Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Lookin’ For Love

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I mentor single moms. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why: shame.
She was hiding.

From other women. From society. From her shame.

That’s when she met Jesus – the man who would alter the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m detestable.” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

Single momma, how many times have you been asked to go get your husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows you don’t have one? By a mean girl? You know what this feels like. I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of your trembling mouth. Your eyes glance down, or away.
“I, I… have no husband.”
Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here. I’d be willing to bet more than one of the 5 wasn’t her own husband, but someone else’s husband. Just keeping it real.
But Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life. He did for me when I was that woman.

Forgiveness heals. You. The other person. It heals.

I know this hits more than single moms, but that’s who is on my mind today.

Girl, lift up your face.
I’ve done worse than you. Don’t believe me? Sit down for coffee with me one day. I’m not afraid to tell you about my past anymore because it does not own me. But hearing about it might just set you free.
Because if God can know my heart the way it was, forgive me anyway, give me a new heart, and offer me forgiveness and fill me up with love, He can and will for you too.
The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus wants to give you back your hope and strength and dignity.
Drink deeply of His Word.
You keep going back to the places you know will give you the love you want so badly, but you get thirsty again and just have to keep going back. And truth be told, you do the walk of shame all the way there and all the way home. Because it’s not love.

Enter Jesus.

He’s waiting to meet you and give you all the love you’ll ever want. Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity and THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes I do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Now a man who loves Jesus and drinks deeply from His love, I’ll walk with THAT guy forever and five days.

Seriously: drink up, sister.

You’ll never thirst for love again once you’ve had the real thing.

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 Anxiety, Depression, Teenager, Poetry, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Pocket Full of Shoestrings

18557225_10105878219742550_319263151762499277_nSome things in life go perfectly
Some people find the perfect fit the first time
I just seldom happen to be among the “some”
Like new jeans… I hate those things
First, you inch into one of the legs, and
Do a kind of hop-step-jump into the other
And shimmy and stretch them up and hope that

  1. They don’t have cameras in the dressing room, and
  2. That when you get them up, you can zip them up, and
  3. That you don’t end up in a heap on the floor with the ever-growing
    “Those MIGHT fit a mouse” pile

Not that I know anything about all of that…

Some things in life go the way you hoped they would
Like outdoor weddings on crisp spring mornings, or
Babies who sleep through the night from day one, but
I got married on a hot, rainy summer weekend,
And divorced on a cold day in December, and
My 3 babies all loved to make sure I was held at all hours,
But actually – I didn’t mind this –
Because I got to be held at all hours
And I love that I get to be my babies’ Momma

Lately, I’ve been convicted of trying to control every aspect of my life
When I know that God knows the plans he has for me,
Yet I INSIST on keeping a planner,
Which is silly, really,
Especially when it’s clear by the Scratch-out marks and the
Clutter of stickers I use to cover over so many
Thwarted plans that
I probably shouldn’t bother to make any plans…
This is usually because some of the
Biggest events in my life are ones I never planned for…
Events I never saw coming…

Like this past year, when someone I love had thoughts of taking her own life
I found my planner filled with appointments
For psychiatrists, individual and family therapists,
504 accommodation meetings at the High School,
And follow-ups to follow follow-ups…
And my journal became full of words like:
“Safety plan” and “inpatient stay” and “intensive outpatient therapy”

And all the “Es” –
Diagnoses and pharmacies and anxieties
And the “shuns”
Depression and suicidal ideation

She’s just a baby at 16
She’s the good stuff in the middle of my precious three
My precious baby doll

And, oh… she is well-worth all of my going and seeing
Dr after Dr after Dr and
Listening and follow-upping and the daily drive to Dallas
And parking and praying and listening
And driving and parking and praying for sleep
Because the nightmare of walking through this
Far out-did any night-terror I might have asleep

This wasn’t the dream I had for my darlin’
But through it all I can’t forget one thing
One defining moment at the start of all this.
Let me take you back with me…
Down a near-empty hallway as I reached for my keys
And instead, found her tattered shoestrings
In my pocket

