Deja Poo

177250-a32d593a8c2a40a48d552a1d3a388909On SuperBowl Sunday last year, I shared my experience from the prior year. Two years ago, SuperBowl Sunday was less than 48 hours after my ex announced he wanted a divorce. This year, SuperBowl Sunday falls on the anniversary of that horrible date when I felt my world exploding into a million pieces.

I don’t remember the date to wallow. I remember because (1) it was a traumatic date in my life, and I can’t sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist, and (2) it is a benchmark of where I have been compared to where I am. Today marks an opportunity for me to reflect and choose gratitude.

On my datebook, I have the phrase “deja poo” written on this date. The phrase makes me smile even if the reason for the phrase reeks. A lot of poo loses it’s stench after a while, but there are some things in life that reek no matter how much time has passed. I can appreciate what God has grown out of the rich fertilizer, but it doesn’t make it all okay. It doesn’t make it any easier to see people I love still dealing with the deep effects of turmoil and betrayal. It doesn’t make the layers of deception meld into a remolded truth. It doesn’t make the compassion and longing for healing fade; in fact, it is more focused and amplified as time passes.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Without attention and care, time can make wounds worse. But with attention and care, we can learn to live with the long-lasting effects of the wounds.

God has given my healing process context. I don’t like it, and it’s not comfortable most of the time, but it is still purposeful. I don’t like the deja poo, but I love the God who is consistent and trustworthy as each year passes.

What Now?

photo-1542251224-3e60f8d50cd8“What do you do with your God now?”

Someone asked me the question about a month after my ex shocked all of us and announced he was leaving the marriage, family, and friends. It was a valid question from someone who had wrestled for an authentic relationship with God, a relationship that was tainted by he influence of others who claimed truths about their own relationships with God then belied those truths in everyday life.

My answer might have seemed simple, but there is unexplainable depth to it.

“I trust him.”

What someone else does or doesn’t do doesn’t change God. What I do or don’t do doesn’t change God. That would be a god made in my own image and dependent on my own perspective and experiences. Faith in that god doesn’t last long, and it definitely doesn’t hold up to the turmoil and pressures of daily life.

What do I do with my God now? I trust him. I follow him. I believe him for who he says he is, who he says I am, and what he says he can and will do. I watch him work, and I let him work in and through me.

I choose him, over and over. I know him, more and more. I let him be God, and lean into him with relentless pursuit. Why? Because no matter what is going on in this world, I can trust him.

One Choice at a Time

screenshot_2019-01-01-16-10-36How does a marriage go from this post that recently popped up in my Timehop to divorce? And not the kind of divorce where two people have struggled to make something work, talked through their issues, opened themselves up through counseling, authentically shared with friends, etc. The kind where one person says to another, in essence, We’re done. I deserve to be happy. I want a chance at another life. We’ve never been compatible. This is not open for discussion. Everyone will eventually get over it and move on.

How does someone go from wanting to read the Bible every morning, serving on a worship team, mentoring other men in their marriages, professionally counseling couples, and leading in the church to walking away from friends and faith?

It’s not a trick question. It might seem bewildering, and perhaps I can’t trace each step away, but I can with confidence say that it happens one choice at a time. Some of the choices are big and some are small. There is a lot of rationalization and deception. There is a shift from others to self, from humility to pride.

I say all of this with no malice or disgust. In fact, as I type, compassion wells up within me and I weep, because the pain and consequences such series of choices invite are harsh. The ripple effects are devastating to many, but that’s not the point of today’s post.

Someone needs to read this today.

One choice at a time. It’s that simple. No matter where you are right now, one choice at a time will take you somewhere else. And we want to be somewhere else, because we want to grow. But not every choice leads to growth. Whatever choices you face today – big or small – have consequences. Consider what you’re stepping away from and what you’re stepping toward. Reflect on what you’re filling your life with. Invite others into your life who will keep you in check and do the highs and the lows of life with you. Be authentic. Seek truth. Choose well.

Redemption

There is always redemption. Whether we recognize it or not, it is always happening.

God redeems.

But it sometimes – often – usually – looks very different from what we expect.

photo-1480618376353-2950ee462b17Over the past two years, there have been three times when I have felt something so strongly and clearly during Sunday morning worship that it seemed almost real. Each time has caught me off guard. In the middle of pure worship with thoughts focused completely on God, I sensed something happening that was not actually happening. I sensed – imagined – felt my ex walking into the room and cautiously slipping into the space beside me.

No words are said. I simply reach for his hand. He accepts. It is one step. A huge one. And there is a sense of peace.

Redemption.

I believe God reminds me of his pursuit of my ex. Despite his rejection of me, I know his rejection of God runs more deeply. I also know I can trust God. God pursues and redeems.

I don’t believe he is going to redeem the relationship. Not that I don’t believe he can; I just don’t think that’s the focus.

As I had this experience yet again recently, I immediately thanked God for his redemption and reminded myself to trust God to define what that redemption looks like in my own life as well as others’ lives who have been near ground zero of the divorce.

Redemption doesn’t always look how we expect it to look. The results are not always an exact rebuilding of what was destroyed. It is the rebuilding of people – our hearts and souls – not of situations and things.

We are not replicas. We are living, growing, changing beings.

There is a lot of rebuilding and restoration happening in my community right now. Many homes were destroyed or damaged by a tornado. What is being rebuilt might be better in some ways, but there will be some adjustments and sacrifices, too. In our society, we can become accustomed to making the decisions we want and having (what seems to be) control as we build or restore. We try to get what we want even if it means saying no to some other options for a time. But at some point, we’re going to have to relinquish a few things.

We can expect the something similar as we project our own preferences onto God’s redemption.

