Day 354

When you google my name one of the first things to pop up is my wedding announcement. Full engagement picture of myself glued to my ex-husband looking like one of those girls in a Noxema ad. I know this because today I googled myself, turned to my best friend and instead of crying or feeling emotionally wounded I said “Look at this. I can’t believe we were married. It feels like someone else’s life. A whole nother life that happened a long time ago.” And it does. That girl smiling back at me with her whole life ahead of her is like a picture of someone I used to know. Yes, I remember the day we took those photos. I could tell you everything about that day. I remember how I picked the dress I wore (Thank you, Galloway), how I was worried about my tan lines showing, how the photographer guided us, even how we chose what restaurant to eat at for dinner. I could tell you all those things, and even still it feels like a lifetime ago. The person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with…looks like a stranger. It’s sad. I thought for over 8 years that we was my soulmate, and when I lost him I mourned the loss of a love I would never have again. And then I stopped believing in soumates all together.

The term “soulmate” is interesting. Many women speak about their husband being their soulmate. The one human who was meant to be attached to them from their moment of creation. But what does that really mean? Does it mean that if you don’t get married that you are soulmateless? That God forgot about you when he was planning the whole soulmate pair up system? Are the unmarried destined to live a life without a human soul that brings them the earthly joy of unconditional love? This was my fear. I knew I was a good teammate. I knew my shattered heart still had love to give. Would it be unwanted forever?

The short answer is “no.” The long answer is that even when I was at my darkest, God was preparing a human heart to love and protect my heart. He was preparing a friendship that would happen a year into the future. He was preparing a soul that would revive my belief in soulmates.

I don’t want to skip ahead in the story of my journey, but I do want to write about my present discoveries. My prayer is that this shows growth, and healing, and hope…and as far as I’m concerned, a story of hope should always be told. At this point, how we met doesn’t matter. Where we met, under what circumstances, first impressions are all stories for another day. What matters now is that we did meet. What matters now is that I have been given the gift of an unexpected friendship. What matters now is how God surprised me and taught me a lesson about love. The true power of a love that doesn’t fail.

I met Jake a little over a year ago. I had just filed for divorce. I lived my life in fear and woke up every morning hating who I was. I couldn’t feel joy, but I was going through the motions and trying my darnedest to rebuild my life. I kept moving and I had to give myself credit for that. Jake and I worked together. Jake saw me for more than a divorced woman who had failed at marriage. Jake didn’t think I was broken or unwanted or worthless. My circumstances didn’t define who I was to Jake. To this day I still don’t know what made him reach out and befriend me. I was a mess, but he didn’t seem to care. And although at this point I was terrified of men, Jake was gay; so to me that made him feel safe. And Jake put me back together.

We have remained best friends since we met. I spent New Year’s Eve with him a few weeks ago and during our time together I told him my theory that soulmates were a bullshit idea made up by women to romanticize marriage. He turned his precious face to me and said, “I’ve always thought we were soulmates. My heart was destined to love your heart.”

That is the story about how God gave me a true soulmate. That’s the story about how I am still learning about love. That’s the story about about how, once again, God was in control and has provided me with a man who will never allow me to be less than the woman I was created to be.

And that is why, when I saw my perfect Noxema ad looking self staring back at me, I didn’t cringe. That girl was special and she entered into a marriage with a heart full of love and hope for a beautiful future. And that didn’t work out. But this girl, this girl I look at every day…she is strong and she is worthy and she has been taught the beauty of a true love that never fades. And so much if that is due to the fact that God created Jake.

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love.”

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Day 346

When I returned to New York it was much of the same. A once a week therapy session that was going nowhere fast, working as much as possible to get through the days, and praying constantly. Faithfully, I would attend our church every Sunday…alone. I had started speaking with my pastor’s wife who I knew would be a prayer warrior for my marriage. I had even started doing a bible study about being an excellent, Godly wife. If I was failing in this marriage, I wanted desperately for God to let me know, so I could change. I racked my brain for any possible step I could take to move this healing process along. I was miserable, but I didn’t even know it. I was so focused on the end game that I couldn’t see how this was tearing away at every part of me.

