,my siblings.

Not having T.V. or rather syndicated television, (we could watch movies), growing up…our imaginations worked in overtime. Our playtime was filled with variou story lines but consistent throughout most was the theme of a “bad guy or group” and a “good guy or group”. If we were pretending to live in the great country of Australia…the bad guys were dingos, prairie fires and a rich land owner. Nationality made no difference in our minds as we often re-enacted the trail of tears or the Underground Railroad…with the proverbial “white man” as the bad guy. However then wandering westward you might never know what Indian might be waiting to scalp you. Cops and robbers…more of the likes of Jesse James and Wyatt Earp kept the law and broke it. We knew no gender or race…there was no prejudices shown EXCEPT to the idea of GOOD and BAD. Those were the days…when a “wind storm” (and a fake one at that), was the “BAD” that encompassed my days. Now…I worry that my kids definition of bad will include more than their imagination and memories of fun they had or will have.

In this situation…this new era of the journey of life…it’s easy for people to blame Matt…to think he is the “bad” guy. I’m not excusing certain behaviors…but he isn’t the “bad” guy. There is NO bad guy. There were bad choices made, bad reaponses, bad circumstances…but there is NO bad guy. For the sake of my kids, for the sake of Matt…I DO NOT want this to be misunderstood. Our kids will be fine. Kids are resilient little beings…we will be fine for our kids…but we are not fine for each other. I’m thankful for Matt. I am thankful for the life we shared…not all of it…I am thankful for the growth I experienced with him and that I will continue to experience through this, I am thankful that he loves his kids, I am thankful for his family. I am thankful that even through this divorce…the kids will be fine…that we both have our kids backs…and THAT THERE IS NO BAD GUY HERE!

2 Comments - Categories: The Journey

A Picturesque View

01/14/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

As a kid we relished the days my dad would stay home from work. It was a vacation day to us unless he was sick, but even then there were treats to be had like being able to watch a movie because the house would have to stay quiet for him to get his rest. When I was younger I never quite saw the irony between a mom getting sick and a dad getting sick…women and men handle things much different. I used to think it was just my mom…now I realize its every mom!!! I also don’t think she looked at papa’s ‘vacation’ days or canceled school days with near the excitement of us kids. I can say that now…now that I have experienced a day full of plans that get dashed to the ground at 6:00 in the morning when Matt would say he wasn’t going into work because he just needed a day at home. All of a sudden everything I had planned for the day would either get canceled or put on hold so that I could be home and the boys could be around their dad…maybe I handled it wrong…I am not sure, but in those moments it felt right for the kids and was met with some resentment from me. Not always, not in the beginning or when the boys were babies…but the last few years I didn’t like the days he chose to stay home. Now…now I wish I had enjoyed them a little more and not resented him so much for them. Maybe in a way he felt my resentment and it helped build a wall.

