My Mom Has a Boyfriend.

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My mom has a boyfriend.

There’s a sentence that I never thought I would say.

For the last two years, I’ve gotten used to having my mom to myself. She’s my best friend and my advice-giver and my hero and my inspiration, and we have gotten so close over my twenty-two years of life, our friendship strengthened by tremendous loss. But now I’m learning to share her again. And it’s a good thing.

Parents with boyfriends and girlfriends always seemed to me like a weird sub-species. In my head, step-families were associated with divorce, and my parents were so weirdly in love, that it was never even a thought that trickled through my mind. (And for a chronic over-thinker, that shows how far removed the idea was). I never once wondered if I would have a step-dad and how many kids he would have. I never pictured my mom holding hands with a man who wasn’t my dad. Logically, my parents were going to grow old together and be that couple who were still holding hands and teasing each other when they were 89 years old. Logically, everything was going great, and my family would be perfect and stable and chaos-free forever.

But then my dad’s truck crashed into a bridge. And in seconds, life was flipped upside down and backwards. My precious dad was gone, and all logic of what life should look like left with him.

But God’s logic is not my logic. And God’s ways are not my ways. And that’s a good thing.

Grief is such a hard thing to comprehend. I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s the best thing to say to a person who’s grieving?” I can give a few examples of things not to say, but the reality is that it’s impossible to find any “best thing” to say because nothing will bring back the person who was lost. Each day and each moment is so tremendously different from the one before; so the same thing might be incredibly helpful one day and jarringly hurtful the next.

The day after my dad died– after I felt that I would shrivel up if I cried any more tears– I was standing in a circle of my friends when we all started laughing. And I remember seeing people walk by and just staring, their eyes saying, “She shouldn’t be laughing. Doesn’t she know what just happened?” But here’s the thing: you can’t say how or when or why a person can grieve. I wish I could hand out a “List of Things to Say to Grieving People”, but life is complex, and until we dive into the messiness of a person’s life with open arms and boundless grace, we have no right to say what someone should or should not be doing.

My mom is the strongest person I know. (And here’s another note. As nice as the sentiment seems, saying “Stay strong!” to a person who’s grieving with the implication that strength means not breaking down or not crying is extraordinarily flawed. Taking the time to grieve is the strongest thing a person can do because it requires diving into the worst moment of your life and stewing in that reality. When all you want to do is run away, grieving requires you to stay… and stay just a little bit longer. Emotions are never a sign of weakness.) If anyone could rock a life of singleness, it would be my mom. To put it colloquially, she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.

The day that my dad died, my family met at a Husky truck stop off the 401. It was first time we were together as a broken family of three. And on the car ride home, through sobs, I told my mom that she couldn’t ever remarry. There was no way that anyone could ever replace my dad, and I wanted her to promise me that it wouldn’t even be a consideration. But in the manner of a true realist and with wisdom that could only come from God, my mom replied, “Rach, I don’t plan to. I was prepared to be single for my life before I met your dad, and I can do it again. But I can’t promise because I don’t know what God’s plans are.”

Because God’s logic is not my logic. And God’s ways are not my ways. And it’s a good thing.

Over the last two years, my mom somehow managed to care so deeply for me and my brother and the people around her, even when she was dealing with the worst earthly pain imaginable. She continued to serve as a deacon, even when her other half was missing. She went back to work full time as a principal and worked tirelessly for the good of the school. People would see her at school or at church, with a bright and genuine smile on her face and comment, “Lena, you’re so strong.” (Again, not always helpful.) But they wouldn’t see her at home, worn out from all that life continued to throw at her, broken and hurting. Do you know how helpless my brother and I felt when we would hear my mom’s sobs from the next room over? Ryan and I did our best to support her, but it’s so hard when the roles of supporter and supported are flipped. As kids, we could always lean on our parents, but now my mom was leaning on us. And sometimes, it’s really hard for hurting people to support each other without all falling. I wished and prayed so many times that my mom would have someone just for her – a friend that could help hold her up and help her to keep moving when Ryan and I couldn’t. Really, I just wanted God to somehow bring my dad back.

But God’s logic is not my logic. And that’s a good thing.

At the end of this summer, my mom and Andrew started dating. Andrew is a wonderful man who knows grief personally and loves Jesus and loves his family and loved my dad and loves my mom. (I don’t think I can ask for much more). And even though I didn’t realize it at the time, and I still feel like a baby clumsily tottering through this new phase of life, God answered my prayers. He gave my mom a friend and a supporter. It has been such a major life change, but God’s presence and perfect peace have been evident through the whole thing.

