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 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

We Just Don’t Clique

This piece is about women – but if you’re a man – please read all the way to the bottom – I need your help.

Enemy Tactics

Lately I’ve seen one main tactic of the devil against women: ISOLATION. And I’m about to throw it down and stomp all over it. Read on.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve felt like this: “I just don’t fit in. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m sure not skinny enough. My clothes/shoes/accessories/car are not fashionable enough. I’m not ‘extra’ enough. I’m not up-to-date enough. I’m just not enough.”

I’m about to take a sledgehammer to all of that nonsense.

These aren’t thoughts. These are enemy-grade tactics whispered into our minds so often we think it’s truth.

Last month was my daughter’s junior prom. She looked forward to it and she looked spectacular. She made plans to go with a group since she didn’t have a date. A week before prom, her friends said they weren’t going as a group anymore since they all had dates. No problem. She’d meet them there.

Prom night came. I did a photo shoot with her. My 10-year-old son surprised her by putting on a suit and bringing her a single rose. It was awesome.

And then there was social media. She began seeing pictures of her friends.

Getting ready – as a group.
Having dinner – as a group.
Riding in a Limo – as a group.

SAY WHAT?!
She didn’t have a date – so she’d been left out. I took her to prom and she texted me to pick her up 45 minutes later. She was in tears.

This is what the enemy does – he picks us off, isolates us, lies to us, gets our hopes up, thwarts our plans, and then kicks us while we’re down.

Battle Plans

I spent the next 2 hours on a park-bench-swing holding her hand – her in her beautiful dress with mascara-stained cheeks. We cried together until we were laughing again. TOGETHER.

This is our battle plan:

We do life together.

We laugh, cry, partake in retail therapy, do dishes, take road trips, go to the bathroom, eat too much ice cream to console ourselves, pray, encourage…BUT WE DO IT TOGETHER. We must.

Cliques

I want to address something here.

Friendships are great. Cliques are not.

Cliques isolate. They leave people out. They don’t allow others to join.

I remember that when I got divorced I lost most of my friends. Married people groups are necessary. They help strengthen marriages. Married friends who exclude just-divorced friends – now that’s just mean. Especially if the divorce just happened. That’s kicking someone when they’re down.

Cliques happen at schools, in churches, at the workplace, and even in families.

Even social media circles can be cliquish. They can isolate. Think all the way around a post before you post it. Social media can be Mean-Girls kinda hurtful.

So I teach my girls: Sweeties – we just don’t clique.

BFFs

I have a strong circle of BFFs. We are mostly a crafty, goofy, transparent crazy bunch of mommas. That doesn’t mean I’m not really close with other people. And that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome to join us.

Every woman I meet is a friendship waiting to blossom.

BFFs are necessary and cool.

Leaving people out intentionally because they are not whatever enough – not so cool.

Being Intentional

At the first of the year I set a goal to be more intentional with friendships. Guess what happened? I have more friends that I’m close to.

I realized I was half of the problem. I would see groups of friends having fun and think – I guess they don’t want me around. I’m not fill-in-the-blank enough. I won’t even try.

And I’d walk away bitter.

There’s only one letter between bitter and better – and that letter is half of the word “me”.

This year I decided I am enough and I’m going to act like it, and the result is – I have laughed and made deeper friendships this year than ever before.

Huddle Up Fellas

I sat at Zera’s coffee shop one Saturday morning waiting for a new friend. We met at church one Sunday and decided to have coffee the next week. How’s that for intentional?

I went an hour early to do my Bible Study and overheard a group of married men talking about how to be better men and better husbands. As I refilled my cup I walked by and casually thanked them for being great men of God. I said that it was refreshing as a single mom trying to raise a son to hear men of good character discussing prayer, purity, and the Word.

My friend came and as we began to talk the men came and huddled around us. One by one they prayed over me. That I’d be a strong mother. That my son would have a strong father in the near future. That I’d find a godly husband.

Men: do this for us (especially for my single-mom friends. Open your Bible in public. Pray with other men of God. Pray boldly against this isolation tactic the devil is using against us. Refuse to use (and further isolate) women. Make a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully at a woman (because lustful looking also isolates women).

Will you pray for your sisters?

Finally…

My email is open. My Facebook page is open. My blog comments are open. My instagram feed is open. My Saturday mornings are usually open.

So let’s get to know each other ladies. Let’s connect – because I don’t know many people with whom I don’t click.

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

Enduring Focus

I ordered my usual Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte, set out my vast array of colored pens, opened my planner to the work section, took my usual plethora of vitamins & supplements, opened my laptop, worked a while, and had lunch with a coworker.

It was a typical Tuesday.

And then the room started spinning.

