Posted in family, Letters, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Writing

For my Daughters and Nieces

Dolls,

You are lovely. You are beautiful, captivating, intelligent, lovely, and kind.

As a Mom and an Aunt I feel I’ve done you an injustice by living in an unhealthy way physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have not correctly modeled “healthy” for you. Please forgive me. I plan to rectify all that over the next days and weeks.

I have not lived as if I’m a daughter of God. I’ve lived as if my worth, security, and confidence depend on the approval or disapproval of a man, of other women, or of society. Thank God He brought all this to my attention. I’ve just been so entirely wrong for so entirely long.

This stops today.

Here’s what I now fully understand: I am not the product of nor do I bow at the bidding of my own faults, the faults of others, or anyone but God. And neither do you.

1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 (CSB) says this:

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.”

Ladies, you are God’s holy temple, his dwelling place: mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Psalms 84:1‭-‬4 (CSB) says this:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Armies. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young — near your altars, Lord of Armies, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually. Selah”

Ladies, I reside in His house. YOU reside in His house. We are lovely. How happy are we who reside in God’s house. Future generations dwell in you.

What a joy and a privilege!

Katie: you are wonderful, beautiful, generous with kindness, and full of patience. This next generation needs a teacher like you. Walk in strength, wisdom, confidence, and security.

Stephanie: you are full of light, life, and creativity. We need your gift of worship to draw us to God. Walk in love, creativity, confidence, and security.

Madi: you are lovely, witty, curious, and highly intelligent. This generation needs your steadfast devotion to God. Walk in wisdom, godliness, confidence, and security.

Bree: you are beautiful, nurturing, fun-loving, and a pure delight. Your children will rise and call you blessed. Your husband is delighted with you for good reason. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

Lauren: you are the sparkle in your Daddy’s eye. You are a joy to all you encounter. The world needs your smile. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

To my future step-daughter (whom I have never met): you are a light in a dark world, a delight to your father, and a joy I have yet to behold. Your generation needs your light. Walk in boldness, grace, confidence and security.

To my goddaughters, my future granddaughters, and all my future greats: you are lovely, pure, intelligent, and kind. The world needs your love. Walk in wisdom, faith, confidence, and security.
I love you ladies. All of you. I applaud you and so enjoy watching you become women who love God.

Our battle isn’t against Dr. Pepper, carbs, comparison, or insecurity, but against evil itself.

Let’s remember to put on the armor of God daily. Walk like you’re walking next to Jesus. Remember you have angels assigned to you.

Write this on your mirror in dry-erase marker (I know y’all do this): I am a child of the Lord of Armies and today I will walk in confidence and security.

Remember I love you. Always.

Love,

Momma, Mommy, Aunt Melissa, M&M, and whatever all you grand-darlins will call me one of these years

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, waiting, Word, Writing

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Miracle. This word used to conjure up images of Sunday School mornings in 1984 with 9-year-old me in blonde pigtails in a flowered dress with ruffle back panties, lacy socks, and Mary Janes. It made me picture a flannel graph board with felt-backed cut-outs of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus inevitably had on a brown and tan striped robe and sandals. He was always healing a blind man.

That was then.

The word miracle began taking on a new meaning for me in April 1998. My husband had just left to go to his Dad’s garage to work on his truck, and I had just picked up a tiny redheaded Katie (now 22) from her playpen and headed out the door for groceries. It was spaghetti night.

We laughed and cooed at each other on the way out the door, as always. She’s always been a living doll.

We lived in a good-sized trailer park community just outside of town. I turned around to lock the front door behind us, when something horrible caught my eye at the back of our lot. I reopened the door, put Katie back in her playpen, picked up the cordless phone, and ran outside, calling 911 as I ran.

“Little girl, sweetie, are you okay? Sweetheart, can you hear me?” I screamed this at the limp little girl hanging from some coaxial cable some kids strung up in the alleyway from a tall Oak tree.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

I can’t remember much of what I said to the operator. No, I didn’t know how old she was (turns out she was 11). No, I didn’t know what race she was. She was purple. I reported that. Purple. She’d wet herself. She was ice cold.

