When the boys were young I always hoped that as they got older, our home would be a place where their friends would gather. I envisioned shoes piled up at the front door, a pantry full of potato chips, a fridge stocked with Gatorade and laughter that filled every room of the house.
We moved 16 times in my 16 years of marriage and often had to start over with friends, schools, churches and social circles. When the kids were smaller, we would plug in the best we could in our new settings and in 2010, we moved into the house the boys and I still live in now. As we were preparing for that last move I told my FH (former husband) that I didn’t have any moves left it me. Once the moving truck delivered our wares, I unpacked everything and started to embrace the idea of being and staying settled.
My older son, Luke, has spent half his life at this house and my younger son, Jake, has spent two-thirds of his here. It definitely feels like home. But I realize they haven’t had the experience most kids have growing up, for example I know we haven’t plugged into our community like we could have (and it’s a shame because we have WONDERFUL neighbors), and my boys didn’t grow up riding bikes around the neighborhood or building forts in their friends’ back yards. We don’t live particularly close to their schools and they don’t go to school with any of the neighbor kids so our community is outside of our “home.”
I’m going to be honest here, I have great relationships with my boys’ friends but my house is not a gathering place for them and their friends. I suspect it’s a bit embarrassing for a teenage boy to invite his friends over to his single mom’s house and I get it, I really do. After I accepted this reality, I set out to find the beauty in this thing that looked much different than what my heart had longed for. As a parent, there are only so many things we can control and then at some point we just have to trust that God will fill in the gaps.
Let me back up a few years when we were contemplating high schools for Luke and his dad and I weren’t quite on the same page. My heart was heavy with the decision…it’s not always easy to work something out with an ex but we both wanted what was best for our sons. I kept a Word document on my desktop where I recorded my thoughts and feelings about the matter. As you can probably tell, I sort through my feelings with contemplation, prayer and the exercise of writing. I had typed up notes, thoughts and even arguments as if I was preparing for a big presentation in court.
This document was a dumping ground of sorts. It also included ideas, notes from counseling and even exercises from my therapy sessions. It was basically a planner, journal and diary all in one.
One day I decided I wanted to send this doc to myself so I would have it in my email. I was in a hurry so I started typing in “a-r-n-o” and it filled in the rest. I pushed send.
The next day I opened an email that read, “I don’t think you meant to send this to me.” I was HORRIFIED, I had just sent my deepest thoughts, unfiltered frustrations and candid ramblings to my FH.
In recent counseling sessions, I had been processing the fact that the pastor of the church our family attended when I was married had done the wedding ceremony for my FH’s remarriage. My counselor had encouraged me to write the pastor a letter and we decided together that it was just an exercise and I wouldn’t send it. So I wrote a draft. It was raw, full of pain and clearly not meant for public consumption. And yes, it was included in the document.
After I realized what I had done, I looked for a rock to crawl under and when I couldn’t find one, I decided my bed would do. I climbed in and pulled the covers over my head. I can’t explain it, but I immediately felt God’s peace. I felt Him quiet my fears and comfort my heart. I had a sense this had happened for a reason but I had no idea what that reason could be.
Even though I was humiliated and embarrassed, I realized that my FH got to see deeper into my heart on the matter of schooling, and over time we came to an agreement on where Luke would go. High school is so much about finding the right fit for our kids, in fact I don’t think it’s uncommon for some students to switch schools in the pursuit of discovering a place where they can thrive. Fortunately Luke landed in a place where he has thrived and is having an amazing experience. I tell him often that he is truly embracing all that high school has to offer.
The consistency of community influence that we were unable to offer Luke growing up has been found in recent years. He has a great group of friends that come from families of strong faith and values. These parents have loved on him and our little family over the years, offering him things that I as a single mom cannot. And I recently realized that my dream to provide a home where my boys and their friends could gather has come to fruition, just not in the way I had pictured. I sent a text to one of my friends the other day (Luke and her son are good friends), thanking her for the gift of a peaceful place where he feels at home and is treated like family. He’s drawn to them and their home and now, from a healthy place, I can see what a gift that is to all of us.
I believe we have to advocate for the influences we want to have in our lives and in the lives of our children. Positive influence is one of the most powerful resources we can seek out to aid in the development of strong character and values. I lobbied for influences that were important to me when it came to my children’s schooling. I am passionate about talking with my boys about the importance of influence when it comes to picking and being a good friend. And I’m also realizing that God has blessed me with a group of people who can influence my kids in extraordinary ways if I’m willing to step out of the way and let my boys be loved deeply by these families. It’s been such a rich and healthy exercise for me, and these outside influences speak to my boys in ways that I simply cannot.
No, shoes aren’t piled at my front door and the noises that fill my house aren’t from a bunch of boys, but rather Coldplay performing through my audio system. Yet my heart is full. I can see that God gave me the desires of my heart, just not in the way I had imagined. I don’t have a perfect life but I do have a perfectly wonderful village. They offer me and the boys love, wisdom and powerful influence. This week, let’s take the time to thank the people in our villages. For they have given us more than we could have ever imagined…much more than we could possibly ever repay.
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.