Day 556

The more I write this blog, the more I learn about myself. Writing about the past has made me aware of certain attributes I possess. I have more than my share of personality traits that continue to pop up and show their ugly selves to the world. For example, I’m pushy. Oh so very pushy. I’m sure there’s a better word out there in the English Dictionary to describe this part of myself, but for now, let’s just call it pushy. I know I’m pushy because as I travel down memory lane I am reminded of how many times I let my “pushiness” take over, when rational thinking would have sufficed. I’m still pushy. I guess I’ll never learn. Some of my friends may use prettier words to make me feel better. They might say I’m passionate, or dramatic, or bold…but the truth is, I’m just plain pushy.

When I get an idea fixed into my head, there isn’t much anyone can do to change my course of action. Whether it’s a great idea or not isn’t the point, the point is that I have decided how something must be done, and I’m going to do it. The upside is that my word definitely means something. If I make a declaration to the world, I’ll follow through. The downside is once my head and heart are set on a goal, I have tunnel vision. I can’t see the forest through the trees. I could be falling down a rabbit hole and I wouldn’t even know it until I hit the bottom. There is also a strong possibility that if you happen to be in my vicinity, I’ll end up dragging you down that rabbit hole with me. If I had truly known these traits about myself two and a half years ago, then maybe I wouldn’t have demanded a trip to the Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show. But I was slightly more naïve then, and not so self aware…so demand I did. Which means, perhaps, I deserved the disaster that followed. 

Instead of truly dealing with the fact that my marriage was becoming more unsalvageable every day, I chose to throw myself into anything “holiday themed” I could find. I couldn’t fully handle reality. Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe if I was completely aware of the situation it would have swallowed me whole. Maybe I wouldn’t have recovered. Who’s to say? So, to help avoid the situation, I became a little holiday elf. If I had any free time at all, I wanted to fill it with Christmas cheer. And then I heard about the Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show. And for some odd reason I thought to myself, “This sounds like the perfect outing for my husband and me.” Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you know that this was not at all a good outing for us. This was a terrible idea. This would not end well. And you would be right. 

The Botanical Gardens had a special event on certain evenings where adults got dressed up, frolicked through the gardens at night, drank champagne, and perused the holiday décor. This was what I wanted. This is the experience I wanted us to have. After begging, pleading, and just plan nagging; my husband agreed to buy the tickets and go with me. This momentous occasion was to occur on a Friday. We would leave work, meet at our apartment, and head to the Botanical Gardens from there. Now, this is where the story becomes hilarious. And truly, living through it was awful, but I can finally see the humor…so cheers to growth! Neither one of us had done proper research on where we should be going on this oh so special outing (which isn’t like me at all). I am expecting him to pull it together and do all the planning. He is expecting me to have everything laid out, because in reality, I am the only one of us who actually wants to have this adventure. All we know is a start time and that we are going to the Botanical Gardens…so we get on the subway bound for Brooklyn. 

Only, we shouldn’t be going to Brooklyn. We should be going to the Bronx. For you non-New Yorkers, this is a very costly mistake. We lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Going to Brooklyn would take an hour. Going to the Bronx would take an hour. By the time we realize our mistake, we are already in Brooklyn. It would take another two hours to turn around and head to the Bronx. No way in hell we will ever make it on time. We both know this. And yet, for some odd reason…we try to make it. We don’t speak. We simply change trains. We ride in silence. Time passes. We get off the train in the Bronx. It’s sleeting and dark and cold. We aren’t going to make it. I call it. In the late night, pitch-black streets of the Bronx; soaked and sad, I call it. Let’s go home.

We don’t fight. It is what it is. There isn’t anyone to blame. Riding back into Manhattan, I turn to him and say, “We aren’t going to make it, are we? We’re going to get a divorce.” And this is the moment where the power shifts. He gets a panicked expression on his face. “I don’t know,” he answers. And now we both know it is a possibility. It has been said out loud. Put out into the universe. In the coming weeks I will have wished I hadn’t said it. I will want to take it back. I will want to erase that moment of realization. But, in the words of Lynn Ahrens…”We can never go back to before.” 

