Just My Plain Old Feet Forward

It is Mother’s Day, and I believe it is the perfect time to announce that I am officially changing the format of this little piece of the blogosphere. Like any writer worth their snuff, I want to bring something valuable and intentional to the table rather than a bunch of egotistical nonsense. While my identity is not totally wrapped up in single parenting, it is my life and my unique perspective and journey.

I have covered a lot of ground these past seven years, and I have so enjoyed sharing my life with you! This Mother’s Day marks my fifth year as a single mom. Year to year my emotions shifted from sadness to anger to loneliness and now JOY. I have gone to church on Mother’s Day cried and a couple years I could not bear to go to church at all; I begged God for another way – any other way but this one, sat silent and angry feeling quite the victim of my circumstances and at one point felt too exhausted with it all to even raise my head. It’s a process my friends. Yeah, it took me a good five years to grieve the loss of my dream and to accept my new reality. If you’re in the really gritty part with stingy eyes and an aching chest, pissed off or just confounded – I get it. No shame. It is a process.

While I cannot sit here and say, “I’ve arrived!”  I am in a very different place than I was five years ago. A good place where I am looking up. Author/lawyer/dreamer Bob Goff says that it takes imagination to change, and I agree. It takes courage to dream again when a lifelong dream is suddenly gone. It takes tenacity to hang on when grief rages at its worst. It takes faith to keep believing when everything in your life shrugs its shoulders and says like Job’s wife, “Just lay down, curse God and die.”

Was I just born with those things? I think we all are. When circumstances bring us to our knees, we can forget who we are. It’s almost like Peter Pan where the older we get the more we forget. I have rarely met a kid that wasn’t audacious, big-thinking, tenacious and full of simple faith. For me, and I will argue for anyone, it takes a real encounter with Jesus – with LOVE – (not fairy dust) to wake us up and jog our memories.

I have discovered that the real secret to change is a transformed mind and an altered heart. At the beginning of the year I decided to do like Martha and spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting at Jesus’ feet, just listening and soaking up everything He is about. Little by little, not only have I been able to walk out of the grief and into the light, I am different. It’s like I got a new set of eyes.

And here we are. I admit I am scared. Part of the reason I stopped writing for a while is because I lacked authenticity because I was not able to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is absolutely necessary for successful relationships. I have worn a mask for such a long time – the girl who masks her hurt with humor, who covers up her shame with wit and downplays herself so no one will take much notice. Flying under the radar. We all have something beautiful to offer, and I have been encouraged by other brave, vulnerable souls to not put my best foot forward – just my feet. I prefer them in my Teva sandals – incredibly comfy.

So I invite you to get to know me, and I want to know you. I want to share my stories and the stories of other single parents who have been wrecked by Jesus and have wisdom to share. My hope is to create a little place to dialogue together and bring whatever we need to bring to the table – the good, the beautiful, the hard and the ugly. It’s all welcome.

So single mom or dad (or former single parents) here is your invitation to put your feet forward – how can I pray for you?  Please comment here or email me at Crystalzwith3@gmail.com.

The Truth About Feeling Lonely – Get Used to It.

Hi. It’s been awhile.  While I would love to greet you with a lovely and uplifting post after such a long hiatus, I can’t. This is a difficult season – a lonely season. The great news -it’s also a season of growth and major breakthrough.

It’s taken me 5 years to come to a place of acceptance of this life and singleness in general. I have said it a thousand times, and I don’t plan to stop beating this drum now – grief is a strange unpredictable thing. You cannot control it. Ron L. Deal, author of Dating and the Single Parent stresses the importance of feeling the full weight of grief in order to work through it towards acceptance and healing. He says, “To truly move out of your pain, you must first sit in it.”

