If you read my blog regularly, you might remember me posting about my journey with a new church and putting God first in my life. Next Monday, Oct 17th, marks one year since I stepped foot into that church. From the moment we walked in, I knew it was "home" and we'd be staying for a long time.
My walk through the last year hasn't been easy. There have been several trials along the way where I strayed from having God at the center of my life and the moment that happens, it seems like things around me fall apart.
Over the last year, my girls have had the opportunity to be involved with an AMAZING youth group at church. They look forward to Thursdays and it makes my heart smile knowing that we made the right decision to drive 30 minutes to a church where we didn't know a single person. They've made friends that have been raised the same way and they enjoy the drama-free zone with them.
What I didn't know was that as I was walking with my girls in their spiritual journey, I was taking my own steps with mine. I've never been a "leader". I love to plan events and be behind the scenes but I don't like being called out and recognized for the things that I do. I've always struggled with that and I know I should be called out but I'm shy in that aspect. With that being said...as I walked the last year, I felt a tug at my heart to be involved with the youth group but I didn't know how to get myself in. During youth nights, I would walk in with the girls, smile and say my goodbyes and then go across the street to Walgreen's to coupon while they were there. Don't get me wrong, I love couponing but I continued to feel that need to be at church with the youth. When the new youth pastor took over, I offered to stay and help with food and take pictures for an event they were having. The next week came and I didn't leave...I stayed to "hang out" for crowd control. The next week....same thing! Before I knew it, I wasn't leaving to go couponing and I was looking forward to being involved. I continued to pray about how God was going to use me. I didn't want to lead anything thats for sure! I just wanted to be involved. A volunteer meeting was set up and I made sure I was there. "How can I help?" ....Check in coordinator? Yep! I can greet the kids and check off who is here, add new kids and set it all up in the computer in Excel. Food? Yep! I can help with that and make sure we have cakes for certain occasions. Lead a group? Ummm...NO! I'm not a "leader" remember? I offered to "help" with a group but there was no way I could lead a group. WHY NOT? Why can't you lead Jill? Ummm....I'm not where I need to be in my spiritual journey and I've been praying about it but I'm just not ready yet. HOW COME? You were a teacher for 8 years...You've been a sub in the school system for 3 years....But you don't lead? That's not so! So WHY? What are you afraid of? Ummm....that I will make a mistake? MISTAKE? How can you make a mistake? You're sharing God's word and if your heart was led here then you're ready. I just need some time! The Accountability groups were forms and I was paired with the pastor's wife to lead 8th-9th grade girls. We met for the 2nd time last week. The first meeting was just a "get to know you" and last week we started a new book called "Before You Meet Prince Charming". WOW! I didn't realize how powerful this was going to be and I'm beginning to understand how God is going to use me. Anyway, I got a message from the pastors wife and she explained that she would not be here this week since they were going out of town and she wanted to know if I was ok leading the group? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! NOT YET!!!!! That's what I kept screaming on the inside and then I kept saying, "Well what if Kacey is sick and we can't make it to youth? What if Kayleigh still isn't feeling well? I'm scared to commit to it and then have to back out. She handed me the book and said I would have some help from another one of the leaders if I needed it. I gulped as I took the book. Am I really ready, God? Am I ready to lead these girls on their journey for this week?