Two days later, we decide to try again. I have no idea why. I think he is trying to prove that he is not a failure. I am trying to prove that with enough hard work, we can save this marriage.Why we put so much stock into this experience is beyond me. We get up early on a Sunday morning and travel to look at the holiday trains. This also just so happens to be the day where every family in every borough has decided to take all their children to look at the trains as well. He is miserable. I am pretending not to be miserable. On our way home I look at him and say, “If we actually make it…if we stay together and live to see another Christmas, I promise I will never make you do this again.” He laughs. And for one brief moment, I see the man I love. 

Psalms 66:17-20 “I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!’ 

Day 546

I love an inspirational quote just as much as the next girl. I love a bible verse set in front of a majestic setting, or an Instagram post telling me how strong I am because I am a woman who has seen tough times, or a Facebook reminder that the sun will come out tomorrow. I even love a quirky saying on a t-shirt. Seriously. I love it all. I read it all. I judge it and contemplate how it pertains to my life. Sometimes I even screenshot it and save it for future use in the divorcedyetdevoted Instagram account (which, by the way, you should be following). I know you know what I’m talking about. They are unavoidable. Little pockets of wisdom to guide you through life, whether you want them or not. 

I try to stay away from any quote that tends toward the negative. Basically, the ones that bash men. The ones that tell me that because I am a woman I don’t need a man, or that any man who doesn’t find me devastatingly attractive is a moron, or that men are only good for one thing and one thing only. Look, I’m all about women empowerment…but not at the cost of negating an entire half of the human population. And you wanna know my deep, dark secret? I like men. Not all men, obviously, but the truth is I have some wonderful men in my life and I am a better woman for their respect, love, and support. 

As a divorced woman, I don’t want my divorce to define all of who I am. I have seen many women grow bitter from their divorce. Their hearts seem to freeze over. They become man-haters. The possibility of finding a “good man” seems utterly ridiculous. Y’all, this has to stop. It must. One man’s terrible mistakes cannot define us, as women, for the rest of our lives. Why would we ever want to give our ex-husband’s that much power? Yes, we are scarred and a bit broken because of their actions, but we ain’t down yet! 

Call me lucky, but as soon as my life started to tumble out of control, God sent an army of strong men to yank me out of my downward spiral. Wonderful examples of how a man should treat a woman. It seems that whenever one man had to exit my life, God sent another one to pick up from where he left off. My father is the most supportive man I know. My brother-in-law is an excellent father, husband, and defender of my sisters and me. My best friend is a man whose heart speaks the same language as my own. I have the most confident and protective big-brother figure in all the land…if you mess with me, he will find you. My friend, Danny, believes I can literally do anything in the world. He has more confidence in my abilities than anyone I know. And today I get to spend the day working with a wonderful friend, a man whose generous spirit knows no bounds. God put Timothe back into my life at the perfect moment. As I continue to mend, he is a fierce example of a gentleman who shows me respect on a daily basis and challenges me to grow in the knowledge of my personal strength. He constantly lifts me up, while pushing me forward. He is a true dreamboat. These are just a few examples of the male blessings in my life. I could honestly write an entire book entitled “The Men Who Stepped In When My Ex-Husband Stepped Out.”  

Yes, I am a strong woman. Yes, I don’t need a man to get through this life. Yes, I pay my own bills and take care of myself and travel around from job to job just fine and dandy by myself, thank you very much. I am woman…hear me roar! I will roar about all the new things I am learning to do. I will roar about other fabulous women who are killing it at life. I will roar about my fierce female friendships til the cows come home! But I won’t roar hate. I won’t let one man ruin the reputation of all men. I won’t let hate be my battle cry. 

Any kind of hate is dangerous. Allowing our hearts to accept the feeling of hate will only take us further away from God and his perfect plan for our lives. The answer, is to learn how to love again. The men in my life have taught me more about true love than my ex-husband ever did. Embracing their love will help me learn to love others better. Choosing to give love will heal my heart. Acknowledging the love around me allows me to love myself. And loving myself means being devoted to my life. Be devoted. Now that’s something I’d like to read on a t-shirt. 

