I have felt thankful before, but I've never felt this level of deep, deep, overwhelming gratitude.
On paper, I feel like I should still be wrecked. In the past six and half years, I have brought home a three year old Ethiopian with a trauma history, I have lost an infant through a failed adoption, my husband died, (that feels like way too short of a phrase to capture the depth of that tragedy), I had back surgery, I have been a single parent to three young kids, I have endured a nearly three year long emotionally destructive marriage, and I am at the tail-ish end (hopefully) of the divorce process. During these incredibly challenging years, I have had my share of doubt in a good God. Before this special (and not in a good way) string of unpleasant circumstances, to put it mildly, I would have classified myself as someone with unshakable faith. But layers of loss and confusion kept rattling me so hard, at one point, I was barely holding on to my supposed "rock solid" faith.
|Never got to bring home this little guy.|
|First car ride in America with Macie.|
|Single parenting with ease . . . just kidding!|
|Celebrating Dave's 40th Birthday without him:(|
|My back surgery stint.|
However, if I were to describe what Jesus is to me today, I would say he is My Rescuer. I feel so rescued, so grateful, so loved, so known.
I think, for me, being in a marriage where I am continuously told that I am controlling, judgmental, unable to love well, and selfish, I began to believe these things actually defined the kind of wife and person I was. Either I began to believe it, or I wanted to believe it, so that maybe there was something I change, in order to calm the chaos. I have even written blog posts on my other blog, about how I am those things, which, honestly, makes me very sad. In my marriage, in order for it to survive, I had to agree and walk hand in hand with deceit. It meant believing, or at least, going along with A LOT of lies, including the lie to the outside world and to myself that our marriage was ever OK. I remember the day that my ex (My goal is to share my truth, not to expose anything about him, so I'm not using his name) was trying to get me to admit that I was something bad, and I remember thinking that I definitely didn't believe that about myself. If I wouldn't join in the lies about myself and literally voice them out loud, the alternative was to hear my former husband say that I think I'm perfect and that I can do not wrong. My two choices FELT like they were, to believe I was bad, or to believe I was perfect. So, I chose bad, because I definitely knew I wasn't perfect. So, I stood in the bathroom, saying, "I'm done saying bad things about myself, that I don't believe are true." That didn't go over real well, but anywho. . . . When I knew (actually, when I was able to finally accept) that I was in a destructive marriage, it took a lot of getting educated on what it looked like. It's not always what you think. I was still experiencing some amazing and wonderful times with my ex, but then in one instant, the rug could and would be pulled from underneath me and I was living in crazy town. That is part of the confusion. So, it was a down and dirty, strip everything away, process. I had to completely let go of my biggest idol, my reputation, push away every outside voice, and understand who God is, and understand who He says I am.
I guess as I write this, I'm not sure it was as much about learning who He says I am, but more about learning who He is and isn't. It was more about learning that God isn't in the biz of drilling into me that I am selfish, I am not who I used to be, I am damaged, I am controlling, I have ruined my kids' lives, or that I am guilty. That is probably one of the hardest and most overwhelming things I struggle to totally wrap my mind around . . . that there is nothing that I can do to earn more of God's love and there is nothing I can do that would cause him to love me any less. And that is the deep, deep, deep, gratitude that I have, for without Jesus, that wouldn't be true. It couldn't be true.
So, this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for my friends (some of whom I could never express how thankful I am for their warrior-like support of me) and family who have walked this road with me. I am thankful for my kids, my parents, my neighborhood, my kids' schools, teachers and coaches and, I would be remiss, if I didn't include my dog, in this list. I am grateful for new life. I am grateful for the freedom to enjoy and deeply love and take care of my kids, to enjoy who God made me to be, and to be freed from guilt for staying as long as I did, as well as guilt for leaving (only grace could do this). I really thought that I would feel condemned by God for getting a divorce, but God (not to be confused with some people in the church or the institution itself) has been so incredibly gentle with me. There has certainly been pain from the reactions of a few, which is to be expected in these situations, but not from God. Not even the tiniest little bit. Thank you, thank you, God.
This summer, I had a random conversation with a guy I didn't even know, at the pool one night. I've replayed part of that conversation 1000 times, since then. He said that there is such a strong temptation to believe the lie that, "My best years are behind me." I was living like that was just a given, until that conversation. Now, I think that it is very likely that my best years, are indeed, ahead of me!
|Single parenting again, but enjoying every bit of my kids.|
|Emmit, the dog.|
|Thanksgiving with my niece.|
|Can not be thankful enough for this crowd!|
|And many other crowds.|