Thursday, December 8, 2016

The former's birthday

Today is his, the man I once shared my life with's, birthday.

Today, I miss the good things about him and the fun we shared.

Today, I miss his hugs and his voice.

Today, I miss his laughter.

Today, I miss surprising him.

Today, I miss showing him I love him.

His children don't know it's his birthday today.

I feel so conflicted about it.  I know that, for now anyway, it's best this way.  I know that the joy they find in birthdays, coupled with the lingering sting of his abandonment would confused and torment them in some way.

So we haven't talked about him.

We haven't celebrated him.

We haven't wished him a happy birthday.

I don't know where he is.  I don't know what he's doing.  I don't know if he's happy.

I hope he is, just because I'm a good person.

I know we are happy.

I am thankful that I can say that with honesty.

We are sad sometimes, the children more than I, of course, but overall, we are happy.

It doesn't mean we don't miss him, sometimes.

Somedays, we miss him more than others.

Today, the children haven't brought him up.

Today, though, I miss him.  I don't need him.  I don't want him.  I don't long for him.  But, I miss him.

It's amazing to me that it's been sixteen months since we've seen his face, heard his voice, or read any new words from him.  We live daily life completely void of his contact.  We live each day, in and out, without him.  But it still seems absolutely surreal that he has made the choice to live life this way, without us.  It sure wasn't a choice we made.  It was his.  I cannot understand it at all.

We didn't have contact with him on his birthday last year.  I didn't really miss him like this last year.  Last year, I was still so hurt and angry.  It's been two years since we saw him on his birthday.  Two years ago on his birthday, he was upset.  He was withdrawn and crabby that I not only had gotten a job, but I started it on his birthday, and he had to be a responsible person and get the children and I to and from work that day.  He had to pretend he was a loving, caring, doting father and husband, because we didn't want the world to know what was really going on between us, especially me in a brand new work environment with countless people I didn't know or know if I could trust.  It has been three years, really, since we had a birthday with him.  Our daughter wasn't even born that year.

It's amazing how slowly time moves by, but how quickly it does simultaneously.

There's so much that has happened in those three years, since our last happy his birthday together.

We've been through quite a harrowing storm.

We've made it through stronger.

I've accomplished so much without, despite, and because of him.

Today, I can see that.

Today, I can celebrate that.

Today- without him.

He took this photo of me the night after my high school graduation, in 2002.  It has such strong ties to our relationship.  I love it, though, because the emotion seems fitting for this juncture as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Healed Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a big deal to my heart, and has been for a long time.  It's a family, love, and gratitude focused holiday that I've always adored.

Thanksgiving this year was a bigger deal than I realized.

A year ago at Thanksgiving, I was still married to a man who had gone MIA.  I was brokenhearted, on the verge of feeling defeat, feeling a bit like a failure, feeling lonely, feeling anxious, and feeling a bit out of place in my own world.

The children and I were invited to Thanksgiving dinner with our friends and some of their family.  I accepted, knowing that my friend knew my heart and emotional state quite well, knowing I would feel safe, and that my children would have fun.  Still, I was nervous, not knowing how the others at dinner would approach the fact that he was not with us this time, as he had been months before when we were over for Easter.  I was cautiously optimistic that no one would ask a single question or even mention his absence in our lives.  The day, as far as I remember, was wonderful, filled with joy and laughter, friends and great food.

But I missed him.  I felt like our family was incomplete in some way.  I came home that evening, without my kids, I believe, and cried as I realized I went the day without him and made it through.  I longed for the vision of life that I had thought we were creating.

I spent a little bit of time over the past few weeks in prayer, trying to prepare myself emotionally and mentally for what this year might be like, whether the children and I were home alone celebrating in solitary fashion, or if we were fortunate enough to be surrounded by people we cherish somewhere.  I knew in my heart I would be emotionally and mentally okay if we were going to be celebrating alone, although I hoped we wouldn't be.  It wouldn't have been devastating though, like I may have felt it would have last year.

This year, he's still missing, and I am divorced.  This year, we were invited to the same family home for Thanksgiving dinner.  I've not been feeling well, so I was a bit quiet this year amidst all the hustle and bustle, but I felt at home anyway.  My friend still knows me well, and I know her family accepts me and my children for who we are, as we are, how we are, even without him.

When the children and I arrived home tonight, they were all fast asleep in the van, and I sat there for a bit, realizing that it was my first Thanksgiving as a divorced, single mother.

I didn't cry.  I didn't even emotionally flinch.

I then realized that I didn't miss him at all today.

This year, he was mentioned.  We discussed how the son who used to look so much like him looks less like him this year, and how my other son looks much more like him now.  I talked about how some of their mannerisms are very much like their dad.  I mused over how my daughter doesn't have close attachments to men, except my friend's husband, my dad, my brother-in-law, and she's somewhat close to a co-worker and her uncles.  But she's never felt a relationship with a dad that she would remember, and it affects her, somewhat, I think.

I was even asked by one of the family members if I would ever consider remarriage or having children in the future if "the right guy" came along.  I didn't freak out or withdraw really, although I was completely taken aback, I didn't act like it.

I didn't cry.

I didn't miss him.  Not like I used to.  I mostly miss him on behalf of my kids, and I feel sorry for him missing out on them.

But I didn't hinder me.

It didn't overwhelm me.

It didn't cause me anxiousness or nervousness.  I didn't even think about him before going.  I didn't sit and wonder if anyone would ask about him or mention him or worry about how I would react if it happened.

That's a lot of healed wounds.

Thank you, Jesus.

If it weren't for the Cleansing Stream retreat less than a month ago, I am sure I would be in a different emotional state tonight.

But I'm okay.

The kids and I are okay.

I don't long for him to love us.  I don't feel like we are missing out on his love.  I know we are, realistically, but I don't feel that soul-crushing overwhelming longing that was there a year ago.

Because we don't need his love.  It would be nice, but it's not a necessity.

We have God's love, first and foremost, and because of His love, we are loved deeply by many others.  It's obvious to me that we are loved more deeply by others in our lives than we could be by him at this point anyway.  My children are lacking their dad, but they're not lacking their Father's love; they're not lacking love at all.  Today, they were surrounded by love, like they are every day.

Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, to me, are especially important emotional holidays.  They flood my heart with appreciation for God, family, friends, love, memories, laughter, and companionship.

For the last 15 years, up until this year, a huge portion of all of those holidays were invested in him- even the last two, when we was sort of here and then not here at all.

This year, that chain is broken.

This year, I see so much more clearly the love that we are showered with.  I saw it last year through clouded lenses.  This year, it's more real.

I can see so much more clearly this year that I am not alone.  I wondered a few days ago, while the enemy was after my mind, that I would be alone eternally, spending holidays without adult cameraderie, huddled up with my children, forgotten by the world, because I was just a pity case or that people were sick of the burden I am, wishing for interaction aside from only children (I know that sounds horrible, and I love my children dearly, so please don't assume I hate spending time with them).

