Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Steady my heart

Triple threat
2 Corinthians 12:9  - My grace is enough; it's all you need.   My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

I own a three story townhome.  Which means two sets of stairs.  Which means as soon as I get in my car to go somewhere, I remember I left something on the third floor.  So I bolt up the stairs like lightning.  One flight down.  Run to the second flight and take them, skipping steps baby!  Then, without warning, I go from full energy to "OMG I'm going to die.  Must.have.air."

Life can be similar.  You go and go and keep on going, not even thinking about it.  And suddenly, it's like you just can't see how you're do it anymore.

I haven't blogged in a while because of a lot of things that can all be filed under "life's busy".  But on top of those things,  I just wasn't feeling it.  To be perfectly honest, I'm over the whole single mom thing.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom.  Even though my son constantly talks about farts and boogers and my daughter thinks she's the boss of everyone, never for one moment have I not loved being their mom.  I love them so much it hurts and I really can't picture life without them.  I mean, who would color on my couches or inform me that the word "venus" rhymes with...take a guess.

In the past few weeks though, an emotional funk had been building.  And this was more than the monthly funk ifyouknowwhaddimean (only women read this blog, right?). I've been restless for a while, waiting for the next stage of my life to come.  When my son finished kindergarten last month, the truth that I am now a mom to a first grader hit me.  Besides the "where the heck have the past 6 years gone?!" was the realization that time is flying by and the kids are growing up and, although they see their dad, they are being raised in a single parent household and this is never, ever, ever what I wanted for them.  People always tell me, "when the kids grow up, they'll realize..." but life is happening here and now. Memories are being made and not-so-little-anymore lives are being formed and it's so much less than what I wanted for my kids.

So I had a moment with God.  And by "moment", I mean a whine-fest.  I laid in my bed one night and my mind was racing with everything I needed to do the next day, how horrible of a mother I'd felt like that day and how desperately I just want to be an amazing mother who did everything well.  I was completely overwhelmed.  The feeling of failure was killing me.  But deeper than the whining in me, was the knowledge that yes, I am weak.  I am imperfect.  I'm certainly no super woman and I don't have what it takes.  And I just kept saying those words: "Your grace is sufficient.  Your strength is made perfect in my weakness."  It's not strength that is just aaaa-ight.  It's perfect.  Unfailing.  Filling the spaces I'll never be able to fill.  It's for now, for this sometimes craptastic stage that may very well last longer than I'd like.

I love this song a good friend sent me once, "Steady My Heart".  The words are ridiculous...

Even when it hurts, even when it's hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to you
Cause I know that you are
Lover of my soul, healer of my scars
You steady my heart

Maybe that's what it's all about.  When did I decide I deserved a perfect life?  What makes me think life should be just as I planned it.  As hard as it is to accept, without these times, I wouldn't be the person I am today.  I'm learning to choose to be thankful for the struggles. And for every moment where I feel like I'm over it, there comes a moment where He gives me the strength to keep on going...one stair at a time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giving the play by play

Psalm 89:1
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
   I'll never quit telling the story of your love—
      how you built the cosmos
      and guaranteed everything in it.
   Your love has always been our lives' foundation,
      your fidelity has been the roof over our world.

You know the type.  Your girlfriend who is newly married calls you and you are the lucky winner who gets to hear all the barftastic details of their honeymoon.  Then you get to see it all posted in an hour by hour, picture by picture detail on Facebook.  The next time you're with her, she says "my husband" about 332 times.   Fast forward a few years and she is that girl that blows up Instagram with a photo of everything her amaaaaaaaaaaaazing hubby did for her on their anniversary.  Lucky you.

It's the same thing when you have kids.  They're just too cute and too funny and everyone must know.  I am definitely guilty of sharing lots of pictures and stories about them.  Whether it's a romantic relationship or a parental relationship, the feelings are the same: people so undone by the love they're receiving that they need to share it.  And by God, social media is ready and waiting, so why not?!

I have a really good friend, a single mom as well, that is in a new relationship and soooo in lurve.  You can hear the excitement in her voice.  When one is overwhelmed by love, they can't help but to share.  Even if no words are spoken, their countenance speaks loud and clear.