I mentioned that last week we started the new book, "Before You Meet Prince Charming". If you have little girls, it's a MUST READ for you and when they get to preteen/teen years then its a MUST READ with them. I've had a chance to look at the book this week and I am going to buy it and read with my girls. It tells the story of a princess that lives in a castle with the king (God) and she goes out to the moat to visit the alligator (Satan). The alligator starts putting things in her head about how she can be independent and make her own choices and she doesn't need her father telling her what to do all the time. It's a book about staying pure to yourself and making the right choices about spiritual and sexual purity. It's one of those books that doesn't go into too much "graphic" detail so it can be read with Kacey's age but it can be led that way with older girls for Kayleigh's age. It talks about dating and dating for purpose and the right reasons. So as we're reading the first chapter with the 5 girls we had last week in the group (none of which were mine since these are 8th-9th grade girls), I felt another tugging at my heart. I felt the need to share MY story. It's a story I've shared with my girls but it's a testimony that if you only wait for the man God brings to you then you will have that happiness you've longed for. MY story...yes the one where I dated the same guy through high school. I thought he was the man I was going to marry. I thought we were going to live happily ever after and as long as we had "love" then we could make it through anything. I look back now and see just how naive and stupid I really was. I didn't know what love was because I didn't really know Jesus yet. I wasn't raised in church. I wasn't a part of a youth group with Christian friends. I had a father who drank and yelled all the time and a mother who did everything for her kids and nothing for herself. My weekends were spent unsupervised with this boy that I thought was going to be my forever. Unsupervised...you know what that means...trouble! Only 8 months after graduating high school, I found out that I was pregnant. Not married. Pregnant. Minimum wage job. Embarrassed. Ashamed. College career was over. How were we going to make it? I had a huge dose of reality! As I drank in the reality, my boyfriend continued to live off the "As long as we have our love then we can make it" theory. Keep in mind, this was 18 years ago. I was only 18 years old. Love can't pay your bills. Love can't take care of a sick baby. Love can't work your job. After a year of fighting the battle and growing up, I was given an ultimatum. "Either you move out and marry me or I'm leaving". How's that for a smack in the face while driving to the mall for a Friday night date? He didn't have a stable job. He still lived with his parents. I lived with my Mom. I had a stable but minimum wage job and was planning my college career and the use of the scholarships that I was awarded at graduation. I was on my Mom's insurance with Kayleigh. WHY would I leave stability to move into an unstable world with a baby, only to fall on our face and have to move back home. I refused to do it! In the end, I know in my heart I made the right choice. So...the boy....yep he left. His parents highered a lawyer and thus began the nasty court battle. His bitter parents fought me for a seperate visitation day, even though he lived with them. He got his visitation day, Kayleigh lived with me and my Mom and his parents got a whole seperate day. My world...the forever that I thought I would have...was forever divided! I spent my days crying when she was gone and hating these people for dragging me though this bitter battle. It hurt Kayleigh so deep that her wounds took years to heal. When she was 2, I met my husband. From day one, he adored her and she thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. I hesitated letting them meet but I knew in my heart that he was the one. I knew he'd be around for a long time. We dated for 2 years before getting married. During that time, he had a chance to see how cruel and bitter the other side of her family really were. When Kayleigh was 7, my ex relinquished his rights and Frankie adopted her. Only then did the healing process begin. We had finally healed to a point of forgiveness. But it was much more than forgiveness. We'd started to see where God was leading us. I really couldn't see it at the time but I see it now. The wounds heal but the scars are there forever. The scars are a reminder of where we've been and how far we've come. Back to the group... I explained to them that they might think they are in love and they boy will be around forever when they are in middle school and high school but the reality is that once you graduate, the chances of him sticking around are slim and the chances of him being grown up enough to support you and a baby are even slimmer. It's a tough world out there and caring for a baby is expensive, expecially if there are chronic illnesses involved. I told them to enjoy their high school years, enjoy fun times with friends because once you have a baby, that all stops! You become a parent and you have an entirely different role and resposnsibility is the first on the list. The girls listened as I spoke through tears. The emotions as raw as they were 18 years ago. And here I sat, telling my story. Gos using me in their spiritual journey. Was this where I was meant to me? Absolutely! Was it meant for me to share my story so quick into the book? You bet it was! Being an unmarried single mom is rough! I wouldn't want any young girl to have to go through the nasty battle that I went through. If I could go back and change the past, would I? Nope! Those struggles made me who I am today. I wouldn't have a story to tell if I did, right?
