Archive | April 2012

Jesus, take the wheel…

Saturday, March 24, 2012, is the day that changed my life forever.

I had taken Zachary and William shopping to pick out new beds.  It was time for William to transition to a toddler bed, and I was moving him and Zachary into the same room.  While checking out at Babies “R” Us that afternoon, I noticed a storm brewing out the front windows of the store.  The sky darkened suddenly and began to look ominous as rain began to fall.

As I loaded the kids into the car, William began shouting, “Save me!  Save me!”  I laughed and joked with Zachary about William having watched too many episodes of the Wonder Pets on TV.  I even stopped to post the joke on Facebook.  I headed across the parking lot to Target and we rushed in to shop for Zachary’s summer wardrobe.  When it was time to check out, I noticed that the lines were really long (as they usually are at Target), and I began to get very thirsty.  I searched out a bottle of water, which was odd for me since I’m not a water drinker, and began to feel a bit disoriented.  I thought, I must be getting really dehydrated or something.

We checked out eventually and made it to the car as the storm continued.  I hopped onto I-485, and, as I rounded the curved bridge to merge onto I-77, I noticed that the sun was shining very brightly on one side of the car, but on the other side of the car it looked as though the bottom was going to drop out.  I began thinking about my poor vision in the rain due to a bad run-in with Lasik surgery in the past (we won’t go there), and I began to worry that it was going to storm like it had a year ago when my brand new car was severely damaged in a hail storm.  I stopped and prayed: “Lord, please just get us home safely.  My babies are in the car and are depending on me.”

All of a sudden, I gradually started to feel as though I was being lifted from my seat.  Then I felt as though the car was lifting.  I didn’t seem to be driving the car anymore at all, in fact, and I didn’t feel as though I was in control any longer.  I thought, “Is someone else driving the car?  Am I delusional?  I don’t seem to be in my body anymore.  Wait, am I dead and I’m watching it all somehow?  Was I in an accident and don’t remember it or is one about to happen??”  I started vibrating a little and felt lifted even further.  I tried to pull myself back down but couldn’t.  At that very moment, Zachary and I both noticed the most VIBRANT double rainbow out of the driver’s side windows, on the sunny side of the car.  I fumbled with my cell phone trying to get a picture of the rainbow because I was sure that I was witnessing something miraculous, but I worried about crashing the car, too!  Zachary told me to give him the phone so that he could take the picture.  And he did.  And it was beautiful.

After a few seconds, I finally seemed to rest back in my seat and “come to.”  Things began to feel normal again.  Zachary and I discussed the awesomeness of the double rainbow.  It was absolutely stunning!  I finally got to our exit and we made our way home.  As we neared the house, William spoke out from the back seat for the first time and said, “I tired, Mama.”  In my stupor, I repeated what he said like I always do, saying “You’re tired?”  “Yes, I tired,” he said.  I asked if he was ready to go to sleep, and he said “Yes.”  He told me that he was tired several more times down that stretch of road.  The significance of what he said didn’t hit me until later.

We arrived safely at home and neither Zach nor I seemed to be able to get out of the car.  I felt so HEAVY and TIRED.  I turned around and looked at Zachary, and he appeared to be in a stupor.  And then it hit me – he had felt it, too!  I asked Zachary if he had just felt what I did, and he said, “Yes!” with a huge goofy grin on his face.  He told me that he felt really heavy.  He told me that he couldn’t feel his legs, and I realized that I couldn’t really, either.  But, we also felt very light somehow.  And every part about it felt so GOOD.  I realized in that moment that I had just experienced God and the Holy Spirit in a way that I have never known.  Zachary and I felt as though we were buzzing, electrified somehow.  Almost drunk with delight.

Awesome.  Incredible.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  These were the words that we spoke, sometimes in unison.  I started crying.  We grinned at each other when we said the same words, as though we were in each other’s heads.  Zachary appeared to be in a daze and his nystagmus (back and forth movement of his eyes caused by albinism) seemed to have stopped.

After a time of reflection, we both came to the same awesome realization: we had just experienced God’s Almighty power.  We agreed that there was no other explanation.  We both realized that we needed to get out of the car and go in the house and tell Seth and Keaton about our experience, but we worried that they would think that we had completely lost our minds.  But, we had just experienced the same things independently, so we weren’t crazy, right?!  The feelings that we had felt were real and the proof was in the double rainbow!!

