Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Who is that?

For quite some time, I've assumed my daughter, who is not quite two, doesn't remember her dad.

Now, I know it.

Just a bit ago, she picked up her brother's photo album that holds photos of their dad with them, a couple of me with him, a couple of me with the kids, and a few of all of us. It's an album I mentioned in a post a few months ago.

She opened it, and the first photo she saw was one of her dad and her brother.

She was super excited to see her brother and proudly told me who it was. She said nothing about her dad at first. She pushed through a few times and pointed out both brothers, herself, and mommy before starting over. 

"That's Spence!" she told me. Then there was a pause and she asked "who's that?" She pointed at her dad.

I was caught in an off-guard moment of panic and told her his name.

She didn't even think it was his identical twin. She asked who he was. She didn't know.

She flipped through again and told me a few times "that's Jake."  

I told her it is, and "yes, Jake is your daddy."

"That's Jake!" 

Over and over. The boys, herself and I... And Jake.

Not daddy. I explained and she wouldn't even call him that.

She doesn't know him. She doesn't know what it means to have a daddy.

I assumed it, but now, I know it's true.

Pardon my silent tears.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The spiral downward

Do you ever have one seemingly insignificant thought at the beginning of the day that builds, morphs, festers, and explodes, leaving you on a downward spiral of self-doubt and blame?

I'm assuming I'm not the only one...

But today, that happened to me.

It started with an innocent text conversation between my sister-in-law and I regarding my oldest son's trip to the dentist with her this morning, and how he sometimes gets anxious in medical settings and doesn't like strangers in his personal space.

At the end of evening, I was questioning whether or not in this entire saga of their father's abandonment I was the major reason my kids have "issues."  You know, stranger anxiety for one, a lack of stranger anxiety for another, so forth and so on.


This was my exact panic text to three of my dear "reality check" type friends.

"What if I screwed up and harmed my kids more than Jake ever did?
All day it's all I could think about.
I want to say it's that I'm tying to do right now.
But I think about how long I stayed with him treating me like garbage and how long I stayed with him and didn't stand up for my kids, and even when I tried to stand up it didn't make a difference and I stayed anyway because I loved him and thought it could change and work out and then it all went down as it did anyway and how much of all of the kids issues was just due to me being naive and believing in him and staying and being afraid of what would happen if he wasn't happy with us or okay or got his way and he would leave... And he did anyway.
The truth is I'm trying to make it right and raise them in God's love now.
But the truth may also be I'm the worst part of their past.
Of course had I not stayed at least until July 2013 I wouldn't have Norah..."

(PS: included in this rambling is some realizations I had today that I didn't even realize I had until now.)

As you can see, darkness baited, I bit, it latched on, and tore deep. My first friend stated, the devil had a foothold. I'm the best mama for the kids.

Yikes. He gets me sometimes when I least expect it, and damnit anyway, he's a sneaky serpent.

I tried to believe her and prayed, but the possible lie still felt like truth.

My second friend replied with this poetic check.

"Nicole Marie. You need to stop. Right there.
You have been the best mother your children could ever hope to have.
You stuck by their father, no matter how many times he failed you, until you were certain that he couldn't change. You taught them how to love someone unconditionally, and yet, how to let that person go when they cannot love you the way that you deserve.
And then, you taught them how to be strong and independent and pick up the pieces in one of the most difficult seasons life has ever handed you.
You have shown your children some of the most valuable lessons life has to offer before they were even school age! Imagine what wise things you'll be teaching them in the years to come!
They are going to be remarkable people, and that is solely due to YOU. Sure, other people are helping you mold them. But those people are in their lives because they love YOU. Because they love your strength and grit and love for life."

It effectively had me in tears. I prayed in thankfulness for her words and asked God if they were true. I thought I felt relief.

Until I was about ready for bed, thinking about the day tomorrow and the inevitable blizzard-induced play therapy appointment cancellation tomorrow, and you know... all those reasons my boys see a therapist.

So I confided in my third friend.

And my third, well, she blended the two others.

