Author: Nicole Hastings

The emotional pressures of parenting

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We’ve all been in that pre-kid era where we’re sure we know what kind of parent we’ll be. Admit it, you’ve taken a note or two in your past when seeing a parent with his or her kid in the store and raised an eyebrow or two. I know I have. The parent I was going to be looked awesome on paper, but I never took into account the emotional impact of having children until I was hit with the reality of my own life playing out.

My late husband and I weren’t “trying” and we weren’t “not trying,” but when we were told at our six-month gender-reveal ultrasound that we were having not one, but two baby boys, that “perfect parent” image in my head slowly dissipated. Truth is I hadn’t spent much time around children up to that point, and now we were going to have two of them right off the bat. Driving home from the hospital with two newborns, I kept thinking, “I’ve never been around babies and now they just send us home with two? We’re not equipped! We’re not prepared!” But deep down, I knew my heart would never be the same. I was introduced to a whole new set of emotions and discovered emotions I never even knew were there. Bringing home those babies (now first graders!) created a major a paradigm shift in me—albeit it wasn’t all roses and sunshine. Not only did I realize (much later) that I was struggling with post-partum depression after my twins were born, I was trying to handle the terminal diagnosis of my young husband. These emotions were real, raw and honest—sometimes more honest than I would have liked them to be.  These are the emotions of parenting that we don’t usually talk about amidst the pure joy, love, elation and “happily-ever-after” when baby(ies) comes home:

  • Self-doubt: There are so many times I lay awake wondering if I’m making the right choice for my three kids—especially since my older two just went to kindergarten. The mom-on-paper me was going to homeschool and do crafts every day. The real-life-mom me is faced with having to come up with a sole income for my three children and myself. We want the best for our kids, but in this society we are inundated with so many decisions and choices and information when it comes to “the perfect parenting way,” it’s sometimes difficult to sift out what we don’t need in order to find the nuggets of truth—truth that settles our hearts and souls when it comes to our parenting. They are there, the nuggets, and when self-doubt comes swirling around, remember, write them down if you have to, the truths you’ve settled on. They’re different for everyone.
  • Mental exhaustion: Pre-kids it was easy to make a space for dreaming about how we were going to parent and the kind of kids we were going to have. Now that they’re here, 99 percent of our brain space is devoted to keeping these people that we are in charge of alive, safe, nurtured and growing. Not only do we have to multi-task for our survival and theirs, to make it through the day, but once kids are in school, juggling our schedules and their activity schedules is downright exhausting—even if all you do is sit in a car and drive around all day or fill out a monthly…weekly…daily…sometimes hourly calendar. I’ve found that giving up an activity to make time for self-care (and sleep!) has been the best way to combat this.
  • Pressure to be like our parents—or not be like them: Having children of our own undoubtedly makes us look at our parents and our childhood in a whole new light. Either we are even more grateful for the sacrifices our parents made for us, or we recoil at how we were raised and vow to never raise our children the way we were brought up, and sometimes a mixture of both. All kinds of emotions relative to our parents or ourselves, can rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times—resentment, comparison, anger. Bottom line is that we are the parents we choose to be. We cannot change the way our parents were, but we can take our experiences of our childhood, learn from them and apply them to the way we parent.
  • Not feeling joy 100 percent of the time: So many times after my twins were born I heard, “Oh twins! How much fun!” And so many times after my third child was born and my husband died, I heard about how blessed I was that “at least” I had three kids. But if I was honest, being with two, and then three children under three years old at the time and dealing with the whirlwind of emotions that come with post-partum depression and grief of the loss of my husband was anything but fun. Full-blown tantrums, crying throughout the night (sometimes x 3) and the incredible pressure of finding things to do to keep everybody’s minds and bodies busy when all I wanted to do was crawl in bed and sleep didn’t feel like much of a blessing at all. I didn’t feel the joy everyone talked about that comes with having kids and it wasn’t a barrel of fun. These emotions were completely counterintuitive to the fierce and intense love that I had for all of my children the moment I saw them. How could I not want to be around the people that bring me so much love and that I love in return. Bottom line is these feelings have NOTHING to do with your feelings about your children, but everything to do with your circumstance or mental state. Seeking professional help, accountability and someone to talk to honestly and openly can help tremendously.
  • Guilt: This is the top of the list of negative emotions I believe trouble parents. We have self-imposed or externally imposed guilt about so many things when it comes to parenting. Guilt about having the TV on too much, guilt about what and how you’re feeding them, guilt about which school they attend and which toys or sports activities you cannot afford to buy. Guilt about working and not being home enough, guilt about not working and not contributing to the home financially…the list goes on and on. Guilt is when you’ve done something wrong and you know it. Shame, on the other hand, is disguised by guilt, and is when you yourself or your feelings are wrong. Do I feel guilty about my parenting because I really could improve on some things or do I feel shame about the way I parent because I’m just not a good parent? That negative self-talk and putting shame on yourself about doing things that are the best you can do at the time is so detrimental. Change the things that you know need to be changed and that you have control to change. For example, if you yell and are impatient with your children that’s a behavior and response that can be changed and improved on. But don’t feel unnecessary shame and guilt if you had to feed your baby a bottle instead of breastfeed or put your child into public school instead of private because of circumstances beyond your control.

In our optimistic, positive, happy-shiny society, it’s hard to admit negative emotions as a parent and it’s doubly hard to address them and deal with them. I’ll never forget the line from the movie “Room,” when the mother apologizes to her son for not being a good mom and her son replies, “but you’re my mom.” We can’t choose the circumstances we find ourselves in and sometimes we can’t choose the feelings that come up with those circumstances, but we can acknowledge them, fight against them if necessary, and push through to the truth that we are to live out as parents: be the best parents we can be with what we’re given and what we know. We need to always be willing to learn more and recognize that, even though sometimes the circumstance cannot be changed, being willing to change our emotions and perspectives accordingly are the best things we can do for our children.

*Previously published in “Multiplicity Magazine”, by Nicole Hastings

Copyright 2017

So you wanna date a single mom? Consider this first.

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After a lot of ‘hemming’ and ‘hawing’ (and three years of deleting profiles after a day or so) I finally embarked on the journey into the world of online dating where every man is a world-traveler, outdoorsman and cute dog owner, and (I’m assuming) every woman is the down-to-earth, no drama kind of girl.

As a widowed parent (OK, fine, go ahead and say ‘single mom’ if it’s easier), but also an old fashioned, hopeless-romantic, head stuck in the clouds creative, the idea of online dating was not the first on my list of ways I’d meet him—the guy who’d come after my late husband, but after prodding from friends and listening to one too many stories of “well so-and-so met so-and-so online and they are so happy!” I finally gave in. I was ready to get out there, feeling myself come back to life after three years of living my own sad, widow-version of “The Walking Dead,” when I finally noticed myself noticing other men notice me.