But that's just crazy. I have family, and friends that are family, and friends beyond that who love us so much.

I am not alone.  We are not alone.  And God wouldn't allow us to go through this life alone anyway.  I get reminded of that on the regular.  Sometimes, I just get in my own way of seeing it.

Thank you to the many friends and family who have sent me messages of love, empowerment, gratitude, prayer, and blessings.  Your love is deeply felt and appreciated more than I find myself able to express at this time.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Because, Spencer, you're almost not five...

Dearest Spencer,

This morning, you proclaimed to me, "Mom, I'm almost not five!" We have been talking about your upcoming birthday for quite a few days now, and the excitement of it's impending arrival is definitely stirring excitement in your little-huge heart.  

It's true, buddy, you're almost not five.  In fact, within a few short hours, the clock will strike midnight, and it will be the first of November, and you will turn six.  Now granted, you weren't born until the evening, so you won't officially be six til after 7:30pm, but I will keep that secret to myself for now and enjoy a few more hours knowing that you're "still five."  My momma heart isn't ready for a six-year-old just yet.

Spenk-a-Doodle, you are growing way too quickly.  Within the past few months especially, you've transformed so much from a slightly anxious preschooler, to a confident kindergartner.  You've shown me that you are now incredibly brave, gentle, strong, intelligent, and surprising.  You're so full of wonder and intrigue.  It may drive me to the brink of wanting to put in ear plugs and pretend I can't hear the seven bazillionth question you've asked on the way to school (which, by the way, is about a 7 minute drive, sir) some days, but truly, I appreciate your intense desire to learn.  "I like to know stuff," you told me recently when I asked why you fire off questions so quickly.  It's true, you do.

Spencer, I am incredibly impressed with your compassionate heart, and your desire to know Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  You talk of all three of them frequently, and questions about them and the Bible are among the never-ending questions you ask.    Your questions are so deep sometimes that I am unsure how to answer, and while I feel timid attempting, I am so impressed and so proud of you for where you are in your faith. You may be pint-sized in the eyes of some, but you are growing ginormous faith.  I pray that others will see this and be inspired by you, especially your siblings.

You love nature and athletics, art and music.  I am continually impressed by your many skills.  Some of your recently acquired ones are tree climbing, reading some words, writing and painting words, hockey, skee ball, climbing walls, and identification of many musical instruments.  

Your brother and sister adore you and look up to you very much.  I hope that you know this, and remember this, even when they're pestering you, in your personal space, and driving you crazy.  They miss seeing you around as much as they did, now that you are in school, and sometimes they don't know how to really handle those feelings.  But, they love you. They talk about you when you're not around, and miss you, asking where you are and when we will get you back.  

Spencer, I want to thank you for all that you've taught me in our almost not five years together.  It's crazy to think that we've been on this team together that long.  Six years sounds like such a long time, even though in the grand scheme of things, it's minuscule. You've taught me so much about patience, unconditional love, parenting, faith, wonder, and whimsy.  You make me laugh until I cry sometimes (although the interrupting cow knock-knock joke has really worn out it's novelty, no offense).  Sometimes, I just look at you and cry tears of overwhelming joy and gratitude.

You're the one who made me mommy first.  We've had so many firsts together in these past five years, and I know we have countless more ahead of us.   I'm so grateful that they will be with you, my brave, caring, funny, ornery, blue-eyed miracle.  

Thank your for still being willing to cuddle, to hug me, to kiss me, even in public and in front of your friends, and for telling me that you love me countless times a day.  Thank you for inviting me to play, telling me your stories and dreams, and challenging me (even when I can't stand it sometimes).

I'm sorry there are days your heart still hurts and aches incredibly as you miss your dad.  I know you're still looking for him, and I know that you're still sad he's missing out on your growing up, and things like your birthday.  I love that you still pray for him.  I'm sorry he's missing your birthday again this year.  But, I am so thankful that there are so many others out there who love you, who tell you how much they love you, and show you how much they love you.  From family, to friends, to Sunday School teachers and neighbors- you are one adored little boy.  It doesn't make it better, but I pray it fills your heart to overflowing.

I've said it before and I will say it again- You're the best thing that ever happened to me (and yes, I say it to your siblings too). 

 Happy Birthday, Spencer Jacob.  I pray immeasurable joy, love, and blessings upon you.  

I love you.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Retreated and Transformed

The Cleansing Stream...

I approached it.  I waded into it. I walked through it.

I was hesitant.  I was nervous.  I was excited.  I was leery.  I was determined.

There's no turning back now.

This stream, though... What is it?

It's a Life Group through the church the children and I became members of after our world was turned upside down.  It's a healing ministry by nature, filled with lessons and group discussions, as well as a full day retreat.

I really was skeptical.

I've been a Christian my entire memorable life, though I have felt closer to God sometimes and very distant others.  I went to a parochial school in kindergarten and first grade.  I continued growing in my understanding and love for Jesus afterward, mostly going to church with my grandma.  I loved going to church with my grandma.  I was confirmed in a Lutheran church back in my hometown.  I made a friend from another town in high school that introduced me to McPrayer (at McDonald's on Friday mornings before school) which I attended a few times, and fell in love with another friend from that town who was also self-proclaimed "on fire for Jesus."  I became a part of their entire family, and grew even more in my faith alongside them, through table prayers, Bible Studies, trips to Sonshine Music Festival, jamming to Christian radio, and so forth.  I attended a Christian college for two years, worked as a counselor and daycamp director at a Lutheran Bible camp for two summers, did youth lock-ins with a college outreach group, attended Bible studies there, and what not.  I switched to a State University to pursue my Bachelor's Degree, but continued my love for God as my relationship with the aforementioned man deepened.  We were married in a non-denominational church, making a covenant to each other, with God, to never separate in this lifetime and to live our lives for God, growing our family in that way as well.  As our children came into this world, we found the church that we attended for five years, until, as I said, the world flipped upside down.

When he up and abandoned us, it was hard to go back to our home church.  The kids were looking for him constantly and he stopped showing up.  I visited our current church, the Church at the Gate, one Sunday morning, and we just never really left.

Through my job at the church daycare, I made a dear friend, one who also attends this church, and she introduced me to this thing called Cleansing Stream.

As I said, I was skeptical.  I have read the Bible (maybe not cover to cover yet, but the majority of it) and I know that Jesus is all about healing.  I've read that we are to be healers as well, and that we have authority to do so in His name.  I know that we are called to pursue the Fruits of the Spirit, and there are so many blessings and promises made to those who seek and love Him.  I know it in theory.  But I have, for as long as I can remember, been skeptical.

For this, I have apologized to God.

Anyway, this ministry was brought up multiple times over the course of the last year and a half or so. I listened and told myself, "well, maybe someday, maybe."  It is offered twice a year, and the last time it didn't work out for me because I was a part of a parenting Life Group.  So, when my friend brought it up again this fall, it worked out scheduling wise, and I couldn't come up with a solid good excuse not to sign up.  So, in faith, I registered.

