Focus

They say beginnings are the hardest part. I think they’re the scariest, but it’s the middles that really show us what we’re made of.

When you fall hard enough that your entire life changes in a few months, it can take a while to get back up again. The time spent in that dip between the break, and the getting up and on with a new life, can be a treacherous place. Some stay there, and never recover.

For me it was my divorce.

The tear was jagged and deep. We all felt it in our own ways. A great many people were so tightly woven to us, our parents and siblings especially, that the rip turned into a ripple of pain and that kind of separation isn’t meant to be weathered. No family is built for a divorce.

This past Easter weekend was one of those times when I realized how far I’ve come. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, basking in the sun in a friend’s back yard, sipping a beer and laughing with friends, that it dawned on me. I was getting married 10 years ago on Easter Sunday.

See, over the last 2 years I’ve been building up to all these anniversaries. I mourned and drudged myself through all of them. 2013 was the year of “firsts.” My first Valentine’s without him. My first summer without him. Our first day of school without him. The anniversary of the day we met, got engaged, Christmas, etc… I’m a deeply sentimental woman so it all held such heartache for me.

Realizing it at 3:45 in the afternoon was actually kind of liberating. It meant I hadn’t spent the week leading up to it in misery and anguish. It meant I was moving on. It meant my focus was finally on Christ and no longer on him.

What I wasn’t ready for, however, was how my kids would handle his upcoming marriage.

Watching them drive away with their dad and his fiancé is always hard. It always hurts and I still always cry. I don’t know if my heart will ever be able to swallow the sight of my babies with their dad and another woman.

But what I wasn’t ready for was how they might actually feel about it. I mean, we talk about it. We talk about everything. They’re so happy and easy going and joyful that I didn’t see it coming.

Last Sunday night I picked them up as usual and as we began our hour long drive home, my daughter (who’s 9) began to quietly weep in the backseat. I kept asking her what was wrong and she insisted her eyes just hurt.

“Do you not want to talk about it in front of Quinn?” I asked her. She nodded. So I pulled off of the road into a parking lot and got out and came around to her side and squatted down to her level. She fell into my arms and sobbed.

“Tell me baby. You can tell me anything. Is it the wedding?”

We had been discussing their dad’s upcoming wedding and the kids were sad that I wasn’t going. Quinn asked if it was because it would make me too sad. I took a deep breath and answered truthfully.

“No baby. It doesn’t make me sad. It actually makes me really, really happy. Daddy loves Jesse right? Well I love daddy too. All I want is to see daddy happy. So if Jesse makes him happy, then I’m so glad they’re getting married. It’s just that it’s not really appropriate for me to go to daddy’s wedding. Ok?”

He seemed to get all that and quickly dropped it. But Kierra’s eyes welled up and soon I found myself holding her on the side of the road while she wept.

“I don’t want daddy to marry Jesse. I want him to marry you again. I don’t want us to be divorced. I don’t like missing you when I’m with daddy and missing daddy when I’m with you.”

What do you say to that? That’s the story of my life, my sweet baby girl. So I kissed her and hugged her tight and said all I could think to say. “I know, baby girl. I know.”

We get through. We crack and we bend but we hold tight to each other and pray we don’t break. The wind weathers us. It fills our sails and tears the battered boards from our nailed up windows. It bangs us up and drives us forward and brings new things around each bend. All we can do is hold on to the things that don’t change.

This year’s wind brings lots of changes. It brings things I’m not ready for. But holding on to my babies – and the promises that God had for us – will see me through. His grace has always been enough. It doesn’t run out and it doesn’t change.

Now that I’m officially not at the beginning, and I’m somewhere in the middle, I’m trying to figure out where exactly I am. I still feel like I’m in a transition between something. I don’t feel completely settled and where I’m meant to be. And maybe I never will. Maybe that’s something I’ll never fully experience on this side of heaven. But I’d like to think there’s some sort of permanence and physical security in my future. We’ll have to wait and see.

Resurgence

I have a friend who I love with all my heart. She has been my closest friend since we were niners in high school. We’ve been through some pretty crazy times together. When it comes to the details of my life – the pains, the joys, the sorrows, the trials, the successes and triumphs – she knows it all. And we broke up in December.

We have this history of breaking up and getting back together. We love each other forever, there’s no doubt about that. She’s my soul’s sister and she owns a piece of me that I’ll never even try to take back. She’s the David to my Jonathan. But we also tend to hurt each other, and because our love is so deep, so is the wound when this happens.

We haven’t spoken since before her wedding and since before Christmas.

And she sent me a text yesterday telling me she misses me.

And my heart leapt inside me.

