Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Modern Day Widows

Dear Church-

I think we've got some problems that need addressing.  They're not easy problems.  They're messy and they make us feel a little icky.  They point to something being wrong, some kind of internal sickness.  They're hard things to admit and face and deal with head on, but we have to.  We have to deal with this stuff.

This year my "Christian" husband left me unceremoniously after committing adultery.  He backed up his abandonment with some ridiculous old testament verses, and went merrily on his way to a new church without any reproach or reprimand from it's pastoral staff.  Live and let live, and don't offend your brother, right?

Maybe if I was a lonely little statistic this would simply be the rantings of a wounded woman.  But you see, I'm not alone.  I've watched too many "Christian men" cheat on their wives and leave them to raise their children and shift through life alone.  Some provide financial support, some don't.  Some see their children, some don't.  I wish I could say that in my own smallish circle that I could count the number of women this has happened to on one hand, but I can't.

That's a problem.

Something is broken, church.  Something is damaged and sickness has crept in.  Somewhere along the way something has gone terribly wrong.

These are worship leaders, deacons, elders, and pastors of your church.  These are men that profess to love God, but remain unrepentant.  These are men that are still allowed to sit in the pews on Sunday morning and lead the church in worship while they remain unrepentant and in sin.  What's up, church?  Where did we go wrong?

We spend a lot of time talking about women's roles in our sermons.  What women should and shouldn't do.  That we should obey our husbands and submit to their headship.  Cool.  Biblical stuff.  Let's not stop covering it just because it's hard.  BUT, and this is a big but, let's not forget to teach it in context and hit the responsibilities also commanded to the dudes in those passages.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.

Oh snap.  That's a lot heavier than we've made it out to be.  Without turning this into a lengthy sermon that I'm really not qualified to preach, I'm going to unpack that for you.

Christ loves the church sacrificially.  Without condition.  While they are disobedient and rebellious and spitting in his face.  Christ loves the church no matter what.  There are no conditions when it comes to his love.  It doesn't stop because we aren't meeting his expectations.  It doesn't end because we're just not doing enough to make him happy.  God help us broken sinners if that were the case.  We'd all be doomed.  Christ loves the church because the church is his bride and his inheritance and his family.  Christ loves his church despite themselves.  Despite their foolishness, selfishness, greed, and sin.  Because he promised that he would never leave us or forsake us.  Oh, how he loves us.

We don't deserve it.

The bible never tells us that it's ok to leave our wives if they stop living up to standards that have been a bit perverted over the years.  It never tells us that husbands are to love their wives only if it makes their own lives more enjoyable and happy.  It certainly never tells us to love our wives only when they are fit and happy and cooking you elaborate meals because that's what you deserve.

Where did we go wrong?

My heart is so flipping burdened by this, and even more so because it seems that the church isn't.

You're called to take care of the widows and the orphans.  Unfortunately in today's day and age, women are being "widowed" by selfish husbands who have convinced themselves that they are the only people that matter, because their wives are supposed to submit to them because they are the head of the household.  I'm the widow of our generation.  My friends who have been left by juvenile and self-serving "christian" men are the widows of our generation.

I don't say this lightly.  Believe me, I know what I am saying.  I know what I'm charging you with, church.  I know.  But the thing is, you've helped make us.  The abandoned, alone, and struggling mothers who woke up one day to a shattered reality and a disturbing feeling of shame over something we did not choose.  Your silence has helped make us.  Every time you knowingly let an unrepentant wayward husband into your fold without question or correction, you make us.  Every time you preach submission without also preaching sacrifice, you make us.  Every time you allow a newly single mom to fall through the cracks because you don't know how to approach the situation, you make us.  Our husbands may not have died, but they have left.  They have left, and you have been silent.

Can I be honest for a minute here?  I'm not totally sure what I am asking you to do about all of this.  I'm really not.  Obviously I am asking you to preach just as heavily, if not more so, on the responsibilities of the husband in a Godly marriage and what that looks like as you preach on wives submitting to their husbands.  I'm sure I lost a few of you there, but I'm going to keep going.  Because some of you are probably still reading.  Still sticking around.