Here I am, grieving again over another loss. My biggest foe? Loneliness. And all the single people said, “Amen.” Especially -no, specifically those of us who for one reason or another are not in a healthy place to date. “This loneliness just sucks,” I said to my best friend today. “Yeah, it does,” she sighed into the phone. Stink as it may, it’s an animal we must learn to harness, or it will control us. Let’s just get real. while there is nothing inherently wrong with sitting home alone on a Saturday night while all of Facebookland lives it up, the lonely feelings that flood in can feel paralyzing.

I don’t know anyone who wants to admit that they’ve cried themselves to sleep because the bed is cold and you’d give anything to have a warm person next to you or skipping a meal because cooking for one is too much trouble and you’re either too broke to eat out or can’t stomach the idea of eating alone – again. Yes, the ache of it physically hurts sometimes. It bites. There is no two ways around it. That’s just the thing, there’s no two ways around it. I think Elizabeth Gilbert says it best in Eat Pray Love  “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I have been regretfully guilty in the past of using people as a way out of my pain, or as Ron Deal calls it “a ladder”. The tables have  turned, and I became that ladder, and I was a poor one. Shaky, fragile and prone to bending under the pressure of keeping it together. I have never been super good at that. To say it hurt is a grand understatement. Still, a blessing because it caused me to open my eyes to my propensity for trying to scramble my way out of the pit of pain rather than feeling the junk and then climbing out on my own when I was healthy enough to do so. Lonely friends, just don’t. Don’t go looking for a distraction in the form of another human being. We’re not just bodies, we’re souls and hearts.

So here I sit in this pit. I am not happy about it, but I am also not really alone. Never have been.

“14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 

It comforts me to know that I can cry out in the pit of my pain to Jesus, who gets it. We’re not lifting up prayers for help to a God who has no idea what we’re talking about. Jesus’ followers abandoned Him, betrayed and denied Him. Yeah, He gets it. He felt the pain of the Father turning His back on His son as Christ took our sin on Himself. Utterly alone. He was alone in ways that I don’t think my experience will ever touch, and He did that for you, and me and all of us sad, broken, messed up and barely limping along. SO feel the loneliness, turn to the one who can handle it, and don’t sin. Striving in vain to run from your pain or medicate with whatever it is that you think makes you feel better only leads to more emptiness.

“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

What’s your experience with loneliness? What were the blessing that came from learning to turn it over to God rather than allowing it to control you? Is loneliness something you’re struggling with now?

Number Three Turns Four!

You guys, we have come to a very important milestone in our family . . . there are no more toddlers living in our house! The youngest, Jules, will be a four year old as of tomorrow morning about 11am.

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Julia’s namesake is the late Julia Child, which I think suits her quite perfectly. Much like her predecessor, my Jules is creative, fun, colors outside of the lines literally and figuratively and forges ahead on her own whether you are with her or not. She has often been called my little space cadet, my dreamer and my tactile baby. Or as I call it, messy.

Maybe it it a youngest child trait, but she is incredibly articulate. She does not beg to be the center of attention, but waits quietly for her turn to crawl up in your lap and share her deep thoughts or witty remarks. She loves to be weird and freak you out my bugging out her ginormous eyes or staring at you until you’re uncomfortable.

I thought she might be sad with both her older siblings in elementary school this year . . . not so. She is happy to be the top dog as part of the pre-K class at her daycare. I love my silly, pensive, independent girl. I am VERY interested to see what God has in store for this one!

Happy birthday Julia Goolia!  Mommy loves you!

Finisher

As you might have noticed, I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Also, my laptop died. Here I sit tonight with my brand spanking new laptop. I love the click of keys.

As I navigated to my blog I looked at the last thing I started to write, the day after the half marathon. I don’t know what I was thinking trying to write anything that day. My brain was positively mush. So here is what I began . . . “I’m at home today surveying the damage of at last two weeks of neglecting my house. Yeesh. Oh, and recovering. Yesterday was the big dance – the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I ran and finished the half marathon. I’ve heard other participants call this race tough, weird, dramatic, interesting . . . it was just straight up crazy. It started with me waking up late. My alarm didn’t go off. I rushed to get ready and thanks to my amazing chauffeur, I made it just in the nick of time…”

Now, I will finish the story!