I have so many people who judge our relationship and urge me to write her off. I’m sure you all have had a relationship like that – where the people who don’t like to see you get hurt want you to bail on it and leave it at the curb. And maybe I should. But I can’t.

There’s so much more to it, but I can’t help but feeling puzzled at this concept.

Some have called it a toxic relationship. And in some ways it very well could be. But I don’t understand why that qualifies it for termination.

If Jesus walked away from me because I hurt Him and continued to blaspheme Him or deny His love, even after complete and total repentance and rededication, I would be wallowing in a grave of emptiness and total aloneness right now. But He never does. In fact, He commands me to forgive, again and again, over and over, until it breaks me, and then 70 times 7 times after that.

I love this woman. I love her with the purest of loves that only God could have given me. I love her as I love my own life. And when I define love, and as I search through scriptures and teachings from my Saviour, I find no justification for giving up on that love. Nowhere.

In fact – Christ gave us a beautiful definition of love that we all know or have at least heard.

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love isn’t supposed to be conditional. Love isn’t supposed to have rules and limits. It’s not supposed to remember the hurts of the past and hold onto them and hold us back from loving in the future. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be real. Nothing about love is easy! Love requires dedication, commitment, selflessness and complete and total devotion without conditions.

I’m not talking about the love this world shows us. I’m talking about Christ’s love. He never gives up on me. He takes my daily sins and wraps them in His nail-scarred hands, and flings them as far as the east is from the west. And He turns the other cheek and loves me the next day. That is the kind of love I want to exhibit and experience in my life. I don’t want the kind of love that asks for love in return, or requires perfection in order to receive all its benefits. I want REAL love. And it has to come from a desire to be more like Christ, even – especially – if it hurts.

I’m going to see her and meet her new husband tonight. I am itching to pull her into my arms and hold her close and feel her warmth again. Doesn’t God restore all things? Is there anything that is beyond His redemption? This past year has proven to me that yes, he does, and no, there isn’t.

Perhaps I’ll get my heart broken again. But I don’t see how not stepping out in faith and love is an option when Christ commands me to love others more than myself. If loving her means breaking my heart, I’m prepared to do that. Christ broke Himself to love me. So following in obedience and submitting to the love He has placed and burned and fired inside me is what I am choosing to do.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

February 6

I wrote this blog post on February 6 and didn’t have the courage to publish it at the time. So here goes.

The future I had planned for burst into flames and blazed for the past year, melting down the life I knew until I was left kicking embers and covering my head with ash. Wandering through the melted, charcoal smeared rubble, I am left wondering what to do next. Rebuild, of course, but what?

For now, I focus on the tasks at hand. Keeping my house clean. Making meals. Snuggling my kids and making sure they get enough of my undivided attention and security. Working my ass off. And starting over again the next day.

This isn’t living. This is surviving. How long will my life consist of making a home and working and sleeping, and spending every other weekend when they’re with their father recovering from the previous two weeks?

I’m not who I was a year ago.

I’m stronger.

And I’m terrified.

Each day that passes, I gain a little more strength, but I also break a little more inside. I bend to the will of my Father, when all I want to do some nights is rush back into the arms of the man who tore me down. I press on; surging, then crawling, aching, then rejoicing, twisting, bending, pushing, until I don’t recognize myself anymore. I am clay, and I surrender myself to the only One who can turn this brokenness into beautiful.

My heart is alive, and I am redeemed. My brokenness still cries out. I still fail to live in the grace that drenches my sweet little life, until He reminds me with a countryside of frost-kissed trees on my way to work, that He makes my heart beat, and not my own will.

I fall for those little lies that are sweetly whispered in my naked ear.

You have low self-esteem. No, I truly don’t. Human nature is to love ourselves more than anything else. I fight it every day.

You are a strong, independant woman. Ha! The battles I’ve fought this year have been waged with a paper sword and a tattered shield. He has been my protector. He has been my strength. He has stretched out His hand of provision and paid my hydro bill and put gas in my car and food in my cupboards. Independant? No, not me. I am nothing without Christ.

And so I grasp, with white knuckles and a soul that desperately yearns for understanding, so tightly to the promises He’s made to me. I will never leave you. Never, for certain. He’s proven it so far. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. All those things he yelled and cursed and beat my heart with, are not true. I am the daughter of the King of kings. I have called you by name, and you are Mine.

I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine… I will cling to that this Valentine’s day when I snuggle my babies and long for a husband to love. No man could ever love and cherish me the way the Father does. And until He sends me the one who will try, I wait patiently by. I get up, and brush my teeth, and smile, and kiss my babies, and try to shine a little brighter. I smile to the strangers and fuel myself with His joy. I wait, and pray, and wait…