Category Archives: Marriage

Wisdom…

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Abigail…

Are you familiar with her?

Her first husband was Nabal.  He was extremely wealthy.  He was a mean, sloppy drunk.  His name literally means “fool.”

Abigail had to make amends to their neighbors on the regular because her husband was such an ornery cuss.  The choices he made make it obvious that his number one priority was money and stuff – stuff that had value, which meant more money.  He treated his wife much like angry drunks treat their wives in this day and age, with contempt and disrespect.  My first reaction to this information was that of an upper-middle class white woman of the 21st century.   I kept thinking, “Why in the world did she marry this guy in the first place?  He was abusive, embarrassing,  not attentive to his wife.  What did she see in him and why, oh why was she still married to him?!”

Well… Abigail didn’t marry Nabal a few years ago.  She married him in a time when men made the decisions about such things.  Parents chose mates for their children based on their stations – how much land they owned, how much wealth their families had, etc.  It wasn’t a really big deal if a husband took out his frustrations of the day on his wife, with his angry words and/or hands.  Wives were acquisitions, more like property than partners, especially when their husbands were insecure and broken, as in the case of Nabal.  The part that still confuses me is that Abigail loved and served the same God that I do, but her husband did not.  My Bible tells me that Nabal was a “son of Belial,” meaning he followed this false god  who was known as a devil, and not at all the same God his wife served.  Her actions and conversation in the Bible make it apparent that she was raised in a Jewish home with parents who loved God and trained her well in that belief, although, I can find no evidence of who her parents actually were.  It seems strange that who her future husband worshiped wasn’t a deal breaker in her father’s decision.  It makes me wonder if her parents had passed away or became destitute, and she had no other choice.  By all accounts, Abigail was a beautiful, very wise and kind woman, so it’s not difficult to imagine why Nabal would marry her.

Her story goes something like this:

She was married to Nabal, who was despised by his community.  He was selfish, greedy and a volatile alcoholic.  There is no mention of any children between them.  He offended their neighbors frequently, and Abigail was known for wisely making amends without dishonoring her husband in the process.

During the time that Saul was after David and both were claiming to be King, David and his men were protecting Nabal’s livestock in the fields.  During the time of festival, David sent word to Nabal, who was shearing the sheep David and his men protected, that he and his men needed food and he humbly requested that Nabal return the kindness and feed him and his hungry men.  The response David received was insulting, at the very least.  He indicated he didn’t even know who David was and suggested that he could be one of many escaped slaves.

Upon receiving this response, David, told his men to sword up because they were going to visit Nabal’s home, where they would kill his entire family and his servants and their families.  One of the servants reported to Abigail what had transpired.  She assured Abigail that David and his men had been wonderful protectors in every way, that Nabal had wronged them, and urged her to fix things or they would all perish.

Abigail quickly loaded up plenty of food for David and his men with her servants’ help and without a word to her destructive husband, rode out on a donkey to meet the hungry, angry men.  I just love the way she got things done without a bunch of hoopla or drama.  She saw the problem, and was SO connected to God and His will, she knew just what to do and how to do it.  She intercepted the men and instead of arguing with David or justifying anything, she told him how much they were owed because of their hard work and protection.  She bowed down before him, with her face to the ground.  She connected with David by telling him she had been treated disrespectfully by her husband for years and that Nabal was a fool who was followed by folly wherever he went.  She then prophesied over David the blessings that the Lord had for him in the days to come:  becoming the true King, and a man who pursued God with all of his heart who would leave a lasting legacy.  She reminded him that killing Nabal’s entire household would only mar his reputation and his future as a respectable king… Brilliant!!  David and his men accepted her generous gift and he sent her home with a blessing over her.

Upon arriving home, her husband was very intoxicated and had guests over, so she decided to wait to tell him what has happened the following day when he would be fully present and less reactive from his alcohol consumption.  Upon waking, Abigail told him everything.  My Bible tells me that his heart failed him, he then turned to stone and about ten days later Nabal died.

When David heard the news, he rejoiced at God’s justice and then he sent word to Abigail that he desired to marry her.  She went willingly, even happily.  They had a son together and I’ve no doubt Abigail lived a much happier life than she did married to Nabal.

It’s funny.  When I first starting studying her, I was shocked to realize that the Abigail who was married to Nabal was the same Abigail who was married to David.  I just didn’t put it together.  She was such a leader, wise, kind, strong, brilliant, and beautiful.  I wish the Bible told us more about her life.  That she stayed with her abusive husband until he passed away is quite a feat.  That she worked so hard to keep their people safe and respectable is impressive.

I love that she didn’t play the victim in a situation that could’ve warranted such behavior, especially in the time she lived in.  She didn’t become bitter or turn inward.  She chose to think of others and see the big picture while putting out her very difficult husband’s fires pretty regularly.

Abigail challenges me not simply because she was kindhearted, wise, and possessed so many other virtuous characteristics, but more so because she was so connected to Our Father.  This is where we find our wisdom because we seek His will and not our own human and often self-serving desires.  This is where we see others through the correct lens and extend love and kindness without judgement and with humility.  I know that I often try to feel overwhelmed by doing all of the right things at the right time in the right fashion.  When I slow down and stop trying so hard to DO and I, instead, spend time BEing with My Father, the other things usually fall into place, and even when things get crazy (because things WILL get crazy for everyone here and there if you’re a human being), I’ve found that if I look to examples such as Abigail’s, I need only to be in regular, intimate relationship with Him to make wise and thoughtful choices.  Choices that He leads me to are always best for me and for the situations I find myself in.  I know this may seem like an oversimplification, but I believe that when I’ve struggled the most, I’ve been the farthest from Him.  I get busy with the wrong things, I don’t make Him a priority, I sabotage my relationship with Him for various reasons, laziness, brokenness, busyness, etc. and then when the big junk comes, I’m trying to figure it out on my own or by asking everyone’s opinion, except My Father’s.  Have you been there?  I think we all have.  Sometimes I beat myself up because I believe I shouldn’t still be wrestling with this at my age.  That’s just where satan wants me, so it’s imperative that I pick myself up and spend some time with my Father who loves and forgives me without condition.  I’m not Abigail, yet, but I’m thankful for her example.  I’m His beloved daughter.  I’m not a quitter and I’m no fool.

