Peripherals

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I know I am a little late with New Years resolutions but this year has already taken me to London, Istanbul and the emergency ward. The good thing about traveling is perspective and an important thing about illness can be enforced silence. All of this brings me to a New Years resolution that started germinating In Divorce Care.

One of the classes was on forgiveness. On the face of it, it would seem that the hardest part of a divorce is forgiving the other party. I had put a check mark besides that one as my goal was to move on with my life and to give as little energy as possible to fighting a battle where the treaty was already signed.

While in Istanbul the weather altered between snow and freezing rain. I’d watch as it would pour down on the narrow streets and what most held my attention was the persistence of the street vendors. There was every item imaginable for daily living. Even in the cold the life of the city, unlike in Canada, is primarily lived  outside in the side streets and alleys. I realized that the life of the heart is also caught up in the small daily purchases and encounters we have in the side streets.

Like so much of Christianity it is easier to deal with the big issues. Would you renounce Christ if a gun were pointed at your head? No, we proclaim. We would be heroes, but our lives aren’t made up of those moments. In forgiveness in my divorce it was one thing to say I forgive him but the truth is that forgiveness is a lot harder when it comes to all the other people who had a hand in the demise of my marriage and involvement during the divorce. By ignoring the side streets I had hidden resentments in the shadows. For a real forgiveness to take place I needed to inventory my feelings about these people and events. The problem was I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to relive the pain, and anger and hurt. Who turned their backs and said hurtful things? Who said nothing at all? etc. I wanted it all to be done. I wanted to make one grand gesture and be done with it. I didn’t want to live in the process of forgiveness.

Honestly I still don’t want to do this as it leaves me tired and sad but to really be free I need to search out the peripherals, the real places I have lived and bled so that I can mourn all the other losses and move forward in truth.

Wishing you all a New Year that is more than cliches and richer in joy than you ever dreamed, Sincerely, D.

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You’ll never guess the butler did it

Sue: ” Hey Megan.  I have a book you have just got to read.  You would never guess that the butler was actually the twins dad. He’d been disfigured in a car accident and blamed the family for stealing his children and was killing them off in vengance.  You will just love it. It is the most suspenseful book I’ve ever read.”

Megan: Cue sound of crickets chirping.

Knowing the ending of a book or a movie disrupts the story telling art.  It is the building up, the guessing and being on a shared voyage with the characters that creates the impact.

When presented with our bibles we are told that it is the living breathing word of God.  It is not like any other book. Most books you read from the beginning as opposed to New and Old divisions.  We read the histories but we have a big problem.  We know the endings.  We know that the ultimate battle will be won my God.  The suspense factor has been taken out.

I think we lose a lot of the meaning and impact of what we are reading because we see an overview of people’s lives and experiences.

Moving forward as someone who is divorced in the church it is easy to feel that we are alienated.  What if we stepped back and re-read some of the stories that we thought we knew from the perspective of the characters who had no idea what was next or what would happen to them?  What could we learn and take strength in?

I think of the story of Esther. We celebrate that she saved the Jews. We know the finished story. We don’t feel the true horror and sorrow that was her life.  To be a young girl without parents  must have been so isolating. To be sent to the palace meant to lose all her hopes and dreams. She would never have a nice Jewish husband and be able to raise their children in their faith. She was being taken out of her community to be put in a place of debauchery, violence and madness. She would be hated by the other women competing for favour and would be targeted for violence by them. She would undergo treatments and training that would be against her upbringing. She would have seen him drunk and out of control and pictured him touching her.  Her wedding night would be without mercy or love or committment. She would have no protection and nowhere to run. He could do anything he liked. She’d be tied to a man who killed his best friends son on a whim. His best friend had already lost one of his two sons in battle. He asked Xerxes if his second son could be spared. Xerxes called his friend to the courtyard and the friend witnessed his second son murdered as a penalty.  This was the man Esther faced.  Can you imagine her fear and hopelessness?  We know the rest of the story but she did not. We don’t know what happened to her afterwards but the dreams of her youth would never be given back to her and the rest of her days would be in this environment.  God put her in a place that was a nightmare and yet she trusted and served him.  It did work but she could not have known that.

