I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “change.”
When I first became single again, I had to find my way around in my new role. There were a couple occasions where I invited my girlfriends and their families over for dinner. I remember feeling awkward and as we navigated through the meal, I felt kind of bad for the guy because he didn’t have another guy to hang out with. It felt kind of like a sister-wives supper and I realized that wasn’t what I was going for so I changed things up a bit. The next time I invited a couple of families over and that seemed to work well, everyone had a buddy.
I also remember feeling a little embarrassed about my new status as a single mom, and looking back I realize this was a pride thing. Most of my close friends were married and had been for years and I looked at myself as the one who didn’t make it. There’s no way to sugar-coat something like that, you just have to eventually accept it and on a really good day, you learn to embrace it.
Fortunately as time went on, I learned to be okay with the fact that me and the boys were a little family of three…nothing more, nothing less. I thought, “We may be small but we can make big choices.” That’s when I realized that it was now up to me to help shape and define what our little trio represented and how we would spend our time together. Here are the three decisions I made:
1. We will work to be a happy and healthy family.
I have a tiny little sign that hangs on my front door. It simply says “happy family” and I probably paid $5 for it but to me it is priceless. It’s the first thing you see when you step onto my front porch and it’s kind of a mission statement for us. The truth is, I was really sad at first when our family fell apart. This is nothing out of the ordinary, I think most people go through these feelings when there’s a divorce. But I quickly realized that I wanted to get help and get as healthy as I could because my tone set the tone for my kids.
2. We will go on mission trips together each summer.
Missions had been a big part of my FH’s (former husband’s) and my foundation and relationship and I knew this was important to impart into our kids. I told God that I wanted take my boys out of the country each summer to give them a chance to serve and expose them to a world much different than theirs. The first year we went to South Africa to be with our dear friends, Rich and Michelle Franzen who head up an incredible ministry called Impact Africa. Rich and Michelle and their family loved on us while we were there and really gave us opportunities to plug in and serve. It was a special and precious time, one I look back on with gratitude and appreciation. They helped us get our footing as a new, smaller clan.
The following summer my sweet friend Nicole Bender and her husband, Troy, got us connected with a church group that was headed to Haiti with a group called Coreluv. We flew to Miami and at the airport we met up with a group from Creek’s End Church in Spring, TX and they immediately took us in and made us feel like we had known them for years. I will never forget how they loved on us and I got to see my boys find love and empathy for a bunch of kids at the Coreluv orphanage in Goniaves.
The next summer took us back to South Africa with Impact Africa and this time we were able to bring some friends. Another amazing trip with the Franzens and an opportunity for my boys’ hearts to open and expand as they continue to learn how to love others and share their faith.
This past summer we went to Ethiopia with a group called Touching Africa, led by one of my close friends, Tiffany Lopez, and her parents. This was a special trip because we got to go with a lot of people we knew and I saw a lot of spiritual growth in my boys. On our way over we had planned to stop in Rwanda to meet our Compassion child but our plane had mechanical issues and we got grounded in Northwest Africa. After hours on the phone with the airlines, we ended up being able to change our itinerary and at the end of our time in Ethiopia, we took off for a 36-hour trip to Rwanda where we met and spent time with our 16 year-old sponsored child. It was something the boys and I will never forget.
We sat there in his dark, cool hut as we visited with him and his grandmother and sisters. I watched my boys pull gifts from a backpack and present them as I swallowed the lump in my throat. And then I saw Luke, my older son, take the shoes off his feet and offer them as a final gift to Nsabimana. In that moment I was reminded of God’s faithfulness over the last four years and the fact that He had made a way for us to fulfill a dream to go overseas as a family and share God’s love together.
3. I will teach the boys to cook and to serve others in need.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, when my FH was sick, strangers showed up at our door to bring us meals. I always remind the boys of this and tell them it’s important for us to do the same. When I pray with them I ask God to make us aware of those around us who are hurting or in need. It’s so important to me that my boys understand compassion and empathy for others, so I try to find practical ways for them to do this.
This past week I have been thinking so much about what the holidays look and feel like for those who have had to embrace change. I remember the first year I didn’t get to wake up with my boys on Christmas morning…I felt such a hole in my heart. But over the years I’ve learned to embrace the change and make adjustments that make things more comfortable. Just like I learned not to have awkward dinners with my friends and their husbands, I’ve also learned how to adjust to the new reality. My sweet family makes calendar adaptions every year to make sure my boys are included in our Christmas celebration. For us this year, today is “Christmas Eve” and tomorrow morning my boys and their cousins will wake up to stockings and presents under the tree.
For those of you who have experienced change this year or in recent years, I just want to express my love to you and encourage you that change is sometimes inevitable but it can be beautiful as we learn to redefine and accept a new reality. This takes time so be patient with yourself. And as my kids reminded me last night, their lives aren’t that bad. After all, they get two Christmases and evidently there is a song about that because Jake belted out one of the lines as our tiny trio had a moment of laughter together. Merry Christmas, everyone!
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.