I had over seven years of scrambled eggs, diapers, braids, and timing naps just right. Convincing the girls to trust that nursery would be fun. Juggling three babes on four knees. Packing bags of snacks and coloring books, adjusting tights that were itchy, and making sure shoes came home in pairs. Bribing them during their first primary program. Helping them write their first talks. And pouring ourselves through the door after three hours of worship. Those are the Sundays I know. Being driven and defined with a purpose beyond my ward calling, and being much bigger than just myself. The Sabbath day I lived has been chaotic, loud, and stressful. It has also been full of love, and life, and centered on my family of five.
I spent this morning sleeping in. I showered when I felt like it. I listened to conference talks and piano hymns while I curled my hair and did my makeup. My footsteps echoed throughout the house, and my blinds downstairs were never even opened. There were no crumbs to sweep before I rushed out the door. I focused on the peace in my home and the love I have for the good things in my life. I begged God to help me have the strength to be His tool and to forget myself today.
And then I went to zip up my dress.
I found no husband. That’s okay. I have had nine months to transition to being single. Plus, I have been mourning my marriage silently for years. That was a slow and painful process. But it was long, which gave me time to adjust to each new level of loneliness. By the time I pulled the life support plug on our marriage, I was emotionally prepared. I gained strength and courage from doing what I knew was best. I have adjusted to new ways of growth and connection. I have begun to know myself again.
But that didn’t change the fact that this morning, I had no one to zip up my dress.
No little hands to help me. Just the sound of tears so silent, I didn’t know they could echo.
“Hold it together, Hayley.” I whispered to myself. My mom’s words from earlier this week were brought to the forefront of my mind, “You are strong. Strong and Capable. Stronger than you think. And you can do this.”
I made it through Relief Society and Sunday School. I listened. I learned. I was uplifted and edified by those who shared their experiences and knowledge. I’m so glad I managed to zip up my dress.
But by hour three I found myself sitting alone on a cold metal chair. Trying to stay out of sight and out of reach in the overflow section. My ward is full of good, caring, warm people who constantly make sure I am okay. But today I didn’t have the courage to let them love me.
I almost made it to the opening remarks, and then I would have been fine. But as I sat and watched the families full of chaotic babies, and kids arguing, and mothers with a purpose… I felt forsaken. A crushing wave of grief and reality swept me off my feet. I have not had time to mourn the loss of my children. I did not intend to sever my role as a mother.
Being a single mom I can handle.
Being a family of one is going to take some time.
I silently begged God to help me stop the tears. The harder I tried to gain control, the quicker I realized that’s out of reach. For me right now, I have to learn to let go. To trust the process. To allow the pain. To experience it. To live it. To allow it to change me. I want to be refined. I want to become a more perfect daughter of God through these lessons I am learning.
By this time there was simply no other choice. And as much as I wanted to renew my covenants and stay. I heard the spirit whisper, “It’s okay. This is part of what God is teaching you.”
And yes, I bolted.
But God did not forsake me. Just as I was trying not to leave Him. He sent a sweet new friend to comfort me. She saw my need and my grief and chased after me. She threw her arms around me as I wept. She let me know I am loved because she listened to the spirit.
And as I walked out the doors of church today, an hour earlier than I wanted to . I felt lonely, and loved, full of grief, and joy, completely uplifted, and yet utterly broken. Mortality is a teaching experience that I’m sure none of us could have imagined when we took the call. Just like anything that has worth. It is indescribable until you’ve lived it. Being the new kid, failing a test, getting left out, serving a mission, choosing a spouse, becoming a mother, understanding repentance, living through loss, watching those you love make choices that hurt, having friends fall away from their faith, moving across the country, or starting school again in your 30’s. It’s no wonder those with the most wrinkles have so much wisdom and love to give.
This is but another phase of my personal mortal journey. Specifically tailored to help me become more like Christ. My journey is far different than yours. Harder? No. Easier? No. Just different. In the wise words of my dear old dad, “Life is just like a big school. We are all here to learn, but we are all taking different classes.” I find that sentiment oddly profound in it’s complete simplicity. We cannot compare our schedules, our courses, or our professors. We can simply do our best to show up, do the work, and come out stronger.
In this last year of sporadically blogging, and being vulnerable to those I don’t even know, I have had many of you reach out. Many who are here to support and encourage and love. But also a staggering amount of those who are in my same shoes. People who happen to be taking some of the same classes I am. I write this post for you. For those single mamas out there. Those of you going through divorce. Those who have been impacted by the choices of others. Those mourning a life they thought they had built.
Today was rough. In fact, many of my days are rough. Probably most. l do my best to get up each morning, to trust God, and to believe sunshine is coming.
But today I leave you with this….. part of learning is feeling it all. Allowing yourself to break. Submitting to humbly sobbing on someone’s shoulder in the hall at church. Admitting that we on our own are not enough.
In one of my very first interviews with my mission president, I opened up about being homesick. I told him how surprised I was with how deeply I missed home, and how it was much more painful than I had anticipated.
I can still picture his soft, kind eyes. Those eyes were almost always squinting under the pressure of his sincere smile. He looked right at me and lovingly said “I am so glad you’re homesick. I worry about the missionaries here that don’t feel that at least to some degree. Embrace it, and know that it means you come from a good and loving home. And that is nothing to be sad about.”
I am so homesick for my girls. For the role I played as a full time mother. The pain is tangible. I would do just about anything to rush out of the shower to make scrambled eggs, and fix twisted tights. To always know the warmth of their bodies would be right next to mine on the pew each Sunday. But I realize now that this is nothing to be sad about. It is evidence in my heart of the love I feel for them, and the honor I feel in being called “mother”. To not feel these things so deeply would never make me who I am meant to be. I have to trust now that God is refining me. And that if I let him, I will become the mom that is perfectly matched for the mortal experience that these girls each individually need. That through the atonement my girls will be stronger because of the things they are going through, and the things they are learning. That God loves me, my girls, and their dad ALL THE EXACT SAME. That He desires us all to return to Him. And that this part of my journey is necessary.