Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In the waiting

For years, I've prayed.  I've often asked God for advice, or help, or clear signs, or reassurance, you  name it.  I've had countless requests.  Sometimes, I feel like I hear him clearly. Sometimes, I think I might be making it up in my head.  It's really hard to tell sometimes.  Generally, if it's based on good, it's from God.  But that doesn't mean it's always God, either.  Sometimes, we have good intentions or a good heart, and often the enemy can twist things that make them seem like they could be from God. I run into that a lot, actually.  Fortunately, I've found a safe space in a friend or two and can check in with them when I get confused, and they can help me seek Godly clarity.

That said, every so often, I believe God clearly directs me, and it can take me by complete surprise.

Currently, I'm in the middle of a period of waiting.  I've become quite familiar with these periods, as they've happened intensely and frequently over the past few years.  This one is different, though, because it is a period I sought out, in a way.

A few months ago, I felt God leading me down a path I never expected.  I took a leap of faith, leaned in, and pursued.  And now, I'm waiting. I could be waiting indefinitely.  I could be waiting days, weeks, months, years.  I'm not even sure what I'm waiting for.  I'm not sure if I'm waiting for a direct result, or if I'm just waiting for Him to tell me "well done, my faithful one.  You followed where I led, and now you can rest easy in me."

It's really hard to say.

It makes me anxious.  That's another test in itself.  God tests me on my patience and the anxiousness in waiting. I've noticed a theme.  I don't necessarily think it means that I've been terrible at it in the past, but clearly, he has more in store for me.  

And I have no idea what it is.

So, here's to more praying, in the waiting, to to wearing my favorite shirt as a personal reminder while I wait.

For now, I'll leave this as it is.  God will let me know if and when I should reveal more.  But for now...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

She opened her window.

My beautiful Sweet Pea has been emotional for the last 10 days or so, quite clingy, and not quite herself sometimes.  I've been wondering what was going on, but was unable to pinpoint it.  Tonight, I think I am better able to understand. Tonight, after bedtime prayers, my sweet, sassy, perfectly quirky little princess opened the window to her heart for me, for one of the very first times in a way that both nearly broke my own heart, and amazed me with the depth of her self-knowledge and ability to articulate her emotions with clarity beyond her young three-years.  I had kissed her goodnight, as she said to me (roughly, edited to remove some names), "Mama, my friends don't see me anymore and play with me and don't like me anymore.  They're my best friends and I love them and I miss them."  

You see, almost two weeks ago, she went through a big transition at daycare, where she spends the majority of her time.  She moved from one floor to the next, from young toddler rooms to older rooms where the preschoolers are growing up.  And, while it isn't a big deal geographically, or in many ways, it dawned on me tonight, that it's a big change to her.  

She's been making it seem pretty breezy and not that big of a deal, even though her mama was sad about it at first.  She loves the kids and staff upstairs and will thrive and flourish in the new environment, and I haven't been worried about it at all.

But tonight, as I tried to calm her fears that her friends do in fact still like her, love her, and even miss her too, I realized that she was feeling her first real insecurity.

That time and distance mean people don't care, don't like you, don't miss you, or don't love you.

It's a common thought, even for adults, so I was blown away by her innocent little saddened heart.

After comforting her and reassuring her that she is loved, that her friends miss her, and some will soon be back in the same room as her with the new schedule, teachers, friends, and environment, I left the room and began thinking about what had just occurred.  I understand where she's coming from.

Her previous transitions at daycare have all been on one floor, with schedules that are relatively similar, where she would see the same people passing in hallways.  Her last transitions were done at a younger age where, while still forming attachments to teachers and children, she wasn't as mature and able to process and fear things like she does now.

So this was her first big change at daycare.   She still sees some of her most beloved people on a regular basis, but there are a lot of empty spaces in her day that used to be filled by people she had grown exceptionally close to.

Not only that, but on another level, I can feel her equating that to some of her past experiences where he dad was absent from her life.

And I can understand why she may feel that gaps in time and distance can affect relationships.

I mean, really, they often do.  Only the strong ones survive and grow, I suppose.  It's amazing to me that she is so young and already experiencing these sort of friendship quandaries. 