I’ll never ever forget how cold.

All I knew is that I couldn’t climb this particular tree because it was too high.

Just then my neighbor and his friend came out of their house and I called for them. They raced to the tree, climbed it, and got the ropes (and the girl) down. Paramedics arrived and started CPR in my front yard while I prayed out loud using words only my spirit could understand. She was not conscious when they took her to the hospital. She was in ICU for 3 days.

I called my husband back home and we were questioned by the police. It turns out the girl was a part of a group of kids playing and this little darlin’ got caught with the ropes under her armpits and across her chest, which cut off her airway. Her friends got scared and ran off.

I was numb for 3 days. I went to work like a robot, then came home and waited for word.

She woke up asking for her Momma on the 3rd day, like nothing ever happened. I got the call and was overjoyed. That little girl – she was dead when she left my yard, then revived in the ambulance, and now she was alive and okay. It was a miracle.

The man who climbed the tree came by the next week. We went together to check on her now that she was home. We gave her a teddy bear. She hugged me so tightly and thanked me.

But what happened with the Mom was amazing. Her Mom spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. That day we had a full conversation just with body language. No words were necessary to express her gratitude or my relief and joy.

Smiles. Hugs. Tears of joy.

This is why I say:

“A smile is a complete sentence.

A hug is a full conversation.”

When I say that, I remember a little girl who had a chance to grow up because God had me at the right place at the right time and a conversation with a grateful Momma.

Two more minutes and I’d have a different story to tell. But God…

Do you believe in miracles?

Tell me about it.

Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting

My Thoughts on Raising Kids After Divorce

Good evening. It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts to paper. Tonight has me feeling reflective. So I thought I’d write til my thoughts are exhausted. I pray you are well, wherever you are.

This was the kind of week that had no breaks. None. Every day was long. Tuesday I spent almost $400 on new tires. Then my son’s school nurse called – he was sick with upper respiratory sinus junk. He’s been home all week, so I’ve worked from home all week. This was the kind of work week I like – full of learning new things, of reaching for new solutions. I love to learn. I love my job.

Friday, though, is what is on my mind tonight. On Friday, I had an accommodations meeting for my daughter at the High School where she is a Senior.

In preparation for this meeting I reached for a binder I made for her last year when she was undergoing inpatient treatment for depression and anxiety. I made a title page that says Stephanie’s Story. Included in this well-organized binder were basic program information sheets, attendance notes for multiple days missed, worksheets she had done in individual and family therapy, notes from psychiatrists and therapists, and at the very end – divorce/custody papers.

I hadn’t looked at this notebook in over a year. Looking through its contents reminded me of how far she’d come; it reminded me of how far we’ve come together. She went from depressed and anxious and cutting and low self-esteem to Miss bubbly 4.0 who almost has her cosmetology license and wants to be a pediatric nurse. You can read her backstory in a previous blog called Pocket Full of Shoestrings.

You see, in the middle of that rough patch, she decided she wants to be the kind of nurse who helps kids who need psychiatric care. So she is pursuing a cosmetology license in high school to pay her way through nursing school. I love it when God takes what was meant to harm us and uses it for good.

She inspires me.

It’s the last document in that binder, though, that has me thinking tonight: the divorce/custody papers.

Here are a few things I learned through divorce and custody issues:

  • You cannot get over a divorce until you’ve owned your part of what went wrong. In my case, it was being too focused on ministry.
  • Your only job is to love and advocate for your kids.
  • Even if what happened on the weekend they’re with their other parent was less than wholesome, this needs to be the first thing out of your mouth after you say “I’ve missed you/I love you”: “Tell me about the best things that happened this weekend.”
  • Pick your battles wisely – let some things go.
  • Never put down the other parent in front of or to your kids. The kids will realize it themselves if the other parent is doing something on the not-approved list. Actions speak louder. Yours included.
  • Safety first.
  • Do something kind for yourself every single day. Be intentional. You deserve it.
  • You deserve a break now and again. A vacation, even.
  • Who you hang around is who you become like. Choose your friends and adult outings when the kids are away wisely.
  • You are always a parent. You’re never off-duty. Even when they’re at the other’s house. Never be so impaired that you can’t pick the kids up at a moment’s notice.
  • Create a support system. Church. Community. Friends. Family. Don’t skip this one.
  • Write everything down (appts, financials, custody issues). You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Laugh.
  • Play board games and have movie nights with your kids. Leave your cell on the charger in the other room.
  • Be present.
  • Don’t bring your dates around the kids until you are at least “Facebook official.” This assumes you’ve vetted them and have made sure you two are going to last.
  • Remember that you’re not raising kids, you’re raising adults. Proceed with their future in mind.

