Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Modern Day Widows

Dear Church-

I think we've got some problems that need addressing.  They're not easy problems.  They're messy and they make us feel a little icky.  They point to something being wrong, some kind of internal sickness.  They're hard things to admit and face and deal with head on, but we have to.  We have to deal with this stuff.

This year my "Christian" husband left me unceremoniously after committing adultery.  He backed up his abandonment with some ridiculous old testament verses, and went merrily on his way to a new church without any reproach or reprimand from it's pastoral staff.  Live and let live, and don't offend your brother, right?

Maybe if I was a lonely little statistic this would simply be the rantings of a wounded woman.  But you see, I'm not alone.  I've watched too many "Christian men" cheat on their wives and leave them to raise their children and shift through life alone.  Some provide financial support, some don't.  Some see their children, some don't.  I wish I could say that in my own smallish circle that I could count the number of women this has happened to on one hand, but I can't.

That's a problem.

Something is broken, church.  Something is damaged and sickness has crept in.  Somewhere along the way something has gone terribly wrong.

These are worship leaders, deacons, elders, and pastors of your church.  These are men that profess to love God, but remain unrepentant.  These are men that are still allowed to sit in the pews on Sunday morning and lead the church in worship while they remain unrepentant and in sin.  What's up, church?  Where did we go wrong?

We spend a lot of time talking about women's roles in our sermons.  What women should and shouldn't do.  That we should obey our husbands and submit to their headship.  Cool.  Biblical stuff.  Let's not stop covering it just because it's hard.  BUT, and this is a big but, let's not forget to teach it in context and hit the responsibilities also commanded to the dudes in those passages.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.

Oh snap.  That's a lot heavier than we've made it out to be.  Without turning this into a lengthy sermon that I'm really not qualified to preach, I'm going to unpack that for you.

Christ loves the church sacrificially.  Without condition.  While they are disobedient and rebellious and spitting in his face.  Christ loves the church no matter what.  There are no conditions when it comes to his love.  It doesn't stop because we aren't meeting his expectations.  It doesn't end because we're just not doing enough to make him happy.  God help us broken sinners if that were the case.  We'd all be doomed.  Christ loves the church because the church is his bride and his inheritance and his family.  Christ loves his church despite themselves.  Despite their foolishness, selfishness, greed, and sin.  Because he promised that he would never leave us or forsake us.  Oh, how he loves us.

We don't deserve it.

The bible never tells us that it's ok to leave our wives if they stop living up to standards that have been a bit perverted over the years.  It never tells us that husbands are to love their wives only if it makes their own lives more enjoyable and happy.  It certainly never tells us to love our wives only when they are fit and happy and cooking you elaborate meals because that's what you deserve.

Where did we go wrong?

My heart is so flipping burdened by this, and even more so because it seems that the church isn't.

You're called to take care of the widows and the orphans.  Unfortunately in today's day and age, women are being "widowed" by selfish husbands who have convinced themselves that they are the only people that matter, because their wives are supposed to submit to them because they are the head of the household.  I'm the widow of our generation.  My friends who have been left by juvenile and self-serving "christian" men are the widows of our generation.

I don't say this lightly.  Believe me, I know what I am saying.  I know what I'm charging you with, church.  I know.  But the thing is, you've helped make us.  The abandoned, alone, and struggling mothers who woke up one day to a shattered reality and a disturbing feeling of shame over something we did not choose.  Your silence has helped make us.  Every time you knowingly let an unrepentant wayward husband into your fold without question or correction, you make us.  Every time you preach submission without also preaching sacrifice, you make us.  Every time you allow a newly single mom to fall through the cracks because you don't know how to approach the situation, you make us.  Our husbands may not have died, but they have left.  They have left, and you have been silent.

Can I be honest for a minute here?  I'm not totally sure what I am asking you to do about all of this.  I'm really not.  Obviously I am asking you to preach just as heavily, if not more so, on the responsibilities of the husband in a Godly marriage and what that looks like as you preach on wives submitting to their husbands.  I'm sure I lost a few of you there, but I'm going to keep going.  Because some of you are probably still reading.  Still sticking around.

I'm asking you, as a whole, to set programs and protocols in place to help single moms.  It's a terrifying reality to find yourself in.  The vast majority don't choose it for themselves.  The vast majority don't know how to ask for help or what kind of help to ask for because they are drowning in grief and worry and the new reality of their situation.  Have something in place for them.  Don't make them come to you.  Go to them.  Tell them how you are going to help.  Pay for their counseling, set them up with a career counselor, help them with education.  Set them up with childcare once or twice a month so that they can get things done or just sleep, for crying out loud.

I'm asking you to stop your silent agreement with these men who unrepentantly leave their families.  You have all too often made yourself complicit in their sins by failing to do the hard thing and address it with them head-on.  You do not want to be held responsible for that.  You really don't.

I'm asking you to make sure that you treat these modern-day-widows with love and respect, and don't put shame on them by making them somehow second-class citizens within the church.  We didn't ask for this life.  Please do not treat us like prostitutes or pariahs.  (The fact that it shouldn't matter if we had been prostitutes is another sermon for another day.)  Don't shove us to the back because it makes people uncomfortable that there are single mothers in the congregation.  God forbid.

I am, above all, asking you to get your head out of the sand and acknowledge that we have a serious problem here that seems to be hitting epidemic levels.  To call for some serious prayer and fasting and God-seeking to see how the modern church and it's culture have contributed to this incredibly serious issue.  Take responsibility where you should.  Humble yourself.  Become more like the God we all serve and sacrifice.

If your congregation doesn't have a single mom in it, good.  But it probably will.  It's probably going to happen, and pretending that it won't isn't going to help anyone.  This isn't a worldly problem, this is a christian problem.  This is happening over and over and over again in supposedly christian households within the church.  This will, unfortunately, probably be something your congregation will have to grapple with at some point.

This is such a huge issue.  There's no way I can even begin to unpack a sliver of it.  It's massive, and heartbreaking, and real.  Let's start treating it as such.  We modern-day-widows are raising the next generation, and we are often doing it alone, with very little support.  Our kids will probably pick up on that one day, and shame on the church if it causes those children to fall away because all they see is apathy and inefficacy when their families were hurting and in need.

I've posed a lot more problems and questions than I have solutions.  I know.  But I'm just one woman, one woman left by her "christian" husband, trying to make sense of this new world.  I probably sound a little angry, and you know what?  I am.  But I'm also just so stinking ashamed that we have let this become the problem that it is.  That we have raised up a generation of entitled, selfish, cowards instead of Godly men.  It's got to stop.  It has to change.  You have no idea the hearts and lives and souls at stake.

Fast.  Pray.  Fall on your face and ask the Lord to lead you to some kind of understanding.  Some way you can change this.  Some way you can help the Church do what she was meant and called to do- to take care of the widow and the orphan.  Because they are God's beloved.  And they are worth it.

What is Single Motherhood

Ten months.  Ten months I've been parenting alone, carrying 85 to 90% of the daily burdens and responsibilities surrounding my children.  Six of those months were spent doing every single overnight.  Every one.  Alone.  Ten months with a baby.  Ten months with a preschooler struggling to come to some kind of terms with her new and scarier life.  Ten months of no help when I've been sick.  Little to no help when the kids are.  Ten months of trial after trial after trial.  Ten months of dealing with all of this in the midst of trying to get a grip on some pretty severe postpartum depression.  And being emotionally manipulated, gaslit, and abused.

Ten months of being a single mom.

Yes.  My ex is supportive financially.  No, he has not completely left us alone in the world.  Yes, he now takes the kids on overnights every other weekend.  No, he will not ever hang out on my couch while our children sleep so that I can get out of the house once in a while.  Yes.  This all still makes me a single mom.  Even if he does't think I qualify.

Let's chat a little bit about some of this stuff.  Really.  Let's have a good long chat about some hard stuff.

If you leave your wife after committing adultery and refusing any kind of counseling or time to work to save your marriage, you lose the right to define her life any longer.  You lose the right to tell her that she is simply "looking for sympathy by falsely calling herself a single mom."  You lose the right to tell her that she isn't a single mom... she's a CO-PARENT.  You lose the right to speak into her reality because you have walked away without a second thought.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be a single mom?

It means something different to every woman slogging through it.  But here's what it means to me.

Being a single mom means that I don't get sick days.  Even when I beg for them.  It means that the response I get when asking my children's father to cancel his plans and be a father is "is it an emergency?"  Being a single mom means that, unless I am bleeding out, I am on my own.

Being a single mom means that I never sleep.  Not really.  Not deeply.  Not ever.  It means that your body is always on alert, listening for the sounds of your children needing help.  Listening for the sounds of potential threats and dangers to your family in the night.  It means never feeling that you can stop living in a state of half-wakefulness because it is all. on. you.

