Is It Real?

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I was but a tiny girl.
I peered around the corner at my mother, sitting in the kitchen.
The ashtray overflowed with ashes as a pillar of smoke rose from the center.
Beer cans were scattered across the surface of the table.
Her eyes met mine for five seconds – long enough to pierce my soul with fear.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

She sat in the rocking chair, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Mommy?”
I placed my hand on her hand and turned my empathetic face up to hers.
She shoved me, knocking me to the floor.
I knew I must have done something wrong.
It was my job to keep her happy, and she was not happy.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Nineteen. An adult.
No job. No college. Just obedient toe kissing.
Baking. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching. Parenting the young siblings.
Twenty-three.
No job. No college. No dating. No parties. No hanging out with friends.
Just more obedient toe kissing.
Wearing homemade dresses. Dedicating my young years to domestic “ministry”.
“It’s for your protection,” she said. “It’s God’s design for girls.”
And she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

“Giving the world a new approach to life!”
Follow these ten steps.
Drink these seven basic principles and drown in them.
They look like Biblical righteousness from where you sit in the stadium, but really they are chains of slavery.
Beat yourself over the head with these 49 character qualities.
And remember that grace is you doing what you’re supposed to be doing… perfectly.
Dating is fornication. Once attracted, you must marry.
Hook, line, and sinker… I swallowed it all.
But God said “I love you” in John 3:16.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Long eyelashes. Hazel eyes. Best friend turned something deeper.
Engaged just 2 weeks after realizing it’s more than friends.
Married 4 months later.
We did it right. We were righteous.
Courtship trumped worldliness.
We waited to say “I love you” until we were promised to each other.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Eleven and a half years of total dedication.
I made myself everything I thought he wanted.
Always quick to forgive. Very slow to judge.
Everyday I strove to trust and give the benefit of the doubt.
Shove the paranoia to the back burner.
Smile.
Hug.
Kiss.
Believe the best.
Ignore the warnings.
Say “I love you” every day and every night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Go to work.
Leave work.
Walk in the door.
Hang up the jacket.
Kiss the wife.
Whisper, “I like us.”
Chat over dinner.
Sit in the living room with the computer, ipad, or phone.
Tuck kids into bed.
Watch TV.
Get intimate in bed.
Fall asleep.
Repeat.
He said “I love you” tonight.

Is this love?
Is it real?

I thought it was all love.
I thought it was all real.

“You mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.”
Reality shattered. There is no fixing it. There is no healthy, loving relationship.

“Your over sheltered life has your thinking and belief system in complete turmoil and bondage.”
Reality shattered. Protection from life is psychologically harmful.

“There is no new approach to life. The greatest approach was given 2,000 years ago through the life and death of Christ.”
Reality shattered. There is no man who has “new revelations” from God.

“All your striving to be perfect has made you resistant to His amazing grace.”
Reality shattered. There is no doing what’s right, because it’s right… perfectly.

“I’ve spent our entire marriage trying to escape you. I don’t think we should have ever married.”
Reality shattered. There was no best friend. There was no “us”.

“Working late again.” Coming home smelling like perfume. Texting pictures back and forth. The list goes on.
Reality shattered. The words “I love you,” “I like your body,” “You’re beautiful”… they mean nothing. Just empty words to hide a lie.

There is no love.
Nothing is real.

But then He whispers.
He shows me that grace is not a list of rules to keep. Grace is Him looking down, loving me just where I am, and wrapping me in Christ’s righteousness.
He shows me that He is a good, good Father. Always providing. Giving good things. Holding. Hugging. Listening. Always patiently listening.
He shows me that His heart knows brokenness. Betrayal, deceit, abuse, devaluation… He’s felt it all.
He shows me that being human means always questioning. It means blood and tears. And He’s ok with that.
He shows me that He is the God who sees me… ME… in the midst of crap I never asked for.

This is love.
This is real. This is the only reality. It will never shatter.

My Psalm 73

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I know that God is good to good Christians.
But me? Eh. I flounder around in confusion.
I find my soul enviously angry at men
Who enjoy the pleasures of adultery without consequence.

They flirt their way into bed with luring women, but feel no pain.
They dine and laugh as her earrings dangle and brush her neck.
Their heart skips a beat when she texts, and they smirk in glee.
They sneak into private places with her and press their body against hers.
Then they scamper home to kiss the wife and pat the kids on the head.
They feel the thrill of secrecy, and say, “Who will know? God can’t see.”
These are the adulterous men, always at ease, living the life.

I have kept my heart clean and pure in vain.
I am the one left crumbled in pain.
I am told that I am unloved and unwanted.

But when I truly try to understand this paradox,
I am dizzied with the magnitude of injustice
Until I fall on my face before God.
Then I understand the impending end of adulterous men.

God, you put them on a slippery slope
And bring their lives to ruin.
They are swept away in a moment’s notice,
Engulfed by the explosion of terror.
Like one who wakes from a nightmare, hating the demons,
You despise them.

When I was bitter and cried, “No fair!”,
I was ignorant and acted like a caged dog toward you.

And yet, you’re here, beside me
Holding my hand in yours.
You guide me with your divine wisdom.
And you welcome me into your glorious kingdom.
I have no one but you, God.
And there is no one here on earth that I would rather have than you.
My heart may shatter into pieces
And my body may crave the arms of a man,
But you are the strength of my heart and the eternal answer to all my needs.

All those who are far from you will take their last breath
And those who are unfaithful to you will meet their end.
But for me… it is good for me to be near God.
I have made him my safe place
So that I can shout his works from the top of my lungs.

 

 

Photo Credit

It Just Hurts

17435_269460072804_1280095_nJust to warn you, this post is very much human, down to the core. You won’t find anything divinely profound here. Just raw rawness.

If you follow me on Facebook, there’s a pretty big chance you know the main idea of what my life is like right now. It’s not very pretty. In fact, it’s pretty darn messed up. A big ol’ M-E-S-S.

I’d like to say I saw it coming, but I did not. My husband has always treated me in the most loving way. A couple months ago, he began to act depressed and said a lot of confusing things about questioning our marriage, wanting to love me but doesn’t, and messing up so bad it can’t be fixed. I was scared and confused. Within a couple weeks, he told me that he has been spending the last seven years trying to escape our marriage through multiple affairs. He chose to leave me and be with someone else.

So reality is pretty much non-existent right now. I thought we were a happy couple and that, whatever came our way – even infidelity – we’d be ok, because we truly loved each other. Well, apparently, that was not reality. And when your whole life and a very large portion of your identity is wrapped up in that belief, you’re completely floored and thrown off kilter when that reality rug is pulled out from under you.

Some days are very, very bad. Some days are very, very good. Most days are somewhere in between. There’s such a myriad of emotions and desires. I can’t even make sense of it all. I’m disgusted and heartbroken and angry. Yet, I would give anything right now to be held in his arms and hear him whisper, “I like us”. I want him to listen to me cry and then help me fix the mess.

But instead I’m here… alone… trying to figure out a new life. Trying to figure out why the van is making weird noises, why the microwave isn’t working right, how to finish all the house projects, how much is owed on each bill and when it’s due… plus just how to continue the everyday things I’ve always done. Even just the basic things like eat and sleep.

And I’m left with four kids who are confused and angry. (He does spend time with them each week, so he’s not completely out of their lives.) How does one help their kids digest this when all they’ve known is mom and dad being happily in love with each other?

A couple years ago, we had a conversation about divorce with the kids. One of them asked, “Will you ever get unmarried?” Aaron and I both assured them that we made a promise to each other, and we will be together forever. What the heck???? How do you help your kids adjust to a new reality when you promised them something else?

I know it’s not possible, but I really just want to go back in time when I believed he loved me and always would. I want to go back to being his proud wife. I want to go back to him leaving notes for me most mornings. I want to go back to curling up behind him in bed. I want to go back to him whispering, “I like us”. I just want to go back to him. I miss him. A lot. Death hurts, even when he’s still physicaly alive.

When Dream Houses Implode

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Sometimes, it feels like God thinks my life is one big joke, as if I am but a doll in his drama filled dollhouse. I can see Him sitting up there with his two buddies, Jesus and H.G…. “Hey guys, watch this!” He snickers. Then he knocks me down the dollhouse stairs or pulls a wad of hair from my head or yanks my arm off. The threesome all laugh wickedly, then rush out of the room to play something else, leaving me lying there in a battered heap at the foot of my dream house stairway.

I thought this pink dream house was going to be everything I wanted. It was perfect. My Ken doll was perfect. Our little kid dolls were perfect. Our pink convertible was perfect. My walk in closet full of flashy outfits was perfect.

But now, the shutters are hanging loose. The front door is stuck in a half open position. We’ve lost the potted flowers that sit on the front steps. Someone has scribbled on every single floor of the house with green crayon. The beautiful portrait stickers have been peeled from the walls, leaving only ragged white scum. My perfect Ken doll now wears a permanent Sharpied frown. My little girl dolls are sporting that ugly plastic-doll-hair-stuck-straight-up look. My little boy dolls hang their faces, decorated with Sharpie freckles, out the broken window pane of the upstairs bedroom. The rows and rows of sparkling outfits hanging in the closet just collect dust, because they were made for a skinnier, sexier version of me… a version I will never be again. And me… I lay battered at the bottom of my dream house stairway, wondering how I got there.

How does everything you’ve ever wanted in life suddenly blow up in your face? Doesn’t the dream house please God? Doesn’t He want us to be content… to love the home He’s given… to love the family He’s given… to throw ourselves into that dream house with all our hearts? Doesn’t He like it when we embrace the role of wife, mother, and homemaker? I thought that’s what pleased Him.

But now, as I lay at the bottom of my dream house stairway, I hear Him say…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

“What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

“Brenda, Brenda, ‘you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary.’ To sit at my feet.”

And the truth sinks in slowly, but warmly. I have worshipped my dream house. I have made Ken my god. I have made the kid dolls my joy. I have made my sparkling outfits my security. I lay battered at the bottom of the stairs because this dream house has let me down. I lay here because Ken is not my god, these kid dolls are not my joy, and these outfits… these skinny, little outfits… they are not my security. They have all let me down. They have not been to me what I’ve needed when I’ve needed it most.

I poured my love and my trust into them, but they could not bear it. My love and my trust is God-shaped, not doll shaped or house shaped or skinny shaped. Nothing else can receive my love and my trust except my God, because only He can be trusted, and only He can return that love in pure and steadfast volumes.

He does not demand love, because He is a selfish love hog. He commands my love, because He knows my heart, my needs, the very depths of my being, and He longs to be…

my shield

my fortress

my hope

my joy

my strength

my rock

my refuge

my deliverer

my light

my salvation

my song

my security

my helper

my resting place

my steadfast love

the upholder of my life

…my God.

Because nothing else and no one else can be all that for me.

 

What Hurts the Most

PeterJenAs we entered the sanctuary of the church for Peter’s funeral, I scanned the faces of the crowd. I saw a few familiar friends, but a lot of them I did not know, and it struck me just how many people’s lives my brother touched.

We will all miss him. We will all have to comes to terms with the fact that he is not here. And that will mean different things for all of us. For some, it’s just a passing thought every now and then. For others, it’s a daily remembrance that will fade as time goes on. But for those closest to him, it’s a complete change in life.

Today, on my good friend Ginger’s blog, I share about what hurts the most for me…

“Alexa is fine, but… Peter didn’t make it.” My heart stopped, but my brain searched for a way to make sense of it. Silence wasn’t an option. Words spewed from my mouth, too fast to catch them. “How’s Alexa?” Immediately, I gave myself a mental smack on the head. Duh. He already said she was fine. Maybe, just maybe, I was hoping he’d say they were both ok. I don’t know.

He repeated that she was still in the hospital, but she was fine. All I could say was “ok”. And then it was over. The hardest phone call ever….

The words still echo through my head everyday like the taunting rhythm of an oncoming train… “Peter didn’t make it.”

I’m not sure when that train will overtake me and flatten me to the ground. One of these days, it’s going to be real. I’m going to realize that his funeral was not just a family gathering that he wasn’t able to make it to. One of these days I will notice that he never shows up for family events.

But for now, this is what I see…. [Read more]