Archives for March 2016

Happy 16th Birthday, Hannah!

I sit her down on the babysitter’s floor. This is our last trip to Fran’s and my last day of work.  Tomorrow, I’ll no longer work at the university or hold the title “public relations specialist.”  Tomorrow, I will have one title only: Hannah’s mom.

She’s my little one.

I listen as Matt Lauer speculates about the crashing planes and falling towers. He says it may be an act of terror.  I keep one eye on the TV as I pour more Cheerios onto Hannah’s highchair tray.  I suddenly feel less equipped to be her mom – scared to raise her in a time of terror.  I lift her out of the chair and hold her tightly.

I pray bravery over her. And she’s brave. 

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She’s not quite two.  She brings me the magnetic schoolhouse filled with colorful letters.  We sit on the floor, legs crossed, as she hands me each letter one by one, naming them as she goes.  I begin teaching her numbers.  We read and create stories. We fill our days learning and playing.

She’s smart and works so hard.

Nervously she hops up in the leather, high-backed chair.  She takes in every machine and person in the room.  Wearing her Big Sister shirt, she meets her baby brother for the first time.  Her smile swallows her face. She can hardly contain herself as her Daddy steadies baby Owen on her lap. He’d spend the next year on that lap, being petted and talked to.

She’s the absolute BEST big sister.

She’s wearing purple pajamas and her cheeks are rosy. Her blonde curls fall across her shoulders. She squeals in delight, tip toeing down the hall, knowing the Easter Bunny arrived in the night. She’s just turned three.

She’s a delight – and always thankful.

We sing Happy Birthday quietly.  She lays on the couch, looking longingly at her butterfly cake.  I am not sure of the year, but she holds her ear tightly and smiles ever so slightly.  Birthdays and earaches seem to go hand in hand for her, but she still smiles. Always smiling.

She’s tough.

We visit her classroom and meet her teacher, Mrs. Lauderman.  She smiles, taking it all in. She’s found heaven.  The next day I walk her to the door, helping her put her backpack and lunchbox in her designated cubby. A kiss on the cheek and “I love you, Mom!” Is met with “Have a great first day, Hannah Banana!  I love you!”  Without a backward glance she hurries into her room.  I walk to the van in tears. I am equal parts proud of her bravery and confidence and sad that she’s so ready for this next season of life.

She’s a learner who keeps an open mind and welcomes new experiences. 

I can’t remember the word.  It’s a simple word. One she knows well.  She takes a deep breath and begins to spell…my heart drops.  She’s out.  It’s 3rd or 4th grade, and she’s beyond disappointed. We get in the car, and she tells me… Mom, I know how to spell it. I really do as tears fall from her eyes.  I turn and comfort her, and then we make the five year rule.  Will anyone remember who won this spelling bee in five years? No.  Then, we let it go. (That’s still our rule.)

She gives grace to herself and others.

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She dances across the stage to the drum’s beat while the strong voice belts out a song we call “Don’t Lose Your Indian.” Contemporary movements mixed with tumbling.  I wonder how a girl so young can confidently perform a solo in front of such a large audience.  I want her to do well, but her “place” today is irrelevant.  This is my girl.  A dancer, doing what she loves.

She’s dedicated, persevering through pain and long hours of practice.  

The scrunched nose and furrowed brow tell me she’s concentrating with every fiber of her being.  Her fingers move along the strings as the bow slides back and forth.  She loves fiddle tunes – just like her great-grandaddy.

She loves music.

Her eyes are wide and chin quivering as she promises to take care of Owen. Her Poppy is dying, and she knows she must stay behind while Mom and Dad go to be with him. I can barely look her in the eye. She’s young but must shoulder the weight of losing one of her most favorite people. She learns in this moment to hold back tears and take care of others.

She’s still a caretaker.

She presses her face to the window, watching as the plane lands in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She has almost 50 hats in her suitcase for those who have cancer. She plans to teach crochet to teen moms and build a house.  But, she soon forgets her “to-do” list as she embraces the country and her people.  She will return.

