Commitments

Currently I am still not working outside the home (but will have to start soon). Still waiting for my new Green Card so I can replace my missing social security card so I can get a job. I am still teaching Sunday School (Creation Station) at least twice a month, I serve as worship host once or twice a month (make coffee and put the treats out), cook a meal for the youth group once or twice per month (supper for 20+ people), am a member of the NextGen Think Tank team (we are the planners and visionaries for the family ministry of the church), plus I attend and help to lead the Celebrate Recovery meeting on Friday evenings. When I think about how much I do in an hourly view it’s not much, but the commitment is significant when I think about adding in a full time job.

Especially with summer and everything else the boys and I have going on. I want to be able to focus my time in areas that not only helps us grow as a family, but in ways that serve God and helps other families find their strengths and overcome their shortcomings (perceived or real).

I think the first commitment that I am going to be stepping away from is Celebrate Recovery. It’s a great program and a wonderful tool for those with habits, hurts, and hang ups (yes I realize that every person falls in that category). There are issues with this group that are far too big for me to handle at this point. There needs to be a significant overhaul of the program and I can see that the current leaders are indeed trying to make change I unfortunately cannot make the time/energy commitment to make the necessary changes to make the program as effective as I think it can be at our church. It’s almost as if the program needs to be stopped and restarted…but I don’t know if that is a good idea with the population we serve.

As an integral member of our NextGen team, I think it is a much more valuable use of my time and talents to scale back the areas outside of family ministry so that as our church grows (which it is exponentially) I can continue to serve with ease in the areas I am currently serving in.

The area where we live has a sadly broken population. Broken homes, broken families, broken people. If we aim to make a difference in these families we must be willing and able to dig deep in to their lives on a personal and spiritual level. As I typed that I realized that I would love to ‘teach’ families how to pray together. As much as I strive to serve God, I am terrible at praying as a family. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to sit down with your family for a quick prayer session? How cool would it be to be out for coffee with a friend and say a prayer together.

How much stronger our families would be if we were comfortable praying openly and often. I think this is something I am going to take on as my personal mission.

Yesterday the Lunch Lady and the Milk Man moved away. I could not have gotten through the last year without their love, support, friendship…I know we will always have a bond that no distance can break, I only wish the distance wasn’t so far.

It is time for people to start praying together outside of the walls of the church. In our homes, in our cars, with our families, friends, loved ones…it’s just time to pray. No more awkward silences, no more ‘searching for the right words’ in a difficult situation. A simple, “Let’s pray” is all it takes to start a new world for so many broken people.

Advertisements

After Midnight

Night two of tossing and turning. I’ve tried breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, hot bath, warm milk…and still I can’t sleep.

Part of it is wanting this divorce finished, part of it is still not having a job, part of it is being over tired, and part of it is an ongoing spiritual battle I’m in the middle of.

I’ve reached out to a couple of groups at church and in both groups I am finding it difficult to express myself clearly to those who are not as strong in thier faith. A simple “give it to God” does more harm than good if they are not secure in His promises for them.

I also struggle listening to those who spout the ‘I’ve been good enough why do bad things happen to me’ party line. There are people who seem to be ‘doing the right thing’ only in hopes of bettering themselves. Are you kidding me?? You think deserve to be rewarded in this life (or the next) when your heart is not pure in its intentions?

Please don’t play the victim if things don’t go your way when your motives are less than thinly veiled in the first place. 

I know it’s not going to happen over night and some people may never have the relationship with God that I feel. I’m sorry for those people. They will never learn true love, true devotion, and peace of mind.

My struggle now is not regarding my relationship with the Lord, but about finding like-minded people to surround myself with.

I’m going back to bed, and will say a prayer for the hearts of the hurting that they will learn of the grace and promises  given to all of us.

Battle Buddy

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have a new battle buddy. Fortunately because we each have many similarities in our situations, unfortunately though because there are four more children who are now faced with an unbelievable situation. I met him about a year ago while he was doing some renovation work at the hotel where I worked. Just casual acquaintances at best. Friends enough to greet each other in public and remember each others names and talk about our kids, but not hang-out type friends.