"Oh Nik.  I hate that you felt this way and I hope that it's a passing feeling because here is the truth.  We have all "screwed up" our kids.  We are all broken fallen people making mistakes constantly and it always affects our kids.  I feel the same way about my kids.  I see some of the issues they have and I know I caused that.   No one is perfect and we all leave impressions on our children but you have to remember that they aren't all negative impressions.  The love and the compassion and the genuine sweetness that make up your kids is also from you.   Their joy filled laughter and their love for others and their childlike faith is also from you.   
As parents we have to choose what we focus on and just always strive to do better and God willing, we will all come through this life. 
But parents we all mold our children - for better or worse and trust me, your children have so much good from you."

I don't usually share people's private messages to me with the world, but for the purpose of this spiral, I have chosen to.

I prayed a bunch, and I'm hoping I hear the still, small voice myself, but maybe, just maybe, as happens often, that voice is coming from others because I am still working to shut off the static to hear the still.

I am a but detached from the intense emotional pull I felt earlier. I'm praying for the truth, His truth. 

I am so thankful that I have a few people ( not only these three, but tonight I was called to them, and I can see why now) that I can turn to help combat these untruths from the enemy. 

I do wish I would see clearly before the spiral behind, though.

One day, one battle at a time. Tonight, the spiral was actually pretty quick.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


The past few days, I've noticed many instances where music, scripture, or dialogue points to fatherhood.

As you can expect, that's a touchy subject around here.

This morning, at church, we were singing "Good Good Father." I love this song, and was singing my heart out in praise until the first word "father" and all of the father-centered things flooded forward. My children are currently fatherless.

Scriptures rushed through my mind.

There are so many scriptures that tell me that although my kids are without their earthly father, they are NOT truly fatherless.  I may feel a bit like a widow at times (due to the unique nature of abandonment), but He's got me covered.

Yes, these scriptures are beautiful and comforting.

Practically, I hate to admit, but they don't always feel like comfort. Considering the young age of all of my children especially, who often talk about their dad being missing, trying to relate to them that God/Jesus is with them always even though they can't see him doesn't make a lot of sense, because their dad isn't with them in the same way, even though they also can't see him. 

It gets so confusing trying to explain and model these concepts. I tell my children Jesus is always around and that He is also in our hearts. I tell them their biological dad is in their hearts, but he isn't with us in omnipresence like God. To an adult, it doesn't make rational sense. To a child, even less so.

I struggle with applying these principles in my own life, let alone my kids. 

How do I get through to them they aren't fatherless when they have a Heavenly Father who provides?  Their idea of a father is skewed, which I have begun to realize is affecting my five year-olds view of Father God. He makes comments like Jesus cracks his heart, or he makes Jesus' heart cracked. He talks about Jesus disappearing. I try to speak the truth in the matter, but he just wants to argue about it.

God the father can't physically be seen to their little eyes, he's not actually rocking them to sleep or drying their tears. He's not there picking them up from daycare like other dads. He's a different kind of father than any of us understand.

It's a frustrating and overwhelming subject, this God the father to the fatherless. 

I am open to advice.

I took the boys to see "the Good Dinosaur" today. Cute movie. The dad dies, the kid loses his family. My boys both had feelings.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Harnessed in

It would be amazing if I could just jump right off this emotional rollercoaster I seemed strapped into.

I am terrified of rollercoasters. I've never ridden one, not in a carnival ride sense anyway.

There's something that makes me want to curl into a ball on the ground seeing images of people hanging upside down hundreds of feet in the air... And enjoying it, nonetheless. I feel like I would be latched onto the person next to me with a Hercules grip as soon as the ride started.  Yes, indeed, I am that sort of ninny.

That said... I seem to be firmly seated on a never ending emotional rollercoaster. I try to believe it will end, the motor will stop at some point or some gears will fail... though ideally I would like it to end peacefully on even ground where I am not at the pinnacle of its height or at the edge of a drop off.

I do not remember buying a ticket. I don't remember any sign qualifying my seat by reaching a certain height requirement. I certainly don't remember willingly taking a front row seat and waving at my family and friends as I said "oh yeah, I got this!"

And somehow... In a dazed stupor or love-blinded moment of ecstasy, here I am.