The weekend after I got back, my husband was headed out of town for a football game. He would return to his hometown and be surrounded by his family who would tell him how wonderful he was, and diminish any responsibility he had in the destruction of our marriage. Nobody thought to say, “You don’t get to come to this game. You stay at home and work on your marriage and start respecting your wife.” I don’t say this to be mean, I say this because it’s true and honest and shows how little support I was receiving when I needed it the most. Side note: When you marry a man, you marry his family as well. Anyone who tells you any different is dead wrong and has most likely never been married.

I was to stay in New York because one of my very best friends was having her bachelorette party. She had been in our wedding and we had been friends for years. She had moved to California, but had chosen to come back to New York and celebrate her bachelorette weekend in the city. I had not told her about my marriage problems. I didn’t want to spoil her wedding preparations with my husband drama. She had been so good to me during my wedding and I just wanted her to be happy and have an amazing time surrounded by her loving girlfriends. Several of the other girls attending knew my dirty marriage secret, but they had agreed not to talk about it for the weekend and just focus on the beautiful bride-to-be.

And it went well. I put on my “I’m OK” mask and we all had a lovely time. I counted myself lucky because she spent the night at my apartment, which meant plenty of time for some good old fashioned girl talk. She spoke about how excited she was to marry her fiance. How much she loved him, her dreams for their life together. The frustrations that come with planning a wedding; the joys, the drama, the over all excitement. I remembered that feeling. And my heart was truly happy for her…and my heart is still happy for her. Marriage can be a beautiful thing. It is meant to be beautiful. Seeing the love she had for her soon-to-be husband was a reminder of that for me.

And then she left and I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I could put away the mask. It was mid-October, so I started packing up our summer things and getting out the winter items. I cleaned the apartment. I went grocery shopping. I did what grown ups do. We keep moving. We do what has to be done. We do the day to day, mundane tasks that are required of us. We live in reality, we realize the choices we make have consequences, we hold ourselves accountable. We do what we say we are going to do. We don’t hide. We own who we are and we go from there. And sometimes we do it while we are miserable. And sometimes it’s inconvenient. And sometimes it hurts our pride. But that is what we do and that is what we are called to do.

The beauty of writing this blog two years after the fact is all the perspective I have gained. Why wasn’t I more appalled that my husband thought a football game was more important than taking that extra time for us? Why didn’t I question a family who didn’t insist their son own up to his mistakes? Why did I let my pain keep me from being more present for my friend? Why didn’t I see the joy in her eyes and wonder where it had gone in mine? Why was I content to live in this misery? Why didn’t I demand more for myself?

We are called to be more. We were created for more. God asks more from us. And no matter my surroundings, I can only be proud of myself if I am owning that “more.”

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,  and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

 

 

Day 338

God’s messages are pretty amazing. His timing is always perfect and the way he guides me to understand him is so personal that at times I find it overwhelming. This week has been a very reflective time for me. Maybe because it’s a new year, which is a wonderful opportunity to think about how far you’ve come; or maybe it’s because I have had more free time than usual and my mind tends to wander. God keeps putting “the choice of love” on my heart, and if there is anything I have learned in the past year it is that when God wants me to write about something, I better write or it will nag at me until I do!

One of the gifts this blog has given me is that women from all over, in all different situations, have opened up to me about their struggles, their loss, their pain. It is very humbling that any one would feel compelled to let me in on their intimate stories and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share God’s healing powers with them. When others confide in me, I obviously feel compelled to tell my story; and it’s funny to me how my perspective has changed over the past year. When I look back, I see a beautiful mosaic of human hearts who have chosen to love me. That image is burned into my mind so much more than the pain of the one person who chose not to love me.

I think about the people who have loved me for so many years, who rallied and stood beside me during the darkest times. Who watched me fall and break and slowly die inside and who never left. They lived through the late night phone calls, they planned outings, they provided couches to sleep on. They never judged when I wanted to be alone, or couldn’t be there for them the way they deserved. They sat there and listened while I word vomited my hurt again and again and again. They had signed on for this friendship many years ago when we were younger and life was easier and now, when the going got tough, they never faltered. Living through this ordeal with me was hard work, and they chose to love me anyway.