I'm asking you, as a whole, to set programs and protocols in place to help single moms.  It's a terrifying reality to find yourself in.  The vast majority don't choose it for themselves.  The vast majority don't know how to ask for help or what kind of help to ask for because they are drowning in grief and worry and the new reality of their situation.  Have something in place for them.  Don't make them come to you.  Go to them.  Tell them how you are going to help.  Pay for their counseling, set them up with a career counselor, help them with education.  Set them up with childcare once or twice a month so that they can get things done or just sleep, for crying out loud.

I'm asking you to stop your silent agreement with these men who unrepentantly leave their families.  You have all too often made yourself complicit in their sins by failing to do the hard thing and address it with them head-on.  You do not want to be held responsible for that.  You really don't.

I'm asking you to make sure that you treat these modern-day-widows with love and respect, and don't put shame on them by making them somehow second-class citizens within the church.  We didn't ask for this life.  Please do not treat us like prostitutes or pariahs.  (The fact that it shouldn't matter if we had been prostitutes is another sermon for another day.)  Don't shove us to the back because it makes people uncomfortable that there are single mothers in the congregation.  God forbid.

I am, above all, asking you to get your head out of the sand and acknowledge that we have a serious problem here that seems to be hitting epidemic levels.  To call for some serious prayer and fasting and God-seeking to see how the modern church and it's culture have contributed to this incredibly serious issue.  Take responsibility where you should.  Humble yourself.  Become more like the God we all serve and sacrifice.

If your congregation doesn't have a single mom in it, good.  But it probably will.  It's probably going to happen, and pretending that it won't isn't going to help anyone.  This isn't a worldly problem, this is a christian problem.  This is happening over and over and over again in supposedly christian households within the church.  This will, unfortunately, probably be something your congregation will have to grapple with at some point.

This is such a huge issue.  There's no way I can even begin to unpack a sliver of it.  It's massive, and heartbreaking, and real.  Let's start treating it as such.  We modern-day-widows are raising the next generation, and we are often doing it alone, with very little support.  Our kids will probably pick up on that one day, and shame on the church if it causes those children to fall away because all they see is apathy and inefficacy when their families were hurting and in need.

I've posed a lot more problems and questions than I have solutions.  I know.  But I'm just one woman, one woman left by her "christian" husband, trying to make sense of this new world.  I probably sound a little angry, and you know what?  I am.  But I'm also just so stinking ashamed that we have let this become the problem that it is.  That we have raised up a generation of entitled, selfish, cowards instead of Godly men.  It's got to stop.  It has to change.  You have no idea the hearts and lives and souls at stake.

Fast.  Pray.  Fall on your face and ask the Lord to lead you to some kind of understanding.  Some way you can change this.  Some way you can help the Church do what she was meant and called to do- to take care of the widow and the orphan.  Because they are God's beloved.  And they are worth it.

What is Single Motherhood

Ten months.  Ten months I've been parenting alone, carrying 85 to 90% of the daily burdens and responsibilities surrounding my children.  Six of those months were spent doing every single overnight.  Every one.  Alone.  Ten months with a baby.  Ten months with a preschooler struggling to come to some kind of terms with her new and scarier life.  Ten months of no help when I've been sick.  Little to no help when the kids are.  Ten months of trial after trial after trial.  Ten months of dealing with all of this in the midst of trying to get a grip on some pretty severe postpartum depression.  And being emotionally manipulated, gaslit, and abused.

Ten months of being a single mom.

Yes.  My ex is supportive financially.  No, he has not completely left us alone in the world.  Yes, he now takes the kids on overnights every other weekend.  No, he will not ever hang out on my couch while our children sleep so that I can get out of the house once in a while.  Yes.  This all still makes me a single mom.  Even if he does't think I qualify.

Let's chat a little bit about some of this stuff.  Really.  Let's have a good long chat about some hard stuff.

If you leave your wife after committing adultery and refusing any kind of counseling or time to work to save your marriage, you lose the right to define her life any longer.  You lose the right to tell her that she is simply "looking for sympathy by falsely calling herself a single mom."  You lose the right to tell her that she isn't a single mom... she's a CO-PARENT.  You lose the right to speak into her reality because you have walked away without a second thought.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be a single mom?

It means something different to every woman slogging through it.  But here's what it means to me.

