Thursday, September 14, 2017
The world lost an incredible man. I've known for years just how incredible this man was. He had been around my entire memorable life. I was in his wedding as a toddler, when he joined as one with my dear aunt.
Or at least, I thought I knew.
But it turns out, it takes someone being gone forever to realize that what you know isn't all there is to know. What you know is only the surface, and the depths of what you don't know reach further than you'll ever begin to uncover.
It's overwhelming, really.
As family and friends gathered today to bid our earthly farewell to this incredible man, I realized just how small our words are when it comes to the life of an individual.
Obituaries and eulogies are beautiful, significant, and often poetic, but they too just scratch the surface.
On my return home, I began to dwell on this fact. It seemed to me, in a way, that obituaries trivialize and marginalize a person's entire existence into a few key facts that are out there for others, so they can get the highlights, if you will, of someone who many held dearly.
Listening to people talk about my uncle, Gregg Edward DeSmith, born June 12, 1964, to his parents, Dorothy and Edward, who passed away on Saturday, September 9, 2017, it became all to clear to me that the man I knew and loved for my entire life was even more incredible than my small mind could comprehend. Gregg, the devoted husband of Linda, and beloved father to Sasha (and Kyle), Carissa, who left this earth at age 2, and Hannah (and Dylan), wonderful grandfather to Kalesia, Elijah, and Miles, dear brother to many, uncle to even more, and friend to countless others, was a man of Jesus. It was evident today, as I heard about his life and saw numerous people whose lives he touched.
It overwhelmed me, as I longed to be able to tell him that I admired that in him.
He and I spoke occasionally on aspects of God. I never really pressed in, knowing he believed in God and was raised in a Catholic church, the one in which he was baptized, married, and said goodbye to today in the Mass of Christian Burial. He knew more about my faith journey than I did his, and today, I felt selfish for not knowing more about what he believed to be true.
But, at the same time, I could see in the way he lived.
Gregg had a servant's heart. He spent countless hours with those in need, in both small and large ways. He devoted time, energy, love, and so much more to those around him. He did so with a willing heart. He did so, expecting nothing in return, and often wouldn't accept anything in return. It wasn't all that long ago that he saved me in a small way, where my van window wouldn't go all the way up, and it was about to rain for my two hour drive home. He was on it in a flash and had a temporary solution that still enabled me to see, and I made it home safe and dry, so relieved and thankful for the small gift he was delighted to give me.
He went out of his way to take you aside and tell you that he was proud of you. No matter what you had done, no matter where you had come from, no matter where you were going, or what you had been through, he saw you as you were, a human, full of giving and receiving love, and he let it be known that you were worthy. He built you up in spirit and mind. I cannot personally recall an instance I heard him tear someone down.
He loved and served the least of these, just like Jesus did.
His love for his family was unconditional and overwhelming. He stood faithfully at my aunt's side for 32 glorious years that were no stranger to stress and sorrow, trials and tribulations, but also great joy and blessing. They were one. You could see it and you could feel it when you were with them.
Gregg loved spending time with people. He had a jolly laugh and a great wit. He wore a smile often. He loved to tell a joke and hear the laughter of others as well. Some of my best memories of him were at his farm, where my large family would gather for days on end. He would go all out to ensure each gathering was phenomenal. He had such great humble pride in welcoming us all and allowing us to create everlasting, joyful memories.
He was a delightful mix of manly man and teddy bear, who loved fixing things, classic cars (both real and miniature), go carts and his Harley. He collected countless unique and older things and loved to share them with people around him. He loved the outdoors and having a great time with family and friends.
He was adored by so many. Children and adults alike could call him a friend. My oldest son, who is not quite seven, sobbed this weekend, as he realized just how great a buddy Gregg was to him, and how devastating it was to know that they would not be making memories together anymore. He told me about how Gregg helped him to be brave, and how cool it was when he finally rode go cart for the first time, and how Gregg told him he was a little man now. Gregg knew when to encourage my kids and when to be silly, and each of the three of them loved him deeply for that reason.
He was a great buddy to most everyone he met, I feel. I heard so many claim that over the past two days.
He is going to be missed daily, wholly, intensely, by countless people who knew and loved him, who he loved in return. Knowing that his all-encompassing bear hugs will never be given again leaves my shoulders feeling vulnerable and cold. I know I'll receive hugs for the rest of my life, but not one will be quite like his.