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Modern Day Adam

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What kind of dad did you have?  Not the face he wore in public, but the dad you had at home.  Was he steadfast, loving, encouraging, generous with his time and attention?  Did he love your mother tenderly, deeply and show you what commitment looks like?  Did he play ball with you in the backyard, or board games on Friday nights?  Did he work hard for your family, mow the lawn, take out the trash and provide for your family’s financial needs?  Did he attend your school functions, your sporting events, and take you out for a “date” now and again, just so he could get to know you more intimately?

Do any of us have this experience?  Is it even possible?

My father loves my mother very much.  He wrangled us all up to clean the house on the weekends when my mother worked, so that she would come home to peace and be able to enjoy what weekend she had left.  He took me out all by myself once when I was 18 or 19 years old to a Chinese restaurant and I was beside myself.  He asked me questions and told me about himself as a young adult.  It remains one of my most treasured memories of my life.  My father and I have a very broken relationship.  He has been broken since his childhood and unfortunately, the brokenness has seeped into and affected his children and their lives in untold ways.

When I was very pregnant with our daughter,  I was baptized.  Just a year before that I began my serious search for Jesus.  Even as a child, I had always been curious and when I delivered my first child seven years before my baptism, I also birthed a certainty that He was real – right there in the hospital delivery room.  My husband and I were attending a little church in Michigan.  I struggled with God for a bit, not willing to give up the “fun” I thought my life was full of, afraid of what following Him would really mean, but eventually, I gave in and asked Him to help me be who He wanted me to be.  That’s when the real fun began.

I kept hearing about how loving Our Father was, but every time I did something wrong, I was sure He didn’t love me anymore.  I would begin to “hide” from Him by skipping my devotion time more and more, by not praying as often, because I was pretty positive He wasn’t listening anyway.  When someone asked me about my relationship with my earthly father, I began to see the connection.  I was projecting the conditional love and rejection I expected from my human father onto my Heavenly Father, and since I can never be perfect or completely without sin, I was telling myself regularly that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God.  The tragedy is that, over that past many years since my self-discovery, I have found countless other Jesus followers who are struggling with the same thing, to different degrees, in their journey with Him.  Their broken relationships with their fathers are having a significant impact on their relationships with Our Heavenly Father.

The truth is, I believe that if satan can attack and destroy the men in our culture, then he knows that eventually he will destroy our entire culture.  He’s been at it since Adam in the garden.  If we don’t have God-following men, who are willing to lay down their lives to pursue His will, then it all crumbles, doesn’t it?  Children need fathers they can look to for a godly example.  Wives need husbands of integrity to lead their households in deep abiding love.

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So, what’s happened?  How did we end up with epidemic proportions of families broken and wounded by husbands & fathers who have physically and emotionally abused them, who have betrayed their wives, who are addicted to pornography, who are more concerned about the approval of their co-workers than their families?

Is it that men are just jerks?  Selfish, weak, cruel?

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added by me).

I’ll admit to you that I struggle with this at times.  When my husband displays his weak and very human qualities, I sometimes resent that he isn’t a little more Christlike (because I always am.  HA!).  I have this American idea in my head that he’s supposed to earn my respect.  God, through Paul, made it very clear that I must respect my husband regardless of my current mood.  It’s how He made men.  They require unconditional respect.  He infused me with a need for unconditional love and if I had to earn it from my husband or the other people I hold dear, I would be an empty shell.  I know the deep and lasting wounds of feeling like I can never be enough and being unlovable because of my relationship with my earthly father.  I am often not very lovable.  The irony of my marriage is that for many years now, my husband loves me unconditionally and with abandon.  He continually reassures me that I am worth loving, even when I am being ugly and seemingly unlovable.

We are inundated with examples of alpha females and beta men in television shows, books, and movies.  Are we really surprised we’re all beginning to follow this example?

This first struck me years ago when I was watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with my husband.  We were laughing uproariously at Deborah rolling her eyes at her t.v. husband, Ray, doing something childish and selfish, and frustrating his wife, as well as once again choosing to placate his mother, while his wife felt taken for granted.  It suddenly wasn’t funny anymore.  It hit too close to home and I felt as if I had stopped drinking the kool-aid and was seeing how harmful this mentality is to our culture at large.  Yesterday, as my husband and I were watching “The Big Sick” at the Alamo, Ray Romano was playing a very similar role, and it reminded me, once again, how saturated our culture is with “dumb, juvenile husbands” and wives who tolerate them, as my fellow movie watchers continually laughed at this dysfunctional relationship on the screen.  We are products of our environment to a large degree.

