On all the good things…

My husband and I got baptized together. Well, not in the same hot tub (our church does immersion), but we got baptized on the same day.

Right after we got baptized, one of our friends said to us, “I love you guys. I like that you both had prior relationships that didn’t go well, but you don’t let that stop you from moving forward.”

I cried a little. I thought that was one of the nicest compliments my husband and I had received about our relationship. I also thought it was especially fitting right after being baptized.

The compliment was also true. My husband and I both had some bad stuff, but we didn’t let that stop us.

Del (my husband) and I were both married previously.

Del got divorced because his ex-wife just left. One day they were together and married, and the next day she decided she could no longer handle being his wife.

I never really knew Del’s ex-wife. I had met her before. When I met her, I thought she was nice and funny. I know she can/could bake well, and that she can/could sing well. Beyond that, I know very little about her. I couldn’t tell you what makes her tick.

Whenever I think of Del’s ex-wife, I feel disappointment. I’ve spent a long time contemplating why I feel so disappointed with her.  She has never done anything to me, and frankly, her decision to leave was my gain. I think I feel disappointed because Del will never tell anyone (except me) what it was like to be married to his ex-wife. I have heard from other people that his ex-wife told tons of people intimate details about their relationship. Del will sometimes say ‘It was terrible’ or ‘She was not kind.’ I see the irony in my disappointment, or is it the hypocrisy? I’m divorced too. I left too, and I’m writing a blog about it. But I feel disappointment nonetheless.

I am never sure if his silence is Del being honorable, or if the pain of whatever she did is too much to discuss. Maybe it is both.

I got divorced because my ex-husband was controlling. I wasn’t allowed to: bake, spend money, decorate the house, spend time with friends, talk to certain members of my family, etc. etc.  My ex-husband also enjoyed calling me names. I think ‘bitch’ was his favorite. Any of my friends and all of my family will tell you that I had to leave my first marriage. It was, well, super bad.

Neither Del nor I were perfect spouses.

The strange this is – I am married to Del – and I cannot tell you exactly what he did as a husband that contributed to his marriage failing. My husband is not perfect, but he is SUCH a good husband. He is kind, forgiving, a hard worker, funny, at sooo cute. At any rate, why Del did to his marriage that contributed to its failure is his story. He can tell it, if he ever wants to.

I also did a lot that contributed to my first marriage failing. I was not forgiving – of anything. If my ex-husband would do something wrong, I would hold it over his head. I never told my ex-husband how I was feeling or what I was thinking, which really doesn’t make a marriage work. I mothered my ex-husband. I would try to force him to see all of the little details he was missing.

I think the greatest lie I hear people tell is that one person caused a marriage to fail. Yeah, I am sure that is true for some people (like 1%), but most of the time it is two people not doing enough to make a marriage work.

For some reason, our society excuses the three A’s as a reason for getting divorced: abuse (physical or mental), adultery, and addiction (drugs or alcohol). If one partner has a problem with those, our society gives a green light to leaving. I have always thought that was so strange. And no, I’m not supporting the three A’s, or insulting folks who chose to divorce because of them. I just think its fascinating… If you are called to love your spouse forever, why are there this weird tickets to single town? What is it about these three things that suddenly make the decision to leave a marriage so black and white?

In some ways, I am grateful for that I had a green light. It removes a lot of societal disapproval I faced after getting divorced. I’ve never heard anyone admit this, but if you say ‘My ex was abusive’ – it removes so much critique. And no one ever asks the spouse that was cheated on ‘What did you do to contribute to your spouse cheating?’

Don’t worry though, while society may remove that critique, I still give plenty of it to myself. My first marriage failed. I contributed to that failure.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I forgive my ex-husband. I forgive Del’s ex-wife. I forgive Del for whatever he did to contribute to his first marriage failing. And – I forgive myself for whatever I did to contribute to my first marriage failing.

With this grace, we move on.

