Courage, Redemption, Grace & Mercy (part 1)

As I’ve previously stated, I don’t typically use my blog as a forum to discuss my divorce or previous marriage. On the rare occasion that I do, I will speak MY truth. He has his version, the Fantistic 4 will have theirs and I, the person holding the pen, have mine. Since this is my blog, you will read my version as lived from my perspective.
This is a three-part post, I reserve the right to add more as needed.

Courage

I was a stay at home mom. I was laid off from work while I was on maternity leave. I worked part-time about half the time to keep my skills current and to add a small amount of income to our very tight budget. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised by my decision. I was told I was wasting my degree. But it was the right one for us and I have zero regrets. Leaving the workplace and depending solely on your spouse to support you is an act of faith. Is comparing it to sky diving a little extreme?

I won’t go into the details but I will say things were rocky from the beginning. As the years progressed and three more babies came the rocks went from pebbles to boulders. We went to counseling and I prayed for my marriage. We received some good as well as some questionable advice, doctrine and guidance. The good was good but the bad was bad. One thing that really sticks out to me is being told he was the priest of our home and blah blah blah blah. I stopped slowly listening at priest. Let me say this, I refuse to bash “the church” or its misguided representatives. The people who counseled us were trying to help us. They loved us and didn’t want to see our marriage dissolve. I will ask, where does the Bible say the husband is the priest of the home? Please don’t give me weak implication or your broad interpretation. I was reading the OT to the 4 last night. We read the part about when the lineage of priests was established and the tabernacle was built. I could be wrong but every husband is not a descendant of Aaron. Besides, if you read NT the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was torn. This established our ability to have a one on one relationship with God instead of the priest representing us. Now where was I?

There are a few things that happened that gave me the courage I needed to begin the mental process of divorcing my husband.

We had a friend of the teenager over for dinner. After we blessed our food, we all began to eat in silence. This had slowly become the norm in our home. The friend asked the question, “why don’t you talk during dinner?” I lifted my head to look around the table and all of the children had their heads down with sullen looks on their faces. That question created an eye opening moment for me to begin looking at all the places where we no longer had joy and laughter.

I started updating my resume and mentally considering single life with four young kids. At the time they were around 1, 2, 5 and 8.

The second incident occurred at a local water park. My mommy friends and I would buy season passes and take our children to this water park multiple times a week. It gave us a much needed break and lots of time with each other. On one of these excursions I spent some time with another friend who told me she was going through a divorce. That was quite the shock for me as I had always seen her and her ex as a good example of a married couple. You never really know what goes on when the door is closed and the blinds are shut. When I listened to her story, I knew I would survive. Her concerns were different but the same. She had been a stay at home mom for many years and had real concerns about finances. She hadn’t completed her college degree but She didn’t need a degree to walk in her calling and giftings one being a fabulous photographer. I spoke with her often. She gave me hope and courage.

I went to a birthday party one January many years ago. The guest of honor and I went for coffee afterwards. I was watching the clock because I knew the ex would get upset if I was out too late. I was suffocating under a blanket of control but didn’t realize it at the time. After a short conversation, she was able to assess my situation and knew I needed to get out. I don’t know what tipped her off or if she was just that tuned in. I may have said, “he won’t allow…” one too many times. She talked to me that night and when I left, I was building up the courage to take the next step to leave.

I received a phone call a day or two later from a woman who is highly regarded in my circle of friends. After hearing about my marital situation from that friend, she told me I needed to leave. I didn’t have a full-time job yet and I was uncertain. But after talking it over with my sister-in-law, she graciously opened her home to us so I could leave. The husband of the birthday girl came over after my ex left for work and helped me pack a few things and I left. That was almost six years ago.

Courage.
For me it was a series of events that lead me away from a bad marriage but left me at the doorstep of redemption.

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Oh my gosh!! If I see another post on Facebook about what a real man will do, I might just scream. Have you seen them? A real man will: change, love you better, not do this or become that. So many women jump on the “what a real man will do” train and give virtual high fives to author of the posts. I question personally whether or not the author’s of the post have ever met a “real man”.

Perhaps I’m hypersensitive because I have three real men in the making in my household. Here is my list of things that will increase the probability of you or your daughter getting a “real man”.

1. Take a spiritual, emotional, physical and mental inventory of yourself. Where are you hurting? What is lacking in your own life? Where does your healing need to occur? What kind of wife, friend or mother of his children will you become?

