Monday, August 30, 2010

The Puzzle of Healing

The most perplexing thing lately for me to ponder is, "Where am I going with my life?" For twenty-one years I have not had to ask that question. While I never knew exactly where we would be, I had the general idea of what my life would look like. That has all changed. I have no earthly idea what life will look like in five years or even five months. About all I can tell you is what the next five days will look like.

Last night I was thinking how this whole process of healing is like a puzzle. What is the first thing that one must ALWAYS do when putting together a puzzle? You have to start by finding the outside pieces and making the frame. In order for this journey to be a successful and fulfilling one, my life must be framed by God's Word and His direction in my life.

Once the frame is together, then the inside pieces begin to fall into place. What are some of those pieces?

Those two crazy, beautiful, smart, funny and sometimes irritating girls in my life. They are without a doubt the biggest part to the puzzle. They make me happy. It is that simple. I have enjoyed them so much, and I thank God that they fill in just the right spots of the puzzle.

My friends. They love me through and through. I was sick last weekend and had to go to the doctor while I was in Slapout. It is always odd when I have to list the emergency contact. I always pause and wonder whom I should put. When I had to fill in that part of the form Saturday, I didn't even get sad! I just remember thinking how thankful I am that I have emergency contacts not only where I live, but also in all of our traveling locations!

My family. When I need them, they are there. I remember calling my brother on March 6 at 2:00 a.m. and saying, "How in the world am I going to do this?" He said, "Babe, we are gonna get through it together."

People who have already walked their own Unplanned Journey of Divorce. I thank God for each and every one of these individuals in my life. They have helped me navigate the murky waters through the last few months. Since they know the path well, they can forewarn me of the dangers and pitfalls, and they help me to see the glimpses of sunlight that are beginning to show through the darkness. Many times I would have been helplessly lost on the journey had I not had great friends who have already walked it to show me the way.

According to Wikipedia, a jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of numerous small, often oddly shaped, interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when finished, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture.

I am still working on my puzzle. I have a feeling that I will be for a while. For now, I will do two things. I will remember to keep God as the frame, and I will pray for the wisdom and perception to know when the perfectly fitting pieces are laid out for me. One day the picture will be complete, and it will be beautiful!

Footnote (added after the first comment!)
I left out a very big piece of the puzzle! How in the world could I have forgotten my wonderful students??? There is nothing worse than spending hours putting a puzzle together and end up missing a few pieces. Well, I have to say that without my students I would be missing MANY pieces, and the picture would be far from complete. It is very true that they have been a great part of my healing. They make me laugh, and at the same time they teach me patience! I told one of my classes this morning, "I love my job. I really look forward to getting up and coming to see all of you and teach you every day. I just wish that I didn't have to see you at 7:15 in the morning. 10:30 would be much better!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

When Prayers Are Not Answered

I heard a song this morning on the way to work. The song was "That's What Faith Can Do" by Kutless. It took me back. Music has the power to do that.

On Thursday, March 5, I was in a counseling session. I had pretty much hit rock bottom. Jason was the love of my life, and here I was facing the possibility that he would no longer be in my life. I was spiraling into the dark place. A good friend came and picked me up from the appointment. The therapist and Jason thought that I needed to go to her house. I went to her house and picked at my dinner. I think I went to bed that night at about 8:00.

I woke up at least every thirty minutes. Every time I woke up, I would hear the words of that chorus echoing in my head.

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

I had prayed so desperately that my marriage would survive. My friends and family were praying with the same desperation. When I kept hearing the words to this song in my mind, I felt as if it would all be okay. I was facing a mountain, but God was going to move it, and my marriage would be saved. I just knew it. That was why that song kept ringing in my ears. It was going to be okay.

The next morning I got up and went to work. I actually felt really good about life. I had a sense that all was well and would work out. That night, Friday, March 6, I found out that my marriage was over. There was no hope for reconciliation. There was nothing I could do. It was over. On my twenty-first anniversary, March 18, 2010, our congregation received a letter saying that their pastor was getting divorced.

Where was God now? I had prayed so hard, and those prayers were not answered. My girls, my family, and my friends had prayed, but it was not to be. My marriage was over. Where could God possibly be in all of this?

I can look back and see that He was right beside me, where He has always been. My prayer did not get answered in the way that I wanted. But there is no doubt that He was there to pick up the pieces of my life and put them back together again.

I had hoped and prayed for my marriage to be saved. It didn't happen. But the words that rolled over and over in my mind on March 5 are just as pertinent for this unanswered prayer.