So, to my darling little three-year-old, her heart is in some sort of jeopardy, and it's my blessing and burden to calm her fears and speak life, truth, and love into her heart, just as with her brothers.  I try to build up their store-houses with these things, to help build their self-esteem, knowing that the way of the world is often to bring you down.  I never want my children to feel worthless, unloved, or anything other than of exceptional value and worthy of the deepest, most sincere love on earth.

They're treasures, and they should know it.

While this moment where the window was open was over an insecurity, I am so fortunate that she chose to open up to me, share her deepest fear at this moment with me, and trusted me with her heart.  I wish I could make her feel better, but aside from praying, which we did, only time will heal.  

And, my darling, my sweet, sweet girl, I can assure you, you are worth missing, and you are loved by those that you  miss right now.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The first to first.

Today was a day that sort of snuck up on me, even though I've known it was on the horizon for months now.  Today was my first child's first last day of school.  Now, my first child is going to be a first grader.

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.  
"Have a wonderful day too, Mom!" he called as he ran off.
I picked him up tonight, and he told me how his last day was awesome, and how he's now going to be a first grader.  

We didn't make a big deal out of it, like I know some people do. Maybe we should have.  I don't know.

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.  
And that was that.  

Now it's our first summer vacation.  And next year, I'll have a first grader and a kindergartner and I don't know how my heart is going to handle it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Football with Momma

Tonight, I had the pleasure of escorting my soon-to-be kindergarten graduate to a football game- a privilege he earned for perfect attendance at school this year.

I'll be honest. I accepted the tickets out of pride on his behalf, but the closer to the game we got, the less excited I was getting. I didn't really know why, but I just wasn't really excited about it.

I wasn't going to let that stop me, however, and I surprised him with the knowledge that we were going to his "first" "real" football game. (He actually attended a game for this team as an infant but we decided it didn't count, as he doesn't remember it.)

As we drove to the game, it started to dawn on me why it was I wasn't looking forward to it as I thought I would. We drove by his dad's place of employment, where he was working at the time, and it hit me that somewhere, deep down, I imagined this would be an activity that the two of them would do together, not me. Because, stereotypically, it's a guy thing. His dad certainly enjoys the game more than I, not that I dislike football. I've just never felt a connection to a specific team outside of my high school and don't follow it as a hobby.

So, I think, part of me was sad for my son that he was "stuck" going with his mom.

Silly me.

It didn't take long after arriving for me to realize that was just in my head and my son didn't feel that way. He was thrilled to just be going to a football game, and he was overjoyed that I was with him. In fact, while he asked if he could sit next to some of his friends from daycare, and I said yes, knowing I could sit there alone, but it wasn't minutes later that he was back up in our row, by my side, chatting away about the game that was about to happen.

He had so many questions about the game.

And wouldn't you probably expect it, but I had answers.

Sure, I'm not a football expert by any means but it turns out- I know enough. 

And, since I know him best, I was able to answer his (countless) questions in ways he understood easily, or clarify if he didn't understand.

And a bonus- I was able to relate quite a bit of the football knowledge and rules to our lives.

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.

Oh, that penalty flag for holding? Yeah, that's like when you and your brother were pulling on and  hit each other in the daycare vestibule, and just like you had the consequence of no tablet or Wii time that night, they had a yardage penalty. Maybe it was not planned or unintentional, but it happened.

Oh, the out of bounds? Yeah. They can't play there, just like when I say you can't play in the parking lot or the street.

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.

Momma win, right?

And, he thought it was super cool that his mom knew so much about football. 

I loved every minute of the night with him. He had the most intense expressions during the game (he doesn't get that from me, but I embraced it) and had the loudest, delighted squeals when our team did great plays.

And when the Kiss Cam came on? He kissed me, over and over every time someone on the screen kissed the person they were with.

Yup, momma scored kisses in public.

Guess he's not too cool for that, or maybe, I'm just too cool to not be kissed.

Either way. He didn't need football with a guy. He has me.

I'm so glad I realized that in time to enjoy the night, instead of how I felt driving to the game.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My second little Graduate

Dearest Collin,

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

I love them to tears.

