Sunday, June 15, 2014

Enough on Father's Day

Once upon a time, I got married.  My Daddy passed away when I was 17 years old, and I was married at 22 years of age.

My wedding was not the first event after my Dad's passing where he was noticeably missed, though.  I missed him at my junior year homecoming dance.  It was in the same month of his passing.  I missed him when I made homecoming court my senior year.  He didn't get to walk me on the field to be crowned as queen.  I felt a strong sense of his absence when scholarship banquets were attended and the letters started rolling in for college.

I missed him.  I missed him.  I missed him.

My wedding day, perhaps, is the day I missed him the most, though.

I don't know if I mourned that whole thing out the way others do, though.

The minute I found out my father died, I knew I would never want him to come back.  It was instantaneous for me.  I knew that he was walking streets of gold.  I knew that he was far too compassionate and loving to have to do life on this side of heaven ever again.  I knew that he would never hurt again in the arms of Jesus... and as much I missed him, I knew that he was healed.  I always wanted him healed.

My Daddy had been sick ALL of my life.  Not many people knew that, but I knew if they had, they would have understood.  They would have wanted him healed, too.

I decided at 17 to not stare at the spots where I missed my Daddy, but instead try to focus on the good.

Now, at 17, I didn't know what that meant and I botched up a lot of years along the way, for sure.

Today, though, here's what it looks like for my Daddy to be in heaven on Father's Day and for me to take my boys to church on Father's Day as a single mother...

1-  I remember that I had a fantastic earthly Daddy.  I remember that and smile.  He was out of the box, hysterical, and if you met him, you definitely loved him.  He left a legacy of compassion and caring for others.  Before Servolution ever existed, my Daddy was walking that out.

A great example?  My junior year before my Daddy died, me and 6 of my friends were invited to Paris, France to dance in the opening ceremonies of EuroDisney.  It was a huge honor... with a huge price tag to go with it.

My Daddy used his marketing skill set (his God gift) and his love for me, my Mom, and my dance team to spur the most amazing campaign to raise those funds.  By the time he was done helping my Mom lead that charge, EVERY GIRL had a fully paid trip.  I still tear up thinking about it.  The man was a marketing machine with a heart of gold.

2-  God gives me the sweetest gifts.  A lifetime ago, I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 22, and he knew my Daddy as we dated since the age of 15.  My Daddy loved him and so did I.  So, God's gift?  Well, my Daddy may not have walked me down the aisle, but he knew who was at the end of it.  That was so comforting that day in his absence.  And 8 years later when that marriage dissolved, my Father God was there waiting to comfort me when my earthly Daddy could not.

3-  My Grandfather was an amazing blessing in my life.  Amazing.  TJ Best stood in the gap at every turn.  He escorted me my senior year to be on the homecoming court.  That day was one my Daddy had always told me he could see happening.  He was the announcer for our band, and every year at homecoming (from the time I was itty bitty) he would say, "You're going to be my Miss Lee High."  So, needless to say, when that day came, I was very emotional.  It wasn't about a crown.  It was about the man who saw the queen that God created in me long before I ever could.  And the man who walked me on the field to that moment?  My precious grandfather... with the BIGGEST SMILE you have ever seen in your entire life.  It's one of the most precious moments in my mind.  2 of God's men reminding me that I was a queen in God's eyes... a prized possession of the Most High.  THIS is why I say EVERY woman should have a tiara.  We need to be reminded of how He sees us, ladies.

There's so much more, but I'll wrap with this.  God has used the absence of my Daddy and now my grandfather along with my single parenting journey to teach me one main thing.  He put these men in my life to show me a face to face sense of how He loves me.  That was their whole purpose in being my Daddy and my JJ... to show me His love.  They did it differently, but they did it.

As I venture through single parenting now, I hear a lot about stats for "fatherless homes" and things like that.

Last year that threw me for a loop.

Granted, the stats are real.  They are an issue.  Men, we need you to be active, loving, and involved.  Your kids need that and a great many of you are rocking it like my Daddy and my grandfather did.  To the ones who are rocking it, I salute you.  JOB WELL DONE!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Continue being the standard.  Continue teaching your peers to be the same.  Don't condemn them when they are not measuring up in the Daddy department.  Instead, I challenge you to LIFT THEM UP and teach them to do what you do.  I challenge you to replicate yourself.

