The Best and Worst of Times..

To say the last seven years have been hard would be an understatement. There were times I thought it would kill me or admit me. But God…

He sustained me.

This morning, I’m sitting in my new office in our new house. The space I set up to write. My loving husband asleep upstairs (there were times I never knew if I would be able to write those words). Our kids asleep. Our dogs asleep. Home. A beautiful new home (there were times I never thought I’d write those words).

I knew I wanted them all (a loving husband, a new home, a book)..but THE PROCESS of each one seemed insurmountable.

I’ve received all three of these in three months. To say the last three months have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. But, God…

He will steady me.

I didn’t just want a husband, I wanted a faithful, loving, God-fearing one who lived here and loved me enough to commit and to wait. At fourty years old. And, I would have waited until eighty if I’d had to. I knew I’d only have peace with a man like I’d want for my own daughters one day…

I wanted a new house that gave us more room, but I wanted a very similar location. Just more room. We hoped to move this summer, but when we listed our house last month, we had an offer and signed contract in ten hours. Our pictures hadn’t even been uploaded yet! This was happening so much sooner than we’d planned. One month after getting married and we were packing up. Time to find the new place…

Done. And less than a mile away. I look around and still can’t believe it’s mine.

I was a single mom for seven years. My girls were one and five, too young to realize what was going on, too young to understand, too young to have a clue what was happening or how hurt I was by it all.

At the time, I thought how unfair that was on top of everything else. I didn’t want any of it. And, I sure didn’t want to share them, they were still literally my babies. One in diapers, the other in pull ups.

For five of those years, I bled all over my keyboard. As God would speak to my heart, I would write. I would hope the words would one day somehow touch others. I would wait for the next topic and look for His lessons in each and every heartache. In the midst of the pain and loneliness and stress and confusion and grief. I would listen and ask what I needed to know. And, still do.

I can’t clearly express the pain I’ve experienced, I’m sure there are many of you reading this who can’t either. Pain can’t be put into words, it’s felt in the heart. But, so is God.

Our words could never do Him justice, but still we write and praise and sing.

He may have spoken light and animals and plants into existence. But, He BREATHED us to life. So, with every breath, may I return my gratitude for His mercy, His faithfulness, His presence, His forgiveness, His desires in my heart.

With every breath, may I thank Him for not only what I have now, but for the past seven years of what felt like my desert. Because, it was in those seven years, that He was not only my Savior, but my husband, our provider, my sustainer. He is the giver of every single good gift that we have and there are many.

Even in pain, He gives. And, what I needed the most in my whole life was Him. He revealed Himself to me in that pain. So, I thank Him for it!

My husband with a heart for Him wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those seven years. This house wouldn’t be ours if He hadn’t sold ours when He did. My book wouldn’t be written, much less published if I hadn’t experienced that pain with Him. He called me to write long ago, but I didn’t have the content.

To Him be the glory of it all.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:25-26 (NIV)

 

 

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Seasons Change, That’s What They Do

Last night, I laid awake listening to my youngest sleeping next to me. I couldn’t help but think about when I first got divorced. As much as she wanted to sleep with Mama every night then, I thought it was a bad habit to get started. After all, I might get married again someday. Then it would be harder on both of us to get her out. That was my thinking. Now, I can’t seem to put her in her own bed because I know it’s coming soon.

Seasons.

As much as I can’t wait to share a bed with my warm and loving man, I will miss the times it was me and my girls. As will he, I’m sure. Isn’t this how seasons go? Such is life. We can’t wait for our kids to potty train, walk, talk, drive….and then we yearn for when they couldn’t. We can’t wait for our own first jobs, apartments, and cars….and then we yearn for when we had less bills and responsibilities. All blessings moving forward in life, yet we miss how it was.

We love the change of seasons. Nothing like the first dip in the pool, our first taste of fall, or getting our Christmas trees up. I live in Texas so sometimes all four seasons seem to collide into the same week. But still, turning that calendar to October, April, or June does something to my soul. Seasons.

Married, single, raising littles, parents of college students, empty nesters, retirement. Seasons. Even friends fall into this category. We may drift apart for no other reason than our jobs and families. No love lost, only further apart.

I’ll miss sleeping with my daughter so much that I’m having a really hard time tucking her into her own bed these days. Instead, she reads to me and asks to hold my hand while we both fall asleep. Years ago, I did the opposite in preparation for what’s now coming in the next couple months. It may bite me (us) later, but right now, I’m relishing this season.

 

 

Crickets….

I shared with a few of my girlfriends that one of my prayers entering the dating scene was that I’d rather hear “crickets” than have another broken heart. But, I see now, that it’s  been in the broken hearts and relationships that I’ve learned the most about myself, what I need, what I can give, and what real love is and is not.

I don’t think dating has ever been easy for me, but with social media, texting, dating sites, kids, and the divorced baggage, dating is HARD! As much as I wanted to remarry one day, I got to the point that I was willing to skip it altogether if it led to more pain, confusion, betrayal, or mistreatment. I wanted the girls to see healthy and if that meant mommy stayed single for the rest of my days, so be it.