When God redeems, he redeems. He is the subject of the sentence, the doer of the action. We are the recipients. We receive. We allow. We trust.

We don’t know exactly how he will redeem us and others, but we know he is always redeeming. It is who he is. It might not be in the timing or approach we prefer, but that doesn’t disqualify it as redemption.

I am thankful he knows the details better than I do, because only he can completely redeem.

Just Breathe

photo-1546401143-f8ecf5e6361bJust breathe.

It was an important reminder – one I often needed in that first year as I adjusted to my life as the shattered pieces swirled around me.

It’s not that I wasn’t breathing. Obviously, I was still alive, so I was breathing. But I would sometimes catch myself not breathing well. I’d slow down and breathe deeply. It wasn’t just about moderating the oxygen going into my body and giving me what I needed. It was a reminder of life. It was a choice to continue. It was posturing myself for gratitude and peace. It was a decision to slowly savor a moment.

God gave me breath.

Shortly after my ex walked away from our marriage, I bought a necklace that said, “Just Breathe.” I wore it often and would frequently realize I was holding the thin piece of silver between my fingers. It was a tangible reminder to breathe. It was an acknowledgement that God gave me breath and the ability to breath. He gave me life, and I could trust him through anything.

Absolutely anything.

I still remind myself to breathe at times. It’s not that I struggle as much to breathe, but paying attention to my breath and acknowledging God as the provider of nourishment through that breath postures me to trust him. I find that breathing intentionally is always settling. God reminds me of my grounding. He orients me.

The song Great Are You Lord often plays in my mind as I intentionally breathe.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

We all have breath. What we do with that breath matters.

 

Sifting Memories

photo-1480072723304-5021e468de85I needed to go through my daughter’s childhood books in preparation for her baby shower. We planned to put some of her books on the tables, then she could take them home and add them to her daughter’s library. As I saw some of her favorites, I checked inside to confirm they were hers and not her sister’s, as well as to look at any notes written inside the cover.

I didn’t realize how often I wrote in books to mark an occasion. The number of times I found a short note and “Love, Mommy and Daddy” quickly began to add up. The memories of birthdays and other special occasions were sweet, but seeing Mommy and Daddy written on the same line so close together was difficult. Oh, each of us is still a parent, but we no longer belong on the same signature line. We no longer partner as we parent, grandparent, and simply do life as a family. We aren’t that kind of a family anymore.

Seeing many of those notes marked moments  that spurred joy but also poked and cut like a barb.

In addition to the books, I wanted to go through my wedding tub.. I hadn’t purged it when I moved out of the house I shared with my ex, because I didn’t trust my judgment of what to keep and what to pitch. But I was fairly certain my ex would have pitched it had I left it behind, since he was tossing aside pretty much everything related to our relationship.

Most items were easy to toss in the trash. They were mementos that just took up space and no one would ever want to reuse. The tub also contained cards people had given us for our wedding and our first Christmas together. As I read each one, I thought of many people who had been in our lives at that point. Thinking about the people in our lives then who had faded out over the years prompted me to think of other friendships through various seasons, including people who had invested in or burst into my life. I read cards from people who had passed away and reflected on their lives and the interactions I might have had with them today. And I read cards from people who were important to me then and continue to be today.

I only saved a handful of cards, most which I sent to other people to remind them of our friendship through the years or a loved one’s handwriting and thoughtfulness. Despite the circumstance, I was blessed as I sorted through the cards, and I wanted to share the blessing with others.

I had a sense of peace through the process. I was ready for it – one more step forward. I even laughed at the small booklet I found. Created at one of the showers where couples and families attended, it was “Words of Wisdom for Marriage.” I chuckled at the irony. Most of the advice included in the handwritten pages was wise indeed, but if one or more persons in the marriage (or any other relationship or situation) doesn’t apply the wisdom, the commitment is fractured.

I continued the evening with my daughter hanging out for a while, baking cookies, and taking down Christmas decorations. I was especially sensitive to the moments of joy. I reflected on the Christmas season we’d just gone through, and I smiled. It had been a sweet one. More steps forward.

Yet as I walked on the treadmill at the gym later, tears began to fall. I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t feel overly sad. I wondered if it was just that I was tired from a busy weekend. But that would be unusual for me. Then, as easily as the tears were falling, the answer came: I was healing. I had taken quite a few steps forward, and I had sifted through memories. My heart and mind were a bit more clear. God had lightened my load and nourished my soul. I felt as if he had given me a hug, then held me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes as if to reassure me, “Keep moving along, my girl. I’ve got you.”

Yes, God. You have, and you do.

Repeat. Remember.

photo-1470319149473-af271634cecfOne of my girls’ favorite books was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I am confident I read it 1000-plus times through the years. I can almost repeat it from memory.

What we repeat we remember. I’m not sure Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is going to change my life whether I repeat and remember it or not, but it is full of memories for me. The many hours I spent reading it and other books to the girls, holding them close or hanging out together in the play room, are irreplaceable.

But that time and resulting familiarity could have easily been replaced by something else I had chosen to read and speak often. It could have been better or worse.

There are other things I easily remember without referencing the original source. I don’t ever use a recipe for chocolate chip cookies and haven’t for decades. I am familiar with Ephesians 6:10-20 in several translations. I can find my way around my home in the dark. I don’t have to think much when driving to my mom’s house.

What we repeat we remember.

That can be good but it can also be damaging. What we do over and over, no matter how insignificant we think it is, matters. What we say and think over and over impacts us.
Take inventory today. Reflect on the last week, month, and year of your life. What are you repeating? What are you remembering? What are you soaking in and living out? Your choices and investments matter.