I could go on.

The bottom line is, I’m at peace with who I am and where I am.

But don’t let my calm demeanor fool you. I’ve had many rough seasons over the past 15 years. My battles have been fierce and have taken a toll on me.

I learned, however, that losing is not an option, that I must keep moving forward, and that whatever I’m walking through is a life-season, not a life-sentence.

And now…I need a grande sugar-free pumpkin-spice latte made with coconut milk and 2 Stevias, si vous plait.

Posted in family, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Minutes or Moments?

180731_170208_collage-11755689728.jpgA new dad waiting for his first baby to be born understands the value of a minute.
A new dad hearing that baby’s first cry understands the value of a moment.

Lately I’ve been pondering the difference between minutes and moments.

I don’t know about at your house, but at my house we seem to talk about time – a lot. It’s time for bed! Time to get up! Hurry up! Time’s a wastin’. Bathtime! Dinnertime. Storytime. Time out. Time’s up!

In the Beginning…

In my cover-to-cover trek through the Bible I’ve just finished reading Genesis and Exodus. The first concept introduced in Genesis, besides God as Creator, is time. Time is necessary. Its parameters were among the first set in motion in the beginning. By the end of the first chapter, the first 6 days have occurred. Ask my 10-year-old what happens in Genesis chapter 1 and he’ll surmise that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and he rested on the 7th.

Ask my poet’s heart and I’ll tell you that the first chapter takes much longer than a week to ponder. Why? Because I stop and wonder what it was like to bow in reverence at that first sunrise. I want to grab a blanket and go sit in an open field and marvel at the sea of stars overhead. I want to be there as the first waves tumbled to the shore. I want to see the dolphins jump and hear the wolves howl. My heart wants to savor every single moment.

So why don’t I? Why don’t I savor each moment? Why do I waste so much life enslaved to my planner when I could be living and doing and savoring?

A New Approach

My end-goal for this blog is not another 350 words on a page that take up more of your time. My end-goal is that we approach life in a new way.

Let’s savor our moments.

A collection of moments makes up a beautiful life. Don’t miss a single one. Be present.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word

Don’t Read This Blog, Please

It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.

But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:

  • I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
  • I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
  • No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.

So let me back up and set the scene.

Broken Lives

In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.

In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.

It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.

I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):

Separated is still married. 

We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.

This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.

We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.

So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.

Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.

And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.

I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.

Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.

Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.

Faithful in Prayer

I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.

I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.

I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?

So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”

That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.

If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5

Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.

Lord, how do I restore her heart?

Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.

I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.

And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.

As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.

It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.

To this day  – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”

Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:

  1. This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
  2. Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
  3. If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.

If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.

So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.

And I am forever changed.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

Posted in Cancer, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Poetry, Uncategorized, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Playing Hide-and-Seek (my life story)

I was out shopping with the most beautiful girl in the world. She was 3 years old – with gorgeous red curls and bright, happy green eyes. We were at a major department store looking for a size 3T Easter dress – with extra frills, ruffle-butt tights, and those fold-down socks with the lace that look beautiful in patent leather Mary-Janes.

She kept running off – looking at the tiny purses and teddy bears. I was afraid I would lose her. So I did what any good mom would do to teach an object-lesson: I let her get lost.

hide_and_seek

This was the perfect moment – no one else was in this section. I got really quiet and just let her wander from rack to rack. Books. Toys. Purses. I didn’t let her see me. I kept hiding until I watched panic slowly set in – all over her tiny little body. Her eyes got wide. Her feet starting running. Her eyes darted all around looking for safety. Her little voice began calling out – “Mommy. Mommy? MOMMY!”

