Returning to the Classroom {My New Job – MORE Writing!}

In 2011 I left my job as a high school English teacher to home school my children.  Well, on the surface that’s why I left.  But, it was a loaded decision.

I found my identity in teaching.  I was a good teacher, often complimented by students and parents alike.  I took great pride in my job and loved teaching each and every student.  But, when my family began to fall apart, I could not hold teaching and family together.  I tried.  The last few months of my teaching career were nothing short of embarrassing. I fell far short of my standard {which is…each child is someone’s daughter or son.  I will not waste that child’s time because that parent has entrusted him/her to me}.

I felt God calling me to stay home.  Away from teaching.  Away from outside distractions.  He was calling me to be a wife and mom.

So, I walked away.

And it was gut-wrenching.

And I let tons of people down. Parents, students, fellow teachers.

But, I could tell no one…either I do this or I {will probably} lose my family.  I did not reject teaching, I chose my family. A decision between my husband, God, and me.  I had no heart energy for defending my choice.

For the next two years I home schooled Hannah and Owen.  And while I missed teaching teenagers, those two years were a complete JOY.  I love{d} spending time with my children. They are a delight.

I rested, focused.

It was a good season…and then life turned again.

This time, our marriage never recovered.

So, as a single mom, I began looking for employment again…a bit discouraged.  With some dread.

But, God.

I am excited to return to a school I love this fall.  The high school Hannah will attend next year:  Parkersburg South High School.

Yay!

Best of all, I get to teach what I love:  Creative Writing.

creative_writing

I will also teach fine arts and {potentially} some other arts electives, but I am super excited about the opportunity to create my own writing curriculum and {prayerfully} build a program in which students engage fully in writing…to discover what they think, how they feel, where they have been, and where they are going.

Did I say “YAY!” yet?

Because…YAY!

Thanks, Father, for this gift.

{And may I still be calling this a “gift” this time next year ;) }

Looking for Something to Listen To? {Good Stuff}

Last Sunday I spent about five hours in the car alone. You should know: I HATE being alone. Yet, I know it’s essential sometimes. During this time, I listened to these three sermons and spent some time praying.  Whew. It was good time for my weary heart.

I hope these messages are good for your heart too. I agree wholeheartedly with two of them.  One gave me pause in a few places, but I question everything.  (So, that’s my disclaimer;)

Louie Giglio - Wounded: Stop and Stare- If you’re suffering or have ever suffered {all of us}, this message is for you.  Giglio suggests we focus on the cross, viewing our hurts in light of His love and sacrifice.  If you’re like me, you’re waiting and perhaps working toward healing.  But consider this:

“Our healing doesn’t begin when we make other people pay.  Our healing begins we realize we made Jesus pay.”

If you’re in the midst of a storm, please listen to this.  It’s heart changing.

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Andy Stanley- Putting Religion in Its Place - We want answers for life’s mysteries. Is there an afterlife? Will I see my mom again? What does the Bible say about divorce? Does the Bible say we have to give ten percent of our money to the church?

Religion tries to answer those questions. Religion is about answers, order, predictability. Unfortunately, life isn’t about any of those things. Life can be messy. Religion has a place in our lives, but Jesus taught us it’s not the first place. When religion takes first place, it begins flexing its muscles at the expense of mercy.

My favorite quotes from this message:

  • Jesus consistently prioritized people over his own religion – his own customs and his own traditions.
  • Jesus would disregard the law for the sake of someone in need.
  • God didn’t create people for the law. He created the law for people.
  • Don’t leverage the law of God to hurt the people of God.
  • When you don’t know what to do, do what love requires of you.
  • Jesus never let theology get in the way of ministry.  He never leveraged theology in order to mistreat a person or to say, “I’d really love to help you out, but this is what I believe.”
  • Religion allows others to feel less than.
  • You are more important to me than my views.

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Matt Chandler - Acts: The Second Wave - from the message: Paul begins to speak, and the Bible says Lydia’s eyes are opened. Her heart is opened, and she hears Paul, and she is baptized. What you have here is a wealthy businesswoman who is an extremely successful businesswoman who is moral and religious and at church but is not necessarily a follower of Christ. She is morally upright, and she is actively involved in church, but she has not laid her yes down and said, “I am a follower of Christ, and my life will be shaped by following Christ.”

Yet it’s in this space that Jesus steps in and saves. Such were some of us. When I say that, I don’t mean some of us were women with houses in London and Paris who were in the fashion industry and lived moral lives. I’m saying this was some of us in that we were religious and morally good according to the world’s standards (whatever those are). This is where Jesus found us. We were Christmas/Easter people. We were church folk. We would have defined ourselves as Christians, saw ourselves and, in comparison with others, we looked really good.

Then in the middle of that, Jesus saved us. He rescued us. There was a turn there from us no longer just being church folk…

Happy Easter!

Mom, Where Do They Get Their Hope? {Good Friday}

What are you reading?

The question came from an 8th grader who comes to visit me almost every morning.

A devotional, I reply.

A what? What’s that?

A devotional.

His scrunched face communicated his confusion.

You, know. A devotional. There’s a page for each day of the year.  This one is written as a prayer, but includes Scripture.  {I keep trying to explain.}

Well, what’s that? Do you get a new one each year?

