Over and Over

Each New Day is a Gift from God - Over and Over

Each New Day He Lovingly Pursues Us – Over and Over

He created me to want him,

Whispering my name

Over and over.

And when I finally answered him,

Joy unspeakable and full of glory

Descended upon me

Over and over.

When in fear

Or anger

Or misunderstanding

I pushed him away,

He patiently pursued me

Over and over.

When I turned my ear to listen

To the words he was speaking to my heart,

I learned what grace really means

Over and over.

When the pain came

He whispered,

My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

Over and over.

Now, whispering his name,

I choose him

Over and over.

I am his,

And he is mine

Through faith and hope

Over and over

Until

That glorious day

When eternity begins.

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Idolizing Susie Homemaker

Contentment by the Fire

Contentment by the Fire

Idolizing Susie Homemaker is not something I set out to do. Nor do I recommend it.  Let me explain….

I’m not sure if you saw one of my first posts, but in it I shared how the title to this blog comes from a small plate I found ages ago. It has a drawing of a sweet cottage and written on the plate is a brief poem about coming upon a pleasant scene, the Cottage of Content. That plate captured perfectly my desire to create a nurturing, simple cottage life for my family. I bought the plate and happily hung it in our home.

I gave it a good shot, creating the Cottage of Content. I stayed at home while I raised my children, baked lots of bread and cookies and wholesome meals and had fun decorating and doing crafts and teaching my four children about God. There were choir concerts and sporting events and birthday parties and it was pretty much as perfect as I could make it. Which was not so perfect at all because reality is messy. Just ask my kids.

When, after 22 years, my ex-husband and I divorced, I came to realize that I had idolized the Cottage of Content. I believed that if I could create a nurturing environment it would ensure a happy future for my children. (See my posts on Divorce for more on that…)But when our family cracked, my idol cracked, too. There is no such thing as the Cottage of Content. Not really. Contentment has to come from within. I get that. Now, if all is well between me and God, I consider that contentment enough.

Still, I keep returning to that image. I still want that Cottage of Content. I know contentment comes from within. I’m talking about the creative part of making a house a home. It’s all the “Susie Homemaker” stuff. I can’t stop doing it. But does it cross a line to idolizing? For me it might. Let me try to explain.

All those years of being Susie Homemaker didn’t come to an end because I divorced. Sad though I was, I gradually recovered, continued to make a home for my kids and got a job, and then I chose to marry again. And create a new home aka Cottage of Content. I took it slow this time.  I didn’t want to make the same mistake by idolizing anyone or anything to the point that I served it too much. When it came to decorating I limited it to attractively blending our things. We bought just enough new things to make it feel fresh and “ours.” I still made the kitchen “mine” by baking up a storm (couldn’t help myself there!) but invited my husband in to cook a lot, too.

Ten years in we’ve had lots of fun creating a home that suits us both. We both enjoy hunting down “treasures” at antique stores and flea markets. I’m not sure how we started calling the “finds” we come across “treasures.”  “Did you find any good treasures today, Honey?” “Yes! I love it!” Sometimes I’ll put a treasured vintage tablecloth on my table to see if it’s a keeper or a seller. If I really, really like it, I keep it. The same goes with recipe boxes filled with old recipes.  I sort through them and decide which to keep (I’ve found the most awesome recipe boxes!) and which to sell. I do that with a lot of things. We rent space in antique stores and have a blast setting up in the summer at flea markets where we can sell our treasures there.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to blog about those things. I could share pictures of vignettes at the flea markets, and projects I create or those antique, handmade, lace bedspreads made of fine silk threads and the quilts I found for a song and the most amazing box of old linens. What fun it was to discover those and then sell them to others who also appreciate them!

But I worry that instead of sharing from the heart, I’d be sharing about stuff. Stuff can lead me to idolize, or covet or judge or feel inadequate or dissatisfied. I worry that it might do that to someone else, too. I feel a responsibility with my writing here, to keep it about the heart. Maybe sharing some recipes would be fun (if you could read through those recipes boxes with me you’d understand why I think they’re so cool), but only as they relate to our hearts.

Do you see what I see? What I love doing has become a way of living. Which should be a good thing. Except that lately I hear myself saying “I love that!” and “treasures” too often. The words escape my mouth – my heart – I say them too easily to swiftly retract. Yes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It’s true. I do love some things. As a homemaker, designer, a buyer and a seller of vintage items, things really can bring me joy. It may be for a moment, or a month or a year or a lifetime. But as the years go by, the things add up. You might say I have too much joy in my life these days. Too many cookbooks and pie plates and pretty china and linens. I’m uncomfortable with that.

