Friday, May 19, 2017

My second little Graduate

Dearest Collin,

Tonight, as your brother did a year ago, you celebrated your very first graduation.  You did it all in your own very unique style, with a lot of flair.  It's amazing how sometimes you can be so much like your big brother, and then other times, it's like you are complete opposites.

Because of your very special birthday being on the last possible day to go to kindergarten next year, you were not only the youngest in your class, but one of the shortest and spunkiest.   From the moment you walked into the sanctuary at church, you captured the attention.  My heart about exploded while you stood up in front proclaiming "I love you, Mama" in front of everyone, even if you were talking over the person who was trying to speak to the crowd.

Uncle Jesse, Auntie Sam, and Belinda all joined in the celebration tonight, and you were delighted to have them there to celebrate. You waved enthusiastically at both of your siblings, who were excited to watch you perform.  And... perform you did.  You were the loudest, busiest one in the group.  I wasn't surprised, and I was trying to hard not to stress out about the fact that you might have yelled at a couple people because you've definitely got a firecracker spirit and a mind of your own.

Your brother kept telling me how funny you were. Your sister kept telling me how awesome you were.  And everyone knew you were ours.

You knew all the words, and so long as your tassle and your sash were on properly, you sang your little heart out and did explosive actions.

You were thrilled when you received your diploma and went running to hug your teacher.

Thank you for the goofy, joy-filled memories.

We are so proud of you.  You've got big things ahead of you.  I know sometimes, I wonder if you're listening or paying attention, but you prove time and time again that you are.  You take after me in that you've got a vast expanse of trivia-type knowledge.  You love the sea, shapes, colors, automobiles.  You are stubborn though, so I never quite know what you know, because you only want to share on your own terms.  Remember when I asked if you could write a 'C' and you said yes?  I asked you to show me, you wrote an 'X' and I asked why.   You said "Because I wanted to write an X, not a C."

That's how you roll, Ollie Bear.

I'm a little nervous for you to become a big boy and join the realms of elementary school. I worry that your temper may get the best of you, and your teachers might be a little overwhelmed.  I hope they can give you hugs if you need, like your preschool teachers have learned to do.  It almost always diffuses the situation and brings you back down to earth.

I know you're excited to go to school like your brother, and I know you'll love learning there too.

You've grown up so fast.  I can hardly believe it.  You're a graduate.

I love you, Ollie Bear.  Thanks for all the joy you bring to my life, for teaching me unending patience and strength, and for not being ashamed to proclaim you love me, even when it's not perfect timing for the rest of the world.  I'll never grow tired of hearing it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I love them to tears.

Every so often, I'm laying in bed, and it overwhelms me like a flood...

Just how much I love my children.

These three precious littles, all born within 4.5 years, who have stolen my heart from the moment I knew they existed, cause my love to deepen more each passing day.

Some days, yes, I struggle. I am not always as grateful as I should be to be entrusted with their lives. I admit it. I have faults.

But, I am always appreciative that they are mine.

Some days are tough. They bicker or cause chaos. They exhaust me. 

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

I lay in the dark tonight overwhelmed with my love for them. I soaked my pillow with tears of joy as my heart aches to hear their laughter while also willing them to sleep soundly all night so I have some moments of silence.

The glimmer in their eyes as they proclaim their love for me is etched into my memory as I hear the faint echoes of their voices from the day we spent together.

For better or worse, God has entrusted me to be their mother. He has called me to lead them to Him. It's a joyfully bewildering realization as I daily question my strength, patience, and wisdom to do so.

I fall short sometimes, and I pray that they have the grace to forgive me, just as I pray for the grace to forgive them when they choose to wander from my guidance.   God always forgives me, I always forgive them, and I can only hope that the example is clear.

Sometimes, I want a few minutes of personal space. Other times, I wish I could cuddle all three of them forever.

What a beautiful burden it is to live in paradoxical days like this.

With this love so deep, so fierce, and so overwhelming, I pray they never believe for a minute I feel anything less than pure agape (love). 

Friday, April 14, 2017

In the morning, she will be three.

My sweet, beautiful girl,

Tonight, I laid you down, and you told me "tomorrow is my birthday, mama."  We said our bedtime prayer, which ends "God is great, God is great (you insist we say it twice), AMEN!" You asked me for a kiss, and then a hug, and then to cover you up, and then for a kiss, and then for a hug, as you do almost every night.  I closed the door behind me after hugging and kissing your brothers and turning out the light, and I breathed deeply as I realized that tonight is the last night of this year of your life.  It tugs at my heart.

