My mind is full and my heart is heavy tonight. So heavy that I feel like someone is sitting on my chest. My mind is racing and my body feels anxious. So many emotions and thoughts all tangled up together. Usually when something is weighing on my mind, I can process it through writing. But tonight I'm finding it difficult to figure out where to even start. There is just so much.
I am concerned for the well being of my kids. They are strong and brave but they are hurting. And I can't give them the one thing to make their pain go away. I can't make their family whole again. And to make matters worse, I can't even give them the certainty of staying in our current home. I know it adds to their pain when I have to tell them that I will do everything in my power to keep us in our current house but I don't know if it will be enough. Our future is just so uncertain right now.
I am weary from the weight of responsibilities that I have been forced to take on all by myself. Financial responsibilities that should be shared but are not. (11% contribution is not OK). Balancing working enough hours and being home enough to be a mom plus trying to find time to get the house in order is challenging. There's spiritual training and life skills to be taught. There's extracurricular activities to pay for and attend.
And then there's my own well being. Some days I do great and other days I can barely hold it all together. My heart is still healing and sometimes the wounds feel so raw. Some days the wounds are ripped open by hateful words or false accusations. I hate that I let it get to me and cause me so much heartache. But I'm a words person. What you say to me stays with me for a very long time. Especially when those words are spoken by someone close to me. Words are so powerful and they can't be taken back.
As I sit here and think about all that has happened over the past 8 months, I realize that I am a much stronger person for having gone through the struggles. I have a voice now and I am no longer afraid to use it. I am combating the lies with truth and I am fighting for stability for my kids. I will still have bad days. I will still have days where I want to just give up trying to build bridges and finding a new normal. But on those days I know that I can lean on God's strength and love to get me through.
I can't control the actions of others. I can't make anyone become responsible and do the right thing. I can't convince others to see the truth right in front of them. But I can keep getting up each day and doing what's right, responsible and true for my kids.
In my 45 years of life, I have lived in 16 cities in 7 different states. I've lived in 3 of the 4 corners of the United States. I have lived in trailers, apartments, houses and dorm rooms. I've live in the city, the country and everywhere in between. Throughout all of those moves and changes, there is one place that always feels like going home. One place that holds the most wonderful memories. It's a house on a quiet street in a small country town. A small town where a trip to Walmart becomes an impromptu family reunion.
The house on Cherry Street isn't fancy or elaborate. But the memories made there are priceless. I remember as a kid sitting on the living room floor watching the big tv in the wooden box. There were only 2 things on Grandma's tv.....the Atlanta Braves or the local channel with preaching and gospel sangin'. (no that is not a mistake....in small town Georgia it's called sangin') I loved listening to my grandma play the piano and sing old southern hymns. Waking up to the smell of bacon and sausage was an everyday occurrence in the house on Cherry Street. Grandma was a serious cook and breakfasts were a 7 course meal. At night we would sit on the front porch watching the lightning bugs fly around the front yard. I remember laying in bed on a warm summer night listening to the sound of the attic fan. We celebrated countless Christmas mornings in the house on Cherry Street, including my first one as a new mom.
One year when I was a teenager, we decided to just have Christmas morning at our own house. It was the worst Christmas for us. It just didn't feel like Christmas. We all agreed that it was a bad idea and we never did that again.
My grandma is in heaven now but the memories on Cherry Street continue. The house belongs to my parents now. We're all grown up with kids of our own.. But every other year we return home to make new Christmas memories in the house on Cherry Street. Memories that I hope our kids will share with their own kids some day. And even though I have only spent a few Christmases there in the past 10 years, it's the place that comes to mind when I think of going home for the holidays.
This Christmas I am excited to be going home for the holidays. And like the song says,
No matter how far away you roam,
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!
Our world is full of people who don't like the truth that holds them accountable for their actions. They want to live their life however they choose and expect everyone around them to just accept it without complaint. There is no absolute truth.....no right or wrong to guide them. Each situation is evaluated based on feelings and opinions. It's a very subjective "truth".
When each person has their own "truth" then there is no accountability. I live my life by my "truth" and you live your life by yours. No judgement. No responsibility. No one is ever wrong.
But that's not how life works. There are laws and rules and commandments. There is absolute truth.....right and wrong. None of us are perfect but we are to strive to live a life filled with honesty, respect, love, and integrity in communion with God and others.
When we choose to live contrary to that then we must be held accountable. If the truth spoken about your actions paints an ugly picture, don't attack the painter. Humbly change your actions and give them something different to paint.
Changing behavior is a difficult task. It can be easier to become indignant against the person who spoke the truth and lash out at them.....especially if you've been living a double life.
Maybe it's time for a truth check. Think about the choices that you are making on a daily basis. How do they align with God's truth?
Think about the things that are being said to you or about you.
Are they false statements? Or are they truths that you don't want to hear?
Are you living a life that is pleasing self or God?
