Last week I went on and on and on about how much I was crying while in Guatemala and while typing the post, it was just a lot of stuff to share and for you to read; I hope some of it resonated with you. Thank you for sticking it out and reading all of the words (or most of them) and coming on back for the second installment of three about our soul changing mission trip to Guatemala.
With so many asking about the trip, I knew this was the space I would need to slow down and do the most reflection about the impact that was made, but in parts. So, here we are with the second post – mostly about what God showed me about being a single parent.
This is my 17yo son.
It’s been just the two of us in our home for about four of the twelve years since his father/my husband passed away; a story I will share in this space in its entirety – someday…
He is reading one of the many encouragement cards he’d received at one of our group encouragement reading card sessions. He had many to choose from and I have beautiful memories of watching him stand and share with our team how he was being perceived on this trip. And in essence, I realized, it was also, how I was being perceived.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not so much about him performing for me, or acting or showing himself to make me look a certain way. At least, it isn’t as much anymore. I have had to let go of this staunch expectation that my child would represent me and make me proud and behave in the manner of which I would not need to be embarrassed by him (or cut a fool and embarrass him as a result of his choices). It hardly makes sense to me though – how do we not take responsibility when they behave poorly and sit tall and proud when they are shining brightly?
Well, we don’t.
On this trip, I was so in awe of him and was constantly swinging back and forth between being a proud mom and a grateful teammate.
I had to keep pinching myself to remind myself that this impressive, imperfect, giving, sacrificial, hardworking young man lives with me. That for 12 of the 17 years of his life (he turned 17 IN Guatemala) I have been the “main event” parent in his life. No one to share custody with, no one to split the heavy lifting with in the home, no one else to ask to attend parent-teacher conferences in my place, THE one to ask and hold him accountable for his everyday living, the behind-the-out-there face, loving him through the death of parent, puberty, brain development, tough teachers, insensitive adults, toward God.
To say it’s been a bumpy, difficult road at times, would be a part of a very accurate story.
But, everyone who has been on the planet, drawn breath and interacted with other people have experienced some bumps. (If you haven’t yet, hang tight…) Our story is not more heart-wrenching or devastating than anyone else trying to navigate living.
Our story definitely has had some bigger than expected almost devastating bumps, but there have been some pretty beautiful scenic stops along the way too…
We were on our way up the mountain to serve for the week in San Cristobal Verapaz and stopped for ice cream. Not knowing the bathroom situation and knowing how my body feels about dairy, I gave mine to him. It’s just stuff like that.
Those things that are reminders that I’ve been paying attention, walking alongside him, guiding, learning, investing and growing. That this human being is not where he is by accident. In my cooperation with God and the talents and gifts he’s been given, through our circumstances and my fighting to stay faithful (and lead him to faith) we’ve become fond of one another as people. People who push one another’s buttons. People who “get” each other. People who act very silly together. People who apologize to one another.
I saw how much of a team we were…we are.
And it was made very clear that I – as a single mama – have had a faithful influence on my son. That I’ve let him be more and more of who he is, knowing that though he is often moving away from me on toward what he is being called into, he is still watching me – following my example, noticing and respectfully commenting on my choices.
He will claim me and tell me when he’s proud of me. He will stand next to me and attempts to be protective of me. He asks me hard (sometimes annoying) questions and he makes me laugh. I am so fascinated by who he is. Though I shouldn’t be. Really…
I’ve been watching him all along. Observing this person. Seeing him come into his own right before my very own eyes. It’s still so surreal y’all. And in it, I smile deep from within because I never thought I would be married, let alone be a mother. These two blessings/adventures were not on my radar as a child, tween, young adult; I truly never thought it would be for me.
And something amazing kept happening while we were in Guatemala, bringing our journey as mother and son into even clearer perspective…
I had been the cop and the coach – preparing to move into being a consultant – and started to realize that HE was coaching me. That this 17yo had stuff to teach me. That he was often right when it came to observations he was having about me and my character and heart. That he had been paying attention and knew how to encourage me when I wanted to quit. That he could tell when I was over thinking and attempting to control things rather than take to my journal and turn things over in prayer.
And it came clear on this mission trip in Guatemala.
Here we are. Team “R & D”. I decided that I would like to try to move a pile of concrete and dirt about 800 feet and up a hill away. The younguns had been talking about it and seemed to be enjoying the challenge of it. Well, I wanted to try it and see if I could push myself and do it too.
Right after I said, “I’ll take one” I wished I hadn’t.
And he knew it…
He stepped in close to me and told me that he would come with me. Louder to the rest of the group, he made it seem like he was coming along just to show me where to dump the pile since he’d already done it several times before. I was in it to prove something. Mostly to myself, but a little to him too.
I’m just never wanting my kid to think that mamas can’t do certain things because they’re mamas…
Anyway, this shot is taken after about 3 minutes of walking with the wheelbarrow (with another 6 – 8 minutes to go) and I wanted to quit. I may have already stopped to take a quick break once or twice and the negative self-talk began in my head.
“Why are you doing this?”
“This is dumb.”
“Let the younguns build up their muscles.”
I prayed a little, not wanting to give up but also being honest with myself – I was tired and out of my league. As I began to verbalize my fatigue and self-doubt to my son, he gently touched my left hand and said in the most steadying voice, “You’ve got this mom.”
In that moment, I had all of the feelings you could possibly imagine. All of them.
I know that he wouldn’t have been embarrassed by me or would not have shamed me if I put the wheelbarrow down and went back to tackle a more manageable project. But, he also acted in a way that demonstrated that he had been listening to and watching his single mama for so many years. And he knew that I could complete the task even when I doubted myself.
It was hard – 5 hours up into the mountains (that elevation change ain’t no joke!) and doing physical labor which is just not a part of my regular anything – but y’all, it was one of the best moments of the trip for me because God showed me how He had been working in me and walking alongside me throughout the entire time I’ve been raising up this child.
He validated me in my soul, in reminding me that He was doing far more than my relationship status changes, redeeming all of my insecure, people-pleasing decisions, my impure and impulsive endeavors, my selfish and heavily depressed y-e-a-r-s of ‘living’…
I heard it; such sweet love in this precious quick moment (that was thankfully captured without my knowledge until many hours later). It was as if I was given that very moment to be deeply encouraged that being a single mom does not have to be a sentence or a prison or a disability. That though the path may not look like we want it to or think that it should, beautiful results can come up out of so much of the mess and hurt and loneliness when we keep pressing through.
There is just so much gratitude for this moment.
And so much love for the people who donated to help us get to Guatemala to have this moment.
And so many smiles from my full heart realizing that He knew that moments like this one would be waiting on the other side of all of the pain. On the other side of all of the times I wanted to quit.
I know that it wasn’t necessarily Guatemala that made this moment happen, but for me, Inn Ministries and San Cristobal Verapaz and the mission field of Guatemala will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the milestone markers of being fully sold out on never giving up on being the best mama I can be for this
kid young man.