We eventually got out of the car and walked unsteadily to the house, noting that our bodies, especially our legs, felt very heavy.  Like weights.  But it still felt good somehow.  We went in the house and gathered up Seth and Keaton to tell our story.  Zachary and I tried desperately to put into words the miracle that we had just experienced, but our words didn’t seem adequate.  For the next few minutes, Zachary and I discussed the events further, slowly gathering up all the details.  Zachary had also thought at one point that he was dead, somehow watching himself from the outside.  Then he realized, like me, that wasn’t the case.  It WAS real.  And it was amazing!

While we are recounting our story, William began to speak out.  He mentioned having seen the rainbow with purple, pink and yellow colors.  And then I began to wonder if William had experienced any of the feelings that Zachary and I had, when it hit me:  He most definitely did!  That’s why he told me he was so tired in the car!  William had felt it, too, and that was the only way his 2-year-old brain knew how to explain it!

As we delved deeper into our feelings, Zachary dropped a bombshell.  He told us that he had seen angels in his room.  Not just any angels, but Nana (Daddy’s wife, Jeanne) and Granddaddy Bill.  He told us that an angel had come toward him recently and told him not to be afraid.  The angel told Zachary that he was in fact him, only older.  The angel was wearing a robe and had wings.  Zachary said that he felt a windy draft and was cold at the time the angel had appeared.  And then, Zachary went on to tell us that he had seen angels multiple times in the form of those who have died before us.  Wait, what?  Yes, Zachary said he had seen angels that had identified themselves as our ancestors.  Whoa, I thought… this is getting out of control!

After eating supper that night, I gave William a bath and he didn’t want to get out of the bathtub when we were finished.  Now, he had done that before, but that night I was exhausted and just let him stay in the tub, even after the water was gone.  In fact, I had tried taking him out of the tub and he just climbed back in by himself.  Rather than force him out like I normally would to get everyone ready for bed, I let him stay in the tub to see where all of this would lead.  I sat in the floor of the bathroom and decided that the day had already been strange enough, so maybe something else was supposed to happen, and I definitely didn’t want to miss it or stop it from happening!

William played with his cars for a few more minutes and eventually climbed out of the tub of his own free will.  He walked downstairs behind me and climbed on my bed for me to diaper him and put his pajamas on, as is our normal routine.  William became agitated while on the bed, however, and I didn’t really know what to make of it.  He gave a little shiver, and told me that he was cold.  “I cold, Mama,” he said.  I hovered over him and wrapped him in my arms to warm him up.  Then William said, “Shower man.”  I replied, “Shower man?,”  and William confirmed, “Yes, shower man.”  I said, “Who was in the shower, William?”  and William said, “William was in the shower.”  I glanced at Seth and thought, “Wait, is he talking about himself or had Granddaddy Bill come to visit him too?!”

William became still then and let me put his diaper on.  But, when I tried to put his pajamas on, he became very playful.  I asked him, “What are you doing, William?” to which he replied, “I dancing.” as he walked and hopped about the bed.  Taking a chance, I asked, “Are you dancing with an angel?” to which he responded with an emphatic “YES.”  “Holy cow. Are you serious?” I thought.  Was he really seeing Granddaddy Bill, too??

March 24th, 2012, was not the only time that William has behaved that way.  William had another episode of “playing with angels” just this past Saturday night, April 21, 2012.  William refused to put his pajamas on again and began dancing and jumping around the living room in a frenzy.  I took the chance and asked, “William, are the angels here again?” and he said “YES!”  So, I let him dance, hop, jump, bounce and sing around the living room for about thirty minutes.  While doing this, William said, “Bible told me to.”  Not once, but twice.  He then took all of the pillows from the couch and built a fort around the couch, closing himself in.  Now, I have no explanation for what he was doing and will not even begin to try to come up with one here, but suffice it to say that I BELIEVE in angels and the power of the Holy Spirit

Yes, after experiencing the amazing events of March 24, 2012, April 21, 2012, and hearing and seeing all of the incredible recent revelations from my children about angels on Earth, I can say without a single doubt that, YES, I most definitely believe in angels!


