Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Ask any girl between the ages of 16-21 who believes that she has ever loved and lost to show you her relationship box, and she’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. She’ll scale a chair to reach the top shelf of her closet, or she’ll crouch down to the floorboards and sweep her delicate arm under the bed, and out it will come. Some are tattered old shoe boxes, some beautifully decorated antique hat boxes or suitcases, and still others may better resemble an old laundry bag or worn out pillow case, but they all share the same contents. Precious memories of a relationship that eventually went sour.

The box holds the good things, the treasures she accumulated during the dreamy days to prove to herself that this amazing love was not a figment of her imagination. Ticket stubs from the movie where he first reached over to hold her hand. Dead, dried, flowers he sent on her birthday, along with the heartfelt card, and her favorite mix tape of all time, of course. His favorite t-shirt that he doused in cologne and betrothed to her when they had to spend that first week apart. Close-up pictures of their two happy faces smashed together as he extended his long arm to hold the camera out as far as possible. The hairpin she wore to the prom, the notes he left on her car windshield, and a handful of the garden pebbles he tossed at her window while calling her his "Juliet."

If she dumped the guy, or worse yet, had her heart broken by him…why keep all the souvenirs? She’s not sure why. She had to get them out of her room, off of her dresser, out of sight. But, no matter what happened toward the end, she just wasn’t ready to permanently part with the remnants of the good times. So she boxed them up and hid them, as much from herself as from anyone else. She’ll never admit it, but occasionally, when life gets really lonely and she’s tempted to stop believing in the power and goodness of love, she fishes out the box and remembers what used to be.

In Greek mythology, Pandora, the first woman ever created, was given a box. This box was filled with mysteries, things that didn’t belong to her. She was so curious to know what was inside, that she opened it without a second thought. To her utter shock and dismay, the “gifts” inside were actually many evil things, such as toil, illness and despair. When she opened the box, these things were released into the world, plaguing the human race ever since, according to the legend.
I have come to realize lately that I have unknowingly been filling a “God box” with memories, experiences, and lessons learned from my relationship with Christ over the last few years. Did Jesus and I break-up? Certainly not, but as more and more of Pandora’s treasures have been poured into my life through recent experiences, I’ve definitely had moments where I unintentionally pulled away from God and confined His goodness and glory to a box in the closet of my darkened heart.

I’ve taken blessings like the fearlessness required to step out in faith and follow a God who doesn’t tell me where we’re going, and I’ve put them in the box because I’m a mother now and I’ve convinced myself that such actions seem somewhat irresponsible. Other things, like my desire to believe the best about everyone while trusting that God will protect me from the pain of deception or rejection have been thrown in the box so many times that I’d like to lock them up and throw away the key. God’s ability to provide for my every need at the exact moment it arises sometimes ends up in the box, too, buried under His infinite wisdom and His plans to prosper me as I walk through this life with Him. All these things are taking up space in my “God box” instead of making their home in my heart and my mind like they should. What a waste!

The part of the Pandora’s myth that is often left out is that in her box filled with a world full of evil, there was one other thing. Hope. As the pain, the sickness, and the endless hardships that define human life poured out, hope seeped through. Without the despair that so easily ushers us into total hopelessness, there is no need for hope, for faith, for trust. Because of the pain, we know what hope is. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” When I confine the God of the universe to a box full of memories of a relationship that’s now on the rocks, all hope is bottled up also.

Maybe, just maybe, if I bring that box out into the light; if I dust it off and remove the lid…the hope will pour out and fill this house with light. And I will once again be able to take hold of those sweet memories and dance gracefully to the sound of His voice, as He sings over His child.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 40: Don't Stop Now.

Today my heart has been filled with praise for the God who led me to, and brought me through, the wilderness. I made a vow that I would spend these 40 days making forgiveness and healing my main priority, and God blessed me beyond what I could have imagined. I so hope that this project and the truths the Lord has taught me have been a ministry to others, and I will continue to pray for those of you who have been walking with me through these trials. Today's final lesson is simple.

To assume that this journey, the process, or the healing is complete would be naive. Jesus still has plenty of work to do on my heart, and just because I don't plan to focus solely on that and blog about it daily, it is incredibly important for me to leave room for Him to continue carrying out His plan for me. I also know that part of the plan for me- and every other believer- is to share His grace and His love with others and provide them with the same comfort that He has provided me in my darkest times.

