Raising Magnolias

Because it's never too late for happily ever after…

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

It was freshman year. Thanks (in whole) to Stephanie Romine, I had just pledged Chi-Omega. My friend Rob, whom I had quickly fallen in love with (don’t tell him) was an SAE and he invited me to some little sister thing. I forget what it was exactly, but I remember well what I wore.

Red. And. Yellow.

Well, duh! Those are the Chi-O colors. I had on a red/yellow chi-o shirt, red/yellow chi-o socks, I’m thinking I was even sporting a red and yellow bow.

I was very proud of my Chi-O status.

And then I discovered that you don’t actually wear your sorority colors.

You wear different colors. Although, I’m still not sure I understand why, exactly.

And, evidently you don’t wear colored socks in college.

Or bows.

Then came the SAE Christmas formal. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure how this happened and I still cringe when I think about it. It was a set-up; an overnight thing….like we drove somewhere and I was in a car with people I didn’t know and a date that I didn’t know and good grief, did my parents know about this?

Anyway, we get to this dance and again, it’s been a while so it’s all fuzzy (fuzzy from time gone by, not fuzzy from alcohol. I was stone-cold sober for this horrifying event).

I think there was dancing. Surely I danced. But at the moment, I was sitting with friends (strangers) at a table and I looked up to see my date making out with another girl on the dance floor.

Yes, you read that right.

And it’s not like I can just go home. We’re out of town; sleeping over (although I never saw my date again, my guess is he did more than sleep).

And that was my first date in college.

Fast forward. I meet someone. A cute someone who played baseball for the Razorbacks. We date. I go home with him for Easter. We date some more.

He breaks my heart.

That summer, I decide to drive north to a little town in Nevada, Missouri to see him play baseball. I drive and I drive and I don’t tell anyone I’m going and my little black Ford probe just cruises along to the ball park.

I expected a big ball field. I expected wrong. Think little league park. An there are like 40 people there. And it’s hard to hide (stalk) — whatever — in a little town amongst 40 some-odd people.

And then a storm came. A bad one. And the people sitting next to me said you can’t drive home in this.

And so I went home with them. Strangers. And I visited with their son, also a baseball player, and I tried not to use my name on the hope of all hopes that the aforementioned “cute someone” wouldn’t know I had been there.

And the next morning my tire was flat and stranger-dad had to change it and for several years we exchanged Christmas cards.

And then I thought, this is so not a big deal. I will never be back. I will never have to re-live this lapse in judgement.

And then I moved to Nebraska. I drive through that town 8 to 10 times a year.

And I re-live.

And there’s more. Of course there’s more. These are just highlights.

So now, I want you to think of the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you. I want you to think of the most embarrassing thing that has happened to someone else you know. I want you to think of something that could possibly be

your.

worst.

nightmare.

And then you will know how I’m feeling today. My little SAE guy making out with another girl, my head to toe; socks to bows ensemble pales in comparison. There are no words. There’s been a lot of laughter and of course that sick feeling you get when you think you’re going to throw-up only you’re not sick and you don’t throw-up, you just go around feeling sick, and then again…

More laughing.

And putting your hands in your face and crying out to Jesus, “Really, Lord? Really?”

Wasn’t there another way?

I know what you’re thinking; what you are wondering. You are wondering what could  possibly be worse than getting stuck in a two-bit town during the middle of a tornado while trying to spy on a ex-boyfriend and having to call your parents to tell them that you are spending the night at some very nice stranger’s  house. So here goes.

When I started this blog, I committed to you that I would always tell the truth. And I will.

Someday.

In my book. HALE YEAH!  🙂

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Happy Thanksgiving, Jesus!

Seriously, who says Happy Thanksgiving, Jesus? Uhm, nobody, that’s who.

We say Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Christmas. It’s the big one. It’s the one that matters. It’s the alpha-holiday.

Only this year, I “got” Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, Jesus.

I remember one of my first Thanksgivings with the Fritz family. My brother-in-law, whom I love very much said, and I quote: “Thanksgiving is my favorite. It has nothing to do with religion.” 

Uhm, really? The pilgrims giving thanks to God for surviging the long, cold winter has nothing to do with religion, with faith? OK, whatever.

That said, Thanksgiving is so not my favorite holiday. There are no presents. There are no trees. There is no baby Jesus.

And no Santa.

Oh, wait, no, let’s stick with ‘no baby Jesus’. That makes me sound much more spiritual.

Thanksgiving felt like a sacrifice. Thanksgiving was a sacrifice.