1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 

Day 542

One week after Thanksgiving I was still trying to process the snap decision I had made. I was leaving my husband…but where was I going to go? When did I plan on leaving? In what world could I possibly make it on my own? I knew I needed a game plan, but with Christmas around the corner, I didn’t have the time or the energy to sit down and carefully think about the next steps I should be taking. There would be time for decision making later. It’s not like anything was changing at home, might as well get through the holidays and focus on my new life choices in the new year. 

The first weekend of December brought one of my absolute favorite events of the year. My dear friend, Tiffany, was (and still is) a theatre teacher. Every December her school threw a Gala where the students and faculty performed. There was a silent auction, buffet, open bar; plus the opportunity to look spiffy in a fancy cocktail dress and support my brilliant friend. On this particularly cold evening I met up with my friends Brittany and Paul, then we boarded a bus headed towards the Bronx and Tiffany’s Gala! During the ride uptown I gave a monologue telling the story of our Thanksgiving weekend and my sudden (and yet not so sudden) decision to move out. I’m sure by this point anyone with half a brain knew that my moving out was bound to happen. My dear friends sat there and once again had to hear yet ANOTHER story about my marriage. What good sports they were. Obviously, they weren’t surprised by my news. We spent the rest of our traveling time brainstorming different options for where I would live. I assured them this would only be a temporary situation…but they knew better. 

I loved being at this little Gala. The children’s parents were so proud. Everyone was dressed in their very best. You could feel the excitement of the holiday season in the air. We bid on hockey tickets during the silent auction and won! Did we know anything about hockey? Nope…but the tickets were for the same date at Tiffany’s birthday and we figured that would be another fun adventure for us. I lived for moments like this. Moments when life seemed normal. Evenings that could be celebrated. Days when it wasn’t difficult to smile or laugh. The reminder that I was still a human living a life. My life. The perfect ease of happiness overwhelmed my senses. That was the feeling my friends so graciously gave me. When I look back at this difficult time in my life, I remember these glorious occasions. They were my life line for so long. How do you properly show gratitude for such a gift? I’ll never be able to fully repay the favor. But being the selfless souls they are, they don’t expect a return on their investment. 

For months I had been so focused on my failed investments. What I wasn’t getting out of my marriage, my in-laws, my dreams, my life, my future. In one evening, God was able to turn the tables and make me take a good, long, hard look at my reality. Through a brief moment of clarity, I was able to see how much others were still investing in me. I had been dropping the ball in more ways than one. There was more to who I was as a human than just the label of “wife.” I was a woman. A daughter, sister, co-worker, artist, Christian, and a friend. People were still investing in me. No one had given up. 

My friends are a beautiful reminder that while God was working in me, he was also working in them. He gave them the tools they needed to help me along the way. He gifted them with pure hearts, words of wisdom, and more patience than Job. Having others continue to invest in me, helped me continue to invest in my relationship with Jesus Christ. And, in the end, walking closer with our Lord is the most solid investment you could ever make. 

Matthew 6:20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” 

Day 533

When a relationship ends, women everywhere can’t stop talking about the fact that they want closure. They need closure. They would feel so much better if only he had given them closure. It’s an anthem sung over and over again until eventually time takes over, the hurt ebbs, and closure becomes a thought of the past. A topic of conversation on those drunken nights with girlfriends. The one last tie they have to a man who decided life would be better or easier or happier without them. I’ve seen this desire for closure turn a joyful heart into a bitter heart. I’ve seen it steal moments in life that should be happy. I’ve seen it turn beautiful memories into nightmares. The lust for closure is a disease that has ruined days, weeks, even months of many sane and intelligent women.

I’m about to get real honest, ladies (and gentlemen). You don’t need closure. You don’t even want closure. Do you think that if your ex sat you down and told you calmly every reason why he thought your relationship with him was a mistake you would actually feel better? You wouldn’t. The reality is that you wanted the relationship to continue and he didn’t and you are hoping that a rational explanation would in some way make your feelings change on the matter. Your feelings won’t change. You were in love. That doesn’t change overnight. It takes time. You aren’t searching for closure. You want to change his mind. You won’t change his mind. Move on. Realize that what you truly need, what you should want for yourself isn’t closure…it’s peace.

