I’ve Loved You From The Start

For almost 24 years I’ve been a mom.   I’ve loved, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed and I’ve felt every emotion in between while raising my children.  I’m so incredibly proud of the men they’ve become and I’m amazed at how God uses them daily.  They each have their own personality, interests, passions and paths they are pursuing in life and I couldn’t be any more excited.  But, truth be told, the time has come for them to start their own lives, and frankly, that sometimes has me watching from the sidelines.

Oh, they still call, they still text me when they need something or just haven’t talked in a while, but they are starting their own adult lives.  While it’s hard to let go, it’s what I’ve prepared them to do.  They are becoming the very young men I raised them to be, but that also means that they don’t need me as much anymore.

My boys are all starting new amazing adventures, from college, to marriage, to new careers and with each adult step they take, the less they need me.  And isn’t that what I taught them to do?  I raised them to be independent, to be responsible adults, to dream big and to follow their passions.  I taught them to love, to be men of honor and courage, to be honest and trustworthy.  I’ve prayed for the women they would one day marry.  I’ve asked God to grow them into men who seek God in everything they do.

And that’s who they’ve become and continue to become.   And I couldn’t be happier or prouder.  But, I want them to know that mom is always available to them, that I am forever in their corner.  I loved them from the first moment I knew.  I adored them from the very second I discovered their existence.  I cherished them from the start.  I have always and will always love them.  I’ve loved them when they were unloveable and when they didn’t always like or even love me.

But it hasn’t just been me loving them.  They’ve loved me.  They’ve protected me and they’ve been my strength when I’ve struggled to stand on my own.  They’ve supported me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

So now, I have to let them go.  Oh, I won’t be far away and I will always be right here when they need me, but I still have to let them go.  I have to let them be the men and the husbands God has designed them to be.  But as they move forward, to college, to careers, to life with the amazing women they’ve chosen to be their wives, I hope they’ll never forget that I loved them from the start.  I pray they’ll always know how important they are to me.

I hope they’ll always remember I’ve loved them and I love them forever and always, to the moon and back, and back again….and so on.  I want them to know my heart will always be connected to their hearts.  My heart will burst with love and joy when they experience love and joy and it will break when their hearts break.  I have always and will always be the one who has loved them from the start. And now, by the end of 2018, I will have two new daughters to love as well.  I’ve prayed for them even before my boys met them.  I have loved the idea of them, but now I get to love them as the beautiful, amazing women they are and I know my boys are in good hands.  I know they’ll be loved and cherished just as they will love and cherish.

And sometimes, God has an unexpected way of answering our prayers.  He moves our lives forward in a way we never imagined…just as I am empowered to allow my children to move on to their own lives as adults, God puts someone new in mine….but that, my friends, is for another post.  God knows just what we need and when we need it and just as my boys prepare to embark on their own lives, God gives me the courage to embark on the next phase of my own.  It’s times like these I am reminded of just how incredible God is and how amazing my life really is.

 

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When Christmas Is a Struggle

I love Christmas! I loved it as a child, when my mom would fill the house with beautiful decorations and goodies baked with love and all the way to adulthood and the joys of being a mom myself and watching the wonder in my children’s eyes.  But the last few years, we’ve all struggled with the awe and wonderment of the season.  It’s tough when you love Christmas and most importantly love the Christ whose birth we celebrate and then find it a struggle to get into the “Christmas Spirit.”

I’ve been lucky just to get the tree up and somewhat decorated each year.  Forget about getting Christmas cards out or doing any baking or extra decorating done.  I struggled to watch my favorite Christmas movies or dare to watch any of Lifetime’s original holiday films because it would remind me of what my kids and I were missing.  Well, this year is different.  My youngest child declared that we were going to celebrate Christmas this year and celebrate it big, like we used to.  We’ve listened to beautiful music, overloaded our living and dining room with “way more Christmas decorations” than I ever remembered we had.  He’s convinced me to buy new lights so we can decorate outside and I’ve even started watching all the sappy Lifetime movies that always make me cry.  But it’s been a good cry.  They’ve actually helped me get past the fear I’d built up thinking that we would never truly enjoy this season again because it reminds me of what we once had as a family.  But this year, I’m realizing that we will always have those memories but it is time to make new ones.  That doesn’t mean we have to give up some of our old traditions, but it does mean we begin to look ahead to some new traditions of our own.

