A few of the million lessons I’ve learned

It’s been one month shy of a year since the truth came out.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned during this baptism by fire:


Everything, EVERYTHING, has a healthy side and a sinful side.

I have always been a peace-maker.  I like this about myself.  However, I now recognize that my efforts to “make peace” were often my weak way of avoiding confronting something broken in my life.

I used something good, in this case peace keeping, to avoid God’s calling on my heart.  I knew he wanted me to say something, to get up, to leave, to make a move and not stand for the injustice.  But! I was shy, and scared, and wanted to be liked, so I towed the line and played nice and made a doormat out of myself.

I turned “peace-maker” into a sin.

This is a character flaw that didn’t just affect my marriage, it affected every relationship in my life.  So, recognizing and doing my best to find a balance between peace and passivity is also affecting all the relationships in my life.

It’s the new normal and is going to take some time to get used to, but I will never go back to the old me.


Sometimes the darkness is there to make the light more beautiful.

Christmas 2016 was shaping up to be tragic.  I was separated, I’d been kicked out of my usual Christmas traditions, I literally had no where to go and nothing to do.  But somehow…I had the best Christmas of my life.

I think it’s a lot like minimalism.  The less you own the more you appreciate what you have.

We were striped down–all excess was gone– and we were able to appreciate the very few priorities that we had left.

This entire year had that theme.

Have you ever watched naked and afraid? It is this absurd show where people willingly go naked into a foreign territory and try to survive for 21 days.  They are starving and cold.  They are dirty and dead tired and more often then not they wind up injured, bug bitten, sick, and exhausted.

What’s interesting is that the people who don’t have as hard of a time often leave their 21 days grumpy and dissatisfied.  While the people whose adventure takes a darker turn: they get caught in a rain storm that lasts for days, their water supply give them dysentery, or (in the most extreme cases) their partner abandons them and they are left to survive in the wilderness completely alone–those people wind up having a real “come to Jesus”, life altering experience and leave their adventure as new beings.

I’m telling you, that has been our year.

It could not have been darker and yet we are walking out of the wilderness as new creations.  It’s been CRAZY hard, but…this year has also been beautiful…and easily one of the very best years of my life.


Here’s the thing:

If you were to put my first marriage on a platter and my new marriage up next to it and ask me to choose between the two–I would choose this new life.

I am a new woman with a new husband and I’m so much happier now.

I will FOREVER wish that the journey to get here had been different.

But I wouldn’t go back.

One of the small blessings in a marriage that is obviously broken is no one can deny that you need to change.  No one would wish for our heartbreak in their lives, but the flip side is we are no longer floating along in a state of “good enough”.

We were down to,  “be better or be nothing” and we chose better.

And I’m thankful.

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The Whole Timeline

I believe that forgiveness for me, the victim, is far easier than it is for most of you.

And I have a theory why:

It’s because I know Adam.

I know his whole life, “the whole timeline”, and because of that I don’t see him as only  “a cheater”.

I see all of him.

I have pictures of him in my home.  I have oooed and awed over the adorable baby version of him.

I know the stories of his childhood.

I’ve heard how 6 year old Adam carried his brand-new baby sister, through the snow–from the car to the house–while his daddy was distracted helping in his poor, post c-section mama.

The mother in me cringes at the idea of his toddler arms carrying such precious cargo by himself.  And the wife in me recognizes that already, at such a young age, Adam was the kind of person who recognizes a need, (Someone needs to get the baby) and steps in to help.

I have read the story Adam wrote as a ten-year-old kid about the untimely, and far too early death of his beloved PaPaw.  My heart breaks for the little-boy struggling with the reality that this man he so adored would never take him fishing again.  And I fall in love with the man who still dreams of being, “half-the-man my Papaw was.”

I’ve seen the pictures of Adam from his teen years.  And I can guar-an-dad-gum-tee that the shy-silly girl I was in high school would have definitely been falling all over herself trying to grab the attention of the cowboy/skater kid, who dressed like this at his high school prom:

I knew him in college.

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(Holy over-plucked eyebrows, batman!)

I’ve witnessed his work ethic, his charity, his sense of humor.  I’ve laughed myself silly, I’ve danced at dozens of weddings, I’ve cried along side him.  We both have spoken at a handful of funerals and held hands at more than a few grave sides.