My running partner and I joked and laughed nervously as we made our way to our corral, and hoped that we were in the right one. It was dark and perfectly cool . . . great racing weather. Then we saw the flicker of lightening illuminate the clouds accompanied with the low rumble of thunder directly followed by the first delay announcement. A collective sigh swept across the expanse of jittery runners. No matter though!  One little delay wouldn’t hurt. We’d be starting just a teensy bit late. A teensy bit late had come and gone more than an hour and several delay announcements later. The crowd was irritable, sweaty, damp and thirsty. I can honestly say I was willing to risk being struck by lightening as long as I could just run the danged race.

By the time we started, it was unbearably humid, and  I would soon find out just what humidity would do to my poor body. Three miles in I was crazy thirsty, and sweating profusely. Five miles in, we’d lost sight of the pacer group as we got caught up at a congested water station.  Eight miles in I was badly dehydrated and struggling with cramps in my calves. I tricked my partner into going ahead without me. While it killed me to walk, it killed me even more to see her not run her first big race.

At mile 9 I was miserable and sad. My training had gone so well. I had worked so hard, for it to end like this?  Just as I was ready to cry I looked up and saw the face of the man I had just begun dating. He was waiting on the corner in his church clothes, grinning from ear to ear. I gave him the sweatiest, most disgusting hug of his life (which he argues was also his best hug ever!) Truthfully, seeing him there to cheer me on was better than an energy gel. Only four miles to go!

I don’t remember much about those last four miles except a lot of pain. My feet were so swollen they felt like they were trying to escape my shoes. The cramps in my legs were excruciating, and I had taken in so much water I was sloshing. I vaguely remember crossing the finish line (and glimpsing my family screaming like crazy people to my right!). I got my medal, wandered through the finishers area, found my partner, said a few expletives and stumbled to the medical tent. Then I sprawled out on the concrete for an hour with my family standing around me.

Friends, this race messed with me. It pushed me physically, sure, but mentally and spiritually, it hurt. It’s taken me literal months to bounce back. It’s forced me to accept some things about myself – okay, chiefly that humidity and I do not mix. It doesn’t make me a weak runner or mean that I am in poor health. It means that if it’s humid, I better not push so hard or take my butt to the YMCA. And that’s okay. I have also realized that I often do expect way too much of myself. The truth of the matter is that most everyone I talked to or read about felt that this year’s race was miserable and exceptionally tough. Why am I so hard on myself for finishing 15 minutes slower than I had planned?

So I was slower than I had hoped I would be. I never stopped. I finished. While I don’t know that I will be doing any more half marathons in the near future, I do know that what was my worst race might have very well been my best race. Perspective is golden. I have run three 5Ks since then with a few races including a 10K and a marathon relay leg on the horizon. I think my new motto will be, “I may not be fast, but I finish!”

Twelve Weeks

More than twelve weeks ago I convinced a long time friend of mine to join me on a journey. It’s a journey I have been on before a few times alone, and I realized that I wanted it to be different this time. It would require a partner . . . a really great one. My friend and I have been through a lot together over the years. College, weddings, babies, brokenness, plenty, laughter and pain. One thing I knew about us both, we were incapable of giving up even in the face of insurmountable odds. We’d both been to hell and back in our own ways, and neither of us came away bitter. Somehow, we came away with hearts more tender toward God, more grit, more laugh lines, more love, more grace. Who better to run a half marathon with?

My friend has never run a half marathon. When I posed the idea she was a little leery. To her surprise, her husband jumped right on board and told her to go for it. So we began. We’ve both been running going on three years. Admittedly, wed both fallen off the running wagon for a bit. Hard to believe that as we began training 3 months ago, we struggled to run three miles without walking. 

Week after week we trained on our own time with Saturday morning long runs. On my weekends with kids we ran in Piedmont while her awesome husband kept all (SIX!) kids, using our oldest children for water stops and rewarding us afterwards with bacon and chocolate milk. On weekends when my kids went to their dad’s, we ran in Edmond eventually joining the RunHers women’s running club. 

