The past few years have been challenging and filled with change. My kids are growing up, getting married, finishing college, graduating from high school and making plans for their future. I'm getting my masters and looking forward to where my career will take me next.
So many things have changed and my life looks completely different than it did 3 years ago. It would be easy to have a pity party and wish things weren't so difficult. But that's just not who I am.
I have been trying to choose my word for the year. I've thought a lot about what I wanted to practice and zone in on this year. One thing that I have learned is that when I embraced the challenges or difficulties, that is when I have grown stronger. When I have embraced the feelings of hurt and anger, that is when I have begun the process of healing.
So in 2019, I will Embrace life. I will accept willingly and enthusiastically this chapter of my story. I will embrace the uncertainty knowing that anything is possible. I will embrace the chaos. I will embrace the feelings of joy, heartbreak, excitement and disappointment.
I will embrace the challenges of being a solo mom and trust that God will fill the void. I will embrace the road to healing and forgiveness. I will embrace my flaws, imperfections and weaknesses and allow God to use them as He continues to write my story. I will embrace my failures and use them as an opportunity to learn and go after my goals with new perspective.
I will embrace my strengths and talents and thank God for what He has given me instead of being worried about what I don't have. I will embrace the storms of life because through them I will grow stronger. I will embrace change because it brings a promise of new life and the chance to begin again. Endings bring about new beginnings. And beginnings are rich in possibilities.
This year I will enjoy the journey and embrace the detours. It is in the detours where I have learned what I am capable of and have learned what it means to truly live!!
A solo momma always works hard but when the holidays roll around she somehow has to find the strength to do a little more. Picking up even more extra hours at work to help ease the tight budget so there will be gifts under the tree.
She makes time for the family traditions and looks for ways to start new ones. There is so much that she wants to do but time gets away from her. She feels like a failure for not keeping up with it all. She remembers Christmases from the past and feels a little sadness.
She wishes she could give her kids more of what's on their list. They have been such great kids. They have taken on extra responsibilities while she worked long hours. They have stayed strong through so much turmoil and loss. But the money is just not there. She takes what she has and spreads it as far as it will go. She looks for just the right gifts for each child.
She begins to feel the stress as the money runs out and she's only been able to get a few gifts. She knows that the kids will understand but it still pains her to not have enough.
She has always loved Christmas but this year her Christmas spirit has taken a beating. She keeps doing all of the traditions hoping that will help but she really just wants to stay in bed and sleep until January.
The life of a solo mom is full of long exhausting days. Days that start extremely early and end very late. There's so much to do and no partner to share the load with. It all falls on her shoulders......the bills, the parenting, the household responsibilities and so much more. There is no real rest for a solo momma. She must keep up with all the appointments, the schedules, and emotional needs of her kids. Kids that are trying to learn a new normal for their family. Kids that are navigating being a teenager or young adult in a world that has been turned upside down. Anxiety and depression are a constant topics of concern.
Life-work balance for the solo momma is no easy feat. Working enough hours to pay all of the bills but also spending quality time with her kids puts the solo momma in an impossible situation. A situation that causes guilt and sleepless nights. She gives up sleep to work the early or late shift so she can be there for the school programs or sporting event. She picks up extra hours to pay for driving classes, youth retreats, sports fees and Chipotle trips. She tries to stress the importance of money with her kids without causing them to worry about not having enough.
When she takes time for herself, it leaves her second guessing if that was the best decision. Especially when there are appliances that need replacing and home repairs that need completed. She knows that in order to keep going, she needs time to rest and recharge. But unfortunately the stack of bills doesn't care about her emotional well being. She knows that the child support will come to an end before the kids stop needing her financial support.
She has friends who care about her and who are willing to lend an ear or a helping hand. But she's tired of being a burden to them. So she spends little time with anyone except her kids. It's just easier that way.
She has long conversations with God about her doubts, goals and needs. The strength and clarity from those conversations is the only reason she has survived being a solo momma. Feeling God's presence wrap around her and wipe away the tears, brings peace amidst the chaos.
