The long journey home

This is a moment I’ve waited for my whole life.

As my son took the stage, I could feel my heart bursting with joy and my eyes welling with tears. To some, it may just be a kindergarten Christmas concert, but to me, it’s so much more.

It’s been my dream to be a mother, ever since I was 4 years old. I always dreamed of getting married, having a nice house and yard and having children. But it’s amazing how we make plans, and God has his own plans for us.

No little girl ever dreams of being a single mother. But when you see a single mom, there is a very good reason she’s raising her children alone. I’m divorced and raising 5-year-old Joey and 2-year old Josie on my own. It can be challenging. But God has taken very good care of me and my children. He’s provided for us and brought us one miracle after another.

And even when I try to feel sorry for myself, even for a moment, God reminds me, almost instantly to put Him first and to remain thankful for what I have.

Last month, as I was busily packing for our long drive back to my parents’ farm for Thanksgiving, I had one of those childish, selfish moments.

I was feeling sorry for myself.

It was hard work getting us all ready, packing up my little family and driving six hours with two children. I even felt sorry for myself because I had just barely enough money to get us there.

During our long journey home, we stopped at the only restaurant that was open on Thanksgiving. And when we sat down, we were met with a smile from a man in a booth next to us, sitting alone. We wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. Then, a kind-hearted waitress, who had to work on Thanksgiving, insisted that my little family share a meal to save money, and then she brought us more than enough food.

Later in our trip, we stopped at a gas station, where an elderly man was sitting alone, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. I walked in with Josie on my hip and holding Joey by the hand.

The elderly stranger said, “You’ve got your hands full.”

I said, “Yes, I do.”

Then, he responded, “Full, in a good way.” And I said, “Yes, in a very good way.”

I got into my car, tears in my eyes. I started the trip crabby, thinking to myself, “It’s hard driving so far, with kids in the car, to see my family. It’s hard living paycheck to paycheck.”

Then, it hit me.

I’m lucky to have a home to drive to. I’m blessed that I have children. I’m fortunate that my parents are still alive and well. And I’m lucky to have a paycheck at all.

I realized right then and there, I was wrong. I need to focus on my blessings every day. And embrace every moment God has given me. It’s OK that my childhood dreams didn’t go as planned. My life is even better than I had ever dreamt it could be.

These were the thoughts I had as I enjoyed my son’s Christmas concert at Sacred Heart Elementary in East Grand Forks. The theme was “On Our Way to Bethlehem.” And as the little children sang about the birth of Jesus, and Mary and the manger — I said a silent prayer. A simple prayer.

I said, “Thank you.”

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