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

In the morning, she will be three.

My sweet, beautiful girl,

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

The silence was broken.

There was silence.

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

Good Grief

Someone, please tell me I'm not alone here...

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.

Good grief.

Really, though.

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?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We don't do zombies.

Today, due to wonderful weather, and the fact that my daughter, who had been battling Influenza B for five days straight was finally fever free, the kids and I found ourselves headed to the park for some fresh air.

It was a delightful hour, for the most part.

Except that period in the middle where I was the uncool mom on the playground.

Now, being uncool doesn't bother me.  In fact, I have spent the majority of my 33 years being "uncool," and that suits me just fine.

My kids generally think I'm pretty cool though, especially on the playground.  If I don't have an adult companion around, I find myself up and wandering the play area, pushing kids on swings, following them up and down steps, helping them on monkey bars, chasing them, climbing up the ladders, and so forth.  The kids appreciate that about me.

Most of the time.

Then, there's days like today, where there are moments in the middle where my oldest asks "why are you over here watching us?"

"Because I like to be with you," is what I said.  It is truth.

However, today I had another reason.

I was sitting on the picnic table seat for a moment before then, sipping on my cooling coffee, when I heard someone yell "I'm gonna slice your head off!"

I looked over, and there was a taller boy chasing my oldest, hands in the air in front of him, pretending to be a zombie.

We don't do zombies.

Aside from the fact that my youngest two had nightmares the night they went to the zombie walk, and periodically since then, my middle son has asked "mom, are zombies real" as we drive to daycare, following with me saying "No, buddy, they're not real," and then "Okay, they're scary,"  I don't see the purpose.

Now, I know people will wildly disagree with me on this topic.  Popular culture dictates that zombies are fun, entertaining, imaginative, and so forth.

But I don't see the value in them.  I have a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost three-year-old.  I know we can't escape this zombie culture, but they seem so young to have knowledge of it already.  Call me old fashioned, call me a prude, call me whatever you want, but I prefer my children to have wholesome, positive imaginative play.

That, and to be quite candid, zombie apocalypse play and zombie-slashing fun go against the God-centered child-rearing I am attempting to live out.

I know that some people, again, may argue "well there are zombies in the Bible."  Okay, so maybe I can see where you're coming from there.  Except I disagree, and instead of forming my own argument against that, I'll link you up with one that fits my viewpoints and leave it at that.

So, I hear this child threatening, though pretending of course, to slash my kindergartner's head off, while his younger brother and sister are two feet behind him.  My four-year-old yells "NOOOO! Don't KILL HIM!  He's my BROTHER!"  He knows, I assume, that it's pretend, but I also know that he's still working to decipher reality from make-believe on a regular basis.  (See above about whether zombies are real, and add in "Do ghosts exist? Do werewolves exist?  Do unicorns exist?" and so forth.)

My youngest is yelling "That's not kind!"

She's right.

We have been working on our family identity recently, and our is "we are kind."  We talk about it daily.  We pray that God will help us be good friends, to bring people joy, to show people love, to not hurt people, to not cause people to cry.

I approached my oldest, and I said, "Buddy, we don't play zombies, do we?"

"No, mom."



Knowing full well all these other children (roughly 8 of them) are running around pretending to kill and eat each other, and they have taken notice to the fact that I pulled my child aside, I said, "Because it's not kind.  We are kind, aren't we?"

"Yes. I love to be kind!" he replied.  "But it's pretend."

"But it's violent, and it goes against what Jesus asks us to do. It goes against what God wants for us to be.  It goes against the Bible."

He looked at me, with his "Play Hard, Pray Hard" t-shirt on, a shirt he chose himself to wear to the park, and shook his head. "Okay, mom."

Then, came the sly kids shouting "Well, raise your hands if you're playing zombie apocalypse!"

He wanted so badly to raise his hand. I raised my eyebrows, and he kept his hand down.

"I love you, buddy."

"I love you, too, mom."

And then he ran off to play alongside the other kids.  He slipped up once and pretended to shoot someone as they ran by.

"Why are you over here watching us?"

I wanted to say 'to hold you accountable and make sure you're making good choices,'  but instead, I gave the answer above and let him decide what choices to make on his own.