Anyway…somewhere in the early years of 1990’s, I think I was 12 or 13,  Missouri was hit pretty hard with some hard weather. The house my parents bought all those years ago was in pretty rough shape. The original part of the home dates back to pre-civil war with an addition across the front added at the turn of the century…the sidewalk dated 1905, but they were never positive if that was put in when the addition went on or not. It’s a large farmhouse, drafty windows…because most of them are still the original windows…not the best insulation and rock walls covered in plaster/Sheetrock. Well now a great deal of that has changed but its been a slow, slow process. We never had our own rooms growing up, there was anywhere to 2-6 people in a bedroom during different stages and ages of people growing. This came in pretty handy in those winter months when the rooms would get so cold there would be ice on the inside of the windows. Of course they made really fun sketch pads…drawing in the ice with our finger nails. There was always a couple weeks in the winter however that we all had to move downstairs, close off the hallway to the upstairs and live in the living-room/over-sized kitchen and dining room/and also the one bathroom the house had. My parents could still use their room and usually had a baby or toddler in there with them, the rest of us would pile into the living-room and stay nice and cozy, covered with 5-6 blankets and all tucked in. Sometimes it would even get cold enough we would have to bring the newborns goats into the house so they wouldn’t freeze…this really only happened if the mother was lost in childbirth. To say I had an unusual childhood would be an understatement. This one particular year we had already had snow and then an ice storm hit. I don’t remember the accumulation but I remember papa being home from school…A LOT! But oh boy did we have fun!! my parents were really good about going sledding with us kids, showing us how to build snowmen, making pictures in the snow with us by walking and perfecting the snow angel was a talent taught only by my mother. She was pregnant a lot in the winter though so my dad was the one who would take us out the most. At 12 I didn’t really need my dad to take me outside to go sledding…but the event became 10’x more exciting when he did. We would be out there for hours….literally hours. I can remember this ice storm though…we all thought it would be fun to go sledding, so we get ready, go outside and crawl over to the hill…the crawling should have been our first clue that maybe the ice was thick enough we couldn’t even break through it, but no…it just seemed like even more of an adventure. So off we went…flying down the hill at speeds so fast you couldn’t stop if you wanted too. Eventually we hit the ditch and then turned around to do it again…we were thrill seekers…the whole lot of us. There was a a problem though…we couldn’t get up the hill. We tried for what seemed like forever…we..and by we I mean my sister Micah who would have been about 10-11, my brother Chet who would have been 8-9 and Jasper..6-7. It was a nightmare…we would get a few steps in and then slide backwards. Thankfully my dad, who I think was watching out the window, came out with a rope and pulled us to the top of the hill. I am pretty sure that was the shortest visit to the outdoors we ever had. That day of ice kept going though and lasted a long time…I don’t ever remember losing power but we couldn’t get out our drive or up the road. My dad, mom and one of the kids made the hike to the end of the gravel road we lived on and someone met them with food…I think at this point we had been house bound for at least a week. It took them every bit of 2 hours to go the half a mile to the end of our road and about an hour to get back. I am sure my mom was going crazy when my dad finally went back to work but oh the memories that were made.

Looking outside today reminded me of that day so long ago…it feels like a lifetime in some regards…the ice is so picturesque on the trees with the shimmer of silver when the light hits it just right but the thing is when a wind comes along or something is thrown at the branches not only does the ice shatter, more often than not the tree or branches break. It reminded me of how my heart can maybe look to others or even feel to me. Maybe it looks beautiful, picturesque, guarded, protected in its ice almost…I don’t want to break or shatter though with what life is throwing at me right now. I don’t want my heart to be covered in ice, cold but protected, I pray that Matt can feel the warmth I am trying to give…albeit not much but there is a faint hint of warmth there. I am trying, I am trying to hold onto to something that doesn’t seem fixable, that doesn’t seem possible, I don’t know if that is the right thing or the wrong thing to do…I don’t even think there is a clear answer, but I do know I don’t want my heart to ‘look’ beautiful covered with ice and shimmering when just the right light hits it…I want it to BE beautiful. Full of warmth, love, forgiveness, patience and understanding.

My dad with my brother Jasper, watching over us older ones I am sure.

My dad with my brother Jasper, watching over us older ones I am sure.

No Comments - Categories: The Journey

I should have been a cowgirl…

01/10/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Today is one of those days that just send you down the winding paths of memories. It doesn’t help that I only got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep because of the boys, the fact that I am staying in the room (and have been, coming up on a month now) that my sister and I shared in our teenage years and then again housed me for the beginning months of motherhood when Boyd was a baby,  or the emotional state my mind has been in lately but sometimes the reminiscing can be extremely emotional or cathartic…I guess its how you look at it. No…today is one of those days that sends me remembering the years of my youth and I can’t shake them. We started the day off attempting a reading lesson and when the word ‘rod’ was pronounced ‘ram, rat, rag, rock…etc.’, basically everything but ‘rod’…yeah, I sent my kids outside. Maybe that makes me a bad mom but in that moment I totally would have become a worse mom if I just did not let them get some fresh air. For my sanity and their safety…school work was suspended. (I am totally joking about their safety part by the way…don’t want anyone to think I was being serious.) Anyway, this kind of day reminds me of the days my mom would probably have the same experiences with one or more of us kids and would tell us to go outside and pretend we were on the Oregon trail or in the wild west. In my adulthood I now realize more than I did then, that about 75% of the people that were on the trail died and the wild west was filled with dangers…not sure what mom was trying to say…. 🙂

