I was looking at my calendar last week, and I realized that it was seven years ago that my world came crashing down around me. My mind wandered back to that awful night in November when I discovered the heartbreaking truth about my first marriage. I had been so busy working on exciting new things that I had forgotten about that particular anniversary.
Seven years. Wow.
I’ve taken some time since then to ponder all that has happened in the last seven years, and I am in awe. I never would have dared to dream about where this story would take me.
I was broken.
The future seemed hopeless.
I felt so alone.
I had three scared little faces looking up at me for reassurance.
I had to be strong… for them.
My heart has continued to heal a little more each day.
I have hope – wild and beautiful hope for the future – and now I get to share it with others.
I have learned that I’m not alone, and sharing the darkest parts of my story lets me help others know that they aren’t alone on this journey either.
There are three growing boys smiling back at me.
When I can’t be strong, I have my faith and the arms of my Beloved, family, and friends to hold me up until I can walk again.
The world which once felt so dark, scary, and lonely is opening up right in front of me! Somebody needs to pinch me, because I can’t believe what I’m about to tell you – 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year…
I’m going to KENYA in July!
And then I’m going to southern INDIA in September!
Everything has happened so quickly – but I am beyond thrilled to be joining our church in the work they are doing in both places. After years of learning about the situations and struggles that women and girls face in both countries, praying, and wondering what in the world a little mom from Kansas could do to help – I feel like it’s all getting plopped down right in my lap! I get to work with amazing women who are going through some of the very same struggles that we face. These women are just like us – they need to feel that they are seen, loved, and accepted for who they are. They need friendship, community, and security. Many of them are in abusive relationships. Many of them know the pain of their husbands being unfaithful in their marriages. These are male-dominated societies where women and girls are not valued, and my heart is aching for them.
My friend Joy told me stories of women who have to attend secret church services so their husbands do not realize that they are Christians. Sometimes the husbands will follow the wives to church – and beat them right in the middle of the church service. For their faith. It was when my friend told me about this that I immediately felt my heart drawn to these women. Seven years ago I didn’t have a voice, but healing, growing, and those who poured into my life were my voice until I found it again. My heart’s desire is to be the voice for others who can’t speak up for themselves, and to give them hope while they find their own voices again. Joy’s sister Elishba let me use her photo of one of these secret church services…
This is Nalini. She is one of these precious ladies. When her husband found out that she attended church services, he would beat her and lock her out of the house at night so she had to sleep in the street. Thankfully, her husband has been changing and she has been able to attend services without any trouble from him recently.
Dear friends, these women and girls are our sisters, and I hope that we will all stand with them in support. We’re all on this journey together!
Another exciting piece of news is that my lovely friend Joy is translating many of my blog posts into her native Tamil language – to be a book!!! Her father is the pastor of the church above – and they want to share our story with the women in their city. I am still in awe of how things are coming together! I have been busy editing and putting together our blog posts into a manuscript for Joy to translate – and then share with whomever can be encouraged by it.
This is what I’ve been doing lately – printing, playing around with the order of the chapters, and editing with my handy red pen…
*Sidenote – Isn’t my new African journal beautiful? My friend Toni from Red Pen Travelers did a fabulous job – and I can’t wait to take it with me on my travels! She will be making leather India journals in a few months to help support my trip to India! Check them out for yourself – her notebooks would make perfect Christmas presents!
I am so excited to share all of this with you because you NEVER KNOW what the future holds. You never know how your story can be used to touch someone else’s heart. To you, my friends, who are hurting right now – when you feel like you’re being pulled under by the unrelenting waves of your own pain, please know that there really is hope. There’s no telling who you might help by sharing your story with someone going through their own storm.
Seven years ago I never could have dreamed that one day my story of feeling so broken and alone would help anyone – especially women in other parts of the world. I feel so humbled that this Kansas girl gets to take a message of hope to our sisters in India and Kenya next year. I can’t wait to throw my arms around them and let them know how loved they are. Just like you, my friends, I want them to know that they are seen, they are loved, and they are not alone.
I am so honored to get to spend part of your day with you. Thank YOU for going on this journey with me!
Love & hugs,
I am always so touched by the messages and comments I receive here on the blog. I can’t tell you how much hearing from you has meant to me, and I am so honored to spend a little part of your day with you!
Today I am answering questions that I receive often, but have been afraid to address here “out loud” until now…
Yes, I believe that she has the right to know what is happening in her marriage.
Infidelity is a malignant cancer. It will devour your relationship, your family, and you personally if it is not brought to light. When my Beloved and I discovered that he had a tumor growing on his kidney, it was frightening. There would be pain and a long road to healing for him, but we knew that we had to take action. After the surgery to remove his kidney, we learned that the tumor had been much worse than we had anticipated. It was Stage II cancer, and it was a blessing to have it removed before it spread to the liver, lungs, brain, and other parts of his body. Pretending like it didn’t exist was not a healthy option for us. In fact, it could have been deadly.
