Sunday, February 28, 2016

Starting at the Gate

A year ago, I was still attending and a member of the same church that my ex-husband and I attended beginning in 2010. I loved that church (I still do) and had absolutely no intention or interest in finding a different church to call my home.

God has plans that we don't always foresee, however, and in June, one weekend when the boys were at a family gathering with their father, Norah and I took up my friend's invitation to check out the church that we both worked at during the week, that she and her family have attended for many years. 

Every Sunday since that day in June, with the exception of less than a handful where the kids or I were very sick (or it was -40 degrees outside), I have sat amongst her family at 8:30am to worship our God and learn more about Him.  They welcomed my children and I into their church and their family, and we have felt at home ever since.

The opportunity arose this month to attend an informational night on church membership, and without hesitation, I decided to go. 

This morning, I started at the gate. I am now a member of the Church at the Gate. Not only have we been welcomed as family by my friend, but now we belong to the church family officially.

I've felt for months I belonged there, and it feels solidifying to vow myself as a member there. It's exciting and challenging all the same time. I don't know what will come of our time there yet. What I do know is that we are welcome and wanted. 

I was talking with the Children's pastor, who I also consider a friend now, how I feel like I know it's the right place to be because my children have been excited pretty much every single Sunday since June to attend church and Sunday school. They've made relationships with kids and adults there too. They love going on Wednesday nights too, and the staff and volunteers who interact with my children are so kind and patient, and many have let me know personally they really appreciate my children and want us there.

This past week was the official end of my marriage and the family that I had hoped, dreamed, prayed, and fought years for. 

But today, we were adopted into a new family, a large family, one that I have faith will support and encourage us for our journey ahead.

I pray that I will have the strength and courage to open myself up wholly and let the family really get to know me. I have struggled for many years letting "strangers" or new people really in, especially spiritually. But I feel like I have grown so much in this area already that God will carry me through it in time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Last Page is Turned

In the summer of 2001, the story of our romance began. It began in the basement of a new friend's parents' house after my best friend and I returned from a college visit in another state. It began with a smile.

We were swept away hastily and the pages began filling and turning. The chapters are filled with such joy, humor, adventures, trials, and tribulations. The story really covers quite the gamut of the human experience.

We had a song- "A Page is Turned" by Bebo Norman. The lyrics were poignant and incredibly applicable to our love story, but the artist was also significant, as we discovered him together, our first official summer together, in the hot summer sun at front row of an outdoor acoustic stage. Acoustic guitars and music were a huge theme in our saga.

Today, the last page has turned. The weight of that page was like a lead anvil. It hit, hard.

A part of me wants to take these pages, these stories, shred them up and toss them into a strong breeze, scattering them all across a barren field on a gravel country road like the many we traveled in our days together. Part of me wants to close the covers and lock them up like one of the many high school and college diaries I wrote my hopes and dreams for our love in, shove them under the bed and leave them there until I die. Part of me wants to read them over and over in my little reading spot with a cup of coffee and my babies playing on the floor beside me, savoring every word, getting lost like it was never a true story, just a good book. Part of me wants to pretend it never happened. Part of me wishes we could start over. Part of me longs for what the next pages of my life will bring.

Instead, I find myself sitting here, holding my breath, choking back tears and trembling, stuck in a moment. My eyes burn and my head pounds after cycling between holding back tears and letting them flow all day long. I find myself going from moment to moment in joy and in heartbreak, relief and sorrow. I knew this was coming, and have been waiting for this final page for months. It doesn't make it any easier.

I guess it's time for an empty page.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I didn't cry.

Last night, I was lying in bed, music playing softly in the background, drifting off to sleep...

When I heard it. I heard one of my favorite songs from years back. And my mind automatically went reeling back in time, to a summer a decade or so ago. It was Labor Day weekend. We were sitting beside one another on a picnic table, by a bonfire. There were quite a few others there. He had my guitar and was playing. We had been singing together. 

