Thursday, October 2, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 4

{If you have missed previous posts included in this series of On Being Divorced, you can find them by clicking here.  Blessings!}

God's Mercies are New Every Morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."


There's a promise to hang onto if I ever heard one.

Now, I'm not saying that mornings were easy -- far from it.  Many mornings I awoke with my stomach plummeting to my feet.  In fact, waking up was so painful that I hated to go to bed because I knew what would happen upon waking.  I usually stayed up so late that I only went to bed because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and I didn't want my children to wonder why mom never slept in her bed anymore.

Unfortunately, staying up late wreaks havoc with all your circadian rhythms, metabolism, the body's ability to heal . . . Of course, usually things look worse at night when you are all alone, with no one to pick you up off the floor (or the ceiling) or up and out of the shower you've been crying under for three hours. 

I'm just sayin'.  And I'm not exaggerating.

A-hem.

Life got easier when I plowed through the initial shock of waking up and began to focus on the blessings in my life.  Did it make the piles of paperwork go away? No.  But I could face the piles with a renewed strength.  Did it keep me from constantly reliving the day he informed me he wanted a divorce?  Yeah, um, not even a little.  Did it make comforting my crying children any easier? Yes, it did actually, because I could help them refocus too.

Knowing that God had faithfully carried me to that point, reaffirmed my belief that He would give me whatever I needed to get through the day.  I didn't always do it prettily or gracefully or without mistakes, but sometimes just surviving is good enough for that day.  May I say that again?

Sometimes, just surviving the day, is okay.

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

It'd be nice.  Makes less work for us.  But it just ain't so.  You may scab over, stop sobbing and be able to talk about your divorce without wanting to punch the nearest wall, but that doesn't mean you are healed.  Anger and bitterness still need to be confronted, analyzed and then put away in order to move through grieving process.  The depression and bargaining steps still need to be waded through before you reach a modicum of acceptance.  Take the opportunity to learn what you can during each step so you can assimilate it and move forward.  That may have sounded trite, but believe me I know it's not -- I earned every bit of that myself. 

There will be days you feel you have been hurled back to square one.  It won't really be square one, but it will feel like it.  You will have dealt with anger and then something pops up and before you know it: up rears the ugly, green head once again.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

 I remember praying for just one day that wouldn't be steeped in frustration.  It was a long time coming, but it did reach me.  Some days I prayed to get through the next hour without thinking of my former husband.  After that happened, I prayed for an afternoon without thinking of him.  And on and on it went.  As soon as I hurtled over one small obstacle, I started praying for the next.  Usually, my prayers consisted of one word:  "Jesus."  And I prayed it a lot.  Multiple times a day, whispering His name and knowing He heard me.  He knew my heart's cry better than I could ever express it anyway.

I would have a great day and the next three would be horrific.  Then I was able to string two good days together and then three.  It is possible.  It's not easy.  It will feel like your life-strength is draining away from you, but you can do it.

So, if time doesn't heal the wounds, what does?  One answer:  Only God can truly heal.  If you've been through a divorce or are going through one now, the healing that occurs is because of Him -- whether you acknowledge it or not.  Take it from someone who's tried it both ways:  Acknowledging it is a much better way to live.

Yes, we were created strong and resilient, but we were never created to have to endure these kinds of hardships.  What God created in those seven days were perfect, complete, without blemish.  But sin wheedled it's way in, causing us to have to go through much more than we were meant to go through.  Divorce is not what He wants for us.  But He is sovereign enough and good enough and loving enough to make good come from our heart break. 

I can't promise that your former spouse will one day do a 180*.  But good can come out of your situation.  You might have to practice looking for it.  And then again, you may be so tuned into God that you recognize His love as it pours down upon you.  Let it rain, baby.

Let It Rain!

His mercies are new every morning and His compassions do not fail.  He is in the mending hearts business.  In fact, it's His main business, if we get right down to it.

And for that, I am truly joyful,


Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 3

(If you missed the earlier installments you can click here to get caught up.  Thanks!)

