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Be fearless

When I consider lessons I want to teach my daughters one of the very first is: be fearless. Say hi to the cute boy. Try out for cheerleading. Ride roller coasters. Not crazy, dangerous things. But things that scare you. Do them anyway.

I bought season passes to the local amusement park and a few days ago I took Grace and Lee to ride the roller coasters. When I was a teenagers I loved that moment. The one when you’ve finished the assent and you’re dangling at the top just waiting for the drop to come. It’s scary and exhilarating all at the same time. And I loved it.

It’s different now. My adult body can no longer be pushed to the limits the younger one could. But I still want that for my girls.

I want them to stand in line, their eyes on the sky. I want them to get in the seat and strap in. I want them to wait as the anticipation builds as they climb the hill. And then I want them to throw their hands up in the air and scream as the world flies past in a blur. And I want them to be secure in the knowledge that when they get off I’ll be there waiting.

Ride the roller coaster.

Be fearless,

Elisabeth

I gave it up for Lent.

It’s something you’ve probably heard several times in the last few weeks. I’m not Catholic but over the years I have come to appreciate the disciple of Lent.

I woke up on Ash Wednesday fully prepared to give up sweets and dessert. Instead God asked for Dr. Pepper. God asked? He did, in a voice unmistakably His. I argued like a selfish brat. And then I tried to reason with Him, That I was terrified of the caffeine withdrawal headaches that would inevitably come. He asked me to trust him.

And I did.

I waited but the headaches never came. After a week or so the cravings subsided. And I survived the entire 40 days (well really 44 days) without once having a Diet Dr. Pepper.

By now you’re thinking, Dr. Pepper really? A huge sacrifice? I assure you for me, it is.

I have this tendency to argue with God. I am stubborn, I want things my way. I want the little sacrifice of sweets, not the big sacrifice of Dr. Pepper. I don’t want to embarrass the single mother in line behind me by paying for her groceries.  But each time I listen, each time I trust him, I am rewarded. This time was no different.

I would never begin to declare my sacrifice on the level of his. But the beauty of this season has only been magnified by the act. Each and every day I have been given a reminder of his faithfulness, sometimes big, sometimes small but always undeniable.

Grateful for the lesson in trust,

Elisabeth

I believe

In staff meeting this morning we were asked this question, “What do you believe? And why?”

The first part is one of those questions you don’t think about you just answer.

I believe that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I and not another – oh, how my heart yearns within me.

I believe that through to my very core. But to understand why takes me a step back in time.

I was my husbands enabler. I shielded him from the consequences of his actions. Turned away and pretended the ugly truth didn’t exist. And sometimes even bought the lie that what he did was my fault.

Now the only person I am responsible for is me. I am responsible for me. As I go through this life, as I walk with others I meet along my journey, while I will be held to account for the example I was to them, I will not be held to account for their choices. As a mom I am responsible for helping mold my children into being justice seeking, mercy loving, humble walkers, but eventually they too will be responsible for themselves alone.

This gives me the freedom to love people. Who I am to judge their hearts, they alone are responsible for their actions. My job is simply to love them, even when they make choices I wouldn’t make for myself. I’m not saying open yourself to destructive, harmful relationships but love people.  Hug someone who is hurting. Rejoice with someone who has reached a milestone. Forgive someone who is genuinely contrite. Hold a hand when someone is making a tough but necessary change. Love people.

I believe that my Redeemer lives,

Elisabeth

I’m Debt Free

Well almost.

When my ex-husband left, I was in a financial mess. The next four years the kids and I lived on a strict budget. We had little disposable income but we lived within our means. Until I lost my job. I spent the next seven months applying all kinds of places for all kinds of jobs. In the mean time my savings dwindled and my credit cards charged up.

Finally I began working. Two days a week. The pay was awful but I was gainfully employed. A year and a half later, as of January 1, I  am officially full time, with a substantial pay raise.

I love my job but that’s not really the point of today. The point of today is that my monthly income now outweighs my outgoing. I had three credit cards I charged up… okay maxed out… while I was unemployed. With my Christmas bonus I made the final payments on two of them and next month I’ll make the final payment on the third.

There isn’t any wiggle room in my budget. We still have to cut every corner we can. But I’m no longer scrounging for change to buy gas until the next paycheck. I’m no longer robbing Peter to pay Paul. And oh yeah, I’m no longer always a month behind on my electric bill.

The house still has a mortgage and the car isn’t paid off. But I have no unsecured debt. For a girl who has spent two years living on credit, it’s a pretty good feeling.

Weight off my shoulders-

Elisabeth

Losing on the Battlefield

You know the scene from a war movie? When the wounded pour into the battlefield trauma tent and the doctor looks around and must make a decision. He has to decide who he can save, how can he make best use of the few supplies he has left. He is faced with this terrible decision and he makes the very best choice he can. What we never see is how he lives with himself in the months or years that follow.

My divorce is a battlefield. Some people have these amicable splits where they work together for the good of the children. Mine doesn’t look like that. My ex husband cheated on me, spent years mentally battering me until one day finally, he left and married the other woman. And for the first time in ten years I was free.

I finally stood up to him. I no longer let him demean me, curse me, I found my self worth. And he found a new weapon, our children. The changes in our son, the oldest were subtle at first until the day he declared he wanted to go live with his father. He began failing at school, he wouldn’t turn in homework assignments we’d spent hours working on the night before. He grew violent, not just to me but to his sisters as well.

Then came the day he hit his  twenty month old sister. That was my moment. When the camera pans back and you look at the battlefield your life has become. You look into the eyes of your girls who are becoming collateral damage and you ask yourself… is this worth the fight?

