In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Third Gift of Marrying My Ex

Just when I thought that I would get on a writing streak, I didn't.  Whenever, I get ready to write, I just HAVE to clean the kitchen!  Like, CLEAN clean the kitchen and I'm not even someone who keeps their house all that nice???  On the days I have a minute to write, I start cleaning the kitchen in preparation and then before I know it, I'm out of time.  Anyway, I'm living large and trying to write with three kids in the house and a semi-messy kitchen.  We'll see what happens???  

In my last post I asked myself, "If I could go back and not marry my ex, would I choose to do that?"   My answer was that I would skip out on those 2 1/2 years, because I like to avoid pain. However, I would, in turn, miss out on three HUGE gifts that I was given.  As a quick recap, I would miss out on full-on experiencing God's huge grace that I experienced at a whole new level when I was no longer in the "tidy Christian" category.  Second, I would miss out on my newfound gratitude for even the smallest thing. (The latest being the most delicious breakfast bowl from Rudy's - YUM!).  And now to expound on the third gift that I was given.  

My parenting changed and I think that perhaps I would have missed some important lessons . . . No . . . I'm positive I would have missed these lessons, had I not gone through that marriage.  

I have three kids.  All have their tricky sides, as we all do, but one of my kids has about 36 tricky sides.  When I was married to my ex, those tricky sides were loud and crazy and they became increasingly loud as the months of that marriage wore on. The interesting thing, is that my ex was particularly hard on her and now I believe it is because she saw right through his mask and she knew how to play his game of self protection about as well as he did.  Which served her well with him, but not with me.  She had been through layers of trauma and was now living in constant trauma.  Parenting her has been one of my life's greatest challenges.  But it would be much more difficult right now, if I hadn't change some ways of thinking and parenting. 

I always thought that I was pretty good at understanding her, but I REALLY began to understand her, once I started executing some of my own self protection tools and I started seeing myself do exactly what she would do.  

This was illuminated one week, when things were just soooooo bad.  And by so bad, it's still hard to explain.  Tensions were just high in my own self.  We were sitting at dinner and I asked what everyone's highs and lows were.  I answered mine and my ex got mad that I didn't not say that our date the night before (which was crazy miserable, BTW) was my high.  At that moment, I just wanted to departicalize.  Disappear.  I could not have an opinion even on what my highlight of the week was, without him making it seem to all of our kids like I was some kind of disrespectful wife.  I felt completely hopeless.  I went in my closet and hid.  I was positive that I was acting like a 3 year old, but I just didn't care.  I wanted to close my eyes and for everything to be different when I reopened them.   

Then the next day, one of my kids was hiding under her bed after some minor infraction and then one day after that, another one of my kids hid behind our bean bag for a reason I'll never remember.  We were all needing to departicalize and then reappear in a normal world.  We were crumbling, bit by bit.  Normally, I would have been irritated and impatient with their hiding, when I needed to talk to them.  As in, demanding that they come out.  But knowing how I felt when I was hiding just a day or two earlier, I only had compassion and a truly broken heart for them.  So, I just crawled into their hiding places and sat with them in their mad quiet.  That week, life changed.  Even if I don't always react well and with tenderness and compassion, I KNOW that there is hurt behind their behavior.  It may not be explainable, but the hurt took with me the lesson I learned about understanding the hurt behind the behavior.  

Let me tell you, I have read a fair number of parenting books and been to numerous adoption conferences on how to parent kids from hard places and I have heard it a million times that you need to see the hurt behind their behavior, but until I FELT it myself, I really had no concept of it.  When I was hiding, I knew I wasn't being the normal 42 year old person I always dreamt of being, but I was not capable of anything else in that moment. 

Since I left, my tricky child and I have been through another very tough season and a season of great progress.  The biggest jumps we ever make, always comes from when I don't react to her behavior, (which is easier said than done) but when I can just start to acknowledge her hurts.   When I do that, (which I truly feel comes from the Holy Spirit) her self protection begins to melt.  It's kind of like she gets hotter and hotter and hotter as I focus on her hurt, rather than her behavior.  It's like she wants me to look at her behavior, but when I look underneath to her hurting heart, she hits a boiling point and just begins to melt from anger to sadness to grief.  Even if I don't know what exact pain she is experiencing, I KNOW how pain makes you react in ways you don't want to be reacting, even in the moment!  

This is such a huge flyover of this concept, but I think I have captured what I wanted to say.  It's good for me to write it down and remember all of this, so that I can keep remembering the power of pain in my life and the power of pain in my kids' lives.  It even helps with little things, like when my kids leave their brand new water bottle at the park, (not that that happened yesterday or anything) I can say, "I know that feeling!  I leave things and lose things all the time and I hate it!" Or like the other afternoon I had an afternoon with a typically untrickier kid of mine, and boy was he/she ANGRY!   Without "Closet Week 2018," I would have felt way too overwhelmed by this child's unfounded (to me) emotions.  I would not have sat with this child as they fiercely scribbled on paper and just prayed, "Lord, help me not screw this up!"  He/She was definitely dealing with something???  My kids have a lot to be angry about!  I told this sweet child thanks for letting me see the pain, because normally he/she keeps it all wrapped up. About  30 minutes after the big flare, life was back to normal and our relationship was still fully in tact. Thank you, Jesus.   

