Plenty of Fish

I just spent some time looking through a website for dating….Plenty of Fish.  I heard about it while having coffee with someone. I am laughing and horrified and so aware that I am feeling like a high school girl all over again….you know….the one who walks down the hallway carrying her books….carrying her dreams in her head….carrying her hurts in her heart…..wanting someone to see her but terrified of rejection. THAT girl!

I cannot believe we have come to this. We put up some pictures of ourselves….some look professionally done and others look like the person doesn’t know how to take a good picture……We write what we consider to be a witty opening….”Will You Be My Valentine? Are you Looking for Me? A Cutie with a Booty” (that one made me laugh out loud!

Then we fill out all the statistics about ourselves….5’8″ tall….brown eyes….desire a woman between 34-47…..looking for someone honest, caring, compassionate, and sexy!

Wow! I am reading through these and the fear is sky high! I see men that look absolutely crazy….others who look great but sound absolutely crazy…..some that look lost….a divorced, shy man who has young kids and admits that they are just getting by and things are tough because of the divorce….another that says he has a brain injury and is so lonely…..another who looks so arrogant…..and another that has posted close ups of his biceps and every picture shows off his chiseled physique.

My mind is spinning….I cannot make myself sign up. Online seems like an irrational place….a place where people go to pretend they are real people…a place where we go to look through shop windows and try to find someone in two dimensions when real people exist in three. How on earth could I click on someone’s profile and invite them to a cup of coffee? I would not sleep every night before the coffee. I would have to have my friends do a complete background check…fingerprints would be great, and then I would need three references and would need to find someone that I know that actually knows this person and their story! I would have to find someone from my area, and I would have to actually find someone who knows them first and could introduce us in person……perhaps dating sites need to be like LinkedIn….where you can see how you are connected to people…..then you could date within a real life realm….if everyone in your Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest…or Google circles who was single would show up…and it would tell you who you know that knows this person….then a dinner could be arranged…..a background check could be done….their story could be shared and there wouldn’t  be flipping out ……worrying that this stranger was not really who they claim to be!

How on earth could I trust someone to tell me the truth about who they are?

And that is the reality….I think online dating just sets it right up there in front of my eyes….on the screen….I am seeing my ex! I see him in every profile….

I remember sitting at lunch with someone who was telling me their story. She was telling me some very tough things about her ex-husband and she stopped a minute and looked at me….”But if you met him….you would think he was wonderful! You would think he was one of the nicest guys you had ever met!”

That stopped me in my tracks.

It made me think about people and their stories. How will I move into a place of trust? God this is scary! I know that for me…online dating can probably never happen….my story is of such a horrible online betrayal……I know for others online dating has led to wonderful marriages….my own dad found his wife online, and they are very happy. I have heard stories of lots of women who find  online dates and have met wonderful people.

I am the one broken…..and I can see that now. I just need to quit beating myself up over it and realize that for me….God will provide a different way because He knows my heart. He knows what I need.  I need to continue to live into “Try less and trust more!” So online dating is really no different in the end. Someone can deceive you in person as well as online. I am well aware of that!

There are plenty of fish in the sea….I am still trying to figure out how to trust just one of them someday.

For Sale: One Slightly Used Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

For Sale……One slightly used wedding dress.

I ran into it at the back of the closet today.

I didn’t think it would make me cry…..

But there it was….all white and beautiful and outdated…..

It looked just like it did the day I wore it……but now….

….it has too many memories to feel safe in my closet.

I have had a friend bury hers. She took it out….had a ceremony….. and actually buried it six feet under.

I have had a friend sell hers and another give hers to someone who needed one….online I have read about people who made theirs into pillows to give to their daughters. I don’t think mine want any reminders currently…..

I cannot decide what to do with this dress.

None of my girls want it…….I wouldn’t want it if it had been my mother’s….a constant reminder of failure.

………..and I do not want it either. I find I don’t want anything from him anymore. I want to be completely done. I want to put my face forward and I don’t want to look back.

I am still dealing with how to be happy at any weddings that actually do take place…how to overcome the shame of a failed marriage….how to be a mom giving a bride away because there is no father…..how to stand there and wish them well…knowing that in their heads they might be thinking …”Well…it didn’t exactly work out for you now mom did it?” or they may just be hoping their marriage will work out better than mine did.

I brushed against the garment bag…..I heard the familiar rustle of the taffeta ….the organza….the ruffles.

I chose this dress because it seemed beautiful to me at the time….a lot like I thought my marriage would be.

The dress was flowing and feminine…..and so much like a  princess in my head. I wanted to be radiant and beautiful. I wanted to be a woman who felt her husband thought she was beautiful that day….

I desired to make a memory that would last…year after year…watching the video and reminiscing about how wonderful the first day was and all the wonderful days that followed.

In the closet, it brushed against my arm…..now a reminder of all that did not happen….and all that I failed to do….all that I had dreamed …….and all that came crashing down in an instant.

It is hanging there in the closet…..

…….and I am sitting here crying…. I am allowing myself to grieve.

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used wedding dress…..

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used heart.

Phone Calls

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I hadn’t realized how much I missed my friend until I heard her on the phone. I called her after she requested that we talk…she is kind and thoughtful like that….demanding to speak to me after I have not called for so long!

Her husband picked up the phone….we talked for about twenty seconds….just pleasantries…but then as he was about to hand the phone to my friend…..he paused….

“It is so good to hear your voice!”

The sincerity and simple honesty in his voice touched my heart.

Then it struck me……

It WAS!

It was SO good to hear his voice and then to hear my friend’s voice.

There is something in hearing someone’s voice….it is unlike a letter…unlike a text….unlike anything else in the world.

I have missed their fellowship and time has slipped by unknowingly…..imperceptibly….like a rushing river to the ocean…….

But the voices brought them close again…..suddenly they were here….in my living room…..their bodies were in Hawaii….but their voices were right here….in my house!

We talked for hours! It was like trying to drink from a fire hose….so much has happened in the past year and a half….so much to remember….so much of our hearts to share.

The two hours on the phone slipped by so quickly….we laughed….we cried…..

There is nothing quite like hearing the voice of someone who knows you….someone you trust to hold your heart…….

I so miss my friend. I miss seeing her face and just being able to call her and know she could come if I needed her…….

But then I realized….if I truly needed her….she would come! If she needed me….I would find a way!

We are made for fellowship like this. Our hearts grow cold without people to open up with and friends to trust completely. This friend is someone who has been here for most of my life…..

We went to High School together….but didn’t know each other there. We met right before we were married women…..

We used to talk about pregnancy and babies….nursing and toddlers…..the frustrations of parenting and the joys of little children…….husbands and mothers….and just life and living.

We still talk about all the same things….just not little babies anymore (until grand babies come I suppose).

Now we can talk about anything….and I trust that she holds my heart………. and it moves me to tears when she cries…..and I cry….and then we are both crying….and then laughing because we are crying for each other……

Love comes in so many lovely ways throughout our lives…..

This week it came in a phone call!

Questions for a Daddy

Beloved daughter, wandering, rejected, found, rejoicing

I was so anxious and filled with trepidation at the time.

He was going to call…..my dad was going to call.

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I hadn’t spoken to this man for 30 years……

I was frightened.…I was excited.

The Facebook message I sent him was filled with questions…..Why did you cheat on my mom?…..Why did you never pay child support?…..Why did you never call me?…..Why did you want me aborted?…..why…why……why?………………every mean thing I could think of that my mother had told me….. I fired off every mean question I grew up with. It was a horrible message. Not exactly a friendly…”Hey dad….how are you?”

He didn’t write back.

I remember worrying for days. I was a nervous wreck wondering if he just hated me. Perhaps he was just indifferent and didn’t even want to open the door to a conversation. Perhaps I had hurt him deeply with my questions……the days dragged by.

Then my sister told me that he probably didn’t even read Facebook messages. He was a newbie to Facebook. So I copied my message and wrote it on an email.

I got a quick reply.

“Leslie, these are a lot of questions to answer in an email. Can I call you?”

Can I call you?

I had waited forever to hear words like that….I had been desiring to know him a long time. I wanted him to call and at the same time, I was afraid of his call. What if my heart failed me? What if I couldn’t hear the answers or even ask the questions? What if he was unkind? What if all the horrible things I was told were true? Would I be able to discern who he was? Would my heart be able to withstand someone else being dark and hidden…..It was not pleasant….waiting and wondering was painful.

But my little girl heart wanted to hear his voice and the grown woman needed his answers.

So I took his call.

It was strange to hear his voice over the phone. I had to go down to the car to take his call in order to have some privacy. My girls didn’t even know he existed. They grew up not knowing that I had been adopted by my step father….for the most part…they thought my childhood was idyllic and that their grandparents were my parents….end of story. I hadn’t shared my pain or my story. I didn’t think I ever would. It wasn’t until my ex-husband’s arrest that any of the old longings and old emotions began to surface with a vengeance.

