This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.
You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!
I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)
This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.
At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.
I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.
I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)
I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.
I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.
My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)
At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.
But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.
And I mean they rallied!
It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.
I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.
I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.
Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids. I worked on my own issues. I put up strong, necessary boundaries. I learned how to forgive myself. And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)
So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.
Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.
They are 26 and 29 now. My world.
Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:
When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.
And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!
These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!
But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:
The kids really WILL be ok. You ARE stronger than you think. It’s OKAY to ask for help. It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help! God has not abandoned you There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.
The woman trying to fake happy, always busy being the nurturer.
You could use a little nurturing yourself.
Am I right?
And you – the one worrying late into the night for her adult children who seem to running from the God you made sure they were exposed to in church as youngsters.
You, the lady who feels like writing the bills requires her to channel Jesus Himself to pull a “loaves and fishes” miracle to have enough.
You, the one whose marriage has lost its luster.
Or suffering loneliness.
The woman who looks in the mirror and sees only wrinkles and fat and lost youth; the one who is saddened about the texture settling into her face as age sets in.
The one fed so many lies, by the media, societal expectations, and worse – ourselves.
What we need is a Truthspeaker, someone to cut through all the crap and speak light and light over us.
For you, battling addiction, depression, and any of a thousand issues that the devil is trying to use to keep you down.
Who do you think you ARE?
Listen to what I am going to tell you (I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well….)
You are THE Apple of your Father’s eye.
If you didn’t have a good father in the natural, I have good news for you. You can still get an accurate picture of the perfect father from some of the names of God in the Bible:
Jehovah-Jireh – “The Lord will provide a sacrifice” (Gen. 22:13)
A good father makes sacrifices for His kids.
Jehovah-Rapha – “The Lord that heals thee.” (Exo. 15:26)
A good father kisses His daughter’s boo-boos (especially the ones deep in her heart)
Jehovah-Shalom – “The Lord is our Peace.” (Jud. 6:24)
A good father provides an environment of peace and stability for His children.
Jehovah-Raah – “The Lord is my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23)
A good father watches over His daughters and protects them from harm.
And my favorite, ABBA – which means “Daddy.”
So who do you think you are? The Bible describes you and your worth as thus:
Set free from the law of sin and death. Holy and without blame before Him in love. Receiver of the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, enlightened. Not lacking. God’s child. His workmanship. A new creation. You are a joint heir with Christ. More than a conqueror. An ambassador for the living God. Part of the chosen generation. The righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. The temple of the Holy Spirit. His ELECT. Firmly rooted, healed by His stripes. Greatly loved by God.
And so much more.
I strongly encourage you to keep this list of attributes of your true identity in Christ somewhere in your home or work, and READ IT ALOUD often so that the devil, who is trying to keep you down, can HEAR it.
I know you’re tired, worn down from worry.
I know things just keep changing, and you can scarcely get used to “the new ‘normal'” before things change again.