Biggest Blessing=Biggest Regret

My biggest blessing is also my biggest regret.

The inner conflict of my life these days leaves me in a near-constant state of frustration. It has now been two years since I moved from my home. As messy as that home was, there was financial security there. Two years out, and I am feeling both elated and terrified every single day.

The biggest blessing of my life has been that I was able to stay at home with my children. There were moments when it was too much, but overall, I genuinely love/d being an active mom in their lives.

The biggest regret of my life has been that I did not establish a career. I often wanted one, but I could not figure out how to balance that as an involved mom with a spouse that was gone as much or more than he was at home.

I actually remember thinking that after we moved to Alabama, I would be able to go back to school and further my education. And then we moved to Virginia. I didn’t give up hope; I looked at classes and made plans to go back to school. And then we moved to Arkansas. That first year, I clung to my hope…if I could go back before I turned 35, it wouldn’t be too late. But I began homeschooling and had another baby, and before long we moved to Texas. My hopes shifted. Maybe after the kids began moving away, I would just take a few classes? Not for a full degree but something just for me.

And then my world cracked open. Sometimes I see that crack as bad (like falling into an abyss), and sometimes I see that crack as good (my eyes and my world being opened up).

Right now, my world is wide open, but I am also scared out of my mind. I am in graduate school doing what I love, but I had hoped to have full-time employment to balance out my expenses. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to find a decent job. Nor did I ever consider that the father of my children wouldn’t be helping them out with college expenses.

I currently feel frustrated and embarrassed. I am ashamed that I cannot find a job. What is wrong with me? Even the career counselor at the university said that I had a pretty good resume’ considering how many years I stayed at home…

Oh, I know nothing is wrong with me. I also know that we are in the middle of a pandemic. But I am discouraged and annoyed that I did not begin my career path before the age of 47.

It is frustrating and lonely to live with this deep, personal conflict in a season fraught with so much external conflict. Heaven knows that I don’t want to talk about it anymore. To outside people, it’s beginning to look as if I am not even searching. Each application, cover letter, and resume’ needs filling out, written, and tweaked, and that takes roughly an hour or two for every single one of them. They are mentally exhausting, and sometimes I apply to so many in a day that I live in fear that I have attached the wrong cover letter to an application.

All of this makes me want to dwell in a state of regret…but how can I possibly regret my life?! I made cookies and birthday cakes, went to parks, read books, had parties, and put my children to bed every night. I LOVE being a mom.

How is it possible that my biggest regret can also be the most wonderful blessing I have ever received?

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

It is awful to feel like a young-adult-starting-out when you are an older-adult-with-almost-grown-children. I am 47-years-old and attempting to begin a career that has to provide me with enough income to prepare for retirement while at the same time, immediately provide for the kids and me.

To be honest, I fully realize that I lived a pretty privileged life. Just over two years ago, I had a big house with a pool, cars, a boat, not to mention a pretty fluffy monthly budget. We had investments, retirement, and a bit of savings.

When I made the decision to divorce, we had already willingly depleted most of our investments, retirement and savings. In the months prior to filing, I had chosen to stand beside the man I believed in through the end of a tumultuous season with his last employer, including a major lawsuit. (By the way, it has now been 2-1/2 years since that lawsuit began, and it is still in process!)

I can do without “things;” I’m not so high maintenance as that. The issue for me is that I have a difficult time not being able to support my kids in the manner I had thought would happen. As 2 of them transition to adulthood, I currently provide them with housing, food and basic necessities. They are working, accepting grants and getting loans to go to school. I am in school. My youngest is still in high school.

Life is so incredibly different!

Above were my thoughts BEFORE Covid-19

After/During Covid-19…

I am in the process of transitioning from full-time student to part-time student as I also search for full-time employment. I haven’t worked a regular, 40-hour-a-week job in 24 years. And I have NEVER had to financially support myself!

I want to climb in bed and quit…not really, but…sort-of. With each new twist or turn in this journey forward, I have to consciously refocus and remember God’s wisdom:

“Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB)

Keep looking ahead. Don’t look down. Don’t look to the side. Definitely don’t look back.

Look forward. Take a step. Just one step forward makes a difference.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

That’s all that is required.

I can do this.