There was always a friendly amount of flirting with him when he was at the job (which wasn’t often). He was safe to flirt with…he was married, had been with his wife for 20 years, had four children with her, I didn’t mind stroking his ego, he is one of those soft spoken guys who obviously had no clue just how much people liked him. He is a rare breed for sure; a man immersed in the lives of his children, always working to making his marriage as good as it could be, even in difficult times, and always professional.

While at church last weekend I saw him and greeted him. One of the women from the bible study group I attended came up behind me and asked, “And how do you know him?” I jokingly told her I had tried picking him up at a hotel one time until I found out he was married. “For another eight days” he mumbled. I apologized for putting my foot in my mouth and said I had no idea he was getting a divorce. Well, apparently he didn’t either until about six weeks ago. Turns out the bible study friend is his mother! lol Small world ain’t it??

At one point during the bible study discussion a few weeks ago as we talked of forgiveness and letting go and learning to be positive the mom had looked at me and said, “Hmmm, you should talk to my son.”

So then I said, “Is THIS the son I am supposed to talk with?” Sure enough…what are the odds? So he and I updated each other on our respective situations and it was easy to see the hurt and shock still in his eyes. At the end of the conversation we parted ways and I didn’t give it a second thought when his mother asked for my phone number (we are in bible study together, remember).

Later than day I told the Lunch Lady about the conversation (he and her also have two children the same age so they are in the same circles at school). His situation is heartbreaking. He realized the marriage had changed in late summer and took the initiative to get he and his wife in to counseling. On the third visit she announced to him that she wanted a divorce and that she was two months pregnant by another man with whom she’d been seeing for over a year. She then moved out of the family home, has rarely seen her children since moving out and the divorce will be final next week. Three months ago things were fine…now he is a single father with four children. Quite the blow. She gave him custody of the kids, the house, and just walked out on their life, their family.

Later on Sunday I received a text message, “Are you sleeping?” from a strange number. I asked who it was and it was him, he needed to talk and his mom had given my number…I am so naive! We talked for a while about his situation and dealing with feelings and children, and the roller coaster his brain and heart are riding. Being a few steps ahead of him as far as the emotional processing of every thing it was easy to give him honest feedback and a few insider things to be aware of with the kids and each of their developmental stages. He was receptive of the information and sounded grateful to have a battle buddy. I told him that I don’t know his wife, have never met her, and will never judge her (or him) for the choices they make. I would be a neutral party to bounce ideas off and if he needed to vent he now knew how to get a hold of me. I told him to also run it through his brain the ‘what if’ scenarios if she decides to try to reconcile. I don’t think anybody had approached that possibility with him, but I could tell he was thinking it. I said there is always hope for reconciliation until one of them is six feet under. Almost funny coming from me.

The next day his mom and I had a lunch date and we talked about my situation and how she hopes he will return to church on a more regular basis as he works through this situation. I said I can be his friend, and a sounding board and hopefully a support as far as church goes.

I have to admit, the similarities of our situations makes our conversations easy. Today after I took the boys to school we talked about when I found out I had to move out of the house and the blow that was to my heart and ego. I rarely hurt when I talk of it, but talking to him about it, it was no longer as matter of fact as I make it sound. For him to openly acknowledge the hurt and agony I felt without attempting to sugar coat, side step, or justify the situation was agonizing and comforting at the same time. We are Battle Buddies, fighting the same war in our hearts and brains. With time I am hoping that sharing our individual grief journeys will strengthen us for ourselves, our children, and our partners.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to hope that even one person would find out they are not alone in their journey. I never expected somebody to return the favor. Always the helper, never the helpee…it’s how I try to portray myself. Never allowing my weakness to be revealed anywhere other than maybe here where I can pretend nobody reads it and confident that even if they do they will be much too uncomfortable to bring it up in person…people tend to not enjoy tough talks.

Welcome to my Battle Buddy…and thank you for the gift you have given me, the gift of friendship.

HOLY CRAP

First off…remind me the next time I am coming to the library to blog to remember a sweatshirt, it is so cold in this computer lab and I can’t type with my jacket on.