"He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron." Psalm 107:14-15
--No matter what other troubles I face in this life, not a day will come when I will not be thankful for the way God has brought me through this time in my life and given me a deeper understanding of His character.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:9-10
--Although we may be tempted to celebrate the "end" of a journey like this one by focusing on our own agendas and hopes for our lives, it is important to keep our eyes and hearts open for opportunities to minister to others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 39: Acknowledge How Far You've Come.

Can anyone else believe that tomorrow is the final day in our 40 day journey? I tend to focus on how much farther I will still need to go, how much work is left to do, how much longer this will take, but that's not today's message.

My work day was filled with sweet reminders of God's ability to move us out of the pit and drench us in His light, no matter how dire our circumstances may seem. One precious friend of mine walked in this morning to announce that she is pregnant. She had already suffered a miscarriage, and failed fertility procedures, but she had never given up hope. Beside her came another grateful mother who started this school year in treatment for an aggressive cancer, and walks through life today with a clean bill of health and an amazing testimony to share.

I was later able to snuggle an adorable 4 month old who came, along with his twin brother, as a result of many fertility treatments, prayers, and tears from their faithful parents. He had also spent his first several days of life in the NICU (which is every parent's nightmare) but gave me sweet love today as a healthy, happy baby boy. I had a conversation with another friend who has experienced a family crisis much like my own, about the ways in which God has brought him through so much pain and anger to produce in him a peace and a fresh mindset. I looked in to the eyes of my own children, and I saw that they are adjusting to this new way of life amazingly well, and I praised God for His provision and their resiliency.

And this prompted me to look at my own life. I could go back and read the first days of this blog, and though I would remember her, I no longer know the girl who wrote those words. It would be false to say that the hurt is gone or the healing complete, but today is an opportunity to thank God for yanking me out of the sinking sand and setting my feet upon the rock of His promises and His love. I have put in plenty of effort and commitment to learning how to forgive, but the truth is that none of that would have helped if God himself hadn't met me in the middle of all my fear, questions, rage, and doubt and literally started to reshape my heart to look more like His.

"For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:5
--In this world, we will suffer. Things might get worse before they get better, and tragedy will strike when we least expect it. We may yell at God, question His goodness, or feel that He's turned His almighty back at times, but then the comfort will overflow.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38 (NLT)
--Jesus suffered, and we will too, but NOTHING will take His love and comfort from us, even in our darkest hours.

Lord, please show _____________ that Your precepts are right. Make his/her heart glad; let his/her eyes light up with the radiance of Your commandments. (Ps. 19:8

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 38: He's There in the Dark.

Today was a reminder that, though my hard days are getting fewer and farther between, they still keep coming. Just like usual, my trip through the emotional ringer wasn't even triggered by anything I can think of. This is not an anniversary of anything substantial in our marriage or separation, no insensitive comments were made to me, no contact with the ex. I didn't feel particularly lonely or stressed, just generally low. The day was just a little dark, as if the sun were refusing to peek out from behind it's cloud.

I was able to start a new book this afternoon, though, and it helped to alter my perspective a bit. A dear, supportive friend sent in to me, and it is called Faithquake, by Doug Herman. I can already recommend this book to anyone who is struggling, so I'll try not to spoil it as I reference it in today's lesson.

This evening was a really nice time to spend at home with the kids. They are usually with their dad on Tuesday nights, but we switched this week, so dinner and snuggle time with them felt like a special treat tonight. About an hour ago, Daughter decided that she was cold and wanted me to get a blanket from my bedroom to cover her up. I let her know that I would gladly cover her up if she brought the blanket, but she would need to to get it herself. She started the short journey several times, only to come back to me saying that it was dark and she was too scared to go in there. She even tried to convince Son to go retrieve it for her, but he too came back empty-handed, running back into the kitchen lights.

As a mother, I was not going to let my children freeze, but I was also aware that there was nothing dangerous waiting to overtake them in the moderately dark room. So I told them I would walk with them, holding their hands, into the room, but I would not turn on the light or actually pick up the blanket myself. In we marched, a strong line of three, gripping each others' hands so tightly that we would have dominated in a game of Red Rover. Daughter found the blanket, came back to my hand, and we left the room victorious.

