A teepee, a fire, a smile

Firsts…my life over the last 20 months keeps revolving around this word. Every time I embark on something new, I think, this is a first for me as a single Mom. Sometimes the firsts are so scary and intimidating that I freeze up, unsure of what my next step should be. Some first surprise me with joy and a feeling of “I’ve got this!”. And other firsts leave me weeping because life as a parent should never have to be done alone.

This week is full of firsts. I have been working so much and have been busy with relocating us, fighting an ugly custody battle and trying desperately to find friends for my boys in our new home, that my boys have been missing me, even though I have been working from home, the stressed out version of mommy they have been getting is not cutting it. So I made a plan. We might not have a lot of money right now, but that does not mean we can’t take a little vacation.

And tonight, as I am laying in a huge Teepee in South Dakota, my boys snuggled by my side, all of us smelling of campfire and sticky s’mores, I smile.

I smile when I think of our road trip that entailed no road rage, angry music or cussing. No anxiety in our stomachs, just lots of worship music, chatter and junk food. I smile at the memories we just made visiting long time friends on their ranch in Nebraska. Riding horses and ATV’s, going turtle hunting, lighting fire crackers, watching 8 children laugh and play late into the night. I smile at being able to provide my sons with education about the presidents as we visit Mt. Rushmore, seeing them be more impressed by the huge ice cream cones than the marvelous sculpting of our forefathers. Kids just allowed to be kids.

I smile at the excitement they had about camping just the three of us, eager to help me set up, even more eager to jump into the pool. With big eyes and huge smiles they keep thanking me for the “best vacation ever!” when all I can think is that it is so little. It has been a good reminder that what they really treasure is time with me. Time uninterrupted.

I am thankful they don’t see that my nights have been fitful and my thoughts often consumed with how and when to file the modified parenting restrictions against my Ex. The tear filled conversations with lawyers and counselors as I try and navigate this next week. They are not concerned with what next weekend with their dad will look like, at least not yet. For this I am grateful.

So bring on the firsts! My first road trip as a single parent. My first time visiting friends that had been good friends to both my ex and I, my first time reaching out and visiting with my Ex’s relatives as we pass through their neck of the woods, my first time taking the kids camping on my own. My first time going into a old gold mine (had to swallow some claustrophobia!!!) because the boys were so excited to see a real mine and get to do some panning! First time panning for gold with the boys and getting just as excited as them when we collected tiny bits of gold dust. Let’s face it, little boys are a lot of fun and always up for adventure!

I don’t always love firsts, often times I truly hate them. But today, this week, I am thankful for them. They remind me that this life is good. That God has got us in his palm, and He knows what we need. I will always remember this first. I will remember all of these firsts over the last year and a half, because they have shaped me. They have encouraged me to keep going. They have shown me that I need not be so afraid, that I am stronger than I think I am and that as long as my eyes on on Jesus all is well with my soul. No enemy can steal what I have built between myself and my boys. The bond is stronger than I ever could have imagined and their love for me and for each other (while not always evident in their bickering) is deep. I have watched them play and laugh and yes fight a little as well, but also encourage, help and support each other these past few days especially on Fathers day when they both felt that deep cut of not having a good and loving earthly father.

I smile, even though I am exhausted from driving, lugging all the suitcases and bags around, planning every meal, snack, route and activity….I even smile when I realize that they kids left their scooters back in Nebraska and we will have to make a detour back home to pick them up. I love these boys and all of their craziness. And I am thankful that God is allowing me to experience these firsts, but mostly I am grateful that He is walking through them with me. Because with out him there would have never even been a first step in the right direction.

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