Being a single mom means that I am the disciplinarian.  Not the fun parent.  I'm the consistent voice.  The one that bears the burden of raising children better than the example they've been given.  It means that your kids always hear your voice teaching, disciplining, correcting, and sometimes it means that they tell you they want their "fun" parent.  And you have to suck it up.  Like everything else in life, you have to suck it up alone and keep parenting through the stinging tears fighting to escape your eyes.

It means that you are the safe zone.  You're the one that didn't leave.  You're the only constant in a life that has turned scary and shaky.  You are the one that has to hold it together, and apologize profusely when you can't.  You are the one that they will come to with their anger and their fears and their nightmares and their tears.  The burden of their hurting hearts will weigh your own down further but you must. keep. going.  You must continue to be the safe zone.  The constant.  The brave.

It means that you really don't get time to grieve the incredible loss you've suffered because you've got to hold it together for your children.  There's no one there anymore to take them into the backyard when you are struggling to breathe under the weight of this scary  new world and let you sob in an empty house.  It means you scream into pillows in the middle of the night and do your bargaining and crying and why-asking with God in the darkness of your room while you should be sleeping.

Being a single mom means that I no longer have an ally in the man I believed would love me and hold true to his vows until we were so old that life slipped away.  It means trying to be nice to a man who tells me to lose 150 pounds, or that I was never worth fighting for, or that he's going to call child protective services because my house is a mess and our kids eat processed foods.  It means having to treat as an adversary someone that should have always been your champion.

My single motherhood looks like scrambling to figure out a career because my ex "doesn't want to support my lazy ass for the rest of his life." when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom at his urging and after we'd agreed upon that reality from day one.

My single motherhood looks like loneliness and long days and longer nights.  It looks like being constantly belittled for hurting.  It looks like being told to "get over it because we're done."  It looks like unfaithfulness and affairs and deep chasms where trust used to be.

My single motherhood looks like something I never signed up for.  Something forced upon me.  Something heavy and brutal and violently unjust.  It looks like a life filled with "I don't know if I can do this"es and "I'm simply not strong enough"s.  It is the rough-handed shaping of a new reality that I don't want.

I don't call myself a single mom to garner sympathy.  I don't call myself a single mom because I think it's fun.  I don't call myself a single mom because it is a reality I chose.

I call myself a single mom because it is what I am.  A woman who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders alone.  Without a partner.  Without relief.  I am a single woman now.  Who is also a mom.  Don't get me started on how that will affect me in such a harsher way than it will affect my ex.  I call myself a single mom because I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I tried.  I really really tried.  I fought and begged and cried and I did what was left in my broken shell to save a marriage that probably wasn't even worth saving outside of the enormity and the sacredness of the vows I had spoken.  The vows I meant.  I don't need to assuage the guilt of the guilty by declaring myself to be a watered-down version of my reality.

My single motherhood may look different that the single motherhood of too many women I know who's "christian" husbands left them high and dry and broken.  But we don't need to make our realities more palatable for those who have understandably guilty consciences.  We don't need to consider them above ourselves or our children any longer.  We are the widows of our generation.  The struggling and grieving and alone.  To be denied acknowledgement of that fact simply because it causes someone else to feel badly about themselves is just further injuring  the broken and injured and bereaved.

If you don't like it, chances are it's because it makes you keenly aware of the injustice of your actions.  And frankly, that's no longer a burden we single mothers need to bear.  We have enough, thank you.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Living in the In-Between

By the time most of us are fairly young I think we've realized that we crave belonging.  We belong in our mother's arms.  We belong in our family.  We belong with our siblings.  We belong in our church.  We belong in many places, and it helps us to find security and meaning when things are all too often muddled.

When we marry, we finally breathe a sigh of deep relief that we have found a permanent place of belonging.  An avowed home for our hearts.  A place where we can be weak and broken and scared and happy and on and on and on and on.

But what happens when that belonging is ripped from our grasping hands?  What happens when the person with whom you believed you would always belong becomes worse than a stranger?  When he becomes the opposite of a safe place?  Where do you rest your head?  Who do you confide in?  Who will stick with you through all of the trauma and ugliness and messiness and grief?

Suddenly you find yourself living in the in-between.

Let me define the in-between for you.

You aren't a part of a couple anymore, but you don't really fit in with your single friends either.

You aren't really a "true" single parent- you sometimes have help- but you aren't really part of a team anymore either.

You aren't really able to get out with friends anymore, but you're dying from loneliness and isolation and space.  Just space all around you.

You're never alone, but you're always alone.

You just don't fit anywhere you used to so neatly fit before.

Square peg, suddenly trying to jam herself into a round whole.

I'd like you to take a minute here, and I'd like you to imagine what life would feel like if one morning you woke up in your normal state of belonging, and went to bed that same night suddenly adrift and unsure that you belong anywhere anymore.  You don't know who you can confide in because, dear God it's all so heavy.  People want to listen at first, and you dump it all out like the niagra falls of emotional trauma and confusion.  Then they start to erode.

You're still their friend, and you know they still love you, but you're too much.  You are the in-between.  You're the bad dream.  Your life encompasses the fear shoved roughly into the tiniest mental drawer and locked away.  You are a constant, heavy reminder of what could be.  At first there are calls and texts and friends showing up to ease the burden of newly-single-parenthood as you fall quickly and mercilessly apart.  You know these sweet friends simply can't suddenly become that all-important heart where you used to belong, but you try desperately to find some semblance of what you had because
But you're also too much.  You know you are too much as the hurt spills out of you day in and day out, and you see the burden on the faces of the people you love, and that love you.  You see the weight you've become.  You used to be the lifter of weights.  You used to be the funny, vibrant, shining fun.  And soon even your heart feels like it's stuck squarely in the in-between.  In between the first stabs of trauma, in between the sweet release of healing.  You're the bouncing back and forth bringer of melancholy, and you know it.  And you try to let that fall off of you and be happy again like everyone hopes for you, but you can't sustain the effort.  Not yet.

Oh, God.  It is the loneliest place I've ever drifted through.  I feel like I am who I was, but not.  I am a new woman, but not.  I am strong, but not.

I'm contradiction given face and breath and life.

I don't pray that God would take me up out of this place.  I know He won't answer me the way I would like Him to because there's a lot of shaping that still has to happen in my heart.  This is a defining life event, and I know it.  Someday it will give birth to something healing and powerful and full of the love of God.  But I pray that he brings me someone to stand in the gap of this miserable desert I'm calling the in-between.  Not to take away what I'm going through.  Not to make it all better, because it's simply not time yet for the better to come.  There's rebirth happening here, and birth is a long and painful process.  It pushes you until you think you cannot take another breath, and that maybe you will die here.  But when you finally come out of the other side, having given breath to new and pure and beautiful life, you know that all the pain just made it that much more precious.  So I'm not asking Him to skip me through these hard chapters, even though there are days when I'd really really like Him to.

For now, I'd just like someone to stand next to me in this no-mans-land and hold my hand.  Even when it feels heavy and burdensome and unrewarding.  I know it's a lot to ask.  I'm rough right now.  Sharp.  Full of spiny edges and heavy words.  But this is just the in-between.  I am just an in-between.  It's a brutal and confusing and sometimes beautiful place to be.  It's just a difficult place to stand in, especially if you're don't really have to.

I don't really know what God is trying to teach me right now.  How He is shaping my heart and bringing rebirth.  I know He is, and I know it will be worth it in the end.  But I do pray that it gets a little less lonely here soon.  Because if I've learned one thing about myself in all of this, it's that I crave a safe place to puddle into weakness on occasion.  A place where I belong enough to welcome that kind of melting.

I hope it's out there.  I hope I find myself in a place where God is that melting place and that it is enough for me.  But again, right now I'm in neither.

Another in-between.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Battle Between Head and Heart

Sometimes I feel utterly divided.  The chasm between my head and my heart can be so overwhelmingly wide.

I'm maybe a month away from being divorced.  There's so much that goes along with that.  My heart feels shame when those words leave my mouth.
It feels like fire on my tongue, and my heart breaks a little more every time I utter it.  Shame.  Anger.  Fear.  Deep and unyielding betrayal.  Grief.  Shattered trust.  I feel all of these things constantly, and often together.  It's completely exhausting and overwhelming.  Oh heart, you are damaged, but still beating.  Oh self, his darkened heart doesn't reflect on your own.  His sins are his own.  His adultery doesn't reflect your worth as a woman, a wife, a mother, a child of God.  Simply his own weaknesses and sin.  Dear heart, that shame is not yours.  You did not leave.  You did not give up.  You were not unfaithful.  You were not perfect, but you never deserved this.

