Day 512: Exodus 14:14

The other day I was fighting with, err…I mean, talking to one of my kids. The conversation was a little rough. This child of mine is still hurt. Still angry that there is no longer a dad in our house.

This, along with the normal everyday teenage angst, has more than once caused a rift in our relationship and discontent in our home. I suppose all of that is normal in this situation but that certainly doesn’t make it suck any less.

This particular night though, I started off hot. I was mad because my kid had done something I didn’t approve of and when called on it (by me screaming at said kid) reacted in a disrespectful manner. As is too often the case, the next several minutes were tense; filled with one or the other of us saying things that would have been best left unsaid.

And then I heard a very clear voice in my head, no, in my spirit, saying, “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” It was clear as day. I needed to shut up and let the Holy Spirit do his work, rather than lose my temper and say things I shouldn’t.

So I just stopped. In a calm voice, I told my child the expectation and left the room. I went to the sink and started washing dishes. When my kid came back to fight with me some more, instead of responding, I recited this verse over and over in my head. Be quiet. The Lord will fight for you. After all, my kid knew what had been done wrong. The kid knew the consequences were appropriate. There was no need for me to continue pressing my point. I didn’t need to prove I was right. You guys know how hard that was for me, right?

After a few minutes of getting no response from me, my child began to calm down. The voice softened and eventually, the heart did as well. We made it through that night both in one piece and the next day was better, even with the consequences in place. Because I had been still.

A couple of things about this story that I think are worth mentioning.

First, Psalm 119:11 (NIV) says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” This is our primary objective in memorizing Scripture: avoiding sin. In my anger, I had been sinning. Shutting my mouth was an act of obedience. Obedience brought peace.

Secondly, I need to acknowledge that this verse was written in a specific time and place, neither of which I was a part of. This passage is actually from the Exodus story. Moses has just led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, and a furious Pharaoh, with his entire army in tow, is now pursuing them. The Hebrew people are afraid and questioning their wisdom in following Moses. In response, he tells his people,

Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord which he will work for you today….The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

Exodus 14:13-14

And you know what? God showed up big. He parted the Red Sea. The Hebrews walked across on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to follow, they were drowned in the waters. God protected his people, just as Moses had said.

Obviously, my situation with my beloved child was not the life or death struggle the Hebrews faced, but if you’ve ever parented a teenager, you can understand that it most certainly felt that way. In the trenches of solo parenthood, that moment was monumental. Taking a breath and knowing that I could confidently hand it to God made all the difference.

I don’t know what army you’re up against tonight but maybe, just for this moment, you need to stop fighting and be silent for a while. Let the Lord fight for you.

And if you need someone to back you up in prayer, shoot me a message. I’ll do that for you.

Day 499: 50th

Today should have been his 50th birthday. We should have had cake and pork chops and a huge party to celebrate half a century on the planet.

We would have worn black and teased him about what was left of his graying hair.

We would have sung off key and too loud and ended the song with “and Scooby-doo on Channel 2.”

We would have watched him open presents and laughed at the gag gifts.

We would have danced in the kitchen.

But we didn’t do any of those things. We had a normal, regular, pretty busy but not too bad day. I went to therapy and Taco Bell and wrestling. I talked about him just a little but thought of him all day.

I even made it all the way to nighttime before I cried. But when I saw his momma’s post, which included a photo I hadn’t seen before, I lost it for a few minutes.

I scrolled through my own photos and found the ones from his last birthday. They made me smile. He’d just come home from work. Abby had made a cake and we’d fixed all his favorite foods.

Sometimes I wish I’d known it was the last one, you know? But then, would I really have wanted to know? Would knowing have just made it harder? I guess that’s just a rhetorical question that I’ll never get an answer to.

Regardless, I’m glad Vance spent his last birthday around our table, with the family we had made, in the home we’d bought, in the life we’d built together.

I got to spend over half his life in love with Vance Crutchfield. I got two decades as his wife. No matter what comes next, I won’t forget that. I’ll always be grateful for our time together and for the unyielding way he taught me about love, grace and goodness.

I love you, Vance Crutchfield. Happy birthday, my love.

Day 497: Ready. (Maybe)

I think I’m ready. Maybe.

For what? Dating. Maybe.

Whew. Putting that out there is more than a little terrifying.

Because here’s what I’m not ready for. Dick pics. (Sorry, Grandma, but they’re a real thing these days. Gag.) Creeps. Guys who think that means I want to jump into bed with them. Because this girl right here, she’s never going to ready for those things.