I remember that he let my questions from the email tumble out without interruption. Then he told me the story………

…..as if I was ten.

He kept it very age appropriate….but there is was…..a story so different from the one I grew up with. His story was not like my mother’s at all….it was the opposite….she had left….she had found another….she had needed more and wanted more…..he was the one who loved….he wanted the kids….he always wanted me…….she kept me from him. She made it difficult…he had loved her very much.

What do you do with competing stories?

Suddenly my life had more competing stories than I could deal with……my heart just burst…right there on the phone….I couldn’t stop crying…..all the desires of childhood….all the love I had wanted to have for this man…..all the anger at my mother…all the anger at my ex-husband and his lies…..all of it came crashing into waves of tears.

My dad just listened and talked to me. He told me I was strong, and I could make these decisions….no one could tell me who to love and no one should. I could let go of the past and move forward………He told me about some of his story……….. growing up and being a boy without a dad. His dad left the family…abandoned the family and he didn’t get to know him until he was in his twenty’s. He told me some of his story of life with my mom………. Saturday morning cartoons when I would snuggle up in his lap before mom would wake up. He patiently let me ask questions and patiently answered them.

It was a conversation that I had waited 30 years to have, and I was so sad to know that it took me that long to finally stand up for myself and talk to my dad. I was sad that he hadn’t broken through my wall and come for me himself. I was angry that my mom made this relationship so difficult. I was heartbroken that my world was so very broken.

I got off the phone and realized that I now had a daddy. I had been longing for one forever! I was someone loved by a father. I was someone’s little girl. He HAD delighted in me. He even remembered it! And even if I hadn’t received all the truth or even if I never learned what the true truth of the story was….I had done the impossible….I had talked to my dad….and my heart got a little larger.

Files

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I was divorced exactly one year ago today. It was a simple proceeding…..I really was in shock at how God wooed my heart that day. Everyone in the courtroom seemed to me to extend an extra measure of kindness and concern for my heart….the guard who opened the door and pulled out my chair like such a gentleman both at the start and finish of the proceedings…the judge who asked me no questions except to state my name and who looked at me so kindly and told me I was done…. with such concern in his eyes for my children…….and the friend who was with me…walking me through such a difficult day. There are days when I still cannot even remember how I got to this point in my life…..where did the tapestry unravel and how was it that I didn’t see the tear before the whole thing unravelled? But God has walked with me every step of the way and has shown me that He is not willing that my heart hide and be overlooked. I feel like the one sheep that he left the 99 for….I feel like I am in some ways more than I was…..in some small way, I have been brought low in order to be strengthened and shown the depth and breadth of His love. So today….I remember……..and I am preparing to start a new file!

I just picked up my divorce file from my lawyer. The case has been closed since last year and she wrote me and asked me to come and pick it up. It was an unceremonious proceeding. The divorce was simple. The only complicating matter was that my husband was in prison at the time. Some things had to be routed to a police officer up in the area who would deliver the materials to get signed and then bring them back out of the prison. The only complicating matter on my end was the cost and the heartbreak.

My life with him now sits before me in a brown expanding file. There are four sections. Each one has different information about my marriage and my life stored in them. Each one is a reminder that nothing went according to plan. There is a file for the original workup, one for the bankruptcy case, one for the mandatory disclosures and then a final one for the pleadings.

I feel like they are a metaphor for my own journey.

The original work up was the wedding and my life before June 15, 2012. It should be full to the brim with details about birthdays and Christmases. There should be a whole sheet in there on the birth of each baby and the adventures we had moving so many times when the kids were young. A page on Seminary, long walks, and holding hands would fit in here. There could be a section on the visiting of relatives and the friends we shared and kept in contact with from high school.  The school where we taught, the church we attended, the lives of our girls, and vacations would all have a page. And it might be mentioned in there somewhere that we rarely fought. We were friends and enjoyed talking to one another.  All the good and wonderful things about our marriage would go in here. All the love, joy, and happiness that filled those years carefully and lovingly written all over the pages of this file.

The bankruptcy case would be full of all the times I felt unprotected. When he left his teaching job unexpectedly after his first year, that was the start of eight jobs in twenty-four years. The disengagement and the yearning for a different life that was expressed so regularly are slipped in on a scribbled note on the bottom of the file. The abandonment I felt, and my inability to express my feelings and thoughts all get to go in here. All the times I was told I wasn’t enough, or that I was holding him back fit in this file. The moments of loneliness and the slipping into an addiction that slowly happens over time all crowd this file. This is a terrible file. All the notes are red or black. They are written with heartache and unresolved anguish. I feel like the bankruptcy file was never-ending.

The mandatory disclosure is the file that contains the story of what really happened. It is where I found out about the addiction. I found out about the shadow. The ugliness of what I discovered fills the whole file! Disclosures are mandatory….but they hurt. Even my own disclosures are mandatory. They go in this file too. It is full of the moments when I failed and the moments when I was small and unkind. The story of my life is in the disclosures.

The final file is the pleadings.

What exactly are pleadings? The dictionary entry was surprisingly accurate here. The sentence they chose was poetic.

  1. the action of making an emotional or earnest appeal to someone.
    “he ignored her pleading”
  2. LAW
    a formal statement of the cause of an action or defense

I filled this one with my tears. I pleaded quite a bit. I know I didn’t always say what I should have, but I did have pleadings. I didn’t have the boundaries I should have, but I did make earnest appeals for what was right and good and beautiful. I am allowing this file to be the formal statement of the cause of my actions. My earnest appeals are done. My time of grieving is continuing. My understanding of the reasons I walked away are clear. I am done pleading. I am instead going to choose. I choose to walk forward, and I choose to see clearly. Pleadings won’t help. I am finding that only facing things squarely and speaking truth help.

As I carried my prize back to the car that day, I passed a man and his two children. His little boy and he were out walking with the cutest little girl. I stood watching  this lovely scene. Her guide stick got stuck and her father was patiently guiding her and teaching her how to see in this new way. She was smiling and bouncing along tapping her stick out in front of her. She was just a seven-year old girl out on a walk………..walking blind and trusting completely.

As I got in the car, the grey rain falling down was mirroring the tears falling inside the car. I realized that I longed to be blind. I wanted to be blind to this ugly mess. I didn’t want to be left holding this particular file. I wanted to believe again that someone could love me faithfully. I wanted to believe that someone IS who they say they are, and can be trusted to tell the truth. I wanted to skip along confidently knowing that someone knows me and guards my heart. But I am not blind. I am not innocent anymore. I have a file full of memories.  I would like to burn this file and start a new one some days, but I know that I love too much in the files to get rid of it. Files like these are an all or nothing proposition.

So, I will keep my file and learn to be thankful for it. I know it will be in the learning to be thankful, that I will truly learn to see.

Disclosures

I want to scream at him……

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“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

It hurts so deep that even tears cannot touch this. Where did the happiness go? Where is the trust? Where is the carefree girl who could laugh and play? Where she went is a mystery. In her place, there is this woman who is grieving and hurting and questioning….”What have you done?”

The question bubbles up and sticks in my throat. I cannot utter it out loud. I cannot cry it out of my chest. I cannot make it go away.

“What have you done?”

 My head wants answers. I want reasons and things to fix. I desperately want to fix all this and make it as if nothing ever happened. I want someone to come and tell me that I am mistaken. I am not seeing clearly. I want someone to hold my hand and let me know that this craziness is just a dream.

“What have you done?”

How can I get an answer from the one I do not trust? How can I get answers in the dark and hopeless place which this has sent me into?

I am incapable of fixing this one. I am incapable of bringing healing. I can only lay prostrate on the floor and utter the question.

“What have you done?”

I am sick in my heart. I am sick in the pit of my stomach. I am sick in the very place where I am supposed to feel his love. I am tired and walking in a fog.

The tears stream down and the cries are painful and deep. I cannot wish for a father to hold me any more than right now. This is the time when a girl desires that her daddy come for her and take her up and just be a father. This is the moment when a girl longs to be known and protected and given assurances that her father will always cherish her heart.

“What have you done?”

I want to know and I don’t want to know. I desire the facts and yet the facts feel as if they will kill me.

This tsunami is flooding in and I am ready for it to pass and be done. I am ready to be beyond the knowledge that there is always more. I am ready to move beyond the brokenness and into a place of healing. But I am not able to yet. I have to face every piece. I have to hear the answers that I don’t want to hear. I have to face the things which I do not want to face. I have to walk one more road.

 Instead I will ask Him…..”What have you done?”

And I have to let Him come and gently take my heart and lift my face and tell me that He has done all this for my good…..for my salvation….for the love of me…..in order to draw me to Him that I can live with Him forever.

“What have you done?”

“Lord, you have come for me and that is all I have ever needed.”

 I will rest in that tonight.

Ordinary Me

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People have asked me if I feel ready to date. The minute I hear that question, fears begin running around in my head.

I was married to the man I met in 10th grade in high school….

