Storms Take Many Forms

“The lightnin’ flashes in her eyes and he knows that she knows…..and the thunder rolls.” Just like in the Garth Brooks hit “The Thunder Rolls”, we are made aware very soon in life that storms come in many forms.

We take physical cover in hail storms. We watch helplessly as windows and cars are hammered. We can hear the sirens and sounds of freight trains when a tornado comes close. We rush to the stores to stock up when there is talk of an ice storm hitting the metroplex. We batten down the hatches to prepare for hurricanes. We do all we can do, but are still left to watch and see how nature will take it’s course.

Relationships go through storms. Marriages, friends, family….Eventually, someone will get hurt and find themselves in the eye of the storm needing to ask for forgiveness or grant it. And the thunder rolls……

Some make it, some don’t. Kids and others are left to watch helplessly in the wake of lost friendships and divorce. The relationships that do make it come out stronger because the love is made more evident in the willingness to ask, receive, and bestow the forgiveness. Asking isn’t easy, granting isn’t easy. Both take humility and grace.

Financial strains cause storms. The stress associated with being out of work, working when you don’t want to, working at a job you dislike, or for a boss who doesn’t seem to care at all about you, wondering whether or not to go back to work. Asking for help with bills. And the thunder rolls….

Storms come in many forms. May we always look to Jesus in them. May we take cover in His Name, like we do in the closet with our babies covered by a mattress. May we go face down before Him when the storms come and ask Him to carry us through. May we stock up on scripture and prayer warrior friends like we stock up on bottled waters and batteries. These are the storms where an umbrella won’t cut it. These are the storms where we do all that we can do and then hunker down and wait and see what the damage is.

Hurricane Harvey ravished Houston a couple weeks ago. Hurricane Irma plowed through the Caribbean yesterday and is moving towards Florida this weekend. Last I heard there are two coming up behind her. Just like tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and ice storms are expected on this earth, so are all the other kinds of storms. Sometimes they seem to come one right after another.

Strengthen us, Lord. Batten down our hatches. Help us to ask for and grant forgiveness in our storms. Show us how to reflect you when we inevitably mess up or someone else does. And, thank You for Your grace. Your grace is like the first responders running in when everyone else runs outs. Your grace is the rescue helicopters and semis pulling in with diapers and blankets. Your grace is the food we feast on when famished and in dire need.

And, if the storm rages and ultimately takes us out, may we still look to you because then we will be able to see You looking at us.

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My Love Story….

My love story will be different…It won’t be a “married to my high school sweetheart” story. It won’t be a “rocky marriage and reconciliation” story. It won’t be a “happily ever after right after divorce” story. No, my love story will be different.

My love story will be learning about how much God loves me, even in the midst of painful losses and rejections. My love story will be learning to love myself in the midst of them to0. Learning to love myself even when made to feel unlovable. Learning to love myself after being torn down to a nub by men in my life. Learning that not all men and women are the same….

Right after my divorce, I fell hard for a guy. He gave me more attention that I’d ever received from my ex-husband. We dated over a year, but he refused to commit. So, heartbroken again, I knew I had to stop the rollercoaster of not knowing what he wanted from me. Cue the next few guys who wanted to marry me after our first date. And some even before. What was going on?!?

First guy turned out to be on parole for double homicide (his wife and another guy)! Next two had mental issues, so much so, that suicide was mentioned after ending things. The fear of God set in. What was a single mom with two daughters to do?  Just stop? Or keep trying, trusting God. I chose the latter……My love story will be different.

The only way I could trust God with my romantic life after these stories was IF I loved Him enough and trusted His love for me. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cried out, thinking it won’t happen for me. It just can’t after these stories…The fear would be too great or the rug would be yanked out from under me, again.

I dated a guy who truly loved me, but we split over spiritual beliefs. I’ve dated a guy recommended by one of my best friends. I thought that he was my reward for standing up for my beliefs. That turned out to be false too and ever so painful and confusing all over again. What was going on?!?

The guy before has come back around. God spoke to his heart in my absence and it turns out our spiritual beliefs aren’t as different as we thought. Surprisingly, close. He knows all my fears, issues, and concerns. His love still rings true. God’s will be done.

My love story will be different….God will be my first love. My love story will be an open book of the love we share. I will run to Him when I hurt. I will lean on Him when I’m scared. I will share who He is to me. I will trust Him with my life. And, if it turns out that He just wants me all to Himself, my love story will be complete. I will live to please and honor Him all the days of my life.