So is it idolizing?

Lately I’ve been thinking hard about Jesus’s response to the rich young man who wanted to follow him.

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What if Jesus is saying that to me?  Selling everything would mean walking away from my comfortable Cottage of Content. Big or small, filled or not, I like living in a safe, comfortable haven.  I’ve worked hard to create that out of very little at times. It’s just what I do. It’s what I need and want.  I want it for me, for my husband, for our children and grandchildren and friends. It’s never been fancy or grand, trust me. But it’s always been home.

But what if, in order to avoid loving things and being occupied with taking care of them or moving them or cleaning them or selling them, and keeping myself safe in my contented cottage, I chose to embrace a different lifestyle altogether?

What would it look like if I was no longer a Susie Homemaker? It’s one thing to accept change when I’m too sick or too old and I have no other choice, it’s another to chose it now, when being Susie Homemaker means comfort and security.

Most disconcerting is my inability to even imagine what life could be like without being Susie Homemaker.  Something is up with that.  Maybe billions of other women are just fine being Susie Homemakers.  But for me, it’s a dangerous occupation. I can be too caught up in the stuff of a contented life.  Earthly treasures are a cheap reward for a life supposedly set apart for God.  I want heavenly treasures – the words “well done my good and faithful servant.”

Clearly, I’m thinking hard about these things.  I don’t have answers yet.  But I’m trying to open myself to possibilities.  And not be afraid to think out loud.  And continue to share from my heart. I know Jesus is called the Shepherd because he leads us, caring for us today by preparing us for what’s ahead. I think he’s doing that very thing with all these ponderings.  I’m going to work on being content with that for now.

Ten Guidelines for a Christian Divorce

theedgeofthecliff

Ten Guidelines for a Christian Divorce

Divorce may have led you to the edge of an unfamiliar cliff.   For the first time you realize how easy it is to become bitter.   You understand why people seek revenge.  You have moments when you subtly or overtly hurt your spouse in ways you never thought you would.  At the same time you’re asking yourself how to let go of this spouse as a lover and confidant.  The future is a scary unknown and you can’t make yourself jump into it yet. You feel like an absolute failure.  Survival is everything and sanity is doubtful.

Honoring God in the midst of this?  It would be nice but how are you supposed to do that when the divorce itself makes you feel like somehow you’ve let Him down?

What if it is possible to honor God even in especially in the midst of a messy divorce?  What if your love for God is the one thing that brings order to the chaos?  What if God is able to help you with that bitterness and show you how to love a (soon-to-be-former) spouse in a new way? Can you imagine jumping into the unknown and finding that the attitudes changed and faith built during your divorce give you dignity and purpose?  And this helps you land on your feet?  In a pleasant place?

“Impossible!”

That’s what most of us think.  But having been through a divorce, I know firsthand how hard divorce is and what a difference my choice to honor God made in me and in my divorce.  I didn’t have any guidelines to follow.  What I did have was the Holy Spirit gently reminding that Jesus’ ways aren’t my ways.  I knew I had to stick to the truths in the Bible. It was time to apply them in this unfamiliar place. So I made my own guidelines for making it through my divorce without compromising my commitment to Jesus Christ.  I wasn’t perfect.  Regrets still linger over the mistakes I did make. They are painful regrets, regrets I hope you might avoid.

Below are what I consider to be the cream of the crop.  These are the truths that transcend all situations but are especially helpful in the midst of what is not just a battle for the kids or property or our sanity, but is essentially, always, a spiritual battle.  Yes, a spiritual battle.  You may never be so vulnerable again, and Satan knows it.  Sinful attitudes and actions creep in like crazy during this season.  Never forget that even this battle is really all about your soul.  You need all the Godly help you can get to guard your heart.

