Thursday, December 31, 2015

Through the doors

Ah, New Year's Eve is upon us again. It's almost always met by the majority of the population with a feeling of nostalgia, and we sit around, alone or with others, reminiscing about the last 365 days and other years prior.




Tonight, I sit with my two sons, daughter already in bed, at the end of a long, exhausting day, hoping that they will sleep soon too, and I won't be awake to see midnight.

But, I am reminiscing, as I am sure others are as well.

This past year has, undoubtedly, been the hardest year of my life. I've seen over 30 turns of the calendar come and go, and in each, there have been hard times and simple times. This year, I cashed in on countless hard times. 

Now, writing that likely seems like a plea for sympathy or pity, but it is not. While the year 2015 brought immeasurable loss and sorrow, it brought countless blessings and indescribable joys.

Last weekend, the sermon in church was focused on shutting doors and moving forward through the hallway into the next doorway. It resonated with me on so many levels that I cried multiple times throughout the service, tears of grief and tears of healing.

As the calendar changes tonight, we close the door on the year we lived through. As we do, I find myself in a dim hallway as I wait out the changes that are coming my way. It's not an easy wait and I am often finding apprehension and anxiety as I brace for the unknown. But, I have found peace, most days, in the hallway. I see the door ahead, and I know I will get there, even if it feels like an eternity I must wait.

The trials my children and I went through this past year still catch me in uncontrollable sobs from time to time, late at night, as the pillow beside me is empty and I feel absolutely alone, but it's becoming less frequent.

And that's because amidst the heart shattering we endured, greatness has come.  I have found my God is closer to me than I had ever found before. He has carried me through.  

This year, while it could have been defined as horrible, is actually, in some ways, quite great. I have found strength in myself. I have been blessed with deep, true friendships. I have had my pride shattered and been brought to the floor in humility. I have experienced grace. I have seen determination in myself in ways I did not know existed. When I could have given up, I pressed onward.

I have seen this year take my biggest fear and forced me to live through the nightmare, but I have seen love I did not realize existed outside the love I thought I could not live without.

As I close the door on the year and reflect on this loss, I realize it is a gain, in many ways. Because while I longed to hold onto and restore what I had for fear of what would come if I no longer had it, my marriage and the "security" that it provided, I can see so clearly now that it was not what I deserved, and there really was no security in it for myself or my children on many levels. While I clutched to it so terribly, we suffered greatly through the fight.

So, I think, I am ready. I think I'm ready to slam that door and seal it. I am ready for the new one, terrifying as it may be to open. Because now that I'm so far through it, I have more clarity than I have had in years.

Sometimes, it really does take hell-fire to purify your life. It sucks. It sucks bad. But, perhaps it is truly worth it after all.

I pray that I continue walking forward with the clarity and strength I find in myself to confess these things tonight. I know I will need God, and I will need my friends and family that have stayed beside me through this all. But, I will make it through. It's not the end, it's the beginning.

Isaiah 43 NLT
18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

To my babies on Christmas Eve

My darling miracles,

Tomorrow morning is finally 25! Yes, that day you've been so anxiously awaiting for weeks will have finally arrived when you wake. I told you that you had to sleep so it would come, didn't I? See, mommy knows things...

This Christmas is very different than any we have had together before. This year, when you wake, it will be just me in the living room. Well, me and your cat, anyway. But that's it. Just us. No daddy, no friends, no aunts or uncles or other family. Just the four of us and our feline friend.

You will be so distracted by the pile of wrapped treasures under our tree that I am guessing you won't notice the missing piece of our family. I pray you won't, actually.

But, I know I will.

And because I fear, though I will fight by beat against it, that my emotions mixed with the joyous chaos will get the best of me, I may not be able to explain as adequately as I would like to the gifts under your tree.

You see, my babies, you are loved. Tremendously. 

You don't see it or necessarily comprehend it yet, (I do not always, myself) but someday, you will. 

In front of our pile, you will see three simply wrapped gifts, in plain brown paper, one for each of you. These gifts are from "Santa."  Though, honestly, your aunt and uncle played Santa this year. But, there's significance in the simplicity that your uncle and I share thoughts on. 



Santa isn't the spotlight, you see. I know that kids in daycare and many other avenues like to lead little kids to think he's super spectacular, but I feel differently.  Yes, "Santa" is a great idea and I love kindness and generosity behind it, but it's just not quite right as it's sold nowadays.

You don't earn these gifts under your tree. It isn't about you being a good or bad little kid.

It's about love. After all, Christmas is Jesus "birthday", and Jesus was ALL ABOUT UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

And, my children, you are basking in boundless unconditional love.

You know Jesus loves you. You know I love you. You know that your family loves you, and your close friends love you.

But, this year, behind those Santa gifts, there's a pile of others. A few are from me, but most aren't. In fact, most are from people you don't even know very well, if at all.

And why? Because we, my darlings, have been humbled. And in this act, we have been shown love. God has brought people into your lives that want you to know joy, happiness, and wonderful Christmad morning memories, because God has allowed them to love you.