Bill, William, or both?

My Granddaddy Bill died on February 5, 2012.  He wasn’t the grandparent that I was the closest to, but we definitely had a solid connection.  Even before my son William was born and named after him.  As a child, I used to visit his house in Rock Hill, South Carolina on weekends.  He would take me to play Putt-Putt and then we would have lunch at Taco Bell.  To this day, I still order a Meximelt and regular nachos when I eat there.

Three weeks before his death, Granddaddy fell at his home and was admitted to the hospital.  After a brief stay, he was transferred to a rehab facility.  During this time, I began to notice what seemed to be odd coincidences between Granddaddy and William.  Now, keep in mind that William is only 2 and had only visited Granddaddy a handful of times prior to his death.  So when I began noticing the similarities, I at first brushed them off as mere coincidences.  But the more similarities I began to notice, the more curious I became about them.

Not long before his death, Granddaddy, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, began locking himself in rooms in his home, unable to get out without assistance.  While Granddaddy was in the rehab center, William began a fascination with locking doors in our house, laughing at us when we couldn’t get into a room.  We would have to get the little key doohickey to unlock doors when William would lock himself in.  And this began to happen very frequently.  I told my mom about William’s newest quirky obsession, and she responded by telling me about Granddaddy locking himself in rooms at his home, something I had not previously known.

Also while in the rehab facility, Granddaddy began refusing to use the restroom.  One night at our house during this time, I brought out a new Cars potty that I had recently purchased for William to begin introducing him to the concept of potty training.  For a completely unknown reason, William freaked out.  I’m talking the worst tantrum I have ever seen a toddler throw, and I have seen quite a few after raising Zachary through his toddler years.  William was screaming and actually began taking the potty apart, piece by piece.  It got so bad that I simply had to back off and let William work through his frustration alone, as hard as that was for me as a mama.  I remember thinking, “Now THAT was a serious meltdown.  What in the world could have sparked such a tantrum?  Over a potty??”  When my mom and I discussed the meltdown not long afterward, she reminded me of Granddaddy’s refusal to use the bathroom.  Another coincidence?  Hmmm….

In his younger days, Granddaddy loved to fly airplanes.  He taught pilots to fly airplanes during WWII after enlisting in the Army Air Corp following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He also owned his own small airplane that he used to fly out of the Rock Hill airport.  I remember flying with him one time as a child and him letting me “take over” the plane.  I feel pretty confident that I didn’t actually “take over” the plane, but he let me think that I did, and that was very exciting.

William has been obsessed with airplanes since he could see them in the sky.  Every time – and I mean every time – he sees or hears one, he announces, “Airplane!” and makes everyone look for it in the sky.  Around the time of Granddaddy’s death, we went to dinner with my mom at a local restaurant and there was a balloon artist there who made William a helicopter balloon.  William flew the helicopter around the restaurant during dinner, much to the dismay of some of the other patrons.  As we were driving home that night, William asked a question that he had never asked me before.  He asked, “Mama, what are you doing?” to which I replied, “I’m driving, what are you doing?”  William asked, “Do you want to fly?”  That was a “lightbulb moment,” when I really began to think that Granddaddy had invaded my child’s body somehow and overtaken him.  I said, “Do you want to fly, William?”  And he answered with an emphatic, “YES!”  I called my mom to tell her of yet another similarity, which were starting to become ridiculously common, to the point where I thought my mom might be thinking that I was making all of it up.  But, I called her anyway and put her on speakerphone so that William could talk to her.  William asked my mom if she wanted to fly, and she asked where they were going.  My mom, who my children call “Mimi,” responded, “Yes.  Where are we going?  To the beach?” to which William replied, “Yes!”  Granddaddy loved the beach and used to fly my mom and his other two children to the beach in his airplane on vacation.