There are things that are tough about inviting a new person into our lives. I really don’t like change, but God must have a sense of humor, because I have had my fair share of it in the last number of years. I was really comfortable with my little family of three. Four was perfect, but three was pretty great too. And now that’s changing again. And God is still good.

My mom having a boyfriend also flips what I thought my future would look like. It’s weird thinking that my mom could get married before I do… again. (On a side note, I have waited 22 years for a date, and my mom got one after a year and a half of being single! What a babe! 😉 ). But for all the things that are complicated, there are many more things that are wonderful.

My mom has someone to take care of her. On Friday, I got a text from my mom at 10am, even though she’s normally gone to school by a little after 7. When I asked her why she wasn’t at school, she told me that she was very sick and feverish and decided to stay home. This is the same woman who went back to being a principal a measly three weeks after her husband died. I’m convinced that if there was the zombie apocalypse, she’d still make it in for staff meeting; so hearing that she was sick enough to stay home worried me. I felt helpless, but when I walked into my house that evening after a draining week at school, Andrew was sitting on the couch beside her, and I thanked God for that tremendous gift of peace knowing someone was looking out for my Momma.

My mom has someone to talk to. Ryan’s not always the best emotional empathizer (more of an advice-giver :P), and I’m away at school a lot of the time. The thing that I hated most about losing dad was the amount of time that my mom would have to spend alone. I am so excited that she has someone with whom to share her joys and struggles, to go for walks or watch movies. There is so much joy in knowing that even when Ryan and I are not around, my mom is not alone.

My mom has the freedom to be spontaneous. One day, Mom and Andrew came to visit me in Hamilton on a random Friday evening to take me out for supper. Something that would have normally been prefaced by planning and figuring out the perfect time just happened. It was Andrew’s idea, and it was awesome! (Plus also: free food 😉 ).

Ryan and I have the freedom to be kids (or at least young adults) again. All my friends are in the stage of life where they’re moving away from home and getting their own apartments and beginning the transition to adulthood. It just wasn’t a consideration for me. My mom is independent, and she wouldn’t have needed us there to physically take care of her, but there’s no way that Ry and I would leave my mom in a house by herself. But now, doors are opening again. God has been pulling me out of my comfort zone, and I have peace in doing that because I know that someone’s looking out for my Momma. When I was content to do all my teacher placements in Aylmer, God opened a door for me to do a placement in Honduras in the spring. And He’s warming my heart again to the idea of serving Him through missions way outside my small-town comfort zone. I don’t know what the future looks like, but my vision of God’s Kingdom and my role in that is expanding. And I have peace to let my heart explore those bounds because God gave my mom a boyfriend.

Yeah, it’s different. And since Mom and Andrew are both people in the public eye, and since Satan feeds on gossip, there have been some nasty rumors going around. Some people have been saying that Ryan and I are angry with our mom that she’s dating, and others just want to know every detail about Mom and Andrew’s relationship to fill their own individual curiosity. The only reason I can see for this is that Satan loves to destroy the gifts that God so mercifully gives us.

We would all turn back time if we could, and heck to the yes, I would trade anything to have my dad back. But that’s not how life works. My dad’s life is over. My parents loved each other until death did them part and even longer. And now God has given my mom the amazing new gift of someone to love again.

My friends were all a little unsure how to respond when I first told them about this update. After the life-changing words, “My mom has a boyfriend” would leave my mouth, there would invariably be a pause, and a little whisper from them, asking “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” When I would tell them that it was a very good thing, each one responded with a mixture of surprised exclamations and excited squeals. Their opinion of the situation was coloured by my opinion because they were sharing in my story. What an amazing picture of community in Christ!

Gossip is so deadly because it plasters your own perspective over other people’s stories. Scripture tells us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. My family is in a time of rejoicing for God’s mercies that are new every morning and His gifts that cannot be squashed by even death itself! Satan tried to destroy my family, but he will NEVER win because my God is so much bigger.

And my mom has a boyfriend. And my family’s story continues. Because God’s logic is not my logic. And that is a very good thing.

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when “happy new year” fails

Everyone talks about New Year’s Resolutions as if there is something in life that they control. The end of December is that inevitable time when people begin to plan their next year—what they’ll do differently and hopefully better— as if they know what’s coming next. On December 31 of last year, I sat in a house with a group of my closest friends, laughing together as we counted down the last seconds of 2014. The year had been challenging. My family dealt with the unexpected death of my uncle, and I faced heartbreak as the guy I liked started dating one of my best friends. As the chant of the last seconds before midnight echoed in the room, I prayed and hoped that 2015 would be better than 2014 was. It could only go up from there.

