This is a Day of New Beginnings
This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone. *
UM Hymnal, No. 383
Where do we start?
Here’s my current situation. I’m almost 36, I’ve been divorced since 2007, I have a 14 year old daughter from that marriage. I’ve been remarried since 2012. My husband has three children from his previous marriage. My husband and I have twin daughters that are 2. That means we total out at 6 kids. My oldest daughter lives with us through the school year and spends the summer at her Dad’s. He lives just down the road so we are both actively involved in all of her activities and she sees both of us much more than our “visitation” schedule alotted for. We get along exceptionally well and consider he and his wife to be friends of ours, but we didn’t start out that way.
My husbands situation is quite the opposite. We’ve spent six years constantly battling for every second of visitation that he can get. We don’t get normal visitation as they live 2 hours away and one of them is starting college. We’ve been accused of every thing under the sun, we’ve been told they hate us, and we’ve kept fighting. We’ve been to court more times than I can count. So trust me when I say, with God walking hand in hand alongside us – we ‘ve walked both extremes. It is absolutely possible to find and live in God’s peace and joy no matter what circumstances surround your divorce. It’s also very possible for us to get stuck in our flesh occasionally and let our perception and our problems control our situations. I’ve done both! I still do both! I need God and his immeasurable grace every single day to keep my perceptions aligned with His word and His promises for me and my family.
Just a reminder, He gives that same immeasurable grace to your ex! Haha!
If you are reading this blog, then you are likely already divorced, going through a divorce, soon to be divorced, or know someone that falls into one of these categories. As you sit here and read, I want to encourage you to take every opportunity to remind yourself that shame and condemnation are not from our God. While the scriptures regarding divorce in the Bible can be a hot topic amongst denominations, the one thing we all agree on is that our God sent his son to die on the cross to pay for our sins, our mistakes, our offenses… His Grace is an incredible gift. When we receive the grace that our Father freely gives us, we should allow ourselves freedom from the guilt, shame bitterness, anger, and embarrassment that society ties to divorce. I don’t want to get too in depth, as we all carry different emotions depending on our specific situations… but if you are reading this and feel you are carrying these attributes around on your shoulders, then please stop here. Walk outside look around and take a DEEEEEEEP breath. Know that our Savior SPOKE this whole earth into being. So when you breathe that air in, it is His breath that is filling you. How much sweeter could His grace be? Let that be your reminder, that no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done… YOU ARE FORGIVEN! You are whole, you are pure. It is never too late to change. And it is never too late to change how you communicate and relate with your ex…
Change begins in our own hearts…
Change is hard. Changing your thinking is harder. Changing your mind to think positive in a situation that is socially accepted as negative is EVEN HARDER. By about 2010, I knew change was imminent for my circumstances. I could not possibly live the rest of my life sharing a daughter with my ex and hating him. At least not without damaging all of us emotionally along the way. Joint Custody arrangements were court ordered so the only thing in our circumstance that I could change was the anger portion in my own heart.
I desperately needed to make a decision in which direction to go. And at this point, somehow – in my twenty-something year old head, I made the best decision of my life… One that I would make over and over again. I chose to seek God first in my co-parenting arrangements. I did not know what that meant or how to do it, but knew I was looking for something… something more, something deeper… something better.
I remember praying and asking God how to erase all those nasty feelings in my heart. Praying for Him to make it all go away. Honestly, I also remember just praying for him to make my ex go away – Haha! And if you’ve never prayed that then you are better than I am! I don’t remember getting a direct answer from God on this. Not like the one he gave about the boyfriend in my The Struggle is Sooooo Real blog. But I do remember the tug on my heart to follow Jesus getting stronger and more regular almost like contractions only instead of pain it was a feeling of freedom…
God was transforming my heart for this journey but I didn’t know where it would lead. I wasn’t even aware that I was on a journey at all. I knew I was hurting, I knew I hated my ex-husband. I knew I thought everything was all his fault. And most of all, I knew that, I thought I knew better than anyone else what was best for my daughter. Looking back at those last few sentences, I see one thing consistently.. “I’… “I”… ”I”… and unfortunately, at that time, that’s what my life was about… ME. But God had a different plan… and that plan was to change me and change the way I think.
In no way did I start my divorced life with the intentions of it becoming what it is today. My divorce and co-parenting style started pretty similar to the average divorced relationship. Anyone related to, or friends with my ex was automatically considered to be the enemy. That’s what my life had become… two teams… my team… and his team. Anyone see anything wrong here?? Who does God tell us the enemy is? See how messed up my thinking was?
Our lives quickly became one big game, that no one could win. Just a continuous baseball game that was stuck in overtime. Inning after inning… He’d do something, score and get ahead, and then I’d do something to score, and we were tied again… Another inning started… Same thing over… Chaos and confusion – just how satan liked it.
The problem here is that there was no “Team Ana”. While I can’t speak for my ex-husband, I can speak for myself and say that most of my motives were driven by selfishness and competition. Being better, looking better, having more, and being loved more than the other parent.
