Going There…

So I’m going to go there…a place where I never once thought that I would go with this blog. Honestly, I am a bit concerned. My hope is to be a voice that helps people get unstuck from the dark places where shame and guilt thrive.

I hope that you are ready.

The news these days has me internally reeling. It seems as if every single week, there is a new development about someone (primarily men) in power abusing their influence to get sexual wants taken care of. This is a perverse fact of life that many Christians bury their heads in the sand about. We (and I include my “before” self in this group of Christians) don’t want to believe that these things occur.

  • Pastors don’t want to believe that the men they trust pervert the word of God and make exceptions for themselves (heck, sometimes it’s even the pastors).
  • Wives cannot grasp the magnitude of the betrayals within their marriages.
  • Friends don’t want to acknowledge that they don’t really know one other.
  • Wives don’t want to sacrifice lifestyles.
  • Pastors get caught up in the ridiculousness of what’s happening outside of their congregation instead of being available and helping those that long for their care.
  • Men in these powerful roles convince themselves that what they do is not really that bad.

We have to open our mouths, even though it is scary as hell!!!

I’ve mentioned before that my church family asked me to minimize my story. I’ve heard of pastors saying, “_____ wouldn’t do that. I know him.” From first-hand experience, I thought that I knew my ex-husband as well (after all, I met him when I was 13 years old), BUT I WAS WRONG.

However, there were some who knew about my ex-husband’s struggles. Back in the 80s, therapy wasn’t as accepted as it is now. It wasn’t even considered. The man that did awful things, whom I married, is also a victim of ignorance. My ex-husband went to church and was a “good” guy.

But his voice wasn’t heard. And, I believe, his unheard cries led him into a life of addiction and fear. His internal turmoil persisted until he became a person who did horrible, horrible things.

One might argue that he has a weakness of character. He probably does; I am not going to speak to that. Today, at this moment, I want to focus on what was missed, not the choices he made.

CHURCH, I AM TALKING TO YOU. We have to do better. We have to talk about the hard stuff. We have to listen well. We have to believe the women who step forward and share what’s going on behind their doors. Some of this stuff is impossible to make up. We have to become a safe place for those that acknowledge the wars within themselves and try to help them. We cannot minimize the words people share with us.

Maybe, I am the person who gets to be a weird combination of angry and compassionate enough to begin forcing conversations. Maybe, I get to be bold and tell the horrors of my life so that others can find hope. Maybe, I also get to be a hope for those stuck in the trenches of a secret battle, sending them the message that I am fighting to find a safe place for them to seek refuge and turn away from behaviors that harm others.

Or maybe, I am just naively hoping that I can make a difference. I don’t know. I do know that there are many, many casualties from my previous life…my kids, my kids’ friends, young people in the community, our families, me.

I do not want to be a person sitting in the shadows thinking that I am being honorable for not talking about my “stuff.” My kids are at risk. My ex-husband is out there living his life, denying that what he has done (and is possibly continuing to do) has hurt many people. There are women out there that are longing to know that they are not alone. Some of those women can’t make up their minds…are they imagining things or is the life they are living as awful as it feels? There are men out there who need more. More encouragement, more accountability, more safe places, less judgment, and definitely less anger.

This is a brutal war. Some of us want to “suck it up” and brush everything that isn’t nice under a rug…we want to pretend that all people are wonderful and that evil actions are rare. Others of us want to “shout from the rooftops” that the images many people portray aren’t as they seem…we long for accountability and integrity.

I don’t think of myself as a trouble-maker. I see myself as a relatively boring, go-about-my-business-and-ignore-everyone-else’s-opinion woman. But because my life recently revealed a disgusting, hidden soul, I feel an obligation to stand up and begin talking about the hard stuff.

Fellow Christian friends, please listen, hear, and ponder my words.

The Quiet

The quiet has been driving me crazy. Quiet can be good but can also keep me in my head way too much!

After divorce, there is a loneliness that sets in. I’m not sure that it is ever discussed anywhere except for inside divorce groups, which is unfortunate. I was totally unprepared for it.

(Please don’t start feeling sorry for me and calling out of the blue…seasonal loneliness is not necessarily a bad thing.)

I am here to tell you that the loneliness goes deep. You might feel more peace than you remember ever feeling, but sometimes the mind play tricks on you. And you begin to wonder (or at least I do) if it would be better to be married to a horrible person than to be alone.

The answer is a definite no. But those thoughts still come sometime.

And then there is the whole other side of things! You join groups…not even dating apps/groups…in order to meet others and immediately you feel like a piece of meat. “Hi ___. Your smile is really nice.” “___, can we be friends? I really hope that we can be friends.” Or the really creepy ones…”___, I am having positive vibes about you.” And that was on DAY 1 of joining!