It’s become our pattern or habit or whatever you’d like to call it to have “adventurous” runs. Cross country one week, dodging animal poo and cactus, trail running another where there might have been an unfortunate fall and “great” advice from another runner to “pick up our feet.”  Thanks, Mister. There was snow . . . and another fall. Icy mist where we came home to numb faces, 20 mph winds that resulted in a double ear infection for me, and one week where I was sure I had miscalculated the miles by 2 or 3 but thankfully ended up being spot on. We’ve bonked and wanted to give up. We’ve gone from being the slowest to improving our pace by two minutes since training began and improving our endurance to being able to run more than 5 miles at a time without walking breaks. 

Now we’re only three weeks away from our race day. I am so emotional. I am excited to get to this point, delighted with our progress, but sad to see this journey end. Today we ran 11 miles in the face of a week that had been full of sadness and disappointment. Still, we met this run with joy in our step and determination in our hearts. As we rounded the bend into mile 11 I had an epiphany, this was not the end . . . this race was another beginning. Training for this race has given a long time friendship a breath of fresh air. It has reminded me that though I am another year older, my spirit feels younger than ever. 

In three weeks we will finish our race strong and think ahead to bigger races and many more adventures. Friend, I know you are reading this, and I cannot tell you enough what an inspiration you are to me. I asked you to dare to do a half marathon, but you have dared me to do better than I could have ever hoped for. Thank you.

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Six Year Bloggiversary – Everything Will Not be OK

Six years ago I started this little blog. Six years ago, I never knew what might happen when one lonely girl trying to keep her head above water in a flurry of changes sits down to a PC and starts banging away at the keys. At first I struggled to know what to talk about. I was not ready to spill my guts to the world wide web because in truth, I did not know what even lied within. I did not know myself, not even a little. I often tell people that prior to my life drastically changing some four plus years ago, I couldn’t even tell you my favorite color; I was like a stranger living inside my own body. Can you relate?

If you cannot, good. No one should live like a shadow. Yet, that’s all I was . . . just a shadow of a person locked deep into patterns of codependency and shame. My eyes had no light in them at times, like the fire had been snuffed out. When my “life” fell apart, I thought, “surely, this will be it for me.” But no, He had other plans (always does!), and that violent shaking, turning everything upside down plus my worst fears materializing before me WOKE ME UP. Breaking free is not pain free. The path to freedom is ridden with pain, heartache, disappointment and grief. Why sugar coat it?

Now I see that this little piece of the blogosphere was given to me so that you might see that. You, who wonders if you will EVER be free from the strongholds that daily choke the life out of you. You, who want more than everything being “okay” – never good, never bad, just par for the course. You who are grieving and crying out to God and see no purpose in it right now. You who are my friends and loved ones who have been my victors and prayer warriors and confidants, you get to be a witness to God’s grace in this little life of mine. This silly little oft neglected blog is a testimony and a picture of grace in motion. I have never been here to say, “Everything will be okay.” No, that isn’t really true. While everything may not ever be “ok”, everything can be trusted to Him who holds all things together and who loves you, so much that He willingly stepped in between us and a just God who called for payment for the sin, the ugly, the injustice, the shame . . . and He paid for it with His own life and covers us so that we might die and then LIVE.

Everything will not be OK, but He is Good. My joy does not make sense. Glory!  My completeness in Him is a head-scratcher for sure. My circumstances are not ideal or attractive; they are not supposed to be. It’s the story of grace, and grace does not compute with the world’s standard of success.

So, six years later, I am so very thankful that I opened a little WordPress account and began writing stories, however mundane they may sometimes be. I am grateful for all of you who read my words. I am grateful for the gift of words, and pray they are a blessing to you.

Grace,

Crystal    Image

Only the Lonely . . .

