In just a few short days 2017 will come to an end. It has been the hardest year of my life and I am ready to leave it behind. It's time to figure out how to begin a new chapter and get unstuck from the old one.
At the end of each year, I like to take time to reflect on memories made, struggles faced and lessons learned. At first glance, 2017 was a year that I might want to just forget all together. But upon closer inspection, I am reminded of some amazing growth for me and huge milestones for my kids.
Through the pain of betrayal I have grown stronger and learned that God's love wraps around us and carries us through the tough days. The days when we don't want to be strong and resilient anymore. The days when we just want them to see the pain they cause and to care enough to change. The days when the weight of hard decisions feels like it will crush us. God draws close and holds us tight.
Through financial abandonment, I have witnessed God's faithfulness to provide in so many ways. Some days it was a card in the mail, a gift left on my doorstep or a friend just stopping by. I have learned that hard work and trust in God go hand in hand. I can't just sit around waiting for God to take care of my needs. I also can't keep everything in and pretend that it's all OK. I have to work hard and take the opportunities that God gives me. I have to be honest when someone asks how things are going instead of just answering "I'm fine". I have to be willing to accept help from those who offer. God has used some amazing angels this year to bless me and show me that he has not left me to do this alone.
Through fun times I have learned that laughter really is great medicine and that my kids are growing into some amazing people. Through my struggles to be strong for them I have learned that they love me and they understand that I am human and make mistakes. They don't expect me to be perfect and to never have a meltdown when the stress piles up. They just need to see me keep getting back up and never giving up.
We have made some great memories this year. We welcomed a new furry friend into our family. An English bulldog named Jovi Lynn. She has been a handful but she also brings so much joy and love.
I was able to visit the beach twice this year. Once during Spring Break with Madison and then again in June with all four kids and lots of extended family.
Madison got her driver's license in July and a car from my Mom in August. Tyler started high school and played JV & Freshman football. During a summer youth camp he rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized. Noah completed his first year of college and earned an athletic scholarship towards his second. Christian and Nichole got married and have begun creating a life for themselves.
I will always see 2017 as a major turning point in my life. It was the year when all of the chains fell off and I gained strength, freedom and peace. I found my voice. I found me again. The me that I had forgotten even existed. Despite all of the hardship, I have become a better me. A me who knows that without God, I can do nothing. A me who refuses to settle for excuses. A me whose story is still being written by God.
2017 was a year of growth that would not have happened if my circumstances were different. I look forward to new adventures, new lessons and new growth in 2018.
As Christmas Day 2017 draws to a close, I am thankful for the memories made and the blessings of family. Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love the traditions, family time and giving just the right gift....but things were different this year. It was the first Christmas since the separation. The first Christmas since my firstborn got married. The first Christmas morning that I had to work.
As the kids and I talked about what Christmas would look like this year, there were many traditions that we knew would continue. Some would include their Dad and some would not. We wanted to include the newlyweds in as much as possible but also wanted them to have the freedom to spend time as a couple making their own Christmas memories.
We enjoyed a great Christmas dinner together on Christmas Eve. All 7 of us sitting around the table eating, laughing and talking. It looked like so many other Christmas dinners from the past. The table was set with the Magnolia dishes. One of the few nice things we bought as a young married couple. We've lost a plate and cup along the way. But that dish set has survived 4 wild kids, two decades of holiday meals, and at least a dozen moves.
For that hour of the day, it was like the turmoil of our circumstances didn't exist. For a brief moment I forgot about the pain of the past 10 months. We were practicing in real time what we had been reading about in our Advent devotionals.....the unstoppable, unbeatable love of God. Just like the baby that was born in a stinky messy stable, God's love meets us in the messy muck of our lives and forever changes us.
After dinner, their Dad left and the kids and I went to the Christmas Eve service at our old church. It was so great to be there and see so many friends who are like family to us. I heard over and over again that we were loved, missed and prayed for. Being there with all 5 of my kids was an amazing gift that overwhelmed me with joy. No matter what is going on in my life, centering our focus around Christ is what Christmas will always be about for me.
Towards the end of the service the worship leader sang a song that I love and the tears began to fall. The song is "Somewhere in Your Silent Night" by Casting Crowns. Every time I hear that song it speaks so deeply to my broken heart. Here are some of the lyrics:
Somewhere in your silent night
Heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried
Hope is here just lift your head
For love has come to find you somewhere in your silent night.