My heart feels shame, but my head feels hope.

I know that sounds bizarre.

Here's the thing.  I loved my husband.  Deeply.  I hope he loved me at one point.  I'm not sure anymore.  But I am sure I loved him.  My head tells me that hoping he ever really loved me isn't enough.

"released" My head tells me.

Released from a man who probably never actually saw me.  Never saw my heart.  Never invited me to love that was strong and provided any kind of rest.  Released from love that was selfish and self seeking and self serving.  Head tells heart that it was good to love that man.  But that it's ok to feel release.  That I tried.  That I can't make him loving or strong or good.  That heart has a chance to feel something so much purer and more beautiful than love that is unsure and afraid of being despised and abandoned and ashamed.

My head and my heart aren't quite on the same page yet.  My head, that bastion of good sense and logic… head wants to let go of him.  Let go.  Let go.  Let go.  The constant mantra in my sensible head tries to get heart to do what it isn't ready to do.

Let him go.  Let it fall to the ground.  Let him walk away.  Do not give him any more tears.  Let go.  He is gone, and so is the life you prayed for when you stood facing him and said your vows.  He did not mean them.  Let go.  You deserve a man that means them.  All of them.  Even the unpleasant and hard ones.  Even the ones that require a silent death to self.  Let him go.  He's hurting you.  He's gone.

Oh, stubborn and faithful heart.  Broken and angry and grieving heart.  Heart that cannot and will not let go of that last fragmented splinter of hope.  The last splinter embedded deep within that causes ceaseless pain, but that is the last piece of what should have been.  My head doesn't understand my heart.  My head says that it would never take him back.  That trust has been shattered so completely that it would be impossible to put back together.  My head says that it knows that this treatment is so awful that nothing should entice me to reconsider him.  But heart.  Heart made vows.  Heart values family and  relationship above all else.  Heart still holds onto the maybe.  Even though it's harmful.  Even though it drives the splinter deeper.

"Let go" everyone says.

My heart can only answer "I want to, but I don't know how yet."

I wish I could somehow lay ahold of even a fraction of the ability my soon to be ex husband has to let me go completely.

And yet I don't.  Because letting go of a love that you promised to protect until your last dying breath feels like an unforgivable weakness.  And I may be a lot of things, but weak is not one of them.  My love is not weak.  My heart is not weak.  Maybe stubborn and imperfect and broken and grief-stricken. But never weak.

So I'll just keep letting my logical head keep encouraging my stubborn heart to let him go.  Because both my head and my heart know this truth-

God has better than this ahead.  Better than the hateful abandonment of vows and hearts and love.  Better than the fickleness and selfishness of this "love."  And as much as I'm ready to embrace the truth that God has better, I can't despise my heart for (however imperfectly) holding onto the most important thing.  After all, that is strength I can't claim solely for my own.  My heart, it is what God made it.  Strong and constant and true.  And I know now more than ever that those are qualities that are of vital importance in this life.

So head and heart, someday that chasm will close.  Someday you won't be at odds.  But I propose that right now, here in this moment, it's totally ok if you are.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Prayer for My Son

It's midnight.  I should be sleeping, but my heart is so troubled tonight.  I keep thinking about you, son.  I keep worrying about guiding you and helping you become the great man that I hope you will be.  I think about the disparities you will see in your family life.  I think about the influences, both good and bad, that you will have to sift through.  I worry that generational sins will cling to you like stale smoke no matter how hard I pray for them to lift.

I look at you right now and all I see is a sweet little toddler who's eyes light up when I walk into a room.  I see a little boy who could change the world.  A little boy who's heart I will fight for to the death.  Who I will pray for with the tenacity of a warrior in the throws of battle.  I look at you and I see someone better than the example set for you right now.  I see someone not fettered by the brokenness and insecurities of an uncertain childhood.

My mind is racing, and I'm having a hard time forming coherent thoughts.  Everything rises up and out of me in the form of a prayer.  Fast and jumbled and probably nonsensical.  But we'll go with it, baby.  We'll just embrace the chaos and I'll lift up a most earnest prayer for you.

My babe, I pray that you grow into a man after your Heavenly Father's own heart.  A man overflowing in mercy and kindness and justice and strength.  I pray that you are selfless and true. That righteousness flows from the over abundance of love for your Father in Heaven and permeates every single fiber of your being.  I pray that you are upright and brave.  That you have the courage to fight for the broken and weary and oppressed.  That you see past the earthly garbage and into the hearts of others, and always stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.  I pray that you forsake the inherent privileges you are born with and try to see life through the eyes of others not born with your gender, skin color, economic standing, etc etc.  Jesus hung out with the sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes.  He loved the unlovable.  I pray you do too.

I pray that God gives me the strength to love you well.  To show you what unconditional love looks like.  What selfless love looks like.  What love means- the real definition.  Not this shallow garbage our society glorifies.  That's nothing but selfishness and self-serving interest packaged in a deceiving little bow.  Love is hard.  It's a battle.  It's a choice.  It's a long suffering commitment.  I feel the burden of being the one who shows you the importance of this kind of love, because you won't have the example you should- that of your father loving your mother in the way he is called to.  I pray I never vilify your father because of his weaknesses, but instead show you what mercy and forgiveness look like, and the strength and freedom they bring.

My son, I pray that you never ever feel as though you have to earn my love and acceptance.  I pray you never know the insatiable need to search out the approval of man.  That you grow in the knowledge of your worth in your Daddy in Heaven.  That He's enough for you.

I pray that I can find the right way to teach you to be responsible for your own actions, your own heart, your own sins.  I pray that we can break the familial cycle of victimhood with you and your sister.  That you never know the oppression of feeling like the world is out to get you, but instead thrive in the freedom of Christ, who has removed all earthly oppression.

I hope that I can teach you how to value the passions of others, even if they aren't your own.  I want to teach you to encourage and seek to build up the callings and passions of those around you.  That your calling doesn't trump the callings of those you love.  I hope to teach you how to put others ahead of yourself.  I hope to teach you to respect and value women.  To love them the way your Heavenly Father loves them.  Not to despise and objectify.  Not to subject to your own whims and expectations without any consideration for the deep places of their hearts.

I pray that you will be a better man that those that have come before you.  That you find a way to internalize only the best parts of your dad, grandpa, uncles, etc.  I pray that you do not latch on to the insecurities, bitterness, and selfishness that may be modeled for you.  I pray that God uses the great men in your life to show you what a Godly man looks like.

Son, I worry about you.  Maybe even a little more than I worry about your sister.  Because I don't know how to offset the lack of Godly example of fatherhood and manhood you will have in your life. How do I teach you to be a man?  But the thing about worry is, it's really just a lack of trust.  And that's something I will have to work on for the rest of my life.  Because even if your earthly father is lacking- your Heavenly Father isn't.  And I just know He has such great plans for you.  The call on your life and your sister's life... I just know you two were made for something so pure and good.

I pray that I have the strength to lift you up and intercede for you when I feel lost and ill equipped.  I pray that God gives me the patience and wisdom to teach you in the ways you should go.  I pray that you break the cycles of those before you.  I pray that you will love the Lord with everything you are, and that you will serve him fervently all of the days of your life.

You are my joy.  And your Daddy in Heaven's joy.  A gift that I will always be thankful for.  I wish your life didn't start off the way it has, but wishing won't change our reality.  But God can.  And He has always taken care of us.  And if I impart anything to you, son, I hope it's that God is good.  No matter what.  God is good.  And He will never let you down.  Not ever.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Mother's Day Love Letter to Single Moms

Hey Single Mama.

This year is the first Mother's Day where I have joined your ranks.  It's been a hard day, and I've been doing a lot of thinking.

I used to say that I could never be a single mom.  That I wasn't strong enough.  That I didn't know how you all do it.  I'd say it to my husband, holding his hand, telling him that I was so glad I'd always have him there to do life and parenthood with me.  I had no idea that my future would have me single parenting right along with you.

Here's what I have to say now.  And I'll probably have something different to say next year when the dust has settled a bit more and I've found my footing.

I still don't know how you do it.  I don't know how I do it most days.

I'm sorry that you have to.  I'm sorry that I have to.  This is not a job for one.  It's just not.  But we do it because what other option is there?  Who else will do what we do?

So here's a love letter to you, to me, to the mom scared shitless because her husband just walked out on her last week.  To the moms we will welcome into our ranks with our own broken hearts and open arms, the ranks we don't want to see grow.  The ranks of the tired, the lonely, the brave, and the blessed.  The silent army of moms who do it all for everyone and fall into bed at night exhausted, but knowing their shift doesn't end when the sun goes down.  The sweat soaked and tear streaked warriors who press on even when they feel like their world has shattered and they have nothing left to give.  This is for us.  For you.