The DVDs are interesting, thought provoking, and insightful.  Discussion is great to relate to others in the group, as well as to gain more perspective toward your own journey.

But this retreat... this thing I spent my day doing... it was intense.

Truthfully, when my friend would bring up how awesome this retreat was going to be, I was withdraw a little sometimes.  Other times, I would get nervous.  On a few occasions, I would be excited.  She was thoroughly excited about it and believed wonderful things would come for me when I went, but I really did dally back and forth among the multiple responses.

Last night, I was getting ready, mentally, before bed, and nerves set in.  I went to bed, and was very restless in my sleep all night long.  Every time I would stir, I would hear myself saying "seriously, I'm going to be so tired in the morning at this rate, I'm not going to want to go."  I had my sister-in-law set to spend the day with the kids, and when the alarm went off this morning, I really didn't want to get out of bed.  I knew that would happen, so I made myself get up out of bed, shower, and get my body out that door.

As soon as I arrived at church, I was greeted by members of my group and had discussions with them where I detailed my night and how I knew that because I didn't want to go, I knew I needed to come.  They had been through it before and they agreed.

When I entered the sanctuary, I was greeted by a line of church members and friends who each gave me a hug as I found myself a chair.  Truthfully, I've not been much of a hugger the past few years, because of wounds from my marriage largely, so this was a big step for me, allowing these hugs and embracing them, uninhibitedly, in response.

Worship began and every single song we sang was perfect.  My sinuses have been giving me issues for over a week now and my voice has been goofy, but I sang away, feeling peace come over me, knowing that I was going to be okay, no matter what happened today.

The lessons began, and thoughts started flooding.  Negative talk and lies from the enemy, combated by truth from the Father.  After each section, we prayed against lies and bondages, were blessed, renounced strongholds, fears, and so much more.

The first time, wouldn't you know, it lined up perfectly where my prayer warrior was my friend- the one who introduced me to the Stream in the first place.  I was actually quite a bit relieved because there's only been one other time at church that I've really allowed someone else to pray for me (and she was actually right praying, too), so it seemed like a familiar way into unfamiliar territory.

As I started to approach her, my heart started racing and I became unsteady in my own foot work.  She asked me if I was ready.  I don't think I said a word, but she knows me well, and we began.  The tears began falling as we prayed through some bondages and lies.  The leader of the retreat joined and added in.  My head was spinning and my hands were trembling, my eyes pouring tears.  We prayed and prayed.  And I felt release.  Then my hands stopped shaking, my heart went back to normal, my breathing steadied, and I opened my eyes.  I received another hug, perhaps the biggest one I had received in weeks, and in that moment, I was so overwhelmingly thankful for Jesus and for his bringing her into my life.

As I sat there after, praying and trying to take it all in, writing down words that came to my mind, I felt this surge of strength.

The next section was about rejection, and let me tell you what, I was holding onto way more rejection than I knew.  I knew of the big stuff, the rejection of my former husband (toward both me and my children), but there were others there, too.

We were urged to document some of the instances that lead to the feeling of rejection, and then listen to what Truth God had to say in the matter.

"I chose you, before you were born. I wanted you.  I brought you here for a reason.  I love you want I want you.  I also chose your children for you.  You four are Mine. We are all on the same team.  We are FOR one another."

When it was my turn to receive prayer again, I found myself in front of a kind man that I had never met before, who happened to have the same first name as one of my sons.  I noticed right away and he greeted me openly.  He then asked, in some way or another, what a point of rejection was for me.

Up until this very moment, I have not really told anyone, especially someone I didn't know, in a meaningful situation especially, the huge period of distress that the kids and I had been through.  In almost every step of the journey, if I told anyone at all, friend or family, it was initially in writing.  I am a writer-type-person, and it is exponentially easier for me to pen out my thoughts, emotions, and words than it is for me to swallow the lump in my throat and speak them audibly.

Yet, here I was, tears burning down my cheeks again, and the words came flowing out of my mouth, "Over two years ago, my former husband ditched my three children and I. We ended up homeless.  He found himself a boyfriend, and we haven't heard from him, not one word or text, in almost a year and a half."

He looked directly in my eyes, and told me how huge that was.  He then called the leader over (and instantly, my mind went to "gosh, I am such a mess that he needs to help again already (which I then had to dismiss as a lie))" and told me to tell him what I had just said.  So in less than two minutes, I audibly spoke out the truth to two people I didn't know.

That was huge for me.  We prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed.  I received blessings and hugs and Kleenex and more prayer, and more hugs.  They asked what it was that God had told me, if anything, about it all, and I told them what I had written down.

And then, I felt release.    They told me how powerful that Truth was and how amazing it was.

When I went back to my seat, I repented for believing the lie that I was such a mess.  And then I heard in my mind, "You're NOT a hot mess.  The situation was a mess, but you're exactly who I made you to be, and you are perfect."

Well then.

I then wrote down some words that I thought God was telling me about who I was.  Things like warrior, brave, strong, determined, and so forth.  I then, out of seemingly nowhere, found myself humming to these lyrics, "when my faith gets tired and my hope seems lost, you spin me round and round and remind me of that song, the one You wrote for me, and we dance."  (We Dance by Bethel Music)  I wrote it down, not really knowing where it came from.

We moved onto guilt and shame, and those lies from the enemy, as well as fear. (Parts of the outline are a little muddy tonight and I don't have my workbook near me, but regardless, the meaningful content stands even if the time frame is a little off...)  Following the same pattern, we were prayed with and for.  This time, I found myself in front of another person, a woman I had seen around but didn't know.  This time, I came to the altar in a bit of a different stance I suppose.  We prayed as a group and I let go of most of the guilt and shame for things, and when I prayed with this wonderful woman, she spoke to me, "You're a warrior.  You know that?  You might be a peaceful, quiet warrior, or maybe a loud and boisterous warrior.  Whatever it is, you're a warrior."    We renounced the lies, and by this point, I was crying tears of joy and freedom, strength.  She asked what it was that I thought God was saying, and, in my own vernacular, just like the hot mess thing, it was "This isn't an thing, you know?  I've already got this.  We've conquered it."

She smiled, and said "Jesus is dancing all over you right now, all around you."

That song lyric!  It made sense.

There were more sections and topics throughout the day.  We broke binds from soul ties and the spirit of Death and its influence in various ways over our lives.  I visited each of those three prayer warriors another time.  Tears were shared all over.  It was exhilarating and liberating.  I received multiple hugs from multiple people, and gave multiple hugs to others as well.  It seemed like the fence I had built around my heart was torn down, and I was finally able to give and accepted real, meaningful hugs again.

At the end of it all, there was a time for couples.  And I sat there in my chair doodling, seeing as how I was a single, and not paying much attention to it anyway.  Then a dear friend, sitting beside me, leaned over and said something that really hit home.  She asked me who my spouse was now, like when we were in the parenting group, who is it that's in it with me?  Because I'm not doing this alone.