From heaven's height to manger low
There is no distance that the Prince of Peace won't go
From manger low to Calvary's hill
When your pain runs deep
His love runs deeper still
Christmases may be different from now on but God's gift of love will never end. Our traditions may change but the reason that we celebrate will not. In the midst of joy, heartbreak and gratefulness I have hope for what is to come. Hope for healing, forgiveness and continued peace.
Christmas 2017 was a different kind of Christmas but I cherished each moment and I am so in awe of all that God did for me during the season. And technically it's not quite over yet. We're now in Georgia spending the next few days celebrating with extended family.
I hope that you were able to enjoy the season with your friends and family. And no matter what level of dysfunction you identify with, just remember that Jesus meets us right in the middle of the mess and carries us through.
When we are young we are afraid of monsters being under our beds or in our closets. Our parents will come in and assure us that there are no monsters. We might make them open the closet doors and double check before we believe them.
As we get older we no longer need to look under the beds or in the closets. The monsters that we once feared have made their home in our heads. They keep us anxious and worried about a variety of things.
We are constantly asking questions about life. What are other people saying about me? Will they still be my friend tomorrow? Will I find someone to love me no matter what? What happens if I don't get the job? How will I be able to provide for my family? What if things don't go as planned?
It's not bad to ask questions, but the monsters will make us believe that we're not lovable or valuable. They'll convince us that no one cares and that we'll never accomplish anything important.
If we listen to the monsters we will miss out on the amazing part of life. We will be too afraid to step out and use the gifts that God has blessed us with. We will constantly see the negative side of things.
We must face the monsters and take away their power in our lives. We have to combat the fear and lies with the truth of God's Word and the value we have as His creation. The more truth that we speak, the weaker the monsters become.
What power have you given the monsters in your life?
In less than 2 weeks, my firstborn will be getting married. Final preparations are underway. Rehearsal dinner menu has been set. The boys have been fitted for their tuxes. Madison has her bridesmaid dress. All of the details are coming together.
Things have been really tight financially so I've picked up extra hours and had generous people help with some of the expenses. I've been to several local thrift stores over the past couple of weeks searching for a dress for myself. I found lots of beautiful dresses, but unfortunately I had no luck finding a dress that I liked in my size. So today I decided to head out to the mall to see what I could find.
I walked into JC Penney and found a beautiful black evening gown in my size. It wasn't the color that I really wanted but I figured that it would be a great option if I couldn't find one that I could afford in the color that I wanted. And since it was a $150 dress on clearance for $10, I couldn't pass it up. So I bought the black dress and continued shopping. I went to store after store. I found lots of beautiful dresses but nothing that fit in my budget.
I was beginning to accept the fact that the beautiful black dress would be the one I would wear on my son's special day. As I made my way through the mall, I visited one last store.....Elder Beerman. I almost didn't even go in because I was doubtful that I would find anything within my budget.
As I looked through the dresses, I found a few that I liked but the price tags were scary. And then on the sale rack, a beautiful navy blue floor length dress caught my eye. It had a lace top and a beautiful satin belt. I held my breath as I looked at the tag. It was my size and the price wasn't too scary. After the discounts, it would be just a little more than I had planned to spend but I knew I had to try it on.
As I stood in the dressing room looking at my reflection in the mirror, I knew that this was the dress. This was what I was supposed to wear as I celebrated my son's special day.
So God and I had a little conversation. I told him that I loved the dress and that I was grateful to have found it but I was a little uneasy about going over my budget. I asked him if he could please make the dress have a deeper discount than what the price tag said. But if not that was OK too.
I took the dress to the counter to pay for it. The associate told me that it was past time for her lunch break so I would need to go the counter in a different department to pay for the dress. Not great customer service but that's a story for another day.
I went to the next department, and approached the counter. A young associate named Haley was happy to help me. As she rang up the dress, she asked me if I had any coupons today. When I told her that I did not, she pulled out her phone and said I think I can get one on the app that will work for this purchase. She scanned it and saved me $30!!! That may not sound like a lot to others, but to a single mom on an extremely tight budget it's a big deal. I thanked her and told her how much I appreciated her going above and beyond. She smiled and acted like she was just doing her job. She thanked me for shopping and told me to have a great day.