I know you, tired mama.
You are me.
You are the stranger-sister juggling two people's worth of burdens in the Target parking lot with a baby that is tired and crabby and always on your hip.
You are the mom who shuts herself into the bathroom for ten minutes when everything becomes more than you can handle after days and days of aloneness and silently cries so her kids don't have to see her tears.
You are the proud mom who cheers with all her might as her daughter graduates her first year of preschool.
 You are the midnight doctor that comforts a feverish toddler, praying quietly for their relief.
You are the woman who never ever ever thought that her husband would leave.
Or pass away.
Or simply cease to exist as you knew him.
You are the chef who has made three meals before she realizes she's forgotten to feed herself.  Again.
You are the woman who will not give up hope that this is not all there is.
You are the dreamer, the one who looks into the future and sees a million beautiful possibilities.
You are the Survivor that has found a way to make it through obstacles you never knew existed before you had to do it all yourself.
You are the fervent prayer warrior that prays and prays and prays for better things for her children.  A better life.  A whole family.  A whole heart.
You are the Hero her kids can depend on, day in and day out.
You are the safe place.  The constant.  The rest for her children in the midst of a cruel world.
You are the endless burner of midnight oil who wakes again, and again, and again to soothe babies after nightmares, and teething, and fevered unrest.
You are the beautiful woman who feels unseen.  Unknown.  Unprotected.
You are the woman who knows that her worth is in God alone.  Not in a man.  Not in her kids.  Not in her career.  Not in her struggles.  Not in her victories.
You are a mom.  The most selfless calling there is.

And tonight, if this day has been as hard for you as it's been for me, you may be having a hard time remembering all of the things that make you so truly amazing.  Maybe you find yourself feeling guilty that this day has caught you so off guard in the way it's brought you so flipping low instead of joyful because you're a mom and you love your kids.

I need to tell you, because I need to tell myself, that's ok.  You don't have to feel guilty.  You bear a heavy burden.  It's an amazing one, I bet you'd never give it up, I know I wouldn't, but it's still so big.  Maybe next year you won't feel crushed under the weight of what you wish Mother's Day was for you, but isn't.  Maybe you won't feel so jealous of friends who don't have to do it alone, and who's spouses shower them with affection and appreciation.  But it's ok if you still do.  We'll get there, you and I.  It's a hard day. A great day, but a hard day.

So maybe I've never met you.  Maybe we are great friends.  Maybe no one knows yet that this was your first Mother's Day alone.  But I do know this, beautiful mama… you are so much stronger and more beautiful than you know.  And even when you feel invisible, there are people like year-ago-me who look at you in awe, and wonder how you do what you do.  How you are everything to everyone and still manage to hold your head up and take on the world.  People see.  I see.  Your Heavenly Father sees.

This is my prayer for us, single moms… that tonight, and every night, when you lie in your bed alone or surrounded by your babies, that you feel undeniably, heart-swellingly loved and cherished and doted on by your Daddy in Heaven.  Because He sees everything.  All of our struggles.  All of our tears.  All of our sacrifices and struggles.  He will never leave us.  Never die.  Never change.  Never disappoint.  And I pray that we can quiet the voices inside ourselves that rage and mourn and worry and fear long enough to hear Him say "I see you.  Your every breath.  Your every tear.  Your every laugh.  Your every fear.  I see you trying to give your kids a better life.  I see you trying to serve me with a heart that is undivided and grateful.  I see you giving everything you have and then giving some more.  I hear your prayers and petitions for love and healing and comfort.  And I am all of those things.  My beautiful daughter, I am SO PROUD of you.  I am so proud.  You are so loved.  You are taken care of.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Maybe this Mother's Day hasn't been happy for you.  It really wasn't for me.  I get it.  But I do pray that it will be filled with comfort.  With peace from our Father.  With hope for the future.  With love from your children.  You are loved, warrior mama.  You are so perfectly and beautifully loved by the truest and most perfect Love.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Sweet Daughter of Mine

My dear little girl,

We've had a rough go of it this past year.  Lots of change, lots of hurt, lots of scary stuff that you probably can't really understand.  I try so hard to explain it to you in a way that makes it less scary, but still leaves you with the big picture.  I worry that I am failing.  I worry that I am not saying enough, or that I am saying too much.

My sweet one, I wish there was a way that I could shield your heart from all of these gross, hateful, heartbreaking adult changes that our family is going through right now.  You are so smart and so intuitive and empathetic.  I worry that your heart is absorbing so much more than I can see.  I worry about the sadness you are feeling.  I worry that you are going to grow up with scars that you should never ever have had to bear.  I worry that I won't be able to protect you from the feelings of loss and abandonment.  That I won't be enough for you in the day to day, especially while I am still grieving too.

Being your mommy has been the most amazing, life changing event.  I promise that I am trying my best, even when I fail miserably.  I promise to always say sorry when I am in the wrong.  To hold you when you cry.  To remind you daily of your worth.  To show you what unconditional love looks like so you never ever have to grow up with the scars that come with never having experienced it.  I have seen what that does to a person, and I will never let that happen to you, my love.  You are strong, and brave, and kind.  I'll remind you when you feel unsure.

I promise that I will try so hard to help you grow up and see that you deserve better than the way that mommy was treated.  Because if I ever had to watch you go through what I am going through right now it would kill me.  My sweet one, you deserve better.  I will fight for you.  I will fight for your heart.  I will try daily to put God first and make sure that you know that your Heavenly Father is only good.  That he will never ever leave you.  He will never ever forsake you.  He keeps his Word, and He is for you.  That's what you deserve.  That's what love really looks like.

Sometimes I worry.  I worry when you are acting out that I've done something wrong, said the wrong things, not comforted you enough in the last nine scary months.  I worry that the damage you have already suffered is deep and raw and will alter your life's path.  I'm your mom.  I worry about everything.  But then you go and do the most amazing things.  I hear you in the other room, worshipping your sweet heart out, and walk in to see you with your eyes closed, your face and hands lifted to the One who is Worthy, and I feel peace and hope that at least I'm doing the most important thing right.  I have hope that I'm modeling that you can always trust your Heavenly Father.  That He is always worthy of your love, even in the midst of really trying and heartbreaking times.  Because if you have that, sweet one, you can make it through anything.

It grieves my heart that you have been robbed of the innocence of your childhood.  That you have had the simplicity of a child's trust stolen from you.  It makes my mama heart hurt, and it makes my mama heart angry.  I never questioned any of the things you will question now when I was growing up, and it breaks me that this is your broken reality.

But I promise you this, my little girl, God can redeem.  God will redeem.  That's what He does.  He takes heartbreaking brokenness and unrecognizable ashes and builds something so very beautiful.  I believe that is what He will do in our lives, yours, mine, and your brother's.  I wait every day to see how it will unfold.  How He will redeem.

So I may worry, because that's what moms do, but in the deep of my heart I have faith that He will provide.  He will redeem.  He will protect you and your heart.  He will help you choose more wisely than your mother did when you are ready to fall in love and start your own family.  He will keep your heart safe and healthy.  I can't promise that you'll never experience heartbreak.  In fact, unfortunately I can promise you that you will.  But I can also promise that your Daddy in Heaven is bigger than any heartbreak.  Including the one you are feeling now.

You are so loved, my sweet, silly baby.  And your Heavenly Father and I will make sure you always know it.  No matter what.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Finding Hope in the Sunrise

Hope is a funny thing.

Generally speaking, I'm essentially what you would classify as an optimist.  I see hope even in the blackest situation.  I feel within my core that there is always a way.  That Love will win.  That Good will triumph.  That Truth will always come to light.

I know that this is part of my character because it is something innate that God has placed within me.  He has given us an eternal Hope.  A Hope that always wins.  But sometimes I place my hope in idols, and idols always disappoint.

It's hard to admit that something that was/is good has become an idol.  Maybe it's your job, your family, your money, or, in my case, your spouse.  To place something above God, whether willfully, or out of complacency, fear, laziness, I don't know… different days, different reasons.  To place your hopes and your trust in something that God has made instead of the Maker is unfortunately not hard to do.

Ever the optimist, ever the hopeful and naive one, I've felt hope even after the first divorce papers were filed.  Hope that he would change his mind.  Hope that he would love me.  Hope that he would fight for me.  Hope that he'd finally see me, like really truly see me, and see that I was worth whatever it took.  And the voices of people around me telling me that there is still hope- that marriages have been saved from the brink many times- to not give up.  To hold onto hope.  The voices fueled my optimism.  My misguided hope.