Gregg loved the phrase "No Regrets." I smiled as I heard that, because long ago, I had coined that phrase for myself. I didn't live it like he did though, as I sit here tonight, regretting that I hadn't told him one more time that I loved him, thanked him for all he did for us, and for the endless encouragement and support he never ceased to provide for me and my children. I regret not taking more photos of him with the people he loved and not having photographic proof of the hardest working hands I remember seeing. Even with life gone from his body, when you saw him this week, you saw the proof that he worked endlessly to provide for his family and his friends, the stain left behind on his fingerprints as a reminder of how much he gave of himself.
I know with all of my heart that he is with our Jesus now, and my children have reminded me multiple times, through tear-riddled eyes, that his soul is in heaven. I stand firm in my faith and thankful for everlasting life and salvation through Christ, but at the same time, my human heart and limited mind is having a most difficult time envisioning our lives without him. I see the farm, and it feels emptier knowing he will never be pulling down the driveway in one of his vehicles, never racing around on a go-kart or hauling with a tractor. He won't be building or bringing new and exciting fun to us all, or helping the children feed the birds. His spirit will never leave, but his body and his voice will never be with us as we sit in the summer sun. That realization takes the wind out of my lungs for a moment and burns my eyes with tears. I know I'm not alone in this space, missing him so much already, being devastated for us left behind, and overjoyed for he who will never again know sadness.
His body is gone, but his light can shine on. I hope that his loss will encourage others to live a life like his, showing Jesus inside us to others.
I sit here, exhausted and weary, writing away, knowing that although my words are more in number than an obituary or even some eulogies, they do not suffice. They will also never begin to scratch the surface of the life that Gregg lived.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Today was another milestone day in our little family's journey. Today was another first day of school. Today, my oldest son started first grade. Today, my younger son started kindergarten.
It was a day we had been anticipating for months, after making the decision to register for kindergarten. That decision in itself was harder than accompanying the boys to school today, because my new kindergartener's birthday was cut-off day. He attended a couple different pre-kindergarten schooling adventures prior, and both sets of teachers said they thought he was ready, so I registered him and we began talking and planning for the big day to arrive.
Today was that big day.
The most emotional one this morning was their little sister, who has been heartbroken for days at the realization that she would not be able to attend kindergarten this year OR next year. She really, really really, really, really, really wants to go. She says so herself. I've tried to explain how awesome it will be to have momma all to herself if I don't have to work some mornings while the boys are at school, but so far... she's not sold.
To keep her in good spirits, or at least the best possible spirits, we decided that we would all accompany her into daycare this morning, so she wouldn't have to watch the boys leave her, rather, they hugged her goodbye, told her they loved her, and hoped she had a good day.
The boys and I then made the short trek to the elementary school. We arrived early, which was my plan, so that they could play on the playground a bit and get out any nervous energy left over. We took some photos together, and some of them individually. When the bell was about to ring, we went searching for their class lines, and I left my oldest with his class and walked the younger to his. I stood beside him, talking him through the process of the bell ringing, and how when they started to walk into the school, I would not be able to go with him. He was very calm about it all, and then I ran back to his brother... twice.... to surprise hug him and tell him I was proud of and excited for him. When the bell rang, the kindergarten class went in first, and Collin turned around, smiled, and waved at me as his class went inside. As soon as I could no longer see him, I ran once more to Spencer, for one last hug, and watched him smiling and waving as he too went into the school.
And just like that, off they went.
Their days were filled with excitement and some frustration. First grade was reportedly the most awesome and the teacher was top notch, so says my son. Kindergarten was a bit of a struggle, but knowing that my kindergartener was literally the youngest in the class and the youngest one could be to be in school that year prepared me for that report. When I asked him how school was, he reported it was good, and he liked his teacher, and yes, he did get in trouble a some times. It's a learning curve, and I'm just going to pray he adjusts quickly (because I know he resists change and new authority), and that soon, his days will be as wonderful as his brother claims they are. I would covet your prayers on the matter, too.
When we got home tonight, the little sister was overjoyed to see her brothers, and that they still all matched. She asked if she could go to school tomorrow, but she didn't cry when we told her she still had two years to wait.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Mister Man, I know we definitely have our differences There are countless ways that it seems we are exact opposites, which makes for some interesting power and stubborn struggles on a regular basis. You're loud, I'm quiet. You're a firecracker, I'm more of a Scentsy warmer. You're demanding, I'm requesting. You love dirt, I prefer dirtless. You hate pants, I love pants.