Being a solo momma has shown her that the petty stuff is a waste of time and energy. She no longer worries about people's approval or acceptance. Many people have opinions about how things should be done but they're not willing to be there during the difficult, messy times to actually help. She focuses on living each day trying to do what is best for her kids. They are her priority right now.
She has goals and dreams for the future. She's working towards those goals to provide a better life for herself and her kids. In just a few short years, the kids will be gone to start lives of their own. She want them to have good memories of their time at home. She also wants them to know that it's never too late to have a new goal or dream.
Being a solo momma is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And to be honest, most days I don't want to be walking this road. It's lonely, messy, difficult, exhausting and overwhelming. It wasn't how I expected to live life after 20+ years of marriage. But this is my life now. And I will be the strongest, most determined, hardest working solo momma that I can be.
During my recent divorce, I chose not to legally change my name back to my maiden name. There were a few reasons but at the time the main one was that I wanted the same last name as my kids. I am "Momma Carlson" after all.
Since I made that choice I have wondered if I should have kept my married name or made the change. For the past couple of months I used my maiden name on social media to try it out. It didn't work for me. It's not me anymore. But then again I'm not married anymore either.
A name is important. It signifies who you are and where you belong. It's something that gets passed down from generation to generation. Family names come with stories and legacies....some good and some bad.
So who am I now? I am still my parent's daughter but yet I am something more. I am no longer the wife of my ex but yet I am the mother to his children who carry his name. I will admit that there were days when emotions were high that I didn't want to be known as a Carlson. I just couldn't get peace about what the right thing was for me.
I began thinking about legacies and the history of our family. That's when it hit me.....carrying on the Carlson name isn't about my ex. It's about a very special woman named May Carlson.
May Carlson was a single woman who never married and who never had any biological children of her own. She worked in textiles and lived with her mother. She was active in her church and sang in the choir. She was a godly woman who prayed and asked God to bring a family into the empty house next door to her so that she could minister to them.
God answered her prayers. A family did move into that house. A large Hispanic family. May befriended the mom and shared Jesus with her. The mom got sick with cancer and she asked May to look out for her kids. When the mom passed away, the youngest was only about 4 years old. May kept her promise to the mom and through a series of events, she became a foster mom to the youngest 2 boys.
May loved God and she shared that love with not just those 2 boys but with the rest of the family as well. She gave everything she had to raise those boys and to try to teach them morals, character and Christian values. The youngest was a handful and seemed to always be getting in trouble for something. She liked to remind him that Jesus was always watching. And made him ask himself if he would do what he was doing if Jesus was sitting next to him.
At the age of 18, as a thank you for everything that she had done for him, the youngest boy went to court and had his name legally changed to Carlson. That was the day that the May Carlson legacy began. That boy is who I married 22 years ago. May Carlson passed away a few years before I met her son. I so wish that I could have met her and gotten to know her. She was a remarkably patient and kind woman. A woman who spent her retirement years raising teenagers and caring for her elderly mother. A woman who became the hands and feet of Jesus right in her own neighborhood.
I am so blessed to be a Carlson "daughter". I want my life to honor Christ and the May Carlson legacy. I want to pass that legacy down to the next generation. I am so thankful that there are 3 Carlson boys to carry on her name and her story for generations to come.
I wonder what she would think about her grandkids? I think she would probably be very happy to know that they love God and are growing up to be amazing young people.
Thank you May for being a praying woman who stepped out into obedience to God. Thank you for loving Jesus enough to serve him in such a practical way. Happy Mother's Day in heaven.
I've been a Mom for 22 years. It has been one of the hardest, most exhausting, most rewarding jobs of my life. I have been there for first steps, first words, first bike rides, first touchdowns, first dances, first drives, first loves, first heartbreaks and first jobs. I've been their nurse, their listening ear, their taxi driver, their teacher, their cheerleader, their driving instructor, their housekeeper and their chef.
I've gone weeks without decent sleep and have spent countless hours crying out to God on their behalf. I've been very proud of my performance as a mom. Maybe at times a little too proud.