But hope in what, exactly?  Or more precisely, hope in Whom?  Hope in my husband who has given not a single shred of effort to save our marriage in the last six months?  Hope in a man who is bound and determined to never look back?  I find myself hoping in him sometimes, even now.  "Somewhere, maybe down really deep, he's still in there.  He's just scared.  Or proud.  Or ashamed.  He won't actually do this.  He won't actually rip himself from me and leave me alone in the world.  He wouldn't do that."  But that hope is wrong.  That hope is a lie.  And an idol.  And it's completely misplaced.

Yes.  Marriages have come back from the brink.  But not because the wayward spouse wills themselves to repent.  Not because the abandoned spouse made the right arguments, spouted the right logic.  Marriages have come back from the dead because of the ONLY one we can truly put our hopes in.

The Resurrected King.  The defeater of death.  The God of rebirth and life.

I'm trying to find my way back to hoping only in Him.  The one who died for me and rose again.  The one who laid down his life for me while I denied him, scourged him, mocked him, and rejected him.  The one who loved me despite my sin, my darkness, my brokenness, my shame, and my shortcomings.

That Hope could breathe life back into my dying marriage.  Absolutely.  Just like He has done many times for others.  He could work a miracle and breathe life into something that has ceased to live.  I can't discount that possibility.  I can't deny Him the space to move and work and have His way.  He's a good God who loves marriage.  Who heals families, and brings restoration.  He can do anything.  I absolutely can say that I still have hope.  In the God who could do all of those things.

Even if He doesn't.

See, what I'm learning is that you can't put your hope in man, or chariots, or horses, or marriages, or anything else of this world.  Minds are broken.  Hearts are feeble.  Men are weak and selfish.  If you put your trust in those things, you are sure to be disappointed.  Because even if God is calling and prompting, and leading someone towards something, they can still say "no" and turn the other way.  They can walk away in disobedience and rebellion.  They can choose sin.

But God.  God never chooses sin.  Never chooses selfishness.  Never chooses bitterness.  Never chooses unforgiveness.  Never chooses spite.  Never chooses death.

No matter what my husband chooses, or what your child chooses, or what your parent chooses, or your girlfriend chooses- there is hope.  A hope that transcends all of this earthly suffering.  Hear me here- I'm not saying that Hope means we won't suffer.  I mean, Jesus promises us that we will suffer.  I'm saying that there's a light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.  Even if you're so in the thick of it that you just can't see anything but pitch black.  Trust me.  Trust HIM.  There is light.  There is hope.  There is life.

I find that often times when I go through intense trials that my hope feels more real.  In times when it feels like everything is falling apart and there is no logical reason to have hope- and I'm all about the logic of feelings and reasons and things- that hope swells up in me unfettered.  That I'm expectant.  I find myself waiting for the dawn because I know that after the fiercest storms come the most spectacular sunrises.

Beauty from ashes.

Hope from hopelessness.

This is the most battered I've ever been.  This is the fiercest storm I've ever clung to life through.  It's bleak, and black, and awful.  The night is raging all around me and I can't see anything.

So I just know- deep in the core of my heart- that whatever the dawn brings is going to be breathtaking.  Because that is this hope I have in my God.  Because "Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful, and righteous" (psalm  112:4)

So I'm trying to cling to hope in the Lord.  Even if he doesn't restore what is broken and dying.  Because He won't force anyone into anything.  Even if He knows it would be better in the long run.  And I'm trying not to put my hope in a man or a marriage, because it's brought nothing but heartbreak and intense pain.  And even if my marriage truly dies, out of the ashes I know that God will fashion something stunning.  Out of the darkness, the most beautiful morning will eventually dawn.

Hope is not lost.

Hope is never lost.  He reigns eternal.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What One Grieving Friend Wants You to Know

Ok.  Another dark and gloomy post.  Sort of.  Halfway.  We'll see soon, I guess.  I never really know what is going to make it's way out of these fingers once they hit the keyboard.  So on we go.

Grief is lonely.  It's one of those intensely personal, intensely overwhelming things that seems at times like it has no end.  And often it doesn't.  In the last five years I have experienced several different forms of loss and grief.

Almost a year and a half ago I lost a baby.  That loss has shaped me profoundly.  We named him/her Avery.  Lost at almost 11 weeks on New Years Day, I was completely and utterly shattered.  To love someone that you've never met, and then to lose them before your eyes are ever able to behold their beauty… it's unfathomable.  The physical and emotional toll was heavy, and painful, and dark.

And I thought I was alone.

Until I wrote a blog post about losing my sweet Avery, and the comments started pouring in.  I think by the time they finally died down there were about 100 comments.  The vast majority from friends that had also lost babies.  The vast majority of those were losses I never even knew about.  Suffered and mourned in silence.  And I started to feel a new sense of loss.  I had a new reason to grieve.  Because when we lose someone we love, especially if it could be construed that we had a hand in it, there is shame there that we don't want to feel.

Now, hear me, that shame is a lie.  That shame is the devil trying to isolate you.  To get you to stay silent.  To let yourself feel the weight of that burden alone.  Because here's the thing- when we speak out about our grief and our losses, sometimes it frees others to do the same.  Sometimes it opens the door for someone who has been desperate for support to reach out for it and share their burdens.  Because grief is an extraordinarily heavy load to bear.  And as Christians, we are called to share in the suffering of others, taking some of the weight if we can, provide love, compassion, and support.  So losing my baby and opening up about it made me painfully aware of how difficult it is for people to ask for help, support, and for others to mourn with them.  Ironically, in doing so myself, I found it freed a few others to do the same.

Today I am experiencing a new kind of loss, and an incredibly dark form of grief.  Sharing the loss of my baby was hard.  It felt like a risk.  Sharing the loss of my marriage has been awful.  The shame I feel from being left by my husband, of his complete and utter refusal to love me when it was hard, to fight for me and our marriage, and to love me unconditionally like he vowed to the day we became one… the shame of that is crushing.  The shame of being left, the embarrassment, the feeling of worthlessness on top of the blackest grief I've ever felt is almost too much to bear.

If you've read any of this blog you'll probably see that I don't have much of a filter.  I'm a sharer.  I believe that when we go through stuff, it's ok to talk about it.  Maybe someone else is going through something similar and they just need to hear that they aren't alone at the exact moment when they are thinking about ending it all.  Maybe someone needs to hear what another person is going through to find the strength to deal with abuse, or adultery, or addiction.  Who knows?  That's the point- I don't know.  But I do know that writing helps me process and heal, so maybe it will speak to someone else one day.  That being said, sharing this part of my life has been incredibly difficult.

I feel like I'm a failure.  I'm grieving the loss of my best friend and the man I thought was the love of my life, I'm grieving the loss of stability for my children, I'm grieving the beautiful dreams I had when I said yes to his marriage proposal, I'm grieving the brokenness my kids will come to see as normal…

It's an endless sea of grief.

Part of the reason I have had a hard time putting things into words is because of the emotional abuse I've realized I've been being conditioned with over the past few years.  The complete and total negation of my feelings, struggles, and fears.  The belittling of my heart.  The accusations of lying about the circumstances.  The constant gas-lighting and blame shifting for everything from his affair, to how he was incapable of seeing my depression for what it was instead of taking it as a personal assault.  When you are being told by the person you used to trust most that you are "pathetic" for needing the support of your friends and community around you, and God forbid, help as you try to begin to navigate the incredibly isolating and exhausting reality of your new situation, it can be hard not to internalize and accept that accusation.  That condemnation.  And when that is not an out-of-the-ordinary comment or type of comment, it becomes very easy to want to stay silent.  But silent I will not stay.

So on to my point.  What your grieving friend (aka me, but parts of this probably apply to the other grieving friends around you) wants you to know.

Loss is so freaking messy.  I know there are people out there that handle loss with incredible grace and dignity.  I'm finding that I'm not really one of them.  I know that makes me hard to be around.  I know that those raw and difficult emotions are uncomfortable.  I know you don't know what to say.  I know you want to make it better, to diminish the pain, to make sense of the loss.

But you can't.  It doesn't make sense.  Loss so rarely does.  And it's ok if you don't know what to say.  Frankly, sometimes the most comforting things friends have said to me in the past six months are not things that I'd typically classify as comforting.

Go ahead and tell me that you're sorry.  I'm sorry too.  Go ahead and tell me that it really freaking sucks, and you don't understand it.  I don't either.  And it helps to hear that I'm not the only one, because some days I feel like I'm losing my mind.  That reality has somehow shifted into this warped nightmare that I can't wake up from.  It's ok to tell me that you don't know what to say.  It's ok to sit in silence next to me when words just aren't enough.  Tell me anything, really.  As long as you're not trying to "fix" it, or me.