But having a nice dinner with a man I find attractive? I’m in. Holding hands while counting the stars? Totally up for it. Getting a good morning or good night text? Bring it on. A godly man’s perspective on raising these kids? Please.

I want to stand beside someone I care deeply about during worship and know that he’s the one God has for me in this time. I want a man to pray with me, for me and over me. I’m ready for someone to love me enough to put me in check when I need it. To encourage me to do the hard things. To tell me to slow down and to hold me while I cry. I’m ready for a new best friend.

It’s terrifying to even think about because I’m….well, I’m a lot. Loving me will take a really strong man. I’m a bit high maintenance and a bit set in my ways. Most days I’m basically a dumpster fire who tries to hand out free tacos and compliments while wearing sweats and no make-up. I’m strong willed. I like to think I’m independent, when really I just have the strongest desire need to be well taken care of.

Also, I don’t a want to be hurt. My heart has been broken in a way I didn’t know it could and I don’t know how much more it can take. But I know that without being vulnerable, I’ll just continue to be alone. I’ve got too much life left for that, so I’m gonna put myself out there. And when the right guy comes along, I’m gonna pray that I recognize him for who is. And, please, please, please, God, let him see me for who I am. And let him love me anyway.

So there’s that. I’m ready. Maybe.

Day 510: Headstone

Before, if you would have told me that a year would go by before I could even finalize a headstone, I would have said you were crazy. How could such a simple thing take so long?

Because it’s not a simple thing at all, that’s how!

There are like a hundred bajillion different things you can do with a headstone these days. Every single one of them has financial implications as well.

  • Single or Double? Do I bury him alone or do I plan to add my body to this space later?
  • Color? Traditional? Modern black?
  • Shape? Flat? Tall? Round? Custom?
  • Font? Traditional? Trendy?
  • Built in vases? One or two?
  • Picture or no picture? If yes, which one? How many? Color or black and white?
  • Quotes or no? Which one(s)? Where?
  • Kids names or no?
  • My name? Our anniversary?

I am not kidding when I say that they even have the option of adding a QR code that takes you to a custom website. There are a lot of choices!

Right after Vance died I couldn’t make any more decisions. Especially not ones that would literally be carved in stone.

And so it took me exactly one year to decide. July 3, 2020 I finally sent in the design I picked out for Vance. As with most things this year, because of covid, it took quite a while after that for things to get finished on the production side, but here we are. 143 days later, and his stone is finally set.

Here’s hoping his legacy is just as well preserved.

Day 495: Game Day

Since Vance died, I’ve struggled with some really obvious things but also some things I had no idea would be so hard.

One of those has been walking in to the kids’ sporting events alone. Driving myself to games, paying the gate fee and then trying to decide where to sit has caused way more anxiety than I ever imagined. I’m not sure why that is. I walk into church without the least bit of anxiety and have since almost the very beginning.

I’m not exactly an introvert. I’ll talk your ear off if you let me. But I’m also not as confident as you might imagine. Every single time I walk alone into a game venue, I have no idea where to sit.

I usually stand, almost paranoid, while I search for not just familiar, but friendly faces. I see groups of friends, already sitting and talking and like a junior high girl trying to decide which lunch table to sit at, I have no idea if they’ll accept me. Am I unwelcome in breaking into their group? Do they want me? Should I just sit over in the corner by myself? What if I sit down and no one talks to me?

This happens even with people I know will welcome me. People who have been nothing but kind. Friends, even. There’s just something about this particular activity that freezes me up like a ninth grade boy wanting to ask a pretty girl to dance. It’s way harder than it should be.

For my high school kids’ fall sports I figured out how to make it work. Most of the time I had a good friend or two that I knew would be there and I either rode with them or planned to meet up with them. That helped a lot for away games. Home football games, though? They tensed me up like my kids’ first time driving on the interstate. So many places to sit. So many people to walk by. Post season, I finally made plans with to sit with a friend and it eased my anxiety so much, just knowing that I wouldn’t have to sit alone.

Now cross country and football are over. Middle school wrestling has begun and high school meets are just around the corner. Once again, I have to figure out a plan. Who can I ride with? Where can I sit? I already have anxiety about it and I haven’t even had to go to a meet alone yet.

So, I guess what I’m saying is if you’re going to a middle school, high school boys or high school girls meet this season and see me standing in the doorway of the gym, smile at me under your mask and if it’s okay, wave me over. Because I’m gonna need that reassurance all over again. Because walking in all alone is harder than it should be.

