Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm Nobody?

".....start worrying about your own family, chick.  Hell, your not even married to this man.  So, your nobody."  This is a don't chastise me, grammar police!  :)

This was the end of a recent facebook posting. About me.  Apparently, I'm "nobody."  One more was written by the biological mother of my new sons.  A woman that I've laid eyes on one time in the 4+ years that I've known and loved this man.  A woman who has NOTHING to do with her children.  A woman who has resided right across the street from them for months and hasn't seen them.  A woman who hasn't had custody of them in ELEVEN years.  (note....the youngest is 12.  HER youngest is even younger....and not with her, either.)  A woman who hasn't inquired about them, made contact with us, OR all.

That above statement almost laughable. Until, you reallllly sit and think about it.  Sad. what it is.

I come tonight asking for prayers.  I am wide awake with no sleep in sight.  Prayers for an impossible situation.  Almost like a "cancer".....and we all know that I know quite a bit about that.  Prayer for my bitter heart and lack of understanding.  For I will NEVER be able to understand or condone the actions of a bad mother.  Being a parent is such a gift.  A blessing straight from the heavens that should be the most important role one should EVER play.  As a mother.....I would claw the eyes out of ANYONE who tried to hurt my children.  Of ANYONE who would try to take them from me. 

The day my children were placed upon my chest....My life was forever changed.  While the road hasn't always been easy, I hope and pray that when I stand before my God, He WILL say to me "Well done, my faithful child....."   My children and I have survived death, divorce, cancer, financial struggles.....all of it.  But we are a team.  They know to seek Jesus.  Whether because of me or in SPITE of me....they know that they are loved.  Motherhood is a job I've never taken lightly.  

In addition, I've always respected not only the father of my children, but his wife as well.  I've never wanted my children to be torn.  I've always said...there is room enough in their hearts for all of us.  And I believe that.  Time after time, we can all come together for the needs of our children.  We can share meals together.  And Senior Nights.  And dorm move-ins. Baptisms.  All of their special moments.  Its about THEM.  Always.  I'd like to think we have always co-parented well.  I say all of that, to let you know my stance on dealing with "exes".  All who know me....know that about me.  And well.

I just don't get it.  I'm trying not to judge....but how can you have children and not raise them?  How can you walk away?  How can you place greed and selfishness above them and their needs?  How can you exhibit such ignorance as to post something so ugly about A) someone you've NEVER met and B) someone who is LOVING YOUR CHILDREN???  Lord, come quickly.

A few facts....for the need of specific prayers.
My David is a lineman.  10 years ago....he had custody of his children when he was called away out of state to work Hurricane Katrina.  The children went to stay with their grandmother who became their guardian.  While this was before I knew him, a part of me is angry at him for leaving them then.  However, the man had to work and provide. So, I'm praying about giving total grace to that decision.  He has paid his child support....enough that she hasn't had to work, mind you....and has loved his children very much.

Unfortunately, a single dad who has had to travel for work (home about 2-4 days a month!)....he relied on "Grandma."  When I met him, he coached their ball teams, and his life was the boys.  His goal has always been to work his way up in the company....out of having to that his boys can come live with him.  

I will admit.  That when I began dating David....being a stepmother to 4 children wasn't in the cards.  I even told him as much.  I'm aware that makes me appear to be a monster...but, I had survived a messy failed marriage, with not the best relationships with my stepchildren.  I had been burned.  And hurt.  I had my own "stuff". Made my own mistakes in that arena. I'm a "few" years older than David....and little ones were a job!  FOUR?  were impossible.  I was struggling to make ends meet.  I then got sick.  Cancer took over our world.  David stood by me, and even though he could have left, helped me to parent my own two.  He shared with me a few months ago, that it was in the very beginning....that he began praying for God to change my heart.  To OPEN my heart.  He shared that one of the things he admired most about me was the kind of mother I am.  He wanted that for his boys.

Know that I have tried to have the utmost respect for the boys' grandmother.  She stepped in when David couldn't....and gave them their needs.  Where was their mother, you ask?  A mystery to me.  No judgement.  Just facts.  Ok....I'm fibbing.  Maybe, a little judgment.  Again, I'm seeking to understand.  My heart isn't ready to offer that grace to her just yet.  That's a place where I need prayer.  For I'm trying, friends.

When I made the declaration, 5 years ago...."I'll never date a man with children!".....I ate my words a few short weeks ago.  We began the process over the last year, for the boys to come and live with us.  They were begging and pleading. Every weekend when it came time to take them back....there were tears.  We were in a position to have them.  It was time.  It had also started to become painfully to light...that while the boys were living there, they were simply existing.  I remember asking once... what their favorite meals were?  Nobody answered.  They fended for themselves most of the time.  Sandwiches.  Cereal.  

