My First Year
Today should be a celebration not only a celebration of motherhood but also a celebration of freedom for me. One year ago today, I made the decision that changed my life. When faced with the reality of choosing between life and death, I chose life, I chose me, and I walked away from my abusive marriage. Every month, I celebrate a special treat for my accomplishments, such as taking my dream trip to Montana with my mom last July.
My mother is fragile, and I don’t want to lose her without loving her first. This was our first trip together as mother and daughter, and I also accepted it would probably be the last trip. We shared memories, both happy and sad. We laughed, cried, and even got irritated with one another; I am so grateful we took this trip together. We had a rocky relationship throughout my childhood, and I held on to unforgiveness for many years. However, regardless of her misgivings, I love her, and I finally understand she raised my siblings and me with what she had to give; it wasn’t the best, nor was it all good. She could only give what she received as a child. As a child, I idealized what a mother should be by examining the outside world and watching television shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, and Bill Crosby; what a joke the devil played on my generation!
My misgivings also replayed as I tried to raise my children and a husband as a single mother. Wait, weren’t you married for thirty-nine years? Yes, my ex-husband had a legal document stating I was his property; that was all. It took me long enough to learn and realize that Marriage is a union connecting and becoming one. Unfortunately, we never connected, nor did we become one. I dedicated myself to spending the rest of my life with this man; however, he exploited me. I accepted the loveless marriage because saving my marriage to keep our family together was a priority for my children and grandchildren, even at the cost of sacrificing myself, my dignity, and my personhood. Furthermore, I could not show my pain for their sake; they didn’t need more anxiety in their lives worrying about their mother. A good friend and I were talking about how I could have become bitter after the loss of everything, becoming homeless, and worst, the death of my son. Yes, I could have chosen that path, however, if I did, my ex would gain victory over me, and that was not part of who I am because Christ calls us Overcomers.
Little did I know about God’s true meaning of love until I left the place I called home and headed toward the unknown. Bound in and through Christ, my Lord and Savior, I let the dice fall where they may and walked out of my prison. It should have been the happiest day of my life, but the truth is, I was terrified and almost went back many times, I struggled with the feeling of sadness because I felt like I was tearing my family apart and at the same time, the feeling of happiness. I couldn’t integrate them; everything was either black or white. I felt like I had to choose one or the other but my son took a stand for me, he gave me back what I thought I lost forever; his love and forgiveness. These gifts kept me moving forward.
Also, my two daughters weren’t as trusting of me either because of my co-dependency and my ex’s lies, causing triangulation between us. I felt rejected by both, and rightfully so because I kept going back and forth. Still, as time passed and I got stronger with counseling and doing my work on myself, they saw my growth and came alongside me, and continued helping me on this journey. Last night we celebrated an early Mother’s Day, but I had mixed emotions again. However, this time was different. Although sadness remains because this is my first Mother’s Day without my first child, my son, I could also feel happy to be with and celebrate my living children. I pondered and held in my heart their smiles, and was grateful for the love their husbands showered on them. I remembered the last Mother’s Day I spent with my son, and while he sat across from me, I told him I was so proud of the man he became. I was grateful for the time I had with him before he died. I remembered the many gifts God gave me and continues to give me when I am in need of perspective through the most difficult days like today. If not for the Lord going before me, with the lead of a child, today would have been different.
For example, a few months ago, one of my kids at school drew a picture for me. At this time, I struggled with guilt because I was feeling joyful. Overcome with happiness and dancing, guilt tried to cut in and consume me. I finally felt the joy of my freedom, but the voices of condemnation from outsiders and those I had internalized throughout my life were getting louder and more potent. On this challenging day, Dorien presented his drawing to me when I felt defeated. As I looked at it, I saw the integration of sadness and happiness living together peacefully. They gave each other boundaries and permitted one another to feel their feelings. Because this drawing was not mine, I asked, “What does this drawing mean to you?” This child was struggling with big emotions too. However, this day, he smiled the sweetest smile and, with a glow in his eleven-year-old eyes, said, “Happiness and Sadness can live together, Ms. Lisa.” Tears flowed from my eyes, and I hugged him for helping me; he gave me a new perspective. I learned from a child how to allow myself to feel both happiness and sorrow and allow them to flow freely like a spring within me.
I work with kids who have suffered the same and some who have suffered worst than I. If not for such exceptional wise children as they are, I would have gone backward. They taught me that not everything is just black and white, and I can live with the waves life throws at me because of their simple childlike faith. He gave me permission to feel my feelings, sit with them, accept them as friends, let them wash over me, and still be okay.
Today I permit myself to feel sadness because this is my first Mother’s Day without my first child, and I can feel happy celebrating Mother’s Day with my daughters and grandchildren. And as a special treat to myself for giving me the gift of independence one year ago today, May 8, 2021, I can feel victorious because I overcame what the enemy tried to destroy in me.
I wish you all the joys of Mother’s Day, and may we continue trusting in Jesus’ faithfulness in every step of our journey. May He strengthen our hearts and comfort us how He only knows how.