I continue explaining, showing him Everyday Prayers, my favorite devotional…

With my heart lodged in my throat.

Why do I assume that everyone knows what a devotional is? What Scripture is? Because I do.  I think if you live in America, then these terms are as common as cake and coffee.

Friends, they’re not. And something about this boy never having heard these words made my heart hurt.  Not because I want him to be well-versed in Christianeze, but because I wonder what he knows of faith and Jesus.

Savior Jesus.

I share this discussion with my kiddos as we are driving last night.  Mostly retelling the story to remind them that the way we talk about Jesus and His Word is a gift – to all three of us.

Our faith is not a “have to” but a “get to.”

And then Hannah says, “I don’t understand where they get their hope.  The kids who don’t know [about Jesus]…where do they get their hope, Mom?”

And my heart – which is filled with much hopelessness right now – whispers…

Yeah, mom, where do they get their hope?

Whew.

As I try to move on, settle in, and let go…Where is my hope coming from?

From today and Sunday.

hope-and-the-cross

My hope is found in this day over 2,000 years ago when Jesus hung on a cross and died for my sins.

It’s found in…

28 Early on Sunday morning,as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” Matthew 28: 1-10

Wow.  Just wow.

His is risen.

Jesus conquered death.

Giving me hope. Giving you hope. Giving the world hope.

Because we need hope. Life is hard.  Suffering is plentiful.

I am a victim, but that’s not my identity. Some things will be fully healed only by your second coming.  Let me be okay with that, even as I trust you to use my pain for the benefit of others.  Scotty  Smith

Some things will not be completely healed this side of heaven, so I find hope in Him alone.

He is risen!  Have hope.

Happy Easter, sweet sisters.  May your day be filled with worship of your Creator.

How Do You Carry Another’s Burdens? {Feeling Safe and Welcome}

Each morning I write.  {Notice…I don’t post, but I write :) }

This morning I wrote about community, walking alongside one another, shouldering the load… the things I wrote about last week.  I find I do not know what I truly think until I write.  So, I’ve been bouncing this topic across the page for months, asking God to provide wisdom…help.

After last week’s post, several discussions followed.

How do we REALLY shoulder another’s burdens?  How do we know if we’re shouldering too much and the relationship is unhealthy?  Can we care or love too much? If we love too little, why?  Where’s the balance, the line?  And, on and on.

Whew.

Honestly, I do not have any magic answers.  God has not seen fit to divinely inspire answers  in my heart.  I am nooooo psychologist.

But, I am a Jesus follower.  And, He has commanded me to…

Share burdensDear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godlyshould gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6: 1-3

Love othersSo now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13: 34-35 and Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

So, how?

How we can love others and shoulder burdens better?  How we can create safe spaces where vulnerability is the norm and no one is nervous or fearing failure?

Have you ever walked into a Bible study or church or a meeting nervous?  Afraid you had the wrong answers?  Afraid someone would find out that you’re not a Bible scholar?  That you’re a sinner?  That you didn’t grow up in the church? That you’re divorced or aborted a baby age 20?

Afraid you’ll have the wrong answers?  That you won’t be enough?

Yep, me too.

So, I am asking you…sisters, how can we put away the expectations, the measuring sticks, the competition, and the {icky} conversations, and sit at the table together?  {I KNOW this is happening in some places. But, I also heard from many of you that it’s not happening in your world.}

I’ve been asking God this question over and over: How can we be about you, Lord, every single day?  Not one day a year, month, or week, but 365 days a year?  How can we gather and laugh and cry…and feel SAFE.

How can you feel like…the wrong answer is ok; your lack of Biblical knowledge is accepted; your sin is revealed and others are willing to walk with you; your lack of church background is irrelevant; your marital status? no big deal; and your shame from that abortion years ago? “We are sorry. So sorry. How can we help you?”

Why? Because you are enough. And, we are ok with you – whoever YOU is in this season.

I am really asking…how? How do we create these spaces, this level of comfort and safety where vulnerability is welcome, not so we can judge and fix, but so we can carry and love?

Will you share with me how you’ve felt less than and how you feel we can all get past that?

I can’t wait for you to join this conversation, but in the meantime, I am amazed at how God’s leading me to resources and ideas as I seek His face.  I read this today…

They stayed out for nearly an hour. I’ve not seen them do that before. It isn’t that they didn’t want to be together, but before it wasn’t so easy. Now, they had a bench to sit on. And the bench made all the difference.

People want to talk about things. They want to relate and live in community and converse and be together. Sometimes they just need a bench. They need a place to get the conversation started, a platform that allows them to linger and find one another. The small group I lead every Wednesday night is like a bench for freshman girls, a place for them to come and share their lives and hopefully, see glimpses of Jesus…Every community needs a bench.

Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky

He shows Himself, huh?  When our hearts truly desire to follow and love well, He leads.

Just yesterday I took this picture:

bench

Something about this bright red bench in the midst of the leafless branches and whipping wind struck me as inviting.  A bright fixture among the dreary trees.

Something in me knew I needed a bench before I even read about benches this morning.

Actually.

We all need a bench, don’t we?

What kind of a bench do you need?  A place  to sit and chat about your favorite TV show?  {Life can be so lonely.} Or a place to share your deepest shame?  {It’s hard to feel safe in this world.} Or both?