This is one of the main reasons we decided to disconnect our cable several years ago.  I did not want my children taking in the normalized version of men on the regular, nor did I want that for my husband and me.  While I’m aware it makes very little difference to the networks, I still couldn’t be comfortable with paying for something that was so destructive for my family.  I wonder when exactly this trend began.  Mr. Brady was a wonderful father who loved his wife and was respected by her and their children.  He had faults, but he was a good guy.  In the 80’s, the only show I could find that fit the theme and may have started this trend was “Married with Children.”  Shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Mr. Belvedere” had strong male leads with strong women as well.  Unfortunately, money voted for imbecilic men and strong, disgusted women, so this is what we see on the screen, by and large.

Here’s another theory of mine:  Perhaps the mamas and daddies of the previous recent generations were raised by dictator fathers and so, on some level (consciously or unconsciously) they raised sons who are more relational, but display less leadership qualities.

I know that there are people who want to blame this on the feminist movement, but I don’t think women wanting to be leaders is a negative thing.  I think the Bible has many instances of strong women.  Jesus treated women with dignity and respect.  I believe it is a twisted male need for control that ignores Jesus’ example of the role women should fill in our society.  But, this topic is a whole other blog…

So, I want to stand against satan and protect my family, protect my husband.  My part in that is to speak out when I see disrespect for men being awarded.  I need to work harder at treating my husband with UNCONDITIONAL respect.

Also, I need to support movies when the lead is a strong, loving, leader.  So, I should tell you the “The Big Sick” has this.  Kumail Nanjiani is kind of the anti-Raymond and the story is based on his real life, so that gives me hope.  He isn’t perfect, but he steps up and stands up.  He’s a man with hard-won integrity.  I like that.

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added).

So…  in my experience, when we submit to His ways, things typically fall into place.  Also, His ways usually are much easier said than done for this girl.  That’s not me making excuses, that’s me admitting I’ve got a long way to go.  But, I’m going…  and I’m going to keep reminding myself how blessed I am to not have to earn my husband’s unconditional love.  I’m also going to remember that even if he didn’t love me so completely, I am still called to respect him unconditionally.  There’s no “if” in Ephesians 5:33…

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It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

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This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
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2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Satisfied

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Lord,

I am so thankful to finally be out from under that mortgage and the town that brought more pain than any other in my entire life.  Thank You for bringing me out of that desert and into this blissful time in my journey.

Thank You for:

Our new home.  It is kitchie and homey.  I appreciate the weird angles, our hobbit bedroom, our 3 baths, my prayer room, and perfect backyard.  I love that we have downsized by 40% in terms of square footage and, though we need to empty more of the garage out, we are living a much more simplified life.  I am overwhelmed by the people You have brought into our home and lives since moving here.  May we always remember that our home is a gift from You and a safe haven for those You love and lead to our door.

My new Parenthood tables.  Already we’ve been surrounded by such lovely people and beautiful conversations.  Thank You for our beautiful gathering places.  May we love people well as we share food, conversation and You across these tables.

My Honey.  What would I do without him?!  He is my knight in shining armor.  Always fighting for my heart.  Always striving against his human nature to be the man You are calling him to be.  When I watch him love our babies, I just fall in love all over again.  Thank you for saving our marriage even after we messed it up seemingly beyond repair.  Because of your faithfulness, we will leave a legacy of love and commitment that only happened because of Your unconditional grace, love and faithfulness.

Our children.

-Scott and Jordan are living their lives.  Thank you for their jobs, their families and may You bless them with a deep desire to know You intimately.  May they always know how much they are loved and how unconditional our love is for them.

-Hannah is leading worship.  She has chased after You for so long since our family’s brokenness and You have loved her so perfectly.  Thank you for doing everything I could never do and honoring my heart instead of my actions and my shortcomings.  Lord, when I watch her breath YOU all over so many in corporate worship and in loving conversation with others seeking Your face, I know I am seeing You.  It’s all this mama could ever want.

-Caleb is coming full circle.  He is searching for truth, so I am sure he will find You.  He is still my Tita and there’s nothing simple about him.  You made him so wonderfully that way and so I believe You will meet him just where he is at and love him in a way I can only imagine.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You for the immeasurable talent You’ve blessed him with.  I pray he develops it and chooses to use it as You will for his life.

-Aaron is a man after Your own heart.  I love his servant heart, despite my abuse of that too many times for me to want to own up to.  I pray his heart softens as he grows in relationship with You and Your people.  Thank you for giving him talent beyond measure that he uses for Your glory.  Lord, thank You for waiting on him to come back to You. Only You know how much this mama yearned for him to love You completely.

Our church family.  We are finally HERE!  We are surrounded by family, neighbors, friends, all wrapped up in our church family.  I have longed to be here and live life with the kind of people we could only dream about for so many years.  I feel like I’m finally at the waterside, with the desolate lonely behind me.

My new car.  A Prius!!!  I just feel so good about its lack of carbon footprint and how cute it is.  It makes me feel so responsible because every little bit helps and I want to take care of this amazing world You gave us.  I’m also thankful for it’s great gas mileage and great price!

Our jobs.  Who would’ve thought we’d rather drive a tour bus, play music, doula, and nanny than almost anything else?!  I love going to work each day and my Honey still can’t believe he gets paid to drive people around while making them laugh and telling them historical facts!  We are blessed to live this life doing what we love and feeling such freedom in our “work.”

Lord, my tendency has always been to downplay the good stuff, so as not to brag, as well as to waste the times of abundance worrying about when the next desert time will come.  I won’t dishonor You with such behavior.  This is the time of plenty and joy.  I am FULL.  I am satisfied.  It is enough!  I know there will be bad junk in the days ahead, but I refuse to allow that to steal my joy in this moment.  I know You will be with me in the desert days, just as You always have been, and that is all I need to know.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for the happiness I am experiencing.  Thank You for loving my family so well, for being so faithful when we haven’t always been, for finally showing me what real love looks like.  Thank You for being the Father I have longed for all my life and revealing that I am Your beloved daughter.  It is more than enough.