There are few things that make a single person feel more lonely than being ill. Now for some, this isn’t a big deal. I mean those of you who turn into the Grinch when sick. You’d prefer to be alone. Then there’s people like me, who enjoy being cared for. A day off of work just isn’t that fun when you can’t get out and DO anything and be around anyone. The silence in this house is deafening. A sweet friend came and took care of me and my kiddos last night so we could all have a relaxing evening because with a double ear infection and raging allergies, I was down for the count. 

While I have rested, read, taken my meds and so forth, I have also been on social media quite a bit. Is it just me or does Facebook and Twitter make you feel MORE lonely when you’re really alone?  No amount of “Likes” or retweets can really make a person feel loved. A person needs real hugs, real help, real likes, a real phone call to feel loved. 

It just got me thinking that I want to be more intentional, to be on my dumb phone less, to be present more. Social media is a weird addiction and substitution for real intimacy with the people right in front of us. Let us not become blind to this or so complacent of how attached we become to it. It’s great for networking, sharing information, and yes reconnecting and encouraging. It’s a perfect way to give a laugh, a short message or to (ahem) advertise a blog. But as a means to sustain relationships? No. Never. It cannot work. 

I know I wrote recently that there’s really not such a thing as a truly “single” parents, but for those of us who are romantically unattached, it sure can get lonely. When loneliness comes, let me not fly to my Twitter account or rush to check how many people liked my status update. Oh Lord, instead let me fly to your word, let me drink deep from the well that never runs dry. Let me invite a friend to have a home cooked dinner, to play Monopoly with my son or read a book to my daughters. Let me phone a sister to say hello or find a place to stop and just pray. 

When I am lonely, let me remember that my savior was truly alone for my sake. Forsaken to save me. And someday, I’ll never be lonely again. Loneliness is an earthly problem, not a heavenly one. For now, I try not to waste these days or this season of doing life as a solo rather than a duo. I remind myself that ten years ago, I could never have imagined my life as it now. And ten years from now I will say the same thing for completely different reasons. 

Hey, lonely friends, He loves you. I know, that if you’re like me, you have so MUCH love to give. It seems silly that you’re in this place where that seems stifled. Open up those eyes and look around, there’s a world of hurt out there just waiting for you to give yourself away. I am learning just like many of you are to treasure things that LAST rather than pining away for temporary treasures on earth that will inevitably pass away. Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I am preaching the gospel to myself. Laying my soul bare here hoping that we can all hear what He’s saying, that this place we’re in is not permanent. The lonely days do end, and when they do, what will have to say about what we did with them? Will we have wasted our precious time wringing our hands or glued to our back-lit screens just hoping for a little recognition, or will we open up those hearts of ours, learn to trust the Lord that He really is good and let Him teach us how to love? 

Because the truth is that as much as I want a partner to do this messy life with, I don’t want it unless it’s going to be a blessing to my family and ultimately to the world. I already have a best friend and a host of others in my community who spur me on to love and good works. Half-hearted husband applicants need not apply. This girls wants to do it right for round two if given the opportunity. And yeah, I have to accept the reality that it may not happen, and if it does, it definitely will not happen on my timetable. “Okay,” I sigh. I said this very thing to more than two friends recently because it burns in my chest: healthy means allowing healing to really happen in FULL, to find fulfillment in Christ. Unhealthy is codependency, waiting on some other poor soul to stumble upon us and try to fill in the holes that they aren’t capable of filling. YOU GUYS, I WANT HEALTHY. DON’T YOU?

I know this post is long and messy. I should not be allowed to be alone this long with my thoughts, but I wanted to share where I am at on my journey. If you relate to this, if this encourages you, offends you….whatever. Let me know. Love to you all, and as always, thank you for reading!

 

Crystal

There’s Nothing Single About a Single Mom (Or Dad)

Single. Such an interesting word we use for those of us who are “unattached”. It implies alone, flying solo, an island. One. That doesn’t seem to fit me very well. I mean, alone time is a luxury. I live with three people . . . three short people who often times put their pants on backwards and shoes on the wrong feet – people in training! Since singlemomhood began for me (FOUR years ago, can you guys believe that?!) I have intentionally sought out community and support. I begged God for it, humbled myself and admitted that I most certainly could not “do this on my own.”