But we are also very similar. You love with your entire heart, for better or worse, and you have a huge heart in your tiny body. You care when others are sad and hurting, and you take great care in protecting your treasures. You love to snuggle, to read, to wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, to sit and watch the clouds go by, to oogle over babies, and to just sit and be still (sometimes). You have great passion. We share that, for sure.
You're starting to really come into your own now, little big boy. It's exciting to me to watch your interests unfold. You play sometimes that you don't really "know" stuff, but the moment my head is turned, you blow me away and share your knowledge when you think I'm not paying attention. You're incredibly intelligent, and it makes me proud. I'm amazed with the way your mind works. You've even begun to help me with problem solving of my own from time to time! Just the other week, I was struggling to figure out how to do a project to make some paint stick on a shiny surface, and you simply said "why don't you paint the back." It made perfect sense. Thanks for your genius, Ollie.
This year has been filled with joy and reunification, but also repeated loss, and I know that makes it a little bit of a tarnished birthday for you. You've been looking for one who isn't around again, and I know that puts some cracks in your little big heart. But buddy, I promise you, even though one isn't there, you're completely surrounded and enveloped by the love of countless others who are, and I know for a fact that God is going to heal those cracks right up for you in time.
As much as I wish you weren't already turning five, and away from your baby and toddler years toward the big, bright world of elementary school, I am thrilled to see what the fifth year has in store for you. You're going to blossom so much more, I can feel it in my heart. It's going to be an overwhelming and wonderful world for us all, and I'm so thankful that I am such an integral part of yours.
Ollie Bear, thank you so much for being you. Thank you for the struggles you provide that make me a better mommy, and thank you for the calm and love you give me all the same. Thank you for loving me no matter what we go through, and for being excited to see me at the end of every day. Thank you for never withholding a hug, even if you're mad. Thank you for showing me love I didn't know I had. Thank you, for being mine.
I pray that we both have patience, grace, and mercy as this next year continues. I know that there's going to be big bumps in our road, heated moments, loud voices, and struggles all over. But, there's going to be thousands of hugs, millions of giggles, tons of kisses, and infinite love. And that's just from me... it doesn't include your brother, your sister, your family, your friends... your village.
I love you, Ollie Bear.
Happy Birthday, when you wake.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Last night, we arrived home right at bedtime, and the kids willingly went into their room to prepare for rest. They laid there quietly and happily for a few minutes while I got stuff ready before going in to do bedtime prayer and gratitude, give hugs and kisses, and wish them goodnight.
Then, as is common lately, one by one, they all had reasons to get up, or call for me in the other room. I try diligently to always have a positive attitude or at very least a kind voice when I re-enter, but it's a struggle sometimes. Especially on nights like last night where it was already nine o'clock and I had a list of various duties to tend to before excusing myself to bed.
Eventually, they coaxed me into laying among all three of them on their bedroom floor, one laying across my arm while both arms were splayed to my sides playing with the two youngest's hair. The fish tank light was off, the van on for white noise, and I laid there struggling to stay awake myself, my to-do list playing repeatedly in my mind. That's when the thoughts started rolling in as well.
"This is so hard."
"This is so exhausting."
"There aren't enough hours in the day."
"There's not enough of this Momma to go around."
"I don't know how I'm going to do keep doing this."
"Its going to take some sort of super human strength or some kind of super powers to keep this up forever."
Eventually, they all drifted off to sleep. I did a half-baked job on my nightly duties and then flopped myself into my own bed. Then, I realized I had a few more things to do, rolled on out, finished up, and returned. Then I realized the door wasn't locked. So, I got up again, locked the door, and then fed the cats, got some water, and went back to bed again. I think I fell asleep around 11:20.
This morning, I woke, tired as usual, and forgot to make my coffee before we all marched out the door at 7:40. The children were all in fairly good moods for their shortage of sleep last night, and we were on our way.
As I sat in the waiting area at one of their appointments, the thoughts of last night replayed in my mind.
But today, they were reframed with a feeling of empowerment.
Parenting is hard. It's crazy hard. It's hard when there's two parents. It's harder when those parents are separated. It's even harder when you're doing it alone. At least, in my experience that's true, having done all three versions of parenting in the last 7 years.