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

My sky was falling, and my heart was broken, but through faith, I would be okay. I believe that God is "all knowing." I believe that He knew what I was facing. I believe that when the words of this song rolled around in my head that night, it was for what was to come. He was preparing me for the mountains that would lie ahead of me. He was preparing me for the reality that my sky would be falling, but He would be there with my miracle. He was preparing me for a broken heart. But He would be there to see that the broken heart became brand new.

I thought on March 5 that song was rolling around my thoughts to prepare me for reconciliation. This morning I realized that God had placed that song in my mind to prepare me for what He knew I was going to face in the coming months.

The first verse of the song has the following lyrics:

Everybody falls sometimes
Gotta find the strength to rise
From the ashes and make a new beginning
Anyone can feel the ache
You think it’s more than you can take
But you're stronger, stronger than you know

I have a friend that keeps telling me that I am stronger than I know. When I heard the song this morning, I remembered my friend's words. Even when I don't feel it, I know that I am strong, and I will be okay.

I am so thankful that I left just at the time I did this morning. I needed to hear this song. I needed to see what God meant for me that night when I kept hearing those lyrics in my head. I needed to be reminded that God was going to mend my heart. It was not going to happen in the way that I had hoped and prayed for, but it would happen. And I needed to be reminded that I really am stronger than I know!

My prayers were not answered the way that I hoped for, but I still have faith. I still believe that God is in the midst of this chaos and that with time, faith, friends and family, all will be okay.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Remembering HIS Faithfulness

This weekend has had some difficult moments. I am hurting for friends who are going through difficult valleys. I am a bit overwhelmed at running a household and starting a new school year. But the biggest emotional mountain I am facing is my older daughter starting her senior year. That is one of those bittersweet milestones in a parent's life anyway. But compounded with the circumstances that we are currently dealing with makes it even more emotional. I have a tradition for the week that school starts back. For years now the girls have gotten "back to school" surprises every morning during the first week of school. They are just small things, much like stocking stuffers. They always include a special note from "Mom and Dad." This year they will still get the surprises, but some will be from Mom and some will be from Dad. None will be from "Mom and Dad." I know that seems like an insignificant thing. But it is all those little things in divorce that you don't prepare yourself for that seem to hit you the hardest.

Needless to say, I found myself in the "shadows" this weekend. I haven't been back to the dark place, and I hope to never go there again, but sometimes I do find myself in the "shadows." I am not my normal happy self. But just like the dark place, I cannot stay there! I have talked with several friends over the weekend who have been so kind and helpful. Last night, when I found myself feeling blue, I went to a good friend's house and ate fried okra. Nothing else, just fried okra. Another friend came over to her house about 10:00 after she got her little boy to sleep. She is so talented, and she sang several beautiful songs for us. I really felt better.

However, today, I found myself moving back into the shadows. The girls are both shopping for the final pieces for their back-to-school outfits, and I have had some alone time. I ran to pick up a final "back to school" surprise. As I was coming home and turning in to my subdivision, I had an epiphany. I was feeling sad and overwhelmed. I guess you could say that I was having a "pity party." At that moment, God spoke something to my heart. It was not an audible voice, but rather a thought that I had. Sometimes when you have certain thoughts, you know that there is NOWHERE on earth that it could have come from except God. That was what I experienced today.

"Have I not always taken care of you and worked things for your best interest, even when you thought they were not? Remember when I placed you at Central?"

When I decided to go back into the classroom, I was offered a teaching job at Central High School. I was so glad to have the opportunity, but when I got there, I was not happy. It was nothing against the school. It was just that I missed being in the same school with my girls. In time, however, I came to love that school and those students. By the end of my first year, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that this was where I was supposed to be.

I looked forward to going back for my second year. We had such a good year. I had the opportunity to work with the students academically. We made huge strides this year. If you will allow me to brag a little, we are an "A" school. It was also a year of continuing to build relationships with the students and being able to help mentor them through some of life's difficulties. The greatest blessing for me, as I wrote in an earlier blog, was that being with those students at Central School every day helped me through a very difficult time in my life.

It was where I was supposed to be. There is no doubt about that. So when I had the "God thought" earlier today about being at Central, I remembered that He has always held me in the palm of His hands. He has always taken care of me and placed me just where I needed to be. He has always been faithful to me. All I have to do is look back over my life, and I can see His hand everywhere. I trust that He has an amazing future for me and my girls, and He will put us just where we need to be. He has done it before, and He will do it again.

Joshua 23:14
“Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In God's eyes, we are keepers!

