Sunday, June 17, 2018

Another Dad-less Father's Day

Here we are again.

Father's Day.

My children... still without their earthly father in their lives.

I thought it would get easier, going through yet another Father's Day with my children longing for their dad, but somehow this year was harder.

Their dad was "around" last year for Father's Day, sort of.  He had spent roughly six months seeing them multiple times a month after a year-and-a-half-ish disappearance.  But by Father's Day, he was slowly fading out again.

It's now been nearly a year since the kids have seen or heard from their dad.  I am holding onto hope that progress is being made, after finally talking with their dad again, that they will see him again soon, and that he will be a positive in their lives.  But, when you've had your trust violated hundreds of times by the same person, even when you believe with your whole soul that God can and does perform miracles, and can redeem anything and everything, you're very skeptical and guarded even when things seem they may turn around.

This year, the children are all older, obviously, and each one of them understanding Father's Day now, makes it harder on them.  In turn, it's harder on the mom who is also pulling the weight of the dad.

This morning, we woke up for church, the kids were excited as they are every Sunday.  Then, the oldest mentioned it was Father's Day.  The middle one laid back down with the covers over his face and proclaimed he was sad.  He missed his daddy.  He never sees his daddy, and his daddy is rude because his daddy doesn't make good choices.  I never have told them any details of their dad's abandonment or betrayals, just that he's not making good choices.  I started crying, unable to hold back tears, and told them all how sorry I was that their dad is still not making the choices that lead him back to them, and that I know they miss him, and that I miss him being in their lives too.  We regrouped and moved happily on to church.

While at daycare, the children made their gifts for me, or for their Papa.  They were all thrilled to do so.

At Sunday School this morning, two out of three of them made pictures for their dads.  It was either an oversight or perhaps the teacher had no idea.  The kids handled it well, though.

I sobbed at church.  I often cry, because worship moves my soul like that.  But today, I just felt the pain my children have been expressing over the past week.  I have been weighed down with their burden, knowing that I cannot understand what it must feel like to be rejected by their dad.  I cannot imagine being so young, and feeling like my dad doesn't care enough about me to see me.  Or call me.  Or send a card.  I just cannot wrap my mind around that, and to know they have pain I can't understand breaks my heart.

They're all so strong, though.  Truly.

At daycare on Friday, someone kept asking my oldest son repeatedly, "Is your dad even gonna be there for Father's Day?"  My son said nothing.  He was so strong.

The message was obviously themed around fatherhood, fathers of all kinds, including spiritual fathers.  I am so blessed to be able to look around the sanctuary, right around my own seat, and see men who have stepped up as spiritual fathers in my childrens' lives.  God placed me in the perfect church for my children for that reason.  They are loved there.

The message was hard, though, as I sat, knowing that their dad was somewhere across town, not embracing his God given role to be a father to his own children.  I felt the burden of a father, pulling as much as I can of the weight of both roles.  But I'm not a father.  I'm a mother doing as much as she can in the absence of a father.  It's obviously not the same.  I wept.  I'm so grateful for the support I have in church, as my dear friend whispered she had already placed tissues under my chair, because she knew it was going to be a hard day for me.  That's love.

We came home, and the kids all were silent for a while.  We talked about missing their dad again. They watched a cartoon and I hid in my room for a bit, crying again, just thinking about how much they miss him, and how I hope with all my heart he will follow through and be reunited with them.

I decided that we would leave and enjoy the park and the sunshine and fresh air, laughter and memories together, because we are good at that.  But, of course, being Father's Day, the park was filled with big gatherings and lots of kids with their dads.  My children noticed too, and we each had separate moments together under the tree where I filled them with God's Truth about who they are, their value, and my love for them.  Every single one of them told me I was the best mom in the whole world and that they loved me so much.  And I stopped crying.  Because I knew they were really okay, even though they were hurting.

Because God's got us, as he always does.

But, like I said, this year was harder.  I also believe it was harder, because it's yet another year, another milestone, another holiday, where their dad is consciously choosing to be absent.  Yes, he's contacted me with interest in seeing them.  But he hasn't followed through completely, has stalled out some, and we aren't where we thought we would be by now.  And I know that's on him, and I know that I am doing what's best for my children in giving him steps to follow through and not a free pass.  But that doesn't make it easy.  It doesn't mean it doesn't feel like I'm hiding things from them.