 

 

Always a Risk…

A calculated risk is still a risk…One thing I’ve learned in the medical field is that we can only do so much when it comes to prevention. We can and should do what we can do, but nothing guarantees we won’t be born with a congenital defect, have a heart attack, arrhythmia, or cancer.

We’ve all heard the stories about people who contract lung cancer having never smoked a day in their lives and about the women diagnosed with breast cancer and absolutely no family history. I’ve personally scanned multiple young healthy patients who have had heart attacks. They exercise every day, maintain a healthy weight, eat clean, yet still…I’ve also scanned the 500 pound smoker who’s heart is as healthy as can be.

We should do everything we can as far as preventive screening and healthy living to avoid and promote what we can. But, just like every time we drive a car, we risk getting into a wreck. Every time we fly in a plane, we risk crashing. Every time we change jobs, we risk not liking it like we’d hoped. The same goes for relationships and marriage. They both run the risk of break up and divorce.

This is not intended to be morbid post, but a truthful one. I’ve also learned that although we can never be a perfect spouse, we can be a GREAT one and still get left. Our spouse can die unexpectedly or our own lives can get cut short. Because of this, do what you can in the process of picking a mate, pray fervently, ask for God’s help, make your list, be true to what you want and don’t want, and then try and trust. Trust that if the break up comes before marriage, He’s watching out for you and if it comes after, He’s still beside you. Yes, there’s risk, but you’ll never know unless you try and fly.

So, eat your veggies, stay away from tobacco, limit your alcohol, watch your weight, wear your sunscreen and your seatbelts, get your mammograms and teeth cleaned, lock your doors at night, and give that guy a try. The one who fits. The one who has what you’re looking for, but you’re too afraid to try or what people might think. Know that every relationship, romantic and otherwise, is a risk we have to be willing to take. Truth is, we can’t experience love without potential heartbreak.

The more I learn about relationships, the more proud I am of the risks I’ve taken. I’ve tried, I’ve lost, I’ve learned, I’ve let go, and I’ve tried again. There’s so much to be said for perseverance, patience, and priorities. It takes a lot of courage to get back up on that horse after getting bucked off, especially multiple times. But, you’ll have to get back on in order to ride off into the sunset one day…

My Letter to Her…

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I’ll never understand how, what, when, or exactly why. I don’t need to, nor do I even want to at this point. What I do know is I didn’t worry about you as his coworker. You were a friend, our friend I thought. You were married and I remember your health was a concern from time to time. My husband talked such a big game about others who strayed, I never thought he would. I don’t know when it went from coworkers to friends to more. I don’t know how he fell. But, he did. He fell so in love with you that he wanted out. But, he didn’t know how to do it.

He had already stopped spending family time together, stopped date nights, made excuses even when we had a babysitter not to go, yet none of that was enough. It wasn’t until I went months with him refusing to touch me at all, that I asked him to leave for a week for some soul searching to figure out what was going on. And leave he did, so fast my head spun. Never to return, except for his things. Gone like the wind. I still didn’t know about you. I asked multiple times if there was someone else, was told “no”, and I still never thought it possible. We had an infant and a five year old at the time. It was all I could do to keep my head above water and his time, mind, and body was elsewhere. With you.

And, he’s still with you. Married to you. Raising our kids with you. When I actually did get confirmation about you, it was painful, but in some ways a relief to know I was right. There was someone else and it was you.

I’ve always been drawn to women’s ministry and God spoke to my heart early on that if my heart for and work with women is to flourish, I can’t have a bitter heart towards you. I may encounter women who have walked in both of our shoes. I can’t hate you. I can’t wish you harm. I can’t shame you. I should cry out to God. I should pray over you. I should be thankful you love my girls and they love you. I should foster their relationship with you.

This is not what I wanted, but it is what I received. So, in order to make the best of this co-parenting situation, I must forgive and wish you both the best. Every other option hurts the kids and me more. I know from experience because my own parents are divorced. The child should never feel the strain between natural and step parent. It’s not the child’s fault that they have both. Making the child feel guilty for loving the other parent is placing blame where it doesn’t belong. They should be able to love both without one or the other getting offended.

I fought for our marriage long after he was already gone. He was just waiting for me to ask him to go so he could blame me for the separation. He ran straight to you. I’ll never know how your relationship got to the point it did, but I don’t blame you any more than I blame him. You both made the choice to be together. The pain I experienced when he withdrew emotionally and physically was confusing. The pain I felt when he left and blamed me on the way out the door was excruciating. The pain I felt when I got the proof of you was nauseating. I remember blacking out and needing to sit down. But, the pain I experienced when my girls loved and clung to you from the very beginning cannot be put into words. Their sweet hearts didn’t understand what was happening. I thank God they didn’t feel it at the time and pray they never, ever personally do.