I could not be more grateful for this particularly painful lesson.  I am a different mom after being married to my ex.  When I was in the middle of the insanity, it was difficult to employ compassion, because so much of my energy was used on managing my ex and doing the dances we had to do, in order to pretend things were normal.  But I was lucky and didn't leave too early.  I caught that vision change, right near the end, and I am so grateful.  I'm positive I have more to learn and I can't tell you how hard I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me out in my solo parenting, as I'm squarely in the middle of tween-ville right now.  When tween-ville feels like the Twilight Zone, the Holy Spirit often brings me back to lessons I learned when I was in my own Twilight Zone.  And when emotions run high, I always find myself asking, "Have I ever felt like that before?" and naturally, the answer is almost always a big fat yes, and then I can (not that I always do) parent from a different place . . . a place with, HOPEFULLY, more understanding and grace. 

P.S. - Now that I wrote this, I feel like I'll probably be the worst parent ever in the coming weeks.  So, maybe if I acknowledge that, it won't happen???



Wednesday, July 8, 2020

If I Could Go Back and Call Off My Wedding Day . . . Would I?

When I left my ex a little over two years ago, I was pretty much consumed by how unfair my life seemed.  In 10 millions years, I did not think that by age 43, I would have had two different husbands and be single, yet again.  I felt so ridiculous for getting myself into such a gigantic mess of a marriage and I occasionally still feel the need to work out the guilt I feel for dragging my kids through the craziness.  But I think now, more than ever, I catch glimpses of genuine gratitude for that BANANAS marriage. As I think about writing on these topics, I have found my mind repeatedly going back to when Joseph said to his brothers that sold him into slavery, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  Obviously, I'm not saving any lives here, but in my heart, there is so much good that has come out of those 2 1/2 years of craziness.

For quite some time now, I have wondered if I could go back to May 2015 and call off my wedding, would I do it???   Knowing myself, I think I would say, yes, for the sake of my kids and because I really like to avoid pain and those years were packed with pain.  However, if I did call off the wedding, I would be missing out on three ENORMOUS gifts that I have taken with me out of all of this.  So, thank you, JESUS, for taking me through that season, because I never would have chosen it, EVEN IF I KNEW I would walk away with good things.

My First Gift: The continuous, overwhelming presence of God's grace in my life, now that I can no longer call myself a tidy Christian. Ya know . . . getting a divorce and dragging my kids through misery and all.  I have never felt God's grace more strongly than in the past couple of years, when I realized that I seriously CAN'T achieve a life without sin on my own. I mean, I knew the theology, but until I felt outside of the "Christian" rules, I never felt grace like THIS!!!!!  I wrote about this a couple posts ago, so I won't belabor the point, although it deserves belaboring!!!!

My second gift: GRATITUDE

My third gift: Compassion in my parenting. I'll write more on this one next within the next week.

For now . . .  Back to the gift of gratitude.  Had I not married my ex, I would miss a million opportunities to feel grateful.  I'm not a real "sayings on T-shirts" kind of gal, but last summer, I bought a T-shirt with the word grateful on it and I wear all the time, because I just feel grateful for so many more things than I previously did.  The first moments that I realized that I had this new found depth of gratitude was probably the first Saturday after my little family moved back into our house in Manitou.

Here's the story. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, Saturday mornings were for cartoons, cereal and pre-soccer game jitters. When I lived with my ex, none of our kids were allowed to get out of their rooms on a Saturday morning, until, well, basically, my ex released them. (HOW HOW HOW did I live in that craziness??? -  I mean . . . I can sort of explain how I unsuccessfully tried to make this reality different, but not in this post.)  Not once, in the entire time that I was married to my ex, do I remember them watching a TV show on a Saturday morning, let alone, moving freely about our house.  When we moved back to Manitou and the first Friday night rolled around, I said that they can watch TV and grab breakfast when they woke up and that is exactly what they did.  I came out of my room that Saturday morning, and they were cuddled in blankets, watching, "Heartland."  I cried.  I have cried numerous gratitude tears, as I see them lazily watching TV on a Saturday morning, all cuddled up in our puppy and their blankets.  If that had not been taken away from us, it would never have even crossed my mind that I should be so thankful for my kids watching TV.