And when our tiny little family leaves the apartment tomorrow afternoon, you will be greeted by the arms of more people who love you tremendously.  And the next day, and the next, and the next.

Because God is great. He gave us Jesus, so that we would know this unconditional love.

Someday, I pray you'll understand much better without the gifts under the tree. But because you are so little, I accepted them on your behalf, despite hesitation that they are unnecessary. Because they were given out of desire to show you love.

God bless your tiny, huge hearts.

Love,
Mommy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The gift I couldn't give.

"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth."

No, wait. I've got those.

A nap? A good nights sleep? A year supply of coffee? New socks?

Nah. I mean, all of those are good options.




But of course, what I want most of all, is something I cannot give.

What I want most of all is to give my children a good relationship with their daddy.

I know it's his choice to be uninvolved and missing. But I am their mother, I'm the one who is supposed to provide for them, help them, make their owies go away.

And these owies, these sad, cracking hearts... I cannot fix them.

I know God can, and I pray he does, but for now, they aren't healed.

Each of my babies, I am realizing more and more, has a much different experience. 

My oldest had daddy around fairly consistently until he was about 3.5, and he has countless memories of him in his life up through about half of his fourth year. He recognizes pictures of him easily, even younger photos, and brings up memories of his dad. He knows what it's like to have had and then lost him.

My middle child had daddy around until he was 2 or so, and then a bit beyond, but he doesn't have those concrete memories and experiences that he talks about or relies on. Recently, he's been talking again about not seeing daddy wherever we are, talks about my shoes being daddy's shoes, or calling random people "daddy." I feel like he understands the concept of daddy, and would maybe, possibly recognize him as daddy if he saw him again, but I don't know. He is just trying to fit a daddy into his experience, and there isn't a proper fit.

Then there's my baby girl, who is now 20 months, and sort of consistently had a daddy in her life for a few months. She doesn't really know what a daddy is and frankly doesn't know the difference between having one or not.

These experiences are vastly different and will affect them continuously in different ways.

And I can't relate to any of it. I still have my dad. He's hours away, but I see him and I can call him. He doesn't avoid me at all costs. I have an infinite collection of memories with him.

My kids don't have that. And being a mom who wants her babies to have that really slays the heart. I feel so helpless. I can buy and give them Christmas gifts, but the one I feel they would love most... I just can't.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More than a job.

Today is my work anniversary!

One year ago today, I started a job. Despite someone complaining to me how stupid it was for me to get a job (even though at the time we were without our own home and I was without him helping provide for three kids), I began working at a daycare.

When I got the job, I needed a job. I would have taken almost any job that paid me enough to account for daycare and bring home some income so we could find a place of our own. It was s rough month trying to find a job before I was hired.

From the beginning I thought this job was a God thing. I had interviewed for other positions and not heard back from most, and at a visit with a friend was telling her of my search. She told me about this daycare she worked at once upon a time and loved, so right then I searched it up and sent an email. I received a reply that there were no openings, but that they would keep me in mind for the future.

Later that day, or perhaps the next morning, I forget, I had s follow up email that there was an opening, and that the director would like to meet me. Days later, I interviewed and was offered the job. There was room for all of my kids to attend, too! It happened so quickly and perfectly that I knew it was God.

As I have expressed to my dear friend turned sister (by heart), when I started, I had no intention of really getting close to my coworkers, and especially letting any of them know how messy my life was at the time. I put up a front that all was okay, which was easier because at the time my husband was (begrudgingly on his end) my ride to work every day (except the random days he wouldn't show up to get us and I couldn't get ahold of him, and there were a few. Thank you to those dear friends who helped out on those days...) so everything seemed fairly normal. Especially because he's a charmer.

Eventually, and it didn't take long, I began really loving my job, the daycare, and my coworkers. It pained me so much, like an anvil on my shoulders and chest, to keep the secret of my life falling apart, but I was terrified they would all hate me when they realized I had been hiding. 

I made it through Christmas, had moved the kids to the homeless shelter and then to the transitional housing, and no one at work had a clue.  But one evening, I couldn't hold the secret anymore, and I poured it all out to my aforementioned friend. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. She called me and I cried (for the first of many times) to her. And she told me it was a God thing that I was there and had opened up to her. That God had me at the daycare and the room I was in for a reason.

It's the truth. I've seen it over and over again. I learned the dark secrets of my husbands abandonment, but I didn't have to carry that load alone. I now had a confidante that I saw almost every day. And I gained more friends and relationships with other colleagues after I opened up. I was finally able to admit to my childrens' teachers what was going on, and how very much I appreciated the love and stability they provided my children in their topsy-turvy lives. They finally had an understanding of some of my kids' behaviors and emotional days. 

I eventually was able to have a vehicle of my own, which meant the kids rarely saw their dad. Eventually, he disappeared all together. But my work family supported all of us as we watched him slip away and replace us with his boyfriend and darker, new life. 

And when the day came that the kids and I found our new home, I was here, and my work family rejoiced with me. Many even helped while moving, either helping pack and haul, or watching my little girl so I could take care of things (the boys were on vacation with my family at the time). 