To the fathers who just aren't there, yet, for some reason or another, I pray today is a day of stirring in your soul that INSPIRES you to be everything God has planned for you to be.  He chose YOU to be a father to your children.  No matter what has happened, He picked you.  If you don't know how to be a father, yet, that's okay.  God is an amazing teacher and there are Godly men in your local church that would LOVE the chance to mentor you in the same.  Reach out.  There is no shame in reaching out and saying, "I don't know how to do this deal." Matter of fact, that's the manliest thing I can think of.  Your kids deserve it.  They deserve you being a loving role in their lives.  And you know what?  You deserve them, too. They are DELIGHTFUL, I'm most positive! :)

But as for the stats?  I put them UNDER MY FEET.  I'm not raising stats.  I'm raising JUST what God had in mind... miracle men made in the perfect image of Jesus.  Keep the stats.  They don't apply here.

I have the coolest step-father.  His name is Paul and he has a quirky, fun sense of humor. If choosing new school or old school, he'd likely choose old (part of his charm).  He loves Jesus.  He loves us.  He helps me quite a bit with my boys, and I'm so very grateful.  "Papa" (Paul) is totally different from my Daddy.  They are nothing alike.  And you know what?  I love that.  Because he's never tried to take my Daddy's place.  Ever.  He's always just tried to be Papa to us... his flavor of Daddying.  He's one of God's gifts to me this Father's Day, for sure.

Finally, my Mama.  She was the first single Mama experience that I ever had.  I watched this woman lose the love of her life in a moment... and she instantly turned into a warrior.  She always had it in her, but I saw it rise up that day when she came to tell her children that "Daddy just didn't make it this time."  I saw her make decisions that no woman should ever have to make.  I saw her learn about running a household on her own and knowing how to handle EVERY detail that entailed.  When I was in college, my Mom called me one day to say she was opening a business.... a dance studio.  I thought she was crazy. (I'm not much of a risk taker, so this blew my mind.)  She, on the other hand, could CLEARLY see the dream and she went for it... and she spent 10 years changing the lives of young women and young men in our city and beyond.  She rocked single motherhood like none other.  So, on this Father's Day I take nothing away from the men we celebrate, but I hope it's okay that I celebrate her a little, too.

I'm grateful today that my boys love their daddies.  I'm grateful today for the seasons that put the dream of my boys in our hearts and that they are here.  I would not change one single thing.

I'm grateful for the men in the paths of my boys.  I very intentionally prayed Godly, strong, compassionate, Jesus-loving men into the lives of my boys.  I unwrap a gift daily as I watch God provide just that through the friends we've made and our membership in a dynamic local church that is knee deep in relationships, service, and the love of Christ.

So, this Father's Day, I REFUSE to look at what's not here.  I'm going to full blown CELEBRATE what is and what was.  My God has been a GOOD, GOOD Daddy to me.  He's a beautiful Father to my boys.  He wrote the book on parenting, and my friend, He does it well.  I hope that, no matter what your circumstances are today that you will celebrate the Father who celebrates you daily.  He is enough, and because of Jesus, you are, too. , 2014 
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Hem

True story.... I started to stay home today.  It's Sunday and my kids are gone.  That NEVER happens. Like NEVER.

I started to just cave to the very human fact that I'm tired and my kids are gone... and "I deserve" to stay home and recoup instead of going to God's house today.

I'm pretty sure most folks who follow my blog would lovingly say, "Christie, you deserve a breather.  Stay home. Nap until you can't.  You're a single mom, girl.  Go for it."

And you wouldn't be wrong to say that...

There is a lot of RIGHT about me taking that kind of time.  We ALL need quiet from time to time.  It's healthy.

But today, all of hell wanted me home... and I KNEW it was critical that I show up.

So, I did.

But don't be impressed.