I started bawling as she helped me through that, and empathized with how I felt being a single mother completely on my own, but not really on my own.  She reminded me of how it's good, even if it's hard, and how it's not really an issue at the same time.  And she hugged me, too.

It's hard to explain how I feel tonight, sitting, reflecting, trying to make it tangible and find a way to explain it.  I wonder if it's something I need to explain, should I explain it?  Should I detail the day?

I think I should.  Because, as I mentioned, it is easier for me to write.

But also, because I was skeptical.

I don't know exactly how I've transformed, and I am sure I won't fully know until I meet my Maker at the end of days.  I know that I have transformed though.  I've laid down so many burdens, broken so many ties, let him heal so many wounds, heard so many truths, and freely cried and overwhelming number of tears in front of people I don't really know (which is another something I get anxious about doing).

As I said in my final prayer, "there's no turning back."

The past, while I've known it to be true and have been working really hard to function with it as truth, is done.  As my prayer warrior said, "It's a cleared history.  Today is a new day, and it is a GREAT day."

I have a renewed sense of hope.  I have a renewed sense of faith and belief.  I feel that I'm not going to fail as being a single mother even if their dad never enters the picture again.  Tonight, when we prayed bedtime prayer, I actually believe what I prayed for him and lead my children to pray for him.  Up until tonight, I prayed it because I should, not because I wanted it to be true.

I know the enemy will come on back, trying to get me to believe lies instead of truth again. It's what he does, and he is dang good at it.  I'm so fortunate my friend has been alongside me to point out when I'm latching onto lies again, and now I have a bigger support system to help me on my journey, and I am now a support system to more people as well. Its a blessing, truly.

I write this also because I need it documented, for me.  So if I ever feel myself slipping into the past, I can come right back and read what God said to me, what my friends and prayer warriors said to me, what I said to the enemy, and what I said to myself, fresh out of the experience.

I truly believe that each and every believer could benefit from Cleansing Stream, as skeptical as you may be.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It has been a while, Ole.

Yesterday, my children and I found ourselves at my alma mater homecoming parade.

I choose this as my alma mater, although I did not graduate from the college, my heart never left.

My roommate, best friend, the other half of my brain was in town for our graduating class 10 year anniversary. Had she not been, I likely wouldn't have gone at all. I love her something fierce though, and gladly snatched the opportunity for much of the day together.

It was the first time I've visited in a few years. It was fun, and sad, and nostalgic, and contemplative.

I was nervous to go, because most everyone I knew from there knew me back when... back when I was young, in love, starting a life story with my former husband. They watched our relationship grow and blossom and be challenged and solidify. They all knew me back then.

Over the course of two years, I developed friendships there. One friendship in particular, with my aforementioned roomie bestie, has remained strong and really been cultivated over the last 14 years. As it usually goes, most dissipated to merely Facebook type friendships with occasional check ins and comments. I still consider these friends to be friends, but not close friends. It doesn't mean I don't value them, of course.

I knew that seeing my bestie would be wonderful. She's stuck by me through better and worse, longer now than my former husband did, and long enough to be family. But, I didn't know what to expect from seeing anyone else I knew.

I wasn't really a part of Augie long enough to leave a lasting mark, and I certainly don't believe I was very memorable or important to most people beyond my bestie, a camp friend, and one professor. When I saw people I knew, my inclination was to shy away because I was pretty sure they didn't know me well enough or like me enough to really have a conversation. It's okay, though, because I had my kids along to supervise.

As I sat and listened to people catch up with one another later in the day, while I pushed all three kids on swings, I felt myself retreat inwardly. Here were my classmates living their dreams and pursuing their careers and making something out of themselves and their degrees and had all sorts of accomplishments and stuff to talk about and compare.

And then there was me. The one who left after two years to pursue a social work degree that I used for a while. The one who had a fairy tale love story and three children whose life turn a psychotic thriller type turn, and now lives day to day usually, her main aspiration and goal to raise good children and provide them with a home and some sort of consistency. 

I felt inadequate, by no fault of anyone's except my own inner demons.

After talking with a trusted friend, I realized that my three children are a huge accomplishment and while they're not a career accomplishment or any great material reward or something, they're happy, thriving, and filled with the joy and love of the Lord.

So there's that.

Sometimes, I wish I had stayed there. I wish I had been a part of the last two years with my class and had those lasting friendships many do.

But, I won't play the what-if game.

I'm blessed as I am and my worth isn't defined by the two years at my alma mater, the things I did or did not accomplish because of or inspire of my degree, or what people remember of me or whether they remember me at all.

Really though, it was a good day. It was filled with laughter, smiles, some hugs, new memories, renewed and new friendships, and the beginning of sparked interest in my oldest child toward pursuing academic dreams in his future.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A place of my own

I have my very own bedroom.

I haven't had my very own bedroom since the spring of 2006.

It happened last Sunday, after a month or so of meditation.

Prior to this, I had been sharing the larger of our two bedrooms with my nearly 2.5 year-old daughter.

I actually began sharing a room with her in January of 2015, when we moved into transitional housing straight out of the homeless shelter.

Prior to that, I spent two months sharing a bedroom with my two sons while we roomed with a friend at her apartment.

Before that, I spent 9 years or so sharing a room, and a bed, with my former husband.

My daughter doesn't sleep very well. She never has slept more than a few hours at a time for me, and I have been so perpetually exhausted for years now that sometimes I think I'm crazy.  She sleeps okay for other people. It's been a combination, I assume, of recurrent ear infections, tonsils, adenoids, teething (she's still missing two of her two-year molars), and knowing I'm near. I'm a cruddy sleeper, quiet noises wake me, so listening to her cry at night is overwhelming. I have not been one to pick her up and coddle her when she cries at night, but I think part of it is that she would cry and I would even just voice from my bed "it's okay, babe, go back to sleep." Who knows.

Regardless of why, I thought it might be worth a shot to combine her room with her brothers room, and pray for the best.

It's been going well. She still wakes up sometimes, but not every 40 minutes to two hours. The boys stay in their beds quietly because she's in there, so the middle child hasn't been wandering out eight times before he falls asleep. I'm praying these things continue or improve. 

It's nice to be able to go to bed and turn on the light whatever time I want to, or turn it on first thing in the morning and not worry about waking anyone. It's nice to have my own closet and not have to share space. It's nice to not have toys to step on, or other people throwing clothes on my floor. I can decorate for just me. I could read in bed if I wanted, or not wake anyone if I cough.

I have still been sleeping like crud. I think it's partially because it's a new room, new light, new noise, new temperature, and because my body is so used to waking up multiple times a night. It will take some adjustment. I'm holding onto faith soon we will all be sleeping well, though.

Last night, I had a few nightmares. It's not really a big deal, but irritating. However, I was going to make my bed a bit ago and I remembered them.  Then, I remembered the 9 or so years where I had a roommate to share them with.

Suddenly, I realized, sitting on my bed, that my new room, while exciting and deserved, feels a bit lonely and sad at the same time.

