Grief · spiritual growth

Feeling Twenty-Two

FullSizeRender(15)A baby girl was born twenty-two years ago: flawed, imperfect, and desperately wanted. Her little life ended before she was two, and because a Momma never forgets, on this, her birthday, I am feeling twenty-two.

It’s twenty-two years with her, but not. It’s twenty-two years of her here, then gone.

But that’s not all it is.

It’s twenty-two years of hope, through pain.

Intense grief never leaves, not completely. It just shifts. Over and over again, the pain of losing that little girl has readjusted itself around other highs and lows, or perhaps the extremes have adjusted themselves around her. When the dark memory of the day she died makes room for another fearful situation to reside in my being, the survival of losing her speaks into that new situation. 

For example, years ago, we owned a cabinet that failed to do its job. This cabinet was holding the china dishware we had received at our wedding. When the cabinet came down, the entire set of lovely white dishes, painted with tiny blue flowers, came crashing to the floor. In horror, I tired to capture the platters and cups, while my husband used one hand to hold the cabinet and the other to shield me from being injured from the falling plates.

Among the reasons this event is seared into my memory (other than the fact that my husband’s heroic act saved me from being flattened or disfigured) is because after the last dish fell, and I plowed my face into my husband’s chest, the first thought sent to rescue me from despair sounded something like this: “Jackie, you survived losing Molly, you will survive losing these dishes.”

For twenty-two years I’ve love this little girl, and for each of those years her life has served as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. I have come to believe there is no circumstance which can flatten or disfigure God’s presence in the life of those who desire Him. 

Can I let myself dream of a life where she didn’t die? Sure.

FullSizeRender(12) I can imagine a “grown-up” her: wearing a t-shirt from her college Alma mater, car keys dangling in her hand, she’s rushing out the door to see her sister and her niece.

I can picture a “young-woman” her: hiking to a waterfall with her cousin and her friends, she steals a kiss from a boy. I can envision an Instagram profile filled with duck-face selfies.

I can let myself dream of a “still-with-us” her: a story of secrets exchanged with siblings in a land with wedding pictures, game nights, and text messaging threads–and she is included.

Eventually, I wake up. She’s not here, and that’s not what happened. What happened was quick and unforgettable, like an intimate glance in a crowded room.

But this is where I have a choice. Is her birthday a reminder of the toddler that I lost, of the girl I never knew, and of the young woman who never was, or is it something more?

Each of us get to decide how to hold the memory of our own intimate unforgettable glances. Is the memory of a young life that was lost or of grief we survived merely painful? Or, is the memory of that intimate glance part of God’s plan for us to face and conquer oncoming and unknown trials? These intimate glances are severe and merciful reminders of resilience and healing, of promise on the days when we’re feeling twenty-two. 

I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. -‭Psalm‬ ‭22‬:‭22‬

spiritual growth

Finding God at Pieology

“He wants us to look for Him,” he spoke gently, but with authority.

As my husband and I sat on the love seat in our therapist’s office, we listened while our marriage counselor spoke to us about finding God in the most difficult times.  I have been the one who has been having a hard time “shaking the sadness” and being purposeful and joyful, so his eyes were on me as he continued. He reassured me that God has not abandoned my husband and I in this time of transition. My nervous system feels a little out of whack right now, and because I am facing something I have never faced before it makes it more difficult for me to find God in the equation.

When we are experiencing something that is brand new it is easy to feel like we are in it alone. We are on a new road where we have never traveled, and we don’t have a familiar template to recognize God. Because we know the nature of God, we know He has not abandoned us, but it can feel like He is hiding.

While it is not certain, it is very likely that my husband and I will be leaving California and relocating. We have relocated several times in our marriage and the signs are pointing to it happening again. The difference is that this time I do not get to take my children with me. I do not get to take my family with me.

If we were relocating for any reason it would be difficult, but knowing the catalyst for this particular change is due to my selfishness makes it more painful.  To know that my husband will have to leave his granddaughter because of decisions I made makes me question my ability to bring good into his life. Friends and family argue that I am not the one who made my husband lose his job. That choice was made by others in response to how my sin made them feel. We have examined it over and over and looked at it up against scripture, and what my friends and family have told me is Biblically sound. My husband should not have lost his job for what I did.