Living Divorced is Harder Than Getting Divorced

Getting divorced is tough. There are lawyers, emotions and poor choices that you must juggle.  And not all of them belong to you.  It seems unfair that the one going through the divorce must come to grips with and plow through other people's legal decisions, emotions and poor life choices at the same time.  When there are children involved, the whole thing becomes even more complicated.  I found that there were days that I had to put myself in a time out now and again just to feel and process.  And cry.  Every so often, I would allow myself a good, hearty cry and then strengthen back up to face the rest of the day or the week or the month.  There were cries of sadness, frustration, anger and even happiness.  It's important to acknowledge and feel those times.

After the ink has dried and the papers are filed, there are many unexpected nuances of change and adjustment that occur.  Sometimes it will feel like an avalanche of changes.  Sometimes it will feel like small incremental tweaks to your daily routines and expectations.  And if you are anything like me, then the small incremental changes often seem just as heartbreaking as the big ones.

This is why it is so important to purpose to not make any big decisions or sudden moves until the dust has long settled.  It's easy to make life changes to reflect the new you or to combat the emotional reactions to pain.  Yes, this includes everything from drastically changing your appearance (read as tattoos, piercings etc), tossing your wedding ring into a bonfire, destroying possessions left behind by your former spouse, jumping into a new romance, or moving out of your family home.  I am not suggesting that these things are bad in and of themselves -- well, maybe destroying the other person's things isn't so smart. I am saying that decisions like these are easy to make and easier to regret later. 

Of course, the exact timing of when to make drastic changes is different for everyone because everyone is different when it comes to the grieving process.  Contemplating a big change?  Wait a week or two, gain counsel from someone far enough from the situation to be helpful but close enough to be sympathetic. I am fairly certain that waiting causes fewer regrets in the long run.

I wanted to get rid of my wedding ring set immediately.  I could hardly stand to look at it even while I was still obligated to wear it.  In fact, I took it off and put it back on several times throughout my separation and the actual divorce proceedings.  It had gone from a symbol of love and security to one of hope (that we would be reconciled) to an albatross.  I justified getting rid of it by my fear of financial struggles..  I waited anyway.  Since God has provided in many ways and finances have not been as big of a worry as I feared.  I still have my ring set.  I am not sure what I am going to do with it and since it's in a jewelry box tucked away, I don't even have to think about it for the most part.  I don't regret it sitting in my box.  I may have regretted selling it

Do you know that many people change their signature after a tragedy?  I don't mean that women just go back to their maiden name, though that certainly happens.  I am talking about the way they sign their name to documents.  They make their letters differently or spacing between letters change.  They may add a middle initial where before they ignored that initial.  Or perhaps the signature suddenly shows up with more loops or more angles.  It's often a subconscious attempt to distance themselves from the situation they are going through.

I know this is true for me.  I cross my sevens (and for awhile my zeroes) military style where as I would have never thought of it before getting divorced.  I tried out several new styles of signatures -- some with my maiden name and some with my married name. 

The struggle over the decision to keep my married name or go back to my maiden name was a real one.  I no longer wanted to be identified through my former husband.  I was embarrassed with and ashamed of him.  But I did want to be identified with my children.  In the end, I decided that my revulsion over keeping my former husband's name was trumped by keeping that link with my children.  It may not have been a significant decision in my children's eyes and then again perhaps one day it will be.  For me, it was monumental.  They'd had enough separation -- physical and emotional.  I didn't want to take the chance that severing that tie would become an issue later.

This next statement is not designed to hurt any of my former family members and I am only making it so as to be as transparent as possible:  I felt my last name had been so sullied by my former husband's actions, that it needed to be redeemed.  I felt like I could and should be the person that God could do that through -- for myself and for my children's sake.  I am not claiming to have done everything perfectly.  Please understand that I am well aware of my short comings. Former family members have also allowed God to use them in very wonderful and practical ways.  By their actions, they have been used by God to redeem our last name also.  God has been gracious and I no longer am ashamed to carry my married name.  If I had gone with my initial desire to retake my maiden name, I am certain I would regret it now.  Should there be a remarriage in the future, of course, I would change my last name to that of my new husband. 

And that change, along with many others, would mark a change of joy -- a memorial stone of God's grace.