Top Ten Guidelines for a Christian Divorce

  1. As much as it is up to you, have biblical grounds for divorce.
  2. Don’t bash your spouse to your children, your spouse’s family, or mutual friends.  Ever.
  3. Don’t seek revenge.
  4. Have good physical/emotional/sexual boundaries.
  5. Don’t use or manipulate your spouse to get what you want.
  6. Choose to love your (former)spouse in a new, God-honoring, (love your enemies?) kind of way.
  7. Be honest.  Period.  (Disclaimer for spousal abuse victims:  Be discreet about important details to protect yourself.)
  8. Grieve.  Get angry.  Get sad.  Go through denial.  Bargain.  Get angry and sad some more. Then deal with the painful reality that it’s over. This will take a long time. Give yourself that time.
  9. Wait until your divorce is final before dating.
  10. Trust that God has plans for your future.  These plans do not involve sexual immorality!

What will it take to do these things?  A heart that is open to learning how to put up good walls (boundaries) with a divorcing spouse.  At the same time invite God in through His Holy Spirit to help heal the deep, deep wounds. I’ll devote future blogs to sharing what’s behind each guideline; some great verses that are so encouraging. Meanwhile, won’t you take a moment right now to ask Him to help you with your situation?

Dear God,  You know the nitty-gritty of every relationship. All the good and all the bad. You grieve with us over all the losses. May those in need of your healing and your help understand how much You love them.  May they be aware of Your ability to heal, to teach new ways – Your ways – and to guide us into places we’re too afraid to go by ourselves. Hold us closely as we grieve, comfort us as only You’re able.  Give us wisdom to make wise choices and the ability to look at our situation and spouse (or former spouse) as You want them to be seen.  May we be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, leaving vengeance and justice to You. Help us guard our hearts from hurtful people.  Help us to understand that we are never truly alone, that You love us always and will be with us always. Give us faith to believe all that You promise, and remind us that you forgive us when we forget or let our fears overwhelm us.  Thanks, God, for being here for us, at this very moment.  In Jesus name, amen.  

Feeling Weary?

Tired Woman

Every so often my passion for helping others just kind of sizzles out in an exhausted sigh.  It raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions at a time when my brain and body are begging for a break.  The questions, however, are necessary if I want to figure out why I’m feeling so tired.

Here’s my “go to” list of questions:  Am I happily serving others or am I doing some inner complaining?  Am I tired physically?  Spiritually?  Emotionally?  Is this burnout or a season of discouragement?  Do I base my serving others on the response I get short term?  Am I too results oriented?  That old buzz word, “co-dependent” flashes through my mind and I have to do a quick check to assess it.  Am I compulsively serving?  Is it feeding a need in me?   Exactly why am I serving others?  And what exactly have I been doing lately and is it stuff I’m really wired to do?

I went through this just a month ago.  It was the beginning of December. I groaned as I looked at my to do list.  I wanted to throw in the towel on everything, even the good stuff.  I didn’t have the energy or the desire to do any of it.   And I didn’t want to spend the energy going over all those questions, either.  Then I came across this.  Let me rephrase that.  Then I came across this, again:  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Funny how this verse keeps popping up in my life. I’m pretty sure I was in my twenties the first time I picked up this particular clue phone and it’s rung often since then.  It was time to answer it yet again.

It took a good two weeks to contemplate all the questions and figure out why I felt so weary.  Actually it wasn’t a what but rather a who. Someone who had reached out to me for help was being rather unkind. I realized I was looking at temporary results based on someone who had other issues in their life that weren’t about me at all. Though the issues affected our relationship, there was no need for me to take it personally.

I acknowledged my hurt feelings, prayed about the relationship and put the person and their issues in God’s hands. I forgave them, and was able to let it all go. The weariness went away.

Which brings me to today.  I just returned to Chicago from D.C. after spending time with my daughter’s family.  I was able to help out as they welcomed their latest, a healthy baby boy.  It was a gift to be invited into their home and their lives for the better part of two weeks.  I’m so proud of my daughter’s efforts as a military wife and mom to their three children. She continues to amaze me as I watch her bloom and grow.

My time there resurrected all kinds of memories of raising my own kids, and honestly, they were tough memories.  Life with kids is a constant ebb and flow of wills, spontaneous laughter, daily disasters and joyous milestones. There are tedious chores and tender feelings and lessons that are only learned the hard way.  That goes for parents and for kids.   And, I’m learning, for grandparents! But that’s another post…

I came home with a strange mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion.  I wasn’t quite sure what that was all about until I read my Bible this morning.  In Luke 8, verses 43-47, is the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She touched the edge of the cloak Jesus was wearing and was instantly healed.  “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.  “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”  The woman, seeing she couldn’t go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.  In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and had been instantly healed.  Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

I love this story for several reasons, the first being that Jesus persisted in wanting to see her, know her, hear her story.  He really cared about her. That’s love.  That is exactly what He has done for me.  He seeks me out.  He wants to hear directly from me what I’ve been going through.  And He heals my heart, over and over.  You know, I hope, that He cares exactly the same for you.  He wants to look in your eyes, know you and hear your story and pain and heal you and love you, over and over, again and again.

