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To a father, from the daughter you didn’t raise

I think one of the worst possible feelings is the notion that we are incapable of being loved. For many years I unfortunately felt the weight of this realization weigh heavy on my heart, and I would use this feeling to judge the majority of my adult romantic relationships.

When I was 12 years old, my father passed away. The loss to our family was so sudden and devastating that we were left reeling in our new reality, forced to create a new family unit from the remains of our old one. My mother and I navigated the years of my childhood together, and she became a father in addition to a mother to me. She was an incredible parent, and she taught me many invaluable qualities that I am still thankful for, including undeniable strength. However, the loss of my father was a very real void that would determine not only my feelings regarding love, but also would affect my ability to trust for many years thereafter.

My father didn’t pass away in the traditional sense. I am 28 years old and he is still very much alive. He passed away in the sense that he died as my father.

He determined that rather than stay married and be a part of a family, he would choose to pursue a relationship with a woman who had no children. On a day in which I was confined to bed with an awful case of the stomach flu, he walked out on me, never to return as the man who I grew up with.

As a child, I idolized my father. He was my best friend, and I would follow him everywhere, mirroring his actions. I would stand in our kitchen on a stool next to him at the counter, watching as he prepared sandwiches, and would prepare mine in exactly the same manner, squishing the two slices of bread together to make sure that all of the contents were safely confined in to the sandwich. I would speak exactly as he did. He was my hero, and when I grew older, I wanted to be like him. I truly thought he was perfect.

And then, in an instant, he was gone. After he and my mother divorced, he would flutter in to my life for the next few years occasionally, missing pivotal events as he briefly checked in, always raising my hopes for a better father/daughter relationship, before disappearing yet again. As I grew, I would judge every man I met based on the standards that he had created, choosing questionable romantic partners in the process. I never did anything questionable, but I found that I would always choose men who were similar to him, and always found myself disappointed.

Years later, I met the man who would become my husband. He loved me for who I was, a flawed and broken shell of a person, hardened by life experience and unable to trust men. He opened my eyes to the fact that I was not only capable of but deserving of love. He was truly my saving grace, and I will never be able to repay him for the way in which he changed my life, allowing me to trust others after many years of casting doubt on them.

For years prior, I thought growing up without a father figure in my life was a negative and that I would suffer from not being raised by two parents. However, I honestly have to say that the “death” of my father was a blessing in disguise. Through the loss of a person who had once been so important in my life, I not only gained the ability to realize the depth of my strength, but I was able to witness what an incredible role model and person my mother was. If it were not for my father’s passing, I would never have chosen the path that led me to the man who would repair my heart.

My father and I do not speak. We have not seen one another in several years and have not spoken since my wedding, an event he attended briefly, before leaving yet again.

If I could say any thing to him, I would thank him. I would thank him, not as his daughter, but as a woman raised without a father. I would thank him for everything that the experience has taught me, and I honestly would not change the situation I grew up in for a different childhood. To my father, thank you.

I wouldn’t have been able to do it with you. 22cea1eef834b73406b687d3dc17791c

 

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What I Wish I Had Known

boys.jpgBefore I had children, I was naive. A child myself, I didn’t understand the reality of parenting. The constant worry and fear that co-exist on a daily basis. The fear that I am failing my children as a mother. The worry..oh the worry. Are my children happy? Is that sniffle something greater than a minor cold? Am I giving my children the best childhood they can have? These are only some of the many topics on the never ending list in my head, as I navigate the world of parenting.

If it were possible to go back in time, to my pre-child self, I think I would tell her these things.

What I wish I had known before having children:

I wish I had been warned that I would be exhausted. Not just tired, but to the core tired. My body, mind and energy would be affected for the next 18 plus years of my life. I would feel more sleepy than I ever had, because I would spend many nights nursing sick children back to health. Staying awake with the child who just wasn’t tired enough for bed yet. Watching and re-watching the same episode of Mickey Mouse clubhouse because somewhere within our watching cycle we had missed a very pivotal scene that couldn’t wait until morning to be repeated. Soothing shaking bodies after nightmares. Rubbing sweet smelling heads dabbled with beads of sweat as they fought to go back to sleep. I would be so incredibly exhausted that I would question how I could manage another hour..another minute without a nap. And I would tell that childless version of me that the lack of sleep, the bags under my eyes and the hair thrown haphazardly in to a messy version of a ponytail were, and still are, so incredibly worth it. That the feeling of a child collapsing in to your arms, your lap, with a sigh of relief and a warm hug, would make her heart feel as if it were bursting with joy, her cup overflowing.