Grieving people can be hard to be around because we don't always have the extra capacity to make the first move, make light conversation, or smile like we used to.  We know we're hard to be around.  I've never in all of my life felt like a burden the way I do right now in the midst of my pain and grief.  I have one really amazing friend who listens to everything.  And I mean everything.  She's heard so much and listened for so long, and it pains me to put any more of the weight of my grief on her.  I've told her so many times that I hate that this is all I have to talk about these days.  That this is who I am right now.  And I know it's affecting her.  But she listens.  And she checks up on me if there's radio silence for too long.  And she isn't offended by my flakiness and absent mindedness.

And I think that's what I'd like you to know.  When people ask what they can do to help, it seems hard to find an answer.  Because help is in the intangibles.  Help is calling once or twice a week to make sure a grieving friend isn't isolating themselves and crying themselves to sleep too many nights a week. Help is sitting silently next to a heartbroken friend and holding their hand because words just aren't enough.  It's still inviting them over to events that used to be "couples" type activities even if you're worried it will make them feel awkward.  It probably won't.  They'll just be thankful that you are thinking about them and that they won't have to be alone with their grief for that hour or two.  Help looks like random coffee-drop offs and play dates in the morning so your friend can take a hot shower without worrying that one of their children will somehow end up with a concussion.  Help looks like being unafraid to offer to lay hands on your friend and pray for their heart, their circumstances, and their faith.

Basically, I'm asking you not to forget your grieving friends.  Because there's a pretty good chance that we are already struggling with feelings of worthlessness, feelings of isolation, and feelings of insecurity.  I know that I'm not the bubbly, outgoing woman I once was.  I'll find her again, I know I will.  But I think I will find her that much sooner with the help of the love of people who can see through the volatility, darkness, and discomfort of grief.

Then some day, God forbid, we will stand by you in your hour of loss.  Shouldering your pain in the way that you shouldered ours.  Weeping with you out of a heart that was softened by kind words and lovingly-spoken truth.

Grief is messy, and ugly, and raw.  But the person grieving isn't.  Even when we come off a bit ugly.  A bit harsh.  A bit raw.  That's the grief speaking.  The loneliness.  The loss.  We are just people longing for comfort, and one day, God willing, we will become expert comforters.  Burden lifters.  Shiners of light.  One day you may even hear us say that the grief was worth it.  That it made our hearts bigger, more open, more giving.  One day you may hear us say that the grief that once was so dark has helped us become more like Christ.

And maybe that's what I want you to know.  That this grief won't define me.  But how I use it for good when it was born out of something meant for evil, now that just may.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Letter to New Dads, From a Mom Who's Husband Left Her in the Thick of It

Hey New Dad!  Congratulations!  I see you and your beaming smile, surveying your new family with all the pride of a loving husband and proud father.  Life is so fresh, and exciting and new, and so are you, really.  So is your wife.  See, today your baby was born.  Which means a father was born (you), and a mother was born (your wife).  Big stuff.  Exciting and beautiful and exhilarating stuff.

Heavy stuff.

Can I talk to you frankly for a minute, New Dad?  There are some things people don't really like to talk about when you're getting ready to have a new baby.  People think it may scare you, or take away from your excitement and joy.  But I'd bet most of those people haven't been left while their babies were still babies because their husbands couldn't deal with the changes that a new baby brings.  I'm sure you are nothing like the kind of man that would consider cheating on his wife while their baby was not yet six months old.  And I'm sure you're not the kind of man that would leave your wife when your baby was not yet nine months old and file for divorce out of nowhere.

But my husband wasn't that man either.  We were both unprepared for what parenthood would do to our marriage, but I'd say that perhaps my ex was very unprepared.  So please, indulge me for a few minutes while I tell you a little bit about what a new baby brings.

I'm sure you're totally excited right now, New Dad, and happy to sacrifice your time, your personal space, your sleep, and the un-divided attention of your wife as you both figure out this whole parenthood thing.  I'd like to encourage you.  I'd like to help you be aware.  To keep your eyes open as the newness and the euphoria begins to wane.

Everyone talks about making sure their husband comes first no matter what once they have kids.  Yes.  Totally.  Your marriage is so so so important, New Dad.  Here's the thing, though.  It's going to be very very difficult for your wife, who probably totally agrees with the sentiment that you should come first in theory, to actually put anyone before your baby for a few years.  You see, the minute your baby was born, your wife's brain chemistry changed dramatically.  She is now hard-wired to respond to everything that your helpless little human does.  She's designed that way.  She'll get up to nurse your baby every two hours no matter how completely exhausted she is because she's feeling the biological imperative to care for your child.  She'll get up and walk away from you mid-sentance to get the baby out of his or her crib the minute it starts crying because she will have a physical reaction to the sound of her baby.  This is stuff you just can't really understand until you've experienced it.  Because it's so powerful.  It's so consuming.  Your wife will probably forget to eat half of the time because her need to take care of your baby is so strong.

She's not trying to neglect you.  She's not trying to neglect herself.  She's doing what she was designed and biologically programmed to do.  The thing is, our society has changed pretty dramatically in the last century.  A hundred years or so ago your wife would probably have had the daily help of her mom, her grandma, her sisters, some other female in her family.  She wouldn't have been expected to do everything on her own within weeks of giving birth.  She wouldn't have been cooking every meal, driving people around, cleaning the house, and getting up all night long without help.  But today, she is.  Your wife is trying to navigate a hostile cultural environment with very little help.  She will feel like she has to do it all, but she can't.  And she shouldn't.

You may have a hard time with all of this, New Dad.  You may start to miss the one on one time and attention that you used to get daily from your wife.  You may begin to resent the amount of love she shows your child while simultaneously repelling your physical advances at the end of the day.  You may even find yourself questioning if she still loves you because she's just not doing the things she used to do, or noticing the things about you she used to notice.

I'm begging you, New Dad, give your wife so much grace right now.  Every single aspect of her life has completely and utterly changed, and it is overwhelming.  She has no bodily autonomy.  No time for a relaxing shower.  No sleep.  If she seems distant or uninterested, offer to hang out with the baby so she can take a three hour nap.  Or a three hour shower.  Something that will help her feel like a human being again.  Put her first, like she's putting your child first.  Like she's probably put you first many times.  A New Mom needs her husband to be a lot more than she's ever needed before.  More of a support.  More of a helper around the house.  More of a quiet sounding board and listener on those rough and confusing days.  She needs strength and stability and undying empathy.

And can we talk about postpartum depression, New Dad?  Because it's a real monster.  And your wife probably won't recognize what it is for a long time.  Most doctors don't really screen for it.  Most New Moms don't really recognize it because it can manifest itself in lots of ways that may not remotely seem like "traditional depression." but will still knock her off her feet and flat on her face.

Post partum depression affects a lot of New Moms.  A lot.  Probably way more than we realize because so many go undiagnosed.  The really crappy and hard part about postpartum depression is that it can feel shameful (even though it's not!) because here is New Mom with her New Baby, and everyone is telling her that this should be the best and most beautiful time of her life, and when she doesn't feel that… well, she's probably going to think to that something must be wrong with her.  Her personality may change.  The hormonal garbage going on inside of your wife is nuts.  It's like a hydrogen bomb of hormones blasting everything in it's path and leaving destruction in it's wake.

Your wife may not seem interested in you.  Or life.  Or anything.  She may cry all of the time.  She may get angry about pretty much everything and nothing.  She may deal with crippling anxiety.  She may seem like she's a completely different person.  Every case is different.  Sometimes it's a bunch of crappy things all at once.  New Mom is probably going to complain to you.  She's probably going to talk to you about feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe unhappy.  Maybe super stressed.

Please don't tell New Mom things that are designed to hurt.  Phrases like "this is what you wanted.  If you can't handle it, maybe we shouldn't have more kids." are not helpful.  I repeat.  They are NOT helpful.  Please don't shame New Mom for struggling.  If she needs help, offer to make an appointment for her and go with her.  Take her to lunch before hand and tell her how you are there for her and always will be.  Tell her what a fantastic mom she is.  She probably doesn't feel like it, but she needs to hear it.  Over and over and over.  Please don't tell New Mom struggling with postpartum depression that she "Needs to see a counselor!!!" or that she "Needs Meds!!!!" New Mom needs kindness and gentleness and understanding and love.  Not shame.  Not guilt trips.  Not anger from New Dad because she is struggling and he doesn't know what to do or how to fix it.  Or worse, anger because she's just not living up to his expectations.

Please, New Dad, please remember that you and your wife are in such a difficult time.  No sleep, tons of new responsibility, maybe not enough support… it's trying for everyone.  Maybe you feel unhappy.  Maybe you wish your life could go back to what it was.  Maybe you are starting to think that none of this was what you signed up for.