I have found out the majority of all the heavy news and information while inside these walls. I've never been alone though. 

My job is so much more than a job to me. It provides financially so my children and I can have a home again, among other things, but it provides so much more.



It provides a another branch of family when mine is far away. It brought me meaningful friendships, filled with support and encouragement, laughter and tears. It gives me adult interaction that I lack when I'm home with three young children by myself.  It's helped me feel like I can accomplish things again. It's been a sense of security. I have found such joy here. I've started to find myself again. I feel loved here, and I feel that my children are all loved here as well. There have been so many big and little things that are marked in my heart.



And... It's brought me to a place closer to God than I think I have ever been. I go to church here now, too, and my children Sunday School. Yes, I still struggle occasionally, feeling so very far away, but I can call on God, a friend, work, or church, and get through.  

It's been a year since I stepped foot into this job, and I am 365 days and millions of steps away from the woman I was when I started.

It's a God thing.

Thank you to all of my dear coworkers, my friends, my work family, for all that you've done over the year. You may not see what I see, but the blessings are endless, and each of you is a treasure.


I know that as childcare workers, we do not make a lot financially. However, we make a difference in lives. We bring love and stability to the children we see daily. But you also made a difference in mine.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

In Thanks

I cannot seem to fall asleep, for my mind is reeling. I have prayed, and yet feel compelled to write. 

As it is past midnight, it is now Thanksgiving Day. 

I have had conflicting emotions leading up to today for quite some time now. It's the first major holiday where the kids and I are without their dad. Earlier today, I was having flashbacks to last year, and how wretched it started, and suddenly, for a while, I didn't miss him anymore. I prayed that my children don't remember times like those, and was thankful that this year we will not experience a beginning of the day like that. 

But, still, I go back and forth.  

Last Sunday, in church, our pastor spoke on being intentionally thankful. 



We were challenged under the call of this verse (pictured above) to be thankful in all circumstances, for even in the worst, there's something to give thanks for. We were challenged to make a list of 100 things we are thankful for (this is my evening project later today), but to also practice intentional thankfulness for 40 days (up to the new year).

As I wrote a few days ago, I have been walking through a valley. Knowing that, I gladly accepted this challenge. I am now four days in, and I already feel a shift. I am not on a peak yet, but I am getting there.

This year, through the sadness and heartache and the lingering fear that I may burst into tears at a friends house over dinner, I know I have much to be thankful for in this valley. 

I am thankful for the valley, for I know that in the valleys, we draw nearer to God. We are humbled and broken and rebuilt in strength, hope, and faith. We grow in patience. We become resilient. 

I am thankful for our neediness. Yes, it is a struggle to live paycheck to paycheck, with sick children keeping me from work many days, but in our neediness, I find true friendships, humility again, and the boundless grace of God's provision.

I am thankful for sadness, as it reminds me that my heart has not become calloused, and I can still love and care deeply.

I am thankful for exhaustion, because it's a reminder that I have three children who love and need me enough at all hours of the day, and that I have a job to provide for these children.  Consequently, I am thankful for sleep, even if it's only a couple hours at a time. 

I am thankful for struggles. They are showing me my strength, and showing me God's never-failing love and companionship, and He keeps reminding me of these things, often through the words of others, because sometimes I just can't hear His voice on my own.

I am thankful for this continued and recently increased wrist pain, as it reminds me to take it easy on myself sometimes, and that it is okay to relax. It also has taught me resourcefulness and ingenuity.

I am thankful for this lingering fever, because it's a sign my body is still doing its job to fight off the many illnesses I come in contact with throughout the week, and that I am fortunate that nothing has taken me down.

I am thankful for the huge mess the children have strewn throughout the apartment, as it is evidence that they have enough clothing to keep them warm, and a vast collection of treasured items they are excited to play with day after day.

I am excited for a slippery wet, flooded bathroom floor. It shows me that I have taken control of utilities myself and we have warm, running water every day for the kids to splash around in.

I am thankful for stubborn children and mischief, because they keep me growing, learning, and they are mine, even though I was told I may never have them.

I am thankful for more "typical" things too, of course.

But this year, I feel like they hear more weight than years before. I'm thankful for a home, knowing now what it was like to be without one. I am thankful for food and the ability to feed my children. I am thankful for a job, even though it meant giving up my life of staying home raising my children. I am thankful for friendships, while some have faded away, others have strengthened, and new, beautiful blessed ones have formed.

I am thankful for family, both blood family and "adopted" family. Family has anyways bean important to me and this past year has been rough on some levels. There have been family I  thought would always be there regardless who have faded off to the distance, but the majority, especially my mom(s), sisters, and brothers, have poured out their love in countless ways. 

I could go on and on, I know.

I am thankful. I am blessed.

I hope you all can see the same is true for your own lives.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Missed

I hate to admit this, but I miss him. I miss the man he was or pretended to be for quite some time.

I miss his smile. It's what first drew me close.

