I remember the day like it was yesterday.....that drive from Texas to Tulsa almost 20 years ago....with 2 babies. My son just a few months old, and my daughter just 22 months old. It was just the three of us now. In her sweet little voice, my daughter whispered to me “Mommy, are we going bye bye?” My heart broke. As my parents drove the van, I sat in the back seat and hung onto my babies for dear life. My world had literally stopped. How could I raise them alone? They were babies! How could we have been left? Why? How could he leave us? My husband had chosen an affair over his family and now, I had to pick up the pieces...I had no choice. Of course my self esteem was shattered with all the feelings one has when an affair occurs. But I can only say that it was at that moment, when I passed the Oklahoma state line, that my world changed, forever. I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart....”I will carry you now Lisa. I will take you to new places with your children that you never dreamed possible, and I will open doors.....I will heal and I will guide and teach you things that will change your life forever....don’t let go of your dream.” Don’t let go of my dream? What? But Lord, my dream was shattered? He saw much further than I did, and He knew the dream He had placed in my heart all along. He wanted to bring it to pass. It was my job to let Him. It was my job to give Him the brushes and let Him paint the new picture on this blank canvas before me....with my babies. Little did I know it would be more than just a picture, it would be a masterpiece.
I remember those days like they were yesterday. Working two jobs, getting those babies up everyday and getting them to school. I remember being so tired that my toenails even hurt, and knowing I had to get the kids home, get homework done, get dinner on the table, and spend quality time with them. I remember the pressure of making it financially on my own. I remember the lonliness when the kids were all in bed and it was just me.
You know what is amazing though? When I look back on those years of single parenting now, and I see the picture God was painting all along, I stand in amazement. It was at that very moment of being left and alone and clutching onto Jesus with every fiber of my being that taught me the greatest lessons that I still lean on to this day. And what exactly can one learn from being left with 2 small babies to raise?
I learned that 2 Corinthians 12:9 is true. He pours out His grace in proportion to what we need. And I needed a truck load of grace. He cared so deeply for me and saw my extreme need for Him as His opportunity to provide. And He had more than enough grace to walk me through this journey. We were tucked safely under His wings. And He was not letting go.
I learned how to forgive. Oh this was a biggie for me. My children could pick up on the angry feelings I had and carried. I will go so far as to say I not only walked through anger, I walked through rage. I was mad! When I wanted to speak badly of their father, I knew I couldn’t. He was still their father. God literally took my hand on this one and step by step peeled away the layers of unforgiveness until I walked in freedom. I could not have done it without the Holy Spirit guiding me every step of the way. There is freedom in forgiveness. I knew the second that weight was lifted off of my shoulders, I had forgiven. I could breathe! I realized that forgiveness can be a daily journey though. When tempted to take that anger back on, God was there to take it for me.....daily. There were some days on that journey I literally had to say, Jesus, right now I can’t do this, can you? And He would take it from there. The Holy Spirit became real to me in ways that forever changed my life. When in my own strength I couldn’t, He could. 2 Corinthians 12:10
I learned how important getting involved in a great home church really is. Not only was it a place for healing for me but I realized that I could be used by God even in my broken state! We were in church when the doors opened, and we were involved. I developed friendships that were healthy and life long. My children were involved and loving it! Singing on the praise and worship team was instrumental in so much of my healing. We were surrounded with love and support, and this was literally a life line for us. God used that church to help us in more ways that I can even express.
I learned that there is laughter and joy, even in the hard times. One day, feeling overwhelmed, I started to cry. I cried one of those “ugly” cries where you can hardly breathe. I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and how my face was all shriveled up like a prune, and how ridiculous I looked. It cracked me up! I went from uncontrollable tears to uncontrollable laughter! My kids came in and we just laughed! In fact I could not even remember why I was crying in the first place. It was at that moment that I realized that I could laugh! It was healing! And I could teach my children how to laugh! I remember funny dances we would make up together, silly songs we would sing, bible verses we would memorize with hand motions, cookies we would bake with silly faces.....and laughter filled the house. And you know what my kids remember to this day most? The laughter and the love in our home. And when we talk about that love and laughter during that season, it gets me every time. They remember it with detail.
Laughter is healing. And I learned that even when my heart was breaking, I could laugh, and the joy of the Lord really would be my strength. Many have asked me how I find laughter in tough journeys. I found it during this season of my life. It was what got me through. This kind of laughter comes from the soul, where Jesus has a grip. There really is no adjective to describe it. It carried us through the journey then, and it carries us through our journey now.
I think the biggest thing I learned through this journey was to not let go of my dream. Even though it seemed the dream was crushed, it was not. God was just going to find a different way to bring that dream into fruition. Trust me, He will blow your mind. Just don’t let go! Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy that you will never see that dream come to pass. As I gave the Lord those brushes to paint my masterpiece, He did! And what a masterpiece He painted! I have 4 children and a daughter in law now who are all passionate for Jesus, a husband who was sent from heaven, and 3 dogs who, yes, are also part of that beautiful picture! I look at that dream everyday in awe and wonder and thankfulness. I also remember those things I learned in the 10 years I walked through the journey of single parenting. I could not have made that journey without Jesus.
To all my dear friends walking through the journey of single parenting, I want to encourage you! There is hope! There is laughter! There is strength! There are miracles! There is a dream to be fulfilled! There is a masterpiece in the making! Just let go of the brushes and watch Him paint! I promise you, you will be amazed! Van Gogh and Divinci have nothing on what God is painting for you and your children.