Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saying Goodbye

This week marks the anniversary of my divorce, and per usual, I find myself feeling reflective.  I think about sitting in an office surrounded by people waiting for me to sign what had become my life reduced to some pieces of paper, wondering why I was crying and needing tissues.  However, unlike many other times, I find myself reflecting in a bit of a different way this time.

This week, we said goodbye to our Sunday school teacher.  We’re sending him and his family off to a new venture they’re starting in a different city.  They also happen to be basically the only friends I’ve made here in more than a year, save a former coworker whom I see occasionally, so this goodbye was doubly hard for me.  A few weeks ago, I had dinner with the family.  While we watched the kids play outside, I said to my teacher, “I never thought I could have one Sunday school teacher who was so great at combining philosophy and humor with the truth of God’s Word, but you’re actually my second one.”  His wife said something like this to me, “Well, you never thought you’d have one or two, so who knows:  maybe you’ll have a third!”
Since then, as I’ve prepared for my last visit with them, my last Sunday, my last goodbye, I’ve realized:  “goodbye”s are so hard and no fun, but we’d never have them if we didn’t have “hello”s.

If we never had the fantastic friends who make us laugh in the midst of heartache or send us encouraging notes just when we need it; if it weren’t for the teachers and coaches who inspire us to work hard and make something better of ourselves; if we didn’t have children who make us do things we don’t want to do to provide for them every day; if there weren’t pastors and small group/Bible study leaders who encourage us to be more like Christ, we’d never have to part ways with anyone.

Although the end of my marriage was completely devastating for me, and I was blindsided by all the trauma that followed as results of it, I can say with absolute certainty:  I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned since those events transpired.  I can never repay the ways I’ve been blessed or number the miraculous times I’ve seen God provide.  I wish that I wouldn’t have had to say so many goodbyes in the last few years, but I would never trade all the hellos God has given me.  I can’t imagine my life without the incredible people placed in it; each one I believe, hand-picked for me by the Almighty, loving Father.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Dark Side of Single Parenting

I value honesty.  I always have, but since I went through a difficult divorce and all that followed, I came to love it even more.  The people at the church I began attending when I left my old one taught me about honesty within the church family and how it allows for a much better sense of community.  The openness with our struggles allows us to pray for each other more specifically, meet each other’s physical needs on a more practical level, and experience God’s grace in amazing ways.  It is for that reason that I’ve decided to write this.  I’m not looking for pity; but rather I want to give you some insight into what I and probably many other single parents you might know face/experience.  Perhaps this will help you know how you can pray for and minister to them, even if they aren’t as open about things as I am or even when they don’t ask for help.

I know that I’m very blessed to be physically close to my parents and have a great relationship with them, but I never wanted to be so dependent on them at age 30.  This is especially true when it comes to raising my daughter.  I’m so grateful for my parents’ willingness to help with babysitting and homeschooling, though, because that allows me to continue the dream I had of homeschooling her even though I can’t do it myself.
I know that being unemployed for nearly 4 months earlier this year was nerve-wracking and concerning.  I got a great tax return and depleted my emergency fund which helped, but man:  if there was ever a time I wished I was in a two-income household, that was it!

Sometimes, I tire of defending myself.  I know my daughter hears me explaining (and already knows) that she should obey and respect me because I’m her mother, but I often think it would help to have a reminder coming from someone else. J

Although I appreciate the sentiment behind it, it makes me somewhat sad when people talk about my being both parents to my daughter.  I’m not; I can’t.  She needs a dad, and she doesn’t have one.  That’s heartbreaking to me, and I pray God’s grace can help cover that!

I find myself now a “member” of nearly every group that people stereotype and badmouth, but I never wanted to land in any of them.  Please choose your words and facebook memes carefully:  not all of us wanted to be divorcees or receive government assistance.

I know lots of people, even my friends, might think I use the “single mom” card as an excuse, but it’s just the reality of my life - just as you might talk about not coming to an event because your husband has to work or your infant needs to go to bed early.

It is very difficult for me when my dating/married friends brag on facebook about their significant others, then comment on my posts about being single with something like “God loves you!”  Here’s the truth of it:  I’m glad your “other” is awesome!  God DOES love me! But sometimes, being single just stinks.  And remember, I’ve been in the awesome.  I do know what I’m missing.  I ache for it.  Almost daily. And you were single once, too.  Try to remember how lonely it gets and how hard it is sometimes.  Although your intentions may be incredibly honorable, the written word can come across as patronizing.  God is more amazing than I will ever be able to fathom, but my heart longs for the human companionship that He created me to enjoy.  Some days, I just want to vent about that.

I know that despite the absolute devastation I feel about Mamie’s death, I had an incredibly blessed few days with my family.  I will never forget that time!  I also know that I felt I was suffering silently because it was days before what would’ve been my 10th wedding anniversary, and I was mourning alone while all the other adults were comforted by their spouses.

