Starting Over

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Here it is, three years since my last blog.  Since then, I have had a ton of changes.  I got remarried, lost several people to death and others to life changes.  I’ve gained about 40 pounds back due to depression and grief and unrelenting Fibromyalgia.  Once again, I feel like I am back at the starting line.

The thing about depression that is the hardest is the overwhelming feeling of being hopeless.  I constantly have to remind myself that no matter how hopeless it feels, it’s really not.

So, here I am, starting over…

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Co-Dependent

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Growing up, I always felt insecure. I wasn’t the prettiest sister. I wasn’t the most athletic or talented sister or even the smartest sister, although I made good grades in school. I was the middle child. As most middle children will lament, I did not always get my “fair share” of attention. I…….was a thinker. I pondered things even as a small child. I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. I wanted to know why people acted a certain way and how I could learn from their choices.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my opinions didn’t matter. No one wanted to hear them. I was best liked when I didn’t try to go deep into conversations. I began to mold myself to whatever friend I was with. Eventually, even though I knew who I was and what I wanted in life, I stopped being authentic and true to myself. I lived for the approval of those around me who questioned my sincerity and accused me of bad intentions. The more someone disapproved of me, the more I tried to convince them that I was good.

This carried over into my choices as a teenager. Unfortunately, it led to a very tumultuous 16 year relationship that very nearly mortally wounded me in every way. Somewhere in my late twenties, I began a shift. For the first time since I was probably five years old, I started to get angry. Angry at being suppressed. Angry at always having to be the one to give. Angry at not being accepted for who I am. Part of this change was brought on because my body was literally giving out on me. I was so sick all the time I could barely get out of bed. Sometimes when the body is weak, the soul becomes exposed and it is impossible to keep the demons that haunt us at bay. They must be confronted and dealt with.

This time period was like a great awakening for me. For the first time, I started to understand the magnitude of the great love the Father had for me. I understood that he made me the way I am for a reason. I understood that I have a purpose and a mission that is unique to me. I understood that my path was laid out before me by God, not man. I understood that I do have a voice and that God was pleased with me through Jesus, not anything I do or don’t do. For the first time in my life, I stopped trying to earn God’s approval and just rested in his love and acceptance of me as his beloved child.

Letting go of the need to be perfect, the need to please everyone, and the need to control everything in my life was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is still hard. I find myself in friendships where the other person tries to pull from my strength and I start to feel myself being sucked into old patterns of giving too much of myself away. It is harder than it appears to find people to be in relationships with who understand that you are a distinct person with defined boundaries. As much as my personality would like to be able to, I cannot “make” anyone else feel like a complete person at the expense of my own soul any longer.

I am told that I am a strong person, and I am. I am told that I am confident, and I am. I no longer feel that neediness inside. I am okay being alone. I enjoy my life, as crazy as it gets sometimes. I have balanced friendships in my life with people that I can trust and confide in. I have a relationship with God that is rock solid. He has taught me to be bold and courageous again.

I am also aware that there are still things that I need to work on. There are never enough hours in the day. As a single mom who has way too many irons in the fire, it can be overwhelming. My worst day now is better than my best days before and I am grateful. It is hard for me to trust people. Letting people into my heart is tough. Not because I think they are bad, rather I am still learning to balance the need to be vulnerable while not letting the boundaries of where I end and the other person begins get fuzzy and diluted.

Co-dependent behaviors and attitudes strip a person of their dignity. They wreck your self-esteem and place you in the path of an oncoming mack truck emotionally. Whatever work you have to do to heal and get off of that path, I would encourage you to do it. Take care not to cross over and start traveling the rocky path of isolation and hate lest you become the controlling, manipulative person that almost consumed you.

Personally, I find this balance by strengthening my relationship with my creator and gaining perspective from the Bible. There is wisdom there that can be applied to my life. I also stay involved in activities that feed my soul. I run, work out, play music, read books, talk to friends, go to church, etc…It is an amazing feeling to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come and realize that hope is free and readily available and you don’t have to live a life bound by fear, doubt, and self-hate.

Recovery

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It has been a tough weekend.  I am at a point in life where everything is changing…yet again.  Personality wise, I love stability and comfort and knowing what’s around the next bend.  Unfortunately, life does not work that way.

This year, the anniversary’s hit hard.  As much as I would like to deny that PSTD exists, let alone that I have it, the flashbacks that have crowded my brain the past 24 hours make that denial impossible even for a pro like me.

It started Friday with being uncomfortable with where I was sitting in a restaurant; then progressed to not being able to sleep; and went downhill from there.

I’ve been on edge all day and really could not pinpoint why until I was sitting in church this evening listening to all of my amazing church family talk about their blessings.

