Dear God

Dear God,

I know that you love me. I know that you love me beyond my understanding. But…

I spent so many years loving my difficult husband and cherishing and raising my children. I put all my love and heart and soul into creating a happy home and family despite the often toxic atmosphere that my husband breathed out. I finally left because I could not survive another moment of his loathing and control.

I am trying to rebuild my life on the smoking rubble left behind. I am trying to lean on you and depend on you for strength. I had a man in my life for a year who made me feel better, but I had to make him leave because he wouldn’t take care of my heart. I could see it was hurting. But now I’m so alone. I can’t find a job, so I volunteer. I’m not making any connections there. I go to church but don’t connect. I tried dating online and it went nowhere. I go to Divorce Care, but I leave alone. I eat alone. I go to the movies alone. I walk alone and go for coffee alone. I wake up alone. I clean my house and no one comes over. I spend time learning my craft in art for no audience. I am so empty. I want to call the man I turned away, but I don’t want to hurt from the lack of love there.

I really don’t know what I am supposed to do with this ache and sadness that overwhems me. I’ve tried to love others, I’ve tried to do what you ask me to do. I try to chin up and keep going and trust you. But I’m so lonely and unhappy. I pray daily for your comfort and joy. I remind myself how my circumstances aren’t bad at all. That I have so much. I try to eat right and get exercise and do things I enjoy. And I am just so empty. I really don’t see the point in trying so damned hard to “get better.”I find myself right back where I was more than two years ago and wonder if it would be less messy to step in front of a bus or drink until I don’t exist. I am so empty.


born as a human being

nativity ornament

Jesus came as a helpless baby. He arrived in squalor and poverty, but within a family that sacrificially and faithfully chose love and obedience. His companions and associates emerged from the common masses of a Roman-occupied territory that was regarded with contempt. He showed love and compassion to the crippled, the anathema, the beggar, the thief, the immoral and the greedy.

Do you know who he showed contempt for? The prideful, the arrogant, the elitist… those who, in their own self-sufficiency, did not recognize him or their need for him.

He healed a man, blind and mute, possessed by demons. He spoke gently to and forgave the sins of a woman caught in adultery. He brought an extortioner into his closest circle, his own disciples. He associated with those who were immoral and dishonest. Yet the men who held to the strictest moral and religious laws, those he called a “brood of vipers” and hypocrites.

A couple of years ago, my former husband and I were making a last-ditch effort to salvage our marriage. I was already out the door, sleeping in a camping trailer in our driveway, but he “didn’t want me to leave.” We were seeing a counselor.* He asked me to make a list of 20 things Kurt could do to make me feel loved. I thought this list was ridiculous, but I worked on it…

1. don’t ridicule me, belittle me or call me names
2. hug your sons at least once a day
3. find at least one of my weaknesses endearing, not something to criticize
4. don’t ask me to engage in anal sex
5. i feel cared for when you pay attention to what is important to me
6. be more merciful and less judgemental/critical when i/boys don’t meet your standards
7. don’t yell or put others down
8. give gifts of service and take care of our house more
9. i appreciate that you’ve been accepting my less-than-usual cooking and cleaning lately since i’ve been in school
10. accept more responsibility for keeping your family cared for, protected, loved
11. don’t kick the dog
12. talk pleasantly to our children
13. go away
14. don’t disrespect me
15. have the same standard for yourself as others
16. fuck yourself
17. listen… pay attention
18. take care of the yard, vehicle, roof, etc.
19. go away
20. stay away

In my eyes, in my heart, this man who I married in love, had never genuinely expressed the love and acceptance I dreamed of, longed for. Very quickly the relationship became some sort of bad dream in which he treated me with a disrespect that I never witnessed while we were dating. There was a sense of control and ownership. An element of male privilege. An air of superiority and demand. It wasn’t a mutual love and affection, reciprocal need and nurturing, vulnerability and trust. It was manipulative and domineering. Arrogant. PRIDEFUL.

