Sunday, July 10, 2016

Those Awesome Obnoxious Pants

It's time.  It's been time for quite some time, I know, but I had ignored it for way too long.

What's it time for? 

Those awesome, obnoxious (dare I say slightly derranged, possibly somewhat ugly) pants.
Yes.  I have invested in three pairs of cheap workout pants.  They are the kind of pants that many have worn for a long time, that I always would roll my eyes at (mentally) and wonder what on earth is wrong with people who wear them.

Now, I own them.  Now, I'm wearing them.  I'm wearing them at this very moment.  And, I'm rolling my eyes (mentally) at myself, wondering what on earth is wrong with me.  They're so boisterous.  I am not a boisterous individual by nature.  I prefer to not be noticed most of the time.  And here I am, in bright, loud, workout pants.    

Why this change?

I have been wondering that for a while now, which is why I haven't actually talked much about it.

I've been going through a lot over the past years when she has been transforming.  My transformations have been different.  I went through the betrayal, abandonment, homelessness, emotional manipulation (and so many more things) associating with the ending of my marriage.  I worked hard just to stay awake most of the days, to feed my kids, to work, to smile, to laugh, to cuddle, to hug, to pray, to hope, to cook, to clean, to breathe.  I struggled through countless emotional days and weepy nights.  I was on a rollercoaster like I had never known existed.  I transformed, I know.  I don't always see which ways I've transformed.  It's rare I can detail the changes to anyone.  

Some transformations have been by choice.  Some have been necessity and God's sifting in my life to purify, change me, and mold me into the woman he's called me to be for the plan He has for me, whatever it is.  

This change... this one is deliberate, an unexpected choice. 

On Mother's Day, I had the blessing of being able to spend a long stretch of kid-free hours with my Bean (for those new around here, that would be my cousin Tarah, who has been one of my best friends since college).  For the past couple of years, she's taken an active role in bettering herself on many levels, but one of them has been with physical health and fitness.  One she's shed pounds and inches and gained so much confidence, energy, and enthusiasm.   

I can't say that there was a single conversation we had, or a single activity we did, or any moment that I just hit this switch, but after that weekend, I decided it was my turn.

Mother's Day weekend, I decided it was time to tackle one of the most seemingly cumbersome transformations there are- physical.  I decided it was time to pay more attention to my body, my meals, my exercise, my sleep.  Instead of staying up two extra hours every night so that I could have quiet, alone time without my kids, I go to bed earlier.  I read food packages, though I occasionally still eat something not as good for you.  I have nearly all-together stopped drinking soda.  I've been trying to not push myself so hard, especially with the rib that still hurts.  

The most shocking thing though- the pants.  

It's not necessarily the pants themselves (well, okay it kind of is), but what they represent.  They were a treat to myself after I willingly joined a group of women on (for $2 a month, which wasn't a daunting investment so I couldn't think of any great excuses since I gave up soda after all, and NO this isn't a sponsored post) and completed 12 consecutive days of 12-18 minutes worth of workouts called Core Camp.  I sweat my face off and I even enjoyed it.  I wasn't daunted by the pain in my rib cage, because when it hurt too much, I modified.  She (Courtney, founder of MommaStrong) said I could and should modify things.  Instead of feeling guilty for doing that, I felt empowered. I felt smart.  

Somewhere along the 12 days, while I powered my way clumsily through workouts in front of my kids who questioned what in the world I was doing and why, I realized I was looking forward to the workouts.  I was looking forward to reclaiming this piece of myself. I was looking forward to taking control of yet another part of my life that felt overwhelming and cumbersome, daunting and embarrassing.

If you know me, I've never been one who talks about working out.  I love to go on walks, and back before I went to college and had a bicycle, I loved to ride bike.  That's about it.  I lift my babies and babies at work.  That's sort of a workout.  I clean.  That is slightly sort of a workout.  But otherwise... nope.  I had no desire to get sweaty and gross because I was too weak and fat and whatever else and it just seemed pointless.  There was so much  negative talk within myself and I didn't even realize it until I realized it was slowly being silenced.

I can think of fifty excuses (guesstimating) why I couldn't, shouldn't, didn't want to work out.  No space. No time. No energy. No money. No privacy.  No strength.  No, no, no, no, no.

Then I said yes.  I just gave in and said yes.

