Thursday, December 22, 2011

We (I) need a little Christmas...

Matthew 1:23 (Amplified Bible)
Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God with us.

I'm going to admit something horrible.  Here we are, three days before Christmas and I am not in the Christmas spirit. No matter what I do, I can't catch that feeling.  I grew up in New York City and, for all the bad things NYC offers, it is the best place in the world to be at Christmastime.  Lights are everywhere.  People are kind of cheery (kind of cheery is saying a lot for NYers). It's just the most magical place to be at this time of year.  Growing up, all of my family was there.  Christmas was always loud, with firecode breaking amounts of people stuffed into my grandmother's tiny railroad apartment in Queens.  We had lots of laughter, yelling over eachother and kids running wild.  That's the feeling I'm chasing.

I've tried to catch the feeling. My Pandora has had a Christmas station on all month. I put up our tree. I decorated our house. I went Christmas shopping. I attended two kiddie Christmas parties.  I went to see lights at the local speedway (yes, I'm offically a southerner...and they were lame).  My church has been playing Christmas carols all month. I watched my kids perform "Away in a manger".  I even watched It's a Wonderful Life.  Nada. 

Just this morning I was talking to my cousin about my Scrooge-ish feelings.  I just want Christmas and New Years to be over.  As excited as I am to see my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning, I'm dreading that lonely feeling because (you guessed it) this is not the way I planned it.  I always dreamed of having a "normal" family.  I dreamed of plotting and planning and hiding Christmas gifts with a husband. I dreamed of watching pajama-clad cuties opening their gifts, with both of their parents watching in enjoyment. That's just not the way it turned out.  In fact, as a parent, I've had more Christmases as a single parent than as a married one.

As I was reflecting on my inability to "feel" Christmasy (is that a word?), I started to think about the real reason for Christmas.  I know it sounds cliché, but when you really think about it, I'm sure Mary was feeling anything but Christmasy on the night she gave birth to the King of kings.  I've given birth and my first child came four days before Christmas.  While each contraction seemingly ripped a hole through my abdomen, I guarantee you I had no Christmas cheer.  Receiving my epidural was about the closest I came to merry that night.  We all know Mary had no pain medications.  She had no bed in which to lay.  She had no fancy equipment to monitor the baby's heartbeat, no one to tell her it wouldn't be much longer.  She lay in a odorific stable surrounded by farm animals.  She was giving birth to the Savior.  It sounds glorious, until you remember he was going to be the ultimate sacrifice just a short time from then.

I looked up a couple of verses relating to Christmas (God bless those YouVersion the app if you don't have it!) and came upon the one up top.  This line is the one that got me: "...and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God with us".   Do you think that's a coincidence?  Surely God could've chosen a name that meant "Savior", "blameless", "sacrificial lamb" or a thousand other things He was and is.  I don't believe there are coincidences with God though.  That name reminds us, thousands of years later, He is with us.  Always.  In the good times and the bad.  When life has somehow become exactly what we wanted or when it falls into crumbles around us while we watch helplessly.  His presence is the one thing we can rely on.  That alone should bring us comfort and joy. 

I'm still not really "feeling" that feeling.  Yet, like Mary, I want to give birth to hope.  Obviously, bearing the son of God can't be matched but you and I can birth the things which the Christ child offered: joy, peace, hope, love.  Even if it's painful.  If you are a single mom/divorcee, or walking through any other kind of difficulties in life, Christmas can be painful.  Be that as it may, my kids are not going to miss out on memories and traditions because life is a little non-traditional right now.  They are not going to see me sulking the day away, dismissing everything that the birth of Jesus offers.  It still may hurt, but I know I am birthing those things into my life and the lives of my children, and that's a better gift than I could every buy them.     There's a Christmas song we sang at church and one line says, "Joy, unspeakable joy...overflowing well, no tongue can tell. Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go."  He truly is joy and when something overwhelms your soul, you can't help but experience it on the outside.  This season, I celebrate the unspeakable joy he offers, in good times and bad.

Okay, I'm actually feeling a little more Christmasy now!  Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and hopeful new year to you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sharing is caring

I'm reading a book titled One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It is one of the best books I have ever read (I only recommend books that I love) and is changing my life! Oh, and yes, there's an app for that (One Thousand Gifts by Zondervan, available in the App Store).  Anyhow, the book is really helping me to deal with emotions I've been stuffing down for years! Yes, I'm a stuffer.