I know more than just one side of this man.

And I love him.

All of him.

I’ve also seen in my mind the man he will one day be.  We’ve dreamt of retirement together, planned out our future dreams.  I can see who he will be, I feel like I know that man already.  And I know that the man he will be in 10 years, is a man I will still want to be hitched to.

This thought, this idea of “the whole timeline” has helped me through a number of heartbreaks and set backs.

It helped me get through two terrible pregnancies by BELIEVING in the healthy, happy, non-pregnant woman I knew I’d someday be.

It helped me survive my mother’s passing: knowing in that soul crushing first year–someday the pain will be bearable.

And yesterday, “the whole timeline” helped me take a huge step forward in our healing.

I was talking to a dear friend who shared with me a story about a “person who’d done her wrong” from way-way back and how her feelings of hurt still sideline her sometimes, all these years later.

And she told me about how she wished she would have said something back then.

This conversation came up because I had received an apology letter in the mail, but instead of bringing me closure, like I (and I’m certain the sender) had hoped for.  Instead the letter stirred up feeling of anger and betrayal.

I was wrestling with these emotions when my friend told me her story and I just knew, I owe it to the woman I’m going to be in 10 years.

I need to deal with these emotions now.

So: I told my plans to a handful of friends, spoke with my counselor, watched a dozen Ted Talks and googled up a storm, and on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. I sat at a coffee shop across the table from “the other woman” and I did myself a solid.

I forgave her.

But first: I accused her.

(Justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin, and I definitely had to have both.)

I told her I wasn’t there to talk about my husband, I wasn’t there to talk about his affair.  Her affair meant one thing to her, but her story has no power over me, my marriage or my happiness.  The only version of that tragedy that matters is what was, and is true for us.  And that’s all I choose to care about.

No, I told her I was there to talk about how she cheated,

and not on her husband,

but on me.

I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me.  I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me woman to woman, and I wanted to talk about how she betrayed me as a friend.

Then I went down the list.  I named off the top 5 most horrendous things that happened.

I spoke them out loud.

I looked her in the eye and I named the pain.

I talked about friendship, about loyalty, about trust.

Then I spoke about her:  I said that she can’t treat herself like she is worthless and expect others to recognize her worth.  I said it wasn’t up to anyone else to make her happy or to keep her entertained.

And…

I told her she was beloved.

I told her she was enough.

I told her redemption is already hers if she’ll accept it.  And I told her she deserved to be treated so much better than she is allowing.

I said that I’ve only known her as one thing: a mistress.  But, just like Adam, I know that she is more than just this moment in time.

I told her I have no interest in any form of a future relationship, but that I sincerely, honestly, wish her well.

I said thank you for meeting with me…

and I said goodbye.


It took all of about 15 minutes but I believe I changed the course of my future in that brief moment in time.

I no longer have to fight around all of those words clambering for attention in my brain.

I no longer have to live in fear of running into her because I know I’ve had my moment.

I spoke my piece.

(Or should I say: peace.)  

I won’t have to carry this bitterness around with my like a ball and chain, and my children will be raised by a woman who is free and clear.

And I am most certain that my marriage will benefit from those short 15 minutes for the rest of its life.

My heart was pounding, my hands were trembling, my voice shook…but I spoke up anyway.

And today I feel free.  I feel released.

God opened my prison doors and set the captive free.

Guys:

Adam is more then just one thing, so is this woman, so are you, so am I.

You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.

I believe that the woman I am 10 years from now is going to look back at the woman I was yesterday and be so damn thankful.

I did that girl a huge favor.

I’m so glad I did it, and I’m SO glad it’s over.

AND let me just say:

I would HIGHLY recommend facing whatever demons are beating you down and do your future selves a solid as well.  Honestly, I feel like I’ve discovered a real gem here.

And now,

As my final act of friendship to the other woman, I will say one last thing:

There are about a dozen negative ways she could have reacted during those intense 15 minutes of pain and she didn’t employ a single one.  She sat in front of her sin, listened to her list of crimes, took ownership for what was hers, and allowed me to heal without rebuttal.

She was brave, she is more, she is forgiven.

She too has a whole timeline.

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Showing up:

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday.

How wonderful these past 6 years have been now that Little-Love is in the world.

But like all holidays since finding out the news: I was dreading her birthday.