I didn't go smiling.  I went late (completely missed the music).  I got mad at the lady who stole my parking place (how dare she?!).  I think I ended up stealing someone else's parking place after that (I PROMISE I didn't mean to!).  I did a quick hug with a friend on the way in and stepped on her toe.

It was messy from start to finish... one of those "God, just get me to my seat" kind of days.

Let me hear it if you know it's an amazing day to NOT get what we deserve? 

Oh, cause what I deserve, y'all... I deserve the repercussions of every mistake I've ever made or will make.  That's what I deserve.  What I deserved this morning?  An attitude adjustment.

But God, y'all...

He's already wrapped up what I deserve and it's been paid for.  What I will do, what I have done,what I don't do, the whole ball of wax.... blood bought by Christ himself.

And I don't say that last part to be "churchy."

When we as Christ followers speak "church-inese" (thees, thous, and churchisms that none of us really understand) we lose most of the folks we most want to reach AND some folks in the church.  So we won't do that here.   Let's just speak English here.

I was lost in a world that told me to be more, achieve more, don't be bad, be good, have a lot, show off where I've worked to get to, and say "Amen" every now and then.... and to wrap it all up by putting a fish tag on the back of my car and a bible verse as my screen saver.

HIGH PRESSURE with a smile.

Don't get me wrong, I agree completely that loving Him is everything, and being nice is 10 shades of awesome.  It's all good if we leave it there (notice there's no "should" with either of those).

But the screen shot bible verse and Jesus fishy on my car tell you who I'm about.

They alone can't relay the endless overflow of grace that cancels out every "should" or "must" before them.

They don't tell you that ONE action by Jesus meant I don't have to live a life of SHOULDS and MUSTS any longer.   It means I live a life of HOPE because of Him.

Are there boundaries that He sets forth within His love? Absolutely and He's pretty clear about them, but He never holds me to the standards of a broken world saying that I have to measure up.  Never.

The pressure is OFF, kids.  If nothing else sinks in, I hope that does.  Because of Jesus Christ, the pressures of the world do not get to have their way with us.

Exhibit A?  Me.

I showed up today with my messy little wad of me.... and He reminded me that He sees me.   And it made me cry icky looking purple faced Barney tears.... but I needed the lesson today.  I needed to show up and be the student today... and God opened the door for the best lesson.

The world wants to see that they can just come as they are... just like I did today.  Wadded up, messy as all get out, tired, tears in their eyes, stepping on the toes of their sweet friends, and just ready to soak up Jesus... without any pretenses.

Today I remembered just how FOUND I am because of Jesus... and that I don't have to DO anything to be seen by His ever caring eyes.  I mean, He lived a lifetime with the sole purpose of DYING so that I didn't have to pay for the mess that is me.

Let that sink in for a second.

That's huge, y'all.

Anyway, I almost stayed home today.  (Yeah, we're back there... the beginning of this true story.)

Hell would've loved it if I had missed today's message and today's moments.  Sure, they would have both made their way to me, in time, but they wouldn't have been FELT like they were in the place God designed for them to happen.

I'm revived by touching what a bible story calls "the hem of the Jesus' robe."  (That story is a good one.  Find it in your bible or google it. Whatever's easier for you!  This gal is sick for so long, but she knows if she touches even the hem of Jesus' outfit that she'll be healed.)

Now, I didn't touch his outfit today, but He touched my heart directly, and I touched the hems of a lot of His kids' outfits through hugs.  Each of those hems represented a life that He himself has changed.

I can't get those hugs and that experience from my computer.  The woman chasing the hem of Jesus' robe couldn't have touched it by sitting in her spot away from society where she had been banned to forever because of her sickness.

We have to step out of the spot that all of hell wants us to stay in.  We have to take the chance.  The only MUST in the equation is that we MUST do something different from what all of hell screams in our ear.

So, my prayer for you today is that you get nothing like what you deserve.

My prayer is that you walk in just one thing that is different from what the voice in your head is saying.

Find yourself a bible verse that sounds INSANE when you hold it up to the light that is your life.

This was mine last week:

The impossible part is that last line, " that you will not grow weary or lose heart."

