Bitter Sweet

I don’t think my mom will ever get it. And I can’t say that I blame her. I never thought I would EVER get it either. In fact, I judged many divorcees for it. Didn’t have a clue how they could even go there. But now, it’s no longer a concept I bashed….it is my life.

It’s that place where you’re done with bitterness.

Perhaps the fact that the love of my life has walked into my life, filling up my tank with joy. Maybe there’s just no space for bitterness anymore when a human’s heart is so big that he walks into our messy life and only stirs up peace.

Maybe it’s the fact that carrying bitterness is much heavier and stressful than just letting go. Maybe the Sunday School teacher was right all along – forgiveness is for you, not for the offender. It’s pretty exhausting to think of the comebacks, the disagreements, the right cut of the eye anymore.

Maybe it’s my daughter’s face when she sees no disdain on my countenance as her father walks up to the door – a nine year old’s release; a nine year old’s confirmation that mom and dad weren’t a mistake. She wasn’t a mistake. And everything is going to be ok.

My conclusion: it’s all of the above and so much more.

This is where we are. Life is different. It looks entirely different than what today was “supposed” to look like in my pretty little handbook of ‘life plans’ ten years ago. It’s messier. Far from cookie cutter. But the imprints on our hearts carry much more eternal value than any picket fence ever could.

I can speak to him audibly. Look him in the eye [sometimes]. Watch him small talk with my new love and the future step father of our children and not shoo him away. I can have a conversation instead of cutting him off with a, “Just text me.” I can hear his voice and no longer miss him. I can open the door and show grace – the little bit of grace my human heart can show. Because in the end, what he did will never fall on me. Never will I condone it, yet never will I have the place to judge it. It is his mess. No longer mine.  And when the mess isn’t yours anymore, you do like any good daughter would do – you pass it on to Abba and you move on, with grace.

Goodbye bitterness. There is no space for you anymore.

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The Light IN The Tunnel

You know what’s mind boggling? It’s amazing how many “fish in the sea” out there are SO incompatible to me. Cheers to online dating and how much it totally shows you what you DON’T want. Haha! Yes, I have entertained the online world. I never thought I would. But I also never thought I would be a hundred things I am now: divorced, single, not on stage leading worship as often, alone, searching, crawling. Yeah, nothing in life is surefire. So take it from me: don’t put all your eggs in one typical expected basket. God has plenty of other baskets in mind.

But in all seriousness. It has been a whirlwind past couple months. I ended a relationship that I wished so deeply would work. I browsed others. I’ve experienced thought processes I never thought I would. I walked in the shoes of people I used to judge for years. (God kinda does that)

And the most daunting of it all, I had the overwhelming scary conversation with my daughter that I totally hoped wouldn’t come till like five years from now. Well no, it happened. In the car about two weeks ago. I am so grateful that I now understand God’s grace so much deeper that I could actually have a conversation about my husband’s decisions without a single bash at him. Let’s just say, that wasn’t completely me speaking throughout that conversation. That was a mix of my amazing counselor’s words of grace and wisdom, and God’s very obvious presence and words spoken through me.

I’m sure you’re curious how on earth I navigated that conversation. Well, in a grace-filled nutshell, I shared with my daughter a concept that was probably very foreign to other eight-year-old’s in the 50’s. I shared about the choices people make today to love whoever they want to love because they can’t help it, even though it’s nowhere near God’s original design for them. And I shared why God wants us to love through that. To love through our disagreement, through our pain, through our shock because in reality, that’s exactly what He would do if He were in our shoes. It doesn’t seem right to us, to the church, to my mother for that matter. LOL. But it’s who He is and if we claim we want to be like Him, it might take a little discomfort and offensive grace to get there.

Speaking of discomfort, for some reason, something hit me this morning.

I caught up with a precious friend this weekend. It was like an ordained conversation in the fabric isle of Hobby Lobby. (You never fail me Hobby Lobby. In more ways than one). I shared with her that I feel like I’ve been crawling. This valley is darker than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve become things I never thought I would be. This journey of divorce is lonely. Loneliness that one could never understand or relate to unless they’ve walked it. You don’t know where you belong anymore. And although you know you will belong again someday, right now, in this tunnel, you don’t have a place to belong. You’re just crawling, surviving, making mistakes and then experiencing little victories. But overall, it’s dark. And you wonder, how can God see me through this? He is light. I’m in the dark. I’m lost.

I’m trying to find my way, fighting off my flesh and moments of self-pity. Fighting off the anger of comments left and right from people who don’t have a clue what this is like. Pushing through the exhausting nights of single motherhood only to brush off the comments ringing in my ear – “You’re too nice to your kids,” “Really it takes you that long to get them to bed?” “They’re tramping all over you. Lay down the discipline. You won’t break them. Just do it.”  And then there’s fighting off the temptation to settle and miss my destiny, because really, nothing ever turns out how you planned, anyways? Right? What’s the point?

Maybe He’ll meet me at the end of this. He’s loving enough to meet me at the end of this tunnel, but for Him to dwell here? That’s impossible.

And then, it hits me.

He never would have said He is the “light in the darkness” if He didn’t plan to be WITH me IN the darkness. He may be the light at the end of the tunnel, but He’s also the light IN the tunnel. He’s watching me crawl, settle, succumb to my flesh, fail, come up for breath, come back down and then come up again. And He’s walking it all out BESIDE me, not ahead of me. He’s not so “great” that He’s above this darkness and every ugly moment, but His patience is great enough that He will stay IN it with me.

Just like He endured the darkness of the Cross…He could have come above it. Because of course, He’s greater and stronger. But He endured right in the center of the darkness. He endured the whole process. And He’s enduring MY whole process for the sake of what comes next, with no judgement and condemnation along the way.

