He Calls Me Mine

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Names mean a lot to me. A name helps me be known by others, to connect. When I named my two girls, I chose names that spoke value, considered their meanings. I felt their names provided a glimpse into who they might become.

My parents set the stage for choosing names. They chose mine because of a movie: True Grit. While my mom liked the tenacity of the main female character, Mattie, she wasn’t fond of her name. She did, however, like the name of the actress who played Mattie in the 1969 version: Kim Darby.

And so I was named.

Through the years I’ve been called Kim, Kimmy, Princess, Kimberly, Auntie Kimmy, and of course, the full blown Kimberly Dawn any time I was in trouble. Which wasn’t very often. Honest.

But I’ve also been called by another name. A name I don’t hear quite as often these days, but one I dearly love.

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Mom.

There’s so much wrapped up in that name. Love and care. Relationship and belonging. History, present, and a future. A connection and a bond that is like nothing else in the world. When m
y girls called me Mom, I knew we belonged together and nothing, not even death, could take that away.

So naturally, as my relationship with Russ’s kids grew and they burrowed their way into my heart, I longed for a similar type of connection. began to wonder what they would call me. Would it be Kim, or would it possibly shift to Mom?

A couple of years in, the boy twin came up to me and hugged me. Now being hugged wasn’t new; they hugged me all the time. Still do. At first it was overwhelming and even scary, those touchy-buggy-pokey antics.

But that day, he said something as he squeezed me tight. Arms wrapped tight, he said Mine.

At first I chuckled. Um, that’s my arm, or leg, or whatever he was hugging. I thought do you think you own me? now Funny how I get all self-protective when someone trips over my old baggage. But he did this. A lot.

He hugged my arm. Mine.

He hugged my leg. Mine. (Yeah, I think this is a little weird, too. But he likes to lay on the floor by my feet. Like a puppy. And yes, there are days he pretends he’s a puppy. For real. insert shoulder shrug here. Welcome to our home.)

He hugged my neck. Mine.

He snuggled in close to me. Mine.

Hmmm. There was something special about what he said, something that stirred my wounded heart. Isn’t this what I longed for? To connect? Yeah, I know. But it didn’t feel the same, not at first. I wanted what other moms had: the name. That coveted title.

I watch how Russ interacts with them —such love. A genuine, pure, enjoying-each-other-even-when-they-drive-you-nuts kind of love. And while I’m not fully there yet, I’m definitely heading for that crazy-love train because I want to be a part of that, with them.

But as someone stepping into their lives mid-stream, it often feels lonely, disconnected, in a world of missing out. Missing out on the joy of their pregnancies. Missing out on their firsts – first smiles, first steps, first words. I missed out on the joy of expectation and jumped right into the challenges of the middle years. I missed out on their first falls where I scoop them up and kiss their pain away. I belong and yet, I don’t.

I’ve stepped into bigger wounds, bigger fears, and deeper pain. I’ve stepped into relationships that need to be formed from scratch yet need to be fast-tracked to fullness. Relationships that take much more time and space to create but happen in the daily grind of everyday life.

People ask me what these three kiddos call me now that we all have the same last name. Just Kim, I reply, almost as if my name is some sort a consolation prize, a “thanks-for-playing” award that is somehow less than another name they might call me.

I realized this sense of being left out actually stemmed from a deeper longing —to belong to One who would never leave or betray me. Russ wasn’t that person. I couldn’t expect him to be just as I can’t be that person for him. My faith tells me God is the only One who can fully satisfy my need to belong. In fact, He’s the one who created that desire in my in the first place.

“Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He mad us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3, NLT

How often I forget that and try to fill God’s space with a whole lot of other stuff. Like house stuff, clothes stuff, even people stuff. But those temporary fillings don’t last very long. Only God fills that desire to belong and draws me near.

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9, NIV

At dinner one night, we sat around a big table, and this topic came up. It started with the twin girl. What are we going to call you? The wedding was over, we were back from the honeymoon, and had just moved everyone in to the new house. Well, not everyone. My oldest lives in another state with her husband and had decided she would call Russ, well, Russ. But the younger ones wanted to know what they could call me.

Do we call you Kim?

Do we call you Mom?

Four sets of eyes stared at me. Hesitant. Longing. Uncertain.

I knew what I wanted to say. Call me Mom, of course! That’s the name I want. It’s the job I’ll do. But as I sat and prayed, asking for wisdom and direction, something different tumbled out.

You can call me whatever you want. If you want to call me Mom, that’s okay. If you still want to call me Kim, I’m okay with that, too. You already have a mom, so it’s really up to you.

They looked at each other satisfied with my answer, and decided to keep calling me Kim.

I’m not going to lie, I was slightly disappointed, crushed for a minute, even. Probably more than I expected. I wanted the happy ending complete with the tender declaration of love and admiration. I wanted the Hollywood “happily ever after” where they all cheered and cried, Mom!

But that’s Hollywood and this is real life. A life often filled with disappointments and longings, of broken families and mending ones. But every so often God leans in and whispers to a child. Because at that moment, when the feeling of left-outed-ness crowded in, the twin boy scooted closer to me, hugged my arm, and said, Mine.