Being a single mom means that I don't get sick days.  Even when I beg for them.  It means that the response I get when asking my children's father to cancel his plans and be a father is "is it an emergency?"  Being a single mom means that, unless I am bleeding out, I am on my own.

Being a single mom means that I never sleep.  Not really.  Not deeply.  Not ever.  It means that your body is always on alert, listening for the sounds of your children needing help.  Listening for the sounds of potential threats and dangers to your family in the night.  It means never feeling that you can stop living in a state of half-wakefulness because it is all. on. you.

Being a single mom means that I am the disciplinarian.  Not the fun parent.  I'm the consistent voice.  The one that bears the burden of raising children better than the example they've been given.  It means that your kids always hear your voice teaching, disciplining, correcting, and sometimes it means that they tell you they want their "fun" parent.  And you have to suck it up.  Like everything else in life, you have to suck it up alone and keep parenting through the stinging tears fighting to escape your eyes.

It means that you are the safe zone.  You're the one that didn't leave.  You're the only constant in a life that has turned scary and shaky.  You are the one that has to hold it together, and apologize profusely when you can't.  You are the one that they will come to with their anger and their fears and their nightmares and their tears.  The burden of their hurting hearts will weigh your own down further but you must. keep. going.  You must continue to be the safe zone.  The constant.  The brave.

It means that you really don't get time to grieve the incredible loss you've suffered because you've got to hold it together for your children.  There's no one there anymore to take them into the backyard when you are struggling to breathe under the weight of this scary  new world and let you sob in an empty house.  It means you scream into pillows in the middle of the night and do your bargaining and crying and why-asking with God in the darkness of your room while you should be sleeping.

Being a single mom means that I no longer have an ally in the man I believed would love me and hold true to his vows until we were so old that life slipped away.  It means trying to be nice to a man who tells me to lose 150 pounds, or that I was never worth fighting for, or that he's going to call child protective services because my house is a mess and our kids eat processed foods.  It means having to treat as an adversary someone that should have always been your champion.

My single motherhood looks like scrambling to figure out a career because my ex "doesn't want to support my lazy ass for the rest of his life." when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom at his urging and after we'd agreed upon that reality from day one.

My single motherhood looks like loneliness and long days and longer nights.  It looks like being constantly belittled for hurting.  It looks like being told to "get over it because we're done."  It looks like unfaithfulness and affairs and deep chasms where trust used to be.

My single motherhood looks like something I never signed up for.  Something forced upon me.  Something heavy and brutal and violently unjust.  It looks like a life filled with "I don't know if I can do this"es and "I'm simply not strong enough"s.  It is the rough-handed shaping of a new reality that I don't want.

I don't call myself a single mom to garner sympathy.  I don't call myself a single mom because I think it's fun.  I don't call myself a single mom because it is a reality I chose.

I call myself a single mom because it is what I am.  A woman who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders alone.  Without a partner.  Without relief.  I am a single woman now.  Who is also a mom.  Don't get me started on how that will affect me in such a harsher way than it will affect my ex.  I call myself a single mom because I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I tried.  I really really tried.  I fought and begged and cried and I did what was left in my broken shell to save a marriage that probably wasn't even worth saving outside of the enormity and the sacredness of the vows I had spoken.  The vows I meant.  I don't need to assuage the guilt of the guilty by declaring myself to be a watered-down version of my reality.

My single motherhood may look different that the single motherhood of too many women I know who's "christian" husbands left them high and dry and broken.  But we don't need to make our realities more palatable for those who have understandably guilty consciences.  We don't need to consider them above ourselves or our children any longer.  We are the widows of our generation.  The struggling and grieving and alone.  To be denied acknowledgement of that fact simply because it causes someone else to feel badly about themselves is just further injuring  the broken and injured and bereaved.

If you don't like it, chances are it's because it makes you keenly aware of the injustice of your actions.  And frankly, that's no longer a burden we single mothers need to bear.  We have enough, thank you.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Living in the In-Between

By the time most of us are fairly young I think we've realized that we crave belonging.  We belong in our mother's arms.  We belong in our family.  We belong with our siblings.  We belong in our church.  We belong in many places, and it helps us to find security and meaning when things are all too often muddled.

When we marry, we finally breathe a sigh of deep relief that we have found a permanent place of belonging.  An avowed home for our hearts.  A place where we can be weak and broken and scared and happy and on and on and on and on.