I dated (and I mean one date) a boy named Derrick…he took me to a movie. We drove in his truck. It was so high off the ground you had to jump to get in. He was a fun date….but he moved away!

Then I had my first real boyfriend….we walked around the mall…we went to homecoming….we sat at my house and talked. We hung out with our circle of friends.

I went out on one date with a body builder the summer of my senior year of high school. He took me to see Cujo and then to Pizza Hut for dinner. I literally ate one slice of the large pie and he ate the rest while he showed me the multiple pictures of his flexing poses that he kept in his wallet. He listened to me though…he heard a little of my heart as I mentioned that I loved the park, sitting on the swings, and watching the stars. He took me there before the night was over. He was at least a gentleman.

That is it. Then I dated the man I married.

That is my whole dating history. It is not exactly stellar and varied.

Lately I just feel like…………………….. a wanna be…I wanna be younger…I wanna be special to someone….I wanna be healed already….I wanna be prettier….I wanna be more confident………….….I wanna be secure in myself……………I wanna not cry anymore and I wanna be all God desires of me and perfect!

There is so much to being an adult, and I am finding there is so much to being a woman who has been hurt.

But all these fears would be able to fit in a tea cup….I could get past them easily if someone came for my heart. I could easily talk and share if someone just helped me open the door. These are not the fears that make my heart stop beating.

It is  other fears that stop me in my tracks. The ordinary life fears.

Isn’t that funny?

It is the ordinary every  day things that have hurt the most.

I am brushing my teeth and it hits me….no one else on earth has shared this moment and seen me with my towel on my head…brushing my stupid teeth….rinse…spit…the very ordinariness of it makes me cry. I am afraid that it is here that I was not enough….perhaps I am too …..too….lacking in these ordinary places?

I wake up now in the mornings and look in the mirror….I am distraught…perhaps it is here…perhaps the lack was in the morning….my bedhead and wrinkles? It is horrifying! I am not making this up! It is actually horrifying to me to even consider letting someone see the ordinary me again…ever!

The me without any makeup…the me that leaves her shoes on the floor by the bed and gets way too many clothes out in the morning and doesn’t have them put away by bedtime neatly in the closet. It is the me that was too tired to get the dishes done so the kitchen is a wreck in the morning at times….the me that didn’t take out the trash right away so the bag sits by the front door for a couple of days…..the me that doesn’t have time to vacuum the car so the jackets are piled up on the back seat because I haven’t had time to take them upstairs.

It is the me that sniffles in allergy season….the me that has puffy eyes after a night of crying….the me that wants to complain about a small hurt someone gives me and the me that has four books open to the page I left off on strewn about the bedroom. I have piles of papers that need filed and eyebrows that aren’t always plucked to perfection…..I can ruin good clothes in the wash and easily forget to be kind to my daughters.

It is the real me…the ordinary me that I am most fearful of lately.

It is the horrifying moments when I remember that I am just this ordinary, less than perfect by far, completely stubborn woman. That thought make me shrink back and know that I am incapable of being anything like one of those girls in movies that can be everything all the time. I am incapable of being witty and smart and generous and loving all the time. Most of the time, I am just a small, ordinary, run of the mill, slightly selfish, sinful human being that gets most of the things wrong in her life. I see every fault, every flaw and every weak area so clearly now.

It is these moments of terror looking in the mirror for rinse and spit that I realize where the deepest wound is…..

He saw the ordinary me and decided he needed something much, much more……

I have been known and rejected.

That is the wound that just won’t seem to heal…………… because……….. I see the ordinary me too…………and I certainly don’t think she is exciting in the least.

She is just……ordinary.

It is in these moments that I have to step away from my feelings.

I have to step into being a beloved daughter on faith alone.

I have to remember whose I am, and that He made me for a purpose.

I have to trust that His plans for me are good and He is faithful.

I have to trust…………even when I don’t see or feel any truth.

I have to remember that I don’t see clearly……and I don’t  remember who I am yet. I am still healing and still becoming.

I have to trust that it is OK to be ordinary.

God help me see myself through your eyes today.

Unconditionally

She was lying in her bed. She has been there for a good part of her life…..sometimes by choice. Now she has to lay there because she is nearer to the end of her life and is not able to get around. So she lay there looking with keen eyes out at me as I walked into her room in the nursing home. She asked me about my daughters. The group with me told her I have four,  and she let out her breath really slowly and intentionally.

“Girls are a handful.”

She said it as one who has raised two daughters herself. It wasn’t in admiration or a way of seeing the effort I have put in….but felt more like a way to disparage and make me feel as if having four of these “girl” creatures was simply  too much to bear.

Then she looked at me, and it felt like she was trying to look through me to see inside me. She began talking about the two good men a friend had married and everyone around the room talked about the good men they had married……..I simply said….”I had one horrible husband.”

 I regretted it the minute it came out.

He hadn’t been horrible when I was married. He hadn’t been wonderful but he hadn’t been horrible. But the truth is….I hadn’t been wonderful either. I was disconnected a lot and simply didn’t know how to fight and how to allow my heart to have desires. I didn’t know how to have deep, meaningful conversations in the best way always. I would read a book and desire to have a godly, loving, family life but had no tools to talk about it in ways that were healthy and allowed him to take leadership and either come for my heart or fail. I often would simply do things myself and walk further away rather than hold him accountable when he hurt my heart or didn’t want to discuss difficult things or go to counseling after an affair. But there was horrible mixed in there too…..simply horrible, unspeakable horrible…..hidden and secret horrible and outward horrible that I dismissed because I didn’t know what normal was, and I didn’t know what an honorable, loving husband felt like…..so after I regretted it, I began to feel it deeply and began to feel my sin and his sin and grieve the entire mess again.

She lay in her bed and in a low moan said, “I never got over mine.”

 She had experienced a horrible man.

He had lived with a dark secret….a life of infidelity and awful secrets, and her husband went even further into physical abuse and horrible, horrible darkness. And I knew….she hadn’t gotten over it. It had festered and stayed an open wound. She was speaking truth. It is not always get-over-able. And I began to grieve for her. What had it done to her heart?  What evil had she agreed with and not been able to shed and release and walk out from under?

“Oh God”…..my plea began to rise….”free me from all this! Let me walk into your health and wholeness. I don’t want to be at the end speaking about not getting over and past and beyond the pain! Help me to walk further into the light. Help me to walk free of the secrets and fears and darkness because…..I am not that woman any more. I am not hiding and voiceless and unable to hold my boundaries. I am someone who desires and feels with her heart and has dreams and desires in my deepest heart.”

Then I rose to leave after all the stories and all the heartbreak and love pouring out around the room…..and I asked her quietly….”How did you show your girls you loved them?”

“Unconditionally.”

She spoke it as a statement of fact…..and added….”But I beat the shit out of my daughter.”

Her admission came as a statement as well…..no tears or remorse or broken spirit or heart. I couldn’t see anything but her haunted eyes………

I wanted to weep.

Her brokenness and his brokenness tangled itself together to wound another beautiful daughter. The brokenness went forward and was used as a weapon to try to break another girl’s spirit. That daughter is a beautiful, loving mama herself. She endured and took the abuse……….. and broke the chain. Her children experienced none of that and have a world and a story much different from their mama’s.

 I walked toward the door , and she stopped me with her voice. She asked me why I was so thin. .

She stared hard at me and added, “Don’t you eat food? Do you know how to cook spaghetti?”

And there is was….evil playing with my fears and weaknesses…….the temptation to self-hatred. I have always been very conscious of being so small in every way….skinny….bones…..the words I had heard so often….Why are you so thin? Why are you so small….everywhere?  I am even tempted to believe that if I simply had a bigger bust line, my ex would not have had to seek out others. Crazy….YES….but a temptation none-the-less.

Finally….finally I am stronger. I can see the lie and the temptation as it is presented.

I walked back in and leaned in close. “I was simply made this way.” I said to her while steadily holding her gaze. “I actually do know how to cook and well. My mother was a wonderful cook. I LOVE food. I simply don’t gain weight. I was made small.”

Her gaze changed, and she looked away. “I am jealous.” It was a sad statement. Her heart had been exposed.

“You don’t need to be.” I said, and I turned and walked out. I walked out knowing that this lie wasn’t going to hold me forever. At least this time….I could see the temptation as it was laid out, and I didn’t need to fall into it again. I was wearing a beautiful little red dress and my favorite cowboy boots….along with a very sexy bra and underwear…..I say this only because I haven’t always been able to wear things that made this small frame feel anywhere near sexy…….I am small but mighty! And no one need compare themselves to this frame. I don’t have to work at skinny……I have to work at not seeing bones and lack and everything ugly.

But not today!

I love food and I love my family and I love the sun and moon and stars and oceans and breezes and shells and good books and loving my friends and listening to stories! I love dancing and talking by a pool…..deep fulfilling conversations and taking the youngest on a trip to buy jeans. I love hugging my babies and watching them get married…..seeing their hair done so beautifully and seeing just how differently each body was made and yet how exquisitely beautiful each is….no comparison needed!