As I left the counter, I was smiling through the tears. I was in awe but not totally surprised. God used Haley to let me know that he sees and he cares about every detail in my life. Even down to the color of dress that I was looking for. He made sure that the "past my lunch break" associate sent me to Haley's counter. I can't say for certain but something tells me that she wouldn't have cared about going above and beyond like Haley did. On the way to the car, God and I had another conversation.
Today was a beautiful reminder that no matter what happens in my life, God is just a whisper away. With each answered prayer, He shows me how deeply he loves me. And even though I am now a Solo Mom, I can say with confidence that I never walk alone. Never once had God left me to figure things out on my own. He is faithful to meet me where I am and provide my every need. Sometimes that's giving me peace amidst the chaos and other times it's a navy blue dress.
I'm going to start this blog with a disclaimer.....I am stepping up on my soapbox!!! Don't say I didn't warn you!!
Lately, I have crossed paths with women of all ages who don't understand that they are mighty. They second guess themselves. They wrestle with low self-esteem. They allow others to speak to them disrespectfully. They ignore abuse in many forms. They overwork themselves for overbearing bosses. They give others the control over their happiness.
Many women see these situations in their lives as just the way it is. They don't see their value and worth. They let the thoughts and opinions of others dictate how they see themselves. They fret and worry about making sure everyone else is happy and cared for while they neglect their own mental, emotional and physical well being. It's time for a change!!
"Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide." ~ C. S. Lewis
Women, you are strong, mighty, powerful, beautiful, intelligent, unique masterpieces created by God. There is no one else on the planet like you. Stop wanting to be someone else. You are the only person who can live out your story. Your gifts and abilities are needed in your part of the world. Your life experiences bring amazing value to those around you. God gave you to your children because you were the only person for the job. No one else could love them and nurture them like you do.
"Don't take mirrors too seriously. Your true reflections is in your heart."
Please stop letting the media tell you what beauty looks like. Magazines and billboards are full of photo-shopped images of real people. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Real beauty is not flawless skin or long flowing hair. Real beauty is shown in your actions, attitudes and the love you share with others. When you can walk confidently in your flaws and still love yourself, that is true beauty. When you let the struggles and trials of life make you stronger and more grateful, that is true beauty. When you embrace your laugh lines and stretch marks, that is true beauty. When your eyes sparkle as you talk about something that you love, that is true beauty. When you try to make someone smile even when your sad, that is true beauty.
Ladies, your presence makes the world beautiful. You care deeply and give generously. You are dependable and work tirelessly. You do a million little things a day that make you irreplaceable, even if you think no one notices. Believe me, they do!!
"There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds." ~ Laurell K Hamilton
Please stop allowing the men in your life to degrade, disrespect and demean you. I know there are some great men out there. Many of you are blessed to be in a relationship with men who love, honor and cherish you. Men who support your gifts and passions. Men who know what it means to be servant leaders in the home.
However, there are many of you who are limping along waiting for the man in your life to see your worth, appreciate your value and to truly love you. You allow them to treat you poorly because you love them and you think that they love you. That's not love. You don't destroy someone that you love. You don't control someone that you love. You don't devalue someone that you love. Your worth does not have to be proven. It is a gift to you from God. Your value is not dependent on the opinions of others. You are valuable because you are alive.
"Setting boundaries is not about giving up on people. Boundaries show others how we desire to be treated. It's their choice to listen or not." ~ Shannon Thomas
Stand up for your dignity and say "No More" to invalidation, verbal abuse and psychological manipulation. Stop holding back who God created you to be because someone else doesn't approve. Never make yourself small for anyone. Set boundaries and stop allowing your self-worth to be stripped away layer by layer.
Walk in quiet confidence. Don't strive, chase or clamor for attention. Accept that not everyone will like you or understand you. When you embrace your attributes and your weaknesses it gets easier to live in your own skin. And that's when you rise up as a strong and mighty woman.
A woman who feels deeply and loves fiercely. A woman whose tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter. A woman who is both soft and powerful. A woman who is humble and bold. A woman who has high standards and expectations and does not apologize for them. A woman who is clothed in strength and dignity.
