Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It Is Finished. (Part 1-The D Word)

It is finished. That awful "d" word is now attached to my name and our family...divorce.  I feel like I need to pinch myself here in this little blog window.  It honestly doesn't seem possible.  I remember feeling this same way after my late husband was tragically killed and hated the title of widow. That word sounds so dark. Now I hate this title equally.  Actually, I hate it a little more. I know that 'hate' is a strong word but seriously, I'm not sure I can handle much more. What's up with this, Lord?  I truly want to be goodness and light and these things bring out the worst in me. I question my sanity and I'm not good at the struggle. Oh, is that the point? I'm sorry, I keep missing the point, I guess.  A dear friend and I chuckle over the fact that I must be the queen of bizarre tragedies. Lord have mercy. 

After much prayer and consideration, I've decided to share a little more of my story. Maybe by putting myself out there in all of my weakness, others might find hope and healing a long with me. At times, I have never felt so alone.  What breaks people out of this is loneliness is getting it out, talking, writing, etc.  If you have ever experienced betrayal trauma, (or any other trauma) you know this.  You cannot remain silent. You must be able to talk about it.  I risk being shunned here but it's worth it, even if it reaches one person who needs to know that someone else walks with them.

First, I just need to vent a bit. Don't you think that divorce is an ugly word? There's just something about it that sounds bad.  To be honest, I can't even say the word out loud.  I hate it even more because I'm Catholic and it goes against everything I believe in.  I believe we were two that became one flesh. I believed in growing continually through our day-to-day fidelity to our marriage promise.  I believe in total and mutual self-giving.  I gave 100% of myself to my spouse and I thought he did too.  What on earth happened?  This is my reality...No control.

Like a bomb going off, I discovered that betrayal and pathological lies staggered through the 17 years of our marriage and suddenly came to light in shocking ways.  I initially wrote about sexual addiction but it turns out that was only a symptom of many other issues. In fact, I've heard stories like mine on television talk shows and now one of them showed up in my house. Uninvited.  I am that person who had no clue. It was honestly like the father of lies suddenly appeared and shattered our family in one fell swoop.  It has truly been UNbelievable.

Being totally transparent, it's clear that I struggle to understand what this is all about.  I share here in this personal space, to continue to document healing through the unthinkable, the unfathomable.  I'm trying to keep hope afloat for myself and my children.  It's not easy.  As a person of faith, I know God is keeping me sane.  Without Him, I am nothing, I can do nothing.  I might sound like a broken record but it really is vitally important to know that we are not alone.  If there is someone else out there who is struggling with any type of deep suffering, it is my desire to help.  We can be beacons of hope for one another if we share our struggles and paths to healing.

It's been almost 3 years working through this tragedy and my heart still hurts terribly.  It hurts all the time.  My brain hurts too.  Both my heart and my head still struggle to process all that has happened.  Especially because things were good and happy in my house until the lies rolled out.  It's still so hard to believe that such an incredible charade took place right before my eyes. It feels harder to handle because I never saw this coming, nor did the children. 

Yet, even with the level of deception that occurred, it was still my first instinct to fight for our marriage.  I knew our children deserved that.  Later, I learned that my "fighting" was all co-dependent fighting.  Especially when it came to his addiction, I spent all of my days coming up with resources that would help my spouse fight his demons, determined to solve his problems...And truthfully, hoping they would all disappear with some "magic bullet."  The sad reality was that trust was completely gone and no magic bullet could repair the fact that truth never existed in the first place.

Even though the Sacrament probably wasn't valid, it's still a deep pain that doesn't subside.  Love still holds out hope that maybe a miracle could occur with humility and true reconciliation. I hoped and prayed, for my children's sake, that a miracle recovery and conversion would take place.  It was my biggest prayer to have my husband and family back, the way it was 'before.' 

No miracle came.  This was another tragedy for all of us.  With every bone in my body, I feel the broken bonds of our marriage in the hearts of my children.  Marriage is clearly not just about the husband and wife.  Our bond created more life and love through our children and they are crushed a long with us.  We should never underestimate the damage that an earthquake causes to a house... Everyone who lives there is affected. I suppose that's why the word divorce sounds bad.  It sounds like walls dividing and crumbling down.

So the question is how do you put your house and heart back together after this divorce rumbles through your life?  How does someone rebuild a house of love?  Now there's a happy word!  Rebuild.  It's possible, as we all know.  We've seen it happen all around us.  Even the horrific 9/11 brought rebuilding and restoration. This is where I am now. I'm struggling with rebuilding and restoration in the midst of human damage. I'm learning that it takes a real and honest look at the carnage...resentment and other broken pieces of my heart... to see how it's affecting spiritual and physical progress. I'll share more about this in Part 2.  I have started to realize that my brokenness started to consume me.  I prayed in desperation for healing.