On January 3, 2015 my mom and dad dropped me off at school to begin a new semester. I hugged them and said goodbye and planned the next time I would come home. As my parents walked out my dorm door, Dad told me, “I love you Rach. We’ll see you soon.” Those were the last words I ever heard my dad say. On January 22, 2015 at 6:09pm, I got a call from my mom that Dad had been killed in a transport truck accident. Three weeks into 2015, everything I had expected the year to be— everything I had expected my life to be— had shattered. Where do New Year’s Resolutions fit in when everything comes crashing down?

While the people around me held onto their resolutions to lose more weight or earn more money or go on amazing vacations, my goal for the rest of the year was survival. All my lofty dreams and plans for 2015 disintegrated, and the remnant was more pain than I thought one person or one family could bear. I lived my life one day, one minute, one second at a time. I made it through my dad’s funeral, and the few weeks after that. I tried to go back to school. That lasted until March when I realized that I couldn’t keep going. I didn’t have enough energy to be in school or be a Resident Advisor to the six beautiful girls who were counting on me to be their dorm “mom”. Grief is a dictator.

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My brother Ryan playing a song in honor of my dad at Dad’s funeral. 

 

As the year continued, I was forced to make more adjustments as I tried to navigate life without my dad. I did so many things that the world would classify as failure. So many things that I would have classified as failure a couple years before.

Throughout 2015, I dropped out of courses, dropped out of school, and left my wonderful job early because I was too stressed. I submitted mediocre projects, skipped countless classes, spent most days crying, and stopped enjoying my favourite things. I was diagnosed with depression and had thoughts of suicide.

But today, on the last day of 2015, I consider none of these things failures.

This year was by far the worst year of my life (and I sincerely hope the worst year I ever have), but it was in 2015 that I learned a different definition of strength and a different definition of success.

Yes, I dropped out of school, but by the grace of God, I also completed three courses from home. Yes, I was diagnosed with depression, but I also, with the help of caring people around me, found the strength to seek medical help and counselling. Yes, I had to leave my summer job early, but I also had the most amazing time working for the same organization that my dad worked for. Yes, I have spent eleven agonizing months grieving, but through the process, my eyes have been opened to the hurting people all around me.

This year, through the pain that tore away all normalcy, I grew closer to my family than I’ve ever been. I found the support of counsellors and friends and grief groups because I can’t walk this alone. Most importantly, I learned that when all else crumbles away, God’s peace finds a way to trickle through the cracks.

We live in such a perfectionist culture. We live in the New Year’s Resolution culture that screams, “You need to look better, act better, be better. You need work harder to fool more people into believing that you have your life together.” But what’s the point of all this pretense when we can’t even control the next five seconds of our lives?

On December 22 of this year, a vibrant, 23-year-old friend of my family lost his life just as suddenly as my dad. And my heart breaks over and over again for that family who is going through hell trying to learn how to keep moving forward when their world’s been torn apart. Yet most of the Western world is too caught up in New Year’s Resolution idea of “success” to notice the grueling pain of broken people. I’ve had people tell my mom this year that they are so sorry that she won’t get to spend the rest of her life with her spouse, when they will get to grow old with theirs. It makes me want to scream, “YOU STILL DON’T GET IT, DO YOU?” There is nothing guaranteed in this world. Everything about my life changed in a 10-minute phone call. It is only by the lavish grace of God that I have breath today, and I still spend it all dreaming about a tomorrow that might not even exist?  

In high school, I was the girl with huge dreams and my future all laid out. I knew where I was going and what I was doing and where I would be in 10 years. My hard-earned grades would get me there. One day, all this time spent studying and academic stress would pay off. But when my dad died, everything I thought was important was stripped away. What was left was my family and my friends and my Jesus. Relationships. People. THAT’s what matters.

I think that resolutions are cool. There’s something about a new calendar year that prompts us as humans to reflect on the past 365 days as we look forward to the blank slate of tomorrow. But when those resolutions become our identity, we forget what is right in front of us. This year, my goals look a little different. I have no idea what 2016 brings, and if I’m honest, I am completely terrified. But this year, I will walk one day at a time, praising God for the gift of each day and cherishing the people around me. I don’t know what the future holds, but I trust the One who does.

May your 2016 be full of trust in God’s enduring promises even when they feel distant and empathy for everyone you meet. Thank you for all your support this year. I could not have made it this far without the enduring prayers of God’s people.