It’s not what I wanted, I got very lonely. I wanted to be held by physical arms. I cried out in this loneliness, similar to how I did in the loneliness of my marriage but this time without a ring or any potential prospects. The prospects that did come along left more of the same. No lasting connection or commitment. I believed their words, but they fell flat, unable to truly love through good and bad. Once again, try, split, work on forgiveness, and try again. Or should I?

I craved companionship, intimacy, honesty, and reciprocal love. But, this time it wasn’t just about what I wanted, it’s about what the girls and I needed and the example I wanted to set as their mom for their upcoming dating years. I needed a man to set a good example as their stepdad. This definitely raised the ante.

I couldn’t risk falling for just anyone. Even though I still did in the process. God knows I’m prone to fall……..

We needed a patient man. A gentle man. A family man. A man who knows the meaning of and Supplier of biblical love. A man ready to love us all. For the long haul. Through thick and then. These would all take a strong man. If these characteristics weren’t there, then we would be healthier and better off without. And, ultimately, I’d wish the same for them when they consider a husband. So, I asked God to remove if he didn’t fit these qualities.

Crickets.

Hearing crickets on the dating scene isn’t easy. It feels like a big bucket of rejection, but that’s where my faith was tested. I bravely asked God to get all up in my business, so I trust that He did. Even when it hurt. Even when I didn’t like it. Even when the text wasn’t replied to. Even when they didn’t call. Even when the ones I was warned about wouldn’t stop texting or calling. Even when and even then.

I prayed for strength to endure the loneliness and what seemed to be a lack of interest or undesired interest. I reached out to my friends, I asked for prayer, I asked advice, I talked to my kids, I cried, and I learned each time. Deep down I trusted that God had my very best interests at heart. Because I only desired His will.

It never came naturally to me in any way, shape, or form to date casually. My heart is programmed to love and that makes dating (to figure it out) even more difficult….I asked God to guard my heart during the process. Keeping an open and guarded heart is a tough balance.

As I type this article, I’m looking down at a beautiful ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. Engaged to a man that I’m thrilled to have around my girls. A man that I know is super hard to come by in today’s world.

I get to be a wife again. I loved being a wife. But, this time, it’s to my best friend. A man who I can talk about anything with and he does the same. A man with similar interests which is wonderful, but most of all, is sacrificial. He wants to love me all the days of his life. He sees that as a gift. And that makes him the best gift for us! This is how I’d want my girls loved.

Thank you, Jesus, for the crickets. It was then, in the silence and wonder, that I learned the most about You, who I am to You, and who You want for us.

How Can Pain Be a Blessing?

We learn from pain. Some more than others and some quicker than others, but we all do in some form. If not, we wouldn’t be careful around hot stoves or warn our kids not to touch them. We usually have to experience enough pain to change anything about ourselves or what we do. Physical pain brought on by ourselves makes us more careful. You’ll more than likely avoid that coffee table corner after stubbing your toe on it or that person after being hurt over and over.

Pain we witness from others makes us more careful too. “Wow, that could be me!” It can make us think twice. Hopefully, we learn this way too. Pain brought upon us by others makes us mad. We didn’t want this pain. We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t even make the mistake to cause it. Still, so much to learn from this anger and frustration. There’s always something to learn.

As unpleasant as pain is, imagine what life would be like without pain receptors. The only way to know if we were hurt would be to see bones or blood. So, thank God for pain receptors. How would we live day to day without them? Extremely timidly, constantly hurt, and continually supervised.

If we learn from pain, it makes sense that the wisest people we know have experienced the most of it. They haven’t just been through it, they’ve allowed themselves to feel it. They’ve gone there, they’ve grieved, they’ve felt and expressed the pain rather than avoiding or covering it up. They’ve taken it to God. They’ve owned their part and they’ve changed because of it.

The pain of divorce may lead some to fight for marriage while others blame marriage itself and refuse to even consider it again. The pain of co-parenting may lead some to surrender and embrace while others vengefully fight the rest of their lives. The pain of betrayal may lead some to a deeper intimacy with Jesus and others to deem it foolish to trust anyone again or become untrustworthy themselves. The pain of failed relationships may lead some to a deeper appreciation of the one who’s different or to write them off altogether. The pain of family disapproval may lead to a deeper reliance on God’s or a life lived to please others.

Are you being crushed? All of these are painful, but it is in the crushing that the sweet aroma is produced. Grapes and olives must be crushed to make wine and oil, as it is with us. The deeper the crushing, the more pure the outcome.

Have you seen the joy and laughter it brings people to stomp grapes with their bare feet? That’s how I imagine the devil looks while we are being trampled on, thinking he’s doing us in. But, it leads to something so beautiful in the transformation and only possible by the crushing. I don’t recommend looking for pain. But, I do recommend gleaning whatever wisdom you can from it, looking for the blessings during in it, and remaining thankful in spite of it. There is always something to be thankful for. He’s always there and He knows how you feel. He may have allowed it, but He hasn’t forsaken you because of it.