I let that go on for about 30 seconds before I scooped her up in my arms and said, “It’s okay, Baby Doll. You’re safe. Mommy’s gotcha.” And she looked up at me with her big green eyes and said, “I lost you, Mommy. I thought you were gone.”

She didn’t lose me. She only thought she did. I was right there all the time.

I’ve felt this level of panic set in before. Have you?

The first time I felt something like this I was 7. My 2 brothers and sister were all playing together behind the apartment building and I wasn’t allowed to play. They had formed a “no-Melissas allowed” club. I ran around the building to try to play anyway. They circled up. I just couldn’t believe it. Panic set in as I realized that I was alone – and left out. Big tears formed in the depths of my universe. Something shattered. I remember this being the first time I found solace in making up a story in my mind as a form of self-comfort. This was the beginning of writing for me. My parents figured out what was going on and they formed a “let’s-walk-to-7-11-to-get-a-Slurpee-club” that my siblings weren’t invited to. I learned from this to run to my authority figures for comfort. As an adult, I remember this incident when I feel left out and it reminds me to turn to God. I’m always welcome in his club.

The next time I felt like this, I was in high school. At age 16, a boy I liked from school took an interest in me. I was over-the-moon excited. I had “his-initials-plus-my-initials” written all over my school notebooks. One afternoon, when I was home alone after school, he came to my house. I was so excited that I ignored the rule about not having friends over when my parents were gone. I let him in – only to find out that he had come with 5 grown men. They made me go to my room and would not let me out. One-by-one they came in and took turns doing awful things to me. The boy who I thought liked me left me humiliated, ashamed, and feeling very alone. They warned me they would hurt my family if I told. I never told. Not anyone. This may actually be the first time my family is reading about this.

In the middle of the whole thing, one of the guys told me he loved me. This shattered my heart. If that was love – and love was what I was so desperately longing for – I didn’t really want to be loved anymore. I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to live anymore. It was at this point when I made an attempt on my own life.

I looked around and couldn’t find anyone there to rescue me. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt led me to keep this a secret – even from God. Through counseling years later I was able to open this horrible memory up and see that God was there in the room with me that day. He was screaming at those men – STOP. THIS IS MY DAUGHTER. YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS.

But His voice was drowned out by the voices of Lust, Desire, Control, and Greed simultaneously screaming – DO WHAT YOU WANT, TAKE WHAT YOU WANT, SHE’S JUST THERE FOR YOU TO USE.

God showed me that He was there that night to comfort me. He was my pink teddy bear and the blanket I slept with over my head. He was there then and on so many other nights when I cried myself to sleep and felt alone in my shame. I didn’t lose him – he was right there all along.

These incidents plus the fact that my bio-dad left before I was born caused me to have a decades-long thought pattern that said – “You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy of real love. You’re just an after-thought, a second choice. You’re not wanted. Get lost – no one wants you around here anyway. If you want love, you’ll have to do something to earn it.”

Lies. All lies.

I had a fairy-tale wedding right out of high school that resulted in two beautiful redheaded daughters.

One day my husband came home and was acting strangely. We’d had a great first 7 years. We had our moments, but it wasn’t anything major. But I’d noticed that he had become violent with his words and sometimes with his hands. I confronted him and he said he did not love me anymore. His porn habit had turned into real affairs over the last 3 years of our marriage – resulting in his latest girlfriend becoming pregnant. I didn’t know. I guess I didn’t want to know. Devastated doesn’t begin to describe what I was feeling. Some words I have for the next months after that are numb, lifeless, severely depressed, and hopeless. Once again the voices crept back into my thought-space.

I was angry. Very angry. I was angry at my husband for hurting me in this way, angry at myself for not having seen this coming, angry at God for knowing this was coming and not letting me know for 3 years, and angry at life in general. I had to move out of my home and back in with my parents while he moved his pregnant girlfriend into my home. It was humiliating.

