Wonderful Weekend of Woes

This weekend was so difficult and wonderful.  My life is sweetness and sorrow constantly vying for my attention.  The quality of my day depends upon my willingness to see the stuff to be thankful for rather than the stuff to complain about, but sometimes its hard to choose the right one.

This weekend began with a college road trip with my oldest son.  It was such fun.  And yet, it was another time when I felt my single parent status acutely.  There were plenty of kids with only one parent there – although all had wedding bands on.  I almost switched my ring to my left hand ring finger just to fake it.  It’s just so awkward having to respond to a question about my husband with, “I’m not married.”  They feel awkward…I feel awkward …awkwardness abounds.  But I don’t know how else to answer.

It bruised my heart to sit in the financial aid meeting knowing that all of it was my responsibility alone.  Filling out forms, filing forms, figuring out scholarships, loans, grants and work-study possibilities is daunting in my already cluttered mental world.  I know I’ll be fine.  I’ll get it done.  It’s just another burden I’d like to share with my husband, but even saying that seems ridiculous because he isn’t my husband anymore.  I could say ex-husband, but I don’t want to share it with HIM…I want to share it with my husband – that guy I married 20 years ago.  He doesn’t exist anymore so there is no point in going there.

The next day found us racing back to Fredericksburg for my younger son’s bridging to Boy Scouts ceremony.  My ex-husband had made reservations for all 7 of us for the event.  Another thing that was weird but shouldn’t have been –it’s how it should have been…should be…but it isn’t.  We sat together, took pictures together and celebrated together.  As a family — but not.

Later that day we attended my son’s basketball game.  We again found ourselves sitting together and cheering for our son’s team.  At one point, after the game, my little girls scampered ahead and my ex-husband and myself walked side by side to the end of the game huddle.  I thought, “This is what it should be like.”  Don’t get me wrong…I don’t want that man I was walking beside as my husband.  He isn’t the man I married –not sure who he is.  It’s more the idea of what it should be.  We look like a big happy family but we aren’t.  We are a get along despite these terrible circumstances kinda family.  I don’t want to be that kinda family.  Unfortunately unavoidable.

I’m not sure what to think half the time.  Thankfully, we can walk side by side down the hall without tripping each other on purpose.  Thankfully, we can sit together at a game and comment on our children without glaring at each other.  There are many things to focus on that are heartening, but I can’t seem to get past the actual circumstances which aren’t really positive in the grand scheme of things.

So what now…make the best of it I guess.  Believe that God can and will turn all this gunk into something good.  Our family is a mess in many ways, but the fact that we can sit together and celebrate together is a huge blessing.  Thank you Lord that you work in whatever situation we find ourselves.  Please give me eyes to see opportunities to practice thankfulness even in the midst of struggle and sadness.

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Lost Ideas, Little Notebooks and Lots of Thanks

I have a dear friend that suggested I keep a notebook to write down ideas as I think of them.  It was a great suggestion so now I have little notebooks EVERYWHERE!  It helps that I love paper and pens and little notebooks!  It’s also a very good idea for me because like a friend says, “I have a mind like a steel sieve.”   Really… it’s pretty scary how quickly an idea enters my brain and even more quickly leaves it.

So today I opened one of my many little notebooks and found a page of blog ideas.  For the life of me I can’t remember what in blazes I was talking about.  Here are a few…maybe someone out there will know what I meant!

Lottery commercial?    Other than wanting to win the lottery I can’t think of what that would mean!

Sicko?   Not only is that one disturbing I can’t even vaguely remember the context!

James and Peter?  My brother and my son…well actually I know it’s in reference to the books of the Bible, but I can’t recall what exactly I was supposed to write about.

Ugh!?  That could mean a lot of things…it’s my most commonly uttered phrase.

The good thing is that as I went page by page through my little notebook #1, I found sermon notes and quotes and some short journal-like entries that reminded me of what God is doing in my life.  You can assume from this blog that my memory is not so great right now…big and little things tend to get lost in the confounding amount of stuff I need to deal with daily.  It was good to be reminded that God is at work…He is blessing me even as I walk through my valley.  And I can see now that my valley has a decidedly upward slant to it.  That is encouraging!