 

Ramblings, er… Confessions of the Day

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true-confessions

Idiosyncrasies.  We all have them.

Right? 

When I look through our photos, in and out of albums, I have this urge to place my index finger and thumb on the corners to make them bigger.  I have to remind myself that I can only do that on my phone.  Modern technology has messed with my brain.

I get up extra early during the week in order to spend time with my Father and practice yoga, but I often end up looking at fb and then trying to cram God and yoga into a 20 minute space.  Other mornings, when I’m feeling grumpy or worried, I try to force myself to write something “thankful” first because some older Christian told me that was the right way to approach God a long time ago and I still feel guilty if I don’t do this.  Because God doesn’t know that I’m really thinking about the negative junk if I write “Good morning, God.  Thank You for…” before I dump the other stuff at His feet.

Sometimes I text my kids in the next room or upstairs because I’m too lazy to walk to where they are or even to the bottom of the stairs to tell them something.

When I’m overly tired I will often go to bed and look at all of my phone apps for an hour before I go to sleep and then I start the following day even more tired, determined not to be so stupid again… but I do it all over again most of the time…

I’ve been a mom and kinder/1st grade teacher for such a long time that I don’t really know how to start conversations with adults who aren’t the parents of my children’s friends or the parents of my students.

My obsessive compulsion is that I “clean” my fingers off with my other fingers and if I miss a spot, I have to start over again where I last “cleaned” completely.  

I struggle to know God as my Father who loves me unconditionally.  I struggle to believe I’m worth the work and the grace He invests in me even though I can totally believe He does this for others.  They just mostly seem so much more loveable than I am…

I have a hard time sticking up for myself.  I’ve thought about why.  You know, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  I think it’s fear of finding out no one really cares.  I have absolutely NO trouble sticking up for my children or other people I love – often when it’s not my place to do so.  So, basically I suck at defending everyone in one way or another.

Being in my 50’s freaks me out sometimes.  I finally feel more freedom to be who I am meant to be, yet it feels as if I’m running out of time and I’ve done so little with the time I’ve been given.  Mid-life crisis, much?

Sometimes I compare sins in my brain to try to feel better about myself and then I remember all of the horrible and embarrassing junk I’ve done and I feel super grateful and relieved that there is forgiveness and grace.  I also feel embarrassed that my thoughts were so horrible and arrogant.

I have a really cool Bible app on my phone that I listen to every morning and often my first reaction to the choices some people made, like Lot’s wife looking back (seriously, how simple is it NOT to turn around for a bit?!), or eating from the one lousy tree He told them not to, is to feel disgusted because I’m sure I would’ve made MUCH better decisions than those dummies…  and sometimes when my husband says what I’m thinking out loud, I don’t always say, “I KNOW, right?!”  Sometimes I just explain why we would do the same thing as those dummies and act a little like I’m superior because I’m willing to be so humble and admit I am just as dumb as the people in the Bible.

Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destiny’s Project

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desert

I’ve been in the desert for about 8 years now…

Just before we left Michigan in 2007, our church fell apart in a painful, ugly split, my family of origin began the “dysfunctional disenfranchisement” (as I fondly refer to it), our closest friends seemed to step back a bit in preparation for the upcoming 1/2 of a country away separation, and another group of women who had regularly met in my home for several years, and I counted as good friends, suddenly excluded me, hurting me deeply. Just after leaving Michigan we began making two huge house payments because we couldn’t sell our house in Michigan and we purchased a brand new, furnished home in Texas.  A year after we moved to Texas, with our finances depleted, a week after we had decided to foreclose on our Michigan home, we sold it by paying the buyer $1200!

When we arrived, we knew almost no one.  Finding a homeschool community for our kiddos was my priority for the first several months.  The kids and I spent time exploring Austin and figuring out where we could fit in.  My husband struggled to find a place to fit in musically and had a rough time of adjusting to returning to teaching in a new state, especially with his wife and children in Michigan for the first 4 months he was in Texas without us.  We would talk on the phone for 1-4 hours every night.  He was incredibly lonely and I was busy at home in Michigan packing, cramming in last visits, and as much school as possible trying to be both parents to our kiddos who missed their daddy a bunch.

The first 6 months in Texas were lonely for me, but I was busy painting the kids’ rooms, finding homeschool groups and activities for my kids, as well as getting acclimated to our new surroundings.  Sometime after that first 6 months, things began to go sour in our marriage.  My Honey couldn’t find a band to join that fit his style or his talents.  He felt like he moved to the Live Music Capital of the World to really use his gifts and then he couldn’t figure out how to get into the “scene.”  He was also in his early 40’s, suddenly making much less than he had.  He was still recovering from the beating he took for almost a decade at his previous job.  It took awhile to find a church that we all liked, and I was still licking my wounds from what had happened at our church in Michigan.  Many of my closest and oldest friendships just disintegrated once we moved here.  When I was most lonely and reaching out, my dearest friends turned away.  Our small group in Michigan was one of those rare, transparent, supportive circle of friends that some only dream of being a part of and we are blessed that a few of them have supported us and loved us, long distance, through this past 8 years.

For the first time in our marriage, I was unable to hold everything together.  I was completely and utterly broken.  Too many things had gone wrong and I was so very alone… and, honestly, I could only be a Stepford wife for so many years before the facade came crashing down around me.  So, it did…  and I mean, BUT GOOD!!!