So, I did it.

I made profiles on several different sites, I took that selfie that I swore I’d never do, I ripped the Band-aid off and then all there was left to do was wait and see. I got a lot of interest and requests to go out when that one tiny detail of me being a full-time-no-breaks-no-weekends-away or shared custody-no circle of friends or grandparents begging to watch my three children under 7 every week for free-single mom swept in. How in the world was I supposed to actually go and meet these people? Not to mention I noticed immediately how these guys had no idea how to even attempt to date a single mom. (I get it, NOT ALL GUYS are clueless and if you met yours online, awesome! But just humor me for a bit, will you?) I figured maybe I’d put out a kind of PSA if you will, for those of you who are actually considering dating a single mom:

1.) Realize the cost of childcare: It may just be a $5 coffee or drink out of your pocket, but for the single mom you’re asking out it’s SO much more. Not only is she having to book a sitter (going rate is $15 an hour), but she needs a week’s or more notice to book said sitter. Or if she’s getting help from a friend to watch the kids, she’s walking on egg-shells not to take advantage of this generous friend and putting out multiple feelers for other people who may be option B, C and D in case nice friend “forgets she made other plans.” This date you’ve asked her out on may be costing her not only actual currency, but her time, energy and efforts to find proper care for her kids. Acknowledge this on all fronts and remember it going forward to these other tips.

2.) Time is precious, don’t waste hers: I was recently asked out to a coffee shop date. Turns out the night we were supposed to meet Colorado decided to have a spring snowstorm and it took me an hour to get to this coffee shop. I was so close to just pulling off at the several exits I saw on my way down, but I had to give myself a pep-talk, “Don’t bail, that’s so rude. Just suck it up and get it over with.” I get it, maybe that’s not the right frame of mind to have when going into a date, “just get it over with,” but just being honest here.

I parked and found my way to the coffee shop all the while thinking “this better be darn good coffee or the most amazing man ever for all this effort.” I met my date and he was polite and bought my coffee and conversation ensued, if you want to call it conversation at all, he really just talked about himself the whole time. During his monologue, he let it be known that he only lived a block from the coffee shop we were chatting in. Red flag #1 of many in that date came up and I thought to myself, hold up, I drove an hour through a snowstorm to have coffee with this guy and he only walked a block to get here? Sorry, call me a princess or entitled or whatever, but I prefer to think of myself as a practical, considerate person who would suggest to meet halfway, or, the fact he knew I had to get a sitter, drive down near me.

Red flag #2 was when the good old “you wanna get out of here” phrase was followed up by “do you want to walk to my house to see how big my porch is” (truth, can’t make this up folks). Seriously dude? I just told you I’m paying for a sitter here and you’re asking me over to “see your porch.” Maybe he had totally well-meaning intentions and did indeed have an awesome porch, but even if he told me that there was a unicorn residing on his amazing porch, this momma wouldn’t have budged. When I explained that I have three kids (again) and I just don’t go to strangers’ homes (even though he bought me a coffee, he was still technically a stranger, remember that ladies!) and I only had a sitter until 9 p.m. He looked at me like I was talking in another language. He just didn’t get it. “Well, do you just want to walk around then?” he asked. “Yeah, sure, a walk in wet, sloppy snow would be great… to my car,” I replied.

3.) Yes, her kids are her priority (and seriously question dating her if they’re not): I’ve witnessed or heard of a lot of different dating scenarios when it comes to single moms. I’ve seen those who will leave their kids with just about anyone to go out with the first guy who gives them attention. I’ve heard stories from friends in the childcare business of the moms who won’t pick their kids up until 3 a.m. if they pick them up at all that night. The ones who will bring home a first date with kids in the house (I’m not judging…OK I kinda am, sorry). And then there’s the gun-shy moms (I’d fall into this category probably) who cancel sitters at the first sign of a sniffle or cry to those who never even consider ever going out on a date again and shut themselves in their rooms with their cats (I love cats!).

But in all seriousness, like it or not, her kids (should!) come first. I totally get that she should still be allowed to be a woman and go out and have fun, but at the end of the day she is a mom and has little people depending on her. I was on a lunch date with someone and I brought up my kids and he said something like, “Well, they’re just kids, after all, how hard can it be?” After that statement, the whole date was just sort of a wash. Kids are hard, kids are really hard when you’re a single parent, but they’re also my everything. They’re also a part of the package. You don’t have interest in her kids? Or kids in general? Don’t even bother asking her out. Seriously.

4.) Be straightforward about your intentions: Women generally don’t have time for games, but pull some round-about shenanigans with a single mom, well that’s just a whole other low. Look, she’s got to not only protect herself, but her children. People are people and they do what they’re going to do, but really, don’t look to single moms for irresponsible hook-ups or think you could maybe sweep her away and rescue her from her kids: newsflash she doesn’t need to be rescued from her kids, from the mess, but someone who is man enough to jump into the “mess” with her. If you can’t stand up to the fact that she’s surveying your every move for any signs of “dad-like” characteristics, or you wouldn’t even consider going to help her if she texts you last minute to cancel a date because her kids are all taking turns throwing up on her, then don’t ask her out. Plain and simple.

5.) Honor the “baggage:” Look, as humans, we’ve all got baggage, but single parents seem to have a couple extra bags. Understand there was someone before, either an ex- and parent of her child, or in a widow’s case, a husband and father will never be forgotten and who will always be loved, always. Not only are you entering into a relationship with the woman, but also the one who came before. If she’s honest with where she’s at, she’ll treat you separately with no comparison, but don’t expect her to erase those who have come before you. It’s a tall order, I get it, but if you can do that or at least try to find out, go for it and kudos to you.

I’m certainly no expert in the field of dating, to be honest, my attempt at dating is really just clumsily feeling my way through the awkwardness, and I really, really dislike the whole process. Dating can be so stressful and overwhelming, but if you look at it with the right perspective, it’s also a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and others. I’ve learned what to look for and what I’m OK with and what I’m definitely NOT OK with. And through the strange encounters I’ve had, I’ve learned the most valuable lesson. I’d rather be alone, than settle for a man who doesn’t honor my situation and all that comes with it just because I’m lonely.

*Previously posted on www.herviewfromhome.com, by Nicole Hastings

Copyright 2017

On National Widow’s Day I’m his widow, but I’m not a widow

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Apparently, it’s National Widow’s Day. May 3. There’s a day for everything now, to sandwich widows between National Eat a Doughnut Day and Dress Your Dog up as a Cartoon Character Day (that has to be a day somewhere, right?) makes it rather trite, don’t you think? Who even knows it’s National Widow’s Day unless a meme told you anyway—unless you’re a widow (or widower, is there a widower day too or is it all lumped into one day I wonder?), and any widow knows she doesn’t need a day to remember she’s a widow. She remembers every. Single. Day.  I don’t need one day for anyone else to remember I’m a widow too, I’d actually like to be remembered, rather, as more than just a widow.