One of my favorite notebooks is full of a numbered list of things I’m thankful for.  I started this one after reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts – so blessed by this book!  Here are some of my thankful things:

#11         the sound of a soccer ball being booted

#19         mums and pumpkins

#32         laughing that I just realized I started this journal upside down and backwards

#119      date night with Peter

#128      Allison’s mismatched socks – everyday

#134      Lizzie wearing three shirts all day and then how cute she looked trying to take them all off at bedtime – hysterical!

#167      first cup of hot cocoa in a Christmas mug

#224      joy in my sorrow

#266      friends who loan me cars

#277      giant snowflakes falling

#278      Zach texting me funny quotes out of the blue

#279      Emma sitting on my bed late at night just to talk

Even as I sit here, I can think of at least 10 more things to add to my list.  I’ve not been as good at writing them down as I should…I forget to be thankful so easily.  In this very difficult single parent life, I’ve found that I’m much happier and peaceful when I focus on the things I can be thankful for rather than the things I want to run from.  Since I can’t really run away from anything, I’m learning to be grateful…and I’m finding that God is so very good to me and mine.

So I guess I won’t be able to write a blog entitled “sicko” which is probably a good thing in the long run…and maybe someday I’ll figure out the lottery commercial one (might be an excuse to put my feet up and watch TV), but until then, I think I can figure out plenty to write about…the perpetually flooded basement, the glitter-covered guinea pig (never a dull moment) and all the many things to be thankful for each day.

My Two-by-Four (P.S. It has a happy ending)

Recently I’ve been struck, like a two-by-four, by the loss of dreams.  It seems we all have lost dreams.  I’ve lost some dreams that I thought were givens.  The biggest being my “til death do us part” marriage.  Lately my dream of a happily ever after seems a bit out of reach as well.  I’ve realized that this life, this single mom life, doesn’t end up happily ever after very easily.  I think I have secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, been hoping for my prince charming to come on the scene.  I don’t think he’s coming any time soon, and honestly, after some of the things people have shared with me about step families, maybe that’s a good thing right now.  Nonetheless, it breaks my heart.

I long to be married again – for a partner in this life and for a stepfather who loves my children with abandon.  I know that apart from God that is unlikely.  I don’t just have baggage, I have a storage unit.  I think it just hit me that even if someone decided to join our chaos, it would be very challenging and not happily ever after from the start.  I was hoping for a rescue, dang it!

I sat down today in tears thinking about what I want and how far aways it seems.  And I felt the injustice of my ex-husband being remarried.  I can’t simply marry for me; I have to marry for 6.  Please know that I wouldn’t have it any other way – sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair.  (I sound like my 5 year old.)  I will tell you, immediately following that thought, God got all up in my face.  He reminded me that I have HIM.  And, truly, really, Jesus is so much better than anyone or anything else.  Why do I forget that so easily?  Well, I know one reason because He isn’t flesh and blood standing next to me with his arm on my shoulder…but God says He is enough and I believe Him.

It’s like I can tell everyone that I trust God – that He is enough – but then I have a disappointing day or a sorrowful moment of reminder, and I spiral down.  I forget that His grace is sufficient.  I forget that this life is about me knowing, loving and glorifying Him.  God forgive me, I want more.  I want someone who loves me with hugs and kisses and looks.  I want romance, love and companionship.   I pray that the Lord will give me grace to see beyond the challenges, beyond the sadness, beyond the brokenness to His unfailing love, His faithfulness, and His healing.

I’m determined that even though there will be moments when I long for what I’m missing, there will be more moments when I remember what I have.  I have 5 wonderful children who I love with abandon.  I have a Savior who loves me with abandon – to death on the Cross and back again.  I have a life to live and I can still dream big dreams because I have a big God.  With God all things are possible – whether that’s a godly man joining our family or me knowing that happily ever after is a given because that’s how God planned it.