I'm proud of myself.  Sure, I'm still overweight, I'm still out of shape, I'm still weak. My rib still bothers me and some days it hurts to take deep breaths.  I'm still tired.  I'm still busy and I certainly don't have the privacy.   I still can't do a push up or a pull up, and my running distance is small.

But I'm doing it, or I'm trying to.  And in doing it, I'm silencing the lies that I've told myself, I'm silencing the enemy and I'm breaking off his strongholds.  I'm diligently working (sometimes minute by minute) to shut down the devil and keep him from bringing me down in this area of my life as I have had to in so many others.  I'm doing it. I'm trying to.

I'm working on it. I'm working out.

My oldest recently asked me why I work out and why I exercise. I told him something along the lines of "I do it because it's good for me. It makes me stronger, healthier, and a better mom and a better person.  And I'm the only mommy they have, so I better take good care of myself, for me, and for them.

With that let me tell you- if I can do it, you can do it.  I have so many things working against me, so many reasons why it would be easier not to, so many reasons to just be complacent.  They're legitimate, for the most part.  I know we all have them. 

But yeah... The pants.. they're super comfortable.  They're still kind of ugly.  But they're kind of awesome.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

I think...

I think about that last day, a year go.  The sky was cloudy. The wind was blowing. You were in yellow.  The kids were anxiously excited. They hadn't seen you in many days. Their laughter rose over the rustling leaves as they squealed your name and ran to you, jumping into your arms.

You followed them around, playing occasionally on the park equipment.

 After 40 minutes or so, you asked briefly about your daughter's hospitalization the week before. After another twenty minutes, you declared you had stuff to do and had to leave. 

The laughter subsided and smiles faded. The kids all protested as we walked them to the van. You helped buckle them into their seat belts after giving them a hug. You told them you loved them, and you would see them soon. You promised to call your oldest son the next day, and planned to see them after the holiday weekend. 

I closed the van doors. They cried. They didn't want you to go. They missed you so deeply already. My heart ached for them as you drove away.

They never heard from you again.

I have been thinking about that day, the last times, frequently throughout this past week. I think of their joy and subsequent sadness. I think of your lies and broken promises. I wonder how much truth was in your salutations and hugs. 

I think about the days that followed. I think about how our son waited around for you to call. I think about how he asked me over and over to call you, and call you again, and you wouldn't answer. I think about the fury burning in my heart as you silenced the last calls and I told him daddy didn't want to talk today. I think about the next two days before you text me the last time. I think about how I asked you why you didn't call or answer and your response was an illegitimate non-answer, and when I pointed that out, you never corresponded with me again. 

I think about how I tried so very hard for the next few days, and weeks, and months to get answers. I tried to find meaning. I longed for even a stupid excuse. I tried to help your children find you and tried to foster a relationship between you and them.  

I think about all of the "I don't see daddy anywheres" I heard, or the "I miss my daddy" cries, or the "where'd daddy go" questions. I think about how I had to explain to our daughter who the man in the pictures was and how he had no idea what I was talking about, and decided to just call you Jake instead.

I think about all the cries at night. I think about all the prayers that we have said for you.  I think about the hours of therapy our sons have undergone trying to make sense of your absence.  I think about all the anger and sadness and frustration that they have and how they take it out on me, because I'm the constant in their lives, I'm their safe zone.

I think about how they used to say you were lost or missing, and how in the last week and a half, our oldest has realized that you're not just lost.  He has told me that his daddy ran away.  He knows it was a choice.

I think about how much I have struggled knowing you chose to leave.  I used to sit and doubt myself, my sanity, my mothering, my friendship, my love.  I used to think how much easier it would have been if your disappearance hadn't been a choice that you made, but just a circumstance of life or some other means, because a choice feels like abandonment, like being tossed into a dumpster, then crumpled and burned before buried in a landfill.  I think about how I am an adult and I can hardly wrap my mind or heart around it, and how our children are too young to comprehend as well as I do, knowing full well even I don't really comprehend.  It slays my heart to know they're going to question themselves and doubt and wonder why they weren't good enough for you to stay  or to even send a birthday card.  I pray that a miracle will prevent it, but mentally brace myself for what feels like the inevitable.

I think about how much I loved you, how I still house some love for you, and how badly I wish I could run you over with a piece of farm machinery, knowing full well that is completely an unGodly thought, and knowing it wouldn't really solve anything anyway.