Right now, I'm back to being a single parent. I mean single parent, as in not sharing the children with their other parent. I know that to some, co-parenting or shared-parenting is considered or felt to be single parenting. Again, in my experience, they're wildly different. So, as I said, I'm flying solo. I wish I wasn't, but I am, so I pull myself up by my bootstraps (oh wait, my boots are all strapless...) and I carry on day in and day out.
Even when it feels like it's too much. Even when I'm too tired. Even when my nerves are shot and my brain is fried, and I go to work with my pants on backwards (yes, that's happened, more than once actually, in the last couple weeks... maybe I should retire those pants).
I won't pretend to be a super woman. I won't claim to be a super hero. I won't boast to be a super mom. Because, quite honestly, I'm not. It may look spectators that I am when I calmly herd my three littles into a restaurant for supper, and they sit down quietly and excitedly tell the waitress their order. But then as soon as she turns her back, two of them are sword fighting in the booth, shortly before one of them bites the other one in the bathroom fighting over who uses what toilet stall. I hug the injured and break out my "mad voice" and my "mean Momma Bear glare" at the other while the wait staff smiles at me with a knowing look.
I don't have it all together. I'm not a super-hero, super woman, or super mom.
I'm your run-of-the-mill, ordinary single mom just doing the best she can, usually. Sometimes I'm not doing the best I can. Sometimes I'm doing what I can just to get through the moment... which I guess, in those moments, is actually probably the best I can.
I will be first to admit though, it does take some sort of super power to be a single mom, a co-parenting mom, or a happily married mom (or dad). Like I said, parenting is crazy tough.
So, as I sat there, this morning, reminsicing about last night as I choked down the straight black coffee I was accidentally given instead of my regular order in the drive-through this morning, after having forgotten to make my own at home like I usually do, I thought about these super powers that are needed.
And, I realized...
I DO have super power.
It's the power of the Holy Spirit. It's the power of Jesus. Its' the power of God.
As soon as I realized that, I had verses flooding in my mind, and I needed to share them here.
Because, if we want them, we can ALL have super powers.
Every single parent out there. Every single person without children out there. Every single child out there.
We're all equipped. We just have to seek them.
Ask God, He'll give them to you, freely, lovingly, and happily.
That's how I do life right now, when I'm too tired, too overwhelmed, too frustrated, too sad, too everything. I lay down on the floor with the lights out (or maybe as I drive in broad daylight in the van, or a hundred other places and ways) and I let God in. It's not always a conscious effort, to be honest. But, he reaches me, and he blesses me, and through every tear, every sleepless night, every pants-backward-at-work-Wednesday, every joyful-they-ordered-their-own-supper Friday, every big and little moment, I keep on keeping on. He's the One pulling me up, so I don't even need straps on my boots.
Sometimes, of course, I don't feel this way. I don't see it this way. Even as I write this today, knowing exactly how I make it through, I'm still exhausted and a bit overwhelmed (even knowing God's going to carry me through).
And you know what, those are my worst days.
I'm praying for less and less of those days, and more days where I'm fully aware of my super power, MY Super Hero. (Even on those days when I don't think I'll get through it, I know somehow I will, even if I'm too stubborn to admit the real reason. I'm imperfect.)
I'm praying the same for each of you.
Friday, July 28, 2017
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
That said, every so often, I believe God clearly directs me, and it can take me by complete surprise.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Thursday, June 1, 2017
That sounds unbelievable. It seems like just weeks ago (I guess it was if you want to be technical) that I was sitting here, tears falling, after dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten. Today, I dropped him off at school like it was no big deal, and wished his happy little self a wonderful last day of school.
We took his photo in his graduation year shirt, which he wasn't a fan of because it's too big, and I tried to explain how I want him to wear it every year on his last day of school so I can take his picture and compare. He told me I was silly, but agreed to it anyway, and I hugged him, telling him I was so proud of him for all that he's learned and accomplished this year, for how brave he's become, and how joyful he has been. I commended him on his perfect attendance, and his love for school, telling him how I loved school as a child as well. He didn't have much interest for sentimental time and just wanted to have a little down time in the living room by himself reading one of his newer books from his last book order while his younger siblings enjoyed a big of fresh air before supper and bedtime.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Why is it so hard to score points? Because there are a lot of people coming after and trying to stop you, blocking you and trying to pull you down. Just like sometimes it is hard for us to accomplish what we want to, because there are blockages or troubles or things in our way or people trying to keep us from our goals. But, they keep on trying until the time is up, and they get multiples tries each turn, like we can.