I was proud.  He didn't play zombies after.

I played alongside, hearing them laugh, seeing them smile, and looking when they'd call "Mom! Watch this!" as best as I could with all three trying to show me things at once.

The older boy ran by again, and pretended to spit on my children.

"What are you doing?" I asked him calmly.

"Spitting poisonous venom."

"We already talked about this.  My children don't play zombies.  You may stop now."

He ran off.  I know he snickered and the others looked at me.

I didn't care if I was uncool.

I felt a little guilty that I may have made my kids seem like they were "uncool" to the other kids, but really, if being kind and playing wholesome, positive, laughter-filled play on a playground, without dark, violent themes is uncool, then they can be uncool.

They're only little once.  Some day, I won't be on the playground with them.  I am not always on the playground with them now, and I don't intend to be breathing down their necks at this age either.  Sometimes, I'm right there though, and I believe it is my job as their God-focused mother to intervene in situations like this, to teach them Bible-centered morals and practices as best as I can.

 I will pray that when it comes time to decide if they're going to join in with the make-believe bloody murder and flesh-eating attacks with their peers, they will choose our God-focused morals and remember why, right now, we are kind and we do no do zombies.  I will hope and pray.

I can't control what other parents do, and their rules on zombie play or murder themed make-believe.  My children even asked why the other kids play that way, and I said "their families don't have the same rules as I do."  It's as simple as that.

But I do hope that if you're one who allows that sort of play, you perhaps talk to your children about playing it on playgrounds, especially those with young children and toddlers, who don't need to be and/or whose parents do not want them to be subject to such dark and gruesome themes.  If that's something you allow (although I wish it wasn't), I hope that you could request your children save it for private locations, like their homes or friends homes.

Personally, I have no taste for any sort of zombie entertainment. I know tons of my friends do.  That's their choice.  But I choose to not have that in my own home.

I'm not a "helicopter" parent and I don't intend to be. But, I do believe that young children, mine specifically, should be allowed to enjoy positive themed play as long as possible before popular culture and dark themes of the world become more prevalent with age and their peers.

For tonight, I will pray that the themes and impressions from the pretend slashing, decapitation, and cannibalism at the playground will not leave lasting impressions on their hearts or infiltrate their dreams.  We will pray again, as we do every night, that Jesus fills them with peace, joy, and good things.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I'm Anchored.

For quite some time now, I have had it in my mind that I wanted a very specific, simple tattoo on my left wrist.

On my right wrist, I have a simple tattoo that reads "I love you" in my grandmother's handwriting.  In fact, multiple female family members have similar handwriting tattoos on their wrists or clavicles.  We all went together and had a tattoo party when they heard of my idea and fell in love with it themselves.

My left wrist, though, all I wanted was an anchor.

When I was younger, I would have never suspected I would adore the image of an anchor as I do now.  I thought of them simply in terms of sailing and pirates and such.

But then, my faith was tested.  I guess that's a silly statement, because throughout one's life, faith is continually tested.  I'm no different in that regard, and I have had many tests under my belt, each time, my faith in God remaining.  From time to time, I may have distanced myself, but He's always been there.

But recently, over the last few years, my faith has been tested in ways I never dreamed of.  From finding out my former husband was cheating on me with men and women alike, to threatened homelessness while I had no job and three children ages six months to four years old, to living in a homeless shelter and transitional housing, to being abandoned financially and emotionally, to filing for divorce... to self-sufficiency (for the most part, with occasional blessings from trusted family and friends) and single parenting in a God focused home, I've done nearly a complete 180 degree turn around in my life, and all the while, my God has remained, pulling me through, guiding me, walking beside me, carrying me, fighting for me, and calming me.

This anchor...

This anchor is my reminder.   It reminds me of my past and my victories.  It reminds me of God's sovereignty and steadfastness.    It reminds me of hope.  

You see, through everything in my life, my hope has remained.  I've never been hopeless.  I've never been completely alone, because I've known God to be with me always, even if I was refusing to acknowledge him.  Even in my deepest despair and my darkest times, my hardest routes and my scariest valleys, I've had hope in a better tomorrow, and I've had hope that God would pull me through, as He has.