I have to just keep praying.

Even when it's hard.

Especially when it's hard.

But hopefully, this year will be the last year where my kids have a dad-less Father's Day.


The good news is, we WILL make it through, no matter what, stronger, happier, more resilient, and filled with boundless joy and love.  It has been our testimony since the day our world started crumbling.  God's mercies are new every morning.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Mother's Message

Part of my Mother's Day gift this year came a week ago.  I kept it to myself for six days,  and now it's time to share.

It was a message.

Last Sunday, I was in church, as I am almost every Sunday morning.  Worship is my favorite part of the week, but last week, I was struggling to be in the right space with my heart and my mind open and free.  I didn't realize it on my own until a gentle hand from beside me came, followed by loving guidance and prayer, commanding the enemy to flee.

And just like that, the tears began, as they often do, as I suddenly found myself in worship, really in worship.

And seconds later, I realized what was hindering me.  You see, the week before was tough in momma-land.  I struggled through it almost every day, having been sick for multiple days with a nasty stomach bug, the kids and I both feeling the strain of it mentally and emotionally.  Each day was fraught, on some level, with challenges between my children and I, my children and each other, or myself and myself.  And I had, on multiple occasions, doubted myself as a mother.  More than once, I was wondering if I was a good mother at all, if I was really able to do it all as the only parent involved in my childrens' lives right now.

Much of the time, I believe I'm a good mom, because I know that I've got God with me in it all.  I always know God is with me, even if I don't feel him, but I'm not impervious to the self-doubt that seems to plague most all mothers at some point.

But, in that moment, I was given a message.

"You wonder if you're a good mom, and you fear you are a bad mom.  You fear you are not cut out for the job.  But, you KNOW and you BELIEVE that I made you perfect in MY image.  You know that I called you to be mother of those children.  So, if you believe that you ARE perfect because I SAY you are perfect, then you must KNOW and BELIEVE that you ARE THE PERFECT MOTHER for your children.    You are perfect."

Oh goodness, did I cry.

There was the answer to my doubt and my struggle.

Am I always a great mom?

Of course not.  I struggle. I make mistakes.  But, I try to learn from them, and I try my best (almost always) to be a good mom.  I've prayed countless times, asking God if my purpose really is to "just" be a God-loving mother to my three children, raising them in the Spirit, and He seems to tell me that it is my job now, in this season, to focus on them.

So, I know that I'm called for them.  But, I've doubted anyway.  I'm human, after all.

But here I was, weeping, as I felt the Father telling me, so clearly, that I'm not good.. I am PERFECT.

Up until tonight, I hadn't shared this word with anyone.  I've been keeping it in my secret arsenal as I began the week leaving church, thrown into battles and fires as a momma always is.  But this week, it was different.  I didn't doubt myself. I didn't doubt my parenting.  I saw each battle as a lesson in growth, grace, mercy, persistence, and patience.  Yes, I am sure I was imperfect in parenting.  But, I AM the perfect parent for my children.

Tonight, in silent meditation on a two hour drive home, with the children sleeping in the back seats, I felt the pull to share my personal message.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

And I realized, this message isn't for me alone.

No.

This message is for all women out there in mothering roles- biological mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, aunts, grandparents, sisters, close friends, mentors, teachers... and anyone else I may be unintentionally forgetting.

YOU are PERFECT.  God made every single one of us, whether you accept Him yet or not.  And knowing He made you, the Bible says that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and we were made perfect in God's image (Genesis 1:27- because God is perfect).

Each child you are given is a blessing from God, and if you accept your calling to be in the lives of child (young or grown, really), then you need to know that you are the perfect one for them.

Yes, you're going to make mistakes.  You're going to be imperfect as a person, but you ARE perfect for the job.

In being imperfect and simultaneously perfect, it is your duty to embrace the imperfection, to learn from it, grow because of it, and share it.  Because we are made stronger and we are formed more beautifully when we do.  And, it's a blessing to others when we do.

Each of us is going to struggle.  It's a given.  But, knowing you're made wonderfully and specifically for the purpose of being a mother of any kind to any child in your life, you can carry on when you do fall short.

But, you have to be willing to accept God in it all, to live up to your true perfection's potential.

With God, you are renewed each day (Isaiah 40:31, Lamentations 3:22-23).