And so, a few months shy of his 12th birthday my angry, bitter son left my home and moved in with his father. The relationship degraded further for the next year until at 13 he refused weekend visitation and in the last year I can count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with my son. He’s still angry and bitter. He blames me for the breakdown of our family. He blames me for not communicating with him when each attempt is rebuffed. He blames me for each and every problem he faces.

Part of it is my fault. It didn’t hurt so bad if I didn’t think about it. I couldn’t stomach his declarations of my failures as a mother, he declarations that he would rejoice upon my death, so I quit trying to talk to him. Now his father is moving 500 miles away and he wants to take my son.

Legally I have the power to stop him. Legally I could force my son to stay in the state. I could choose to fight my ex husband. Last night I looked at friend and asked what do I have to lose if I fight? And the answer is the same now as it was nearly four years ago. Three beautiful, innocent little girls.

There is no easy way out. Either choice I make promises pain. And I wonder how does that doctor live with himself in the weeks and months that follow?

Learning to live with the choice-

Elisabeth

Five Year Mark

In the middle of my divorce I was given some statistics. Half of all first marriages end in divorce. And 75% of all second marriages end in divorce. The odds get worse from there. Most people remarry within three years. But the one that stuck with me the most was that if you did not remarry within five years, odds are you never will.

In one week I will hit the five year mark.

I wonder sometimes if I have grown cold. I wonder if I will be able to recognize real love. I wonder if I will ever find a man who makes me feel alive. I wonder if I will grow old alone.

After ten years of misery with the wrong man I made a decision when I got divorced. I would never marry again until I found the perfect man. But what does that man look like?

  • A man of God with a servant’s heart. A man I can pray with.
  • Someone who appreciates the work I do, my father’s position and mine in this county, with the strength of character to support me and withstand the talk that will inevitably swirl.
  • An guy at least three but no more than ten years older than me who can provide me with a stable home and financial security.
  • A man who takes care of his body and lives a healthy lifestyle. A man with beautiful blue grey eyes that melt as they stare into mine. An man who is taller than me and I can snuggle into his chest. A man who carries himself with confidence.
  • A man who will love my children and consider them his own without reservation.  Someone who has or wants a child of his own.
  • Someone who wears a tie to the office but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty at home. A man who can change his own oil and strives to move ahead in his career.
  • A man who takes his responsibilities seriously but also knows how to cut loose and have fun. Someone who has friends who I can get along with, someone who fits in with my friends. Someone who will join me at a party but doesn’t mind staying in sometimes. A man who will dance with me.
  • A man who embraces traditional roles but still allows me to be an equal. A man Grampy would approve of. A man who opens doors and offers me his jacket.
  • A man who is honest, lives a life of integrity and remains faithful without feeling restricted. A man who is passionate about me. A man who never gives me reason to doubt his word and when I do patiently reassures me.
  • A guy who kisses me on his way out the door and as soon as he walks back in. A guy who holds my hand when he’s close. A guy who puts his arm around me with casual ease that reveals the intimacy of our relationship. An man who makes me feel like I am the only woman in the world for him.

Sometimes I wonder if I have set the bar too high. Sometimes I wonder if I will meet a man who will be able to love me in spite of my faults, who will understand my brokenness and appreciate the woman I’ve become. But more often as I sit across from a date I find him lacking.

So the five year mark will come and go. I will have faith that the man for me is out there somewhere and one day we will know love.

Holding on to hope,

Elisabeth

The call came at 10:30 last night. The call I had hoped against hope would never come and then it did. “They just told me I have to be ready to leave in 30 minutes, my flights leaves at 2.” I fought tears as I said the only words I could muster, “you are going to be okay.” His voice was broken with fear when he responded, “How?”

We met two and a half years ago. He was a waiter at my favorite restaurant. It took months before I realized he was the only person who ever waited on me, by his design. And it was months more of his asking before I ever gave him my number. Finally I gave in and went on a date.

That summer he would come over after he finished work and my girls were in bed. We would sit on my back deck and talk. We could talk for hours, about our childhood, about our failures, about our hopes for the future. But neither of us ever pretended our futures would intertwine.

I learned not to ask questions I didn’t really want the answer to. And even though I asked he would never tell how he really got here. I knew only he had come with his mother at an age when the decision wasn’t his to make. He learned English, finished school and worked hard. He lived life on the fringes. He didn’t take a handout. He didn’t commit a crime. But he didn’t have any legal right to be here.

As the summer drew to a close and the days grew colder those nights on the porch became a memory, we began to face the facts that our relationship could never be more than friendship. And for two years he has been the person I turned to for comfort in the storms of life. Now it is my turn to comfort him.

He has lived under the radar for nearly ten years. Until one day in March, in a momentary lapse of judgement he found himself in a cell. A few months later immigration finally arrived to take him away. And after months of waiting we knew for certain he was going back. To El Salvador, the country where he was born. Back to a place he hasn’t seen since childhood, where he knows no one and can only hope some distant cousins will take him in.

Perhaps you blame his mother, who passed away three years ago from cancer, but the truth of the matter is she was just trying to give him a better life. For ten years, no matter how difficult it was here he knew it was way better than being there.

Today he will step off a plane with only the clothes on his back and $20 in his pocket. In a country where international planes fly in only twice a week. In a country ravaged by natural disaster and power struggle. His fear is real, my fear for him is indescribable. Your system sir is broken. I can only hope it doesn’t break him.

Grateful to be born here-

Elisabeth