Thursday, July 28, 2016


Some days are harder than others.  Fourteen years ago on this day, I was waking up at the Benson next to my husband, the man I thought I'd live out the rest of my days with, in anticipation of our honeymoon.  Three years ago I was anticipating his return from deployment, not knowing what the future would hold for us, completely unaware of the fact that in a little over a week the world as I knew it would shatter into tiny pieces. 

Today was to be the day I was to begin closing this chapter, the day I went to court for my dissolution of marriage.  Such an inadequate term for all it encompasses.  Marriages do not magically dissolve, especially when children are involved.  The water of years will never wash away the traces.  But by the grace of God my heart had been prepared for the coming waves and I was poised to welcome them.  

The wave that hit was not what I'd expected.  Yesterday I was informed that my hearing had been cancelled because they did not have a judge to oversee the proceedings.  I wasn't prepared for it but apparently it's quite common for this to happen.  Before I could regain my footing, the next wave crashed:  The hearing will likely be pushed to December.  It's that feeling when you are wading in the ocean.  Having just been bowled over by one wave you turn toward shore only to have an even bigger wave crash and overtake you.  The next thing you know, you're tumbling end over end, mouth and lungs full of saltwater, unsure of which way is up.  

Today was my chance at smooth sailing. I have a hunch I would've been the only one to show up in court and while it may seem hard-hearted it was exactly what I was hoping for.  It would have made it all so much simpler.  Now it seems I'm back at square one.  I've been sent to the back of the line by no fault of my own and there's nothing to do but wait.  I will be lucky to have a court date before Christmas and luckier still to stay afloat financially until then.  

The sixth amendment grants the right for a speedy trial . . . to accused criminals.  Criminal proceedings!  How much more expedient, then, should be proceedings involving the welfare of children?  That's really what all of this is about.  I filed for divorce over a year ago because other than about $200 (I'm being generous), I received no financial support for the two previous years of my separation.  That was the bottom line, I needed help providing for OUR children.  And here I sit, still at his mercy to make ends meet.  

I am not bitter or angry or resentful.  I am frightened.  The most difficult times in life are when we face the unknown.  I'm still reeling from that second wave, frantically swimming toward the sunlight, unsure if I can continue to hold my breath.  I have to try and hope that next time I'm ready for the waves no matter how big they are. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Destination: Grace

I keep thinking, "God, I don't know how much more of this I can take!"  But in the stillness He has just whispered ever so subtly, "You can bear it for as long as I require."  I have told people that I have not been released from the vows I made FIRST with God and second with my husband.  And many people, most of society, will disagree or at the very least question my decision to stay the course.

Every day I want to give up.  But anything worth having is worth waiting and working for and sometimes the price is higher than we ever could have imagined.  With risk comes reward; the greater the risk, so too does the reward increase.  I may not see the return anytime in the near future but when I can look back down this road regardless of the destination and say with certainty that I did everything I could, I will be able to look back without regret, without guilt, without burden.  And that in itself is a gift.  

This is the legacy my children will inherit, a legacy of great joy grown from the fertile soil of sadness and deep loss.  A legacy marked not by uncertainty but of steadfast faith (at least when it comes down to the wire).  A legacy of love, trust, forgiveness and hope, always hope.

I have no desire to shield my children from the evil in this world but rather to train them to fight when they meet it face-to-face.  In a society where so many things and people are seen as disposable I pray they will forever remember their own value and recognize it in others.

Every day I put one foot in front of the other, I prepare once again to fight the doubt and worry that I know will come to haunt me.  I don't expect that everyone in the same situation should do exactly as I have, as I do.  This is not the well-worn path and I realize that.  But I do know others who have walked it before me and there are a few who are traveling beside me right now, who have chosen this route not because it is the shortest or easiest but because we know regardless of the destination we will be better for having taken the journey.

The last thing in the world I want is pity.  But if you have something else for me -- encouragement, scorn, support, criticism -- I gladly welcome them.  I am not a victim and I have no wish to be the heroine in this story, my only desire is that I maintain the strength and grace to finish it well. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Gift

The past nine months have been some of the most rewarding - and most challenging - of my life. The months ahead hold so much uncertainty that at times I'm completely overwhelmed, yet I know that they will also bring blessing as I face each challenge with God by my side.

I think you could say I've slain a lot of personal demons along the road I've traveled during this time and with each battle I've grown stronger -- physically, mentally and emotionally. There have been times, more than I can count, that I've wanted to set aside my sword and simply allow the darkness to swallow me whole. But I find a reason every day to pick it up and keep fighting.

The fight began long before this past year and it has given me inconceivable gifts wrapped up in the hideous paper of hurt and heartache and deception. However, one of the most important gifts I've received has come in the answer to a question I almost didn't ask: "Do you still want to be married to me?"