How much more so with the love of God?  I mean, seriously.  If you think about how good he's been to you, what he's provided you with, how he's protected you, what bridges and valleys he's brought you over and through, how can you NOT talk about it, like, constantly. 

A couple of months ago I blogged about the love story God's writing in my life.  And it has nothing to do with an earthly man.  At all.  It's all Him -- providing, protecting, honoring and caring for me and my shorties.    Even in the little things, he has shown Himself to be "enthralled by my beauty" (Ps. 45:11).  To the human eye, ain't NADA spectactularly beautiful about me!  I'm just a brown-haired brown-eyed, freakishly short 30 year old. Yet it's His vision of me that should speak the loudest in my life.

I love how the above verse says "Your love has always been our lives' foundation...Your fidelity has been the roof over our world."  As a single person, and especially a single parent, I've found it's easy to be your own foundation.  In the natural, everything falls on you --- earning the money, disciplining, nurturing, decision making, cleaning and so on (and on and on).  At times, it can feel overwhelming and a little lonely. For me, I sometimes desperately want someone else to just make a decision around here.  However, this verse reminds me I am not my own foundation. And I never will be.  Even if some stud was to come like it and put a ring on it, God would still be my ultimate foundation.  He always has been, always will be.  Even while I'm overwhelmed, I'm supported.  I'm covered by Him, the roof over our head.  He's keeping the mortgage paid, food on the table and clothes on our backs.  Always safe. Always secure. 

And I can't be quiet about it. Like the Psalmist, I never want to quit telling the story of His love. I'll never run out of material anyway. Especially with my kids, more than me telling them the story of everything that didn't work out in my life, I want them to hear the story of how God's faithfulness through and in spite of things not going the way I planned.  Not just the big things but the play by play details. And more than anything, I want them to know His faithfulness for themselves. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Savoring the suffering

Ecclesiastes 7:2-3 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better and gains gladness.

Let me just put this out there:  I love eating.   Going out to eat, cooking for people, holiday meals, sharing dinner with a friend...all of it.    All-inclusive food in resorts and on cruises? Yes, please.  YES.  I just LOVE it.  I read this Twitter post yesterday and it made me laugh:  "Dear men, Actually our dream isn't finding the perfect guy, it's being able to eat without getting fat. Sincerely, women."  True story!

So, when I recently read Ecclesiastes 7 (after listening to the song story for this song - more on that later), I was confuzzled at first.  Based on experience, the logic struck me as a little strange.   A house of feasting is fun.  But, I've been to the house of mourning on a few occasions.  Not so fun.   When I think of mourning, I think of September 11.  I was still living in NYC on what started off as a perfect Tuesday.  After the planes hit, I saw fear and disbelief on the faces of people in the streets.  I watched those buildings fall with my own eyes.  I know people who lost loved ones.  I know people who survived.  My brother-in-law was a cop who worked down there in the days and weeks that followed.  I have never seen so much mourning in my life as I did in the time following that horrific day.  

But I have also never seen so much hope. I remember that my church was packed for months after that.  Heroes abounded.  Random acts of kindness spread.   New Yorkers were actually nice to each other.  Even though I deeply wish it never happened, that Tuesday changed a lot of people, for the good, forever.  Tragedies have a way of reminding us how short life is.  That's what Solomon is talking in that verse.  Mourning reminds you to live well.  Now. 

Chances are you've dealt with intense sorrow at some point in your life.  There are plenty of things worse than divorce, but divorce is one thing I can speak to.  The sorrow of betrayal is deep.  The humiliation is terrible.  Life is interrupted, lies are exposed and confusion abounds.  Sometimes the hurt is so heavy that it truly is hard to breathe.  If you've been there or in a million other places of pain that doesn't make sense, you know. Yet, I can say this now:  More than three years after the worst of the worst days, I wouldn't trade that pain for the world.  I've never felt closer to God and I've never felt God was closer to me.  Friends surrounded me.  My kids gave me unspeakable joy and most days, they were the only reason I smiled.  That pain helped me more than it hurt me.  It taught me some very valuable lessons about life and love, and made me appreciate times of "feasting".  The tears stung but, like a good cleaning, they scoured my heart (Ecc. 7:3 MSG) and made it glad.