Are you a person who can be counted on and trusted to keep their word?
Are you a person of integrity and true character or do you wear a mask?
Who do you need to listen to today?
Now think about the things that you are saying to or about others.
Are they true statements with no embellishments?
Are you speaking the truth in love?
Are you speaking in a way to belittle or condemn?
Are you speaking truth to bring reconciliation and repentance?
Who needs to hear the truth today?
Speaking God's truth is not popular and may not win you friends, but it is the truth that sets us free. Freedom to walk boldly in our calling and purpose. Don't let the enemy cloud your judgment and ruin your testimony. Seek truth and in it you will find life abundant.
This season of practicing gratefulness has been tough. There have been days where I have really had to work hard to maintain a spirit of gratitude. This week has been especially difficult.
I started the week with my 22nd anniversary. A day that brought forth so much internal struggle. I am thankful for the good times and the children that God blessed me with but I am hurt and saddened by the failing of the marriage. When you've been with someone for half of your life, it's painful to have to say goodbye. No matter the reason why. I am thankful for coworkers who helped me through that day with lots of laughter and silliness. I am also thankful for my Bible study ladies who cover me in prayer on a daily basis but even more on the tough days.
On Tuesday I had to deal with a situation involving my daughter. A situation where she made a bad decision and had to learn a hard lesson. A situation that she and her Dad purposefully kept from me. I am thankful that she reached out for guidance before making the wrong choice but I am so angry that she was not given counsel that told her not to do it. I am so proud of her for being honest about her involvement when she was asked. She did what was right in that moment even when she knew that her friends would be upset with her.
I am also thankful for friends who allowed me to vent to them and process some of my emotions before my daughter and I discussed the situation. I can't even imagine the pain that she deals with on a daily basis as a teenager whose parents are going through a divorce. And then on top of that she has to deal with her Dad seeking her approval for the new woman in his life. I have to find a balance between firmness and gentleness as well as grace and consequences when parenting her.
By Wednesday I was emotionally drained and exhausted. But WHAM!!! I was hit again. This time it was an email from my attorney. After over a month with no communication, we finally had received a response from my husband's attorney. It was mostly good news about the changes we were proposing to the agreements.
But then it ended with this, "Recently your client has been disparaging mine on Facebook with regard to child support. Considering the fact that we are working towards a resolution of this matter, and that my client has generally been in agreement with all of her requests, this behavior is particularly disturbing and unacceptable. Disparaging each other in a manner viewable by the children is inappropriate, please discuss this matter with your client."
I was early into my shift at work when I read that. I felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut. My chest felt heavy and I got this terrible nauseous feeling come over me. I just wanted to crumble into a mess of tears. But I couldn't.
I am so thankful that I was working with my all time favorite co-worker that day. She has walked this journey on a much harder level than I am. And through everything that she has been through, she is still one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous fun-loving people you will ever meet. She has shared so much wisdom and "been there, heard that" counsel with me throughout this whole process. Her and Jesus are the only reasons I could make it through that day with a smile on my face. It was smiling through tears at times, but I made it.
Thursday started with the early shift and a yummy meal with my coworkers. Then it was off to start a new tradition of sharing a Thanksgiving meal with the newly weds and her parents. There was lots of laughter and great conversation. The boys continued the tradition of some turkey day football. We ended the day watching one of my favorite Christmas movies, Elf!! And Friday, I began Christmas decorating.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, because it's God's will for us. It's not always easy to be thankful. especially when our circumstances are painful and ugly. But if we look to Jesus we can see how we can turn our pain into joy.
It's called "Eucharisteo". "It's how Jesus at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things - take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. This, is the hard eucharisteo. Lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty." ~ Ann Voskamp
No matter how difficult and painful my circumstances may be, there is always something to be thankful for. It can be a hug from a friend, a smile from a stranger, an encouraging text, God's grace, a good night's sleep or a silly movie that makes you laugh. There are days when you have to lean into the ugly and be thankful in it to experience the joy from it.
Jesus you are my healer and my rescuer. You hold me up and give me strength. You give me calm amidst the chaos. You have always been right by my side and carried me through so much. You have never let me fall.
I can feel your presence with me through all of the disappointments and struggles. Even though I don't always understand the circumstances, I know that I can trust the voice that speaks peace over me. I know that when I cry out to you that you hear and you care.
I need your Spirit to flood my heart and to comfort it today.....especially today. My heart is fragile and weary from the battle. The cracks are beginning to heal but some days what has healed is torn open again.
Today as I reflect on 22 years of marriage, I am saddened to look at the pictures and see the pain behind the smiles. I remember the fun times and the laughter and it brings a smile to my face. We built a family together and had some great adventures. But the suffocating control and degrading atmosphere always there.
Lord, I need you to remind me of who I am in you. As I lose a part of my life, help me remember that your love for me is constant. When hateful and vile comments are made about me, remind me of your truth. Remove the negative thoughts from my mind and replace them with Your truth.....Your love.....Your grace.