Day 467: Loud

I didn’t grow up in a sports family. I mean, yes, we played rec sports and watched an occasional game on TV, but none of it was really important during my childhood. I mean, I kind of thought it was, but I really didn’t know how wrong I was until I got married.

Because I married a Crutchfield. And Crutchfields are sports people. Vance was a loud sports fan. Watching Sunday afternoon games at his parents’ house took some getting used to for me because he would often suddenly just scream at the TV. A touchdown, an interception, or a sack would have him jumping up and down, clapping or yelling.

When he coached, he would often tell the new kids, “I’m loud. Don’t let it scare you. I’m loud but I’m not mean.” He wasn’t wrong. His booming voice could always be heard across the gym, field, pitch or mat. And almost always, the message he was sending was positive. “Good! Good!” accompanied by one or two loud claps.

Friday night I went a high school football game. My daughter is cheering this year and I love being able to watch her.

At this particular game, they were really strict about all the covid regulations. Masks, temp checks, limited spectators, and even separate bathrooms and concessions for the visitors. Because of this, the bathrooms were about a jillion miles away from the bleachers. And of course, I had to pee with just a few minutes left in the game.

As I was making my way back to the crowd I heard a loud, deep voice yell out from the stands, “Go get ’em, boys!” I was still a long ways off from the stands but I heard it clear as day. And it made me smile.

For the first time in a long time, something reminded me of Vance and it didn’t make me cry. It didn’t even make me feel sad.

Obviously, the voice wasn’t his. I mean, that was impossible. I knew that. Shoot, I knew exactly whose voice it was. It was a dad, cheering for the boy he loves playing in the game he loves. It was positive. It was ridiculously loud. It was perfect. It was exactly what Vance would have done.

And that made me smile.

Day 448: Solo

Yesterday I wrote about being alone but not alone. It got me thinking about the verbiage we have concerning people without partners, parents in particular.

Mostly we hear about single parents. I’m talking here about people who are not married (or in a marriage like relationship) but are coparenting. They have to make a lot of decisions on their own but when push comes to shove, they do have someone to at least bounce things off of. Maybe they get a weekend “off” when the kids are at the other parents’ house. They split daycare costs and health insurance. For better or worse, they have a parenting partner.

I fully understand that this can come with its own challenges and am in no way diminishing the hard that comes with single parenting or the ache one must feel knowing their babies aren’t under their roof and/or protection. I can’t even imagine that. I’ve never been a single parent.

What I am now, I think, is just ever so slightly different. I’m a solo parent. Solos are created when a spouse dies, but also in cases of abandonment and sometimes divorce. These are the parents who are doing it…well, solo. They are the ones who make all the rules. Who pay all the bills. Who have only one person on their kids’ school contact forms.

These are the parents who always get the phone call and then have to decide how to handle whatever it brings. The call from the school. The police. The hospital. The kid who just wrecked the car. The friend who saw something sketchy and isn’t sure how to handle it. The broken hearted kid who just got dumped. All the calls.

This is not to say I was lying on yesterday’s post. I meant it when I said, alone but not alone. God and my peeps, you know. They’ve got my back and I know it.

But as awesome as they are, when that phone rings and I need immediate support, my default is gone. The automatic of a partner isn’t there and that can be a really hard thing. I have to decide if and who to share with each and every time. Sometimes I just have to pull up the big girl panties and get it done -solo.

And that can be really lonely.

It can also be stinking awesome. I’d be lying if I said there were no upsides to rolling solo. You can decide to take a midwinter trip to Mexico and so long as it’s not during a world-wide pandemic, no one can stop you. You can say yes or no to holidays with the family. You can sleep on whichever side of the bed you want!

But sometimes even those things can feel a little lonely.

Tonight, I salute you, fellow solos. You, parent, who dealt with a quarantined teenager for two weeks, solo. You, dad, who figured out how to talk about puberty with his teenage daughter, solo. You, mom, who is showing her boys how to become men, solo. I see you. I applaud you. I’m stinking jumping for joy that you’re making it!

You. Are. Freaking. Awesome.

Don’t you dare let anyone tell you otherwise. If they try, send them my way. I got your back, fellow solo. Together, we can make a great duo!