Today, I hope you pray about your bench – the one you have or the one you wish to create.  Perhaps God will lead you to a bright red one in the park, or he will ask you to begin building a bench for you and others…board by board.

{Looking forward to hearing your hearts!}

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I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve been reading…

Incourage is also talking about the bench principle and giving away a cute bench necklace.

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Don’t let the “dents” of life convince you that you’re forever damaged with no value. Nothing is final with God. He doesn’t discard us or label us destroyed simply because we have a little damage. In his awesomeness, God has a history of taking our “dents” and using them to fulfill his destiny. Look at his track record…Dented, Not Destroyed

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Thinking back on this moment, I’m gripped once again by the power of transparency. Clearly, the lady at the front desk was significantly farther down the early menopause road than I was. It seemed easy for her to mention it casually; it’s something I’m still processing. But her mention of it made all the difference for me that day.  It could be anything we’ve experienced, though. Depression. Infertility. Bankruptcy. Terminal or chronic illness. Betrayal. Abandonment. Layoffs. Loss of a child or spouse. Abuse. Divorce. Anything. If we’ve survived, no matter how worse for wear, our stories can encourage… Three Little Words

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I’ve been reading these books about community – about vulnerability and the good that comes from sharing who we are – out stories.  

Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown:    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

Breathing Underwater by Richard Rohr:  The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is America’s most significant and authentic contribution to the history of spirituality, says Richard Rohr. He makes a case that the Twelve Steps relate well to Christian teaching and can rescue people who are drowning in addiction and may not even realize it. To survive the tidal wave of compulsive behavior and addiction, Christians must learn to breathe underwater and discover God s love and compassion. In this exploration of Twelve Step spirituality, Rohr identifies the Christian principles in the Twelve Steps, connecting The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with the gospel. He draws on talks he has given for over twenty years to people in recovery and those who counsel and live with people with addictive behavior. Rohr offers encouragement for becoming interiorly alive and inspiration for making one s life manageable for dealing with the codependence and dysfunction (sin) rampant in our society

This book I am loving because I can offer a “bench” at my house once I clear the clutter, allowing time to focus on what matters – bench-sitting – not on all the stuff that requires me to wash, clean, and cook it.

Organized Simplicity:  The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider: Simplicity isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you gain. When you remove the things that don’t matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you. Imagine your home, your time, your finances, and your belongings all filling you with positive energy and helping you achieve your dreams. It can happen, and Organized Simplicity can show you how.

Handling Deep Grief and Heartbreak {We Don’t Know How}

Today’s post was supposed to be about my weight.  I’ve been wrestling for days with what God’s saying to my heart about the 70-some pounds I have gained since my marriage crumbled.

Yet, no matter how I worded it or how deep I dug, nothing seemed cohesive.  I threw up all over the screen – a smattering of words and emotions and scripture and self-loathing.

Then, I realized…the events that spurred me to listen to God about my weight and begin again are too fresh – too raw. They simply aren’t ready for audience.

I asked God if there’s something else or if I should remain silent today…

Then, an email from a friend… this post.

And, I knew…these are the words I must share.  These are the words my heart has been screaming for months – words I could not articulate.   I have felt, and I am feeling exactly as this post describes.  And this way…

I walk into a room {rarely do I walk into a room in this season} and people scatter or avoid, looking at me with sad – or maybe rolling – eyes. It depends…on what part of the story they know or what part they think they know. It depends…on if they’ve suffered and can relate or think God’s chosen them to live in perfection as an example to all of us who can’t seem to love Jesus enough.  {Yeah, that was sarcastic and probably not necessary, but I just can’t take it out.}

I walk into a room and no one asks…How are you?  And, I feel they don’t care.

I feel they have no interest in helping me shoulder the load (as selfish as that may sound).  Selfish or not…it’s too heavy.

Because…

If you have lost someone you love or walked through a divorce, it can feel as though that furiously personal storm destroyed everything that mattered to you, and you wonder how you will survive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s why I BEG you to read THIS…{here’s an excerpt}

One might hope that the place where heartache is understood and honored more than any other would be the community of faith. But I have arrived at a more sobering conclusion:

At times, the Church has no idea how to handle deep grief and heartbreak.

Not long ago I met a woman who had lost a child in a random accident. A few months later she told her Bible study group that on some mornings she honestly didn’t think she could make it. Someone saw her cue and declared, “Just remember this verse: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!’”

The grieving woman took a risk and voiced her pain, and instead of being heard and given the space and grace to struggle, she was silenced by a verse that clearly she hadn’t lived up to. And how could she miss the clear implication that if you’re not strong, then you’re not relying on Christ.

How unutterably sad.

God didn’t give us His Word to use like a weapon or some kind of Hallmark card we can pass across the fence and keep some distance.

It is a weapon, but one designed for use against our enemy, not against our sisters. It is meant for encouragement, not for pat answers in the midst of real pain. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you must voice that truth in all circumstances. Shortly before His arrest, Jesus told His grieving disciples, I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear – John 16:12.

His followers really needed to hear certain truths – things that would eventually help them – but hearing them at that moment  would have crushed their spirits. So Jesus held His peace.

Oh, that we would read and embrace that memo!

Why do we do that? Why do we try to “contain” those who suffer or attempt to “fix” them? Do we think suffering is an embarrassment? Do we feel personally ineffective in our faith if we can’t make the pain go away? Do we think it detracts from the power and goodness of God when one of His daughters limps around wounded?