That being said, for me the bottom line is this: within a couple of months I am most likely going to leave those I love.  The reality of what is coming knocks the breath out of me.  As I was sharing this with our therapist he asked my husband and I to think of a time when we were children and we had made a mess of something. He wanted us to think of a time when we had made choices that had caused some kind of grief for our parents.

One of the memories that came to mind for myself involved ordering a pizza. I shared a story about the first time I ever ordered pizza for the family. I was about ten years old and someone had elected me to order pizza for the family. (Seriously?) I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t have the forethought to ask what anyone else wanted on the pizza. I called and ordered a large pizza with one topping. What topping?

Hmmm…how about…mushrooms.

Needless to say when the pizza was delivered no one in the family was thrilled with my choice of topping. The response was unpleasant to say the least. I had failed and there was not a lot of grace from those who were hungry. It was one of the those moments that has stayed with me for years. “The Night Jackie Ruined Dinner for the Family“. Looking back on it now it holds little value–it’s a meal and meaningless in all ways except for how it shaped me. We talked through the silly timeless event and proceeded with an understanding of how these events when left unattended can do their own kind of damage to us for years. Reevaluating a small and seemingly insignificant event can be a productive step towards closing unhealthy doors and passageways in the current day.

Before we left the therapist office he had some final instructions. He urged us to seek God out in times when it may feel like He is hidden. He reminded us of scripture that spoke into the desire of God to be sought out by his beloved.

Once we were on the road my husband turned to me and said, “All that conversation about pizza made me want Pieology.”

We drove to the local trending pizza parlor for some lunch. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, my heart began to beat faster and I felt nauseous. When I relayed the uneasy feeling to my husband he immediately retracted his desire for pizza, and told me he was willing to eat at home. I could not shake the strange feeling, but I really wanted to try to enjoy the moment. We’ve had so much isolation for the last five months, and at least if we were out of the house it would feel a little more healthy.

Pieology

We ordered our pizzas (and yes, along with the other toppings, my personal pie had mushrooms).  We stepped out onto a side patio to eat lunch in the sunshine. When the pizzas arrived we bowed our heads to pray. In his prayer my husband asked God to help us to see Him. He asked God to open our eyes to the places where He might be hidden. I wanted to feel what my husband was praying, but in the moment there was a part of me that was a little cynical, and while he prayed I opened my eyes and I spied a couple of jalapenos on my pizza.  Silently I wondered if I could somehow see the shape of a fish in them. Was God going to be hiding in my pizza?

I had just taken the first bite of my cheesy-deliousness when something caught my eye. Through two windows of the restaurant I noticed the silhouette of  young friend standing out on the sidewalk leading into the establishment. Because of the shadows and the distance from where we were sitting, I could barely see him, but I recognized his profile none the less. He is a pastor on staff, and I had seen a post this morning on Instagram reminding me that today was his birthday. I looked to see who he was with–it was another recognizable silhouette. And then I saw another. And another.

When we love people, we don’t have to see the whole person to feel better–even just their silhouette can bring encouragement.

I jumped up and grabbed my husband’s arm, “Come with me…I think some of our people are here!” We rushed to the front of the patio and shouted a hello to several friends who were gathering for a birthday lunch. Their sweet faces turned to us and cheered. Being greeted warmly is never so sweet as it is after humiliation and failure. Hugs and smiles hold more weight than ever, while distance and shunning are like knives to the heart. A few moments later, we found ourselves “crashing” the party of about thirty church staff people we admire.

JP's birthday lunch

It seems that today, that is where God had been hiding.

It was such a small thing. It was lunch at a pizza joint, but it reminded me of God’s compassion for us even when we are unworthy. We may be feeling cynical and doubtful, but He is not. He isn’t even tempted to behave that way towards us–for He cannot be tempted by evil. It will be easier for us to find Him if we stay away from those attributes, but He isn’t going to wait for us to “get our act together” to reveal Himself. That’s not His nature.