Rachel

 

january 22, 2015

Hey Dad,

I miss you. With every bone in my body and every second of the day, I miss you. I miss the twinkle in your eye and your excitement about your latest MCC purchase. I miss the way that you loved hearing Ry sing and play guitar and how you always told Mom that she needed to buy the full price jeans because she deserved the good quality stuff (She finally did it, by the way! Mom bought jeans that weren’t even on sale!). I miss your laugh and your hugs and the way you loved us by fixing almost every problem. I miss asking you about the latest weird YouTube videos you were watching.

And I miss telling you about my day.

So, I kinda figured that maybe I could do that now. Dad, can I tell you about my day?

Well, not today, but a day that you never got to finish.

January 22, 2015.

I remember getting ready that morning. I wore Ry’s band shirt (You were honestly the best band dad ever, by the way) and black jeans. Half my hair was pulled back in a mini-bun, because I was copying one of the girls on campus whose style I secretly was really envious of, and I finished the look with matte red lipstick and perfect liquid eye-liner.

I think I had a nap that afternoon. I went to class, did some grocery shopping, and worked on some homework. My roommate Kate and I were in charge of making dinner for our dorm and another dorm that was coming over for dinner that night. The menu was copious amounts of taco salad (Dad! I can kinda cook!). Our dinner guests arrived later with their contribution of warm brownies and homemade whipped cream. You know how I wasn’t eating grains or sugars? Yeah these brownies and cream were worth the exception. SO good.

6:09pm.

My pocket started vibrating with an incoming phone call from Mom. Even then my heart picked up speed, and fear started to inch its way in. Both times that Mom had called me at school unannounced in the past year and a half, were to tell me that someone I loved had died. One call told me that Grandpa passed away, the other that Uncle Pete was suddenly gone. You know how much I avoided using the phone, Dad, but by now I hated phone calls because it felt like all they brought was pain.

I decided that the bathroom was my best option for some privacy from the 15 girls in my living room. On my way out, I knocked over a plate of whipped cream that landed upside down on the floor. In my hurry to see what Mom wanted, I said, “I’ll clean that up later.”

It was just some whipped cream, but that sentence was the last thing I said as Rachel Wall, a girl with a brother and two perfect parents. The last sentence with my dreams still intact.

When I answered the phone to hear Mom sobbing, confirming my fears, my heart jumped to my throat. But my first thought was: What happened to Grandma? She was the one who was getting older and had some health concerns. Still an awful thought, but it was at least a bit logical. It was never “supposed to be” you, Dad. Of course you were right beside Mom as she called us or on your way home from your trip. Whatever this tragedy was, I would come home and we would all be together.

As I slid to the floor, I started crying on instinct. “Mom. What’s going on? What is it?!” The longer I was on the phone, the more I realized I had never in my life heard her like this.

“Rachel… I don’t know how to say this.”

“Mom,” I pressed again, “What’s happening?!”

Despite the earpiece on my iPhone being almost non-functioning, her next sentence was way too clear.

Your dad is gone.”

Everything. Stopped.

In that moment, I felt like I stepped outside my body. I saw myself sitting on the floor in utter shock, and I heard myself wail “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I couldn’t tell Mom’s crying from mine as she explained that you– my dad, my hero and my protector– had crashed your transport truck into a bridge and died on impact.

I tend to be a pretty logical person, but in that moment, I sounded like an agonizing broken record: “You’re lying! No, it’s not true. It’s NOT TRUE, Mom! YOU’RE WRONG. YOU HAVE TO BE WRONG!”

The call that changed my life ended with utter defeat and countless I love you’s. Somehow, 30 seconds had changed everything.

The world slowed. This was it. I stood up to face my reflection– the Rachel that I now was but didn’t want to be. Dad, I couldn’t imagine my life without you. There was no way that this was the new reality. My makeup was dissolved on my face in streaks of black and red, and it seemed to fit the way I felt.

Sometime during this process, I heard our dinner guests file out and remembered where I was. As I stumbled out of the bathroom, and shared the news for the first of hundreds of times, it was another reminder that this nightmare was real life.

“My dad died.”

I saw the blood drain from my dormmates’ faces and it felt a little bit like what was happening inside me. As some of them ran to get help, I collapsed onto the floor and cried like I had never cried before.

As the night went on, different people came through the dorm and helped me get ready to go home, but from that one second, everything had changed. I called Ry soon after, and we just sobbed. Because how are an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old supposed to navigate life without their dad? Most days I’m still not sure.