I also love that the woman shared the intimate details of her illness, regardless of the people around them.  She knew she could trust Him.  She was so grateful that she let nothing hold her back, not the crowd, not the social mores, nothing.  That is so inspiring.  But what struck me today was the power part, how power left Jesus.  I’ve always wondered about that.  How did He know power left him? (Power in this instance means inherent capacity to carry something out.)

Today I finally got it.  I gladly served my daughter and her family, but in giving to her, it took from me.  I was tired.  The same goes for my situation back in December. Giving takes from us and gives to others. In the process we lose power. We get tired. We feel worn out. And that’s okay. That’s what giving does when it comes from the heart. That’s what love is, that’s what love does.

But there’s more. After Jesus healed that woman, He continued on that day and raised a little girl from the dead. Just a few paragraphs later He sent out His disciples and “gave them power {that same kind of inherent power – ability} and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He told them, “Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt…”

Our ability to move forward comes as He provides.  We just have to show up. Say yes. Here I am. Send me. Which is what I did with my daughter. I showed up, not sure exactly what I could do that would help the most. Turns out it wasn’t the cleaning or watching the kids or any of the things I intentionally did that helped the most. It was who I am, the way I’m just wired to be a calming influence that meant the most to her. That, I can tell you with the utmost truth, is not something I can do on my own. That is simply a gift God has given me. He gave me that to give to her. He knew what she needed. Seeing that happen brought tears to my eyes.  Though I doubted my ability to be enough for her, God made me enough.  Showing up, giving, may come with a cost to us. But the most meaningful gift to others is Jesus shining through us.  Knowing that is both rewarding and exhilarating.

I had to smile as this all began to fit together when I read those verses today.  God began preparing me for my trip a month ago when I had absolutely no energy to serve anyone. He knew what was ahead and what I was meant to do.  Once again, He has my back, just like He has your back right now. He keeps preparing us, encouraging us, and giving us what we need to do the work before us. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a really good verse:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Dick and Jane Days

A Fall Drive  1948 Ginn and Company

A Fall Drive
1948 Ginn and Company

Remember back in grade school, all those pictures of America? Pictures of roads and cities and delivery trucks and fields and farms? They showed men in business suits and uniforms or overalls, women wearing aprons over their shirtwaist dresses as they cleaned house, or wearing skirts and jackets as they shopped. Children played in the yard or pulled red wagons down the sidewalk, or held their mother’s hand at the grocery store.  The sky is usually a bright blue, clouds are scattered here and there, trees are perfect and regularly spaced.  City streets are clean and country roads have fields of corn in straight, long rows.  Barns are red and beautiful in the flickering sunlight.  Dick and Jane days, that’s what I call them.

Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of something perfect, like in those pictures, and I’ll think, “This is a Dick and Jane moment.” I love those moments.  Each season brings to mind different pictures, but sometimes I’m too weighed down by life and disappointment to remember to even look.  But every so often, like today, I’ll take a step back and look intentionally

Today I saw white pickup trucks in pumpkin fields that still held thousands of pumpkins.  A lot of families will be getting a lot of pleasure from those pumpkins.  I saw a Skippy peanut butter semi truck with a giant jar of peanut butter staring at me as I drove behind it.  I was just about addicted to that delicious looking peanut butter by the time the truck turned off. I wonder how many sandwiches will be taken to schools with peanut butter from that truck.  I wonder about the pride and hard work that goes into driving this truck as the truck driver supports himself and perhaps a family by driving the roads of America.

I passed a woman with gray curls and the pedal to the metal of her burgundy Buick as she flew past me on country roads – a farmer’s wife with pressing needs?  Is she okay, is her husband okay?  Emergencies and frustrations come to all of us, that’s for sure.

I saw women in their sweatshirts and jeans at the department store, and an aging mother asking her daughter if she liked a particular hat.  Women still shop in the middle of the day, even on Mondays.  And I still love seeing mothers and daughters, of any age, shopping together.  I kinda wish they were holding hands.