Sitting there, the dam broke.  It hit me like a ton of bricks and I remembered everything from that first sweet sixteen kiss to darker events that eventually woke me up to a reality that was far more broken and fragile than I ever thought possible.

Here I am, with my worst fear having come to pass.  I am utterly, and completely rejected and alone.  The love I thought was real and strong and able to stand the test of time…didn’t.  The person who was supposed to love and accept and protect me…didn’t.

Turns out I was expendable.  Maybe it would not be quite so bad if I had not loved so much, had not truly believed in the spoken vows I made before God, or had done something awful to deserve what I got.

Grief hits when you least expect it to.  I’m not sure that it ever completely goes away.  Even if the wounds heal, the scars remain sensitive to the changing seasons and harshness of life.

I have chosen to deal with the pain in some very healthy ways, blogging being one of them.  However, there are some unhealthy habits I have that sometimes get the best of me.  I struggle and fight and get discouraged.

I’m told that I am inspiring, that my story gives hope to so many, and that is why I am so open about my pain and struggles and triumphs.  But there are days when I feel anything but inspiring.  On those days, I’m just one of thousands of single parents who are just doing the best they can to salvage what they can from a broken relationship for the sake of their children.  I’m just one of many who fight and claw and refuse to give up on life no matter what.  In fact, sometimes I feel guilty when someone gives me a big “atta girl” because I know there are so many single moms who are doing the same exact thing I’m doing with no one to pat them on the back.

As I sat in church tonight thinking about my life and all my failures, weaknesses, missteps and flat out rebellions against God, I was humbled.  The amazing thing about our Father is his mercy.  At the same time I was feeling humbled, he was speaking things into my heart.  Things like “I love you” and “I forgive you” and “I’m here……………..”  and my favorite “I will never, ever leave you or forsake you”.

No matter how hard this recovery, he is here walking every single step with me.  Each time I have a flashback and hear those words and can almost smell and feel and relive events that I’d rather never think about again, he is there holding my hand.  Each time I feel like if they gave out an award for the crappiest single mom on the planet I might actually be able to win for once, he won’t let me give up.

Is full recovery possible this side of heaven?  I’m not sure what the answer to that question is.  I do know that day by day, he brings me closer to my destiny and closer to acceptance of my completeness in him.  He can handle my baggage and that comforts me.

In Isaiah 54, God promises to be my husband, protector, and provider and he has been all of those things.

I know one thing for sure.  God has placed in me a stubbornness and desire for life that will not allow me to give up trying.  Maybe none of this makes sense but I needed to write it out.  Despite every struggle, I am happy to be here, alive, and really truly LIVING.

The Aftermath

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Maybe it’s because I just graduated, the time of year it is when all the “anniversary’s” are coming up, or just that I am feeling anxious about my future, or some other random reason I haven’t thought about yet.  Whatever the case, my thoughts have been turning towards my divorce and subsequent struggles as a single parent lately.

This love stuff is complicated.  The longer I am alone, the more I realize how complex people’s situations are.  Baggage is real and it ain’t pretty!

Over the past three years I have vacillated between two extremes.  One being that I am really happy with my life and where it is going.  I’m okay being alone.  I’ve learned that I enjoy who/what I am and I do not feel the need to apologize for being me.  I never lost who I was but I’m now able to be that person all the time without being made to feel like there is something wrong with me.  I am reveling in my freedom.  I truly do not NEED someone in my life to complete me.  I feel like a complete person all by myself.

That leads me to the other extreme….loneliness.  Up to this point, I have viewed loneliness as something to be avoided like the plague.  Loneliness was the enemy.  I tried to convince myself that I just wanted to be alone the rest of my life rather than risk making another bad choice.  Add a few negative dating experiences since the divorce and that just reinforced my negative opinions about the whole thing.

However, as much as I would like to say that I am fine with it, deep down I know that would not be truthful.  There is still something inside of me that longs for companionship and friendship and…dare I say it…love.

I have learned a few things over the past few years that I consider invaluable.  I have learned:

1. Not to judge a book by its cover.  Everything that glitters is not gold and vice versa.

2. Just because someone has a past does not make them a bad choice.  After all, I have a past and I consider myself to be good person.

3. It’s important to water your own soul.  Do the things that make you happy…

4. Have a full life outside of the whole “dating world”.

5. Never depend on someone else to make you happy.  Happiness is a heart condition between you and God alone.

6. It’s okay to be single.

7. It’s okay to admit that you do eventually want to find love again.

8. It’s okay to reject and be rejected.  No one wants to be with the wrong person (at least the emotionally healthy people don’t).

9. It’s okay to just have fun and get to know lots of people.  You may even discover some really interesting things about people that enriches life and encourages you to think outside of your own little world.