I miss his hugs. He gave me some of the best hugs of my life, with his long, strong arms that wrapped me so tight.

I miss laying my head on his lap as we watched movies on the couch.

I miss his laughter, and how he thought I was probably the funniest person alive.

I miss how much he loved my cooking and would clean up every plate. 

I miss eating meals with him, having an adult around to talk to over dinner, someone that I didn't have to urge urge to use utensils or not throw food on the floor.

I miss his voice, listening to him babble on about stuff I didn't understand, or listening to him sing.

I miss him playing guitar and writing songs for me and the kids. Oh how the kids loved to dance.

I miss having someone to reach stuff up high.

I miss how he could help me fix almost anything.

I miss his texts, his calls, his emails, his letters. 

I miss our adventures.

I miss the hope for all the plans we made together.

I miss my friend. He promised me we would still be friends no matter if our marriage ended or not.

I miss...

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Valley



There's a song that I love that came to my head just moments ago as I opened up my note pad to type up this blog. It's a song I've refused to listen to for many months, because it is a song I loved to sing and play with my husband, and my kids loved it too. While I wont listen to it tonight either, let me share the words that came to my mind.

"Oh won't you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love
Oh the caged bird dreams of a strong wind
That will flow beneath her wings
Like a voice longs for a melody
Oh Jesus, carry me."

This song is called "From this Valley" and it's by the Civil Wars. I recommend it. In former days I would belt it out at the top of my lungs. Soon, I will again. I mustn't let someone steal the joy from familiar melodies after all.

Anyway... 

These words resonate strongly with me.
Life is full of peaks and valleys. Whether you're living your life alongside Christ or not, you will find this to be true. Right now, for some reason, I'm finding myself in a valley. I hate to admit this publicly, but it's true. Fortunately, I've got Jesus walking with me, but it's still a valley, and it's a struggle.
As is evident, my journey has been trying. I have, by the grace of God, made it through in fairly good spirits most of the time over the course of the past year, I think. Overall, anyway, I would say I have been more optimistic or hopeful than I could often see, or that one might imagine was normal for the circumstances. But, there have been valleys along the way, some deeper than others of course. I can pinpoint exact starting points for these valleys each time, except this time.
Honestly, this time, I'm surprised. I was doing well, quite well, actually, up until the past couple weeks. Then, the tears started coming more, the stress more, the exhaustion more. I can speculate the causes, and I feel they may be a combination of various things, from a wrist injury inhibiting my ability to do many hobbies I enjoy (although I am no longer wearing a brace as of last week, thankfully), or the cold weather, or the parenting class I had to take, the attempts to move forward and contact my husband to get things situated legally, or the influx of fall and winter illnesses around my home, the kids one after another and a lingering one myself... Any and all of it likely attributes to what I've deemed this funk I've found myself in.
Why tell this? 
I don't know. Really. But a part of me hopes that admitting it is a step closer to the end of this valley. Experience and faith has taught me the valleys end. I'm walking this one out until the peak is in view.
I haven't read my Bible much recently, mostly due to not feeling well and not wanting to sit up and read at night. But tonight I read a short amount, landing on these verses, perfectly.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sharing is Caring

Dear Jacob,

A week ago, I had to take a class on sharing your children with the other parent when your marriage ends.  It was an informative night, I suppose, but as you can imagine, it was pretty emotionally charged for me, and I had to dampen my emotions with every ounce of my being so I didn't start sobbing like a fool in a court room filled with people.

I listened for nearly two hours to why it's so important for children to have both parents in their lives, from holidays to extracurricular activities to vacations to weekends and so forth and so on. Over and over I listened to kids on a video talk about how their parents management of a divorce or separation affected them negatively, and why it's of the utmost importance for the parents to share the kids, be civil, be fair, and be loving.

There was one statement in the entire two hours that covered the fact that if you just don't have two, one good parent is good.

I sat there, shelled up inside myself, my mind raced with memories of us and our kids, and of our relationship the last year or so.

It reminded me how blindsided I felt when you wanted a break from us. Sure, we had struggles, but we didn't fight and name call and bicker and beat each other, especially in front of the kids. If we did have a fight, it was generally over texts anyway since you wouldn't answer the phone and you were always "at work." Yeah, I can picture a couple we would have in our room while the kids were all sleeping, but for the most part, our time together was civil even if it should have been heated.

So I listened to these children and their stories of how the parents fought in front of them or about them and how wretched it was. And, I felt out of place. And I also felt a bit thankful our kids didn't have that experience.

But more than anything, I sat there wondering why... Why you don't want to share these children with me.

 Why don't you want to have a part of our children's lives?! Why don't you want to call them?! Why don't you want their hugs?! Why don't you want to hear their laughter?! Why don't you miss them?!  

I would give so much to share them with you. I want to share them with you! I want you to pull your head out of your dark place, get some air, and start showing up. I want you to care about their birthdays, their Christmases, their hospitalizations. I want you to want them. And I want to know why it appears that you don't.