This pain has changed me forever. I pray for the better. It has brought me to my knees and onto my face. It has broken me wide open. This pain brought me to the only One who could put breath in my lungs and a desire to turn this over. It is also what propels me to come alongside others who feel it or help others prevent it. We all need forgiveness. We all need grace. We all need love. And, we all need hope. May God be glorified through this pain and my story. May He alone be seen as the Deliverer of what we all need most and that is peace in a situation that could, would, should lead to anything but.

My prayer for you is that he loves you well. And, that our daughters see that. My prayer is that your marriage be long and be your last. That you help him in every way that I couldn’t. That he’s faithful to you. That’s he’s engaged. That he prioritizes family time. That he’s affectionate when you need him to be. And, that you remain healthy. If my girls are destined a stepmother, I’m thankful they have one like you. Involved, caring, supportive, present, eager to love and nurture.

None of this has been easy for me. But, knowing they are loved when they are at their dad’s is not something I have had to worry about. And, I thank you for that. Now, let’s raise some girls together.

 

Looking Back…

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Looking back isn’t easy. We are told to leave the past in the past. As much as I agree with not living in the past, we can and should definitely learn from it. Looking back can also help us realize how far we’ve come and what we’ve been delivered from.

One of my best friends has recently had the courage to share her story of childhood sexual abuse. What bravery. Her willingness to share helps others to know they are not alone. Sharing removes the mask and the secrets and shame the enemy wants us to carry forever. Jesus broke that chain and empowered her. She has forgiven her abuser, but forgiveness doesn’t mean she can’t share her story. It’s the truth and it’s her story to share. Her willingness to forgive brings grace front and center when we realize what she’s been through. Her courage inspires me to look back and share.

This is me looking back. Maybe someone can relate. Maybe someone won’t feel alone. Maybe someone knows someone else who needs to read this. Maybe someone can learn something.

Looking back on my wedding, I remember the hurt feelings.  I can still feel my shoulders fall and the tears sting during our first dance. I knew, at that moment, I would remember it for the rest of my life. That special moment was ruined for me by a flippant comment he made. Looking back on our honeymoon, I remember his excitement when he found Motocross on TV and his annoyance with the beach. The honeymoon was less about us and much more about what he was willing to do while we were there. One night he actually wanted to go to the beach…..but alone.

Looking back, I remember begging to get pregnant and both times finally getting a very reluctant, “ok, if it means you stop asking and crying” agreement. At the time, that made me so happy. None of it was happily ever after or how it should be. I was neglected, physically and emotionally. I wasn’t doted on or taken care of. I wasn’t told I was beautiful. Instead, I felt lucky to be pregnant and when I complained he reminded me of that fact. This is what I wanted, after all. I put on a happy face and looked forward to us being a happy family one day. I thought maybe he would love me more if I had his child, especially a son.

We had two girls.

I remember the look of disappointment both times when he found out. I remember, even his parents, saying they would need time to get over the fact that the second wasn’t a boy.  They wanted him to have a son too. A football player, a hunting partner. Looking back, I felt sorry for him that I wasn’t giving him one.

Looking back, I remember feeling like my meals weren’t good enough and like I didn’t clean house well enough. We both worked full time.

Looking back, I remember being made to feel like a dismissive mom when I asked if he would take time off to take our daughter to the doctor or stay home when she had fever. Our first was sick a lot. She had recurrent UTIs, ear infections, and strep throat. I missed a lot of work with her. I remember when I asked him, I would get the response: “Don’t you want to take her to the doctor? You’re the mom.” Ummmmm….yes. It’s not a matter of want. Of course, I do. But, I have a job too. Instead of saying that, I would think “you’re right, I am the mom. I should take off…” And, I’d call in or cancel my patients….again. I tried so hard to be the best mom and wife I could be.

Looking back, I remember trying so hard to stay out of debt. Telling him, yes, I’d love to have a boat too, but can we pay such and such off first? He bought the boat the next day. If he wanted it, he got it. He bought boats, guns, second vehicles, hunting gear, and dear leases. When I asked to go on vacation, we could never afford it. “What a waste of money” he thought. I took our daughter to Disney World twice…once alone and once with my mom.

I knew we couldn’t afford for me to go part time at work. But, I did it anyway. That’s the one time I knew I made a risky financial decision, but it was worth it to me. We could have easily afforded it and vacations, if it weren’t for his spending. I remember buying him gifts he returned and buying tickets to events specifically for him that he refused to go to or chose to take someone else. Looking back, I didn’t tell my friends or family about this treatment because I wanted them to love him as much as I wanted him to love me.