The same thing is true in relationships. I have also lived through the devastating effects of learning that infidelity had weaved its way into my first marriage. I had suspected his cheating, but I continued to bury my head in the sand of my own denial. A friend lovingly removed my blinders and helped me to see what was really going on. The evidence of his betrayal was crushing, but her friendship, engulfing love, and gentle way of guiding me to the truth was the greatest gift that she could ever give me.
Being aware of the unfaithfulness is the first step to your friend having a fighting chance to save her marriage. You can’t save what you don’t know is lost.
Sadly, both my Beloved and I both have experience with this. While my friend told me over the phone, my Beloved’s friend gave him the news in person. We both agree that there really isn’t any one good way to tell a friend that their spouse is being unfaithful. Don’t stress too much over the method – but do realize that the most important thing is actually the tone in which you tell her. It’s all in the delivery.
I can’t stress this enough… Be kind. Come to her from a place of love. Your friend will soon find her marriage crumbling around her. Please be sure that your attitude is one of love, grace, and concern. Never slip into an “I-told-you-so” attitude. You may have thought this guy was a loser to begin with, and even if you had already expressed your dislike for him in the past, this time you need to approach her without any judgment. Just love.
No, you don’t have to tell her, but consider the analogy that I used before of infidelity acting like a cancer. If you knew that your friend had no knowledge of a deadly tumor in her body, would you tell her about that?
Not only does she deserve to know what is going on, it has now become a health and safety issue. This may not be the first time that he has engaged in an affair, and it might not be the last. She should have the right for the chance to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, and to insist on him being tested. Please do not think that you are doing her a favor by not telling her.
I understand why you might not want to tell her – but I ask for you to consider what you would want if the situation were reversed.
Another way you can be there for her is to offer to help in any way that she needs. Offer to babysit while she goes to counseling. Be a listening ear when she needs to vent, and a comforting shoulder to cry on when it all feels like too much. Chances are that she won’t feel like eating, but you could bring her a meal or chocolate. Or flowers. She will need your friendship, love, and acceptance now more than ever.
Pray for her. Send her a card. A text message just letting her know that she’s on your mind will mean the world to her. One of the things a friend did for me was to let me borrow funny movies and TV shows on DVD. It was impossible for me to fall asleep in the beginning, but I was finally able to relax enough to drift off to sleep after watching a couple of her SCRUBS episodes each night. Eventually I smiled, a while later I could laugh again – and her thoughtfulness played a huge part in my healing.
I honestly couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my friends and family. They walked beside me, encouraged me, let me lean on them when I needed it, and celebrated my growth and healing along the way. I wouldn’t wish this devastating news on anyone – but it is my hope that through our willingness to stand in those dark places with our loved ones, that we can let them know that they are not alone.
Do you have any suggestions for our friends? Can you think of other ways to help friends who has found themselves in this heartbreaking place? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
As always, thank you so much for spending a little bit of your day with me. Your encouragement and comments mean the world to me! You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
What a month it’s been! After being married for 4 years, my Beloved and I finally went on our long-awaited honeymoon! I mentioned on Facebook that the resort where we had planned to stay in Mexico had been wiped out in a hurricane this fall, and our hearts sank. Joe made a few phone calls, and we received a full refund! He found us a cabin in the Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, and we packed our bags!
I really didn’t know much about the Big Island or Hawaii in general before we bought a book that was HUGELY helpful in our travels! The Big Island Revealed was written by a man who lives on the Big Island – and it a guided us to many amazing non-touristy places during our week in Hawaii!
We started out by exploring the shores of Hilo, gawking at the sea turtles, and finding nice people selling fresh coconut water – in the coconut! I can’t tell you how much better it is right from the tree!
We decided to head up to the beautiful Mauna Kea summit – more than 14,000 feet up – to see the international observatories that live way above the clouds. Wow. Just wow.
It was cold up there at sunset, and we were still wearing our shorts and flip-flops, so we made plans to go back another night to stargaze. When we went back a few nights later, our group was treated to a guide who pointed out constellations, stars, and stories in the sky. It was incredible!
The went on a couple of hikes one morning (6 miles altogether!) where we descended 400 feet through a rainforest, made our way over this frozen lava lake from when Kilauea erupted long ago, then climbed the 400 feet back up to civilization. It took years for this lake of once red-hot lava to cool and harden – and now you can walk across it!
You can see the beautiful Mauna Loa looming in the background…
The walk wasn’t an easy one – but it was breathtaking!
We decided that we hadn’t punished our bodies enough after that hike, so we went on another trek to see a lava tube!
We were sore and tired after our hikes, but I am so glad we went – and this Kansas girl learned that I love hiking!