2. Ask yourself why would you consider being with a man who needs to change? I know everybody has room to change but why would you knowingly enter into a relationship with a man who has a long list of things you think he should change? I can hear you saying, I just want him to stop cheating, drinking, smoking, cursing, hitting me, doing drugs, calling me names, divorce his wife, pray more, dress differently, rub my feet daily, give me money, get or keep a job and start going to church. What’s wrong with that? I can’t say anything is wrong with it on the surface but go back to #1 and ask yourself why are you dating the type of man who doesn’t currently meet your standards and you might find the real change should occur in you. (side note, if you don’t have any standards go back to # 1 and create some when you are done with your inventory)

3. Stop giving ultimatums.Who decided it was a good idea to give ultimatums? Let’s take a quick poll, how many of you stuck to the action you threatened to take if he did not change? How many ultimatums have you given? When are you going to actually leave or stop tolerating the rest of the things that are on your list?

4. Ask yourself, what do I bringing to the table? I mean that literally and figuratively. I have a young male relative who is in his 20’s. A female asked him his name and he asked her if she could fry chicken. I laughed out loud when first heard about that conversation. He refused to give her his name if she couldn’t fry chicken. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and shaking your head but I’m giving him a fist bump because he has requirements and isn’t willing to compromise, give ultimatums or enter a relationship that doesn’t meet his expectations. What are you offering other than your body and the privilege of being in your presence? I am not just taking about material possessions.

5. Are you willing to change? Are you willing to become the person he needs so he will want to come home and love being there? Are you ready to stop complaining, nagging, manipulating and whining? Are you willing to cook, be his friend and not his mother, compliment and encourage him?

6. Be patient. Desperation doesn’t look good on anybody. I know you are ready to find Mr. Right and begin a life with him. He’s looking for you.  Keep doing #1 until he finds you.

My ex and I are doing the very best we can to raise men who will become good husbands. I am sure a woman will come along some day and tell them all the things they need to change. I will be there to tell them, if she can’t accept who you are today she is going to make you miserable tomorrow.

Looking for Mr. Real Man

All

What do you give the person who has everything but still complains?

Perhaps a mirror so they can see themselves
Maybe a recording device so they can listen to themselves whine
How about a crystal ball so they can see the future is bright
How about a trip to a third world country
Or a peek into the room of a single person who is feeling alone and depressed
A visit to a cancer patient who is in the midst of their fight?
A view of a struggling parent who is sleeping in the car but trying to keep the family together?
A copy of the bank account of someone who is living the real struggle of making ends meet
What do you give the person who has it all except contentment?
Give them the hand or leg of a soldier that had it removed after fighting in a war
Give them that last breath of the one you love
Sell them the soul of the lost
The strength of the weak
The hope of hopeless
They already own those…
I know, provide them with a backhand slap
Shake them out of their self-pity
If you’d like, you can give them a hug
Me, I will give them nothing more than this post
You have it all
What more do you want?

I call it…love

It’s like a west Texas dust storm rolling in
You feel it before you see it
The atmosphere changes
There is a stillness in the air
You know something is there
Like my grandmother use to say
“I can feel it in my bones”
Or like an electrical storm
You want to be afraid of it
But it’s holding you captive
You know the danger
But your curiosity and intrigue keep you in place
You stand there in the midst of the tornado
Oblivious to all of the devastation occurring around you
Only thing that matters is the feeling
It’s captivating
It’s freeing
It’s life giving
It’s makes you want to give your life
It makes you want to change your life
It makes you want to create life
We seek it
We search for it
We long to befriend it
Don’t fear it
Embrace it for all that it is
It’s simple yet powerful
It has a name
When you say it
Say it with reverence
Love
Simple yet complex
Love
It tames the beast
Love
It makes a man want to fight
Love
It brings tears to your eyes
Love
It motivates and inspires
Love, love, love

Lessons I’ve learned since the divorce

I’ve been divorced for almost four years now. In that time I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, reviewing my choices, and thinking about my life then and now. Every story has a few authors. My failed marriage will be authored by him, the kids and me. Since this is my blog and I hold the pen, you will receive my version. Now, this post is not about my marriage per se but more about the lessons I’ve learned. I’m a contemplator so I’ve thought about this, I’m a woman so I’ve discussed this, I’m a believer so I’ve prayed about this and I’m a student so I’ve studied this.

I try my best to speak well of my ex in front of our children. He is the father of our four beautiful children. If I can’t think of anything positive to say, I revert back to the old teaching and say nothing at all. If out of anger or frustration I say something and the kids are around, I apologize to them. They love their dad and I want to provide an environment where respect, love and honor are encouraged (insert required). Vent to your journal, counselor, friends, coworkers, bartenders, clergy or even the person sitting next to you on your commute but not your children. Besides, the more time you spend talking about people you are mad at, the less time you have to do something positive. There are only 24 hours in a day. How many will you spend on negativity? That was my first lesson.

