Category Archives: emotional strength

Ghosts of the Past

I recently watched a movie entitled, “The Awakening’. Released in 2011, it is a period piece (1921) set in England and billed as a horror movie. I found it be the furthest thing from horror. Movie summary: ‘In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.’ What Florence eventually sees are the ghosts of her past.

 It is my experience that many women, and men as well, tend to dwell on the past when they experience a divorce. I did that, too. It is easy to second guess ourselves and the decisions we made surrounding the divorce. It is easy to give in to the ‘horror’ of the past, to spend our time chasing the ghosts of choice, ignorance, and fear. In the middle of the night, we may be visited upon by the dark specter of regret who leaves us wailing in the terror of disappointment and disgust. We may tremble as we explore the dark recesses of our own motives and shriek when we discover our own hard hearts.

 We cannot dwell in that creaking house of horrors of our past and expect to heal and move forward after a divorce or other traumatic incident in our lives. We must face that which we fear the most – loneliness, guilt, bitterness, victimization – and resolve to break the chains of our fears. There is no monster in the closet or under the bed. There is no evil lurking in the shadows. The monster and the evil is our own fears, our own unwillingness to resolve the past and move forward.

 A counselor I once saw had this statement written on the whiteboard in her office; “The past is the present until it’s resolved.” We will always be haunted by the ghosts of the past unless we determine to resolve that past. It may be painful, terrifying, and heart-stopping – but the past must be resolved in order to move forward.

 At the end of the movie, Florence seems lighter and happier. She has resolved her fears and conquered her ghosts. She is free to move forward and live her life unafraid. It can be difficult to conquer those ghosts of the past. But once we are free of them, we are free indeed. Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

 

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I’m Still Standing

My oldest sister just celebrated 37 years of wedded bliss. When I called to wish her a Happy Anniversary, part of me was jealous. When I married, I thought I’d be married for a long time. I could never have anticipated the issues that led to my divorce. As far as I know, only one other of my five siblings has experienced the same issues I did in my marriage. Instead of allowing those issues to destroy his marriage and family, he sought help. Now, he helps other men who are dealing with the same issues.

When I heard my brother’s story, I was so grateful to God for working in his life. I was grateful that my brother recognized the value of his marriage and family before it was too late. I was grateful that even though he could have succumbed to a horrible issue and destroy his family, he did not. He ‘hung on by a thread’ and trusted God to rescue him.

My story is different and did not turn out as well as my brother’s. However, what ex meant for harm and destruction, God turned into blessing. I want ex to know that in spite of his actions, in spite of his refusal to abide by court mandated restitution, in spite of his wife’s scathing words to me, I am still standing! I don’t need him to validate my life and my relationships with my children. He no longer has any kind of power in my life.

In the 1990 epic, “Dances with Wolves”, there is a scene where Lt. Dunbar (Kevin Coster) meets Stands with a Fist, a white woman who was adopted as a child into the native tribe. Lt. Dunbar asks her, “Why is that your name?” She replies that when the natives killed her family, she defiantly stood her ground with her fist in the air – a symbol of ferocity and survival.

I stand with my fist in the air, showing ex my defiance, ferocity and survival. I am still standing and I want other women to know it is possible to do the same after a divorce. Don’t allow ex to have power in your life. You may be barely able to stand, but you are standing. That’s the best thing that can happen – to be able to stand in victory after enduring a particularly difficult incident in one’s life. Though I am not able to celebrate ongoing years of marriage, I am able to celebrate survival – and that’s the best thing to celebrate! Stay tuned. . .

Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again*

It’s easy for me to feel happy and contented seven years post-divorce. I wasn’t always happy and contented after my divorce. The first few months, even years, after my divorce, I was still angry and bitter. It took a long time to get over that. I eventually went to see a counselor for PTSD. Yes, women who have been through a divorce do experience PTSD, especially if there was any kind of abuse involved, no matter how subtle.

Even though Cycle Dude and I started dating not long after my divorce, I was still angry and bitter, though I made sure not to take it out on Cycle Dude. I worked diligently to get past the anger and bitterness in order to have a good relationship with him. He was so patient with me. I cannot express how much that meant to me.

I was listening to my Pandora Praise and Worship station this morning when the song, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey started to play. The first verse and chorus are this:

You’re shattered Like you’ve never been before The life you knew In a thousand pieces on the floor And words fall short in times like these When this world drives you to your knees You think you’re never gonna get back To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again Close your eyes and breathe it in Let the shadows fall away Step into the light of grace Yesterday’s a closing door You don’t live there anymore Say goodbye to where you’ve been And tell your heart to beat again (*Songwriters: Matthew West, Bernie Herms, Randy Phillips – performed by Danny Gokey).

The phrase, “Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore; say goodbye to where you’ve been. . .” spoke volumes to me. I don’t want to be the me I used to be. I am not the same person I was when I got divorced. I don’t live with that anger and bitterness anymore. Yesterday is long past. My heart can beat again. I no longer feel that ache in the pit of my stomach. I no longer cry myself to sleep. God has used Cycle Dude and his unconditional love, two friends and their incredible wisdom and His Word to heal my heart.

Let the healing balm of the love of Christ wash over you this holiday season. Take some time to sit in the silence of your living room and listen – to the quiet, to the voice of God, to your own heartbeat. Healing will come and your heart will beat again. Stay tuned. . .

