Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Realistic Hope

Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future.—Frederick Buechner, “A Room Called
At Eve’s Daughters, we love the phrase “realistic hope.” I know when I first divorced, I sure wished someone would wave his or her magic wand and fix everything, and most certainly I expected it from God because, you know, He just wants us to be happy… But as time went by, and I continued to experience problems and solve certain challenges and get even deeper conundrums, I felt like a kid playing that Whack-a-Gopher game: One goes down, two pop up. And I despaired. A lot.

Now, with a few more miles under my belt, I’m feeling a little more realistic about life. But realistic can be a real downer, because we know all too well how real things can really get. So where’s the balance?

I had a great opportunity today, to just sit and listen to a single mom. We were thrown together inadvertently (if you believe that such things are inadvertent) and have since become friends. The greater gift came early in the morning, while it was still so dark that you’re not sure it will ever be light again. I’d asked to be encouraging, because I often feel lame in that department. I got a Scripture reference, wrote it down on a purple Post-It and stuck it in my purse. At the end of our discussion today, I pulled it out and asked, “Does this mean anything to you?” Well. Of course. It was timely and precious and pertinent in a way I could not manufacture. I gave her a hug and told her to put it on her bathroom mirror. She laughed and said she was going to stick it to her forehead and have everyone read it back to her.

I had a great laugh today, with another single mom—a great big black laugh, one that comes in and around tears. It had to do with the aloneness of being a single parent, and how, when one is sick or injured and seemingly approaching death, it seems the entire world has forgotten you. Until the nasty decomposing vapors start to waft. Who might notice? The children? When their laundry remains undone? Or the neighbors? Whom we do not know well because we’re running all the time? It was a bad good laugh, so dark and purging that you strangely feel a little lighter afterwards.

I had a great crisis today with someone I love, because it seems the house of cards just got flicked, and something that has now been done cannot be undone.

And now, with the day not even close to done, it does kinda feel like I’m up to my knees. This day truly is very similar to my others—some good, some bad, some wrenching, some status quo. Today the heartache gopher raised its pointy little head, but, for example, the childrearing and financial drama gophers are still snug in their holes. For now. But for some reason I don’t feel as yanked around as I usually do. I feel human, to be sure, but not the need to try and be superhuman. I feel brokenhearted, but thankful. Tired, but energized. Alone, but not so. And I believe that—wading through, eyes on horizon, tiredly rejoicing—is realistic hope.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Getting Real

I have been waiting…waiting for the right time…waiting until I could be the role model I need to be…waiting until I was the perfect mom…and I am still waiting.

I have procrastinated…I have held off on launching Eve’s Daughters. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I needed to be through the ups and downs of single parenting…I needed to be in a place of relative calm so that I could help other single moms. Tonight I realize…that calm isn’t going to come. Not the calm I want…the human calm… the “all is well with the world” calm.

The last few weeks have been tough. My teenage son made a mistake. A mistake that has stopped me in my tracks and made me doubt my parenting skills, and brought me back to the same ‘ole question, “am I qualified to start a non-profit for single moms?” How can I possibly be a support to other single moms when I can’t seem to “control” what is going on in my own household, when I keep experiencing “mini” crises?

Karen and I have spent countless hours trying to “perfect” our mission statement. From the beginning we felt that Eve’s Daughters needed to be authentic, needed to reflect the realness of walking with God. So our “working” mission has been “living out the wild love of Christ by walking alongside single moms in crisis”. I have been asking God to reveal what that looks like.

Could it be that “living out the wild love of Christ” means serving single moms despite the fact that my life isn’t perfect, that my children make mistakes, that I make mistakes? Is part of God’s plan that I be vulnerable…and walk the same walk that other single moms are walking…while building my foundation on Christ? Is it as simple as being real, being imperfect, experiencing trials, and all the while loving Christ?

Christ’s love is wild. It is filled with peaks and valleys, with trials and obstacles, and with seemingly illogical paths. But at the foundation, Christ’s love is certain. He is a rock…always there…he will never leave us…no matter what we do. He loves us in spite of our warts, in spite of our inadequacies. He loves us enough to give us opportunities to grow. He loves us enough to experience storms. He loves us enough to let us fail.