At this time, I wanted everyone to know just how awful my ex was and he wanted the same. I desperately needed our friends to pick a side and have a seat behind the corresponding dug-out… so they could buy popcorn and cokes and cheer on the team they chose… And since this was a never-ending game, this life quickly became EXHAUSTING! Exhaustion lead to further opportunity for Satan to weasel his way in our thoughts and hearts and satan’s temptations and planted thoughts would lead to further bad decision making. Which you can see started a cycle that only led us back to the same problems and arguments over and over again….
Ex·haus·tion – ¹Extreme weakness or fatigue. ²The total consumption of something.
exhaustion. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 19, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/exhaustion
Satan loves to hide out in our weaknesses. When we are exhausted we often expose our weaknesses to him. He loves to curl up real small and fit perfectly into the thought of an exhausted Momma or Daddy. The enemy can completely devour the very strong person you thought you were before you became exhausted. He can convince you that your ex is no good, that he is unimportant, that his opinions are wrong or invaluable, that he is invaluable, or that he doesn’t deserve some type of place in your children’s lives. He can make you believe that every word and action of your ex was a well thought out plan to harm you… or make your children dislike you. He can eat you up with guilt and shame… spit you out, deep fry you and eat you again… And this is where it gets worse, during that deep frying phase, he totally consumes you. He changes you on the inside when his nasty thoughts have taken root in your heart. When you think he is done, he takes those TOTALLY CONSUMED THOUGHTS and convinces you to believe all of those same nasty things about YOURSELF.
Total consumption… now there’s a thought. We as humans are totally consumed by our thoughts. Even when we try our best not to be or feel that it is not true. What we think about and focus on fills us up and overflows out of us. If something overflows out of me, it affects my children.
I’m not saying your ex or mine did not do anything to justify any of your feelings or behaviors. I am saying that as a Momma, we have to be VERY careful what we focus on. If we get side-tracked thinking about how much we hate or disagree with something our ex is doing, the enemy uses that as a vessel to set sail in your thoughts. But if we stay focused on God and His purpose for us, then we prevent satan from entering because without a vessel he will sink. (Thankfully, our God walks on water! He doesn’t need a vessel! And He sure doesn’t sink when we forget about Him ;-))
In a co-parenting or divorced situation, our purpose is BIG. There are no words to describe how amazing the purpose of being a parent is…
Parent purpose – To be chosen by God to conceive, carry, adopt, raise, mentor, grow, rear, support, cultivate, and/or nurture another being created by Christ himself.
This is an INCREDIBLE PURPOSE. It is not our only purpose, but I feel strongly that in the grand scheme of purposes… it probably ranks pretty high!
There are some really big changes I would make if I could go back and start my Momma purpose over. There are probably some things regarding your parenting role, in your past, that you wish you could change too. No matter how badly we want to change them, we can not. We can, however, apologize or make amends. It’s like emotional restoration for wrongs we have done or things we didn’t do that we know we should have. We can verbalize them or just pray about them. I strongly suggest praying about these things first and allowing God guide you on how and who you should ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the very first step in changing our circumstances. Asking for God’s forgiveness, forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and asking for others to forgive us.
Thank you God, that Jesus is indeed the same Jesus today that He has always been and that He will be that Jesus tomorrow and next year! God has changed my life, my insight, and my heart. My journey has now become clear to me. My journey is to be a “walking with God everyday and every step of the way” kinda Momma… Daughter… Sister… Wife… Friend… and yes “Ex-wife”.
Those are big roles to fill considering the hate and bitterness that consumed my heart just ten short years ago when this journey began! It is important to remember that God can change emotions and feelings that are deeply rooted in our hearts. But we first have to invite Him into those places in our hearts… so starting right now… call out to God and INVITE HIM INTO your divorce and your relationship with your ex and their family/friends! Even if you do not feel like forgiving. Even when you know in your heart that YOU DO HATE THAT EX OF YOURS. Go to Him in prayer, and ask Him to change your heart. Be honest, tell him how you feel and declare and speak into life what you want to see change in your heart…
“Lord, I want my heart to be in line with your word… but it’s not. I know I am supposed give others the same grace you have given me, but I don’t feel like I want to. I need you Lord… I am not able to repress these thoughts and feelings of anger and bitterness on my own… Honestly, I hate ________. I know that isn’t how you intended for me to live and I know I can’t embrace the joy you created for me to live in while my heart carries this hate… change my heart Lord…”
I prayed something similar to that prayer everyday for months… I didn’t notice big changes in my feelings day to day. But when I compared my feelings from the start, to my feelings months down the road, I realized that piece by piece, God had indeed chiselled away the roots of hate and bitterness that satan had planted in my heart. This began a major change of my perceptions and communication with my ex. This allowed me to step out of the way and let God do his work in both of our hearts.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! (English Standard Version Bible. Hebrews 13:8)
***side note – I love old hymns, music and worship are like a gateway to my personal time with God and thats why you will occasionally see my blogs start with whatever hymn God was speaking through to me.