Following Granddaddy’s funeral, I picked up William and took him to Granddaddy’s house to visit with family.  He seemed very comfortable there despite not having been there often.  He explored the house with his cousins and even played hide and seek in the attic.  The following day after things quieted down, I took William back to the house to visit with his Mimi and Granddaddy Bill’s wife, Betty.  After eating lunch, William insisted on taking me to the bedroom where Granddaddy had spent his final days.  William had never seen Granddaddy in that room.  While in the room, William took on a very playful persona, giggling and hiding from me.  The sun was shining through a window, the same window that Granddaddy was peering through the day he died.  The sun had made a sunny patch on the carpet, and William proceeded to lay down in the sunny patch.  He literally wallowed in it.  I watched him curiously and asked, “What are you doing, laying in the sunshine?”  to which he replied, “Yeeeeesssss.”  I couldn’t help in that moment but to feel that Granddaddy had come home through William, somehow, perhaps to comfort us as we grieved his loss, and as his way of telling us, “Hey, I’m ok!  I’m whole again, and it’s more than wonderful!”

There are other coincidences that I could mention, but I think you get the picture.  Is it possible that Granddaddy has spoken to us through my precious William?  After witnessing these events, I believe that not only is it possible, but that it happened.  And for that, I am so grateful.  God is good!

And we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

I was all set to post tonight about the possibility of reincarnation and communicating with the dead, when something very real brought me back to this realm.  My 8-year-old, Zachary, was in rare form tonight and was not his usual, happy self.  I know he was bullied by a couple of 4th grade boys a couple of days ago, but he came home tonight and told me that school went fine today, so I didn’t think his attitude had anything to do with bullying.  I was giving him and his 2-year-old brother, William, a bath later tonight when Zach busted out with “You don’t do a good enough job trying to be a mom to both of us.”  Um, excuse me?  Did I just hear that correctly?  Wait, let me clean out my ears and repeat that, please.  Sure enough, I had heard him correctly.  Whoa, I thought.  This is huge.  And I didn’t really know how to respond.  I told him that I tried to do the best that I could and that some days were harder than others (especially now that my husband and I are voluntarily separated – but that’s another post).  To which he replied that I didn’t do good enough and then broke out into tears.

I have to admit that I was stunned because I always thought that Zach and I had a good, solid relationship.  But, it turns out that he did a really good job of pretending that we did sometimes, and that hurt me deeply.  I, of course, told him that I was sorry that he felt that way, and he told me that William always comes first.  Ouch, another blow.  So, I went into a schpiel about William being younger and needing me more, yadda, yadda, yadda… And I explained how hard it was to work 40 hours a week and then come home and try to be the best mom I could be.  And then I looked at him as he continued to cry and realized that those were just excuses for my inadequacies as a mom.  Yes, I admit it.  Inadequacies.  And I realized just how much work I have to do to BE the intentional mother that I haven’t always been.  And now I have even more of a reason to continue on my quest to be a better, more purposeful mom.  Please, everyone (including Zach), continue to keep me accountable for my mothering.  Please and thank you!

Angels Among Us

Matthew 18:10

King James Version (KJV)

10Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

I never really considered the possibility that there could be angels watching over and/or living among us until my stepmother, Jeanne, passed away a couple of years ago.  After she passed away, I began to wonder if it was possible for her to look down from her place in Heaven and see what was going on down here.  Could she see me and everything I was doing?  Could she send us signs that she was watching over my Dad, my sister and I?  I can’t say that I received any really obvious signs that she could, other than my son, Zachary, telling me more than once that Nana was ok.  They had a very special bond even though Zachary was only 6 years old when she died on February 17, 2010.

Three weeks before Jeanne suffered the heart attack that would lead to her death a few months later, my second son, William, was born.  I had somewhat of a difficult time picking out a name for William, and Seth and I had discussed it many times.  I don’t remember exactly when it hit me, but I began to have a feeling that we should name him William after my Granddaddy Bill, Martin William Bates.  I remember standing in Target wih Seth one day in the middle of the card section when he looked at me and said, “If you want to name him William, then I am fine with that.  We should name him William.”  And so we did.  Interestingly enough, William was born on Granddaddy Bill’s wife Betty’s birthday, September 25, 2009.  These seeming coincidences will become more relevant in my next post, but it is worth mentioning here because I don’t actually believe these are coincidences at all.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my Granddaddy Bill recently passed away on February 5, 2012.  Three weeks before he died, he fell at his home and began a steady decline.  During that time, I felt compelled to visit him as much as possible, especially when he left the rehab facility and went home to hospice care.  I watched his formerly able body undergo a transformation before my eyes, but as I continued to talk to him despite knowing he might not understand me and listen to him sing until his final couple of days on this Earth, I began to feel a peace about his passing.  I had just finished the book “Heaven is for Real,”  and I truly believed that he was headed to a glorious place where he would be freed from his very incapable Earthly body, which had been wracked by years of smoking, emphysema, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and hearing loss.  I knew he would be young again in Heaven and would be able to breathe, think, see and hear better than ever.