But what happens when that belonging is ripped from our grasping hands?  What happens when the person with whom you believed you would always belong becomes worse than a stranger?  When he becomes the opposite of a safe place?  Where do you rest your head?  Who do you confide in?  Who will stick with you through all of the trauma and ugliness and messiness and grief?

Suddenly you find yourself living in the in-between.

Let me define the in-between for you.

You aren't a part of a couple anymore, but you don't really fit in with your single friends either.

You aren't really a "true" single parent- you sometimes have help- but you aren't really part of a team anymore either.

You aren't really able to get out with friends anymore, but you're dying from loneliness and isolation and space.  Just space all around you.

You're never alone, but you're always alone.

You just don't fit anywhere you used to so neatly fit before.

Square peg, suddenly trying to jam herself into a round whole.

I'd like you to take a minute here, and I'd like you to imagine what life would feel like if one morning you woke up in your normal state of belonging, and went to bed that same night suddenly adrift and unsure that you belong anywhere anymore.  You don't know who you can confide in because, dear God it's all so heavy.  People want to listen at first, and you dump it all out like the niagra falls of emotional trauma and confusion.  Then they start to erode.

You're still their friend, and you know they still love you, but you're too much.  You are the in-between.  You're the bad dream.  Your life encompasses the fear shoved roughly into the tiniest mental drawer and locked away.  You are a constant, heavy reminder of what could be.  At first there are calls and texts and friends showing up to ease the burden of newly-single-parenthood as you fall quickly and mercilessly apart.  You know these sweet friends simply can't suddenly become that all-important heart where you used to belong, but you try desperately to find some semblance of what you had because
But you're also too much.  You know you are too much as the hurt spills out of you day in and day out, and you see the burden on the faces of the people you love, and that love you.  You see the weight you've become.  You used to be the lifter of weights.  You used to be the funny, vibrant, shining fun.  And soon even your heart feels like it's stuck squarely in the in-between.  In between the first stabs of trauma, in between the sweet release of healing.  You're the bouncing back and forth bringer of melancholy, and you know it.  And you try to let that fall off of you and be happy again like everyone hopes for you, but you can't sustain the effort.  Not yet.

Oh, God.  It is the loneliest place I've ever drifted through.  I feel like I am who I was, but not.  I am a new woman, but not.  I am strong, but not.

I'm contradiction given face and breath and life.

I don't pray that God would take me up out of this place.  I know He won't answer me the way I would like Him to because there's a lot of shaping that still has to happen in my heart.  This is a defining life event, and I know it.  Someday it will give birth to something healing and powerful and full of the love of God.  But I pray that he brings me someone to stand in the gap of this miserable desert I'm calling the in-between.  Not to take away what I'm going through.  Not to make it all better, because it's simply not time yet for the better to come.  There's rebirth happening here, and birth is a long and painful process.  It pushes you until you think you cannot take another breath, and that maybe you will die here.  But when you finally come out of the other side, having given breath to new and pure and beautiful life, you know that all the pain just made it that much more precious.  So I'm not asking Him to skip me through these hard chapters, even though there are days when I'd really really like Him to.

For now, I'd just like someone to stand next to me in this no-mans-land and hold my hand.  Even when it feels heavy and burdensome and unrewarding.  I know it's a lot to ask.  I'm rough right now.  Sharp.  Full of spiny edges and heavy words.  But this is just the in-between.  I am just an in-between.  It's a brutal and confusing and sometimes beautiful place to be.  It's just a difficult place to stand in, especially if you're don't really have to.

I don't really know what God is trying to teach me right now.  How He is shaping my heart and bringing rebirth.  I know He is, and I know it will be worth it in the end.  But I do pray that it gets a little less lonely here soon.  Because if I've learned one thing about myself in all of this, it's that I crave a safe place to puddle into weakness on occasion.  A place where I belong enough to welcome that kind of melting.

I hope it's out there.  I hope I find myself in a place where God is that melting place and that it is enough for me.  But again, right now I'm in neither.

Another in-between.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Battle Between Head and Heart

Sometimes I feel utterly divided.  The chasm between my head and my heart can be so overwhelmingly wide.

