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.