I think about how I want to see your face.  I think about how I want to get answers.  I think about how your answers would probably be non-answers anyway, or lies that I would have to try to decode again, and how I know that maybe it's better that I can't ask you questions because the agony of trying to trust your answers would wring my heart dry.

I think about how I want to forgive you, and how often I feel like I have forgiven you, and other times I realize there's more I haven't dealt with that I need to deal with in order to forgive each piece.

I think about how people I know run into you, and tell me they run into you, and how you act like nothing is out of the ordinary and everything is normal.  I think about how not once in a year have we ran into you.   I think about how you were literally blocks away from our children last night and had absolutely no idea.  I think about what would have happened if you knew that or even cared about it enough to see them again.

I think about how much I wish you could see them now, but how much I do not want them to see you.

I think about all the lies you've spread about me. I think about your boyfriend and how he claims you tell him I'm a great woman, and our kids are amazing, and I think about how he was so excited to spend time with your children.  I think about people telling me you're both good guys, but how I know that can't be true if you can abandon and he can support it.  I think about the lies that have been told about me or are told about me, and the lies others believe about the situation.  I think about the webs you're still weaving and the messes you're still making.

I think about all the effort I spent trying to find you to divorce you, and all the effort I still have to spend in order to either find you again so that the state can force you to pay all the support you owe, or how I have to work my butt off to make ends meet all on my own indefinitely.

I think about all the ways, the words, the time you spent trying and often making me believe this all my fault, like I had this intense power I had no idea about while I felt crippled by weakness.

I think about how you walking away and shattering our lives and pulverizing my heart brought me closer to God, and how God brought such dear friends and supports into my life that I had never imagine I would find.  I think about all of these people who care so much for and love us all so much when for months I thought we must be completely unlovable.  I think about how your absense has given me freedom to gain mental clarity and personal strength and control.

I think about all that you've taken away, but I think about all that we have gained.

I think a lot.

I still think about you. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Go, Team!

I haven't really let on, but the past week has been a struggle for me emotionally. Ever since church, despite my continued efforts at giving myself pep talks, praying, listening to worship music, and talking to a friend, I've been feeling weighed down. I've been feeling kind of oppressed.  I've been feeling a bit defeated.

The parenting struggles have been many, the exhaustion has been exceeding, and the reminders of the life we had for a while are many.  There have been multiple avenues bringing me back, and not as many leading me forward this week.  I know that happens from time to time for everyone, so I haven't been trying to dwell on it much.

But a dear friend pointed out midweek that she could tell, and we talked about it.

Today, we prayed about it together.  She lead me to break off the spirit of defeat that has been weighing me down.  I feel silly admitting the spirit of defeat, because obviously, from outside looking in, I haven't been defeated.

As we prayed and commanded it to go, she reminded me to ask God to fill me up with something to replace the defeat, to speak to me or show me something, and fill me with his love and peace.

Almost as soon as we finished praying, I felt my shoulders rise and my mind felt clearer.

Then, I heard "I know you feel defeated, but I AM undefeated. I AM un-defeat-able."

I sat there, quiet, thinking about it, and feeling myself regain the consciousness that I had been lacking for most of the week, just muddling through each day.

I have never been really into sports.  I collected basketball cards as a child for no reason I can discern as an adult.  I've watched them occasionally, but I've never been a die-hard fan of any sort of sports team.

But here I was, sitting there, hearing God speak to me in sports analogies.  Perhaps it's because my kids like to play ball.  Who knows.

It's been almost 51 weeks exactly since the children and I last saw their dad, or since they had any contact with him whatsoever (despite our efforts to be in contact with him over the weeks).

I felt Him telling me, "You've played these last 51 innings, batting hard.  You've been struggling through them on one team, with half of your team having forfeited already. You've pressed on. You've played hard.  Overtime is done."

I realized that when my former husband and I were raising kids, we went to church, but we didn't really do much more than that in regard to God in our family.  We were our team, and for most of that time, I really was the only one fully invested in outcome.

"You're on my team."  I had goosebumps, chills, and tears.

Of course I am, I thought.  But I felt it again. "You're on MY team."

"I'm the coach.  I'm the quarterback.  I'm the MVP.  I AM. And my team is bigger than yours.  You aren't going at it alone on my team."