So how does youth minister/housewife cope with this kind of tragedy? In my case – I did not cope very well. I began a secret life of binge drinking on weekends when my kids were gone to their father’s house. They say bitterness is a poison you give yourself – hoping the other person will suffer. My drinking and lifestyle of masking my pain through any means necessary was a poison. I felt unlovable. I was taking out all of my frustrations alright – but all that I was doing was only hurting ME.

The lowest point for me was in the middle of the divorce. I was at a party one night at an apartment when everyone all went home at once – everyone but me and the guy who lived there. He kept pouring and I had kept drinking, but that last drink after everyone left must have had something in it – because the room began to wobble and I only remember bits and pieces of a torturous, sick, violent rape that must have lasted a couple of hours – and I was powerless to stop it. I woke up in an upstairs room – alone. I stumbled around, found my keys, and left – still full of liquor, or whatever it was I’d been given. I honestly think an angel rode in the passenger seat while I drove home that night – because how I got myself and my car home in one piece is a mystery. I decided that night I wanted to try to reconcile with my husband and make things right with my little family again. My kids deserved a whole family – and I was hell-bent on making sure they had one – even if it meant I had to do a makeover on my marriage. My husband agreed – but he had already told my parents about my having gone to a party and that I’d been drinking – so they kicked me out and, because I had no other alternative, I could not take my kids. I tried to explain about the night before and my transformed heart, but it was too late – the decision had been made. I was furious with what had just happened to me, and now I was furious that my desire to start over had failed. I lived the next two weeks out of my car, in the backroom of the store I managed, one night at a laundry mat, and at different friend’s apartments. After two long miserable weeks, I told my dad I was coming home – taking my kids, getting a divorce, and moving into an apartment. Enough was enough. I stopped drinking, reconciled with God, and tried to get my life back in order.

If I’m with you and you have a glass of wine and I politely decline, this is why. I’m not judging, it’s just that it reminds me of where I’ve been – and that’s a place I’d rather not remember.

Three years later I was back on my feet, studying for my undergrad in English at the local university, and raising my two girls. We moved out of the apartment after a year and back in with my folks so that I could focus on my studies.

During my time at the university, my brother died of cancer and my sister decided to leave the family – for good. Just because I don’t give these incidents many words here doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt me to my core.

Life thus far had been a hide-and-seek game with God – mostly hide. But what happened in 2007 changed the entire course of my life.

It was July 2007, right in the middle of my summer session at the university. I was taking what amounted to Poetry 101 and it was my day to be “workshopped.” I had printed enough copies of my poem for each member of the class and was expected to distribute them and have everyone critique my words. I was nervous. It was Texas Summer hot outside. I was suddenly overcome with nausea. Breakfast became a memory.
After the grueling 90-minute poetry workshop where my writing was called mediocre, at best, I made my way to the on-campus medical clinic.
I gave blood, endured the necessary pee-in-this-cup moment, laid down on the paper-covered table, and waited.
I must have fallen asleep because the Nurse Practitioner shook my shoulder.
Miss Fairchild?
Yes?
I figured out what’s wrong.
Okay?
You’re pregnant.
I almost fell off the table.
My mind raced to an awful night four months before. I looked at her calendar and pointed to the date.
Yes – I remember. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just one lonely moment during March Madness. Just one.

I pulled into my driveway 15 minutes later and spied my Mom on the porch swing reading to my 6-year-old, whose auburn pigtails wobbled as she flew into my arms. My 11-year-old was inside getting ready for the water park trip I’d promised them that afternoon.
Mommy’s home!
My heart felt sick. How do I explain this to my girls? How in the world was I going to make ends meet with another kiddo on the way?
I sent the kids to their bedroom to finish getting ready for the water park and began to weep uncontrollably. My parents noticed.
All I could think was – my folks are gonna kill me. They are pastors at a local church. How do you tell your Dad, who is also your pastor, that you’re unmarried and pregnant?
Between sobs, I finally formed the words – I’m pregnant.
The truth escaped my mouth with finality. I repeated it to myself. Wow.
Mom started to ask several questions all at once, but Dad quieted the room.
He looked at me, right into my heart, and he slowly and deliberately spoke these words:
“You are my daughter, and I love you.