It’s been three years since I was dragged into this widow-gig and it’s a title I never wanted, but a one I’ll never forget, because I’ll always be his widow, but my sole identity can’t be, and shouldn’t, be a widow.

Right after my husband passed, I would look in the mirror and think, “Is this my life? I’m a 28-year-old widow.” And then the next year it would be the same, but I was a 29-year-old widow. And the next I was a 30-year-old widow. But this year I’m a 31-year-old who also happens to be a widow. I don’t want to wear “widow” on my nametag as if it’s my only story. I don’t want it to deter you when it comes up at a party—and it always­ does no matter how hard I try to avoid the subject. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want to be the sad story you tell your friends after we meet. I get it. I’ve been avoided by friends who park 10 spaces away from me when we both pull into the Starbucks parking lot at the same time coincidentally just so she doesn’t have to talk to me. I’ve spent many weekends alone because friends said I “just seemed too depressed” to be asked to go out with them and so I’d just see everyone’s photos of fun barbecues, camping trips and girls’ nights on Facebook the next day because no one wanted to be around the sad widowed girl. I get it. I really, really do, because on those nights, I didn’t want to be around that sad widowed girl either, but I was stuck with her. I really get that when people meet a young widow, it’s shocking, but it’s also a painful reminder that really sad things happen. That young people die and their young spouses are left with the pieces—and oftentimes very young children. It’s not the topic you want to talk about at your coffee date with the girls. It’s not the topic you want to discuss while swinging our little ones on the swings at a playdate. It’s just not the reminder you want when you just got engaged, or the amazing news of your pregnancy. Quite frankly, most times, we don’t want to be reminded that death is even an option. I get it. And so, we just get our own one day to remember all of that (or any of the loss days-parent, sibling, child, etc.), honestly, we don’t need a day to remember to be friends to those who are hurting. But that’s not the point of all this…well it is, but not the only point.

My point is that I don’t want friends just on National Widow’s Day because they remember, “Oh I know a widow!” I want to be remembered as just me: a friend, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a creative.  I want to talk about more than just widowhood. I want to help you through your troubles. I want to laugh with you when you share something funny that happened in your life. I want our kids to play together not because you feel sorry for me or them, but because you just want to be around us. I want you to see that I can tell jokes and laugh—I’m a real sarcastic smart ass believe it or not—and I can dance, if someone would ask me to. Ask my kids about the funny voices I can do, or the fact that I make the best scrambled eggs (according to them), but for some reason I always burn the toast. I found out I love to garden and I don’t mind if dirt gets under my fingernails as long as the smell of the earth lingers just a little longer. I want you to know, you can say his name and I will smile and talk about him all day if you let me.

I am his widow, but I am more than that. When you think of me or any of your other widowed friends, please don’t think of death. Please think of life. Think of hope. Think of saying all the things to whomever you need to say them to, now, not tomorrow. Think of walking out your front door and taking a deep breath of fresh air just because you can! Think of changing what you can change, and what you can’t change, well, you can always look at it differently.

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Re-purposing Condolence cards

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I recently finished The Minimalists’ 30-day challenge to get rid of things every day for 30 days. Since the passing of my late husband, I’ve been slowly doing this already, ( READ on my other site: His Stuff. My Treasure.) but there was a lot I just sort of shoved into a corner hoping maybe it’d just fade away…but we all know that’s not the way it works. There were things I wanted to keep, but really didn’t want to just keep in a box to collect dust and I’m not thrilled with the idea of an alter or shrine that displays all of my husband’s things, that’s when I got the idea to start incorporating memories of my former life into my daily life in the form of art; in other words, re-purposing my grief. Making the memories beautiful and functional at the same time. So when I was going through things to get rid of for the challenge, I knew I just had to do something with the huge, 6-inch thick stack of condolence cards I received (warning: So sorry the resolution is terrible, but it’s good enough for you to get the gist of what’s going on. I know, I know I need a better camera for blog photos…I’ll get there…eventually, and I’ll re-take these. Sorry to your eyes! I’m a writer not a photographer, eek).

But what to do with all these? I honestly didn’t really need to keep them, but they reminded me of so much goodness and kindness I just couldn’t part with them. Then I thought of an art project I could make out of them and here’s what I came up with and step-by-step instructions for how to turn your memorable cards into art you can enjoy (I plan on doing this with my wedding cards, but this can work with really anything from baby showers, to birthday, to graduation cards, etc.)

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What you will need:

  • assorted greeting cards
  • blank mat board, with the opening to fit a standard greeting card size (you could go bigger or smaller though, I’ll add to this post how to do a bigger mat when I finish the wedding cards one. If your mat is smaller, just follow the steps and cut the card strips down a little, pretty self-explanatory)
  • hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • personal paper-trimmer with ruler

 


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STEP 1:

Cut your greeting cards into strips. Since I had quite a few I needed, I cut them into about 1/2 inch strips, but depending on how many you want to use you could go bigger, I just wouldn’t go smaller than 1/4 inch or they’ll be too flimsy to weave.

*Tip #1: If you want to keep the messages in the cards before you cut them up you can save the part of the card with the messages, or take a photo or scan them to keep on file. I personally didn’t feel the need to keep the messages, as the final product is enough of a reminder for me.

*Tip #2: I color coordinated the greeting cards so there would be some unity in the final product. Warm colors, cool colors, and dark colors etc.

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STEP 2:

Take your hot glue gun and glue each strip to the back of the mat. The colored side you want showing face-down as you will be weaving through the back of the mat. Glue all the strips down on the top leaving the bottom of the strip free. Glue all the way across the mat until it’s covered. The closer together you glue the strips, the tighter the weaving will be, the further a part the more space you will see in between if you like that look, do it! See photo for a better explanation:

Back of the Mat

Back of the Mat

 

Front of the mat

Front of the mat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It should look like this from the front when you’re done with this step.

 

STEP 3:

Take your other strips and start weaving front to back through the glued strips on the mat. See photo for better explanation:

What the weaving will look like from the back

What the weaving will look like from the back

What the weaving will look like from the front

What the weaving will look like from the front

Keep weaving until you’ve reached the bottom of the mat. The end gets a little tricky, but be patient and it’ll work out. *Tip: push up the previous strips you’ve already weaved to make a tighter weaved look and to make more room for your awaiting strips.

When you’re finished, take your hot glue and glue all the remaining strips down on the sides and on the bottom of the mat.

This is what it should look like after gluing all the free strips down. (From the front. It's OK if the back is messy with glue, no one will see that.

