Saturday, May 28, 2016

Great Blessings

 I'm sure each of you has heard countless analogies and metaphors about friendships and what a true friend is.  True friends are like diamonds, true friends are like stars, true friends are like mornings, true friends are like angels, true friends are like a high school algebra word problem on the homework you almost forgot to do last night before bed...  So forth and so on.  Yes?  I know that I have.   
There are so many inspirational quotes that tell you how to be a good friend or what a good friend looks like.  If you're looking for some sort of wall art or a nice little closing to a greeting card to let someone know you care, you don't have to look much further than an internet search and you have thousands of sayings to choose from, from Oscar Wilde to Winnie-the-Pooh.

What makes a good friend, I suppose, is in some ways, subjective.  You may think a good friend is one who will give you the answers to your psychology homework, or maybe you think a good friend is one who will help you change a tire when you have a flat.  Perhaps your best friend lets you borrow her dresses or your books.  Whatever you think makes a good friend, I would hope that you have someone in your life who fits that bill.

I have been richly blessed with friendships in my life.  I say that not to brag, but as a reflection after a wonderful, laid back day with my college roommate, one of my best friends in the world, after a year or so of not being in the same room together.  She is one of my "lifelong" friends.  I met her 14 years ago, nearly, and despite the fact that we can go a year without seeing each other or weeks without texting, when it comes down to it, I know she's there and she has been and will be through thick and thin.

But, I am so enormously spoiled that I know it doesn't stop there.  I have a friend from my childhood that I moved next door to in 1991, and she is still one of my dearest friends.  I have friends that I met as an adult that are equally important and wonderful to me.  Some I see nearly weekly, others less frequently, but their love for me and my family is immeasurable, and I am reminded of it often.  I have met friends through my job of 18 months that are some of my closest friends in this life.  I have friends that I only know through the internet and have for over a decade that I consider my some of my very best as well.

And I have blood family that are some of my best friends.

Growing up, I know a best friend could change day to day, depending on whether you like the same boy band, book, color, food... you name it.  Friendships seemed easier to come by and somewhat more trivial as a child.  You broke up and made up more times than you can count, I'm sure.

As an adult, it seems much more difficult to find true, dear friends that you trust with your deepest secrets and your most broken bits of heart.  

Somehow, though, I have this amazing group of best friends.  I can't choose just one best friend like I could as a little girl. I have a handful.  God has blessed me so richly.  He's given me women all over the country who I could reach out to in an instant and they're there for me, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and so much more.  It's an invaluable blessing, when I so often find myself feeling overwhelmed and lonely, living this life of a single parent with such young children.  It's something truly special to have a select group of friends who can read through the lines of a text message and know when you're not really doing as okay as you claim, or that can almost read your heart as soon as you enter a room, even if there's a smile on your face.

I have known this for quite some time, but it seems that as I grow older and as I have gone through so much in the past few years, losing the one who meant the most to me, I see these friendships more clearly and with so much more value and gratitude.  These people chose to stand beside me and stay with me even when the one who promised to stay forever walked right out. They have seen me at my best and my worst and they love me through it all.

I've been told many times that God knows what he is doing.  It's true.  Even when it's hard to trust him, especially knowing that, although he has reasons for what He is doing, you don't always get to know on this side of life.

I'm so thankful to my very best friends for all they bring into my life.  But I am thankful also for each one of my friends, not only the best ones, because the prayers and love that I've been showered with, from friends near and far, old and new, have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

I pray that my own children are equally blessed in their lives, and that each of you are as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Storms

I'm As a young girl, thunderstorms absolutely terrified me. I would lay in my room with my pillows mothering my head trying to drown out the light and the sounds. I would run to my parents' room and lay on the floor by their bed trying not to cry.

I hated them.

Once, at my first summer job corn detasseling, probably as a pre-teen, the supervisor made us finish the field in the beginning of a storm. We were soaked and I was anxious as could be. When we were finally bussed back to town and dropped off, I ran to my grandma's house. It lightninged once while I bolted and I felt like my heart stopped and I was paralyzed as the air surrounding me flashed bright white.