I am experiencing way too much joy to worry about whether or not I have a frame that is acceptable to others.

I am way too busy praying for healing to worry about whether these legs and other parts of me are enough for someone else. They are enough for me!

I am praying that my girls’ stories find a healing and that each see a way to find relationships that break the chain. I am praying that their relationships with one another will gain health and love and healing and the power to heal their hearts. I am praying that they each find a new song and new way to relate to each other that is not tainted by the brokenness passed on to them by  imperfect and perfectly broken parents.

Oh God….come and comfort my heart…….the thought of lying on a bed and saying to a wounded woman who has suffered something similar………. that I never got over it…….. is too much. I want to get over it I want to be a light that shines and says….I got over it and you can too! I got past this because I walked right into the arms of Jesus and let him carry it for me! I want to be sure I am seeking Him first….seeking  Him and His will….even before a man…a husband…a marriage. I want to be able to say at the end that I ran the good race and sought to make my life one of joy and contentment in Him.

God the grieving is hard…..it feels like it will never end some days…..weddings and trips to see family……beaches and walks and talks…..late into the night discussions about the broken stories……

God come for us! We cannot walk another inch without Your help. We cannot shed these tears or these stories until You show us how to give them to you. Come and help us here! Your women are suffering…..their stories are dark and hard and filled with moments of utter despair! We are tired and feel so alone in places. Come for us! We cannot do this alone.

A Difficult Lesson

I am learning a new song.

It is one that includes my flaws and foibles and just lays them out there because to have held them so closely for so many years….almost killed me.

I am learning to live ……inside here….in this heart.

I make mistakes.  I especially make mistakes in relationships.

I sat around a table last night with friends…..and we talked about how to balance the law and grace.  How do we promote life and living into being generous and sacrificial around life…specifically abortion. And my sweet friend always brings it back to exactly what it needs to be…..You simply offer relationship and love to the person suffering. We talked about how to vote and promote and have laws and all of that responsible stuff….but in the end….abortion is not a decision….it is a fear and lack and place of needing someone to come and tell you that life is going to be alright. If a woman is choosing an abortion, she is usually not doing so because she is full of life and happy and satisfied and just so excited about her future that it simply has no room to give life to her child. She is most likely choosing this because she is scared and fearful and has regrets and is longing for a way to make her world safe again. And that is not a place to come to her and shame her or destroy her with –isms and judgments. That is the place to come to her with words of grace and offers of help…real and tangible help. How can I help you and your baby? Can I feed you or clothe you or provide assistance or sit and just listen. Can I protect you in some way or simply walk with you through this? Where can I come and be strength when you have none left?

Can you imagine a world in which we all did that? Would there be a single teen pregnant and afraid who would shrink back from her “mistake”?  If we could open our hearts and say, ” Honey…I have been there…..I know. Come with me. Let’s walk together and I can show you how to love even here. You can love yourself…you can love this baby. There will be so much love and grace and tangible help. “

Mistakes can be frightening things. But don’t we all make them?

I certainly am making them…more now than ever…or perhaps just admitting them more now than ever.

My heart fails as I think of them. I have been unkind when I should have been loving. I have been judgmental when I should have been graceful. I have sent texts in the dead of night….hoping that someone could see my heart….only to read them by the light of day and cringe at the harshness and unkindness of them. I have not trusted more and tried less. I have spoken words that hurt and words that bite. I have tried to make a way…when patience was the thing I needed. And above all…..I have not trusted the One who holds all my good in His hands and in whose service I claim to be.

Ugh…..I hate messing up. I just hate it. I hate telling myself lies and pretending I am perfect. I hate desiring to be seen and feeling that choking fear around never being loved or cared for. I hate lying to myself and feeling panic around just getting to know someone….and I hate being an impatient, silly girl who cannot seem to be completely comfortable in her own skin.

I am still hiding in places. So…

I sat on the way to school listening…..I sat in the car yesterday listening….and I sat around that table last night listening…..

God….I need to hear.

I need to hear your words in this soul. I don’t need to tell myself lies. I don’t need to worry about being foolish. If I am foolish, then  real, loving, vulnerable people will stick with me and walk with me even there.  If I am foolish, people who can see the me underneath all this broken will walk with me even there.  I just have to continue walking out this journey to the other side.

I will make literally thousands of mistakes in relationships as I walk….some big…some small.  I will say the wrong things…..text the wrong things…..kill friendships…..kill dating relationships….stumble and cry and be embarrassed and hurt and feel like I am not worth loving.  I will panic and lose sight of who I am, and I will certainly shut people out and act like a crazy woman sometimes.

I need to allow myself space to dream….and to get hopeful….dancing the night away and holding someone’s hand…..

Then I need to allow myself the grace to panic and crash and say stupid things and even feel abandoned and so not worth even getting to know.

This growing and becoming vulnerable is about the hardest thing I have ever done.

In all relationships……I need to just show up and love.  Loving myself has been the biggest challenge lately.  I struggle and then feel like I have to BE someone spectacular and so charming and lovely and happy and perfect………

I am simply getting it all wrong.  I need to be me……the funny, slightly mischievous, soulful, lover of learning….who is wounded and hurting and still grieving at times very passionately feeling her heart as she heals.  It will only be in being that woman….that I will be able to see someone’s eyes and hear someone’s words and know that they are truly interested in THAT girl.

Thank goodness…..I have friends who can hear me and pray with me and allow me to be so silly and broken.  I need to live into that.  I need to quit expecting any man to heal any part of this.  I need to just enjoy meeting people and leave their reactions in their hands.  If someone chooses not to walk further….it is no reflection of me.  It is simply a reflection of their desire for something different.

Learning to walk in confidence as me….just plain old me….is a difficult lesson.

Full Moon Rising

I have been playing with words lately……and practicing writing character sketches and narratives. This is a little offering of some fiction. I am trying to practice and come to a place where I can decided if writing is something I can do more frequently. I enjoy it and wonder if perhaps someday……I may write a story that fills pages and pages. Perhaps……but until then…..little vignettes fly out of my brain and onto a keyboard with enough rapidity that I can still get my lesson plans and mothering done in between.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 She sat across the table from him and felt a little nervous. He had friended her on Facebook out of the blue. Sure, they had lots of common friends and he probably just wanted to get to know her, but he had sent her a message and begun a conversation…..because he had read something she had written.

The conversation was interesting….at least interesting enough to bring her to the coffee shop late on this Saturday evening after she had looked through his online activities, profiles, and anything else she could find. He seemed interesting enough to share a cup of coffee with because it was what she did with people. She listened to their stories. Collecting stories was a way of healing….of becoming….of finding out more about the world and about how she fit into it.

He sat down, and she noticed right away that he had fiery eyes. They were full of passion about the world and about whatever he was discussing. He was tall….. taller than her but not so much that she was put off by it.  His muscular frame was athletic, and he was in pretty good shape for someone her own age.

He sat down and began by thanking her for coming out to meet him. “I just needed to meet you,” he said. “I loved what you wrote, and I wanted to know more……..You are more beautiful in person, by the way, than even in your pictures.”

She took a sip of her tea trying to process that statement.

She was someone who didn’t always feel beautiful in any sense of the word, and it always took her aback just a bit when a man told her right up front that he found her beautiful. She could never tell if she liked it or was repelled by someone only seeing a physical appearance and not her mind, personality, feelings, and spirit.  But she let it go wondering what else this conversation would bring out.

She began with a simple request…”So, tell me your story.  What made you write to me?”

He leaned forward and smiled.  His hands came together, and he looked at them as he gathered his thoughts. “I loved how you captured your feelings around your divorce and the betrayal you went through.  I just wanted to meet you.  My story?  My story is a little different.  I married a woman I really didn’t know for that long.  We met, and I thought she was terrific.  We began playing tennis and going on long bike rides.  I loved that she would get out there and do all the outdoor things that I loved doing.  I am a very physical guy. I need physical activity. We began dating and having so much fun together.  I think I fell in love pretty quickly. She is a wonderful woman……” His voice trailed of as he paused for a bit and took a sip of coffee.

She sat across the table giving him space to continue as she stared behind his head out into the night at the gorgeous full moon that was rising.  It was a lovely harvest moon.  She began to drink in the romance of that gorgeous moon.

“But something changed shortly after we were married, ” he continued. It was like I was tricked. She didn’t want to play tennis anymore.  She didn’t want to go on long bike rides.  She became somewhat emotionally distant.  It was as if she couldn’t identify with my feelings anymore…..it ….it felt like she was someone with Asperger’s or something.  I can’t explain it.  We had children, and I tried. I tried so hard to connect……..but it was like living with a roommate.  Don’t get me wrong…she is a good person.  She is a good mother.  We simply didn’t connect emotionally, and I felt like I was dying.”

The moon was getting higher, and she tried to put her emotions in a box as she listened to his story.  It was becoming a very painful story, and she didn’t want to cry right there in front of a stranger. Not only was he not seeing her discomfort….he had apparently no concept at all of what her writing had actually been about.

