I know people can drive you nuts. I know they sometimes seem to be a bother, and there are so many of them that really chap your hide. More often than not you hear complaints and gripes and all that hits the airwaves is the bad, with one little blurb to try to restore your faith in humanity at the very, very end.
This is that blurb.
Backstory: The week before Christmas or so, I went to visit a Culver’s restaurant. My kids enjoy eating there. I like the food, too, but we don’t eat out much. The kids were spending time with the grandparents and I was alone. So, I thought I’d swing by and pick up a burger while I was out, go home and eat in front of the boob tube (any of you ever heard that one? no? dang! my age is showing). I only get a single, every time, no drink, no fries. This is splurging for me, mind you.
Back at home, I settle in nicely, I have my water, I have my blanket (it’s cold this time of year), and I sit down, turn on the set, select my poison, and start eating. I’m watching, I’m eating, I’m enjoying the show, then another bite, and I realize this isn’t what I ordered. The restaurant is fifteen, twenty minutes away. It’s cold out. I’m watching my show, and gas hadn’t dropped to the ‘what the hey happened?’ rate it is now, and I’m thinking it’s costly to go in and replace the blinkin’ burger, so I just eat it. And watch my show.
Afterwards, though, I decided to call the store and let them know what happened. I thought maybe they’d apologize and send me a coupon for a sandwich or something. Remember, I like their food. And I don’t eat out much. It’s sorta disappointing when you’re thinkin’ bacon and you get tofu instead, right? Although, I’m sure they don’t serve tofu, you get the drift.
I called. I asked for the manager. First, I told him how much much my kids and I enjoy eating there (remember we’ve established this already). He thanks me. He told me people rarely call to say good things. He told me he appreciated that very much (not feeling the love yet? ah, just wait). I told him I was glad he appreciated it, but there was a tiny problem. I let him know that I had been through the drive through and didn’t check my order before I left, so I didn’t know that my sandwich had been made wrong. He told me it wasn’t my job to double check their work (taking responsibility is one of my pet peeves–he shoots, he scores!). He asked what I had ordered, and I told him.
You know what he did? He said he’d write my name down in the special place he had if anything ever went wrong, and whenever I wanted I could come in and get a free basket to replace the burger that was wrong. Nice. I thanked him. I thought it was pretty cool.
The thing is, typically I don’t say a word. I eat, I go on with life, no biggie, so I thought this was a sweet deal.
Present Day: The kids and I were grocery shopping (oh, joy!), and my daughter had given her brother all her scoopie coupons she’d been collecting (to exchange for a toy) as a gift for Christmas because it’s all she had to give. Since then, she’s been chomping at the bit to go exchange the coupons for a toy. Now seemed like a good time to collect on the basket, get the toys, and feed hungry kiddos in between stores (I can only go one place with these hooligans in between feedings).
We entered Culver’s and who should be at the counter, but the manager I had spoken with about the basket. His nametag was a dead give away (I asked to be sure). I mentioned my name and said he’d told me I could come in and get a free basket. He remembered (must be a short mistake list–Culver’s gets bonus points for that one).
I ordered a kid’s meal for my son. He said I could get a full size basket if I wanted (I kinda figured that, but I always get the kids baskets because they get their free scoop of custard and the coveted scoopie tokens). I ordered a kid’s meal for my daughter. I then ordered my typical sandwich for the basket. Manager said I could get any side I wanted.
They have the best onion rings. And they cost extra.
I know, I know. Small fries. But, hey. When your budget is small, it’s the little things that make a difference.
So, I told him, I loved their onion rings and would like those. They have good fries, too, I would have been happy with those.
And, I asked if we could redeem our scoopie coupons. I didn’t know, but if you collect ten coupons, you could either get a free kids meal, or a toy. I like learning something new every day.
Since my little princess had her heart set on an actual “toy” for her brother, we had to get one of those. They were under the counter, and out they came. My little rug rat quickly grabbed the biggest boy toy at the top of the box and off he ran like a shot!
Poor princess. There was an adorable little stuffed dog in the box, too. His name is Fudge. Manager told us so. She looked so deflated.
Manager will be upset if he reads this, because he asked us not to tell.
But I’m telling.
And I’ll deny it all as a fabricated tale if asked.
(But it’s true)
He whispered to my daughter she could have Fudge.
Those toys are cheap–I know (I didn’t say that). He acknowledged it. He knows.
Does my daughter know? No. All she knows is that she gave away her scoopie coupons to a little brother who likes the biggest baddest boy toys he can get his hands on. And she will get no enjoyment out of a big, bad boy toy her brother probably can’t even manage, and won’t be playing it with her.
And she also knows she is now the proud owner of Fudge. Who has bendable ears. And her brother got his Christmas gift too.
Princess likes dogs. Her doggies all gathered together a few days ago to watch “Bolt”. And you would be hard pressed to find a larger gathering of stuffing outside a toy store or fabric store than what was in the home theater that day (on the floor in front of my old, tiny laptop, although the stuffing thing might be a very slight exaggeration, for dramatic effect).
Today, we sat and enjoyed our lunch. The kids ate their meals, followed by their custard. Everyone had onion rings. It was a grand day out.
