Life is hard, chaotic, and messy. It can be tempting to want to curl up in the corner and hope that the mess will fix itself. Unfortunately that's not the way it works. When life sends us spinning into chaos, we have to stop.....take a deep breath.....refocus.....and ask God to show us the next step.
The answer will come. It may take a while but it will come. God has promised us that we can be still in His presence while we wait patently for Him to act. We don't have to keep spinning with the "what if's" and the "how is this going to end?"
This year has been full of chaos and messiness in my life. I have had to make hard choices. I've had to be strong when I wanted to just crumple onto the floor. I've had to keep going when I wanted to just give up. I've had to be still and wait when I wanted to jump in and fix it.
None of this has been possible in my own strength. It has only come through my reliance on Christ. When I gave Him control, He gave me His peace. Peace that keeps me grateful and hopeful as the chaos continues to swirl around me. Peace that reminds me that God cares deeply for me and the details of my life. Peace that gives me strength to keep taking the next step. Even when that next step may not be the easy one.
I take comfort in knowing that God is in control of all the tomorrows in my life. I just have to focus on the steps for today. As I still my heart and focus on Him, he shows me what those steps are. I don't have to have all the answers for tomorrow, next week or even next year. Trying to figure that out causes stress and anxiety in my heart and doesn't allow room for God's peace.
When God's peace is within me I will not fear tomorrow. I can live each day with joy. I will walk in freedom. And I will fulfill the purpose God has for this chapter of my life.
I'm currently doing a Bible study by Beth Moore on the book of 2 Timothy. One of the questions in the homework last week asked, "Do you feel like your story is under recalculation as you begin this series?" Ummmm......that would be a big fat YES!!!
She says, "Our own biographies are still underway. They are subtotals - bits and pieces of our stories vulnerable to recalculation with every next ordeal."
As I look back over my life, my story, I can see many recalculations. The first one that jumps out at me was towards the end of my Senior year of college. I planned to join the Army Nurse Corp. I went through all the physical testing and was even sworn in. I just had to take the state boards and get my nursing license. I had been a great student my whole life. Valedictorian of my graduating class in high school and 3.5 GPA in nursing school. I went into the test with so much confidence and preparation. But I failed it. That meant no Army Nurse Corp. Recalculating.
New plan. Just need to study some more. Retake the test and I could still join the Army Nurse Corp.....just a little later than planned. While working towards that plan, I learn that I am pregnant. Army Nurse Corp is not an option. Recalculating.
Fast forward several years. I am now married with 4 children age 8 and under. Husband has a great job that allows me to stay home with the kids fulltime. He comes in one morning and tells me that he has been laid off. Recalculating.
We move out to the West Coast. The kids and I get involved in an amazing church. I begin growing in my faith and relationship with Christ for the first time since I was in college. I meet an amazing woman who shows me what it means to be a praying wife. She changed how I looked at the issues I had with my marriage. Recalculating.
Our next stop took us to Kentucky and to another great church. This area was perfect for me. Just a 5 hour drive to visit family, great church, and good job for my husband. After about a year, another company reached out to my husband wanting him to come to work for them in Dayton, OH. I did NOT want to move again. I loved where we lived. I loved the people at church. I loved being able to visit family for the weekend whenever our schedules would allow. He took the job and we were moving. Recalculating.
We found another great church. This time my husband got involved too. I worked in the kid's ministry. He worked with the teenagers. The kids were involved in Awana and youth discipleship. We went on missions trips. He left his job in manufacturing and began working for FCA. Recalculating.
As he worked in the schools, we realized something else was needed. There were young men and women who were struggling and needed guidance and one on one accountability. Power of 3 Ministries was born. And to help pay the bills while the nonprofit got up and running, I started a job at the airport. Recalculating.
Keeping up with it all was challenging and hectic and rewarding. PO3 was growing but financially it was hard. I loved my job but it required more of my time. So I stepped away from the day to day of PO3.
The issues and disconnectedness in our marriage that we had ignored could no longer be ignored. Something needed to change. There was too much fighting and arguing. We needed a break. A chance to catch our breath. So my husband moved out to stay with friends to bring some peace to the house. Staying with friends then changed to him getting his own apartment. Recalculating.
His own apartment then led to him having an affair and him telling me that our marriage was over. Our family was forever changed. He was removed as director of PO3 and subsequently the ministry was shut down. Recalculating.