"A strong woman has waited patiently while her roots grew down deep into God's word. Over time she becomes unshakable in her faith. She starts bearing fruit naturally and is full of life. People are attracted to her strength and growth, and many find rest and peace as they lean on her. And when storms and trials come as they always do, they won't be able to take her down. A few branched may be lost or pruned away, but in their place comes new growth and new life." ~ Lisa Chan
I absolutely love family dinner. I love the conversation and laughter. I love just being at the table surrounded by the people that I love the most. It has been a while since I've had a full table.
Our schedules are busy. One is in college and lives in the dorm. One has moved out and is preparing to become a husband. The other two have very full calendars with school, athletics, friends and church activities. We eat at different times and different places. We are always rushing to get to the next thing on the agenda. But not tonight.
Tonight we slowed down and enjoyed time together. Tonight we had to put both leaves in the table. We had to grab the extra chairs from the garage. We crammed as many as we could around that Ikea table. It was loud. It was messy and chaotic. It kinda reminded me of the movie "Cheaper By the Dozen". But it was just what this momma's heart needed.
We celebrated having family visiting from out of state. We celebrated my firstborn's 22nd birthday. We celebrated the love of family around the table. We celebrated the simple joys of just being together.
As I sat there looking around the table, it hit me. This is what life is really about. It didn't matter that the house wasn't spotless. It didn't matter that we were using paper plates instead of "real" dishes.
What truly mattered was the joy, laughter and connectedness. What mattered was the love that was felt around the table.
When stress is high, we can say hurtful things that we don't mean. We can lash out due to fear or anger. We can really blow it in our relationships with those closest to us. That happened to me on Tuesday..
Over the past few weeks I have been working a lot of extra hours so that I could pay bills and pay all of the sports and back to school expenses for the kids. Those hours have taken me away from home a lot more than I wanted and have made me really tired. My teenagers have been enjoying the last weeks of summer hanging out with friends and a little extra freedom. They have been really good about letting me know where they were going and getting home in time for curfew.
However, my teenage daughter chose to lie to me and her brothers about who she was hanging out with. When I was unable to reach her, I got worried. And then when I found out that she wasn't where she said she would be, I got even more worried. Especially since I was stuck at work waiting on a delayed plane to land.
I spent the whole drive home beating myself up for working so much. My emotions were off the charts. I was so upset with her for lying but also worried sick that something had happened. It wasn't like her to not answer her phone or respond to text messages.
Once I got home, I went to her room to get her Ipad, hoping that since it was connected to her phone, that it would give us a clue as to her whereabouts. As I hurried down the stairs, I slipped and fell. I hit my face on a door frame, jammed my wrist and banged up my big toe. As I hit the ground, my sons came rushing into the room to help me. That's when I realized that my face was bleeding from a cut.
I got myself up off the floor and began assessing the damage. The cut was deep and would require stitches. My wrist began to hurt more and more. I knew I would need to go to the ER, but first I needed to locate my daughter.
Thankfully, about that time my daughter called her brother. When she got home, I was angry, worried and in pain. I said some things that needed said but I also said some hurtful things that I didn't mean. She had made a wrong choice and she had lied. But that mistake does not change how much I love her. She is a teenager who needs a mom to be there for her. She needs to know that trust is vital to a relationship.....especially a parent - teenager relationship.
She saw the cut on my face and knew that she was partly to blame. She felt horrible. She didn't need me make her feel worse. Unfortunately, in that moment the fear, worry, stress, exhaustion and pain manifested itself in an angry outburst from me. I made the situation worse by making her feel unwanted and unloved. And that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Tonight we had the opportunity to talk. I wanted her to know how much I loved her and needed her in my life. Yes, she is a crazy teenager who pushes me to my limits but I am so blessed to be her mom. I can't imagine my life without her. Which I explained to her was why I was freaking out. I told her that Moms have a way of going straight to worst case scenario when they can't reach their kids.
I think this is a night that none of us will ever forget for the rest of our lives. My hope is that we remember the lessons from it....not just the parts when we blew it.
As I look back over the past week, I realize that it was full of many joy moments. But I also know that there was a daily battle for that joy. An internal battle of not letting the sadness take over and cloud out the joy.
This was a big week for Madison. She had her first job interview. She was really nervous but she got her first job. She'll be working at Chick-fil-a and she starts next week. She also had a great week at cheer camp where she was selected as an All American and got an award for being All Around Awesome.
Madison ended her week by passing her driving test and getting her license. She was so happy to be able to go pick up a friend and go out.
Noah finished up his summer working with the Dragons. On Saturday, we helped him move into his dorm and get ready for football camp.