Everything was looking good.  I’ve not felt overwhelmed by trying to be the “perfect” mom this season and realizing I always fall way too short.  No, this year I’m enjoying a simpler holiday and focused on the joy of the season.    Just days ago my youngest son mentioned how much he loved having my mom tuck he and his brothers into bed and telling them a story she made up as she went along.  Often that would happen during this time of year as we would be visiting them for Christmas so it also became a part of our family holiday memories.  We’ve known for a while she would never be able to tuck my boys in and tell them a story, or play and sing our favorite songs, or sit and watch one of her hundreds of recorded old movies with us.  She’s had Alzheimer’s for several years but it’s only been the last few years that the disease has taken away her memory of us.  She no longer knows who we are.  I’ve known for quite some time that the mother I knew is not coming back, that although she still has such a sweet spirit about her, that she can’t converse with me or give me a hug or tell me how proud she is of me or my kids.  But I wasn’t prepared for what was coming.  How ironic that the week my son starting talking about his favorite memories with her would be the same week that her health would begin to fail, that by Christmas Day it is doubtful she will still be with us.

It breaks my heart to watch her struggle for every breath.  I find it so hard to imagine life without her.   My heart aches when my youngest son tells me how hard it is to face losing his precious grandmother right around Christmas time.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve faced losing someone special right around the Christmas holidays.  My grandfather died right after Christmas my sophomore year of high school.  My grandmother spent all of the Christmas season in the hospital a few years ago before she also died shortly after the New Year.  It’s tough and it hurts, and this year may be the hardest one we’ve faced yet, but Christmas will still be Christmas and Christ is still the reason to celebrate.   Our tears may flow and our hearts may ache. Sometimes all the pain and the turmoil will make us forget that Christmas is worth celebrating.  But it is worth celebrating, even when everything around us seems to be crumbling.  It’s worth it…even on those days that the tears outnumber the smiles.

 

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mother’s birthday.  It’s doubtful she’ll remember it or even realize what day it is.  She has Alzheimer’s disease and has had it for several years.  At first, her deterioration was slow and although she knew and we knew she had it, we could still have conversations with her and we could still hug and laugh and cry and communicate with each other, even if sometimes she might respond with something completely off topic.  I thought that was hard.  I thought it was tough telling her things about our kids that I knew as soon as she got off the phone she would forget about and perhaps even forget to tell my dad I had called.  The truth is.  That wasn’t hard at all, because at that time, she still at least knew who I was.  She knew who her grandchildren were.  She knew when things were going well for us and when things were tough.  She knew how much she was loved.    She knew I would come to her whenever I just needed a listening ear, a compassionate heart or someone to share in the joys of being a mother and a wife.

She has been an amazing mom.   She showed me how to take care of others, how to give when sometimes you feel like you have nothing left to give.  She shared her talents, her gifts, her sweet personality with so many people.  She had a beautiful singing voice and loved to play the piano and she was always available whenever someone needed her to sing or play, but she was never boastful about it.  She never made herself the center of attention.  People always say I take after my dad and in so many ways I do.  I look more like him and his side of the family.  I have a lot of character traits that are like my father.  But when I think about my mother’s elegance and her grace and sweet, sweet spirit I hope that I at least came away with a small portion of her too.  My life has been anything but elegant or even pretty over the last few years.   I’ve been stretched to the very limits of my ability and actually beyond my own ability to be the mother my children have needed, to give them hope when our life looked rather hopeless, to show them that God still has the very best in store for us even when the person we all trusted the most broke our trust and broke our hearts.

It would have been easier to get through if I could have talked with my mom…if we could have shared stories and cried together.  If I could have just cried on her shoulders and have her hug me and tell me everything would be alright.  But I couldn’t call her up because she doesn’t even remember how to answer a telephone.  I couldn’t cry on her shoulders because she wouldn’t understand.  She no longer has the instincts that tell her something is wrong or that I need her.  She can’t encourage me to hang on and be strong for my boys even when I feel like I have no strength left. She can’t tell me that everything is going to be okay.

She’s 72 today.  She’s still here physically and pretty healthy at that.   But she has no idea what is going on around her.

But even though my heart yearns for the mother I knew, there is a part of me that is so grateful that she doesn’t have to experience this with us.  She has such a tender heart and when her children hurt, she hurts.  She would have agonized over the pain my children and I have suffered, and it would have been so hard for her to know that she couldn’t change it, that she couldn’t make things better and it would have kept her up at night.

Sometimes the most difficult of situations seem to also be the ones that reveal the blessings.  Yes, I would love to be able to go through this with my mother at my side, but it is truly a blessing that she will never know what we’ve been through because it would have broken her heart, too.  And that is a pain I don’t want her to ever have to feel.  If in her limited ability to comprehend and understand what is going on around her, she can still feel loved and not be worried about what the rest of us may be going through, that is a blessing, a small one perhaps, but still a blessing.  She’s earned it.  She deserves to not have to worry about me or my brother, my dad,  or my kids…I hope that in her mind,  whether she realizes it’s her birthday or not, that everyday is a celebration and that the memories she has are the good ones.  I love you, mom!