It wasn’t my sister’s year to come home. It wasn’t my brother’s year to come home. And yet, they came. They came all the same.

For one week we drenched ourselves in the sun. And we breathed farm fresh air and we rode horses and Coulter went camping with cousins and hung with his Uncle Gregory in the deer stand (where, for the record, no firearms were used and no animals were hunted) and we decorated Christmas trees and we threw the football, and my cousins all in from near and far gathered ’round the table and we shared and we laughed and we cried and

We.Gave.Thanks.

And then I remembered.

Some days remembering feels like a brick smashing the back of my thick, thick skull and some days that’s God’s only course of action. I leave Him no choice.

Whack!

Last fall, when the sky came tumbling, tumbling down and last  January, when the sky right-opened, giving way to storms, black, thundering storms, and last spring came and went giving way to ugly truths and summer came and went, and again with the truths and I thought, how can the sky fall any further.

It has fallen already.

Yes, during that time, my Mother reminded me that we are to give thanks IN all things. Not necessarily FOR all things. We give thanks in all things

We give thanks for the falling skies and ugly truths and the dark, thundering clouds.

We give thanks in all things.

And also during that time I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, and it literally changed my head and it changed my heart and I started naming the gifts and listing the blessings and giving thanks in all things and when that brick fell hard, cracking, thumping, I thought well, duh!

2012 has been the year of giving thanks. 2012 has been a year of learning that thanksgiving always preceeds the miracle. 2012 has been a year-long Thanksgiving celebration and HALE yes, Thanksgiving is a faith-filled, spritual holiday and while there may be no mangers, it is about Jesus.

This year the Lord knew excatly where I needed to be; He knew exactly where my children needed to be and in His grace, He put us there.

We needed Thanksgiving. To give it. To celebrate it. To find Jesus in it.

And that’s what we did.

Happy Thanksgiving, Jesus.

My First Time Here

Arkansas Thanksgiving 2012. Best. Roadtrip. Ever. No puppy puke; no kid puke; no clothing changes; no lost shoes; no lost credit cards; no run-a-way dogs; no crying (for me or them), just a little Radio Disney, a few snacks and some Dramamine.

I’ve been doing this for many years now and I’d like to think that I’m getting pretty good at it. But with each new age; each new stage, the game changes and there are new rules. First it was diapers and sippys and pacis and then it was wicky sticks and pipe cleaners and I once even had a project that used this goopy glue stuff (lesson learned). We’ve blown bubbles and finger painted and even made play dough sculptures. Now there are legos and dolls and books and stickers.

And movies. Seriously, I give thanks today for Redbox. 

But each time we head out, it’s like starting over.

Ann Voskamp writes, “Am I making any of the right decisions. I’ve never been here before so how do I know the way?”

And I don’t think she’s talking about road trips.

I know the way to Arkansas, but we are in Arkansas for Thanksgiving, without their dad.

I’ve never been here before.

Coulter and Emma Claire will spend Christmas in South Dakota with their Dad. I will miss the awe and wonder of a 4 year old finding the treasures left by Santa. I will miss Coulter walking down the aisle at the little Lutheran church with his cousins at the Christmas Eve service and everyone laughing because they remember when he was 2 1/2 and instead of putting on the shepherd’s costume, he joined his girl-cousin with the angels and proudly wore his sparkly little halo.

We won’t be together—as a family—for Christmas.

I’ve never been here before.

My parents weren’t here. My grandparent weren’t here.
What the heck…I’m the first generation “here!”

Today on the drive emma claire was watching a movie. All of a sudden she just starts giggling….hard giggling…and she says, “Mom! Did you hear that? That girl said ‘I need to trust my instincts’ my in-stinks!”

More laughter. In-stinks! It’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard and Coulter tries to explain that there’s no humor here.

“Emma claire…its not stinks, it”s stincts….It just means to do what your gut tells you to do.”

And it hits me and I give praise for the in-stinks and the instincts and that feeling in your gut.

That feeling that is the Holy Spirit

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I’ve never been here before and acknowledging that; remembering that, is grace and I start to giggle with Emma Claire and we laugh and we laugh and we laugh and I’m not sure what’s funnier….the fact that Emma Claire thinks in-stinks is so hysterical or the fact that Coulter is so frustrated that we are laughing at something that is obviously so.not.funny.

I’m a 40 year old single mom of  two navigating our first holiday season as a “separated family” and I’m thankful for this word. I’ve never been here before.

How can I possibly know the way? There’s only one Way.

I can lean in; lean hard; listen to His voice and learn to trust my instincts.