Del, my husband, is the best husband in the entire world. When I think of him, my stomach still gets butterflies. When he kisses me, my knees get weak. Just writing about him right now makes my heart beat faster. Just writing his name makes me miss him.

Del and I came together at a time in our lives when everything was falling apart. I’m guessing that most shrinks would say we bonded over a traumatic event, and then they would tell us that our bond is unhealthy. Meh. I disagree.

Del and I work because we have four important things: 1) a ton of common interests, 2) a healthy respect for individual growth, 3) Jesus, and 4) good sex (my parents read this, so I’ll just bullet this one for the sake of my father).

Together, Del and I both love: food, tv, drinks, friends, games, Jesus, reading, learning new things, visiting new places, exercise, bad jokes, good jokes, being kind to people, and more. If Del starts liking something I don’t care about, 90% of the time I will try to become interested in that too. For example, Del just started listening to tons of weird pod casts, so I’ve started listening to pod casts as well. I guess I could just poo poo that new interest and move on. But if something is important to my husband, it is important to me.

Despite caring about 90% of my husband’s interests, there is that 10% I just can’t seem to care about. I try to support and nurture that 10% as much as I can. For instance, my husband likes bourbon. I think bourbon tastes like how I imagine cat piss would taste, so I don’t drink it. But for Christmas, I bought him a nice bottle I thought he would like – and some mixers. My husband is also exceptionally good at finding weird stuff on the internet. I can’t keep up with him on that, so I just try to tell him as often as possible that I love that he is learning new and weird things.

We are into Jesus. We attend church together. We serve in church together. We pray together. We read the Bible together. However, we also encourage each other to grow however Jesus is calling us to grow. My husband might be called to do one thing, and I another. When the day is done, we crawl into bed and talk about where we are at. What happened today? What do you need? How is God working in your life? How is God working in our marriage?

I am not sure what most people think you are supposed to do after a failed marriage.

When I was in my teens I had a teacher (Ms. T) whose husband left her and her children for another woman. Ms. T was the most miserable bitch I ever did meet. In the south, I think they’d call her ‘awnry.’

After Ms. T’s class, I made a silent vow to myself. I vowed that, no matter what happens to me in life – I don’t want to become an angry, bitter old woman that all the kids loathe.

When I got divorced, I guess I could have sat alone in my house crying myself to sleep about the crappy things that were happening. But I just don’t fucking have the time or energy to be miserable.

So I cried a bit. I dusted myself off. And I just kept on trucking.

I am so thankful I kept going. If I hadn’t, I would’ve missed all of the good things that life has given me with Del.

I would’ve missed Disney World, and drinking at Epcot. I would’ve missed Del teaching kids how to beat box. I would’ve missed playing board games with friends. I would’ve missed trolling around Grand Rapids, sleep-all-day Saturday, watching too much Netflix, napping in the backyard, bonfires, cuddling, smoking cloves, listening to pod casts, and enjoying music.

I’ve taken some punches, but so has every other person on the earth. At some point, you just have to realize that life is unfair, but you still get to choose whether or not to be happy – and whether you want to miss all of the good things.

On lowering your expectations…

I’m just giving up on expecting so much of other people.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

When I was sixteen I knew a guy named Andrew. Andrew was, ahem, a breath taking sight. He was smart, funny, handsome and kind. However, he was terrible at finding someone to date. One night, Andrew, his older brother David, and I were talking about Andrew’s terrible dating dilemma (it was like an episode of Dawson’s Creek). Andrew was blathering on endlessly about how difficult it is to find a soul mate, when David stopped him and said ‘You know what Andrew. If you’re having trouble finding a woman who meets your expectations, all you have to do is… lower your expectations.’

I use to think David was an idiot. Now, I think he might have been onto something.

The other day my husband and I were talking about ministry. We are both involved in our church, and we were discussing the pros and cons of what we were going through. While we were chatting it out, I said to my husband that, for me, I thought the hardest part of ministry was…. watching people fail.

If you’re well churched, you know what I mean.