I guarantee you, at the time I wasn't thinking "Phew! I'm glad life SUCKS right now because my heart really needs some scouring!"  I'm not that wise (at all).  Looking back though, I see the good in it.  I see how it's helped me help others and how I'm a better woman and mother for it.  I'm still learning (sometimes the hard way), but definitely an improved Sarah.  

The other day something happened that hurt me. Minor, but it just opened up a lot of other wounds and I found myself sulking around and wanting Ben and Jerry's.  That night I heard the song I've linked to below (which led me to the chapter in Ecclesiastes) and it reminded me that there is no hurt on earth that God can't handle.  And just when you think you can't take one.more.second., the hurt and the Healer collide.  

Whatever you're facing today, as painful as it may be, savor the suffering.  Breathe it in 
deep and know that not a tear is wasted.  Let your heart be glad.  You're alive.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: We all need a reminder

One day she'll wear real heels :(
Oh believe me, I know how it is.  A new morning begins and, as many times as you think today is the day you're going to have it all together, it never quite works out that way. I set my alarm for 5:00 am every day.  Then when it goes off, I roll over and press snooze, thinking all I need is five extra minutes.  Except I need those five extra minutes about 4 times.  Every night I convince myself I will really wake at 5:00 am.  And every morning I press snooze.

My life is full.  Full of craziness, yes.  Full of me losing my temper and coming very near to losing my mind, hell yes.  But it's full of some really amazing things too: contagious laughter, excellent report cards, health, cute preschool songs sung by an even cuter voice, little girl manicures, and not-so-little-but-always-little-to-me boy hugs.  I mean, I really couldn't ask for more.

I read a quote recently that said "The days are long, but the years are short".  Isn't that the truth?!  It made me think of how I spend those long (sometimes very long) days.

I read the blog below today, guest written by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp (you can find her actual blog here). Her words challenged me because all too often I find myself missing out on precious moments because I play one more round of Words With Friends, send one more work email, answer one more text message.  The truth is, those things will always be there and there will always be more and more (and more) of them.  These long days though, they pass quickly. It feels like yesterday I was throwing up in what felt like every train station in NYC, living out the disgusting stage of pregnancy that lasted well into the first and second...and third...trimester.  (I also threw up while sitting AT the lunch table with my boss, but I digress). Now that tiny little body that made me barf is about to enter first grade.  Next thing you know, he'll have armpit hair, a cracking voice and raging hormones.  These times are just too special to waste.

I hope this blog inspires you as much as it did me!  Happy Monday!

Why the kids really need a little red hen mama

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fun Friday: Where the wild things are

Welcome to my first Fun Friday post (you know, the one I promised, like, two months ago)!

If you have't noticed, the content of this blog is heavy.  I can't help that. Divorce sucks and single parenting is hard.  But, to bring a little balance (and because I'm a goofball in real life) I've started Fun Fridays here at the blog.  Finally, Friday will offer more promise than the latest episode of 20/20!  And yes, I'm a loser...

Today's post is courtesy of Facebook.   I have a love/hate relationship with this phenomenon, but I also have some hilarious "friends" and even more hilarious conversations.  It's also courtesy of my two sisters, Amy and Vicki, who make me look tame, if you can believe that.

Here's a little background:  Well-meaning people are always trying to point out single men to me.  One day, while doing her gift registry at Babies R Us, my sister says "Oooh, Sarah, there's a cute single guy over there...without a ring."  I just stared at her.  "Amy..." I replied, "single men do NOT shop at Babies R Us."  In her one blessed year of marriage, she had forgotten the obvious. My mom is the worst though, and our conversations are usually like this:

Mom:  Oh, Sarah, there's a cute guy in your church's bulletin!
Sarah:  (Rolling eyes).  Yes, I've seen him in real life . He might actually be shorter than me. (I'm 5'1" on a good day...so a shorter man is very short)
Mom:  But, he's a pilot!! He'll be gone most of the week. And they make good money.
Sarah:  Money won't buy him height.
Mom:  Ugh, you're SO picky!
Dad (in his thick Brooklyn accent.  Picture a younger Frank Barone...seriously):  Celierrr - I wish you wouldn't be trying to do dat. I don't like dat!

The places that people tell me to meet guys are hilarious, so I asked for feedback from my fb friends (mostly my other sisters because no one "got" it), and compiled a list of the top ten places you won't (or shouldn't) find a man.  Feel free to add to the list!