Looking back, emotional pain overshadows a lot. Still, I would constantly try to focus on my blessings. The pain continued. What should have been special times in my life were taken from me. Looking back, my oldest daughter’s toddler years were precious to me, but my “incompetence” in his eyes seemed to increase. I am just now regaining and recognizing the fact that I was and am a good mom to our girls.

My youngest was one year old when he left. Her first birthday party was a disaster. He held back from being in any pictures. I was convinced that was the night that he’d come back home. Instead, he called me manipulative and blamed me for everything after the party. I gave him an open door and he slammed the door to our marriage tighter. I should have been the one throwing him out by the way he was treating me and he was refusing to come home. I just couldn’t understand. The pain increased.

While the pain of my divorce was intense. Looking back, the pain I endured during the marriage probably did the most damage and is taking the longest to unfold, recover, and learn from. Story after story after story. Looking back, I remember, holding my head in my hands and asking my mom “Let me get this straight. He treated me like this and then left me?” She simply nodded, yes.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t bare the thought of my girls thinking this treatment was okay, that I stood up. It wasn’t until he stopped touching me at all. He wouldn’t even hug me if I asked. I would never want them treated that way by anyone, especially their husband. And, if they were, I’d have no one to blame but myself for allowing it. That’s what it took. And, that was his way out. Out of a marriage he hadn’t wanted to be in for a long time. And, he took it. He blamed me on the way out the door…”Just so you know, you kicked me out. I didn’t leave my family.” After begging him to come home one night (Why? To work on the marriage, I didn’t want a divorce), he told me he’d rather live in a ditch than come home to me.

His words hurt in the very beginning. His words hurt in the middle. His words hurt at the very end. By the time he left, I was an emotional bloody pulp.

Looking back, I see how bad it was. I couldn’t when I was in it. Looking back, I see God showing me more love than I’d ever known or felt in the midst of the least love I’d ever known. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was with me. Even through the deceit and blaming, God covered me. The emotional pain was killing me and God wouldn’t allow that treatment one more year, one more day. My desire to stay married and honor my vows, no matter what, prevented me from walking away. Instead, I got left after summoning the strength to stand up. The Lord removed him. Then He picked me up, washed me off, and started the work of healing, comforting, and teaching. What a beautiful sight.

I thought that I was just that miserable to live with, but it turns out he was in love with someone else. They’ve been together ever since.

From the moment I knew divorce was imminent, I started asking God to help me. To help me forgive. To help me coparent. To help me do it to His Glory. And to protect our girls. I have forgiven him. I release that pain to my Father. And, I have learned from it. We still deal with each other on an almost daily basis because of the girls. But, he treats me better now. He loves them very much. He comes to their events. He takes them to the doctor. He’s a better dad now. And, I thank God for that.

My prayer for him is not that his marriage falls apart. Not that he comes back. Not that he gets left. Not that he suffers like I did. Not that he feels abandoned or blamed. But, that he treats her better. That our daughters will see him treat his wife well. That he will look to the Lord for guidance and learn to respect women. That he receives the love and grace offered to him. And, whether he chooses to or not, that our girls will never consider that treatment normal or acceptable. That they will know they are worthy of respect and kindness. That they will value themselves enough to stand up to the alternative. I care too much about their hearts and futures to pass along anything else.

Thank you, Lord, for the strength to stand up and the strength the share.

 

 

 

Hashing Out the Holidays

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After living through it as a child and as an adult, I have no doubt why God hates divorce. And, it becomes all the more evident over the holidays when sentimentality and family time is planned around, planned for, and deemed most precious. That being said, I also know God hates abuse and infidelity. God hates selfishness and pride. And, because of these traits, divorce is imminent in this fallen world.

Hashing out the holidays with my ex is always painful. Who wants to share kids on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning? No one!

Being a child of divorce, I’m well aware of the scheduling that goes into seeing everyone. We have multiple homes to visit and presents to open, along with mass quantities of food to consume. All blessings! I’m the type who wants to be everywhere with everyone I love….all the time. But, the schedule can get tight at times. And, we still want to make time for the personal Christmas with our spouse and kids. That’s hard enough married, but throw my own divorce in the mix and I just can’t do it. Well I can, but not with my kids. It’s painful and, no doubt, the hardest time of the year for most divorced parents. We want to celebrate the season, but without our children, there is a fog that’s hard to lift. There is definitely something (someone) missing.