“…for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:1-2

He knows what is set before me. So He’s enduring everything it’s taking to refine me and get me there. I can’t wait to “see the light” at the end of this season. But what’s so unexpected is that I also see it NEXT to me…even in the darkest of moments – places where you think He would cringe and disappear; places where His holiness wouldn’t fit. And yet, He’s there. And He’s not going anywhere. Talk about a lesson in GRACE.

Release

The only way to describe yesterday is – sweet release.

I went to see my counselor yesterday and she opened this sweet door of release for me. I walked into her office with so many burdens. Worries over the emotional state of my daughter;  worries about what I would tell her when that eminent question comes, “Mommy, can boys kiss boys? What does gay mean? Is it ok?”

The funny thing is, we didn’t even touch on those things until after we touched on THIS…

From the moment my husband left me, I’ve been walking on egg shells, making sure that what I do [or don’t do] does not hinder any good that could possibly come next for me. (i.e., a good, faithful, godly husband and emotionally healthy kids).

You see, I’ve lived my whole life under the law. I was the rule follower; the goodie girl. It worked for me. It kept in line with this level of perfection I constantly tried to attain. It helped me keep control of what my life looked like from the outside in. It kept me “ministry worthy.” And now I see that it kept me far from the reality of GRACE.

So when the desire to meet someone would arise, I would suppress it. “I’m not allowed to feel this yet. It’s not in the rules. I’m supposed to suffer longer, endure this valley longer, learn what I need to learn in it and wait. I’m supposed to be that beautiful, pure redemption story. And to have that story, I must follow all the rules. Otherwise, God will give me a less than desirable husband and broken children. And then, I’ll just be another statistic.”

But my counselor reminded me that no one’s life is perfect. From the very beginning in the Garden, everyone’s story has a fall and a redemption. It’s just the way life is. It is the story of all creation. No one can really hold on to that “perfect plan A” for their family or their life. Without a fall, there’s no redemption. Not one person who has walked this earth has bypassed a fall. So who am I to think I could avoid mine? While it may not be in the form of divorce for everyone, there is always a fall, because without that fall, you would never recognize redemption in your life. Wow – what a release to know that when perfection fell in my life, it was only to open the door to sweet redemption – a life and husband that would gloriously surpass my perfect little box. It will gloriously surpass my “plan A.” Because in reality, as my pastor would say, “There really isn’t a plan B. God’s always had you on plan A. Your plan A may look like it failed, but in His eyes, you’re still right on track to where He’s been taking you – even with that little valley interruption.”

She asked me, “What would it take for you to release your husband? To release him from that anger and unforgiveness because he destroyed your “plan A” for your family?” I didn’t know how to answer that question. But all I knew was that the only moments that have given me (and even my daughter) a glimpse of release have been the moments when we’ve allowed our minds to picture what could come next;  better yet, who could come next. It is then that we find peace and joy. It is then that I can actually release my ex-husband and say, “I’m ok. I’m full. You might have ruined plan A, but boy does this new view look great. There is no room in my full heart for more bitterness towards you.”

To which she responds, “Then why do you think it’s against the rules to pray for that? Pray for it. Pray for his arrival. I give you PERMISSION to ask God for him. If it is there that you will find release; if it is there that you will release your ex-husband, then by all means ask for it. Rest assured, if it is in that place that you have found an inkling of freedom, I’m pretty sure God wants it for you. You don’t have to follow the “rule” that first you must find total healing, then comes the prize. You can have it now and you can find freedom in it.”

“Remember, Jesus didn’t live under the law. He changed the rules around all the time. It’s not about the rules. Every moment is about reminding us of His grace. His grace comes first. His plan comes first. And if it looks different than the ‘rules,’ it is still His plan.”

{sigh} release….

I was beginning to think that I was just a big mess of a woman. The 30-year-old woman who never quite lost her high school boy-crazy. But no, I’m just a woman who is wired to be a wife and my heavenly Father is very aware of this and working out His plan for me right now, regardless of what I do or don’t do. He will redeem this. His IS redeeming this and my husband IS coming. And I am allowed to visualize this, claim it and thank Him for it. I’m allowed to surround my kids with other blended families, where they see hope in redeemed marriages and families. Just this past weekend we attended a wedding so beautifully full of His redemption. My daughter was memorized at the story that was unfolding before her eyes! A new family was forming from the ashes of two broken homes. Two people so devoted to God’s direction were now experiencing their redemption. I’m allowed to show my children that cookie-cutter isn’t necessarily God’s plan for us, but oh how beautiful His plan will be!

{sigh} sweet release…

And then, I wonder: what is a Christian mommy to tell her daughter when she asks me about homosexuality? Where does grace come in here? How do I set aside “the law” in this moment and answer with grace? How do you tell them that we are to love everyone, even though what they are walking out might not have been a part of His original plan for them? Do I look her in the eye and give her the truest, honest answer that, “Yes. Daddy walked away and chose a man. It was not God’s plan for him, but it is what he chose and we still love him and so does Jesus.”  How do we love through this? We just do. We love. We know truth, but we love. We know what God feels about it. We know He is probably really sad about it. We know that He created marriage and said a man would leave his father and mother to be with his wife. We hold to this truth. Yet, we love. There goes His grace again. There goes my rule-breaking Jesus. We work around it and love anyways. We stick to His voice and in the end we are safe, in His arms and in the middle of His beautiful redeeming plan.

There is so much release in His grace.

And now, as one of my sweet friends suggested, I’m going to the store now…and I’m going to purposely walk in through the exit door. Because really, I’ve gotta break out of this ridiculous, perfectionist, law-abiding box I’m in. Haha!