It was at the end of two sleepless days
Of walking through hospitals
Lost in a haze of despair
It was the beginning of a gut-wrenching 10-day
Nightmare – they called an “inpatient stay”
At a place that turned her life around
I walked down the hallway that echoed the sound
Of an electric lock
I can still hear that lock…

But I knew this was where she needed to be
Knew this was the best place for my baby
And I was too busy to let it all in –
Too busy with appointments and ground rules and then
As I left her behind that lock
And took the longest walk of my life
To the parking garage
I reached in my pocket for my keys
And pulled out a handful of dirty shoestrings
From her Converse sneaks
The ones she’d begged me for – for weeks
And the nurse had just handed them to me
So that she couldn’t use them
To hurt herself

With a fistful of shoestrings
I stopped short in the hall
Everything went dark, I reached for the wall,
And then it hit me – the wall AND the reality
It hit me  –
My baby was here for trying to end her life –
And my insides started to cry

This was nowhere in what I had planned, you see
Not when I decorated her pink nursery
Or bought her ballet tights or softball cleats
Or spent hours pressing her cheer-skirt pleats
Or buying Teletubbies sheets…

Something had to give
God, why doesn’t she want to live
When she’s just at the beginning of life
Doesn’t she know how precious she is?
Is my love not enough?
How can I be a father AND a mother all at the same time?
And that’s when God spoke to me
As if He was standing right beside me
He said, “I AM her father.”
And then

“Daughter, I love you more than you love her.
And I love her more than you know.”

He said,
“This is her story.
This is where she finds her way back to me.
I’m behind that lock.
I AM the key
This thing meant to harm her – will set her FREE.”
And then He asked me one more thing:
“Daughter, do you trust me?”

And right there, holding up the hospital wall, I thought about that word, trust…
I thought back to the husband who left me
The men who violated me
To the bio-dad who didn’t even know my name
Til I was 28
And even then – it was because I called him.
“Daughter, do you trust me?”
And I paused for an eternity…
You see,
Trust is something I un-learned long ago
Each time I was harmed or betrayed or “let go”
Trust slayed me
Broke my heart and raped me, frayed me
And He’s asking…
“Daughter, do you trust me?”
And my heart whispered –
“You’re the only one who has ever been faithful”

And just like that, I felt a spark
One smoldering ember of trust
Stirred in my heart and I just said
“YES!”
And I probably should go back and apologize
To that startled nurse in the hallway
But right in the middle of that sterile hallway of
Children’s Hospital in Dallas
I.
Said.
Yes.

And as I was standing there
Pondering all of these things
Holding my baby’s dirty shoestrings
I decided to trust that His plans
Are WAY better than my plans
And I realized one more valuable thing:

God did NOT order this chaos
But He DID bring order to this chaos

And He did
Today is one year later – almost to the day – my baby is well
She leads worship
She draws and paints and sings and plays instruments by ear
And she is so full of life
Her laughter is back
You’d never realize today – if you met her –
That this past year ever happened

The reason that I’m writing this
Is so you can begin these
Conversations – if only in your mind
It saddens me that we
We don’t talk about this in church
Or in school, or work, or anywhere unless
One of our kiddos is in crisis
Then it’s too late
So many of our kids are wandering around in the dark
And we need to flip on the light
And get to the heart of the matter
And the heart of the matter is LOVE

Here’s what you can do today that will help you avoid
Walking down a sterile hallway with a pocket-full of shoestrings:
Tell her that you love her on the way out the door
Put down your phone and catch a ball with him
Have REAL face-time with them
Dad, tell her you like it when she shares her heart with you
Mom, tell him you like it when a man opens the door for you
Let them find you reading your Bible
Teach them how to pray
Teach them the difference between guilt and shame
And never judge when they share their feelings,
But be there to redirect those feelings
Into decisions that will help their future,
Not harm them, at present

We have to start a dialogue
It has to start with you
And it has to start today
Tomorrow may well be too late