Friday, October 30, 2009

My Parents

I love my parents.

My mom and I had some real rough spots when we both were younger. There were times that I thought I could never have anything other than a toxic relationship with her. We were a dysfunctional family that nowadays would have been involved in family counseling. Without going into the things we faced, let's just say that the way family drama was dealt with in small town America in the 1950s was to simply pretend that nothing was wrong.

God's love, maturity on the part of me and my mom, forgiveness and humor has given us the opportunity to reconcile in ways I never thought possible. Once again, He is able to exceedingly and abundantly do more than all we ask or think, according to the power at work in us.

My parents are now 83 and 89. They live in a lovely home in Greensboro, NC in a neighborhood of yuppies. Mom and Dad are the grandparents to the neighborhood. Dad still takes care of the yard and garden every day, and can frequently be found in his workshop. On trash day he walks up and down the street, pulling up all the garbage cans for the working neighbors. He gives neighborhood kids rides in his wheelbarrow. There are times that there's a knock on the front door, and when Mom answers it, it's a child asking if "Mr. Jay can come out to play." Mom is an accomplished cook, knitter and sewer. She's known as the Hat Lady at her church and when she doesn't wear one of her own straw creations, the congregation takes it as a personal affront.

They're active in their community and church. Sure, they have some health issues. Mom has asthma and macular degeneration. Dad is very forgetful and showing some mild signs of dementia. But nothing holds them back.

No matter what is going on, when I ask Dad, "How ya' doin'?" his inevitable response is "Well, I'm doing just fine. Every day is a good one."  And he means it.

They are inspiring to me in so many ways.

I'm going to use this divorce as a way to become even closer to Mom and Dad by moving nearer to them. They relocated to North Carolina after Dad retired from being a river boat captain. There is no family near them. So this summer (that's a best guess on the timeframe) I plan on renting or buying a house within 30 minutes or so of them.

I've raised my children to be loving, independent young men. I have a couple of jobs here, but no career. And frankly, I don't care to see my husband and his new girlfriend. I'm still a bit too raw for that.

I hope that my folks have many more years on this earth and that by moving closer I can be available to them in many ways that I haven't been previously. My mom has already said that having me closer would be a blessing, and that for whichever of my parents should survive the other, having me there would be a great comfort.

I'm laying down my title of Wife and Mother, and re-entering the occupation of Daughter. I'm pretty sure, with God's help, that I'll get it right this time around.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."  -- Anais Nin

When I was a child I had no social skills. I had a hard time making friends because I just didn't know how to do it. In fact, I was so certain that I wouldn't be liked that I pretty much made it impossible for anyone to get close to me.  By the time I was in junior high school, I just figured friendship was a lost cause.

I had five older brothers and no sisters. So I had an easier time becoming friends with males than females. I never fit into the cliques, knowing how to navigate the you're-in-now-your're-out minefield of female groups.

In high school my learning curve finally started to kick in. It was a slow process. Then I went away to college where I was able to completely reinvent myself without the baggage of who I had been before.

In the years since then I am overwhelmed with the people who have come into my life, and allowed me to touch theirs. I was not given sisters by birth; I have been given sisters of the soul.

Different friendships serve different purposes. There are temporary friendships, permanent ones, revolving door friendships, project-oriented friendships, and others based upon proximity. What they all have in common is love and discovery.

These angels in my life are the answer to the prayers of a socially-inept girl. I tell my friends that I love them. On the phone, in e-mails, on facebook, in person. Many of them are sweet enough to say it back. The especially dear ones beat me to it. 

I often hear people complain that "the world isn't fair" and isn't just. I agree that those comments are true, but I say it with joy rather than contempt. If each of us got what we deserved I shudder to think what our lives would become. God has granted me abundantly more than I have asked or dreamed of. We don't live in a world that's fair. We do live in a world that is merciful. My friends have taught me that.

I love you.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Life A.D.

I've developed my own life calendar.  There's B.C., which is Before Children. (Although is was not Before Christ.)

Now there's A.D.  - After Divorce.