It's obvious that just like death, divorce symbolizes that a marriage is done.  It is finished.  Yet also like death, LIFE is not over.  We hope.  There is always hope.  This is what I cling to as I walk through the desert, once again. I know God always brings goodness when bad things happen but it's hard to wait. Patience, patience, and more PATIENCE, the virtue I need the most practice with.  Funny how that is...I'm obviously a very slow learner!

In Part 2, God reminds me that healing is possible.
"I will restore you to health; of your wounds I will heal you, says the Lord." ~Jer. 30:17

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finding Easter In The Bloody Mess...

As Christians enter this week reflecting on the brutal murder of our Savior, we often wince at the thought of it.  Yet, we know what happens at the end of the story...The bloody mess is what saves us.

Only during Lent do Catholics have the opportunity to attend Friday Stations of the Cross.  During each of the 7 Lenten Fridays, we can choose to listen to the agony as we enter the scene that Jesus suffered. We bow our heads and drop to our knees in prayer as we mediate upon the different stages of the death march.  Inevitably, I find myself weeping at some point during the 30 minutes as we reflect on what occurred that Good Friday long ago.  Not only does it help us remember what happened but it reminds us of the direction we should be heading.

This Lent, I made a commitment to our parish Stations of the Cross.  I only missed one week.  We have typically made an effort each year but this year was different.  This year, I felt drawn, almost invited, to truly live Good Friday each week.  It was difficult to keep our calendar clear on Friday nights at 6:00 but it was worth it.  Entering the Passion of Christ is truly one of the most amazing spiritual exercises. 

I have learned the hard way that it is there, in the bloody mess of Calvary, that we are not alone.  No matter the size of my cross, your cross, our family's cross, we are not alone.  In fact, we are never closer to Christ than when we climb that road to Golgotha by His side. 

As I continue to suffer the after shock of trauma in my own life, it really helps me to visualize the blood on Christ's face, and the wounds on his human body.  He knew that we would suffer too and we'd need a lot of help to get through it! This year, having my family broken by impending divorce, feels like trauma on the inside.  My cross is heavy but I find consolation knowing that He knows. After all, Calvary was the ultimate trauma. 

I take one day at a time right now.  The memories of countless lies and betrayal threaten my sanity.  Mixed with the confusion of happy memories, I still find it troubling how all of this has transpired in my marriage without me knowing. How in the world did this happen?  Why did this happen? This Lent, I have felt particularly tortured as my brain randomly rolls from memory to memory in an inescapable attempt to process what has occurred. "Letting go" is simply not possible and I have been certain that my head might explode.  Yet for 30 minutes each Friday I thought about the crown of thorns that pierced God's precious head and saw my reflection in the blood dripping down his face.  Those are my wounds, your wounds, the world's wounds, that he bleeds.   He knows our heads are suffering from many wounds. He takes them on so that we might heal, one step at a time.

Even then, healing is a process and we still need to keep moving forward with our crosses. Things don't get better overnight. Lest we forget, He shows us how to do this too.  Last week, I was having a "bad day" carrying my cross. I was cleaning out the garage and having a pity party about all the burden of the work and junk that was left for me to bear alone.  Suddenly my neighbor appeared to say hello.  She just felt that she was supposed to tell me that I won't be buried by the burdens I was carrying. Suddenly, I recalled Good Friday.  Jesus' friends left him and even betrayed him during his suffering.  He found himself unexpectedly accepting help from strangers like Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus pick up the Cross...And Veronica who wiped His face.  Once again, I was not alone.  Little did my neighbor know that she just wiped my bloody face.  She was my Veronica. He knows what we need and when we need it.  His trail of blood leads us home.

As Good Friday arrives, I know it's time for me to accept the challenge of my own Good Fridays...again.  Sometimes we get multiple Good Fridays to help us stay with Him.  Sometimes we're carrying a cross and sometimes we are called to be Simon or Veronica.  Either way, if we stay the course, we are never alone.

He took on our bloody mess.
He walked the walk.
He stumbled and fell and got back up.
He never quit.
He suffered a piercing death.
He sacrificed that we might live.
He saves us from ourselves.
He is unconditional love.
His resurrection is Easter~the dawn of eternal life.

We find Easter in our bloody mess...Our mess is His mess. The bloody mess saves us. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Advent In A Broken Family

The holidays are upon us and I recognize this heavy weight on my soul...It's grief calling again.  I smile on the outside but the grief over my broken family is a deep ache, down to my core, that doesn't let up.  This is the first holiday that my husband lives apart from us...

Just when I've been sitting well with the suffering these past few weeks, I stumble and fall now. Grief is like that. Things like holidays can trigger loneliness or sadness and the pattern continues with two steps forward, one step back.  The pain ebbs and flows. As the waves wash over, I blink and hang on.  The memories haunt me as I wonder about love.  I mourn the wedding vows. I crumple to my knees by the side of the bed where we held hands every night.