It has been a TREAT to have a home-cooked meal every night.  To have a bed.  One informed me that he had been sleeping on the floor.  To be loved and have guidance and even discipline.  Yes...I think they even love our routines.  We have it like a well-oiled machine, my friends.  I believe in my heart...that their homelife until now...has been one of survival.  Not of nurture.  Of love.  Of family.  My heart is simply broken for these precious children.

After months of getting the change of custody in motion....and lack of cooperation...we had told the boys that it may be a little longer and we would have to take extreme measures.  We wanted to be amicable.  To do these the right way.  Now, I have found myself in a place of having to be an advocate for these children.  THE DAY before school started.....the boys were told they were no longer welcome at Grandma's house.  She left them a voicemail....kicking them out.  A voicemail.  To your grandchildren, after a visit to their dad's..."you don't live here anymore."  Let that sink in for a second.

PRAISE GOD!  Myself, and my them enrolled in school, placed them in football, found them clothes and beds and school supplies and everything they needed to be a part of our family.  Our world.

ALL of their information purposely withheld from us....birth certificates, social security cards, Insurance information, shot records.....all of it.  And God's angels made it happen.  Everything fell into place that day....and our little town brought them in and welcomed them home.  Even their former school cooperated....and saw their best interests unfolding. God's arms wrapped around us all....sent so many to help....and brought our boys home.

To date, we have been made aware of the many things that these boys have survived.  How food stamp money (If I told you how would tick you off!)  wasn't spent on food....but sold for cash.  How their dad's child support was spent on everything BUT them....even used to pay for their mother's child support to keep her from going to jail.  Outside of the clothes and shoes that WE and David's family bought over the years, their clothes and gifts and everything....hand-me-downs and donations from local churches. That their shots weren't even up to date.  We have audio, video and pictures of their living conditions.  Holes in the floor.  A house that needs to be condemned.  Their little hearts were just used.  They weren't nurtured.  They were simply a source of income. And even TOLD as much. When they were finally allowed to pick up their things....every bit of it fit in a couple of trash bags.  They were barely allowed to bring what little they had with them.  It's sickening.  

 SOOOO many things that cause me to question the integrity of those who had surrounded them.  As I drove them to school the first day, and drove away in tears...I knew that God had opened my heart...and changed me.  I love these boys.  I want to save them.  Each day, I see the sadness in their eyes slowly disappearing.  When they call me in the afternoons to let me know they made it home?  They say "I love you."  (And they say it first.)  When they need something they forgot at school?  They call me.  When they didn't have a ride to football and didn't know a soul?  I was at the school to take them.  When they scan the stands....(Just like my Sam used to...) to see if we are there?  I get to wave to them.  When I turn the corner in the afternoons....and the youngest spots my car...He lights up and waves....SO happy to see....ME.  

Please don't misunderstand....I'm not expecting or asking for pats on the back.  I'm simply pointing out, that the little things we all take for granted are EVERYTHING to some.  I get the joy of being their bonus mom.  I may be "nobody" to some.  But, I get the honor of being "SOMEBODY" to them.  

Not once have they missed their former school.  Not once have they asked to visit their former home.  The laughter and joy they are now experiencing in our home, makes my heart so full it could almost burst.  They are thriving!  Making friends.  Settling in.  Getting good grades.  The best part?  They are just normal.  

The boys' grandmother has yet to sign the papers necessary to cease our payment of child support.  She has EVEN tried to have his child support raised in the days since they came to live with us.  You read that right.  The caseworkers at both DHS and OSCE are both disgusted.  David continues to pay her each week.  Hundreds of dollars....while waiting for these proceedings to unfold.  She continually lets him down....saying one thing while doing another. Lie after lie after lie.  It is a struggle.  To pay her....and to raise them.  But we are making it.  Please pray for this specific request.  I know that God will protect us all.  And that the system will not only work for the betterment of our family....but prevent her from getting away from this much longer.  I'm holding tight to the promise of "ya reap what ya sow."

Pray for my heart.  For I am so bitter.  I am so angry.  I just will never understand.  It is my job, as a faithful extend grace.  And, I'm struggling.

In the eyes of the law, I have no rights to my new sons.  Which is sad, really.  But, I will love them.  I will protect them.  And I will let them know how precious they are.  God has a sense of humor, kinda.  Our family isn't perfect....but we are perfect together.  These boys have blessed me FAR more than I deserve.  And again....I hope to stand before MY Father...and He answer with "Well done, my good and faithful child..."  This IS my family.  And I worry about them daily.  So happy to have them home.  

