Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hello 2018!

Today I went to Target for the first time in ages and I bought a new doormat. I almost bought the doormat I had at my house in Arizona- a cute brown and black one. But at the last minute I switched it out for a new one, full of color. Sure, it was just a doormat, but for me it was also a moment of switching out the old for something that was fully me and mine, instead of holding on to what was.

On the way home my friends Tiffany and Jeff called. It was an absolutely encouraging and strengthening conversation as we talked through what God is doing in our lives.

I spoke of how deeply I feel joy now. Having been so entrenched in the darkness I now find joy so much more precious. I rejoice deeply in the joys of my friends and the joyful moments in my own life. I know how bad life can be, how despairing and hopeless, and so I seek to be grateful for every good thing now. The joy of my friends and the world around me is the most precious of gifts. Joy moves me and I hold tight to its beauty.

Tiffany and Jeff ended our conversation by praying a beautiful prayer for me in this new year and season. As she spoke, she prayed that this would be a year of color for me. That it would not be black and white, but colorful.

And that struck me.

Last year was full of darkness. It was all black and shades of grey. It was sadness and anger and despair. But as I start 2018 my word for the year is going to be "color." I am going to seek the color in every moment. I am going to be grateful, find joy, adventure, and laughter. I am going to spread color into the darkness.

And I am going to hold tight to every moment of joy.

It turns out I bought the right doormat after all.




Friday, December 29, 2017

D-Day and the Shame of a Situation

Throughout this whole process I have questioned myself. I have questioned my actions, my response, the things I should say, the perspective I should take. I have wondered if I should write about it, and if so, with how much detail. I have questioned because I wanted to figure out the “right” thing to do. 

But I had no guide, no map, no precedent to follow. After all, I am a Christian and we do not talk about these things, let alone let them happen to us. 

So a few days ago when I listened to a relatively transformative podcast by Rob Bell, I finally was able to take a breath and realize. . . I don’t actually need a map. I am the committee. 

I can question what is “supposed” to happen or what everyone else thinks I should do, but really, I don’t need a committee to make my decisions for me. I am the committee and I can make those decisions for myself. 

So, a few days ago was the anti-climatic “D-day,” the day my not-husband went to court to get the judge to sign our divorce decree (therefore divorce-day=d-day). We did a DIY divorce (as I like to call it) so I had no lawyer and honestly, I got all of my legal advice off of the internet, so I ended up not appearing in court (for a multitude of reasons I can explain later). It was the official end of my marriage, though it has been over for almost seven months already, and it signaled the start of the next season of my life.

If you know me, you know that I am not the kind of person that goes around talking about my "situation" all of the time. I never wanted to be the friend that people hoped they don’t have to hang out with because I can’t talk about anything other than my asshole husband or something. Even in the throws of it I tried not to dominate conversation with the topic. In part, this was also because my story was my shame. I never believed in divorce as an option. I married with a full commitment for life. But I wasn't given a choice in the matter. He left and I couldn't stop him, no matter how hard I tried. And I felt that from this day forward I would be judged negatively by what had happened to me. 

Then I listened to that podcast and I changed my mind. I decided, as the committee, that I don't have to be defined negatively by what has happened. 

My story can be my empowerment. 

My prayers weren’t answered as I wanted them to be, but I still believe that this is a story of hope. Even though I didn’t want this, it is a story that understands pain from a place of perspective. 

Sharing my story, even here on virtual paper, puts me in a place of scary vulnerability. As Christians or as people in general, we don’t talk about things. We aren’t transparent because it isn’t the image we are supposed to have. 

I am going to be transparent. 

I am a woman that is made up of pieces. Every moment of this experience is still a part of me, a detail in my composition. 

Seven months ago I was a pile of broken and fragile shards and I have been put back together to create something more complex, more beautiful with its scars and patched up edges. 

I am all of what has happened, what is, and what I am striving toward. 

I am the committee, making the decisions about what I do with it all, no longer bound by what he, or people I know, or strangers think I should do and be. 

I am a Christian, a missionary, a person who loves love, a hiker, and a believer in the good things coming. 

And I will share my story. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

For the Love of Love

Today, on Christmas Eve, I sat in church and I felt the emotion of the Christmas story in a deeper way than I ever have before. Every song gave me chills, the scripture made me teary. I was overwhelmed.

For here is a true fact:

I love love. 

Maybe it is because I now know that true love is such a rare and amazing thing, but any time I see or experience real love I feel the greatest joy. I love seeing my friends happy in their marriages or engagements, I love seeing families having fun together, I love how my grandparents care for one another. I absolutely rejoice when I see acts of love. It gives me life to see other people's joy.

My therapist recently explained God's love in a way I hadn't imagined before, with an imagery that spoke to me:

The short version of the Genesis story is that once there was the garden and everything was perfect, but we chose sin and had to leave.