I am all for girl power and describe myself as a conservative feminist, but it’s true:  God didn’t create women to have to bear the burden of being the head of the household.  Some days, it’s just too much.

Overall, MK has an easygoing spirit and heart willing to serve.  But, like all children, she is a sinner and sometimes it shows.  Sometimes when it shows, I’d give anything to give someone else a turn at disciplining.  I know I don’t always do it best, and it’d be nice to have someone else’s input.  God is teaching me a lot about walking away, cooling off, and controlling my temper.  I’ve spent many a minute on my bed sobbing with my Bible open while I prayed, not even to a particular passage, but just to have the Word open.   I’ve got millions of miles to go.

I hate going places alone, and I miss having a lover’s hand to hold or someone to kiss goodnight.   I miss having friends, any friends, to hang out with or sit by in church.  I love texting and facebook, but sometimes it is really hard having that as my social life.

I now find myself with a broken-down car and having to try to save the money to get it fixed.  I also find myself with a basically permanently injured shoulder that is continually aggravated by working and sleeping every day.  These daily frustrations make me wish I had someone to come home to and talk about it; someone to help pay for things; someone to drive me to work who lived in the same house.  They also make it difficult to attend my church on a regular basis, which is another thing that I know affects my daughter.  It feels so unfair that my health problems or issues I have no control over can also keep my child from her community of believers.

So, are you depressed yet?  Do you think I’m a big baby, a complainer?  That’s okay with me.  I’ve been called worse by worse people. J  Or maybe I’ve brought to mind someone you know.  Maybe a single parent who could use your help.  Could you take them a meal?  Babysit for a couple hours?  Spend a little time visiting at their house or go with them to take their kids to the park?  Do you have the financial resources to be a blessing to someone who is too proud to ask but desperately needs it? Would you take the time to get the address of a single friend (with no kids) and drop them a card in the mail or take them to lunch? We have a God Who is exceedingly capable of providing every single need, but He so often wants us to be part of it!  I was married for six years and had struggles then, too.  I know that single parents aren’t the only ones who get depressed and need encouragement.  I’m just writing from my personal perspective.  Perhaps you know someone, in any scenario, who you can encourage today!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Face not Embrace

Hello, old heartache, familiar friend.  Tisn’t been long, but has been longer than before.  I must say, I’ve come to expect you and am no longer as shocked by your appearances.  I now know you’re not an enemy to be feared but rather a part of me, a part of life, and I shall treat you as such.  I choose to face you, but I will not embrace you.  I will not allow you to control my day or bombard my thoughts.  This doesn’t change the depth of pain or the sorrow I feel.  The ache of unfulfilled dreams and the longing for something more, something better, still tug at my heart.  My innermost being still cannot comprehend the tragedy you represent, and my brain cannot process the changes that have come because of it.

There are many who seem so far ahead of me in the healing process – how I long to be farther than where I am!  So many days I feel like I am all alone.  Yet I see in my life and heart the progress I have made, by God’s grace, and I’m humbled that He’s never let me down or let me go.  He has used you to teach me so many lessons, and I don’t think I would trade any of them.  Yes, I often have thought I would rather not see you so much or ever, for that matter; but I know that you bring with you the peace and presence of my Father in ways that I could never have imagined.

I’m so grateful to know that I don’t have to live with the stigma of depression or loneliness, for it is a part of life, for some people more than others.  I don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed of what my past holds or the hurt it has brought me, but rather I can talk about it.  I can expose you - the ugly part of my life - and perhaps, bring comfort to someone who is living with their own ugly.  Maybe a forgotten soul or someone who has never been allowed or encouraged to speak up will know that it is okay to recognize pain and to feel it. 

You aren’t a good friend, and you’re no fun to be around.  But, you are a real part of life; a part that is so often hidden or ignored, which I believe only strengthens your resolve and gives you power you don’t deserve.  So I will face you, not embrace you.  I will not tremble when I feel you coming.  I may dislike, even loathe you, when I see you.  But I will face you head on, knowing that I have God on my side; and He will face you with me, as He has always done.

Hello, old heartache, familiar friend.  I feel you fighting me today.  I will face you but not embrace you.