Now it's lawyers and support orders, financial obligations, visitation schedules and property divisions. Recalculating.
I feel like the past 6 months has been a constant state of recalculating. I feel like everyday there is a new ordeal that I am faced with. I have to handle all of the household tasks and expenses with minimal financial support from my husband. I don't always know how I will pay the monthly bills, but I know that the Lord is my provider. So many unexpected blessings have come along that keep me getting back up each morning.
I have had to come face to face with my own self-righteousness and self-reliance. I can honestly say that I am getting closer place of true and complete forgiveness. I want to be angry and hateful towards the other woman, but while her actions were wrong she is not to blame for the actions of my husband. I have prayed for her and her kids a few times over the past couple of months. And just last week, I received a message letting me know that she is now a child of God. She has left her old life and choices and has become new in Christ. She is no longer listening to the devil and his lies.
In the moment that I received that message, I was so torn. I was celebrating for her new life in Christ but the selfish side of me that wanted to hold the hate and anger against her was not thrilled. Recalculating.
God is continuing to do a work in my heart. I don't want to "stunt his redemptive work in my midst with my bitterness, unforgiveness, slander, blame, chronic regret and unresolved guilt" Instead I am asking Him....no begging him to "do something bigger with the broken pieces than He might have done with the whole".
When I got married almost 22 years ago, we didn't have a big ceremony. We got married on a Tuesday afternoon in the office of the Justice of the Peace. We were new parents and didn't have the money for a big wedding or diamond rings. So we bought simple gold bands for the special day. We vowed to love, honor and cherish in front of the judge, his secretary and our 2 month old son.
A few years later, with the help of a friend, my husband was able to buy me a beautiful diamond wedding set. I loved that wedding set. It was very special to me. Every time I looked at that ring, I was reminded of my husband's love and commitment to me. I wore that ring proudly everyday.......everyday until April 15th of this year.
When I got up on that morning, I picked up the ring from my night stand and paused before putting it on my finger. I couldn't do it. Something was different. As I looked at it, I no longer saw love and commitment. I now saw betrayal and heartbreak. The words from the day before echoed in my head. He didn't want to married to me anymore.
I couldn't bring myself to put the ring on my finger. I put it back on the nightstand and began my day. The next day, I tried again. But I couldn't do it. After about a week, I put the ring away in a closet. I didn't even want to look at it.
It's been 4 months now. I've looked at my empty ring finger and I have wished that my ring still had special meaning and significance. But it doesn't. Over the past few weeks I realized that it was time to let the ring go. But could I do it? Was it the right thing to do? I could use the money to pay some monthly expenses. Would I ever be able to wear it again? I would just sit in the closet collecting dust. It could serve a much greater purpose by me selling it.
So today, that's exactly what I did. I walked right into that store and I sold it. I let it go.....completely and forever. My prayer is that someone new will be able to use it as a sign of unconditional love and commitment.
The memories of that ring will always hold a special place in my heart. But that's all they are now.....memories.
I don't want to care about what he's doing. I don't want to let his words hurt me. I don't want to wonder who he's sharing his heart with now. I don't want to miss what we had together. I don't want to wish he still loved me. But I'm addicted.
He is etched on my heart and is a part of me. He is a deeply entrenched habit that has shaped who I am today.
Our bond has been broken. My heart is infected with brokenness and it has altered my thoughts and behaviors.
But why? Why has this affected me so deeply?
Because I am an addict and he is my habit.
"Our body chemistry changes the emotional, psychological and physical conditions within us as we bond to another person. Our brain neurologically accommodates familiar things and makes them habits. What that means is that your nervous system literally rearranges to make room for the presence of someone else in your life. They become a literal habit. When relationship habits are broken, our bodies go through withdrawal symptoms similar to that of a drug addict. The emotional roller coaster, depression, physical pains, guilt and shame are all very real. So your brain is responding to your loss of that relationship." (Journey to Freedom)
With God's help, it's time for a detox.
It's time to let go and move toward freedom. It's time for my exodus. It's time to journey from my past, from my hurt, and from those who sought to hurt me. It's time to say goodbye to those people and circumstances that are driving the addiction.
The brokenness will become my testimony that God will use for His glory.
Let the journey begin.
As I take a Iook at my everyday life, not a whole lot has changed. I'm still a busy mom making sure my kids are cared for . I schedule their doctor appointments, take them to friend's houses and sport's practices. I try to keep food in the house...which is not easy with teenagers during summer break!! I remind them to do their chores and make myself available to talk when needed. I take them to church and try to be a godly example to them. In the midst of all of that I still to go to work and try to find time to meet up with friends for some Mom time.