And there was a whole M.E. in between - Marital Era.  I mean no irony while giving the M.E. the initials that spell me. Although while living in it I felt that I was giving myself over to others' needs, the truth is that both my husband and myself put the needs of our children first, and then our own individual needs, rather than those of the spouse.

Thanks to counseling, I'm able to clearly see a lot of the passive-aggressive stuff I pulled.  Not some of my finer moments, for sure.

I was heartsick for a long time and didn't realize it. My husband is a non-believer. I always knew that. We've known each other since we were twelve. Some of his biggest life battles were with his parents taking him to church. I had friends warn me about being unevenly yoked, but I was in love.

Even now, knowing what I know, I still would have married him. Not only was I crazy about the guy, but we were blessed with two wonderful children and a lot of happy years together. Yet I can see why we are advised to marry other believers. My husband was jealous of God. A wise pastoral counsel explained that my husband was his own god. So I became disobedient to both God and to my husband. 

My faith journey was lonely since I could not share it with the person I loved the most. He desired more intimacy in the bedroom. I desired more intimacy on a very deep, spiritual level.

Life A.D., just as in our Christian calendar signifying Anno Domini, washes away the hurt and sorrow. I no longer need to tiptoe around my love of Jesus in order to protect someone else's fragile ego. There is a freedom that I find in becoming obedient to the Lord. The older I get, the more faith-filled I become.

I'm reading a book by Julie Morgenstern called S.H.E.D.  I loved her other book, Organizing from the Inside Out. This one is specifically geared to people going through a major life transition. I've only been through the first couple of chapters. In order to heave out possessions, habits and commitments that do not serve the life we wish to lead, she recommends establishing a one or two-word theme to envision the life you're creating.

The theme of my life now is Peace. I seek inner peace and am in the process of decluttering anything that gets in the way of that. I pray that the temptations I face will be defeated with God's help. I pray that when I am discouraged in my walk I will be lifted up again. And I pray the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Laugh

I have a loud laugh, but without the charm of, say, Julia Roberts or Goldie Hawn. Thanks to asthma, a laugh leads to coughing and tears rolling down my cheeks, and the absurdity of that makes me laugh even harder.

I laugh a lot. I've always said that I am not funny, but I do have a good sense of humor. My animals give me several guffaws a day. Certain television shows slay me (Just watched three episodes of "Extras" starring Ricky Gervais last night and nearly died on the couch.)

My sons have reacted to my laugh with equal parts glee and embarrassment. Which means I've succesfully done my job. They each performed quite a bit, and could tell where I was in the audience thanks to my letting loose, with my husband "shooshing" me because we would miss the next line of dialogue.

I find life and my role in it quite amusing. I know that I am going through a depressive cycle when I don't see the humor in the mundane.

Since we are created in the Lord's image, it delights me entirely that our Heavenly Father must have a big belly laugh going on.

I'm grateful that no matter what my circumstances, I can find something ironic or humorous in it.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Autopsy

When a relationship ends the post-mortem can become ugly and messy.  The ending of a marriage can be particularly difficult, because so many people want to take part.  A marriage is more than just the two individuals involved. There are children, relatives, family friends, and the community at large who were witnesses to the union.  It seems that everyone feels they have a stake in the success or failure of the relationship.

I used to work at a chemical manufacturing plant in the human resources department. While there, I became a certified Root Cause Analysis facilitator. In a manufacturing environment, it's particularly important after an incident to discover all the steps that led up to it, in order to ensure such an accident or chemical spill never happens again.  Foolishly, during the past several months, I tried to apply the same process to the break-up with my husband.

The problem is that in a factory setting, the facilitator's job is to assure that there is no blame-finding during the root cause analysis. In a marriage, not only the couple but everyone else assumes there must be a guilty party.

It's natural during the period of denial and hurt to blame the spouse. And I did. He also held me responsible for all of our difficulties. We tried to speak each other's love language. We went through counseling, both as a couple and individually. We read all the books. We listened to everyone's advice. (And believe me, everyone DOES have advice.)

Once blaming the spouse is done, you start blaming yourself. The anger towards him became guilt turned upon myself.  Neither of those feelings is productive or loving.

The truth is, we are both at fault and neither of us are. People are complicated, which means the union between them doesn't have easy answers either.

