Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Single Mother's Day

For as long as I can remember, I have thought to myself, but also aloud, that I just do not know how single mothers handle single parenting. When my first child was born it really hit me just how hard parenting is, with the all night or late night or cluster feedings, no sleep, constant worry, housework, laundry, and trying to remember to feed yourself and go to the bathroom. A shower felt like vacation.  

I was fortunate enough to have my husband around pretty regularly, though his work hours were absurd, he was home at night to help with diaper changes, taking out the garbage, hauling laundry up and down the stairs, and taking the dog out, among other things.

Together, we decided to have a second child, and then our daughter surprised us last year.

It seemed perfect, our little family. Mother's Day last year was awesome, having all of us together, sons and a daughter. 

This year is different.

This year, I am amongst those single mothers. This year I look at myself most days, and I wonder how do I do this? 

I don't see what other people see when they tell me I'm doing awesome or that I'm a great mom. I have a horrible habit of seeing the negative things, of seeing all the ways that I could be better. I see the toys on the floor, I see the folded clothes piled on the table waiting to be put away, I see my children eating cereal for supper another night. 

I try not to compare my new self with my former self, the mom I thought was better in many ways, spending countless hours doing fun projects with the kids, making flash cards, making bubbles, drawing cartoon characters on the sidewalk, making homemade waffles instead of frozen ones. 

I try to tell myself that my new lack of time to do all of those fun and amazing things is better as the "new" mom is amazing, because she is stronger, she is putting her family's well-being first, she has set aside her dream of being home with them and raising them alone so she can raise them... Alone. Or mostly alone. 

I feel like my love for them shows less to them in the fun ways, the ways that probably matter to them more now, but someday, they will look back and see the endless love for them in the amount of time they spent at daycare while I worked to provide them a loving and stable home. The hours I didn't sleep because I was up tending to their illnesses, bad dreams, hunger, or loneliness may never be accounted for in numbers, but maybe they will see the circles under my eyes and the wrinkles on my face, and know they are proof of my love.  Somedays, I do not want to do another puzzle, but would rather snuggle them laying down on the couch and read a book or watch a movie because by the time the week is done, my energy is gone.

It tears me up. I feel like when I'm tired, I'm not a great mom. But, I try to tell myself, I am tired because I am a great mom.

While I used to be one of those who often wondered how single parents do it, I am now one of those that is asked how I do it. I never know how to answer that question, and usually just say "I just do, I have to."

There's no calculated formula, or plan for how I get through the days or the weeks when they are hard. I just get up in the morning.  I tend to my children, I hug them, I love them, I tell them I love them, I give them as much of me and my attention and time as I can, and hopefully get through the day with everyone happy, and healthy, in one piece and asleep in their beds by ten. I don't even really feel like I am doing it (single parenting) most days because it's become second nature. Good golly, the days fly by this way.

I never saw myself being a single mom, and I still struggle with calling myself a single mom, because they have a dad in their lives. He is trying to be better for them so someday I won't be a single mom, and they will have their dad back. But, I really, for now, am a single mom, I guess.

Single moms, or mothers who aren't necessarily single, but are doing the single parenting thing themselves (or maybe just solo parenting most of the time for whatever reason), I salute you. I don't know how you do it. But, you're doing it.

I know that, if you're like me, you're not sure how to embrace Mother's Day this year. My kids are still young enough that they don't really understand the concept, or why I do the things that I do for them. It's a bittersweet holiday if you once had someone there to make it feel important or special and this year it's on you.  

Well, moms-  know that I'm celebrating you and all you do to give your children everything you can. I'm celebrating your exhaustion and frustration and tears and joy. I want you to know that you are amazing. Your hard work and determination is paying off. 

I give you permission to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you're an awesome mom. You're phenomenal. 

I pray that you will celebrate you. I pray you will laugh and love and not cry.

Happy Mother's Day! I may not know you, but I love you.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby Boo.

My darling Sweet Pea,

As I held you in my arms tonight, tears filled my eyes. I thought about how one year ago tonight, I had never touched your skin, heard you breathe, or looked into your gorgeous eyes. As I realized this, I was overcome with gratitude and sadness both.