Colors faded in and out, stars danced at my temples, I couldn’t find the right words to say.

I get migraines. This was different.

I made an appointment with my doctor that afternoon. She was obviously worried. She ordered bloodwork.

She called the next afternoon and told me that my iron count was very low and that I have Iron-deficiency Anemia caused by a pre-cancerous condition.

No wonder I felt like death.

She prescribed an iron pill 3x daily and said to repeat the bloodwork in 2 weeks to mark my progress.

Did I mention I take a plethora of vitamins and supplements? A multi-vitamin with iron was one of those, but I had not been taking it lately, because it was at the house and not in my work bag.

I started thinking about this verse from my daily Bible reading:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2‭-‬4 CSB

(The Message version says “…so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”)

So…tested & triumphed faith produces endurance. Full-grown endurance = being complete and lacking nothing.

As I drove home that afternoon, I began thinking over that verse: What do I lack? What am I deficient in?

Well physically right now I lack sufficient iron in my blood. It makes me weak, dizzy and exhausted.

My thought pattern traced the logic in the verse: I have to have faith in the doctor and trust she knows what’s best for me. I have to act on that faith by taking the iron pill 3x a day. I have to repeat the bloodwork in 2 weeks. For this to work I need to employ endurance. I have got to follow through with the plan the doctor gave me. Then my iron levels will not be deficient (lacking nothing).

As I was taking my iron pill tonight I felt that still, small voice of God prompting: What else? What do you lack spiritually and emotionally?

This took me down a path of asking myself, “What are my what else symptoms?”

So I made a list. Because listers gonna list.

What are some symptoms that tell me something is not right in me spiritually or emotionally:

  • Fear / Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Frustration
  • Not finishing what I start

This lead me to ask myself the next question: What element do I lack that may be causing these symptoms?

I lack enduring focus.

I tend to just waltz through life following my own whims and desires. I need to start asking God what His plans are for me. I need to follow God consistently. I need enduring focus.

My friend Rebecca Carrell says:

“You won’t follow someone you don’t trust, and you can’t trust someone you don’t know, and you can’t know Christ apart from His Word.”

I need to be in the Word. Consistently.

To be healthy and balanced spiritually and emotionally, I need a steady diet of God’s Word. When I leave my Bible at home instead of in my work bag, it is easy for me to get out of the habit of my daily reading, and, just like with my lack of iron, symptoms arise.

Oh, I do well with supplementing my life with worship songs in the car, attending church meetings, having outings with friends, and spending time with my kids. But to function well, I need my time in the Word.

Young lions lack food and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.
Psalms 34:10 CSB

I am at my best when I seek Him.

So here are some questions I’ll leave you to answer:

Are there “symptoms” that tell you something is not spiritually or emotionally right in your life?

What element is lacking that is causing these symptoms?

What have you left out lately that you used to be consistent with?

What are you gonna do about it?

Consider how much better your life will be if you just do the thing.

Posted in Word, Truth, Life, Love

Some Kind of Loveable

She drew in a long breath and let it out. She caught her reflection in the glass door and shifted the bakery box into her left hand, opened the door with her right, and expected the worst.

Why was it that she always expected the worst? Everyone in the room cheered and drawled her name. “Mah-lissa!” “Get on in here girlfriend.” and “Girl – whatchyou got in that box is about to go straight to my thighs – shore thang.”

Her thoughts – Melissa, place the pastries on the table, brew yourself a cup of coffee to keep your hands busy, and whatever you do – don’t cry and spoil the party.

This was the usual pattern. Same social anxiety – different party.

She looked around and began the mental checklist:

  • Suzy is always so well put together. Her outfit is so cute. *looks down at her own 3-day unwashed ‘good’ jeans*
  • Carrie’s house is always so clean. *thinks back to the tone she took last night with her middle child about the laundry being left on the bathroom floor – once again*

And on and on the judgment train chugs along until she finds herself seated and every eye is trained on her. There must have been a question, but she missed it.

Her – “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Cute outfit girl -“How was your week?”

Her thoughts – “Don’t cry. Just sayfine’ and let them move on.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help.

Psalm 34:15

Recently a group of ladies I attend Bible study with on Sunday mornings decided that enough was enough when it comes to judgment, bitterness, and silence.

We decided that we need each other. Not one of us is better than the other. We learned that we all had “secrets” that we kept from each other because of fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of not saying the right things. Fear of losing face. Fear of losing reputation or position.

Fear Is a Liar https://g.co/kgs/yBGfCY

Fear is most definitely a liar.

The notion that you are unloveable because you think are the only one who has ever (fill in the blank) IS A LIE.

Here’s the truth:

For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

ALL meaning: cute outfit girl, clean house girl, fancy car girl, rich girl, educated girl, ministry leader girl…we ALL fall short.