It seems silly. But, I realized that in 2005, I was engaged and planning my forever, which included a roommate for life.

And now, the bed and the room contain just one person. Just me.

It's empowering on some levels, to know I stood up for myself and worked so hard to be in this room, alone. But it is also currently weighted reminder that my life dreams and plans were shattered and remade.

It will take some getting used to.

And my bed is still not made.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ripping Bandaids

I've had some heartbreaks in my life.  I say this not to be dramatic, or for sympathy.  It's just fact.  Now, these heartbreaks, in some ways, define who I am as an individual.  They help develop the capacity for love and loss in my heart.  While many times, I wish that they had never happened, I know that they are my testimony.

This weekend is another milestone or anniversary-filled weekend.  I look back, and five years ago, I was losing my second baby, early on in pregnancy.  Two years ago, I was a bit terrified, knowing my then-husband was driving to my hometown to bring my children and I back to our current town, after I had fled for a few days in fear and confusion, spending them largely trying to decode mysteries and lies in our lives.  

The memories of these dates came rushing back to me this evening, as I made the drive home from taking my children to see their grandparents.

This weekend, this year, was filled with my former husband's family.  It nearly completes the first visits with each of his siblings or parents in over year (or more in some cases).  

A month and a half ago, I spent a few hours at his mother's house.  His mom has been a second mom to me for about 15 years now, but I hadn't been to her house since before he disappeared from our lives.  I hadn't been to the house I spent countless hours, days, weekends, and weeks at in over two years.  Her house was where he first told me that he wanted me to be his wife some day, that he wanted to have children with me, grow old together, and hopefully die together at the same time in a poetic Romeo & Juliet-esque finale (meaning simply at the same time or minutes apart).  We spent many holidays there together.  The house itself is jam-packed with memories that shaped who I was individually, but also who we were as a couple.  

As I drove there that day, I prayed repeatedly that God would give me strength, peace, and grace, and that I wouldn't be reduced to a blubbering ball of tears.  He answered my prayers and I didn't cry at all until the drive home.

Fast forward to this weekend, where his youngest brother, who I met when he wasn't even a teenager, who became one of my dearest friends very early on, his wife, and their infant son came to visit.  I hadn't seen them in over a year at all, since a family gathering I felt completely out of place at the summer before.  I was excited and anxious at the prospect of the three of them here, in our new home, for the first time.  I didn't want it to be awkward or silent or feel like there was a giant chasm in our relationship.  

We had a good time over lunch, watching our children laugh and play, and reminiscing some and talking about life now.  We exchanged multiple hugs, and when they left, I didn't cry at all.  I felt at peace, and I was so relieved.  

His twin brother is married to one of my dearest friends, and they live nearby.  (He was at our place also when the youngest brother was here.)  They've been around before, during, and after my life crumbled, and they've never wavered.  We see them regularly and my children adore them, as do I.  We were blessed to be able to have an afternoon adventure with them at the science center, which the children talked about the rest of the evening.  The science center and their baby cousin.  It was a good day.

Today, the children and I were journeying to my former-husband's father and step-mother's house about an hour away.  Up until today, I hadn't been there in nearly two years.  The last time we went was Thanksgiving in 2014.  He had shown up late, angry, and bitter, and the drive there was wretched, as was the drive home.  Knowing this and feeling some of the residual emotions still lingering, the prospect of going back there today, without him, was uneasy.  But, in my heart, I felt I needed to.

As I was preparing myself for the adventure today, I told a friend that it's sort of like ripping another band-aid off my heart.

The wounds that were left when our marriage crumbled were deep, intense, gaping holes.  I remembered him vividly telling me that no matter what happened, I would always be a part of his family, not only because of the kids, but because they loved me.  I tried to believe him, but always was weary of the truth, because so many of the things that he had told me in that period were blatant lies.    

While I have been in contact with the majority of his family this entire time, I hadn't gone back to his parents homes, and I hadn't seen most of them much at all, because, for all of us, it was painful.  We may not have spoken it, but it was true.  He ripped all our hearts up a bit, and seeing each other was a vivid reminder of that- the life and lives he helped create and then abandoned.  There are always questions, but most of the time they are unspoken, because we know we do not understand or have the answers.  

I have ripped nearly all of the band-aids off, in regard to his family, the other half of my family.  

Some of it remained constant, and some things have changed.

I think the changed have helped me, honestly.

There were slight differences at his mom's house.  New photos of my kids on the fridge, the basement looking completely different from it was the years I spent hanging out in it.

His youngest brother and his wife have a son.  They visited us here, our new apartment where he has never set foot.

His dad and step-mom have new furniture.  I know that sounds trivial and silly, but it wasn't like walking into a big time machine, and the newness of it helped me ease back into the walls.

I mustered up the courage to see these people all again, without him, in new circumstances, a year or more later from the times that were very meaningful in this journey.  I am so glad I did.

Because I realized, for once, he was right.  He didn't lie when he said his family would embrace me as their own, and that they wouldn't shut me out.  I haven't been replaced, and my children and I are loved and welcomed.  They still hug me and tell me they love me, and of course they do the same for my children.  Yes, there's still pain and awkward pauses, but they don't sever us like they could.  Yes, we still wonder, and yes, I still cry.  I may cry each and every time.  I don't know that it will ever be a completely pain-free experience, though I pray that it will.

 I cried today when I left his dad's house.  I realized in the moment they were hugging me that he was right about his family.  

I ripped the band-aids, and the wounds have healed.  Yes, they've scarred over some, but they're no longer gaping.   Things are definitely not the same, but they're not terrible.  In the pain we all feel, we still feel joy and blessings.  Each of the times I ripped the band-aid off, I have been told that his family hopes to see us again soon, and that they are proud of me and my children.  

I think... I think I am proud of us, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And there he goes...

Today arrived too quickly.  I willed time to slow down, but as always, it pressed on.

And as it goes, so did my first baby... Right through the doors of the elementary school and into kindergarten.

For the past couple weeks, he has been fluctuating between extremely excited and quite terrified.  He was very nervous at the meet and greet and wouldn't even talk to his teacher.  Yesterday, we talked about what today would be like, and after, he didn't want much to do with me until bedtime prayer.

We prayed over today, asking for bravery, peace, and excitement.  We prayed for him, his siblings, his momma, his teacher, and his friends.

This morning, he woke up peacefully.  I let him choose which shirt he wanted to wear for his first day of Kindergarten.  He had breakfast quietly while telling me he wasn't sure he wanted to go after all.  I reminded him that if he needed it, I would "share my brave," though quite honestly, I was feeling a lack of bravery myself and spent the morning trying to quell any emotions except excitement because I didn't want to trigger any negative emotions within him.

I asked if we could take pictures of him with his backpack.  He asked why, and I said "because this is an important day that we will want to remember forever, the day you were very brave, and started your new journey at school."  He agreed to do it, and started getting super excited.  I could hardly keep him still or focused while we stood out front of our apartments taking photos.