NOOOOOOO!!!

Sadly, loneliness can drive you to do something stupid if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

So. In the grand 4 months since my divorce has been final, I have learned to scope out groups before I join them. I have learned to say early on, “if you are looking for something romantic, walk away now. I am not interested.”

I have also learned that I have to keep putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to become comfortable and confident as a single adult woman.

After being connected to someone for so long, I am having to figure out who I am, what I like, and who I want to be. I am not simply someone’s wife, mother, or caregiver. There is an identity out there just for me; I just have to settle into it. I certainly don’t want to get ahead of the process and find myself trapped into something I really don’t want.

All in all, the quiet is a bit uncomfortable at times, but it is also a blessing during this season of discovery.

Just Thinking…

Now that my summer break is here, I find myself thinking about some of the strange things that were a part of my divorce process.

The 1st thing was the result of pulling back, WAY BACK, in order to survive. I knew that people were concerned for me and wanted to care for me, but I was so overwhelmed. There was no possible way I could communicate with that many people during that season. As I’m coming into my new life, I realize by withdrawing, many of those people have moved on. Not because of anger or disagreement…it was simply the result of no communication. Some of them continue to be there on the sidelines and I know without a doubt that a phone call would immediately restore the distance between us. Some of them have disappeared from my life altogether. Although that hurts a bit, without a doubt I know that I could not have given more of myself to maintain those friendships (I was barely capable of caring for myself and my own children). I have to give myself grace about that season.

The 2nd thing that occurred was the decision to leave my church. This was extremely difficult to walk out. To give a bit of back story, 3 years ago, Code Red decided that he no longer wanted to attend our church. After listening to his frustrations with our church for years, I finally cut the tension and stopped going on Sunday mornings. However, I did remain involved in Bible studies and extra activities that kept me in contact with my friends and other believers…I just didn’t go on Sundays anymore. Months later, after finding out about Code Red’s behaviors, my desire to go back to church was deep, but it was going to take a lot of courage. Code Red’s actions would make running into certain people seriously awkward. But just as I was about to take the step and go, (before I say this, I want you to know that I TOTALLY understand this) the church leadership asked that my kids and I minimize our story so that it would not cause issues with others in the church. And while I understood/understand their request, I determined that under no circumstance would I ask my children to do that. Me, yes. My children, no. It felt as if they were asking us to carry guilt and shame for what Code Red did. And there is not one person in this family that is responsible for his actions. Period.

The 3rd thing on my mind today is the loneliness that goes along with divorce. For 26 years, I had a “person.” Even if I didn’t like him and he made me feel bad about myself, I still had someone. I knew that even though he would make me feel as if I was the most demanding person on earth, I could call him. Side Note: it’s strange to think that back then I thought it was better to have someone that wasn’t supportive than to be alone, right? How messed up is that? At this point, I am working on becoming at ease with myself. I figure that if I am healthy and happy, then I don’t need anyone to be my “person;” I can simply enjoy the people that are in my life for this moment. I don’t want to make the mistake of compromising myself to prevent being alone.

The 4th thing is the sense of freedom that I now feel. It feels like a contradiction to miss having a person and to also feel free. Now that Code Red has moved away, each week, maybe even each day, I feel a little bit more of “me” come back alive. I am embarking on an entirely new path that is completely and totally me…it has nothing to do with what someone else wants me to be or what is “best” for my family…it is strictly me following my instincts and natural abilities. Not being concerned about someone else’s approval is an amazing feeling. For the first time in my life (literally the first time), I am looking forward instead of to everyone else. I am not worried if everyone else is happy with my decisions. I.Am.Free. to decide what I want to do for the next 25 years of my life. I am happy about my decisions and I am proud that I am stepping out in faith and taking a chance for something new in my life. I am praying that my children see me step out of the shadows and into the light of what I have been designed for. I pray that I am modeling for them what it is like to walk away from something horrible and toward something wonderful. I pray they see that they, too, can do what they desire without the worry of disapproval.

Quite honestly, being divorced is the absolute best thing that I have experienced…with the exception of the births of my children. In the beginning, I was ashamed of being divorced; however, I now feel grateful for the second chance of life that I am getting. I still have a long way to go but I am steadily moving forward!

Forward Living is ultimately my goal.

The past is part of me, but I no longer live there. Why would I trap myself and stop learning and growing?

End of Season 1

This past year, I unexpectedly found myself teaching preschool in a different part of town from me. I didn’t apply for this job…I just somehow ended up with it.