A couple days ago, I was notified by facebook that one of my friends had “liked” a sponsored post – a quote by a company that pays to have their posts seen and that several hundred or thousand other people have liked.  I often bypass these posts, ignoring them much less “liking” them.  However, this was something I actually agreed with, so I stopped long enough to consider giving it the thumbs up.  That’s when I saw it – the perfectly beautiful, even roundness of how many had liked it before me: 6,000.  In less time than it takes you to read this sentence, I realized that I could quickly click the button and watch it change before someone else did the same.  After all, hundreds more were probably reading it and preparing to click their mouses (or is it “mice” when referring to computers, also?) at the very same second!  So, to satisfy my desire to see it change knowing that it wouldn’t stay that nice round number for long, I clicked the button and watched it change to 6,001.  Of course, within seconds, it shot up to 6,022 then over 6,100.  I was so grateful for the split second decision I made, because yes, I take pleasure in little neurotic things like that.
In fact, I take things in lots of neurotic things – symmetry, patterns, smoothness, straight lines.  I love to watch home improvement or decorating shows where they arrange photo frames in a crazy shape on the wall or put some really abstract piece of art on the wall.  However, I’ve tried it at home, and it hasn’t been very successful.  I’ve branched out a little in my fashion choices to a few asymmetrical tops or skirts cut on the bias, but it is rare.  I am known for buying bracelet, earring, and necklace sets that are identical.  I love jewelry and am learning how to accessorize without being “matchy-matchy,” but let’s face it – 20-something years of a habit is a lot to break.
I love to be around people, but I also really like to sit on the couch in my pjs eating and watching tv.  I feel accomplished when I have a clean house, but I am by no means winning a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval!  While I’ve been unemployed for nearly 4 months, God has been speaking to me about a lot of issues, but this one especially lately – He has been talking to me about being thankful for the character traits/habits I have that I so often fight as sins which can also be useful.
While being lazy is certainly not generally a desirable quality, I’ve found it useful when fighting countless illnesses or multiple-day migraines.  I certainly get cabin fever and feel tired of being sick and in bed, but it at least takes me a couple days to get to that point.  My love of watching tv and dvds has served me well when spending hours upon hours in pain, trying to distract my mind from the insomnia and being bed-ridden that goes with that.
More than once, I’ve been grateful for the planning and organizational skills God has given me in packing for a move or a trip.  These neurotic tendencies, as some people describe them, have also helped me in various office settings where I’ve been employed.  And for sure, these come in handy being a homeschooling mom.
The last thing I’d like to mention today is that I talk too much.  Yes, I’m aware of it, for those of you who were considering setting up an anonymous tip line. J  And although I certainly need to learn when to be quiet and control my mouth, I know that part of my personality allows me to make friends easily.  It has allowed me to form deep bonds with people in various settings, and I hope someday will allow me to become a speaker/minister should God see fit.
There is nothing deep or revealing about this blog.  I just want to encourage you to look for the things about yourself that can so easily become stumblingblocks/sins or even the traits you just may not like, and try to find ways to use them to benefit you and others.  Turn those negatives into positives, and use them for God’s glory rather than letting Satan use them for your demise!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Flattering God

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  Though I’ve heard this line many times, I’ve honestly never thought of it as a positive thing.  Though it certainly could be, I’ve most often heard it used in a sarcastic way or with a negative connotation.  It certainly seems that someone could imitate things we don’t want them to, and thereby actually be unflattering to us.  And let’s be honest:  that “negative” imitation is probably what happens more often.  Or at least, it is probably what people happen to see or notice the most.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine got to attend a Christian writer’s conference.  We joked before she went about her carrying around a copy of her favorite writer’s books in case she “happened” to run into the author and found the perfect time to ask for an autograph.  I said, “What could be more flattering to an author than to know that you liked her book enough to carry it with you, even if it was just to get an autograph?”  Then I began thinking, “How flattered would God be if we carried His book around, looking for a chance to get His autograph (mark on our life)?”

While I’m certainly not suggesting that Almighty God has a “need” to be flattered like we humans might in our vanity, I do think He is worthy of high praise and every good deed we can do to honor His name.  I believe if anyone ever had a right to be flattered, it is the most holy Abba Father.  With the pride and approval of a parent, He, as the Ultimate parent, looks on us with favor and wants us to do well.  In making good choices and living righteously, we bring glory to Him; and although we can never give Him His due, shouldn’t we strive to give Him as much glory as we possibly can in our time here on earth?

How happy must God’s heart be when those of us who claim to be “fans” of His show that to others by dedication and loyalty!  The Bible has been described as the best history book, a guide to medicine and science, a roadmap for life, and the key to answer all our problems; while it is all these things, it is also one of the most important ways God communicates with us.  It is the epitome of a self-help book – guidance from an experienced Source, tips for coping with whatever struggles you may face, and encouragement to be and do better abound within its pages.

While physically carrying your Bible is beneficial to your outward appearance, reading it transforms you from the inside out.  Allowing God to autograph your life, signing His name ever so gently to your thoughts, actions, and attitudes is, I believe, the sincerest way to flatter the Holy, Holy, Holy.