This is the first year you've shown excitement about it, after celebrating a few other birthdays over the year, your memory being much more acute, and feeling traditions take place as you and your brothers grow older.  I'm excited for your excitement, though it's bittersweet to see you transition from baby-hood even further.

Darling girl, tonight, you're still two.  Tomorrow, you'll be three.

I sit here thinking about how, growing up, I had hoped that someday I would have a daughter.  In my mind, she would be a perfect, smiling ball of joy, with curly hair, and beautiful features.  She would be kind and smart and so much more.  After God blessed me with your two brothers, I felt it was my calling in life, loving them so deeply, to be a mom to three or four boys, and felt I would never have a daughter.  I don't know why I felt this way, and it was bittersweet, but I was so sure.   When I was told you were on the way, I didn't believe it until they placed you on my chest, and you were in fact my little girl.  Every day since then, it has made so much sense that you were brought into our lives.  I didn't ever imagine you would fulfill my dreams to precisely.  You belong with us, and God knew it.

My heart can hardly handle another birthday.  Yet another year has flown by too quickly, though, fortunately, the chaos in our lives has slowed down quite a bit, and this transition from two to three years of life with you is much clearer in my memory and I feel I was much more focused on our days together, enjoying them, savoring them, and cherishing them.  Not that I didn't in years past, but someday, you'll understand what I mean when I say they were busier and harder and much more muddled together.

Not this year.

This year, I watched you blossom from a young toddler into a much more mature toddler.  I've heard your vocabulary soar with countless words and phrases I have never heard a two-year-old use before.

I've seen your sweet little self turn a little more sassy, as I was warned may happen over time.  I miss the days when I don't have to remind you to use a "kind voice," but I cherish your personality all the same.

I've seen you grow so tall, your hair so long and curly, your eyes so wide and filled with deep wonder.  You've become very independent, but you still totter back and forth from being "big" and "little" where sometimes you want to do everything on your own, and other times you'll cry on the floor because you think you need to be carried.  I'm sorry when I don't give in to the tantrums.  It's not because I don't want to carry you, it's just that I don't want to fuel that behavior.  I do, in fact, love that sometimes you still want to be carried, and I love the feeling of your arms wrapped around me as I carry you.  Your brothers very rarely express that desire anymore, and I know it will be all too soon that you won't want me to, either.  You use the most adorable phrase when you want to be held, as you tell me "I want to hold you," even though you really mean it the other way around.

I love that you still want to cuddle, sit on my lap, and snuggle in bed sometimes.  I love that you still ask for a kiss and a hug when I drop you off at daycare or Sunday School in the mornings, and that you still want them both before bed at night.

I love when you call me "Mama" instead of "mommy," and I don't know why.

You've got an excellent memory, little lady.  You know almost everyone's name at daycare and Sunday School, and you can recall the middle names, favorite colors, and eye colors of the people who mean most to you, assuming you've inquired what these things are already.

You love music, and art, the outdoors, and your blanket. In the morning, your favorite cat is Benjamin, but when we get home at night, your favorite cat is Lucy.  They both love you, and they're so gentle with you.  When you're sick, they are by your side.  You recently developed a love for birds, and you proclaim it almost daily.  You also love tigers, and dogs, and fish, and bunnies, and lions, and horses, and ponies, and unicorns...  I'm sorry I couldn't give you a pet tiger for your birthday like you requested repeatedly.  Someday, you'll understand.

You've surprised me and gone from wearing diapers full time to barely wearing them at all, and you're so proud of your big girl status in this area.  While I'm grateful that the diaper budget has dwindled immensely and I don't have to change diapers all day every day, it's a reminder that you're not going to be little for much longer.

I love listening to you sing songs and narrate your play.  You've such a bright imagination.  I love that you will play with both of your brothers on a daily basis.  They love you dearly and they make sure you know it.  They are so good about building you up with positive affirmations and compliments.  I hope you'll always remember how beautiful they think you are, even if sometimes they're not being very nice to you.

Baby girl, soon you will lose the remaining baby features on your little body, and become a preschooler like your brothers.  I pray you'll take the days a little more slowly than you have been over the past year.  I know you want to go to kindergarten, too, but you've only a few short years to be a tiny little girl.  Don't rush through them, please.