In any break-up or divorce or separation, there is a power exchange. The one who loves, oddly enough, has no power; while the one who wants to leave suddenly owns all the power. Love will make you stay. It will make you put up with actions from your partner you never thought in a million years you would stand for. Allowing yourself to love means you can get hurt. So, basically, all of a sudden you find yourself still desperately in love with someone who doesn’t love you back and has stolen your power. And now you’re mad and hurt and you want closure. This is the way it has gone for generations. Now, sit down and think about it…what happens if you get closure? Will you also get love? Power? Healing? No. Just an explanation that justifies what you don’t want to hear.

About a month ago, my beautiful Aunt asked me if I was ok with the fact that I never got any closure for my divorce. I surprised even myself with my answer. The lack of closure doesn’t own me. It’s not something I ever thought about for any length of time. I don’t know what drove my ex-husband to fall out of love with me, disrespect me, or cheat on me. But it truly doesn’t matter. The victory of healing doesn’t come with the knowledge of understanding his faults, it comes with finding a peace within myself. I may not have closure, but I have peace. Closure is something you have to be given from someone else. Peace is personally attainable. Peace can lead to healing. Peace will move you forward. 

If you stubbornly choose to only search for closure, you aren’t punishing anyone but yourself. He’s gone. You’re still here. Every day when you wake up, you have to live with yourself…so you might as well start learning how to love yourself. Wrapping yourself in the certain peace that you are awesome, a beautiful child of God; and giving gratitude for the life you’ve been given will bring you more happiness that a hundred conversations with someone who never realized what a gem you were in the first place. Go find your peace…take back your power.

Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hears, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Day 526

We took the bus to his family home the day after Thanksgiving. I was still hurting from the previous evening. Thinking about my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree and the tragedy that had become our marriage. He was excited to be headed home. Who could blame him? No one nagged him at home. No one questioned his whereabouts. No one held him accountable for his actions against his wife. Home was a safety zone. Fair enough. 

We didn’t speak much on the bus ride. In happier times, we would have shared earbuds and listened to music. He would have fallen asleep and snored. I would have snuggled into him to keep warm on the drafty bus. We had taken this trip together so often in the course of our relationship. This would be the last time.

When the Greyhound pulled into the station, we disembarked and took the all too familiar escalator to a wall of windows. We stayed inside to keep warm, like we had so many times before, while we waited for his parents to pick us up. Suddenly, I turned to him and said, “I’m leaving you.” I hadn’t really thought it through. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know why, at that particular moment, I had decided to declare my exit from our home. The reality of my situation became clear to me. I knew I couldn’t live like this any longer. 

I could tell this piece of news surprised him. Frankly, I surprised myself. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was as if an articulate robot had taken over my words. I told him I would tell his family this weekend. They deserved to hear it from me in person. After all, I considered them my family too. They had known me for more than seven years. I told my husband I didn’t want a divorce, we just needed to separate for awhile. I told him I loved him and wanted out marriage to work, but he caused me to live in pain and fear every day. I was slowly dying inside and I couldn’t go on like that any longer. Then, my in-laws showed up and we headed to their home. 

The weekend was sad. I was sad. Broken hearted. I kept thinking about all our previous Thanksgivings together in this home. Somehow, I knew it would be my last. We had our Thanksgiving dinner with his family on Friday. We all went to the movies on Saturday. Everyone pretended we were one big happy family. Maybe they all wanted it as bad as I did. Maybe they were fooling themselves into thinking everything would be ok in the end. Maybe that’s why they never asked how I was coping. Maybe that’s why we never had the difficult conversations. Maybe that’s why we were all together, but I still felt alone.

Sunday morning I woke up and shuffled into the kitchen to find my in-laws. I remember my pajamas. I remember the knot in my stomach. I remember my pathetic little prayer to God before I approached them. I sat them down. I tried to convey how much I loved their son. I wanted to be clear about my feelings. I told them we were separating. My decision. Whether they wanted to believe it or not, he wasn’t getting any better. My life was a nightmare. He found his actions acceptable and no one was telling him otherwise. Of course, all along, I had been hoping they would step in and demand responsibility from their son. Or maybe, at least, show compassion for my suffering. She cried. He told me he understood my decision. And just like that, they let me go.