In that moment, God could have said, "Good luck out there, in the imperfect, difficult, sad, and sinful world. One day I will let you return to the garden, to perfection, to being with me."

But He didn't.

Instead, God left the garden and He came into the darkness with us. He left the perfect, sinless, place to enter into the darkness at our side.

This act of great love brought me to tears as I considered the Christmas story tonight. I love that God sent His son, fully God, to walk with us. And I love that He didn't send His son in a cushy, easy way. He sent Jesus as a child, in a manner that is equivalent of having a baby in a taxi and then having to sleep in a tent. He sent Him in a manner that made Him just like us. He had to enter the sadness and the pain and the suffering, just like us.

He decided to walk with us. 

This whole past year God has walked through the mess with me. He has never abandoned me.

And that truth, as I lit the candle for the candlelight service at church, made me cry. Because He loved us in the most overwhelming and beautiful way.

And that changes everything. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Debut of Meredith 2.0

Last night I went to a wedding and debuted Meredith 2.0. Actually it is probably version 563.7 but we will say 2.0 just for simplicity sake. As a matter of fact, it was one of my "kids" (read: high school students that I used to mentor) that threw some wisdom at me the other day and impacted my decision to embrace the newer, better, brighter future.

I was lamenting about a picture I had lost that had him and some of the other kids in it when he texted me, "They're all good memories but sometimes we have to. . . look forward to better memories."

I know. Tell me about it. I "raised" good teenagers.

As 2017 comes to a close I could easily sit around and wallow in what was and what could have been, but really that isn't too productive. The much better alternative is to put on my favorite sparkly shoes and a great dress and walk into a group of people with my head held high, my heart full of excitement for what is to come, and my feet full of fantastic dance moves.

So the latter is what I did last night. I made myself fancy and I started a new chapter of the new me.

And it was great.

I ended up sitting with some fantastic, kind, and funny people and laughing so hard. I met new friends, spent time with old friends I hadn't seen for years, and held tight to some dear friends who made sure to look out for me. I managed to (while obviously still looking flawless) knock over my entire flute of sparkling cider while exclaiming a curse word in front a bunch of RZIM staff members, and eat a huge piece of delicious cake while continuing to groove to the tunes on the dance floor. I also tried to start a dance party with the sparklers to "Don't Stop Believing" but it didn't catch on. Ah well.

I laughed, I cried happy tears for my friend, I danced, and I enjoyed the evening. I enjoyed the beginning of this next chapter of new and better memories.

And even though I walked away without any marriage proposals or spontaneous declarations of love for me based on my amazing shoes alone, I walked away feeling fabulous and excited for what is to come.

And that, my friends, was the debut of Meredith 2.0.

I do declare that based on last night, I am going to enjoy this new chapter very much.




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Wishes for Existential Things

I want my skin to be thick enough for nothing to hurt. 

If only my heart was full enough that it no longer ached when I think of what was, what could have been, what is ending. I wish that my armor could shield me from the pain, the twisting arrow, the thoughts that I can't stop thinking.

I wish that I did not care, that his ghost did not have the power to make me feel so broken.
I want to forget the bad and forget the good.
I want to stop loving someone who doesn't deserve my love.
I want to go back and change my fate, my decisions, my trusting heart that told me to lay it all out for a person that would take it all and then walk away.

I want to be as carefree and happy as he seems, instead of worrying that people will discount me for my story.
I want to believe that all is well and all shall be well.
I want to be stronger than the mess.

But here is the truth:

There is no strength that could keep this from penetrating my defenses.

My heart is bound to beat with sadness and anticipation. It is bound to be weary and it will take time to heal. Though I scarcely believe it, I know that my heart is strong because even though it sits raw and vulnerable, it continues to defy the brokenness that overwhelms it.

No, this Christmas season is not full of joy for me. It is the anticipation of an ending that I did not want and that I still wish I could wake from. It is for me a season of sadness and frustration, anxiety and pain.

Because I still don't want this.
After everything that has happened, I still wish that it was different.

And though I know (and so often preach) about the silver linings and positive twists and blessings, sometimes I just want to be ok in not being ok. I want to sit with the frustration that God allowed this to happen at all, to be mad that I wasn't protected from this, that there wasn't some sign in the sky that told me what was coming and to back away.

I want to sit and not have to talk about the silver lining or the blessings. And maybe I want to throw something. Although it will probably be soft and I can't actually throw very well so it won't have much impact. But I will throw something nevertheless.

Because overcoming is about the mountain, but also about the rocks and hills along the trek. It is overcoming the hours and overcoming the months. It is feeling all the feels and being pissed that you can't just shove them down and ignore them. Overcoming involves a lot of being pissed I think. And snacks. Overcoming is worthless if there aren't any snacks.