I've been kind of quiet on the blog, on facebook and twitterland because I've been so into the words of the book, and blown away by what God is saying through the author!  I could write a thousand blogs on it, but for now I am going to share one of her blogs.

I so identify with the feelings she expresses here.  Take a look and tell me if you can relate...

A Holy Experience:  When you wonder if you disappoint

Friday, December 9, 2011

There is ALWAYS hope...

Check out this video from  Angela Thomas, who authors the book I talk about here, discusses how there is still hope even when one is single parenting. Check out all the related videos too and let me know what you think in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

There’s Always Hope from Church Initiative on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Being Supermom

When you get a chance, check out this blog!  A friend posted it earlier this week and it's probably why all this "supermom" stuff was on my mind.   It speaks to every mom, single or not. 

The other night, the midget wrestlers came to dinner dressed in their superhero costumes.  I joked on twitter that if my kids were Spiderman and Supergirl, that must make me Supermom.  I say "joked" because I know I am anyone other than Supermom or Superwoman.  And because I'm pretty much always joking around.

I admit it.  I'm not one of "those" moms who makes a homemade advent calendar that I sewed together with thread I found on clearance.  I don't make perfect little color coordinated chore charts.  I don't make my kids' birthday cakes from scratch.  I work.  I probably have unknown species of dust on my wood floors at any given time.  I shout at my kids' sometimes.  I forget snacks for their class.  I don't do 20 minutes of reading with them every single night.  I don't do coupon clipping (yet).  The idea of homeschooling makes me twitch.  J's scrapbook of his first year is only 3/4 finished.  He's about to be 6.  Don't even ASK about the second child.  Oh, and there is a lot more. Add that to the guilt of them growing up in a single parent household and it's obvious -- they've been cheated in this life with me as their mom.

Or have they?

Us women are so quick to beat ourselves up.  I, for some reason, have a hard time accepting compliments.   If you tell me I look pretty, I joke around about how I'm really not as pretty as it looks and I spent an ungodly amount of time doing my hair that morning.  If you tell me my outfit is nice, I start announcing where I got every piece and how much it cost (because it's always inexpensive). I even have friends who tell me "you look pretty and just say thank you before I hit you."  I don't know why I do that..but I do.   Have you diagnosed me yet? Good, bill me.  When people tell me I'm a good mother, in my head I think "ohhhh, but you don't live with me."

You see, this is never the way I envisioned my motherhood experience. I had visions of driving a minivan. My daughters would all go to ballet and my sons would all be in little league. I'd be a stay at home mom and drive them around wherever they needed to go.  We'd go on annual vacations to tropical locales.  I'd have time to volunteer.  On every holiday we'd make a perfect little craft and then I'd save it in my perfect little bin and store it in my perfectly organized garage.  My husband and I (yes, there'd be a husband) would have Christmas parties every year and I'd make 193 homemade dishes for said party.  We'd have movie nights where the whole family would pile up on the couch and stuff popcorn down our mouths.  My children would always be well-behaved. I wouldn't dare co-sleep.  We'd all wear matchy-matchy outfits for Easter.

Ah, life.  It didn't turn out quite the way I planned all.  In reality, my daughter loudly announces every occurrence of her flatulence, no matter where we are. They fight.  Every night, at some point before dawn, my four year old still climbs in my bed.  I don't drive a minivan (nor will I ever).  And, I don't have a husband.

I think every mother, single or not, struggles with guilt at some point or another.  Every time I travel for business, I feel like the worst mother in the world.  Every time they eat fast food, I can almost imagine their little insides rotting away.  When I microwave food, I think "how about if this is the time the radiation is a little too much?"  It bothers me that their dad gets to be "fun Chuck E. Cheese dad" and I have to be "for the 100th time, go upstairs, brush your teeth and get your pajamas on" mom.  (What the FLIP is so fun about Chuck E. Cheese anyway? It reeks of sweaty kid feet and old cheese...but I digress.)

Last night, I took my son to one of those snazzy self-serve yogurt joints.  He dug some change (and lint balls...and a candy wrapper) out of his little pockets and paid for $.65 of the bill.  I told him I was so proud of him for being such a gentleman. He hugged me and said "you are just the most super mommy there ever was and you're the most beautiful mommy in the world".  (Tell all your daughters to take a number.)  I thought to myself "I must be doing something right."