My in-stinks! Get it? See? Come on, you know you want to laugh. 🙂

Girl Night

OK, so here’s my big idea for tonight. My “aha’. My latest, greatest, earth-shattering revelation. Ready?

I’m single.

What? You already knew that? Whatever.

Before I continue, if your name is Larry or Cindy or if my being sad for a night will in any way bother you or keep you from sleep then stop reading. Now.

Because I am sad.

Not depressed. Sad. And for the point of trials and hearings and judges and lawyers, I make the distinction.

And there is a difference.

And I’m not sad all the time. I’m sad tonight.

And I’m sad because it’s Friday and my kids are gone and it’s the weekend and my kids will still be gone and it’s been one year—-this week— since the separation, one year since I heard the voice of the Lord as I was driving down Military Avenue, saying,  “When are you going to do the hard thing I’ve called you to do?” and one year since I was supposed to go to a big fundraiser with my husband and one year since my mom drove up and I did the hard thing and I said the hard thing and I didn’t go to the fundraiser and I didn’t get to wear my pretty dress and tonight as my friends head to that same fundraiser, yes one year later, I am sad.

So I go to the video store. Do you know who goes to the video store on Friday night?

Families.

Couples.

And I start down the kids aisle and then I remember I could actually pick out something PG-ish and then I look around and I start to cry. Tears pouring and rolling and smearing and it’s not a pretty cry.

I don’t cry pretty.

And there’s nothing that looks good, but I refuse to rent Scooby Doo or Princess Barbie Charm School so I keep looking and then I see it. Magic Mike.

I kinda have a thing for Matthew McConaughey and I have a friend on facebook who talks about this movie all the time, so I’m thinking why not?

I walk past the couples and the the kids and the families and make my way to the counter. The lady working squeals in delight!!! Great choice! Must be girls’ night!

Girls. As in plural.

And I start to cry again. And then I kinda started to laugh because while the guy tending the bar might be used to crying customers, my guess is that the Family Video girl is not. And just to be clear, that example was for illustration purposes only. I’ve never cried to a bartender—or ordered a drink from a bartender, for that matter. Although, I did use my sister’s driver’s license to get into a bar once in college.

That was in Arkansas and wouldn’t you know it that the bouncer had gone to school in Louisiana with my sister and he kept looking at me and looking at the picture and looking at me and finally he says, “Did you go to Centenary because I knew a Kimberly Hale that went to Centenary?” and I was like, “Are you freaking kidding me?”

Someone give me the odds.

Anyway, it is girl night. Singular. Single. I am single. My friends are married. They have families. They have children who are actually at home. They have fundraisers and dinners and jobs and yes, they are married.

Fridays are for families. Fridays are date night. Fridays are putting on lipstick and holding hands and, and—

And that’s when it dawns on me.

I’m single.

(OK, y’all can laugh now. Go ahead and laugh that it took me a year to figure that out).

I never really thought about before. Divorce for me has been about my children. Protecting, praying, loving, caring, sheltering from the storm, putting  first. Always. And that’s still all the matters. My children are all that matter and they are healthy and they are loved and they will be back and I will find a way to navigate this new normal but in the meantime.

I’m single. And having a girl night. A teary 3-diet coke, lost count on the chocolate chip cookie GIRL night.

And I’m turning on Magic Mike……..and  I’m turning off Magic Mike. Worst.Movie.Ever.

8:00: Girl night officially over. Praying for sleep.

Being Broken

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. Well maybe brunch. Coffee minus the coffee plus cheesy potatoes and a muffin.

And she’s a good friend and she apologized for not having diet coke. The cheesy potatoes made up for it.

My friend (who mere months ago I would have referred to as a Kindermusik mom or a piano mom) is now my friend. And she is in my life because God placed her there. And He placed me. He chose us. As friends. For this time.

She is broken. We are broken.

She is scared. We are scared.

She is waiting. We are waiting.

She cries out to Jesus and she wonders if He hears; wonders if He cares; wonders if this is the burden that is too much to bare?

Do you really have a plan, Lord?  Cause some days it would appear that maybe you forgot, you know, about us.

Why, God?

Why me, why more; why the wait and why the hate and is it You or is it fate?

I have friends, old and new, and family close and family true and they have walked this journey beside me and in front of me and occasionally falling behind to catch me. And I know, humbly, humbly, humbly know that now it’s my turn; that now I walk beside and bare burdens and wipe tears, and I want to help and I want to heal and I want her to know that yes there is the wait and no, God leaves nothing to fate but my words get tangled and I say too much, too fast and too, too, too. The words come crashing in and I remember, but only part  and I mess it and I muss it and the voice in my head cries, STOP TALKING!