Hell, if you’re just a regular person that has your shit together, you know what I mean.

Okay, if you have a Facebook account and a vast array of friends, you know what I mean (but I digress).

When you are in ministry (at least at the church where my husband and I serve) you watch people come in and out the door. We are lucky to have a solid base of amazing people that come to our church. However, we also have a large portion of people that come in and out on a regular basis.

Some people I meet once, and never see again. I probably couldn’t tell you their names, or even remember their faces.

Some people I have gotten to know for a few weeks or months, and then they leave to go onto something else.

The group that I struggle with, are the people that come for a long period of time – and never do anything with their church experience. They never serve anywhere. They never try to meet other people. They never try to dig into The Bible. They never try to understand God. They never try to become a better person.

Honestly, if I really think about why the hell it bothers me to watch people fail, it is likely three fold.

First, it probably bothers me because I see something in them that I also see in myself. I see anger in them, and am pissed off that I still struggle with anger (yes, I see the irony). I see a lack of forgiveness in them, and I feel sad that I struggle to forgive so many people (too many people). In a sea of people, all I can see is our sins.

Second, it bothers me because – really – there isn’t a damn thing I can do about other people choosing to continue life patterns that I disagree with. Our church is full of resources. We have small groups for people to meet others with similar life styles. We have volunteer opportunities within the church, and within our community. We have amazing pastors who are the most giving people I have ever met. We have congregants who would give their limbs to help a stranger. And – most importantly – 95% of the time – all we do is talk about Jesus. If you walk in the doors, we will shove Jesus down your throat – because He is just that fucking awesome. The hard part about ministry is, you can bring a person to Jesus, but you can’t make them drink the Holy water. And it is SOOOO painful for me to watch people, day in and day out, just stand at the pool and never jump in. I’ve tried pushing, it doesn’t work. I’ve tried dunking, it doesn’t work. Only Jesus can lead you to Jesus. Not me. And damn it, it is sooooo frustrating.

Third, and finally, it bothers me because people aren’t doing what I would do. Let’s be honest, most of us pick friends who agree with us on most issues because all we really want – is to know that our thoughts and opinions are valid. And if I see a bunch of people who are living in a way that is opposite of my lifestyle, it can make me feel like I am somehow less valid. When I see someone who won’t stop drinking to save their family, I get pissed off that they can’t see beyond the bottle. When I see someone who spends all their time on work, and completely abandons their children, I get ticked off that they cannot see their own priorities. All I see is – everything that everyone else is doing wrong. All I see is – everything that everyone else should be doing because I do it that way.

And that thinking – my thinking – is just the shittiest thinking of all.

It is the shittiest thinking of all because it pushes all focus on to – you guessed it – other people. And the moment you are focusing on other people’s shit, you start thinking that your’s doesn’t stink.

We need to – I need to – stop expecting so dang much of people. People will never be what we want them to be, because we should not be living to please other people. We should be living to please God. I’m not sure what lowering my expectations looks like. I don’t have a list of rules or guidelines. But I know that if I keep living this way, it will lead to bitterness. Bitterness towards other people, and Bitterness towards God.

And if I am expecting so much of others, what are they expecting of me? Do people look at me and see someone who still can’t get it together? Honestly, sometimes I think they should. Because I don’t have it all figured out.

There are so many things I struggle with. I struggle with anger, forgiveness, sarcasm, control issues, and so much more.

Yet, how on earth can I be struggling with these things, when I am surrounded every single day by all of the resources of one of the best churches in the world?

And when I stop thinking about what everyone else is doing wrong, and only focus on myself… what happens?

Suddenly, all I see is a pile of brokenness that feels like it will never be fixed.

The only thing I can think to do when I feel like that broken pile, is to stop and take a look around. In that moment, what I see is a group of other people that are just as broken as I am.

A church is not full of perfect people. A church is just full of people. We come to church hoping to get better. I hope we do. I hope I do. We can all help each other become better people.

But in the end, there is only person that can fix it all. And He will. And He does.