That almost sounds LAUGHABLE when you hold it up next to single parenting, special needs parenting, working full time, working part time, and going to school.  Don't grow weary?  Yeah, right.  We learn how to do tired and never look back.  I'll have time for tired much, much later on, but today is NOT the day.

But, God, y'all....   
(You'll hear me say that a lot, by the way.)

But God comes in and brings help when we least suspect it.  He sheds light when we don't even see it coming.  He creates full blown miracles when there isn't a miracle we can imagine even being had!

That's what He does.... and we don't deserve it... but He still shows up.

Ready to love.  Ready to give.  Ready to change our lives.

Are you ready for His hand in your world?  Pick the verse that you think JUST CAN'T HAPPEN in your life... and then pray it over your life.  SPEAK IT as your verse... as your promise direct from Jesus.

Invite Him in and keep on doing the next right thing.  Sometimes that's just washing the dishes.  Sometimes it's showing up at His house for worship.  Whatever that looks like for you, rock it out.  Take a step.  He's there.

Along the way, you'll find the hems of many, many garments of lives that have been touched by Jesus.  I pray that you let them love you the way He does.

And then.... I pray you'll be that hem to another soul. , 2014 
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

But God, y'all....

So, I probably won't be posting this one all over my Facebook page.  In the spirit of that, I'm sure it will land there... and today, I'm just so okay with that.  I'm writing because it's what I do... and it's how God's walking me through this thing called life.

This piece of my writing world is for the single gal.

More specifically, the single gal who has been married ... and isn't anymore.

Even more specifically?  That gal who has children.... at a wedding.

See, there was a day I didn't "do weddings."  Actually, there were a few days I didn't do weddings.

Most of those came after a very painful divorce from the *love of my life.  I'm not being dramatic there, either, folks.  At the early age of 31, I had loved the same fella for over half of my life, and been married to him for half of that.  Big deal stuff.

I'm pretty sure the brides that I loved circa 2006ish understood when I couldn't smile at the cans on the back of their newly-wed-mobile.  My heart felt like one of those rattled around, smushed up cans and there was no amount of fixed smile, cute laugh, and "pretend I'm crying over your beautiful wedding" that could mask that I was dying inside.  I couldn't listen to you do the "I Do's", because the one who was supposed to stay with me forever had just crossed over to the Land of "I Don't."  It was a season of UGLY crying (think purple like Barney),  and it was best left at home.  I was a walking poster child for pain, tears, and Kleenex.  It was brutal.

But God, y'all.

BUT GOD.....

See, in the time between 31 and 38, I've had a personal encounter with the Healer of hearts... and today as I went to the wedding of 2 of my most fantastic friends, I realized that mine is all healed up.  The *Love of my life is now Jesus.

You hear me?  ALL.  HEALED.  UP.

He always protected my heart for marriage.  I prayed specifically for that.  I prayed that He would not let the goof up of one guy put a hurt on my heart that turned me into a Mean-Girl-Fella-Hating-Machine... and He honored that request from the jump.  I think marriage is beautiful.  Always have.  Always will.

Shoot.  We should have a party just about that! :)  That's some GOD's BEEN HERE material that makes me SMILE. :)

In fact it could be another whole blog post, so back to the wedding we go.

Today was amazing.  We celebrated the beauty of their relationship and how they have followed God's plan for their lives.  We celebrated what it looks like to wait for His timing to join two hearts.  We celebrated a marriage that not only gave them each other, but my friend's son the most awesome Daddy known to man.  We just plain out celebrated the fruition of prayers, patient love, and God's plan coming together in perfect fashion.

It.  Was.  Beautiful.  Nothing could mess up today.

But (isn't there always a "but"?),  it seems that this single gal had forgotten one thing....

The toss.  I forgot about the stupid toss.  
(Oops.  I mean the Throwing of the Bouquet that I'm sure has some beautiful historical significance.)
Every once-married-now-single woman knows what I'm talking about.  Don't act like you don't, girls. :)

Little known secret?  The Bridal Bouquet Toss keeps many women away from wedding receptions.  I'm just sayin'... we can tap dance around it all we want, but a lot of women don't love this part of a wedding unless they are already engaged.