And so I do. Or at least I try.

But then I remember. I remember a word  that was given to me early on and I say the words. “We are all broken.”

You are broken. I am broken. We are all broken.

This word was hard for me at first because I was able to admit being broken, so long as I could hold on to the idea that I was “less” broken than the others who were obviously so.much.more.broken. than me.

But I gave it up. And in that giving, there is freedom.

Freedom to give up the idea that somehow I am better and so therefore you should be better and no-one is really better.

We are all broken.

In some way.

So I think about my friend James. My friend James who at times in his life has looked like the uni-bomber. My friend James, who long-bearded and covered from head to toe sat with his family in an airport reading the Koran just weeks after 9-11. My friend James who is the most literal and hysterical person I know and he freaks out anytime you say, “That is unbelievable!”

He will say. “Really? I mean there’s no part of you that can believe that? Really? Are you sure? Seriously, it’s completely just UN-believable?” And he’s infuriating but he’s right.

It’s believable. I can believe that you are cheating on your wife and I can believe that you are lying to your boss and I can believe that you yell at your children and your teenage daughter is pregnant and I can believe that you are addicted to drugs and I can believe that you, the cute little couple with the beautiful children and the perfect life, yes you are getting divorced and yes.

We are all broken.

So today when we hear the news shocking and appalling and surprising and falling and when we go to say, when we go to gossip, “Oh my gosh! Can you believe that!”

Let’s stop. And breathe.

And remember. We are all broken.

Today is not the Day, My Dance with the President, and why I love Jesse Ventura

Most of you know that I grew up around politics. I grew up around people who care. A lot. Opinionated, vocal and, hold onto your skirt—

Liberal.

This is completely ironic, because my parents are probably the most socially conservative people that you will ever meet, but what can I say? The yellow runs deeps.

Growing up in Arkansas, then Governor Clinton would fly into our hometown and my parents would host him at various events. Even after he became President, my Aunt Ida still called him Bill. I’m not saying this was right, but my aunt got away with a lot of stuff that most people wouldn’t considered “right.”

Everyone I knew was a democrat. I was 18 and a freshman in college before I met a Republican. And I’ve meeting them and loving them ever since. 🙂

A friend of mine tells the story of how she had never seen a black person until she was a teenager. And well, it was kind of like that for me, only with Republicans.

My sister and I sang at the White House one year and President Clinton welcomed my family into the Oval Office and there’s this great picture where he goes to hug me (no jokes, please!) but in the still shot it looks like we are dancing.

I love that picture.

My brother has traveled with politicians for the past 15 years and he tells stories of real people with real families and hearts and emotions and fears. People who need milk for their tea or a cold diet coke and his stories remind me that these leaders—-these leaders that we love or that we hate—-yes these leaders—

They are people. Created by God, in His image and for His glory.

Hate their politics, maybe, but when did we start hating people so much?

I used to love politics. My heart would beat faster as the returns would come in. I remember being in Minnesota the year that Jesse Ventura became the governor. My husband was out of town and I kept calling him, “Oh my gosh. He has 2% of the vote. Can you believe 2%  of state voted for him?” And then I would call back. “Oh my gosh! He has 20 % of the vote. Can you believe…”

And on and on and it was shocking and funny and appalling and liberating and exciting that we live in the United States of America where former wrestling star Jesse Ventura can become Governor.

But somewhere during the 2008 election, I lost my passion. I wrote in a candidate in 2008 and I almost didn’t vote yesterday.

I almost didn’t vote because either way the outcome seems dreary and either way, with Jesus as King, the outcome seems hopeful. I voted for the same reason I do most everything.

I voted for my children.

What a gift, what a blessing, what a privilege to have a voice; a voice that can be as loud or as quiet as we like, but in just the few short hours since the results (a result that came after my 8:30 bedtime) there is so much ugly. One facebook “friend” that has quickly been deleted was ranting about “gays and blacks and baby killers.”

Really? That’s honoring to God? Uhm, OK.

Yes, let’s be scared about the debt. Yes, let’s be frustrated that people take advantage of the system. Yes, be worried about health care and our children and your business and yes, I get it….

But gays, blacks and baby killers? Come on….I think we can do better.

Again, I didn’t really want to vote but I did. It was 7:30 and there was no line.

What?

We walked right in only to find out that the polls in Nebraska don’t open until 8.

As we are waiting, I try to make up for lost time. Coulter. Emma Claire. This is what being an American is all about. We get to choose. We have a vote. This is history and this will affect your future and I’m so happy that you are here with me.