When I think one of my kids is being funny, I am so thankful.  I can think he or she is funny, without being told that I think my kids walk on water.  I can adore and delight in my kids so freely now!!!!!  Don't get me wrong, I'm not ALWAYS adoring them and delighting in them, but I can openly adore them whenever I want now! I can care for them when they have a headache without being told I coddle them.  I can read to them as long as I want at night, without facing paybacks for spending too much time with them before bedtime. I can nurture my son, without being made fun of, or him being made fun of. We can all eat dinner and not experience the weirdness of even a peaceful dinner. I can love how they still play in imaginative ways, without fearing that my ex will walk in and decide that someone is breaking an unknown rule somehow. I can spend time with my friends without sideways comments before and after. I can teach piano to my kids and other kids without eyes rolling in the background. Every page in a book I read to my kids at night is a pure, simple, gift.  Every time I laugh with them and sing silly songs with them or dance with them, it is another gift.  I can do all these things so freely now.  AND GET THIS! I even have started to enjoy cooking for the first time ever in my life!!!!!  The first time I went camping after I left my ex, I made breakfast burritos and I unexpectedly cried even doing that.  I know that sounds nuts, but even though I was only married to him for 2 1/2 years, I let his subtle ways of putting me down, sink in, and I felt I wasn't even capable of making a breakfast burrito, for crying out loud.

Every. Single. Day. Since I left my ex, I am grateful for the freedom I have to give love and receive love, exactly how God created me to give and receive.  I enjoy the most simple, mundane parts of life so much more and I truly love that I get a whole second half of life, experiencing more joy, even at the littlest things, every day. So, that is gift numero uno. Gift, numero dos, coming tomorrow. For now I'll leave you with some pictures of the most mundane joys I have experienced after returning to a family of four.




 



















Friday, March 20, 2020

Life Keeps Being Tricky: And Now My Mom is Gone

Three and a half years ago, my mom had a massive stroke.  One where the doctors felt she had no chance of talking or walking again.  A true, FOR REALS, miracle occurred and within days she was talking and quickly coming back to her old self.  The only thing that I feel like my mom lost in her stroke was some kind of hardness that was in her heart.  I would never have described her as a hard hearted person by any stretch of the imagination, but after her stroke there was an openness and a softening that made her more fun and more loving and more accepting and more of all kinds of great things.  Although, her body was weakening, her soul heart was growing stronger.

The last three and half years have been my favorite three and half years with my mom.  In these last three and half years, my mom and I have done a lot of growing and we did it together.  

I knew that my mom's body, and particularly, her lungs, have been growing weaker for years and years, but I am still absolutely stunned that she is gone.  Just last week at this time, I was still talking to her about my day and that the kids will be out of school for a while and how my piano lessons went.  She was in the hospital, after getting pneumonia, but she has gotten pneumonia before and took antibiotics and she would be fine in a few days.  I still haven't caught up with the idea that she passed away on Sunday night.  Just one week ago, it was barely on my radar that would die from this.  By Friday, I was getting nervous, by Saturday, I was panicked, and on Sunday morning, her vitals looked much better, and by Sunday night, she was taken off of a heavy duty oxygen machine, and she passed away.  She was just so tired of coughing and just so tired of trying to breathe.  It seems so easy to breate, but her lungs said something different. I, for one, was in no way, ready or prepared for her to die. 

The things I'm grateful for over the past week:

1.  She came to see me and my kids a few days before she got sick, after being hesitant to drive all this way for a couple hours. During that time, I sat with her at my kitchen table, before my kids came home and laughed harder with her, than I think I ever have.  I remember thinking in that moment, that I was so lucky to have a mom that I still laugh with. It was a special moment. 

2.  I'm thankful that I got to talk to her on the Friday, before she died.  We actually even laughed then, too.  She was telling me that she asked the nurse the night before if he thought she would make it through the night and he said, "Well . . . .  hmmmmmm . . . .I'm not sure."  In her shock, she said, "You really think I might die tonight?????!!!!!!!" And he said, "Oh my gosh, NO! I thought you were asking if you were going to have to move rooms tonight."  We had a little laugh over that.  That was the last time I talked to her.

3. On Saturday, when things were quickly going downhill, I wrote a letter to her, after being urged by friends to put my writing to some real use. I'm so thankful that I did.  I got to say all of the important stuff that I wanted to say to her and she was awake the whole time that my dad read it to her.

4.  The Piano. This one is bittersweet.  It is hard to hear my kids practice this week, but I know that in a short time, that all the piano practicing I hear, will help bring my mom back to life in this house . . . just a little bit.  My mom was my teacher when I was growing up and for the last 11 years, she has taught me how to teach.  I can hear her in a lot of the instructions that I give my kids and other kids.  I also, have her hands, which I never wanted, growing up.  I would think, "I hope my hands don't look like that, when I get older."  Well, as it turns out, they do!  But they play the piano well, so I guess I won't get too hung up on how they look.  Every single time I put my hands on the piano, I think of my mom, because our hands look so much alike.