The Lord says, “It was my plan to crush him and cause him to suffer. I made his life an offering to pay for sin. But he will see all his children after him. In fact, he will continue to live. My plan will be brought about through him. Isaiah 53:10 (NIRV)

Jesus wasn’t just crucified for us, He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually crushed before it for us. It’s in contemplating this pain that we come to tears and surrender over what He did for us. The suffering He endured for us is how His love was expressed and our ultimate gift provided.

I hate that Jesus experienced any pain because I love Him so much, but if He hadn’t, I couldn’t live with Him forever. He did it for me. It was because of God’s immense love for us that His worst pain turned into our biggest blessing.

Being crushed for His purposes hurts like no other in the process, but coming out the other side you recognize the honor that it is and the joy it ultimately brings. You’ll come out closer, forever changed, and with a sweet personal aroma (story) of who He is to you.

You’d Better…

Would you rather your kids “act right” or “love right”? Obviously, the better we love, the better we tend to act. But, if it’s just actions, where’s the love?

Loving “right” comes with all kinds of hard stuff. Courage to speak their truth, admitting anger and hurt, learning empathy, communicating their preferences, thoughts, opinions (that may be very different than my own). For them to love themselves and me properly, this all needs to come in to play. Still, I’d rather them love right than just act right and hurt quietly for shame that I won’t care about their pain or problems. I want them to love well, properly, healthfully.

This takes a lot of letting go. This will take a lot of prayer. This takes loving discipline. And, a lot less controlling. May they be raised seeing grace and care, so that they will be the first to recognize when it isn’t present. May they learn to love and appreciate the differences in themselves and others.

Loving is messy and hard, just look at the cross. It’s in the marriages, the loss of loved ones, the illnesses of children, and the rebellion of family members that this is tested and shown in all it’s painful brilliance. To love “right” isn’t easy. To act “right” can be. Superficial, but just that, an act.

May we love well. May we be willing to let go so that we can. They are their own beings with their own hearts, decisions, choices, and futures ahead of them. May I love them well through them all. Whatever they may be.

Being a parent opened my heart to the love of God when I realized that He loves my kids even more than I do. That’s hard for me to comprehend, but I know that it’s true. They were His before they were mine. But, it also reminds me that I am His child. And, I also think He’d rather me love right than just act right. And, I know now how much of a difference there really is.

Storms Take Many Forms

“The lightnin’ flashes in her eyes and he knows that she knows…..and the thunder rolls.” Just like in the Garth Brooks hit “The Thunder Rolls”, we are made aware very soon in life that storms come in many forms.

We take physical cover in hail storms. We watch helplessly as windows and cars are hammered. We can hear the sirens and sounds of freight trains when a tornado comes close. We rush to the stores to stock up when there is talk of an ice storm hitting the metroplex. We batten down the hatches to prepare for hurricanes. We do all we can do, but are still left to watch and see how nature will take it’s course.

Relationships go through storms. Marriages, friends, family….Eventually, someone will get hurt and find themselves in the eye of the storm needing to ask for forgiveness or grant it. And the thunder rolls……

Some make it, some don’t. Kids and others are left to watch helplessly in the wake of lost friendships and divorce. The relationships that do make it come out stronger because the love is made more evident in the willingness to ask, receive, and bestow the forgiveness. Asking isn’t easy, granting isn’t easy. Both take humility and grace.

Financial strains cause storms. The stress associated with being out of work, working when you don’t want to, working at a job you dislike, or for a boss who doesn’t seem to care at all about you, wondering whether or not to go back to work. Asking for help with bills. And the thunder rolls….

Storms come in many forms. May we always look to Jesus in them. May we take cover in His Name, like we do in the closet with our babies covered by a mattress. May we go face down before Him when the storms come and ask Him to carry us through. May we stock up on scripture and prayer warrior friends like we stock up on bottled waters and batteries. These are the storms where an umbrella won’t cut it. These are the storms where we do all that we can do and then hunker down and wait and see what the damage is.

Hurricane Harvey ravished Houston a couple weeks ago. Hurricane Irma plowed through the Caribbean yesterday and is moving towards Florida this weekend. Last I heard there are two coming up behind her. Just like tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and ice storms are expected on this earth, so are all the other kinds of storms. Sometimes they seem to come one right after another.

Strengthen us, Lord. Batten down our hatches. Help us to ask for and grant forgiveness in our storms. Show us how to reflect you when we inevitably mess up or someone else does. And, thank You for Your grace. Your grace is like the first responders running in when everyone else runs outs. Your grace is the rescue helicopters and semis pulling in with diapers and blankets. Your grace is the food we feast on when famished and in dire need.

And, if the storm rages and ultimately takes us out, may we still look to You because then we will be able to see You looking at us.