For whatever reason, heartbreak makes us most uncomfortable…

Paul tells us that when someone walks through the kind of heartbreak that feels suffocating, crushing, and overwhelming, the body of Christ must move in to help bear the weight. No one should have to try to carry such a burden alone.  

(Click and read on…it’s good!)

Indeed.  We are all uncomfortable with sadness and suffering {What exactly do you say as you go “through the line” at the funeral home? It’s awkward.}

But, sometimes we have to pray, dig our heels in, send the text, make the call.  WE have to risk saying the wrong thing because I assure you – the “wrong” thing is often better than nothing at all.

No one wants to feel they are not welcome in the club because they aren’t happily married.  Because they’re broken. Because they’re questioning.  Because most days they do not know which way is up and some days they can’t find Jesus.

Honestly, there should be no club.  No outside and inside.  Perhaps that is the problem.

Besides, we are all broken in some way.  All sinners. All falling short…

Every. Single. Day.

Does the falling short have consequences? Yes.  Always.

Regardless…

We all need people surrounding and loving us.  Reminding us that we matter to God and others.

And, you are, friend.  You are loved by Him.  And so is the person you’ve been avoiding.  So is the person who hurt you.  So is the person that you’ve failed.

Do you need to send a text?  Check in on the one who is hurting?  Or, perhaps just say…I love you. Thinking about you.

I do.  I need to get better at looking out and not in.

At being the Church.

{Just a side note…I love the church/Church).  I really do.  I hope you don’t hear judgment of the church or others here. Instead, I pray you hear encouragement to come alongside others even when you have no words, no answers, no understanding…nothing.  We are called to shoulder the load and to walk alongside.  That’s when God works best anyway.}

 

 

Happy 14th Birthday, Hannah! {A Gift of Favor, Grace}

In the summer of 1999 while attending graduate school and working in Public Relations at West Virginia University, I almost fainted at work.  After tests, the ER doctor smiled and said, “You’re not sick; you’re pregnant.”

A baby.

split screen dancer and little han

Me.  A mom.

me and han country shirts          me and han in la moskitia

Oh.  My. Word.
A mom?  Me?  Crazy.

I didn’t consider myself “mom material.”  Perhaps someday I’d be “ready,” but today?  Poor child.  He or she would be stuck with me.

Hannah Grace Farish entered the world at 12:06 am on March 22, 2000 {after 27 hours of labor!}.  Today, we celebrate her 14 years on this earth.  And, I am reminded that in our weakness, He is strong.  That I serve a sovereign God who decided when I would become a mom.

When we think we can’t, He knows we can.

So, God didn’t listen to a know-it-all 23-year-old.  He wove his plan as He knew it should be, gifting me with the precious gift of Hannah.

Hannah’s name means favor, grace.  And her name is so fitting.  She is graceful – physically and spiritually.  Hannah extends grace and love to others in a way that I can only admire.  She notices the leftout and the underdog.  She forgives those who hurt her, and in this day of “mean” girls, she’s intentionally choosing to not join in.

She chooses love.

Throughout her life, Hannah has been an excellent sister.  Her brother loves and admires her, and she loves and protects him – watches magic shows and learns Pokemon – just for him.

han and owen frominstagram

 han and owen very young

I most admire Hannah’s servant heart and her love for all people.  A few years ago, Hannah taught herself to crochet using YouTube videos.  She made hats and purses and flowers.  She also wanted to help others, so she combined her desire to serve with her love of crafts, crocheting cancer caps for those in the public hospital in Honduras who have lost their hair.  Hannah and I travelled to Honduras last summer, and Hannah built houses, taught teen moms to crochet, visited hospitals, and distributed food. Her enthusiasm every day – even in the hot, rainy weather with cold showers and food she didn’t like – made me proud. She genuinely loved meeting each person  - and serving them – loving them.

han w Janets girls

 

han w stack of hats                               han hammer in honduras

han and girl w her hat on

  han and grace

Hannah loves dance, reading, violin, and crafts too.  She spends hours each week working hard at her dance studio. Her dedication and perseverance even in the face of difficulty always amazes me.  I love to watch her dance and play  - create and serve.split screen han in HOndo and at dance

Most of all, Hannah loves Jesus.  Each night before she goes to bed, she does a Bible study.  I’ve read a few pages of her study.  Her insight into the Scripture as God speaks to her heart and the way she’s leaned into her faith and her Creator during a very difficult time in life are inspiring.

And while Hannah might seem quiet to most, those living close to her heart know she has a goofy side that is heart-warming – a side that makes me smile.  I simply love spending time with her, learning from her, and taking joy in her.

little han w a feather boa         funny face with makeup

She is a gift.  Smart, funny, and loving.  Willing to sacrifice for others.  Extending grace easily.

I am honored to call her my daughter, and thankful God gave me this gift – one I certainly don’t deserve.  And, especially during this difficult in our lives, I am reminded that God knew what he was doing 14 years ago in Ruby Memorial Hospital and 2000 years ago on a cross, so He certainly knows what He is doing today.

suego faults dance

Happy 14th Birthday, Hannah Grace.  My love for you is even bigger than this world.  I pray you continue to follow the One who made you for His glory – never mine or your own.  May your humble and quiet spirit continue to be a light in the dark – a beacon beckoning others to Him.