Rejection. One cannot mention divorce without acknowledging rejection. According to Wikipedia, the word "rejection" was first used in 1415. Its original meaning was "to throw" or "to throw back." I think about fishing. When the fish doesn't measure up, it gets thrown back. It was not good enough. It was not a keeper.

I guess I was not a keeper. My mind has gone in a thousand circles, asking myself what I could have done differently. I ask myself the deep, contemplative questions. "Was I too controlling?" I then move to the more ridiculous questions. "Do I have bad breath?" I nitpick every part of my personality and body apart until I am left with a list of all the things that could possibly be wrong with me. I allow myself to become completely absorbed with the "list of wrongs." I think about those things long enough that I begin to wonder if there is anything good about me. At that point, I start thinking that it is no wonder he does not want me.

Tonight was orientation at the school where I currently teach. I have taught at the school for two years now, so I know many of the students very well. I know some of their stories. Many of them have experienced rejection. Some have experienced it through high school crushes. Others didn't make the athletic team they tried out for, or they didn't get the position for which they hoped. However, a few have experienced the ultimate tragedy of being rejected by a parent. I have students who, in their very young years, have traveled roads that I have never gone anywhere near in my forty-two years on this earth.

I love these students. When I look at them, I see beyond their scars and imperfections. I know that some will come in some days and give me that look that says, "This is the last place that I want to be, and you are the last person I want to see." Others will come in some days and accuse me of being the most unfair teacher in the school. But still I love them. Why? Because I look beyond their imperfections, and I see their hearts. I believe that every single one of them has a good heart. Some just have that goodness buried a little deeper than others.

When I walked in tonight, two of the first students that I saw were ones who have traveled some of those difficult roads of life. They have had more than their fair share of valleys in their short lives. They have been rejected in life at times by the very people who should have loved and cherished them. Did they deserve to be discarded? Absolutely not. They are wonderful and gifted children of God. They are not perfect, but they certainly never, ever deserved to be thrown back. They were keepers! I have watched them grow over the last two years. They are moving beyond the hurt and pain of rejection in their lives. I know that they, along with many of my other students, are going to do great things in their lives. It is my privilege and honor to watch them as they achieve some of these great accomplishments in life.

I thought about this when I got home last night. It would break my heart if these students sat around and thought of nothing but their imperfections. I want them to know that they are special, they are loved, and they deserve the very best in life. They are a keepers!

I started thinking about my own life. I have a Father above and family and friends below who think I am a keeper. They know that I am far from perfect, but they see the good in me, and they love me for that. I am still striving toward being all that Christ calls me to be, but I will not allow the enemy to constantly bombard me with thoughts of inadequacy and insecurity. So here is what I am going to do. I am going to lay my "list of wrongs" before my Heavenly Father. There are some things on the list with which I truly need to deal. But I am going to ask Him to help me sort through and find the ones on which He and I need to work. I will seek Him to help me overcome those traits in my life that do not point others toward Him.

We are all traveling on some sort of "Unplanned Journey." We must remember that no matter how we feel, God still loves us, and to Him, we are keepers!

Psalm 139:13-14 (New International Version)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Today is Her Day

Just over seventeen years ago, God brought my first child into my life. From the minute I laid eyes on her, I realized that my life was no longer my own. I knew this baby girl, and later her sister, would impact everything I did and every decision I made. It was an overwhelming responsibility, but the joy that they brought made it worth every minute.

She was the first grandchild on one side and the first granddaughter on the other side. So needless to say, much time was spent admiring her. Her grandmother taught first grade. She would come home every day and take a shower before coming to see her new granddaughter. She didn't want to spread any germs she had picked up from the school children.

She talked extremely early. I assume it had a little something to do with the fact that most of her life, an adult was in her face. I worked with a youth group at the time. She heard them call me "Amy," and at the ripe young age of thirteen months, she started calling me "Amy" as well. I thought I would never convince her that it was not appropriate for a toddler to call her mother by her first name.

We have often called her a coconut, brown on the outside, but blonde on the inside. She has book sense galore, but the common sense is a little lacking. One time at middle school lunch, there was a sign that said, "Due to vendor shortage, there will be no salad today." She looked at her friend with amazement and said, "Wow, I didn't know the lunchroom got their salad out of vending machines." That's my girl.

She is a friend to everyone. She has the most eclectic group of friends. They come from all walks of life. On a given Saturday night you might find them tie dying t-shirts or maybe watching the latest scary movie. They laugh much and enjoy life.