I wish someone would have told me, before having children, how intensely I would feel every emotion. Every single one. How, upon seeing my child upset because another person had hurt them, I would instantly transform in to the often mentioned “mama bear,” ready to protect her cubs. How I would feel my heart soar with joy watching as my children accomplished another monumental milestone. How the tears would roll down my cheeks, stinging my skin, in a combination of joy and sadness, as I watched my children grow up before my eyes far too quickly.

Before having children, I wish someone would have told me that I would never love the man that I had committed my life too more than when he became a father. My love would continue to multiply for him as I watched him interact with his children, holding their bodies to comfort them after a fall. Reading each child bedtime stories and sprinkling their heads with kisses, I wish I would have known how much I would fall in love with him, over and over again. I’m not certain my pre-child heart would have believed it. After all, that version of myself thought I couldn’t possibly love him anymore. But she was wrong. Watching him as a father strengthened their bond more than she could have ever realized.

And what I wish I had known, most of all is this.

I wish I would have known nothing.

After all, life and parenting do not come with manuals. Each are journeys that we must travel without instructions, destinations without a map. If my pre-child self had heard these things, I’m not sure she would understand. In fact, I know she wouldn’t have. Without experience, she wouldn’t have been able to appreciate these things.

I’m grateful I didn’t know.

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A Letter, to my former self

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Hi, it’s me. Or rather, its you. We haven’t had one of these heart to heart conversations in quite some time. I thought I would write you a letter, a keepsake that you can read, and hold close, for those times when the words that I write within will be of comfort to you.

Do you remember when you were doubting yourself so strongly that your confidence was at it’s lowest point? You weren’t certain why you felt the way you did, but you knew that you did not like the person you were becoming. You felt too weak to change who you were, and because you were questioning everything, including yourself, you allowed yourself to make several negative choices that you would later regret.

I hope you know now, that standing on the other side of those days where you felt at your most vulnerable, you are now the most confident that you have ever been. You are strong in your convictions and your opinions, and you do not feel as though you have to apologize for everything that you are doing.

Do you remember when you felt so angry at the world that you could cry? Your resentment towards the situations presented to you was so strong, so tangible, that you allowed it to consume you, until you were a shell of bitterness and negativity. You were not the type of person anyone wanted to be around, and you could feel others pulling away from you. You didn’t want to ask for another person to offer you their ear so that you could decompress. You would rather be miserable in your struggles, until you held your anger in so tightly, bottling your emotions until you exploded.

I want to let you know that you did open your heart. You let others in, and you became incredibly grateful that you did. No longer did you have to bear the weight of your struggle alone. You allowed yourself to trust others. It was one of the greatest decisions you ever made.

Do you recall how you withdrew from your faith? How you walked away from Him because you wondered, in your thoughts and out loud, how someone you could be faithful too could withdraw themselves from you, leaving you to question everything you thought that you knew? Do you remember asking yourself and others how a God that you believed in could put you through these awful things? Do you remember how you considered never going back?

You did.

You allowed Him back in to your heart. You began to trust in him again. You began to feel your soul transform, your spirit refresh. You felt faithful, and you no longer said His name only when angry.

Do you remember the time you asked yourself how anyone could possibly have a more difficult year? You asked, wondered, and pleaded to Him and anyone that would listen how it was physically and humanly realistic for anyone to go through as much heartbreak in one year as you endured. You thought to yourself how this must possibly be a joke, because no one, in real life, could experience as much loss and pain as you had. You were constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next bad thing to happen to you.

I want you to know now, that all of the pain that you endured, the heartbreak that at the time seemed to overwhelm you until you couldn’t breathe? There was a purpose for your pain. You have found a way to channel your experiences in to something magnificent and beautiful. You are motivating, empowering and encouraging others. You are happy. Truly happy. You don’t question the future, and you look upon every day with new possibility.

From your former self..everything that you thought at the time was going to emotionally or physically drain you? It didn’t.

It has made you stronger. So much stronger than you ever could have imagined.

And I hope you know that you are doing just fine.