I’ve decided that’s much better name.

A precious reminder of another One who calls me by the same name.

I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 NLT

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My Marriage Did Not Save Me

img_3715Here I sit, about to write a piece on marriage. Who’d have thought that would happen?

Certainly not me.

My first marriage lasted 14 years before it unraveled beyond repair. There was a lot of hurt and pain, sorrow and loss, not something I wanted others to know. But that story isn’t for here, nor is it fully mine to share.

Here I write about my new marriage, this second one. It’s only been four months and twenty-nine days since it began, but I have to be honest . . .
It’s been good.

Wait, what?

Yep, it’s good but don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. Come hang out for a while and you’ll see. We each came to this marriage with a U-Haul full of baggage where we were more likely to trip and topple over each other’s bags than describe these early days as good.

But they are, and I’m grateful. Apparently, the joy seems to live on my face because others are noticing. I keep hearing things like: you look so happy. Or you don’t look so sad anymore.

Life was really tough until a few years ago. I endured such sorrow and heartbreak there were days, months, okay—years when I wasn’t sure the breaking would end. And not only did I not know if it would end, I had no idea how it would end. And if it did, I wondered who would ever want to deal with these leftovers, these tiny bits I had left to give.

Leftovers and broken pieces. Hi! Want a date this life-in-the-middle gal? Yep, that’s a U-haul back there. We’re a package deal but you might get used to it, or try and ignore it like I did. I didn’t know what to do with my mess, how in the world would I invite someone to draw near where they might cut themselves on every piece?

And then there was the loneliness. It was there all along, lingering near the fringes. Crying myself to sleep, wondering if life would ever be good, the kind of life described in the Bible. Will I see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? An abundant life? I wanted that. And I wanted what my friends had—to be married to their best friend.

I used to laugh about that. Well, more of a cynical chuckle, really.  Surely, they’re lying. There’s no way they’re really best friends. That’s just what Christian couples say. I lived so long with life outside my door looking vastly different than life behind my door, I wondered if life behind their doors was actually anything like mine.

Perhaps you can relate.

Life crushed my tender heart, and in the squeezing temptation poked and prodded at my heart to seek out someone to make me feel better, to fix my woes, and tend my wounds. It whispered that I could only be whole as part of a couple. And I started to believe the whisper.

So when that magical day arrived and I met someone online. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly learned we had much in common, more than seemed possible. The fairy tale romance began and my prince finally came and saved me from this life of loneliness.

Hold. the. phone. That’s not exactly what happened.

Yes, I met a wonderful man who is kind and gentle and funny. But he didn’t save me. My relationship with Russ is restoration, but not salvation. Only Jesus saves. Russ is more like the icing on a yummy cupcake than the ingredients that created the cupcake in the first place.

Okay, he’s more than frosting, but you get my point.

Before I married my sweet husband (see what I did there?), I did a whole lot of work on my own to prepare to become his wife. I didn’t want to believe that whispered lie that I would never be whole on my own. I longed for wholeness and healing, to be free of the weights of my baggage that wore me down because I wanted a healthy relationship this time around. Marriage is hard enough without that U-Haul truck of stuff dragging us down.

I’m learning that marriage takes intentional work to create a safe place for each to succeed and fail, a place where unconditional love reigns and hope resides.

But when we drag in our past without seeking healing—all those feelings of abandonment and betrayal, bitterness and anger—we are headed right for disaster.

In our early days, I told Russ that I didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend.

Poor guy, he had no idea what he was getting himself in to.

I used to freak out. A lot. I was scared. What if he hurts me?  I was uncomfortable. If he really knew me. I was insecure. He’d be better off without me. I was filled with doubt. This isn’t going to work.

I started to tell him that it was just too hard, that I wasn’t sure I could get past my own hurt and brokenness to give him anything. I figured maybe I should just walk away.

He told me I could do that, but he would simply follow me.

Sigh.

I know, right?

When he said that, I realized this relationship might be worth the risk. But there was work for me to do. First, I turned away from the whispered lie that I was not enough on my own, and turned toward the One who makes me whole.

No, it’s not Russ’s job to fix me. If I relied on him, disappointed would reign because he is, after, all, human. Prone to mistakes and blunders, just like me. Not because he’s mean or hurtful, but because he’s broken, too, and needs his own healing. No, I had to do the work and purge my junk so I could make room for what was to come. The good stuff.

I didn’t want to stay broken.

I didn’t want to be bitter.

I didn’t want to live leery of other’s intentions, especially his. Especially if there was any hope of a future together.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I leaned into those broken places and embraced my heartache, trusting God to be faithful to His Word and His character. This wasn’t entirely new to me; it’s been my way of life since my daughter died. While it hasn’t been a perfect process, there’s been healing, deep and abundant healing. I’m stronger now so when those whispered lies return to tell me I’m not whole on my own, I simply tell the voice to shut up and then I go kiss my husband, who is my best friend.

No, my husband hasn’t saved me. But he has provided a safe place for me where healing still occurs, for me and for him. Oh, and the kids. But that’s a different story for another day.

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