As my grandfather began the dying process, he began seeing people in white robes and speaking to people who were not in the room.  He told my mother as she was reading the section about people in robes in Heaven in the book “Heaven is for Real,” that she looked beautiful in her white robe (she was not actually wearing a robe).  He was not able to fully explain what he was seeing due to the Alzheimer’s, but we believe angels had begun to visit him in the rehab facility to prepare him for his journey home.

I last visited him the morning of February 5, several hours before he died.  Instead of being restless as he had been for several days before, he was still.  His youngest son Bobby arrived from Alabama to say goodbye, and he spoke his last coherent word when my mother and Betty told him that Bobby was there.  He said, “OK,” like everything was now in place.  Before I left that afternoon, I watched him looking out the window in his bedroom at the sunshine outside.  A peace came over me and I told him that it was ok to go, saying what I had a feeling would be my final goodbye.  Several hours later as I was watching Madonna sing “Like a Prayer” during the Superbowl halftime show, my mom called to tell me that he had passed away.

As I said earlier, Zachary seemed to know somehow that his Nana was ok following her death, and again, he seemed convinced that Granddaddy Bill was ok, too.  He stood over the open casket at the wake talking to Granddaddy Bill, seemingly not even the slightest bit afraid of death.  An 8-year-old.  Standing over a casket by himself.  I watched as Betty’s sister, Linda, came over to the join Zachary and I overheard pieces of their conversation.  He told Linda that Granddaddy Bill was in Heaven, playing and having fun.  I thought, “Is this for real?”  How can he be so absolutely confident?  It was like Zachary had knowledge of life after death that I didn’t know and certainly hadn’t sat him down and taught him.  Linda later told me that she believed Zachary and that she also believed that he had some sort of Heavenly connection that neither one of us could really explain other than to say that Zachary had to be an angel on Earth.  It’s funny, because I have always thought that he has one of the sweetest, oldest souls you will ever meet, and I began to wonder if in fact he did have some insight into Heaven that other people, like me, did not.

And then I began to wonder that if Zachary somehow had this special ability to understand life after death, could William have it too?  Why Zachary?  Could he possibly be an angel on Earth?  I know I am somewhat biased, but I really believe that he is.  And as the events of the following week unfolded, I also began to believe that William does have a special ability as well.  I thought, “How blessed am I to have two children with such insight?!”  I began sharing the events of the following week with my mom and close friends, who I think at first thought I might be going off the deep end.  And by the end of the week, I’m pretty sure one of my very good friends thought that I was certifiable, straight jacket and all.  But, I will leave it for you to judge as I delve into those events in my next post(s).

Amazing Grace

Have you ever felt as though a veil had been lifted from over your eyes?  Like all of a sudden you were seeing the world with greater clarity?  I have.  Very recently a veil lifted and I began to see my life in much more vivid color.  The good and the bad.  It was like I had woken up from a long slumber, similar to Rip Van Winkle, confused and wondering where the time had gone.  I know that I am 35 (Can I possibly be middle-aged already?) with 3 beautiful kids, a caring husband, a neurotic dog and a cat who has more generalized anxiety than I do.  I know I have a good, full-time job as a paralegal in a very difficult economy which thankfully continues to pay the bills (Thanks, George!).  But how had I gotten here?  All of a sudden I felt as though I had just cruised through the years since graduating from college in 1999, not really paying attention to the details or taking the time to store them for future recall.  For that matter, what did I really remember about the years before college?  From high school and even the years before that?