He began chattering about his new backpack from his Grandma and how he couldn't wait to show his teacher.  He told me he would give her a hug when he got to school.

We loaded the van up and dropped his back-pack clothed siblings off at daycare.  His sister went on like nothing was unusual, but his brother refused to leave the van.  He had a very tearfilled drop off, knowing he was going to be in a new room at daycare and his big brother wasn't going to be there at all.

Then, together, my first baby, the boy who made me mommy, my blue-eyed son and I went to elementary school.  While I thought that the excessive amount of other children and parents and commotion would make him anxious and scared, it didn't.  He got sad when we had to drive by the school and park a few blocks away, thinking we wouldn't get there in time.

We walked, hand in hand, to the school.  He had a moment where he was nervous, and he said, "Mom, will you tell me a joke?"  I gave him a quick interrupting cow, and he laughed hysterically, and all was well.  We took a photo together to commemorate this walk together, just us, on our first day of school.

When we arrived at the school, he remembered exactly where the blue door was, and he took the lead to walking us there, still holding hands.  We found his line, and he saw his teacher.  He shrieked her name, went running, and did what he said he would- he gave her a huge hug.  Then he showed her his backpack and his new school shoes and told her he was really happy to see her.  She hugged him back and beamed a huge smile at me as we remembered the scared little boy from just a over a week ago.

One of his friends from daycare showed up right behind us, and he hugged her and he shared his brave with her, as she was nervous too.  I couldn't help but just smile and hug him over and over and tell him how proud I was of him.

He kept asking why he was going to kindergarten.  I would tell him "because you're so smart, you've graduated preschool, and since you're five, you start the new school adventure."  Each time, he would just grin at me.

We stood there talking a while longer, before the bell rang.  I hugged him close, kissed him, and he said he loved me.  I told him I loved him so much and was so very proud of him.  We took one last photo together before he went in, and he walked bouncily in line to the doors, turning around every couple steps to look back, wave, at me, and smile.

And then the was gone.

I miss him so much already.  It's funny, because I've spent countless days without him. Although, this is the first time I've really left him with people I don't really know, who aren't my coworkers, friends, or family.  It's a scary new world out there for a momma trying to let go and let her baby boy grow up.

I didn't cry at all until now.  Now, I sit here, huge tears rolling down my face and splattering my shirt.

God answered our prayers, and he was strong, excited, and brave. I am so very thankful.

But my heart aches anyway.

I'm a little angry, too, that his dad is missing out on it all, by his own choice.  I'm sad for my kindergartner who misses his dad, and his dad who doesn't really embrace what he's missing. His lack of interest and absence is always felt, but days like today it stings a little sharper and cuts a little deeper.  It makes us stronger and braver though, I suppose.

But it's going to be okay.  God's got this.  Just like always.

I can't wait until 2:45 when I see him leaving the blue doors, running toward me, for another hug. I cannot wait to hear about his day and all of the things they did at school.  I can't wait to see his grin, and have him with me again.  And then, tomorrow, we start it all over.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

To Ollie Bear for his 4th birthday

Dear Ollie Bear, 

Tonight, as I chase you back into your room for the third time, you are a bubbling ball of three-year-old energy.

In the morning, you'll be a groggy, pint-sized four-year-old.

I know I say it all too often, but I can hardly believe it is happening.  How did I blink so many times that another year has gone by?  It hurts my heart to see the days passing so quickly, knowing that I haven't savored enough moments to last my lifetime, and taking those that have gone by for granted more often than I dare to admit.

I am sorry, Ollie Bear, for letting time pass us by so quickly.   I wish I could pause it and we could stay here just a little longer.

Dear boy, you are such a complex combination of gentle spirit, fire-cracker temper, detail oriented dirt magnet of a lad.  You are intense, but soft.  You are quiet, and so boisterous.  You are calm, and you are ferocious.  You have so many facets, and I know we haven't discovered most of them yet.

You have a vivid imagination that never ceases to surprise and amuse me.  Just the other night, you told me that your shirt transformed into a new shirt, when I asked what happened to the clothes you were wearing.  I laughed so hard.

You know so many things, and you try so hard to understand what you don't know.  I love the intrigue in your spirit and the thirst in your mind.

I love your laughter, and I hope that I will never forget what it sounded like in these early years.  I can hear it so clearly in my mind now that it causes tears to trickle, because it causes my heart to swell with so much joy.

Another thing I really love about you, is that even when you're mad at someone, me included, you almost always will big bear hugs, and you don't stay mad when you are squeezed super tight. I hope you never lose that.

You're at that awkward stage where you're "little-big," wanting so badly to be a big boy, but still so very small.  I pray you'll stay small a little longer in some ways, like how you're usually up for a cuddle, no matter when or where, but progress to big in others (I wouldn't mind you being out of diapers every moment of the day, but I promise I will try to change them at night without frustration knowing full-well someday I'll miss that side of little, too).

Buddy, I promise that I will continue to work on my patience and grace, and trying to spend time with just you, even if it's in minute fragments here and there.  I never want you to feel forgotten or overlooked "in the middle" of your siblings and in the chaos of our lives.  

I pray you will always feel loved, and you'll never feel alone. I pray you know your worth, not only to me and those who love you, but to God.  I pray that you'll never feel unworthy of anyone's affection, knowing that in the years to come, you may struggle due to the events in your toddler-hood.  I pray that you always love learning, creating, laughing, hugging, reading, and dancing.  I pray you give yourself grace and moments to breathe because of your intense spirit.

I pray you know how much your siblings love you, and how you are best friend to both of them, even when you're not getting along.  

As much as I wish you could stay little for a while longer, I am so excited to see what great things God has in store for you.  He has a plan for you, and while I don't know what it is, it excites me to my core.

Collin Liam, you're a treasure.  You are mine, and I'm so blessed that I am yours.

All my Love,
Momma Bear

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sometimes, I'm the baby.

My children... They're little. They're not tiny. They're not babies. But they're not big.

Sometimes, though, they seem so big.

With fall rolling around, we have so many milestones coming up. I'll soon have a kindergartener, and also a 4 year-old, a 6 year-old, and a 2.5 year-old.

We have lived in our apartment for over a year, making it the longest home my daughter has ever had.

I've been listening to my children talk and play a lot more lately. I've slowed myself down and just observed. They're all so intelligent and so hilarious. They're polite and kind. They're loving. They're naughty. They're kids.

Today, I laid in my bed watching the younger two play. For no reason that I could immediately pinpoint, I was suddenly in tears. 

They fell and they fell, leaving river trails down my face onto my pillow.

The years have been so hard. They've been insanely exhausting. They've been incredibly overwhelming and exceedingly trying. They've been a whirlwind that seemed to last forever in some moments.

But they passed so quickly at the same time.

My first baby, the one who turned my world upside down in great ways and made me momma... His years at home with me during the week day are done. They have been for almost two years of course, but somehow knowing he's going from daycare to school... It is the end of his baby, toddler, and preschool days. He's a "big kid," now. I don't know how he got so big so fast. 