He continued after his pause, “That is when I started the first affair.  It was so simple.  This girl I worked with was sweet and kept making sure she was on the committees with me.  It was just so natural.  I didn’t want to hurt my wife…..but the loneliness was killing me.  At first we just talked and then…..the affair was full-blown before I knew it.”

He looked down at his hands and drank some more coffee while she swung her legs for a minute and then got comfortable in her chair.  A new couple had just arrived at the coffee house and were chatting quietly as they walked past to take a table on the other side of the courtyard.

In a moment he continued. “After she found out about the affair….we tried counseling.  I tried.  The counselor tried.  We worked hard and there were a few times when I felt a glimmer of hope.  There were a few times when we would connect emotionally but then…..it would return to feeling like she was simply not able to connect.  She was simply not emotional and couldn’t identify with my feelings.  We went downhill after that, and I traveled abroad for a few months.  I had been in contact with a woman over the internet who worked with my company, and we really hit it off. We talked for a long time every day about projects and things.  It was not an affair.  She had a boyfriend.  We just connected….you know….emotionally.”  His eyes were so sincere.  She could almost feel the depth of his anguish as he recalled those months. “But when I was there…..it somehow turned physical.  I just….needed a connection.  I hated myself.  I hated that I was the cheater and yet……I couldn’t stop.”

She was beginning to feel sick.  Her stomach was turning and her nails were digging into the soft flesh of her wrist in an effort to control the tears that wanted to spill out.  He had no idea what she was feeling…..and it struck her that even if she cried….he would have no way to empathize with her.  She wanted to scream and run away,  kick over the table and tell him he was a monster…..but he wasn’t.  This man was hurting, and she would hear him out.

“I went downhill after that.  I realized that I needed love….I was addicted to love.  I loved the romantic attachment and the feeling of being in love. That is not a bad thing.  I needed a wife who could feel and give me a connection.  I so longed for connection…….” The words trailed off, and he breathed a deep sigh. “We finally divorced after counseling failed again.  She found out about all the affairs, and I couldn’t believe I was that man.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be this man.  I wanted to be the father my children could look up to and a husband who loved his wife.  But I just couldn’t connect. ……Asperger’s……it felt like that.”

His story ended, and he looked at her. “My divorce will be final in a month or two.  We are in the process of finishing up the paperwork details, and I moved out a few months ago.”

“So…..you are a sex addict, and you wanted to tell me your story?”

He looked a little shocked. “No….a love addict.  I need love.”

“Oh……I see. So your wife is someone who simply couldn’t give you what you needed?”

“Yes…we tried. Counseling didn’t help.  She just isn’t capable. It was very difficult to feel like I married one woman and then she turned into another.”

She shifted again in her seat and took a deep breath as those words began ringing in her ears….triggering long conversations from years ago.

He leaned forward and looked at her intently. “But that is why I was so thrilled to read your writings.  I see your heart.  You can feel.  You have expressed such beautiful emotions and longing.  God….it was beautiful.” He looked into her eyes and smiled. “Would you consider going on a date with me?”

She took a long breath and leaned back in her chair. “Ah…..no. I don’t date men who are not officially divorced for starters.” She didn’t really want to launch into all her reasons for not dating this man.  It would make for a very long, tiring, emotionally draining evening and after hearing his story….her strength was gone.

“Let’s change the subject,” he suggested. “What do you think of ……” And his questions about philosophy and literature and history flowed as naturally as a stream to the ocean. He kept asking them for what felt like hours……and she saw a little of the man.  He was wildly passionate about life.  He was wildly passionate about his children and about his profession……..

But he was a sex addict.

His story was abundantly clear……and she sat there hearing him but thinking of her ex-husband.  She wondered if somewhere in time, he was in a similar location talking about his ex-wife…..telling some beautiful woman that he had tried.  He had tried and simply couldn’t connect.  She was incapable of feeling those emotions. The irony of this man who thought she was so emotional that he invited her out for coffee hoping for a date before he was even divorced did not escape her. Even there, her heart was aching.

She wondered if her ex ever felt pain around their failed relationship, or if he could easily pass off the affairs and conversations…the black soulless consumption of people in an ever-widening circle of lust as…….his need for love.  She sat there hearing about herself through this stranger’s story….the cold, passionless woman who drove a man to become….to become a cheater and adulterer.  The woman who seemed so fun and carefree and sexy who became someone else……someone so prudish and conservative. Her heart hurt within her chest. It was hearing too much and feeling too much. She looked down at her watch and managed a weak smile. “I have to get going. My kids will need me home in a few minutes. It was good to meet you. Thank you for sharing.”

“Thank you!” He looked at her hopefully as he tried to jump up to see her to her car. He really did think she was beautiful.

She turned and left without a backward glance before he could even stand all the way up.

She sat in her car and began trying to breathe again.  The moon was rising above the building and clouds were lazily drifting along the horizon .  It was a beautiful moon….a moon full of desires and romantic stories.  As she got her car started and pulled out of the parking lot….the tears finally spilled out in a raging torrent.  Driving while crying was hazardous. Her chest was heaving and the sobs wracked her whole body.

How could this man not see? It was a mystery to her. How could he think she would go on a date? How could he think his story would be one she would be OK hearing? It made no sense……

And the memories began flooding into her mind……. along with visions of her ex sitting across the table from a woman explaining away their marriage…….because she was cold and unable to feel deep emotions.

As she got out of the car and headed into her house, the full moon was sitting in the top of the trees making beautiful patterns through the leaves that danced on the pavement in front of her. She paused to breathe in the sweetness and beauty of it.

As she stumbled into bed later, the stories and memories haunted her all night and chased her into her dreams like shadows dancing across the full moon rising.

Reflecting

As I get closer to a healing that feels healthy and more filled with desires and longings apart from that twenty-five year marriage…….I find myself reflecting on stories that I have collected from women who have gone before me into vibrant and healing relationships.

I am sitting here preparing centerpieces for my girl’s wedding reception. I am filling wine bottles with tiny starry lights and baby’s breath bouquets. The lights are beautiful and the flowers compliment the bottles nicely. I am dreaming of her reception with the food and dancing. And it makes my heart ache just a little to think about watching all that dancing and never once partaking in it with a love of my own.

I recall often the story of one friend whose husband wooed her with “pretend” dates just so she could be ready when her heart healed. I often think about his wisdom in seeing her where she was and the romance he lavished on her without triggering all of her trauma by diving right in to real dating.

I think about another friend whose husband so faithfully walked with her through all the trauma. He was calling when he would get home late after being out with the boys because he knew she would be triggered. He was taking her to counseling and making sure her voice was strong and able to be heard in their relationship. He was romancing her even in the choice of an engagement ring……..always, always holding her heart so tenderly even when she fell apart and felt the need to walk away for a bit.

I recall the man who sent the cute little emails and texts until he could finally get the phone number of my beautiful friend. I think about how he listened when she told him what she needed and even when she hung up on him after being triggered one evening…….he came for her heart and was a strong presence when she needed someone to simply see her life and fix things without being asked.

I think about the story of a woman invited for a glass of wine and seen even in her messy hair and yoga pants on the beach with her nose stuck in a book…….romanced by a strong and godly man even in her overwhelmed and difficult places.

I look for stories…..they make me hope and long for a romance.

I loved standing with another of my friends……her hand proudly showing off her beautiful engagement ring. Her life is taking a turn towards more and more health. Her fiancé is already filling her world with beautiful stories of how he sees her and can be the strength she needs when her heart falters.

I love that my friends are people who have such sweet stories to share with me. I love that other women have experienced real, deep, vulnerable healing in new marriages.

Tonight I am praying this kind of healing for another friend in Texas…..two friends actually…..I am praying that their hearts will heal enough to be open and vulnerable to a good man. I am praying they will experience that companionship and deep commitment that will allow their hearts to spring fully alive and feel safe to walk forward trusting that a good man will not devastate them again.

I am praying for a couple of women here….in my circles here. I am praying their hearts will heal, and they will be wooed by  good men. I am praying they see how incredibly beautiful they are, and how incredibly wonderful sharing life with them can be. I am praying any obstacles to that healing be removed by the One who sees all of their needs and that they can trust Him to provide even here.

I am praying for a wonderful woman in Colorado and another in Canada and a third in Arizona….God come for their hearts. Heal their trauma and their broken places. Walk with them and show them when they are ready to be romanced by someone worthy of their beauty. God, I am praying that all these women will be able to experience men like the ones I have seen in the stories of my friends. Place them in communities and churches where they are supported and loved to the place where their hearts can find love again.

And I am praying for a special friend on an island. I know she had a good man. She was lucky enough to be so in love and so loved……I am praying that her heart will find healing and wholeness from the ache of sudden loss. It is difficult to walk alone where you once walked with a love so trusted and beloved. I pray You will walk so tenderly with her and so completely that she can literally feel your hands around her shoulders as you guide her to find a healing that makes her know and taste and see how GOOD your plans are for her future.

