And Now…Who am I?

And where do I go from here? What do I do? And how do I do it?

Words from a “suddenly single” woman. Words many “suddenly single” women…and men…have asked themselves. Many times. They’ve asked their friends. Their families. And they have no answers. At least not any answers they want.

For so many “suddenly single” women, it’s a frightening thought. Especially those who’ve been married for many years, and within a matter of a few days, that all changes. And they have no idea what to do; no idea where to start picking up the pieces; no idea what the rest of their life will be like. Or what the next few weeks or months will be like.

Along with being “suddenly single” they’re suddenly scared. And usually unprepared for living on their own.

Whether you were married five years, ten, thirty, or more, it’s still a loss, and it’s still hard. The longer the marriage, the harder it is to re-adjust. And I’m not speaking from a financial standpoint. That’s difficult enough, especially if the spouse left a financial disaster, causing you to have to totally change your entire way of life, from where you’re going to live to how you’re going to earn enough money for you, and your children, to survive.

Caring for your physical needs, though vitally important, is often many times easier though, than caring for and dealing with your psychological needs.

Because in the wee hours of the morning when you can’t sleep, you begin to re-think about everything that’s happened, over and over again. You relive the day he left, trying to think about what you could’ve done differently. Could you have said something that would have changed his mind? Why didn’t you see this coming? What did you do to cause it? How can you change things so he’ll come back? And would it really be better if he did?

What if? Why? How could I have been so wrong? Where do I go from here? How do I put my life back together with no one to help me? How will I ever find someone else and how long will that take? I can’t do this by myself….

So many questions that keep you awake at night, because there are no clear cut answers. Only more questions. The “woulda, shoulda, coulda’s” go on and on until you beat yourself up so much, you’re almost unrecognizable.

You feel embarrassed and think everyone who knows you is embarrassed to be around you, afraid your circumstances will somehow rub off on them. Or you feel you have to explain your current circumstances, sometimes in great detail, to everyone you meet, because otherwise, how will they know what you’ve been through!?

Why do they need to know? Really, why do they? It’s not their business. It’s yours. And telling your story over and over won’t change it. It’s like scratching off a scab that’s formed over a cut; removing the scab opens the wound and the healing process has to start all over again.

Dwelling on the past will also keep you from moving ahead into your future. Because as long as you continue to dwell on the past, you stay stuck in it, and can’t move forward. The cut re-opens over and over, and just can’t completely heal.

You may no longer be part of a couple, but you also cannot continue to be the victim you keep making yourself be! Unless you want to stay in that role. And that’s not the place you want to live.

But before you can completely begin your new life, and live it to the fullest, there’s an important step you have to take. One that’s also difficult, although necessary.

You have to discover who YOU are. What makes YOU happy. You have to be content being with yourself before you can even begin to think about bringing someone else into your life. Being lonely is hard, especially to a “suddenly single” woman. (I know. I’ve been there.) But being desperate to fall back into a relationship for comfort and security doesn’t work either. Until you can honestly say you know who you are; you like bring you; until you are no longer defined by past hurts, you won’t be ready for that new relationship you want so badly.

Because a new relationship doesn’t make you who you are. It doesn’t define you. You have to define yourself. It’s one of the most vital parts of the healing process.

Spend time with yourself. In fact, purposefully make time each day to just be with YOU. Go for a walk. Write a note to yourself in your journal. Sing with the birds outside. Talk to the Lord. Enjoy a private cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of wine. Have a conversation with yourself about your feelings. And be honest. Then pretend you’re a friend listening to that conversation, and give yourself advice from their point of view. And yes, that’s the difficult part!

But to heal and be ready for the next part of your life, it’s vitally necessary. If you’re not happy with yourself, how will you ever make someone else happy?

It’s a new day. Don’t waste another one in the past. Your future is ahead of you, starting right now!!! Don’t miss another day of it.

Relating to Noah

One day God said to Noah “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; put rooms in it….” (Genesis 6:14) Because there was a storm coming. A really, really bad one. Forty days and forty nights of continual rain. Never letting up. A rain that would cover the earth, and wipe out every living thing. And the water would stay for 150 days! That’s five months, after the first month and ten days of constant rain.

God had obviously had had enough. He was starting over with his creation.

So He told Noah exactly how to build the ark. What kind of wood to use, and how to waterproof it. What size it was to be.

He also told him to save the animals. “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.” (Genesis 6:20) God wanted the animals protected. They were also a part of his creation to be protected.

“You are also to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” (Genesis 6:21) God knew they’d all have to eat during their stay on the ark, but He also reminded Noah, because He knew Noah had a lot on his mind right then, and He wanted to be sure everyone was provided for and had enough to eat.

“Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family….’ ” (Genesis 7:1) And they did, along with all of those animals. It must’ve been really crowded!

In fact, let’s think about that for a minute. The ark was about 510 feet long, the length of one and a half football fields! It was more than 50 feet tall, a bit taller than a modern four story house, and it had the storage capacity of about 500 semi trailers. That’s pretty big, right?

But to hold eight people…AND all those animals? Plus enough food for everyone for over SIX months???!!!!

“…on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:11-12)

The first couple of days were probably not too bad. Everyone was getting settled in. A schedule of chores was most likely made, with everyone being assigned a specific task. Food had to be prepared daily, without the luxury of a stove or refrigerator, not only for Noah and his family, but ALL of the animals had to be fed every day as well. Cooking and eating utensils had to be washed by hand after each meal. There were no days off. No rest for the weary.

And even if there were times to relax, what would they have to do? There were no books or magazines, no newspapers, no radio or television. No card games or board games.

We don’t know what the temperatures were during this time, but I’m sure it got rather hot inside the ark, and there was certainly no air conditioning. Maybe a few windows to open, but they certainly wouldn’t make that much difference in that whole huge ark!