Thank God for family to celebrate with. Thank God for children to buy for. Thank God for a family who understands my situation. Thank God for places to be. Help me, Lord, with patience and the aching heart that comes along with absent children at each and every event where I crave their presence. So much more than their presents.

This year, I want to focus more on peace than fighting. I’d rather give too much than fight one more day. I’d rather know my kids are loved at both homes and give up time if necessary, than argue over going back and forth. I’d rather forego family traditions on my end than stubbornly fight to uphold them if all it causes is chaos and stress. I’ll make new ones. New ones full of peace, love, and sacrifice. And, I’ll also stand by the fact that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I will once again grieve the old and embrace the new. I will choose peace. Isn’t that why Jesus came as a baby anyway? Peace. I choose to lay it down and let it go…

If this post leaves you with anything, I hope it emphasizes the importance of presence over presents. When you are loved and not present, you are gravely missed. Once again, looking forward to the day we can all be together…..all the time. Happy, healthy, and whole.

 

The Lost Ring

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After my divorce, I faced the age old question of what to do with my wedding ring. The ring I’d worn proudly on my left hand for 10 years was now a painful memory of vows unkept and a dream to let go of. It took awhile to take my ring off, but once I did, it haunted me. I knew in my spirit that I did all I could to keep our marriage alive and so in some ways I felt like I still deserved that ring. I loved that ring. I was proud of that ring and what it meant.

Did I have momentary thoughts of flushing it or throwing it out the car window? Yes. But, I just couldn’t do it. It meant too much to me personally. I gave that ring, my marriage, my all. I also didn’t like the idea of it sitting in my jewelry box for the rest of my days and glaring at me like a failure or betrayal every time I saw it. So, I came up with the bright idea to transform it into a mother’s ring.

There was no other way I could afford a platinum mother’s ring with real jewels any other way. Afterall, one of my daughter’s birth stones is diamond. That alone makes the piece way beyond my typical budget. A couple months after my divorce was final, I took it to a jeweler in town and did some refurbishing. I replaced the main diamond with a peridot (my birthstone) and one of the baguettes with an emerald for my youngest daughter. We left the other diamond baguette alone for my oldest daughter, resized it to fit my right hand, and an authentic and priceless mother’s ring was born. I wear it everyday and love it for so much more than how it looks. It’s personal and brings me peace. It reminds me that my 10 years married weren’t wasted. My daughters came from it and that would never change. I turned that sad memento into a beautiful gift for myself.

Yesterday, I was getting ready to leave the house and I couldn’t find my ring in my jewelry box. Frustratingly, I called out to the girls “Did either of you take my RING?” My youngest came in and told me she did to play dress-up. My heart sank. Of all the rings, earrings, necklaces, or bracelets she could have taken, she took the one I could never afford to replace and meant so much. I’ve told her so many times before to stay out of my jewelry for exactly this reason. And, here we are. Frantically we all began to search.

My daughter is four, so her story changed multiple times as to what she did with it and where she left it. She said she took it off in the bathroom because it was too big and hasn’t seen it since. My oldest daughter and I searched both bathrooms and bedrooms high and low on our hands and knees for an hour. Me, crying uncontrollably which brought them both tears. They were so sorry, we all prayed, but I couldn’t compose myself. The ring was monumental to me. I was proud of the strength it took to transform it and continue to wear it. To me, it was a symbol of this strength through the whole ordeal and now it was gone.

I called my mom in tears and sobs. She promised to come over first thing in the morning and help us search. She said “Unless she flushed it or swallowed it, it has to be in the house! Don’t worry we’ll find it.” Still, I went to bed with little hope. Woke up to puffy swollen eyes, made breakfast for the girls, and waited. Mom came over as promised and sent me out for a coffee break while she searched with the girls. I needed that break more than ever.

I came home to heads shaking. They couldn’t find it either. So, I made peace with the fact that the ring may or may not ever turn up. I would let the search go and move on. I would know that my strength is not tied up in a band around my finger, that my story hadn’t changed, just the jewelry on my hand, and that the reason the ring was so special was because of the two girls staring back at me. And that we would be okay.

I started my shower for the day and as I was preparing to get in, what do I see on my bathroom floor, plain as day, the RING!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes, there it was between my sinks.  A place I know I’d looked before. A miraculous reminder that my strength was there all along and would show up when I least expected it to.

While my daughter was helping me search last night, she reminded me that “with God all things are possible”. And she just reminded me again. What a relief and a blessing to see my ring again. I will continue to wear it every day and even more proudly than before.