The one thing that stands out the most about her is her smile. When she flashes that smile at you and you look into those crystal blue eyes, it is as if you can see straight through into to her soul. When I look into that soul, I see a strong, brave young woman. I see someone who is able to take whatever circumstance life brings and rise above it. I see a mature soul that wants to make everything better. If she can't make the situation better, she at least wants to make those around her feel better.

I want this precious child to know that she has a great adventure awaiting her in life. She can go anywhere she wants to go and do most anything she wants to do. She has been a steady rock throughout this Unplanned Journey, but this is her senior year. I want her to enjoy every minute of it and then take life by the reigns and ride wherever it takes her. Her mom is okay. Her sister is okay. We want her to go live this life to its very fullest!

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
Excerpt from Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

This blog has been read, edited and approved by my daughter!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Spice of My Life

God has worked in my life in the most amazing ways to get me to this point in my "Unplanned Journey." Actually, it could be named "Our Unplanned Journey." Neither one of the girls wanted to be traveling the road that they are now on. But they are traveling it with grace and style. Without a doubt God has given me strength through them. I wanted to dedicate the next two blogs to them.

Fifteen and one-half years ago God decided that I needed a little spice in my life! She has been adding flavor to my life in fifty-one varieties ever since! Allow me to describe a few of those flavors to you.

Flavor of Strong Will: When she was just a baby, she would have these screaming fits. She would writhe in unbearable pain. It was heartbreaking. We carried her to one doctor, who referred us to another. Eventually, we wound up at Egleston's Children's Hospital in Atlanta. The only way to find out what was causing the pain was an endoscopy. I will never forget the doctor's response when she came to talk with us afterwards. "Well, maybe she is going to be the first female president." They could find nothing wrong.

She got really good with her little "fits" as she became a toddler. She quickly realized that when she fell down and threw her head on the floor, it hurt. So she would scream, fall in the floor, but stop when her head was about six inches away from hitting. She would gently it lay down and then go back into the "fit." That's my girl! One time she was saying her prayers at night. They went something like this: "Dear God, I am sorry that you made me have a fit today." Then she opened one eye and peeked at me. "Well, I guess He didn't make me have the fit." She closed her eyes. "Dear God. I am sorry that I had a fit today."

There was Easter season when Anna decided that she was going to give up fits for Lent. She was probably about eight. The idea was all hers. We were so excited! Needless to say, that didn't go too well for her. It lasted all of about four hours. You know, sometimes a girl just has to have her fits!

Flavor of Laughter: Without a doubt that girl has made me laugh! She continues to do that until this very day. She is so quick witted. You have to always be ready because you never know what she is going to come up with next. I was sitting with her one night in church when she was about six. Just as her dad was beginning the sermon, she piped up and started singing, "I don't want no scrub, A scrub is s guy that can't get no love from me, Hanging out the passenger's side of his best friend's ride, tryin' to holla at me." As I said, you never knew what would happen.

She does this "Granny from the Bronx" voice that cracks me up every single time that I hear it. I never know when this voice will surface! Many times she has used her laughter to help me feel better. It truly is a gift from God for this special girl. She never uses it to make fun of people, only to brighten the days of others! I thank God for that gift that she shares with me.

Flavor of Compassion: On a more serious note this child has one of the strongest gifts of compassion that I have ever seen in anyone. Everything she feels, she feels deeply and passionately. She will cry for hours if she sees a dead kitten by the road. There have been so many times that she has come home from school concerned about a student in her class that she thought was mistreated. If she thought you needed it, she would give you the shirt off her back.

However, because Anna feels things so deeply, the last few months have been especially difficult for her. My prayer is that in the years ahead, she will be able to use her journey to help others. I know that she has a special purpose on this earth. No doubt she is hurting now. But she is learning how to deal with the hurt and lean on God and friends to get through it. I believe with all my heart that while she is experiencing this pain for a season, God is going to use what she learns through it to help so many people in the future.

My good friend wrote a poem for a student who was struggling. It expresses the idea of God's using the pain we now feel to help others in the future. I want to dedicate it to my baby girl. I know that one day God will take the pain she now feels and eclipse it with love so that she can be a dreamgiver to others.

A Paladin’s song

Dream, my child, dream
Of the searching eyes longing for hope
Of the wounded hearts that you help heal
Of the broken lives mended by your care

Enemies knowing fear will flee
Your pain, eclipsed by love
Hate gives way to friendship

Dream, my child, dream
Of a bastion of love in the sea of suffering
Of a lighthouse of hope piercing the cruel darkness
Of a warm home and a good meal

Hatred's rushing waves will weary
Your path, filled with turmoil
Death gives way to life

Dream, my child, dream
Not of fame or fortune
Not of romance or comfort
Dream to be a dreamgiver

Heroes fighting on will inspire
Your hope, changed their course
Emptiness gives way to love

Take the sword from the stone
Feel the Source flow through
And fight to defend the victims of hate

Benji Pappal

This blog has been read, edited and approved by my daughter!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life Goes On

One of my favorite quotes was penned by Robert Frost. " In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." How simple, yet how profound.