The waves were too high for us to kayak during our stay, so we spent a couple of afternoons crossing off what I wanted to do in Hawaii – lounge on the beach!
This is what we had waited four years to experience! I had a fruity drink in my hand, a book in my lap, my Beloved by my side, and a smile on my face! I even dozed to the sound of the waves. Happiest of happy sighs.
We also made the difficult hike to visit the hidden away Green Sand Beach near the southern tip of the Big Island. Wowzers – this was hard. It was three miles of climbing over sharp lava rocks each way, and we were only in our flip-flops! By the time we’d made it back to our car, I had 5 blisters on the bottoms of my feet – and sores where the rocks had poked THROUGH my shoes!
Yes, it was a bit windy that day…
But seeing the gorgeous green sand was worth it!
There were so many beautiful things to see and experience on Hawai’i – that one little blog post can’t do it justice.
Cliffs and valleys…
An active volcano…
My new buddy – King Kamehameha the Great (the first ruler of the Hawaiian islands)…
And gorgeous black sand beaches…
I am beyond grateful that I get to walk through life with this guy!
I have become obsessed with Hawaiian history since our trip! I’m reading a fascinating book by the last monarch of Hawaii – Queen Lili’uokalani – and eagerly looking for more stories of the Hawaiian past and culture.
Joe and I have even begun dreaming of one day moving to Hawaii! I could definitely cozy up to the idea of writing and sipping coconut water while watching the waves at sunset from my lanai! It did my heart so much good to just get away. We were able to finally relax, letting all of the stress of the last several years – broken hearts, divorces, deployments, custody battles, cancer, living apart – melt away. Ahhh…
Thank you so much for indulging me today – and for staying with me during my long absence this month! I can’t wait to get back to sharing together every week now that life is finally starting to get back to normal after the rush of the holidays!
I’ll be back later this week for the December Edition of What I’m Into!
It’s here! It’s here! The November Edition of What I’m Into is finally here! I love this link-up hosted by the lovely Leigh Kramer! Fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa, curl up in front of the fireplace, and check out the other awesome link-ups this weekend. That’s what I’m doing right now!
A little laundry time…
A little hot tea in my jammies…
A little writing here, a little bling there, a little dark polish that’s perfect for fall…
A few science experiments… (Pop Rocks and Sprite)
And a whole lot of snuggling…
As You Wish, by Cary Elwes – Favorite book of the month! I listened to this book with our Audible credit – and I can’t recommend the audio edition of it enough. Cary Elwes, (aka Westley) takes us on the journey to filming the much-beloved classic movie The Princess Bride. I love this audio version – Cary Elwes does incredible accents, and most of the movie cast lent their voices to reading their own memories from this amazing movie! I laughed until I cried during stories about Andre the Giant and Miracle Max! It has pretty clean language. Fair warning – it may have contained the d-word (as my boys call it) once or twice, but my two oldest boys have enjoyed listening to it with me as we cook and clean up in the kitchen, and when we’re in the car running errands. If you loved the movie (I still haven’t read the actual Princess Bride book yet!), I’m betting that you’ll also love As You Wish!
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull – This was a fascinating look into Pixar – the history, the ups and downs, and the things that have made it great! I’m not a boss in business, but it gave me some ideas for cultivating creativity and teamwork in my own family!
Sheltering Rain, by Jojo Moyes – I’m a big Moyes fan, and my friend Jan was nice enough to lend me her copy of this book! It wasn’t my favorite book by this author – that title still goes to Me Before You – but it was still enjoyable.
Food: A Love Story, by Jim Gaffigan – Looking for more laughs? Check out Jim Gaffigan’s newest book! I listened to this on a road trip, and he kept me in stitches – and made me pretty hungry!
I’m about to dive into several books this month:
What are you reading this month?
My Beloved and I went to see the new Hunger Games movie on opening night with my siblings. The six of us plus a few of their friends really enjoyed the first installment of Mockingjay, and I can’t believe we have to wait a full year before we get to see the second half! Mockingjay was my least favorite book in the trilogy, but I was pretty impressed with the movie. Go figure!
We also saw Jon Stewart’s directorial debut – Rosewater. Wow. The true story of a journalist who was imprisoned and tortured while covering the 2009 elections in Iran. We were the only two people in the theatre, which was pretty sad considering this is still going on all over the world.
Interstellar – Whoa. Buckle your seat belts, folks. This movie is a wild ride! I can’t tell you more than that – but it left me wanting to see it again!
Top Gear and Top Gear US are huge favorites in our house full of men. Joe and our boys have been watching past episodes whenever they get the chance – and I enjoy watching it, too!
And we’re still catching up on this season of Homeland. Let me just say this – If the Taliban lays one finger on Inigo Montoya (Saul), so help me, I’m never watching it again!
What I wish I’d known all those years ago about registering for my wedding! Don’t make the same mistakes I did!