When I filed for divorce last summer, I had to figure out a way to support myself…being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t going to cut it…and becoming a teacher appeared to be the most logical thing for me to do. So I enrolled to get certified, I applied to become a substitute, and ended up teaching. Go figure.

I started teaching and in that classroom, all that I could see were little people who needed some time with “mama.” So that’s what I did…I have mama’d those babies like crazy. Thank goodness that it’s a private school because I have hugged and held and cuddled them all as much as I possibly could.

I am not a great teacher. Oh, I can teach, and they have learned quite a bit, but teaching is definitely not my calling! I like to do things well and let’s face it, I couldn’t even get my thoughts to connect consistently. Throughout the year, I was going back and forth to court, trying to sell my house, homeless for a month, and in the very beginning, I didn’t even know how to make it through a day, let alone teach!

But you know what’s crazy?! This school, my boss, my co-teacher, and these babies helped me make it through. Every single day someone outside of my family depended on me. I had a job to do and even if I didn’t perform my best, I showed up and taught (and gave a lot of hugs…I think that maybe I needed them as much as some of the kids did).

As the school year comes to a close, my last day will be bittersweet. Although I am not sure that I will ever teach again, I am positive that I will forever carry this year in my heart. It was exactly what I needed and the best gift that God could have possibly provided for me.

How do I know who to trust?

Sometimes when I sit down to write my mind struggles as it keeps reaching for the exact words to describe whatever it is that is filling my thoughts. This past week has been that way.

This entire week my mind has had a multitude of screenshots flashing quickly through it. Nothing new has happened so there doesn’t seem to be a reason for this. My brain simply seems to be grasping for something but not quite getting it.

The only consistency that I can find is that each picture has to do with Code Red. They all seem to be photos of what I thought were good times but in the backgrounds are the bad things that were simultaneously going on. Things like family time on the boat…he was texting and sending water selfies to potential partners. Things like me preparing dinner for the family and him getting home an hour late because he stopped to meet up with someone on the way home. Things like him demanding a kiss when he walked through the door and yet his mouth had just kissed someone else. Things like his request that I purchase items for him that I learned later were for other people.  All of these actions occurring while pretending to be a somewhat happy family…

I no longer feel distressed by these thoughts; however, the ability to speak to anyone and fully trust their words is incredibly difficult. I find that when all is quiet, I consistently wonder what my friends and family are hiding and if they speak the truth while talking to me…it’s very odd to be so skeptical. Why would they lie? I find the whole thing to be outside of my ability to comprehend.

So what do I do with this? How do I learn to trust others again? How do I learn to determine who is trustworthy and who isn’t?

These are just my ponderings. I don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious about any of this…this is simply where my thoughts are this week.

Do I Dare to Hope?

Finally. I can speak freely. The legal action is settled.

I am weary from the emotional turmoil. I am not someone who feels fear very often but this time, I was afraid. Really afraid.

It was one year ago this past week when I began to realize that if I wanted to become healthy emotionally, I had to make a stand. And since making that stand, life has felt as if it has been ripping me apart.

I guess that is what divorce is. The ripping apart of a bond that was designed to last for life. I don’t recommend it except for in extreme cases…it is terrible.

As another hurdle has been overcome, do I dare to hope that it is the last one? Sometimes I think that I am the “eternal optimist,” the unrealistic person who always believes that deep down people are good and will do the right thing…and even though I’ve learned that isn’t always true, I continue to look for the good.

What is wrong with me?! Lol

Seriously though, I know that we are all born with a tendency to sin, but I also think that we all have to have something good in us! I don’t believe that God created us to be bad…He created us to commune with Him.

So I am going to continue to hope and look for the good. I know that I have to be realistic, but I really don’t want to dwell on the ugliness that hovers around life.

I want to live a life that holds fast to goodness, hope, and love.

How do you picture God?

“Aunt ***, when you close your eyes, what does God look like? Let me tell you what I think…I think He looks like a bright shining light.”

As I was drifting to sleep, those words remained floating through my mind. I combined his picture with my mine and I began to wonder how others would answer it. What would God look like if all of the pictures came together?

Would it be comforting or would it be frightening?

With all of our unique perspectives and life experiences, I have no idea what kind of image it would be.

For me, God represents strength, comfort, and solace…arms ready to embrace. For others, he may represent anger and judgement…sword in hand, ready to strike.

As I welcome Easter this morning, and ponder the mystical parts of the story, I remember Friday and God’s enormous grief when the earth shook and went dark. And then on Sunday morning, there is Jesus as he began to walk the earth again.

There are many opinions about God but the way I see it is that he will always, always represent hope and love. It’s people who mess up his image, not what Scripture tells us about him.

So when you close your eyes, what does God look like to you?