What we see in Jesus, the one who came to us in abject humility, who lived with us in such acceptance, who wooed us with unconditional love, is the unspeakable beauty of grace. Grace in all its amazing perfection. Grace does not deny truth or sin, but embraces it and corrects it with tenderness. Grace can only come from a position of absolute authority, but never condescends or belittles. Grace raises us. It opens our eyes to our best and encourages us to reach further.  Grace shines the light on our filth and washes us with mercy. Our response is not scripted or compelled, but a genuine abandon. When we experience such unutterable favor in the arms of God, we have nothing but joy.

My husband’s lack of acceptance, his arrogance, his pride, destroyed us. Please take notes.

Jesus shows us how to lead. How to live. How to love.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

~ Phillippians 2:5-8

* My advice is that a couple with an abusive spouse NEVER EVER go to couple’s therapy or counseling. It is extremely toxic for the victim. Our counselor should have known better.

caught that thought

turkey photo

I have thoughts running around in circles in my head…

That’s why I write, to get them on paper so I can catch them.

This was my first Thanksgiving without our family together. Last year we tried and it was awkward and uncomfortable. The year before that I didn’t have Thanksgiving. While my family was celebrating with relatives, I knew I could get into the house and move most of the stuff I would need without any interference. So I spent the day driving a truck 200 miles and packing. The year before that, we were all still living together.

So, this was a new thing. My oldest wasn’t able to come home, and we weren’t able to go to him, so it was just me and my younger son, who is 18 and in his first year of college. Actually, it was a good day! A very good day! I made all the trimmings and we enjoyed each other’s company and all the yummy food. Then we watched the football game together. Our team lost, and we missed having our other man-boy, but it was a nice day and I didn’t feel sadness and I don’t think he did either. Good to know we are okay.

And now we are looking at the Christmas season with smiles. We will get a tree later this week. We will put presents under it and ponder the miracle of God on Earth. I’ll put out cozy blankets on the sofa and change to wintery decorations around the house and in no time we’ll be watching our traditional Christmas movies by the fire. And my oldest will come home. We’ll be okay.

Now, I told you there are many thoughts running around in my head… some of the other thoughts are about my former husband. We did pretty well with the divorce. We didn’t hire any lawyers. Pretty amazing after 20+ years of marriage and a lot of assets to split. But we relatively amicably discussed everything and made concessions and tried to honor each other. That’s admirable. There were certainly things that I felt I was seriously compromising on to avoid a fight, but I have to assume he felt the same way.

However, as it all worked out toward the end, he got more and more hostile when I insisted on certain things that we had agreed on during the negotiations. He started calling me names and putting me down. He refused and stonewalled and denied agreements. Each time he made things difficult, each time he got stubborn, my hackles went up. I worked hard to keep from resorting to some kind of negative reaction and kept my cool, at least to him. I got through all of it, down to one last item. He refused to comply unless he got something that he had neglected to bring to the bargaining table. His unkind and attacking words, his superior attitude, his stubborn posture made me angry. So angry. There were so many things I had let go, so much I had relinquished in the process, and he was battling me on yet another element that he had previously agreed to. Not only that, he was calling me selfish for insisting on it. This behavior was so ugly and familiar.

That morning my insides were churning in frustration and indignation. I opened my little devotional (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young). The message for the day said to reframe setbacks as opportunities. So I tried to do that. I prayed and asked Jesus to show me this frustration as an opportunity. And I actually got it. Really got it. I felt it. He showed me that I don’t need to absorb my former husband’s behavior. He doesn’t need to affect me at all. I don’t need to give him any power over me. He can be as big a jerk as he wants and it doesn’t need to hurt me. I don’t get what I asked for, but how big a deal is that? Can I let it go? Sure. On the other hand, he has to live and breathe in his own selfish self. I don’t need to fret about any of the rest of it. That understanding made me feel so free! Free to let go and leave that man in my past. Free to embrace my new life, feel the sun on my face and choose my own path for the first time in over 20 years.  I felt joy!

And I’m thinking that’s why the holidays don’t seem bleak and sad without my family. I have my sons, my parents, friends, and I’m making new friends. Sure, it’s different, but that’s a good thing.

The circumstances of your present are not permanent but the promises of God are unchanging.
~Michael 5812 (Facebook)

what is wrong with me?