The wild love of Christ doesn’t guarantee us calm, doesn’t mean a life without obstacles, and surely doesn’t mean we won’t experience pain. It does mean that when the storm is raging all around us, when we can’t see two feet in front of us, that He is there ready to be our rock, ready to be our shelter.

God wants us to get started. God wants us to step out in faith so that He can use us, in all our inadequacies as parents, to support other women as they go through the single parent journey. He wants us to be his hands and feet, his shoulder to cry on, his ear to listen.

The waiting is over…it’s time to get real

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Putting the Pieces Together

My biz partner, Cathy (below), loves doing puzzles; I am spatially stunted.
She focuses on the destination; I only see the next mile marker.
She is comfortable with the 30,000-foot view; I’m scrambling for a detailed road map.

How in the world are we going to hatch a nonprofit?

I find it interesting that we’ve been put together for this venture in that our strengths, weaknesses and hearts are in such different locales. But I’m also becoming more aware of what I’ve learned is a supernatural growth process. It truly is otherworldly—not defined by the standards we can see. It’s confusing, messy, liberating, exciting and exhausting all at once. And it’s almost always unexplainable until you get to the other side of it, until the full picture starts coming into view.

I confess that earlier in life, when I was still single and child-free, I was rather judgmental of women who complained about how hard single parenting was. It was along the lines of, “You should’ve thought of that before, hon.” And now, I find myself in a place I never wanted to be, doing what I never wanted to do, and finding my heart broken for others in similar situations.

I could not have visualized this for myself.

Of course I planned on happily-ever-after. Of course the choice to divorce created fallout, both positive and negative, that I couldn’t have foreseen. But just as in a puzzle, when you finally get some pieces to fit and say, “Oh! It’s an apple, not a fire plug,” your vision can shift toward something that didn’t exist before, making it more real than you knew.

I’ve been a single parent for seven of my daughter’s ten years. We’ve slogged through illnesses, work challenges, parenting conundrums, money shortages, legal battles, loneliness and regular, boring life stuff. At every turn, I realize now, I’ve received another piece of the puzzle: Some hard-won lessons are the equivalent of a corner piece—an anchor securely gained. Others are blurry insiders—parts that make no sense at the moment, parts that need to be put aside for a bit before they fit.

Both are needed. Both are valid. But I believe more and more that ours is a God who hides the box top. And, paradoxically, that can benefit us, stretching our sights beyond what we could imagine.

So as Cathy and I sift through the pieces, some eerily familiar to us both while others are unique, we gain a better understanding of single parenthood—the crazy challenges and the crazier rewards. And it’s our sincere hope that, in spite of our individual visions, we’ll create a full spectrum of services and tools for single moms who’d kind of like to be working alongside others at the card table—laughing together at the darker commonalities, and encouraging others to put a particularly ornery piece aside until its meaning starts coming into view.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here we go...

I don’t think of myself as a writer. My mom does. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, my mom believed in me. She is my hero. She is what I strive to be.

My mom was there when I became a single mom. She was holding my 7-month old daughter and I was holding my 3-year old son when my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and walked out the front door. She was with me when my life changed forever.

That was 14 years ago. Today I am a single mom of an almost 17-year old and a 14-year old. I have survived the infant, toddler, elementary, and pre-adolescent years and I am holding my own through the teen years. My time as a single mom has been a journey of ups and downs, good and bad, and exhaustion and more exhaustion.
It has been kind of like a rollercoaster full of twists and turns – one minute in control, climbing the mountain, and the next careening downwards in a spiral towards the miry pit.

My journey has led me to the doorstep of Eve’s Daughters. On the good days, I like to think that Eve’s Daughters is God’s dream and that Karen (my partner) and I are lucky enough to be part of the plan. On the not so good days, I am wondering, why this road, and am I capable?

Just like in the Chronicles of Narnia… we stand at the wardrobe, waiting to take a step into a world to be explored and known. I don’t know what we are going to find or what Eve’s Daughters will become. In concept Eve’s Daughters is a non-profit created to live out the wild love of Christ while supporting single moms as they walk the sometimes lonely, demanding road of parenthood. What that path looks like and where the road takes us, is a work in progress. I try and rest in the knowledge that God knows where the road is heading…

So, here we go…we step out in faith. I hope my mom is right, and I am a writer of sorts. I hope that Eve’s Daughters becomes a place where single moms feel validated. I hope that God picked the right person and that I am ready for the journey …