God, I am just a little scared tonight.

I am afraid to trust that your plans for me are for good.

I am afraid to walk forward lest I find that good is only for all those others…..and not for me. I am tired and just a tad lonely. Come tonight and walk with me here. I am healing…..I can feel it. But I am also tired and impatient of walking alone. Help me to lean into you in these places……walk more closely in these times…….and give up any notion of how it should be so that I can simply accept how it is. I know if I simply go to sleep tonight…tomorrow will be better. Thank you, God for the gift of sleep. Thank you for such wonderful examples of love and healing in the women you have placed around me, and thank you for the healing that is going to take place in all the women you have put on my heart to pray for this evening!

Old Addresses

The girl just wanted to look up where she was born….the hospital and house. She and a friend were stranded out-of-state during the hurricane.  They were looking at maps of the places they have lived and zooming in to use google maps to look at the houses.  She didn’t know the address…….so I had to remember….to look back and remember.

Yes, there was a lovely house on the hill.  It was up in Ambridge, PA.  That house was a four-story, old brick beauty.  I recall the French doors with the leaded glass perfectly just now. It all revolves around that first Christmas.  It was the first time my girls played in the snow.  My two oldest were the only ones I had at that time.  I was babysitting two others and making a house and home.  The oldest was in kindergarten at a local Christian school. I happily tried gardening (I was lousy at it but tried my hand at organic practices) and shuttling four kids around and organizing play dates and after school activities. The woman I babysat for was a successful career woman. She and her ex were juggling this custody thing, and I was helping by picking the kids up after school until one of them could come and retrieve them after work. It helped our little seminary economy since neither of us had real jobs right then.

I do not know how we made it financially. No insurance….no income except donations…….nothing except loans and faith that everything would work out. And it did!

I remember one day coming home to a broken down refrigerator……it would cost around $300 to get a new one…..and in the mail that VERY DAY….was a check from a friend for $300. Little things like that were miraculously happening all the time. When I got sick…..the pediatrician examining my girl…..decided to listen to my lungs and helped me get antibiotics for my pneumonia. He was concerned and told me he would rather put me in the hospital but knew I didn’t have insurance. So he sent me home with a strict warning to go straight to bed. It was close to Christmas Eve. Bed was not an option….I had to care for children as my husband needed to finish writing a paper and pick up some out-of-town people up at the airport for his seminary. But….a friend in town just happened to send up soup and a plate full of the MOST delicious assortment of cookies. I still recall how wonderful it was to sit with the girls and eat them that evening…..snow falling….presents getting wrapped….cookies….

That Christmas was beautiful.

The spring bouncy horse was a huge hit….and stayed in the family through all four girls. The French doors closed between the dining and living room made a sparkle of lights and grand entrance as the girls woke up to Christmas Day. The playing in the snow and snowball fight….while the youngest watched from inside whispering in her sweet way….”Don’t fight”.  My oldest thoroughly enjoying  the tromp in the snow…..the icicles and cold air. Snow angels and Christmas and dinner and all of it was beautiful….even though I had pneumonia.  I don’t even recall what I cooked for dinner…..or any of the other presents…..oh yes….someone sent sheets for the girls….they needed sheets for their bed. ….and barbies….grandma sent lots of barbies. I recall the girls lining them up along the wall. There were so many they went halfway around the room.

Then there were the raccoons…..they could get into the trash cans no matter what we did to protect them. They even dug under the shed and came up inside to steal garbage. They took off some of the tie downs and could upset the cans and get them open on any given night. Nothing could thwart them.

Then of course, there was the bumble bee. It was so large….a baseball bat had to be used to kill it. I remember its fuzzy black and yellow body. It was fearsome….the buzzing was fearsome. It was the only one that ever came. I still think it was an epic battle.

I remember the sweet neighbors….the avid Pittsburgh baseball and football fans. He was forever getting upset when they lost. She was always following him out the back door and telling him to just let it go after a loss. Their sweet son was so mystified by my oldest. She wanted to cheer for his baseball practice. He wanted her to learn to bat. She had no such interest. She was more interested in the crab apple tree and flitting around the backyard to play.

The mailman is another favorite memory. He was an older gentleman about to retire. He always carried my mail all the way up to the front door even though the mailbox was down at the street level….down the treacherous stairs. I think he didn’t want me chancing it with those babies. In the dead of winter,  he carried three really heavy boxes up to the porch….in the ice and snow. I will never forget his kindness. He was a true gentleman. I hope his wife treated him like a king!

I loved that house….with its dark damp basement…..wooden stairs…..tiny closets, and cool attic space. I could have bought that place and renovated and lived there forever. I loved the long back yard and friendly neighbors. Helen next door was a widow. She always swept her sidewalk. It was a habit from when the mills were operating daily and soot would gather on the streets and sidewalks. She loved talking with the girls. She loved telling the stories of how things used to be. I remember taking her some soup on a cold winter day; she was such an interesting woman.

So many memories…..so long ago…..it is like I have lived a strangely disjointed life. There is my childhood…….my growing up years……my college days…..my marriage….and now there is my real life.

What an odd feeling to have been so many people.

What an exciting thing to have an opportunity to look back and read the story of my life……,my adventures…..and still have enough to look forward to that this adventure that I am writing now seems like the most exciting one yet. I get to decide where to go and who to be. I am allowed to choose and choosing makes all the difference in the world. Oh to be sure, I was always choosing….

But now I see that every choice makes a difference. When I chose to be faithful or kind or loving or unselfish…..I was choosing habits that would form my inner life daily. They felt mundane and meaningless….even inconsequential….but they weren’t.

When I was choosing to be silent and needless and disconnected emotionally….I was also choosing to form my inner self and give in to lies. I chose lots of good things and lots of bad things…..

It is only in looking back that I see it most clearly.

I am glad I got to stroll down memory lane today. I am off school….because of Irma. I didn’t have any pressing things to do…..this little sidetrack has been fun….and helped me grieve yet another set of stories. Now I can pack those away and move forward even more. Each time I complete a story……I feel a little more free. It is a funny process….this grieving. I never know when it will end….or start……… or get stuck…….. or flow freely on for days. I am learning to just allow it…..to be in it…..to feel it and move on.

This is me….moving on this morning. I am becoming….and it is good.

Completely Healed and Completely Broken

What do you do with a challenge?

Well….if you are a teensy bit competitive, you write a blog….because your friend sent you a picture and then told you that you are healed and yet broken, and that you have this blog in your head and it will take 5 minutes to write…..RIGHT?

Ready….set…..go!

I am healed.

I am healed of the notion that I am in control of my life……I used to think that if I worked hard enough, I could solve anything…..fix any problem…..make any amount of shame and pain and angst and horror go away.  I could simply adjust my perspective…..and it would be better. I could ignore and re-adjust, make nice, and remain silent until everything either blew over or the whole darn thing simply disappeared like magic.

I am healed of the silly need to have all the answers and to hide that fact EVEN from myself.  I know next to nothing!  I have experienced a tiny fraction of the pain that others have walked through for years.  I have only this fifty-one year old divorced, white, middle class woman’s perspective on the world.  I know NOTHING except what I have walked through.  So I am healed of the notion that I can understand how to fix everyone’s ills and can relate to everyone’s pain.

I am healed of the notion that I have anything wise to say.  I am barely audible to my own children let alone the masses.  I can sometimes add a grain of salt to the pile of wisdom fifth graders are collecting….but overall, I have been shocked into the very real knowledge that I am NOT wise nor do I have anything worth saying on my own.  I am only valuable as far as I say and do what God tells me to do.  That is it!  My righteousness is as filthy rags! Period!  I sometimes still like to sneak in some pride and pretend that I have a really, really wonderful bit of knowledge that makes me just a teensy bit better than someone……just because I am like that.  But overall….I am learning to accept that my filthy rags are in need of His righteousness.

I am healed of the notion that my story will follow my script.  I had it all planned out very nicely thank you very much!  My two friends, who were walking forward with me, had boyfriends and then husbands by the time they got to year seven…..and I loved how they met their spouses and how wonderful their spouses were and ….well….I began to hear so many really cool stories that I was JUST SURE….that God had a really…..REALLY cool story for me. I watched for it every time I got online….or went on a Match date. I looked every time I went to Publix, or whenever I was travelling or ….well….you get the picture. Trouble is….God’s timing is not mine apparently!  I am here in year six………yeah….my plan seemed so lovely to me….but apparently God has more healing or something for me.  Apparently I am not His favorite right? Lol…..I am only half kidding.  I am healed of thinking I have the plan but not healed from throwing a temper tantrum almost daily about the fact that my plan AT LEAST had me finding someone who would fall in love with me and desire to text me sweet little notes and call me to find out all about how wonderful I am! Bhahahaha! I am sure God loves me!  I am healed of the Pharisee I was…..but I am not healed of my human heart that truly and deeply desires a passionate romance. Ugh!