One of my most well-loved bible verses is Hebrews 6:19.  It's beautiful in multiple translations.  "This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary." NLT

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain." NIV

Hope is an anchor.  What a beautiful image.  In all that life throws at us, this hope keeps us steady.

What is this hope?

God is this hope.

"The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope." Lamentations 3:24

"Sovereign Lord, I put my hope in you; I have trusted you since I was young." Psalm 71:5

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him." Psalm 62:5

"We put our hope int he Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone." Psalm 33:20-22

"You will live secure and full of hope; God will protect you and give you rest." Job 11:18

This tattoo is also my reminder to seek God continually, through my life. It's permanency shall remind me to enter my secret place and to pray.  Sometimes I forget. Often, actually, I forget.

"Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times."  Romans 12:12

And, it reminds me that God has a plan for me, even if I feel things are out of control, totally random or uncertain, or make absolutely no sense.  Because God says so. 

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

The bible talks a lot about hope.

But so does music.  Many know that God speaks to me often through music.  I will hear a song a hundred times, and on the 101st time, it speaks in a new way, or I hear a lyric I had never heard before.  Many songs that resonate with me deeply talk of God as an anchor for us, or his hope as an anchor for us, or him carrying us through storms.  

"Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails, the anchor in the waves, oh he is my song." -John Mark McMillan, King of my Heart.

"When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.  In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil." Hillsong United, Cornerstone

"In the eye of the storm, You remain in control, and in the middle of the war, You guard my soul.  You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn.  Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm." Ryan Stevenson, Eye of the Storm

These are just a few that came to me at the moment, but I know that there are more.

I don't always have my bible with me. I don't always have music with me. I don't always have my phone with me. But, I do always have my wrist with me.

And now, on that wrist, I'll always have my anchor with me, to show me, to remind me, to inspire me.  Maybe someday, someone I do not know will ask about my anchor.  Maybe they'll assume I'm a wannabe pirate. Maybe they'll think I was in the navy.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll ask.  And my God will fill me with bravery and grace, and I'll step out in faith, and I'll testify.  I'll tell them all about how I've been through quite a storm,and my God, my Hope, my Anchor held me steady through it all, and I am no worse for the wear as the sunshine came out.  I'm stronger.  I'm braver.  I'm calmer. I'm more rooted in my faith than ever before.

Because I'm anchored.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This morning a lifetime ago

It was barely past midnight this morning when I felt the ground give way beneath my feet and the air I tried to breathe suffocate my airways as I heaved violent sobs in the dark of the night. Up until this point, she had always been there as a pillar and a safe place.

It was so early this morning, a horrible ending to one day and the devastating beginning of another.

It was ten years ago.

It feels like this morning.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

She waited until we all left and she breathed her final breath, and in the quiet of her hospital room, my grandma passed away.

I miss her still, every single day.

The ground has given way a few times since then, and still she is gone. Her arms aren't waiting for me in a loving embrace. Her ear isn't there to listen when I cry.

But she didn't leave me completely:

The prayers she must have prayed unceasingly have come to fruition, as I have God at my side, and Godly people in my life who can help stand in where she used to be. 

I wonder though. I can't help but wonder.

Would she be proud? Would she think I'm extraordinary? Would she think I'm brave? Would she think I exhibit grace?

Somehow she's gone and her opinion still matters.

So much has happened in the 10 years since she was laid in the freezing cold ground as I crumbled in the wind. The ground is frozen again. But in a weird way, as I sit here missing her so, I feel comfort knowing she's safe inside the very ground I stand on, while residing up in the heavenlies with the Jesus she loved so much. Her love is written permanently on my wrist, her ring on my finger, her voice in my head, and her warm brown eyes staring up at me through my beautiful young daughter. 

I ache. I pine. I cry. But I find rest, I find peace, finally, ten years later, realizing she's still so close by.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cautious Bravery

When I decided to blog after church today, I heard the enemy telling me "People are going to just think you're crazy, hearing voices, and psychotic. You didn't 'hear' God or 'feel' Him. It's all in your imagination."
Screw you, Satan.


