Friday, January 27, 2012

The (Future) Man of the House

So lucky to have my boy.
Not too long ago, we walked out of my front door and there, lurking in the shadows (it was daytime, but whatever) like a dangerous predator (hey, it could have been poisonous) was...a spider. I tried to act cool but my 6 year old wasn't fooled.  He's fully aware that I hate bugs. He giggles like a maniac when he pretends he's throwing a dead bug at me.  Hilarious.  That day, within seconds, he sprung into action, using his sneaker as a weapon and killing the vicious would-be predator in one quick swoop. His little sister cheered and applauded.  I exhaled.  Josiah smiled victoriously.  "The man of the house kills the bugs!" he said in his very (very) squeaky, pre-pre-pre-pubescent voice.   When I heard it, my heart sank.  Then, a few days ago, someone said it again --- "...because you're the man of the house!" It felt wrong.  A six year old shouldn't be the man of any house, much less my house.

It's tough raising a boy.  I know girls. I know what it's like to be one. I know the different stages of girl to tween to teen to woman.  When my daughter enters those stages, I will be prepared.  You know, kind of like being prepared for scorpion handling or walking on broken glass.

With a boy, though, its different. I don't know how to raise a man, much less a good man.  Although J sees his dad often, he lives with me full time.  He doesn't see a man in our house, doing all the things a husband and father is responsible for doing.  What he does see is me flip my lid when my toilet becomes clogged, scream when I see a bug, stare at power tools with eyes glazed over, and face an almost certain death trying to move furniture down the stairs by myself.  I remember when I started potty training him, I worried about how I'd teach him to stand being that women, well...don't.  Somehow, it worked out (although his aim still sucks).

In the past three years of being his primary caregiver, I've come to the realization that I can't teach him how to be a man.  I desperately need God for that because, like any mom, I have dreams for him.  Dreams of him being a godly, honorable man.  Dreams of him breaking the cycle of infidelity and irresponsibility.  I hope he's a hard worker and finds a career he loves (right now he wants to work at ChickFilA, so I have my work cut out for me). I hope that, in time, he finds a good woman; a wife he loves, honors and cherishes his commitment to. I hope he protects and provides for his family.  I hope he sets high standards in his life.  I hope his children can look up to him.  I want him to be the man of a house one day, but not today.

Today he needs to be a boy.  He needs to make messes.  Needs to jump...on everything apparently.  Needs to get outside on his scooter and bike and skateboard.  Needs to bother his little sister.  Needs to run. Needs to learn.  Needs to not worry about adult things.  And he definitely needs to not worry about his mom.

Single moms, let your son be your son.  I believe that having time as a boy will allow him to be a better man.  After seeing the movie, Courageous, I started looking for advice on how best to raise a good and more importantly, Godly, man. In my search, I found this list of practical advice here and thought they were great tips to use and to share.  It applies differently to each person, depending on you and what level of involvement the father has, but still great advice.  Also, feel free to share your own tips, Bible verses, books you've read and lessons learned in the comments section below or on my Facebook page:

10 Tips For Single Moms Raising Boys

1) Don't disrespect his father around him. Even if you don't get along with the father, you are attacking his maleness when you put the father down around your son.

2) Teach him how to manage money (ex. balance a checkbook, save, give to charities, and 

invest). If you don't know how, take him to someone that does know so he can learn.

3) Don't allow him to see you dating multiple guys. Even though you might not be "doing anything" it sends...a subconscious message to your son that men can come in and out of 

your life, and it's ok.

4) Teach him what I call the man fundamentals (ex. To tie a necktie, to iron, to shave, to 

wash clothes, to maintain proper hygiene). You may be saying, well, I don't know how to 
do some of those things. Mom, you are it, so you have to learn or at least get a uncle, church member or someone that can ensure that your son has these necessary skills.

5) Don't push him to just go to college and get a job, but teach him how to think for himself, explore his artistic and creative side and understand the power of being an entrepreneur.

6) Don't buy and give to your son out of guilt or because you didn't have it.
Teach your son to value what he has and what he is given so he can learn to appreciate 


7) Teach him to not just go to church, but develop a personal relationship with God. This 

is key, because many single moms keep their young men in church, thinking that church is 
the solution. Actually the solution is showing him what a personal relationship with God 
means and he needs to see you model that at home.

8) Teach him that his life is not about being "better than his dad", but it's about being the 

person that he is destined to be. Tell him that he has traits from both of his parents, but God 
has made him a unique person with unique abilities.

9) Teach him that relationships are about unconditional love, but most importantly, responsibility.

10) Teach him that "his past doesn't determine his future". Show him that he can't control 

his situations that he was born into, but he can control what's ahead of him in life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The shame game

Imagine the bacteria.
I was ashamed, He called me I'm Yours, You call me beautiful. -  Forever and a Day

Here's something that's outrageously pitiful to admit (and probably reason why I'm single #192), I often lay down at night and my mind won't stop producing clever status updates.  It's obnoxious.  Sometimes, i just can't turn off the jokes.  The wheels in my heard are constantly spinning.  Unfortunately, the short term memory wheels are a little rusty these days.  They're pretty much, wait...what?

I also often think of what people think of me.  "What?", you say?  "The girl that feels the need to stick her head under high-powered hand dryers just for laughs...she cares what people think?"  I do.  And I think of what it is they're thinking.  Most of which they're probably not thinking at all, but in my head they are. And then I stress.

