Sunday, May 1, 2016

Children and Light

I have mentioned in the past how grateful I am that my children and I have found a home church- the Church at the Gate.  Due to circumstances surrounding their father's abandonment, it was too difficult for the kids especially to continue attending our former home church, and one weekend last June, I attended CATG for the very first time, and aside from weekends when we were too ill or it was negative 40 degrees outside, we have attended church there every Sunday and many Wednesdays since.

Now, I love our church, and I have started to be a bit more open and friendly with other members, but I still find myself quite reserved, especially with people my own age.  I am not entirely certain why I find it harder to connect with them other than often they're two parent households with young children and I feel in my own mind like I don't fit in.  Even that is a bit of an assumption.  But, I often find myself connecting with people who are a little further along in life than I am, with children older than my own.  I feel more at peace with them, but I think I've always sort of been that way. I remember loving to spend a lot of time with my aunts and uncles growing up, as well as my grandmother.

I digress.

I feel, as I stated a few posts ago, that I'm nothing more than an ordinary, forgettable person who blends into the crowd (unless my kids are being boisterous).  I'm used to this, especially after my former husband was the charmer and charismatic one, and I was just sort of there.  He was the socializer for our family.

Before the message began at church today, as always, we engaged in worship after greeting one another.  As is occasionally true, God speaks to me individually during this time.  Today, He spoke twice.

During the greeting part, I shook a few hands.  I have been challenging myself to branch out further and walk farther away from my seat and to greet people that I don't know.  It's tough, and I do not succeed as well as I would like to claim.  Every Sunday though, there are two people who I always see.  One shakes my hand as I return to my seat, but the other finds me if I haven't found her yet, and for the last month or so as I have been recovering from the pneumonia and broken rib, she's suddenly been giving me hugs.

Another thing about me is that during the last couple years of my marriage, although I love hugs, both giving and receiving, I've found myself questioning whether it is okay, whether I can, or should give a hug to any given person at any given time.  I found myself feeling this way in my marriage, unsure if I could hug my own husband, but not really knowing why.  So, I struggle with that still and overthink giving an actual hug.  But, I will gladly receive one at most any time.

Goodness, I cannot seem to stay on topic today.

So, as is becoming customary, I approached this beautiful and friendly woman who is older than I, as I have many Sundays before, and for the fourth or fifth time ever, she gave me a huge hug.  Today, after asking how I was and I inquiring about her, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're always such a bright light in my day. I love seeing you here."

I stared at her, probably blushing, feeling incredibly shocked, and said "I really don't know how to respond to that, but thank you."  She smiled and hugged me again and I returned to my seat thinking about the moment.  And then I laughed.



As per my last post, you may (correctly) assume I've been exhausted and stressed out.  I feel like I've been in a funk the past few days after a pretty wonderful week all around.  I personally have been seeing myself as closed off, not very friendly, and certainly not full of light.  But then, I felt like God was whispering to me, "You shine."  

I shine?  Me?  No way.

I have Christ in me.   I prayed with a friend this week over my relationship and understanding with the Holy Spirit.  It's a concept I understand less than my relationship with God and Jesus.  As we prayed, I visualized the wall that I had between the Spirit and I formed a door, and with her encouragement, physically stepped through it.  She asked what I felt or saw, and I said something about it being much brighter.  She talked with me and affirmed that I do have the Holy Spirit within me (which I knew theoretically but still do not entirely grasp, yet to day).

Well, I think the Holy Spirit is what gives us our light.  

I don't see my own light.  I really don't. Not often. And when I think I see it I am probably way off anyway, so I try not to dwell on it too much.  But today, someone I see once a week for a few moments at a time told me that I'm a bright light to her.  

The ironic thing is- she's a light in my eyes.  She's one of many I see at church regularly and think to myself "s/he's got Jesus inside."  You can just see it radiate in their face, their actions, and their words.

I then recalled a month or so ago how a coworker that I do not work with often had written me a note telling me that she sees Jesus in me. I remembered tears in my eyes and some confusion as I read the whole note, not understanding how others see that in me when I feel I cannot sense it myself.



When we were singing, and truthfully I do not remember which song at the time, I was contemplating the whole light situation, and my thoughts were suddenly turned to my childhood.  The lyric was about having God with us every day, he wouldn't let us fall, and he never failed us.  He's faithful, always faithful.  That song.  While singing it, I realized that I am one of the fortunate ones who has grown up with God.