The very honest thing is that it's devastating to have a broken family during a season that once held unity and togetherness.  It hurts, terribly.  Wait, I recognize this pain.  I've been here before, aching over another husband's tragic death, clinging to our baby boy during the holidays. Never would I have dreamed I'd be here again.

This time I'm alone in our family home with 4 more children.  Their Dad still sees them but emotions are strained and our home is empty of him. I know it, they know it. It feels like a punch to the gut as I watch them hurt from the severed bond of sacred familyThis is the exhausting reality of our daily life and magnified now, during a season that should be filled with our family in tact. 

I've learned that it's not a pity party to talk about loss because the acknowledgement of the hurt enables us to work through it, heal, and keep moving.  Otherwise, we get stuck. Right now we need to keep our souls moving towards the light...Namely towards the star of hope.
Lord, help us focus on this family, the Holy Family...This is the real family that our Holey family should cling to.

The hard reality is that separation (or divorce) are different kinds of death. All people in the family are suffering and grieving.  We didn't ask for this and we have no control. Highlighting the death is the fact that it's even more awkward for those who encounter us.  The dear souls who acknowledge the "death" and offer their hearts to us are treasures.  I am grateful for those who check in, knowing the treacherous journey we are on.  Unfortunately, many people avoid us which compounds the sadness. This stirs a calling in my soul to write about it. I encourage others to reach out and not shrink away from the victims of broken families.

It's exactly this that brings me to Advent in a broken family.  No one feels quite as broken if they have hands to hold on to. 
I catch a glimpse of four long faces fixed upon me for guidance...How are we going to do this?

Yes, let's think about how we're going to do this...What I know for sure is that we are not alone.  There are countless people suffering this time of year except now it includes us. A plan comes to my heart...I hope this plan also helps others who might be suffering during this time of year.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I propose four pledges or goals for our Broken Family Advent.  They represent the 4 weeks that we should consider an opportunity to carry the weight of grief to the manger on the road to Bethlehem.  As the Holy Family surely encountered...The road is not easy.  We know this by now...The best rewards are never easy.  Yet, we will walk it, we'll keep moving, and we'll get there!  We will arrive with hearts ready to peer over the manger, gazing into the face of a baby Savior.

The Broken Road To Bethlehem:
We will read these on the first Sunday of Advent and each week, holding tight to the hands around us. 

Week 1. I vow to reach out to those who might be suffering.  We are the body of Christ and when we give, we receive.  This is the best gift of the season.  Let us look for little ways that we can reach out and pray for others, even if we cannot afford to give with money.  We will keep a list of prayer intentions by our wreath. 
Getting out of ourselves, gets us into the manger.

Week 2. I vow to think of all those "others" when I'm worn out from the toils of the day, the season, alone with the weight of my grief.  In these moments, I will light the candles on our Advent wreath in the honor of all the others who suffer.  The silence of my soul will echo prayer and unite my broken heart with theirs.  Let me remember that light casts out darkness.
Let us close our eyes and remember the Star of Bethlehem... A beacon of hope that beckons.

Week 3.  I vow to be thankful.  Here lies the best glimpse of the season and it begins in the manger.  If I truly love the Christ baby who came to relieve us of this earthly suffering through His birth, death, and resurrection, I will pause each day in thanksgiving.  Let us share the thankful things in our lives each week with one another.
A Savior's birth is the dawn of gratitude...The bridge from death to life.

Week 4.  I vow to hold baby Jesus.  Let us practice holding Him this last week of Advent.  If I look into His eyes, I will see the whole world...He came for everyone.  Let us see ourselves, along with all those we struggle with, in the eyes of this Godly baby.  Let us see that he loves all of us.  May this help us grow in love and reconcile our sorrows.
From the crib to the cross, He shows us how to live and love.

Advent in a broken family will be an arduous walk to Bethlehem but the joy at the destination will be worth it. 
May we all be reminded that the peace of that baby King is the best beginning and the happiest ending.
+Please keep our family in your prayers. If you are all together as a family, please treasure that...I would have never dreamed this would happen to us. If you are experiencing brokenness, please let me know how we can pray for you. Leave your requests in the comments or email me. It would be a great gift to offer up my suffering/our suffering to pray for you+

I vow to remain here.
Family At The Foot of the Cross

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Turning 50 With The Dream Team

I'm not a perfect person but I am a real one...Fabulous at 50?  Definitely not. I have to be honest and say that I've been dreading turning 50 in the middle of my family tragedy.  It's next week for goodness sakes...Couldn't this come at a different time?  A happy time?  It doesn't seem fair, as I pound my fist on the table!  At this landmark time that others celebrate with joy, I'm filled with sorrow and endings...I'm seriously tempted to believe the lie that life is completely awful when we suffer. 