I was in the worst place emotionally I had ever been in.  I spent several weeks meticulously planning my suicide.  My only requirement was that I didn’t look too horrific if my children found me – you know, because there’s a good way for your kids to find you dead by your own hand…  I isolated myself almost completely.  I had no one close enough in Texas to confide in and I didn’t feel like I could reach out to any of my loved ones in Michigan because that’s who I was…  Helping others, never asking for help.  Not only because I truly love to help people, but also because I hope others will come to love me if I offer them enough (because I’m not) and because I have a deep fear that if I ask for help or support when I’m weak, I will find that no one cares enough to help me, so I wear my armor almost always.  It’s one of the things I most dislike about myself and one of the things I am working hardest to change… daily…

Well, a bunch of particulars happened during this time, but they’re not important to this story.  Suffice it to say that we decided to go to counseling – both separately and together – and our marriage improved immensely over the course of a year or two.  My husband began to treasure me and for the first time he truly saw me – because I allowed him to.

Things seemed to be going in the right direction for a few years.  We began teaching together, we argued less than ever, we went to church every week together, and we talked constantly.  My husband was forever trying to be who I needed him to be.  I slowly became more and more bitter as time passed.  I just felt so angry with him and almost all of the wonderful things about him didn’t mean much for very long if he did anything else not perfectly.  I cringe when I think of how ugly my behavior became over a few years.  Our children tried to point out that I was not treating their dad with respect, especially since I had worked very hard to instill in them a godly picture of what a Christian wife should be and act like.  I hardly listened to them.  I felt justified in my resentment and even more so when I felt my children were choosing their father over me.  Each time he would hurt or offend me, I would deposit my animosity into my bank of bitterness and my account collected interest exponentially.  My former arrogance is my present shame…

I made very few good friendships in 8 years of living here.  The ones I did make didn’t go too far, mostly because of the mistrust I had developed in recent years piled on top of the lovely martyr complex designed to keep me “safe” and because I didn’t really have anyone to confide in, I was terrified that I would vomit all over someone if I started to talk, so my walls were now thicker than ever.

I had some sunny days here and there, but I had started to feel that 8 years in the desert deep in my core.  I was accepting that there was really nothing to like about me since no one seemed to want to truly know me here.  I was almost complacent, it seemed.  I think the pain of accepting that was almost more than I could bear, so I became numb. I know now that I was moving toward believing God felt the same way about me and even toward not believing He existed at all.  I prayed, I read my Bible, I listened to praise music, I went to Bible studies, and I attended small group, and church.  I even watched some of those terrible over-acted Christian movies!  I just felt more and more lost or forgotten or punished…

We started attending a small group – the 4th one because I just couldn’t feel comfortable in the three before this one. One of the leaders there mentioned a women’s retreat that she was attending after being asked repeatedly to go to over the previous year.  I immediately looked the retreat up on my phone.  It was pricey, I’m not gonna lie.  Something in me (God?) told me that I had to go.  So, I got online, signed up, payed the deposit and emailed my list of questions to the leader.

I almost canceled daily, but He made it clear to me that I had  to go.  I hadn’t heard Him in such a long time that I was NOT going to blow this!  I spent many hours talking myself out of the fear of disappointment.  I was prepared to face that I didn’t matter and the little hope I had left would be completely gone if this was not at the very least a life-changing event for me.  I worried that I would emotionally vomit all over these unsuspecting women who didn’t even know me.  I worried my roommate(s) wouldn’t like me, the food would be unhealthy and filled with gmo’s, I wouldn’t be Christian enough, my clothes would be wrong, etc., etc.  – and then I started my period the day before I left, and now a days, this is no small matter!  Seriously?!

So, I drove 4 hours to get there and ate dinner with 12 strangers.  I was wrapped tighter than a Baptist minister’s wife’s girdle!  (Come on!  That was funny…)  I was in the abyss between desperately (truly desperately) needing to share my story, having human connection, finding some hope, and making a complete fool of myself and being rejected.  So, when the time came to share the “why” of our attendance, both of the women before me, who were in my age group, spoke of how wonderful their marriages and husbands were.  I remember thinking, “OMG, I feel like such a loser.”  I was truly terrified of how to tell my story, so, I vomited and became as vulnerable as I could because I felt like it was my last chance.  I had also paid several hundred bucks and the “frugal” part of me couldn’t live with not giving my money’s worth!

It was exhausting, unbelievably emotional, embarrassing, and somewhat freeing… only somewhat…

For the rest of the evening I was reasonably silent.  I felt like I had said too much already and I didn’t want to be that person at the retreat.  – You know, the one who makes everything about her, vomits her junk on everyone else and just won’t shut-up?  Before we went to bed that night we all chose a large rock and were instructed to decorate it in a way that represented what we wanted to leave behind this weekend.  For some this was a temporary thing, like worrying about their small children, for me, it was a permanent thing that had been haunting me for the past several years during what I refer to as my “midlife unraveling.”  My rock said “REGRET” on it.

The following morning as we all worshiped next to the river, I looked all around me and I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of these sisters-in-Christ each worshiping our Father in extraordinarily breathtaking splendor.  It was at that moment I knew I was ready to release my rock/regrets and I lobbed that bad-boy into the river with tears streaming down my face and hope in my heart.  It felt like the beginning of my own little miracle was just beginning…

The retreat was not easy.  It wasn’t fluff or anecdotal Christian b.s.  It has been 3 1/2 weeks and I’m still not completed recovered.  It was hard, true, deep, excruciating.  It was fun, acceptance, encouragement, Christ – the real deal.  It was sisterhood, bonding.  It was hope!  It was all I had longed for and so much more and it just washed over me for days.  Sometimes it lapped gently and other times it bowled me right over like a tidal wave.