With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

With God, you can do hard things... like what I believe to be one of the hardest things of all- being a good mother. With God, you can keep on when you feel like giving up.  You just have to ask Him to guide you, lead you.  You have to abandon your need to have everything in control, and let Him be the one to help you.  And it's easier said than done.

I have to do it, personally, every single day, and often more than once.

I believe in you, Mommas of all kinds.  God believes in you, too.  It's why He placed children of all kinds in your life.



----

I apologize if this read was a little difficult to understand or decipher as I am quite exhausted and about to fall asleep. I just couldn't go to bed without getting it out there.  I hope it makes at least a little bit of sense.

(This entire message also very much applies to every kind of father figure out there, too.)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A little bit of three left



My Sweet Sunshine,

Yesterday, you told me, "Mama, I only have a little bit of three left."

While beaming with pride at your brilliance and innocence, my heart began to fiercely ache.

Four years ago, I struggled to sleep, my whole body sore and tired, waiting for you to arrive the next day. Tonight, only my heart is sore and tired, reflecting on the four years that seemed to inch forward at times, but truly bursting forth in a flash.

It's so hard for a momma to savor every moment of your innocent infant and toddlerhood, as the days are often fraught with mundane daily chores, meltdowns, and little sleep, and I sit here with regret knowing so many moments were lost and not cherished as they should have been.

As a whole, though, my darling, I have cherished our almost four years of sharing gazes, snuggles, and memories.

Miss Norah, you have become such an outgoing, spunky, opinionated, sassy, sweet, loving, gorgeous ray of sunshine. You remind us all what is kind and unkind, and grace everyone with forgiveness. You falter, as we all do, and meet correction with resistance initially, but always come back with the humble willingness to try again. You are friend to so many, and kind to most everyone we meet, whether you know them or not.

I love listening to your narrative play, especially when you narrate by song. You have such a creative mind. I love how much you love our cats. I love watching you do things when you don't realize it. You make my heart so happy.

Your zest for life is so catchy and you become elated over some of the most peculiar and mundane things, and it is joyous to watch you react. Your love for unicorns, kittens, and elephants, is especially wonderful.


You are gentle but also rough. You are sugar and spice. You burn with the love of Jesus.

I pray countless blessings over you in your fourth year. I pray you continue to bring joy to those around you. I pray you feel the love of Jesus continue to grow in your heart and that you are able to bring His love to the hearts of others. I pray you know your worth and never doubt how beautiful, intelligent, and amazing you are.



You are a treasure, baby girl!

We are so lucky to have you.

Happy fourth birthday tomorrow, sweet girl.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

When the summit is the valley

Hills.  Summits.   Peaks.  

Valleys.  Trenches.  Rock-Bottoms.

Opposites.

Usually.

Three years ago tomorrow, January 15, marks the day I hit rock bottom.

Three years ago tomorrow, January 15, marks the day I reached my summit.

Three days ago, exactly, is when I realized that they are the same.

Those of you who have been following my life story over for a while now know more than the basic details, but those who are reading for one of the first times, you might not.  In summary fashion, over the course of the last half of the year 2014, my former husband was fading in and out of the lives of me and our three children, who were then less than a year old, roughly two, and almost 4.  The day before our oldest son turned four, we left the home we had been living in for over two years, to stay with a friend in a small two-bedroom apartment.  She saved us at the time.  You see, when my former husband was leaving us, slowly, painfully, and dramatically, he stopped paying bills and had our only vehicle, which meant that as a stay-at-home-mom to three young children, I was barely contributing selling work from home.  I had been employed full-time prior to the birth of our youngest child, who was a "surprise" to us, and when she was born, he agreed staying home was best for our family financially.  Two weeks prior to moving out of our home, on my birthday, we were served an eviction notice, and the secrets and lies that I had been living amidst unknowingly started unfolding and rearing their ugly heads.

But, for the time being, my friend rescued us, giving us a warm place to live while I found a job and started saving up money.

But it was stressful to all of us, and unfair to her, to have so many young children in small spaces, with opposite work schedules.

January 15, 2015, started as most of the days at that time in my life did, with one exception, that my now former husband allowed me to have use of our only family vehicle, and I drove myself and the children to work on my own.  I worked throughout the day, feeling weighted down with the burden I was imposing upon my friend, knowing she was moving soon anyway and we needed a home when she left.  I had hardly any money saved up as I had been at my new job for 5 weeks, but the stress was mounting, and I was feeling the pressure causing cracks in my life.