Suffering is awful, yes it certainly is.  But completely awful...No.  Being real, I have to admit that suffering is beautiful at the same time.  Many lovely people emerge to help, God shows his face, just when we need it most...I may not have seen God's face otherwise. Clinging to what is good in my life, I see light in the darkness.

During Adoration one day, I felt that I saw joy and pain sitting together arguing about who would make the soul better, stronger, wiser.  Suddenly, they realized that they were not opposing forces after all. Instead, they both offered strength and wisdom in different ways that all humans need for their salvation.  It became apparent that we cannot have one without the other.  Joy and pain are synonymous.  Separated from one of these, we are broken. Having both together, we are strong.  Encompassed in this is the Cross that Christ suffered and bore for us.  He loved us so much that he suffered.  There on the Cross we see the ultimate dream team.. joy and pain unite for the good of humanity. Knowing we cannot have one without the other helped me see clearly how I should journey ahead...

Turning 50 with The Dream Team

I am turning 50 with sorrow and grief...
Yet, I turn 50 with gratitude and grace.

I am turning 50 with wounds and scars...
Yet, I turn 50 with growth and wisdom.

I am turning 50 with disappointments and mystery...
Yet, I turn 50 with triumphs and faith.

I am turning 50 with tears that never end...
Yet, I turn 50 with laughter that is stronger.

I am turning 50 with the reality of aging...
Yet, I turn 50 as a child of God.

I am turning 50 with heavy burdens...
Yet, I turn 50 with song in my heart.

I am turning 50 with the down-swing of life...
Yet, I turn 50 with a life well-lived.

I am turning 50 with the end in mind...
Yet, I turn 50 with the hope of life that never ends.

I am turning 50 marking time in my mind...
Yet, I turn 50 with a warrior spirit.

I am turning 50 with trial and trepidation...
Yet, I turn 50 with trust in God's plan.

I am turning 50 being stripped of my dreams...
Yet, I turn 50 with strength in my soul.

I turn 50 with time gone too fast...
Yet, I turn 50 with blessings, too many to count.

I turn 50 with the setting of the sun...
Yet, I turn 50 when the new dawn comes.

I turn 50 with lost love in my life...
Yet, I turn 50 with a lot of love left to give.

I turn 50 with joy and pain...
Yet, I turn 50 sitting with the Dream Team.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dreaming of Heaven

I love the feast days of the church...The days to really hone in on what anchors us.  These days give us the opportunity to celebrate the real warriors of faith, gone before us to teach us how to survive this life.  Today is one of those days.  Go figure, it comes at a time when I needed it most.  God is good!

Being crushed by the mystery of what has happened to our family, I woke up crying this morning.  I sobbed in bewilderment about why we weren't worth fighting for.  Feeling a deep punch to my gut as I wondered about the ripple effects of decisions beyond my control, I spun with confusion.  Knowing I will never truly understand what has transpired, I questioned how on earth I will do this life now? Momentarily, I felt abandoned and terribly alone.
Photo taken back in March-St. Mary's Our Lady of Fatima

Suddenly, a glimpse of heaven shined through a holy mother...The Mother Christ gave us Himself.  She's our Mother, your Mother, my Mother...She did this life, just like us.  She walked a road of suffering and agony, continuing to say Yes to God from the 1st day He asked her to bear His son, to the last day He took her to heaven.  How glorious that day must have been for her...To finally be at peace forever, with the Holy Trinity. 

This feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a perfect reminder.

I'm dreaming of that. 
I'm dreaming of heaven...

Not in a morbid way but with great excitement for the ultimate goal.  It actually fuels me to keep moving forward, to keep going on this sojourn.  No matter how painful it is, I know I am not alone and there's much splendor and happiness to look forward to.
Dreaming of heaven gives me the strength to keep teaching the faith in our home, even as a single mother.  A prayer life and rhythm of the church year are still alive here. 

I vow to keep the light on.

We are still a family, bound together by love that can never be discarded. Humans can discard humans but you can't ditch God's love. Hope may dim on our dark and sorrowful days but it can always be rekindled.  Days such as this are a beautiful reminder that good things always come with our eyes fixed on heaven. 

What a day to celebrate! 
I huddled with my children around the kitchen sink this morning, before they left for school, and we prayed for our Mother to give us strength like hers.  Like birds taking shelter in a storm, it may have been a desperate plea but prayer just the same.  May she always keep us close to her Son, Jesus Christ...The heavenly host and true love of our lives.
Our Lady's love is like a limpid stream that has its source in the Eternal Fountains, quenches the thirst of all, can never be drained, and ever flows back to its Source.
~Blessed Margaret Bourgeoys~

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