Respect is not earned it’s given. I’m reading a book titled, Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. A couple of months after my divorce was final I attended a marriage conference at my church. I truly believe that if we had attended this conference or read this book before we got married or early on then a lot of the decisions, thoughts and actions would have been different. When you know better you do better, right? Society has taught us that love is the key to relationships. We freely provide all the love one needs. However, we are also taught that respect is earned. That is simply not true. Respect should be given as freely as love. Men want and need to be respected. I know some of the women reading this are about to tune me out. Keep reading! Don’t start listing all the reasons he doesn’t deserve your respect. Think about this, what if in the heat of a discussion with your man he turns to you and says, I respect you but you will have to earn my love. Pump the breaks! What? Think about the number of times you’ve used the opposite phrase, I love you but you will have to earn my respect. It has the same devastating affect on them. Respect is not earned just like love is not earned. I didn’t know. I was having a discussion (argument) with the ex one day and he said the first time he called me a horrible name was right after I told him he was not a good provider. When he called me that name that was the ultimate in disrespect and zero love in my mind. It was the same for him only I couldn’t see that. He worked long hours so I could stay home with the kids. We struggled financially at times but he was trying. When I told him he was a terrible provider I’m sure he saw me as ungrateful and disrespecting. I didn’t know better at the time but now I do. I’m very conscientious to acknowledge anything anybody does for me. I’ve shared these principles with women who have come my way wanting to discuss divorce. I always ask, are you showing him respect? If not, try this…and I provide examples of what respect looks like, according to the book, to a man. That was lesson two.

I am not superwoman or every woman. I love the songs but in real life, I need help. I don’t allow my pride or ego to keep me from receiving or asking for help. A few months ago I was taking the Stud Muffin and Little Dude to their athletic games. I drove two blocks and realized I had a flat tire. I turned around and went back home. Apparently a neighbor saw the flat and pointed it out to her husband. He jumped in his truck came to my house and filled my tire with enough air so I could get the tire repaired. In the mean time I called their dad who met me at the tire repair shop so he could take the boys to their games. I have roadside assistance because I, quite frankly, don’t know how to change a tire. I could have told the neighbor I didn’t need his assistance and the boys could have missed their games so I could keep my independence or pride. Whatever! Those action do not bear good fruit. Asking for and accepting help takes more inner strength than not. The boys saw this neighbor helping their mother, they saw their mother receiving assistance and they saw their dad and mom working together for their benefit. That’s good fruit and lesson three.

Dating post divorce with young kids is doable but should be done with caution and wisdom. I’ve mentioned online dating in some previous posts. I met and dated another guy but that didn’t work out either. I realize that I want a relationship. After all, we were created for relationship. But I don’t want to date a lot of men. When I say date I really mean date as in go to a location such as movie, restaurant or hear a band play. I don’t bring strangers to my house and they don’t get to meet my children. I am a mother bear when it comes to my children and our home. When I created a profile for the online dating site, I used a completely different city in a different county. I also always meet at a crowded place and made sure to never drive straight home. I would stop and park at several places and take a back road home to ensure I was not being followed. A healthy amount of paranoia is okay. I have a friend that would only date her now husband if they had a chaperone. They were both divorced and had children but they were determined to have a courtship and keep to themselves until they were married. Determine your dating requirements and stick to them. That concludes lesson four.

I have also come to realize I have the capacity to trust again. Do not take that lightly. Trust is difficult when you have experienced heartbreak and when people have disappointed you. I have a cousin who taught me a valuable lesson years ago about trust. It was Mother’s Day and right after church service the family members were all discussing where they wanted to eat. I looked over and this cousin was standing to the side not voicing her opinion. Her husband was a part of the discussion. I walked over and asked her why she wasn’t giving her input. She said, “I trust my husband. He’s not going to take me anywhere I don’t want to go.” Whoa… what?!? I was reminding her of that conversation yesterday and she said, “where ever he goes is where I want to be.” Hhhhmmm. I like it! There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and there is nothing wrong with expressing your preference. The topic here is about trust. Focus on the trust she was exhibiting in him. One couple I know, when they first started dating, would order dinner for each other. This was their way of getting to know each other and building a foundation of trust. Trust is a small word but has a huge impact. Lesson five.

I have lots of other lessons that I’ve learned along this journey to healing but I will save those for another day. Spend some time contemplating these five.

Be well, healthy and whole.