What if they got sick, or injured? There was most likely no medicine, and certainly no doctor to take care of them. Surely during all that time at least some of the animals got sick, and Noah had to make sure they all stayed alive to repopulate the earth! Of course, most likely many of those animals gave birth while they were on board the ark, adding even more creatures to the overwhelming ark animal population!

And the smells….unwashed bodies for six months, as well as those dirty animals. Can you imagine how they must have felt? Ugh. And what did they do about hygiene and sewage?? I have no idea but probably don’t want to know.

And most likely, after several months, they were all getting on each others’ last nerves!

I’m sure there were times they were all afraid. Every one of them, including Noah. How could they not be? Even though the Lord had told them what to do, and why, and assured them they’d be okay, I’m sure there were many times they wondered if they’d really heard from God, and if He really was taking care of them, or if they, too, were going to perish in the floodwaters. And when they were finally able to leave the ark, they had the enormous task of starting their lives over completely, starting with building a roof over their heads. Surely they wondered how they’d ever be able to do it all.

No matter how strong our faith, there are always moments of doubt.

So let’s compare this story to ours from last week. We had rain starting on Monday. It kept raining all day Tuesday, in fact it rained over 13 inches in one day! And it rained all day Wednesday, so much so that it flooded all over our area, in places it had never flooded before! It was a huge mess. We were basically trapped in our house, unable to go anywhere, for two days.

Our garage flooded, and there was over 3 feet of water in our culdesac. Cars were ruined, and the ones that weren’t ruined had lots of water damage inside the vehicle. We had food to eat, although there were items we were running low on because we had planned to go grocery shopping that first day we found ourselves stranded. So maybe we weren’t too thrilled about the choices….

But we had food. We had fresh water, and coffee! We had showers for bathing, and the bathrooms worked fine! We had books and magazines, radio and TV. We had our cell phones and the internet. And we weren’t in fear for our lives because we knew the water would go down and even though we’d have a cleaning up to do and some repairs to make, we knew we’d be all right. We fortunately didn’t have to rebuild anything.

Of course we were all a bit stir crazy by the end of that second day when the water finally receded enough so that some friends in a high car could come get us and take us to dinner. We felt like we’d been released from prison!

After only two days. Noah and his family waited almost a year.

“…At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down.” (Genesis 8:3) And we were complaining about two days!

And Noah and his family still had to wait several more months before they could leave the ark, because the water was still receding.

Two days in comparison to almost a year. Two days in relative comfort. Compared to almost a year of mostly discomfort, smelly animals, and a much harder life than anything they’d experienced before.

In retrospect, I don’t think we had nearly that much to complain about.

But we did.

Writing this made me stop and think how lucky we were, even during that storm. Much luckier than many others. Many people have gone through such storms and flooding and lost everything they owned, all their valuables and worldly possessions, including their vehicles, and like Noah, had to start completely over. With money from their insurance company, of course, but that doesn’t begin to replace the irreplaceable.

And Noah’s only insurance was the Lord. But that was enough for him and his family.

We do need to remember to think about the Lord that way as well. He’s not only our Heavenly Father, but our assurance that He will pull us through the storms in our life, and we will survive!

Sometimes He removes the storms from us, and sometimes He has us build an ark and ride them out.

And what was the first thing Noah did when he and his family were able to leave the ark? They thanked the Lord for saving them, for pulling them through the storm.

Thank you, Lord, for pulling us all through.

After the Ink Dries

You’ve been anticipating and dreading this day all at the same time. You’ve counted the days until you were free. Yes, it was scary at first, because you didn’t know how to act.

First you wanted your spouse back. You’d do anything, try anything. You didn’t understand. It didn’t matter who left who. You just couldn’t deal with the aloneness. The rejection. The desertion. All the changes you weren’t prepared for.

No matter how bad things had evidently been, surely this wasn’t happening! It had to be a bad dream!

But then every morning you woke up, that dream was still reality. Your spouse was still gone. He/she had moved on with their life. And you didn’t know how. You felt stuck. And you couldn’t see ahead as far as the next few hours, let alone the next day, next week, or next month. Those rings you were still wearing kept looking at you every day, and you couldn’t tell whether they were waiting for him/her to come back or constantly reminding you how you’d failed.

Then you heard he/she already had someone else. You’d already been replaced; forgotten. Well-meaning friends had seen them together, laughing, holding hands, smiling at each other like they hadn’t a care in the world. And they told you about it, thinking it might make you feel a little better. But it didn’t. It made you feel worse. You wanted to know what that other person looked like, the one who’d replaced you. They told you, and you felt even worse.

Now you wanted to know more. Did they start their relationship before the split? Is that why he/she left? For someone else? Is he/she happier with that someone else? What’s wrong with you?

Now you feel even more miserable. Because you’re still alone. No one seems interested in you. Your rings finally came off, though. What was the point in wearing them any more when they obviously meant nothing to anyone but you.

Your finger felt naked. And you were sure wherever you went everyone looked at your hand to see what wasn’t there.

Then you got the papers in the mail. He/she had filed for divorce. The very word made you cringe, made you nauseous. Suddenly, it was far too real. You cried at first. Then you actually read the papers.

And the tears switched to anger. And rage!

How could he/she dare make the demands on that piece of paper!? How arrogant! And hateful! How mean can one person suddenly become!?

And all of a sudden, you couldn’t wait to get this over! You were finally ready. Despair turned into indignation. The rings were sold and the money used to hire a lawyer.

The process was at times excruciating. Exhausting. Demands went back and forth. At times you just couldn’t believe how such a wonderful beginning had resulted in such an ugly ending.