We’re going on our honeymoon! After being married for four years, we will finally get away together, relax, recharge, and celebrate the wild roller coaster of our life together so far! Hawaii, here we come!
What have you been into this past month? Have you read any good books? Seen any must-watch movies? What shows are you watching these days?
I’d love to hear all about it!
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Until next time,
I remember twirling in my fancy dress as a little girl. Time seemed to pause just for me as I spun around and around on my tip-toes. My ruffled dress and I whirled about the room so fast that everything around me simply faded away. That dress transported me to my own little world where I could be a ballerina, a fairy princess, or Cinderella at the Ball. I wanted to dance in my special little place forever…
But what happened to the imaginative little girl that I used to be? Her heart had been bursting with endless hopes. The dreams that she held so dearly knew nothing of limits. Her little world was full of light – a beautifully magical place where good always prevailed over evil, no real harm could befall her, and where Prince Charming was coming to rescue her, dressed in his shining armor.
Dark shadows crept toward her, and she gradually stopped twirling. As she was confronted by these ghosts, she let her dreamland slip away. Over time she sadly gave into the idea that she would never be a fairy princess. When she stood still, darkness crept in to surround her.
Other girls laughed at her. She buried her desire to once more twirl around and around. She tried to fit in…and failed miserably. “You’ll never be good enough,” the Shadow of Inferiority hissed.
“I’m not hungry.” The lies that she told herself over and over again were so ardent that she actually started to believe them. The lower the number fell on the scale, the closer she thought that she would be to perfection. She thought that she was almost there, but perfection never came. “Just a few more pounds. Just a few more inches,” lied the voice of Self-hate.
She felt in her heart that something was not perfectly right, but he seemed like such a nice guy. He sought her out. No one had ever paid her this much attention. He said that he couldn’t imagine life without her. Surely, this had to be her long-awaited Prince. The Shadow of Deception felt too good to be true.
“It’s your fault. You made him angry. You’ll never be good enough for him,” the Shadow of Abuse deflected the blame at her.
Crashing through her little home, The Storm of Infidelity left a trail of devastation in its wake. Once more she allowed her heart to listen to the vicious lies in her head. If only she had been prettier. Maybe then he wouldn’t have betrayed her trust. Maybe then she would have been good enough. If only…
As the shadows of Divorce and Loneliness threatened to surround her, she realized that she no longer had to be frightened by the ghosts of the past. Wondering why she had ever stopped dancing through life, she worked to slowly unravel the darkness that had been her constant companion all of these years. She found courage that had sparked deep within her. She could now face the darkest of shadows without allowing them to overtake her. She gave herself the freedom to cautiously begin to twirl once more.
Days turned into weeks, weeks eased into months, and the months flowed into years. She gathered a strength and assuredness that can only come from staring down the darkness. With a new radiance, a smile graced her face for the first time in years. A deep and meaningful happiness welled up in her soul. She learned more about her true self as she grew as a woman, and she found that her real life journey far exceeded anything in a fairytale.
When the wounds of the past had started to heal, someone new entered her life. More than just a brave prince, he was a kind and selfless spirit. As their friendship developed, and then grew into something deeper, she found that she did not have to stop twirling for him, or anyone, ever again. He, too, was on a path of healing, and their separate lives began to mesh into one beautiful dance. She now had a partner, a friend, a Beloved – and the ability to keep twirling as life moves forward. Shadows will come and go over time, but she now felt confident that they no longer had the power to hold her back from pirouetting joyfully through life.
The little girl grew up, and as she fought, lost, blossomed, and triumphed, she began to twirl once more – and she vowed to never stop.
I vowed to never stop…
“Those who look to Him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed. ~ Psalm 34:5
~ Our Story ~
*Originally published on my friend Brenda’s blog – Recovered Identity.
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“What are YOU doing up this late?” My friend Joanne messaged me online.
I glanced disbelieving at the clock. It couldn’t really be that late, could it?
I’m just chatting with Joe… I typed back.
I could almost hear her Kiwi accent through my computer.
Ohhhh, really? Again? Don’t stay up too late 😉 – she answered as she disappeared offline.
I smiled. This freedom was such a wonderful change from the immense stress of the last year. I couldn’t help it – I was finding myself smiling even more lately.
For the first time in forever, I was happy!
I had met my friend Amy’s brother Joe at her wedding. We started texting back and forth, checking on each other. Then came the phone calls. We commiserated over the ways our marriages had ended, and we bonded over the devastation that infidelity had torn through our hearts. Instead of dreading the dark and empty house at night, talking to my friend Joe at the end of the day had become something that I looked forward to.
I sent him a birthday card – a funny rockstar bulldog on the front, and I included a little blue robot magnet for his refrigerator inside. I knew how horrible that first birthday after divorce could be, and I hoped it would brighten his day even a little.