 

To the Divorced One and Those Who Love Her {Or Anyone Who’s Just Plain Mad}

Remember when you were younger and a kid on the playground made fun of your sister or brother or best friend? Remember how something fierce rose up in you, and you’d want to KICK THEIR REAR.  Then, later, you’d beat your sister up over sharing shirts or pout to your best friend for ignoring you.

How could this be?

You defend your sister to the DEATH on the playground, but at home, you’d argue and attack.

It sounds silly, but you know it works this way.  I can talk about my sister all I want, but if you say one word about her, I will seriously consider hurting you.

And while it’s not the exact same, it’s mostly how most of us feel about our soon-to-be ex-husbands and/or ex-husbands.

When you disparage him, even if we think or know it’s true, something rises up in us that says…but, you’re wrong.  When you question our decisions regarding him – did we stay too long?  Are we abused doormats? – It upsets us.

man-walking-away

For most of us, we prayed and wept and did our very best.  We loved as we were called to love.  We served and respected.  We attended counseling and conferences.  We talked and tried and toiled.

And, yes, “we took care of him at home, so he didn’t have to go looking.” {Definitely a remark to refrain from, please.}

This is not the story we wanted.  Please, trust us on that one.

Yet, it’s the story we have.  So, to hear you judge and speculate – “if only she would have _____, then he probably would have never______________” – is simply not helpful.

To hear you call the one we loved for many years names  - even if they are well-deserved – is simply not helpful.

Have I been blinded to some realities where my ex is concerned?  Oh, I am sure of that.  I want him to be the man I thought he was {he still is deep down}.  I want him to live out who I KNOW he is in Christ.  So, often, I choose to believe the best when perhaps I should not. I don’t always set the boundaries I know I should.

And, if you’re close to me and you call me out on this stuff?  I listen.  I really do.  Or, at least I try to.

And, if you’re not close to me and you call me out on this stuff?

I want to say to you…did you live with us for 15 years?  Nope. Did you see the man he could be (good and bad)?  Did you see who I could be sometimes?  I have had countless less-than-stellar moments.  We all have.  {Side note:  You have to “earn” the “right” to speak into others’ lives.}

Still, I understand.

If someone you love is hurting because of another – you get angry at the “another.”  We fiercely protect our own – our family, our friends. I really do understand why you are mad, and if it were my sister or brother? I would want to HURT someone.  Truly.

Do I get angry at him just as you do? Yes.  Indeed I do.  A lot.

Just this morning I threw some clothes and broke a few hangers. Earlier in the week, I threw a box of books.  Because I am just mad – mad I am moving, mad I can’t find anything in my new house, and mad this is happening.

Mad!

So, don’t think I am not mad too; I am.  We all are.  Every single one of us who has endured divorce – regardless of fault.  Trust us, there’s lots of mad.

And, I might “think” I want you to jump on my mad bandwagon. The flesh in me wants you to be mad too.  I want you to affirm my anger; remind me why I should be mad. Validate my “rightness” and pain.

I might “think” I want that, but I don’t.  You don’t either.

Why?

Because the spirit in me KNOWS that’s not ok.  Bashing my ex or anyone isn’t who Christ made us to be.  Do we need to be wise where others are concerned?  Do we need boundaries?  Do we need others speaking into our lives in a loving way, helping us to see the forest when we can only see the trees?

Absolutely.

But, as I have talked with so many of you over the past few weeks – divorced, about to be divorced, separated, married but feeling it’s beyond help – I know one thing:

There’s some part of you – and me – that loves those we chose to marry once upon a time. Right?

You might not like him right now, but you love him {sorta}.  And, just like your sister on the playground in 4th grade, your first inclination is to defend or justify.  And to others?  This seems ridiculous.

But, it’s not.

Because Jesus in you is saying…Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12) and as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

We know deep down that we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  Romans 3:  22-24 {The Message}

We aren’t really that different – the offended and the offender – we all need Jesus.  All sinners in need of a Savior.

All made in His image.  {Yes, that person that ticks you off? The one that you’ve been hating for weeks or years? He or she is loved by God just as you are.}

Hard isn’t it?  Seems unfair.  How can they hurt you – perhaps they aren’t even sorry – and live a life that looks like roses when yours is closer to rats?

I can’t answer that.  I know God is just and faithful.  I know He sees you and your pain. I know He loves you in indescribable and unfathomable ways.

Somewhere buried under my hurt and brokenness, I know these things are true; I know who God created me to be.  His child, desiring to follow His greatest command:  To love one another.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 1 John 4: 7

I know it’s not easy.  That’s why in our weakness, He is strong. {2 Corinthians 12:9}  You can’t love those who have hurt you without the help of your Creator.  You can’t forgive and move on without Him either.

Perhaps, you’re not ready to hear verses about love and forgiveness.  You’re still just plain mad.

That’s ok, friend.  Most days, such reminders make me cringe.

BUT.

I encourage you to…pray you will…take one small step in the direction of healing today. Whether you’ve been wronged or you’re walking alongside the one who has been wronged and you are mad, mad, mad.

One step.  Toward loving…toward Jesus.