As an example of the absurdity, here's what it's like to be inside my head sometimes:

Jane Doe:  Hi Sarah, <insert ever awkward side hug here> where are the midget wrestlers?
Me:  "Heyyyy girl (cause I always have to say that)...they're with their dad today."
My brain:  Good one.  She's probably going to think you had them out of wedlock or something. Maybe you should say "ex-husband" next time.  Oh, but ex-husband sounds so...bitter.  She'll probably think you're some bitter divorcee, on the prowl for a new man, probably her husband.  Great.  

I often play this game with myself.  I'm sometimes embarrassed when people see me out in public, wrangling in two wild animals (children), with no wedding band on.  Oh, it's not so bad when the midget wrestlers are behaving like angels, but that happens (way) less often than I'd care to admit.  I feel like people eye my ring finger and think "tssk, tssk, tssk".

When I first started going to my new church, I was a little embarrassed by my marital status, or lack thereof.  No one there knew my story.  Many still don't.  Its not like you want to sign your kids into Sunday school, and promptly announce the reason for your divorce. It's not cool. And it's not necessary. Oh, but it's tempting.

You see, I thought I did everything right. Dated for two years. Went through pre-marital classes.  Took personality tests to analyze our compatibility. Got my dad's approval.  Got my pastor's approval.  Married in church.  Waited two years before babies.  Yet still, it all blew up in my face. And I think "how did I not see it?!" And then I feel stupid.  And ashamed.

I sometimes feel the need to justify myself.  Justify the divorce.  Explain that I waited over two years before I even went through with it. Explain his unwillingness to change. Explain the fact that I called my pastor in NY to get some counsel about it.  Explain how difficult asking my ex to move out was for me.  And a million other things I dealt with during that time (none of which are blog-appropriate).

During those times though, I often call that familiar verse to mind:  "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated... (Is. 54)".  

I have felt shame. And I most definitely have been humiliated.  Those times were moments though, not a state of being.  Not caused by my decisions.  And not who I am.  I know that I know that God and I have dealt with this.  I know that, to the very end, I honored my commitment to God and to my spouse.  I know that I received Godly counsel from my pastor in NY (which was a godsend, love you PJR and Evelyn!) and that it meant more to me than they'll ever know.  I know that the few friends I love and and respect and trust more than anyone in the world supported me.  God doesn't condemn me, so why do I feel like if others do, it matters? More over, why do I feel I condemn myself?  

Instead of lending myself to those feelings, I want to let my life speak in the here and now.  I can have joy. I can have peace. I can attempt to raise normal human beings.  I can speak to others going through similar situations, telling them there is a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.  I can live without shame, leaving the past where it is, but appreciating all it has given to my present and future.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Choosing to see...

What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears?  What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise? 

I heard a commercial for a jewelry company the other day. The last line said "you shouldn't have to settle on the engagement rings of your dreams."  Really??  It's crazy to me that some may consider "settling" on a diamond to be so cruel.  Yet, sometimes we (I) get so comfortable in how lucky we are, that we begin to have a very warped perception of suffering.

Suffering isn't a smaller diamond than you'd like (hey, you're getting married).
Suffering isn't singleness (you definitely won't get in a fight tonight).
Suffering isn't that there are no Starbucks within a 1 mile radius (you just saved $4.00).
Suffering isn't the fact that Josh Elliott hasn't realized I'm the woman of his dreams yet (oh...he will).
Suffering isn't the inability to buy the shoes I want (I have plenty).
Suffering isn't turning 30 (you're alive).

How many times have I allowed foolish discomforts to take away appreciation of my blessings?

I've often shaken the proverbial fist at God, wondering why I've faced some of the situations I have.  I  wonder why I had to grow up without my mother.  I'd look at friends who'd gotten married around the same time as me, and I'd wonder why I was the the unlucky one.  Before I had my two living children, I lost two. I wondered why are other people had healthy babies and I was losing mine.  Why do some people seem to have the good life and some people have it so hard?  Why do some people experience so much suffering, and some experience none?

Despite some trials in my life, the past couple of weeks have reminded me about how blessed I am.  I've been reading One Thousand Gifts, challenging me to count the gifts in my life.  I was also recently reminded of how fleeting life is. Two people from high school passed away recently, one leaving three small children.  Then one of my closest friend's friend went to be with the Lord this week.  I'd only met her once but she had kids around the same ages as mine, and I remember us comparing parenting survival stories.  She was a beautiful woman who passed way too young, leaving two small children and a husband behind.

It was another opportunity to ask God, WHY?  Why do this woman's young children have to grow up without their mother?  It brought up feelings that linger from experiencing my own mother's death as a young girl, never really having an opportunity to grieve the loss.  In your head you know God is good.  In your heart, though, you can't make sense of tragedies like that.

Do you have a hard time making sense of your life?  Why that husband left?  Why you lost that job?  Why you're still single?  Why you're sick?  Why you lost a loved one?

I'm beginning to learn that, in situations like that, we will sometimes never see the sense in it on this side of eternity.  God's ways are higher than ours. He works ALL things together for our good.  Sometimes we just have to let go and trust Him.   Believe me, I have NOT mastered this.  Yet, when I look back on the past few years, purposefully looking for the good things, I notice that so many blessings have flowed from my pain.  I have strength and self-confidence and trust like I've never known.  I am closer to God than I ever was.  I know He is protecting and providing for my children and I.

And then there are seemingly little things, but they are huge. Warm homes.  A cup of coffee in our hands.  A tiny voice begging to play.  A baby's squeals of joy.  Tea parties using plastic utensils covered with God knows what.  Health.  A job.  A good song.  A sunny day.

Sometimes it's hard to see blessings with our bare eyes. Search for them.  Choose to see them. They are worth finding.


This song has such great lyrics...will you choose to see His "mercies in disguise"?
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