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.


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.