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Why I call you friend

I’m not certain where these words may find you. Perhaps you were scrolling through your Facebook page when you saw one of my posts appear. You may have been lightly browsing your Twitter timeline and clicked on a link to one of the entries I have written. I may have shared my thoughts with you, hoping that my insights provided you encouragement. Perhaps you are like me, finding a few moments to yourself in an otherwise busy day, your children, significant other or pet commanding your attention in the background, even if they are not asking for you directly. It always seem as if those who we spend most of our time with (our children, or others), never fully want our attention until we are immersed in something else, doesn’t it?

If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you may notice that when I write to you, I call you my friends. If you are new to my page, and are reading for the first time, I want to welcome you to our community. You are my friend as well. I am happy to have you here, and I hope you find encouragement and peace in these words.

When I first started this blog, my primary intention was to write for myself. In a way, this very public forum was also a way to express my private thoughts. As I wrote more entries, the blog became less of a process, and more of a way to connect with others. Since I have started, I have been incredibly fortunate in the fact that not only are others reading my posts, they are also sharing them with others that they know. I am beyond blessed to see my network of readers and followers continue to expand, and for that, I want to thank you all.

You see, this is why I call you friend. In building this community, where we share grace, encouragement and hope, we are coming together in a mutual space, to share our thoughts, our feelings, and our experiences. As you continue to support me by reading, we are sharing a mutual bond, connecting over these words. While some of you may be my friends in real life, some of those who are reading these posts I have never met in person. However, I want you to know that our connection is still the same.

I am so grateful that I am able to write to you on a daily basis. I am happy that I have been able to reach others and impact them directly. Each time I receive a message stating that a post spoke to a person, I feel reaffirmed that what I am doing is truly empowering others, which is my sole intention now for continuing to write these posts.

Friend, thank you for being here.  Thank you for allowing my words to fill your screen. I am blessed by our friendship, and I hope you feel the same.

With love,

Amber

friends

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Broken can be beautiful

My washing machine is still broken.

The repairman, whose daughter was ill, graciously sent a worker in his place to evaluate the status of our machine. Fortunately, the problem was what she considered a “fairly easy,” fix…easy in the sense that she could diagnose the problem, but troublesome in the sense that there would be an added delay. The part that is currently affecting the washer and causing it not to work has to be factory ordered, and it could take a maximum of a week and a half to arrive, which would mean that I would be without a working appliance until the end of the month.

The end. Of the month.

Do you recall in my previous post, when I mentioned that I was not by nature a particularly patient person? When I heard the news that my overflowing laundry basket of dirty clothes that has not been laundered since the day the washer broke, and could not be laundered for another 2 weeks (4 weeks total..eww), I could have easily become angry. Luckily the boys and I have large wardrobes, but when those essential items start to dwindle, I could either wash them by hand, or go to a laundromat. There are some things that just cannot wait.

My mother offered her washing machine without hesitation, and for her I am immensely grateful. You see, in spite of being my mother, she is also my best friend and my biggest advocate. Last year, when I became ill, irritated and confused as I attended a mounting pile of appointments with no clear diagnosis or relief in sight, she was by my side, always trying to cheer me up. When I tried to fight to remain employed as I became increasingly more sick, she was my biggest supporter, reminding me every day that I was strong, and I could surely handle whatever I was dealt. She has always helped me to handle every transition in my life, from minor to large, and when I recently made the change from working mother to stay at home mom, she was supportive. However, this caused us to not see each other as often. When I was working, she kindly offered her heart and her home to my boys, caring for them so that I could work full time. With myself at home, there was no longer a need for outside child care, and unfortunately, we’ve seen her less. The ability to be able to spend time with her, while at the same time cleaning our clothes, was actually a hidden blessing.

As we sorted piles, moved clothing from the washing machine to the dryer, and folded the clothes, we were able to spend a full day together, spending quality time and catching up on each other’s lives. Even if I do not see her every day, I still make it a point to send a daily text or make a phone call to keep in touch. However, time spent in person is some times more valuable and much more needed than these others methods of communication allow.

While helping her to clean, offering my help around her house as she was able to offer her assistance to us, I also began to think of how much like that broken washing machine I am. Last year, when I was ill, irritable, and devoid of answers, I felt such intense anger in my heart at the circumstances before me. No one wanted to deal with a broken thing. They would rather have something easier to manage, the more convenient route to take. When things are broken, they not only affect themselves, but those around them.  I, like my currently broken washing machine, was affecting my family. I was unhappy, and my family bore the brunt of it.