Slowly our conversations went beyond our exes and our pain – and we started to learn more about each other. We had both grown up in similar large families. Homeschooling had played a huge part in our youths. We covered many topics during our evening phone calls and found that we also shared similar views on life. Because I had known his family for over 10 years, I knew that he was being genuine – and not merely agreeing with everything that I said. Refreshing, I thought.
Why did you decide to go into the Air Force?
Do you plan to homeschool your boys?
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Where would you most like to travel?
What do you want people to remember about you, after you’re gone?
What is something on your bucket list?
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Do you like sushi?
Joe was becoming my buddy. Even a kindred spirit. We certainly shared many of the same values, and we were also healing from devastating betrayal and divorce. Even though our hearts had been broken by the ones we had held most dear, we found it oddly easy to trust the other. I humbly thanked the Lord for sending me a pal to go through this with me.
With each conversation, I sensed another layer of my heart was mending with the help of his friendship.
And then it happened.
I did it. I just signed up for another six month deployment to Afghanistan. I leave in November.
I felt the wind rush out of me. He had mentioned this possibility of volunteering to deploy again. There was nothing and no one to tie him down now, so he had thought about getting away for a while. It had been decided.
It was at this moment I realized that he was no longer my friend Amy’s little brother. He was my friend. My good friend. And soon he would be off to war for six whole months.
We had talked about meeting halfway someday. Kansas City, maybe. As we realized that the time before his upcoming deployment was getting shorter, he brought up Kansas City again. Was I still interested in meeting up at some point?
Actually, I told him, I was going to be in KC over the next weekend visiting my friend Joanne. Joe had also met Joanne in Texas earlier that summer when she went down to photograph our friend (and his sister) Amy’s wedding.
Joanne and I were planning a girls’ weekend complete with shopping, chick flicks, and laughter. Something told me that my Tribalwoman wouldn’t mind terribly giving up at least part of our weekend to let me see Joe. In fact, when I brought it up with her, she offered to let Joe stay at her house too.
I could hear the teasing smile in her voice. “No sense in him driving all that way just to see you for a day! Tell him he can stay in the basement, if he wants.”
After I made sure that she was perfectly fine with nixing our girls’ weekend, I nervously relayed her message to Joe. Poor guy. He probably didn’t want to spend the whole weekend together, I thought. But maybe…
To my surprise, Joe actually seemed excited when I mentioned her offer! We started talking about what we could see and do in KC, and for the first time in forever, I felt it.
Something was stirring in my heart. This had begun as a friendship between two broken spirits, but for the first time I was starting to wonder if it could possibly be something more…
~ Our Story ~
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You’ve already met our other boys – Camden and Aiden, but today I wanted to introduce you to the littlest member of our family – Quinn. My little man celebrated his sixth birthday this summer, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he’s such a big boy.
I don’t think he’ll ever comprehend how much of a gift he was to me in the darkest and loneliest hours of my life. I remember the night I found out that I was expecting him, those two little lines appearing before me. I cried, and they weren’t tears of joy. The dream that I had for our little family was falling apart, and I couldn’t pick up the pieces fast enough. I was married, but I felt so very alone.
Over the next few months, I would sing to him as he bounced around in my belly. I knew even before he was born that I had a wiggle worm on my hands. As I became used to the idea of having another little boy in the house, the connection with my baby grew. Just like his brothers before him, I knew that he was special. He was precious. He was mine, and he was loved.
As I was in labor, my ex-husband was in the next room watching a movie on his laptop. Hurt and embarrassed, I made even more excuses for him. Once again I found myself alone, and wishing that I had someone to hold my hand. Curled up in a ball, I silently reminded myself to breathe during contractions.
“Okay, Little Guy, it’s just you and me. Mommy loves you so much…”
The name Quinn means “Wise.” When they handed him to me, I knew his name was perfect. He looked like a wise little old man. Puffy cheeks, wrinkles, and his arms folded across his chest. Even from the very beginning, he watched everything so intensely. He absorbed life around him like a sponge.
I had complications after we came home from the hospital, and spent the first few weeks of his little life on bed rest before my doctor resorted to a D & C to stop my hemorrhaging. I was anemic and fragile while I recovered from the procedure, but my love for this tiny gift filled my heart to overflowing. My trio of little men was complete… My three sons.
He was the easiest, most relaxed baby I had ever seen. Content to sit and take in his surroundings, he was happily entertained by his two big brothers.
Quinn was only five months old when our family’s little world came crashing down around us, but he never stopped smiling. I would hold my sleeping baby late at night, and just breathe in the love and joy that radiated from his little face. We called him “Grinny Quinny,” and the name fit perfectly.
My littlest guy kept us all smiling and laughing during his whole first year!