At the end of the day, I made a huge decision.  I put down myself, and fell to the bottom.  I jumped into the valley.  I made a phone call to the then new homeless shelter to see if they had room for my children and I.  They did, and they said it wouldn't be available long, so if I wanted a room, I better act.

So, I fed the children, packed up some clothes, a few small toys, baby bottles and sippy cups and a few snacks, and I drove the four of us to the shelter. I sobbed on the way there, regretting my decision and then supporting myself in my decision, switching sides every couple of seconds.  As the recipient of a bachelor's degree in social work, and with experience in a community action agency straight of of college, running a food shelter and various other programs for low income individuals, the gravity and reality of the situation shook me to my core. We had become the people I had been trained to help, and I felt absolutely moronic for being so blind as to let our lives go down this route.

And, with the exception of less than a handful of people, I had made this move in absolute secret.  

I felt like a failure that night.  

It turns out, though, I was a success.

It turns out, though, that when I threw myself into the valley, I unknowingly reached my summit.  

Tomorrow is three years since that day, when the summit and the valley became the same thing.

But as I said, I didn't know that until three days ago.

I've been listening to worship music a lot more than usual lately, and nearly every morning, I wake up with a song stuck in my head.  It usually is not a song I heard recently, which is somewhat surprising to me, but that assures me God put it there and it's not just stuck in my mind because of the radio.  A week ago, I listened to the song "Hills and Valleys" by Tauren Wells, while driving, about six times in succession, belting it out at the top of my lungs as we made our way on the road.  That song has always hit home for me, and I love it just as much today as the first day that I heard it.  I hadn't listened to it once other than a week ago Friday when it looped on the radio for me.

But, three days ago, I woke with it stuck in my head.

I've walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I've felt the pain of heartbreak
And I've seen the brighter days
And I've prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away
No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I'm standing in Your love
On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I'm standing on the mountain aft, didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You're God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!
I've watched my dreams get broken
In you I hope again!
No matter what I know
I'm safe inside Your hand
Father, you give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all you will remain
Over it all!

The lyrics are so powerful and perfect for my life.

The first night in the shelter, as I lay awake in the huge, empty room with ceilings that seemed to reach the sky, the noise of my children sleeping echoed, and I stifled my sobs into a pillow.  I knew that I was in my valley.  But, I knew there was only one way to go at that point, because living on the streets wasn't an option.  I knew I was making a choice to stand firm for my children.  I was no longer going to sit and wait on the man who promised to provide.  I was no longer putting my faith in the man I made vows with to help us through hard times.  I was going to do it without him, and in his place, God was going to help me.  I have believed in God for what I recall to be my entire life. I believed in him, but I never threw myself down at His feet like I did in my prayers that night, relying on Him to get us through.

Now, as I play the memories of those days in the shelter through my head, feeling so imprisoned by their rules, feeling so constricted some days I didn't know how to breathe normal or stand straight, hiding it from most everyone, I see that as I threw myself into my personal valley, I was in that exact moment on a summit.  I was at a peak in my faith, and in my life story.

Because that was the day I chose to give my children a better life.  That was a day I chose myself.  That was a day I chose my God.  I didn't see it then, but I see it now.

I stood up, on that mountain, all alone in my darkness, and I took ahold of our lives.

It's overwhelming when you can look back and see the dark valley in this new Light, realizing that even as the lowest point in your life in some ways, it was also the highest point in your life in other ways.  

Over the course of three years, I've accomplished so much, personally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I don't feel like I'm anything but an ordinary woman and a commonplace  mother at best, but I also know that most days, I don't give myself enough credit for where I've come.  

I have had the same job for over three years, and it's become so much more than a job.  My coworkers who know me well seem to love me and my children.  I let down my guard inside the room where I work and allowed the first new person (followed by others) to see me wholly broken, and allowed them to walk beside me as God healed me again.  We have lived in the same apartment for longer than any home we have ever lived in as a family since my first son was born.   I have taken charge.  I took charge in my failing marriage, and freed myself from the bondage I didn't even know was inside of it.   I found God in ways I have never known Him before.  I have begun to lead my children to God as well.  I have taken on challenges and struggles in parenting I never imagined my life would entail, and I've done it as a single mother.  I've developed my interests, passions, and creativity all over again, and found my way back to my true self.  I've found a church for our family to call our home, and a church family that loves us.  I truly can't wait to go back to church each Sunday morning, as worship has become my favorite and most fulfilling part of each week.