So when I hear “I don’t know how you do it!” I smile. I am most assuredly not a super mom. I struggle to keep it all together all the time. My Google calendar reminders are a gift of God!  So, hey . . . here’s how I do it. YOU. You, my friends. You who accepts me into community group and doesn’t marginalize me for not being like nearly everyone else there, married. You, best friend, who is the Jonathan to my David, who journeys with me on this crazy train called “single” parenting and holds me accountable. You, friends who not only accept my kiddos but love them, spend time with them and pour your lives into theirs. You, coworkers who make the days away from my babies fun. You, church who encourage me to recklessly pursue Christ, exhort me, spur me on to good works and never allow me to wallow in pity. You, family who are my rock. You, readers who encourage me to no end to keep doing this year after year. You all and the grace of a God who is always good – that’s how I do it.

No man or woman is an island and yes, it really does take a village. I love cliches, ok?! But seriously, this post is my high five, my fist bump, my slap on the back TO YOU. THANK YOU for just being in our lives.

Pressing on, pressing on

Just to be clear, this is NOT a New Year’s post proclaiming my accomplishments and those of my children in 2013. Nor is it a lengthy list of what I want to do in 2014. I always get a little pensive as a new year rolls around and wanted to share my thoughts with you. But if I can brag just a tiny bit . . . I got my laundry done today! No really, like DONE!  It’s the little things, you guys.

I read a great post from Ann Voskamp on New Year’s Eve which resonated with me. Sometimes you don’t want a new year, you want a do-over of the previous one. Preach on, sister, preach on. Okay, so I don’t exactly want a do-over of the entire 2013, just several pieces of it. But seeing how that isn’t possible, I decided to put on my big girl panties and take Ann’s sagely advice to “press on”.

Truth be told, for all the glorious screw ups and mishaps and big fat mistakes I made in 2013, I also learned some incredible lessons, met some amazing people and did a few things really, really right. And God was gracious, as always. His gifts were bountiful. My sight for seeing them is getting a little better.

I believe that we must always charge forward as tempting as it is to just sit down in a huff and say, “No thanks.” I have joked for a long time that I would love some “boring” in my life. I don’t really think that’s true. That’s just my way of saying, “I’m tired.” I don’t do the resolution thing nor do I disguise my resolutions with a list of goals. I just pray earnestly about what God wants to do with me this year. As in, how much more will I surrender this year instead of fastidiously continuing to do things my own way? How much more will I forgive this year? How much more will I look at myself honestly and ask God to reveal the junk that needs to go and the wounds that need healing? How much more am I willing to receive from a Heavenly Father who loves me? Will I have eyes to see and ears to hear? How much more will I lean into His word and learn with my head and my heart?

Because all of those things are in His agenda and will accomplish the desires of my heart – to be a better mom, a better friend, a better employee. I cannot do any of that apart from Christ.

What’s my hardest lesson learned in 2013? There really, really is no true joy apart from God. I tried a lot of things to fill the aching void exacerbated by wounds from my past to bring fulfillment, and it did not work. And I am not talking like I went crazy with sex, drugs and rock n roll. I’m talking running, relationships, dancing, writing, learning, etc. Good things. I tried to stuff so much into my life to fill the lack, and it only left me lacking more. I guess some of you are saying, “Well yeah, duh.”  If you learned that lesson a lot easier than I have, good for you. I need to be hit in the head with it about a hundred times before I get it. I have to go beyond agreeing with it and believe God. I have to believe Him, and it’s come to my attention that I need to trust Him. That’s always what is at the heart of my unwillingness to obey – Lack of trust.

If I really had to say THIS is what I want for 2014, it’s this:

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Praying you all press on this year with me . . . I believe we have a good year ahead. Happy 2014!

Crystal