What did we do to you? What did the world do to you that makes you run and hide? You do know that we wanted you in their lives. I wanted you in mine. I just wanted you to be accountable and responsible. I wanted to meet your boyfriend instead of you sneaking the kids around him and his family and lying to me about dating him. That was a responsible, adult request.

Instead, you disappeared. You seemingly vanished. It makes no sense to me.

I have always wanted things to be civil and friendly for the kids. I was so furious with you the last day we saw you, July 1, 2015, because you didn't so much as check in when our one-year-old was hospitalized. But I set it aside for the kids. I was smiley and had fun and made memories with you all. Because I am an adult and I know it's important for the kids. I don't need some class to tell me that and beat me down.

I pray you come back. Clearly, something inside of you is broken or ill. I pray for your healing. I want to share these children. That was the plan for LIFE. You're not dead.

Also, I miss you. Even when we were separating you promised me friendship. You were my best friend, for FOURTEEN YEARS. That's almost half our lives. And in those years, we hardly went days without contact. It's been months. I try to be strong always and to move on and let you go and not feel this gaping hole in my life where you used to be, and I try to fill it up with Jesus and surrender it all to Him so He can fill me up, but sometimes, like today, I just miss you with unbridled ache. You were supposed to care about me, too. I miss the man you were when you did, or when you pretended to, or when you loved me. 



Always praying for you,
Nicole

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On the eve of five

Dearest Spencer,



Tonight, I kiss your forehead and wish you sweet dreams, and you close your eyes as a four-year-old. 

When you awake in the morning, we will celebrate the beginning of your fifth year of life. The thought fills my eyes to the brim with tears.

This past year has brought such tremendous growth in your life, both with age, but also with maturity, social skills, empathy, and compassion. You have blossomed from a toddler into a preschooler, and my heart just swells with pride as I realize how incredible a young boy you have become. 

Your brother and sister both adore you, and it overwhelms me with gladness to know that they do, and that you feel the same about them. You are a wonderful big brother, even through your fights.

I know this past year has worn on your beautiful little heart. I have seen such sorrow in your eyes, but I have also witnessed immense joy.  Your laughter resonates like a song when you are in the brightest of moods.

You have begun to identify your emotions and the way in which you can explain yourself shows such depth that it amazes me. You express yourself quite articulatly for a boy of such a young age. I love that you already have a way with words.  That's not to say there aren't struggles at times, but you've grown so much from the young boy who just could not handle expressing himself just a year ago.

The intensity of your love for me, your family, and your friends has magnified over the year, and it is obvious to me that you have a caring heart. I adore that about you. I have always prayed that my children would be filled with compassion and regard for others, and I see that in you more than I ever have before.

You are so intelligent, dear boy. I pray that you never are made to believe otherwise. And even though your intelligence sometimes gets the best of me when you prove you can accomplish more than I know of you, I am proud to call you my son.

Your interest in God and the journey you are starting with your own faith shows me that we are going to always make it through.  I am thrilled that you know Jesus loves you and that you are willing to bring him into your life. I pray it is always that way, and one day you will be a confidant man of God.

I am so grateful that as we journeyed through your fourth year together, you and I, figuring out how to move forward in life, we have become even closer than before. You, the miracle that made me mommy, make my heart burst with joy when you call me your best friend. I am so blessed that I am not only your mother, but someone you appreciate as a companion in your life.

Spencer, thank you for another year of learning how to be a mom, for the love and kindness you show me, and for the laughter and hugs you bless me with. I know things get intense and sometimes I might not seem like the best mom for you, I know God brought us together for a reason.

I love you, beautiful boy. You're the best thing that ever happened to me (as well as your brother and sister). Thank you for letting me believe the same for you.

Always in love,
Mommy

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jesus Prayed for Me (and you)!

I have been reading the New Testament for the last couple weeks.

Tonight, I read John 17. It blew my mind.

Somehow, in all of my 32 years, I have never read this particular chapter of the Bible. While I feel a bit ashamed to admit that, there's something wonderful about the fact that up until tonight, it was unknown to me. 

Tonight, I have been struggling with exhaustion, hunger, emotions, and a super stubborn "threenager," overtired 18 month old, and an ornery almost five-year old. I couldn't wait to open my Bible and read onward from John 7 until I felt like I was done.

John 17 is my resting point. For those who haven't read it before either, or would like to now, I will paste it at the end.

The summary is that Jesus is about to be crucified and He's praying to God. He's praying over His own life, and for that of His disciples after He is gone.

But, as you read, you realize He is also praying for you.

YOU.

Or as it really hit me, He's praying for ME.

Lowly little me, thousands of years before I even walked this earth, read this chapter, and realized it.

How intense is that?

Yes, shortly before His crucifixion, He prayed for my life. He prayed for my life because He knew I existed long before I existed.  He loved me then, just as He loves me now. 

As much as I love to write, at this moment, I cannot form the words to describe how amazing, wonderful, surreal, absurd, humbling, overwhelming, awe-inspiring, terrifying, miraculous, and exhilarating that is to realize. It's the first time I REALLY ever embraced what I have known for years (that He knew me before I existed and loved me forever)... reading His prayer. 