Joy in the Still

It is April 26, 6 weeks since I fully realized that coronavirus was coming into the U.S. like a storm. I am weary. Weary of staying inside. Weary of the same walk around the neighborhood. Weary of trying to make my brain think critically. Weary of listening to conspiracy theories. Weary of the constant accusations and bickering on social media. (Speaking on that: Yesterday, I chose to “hide” everyone who posts sarcastic, harsh, or aggressive posts…that applied to both my Republican and my Democrat friends. It meant hiding many people that I love.)

Anyway. This period of social distancing has given me hours/days of great productivity and hours/days of ridiculous laziness. Writing about it seems a waste of time. I do not have great knowledge to share. I am simply a mom and a student. That is all.

Now that everything is still, what do I do?

Embrace the still. Allow it to wrap around you without consuming you. Search for the joy. Find it. Cling to it.

My joy has been found – in opening the blinds every morning. – in gardening. – in cooking. – in listening to my children. – in reading. – in studying. – in ironing. – in sewing. – NOT in playing games. – in puzzles. – in pets. – in Scripture. – in people all over the world sharing their “view from my window.”

Joy can be anywhere at any time; it doesn’t have to be big. All we have to do is open our eyes to see it.

What do I even say right now?

I’ve written and deleted at least 2 posts since this (coronavirus) began…where do I even start? Do I ramble on about how I have attempted to complete my assignments, but I work best in silence, and silence is no longer an option…except at midnight, and I am not a night person? Do I write about how my 16-year-old son woke up to 20 (yes, 20) emails yesterday morning from his teachers and completely shut down? Do I admit that I am stressed because I was in the middle of transitioning to something new, and because of the lockdown, the details are falling through the cracks? Do I write that the only way I feel as if I have any control is to menu plan? Do I tell that my oldest son is underway, and they did not test them before heading out?

Honestly. I do not know what I am supposed to say.

Whenever I write, I want to share the reality of life, but also that there is beauty and hope to be found when you just look for it. Right now, I would love to continue writing outside in the early morning with the birds chirping, but the damn mosquitos feel as if they are eating me alive. Not to mention, one of my neighbors is going for a walk with a mask on (no big deal) and a gun holstered to her waistband (BIG deal). For all of the encouragement that I see from so many, I feel as if I am in the twilight zone.

And yet, there continues to be beauty. My professor kindly gave me an extension on this paper that I have no attention span for. My refrigerator and pantry are full; I do not need anything. My son forced himself to go for a bike ride to help clear his mind so that he could decompress for a bit. I have an advisor working on my behalf to assist me during this transition…I choose to trust that even if it does not turn out as I had planned, it will be okay. I read the emails from my oldest son’s ombudsman to give me encouragement regarding his safety. My home is a place of comfort and beauty. Cooking is a creative outlet for me…I choose to embrace the additional time I have to put our meals together.

I cannot keep from mentioning that during this particular crisis, for the first time in my adult life, my attention is not centered around 1 person. His damaging and demanding needs are not wreaking additional havoc on our home. I am not forced to think long and hard about how to find something positive to say. I no longer have to work to find the good in my life. The good overshadows the not-so-good. In our home now, the children and I work together as a team, supporting and encouraging one another. Yes, there is stress and tension; however, there is also understanding and kindness.

My home has a different feel than it had in the past. It does my soul well to acknowledge and remember it often. This season could be one filled with drama and demands, but we have been rescued from that extremely toxic environment. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

I guess what I have to say is we can do this. We can do hard things. But I’m not going to lie…it’s easier to go through hard times when you aren’t living in constant stress. My hope is that the memories of extreme anxiety and tension do not disappear, but that they serve only as a reminder to cherish the peacefulness (even during a pandemic) in my life right now.

To Date…or Not

The question of dating keeps coming up. Have you started dating yet? What do you think about dating? Why aren’t you dating? Hasn’t it been long enough? Don’t you need to practice so that you will be able to recognize healthy and unhealthy patterns?

First and foremost, dating will begin in my own time. No one gets to decide that but me.

Have I thought about it? Yes. Is there a part of me that desires it? Yes. How do I feel about it? Terrified. Am I about to begin? No.

