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 Word

Is This On My Kid’s School Supply List?!

This is the week before school begins. More than usual, this week is all about family dinner nights out, Wal-Mart excursions (for school supplies), and various other ways the kids are finding to raid my bank account.

When I was shopping for my own school supplies at M.E. Moses (that was a five & dime store, remember those?) for elementary school, it was crayons, scissors, glue, watercolors, and construction paper. Now it’s all of that plus copy paper, Expo markers, and earbuds. Yes – earbuds.

Times, they are a changin’.

This is my last year with an elementary school student. My middle child is in her Senior year of high school. And my eldest is a Junior at the University. Sigh.

All of these changes lately have me asking questions.

Where did the time go?

How did we get here?

How do I make the most of this year with them?

What the heck?

I’m in the 2nd week of a FREE Beth Moore online Bible study called The Quest. The sessions are free, you just have to buy your workbook (I bought mine on Amazon.com). The sessions are free to view online until September 30th. I get there by going to https://blog.lifeway.com.

In The Quest I’m learning not just to study the Bible (as you’d expect from Beth Moore), but to let the lessons dust off the leaf-covered paths in my life of faith. Somehow I’ve become so accustomed to lacing up my hiking boots and grabbing a water bottle on my way out to hike this forest of faith, but I’ve forgotten all direction. I’m all routine. No destination.

I’d forgotten beautiful well-worn paths I’ve walked with God. I’m so accustomed to throwing in a pair of necessary-for-life (and apparently elementary school) earbuds and listening to worship music or re-listening to the Sunday sermon via podcast, or scrolling through my Bible app and letting it read the Word to me, but I’ve left my gold-edged brown leather Bible pages to stick together and gather dust on a shelf.

But the last 2 weeks, highlighter and colored pens in hand, I’ve been cross- referencing and journaling and pouring my heart out to God aloud and onto the workbook pages and my life suddenly feels right. Fulfilled.

I’m encouraging you, as I’ve encouraged my kids this week – get in the Word and see what happens.

Like poetry? Psalms

Need wisdom? Proverbs

Like great stories? Genesis & Exodus

I find a new treasure every time I read.

This weeks challege:

Skip Netflix, ditch your earbuds, read the Word.

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, Word

Startled – What is This?

What is This?

You’re sitting there, tears falling over freshly dried tears, wondering how on earth you got to this place. Whatever your this is, it feels like hell. It feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. Maybe you’ve done everything right. Maybe you’ve done everything wrong. I’ve been on both sides of the right or the wrong of the “this.”

Whatever happened, this was nowhere in the original plan. Whatever happened, you’ve been finally, fully startled awake.

My THIS List:

Here is my lifetime “this” list (so far):

  • Divorce
  • Sexual assault
  • Financial ruin
  • Being cheated on
  • Being deceived
  • Deceiving others
  • Facing Cancer
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members
  • Almost losing a child to suicide
  • Losing a ministry
  • Being in an abusive relationship

That’s the short list.

Moving Forward

I was talking with a friend recently and he gave me some amazing advice that I want to pass along.

  • People change only when there are no more options.
  • Start forgiving right now so you can start to heal. Don’t wait.
  • Move on.

My Dad always taught me that I need to:

  • “face reality squarely,” (Job 38)
  • “live a life that pleases God,” (Colossians 1:10), and
  • “separate the precious from the worthless.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

So I’m suggesting that right this minute you should begin to sift through the rubble, call it what it is – rubble, own your part in what happened, retrieve the precious, and walk away from the worthless.

I’ve learned by experience (mostly by falling on my face) that the Lord really does work all things for my good because he has called me according to his purpose and I’ve tried to live my life with a “yes, Lord” posture. (Romans 8:28)

Sift. Separate. Own your part. Pray. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it quickly. Ask God “what’s next?”. Move forward.

This, too, really shall pass. But you’ve got to get up out of the rubble.

And if you need to talk, my ears are always open and I’m always up for some good conversation over a skinny vanilla latte.

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 family

Why I’m Up With the Sun

I used to wake up when it was still dark, climb outta bed, walk myself down the hall in my one-piece footed pajamas, and find Grandma out on the front porch. I was 4. We’d sit and watch the world gradually lighten as the sun peeked its head over the horizon. Pretty soon the red and brown chickens would claw and cluck their way across the front lawn and down the driveway looking for their breakfast. Then I would get on my hot pink big wheel trike and race up and down the sidewalk with blonde pigtails streaming out behind me. I owned the world.

Some mornings, though, it would rain and the sun wouldn’t quite wake up, so we’d listen to the patter of the rain, and snap peas in a metal bowl. Then she’d hold me and say, “I love you, my sweet baby Melissa.” I love the rain.

Rain or shine she always had a whimsical song to sing and I’d snuggle into her arms and feel the life pulsing in her.

So it started young – this love I have for quiet mornings on the porch before the day begins. I love to hear the birds wake up before cars and people noise drowns out their song.

When I got a little older and was learning to read, we moved out of Grandma’s house and into an apartment.

Every morning I’d get my flashlight and a book before anyone else was awake and wander out into the living room. Grandma’s number was easy to remember, and I’d call her and read to her. I’d spell out the words I couldn’t read and she’d tell me what they were. We went to many places in those books. My imagination has always been vivid.

I always loved the moment I could see the sun breathing light through the window and I could shut off the flashlight.

These days, on Saturday mornings, my kids aren’t surprised when I’m not home til around 11am. That’s usually when they wake up anyway.

It’s because I’ve gotten up before the sun, found a coffee shop, and am taking in the first couple hours of sunrise and quiet. That’s my time to read and journal and make sense of life.

But, oh! How I wish for a front porch.

If heaven has a front porch, Grandma’s probably on it shelling peas and waiting for her sweet baby girl so we can sit and hold each other and bask in the newborn sun.