Many times we will end up in places and situations that seem impossible for God to redeem.  We might see facets of our lives as nightmares. Re-read the stories as if you didn’t know the endings.  You will find that you are not such an alien after all.   D.

 

The War of Reconciliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was it. I was done.  I put down the phone and once again I was in tears. How was it that I used to negotiate with street kids, bikers and warring families as a career but couldn’t seem to navigate my way through a simple conversation with my ex without his sharpness?  It was almost two years since he’d left the house and I couldn’t believe he could still make me cry.

I’d really believed that God had placed a strong duty on me.  I was to maintain my responsibility to care for my ex, to have his back and to live at peace with him as much as possible.  At the end of our marriage we quarrelled a lot because I had a need to be understood and I thought if we talked long enough we’d find a way to come to a consensus. (Yes I know some of you are shaking your heads.) Unfortunately it often went sideways and the simplest things were met with hostility by him, hurt by me and frustration from both. When he left I finally stopped fighting. I realized he wasn’t coming back and I no longer had to wait for the day it would be my turn and we’d have a partnership.  I thought I was learning to let go.  I thought I was embracing gentleness and working really hard to give my son the best relationship possible with his dad.

I wanted my relationship with him to be independent of his actions.  I wanted to model what a Christian’s response should be to people. I wanted to make theology live. I honestly meant to try to be radically different.  I couldn’t teach my son about forgiveness, loving those that don’t love us and be a complete cow to his dad. I wanted to thoughtfully act rather than just react. I refused to have his choices dictate the sort of person I would become. I still felt the dragon’s tail twitching inside of me, wanting to rant and vent my hurt and my loss, my betrayal and sullenness, but I really felt God holding me back. It was a daily battle. “Hi my name is D. I’ve gone six months without sarcasm, pettiness or spite”,…Most of the time it even worked but there was a problem.

When I hung up the phone I realized I’d spent two years acting like a low level employee on probation. I was not letting go of seeking approval.  I saw that I was hoping that he would suddenly see the years of loyalty and support and caring and finally say that I was a good person.  I wanted him to take back his words and change his heart. I wanted to be liked.I hadn’t let go of needing him to validate me.  Suddenly it all crumbled.  I couldn’t take the rudeness and the clipped tones.  I gave up. I’d done my part and it was a bust.

Our son’s birthday was coming up on the weekend.  I was hosting a party for our son’s friends on the Saturday and my ex would be there. On Sunday he would host a party for his family but I wasn’t allowed to attend.  It had been that way last year as well. I accepted the double standard but I had had enough.  I e-mailed him and asked him not to come. I realized that I was done being the constant peace maker.  I just wanted him to go away and take his negativity and judgement with him. I felt miserable.

On Wednesday I prepared to go to one of the last Divorce Care sessions.  When I opened the book I froze. The title was reconciliation.  No way.  I sat at a table surrounded by similarly frozen people. Some with stories so painful that even the word reconciliation was a slap in the face.  We listened to the video and I felt the humiliation of being rejected all over again.

Really? You want me to call every six months and see if he’ll come home? I should stay single like the woman who waited 12 years in case he changes his mind? Shoot me please.

What none of us expected is that reconciliation didn’t mean having to get back in our marriage with the ex spouse.  We started to breath. Cautiously. We were told that there were different levels including civility, and friendship.  It was like God was telling me not to give up.  I knew I had to relook at some of my expectations, hopes and goals. I needed to carve out boundaries that were healthy and redefine my goal as being a peaceful and healthy relationship so that all three of us could move forward. I needed to let go of needing his approval.