Mostly because my sweet girl just kept asking for a “family” party…

I was up all night for months trying to think through my options.  Do I invite the entire school and distract her by sheer size?  Do I take her on a trip?  Just get out of town as a way to confuse the issue?

See, I knew that most people on her list would either be unable, or unwilling to attend.

My stress and anxiety levels have never been higher. (I am COVERED in zits.)

Praise the Lord, I asked one family if their daughter could come to a sleepover and they said “sure.”

All casual like.

And I wept.

There was nothing simple about it, at least not for us.

So, she had one cousin to celebrate with.  Whew.

After a lot of late night/whispered discussions, Adam and I just decided to throw a party and invite everyone.  I took a breath and sent out a Facebook invite to family, friends, the church, everyone.

And then we prayed.

The morning of the party I was in a total internal panic.  God, please let my daughter have a good day.  I kept getting calls and texts backing out of the party, all for very legitimate reasons, but I was simply terrified that no-one would come.

What if my daughter is punished for the sins of her parents?  What do we say to her?

“Sorry Honey, but people just hate us more then they love you.”

?

We just kept at it: cooking meat, cleaning, prepping.  The cake arrived but the friend who made it had gotten sick and couldn’t join us.

S#$T!  

That was the one person I was really counting on! 

Then to my horror, my daughter pulled me aside and asked me, point blank, who was coming.

She looked me in the eye and started naming off names–it was time to face the music.  As I continued saying “no” to each person on her list her beautiful blue eyes filled with tears.

Oh y’all, you cannot imagine the pain.

Up until that moment I had brushed off her questions with a, “we will see” or “Um, I’ll double check but I don’t think so.”

But with only a few minutes until her party I couldn’t avoid the truth any longer.

And my daughter wept.

Worst. moment. ever.

I held my baby in my “failed-mommy” arms as I tried to reassure my girl that “I’m sure people would come.”

And then, as if on cue…

Our church family showed up.

Our neighborhood family showed up.

Our workout partners, our coffee dates…

Our friends showed up.

And they brought gifts.  They swept my girl up into big hugs.  They told her she was beautiful.  They smothered her in kisses–and my girl laughed, and played, and blew out her candles on her amazing cake.

And the party went on for hours.

She had a family party after all, thank you, Jesus!!!

This year has been so hard, and the very worst part is watching my children suffer the effects.  I am simply forever grateful for the people who love my kids.  For the people who haven’t left our side.  The people who have loved us through our ugly.  The people who have brought us back to life.

I will love you folks forever.

I can never-ever thank you enough.

 

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Signs of Life

Last year on my birthday, Adam bought me a fiddle-leaf tree.  It was exactly what I had wanted.

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But almost immediately the tree seemed to die.  I replanted it in a self watering pot, I added fertilizer, I moved it from window to window trying to find the “just right” amount of light for this fragile little life.

But nothing seemed to work.  The leaves just kept shriveling up and falling away.

I was so frustrated that I couldn’t save this tree.

Then I found out that my husband had betrayed me and this tree became a metaphor for my life and marriage.

I was trying so damn hard, and nothing was working.

No amount of effort on my part was enough.  For this tree or my husband.

Then.

On September  10, 2016, 3 days after I found out about the affair, I posted this picture on Instagram:

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With this caption:

“I wanted this tree for so long. I’ve feed it and watered it. I’ve looked for advice, researched, nurtured it. But all I’ve ever been able to do is watch it slowly die. Now the question is, do I wait until this plant is really for sure gone, all signs pointing to death, or do I free the pot of all the rot and prepare it to hold and cherish something new.”

Obviously, I was talking about divorce, not gardening.  Do I give up on this dream? Or do I give it one last go?

At one point I told Adam that this tree had become my E.T. plant.  Remember in that movie how the flowers became a barometer for ET’s life.  They shriveled as his body was studied by the scientist but sprang back to life once Elliot saved him.

Well, I felt like this tree was my marriage-metaphor, if the tree died it was a sign to leave, if it lived it was a sign to stay.  I wasn’t really being serious when I said this to Adam, but my husband got up, walked over to this sad little plant, and prayed for it.

He prayed for my tree.

It was sweet.

And not much has changed.

It did stop dropping leaves, but it’s covered in brown spots.