But you did.  Maybe no one warned you that it was going to be this hard.  Maybe they did, and you didn't believe them.  Either way, New Dad, your family depends on you now.  Your wife depends on you now, more than she ever has before.  Even if she doesn't say it.  Even if she seems like she couldn't care less about spending time with you through that fog of postpartum depression and sleep deprivation.  Your family needs you, New Dad.

If you feel tempted to walk away, please go see a counselor.  Right away.  Please don't entertain selfish thoughts, New Dad.  The days are going to feel so long right now, but this really is a short time in your family's life.  And remember, your wife is a New Mom.  She's learning and changing and figuring things out along the way just like you.  Neither of you will be perfect.  That's ok.  As long as you fight for love, even when it's hard.  As long as you act out of compassion.  As long as you realize that someday soon New Mom will be able to put you first again.  But for now, maybe it's her turn to be put first.  And just maybe, New Dad, by putting her first you will find new depth that you didn't know you had.  New strength and integrity and love that you didn't realize you possessed.

I'm writing this to you, New Dad, as a New Mom who's husband didn't really do these things.  As a mom who now does all of the sleepless nights alone.  As a mom who just really desperately needed to be loved through all of the newness and hardships and postpartum garbage.  As a mom who wasn't.

New Mom may not tell you every day that she appreciates all that you do for her and your new baby.  Not today, anyway.  But one day your baby is going to have slept through the night for a week straight and your wife will finally feel rested enough to form a coherent statement of thankfulness.  Because she sees what you do for her and your little family.  Even if she is too deep in the throws of exhaustion and depression to put it into words.

This will be a really fantastically beautiful time, New Dad.  And it will also be really fantastically hard. But keep going.  The love New Mom will show you when she feels like a human being again will have been worth it.  It would have been for my ex.   But no one was there to tell him in the very beginning that this is what it would be like.  So I'll tell you.

Congratulations, New Dad.  You're going to be stretched in ways you never dreamed.  And if you can persevere and push through all of the crap, you're going to be such an amazing Dad and Husband.  A New Dad was born today.  And a with him, the possibility of a New Man as well.

Don't waste this opportunity.  It's worth it all.


A New Mom Who's Husband Left in the Thick of It

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Breaker of Bridges

I feel like I'm struggling to find my voice lately.  My heart screams contradictory accusations constantly, and it's overwhelming.  But tonight I feel like I owe some brutal honesty to my husband. Honesty about my heart and my failings and my struggles.

I can be really selfish.  Like most people I imagine myself to be benevolent, supportive, encouraging, loving, etc etc.  I feel that those were the things I have always tried to be.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably.  Often I fail miserably.  Eventually my gaze turns from being all of those great things for someone else to my own needs.  The things I believe I "deserve" and am "owed."  I am a largely confident and independent person, so I can go a decent amount of time in "selfless mode" and be ok.  For the most part I am able to meet my own needs, and I try to rely on Jesus to meet them.  But everyone has a breaking point.  Maybe the fault is my own.  Maybe I'm never really vulnerable enough from the get-go so it's easy to forget that I can be... maybe my difficulty lies in expressing my needs or the things I long for.  At least while they are manageable and before they lead to situations where I am bombarding my loved ones with very strongly spoken needs when I can no longer sustain myself without help, without tenderness from another, without someone taking care of me.  Bottled up, pent up, messed up feelings bubble over seemingly out of nowhere.  I'm sure it's overwhelming.

I've come to realize that my self sufficiency isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It's really just crappy pride. It's ok to need someone else and let them know they are needed.  It's not weakness.  But I still struggle with that.  It feels like weakness.

I hate being weak.

The problem is, and here's where it gets really muddy and confusing.  Trust me, I don't even understand myself.  I'm not just saying that...

I long for someone to invite me to be weak.

Confused yet?  Yep.  I imagine that my poor husband was too.

Let me try to break this down.  It's not going to make much sense.  Sorry.

I want to be able to be weak.

But I don't want to say it out loud to anyone.  It feels pathetic and shameful and for whatever reason, my damn pride wouldn't just let me say "I struggle with letting someone else be the strong one.  I feel like it always has to be me.  People tell me I'm "strong" often enough that it feels as if to be anything otherwise would somehow be wrong.  But it's so lonely and tiring to be "strong" all of the time.  All I've ever really wanted was for someone to look me in the eyes and tell me that I could rest with them.  That I could lay some of my burdens down and that they would gladly take them up when they started to feel too heavy.  That they wanted to be strong for me so that I didn't have to be.  Not all of the time.  That I could never be everything to everyone, and that's ok.  That I shouldn't feel that I have to be."

So when he couldn't read my mind, and my damn pride wouldn't let those words flow out of me, and I just got so tired, I retreated into myself.

I wish I hadn't done it.  It was lonely, and it made him feel lonely.  I see it now.  I just couldn't see it then.  Pride has a way of obscuring the truth.  Of making our sins and our brokenness and our weaknesses feel like something we have to hold onto for dear life.

The devil has really perfected that tactic.  Why didn't I see it?  (Now there I go again- that's my pride talking.  I didn't see it because in order to grow and to change and to mature you have to go through the fire.  I wasn't born all knowing?  Nope.  No, self, you were not.  Now stop it.)

I could go on and on and on about all of the ways I hate my pride.  The ways I hate pride in general. You could read for hours and I'm sure I would barely begin to scratch the surface of how awful and isolating and shattering pride is.

Let's look at it this way; if love is a bridge between two people, pride is the wind and the rain and the perpetual heavy-traffic and erosion.  At first it doesn't do structural damage to the bridge.  Maybe it's some cosmetic scratches and dings and dents, but you look at the bridge's supports and you know you're doing ok.  Maybe you patch the pot holes that start to pop up, maybe you just live with them as a consequence of time, a natural occurrence.  It is a bridge, after all.  It's going to get some wear and tear. Eventually you stop calling the engineers to inspect your bridge.  You're confident that this bridge was built to last.  This bridge can hold any weight.  Then one day it can't.  A giant semi barrels over this bridge that has been cracked and weather-beaten and fallen into disrepair, and the middle drops out.  The bridge has split into two, and there are only a few possible outcomes.

1. Both parties lay down their pride and don't engage in the futility of laying blame and rebuild that bridge because it's important.  It does important work.  It's harder to rebuild it than it would have been to do some simple repairs throughout the years, but it can be rebuilt.  And it can be built even stronger than it was before.

2.  One party blames the other for the destruction of the bridge.  They level at the other all of the evidence that they can find about how the offending party should have seen the damage that was being done to the bridge, but didn't.  Or they didn't care enough to fix it.  The party being blamed knows they played a part in the destruction of the bridge, but their pride rises up out of feelings of hurt and fear and confusion and no progress is made.  Impasse.  Again, this doesn't have to mean the total destruction of the bridge, simply that the work becomes two-fold.  The bridge must be repaired, but first so must the parties ability to work together for a positive outcome.

3.  Both parties shore up their pride and scream across the ever-growing divide at the other.  No one takes responsibility.  No one picks up the bricks and the stones in order to repair the bridge.  Instead they hurl them at one another until the expanse between them is so wide that it feels impossible that there was ever a bridge there to begin with.

I'm sure you see that there could be plenty of variations, but in the end it all boils down to pride. Freaking, selfish, pointless, death-blow-delivering pride.

Guys, it really doesn't matter who he is in these scenarios.  I can't control his behavior, and as much as I sometimes think I want to, I don't.  I want to be loved freely.  Forgiven freely.  Reached out to freely.  So all I can do is take responsibility for who I am in these scenarios.  And that has proven to be an incredibly difficult and painful task.  One which I have failed at pretty miserably.

I've attempted some rebuilding.  I really have.  It's what I want.  It's what my heart desires completely.  However, if I'm being honest with myself and all of you, I've done a whole lot of screaming and hurling and closing up.  Trying to overcome intense grief and fear and pain to be the person that quietly begins the process of rebuilding regardless of the actions of the other bested me.  I wish it hadn't, but it did.

So here I am, sitting alone at my desk, thinking about how things could have gone differently if I'd just let go of my pride and decided that doing what had to be done to save my marriage was worth more than my ego.  It's a crappy place to be.  And if you learn anything from me, learn this-

It isn't worth it.  Pride isn't worth it.  It never is, no matter how loudly it screams at you from the dark places of your heart.  Squash it.  Pray for the death of it.  Tell the devil where he can shove his contemptible sin.  Because love is worth everything.  I'm telling you this as someone mourning, deeply, the love she has lost.  Love is worth everything.  Be better than me.  Be more humble and gracious than me.  Maybe it won't solve your problems.  Maybe your bridge won't be repaired either. But at least you won't have to struggle with the regret that comes along with the destruction pride brings.