Looking back at our collapse, after so many wonderful years together, is a moot point now. Rather than craning my neck to see a distorted image in the rear view mirror, I'd rather look out the windshield to see the beautiful vista before me.

The blaming is done. The guilt is gone. It's time to embrace a new picture of reality.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Empty Spaces

'Classic.' A book which people praise and don't read.  - - - Mark Twain

We have a 24-volume set of Mark Twain's writings. It was published in the 1920s, and is in beautiful shape. Ebay research shows that it would fetch a couple hundred dollars should my husband decide to sell it.

The set belonged to my husband's grandfather, and therefore I have no claim on it. And the truth is, neither of us have taken much advantage of the fact that these classics were in our midst. Of the 24 books, I've read about five. I think my husband read only one, and that was because Huckleberry Finn was required reading in high school.

In my family room is a built-in floor to ceiling structure with cabinets in the lower part, and a series of bookshelves on top.  Today, I removed the Mark Twain books and put them in the garage, in the section designated for my husband's belongings.

He did not ask me to do this. It's something I must do as part of transitioning from "ours" to "mine."

The books had taken up an entire shelf. Now there is empty space. There are empty spaces elsewhere as well. They are metaphors for other areas in  my life.

I've been guilty of rushing to fill in empty spots. Have you noticed how we go from apartments, to a house, to even larger houses and always manage to fill the space we have? We're a materialistic culture. We fill in silence with noise. How many people do you know who must have a radio or television on at all times? We don't like pauses in conversation.  Our egos are fueled by how much we have written in our planners, how many emails we receive in a day, how many times our cell phone rings.

We confuse empty with barren. I've learned to see my life in a new way. A vacancy allows me to contemplate how and what I need to be fulfilled. There's a joyful anticipation, an advent of sorts, of just how my currently empty cup is going to runneth over in the future. The mystery of how the tapestry of my life will be woven lets me embrace solitude, the quiet times and places. The peace of a contemplative life helps balance the busyness of living in current times.

I love getting my brand new yearly calendar, with all of those beautiful, white unmarked pages, excited to discover how my daily life will manage to fill in all those little squares.  Unlike years passed, however, I now look forward to some of those squares staying pristine.

So the bookshelf will remain empty for awhile. And I'm okay with that.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Going Solo

I feel that I waste a lot of God's time. 

He has more important things to do than listen to me go through my small challenges. There are tsunami victims, the bereaved, families facing catastrophic illness, couples struggling with infertility, those who are in abusive situations. Going through a divorce seems fairly minor compared to all that, so I decide that I can handle it on my own.

"Thanks, anyway, God," I say. "I'll take care of this one. You go on to your meeting about African famine. I'll be okay."

But I'm not okay. I fall. I over-everything. Overeat. Overspend. Overdrink. Overanalyze. I make things even worse than they already were. I come crawling back to Him, and He just shakes his head knowingly as He lifts me in His arms.

I go through this spiral again and again, each time forgetting that there is nothing I can do to be worthy of His love. That's sort of the whole point of grace, isn't it? God doesn't use a human tally sheet to determine whether my problems are less than or more than someone else's. He knows that the burdens I carry are meant to bring me in closer relationship to Him.

The depth of His love is something so beyond my comprehension. I turn to Him more and more now, praising Him for blanketing me with mercy. One day, I hope to mature into my vulnerability.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mustard Seed Living is Born

I'm heading into Chapter III of my life.

Chapter I was my childhood.

Chapter II was my young adulthood, motherhood, and desire to hold a failing marriage together.

Chapter III is going to be about my going it least until God lets me in on whatever secrets He's currently keeping from me.

I love God. As I prepare to meet with an attorney and go through the frightening process of beginning a new life, I've got a love affair with Jesus Christ going on. This is my healing time. My quiet time. My time to be comforted and assured that there are wonderful plans in store for me.

Why Mustard Seed Living?

Matthew 17:19-20  "Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."

I'm ready to move mountains with God's help. The journey and path may be covered in uneven, rocky stones for awhile. My faith tells me to carry on.

You're welcome to come along with me if you desire. It will be about relationship, home, insight, simplicity, the world and faith.