So, I’ve spent a ton of time devoted to prayer lately. Our pastor encouraged us to pray some Big-Ask Prayers, and I did. I asked for the right job to come for me, and I asked for beds for the boys and myself.

Well, as always, God pulled through. I did not expect him to pull through so fast, but today I was hired as a personal care attendant for a little girl with Spina Bifida. The pay is more than I was making at the hotel, the scheduling is extremely flexible, and no weekends or holidays. Minimum 24 hours each week and the option to work 40+. Can you say PERFECT FIT??

I went to the scheduled prayer meeting at the church and was met by the pastor who had a silly grin on his face. Not only did he find bunk beds for the boys, but the youth pastor found a bed for me as well!!

Lord, I asked…You answered. You came up BIG for me. THANK YOU.

I am so overwhelmed with happiness.

Lord, I know I’ve asked some really big-ask prayers lately and I thank you for allowing others the opportunity to bless my life and my kids lives and thank you for having them choose me and the boys to bless with their radical generosity. I will continue to serve you Lord, and to bless those I am able to with my unique gifts you have blessed me with. Continue to light my path Lord so I can follow You and hear your call. Amen

On Fire

My heart is on fire lately. I have such a renewed sense of hope, love, understanding, peace…it is amazing. I am so richly blessed by those who have entered my life. The friends who have remained at my side during what many would claim was a disastrous time have helped me to remain focused on the good and the positive things going on all around me.

Through my first week and a half of unemployment I have served as a Creation Station teacher (two services), served an evening meal three times, celebrated Thanksgiving (Canadian), and spent some much needed time in prayer and reflection.

Before I move forward I need to look back. I need to see where I came from, to understand what it took to get me here and remove the things that didn’t work and learn to embrace the things that did.

I am becoming much more open with people around me, less stand-offish to new people. I am more inclined to shake a hand and introduce myself to a new person at church, I took the time to sit and pray with a child in my Sunday School class this past weekend who was severely troubled. It is so comforting to know that I can help this broken child, that he trusts me enough to allow me in to his thoughts and concerns. THIS is why I teach…to help these kids learn that it IS okay to not be okay and that it is okay to not only reach out but to also take the hand that reaches for him.

Ironic that I am having this same struggle for myself right now. I am learning how to accept help that is offered, yet still have a difficult time asking for specific needs when people want to help. “Is there anything you need?” is usually followed by “No, we are good for right now.” When I should be saying is, “I am currently without any beds for myself or the boys and we are looking for donations to help meet that need.” How hard is THAT? Not very when I type it out, EXTREMELY when it comes to actually making that need known.

Why can’t I ask? Well, I’m afraid of what people might think of me. Not only do my children not live with me, but I don’t even have beds for them to sleep on?

Should I have stayed at the job that was killing me emotionally and spiritually to provide comfortable beds for my boys? Is is okay that I left to follow God’s plan for my life instead of drowning where I was? In my brain, the answer is simple, that I did the absolute best thing for myself and the kids when I left that job. My brain knows that we don’t ‘need’ beds, we want them.

My heart though sometimes still struggles. I know there are two perfectly good beds at their dad’s house that are not being used, a queen sized in one room and a twin sized in the second empty room…I have asked to have even one of them for the boys to use and have been denied. I pray that his heart be healed to see past his own pain to take care of the needs of our boys, not just when they are on ‘his time’ for for him to care about their needs and well being when they are on my time. They do not stop being my children when they leave my care just as they should not stop being his children when they leave his. Does he not see that he is not punishing me, only the boys? Will he ever see it? I highly doubt it.

I worry that his hurt will define his relationship with the boys as they grow older and see the truths for themselves. I don’t want them to have a damaged relationship with either parent. I want them to be so in love with both of their parents that there is never any doubt. I don’t want them to see the bitter, angry, short sighted person their father has become. I want them to know the man with whom I made them, not the one he has become. I want my boys to learn that no matter what, their parents always put their love for each of them above any hurts or hangups. What greater gift can we give them?