She desires to go into all the world, loving and serving others.

She hands me a gift for Mother’s Day. By now, we’ve weathered divorce together. The bracelet is beautiful, but my eyes focus on the hand-drawn heart with the words “we’ve got this.”  Her belief in me is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

She loves well.

She rounds the corner smiling, carrying her books.  I look up from my computer and see a high school sophomore.  Time stands still.  I look down and back up at her.  I can hardly believe that in just a few days she will be 16…

The little girl fishing at the campground, dancing on the stage, making faces at her Aunt Dawnna, holding onto her brother, sharing words of faith and confidence, grieving the loss of a Poppy and a marriage, learning at school, going into all the world, and loving others to a fault…God has grown that little girl into a young lady who is beautiful inside and out.

And, today, we celebrate the gift of Hannah.

Happy 16th hannah

Happy 16th Birthday, Gracie. You make me better, and I am so proud to be your momma. My prayer is that you always hold tight to faith and family, knowing how very much He – and we – love you.

Keep dreaming,

Mom

To the Single, Divorced, or Widowed {He is STILL at Work}

I wrote this on March 18, 2014.  And I love that my Facebook memories reminded me of it today. Some days I don’t feel like I have “healed” or am healing.  Some days I feel guilt for the part I played.  I don’t feel strong or adequate. But, reading this post – my own words from two years ago – evidences God’s faithfulness to and love for me.

It shows me how he’s worked and given me a “new” normal. How He’s changed my heart, my theology, my priorities, and more.  I remember the night written of here; I couldn’t stay alone. And now I travel alone, stay alone, walk forward alone because of Him – and a deep knowing that He is there.  The Sarah of now is a shadow of the Sarah written of near the end of this post, but only because of His redemptive work in my life – work that I had to walk into and through in faith; work He orchestrated, motivated, and empowered.  (And, friend, if you read this in 2014 and feel you’ve not “progressed” or “healed” or maybe even “regressed,” will you make time for a heart to heart with God or a trusted friend?)

Last night I spoke with a friend who is here – in this blog – in my 2014.  She’s not sure how to function or find a new normal. She’s not sure she can or ever will.  But, I know there’s a hope and a future – a comeback- for her.  That’s the God we serve – even if we can’t see or hear it in this moment.

So, this repost is for her – and for all of you who weren’t single, divorced, or widowed in 2014. For all of you who thought this would never apply to you. I pray you realize it applies to all of us as we walk one another home, for we all know a single, widowed, or divorced. May be we embrace her today…

to the single divorced or widowed

To the one who is single:  never married, divorced, or widowed…

I am sorry.

I am sorry for the first night you spent alone.  The first night after your husband took his final breath.  The first night without a roommate. The first night after you or your husband moved out.

 

I am truly sorry.

He took his final breath.  You arrived at home {perhaps} to a house full of people, but eventually, it was bedtime. You entered a dark room – no one in the bed next to you.  You could and can hear the silence. You run fans, read books, watch TV – sleep never comes, and if it does, it’s fitful.  You can smell him.  Sometimes you awaken and think…is he still here?  For all the times you still miss him – even if you’ve “moved” on…

I am sorry.

You did what the world told you to do.  High school diploma, college degree, gainful employment.  Finally, you can rent or buy your own place!  You’ve arrived!  Your first home or apartment is so cute.  Then, night falls, friends go home, and silence reigns.  What you wouldn’t give for the return of even the most nerve-wracking roommate.

Weeks pass.  Years pass.

The next logical step {culturally} is marriage, but you’ve found no one – no one’s found you.  “Not good enough, not pretty enough, just not enough” floats in and out of your head daily.  You always thought you’d be a wife – a mom – or something – but you weren’t “chosen.”

Lonely. People surround you, but often you sit at home and wonder…is this all there is?

I am sorry culture communicates that the natural progression for you should have been marriage and children, leaving you feeling as if anything less or different is “wrong” or “failure.” Shame on us.

And I am sorry. 