A momma’s work is never done. This wiggle worm has kept me busy – even minutes from walking down the aisle to marry my Beloved! Quinn was only two years old when his buddy Mr. Joe embraced our little family and made us his own…
And he became Daddy Joe…
My little guy has grown so much, but it’s hard to realize that he isn’t a baby anymore. The six years of smiles, hugs, ornery giggles, his careful attention to detail, concern for others, dance moves in the grocery store, and twinkles in his eye have been the greatest gift that a mommy could ever wish for herself. He was a balm that helped to mend my broken heart.
I think back to that day in the delivery room – when I didn’t have a hand to hold – and I am forever grateful for all of the loving arms that surround me today. My cup truly runneth over. I don’t know what I would have done without the love and laughter these three little men and my Beloved have given me over the years – but I do know that I am the luckiest girl in the whole world!
Photo Credit: Photos 2-7 were taken by the lovely and wildly talented Joanne Funk – of NZ Portraits by Joanne.
When I moved to a rural community with my family when I was ten years old, this house jumped out at me when we would drive through the nearby town. I loved the red front door, the diamond-shaped window, and the storybook character that seemed to flow out of its eaves and gables. When it came on the market during the first year that my ex-husband I were newlyweds and looking to buy a house, I knew it was meant to be. It was my house of dreams. It was perfect. And it was mine.
It was my home for just three years. Our two oldest sons were born while we lived here, and I had been heartbroken when we moved away. My sister and sister-in-law told me last week that it was back on the market. When my mom let me know that there was going to be an open house on Sunday, I decided to take the boys to see the house they were too young to remember.
My pretty French doors – I was so happy to see them!
I used this double French doorway to set up the bouncy swing that both boys enjoyed when they were babies. I spent hours watching their little Flintstone feet run, jump, and play! So many memories…
I stood in my old kitchen. Sure, there were a few changes. The curtains were different, the stove and refrigerator were new, and the floor had changed… but it still felt a little like coming home. There was the sink that I picked out for my first Mother’s Day to replace the mustard yellow one from when we moved in. Ah, the light above the sink that made the room glow with warmth in the early morning hours when I started my day. The cabinets where my little ones used to play. My red walls…
My mind traveled back to standing there the day we brought Camden home from the hospital. I was exhausted, nervous, on top of the world, full of love, and unable to take my eyes off my little one – bundled up in his green receiving blanket. I swayed back and forth as I held him, introducing him to all of the rooms in his new home.
I remembered removing the old wallpaper in the kitchen, and how I had finally found the perfect shade of red for the walls. After Aiden was born, I worked during their naps to paint the trim a shade of cream. So warm and homey, this room became one of my favorites in the whole house.
Next I went to visit my bookshelves. How I loved filling this room with my collection of stories!
There used to be a small used bookstore just up the street from our house. It was run by the local Mennonite community, and the proceeds of the store went to help with their mission work around the world. I would put the boys in the stroller, and walk to the store to gaze at the beautiful antique books for sale. Sometimes I would gather up the books I was finished reading, and trade them in for credit toward purchasing some of the antiques for my very own.
Oh, how I wish that I had pictures of when my books lived on these shelves…
Then we went upstairs to see the room that had been Camden and Aiden’s nursery.
My oldest son’s middle name also happens to be the name of a star, and before he was born I arranged glow in the dark shapes on the sloped wall in the shape of his constellation. I painted his middle name next to the star sharing his name. It broke my heart to paint over that little labor of love when my ex decided to sell the house. I couldn’t find any trace of my constellation, but as I touched the wall, I knew it would always be there. All of the love and hope that I had poured into this house, my little house of dreams.
But sometimes hopes and dreams don’t quite turn out the way we had planned.
I was incredibly sad to leave my home eight years ago, and I had no idea where my life’s journey would take me next.
We went from this 1940s Tudor home to a 1950s Mid-Century Modern house. Two years after we moved, my trio of little men was complete when Quinn was born. He was only a few months old when my marriage fell apart.
I worked so hard to salvage our little family, even after everything…
I became a single mother, and silently wished that someday I could scrape up enough money to buy back my little Tudor house. I wanted to erase all of the painful memories in the past.
But then someone very special came into my life, and I began to dream new dreams…
As I walked one last time through the house, I was flooded by beautiful memories and sorrow. Joy and agony. The dreams I had for my little family in that little house, and having them broken forever.
Just like that constellation in the nursery, the painful moments of my past will always be there, but I am forever thankful for second chances. I am so blessed to have my Beloved in my life. And I am grateful that I can now turn the page on that chapter, and move on in my story. My counselor had once suggested revisiting places in my life that held painful memories, and allow myself to see that those experiences really are in the past, and that they no longer hold power over me. When I told my counselor this week that I had gone back to visit the house, she said that she was so proud of me – and I think that I’m actually a little proud of myself, too.