As we’re gathering together to head out, the Manager walks towards me and says, “I want to ensure you will visit us again.” and hands me two free custard coupons.
People are beautiful. And I will be returning to Culver’s. I didn’t need the coupons for that. It’s all icing on the cake, man.
I couldn’t rest until I posted a blurb today. The beauty of today is simple. My daughter is an artist. If you asked her, she would tell you so. At the ripe old age of ten, she has total and complete confidence that she is an artist. She is self assured, bold, assertive, and very bright. And, she’d add talented. In fact, she’d add a laundry list of the assets she is graced with because I tell her. I write it down in love notes (she likes card exchanges, and they’re frequently handed to me to fill in and return to her in the shape of a heart), I whisper it to her when she curls up on my lap, I tell her at bedtime.
Today, she had me take pictures of her new puppie’s doghouse to send to her sister. The doghouse was bare when she got it, and she colored it in. It’s mind-bogglingly gorgeous (yeah, I probably just made up a word).
I’m blown away by her gifts and talents over and over again. She oozes confidence and wherever we go, she jumps right in with total self-assurance that she will be accepted because she is worthy. She is a good friend to have and she knows it. She’s gracious, fiercely loyal and protective, and she gives her friendship without reserve. There is a charm and charisma that draws others to her. She will not be left out or ignored, so resistance is, as they say, futile.
She is beautiful. I love the beauty of childhood.
It’s silent in the house. It’s the first day of school. Back to school for my two youngest ones. For the second year in a row. Before that, I was a homeschool mom. But here I sit. In silence. And now I’m crying. This is not what I signed up for. This is not the life I longed for.
I don’t look forward to the peace and quiet of having my children gone. I loved the noise of children’s laughter pealing through the house. I love that they sat outside on the deck or patio and ate breakfast, then played the mornings away until the sun was too warm and it was time for school to begin. I love that I taught the children to read. I loved being a homeschool mom.
But now, as my life has taken the turn of being a single mom. A divorced, single mom, with a child who has a label which requires a great deal from me—I am not, at this time, able to homeschool. And I grieve for this loss as much as the loss of my former life and role of wife and stay-at-home mom.
Sure, the facade was just that. A facade. And no one knew what was going on behind closed doors—not even the children truly knew what was going on, but I wore the facade well. With that shattered, I have to look much more closely at what I am. Who I am. And I feel I come up short.
I feel inadequate to be the mom I want to be. I feel inadequate to provide for them like they need me to. I feel inadequate to be a light, a friend, a witness, a testimony for my Lord and Saviour. I feel so human. So faulted. So, not super. Not supermom, not superfriend, not super anything. I feel less than ordinary.
And I don’t sleep. Not well. I am trying to sleep at night but I have great difficulty getting to sleep. And I overslept today. I got the children up late, got them to school later than intended, had to rush to get their bags packed when I had intended to get up early and make sure everything was set and ready and they were good to go. And I missed taking the first day of school photos because we had to run to the car and hop in just to get there late, on time.
So, tomorrow, I will snap back to school photos. It’s still valid. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal, it’s not what I wanted. Or want. But it’s what we’ve got and we deal.
I don’t know why it is what it is, but that is how it is. I don’t know why this all happened in my life, or why I have to be an example for everything difficult (at least that’s what it feels like sometimes), but I am.
When I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day (I have very few divorced friends, they’re mostly the homeschool mom friends I’ve known all these years), we were talking about our past, which we do, every so often. She and I go way back. Back to before our eldest children were even in school—the ones that graduated from homeschool already—and we have these coversations about our idealism back in the beginning. How we thought if you do this “right” and you do that “right” then everything will be. . . al”right”.
Where do we go wrong? In our thinking? In our perceptions? In our choices? In our level of faith? Level of maturity? Have we gone wrong? Is everything going to be alright?
I have to believe it will be. Some of our friends don’t homeschool and never have. Some have kids in public school, some in private. We marvel at the ones whose children are these amazing testimonies and light in a perverse and crooked generation (Philippians 2:15) when we thought, in our youthful zealous well-intentioned homeschool mommy mode, that homeschooling is the only way. The right way. The narrow path that leads to light and life that all the “other” children were on the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). But all these years later, that isn’t so.
We weren’t all called to homeschool. We aren’t all going to make it to the end with our marriages intact (although that, truly, is God’s design). Why me? Why them? Why? Why? Why?
It occurred to me then, during our conversation, as I am reminded now, that as it is not God’s design for us to go through what we do, we do, however go through things because there is sin in the world. Sometimes ours, sometimes other’s sin has an impact on us that is monumental. Earth shattering (for us), even. And yet, God is still God, the same yesterday, as today, as tomorrow, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
And God needs witnesses in every walk of life. I am not likely to reach an upper middle class couple whose marriage is strong, their life is sweet, their children are content, and lovely, and get along, and have everything they need/want/desire/can even think of wanting. I am not likely to reach a young mom, fresh off the farm, whose husband works hard providing their simple life, and she is planning on homeschooling.
Where is my field, then? Probably divorced moms with kids in school. My choice? No. But it’s where I am. I have my field. It’s wide open.
My life will never again be what it was. It can’t be. It won’t be. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. It doesn’t mean God can’t use me. And it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have something better in store for me.
Because I know he does.
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4)