The Story I Want to Tell

The Story I Want to Tell

Most of you know by now that the last few years have brought me some pretty big life changes.  If you are a fan from far away, you may not have known exactly what was happening, but I am sure that it was noticeable that things were different.  If you are a local follower, then you are probably familiar with my very public life blowup, what I have come to refer to as my “life crisis”. I haven’t said much publicly about what I was going through.  I have been very careful to try not to over share or sound bitter.  I was determined not to rant on Facebook, or air my dirty laundry all over town.  I have been waiting to find the right time and the right words for the story that I want to tell.

To keep it simple, I have been going through a divorce.  A very painful, public, life-altering divorce. What led up to this divorce was a series of heartbreaking and frustrating years, during which I kept my burdens mostly to myself.  When my life blew up privately, I have never felt so blindsided and heart broken. For a period of weeks, I did not sleep, or eat much, I was like a walking zombie. My brain was completely overloaded with pain and crisis management. As the days went by, I felt like I had no choice but to continue to get up every day and try to keep moving. I resolved to keep my heartache close, and to carry on in public like everything was fine.  I was a local business owner, I was the mayor’s wife, I was over-involved and overly present, and I was the leader of a team of people that I loved dearly, who depended on me for their livelihood. Falling apart was not an option. Not to mention that I loved my husband and never in the course of our relationship had imagined that we would end up having problems as deep and as wide as these. So, I dug in. I resolved that it would be a hard year. A year of hard work and hard conversations, that, if we (my ex-husband and I) played our cards right, would bring us a redemption story. This is what I prayed for fervently, for what became multiple hard years.  

During those dark years, I would like to tell you that in addition to praying, and reading the books, and seeing the counselor, and nursing my broken heart, that I also found peace in trusting God fully with whatever the outcome would be, but that is not true.  I have a stubborn and controlling personality, and my journey to finding peace in trusting God took longer than I would like to admit. For a few years, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t take good care of myself physically, and I worried.  For a little while I was mad at God.  I knew he could whip my marriage back into shape with a quick snap of his miracle working fingers and I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t. Even though I was surrounded by people that loved and supported me, I have never felt so alone in my life. I have also never felt more inadequate, and terrified. I have always been a fairly confident person, able to push through whatever life was throwing at me, but this rocked me to my core and damaged my self-image and self-worth more than I ever imagined it would.  I doubted my ability to provide for myself without a husband.  I doubted that there would be opportunities for me.  I doubted that I would be able to keep my home or my car.  I couldn’t fathom who I was apart from my husband, my shop, and the life that we had built together for almost 15 years.

When it was finally over and he was gone, I felt like a huge part of me died.  I was overwhelmed by grief, fear, and failure.  These were truly the darkest days of my life.  I had been given a lot of time to process the possibility of losing my marriage, but nothing ever prepares you for the moment that someone leaves you. On top of losing my marriage, I had to walk away from my career that I had been building for 19 years and all of the people that I loved sharing my life with every day. Devastating is the only word that seems appropriate enough to describe it. I was expecting to feel angry, or sad, or even vengeful, but I just felt dead.  I felt all of those other feelings during the years that led up to this, but when it was over, I just felt a void.   

During this time, I had to rely on the people that I was closest to, to help me make important life decisions and just tell me what to do next.  I have never felt so grateful to be so well loved by the most amazing people.  During a period of grief, you have no choice but to lean on others and follow their guidance when you can’t seem to function.  I once heard a woman say that after her husband died she relied on her friends to hand her food and tell her to eat it.  That is kind of how I felt while trying to figure out what to do next.  I would lay out all of my options to my most trusted friends and family, and I would do what they told me to do, because nothing sounded good to me. I can honestly tell you that I would not be sitting in this beautiful new shop, this amazing evidence of the Lord’s provision, if my core crew had not told me to do it. If I learned nothing else through all of this, I learned how extremely and completely loved I am and how important it is to build relationships with people that you trust completely. Though that knowledge was a huge blessing, I am thankful that I have learned so much more than that.  

In those first few months I really tried to disconnect from all the “crazy” and rest.  I called it my “quest for rest”.  I am naturally an anxious person so you can only imagine how all of this affected me.  After spending years being wound so tight that I did not sleep or rest, years of worry and 50-hour work weeks, years of serving my community, I needed a break. I soaked up so many sermons and podcasts on what it means to rest.  I truly tried to calm my brain down and simplify my life for a while.  I really struggled to do that in the beginning because it is easier for me to control my mind when I am busy, but I was exhausted.  This ended up being such an important time for me to get off of the treadmill and retrain myself to take time off and try to relax.  I am definitely still working on that but I am making great progress!  Earlier this year, I was sitting on the couch trying to process how I was feeling, and I realized I was bored!  I haven’t been bored in at least 10 years!  It has been a lovely little season of life, to have time to work in the yard, hang out with my friends, read and study, start painting again… and a time of learning to be open and ready for wherever this journey will take me next. 