There are so many emotions tied up into the idea of dating. For someone like me, who has been accustomed to putting all personal desires aside for the “greater good” of the family, the idea of dating is a non-issue. In my mind, I am in school full-time, I’m not financially sound, and I am simply too busy to be distracted by dating. I also have 3 children at home, 2 young adults that are working to find their footing and 1 high schooler that just now seems settled. Do I really want to add another emotional pull on myself?

And then there are all of the insecurities. I wasn’t good enough for one man; how will I be good enough for another? Apparently, I am intimidating. What can I do about that? I am straight up terrified of trusting another man. We can talk, but I don’t know how I will ever trust someone. And here is the BIGGIE: I am overweight; therefore, I shouldn’t put myself out there. Yes. I’m going there. And yes. I am totally using that as an excuse.

In reality my weight is probably the single most important factor that stops me in my tracks from pursuing a future relationship.

Could I lose weight and go for it? Yes. Do I want to? Yes, I’m tired of being overweight. And no, I do not want to draw attention to myself. My weight has been an incredible protector for me these past 4-1/2 years. It has pushed Code Red away from me, saving me from his attention (he thought overweight people were disgusting…plus it gave him the “out” to pursue his true desires).

But it’s also a “thing” for me. It has been for 27 years now. Just a few months after our wedding, I knew that weight was going to be an issue. The first time he said something about it to me, we had been married a couple of months and as I was getting ready to leave, he told me that my dress made my bottom “look huge.” It hurt my feelings, but I decided that he was trying to save me from embarrassment. After having babies, he told me that I looked ok from the side but from the front or back, not so good…I was very wide. Yikes! Who wants to hear that?! Especially after 4 babies and working hard to become fit! And finally, when I allowed my weight to topple to its heaviest, I became a “lazy, fat, slob.” Yes, he really said that. More than once. And yes, I was devastated. It is safe to say that my weight has kept me isolated…and protected.

Here’s the flip side, or the protection part of this whole thing. Before I gained to my heaviest (even when he thought that I didn’t look ok) other people seemed to think I was just fine, maybe even attractive? When we went places, I was left alone…to do what I considered my job…making people feel seen; therefore, making Code Red look good. **As I type this, I wonder if I am exaggerating a bit? Surely, that was not really the way things were, was it?** It certainly felt that way. On every single occasion, I felt abandoned. In most instances I didn’t know anyone; and yet, I was left to mingle, smile, and nod…alone. And I hated it. Once I gained the weight, he stopped asking me to go to these dinners and events. I was left at home and no longer felt as if I had to “perform.”

So maybe there is a bit more to the whole not wanting to date thing…maybe, I don’t want to be taken advantage of again. Maybe I don’t want to have to figure out if I can trust someone or not. Maybe I don’t want to feel unattractive and not good enough. Maybe I feel as if I really am a lazy, fat, slob. Maybe being overweight is the best deterrent on the the planet…and the best excuse to not have to say the word no.

Whatever it is, I’ll figure it out in my own time. Piece by piece, my heart and soul keep healing. This is just another one of those pieces.

And as for dating, I’ll figure that out, too…in my own time.

Ruminating on “D is for Divorce”

One year ago today, my divorce was final. A few weeks later, I posted this. In it, I posed 4 questions for myself to work out:

1 – Does divorce have to define me? Yes. Yes, it does define me…a part of me. I have spent the majority of my adult life married to an abusive and unfaithful man. That has shaped me in ways that I am not sure that I even understand. The process of leaving gave me many defining moments, as well as the classification of being a divorced woman. But that is only a part of who I am; I no longer see that as the ONLY part of me that others see. I am so much more than that.

2 – What am I going to do about these hidden places in my heart? Last year I wrote, “The yucky part of coming face to face with reality is that I now recognize that I have hidden places of my heart where I have held people and ideas higher than God’s word.” Today, I write to say that I no longer even have very many people in my life. My life has gone from being full of people and activity to being mostly alone and relatively isolated. Most of the things/people that I held dear have disappeared; only a few remain. It has changed my perspective, and I spend a great deal of time being introspective and “cleaning up” those places. While I wrestle with God’s Word on some things, there aren’t any people or things, other than my own self, in place to hold higher than his word.

