O ye beneath life’s crushing load

I remember those holidays when I was single.  I remember the acute sense of loneliness when I showed up at a family gathering by myself and those pangs of longing as I left the festivities bursting with family and drove home. Alone.

I remember when I wept sitting under the lighted tree one Christmas Eve because I had been infertile for many years. There were no children to share the joy of the day. My arms and my heart felt empty.

I remember the Christmas when my Grandpa, who was so very dear to me, passed away a few days before the holiday. It was a consuming time with the funeral, visitation and dealing with grief. I barely noticed it was Christmas that year.

I also remember sensing God’s presence in those lonely times. When I cried out to Him, I was reminded:

For unto us a Child is born! Unto us a Son is given!

I pray those who might feel lonely today will know that Christ is born for them. You always have a family and you always have a baby to love if you have Jesus. He is our baby, our brother, our dearest One, and He is with us always. God made flesh.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, verse 2

The Scripture quote comes from Isaiah 9:6

The image is verse two from the Christmas carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” written by Edmond Hamilton Sears in 1849.

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It’s October Twenty-Eight

This is a beautiful fall day in Michigan.  The sun is shining and the leaves are vibrant.  I’m busy homeschooling, cooking and running errands.

But I’ll admit it. My heart is feeling a little broken inside.

  1. The anniversary of my first marriage was 10-28 and it would have been twenty years today. God has worked all things for the good, and I am utterly blessed to be remarried to a kind, wonderful man.  However, 10-28 was significant in my life.  While I no longer mourn the ending of the relationship, I am reminded every year of the death of a marriage.
  2. It was on 10-28, a few years ago in the doctor’s office that we learned we were having a miscarriage, and would never meet our third baby.
  3. Our fourth baby was also a miscarriage and today was a possibility as a due date.

I wonder why God arranged for those losses to be remembered on the same date?

I don’t know a specific reason it happened that way in my life, but God tells us Himself:  It’s not a bad thing to grieve.

 October 28 or not, there are days where we are called to mourn.  Perhaps for ourselves, perhaps with others.

Despite the pain, mourning comes with promises.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

Probably for the rest of my life, October 28 will be a mourning day.  Yet it is also true that there are beautiful ways that God has “turned my mourning into joy”. I have been comforted by Christ, the sure hope of eternal life, and the kindness of friends and family.  I sure would love to have a newborn to welcome into our home this month.  But I will see my babies someday.  I long to hold, snuggle them and kiss their faces.  Bliss! 

Today I can also remember that someday there won’t be anymore October twenty-eighths.

How about you?  Do you have any “October 28’s”?  How has God comforted you?

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  

My heroes

A hero – The classic idea of a man who gallantly rescues a damsel in distress.

In some way or form, all of these men have been heroes in my life:

Heroes I’ve met:

  • My husband. With his calm, quiet ways, taking on this crazy, up and down, enthusiastic and sometimes troubled wife, working all day and coming home to help with the dishes at night. He always prays with and for me.
  • My dad. Hard working and STRONG. He has had some physical struggles the past few years, but is still that strong dad– and always will be in my mind. I think of His fortitude and dedication to his faith, my mom and the farm.  Perhaps the only person I know as stubborn as myself. (Well, maybe brother Fred, too?)
  • My Grandpa B. Another super strong man but with the greatest personality and so generous. He will get his own blog post some day, but it’s hard for me to think or write about him without a few tears, because I still miss him.
  • Steve Schlissel. I first heard him speak when attending “Concerned Members of the Christian Reformed Church” meetings. He spoke up bravely in the middle of a dark time in the CRC. I spent a couple of weeks visiting with him and his family in Brooklyn when fresh out of high school.  The experience opened up my world and changed my life.
  • Uncle Dave B. He faced cancer with courage and faith. He lost the battle at age 39, but won the victory. He comforted others (including myself) in his last days. “The Lord is my Shepherd…”
  • My brothers. When it all boils down, they are there for me. They have rescued me off the side of the road  with car trouble at one time or another, and helped me financially when I was going through the divorce. My former childhood arch rivals.
  • My friend Greg. Greg was a hero to me after my divorce. He was kind to me and brought me back to the  gospel and who I was in Christ. He kept insisting I attend his single’s group, where I met other guy hero friends and eventually met my husband. Also a former arch rival.
By chanter Angelos Akotandos (1400 - 1457)

St. George the Dragon Slayer by chanter Angelos Akotandos (1400 – 1457)

Heroes I haven’t met (yet):

Three of my great-grandfathers. They made the brave choice to leave their home country in the Netherlands and travelled by ship to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity.  I met one of my great-grandfather-heroes and remember visiting him as a child, but the other three died before I was born.

C.S. Lewis, my author hero.

St. George the Dragon Slayer.  His story has always intrigued me.

Heroes of the faith.  If I had to pick a few favorites out of the list they would be Abraham, Gideon and David.

Jesus.  My ultimate Hero of all heroes.

In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. -Psalm 18:6 (ESV)

If you don’t know Jesus, here is a good place to start:  The good news

 Note: Don’t think I am neglecting my heroines!  I am currently working on a couple of posts about my grandmothers, and look forward to sharing them soon.

How do you trust after a divorce?

So how do you trust again after your heart has been ripped to shreds by the person that you committed to live life with till the end of your days?  Would you dare remarry again? For me, these are the thirteen not-so-easy steps.