I think that quote is appropriate for today. It is my last official day of summer vacation. And as my sweet grandpa used to say, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, the year will hold many great things for us.

Next Monday I will show up at Central School for a glorious week of pre-planning. I will see all my school teacher friends. There will be stories to tell. We will bemoan all the new statutes that the state tells us we have to put into place. There will be much buzz and excitement over our little country school getting an "A" school grade. But the greatest thing about next week will be the one thing that we all look forward to each year with much anticipation: going out to eat for lunch. For the next nine months we will sit on those little round seats in a noisy lunchroom eating school lunches. So, needless to say, we will savor every moment of our lunch hour with each other. We will return to busy ourselves in the classrooms. New bulletin boards will be in place. The rooms will be in ship shape condition. Life goes on.

The next week the students will appear. I have the joy of getting to teach many of the same students that I taught last year. Some will come bouncing in my room ready to go. "I am so excited to have you again, Ms. Adams." Others will come in reluctantly. "Are you kidding? I am stuck in your math class again?" There will be chatter galore. Stories will be told of who broke up with whom. Others will tell how much trouble they got into. They will complain greatly about having to come back to school. And I will prepare myself to hear the following question at least seventy-two times during the school year: "Why do I have to learn stupid algebra? When will I ever use it in real life?" Yes, life goes on.

My older daughter will be a senior this year. This year will be filled with a myriad of special activities. Next week she will take senior portraits and decorate her crown. (Seniors get to wear crowns on game days.) Homecoming and prom will be greatly anticipated. But it is not just about fun. There will be many scholarship and college applications. She will drag out of bed a few Saturdays in order to take the ACT one more time. There will be research papers to write and many late nights. It will all culminate with graduation next June. Once again, life goes on.

My younger daughter will be a sophomore. This year's schedule for her is going to be tough. I am sure she will have a few late nights as well. She and her friends will be up to much mischief. They are already planning to go as a big group to Homecoming. They will no doubt take at least 51,389 pictures. The year will be well documented! There may even be a few videos. Life goes on.

I will laugh. My crazy girls will make sure of that, and my students will help out as well. There are many great times to be had with great friends. No doubt, there will be countless nights of waiting up until my girls get home. I will watch both of them with wonder as they experience all the joys of the carefree teenage years. There will be up-dos and evening gowns, books and tests. Most assuredly, life will go on, and it will be good!

"One day at a time--this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering" ~ Anonymous

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I Share My Journey

Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

I am opening today with this verse. I have used it before, but I wanted to revisit it. I especially wanted to look at the first line: I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. I have said in earlier blogs that I have made mistakes on this journey. I will be the first to admit that. As the above verse says, I am by no means an expert.

This blog is not intended to hurt anyone. It is not about who is right or wrong in my divorce. I just want to share with others how Christ is helping me through this. I want my girls to know that no matter what happens in life, HE has already so wondrously reached out to us, so all we have to do is reach back to Him. We might not always be able to change our circumstances, but He has the supernatural ability to change us so that we can deal with those circumstances. When we head toward the dark place, if we will just stop and reach out to Him, He is able to give us peace.

Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

He gives me that peace every day of my life, and I am so thankful for it. That is why I am writing this blog. I want to share with others what I have found. No matter what your circumstance or situation, God loves you, and He can and will make it better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rooting Out "Justified" Bitterness

There is no easy way to handle bitterness that is justified. Choices are made that cause us heartache like we have never known. We watch our children suffer as a result of these choices. The bitterness that results from experiencing such intense suffering can root itself deep within our hearts and make a permanent home there. Once this residence is set up, it sends out toxins that permeate our minds, souls and spirits.

I know this kind of bitterness well. I have tasted its poisonous toxins. How am I dealing with this level of bitterness? It is not easy. Some days I would just as soon not deal with it! Yet I know that if the bitterness is allowed to remain, no doubt it will spread.