Now, finally, the day is here. And after asking you a few simple questions, the man in the black robe takes his pen and signs his name, formally and officially ending the marriage.

The wedding that had taken months to plan, and the marriage that had taken years to establish and build, was suddenly and impersonally over with the mere stroke of a pen. No fanfare, no celebration, no friends standing around wishing you luck. After all, how can a divorce be a cause for celebration? Except now there’s that “ex” you have who started it all in the first place.

But now, suddenly you’re really and truly officially single. You really don’t want to use the word “divorced” because it still makes you feel uncomfortable. You’re still trying to absorb it all, just like the ink was absorbed into the paper the judge signed.

What now? You travel home by yourself. You look in the mirror and wonder where you go from here. Even though you were more than ready to be over and done with this unhappy milestone in your life, now you don’t know where you’re going next.

Yes, you’re free. Free to begin your life again. But how? Where do you start?

Quite simply, you start with yourself. By learning who you are. What you want. And not rushing into a new relationship immediately just because he/she did. It’s not a contest. It’s not a race.

It’s your life. Yours. Use it wisely.

Jumping Off the Cliff

Or maybe I should call this stepping out of your comfort zone.

Because it certainly isn’t comfortable when you’re getting ready to jump off a cliff into the unknown. At least that’s what it feels like when you decide to take that step you’ve been wanting to take for so long, but just couldn’t bring yourself to do it. I

I’m sure most of us at one time or another have had a version of the cliff dream, usually when we’re trying to make a difficult decision about a new opportunity, or we’re just feeling like life is taking us in a direction we really aren’t sure we want to go in.

In that dream we’re standing on a huge cliff which overlooks a vast canyon, one so big we can’t even begin to see the bottom; in fact we’re not sure there even is one. There’s no railing either, to prevent us from falling. So when we get to the edge it gets pretty scary, especially if you’re like me and afraid of heights. And you stand there, looking around, knowing you have two choices.

Either run back to where you were, or take a chance and leap into a free fall, trusting the Lord that you’re making the right decision.

We usually wake up from that dream before we make our choice, though, and until we make that decision in our real life, we’ll never know where the decision we make in our dream will take us. Will we plunge into the abyss, or will we spread our wings and soar into an entirely new adventure?

In your real life that cliff is only a picture in your mind. But it represents so clearly the way you feel when you’re on the verge of having to take a chance and make a difficult decision; one that could either turn your entire life around or cause you to stumble and have to pick yourself back up and start over again.

“What if I fall? But oh, my darling, what if you fly?” How many times have we seen that quote? In so many places. But it’s so true.

So what holds us back from taking that leap of faith? From stepping off the cliff of opportunity and taking a free fall into our life’s next chapter?

Actually, there are a lot of things.

Fear is the main reason. We’re so comfortable where we are that we’re terrified to take a chance to do something new, although it’s something we really want to do! We’re scared we’ll fail and what’ll happen then. What if no one likes you – or what you’re trying to do? But what if they do like you? But what if you succeed instead of fail?

Lack of self-confidence goes along with fear so many times. However, many people aren’t really as much afraid to take that leap as they are thinking they don’t have what it takes to be successful in what they really want to do. “I tried that before, and I messed up.” “I don’t think I have what it takes to do that.” “I don’t think I’m good enough…” But who says you’re not? Besides you?

Procrastination is one of the biggest reasons we don’t take that jump. Oh, we plan to. We even know how we’re going to do it. Unfortunately there’s always something that we still think we need to do before we take that chance. You think you need to wait until everything is perfect. Or you have to do one more thing. Which never gets done. It’s just a convenient excuse. And then someone else runs past you while you’re standing at the edge of that cliff and takes the jump ahead of you. And soars like you want to. So why do you keep putting it off? That could’ve been you already!

Distractions are all around us. They’re everywhere. You’re getting ready to send that email to a potential employer and all of a sudden you get a phone call and one thing leads to another, and the email is forgotten. Or you plan your day, even making a list of what you need to accomplish. You’re barely through the first item when you suddenly remember something you HAVE to do right then, and before you know it, you’re so distracted by everything else around you, your list is totally forgotten. So you decide to forget it and start again fresh tomorrow. But tomorrow brings more distractions, and you just can’t seem to get past them. So what’s more important? Taking care of all the little distractions, or putting all your energy into what you say really matters most to you?

Motivation should be easy if you really want to accomplish something great; something important to you. But many times our motivation isn’t as strong as we think it is. We’re so comfortable in our own little zone, our own “box” that we just can’t seem to make that jump, as much as we say we want to. Are you afraid you won’t be as comfortable in someplace new? What if that new place you fly into is bigger and even more comfortable after you get adjusted?

Depression can hold us back from advancing, from taking that leap. And many times we don’t even know we’re depressed. Depression can be caused by any number of factors. Most often we’re unhappy with our life because we feel we aren’t going anywhere. We may be unhappy with our careers, our personal life, or a combination of both. Depression can paralyze us and prevent us from not only taking that leap, but from enjoying life around us. And sometimes the best cure for depression is pulling ourselves out of the black hole we’re stuck in, and finally making that change. It’s hard. But the benefits are so worth it.

What’s holding you back from taking that leap?

What if you fall?

But what if you soar to greater heights than you ever imagined? You’ll never know until you try!

It’s time to close your eyes and jump!

And let us know what happens!

It’s Not Too Late to Follow Your Dream

Every one of us has a dream. I don’t mean the dreams that come to us when we’re sleeping that make no sense. We all have those from time to time and usually forget them as soon as we wake up.

There have been many, many songs written about our dreams, our hopes and ambitions.

