Posted in healing, heartache, Jesus, Life Lessons, Love, Prayer, Truth, Word, Writing

Me, Being Vulnerable

I took this picture on a beautiful night on a beach in Ventura, California. It was the only long trip I took with my husband. This is the cover of my book. It’s breathtaking. But I cannot look at it without wanting to throw up.
Why? He left. Suddenly. Had a baby with someone else.

Betrayal by someone you intimately, ultimately trusted (bio Dad, exes, friends who violently assaulted me) makes you question your worth, your decision making skill set, your whole life. It can cause you to dissociate from yourself. To cling to anyone who appears to love you while pushing them away with your actions. It causes you to feel unsafe in every single relationship you have. It’s cost me real love, and time, and closeness with people I adore.

It shuts you down, forces you to cope one way or the other. For me, I drank to numb the pain. I couldn’t handle it.

Sixteen years later I’m finally feeling it. All of it. Without the aid of any pain killers. And it’s excruciatingly hard. I’m putting in the hard work of letting myself feel and heal.

I’m realizing that every time I walk away from God, or yell at the sky “why?” and “where were you?” I’m accusing him of being guilty of what my ex, and the monsters who attacked me and the ex bf who emotionally abused me, (and even myself for staying so long) are actually guilty of. That’s also betrayal. God understands betrayal. I’ve done it to him so many times. He hates that they did this to me. He hates that I allowed it for so long. It’s scary letting God into my wounds. But he’s not a man. I can trust him. He’s safe.

So if my eyes leak when we talk, you’ll know why. I’m learning and growing and healing. It’s the bravest, hardest thing I’m doing. It will take time and tears and effort to learn to trust and love and live fully. But in the end I’ll be better.

If I have opened up with you over coffee or messenger and shared my heart, perhaps this gives you some insight into how scary that has been for me. You’ve probably wondered why I cling or put up a wall and then cling again. This is why. I have a beautiful broken heart.

Why am I being so vulnerable?
Because somewhere someone is numbing their pain instead of facing it. So this is me, finally facing more trauma than I’ll EVER share on social media, saying to YOU – if I can, you can too.

If this is you, message me. I promise I’ll pray for you.

I love you. Yes, YOU. You’re so worthy of love. You’re too precious to walk through life with a wounded heart. Be brave with me. Let Jesus heal your heart.

Love,
Melissa

Posted in healing, heartache, Letters, Life Lessons, Love, Poetry, Truth, waiting, Writing

Tear-stained Wisdom

You never really knew me until you sat across from me at coffee on a cloudy day and watched the rain fall from my eyes.

You never really understood me until you let me get past the catch in my throat that’s always there when I sit across from you.

It’s as I listen to your heart through your words that I can make sense of my own feelings, which is why I always pause and let silence stand between us for a long moment before I speak.

It’s when I make sense of my own feelings that I can process yours. Then I can give you the tear-stained wisdom that is chiseled in my soul.

I never really knew you until I sat across from you and realized that we can both as freely give as receive wisdom and love.

And I’d like to know you more.

And I’d like for you to know me more.

But texts don’t form tears, or capture the pitch when you really laugh out loud, or give a full picture of what’s inside a heart.

But it’s all we can do now.

And it’s going to be really hard to give my whole heart again to anyone else when it’s broken but still yours. But it’s going to be hard for anyone else to break my heart when it isn’t really whole because it’s still yours.

I can only let time and silence and steadfast prayer heal me.

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

Girl, Lift Your Face

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 look in the mirror in the mornings. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women usually did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why she was there alone. She felt shame. She was hiding.

Hiding from other women. From society. From her soiled reputation.

Guilt will always point out what I’ve done (which is healthy), but shame sneaks in and replaces my own name.

Hello, my name is (fill-in-the-blank).

  • Adulteress
  • Fat girl
  • Single Mom
  • Divorced
  • Lonely
  • Heart-broken
  • Insecure
  • Flawed
  • Unwanted
  • Ugly
  • Annoying
  • Unworthy
  • Useless
  • Stupid
  • Unlovable

Has shame ever replaced your name with something else?

It has replaced every one of the above names for my name at times throughout my life.

So there she was – sneaking away to get water, and that’s when she met Jesus – the man who would change 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 (fill-in-the-blank).” (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.

How many times over the past 16 years have I been asked to go get my husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows I don’t have one? By a mean girl? I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of my trembling mouth. My eyes glance down, or away.
I, I… have no husband. He left me for someone else he got pregnant.

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.