And then, as a surprise, he started playing. The opening riff immediately stirred overwhelming emotions of joy and love as he played. I was smitten. I knew he loved me...

Last night, I relived it in my mind.

But for the first time in the last 18 months, I wasn't sad. I wasn't longing. I wasn't shattered or stabbed in the heart.

I was content. I was at peace. My mind was whispering to me "I'm so thankful I had that experience, this memory."

Whether or not he really, truly ever loved me, while I like to believe he did, may never be known. But, that day, I believed it fully. I felt it to be completely true. Even if it wasn't, I felt it...

And I am thankful. 

I do long for and miss it. I do, so intensely it takes my breath away sometimes. But, at least, last night, I didn't cry.

I guess the healing is beginning. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

For Him

This weekend at church, I accepted prayer... Lots of prayer. Prayer for healing my shattered heart among other things.

Following, I have had such a sense of relief in my burdens. I have felt peace like I haven't in quite some time, and my focus has gone less from my pain and struggles and more toward other things. 

Luke 6:27-28

Tonight, as I prayed, which is something I am trying to improve upon, I broke down weeping. I wept not because of my future ex-husband, but FOR him.

For him... Because I realized, again, that I still love him. No, not romantic love, but the difficult love that God calls us to have for those the world justifies that we should hate.

I wept for him because, despite all the reasons I could be justified to hate him and wish damnation upon him, my heart cares about his soul and his salvation.

Because even though he's shattered my heart, I still have that glimmer of hope that he will someday draw near to God. Maybe he won't restore his relationship with his children in this lifetime, but I am working hard to raise children of God that will spend an eternity in heaven, and I cannot help but hope that their dad can make it to heaven, too. 

...Because it's the right thing to hope for, I think. I can't imagine not hoping for a miracle. I cannot help but hope he will find God, cast away the dark and wrong paths he has chosen, and follow God down the right road. I cannot help but pray he will be saved.

I know that is likely going to be seen as wildly unpopular, but truthfully, it doesn't bother me. The world can think I am crazy, but God has sustained that glimmer of hope, that shred of faith, and tonight, it just tore my heart right up.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A pretty good friend

Back in September 2014, my husband and I sat in our van, discussing this crossroads we were at, where he wanted a break from his family and wasn't sure if he wanted to stay married. He told me reason after reason he didn't want to stay, didn't know if he wanted to work on his issues to try to better himself and didn't know if he wanted to try to work on our marriage.

He knew I wanted to and would fight til the death, and I would give him the time he needed. 

While we talked, tears down both of our faces, holding hands even, I voiced my concerns about the future if we divorced. What happens if he finds another wife, where would he live, would we still share family, would I have to say goodbye to his family that became mine for over a decade, would he still care about me at all or would he hate my guts?  There were so many unknowns.

He answered most of them with how he believed it would go. He said he didn't think he would remarry because he had so many issues, I wouldn't have to lose his family, he never wanted to live far away because he wanted the kids and I in his daily life. Because he still loved me and always would, because before anything, we were friends. And he swore we would always be friends.

Then he disappeared for over seven months. He was served divorce papers and didn't even respond or fight. He didn't fight for his kids. He didn't fight for a friendship.

He just didn't do anything.

Tonight, I miss him, not as a husband, but as the friend I had almost 15 years ago, where we stayed up late on the phone or emailing, visiting, chatting, road tripping to see each other. There were so many hours of talking, laughing, dreaming, playing games and guitar, reading and writing, taking photographs, walking and exploring...

And now there's nothing.

He was undeniably one of the greatest friends I had for a hue portion of my life.
Until he wasn't anymore.

I didn't know it until too late.

And I believed him a year and a half ago when he said he would never want to lose me as a friend.

All things considered, even going through all this mess, I think I am a decent friend. I know I possess a few qualities that many would deem good for friendship anyway.

And he just walked away. Completely walked away. He lied to my face and took my best friend away.