For a change, I thought of what I had done right recently.  I packed his lunch with a little note saying I loved him.  I let him buy a Rice Krispies treat.  I met him at school for lunch.  I bought 20 cans for his school food drive, so his class could win a pizza party (oh yea, and so that hungry people could eat).  All three of us had an impromptu dance party...I even did the Running Man (and no, it wasn't pretty).  I made Josiah mashed potatoes the way he likes them.  I bought E a(nother) fabulous outfit.  We did morning devotions.  I prayed for them before they walked into school. We prayed before they went to bed. I read them a Christmas story.  I listened to my daughter's Christmas wish list for the 104th time.  We made silly (ugly) faces and took pictures of ourselves.

I don't say all that to brag because believe me -- for every thing I've done right, I've done about 100 things wrong (see, I can't even accept my own compliments!).  I only say it to encourage you to think of the things you are doing right.  Push back concerns of everything you can't offer your children, and celebrate what you can.

What makes you supermom (or superdad) in the eyes of your children?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Follow me...

I'm officially a loser. I am asking you to follow me.  No shame in my game, though!  It's a great way to stay in touch in between posts, while also providing you a great way to post feedback!  Go on now...follow me.  Gracias :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Enjoying the ride

"Snowstorm" in Charlotte
I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.  - Philippians 4:11-13


Ever been lost?  My sister, Amy, gets lost everywhere she goes.  And by everywhere, I mean everywhere.  When we were younger, she never had to rely upon any sense of direction because I was older and where I led, she followed.  Actually, she hopped incessantly...but that's a whole 'notha blog.  When she started college, she was a mess. She'd get lost on the same subways we had rode since middle school.  She couldn't understand how the whole uptown/downtown thing worked and assumed if a train said it was going to Queens, it must be the right one.  One year, NYC experienced a citywide blackout. I instructed her she needed to walk home across the 59th Street bridge. Her response?  "WHERE IS THAT?!" (And yes, it was on 59th Street.)

Luckily, I rarely get lost. I've also never really had a hard time feeling like I "fit in."  I've had moments of awkwardness, sure.  However, until all the infidelity was discovered, leading to the separation and divorce, I never felt "lost".

Let me rewind to a Saturday night a few months back.  A friend had invited me over for a girls' night at her house, but I couldn't go because I had no one to watch my kids.  I stopped by to drop off something I had bought for the party and as I left, I felt that familiar feeling wash over me again.  It was the feeling of being lost in between two worlds, seemingly having no place to belong. Yes, I have a family.  I'm incredibly lucky to have two children I'm raising, experiencing both the glamorous and the not-so-glamorous moments in parenting.  We do the family things; food shopping, cartoons, baths, meals, tantrums, hugs, kisses etc. Although they drive me insane sometimes, I am unbelievably privileged to be their mom.  However, I'm also a single woman.  Here in suburgatory, single parents aren't found too often.  It's sometimes awkward going to family and school functions, being the only single parent there.   Almost every single mom (and maybe single dads too) I know identifies with this feeling of being caught in between two worlds.  It's easy to feel forgotten. Life as you planned it is passing you by and there is nothing you can do about it.  

On that Saturday night, I ended up taking the kids out and had a great time just being with them.  A outdoor band was playing and my son shook his bony little butt like nobody's business. (I don't know where he gets it, I swear.)  I laughed, but I had no one to share the moment with and once again, that feeling returned.  I looked around at all the families walking around that night and couldn't help the "why me?".  This is never the way I pictured my life looking and it sure isn't the way I wanted it.

As soon as that thought passed in my mind though, I immediately regretted it.  I looked at my kids.  They were happy, healthy and exhibiting pure tomfoolery in public. Parenting them is tough sometimes but they also bring me joy like I have never known. I am healthy.  I have a great job.  I have wonderful friends.  I have a nice car.  I have a nice house.  I have a great family.  And on this night, I really could not ask for more.

I'm not lost. I've just detoured off the planned route.  However, I'm learning to enjoy the detour, because life is still happening here.  I don't want to miss out on this part of my life, and especially of my kids' lives, because I am so worried about getting back on track.  Even though there is sometimes rough terrain, I know that I am right where I'm supposed to be.

What have you learned on life's detours?
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