10. In the end, the most important thing is to listen to the voice of God.  Make following HIS lead the #1 priority.  Make this a priority over how you feel on any given day.  It’s always appropriate to follow God’s Word.

In the end, this is a journey.  My journey is not about my past, or my present, or my future.  It’s about becoming all that God intended for me to be when he created me.  I truly believe that there is someone out there for me, but I’m not sitting around pining away, even during times of loneliness.  My focus is on healing for me and my children and pursuing the dreams God has placed on my heart.

It is so easy to focus on the past and the person who wronged us, the pain we suffered, and the horrible feeling of being rejected and abandoned.  As Andy Stanley would say, we have to unpack that baggage and allow God to heal and bring forgiveness before we can ever be useful to anyone else.  If you are waiting for God’s best, are you working on becoming the kind of person that the person you are looking for is looking for?  If you want someone who is honest and loyal and selfless, are you that kind of person?  It is unfair to expect someone else to have the character that you do not.

Bottom line?  Work on yourself.  Ask God to change YOUR heart.  Let him do his work.  Learn to be content with being single.  At the same time, don’t give up hope that he will bring the right person into your life at the appointed time.  Our job in this situation is the same as with any other area of our life…trust and obey what the Lord is saying through his Word.

The aftermath of a divorce can be devastating but it does not have to be the end.  I am living proof that there is hope and life after divorce.

Talebearers and Wise Counsel

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Last Sunday I went to church with so much on my mind.  I was wrestling with an issue and have been for quite some time.  However, this issue has been on the forefront of my brain lately.

One sin is not greater than another but I have been really concerned that some of my “venting” to friends might fall under the gossip/talebearer category instead of the category of obtaining wise counsel in difficult situations.

So I get to Sunday School and the teacher decides to skip ahead in Proverbs to chapter 11, verse 13 to be exact.  “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”  

When I explained the angst I have been going through wondering if I am guilty of this particular sin or not, we decided to all look it up during the week and come back with some answers from the Bible.

The first thing I decided to find out is the definition of a talebearer.  The definition says a talebearer is a person who maliciously gossips or reveals secrets.  Pretty self explanatory right?  This is not your typical conversation however.  This definition involves more than just an action, it is an obvious ill intent.

I think we all know people who are negative 99.9% of the time.  Very little they have to say about other people is positive.  They point out the worst in everyone.  Much of their conversations are centered around how everyone else treats them bad, or how they do not get the respect they deserve.  They are masters at twisting whatever you say when they repeat it to, basically, the whole world.  This…is a talebearer.

Pity the person who is foolish enough to trust a talebearer enough to tell them private information…And it happens to us all.  It really does.

Matthew 12:35-37 says, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers”.

1 Peter 3:10 says, ““Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;”

Here’s another thought…think about the Bible.  It is full of stories told about other people.  These stories reveal all kinds of things about the people in them, secret things.  Things that they likely did not want other people to know.  Does this make God himself a talebearer? 

NO!

1 Corinthians 10:6 says, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted”. 

There was a lesson to be learned here.  No ill intent existed in the telling of these stories about other people.

So how do you know if what you are doing, or what a friend is doing crosses the line into talebearing?  I think it is just like any other sin in the Bible, it is a heart issue.  If you have the Holy Spirit in your heart, there will be a little warning that goes off in your heart when something about what you or someone else is saying does not “feel” right.  Our job is to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 11:14 “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety”. 

Sometimes there are situations where you have to get advice.  Regardless, you have to really search your heart and make sure there is no malice there, only a desire to understand and find wisdom in the situation.  You also need to be extremely careful who you go to for advice.  Make sure it is a Godly person who is known for their discretion.

Ultimately, if someone is sinning against you with their slanderous words, Matthew 18:15-17 clearly says what you are to do; go to that person and ask them to repent.  This is where I fall short.  I honestly cannot remember a time when I purposely with ill intent decided to reveal the business of someone else.  The heart is deceitful though so I cannot say for sure, but I have never purposely tried to hurt anyone, even with my words.

However, there IS something that I do wrong.  I have such a hard time going to an individual and confronting them for treating me wrongly.  It is so much easier to vent to another person and this is wrong.  If I am going to another person to talk about a situation in lieu of confronting the situation head-on, then I am just being a coward and not obeying what the Bible clearly says to do.

Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him”. 

I suppose I did learn something from this study.  I learned that I am not a talebearer for needing advice sometimes.  However, I do need to work on picking safe people to confide in.  I also need to become a bit bolder in being honest with people in my life when they hurt me.

I love how God leads us on these adventures when we least expect it.  I thought I was searching for truth in one area of my life and then God shined a bright light on a different area of my life that has remained in the shadows until now.