My world didn’t change today, and I am still most likely going to be leaving people I love. Because living so far from all of my children will be new and unfamiliar it is going to take all that is within me to seek God when I am unable to “shake the sadness.”  I will have to remind myself to remember in the midst of the worst moments, I am not alone. God will be with me, and my prayer will be that on the days I cannot see Him he will just let me glimpse His silhouette.

 


 

Post Script: If you are seeking a Christian therapist, my husband and I  highly recommend Dr. Raymond Jones–for couples and/or individual therapy. Click this link for contact information

Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at: http://aspencenter.org/#sthash.8aniODIa.dpuf
Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at: http://aspencenter.org/#sthash.8aniODIa.dpuf
Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at: http://aspencenter.org/#sthash.8aniODIa.dpuf

 

affair recovery · spiritual growth

The Secret Life of a Tattle Tale

As children we were quick to learn the pros and cons of being a tattle tale.  We learned that sometimes we could be a hero when being a tattle tale, especially if the behavior of others might have unintentionally caused someone to lose a limb.  In these instances, the parent often chose to overlook the tattle-telling that was occurring for the safety of others.  Other times it didn’t fare well to be the bearer of  disappointing news.  When there was a small injustice, and the parent was 7 weeks into summer vacation a tattle-telling instance may have been met with rolling eyes and sharp words from an exasperated parent.

Over the last couple months, I have been learning a great deal about being a tattle tale.  The person I am telling on is myself.

In a marriage where infidelity has occurred, there is a change in what accountability is required for the betrayed spouse to feel safe.  It isn’t unusual for couples to share an email or Facebook account to help maintain safe boundaries.  I can only imagine that every couple will deal with relearning trust differently.  There are different trigger points for everyone, and the couples will have to learn what those triggers are. According to affairhealing.com if accountability isn’t freely given, it’s going to be much harder for the couples to move forward towards lasting intimacy.

…if a cheating spouse has a genuine change of heart, he/she will want to prove their sincerity and will take the initiative in opening up the hidden areas of their lives to give assurance of their honesty.

Prior to my having an affair my husband was inquisitive to knowing what was on my mind.  He was always interested in knowing my heart–I was the one with the block, and I chose not to be honest.  I understand this differently than I did prior to my affair being disclosed, and now I want to open up to my husband–not because he stands over me watching every move I make.  I have a greater understanding of my triggers, and a better understanding of the reasons why I should not only listen to my thought life–but share it with him.  I have an understanding of how hiding small things will eventually grow to hiding larger things.

So…that’s all fine and dandy…but, what does that look like for the person who has nothing to hide? Ahhh…see, this is where the enemy gets us. There is always something to hide. Sometimes it appears harmless, but there are moments in all of our lives where we are in the position to open up and share–or keep silent. Keeping silent is a step towards isolation.

Our tendency is to try to conquer our demons on our own. We don’t see the monster we are facing as the GIGANTIC, SHARP TOOTHED, BLOOD-THIRSTY, EVIL CREATURE that it is. We see it as ‘a struggle’. We see a half truth as less offensive than a lie. We may even have the best intentions, “I don’t want to cause him to feel insecure…” Sometimes, we may even want to avoid a fight.

Not being completely honest may not be the same as having a secret cell phone, but withholding any part of ourselves from our spouse is the first step to giving ourselves to someone else.

4951204501_9e8a5ba3d2_zFor myself, I am learning to “tell on myself” when I am struggling with the emotional after affects of the affair.  I tell on myself when I am feeling sad. That may seem harmless, even silly, to some. Why would I struggle with telling my husband I am sad? Well, quite simply, since I am the one who caused all the heartache, I feel guilty when I am sad about the trials we are now facing.  The guilt I already felt for my betrayal was compounded when my husband lost his job due to my behavior. If I am not open and honest about my sadness and guilt, those emotions have the ability to morph into something more unpleasant and even sinful. Over time they can become a wedge between us.

When possible, I concentrate on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. But, when what I am facing is not one of these things–I quickly become a tattle tale.