The things I'm having a hard time being grateful for right now:

1.  The Coronavirus.  I couldn't be with my mom in the hospital, because of the Coronavirus.  Only one visitor per patient and then on top of that, I had a little tiny, baby cold.  That baby cold, kept me from being able to be with her when she passed.  Plus, my sister was not able to fly out, when we thought things were looking dicey.  Here is the deal, I need people when life gets this kind of extra tricky, but people can't give hugs and be around each other.  We can't even have a funeral and be with family and friends during this time.  I hate this!!!! Of course, my dad, being the extreme introvert that he is, is OK with people not dropping in all the time.  

2.  That I can't talk to my mom on the phone anymore.  I averaged about 2.3 calls per day.  Sometimes we would talk for 10 seconds and sometimes we would talk for 2 hours.  But I was constantly in touch with her.  We could talk about the deepest, most sacred parts of our lives to the most mundane . . .  often ever in the same sentence.  There was no linear path in our conversations, but that never seemed weird.  I told my sister that she needs to start preparing for an increase in phone calls and that many will go a little something like this, "What is a shallot???"  I've already picked up the phone to call my mom a few times, because it is such a habit.  I can't imagine not being able to press "MOM," on my phone.  I'm surprised my phone doesn't have a dent in it, where her name shows up on my phone.

3.  After Dave died, I no longer had my person to be as proud of my kids as I am.  My mom became that person.  She thought my kids were pretty great.  Those pictures and videos that you normally send to your spouse, I sent to my mom.  And I would feel like I had someone to mutually share in my proudness. I just feel so sad about this.




Overall, I am just so grateful to have had a very loving mom, who was always pointing me to Jesus and who I truly believe was proud of who I am.  And I'm so grateful for those three and a half bonus years.  In those years, I left a very destructive marriage. You know how earlier I said that she had softened?  She had, but she also grew strong.  Her heart was so soft towards me and she believed me and she would weep with me and get angry with me and I was so thankful and grateful for the way she always defended my decision to get a divorce.  The way she defended me, was a testament to the strength that she grew, even as she was aging.  As I uncovered, layer at a time, what kind of relationship I was in, she read articles with me, listened to every summary of every counseling appointment, and just listened to whatever I needed to process.  All of that made me feel so secure and loved.  I couldn't have asked for her to walk that road with me any better.

And then there is parenting.  Less than two weeks ago, she sent me a video from Paul David Tripp about parenting.  It was one of the best talks about parenting that I've ever heard.  After I listened to it, she said, she wishes she could have a do-over with her parenting.  I feel a little guilty that I didn't say, "You were a fantastic parent, and never forget it"!!!  Instead, I said something like, "I'm sure I'll want a do-over, too."  But in a way, she got her do-over through me, as we had so many talks about parenting.  Maybe if Dave were still here, Dave and I would have been sorting that out together.  But since he wasn't, I would go to my mom to talk about parenting.  And parenting has been really, really, tough with one of my kids.  The "normal" way of parenting just doesn't work.  It's, again, another area where she supported how I did things.

And one last topic.  Jesus.  My mom loved Jesus. I am truly excited that she is with Jesus right now. The older she grew, the less her faith remained seated in rules and the more it became just about grace and Jesus.  If I counted the number of prayers she prayed for me, my kids, my family and my friends, I would be sitting here for a long time.  When I had a hard time going to church after my divorce, she completely understood.  Instead of giving me a lecture, she would send me an article on how others had the same experience with faith and church, as I did.  That was so incredibly loving of her.  When I started dating a non-believer, she only prayed and I can assume she is still praying.  She noticed the value that he has added to my life.  She handled it with such love and grace.  I mean, think if that had become a point of contentiousness in her last days?  That would have been awful.  The only thing she would say, is that she trusts me and that she thinks that God has a plan in all of it.  I know it wasn't her favorite, but she and I maintained a solid relationship and because she handled it with love, we were able to keep talking about it.

Her love for Jesus could be seen in a lot of different ways, as she was involved in many ministries and barely ever missed a Sunday.  But her love for Jesus was apparent to me, not through the ministries she was involved in, but through how she loved me.  

She died such a wise, grace giving, LOVING, mom.





Monday, February 3, 2020

Do I Still Qualify???

I am a little giddy about sitting down to write today.  It's been sooooo long.  I miss writing so much.  While, I don't have a lot of extra time to write due to being a single parent and because I have a full load of piano students, there are other reasons I have not written, which is kind of what I'll be writing about . . . that I'm not sure I feel qualified to write about Jesus anymore.  Let me explain.

I have no idea if everyone throughout time hits their 40's and then deconstructs their faith or if it is a sweeping idea across American Christianity right now.  It kind of seems like the latter, but I could be completely wrong.  I don't know if I am deconstructing my faith, but I am certainly challenging some ideas that I grew up believing.  This biggie, is one that I was taught was NOT true of the Christian faith, but I know that I feel it very deeply.  The basic idea, is that I can earn the love of God, by being a really obedient Christian.  I've always been taught, out loud, that I can not earn the love of God, but being where I am right now, I can tell I don't believe that.  I believe that I MUST be obedient to earn the love of God.