It took about six months, but I finally started to love my new store and love being here. I am overwhelmed by the fact that I get to be in this beautiful space, doing what I love.  For a while, I was really mourning the loss of my community, all the people that I saw on a weekly or daily basis. Serving all of those familiar faces for so many years had been my purpose for so long. I had been a pillar of the community, but in this new season, I had to learn how to lean on the community instead of being the one there for people to lean on.  To allow people to be giving and loving to me, instead of doing the giving, and this was a very hard lesson for me! This new town has embraced, loved, and welcomed me in a way that I never expected.  I have so many wonderful new friends and am finally feeling more at home. It is nice to be settling in and getting more involved, learning what my new community looks like, finding a purpose again and where my place is to serve.

I am so thankful to be so far away from the “life crisis” now, that I can look back and clearly see the ways the Lord was preparing me, protecting me, guiding me, and loving me.  It’s funny how hard it is to trust when you are still in control of some things, but when all control is taken away, and everything you count on is taken away, you have no choice but to trust and follow, and maybe that is the point of it all. I love this quote by Nancy Guthrie, taken from “Made to Move Mountains” by Kristin Welch: “Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without a doubt that He will do it. But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want; it is measured by our willingness to submit to what He wants.” Man, that can be a hard pill to swallow. When I finally learned to submit, and truly speak the words “not my will, but yours” and mean it, it became amazing to watch the Lord give me overwhelmingly more than I ever lost.  I used to pray that the Lord would either “redeem my marriage or rescue me from it” (Lysa TerKeurst). It is so good to be able to tell the story of the Lord's provision in my life, how he rescued me from the pit and brought me through the worst storms, only to shower me with more blessings than I could ever feel I deserve. It took time for me to be able to see it, but my life is so, so good.  

I am not saying my hard days are over, or that my controlling side doesn’t try to take over from time to time, but I am truly trying to submit every day to where the Lord is leading, and some days that is still hard and I fail miserably at it.  After going through a trauma, it is really hard to stop waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I have really had to put some hard work into controlling that part of my brain and stop expecting the worst-case scenario. There have been so many times that something triggers a bad feeling or memory and old hurts and old insecurities come bubbling up from my toes, catch me totally off guard and I let a little crazy slip out!  Then it seems that when you finally start to let that go, there is guilt that comes with a life chapter that feels too “easy”. At least this was the case for me. Like I wasn’t working hard enough or involved enough.  Like the day didn’t count if I didn’t struggle.  So ridiculous, I know. The next quest in my journey is to work on allowing myself to enjoy all of the good while it lasts and to stop thinking that I am not worthy of it. Good things are happening faster than I can keep up with, and I am just trying to be open to where the Lord is leading and enjoy the ride.  I am not telling you that this is always easy, or that I have mastered relaxing, because it isn’t, and I haven’t, but I have learned to let go of so much, and it feels good to allow myself to be happy again. Lately when I feel myself starting to worry or succumb to my anxiety, I remember this quote by Tim Keller, “Worry is not believing that God will get it right.”  So simple, but it hits me so hard. Of course, God is going to get it right, and he sure doesn’t need my help!

Maybe you have gone through something similar or are going through a “crisis” of your own.  The best advice I can give you is to just keep moving. Be faithful even when it may feel like the Lord is not being faithful to you. I promise you he is moving and working, even when you can’t feel it and even if it seems you are not getting what you want. You may not feel like you can trust yourself, but you can surely trust that God will give you the people and the strength that you need to keep taking small steps in His direction.  It is scary and hard and sad and painful, but it will end.  

“Sometimes trading grief for victory means choosing to see what is instead of being blinded by isn’t.” -Lysa TerKeurst 

There was a time that I thought I would never truly be happy again, or that I would never be able to love again, or find peace and contentment, but all of those things are slowly falling back into place little by little as I am coming back to life.  One day the clouds will start to lift and you will be able to see how the Lord was lining things up for you, long before you ever knew what was happening, and suddenly, your sad and ugly story that you wish you could forget, will become a beautiful story that you want to tell. 

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