I couldn't help but think how God is doing the same thing for me right now. He doesn't promise that dark days won't come, but whether we notice or not, He walks through every minute of it with us, and He leads us victoriously to a new light when the time has come and the lessons are learned.

"The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
--This tells us that the darkness doesn't last forever. And, hard as it is to accept when you are face-to-face with a catastrophe, we have also been promised that we come out of it better, stronger, not as easily shaken, and more prepared to help others during their own hardships.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze."
Isaiah 43:1-2
--Whatever it is, wherever we are, we are never alone. He's there, holding our hand, keeping us safe, and guiding us toward our reward.

Today's prayer for those who hurt me:

Lord, please give __________________ the heart to know You, that You are the Lord. Let them be Your people, and You be their God as they return to You with all their hearts.
(Jer. 24:7)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 37: There is a Gift for You.

Yesterday afternoon I decided I needed to go buy myself a little treat. I had been wanting a new candle to bring a fresh, new scent to our home, so I headed to my candle mecca, otherwise known as Pier One. As I approached the glass doors from the sidewalk, I began to notice a beautiful twinkle shining like a beacon and calling me in to the sparkly wonderland. Upon entering the store, the door let out a "bing" as it closed behind me, as if to make everyone shopping aware that there was a new victim entering the glittered crime scene. The Ghost of Christmas Decor had stopped in to this store, and apparently, she had lost her lunch all over the place. It was mesmerizingly beautiful, and then, in the next instant, sickening and depressing.


The topic of my Divorce Care meeting tonight was, "Surviving the Holidays." I realized during my shopping nightmare yesterday that I have been completely avoiding the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. I know they will be hard, and I know that there is no activity or attitude that will keep me from being lonely. This fact makes me wish I could crawl up into my bed, with Ben and Jerry as my company, then burrow into my plush new bedding and hibernate until Spring. Once again, I am thankful that I have two small children to take care of who would find that behavior completely unacceptable. So, I will get down the tree, eat the turkey, decorate the cookies and hang the stockings. I will soak up all the love I can from my amazing family and friends as they come from far and near to celebrate together, and I will try to find a way to do a little celebrating myself.

On the video we watched at the meeting tonight, they hit one point about Christmas that gives me reason to hope. The idea was, essentially, that Christmas is a holiday for sufferers. Our suffering, this fallen world, and our deep need for rescue were the reasons that Jesus came to earth. This present sadness could only be overcome by the baby in that manger, and He has, and will again, overcome the world. This is my chance to take Him at His word. This is my time to believe in miracles. Not the ones that slide down our chimneys in red, furry suits, but the One that became like us, and hung on a cross with red, bloody wounds and made a way for me to move forward and make something good of this all-too-often wasted life. What a gift!

"This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it--the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3
--This God has the big-picture view, and He's willing to share some of His secrets with anyone who calls out to Him with a genuine heart. What a gift, indeed.

Lord, I pray that you will humble _______________, and show him/her that when he/she calls on You, You have to power to answer him/her and tell him/her great and unsearchable things that he/she doesn't know in his/her present condition. (Jer. 33:3)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 36: Enough is Enough.

I just got home from yet another soul-stirring worship service, where God very clearly spoke to me about what's next. I think it's interesting that we tend to put time lines on the recovery process, when we must be somewhat aware that it is different for everyone. I am so utterly grateful to God for putting the idea of this project and blog on my heart because I feel that the time I've spent on it probably sped up my healing by not allowing me to avoid the pain and the lingering questions. We can waste a lot of time stewing in the filth that represents our circumstances if we do not force ourselves to progress, and I don't have any more time to spare.

It saddens me to realize how mundane and uninspiring my life had become before we were struck with all this family drama. And if I thought I was focusing too much on my self and my own needs then, I wish I could show you what's been going on in my brain these last few months. I know it is necessary for us to re-evaluate ourselves, our faith, and what we want from life sometimes, but I'm ready to start turning that focus outward.