The poor thing looks terribly sad.  I suppose we do as well.

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And then this morning I noticed this:

I believe I spot some new life.  We have ourselves some tiny, fresh growth.

I discovered this beautiful pop of green on the same morning that Adam was asked to lead his men’s Bible study for the first time…

and I don’t believe in coincidence.

When Adam came home from his Men’s group I grabbed his hand and led him over to show him the new life.  To which my husband smiled and said, “Oh wow, Do you remember that I prayed for this tree?  That’s a good sign!”

And it is a sign.

A sign of life.

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Enough.

I feel like I am walking a million different journeys at once.  The lessons I am learning this year are all so brutal and so incredibly beautiful all at once.  I can’t really describe it other then to say that I wouldn’t wish this journey on my worst enemy, but I am a better woman for walking it.

One of the toughest emotions is feeling like I am not “enough”.  That my love wasn’t enough for my husband, that my love isn’t enough for the people I’ve lost along the way, that my friendship wasn’t enough for the other woman.  I’m not enough.

I’ve said that it feels like I have a billboard on my back that says, “Can’t keep a man.”  Or “Must really suck at sex.”

The lie, “You are not enough.” permeates my thinking on a daily basis.

Then, sitting in therapy one morning, my counselor confirmed it:

Trina, you are not enough.

Not enough for Adam.  Not enough for anyone.  

Adam needs God, Our Lord is the only thing that will be “enough” for Adam and you trying to fill that void on your own, in his life, is not helping.  Not helping Adam, not helping you, not helping anyone.

Adam will only be enough with God.  You will only be enough with God.

You cannot be daughter enough, 

Sister enough,

Wife enough,

Mother enough.

You will never be enough for anyone else.

Only God can be.”

You see.  I believe that we all have a God shaped whole in our souls that only a savior can fill.  And each of us on our journey attempt to fill that hole with something: with food, with sex, with alcohol, online shopping, perfect parenting, make-up, fitness, you name it.  We can try to make almost anything our God, but none of that will ever be enough.

You have to be enough, just you and God.  And when you find that you don’t need anything else to know your worth, then you can start really living.  With no pressure on you to fill up anyone else, and no pressure on them to make you whole.

(Don’t you think it is interesting that “hole” and “whole” are the same word with opposite meanings?  There’s a lesson in there somewhere.”

For me, this means being “enough” without any relationship-titles.  I

am enough whether I am a daughter or not.

I am enough whether I am a sister or not.

I am enough even if I am no-one’s wife.

I am enough even if I lost my children.

(Now there’s a hard one, but after feeling the wrath of my baby’s anger when I wouldn’t let their dad sleep over I realized that I can’t guarantee that these beautiful-kids will love me forever.  I’ve had a few very dark nights where I really and truly felt like there wasn’t a soul in the world that still loved me and I had to wrestle with the idea that I was “enough” — even if I was alone.) 

I recently asked a friend of mine if she would be willing to write the word, “Enough” for me in calligraphy.  I was explaining to her how profound that word had become to me, how it is a truth that I am fighting for daily and how much I would appreciate having it written down as a daily reminder to focus on.

In our text exchange my friend said she’d be happy to do this project for me and then she hit me over the head with a little more truth:

“You know what I like about that word too? It’s a turning point word, when something’s been going one way for a while and it is at a limit.  “Enough” is a declaration that things are going to change.”

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WORD!

I’ve had “enough” of my old life.

I’m done trying to be “enough” for anyone else…(and failing.)

I will never be “enough” for anyone else.

And I am “enough” just me and My Savior.

“If you have nothing left but God, still you have enough…”

 

Enough, enough, enough…

Amen.

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Fear has a name:

Remember the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water?

Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying,

“Truly you are the Son of God.”

Ok, so here’s what I think is so amazing about this story.  Peter was walking on the water, he was already experiencing the miracle.  He was out there, doing the impossible and yet STILL he doubts.

He sinks, and cries out in fear and Jesus asks him, “Why did you doubt?”


In my last post I talked about Adam moving back in.  I have since gotten asked how it has been going, which is such a complex question.  My short answer is: it’s going good.

Of course that’s not all of it, so here’s the long answer:

I think for every step forward you take there’s a push back.  Adam moved in which is great, I’m so glad to have him back.  I honestly have always loved his presence in my life and I’m forever grateful to have my best friend home.