I pray that as you grow older, you'll continue to be kind, gentle, intelligent, helpful, and hilarious.  I hope you'll want to spin in a dress for years to come, rock baby dolls gently, and give hugs freely.

You light up every room you walk into with a smile full of sunshine.

I pray that I will always be able to remember the deep chocolate color of your bright eyes, the spirals in the back of your hair as they dry after bath, your dark, long eyelashes, especially as you sleep against my shoulder sometimes, the warmth of your tiny little hand as it holds my finger while we walk, and the jubilant melody of your laugh, among everything else about you.

I pray you'll always let Jesus in your heart, and show other's his goodness.  I pray you'll be a blessing to each person you come across.

Miss Norah, you stole our hearts from the get-go.  Cherish it as we cherish you.

Thank you for all of the joy you bring to this world.

I love you, Sweet Pea.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The silence was broken.

There was silence.

Seventeen-ish months of silence.  That day in July began it all, and a day in December ended it.

Seventeen months of absence.  Seventeen months of wondering. Seventeen months of trying to believe on my part.

Seventeen months where my oldest son believed, prayed, and hoped, even when I felt like giving up, and even had given up from time to time.

Before that day in December, when the silence was broken, I had begun to wonder if my children would see their dad again in this lifetime. My mind would wander and I would contemplate what I would do if I had heard through the grapevine that their dad had died.  Would I take them to his funeral? Would it be worth it? How would I help my daughter learn about her dad? What would I tell them about him later in life?

Yes, that's where I was at.

And every night, my six year-old would pray that God would protect his dad and help him to make good choices. He would hopefully ask that someday, they would see their dad again.

Honestly, I've been nervous to let this secret out of the bag, because I'm sure it could be a controversial topic, but I feel like it's time to swallow my nerves and just be honest.  I know God is telling me it shouldn't matter what others think, but my human nature gets me sometimes.

I've been keeping the secret for a couple reasons.  The first being that I wanted my children to have the privacy, and our family to have the freedom to see what unfolded without feeling the pressure of society or social media.  I didn't want or need the countless differing opinions on the matter, and needed to just pray it out, seek God's guidance, and go with what I believed he was leading me to do.

I was also a little scared. I didn't want to admit that I was being cautiously brave and believing life over death in this situation, and then have it all fall apart in a couple of weeks.

If people had come to me questioning how things were going, or flat out asked about the situation as it had been, I was honest, and I told them this secret, asking them to keep it to themselves.  I thank those of you who have upheld that promise and allowed my children the privacy and time to walk through these last few months.

And for others, I'm sorry if I have offended you by not telling you about this development.  But, I hope you can try to understand and respect my decision.

As I was saying, in December he broke the silence.  I had given up on trying to get ahold of him, and had tried to put on a positive face for my children when they continued to pray for a reunion and God to help their dad make better choices.  I had been through Cleansing Stream, and despite what I believed I could do, and what popular culture would tell me to do, I forgave the unforgivable.

It was perfect timing, in some ways, when he waited until December to break the silence.

I prayed long and hard afterward (I blogged about it weeks ago, without much detail), and believed that, although many would call me crazy, or stupid, or tell me he shouldn't be allowed to, that it was okay for him to see his children again.

I don't have to explain why I chose this, but I'm sure many will wonder.  Why on earth, after all that had happened, after all those months, did I let him see the kids?  I talked with him in depth for quite some time, met up with him without the kids, talked some more, and made my decision.

Because he is their dad.

People would say he has no right to see them after all that happened.  Legally, that's true. The children are 100% mine legally.

But he is their dad.

In my heart, I knew I couldn't look my children in the eye someday, after he had been gone so long, and admit to them that, had I chosen to not let them be reunited, I would have been the thing to keep them apart even longer.  I didn't need the blame for that.

It had already been so long. My daughter didn't really know him.  She would look at photos of him and not call him daddy, and the boys would get irritated.  She didn't remember him, really. But the boys, they still had that longing desire to have him in their lives.

And here he was.

Perfect? No.  Did it make everything that had happened okay?  Certainly not.  Did it erase the pain?  No.

Did it give the potential for greater healing?


After consulting with a few professionals on the matter, and praying of course, I knew that the only way to allow healing and restoration, was to give their dad a chance to try.  Yes, he could have been lying and just trying to fill a temporary void over the holidays.  But, I couldn't know that.  Just like I couldn't know if it was for real, and God was really leading him back to his kids unless I gave him the chance to be with the kids.  I couldn't give this a chance for success without giving it the chance to fail, but I couldn't live with myself knowing that there would be no chance at all.