So what is the answer?  Whether you are the talebearer or the person who is afraid to confront the talebearer, the answer is always Christ.  We need HIM.  We all need his mercy and grace to forgive our shortcomings and change our hearts.

Milestones

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Throughout my life, there have been milestones.  Some of them I do not remember such as learning to walk, learning to talk, and losing my first tooth (although I remember swallowing the fourth tooth I lost).  There was that awesome moment at 11 years old when I was struck to the core with the realization that I, little miss goodie two shoes, was a sinner and that I needed Jesus.  I will never forget the moment that I surrendered my heart to him and he took my sins away.  As a teenager, getting my driver’s license was a huge milestone as well as graduating high school.

Then, there was the milestone of getting married, the births of my three children, and due to circumstances beyond my control…the divorce.

Since then, I’ve reached other milestone’s as an individual.  I’ve run multiple 5k’s and half-marathons and even a full marathon.  I’ve left my 20’s behind and my 30’s are swiftly passing by.

Yesterday, another milestone occurred.  I graduated college.  I am a full-fledged accountant now!  I was not prepared for how emotional it has made me.  I feel like a bawl-baby right now.  When things started going bad in my marriage, I made the decision to go back to college.  It’s been a long four years of late nights and entire weekends with my nose in textbooks.

I know there will be other milestones in my life, but I think I’m going to pause here awhile and enjoy this one…

Where’s the Lesson?

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They say that lessons are a good thing; that life teaches us what we need to know so that we will eventually have all the good things we want and finally be happy.

My life has not turned out that way so far.  Happiness is sort of like trying to shove an elephant in a suitcase.  Just about the time you think you have it all contained and are ready to zip away into your happily ever after, a leg pops out here, a trunk there, and before you know it, not only do you not have the elephant in the room, but your suitcase (a.k.a. heart) is smashed to smithereens.

Life is a series of frustrating and heartbreaking events with moments of peace and tranquility thrown in.  There are days when it is so tempting to say “Really God?  What’s the point?”

Indeed, sometimes it can actually seem like God is punishing me for some unknown error that I do not know and am incapable of fixing.

He knows the deepest longings of my heart and those are the very things that seem to be continually denied me.

None of it makes any sense….

At least not from my point of view….

The struggle is exhausting…

I have loved more deeply than I should and, like many others on the planet, have had my heart ripped out the very moment that I fully allow myself to love.

I find myself more lonely that I ever thought was possible.  Raising my children alone was never part of my plan for my life; not having someone to love and be loved by was never part of my plan for my life.

Struggling to put food on the table and working a mind numbing amount of hours between my job and college was never part of the master plan I had picked out for me.

Not being appreciated in the least by my children (or so it seems right now) and feeling their pain that I am so busy trying to make sure they survive that I miss out on so much down time with them was never part of my life plan.

Being abandoned by friends who misunderstand my depression for rejection was never part of my plan either.

All I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mother and capture that love that I was raised with and see my children grow up to be happy and well adjusted…but it has not happened.

So what do we do with all these disappointments?  All these failures?  All these broken hearts?  All this loneliness?  All this pain?

There is a poem that I love that helps me put all these atrocities into perspective.

What God Has Promised
God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives thro’;
God has not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
God has not promised
We shall not know
Toil and temptation,
Trouble and woe;
He has not told us
We shall not bear
Many a burden,
Many a care.
But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love

                                                                                                                                      -Annie Johnson Flint

The lesson is one of trust even when we really do not understand; of learning to fall into his arms and let him be our God; of believing against all odds; of hoping on things that we cannot see and cannot possibly imagine happening.

As we learn to let go of control, seek to understand the WHAT rather than the WHY of the things that happen to us, something amazing begins to happen.  We realize that it is not all about us and what we want out of life.  It’s truly about how much we can love and be hurt and still love on.  It’s about how much of an impact we can make on the lives around us.  It is about how many times we take an emotional beating and still refuse to stay down…

It’s about learning to appreciate the life we’ve been given and allowing God’s light to illuminate us through all the cracks in our wounded vessels.

Indeed the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.  There are also no temptations and problems that we experience that are unique to us.  There are others who suffer the same fate as us.

Our job is to minister to those people and that is were we will discover our joy, our bliss, our purpose, and our meaning.

I’m not saying that it removes the longings in our hearts, but as we surrender those desires to the Lord, he picks us up, wipes us off, and lets us know that he is not punishing us, we are just in school right now.  One day the test will be over and we can graduate to bigger and better things.

Until then, I plan to take all the joys and sorrows of life and feel every moment.  I have a feeling that the greatest of the lessons we are learning in this life will not dawn on our conscientiousness until we pass on into the next life.

What’s the lesson?  Life is not perfect, but it IS good…