So, here I will leave you with the chapter, the New Living Translation version, and I will let you feel for yourself.


17 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

“I have revealed you[a] to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you,for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[b] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[c] I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do.17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me.26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Giving

The Bible states that when we give, we should do so without boasting. 



The story I am about to share is not for the purpose of boasting or for personal glory, so please do not take it as such. Rather, I am sharing it because this story has shown me the measure of how far my children and I have come in a year, and I would like it to be a story of hope for anyone who may feel discouraged in their own lives. 

There's a song out there that I wish I enjoyed listening to, with lyrics that are truly fitting for this season of my life. The chorus is as follows-

"You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer"

After church today, en route to our home, I had a fleeting recollection of a secret journal I had written beginning the night I took my children to stay at a local homeless shelter. Upon returning home, I opened it up to read it. I wasn't sure why I felt compelled to do so, as I didn't want to rip open an old wound, but I read my words anyway. 

The first entry states:
"This is where my story has veered.

Perhaps you know me. Many do. But how many know me really?

For the past few months, I’ve been living a secret life. Not many know about it, but some do, I apologize if you haven’t until this point, but I have been trying to hold into a sliver of dignity.

My husband and I separated a few months back. My naive self didn’t see it coming. I stood by him and cleaned his messes through so many trials, I never thought he would stop coming home.

Tonight, my babies and I checked into a hospitality house. That’s a nice way to say homeless shelter. For my birthday in October, our landlord emailed to say we had two weeks to get out as he was selling our house. I had entrusted my husband with providing for his family, and he hadn’t been. In December, I went from a stay-at-home-mom working for a direct sales company to a daycare employee.

Tonight, here we are. In a family room at a homeless shelter where we can’t have food or drink in our possession, our clothes had to be sanitized before we could have them, we can have no TV, and minimal personal belongings.

I have a bachelors degree in social work. Somehow, I’ve become that person I was educated to help.

I know I should and shouldn’t feel both ashamed and embarrassed. I do feel both. As I walked through those doors with a few bags of clothing and a few handfuls of toys, I knew this was the bottom or very close to it. I feel betrayed by myself and my marriage and my hope and my faith.

As I laid down beside my two toddlers tonight to help them relax and fall asleep, I sang to them, and their eyes quickly closed. My tears started flowing, and I realized that my heart is still so full of love. I feel beaten, but I feel brave. I have been told for years I am strong. People admire my strength and my outlook.

Tonight, I am tested. I am at the edge of my strength and my positive outlook. But, I am going to take that leap of faith that miracles will happen and my children and I will have a home soon. I have faith that my credit can be restored. Someone will give is a chance. It won’t always be this. I won’t always be at the bottom.  I am seeking strength like never before. Strength I don’t know that I have. I am praying endlessly for miracles. God can redeem this all, and maybe if I’m so fortunate, my children will have a mended family someday too.

Dream big or “go home,” right?

Its not over."


These words, though they sound somewhat optimistic, were written under a suffocating blanket of hopelessness, confusion, dismay, and uncertainty. I read them now, and see the pep talk I was attempting to give myself.

Miracles have happened. My faith sonehow remained strong, and my children and I have come so far since I wrote that entry in January. I have written about this before. 

Yesterday, however, a new level of realization hit me. Yesterday, I realized that the kids and I, though still living meekly, paycheck to paycheck on faith and hope, we could give. Once upon a time, I was able to give to various people and causes much more freely, and over the last year, I have had the humbling undertaking of being a recipient instead. While I see now that it's "okay" to have or need help sometimes, I have had a yearning to be able to be back to giving. 

So, I loaded up the kids, packed away some things in the van, and drive back to the St. Francis House for the first time since August. I honestly have had zero desire to drive that route again since leaving there, and yesterday, all I could think of was how much I wanted to make that trek across town. 

I pulled up and opened the door to the main shelter and was greeted by many faces that I recognized and even more that I didn't. The smiles on the faces of those who knew me were beaming, and I explained why I was there. They were grateful, and we talked a bit about how the kids and I are doing. The executive director and an office manager commented on how proud they were and how great it was to see my own smiling face. Then, I said my farewell and left.

It wasn't until I was a few blocks away that it hit me- I had just given back. Up until that point I knew what I was doing, but there wasn't a solid emotional connection. 

My tears weren't of pride. They were tears of thankful exhilaration as I realized that I was not in the place I was when I arrived there, needing so much, so broken, and so scared. I realized I am in a much different place, and that my prayers have been answered. Maybe not all of my prayers, but many. My tears were tears of redemption, seeing how God has turned our lives around. They were tears of release and relief, letting go of the baggage I didn't realize I still carried to our old temporary home.

I know I am not done healing. I know have a long route ahead yet. But sitting where I am now, with the sun shining in my living room and the breeze blowing my curtains, listening to Collin narrate his dinosaur play, I can the lengths I have already traveled. I feel refreshed this weekend.