This is what it should look like after gluing all the free strips down. (From the front. It’s OK if the back is messy with glue, no one will see that.

 

STEP 4:

Add your own touches to the piece. Head to your local craft store and get creative. Find a decal that represents something you’d like to memorialize about your loved one (if they are condolence cards) or to tribute the occasion you got the cards. Since my handwriting is absolutely atrocious, I got some stamps with sayings I thought I might want to use and also went to the paper aisle to get somethings that might look nice. See photo versions for a better explanation:

IDEA #1

IDEA #1

I found these date tags super cheap in the paper aisle/scrapbook aisle at Hobby Lobby. My husband died in November, so I thought I might want this as a decal. I decided against it eventually because I didn’t want to remember that date–BUT you might, or you can use the date of a special occasion like a birth or wedding or graduation.

IDEA #2

IDEA #2

Not too sure about this overexposure, but you get the gist (I warned you I’m not a photographer!). Going with the date theme, I used the months that my family received these cards. The months that were the hardest and we needed the most support and encouragement. It’s nice to remember the love we received even though remembering those months is really really hard. Again, I eventually decided against this, but just as an option to give you ideas.

IDEA #3

IDEA #3

This is what I settled on. I chose a stamp with a Bible verse already on it and a blank gift tag in the paper aisle of Hobby Lobby. If you are good with fonts and lettering, go for it! I just used my glue gun and glued it down once I decided on it.

FINAL STEP: Choose a pretty frame and display it!

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Now this sits on a book shelf in my living room and whenever I see it I’m reminded of all the generous souls who lifted up my family during such a tragic time. And the cards aren’t just sitting in a box collecting somewhere. This is what I call “re-purposing grief.” Sure the memories will always be painful, but the point of it is to take items and memories and make them functional and incorporated into your life now to not remember the pain but the love. And love ALWAYS wins!

 

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You’ve marched for your daughters, but what about our sons?

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Before you think to yourself, *Sigh* ‘Here we go, just another political rant,’ I assure you, this is not political, this is personal. And even if we’re all sick of political posts  and think, “That Women’s March was so four days ago. Let’s just move on.” Well, it’s not so simple, because parents, especially parents of boys, are faced with the responsibility of addressing the issues passionately protested on Saturday every…single…day.

As I watched millions of women and men march for women’s rights (as well has other humanitarian rights, I know, but it was titled “Women’s March”) I thought, “Look at the passion for my daughter’s future, my daughter’s rights.” I’m excited for her, for all that she will become, for the rights she will have—far more than my mother and grandmother ever had the privilege to experience, but I also have two sons, and don’t think for a moment that our sons have nothing to do with women’s rights and progression—they have everything to do with it.

I grew up without the influence of a positive father-figure. I grew up with a single mom. I saw her struggle without the financial and emotional support of her daughters’ fathers. I also saw her persevere and hold a well-paying job without a college degree. Now I am a widowed, single mom with the huge responsibility to raise up my daughter AND my two sons. I feel equal pressure to raise both genders well, I don’t ever think, “My sons will be OK because they will experience privileges my daughter won’t.” I feel more of an urgency than ever to teach my sons morals and values and when those are practiced later in their lives, those morals and values will directly affect our daughters.

I have vowed to teach them:

1.) ‘No’ means ‘no’, ‘Stop’ means ‘stop’: Instead of viewing sex as a conquest, or that it’s OK to push your way to power by being a bully, I have already been planting the seeds now for them to know that in any situation when someone says ‘No’ or ‘Stop,’ it’s not to be taken lightly. I also teach them (and my daughter of course) when they say ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ it’s to be heard and taken seriously. If they don’t want a hug or a kiss I don’t force it, if they don’t want to be tickled and say “stop” I stop and I stand up for them and tell the adult that they said “stop.” This helps get the message that their feelings and others’ feelings are not to be ignored and that barreling through others’ boundaries in persistence of their own interest is not OK.

2.) Equal responsibility if they choose to engage in sexual intimacy: Granted, my boys are only 5 years-old, and I will to teach them abstinence by being honest about my own disastrous experience with pre-marital sex, but even if they choose to ignore my warnings, I will openly and honestly talk to them about their responsibility in a sexual relationship; safety, intention and acknowledging the risks. That it’s not the woman’s responsibility to take care of all that, it’s both of theirs, and that continually taking a risk of unprotected sex doesn’t, I will teach them to stand by their choices and not assume that it’s not their business.

3.) Importance of strong fathers: I didn’t choose to raise my children without their father, he died, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t talk to them about what a father is and should be. We can’t deny the importance of fathers in our daughters AND our sons lives. And I fully acknowledge we live in a society where single parenting is at an all-time high and the option for an involved father all the time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to our sons about what a father is and what is expected of them as future fathers.

*Recommended reading:

4.) Women are not objects for their own desire: Like I said, my sons are 5, so it’s not like we talk in depth about this, but I have already been slowly teaching them this passively and through play. I ask them to help their sister and stand up for her, not because she can’t do that on her own, but because we’re a family and we’re a team. Men and women can be a team, where one is not more important than the other, but that we can help each other because it’s the right thing to do, because we’re all in this together. My sons help her get her shoes on, brush and style her hair and pick out outfits with her and play dolls with her. When they grow older I will fiercely monitor Internet usage and continually talk to them about acknowledging different attributes in women as opposed to what they see and hear in magazines, on television, lyrics in songs and the Internet. I intentionally compliment my daughter’s talents and intelligence in front of her brothers rather than always talk about how pretty and cute she is. My prayer for them is to see women as their teammates rather than an object they must acquire.

5.) My sons have a role in this world just like my daughter: I don’t believe there is anything wrong with seeking equality and rights for women, but boys must know that they are still valuable and have a place in this world too. The balance becomes off-kilter when boys don’t know if they even are needed or matter anymore as we are constantly told since children that girls can do anything boys can do, but maybe, rather, it should be boys and girls can help each other achieve and accomplish their goals and dreams in life. It’s not that we need each other because one gender is incompetent and can’t do it, but is it OK to work together because more can be accomplished together?

*Recommended Reading:

Again, this is not about choosing sides. This is not conservative or liberal. The future of all our children is valuable and worth fighting for and it begins with us, moms and dads, teaching our sons and daughters what it means to be a responsible, valuable, respectful and compassionate human being. My sons aren’t going to be perfect, they’ll make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try like hell to teach them what I feel I need to teach them for our daughters’ sakes.