Looking beyond the fairy tale

My fairy tale ended almost two years ago.  The life I envisioned was gone in an instant.   I was blindsided with the loss of a secure family life and marriage I never doubted would last until “death do us part.”   it came without warning and without even an explanation…..My happily ever after ended.

Why is it as young girls we dream of being like Cinderella or Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and a host of new fairy tale princesses’ perpetuated by our “Disney” culture?  Don’t get me wrong I love fairy tales and I love Disney movies, but even when we know it’s not real why do we still dream of our own fairy tale story?  Perhaps for some young girls, it’s an escape from a difficult childhood or broken dreams and promises, but that wasn’t the case with me.   I grew up in a normal healthy, happy home.  My parents have been married for almost 53 years.  I never expected anything less from my own marriage and family.  And for almost twenty years, I had that, or at least I thought I did.

My prince charming rode into my life when I wasn’t even looking for him.  He was perfect.  We fell in love almost instantly.  We were perfect for each other.   Not to say hardships didn’t come.  Of course they did.   But we always got through them, together.  Then one day we didn’t.  Over the course of almost twenty years, we had gradually taken our focus off of God and put it on other things….work, kids, future, money, and a host of other things.

But I didn’t see the avalanche coming.  I completely missed the signs.  How could I have missed them?   Because I still believed in the fairy tale, and in those stories we never see the struggles.  We never see pain or sickness, or stress or feel the pressure of being the perfect mom or dad, or husband or wife.  It’s funny when I think about it.  I guess I was always partial to Cinderella.  And yet, how messed up was Cinderella’s life?  She was treated like a lowly servant by her step-family, had no family who really loved and cared about her…but somehow she was transformed into a gorgeous princess and on that one occasion met and fell in love with her perfect prince.   But we never get to see how imperfect her prince is, or how messy Cinderella’s castle becomes when she’s dealing with 3 kids under the age of 5 or she has to get them all to a sports practice at three different fields all starting at the same time, or when she’s worn out and tired and really doesn’t even want to think about planning dinner, much less cooking it and definitely not cleaning it up afterwards.

I realize now the problem wasn’t in believing that my marriage would last “until death do us part” but in believing that my life was indeed a fairy tale, instead of focusing on the fact that life is a gift from God.  Marriage is a gift but it requires work.   Even the best of marriages requires nurturing.   There was a time when we both prayed for our marriage and for each other.   I remember when my ex-husband told me he would always pray for our relationship and our marriage when he was deployed…not because he was afraid something was wrong or that we were in trouble, but because he wanted to keep our relationship strong and protected.  But I took that for granted.  I assumed we didn’t need protecting.

In fairy tales, there is always a villain and good always wins over evil.  The problem is they don’t teach us how good wins over evil.   The villain is always pretty obvious too, but in real life, that’s not usually the case.   In real life, the enemy is sneaky and conniving and beautiful and enticing.  He can convince us that  what we have isn’t good enough and the grass is greener somewhere else.   And sometimes he doesn’t even have to go that far.   Sometimes it’s as simple as just letting us become complacent….letting us be comfortable and we drop our armor and figure we can relax because everything is good.  Then we stop reading our bibles, we start praying less and less.   We put our focus on the job, on the kids, on church, and so many other things that are important indeed, but they aren’t the most important.   When God is the center of a marriage, everything else falls into place.   And somewhere along the way, I placed my focus on my husband and my children and my to do lists.   It may sound backwards but God has to be first, even before our spouse and our children.  Because if God’s first, He’s going to give us the tools to love our family and to take care of them in the very best way possible.

My heart is broken and I can’t change what’s happened in the past.  But, I know now that my story isn’t a fairy tale at all.  It’s real life.   And sometimes real life hurts and sometimes the path is filled with potholes.  In real life the fairy tale ending doesn’t just happen.   You have to work at it.  You have to thank God everyday for His blessings, even when they seem so small.  You have to fight everyday for those you love and you don’t ever give up.  But sometimes that requires leaving the enchanted forest and venturing through the unknown and the scary parts of life and we have to get our glass slippers muddy.   And occasionally the glass slipper shatters.   Mine did, but God’s not finished with my story yet and He’s certainly able to put my broken pieces back together.   My glass slippers may end up scarred and not as pretty as they once were, but they will be stronger.  And who knows, maybe eventually, I’ll realize that glass slipper, in real life, really aren’t all that practical.