In one sentence, years worth of feeling less-than, feeling used, abandoned, abused, picked last, feeling unlovable, unforgivable, unworthy, and like I just didn’t belong came to a grinding halt.

In one sentence I felt God speaking through my father’s mouth.

He spoke to my identity “You are my daughter,…”

He spoke to his identity “…and I love you.”

I belong to him and am fully loved because he IS love.

I’ve had many more adventures and mishaps since this day. I’ve written or will write about most of them—just look back or wait for the next blog if you want to see what else has happened in my crazy life. But since that day I’ve had a deep-seated knowing in my gut that I’m not alone. And I’m not alone because God is with me. And because God is with me, he won’t let me panic for too long.

And in the times where I’ve panicked and looked around, frantically searching for God where I’ve thought – “I lost you, God. I thought you were gone,” He has been so faithful to remind me that I didn’t lose him. I only thought I did. He was right there all the time.

I hope you feel God speaking to you from your screen, “You are my daughter (son), and I love you.”

And I hope your life will change – starting today.

If you’re going through any of the things I’ve gone through – please email me or message me and let’s talk about it. I’m always good for coffee and conversation.

And if you don’t know the God I’ve been writing about, please let me introduce you.

He’s a good, good Father. The best way to find him is to stop hiding and start seeking. Let’s seek him – together.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenting, Uncategorized

How Not to Take a Toddler to Dinner

Since 1996 when Katie was born, I’ve been living The Mom Life. This journey has had its ups and downs, but tonight I’m lying wide awake recovering from surgery and needed to laugh, so I’m reminiscing about a couple of the crazy moments I’ve had with my crew.
Early in 2004, during my first full year of single-parenting, I took my girls, ages 3 and 7, to our favorite Italian restaurant. It was a little hole-in-the-wall with great pizza at less-than-great-prices (at least on my budget back then). It was one of those nights where the girls wanted to get out, so Luigi’s it was. We sat, mostly quietly, while a couple in the corner had their sweet, awkward, mushy first date, an older couple held hands, and you could cut the sappy romance with a knife. I’d been busy cutting up the girls’ food, helping them eat, and chatting with Katie about school. My food by now was cold and mostly untouched. I looked up to see that 3-year-old Stephanie was literally wearing her spaghetti sauce. I got looks from other patrons as spaghetti and sauce was everywhere, Stephanie was laughing like crazy about it, and Katie needed to “go”, so I took their little hands and found the ladies’ room. I cleaned (practically bathed) Stephanie and wiped bottoms and washed little hands and walked back to our now perfectly clean table. Someone had come by and cleaned off our table while we were in the restroom because they thought we’d left the restaurant. I’ll remind you – I had hardly touched this beyond-my-budget meal. Katie was uncharacteristically mad – “where’s my plate…I wasn’t finished.” Stephanie started to cry. I was about to cry. I took a deep breath. The manager made it right by making us new meals and comping mine, but by that time the girls had eaten most of theirs before the potty break and were unruly, so I just took the new meals to-go and warmed mine in the microwave at home (after bath, book, and bed-time). After that we didn’t go out-to-eat much, at least not without another adult to keep watch over our table.
Then there was the day when Katie was about 10 and I was taking a test in a class at the University. It was a final exam, but Katie had strep throat, I didn’t have a sitter, and I couldn’t miss the exam. My professor was livid. He was afraid she’d get everyone sick, and that I’d somehow cheat. I somehow convinced him otherwise. So there I sat in the very back of a lecture hall on the floor with a feverish Katie fast asleep on one arm while I filled in a Scantron and wrote an essay with the other. I aced the class.
As she got older, I made it a point to take her to one class a semester. One time she sat in on my Archaeology class while a guy came in to show us flint-knapping (making arrow heads and stone axes). That was cool. My girls became familiar with University classrooms, libraries, and lecture halls by the time I finished graduate school.
I suppose I could recall many more times that life as a single parent got crazy. The moments etched into my heart the deepest are when I say “I love you,” and a little voice echoes mine and sing-songs, “I love you more,” to which I always reply, “not possible.”