Recently, there's been a change brewing in the life of me and my children.  Something unexpected happened, and as a result, I had to make some decisions I wasn't mentally prepared to make.

I prayed about it for days.  I took a break from social media and filled the time I would have spent catching up with friends online praying and seeking wisdom as to how to proceed.  I sought advice from trusted companions, and found confusion in doing so, with divided opinions and advice coming from multiple avenues, so I kept on praying about that as well.

After about a week, I had what I decided was the next step, and proceeded with cautious bravery.

Cautious bravery.

I'm not sure that's a thing.  If you google "cautious bravery," you find a few different takes on it.  On one hand, people seem to think you can't be both cautious and brave or courageous, and then on the other, it only makes sense to do so.

For example:

That said, this new juncture and all of the possibilities of what could happen based on whichever decision I made was nerve-wracking, slightly terrifying, anxiety inducing, but also hopeful-exhilarating.

As I mentioned, I took my options, prayed about them, tried to imagine probable outcomes, and went with what I thought God was calling me to do.

I was afraid of being wrong, afraid of interpreting what I thought God was telling me wrong, and afraid that even if I was doing what was right, it could all go wrong anyway.  But, I owned the decision, and I stepped forward on faith.

I decided, in doing so, that if I was going to just assume it would all go awry, I was speaking words of death over the decision, and also placing my faith, trust, and hope in humanity instead of God's divine sovereignty.  I decided to anchor myself on hope and God's ultimate goodness, and I committed myself to continued prayer, because I know that human emotion can be wishy-washy sometimes, and I knew myself well enough to be able to foresee that I wouldn't always be completely hopeful, and the old patterns of condemning thoughts and negative assumptions would slither into my mindset occasionally.

I told myself that even though the decisions I make affect more than just myself, and that all people are infallible, God can use everything and anything that would come from it for His ultimate good.  I know that while it is best and important that others in my life have God in their lives, all I needed to rely on was Him, and who I am in Him.  I know who I am in Christ, and I believe I have a good idea who my children are in Christ, and that was enough to solidify my choice in proceeding.

Now, I acted on my decision, and so far, good things have come from it.  I give each day to God, and when I start to fear and worry, if I turn to my closest confidants first instead of God, they remind me to give it to God.

Today, in church, I had a big God moment.  During the beginning of worship, which is generally the part I connect with most emotionally, I was singing along, but struggling to be emotionally invested in it.  I kept having random thoughts filtering through and I realized partway through the second song, if I recall correctly, that I just couldn't "see" or "feel" who it was I was singing to.  Usually, this is not an issue for me, but today, I just felt disconnected.  Realizing that, I decided it was probably an attack from the enemy, and with the knowledge I've gained through the past couple months, I decided to use Jesus as my ammunition and attack back.  I had a moment of bravery, in that I would normally be apprehensive that others would hear me or notice, and I spoke aloud, "The enemy MUST go NOW in the name of Jesus Christ.  You have no business here."

It sounds silly, I know, and I've felt that it was silly on the multiple occasions that I have needed to conduct warfare in such a way.

I continued on, praying audibly, "I feel like I can't see you Jesus, and I don't know why.  I know You're always there."

I stopped singing almost instantly, and tears started falling.

"You can't see me, because I'm hugging you."

That's what I heard him say.

And it made so much sense.  I was suddenly flooded with the image and feeling of a warm embrace, my head buried in His shoulder, as I heard him tell me that he was proud of me, that He has made me strong, brave, courageous, and that it is okay to be cautious.  He knows that I worry sometimes and I fear other times, and He understands how sometimes I find it difficult to come to Him first, but He forgives me, accepts me, doesn't condemn me, and appreciates my honest attempts to keep Him first. I am okay, I am perfect.  He told me that what decision I made recently didn't matter as much as the fact that I sought His counsel and waited earnestly before acting, choosing what I believed He was telling me to do over what the world told me to do.  He reaffirmed that no matter what, because my hope is anchored in Him, it's going to be okay.  He reminded me that He has been there through every peak and valley so far, and that He has ultimately won it all for us anyway.  He reminded this little quiet warrior girl that she is filled with His peace and grace, and that good things will come from the trust I've placed in Him.