My grandmother was one of my best friends, and I am so blessed to be able to say that, because she is the biggest reason, I believe, that I had faith growing up.  I loved to spend time with her, and many Sundays, I would go to church with her.  I went to Sunday School and parochial school for a couple years beginning my education, but after, for the most part, my family went to church on holidays, until we moved into town  and I started going to church regularly with my Grandma.  (At least this is how I remember it, though I believe it's fairly accurate.)  I continued going with her through my junior high and high school years when I entered confirmation classes, taught VBS for one summer, and was confirmed. I absolutely adored sitting next to her in that sanctuary with the bright red carpet listening to our pastor and singing hymns. The sermon notes required for confirmation class were never a burden, they were interesting to me.

I went to college at an ELCA Lutheran college for two years, did youth lock-ins with an outreach ministry, and worked at a bible camp in the summer.

Without my grandma's light, I don't think any of that would have happened.

While I strayed somewhat from time to time, distancing myself from our Father, He never left me, and I never abandoned him.

I have often worried about the effect I have on my own children's faith, and I worry more often than I should that I will fail them or I'm not doing good enough.

And God told me this morning, "One light is enough."  Yeah, because my grandma was the one light I had.  And I can be the one light to my children.

The message began and it was about raising the faithful- raising children in the church.


While I went to a church and "belonged" to it as a child, the church, to me, didn't feel like I believe it feels to my children now.  I had adults there and all, but I wasn't really close to them.  And our church is filled with not only children, but an amazing children's ministry with a loving pastor and countless volunteers who I know help my children feel loved and important and special.

The message was aimed at us adults and how we need to make sure we have inter-generational relationships, and how the children learn scripture and God's word in the classes on Sundays and Wednesdays, but it is our job to share the testimony of his Goodness and Faithfulness in our own lives, so they can see the Word brought to life. Our pastor urged us all to connect with the children and speak Life and Truth over them and share our testimony.

And then I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the adults in my children's lives who have been doing this already for many months.

I'm not alone in this.  Yes, I'm one light.  But my children have many.  So, even when they are not with me, they are at daycare in our church with teachers who have lights.  And they spend time with our dear friends every so often in their home, and I know they speak God's word and His love to my children, and they see them living and striving for a Godly life.

I realize I have many friends and family who are believers, but not a lot of them ever really talk about it, especially with my children.  Most do not urge them to pray, though, or bring God into every day conversation.  



Our pastor spoke also about the children having a strong anointing.  I believe this to be true of my children, though they are so young.  My oldest, I have been told, is an amazing prayer warrior, and he is only five.  It blows me away, because my prayer life is something I am still really working on shaping, and often feel overwhelmed or confused about how to pray, when to pray, which words to use, and so forth.  But, according to some, my son has it in him.  When our pastor spoke of anointing, that's immediately what I thought of- my prayer warrior.  I realized as pastor spoke about the children's ministry in our church how blessed we are to be there, yet again.  There are adults there who notice these gifts in the children and work to strengthen and guide them, which is such a blessing to this momma who worries and struggles on her own sometimes.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Burnt



Motherhood is exhausting. Being a single parent (with no involvement from the other party) multiplies the exhaustion exponentially.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm at the end of my rope, flirting with burnout.

It usually has nothing or very little to do with the three kids five and under I spend nearly all of my "free" time away from work with, except for the all-nighters my youngest has me pulling some nights and the decent sleep shortage she induces almost every night. Other than that, when I really look at it, there doesn't seem to be any differences between weeks I feel refreshed and ready to tackle parenting as opposed to the weeks I want to wave my white flag, hide under my blankets, and let the cat take the lead.

But sometimes, it's just extra taxing.

I toy with the thought "I could just give up."

It crosses my mind, but I never say it aloud.

I don't even know how I would give up. Even when I feel like the worst mom ever because I've had 6 cups of coffee and can't keep my eyes open, or every one of my nerves is fried to a crisp, or the sound of another request or inquiry makes me want to put on noise-cancelling headphones... I still don't know how I would give up when the thought of giving up crosses my mind.

I suppose that's a good thing.

What I will tell you is every so often, I reach my limit, or I get close to the edge of it, anyway, and silence and sleep sound so enticing I contemplate the "what if" situation where I wonder what it would be like had I not put my foot down, or didn't care about their father's poor choices and questionable, unstable parenting. I wonder what it would be like to have had a more "typical" or even amicable split where there was shared custody and I had a weekend to myself every so often to just sleep or do something for me.

But, that's not the case. 

Time to come out of my bedroom where I'm not really putting away the laundry so I can change another diaper.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Not forgotten


For as long as I can remember, I have had the blessing of being able to remember people's faces and names fairly easily.  If I see someone I recognize, there's a good chance I can recall their name and likely where I met them or know them from.