To my new sons.... I'm sorry that those who should NEVER fail you...have. I love you. And I will never fail you.  And I will tell you and show you every day for the rest of my life.  Welcome home. them?  Maybe.  Just maybe...I AM somebody.

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

In Him,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are you there, God?

Are you there, God? Its me....Momma.
I've got a few ....well a LOT....of requests for ya today. For you see? I'm not strong. I'm weak. I'm overwhelmed. I'm S-appy....which I'm convinced is a word for Happy and Sad at the same time. I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm worried. I'm a complete mess. In short....I just flat need ya big time.

My Sammy is moving 50 whole miles from my front door :). His friends are, too. Some much further....MUCH, much further. Some are lying their heads at home, but will not be heading to BHS on Monday. Their lives are moving forward. While, MUCH of my requests are about THEM....I'm going to be a tad selfish and ask for some prayers for me. And my friends. The mommas. Well, the dads, too....but really the mommas.

For you see? Our hearts are so all over the place. Be with us as we learn our new place as parents. My heart is welled with joy and thanksgiving, anticipation and anxiety, amidst a longing to be together as we have been till now. His years of growing up have moved so quickly, so many things left undone, so much left unsaid, so much I still hope to give to my child who is taking this new step in the journey of life.

Help us as we reshape our lives to reflect this new reality of college. Show us new ways to be present to each other in love and in trust. Give me patience and help me to remember that my child is establishing new routines in freedom, routines different from my routines.

Help me to let him go.

Help me to guide him. And teach him that College is a Privilege.  Sure, I expected him to go.  But this in no way takes away from the fact that spending four years learning, growing and focused almost exclusively on himself is a gift like none other. Before he sets foot on campus, I wish him think through the millions in human history and try to guess how many people were given this opportunity.  Even fewer play sports at the college level.  MAKE him see and acknowledge just how rare and special this gift is.

Guide me to help him realize that this is the Best Four Years of His Life.  Lord, I pray that he takes the initiative to soak in deeply of all that this Christian University has to offer. That he loads his plate with its academic, athletic, cultural and social offerings. Never again will life mix youth, freedom, opportunity and resources together in quite this combination. If these are to be the very best years, he must make them so.

Father, help him to realize that the First Weeks of College are a Time like None Other.
Everyone will want to meet everyone and there will be none of the social awkwardness that usually accompanies rushing up and speaking to total strangers. He must not squander this short window of opportunity, for it may will never come around again.

Precious God, Don't Let Him Be Stupid!  :) He will now be in a place where the judgement is both allowed and encouraged. The only thing that stands between him and a very bad experience is his own good judgment. But here is the tricky part. So is everyone around him. On the flip side, Lord....Help me to allow him to bump his knee, or to miss a deadline.  Help me to step he can learn life's lessons.

Lord, Give Him those "Forever Friends." He sat in the same classes or did the same activities as his high school friends and teammates. In college, maintaining friendships is a bit more work. After college it is a lot more work. Investing in friendships now pays dividends forever, truly forever.

God...Help him to see how How His Home is Now Different.  It is Sam's blessing to never have lived in a place where no one loved him.  At the outset, college is that place. Despite everyone’s outward cheer in the first weeks of college, he will have no real friends....yet.   Sure he will know some kids, but these are not true friends, yet. They are still just acquaintances he really likes, but barely knows. Lord, I beg for your hand on his new friendships and relationships.

Help him to see that I Was Once 18.  When he looks at me, he sees “Mom” and “Old.” Do not let him be fooled.  Not one fiber of my being has forgotten how it feels to be his age. Let him know that if he has a problem, talk to me. Few things he will say will shock me and there is every chance, though admittedly just a chance, that I might have a good suggestion. And while the law may recognize him as an adult, Lord, let him realize how much he has left to learn.  

Lord...again, I ask.  Help me to let him grow. And leave.  And learn.  Teach him that I may not necessarily have all the answers, but that he is not alone.

I have loved him every moment of his life. Even as he prepare to move out, I shock myself by Loving Him even More!  This love comes without strings, but life does not. If there are things he wants to achieve, knowledge he wants to gain, and friends he wants to make... it is now entirely up to him.  Guide him in these moments...that will forever change him.

Calm my fears. Strengthen and protect my child in the midst of the challenges and temptations which surround all students. Grant greater courage that I myself may have had in standing for your truth against compromises of faith.

Provide good friends and worthy confidants for my child during these college years. Help me to give support and confidence, to discern how I am needed now, and to pass on, in my love, a measure of the strength and courage you have given me in the gift of parenting.