This morning after I broke a few hangers and threw a shirt, I was riding to school with my daughter, trying to simmer and remind myself of the good in my life.   Hannah always plays DJ {ie “plays her jams”} as we drive.  This morning she chose Dwell and Greater.

I will dwell in the shelter of the Most High God,

I will rest in the beauty of Your Presence

Your faithfulness is a shield and my great reward

I will not be afraid, I will trust in the Lord. {Aaron Keyes – Dwell}

The refrain?  Repeated over and over…no weapon formed against me shall prosper.

Oh heavens.  His faithfulness is my reward. I have to trust Him. No weapon will prosper.

And, Greater…

You’re greater, greater

There’s no one like Our God

You alone are worthy…

You have overcome the world,

Took the keys from death and hell… {Elevation Worship – Greater}

He has overcome this world.  And, all its sin and ugliness.

He’s greater, friend.  He really is.  Dwell in Him.

To the One Who is Single: I Am Sorry {for Married Gals Too}

To the one who is single:  never married, divorced, or widowed…

I am sorry.

I am sorry for the first night you spent alone.  The first night after your husband took his final breath.  The first night without a roommate. The first night after you or your husband moved out.

lonely-woman

I am truly sorry.

He took his final breath.  You arrived at home {perhaps} to a house full of people, but eventually, it was bedtime. You entered a dark room – no one in the bed next to you.  You could and can hear the silence. You run fans, read books, watch TV – sleep never comes, and if it does, it’s fitful.  You can smell him.  Sometimes you awaken and think…is he still here?  For all the times you still miss him – even if you’ve “moved” on…

I am sorry.

You did what the world told you to do.  High school diploma, college degree, gainful employment.  Finally, you can rent or buy your own place!  You’ve arrived!  Your first home or apartment is so cute.  Then, night falls, friends go home, and silence reigns.  What you wouldn’t give for the return of even the most nerve-wracking roommate.

Weeks pass.  Years pass.

The next logical step {culturally} is marriage, but you’ve found no one – no one’s found you.  “Not good enough, not pretty enough, just not enough” floats in and out of your head daily.  You always thought you’d be a wife – a mom – or something – but you weren’t “chosen.”

Lonely. People surround you, but often you sit at home and wonder…is this all there is?

I am sorry culture communicates that the natural progression for you should have been marriage and children, leaving you feeling as if anything less or different is “wrong” or “failure.” Shame on us.

And I am sorry. 

After years on the mission field, you’re burnt out…spent and hurting.  You’ve experienced more loss at age 36 than most of us have experienced in a lifetime.  You’ve sacrificed much on behalf the Kingdom.  You’ve loved and given and sacrificed more than most can fathom.  Deciding to move “home” – back to the States – is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.  And here you are.  Back in a place where you no longer feel at “home” missing those who have been a daily part of life for years.

I am sorry for every night you have felt alone, staring at the ceiling, missing the little people who captured your heart.  I am sorry for each bump in the night that carries you back to gunshots and lost babies.

And to the one {like me} who has spent years married.  Always having a companion – for better and for worse – {mostly} feeling protected.  As you lie down night after night alone – sometimes with kiddos giggling or crying in the next room – and sometimes completely alone – I am sorry.  You never planned to be a single or a single mom.

Your feelings of betrayal and loss are indescribable.  Even though you’ve been hurt, you still miss what once was.  And if you’ve done the hurting?  The cheating and the walking out?  Life still hurts because you had no idea how far sin could and would take you.

Sinner or sinned against – loneliness resulted. And I am sorry for the nights you spend alone – unable to sleep, wondering how life ended up this way.  How this could have become your story.  How the wedding planning and aisle walking became gavel pounding finality.

Single girl, widow, returning missionary, divorced one…I never understood your pain until today.

And for each time you felt abandoned, alone, helpless, and lost…I am sorry.

I am sorry for the times I hurried past you in the grocery store or church pew and didn’t even smile – much less say hello. For the times I didn’t understand you and didn’t seek to.  For the times I listened with my ears but not with my heart.  For the times I was so wrapped up in me, failing to extend love and comfort and words to you.  For the times I thought of you and felt prompted to check in and didn’t…

I am sorry.

I wept for you this morning as I wept for myself. I prayed for Him to comfort you as only He can.

Because we all know Jesus can and will fill this loneliness.  That only He is {ultimately} enough.  But, I understand that you might not want to hear that right now. {I don’t either.} For now, you need time to be mad – to feel alone – to kick and to scream.  And sob.  To feel the weight of your past.

And, that’s ok…really, it is.

But, sweet sister, I pray that someday soon both of us can look to the future.  I pray someday we wake up and realize…our lives are not over.  Perhaps they’re just beginning.

He is sovereign.  He knows us and loves us.  (1 John 3:1)

We are NEVER alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

He sees YOU and ME.  {I know this in my head; still praying for it to resume in my heart.}

And just so you know… I didn’t make it last night; I had a friend stay.  As the sun set, bedtime neared, kiddos slept, and the house creaked, I caved.   I stared at blank ceilings asking the same questions over and over.  I’ve never lived alone and couldn’t stomach the thought of that new season beginning last night.

And if you’re married – happily or otherwise, I know you still experience loneliness.  I know what hard work marriage is {and NO ONE is cheering you on louder than me}.  I know some days you feel invisible even in the midst of your husband and/or children.  I know you, too, wonder…is this it?  Why do I feel alone?  This isn’t what I thought it would be.  Why are some days so hard?