I'm maybe a month away from being divorced.  There's so much that goes along with that.  My heart feels shame when those words leave my mouth.
It feels like fire on my tongue, and my heart breaks a little more every time I utter it.  Shame.  Anger.  Fear.  Deep and unyielding betrayal.  Grief.  Shattered trust.  I feel all of these things constantly, and often together.  It's completely exhausting and overwhelming.  Oh heart, you are damaged, but still beating.  Oh self, his darkened heart doesn't reflect on your own.  His sins are his own.  His adultery doesn't reflect your worth as a woman, a wife, a mother, a child of God.  Simply his own weaknesses and sin.  Dear heart, that shame is not yours.  You did not leave.  You did not give up.  You were not unfaithful.  You were not perfect, but you never deserved this.

My heart feels shame, but my head feels hope.

I know that sounds bizarre.

Here's the thing.  I loved my husband.  Deeply.  I hope he loved me at one point.  I'm not sure anymore.  But I am sure I loved him.  My head tells me that hoping he ever really loved me isn't enough.

"released" My head tells me.

Released from a man who probably never actually saw me.  Never saw my heart.  Never invited me to love that was strong and provided any kind of rest.  Released from love that was selfish and self seeking and self serving.  Head tells heart that it was good to love that man.  But that it's ok to feel release.  That I tried.  That I can't make him loving or strong or good.  That heart has a chance to feel something so much purer and more beautiful than love that is unsure and afraid of being despised and abandoned and ashamed.

My head and my heart aren't quite on the same page yet.  My head, that bastion of good sense and logic… head wants to let go of him.  Let go.  Let go.  Let go.  The constant mantra in my sensible head tries to get heart to do what it isn't ready to do.

Let him go.  Let it fall to the ground.  Let him walk away.  Do not give him any more tears.  Let go.  He is gone, and so is the life you prayed for when you stood facing him and said your vows.  He did not mean them.  Let go.  You deserve a man that means them.  All of them.  Even the unpleasant and hard ones.  Even the ones that require a silent death to self.  Let him go.  He's hurting you.  He's gone.

Oh, stubborn and faithful heart.  Broken and angry and grieving heart.  Heart that cannot and will not let go of that last fragmented splinter of hope.  The last splinter embedded deep within that causes ceaseless pain, but that is the last piece of what should have been.  My head doesn't understand my heart.  My head says that it would never take him back.  That trust has been shattered so completely that it would be impossible to put back together.  My head says that it knows that this treatment is so awful that nothing should entice me to reconsider him.  But heart.  Heart made vows.  Heart values family and  relationship above all else.  Heart still holds onto the maybe.  Even though it's harmful.  Even though it drives the splinter deeper.

"Let go" everyone says.

My heart can only answer "I want to, but I don't know how yet."

I wish I could somehow lay ahold of even a fraction of the ability my soon to be ex husband has to let me go completely.

And yet I don't.  Because letting go of a love that you promised to protect until your last dying breath feels like an unforgivable weakness.  And I may be a lot of things, but weak is not one of them.  My love is not weak.  My heart is not weak.  Maybe stubborn and imperfect and broken and grief-stricken. But never weak.

So I'll just keep letting my logical head keep encouraging my stubborn heart to let him go.  Because both my head and my heart know this truth-

God has better than this ahead.  Better than the hateful abandonment of vows and hearts and love.  Better than the fickleness and selfishness of this "love."  And as much as I'm ready to embrace the truth that God has better, I can't despise my heart for (however imperfectly) holding onto the most important thing.  After all, that is strength I can't claim solely for my own.  My heart, it is what God made it.  Strong and constant and true.  And I know now more than ever that those are qualities that are of vital importance in this life.

So head and heart, someday that chasm will close.  Someday you won't be at odds.  But I propose that right now, here in this moment, it's totally ok if you are.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Prayer for My Son

It's midnight.  I should be sleeping, but my heart is so troubled tonight.  I keep thinking about you, son.  I keep worrying about guiding you and helping you become the great man that I hope you will be.  I think about the disparities you will see in your family life.  I think about the influences, both good and bad, that you will have to sift through.  I worry that generational sins will cling to you like stale smoke no matter how hard I pray for them to lift.