In the Moment Joy

I love how God is such an “in the moment” teacher.  Last night I had the sweetest little bedtimes with my two littlest girls and my youngest son.  I prayed with them, tucked them in and kissed them goodnight.  1 1/2 hours later – that sweet little bedtime became oh so very different…let’s just say I HOPE I’m hormonal because otherwise I’m losing the rest of my mind. (The first half is long gone.) After hollering at my children who were chatting and messing around instead of quietly snoring under their comfy blankets, I picked up a book I’m reading that challenged me to find joy in all my circumstances.  It seems that most of the things I’m studying right now have to do with gratitude.  Dang it!  I don’t feel grateful half the time — I want things to be different.  I know that different isn’t always better, sometimes its just different. 

I’m re-learning that joy isn’t about how I feel or how well my life is going (thank goodness!).  It’s about being in the presence of God.  Abiding in Christ.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that one.  I know to some degree what that means but I’m still a little shaky on its application.  Is it being aware of Him all the time?  Seeing everything through His eyes – having His perspective.  Is it simply trusting Him to work mightly through all the crud of my life? And through all the wonderful too?  Is it allowing myself to sense His sovereignty in everything?  Is it being thankful in all circumstances?  Having an eternal perspective?  As I ask those questions I think I’m beginning to understand that maybe it is all of those things.  A God-awareness that gives me peace, perspective and joy.  Peace, perspective and joy are definitely things to be thankful for. 

So, I was sitting in my room…feeling terrible because a relatively good day had deteriorated into disobedience by all of us.  They were absolute stinkers and I was one big one.  My speech was not gracious nor encouraging.  It was all fussy, mean and loud.  I needed to go back into their bedrooms and ask forgiveness, but I didn’t want them to start talking again.  Ugh.  And then low and behold, three little people sheepishly appeared at my bedroom door.  “Mama, we are so sorry.”  Humbled doesn’t begin to describe me.  Thankful and apologetic, I welcomed them all into my arms and harmony was restored.   

I’m so thankful that God can turn my gross into good – because hugging my kids in reconciliation is something so very good and filled with joy.  I’m learning that joy comes from gratitude.  Gratitude because I know that God is working through everything – EVERYTHING.  He can even use my children’s inability to go to bed and my inability to be quiet when stressed to show me I have so much to be grateful for and therefore I have joy. 

   

Getting started..again..no, now..okay this time for real

Seriously, when someone says something is easy to do I should never think that that will apply to me.  Setting up this blog — ridiculous.  I still can’t figure out how to apply categories and tags to my posts – as if I even knew what those things really were.  I’ve wanted to start this blog for months but I couldn’t figure out which title I should use.  I’ve come to learn that I actually pretty much stink at making decisions.  I didn’t realize how badly until I became a single parent.

I think on some level I always thought I wanted to make all the decisions in our family, but now that it’s truly my responsibility…not so much.  I hate making decisions and when I finally do I spend most of the rest of the time second-guessing the decisions I made.  I’m STILL stressing over decisions I made 3 years ago…I’ve got to let go!

I think it’s the massive amount of things that require decisions that I can’t wrap my brain around.  I joke about working with half a brain — try wrapping half a brain around anything…not so easy.  Today, I could take up all the space in this blog listing the things I need to deal with and soon.  There are 1,000,000 small things and 10,000 big things…or visa versa depending on how you look at them.  Every thing on my list could seem earth shattering if I let it.

I over think everything.  How is this going to impact boy #1?  How will girl #2 feel about this?  Is this going to make girl #3 feel more secure?  Will boy #2 respond better to this?  Which thing is going to help girl #2 the most?  How am I going to pay for this?  Can I add one more thing to this crazy life?  When?  How?  Where?  What? Who?… every eventuality is considered, every possible consequence discussed (with myself usually – that’s a whole nuther blog).

I do seek advice from friends but the bummer is they think I just want encouragement when really what I want is answers.  Would someone just tell me what to do…and take responsibility for the results?  Yeah, no one wants that position.  Me either.