As I went to high school and college, I grew much more fond of the storms and was interested in cloud formations, storms, and tornadoes. When I met my former husband, he too was keen on these things, and it became a shared interest.

There were many nights when we were dating when storms were on their way and we would grab our cameras, film DSLR at first and eventually digital, and head out of town or to the highest point we could find, and chase the clouds down with our shutters, attempting to catch beautiful photos of lightning.  We succeeded multiple times.  It was wonderful.

When we were married and shared our home, we would spend countless nights in the dark, watching the lightning dance across the sky as the thunder rumbled our walls.  We spent so many of those nights together.  They were some of our favorite times together.  There was something paradoxically exhilarating and serene in the storm.


Tonight, the sky flashes its magical show and the thunder rumbles.  My children are all soundly asleep, but I cannot seem to calm my mind.  With each flash, my mind also flashes back to the many storms we cherished, and the many storms we weathered.  

I've been through many storms without him in the last two years, figuratively and literally.  I shooed our children into the basement calmly during multiple tornado warnings one summer, and I fought my way through his betrayals, abandonment, and the repercussions that followed.  Storms and I are both old friends and old enemies.


Tonight, I lay awake.  I listen to the show outside as the room lights up every now and again.  I closed my curtains one moment to block out the flashing, and a few minutes later, I turned off the apartment lights and nature's strobe began to take full effect on my walls much like they used to.  I tried to fall asleep on the couch with the lights on and the lights off.  


But the storm of my memory continues on.  I see his smile.  I feel his arms.  I can hear his breath.  But, I am alone.  

It's amazing how I can still possess love for him even after it all.  It's the kind of romantic love that I had for him during our many joyful storms, of course, but the love that prays for his well-being, despite the popular consensus I shouldn't wish for that.  But, God loves him, and so should I. 

And that love that God allows me to hold for him and for his soul makes the storm tonight so much more lonely than I was prepared for.

Thank Heavens God calms the storms.  He has calmed each of the tempests that He helped me navigate or carried us through in the last two years, after all. I am not the strong one, and I am no sailor on the wicked seas. He is the strong one, and He is in me. He is the anchor and the guide. I'll cry out to Him.  I will beg Him to comfort me. These storms shall pass, too.


There are lyrics that resonate perfectly tonight in a song by Casting Crowns...
"As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

[Chorus:]

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm"

One Day

One day. One fine day. One fine day, someday.

Just one. Just one to start.


The past few days, I have been revisiting memories. This time a year ago, things were so rocky and unstable. I was still fighting the fight for my children to have a decent, loving father in their lives. I was still attempting to rebuild trust. 

I know that God calls us not to dwell on the past, but, as I am human as all of you, from time to time, it sneaks back up on me.  Knowing that we aren't supposed to be focusing our emotions and effort on the things we can't change, I make a conscious effort to stop and turn to God and pray when these times arise, but sometimes I don't even notice I'm doing it right away.

That said, the past few days have been emotionally taxing.  I have spent quite a few moments confiding in a few friends and praying, and reminding myself just how much better my life really is this year.  I keep telling myself that it is better to have stability in my children's lives than to have their father sneaking in and out, unreliable, inconsistent, and sneaking his boyfriend around them and sneaking the children around his boyfriend's family.  

But almost every year around this time, for many years anyway, I have had a break.  I have had a few hours to a couple days where I was child free, carefree, and spending time with a friend I see roughly once a year now that we are done with college.  

This year is different, because their dad isn't around.  While I am delighted and excited that our yearly visit is coming up, it brings the trauma back into my mind, remembering how it felt to find out what was happening while my children were away, and the repercussions that followed leading up to their dad being completely absent from their lives in pretty much every way nowadays.

But one day... hopefully... at least one day... someday...

He won't cross my mind at all.  Not once.  Not in a single memory.  Not in any shape or form.  Not a happy memory. Not a sad memory.  Nothing.  Just one day of peace.  

I pray that, anyway.