*Recommended Reading:

*Any affiliate links that Just A Mom promotes is a personal recommendation that Just A Mom stands behind. Any profit from affiliate links goes towards Just A Mom’s efforts to support and encourage single and widowed mothers.*

*This post was not sponsored by Dr. Meg Meeker or any of the publishing companies that publish her books. Books listed on this post are personal recommendations only.*

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The other end of giving: How going to a food bank changed this widowed mom’s perspective

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I’ve got a bachelor’s degree. I’m smart and innovative. I’m frugal and budget for everything. And yet, there I was, waiting in line at the food bank to get food for myself and my three children. There was a lump in my throat that just wouldn’t go away from the time I finally gave in and realized I needed to go to the weekly food bank at a local church. Food banks were for poor people. I wasn’t a poor person…at least I didn’t want to admit it. I mean my children and I weren’t living in a shelter, we weren’t on the streets, and at least (the only thing to our name) we had a minivan, so we weren’t poor, right?

My 34-year-old husband died, leaving me with a newborn and toddler twins. He could never qualify for life insurance because of his cancer diagnosis in his early 20s, and he was sole proprietor of his very small window-cleaning business, which yielded very little in social security benefits for my children after his death. We moved in with my parents who are both still working full-time and could really only give us a place to stay. They weren’t financially able to afford supporting all of our basic day-to-day needs beyond a roof over our heads. Everything I had was given to us from the generosity of others—churches, strangers, fundraisers. All that was given with love was accepted with humility and brought us through the first two years after my husband’s death. But the heaviness of life events just kept happening: unplanned plane tickets for my twins and their Godparents who had to care for them while my baby was in PICU for almost two months; multiple illnesses and hospital stays for myself; and the extreme cost of childcare to just survive day to day ate up quickly what was given so generously. To be honest, I underestimated the impact of grief. I assumed all I had to do was “get through the first year” and after that, everything would be better. I would just get a job—I was smart and talented, I could do that. I’d get a house and I’d be super-mom. The one-year anniversary of my husband’s death came and went and I realized I was still reeling from the trauma of his slow and painful death, from losing him, from struggling with undiagnosed PTSD while raising three kids alone. Nothing got “better” after that first year. I could barely do laundry, let alone get a job. Even if I wanted to get a job, I couldn’t because the cost of childcare for three children under 5 is astronomical. My parents rode the storm with me and were just as tired. They were not able to be the “built-in-babysitters-whenever-I-want-them” as many people have assumed and so even a part-time job wasn’t an option for me. I tried, briefly, to work at a local coffee shop for one day a week, which proved unsuccessful in both my ability to handle anything else and my mom energy needed to take care of very very active children. Everywhere I looked for an out, a big door shut in my face and my stubbornness brought me to not share with others, my situation. We were scraping by, but kids keep getting hungry and eating all the food…imagine that! Sitting down and looking at the budget I knew I needed help. I didn’t feel poor, in fact, I felt rich beyond belief.  I was incredibly grateful for the home my parents had provided for my children and me, and the money that still trickled in from generous givers, but the stark reality was that the government wasn’t going to help me in this situation. Social security was (and still is) withholding a quarter of my benefits because of a mistake in their paper trail, and we were not on the good end of that mistake. I finally waved my white flag and put down my pride.

In line at the food bank I remembered all the times I’d cleaned out my pantry when I had a “normal” life. I dusted off expired cans of vegetables and fruits and threw unwanted boxes of pasta and crackers in bags to donate to food banks. My husband worked hard for what we had and I could go to the store every week to stock up on everything we needed (and then some, judging by all the food that was given to the food bank and not eaten by us). But as I entered the room with shelves lining the walls with bread, yogurts and some produce, juice and boxes and cans, I was on the receiving end. I still felt like I didn’t belong there and I felt shame as I took as little as I could to fill my bags, thinking, “this isn’t me. I’m smart, I should be able to be making money to provide for my family. I shouldn’t be here…” I didn’t want to look at everyone else who was there, filling their bags, while I only grabbed a few things. I quietly left and on the drive home I cried, feeling like a failure. I thought I’d seen so many moms do it all; work, school, and still be the supermom that volunteers and helps with school crafts. Why couldn’t I be that mom? Here I was, accepting pity food…


Emptying my one bag of food when I got home, I was hit with a new perspective and an incredible sense of gratitude; I was providing for my children because I put my pride aside and did what needed to be done. By accepting what others had given I was blessing the givers just as much as they were blessing me. They didn’t know my family when they were emptying out their pantry, just like I didn’t know who was benefiting from the food I’d given so many times in the past. But being on the other end of giving made me realize that’s what life’s all about. In the good times, we share our blessings with others. In the not-so-good times, we are given the blessings of others—as long as we are open to accepting it.

The other few times I went to the food bank, I filled our bags with gratitude, not greed, because I knew someone gave willingly to help families like mine. Accepting help gave me the confidence and eased one less stress to develop a game plan to start digging myself out of the mess I was left with.

I don’t have to go to the food bank anymore, but I know it’s there if we need it, and the mess is slowly being revealed as an opportunity to constantly change my perspective, even though I can’t always change our circumstance. I will never forget being on the receiving end at the food bank and I can’t wait to start giving again to the local food banks—but this time not dusty cans from the back of the pantry, but to set aside some new food every grocery trip to give to others.

In the Holiday season where giving is the star of the show, know that if you’re on the other end of giving, there’s no shame as receiving can be just as impacting.

Read more Holiday posts from Just A Mom:

A little bundle of Hope

The presence of your gift

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Tips for single parents with young, sick kids

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(may contain affiliate links*)

I’ve spent more than two weeks nursing sick kids who came down with the flu. While running back and forth providing water, Kleenex, Ibuprofen etc. there were many times I wondered, “Why can’t they just all get sick all at once and get it over with?” And then, of course, like usual, they all started feeling better and then I got sick–like even-my-hair-and-fingernails-hurt sick. I’m so fortunate to be able to live with my parents, so I usually have at least another set of hands on the weekends and evenings when sickness strikes… but not this time, it got to them too. Three sick adults and three sick kids is not an ideal situation, but such is life. I had a lot of time to think over the week I was sick and the main thing I thought of was all the single parents who don’t have a back-up and are truly on their own when sickness strikes—and even couples who both get sick at the same time—so I thought I’d come up with a list of things that have helped me during this wave of illness that every single mom, and parents in general, should have during the cold and flu season. Since I’m on a very tight budget, as are most single parents, I adhere to these tips pretty stringently. One of the biggest things any single parent must do is plan ahead and be prepared, at least that’s what I’ve learned for myself. And if you’re not a single mom or you’re past the little kid stage, pay it forward and maybe spring for one of these things to send to some single moms you know. I know they’ll love you for it. So, here ya go!