***And yes, that’s a picture of a Solo cup, because well…the other option was Han and that would be a copyright infringement. 🤷‍♀️

Day 447: Alone

Yesterday I had to deal with a really hard thing. Without going into detail, let’s just say that I had to face something that was big and scary and potentially very messy. Something that I never asked or hoped for. And I had to do it alone.

That’s the hardest part of all of this, I think. All of the alone.

All-of-the-whole-world-resting-on-your-shoulders kind of alone.

Slowly I’m learning not to carry all of that. Not to even pick it up. To let the things that are too heavy sit where they are and to ignore the things that were never mine to begin with.

Therapy has helped with that. My counselor has helped me give myself permission to choose what I want to carry. To not have to be all things to all people at all times. I know sounds kind of like, “duh,” but you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to try to do and be it all. Or maybe you wouldn’t, because you’ve been here, too, alone.

I have to say I’m proud of how I’m learning and how I’m trying to recognize that I have both God and a plethora of friends on my side. Today when a big problem arose, I consciously made the choice to go first to God. I prayed about what my reaction should be. What I should say. Who I should say it to. What I should not say, because as often is the case, that was probably the most important thing of all.

After that, I called one friend, because I still needed to hash out a few things outloud. Then I called one other friend and asked him to pray with and for me as I went to deal with the mess. Alone but not alone.

As I sat confronting this situation, I was reminded of a similar time a few years back when Vance modeled grace and poise that astounded me at the time. Today I was inspired to act that way myself, thinking as I spoke, how would Vance handle this? What would he say? Again, I was reminded that even from the other side of this life, I am still influenced – made better even – by my life spent with Vance. Alone but not alone.

I don’t yet know how this particular mess will sort itself out. I just know that once more, God has shown me that I am not alone after all.

Day 435: 40 Days

It’s been 40 days since I shared anything here.

Biblically speaking, 40 is generally significant. The rain on Noah. The temptation of Jesus. Easter to Ascension. Moses and Elijah on mountain tops waiting to hear from the Lord. It’s often seen as a trial period or a time of temptation.

That’s been true for me.

I’ve wanted to write. I’ve even put together fantastic posts in my head. Somehow, I haven’t been able to get anything on paper. (Ironically, I don’t actually use paper, since this is an electronic blog, but you get the idea!) But it’s just been too much.

I wanted to tell you how awesome my friends were on my birthday when they threw me a fiesta, complete with a donkey piñata and sopapilla cheesecake. Because you guys, my friends are the best.

I wanted to tell you about what should have been my 21st wedding anniversary. How tempted I was just to wallow in my aloneness. How I went to therapy but cried big, ugly, probably-shouldn’t-have-continued-driving-since-I-couldn’t-see tears. How I could hardly get out of the car once I got there. How it took a group text with two of my best friends to even get into the therapy office. How another of my friends texted to check on me that day, without me reminding her of the significance of it, just because she made it a point to remember. How very much that meant to me and how it came at just the right time. How I stopped for chocolates and cheese dip. How I got my nails done and the nail tech asked about my kids and then my husband. How when I told her he had died she asked me if I knew about How it made me laugh.

I wanted to tell you about how after that I tried flirting for the first time in decades and fell flat on my face, looking and acting like an idiot, because I’m 44 years old and this is not something I should be doing. Seriously. Won’t be doing that again anytime soon. Not even tempted to try again. *face palm*

I wanted to tell you about how I finally got a headstone ordered but how it’s still not here because, you know, Covid or something. That is testing my patience in big ways.

I wanted to tell you about how I very last minute applied to grad school, got in and started classes all within a week. Apparently if you are willing to fork over the cash, colleges will let things like deadlines slide in 2020. Who knew?

I wanted to tell you about how hard solo parenting is. How I have no idea sometimes how to best help my kids. How I miss them being little and all of us together. And how very tempting it is just to give up when it’s hard. To give in when they push back. To not have another person to back me up.

I wanted to tell you about watching my grandpa go through hospice. About watching this giant of a man become skin and bones. About watching my mother care for her daddy at the end of his life. About how that made me feel about someday walking down that road myself. How tempting it is to just be angry that this is how a well-lived life ends.

I wanted to tell you about watching a friend go through the loss of a dear one, about feeling helpless to do anything for her. About how much I wanted to be there but fell short. About her strength in all of it. About how once again, how much death being a part of life just sucks.

I wanted to tell you how I cry every single time I tell someone that I decided to go ahead and send all four kids to public school. How two weeks in, I sent the youngest. How it’s best for all of us. How he will thrive. But also how it’s just one more thing that didn’t go as planned and how hard that is. How hard it was to lay aside my pride and go ahead and send him. Ironically leaving homeschooling in a time when so many are just starting it.