I have never challenged this idea until now.  I grew up going to church.  I grew up loving church and loving Jesus.  I quit club volleyball when I was in high school, because tournaments interfered with going to church on Sundays.  I went to a Baptist college.  I seriously think I had no more than 5 sips of alcohol until I was 35 years old.  I married a fellow Oklahoma Baptist University-ian.  We adopted a child from Ethiopia, because I had always felt called by God to do so.  When Dave, my husband, died, I walked closely to God, even in my anger towards him.  I averaged about one cuss word per alf a year and these lips never saw a cigarette or a drug. Why wouldn't God love me??? Even though I was well aware of my "little" daily sins, I just didn't struggle with feeling acceptable enough to be loved.

THEN . . . I got a divorce.  After the death of my first husband, I married somebody who sadly replaced control for genuine love.  I could not stay and could not allow my kids to stay.

I stayed as long as I did, because divorce meant possible hell.  Divorce meant, that I may no longer qualify for Gods love.  By the time I left, I had felt way more comfortable with leaving.  I felt like if I stayed I was disobeying God just as much as if I divorced.  It was basically a lose lose situation, so I may as well lose, and save the lives of me and my kids in the process.  (This was my thought process).

AND THEN . . . I did something I never thought I would do.  I started dating someone who is not a believer.  And I still am.  I love him.  Now, I feel very unqualified to be loved by God.  Somedays, I want to run back to the safety of my rules.  If I could return to being the model Christian, then maybe, I will feel like I'm back in the fold.  I feel unqualified to write about Jesus, to have any form of leadership in the Christian world (and I probably shouldn't), or to be looked on with approval by God.   I, seriously, can't imagine what it feels like to be LGBTQ and to also want to follow Jesus.  Do they struggle with the same questions of feeling acceptable enough to be loved by God?  I hope not.

I was talking to a piano student at lessons this last week.  We were talking about how we both feel like we have two different lives. The perfect Christian life and the life that came after the CRAZY in our lives.  Probably a lot of you can relate. A lot of you have had some crazy in your lives.  My crazy has certainly messed with my faith.  Probably most people who have lived with a spouse or parent that appeared to be very Christiany on the outside, but was different behind closed doors, knows how much it messes with your faith.  Then when others in the church community support them and not you, it devastates your faith, as they call his actions holy and mine, not. (Not everyone in my church community did this, but some did).  In these cases, spiritual abuse IS at play. I have been fortunate to have had really important conversations with some of the leadership from my former church, but it hasn't undone what happened to my faith throughout my divorce.

While it surprises me that I would find myself loving someone who doesn't share my beliefs about Jesus, it also doesn't at the same time.  On our second date, I LITERALLY cried throughout half of it, because it had been a LONG time, since I felt safe with a guy.  (I, to this day, can't believe he went on a third date with me after that cry fest. I mean . . . it was not just a tear or two.)  I was safe to be completely be me.  I definitely knew he wouldn't be using the Bible to shame me or question me.  But really, it was just a feeling of safety and care.

But back to the question at hand.  Am I unqualified for God's love, because of this choice I am making.  Would I, all of the sudden, be qualified, if my sweet boyfriend gave his life to Jesus tonight???  Is God's love that finicky?  Is it based on what I do, or is it REALLY based on what he has done.  I can tell you, that ever since I got a divorce, I still can't keep my tears in whenever I think of Jesus.  I just can't. And it's been that way, ever since my tidy Christian persona came to a halt.  I have NEVER felt the depth of his love in such great measure, than when I feel so undeserving.  I've spent my first 43 years of life pretty much feeling like I was deserving of being in the IN crowd of Jesus.  I just can't believe that he sees me as pure, because of what HE has done.  How can it be?

I have one lovely, but difficult daughter, who is CONSTANTLY asking in a million different ways, a million times a day, if she is loved.  She has had an impossible life, with WAY more hurt than any child should have by age 11. It is so beyond frustrating and exhausting that she can NOT seem to wrap her arms around the idea that my love for her has ZERO to do with her behavior, accomplishments and failures.  How many times have I begged her to just believe that the ONLY requirement for my love is that she is my daughter?????  Why am I so confused by her distrust of my love when I have the same trouble believing that my behavior and my accomplishments have ZERO to do with how much my Father loves me, even though he has already shown me the depth of his love by dying for me?


It is a little crazy how I knew most answers to my faith when I was in my 20's and now, all I can say, is JESUS.  And then the tears come.  I know nothing . . . but Jesus.

