Where I’ve Been…
In his early days of music ministry Jeremy used to send out a WIB & WIG newsletter: “Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Going”. It’s mostly for lack of time that I’ve been silent on the blog these past months, but since many have been asking for an update on the details of our lives, I’ll attempt to fill in some gaps.
In terms of daily life, from 7am-9am and 3:30pm-9pm every day (and really, 24/7), I’m a full-time mom of three elementary-age boys. For some of you, I don’t need to explain. For others, let me try. There’s a lot of directing, reminding, instilling, guiding, teaching, providing, bringing, making, cleaning, shopping, talking…and things of that sort going on. The hours after school consist of trying to balance homework, playtime, shifting moods, dinner, baseball, piano, cello, church, and now that it’s springtime, mowing the lawn. Sometimes all of this feels very good and goes really well. Other times, I find myself kneeling on my bedroom floor with the door closed telling God that I can’t do this and that I’m not cut out for being a single parent.
The “single-parenting card” is a really easy one to play–it’s not fair; this isn’t right; it’s too hard. Some tell me that I have every right to complain or to struggle. Others would say, as do I, parenting isn’t easy for anyone. As I think through the list of what makes it hard for me now, the same things were difficult even when Jeremy was around. What is different now is how much I hold on my own — the joys and the struggles. The moments of celebration over their lives and accomplishments are lonely at times because Jeremy should be sharing those proud moments with me. He made the boys too, and he should still be here enjoying them and continuing to make them who they are. The moments of sorrow, of difficulty and of decision-making are hard, because the weight of those decisions, are mine alone. If I make a wrong choice for them it’s not our fault, it’s my fault. At the end of the day or its beginning, it’s just me. It’s just me deciding if they’re in the best school, if I’m helping them to manage their time well, if I’m modeling faith in God in a wholesome way, if they’re eating well enough, or playing hard enough, or sleeping long enough. It’s me that breaks up the battles and cleans up the messes. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if the boys are doing amazing things, it’s because Jeremy was their dad, and if they’re struggling in any way, it’s because I’m not mothering them well. Neither of which are true alone. Nevertheless, thoughts like that try my heart.
Other days, I look at those boys and wonder how in the world I got so lucky? The boys are beautiful, easy kids. I am proud of who they are becoming. They each still struggle with their own grief –it shows up at school, in tears, at bedtime–and even more generally, they struggle with growing up, as every kid does. But they are also thriving in many ways, by the grace of God.
So after my moments of often desperate prayer to our always capable God, I seem to find myself standing back up, walking back out, and being mom again, because I know that my strength and my capability has very little to do with what God has called me to. Scripture says that when I’m at the end of my rope, I’m actually quite closer to Him (2 Corinthians 12:9). God assures me that He’s got my back and that I am enough, even on my own, only because I’m His. Neither do I take for granted –ever– the family and friends that I call my own. There are many others enjoying the boys alongside me. We are loved and supported beyond what we deserve and more than I could have ever hoped for.
Most weekdays while the boys are at school, I am, too–lost in a book on theology, world religions, ministry, literature, counseling, intercultural studies– or in front of a computer writing papers and answering discussion posts, as I’m wrapping up my B.S. in General Studies through Crown College. Most evenings, post-bedtime, I’m back at it. I’m currently in the final weeks of my Senior Portfolio course, working on a writing project with a nonprofit organization called Safe Families For Children, loving the coming together of life stories, God’s redemptive work and my growing passion for writing. Commencement (which I’ll be walking in) is tomorrow, but my status as a full-time student will be ending the beginning of June. The boys’ question of “when will you be done with school???” will finally be answered. It’s been a sacrifice for them, for my family and for my friends over the past few years. I have poured myself into it fully and there has been a cost to that. I’m confident it will pay off eventually (it already has for me and I hope it does for them, too). Many people, understandably so, have assumed that I had gone back to complete my nursing degree, which is what I was pursuing when Jeremy got sick. I’d probably be a good nurse someday but, after all the years in and out of hospitals with Jeremy, I know that for this season of life it’s not where or what I want to be.
Speaking of hospitals … on the family front, shortly after Christmas Jeremy’s dad, Buddy, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He and Debbie spent several weeks at our home in January and February as he was being diagnosed. We cherished our time with them here despite disliking the reason for it. Buddy is currently receiving chemo back in their hometown and will be spending a portion of his summer weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, having a bone marrow transplant sometime in June or July. For those of you who know Jeremy’s health history, this diagnosis felt a bit surreal for our family. It’s one thing to have a fresh cancer diagnosis. It’s another thing to have it be so similar to Jeremy’s. It’s disheartening and frustrating, and difficult for my heart to re-engage with it all, at times. Still, we are hopeful that this will end well, though none of us are looking forward to walking this road. We know –as we have always known–that we are in the hands of God, that He loves us and that He is for us and with us. We are in good hands. The other thing that I am sure of is that the Erickson family is my family. I love them like my own. And while I’ve never called Buddy and Debbie, “mom” and “dad”, they are that to me in the very fullest sense.
In February, Aedan and I (and my mom!) traveled to Mexico with a short-term mission group to offer support to full-time orphanage and mission staff. It was a wonderful and blessed trip, a trip that was easy to transition into and back out of. But it came at a rather dark season for me. I remember the night before leaving feeling like I had nothing to offer at a time when I wanted to offer so much. I was worn out and tired. The trip wasn’t a “mountaintop” experience for me. It wasn’t even a reprieve. It was just something different. It was warm rather than cold. It was one kid rather than three. It was other people making decisions rather than me. It was a chance to offer all I had (which was very little) and know that it was enough. It was an opportunity to enter into some magnificent work that God is doing. I was reminded how deeply God loves and how He is always at work building His kingdom, even in some of the darkest tragedies. At one point on the trip, I found myself laughing so hard with others in the midst of a most random conversation. I don’t know how long it had been since I had laughed like that, but realized how much those brief moments of laughing uncontrollably were such a gift from God. To watch my eldest son encounter the ocean for the first time was a quiet delight. Surprisingly, the trip wasn’t a profound bonding experience for Aedan and me. It was more of a “letting go” of him, which is exactly what it ought to have been in this season of life and, in its own right, a blessing.
Something I’ve seemed to inherit from Jeremy was the invitation to speak places. There are moments when I feel like I’m living his life (where did these friends come from? And who is this person who is now writing? And speaking? WHAT?). I’m not sure what to do with those invitations yet, except I generally say yes and then spend hours upon hours preparing (a few of those hours wondering why I said “yes”). But I say yes because we are called to testify about the goodness of God, about His truth, about Christ and His salvation. So sprinkled in with a lot of schoolwork and parenting, I’ve spent time preparing for a few speaking opportunities.
Post July, besides planning to spend a lot of time with family and the boys, the calendar is open. Where I’m Going is very much unknown at this point. There is much room for God’s direction and provision, which I’ll share more about in the next post. What I do know is that in this fight for life, which I talked about in the previous post, the where I’ve been and where I’m going is less important than where I am right now. I continue to strive to trust God in the present moment, to be patient with Him and His timing and to trust that His Spirit in me intercedes on my behalf when I don’t know what to pray. God’s got my heart and because of that, I’m in a good place.