Can I just be honest? Every time I read this story I put myself in her place, but I imagine Jesus’ answer to me would be more like, “You’re right – since your husband left you’ve had 2 other women’s husbands and 2 boyfriends you let act like a husband.”

The fact that Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life always astounds me. He did this same thing for me when I was in a similar place as that woman.

Forgiveness heals.

I want to address something else shame has done to me over the years. Because I was sexually assaulted, shame has said I’m damaged – permanently.

I hope you’ve never endured a sexual assault of any kind, but something tells me someone reading right now either has or knows someone who has.

It was not your fault. It wasn’t.

Shame likes to whisper that it was. Shame likes to whisper that if I just wouldn’t have opened the door it wouldn’t have happened.

That’s a lie.

Girl, lift your face.

Enter Jesus who replaced my name with who he says I am.

My name is:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Righteousness
  • Beautiful
  • Daughter
  • Lovely
  • Loved
  • Lovable
  • Pure

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 gave me back my hope and strength and dignity. And he wants to do the same for you.

I had to stop going back to the places I thought would give me the love I want so badly. It just made me thirsty for more so I just kept going back.

But I was never satisfied, because that was not love.

My Jesus met me where I was – even though I was trying to hide my shame from everyone. He gave me all the love I’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 darling, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity. THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes, I absolutely 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.

Drink up, sister. Drink deeply of His love. Nothing else will ever satisfy.

Hello, my name is: Melissa, Loved, Beautiful, Hand-crafted, Adored, Poetess, Daughter of God.

Posted in family, Friends, heartache, Life Lessons, Truth, Uncategorized, waiting, Word, Writing

Wait Lifting #6: What Are You Waiting For?

Fireworks are exploding over my North Texas town right now. This is one of my favorite holidays, but I skipped it this year. Oh, I had to work some, but the real work I did was on my heart.

I let it heal.

Sometimes it takes a long moment.

My long moment lasted 8 years. I’m finally ready to tell my story tonight…mostly because if I get it out, it’ll bring me closure.

July 2nd, 2011 was going to be one of the best days of my life.

I had been dating someone for a while and he was flying here from Ohio, where he lives, to spend the July 4th weekend with me and meet my family.

My kids were 3, 10, and 14. Stephi was especially excited to meet him – they talked on the phone when he would call me and he was all she could talk about.

Long distance relationships are difficult, at best. But every single weekday morning at 7:15am I would hear my phone ring and it would be him. He could not wait to say good morning and that he loves me. Then he’d text throughout the day just because he was thinking about me – until he texted to say goodnight – always at 9:30pm.

I’d driven up to meet him 2 months prior and the weekend was amazing. It ended oddly, but I was in love. Finally.

At this point I’d been a single mom for 8 years. I was in graduate school. I was teaching a summer technical writing course at the local university that summer, but school was out for this long holiday weekend and I was beyond excited.

His plane was to arrive late in the morning. I waited and waited for his call – well past the usual 7:15 timeslot. He finally called from the airport, said his flight was cancelled but he had been placed on another flight. He’d call with which airline/gate so I could know where to pick him up. So I waited. 2pm. 4pm. Nothing. I called the airline. I called the hospitals. I watched the news. Nothing.

His phone ringer was off. I left a third text message.

Nothing.

I had a massive panic attack. I just remember that my mom sat beside me the entire day. It’s one of my favorite moments with her, actually. I just remember her being close to me that day. Sometimes, even as an adult, you just need your mom.

How could I explain this to the kids? What would I say? Where was he? What was happening?

I finally slept. It was that sleep you have in the middle of an exhausting crying spell where you wake up, wonder where you are, remember, and start again where you left off.

The next day was a blur. No word. No arrival. Nothing.

The day after that was July 4th. I found myself pushing my kiddo in his stroller at the town parade. The parade is my favorite. I’d described it in detail to my boyfriend and he laughed at the Texas small town of it all. It was 9am. My phone rang just as the parade started coming down the street. It was him.

I shouted over the band. “Are you okay? Where are you?”

He said he’d had a medical emergency at the airport and he was at the hospital. He said which one. I knew he wasn’t. I’d already called them.

Short ending to a longer story: he was married.

I’d been waiting. Panicking. Crying over someone who I thought I might spend forever with, but things just were not what they seemed.

This blog is called “What Are You Waiting For?”

I told my story to say this: sometimes you’re waiting on the wrong thing.

Then again…sometimes you’re waiting on the right thing. Recently I waited almost 6 months to find a good job. My waiting and persistence paid off. I now have a great job.

Sometimes you need to wait.

Sometimes you just need to move forward.