It makes me angry. I start to stir up the pot of self-doubt. I battle it down telling myself that God loves me. I seek out friends I know will speak truth over me so the lies in my heart won't scream.

But regardless of that all... It hurts. I thought I was a pretty good friend, and even through a divorce, I could have been a pretty good friend to him. I wanted to be a good friend to him through all of this. I wanted to. 

Until now. Just minutes ago, actually. Realizing he didn't even fight for a friendship... 

Now... I have no words.

The Perfect Valentine

Valentine's Day... Oh, what a day.

Even during the years I was living in a married daze, this holiday went largely uncelebrated. I'm not cynical, that I believe, it just is a minor holiday in my mind and therefore I never placed much weight on it.

This year is different, yet the same. I have no "Valentine" to celebrate it with, but since I don't relish in the holiday usually, it doesn't sting too badly.

Though... Part of that sting that could've been isn't there because I have realized that I do, in fact, have a "Valentine." There's this guy who lavishes me with his love, day in and out, all day, all night, all year, all my life.

And, my friends, especially those without a romantic partner by your side, you should know that you have this "Valentine" too.

God is the best Valentine there is. He has the best love out there. It's unconditional, overwhelming, and never failing. It might not feel the same as a kiss on the lips, it's true. But, when you sit in a quiet moment and really reflect on the magnitude of his love for you, you realize that it's so much better than any earthly love you can and will ever experience.

All you have to do is accept it. Curl up in His arms and pour your heart out. If you're emotional like me, bawl like a baby to the one who loves you more than himself, really truly. He allowed himself to be tortured and crucified, slain on a cross for you, you know. That's so much more powerful than chocolates, roses, wine and dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day weekend.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fighting Words

I just need to say it.


Today, I learned that my future ex-husband, mostly not-surprisingly, had no response or contest to my proposed divorce and child support order. We are in the final stages of the legal dissolution of our marriage.

I know, and have for quite some time, that he wasn't going to stand up to me on it or fight to have me back. But, I had reserved some hope that he would at least fight for the sake of our children, or even to use them and fight for custody so he could escape being charged with child support.

But.. No. Nothing. Not one response.

Part of me is relieved but part of me feels completely insulted. He invested so many years in this family and then spent years feigning that he cared and wanted us. I guess he spent all he had left for us long ago.

Our worth is not determined by him. I need to remind myself of this when I think about this development and how we are less worthy than trash to him. It's not determined by the lack of fight he put forth.

Our worth is determined by God, who stepped in and cared for us when my husband stepped out. He already won.

I'm praying I can hold onto that latter truth in the days ahead as I process this.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Who is that?

For quite some time, I've assumed my daughter, who is not quite two, doesn't remember her dad.

Now, I know it.

Just a bit ago, she picked up her brother's photo album that holds photos of their dad with them, a couple of me with him, a couple of me with the kids, and a few of all of us. It's an album I mentioned in a post a few months ago.

She opened it, and the first photo she saw was one of her dad and her brother.

She was super excited to see her brother and proudly told me who it was. She said nothing about her dad at first. She pushed through a few times and pointed out both brothers, herself, and mommy before starting over. 

"That's Spence!" she told me. Then there was a pause and she asked "who's that?" She pointed at her dad.

I was caught in an off-guard moment of panic and told her his name.

She didn't even think it was his identical twin. She asked who he was. She didn't know.

She flipped through again and told me a few times "that's Jake."  

I told her it is, and "yes, Jake is your daddy."

"That's Jake!" 

Over and over. The boys, herself and I... And Jake.

Not daddy. I explained and she wouldn't even call him that.

She doesn't know him. She doesn't know what it means to have a daddy.

I assumed it, but now, I know it's true.

Pardon my silent tears.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The spiral downward

Do you ever have one seemingly insignificant thought at the beginning of the day that builds, morphs, festers, and explodes, leaving you on a downward spiral of self-doubt and blame?

I'm assuming I'm not the only one...

But today, that happened to me.