It was healing…

Our leaders told us that we would spend most of the day taking turns in the “love chair.”  They acknowledged that this was one of the most difficult parts of the weekend for many women, especially the ones who had a difficult time receiving.  I spent the entire day enjoying through tears, smiles and laughter each of my sisters as they took their turn in the love chair – except when I was dreading my own turn.  I continually envisioned myself walking out of the house, getting in my car and driving home.  I was terrified…

I survived.  It was one of the few precious moments in my life that I felt completely adored by my Father, loved and accepted by women, and healed of my bitterness.  No matter how old I grow to be, it will always be one of the most sacred, unforgettable, life-changing moments of my whole, entire everything.

Healed… as only He can.  He healed my heart and filled me with joy.  I am planted deeply in His love and grace and it is unlike anything I have ever lived in.lush garden

I thought I attended because I feel like teaching is not where I belong much longer.  I was hoping He would show me the path I was meant to travel professionally.  I hoped I could figure out how to become the girl people want to be friends with.  I concentrated on those two areas for the most part.  I decided the day before my last at the retreat to focus on my marriage for the exercise we were doing, because I hadn’t really and it just seemed like the thing to do since there wasn’t much time left.  I realized earlier in the day that I had fallen madly in love with Jesus again and with the person He made me to be.  That evening, as I focused on my husband and what had happened in our 26 years together, I began to see him clearly.  I saw how patiently and lovingly he had waited for me the past several years.  I saw how arrogant I had been.  I was convicted about my treatment of him, the example I had set for our kiddos and how slowly all of this had crept up on my and how unwilling I was to see it.  But, more than anything else, I fell deeply and madly in-love with the man that my amazing, who God made for me, husband is.

The last day was my “rubber hits the road” planning day.  Part of that was deciding how, where and when I would ask my husband’s and our children’s forgiveness for my many transgressions in recent years.  Part of that was forgiving myself and accepting the human parts of me by loving myself unconditionally and extending grace to myself much like I have so willingly done with others in my life.  This was so much more difficult than I realized and even more necessary.  I am still overcome with the truth that my own lack of self-love and grace was in large part what stood between me and embracing my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love.  The word “FREEDOM” was continually whispered in my mind for days.

For 8 years I was in a desert place in almost all areas of my life.  I never turned from God, but I dishonored Him more than I want to admit, BUT I AM.  I felt myself slipping away, although I would’ve sworn at the time it was Him moving in the other direction.  I loved my husband, but I despised so much of who I thought he was.  I shudder when I think what might have happened had my friend not “mentioned” the retreat, had I not made the decision to check it out and spend that wad of cash with my husband’s encouragement.  I kept fighting for what I hoped was in my future.  I kept listening, though less frequently and with less hope, for God’s still, small voice to bring me up for air and give me something to believe in.

I was brave.  I persevered.  After being shattered into a million pieces, I gathered myself, licking my wounds for a bit too long and with way too much self-indignation, but still, I gathered myself.  I got in my way a whole bunch more than any sane person should.  I sinned more than usual…  and I will have more moments of sin in my immediate and far-off future, God willing.          I mean I hope it’s His will that I have a far-off future, not that I’ll have more moments of excessive sin.

He waited for me.  Patiently, lovingly, quietly, all while leading and teaching me as only He can.  He waited for this haughty, isolated, prodigal daughter.  He gave me back my heart, full of love and grace and a bunch of other good stuff.  Parts of me are stronger and more resilient and parts of me are more tender and fragile.  This Broken & Healed Tricia is so much better than the old one.

I think the very coolest part about how this all transpired is that He healed me in such a way that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE did it.  It’s a miracle to remove such deep rooted bitterness from a heart in an instant.  I could NEVER have done that alone or even with help, as my treasured children attempted to do on the regular.

Can you stand it?!  That’s how much He loves us!  Not for what we do, but for who we are in HIM!!!  Please don’t give up.  Please persevere.  YOU are so very worth it.  You are His Beloved.

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Step On Up

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I remember the first time I met him.  He was all of two years old and the tiniest little replica of his daddy.  It was adoration at first sight for me.  He was a bit of a show off and knew he had his daddy in the palm of his chubby little hand.  He kept asking me to watch him do this and that and I did, gladly.  I was so happy that he was such a friendly little guy.  Later, when his daddy kissed me and he leaned out of the playhouse window and said, “Hey… What’dya guys doing?,” his daddy nearly had a heart attack!

It was a rough start.  My new husband’s ex pulled out all the stops.  We were in court for everything imaginable, even before the wedding.  We naively believed that things would calm down and even improve as time passed and we all settled into our lives.  We were wrong.  It was a constant rollercoaster ride for more than a decade.  Sometimes we marvel at the fact that our marriage survived it!  We were committed to not allowing it to affect our time together as a family.  Through the years it felt like we just kept getting run over repeatedly, but we were the adults and we refused to let it hurt our kids anymore than it had to. It wasn’t always easy, but we had some great friends who let us unload our “It’s not fairs!” on them on the regular.  They prayed with us and for us.  I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support.