    

Friday, September 27, 2019

Perfect Moments

I just went back and read my post from the beginning of the summer. It was called "Grief Interrupted." I talked about how marrying my ex and being in crazy town for a few years, short-cutted (I doubt that is a word) my grief process and I felt like I was back near the starting line.  I was quite the special MESS in June and the raining weather DID NOT HELP one tiny bit!  I was missing Dave . . . BIG TIME.  I was missing all that he would have added to our lives, if he were still here.  It was worthy of missing, no doubt about that!

At the beginning of the summer, when I would think of Dave, it was like I was right back near the beginning of my grief walk. It was like my whole body and mind departicalized and was transported back in time to feel the intensity of grief all over again. (Do I sound dramatic?)  One could say it was sweet that I still missed and loved Dave so much, but I DID NOT like it.  I felt like I had a long road ahead of me AGAIN!  With all sorts of grief feelings bearing down on me, I decided to ramp up my counseling schedule.  It paid off!  I don't know if you have ever tried EMDR as a form of therapy, but it sure does wonders for me!!!  The most basic way I describe it, is that is pulls the emotion out of the memory of something really painful.  You still remember the person or the incident, of course, but your body and brain and emotions, don't react to it, as if you were right back in the middle of it again.  Trauma is tricky biz, peeps! 

The first trip in the summer, was to the Sand Dunes.  I was hurting for Dave so hard, and couldn't pull myself together.  By the time I was driving to Oklahoma in July, I realized that I wasn't experiencing the same sense of loss and "I'm missing the magic of Dave," that I had on my first vacation of the summer.  The potential for the grief to pop back up was there, but I went on to more camping trips and a trip to Connecticut and my thoughts and emotions were in a much lighter place.  I'm not going to lie . . . it is no easy task logistically to prepare to camp with three kids and get on planes and get cars packed and get camping meals prepped, and all that other stuff, but that is simply an inconvenience, it's not some kind of deep heart issue.

So, starting at the beginning of July, I had so many "perfect moments."  I try so hard to taste and savor and capture the memory of those moments.  One place I experience many perfect moments is at my pool. Even though, sometimes, I miss Dave when I'm there, I had multiple "perfect moments," playing volleyball with the sun setting and my kids running around aimlessly, this summer.  One time, I even played for someone else's team and I didn't even know it.  I jumped on the court and announced, "I'm here."  I played the entire MATCH, thinking that we sure had a lot of subs that night and no one even bothered to tell me that I was playing on the wrong team, at the wrong time.  That is how gracious Valley volleyball players are!
So many beautiful sunsets from the pool.
Valleyball - Where the most important rule is to laugh a lot, while playing!
I love watching my kids swim.  Diving off the blocks is my favorite to watch.
I, also, love watching my kids form fun friendships!

I had perfect moments with friends, backpacking and camping. I had perfect moments just sitting on my deck.  I had perfect moments traveling to see my sister and her family. And last, but not least, it was a perfect moment when school started back up again.  I have a lot of fun with my kids, but I was ready to get back into a schedule.  I'm thankful for their love of school and for their teachers that love them so well!
Backpacking with friends!


I mean, this was beautiful!

Summer, camping, campfires, friends.  I love it!






























I feel so thankful that I was able to experience these "perfect moments" without the shadow of grief on them. Had you asked me if that was possible at the beginning of the summer, I would have said, "NO WAY!"  I'm guessing that grief will circle back around, because that is just kinda what it does, but I always have to keep remembering that it will pass.  It's hard to remember that in the midst of it, but I'm learning.
 
Laughing is my favorite!









Friday, September 6, 2019

Immediate Healing

I just had to sit down and write yesterday, and this is what came out!

Last March (2018), while I entertained the thought of leaving my marriage, I thought that I would be facing years of counseling to put my delicate, unidentifiable, self back together.

About two weeks before I left, I remember sitting with some friends for dinner, and one of them asked me about doing some kind of skit or something like that and I flat out refused and I thought to myself, "No way!!!!!  I'm not even funny anymore.  In fact, I have no idea who I am anymore!?!?!" (Some of you may thinking that it's funny that I ever considered myself to be funny at all, but
anywho . . .).   I felt like the essence of who I was, was no longer even present inside of me. . . anywhere???? Talk about terrifying!!!!   At that point I was 98.7 percent sure I was leaving my marriage, (however, I had been there a couple times before and didn't leave) barring some crazy miracle and I wondered how long it would be, before I would feel like myself again . . .  if ever. I thought I would be some delicate, broken, child, for a long time, needing countless hours of therapy and whole lotta time.  I can tell you, with great relief, that as soon as I walked through the door of my old house and into a new life without my ex, it SERIOUSLY was like something supernatural happened.  It's like whatever was so heavy and whatever I was wearing that kept me from being me, stayed behind me as I walked through the threshold of my previous HOME.  It's like it wasn't allowed inside and it just fell away, turned to dust and blew away.  I think that requires an Hallelujah!  It nearly brings me to tears. OK . . . I am teary.  It just reminds me so much of how gracious Jesus was to do that, and I didn't even ask or expect it.  These are some of the first pictures, after we moved back into our HOME, last summer!!!!!