My washing machine still has several more days before it will be fixed, but in the mean time, I am thankful. I am thankful for the kindness of my mother, who in our time of need, extended herself so that we could be taken washing

care of. I am also thankful for my broken washing machine.

The washing machine is not only teaching me to be patient. It is also teaching me that while it is so easy to look upon something that is broken with frustration or annoyance, it is also equally easy to understand that broken things take time to repair. They are not fixed overnight.

I am working on myself, to wash away the anger and resentment I once felt. Much like the loads of laundry that await a fixed machine, I am working every day to make myself a new article in a messy world.

After all, broken can be beautiful too.

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How the repairman taught me grace

By nature, I am not a patient person.  It may be the generation in which I was raised, taught to need instant gratification. If we are forced to wait longer than stated for what we desire, we are then agitated, annoyed. It is a learned behavior, and one that I unfortunately see come in to play far too often for many others, who are my age and older.

Today we had an appointment scheduled, one set the week prior to repair one of our appliances. After a particularly demanding year, draining both mentally and physically, I was finally hopeful, looking forward to the promise of what the new year had to offer.

Then, on the final day of 2015, our washing machine stopped working.

In the grand scheme of life, with others suffering with such problems as poverty, incurable illness and other major life situations, my broken washer was minor.

But friends, when you expect to have things done, and then, for whatever reason, there is a change in plan, it’s possible to become a little annoyed..a bit agitated. It’s just human nature.

However, after the year I had,in 2015, I saw the true actions of many people. During one of the most trying times in my life, both spiritually and physically, I was confronted head one with who was genuine and who, unfortunately, was not. I saw that when I needed others the most, they were often the first to be difficult to locate, the ones who gave up on me because I was flawed.

Instead of getting annoyed as the time stated to us passed, and minutes turned in to hours, I decided to call, to check on the status of our appointment, and make sure that everything was okay. The business that we were going to be using is owned by one person, with one other woman who works for him. Together this team accomplishes the calls that they are dispatched on, repairing appliances and relying on one another.

When he answered, I could immediately tell that his voice was stressed. I relayed my information..that I had scheduled an appointment. My name, and our situation. He sighed heavily. But it wasn’t a sigh of annoyance, or frustration with me. It was a sigh of the weary. He then went on to explain that the reason for his delay was that he was currently sitting in the doctor’s office with his daughter, who was diagnosed with an illness that would require prescription treatment. He wasn’t certain how long he would be.

In that moment, it could have been incredibly easy to get upset. I could have demanded a reschedule, or cancelled my appointment and selected another company. Instead, I understood. I have children. Life with children is not predictable. When your child is sick, your first priority is to care for them. All other things come after. I understood that, because I am a mom. I told him that he could take his time. If he wanted to come tomorrow, after things were settled, I would be here. There was no rush.

Friends, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day aspects of life that we forget others have lives to lead too. Life isn’t perfect by any means. It is messy. It is how we handle ourselves when situations outside of our control arise that is what truly matters.

I do not know this man’s personal life, and I did not ask. It is possible that he was the only one available to take his child to the doctor. He may have a significant other, but they may have been unable to get away, and for that reason, he was the one to be there on this day.

On this day, when I offered for our repair man to come back tomorrow, I could hear the audible sigh of relief in his voice, and the stress leave his body as he was able to focus on his daughter first. As a parent, I wanted to give him that gift.

I ask, that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, when you find yourself getting annoyed, or frustrated that things did not happen exactly as you planned them, that you take a step back to evaluate the situation.

Friends, always live life with a grateful and graceful heart. You never know who else may benefit from your understanding. gracechangeseverything4-w855h425.png

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Finding your community

Community of Moms Facebook

Today we have a guest poster on the blog! I was fortunate enough to connect with Brittany via Twitter. Brittany graciously agreed to write this post for my site after I approached her asking if she would like to join this community.  Please read about Brittany below. I hope you enjoy her post!