So I’m trying to figure out how to step up to the plate and be a decision maker rather than a decision wobbler. God keeps bringing verses to mind for me.  I hope you don’t mind if I share a few that really blessed me.

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!”  (Isaiah 35:3-4)  This one particularly speaks to me — I have some seriously weak hands.  Just put a jar in them and see how much a struggle to open it.  That makes my heart sink, seriously, it’s a little reminder that my husband isn’t there to help me even with the little things.  And the feeble knees…definitely!  I approach most decisions, issues and challenges with trembling knees.  And my heart?  You could say it is at times anxious.  Anxious that I will fail.  Anxious that I will disappoint.  Anxious that I will miss something important.  Anxious for the future..mine and my children’s.  Once again, I love what God says to say to my heart – to myself.  BE STRONG; FEAR NOT!  I have God on my side — He’s got my back!  God is good.  I can trust Him.  He will provide.  He will help.

“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

So I will quote those verses, I will speak truth to my heart and I will trust that God can work through me and my decisions to bless my family and those in my life.

Hey, I just made a decision!!!

Up To My Toes – Learning to Walk on the Water in the Midst of Life’s Storms

At first glance it might seem like it should read “up to my nose.”  That makes more sense – I’m up to my nose in issues, challenges, difficulties, laundry, dishes, clutter, and children.  BUT that’s not what I want for me.  That’s not what I want for anyone.  What I want is to focus on the Lord and not on all the junk in my life.

That doesn’t mean that I ignore the millions of things on my to-do list or that I live in a state of denial about the circumstances of my life.  It means that I choose joy.  I choose to have the perspective that God can use even this ridiculous life of mine for good.

So let me introduce myself…

I’m Sue – single mom to 5 kids ages 4 to 17.  I been all kinds of mommas — stay-at-home mom, working mom, homeschool mom, foster mom, adoptive mom, and now single mom.

My single mom journey began about 3 years ago when my husband jumped ship.  I was completely ambushed by his adultery.  I fought hard for my marriage and family, but unfortunately I’d lost it before I knew there was even a problem.  There’s part of me that’s glad I was blissfully unaware of his issues and thought we were happily married.  I had a 17 year long happy marriage – that’s something to be thankful for.

I hope to share about how God brought us through and cared for us – my children and me.  It’s been a stormy trip but we are hanging on, growing stronger and heading in the right direction.

The word that most accurately describes me is overwhelmed (and, depending on what I’m overwhelmed by – that can be a good or bad thing).

I could describe some other things in my world too.

My house is sticky.

My life is messy.

My family is beautiful.

It has taken me a little while to get to the point of being able to say that this broken family is beautiful, but I am so there.  Broken implies that there is something that needs to be fixed…actually that word best describes my car and parts of my house…but I hesitate to use it to describe my family.

We are wounded, scarred, bruised and battle weary, but we are not broken.

My children and I struggle…we definitely each have our issues (pretty sure I have the most), but in the midst of the chaos we have found a peace and preciousness that I don’t think we would’ve been able to comprehend apart from the hurting.

It’s challenging to live this single mom life…I desperately want to be a godly woman, but so often I’m just an overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted woman.  Reality conflicts with my vision for my family.

I’m determined to put on my big girl pants and just do it…just live this life.  So that is my hope for this blog, that we will just live this life together…the beautiful, the difficult, the challenging, and the hopeful.  That throughout the minutes…the seconds of the day…we will seek joy.

I hope you’re okay that I’m gonna share lots of stuff — the calm water and the hurricanes.  I’m gonna do my best to be real about my personal struggles and my thoughts on dealing with divorce, adultery, abandonment, single parenting and all the issues that collide in our lives because of those blasted things.

My hope is that we have fun even as we hold on for dear life!  Our ankles might get wet at times, our knees might feel a splash, and we might find some tears in our eyes, but Dearest, we will keep returning our gaze to Jesus and know that He will do beautiful things in our lives and our families.

In His Care,

Sue