Then the week ended with my baby boy coming home from a week in Tennessee with friends.
I love my kids and I love watching them grow and begin new chapters.
It's my day off. Should I have signed up for overtime? I really need to clean the house. It's been ignored a lot lately. Back to school shopping is right around the corner so the extra money would be good. No, I can't work today. My daughter wants me to be there to watch her cheer performance. She made All American. So glad I was there.
There is so much laundry to do. I can't remember the last time that the clothes were folded and put away. How are there so many dirty dishes? There's only been three of us at the house for the past couple of weeks. The grass needs mowed again. Didn't we just mowed the grass? I got the bushes trimmed by the back door. We don't live in a jungle anymore.
My son moves back into the dorm tomorrow. Did we get everything on his list? I hope financial aid will be enough to cover the costs. Maybe I should have tried to pick up the early shift. I could have done that before heading down to Cincinnati.
I was so behind on the laundry. I'm glad I stayed home today to get stuff done. I actually folded all the clean clothes today. Why is the washer leaking? Hopefully it won't quit on me. How long have we had this washer? Maybe I just need to check the drain.
The house smells so fresh and clean. I washed the dogs blankets and vacuumed the hair off the couch. The dog really needs to have her eyes fixed. I just don't know when I'll be able to afford the surgery. I guess it will have to wait until after the wedding. The wedding is just a few months away. I really need to order Madison's dress. I definitely need to pick up some overtime. Maybe next week I can work a little extra. I wonder if I should work on my day off? I would really love to have a day to just sleep and be lazy. Maybe I can do that once school starts.
I'm done cleaning for today. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to. But the house looks a little less cluttered. I'm glad I swapped shifts for Sunday. I hated giving up a couple of extra hours but now I can go to church and have lunch with the kids.
Ok I really need to figure out what's going on with the washer. I think it is the drain. Next week's schedule is really busy. Maybe I can work one of my off days and get the overtime. There are so many bills to pay. There are so many activities for the kids coming up. My brain is tired. My body is tired. My heart is tired.
But I must keep going. I just have to keep finding balance.
tWhen my kids were younger, I realized that they were starting a bad habit of just saying "sorry" anytime they hit their sibling or snatched something from them without asking for it. They figured that all the had to so was say "Sorry" and that made what they were doing ok.
I wasn't ok with that. So I started teaching them a real apology. Anytime they would do something to hurt their sibling, I would make them look their brother or sister in the eye and say,
"I'm sorry for.......
It was wrong.
Would you please forgive me?"
And then the sibling only had to say, "Thank You for the apology." I told them that if they wanted to they could add, "I forgive you." But to only say if they really meant it. We can't force the other person to forgive us in that moment. Forgiveness is something that is given to us......it can't be forced or just taken from someone else. When we are in the wrong we are never owed forgiveness. We should be grateful when we receive it.
These "apologies" were great lessons on how our actions and words can hurt others. And that even when we are truly sorry for what we have done, saying sorry can't change what we have done and make the hurt go away. It just lets the other person know that we understand we were wrong and we will plan to act differently in the future.
I think one of the most important things to remember about a true apology is that you do NOT add an excuse to it. Saying "I'm sorry I did something that hurt you, but you also did something to hurt me" is not an apology. When you add an excuse to your apology you feel that you were justified for the way you acted and expect to be excused.
I came across an easy way to remember this concept......
When you say, "I'm sorry, but......" you're really just a sorry butt.
And who wants to be a sorry butt?? I don't.
And while we're on the topic of apologies, here are a couple of other great tips:
~ Don't apologize for someone else's feelings. Saying, "I'm sorry you're mad" is not an apology. It's condescending.
~Do apologize for your own actions and attitudes. "I'm sorry I was rude" takes ownership. Be specific for what you've done wrong.
~Don't expect a reciprocal apology. Do no apologize expecting the other person to apologize equally. Just own your part of it. The end.
~Do attempt to make a repair. It's wise to take the next step and ask, "Is there anything I can do to make this right?"
I love this list by Dave Willis:
A real apology requires:
~freely admitting fault
~ fully accepting responsibility
~humbly asking forgiveness
~immediately changing behavior
~actively rebuilding trust
Think about the last time you apologized for something that you had done wrong. Did you give a real apology or were you a Sorry Butt??
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.