I called him into my room to hug me. He asked why, and all I could say is "because I love you and want to hold you." He obliged but looked at me like he thought I was crazy.

I just want to hold him on my lap and rock him a while.

My heart can't handle it.

The second child, the fierce one... He's so little but so big. He will be four in days. He is still pint-sized, which makes him seem younger sometimes. But I watch him play, color, write, and listen to him talk, and it's clear he's not a baby, and he's not a toddler anymore. All of his baby and toddler pudge and rolls are gone. Soon he likely won't wear diapers to bed anymore. He could start school next year.

My heart can't handle it.

Then there's the youngest. She is so self-sufficient. She spins and dances and asks me to watch her and I can't stop watching her golden curls twirl around her face as she giggles incessantly. I watch her cuddle her kitty (our cat) in the morning and take care of her babies. When I listen, I hear her teaching them things. She loves to draw circles and she can draw her own bath, too. She wands to choose her own outfits. But, thankfully for my heart, she still is part baby, though mostly toddler. She still asks me to hold or carry her sometimes. I don't always want to, but sometimes I need to, because all too soon she won't want me to. Her baby days are numbered and her toddler days are flying by.

My heart can't handle it.

So, I become overwhelmed with tears. I gather them all on the couch to watch a movie so they don't notice the tears still trickling.

Their little days are numbered. This makes me the baby now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I am (not) Clara.

A little over a week ago, one of my very besties had her first published novel released to the world.

THE GIRL BEFORE, by Rena Olsen, is an amazing piece of literature for many reasons.

This post contains slight spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet and are wanting to, I suggest you head to Amazon, Target (or, or Barnes & Noble (or and get your own copy. I believe you can read it safely without it giving away too much of the book.

This book is poignant and it deals with a hard, but extremely important topic that affects nearly every country in the world today, millions of people, including those in the United States. Years back, I blogged about the topic because it's so striking and important.

From the first page, each time I read it, I was hooked into the story. 

But one thing, above all, really resonates with me, especially this most recent time I read it.


Clara is the leading lady in the book. It's her story. While I read, I found myself drawn deeply to her, becoming attached, empathizing with her so strongly that I could feel it in my core.  

A few days past my most recent read through the book, a friend told me that I reminded her of Clara.  Something struck me there, and it's been on my mind since.

I am not Clara, but yet, I am.

As many know, I've been through the control, manipulation, mind games, deceit, betrayal, neglect, and abandonment of a former husband who disappeared over a year ago from mine and my childrens' lives.

As I trudged through the loss, the further down the road I traveled, the more lies I uncovered, the more crazy plot twists and details I unveiled, the more widespread effects of his choices I understood, and the more overwhelmed and confused I became.

But I never gave up hope. I never stopped believing in the good. I never stopped holding onto faith. I never gave up on love.

I saw how naive I was at times for believing in him so deeply, and for allowing myself to be convinced he was a good person making bad decisions "to benefit his family" as he claimed. I forgave him multiple times and took him back. I allowed myself to take a stand for him, beside him, helping him fight his battles and clean up his messes when he lead me to believe it was necessary because he couldn't do it himself. I allowed myself to believe in his web of lies so strongly that I would stand up for him and fight for others to believe, too.

I trusted. I believed it was okay. I believed I was doing the right thing.

But then my world shattered and he was gone and I began to see the truth, and see the world so much more clearly.

I began to understand that I loved him deeply, but I didn't love the things he did or who he became. I understood I could love and let him go. 

I began to see my own strength. I began to relax and worry less. I began to gain control.

And then, I did what I never thought I would do. I stood up against him, fighting for myself and my children. I fought for him to be held responsible, all on his own, for the things that he did.

Because it wasn't me.  I may have been there, but it wasn't me and they weren't my messes.

I stopped fighting so hard to hold him close and fought to let him go. 

So much of what I believed to be true and real wasn't. I could be cynical and jaded. I could be bitter and spiteful. I could have given up on hope and what's good.  

But I didn't.

Good things can come from the bad things of the past. 

Today, I'm a new woman. I'm the lone parent and provider of my household. God is the foundation of our home and I'm the pillar of our family. I walk with my head held high, with joy in my heart, hope in my soul, even on the saddest or loneliest days. 

Because I am Clara, even if I'm not.

When I briefly discussed this with my friend, the author, she said this.

"I hope a lot of women in those sorts of relationships (like mine) will find a way to relate to Clara."

I think that's largely the beauty of the book. She's taken a serious subject (that you should read the book to learn more about, as I am not telling you exactly what the subject is here), pulled at your heart and caused your mind to think about it. It should anger you and stir within you the desire for action, really.  It should make you uncomfortable and passionate.

But, she also introduces you to this beautiful brown haired, green eyed, hopeful, confused, strong, brave woman that I believe so many can relate to. While their stories are likely to be quite different, there's going to be countless women who see themselves in th pages. Perhaps they'll only be at the beginning of her story, or perhaps they'll be more toward the last chapters or somewhere in between. If they're only at the beginning, I hope at the end of the book they see hope and the promise of better tomorrows. And, if they're where I am, more toward the last chapter of the harrowing story, they'll be able to look back and see just how far they, and Clara, have come.

While my friend has no idea I wrote this (or at least doesn't know I am writing it but will soon), I urge you to check out her site: for more info and links to be in touch with her.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It would have been Tin.

Ten years. 

Tomorrow, ten years ago, I vowed my life, my love, my best and worst, my all... To the man I knew I would love until I died. I married the man who agreed that divorce was never an option. We discussed how we wished we would never have to live without the other and how it would be a blessing to live full lives together, seeing our grandchildren grow, and dying alongside one another in our 90s.

Tomorrow is our ten year wedding anniversary.

Not "would have been" our anniversary.

You see, even though our marriage died this year, that date- August 5 still lives on. The demise of our marital union doesn't negate that it existed and our wedded lives began on this date ten years ago.

I didn't understand that concept until this year.

Now, I cannot say we've been married for 10 years. We were only married for nine. So I'm not celebrating 10 years of marriage. But I am cherishing the fact that I was able to experience the love of fairytales (even if it may have been false, I still do not know and often wonder), that I was chosen as a wife, that I found someone to give my heart to and love fiercely, deeply, and unconditionally.

And I mourn the loss. I may cry over the devastation I feel over watching nine years of marriage crumble away and for the loss of what would have been another year.

August 5 was the day I dreamed and waited my whole young life for.

August 5 is now the day that could make my throat constrict, bile surge in my stomach, and tears burn tracks down my face.

I can honestly say that while I know I am better off now, not constricted and delusioned in an unhealthy marriage, the passing of this day for the first time as a divorced woman hurts the heart. 

He promised me forever. He severed the promise and crushed my heart, but in the process, he made me much stronger, more courageous, more grounded, and allowed me to deepen my faith and stance on my stronghold than I ever thought possible.  In a weird way, it's all been a heart-wrenching blessing.