I wanted to tell you about how complicated family relationships are. How you can both love someone dearly and also never want to see their face again. How sin makes all of us behave like monsters and how pride keeps us from admitting that. How there are people we can love but need to have boundaries with. How hard that is. How tempting to respond with hurt and anger instead of love and grace.

I wanted to tell you about how hard the idea of parents’ night at the kids’ school is, even if I don’t have a senior yet. Of how terrified I am that I might not be able to hold it together, even a year from now, as that will be another milestone Vance will miss. Keeping bitterness from creeping in there is a full time job.

There is so much more I’ve wanted to say. So much I wanted to share, to write down, to process. But I haven’t. Instead I’ve let anxiety and fear and just plain exhaustion keep me from it. The enemy is real and he has been pushing at me these last 40 days (and more).

In Phillipians 4, Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for what he has done.”

So, here I am, 40 days later, trying to do that. I’m trying to worry less. To be less anxious. To trust in the one who created it all and to let go of what I cannot control anyway. To be thankful. So friends, I am thankful today. For friends who throw birthday fiestas, for ones who call or text or message at just the right time. For spontaneous lunch dates. For knowing my limits (sometimes) and realizing when I’ve stretched too far. For my homeschool tribe and the public schools that are taking care of my kids in this season. For the rain, even though it makes for long football games. For families even when they are chaos and headaches. For the chance to learn new things and to fight temptations. For the chance to not just survive but to really live.

Just as I finished uploading the photo and was about to publish this, my phone rang. It was the health department. One of my kids was in close contact with a school staff member who tested positive for Covid. That means two week quarantine for him. I had to go to the football game, not to watch him, but to pick him up and bring him home. It was parents’ night. Not gonna lie. Feels like maybe this time of trial and testing isn’t quite over yet. Pray for us.

Day 395: Money

So….it’s been over a year and I still don’t have a job. I bet some of you have been wondering about that but were too polite to ask. A few of you did ask, but not in a nosy way. More in a, “Hey, are you going to be okay?” way. I’ve been totally good with that.

For the last year, I’ve been living on the grace of God, the generosity of my family, friends and community, social security checks and life insurance money.

Thirteen years ago, Vance and I welcomed our third baby into this world. We’d bought a house and at the time, had our own business. We decided it was time to make a will and to buy life insurance. We’ve always lived pretty frugally, but we knew that this was an expense we couldn’t skip.

Nobody wants to think about, much less talk about the idea of dying. Or of their spouse dying. It’s morbid. It’s uncomfortable. It makes us cry. But the thing is, death comes for us all in the end. None of us are making it out alive, so we might as well have a plan for when our time comes.

In the unlikely (but all-together way too real) event that something would happen to one of us, Vance and I didn’t want the kids’ lives to be disrupted any more than necessary. We bought life insurance policies that would be enough to pay for funeral expenses, pay off some bills and allow us to stay home for a minimum of one year should the worst happen.

I don’t tell you that because I relish the idea of having the world know my financial business. I tell you this because the worst did happen to me. Vance died unexpectedly. Suddenly I was left with four kids and no job. Thankfully, we had decided to pay those premiums every month. This allowed me to remain at home for a while longer, to pay the bills and to provide some sense of normalcy for our kids.

This insurance money is not going to last forever. That wasn’t the plan. Eventually, sooner all the time, in fact, I will need to return to the workforce. Life insurance has however, allowed me some breathing room. Some time to grieve. Days to stay in bed crying and days to go to counseling. Days to hold my babies tight and days to still be their primary teacher.

Right after Vance died, going back to a job I’d already had would have been hard enough. Searching for a job while in the early stages of grieving would have been nearly impossible. I’m really glad I didn’t have to.

I fully understand that not everyone is in this position. In fact, from the social media widows groups I’m in, I would say that mine is a very different position than most. I’m very aware of that and thankful for Vance’s taking care of us in this way, even though he’s no longer physically here.

The thing is, I’m not the last widow on earth. Others will follow this unwanted, incredibly difficult road. A good financial plan makes it just a little easier.

If you don’t already have a plan, can you do me a favor and make one? Like soon? This month maybe? By the end of the year, for sure? Because it may seem like you can’t afford life insurance right now, but I can promise you -if the unthinkable happens- you can’t afford not to.