I got a call from a dude whom I only remembered from a 1977-78 polaroid I carried around. I barely remember meeting my aunt, but much of my life was compared to her, it was not until this week that I realized my middle name was hers. I always wanted to meet her, but she passed away before it happened. The families were in a silence standoff since the 1980s, but over time, most of us did not know ‘why or what for’. On the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made its final landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast . The Reed house was in Gulfport, where the we had chosen to make our fresh start off over the years. Katrina took it and what was left of our things and we had to move back to Little Rock, AR to stay with their father for the 5th time. I thought it was significant to go back to the source of the pain or disfunction that may have molded me into the fearful woman I had temporarily become. I thought in going back south, I would learn that I was still strong enough to conquer what I had fallen into.I have this fairly large crew of Triplett cousins, and hoped to connect as well as showing my kids some of the fun things that can happen when you bring cousins together.
Back to 1st cousin Craig, who had just as many questions as me, and he shared his side of the passed down family memories, I had my side, and as we bring in more relatives, the puzzle pieces fall into place. Simple answers to questions does bring peace sometimes.
In featured photo, my taller cousin Craig, smiles towards the camera, arm on his younger brother Shane, ‘a protective gesture’ most of our older siblings take. They seem to stare at the camera and we seem to stare off uncertainly, but love my Mickey Mouse T-shirt. In the chair sits great-grandmother Reed, and she holds my baby brother, Jason. What the world does not know was the house held many secrets that may have washed away by Katrina. 50 years the house stood, in silence, full of old photos and videos, heirlooms and such, house torn down because it was beyond repair, leaving only the land ready for a new home. Fast forward to May 2018, he is on his iPhone in Long Beach, Mississippi, and I am on my iPhone in Sykesville, Maryland. Craig was called to do some work for his company and was sent to a house on this street in Gulfport. “This looks like the Reed Property”… hmmm. Bring on the memories… Facetime; I am tired, stressed out, and did not present the best 1st cousin impression. He said our pastor uncle had called him (loosely referenced direct quote) some verse about “God never gives us more than we can handle” but said “I think Tina’s pushed that to the limit…”
After I talked to him for a few hours, Craigs response was, why don’t you consider coming back home to the coast? “Even Lone Rangers Burn Out,” I said… Homie, I literally wasted all of my resources running back to Mississippi each time I thought I could rescue my family, and each time, I was full of brainwashed gobbly-gook and self-blaming and self-pity, and my kids were to traumatized to speak about what they needed. I guess people did not recognize me anymore, because I sure as heck did not know who I was after all was said and done. I did not see Mississippi as ‘home’ anymore, and that was even before I joined the Air Force at age 19 and moved up here to the east coast in 1995. My family had been dealing with so much unresolved garbage, that we needed very specific and very serious intervention services that my family was not equipped to give at the time. The other part of the problem was, I never fully disclosed the truest and darkest parts of our story, although what people already knew was bad enough. I told my cousin if I ever shared what had happened over that 20 year period, I had already ruined my credibility by glossing it over with a truth I felt I could stomach easier. I was hoping to just pretend it all never happened, and pick up where I left off in college… but with 3 kids, I guess, I also thought I would be safe from outside forces because our family was generally very protective of each other.
I said I have not been a missionary since I was 18 years old… Everything that came after that was a series of mental, emotional, physical problems that further turned me inward to seek out my issues, fix my issues, and attempt to live life within a new ‘normal’ I had not quite found yet. We only survived because I rock at ‘treading water’, However, it would be nice to rest, but I do not see that happening anytime soon. I noticed Cuzzo had a calming way of speaking and was a good listener, when he spoke you could tell there was purpose or intent behind the words and they were not carelessly flung around. I often get so wrapped in my emotions, all people can hear are my ‘feelings’ and 99% of the time, the feelings get in the way of getting tangible help, due to misinterpretations or misunderstandings. Self defensive for as long as I remember, and borderline obsessed with finding truth as it pertains to ‘everyone’ not just my own.
I did not mention this, but I had been to the library that day and checked out 2 new books. I read the covers and synopsis, and thought “Ha” in the old days, I would be too scared to question God or his methods or accuse him of madness for allowing the world to be what it currently is. But they sat on my shelf the entire week I was talking with my cousin, never got around to reading them
I had basically written off any hope that God was hearing my prayers, or my calls to the universe on a daily basis because I was no longer the child I once was, and I was pretty sure my soul was a nice shade of charcoal by now. I knew there was something about faith I had missed, I lived in a life I no longer recognized, holes in family stories, strange silences, strange tension in during every family gatherings, and too much ‘going through the motions without feeling’ sort of stuff. The fear and self doubt interfering with my ability to think of solutions on how to pick up again and allow myself to be open to feel or hear anything God needed me to hear. I thought I would have to bust out my George Carlin jokes about a man floating on clouds in the sky… but it never happened.