1.) Grocery delivery:

When I asked the question, “How to get to the store when I can only stand long enough to pour some Cheerios in a bowl and then slide them across the floor with my feet and now, Cheerios…are all gone?” I was immediately and eternally grateful for the age we live in. The age of grocery delivery. Thank God I don’t have to pack up the kids in a wagon and trek miles to the nearest town for a loaf of bread and a block of ice. There are plenty of options out there for grocery delivery, but I like Wal-Mart Grocery delivery the best in a pinch because they usually offer windows of time that day or at least the next day. They do home-delivery for a delivery fee or curbside pick-up for free. And you can order diapers, tissues, ibuprofen, and other non-perishable necessities for illnesses. The only thing I’m not super jazzed about with Walmart, is their produce, but I get over that quick when I’ve got a fever so high I’m hallucinating while watching Curious George. Other great options if you’re stocking up and have time to wait for shipping my favorite healthy option is ThriveMarket: they offer competitive, low-prices and free shipping on orders above $49. Plus, I love their ThriveGives Program which donates memberships fees and products to families in need. Just because I’m a single mom, doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice healthy products for my family.
JustAMom tip: Stock up on chicken broth/bone broth! Life saver when illness strikes my fam.

2.) Essential oils and diffusers: Especially for upper respiratory illnesses these are a must for supporting your body’s natural defenses. There are tons of options out there for oils, sometimes the only thing you can afford is the stuff at the natural grocery store, but it’s for sure worth it to get higher quality oils from Young Living, DoTerra, or ThriveMarket. Again, with the diffusers, I saved and saved until I had enough for each room. Diffusing peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree oil when coughs and colds hit really helps especially at night. I use GreenAir SpaVapor+ Instant Wellness 150ml Essential Oil Diffuser for Aromatherapy for the kids’ rooms because they like the changing colors. Plus peppermint essential oil is great for supporting the body with fever reduction.

3.) The best booger-sucker ever:
When my daughter was born she was surrounded by her brothers who had stayed home up until the time she was born when they needed to be in daycare while my husband was in home-hospice and I was playing nurse trying to keep both him and her alive, as well as myself. Everyone knows once kids go to school, they bring home everything! It’s absolutely true and unfortunately my baby came down with RSV when she was three months old landing her in the pediatric intensive care unit for more than a month. Since then she has always struggled when she gets colds and coughs. The little blue bulb wasn’t cutting it and every time she got a cold I’d have to bring her into urgent care and have them suck out her boogers with their high-tech booger sucker. Finally, a nurse, whom I’m forever indebted to, told me about the FridaBaby Nasal Aspirator with 20 Extra Hygiene Filters. The Frida Baby nasal aspirator was the best thing I’d spent my money on when colds hit. I give them to every one I know who’s having a baby now. It seems seriously gross to suck out your kid’s boogers, but believe me seeing the filter coupled with the desperation to give your baby relief, ESPECIALLY if you’re by yourself and can’t leave other kids sleeping alone to take the baby into the urgent care in the wee hours of the night, you get over the gross-ness real fast.

Prevention:

As a parent, it’s a built-in necessity to be one step-ahead of our kids; as a widowed or single parent it seems like we have to be three steps ahead or it all falls apart. Prevention is a HUGE priority of mine when it comes to illness in my family. If I can try my best to keep us all healthy then it can head-off illness–or at least minimize its effects when it does hit. Here are some things I use at home to be one, two or three steps ahead of illness:

1.) Air purifiers:

I scrimped and scraped for air purifiers for my kid’s rooms and the main room in our house. This was a priority for me because I live with my parents and my dad chooses to smoke in the garage. The smoke seeps into the house and I’m hyper-aware of secondhand smoke because my husband died of lung cancer at a young age and practically, well, my kids all have part of his genes too. While I can’t change my dad, I can at least try to minimize the effects of second-hand smoke (one of them being a lowered immune system and more prone to respiratory issues) by using air purifiers. We use Holmes large room air purifier.
For the large room and Holmes Small room air purifier for my room and the kids’ rooms. I saved and included these things into my budget and got on at a time as they can be pricey. On Amazon.com, you can easily replace the Holmes Filters which last us a pretty long time.

2.) Quality multivitamin and minerals:

It’s tempting to just grab the cheapest vitamins on the shelf, but for a single-parent who’s watching every penny, know that most vitamins in the market today are mainly made up of synthetic vitamins and minerals your body can’t use anyway, so in reality you’re flushing your hard-earned money down the toilet—literally. Again, I prioritize and carefully budget for quality vitamins for myself and my kids because it’s worth it and I can tell a huge difference. This multi-vitamin/mineral is the best I’ve used by far and while it’s pretty pricey, I do divvy it up between three kids and every other day. The flu we all just got over was the first real illness in almost a year, which is huge considering we were sick pretty much every month the first couple years after my husband’s death (stress obviously) and after the kids started school. I order from PureFormulas.com because it’s free shipping (enter this referral code and start saving today: RWXQPL).

3.) Sleep quality:

Sleep is a huge deal in my household. I will do almost anything in my power to maintain our sleep. I stick to a sleep schedule that works for all of us and I don’t enroll my kids (not that I could afford it anyway!) in tons of after-school activities that keep us out late. And remember stress= lowered immune system and that means stress on our kiddos too.

5.) Limit sugar intake and stress during the holidays:

The cold weather is notorious as a culprit for all the cold and flu viruses because we’re all stuck inside breathing each others’ germy air. The winter also includes the holidays which equals a large consumption of sugary treats, higher stress levels and lack of sleep. All of these things are contributors to lowering your immune system. I get it, your kids are in school and then BAM! Here comes winter break and you need to scramble to find childcare and it certainly doesn’t help when they or you become ill. Being a single-parent and figuring out unplanned for childcare and how to pay for it is a huge nightmare and stress. Try your best to lower your stress by not volunteering for every holiday event at school and declining some party invitations if your plate is just too full. Give yourself and the kids the gift of quality family time together at home instead—I get it, socializing with other adults is huge for single-parents, but just budget your time around sleep and stress reduction. It’s worth it, I promise.
There are tons of other things that can help, but in order to save you precious reading time that’s it for now!

Are you a single-mom or dad? Have a life-saving tip in the midst of illness? Share it with us below! Help each other help each other.


PureFormulas.com-Pure Healthy Goodness, Highest-Grade Natural Supplements! Fast, Free Shipping!

