I was on vacation with one of my dearest friends, her husband and all of our boys when the voice mail came in. It was my FH (former husband), calling to let me know he was engaged. I appreciate that he wanted me to hear it from him and not through the grapevine. Fortunately, we were on vacation at the beach because my next stop was sunset at the ocean. I paced that sandy shoreline as I digested the news. I spent hours in the pool in the back yard, processing my feelings as I soaked in the sun.
And then, 6 months later, my FH got married in our little town. I got as far away as I could that weekend and hit the beach in Florida with another dear friend. (Yes, the theme here is water, sand and besties.) On both of these trips, I embraced tears and pain and I even allowed myself to go to the darkest places in my heart which I will write about in the near future. It’s so hard to know how to handle life when a freight train is headed straight for you and you feel completely frozen on the tracks. That’s what this blog is about; finding hope on the hopeless days, learning to grow when you feel stuck, and discovering joy when sadness has flooded your heart.
I will share more about the engagement and wedding further down the road, but for now I want to wrap up my personal story because I’d like to shift the focus to the days between…the days I couldn’t get out of bed. The days that I walked around in a fog. The days I wasn’t sure which way was up. Those are the days that my counselor helped me function, the days that God was near. And those are the days that have now brought me to a place of immense joy and purpose in my life.
Over half of my life I have experienced long seasons of pain and heartache, but during those times AND in my most beautiful seasons, I have had a close relationship with God and HE has been the constant in my life. I have learned that our circumstances matter little, it is our connection to God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that gives us the foundation and stability to weather life’s storms.
If you are walking through a difficult season of life, I want to walk with you. And I also want to walk alongside those who have been blessed with a beautiful life, but desire to grow. Let’s be super honest here…we all get stuck. We all struggle with being wronged and forgiving. (If we didn’t struggle that would mean we didn’t care!) We all experience relationships that go sideways. And after going through the desert the last five years (metaphorically speaking), I strongly believe that we do not have to settle for walking around wounded on this earth. We do not have to let our challenging chapters swallow us whole and make us into a damaged version of ourselves. That’s not God’s best for our lives.
And you know what? The most amazing thing about getting healthy is that it changes everything. EVERYTHING.
When something in our body hurts, often our entire bodies hurt. One area of pain can equate to the entire body being uncomfortable. That’s where I was five years ago. My entire body ached with emotional pain to the point that I couldn’t function as a normal human being. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t move right. Some days I couldn’t even send a simple email.
During those “days between” I was running thoughts through my head at an expedited speed and they were literally eating me for lunch. It would be years before I could get to the place where I am today, but after God started healing my heart, I was able to look at these thoughts in a healthier way. Here are a few examples:
Thought: I was replaced with someone more beautiful than me. Healthy response: My divorce wasn’t about that. I need to recognize that it wasn’t a beauty pageant that I lost, it was about much deeper and more complicated issues.
Thought: I am a failure. This is embarrassing. I never envisioned myself as a divorcee. Healthy response: This is not how I pictured my family at almost 50 years old. But I have two incredible children and the opportunity to really impact their lives by how I choose to respond to this situation.
Thought: Why couldn’t I have the kind of relationship with my former husband that he has with his new wife? Healthy response: Our breakdown happened over 16 years. We had been through a lot including years of erosion, a traumatic chronic illness, and a tragic loss of life. “They” are not what “we” were.
Thought: It’s not fair that I only get to see my kids 50% of the time. Healthy response: Yes, shared custody is painful. But how can I make the best of the time I do have with them? And I choose to be grateful that they have a dad who wants to spend time with them.
Thought: I’m a single mom. Things are going to be hard. Healthy response: I am a single, successful mom. I am starting over, but I have untapped potential that I need to find and utilize. God has good things in store for me and my boys and He is going to take care of us!
No, this isn’t the picture I saw when I walked down the aisle. I never even let myself think about what life would be like outside of my little family of four. I was raised with the belief that divorce was not an option, and I figured as a couple we would work through anything, and we would eventually figure it out.
It took me a long time to accept these things:
- I am a single mom.
- My kids are the product of divorce.
- My former husband and I are not getting back together.
- I’m going to be okay.
- My kids are going to be okay.
- God is going to take care of us.
Accepting where we are and what has happened to us is a very healthy and painful therapeutic exercise. I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in denial because it allows me to create an alternate story (this may go back to my addiction with choose-your-own-adventure books in elementary school). But accepting my story and embracing the messy and sometimes shocking script that has played out before me gives me strength and courage to share it with others.
If you have struggled or are struggling with painful thoughts, I would encourage you to journal about them in a very raw and honest way. Make a list and leave space under each one to write a healthy response. Take a few days to chew on the list and pray about the responses and then write them down. Often, we don’t believe these responses at first, in fact we can’t fully wrap our brains around them. But this is an exercise in opening our hearts to think differently, to process information in an alternate way, to find gratitude in the midst of pain, to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances. And then when we come out the other side, we are not held captive by bitterness. It’s one of the most beautiful gifts we can give ourselves.
Did you like this post? Please follow my blog and share on social media and with friends who could use some encouragement. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need to hear. It’s my way of paying it forward.