It can be easy to look at other moms and compare yourself. Maybe you are at every sporting event and they're not. Maybe they volunteer in the classroom every week and you barely make it to open house once a year. Maybe they prepare gourmet dinners and you eat fast food in the car. Maybe you work a full time job plus overtime and they don't work outside the home. Maybe they read aloud as a family every night before bed and you just make it up as you fill out the reading log. Maybe they always have the laundry done and you can never find a clean towel. I'm a firm believer in the saying, "We're all a hot mess, some just hide it better than others".
We have to be careful when making assumptions about the actions of other moms. We don't know the battles that they're facing. Maybe that mom isn't at the sporting event because she can't miss work. Maybe the mom who works full time does it to put food on the table for her family. Maybe a second job keeps that Mom from reading with her child every night before bed. Maybe the laundry is never done because she chooses to nap during her free afternoon to regain some strength for the rest of the day.
I have to admit that I have been guilty of judging the choices and actions of other moms. I could look in from the outside and think I knew what was going on. And then my world was turned upside down and I was forced to make the hard choices.
Of course I want to be there for everything for my kids, but I am now a solo momma who has to provide food, clothing and shelter for myself and my kids with little help from anyone else. I became the primary provider. It's just me and God paying the bills and putting food on the table.
I don't have a partner to fall back on when things get tough and I want to just stay in bed all day with the covers over my head. I don't have a teammate to help carry the daily load of taking care of a home and raising 2 teenagers. I don't have the choice to not do things because I'm tired or not feeling well. There is no one to rub my back or give me a hug and tell me that everything is going to be ok. I don't have the luxury of blowing things off or not planning ahead. This is such a crucial time in my kids lives. I can't give them everything that they want, but I will do my best to give them everything that's in my power to give them.
Some days I may get 8 hours of sleep and some days I only get 4. Most of my days off are spent running errands or catching up on things that got pushed to the wayside during a busy work week. The mental load of "all the stuff" can be quite overwhelming and at times seem impossible. However, when you are a solo momma, quitting is not an option.
Solo mommas just keep doing what needs to be done for their children. You don't think about whether it's fair or right that you have to give so much. You just do it for your kids. You somehow find the strength deep within to just never stop.
People tell me that they don't know how I do it. They ask me if I'm taking on too much. My answer to that is very simple....there is nothing that is too much to make life better for my kids. They are only in my home for a few short years and it is my job to give them as much stability and love as I possibly can. I need to be there to listen when they have exciting news to share or a problem to solve. I want them to know that the only thing in my life more important than them is my relationship with Christ.
Am I stretching myself thin? Most definitely. Would I like to get more sleep and have more "Me Time"? Yes, it would be nice. Do my kids' needs and wants come before my own? Of course. Do we get on each other's nerves? Ummmm......YES!!! Do I always have money for what they want? Nope. Do they know that if it's important to them that I will move heaven and earth to make it happen?? Absolutely without a doubt!!!Will they ever doubt my love and devotion to them? Absolutely Not!!!
Being a solo mom has given me a strength that I never knew I was capable of. It has opened my eyes to struggles that I didn't fully understand before. It has shown me how easy it can be to misjudge something when you've never lived it!!!
I was going through some old unfinished blogs and I came across one from August 1, 2017. Here's what I wrote on that day:
The past few days have been full of activity with the kids but I am struggling with depression and sadness. At random times and random places, the emotions just overwhelm me and I start crying. I pray and listen to worship music to help lift the feelings of despair and hopelessness. But the reality is that infidelity is trauma of the heart. It is a trauma that doesn't just heal quickly either.
I've been told that I need to just get over the pain and move on. That I will find someone else to love me and then everything will be all better. I'm sorry but that is a lie from the devil. Most psychologists say it takes between 1 and 2 years to truly heal from infidelity.
As I was doing some reading today I came across an article about the trauma of infidelity. For those who have never had to walk down this path, I think this gives a very accurate description of what it feels like.