One that quickly comes to mind is “The Impossible Dream” from “The Man of La Mancha” written by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion. We don’t remember the composers’ names, but we sure remember the song. “To dream the impossible dream…to run where the brave dare not go…” That was one of the songs we sang at our high school graduation almost fifty years ago.

We all had our dreams that night. We didn’t ever stop to think then, that any of those dreams were impossible. We had the world at our feet, and we were ready to take it on and conquer it! Some of us achieved those dreams, and some of us didn’t. Some of those dreams changed over time. Those exact plans we all had on graduation day, like I’m sure most of you had as well, certainly didn’t all come to pass.

Sure, some of us absolutely accomplished our dreams, although not necessarily in the same way we’d imagined as we stood on the stage on graduation night. For most of us, our goals and dreams changed as we got older. And for most of us, as long as we had a dream, a goal in mind, we were able to move forward and accomplish at least most of what we set out to do.

Without a dream, without a goal in our life, no matter how young or how old we are, we can easily become like a hamster in its glass cage, running constantly on its spinning wheel, tiring itself out, but going nowhere. Like the hamster, we run and run in that wheel, wearing ourselves out, and staying in the same place. And accomplishing very little.

What happened to your dreams? Did you accomplish then, or did you forget them? Lose them? Change them? Are they still sleeping in the recesses of your mind, waiting to re-awaken? Or did you give them up because you don’t see them ever coming to fruition?

We all still have unrealized dreams, somewhere, no matter what our age, what we’re currently doing, where we’re living, or what we think our abilities are.

The key words here are what we think. Our thoughts can hold us back, or they can propel us forward. We can choose to stay in the place where we are now, whether we’re comfortable or not, because it’s what we’re used to. Or we can decide to take a leap of faith and jump off the cliff we’re standing on, and dive free fall into that dream we’ve had for years.

What if you crash and fall? But what if you fly!!!!!???

Don’t miss tomorrow’s blog, and learn how to jump off that cliff!

Suddenly Single

Perhaps you’ve known it’s coming. You may have talked about it, screamed at each other about it, threatened it. Your spouse may have brought it up, Or it may have come from you first. At this point, you don’t really know where it started, or how. You just know it’s snowballed, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it. Maybe you want to, but just can’t find your way back. Or maybe it’ll be a relief to finally have it over with.

Or perhaps you had no idea it was coming. Sure, you both argued, and a bit more than usual over the last few months, but what couple doesn’t have their ups and downs? And then one morning you wake up, go through your regular morning routine, and suddenly your spouse drops the bomb, very casually and calmly informing you that his/her suitcases are packed and in the car, and you’ll be hearing from an attorney soon about the divorce. And with a quick kiss on the cheek (really?) the house keys are laid on the table, the front door closes, and you’re left sitting there in shock, wondering what in the world just happened.

You’re suddenly single. Well, almost.

There are still attorneys to hire, and attorneys to pay. There are court appearances. Division of property. Custody, child support, and visitation to be decided if there are young children. New living arrangements most likely will have to be made. There are more court appearances and more attorneys to pay. Nights without sleep from worrying about everything you’re going through, wondering when you’ll ever feel like yourself again, or who you really are now, because suddenly you’re no longer part of a couple.

It’s not John and Mary any more…it’s just Mary. Or just John. And that’s going to take some getting used to. Things you did as a couple you now have to do by yourself. The little things…trips to the grocery store, cooking meals (or ordering take-out), going to the movies or out to dinner…take on a new meaning, because you’re now having to do them alone, or as a third or fifth person in a couples group…one in which your spouse had usually been beside you.

It’s not like it was, and you most likely don’t like this new normal, even if you’re actually relieved to be out of a bad situation. You still don’t want to become the person you used to feel sorry for because they were doing things or going places by themselves.

But now you’re suddenly that single person. Waking up in the morning with the other side of the bed empty and unused. Setting the dinner table for one. Wondering how to fill that half empty bedroom closet so it won’t be a constant reminder of what’s happened.

Unraveling a marriage is sometimes almost harder than keeping it knit together. You don’t plan a divorce like you do a wedding. And you shouldn’t. Because it shouldn’t happen. You certainly don’t enter into a marriage thinking about what happens if there’s a divorce, and if you do, then perhaps you shouldn’t enter into that marriage!

But it does happen, unfortunately, and as I’ve said before, I’ve been divorced twice, so I’m not criticizing anyone. I’ve been there.

It’s not a fun place to be. It’s a journey that too many of us have gone on. And it’s a journey I don’t want to see any others go on.

Being married is tough. Returning to being single again is just as tough. Or sometimes even tougher.

You’re not alone. Someone gets divorced every 23 seconds. It’s a sad but true statistic. But it doesn’t make you feel any better.

The good news is, though, you will get through it. And contrary to what others may tell you, the Lord still loves you, and He hasn’t given up on you because your marriage failed. No matter whose fault it was. You see, He knows your pain, and He knows how you’re feeling. He cries for you as He reaches out to comfort you. He doesn’t blame you or pass judgement on you. He simply loves you.

He still has a plan for your life. It may have taken a detour for now, especially while you’re getting your life back in order, but the plan He has for your life will not be forgotten. He’s going to use this detour to take you places you may not have gone were it not for your present circumstances. And who knows what you’ll find along this new journey? It may not be what you planned, but it will turn out all right in time.

You may have found yourself suddenly single again, but there’s something better coming. When you least expect it.

It just doesn’t seem like it right now.

Smashed Promises

Yes, you promised. You both did. And you meant them. You really, truly did.

Life was supposed to be happily ever after. Good jobs. A nice house, with nice cars in the garage. Two or three well behaved kids who made good grades, played sports, and participated in dance and music recitals. They’d grow up, go on to college, find great careers. They’d get married and have their own kids, and soon you’d be grandparents, and enjoy your retirement years together with your kids, their spouses, and your grandkids. Probably somewhere warm and sunny.