I know that I am not perfect but I also know that I have lived my life striving to please you and honor you in my roles as a wife and mom. When the feelings of failure overwhelm me please lift me out of the deep and flood my heart with your love.
Lord, I need your wisdom and guidance as I step into an unknown future. Stop me when I veer off the path that you have set before me. Carry me when I want to give in and give up. Give me strength to persevere through the daily responsibilities of being a solo mom. I thank you for the godly mentors in my life and in the life of my children. I know you use these people to encourage and support us when we're struggling to understand.
Continue to heal my heart and remove any sprouts of bitterness so they don't take root and grow in my heart. Help me to show love and kindness to those who hurt me. And in those times of loneliness, show me that I never walk this life alone and that you are the only one who can bring me lasting joy and overwhelming love.
Your love has sustained me through so many troubles and it is because of your amazing grace and unending love that I continue to live this life with a smile on my face. I know that you will continue to show up and show off how much you care for me and my children.
Thank you Lord for flooding my heart with your love, my mind with your truth and my spirit with your peace.
A few years ago I sat on the couch in her office feeling lost, afraid and dying on the inside. He had reached out to her in an attempt to fix our marriage. We had sat on that couch together every couple of weeks for almost a year. We had made some progress but today he was done. He did not like her analysis of him and his way of doing things. He was adamant that the counseling was not working and that we would not be returning for another session.
I just sat there in silence. I was devastated. For the first time in my marriage I had found someone who listened and understood my pain. She offered me hope that there could be change in our relationship. But now he was taking that away. I didn't know what to do.
I will never forget her turning to me and telling me that she would be happy to start seeing me alone and helping me work through my own personal struggles. I felt hopeful and wanted to say "Yes, please" right then and there. But I was afraid to voice that desire. I was afraid to make that choice for myself. All I could do in that moment was shake my head and softly say, "OK" as she handed me her card.
I don't remember what we talked about or if we even talked on the drive home from her office that day. I was lost in my own thoughts of what if I decided to go see her. I wondered how he would react and if it was ok for me to see her alone. People saw marriage counselors to help them have better marriages. But what good would my seeing her alone do? I convinced myself that I'd be fine and we'd just figure it out and make it work.
About a month later, we had an argument about something. I don't even remember what it was about. All I remember was this feeling of invalidation and fear and hurt. I was so tired of feeling that way and I knew that it was time for a change.
I found the courage to pick up the phone and make my very first counseling appointment for me. And I am so thankful for that 30 seconds of courage. It began a growth process in me that gave me back my voice, my value and my peace.
We have discussed parenting struggles, relationship hurdles and personal goals. She has let me vent and then let me vent some more. We have laughed together and cried together. She has prayed for me, over me and with me. Throughout every session she has always pointed me to my relationship with God and how my daily choices should reflect that. She encouraged me to set boundaries and to use my voice again.
I am so grateful that we had a foundation together before the events of this year sent me in a tailspin. She has been such a vital part of my support system as I have navigated the overwhelming emotions of betrayal and anger and devastation. We have come a long way together.
However, today I learned that she will be leaving the practice to pursue another opportunity. I am so excited for this new adventure for her but I will definitely miss our meetings together. She has been such a lifeline for me this year. So now I am left with a choice. Do I begin a new relationship with another counselor in the practice or do I navigate my way through this life on my own?
It is something I will definitely be praying about over the next couple of weeks while I wait for my final appointment with her.
Twenty two years ago, he came into my life and my world was forever changed. I had no clue what it meant to be a mom. I was an unmarried 23 yr old whose plans for the future weren't going as planned. I was selfish and independent. I was determined to do things my way.
But when the nurse placed that baby on my chest, my world stopped. Life wasn't just about me anymore. I never knew it was possible to love anyone as much as I did in that moment. Happy tears of joy streamed down my face as this beautiful baby boy stole my heart. And with each passing day, my love for him grew and grew.
There were many bumps along the way as I was learning how to be a mom. Thankfully, he gave me grace and understanding when I blew it. I like to think that we helped each other grow in character, strength, and faith in God. We have celebrated so many milestones....birthdays, first day of school, football games, first girlfriend, graduation, college and engagement.
Yesterday, we celebrated a new milestone. As soon as he saw her, his world stopped. She was breathtaking in her lace gown and white veil. I saw his tears of joy when he looked at her. I saw the love in his eyes and in that moment I knew, she had stolen his heart. She was his love for a lifetime.
My little boy was standing there a man vowing to love, honor and cherish his bride. Promising to be there for her in sickness and in health, in good times and bad.
And once again there were tears of joy streaming down my face as I witnessed my son launch into a new chapter with his beautiful bride. A chapter that will need grace and understanding for the bumps, forgiveness for the mistakes and sacrificial love in everyway.
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.