Why is there a halftime? Because they need a little break to rest and refuel before continuing. Kind of like when we take naps, or quiet time at home.
Why do they wear helmets? To protect their heads, like your bike helmet. Remember, the head you have now is the only one you get so you have to treat it well, just like I tell your brother 32 times a week.
Why are their uniforms red? Because it's a great color.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Tonight, as your brother did a year ago, you celebrated your very first graduation. You did it all in your own very unique style, with a lot of flair. It's amazing how sometimes you can be so much like your big brother, and then other times, it's like you are complete opposites.
Because of your very special birthday being on the last possible day to go to kindergarten next year, you were not only the youngest in your class, but one of the shortest and spunkiest. From the moment you walked into the sanctuary at church, you captured the attention. My heart about exploded while you stood up in front proclaiming "I love you, Mama" in front of everyone, even if you were talking over the person who was trying to speak to the crowd.
Uncle Jesse, Auntie Sam, and Belinda all joined in the celebration tonight, and you were delighted to have them there to celebrate. You waved enthusiastically at both of your siblings, who were excited to watch you perform. And... perform you did. You were the loudest, busiest one in the group. I wasn't surprised, and I was trying to hard not to stress out about the fact that you might have yelled at a couple people because you've definitely got a firecracker spirit and a mind of your own.
Your brother kept telling me how funny you were. Your sister kept telling me how awesome you were. And everyone knew you were ours.
You knew all the words, and so long as your tassle and your sash were on properly, you sang your little heart out and did explosive actions.
You were thrilled when you received your diploma and went running to hug your teacher.
Thank you for the goofy, joy-filled memories.
We are so proud of you. You've got big things ahead of you. I know sometimes, I wonder if you're listening or paying attention, but you prove time and time again that you are. You take after me in that you've got a vast expanse of trivia-type knowledge. You love the sea, shapes, colors, automobiles. You are stubborn though, so I never quite know what you know, because you only want to share on your own terms. Remember when I asked if you could write a 'C' and you said yes? I asked you to show me, you wrote an 'X' and I asked why. You said "Because I wanted to write an X, not a C."
That's how you roll, Ollie Bear.
I'm a little nervous for you to become a big boy and join the realms of elementary school. I worry that your temper may get the best of you, and your teachers might be a little overwhelmed. I hope they can give you hugs if you need, like your preschool teachers have learned to do. It almost always diffuses the situation and brings you back down to earth.
I know you're excited to go to school like your brother, and I know you'll love learning there too.
You've grown up so fast. I can hardly believe it. You're a graduate.
I love you, Ollie Bear. Thanks for all the joy you bring to my life, for teaching me unending patience and strength, and for not being ashamed to proclaim you love me, even when it's not perfect timing for the rest of the world. I'll never grow tired of hearing it.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Every so often, I'm laying in bed, and it overwhelms me like a flood...
Just how much I love my children.
These three precious littles, all born within 4.5 years, who have stolen my heart from the moment I knew they existed, cause my love to deepen more each passing day.
Some days, yes, I struggle. I am not always as grateful as I should be to be entrusted with their lives. I admit it. I have faults.
But, I am always appreciative that they are mine.
Some days are tough. They bicker or cause chaos. They exhaust me.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
I lay in the dark tonight overwhelmed with my love for them. I soaked my pillow with tears of joy as my heart aches to hear their laughter while also willing them to sleep soundly all night so I have some moments of silence.
The glimmer in their eyes as they proclaim their love for me is etched into my memory as I hear the faint echoes of their voices from the day we spent together.
For better or worse, God has entrusted me to be their mother. He has called me to lead them to Him. It's a joyfully bewildering realization as I daily question my strength, patience, and wisdom to do so.
I fall short sometimes, and I pray that they have the grace to forgive me, just as I pray for the grace to forgive them when they choose to wander from my guidance. God always forgives me, I always forgive them, and I can only hope that the example is clear.
Sometimes, I want a few minutes of personal space. Other times, I wish I could cuddle all three of them forever.
What a beautiful burden it is to live in paradoxical days like this.
With this love so deep, so fierce, and so overwhelming, I pray they never believe for a minute I feel anything less than pure agape (love).
