Cleaning Forward

photo-1529220502050-f15e570c634eMy daughter asked what I needed for my new house. I knew she’d want to do something, so I decided not to avoid the request. I like to help, and others like to help, too. I told her a Swiffer Wet Jet. She already had it in her shopping cart, because I had mentioned it before.

I joked with her, pointing out it might be a weird gift for her to give me, since she had given me one before. Well, she had given “us” one before, when my ex and I moved into a new large house with lots of wood floors. When I moved out a little more than a half year later when my ex decided he’d prefer to do life without me, I left the Swiffer. After all, he was the one with the big house and lots of floors to clean. I knew he could buy another one, but I did what I could to keep the transition as simple as possible for him.

Some of the decisions I made back then seemed like no-brainers. I didn’t have enough brain power to process much of the time. Some of what I did was habit, and I was thankful for the good habits I had. Otherwise, I might have easily derailed. At times, I felt like I was off the rails anyway.

But I have moved forward. And I will soon be in a new home. My home. And I need a Swiffer Wet Jet, because (1) I like clean, and (2) Swiffer makes cleaning easier.

I’ve moved forward fairly well, I think. I am in a healthy place or, at least, in a healthy process, I think.

But thinking back to moving into the new house with my ex a few years ago and the small touches like getting a Swiffer Wet Jet as a housewarming gift and taking care of the floors without knowing what was happening around me until it imploded, thinking back to when I cleaned the floors for the last time before I moved out, something squeezed my heart just enough that tears fell.

How many people cry at the mention of a Swiffer?

Of course, it’s not about a Swiffer. And it’s not even about the past. It is simply part of the healing process.

Am I ready to move on? Yes.
Am I content to move on without my ex? Yes.
Am I thankful for the life I have? Absolutely, without a doubt.

Sometimes the healing process surprises me.

Sadness used to be oppressive. It clung to me like pesky plastic wrap. But sadness is different now. It surprises me from time to time, because it’s not the norm.

I am excited to use my new Swiffer. I’m excited for the strands of continuity with friends and family who remain. I welcome new adventures. And I’m ready to make a new home and savor the new memories of moving forward in faith and hope.

God is good indeed.

The Tapestry of Ministry

photo-1538519446176-2533d0b39099My friend and I video-chatted about our unexpected twists in life that have positioned us to minister to people we wouldn’t expect.

And we are grateful.

When God purposes the fractured pieces of our lives, we can trust him to help us into wholeness with not only our pieces but those around us. We help each other. We celebrate together, grieve together, and bind together.

And it is a beautiful tapestry process.

A Healthy Boundary

photo-1475354289259-33a30da2cccaI shared an email exchange between me and my ex with a couple friends for accountability. One of them replied she was glad I continued to set healthy boundaries, because she has another friend in a similar situation who is struggling with boundaries and finding herself repeatedly hurt.

It prompted me to think about healthy boundaries and how to determine and maintain them. I’d say, “use common sense,” but sense is not so common. I’d say, “use wisdom,” but I’m not sure we view wisdom as something to seek and apply as commonly as we make up our minds what we most want and are comfortable with projecting it onto what we claim as wisdom.

But here are a few things to consider.

  1. Consider safety and risk. When my ex reached out to talk to me many months after he left the marriage, I told him I would only do so in front of a counselor or mutual friend – for my safety. Not that I felt he would harm me physically, but there had been significant emotional damage. I wanted a witness to any manipulation or deception. However, healthy boundaries take both safety and risk into consideration. We cannot completely insure safety from all harm. Relationships always have some risk involved. Don’t go into any situation wearing blinders. Think what might happen, but don’t get paralyzed by it.
  2. Respond for the right reasons. Acknowledge your anger, bitterness, jealousy, etc., but don’t let any of it drive your responses. In essence, you then let another person or your feelings determine your next steps, and both can be deceptive. Take a deep breath and consider what you want a situation or relationship to look like several years down the road. Of course, the outcome you prefer might not become reality, but at least you will have planted the seed to keep it as a possibility.
  3. Set aside conditional benchmarks. If he/she and only if might sound good at the time, but such conditions position you to watch for specific benchmarks in order for you to respond. Situations and relationships are more complex than that. For example, someone might want to say the words or phrase you want to hear but with a misguided, ill-intended motivation. Or you might not hear a specific phrase, but you are so focused on listening for it, you miss other progress.
  4. Trust someone to keep you in check. I recommend two or three someones. Many more than that confuses things when you get varying opinions and begin polling until you get the consensus you most want. Just one person is limited and needs another check and balance. Be sure to let the people know truth and accountability are more important to you than comfort. Choose good listeners, and commit to listening well in return.
  5. Be willing to change. What defines a healthy boundary in one situation or relationship will not necessarily apply a month or so down the road. Reassess regularly. Revisit why certain boundaries were healthy to set at one point and determine if that need still exists.

