Being a single parent has its moments of extreme elation and moments where you feel as limp as a left over birthday balloon- deflated, barely floating off the floor, and seconds away from being flattened by a child's muddy sneaker soles. Ahh.....the joys, the adventures, the dramas, the heart-ache, the guilt. It's all in a day's work for any parent. Somehow though, for single parents, the emotion of a 24 hour period appears more pronounced. Of course, my perspective isn't objective by any means. Being a single parent myself, I can only speak from this perspective.
Courage. It can mean so many things to different people. I suppose like beauty, it too is in the eyes of the beholder. There are moments where friends have expressed admiration for how I have it so together. I suppress my laughter and humility quickly emerges as I share that often I do not feel particularly courageous. That in fact sometimes I feel like a complete chicken and would gladly let someone step in and take care of things for a while. Long enough for me to vacation in some really expensive mountain resort spa where they peel your grapes and do everything for you but chew your food. It couldn't be one of those spas where you have to attend some 5 am yoga class, though. I can't discover my spirituality if I have to wake up that early to find it. Not being a morning person, I'll be a slacker and find God after 10 am, thank you! He's hanging out with me anyway, as I sleep.
So what is courage anyway? Sounds so lofty. Is it even attainable? Or is it one of those elusive things, like clouds- a moving target? Are you courageous in one moment and a chicken in an hour? I believe you don't reach a pinnacle of courage and stay there forever more. I think it's more like eating ice-cream. When you experience it, you are so in the moment of it, savoring and relishing in the tingly enthusiasm that it provokes. An hour later, a day later, the childish enthusiasm dissipates, and you have forgotten the feeling.
Courage has a way of tapping on your shoulder asking to come in, even when you aren't ready to put on your armour. The situation arrives requiring you to do what you have to do, because if you don't, it won't get done. It's the moment when it all hits the fan at once and you find yourself wondering how you're supposed to handle it all at once.
Every single parent has more than one of these times when they feel overwhelmed. Often, in these moments, is when I drop to my knees and pray. Sometimes it has to all pile on the plate, before I realize I left Him off the plate. Once the anxiety steps in, the lack of peace rattles me, I am reminded I left out the most important ingredient. I was trying to deal with it all on my own again. Interesting how when I try to handle it all on my own, I usually can make such a mess of it. Or I think I'm going great, have it all under control, and then wham! Something more steps in and quickly reminds me that I am not in control here. If I continue with my stubbornness (as often can be the case), suffering continues until I decide to surrender to God.
Sometimes I think I'm surrendering to God just because I'm praying. When I don’t get the immediate results I want, I get discouraged. Often I don’t even get the results I asked for. In moments like these it's so easy for me to lose faith and patience. I have wondered if he’s really listening. Fortunately for us, our Heavenly Father understands our human nature, and how our trust in Him can be so fickle- far from steadfast. Yet He goes on loving us despite our moments of disappointment and even anger toward Him, when we mistakenly think he's not listening. Often it is "me" who is not listening. I'm not getting it. I'm asking God's help, but simultaneously trying to direct the outcome.
One quote I always find inspirational during these moments is: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and He will make your path straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
When I begin to question why I'm not seeing the results I want, exactly as I want them, I have to stop and ask, is it my will or God's will I am seeking? In which case it's pretty obvious to me the answer. Just because I don't understand the whys (that would be me needing to be in the know- in control), doesn't mean God isn't working His plan. It's on His timetable, not mine. And that's not for me to control.
As we experience the everyday challenges of life and single parenting, it's easy to get caught up in fear. It debilitates us and forces us away from trusting God. It also acts to steal our courageousness. In moments where I am grappling with fear, I acknowledge I am afraid, and ask God to replace my fear with trust in Him. I also look for inspiration, either through reading the bible, or a favorite book which I've already highlighted key uplifting phrases. Also picking up the phone and talking to someone who inspires and lifts you up, can add that necessary support that is often needed when we don't have a partner to talk to. But above all, these things are just band-aids if we do not go to our ultimate source- our Father in heaven- to request his guidance.
So as I escaped for a while to write this, it was possible to do so because my daughter was completing her homework. At 14, and with a sharp sense of humor, she's quick to remind me how I'm not being the responsible "single parent" because I forgot to wash some raspberries for her to snack on. With a smirk, she relishes rubbing in: "How nice. You're writing about being a good single parent, meanwhile you're neglecting your daughter." Nothing like your own child to keep you focused and centered on reality. Just as I try to relax and write, my child's mission is to find ways to interrupt. Especially since my focus is not entirely on her at the moment. I think this also comes from being an only child- she's used to me giving her all my attention. The weening process and necessary task of teaching her self-reliance is underway. Apparently I have more work to do toward this endeavor.
By the way, our 88 yr old (human years) cat has an upper respiratory infection and needs her anti-biotic and decongestant pills. Have you ever tried prying open a cat's steely jaws filled with razor sharp needle teeth? Per Vet's orders, I've been attempting to flick a couple of pills down her throat. Only she keeps propelling them back out at me. Let's just say her breath is more difficult to deal with right now than the jaw wrestling. Now having successfully deposited the pills into the furry Pez dispenser, I'm feeling a bit courageous. There's nothing like a successful endeavor to spur one on toward courage. I'm ready now for my next challenge. I'm happy to report I'm feeling courageous enough to take on the menacing pile of laundry I have awaiting me.
May you and your family be Blessed!