names have been omitted in this post
She sat perched on the edge of the taupe couch beside me and looked through the family photos that spanned several decades, pointing out how again and again her in-laws that were pictured in the background of the photos at family gatherings like Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays showed bored, detached expressions... or faces that spoke volumes of how they hated having to share the moment, the limelight with "the other side", meaning her parents.
I myself was unfortunately all too familiar with these types of photos as I had seen my fair share of them during my own marriage in which my exes family members were unknowingly photographed with grim looks of "How much longer do I have to be here? And why on earth were those other people (her parents) invited?"
I indeed knew this and she spoke with sadness... "You know... I think one of the worst things is you go through a divorce and you look back on all the times you tried, you really tried and it was never good enough. They didn't like you, you weren't this, you weren't that. They made it so clear that they felt you weren't good enough for their son and you spent all those years on the sidelines, being treated as an outsider... never really feeling like a part of the group." she told me and sighed...
They say a photo tells a story
speaks a thousand words
it's so incredibly true.
Photographs pick up on so much in our lives, often minute glimpses that may go otherwise unnoticed. Photos pick up on detachment from family, people taking sides, our dad with his face in a book missing out on memories being made at his feet by his children, isolation, less than loving thoughts towards others or events surfacing on our face and even our hurts... our brokenness. The camera lens picks up our forced smile through a trial were experiencing, our drawn facial lines, the bags under our eyes during times of hardship showing the effects of foggy haze-like sleep deprivation.
Seeing The Loss In Photos…
The morning following my sister being killed by a drunk driver I woke to it being my son's birthday. Admittedly, I was hardly in the mood to think of a birthday when the previous night marked the date of my sisters death. "Happy Birthday" spoken to him was forced in a false cheerfulness and a pasted smile and although I didn't want the previous night to overshadow his day the reality of our loss loomed large over us all.
That night in the kitchen when I went to cut the first slice of his brightly speckled birthday cake and heard the words "Say cheese!" I had to force myself to smile. As the camera lens clicked I remember thinking... "I'll never forget this... this sucks and I want to hide."
our brokenness… is often what keeps us in tune with God… on the path toward Him versus the opposite direction. Often the losses, problems and adversity in our life keep us dependent on Him because when there is an absence of such is when we often become more prideful in self sufficiency, self reliance, egotistical tendencies versus humble in nature and quick to not worship Him as much… as if we are then justified in taking a hiatus however brief from gratitude, thankfulness, prayer and reliance on Him.
Our ego is God's enemy, the ultimate representation of self over selflessness. And God wishes to break anything that doesn't draw us closer to Him… ego, selfishness, pride, narcissism, self-gratification. Of course often the very first thing we often want to do is retreat… to run, to hide and cry out "Okay, God… truce! Waving the white flag… I want to grow… but maybe another time! Maybe not right now… and tomorrow's not lookin too good either!"
When life is easy we may
feel we don't need Him
But we can take heart in knowing that ultimately God wants us to trust Him… when we admit our fears to Him, we admit our struggle, that we need Him, that we need comfort, strength, the courage to get through, even healing… we humble ourselves before Him.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest."
- Matthew 11:28
Whether we suffer from brokenness in the aftermath of a failed marriage, losing someone we love, enduring an illness we did not expect, an obstacle we need to overcome however large or small, any life tribulation... we can be assured that our hurts will be healed, as God is the ultimate healer.
God always heals,
our hurts are met with His healing…
we can glance back at the past
and then press on, looking forward…
knowing we are healed
for the next photo to be taken…
with a smile.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
names have been changed or omitted in this post
“Come, we go.” Bao told me and slid out, jogging around the back of the Supra in his woven sandals to my door opening it for me. Like a gentleman, he took my hand and helped me out. I handed him his leather jacket as he was only wearing frayed jeans and a white v-neck undershirt… the weather had shifted again and clouds loomed overhead threatening rain and he shrugged into his jacket. We walked hand in hand down the sidewalk. Up ahead I saw a large group gathered. My vision immediately picked out it was Tu and his three friends waiting in the distance. I must have instinctively tightened my grip on Bao’s hand because he stopped in his tracks momentarily and half turned to me.
“It okay. Mai told me. I took care of them.” He told me under his breath.
As we neared the crowd I saw Tu and his three guys, one of Bao's close associates and a taller, new male I didn't recognize standing in the background but didn’t pay him much attention. I didn't know yet this is whom Bao had arranged for me to live with as staying with him was no longer possible and for the first time Bao's history of excellent judgement in looking out for me would be coming to an end… as this new man would be someone he seriously misjudged in character and if he had known otherwise never would have agreed to me going with.
Focusing my attention on Tu and his guys…
it was clear my night of hell on the burgundy couch was
now embellished on their faces.
Bao had certainly taken care of them as he'd said...