 

Grace and Peace to You

I attend a church small group on Thursday evenings. The church and the small group are both fairly new to me, but they are a good place to be. Last night, as we were sharing prayer requests, one lady shared that a co-worker had taken his own life after being laid-off from his job. The gentleman was in his early 30’s with a wife and two children. One of the small group members made the comment that the holidays are an especially difficult time for some people – more so when they experience a loss during the season (job loss, death of a loved one, etc.).

This may be your first holiday season after a divorce or you may be enduring a difficult marriage. Your children may be grown and married, or they may still be young enough to need your guidance. Your spouse or your ex may be a jerk who makes holidays horrible. I have known the pain of a difficult marriage, of living with a passive aggressive narcissist, of trying to hold things together for the sake of the children. I know how hard it can be. I contemplated suicide several times during that difficult time in my life.

My best friend often reminded me of my children, of my dogs, of those who love me. Rascal Flatts sings a song, “Why”. Part of the chorus is, “Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight/They were wrong, they lied.” There is no place so bad that it is not worth fighting to get out of. Life is precious and beautiful and worth living. Grace and peace to you if you are struggling this holiday season. I pray for God to place His gentle hand on your shoulder and let you know everything will be ok. After all, He promises to never, never, never leave nor forsake us.

May I prescribe a dose of “The Muppets Christmas Carol” and a mug of hot chocolate? May God bless you this holiday season. May you know the reality of His presence. May you know the Love that sent Christ to this earth as a small, helpless babe. Stay tuned. . . .

Where Do You Live?

When my youngest sister was little, we taught her how to recite her name, address and phone number in case she ever got lost. She was a source of constant amusement – this little voice repeating over and over her address and phone number. We were all  impressed that she picked up on it so quickly and could confidently tell people where she lived.

Fast forward many years to a totally different place and a totally different person – me. My marriage was crumbling. To be quite honest, it was never really very strong. It took a huge hit by ex’s infidelity two months prior to our 12-year anniversary, then another huge hit when our Christian ministry failed. There were smaller tremors in the years between and after until one day, I knew it was so damaged, it was beyond repair. I remember telling my counselor that for years, I had been telling people my house was on fire and no one believed me – until ex attempted suicide. After that, I lived in a place of intense anger.

I had prayed for God to get a hold of my ex, for Him to mold him into the man he should be. It only seemed that the more I prayed, the more bad stuff happened. I became angry and bitter and wanted nothing more than revenge. I was living in a bad place. The more I stayed in that house of anger and bitterness, the worse my life got. My children started to become estranged. My health suffered.

I remember one of my friends telling me that it was okay to feel anger and bitterness, but I couldn’t stay in that place. I had to forgive and let ex go – I had to move out of that bad place that I was living in. It was like my soul was the house from “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You know the one – where Mary throws a rock and smashes the window as she makes a wish, the house that Mary fixes up and makes into a wonderful home for her family. Only my house wasn’t wonderful – it was cold and damp and dark, filled with cobwebs and other scary things.

I can’t pinpoint the exact day or hour, but one day, I found myself moving out of that house and into a nicer place – like the house from “Miracle on 34th Street”, the one that the little girl wishes for and moves into at the end of the movie. Sometimes it still rains and gets cold and damp, but I don’t live in that cold, broken down house anymore. I live in a house where there is almost always sunshine, where there is peace and happiness. My relationships with my children are getting better and my health is better as well.

So, where do you live? Are you living in a cold, damp, dark broken-down house? Or are you living in a house with lots of windows, where there is peace and happiness? Granted, we all have our bad days, but do your good days outnumber your bad days? Are you living in a place of healing and hope? Maybe it’s time to move. Stay tuned. . . .

 

When the Dust Settles

The days leading up to a divorce and the days and months after a divorce can feel like a bomb has gone off in your life. There is dust and debris everywhere. You feel anxious, hurt, confused and unsettled. You’re not sure what your next steps are. You feel as if you’re the only one who has ever gone through this.

It wasn’t until I moved into an apartment with my dogs that I finally felt settled after my divorce – and that was four years later! I eventually got rid of a great deal of stuff that was mine and his together. I remember getting rid of the gargantuan sofa bed that we had gotten together. I swore I was not going to move with that two-ton thing again! Cycle Dude came over with his reciprocating saw and cut the thing apart. Tossing the last piece of that sofa bed into the dumpster was so freeing! I finally got household furnishings that I liked and that I picked out. My home was now my own.

I realized the dust had finally settled when I could sit alone in the quite of my own home, enjoy the peace, and not feel anxious. I enjoyed sitting in my napping chair with my dogs and not making a sound. Sometimes the quiet wraps around you like a warm blanket. I would talk quietly to my dogs as we snuggled in the napping chair.

My life is so much different now. I have been living with Cycle Dude since March. I enjoy spending each day with him, walking my dogs, and being at peace. Healing from a divorce, or other traumatic time in your life, is a process. I didn’t get here overnight, but steadily moved forward.

I have a wonderful friend whom I met through this blog. We spoke recently and I was excited that she is moving forward and beginning to see healing in her life. No matter what, we must move forward. The dust will settle, dear one, and then you will be able to clearly see the way ahead. Keep moving! Stay tuned. . . .