The other great gift I am giving my children at every chance I get is knowing God. I am teaching them that God is good and it is Him to whom we should turn to when times are challenging. I am teaching them to see everything has a positive aspect and it is up to us to decide which aspect to focus on in any given situation.

My boys don’t live with me…pretty negative. I can sleep in because I don’t have to get them off to school in the morning…pretty nice perk. LOL See, even something so seemingly devastating can be okay, if you  chose to let it be.

Be on fire for the right reasons. Be fired up about God making radical changes in your life, be on fire for those around you who look to you for guidance. Be on fire for those who see you as their compass…always be TRUE North (haha…get it, I’m from Canada…NORTHERN Canada). I’m on fire, and not calling the fire department to put it out. I am happier at this moment in my life than I have been in many years.

And if you are moved to make a donation for the boys and I to have a bed, I won’t tell you no.

How I Do It

So often I am asked how I deal with disappointment, rejection, stress, and the general unknown with such a positive attitude. I did not get the church job that I had applied for and hoped the most for. When I got the call, it was hard to keep the tears at bay as I talked to the woman who called. She had nothing but praise for my skills, and thanks for everything I’d already been doing with and at the church in terms of volunteering and working with the children’s ministry, etc.

Well, if I am so awesome, why didn’t I get the job; the same thoughts I’m sure anybody in my position at that time would have had. I was sad, I was hurt, I felt rejected, I wondered what I did wrong, what I could have done better. All normal thoughts. I posted on my Facebook that although I know through all things God works for good, my heart was hurting.

The self pity and despair lasted only about 20 minutes or so…then it hit me; if through all things, God works for good He must have something super awesome in the works for me and I better be ready for it. The next day I had a short moment of financial panic and had to remind myself that I am fine until December. I have time, God has time. There is no need to call McDonald’s and tell them I need to start working tomorrow. I still have time.

I’m not sure how a new employer would like it if I called and accepted the job offer only to tell them I need Thursday and Friday of my first week off because I had already promised Bum that he could come spend those days at my house (he has a break from school). So I will pick him up after school on Wednesday and he can come watch me bowl with my league and then we will have Thursday and Friday to be bums together. I’m guessing the library and Netflix will be our best friends!!

It even crossed my mind that taking that job may not have been the best idea after all. I am now teaching the elementary aged Sunday School (two classes each Sunday), I have offered to help provide treats for the youth group meetings occasionally, I plan on attending the Monday evening church service (as I will miss it on Sunday due to teaching), plus I am attending this Bible Study group. Would it become too much? Would it start to seem like everything was part of my job and would the lines between the volunteer time and work time begin to blur? Good call God…well played.

On Thursday last week I had a speech in Fargo and it was amazing. I was going to stick around and attend one of what used to be my favorite AA meetings but half way there my event calendar on my iPod reminded me that I had signed up for a Bible Study group that same night, I would have to rush back as soon as I was done talking. I hemmed and hawed about heading back but in the end I knew it was where I needed to be.

Another one of those ‘best decisions ever’ moments. There were three of us in attendance and we shared some deeply personal stories and the study was amazingly fitting for where I am at in my life. It talked about God our Father and how it compared to our visions of our own fathers growing up and present day.

I said my Step-dad has always been there, through thick and thin. He made some HUGE mistakes as a man, a parent, a person; yet he never left my side. Sure, we’ve had our moments, who hasn’t with their parents? But I have never questioned my dad’s love for me. Just as I never have to question God’s love for me. I am confident in His love and that He will always be at my side.

I was able to share with the group how I see forgiveness and how I try to teach my kids about forgiveness. When I first taught them the Lord’s Prayer, I taught each petition separately. When it came to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” I explained that if we only forgave somebody on the surface (as many people seem to do) and God forgave us in the same way then eternity was a long time if we were forgiven in the same way that we forgive only superficially.

It is because of this thought process that I am easily able to forgive people completely. I don’t hold a grudge, I don’t have expectations, I know that if there is a debt to be paid for a sin, it will be paid. Maybe not in my time or even the other person’s life here on earth, but judgement day will come for them and God who is merciful and just will see to it that His will be done.