From Brittany : My name is Brittany. I’m a stay-at-home mom, blogger, coffee addict, and wife to a very patient man. My blog celebrates life and motherhood. I write about family and kids’ activities, recipes, tips and how-to’s, thrifty living, and homemaking. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and WordPress!

http://Facebook.com/champagneandcheerios

http://twitter.com/chmpgncheerios

http://Instagram.com/champagneandcheerios

http://Pinterest.com/brittanyblog

http://champagneandcheeriosblog.wordpress.com

 

 

 

It was a beautiful spring day; one of the first since the daytime temperatures had consistently stayed above 50 degrees. I decided I would take my daughter, barely 5 months old, and our dog to the park for a walk and to soak up some sunshine. As I walked in the park, pushing the stroller and trying to keep the dog’s leash from getting tangled up, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. My first instinct was to push those thoughts aside. After all, I’m not at the park alone! I have my beautiful daughter and sweet little dog with me! But just like the first few weeks after a break-up, when you realize everyone else is paired off with a significant other, I started to take notice of the moms.

I saw fit moms in skin-tight Nike outfits pushing jogging strollers two-by-two. I saw a group of moms chasing toddlers on the playground and dusting off mulch from their most recent tumble. I saw picnicking moms watching older children playing with a soccer ball in the grass. I felt utterly and completely alone. Sure, I knew other moms at church, but in all honesty, those girls just weren’t in the same place I was. They either had children much older than mine, or they worked during the day. The only stay-at-home moms I knew were my friends in other states, other time zones.

I have a history of clinical depression and I could feel it creeping up on me like a ghost from my past. The pressure I felt in my chest, the negative thoughts, the feeling of being trapped by loneliness. I left the park determined. I was going to find community, I was not going to settle for loneliness.

Thankfully, God knows my heart; He heard my plea, and had intervened even before I knew my need. I had been to a few monthly meetings of our local La Leche League chapter. If you’re not familiar with La Leche League, it’s a group of pregnant and nursing moms who meet monthly to discuss breastfeeding, ask and answer questions, and share wisdom. The next meeting was that week and I went with a purpose this time; not to ask questions about nursing, but to really connect with at least one mom there. I made more of an effort to talk to the other moms and get to know them. And then I overheard a conversation that I know was the moment God was leading me to. One mom was telling another about a group called The Mother’s Club. It’s a local group of stay-at-home moms that meet weekly for play-dates, activities, and even a monthly mom’s night out. As soon as I got home I looked them up on Facebook and got in touch with the group. I went to my first play-date and knew that God had brought me to the community I was looking for.

It’s been 10 months since I found these girls, and they have changed my life. They love their children fiercely and I have learned so much about what it means to be a mom and a friend. I have learned that it’s ok to mess up, it’s ok to parent the way I see fit, and it’s ok to be real. They will still be my friends if I show up to a play-date without makeup on or if I show up late because of yet another blow-out diaper on the way out the door! They understand because they’re in the same place as I am, and it’s a beautiful thing!

Are we all best friends? Of course not. We have closer relationships with some of the moms and not as close relationships with others, that’s just being human. But I know that I can count on these girls if I need them. We come together to celebrate the birth of a new baby and to mourn the loss of a loved one. We celebrate birthday parties and poop-in-the-potty occasions with almost equal enthusiasm!

Momma, I want to encourage you- your community is out there. Don’t discount yourself- you’re a good mom and a great friend and there is at least one other mom out there looking for someone just like you. This crazy roller coaster of motherhood is hard, almost impossible, without the support and encouragement of other moms. Make yourself vulnerable and watch how God will use it to bring you amazing friendships.

And to the mom who has her community, I want to urge you to look around you and seek out the mom who needs a friend. You might just be instrumental in her life. Sure it can be awkward to approach someone you don’t know, but wouldn’t it be such a blessing to be used by God to encourage someone with a friendly conversation or gesture?! I know He will use you if you allow Him.

Below are just a few resources and ideas on where you can start to look for your community of moms. Please don’t be limited by this list, it’s here to inspire you!
La Leche League- A great resource for pregnant and nursing moms.
MOMS Club- An international organization made up of local chapters, see if there’s one for your city!
YMCA- Meeting other moms that enjoy yoga or Zumba is easy at a place like the Y! Most of them even offer childcare!
Mommy and me classes like those offered at Kindermusik are a great way to meet other moms with children the same age as yours!
Local libraries almost always offer a storytime for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Check your library and see what programs they offer.