I know this isn't so with a lot of people, and for that reason, I find it's rare that I approach someone that I haven't seen in years, especially if we weren't ever close, and let alone ask if they remember me.  I don't want to put them in a position where they feel awkward or feel bad that they can't remember me.

Why? Because I don't feel that memorable.  I really never have felt memorable.

I feel very common.  I'm a very ordinary woman, really.  I don't see anything that remarkable about myself that would make people remember me after years, especially if we never had a close-knit relationship.

Today, at church, two questions were raised in the message.  Where are you from? Where are you going?

I realize I write often about where I have come from, specifically the saga leading up to my current single-mother-of-three-ages-five-and-under-who-never-hear-from-their-dad situation.  If it gets old, I apologize, but as I have said before, I write therapeutically, and also for those who may need to find someone to relate to.

Anyway...

In the message, there was a comment about how it is okay to look back to where you've been or what has happened and compare it to where you are now, and to see where God is leading your life.  I know I'm guilty of looking back, probably more than I should.  The past week, I have had many instances were I looked at where I've been, and I see God in the steps along the way to where I am now.  I see them much more clearly and much more significantly than ever before.

There are so many moments that I can see that God had it all under control.  I see people and places and situations he orchestrated that broke down my walls and chiseled away at my pride, to mold who I am becoming.

I see that even when I felt like I might have been forgotten, he never left my side and he never forgot me.

What is equally mind-blowing is the fact that, although I'm ordinary, there are many people who have remembered me that I would have not expected to remember me (or my children).

Over the past year or so, there have been multiple people that I have not had contact with for a very long time come back into my life for various reasons.  There are people I was never close with, that I just sort of knew from high school and my hometown.  There are people from college, from former jobs, from old blogging and message board websites, from local mother support groups, and so forth.

These people have all shown me and my children God's love in ways both big and small.  I never sought them out, and they found their way to us.

It's totally a God thing.

Because although I'm ordinary, to Him, I'm remarkable. I'm memorable.  And as I have been struggling with the fact that I feel discarded and forgotten by my former husband, he's been in the background sending me these messages  (that I may or may not have understood at the time) that my former husband is just one little person in this great big world who happened to hold a huge piece of my heart and was a part of my life's treasure.  But, he has so many other people who I had placed on my mind or heart's shelves and set aside.  And these people, people that I remember and never expected to remember and love me, these people remember me.  They remember me because God remembers me.

He has also brought people into my path who know me, or know of me, that I didn't know had any clue who I was.  Considering how, really, when it comes to my daily life (although I am much more outgoing on my blog) I shy away from meeting new people and feel uncomfortable doing so, it is incredible to be known and not know it.

And God wants me to let go of the value I placed on what one person thought of me, because what He feels for me is much more significant.  He cares about me enough to show me in tangible ways that I am remembered, because as he knows, sometimes I need to see something tangible to get through my fogged up vision.

He remembers each and every one of us the same.  He loves each and every one of us the same.  And while he may have sent people to show me that I am remembered, it doesn't mean He will speak to each of us the same way.  But, He does know how to reach us, when we are open, ready, and willing to receive Him.

Thank you, Jesus.



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Don't get me wrong...

 Hello, Saturday.  

It's been a short while since we've had quality time together. Truthfully, I haven't looked forward to your presence as much as most do, or as much as I once did, over the past couple of years.  I know, you probably think I'm some sort of traitor.  We used to have such a fun, carefree relationship.  I used to look forward to you for six days out of every week, anxious and anticipatory for each of your coming arrivals.  I used to spend days thinking about you, longing for you, planning for our time together.  I used to invite or seek out others to join us in our rendezvous.  We made so many wonderful memories together, you know.  So many big and exciting things would happen when we were reunited after our long, exhausting days apart.  Oh, Saturday, you were one of my greatest joys in the course of each tiring week.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the idea of you, Saturday.  I still enjoy your existence.  You just don't hold as much meaning as you used to.
You see, there's three busy little people who occupy most of my minutes when you roll yourself around again.

Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly. But let's be honest, there are some things I miss.  I miss some of them on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays as well. 

I miss being able to sleep in, Saturday.  I miss the feeling of waking up after a deep sleep, well rested and refreshed.  I miss sleeping past seven in the morning, and then lying in bed until I felt it necessary to wake up.    