Tomorrow, you will turn one year-old. While it is a joyous day, a true blessing, a miracle, really, my momma heart aches a little. 

The year, as they anyways do, flew by too quickly, and I regret not savoring more moments than I did. I should have held you longer in the middle of the night, breathing in your scent, feeling your warmth against my neck as you rested on my shoulder. I should have studied your toothless grin a little longer, before it vanished forever. I should have slow danced with you all night long just one more time.

I cannot live in regret, of course, and I know I am being too harsh on myself. I took in countless moments with you, and they will be cherished every day I live. My heart exploded with joy when you smiled at me with your brilliant, beautiful smile that brings sunshine to the darkest moments. My heart ached incredibly when you would cry in turmoil. 

This past year was filled with many changes, but one of the things that remained constant, day in and day out, was that you were loved- endlessly, tremendously, selflessly, and unconditionally. I loved you before I saw you, and that love has grown exponentially with the passing days. But I am not the only one who loves you so much.

You bring out the softest, sweetest side of both of your older brothers. From the day we brought you home, they've been enamoured with you. They've held you to comfort you and kissed away your tears. They shriek with joy after being away from you all day. They laugh relentlessly with you as you chase them up and down the hallway. They kiss you goodnight, and pray blessings upon you. 

Your daddy always wanted a baby girl, and here you are. Your smile could brighten a dark night when you see him enter a room. He spent so many nights playing you a lullaby to sleep or you would cuddle up on his chest, serenaded by his heart beat.

The love extends further to your grandparents, aunts, uncles, other family, and friends. If there's another thing I can say without hesitation, it is that this past year has shown me that there are countless people out there who love you (and your wonderful brothers) more than I ever imagined possible.

You are truly a blessed little girl.

I am undoubtedly a blessed momma.

Before you were born, because you were such a surprise, I had to tell myself that God's plans were greater than my own. This year has shown me that, full force.

God KNEW what He was doing when He created you and brought you into our lives. 

I have so many hopes and dreams for you, sweet baby girl. I pray that you grow to be a kind, compassionate woman someday. I pray that you love enormously, and live passionately. I hope that you will be filled with empathy and understanding, wisdom and grace. I pray you're strong, but also gentle. I pray that you smile often, laugh often, and enjoy the many moments this life will give you. And I want you to never, EVER doubt how beautiful and wonderfully made you are.

Know that you've been loved since before you took that first breath, and that you've been loved every moment since. 

Happy Birthday, Norah Rachelle. 

Love,
Momma



PS: Miss Norah, you've softened me. I never thought I would love pink and girly things, but the sight of you in a pink dress as you place necklaces on yourself just melts my heart in ways I cannot describe. I never saw myself gushing over tulle and pigtails, but you've done me in. <3

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Harsh Hope Against Time

It's been months since I've last written here. You may have noticed. Maybe you have not. If not, I surely am not offended, but if you have, let me start with an apology.

I'm sorry for avoiding my blog. It's exactly what I have been doing. Because, who am I if I am not honest? That's all my writing has ever been- honest reflecting and confessions of my heart and mind, out there for others, who, as I have in the past, felt alone in their journeys.

This post has taken me a lot of courage to write, and then even more to share.


If you're not a follower of Christ, you may find this post hard to read, support, or comprehend. That's not on me. I ask you to try not to judge too harshly, or throw out words of condemnation after you read.

Today, I'm parked alongside the road, a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere. My children are all asleep in the van. It's funny when the urge to write hits you.

Why now? 

Well, I was listening to music, and as it usually does, music gets me reflecting. 

"I am not afraid to bear all my weakness, knowing in meakness, I have a kingdom to gain." -Jennifer Knapp, "Martyrs and Thieves"

If you've known me long, you may recognize that song. It's always been on my personal soundtrack.

The last blog post I wrote was over seven months ago. Seven months ago, I was living in a clouded state of reality. Seven months ago, I thought the struggles in my marriage were finally coming to an end, and we were mending and growing stronger.