A few hours later we were back on the bus headed home. A home that wouldn’t be mine for much longer. I still didn’t have it all figured out, but I knew I had to leave him to save myself. I had to leave him and hope he could find his way back to me. Back in our apartment, I stood staring at the tiny Christmas tree I had put up only three days earlier and prayed for the faith needed to save this marriage.

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Day 517

I love the 4th of July. I love America. I love that for at least one day out of the year, we can set aside our political differences and come together with pride to celebrate our country. Our heritage. Being an American, to me, is more than just where I was born. It’s an ownership in the life I lead. A time of gratitude and reflection. Fellowship. Finding a way to observe this holiday is important to me. In general, I love a good theme and any excuse to wear a red, white, and blue bow…but it’s more than that. On Independence Day I want to stop time, take a long hard look at my surroundings and the people who are placed on this earth with me, and ask the hard question. What have I done to make my country a better place to live? 

I know we’re not perfect, and I’m certainly not smart enough to try and write a political post, but this is where we are. This is where I live. This is the country, state, city, community, that runs through me. When I was growing up, I didn’t understand. It made me uncomfortable that everyone seemed to know my name, whose child I was, the complete history of my family tree. It made me feel vulnerable, like I was constantly trying to catch up to a certain ideal image of myself that was completely unattainable. I knew early on that as soon as I could leave I would get as far away as possible. I wanted some anonymity. I wanted to redefine myself on my terms. I wanted different. 

And so I flew out of the nest at a break neck speed. College in St. Louis and then straight on to New York City. I spent a semester during college studying abroad in Europe. I traveled as much as possible. I accepted acting contracts from Arizona to Florida and anywhere in between that would take me. I worked hard to forge my own little life, trying to make it work as best I could. Meeting friends that would become my family. Learning more about myself every day. Finding pride in my personal independence. 

I’m not sure what I wanted independence from. Not my family. I love being a part of our family team. Not my home. Not my little county. Maybe I just needed to feel like just me, alone, was enough. There’s a certain sense of pride that comes with that knowledge, and to be blunt, I think most people are afraid to find out if they are enough for themselves. A lot of humans go through life without pushing themselves to discover what they are truly capable of. They wander around following the easy path set before them without getting to know who they are, what they stand for, where their passions lie. Even thinking about that possibility now, I know that kind of life would have meant a swift and certain death for my soul. 

Being able to come to the realization that I was an independent woman also brought the realization that I am so proud of who I come from. During a particularly dark time I remember thinking about the sacrifices made before me. The sacrifices made before anyone ever knew there was ever going to be a me. The sacrifices my great grandparents made to give their family a better life. The sacrifices my grandparents made for their children, which helped shape my parents. The sacrifices my parents made so my sisters and I could go out into the world and live our dreams. Everyone worked too damn hard for me to ever quit on myself. That’s not who I am. That’s not a part of our legacy. 

Finding joy deep down in your core, which keeps you rooted to all the elements that make up the different parts of you is just one reason to celebrate the 4th of July. Feeling a sense of honor to those who have gone before you and paved a way for you is another. Taking pride in your personal independence, but giving gratitude to the country that helped make those freedoms possible brings a sense of humility to the celebration. Knowing that if you feel lost, you can return to those who understand who you are because it is who they are adds a sense of peace to this beautiful holiday…and suddenly you are where your heart was born… you are home.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 

Day 514

I woke up early Thanksgiving morning and headed to work. I was in Catering and Events at the time, and part of my job was to hand out the Thanksgiving meals people had ordered from us. If you have to work on Thanksgiving, this is the way to do it. Getting to be the friendly face that passes over the Thanksgiving turkey, sides, and desserts that a family will gather together to eat later that day. The management team showed up early, put together the boxes of food, and by the time the parade had started we were in business. By noon we were out of turkeys and I headed home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband. He wanted to head to his family’s for the holiday. Since I had to work, he agreed to wait on me and we would travel the next day and spend the rest of the weekend in his hometown. 