It started with an innocent text conversation between my sister-in-law and I regarding my oldest son's trip to the dentist with her this morning, and how he sometimes gets anxious in medical settings and doesn't like strangers in his personal space.

At the end of evening, I was questioning whether or not in this entire saga of their father's abandonment I was the major reason my kids have "issues."  You know, stranger anxiety for one, a lack of stranger anxiety for another, so forth and so on.


This was my exact panic text to three of my dear "reality check" type friends.

"What if I screwed up and harmed my kids more than Jake ever did?
All day it's all I could think about.
I want to say it's that I'm tying to do right now.
But I think about how long I stayed with him treating me like garbage and how long I stayed with him and didn't stand up for my kids, and even when I tried to stand up it didn't make a difference and I stayed anyway because I loved him and thought it could change and work out and then it all went down as it did anyway and how much of all of the kids issues was just due to me being naive and believing in him and staying and being afraid of what would happen if he wasn't happy with us or okay or got his way and he would leave... And he did anyway.
The truth is I'm trying to make it right and raise them in God's love now.
But the truth may also be I'm the worst part of their past.
Of course had I not stayed at least until July 2013 I wouldn't have Norah..."

(PS: included in this rambling is some realizations I had today that I didn't even realize I had until now.)

As you can see, darkness baited, I bit, it latched on, and tore deep. My first friend stated, the devil had a foothold. I'm the best mama for the kids.

Yikes. He gets me sometimes when I least expect it, and damnit anyway, he's a sneaky serpent.

I tried to believe her and prayed, but the possible lie still felt like truth.

My second friend replied with this poetic check.

"Nicole Marie. You need to stop. Right there.
You have been the best mother your children could ever hope to have.
You stuck by their father, no matter how many times he failed you, until you were certain that he couldn't change. You taught them how to love someone unconditionally, and yet, how to let that person go when they cannot love you the way that you deserve.
And then, you taught them how to be strong and independent and pick up the pieces in one of the most difficult seasons life has ever handed you.
You have shown your children some of the most valuable lessons life has to offer before they were even school age! Imagine what wise things you'll be teaching them in the years to come!
They are going to be remarkable people, and that is solely due to YOU. Sure, other people are helping you mold them. But those people are in their lives because they love YOU. Because they love your strength and grit and love for life."

It effectively had me in tears. I prayed in thankfulness for her words and asked God if they were true. I thought I felt relief.

Until I was about ready for bed, thinking about the day tomorrow and the inevitable blizzard-induced play therapy appointment cancellation tomorrow, and you know... all those reasons my boys see a therapist.

So I confided in my third friend.

And my third, well, she blended the two others.

"Oh Nik.  I hate that you felt this way and I hope that it's a passing feeling because here is the truth.  We have all "screwed up" our kids.  We are all broken fallen people making mistakes constantly and it always affects our kids.  I feel the same way about my kids.  I see some of the issues they have and I know I caused that.   No one is perfect and we all leave impressions on our children but you have to remember that they aren't all negative impressions.  The love and the compassion and the genuine sweetness that make up your kids is also from you.   Their joy filled laughter and their love for others and their childlike faith is also from you.   
As parents we have to choose what we focus on and just always strive to do better and God willing, we will all come through this life. 
But parents we all mold our children - for better or worse and trust me, your children have so much good from you."

I don't usually share people's private messages to me with the world, but for the purpose of this spiral, I have chosen to.

I prayed a bunch, and I'm hoping I hear the still, small voice myself, but maybe, just maybe, as happens often, that voice is coming from others because I am still working to shut off the static to hear the still.

I am a but detached from the intense emotional pull I felt earlier. I'm praying for the truth, His truth. 

I am so thankful that I have a few people ( not only these three, but tonight I was called to them, and I can see why now) that I can turn to help combat these untruths from the enemy. 

I do wish I would see clearly before the spiral behind, though.

One day, one battle at a time. Tonight, the spiral was actually pretty quick.