If you are interested in giving to the place that helped my children and I move forward on our journey by providing us a home, here is a link with more info-
http://www.stfrancishouse.com/get-involved/our-needs-list/

Friday, October 16, 2015

Another Year

In a few hours, my birthday will arrive, again. 

Birthdays are a great time to reflect on your life, to give thanks for the opportunity to have lived another year, and to celebrate all of the things your life encompasses. I think birthdays are pretty great, in general.

My last couple birthdays were not so spectacular. Three years ago, I had a newborn, no sleep, a busy husband who barely made it home to see me before the birthday was over. The year after, I was hooked up to IVs trying to curb dehydration and severe knock-you-out vomiting.  Last year, my husband didn't live with us, but let me spend the night before with a couple friends, and it was looking to be a redeeming year celebration-wise, except the next morning I was sent an email from my landlord stating my husbands negligence was getting us evicted in two weeks.

Panic set in. My husband didn't seem phased in the least or show any interest in helping his children and his wife (that he suggested stay home with the kids to save on childcare) find a place to live. We were at risk of being homeless. It was the worst birthday ever, until a dear friend offered us the spare room at her apartment while I found a job.

So, here I am, the eve of the anniversary of the worst birthday of my almost 32 year-long life, and as you might expect, I am emotional. It's been an emotional week anyway trying to get affairs in order, being sleep deprived as usual, and other things. 

Some of the emotions are overwhelmingly saddening. But then, there's this up-side.

This past year has been intense. It's been more intense than I ever imagined, in more facets than I ever expected.

It's been a whirlwind and it's been a drag. I've felt rushed and pushed and also stuck trudging through knee-deep molasses.

I've made mistakes. I've fallen. I've felt like a failure. I've blamed myself for every thing that has gone wrong. 

And then, by Grace, I have started climbing uphill instead of down.

While there are some days, or some hours, minutes and fleeting seconds that I find myself being attacked by darkness, more often than I thought would be possible, I see things more clearly.

I see where I was, not all that long ago, and where I am now.

I am not homeless. I am not jobless. I am not jaded or bitter. I still believe in love, miracles, and redemption. I have three beautiful children who finally, after over a year, have stability, who are generally filled with smiles and laughter. Instead of endless days and nights of worry about the unknown, I see peace and an end in sight out there somewhere.

This is my first birthday in 14 years where I won't see my husband, my former best friend, for even a second. I won't hear his voice. I am not prepared for it, really, because I don't know how to prepare. 

I have no plans, really. I don't want to party. The kids and I will eat cupcakes for breakfast, and then they will visit some friends. I will nap or go to bed early. I know that sounds lame to most, but with the endless exhaustion of this past year and the child-rearing exhaustion of the past five years, I feel like it's a pretty great gift. I expect nothing, ask for nothing, need nothing.

This birthday is very different. I'm not celebrating my increase in age like I have for 31 years. This year, I'm celebrating my survival of my 31st year. I'm celebrating overcoming the year since my last birthday.  And if the time comes tomorrow where I break down and cry or struggle to breathe, I will come back here and read this and remind myself how great this birthday really is.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

He's Happy After All



I have a confession.

Over the last year, with my husband's absense, my mind has been nearly constantly focused on the fear that his abandonment would "break" my kids and I.

I have always felt that children thrive the best with both parents in their lives.  For roughly 10 months, my children, though parents were separated, still had both parents in their lives.  Looking back at things, I know that their dad was around in person, but he wasn't really there, and he wasn't consistent and often let them down.  Actually, looking at the past few years, I see that he was not consistent even when we were all home as a family under one roof.

This past week, I was speaking with two very dear friends who stopped by to visit the kids and I.  Both of my friends at one point had made a comment about how happy my oldest, Spencer, who is nearly five, is nowadays.

I was kind of baffled by it, knowing that he struggles with daddy abandonment issues, and often I find him missing his dad.  But I listened to them talk about how he is happier, filled with smiles and laughter, and loves to play with his friends Spencer has become.  I reflected after they left about the comments of a few other good friends have made about Spencer and how he's grown so much recently, and really developed his personality, which is warm, loving, and compassionate.

Before I went to bed Sunday night, I laid awake, pondering these comments.  Eventually, I had to ask my two friends, "So, you think Spencer really is happy now?"  Well, maybe not those exact words, but the sentiment.

I have been told these sorts of things for a few weeks at least, if not a couple months, but for some reason, it's taken me this long to really hear them.  Maybe it's because the weekend before last was really tough on him with expressing the loss of his dad.  Maybe it's because I've been so focused on issues in my own mind.  Either way, I finally, truly heard the words and embraced them.

As my friend explained, Spencer, even a year ago, when things really started to fall apart in our world, was sullen when visitors would come over.  Yes, he liked to see them, but he didn't pay them much attention.  In fact, he would often withdraw when he realized that it was NOT his dad.  I didn't necessarily see it myself, because I was always with him, and always with all three of them, Norah just a tiny infant at the time yet.  My friend pointed out that he was always waiting for his dad to come home.  His dad lived with us.  It was OUR home.  He was supposed to be there.  But for months he just would not come home consistently.  Or he would be there for an hour or so here and there throughout the week, always with excuses of late hours or needing to help at the shop (which I now know is a lie, as he admitted this to me himself last spring).  But daily, my son was disappointed that his dad would not show up consistently.

