Time to hit the road

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I feel completely unqualified to write about travel.  Simply because I haven’t travelled much in my adult life.

I have had the great fortune of travelling around a lot of Australia (and it’s a reaaallllyyy big place!!!), most of my holidays occurring when I was a kid and my mum and dad were still married.  So basically, before I was 16.

20+ years later, and my family and I have stayed closer to home.  We have had some wonderful trips across the country, but have been very limited by a lack of funds to be able to do this more often.

Well, that’s always been my thinking.  No money for holidays and travelling, either within Australia or anywhere requiring a passport.

I’m starting to realise what a lie that is.

Yes, you need money to travel.  But my perception of never having enough money has always been because I’ve never made it a priority.

I don’t need anything fancy for a holiday.  Give me a tent, a fire and some food, and I’m a happy girl.  Really, I’m that easily pleased.

But I still haven’t made that a priority, for a whole variety of reasons.  That right now seem really lame.

My eldest son is 16, and in the last few months it has struck me with stunning clarity just how little time we have left as a complete unit under one roof full-time, this little family of mine.  In a few years, he will be finished school and off to live out his adventures in the world.

All of a sudden, going places as a family seems reaaallllyyyy important.

I don’t care where, just as long as we’re together.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the ongoing, beautiful process of putting our family back together, I want us to see new things together.  To have new experiences together.  To make memories together.

I don’t care where that is.  I just want us to do it together.

I am admitting my smallness in the enormity of the world.  To quote Tsh, I want to experience ‘the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring, one foot in front of the other‘.

There’s a whole world out there.  I’d better get started.

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The beginning of the beginning.

10 years ago today, I made a decision that changed the course of the life of our family forever.

I decided to leave my husband.

And the crazy thing is, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It took the complete breakdown of our marriage for us to learn just what it means to love someone, to learn what marriage is really all about, and for us each to find out who we are as individuals.

If we hadn’t gone through the breaking, the threshing, the refining, we wouldn’t have been ready for the rebuilding.  We wouldn’t have been ready or available for new foundations to be laid, for the construction of our new relationship to be built out of hope and faith and love.

Now, just to clarify, I am not an advocate of divorce.  I believe in fighting for a marriage with every ounce of your being, even when it feels like you’re being turned inside out and dragged along the ground, if that’s what it takes to save what you vowed and declared you would commit to forever, that day it all began for you and your spouse.

I believe that as a society, we give up on marriage too easily – we give up when it gets too hard, when it doesn’t feel like we think it should, when we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve, when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, when we’re wounded and hurt and feeling like our spouse isn’t living up to our expectations.  And we collectively give each other permission to do the same.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, because all of us feel like that in every relationship we have, not just the ones with our spouses – family, friends, work colleagues, but our spouses are the only ones we can legally dissolve a relationship with.

When we say ‘I do’, they’re not just two little words.  They are a seal on a contract that binds us together for life – not just for today, and tomorrow, and maybe in ten years time, but forever.

That’s why I left my husband.  For all the reasons above, and more.  There was no specific ‘incident’, or ‘problem’ as such, just a collection of wounds and hurts and bitterness accumulated over time, each of us constantly wishing the other would change, but not realising that it was ourselves that had to change.

The moment of truth came quietly – it was the day before our youngest child’s first birthday, and we got into a fight over the proposed birthday celebration.  As it always did, the argument turned to ‘you always, you never, I wish you would….’ etc, etc, etc – an argument I could have scripted, we had had it so many times.  But that time, something shifted, and in a moment of stunning clarity, the thought came – ‘I can’t change him’.

I was never going to be able to make him change into who I thought I wanted him to be.

But I couldn’t keep living the way we were, none of us could.

So a couple of weeks later, I left.

And it was the beginning of who we were always meant to be.

It took a long haul through court, a divorce, years of healing before we could speak to each other again, and more years of learning to communicate and trust, for us to rebuild our relationship as co-parents and eventually as friends.  We were laying the foundations of our new relationship, or more to the point, God was laying anew the foundations of the relationship He has always planned for us to have.

And now here we are.

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Living a real-life mosaic, building something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.

10 years later, what feels like a lifetime wiser and with a whole lot of life lessons under our belts , we are both very different people to who we were when we really didn’t understand what marriage what supposed to be.

That it’s putting someone before yourself every. single. day.

That it’s knowing that the whole deal is messy and complicated and frustrating, and that there are going to be times we just don’t like being where we have to be.

That it’s working out what someone needs and doing what we can to give it to them.

That’s it’s simply doing things we don’t feel like doing.

That it’s beautiful, and wondrous, and amazing that two people can make the choice to keep turning up day after day and facing life together.

That in committing to for better or worse, there’s always someone to walk through the pain and difficulties of life with.

That it is always, always worth it.

We are building our relationship based on what we’ve learned through our experience, and what we want our marriage to be.  It looks very different now to what it did so many years ago, and I thank-God every day for that.

10 years ago, as a young mum with 3 little kids and my world falling down around me, I had no idea what the future held in store.    Thankfully, my God did, and because He is in the business of making all things new, we now get to live out the story written for us.