Three simple words, "I don't know," changed my life as I knew it. Although I can't say I thought my marriage was rock-solid at the time I was nevertheless shocked. Those three words broke me in a way that nothing else could. They opened wounds that may never completely heal. But they have had a perhaps unexpected and beneficial effect as well.

I choose to see my brokenness as a gift because of what it has given me: myself. Up to that point I'd lived my life by everyone else's rules. I did what I thought would please those around me, struggled to be the person I thought they expected. And I was tired and incredibly unsatisfied. It is exhausting trying to be something, someone you are not, and to be honest I don't think I even realized I was doing it.

To hear someone you love, someone you assumed would always be on your side, tell you that you are, "Miserable to be around," can be devastating, and for a time it was. But then it became a blessing. I realized I was miserable and I began to do something about it. I began to work harder than I ever had and I did it for MYSELF.

I joined the gym and got a personal trainer, started working out three times a week. I made an appointment with a counselor and have gone once a week faithfully, and joyfully, for the past eight months. I have deliberately and meticulously worked to get rid of the many items that clutter my home and my life. I've begun to see myself not as the world sees me but as God sees me and I have realized that how God sees me is infinitely more valuable than what anyone else thinks of me.

I am by no means perfect but I rejoice in the fact that I'm growing and that I am better than I was. When you hit rock bottom there truly is nowhere to go but up and I have scraped and clawed my way toward the light, filled in the hole so thoroughly that I can never return to it. Each day finds me looking to the future, taking care of myself so that I can better care for those I love, finding happiness, contentment and gratitude in the ordinary.

I look at my boys and know that I am blessed, that when it comes to them I will most certainly have regrets, but it will not be because I should have made them more of a priority or because I didn't consider their best interests when making life decisions. I am blessed because I have found joy in the small things and learned that my happiness does not depend on my marital or financial status or anything else the world has to offer. I am blessed because though my future seems uncertain right now, it is already determined and I am assured that regardless of how it turns out God will be there and it will be good.

On my 34th birthday I give you all this gift, the gift of insight, of learning from my mistakes. There's more than enough to go around. Wives, make your husbands a priority. Husbands, do the same for your wives. Show each other love and respect, speak with honesty and listen with understanding. Forgive quickly and thoroughly and don't dwell on past wrongs. Take time to be together, really together, and nurture your relationship so it has what it needs to grow and thrive. A good marriage requires true sacrifice and hard work, and you will never be able to stop sacrificing and working if you want the best. Honor each other in everything and at all times. The vows that you take are not suggestions -- they are a bond, an everlasting promise that you should remember, and in doing so renew, every single day.

One of the most important things I will take from this experience is the lesson of loving oneself, because if you are incapable of loving yourself you are grossly unprepared to give love to those around you. I regret that it took me so long to figure out how to love myself. Teach your children this skill early and often by taking care of YOU and allowing them to be themselves. In doing so you will help lay the foundation on which they build their life.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I found this birdhouse with a cracked roof in with the "defect" merchandise at Michaels. I bought it because it was really cheap and I figured with some wood filler it would be good as new and a great project for my five-year old. And by my five-year old, I mean me.

And I -- I mean, E-Man -- was really excited to paint this birdhouse. He would have started as soon as he stepped foot in our house if I had let him. But somehow I convinced him (not without a great amount of cajoling) to wait so that we could get the right kind of paint. Not to mention the fact that it was about 9:00 by the time we got home . . .

We went to Lowe's a couple of days later and with the help of a very nice lady in the paint section, we had everything we needed for the project. Now it was really "game on" for the birdhouse but I had to work the next day so painting would have to wait . . . except that E-Man was hatching a plan.

"Mommy, I'm sure I can take it to Mama Jo and Papa's. Papa would love to do it with me."

"But honey, I don't have a paintbrush for you yet. I'm going to have to look around at home for one."

"I'm sure Papa has one I can use . . ." and so on. I think I tried some other stall tactics but in the end I conceded.

"All right, but you need to understand, Papa might not be able to do it today because he has G-Man too."

"Okay Mommy, okay, I understand."

When I got to my in-laws to pick up the boys that evening Papa had indeed been able to facilitate the birdhouse painting. E-Man was so excited to show it to me and I told him it was beautiful. The paint wasn't quite dry so we left the birdhouse and I promised Ethan we would pick it up the next day.

Upon closer inspection I realized the, ahem, unique artistic method with which E-Man had painted the birdhouse. Two sides were teal green and two were off-white. The roof was brown with an off-white chimney painted teal green on the inside. Some parts weren't completely painted. As I looked at it at home, I saw everything I wanted to "fix" about the paint job, everything I felt was wrong.

And then I felt guilty.