I look back on the day with a heart full of joy, knowing that I was truly, deeply, full of love and overjoyed that he had chosen me to be his companion. I took time to look at our wedding photos, and I didn't cry. I smiled at the happiness beaming from my face, from his face, from the faces of our loved ones. I remembered the excitement that overcame me as I went to his ring on his finger and tried to force it on the wrong hand. I remember the anticipation of forever together, and the incomparable blessing I felt at becoming his wife.

I don't cry over that day. I may cry over the crushing loss of it all.

But then, my tears will subside as I look at myself today. I'm more level-headed than I think I ever have been. I'm part easy-going, but part stubborn, balancing when to let the punches roll and when to put up a fight. The heart that was shattered is mending, and somehow, instead of smaller, it's bigger and capable of even more love than ever before.  Even on my darkest days, there's always a glimmer of hope, and two years ago, I am not certain that was completely true. I know what it is to have the ground ripped from beneath me and my breath siphoned away, but I also know what it feels like to overcome, to really stand tall, firm, and strong.

The 9 years of marriage transitioned from bliss to a bit of a nightmare, but with each passing year, I was given so much. I was blessed with memories of love, and I was shown who I really am as a woman of God, in times of great strife. My former husband, even in his continued absence, has given me so much. 

As much as it hurts to see this day come and go, I'm so thankful it ever existed. In the pain, there's joy, and in the sadness, there's peace. It's a heartache and a blessing. The depth of meaning behind this ten year anniversary is so great, I am not sure I am able to fully discover and embrace it yet. I guess that's something to look forward to in the anniversaries to come.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Those Awesome Obnoxious Pants

It's time.  It's been time for quite some time, I know, but I had ignored it for way too long.

What's it time for? 

Those awesome, obnoxious (dare I say slightly derranged, possibly somewhat ugly) pants.
Yes.  I have invested in three pairs of cheap workout pants.  They are the kind of pants that many have worn for a long time, that I always would roll my eyes at (mentally) and wonder what on earth is wrong with people who wear them.

Now, I own them.  Now, I'm wearing them.  I'm wearing them at this very moment.  And, I'm rolling my eyes (mentally) at myself, wondering what on earth is wrong with me.  They're so boisterous.  I am not a boisterous individual by nature.  I prefer to not be noticed most of the time.  And here I am, in bright, loud, workout pants.    

Why this change?

I have been wondering that for a while now, which is why I haven't actually talked much about it.

I've been going through a lot over the past years when she has been transforming.  My transformations have been different.  I went through the betrayal, abandonment, homelessness, emotional manipulation (and so many more things) associating with the ending of my marriage.  I worked hard just to stay awake most of the days, to feed my kids, to work, to smile, to laugh, to cuddle, to hug, to pray, to hope, to cook, to clean, to breathe.  I struggled through countless emotional days and weepy nights.  I was on a rollercoaster like I had never known existed.  I transformed, I know.  I don't always see which ways I've transformed.  It's rare I can detail the changes to anyone.  

Some transformations have been by choice.  Some have been necessity and God's sifting in my life to purify, change me, and mold me into the woman he's called me to be for the plan He has for me, whatever it is.  

This change... this one is deliberate, an unexpected choice. 

On Mother's Day, I had the blessing of being able to spend a long stretch of kid-free hours with my Bean (for those new around here, that would be my cousin Tarah, who has been one of my best friends since college).  For the past couple of years, she's taken an active role in bettering herself on many levels, but one of them has been with physical health and fitness.  One she's shed pounds and inches and gained so much confidence, energy, and enthusiasm.   

I can't say that there was a single conversation we had, or a single activity we did, or any moment that I just hit this switch, but after that weekend, I decided it was my turn.

Mother's Day weekend, I decided it was time to tackle one of the most seemingly cumbersome transformations there are- physical.  I decided it was time to pay more attention to my body, my meals, my exercise, my sleep.  Instead of staying up two extra hours every night so that I could have quiet, alone time without my kids, I go to bed earlier.  I read food packages, though I occasionally still eat something not as good for you.  I have nearly all-together stopped drinking soda.  I've been trying to not push myself so hard, especially with the rib that still hurts.  

The most shocking thing though- the pants.  

It's not necessarily the pants themselves (well, okay it kind of is), but what they represent.  They were a treat to myself after I willingly joined a group of women on (for $2 a month, which wasn't a daunting investment so I couldn't think of any great excuses since I gave up soda after all, and NO this isn't a sponsored post) and completed 12 consecutive days of 12-18 minutes worth of workouts called Core Camp.  I sweat my face off and I even enjoyed it.  I wasn't daunted by the pain in my rib cage, because when it hurt too much, I modified.  She (Courtney, founder of MommaStrong) said I could and should modify things.  Instead of feeling guilty for doing that, I felt empowered. I felt smart.  

Somewhere along the 12 days, while I powered my way clumsily through workouts in front of my kids who questioned what in the world I was doing and why, I realized I was looking forward to the workouts.  I was looking forward to reclaiming this piece of myself. I was looking forward to taking control of yet another part of my life that felt overwhelming and cumbersome, daunting and embarrassing.

If you know me, I've never been one who talks about working out.  I love to go on walks, and back before I went to college and had a bicycle, I loved to ride bike.  That's about it.  I lift my babies and babies at work.  That's sort of a workout.  I clean.  That is slightly sort of a workout.  But otherwise... nope.  I had no desire to get sweaty and gross because I was too weak and fat and whatever else and it just seemed pointless.  There was so much  negative talk within myself and I didn't even realize it until I realized it was slowly being silenced.

I can think of fifty excuses (guesstimating) why I couldn't, shouldn't, didn't want to work out.  No space. No time. No energy. No money. No privacy.  No strength.  No, no, no, no, no.

Then I said yes.  I just gave in and said yes.

I'm proud of myself.  Sure, I'm still overweight, I'm still out of shape, I'm still weak. My rib still bothers me and some days it hurts to take deep breaths.  I'm still tired.  I'm still busy and I certainly don't have the privacy.   I still can't do a push up or a pull up, and my running distance is small.

But I'm doing it, or I'm trying to.  And in doing it, I'm silencing the lies that I've told myself, I'm silencing the enemy and I'm breaking off his strongholds.  I'm diligently working (sometimes minute by minute) to shut down the devil and keep him from bringing me down in this area of my life as I have had to in so many others.  I'm doing it. I'm trying to.

I'm working on it. I'm working out.

My oldest recently asked me why I work out and why I exercise. I told him something along the lines of "I do it because it's good for me. It makes me stronger, healthier, and a better mom and a better person.  And I'm the only mommy they have, so I better take good care of myself, for me, and for them.

With that let me tell you- if I can do it, you can do it.  I have so many things working against me, so many reasons why it would be easier not to, so many reasons to just be complacent.  They're legitimate, for the most part.  I know we all have them. 

But yeah... The pants.. they're super comfortable.  They're still kind of ugly.  But they're kind of awesome.