“Can we go now, Mom? I don’t want to be late for school, ’cause then I’ll have to miss the STAR party.”

Uhm, sure, OK. I have to hurry to teach the lessons (the lessons that I’ve ignored this entire election season) so I continue. “Just remember some kids don’t get to go to school. We are blessed. It is a gift to be an American. We didn’t choose it; God chose it for you. For us. And again, we get to vote. This is incred—-”

Coulter runs into school and Emma Claire and I head back to the church. After living in South Dakota for 10 years, I am prepared.  Short of my birth certificate, I have every kind of identification possible. I will not be turned away. As I go to  pull it out, the volunteer says, “Oh, we don’t need to see that.”

Uhm, OK.

I voted for Al Gore. He lost. I thought the world would come to an end. It didn’t.

I voted for John Kerry, and, you know, he lost. I thought OK for sure now the world will come to an end. It didn’t.

I voted for Hillary Clinton and…

And my write in candidate? Yes, he lost as well.

But here’s what I know. God is not surprised by this. He didn’t wake up this morning to elections results and think, “Well, shoot! How’d I miss that one? I guess I’ll just bring the world to an end.”

Today the government was supposed to work for me.  Readers, remember when I wrote about November 7th? Yes! Today was supposed to be THE day! Today was supposed to be the end. Today was supposed to be the beginning.  After a year long, cry out to Jesus and fall completely onto Him, year; a year where I waited and God worked and I waited and God worked some more and yet still I wait. Still, we wait.

Today is not the day.

Maybe you were hoping today would look different than it does. I understand that all too well. But here’s what I know, here’s how I sleep (OK, that’s a bad example ’cause I don’t really sleep) but here’s where I find my peace—

“There is unwavering peace today…

when an uncertain tomorrow…

is trusted to an unchanging God.”

Ann Voskamp

Going the Distance

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

This past weekend Coulter and I ran a 5K.  I love running, so I thought how fun to share that passion with my children. They know that Mommy runs to be healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally) and I try to keep the other reasons to myself (namely so that I can continue to zip my jeans.) My sister-in-law has a fantastic wardrobe and she’s really quite generous about sharing. I don’t breathe too well in her clothes, but so long as I keep running I know that they will at least zip.

And so I run.

But I’m not a great runner. I’m not fast. I’m safe. I want to  know that I can finish so I choose a conservative pace and I run, slow and steady, and I’ve been doing that for 20 years.

Coulter, however is not conservative. He is competitive, And despite my plea for him to pace himself, he shot off of the starting line at something near a 7 min mile pace.

This is a tad off  from my 10 minute mile pace. I panicked. I can’t run this fast. What if I can’t finish? What if he can’t finish? This is SO not safe. I literally sprinted to keep up and I still couldn’t keep up. Every time a group passed him, he would run harder; faster,  just living in the moment of right then. Adrenaline pushing him forward.

My lungs were on fire. It was freezing and I was praying and I was so far out of my comfort zone and yet I kept pushing.

Trying to catch him.

Into the third mile, he started to slow. He needed to tie his shoes and I was able to catch up. We walked for a while catching our breath and then he took off again. Sprinting. And I would encourage and I would caution and oh, how I wanted to play this safe. Oh, how I wanted us to finish.

Somehow, even with our walks during the third mile we finished in just over 27 minutes, which I get is not groundbreaking information, but it was personal best for Mom and the first of many for Coulter.

And it has me thinking. About running, about life, about a divorce that seems to go on and on and on and how everyone always says “slow and steady wins the race” and  “life’s a marathon, not a sprint” and yet I think, “Really? Are we sure about that?”

 What if life is not a marathon, what if it’s more like interval training? You go hard; you go fast; you rest and repeat.

What if slow and steady is just slow.

And safe.

What are the moments we’re gonna remember? The  moments when we  finish our run, barely breaking a sweat, heart rate nice and steady or those throw-caution-to-the-wind moments; those abandon our fears, break down pieces of wall moments, driven by adrealine and passion  and not fear. 

There are mountains and valleys and the valleys are safer and this I know because I’m all too happy to hunker down there; just me and my children. Safe.

But Coulter needs mountain tops and Emma Claire needs to feel the wind on her face and their Mother needs to learn that sometimes it’s OK to just let go and run hard; to quit worrying about the finish line; quit worrying how it’s all gonna turn out; quit wondering if she’ll fall or fail or ACK! not finish.

And you know what? Their Mother is trying.

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