I had to really, truly give it to God.

And I did.

It's still fresh and new.  There are still details we work out as we go along.  I am in control of the situation, the visits, everything.  It is all under my stipulations and schedule.  There are many details that I will not go into, but, after three months, I truly believe I've made the right choice, as vulnerable as it made me feel, as terrified as I was for my children.

I believe, as does my son, that God was answering months worth of prayers.

We are still praying for their dad as we maneuver this new road in our path.

It can and likely will get messy and confusing, and there will be countless questions from the children as time goes on. But, I have to believe that God will guide us through them as they come along.

Because, as our story has shown in so many ways, God has been here alongside us this entire time.  He's taken our pain and brought joy.  He's taken the mess and brought so much beauty.  He's taken the brokenness and restored our hearts.

He is so good.

And, I have to believe that He will continue to be good and perfect, no matter how these chapters pan out.

Because He's unchanging. He's sovereign. He's perfect.  He will never leave us, even if everything fell apart again.

I am sure there are many reading this who vehemently disagree with my choice. I've encountered that already.  I pray that there are those out there who understand, and that regardless of how you personally feel about it, you can trust that I am doing what I truly believe is best for my children.  I've always had their best interests in my mind, from the moment the world started crumbling.  They're my treasure, and I would do everything I could to protect them from pain, but I can't sacrifice their chance for healing and joy with their dad.

There may be heated and controversial opinions.  I know.  There are countless people out there who care so deeply for me and my children, and who are so angry over the pain we've been through.  I get it. I was there too.  We are so blessed that we are cared so deeply for that people have such strong emotional responses across the spectrum.  Regardless, I pray that anyone who hears my children speak about seeing their dad will be respectful of their excitement in the story, non-judgmental in their presence, ad just give them your love and support.

Thank you to everyone who has been there for us through any and all of the legs of this journey.  Thank you for the prayers you've prayed, the tears you've wiped away, the hugs you've given, the words of encouragement, consolation, humor, compassion, and everything else you've given us.

(There are MANY posts leading up to this one. If you're new to my blog, feel free to search through by topic, or start scrolling backward to 2014.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Good Grief

Someone, please tell me I'm not alone here...

Have you ever just been sick of yourself?

"I just don't know what to do with myself. I don't just know what to do with myself.."

That obnoxious song isn't really fitting to my situation except those two lines, but those two lines, nonetheless, are stuck in my head this evening as I try to stay awake, yet again, day 10, while the kids wind down for bed.

Good grief.

Really, though.

Have you ever been there?

I don't get there often, I really don't.  As of late (like the past year or half a year at least), I've been much better about regulating my emotions, and keeping thoughts captive to God's truth, or at least being able to seek out advice or guidance when I'm in a spot where my mind is all mucky.

I don't know if it's the onslaught of influenza 2017, or if it's a spiritual attack, or if it's exhaustion, or if it's just a mental mess, but lately... I'm sick of myself.  The last couple days to a week have been rough.  I've felt like I was emotionally unstable. I can't tell sometimes if I'm overthinking things, or imagining things, or if I'm nuts, or if I'm just tired, or if it's true that I'm whiny or irritating or a big baby or a lackluster mom or an unhelpful employee and on and on and on.  And then I mull on it, and then I overthink it, and then I worry about it, and then I wonder about it, and then I wonder if I should reach out and talk it out with someone, and then I worry that talking to someone would just be irritating and drive them nuts and make them think the things about me I mentioned above.

It makes me sick of myself,

Now, in rational moments, I would say it's an attack of my spirit and my faith, and then I feel like I can handle it and know that I'm good, because God wouldn't make me that way.

But then, sometimes, in the exhaustion, I feel paralyzed and unsure what to rebuke or how to counter attack, and sometimes I just don't plain think to even pray about it.

I hate when I get like this.

Thankfully, it's not all that often.

I am worn out. I will admit that. Physically, emotionally, and mentally apparently.  But I don't believe I'm spiritually worn out. I think that everything else is just getting the best of me and I'm not sure where to start in this battle.

I write this not for pity or to worry anyone.  I write this because I feel like maybe writing will help, as it often does.

And I write, because I wonder...

I'm not alone in this, right?  Someone else feels this way sometimes, too?