After years on the mission field, you’re burnt out…spent and hurting.  You’ve experienced more loss at age 36 than most of us have experienced in a lifetime.  You’ve sacrificed much on behalf the Kingdom.  You’ve loved and given and sacrificed more than most can fathom.  Deciding to move “home” – back to the States – is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.  And here you are.  Back in a place where you no longer feel at “home” missing those who have been a daily part of life for years.

I am sorry for every night you have felt alone, staring at the ceiling, missing the little people who captured your heart.  I am sorry for each bump in the night that carries you back to gunshots and lost babies.

And to the one {like me} who has spent years married.  Always having a companion – for better and for worse – {mostly} feeling protected.  As you lie down night after night alone – sometimes with kiddos giggling or crying in the next room – and sometimes completely alone – I am sorry.  You never planned to be a single or a single mom.

Your feelings of betrayal and loss are indescribable.  Even though you’ve been hurt, you still miss what once was.  And if you’ve done the hurting?  The cheating and the walking out?  Life still hurts because you had no idea how far sin could and would take you.

Sinner or sinned against – loneliness resulted. And I am sorry for the nights you spend alone – unable to sleep, wondering how life ended up this way.  How this could have become your story.  How the wedding planning and aisle walking became gavel-pounding finality.

Single girl, widow, returning missionary, divorced one…I never understood your pain until today.

And for each time you felt abandoned, alone, helpless, and lost…I am sorry.

I am sorry for the times I hurried past you in the grocery store or church pew and didn’t even smile – much less say hello. For the times I didn’t understand you and didn’t seek to.  For the times I listened with my ears but not with my heart.  For the times I was so wrapped up in me, failing to extend love and comfort and words to you.  For the times I thought of you and felt prompted to check in and didn’t…

I am sorry.

I wept for you this morning as I wept for myself. I prayed for Him to comfort you as only He can.

Because we all know Jesus can and will fill this loneliness.  That only He is {ultimately} enough.  But, I understand that you might not want to hear that right now. {I don’t either.} For now, you need time to be mad – to feel alone – to kick and to scream.  And sob.  To feel the weight of your past.

And, that’s ok…really, it is.

But, sweet sister, I pray that someday soon both of us can look to the future.  I pray someday we wake up and realize…our lives are not over.  Perhaps they’re just beginning.

He is sovereign.  He knows us and loves us.  (1 John 3:1)

We are NEVER alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

He sees YOU and ME.  {I know this in my head; still praying for it to resume in my heart.}

And just so you know… I didn’t make it last night; I had a friend stay.  As the sun set, bedtime neared, kiddos slept, and the house creaked, I caved.   I stared at blank ceilings asking the same questions over and over.  I’ve never lived alone and couldn’t stomach the thought of that new season beginning last night.

And if you’re married – happily or otherwise, I know you still experience loneliness.  I know what hard work marriage is {and NO ONE is cheering you on louder than me}.  I know some days you feel invisible even in the midst of your husband and/or children.  I know you, too, wonder…is this it?  Why do I feel alone?  This isn’t what I thought it would be.  Why are some days so hard?

Or, maybe you don’t – you live in wedded bliss.

Whatever way – happily married…struggling married…single…widowed…divorced…

You are NEVER alone.  And, no, this isn’t it.  We are not home yet.  I pray you continue loving and persevering and praying and surrendering.

May we all walk alongside one another, loving and extending grace regardless of labels.

God has a plan. I can’t see it  – maybe you can’t either, but I will always believe in and cling to a God who is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

When You Don’t Make the Team {And Start Placing Blame}

His phone vibrates as he places groceries on the belt.  Oh my. It’s from Sam. I don’t know if I should look.

Look! I encourage him.  

I’m nervous.  

Oh, I am sure it’s fine.  

He face drops as he scans the list messaged by his friend. Number by number he searches for 37 – his tryout number – and it’s not there.  

When You Don't Make the

He continues placing items on the belt, one by one, focusing on the yogurt and taco seasoning.  I tell him I’m sorry as I load bags. I can’t look at him.  My heart is so sad. Neither of my kids knows what it’s like to NOT make the team. We’ve always been on the list. I am not sure how to parent this.