*Why does JustAMom use affiliate links? Well because I don’t think useful information should be kept a secret! I stand by the things I promote and use them myself, and, simply put I’m just a mom getting creative on how to make a sole income for a family of 4! Thank you! Xoxo, Nicole

Zen and the art of mothering in mayhem

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This is a society where moms are inundated with the pressure to create gourmet meals, and cute crafts and activities for our kids, but when you’re mothering in mayhem, looking like a put-together woman seems like a far and distant world. Tackling the overwhelming and incredibly taxing responsibility to try your best to maintain any sense of “normal” for your kids when everything is crumbling around you is no easy feat. But there are a few things I’ve learned in my experience of caring for my dying husband and three children under 3. So here you go, from one mother in mayhem to another:

  • The small victories: You might not remember even the last minute, but trust your mothering instinct. I don’t remember a lot of the day-to-day when I was the caregiver, at age 28, for my 34-year-old husband who was dying of cancer. I’ve heard the comment: “I don’t know how you did it…” to which I usually respond, “I don’t either!” It’s strange how I can remember some of the finest details of the chaos that ensued around my family the last few weeks of my husband’s life, but the basics seemed to just happen on autopilot…I think.. I still can’t remember how everyone got fed, bathed and the twins off to daycare, manage tantrums and the surge of drugs and dosages that my husband needed to remember to take, but couldn’t; not to mention that small detail of keeping a newborn alive by nursing all hours of the night, pumping and storing milk, and changing diapers and clothes—over and over. This juggling of all the other people I was responsible for, while trying to recover from delivery (strong emphasis on trying…well, there was no trying actually, I just didn’t “recover” from delivery and post-partum, my body just patched itself together and survived it). There were people who tried to help, but didn’t know how, so the majority of responsibility still landed on my shoulders. I managed…I probably didn’t do a stand-up job, but I did it! There’s not enough time to treasure every moment with your kids when you’re just trying to survive, to fight through another day, to keep yourself, your spouse and your kids alive. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate the small victories—when my husband was alive and in home-hospice, those victories included: nobody getting tangled in his oxygen cords; keeping the liquid morphine out of my twin toddlers reach when my husband would forget and accidentally leave it on the nightstand; and the nights when none of the kids woke up while I was carrying my husband to the shower and back—those were victorious nights! After my husband died, my toddlers may have watched countless hours of television and eaten pizza or frozen lasagna for three days in a row, but they were fed, the baby was fed, happy, dry and still getting tummy-time, and at the end of the day, we’re all still alive and somewhat sane—that’s a victory not to be overlooked.
  • Realize you don’t need to be supermom and go it alone: In our society, independence is revered and treasured, but mayhem, crisis and trauma reveals a deeper human need—connectedness and community, both of which require asking for help and revealing vulnerability that you can’t, and shouldn’t try to go it alone. The “zen” part of your mayhem is simply asking for help and humbly receiving it. That knowing, in your mayhem, you have people in your corner and if you don’t, ask for it. When you are tackling your kryptonite, whatever that may be: lack of sleep, grief, illness, etc., that someone can help bear the load, there’s always someone who can help—they can’t take it away for you, but they can help. Many people who help in small ways add up. When we ask for help there is a peace and humility in knowing we’re not supposed to be alone in this life, and we’re especially not supposed to mother alone.
  • Self-care is not selfish: In caring for my husband and children, I honestly forgot about myself—even the basic needs. When the helpers in my home took more showers and wore clean clothing more than I did, that’s a sign that self-care went out the window. I mentally was not able to take care of myself at that time. You know how the mom-thing goes—everyone else is taken care of first. When I came home with a newborn and realized absolutely none of the nursing clothing I had fit, it took me three or four days of wearing oversized t-shirts and wrapping my chest in a towel when my breastmilk came in to finally ask a friend to go shopping for me. I couldn’t even fathom leaving the house to go shopping for myself, if I did, it would have been a scene from “Night of the Living Dead,” I’m sure of it. After my husband died, the self-care situation didn’t get better until recently, when I finally started giving myself permission to take care of myself and convince myself that it isn’t selfish to do. I did myself a huge disservice and made it much harder on myself trying to take on the “I’m strong, I can just carry on” attitude for the better part of three years. And the best part, to the joy of my frugal self, is that self-care doesn’t equal expensive. When I started to look at baths, showers, naps, walks, reading for a few hours in a coffee shop, or even finding a really good deal on a hotel room for a night as therapy, it was easier for me to wrap my head around investing in those things, even if it meant paying for a sitter to make it happen, to spend a little time on myself.
  • Permission to retreat: Taking time away from the mayhem may not be an option, but eventually, if you find a small sliver of time, take it and don’t feel bad. Even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom to pray or meditate (which might include not doing or saying anything at all and just being quiet). I didn’t want to leave my house for long periods of time when my husband was still alive, but I did use the bathroom as a sanctuary. I didn’t have any privacy as my make-shift bedroom was in the living room and people were ALWAYS around, so the bathroom with a lock was the best bet for alone time. I remember just sitting on the floor for even just 10 minutes to escape helped to gain enough strength to handle whatever was going on outside that door. I didn’t have a lot of mental energy to pray, but I know my spirit was crying out even when I was silent. Leaning into the silence and retreating to a sacred space only my spirit could access was finding tiny eyes in the storm. After my husband’s death, showers became my retreat. Now , I have gained enough strength (and the kids are in school for a few hours a day) walks or just sitting in nature to be with myself and God have become my retreat. It only takes a little peace to make a big difference, but you have to fight to search for it sometimes. It’s worth the effort, I promise.

Ultimately, it took me a long time and many trials to realize that I can’t throw a proverbial life preserver to anyone else, including my children, if I myself am drowning. Someone I respect once told me: There is peace in the waves of crisis. If we stop treading water and fighting for the shore, just hang on and let the waves bring us to shore instead. I’m praying for you, whomever you may be, going through the mayhem. You can do this. You can hang on. You can reach the shore.

 

 

Does prayer really work?

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“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle”-Albert Einstein


I usually wait for movies to come out on DVD so I’m a little behind with what’s out, but I recently just watched the movie Miracles from Heaven. It was a powerful and uplifting movie based on a true story of miraculous healing. Miracle stories are amazing every time, but hearing them when you yourself did not get the miracle is, admittedly so, hard to swallow. Whenever I hear of miracle stories I genuinely feel in awe, but a little selfishly thinking on the side “Well…I prayed, my husband prayed, everyone prayed and he still died.” The next day, I found out someone else who leaned on prayer for a miracle did not receive it either and I’m heartbroken. It’s human to think when tragedy strikes, “Does prayer really work? And if it does, why didn’t it work for me (or fill in the name)?” The power of prayer is so easy to praise when “it works” in our favor when the scans are clear and you are stamped “cured,” when the marriage is restored, when someone’s life is spared in a horrendous car accident, but what happens when we pray and pray and pray and the divorce is still finalized, the husband or wife still cheats, the healing doesn’t come and death steals another loved one, one can’t help but to feel more than a little jipped, thinking, “I’m happy for them, truly, but why not me?” It’s a little too easy for us to say, “Prayer didn’t work for me.” I’ve heard that a lot and I’ve said it a lot. I’ve heard, “I tried the whole prayer-thing—it didn’t work.” “I’m praying and I’m still not being healed, I guess I’m not doing it right.” “All I did was pray, I did the right thing, and he still left me.” “I prayed and claimed healing, just like the Bible said to do, and I’m still planning a funeral…” It’d be too logical and easy to just conclude that prayer doesn’t “work.”