Days later, my husband told me he wanted a break.

It crushed me. It broke my heart. I do not think I've ever cried so long and hard in my life.

I was suddenly alone. I was very alone. I was surrounded by children, two toddlers and a baby, but my house felt deserted. 

I've always believed in God, but in those first weeks especially, I felt He left me, too. For my marriage vows were promised with Him, too, and just like that, my marriage was dissolving.

The following months piled on stress and struggle, deception and lies, fear and self-doubt. 

But they also brought forth so much hope, faith, and love. 

As I look back today, I know that all of the darkness was brought forth from dark forces in our faith lives. Somewhere, the devil broke us down. He led my husband out that door. 

So, my husband, the man I chose to love with my whole heart, for the entirety of my life, up and left us. He took away my dreams of our future together, my hopes for our family, and my home and security (or what there was of it at the time). I was a stay-at-home-mother with no income, who had entrusted our everything to him.  Within months, his promises failed, and on my birthday, my children and I lost our home.

Through all of that, a part of me was strangely hopeful. I'm not sure how or why. I felt so abandoned and a bit separated from God, but in my heart, I still believed He could bring a miracle. I prayed for me, for my kids, and for my lost husband. I felt there was something amiss within him, but didn't know what, and just prayed someday and somehow he would heal.

This is where the blessings started rolling in.  A few friends helped pack, move, and store our stuff. A friend let my children and I stay with her for a few months while I started my job hunt. This job hunt felt endless and hopeless for quite some time as I barely had more than an interview for weeks. 

One day, when having coffee and a play date with a friend, she mentioned a daycare she had once worked at and suggested I look there. I searched it up, and emailed the director asking if there were any openings. She replied within the hour stating there weren't at that time.

The very next day, I received a phone call saying there was now an opening, and they would love to meet me.

I interviewed and was hired, and started working at the church-based daycare, on Jake's birthday.  We were a one-vehicle family still, which was incredibly awkward and frustrating for me and for him, as I depended on his undependability still to get to and from this new job. I began working in two infant rooms, one of which Norah was in. That was a huge blessing to me, because  I was spoiled with the time I had with both boys, and this allowed me more time with her still.

Also awkward was the illusion that we were all a happy family, as my husband would escort us most days. Because of all of the emotional turmoil I was going through at this time, I did not have it in me to set them straight and explain, so I kept my story vague and somewhat superficial for a while.

The daycare was a huge blessing. It was stability and consistency for my children that they hadn't been experiencing as much as they should have been. They were SURROUNDED by people that loved them, every day of the work week. It was the best place I could have ended up. 

Fast forward, and it was beginning to feel crowded at the apartment, and I felt like a huge burden, and after contacting many agencies and finding most rentals that would work with my situation required either six months employment history or a giant wait list, I took my children to a homeless shelter in town. In the dark of the night, in a huge room that echoed my sick toddler's fierce cries, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. We had to be up every day at 6:45am because of staff change, so I had to beg my husband to be on time, because January in South Dakota is freezing and I didn't want to sit around in the cold until we could go to work. 


But, while there, for that short stay that felt like an eternity, more blessings started to appear. An agency I had contacted previously came and met with me, and they had a furnished apartment we could live in at reduced rent for up
to a year while they helped me get our lives back on track to self-sufficiency. So, after staying with a friend for the weekend so we wouldn't have to leave the shelter two more cold mornings, we moved in.

The apartment is amazing, the program feels harsh sometimes, but it's a blessing. I may not have visitors when I want, but my children have a home. They have stability. I've been blessed with a vehicle, and with that and now a savings account for the future, we are really on our way to being okay.

It is hard to not have money to spend and have them monitor what seems like your every move. I've been blessed by others for diapers and clothing for my children.

During the past few months, though, my marriage has fizzled out even more. More lies and decker and control and manipulation. Less communication and my children seeing their dad. 

I finally opened up to one of my coworkers, who prayed with, over, and for us all. I felt brave and opened up to a couple more. I cried at work, prayed at work. I asked yet again for a miracle, feeling as if it might be useless, but still feeling the urge in my heart.

