I began 2011 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on vacation with my favorite people – my kids and my parents. Those who know me well know just how difficult 2010 was for me. It represented the death of a dream and a massive sense of failure, along with another really public betrayal. I spent most of the year thinking, “Haven’t I done this once already? Wasn’t that enough? Really, again?” But, the year was ending well, and while the rest of my family was sleeping shortly after the New Year dawned, I was up, asking the Lord about a thing or two. There were three very important truths I learned that night, and I’m ready to write about the first one.
I was 13 when my parents’ strained marriage finally unraveled completely. I was devastated on many levels, but the primary reason was because I had prayed so long and hard that God would save my family. I had begged and pleaded with God to turn my Dad around, cause him to change his life, change his mind, to MAKE him want to be part of our family again. I listened intently to every minister, read every Bible story, and I tried everything I could, from special offerings to Gideon-style fleeces. I bargained with God in my 13 year old wisdom. I promised to be a VERY good girl, if He would only save my family.
From age 13 until adulthood, I was brought up by my mom, a hard-working, dedicated and wonderful single mother who gave me the best I could have needed. She worked very hard to give my sister and I every advantage, and she dedicated herself to building a happy home. We weren’t unhappy, but within myself, I knew that I wanted a REAL family, with a Dad. I wanted a Dad who would show up for my piano recitals, and my high school graduation. I wanted a Dad who would be proud of me, not from a distance, but right up close. I wanted a REAL family, not a single-parent one. I’d also taken to listening to Dr. Laura on the radio, and she was very fond of saying that you got two chances at the family relationship: the one you are born into, and the one you build. So I decided right then that I was going to build a REAL family – one that wasn’t a single-parent disappointment. And nothing would stop me or stand in my way. I was pretty convinced that my will-power alone could keep it together no matter what.
Flash-forward a whole lot of years and two divorces. The dream of a REAL family felt pretty dead. I’d tried building that twice, and both times, I just apparently wasn’t enough. Because I am an eternal optimist, staying depressed just wasn’t in my nature, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Finding Nemo (Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!) was sort of a motto and a battle cry, and I kept moving forward. I spent months rebuilding my self esteem so that I could look in the mirror and see an image of God’s child and not an image of the insults that had been thrown at me. It was a lot of hard work to find healing, but I did, and I could see myself truthfully again.
But it was that night – the very first hours of New Year’s Day – that God began to deal with me about that dead dream, the one I jokingly called a nightmare. The family I’d wanted – two parents, kids, dog, fence, me being the stay-at-home Mom who loves my babies and waits anxiously for the Dad who loves me and the kids to come through the door – was not the dream I’d gotten.
No, I don’t have the dream I wanted. I spend my days working so that we can have a place to live, food to eat, some comforts of life. Once the three of us walk through the door, there isn’t any point in waiting around. No one else is coming home. But I did get a dream. It just wasn’t the one I was expecting. Tonight, after my two mile walk with my mom, Noelle, David, and I came home, put together a puzzle, sang songs, read a story, and at the end of the story, I tucked the two most precious gifts any mother has ever received into bed. Oh yes, I am living a dream, and even if it wasn’t the one I wanted, I would not trade this life – this dream – for ANYTHING.