We’re living proof that there are always new beginnings, sometimes it just takes getting through the endings to see what they are.

And it is always, always worth it.

Day 30: Love wins. Every time.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message)

Love never fails.

Not now, not ever.

In the end, when this world as we know it is gone and we are living in the heavenly realms with the One who is love, it is love that will endure, not any spiritual giftings or anything else.

But for now, it is love that keeps going, love that never gives up, never gives in, never fails us.

When we choose to love, we are choosing victory and triumph over despair and hopelessness.  I know this, because I chose love, even when it seemed impossible, and He who is love defined made the way for the impossible to become so very real.

My husband and I are living proof that love never dies, love always wins, despite how things may appear at times.  Love changes, yes, and there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows, but it is always living and breathing within us.  And that’s because God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4: 16).

I’ll leave you with this song that speaks so beautifully of this truth – love never fails, God never fails, even when we do.

Day 15: The story of us (Part 5)

It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again.  Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person.  It was just too hard, and never ended well.  We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.

A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready.  And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either.  Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer.  I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life.  For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.

But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was.  Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was.  I just chose to ignore it completely.  He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began.  The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound.  And I just ignored it, as much as I could.  I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.  God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place.  And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.

My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work.  And to put it simply, it did.  3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again.  We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other.  From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.

And I knew that I still loved him.  That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had.  I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him.  Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that.  Just like I did.  I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.

See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us.  And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us?  Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new?  It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new.  It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.

I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked.  I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.

I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.

I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.

I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.

I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.

I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.

And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it.  Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.

Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.

Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.

That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge.  Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.

As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me.  it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’.  And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people.  Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner.  Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.

But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive.  I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).

So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again.  And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day.  He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.

It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

The story of us (Part 4)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Day 12: The story of us (Part 4)

When I first heard God speak to me about praying for our marriage to be restored, I thought He was crazy.  Then I thought I was crazy for thinking that, because I know that really, God is the only one of us who is completely not crazy.  As crazy as His ideas appear at times.

Trust me, there was a whole lot of craziness just beginning.

At the time of our lives that this was happening between me and God, my husband and I weren’t even speaking to each other.  We were both still healing in our own ways, and for a time of several years couldn’t communicate effectively with each other directly.  God gave us an amazing blessing in the form of my mother-in-law, who kept the lines of communication open between us (albeit indirectly), and who helped us maintain what had become the normal routine for our kids.

So how on earth could this marriage be restored, completely renovated and rebuilt when neither of us had the tools or inclination to even want to make it happen?  We didn’t even remotely like each other at that point, let alone want to be married again.

Here’s the thing I know now – it was never up to us to make it happen.  That was God’s job, His desire and His plan, and He knew how it was all going to play out.  And so many times along the way, I really wished He’d given me the script of how this story was to unfold, because for the most part, I was completely lost.

It took me some time to actually become an active participant in this grand plan – well, active in that I decided to take part.  That makes me laugh so hard now, thinking that I actually had a choice about this whole thing.  Of course, I had a choice (we can always choose whether we follow God’s leading or not), but ultimately this was God’s master plan for us, and He created the desire in me to want to follow the steps along the way.

A month or so after I reluctantly prayed the prayer to see our marriage restored, I went and saw the movie ‘The Lake House’.  It’s the story of two characters separated by time, communicating via letters left in a letterbox at a lake house they both lived in at different points in time.  Without wanting to spoil the story (and I highly recommend you do see it if you haven’t already, it’s a favourite of mine), there’s an event that leads Sandra Bullock’s character to implore Keanu Reeves’ to wait, to just wait.

As I was watching the scene, I heard God speak to me again, as clear as day, in the voice I was coming to recognise as His.  I heard Him say ‘Just wait, I promise you it will be worth it’.

I came out of the movie completely energised and so excited to see what that would mean, what this promise of ‘it will be worth it’ would look like, how it would come to life.  I was convinced that it would be in the form of a new relationship, and that it would happen soon, because surely His promise was about fulfilling the deep-rooted desire I had to be in a relationship.

It was.

It totally was.

Just not exactly how I was picturing it.  Or in my ideal timeline.  Or by my reckoning.

In fact, what I thought I wanted did not even remotely look like what God had in store for me, and had I known the details of what would make up the journey ahead, especially without knowing the ending, I doubt I would have been a willing participant.  It was my first real lesson in faith, in trusting God, and learning to understand why God doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what’s ahead of us because if we knew, what would we need Him for?

It took another several months before the first signs of repair and rebuilding between my husband and I really started to show.  During that time, we were both in the ‘planning stage’, much like when you build or renovate a house.  Not that we knew it at the time, but God was doing His work in both of us, quietly and without fanfare.

He was laying the foundation for a new building, a new life, a new love.  I had no idea how painful and difficult that would be, but man, was I about to find out.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

Day 9: The story of us (Part 3) – All you need is just a little patience

love never gives up. If one gives up then it was never love at all.

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Patience.

So not one of my ‘natural’ better qualities.