I saw farms with fields of corn already harvested, while other cornfields stood patient, tall and strong despite the stiff breeze blowing through them.  I saw farmhouses with their yards neat and clean, some with signs advertising pies, others eggs or vegetables and one was selling goats.  Farmers still love the earth and what it grows and supports.  Women still love their farmers and tolerate the work, and they all likely have even more patience and faith in a good harvest and a good God than I do.

I drove a patch of road with a sign that said it is maintained by a group of Girl Scouts. Apparently they had just cleaned up, as fat orange refuse bags still sat on the sides of the road, waiting to be picked up.  Girl Scout leaders still volunteer and believe in young girls, and young girls are still learning the value of civic pride and the blessing of giving of self to make this world more pleasant for others.  And yes, people are still littering roads with tons of garbage, a fact that still drives me crazy!

I saw a man with white hair sneaking out from beneath his red cap that matched his red coat and his red riding mower.  He drove slowly as he cut the grass that sloped in a gully in front of his home.  Old men are still retiring, and still have enough gas and know how to mow their lawns and keep their mowers running.  There’s something comforting in that.

I saw another older person, a woman, walking up the driveway from her mailbox as she carefully clutched her walker.  She accomplished something that others today may not do.  She is home, she is walking, the sun still shines down on her within the confines of her more limited world.  There is hope in that.

I also saw a young boy skateboarding in a city park.  Now, either he was visiting on vacation, is a home schooled student or kids still play hookey.  I have no idea exactly how he got to be there, but he is really good at skateboarding.  He is young and strong and a risk taker, even if it’s just to skateboard.  As long as he doesn’t hurt himself, he’ll likely see more of America’s future than I will.  There’s a lot of hope there, too.

We are the fruit of our forefathers and our country.  As a whole, we live a life that is still envied the world around.  The slice of life I experienced today was still similar to those Dick and Jane days. Take your camera to the cities and rural areas and you’ll capture similar scenes.  The geography may have changed, the demographics, the morality, yes, they’ve changed, too.  But this is still a beautiful country, no matter how or where you slice it, because the individual parts are still made up of a whole. I still get to live out some very beautiful Dick and Jane days, right here, in America. What a gift.

The Christian Divorce – Saying Yes to Divorce

IMG_7932IMG_1217 The Reality of the “Yes.”

Surely someone has breezily accepted a marriage proposal without thinking and then divorced with just as little thought. At least once or twice I’ve read a newspaper report about celebrities doing that – Vegas, right?  But what if they were hurting from the reality of their situation just as much as the rest of us?Among the hundreds of people I’ve spoken with as they divorced, no one ever breezily dismissed their marriage, no matter how brief. Spouses may grieve in different ways, but the internal pain is often quite similar.  For some, they will, really, never recover from the divorce. Children’s lives are broken in ways that will never heal.  The reality of saying “yes” to divorce. can be harsh indeed.

Loss on multiple levels, feelings of failure, grief – these are just some of the rites of passage through divorce.  The tearing asunder seems endless some days.  One day, when I was going through a very difficult time more than a year after my divorce, I asked a wiser, older woman in charge of the divorce recovery program at my former church when she thought the pain might end.  ”I’d guess it takes three years for every year you were married,” she replied.  I stared.  22 years x 3 = 66.  66 years????? How can that be? Slowly the light dawned.  Oh…I’ll never get over it. She was right.

With so much healing needed, and with circumstances taking curves you can’t foresee and spouses hurting each other in ways once unimaginable, it’s not uncommon for deep seated fears to surface.  ”What if the kids….?,” “How will I…?” “What if I lose…?” This often leads to, “I need to do this.”  ”I don’t have a choice.”  ”I have to for the kids.”  Sin stealthily slips in to steal and destroy just when we are most vulnerable.  At its worst, divorce tears at the souls of good people, people who never wanted a divorce and despite their best efforts, find themselves faced with their greatest fears.

Another harsh reality about saying yes to divorce is that we’ll be accountable before God for the call we make.  Our children, also, have every right to question our decision.  Daunting.  Simply daunting.  It still is for me, because my responsibility doesn’t end just because it’s in the past.  I continue to believe I made the right call, but I’ve had to examine my motives, my steps to fix the marriage, my reasons for calling it quits, how I handled the divorce and then how I handled being single.