I look at you right now and all I see is a sweet little toddler who's eyes light up when I walk into a room.  I see a little boy who could change the world.  A little boy who's heart I will fight for to the death.  Who I will pray for with the tenacity of a warrior in the throws of battle.  I look at you and I see someone better than the example set for you right now.  I see someone not fettered by the brokenness and insecurities of an uncertain childhood.

My mind is racing, and I'm having a hard time forming coherent thoughts.  Everything rises up and out of me in the form of a prayer.  Fast and jumbled and probably nonsensical.  But we'll go with it, baby.  We'll just embrace the chaos and I'll lift up a most earnest prayer for you.

My babe, I pray that you grow into a man after your Heavenly Father's own heart.  A man overflowing in mercy and kindness and justice and strength.  I pray that you are selfless and true. That righteousness flows from the over abundance of love for your Father in Heaven and permeates every single fiber of your being.  I pray that you are upright and brave.  That you have the courage to fight for the broken and weary and oppressed.  That you see past the earthly garbage and into the hearts of others, and always stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.  I pray that you forsake the inherent privileges you are born with and try to see life through the eyes of others not born with your gender, skin color, economic standing, etc etc.  Jesus hung out with the sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes.  He loved the unlovable.  I pray you do too.

I pray that God gives me the strength to love you well.  To show you what unconditional love looks like.  What selfless love looks like.  What love means- the real definition.  Not this shallow garbage our society glorifies.  That's nothing but selfishness and self-serving interest packaged in a deceiving little bow.  Love is hard.  It's a battle.  It's a choice.  It's a long suffering commitment.  I feel the burden of being the one who shows you the importance of this kind of love, because you won't have the example you should- that of your father loving your mother in the way he is called to.  I pray I never vilify your father because of his weaknesses, but instead show you what mercy and forgiveness look like, and the strength and freedom they bring.

My son, I pray that you never ever feel as though you have to earn my love and acceptance.  I pray you never know the insatiable need to search out the approval of man.  That you grow in the knowledge of your worth in your Daddy in Heaven.  That He's enough for you.

I pray that I can find the right way to teach you to be responsible for your own actions, your own heart, your own sins.  I pray that we can break the familial cycle of victimhood with you and your sister.  That you never know the oppression of feeling like the world is out to get you, but instead thrive in the freedom of Christ, who has removed all earthly oppression.

I hope that I can teach you how to value the passions of others, even if they aren't your own.  I want to teach you to encourage and seek to build up the callings and passions of those around you.  That your calling doesn't trump the callings of those you love.  I hope to teach you how to put others ahead of yourself.  I hope to teach you to respect and value women.  To love them the way your Heavenly Father loves them.  Not to despise and objectify.  Not to subject to your own whims and expectations without any consideration for the deep places of their hearts.

I pray that you will be a better man that those that have come before you.  That you find a way to internalize only the best parts of your dad, grandpa, uncles, etc.  I pray that you do not latch on to the insecurities, bitterness, and selfishness that may be modeled for you.  I pray that God uses the great men in your life to show you what a Godly man looks like.

Son, I worry about you.  Maybe even a little more than I worry about your sister.  Because I don't know how to offset the lack of Godly example of fatherhood and manhood you will have in your life. How do I teach you to be a man?  But the thing about worry is, it's really just a lack of trust.  And that's something I will have to work on for the rest of my life.  Because even if your earthly father is lacking- your Heavenly Father isn't.  And I just know He has such great plans for you.  The call on your life and your sister's life... I just know you two were made for something so pure and good.

I pray that I have the strength to lift you up and intercede for you when I feel lost and ill equipped.  I pray that God gives me the patience and wisdom to teach you in the ways you should go.  I pray that you break the cycles of those before you.  I pray that you will love the Lord with everything you are, and that you will serve him fervently all of the days of your life.

You are my joy.  And your Daddy in Heaven's joy.  A gift that I will always be thankful for.  I wish your life didn't start off the way it has, but wishing won't change our reality.  But God can.  And He has always taken care of us.  And if I impart anything to you, son, I hope it's that God is good.  No matter what.  God is good.  And He will never let you down.  Not ever.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Mother's Day Love Letter to Single Moms

Hey Single Mama.

This year is the first Mother's Day where I have joined your ranks.  It's been a hard day, and I've been doing a lot of thinking.