Jesus Calling

I received the daily devotional “Jesus Calling” for Christmas.  I was excited because I had heard a lot about it and knew several friends who recommended it.  Neither I nor the lady who gave it to me could’ve known that just days later, I would lose my job and begin what feels like just one more year of challenges.  We couldn’t have known that I would be sick for literally almost the entire month of January – going from the stomach flu to bronchitis to type A flu with strep throat to a kiddo with the flu.  During this time, we discovered the truly flexible nature of homeschooling, as my daughter spent many days on the couch watching tv and entertaining herself while I lay in bed ill.

Over the last two months, I’ve questioned why God won’t completely heal my migraines or give me a clear direction regarding employment.  I’ve been frustrated with not knowing how things were going to get paid or how long we’d be able to keep our home and car.  I’ve ached to see God fulfill the dreams and desires that I believe He’s given me, and I’ve felt crushed under the weight of being alone as I’ve watched friends deliriously happy and in love.

I’ve wondered why, after a shell-shocking divorce, difficult custody battle, move from my home, and increasing migraines, I’d lose my job and be forced to wait.  “Can’t I get a break?!” 

I’ve seen God provide in unexpected, amazing ways (as He has done many times before); I’ve seen Him provide at “the last minute” or “just in the nick of time” (believe me, I know these are not coincidences); and I’ve seen Him “not” provide; or not yet, anyway.

I’ve marveled at how quickly MK learns things and remembered what fun it is to be in control of her schooling and watch her mind literally grow as she embraces new concepts and facts.  I’ve beaten my head against the wall (well, almost) as I’ve asked “Why did I want to be home with her all day, every day?”

I have struggled with ongoing health issues, financial worry, and emotional roller coasters; I’ve been embarrassed and aggravated when people post things on facebook about “lazy people on welfare or food stamps” and wanted to scream “Some of us literally don’t have a choice!  Some of us really do it to feed our families!”  I’ve fought depression, something that so many people think is made up or is an excuse for people to be sad or withdrawn.  I have felt somewhat bothered by the “unsolicited advice” regarding migraines, though people have great intentions, when I really just wanted someone to hear me complain.  I have wondered why so many tips haven’t worked for my particular health situation.

I have heard God speak to me in quiet moments, down deep in my bones, and beg me to lean on Him and rest in His sovereignty.  He has proven again that He loves me and knows best and will provide what I need, but only when it is His time.  He has reminded me that He walked with me through my divorce and led me to a (church) home; that He protected MK through the custody battle and worked favorably on our behalf; that He moved us close enough to my family that they could bring us food or babysit MK or take me to the ER when the pain was too much; that He brought us to a new church after more than a year of searching; that He could provide for us even when my daughter asked, “How are you going to pay for the house without a job?” and I told her I didn’t know.

I am reminded that I’m a better mom than I’ve ever been and although I fail continually, I’m truly more aware of my sins than ever before.  I am humbled that He died for me and cares enough to daily provide moments of sufficient grace for the grace needed in every moment.  I believe that, more than ever, I want to follow Jesus and lean on Him, though it absolutely scares me to death.

Perhaps above all, I hope that one day, God will fulfill the dreams He’s given me; and that those dreams will bless others and glorify Him.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beyond Hope

1 Corinthians 15:19
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

I can’t imagine life without hope.  I can’t imagine living in misery and not even knowing it, being unaware of my hopelessness.  Each time a challenge or trial comes, great or minute, I think and often say, “I don’t know how people live without God, without hope that Someone is in control.”  As much of a control freak as I am, I’m becoming more and more grateful that I am not in charge!  I don’t have to know, see, or understand it all; and I definitely don’t have to be the one worrying about it all! 

Perhaps the only thing worse than heartbreak is watching someone you love experiencing heartbreak – you can’t fix it, change it, or make it better.  And even if you could, would you?  Having been through tough times, growing and changing, learning of God’s faithfulness, would you go back and change them?  Would you prevent someone you love from experiencing heartaches if you knew they would be better because of them?  If you could see the past and future, if you knew every plan and thought, would you prevent hurts?  Would you keep everyone from everything bad ever, even if it made them better, stronger, more humble, more loving, more compassionate? 

Paul uses the word “hope” with such ease and yet, with a complexity that begs further inspection.  What is it about hope that makes it so great?  What is it that draws us to itself and pulls us through tough times?  Personally, I’m beginning to believe it is so much more than the hope itself.  Maybe there is something beyond hope.  What is beyond hope?  What could be deeper, stronger, more inspiring?  How about Almighty God?  Omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, faithful, sovereign Creator of the universe, caring about you and me!  Seeing the past and the future, knowing each of our thoughts, wiping our tears before we cry them, giving us the ultimate in hope.

Whether you are in a valley or on a mountain; whether you love the holidays or wish they would end already and stop coming every year; whether you are continually surrounded by loved ones or have never known what it’s like to love and be loved – I have good news!  There is hope!  And if you know Jesus, there is beyond hope!