It was just about all I could do not to get out a paintbrush and start touching up that birdhouse. It truly took almost every ounce of self-control I possess. But what purpose would that serve? What lesson would E-Man learn? It would break his heart.

I have this overwhelming desire to control and make "perfect" whatever I can. Let me tell you, perfectionism has its benefits, such as attention to detail, but overall I've found it to be more of a curse, a disease to which the cure remains elusive. What I concluded is that the birdhouse is a metaphor for so many things in life.

It is often difficult to look past flaws on the surface to discover the beauty and artistry right before our eyes. Beauty and art come in countless forms and rarely have the same meaning for individuals. And when things are laid bare, when they are vulnerable, sometimes we realize that those flaws really aren't as important as they might have seemed. They can be overlooked, filled in, healed.

It is only when we let go and look at things from a different perspective that their true value can be detected. Try it, you'll be surprised at the result.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Riding the Waves

I look out across the next seven months or so as if they are an ocean, an ocean that I somehow have to cross on my own, unsure of my final destination. Some days the seas will be rough and I'll be tossed about by the waves, barely able to maintain my grip on the rudder as the storm assaults me from all sides. Some days the seas will be calm and I'll sail along under crystal blue skies without a care. It would be easier if I knew where I would end up when this journey comes to a close and if I could predict the storms I'll face along the way to prepare accordingly. But all I can hope for at this point is to arrive in one piece.

Sometimes it's not enough to hope for the best and take things one day at a time. I am very weary of this journey and it has barely begun. At times I wonder how I will maintain the strength to get through a day, let alone several months. I pray for strength, patience, understanding, pray that my children will flourish despite my shortcomings and in spite of what the future holds.

My heart is full and yet I feel so empty. I have so much to be thankful for and find myself longing, lacking something. I do things for others because it is how I show love but I find it difficult to justify doing things for myself. And I receive so much love from those close to me . . . only to be consumed by loneliness.

Lately it seems each twist and turn deals me another unexpected blow. I keep hoping that things will just settle down, that life will deal me some bliss instead of strife. I have learned to search for the good in everything, to heed the lesson I'm being taught, but there are times when no matter how hard it may try the sun can't break through the clouds.

I have to consider that I'm not the person I believed I was nor am I the person I wished I'd be. I do know that I am strong, I am resilient, and I am capable. Sometimes strength is easily apparent and sometimes it is hidden. Sometimes strength is admitting you are weak -- lacking -- and initiating change. Sometimes strength is knowing when you've been beaten, admitting defeat, picking yourself up and moving on.

Right now my ship is full of holes and taking on water but I have a bucket and I'm bailing as quickly as I can. I have no idea how I will navigate the seas that stretch out beyond the horizon and if I will make it to the other shore only to run aground and crash to pieces. But I suppose the beauty of the unknown is just that -- we don't know if we'll arrive safely and if we did we might not set out in the first place.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Cost of Loss

I find myself at an utter loss. Several people have asked me how I am doing following Tuesday's events at Clackamas Town Center. I've told them that I am tired but okay. I suppose it's at least a half truth, as I have not stopped eating, bathing, getting out of bed each day.

I have my moments. In all honesty I'm already predisposed to anxiety and depression, something I used to try and keep to myself, but I take medication daily and generally, my over active imagination/worry mechanism causes no real interruption of my life. And it doesn't help that less than a month ago I was driving home from Sisters in the snow and had a rollover crash above Suttle Lake, or that I'll soon be sending my husband off on a deployment leaving me as the sole caregiver for our two boys.

I like to think of myself as strong, resilient, independent. I feel I have not seen any of those characteristics in myself these past few days. There is a part of me that feels I am not entitled to the emotions I am experiencing because really, I didn't see anything. My trauma was nothing compared to that of the hundreds of people taking a break from their holiday shopping in the food court.

So why do I feel as though there is a ton of bricks on my chest? Why does my heart seem as though it will tear itself in half? Why do I find my limbs heavy as sandbags, unable to do my bidding?

Something was taken from every person present in that mall at the time of the shooting. There are the obvious things, like the lives of the two people who perished at the shooter's hand and the loss of revenue for the businesses that have remained closed for the past few days. But the loss reaches beyond the walls of that building, beyond the thousands of people who hid out until the all clear was given.

I know that I am unable to analyze the full impact on my life but I do know that right now I'm not able to be the mother or wife I need to be. Tonight, Ethan came upstairs at 7:00 to ask when we would have dinner. We tend to eat dinner later than most people but not that late. I'd honestly not even thought about dinner or realized what time it was. I told him I would figure something out. About fifteen minutes later I finally peeled myself off the couch and walked into the kitchen. I opened the cupboards, fridge and freezer in turn and then just leaned against the refrigerator and started crying. I couldn't figure out what to make for dinner and I just felt so helpless. Such a seemingly simple task and yet I just felt so exhausted by the mere thought of it.