I used to say that I could never be a single mom.  That I wasn't strong enough.  That I didn't know how you all do it.  I'd say it to my husband, holding his hand, telling him that I was so glad I'd always have him there to do life and parenthood with me.  I had no idea that my future would have me single parenting right along with you.

Here's what I have to say now.  And I'll probably have something different to say next year when the dust has settled a bit more and I've found my footing.

I still don't know how you do it.  I don't know how I do it most days.

I'm sorry that you have to.  I'm sorry that I have to.  This is not a job for one.  It's just not.  But we do it because what other option is there?  Who else will do what we do?

So here's a love letter to you, to me, to the mom scared shitless because her husband just walked out on her last week.  To the moms we will welcome into our ranks with our own broken hearts and open arms, the ranks we don't want to see grow.  The ranks of the tired, the lonely, the brave, and the blessed.  The silent army of moms who do it all for everyone and fall into bed at night exhausted, but knowing their shift doesn't end when the sun goes down.  The sweat soaked and tear streaked warriors who press on even when they feel like their world has shattered and they have nothing left to give.  This is for us.  For you.

I know you, tired mama.
You are me.
You are the stranger-sister juggling two people's worth of burdens in the Target parking lot with a baby that is tired and crabby and always on your hip.
You are the mom who shuts herself into the bathroom for ten minutes when everything becomes more than you can handle after days and days of aloneness and silently cries so her kids don't have to see her tears.
You are the proud mom who cheers with all her might as her daughter graduates her first year of preschool.
 You are the midnight doctor that comforts a feverish toddler, praying quietly for their relief.
You are the woman who never ever ever thought that her husband would leave.
Or pass away.
Or simply cease to exist as you knew him.
You are the chef who has made three meals before she realizes she's forgotten to feed herself.  Again.
You are the woman who will not give up hope that this is not all there is.
You are the dreamer, the one who looks into the future and sees a million beautiful possibilities.
You are the Survivor that has found a way to make it through obstacles you never knew existed before you had to do it all yourself.
You are the fervent prayer warrior that prays and prays and prays for better things for her children.  A better life.  A whole family.  A whole heart.
You are the Hero her kids can depend on, day in and day out.
You are the safe place.  The constant.  The rest for her children in the midst of a cruel world.
You are the endless burner of midnight oil who wakes again, and again, and again to soothe babies after nightmares, and teething, and fevered unrest.
You are the beautiful woman who feels unseen.  Unknown.  Unprotected.
You are the woman who knows that her worth is in God alone.  Not in a man.  Not in her kids.  Not in her career.  Not in her struggles.  Not in her victories.
You are a mom.  The most selfless calling there is.

And tonight, if this day has been as hard for you as it's been for me, you may be having a hard time remembering all of the things that make you so truly amazing.  Maybe you find yourself feeling guilty that this day has caught you so off guard in the way it's brought you so flipping low instead of joyful because you're a mom and you love your kids.

I need to tell you, because I need to tell myself, that's ok.  You don't have to feel guilty.  You bear a heavy burden.  It's an amazing one, I bet you'd never give it up, I know I wouldn't, but it's still so big.  Maybe next year you won't feel crushed under the weight of what you wish Mother's Day was for you, but isn't.  Maybe you won't feel so jealous of friends who don't have to do it alone, and who's spouses shower them with affection and appreciation.  But it's ok if you still do.  We'll get there, you and I.  It's a hard day. A great day, but a hard day.

So maybe I've never met you.  Maybe we are great friends.  Maybe no one knows yet that this was your first Mother's Day alone.  But I do know this, beautiful mama… you are so much stronger and more beautiful than you know.  And even when you feel invisible, there are people like year-ago-me who look at you in awe, and wonder how you do what you do.  How you are everything to everyone and still manage to hold your head up and take on the world.  People see.  I see.  Your Heavenly Father sees.