Friday, April 14, 2017
Tonight, I laid you down, and you told me "tomorrow is my birthday, mama." We said our bedtime prayer, which ends "God is great, God is great (you insist we say it twice), AMEN!" You asked me for a kiss, and then a hug, and then to cover you up, and then for a kiss, and then for a hug, as you do almost every night. I closed the door behind me after hugging and kissing your brothers and turning out the light, and I breathed deeply as I realized that tonight is the last night of this year of your life. It tugs at my heart.
This is the first year you've shown excitement about it, after celebrating a few other birthdays over the year, your memory being much more acute, and feeling traditions take place as you and your brothers grow older. I'm excited for your excitement, though it's bittersweet to see you transition from baby-hood even further.
Darling girl, tonight, you're still two. Tomorrow, you'll be three.
I sit here thinking about how, growing up, I had hoped that someday I would have a daughter. In my mind, she would be a perfect, smiling ball of joy, with curly hair, and beautiful features. She would be kind and smart and so much more. After God blessed me with your two brothers, I felt it was my calling in life, loving them so deeply, to be a mom to three or four boys, and felt I would never have a daughter. I don't know why I felt this way, and it was bittersweet, but I was so sure. When I was told you were on the way, I didn't believe it until they placed you on my chest, and you were in fact my little girl. Every day since then, it has made so much sense that you were brought into our lives. I didn't ever imagine you would fulfill my dreams to precisely. You belong with us, and God knew it.
My heart can hardly handle another birthday. Yet another year has flown by too quickly, though, fortunately, the chaos in our lives has slowed down quite a bit, and this transition from two to three years of life with you is much clearer in my memory and I feel I was much more focused on our days together, enjoying them, savoring them, and cherishing them. Not that I didn't in years past, but someday, you'll understand what I mean when I say they were busier and harder and much more muddled together.
Not this year.
This year, I watched you blossom from a young toddler into a much more mature toddler. I've heard your vocabulary soar with countless words and phrases I have never heard a two-year-old use before.
I've seen your sweet little self turn a little more sassy, as I was warned may happen over time. I miss the days when I don't have to remind you to use a "kind voice," but I cherish your personality all the same.
I've seen you grow so tall, your hair so long and curly, your eyes so wide and filled with deep wonder. You've become very independent, but you still totter back and forth from being "big" and "little" where sometimes you want to do everything on your own, and other times you'll cry on the floor because you think you need to be carried. I'm sorry when I don't give in to the tantrums. It's not because I don't want to carry you, it's just that I don't want to fuel that behavior. I do, in fact, love that sometimes you still want to be carried, and I love the feeling of your arms wrapped around me as I carry you. Your brothers very rarely express that desire anymore, and I know it will be all too soon that you won't want me to, either. You use the most adorable phrase when you want to be held, as you tell me "I want to hold you," even though you really mean it the other way around.
I love that you still want to cuddle, sit on my lap, and snuggle in bed sometimes. I love that you still ask for a kiss and a hug when I drop you off at daycare or Sunday School in the mornings, and that you still want them both before bed at night.
I love when you call me "Mama" instead of "mommy," and I don't know why.
You've got an excellent memory, little lady. You know almost everyone's name at daycare and Sunday School, and you can recall the middle names, favorite colors, and eye colors of the people who mean most to you, assuming you've inquired what these things are already.
You love music, and art, the outdoors, and your blanket. In the morning, your favorite cat is Benjamin, but when we get home at night, your favorite cat is Lucy. They both love you, and they're so gentle with you. When you're sick, they are by your side. You recently developed a love for birds, and you proclaim it almost daily. You also love tigers, and dogs, and fish, and bunnies, and lions, and horses, and ponies, and unicorns... I'm sorry I couldn't give you a pet tiger for your birthday like you requested repeatedly. Someday, you'll understand.
You've surprised me and gone from wearing diapers full time to barely wearing them at all, and you're so proud of your big girl status in this area. While I'm grateful that the diaper budget has dwindled immensely and I don't have to change diapers all day every day, it's a reminder that you're not going to be little for much longer.
I love listening to you sing songs and narrate your play. You've such a bright imagination. I love that you will play with both of your brothers on a daily basis. They love you dearly and they make sure you know it. They are so good about building you up with positive affirmations and compliments. I hope you'll always remember how beautiful they think you are, even if sometimes they're not being very nice to you.