But then life happened and although you both meant well at first, and were sure nothing could tear you apart, something changed. Something happened. Things happened. Bad things. Dangerous things, even.

Financial indiscretions. Alcohol abuse. Drug abuse. Infidelity. Affairs. Lies. Screaming arguments. Storming out of the house and not returning until the next day. Verbal abuse. Broken furniture and holes in walls. Sometimes even physical violence against you. Incarceration of your spouse for any number of serious reasons.

You tried. Many times. He asked for forgiveness; you gave it. And gave it. And gave it again until the words were just that. Words spoken just to stop another argument.

But you both had promised. And promises are never supposed to be broken, right?

You still have a few framed pictures sitting around from that day so long ago when you both promised each other before your families, your friends, and most importantly before the Lord, that you would love and cherish each other in sickness and in health until death do you part. You both looked so happy.

Who knew how things would eventually be?

You both believed those promises you made that day, and meant every word of them. But what happens when the death that parts you is the death of the marriage, the death of the love, the death of respect and trust, and not the death of your spouse?

I’ve said it before. Marriage is hard. It’s not to be entered into lightly, or on a whim, or without seriously talking it over and knowing what you’re getting into. It’s a lot of work.

But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the marriage just can’t survive. There are lots of reasons. Sometimes only one partner is willing to try, and it takes both partners to be totally committed to make a marriage work. It usually involves a serious change in lifestyles and actions. And sometimes, unfortunately, even with both partners trying, it just won’t work any more.

And that’s beyond sad. It’s a tragedy. But look at the reasons I listed for these failures. They’re serious reasons. You may even still love your spouse, or the person your spouse used to be, even after some of those situations have been uncovered.

But sometimes love just can’t fix it all. And sadly you have to move on.

Does that make you a failure? Not at all. Does it make you sad? It should. It’s never a happy occasion when a marriage truly cannot continue to exist.

But as long as you know you did everything you could, you can still pick up the pieces of your life and move on, knowing you gave it your best, but the circumstances you found yourself in were too profoundly difficult, and sometimes too dangerous, to allow you to continue.

Yes, you promised, but sometimes there’s no other solution. For your own safety, and your own mental, and sometimes physical, health, sometimes you just have to let go.

And know that there’s something better on the horizon.

Remembering

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the day the world stood still. The day all of our lives were changed, at least for awhile. Some have already forgotten. Some remembered for a few years, and then as America rebuilt, their memories faded. Some even foolishly decided that it was all a publicity stunt and that it never happened.

But many will never forget. They can’t. They were there. Or loved ones were. They lost friends and family. Their lives will never be the same again.

I remember where I was when it all happened. How I found out. How I felt.

I remember that morning so clearly. Like many of us, I had just gotten to work, had just settled in with my coffee. Then I heard all the voices, the far-from-normal raised voices that are so atypical of offices on a Tuesday morning.

Like millions of others I stood in our break room, coffee in hand as it got cold, as I watched the events unfolding before our eyes. We didn’t know at that time what really had happened. It was all speculation. But we knew it was horrible.

Terrorism wasn’t a common word fifteen years ago. But one thing I remember clearly as we watched on that television screen was one of our employees coming in the kitchen, as the announcers spoke of a second plane hitting the other building, and hinted at the possibility the attack had been planned.

That employee spoke a name, in disgust. Bin Laden. We didn’t realize how right he was at the time, but in my heart, I knew as soon as he said it.

One man, so filled with hate. One man had set out to destroy our country.

He didn’t destroy our country. But he destroyed lives that can never be rebuilt. And that is what I choose to remember today. Those that gave their lives not because they were serving their country, but because they were carrying out their activities of a normal work day, and most likely already thinking about what they were going to do when that work day ended. They had left home that morning, kissing their loved ones…husbands, wives, children…good bye and never knew it was their last morning.

People also boarded four planes that morning. Going on business trips. Visiting families and friends. Going on vacations or honeymoons. They had no idea what was coming. Until they were in the air and their planes were all hijacked. They knew then what was coming, and except for one plane, there was nothing they could do. Except to call loved ones on their cell phones and say a frightened and tearful goodbye. Pray. And wonder what a sure, fiery death would feel like.
And what eternity would be.

For many workers in the towers that morning, their workday started normally and ended abruptly, and they never knew what happened until they walked through the gates of heaven. They were the fortunate ones. They didn’t even know they were burned into oblivion in an instant.

They had no time to be afraid. Terrified. No time to cry out to anyone, including the Lord. They were incinerated.

Imagine the sheer terror, frozen fear, and feelings of total panic which must have been going through the minds of those still alive in the buildings. Put yourselves in their places. How would you have felt?

Racing to stairwells that were already filling with smoke, filling with other terrified people, running for their very lives and not knowing if they’d make it. Not knowing if they’d ever see their loved ones again.

Jumping out of windows, knowing they were only escaping one kind of death for another.

Making what they knew were final phone calls to loved ones and trying to express their feelings in a short thirty second message. Facing their final minutes of life on this earth, wondering what was next? What kind of pain? Wondering if they’d be mourned or forgotten? Knowing they’d never see their children grown and married, never see their unborn baby’s smile or hear its cry? Knowing they’d never have a chance to do all the things they’d planned for their future?

There were also many unknown heroes that day. Those who helped carry wheelchair bound coworkers down stairs when they could have left them behind and saved themselves. Those who helped coworkers down the stairs who just couldn’t walk anymore; who were too exhausted and scared. First responders who never hesitated to run into burning buildings, knowing the risks involved, but knowing they had to try. If they could only save one person…. Many of them perished as well. But they knew the risks and elected to do what they knew they had to do. Others came days later to volunteer to help the survivors, and many of them died years later from breathing the air that was filled with the ashes of the dead as well as the ashes from the burned buildings.