It's liberating.

I'm proud of myself.

There's no way I would be who I am today, my faith in God and my love for myself, my children, and others as strong as it is today, had I not thrown myself into the valley and landed safely on the summit instead.

My first summit.  I know there are higher ones.  I've reached a few since that first one.  Timidly, and with a bit of apprehension, knowing that the struggles are hard and the road is never truly easy, I wait to see which are yet ahead.

And it will all be okay, in the lows and in the highs.  

I know it.  God has been faithful.

God is SO good.







Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Then came seven.

Spencer, buddy,

Tomorrow, you turn seven.

Seven.

7?

She-vehn.

I don't know why, but this number has thrown me for such a loop. I mused to someone that I think it's because the two syllables make it sound much bigger than it is.   Thinking about that, I have to laugh, because you sure like to point out the number of syllables in words.

Six.  You're still six.  I hear you in your bedroom, not sleeping like you promised me you would be doing.  You're still only one syllable.

Tomorrow, it's two.  But only for a year, then you can back down to one syllable for a couple more years and maybe my heart will be able to handle it a bit better than this milestone.

We've talked lately about how you were the one who made me a mom.  You like to share the credit (rightly so) with your siblings.  But buddy, it was you.  Seven years ago, I hadn't seen your face.  And now, I can't imagine my life without you, your brother, and your sister.  I was born to be a mommy, and I'm so thankful that you are the one who made me so.

Spencer, you've grown, again, so much in the last year.  You've taken the kindness of your heart that has always been there, and somehow multiplied it.  You tell people that you're a "kindness ninja" and it's true.  I've seen it with my own eyes, in how you will run across a grocery store aisle to help an elderly lady pick up a bunch of change she accidentally dropped, without hesitation or anyone asking you.  You pick up change in our home on Sunday mornings and you bring it to church for offering.  You help your sister put on her shoes or socks in the morning if you're ready before she is.  You proclaim that you'll never run out of hugs for people you love.  You love to donate things to people in need.   You willingly, patiently, taught both of your siblings to climb the pine tree outside, and have guided them step by step down and out of it on multiple occasions. It all comes so naturally to you.

Of course, we all have our moments where we might not be so kind, but your kindness far outweighs that side of things.  I'm so proud to call you my son.

I'll be honest... you try my patience in ways I don't always understand... but really, I delight in you.


Over the course of this last year, I think you've somehow touched the lives of even more people.  I have been approached by numerous "new" people this year who have told me they can see Jesus in your heart, see your kindness, and how God has great things in store for you.  I've been told by many that you're a blessing to them.

It makes my heart sing.

I love watching you come into your own and see your personality develop.  I'll be honest, you're at an awkward stage right now, where you're not only getting even taller and lankier, but you're a little socially awkward in some situations, and you have this weird desire to pose like some sort of hip-hop dude from the early 1990s when I want to take photos of you.   You love to wear dress shirts with active wear, you don't care if your pants are too short or your shoes are untied, and you make awkward nonsensical jokes and statements to people when you're nervous, and then laugh at yourself like it's the funniest thing that's ever happened.  It's an interesting time.  I think I love it.  You're also trying to fit in with larger groups of kids your age and older, while still holding onto your innocence and enjoying spending time with children younger than you.  I remember those awkward years and I will say you've got a lot in store for you.  But, you're going to be awesome.

I can't wait to see what is around the bend.  Your love for music and worship is growing, and I believe there's great things in store for you there.  Your desire for reading and science is developing more deeply, and you are so very smart.  You've got great athleticism inside that body, too.  You've so many wonderful facets.



You are a treasure, little man.

I pray that this next year is rich with blessings, laughter, hugs, and fun memories with your family and your friends.  I pray that your heart never hardens, and your love continues to grow.  I pray that you'll be a blessing to even more and touch the lives of countless others.  I pray that you won't lose your love for hugs and cuddles yet, because I'm not ready to let that go.

Happy Birthday, mister man.

You are so deeply loved.

Especially by me.

-Mom