Baby girl, soon you will lose the remaining baby features on your little body, and become a preschooler like your brothers. I pray you'll take the days a little more slowly than you have been over the past year. I know you want to go to kindergarten, too, but you've only a few short years to be a tiny little girl. Don't rush through them, please.
I pray that as you grow older, you'll continue to be kind, gentle, intelligent, helpful, and hilarious. I hope you'll want to spin in a dress for years to come, rock baby dolls gently, and give hugs freely.
You light up every room you walk into with a smile full of sunshine.
I pray that I will always be able to remember the deep chocolate color of your bright eyes, the spirals in the back of your hair as they dry after bath, your dark, long eyelashes, especially as you sleep against my shoulder sometimes, the warmth of your tiny little hand as it holds my finger while we walk, and the jubilant melody of your laugh, among everything else about you.
I pray you'll always let Jesus in your heart, and show other's his goodness. I pray you'll be a blessing to each person you come across.
Miss Norah, you stole our hearts from the get-go. Cherish it as we cherish you.
Thank you for all of the joy you bring to this world.
I love you, Sweet Pea.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Seventeen-ish months of silence. That day in July began it all, and a day in December ended it.
Seventeen months of absence. Seventeen months of wondering. Seventeen months of trying to believe on my part.
Seventeen months where my oldest son believed, prayed, and hoped, even when I felt like giving up, and even had given up from time to time.
Before that day in December, when the silence was broken, I had begun to wonder if my children would see their dad again in this lifetime. My mind would wander and I would contemplate what I would do if I had heard through the grapevine that their dad had died. Would I take them to his funeral? Would it be worth it? How would I help my daughter learn about her dad? What would I tell them about him later in life?
Yes, that's where I was at.
And every night, my six year-old would pray that God would protect his dad and help him to make good choices. He would hopefully ask that someday, they would see their dad again.
Honestly, I've been nervous to let this secret out of the bag, because I'm sure it could be a controversial topic, but I feel like it's time to swallow my nerves and just be honest. I know God is telling me it shouldn't matter what others think, but my human nature gets me sometimes.
I've been keeping the secret for a couple reasons. The first being that I wanted my children to have the privacy, and our family to have the freedom to see what unfolded without feeling the pressure of society or social media. I didn't want or need the countless differing opinions on the matter, and needed to just pray it out, seek God's guidance, and go with what I believed he was leading me to do.
I was also a little scared. I didn't want to admit that I was being cautiously brave and believing life over death in this situation, and then have it all fall apart in a couple of weeks.
If people had come to me questioning how things were going, or flat out asked about the situation as it had been, I was honest, and I told them this secret, asking them to keep it to themselves. I thank those of you who have upheld that promise and allowed my children the privacy and time to walk through these last few months.
And for others, I'm sorry if I have offended you by not telling you about this development. But, I hope you can try to understand and respect my decision.
As I was saying, in December he broke the silence. I had given up on trying to get ahold of him, and had tried to put on a positive face for my children when they continued to pray for a reunion and God to help their dad make better choices. I had been through Cleansing Stream, and despite what I believed I could do, and what popular culture would tell me to do, I forgave the unforgivable.
It was perfect timing, in some ways, when he waited until December to break the silence.
I prayed long and hard afterward (I blogged about it weeks ago, without much detail), and believed that, although many would call me crazy, or stupid, or tell me he shouldn't be allowed to, that it was okay for him to see his children again.
I don't have to explain why I chose this, but I'm sure many will wonder. Why on earth, after all that had happened, after all those months, did I let him see the kids? I talked with him in depth for quite some time, met up with him without the kids, talked some more, and made my decision.
Because he is their dad.
People would say he has no right to see them after all that happened. Legally, that's true. The children are 100% mine legally.
But he is their dad.
In my heart, I knew I couldn't look my children in the eye someday, after he had been gone so long, and admit to them that, had I chosen to not let them be reunited, I would have been the thing to keep them apart even longer. I didn't need the blame for that.
It had already been so long. My daughter didn't really know him. She would look at photos of him and not call him daddy, and the boys would get irritated. She didn't remember him, really. But the boys, they still had that longing desire to have him in their lives.
And here he was.
Perfect? No. Did it make everything that had happened okay? Certainly not. Did it erase the pain? No.
Did it give the potential for greater healing?