Counting it all joy,
This is where you can find all the installments of the series

On Being Divorced

part one It's Not Him (or Her) It's You.

part two  You May Lose Great Friends and It Won't Be Your Fault and You May Lose Great Friends And It Will Be Your Fault.


part three  Living Divorced is Harder than Getting Divorced

part four  God's Mercies Are New Every Morning and Time Does Not Heal All Wounds.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 2

(If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here. Stay tuned for further installments.  Thanks!)

You May Lose Great Friends And It Won't Be Your Fault

It's sad but true.  For many reasons.  And each of them will hurt and bring the sting of your divorce back around all over again.

Remember when your friends started getting married and you were still single?  All of a sudden you became aware of subtle changes in those relationships.  It was a bit bewildering, wasn't it?  Well, many times that same kind of thing happens when a divorce occurs.  Suddenly, no one knows how to proceed in a relationship with the one who has gotten a divorce.  Especially if they have not walked the road of divorce themselves.  As difficult as it may be, we have to give those people room to be uncomfortable as they try to figure out to how to proceed.  Once they realize that we are willing to give grace for their mistakes or discomfort or whathaveyou, and they are willing to give us grace to grieve and rage and be incredibly sad, then things will get better.

On the other hand, you may get ignored or shunned.  And hurtful as it is, we need to give people room to make the choice of dropping their relationship with us altogether.  Their actions may be out of a sense of loyalty to your former spouse.  Perhaps family solidarity comes into play (this not a Biblical response when sin is involved, but then again we cannot expect non-believers to respond Biblically).  Some forego continuing the relationship with you out of a sense of self-preservation.  You may find that some relationships, once valuable, need to be discontinued because it wreaks havoc with your other relationships or just surviving from one day to the next.

Taking Sides
Of course, when you mix in the added twist of who takes the side of whom, things get exponentially harder.  Not taking sides affirms the offender and offends the one who has been betrayed.  Taking sides always feels like a betrayal to someone.  Especially to the spouse that has been wronged and/or doesn't want the divorce.  Always to the spouse that has been wronged.  When there is a clear victim and others side with the victimizer, for whatever reason, drop them.  DROP THEM LIKE THEY'RE HOT BABY. There is never EVER a good reason to side with the one who has betrayed the other spouse. EVER. I have heard all the arguments and I emphatically restate my position:

THERE IS NEVER A GOOD REASON TO SIDE WITH THE BETRAYER.  EVER.

Not from a Biblical standpoint.  When proper, Biblical repentance is shown by the betrayer, then the situation warrants a different set of actions to take place.  Relationships can possibly be renewed on that basis.  But not until that happens.

You may argue that rarely is it one person's fault that a divorce has taken place. It does happen.  Many times there are clear victims.  Many times one partner just opts out of the relationship, even admitting that the divorce is not the fault of the other.

That is not to say that there aren't things each wouldn't change about the marriage if they could.  There are things I would have done differently, for sure.

You May Lose Great Friends And It Will Be Your Fault

This has hit home to me more recently and I am still dealing with the chagrin I feel surrounding the occurrence.  Some one that I hold in very high esteem recently made a decision that I felt would cause the end of our friendship.  Instead of asking the person directly, I pulled on the vest of betrayal and cried foul.  You read that correctly: I took on the burden of feeling like my friend was siding with my former husband when that was not his intention at all.  It is difficult to not allow divorce to color how we view each person and each situation we  come across.  But we must try.  I think this is what is meant by not allowing divorce to define us.

My friend could have continued in the same vein of anger and hurt in response to my reactions of hurt and anger.  Which would have allowed me to feel justified in further hurt and hurtful responses.   And on and on it could have gone.  Instead, my friend showed me graciousness and tried to help me understand his position.  This reminded me to put aside emotion and see things from his point of view.  In the end, our views differed regarding the initial decision made by my friend, but we remain friends because we put aside the emotion of the situation long enough to try to understand one another.  May I suggest that this may be a more difficult task for women whom God created to be relational?  Some see that as a negative aspect to our beings, but it doesn't have to be when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.