"Infidelity feels like intense hate that is meant to agonizingly carve the love right out of your heart. A sadistic and vengeful way to say, "I despise you like no other person on earth." It is the combination of evil and hate that rips at your heart, spitting a venom of condemnation, from someone who feels like the devil; only this time the devil is wearing your spouses face. From an enemy you may expect such ruthlessness, but not from your spouse. It is the ultimate rejection of your very being from the person who knows you the most. It is horror that terrorizes every moment of your life as it kills your dreams of what your life is, was, and will be. The shock of the assault feels no different than if your spouse plunged a knife deep into your heart, while you let out a bloodcurdling scream of destruction to your self-esteem and safety. It is mocking of your love, a statement of reprisal. The confusion so overwhelming and dismaying - How could this person who claimed to love you, dispose of your affections so ruthlessly, tearing them from your heart one vicious and bloody slash after another. "
Wow!! Reading that again today, 7months later reminds me what an emotional wreck I was. I still can't believe how accurate that article was at putting into words the pain that I felt. But more importantly reading those words shows me how far I have come in my healing process. God has proven to be there every step of the way. He has comforted me. He has repaired my broken heart and has held me up when I was too weak to stand on my own two feet. He brought just the right people into my life at just the right times. He loved me with a reckless love that never waivered. He strengthened me a little more each day. When I cried out to him he heard me and answered me.
I was talking to my daughter the other day about my choice to not run straight into another relationship. I told her that I had purposely avoided that so that I could focus on complete healing and learn about me again. I wanted to know that I wasn't using a relationship with someone else as a band aid for my pain and broken heart. She said, "Well Mom actually you did run straight to a guy....well to THE guy....God."
And in that moment, I just smiled deeply and knew that I had done it. I had survived the worst time of my life and even though I didn't always say the right thing or do the right thing, my kids saw WHO I relied on. They saw that in my worst moments, I trusted God to carry me and help me carry on. They saw that I didn't do any of this in my own strength.
I tried to hide my weakness from them but I remember one day I was really struggling emotionally and I was trying to talk to the kids about something. I think it might have been about chores or schedules. I just remember saying, "Whatever, I don't care. I'm tired. I'm going to bed." I fell into bed, pulled the covers over my head and began crying. Madison came into my room, laid down beside me, put her arm around me and said, "It's ok to cry Mom. You don't have to always be so strong for us." Of course that made me cry even more. Heck it still makes me cry even now. But it's happy tears of how blessed I am to have these amazing kids in my life.
We're all in different stages of the healing process and will progress through the stages in our own time. My wounds are beginning to scar over. Some areas are still tender and will take a little longer to heal. However, when I read what I've written in the past I am so thankful for the progress that I have made. With God's help I have not remained stuck in the trauma of the infidelity and hatefulness.
I refuse to put a time table on my full recovery. I don't know when I will be whole again and ready to find someone to love. I just know that I will continue to focus on God's plan, God's Word, God's direction and His purpose for my life. I will continue to do the hard work required to rebuild myself.
Trauma creates change you DON'T choose. Healing is about creating change you DO choose. ~Michelle Rosenthal
I've not really made a big deal about my birthday in the past several years. Usually dinner with the family was the extent of the celebrating. Sometimes I celebrated birthday weekend, but lets be honest that was just an excuse to not have to cook or clean. For my 40th birthday a few years back, my mom and aunt came up and we had a full weekend of celebrating. This year I decided to do things a little differently.
A friend inspired me to celebrate birthday month. And honestly this year I needed to celebrate myself and the life that I have been blessed with. This year February was the 1 year anniversary of my ex moving out, the date for the final court hearing for the divorce and my first Valentine's Day in 22 years without a significant other. I needed to focus on the good things to keep me from crashing down emotionally.
So that's what I did. I started the month with lunch out with my "birthday month celebrating" friend and I ended the month with a day trip to the beach. On the days in between, I celebrated the little things like sleeping in, taking a bubble bath, a warm sunny day or watching Netflix with the kids. I enjoyed a 9 day vacation right in the middle of the month. I celebrated special gifts and cards from family, friends and even a couple of strangers.
I was very thankful for the warning I got from the policeman instead of the speeding ticket. That was definitely a moment to celebrate. I had lunch with Bible study friends and dinner with some fellow February birthday girls. I celebrated the news that I had gotten the second job that I had applied for and I figured out the mechanical issue with my daughter's car. Madison and I celebrated Valentine's Day by going to see "The Greatest Showman". It was so good...we absolutely loved it!!