  1. Baby stores or baby showers. Not happening, ladies.  If it's too good to be true...
  2. OTB
  3. Hooters
  4. Free health clinic
  5. Prison penpal program (I DIED when my sister said this hahaha)
  6. AA/NA
  7. MySpace - Because it's not 2006.
  8. Victoria's Secret - If he's single and shopping there...he's either weird or shopping for his mother. Which still makes him weird.
  9. Child support enforcement office - Whatever story he has to explain it, it sucks.
  10. Court - Thanks to my need for speed, I've been to traffic court. It gave me the willies.
If you have an idea for Fun Friday, send it my way!  Happy weekend, peeps!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Letting it be

God, I look to you
I won't be overwhelmed
Give me vision, to see things like You do
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do - Jenn Johnson

"But mommmm-mmmm-mmm-mmmm-yyyyyyyyy..." my four year old whined, complete with the melodrama that usually accompanies her cries for justice.  I knew what was coming next. "It's. Not. Fai-www".

She and her brother were fighting over something meaningless.  As usual. I'm convinced that if there was an actual piece of crap laying around, and there was only one, they'd fight over it.  But I digress.

Usually they fight, one wins, and the winner does a victory dance and teases the other incessantly.  The other cries because it is't fair.  And it usually isn't. Life isn't fair.

Sometimes I feel like they feel.  I spend the day waking sleepy children, making breakfast, packing lunches, running for buses, driving to preschool, working, conference calling, picking up from preschool, working more, cleaning, picking up from the bus, working more, making dinner, forcing homework, making snacks, serving dinner, threatening no dessert if said dinner isn't eaten, cleaning up tables, playing referee  and...and...and.  Just when I'm about to wave my white flag in surrender, their dad's visitation time arrives and he gets to swoop in and save them.  From me.  And you know what comes next?  Mother's guilt, for coming very close to losing my mind. Again.

Keep in mind, I want to be very careful how I word this because I love my kids more than anything in the world.  I love that they love their dad and I don't want to get in the way of that.  I want them to choose their feelings for him based on their experiences, not mine.  And I never want to write anything I don't want them reading later, about him or about our situation. So, I'm trying to craft my words wisely, while also trying to explain how I feel.

When they are with their dad they have little rules or discipline because it's just a few hours per week.  They don't spend nights with him, so they're stuck with me at bedtime too.  When I do discipline them or set rules they don't like, I often hear "I want daddddddddy."  And though I hate to admit it, inside I am suddenly the one screaming: "It's not faiwwwww!"

And it's not.  So what am I going to do about it?  What can I do about it?

Recently, I've been struggling with this more often than I'd like to admit.  All I ever wanted to be was a mom.  All I still want to be is a mom, just not a single mom.  And definitely not responsible for the large majority of the parenting.  Currently, it's not quite happening that way, but as you know, this is not the way I planned it. It's easy to get caught up in anger and resentment.  I guess I have every right to be angry...every right to feel like I've been left with a huge responsibility.  Yet, living in a place of anger won't (and can't) do me any good.  Being resentful won't change the situation.  It will keep me, and eventually my kids, in a prison of unforgiveness and that is the last place I want us to be.

All I can do now is let it be.  Keep on keeping on.  Do the best I can.  Make meals.  Drive short people everywhere. Hug my babies.  Stop focusing on everything I lost and focus on everything I have.  Stop thinking of everything I wanted and dreamed of and planned for, and be thankful for more time with  these healthy, beautiful, patience-wearing, impressionable kids I have here.  I'm lucky that I get to be their mother.  No, life isn't perfect.  And rarely is it fair. For now, though, I choose to let it be.

What are you learning to "let be" in your life?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: New dreams

She's got spunk.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. - Corrie Ten Boom

My daughter loves to hear the "stowy" of when I was pregnant with her.  I love to tell it, because it was one of the best times in my life.  It was also the last few months of my "normal", before the truth of her dad's infidelity began to unravel.

On a summer day in 2007, I went to my doctor for a routine sonogram. I was 19 weeks pregnant and knew they'd be able to tell us the baby's gender.  I walked into the examination room, cautiously optimistic.  I wanted a little girl so badly.  I'd lost my mother as a young girl and really wanted an opportunity to have a mother/daughter relationship I'd seen others enjoy, even if it was from the other side.