3 – Do I want to hold onto the horrifying past, or do I want to use it as a springboard for the future? This one’s pretty obvious…I have definitely springboarded into something that I never saw coming! My past is my past. It has taught me a ton about trusting others, as well as trusting myself. It does not continue to hold onto me. My history is only a part of the story that shaped who I am today. I see it as a growing into my true self, not who I was when I was a wife, struggling to maintain appearances, attempting to find joy, and hoping to keep the underlying anger regarding my situation in check. I am a woman who knows her mind, who is aware of her passions and is not too afraid to keep moving ahead.

4 – What do I want my story to be? “**Funny Fact: My very first thought/prayer after finding out and confronting Code Red about his secret life was, ‘PLEASE GOD, don’t let this be my story. And even if it does end up being my story, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t ask me to use it.’” My story…this story that makes people gasp and feel sorry for me…has lost its hold on me. I have chosen to tell my story as it is time and time again. It is one filled with heartache and humiliation, but also one filled with hope and redemption. My story isn’t over; it is merely beginning a new chapter. And oddly enough, now I want others to hear it. I want them to learn from it. I want them to know that I might look like a fluffy suburban mom, but I am a woman who understands betrayal. I am a woman who understands abuse. I am a woman who knows the difficulties of navigating neglect and heartache from the church because a woman’s story can be too much. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. And most importantly, I am a child of God.

I know I am loved. (What a difference a year makes!)

Unexpected Emotion

Anyone on social media (especially Facebook) is familiar with the pop-up memories that occur daily on each person’s private newsfeed. The past several weeks have been filled with memories…almost all of them include a photo or 2 of Code Red.

Earlier this week, one popped up that startled me. It invoked such strong emotions, and I honestly did not know what to do with them. The photo was taken after I had back surgery. I was lying on the sofa when I snapped a quick photo of Code Red doing the dishes. As I looked at that picture, my heart seemed to jump and shout, “I love that man.”

I let my mind sit there with that emotion for a few minutes, marveling that I could have such strong feelings. While pondering my love for him, the sharp pain of reality hit me, and I reminded myself that the man in the picture is an illusion.

The truth regarding that man in the photo was pretending to be caring and loving. The real man was doing things in secret that were hurtful and beyond any of his family’s comprehension. The real man, on any given day, would appear to lose his sanity and hurt us with his words and actions. The real man didn’t even want us…we were simply an image of the life he wanted to be seen from the outside.

As I sat staring at this photo, I mentally made a list of why the man was not to be trusted with my love. I had to convince myself that no matter what the picture looks like, he did not love me the way a wife should be loved. That I deserve more. I deserve better. I deserve honesty, faithfulness, and truth.

And then this thought occurred to me: Do I love this man? Or do I miss the feeling of being cared for? Of someone somewhere taking my responsibilities for just a little bit so that I could rest. Of someone sharing the burden of a simple household chore.

To be able to sit and not force away all that I was feeling is significant for me. Acknowledging those emotions and allowing them to tumble around in my mind revealed what my heart misses and longs for. It wasn’t love that I felt looking at that photo; it was the desire to have someone care for me.

Some days it actually feels as if I am becoming emotionally healthy…

What a Decade.

2010-2019. What a decade of insane change!

January 2010 – I was recognizing my deep desire to be involved in church ministry. – I was a mom of a 13, 11, 10, and 5 year old. – I thought that because my youngest was in kindergarten that I was able to “do” more…career? volunteer? – I felt myself fighting for the life I wanted. – I felt constantly frustrated and had no idea why. – Anxiety was my companion.

January 2020 – I no longer have a church home. – I am a full-time graduate student. – I am at the beginning of a completely new life. – I am the mom of a 23, 21, 20, and 15 year old. – I am divorced. – I am free. – Curiosity and anticipation are my companions.

This last decade has brought me the most drastic changes I have ever experienced. My core has been shaken; thankfully, I did not crumble. As I reflect on those years, I want to lock them in my brain and hold onto what each change has taught me.

Parenting: Lighten up. Be steadfast and firm. Teach. Lead. Embrace. Enjoy.

Faith: Question. Wrestle. Search. Hang on.

Marriage: Love deeply. Trust. Believe in yourself. Love passionately.

Love: Love always. Compromise. Never compromise your personal self.

Learning: Read. Listen. Ponder. Be open to change.