I’ve gone over the details and the debris so many times that I amaze myself at how many perspectives I can have on any given day!  Clearly, I think way too much, but I know I will do this until I die because time and experience keep bringing more insights to ponder.  I also have a healthy fear of God, which continues to keep me open to owning my mistakes and seeing if I’m ignoring sin in my life.  I figure I’d rather do this today instead of dying unexpectedly and finding it’s too late!

Not all the realities of divorce are harsh, however.  For many, divorce is a cold winter of  tearing asunder that leads to a spring of healing.  Getting away from the adultery, abuse, addictions, or any pattern of sin that has developed within a marriage, can bring us to a place where we breathe freely again for the first time in years.  Fragile and barely able to move forward, God promises,”He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.”  “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, ” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest,”  Stumbling, crawling under burdens you were never meant to carry alone, whatever it takes to get out, it’s worth it to begin to heal. Even for the children, or perhaps, in some very hurtful homes, especially for the children.

Consider, however, one more truth – that no one leaves a marriage without some responsibility for what happened within it.  Each spouse bears some of the responsibility and surely some of the guilt.  However, holding on to guilt will do you no good. The Bible says that God removes the guilt of our sin.  His forgiveness is complete, even if your spouses’s isn’t.  Ask your spouse for forgiveness anyway, because you have surely hurt them, perhaps through your blatant sin, or perhaps by enabling theirs.

Is healing harder if we’ve made the majority of mistakes?  Not necessarily.  Key to healing is the ability to have hope.  We may not have hope for our spouse anymore, but – and this is important – if we own up to our own mistakes, hope for a better future with a better outcome is possible.  Consider that God promised, of all things, hope to those who had turned their backs on him.  He said, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. “

How does that happen?  Hope comes in many forms.  In fact, it comes in so many forms and is so, well…hopeful, that it would be a great topic for another post.  For now, I’ll start with the hope most familiar one to me – the one I lived. Strangely, hope came when I owned up to the full impact of my own mistakes.  It was time to grow up, to step up, and own up.  It had been easy to point a self-righteous finger at my spouse because he blatantly erred.  In my anger and victim mentality it felt good to think he was responsible for the demise of our marriage.  My self-righteousness became a heavy stick I carried for a long time.   Yet, despite how “right” I thought I was I still found myself hitting bottom.  Splitting asunder due to divorce brings a physical, emotional and spiritual agony that defies words.  Imagine my shock when the only face staring back at me in the agony and darkness of my situation was my own.

I took a long, hard look at that face.  It held no answers.  ”Dig down,” I urged myself. Where my motto had once been the old “you gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps” I found that really, “I got nothin’.”  That was pretty scary.  For all my determination and anger, I still had “nothin’.”

Acknowledging the darkness of my own soul helped me see that I was just as tormented and lacking as the one I was blaming for the divorce.  I needed help and healing just as much as he did.

I began to own my own junk.  And what do you know?  In the harsh reality of owning our own mistakes God comes with our future laid out before us.  We need help.  We find we are same person we were before we married.  We have the same fears, some bad habits, same lessons to learn.  And therein lies the work ahead.  The more honest we are about this, the more we ask for help in addressing these things, the more baby steps we  will be able to take forward.  Hope begins to grow as we see that change begins within, with God’s help.  Small wins become confidence builders that inspire better choices. Little by little, the future unfolds with hope.

For the record, I hate divorce. Yet, there are clear grounds for divorce in the Bible. The Bible also gives many teachings on what a good marriage should look like.  Only you, your spouse and God really know the intimate details of what is good and what is bad within your marriage.  Many a marriage can survive adultery, abuse or addictions. Many cannot.  If you’ve decided to divorce, I pray that you will reach out to Jesus in the midst of the harsh darkness that you may be in.  His Word – the Bible – may it be a light to your path as you examine your choices.  May God give you the wisdom to know what to do and how to do it when you have no hope that things will ever work out for you.  May your fears not take root, but be rooted out.  May hope be felt in your heart again, very, very soon.

P.S.  If your marriage is in need of prayer, please feel free to contact me privately through this blog.   Sometimes I’m contacted through a “comment” below – and I respond privately and never make the comment public.   You may also email me at cottageofcontent@hotmail.com.

The Christian Divorce – Should I or Shouldn’t I?