I'm beginning to accept this new reality of being a solo mom. I like that term better than "single mom". I quit being single 22 years ago. And actually, I'll never be single again. Right now I feel that "Solo Mom" fits perfectly.
I came across that term in a blog that I was reading. Here's how it defined Solo Mom: "Solo Moms are women who spend time parenting on their own. Solo Moms are single moms, moms with joint custody, grandmothers who parent their grandchildren, and moms whose partners are deployed, disabled, or incarcerated. Solo Moms are moms whose partners are on the road a lot or living abroad, leaving them to do most of the parenting. "
Even though I am now a solo mom I know that I am not alone, although at times it feels that way. I'm so grateful for my friendships and my relationship with Christ. My friends have spoken life into me when I could do nothing but mourn the death of my marriage. When all I could see was my pain and anger. Some have listened while I vented and cried. Some have made me laugh with sarcastic comments and stories of their own. So many have pointed me continually to Christ and His love for me. His Words are what I cling to. Not the negative words from the enemy. He promises to always be for me....not for my marriage....but FOR ME!!!
In a recent blog, author Gary Thomas said, "If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than He loves institutions." That statement spoke volumes to me. I knew that God loved me but I thought that as a Christian woman, He loved my marriage more than me. I now know that was wrong thinking. God places a high value on marriage but he puts an even higher value on ME!!
I can move forward knowing that I have done everything to try to make my marriage work. Some marriages just can't be saved. We have struggled with many issues over the years and I'm not willing to live like that anymore. The affair was a huge blow to my heart, but the deeper pain came when I had to face the hard truth that my spouse no longer loved me. As I processed the hurt and read text messages over and over again, God kept whispering to me "I love you more." When I would read, "You are no longer my family, get over it." God would whisper, "You are my daughter and I love you." When he would say, "I didn't leave the kids, I left you." God would remind me of His promise to "NEVER leave me or forsake me". When I was told that I failed as a wife, God told me to ignore the lies and see the truth.
As I continue to lean in closer to God, he is giving me a peace about the future. I know that there are still many challenges ahead. However, I can face them head on confident that God will give me wisdom to make the right decisions and learn how to live this new reality.
Today I came across a message on Youtube titled "How to Recover After an Affair". I figured I would give it a listen and see what 4 or 5 steps they would outline to help me move on. But as I listened, I realized this was something different. This message brought to light some new perspectives for me that really helped me grasp the truth about my feelings and why the actions of my spouse impacted me the way they did.
The message was by Andre Butler from Word of Faith Christian Center in Detroit. If you marriage has been impacted in anyway by an affair, I encourage you to listen to the entire message here. There were many great takeaways for me.
First, God hates divorce but he hates infidelity even more. (Matthew 19:9) It is a broken covenant that causes great harm to your mate. It's a heinous crime that burns down everything in your life. (Job 31) An adulterer is anyone who receives sexual gratification from anyone other than their mate. There are multiple types of infidelity or cheating other than a physical affair. Infidelity includes pornography, dinners alone with the opposite sex, private conversations in person or via text, lusting after another person and emotional affairs.
Secondly, each person is responsible for their own heart. You don't just fall in love with someone else. You open your heart and allow yourself to be seduced by someone else. For your heart to be deceived you have spent some time with that other person. You have allowed yourself to become emotionally close to another person. You have crossed a line and formed an emotional bond with another person. (Job 31:9-12) You ignored the symptoms of pre-cheating. You put yourself in a dangerous place. You didn't set boundaries or you ignored the ones that were in place. Instead of choosing to live holy, you chose to play near the fire thinking that you had everything under control. You didn't take time to think how your actions would harm your mate or that you would ever get burnt.
And thirdly, infidelity causes a broken heart and a broken spirit. A broken heart is a powerful emotion that turns your world upside down. When you cheat on your mate it causes them great damage, heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, broken trust, jealousy, anger, and grief. It is the death of their marriage as they know it. It can take years for them to process these emotions and move to a place of healing.
Married men and women, I challenge you to guard your heart and your mind. Do not open your heart to anyone that is not your spouse. Set boundaries and don't cross them. You made a vow before God, to love, honor and cherish your mate. There are severe consequences when you break that vow and dishonor your marriage. (Hebrews 13:4)