This rollercoaster accelerates at top speeds, and then suddenly slows like a bogged down crawl through molasses. It's exhausting. 

I haven't figured out the control panel yet. I am not sure who is steering it. It seems like it must be me, because I feel like if I was letting God be the conductor, it would look more like a railroad track through southwestern Minnesota than a rickety, loopy amusement park ride.  

I sit here, going from a moment of joy to a moment of sadness, and I find myself in a struggle to regain control of the ride. Then, I realize the power struggle, and I call out to God to take over. Sometimes, I cry harder, other times, I relax in my seat finally. And then it's a nice, steady chug forward.

You know, until the music changes and a lullaby plays "God bless mommy and matchbox cars. God bless dad and thanks for the stars." and it reminds me that my children's dad chose to disappear completely, and I'm alone, and the whir starts and the wind howls through my hair as the tears start streaming again.

Then, I think about the joy in my boys' laughter as I tell them tomorrow, someone is going to take the two of them somewhere super special and exciting just because he loves them so very much, and how overwhelmed with gratitude and love I am knowing that there's someone out there who desires to do these things just because he wants to. Of course, because this track is as such, it leads to realizing how infuriating and depressing it is that their own father can't be bothered to have contact with them, let alone do something special with them.  I pray to God to ease that heartache for all of us, again, and I find the beauty in the extended family He has provided.

So, I go back to my new, self-proclaimed current athem, and it sings, 

Among other lyrics, and I realize I've been trying to masque my presence on this rollercoaster for the past few days, mainly because I didn't want to burden anyone by asking for company, and because this nagging liar in the background keeps telling me I am a ridiculous, crazy burden that people are tired of accompanying anyway.   But, my athem told me I should show what I am made of, and right now, I am harnessed in and distressed.  

But, I am hopeful. And I haven't given up. I guess I will ride it out.

Did I mention my distaste for rollercoaster yet?

The other night, I finally felt like I understood this:

The love, the all encompassing, intense, unconditional love that I had for my future ex-husband was real, even if the person I thought he was turned out to be unrealistic. 

On my end, it was real, and that's why it still hurts, and why instead of beating myself up over the lasting heartache, I should accept that the heartache is true and deep and correlates to the love I had for him for 14 years. That's almost half my lifetime.

I think that's possibly the moment I wandered onto this ride. I allowed myself to embrace both the love and the loss, fresh, unrestrained, for what it is. 

I hope this ride is done soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Missing firsts

Lately, I have been noticing he's been on my mind frequently again. Sometimes it's missing him, other times it's not.

I have been praying it away, but it hasn't been working. 

It wasn't until moments ago that I realized why he's been on my mind so much again.

It's all the firsts. Norah's first time using a drinking fountain all by herself. Collin's first underwear. Spencer starting kindergarten this fall.  Those are just a few things... 

There have been so many things changing and so many first things happening.

And he misses every one of them, as he has for many months now.

I think about the consistency in my kids lives and the firsts he did see. Mostly, it boils down to their first breaths.  He saw a few first milestones, like smiles or rolling over, but really, he's missed out on a lot.

And then he would disappear, slowly at first, and then completely.

He missed so many of Norah's firsts- her first words, her first steps, he would find out of some of them later, but now... He knows nothing unless he reads it here.

He hasn't heard her say "I love you," or ask for a hug. He hasn't heard her say "daddy," or her brothers names. He hasn't seen her jump or use silverware. He hasn't seen her color or play babies.   

Where I am, I see mostly the lasts. I see the last time he told them he would love them and see them soon, wearing his stupid mustard Schwan's shirt with cut off sleeves. Promising he would call Spencer the next day. I see their last hugs. I see their last birthdays and Christmases and meals together. So many lasts we never knew would be the last.

I don't know what the future holds for my babies. I pray it includes him somehow. But I have to prepare myself for the plaguing heartache of three lives full of more missed firsts. First missing teeth, days of school, homework, dates, broken hearts, and so forth. 

It's overwhelming to think that way. But I'm struggling with it, praying for grace, and the strength to fight back tears for decades.