I know I was a child once, but for the life of me, I can’t remember a lot about that despite my best efforts.  I know I had a lot of fun in college and partied with the best of them (Sorry Mom and Dad), but surely those four years hadn’t erased THAT many memories.  So where were they?  Hidden in the deep recesses of my brain?  And then it hit me: I have several good and solid memories of my early childhood growing up in Rock Hill, SC and then Charlotte, NC.  I remember attending Pineville Elementary School then Nations Ford Elementary School.  I remember moving to a new neighborhood before I started 6th grade and making new friends in the neighborhood, one of which (who shall remain nameless) would become my college roommate, and then, shortly after graduation, my ex-best friend.  And I remember the day in 6th grade that my parents told me that they were getting divorced.

My dad told me about the impending divorce over the phone, if I remember correctly, when he called one day.  I remember he had seemed to be out-of-town a lot on business prior to that, and it clicked for me at that moment.  He hadn’t really been out-of-town that much.  I don’t really know when the beginning of the end of their marriage started, and, quite frankly, as a 12-year-old, I probably didn’t really need to know.  They were good about keeping things behind closed doors.  I just knew at that time that my parents were splitting up and my dad was leaving.  And stop playback.

So there it ends.  In 6th grade.  Sure, I have SOME memories from the years after that.  I would have to be a complete amnesiac not to.  But in all reality, the years between 6th grade and college are a blur.  I think I started to wake back up a little in high school and then definitely some more in college, as I set out to “find myself” and prepare to enter the real world as (GASP!) an ADULT!  But when I had a recent epiphany, I realized that I had not actually even begun to find my true self until I reached my 30’s.  And thanks to God’s grace and love and the continued support of my wonderful family, husband and children, I can say that I have finally, without a doubt, reached that moment in my life.  At the ripe young age of 35.  🙂

My mom has told me in the past that I “checked out” when my parents divorced, but I didn’t completely understand what she meant until very recently.  When things started going sour with my once healthy, stable marriage, I realized that I had to closely examine myself to find out what it was about me that was contributing to the decline.  In that vein, I started thinking about my childhood and my parents’ divorce, and the very real impact that it had on me.

After the divorce, my younger sister Cameron and I began splitting time between our parents as required by what I assume was a separation/custody agreement.  We juggled our time with them as necessary and we spent time with each of them as we could.  They were both very good, as I remember it, at making sure that we saw both of them equally and fairly.  But although I may have been present in the physical sense during those years, I had, in fact, checked out emotionally.  I can only assume that this was the coping mechanism that I used to deal with the hurt and non-understanding of why my parents couldn’t stay together.  My 12-year-old brain certainly didn’t understand divorce, and it was a major bummer for a 12-year-old girl.

I managed to get lost after that, without really even trying.  Lost to myself and to others.  I didn’t fully connect with other people, despite their best efforts to draw me out.  My grandmother, Jinny, who had practically been my third parent, tried particularly hard to help bring me back to life.  My mom tried to help.  My dad remarried and my step-mother, Jeanne, also tried to help.  My father did, too.  But despite their very best efforts, I didn’t check back into life until about 4 months ago, when I realized my own marriage was starting to slip away from me.

What I realized 4 months ago was that only I had the power to stop the train wreck before it happened right before my eyes.  And with that realization, I finally woke up.  MANY changes were needed and there was a LOT of work to be done, but I knew that there was no other choice if I was going to make my marriage last.  I don’t ever want to have to tell my children that Seth and I are getting divorced.  I don’t want them to be on the same end of the message that I was given many years ago.  As an adult, I can now appreciate why my parents divorced even though I know very little about their particular situation.  Marriage is work.  Very hard work at times.  Both people really have to be on their game, willing to listen to each other and strive to make each other happy and to feel loved every single day.  Being married is hard enough, but when you throw in full-time jobs, kids, bills, debt, illness, past baggage, past disappointments (and the list goes on), things can get very complicated very fast.

I don’t know how to express in words how truly happy I am to have woken up from my slumber.  I regret that it took my marriage traveling this far down the wrong road for the awakening to occur.  I am thankful, however, that it happened before the damage was irreparable.