All last summer, I couldn't believe how immediate the relief was and shocked at how in one instance, I felt like I was back to myself.  I did go to counseling and did some, for reals, intense work with EMDR, which is a form of therapy, in relation to my ex. But my whole point is that, when I left him, I felt like a whole person almost immediately. And I would not consider it a stretch to say that I felt like MORE of a whole person after going through an abusive relationship and leaving it, than I did, even before Dave died.  I didn't feel delicate, I felt strong.  I was certainly wounded, but I was not wrecked. I thought my kids would be broken and angry that I was leaving, but they were relieved to the core and forgiving of me (mostly) for not leaving earlier. I did not feel condemned (by Jesus), like I expected. In fact, NEVER EVER  have I felt so loved and taken care of in the most gentle way, by Jesus, than when I left.  Sadly, I kinda miss that feeling and consider it a true gift that I had a season where my God was so incredibly personal and just . . . so gentle, when I thought I would feel debilitating guilt.  These are all things that I absolutely didn't expect and didn't even think to entertain, before I left my marriage.  I absolutely didn't expect to feel whole so quickly and I absolutely did not expect to feel that Jesus was the most understanding and gentle of anybody.  I guess that says a lot about how I viewed (view) Jesus.

Now a good solid year away from moving back to my house, I still find myself questioning the character of Jesus.  It's so easy for me to fall back into seeing Jesus as condemning.  For instance, I used to be such a good little Christian (I mean, I don't really think I'm "good," but "a good little Christian," who doesn't get drunk, loves Sunday morning church, reads my Bible consistently, adopted a child for crying out loud, and certainly didn't get divorces!!!) Now, things are different.  I don't really love church anymore, after this whole ordeal.  I feel cynical, I feel distrustful, I feel confused about the church.  When I hear messages of how to love well as a Christian or how to turn the other cheek or to put others before yourself, or countless other messages, I just die inside, because I know these messages are trapping and guilt inducing and confusing for those in destructive marriages.  And often times the abuser uses these very messages to reiterate how the other is deficient at loving well.  What is really quite astonishing is how quickly I return to the idea that I don't qualify to receive his voice and his love, since I don't really love church, and I'm questioning so much about my faith, yet I can hardly say the name Jesus, without dying in pile of tears, because I love him so much and I'm so beyond grateful for His presence, His love and His grace.






Friday, June 28, 2019

Grief Interupted

About six months ago, I was feeling guilty for feeling like I had sufficiently moved past all intense emotions about Dave and feeling like I was good to go, in moving forward in life.  It's like in the movie Father of the Bride, Part 2 that I watched six trillion times, when the movie starts and Steve Martin says, "It's like the saying goes, all those who think you've got it made, take one step forward . . . not so fast George Banks." (is it sad that I have that memorized???) All of the sudden I am backwards.  Like, as in, WAY BACKWARDS.  I feel like I'm back at where I should have been at summer number two.  It feel ridiculous, but then again, it kinda makes sense.

Nine months after Dave died, I started my nine month survival plan of living with a terribly herniated disc.  Life became all about managing my physical pain.  Then in the middle of that whole ordeal, I met my ex.  When we got married, I was pretty much, not allowed to have any of Dave's stuff anymore or even talk about him, and having a feeling about him, was way out of the question.  If I would tell a very neutral story from the years that I was married to Dave, it would not go well. I would say something like, "when WE went to the Sand Dunes, it was so incredibly windy." Then my ex would sarcastically say, "I never realized that WE went to the Sand Dunes together."  Then I would try to use I, instead of we, and say, "I went to the Sand Dunes once and it was so incredibly windy."  Again, according to my ex, I got it wrong and he would say, "Oh, you went there by yourself???"  Then I would just sigh and give up telling my story, or I would ask him to choose the pronoun he would like me to use.  It was too exhausting to ever tell a story, not even about Dave, but any story that took place while I was married to Dave.  This is one tiny little picture of what emotional abuse looked like in my marriage to my ex.  It wasn't like he would call me names or tell me I wasn't worthy. In fact, often times his words were complimentary, which is what makes these relationships so confusing.

And don't even get me started on Dave's birthday or death day.  I didn't even want them to exist, because managing my ex around those times, took more out of me, than taking time to remember Dave.  If I had a feeling about Dave that I would dare to express, my ex would express how difficult it was to be married to someone who had lost a spouse.  There simply wasn't enough room for me to have a feeling about missing Dave, because that was just too hard for my ex and then I would have to manage his feelings and his passive aggressiveness that would inevitably ramp up to a level 10.  It was so impossible.