The push back is that I sometimes resent his happiness to be here, I sometimes get very angry about all the healing I have yet to do.

But my biggest issue is that I can get absolutely blindsided by fear.

I will be sitting back watching Adam cook us breakfast, or read to our kids, or we will be laughing together about something simple and I will be utterly overwhelmed with the most intense and consuming fears.

What if it happens again?

Guys, WHAT IF IT HAPPENS AGAIN?

Adam and I were talking about this fear yesterday (not his, mine) and I decided it was time to really dive into it all.

(Who has two thumbs and has spent a lot of time in therapy?)

So, What would it mean if an affair happens again?

Well, I would look like a fool.  All the people who think I’m being stupid for trying again would be proven right.  I would have to do this horrible walk of shame all over again.

I mean…I cannot do this again.  It has been painful beyond measure.

But, lets unpack this some more:

If it happens again, am I really a fool?

well, I believe I can only be a fool if I agree with the critics.

So, do I think that it is foolish to hope?  Do I believe that love isn’t worth the risk?

That’s easy.

No.

I believe that God himself challenges us to hope, encourages us to believe.  AND there is absolutely no denying that LOVE is the pinnacle of life, the greatest of all commandments.  Jesus himself, was the very embodiment of Love and 1 corinthians 13 says:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. . .

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

So, I choose love.

Oh, but Trina: “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”

Yes, lets get back to the “fool” bit.

If it happens again, would I agree with my critics that this time around I somehow deserved it?

Is that phrase: “fool me twice shame on me” true?

NO!  Absolutely not, no.  I mean, does anyone really believe that it’s actually the victims fault?

(I get that there are cases where a spouse will return over and over to an abusive relationship and TRUST ME I have asked every counselor, and pastor, and therapist, and lawyer that I’ve met with if that’s what they think I’m doing and guess what: not a single one has.)

If it were to happen again it would only make a fool out of Adam.

Choosing hope, and love, and grace does not make me a fool…it makes me brave.

I would simply rather be wrong for assuming the best in people.  I would rather believe that God is TRULY capable of anything.  I would rather live my life believing in redemption, and beauty, and healing.

So, I refuse to be anything but hopeful.

Right now, I am Peter.

I am walking on the water, I am experiencing my miracle.  This man of mine was lost and is now found…I should be rejoicing.

And I am…

But sometimes I see the wind, I see the waves, I get caught up in the “what ifs” and I feel myself start to sink.

“Why do I doubt?”

Jesus asks.  Why?  When you saw me on the water, when you experienced it?  Why did you doubt?

It’s fear.

It has a name and it is the very opposite of love.

So, I choose love.  And I will choose it again, and again, and again for the rest of my life.

It is down to Love or fear.

Those are my options right now.

and I choose love.

 

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Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?

So, Christmas was wonderful.  But New Years was bearing down on us and lets just say that our last New Year was less than celebrated.  Adam was dreading the day even more than I was.

We are in a drastically different world than we were last year at this time.

For weeks we kept asking each other what we were going to do, how we were going to celebrate.

And in a moment that felt divinely clear.  I knew exactly what we should do.

And so,

On New Years Eve, the last day of 2016, My husband moved back in.

(Exhale)

We spent the day clearing out closets, and moving clothes, shoes, pictures.  Bringing the life that was lost back into the fold.

We moved everything in together, as a family

Then that evening we set off fireworks, rented a movie, and slept together in the living room.  Puppy-dog included.

Together, together, together.  I can’t get over that word.

Randomly that day we decided to take a small break from moving and stopped by our local REI because they were having a sale.  While wandering around the racks I stumbled across a beat-up, camping plate that clearly spoke, “New Year”.

I love this plate.

I love that it only cost me a grand total of .85 cents.

I love that it already came with its own scrapes and dings.

It’s broken, and beautiful.  Just like us.

And it will forever represent the day my family chose to move forward as broken-together.

I bumped into a friend at that REI sale and when I showed her my plate she laughed and said, “Only you.”

And I like that.

I see flowers:

I see a perfect New Year’s gift:

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I see a child of God:

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and I see a second chance in my beautiful life.

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It’s a new dawn, Folks.  And I’m feeling good.

“Well I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

-I will wait – Mumford and Son

 

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