Or, maybe you don’t – you live in wedded bliss.

Whatever way – happily married…struggling married…single…widowed…divorced…

You are NEVER alone.  And, no, this isn’t it.  We are not home yet.  I pray you continue loving and persevering and praying and surrendering.

May we all walk alongside one another, loving and extending grace regardless of labels.

God has a plan. I can’t see it  - maybe you can’t either, but I will always believe in and cling to a God who is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

A Simple(r)Life {Starting Over Stuffless}

Each of us at some point in our lives feels pressed to change.  We know when we’ve gained too much weight, bought too much stuff, or said too many words.  We know when we’ve become unintentional; when it seems we are flailing about, running from task to task, event to event.

We know when we need to breathe.

Today, I need to breathe.

Today, Satan is winning.

He is keeping me in a tizzy of tasks when I know the words God has laid on my heart.  When I KNOW what’s important and what’s really not.

So, this…this post?  This is breathing…after spending hours over the past two days deciphering 19 pages that succinctly sum up my marriage and divide our belongings with official words like “thereof” and “hereto.”

divorce paper

Fifteen years neatly divided and defined by 19 pages.

It simply makes me sad.  Regardless of who did what and when and why. Regardless of my theology or commitment to Christ and my marriage.  Regardless of the times we tried.  Regardless of how my heart feels or what my actions have shown.

Regardless.

Reading my name…my children’s names…on official court documents that boil all the love and effort and prayer and sacrifice down to a bulleted list of items and time divided…is simply sad.

After reading the papers and texting back and forth about who gets the toaster and who needs  a pizza cutter, I’ve decided…

Stuff can be a blessing or a curse.

As we’ve divided pictures and pans…sofas and sheets…deep down…I want none of it.  What I want is an intact family focused on our Creator. A family focused on going into all the world – neighborhood or Nicaragua – sharing the work God has done and is doing.  I want to care for the orphans and widows.  I want to rely on Him and not me.  I want a heart sold out to his purposes and commands.

I just want Him.

But, I don’t have “just Him” yet.  Perhaps because I am too busy shuffling eight lamps (who in the heck needs THAT many?), furniture, pictures, and that highly coveted pizza cutter. I am too busy calling to find a storage unit for all the STUFF that I can’t fit in my new home, which is about one-third the size of my current home.

And with each overwhelming decision – because {truly} even deciding who gets the toaster makes me cry – I feel God saying very clearly…

Simplify, Sarah.

Clear the clutter – in your head, heart, and home.

I want off the treadmill of work and worry. And let’s face it – stuff puts us on that treadmill.

So, as I prepare to move this weekend, my heart is HECK BENT on living simpler.  Less stuff…in my head, in my heart, and in my home.

Heavens.  I just need LESS.

Because after you’ve “failed” at what our culture says you should be – failed at the American Dream – the measuring stick is gone.  {I know, I should have never cared about it in the first place.}  After you’ve “failed,” and come to the end of what and who you thought you needed and wanted to be, you get to discover what God has crafted deep down.

So, I am returning to what I have always known – what you already know:  All the stuff in the world won’t fill any need – not a marriage or a child or a new car or new house.

Nothing is enough.

But Him.

I am settling into smaller – and simpler – because I am convicted of consumption.  From furniture to food – I am stopping and saying “how much is enough?”  I’ve been to a third-world country.  I know how they live and how much they live on…while {mostly} still smiling.  I go the homeless shelter weekly.  I know what that’s like {sorta}.  And I am TIRED and SICK and SICK and TIRED of acting like THAT doesn’t matter.  Of justifying how much I have because I live here with a Master’s degree plus 45 and that’s just what we do – what I deserve.

Ummm…no.

Make no mistake. I want my house to look nice.  I like cute and color. My home is my sanctuary, so I want it to reflect who I am and what I love.  I also want my kids to have a space to call home. A place their weary hearts can rest and feel loved.

So, I will reuse and repaint and refurbish some of the old stuff to look new.

I’ve even made a few purchases. A bird for my room to remind me of my freedom in Him. A globe shower curtain for Hannah and Owen’s bathroom as a reminder to them that God so loved THE WORLD and to go into all THE WORLD.

But, overall, I want to redo what I have – and purge all we don’t use or need.

This time around – we all want a simpler life.  We want to make hats and Honduras trips.  We want to spend our time serving not spending. We want to give up {stuff} to grow closer {to Jesus and one another}.

And, we have an excellent example of the “giving up” to “grow closer” life in our friend, Marla.

Her family of five recently sold their house in Columbus, Ohio, and moved a few miles away to an apartment complex that houses mostly Somali refugees.  Marla, Gabe, and their three girls (Livi, Ava, and Nina) serve these folks through tutoring…and simply living alongside them in community.

My daughter, Hannah, has become close to the Taviano gals and likes to read Marla’s blog.  Recently, Hannah discussed this post with me: My Kids Are Spoiled Rotten. God used this post, the discussion with Hannah,  and witnessing Marla’s life to spark “live simply” in my heart.

Both my kids know I have been feeling the weight of “my kiddos can no longer live as they have” and that’s my fault. Because I am a single mom, I can’t give my kids “the best.”  Poor kids.