One month ago, days before I received the vehicle, I realized that my hope was naive, and the marriage was really over. My caseworker and I began looking at divorce information. I prayed more, alone and with my friend, as I tearfully accepted the reality. 

Then, I suddenly felt free, and stronger. I began to laugh a bit more, smile more, pray more. I got angry- very angry. I embraced every emotion I had been rejecting over the months.

Then, this past weekend, God happened, big time. My husband must have hit rock bottom, stumbled upon church, fully realized and embraced his choices and actions. He asked to talk to me.

It was TOO LATE. I was DONE. I cried at work to my friend, telling her how stupid this was and that I couldn't do it anymore. My heart had been shattered.

But, I had to talk to him. I cannot explain it, but I could sense something was happening. Something was different.

I talked with him. He told me about church. It was the first time in MONTHS that I felt I was with my husband, my friend. He cried. I cried. He apologized and explained how the enormity of the situation and reality of his mistakes had cost him everything he had ever dreamed of and hoped for. He told me he knew he didn't deserve my forgiveness, but asked for it. 

Because I had prayed, deeply and continually before speaking with him, I was able to forgive him. I've always been blessed enough to be able to forgive easily. 

He explained how he would someday love to have his family back, and that he loves me, and wants me to remain his wife.


Miracles can happen.

I know people doubt that. I know people don't believe others can change. But, I do. I've seen it before. Not in this situation, but with others in my life.

I agreed that I would love to be together again. To mend these wounds. To reconcile. To really, truly fight this through like I promised all along that I would. And I will. It will be a long, hard road, which I told him. But if he's willing, I'm willing.

Truthfully, I'm scared. I'm guarded. I will probably spend more nights crying in bed or on the shoulders of friends. I'm hopeful but not naive. I know I can be happy regardless of what happens next. It hurts to admit it, but it's refreshing too. 

I look back, and I know God has been here all along. He's been on my side while Satan had ahold of our marriage. But God is bigger than all of it. And I truly believe, so long as we both cling to God, we will be together again someday.

To those who have known this story and been beside the children and I, I thank you, deeply, sincerely, with my everything. 

I know there may be some who disagree with my choice to give three thousand chances, but, it is my decision. As I said, I am guarded, but my heart is telling me that, for my children and myself, it is worth this chance. I would never willingly subject them to agony or despair. But, I have a strong conviction this time.  

If you could pray for all of us, I would greatly appreciate it. For clear minds, kind hearts, spirits susceptible to God's work... It's going to be a long road, and I know the prayerful support is absolutely essential. And also, please do not condemn my husband. He is the father of my children, and he is now humbly broken. He's ready for healing. I can see it in his eyes.

God forgives, so we can forgive. He loves so we can love.

"There is peace and love in the light, I am not afraid to let Your life shine bright in my life."

I've been told both that this situation has made me stronger, but also shown weakness. That I'm doing the right things, and doing the wrong thing. What I know, undoubtedly, is it has made me stronger, and it has brought me back to the God that I was not fully letting into my life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Love will find a way.

Tomorrow marks 8 years since this photo was taken-



Some days, it seems like it's been a fraction of that time since Jake and I were married. Sometimes, it feels exponentially longer.

I contemplated writing an emotionally driven, sappy recollection of my wedding day, but I think I probably did that a year or two ago.  Maybe that will be my ten-year flashback celebration. 

"Walk blindly to the light and reach out for his hand. Don't ask any questions and don't try to understand. Open up your mind and then open up your heart; you will see that you and me aren't very far apart. I believe that love is the answer. I believe love will find a way." - Blessid Union of Souls

Let's be honest. We've all been told that weddings and marriage are AMAZING and at the same time, we've been told that they are HARD WORK. We hear it, but we don't always see it, especially from a spectator type view. Couples work hard to put on a perfect portrait showing they are the couple who has it together. No one wants to look like they're falling apart or in the middle of a mess.  

We hear about the "seven year itch." We see it on tv, in movies, in magazines, and in real life. Divorce has become pretty commonplace. 