I knew the situation wasn’t ideal. In a perfect Norman Rockwell type world, no one would ever have to work on any weekend or holiday. Families could travel easily to each other and basque in love and gratitude. But if you’re expecting that to be the reality of life, you’re even more naïve than I am. To make up for the fact that we were having a rather untraditional Thanksgiving, I had made a reservation at his favorite steakhouse (please keep in mind that I am a vegetarian). We’d still have a fun meal together and then we could decorate our little apartment for Christmas, which had become our tradition. We had spent the last couple of years gathering Christmas decorations that would fit in our tiny home. We collected ornaments for our tree everywhere we went. By this point the tree had become a lovely reminder of the past adventures of our relationship. I found so much joy in turning this space into our own winter wonderland. 

When I got back he was still in bed, which was fine. We had some time before we needed to leave for dinner. I was a bit tired myself, from getting up early, so I curled up on the couch for a quick nap. I could hear the commentary from the Westminster Dog Show in the background as I drifted in and out of sleep. Soon I was shaking my husband to wake up. It was time to head downtown. We dressed accordingly, took the subway towards Rockefeller Center, and immediately we were engulfed in New York City holiday magic. I stopped to take some photos of the oversized ornaments, lights, wreaths. It felt special. The way the beginning of the holiday season is supposed to feel…the possibility of love is around every corner. 

Dinner started well. I was so proud of myself for thinking up a special meal for us. Reservations in New York City on Thanksgiving can be hard to come by, but I’d managed to snag us a good time slot at a restaurant my husband loved. Not too shabby. To the outside world I’m sure we looked like a typical New York couple enjoying their holiday. I felt comfort in that knowledge. At least we looked normal. We ordered. Small talk. The food arrived. We started eating. Then my husband, in all his wisdom, thought this would be the most opportune moment to remind me yet again that he didn’t love me. When he looked at me he felt nothing. He wasn’t sexually attracted to me. I almost choked on my asparagus. I felt myself start to tear up. Please, not here. Not at this very lovely restaurant in front of our poor waitress who has to serve uppity New Yorkers and tourists on Thanksgiving. I asked for a lifeline. I implored him to please leave it alone. Just give me this meal. I didn’t want to get emotional. Later. Anywhere but here. Any time but now. 

As soon as I stepped foot back into our apartment I began unpacking the Christmas decorations. This is a bit of a chore. I’m sure it’s that way in everyone’s home. Climbing on step stools, crawling under the bed, rearranging boxes; but the finished product typically makes the whole thing worth the effort. My husband laid on the couch while I struggled to make space for our tree. He fell asleep while I unwrapped our ornaments. Our memories. Our life. “Come on babe, don’t you wanna help decorate?” I asked. “No.”, his voice started to rise. “I think it’s ridiculous that you insist on this every year. What’s the point? I hate it. I’ve always hated it. It’s silly and stupid and there isn’t enough space. What’s wrong with you?” 

I refused to push the matter. I let him sleep on the couch. I tried to be as quiet as possible as I hung our stockings. I didn’t make a peep as I set up the nativity scene. He couldn’t hear the tears falling down my face as I put one ornament after another on our tree. I gazed at the lights illuminating the bobbles. Over seven years of remembrances starred back at me. And then a tiny thought crept into my mind…how do you let go of seven years? I didn’t know if my heart would ever be strong enough to say goodbye. To move forward alone. To put away those ornaments knowing that I may never see them again. 

Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. 

Day 507

Before I knew it, the holidays were upon us. It was Thanksgiving week. Work was starting to become more and more hectic, which provided a continual sanctuary for my battered soul. As the actual holiday approached, I found myself struggling with how to celebrate. I mean, we were still married. Still husband and wife. This was a time to be thankful for any and all blessings. Surely he could handle the sight of me for a weekend. Shouldn’t we plan something? Try our best to go about life as usual? Or, at the very least, go through the motions of pretending to be a family?

The previous Thanksgiving, our first married Thanksgiving, was wonderful. New York City is a magical place to spend Thanksgiving. I’ve always thought so. We lived on the Upper West Side, near where they blow up the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. On Thanksgiving Eve you can actually walk around near the Museum of Natural History and watch as all the balloons come to life and get ready for their early morning flight the next day. It had been uncommonly warm for that time of the year. We held hands, drank fancy over-priced coffees, took pictures, and frolicked between all of the balloons; remarking how different they looked up close and in person. It seemed so long ago, like a scene out of a children’s fairytale book. After experiencing the grandeur of the balloons, we had met up with friends for wine and cheese. It was a perfect evening, spent with my new husband. I had so much to be thankful for.