I am also quite broken.

I am a sinner.  I am in need of redemption. …….daily apparently as I grumble to God like the Israelites in the wilderness. Oi!  I had it good back in Egypt….at least there I had meat and bread. Has God truly brought me out to this desert to kill me from hunger?  I can hear my dialogue so clearly.  I want what I want, and it doesn’t even occur to me that He has something even better in mind.

So I am healed and still broken!

I am quite broken when it comes to trusting.  I would still like to follow my nature….which is to trust simply and easily.  I give trust…….in the absence of reasons not to.  I trust my kids and my students and people in general.  I watch for intuition which tells me to NOT TRUST some people….but they seem to be far and few between.  But in a romantic relationship…..my trust has been broken to bits.  I will desire to trust, and yet I know that there will be triggers which make me lose my mind for moments and act like a crazy woman.  I am broken here, and it will not be fixed just because some guy tells me he is trustworthy.  It will take lots and lots of proven test results.  I will desire to trust, and I will walk forward, but I have a broken trustometer…..and am in need of a skilled engineer to fix it.

I am broken in my self image.  It is getting better….but from an early age, I received messages that I was unwanted, not desired, and simply a burden.  I am healing….but there are moments when the enemy can come and steal my joy, and I believe again that I am …….not enough to really fight for or be worthwhile.  It will take a strong man to sit with me in that.  Every woman is wounded in the area of beauty…..we are all struggling to feel beautiful and loved and worth loving well.  I am broken and if telling people about this brokenness means they find me undesirable….then I will learn to trust MORE not less in the One who gave His all to make me Beloved.

So there….it has been almost five minutes. I will finish this up and beat the clock.

(not that I am competing!)

I am completely healed and completely broken.

The mystery is too much for me, and I am here inside sitting with all this on a daily basis!  I feel the health!  I experience the broken.

It is a wonderful thing to be Beloved of God!

It is a painful truth that the broken places in me still hurt.

How to Heal Yourself after a Sex Addict Marriage in Ten Easy Steps!

How to heal yourself after a Sex Addict Marriage in ten easy steps…..

Dear me…….You need a pep talk today so here it is!

  1. Face the fact that it was not about you…….do whatever it takes to get that through your head.  If that means you go on 50 dates before you turn 50…..DO IT!  Remind yourself daily that nothing he did was about you, because he never could see anything but himself.  Everything felt lonely because you were alone. There was no empathy. 
  2. Be kind to yourself every day…..take a bath……take a walk….get a massage…..get a pedicure or manicure….buy flowers or a new dress….soft socks…..a book……
  3. Cry….let yourself really….REALY cry. The harder you cry….the louder it is…..the more you release that dream that you spent so many years building alone.
  4. Break things…….his old guitar…the rocking chairs….the china……those wedding goblets that you drank out of every year….the wedding cake topper…..anything that triggers you to feel the need to smash and bash……
  5. Talk…..talk until you cannot talk any more…….talk to safe friends….a counselor….your journal……a safe pastor……safe family members……..just don’t talk only to yourself inside your head. You cannot fix this alone and telling yourself you are to blame will not help!
  6. Exercise….run it out….walk it out…..yoga yourself into a better place…….make your body feel and look beautiful because you are beautiful!
  7. Eat all the healthful foods you can find! Eat a rainbow of gorgeous pretty foods every day……eat grass fed and organic and pure filtered water…..herbal teas and any foods that feel and look and smell gloriously delicious and healthy! Then splurge on French Pastries and magnificent luxurious desserts when you cannot take one more second without one……you may just find you stop craving sweets altogether and opt to experiment instead with fun, funky fruits and vegetables. Suddenly you will find your body responding to health…the health of your muscles and mind and spirit!
  8. Sing and listen to beautiful music…..go to a concert….listen to Pandora or an I tunes mix. Make it all about country women who were scorned and then move on to Cello music and melancholy Irish tunes to connect with the longing stage……change your list as soon as you feel yourself moving into a new stage. You might even get to playing happy tunes and feeling like those old songs just don’t suit you anymore!
  9. Bake or cook or sew or paint or do……DO something that brings YOU happiness. You spent an awfully long time trying to make your spouse happy……now you have an opportunity to experience YOU! What is it you always wanted time for? Write that poem……lay around one afternoon and read that book……bake grandma’s walnut rolls and then…..EAT THEM ALL!
  10. Breathe and give yourself space to grieve! This is a roller coaster….grief is non-linear. You may be on the highest high today and tomorrow something may trigger you right into the bottom of a ditch….start back at #1 and go down your list again! You can do this…..every day is a victory! You were a faithful, loving spouse and now you get to heal and figure yourself out! WHAT AN ADVENTURE! Write your mantras on the bathroom mirror and when you are crying….read them over and over until you can breathe again and start to feel your strength again!

 

  1. You are worth loving!
  2. You are beautiful!
  3. You are worth fighting for!
  4. You are strong!

 

You’ve got this! Life is a mystery and perhaps having the time to figure yourself out can be one of the best adventures ever? Who knows?!  It will only be in looking back…..grieving and processing all the good you found out was darkness that you will understand just how loving and beautiful you were in that mess. My prayer is that once you give yourself the time to heal, you will move out into the world wiser, more loving, more whole, and much more ready to love again!

Ugh!

Ugh! That is the only emotion I have tonight. Ugh!

I remember having a conversation about three years ago with a lovely friend. She was further along in her healing than me and was going through finding herself again…..after dealing with all the trauma and sin done against her….she was finally at the place where God could nudge her heart and her spirit and allow her to see how she sins. He could begin to allow her to deal with those places in her heart where she didn’t quite always hit the mark or had poor patterns for dealing with relationship tensions. All relationships have places that hurt us. All relationships have a give and a take. She was at the place where in her family and in her own heart, she was facing how she sinned against others.

I remember her telling me how painful it felt.

I just didn’t really, REALLY think it was THIS painful!

HA!

I always underestimate things or overestimate my abilities or simply think for me it may not be so bad! WRONG! Ding, ding, ding……I have arrived! It is THAT painful!

I must be healing right?

I must be getting stronger because I have been clobbered the last few days with my own sin!

I read about it in an article……

I saw it in my own dealings in relationships…….

I find that I have so very many patterns and habits that need changing…..

UGH!

Now you can understand a little of my ugh!

I am guessing that as we walk so closely with Jesus after a bomb drops in our lives, he spares us the ultra-painful look at our own sin for a bit.  I needed that healing time to gain the strength to be able to even see a little bit of myself clearly like this.

But my gracious friend, as I talked again with her tonight, reminded me that we were never perfect.  We have always sinned.  We have just not had a relationship in which it was safe to be a sinner and be imperfect and still be perfectly loved.  We didn’t have that growing up, and we didn’t have that in our marriages.  Instead, unhealthy patterns of dealing with sin and dealing with stress and frustration and conflict were formed.  Now I am strong enough for God to be able to come, point them out, and deal with them in me.

Ugh! It is not fun!

Yuk……I do not enjoy this process.  I do not enjoy seeing how un-healthy some of my patterns and habits are at this late stage of my life.  I will need a lot of practice and patience and grace to walk through all of this.

I begin to see the wisdom of simply not getting remarried at all.  I begin to see that perhaps I am an old dog and this old dog has so many habits to house break that perhaps, living outdoors is the only safe place for her.

Then another part of me is excited. Yay! I am getting healthier.  I can handle this.  I can grow here.  I can become someone healthy enough to have a healthy relationship someday.

How is it that these two things can coexist so perfectly inside my head?

It is amazing!

I can learn to say, “When you do this ______……I feel this ______.”

I can learn to tell people how I feel instead of what I think they are thinking.  I can engage my heart and actually feel things.  I can actually empathize with people, and I can verbalize my own needs.  I am getting healthier.  But I see perfectly clearly as well that I am afraid to practice these skills in very close relationships that trigger a feeling of abandonment.  I may not actually be strong enough to walk that close…..to trust that much….to allow myself to open up completely.

How can I think both things at once? I amaze even me.

God come and show me more of my sin. Make me healthy enough to see it all and deal with it all. I don’t want to shy away and back down from even a drop of it. And I am asking you to show me clearly how to walk this out. Show me if I am capable of a real, vulnerable relationship, or if I am simply to walk alone forever because I am far too old to learn enough to be a good partner. Help me see clearly because fear and desire are equally present in this heart.

Beautiful

“A woman is at her most beautiful when she knows she’s loved.”  It’s simply true.  She will wilt like a flower without water when she believes she’s not loved.  Not wanted.  Not delighted in.- Stasi Eldrege

That quote from Stasi Eldrege is the crux of the betrayal that my ex-husband’s sexual addiction brought about. His constant comparison, constant unhappiness, constant refusal to engage……even though it was all hidden…… I knew I was not loved……and it was a powerful reminder that I was not beautiful.