On a Side Note
Personally, for a long time, I held onto relationships that I should have let go gracefully.  I felt as though I was losing so much through the divorce already, that I couldn't bear losing more relationships, so I hung on to them too long.  Now that I have had time to reflect I see that it just isn't possible to keep close relationships that do not support us (as Christians) or do not hold a Biblical worldview.  I don't mean we should shun non-believers; we should still love them as Christ would.  But we, as Christians, have to remain a peculiar people - set apart from the world so that He can be glorified.  Some relationships don't allow us to do that and we have to view them differently.

It behooves each of us to be gracious in navigating through the after effects of divorce.  Give as much grace as you would like to be shown.

Counting it all joy,

Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 1


This blog post has been knocking around in my head for some time. I have finally committed to getting it down on paper – er, the blogoshere. My hope is that by sharing my experience and what I have learned I may be able to help someone else still in the throes of divorce and dealing with the after shocks of living divorced. Stay tuned for subsequent posts in this series.

It's not him (or her). It's You.

We've all heard the statement “It's not you, it's me” when dating. Or we've said these words to someone else. Some of us even heard these words when divorce was thrust upon us. It's a ridiculous statement designed to try and make the offended person feel less offended. The fact is, it's a crappy statement regardless of motivation.

However, when it comes to God, there is a twist on the statement that is infallibly true: It's not him (or her), it's you that God wants to change. Well, God may want to change him (or her) too, but that part of it is not your concern right now – or perhaps ever. For months during my separation I would hear a sermon, a song, an appropriate meme on FB and would think, “If only M--- were here to hear this! He needs this!” I just knew that if my former husband had heard those same words, then his life would be changed and he'd realize what a horrible mistake he was making, repent and reconcile with me and the kids.

Um. No. Not so much.

Even if he'd heard those words, it wasn't going to happen. Not for our family anyway. But I was the one sitting in that pew listening to the sermon. I was the one driving while hearing the song on the radio, not my former husband. So I was the intended audience. God was trying to get a hold of my heart. I was the one who had to learn that lesson, be encouraged, exhorted or challenged. Wishing he was there only made me more frustrated. So, I had to re-frame my thinking. Focus on what God was trying to tell me and forget (for the time being) about M---. I was never really responsible for him anyway.

It's you that God wants to change, refine, beautify and bring Himself glory. His desire for your former spouse is to experience the same, but you (and I) cannot be concerned with that. We need to be too busy working on ourselves to worry about the other half of the former marriage. 

I used to think that getting divorced was about my former spouse and how he had betrayed me, but that gave him way too much power over my life.  For the short term and in the long run. It also didn't give God enough credit. Yes, there is hurt, betrayal, anger, denial, yelling, crying – the works. And yes, those things need to be worked through. I am not minimizing that aspect of divorce. I am merely suggesting that there is a greater frame of reference that needs to be kept in mind. And that is that for some reason, God has allowed this, don't give this experience permission to be wasted. Nothing happens to us without first passing through God's hand. His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). The Palm of the One who holds us and from which no man can pluck us (John 10:28).

Those are tremendous words of encouragement.

Instead of viewing your divorce as a negative milestone in the timeline of your life, view it instead as a memorial stone of how God worked a miracle in your life (Remember how the Israelites pulled stones from the midst of the Jordan river after wandering in the wilderness for 40 yrs?  God told them it was to be a memorial so when their children asked about the stones, they could recount the miracles God had shown them).  We both know that getting through a divorce and becoming better for it IS indeed a miracle.  Not everyone who goes through divorce comes out better for it -- some just get bitter.  It's tough not growing bitter.  I couldn't do it on my own.  I needed the Creator's hand guiding and when I couldn't see His hand, I needed to trust His heart.  Trusting is a miracle in and of itself sometimes.

What man intends for evil, dear one, God means for good. It may sound like a hollow platitude to someone in the throes of agony, but take it from one who determinedly dug her fingernails into that Heavenly Hand and clung to it for dear life. God, hating divorce, has still allowed this and he intends it for your good. It's up to you to receive it or reject it.

I can assure you, receiving His good for yourself is far, far greater of a way to live than the alternative.

I can barely believe I am actually able to say this, but I am counting the outcome of my divorce as joy,


Verse of the Day