Pursuing Dreams: Follow them. Don’t allow someone else to determine what they are.

If I could speak to my younger self, I would say, “Trust yourself.” “Get out.” “Protect your kids.” I could live in the “if only’s,” but I choose not to. I didn’t even know what my inner self was feeling back then, so I certainly did not think seriously about leaving.

This last decade was my 3rd decade as an adult. Maybe I should have learned most of this early on, but I honestly only remember keeping up appearances. By my middle 30s, I had worked to create a world where sarcasm and cruelty was “normal” and enjoyable (or the pretense of being enjoyable) to live in. The illusion of joy was the only way I knew to survive. I made the cruelty in my life as normal as I possibly could. If it wasn’t normal, then something might have been considered wrong. And I desperately wanted “normal.”

At this point in life, I had learned that my desires were not of value and, well…they were boring. If I am honest, the depth of my heart craves boring. I despise constant upheaval and living on the edge of an explosion. Boring = Steadfast = Content = Safe = “Normal”

As I am remaking my life, I find that walking away from life on the edge of drama is difficult. I don’t know how to live an engaged life. I find that I cannot focus on what is in front of me for very long. I continually wait for something dramatic to occur and steal it from me. I even go so far as to isolate and search for signs where something might happen. I don’t know how to be steadfast. I don’t know how to feel safe. I don’t know how to be “normal.” How does a person make themselves follow through and live everyday life without fear?

The desire to withdraw into myself is a constant personal battle.

However, as 2020 begins, I choose to delight in my life. I choose to push through the awkward, anxious, fearful emotions and see the truth of what is around me. I choose to find joy in the aspects of my life…the kind of joy that is deep within my soul, the kind that doesn’t require a quirky plot twist in a story to make it more palatable to others; the kind that sees truth and delights in it.

My favorite verse has always been Lamentations 3:22 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” This verse has provided me with the security I have needed to move forward. God’s love for me never ceases to exist. God’s mercies are there for me time and time again. I have healed and can continue to heal to move forward because of Him.

The past decade has provided me with so much growth. It has shattered my heart; but it has also changed me into a completely new person. The old me has disappeared. In fact, I have a difficult time even remembering who she was.

My word for the year 2020: Delight!

Longing for Margin

Never in my wildest imagination did ever picture myself being a single mom.

Although my marriage was rough, I had the privilege of staying at home and managing the household. Just saying…managing a house full of kids while also providing for it is a totally different experience.

I am exhausted!

The learning curve has been steep and good grief, it has not been easy!

Just getting the Christmas decorations up has been a “thing.”

It has been difficult for all of us. My kids are accustomed to me being available 24/7. Me not being available is hard to adjust to.

I am used to being able to get things done in my own time and at my own pace. Now, I have to look at my schedule and see where I have extra minutes to do anything and everything.

There is no margin.

This is not me complaining. 

I actually think that I like this new life. But it is not easy.

Y’all. I am tired. And the bills keep coming. And it’s HARD to keep doing the next right thing. Weariness is simply a part of life these days.

As Christmas gets closer, I realize how blessed I am. I have a job. I get to go to school. I have a house. I have food. 3 of my kids are here. (And 1 is coming home Thursday!)

But I also notice how little time I have to ponder the beauty of the season. I do really, really miss that. Oh, I read, and I pray, and I go to church, but I long for those days when my brain could relax and be fully present…it seems as though distraction is my norm lately.

I really do miss having margin in my life.

It’s My Birthday!

Today is my 47th birthday. It is my first birthday since age 20 that my name is back to the one I was born with. Truthfully, it feels awkward having a different name after so many years…I can’t quite get it right. I keep writing and saying the wrong name!

How should I celebrate? With cookies? With cake? With a simple, quiet day?

The decision has just been made for me. It is storming here and there is a possibility of flooding. I hope not, but it is there.

That makes for a quiet day at home. No makeup. No contact lenses. Glasses…both regular and reading. T-shirt and jeans. Hot tea. Homework. Maybe a non-textbook book or magazine. Cooking my favorite meal. Making fresh bread. Time with 2 of my children.

I do believe this is a day I didn’t know that I had been waiting for.

Pure joy. Pure peace. Rest for my soul. The best birthday a girl could wish for!