And then there are those precious humans who didn’t know me before. Who had to meet me when I was broken and insecure and beyond difficult. Who took me, just as I was, and accepted my flaws. Who had to see all the ugly parts of me. Who had to live through the aftermath. When I was too weak to pretend to be ok, when the smallest incident could send me sobbing, when I hated myself too much to care about life…they loved me anyway. God only knows what those select few beautiful hearts saw in me, why they didn’t run screaming for the hills. They didn’t sign up to be the ones to help put me back together, but here they were, helping me rebuild. They didn’t question my sadness. They accepted my clinginess. They talked me off of the ledge when I became overly dramatic. They had to deal with the scars, and they still chose love.

The other important thing to remember is that not everyone has a family who chooses love. I do. I have a family who surrounded me in a coat of love from the beginning and who still loves me through every set back, difficulty, and life decision. A family who let me grieve at my own pace. A family who taught me how to move forward and who lovingly pushes me when I need motivation. A family who fought when I didn’t have the energy and stood when I couldn’t get up. That kind of love isn’t always a guarantee, but for me it was.

When I think about all the people who chose to love me when they didn’t have to I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by their hearts. I am also thankful to the God who gave them all that extra love to give to me. I stand amazed that I feel more love now than I have ever felt in my entire life…and I don’t even have a husband! I don’t have that person who has vowed to shower me with love, but the love has still come. This choice of love that we all have is so powerful. It can do so many things. It can change the world. It can change a heart. It can change a life. It has certainly changed mine.

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Day 336

Over the summer my husband decided he wanted to run a half marathon. It was something on his bucket list and he wanted to accomplish it during his 30th year…before he turned 31. Lucky for him, Disney World was holding a half marathon on his birthday that year. We decided we would make a trip out of it. We could celebrate his birthday, he could run the half marathon, and we could get some fun time in at Disney World. At first he assumed I would just want to be his cheerleader on the sidelines during the race, but after a little bit of thought I decided I wanted to run too. I mean, why not? Now, neither one of us were runners. Neither of us had ever run any kind of race before, let alone a half marathon; we just thought it would be cool and fun and something we could train for together. So we signed up, found a training program, booked a hotel room, and that was that.

This grand plan was made during the summer. Before the affair, before my breakdown, before life changed. I had started training in August and then stopped completely when my only desire became saving my marriage. During my time at home in Tennessee my husband had suggested we cancel the trip. I mean, fidelity and love were out of the question so it’s not like he was too keen on vacationing with me either…but here’s the kicker: my parents were coming with us. Yep. They had bought their plane tickets, booked their hotel room, and were excited to watch their daughter and son-in-law tackle this race. They were still going. My coward of a husband wanted to cancel because he didn’t want to face my parents…and suddenly my strength began to return. I was going to run. Whether he was there or not. I was going to run. I had said I would do it, my parents were sacrificing to be there with me, and I was going to run. Nothing he could say would make me quit. I was going to run, with or without him.

Upon my return to New York, running became my new obsession. I was finally working towards something I could control. I would force myself out of bed in the morning, work all day, and then run at the gym until my legs couldn’t move. While I ran I would daydream about how happy my marriage would be if I could just keep moving. I would strategize my behavior in our next therapy session. I felt stronger. I felt motivated. More weight started to fall off, which made me feel more attractive. Certainly my husband was noticing that I was thinner. And thinner means more beautiful, right?

When I was running, I wasn’t home.  And home was turning into a bad place. Every night was a surprise. On the good nights, my husband would get home at a reasonable hour and I would cook dinner and clean up and we would watch his favorite television programs and I would try so hard to show him what a wonderful wife I was turning into. When I look back I’m disgusted at the lengths I went to to prove myself to him. Then, there were the nights when he would come home late and drunk and angry. The sound of his key in the door thrilled me because it meant he was safe. I would lay awake in our bed, praying that he would come home to me. I would have leftovers ready to warm up for him in case he was hungry. When he came in I would be quiet. I wouldn’t ask questions. I would just be thankful. And then there were the nights he didn’t come home at all. Those were the worst. I couldn’t sleep. I was terrified something had happened to him. My heart hurt terribly. I could actually feel it writhing with pain. I would go into every corner of our tiny apartment and beg Satan to leave our marriage. I would cry and shout, on my knees, demanding that he leave us alone. I remember screaming, “My God is bigger than you. You have picked the wrong wife to mess with. You will not win this war. You have no idea the strength my God has given me.”

And so I ran. I ran because I could. I ran to escape. I ran to feel strong. I ran to give my life purpose. The worse things got, the more I ran. I just kept running.

Isaiah 33:2 “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”