I have friends right now who are waiting on healing – for themselves or others. Some who are waiting for spouses to come back. Some waiting on divorce proceedings to proceed. Some for a child to come home. I know two people this past week who have said they are just waiting around to die, and they hope it comes sooner than later.

I’m suggesting we stop waiting and start living in the pauses between the good things.

Hope. Anticipate. Dream. Dream BIG. Plan. Expect greatness.

But in the meantime – stop pausing your life (waiting) and start living.

Go watch the parade – even if you’re in tears.

Do what you need to do.

Today I didn’t want to do the normal July 4th stuff. I needed to spend time here with the kids. I needed it not to be a holiday. I needed it to be a healing day.

I got it.

Life is but a blip. Be present with the ones you love in every single moment.

Go enjoy.

What are you waiting for?

Posted in Poetry

Unanticipated

Life has its dips and straights.

Sometimes Summer feels more like Spring, sometimes Spring feels more like Winter.

Sometimes the road is paved with love and laughter; sometimes it is washed out by torrents of tears.

When I look back over my life I’ve always known what is right and what is wrong. And I’ve always known that my God is a good God.

I’ve not always chosen the recommended path. I have scars on my skin and my heart as mile markers for the roads to avoid.

Sometimes my silence shrieks while my karaoked daily routine resounds like a symphony.

I’ve come full-circle from where I thought my life ended to where I felt alive again. I stood on the precipice of hope, only to find what I’ve longed for is just out of reach, then gone.

When the straight highway to the great unknown I’ve anticipated takes an unanticipated turn in a valley ahead, and the road bends from an exclamation point into more of a question mark, I will choose to take a moment and ask for this one thing: God, if you’ll give me more of your Holy Spirit and I can feel your presence, then I’ll continue on. I can’t live without the power and the presence of the Almighty. In fact, I won’t.

Lord, fill me with your presence in this valley so I can get to that glorious unknown you have waiting over there for me to inhabit.

You’re a good God. Without you I add up to nothing.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Poetry, Spoken Word, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

You can be quiet

The sun slowed down and
Took one last look over the horizon.
It had had a long productive day and
Could finally meander on to
The other side.
Meander.
That’s what my car did –
Steady and slow like the sun.
“I’ve been… feeling really quiet.”
My text whispered through the screen as I
Wiped an unbidden tear.
“You can be quiet it’s okay,”
Came the reply.
I laughed out loud.
I needed to laugh in that moment.
I knew what they meant:
It’s okay to have a quiet moment.
But I’m a word girl and always quickly assess
Multiple meanings words can have
If taken out of context.
Perhaps I need to be quiet more often. Lol.
I’m glad my friends get my
Inappropriate laughter.
Even via text.

The truth is
I have not shut up lately.
Not with my friends.
For context I’m naturally
Quiet, especially
Around people I don’t know.
But when I trust you
I lay my soul bare.
And do so often.

But the truth is –
I need to be quiet.
I need to take a step back and
See things as they truly are.
The truth is:
I’ve been walking in
A daydream for far too long.

I need to regroup and refocus.

This blog is meant to meander.
Like the sun.
Like my car.
Like my thoughts.
To make you, reader,
Pause.
“Be quiet.
And in the quiet – be still
And in the stillness – rest
And in the rest – listen.”

That is wisdom from one of my favorite pastors.

Quiet doesn’t always happen
In the dark, or
In depression.
In fact, the best quiet times I have
Are in the light of a brand new day when I
Sit outside with a cup of morning
And a copy of my favorite book
And just breathe it in.

So…
Meander. Be quiet. Breathe.
Thanks for letting me be transparent and vulnerable
While my thoughts find their
Rest on this page.

Rest well.
Goodnight.
I love you.

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 heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love, Writing

One heart. Many faces.

I made a huge mistake at work today. To be fair, it’s my first week of actually doing my job and I’m still onboarding. But the impact of this was far-reaching.

I control 2 email inboxes from the same email account. One is my personal company email. The other is my team’s email. I was tasked with sending our team’s newsletter out to 500+ call center agents and managers from our team’s email. I made the newsletter, hit send, and waited for it to arrive in my personal inbox (since I fall within the recipient list).

It arrived. But it was NOT from the team email. It came from my personal account.

Audible gasp.

My breath caught. My lungs seized. My heart chugged deep and slow like the 2am train that runs through town. People who matter would see my mistake.

Got me thinking though. How many times in life do I live duplicitously?

How many sides can there be?

Work me. Home me. Friend me. Inner circle me. Church me. Mom me.

And how many times have I been caught saying something that must sound strange to an audience who either knows a different side of me, or who knows me better?