The only thing I really wanted to do at that point was go home and tell you about this nightmare and get lost in your hugs. But then I would remember that you were the reason I needed comfort in the first place. It just wasn’t right. I remember telling Kait, my Residence Life Director, that I just couldn’t see God’s hand in what just happened. It didn’t make sense. (I don’t think I’ll ever get it, but I’m trying to cling to the promise that He is still good and that we are held in the same hands that you are).

On the way home, I saw the picture of the crash, and I broke even more. Do you know that in some ways I was jealous of that bridge and that truck? Because they got to spend the last moments with you, Dad, and I was left clinging to memories of three weeks before. The last time we talked was when you and Ma dropped me off at school after Christmas break. You told me you loved me, and that I’d see you soon.

Soon is turning into a really long time, Dad.

It’s been almost three months. But every single day I still hope that today, somehow, you will walk through the front door. I can still hear your laugh and picture your announcement, “I’m home! Anybody miss me?” Oh, wow, do I ever miss you.

I remember another day– the day that I first visited Redeemer. I decided to stay for the night before the Campus Visit Day, so although I had friends joining me the next day, this night was my first university event by myself. As we pulled into Redeemer and got out of the van and I tried to silence my nerves, the song that came on the radio was this brand new song that I loved (called “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, this little-known boyband at the time 😉 ), and with that song in my head and you by my side, I knew that everything was going to be all right.

Dad, I wish I had 17-year-old Rachel’s confidence back. Because I think it will be a very long time before I can say that everything is all right.

But two things I know for sure:

God is good.

And I miss you.

I love you forever, Papa.

Rach ❤

PicMonkey Collage dad and rach

what’s in a name? (also, HELLO!)

Hello fellow human! I’m Rachel, and I’m starting a new adventure in the blogosphere. I like long walks on the beach and writing out my feelings, and I think that more cats= more happiness.

But enough about me, because I don’t feel like I can introduce myself properly until I’ve explained something a little more glaring– the title of this blog. I think names are important. And the perfectionist in me lead me to spend four days picking this one.

Arresting. Radiance.

[uh – res– ting]. [rey-dee-uh ns].

(Let’s begin with some definitions, shall we?)

arresting :  

  1. (adj.) attracting or capable of attracting attention or interest; striking 
  2. (v.) to catch and hold; attract and fix; engage 
  3. (word play) a resting; describing something in a state of rest

radiance: (n.) full of joy and hope

These two words capture my dreams for this space and for my life.

First, I long to be ever radiant –glowing, shining, iridescent. Filled with the love of Jesus Christ and joy in my Saviour, and ready to spread that to the  world, wherever I land.  I long to live a life of arresting(adj.) radiance that stops people in their tracks. To have my love for Jesus be more evident than my brightest sweater or boldest lipstick and for that to shine brighter than any of my accomplishments or failures.

Yet no day dawns without a promise of turmoil. Ruthless disruptions. From those tiny problems (read: I went through a whole interview with lipstick on my teeth) that can instantly shade the sunshine, to tragedies that sweep you off your feet and forever rob you of “normal”.  They come. I’ve faced them. But I serve a good God. And I want my life to be in the business of arresting(v.) the radiance. I want to capture and hold onto radiance that surpasses all circumstances. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) is what I choose to proclaim in every moment.

As a third contender to my word-plays and over-thinking, I am pursuing a. resting. radiance. Radiance that takes time to smell the hope after a good rain because it is here for the long haul. Radiance that is as resilient as it is bright. A light that is founded only in a love so deep that no height or heartache or tragedy or joy or battle or wound can ever separate me from it (Romans 8). Fear is no competitor because this resting radiance is sticking around. You might as well get cozy.

There it is. A glimpse into my brain, and a preview at my vision, and an understanding of my ridiculous thought processes all in one. I’m sure you’re positively dazzled (or not, which is more the expected response.)

So, the real truth is that with all that has happened in the last couple years, there are days when my shine has dulled and when I feel like I cannot be joyful for one more second because my world has been torn to shreds. But God gives me the strength to go on for a few more minutes. And it’s strange how tragedy can make you so introspective, because in that process, I realized that I have a lot of thoughts and ideas and ramblings just floating around in my head, and they’ve been begging for a way out. And I find that often in pouring out my heart to God, I feel hope. And maybe there’s a chance that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

glittertumblr_me20sjQ7q11rdprmno1_500And here we are. A space for that kind of mental vomit to occur and for nice people like you to read it (or not) and for me to write it anyway. What a lovely thought.

So, come. Live a sparkly life with me.

-Rach