I should have seen this.  I tried to incredibly hard to get him to come home.  "Just come for supper, and see the kids for a bit, please?" "Can you come help with bath?"  "The boys miss you."  So forth aned so on.  Daily.  I tried to bring him for the kids.  Sometimes he said he would be right there and hours later, was ignoring my phone calls, then providing stupid excuses to me why he couldn't come see his kids after all.   He would come home for parts of the weekend, usually, a year ago, and see them, but he had been disappearing slowly for months.
I was blinded.  I was fighting for our marriage and my kids and he was definitely not fighting for them at all.  He was fighting to get away, I guess.  But, I am ashamed to admit it.  I was blinded.

Likely, I was hampering my children's happiness and well-being fighting for this ideal "both parents" scenario.  I was getting their hopes up, allowing them to call him, asking him to come home, having him promise to come home, and letting them know daddy was on his way, only to crush their poor little hearts myself telling them he was no longer going to see them.  I carry quite a burden of guilt about it now.  I feel like I've spent the last year compounding their pain, especially Spencer's, by fighting for what I thought was right.

I sit here writing this as Spencer is at his first official play therapy session.  I hear him behind the closed doors laughing as he meets with his new "friend."

Reflecting on my friends' words, one of them commented on how now that we live in our own place, our new place, and Jacob has been absent since the end of June, the expectation that the kids will see him again has dimished significantly.  Yes, they still look for him, miss him, and long for him.  But, Spencer especially knows that I have tried with all my might to bring his daddy to him, to call him, email him, text him, facebook him, find him... what have you, and his daddy is just not cooperating.  He knows.  He knows I tried.  Sometimes he's angry with me that daddy is missing, but he knows I tried to find him for him.   He's mostly stopped asking for daddy.  It breaks my heart, but it's likely for the best.  Because, as my friends pointed out, he's happy now.  He no longer struggles not knowing if daddy is going to follow through and actually call or visit.  He no longer gets excited to see him only to be crushed when he doesn't arrive.  It sucks, but it's good too, in a way.

Spencer is adjusting.  I can see it now.  I can see the light in his eyes brighter this week than I could ever before I really embraced my friends' words.

I told my friends, as I stated above, that I was afraid the disappearance of their dad would break them, would break us.  It hasn't.  Somehow, beauty has come from it.

I have struggled for months not knowing if I was doing good enough.  I didn't know or feel like I was being a good enough mom.  I didn't think I was able to be all that they needed parent wise.  I didn't know if I could provide joy and happiness amidst sorrow.  I did not know if my parenting choices were okay.  I am often overwhelmed with exhaustion or emotion and I let negative talk seep into my mind and constrict my own heart.

But, I see today that I'm doing okay.  I'm an okay mom. Maybe even a good mom?  A great mom?

Something is going right with my parenting, somehow.  Maybe it's the drive to surround them not only with my love, but the love of others.   I let them see that they're not alone.  It's not just us.  Daddy may be missing, but there's a world out there that still is present.  Maybe it's okay that I cry in front of them sometimes, or empathize with their sadness in losing their dad.  I miss him too, the man I thought he was, or that he was for a time.  I love him still.  I get it, and they know I'm not just saying it.

I don't know what it is.  But, by the grace of God, my son smiles, lights up with joy when he sees people he cares about walk through our door.  He runs to give hugs like he never did a year ago.  He opens up his mind and heart and lets us know what he's feeling.  He is going to be okay.

This has not broken us.  It will not break us.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A lack of hatred

I have had many people ask me how it is that I do not hate my husband for what he's done, or make mention of the fact that they would hate him, or do hate him, and so forth.  

So many people seem to think it's crazy that I don't, deep down hate him.


I just don't. I have loved him for 14 years, and while I do not romantically love him now, a part of me has love for him, for his soul and his eternity. A part of me cares for his well being and hopes that he will turn his life around and come back to the path that is good. I pray he can mend his ways and relationships with those he has cut himself loose from.

Yes, people have told me that is crazy of me. Sometimes, I feel it is, too.

I will admit, there have been a few times I have thrown the word "hate" around in regard to all of this, whether it's hating what has happened or what has been done or what has become, and possibly I have said I hate him too, or that I have the potential to. I have even gone so far as to wish that I did or could for feeling that it would be easier to cope. (I realize how wrong that is.)

And then I realize not long after that I don't. I do not hate him, anyway. I sometimes tell myself it would be easier if I did. But I just do not hate.  Perhaps you see that as weak. I see it as strength. I do hate, despise, detest what has happened to my family, yes. I do hate the choices he has made. I do not hate him.

I feel compassion and remorse when I think less than desirable things toward a person. It's just how I am.

I think that's God in me. 

I have read the verse I placed above many times. Tonight, though, it actually spoke to me. I had to share it.