What a difference a year makes. Ever the optimist, I was sitting at my desk thinking about what a special evening that had been and I thought to myself, “We live in the greatest city in the world. Let’s do it again. A tradition. A tradition for my little family.” I felt like it showed good faith to make this plan. I was declaring to the world that my marriage would not fail. I was creating traditions. Traditions we would be thankful for in the years to come. I called my husband. I needed this. Please. It would be fun. A great way to kick off the weekend…we had had such a blast the year before. It took some convincing, pleading, begging, but he finally agreed. Baby steps, I thought. Baby steps.

This year the weather was not in our favor. It was cold and damp. As soon as we met up, I could tell he was miserable. In his defense, it was chilly…and we were fighting against a multitude of tourists who had no idea which direction to go or how to walk single file (side note: if you ever travel to New York City, please learn to walk with a purpose and don’t take up the entire sidewalk. We hate that). “Katherine, it’s cold. Let’s get this over with and go home.” His voice was bitter. Curt. It was my mistake. Trying to recreate a feeling. A memory. In my foolishness, I hadn’t bothered to truly listen to him. He didn’t want to do this. He had been clear about that fact, but I pushed. I was always pushing…pushing him further away.

We made it halfway through the maze of balloons before I relented and let us leave. We took a few pictures, where I smiled, pretending this was clearly the best idea in the world. We walked home in silence. Shivering. There would be no wine and cheese. No holding hands. Only silence. I fought to keep pace with him. The tears stung my eyes as the wind whipped me in the face. I had done it again. Why did I insist on being so difficult? So demanding? Maybe if I hadn’t forced this trip down memory lane, we might have actually had a nice evening. I was constantly over-reaching. My heart was in the right place, but that wasn’t enough. It never is, really. That’s just something people say to make themselves feel better, when they haven’t truly assessed a situation from all angles. I hadn’t bothered to look at the evening from his point of view. It was time to start being honest with myself.

This weekend is when the wheels in my head finally started turning. When I looked around and admitted to myself that I was drowning and no one was going to save me. I needed a more concrete plan, but I wasn’t sure what that plan looked like. Hating myself constantly wasn’t working for me anymore. I was tired of feeling like a victim. I’m not a victim. I’m a girl who got dealt a rough hand. I wasn’t the first gal to get sucker punched by life. It was time to find the strength I knew I had inside me. The strength that would help me learn to love again. Not love him. Not love marriage. Not love our life. But the strength to love me.

Ephesians 5:29 “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

Day 503

My father has always loved being a father. I know this to be true. I’m the oldest and when I was born, he thought having a daughter was the coolest thing ever. My father is the daddy to three daughters. If he ever wanted a son, he’s never let us know. We have never felt ashamed that he ended up with three girls. On the contrary, he seems to be ridiculously happy and proud of his girls. And, for all intents and purposes, his feelings are valid. He has raised (along with A LOT of help from my amazing mama) three strong, independent, smart, and kind daughters. Three daughters who are trying to put good into the world. Three daughters who love the Lord and have a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father. We are all different. We have different strengths and different dreams and certainly different temperaments, but we are the same in having a father who understands his calling as a father.

Call it luck or just being extremely blessed, but I also have a “present” father. He supports and learns about everything I love. He has always been there to guide me, teach me, and discipline me when needed. He has expectations. He holds me accountable. Even at 33 I know that he is the parent, I am the child. He also makes sure I vote in every election, God love him. Obviously, having a father who finds joy in my happiness and feels pain when I hurt has helped me pick myself up, brush myself off, and move forward after my divorce. I feel love because he has made sure I feel love. He has guaranteed that I know, not only does he love me, but God loves me.

But what about those precious humans who don’t have a “present” father? What about the children who grow up without a father who not only gives his love freely, but also demands respect, who teaches them how to be a responsible member of society? What do you do if you don’t have a man who leads you from being a baby Christian to becoming an adult who stands strong in their faith? Sadly, I feel that my father is in the minority. Too many young souls are stumbling, lost on this planet, because they lack an earthly father.