We had a horse…or rather a very large pony. I believe the qualification for a horse is 14 hands…wendy was 13.5 I believe. We all loved her so much. She was the absolute best. Hours would be spent on her and even the babies would ride if an older kiddo was holding on. I can remember one day when mom packed us a lunch and we set out on the Oregon trail…all 6 of us I think from Avery all they way up to me ranging in age from 3-12. We took our wagon and shimmied something together to affix it to the saddle and we set off on our long journey. Other kids got to play the computer version while we had no idea what a computer even was…no joke. My parents only had 4 acres but we were surrounded by a parcel of land…not even sure exactly how many acres it is…that was owned by some people that live in saint Louis who came out and used the property as hunting land and let us pretty much grow up on that land as well. We affectionately grew to call them ‘the hunters’ and there was dismay in our voice every year when ‘the hunters’ would show up because that meant we lost access to our beloved woods and trails and even a couple camping spots. The fearlessness that mom had sending us all out with a horse, a red radio flyer wagon shimmied up to a saddle that I am 100% convinced would not be OSHA approved…a sack lunch, and orders not to return for a couple hours at the minimum is something I admire. I have found that as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am probably a bit of a helicopter mom. I’m getting better, but the idea that something could happen to my kids has played a part into what I allow them to do. I think its easy for us to feel like we are failing our kids at every turn and that plays into how we release them and let them experience things. I am pretty sure that day we had my little sister, Adley, contract yellow fever and die or something…I know we had one of my siblings pretend to die because we ‘buried’ them on the side of the trail…meaning we made them lay down in the tall grass, we would cover them with leaves and then we would leave. It’s a miracle my younger siblings have any love for us older kids at all. We would be gone for hours on days like this…hours. Playing in the woods, fighting off enemies, nursing the sick and dying and riding our horse. There was a back pasture we would take her in and just let her loose…it felt like she was flying. I loved riding…being on her, walking down the road…flying over the ground…I was at peace. Even in my teenage years when the pulls of right and wrong, emotions and hormones were taking over I could take Wendy out and all would be right in the world. She died my freshman year in college, that was a sad, sad day, I don’t think you often forget your first animal love. Many years later when I was at school at Linn State Technical college I would go to a place I looked at as a second home…Turkey Hill Bible ranch. That place was such a joy to be at and I would get to ride…I taught Boyd to ride there as well. He was only two. A friend and I worked with a couple feisty horses…getting them to a place where kids would ride them. Boyd was always our test…if he could ride them at two we knew they were good. A couple years later I took a trip out west to Montana with Boyd…visited a friend but then went on the explore the state myself. I fell in love. I think there has always been a pull, whether or not to feel like I was flying above the ground or an ache for wide open spaces where it was just my horse and I…that pull has been there and was started at a very young age.

Those are the memories that will I get to carry with me in this life. I watch my kids and wonder if its possible to leave them with the same quality of memories I had growing up. I am not saying all my remembering are joyful and warm and fuzzy…but in each one of them, regardless how I felt in that moment, was with people I loved and who loved me.

Me with our horse, Wendy. I Was almost 10 here.

Me with our horse, Wendy. I Was almost 10 here.

2 Comments - Categories: Family Stories and Reflection, The Journey

Forgiveness – New thoughts today

01/07/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

As I have pondered my questions from yesterday on forgiveness and have been wrestling with it today a few things have struck me. Now whether or not these things are true, grounded in some deep understanding of scripture or words…these are the things on my heart.