While I don't know what will come from my decisions and what is in store for us, I trust that it will all work out for God's good.

Sometimes, it's scary to not know His plan.  Sometimes, I fear I don't know if I'm listening or hearing or interpreting correctly.

Sometimes, I just have to latch onto the cautious bravery he's formed within me.

Not oddly at all, the next song in worship was about sitting with Jesus, being with Him, hearing His heartbeat, and so forth.  The pastor spoke how the Holy Spirit was heavy within the place.  He spoke of God's gifts being imparted right then and there, and the sermon was about healing.

It made sense.

I've found freedom, healing, and seen myself through God's eyes this year.  It's amazing what will happen when you give it to God.

Friday, January 6, 2017

You've Got a Friend

It's been said many times that as we get older, it gets more difficult to make friends.  Maybe it's not necessarily difficult to make them, it just isn't as easy to come across them, I suppose.

I have found this to be true.  I look at my children, and they will make friends almost instantly. Sure, most won't be lifelong friends, and half of the time, these "new friends" are people they'll never see again, but they're so non-judgmental and uninhibited in their friendship making that it's something in which I find myself awestruck.

I remember being in kindergarten, like my oldest is now, and making new friends.  Thanks to the technology of my generation, I am actually still friends with many from my youngest school-age years, even if we aren't close, we can connect on Facebook and keep up with each other's lives.  I am still friends with my high school best friend, and my college best friend as well.  I have a handful of online best friends who have also been there for 16 years or so.

I have been blessed with the fortune of making a few really close friends in the end of my college years, as well as a really close friend in the beginning of my motherhood years.  I have one close friend from my the end of my childbearing years as well (that makes me sound much older than I am, I suppose).  

I then found my world quaking and myself withdrawn and secretive about it.  My walls and my guard went up, and I shut myself down in many ways.  I got a new job and met new people, but I didn't really allow myself to make friends with them for a while. I was terrified that what they would find, they would not like, and then I would be an outsider who was nothing but drama and chaos.  

As time went on, I opened up to some, and grew quite close.  I gained a few of my current closest friends in life at that job, and I am so very blessed.  Through that job, I began attending my church, where I have met even more people, that I would consider to be more than just acquaintances, they're my friends.

Much of these friendships, while I wouldn't say are superficial in any way, are not deep-rooted at this time, though many have the potential to be so.  I hope that more become rooted as time goes on.

That said, this evening, I had an experience that caught me off-guard.

It was a transitional experience, I think.

I think I made a new friend.

This friend.. well, I've known her a while, and I thought of her as my friend at church anyway, but as I said, not necessarily a deep rooted friendship.  But tonight, I found myself feeling like a school-age child as I went home, realizing I had exchanged phone numbers with my friend and text her a couple times.

Now, this friend, I've seen her and conversed with her many times, topics both light and deep, and we've exchanged quite a few hugs. I always enjoy seeing her, and I have hoped she felt the same.

Tonight though, I don't know what really switched.  Perhaps nothing really did, except that I really sat down and realized I had this friend, who had been there for quite some time, and she really did want to pursue my company and my friendship.  She told me "I love your heart."

Immediately after, the enemy was on my back telling me that people couldn't really "love my heart," it was just something you say to be nice.

Ugh.  At least I knew it was a lie.

It got me thinking about making friends as an adult.  As a mom.  As a single mom.  As someone who had recently let down her guard in a big way, and is allowing new people in without them really having to "prove" that I could trust them, because I'm not nearly as guarded as I was even a few months ago.

Where I am in life, I do not get out much. I go to work most hours of the week, I go to church, and I go to the grocery store.  That's pretty much it for any invested time regularly.  So, in line with my invested time, most of the meaningful friendships I've been blessed with over the past two years are through work, and one that was mostly through church.

But tonight, I realized I made a new friend, in my new season of life, with my new hope and my new faith.  And for some reason, that seems like a big deal. I am excited to get to know her better in the time to come, and I am so very thankful that she feels the same way.  

I have been so very blessed by the rich friendships I carry in life, especially through the hardest struggles and deepest valleys I've been through.  But, there's always room for new friends, too.