One thing I learned by walking through that red door again last week, was that even though I was glad for this look back into the past, I have so much more to look forward to in the future. I am excited to live fully and whole-heartedly in our new home, one where our entire family can chase our dreams together, but I will always treasure those tender moments with my precious little ones in that house. It is no longer my house of dreams, but it will always be my little house of memories…
I have recently received a few messages from readers that were very different than the many encouraging comments that I have received through sharing Our Story.
When I first read the notes, I honestly considered quietly deleting them. No muss, no fuss. I am a quiet, introverted, peace-loving kind of girl. Conflict just isn’t for me. The last thing I wanted was for someone to come here looking for hope and encouragement in the midst of their nightmare, only to find negative comments that could inflict more agony on a breaking heart.
It was actually my Beloved who inspired me to look at this from a different perspective, and to share with you a little more about my story, in hopes that it might somehow help or encourage others who are facing their own broken marriages.
This is not the first time that I have been confronted by these questions, and I am sorry to say that I am not alone. If you have gone through the betrayal of adultery in your marriage, unfortunately, you may be faced with someone who implies or even comes right out and says this at some point as well. I felt so very alone while I was going through the breakdown of my first marriage, and I wish that someone had prepared me for the different struggles that I would face in the aftermath.
I have never placed the blame on the Other Woman in my first marriage. This is where the negative comments seem to point to me putting all of the blame on her, and none on my ex-husband. This simply isn’t the case. The readers have a point in that the other woman didn’t force my husband to cheat on me – at least not that I am aware. They are also correct that she was not the one who vowed before the Lord, our families, and our friends to forsake all others until death do us part. He did. When he chose to have sex with someone else, he alone destroyed our marriage vows… and our family.
If your spouse decides to have a sexual affair with someone outside of your marriage – he broke the vow. Not you. Not the other woman.
We’ve all heard the stories. There are scenarios where the other woman has no idea that she is involved with a married man. Sometimes a spouse can hide a double life so well that she won’t realize that she is also being played.
However, there are also many stories where the other woman is aware that he is married. She may not have broken the vow between you and your husband, but there is a general moral belief in many cultures that you just don’t sleep with someone else’s husband. She knowingly took something that was yours. It was not hers to take, and you have every right to feel hurt because of it.
Deciding to forgive the other woman for her part in the story was a big step early in my healing. As painful as it was to release all of the hurt, it was something that I will never regret.
I try to use discretion when I share about my ex-husband and his role in the death of our marriage. This is the father of my children. They don’t know the full extent of our story, but somewhere down the road that may change.
That said, of course it was more difficult to forgive him. The excruciating pain, the doubts, the lies, the crippling fear, the threat of my exposure to sexually transmitted diseases… There is no comparison. Having to make an appointment with your doctor to be tested for HIV, Herpes, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis, Chlamydia, and more, when you believed that you were in a monogamous and faithful marriage, is humiliating and devastating. Thankfully, my doctor’s nurse is my friend. She held my hand the whole time, listened to my heartache, and gave me her shoulder when I needed to cry.
As I shared in Chapter Eleven of Our Story, there is a common belief that if a man has an affair, the wife must be to blame for his infidelity. I have even heard those who have been the Other Woman make it clear that if he wasn’t getting what he needed at home, the poor guy had no choice but to find comfort in someone else’s arms.
No. Just no.
As much as I agree that men generally aren’t forced to commit adultery, one of the things that I still had to confront on my own path to healing was taking responsibility for my role in the breakdown of our marriage.
I never cheated on him, but there were ways that I failed my ex-husband.
I allowed myself to become a doormat. I didn’t drag him to counseling until it was already too late. I didn’t respect myself, so I didn’t gain his respect either. I didn’t hold him accountable. Because of several devastating things that happened in our marriage, I shut down emotionally and physically. If I told you what occurred, you wouldn’t blame me. This is where counseling and accountability could have been game-changing. I turned a blind eye to the late nights, mornings where I discovered that he was still gone, and weekends away. I trusted him to be where he said he would be. I found evidence of his unfaithfulness, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to see the truth. As hard as I tried to be a good and submissive Christian wife, I still failed.
This was almost six years ago, and I am a different woman than the diminutive, naïve, and idealistic girl that I used to be. If I could go back, I would put our marriage first, and not our children. I would speak up, unafraid of rocking the boat. I would stand up and fight for myself – and for my marriage. I would get us into counseling and into accountability relationships with strong mentors. I wouldn’t have agreed to stay away from his computer. I would not have hidden my pain from my close friends and family – the ones that love me most. And I would have reached out and begged for help.
Even then, I don’t know if these would have changed the outcome.
The trust that is severed when marriage vows are tossed aside takes a long time to regain, even in the best of situations. I am blessed to know couples who have been through the agony and betrayal of adultery in their own marriages, but who walked through the fire hand-in-hand, and have found healing and strength on the other side. They each put in the hard work, the dedication, and lived transparently while they fought to earn back trust and save their marriages. They are such inspirations to me, and it was my prayer that we could have joined them. I also want you to know that it is possible to find forgiveness, healing, and trust in each other again.