We’ve all heard the story about the heroic passengers on that plane which crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. They knew they were going to die as well, but chose to spend their last moments trying to prevent even more catastrophe by causing the plane to plunge into a field instead of a building. They sacrificed their lives, which were going to be ended anyway, and chose to do what they could to save others by preventing that plane from killing so many more.

As we remember what happened 15 years ago we must remember not only what happened to our country, but more importantly what happened to almost 3,000 individuals that day. And to their families. The lost husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers, and friends. The weddings that never took place; babies that were never born; marriage proposals never made; books never written.

For those families not a day goes by that they do not feel their loss; that they do not remember the price innocent lives paid for another person’s hate.

On this anniversary of September 11, please remember not only what changed our country, but the families who will forever be hurting from that unprovoked attack. Our prayers can never take away your pain.

Please remember them.

Tomorrow Is Not Promised

It never has been. It never will be. Because we never know when God will call us home. And that is one call that we cannot refuse to answer. No matter who we are.

We cannot say, “Wait a minute, Lord, I haven’t finished this or that. Call me back tomorrow.”

We can’t refuse to answer that call and let Him leave a voicemail message we can return a day or so later when we’re not so busy.

We cannot say, “But I have to make things right with this or that person before I go. I just haven’t had time…”

We don’t even get the chance to say, “But Lord, why me, and why now? Life is so good, and I have so much more to enjoy here. I’m not ready. I need to wait awhile.”

When God calls us home, He means it. There’s no discussion. That is the one thing He tells us that He gives us no choice but to obey.

His commandments? Of course He wants us to obey them. How many of us obey them all, even though He told us to? I guarantee each of us has broken at least one, or more, in our lifetime. And probably will again before we’re called home.

And His commandment to love one another as He has loved us? That’s tough, and also one we’ve all broken. We have free will to do anything we want here on earth, and none of us can say we ALWAYS obey His word.

Not one of us.

But when He calls us home on that day and hour only He knows, then it’s over for us here on earth. We can’t come back and make things right with those we’ve hurt, or those who’ve hurt us.

And for those who are left behind, we also have to deal not only with our feelings of loss, but our own feelings of regret for things said and unsaid. For plans made and never followed through. For time we wanted to spend together, but never got around to it.

We’ve all heard the saying “live each day as if it’s our last one here on earth.” But do any of us ever do that? I know I certainly don’t. I’ll be the first to admit it.

Our last day could easily be today. We have no way of knowing.

The other day I read a story about a man who dropped dead at his daughter’s wedding. Right after their father-daughter dance. No warning. And he certainly had had a few more plans of his own for the rest of that day.

A high school friend’s twin sister died unexpectedly a few days before Christmas. She hadn’t shown up for work that day, and when worried co-workers went to her apartment, they found her dead. Again, no warning. She had a full calendar of plans for the next three weeks, both for work and in her personal life. She hadn’t been planning on leaving.

The other night I looked at my Facebook and saw a friend of ours who had years ago moved to Israel to live his dream had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. Again, there was no warning. His daughter is a few days away from delivering his third grandchild, whom he will never meet here on this earth. His wife announced the event in five profoundly sad words: “My precious husband is gone.” I can hear her tears.

Yonatan, dear friend, you inspired this writing. You will be sorely missed by all who knew you. By all who were blessed to have eaten one of your delicious home-cooked meals, enjoyed the wines from your vineyard, and marveled at your expertise as a tour guide in your beloved Israel. May God continue to watch over those you loved and left behind.

No, tomorrow is not promised.

So what are you doing with your today? There may not be a tomorrow.

Keeping the Promises

Sometimes it’s hard to do.

Happily ever after isn’t always as happy as you expected.

Life was supposed to be nothing but happiness and fun times. But in between the fun times there are the hard times, which make you appreciate the good times, the fun times, even more.

I’ve said it before. Marriage is hard. It’s not to be entered into lightly, or on a whim, or without seriously talking it over and knowing what you’re getting into. It’s a lot of work.

That’s why excuses like some of these for marriages breaking up drive me crazy. Are you really that shallow that you think these reasons are good reasons to give up and walk out on your spouse? And forget the promises you made as if they meant nothing?!

“He/she isn’t really attractive any more.” Well, are you? And is that the only reason you got married? Not a good reason to break up.

“I met someone I like a lot better. He/she is leaving his/her spouse as well.” And in another few years you’ll both probably do the same thing again. And probably do it again to your next “soulmate.” I’ve seen it happen lots of times. So why’d you get married? Why didn’t you just live together until you’d had enough and it was time to move on to the next conquest?

“I’m bored with all this. Marriage isn’t exciting like I thought it would be.” Then maybe the two of you need to start doing things you haven’t done in a while. What did you think marriage would be like, by the way? Just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you stop doing all the things you enjoyed doing before you got married. Can’t you just enjoy being together like you used to?

Or in a similar vein, “I don’t really like having someone around all the time and having to make plans for the two of us. I need my own time to do what I want to do, and not be concerned about someone else every day.” You wanted that person around when you were dating, enough to commit to a marriage. Did you think marriage meant going separate ways when you got tired of him/her, and having your spouse come back around only when it suited your plans? Does
the word selfish come to mind?

“He/she works all the time and we still can’t make ends meet.” Then re-examine your finances and see where you can cut back, or what other lifestyle changes need to be made. Living apart won’t be any easier financially, by the way. Finances are always a serious issue in a marriage, but they can often be one of the easier problems to fix.