I spring into action, texting friends, trying to find options.  Maybe there’s another team.  Maybe it’s a mistake.  I am a fixer, and I so badly want to fix this for him.  But, after a flurry of messages, the fact remains:  No baseball this year.  

I complain to my mom and friend about the way of athletics in this day and age. Exclusivity.  If you don’t play year round or have the money for training or take your kids to the fields everyday to practice, then you don’t stand a chance.  Plus, my kiddos go to one of the biggest schools in the state; he’d have made it at a smaller school. Blah. blah. I know it’s partially true, but I am really just a momma who is hurting for her son.  

We drive home in (mostly) silence.  I am fighting tears. I have no idea why this makes me so so sad. I tell myself, Lord have mercy, Sarah. It’s ONE sport for one year.  Owen lives a life that kids in other countries would LOVE to live.  This frees him to focus on tennis and guitar.  What in the world is wrong with you?  

I admit to myself and God that I feel it’s my fault.  Owen didn’t make the team because he was so well-adjusted in another town, but I moved after the divorce. He doesn’t have the advantage of living with his dad and going to the park to hit balls. (Which is not his dad’s fault necessarily; it’s the fault/consequence of decision, space, and time.) Why don’t I keep up with all things baseball? Why didn’t I have him in the right leagues at the right time? Why am I not friends with all these parents who get together and help their kids on weekends?  


Dang it. None of this is Owen’s fault.  It’s my fault.  My decisions, my parenting. My lack of interest in baseball.  I should have advocated, taught, sought, tried, and whatever-ed.

And some of this is true.  Owen will forever be affected by the decisions – good and bad – his parents made and make. It’s unavoidable.  

But, it’s not all true. And I can’t fix all things. In fact, I shouldn’t fix all things.

God reminded me that He works all things together for the good of those that love Him. That those words and this verse aren’t just platitudes we get in a text when times are hard, but a promise from the Creator of the Universe.  That I have to trust Him with Owen, with Owen’s future. He is the great Redeemer. Owen isn’t destined to a horrible life because he didn’t make the team.  Or because his parents are divorced. The Redeemer has a plan and purpose for Owen’s life that goes way beyond the decision of a middle school baseball coach and an insecure momma.

God doesn’t need me to fix it. He needs me to love Owen through it.  So many great stories in the Bible are about going THROUGH, not around or over or under. Through the Red Sea. Through the desert.  Through the cross.  Through the sacrifice. Through the storm.  Through the flood.  Through the whale’s belly.  Through the years of slavery.

And in the midst of all the “throughs,” HE is there.  Sovereign and loving.  

This morning I remind both kiddos that while they are not chosen for some things, we serve a God who is greater than baseball or dance.  We have to trust that God knows best even when we don’t understand what He’s up to.  


This life we get to live is a privilege to be stewarded well for His glory, not our own.  So many around the world do not live as we live – and while that doesn’t make it hurt any less when we aren’t chosen, it does keep our lives in perspective.  We do not live in the here and now only: we live and love for a purpose greater than ourselves.

I don’t know what you weren’t chosen for, friend.  I don’t know how you’ve felt cut down or cut out.  It hurts, huh?  Whether you’re 13 or 40, you want to be on the team.  But, I pray you know that you are chosen by the Creator. You were formed and purposed by Him, fearfully and wonderfully made. And maybe it doesn’t feel like it right now, but I promise you: He has a plan and purpose.  His timing is always perfect.  We trust in Him, knowing that he sees the entire tapestry while we only see our thread.

A side note:  God is faithful.  I get a text from a friend this morning: Your Owen is my mind this morning.  Praying for boys is a special privilege.  I don’t hear from her everyday – not even most days.  But, God knew my little guy needed some prayers. He knew my friend, His servant, listens and follows well, so she’d pray the minute He laid Owen on her heart.  Thank you, Lord, for caring about the smallest details.  When this world has much bigger problems than middle school baseball, we thank you for caring about the small.