Started talking as if to myself or my brother when we were teens (a rare kind of cool). He had patience to walk me through my timelines, a major plus, and we both used Star Wars and other Super Hero or movie references to illustrate points. He “got my” metaphors to life, and my ability to attach meaning to events or why there was still rage and shame when I discovered there was no sense to all of the pain. What was I supposed to do with Gods ‘plan’ for all the things that have followed since I committed my life to service at age 18.” I asked him why would God be trying to talk to me now? He said, he never stopped, he has been with you the whole time. I think I scoffed or rolled my eyes, ok, you have grown up in the bible belt, you and I have very different views of Gods handiwork I think. Plus, haven’t I already turned my back and revoked the promises I made, by virtue of marrying the antichrist and losing control of a situation that I arrogantly thought I could love and pray my way out of? Get this… he sends me this verse: Romans 11:29: ‘For God’s gift and his call are irrevocable.’ To which I replied, (paraphrasing, not direct quoting) “well, shoot, it is a good thing I did not have that bible bonfire I was planning. I have so many bibles, so many translations, and was getting ready to take a trip to the middle of nowhere and have a Come to Jesus meeting as soon as I was able. I told him, I was pretty certain that everything I thought I knew… I no longer felt simple Sunday school answers or bible quotes applied to ‘our situation’ any longer.” lol He said, it is ‘still in there’… Then he says “He will leave the 99, to chase after the 1.” No BS. I have described my Christian walk as being Chased by God for almost 25 years… I say chased because, I tried to give back my gifts on many occasions, and he would not take them, and he kept sending people in my path, where I would be reminded that I was not alone, and that I still had a mission to accomplish. Even when I buried my bibles in trunks, researched everything to prove my faith wrong and vice versa. Plus I was really good at getting as close to the darkness as I could, thinking I could shine light into it and make some difference. ***tina reaches out to touch … when she is warned… Do not touch that*** Why? Because I must know what I know, and believe what I believe, or I will never be able to help anyone.
This cousin is super creative, talented, and I must confess, I was immediately jealous of all his toys, and his guitar skills. haha It was quite surreal, the conversation lasted 5 hours, with the rest in texts. It felt like he some big brother lost and 40 years later, he pops in and says, “Hey girl! I have been chatting with God about you and wanted to know ‘what are you up to these days?”
He has a beautiful wife, multiple jobs, a home, a good church community in Long Beach (I drove past that church a bunch of times over the years, last time I remember going, I was maybe 17 years old), He is just a genuinely good guy with character and integrity that seems hard to find in people these days (and we were related by blood!). I merely have a reality survivors tv show life revolving around teenage girls. He nicknamed us #S@B because so many times in the conversations we both holler ‘Me Too’ or “holy Crap, we could have twin-brains, or are we sure we know that we were not separated at birth?’ (except my record playing in my head is set to high-speed)…primarily Christian folks will understand what I am say next … Ever attended a revival or multiple revivals? Sometimes what happens is, a group of people are gathered, they have invited Gods presence and through worshipful song and verbal communication with the heavenly father, a person can search themselves to see connections in their life where God has been at work, but for whatever reason you were blind to it, until ‘exactly’ that moment? (not hallucinations). The sense of time you feel is more urgent, but not urgent about your home or your responsibilities, it is the urgency you feel in your soul that God is talking, and you should stand still and listen. (not because you are commanded, because you really want to listen ‘that close’, in case there is a message meant for you this time.) (recognizing many folks out there do not believe in God, but some of us call him the Universe, the Creator, personally, I think God is unquantifiable, and I wish people would stop arguing over semantics and pay attention to what something ‘Greater than Them’ is trying to convey to their heart. For my purpose, I will just call him my God,
Anyone guilty of living lives on autopilot from time to time and forgetting that we are not alone or forgetting we are all connected? Do you ever think about how generations of family issues can repeat themselves over the years, and cycles will continue until one or two of those family members decide… “This is enough” I stop this bad habit start a new path for my family. Ever felt awaking from a 20 year coma? No? Ok, just wondering. Anyway, this has been a rough few years, legal, financial, mental, and spiritual situations have me forced to investigate and remember timelines of events, and make reports in order to gain proper assistance in times of need. This is unfortunate for anyone that likes to forgive and forget bad things and move forward. Anyway, I decided to open this up at about 4 am this morning. Me being one of those people who believe in confirmation, timing, serendipity, godwinks… Has decided to re-share a portion because I am pleased to say my beliefs and values are much the same, if not more refined. I am noticing also, that October is a very significant month that I should pay closer attention to, in the future. Many significant events have been visceral and seared into my brain and someday (I will have the time to chase that rabbit), but not today.