One thing that has been taken from me, at least temporarily, is my ability to focus, to function as I normally would. If there was a magic pill I could take to turn my brain off or make me sleep long enough to forget what has happened I'd probably take it. It seems unfair to me that while myself, my family and countless others suffer as a result of all of this, Jacob Roberts is FREE. I alternate between intense anger and sympathy for this child; really, that's all he was. I see his actions as immature, his suicide as cowardice, and I wonder what could have awakened this hunger for violence in him. Maybe no one will ever know.

Even as I type, I swallow back tears around a bitter lump in my throat and will myself not to vomit. I feel like crying but I'm not exactly sure why. In a way I feel guilty for having such emotion, as though I've been given a badge I didn't earn. But what should my response be? As much as I'd like to brush this off and go on with my life I simply can't so I put on a brave face and put one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

This afternoon, my husband took the boys to Mama Jo and Papa Pete's house so he could go for a run so I decided to run some errands. I needed to go to Tar-jé (Target for the less refined) for some laundry soap and other such exciting things. As I was setting out, I remembered that I'd also wanted to go to The Children's Place (TCP) to get some things for a little girl who's family our office "adopted." Perfect opportunity, as I did not have to drag the boys along and the deadline for the gifts is approaching. I thought, I'll go to the mall first, get it out of the way. It took me a while to put everything together at TCP, I was stressing over the shirts I'd chosen, worried that an eleven year-old girl might not like butterflies or cupcakes or whatever. I finished up, walked out of the store and saw the outdoor plaza. Which reminded me, LOFT was having a sale today, cable-knit sweaters for $15. Of course I had to check it out because that's a screamin' good deal! What if I hadn't seen that Facebook post about the sweaters on sale? What if I had left after going to TCP? What if I had just decided to go to Target first? Which begs the question, what if I had decided to go somewhere else in the mall before heading back to my car? But I was there at that moment and no amount of "whatifs" can change that or make me forget what I witnessed. Sure, I wasn't in the food court where the shooter opened fire, and I thank God for that. Let me tell you though, when a semi-automatic rifle is being fired in a huge, open area, it's hard to tell where the shots are coming from. It was surreal. One second I'm standing wih a couple in the elevator discussing window tinting and the next I'm frantically pushing the close door button on the elevator praying for God's protection. Here's how it went: I tend to choose the shortest possible distance when plotting my route, so that meant taking the glass elevator outside Nordstrom as opposed to he escalator in the store. I would have had to backtrack ever so slightly by riding the escalator (I'm lazy). As the doors to the elevator opened I stepped aside to allow the couple to exit before me -- I always defer to anyone else when opening doors, riding elevators, etc. Then I heard it, a series of loud pops. I was standing there, trying to place the sound but it wasn't until I saw people running that I was able to figure it out. Gunshots. I heard the man who was just on the elevator yell to his girlfriend/wife, "Run. RUN!" I immediately tried to think what my husband would do in this situation, as he always seems to know what to do under pressure, likely due in part to his military training. I stepped back on to the elevator and pressed the close door button. My first thought was to keep my finger on that button until danger had passed, but I decided it would be best not to pigeonhole myself in a glass elevator. I pressed myself into the metal panels and pressed "1." It was terrible. That sound and watching parents running with their babies in strollers. The panic on people's faces. I hurried into the store toward the shoe department where several employees and customers were standing in an alcove. Store security ran to the front entrance to shut the gate, yelling to customers to move away from the door. The next hour and a half passed slowly, with myself and many others trying to figure out via the Internet what had happened. Nordstrom employees brought around water and provided coffee for the hundred or so people hunkered down inside the store café. Finally they told us we would be evacuated and everyone was ushered the escalator and out a single exit. It wasn't until I was on the phone with my mom that I broke down. I completely fell apart. I'm not even sure how I made it home safely except by the grace of God. I was sobbing and gasping like a fish out of water as the gravity and realization of what had happened broke over me. The best laid plans. What I had intended as a quick trip stretched into hours, what felt like a lifetime. I cannot imagine the terror those people in the food court felt when that sick, depraved human being started shooting. Like me, he had a very specific mission though we may never know why. Life truly is so short and this for me is yet another reminder of just how little control I really have over it. I can despair and cry out, why God, why? But I know that despite the senseless violence He is in control. I don't know why God chose to put me in that place at that time but I believe my steps, my every millisecond on this earth, are divinely directed and that God has set me on this specific path for a specific purpose. I've had occasion to wonder why things are happening for me this way more than usual in the past month or so. I've yet to come up with an answer but I will continue to place my trust in Him.