Well then.

He's right.  I am on His team. I have been all along. He's been on my side, and I have been on his.  But I haven't fully invested in my draft, because I've been still longing for my old team.  That team that failed me.  And why should I want to play alone, investing in that team, when I have the undefeated champion right alongside me.  He's got it all under control after all.  He defeated death.  

I realized also that, as I have been reminded numerous times by my friend, that we aren't supposed to live life alone.  We don't live life alone.  He gives us people to support us, to play on our team with Him, and to help through each tricky inning.  I know this.  I've known it.

But, apparently, I didn't see it as clearly as I should have, and God had to show me through sports.  Go figure.  I'm an art person.  I married a sports person.  My oldest son is definitely a sports person.

Go, God!  Go, Team!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Just Mom on Father's Day

Here it is.  Father's Day.

Today, I've already been wished a Happy Father's Day and a Happy Second Mom's Day, more than once,

In some ways, it's been a very typical Sunday. I woke up this morning singing "Good Good Father" in my head, at 5:45 when Norah decided we should get up and get ready for 8:30 church, bathed the two-year-old princess, fed the kids, watched Norah tattoo herself so she can look like me, gone to church, came home, and fed the kids lunch,.

But in other ways, today feels like agony.  I sat through church and heard, as I have many times before, the various ways that children can be screwed up by not having a dad in their lives.   From home life, to church life, to school life, to social life... there's numerous, detailed effects that have been studied and documented linking the lack of a father in children's lives to problems later on.  I get it.  I have heard it all before.  And each time, I always break down in tears.

That's not the only thing that I got from the message at church, mind you.  But it's always a lingering reminder that just a mom just isn't good enough by worldly standards.

I'm mom. It's just me.  I'm not dad.

Yes, I have the responsibility of both parents.  I provide the income and stability that way, and the emotional and educational development.  I love with a momma's heart and discipline with a father's hand.  I do both sides for the most part and I do them the majority of moment I am with them  every day.

But, I'm not their dad.  I'm not a father.

God calls on me to show them a mother's love and to show them His love through the heart of a mother.  He calls on father's to show them the father's love and discipline, and I do that too.  But I am not their dad.  I am not a father.

They have one.  He's somewhere out there.  He's not showing them the Father's love, though, or a father's love.  He's not fulfilling that role God called of him, so I have to make up the best I can.

But I am not their dad. I am not a father.  I never will be. I can't be.

For much of the last year, I've been trying to pull double duty. I've been told I'm an awesome mom and an equally awesome dad.

But I'm not.  I'm just a mom.  I'm just filling in father type roles when I can and am capable.

I don't have to be a dad.  I don't have to be a father.  As much as I want them to have one, it's not going to be me.  It doesn't have to be me.

I'm finally becoming more okay with that.

Someone messaged me a week or two ago, telling me something very similar.  Her exact words were, "Sometimes it feels like you are trying to be two people. In some respects, you have to be both mom and dad, but you are physically one person, and you need to allow yourself to live within that limitation. Some days, you just need to put one foot in front of the other, and call it a successful day. You don't have to make up for their father's absence, and some days, as long as your children's basic needs are met, you have had a successful day."

Since I first read her message, I have been dwelling on it. I've been letting it sink in and been trying to wrap myself around the truth that is in the sentences.

I've been trying so hard to make up for the loss of their dad. I've been trying so hard to be both a mother and a father.  But it's not what I'm called to do.  I'm called to be their mother, and to raise them in a home filled with Christ-like love and examples.  I'm called to surround them with others who live in the same way, and let the influences of those people also shape my children and show them the love of fathers and of the Father.  I just have to be the best mom I can be.

So yes, it's Father's Day, and it's my second Mom's Day of the year, and I will, in some respect, celebrate that I am pulling double duty in many respects, and that it's just them and me, and that we are living in a love-filled, happy household. We will smile, laugh, cuddle, and play.  We will relish the joy that flows among the four of us as we continue to move forward and shape our lives together.  I will cry for myself and my children and my former husband.  I know it. I already have cried more than once.  But, despite the aching hearts and the longing tears, we will continue to pray for their real dad, that his wandering days end and that God can transform him miraculously, so that someday, his heart will be turned back toward his children.  We will acknowledge that dad is still lost in this world and we may or may not see him again some day, but we will also acknowledge that mom is here, she loves them boundlessly, and that there are other fatherly men in their lives who show them a Father's love through the heart of a father.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

I won't never...