I know that I will always be bound to him in some regard, because together we created three wonderful children.  I see him in their appearances and their personalities and temperaments sometimes.  And I miss him.   Or I miss parts of him, the idea of the him I thought I knew, and what it was like to have someone around keeping me company in this crazy world of toddlers and preschoolers.

Even the happy memories make my heart ache just like the less happy memories.  They leave me aching for myself and for my children.

One day, I hope that ache doesn't arise even for a second.  

I don't want to forget him.  I don't want to really forget the trauma that lead us to where we are, because it's a part of our testimonies and God has done miraculous and glorious things.  

But, just one day, I would like a break.  

Just one day. 




Saturday, May 14, 2016

Milestones and Sadness

Yesterday I was emotional.

Collin had his last day in his room at daycare and he brought his teacher flowers. It shouldn't seem like that big of a deal since he's nearly four.

I realized that Norah recently turned two, Spencer just graduated from preschool, and what seemed like all of a sudden Colin was moving from the same room at daycare that he had been in for 18 months to an entirely different floor of the building with new teachers. 

I was overwhelmed.

I had about three good cries in the middle of the night when I realized what it was that was really upsetting me. It was the absence of their father, yet again. I told a couple of friends about it yesterday through teary eyes, and another through a text.

The text was from a friend who has also spent years as a single mom. Even after years of being apart from her former husband, she was still sad sometimes at milestones, like graduations and weddings. Even her husband, who is not the biological father, was sad about it sometimes.

 It dawned on me... I am not sad about the milestones necessarily, although they are bittersweet and pull a mama's heart strings. I am not sad for myself. I am just sad, and it is OK to be sad.

I am sad for my children and the void in their lives.

 I am sad for my former husband, their father, and all that he is missing out on.

I know, however, that I cannot take on that burden for him, or the responsibility of his actions, as tempting (yet unappealing) as it may feel at times.

 He may not realize how much he's missing out on, and that also makes me sad for him. 

But one day, he will realize what he's missed out on- the years, the milestones, the memories, the laughter... and if his heart is softened and his mind is clear, he will be sad. 

That makes me sad too, because I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.

It is OK to be sad sometimes.

I know that I'll always have moments I'm sad about, like these, but I am healing, and it will not bog me down continuously like it had months before. 

God has us. Through all of the changes all along the way, he has been by your side, comforting us and leading us through.

These milestones may produce sadness, but it cannot and should not overwhelm the joy, the accomplishment, the love, and the pride I feel over my children and all that they are becoming. They're beautiful, wonderful little people.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Second First Mother's Day

Tomorrow is my sixth Mother's Day. The year I was pregnant with Spencer, his dad had flowers delivered to me while he was at work.


This year is my first Mother's Day. It's my first one as a single mother whose children haven't heard a word from their dad in nearly a year.

Truth be told, I don't know how I feel about it. Indifferent at the moment, depressed yesterday, empowered this afternoon... 

It is what it is.

I would have never chosen to be the only parent in my children's lives under normal circumstances.

Had I known my former husband would ditch us after we had kids, would I still have started a family with him? 

Why even ponder that question. I've pondered it. There's no answer. There doesn't need to be.

I was created to be mom to these three miracles. It's my purpose. God called on me to carry this beautiful burden.

While it is a difficult, grueling calling, it is mine, and I am blessed. I am thankful. I am terrified. I am confident.

I am Mom. I am Momma. I am Mommy. 

My children are still young and although they created beautiful art at daycare to celebrate, I am not certain they understand Mother's Day. The day is no different to them, I am sure, than any other day.





But, to me... It's a celebration. It's a celebration of all moms of every kind, as well as women who have the heart of mothers and bless children by choice.

But, this year, it's a celebration of me, too. I celebrate how far we have come when we could have fallen further. I celebrate the laughter and joy in my children's eyes. I celebrate the tantrums and struggles and the fact we always get though them and smile not long after. I celebrate the fact that instead of giving up, I stepped up. I celebrate my fight for my children.

Happy Mother's Day to me (and to you)!