My small voice, on my little blog, may not reach the masses. I may never be heard on a grand scale. My thoughts may not mean much to this world, but that doesn’t mean that I stop thinking. Or speaking. Or writing. God calls every father to rise up. Yes, that means you! If you are blessed enough to be a father, then God is calling you. He is calling you to light the way for your child. He is calling you to own your role in your child’s life. He is calling you to be the spiritual head of your household. You better be honoring your child’s mother. You better be guiding your family in the word of God. You better be leading by example. You better be on your knees, seeking God’s guidance in every aspect of your life. Is it hard? I can’t even imagine, but these are not options. These are requirements. Demands. Commandments.

I stand because my father taught me to walk. I keep moving because my father won’t let me fall. I survive because my father gave me strength. I am bound for Heaven because my father showed me to whom I truly belong…I am, ultimately, a child of God.

Calling all fathers: Rise up! Be Present! Stand for your child and your God.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframe of your houses and your gates.”

Day 500

I was able to give my husband forgiveness freely. This gave me a small sense of pride. First and foremost, he was my husband and I knew intellectually that we would never be able to move forward unless I was able to forgive the past. By the grace of God, this sense of release was easy for my heart. My ability to forgive wasn’t because I was an incredibly selfless person with a pure and giving nature, the forgiveness came from Christ alone. He was able to soften my vanity so I could do what was required to try to save my marriage. I had been warned that forgiveness would be difficult, but was necessary. However, for me, forgiveness became as natural and as needed as breathing.

We are called to forgive others. We are called to forgive everyone. Everyone. It hurts and it’s hard and the act of forgiveness may not lead you to personal happiness. You may still end up alone and afraid and sad at the end of the day. We aren’t promised a winning lottery ticket once we achieve forgiveness, but we’re still called to humble ourselves, open ourselves, and let the forgiveness flow.

When my marriage ended, I knew the only way I would heal completely was to once again, forgive. So I did. I made it my mini mission to win at forgiveness, but I still felt terrible every day. I could barely get myself out of bed. All I wanted to do was sleep until the deep pit of hurt inside me scabbed over. I would stare at myself in the mirror and all I felt was a crisp form of hate. I hated everything about myself. I was useless. A complete failure. The wife who was easy to leave. Easy to leave. This has become the truth I keep telling myself. “Don’t get too close, Kat. You’re easy to leave.”

I have begun to re-create my new reality where the truths I tell myself on a daily basis are fact. God must be so ashamed of me. Marriage is a gift from God and I gave up. I couldn’t see it through. I was weak. My husband would do anything in the world to get away from me. I had fallen short on my wifely callings. I had not lived up to his expectations. Now, here I am, throwing kindness at others, while trying to keep myself as shielded as possible. If I am kind, that is good. Maybe I will be harder to leave.

What a hypocrite. Pretending to be a believer who follows all the rules, but not following them all the way through. Sometimes forgiveness isn’t about forgiving those who have wronged you, it’s about learning how to forgive yourself. Letting go of your shortcomings and accepting that God loves you. I think perfecting your own forgiveness is harder than you’d think, because the reality is that you have to live with yourself every day. You can’t get away from you. Learning to look at yourself in the mirror and actually like what you see is a momentous achievement. Being able to stop kicking yourself over your previous missteps takes courage. Owning what you put out into the world on a daily basis as beautiful is just plain difficult.

We make is so much more complicated than necessary. The Bible tells us that once we go to God and ask for his forgiveness, then it is done. All is forgiven. We are clean. Time to move forward. God doesn’t hang onto the attributes that weigh us down. As Christians, the big thing we are all into is that Christ died for our sins. If we truly own the scripture, then we have to believe that once we ask for that forgiveness, it is given. It has been given. It will always be given.

To deny this universal truth, is to deny God’s greatest gift to us. So give it up to God. He doesn’t think you are easy to leave. He has never left. Welcome the new day. Keep moving forward. Start to heal. Learn to own the all-embracing fact: You’re forgiven and it’s over.

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemtion through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”