I'm not delusional enough to believe that I'm completely healed, and whole, and happily ever after at this point in the journey, but I've had enough of the constant self-centeredness I've been clinging to. Enough whining, enough pity, enough being paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. This new life I've been given in Christ can't stop at my rescue. He wants to use my pain and my past to help rescue others.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
--Just as God has been good to me and brought me through my trouble and heartbreak, He expects me to help others to find justice and mercy, and to focus less on myself and more on how I can help others. There are many people around this world who are suffering far greater injustices than the one that has been done to me, and my pain binds me to them. My hurt for my own family makes me hurt for them and allows me to find new ways to minister to them. What good is suffering if we do nothing as a result?

I've read many verses about justice throughout this process, and I have seen that God has a heart for what is right and He hates it when His people are abused and mistreated. I should be equally as enraged at the wrongs being done around the world, and I have the ability to ask for God's power to help me make a difference.

Part of this morning's message was about real cases of human trafficking, of the AIDS crisis, and of orphans who have no homes. There are things we can do to help, and I am eager to get on board. I love knowing that we are called to a greater purpose than just to cry and pray and share our pain with the Christians around us as we all live our relatively comfortable lives. We are instead called to ban together, just as we would to help a friend or church member, and be the hands and feet of the living God to people everywhere

Every night since Daughter was less than 2 years old, I have prayed with her and told her that I'm proud of her. The discussion almost always ends with me reminding her, "You are sweet, and smart, and beautiful and loving and caring, and you and Jesus can change the world." It is my prayer that she will feel the desire to change the world because she has seen Christ do good works through me. I want my kids to have a heart for the nations, and to be able to put their problems and needs in perspective as they grow.

There are many practical ways we can all get involved, and I hope that everyone who reads this will be inspired to think about it. But I feel that in the wake of my personal tragedy, it is important to look for opportunities to live a better story from now on. One thing that has been on my mind lately is the fact that ex-Husband legally gets to have the kids for 2+ weeks at a time twice in the summer. It breaks my heart to think about being away from my kids for that long, but I am starting to realize that would give me enough time to go on a short-term mission trip of some kind. My heart for missions has always beat steadily inside my chest, but while I was married, my husband had different priorities. So maybe God will provide the timing, the place, and the funds for me to serve in this way this summer. Please be praying for me in this situation that I will be patient to wait on God's timing and plan. I'll leave you with today's prayer for the lost ones in our lives.

"Father, I pray that you will enable ____________ to obey your commands and to love you with all of his/her heart, soul, mind and strength." Deut. 6:5

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 35: The Absence of Anger Indicates a Heart Change.

Today has been a good day, but last night was a different story. The kids are away for the weekend, and I still find myself missing them and wondering what to do when they aren't home with me. To add to that, I watched a show late last night that proved to be more frightening than usual. So I decided to move on to watching something that would serve to calm me down, but somehow the love story involved in that episode just made me more aware of my own loneliness. So there I sat, well after midnight, with tears spilling down my cheeks and an empty house.


Something very strange happened as I sat there, filled with sadness and self pity. I realized two things that were different than the last time I experienced one of these nights.
#1. I felt alone, but I wasn't angry.
I didn't sit and stew about how Ex-Husband had caused all of this, or how his girlfriend had stolen the joy and stability from our family. This was not a conscious decision, mind you. I didn't have to try to stop blaming them; I just didn't think about it.
#2. My heart ached, but not for Husband.
I don't miss him anymore. Sure, I wish there was a man around the house to help share the load, and seeing the mother, father and two kids riding their bikes down the street is almost too painful to bear, but I don't miss the man that left our home. I don't hate him or wish him misery either, I'm just not longing for him to come back.

I feel like these shifts in my perspective have come mostly from the prayers I've been sharing with you these past few days. It's getting easier to see them as humans trapped in sin than the people who destroyed my so-called happiness. It's also getting easier to believe my loved ones when they tell me that God has something better in store for me in the future. I have to admit that the verse I'm about to share is one that I feel is often overused. Go looking for a graduation gift at your nearest Christian bookstore, and you'll find these words inscribed on everything from paper weights to baseball caps. But- just like a song that is played too often may seem worn out but doesn't cease to be a good song, God's word is always true, whether we've heard it one time or one thousand. This is a time in the forgiveness journey where I feel it is extremely important for us to hear God's voice as He whispers these words to us.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Today's prayer is simple, but crucial.
Father, my heart's desire and my prayer is for ______________'s salvation. (Rom. 10:1)