They stood there in a row like a line up of battered guilt, heads hung in shame, completely silent with black eyes, bruises and open cuts on their faces resembling paper cuts of pain. They looked disheveled like they had been through hell themselves and I viewed them with disgust. They all four looked solemnly down at the concrete sidewalk under their shoes with silence. I was grateful to Bao that he had taken matters into his own hands and once again appreciated his care for me. Not once did the four guys make a peep. I stood quietly and waited to see what the next move was by Bao.
Throughout my time gone I never once went without appreciating Bao's genuine care…
I wasn't a gang member but I lived with them having left home at seventeen
however fleeting due to an abusive childhood environment…
I knew that the world Bao was in was not a picture of roses, the things he did were far from honest or good and yet he always treated me like a valued person… never expecting anything and nothing ever transpiring between us but friendship. In a world where he was embroiled in sin he still was a pillar of good toward me, he looked out for me and protected me. Without a doubt there was beauty and good there... hence undeniably troubling that today so many teens succumb to the world of crime, gangs and a questionable future when they can be so much more. Young men (and women) today are continually exposed to the harsh realities of being pulled in two directions... one being how to be a man (or woman) and alternately, the societal pressures to give in... becoming gang members. They indeed face an uphill battle as they ward off peer pressure, family ties to gangs, the real need for protection, an economic need due to poverty or often simply a need to identify with something... a deep rooted need to belong that they've sadly never felt in their life.
Identity in God...
When these youth find themselves struggling to overcome they may find roadblocks and restrictions like living in a country ruled by an iron clad fist... there is always someone ready to dictate that they cannot pursue God... that they must conform to their ways and any opposition will be met with suppression and persecution. Yet the best thing for a struggling youth is to look at the things they are following... what are they pursuing? People? Or a higher power? As humans were all guilty of pursuing the wrong things at times but when we re-evaluate and see the value in pursuing God above all else then we know there is no greater victory. It's truly saddening when our youth become lost and even though many people may not be able to relate to the above paragraphs as they are on the extreme end, nearly everyone can relate to at some point having to make a choice… having to choose… between the company you keep… or following Christ.
It's at the end of chapter 15
in Corinthians that we are instructed:
"… stand firm. Let nothing move you."
We can all re-evaluate our life at times…
Who and what are we following? Are we following the latest trend? What has become our idol… much like a slithering snake which sneaks up on us before we even realize until after the fact? Whom are we taking after? Are we worshipping celebrities? It's fine to admire someone for their talent, achievements and character but we must guard against letting it become more than that and instead something obsessive.
We are all on a path in life... on a path with others... are we on the right one? Are we on a path with people who are also followers of the Lord? Are we sharing the word of God? Are our footsteps in sync with Christ's? At one time in my life what I was pursuing was so far from Him... I was on a walk of self sufficiency and pride... of less proverbs 31 but more flesh baring and brash… back then the young man who came in my office each week to water plants tried many times to talk to me about God but I brushed him off. If someone told me back then nearly twenty years later I'd be writing about how good God is and sharing my story I would have thought they'd fallen and hit their head… I was the one who believed the young man trying to share God's word with me was too radical, too extreme... "one of those" people... obstinately thinking I didn't need what he was sharing with me...
And yet I did.
That's why I'm writing this today... because all the bad, all the past, all the old can be used... for good, for a change of hearts, a renewal of minds bringing glory to God, he loves us so much… and that the path were on doesn't have to mean a dead end... but instead we can choose a new path…
one that brings life.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
It's never to late to start new,
to say "this is not how my story will end"
and choose another path, a better path in life.
With divorce comes many life changes and even more adjustments. When you've only known one way of life... as a couple married, living securely under the same roof with your children, being thrust into a new life as a divorced parent can be discombobulating to say the least. There are so many things we are wholly unprepared for when it comes to divorce and our children… things we didn't see coming. But with open communication toward those who are beginning the path of divorce, valuable information can be had in ensuring their path is a little less treacherous and instead a bit smoother.
5 things no one tells you about divorce with kids….