On my birthday, the kids and I flew to Chicago for a couple of days. We had fun shopping and exploring a new city. I got to eat yummy Chicago deep dish pizza for my birthday dinner and a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery for my "birthday cake".
And even though it was difficult, I was thankful to be able to finalize the divorce agreements and conclude the legal aspect of the divorce. During my month of celebrating another year of life, my 22 year marriage officially ended. I could focus on the sadness and heartbreak of that, but instead I am choosing to see the possibilities of new beginnings. I will celebrate who I am becoming, the lessons that I have learned and the strength that I have gained through the challenges. I will celebrate my growth from an insecure woman who was afraid to use her voice to the confident, bold woman who understands her value and her worth. I have faced so many challenges head on and have succeeded in getting back up every time that life knocked me down. I have learned that it's ok to have dreams and passions and to pursue those. God has put those things into my heart because he has created me to fulfill them. Anytime that I have pursued those passions, I have felt so much peace and joy. However, I had a habit of allowing the dreams and passions of my ex to take priority. I worked to make his dreams a reality and was supportive of him. I didn't understand why he could not return that support towards my pursuits. It has taken some time but I have realized that was his character issue not mine. When you truly love someone you support them in their God given purpose.
As I look forward into the future, I am so excited for new opportunities, new possibilities, new milestones and new things to celebrate. I am already making plans for fun things to do for Birthday Month 2019. I will definitely be taking another vacation week and maybe go somewhere new!!
But I'm not gonna just sit around and wait for next year to celebrate my life. I'm going to try really hard to find the good in every day.....the gift of family....the joy of friendship....the peace of God.....the blessings of gratitude......and the hope of true love.
Today is the beginning of February....also known as the Love Month. It's a time to show your special someone that you love them or maybe wish that you had a special someone to love. It's a popular month for flowers, chocolate and greeting cards. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the one that you love, but as Christians God tells us to show love to one another always...not just in February. He also tells us to show love to the difficult people in our lives. This is no easy task.
It's easy to love the ones that we feel deserve our love. But what about the ones who have wronged us or caused harm to us in some way? Our desire is to see justice prevail. We can feel justified in treating them harshly or refusing to show them love or kindness in any form. Especially, if like me you rank justice higher than mercy. We want mercy for ourselves but would prefer others to be dealt with according to what we feel they deserve.
I like how 1 Peter 1:22 describes how we are to love. Depending on the translation it tells us to love sincerely, fervently, brotherly, earnestly, and unselfishly. It's not a passive kind of love. It is a messy, sweaty, hard working in the trenches kind of love.
The Message translates it this way, "love one another as if your lives depended on it." When our lives depend on something, we take it seriously and we make sure we do it to the best of our ability. We don't ignore things that our life depends on. We don't treat those things flippantly or carelessly. That's how seriously we are to love one another.
But why are we to love one another with such fervor? Because Christ loved us and gave His life for us. He doesn't say just love those who are nice and lovable. That doesn't really prove our love for Christ. It's love shown to the friend who has betrayed you. It's a kind response to someone's angry rant. It's taking your justice seeking attitude to God and asking Him to help you to not seek your own revenge. Like I said it's no easy task but our obedience to Christ's command to love others is not optional.
Loving others like Jesus loved is costly. It is a self sacrificing love and can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect and we will not always love others perfectly. But we must strive to love like Jesus in every situation.
I was reading a lesson on Bible.org the other day and I think the author summed up what it looks like to love like Jesus in the real world. Here's what he said:
"Does loving someone require that I like that person? Does it mean that I must become a close friend with a difficult person? By looking at Jesus’ example, I have to say, “Not necessarily.” While He loved all people, He did not give His time equally to all. He spent the most time with His disciples, but even among the twelve, He was closer to Peter, James, and John. And John is the only one called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:1, 23).
Jesus didn’t even spend time with His half-brothers when He had the opportunity. He could have gone up to the feast with them (John 7:1-10), which would have meant several days of traveling together. He could have used that time to influence them, since they were not yet believing in Him. But He let them go alone and then He went later by Himself.