  1. You tell your friends that you need hugs.  You, the person who has never ever been a “hug” kind of person.   It’s awkward at first, but after awhile, it’s a normal part of greeting and you soak in every hug at any opportunity from friends and family that you trust.
  2. You get some solid Christian counseling. You face your own issues and take responsibility for your own sins related to the marriage that broke up.  When your counselor tells you to wait a year before dating again,  you do that, even though you feel horribly lonely, and you think it’s not fair.
  3. Sometimes  in that first year you are grieving so deeply that you bawl and scream at God when you are alone in the car.  The emotional pain is so overwhelming, that occasionally you wish you were dead  (though you are not suicidal),  but you yell it out, because your counselor reminds you that God can handle that.  Because when you are alone yelling in the car, God is all you have left.
  4. You go to college (a dream you’ve had for several years) and you study diligently and do well in your classes and find something you love to do.  You find that your days are filled with studying and working.
  5. Some creep–you realize later that he’s a creep– from a college class asks you on a date, and you are so lonely, you hang out with him after class one evening. But he directly informs you that he has other motives, and you remember what the counselor said (see step 2) and you call your best friend and ask her to hold you accountable so you don’t do something you’ll regret.  And you resist temptation despite the opportunity, and  a few weeks after the flood of emotions is past, you realize that perhaps you might be okay being alone!
  6. You cling to the Psalms in your Bible.  You pour your aching heart and tears along with David, the ancient king of Israel.   Then you write miles of words in your journals and you pour out your aches and pains before God.  You write until your hands hurt. Then you close the journal and walk away, and realize you feel  lighter.
  7. You often call your best friend, your mom, and the one cousin you know who also went through a divorce.  You tell them how lonely you feel and that a funeral would have been easier than this.  After you stop seeing your counselor,  you find a small support group and you share and they hear you. While you aren’t paying any attention and are just trying to survive,  your heart heals every week because you are processing your grief and not avoiding it.
  8. You find things in your life to look forward to.  You let your mind wander back to long-neglected hobbies and passions that have been smothered by the chaos of a difficult marriage.  You pick up your crochet needles and make something pretty. You keep going to your church, even though you feel weird walking in all by yourself and jealous to see all the happily married couples.  You worship, you take communion.
  9. And then a friend invites you to attend a meeting with his church single’s group.  You are baffled at the idea after being a married woman for eight years, so you politely say no.  So he invites you again, and you say no again. And one night when you are studying that same friend shows up at the coffee shop with a bunch of the people from the group.  You sit by them for an hour and  you realize they are friendly. A few weeks later you walk in to one of their meetings with your heart hammering in your chest. On the way home that night,  you bawl your eyes out with gratitude, thanking God in the car, because you found some genuine Christian fellowship.  So you jump in with both feet.
  10. You hang out with this group so much that they become like brothers and sisters to you.  And particularly you notice  the brothers treat you kindly, and you realize that not all men are out to treat women the way you were treated.  They could care less that you are divorced and weigh over 300 pounds–sure they will sit in the coffee shop with you and talk and play board games and watch movies and discuss all sorts of things about life in general and they ask you how school is going and encourage you and treat you as a sister in Christ consistently and -oh-so-kindly.  You actually find yourself laughing and it surprises you because you forgot that you could laugh. A few of these friends become aware that you have post traumatic stress syndrome, and that sometimes you have panic attacks and become nearly paralyzed just from riding in a car or watching a movie scene, and they still like to hang out with you and accept you as you are.
  11. And then about a year and a half after the first meeting, one of the guys in that group—who happens to be the most kind of them all (and wasn’t actually one that you had been hanging out with very often), surprisingly asks you out on a date. On your first date he gives you a card that says he is praying for God to guide the relationship.  And you remind him (even though he already knew) that you are a divorced woman, because he has never been married. But he still wants to date you.
  12. So you go on your second date with him and he takes you to Lake Michigan and walks on the beach with you and holds your hand,  and you didn’t imagine you could feel those butterflies again, but you do! So you go on your third date with this fellow, and you tell him that you have been infertile for eight years of marriage, and that you have had tests and procedures, and that you were the one with the problem, and that you may never be able to have children, and he says that he still wants to date you.
  13. As you continue to date, you share more and more of your heart with this man, the good and the bad, and he shares with you too, and there is lots of walking and talking and sharing and you find yourself wanting to trust again. Still, you don’t trust your own judgement, because obviously you have made poor decisions in the past. You ask your pastors and your closest friends and family if they think this is a good idea. Then you ask his roommates and his co-workers and his pastor and his family if he is a man of integrity as he seems to be, and you realize that he is, so there is nothing stopping you from marrying him.  So you take a deep breath, walk down that aisle and make a new vow til’ death do you part.

That is how you trust a man again.

But really, the only way you can trust a man again, is to trust GOD and His workings.  For you realize it is His book and His people that have healed your heart to the point that you are ready and willing to trust again. Then you see “He works all things for the good”, and that isn’t just a trite saying in Romans.  And that God can take what has been the most painful experience of your life and turned it into something beautiful.
God Bless the Broken Road

Prologue:

And this same man continues to show you, through all your hurts and insecurities and weight loss and weight gains (not to mention having a baby(!) born 9 months and 2 weeks after your wedding day—and  another baby just sixteen months later—and two miscarriages–and unemployment, and four moves in 8 years) that he loves you.  He calls you beautiful every day, still gives you cards, and reminds you that he’s not going anywhere.  And you realize that God loves you too, you didn’t earn any of it, it’s all grace, and you know it more and more and more.  How much you have been forgiven, and how much Jesus sacrificed to save you, and how you much you are loved.  And you still have occasional bad days where there is grieving, anxiety and even some panic attacks, but you always know you are loved.  And you know that the “happily ever after” is not here on earth, it’s still coming.

When I started to write on the topic, this is what poured out of me.  It’s heavy stuff, and a little scary to hit the publish button, but it’s my story.