As my oldest child grows older and is able to understand my words and their meanings and express his thoughts and emotions better, there are a few things I have found to be true.  I've known them to be true in the past of course, but when you have a little-big child who depends on you, things take on even deeper truth, I think.

One of these things is that you say what you mean and you mean what you say.  Yes, my dear five-year-old understands some sarcasm and jokes, but if I don't point out that I'm kidding, I can't be sure that he knows when I'm not actually thanking him for taking thirty minutes to find his underwear.

Consequently, when you're meaning what you say, you best not make a promise you don't intend to keep.  Now, this is an ideal most people with decent morals attempt to operate on anyway, but when it comes to kids, a broken promise equals the end of the world and dire heartbreak on most occasions.  It doesn't matter what your excuse is, legitimate or not, when you promise, that's your word, and a child understands that.  If you aren't sure you can keep a promise, you probably shouldn't make one.  If nothing else, at least assert that you're going to try to whatever it is you would be promising, instead of promising it straight up.

Another thing I find to be crucial is to never say never.  If your child is anything like mine, he or she can come up with a scenario for almost anything in which never may actually fail, even if the scenario is non-sense.  Try to out-logic nonsense in a child who swears up and down that they can fly up a tree.  It's exhausting to try and prove them wrong, especially if they're not willing to try to fly up the tree because they know it's all talk.  Just sayin'.

When it comes to my own children, but especially my oldest, I've seeing these ideas to be more important as days go on.

He's got some trust issues.  I know this.  I know it's largely because his dad promised to love him forever, that he would always be his daddy, always take care of him, stand up for him, be with him, and love him... and then he walked out.  Now, he may still be his daddy, be with him in his heart, and love him... but it's definitely harder to believe, even if it is true, when your dad has been missing in action for almost an entire year.

Recently, my son has been questioning me.  I ask him to trust me, and he isn't sure he wants to.  When he does trust me, I better not fail him, that's for sure.  I ask him to believe me, and he doesn't always want to.  I know this is normal for most children, of course, but I feel like I need to take extra care to produce what I say I will so his belief in me doesn't dissipate by my own fault.  I very rarely tell him never, unless it's something like "you should never run away from home" and so forth.

This morning, there were a few struggles with my son while we were in a strange place with a bunch of strangers.  He already doesn't like large crowds of people he doesn't know, but I told him his grandma was going to be there, and then I got there too early and he started to doubt me.  The more he doubted that, the more stressed out he became.  I ended up taking 15 minutes or so to calm him, persuade him the place was safe, that I was with him, and that it would be fun.  I "shared my brave" with him, because he kept telling me over and over he was afraid.  I then made the mistake of walking away where he couldn't see me, and he shrieked.

It's that moment when one of the fears he had vocalized a few weeks ago was true and ever-present.  He asked me once if I would ever disappear.  He's asked me if he will lose me.  He's asked me if I will leave him.

I hate to say never.  But, I have said never. "No, I'll never leave you, I'll always come back.  I would never get lost, I know my way around.  You will never lose me, I'll be your mommy your entire life."

While these statements are all well and good, and said with the best intentions and sweetest sentiment, they say never.  And sometimes, I do leave.  Like this morning, I left, only for a few seconds, but those seconds were long enough to send the fear of my abandonment in a strange place.  Of course, I come back.  But someday, I'll die.   He will lose me on this earth. We all do lose people we love.  I've said I won't ever get lost, as he says he has lost his dad, but then every once in a while I take a wrong turn in a different part of town and admit fully that I'm not quite sure where we are.  

His fear of abandonment is valid, though.  I mean, his dad did it, so of course, day in and day out, he's going to fear somewhere inside that his mom will abandon him too.  While I know I would never choose to abandon my children, his little heart just can't imagine that because one parent already did.   So, day in and day out, I have to prove to him my constancy, my stability, and my promise that I'm staying.  It's an exhausting thing sometimes.

I should never say never.   I know it.

The only one who really should say never is God.  He's the only one who will not fail us.  Mothers are human and imperfect just like every other person on earth.  God's the only perfect one.