Being a stepdad comes with its challenges, for sure, but if you participate and are nice to your spouse’s child(ren), you are a hero to the world at large.  If you are a stepmom, it is an ALL uphill climb.  It’s typically assumed you are evil, thanks to Cinderella, Snow White, and other lovely fairytales of the day.  If you welcome your spouse’s child(ren), you are suspected of trying  to replace the bio-mom.  If you aren’t terribly affectionate or welcoming, you are accused of being a heartless witch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scrutinized as I felt every other weekend and the several weeks during the summers that I was actively being a stepmom.  As hard as I tried to make things “normal,” there was always the second guessing of EVERYTHING.  What was completely normal with my bio-child who was only a few months older made me a wreck with my stepson.  Between a husband who was very critical, a bio-mom who was court happy, and family members who struggled with the whole situation, I did the best I could with what I had at 24 years of age.  Doubting everything I did when it came to him was the norm.

In 96 hours each month we were to visit both sets of grandparents, make memories, teach responsibility and a million other important things, be a normal family, sleep, eat, go to church, and be sure the kids all made it to all of their weekend activities – because if they didn’t, we may end up in court, again.

I sometimes wonder if I knew what all I’d go through because I fell madly in-love with a man with a child, an ex-wife, and all that entails, if I would’ve said, “Yes” to that first date.  I know that must sound awful, but tonight I am tired and hurting and a little bit unbelieving of how long this continues to go on and how frustrating it is that the people who should be standing up and supporting the good guys are kissing up to the bad guys in selfishness.

I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always choose what I believed was best for our sons.  ALWAYS.  I love all 5 of our children with all of my heart. I have since the moment I met each of them, whether it was in person, or it was by way of a pregnancy test.  I have lived my life with my family as my first worldly priority.

I know there are women who marry men and do their best to get their stepchildren out of their lives.  I know there are others who are genuinely unloving to them.  I know there are parents and stepparents who put their children in the middle like pawns in a chess game.  I also believe that this is horribly wrong and rare.  I know I have done none of these things.

My oldest son has a stepmom.  During his teen years they did not get along terribly well.  He was a teenager.  He and I did not get along terribly well.  She is a very nice woman.  We are not social friends, but I am so very thankful that she has been good to my son.  I can see that she genuinely loves him.  My son, his dad, his stepmom and her children are a family.  That is what I want for my son.  Isn’t that what being a parent is?…

If and when my oldest son and his wife have children we will all be grandparents together.  Our grandchild will be our priority and we will support each other and encourage relationship with our grandchild because we will all love him/her and want what is best for that precious child.  We’re the adults.

Okay… I feel better now that I have that almost 3 decade long load off of my chest.

Yep, I know this is a bit corny, but it’s mostly true, too.

 

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I’ve learned that a bunch of the junk that we fought for because it seemed so important in the moment, wasn’t really so important in the long run.  I’ve learned that you can’t spend your life fighting for someone who doesn’t want you in their life or who isn’t willing to fight for you because you lose precious moments with the people He put in your life to love and be loved by.  I’ve learned that being a mom and/or a stepmom is really hard and we should honor each other along the way.  I’ve learned to trust myself, to forgive myself and to let go when He shows me it’s time…

Life is too short.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after I wasted more time than I wish I would’ve.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned that it’s not worth my time to wallow in regret.  Movin’ on…

Peace.


Shrinks, Insanity, and Calling in my Markers

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lucy doctor is in peanutsI’ve been seeing a counselor.  She’s a 12-step girl, so she speaks my language and she is all about keeping it real.  She doesn’t let me gloss over or avoid the uncomfortable stuff.  I feel exhausted every time I leave her office.  I also feel a little more substantial, like I’m beginning to live the life He means for me to live.  His path is a bit scary for me because it’s not what I’m used to.  What I’m used to is messed up in a lot of ways, so I’m mostly ready to leave it behind, but some of the broken parts of me prefer what they’re used to.  The unknown, even when it’s healthier, is scary.  Dysfunction is comfortable.  That’s why so many of us live in it for years.  That is also the reason others often attempt to sabotage people who try to leave the dysfunction and live a healthier life.  When people shine a light on the ugliness that has been our life, we feel cornered if we aren’t ready to take an honest look and make some changes.

I have some Bible verses that I have carried with me and they’ve helped me through some incredibly difficult moments in life.  I also have this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…”

These are the words that have made me move, re-examine, confess, change.  – and it hasn’t been a one-time deal, either.  These words have been my anchor on a few momentous occasions on my journey through life.

My newest epiphany is that I am allowed to not be perfect and accept, even expect, the grace that others should extend me just as I extend grace to them.  I don’t really think I’m perfect at all, but I have a tendency to try to be perfect and then beat myself up HUGE when I’m inevitably imperfect, as everyone is.  I’m trying to find that place where I can do my best in that moment and then walk away without having to do the best I ever have without anything wrong for some not-so-good reasons, like that’s where I get my sense of worth from, or because I’ll be punished if I don’t give my all and then some, or because I’m terrified that someone will see me as anything less than the hardest worker, best mom, best wife or best teacher…  It’s exhausting, y’all!

I’m going to try to find a better place to be in these areas.  I have no doubt this will be an ugly and hysterically funny journey for me.  I will probably go too far the other way, or, at times, justify not changing much, but saying I have, and I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of other mistakes along the way – all of which will drive my family absolutely crazy, I’m sure.  Some of them are already not so thrilled with the new, “improved” version of me that is emerging.  That’s okay because I haven’t been terribly thrilled with them at times, but I never quit on them, so I’m calling in my markers.  I’m worth fighting for and I’m worth extending grace to.

All of us are.  That’s why He sacrificed His son’s life for us.  He loves us unconditionally and chose to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, right?  And in the meantime, I’m tired of being less than He means for me to be because my life has beat me up a bit and my dysfunction keeps bringing me pain.  I want to be free while I’m here and I want to set that example for my children and grandchildren.  I want to truly live.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the stuff.  It scares the bejeebies out of me and excites me all at the same time.  I think that’s why He gave me moxie.  I have to find it, dust it off and learn to allow it to be a part of me again.  I want to embrace the parts of me that I have been made to feel ashamed of since I was very young.  In doing that, I hope to help others to remember who He made them to be and embrace all of themselves, because He does – completely.