It reminds me of the kudzu that you see all over the Southeast. I don't see it too much in Florida, but it was abundant in Alabama. As a child, I always thought this plant was pretty cool. In my childish eyes, it looked like a neat blanket lying on the land. (In the picture below, you will see what I am talking about.) But I can remember my dad saying, "You don't want that stuff to get on your land. It will take over." It was originally brought to the states as a gift from the Japanese back in 1876. The problem with kudzu is that the climate in the Southeast is perfect for it, and it grows too well. In the summer months it can grow a foot a day. It climbs trees, power poles, or anything else with which it comes in contact. If the conditions are good, it can grow up to sixty feet in a year. The vines are capable of destroying forest. They take over trees and prevent them from getting sunlight, ultimately leading to their destruction.

In much the same way, if I set up the right climate in my heart, the bitterness will grow and eventually take over. Once it takes over my heart, the Son's light can no longer get in. Then it is only a matter of time before it spreads to my children. I cannot let this happen. I refuse to allow conditions in my heart to create a climate that is conducive to the growth of bitterness.
So what is one to do? We ask Christ to come and take over our heart. If we focus on Him and abide in His love, bitterness will die. It is not easy, but it can be done. Have I dealt with and rid myself of all my bitterness? No. Do I struggle far less with it than I did a month ago? Absolutely. Every day Christ takes over a little more of it, and I know that eventually, the climate of my heart will be such that the bitterness will completely die.

John 15: 5-10 (The Message)

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love."
The following song is one that really speaks to me. I want Christ to set up home in my heart, not bitterness. Please pray for me with this part of my unplanned journey. It is the most difficult part.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Irrevocably Broken

This marriage is irrevocably broken. I still remember the first time that I saw those words on the divorce papers. I just stood there and stared at them for several minutes. This marriage cannot be fixed. No! This cannot be happening. Mine was a good marriage. Mine was a great marriage. This time last year, everything was wonderful and good.

We were a team at church. Last summer, when it was time to get ready for the fourth of July church celebration, Jason did not have anyone to put the event together. He asked me to be in charge of it. I was happy to help. The troops in the church rallied, and the day finally rolled around. There was a great service that celebrated all the different types of church music through the ages, followed by a wonderful covered dish meal with a dessert bake-off by the men. It was a wonderful day, and I was honored to have a part in it.

We were a team at my school. I inherited a very old classroom. It was not exactly the most welcoming place to spend a day. The week before school started, I had the bright idea to paint the room. Here was the problem with that wonderful idea. I had forgotten that most days of pre-planning week are filled with meetings. It was the day of open house, and the room was not even half way finished. I remember calling Jason in a panic. "Give me a couple of hours, and I will be there." He changed his schedule and made time to help me finish painting the room. The last strokes were going up about thirty minutes before the open house. We did it. Together we made it happen.

Finally, we were a team at home. I remember when we had the brilliant idea that we could save $2000 if we put in our own sprinkler system. We did it. We just about killed ourselves, but we worked together and made it happen. We were a team when it came to parenting. When issues with the children would arise, we always presented a united front.

It was a good life. I loved being a part of that amazing team. But somewhere along the way, things changed.

At some point, we went from two people who lived, loved, and laughed together to being irrevocably broken, impossible to fix. It still seems like it happened overnight. I wish I had known that last Christmas would be our last one together, the four of us. I would have treasured every single moment. For those of you who are happily married, never take those precious moments and celebrations for granted.

I wish I were not on this unplanned journey, but I am. I can remember as a child, I loved the see-saw. But here is the thing about the see-saw: once one person decides he no longer wants to play, the game is over. Thinking back on that childhood memory, I can see myself up in the air, feeling like I was on top of the world. My sister was sitting on the ground as she grins mischievously. "Don't do it! Don't you dare!" She does it. She hops off and I go pounding to the ground. Game over. Without her, all I could do was sit there.

When one person checks out of the marriage, it is over. You cannot force someone to stay. He has free will to walk away. So, as much as I don't want to admit it, at that point this marriage is irrevocably broken.

We sign the papers. I get off the see-saw. It is better to move on and find what else God has in store for me than to just sit there, grounded, going nowhere.

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off"
Proverbs 23:18 (New International Version)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I will be okay!

I sang today. I do not mean singing in the car or singing along with the congregation in church. This time I sang solo. It was the first time in almost a year that I have ministered in song in church. I shared with the congregation at Cain's Chapel a song that has carried me through many difficult days. It felt good. It felt right.

Before singing, I referenced Proverbs 3:5. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." In my "Unplanned Journey" I have learned that I cannot "lean on my own understanding." My mind will never be able to wrap around and make sense of this situation. When I start down that mental path, it just leads to an abyss of confusion. I just cannot let myself go there. I must trust the Lord with all my heart and know that He will redeem the situation.