That’s how I get through the days, the weeks, the months…sometimes the minutes. With a calm confidence that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment in time and that one day somebody will be able to make sense of it all. Fortunately for me, I am able to see through much of the daily static and see the light and it’s not at the end of the tunnel, but brightly shining on the path directly in front of me.

Motivated

I am counting down the days to my last shift next week. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit nervous. I’ve done what needs to be done to make sure my needs are met financially, now it comes down to making sure I have things in place to take care of myself emotionally.

There are still so many changes happening all at once for me and it’s time to step back and reevaluate my priorities and goals.

One of the questions I was asked yesterday in my interview really has me thinking. He asked, “What motivates you?” Seems like a simple enough question, but at that exact moment I had to really think about it.

I took my time and really thought about it. I knew what I am not motivated by, but what is it that drives me, that keeps me going, that continues to challenge me and what do I use to measure my success?

I am not motivated by a paycheck or any amount of money. If I was, I would simply ask for a raise at my current job and go about my life. I would have made sure that I had another job lined up instead of taking this leap of faith by quitting my job. Money doesn’t buy happiness and I will argue that point with anybody. Can it buy you nice things? Sure it can. Nice things don’t fill your heart, they only fill your home.

I am motivated by growth and change. I am not the same person I was two years ago. I am much more laid back, relaxed, and have an ability to see things from many perspectives. I would be a great in debating as I can understand either side of almost any situation.  I understand that people do not view things in the same ways and that just as my perception of a situation is my reality, it is the same for others. Although we may be on complete opposite sides of the fence, I think I have the leg up because not only can I see your side of the fence, I am more than comfortable standing on that side if I need to. In this way I have changed significantly.

To be able to look back on the changes I’ve made (some by choice, others by order of the court) I have been able to see the good that has come from them. They have not all been easy, especially living away from my boys, but they have all been wonderful tools for teaching me about myself and my own needs.

The thing about change is that there are positive and negative changes. Many people are afraid of change, and they should be. Change is not easy. Even when the projected outcome is rainbows and Skittles, change isn’t easy. Instead of seeing the change as a challenge, I confront the uneasy feeling.

Am I scared right now about things working out like I hope? Sure am…but I’m not going to let that stop me. I see the end zone, I see the touchdown, I see the light flashing above the net after the goal. I have the ability to look beyond, “Ya, but The Boyfriend and I want to go to Mexico when he gets home and this will delay that significantly.”

What I do see is the opportunities in front of me, standing up like a tackling dummy just waiting to be knocked to the ground and run over. I see the challenges of finding productive things to stay busy. One of them is definitely going to be teaching Creation Station (Sunday school at our church). I can throw my heart and soul into that class. I can dig deeper into the curriculum we have and make it fit our kids. Another goal is to increase my physical fitness. I’m in decent shape for a mom…but I’ll never get a red-card if I can’t walk a 15 minute mile carrying a forty-five pound weight for three miles. I have the endurance, it’s the strength that will kick my butt.

This would be a perfect time to start my book. For years I’ve wanted to write a book and several people have encouraged me, maybe now is the time. I could also focus a little on my speaking and maybe sharing more of my stories with those who need to hear them. They cover a wide array of subjects and I love to do public speaking. Maybe it’s time to join a service organization or two. The women at our church are trying to set up a women’s ministry team/group. That will be a great opportunity for me as well.

All of these opportunities will make small changes in my life, my goals are fluid and will continue to grow, and change. Mexico can wait, the important thing is being happy.

Although the following Bible passage is often read at funerals, it is also fitting for this new life I am leading:

Psalm 23:1-6 ESV The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

When the passage is read intentionally as opposed to recited, it is easy to be at peace. I shall not want, He restores me, I am lead down righteous paths for Him, I fear no evil, my cup overflows…

How could I ever be afraid when I have that kind of back up? I felt like I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death when the ex was granted temporary custody; God brought me to a new church where I was given new life, comfort, new friends, strengthened faith. I was shown just how amazing my boys really are, they are strengthened by this experience, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If I can walk through that dark valley and fear no evil, I’m pretty sure this whole job change, priority shift thing is gonna be ok. 😉