This is my prayer for us, single moms… that tonight, and every night, when you lie in your bed alone or surrounded by your babies, that you feel undeniably, heart-swellingly loved and cherished and doted on by your Daddy in Heaven.  Because He sees everything.  All of our struggles.  All of our tears.  All of our sacrifices and struggles.  He will never leave us.  Never die.  Never change.  Never disappoint.  And I pray that we can quiet the voices inside ourselves that rage and mourn and worry and fear long enough to hear Him say "I see you.  Your every breath.  Your every tear.  Your every laugh.  Your every fear.  I see you trying to give your kids a better life.  I see you trying to serve me with a heart that is undivided and grateful.  I see you giving everything you have and then giving some more.  I hear your prayers and petitions for love and healing and comfort.  And I am all of those things.  My beautiful daughter, I am SO PROUD of you.  I am so proud.  You are so loved.  You are taken care of.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Maybe this Mother's Day hasn't been happy for you.  It really wasn't for me.  I get it.  But I do pray that it will be filled with comfort.  With peace from our Father.  With hope for the future.  With love from your children.  You are loved, warrior mama.  You are so perfectly and beautifully loved by the truest and most perfect Love.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Sweet Daughter of Mine

My dear little girl,

We've had a rough go of it this past year.  Lots of change, lots of hurt, lots of scary stuff that you probably can't really understand.  I try so hard to explain it to you in a way that makes it less scary, but still leaves you with the big picture.  I worry that I am failing.  I worry that I am not saying enough, or that I am saying too much.

My sweet one, I wish there was a way that I could shield your heart from all of these gross, hateful, heartbreaking adult changes that our family is going through right now.  You are so smart and so intuitive and empathetic.  I worry that your heart is absorbing so much more than I can see.  I worry about the sadness you are feeling.  I worry that you are going to grow up with scars that you should never ever have had to bear.  I worry that I won't be able to protect you from the feelings of loss and abandonment.  That I won't be enough for you in the day to day, especially while I am still grieving too.

Being your mommy has been the most amazing, life changing event.  I promise that I am trying my best, even when I fail miserably.  I promise to always say sorry when I am in the wrong.  To hold you when you cry.  To remind you daily of your worth.  To show you what unconditional love looks like so you never ever have to grow up with the scars that come with never having experienced it.  I have seen what that does to a person, and I will never let that happen to you, my love.  You are strong, and brave, and kind.  I'll remind you when you feel unsure.

I promise that I will try so hard to help you grow up and see that you deserve better than the way that mommy was treated.  Because if I ever had to watch you go through what I am going through right now it would kill me.  My sweet one, you deserve better.  I will fight for you.  I will fight for your heart.  I will try daily to put God first and make sure that you know that your Heavenly Father is only good.  That he will never ever leave you.  He will never ever forsake you.  He keeps his Word, and He is for you.  That's what you deserve.  That's what love really looks like.

Sometimes I worry.  I worry when you are acting out that I've done something wrong, said the wrong things, not comforted you enough in the last nine scary months.  I worry that the damage you have already suffered is deep and raw and will alter your life's path.  I'm your mom.  I worry about everything.  But then you go and do the most amazing things.  I hear you in the other room, worshipping your sweet heart out, and walk in to see you with your eyes closed, your face and hands lifted to the One who is Worthy, and I feel peace and hope that at least I'm doing the most important thing right.  I have hope that I'm modeling that you can always trust your Heavenly Father.  That He is always worthy of your love, even in the midst of really trying and heartbreaking times.  Because if you have that, sweet one, you can make it through anything.

It grieves my heart that you have been robbed of the innocence of your childhood.  That you have had the simplicity of a child's trust stolen from you.  It makes my mama heart hurt, and it makes my mama heart angry.  I never questioned any of the things you will question now when I was growing up, and it breaks me that this is your broken reality.

But I promise you this, my little girl, God can redeem.  God will redeem.  That's what He does.  He takes heartbreaking brokenness and unrecognizable ashes and builds something so very beautiful.  I believe that is what He will do in our lives, yours, mine, and your brother's.  I wait every day to see how it will unfold.  How He will redeem.

So I may worry, because that's what moms do, but in the deep of my heart I have faith that He will provide.  He will redeem.  He will protect you and your heart.  He will help you choose more wisely than your mother did when you are ready to fall in love and start your own family.  He will keep your heart safe and healthy.  I can't promise that you'll never experience heartbreak.  In fact, unfortunately I can promise you that you will.  But I can also promise that your Daddy in Heaven is bigger than any heartbreak.  Including the one you are feeling now.

You are so loved, my sweet, silly baby.  And your Heavenly Father and I will make sure you always know it.  No matter what.