I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past day or two, and it has been a rather eye-opening experience. (Yes, that is all of the smoke you have been seeing—my brain is smokin 😉 While I have known what I am about to tell you for a while, today I am feeling it all very intensely. Sometimes it takes a while for important tidbits of information to make the long trek from my head all the way down to my heart. As much as I am a true “feeler,” I am also highly intellectual, so I can intellectualize a lot of things for years before I actually feel, believe, and know them at the heart level. I am having a full heart day today.
Today, I am feeling absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and love, and pure joy that is simply bubbling out all over the place. I have the best life in the whole, wide, world. I know that sounds rather cocky, but it is true. For me, I have the best life I have ever had. I am the most blessed person that I know, and I am also the most blessed woman alive today. Again, I am fully aware of the cockiness of these statements, but for me, they are so inherently true that I literally ache inside with happiness and joy.
I got out of prison, after a six month stay, on September 15, 2011, so it has been a little over a year now since my release. While it became very apparent to me while I was in prison that the reason I had to go there had little to do with me, but something much greater that God had in mind, there was still a lot of fear and trepidation coming out of the prison doors. On one hand I firmly knew that the rest of my life was going to be the very best of my life, and that was very exciting. Over on the other hand, though, there was a lot of trembling going on. I was walking out to a child and a car that I could not drive yet and a bag of clothing.
I had a place to stay with some lovely people, but I was technically homeless and penniless. I was also walking out into the middle of a very yucky divorce and custody battle. That was a very scary place to be. I was not especially helpful to open the trunk of my car to get into some non-prison clothing only to find that mice had taken up residence in my car over the time I was away, and much of my clothing was ruined. I have never cared for mice and this did nothing to change my opinion of them, I can tell you. I craved a place to call home, but how would that happen?
I will tell you how that happened. My adult children, anticipating my need, all pitched in and suddenly I was far from penniless. I had enough money to find a place to live and to get some essentials, to boot. No mother wants to take money from their adult children, but I knew that this was something that they wanted to do for me badly and it was my job to humble myself enough to accept their gifts. Before I had even been out of prison a week, I had secured the perfect place for my son and I to live, with landlords that have been nothing but kind to me, even knowing my background fully.
I realized this morning, as I prepare to sign the lease for another year, that we have been here now for a little over a year, with another year in front of us. That is the longest we have lived in any one place since we left my marriage, and the house of horrors. Do you know how good that feels—to have a home? It feels absolutely wonderful, that is how it feels! It also feels absolutely wonderful to know that in the three years since we left, we have never been cold, have always had running water, and a fully functional bathroom, and we have had those things every day since we left. We had not had those things for a very long time prior to that. That feels super fantastic, too, as does not having had to do a single load of laundry in the kitchen sink. Last year, I got many random firewood drops from people just because they could, and they cared. I was beginning to see that coming out of prison has not made my world smaller, it had made my life become much bigger than it had been in decades.
I had employment cleaning houses almost immediately thanks to a friend and word of mouth. My writing career, which I thought would disappear while I was in prison, had only grown, expanded, and gotten better. We have not wanted for one single thing in the past year. New people to love and care for us were entering our lives at an amazing rate. These are people who I can call at 2 a.m. for any reason, and sometimes I had to do that due to my inability to drive for 9 months after my release. The people who I work for were more than happy to pick me up so that I could clean for them, but more than that, they we also happy to take me to the grocery store, or ER with a sick child, or anywhere else we needed to go. My son now has many surrogate grandparents who adore him and spoil him and treat me like their own child, too. Love was, and is, everywhere, and that is an intense feeling in the best possible way.
I had all seven of my children with me last Christmas. I think it was the best Christmas of my entire life. I will have all seven children home this Christmas, too, plus my new son-in-law, who I love. I get all weepy just remembering seeing them all walk in the door last year. I got all weepy then, too. I love them so much, and they are the best children on the planet. Smart, accomplished, yes, but much more importantly, they are kind, loving, generous, and funny as all get out! They are all also safe after Hurricane Sandy, and all I can say to that is Thank you, God! I love you so much!
My oldest daughter got married last summer. She was the most beautiful bride in the history of mankind. Her wedding will go down in history as the most perfect, fairytale, wedding the world has even seen, and she did it all on a tight budget, too! My son-in-law is the best son-in-law any woman has ever had, or ever will have—that is until my younger daughter gets married, then I will have the two best sons-in-law God ever created. The wedding was a blast, and another chance to have all seven of my kids all in one place.
My little boy and I had a three-day vacation at the beach this summer. It was a gift to us from one of the women I clean for who owns a little cottage with the most spectacular view in all of Maine. It was the best, and first, vacation he and I have ever had together. We caught tons and tons of crabs who promptly ran back into the water, but when you are seven years old, that just never gets old.
Last night, I took my little zombie trick-or-treating. There was no random, pick a neighborhood and go there, element about it this year. We had many stops to make and we had many people we had to see—people who would have been so disappointed if a zombie had not shown up at their doorstep, or their floor at the hospital. When you are a kid with a ton of surrogate grandparents, you get some surrogate older siblings to stand in for the siblings who are not around to go with you on Halloween. Life just gets richer and bigger and swells with so much love that I feel like I might burst right open.
Best of all, among all of the glorious, wonderful, fabulous things I see, I see one very happy child. I see a child who has been through so much in his little life and he has triumphed over it all at the tender age of seven. It was a hard-fought battle, but everyone sees the triumph now. His principal at school sees it and tells me how happy he is this year. He comes skipping off of the bus every day. He is making friends. He tells me all of the time now that he loves life. I think he had the best Halloween of his life last night.
Last year at this time, I was still very much getting back on my feet. I did not know what the world would think of a woman who had just gotten out of prison. I started learning quite quickly that, amazingly, the world could and would think no less of me. In fact, my world has grown in ways words cannot express, all because I went to prison. Soon after I got out, I wrote a three-part series for Yahoo! Shine! about my prison experience. I wrote it fearlessly, as if called to do so. However, when I shared the first article, the fear did hit, for as many people who knew where I had been for those six months, there were many more who had no idea where I had been.
I did not know how all of those friends would react. Those people who did not know read that article, and rather than turning away from me, I was hit with a love avalanche unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life…love and admiration. I think it goes without saying that I have the best friends and family in the entire universe, and more and more keep coming! The avalanche never ends, but who would want a love avalanche to end, anyway?
Once or twice in the last year, I have had someone who is just getting to know me say something like, “Oh, what a terribly tragic life you have had!” When I have heard this, inside I was shouting, “Oh, pah-leeze!” My life is not tragic—not one bit. I have had some pretty intense life experiences, but God has taken each and every one of those experiences and He has woven them into something magnificent. My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I would not trade a single one of those crummy experiences for anything in the world. If that is what it took to get me where I am today, then all I can say again is, “Thank you so much, Lord! I love you for everything!”
I am the single most blessed woman alive. You can try to fight me for the rights to that title, but I am not giving it up! I worked hard to earn that title. In my world, I am the most blessed woman alive. You can be the most blessed person in your world, and I hope and pray that you are! You earned that title, too!
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]—
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.