Nudge him on Sunday mornings and make chapel more than a requirement. Help him to seek YOU.  
When someone looks at it now, or in a week, or in a year.  Let them see You.  

Lord, I also ask that you be with my Sydney.  Her brother is her buddy.  Her friend.  Also, let her know that she is not merely a "back up dancer" in the "Sam Show."  In my eyes, she is a "Co-star!"  With all the preparation of getting her brother ready...there have been no back-to-school shopping, or hair appointments, or much of anything for just "her." Help her to know that has little to do with her worth....and more to do with her momma's budget!  :)

Place favor on her, Lord.  As she walks the halls of BHS without the chance of bumping into her brother. As she begins her Junior year, Lord, allow her to continue to practice kindness with her friends, and to nurture her important relationships.  Let us turn the emptiness in the bedroom across the hallway, and the ride to school, and empty chair at the dinner a newfound joy in our family.

And Lord, I ask that you keep my babies safe.  You have entrusted me with their care.  I now hand them over to you.....for I know you are already there.

PS....Say hi to my momma.....and scoot over to give her a front row seat!  I know that lady is super proud of these two! :)

In your Son's precious name,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Happy Tears

I know I'm not the first to send her child off to college.  And I certainly won't be the last.  My Sam made me a mom. Throughout all of my life's twists and turns, ups and downs, victories, mistakes, even sickness and health..I've had one  Sam and  Sydney Clare.  The three of us have always been a team...made decisions as a team and have been best friends.  This child and his sister,  have endured so much in his 18 years of life....starting with his first assisted breath...much more than most his age.  Deaths, divorce, my illness. The thing is?  You would never know it.  He is the happiest kid.  He shines his light to all he meets.  Always smiling.  Always kind. He has literally been a source of joy every single day since he was born. Without fail. 

He looks to God. He is a self-proclaimed "momma's boy" and my favorite man on this earth. He is a gentleman. And real. And incredibly sweet.  And while  I feel like Conway is so far away.  I know he will be just fine.  I want him to enjoy every second of his new home, his new friends, his new teachers, his new team, and his new coaches.  I don't want him home often, because I want him to enjoy these best years of his life.  I am giddy watching this kid chase his dreams. Sam has, at times, been the underdog.  The overlooked.  Never been the one who got special treatment or ahead because of any reason other than hard work.  This kid is everything I wish I was.  And more. 

I'm not afraid of losing him. He has always made his relationship with me a priority.  I remember in Pre-school, when I arrived to pick him up each day....he would be playing.  When he noticed me there, he would run full speed to me, so happy to see his momma.  To this day...he texts or calls when his feet hit the floor. Or when he gets out of practice or off work. He piles up next to me to talk, laugh and just enjoy time with me. He drops into my office almost daily just to visit.   I know that our friendship won't change. We are best friends.  He said to me not long ago, " of course, I'll come back!   You're my momma!!"  You know what?  I believe him!  

I can't wait to hear about his days, still. For him to bring home his laundry, or call for gas money.  I can't wait to meet his new friends, hear about his classes, watch his new team, and proof his papers.  I can't wait to meet a new "someone special" because there is bound to be one. I'm excited to visit him in Conway as he finds a new church home. I realize that miles can't separate us, because we live in each other's hearts. 

I watched tonight in Walmart....a heartfelt embrace between Sam and one of his former class and teammates that is leaving for the Navy tomorrow morning.  I heard the words "love ya man" and "so proud for you" and "prayin for ya, bro" as they shared in under 5 minutes each other's future plans.  They weren't hindered by being "macho men", the color of skin, or who was around. Just sincere, genuine, and REAL. As I went through the motions of the self-checkout, fighting back hit me that my Sam and his friend were going to be just fine. We...our little team and our village...have prepared him for this wonderful blessed opportunity before him. Yes, I will miss moments.  I know our daily lives will change.  But he loves me.  This I know. 

It's time for me to turn him over to our God, who I trust will love, carry, guide and protect him.  And I trust that my Sam will continue to look to God while reaching for the stars. 

My tears are not because I'm sad. And yes, the tears are plenty.   It's because my cup runneth over.  This love of my life gets to do this.  And I get to continue watching.  What a gift. Gosh, what an incredible gift. 

Please join me in praying for my Sam.  For our family as we find a new normal.  For our friends who are going their separate paths. And their parents, like me, struggling to let go. Pray for this world to accept them, and let them continue making it a brighter place. Fly high, kiddos!

In Him,

1 Samuel 1:27 "For this child I prayed, and God granted what I asked of Him."