I finally have gotten to the point where I can say, "My girls and I are going to be okay." I am not sure what "okay" is going to look like. I am a planner, and I really want to know, but I cannot. I am just going to have to watch it unfold. It could be a number of things. Maybe I will have a ministry to others struggling with divorce. It could be that I will teach my current students' children at Central years from now. God might have a wonderful person for me with whom I will share the rest of my life. Maybe I will be single the rest of my life. Who knows what my "okay" will be? God does, so I am going to trust Him as I watch it unfold. As I was talking with my sweet, young college friend tonight, I said, "I know whatever God has in store for me, it will be good. It is like waiting for that Christmas present that you know will be just the perfect present."

I face some big hurdles over the next few months. They are far too big for me. For the first time in my life, I am facing situations that I cannot make work out. So what am I going to do? I am going to trust God and know that we are going to be okay. I am going to wait with anticipation for the great things that God has in store for us.

"I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."
John 10:10b (The Message)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yes, God loves this divorced woman!

I was sitting at a stoplight today, and I thought to myself, "I am a divorced woman." Everything has happened so quickly that sometimes I forget this little fact. It doesn't seem like something one could forget. Most of the time I don't. We have a new normal in the Adams' household. It is five women living together: three humans, one dog, and one cat. Our bathrooms are a mess, but they smell really sweet from Bath and Body Works' latest scents! If you possibly had any question that only gals live here, all you would have to do is look at the shows recorded on our DVR. Say Yes to the Dress. Cake Boss. Kate Plus 8. Glee. Yep, it is a Girls' World. But in spite of all that, sometimes I just forget. I think that Jason will be coming home anytime now, and the four of us will sit around the table again. But then moments like today hit, and I realize I am divorced. That life is over. This is our "new normal."

When those moments hit, I really have to battle negative thoughts that the enemy throws my way. "You are a divorced woman. Look at your baggage. You could not make it work. You are used and damaged goods." The thoughts go on and on. But then I realize that I must put a stop to them.

I mentioned earlier having lunch with two good friends from Montgomery. During the course of lunch, I was telling them how much I enjoyed teaching high school. I shared how I had even had a chance to talk with a student about the "adoption option." I told them how I had gone on Facebook and shown him pictures of my good friends and their adopted child. Laura said, "You should have shown them our kids." (She and her husband have two adopted children.) I laughed and said, "I forgot they were adopted!" Here is the punchline to that. Their adopted child is biracial, and Steve and Laura are both lily white. But when I look at their family, I don't see the differences. I just see one loving family that blends together beautifully.

I started thinking about that today when the enemy was throwing those nasty darts of accusations against me. I remembered that when God looks at me, He just sees me as a member of His family. I am not damaged goods to Him. I am a child of God, and He loves me. He has redeemed me. Do you know what redemption I am talking about? The kind where someone restores someone's honor and worth. That is what God has done for me. I plan to remind the enemy of that the next time he taunts me with doubt and ridicule.

Yep, I am a child of God. I sit right beside people who have been married for fifty years. When God looks at us, He doesn't see any difference in me. I fit right in. I am His child, and He has beautiful things in store for me!

Tonight I will end with a quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Though our feelings come and go, God's love for us does not."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rooting Out Bitterness

I have found such joy working in my yards. There is just something therapeutic about digging in the dirt. However, the weeds in the flowerbeds are my nemesis! They just keep coming back. When I go out to weed the beds, there is nothing more frustrating than a weed that breaks off as I try to pull it out. The root is still down there, so the weed is just going to come right back within a couple of days. If I want to destroy the weed, I have to dig out the root.

I started thinking about bitterness. It reminds me a lot of pulling those stubborn weeds. If I don't get down to the root, then I will not rid myself of the bitterness. Sometimes the weed of bitterness pulls out easily. You just address the situation with the person, find reconciliation, and move forward.

Over the last few days I have done some weeding in my heart. Without going into the details, I will simply say that there was a minister against whom I was having problems holding bitterness. I finally decided that I was tired of holding the resentment in my heart, and it was time to deal with it. I sat down and composed a long e-mail to him. I shared my grief over divorce and my disappointment with him for the role that he had played in my divorce. I felt so much better once I hit the send button. There. It was done. I had voiced my charges against him. Now I could let it go and move forward. That was, until I got his e-mail back.

You see, in my judgment of this kind man, I had made several assumptions. Those assumptions were what led me to the conclusion that he had somehow played a role in my divorce. His e-mail was very kind and gracious, but he set me straight on the facts, many of which I had all wrong. My heart sank as I read his e-mail. How could I have judged this poor man without first going to him and talking through the situation? Because of my sinful human nature. Why do we never learn?