But, I do enjoy the look on three little faces as they ask me to wake up as I pretend to sleep.  Their blue, green, and brown eyes all smiling at me and cheering when my own eyes open to greet them.  Sure, I might not get to use the bathroom in a timely fashion, having to change a diaper or two and wait my turn for those who can't wait as long.  But, there's something to be said about the joy on their faces that helps me rise out of bed much earlier than I ever wish to.  And while my two-year-old still sleeps like a newborn and I'm constantly exhausted, I must remind myself the early years go way too quickly.

I miss having silence in the morning.  Don't get me wrong, the laughter radiating from the living room as the three of them reunite after a night's sleep.  Sure, the annoying voices and simple story lines of morning cartoons can be quite irritating when I would prefer nothing more than a quiet morning to read, but the excitement in my kids' voices is pretty adorable.

I miss having someone to talk to.  Don't' get me wrong, my children can all speak and carry on conversations now, but I miss in depth talks with someone more my own age.  Whether it be a husband, a roommate, a cousin, a sister, a brother, or a friend, for most of my life, I have had at least one person my own age living with me.  There was someone who understood my jokes, my fears, my dreams, who could carry on an in-depth conversation that didn't revolve around bathroom habits, toys, the desire for juice or poptarts, or tattling.   

I miss the effortless planning of a cup of coffee or a meal together with someone my own age.  Don't get me wrong, I still drink coffee, and I definitely have the company, but I do miss not having a tiny person commanding me to "take a drink" and "set it down" every twelve seconds just out of her own personal amusement out of being bossy.  I miss sitting down at the table and not having to worry about cleaning up the floor because my company can't figure out how to not smash their cereal or drop their grapes.  I miss not having to wipe off my lunch-mates face because they eat a peanut butter sandwich open-faced and from the middle.  Don't get me wrong, its pretty amusing to see the messy faces and all, but having to clean up so extensively after each meal gets to be a pain.  I also miss having people to cook great meals for.  Don't get me wrong, it's nice that sandwiches and nuggets, waffles and fruit are easy to prepare, but its a bit depressing to make a delicious casserole or soup and having 2/3 of your dinner guests tell you it looks gross or that it is made from leaves and is completely inedible, refusing to so much as try one bite.

I miss the ease at which running an errand once was accomplished.  Don't get me wrong, my children are well-behaved most of the time for any sort of errand we run, but when all I need is a gallon of mile from the gas station two minutes away, it's exhausting to spend ten minutes to get everyone ready, into their car seats, drive there, unload them, walk them in, bypass all the treats, get the milk, pay for it, take them to the van, get them back in, attempt to coax them back into the apartment, take off the outer wear, and put the milk away...  The same goes for needing toilet paper, when your youngest secretly tears up what you have and throws it square-by-square into the toilet before handing you the empty roll.  

Don't get me wrong. I love my life, and I love my children with every fiber of my being.  

But, from time to time, I do miss my old friend, Saturday, and the relationship we once had.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The other guys


Tonight, something inside of me shifted.

Over the last few days, I have been mourning the absence of my children's dad in their lives, as he has now chosen to ignore each of their birthdays and Christmas and Easter, some of the most significant dates and holidays in the year. I found myself thinking he should be here, or even send a card. I found myself wondering if the children even cross his mind.

As I was looking through some photos tonight, I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I had to stop and process.

What I found surprised me. I wasn't sad. 

I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

While it is utterly heart breaking to know he walked away and my children are left to miss him and wonder where he is or if they will ever see him again, I realized how incredibly blessed we are that God has given them a group of "other guys" in their lives.

I know, as do my children, that these men will never be a replacement or substitute for their dad. But, they are so fortunate to have these men in their lives, helping to show them their value, that they are wonderful, important people who are worthy of being loved. These men have chosen to step into my childrens' lives, or chosen to remain in their lives despite the fact that they could have walked away alongside their father because they were first connected to me through their father. There are also equally important men that are my family, who choose to love them so deeply and dearly as well. All of these men invest their hearts into my children, creating lasting, positive memories, hugging and holding them, helping them feel safe and secure, and letting them see what good men are like and how good men treat people.

And even if some day, for some reason, these men are no longer in our lives, the fact that they are here right now, and have been during such tribulations, and during the childrens' early formative years means the impact is significant enough to last a lifetime.

I have known these men love my children, and they love me, and they want us to be happy. I have known it, and I have felt it to be true. 

But tonight, it shifted, and the impact is deeper and greater than I was able to comprehend or allow myself to feel before. Tonight, it overwhelmed me.

Thank you, other guys, for what you have given to me and my children by choosing to care so deeply. You know who you are, I hope.