I used to be this way more than now. Now I try to always just aim for being real.

I find that this throws people off though.

I’m an encourager. I just am.

But when I struggle nowadays, and people read it in my blog or on my social media pages, they’re like…”that’s the girl who is always up. Why is SHE struggling?” And my private message box fills up with concerns.

Here’s the thing:

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

I’m gonna repeat that in case someone missed it.

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

Fallen is my natural state.

But see, now when I fail and when I fall, I get excited. Not right away. Not till I dust off my knees and clean up my wounds. But eventually I get excited.

Not for me. I get excited for others.

Because now I can see when someone else is about to fall in that same pit and I can say…”HEY! YOU! THERE’S A HUGE PIT RIGHT THERE.”

And if they fall anyway, I get to say…”Here’s my hand…let’s get you get back up. Keep going.”

So when I broadcast on social media what my inner circle already knows I’m struggling with, people aren’t ready for it. They’re ready for more encouragement. More happy.

But conversely, my inner circle probably rolls collective eyes when they see me broadcast supergirl encouragement when I just blew up our group or private chats with how I cried myself to sleep for the fifth time this week.

But what I understand is – I learn and grow best by struggling, being transparent, and getting back up.

I really do possess the capacity to walk beside people who have hurt me. And this is because I have been forgiven much, and have been loved much – so I am quick to forgive much, and quick to love much.

My teammates at work expected to see that weekly newsletter from the team, not the new-hire.

But at the end of the day (after I recalled the email and had another team member send it correctly) I realized that all the information I sent was correct.

And that’s the point. If you’re correct in what you say and how you live, you don’t have to worry about who sees or hears you.

Side note: it wasn’t my fault after all – my email lacks a setting that allows me to send anything from the team.

I’ll put in a ticket to IT on Monday.

Y’all have a great weekend.

Live with integrity.

One heart. One voice.

Life is short. Love well.

I love you.

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 waiting

Wait Lifting #1 – Learning to Wait

Lately I’ve been working through the delicate art of waiting gracefully. Instead of just struggling through it myself, I’ve decided to share this journey here, with you.

My hope is that at the end of this blog series we will both find ourselves with some of the weight, AND the wait lifted.

As I was driving home today, my mind flashed back some 15 years to the first of many times I sat and waited at the food stamp office. I took a number, sat there with my 3- and 7-year-old daughters, and waited to be seen. It was two years after I unexpectedly lost my husband to divorce, and consequently my home, my vehicle, my job, and my savings. And now there I sat – at a place I never imagined I would ever be.

Dora the Explorer was blasting over the TV. I recall she was going on a berry hunt and Swiper was definitely swiping. The low ceiling sagged at one corner, so we moved just in case it gave way. An old woman slept in the corner while her 3-year-old granddaughter sat at her feet eating an endless amount of goldfish crackers.

We sat (mostly figeted) for over an hour before we were called up to the little window where I was told to fill out several more forms and then wait until I was called back up to turn them in. When they called my number an hour and a half later, we were in the restroom. I waited another half hour before I went up to the window and found out my number had been crossed off earlier as a no-show. Tears formed in my eyes. I didn’t want to be there; no one ever wants to be there. The lady told me I could either wait until she could fit me back in, or I could come back the next day. And so we waited.

A month later we got our food stamp and medicaid cards. I always budgeted that money. We had many nights of store brand mac & cheese with dented cans of green beans, and many mornings of store brand coffee out of the clearance bins. If I was lucky, they’d have vanilla coffee on clearance. My fave!

It was during that season of lack that I learned how to “make due” in hard times. I am glad for that season now. We don’t need fancy fixins. The girls still remember that day and so many like it. The girls got so used to it that they knew just what toys to bring while we sat and waited.

During that season I started back to school, so I’d do my homework while we waited for hours. During that season I learned to look around that waiting room and make sure to give the other moms a helping hand with their kids on bathroom breaks. I learned to ask someone to listen for my number and to tell other moms that I’d listen for theirs.

Most of all I learned compassion. I loved listening to other people’s stories and I loved giving them hope by encouraging them not to give up.

If you’re ever tempted to look at my life now after graduate school and think – she’s got it all together, please know that I remember what it’s like to spend hours in a welfare line.

If you’re in a place of waiting now and you can’t stand where you are, please look around. Other people need your story. Other people need your encouragement, even if it’s only a smile. Please remember: A smile is a full sentence. A hug is a full conversation. Other people waiting need your help. And the more we help each other, the more we’ll find our wait – lifting.

Click here for the next blog in this series.