Can I forgive and still stand up and not accept a certain behavior or behaviors? I believe the simple answer is yes. BUT, it is hard to do. Growing up we were taught a distinct understanding of right and wrong. We knew that if we said a bad word, were mean to each other,disrespectful or didn’t do our chores there would be a consequence…usually in the form of a spanking or, in my case, often Tabasco sauce…Go figure. 🙂 I don’t think that was easy for my parents to do…to be the referee between so many of us. I can remember more than one instance where something happened and my parents forgave us kids for what we had done. I also remember a time, a very pivotal time in my life about age 14. We were attending a church and had been for some time at this point that was comprised primarily of other families similar to ours…homeschooling families that had the goal to raise sound, character filled and godly men and women. It was one of the first times I felt like I belonged somewhere other than home. It wasn’t because I was forced to go either…in our house it was expected we go to church and participate and while my parents taught the scripture and the way of Christ…we were all allowed to make our own decision on our beliefs. No…I felt like I belonged because there were other girls there that ‘got’ me. We were all sewing machine fanatics…yes, we made our own clothes, we all baked our own bread (multiple times a week in our case), we all were familiar with gardening and the tasks that come with it from the care to the canning, animals…especially gathering eggs and milking goats or cows was second nature, and there was an understanding of how to care for younger siblings. Here I wasn’t looked at as odd, unusual, or plain weird…no I was accepted for who I was. It was such an amazing thing. Little did I know or understand the underlining issues my parents were having. To this day I do not completely understand what happened or everything that led up to that fateful morning when I came downstairs and was told we were not going to church…something that NEVER happened. I remember getting a sick feeling a couple days later when one of the couples from the church showed up and us kids were told to go upstairs and not come down until called. The tears on my parents face only solidified the knots in my stomach when we descended a few hours later. We were told we were never going back and that we would probably never see or be able to talk to those people again. Now, understand that I am writing this from a child’s perspective. A perspective that is skewed in ideology, friendships and not having the big picture of what was happening. I do remember though being utterly devastated. Crying tears upon tears for my friendships that were lost and a serious crush I was never going to see again. I anguished in the next months…what had happened…what was going to happen…why was mom crying all the time and was my world ever going to right itself? A few months later we…my siblings and I…were at a competition, sort of like a speech/music/science/math all rolled together. We could enter into different categories and then were judged and placed depending on how good we were. I was in the speech and piano. Anyway, I remember feeling the excitement and dread all rolled together the day of the competition but not because of what I was reciting that day but because my very best friend, in the whole world whom I hadn’t spoken to for four months was going to be there. I felt like Anne of green gables getting to meet her bosom friend, Diana….it was unbelievable. I remember walking into that gym looking everywhere for her and then I saw her and she saw me….we screamed and were in each others arms in seconds. There were so many tears that day, hugs, and promises to figure out how to talk no matter what. I never had blamed her for what had happened but I did blame her parents and the hosts of other adults that had been involved. That day she asked forgiveness for what had been done…even though neither of us really new and it was easy to forgive her. When we parted ways later that day I had a heart full of joy that quickly turned to sorrow and bitterness. In a matter of minutes I went from walking on air to hating everything around me and blaming every single person in that church…well the adults anyway. That anger grew and grew…it lasted months…even after many of the couples involved came to my parents and apologized. No one ever said sorry to me and owned up to the pain I had felt, the betrayal and the loneliness. It wasn’t until almost 2 years later at a revival of sorts that the teacher was talking about forgiveness and it hit me. I had to be able to forgive…even though I was wronged, my parents and family were wronged. The bitterness and anger I had inside was eating me alive…my attitude had changed towards people, toward friendships and towards the meeting of believers. So…I forgave…without being asked or apologized to, but…to this day I do not accept or agree with the treatment of my family. Over the years more information has come out and for me to say what happened was what God would have wanted…well that is foolish. It wasn’t in accordance to His scripture or resembling love at all.