1. One parent may over buy, over spend and over give to the kids. When your seven year old comes to your house on your week you may be shocked to find them grinning ear to ear while they proudly hold up a shiny iPhone in gleaming triumph. Yes, your mouth is hanging open and you have an entire narrative of "You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" running through your head as they flounce to their room talking about some video on YouTube. Reeling, you grasp the kitchen counter as your mind screams: "I hope there are parental controls on that thing!" Yes, it's frustrating. Is it right? No. Is the other parent playing a pathetic game of competition aka like "me better"? Yes. You have to pick your battles wisely. If you have major issue with them having a phone there is always the option of stating it needs to stay at Dad's. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Your child tells you something Daddy did… he drove her across multi-states on vacation… on New Years Eve night… only one of the most hazardous nights of the year to be on the road… prime time for drunk drivers. As she tells you this you have the great temptation to roll your eyes and sigh. Instead, you do everything in your will power to control yourself… but inside your mind is racing and all you can think of is what an irresponsible selfish toxic you-know-what he truly is… which is doubly confirmed when their sweet selves share with you that your ex-mother in law bought them a wine opener for them to give Daddy for Christmas… <eye roll> yes, they are setting a stellar example there. Yes, you'd love to state the obvious… that clearly ignorance runs in the gene pool on that side of the family… yet you must hold your tongue. No one tells you how many times these scenarios will play out… but yes, trust me, many other's go through this and you are not the only one standing there in horror as your son relays how he saw Daddy's girlfriend in her birthday suit on his phone… as you think to yourself: "No way this is my life!… seriously, is anything NORMAL anymore?!" I hear ya… and as soon as I have the answer to THAT question you'll be the first to know.
3. You may have to become a better cook. A healthier cook… and eliminate all sweets or have them as a very special once in awhile treat. Because the other parent has decided that it's perfectly acceptable to give an eight year old an entire bag of Hershey Kisses or M&M's or five chocolate croissants for breakfast to eat to her little hearts content… and it shows. You now have to counter act all the artery clogging fast food he's doling out to her because his couch calls, the game calls, the newest girlfriend or his selfish need to win points through her stomach. In the beginning it may feel like a jip having to go the extra mile on food preparation but really it ends up benefitting you too… because divorce is hard on us and our health… and it will be doing something good for yourself as well. That's a positive accomplishment.
4. Clothes are now a source of continual frustration. You buy your son three new pairs of jeans. Each week when he goes to Dad's he wears a new pair... until you don't have any left... because good ole Dad always sends him back in torn pants or soccer shorts and now you've lost all three pairs of brand new jeans. You are understandably frustrated because as we know money doesn't grow on trees. Dad won't return them despite multiple requests. Aside from a bat to Dad's head or sending your son back half dressed maybe it's time to scour second hand shops for worn items that can be used specifically for exchange day. Another option is to have your final decree modified and state that all clothes sent each week must be returned... at least then it's in writing.
5. Your kids feel their world has been turned upside down and they no longer have a "home". They refer to Dad's as "(insert street name) house" and yours as "this place"... if they are struggling realizing they have two homes now, however nomadic it is… therapy might be helpful during this major life transition. At the least it's good for a parent to continually affirm to their kids that the divorce is not their fault, they have two homes and you are there to listen anytime. Let them voice any frustrations they have even if you can't fix it, they will know you care simply by listening.
I believe one of the most unexpected and disappointing things that happens for moms in divorce is that unlike when you were married under the same roof with your children twenty four seven is that now you aren't as much a part of their immediate world. This new reality is magnified if you've been a stay at home mom and attended their every hurt, every gripe, every boo boo. You were your children's rock and soft spot to fall and now you aren't every other week or for whatever your time period with them entails.
It's easy to think if you're not in it and observing from the outside: "Why can't you two just get along?" Well, that's easier said than done when someone is dealing with an ex who is using the children as pawns and continually does everything he can to thwart your children's healthy progress. The other issue is who is in his inner circle… if they aren't any healthier than he is then their words of advice will more closely resemble toxicity than anything truly helpful and in the best interests of the children. They may more closely resemble destructive enablers on the sidelines cheering him on than insightful company.
When mentally dealing with your ex for the sake of the children try (and I know this is difficult) to picture him as you knew him (or as you thought you knew him… if he's a narcissistic sociopath) in the beginning of your relationship… when you first met (reaching, I know) and hopefully that will aid in lowering your inner pot of boiling emotions that threaten to take over. This act will only serve to positively impact your children as well as your own well being.
Granted, life should not include so many small (often what seems daily) frustrations and the inner desire
to scream yet when we chronically mentally subscribe or ruminate to the "should not's" in life… the
"what should be's"… and the "he isn't"… we actually keep ourselves stuck.
At some point we have to let go…
Admitting yes, we don't have the picture we wanted… yes, our children don't have the life we wished for them… but staying stuck on that page leaves no room for any good that can happen… what good can take place when they are with you… that yes, you can still have victory when they are by your side, hearing their woes and bandaging their boo boo's… that yes, you can have the conversation about drunk driving and your views or whatever issue is close to your heart… that yes, you can teach them to take the time to slice a piece of fruit and remove the seeds versus the instant gratification of opening a chocolate kiss from a foil wrapper… that yes, they may feel as though they have the toughest life at times because they have to schlep back and forth with everything they own… yet every time they walk through the door remind them they are loved… they are here, not just at "this place" but a very special place… their home… and unlike the day they have to pack it all up and leave to trudge back there is one place they never ever leave…your heart.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014