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,

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.


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


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-

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.