And I’m just going to be one more step honest with you: If God can take me from MY past and make something useful of me, then He can definitely redeem your current season.

Because here’s who I was:

Divorced, alcoholic, homeless, liar, judgement-placer, adulteress, pathetic, victim-mentality-projector, curser, co-dependent, food addict, angry, manipulator.

Given that list, I wouldn’t wanna be my own friend.

But when I live with my hands open to God and His desires for my life, when I allow myself to be open to healing, when I’m courageous enough to invite humility to my table, (none of which I ever do perfectly) God sees me this way:

Loveable, whole, pure, loved, His daughter, hand-crafted with love, worthy of love, kind, caring, sacred, an encourager…

And the more I let this list sink in, the better I become at believing it. And the more I keep my eyes fixed on His, the less the habits and belongings of the people at the table matter. And the less I look at myself, the more I see of their hearts, their hurts, and God’s desire for their healing.

This isn’t a blog for you to read and “like” – this is a call for a decision on your part. Are you – dear reader – going to change your circle of influence by making it better or worse?

Challenge: invite someone in your circle of influence to coffee or to share a meal this week and really lean in and listen to their story. I bet you’ll find out they are the same kind of loveable as you.

Always remember this: what you are walking through is a life-season, not a life-sentence.

Posted in Word, Truth, Life, Love

Beach Walks

Beach Walk #1

We made our way down the crooked path lined with greyed boards and sand that led to the beach. The July wind brushed my hair into my face. A seagull cried overhead.We took off our sandals and tossed them beside the gate so our bare toes could feel sand and surf.

The sun had just stretched itself out over the Gulf Shores waves as our brother had said his “I dos”. An hour later, with reception in full-swing, we slipped out, wine glasses in hand, and headed for the beach.

We walked and talked and laughed as lightning did pirouettes on waves a couple of miles out. Small talk became deeper as it does with sisters. We began discussing my divorce from 6 months earlier, my two kids, their futures, whether I was ready to date again, and what the heck I was going to do now with just one income. I don’t recall the conversation with as much clarity as I recall the decision I made that night.

I realized I wanted to be able to afford a better life for my kids and I wanted to travel. The beach is my happy place. I wanted to be able to walk on the beach more often than once every few years (the closest beach to me is 5 hours away). I knew I needed a better job if I was going to be able to afford to do so. And for a better job, I’d at least need a college degree.

It seemed like a far-off fantasy for a 28-year-old mom with two daughters ages 8 and 4. I worked retail. How on earth was this going to happen?

I flew back to Texas, asked mom to babysit, and headed up to the local Junior College to see how much classes would cost. I came to the school on just the right day. They were starting registration. (I don’t believe in coincidences. I now see God’s hand in all of this.) I came home with enough grants to pay for school, a full load of classes for the semester, and an arm full of paid-for text books. I spent the next 8 years in school.

I graduated from there, got two degrees, and have been able to travel a bit more.

It all started with a conversation on the beach, a decision (moment of clarity), and lots of follow-through.

Beach Walk #2

Last October I found myself alone in Galveston with an empty sack for shells and a free evening. I began walking up the beach looking for sea shells and picking up plenty of sea glass.

As the wind brushed my hair into my face and lightning danced not far out on the horizon, my mind wandered back to Gulf Shores and that discussion between sisters.

Here I was – once again ankle-deep in waves – but I realized I was here alone.

I resumed walking and began to talk with God. I had questions. Why was I here 14 years later – still without a husband? Why is my “picker” broken when it comes to men? (I seem to find abusers and addicts.) Why am I always the pursuer? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Am I too old to try to find someone? Am I not enough (pretty enough, smart enough, funny/rich/popular enough)? Will I always be alone? Should I just make peace with having no husband? After all, I have an amazing circle of girlfriends, wonderful kids, and a wonderful family.

I talked and asked questions and finally made peace with this:

  • The guy who will marry me will have to love God
  • We will have to start off as really good friends
  • He will have to pursue me – I should not have to carry the whole relationship
  • He will have to be perfectly imperfect. Perfect FOR me, imperfect LIKE me
  • I will be at peace while I continue to wait

As I was at the dentist’s office today, I joked with a friend via text about imagining I was at the beach while the dentist drilled out a cavity and refilled it. I came home, slept, and dreamed about holding hands on the beach with a man who loves me. I couldn’t see his face in my dream, but he felt friendly, comfortable, and familiar. Maybe I’ve already met him?

This isn’t my normal post, but it IS what has been on my mind today and it is MY blog, so…I posted.

Keep dreaming. Keep conversing. Keep walking in the direction God has you going.

And will someone please bring me a latte?

Love you,

Melissa