My very favorite hymn has always been “Amazing Grace.”  The hymn is special to me because I used to listen to my great-grandmother, Mimi, and her son, my Granddaddy Bill, sing the hymn at Christmas celebrations we used to have at his house years ago.  And now it has an even more special meaning for me, as I realize that it applies to me in an even more personal sense.  I once WAS lost, but most definitely now can see.  As my grandmother Jinny recently told me, my awakening has been “magical,” and I have to say I agree.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Hello World!

Hola, friends!  My name is Brittany.  And, yes, as the mother of a 13-year-old (step) son, Keaton, an 8-year old (biological) son, Zachary, and a 2 1/2-year-old (biological) son, William, (yes, my friends, 3, count them, 3 boys!), I have watched entirely too many episodes of Dora the Explorer!  I do sometimes wish I had her backpack though, because that thing is super-magical and would have come in handy on many occasions.  Ever toted around a baby and all its required baby things thinking you had it all under control and then realize you had forgotten something vital, you know, like DIAPERS?.  Yeah, I’ve been there a few times over the years.  Then all I would have to have done was holler “BACKPACK!” about 15 times for it to appear and spit out just what I needed, like my own personal vending machine!  “Yum, yum, yum, delicioso!”  I wouldn’t have had to find one of those machines they have in airports now for parents who have forgotten something vitally important at the most inopportune time.  You know, like extra diapers and a change of clothes when the dreaded up-the-back, nose-burningly pungent, blow-out diaper occurs in public (been there!).  But, I digress…

Yes, as the mother of 3 amazing boys, I have my hands full at all times.  Throw in the fact that I work outside the home 37.5 hours a week, and that means that I have to be even more well-organized.  It was a good thing I was born the daughter of a “planner,” as my mom has always been called by those that know her, and that I inherited that “planner” gene.  Having the innate ability to be a good planner sure does make being a full-time working mother a little easier at times.  I still think that pretty purple talking backpack would come in handy for those times that I’m off my game, though.

After all of these years, I like to think that I for the most part have effectively learned to manage my kids in such a way that they get to school on time, I get to work (usually) on time, we get to after-school activities, have food on the table for dinner, even if that means the occasional (or frequent) take-out meal, get homework done, baths taken, prayers said and off to dreamland at a reasonable time.  Sometimes we even get to throw in a little TV and play time.  I used to think I did pretty well at “having things under control,”  most days anyway.  I had learned to make task lists at work and at home, to organize everyone’s activities,  and to make sure that we all, including Seth, my husband of 4 years, ran on a smooth, tight schedule.

Over the years I had become a mostly efficient, “functional mother,” and was cruising through life raising my two biological boys, Zachary and William, until about a year ago in March 2011 when my normal, safe, rather ordinary life began to slowly unravel.  Up until that point, the most difficult thing I had to endure and then learn to manage had been the unexpected diagnosis that we received when Zachary was 8 weeks old.  Zachary had inherited a genetic condition called albinism, characterized by a lack of pigment in his skin, hair and eyes.  The lack of pigment in his eyes along with other physical changes cause him to have a visual impairment.  Now, at the age of 8, his vision is stable at about 20/70, which is fantastic for a person with albinism.  Suffice it to say, however, that getting to this total acceptance of Zachary’s condition, which he has as a result of gene mutations that both his father (not Seth – another story for another day), and I passed down to him.  I carried a lot of mommy guilt for that for a long time, but I learned as the years went by that albinism would only be a small part of the whole that makes up my beautiful, intelligent, first-born son.  I have called him my angel on Earth since he was a baby,with his platinum blond hair and deep blue eyes, and it has only been within the last year that I have begun to understand the full extent of his role and purpose in my life as his mother, for which I am so grateful.  But, more to come on that later…

Now, let’s return to March 2011 when I began to realize that the tapestry of my otherwise normal life had begun to unravel…  Although it took me a while to comprehend the full extent of the unraveling that was life as I had known it, I realized quickly that things were beginning to come apart at the seams.  It all began when my mostly quiet, cruise-control life took an entirely unexpected turn when my step-son, Keaton, revealed unthinkable things about his life at home with his mother and step-father.  This led to my husband and I taking emergency, and then permanent, full custody of Keaton.  I will save the sordid details for a future post, but suffice it to say that this event opened up a whole new proverbial can of worms for our family, and although we loved him deeply and wanted so desperately to help him and change his life for the better, we began to realize that we had been totally unprepared for what it would be like to take in a child that we had not raised.  And not just a child, but a preteen!