 How do we women get over a breaking of our hearts that is so complete? How do we learn to run to our Father with exuberance again and allow His eyes to see us and His love to surround us again so that we can again feel beautiful? This is a difficult wound and trusting that a man could ever again find me beautiful seems impossible some days. Oh how I am praying that God’s unshakable love will pierce my heart anew!

It feels vain to want to feel beautiful…to want to know I am beautiful….but I want it with all my heart! It seems programmed into my DNA….this desire is unshakable. This wound is deep. This healing feels unending.

I have to go back to my childhood……..I look and peer and search my memories……where did I feel most loved? I go through my marriage….I dig and have to see memories through new eyes…..eyes that are opened now to what was really happening. I have to see what truth was when I only felt intuitively. I have to see with harsh reality when I wanted to construct a life much different from what my intuition was telling me. I have to look through years of feeling unloved and force myself to face the fact that when someone loves you, they don’t smash your heart…..no excuses…..no one smashes the heart of someone they love.

I find that I am lacking in delight and memories of feeling loved. It is no wonder I am struggling to feel beautiful. I don’t have memories of joyous announcements of impending births. I remember some hot tears that I shed over a story someone told me of their husband having pictures taken of him touching her pregnant belly. The very idea that a husband would delight so fully in the coming birth…long for it…want to capture the moment……..that stung me completely. I don’t remember feeling secure and cared for in my marriage. I don’t recall, especially in the latter years, feeling beautiful.

I don’t have memories of climbing up in my daddy’s lap and pouring out my heart. I don’t have memories of crying with my mom over a boyfriend who broke my heart. I don’t have memories of delighting my parents as I would model my clothes and spin and feel beautiful in front of them. Some of this is my fault….some is theirs. It doesn’t matter anymore. I can’t get a redo. So I dig deeper.

 I go back to the start and try again.

I see the delight I had at my grandfather’s visit. I see him joyously smiling as I would jump and talk and burst with excitement at his coming to my house when I was small. I remember it so clearly. He called me his little jumping bean. It is a lovely memory.

I remember my Grandpa Majot giving us sips of his blackberry wine and letting us eat Captain Crunch when mom said we had to eat grown up food.

I remember walking with my dad in his backyard when I was little and riding beside him back from Niagara. Those memories sustained me. I felt special and delighted in.

I remember God coming for me when I was in Junior High. He spoke to my heart about fatherhood so powerfully in my dreams. I remember his care for me when I was pregnant with each girl, and how He cared for me through an affair and later through the darkest night of my soul. He delights in me. I see it even more clearly now. Each time I look back and tell my story…..I see His care even more abundantly. He was there always calling me…relentlessly pursuing me….telling me how much He delights in me.

He sees my attempts to teach and mother and run this life as a single mom…..and He shows me how He is delighted…even in the simple attempt. He sees my failures and He knows me….yet….He loves me.

photo (13)This wound is difficult….but it certainly is not impossible. God is slowly healing my heart. It is painstakingly slow. It is made more difficult by my own stubbornness and lack of trust.

But He is healing me. I am moving forward. There is hope!

 If you have a similar wound…take heart!

He will come for you! Look expectantly all around you…..He will come for your heart!

A Grand Piano

There are moments in a marriage when something seems off and you realize that something is not right and the world is not as it should be. ….sometimes it is a moment where you see your place in the universe and his heart played out in a physical metaphor right before your eyes. It is only looking back that I realize the extent to which I had let silence become a wall of sin that kept me from voicing my feelings…….I am working on dismantling my sinful patterns and I do see their consequences in relationship now.

The epiphany came as I arrived home from teaching one afternoon.

I found  a man struggling to move an upright grand piano out the front door, down the sidewalk, and into the garage. I stood in the house having entered from the other door….staring in disbelief as the piano, with two wheels now broken off of it, was halfway inside the door and halfway out, and he was angrily trying to push it the rest of the way onto the front porch.  In another universe, this might have been a scene of hilarity….perhaps if the piano had been a worthless pile of junk that the owners were just trying to take out to the trash. But this…..this was an instrument with a history.

It started as a gift from a family. I took a few piano lessons in college. Having played clarinet from elementary through high school and even into my freshman year in college, I still long to play piano though. My mother plays and plays beautifully. I have always wanted to make such beautiful music. I think he wanted the piano too. I believe the thought of one thrilled us. This family was moving and did not want to take their beautiful Sohmer  upright grand with them. They were going to buy a new one once they moved to their new location. I couldn’t believe my luck. It was a beautiful grand piano…..an antique. It was moved into the house and dabbling commenced. I don’t even know why…but it made me very happy to have a piano even though I couldn’t yet play.  I kept it in the dining room….until we moved.

The movers broke the music stand a little during the move but other than that…..my grand made it to the new place and was a lovely addition to the formal living room. I played while the girls were in school with my youngest at the time happily playing on the floor. I only played little school girl songs and scales and practice exercises….but I was learning. It was a small sort of accomplishment when most of my time was spent raising girls and managing a household.

Then we moved again and so did my piano. It rolled right into its new home and proudly went on the wall by the fireplace.

It is funny but in my head, I didn’t get as much time to play at this house. The kids were getting older and schedules were getting busier…..but I did play some, and I even looked up the serial number of the instrument only to find that it really was a valuable instrument….if restored. The keys were real ivory and the wood was a rich mahogany. The piano only had a couple hundred siblings and was a fine instrument even though out of tune at the moment. It needed restoration very badly but….money for that would have to wait with four growing children and a house to fix up. But its big booming voice could still fill the house.

I remember the day that it was decided that it would do better in the bedroom out-of-the-way. I rolled it in and made believe in my head that it was fine. I didn’t need it in the living room to practice. It made more sense to have it where it could be practiced more quietly. I did practice in there. It was more private and filled that little bedroom.

Then I remember the day that it was decided that perhaps it was taking up too much space and should instead be placed in the closet. There it would be unseen and could be practiced without everyone else in the house hearing. It could be out of sight and out of mind.

So into the closet it went…..the big, spacious master bedroom closet. I moved some of my clothes and arranged it so that the piano had a whole wall of the closet. It was fine. I made it up in my head that practicing in the closet was like putting a damper on that would help me practice at odd times when others were trying to watch TV or something else. It was fine. My piano was fine. Someday I would fix it up and even get it tuned.

Then I came home that day and saw….that it wouldn’t be fine.

It was being banished. My piano was going….out the door and into the garage….where there was no air conditioning or moisture control. My piano was going into the garage…where bugs and heat and cars and lawnmowers lived. And I didn’t know why. Why couldn’t it live in the closet? Why had he just moved it without any discussion….without any warning? Why had it become a symbol of something deeper? What was happening?

I remember being almost dizzy with confusion….it made no sense to put a piano in the garage. It made no sense, and  my heart was breaking.

It sat in the garage for a few years.

It sat out there….and I never played it again except for a few times right before it was chopped to bits.

After my world exploded, and we needed to sell that house….I had to get rid of that piano and the only way to take it to the trash was to literally chop it up. I think a part of me died as it was chopped. I saved a piece. I saved the music stand and screen portion. It sits now in my condo. I remember that piano and its beautiful musical abilities. It was amazingly beautiful. It had a sound that rolled out of it and filled a space. It was beautiful with its gorgeous wood and upright lyre. The keys needed restored….the strings needed tuned but other than that….it was gorgeous. Fabulous carvings and wood that was old and felt solid. Everything about it spoke of an era when things were made to last.

But it was not loved. It was not something cherished and being taken care of by us. It needed too much to be able to fit into our lives.

It became a metaphor for our marriage and me in particular in my head. I felt it….as I watched it being unceremoniously moved out to the garage. I knew in my spirit that it was really me that was moving out there…..it was me that was being tossed into the garage and didn’t have  a place in that house any longer. For some reason, even then I felt it as a dagger to my heart. It was a symbol….a sign….a physical representation of something unseen…….once celebrated, then moved out of sight, then out of sight and mind….then unwanted and discarded.

Even then before I knew anything…..I saw it played out and knew it in my intuition.

But today…..I have pieces of that piano and still get to recall the music. I was not destroyed in the upheaval. I was not overcome by evil. Instead…..God came in and delivered me.

Sometimes…….people act out their deepest thoughts and desires before your very eyes and you don’t fully understand…. you only intuitively understand. I knew….I knew something was wrong in that moment, and I still chose to keep quiet. Just like that piano….I chose to get chopped to bits rather than make noise. I will not be doing that in the future if at all possible. I am not convinced it is possible….right now I still see that my very nature is to be quiet. I still find that I would rather find a way than make a wave.

But I am better. I can definitely have some boundaries now and definitely see that having desires and needs is a good thing.

Ah well…..as I sit here tonight looking at my piano piece….I see that I too can become a well-loved decoration in my own home. I can love even the broken parts of me and use them to make this space a sacred, beautiful sanctuary decorated with items made up of my failures and my choices but made beautiful in the keeping and arranging and honoring of all of those things.

Truly wonderful to realize that the metaphor continues and the broken piece has made a way to restore me.