Letting go, just like any grief is not linear. I realize that reconciliation, like an addiction, will be a daily struggle.  We are all potential weapons of mass destruction. We have to choose to harness it, and I know I will revisit old wounds and hurts a few times before I can really defeat them. I wish I could tell you I’m a saint. I wish I didn’t have to struggle with wanting validation but this is my war to fight and with God’s priorities maybe now I have a fighting chance.

Wishing you all a world of peace, D.

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh

The other night a great thing happened.  I was dropping my son off at a youth event.  It was complete mayhem, in other words, business as usual. I was talking to some of the other moms when a  woman I hadn’t seen in a while asked how I was doing.  I fix her with a huge smile and said I was doing really great.  It was amazing to realize that I meant it.  I tried to come up with reasons why but there really wasn’t anything in particular.  It was like this fresh wind hitting my spirit.

I didn’t think too much about it until I realized that again today I was feeling good.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am not to feel like a scrambled mess if even for one day.  One of the things I really hated about the mess of divorce was living in active grief.  I felt stuck in a Salvadore Dali painting and I didn’t know when I would find my normal.  I lacked control over my feelings. One day I was up for anything and other days I was too broken to figure out my banking, or clean up or find my way out of the paralysis.  I’d make plans in good faith and then cancel because I just couldn’t bear it.  I really resented being so stuck.  It was like bracing for aftershocks and not feeling secure enough to move back into my own home. I wanted to get on with my life, do the clean up work, but the urge was to lie down and drift.

During the last years of my marriage I channeled the loneliness in sculpting and creating.  I had textures and colours and form to challenge me and help me communicate.  When I was told I no longer had a marriage I found that all my head could produce was static.  I couldn’t organize my feelings or thoughts and since art is communication I couldn’t produce.  That was another loss that really jarred me.  Not knowing when or if it would end was profoundly frightening.

For at least a year I’ve had my work table set up with all my tools and supplies and nothing has been touched. I haven’t made any rugs, or baskets or jewellry or sculptures.                                I put everything away and decided I must not be an artist anymore. I felt blank.

One night I got an image in my head that I couldn’t get rid of.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I started to paint.  I’d never really painted before and all of sudden there were ideas and excitement and I had something to say.  It felt so good.  The colours became vibrant and I felt the little shoots of new growth, humour and light start again.  Other things started unfolding.  I started going through my phone book and touching base with people I hadn’t seen in a while but valued.

This last weekend I even went on a Women’s retreat with a girlfriend whose church I’d never been to.  I stepped out and put myself in a new situation.  As I drove up to the camp I tried not to think about what I was doing so that I wouldn’t alert my inner hermit.  It was a mix of feelings but the thing was I did it. I decided to try and get out of my situation and live.

Yesterday I phoned a travel agency to check out a promotion and found I’ve booked a ticket to celebrate New Years in Istanbul. Let the adventure begin.

I realized there is no path back. The house got demolished in the earthquake and it is time to build anew. I may have to deal with the rubble but I don’t have to live there.  I am taking steps to go on to fresh challenges and joys.

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying,… I will try again tomorrow.”  Mary Anne Radmacher

Wishing you all new fresh steps. D.

Squeaky Shoes

I have a wonderful friend named Shirley Yamashita.  One of the things I love about her is her freedom in accepting grace.  She is one of those people who shine their faith.  It has been a faith refined by sorrow and difficulty.  She is someone who chooses to focus on beauty, hope and laughter.

I read a blog post she’d done and asked if I could share it. I love how claimed something from her past and let it be transformed.

She said she was no longer blogging but was happy to share. This is what she wrote.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Walking through Life in Squeaky Shoes…

As I walk through the slumbering early morning halls of our office the loud squeak from my shoes vibrates and calls out as I take each step. Surprisingly, I am filled with images, thoughts and emotions with every step, my brain begins referencing a myriads of video in my mind. I recall the movie Mel Gibson played in “What a Women wants”, where his mind was so noisy hearing so many voices and random thoughts of the women around him.I fade to the past, a time when I was an 8 yr old, a little girl walking through the halls of a seemingly enormous school with great old halls, wooden floors and ceilings almost as high as cathedral’s.With every “Squeak” I hear the voice…I feel so small. Squeak…I hate my hair, I think, I’m Japanese I should have STRAIGHT hair not frizzy and thick…I wish it was straight and silky. Squeak…I should have worn a different outfit everyone has better clothes and SHOES! Squeak,…squeak…