This week has been frustratingly NOT what I had planned. I had things on my agenda to accomplish. I need to find work, I have obligations, and there things that need to be done around the house and the basic taking-care-of-life kind of things. This Wednesday was an important date for me. I left my husband two years ago. I intended to blog about that. None of it is getting done because I keep taking care of other people. Particularly him. My friend. You simply can’t believe how utterly messed up his life is and every time he turns around there is something else. And I have to wonder, do I have codependency issues? Do I help too much? His car, which has some serious problems started leaking two days ago. It needs to go into the shop. So now he is out of a car for a few days. I started yesterday driving him to the dealership after he borrowed my car to take his son to the doctor and to school. I spent the rest of the day chauffeuring him around and looking at used cars and taking him to his doctor’s appointment. And then we picked his sons up after dinner so that they could spend the night here. Then his sons started fighting, so I drove one back to his mom’s house. Then I drove this morning to drop off the other one at school and my friend at work. As we were discussing what to do next time they fight, rather than return one to his mom, since that’s not really the best way to handle it, his former wife calls and I’m listening to all of their stuff again. I can hear the communication problems they have and the next thing I know, I’m at home cleaning up the kitchen and vacuuming and thinking about all the stuff I have to accomplish today and I find myself texting said former wife to ask if she wants to meet for coffee. I want to help.

WTF?! What is wrong with me? Why would I do that? Why would I get involved like that? I have my own life, my own things I’m supposed to be taking care of. I don’t have any answers for them anyway. What do I think I’m going to do for them?

I definitely have codependency issues.

Well, wait… I listen to their conversations and I hear where things are breaking down. I know how resentment affects our ability to see the other person trying to do the right thing. How resentment and bitterness color our speech with sarcastic and hurtful remarks. I know verbal abuse when I hear it. I understand where he is coming from because we are friends. I understand her position because I’m a mom and I also know what boys and men are like. I also watch the boys and see how the older one messes with the younger one and baits him. I know boys need firm boundaries and I doubt they are getting them. I have a pretty good understanding of the stuff they are going through.

Now, you know how people tell you, when you are going through a really difficult event in life, “God will teach you things through this and you’ll be more sympathetic and able to help others who are going through something similar”? Well, isn’t that exactly where I’m at? Isn’t this exactly what those people had in mind? Isn’t this that particular moment when I am really able to be useful in coming along side other people to help and listen and maybe give a little sympathy and counsel? So why would I not step in and help? Isn’t that an important part of being a human?

I read a wonderful little daily devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Part of today’s devotion says,

Try to depend on the help of the Spirit as you go through this day of life. Pause briefly from time to time so you can consult with this Holy One inside you. He will not force you to do His bidding, but He will guide you as you give Him space in your life…

Maybe I’m misreading or projecting here, but aren’t we called to share the love of Christ, to share our selves, our time in order to help others? Isn’t that the bidding of the Holy Spirit? So, I am going to meet with this woman today and stay in touch with the Spirit as I speak with her, asking Him to show me what help He has for her and what words He wants me to share with her. And I’d be so grateful if you would pray that I don’t mess up and give her stupid, selfishly motivated words, but love her and speak words of honey inspired by the Spirit.

eight years ago…

This was written in my diary eight years ago as I sat in our church’s kitchen. I was at the weekly women’s bible study and I had to leave the room while the teacher was giving the lesson…

God, Anna is in there teaching about the fruits of the Spirit and how we are living with the Spirit in us and that we are freed from fear… and I just can’t apply any of this to my own life. I listen to other people praising God and being so thankful and wanting to glorify you in their difficulties and finding such comfort in your words… I just am not getting all of this. It just isn’t working for me. I no longer know what is right or wrong or have the right motivation for any of it, and I question whether I really ever did. Lord, I call you that, but I can’t tell if I mean it. I need your help. I need your healing. I cannot continue to do the things I’ve committed to, I don’t want to be happy or joyful, I feel nothing but guilt and despair. I feel pain when I can find a bit of joy with anyone outside of my own family, yet I can’t trust other women, even Christians, with my problems. I feel so alone… Please help me. Save me.

I have come to the end of myself, and I just don’t see God there for me.

I cannot keep pretending that I am okay.