I believe we can and have the ability to forgive but that we also have to stand for what is right, what is true and what is pure. Whether or not that translates into how another person treats you, the words they say, the names they may call you and the constant tearing down of who you are. I believe we can forgive when we don’t agree, when we know what is going on is wrong and that it may separate a friendship or relationship forever, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We have to forgive, we have to give grace…why? Because the bitterness, the edges of evil, the discontent and grumbling heart can take hold if we do not. I do believe though…that just because we forgive doesn’t mean that all is repaired or forgotten. If a person does not ask for forgiveness there can be no repair made. Reconciliation can not happen and fences can not be mended. If a person or persons have done something that I need to forgive and can not see it themselves, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I can forgive but that doesn’t mean that I have to forget or act like nothing is wrong…but I CAN NOT let the seeds of anger take root…because that, my friend…leads to more problems.

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Forgiveness – the constant struggle

01/05/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

I think, in my life anyway, one of the things I have the hardest time with is forgiveness. Forgiving myself, forgiving others and for forgiving situations. The really sad part is that I seem to be able to forgive a stranger easier and faster than I can forgive those who love me.

This started many years ago when I was probably about 6 or 7. I remember standing outside of the bathroom in the house we lived in talking to my mom. I forget what it was that had happened that was a punishable offense…but what I do remember is that it was both my sister and I getting sternly talked to and asking to own up to whatever this offence was. At that stage of my life I had a tendency to tell stories…something otherwise known as a lie…a punishable offense that I perfected well into my early 20’s. Anyway, I am getting sidetracked.  It should be known that I lied at that age because I also did not like displeasing anyone, not because I was afraid of the punishment…that came later. So here we were, my sister Micah, 18 months my junior and myself answering mom about something one of us did that was going to be punished by a spanking. It is also important to note that, while my younger sister has always been a ‘better’ person, more faithful or more understanding than me…she is my best friend, my confidant, my warrior and she liked to bite me when we were younger. She would pick on me mercilessly…I honestly don’t remember it, but have heard stories…but she didn’t lie either, she was good…she was bouncy, a klutz and a mess but she was good. So here we were being asked who did this punishable offense and I emphatically denied it. I denied it because in this one instance…I truly did not do it. My mom then looked at my sister and asked her if she did to which Micah replied, “no I didn’t. Tasha did.” No matter my pleadings in that moment or explanations or cries to Micah to tell the truth my mom believed her and not me. I received the punishment…a swift pain brought on by the end of a wooden spoon. I think my tears and crushed spirit about did my sister in because she ended up owning up to whatever the error was that had been committed and then she too was disciplined. However, in that moment, when i felt so betrayed I didn’t know if I could forgive her and when she asked I didn’t right away. Thus began my struggle of forgiveness.

I couldn’t at that point understand that because of my tendency to story telling it was hard for my mother to believe me. Now being a mother, watching my own children with their personalities and differences, as a mother I take that into account. It is a hard thing to admit…that I struggle with forgiving others. I am often faced with the reality that I can say i forgive…but do I truly? I hardly every forget. Of course I have totally forgiven Micah for that unimaginable offense that happened so many years ago but that isn’t what I am talking about. I am mostly talking about in my marriage or adult friendships. When I feel so wrongly accused or slighted or mis-judged (because we aren’t supposed to judge right?!), or mis-treated. Sometimes I feel justified in not forgiving, in not moving on, in not growing. Other times I wonder if it is okay to forgive but not to forget, or, if its okay to forgive but not to accept the way I am being treated and to stand up for myself…for my kids…for my family. When is it okay and when isn’t it okay? Christ came as a baby, died on the cross so that we may all have the opportunity to live with Him in paradise…HE forgave the sins that had been committed and those that would be committed…even by me. He FORGAVE those that killed Him pleading with His Father to also forgive them “for they know not what they are doing”. How do I as a human forgive on that level? How do I love with that kind of love? And is it okay for me to stand up and say I love you, I forgive you but I do not accept this? What does that look like?

2 Comments - Categories: The Journey