Flash through the last 10 years: squeak…I could think about all of the sad and hard things LIKE: my life has been trying…squeak I hated trying to prove my daughter’s challenges…squeak…I wish she was accepted and had friends in her peer group…squeak I wish life was easier for my children…

BUT then: Squeak…my Life is really great now…squeak…My children are growing up to be wonderful people…squeak…I don’t worry about who I am…squeak I am loved and cherished by so many of my family and friends…squeak…I have a place in MY world.

I came to realize that day with the help of my squeaky shoes that through my life that my perspective has changed and the hard times are no longer milestones but doors that are there to be opened to great things. The squeaking bothered me many years ago  as a child because I did not know who I was and I did not feel right in my skin.

I celebrate my squeaky shoes that have allowed me to see life in capsules of scenes and reflect on how far I have come to be “ME” and celebrate.”

May your squeaky shoes be transformed and give you reasons for joy, D.

Icons- faith in our image

In 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to tour some of the Mediterranean countries with my mother.  I was a history major and I’m currently an artist so I was giddy with all the ancient artwork.  One of the things that was really fascinating were the icons.  Each generation seems to depict the mother and child, or the saints in their own current style.  When I was growing up Jesus was depicted as a long haired flowerchild with an aquiline nose, fair skin and the hands of a nobleman.  He even had blonde highlights.  Groovy.

I grew up with manger scenes that had the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the three wise men. It was only in my 20s that I learned that the wisemen didn’t find Jesus until he was almost 2 years old.  They were never at the manger at all!

One of my friends is a polymer clay artist who creates the most fabulous angels in all skin colours. One day she had a woman stop and comment saying she thought she should mention that the angels were racist as they depicted race (as if all pink angels aren’t our own form of racial bias). I winced and we laughed our fannies off (I wish) because the shopper didn’t understand the difference between racial and racist. She just knew that referencing race must be negative.

Several years back there was a big Christian women’s conference that took place in England. It almost came to a screeching halt before it began.  The Americans were appalled that the so-called British Christian were meeting in a pub, having beers and some were even smoking.  The Brits were equally offended by the excess of makeup, jewelry and worldly wardrobe of the so-called American Christians.

One of our cultural icons is to be thin. Even in the church we have  videos with titles like “Firm Believer” designed for Christian weight loss. (Please feel free to be grossly ashamed of this tacky commercialization of our faith).  I am not thin but not out of proportion. When I went for a trip to Turkey I couldn’t believe the attention I got because I had, as I was told, a real woman’s body. It was so jarring.  A curvy figured was admired and skinny was ignored.  Talk about a paradigm shift!

So what’s my point?

So many arguments in the church often come down to the conceit that unless everyone worships, prays and praises the way we do that they are wrong.  Unfortunately we are often blind to the cultural filter that we apply to our faith.  Like the icons, we overlay when we know from our society  on to our definitions of true Christian life.

How does this apply to being divorced Christian women looking for our place in the Christian community?

One of the modern additions to Christian life is that we must all be leaders. We must excel, we must find our passion and we must do something significant.  The question is who does God want us to be and what is significant to God?  Volunteering as part of the Body  is good.  What he really designed us for is relationship with him.  This is better.  It is who you are, not what you do, but don’t take my word for it.  As much as I or any other person with an opinion can try to be objective we are also affected by our world.

In finding our place we have to really read the word and see what it says.  Find out what He is really asking and what is pop culture.  What expectations do we put on ourselves that have nothing to do with God’s purposes for us?  Be ready not to do what is expected but what is right before God.  Do not shoulder yokes that were never yours, besides ladies, they are a misery to accessorize!  Trudging forward with you, D.

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