Be prepared for the possibility of feeling the finger of blame pointed at you somewhere in your healing journey. Even though this may happen, I can’t stress this enough – If you were faithful to your spouse, it is not your fault.
Do you hear me? This is not your fault.
You are not alone. Even when you don’t know which way to turn, who to trust, or how to survive the physical pain of your heart breaking in two… Please know that you are not alone in this.
You will find the strength to do the next thing. You will smile again. You will heal.
You are not alone… I promise.
I hope that I cleared things up a bit.
~ Love and hugs,
I was thrilled when my new blogging buddy Cara Meredith asked me to join a new series about writing! (Check out her lovely blog, and be ready to feel encouraged, inspired, and challenged!) Each writer in this series is asked the same four questions about their writing process, and I have loved reading about how other bloggers and writers approach their love of the craft!
I am chronicling the continuing chapters of Our Story to share here on the blog. In it, I am sharing my journey of discovering betrayal and infidelity in my first marriage, my divorce, life as a single mother to my three little boys, and how my heart healed after all of the pain. I am currently writing how Joe went from being “my friend’s little brother” to the man he is today ~ my Beloved. I’m hoping to share the next chapter a little later in the month, as our wedding anniversary approaches. *happy sigh* I am finding this as a special way to pass the time while he is deployed this summer!
I am also writing a weekly series for the blog where I ask women to come alongside me and take better care of themselves – A Happier, Healthier You. I have heard the admonishment many times to take care of myself – eat better, get more sleep, give myself a little grace – but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2014 that it finally dawned on my heart that I could give myself permission to do this. I devote so much time, blood, sweat, and tears to being a good mom to our boys, but I needed to put my health back on the to-do list. I share my goals for the week, how I did the week before, and simple ways that we can all start taking care of ourselves so that we can take better care of our loved ones!
There is also a little side writing project that I have been working on for several months. I am thrilled to tell you that I’ve been working on a bit of historical fiction. Biblical historical fiction, to be more precise. I woke up from a dream one night and had a clear idea of what I wanted to write – the story of Eve. I’m not entirely sure how this will play out. Maybe this story is for my eyes only. Maybe my boys will read it one day and know that it is never too late to work for your dreams. Perhaps I will share it one chapter at a time here on the blog. Or maybe I will submit it for publication one day. Who knows? What I do know is that it is stretching me in ways I had never imagined – and even if no one else ever holds it in their hands, I believe that I will be a better woman and writer because of this story.
I have other ideas floating around in my writing notebooks, including putting Our Story together in memoir or fictional form – complete with details and stories that I have previously left out of the blog. I felt so very alone when my life came crashing down around me, and I want to let everyone know through my writing that no matter what nightmare comes your way, or wherever your journey leads, you are not alone. I promise.
May I let you in on a little secret? Even though I have been sharing here on the blog for almost one year, I’m not entirely sure where I fit in. There are so many writers and bloggers that I look up to, but the beauty of creativity is that we are all so different! What flows out of my heart and onto the page is different than all of the writers that I admire. Our stories are as unique as our writing styles, and I am so grateful to be a small part of this incredible community!
Earnest Hemingway said it best – “Write the truest sentence that you know.” I write what I know to be true – the pain, the scars, the healing, the butterflies. I write because when I try to squelch the story rising up within me, part of me dies. I have loved the written word since I could identify my ABCs, and when my head wasn’t buried in a book, I was writing on whatever I could get my little hands on. I write because it is healing. I write because I can’t NOT write. And I am so grateful for each of you for allowing me to be a small part of your day. Your encouragement and support means more to me than you’ll ever know!
My schedule varies, as I am still trying to figure out what works best for our family. Most mornings I get up extra early to write. There are often late nights when I can’t turn off the flow of words, and I have to sit there until I know that my piece is finished. Most often you will find me sitting on my red Story Chair or at my antique spinet desk. Sometimes I work on editing or pictures at the dining table while the boys are eating lunch, or on the front porch while watching them play basketball in the driveway. I carry a notebook in my purse, and I’ll jot down ideas or first drafts while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, swimming lessons, or whenever inspiration whispers to me. I want to be present for my family, but I also feel called to write… so I’m still learning to find the balance!
One of the things that I love about this series is that it’s the gift that just keeps on giving! My friend Cara Meredith tagged me in her post, and I am incredibly excited to tag my friend Crystal for the same post next week in this awesome series! I love learning how others that I admire approach the writing process!
Crystal Paine is a child of God, wife, homeschool mom of three, author, speaker, and aspiring runner. Her mission is to challenge women to wisely manage their time and resources and live life on purpose. She blogs at MoneySavingMom.com.