As, I type this, no wonder I am so far back in the grief process.  I seriously had to shut so much of Dave down, as soon as I put that ring on.  It is so sad. Last summer, I did not feel this way.  I felt immense relief and some serious anger, but now that those are diminishing, the sadness and the vacancy that Dave left, is so stark and so sharp.  I've decided that I do NOT do sad, very well.  In fact, I seriously hate it.

I've done a lot of choking back tears lately.  Like a couple Fridays ago, when I went to pick up Spencer at Eagle Lake Camp, where Dave and I were both campers at the SAME TIME, when we were Spencer's age. What are the chances of that happening???  I can't even imagine how different it would have been to drop Spencer off at camp or pick him up, with Dave there???  Then when we got back, I took the girls to get mountain bikes and we all went for a mountain bike ride.  It felt so great to take care of all of that on my own and get them out there, because I knew Dave would be cheering us all on, but the cloud of sadness that he was not WITH us, was pressing in so hard that day.  Then after that we went to the pool and I got to play some volleyball . . . yet another thing Dave and I enjoyed doing together. I loved everything I did that day, but I couldn't get away from heavy sadness that comes with doing Dave things.  It's like I want to carry on all these things that we did together and I want my kids to learn all the things they would have if Dave were here, but doing those things, also hurts, lately.



I can't even seem to speak his name without crying, lately. I was timing at a swim meet, when someone asked how he died and I instantly began to leak tears.  It is just so right back on the surface, for LITERALLY crying out loud.   I broke down in Taco Bell, of all places, the other day.  May I remind you, this is 6 1/2 years later??????  It feels ridiculous to me!!!! My kids were with me and they were like, "What the heck?" So I told them I was missing Dave and then I went on for a bit.  I said, "Are you guys tired of listening to me talk, yet."  Spencer said, "I'll never get tired of hearing you, mom."  Leah goes, "I will!"  I want to be fine without him and without any other guy, for that matter.   I am relearning again how to do this life and parenting without Dave, (or anyone else) yet again.  This time, for reals!

Oh, one quick story from our bike riding time, was when they all started to do some bouldering and the girls were having a hard time getting back down.  I was at the bottom telling them to get busy getting down and that it was taking forever, because that is the kind of patient mom I am!!!  Meanwhile, Spencer had climbed over to them and told them where to put each foot and he talked them down all instructively (is that a word?) and calmly.   It was SOOOOOOOOOO Dave, that I started laughing out loud!!!!  Spencer is SUCH a mini-Dave in his just simple kindness.  It's not from me!!!!!!



Father's Day just recently passed.  I just wanted to pretend that the day was just like any other day.  I've already felt so griefy lately, that I just didn't want to entertain all those sad feeling that I'm evidently NOT good at, whatsoever. I was doing such a good job at forgetting that it was Father's Day, that I got on Facebook, where every post is about how wonderful everybody's dad is, complete with perfect family photos. I was in mid gag, when I came across this post called, "Let the Children Fly," and it challenged me to work A LOT harder that day to honor Dave, by using the day to talk about the men in my kids' lives that are examples of good fathers. Lately, I tend to want to point out what makes up an unhealthy person, but after reading that post,  I tried to use Father's Day to talk about what makes a good father. They had some really good ideas on what makes a good father. I ended up letting them take the lead on the day, and they decided that they wanted to play mini golf at Dave's favorite spot.  And then at dinner that night, Leah prayed and thanked God for all the Father's out there.  She was thankful for fathers, even though she doesn't have one here on earth????????  My kids are quite possibly so much further than I am.  So, to the men in my kids' lives, they are watching and God may be using you, more than you know, when you live lives of integrity, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness.
This is a father that my kids didn't know super well, but man, all three of my kids really looked up to him.  We will miss you, Ted Woodard! 




This weekend, I'm headed to an Aldridge reunion of sorts.  I'm so thankful for my continued relationship with Dave's family.  I love them so much. Sometimes when I think things will be hard, they are not, and sometimes when I least expect it, the grief hits. Either way, I'm thankful to still be a part of Dave's family.

One last parting thought.  I am not really a lyrics person.  I don't need deep lyrics to enjoy a song, but I do like a fun beat, (that's just how deep I am).  With Tween's in the car, I've gotten a lot of Tweeny music exposure.  One of my favorite songs, lately, is, "Broken and Beautiful," by Kelly Clarkson.  It's how I feel about writing a post like this.  It's this mix of, "I've got this!" "Hold me!" "My broken is beautiful!" Some of the lyrics are:

I don't need your help and I don't need sympathy
I don't need you to lower the bar for me

I know I'm Superwoman
I know I'm strong
I know I've got this 'cause I've had it all along
I'm phenomenal
And I'm enough
I don't need you to tell me who to be

Can someone just hold me?
Don't fix me, don't try to change a thing
Can someone just know me?
'Cause underneath, I'm broken and it's beautiful