At least your heart won't harden and require reviving.

Of all the things I regret, of all the things I blame for the destruction of the one thing I held more dear than anything else, no matter how imperfectly, I regret letting pride get the better of me.  It has been a costly lesson.  The price is higher than I ever wanted to pay, and the regrets that will linger because of that will be pretty hard to get over.

Choose love, guys.  More than I did.  Choose humility and empathy and grace.  More than I did.  If all my messy brokenness helps one person find the strength to let Jesus flow through them in weakness and meekness and humility, then at least something good has come out of this.

Choose love.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Love Note to the Broken Hearted

This is a love note for the broken hearted.  The ones betrayed and abandoned, broken and misused. This is a sonnet for the lonely and exhausted, the ones with swollen red eyes and empty hearts.

You're not invisible.

He sees you.  He knows.

You're not crazy.

He is not fooled by the confidently spoken lies of another, or the manipulative games.

You're not alone.

He is with you, and He is enough.  He's so much more than enough.  Everything good comes from Him.  Everything.  And He will never, ever, ever, ever, ever leave you or forsake you.

Your tears are not shed in secret.

He weeps with you.  He mourns with you.  He suffers with you.  He also whispers hope and life and comfort to your heart.  Not one tear falls from your eyes that He does not see.  Not one.

Your grief is not too much for Him.

He is no stranger to grief.  He was despised and rejected.  He was mocked and crucified.  He bore the sins and shame of those who hated Him while He himself was blameless.  Your grief will not break Him.  His arms are strong.  He will carry you and never tire.

You will not be broken by this.

He is for you.  His left hand is upholding you.  He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.  He will be what you need.  And then some.

Press into the one who is worthy of all love and adoration.  He has you.  He really does.  No matter how bleak and terrible and heart-shattering things seem right now, He will not let the waters overtake you.  He loves you.  So much.  So much more than any mortal man ever could or will.  He has good things for you.  He is a God that loves to fashion beautiful things out of the wreckage of sin and evil. He is masterful at this kind of creation.

And He loves you.  Unceasingly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Work Together for Good

I've been thinking a lot lately about Romans 8:27-28.

"Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

When I used to read those verses it meant that God was going to make sure that everything would work out well in my life, that, at the end of the day, everything would turn out ok.  Perhaps it was that mindset that kept me in denial about the reality of my situation for months.

Everything is going to work out.  It will be ok.  God will bring good from this.

When I would read this verse before, I was leaving out one key truth- people are sinful.  Because people are inherently sinful and filled with evil, even things that are God-ordained and meant to be inherently good can be, and all too often are, corrupted.  A father leaves his family, a child is killed by a drunk driver, a spouse commits adultery, and on and on and on...  In reading this verse I was too often tempted to view God as one who would just sweep up the mess, make sure that we didn't get too out of line, and shout loudly in the face of his rebellious and wayward children.  Surely God will work all things for good by imposing His divine will, right?

If the last few months have taught me anything, it's that God won't impose anything on us.  He won't impose His humility on me when I am lashing out in anger and pain.  He won't impose His purity on my words that are hurtful and crass.  He won't impose forgiveness upon someone steeped in bitterness and resentment.  He won't impose repentance on the unrepentant.

Sometimes the fact that He won't impose what is right on us really ticks me off.  I mean, I'm suffering!  Come on, Daddy, help me!  Clean up this mess that is my life, because I can't figure out how to!  And seriously, that person that has wronged me- make them sorry.  Make them repentant, Lord.  Make them see the sinful and evil nature of their ways.  Easy fix it, Daddy.  I want an easy fix.

Here's the thing.  God isn't promising that things will work out the way we want them to in Romans 8, simply that He will work all of it for good.  Now, it's become painfully clear that my idea of good is often in conflict with my Heavenly Father's idea of good.

Me- fix my marriage, God!  Bring my family back together.  Bring healing and reconciliation.  Help us love better.

God- I can't make either of you do anything, and I won't.  Your hearts can't go through real change or growth or redemption if I sweep all of this under the rug.  Lean on me.  That way, even if all of this falls apart at your feet, you will know that you are secure on the one thing that cannot be shaken- ME.  I know you want love, sweet daughter, I know you want someone to see your heart for all that it is- the good, the bad, and the ugly- and still choose you.  To still love you.  To still tell you you are worthy and beautiful. So open your eyes, my child, because I AM all of those things.  I chose you while you hated me.  I loved you while you spat on me.  I saw you then and I see you now, and you are beautiful and worth all of the pain and the sacrifice and the laying down of my Son's life.  You are worth while and loved so intensely.  Look to me.  Look to me.  I will be the good.  I will be the love.  I will be the strong arms that hold you and let you fall apart.  Look to me.  I've got you and I am never ever ever going to leave you.

Me- Ok, God, that is all well and good, and I want you to be all of those things.  So can you fix my marriage now?  Can you just help me to be whatever it is that he needs me to be so he will love me? Can you just make him see sense and tell him that what he is doing is wrong?

God- I know you're hurting, Copper.  I know you are grieving.  But you have a lot that you need to let me work on in you.  You have to stop worrying about all of the things that I need to do in him.  His time will come.  Maybe not as soon as you like- maybe too late for things to be made whole- but that's not something that you can control, so just let me take it.  Maybe your life won't look the way you dreamt it would.  Maybe you will have to know the sting of loss.  But here's the thing- that's not the end of your story.  I won't let that be the end-all.  I'm going to do works in you that are going to be so good.  And you can't see all that I can.  Your life still holds so much beauty and possibility. Just trust me.  Lean into me.  I AM the good.  I AM enough.  

So maybe my life is going to play out a little differently than I'd hoped.  Ok, maybe a lot differently. Maybe not.  That's the thing- I don't know.  But I do know that God will work it all for good.  Even if it's not necessarily my good.  Maybe my pain will bring help and hope and healing to someone down the road.  Maybe God will use all of this to shape me and mold me and give me the voice He wants me to have.  To speak life to someone that feels like they are dying.  I don't know.  I do know that He's got this.  And that I'm weak, so I am going to have to remind myself over and over and over that He has it all under control.  He's got this.  He's got me.  He is good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


A prayer for the broken hearted, the weary, the grieving, and the scared.

In the midst of darkness, Lord you are always the light.  You always break in.  You illuminate the truth, cause the devil to flee, and bring hope.  Help us to look to you.  Help us to see even the tiniest pin-prick of your light in every situation.  You are sovereign.  You are truth.

In times of great sorrow, you weep with us, Lord.  You carry our burdens.  You feel them as though they are your own.  Because we are your own.  You weep with those who weep.  You mourn with those who mourn.  You ache with those who ache.  We are never alone in the enormity of it all.  You are with us.  Help us feel your closeness.  Help our hearts to stay soft and open.  Help us lean into you in our distress, for you alone are true comfort.

In times of trials you stand beside us, Lord.  You lead us, and your right hand upholds us.  When we lose our temper, scream words of hate in our anger, or stew in unforgiveness, you gently bring correction.  You whisper your words of truth, of humility, and bring our heart back into agreement with yours.  When injustices are committed against us, you are our defender, our voice, our justification.  Help us grow in meekness and humility.  Help us understand that in our silence we give you space to be loud.

When evil is done to us, you are never idle, Lord.  You always create something good out of the ashes.  You redeem the wrongs and bring beauty and life.  It may not look the way we want it to, it may take more time than we'd like, it may not feel like good in the moment, but you are faithful.  You are the creator of beauty, the author of life.  You will work all things for good for those who love you because your word is true.  You never lie.  And you have promised good for those who love you.  Not easiness.  Not prosperity.  Not riches or wealth.  But good.  Help us see and desire your good.

When everything feels like it is crashing down at our feet, help us rejoice, because we have the only treasure that matters.  We have you, and you are all we need.  You are our portion.  You are our reward.  Help us to praise you as our idols crumble and we are able to see, once again, that our hopes and our dreams and our lives are so much better when you are what we treasure.  Loosen our grasp on the things of this world that are keeping us from you, knowing that if you will be glorified through it, you can place the things we were gripping so tightly back into our hands.

Lord, no matter what happens, let us be able to say in all truth that it is well with our souls.  As long as you are with us, it is well.

Remake us into your image more and more.  Let love and compassion, long-suffering and grace, forgiveness and mercy flow out of these places of desperation and pain.  Replace all that is broken and dead within our hearts with more of you.

Be near to all who are bowed low.  Be our hope.  Be our strength.  Be our light.  Be our love.  Be our song.  Because you are enough.

You are enough.