I also realized I had become somewhat burnt out with work about that same time.  I have been working as a paralegal for insurance defense firms in Charlotte, North Carolina for over 11 years.  While I am very happy with my current work environment and the relationships that I have cultivated there, the work had become somewhat mundane.  I had also turned 35 in February of that year, and it hit me that I was already past my 15th(!) high school reunion.  I began thinking to myself, “Where in the world has the time gone?”  Surely I hadn’t graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill  a full 12 years earlier?!

Yes, 2011 was supposed to be the start of a new, happier time for me.  And it did start with a bang, just not the promising kind for which I had hoped.  Not long after we took Keaton in, my marriage became strained as Seth and I realized that we had to find a new reality.  We also had to figure out how to help Keaton overcome his past and the inevitable feelings that all of us would face as a new, even more blended family.   The summer was just the beginning of the struggle.  Things got even harder when the school year began, and Keaton struggled to find his place in his new school with new peers.  I faced a kind of stress that I have never really felt as a full-time working mother.  Sure, managing 2 kids was difficult at times, but 3?  Could I do it and still maintain my sanity?  Some days I really began to wonder if I was still sane at all.

As 2012 began, it began to seem like every time I turned around, a new layer of difficulty was being added to our already complicated lives.  My mom’s father, Granddaddy Bill, fell at his home in January and entered a rather fast, 3-week decline that ended in his death.  I have dealt with death before in my 35 years, such as the unexpected death of my step-mother Jeanne in 2010 following a heart attack, but I have never had the opportunity to watch such a fast decline from life to death.  I literally watched my grandfather die, and that has had a profound effect on my life and my desire to be a better person and mother.  I do not want to reach my death-bed, whenever that time comes, and have regrets about how I had lived or treated my family and the others around me.  Not long after my grandfather’s death, my step-sister Allison was diagnosed with grade II brain cancer.  Again, I was staring the reality of death in the face again as I waited at the hospital with family for the doctors to remove a tumor the size of her entire left front lobe.  Allison has made an excellent recovery, thankfully, and is taking her recovery one day at a time.  No doubt Allison has a new appreciation for life and death.  I know I do.  As one of her family members said during surgery, “Life turns on a dime.”  You just never know what you are going to face from day-to-day, so you can only do the best you can to appreciate and make the absolute best of the present.

As I began to reflect on the events of the last year, I couldn’t help but think that these events happened in my life as a part of a greater plan to help me overcome the personal struggles that were beginning to take over my life, turning me into a person that I didn’t quite recognize anymore, or, quite frankly, like very much.  Death and cancer are pretty strong motivators.  They made me re-examine my life, under a self-imposed microscope at times, to figure out exactly what had happened to my marriage and why I didn’t feel like I was as successful a mother as I had hoped to be.  Yes, I was maintaining at work and at home, but I didn’t feel as though I was LIVING any longer.  Why was that, I wondered?  Did I make wrong choices or take a wrong turn somewhere?

It was time to untangle all of the confusion and to really SEE what I had become.  To determine why I felt like my marriage might fail.  To figure out where I had lost my joy for parenting and how to get it back.  I knew I loved my husband and my children, but I felt like I was missing and had missed a lot because I had become buried in the day-to-day struggles of being a full-time working mother, managing my family instead of enjoying them.

Hence why I have turned to one of my very favorite things, writing, to find my way back to the light and to regain the joy I lost somewhere in the everyday living of my life.  I invite you to join me on my journey, for I think it will be an interesting and insightful ride.  And because I need someone to hold me accountable for the inevitable changes that will need to be made in my life in order to accomplish my goal.  I don’t just want to be a functioning wife and mother, but a purposeful, intentional, loving wife and mother.  I want to parent with intention and not just schedules, rules and discipline.  I don’t want to manage my kids, but to raise them with love and compassion.  I want to learn the patience to listen to and hear my husband and children in order to better recognize what they need and want from me.  How can I better serve them in my roles as wife and mother?  It is time to put the work in and find out.