So over the last year, I've strayed from God on several occasions. I lashed out instead of talking to God about it first. I blogged about those occasions and then deleted them because it added fuel to the fire burning and Satan was getting a good chuckle. So where does that leave me in my journey? Well...I had some forgiving to do, right? I forgive my ex and his wife for the events that happened back in February. I forgive you both for handling things the way you did. I want you both to know that the actions Kayleigh took were NOT my doing. You can believe that if you want to but they really were not my call. She chose to block you all from her Facebook so she could eliminate the drama in her life. She felt like things were getting out of hand and to stop it, she decided the less she saw of things you both were posting, the better things would be. Obviously that backfired and it was another bitter blow up. Sadly, that text conversation is saved on her phone. A bitter reminder of what happened and how it could have been handled differently. If I seriously wanted you all out of her life then I would have cut contact with you all when she was 7. But being the better person, even though you relinquished your rights, for reasons you say are different than mine, I still let you see her and have a relationship with her. She is still puzzled because your story is different from mine, yet you chose not to share it with her because she wouldn't sit face to face with you to tell it. She remembers. She remembers more than you know. She remembers more than I wanted her to ever remember. She remembers things you said, things you did, little things that might not have mattered at the time but they were big things in her eyes. She remembers things you might not even remember saying or doing. She remembers as far back as 4 years old. Anyway...The extent of the relationship you chose to have with her layed in your hands. You chose to see her on certain holidays and a few other times through the year. You chose not to call her regularly, even when we bought her her own cell phone so you didn't have to call mine to speak with her anymore. We bought her unlimited texting, yet you chose not to text unless she texted you. That was the relationship you chose with her, not us. Since February when everything happened, she stepped out and reached out to you twice. The first time the night the tornado hit in April and the second time the day after when we drove her to your house to make sure you all were okay. Since then, there has been no attempt at a relationship. For the first time in 17 years, you missed her birthday. Sure, she was mad at you all in February but she's still a child on her own journey and you should have been the bigger person and at least acknowledged her. So for the first time in her life, she said to me, "I only have one Daddy and he's been the only Daddy I've ever really known and he got me a special card just from him. Thats one of the nicest things ever Mommy." Cut me to the core, yes it did. I may have hated you all when everything first happened years ago, but I grew to have a friendship with you both...or so I thought. You may not know it, but she and I forgave you for all those things. We forgave you for all that hurt caused when you boxed up her entire room and gave it to the Goodwill. We forgave you for forcing her to eat food she didn't want to eat. We forgave you for all those hurtful things. And we asked God to speak to your heart and forgive us for anything we said wrong. She knows right now you choose not to be in her life. She knows right now it's probably best that you're not in her life. But for me, it makes me sad knowing you all have missed so much since February. You missed her driving. You missed the ordering of her class ring. You missed her Ring Dance. You missed out on seeing pics from the Culinary competition. You missed out on her visit to Culinary Institute of VA. You missed the start of her Senior year. You missed her 17th birthday. You missed the assembly for cap & gown and graduation announcements. You missed the start of her senior project. You're missing out on all the good she is doing with her life. You're missing out on her spiritual journey that she is making and the impact that this senior project is having with her life. I'm sad for you. I'm sad that you're choosing not to make every attempt at a relationship with her. I'm sad that she insists that she does NOT want you present at graduation (so if you're making plans to go then I sure hope you make amends with her first) All this being said, I forgive you both and I'm asking that we put this to rest and make peace for the sake of the beautiful daughter we have involved. If it was just me, then I wouldn't care. I wouldn't worry about whether you forgave me or not. But this involves my baby girl and as we walk this journey together, I want to make sure that she is making the right choices in her life so she doesn't end up in the same situation that brought me to this point in my life. It's not too late to make amends with her. It only takes a text or a phone call. <3
For those of you that made it this far, thank you.
I got this in an email from my Mom and I thought....how perfect!
An Angel says, 'Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what
may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain.
Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.'
2. Go to bed on time.
3. Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed.
4. Say No to projects that won't fit into your time schedule, or that
will compromise your mental health.
5. Delegate tasks to capable others.
6. Simplify and unclutter your life.
7. Less is more. (Although one is often not enough, two are often too
8. Allow extra time to do things and to get to places.
9. Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over
time; don't lump the hard things all together.
10. Take one day at a time.
11. Separate worries from concerns . If a situation is a concern, find
out what God would have you do and let go of the anxiety . If you can't
do anything about a situation, forget it.
12. Live within your budget; don't use credit cards for ordinary
13.. Have backups; an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key
buried in the garden, extra stamps, etc.
14. K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut). This single piece of advice can prevent an
enormous amount of trouble.
15. Do something for the Kid in You everyday.
16. Carry a novel with you to read while waiting in line.
17. Get enough rest.
18. Eat right.
19 Get organized so everything has its place.
20. Listen to a tape while driving that can help improve your quality of
21. Write down thoughts and inspirations.
22. Every day, find time to be alone.
23. Having problems? Talk to God on the spot. Try to nip small problems
in the bud. Don't wait until it's time to go to bed to try and pray..
24. Make friends with Godly people.
25. Keep a folder of favorite scriptures on hand.
26. Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often
a good 'Thank you God .'
28. Laugh some more!
29 Take your work seriously, but not yourself at all.
30. Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they
31. Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most).
32. Sit on your ego.
33 Talk less; listen more.
34. Slow down.
35. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the
36 Every night before bed, think of one thing you're grateful for that
you've never been grateful for before. GOD HAS A WAY OF TURNING THINGS
AROUND FOR YOU.
'If God is for us, who can be against us?'
Please pray for me as I lead the girls group tonight for the first time.
Much love to you all!