We’re not promised our desired result, but we are promised that prayer will always “work” in our favor, the favor of a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to invite him to walk through our circumstances.


So, there’s a clear dilemma, why does prayer “work” for some people, but from the outside it looks like it didn’t “work” for others? I am by no means a theologian or expert in prayer, but the wording, I believe, is the problem not prayer. The word “work.” There are lots of uses for the word “work:” I think when people refer to prayer “not working” we’re focusing on the definition that work means*:

  • to bring about (any result) by or as by work or effort:
  • to work a change.
  • to manipulate or treat by labor:
  • to put into effective operation.
  • to operate for productive purposes:

Key words in these definitions are: effort, change, manipulate, effective operation, to operate for productive purposes, results—you get the gist. Based on using “work” in the latter contexts maybe it would be logical to say I didn’t get the results I wanted therefore prayer didn’t work. But what if we pray in order for God’s will to “work” in our lives, according to the above definitions and instead view our part of prayer as “working” in the definitions that are to follow. That’s not to say we can’t request or go to God with our desires and needs, all with the remembrance that our worldy wants and needs may look differently than God’s sovereign knowledge of our needs and the bigger picture that includes His will, not ours.  So another definition of “work” is also “a literary or musical composition or other piece of fine art—‘a work of art’” or “A defensive structure” or “the exertion of force overcoming resistance or producing molecular change” or “everything needed, desired or expected.”

Here are some more definitions of this expansive word*:

  • to act or operate effectively:
  • to attain a specified condition, as by repeated movement
  • to have an effect or influence, as on a person or on the mind or feelings of a person.
  • to move in agitation, as the features under strong emotion.

I was incredibly grateful that the movie, Miracles from Heaven, showed the real struggle with faith during crisis and I felt both comforted and sad when, in one of the scenes, some “church people” asked the mother if there was something she had done wrong which might by why her 10-year-old daughter was gravely ill. Comforted because I could feel the pain watching that scene and sad because I could relate to the pain watching that scene. When my husband was dying of cancer, I occasionally had run-ins with well-meaning advice that turned out to really damage my prayer life. Comments and advice like: “Have you prayed over him?” “Have you claimed it in prayer?” “You’re not positive enough…” “you’re fearful, you’re not praying with enough faith” all the way to “you’re not even supposed to utter the ‘C’ word (Cancer).” Of course, we had done all of the above and kept the “C” word quiet for most of our marriage and yet, it still progressed. After his death, illnesses swept my household. Myself and my kids over and over again suffered from chronic respiratory illnesses, one which landed my newborn in the intensive care unit with RSV. My mom, who was my refuge in the storm, was laid out for almost two months because of an emergency surgery and I don’t think I ever got a full-night’s sleep for almost two years after because of anxiety and stress on my part and my kids night-terrors and a newborn baby waking at night for a bottle. It seemed all I could do was pray. Sometimes the prayer was only sobbing and crying, not even able to get a single word out of my mouth, sometimes I was so angry I yelled my prayers, sometimes the prayers were not in what I said or how I said it, but more how I said nothing at all because I had no idea what to pray for anymore (Romans 8:26).

But I do have a confession to make, I didn’t start to grasp what prayer really meant until recently, and even more-so now thanks to this awesome movie and meeting some truly amazing and inspiring prayer warriors in this journey from the land of the bereaved to the land of the joyful. To be honest I was really really confused about prayer and, if I’m honest a little bit resentful, because of the conflicting beliefs that I had about it. I even find myself struggling to tell someone who tells me they are ill or hurt that I will pray for their healing, the struggle is real. I am overcoming my “issues” with praying working or not working and I can only conclude that #1 I don’t have to feel ashamed by my “issues” with prayer, only that it drives me to seek God more and #2 despite my feelings on the subject at times, that prayer has one truth and that it “works” every time (James 5:16). It can fit almost any definition of “work” but that’s up to God, not me. Prayer can at times become a “work” of art or masterpiece, it can “work” as a defensive structure against our enemies—even ourselves at times, it can be the moving vehicle that “works” with the force of overcoming resistance.” And the act of truly “praying it down” as my therapist called it can produce  “the works”—everything desired, needed or expected which are the promised results: closeness, dependence and praise for God despite outcome. We’re not promised our desired result, but we are promised that prayer will always “work” in our favor, the favor of a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to invite Him to walk through our circumstances. That, in itself, is a miracle.

 

 

*All definitions obtained from Dictionary.com and Yahoo search definition

Back to school: Writing “Deceased” instead of your name

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It’s the first week of school for my kindergartners and preschooler. It’s a buzzing season of new school clothes, new light-up shoes and lists of blue folders, sharpened pencils and washable markers. Butterflies in tummies and holding back tears—for both kids and momma. The first couple nights were filling out paperwork. Name. Address. Phone number. Mother’s contact. And then the next line always gets me. Father’s contact. Instead of writing your name, I have to write “deceased.” I could have chosen to just leave it blank, but I need people to know you existed. I wish I could have just written your name. I wish there were more lines to write about how your smile lit up the room and your laugh was contagious, how you were stubborn as hell and how, when people look at your boys, they are looking at you only years younger. But I can’t and even if I did, it wouldn’t change the fact that you’re not here. It won’t change the fact that no matter how much I talk about you, no one will really know you the way I knew you. I try to keep your memory alive, even if it’s just a mention on a contact page. At the doctor’s office, at school, at the dentist… writing something, anything, in that blank spot still means you were here and you are remembered. Writing ‘deceased’ means you lived and your life mattered to many­–to my life and the three little lives we made together. I wonder if I’ll stop pausing when I get to that blank line someday. If I’ll have to stop explaining to the teachers why my children talk about death so freely and why I encourage them to. Explaining that I hope their talk and play doesn’t bother the other children whose parents may have only taught them their goldfish “fell asleep” or was simply replaced by a look-alike. I wonder if it’ll ever stop stinging when seeing the dads picking up their kiddos from school, watching their children wrap their arms around their chests. I wonder if I’ll always keep wondering if my daughter will ever experience that…

All I know is that in this new and exciting chapter of our lives, when the kids go to school and meet new friends and learn new things, I’m, for the first time, alone in a quiet house. To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this chapter for a long time. A little quiet time for momma to breathe, maybe sleep a little more, and to miss you without being on a 15-30-minute time limit with three little kids under six. But now that the chapter’s here, there’s an ache in my heart for you and my kiddos who are moving forward with their growing lives, and I’m here holding their hands along the way, dreaming you were here to hold our hands too…but when I wake up, it’s quiet and lonely and I’m writing ‘deceased’ instead of your name.