***time capsule moment***In October of 2013, I wrote a blog***
“It would be a gross under-statement to say I did not appreciate what I have, because I absolutely appreciate how a fortunate we are to survive the last 18 months under the circumstances. Never in a million years would I have ever imagined the sequence of events or the timing in which everything occurred and it is shocking I am even still here. But even amongst the amazement and wonder of what I can only describe as multiple cases of divine intervention, and examples that I have a Heavenly Father that touches people I come across and they show me kindnesses that remind me that there is a peace and comfort to be found by looking up and not so much at obsessing over things as they are because when I do, I feel as though the gravity of the uncertainty would make it easy for me to drown at this point. If I am honest with you, however, my situation still saddens me at times, because I am not alone in this journey…and my children that would like answers, comfort, and assurance that things will be ok.
Fortunately they have people who love them and want to provide comfort as well… but girls still look to me to ultimately provide it for them. The sadness is not about the size of a house or the fence around it (if it was, I would have stayed in the gorgeous home in Florida)… I just want things that I believe are my ‘God-given’ rights as a mother. The right to raise my children in an abuse free environment, provide for their basic physical and emotional needs whether I am single or not. I should not have to compromise what I believe to be right and true in my parenting style as long as I am seeking wise counsel. I think the world assumes that a woman can easily strike out on her own in the face of abuse, and the state will provide what they need, and/or the other parent will be required to fulfill their financial obligations.
Life is not always fair, and some expectations are incorrect, and it is the reason many women stay in bad situations. Being a single parent is hard, but it can be manageable if you are willing to work your tail off to provide; …throw a chronic illness in the mix, things become ‘almost’ impossible. It is not fun living on full display, open to every criticism and every opinion because that is the nature of any type of community living situation. In some ways it has caused amazing personal growth because living a life with transparency is normally something I am comfortable with because I do not have anything to hide (what you see is what you get). It can become disheartening and discouraging after a while, because no matter how hard I work or how far we come, someone always thinks they know me or my kids better than I do.
According to some; I ‘coddled’ my children with affection, or I spend too much ‘quiet time’ with them away from the chaos of the world. I am told that I am not preparing them for the harsh reality that they might not have me on this earth very long. My children are doing well in school, they are involved in church activities, extracurricular activities, and they have a couple of friends they call besties. I enjoy spending time with them, and for the most part, they like hanging out with me, the more comfortable they get, the more they branch out and I encourage it. I do not keep them from the world, I provide them a safe haven when they want or need a break from the outside world.
I do not hinder their experiences, nor do I force them into experiences because this world has more than enough stimulation and distraction all by itself without my adding to their stress. If they have an interest, I try to provide access to it, if they are more introverted, I do not force them to be like me, in fact, I would prefer they be much different and make far better choices than me. When I see it on their faces that the world outside is caving in on them, I do pull them close or remove them from the source of anxiety and show them how to calm that inner fear. I also teach them that if they can lean on each other as sisters (not just me), they can overcome anything.
I am also teaching them the utmost importance of faith in our Heavenly Father. I pointed them to seek their identity in what Christ teaches, not the opinions of men or boys because they are human and will often fail to meet the standards they might hold them too. Having knowledge of something greater can give them peace, comfort, and power to handle anything else they will encounter, because life is almost never pretty (but they certainly are), and it is not easy. I know that just because I am here for now to comfort them; I will not always be here. I need them to find peace with themselves and amongst each other, so they will be strong no matter who they are around.
I tried staying busy with activities as I was growing up to fight my insecurities, I tried to earn my salvation by working and serving others, and allowing others acceptance of me determine my worth and I was always left unfulfilled because that is not living to my full potential. Having a personal relationship with our God, and having ‘real’ relationships with our neighbors but not allowing them to ‘govern’ our lives is a much better way to live. Find your purpose and your passion, but first you have to learn to love yourself the way God sees us, not others around us.
I have 9 days left before entering Round 2 Stem Cell Transplant. The last couple of weeks I have spent time holding my girls individually as they shared their fears about the future. I know I cannot give them the answers they want to hear, so I just try to feel and absorb the pain they feel and offer solace by pointing away from our suffering to the bigger picture that this is all just a blip in time, and it will be over before we know it. If we can see each day as an experience, each new thing as an adventure, and each person we meet as a potential to learn something new… we will be less likely to resist the changes that are happening, and more able to adapt and overcome any uncomfortable feelings. They want the cancer gone, they want to be in our own house, they want to have their own lives, their own space, their own chance to express themselves without fear that they will be misunderstood. When I hold my child as they go through the ‘what ifs’, and tell them that no matter what happens, they will be taken care of, and that mommy is tougher than she looks… and she is going to beat this monster, even if she just beats it down to a manageable level.”
Anyway, moral of this long story? Why do things happen the way they do? Why is the timing the way it is?
Craig said: “Cuz… God”