So as much as I hate the stupid process of healing and time, there is no escaping it. I know, reluctantly and with an attitude, that eventually I will summit the mountain, feel the fresh air whipping over my face, and realize that I am stronger than I believed and happier than I ever thought I could be again.

But until then, I will have to make do with some pringles.

Maybe I'll even throw a few. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

What Six Months Looks Like

Overcoming is a weird thing. You simultaneously want to move along, to forget the bad thing that happened, to be free of the person that hurt you. . . and yet to fully move on and let go brings on an anxiety that is undeniable. 

Love is a weird thing. Someone can do the worst to you, beyond what you ever imagined, so much so that you hate every single piece of them. You want to scrub your skin raw, rip up every picture and trace of them, destroy every piece of life that they ever touched. And at the same time, almost against your will, you still love them, still wish they were there for the important moments, still wish things had turned out differently. 

Growing up is a weird thing. 
It never turns out quite like we imagined it would. 

Six months ago my life turned on its head when my husband decided he no longer loved me. Five months ago he left me to be with the woman he had chosen instead and filed for divorce without a single shred of remorse. Our marriage, what had been to me a sacred vow and a lifelong commitment, was to him a failed experiment to be tossed aside when it no longer suited him. He blamed my inadequacies and left me a shell of the confident woman I had once been. 

Six months ago everything I had known and hoped for was thrown into the air and set on fire. 

______________________

"I think people get bored of grief," said Natasha. "Its like you are allowed some unspoken allotted time- six months maybe- and then they get faintly irritated that you're not 'better,' like you're being self-indulgent hanging on to your unhappiness." 

-Jojo Moyes, After You
____________________

The flames that fell sought to destroy me, but like a phoenix I rose from the ashes, refusing for this to be the end of my story. I worked hard on healing, on understanding what had happened, on discovering the best of me again. I fell and I tripped but I moved forward. I grew stronger. And yet, it did not fix everything. Six months did not leave me a person unburnt by the things that had happened. 

My grieving looks different than it did six months ago, but the veil of him still covers my life. It colors everything, though only lightly and like a quiet afterthought. I am removed from him and much of my life has moved on, and yet I will tell you that the ghost of him still follows me. The anger, the sadness- it is not deep any longer, but it still brushes against my heart with quiet frequency. I am better than I was but I am still a work in progress. 

For those that have asked the questions that seem so simple to others:

I am ok but I am not.

I am doing better but I am not untouched. 

I am happy and I am sad. 

I am pleased for my future yet frustrated by my past. 

I am a walking contradiction who cannot answer the simplest questions. 

And that is ok. It is ok for me to still be processing, to still get quiet or lash out. It is ok that healing takes a long time and it is ok that however heartbreaking and hard this is, it is a part of who I am. 

I cannot separate from my story, but I will not let it be my shame either. I have not been defeated. I can stand on the far side of the valley and say with absolute confidence that there is still good. There is still hope. There is still joy

And that is what it looks like for me to rise from the ashes and spread my wings.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Journey through the Darkness

The first time I walked in to meet my counselor a few months ago I felt fragile and uncertain. It was like I had aged a million years and the softest wind would blow me to dust. I was more concerned for his soul than what had been done to me because caring about him was easier than coming to terms with the truth of how he had wronged me. I was desperately clutching at whatever I could to make sense of it all. 

I was stronger than two months before, but there was still a desperation in my eyes that quietly feared what had been and what was to come. For a long time I didn't believe a day would ever come when sadness did not consume me. 

But I learned tools to move through the darkness. I learned how to breathe, to ground myself, to relax. I learned to come to terms with my grief, my anger, my questioning. I cried, broken over a sense of guilt that I could have done better. I leaned into every emotion and I let myself feel them all.

And then gradually I began to feel lighter, full, happier. A light started to break through the clouds. My shattered bones began to grow back, stronger and deeper. Six months since the nightmare began I started to have days where the sadness no longer consumed me, though the crimson thread of sorrow would always be a piece of me. 

Four months ago I came home from Arizona broken. I didn’t know who I was anymore or who I was supposed to be. I was a shell of myself. I was empty and at the same time filled with tears and regret. 

But slowly, I have begun to thaw. Spring has come back into my soul. Slowly, I have found myself again. It turned out she was still there, deep down.

Each day I have to consciously work through my thoughts to win the mental game. I will have to deal with repercussions of this for some time. But I am the best version of myself right now, I believe. 

I am stronger than ever- physically, mentally- and I am fighting my way to healing. I am doing a good work and God is doing an even better work at keeping me safe while I become who He made me to be again. My steps are more steady for God has strengthened my weak knees and feeble arms. 

He has reminded me that there is a future beyond this. And I am starting to believe that what has happened is not the end of me. 

It is only the beginning.