Here’s to FREEDOM and change.

Here’s to Choice and Moxie.

Here’s to Persevering.

Here’s to Love…

I am his and he is mine…

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This is a HUGE year for me. I had my 50th birthday in January and in just a bit more than a month my Honey and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I have been married to him ½ of my entire life!   I have joked about being married to him for 1/2 of my life when I was 5o since I can remember!  How did it get here already?!

There are times when it has felt like it has been twice that long. The months when we can’t seem to find each other or remember who the other person is anymore, days when we can’t agree on anything, the times when we just get on each other’s nerves all of the time, and we are just plain old ugly to each other have felt endless. Those times don’t happen very often, especially now, but when they have, it is excruciating….

There have been a very few times when I couldn’t even remember why I wanted to be with him in the first place because I was wounded so deeply. Those times never lasted very long, but I’d be lying if I said they never happened.        Marriage is hard. It’s also long – sometimes…  if you’re lucky and committed, but long means SO much can and will happen.

I think one of my most favorite parts of being married to my Honey is that we’ve worked through huge piles of our junk and decided that we are committed to being really present in this relationship, not just surviving it and staying married for a long time.  We always had a pretty good marriage on the outside, but it was pretty icky a lot of the time on the inside. I couldn’t admit this to myself for a very long time. I think that’s why I was such a good actress and contributed to the pretty marriage façade others saw for so many years.

I remember when things got the worst they had ever been and I was wavering between walking out the door and staying almost every other day, someone told me that if I chose to stay and really worked to make things better, God would bless my marriage and it would be more wonderful than I could imagine. I thought that person was on crack, honestly. I just couldn’t see past all of my pain enough to see anything ever getting better. I was just beginning to grasp how much of a lie my marriage had been for the first almost 20 years. After being given some more advice, I decided to just wait, to give myself time to heal some and to not make decisions based on pure emotion at such a low point. That was some of the best advice I have ever gotten. It saved my life and my marriage.

During counseling my Honey and I decided that we were all in. After all, we didn’t really have anything left to lose. I remember thinking that it truly couldn’t get any worse and I needed to know that I had put it all out there before I could walk away with a clear conscience: my fears, my insecurities, my sins, my needs, ALL my junk with complete integrity, no mixed signals, no games, no protecting myself.  My Honey did the same in a big way.  I think it was probably the first time in our whole marriage that we just depended on God to see us through.

I think we both felt like we were seeing each other for the first time when we first began to really talk candidly in counseling. There were times when he would admit something to me that I had questioned him about for years and I felt like he handed me back my reality and after an initial burst of anger, I was in awe of his honesty and vulnerability. Other times I was almost unbelieving when his deep love for me would come shining through. It took me a long time to fully trust his love for me. It took him almost as long to trust my love for him. The irony about that is that it was mostly because of our own junk that we felt this way, not because of the other person’s actions. I think that’s probably true of most relationships…

Our beginning wasn’t picture perfect.  We had both gone through ugly divorces just a year before we got married. We also each brought a precious toddler son into our union.  We dated almost 5 whole months when we got married (What in the world were we thinking?!).  We were both in our last year of college and my parents were living with me at the time!  Much of our first several years of marriage were spent in the courtroom dealing with constant custody and visitation issues.  The attorney bills were astronomical. Blending a family is not all Bradybunch-ish, I can tell you that!  We loved each other very much and that was the glue that kept us together in the early part of our marriage; that and God’s mercy.

There are things I have always loved about my Honey.  He has always made me laugh more than anyone else – especially when I didn’t even know I needed to.  I love that he loves to talk.  He’s like a best girlfriend, only SO MUCH BETTER!!  He has always been a gentleman.  He holds doors open, puts me on the safe side of the path whenever we’re walking outside, and always takes care of me when we go out, holding my chair out for me, getting my drinks, etc.  He has always been a loving daddy to our babies.  He rocked ‘em, diapered ‘em and coached their teams.  I don’t think he ever missed a school or a sporting event that he knew about.  I love that he works so hard for our family because he wants us to be comfortable.

There are even more things that I love about him now because they were hard won by us.  I love his willingness to put me and others first.  I love his humility which has replaced his angry insecurity. I love his presence with our family and his commitment to our health.  I adore his commitment to our marriage – its stability, its growth, its happiness and its authenticity.  I love that  now he understands that our family would rather spend time with him than have extra money and he is trusting God more to take care of us.  He still works VERY hard, but he puts relationships before money now.  He really seeks God now and is willing to be authentic with other Christians in a way he wasn’t able to be a few years ago.  I am mad about the way he bakes and cooks with our children!

Most of the time I can’t believe how quickly 25 years have zoomed by.  How did we have time to raise 5 children, move across the country and get this old?!  I can’t wrap my head around where we started, where we are now, and how we got here.  It’s been quite a ride and I don’t ever want to get off.  It still amazes me that this is my life. I get to wake up and live this life.  I get to be known and loved. Does it get any better?… I don’t think so…

 

I love my husband more than I thought possible.  Apparently, the lady on crack knew what she was talking about!  I like him more than anyone else in the whole world.  He’s strong, protective, hilarious, gorgeous, smart, sweet, kind, thoughtful, honoring, talented, silly, and beautiful inside and out.

He fought for me.

I am his and he is mine…

for at least another 25 years…

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