If already engaged, it's a wow-fest.  A moment.  It goes in your wedding scrapbook.  Heaven shined down when you caught the bouquet because every angel up there knew you were next and ensured that this side of heaven commemorated the same.

If a teenager or 12 year old... or 5 years old, it's cute.  A big "Awwww!" kind of moment.  Your mom tears up.  One day you'll get married, but today you're holding married-girl flowers.  Awwwww.

If 38 with kids and previously married, it's like.... um.... where is he?  Where is he?  SHE needs a HE.  STAT, people.  This. Is. An. Emergency.

(Ladies, may I suggest sitting by the friend who is a new Mommy and PERFECTLY willing to throw a burp cloth in front of your face so that that really excited guy across the room can't point out that you are not a joiner? Yeah.  Totally worked.  Do that.)

Anyway, like it or lump it, this is how it goes down.

So, how does one do this with charm, poise, and grace in a moment where the world is demanding you celebrate your mid-life singleness with every female child, teenager, and college student in the room at your side?

Today I found my answer.  I don't.

I knew I would not be bouquet catching today.  I just made a choice to leave that lovely tradition to the ladies who had not yet experienced the beauty of marriage at all and who wanted to be part of the tradition.

For me, it's symbolic.... and it's totally a ME thing.

See, I'm not standing in line for God's man today or the hope of him.  I'm not in a waiting game for him to arrive so that I can start the business of living out God's plan for me.  I'm not hunting him down, either, or fishing for him on .

I'm just living the life put before me and knowing that God's preparing His guy's heart and mine at an equal pace.  I'm LIVING today like none other and when God places His man on the scene, He will let me know.

See, pre-marriage and immediately-post-divorce, I looked at marriage through a set of almost desperate young eyes.  What if I didn't get picked?  What if there wasn't someone out there for me?  What if the love of my life didn't reciprocate that love with a diamond on that bare left finger of mine?  Oh, the humanity..... what if, what if, what if.

But my God, ladies... He's not a God of "What if".

He is the God of I WILL.

He will love you beyond anything you could ask or imagine.
He will give you grace upon grace when you goof things up... and even say "What mistake?"
He will hold your heart when life makes you break out the Kleenex.
He will know your needs before you know them, and patiently wait while you tell him every detail about them.
He will honor the desires of your heart (because He PUT THEM there).
He will even change your name and give you a NEW NAME.
He promises to be Father and Husband all rolled into one.
You will never go without with Him at your side.

So, that sounds lovely.   But how has it worked out for me?

Here ya go...

I wear two silver bands on my RIGHT hand to remind me of my priorities.

One is Him (God).  Two is them (my kids).  Three has no band, but it's anything that honors Him and blesses them.

I made the big choice to wear NO RING on my left hand.  That's a big choice for single gals, but I dove in head first.  Know why?  I'm not married.

Wearing a ring over there was false advertising with intent for me.  (The sole goal of it was to ward off the scary dudes... but, I learned quickly that scary dudes aren't deterred by a wedding band.  God's guy is, though.)

So, I freed up that left hand as God freed up my head and heart.  Marriage is beautiful, but I'm not there, yet, and that's more than okay in His eyes.

Having a ring on my left finger and a man at my side doesn't make me whole.  Making me whole is a role that ONLY my Jesus was meant to fill.

Do you know what kind of freedom is there to love God's kids when you know they were never intended to fill in your blank spots?  It's FREEDOM, guys.  PURE FREEDOM.  I'm convinced that good relationships must start here.

As for right now, this walk, for this season, is all about me, my God, and my family.  Do I believe that God has a later on that includes His guy?  Absolutely.  I think He has big plans, but I'm willing to live life fully until His timing comes into play.

See God loves me so much that He is prepping him for the awesomeness that is me and my crew (there's a lot of folks to love here!) while he preps us for the awesomeness that is him... and today I'm okay with that.

I believe the journey is so much better if we both have a beautiful life story once we meet, and that story isn't "I've been waiting....and waiting.... and waiting."

So, today I'm giving myself flowers... and I'm not waiting in line for them.  I'm picking them straight from my flower garden, because what God is growing here is beautiful in the right now. , 2014 
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken