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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What to Do When it All Goes Wrong - Do you Trust God's Way to Fulfill Your Dreams?

This photo was taken on the day my divorce became final in 2010.
I don't know what caused your world to fall apart, for me it was infidelity and eventually divorce.  I was blindsided by the earthquake which forever shifted the landscape of my life.  For many days, I couldn't see beyond the great divide of before and after.

As I forced myself through the daily routines, all I could see was the gash that ruined the life I had planned.  The crevice between was was supposed to be and what actually was.  Even as I began to accept the infidelity, I was still writing my own outcome and so the aftershocks of additional betrayals and divorce rocked my security and wrenched away all that I thought would be mine.

More than a dozen years have passed since those first cracks began to emerge and I can now see that what was lost was a necessary removal.  The dreams I dreamed were not wrong, I just didn't trust the way God would choose to fulfill them.  I hadn't yet fully surrendered to whatever He would ask of me.

Here is what I would tell myself while still standing on swaying ground, freshly absorbing the shock of a life in crumbles.

Grieve, but don't become consumed with "what if..."
This was a big one for me.  Even as I experienced that my current state of life had been far from healthy or even normal, I longed to return to what was familiar.  I had to work to live in the truth of my reality versus what I wanted things to be like.  Acceptance isn't a one time event when a person has been living in denial for a very long time.

Release the future you designed (God doesn't owe me...)
Of course I would have never told you that God owed me anything, but I lived with that mindset in my expectations of a life with certain benefits. Even when accepting loss, I felt like God "owed" me an explanation - a reason for my pain. Being stripped of identity as wife and minister forced me to consider whether I would serve God regardless of the outcome.  Too often we serve Him to get what we want.  It's humbling to admit and this thought pattern needs to change.

Look for the gifts you didn't know you needed.
It's easier to be the answer to someone's prayer than to be they needy one, isn't it?  However, being truly needy revealed unknown sources of help and the true gift of community.  Rather than judgement, I was met with love, acceptance and support.  For a solid month, women of my church helped with childcare as I transitioned into working more hours.  They brought casseroles and salads and fun games to love on my children.  I was loaned a vehicle, had my utility bill paid and so many more ways God provided when I truly couldn't have know my need would be so great.  I spent so much of my life in control and this was the only way I learned to let go and really allow God to supply.

Allow the new story to take root in your heart.
This is the good part...but it takes wandering through a great deal of loss to get to this point. As you begin to accept that the life you had been living isn't going to be the life you have moving forward, you can suddenly be open to a whole new world of possibility.  For years my stability was based on my position, my possessions and my partner but now I began to allow Christ to define me.  I learned to be satisfied with very little and to imagine a new future, unknown but with great hope.  Let your blank slate become a launching pad for a new adventure.

There is so much more to say about each of these steps and we often circle back through from one to another.  Once you've endured the kind of life change that forever shifts your trajectory, you can choose to get stuck in regret or to acknowledge and learn from your experience.  I encourage you to do the hard work of letting go of your past dreams and allowing God to unfold your story in His way.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Make the Most of the Days (When Your Kids are Gone)

These cuties are gone for the week.
One of the challenges of divorce and co-parenting with an ex is that sometimes your children are gone for extended periods of time while traveling with their other parent.  If you are centering your family life around your children, their absence will be devastating and that should be a red flag to shift your perspective.

In any marriage, the husband-wife relationship must be the priority.  In second marriages, it's harder make that true because the children existed prior to the relationship and there is more history which creates a tighter bond.  I've witnessed marriages fail because one spouse cannot put the other above their child.

For me, I have to remember that it isn't either/or.  It's possible and healthy to have both.  So, those times my kiddos are vacationing with their dad become prime opportunities to relax and enjoy my husband.  With intention, the extended holidays where my children are with their dad are islands of connection in the busy schedule for my husband and me.

I know it stinks to wave goodbye while your children go to enjoy a vacation with their other parent, but take this time to really invest in your relationship with your husband. You and he are the foundation for your family.
  • Plan some downtime and relax without demands.
  • Cook his favorite meals.
  • Wear something new in the bedroom or just on the sofa (or simply pull out something you have cared to wear for a while).
  • Be his girlfriend and remember how you engaged with him while you were dating.
  • Make a simple date.
  • Book an evening with adult friends.
If you're like us, between careers and children, it's easy for our relationship to get leftovers.  That might keep you afloat, but nobody is excited about leftovers.  The secret sauce of second marriages is that you often have some time alone while kids are with their other parent.  Seize that opportunity!

Even the most ardent love needs connection to be sustainable. Don't allow your husband to become the last person on your list.  Yes, kids are depending on you and yet he is, too.