After consulting with a few professionals on the matter, and praying of course, I knew that the only way to allow healing and restoration, was to give their dad a chance to try. Yes, he could have been lying and just trying to fill a temporary void over the holidays. But, I couldn't know that. Just like I couldn't know if it was for real, and God was really leading him back to his kids unless I gave him the chance to be with the kids. I couldn't give this a chance for success without giving it the chance to fail, but I couldn't live with myself knowing that there would be no chance at all.
I had to really, truly give it to God.
And I did.
It's still fresh and new. There are still details we work out as we go along. I am in control of the situation, the visits, everything. It is all under my stipulations and schedule. There are many details that I will not go into, but, after three months, I truly believe I've made the right choice, as vulnerable as it made me feel, as terrified as I was for my children.
I believe, as does my son, that God was answering months worth of prayers.
We are still praying for their dad as we maneuver this new road in our path.
It can and likely will get messy and confusing, and there will be countless questions from the children as time goes on. But, I have to believe that God will guide us through them as they come along.
Because, as our story has shown in so many ways, God has been here alongside us this entire time. He's taken our pain and brought joy. He's taken the mess and brought so much beauty. He's taken the brokenness and restored our hearts.
He is so good.
And, I have to believe that He will continue to be good and perfect, no matter how these chapters pan out.
Because He's unchanging. He's sovereign. He's perfect. He will never leave us, even if everything fell apart again.
I am sure there are many reading this who vehemently disagree with my choice. I've encountered that already. I pray that there are those out there who understand, and that regardless of how you personally feel about it, you can trust that I am doing what I truly believe is best for my children. I've always had their best interests in my mind, from the moment the world started crumbling. They're my treasure, and I would do everything I could to protect them from pain, but I can't sacrifice their chance for healing and joy with their dad.
There may be heated and controversial opinions. I know. There are countless people out there who care so deeply for me and my children, and who are so angry over the pain we've been through. I get it. I was there too. We are so blessed that we are cared so deeply for that people have such strong emotional responses across the spectrum. Regardless, I pray that anyone who hears my children speak about seeing their dad will be respectful of their excitement in the story, non-judgmental in their presence, ad just give them your love and support.
Thank you to everyone who has been there for us through any and all of the legs of this journey. Thank you for the prayers you've prayed, the tears you've wiped away, the hugs you've given, the words of encouragement, consolation, humor, compassion, and everything else you've given us.
(There are MANY posts leading up to this one. If you're new to my blog, feel free to search through by topic, or start scrolling backward to 2014.)
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Have you ever just been sick of yourself?
"I just don't know what to do with myself. I don't just know what to do with myself.."
That obnoxious song isn't really fitting to my situation except those two lines, but those two lines, nonetheless, are stuck in my head this evening as I try to stay awake, yet again, day 10, while the kids wind down for bed.
Have you ever been there?
I don't get there often, I really don't. As of late (like the past year or half a year at least), I've been much better about regulating my emotions, and keeping thoughts captive to God's truth, or at least being able to seek out advice or guidance when I'm in a spot where my mind is all mucky.
I don't know if it's the onslaught of influenza 2017, or if it's a spiritual attack, or if it's exhaustion, or if it's just a mental mess, but lately... I'm sick of myself. The last couple days to a week have been rough. I've felt like I was emotionally unstable. I can't tell sometimes if I'm overthinking things, or imagining things, or if I'm nuts, or if I'm just tired, or if it's true that I'm whiny or irritating or a big baby or a lackluster mom or an unhelpful employee and on and on and on. And then I mull on it, and then I overthink it, and then I worry about it, and then I wonder about it, and then I wonder if I should reach out and talk it out with someone, and then I worry that talking to someone would just be irritating and drive them nuts and make them think the things about me I mentioned above.
It makes me sick of myself,
Now, in rational moments, I would say it's an attack of my spirit and my faith, and then I feel like I can handle it and know that I'm good, because God wouldn't make me that way.
But then, sometimes, in the exhaustion, I feel paralyzed and unsure what to rebuke or how to counter attack, and sometimes I just don't plain think to even pray about it.
I hate when I get like this.
Thankfully, it's not all that often.
I am worn out. I will admit that. Physically, emotionally, and mentally apparently. But I don't believe I'm spiritually worn out. I think that everything else is just getting the best of me and I'm not sure where to start in this battle.
I write this not for pity or to worry anyone. I write this because I feel like maybe writing will help, as it often does.
And I write, because I wonder...
I'm not alone in this, right? Someone else feels this way sometimes, too?