“She can’t cook very well and doesn’t do my laundry like it should be done.” That’s not a reason to call it quits. It’s a reason to sit down and talk and figure out how to help each other better around the house. There may be some things you need to do better as well. (Cooking together might be a good start, and actually be a lot of fun.)

Are you getting the picture? Little things can almost always be worked through, sometimes with outside help, sometimes with just the two of you making more of an effort.

When was the last time you surprised your spouse with a card just to say “I love you”? When was the last time you brought home flowers for no reason at all? The last time you lit candles for a romantic dinner, even if that dinner was burgers or hot dogs? When was the last time you two took off for an impromptu weekend together? Just the two of you?

Little disagreements always come up in marriages. Sometimes they turn into big ones. But for couples truly committed to each, committed to their marriage, it’s worth finding the right ways to end those disagreements, and remember the love you two shared on your wedding day, and you should still be sharing.

And keep your promises.

Dear Summer….

Why are you leaving? You just got here, didn’t you? I don’t think you really had time to unpack your bags all the way. Now you’re leaving already?

For goodness sake, we haven’t had nearly enough time together. Sure, we had lots of great days in the pool, floating in the cool water together and basking in the warmth of the sun. Your summer days are so nice and long, and we’ve sure enjoyed them so far.

We’ve walked on the hot sand at the beach and played in the crashing waves together. We’ve picked up shells and enjoyed the sounds a beach can have only in the middle of summer when you’re visiting us.

You brought us beautiful brightly colored flowers that thrived in your summer heat, as long as they had a sip of cool water several times a day. They don’t want you to leave either, and they’re already starting to show their disappointment with wilting blooms and yellowing leaves.

You brought us fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, and big juicy watermelons! They were delicious, and they’ve gone away as well, until next year. Those crisp apples that Autumn brings are good, but they’re just not the same.

We’ve spent warm and sultry nights outside together on the porch, sipping chilled sangria and talking about how much fun it is when you’re here. We’ve listened to the frogs singing to us at night, and we even introduced you to our bullfrog Jeremiah. Who’s now packing his bags, too, because he’s decided he’s going with you!

We complained when it rained, even though you said you had to take a break and cool things off a bit for us. We just didn’t want to miss out on your wonderful sunshine, or any of the time we could spend outside with you.

Even when you decided that close to 100 degree days with even higher humidity were going to join you for a week or so, we really didn’t complain that much, because we’d rather have you bring us that than leave us altogether.

We even had a big pool party in your honor, and you seemed to have a wonderful time. You kept the rain away, and your temperatures hot even into the night, so we could all stay in the pool til almost midnight.

Wasn’t that alone enough reason for you to decide to stay longer? We can have another party for you if you want!

Are you sure you really want to leave? Are you sure you can’t stay, at least a month or so longer?

But you’re telling us no, today is Labor Day, which lots of people call the end of summer. Which means you’ll be packing your bags, taking your beach towels and flip flops, and going away. Again.

That’s just not fair. We just never seem to get enough time with you. We know, you have other friends who want to spend time with you, too. You’re a vagabond, and can’t stay in one place forever. You like to move around and spread your warmth to all kinds of places. You’ve promised others as well that you’ll be back, and you can’t break your promises.

We know you’ll be back, but next year is so very far away. Can’t you just stay a few more weeks and let us enjoy your company a little longer? We promise to be good, and spend as much time with you as possible. We’ll have more cookouts and picnics for you, and spend more time outside with you.

And, well, we hate to bring this up, but this Labor Day weekend wasn’t really beach or pool weather. At least if you’re determined to leave, please stay for just a little longer, and make up for this weekend??? Your bags can’t be totally packed; there’s got to be a few more days to give us….

Pretty please…?

Trusting God in the Path of Fear

We just heard that the tropical storm that had been floundering off of Florida is now classified as a hurricane, although only a Category 1. Now Hurricane Hermine (and what kind of name is that, anyway?) is making her way towards landfall in Florida, and is then expected to go up the East Coast, just I time to spoil our Labor Day weekend.

Am I afraid of this one? No, it’s a small one, in the world of hurricanes, at least now. That could change, of course, but it does take me back several years ago to another time when we were being threatened with a huge storm at the end of August, 2011.

Hurricane Irene was coming. All the forecasts were saying our area was going to get absolutely slammed by a Category 3 hurricane! Even though the forecasters said we had five days to prepare, it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to deal with. Because not only did I have our home and family to worry about, I also had the responsibility of preparing millions of dollars worth of real estate for the oncoming storm.

I’ve lived through numerous hurricanes in my lifetime. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in my younger years, we had a lot of hurricanes come through. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of Hurricane Hazel, who came through our area back in October, 1954. Not totally trusting my memory, I looked this storm up on line, and found out that it killed as many as 1,000 people in Haiti, before striking the U.S. as a Category 4 storm. It struck my area of Maryland and did over $300 million dollars worth of damage to the Eastern Seaboard….and that’s in 1954 dollars! Hazel was one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Looking at the pictures of the devastation on line, I was absolutely amazed. How in the world did my little town, my area of Maryland, survive something so bad?

I remember Hazel’s wrath, through the eyes of a four year old little girl. Back then, of course, we didn’t have all the warnings from television and radio weathermen, who would tell us the worst, tell us to prepare, and then show live footage from the scenes where the storm was hitting, to make us even more terrified of what was coming. In all honesty, back in 1954, I’m not sure we even owned a television!

I do remember standing in the kitchen by my mother as she ironed sheets. My dad was at work. Imagine that. A category 4 hurricane hitting our town and the dads went to work as if it was another day. Of course, I don’t know for sure how high the winds were when it hit my home town, but I do remember it was fierce. Trees were blowing terribly in the high winds, and you could hear the sounds of the wind as it whipped across the fields. But if my mother was scared, I don’t really remember her showing it. She went about her business of ironing, but she did make me stay in the kitchen with her.