Jesus also loved His enemies, the Jewish leaders, but He constantly provoked and confronted them. He instructed His disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on if people rejected them and their message (Matt. 10:14). Apparently, that was the loving thing to do, since Jesus never would have commanded them not to love their enemies (Matt. 5:44).
Also, since biblical love seeks the highest good for the other person, namely, that he become more like Christ, love sometimes requires confronting the person with his sin or letting him experience the consequences of his sin so that he learns to hate it (Acts 8:18-24; 13:6-12). Love does not enable a person to continue in sinful or irresponsible ways. Love tries to help a person learn to be obedient to God and responsible to “bear his own load” (Gal. 6:5).
I don’t say any of this to give you a cop out from loving difficult people, but rather, as Paul put it (Phil. 1:9), my aim is “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” I encourage you to meditate often on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Then go through Paul’s letters and his actions in the Book of Acts and see how he worked out those qualities in real situations." Steven J Cole
So who are the difficult people who you need to love like Jesus loved you? Is there someone you need to confront with Christian love? Is there a situation that you are holding a grudge about because justice was not served? Apply Jesus' love to the situation and know that God's plan for you cannot be thwarted by the sinful, careless or hateful actions of others. This is a real struggle for me and many days I fail at it miserably. I'm thankful that each day is a new start and a new opportunity to practice the discipline of loving like Jesus.
On January 2nd, I shared that my word for 2018 was FOCUS. I was going to silence distractions and avoid foolish arguments so that I could focus on the important things in my life. Well the first week didn't go well at all.
I allowed stress to get the best of me. I engaged in more than one foolish argument. I was distracted by so many things. By the end of the week I was an emotional wreck. I had given others the power to steal my peace and joy. I let my roller coaster emotions dictate my attitude.
Sunday morning I woke up with the desire for a restart. We were beginning the #21DaysofPrayer at church and I wanted to refocus my heart and mind on God and what I could control.
During the message, Pastor Pat listed 3 things we needed to get out of our lives.....doubt, negativity and sin; and 3 things we needed to get in.....God's Word, worship, and prayer. So that's what I did. I took my doubts to God. When negative thoughts or comments came to me, I filtered them through the truth of God's Word.
And what a different week I had. God's presence was felt and there was peace in my heart. My difficulties didn't all vanish but when I took them to God I lowered my stress level immensely.
I found the following on Pinterest and feel that it is a great explanation of what my goals are for this year. So it has become my daily mantra as I get a restart on my new year.
Over the past month or so I have been thinking about what word will be my theme for 2018. I have a lot on my plate and I'm constantly being pulled in multiple directions. It's easy for me to feel overwhelmed and distracted from what's important in my life. I spend precious time and energy in foolish arguments and unnecessary drama. So for 2018, my word is FOCUS.
This year I will live each day with intentional FOCUS on the important things and not let the distractions pull me away.
I will FOCUS first on my personal relationship with Christ. I will FOCUS on His Word and His plans for my future. I will take my needs and concerns to Him and trust Him to provide.
I will FOCUS on my relationships with my kids. I will take every opportunity to point them towards Jesus as the center of their life. I will raise them to love and honor God with their choices. I will make the most of my time with them and have open and honest conversations with them about life issues.
I will FOCUS on working hard at my job and taking new opportunities to provide financially for my family. I will be intentional in my work relationships to make sure that my words and actions are a testimony of my faith.
I will FOCUS on the process of healing my heart and ensuring that bitterness doesn't take root. I will seek God's comfort and love to heal the cracks and prepare to one day love again. I will not rush the healing process but will FOCUS on God's timing.
I will FOCUS on building stronger friendships with the godly women in my life. I will FOCUS on being a good friend by weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. I will FOCUS on showing kindness to everyone who crosses my path.
There will be lots of challenges and circumstances in 2018 that I will not be able to prevent or control. But I can choose to FOCUS on the blessings, lessons and growth that will happen in the midst of it all.
“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.” John MacArthur
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.