Or, maybe it’s rich kids?

Marla’s post resonated with Hannah’s heart.  Something about it said to her, “that’s how life should be.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with offering our kiddos the best, but as I have found myself struggling with what’s next and walking alongside my kids through some very hard days, I can’t help but return to “what’s MOST important” – not what’s wrong or right. Not what culture says is “best,” but what God says is “best.”

My only charge from God as a mom and Christ-follower is to raise Christ-followers.

That’s it.

So, as my kids and I begin anew.  As we wipe the slate clean this weekend.  As we hang pictures and spray paint lamps. As we giggle over what we are gaining and cry over what we are losing.

May we live simply.  And simply live.

May we cast off the old and clothe ourselves in the new.

May I take a page from Marla and spoil my kids in a new way.

May we all experience a different sort of Lent, one characterized by giving and slowing.

Because please believe me, friend:  The stuff gets in the way.

And in the meantime, we will give thanks – for all that’s been and all that is to come.  {Excellent advice from Ann}.  Our new life isn’t worse than or better than.  It’s not wrong or right.  It’s just different.

“Only you know the broken cisterns of our choices – our idols, the many things to which we turn to find life somewhere else than in you.  Yet you pursue us, welcome us, love us, and you are changing us.”   Scotty Smith

Throwback Thursday {Even If Divorce Makes It Icky}

Throwback Thursday always makes me smile. If you’re not an Instagram user, each Thursday people post “throwback” pictures from yesteryear.  They are sweet and often funny.   I used to love flipping through pictures, looking for snapshots of my kiddos when they were crawling or missing a few teeth.  Such cuteness.

family beach

 

But, the last few weeks I’ve hated looking for an older picture of them to post for #TBT.  Every album holds a reminder of what should have been but isn’t.

family w gansey

My family – all four of us – smiling back at me through the screen.  I look at each picture and remember…we really were happy at that time – or we really were miserable that year. I often get stuck, looking at pictures, wondering exactly what went wrong.

What was the turning point?  We all know troubled marriages are a slow fade.  Couples just don’t wake up one morning, happily married, and look at each other and say, “Let’s get a divorce.”

Something happens.  And that “something” comes from somewhere – from some other brokenness laid down long ago.  While there seems to be one thing – an affair, a fight, an addiction, a death – that is the “reason” for the divorce, it’s much deeper than that.  One has an affair or becomes addicted because of something else.

I lay awake at night…write page after page…analyze moment after moment, searching for that “thing” – the issue.  Sadly, I so easily focus on the what and the how of the brokenness, that I forget about the who ruling the brokenness – my Creator.

I also forget the smiles – the happiness  - the genuinely joyful moments.

fam photo young

Truly, my marriage should have ended in 2007.  And if not then, then 2009 or 2012 should have been the end.

But, I stayed. My husband stayed.  We sought counsel and we tried. Most wouldn’t believe all we did to “save” our marriage.  From focusing on God individually to seeking him as a couple.  Conferences. Retreats.  We moved three times. I could go and on.

Finally, we gave up.

And, I was MAD. Mad I had stayed. Mad I had tried.  Why in the world would God call me or  my husband to “stay” when He knew how this would end?

I stayed in that place for months.

Friends…studying about and for Lent…a Beth Moore Bible study…daily prayer time – all have been helpful in the “moving.”

Then, Throwback Thursday.

I was looking through albums on my Facebook.

What if I decided to remember the “good” in those pictures? The smiles and giggles of my children.  The time spent with one another, laughing and loving.  The time spent molding my children into God followers.

fam beach 2

What if I stopped dwelling on the broken, the what might have beens, the what should have beens, and the what ifs?

What if I chose thankful instead of resentful?

Being married beyond 2007 allowed me to homeschool my children.  They had a present mom, who sat with them, conversed with them, and loved on them instead of a mom scrambling to keep up with life on her own.

Yes, they suffered some under the tension.  Yes, they now come from a broken home.  Yes, their chances of healthy marriages plummeted according to the statistics. Yes, you can find research on all that crap online and in books.  And, it’s probably valid.

But, if their momma doesn’t live in the past – especially the past hurt.  If she can look up and look back with thankfulness for the story God has written so far.  For the good He has worked, provision He has given, and love He has shown…what might that look like?  How might that change our present and future?

Because truly…

Thus far the Lord has helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12)

He has not left me or my family or my husband to sit in brokenness. He is still present.  Still sovereign.  God continues to love and care for us – even when we can’t feel or see Him.

So, on this Throwback Thursday, I am remembering, “Thus far the Lord has helped me.”  And, He will continue.  When I look back at past pictures or recall previous years, I won’t analyze them for hurt or how.  I won’t ponder the problems or pain.

fam wvu

I will smile. Not in a “pretend all is ok” way, but in a “I am thankful for the good” way.

I am thankful for THAT moment when we all loved.  While those moments are gone, many new ones await.  God is still doing a good work in our lives.  We are still loving and laughing.

Early on in the divorce process, Owen asked me, “Mom, do you believe God still has a plan for all of us?” I said yes, but felt no.

All seemed hopeless.

But, yes, sweet Owen. God still has a plan for ALL of us.  He loves ALL of us.

Thus far He has helped us, and He will continue.

#TBT #Thankful