Then all of a sudden I remember hearing a loud crash. It scared me, and I know it scared my mom. Remember, my dad was still at work. She was there alone and responsible for me. We didn’t know what had happened, but she sensed it wasn’t good. So she took my hand and we walked from the kitchen into the dining room and then into the living room. Where we saw our chimney had blown down into the room, cracking the plaster ceiling, but fortunately not destroying much else. “Daddy will get it fixed when he gets home,” she told me. And then she took my hand and walked me back into the kitchen, and finished her ironing.

That’s really about all I remember about that day. I know my dad got home safely, and he did make sure the chimney got fixed, although up until the day I sold that house after my mom passed away, the plaster ceiling in the living room always showed that crack. And I always could tell where the chimney fell in the attic, no matter how well it had been repaired.

But I don’t remember seeing any fear on my mom’s face that day. Either she really didn’t know how bad the storm was, or she just trusted the Lord enough to know we’d be all right. My mother knew the Lord. And she trusted Him. Back then I was too little to ask questions about such things. Looking back on it now, I wish I had. But what does a four year old know?

Hazel wasn’t the only really bad storm to hit our area; just the first one I remember. Another huge nor’easter struck my area in March, 1962, and did millions of dollars in damage to both Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as well as other cities along the entire East Coast. That storm had been totally unexpected, and no one had prepared for it. I remember riding through both Ocean City and Rehoboth several days after the storm, not even comprehending the destruction and devastation the storm had caused. After all, I was only 12 years old then.

I had also heard stories from my mom and dad and my grandparents about the horrible hurricane that hit our area back in 1933. At that time, there had been a small bayside amusement park just ten miles from where I grew up, called Public Landing. The stories I’d heard told of piers and games and similar amusements like the ones which were common in Ocean City back when I was growing up. My mom would tell of a miniature golf course built on one of the piers, as well as all sorts of boardwalk type games, and several small hotels and restaurants. Evidently this was the place to be back then. Until that unnamed storm whipped through and totally destroyed all of it. To this day, all that remains of the piers and games of that time are some pilings left out in the water as a reminder of what used to be. There’s one pier that’s been re-built several times, but only as a fishing/crabbing boardwalk for the locals.

So I do know how destructive these storms can be.

That week five years ago I kept listening to the reports about Hurricane Irene. I watched the news reports from the Caribbean. It was horrible. All the reports and forecasts showed this massive storm, one of the largest on record, coming straight for us. And I have to admit it. I was scared. Not just scared. Really scared. There was something about this storm that struck a note of fear in me that I cannot even describe. The weather photos of it showed an immense storm that seemed to engulf everything in its path. So what would it do to our area if it hit? Destroy our home? Our friends’ homes? The properties I managed? Leave us with nothing?

All the weather forecasts were bleak. All they could talk about was how bad it was supposed to be. And the more anxious I became. All I could do was prepare for the worst. Get supplies for boarding up windows and doors. Tarps for roofs. Make sure generators were ready to operate. That all my emergency plans were in place. At home we made sure we had batteries and fresh water and canned food. And during all of these preparations there was one thing I continued to do.

And that was to pray. In the midst of all the dire warnings and proclamations of impending doom for our area, I continued to pray. Not that I was the only one; all our friends were praying. And I don’t mean just people who say they are and they really don’t. These were prayer warriors! Seasoned pray-ers who totally know the power of prayer.

I’ve seen the results of fervent prayer before. I’ve seen healings happen where there are absolutely no medical reasons that they should happen. I’ve seen life situations turned around at the last minute in incredible ways. I know prayer works.

But sometimes in the deepest recesses of our being, although we know prayer makes a difference, and although we’ve seen it happen, and we know what our God can do, sometimes we are so overcome with fear that even when we pray with faith believing that God can, we don’t really believe that He will! We want to believe, but things seem so bad, we really aren’t sure that even the Lord can turn them around.

That’s not lack of faith. That’s being human. And God created us in our humanness. He made us in His image. So He knows how we are, and how we feel, and how we fear. And He doesn’t condemn us for it.

So on the morning of the day the storm was supposed to hit, was I lying in bed with total confidence that everything was going to be fine? That there would be no wind, or rain, or destruction? Was I totally at peace resting in the knowledge that my Lord and Savior was there, and that He was going to keep us all from harm?

Heck, no! Although I continued to pray, in faith, I was scared to death!

But one of my favorite scriptures kept going through my mind, and my heart. Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I had the faith, but the confidence and assurance, well, that was a bit lacking.

My husband and daughter, however, were the exact opposite. They kept telling me nothing was going to happen. I tried to believe them, but there was still that shadow of doubt.

But guess what? The storm never hit us. We were totally spared. Yes, we had rain, and a little wind, but nothing even close to what others experienced. We didn’t even lose power.

Imagine that.

And then I remembered the words of Matthew 8:26 – “He [Jesus] replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

If God can (and does) turn away a storm like Hurricane Irene five years ago, just think what He can (and will) do with your prayer requests. No, I have no idea why we were spared and so many others were not. I can say for certain that it was not because God was angry with those people or punishing them. It was not because He liked us better than He liked others. He had His reasons, and I am certainly not one to claim to know any of those reasons.

But I do know this. The Lord loves us. He will calm the storms in our life. And He answers our prayers. We may not always like the answers He gives us, but He answers us.

As for Hurricane Hermine, well, I’m sure it will cause damage in places, but I am not going to be afraid this time. I’ve learned to trust Him.

He’s a lot bigger than a hurricane.