For me, the most significant motivator and healthy check is God. He has a perspective I do not have. He helps me know what is best in each situation and changes me over time but only when I trust and follow him well. Perhaps my humility in faith is one of the healthiest and also most challenging boundaries of all.

Capable

photo-1462042398216-8f22618dc7dfRemember when you were a child, and you didn’t want to do something – tie your own shoes, make a phone call to someone you hardly knew, or tackle the homework you didn’t understand? But your mom or dad assured you, “You’re capable. You can do it.” Maybe you didn’t believe you were capable, but more likely, you just didn’t want to be capable and have to challenge yourself.

I still feel that way at times.

Oh, I love being a capable adult. I like the responsibility and freedom – most of the time. But I recently left an important meeting, where I said, “Well, this is exciting but I never thought I’d be doing it on my own.” Someone in the room chuckled and said, “Well, I’m confident you are capable just from the limited contact we’ve had.”

Capable is a word many people have used as I’ve moved forward in life after my ex decided our marriage wasn’t worth fighting for. Most of the time I heard, “You are capable. You can do this. I know you’re going to be okay.” I felt encouraged. God used others’ assurance to spur me onward. But every now and then, I thought, “What if I don’t want to be capable? What if I’d rather curl up in a ball and quit?” It’s the same vein in which I’ve said, “Why can’t it be okay for adults to throw themselves on the floor and have a fit like kids sometimes do?” Or “Why can’t I just walk away from family and friends, too? Why am I picking up all these pieces just because I’m healthy and capable?” Someone’s recent response to that last rant was, “You could run away, too. But you won’t. Because you love your people.”

Right.

I do.

Capable. But it’s more than that. Beyond capable is a willingness. I’m willing to move forward. I’m willing to stay engaged, be honest, and have hard conversations. I’m willing to deal with the tough stuff and persevere as I heal. I don’t like it at times, but willingness is a strong motivator.

And capable? Well, that’s more God’s job than mine.

I’ll keep yielding and refrain from pity parties and temper tantrums because they weren’t effective as a kid, and now that I’m an adult, the temporary temptation isn’t worth the waste of time.

I’d rather step into and stay in God’s strength and provision.

The Misunderstanding of Truth

photo-1422246358533-95dcd3d48961…our misunderstanding…

It was an interesting way to frame the implosion of our marriage. Quite the understatement. But we sometimes reshape things to make a situation palatable for ourselves. I’ve done it at times, too. And it has never turned out well.

Never.

Yes, we sometimes need a reframing in the short run as a survival method, but when it becomes our ongoing coping strategy, we’re in trouble. A huge warning sign is a morphing of recollection, a story that changes in a way that downplays our issues and highlights our rationalizations.

It hurts others. It hurts us. Deceiving ourselves and others never ends well, even if it gives us relief for the time being. Truth is not painless, but when worked through, it becomes an invitation into freedom.

Truth can be misunderstood, but more often, it is rejected, ignored, or modified.

But truth isn’t modeling clay that bends to our pokes and prods and impressions. It is the mold into which we squirm and explore and rest. Truth impresses upon us. When we seek it well, we become familiar and (at least more) comfortable with it.

Missing Keys

photo-1433622070098-754fdf81c929When I moved out of the house I shared with my ex, we didn’t have problems splitting the furniture. The pieces that had been passed down through my family went with me. I took the spare bed, so he could have the better bed for his back. He kept the living room furniture and his favorite table and chairs. I left the elliptical because it was too annoying to move. And so on.

There was one piece of furniture that had a connection to my family, but I knew it needed to stay with him. He played the piano. I didn’t. We purchased the piano he wanted after I received some unexpected money from a family member. I think I got as much joy from it as he did as I listened to him play.

He worshiped through playing the piano, whether it was in the privacy of our home or during Sunday morning worship services. And there were so many times when God’s presence was abundant through the notes.

He played less toward the end of our marriage. I now understand why.

After he left our marriage and the church, the first Sunday someone else played keys at church was difficult for me. Yet I have come to love and appreciate worshipful keys again. Worship music permeates my soul, and I savor a variety of instruments and styles. But every now and then, I miss the purity of just the keys.

There’s a specific song I loved and have recently missed. It is a specific arrangement of Jesus Loves Me (Fred Bock). There were many evenings of our marriage when I would cook supper or lie in bed and hear the beauty of that arrangement poured out with the passion of my ex’s heart and hands. I hear it clearly in my head but needed to hear it through my ears recently. I searched YouTube and found it.

I closed my eyes and listened. When the music stopped, I looked at the screen which said, “In Memory Of…” Of course, I didn’t know the person for whom the pianist played, but I realized I was listening “in memory of” my ex and our marriage. I still found beauty in the song. God’s presence was abundant.

And I thanked God.

Worshiping him is not dependent on a situation or relationship.

God is more.

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.