Jake and I just are just saying farewell to the seventh year of marriage. Ironically, it was an "itch" year on some levels. We travelled more rocky roads than usual. There were more stressors than we have had in the past. His work schedule had him working longer. I took on a job and wasn't raising our kids all the time like we had planned. We saw each other much less. We became used to communicating less frequently, less clearly, less level-headedly, less openly, less compassionately. We had more heated discussions. We were more irritable. We were less tolerant. Things threw us for a loop. 

It was awful...

Not always, but occasionally- more than in years past. Any time something feels awful, it feels like it's always awful and never going to get better. When the awful moments pass, though, they seemed fleetingly quick.

I wouldn't characterize the last year as awful. I wouldn't say our marriage was wretched or anything. Because it wasn't. It was rocky and hard and more moments were awful feeling than usual. 

But realistically, this past year was beautiful. It was joyous. It was break-your-soul-down-and-build-it-up fantastic. I'm incredibly blessed to have struggled more.

He wasn't a horrible husband. Please don't think that. He would tell you I wasn't a horrible wife, either.

Sometimes, things are just harder. Life throws boulders at you and you get hit or you dodge. You make it work and you gain wisdom and strength. 

I would venture so far as to say it is pretty commonplace. I would also venture to say that under the right circumstances, you can make it through.

The quote above is the opening stanza and choirs to one of the most beautiful, melodic songs I know. It's "I Believe" by Blessid Union of Souls. Eight years ago, my father escorted me down the aisle to the piano playing that melody, and I became Jacob's wife, for better or worse, until death separates us on earth.

Those are serious vows. That were serious eight years ago. They're just as serious today, maybe more so.

I am blessed beyond measure to have been given a life-long companion and love. 

Happy Anniversary, Jacob. Here's to the rest of our lives.

A Year Post-Test

One year ago this very morning, I sat in silent disbelief on the edge of my bathtub, staring, dumbfoundedly, at a test. 

There was no way the test was right. I was certain of that. 

I trembled later as I tested once more. This time, I used a digital, and in less than 30 seconds, the test glared
PREGNANT
in my still shocked and disbelieving face.

I trembled. I cried. I worried. I feared. 

After battling infertility to conceive our sons, I just could not believe that I was pregnant again. We had been utilizing charting to avoid pregnancy because we wanted to wait a few years before expanding our family again. I've never been a very scheduled woman inside, but I was certain I had missed the window to have a baby that month.

I was wrong.

It wasn't a "good time" for us. I had JUST accepted a job two days prior. We were just getting on our feet again after financial crises. We were finding our footing. 

This pregnancy scared me. And I worried for nine months whether we could make it work. I wondered if I would be a good mom to THREE babies under four. I wondered if we could afford it. I also worried if, due to all the stress and worries of poor timing, that I would love this baby or resent myself for getting pregnant.

I felt judged. People close to us knew the timing wasn't great. I didn't want them to think we were being stupid. Or that we shouldn't have another baby. So many more worries of similar fashion circled mind.

They didn't stop circling for nine months. They slowed down circling a month or so after that.

One year ago, I was terrified. 

I always said that one of my dearest dreams was to get pregnant "on accident" because I just did not think I could. But I did. And I was guilty because I was upset about it.


Tonight, after a few hours of protesting, Norah Rachelle sleeps peacefully in her bed. Her soft, sweetly scented skin pokes out beneath her (big brother's) silky, pink blanket. Her soft breath whispers as I sit here in silence focusing on my memories and emotions. Her gorgeous, dark eyelashes flutter as she dreams.

I couldn't imagine my life without her. 

She is a perfect fit in our family. I feel that she looks like a bit like one brother and acts a bit like the other. She laughs and squeals and smiles so frequently. She's absolutely the snuggliest of the three. She loves her brothers and they adore her. They're a perfect trio. She calms down to daddy's scent and voice. She lights up when she hears me talk.

While I know my fears and worries were founded in practicality, I feel ashamed for being scared or sad about adding her to our family. 

I was wrong. God was right. She belongs with us, here and now, even if a year ago I was on the verge of being completely convinced otherwise.