When the nurse casually announced "you got your girl",  I was beyond thrilled!  That weekend, I went shopping for all the cute little outfits I could find.  And in four years, the shopping hasn't stopped.  Really.  It's the most ridiculous kind of fun.

On a windy Monday morning in November, she finally arrived.  The first time I laid my tired, puffy, a-human-just-came-out-of-my-body eyes on her perfect little face, the dreams I had for her filled my mind. Fun dreams of bows and ballet, sharing shoes, and shopping for prom dresses.  And then the more intent dreams.  I wanted her to have a "normal" family, a healthy upbringing.

Yet, even before I had given birth, the "normal" had already begun to unravel.  At age 4, the idea of a mommy and daddy living together is foreign to her. A broken home is her "normal". And that's not what I wanted for her. Ever. Who does?

If there's anything I've learned in the past few years, it's that I can't control some events that happen in my life, never mind theirs.  At first, it was easy to get wrapped up in the statistics of children who grow up in broken homes.  I mean, google them (at your own risk).  They're heartbreaking.  Divorce affects kids physically, socially and psychologically.  Single parent households are at risk for a number of different things.

I also become concerned when I look back on the issues I was dealing with when I was young, and how they affected my relationship choices.  I met and married my ex-husband seeking emotional protection and refuge...looking for what my heart needed in a human, and not in God.

However, greater than those statistics and experiences is a God who loves her more than I ever could.  A God who has her best interests at heart and has already given her all she needs to deal with life's joys and hurts.

Even though I've had to let go of some of the dreams I had for her, that's not going to stop me from dreaming new dreams.  Above all the new dreams I have, my greatest dream is this:  when she faces life's storms, I hope she rests in knowing that God is carrying her through them.

And she is watching me.  She's watching to see if I trust, if I rest, if I make it through life's storms.  Dr. Phil (who I love...don't judge!) always says the greatest role model a child has is the same sex parent.  Even if I don't notice it, she's observing every thing I do, learning how to be a woman.  That alone makes me want to do better, try harder, and most importantly, trust God more.

What are the new dreams you have for your children?

I thought I'd share these tips for single moms raising daughters.  They were taken from the same site I used in my post about single moms raising boys.  What are 

1) Don't punish the girl because you see things in her that you hate about yourself. Learn how to deal with YOU first so you can more effectively help her.

2) Being hard on her doesn't automatically equate a virtuous young woman. I'm not implying to let her do anything, heaven forbid, however; I'm implying that you should provide structure and boundaries, but not act as a prison warden.

3) Don't live your life through your daughter. Just because you were a cheerleader, doesn't mean she has to be one. Just because you were in the band, doesn't mean that she has to play an instrument.

4)When it comes to boys, she is looking at you to see how you treat (your husband, boyfriend, etc). She is listening to how you talk about men (good or bad) and this is what she is going to model in her life.

5) You can control what she wears. It's important that you train your daughter to have value in herself, long before someone "whispers in her ear." Don't say, I can't help what she wears or does. This is the door way for a long life of regrets for your daughter.

6) Just because you may have had bad experiences with men and/or relationships, don't raise your daughter to hate men, or be distrusting of everyone that she meets for the rest of her life. She is not you, even though she may have some of your traits and attributes. You can't raise her to be a "second you."

7) Build her self esteem continually with positive words and affirmations. She needs to know that she is complete all by herself and that she doesn't have to go looking for wholeness in another person or thing.

8) Spend time with her outside of school, housework, and the day to day, especially when she get older. She may not say it, but she still needs you. Spend some quality time, go out to eat, to the park, for a walk. You can't get those moments back once they are gone.

9) Raise your daughter in love and NOT fear. When you fear if she is going to get pregnant, meet the wrong guy, make the same bad choices you made, that's often what we attract. Raise her with the love of God and the faith to know that after you have done all that you can do, God will intervene and bring it all back to her remembrance.

10) Teach her how to love herself, love God, and how to remain pure and virtuous in a society where everyone is compromising. Remember, when you teach your daughter...you teach your daughter's daughter.
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