I had lunch today with him and his lovely wife. It was a wonderful visit. I started out by apologizing to him for the harsh judgments. He was so gracious in accepting my apology. Having gone through a divorce himself, he told me that he knew that I was just searching for some reason as to how this could have happened. Then he just simply asked what they could do to help. I shared my heart with them about the struggles that I am facing. They listened and, in turn, shared many suggestions with me that were helpful. It was such a good visit.

Well, I started weeding earlier this week. The ironic thing was that I found out this time I was the weed. I had created an entire scenario in my mind that had grown into that stubborn weed. But there was much good that came out this situation. The bitterness that I felt this time last week is gone. There was even an added perk. I had lunch with a very dear couple whose wisdom from their own journey will undoubtedly help me as I travel mine.

I wish all bitterness could be dealt with this easily. But it doesn't always work out that way. This was unjustified bitterness. What about when the bitterness is justified? What happens when the person is not kind and gracious? What about when it doesn't end with a wonderful lunch? That, my friends, is another blog.

For now I am just going to give thanks for this giant step that I have made in my journey.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Hebrews 12:14-15 (New Living Translation)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sometimes, you just have to replace those thoughts!

Many people have asked how I have gotten to this point of peace in my journey. It is not easy. I wish I could say that it was. I wish I could say that every day I wake up, and God just pours a big dose of "happy" on me, and I just skip along throughout my day, making sure to take time to stop and smell the roses!

I wish. Occasionally, there are days like that. Once in a while I get a glimpse of how I felt in my previous life. You know the feeling. It is that deep-down feeling that life is good. But those days are few and far between. Most days, it is work.

This was our conversation in the car yesterday.

"Mom, you seem down lately."

"I am sorry, sweetie. I am happy. You do know that you make me happy."

"Yeah, I know. But we don't make you happy like you used to be. We don't make you happy like Dad did."

There you have it. You can fool a lot of people, but you cannot fool those closest to you.

I thought about this conversation a lot last night. I know why I have been down the last few days. Someone told one of my children, "You know, sometimes people just fall out of love. It happens."

That one statement brings a myriad of emotions. It makes me angry. My girls don't need to hear that. It hurts all over again. You see, I never fell out of love. There is nothing quite as devastating as unrequited love. It makes me question who I am and who I was as a wife. Then I start going down the "what if" road. I start rehashing everything I have done over the last twenty years and wondering what I could have done differently. Before I know it, my thoughts are consumed. But here is the catch. They are only consumed when I allow them to be.

I went out with my daughters and friends to a Karaoke restaurant Saturday night. I had so much fun. I was really happy. I went to church yesterday. I saw people that I love. I heard a wonderful sermon about remembering God's goodness in our lives. I was really happy. Then when I went down for communion, I started thinking about what was and what might have been but never will be. I allowed the thoughts to take over and emotion overcame me. That eventually led to the earlier conversation in the car. Why did I seem down to the girls? Because every time I was not busy, I allowed my thoughts to go to places they did not need to go. That is a road I do not need to go down. It only leads to the dark place.

A very dear friend gave me some of the most wise and practical advice that I have ever heard. In the beginning of this unplanned journey, she said, "Amy, your mind is only capable of thinking about one thing at a time. When you find yourself thinking about those things that are going to lead you to the dark place, you must make a conscious decision to think about something else." Now that, my friends, is a practical piece of advice that you can take to the bank.

I am not saying that we should not deal with the issues. It is good to talk through and think through comments like the one I mentioned earlier. But then you have to let it go! We cannot allow it to be the one thing that our mind thinks about over and over again. That was exactly what I had been doing over the weekend. Anytime I was not actively engaged in something, I was allowing my mind to rehash the statement. That is so unhealthy. It was dragging me to the dark place, and my daughters, in their sweet and kind way, called me on it.

Those precious girls have been through enough. On top of everything they have been through, they do not need to have to worry about their distraught and sad mother. They need me to be whole and happy. That cannot happen when I am allowing my thoughts to be consumed by unhealthy things.

So today is Monday. It is a new week, and it is going to be a great one! I am going to put a cute little security guard at the door of my mind. I am going to ask him to kick out any thoughts that are going to lead me down a path that I do not need to go!

My favorite version of the following verse is from the King James Version:

2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.

Today I will use the power of a "sound mind" that God has given me. When those quiet moments come along, I will remind myself that I can only think about one thing at a time. I will not allow that one thought to be one that will consume me like a mental cancer. Life is too short. God wants more for me than that, and my girls deserve for me to be the very best that I can be.