The words “Christian divorce” always sound like an oxymoron to me.  Though I know Christian couples are just as likely to divorce as non-Christian, there’s still something inside me that says, “wrong.”  I keep thinking Christians should know better how to avoid mistakes (sin), know better how to heal, forgive, and love really, really well.  But no.  I should know, for I’m both a Christian and I went through a divorce.  Though it’s been 11 years since mine was finalized, and I’m nine years into my second marriage, I’m still struck by the incongruity of divorce within a Christian relationship.  I’ve shared before how “The Cottage of Content” represents my driving passion to create a loving, safe place for all whose paths cross mine. Divorce shattered that original hope, and learning to hope again, regardless of my marital status, is an ongoing lesson for me.  Yet here I am, as passionate about it as ever.

Because I found so little support online during my most painful years, I thought I’d begin to share some insights I’ve learned along the way, not just on my own journey, but as others have shared their journeys with me, as well.

For those who have time, as in your spouse hasn’t asked for a divorce, the journey usually starts with indecision.

Indecision

Is this really the right person for me?  A tough season in marriage can make us question ourselves and consider things we never thought we would.  We wonder what happened to our judgment and “why didn’t my spouse tell me about that?”  Our spouses do this, too.  This forces us to look for answers.  It stretches us beyond what we thought we were capable of, good and bad, and we are not who we were when we started.  We change, the marriage changes.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the realizations that come when your marriage has been cracked to the core.  When sin enters into the sacredness of your vows and destroys trust and your sense of safety. You begin weighing back and forth all the details of your lives and see the enormity of all that hangs in the balance.  Your life, their life, the kid’s lives, the extended families, where you live, your work, the pets, the stuff, the money, the insurances, your relationship with God, what the Bible says, everything, everything, everything is weighing on you. You try counseling. You pray for wisdom and healing for your marriage. You read books, you try harder, you try anything. You try to distract yourself for a moment or a day or a week or two but the question of whether this will work or not just won’t go away. You may talk to trusted friends, or keep it completely to yourself. You wait for circumstances to play out that may influence your decision. You hear those who say with disdain, “Everyone rushes into divorce these days.  No one is willing to do the hard work that marriage requires.”  They have no clue how hard you’re trying and how difficult your marriage is, but you wonder if it’s true and push yourself even harder.  You give one more chance and pray for a miracle.

And then one day, something changes.

Let’s say that this particular change leads you to the road called, “Not Now.”  

You step onto that road.  

Not Now

It’s been my experience that in really difficult marriages a dedicated spouse will choose this road many, many times. Each time it looks a little different. That book recommended some new things that were sound and reasonable – and hope began to flare again.  Talking with the counselor helped affirm what was good and worth saving.  Attitudes began to change.  One spouse began to fulfill some promises and built trust. Forgiveness was extended and some healing began.

Sometimes it’s not that clear.  Perhaps an emergency within the family forces everything else into the background while you both turn your attention to the demands of the urgent situation.   And, realistically, sometimes it’s more about realizing you need a break from the uncertainty. You can’t take the stress anymore and you’re just not ready to say it’s over. For a while, it’s time to set it aside.

Whatever the reason, and IMHO all the above are valid, the debating within stops. There’s a freedom and release from internal agony that is a relief like none other. Amazingly, you don’t realize it at first, but then you catch yourself laughing again. Your heart isn’t racing for the first time in weeks or months. You begin enjoying things again. You begin to see how indecision was taking its toll.  Indecision is brutal.

Sometimes I wonder how many of these external circumstances or internal changes are a result of God’s intervention.   Years accumulate this way.  People often get through the worst and grow even closer.  Families make it.  “Not Now” might just lead to a very tolerable road named “Til Death Do Us Part”.  

Mandatory Warning – If you’re choosing “Not Now”, I must ask – is abuse involved? If so, please be honest about the cost of your particular choice. Remember there is always a cost to every choice, and those in an abusive relationship pay the highest price.  Who in your life is paying the price?  Protect yourself.  Protect those in your care.  Find the help you need no matter how many times and how many ways you ask. Though you feel weak, consider how strong you really are to have put up with the abuse for any length of time.  The alternatives to staying may not look great, but looking back you may see that you forgot to anticipate the goodness that comes. Our fears tell us only bad things, but good things are possible, too.  Don’t give up hope that the future holds good things, too! Rest if you must but arise stronger and wiser than before!  

Stay tuned for further insights into divorce – When “Not Now” leads to “Now.”