I’m in a season of realising more and more how much I crave instant gratification, and have my whole life, so that gives you some idea of how I lived through a process that took 7 years from God telling me to pray for our marriage to be restored, to us coming back together.

Not very patiently, at all.

I should back up a bit – when God first spoke to me about being married again to my husband, I did not want that to happen.  At all.  Ever.  It took another nearly 3 years before my heart changed, before God changed my heart to that being what I wanted, to that becoming the desire of my heart.  For me, the true test of patience came once I realised I had fallen in love with my husband again, and then had to wait and see what would happen.

It was a situation where so many elements were completely out of my control, and the only thing I could do was to keep trusting God that His promises were true, and to wait.  Like I said, not one of my strong points.

The King James Version of ‘Love is patient’ reads ‘Charity suffereth long’ Strong’s Concordance translates ‘suffereth long’ as:

 (I) ‘to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart’, (A) ‘to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles’

Merriam-Webster defines patient as:

1
:  bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2
:  manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3
:  not hasty or impetuous
4
:  steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
5
a    :  able or willing to bear —used with of

Bearing pains.

Not hasty.

Steadfast

Able or willing to bear.

To be of a long spirit.

Not to lose heart.

To persevere patiently and bravely.

I only read these words in the last couple of days as I sought out the definition of and the Biblical application of the word ‘patient’, and I discovered the simple description of what is was to wait on the promise God gave me, one that initially I didn’t believe.  Let’s just say that I was not a picture of patience by these definitions.

So many times, I grew impatient, I did lose heart, and I gave up on seeing His promise fulfilled.  I tried to rush things because I didn’t think God was making things happen when they should.  I got sick of waiting.  I thought ‘if it hasn’t happened by now, it will never happen’.  I thought I knew how it should all happen.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

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I would have times when I could hardly physically bear the longing, the desperation of wanting to see His promise to me, to us, come to life, when the love I felt for my husband was almost crippling, and I wondered how on earth I could keep living like this.  I told myself that this was the cross I had to bear for not ‘getting it right’ in our marriage the first time, and sometimes told myself that actually, I had it all wrong, this wasn’t really what God had in mind for us.  But deep within, in a place I have yet to uncover inside myself, I knew, without a doubt, that I was wrong, that His promise was true, and that when His timing was perfect, I would see it come to life.

And I did.  We’re now living the fulfilment of His promise, and He’s nowhere near finished with us yet.  It wasn’t until I gave up on trying to do everything in my power, and came to a quiet acceptance that I just had to be patient and keep trusting and waiting that anything changed.  And it wasn’t God that changed.  It was each of us, being made into who He intended us to be all along.

Hebrews 6:15 (Patience)

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God is each of those definitions of patience.  He is not hasty, He is steadfast and doesn’t lose heart with us, He waits patiently for us.  And this is how we are to love, not just our spouses but everyone in our lives – our kids, family, friends, work colleagues, everyone who comes across our path in life.  I know every time I take a deep breath and wait a few moments in those frustrating situations with my kids, the end result is always so much better than when I give into my initial impulse and just yell at them.  When I take the time to listen to a friend and feel some of the pain or struggle they’re experiencing, they feel more loved and encouraged than if I just told them what I thought and what they should do.

This is what God does with us, how He loves us, and so this is how we need to love each other.  It’s really very simple, but it is so hard to put into practice, because we’re not God.  A deep breath, count to 5, and asking Him for His heart makes such a difference in how we love.

Guns ‘n’ Roses had it right all along, a little patience is all we need.  It doesn’t take much, but it can make a huge difference.  I’ll leave you with this classic for your viewing pleasure, and in the meantime, tell me, how do you ‘practice’ patience?  For me, it’s a whole lot of deep breathing and clamping my mouth shut before I let the words come out.  There are times when I’m very, very quiet……..

” Therefore continue to wait in hope, for although the promise may linger, it will never come too late”

– Charles Spurgeon

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

Day 8: The story of us (Part 2) – Love is patient.

After I left my husband, we went through a lengthy court case to settle the ongoing care of the kids and property, the usual procedure here in Australia, but something I didn’t expect to happen.  We were both wounded and hurting, unable to communicate with each other, and the whole procedure was painful and devastating.  We eventually came to an agreement on all counts, and the kids continued in the routine that we had all settled into.

Soon after we finished in court, I applied for a divorce, an astonishingly simple procedure, and after a phone link-up with the Family Law Court, our marriage was declared null and void, with no objections voiced by anyone.  I was surprised by my reaction to all this, how my heart hurt and I cried for a long time after I hung up the phone.  I had thought that this was just another inevitable step in the procedure, that I was finished with pain and heartache, and that now I could move on with my life – whatever that meant.  I didn’t expect the deep ache I felt inside, knowing that what had once been my dream had been declared effectively dead by someone in a courtroom a long way away.

Eventually, as it always did, the hurt diminished, and I began to look with hope toward the future for my heart, assuming that I would one day begin a new relationship, one that I pictured would be better than my first marriage.  I had already started a nursing degree, and was excited at the prospect of becoming a midwife (as was my dream) once I finished my study.

It wasn’t long after our divorce was finalised, about 2 months or so, that through a series of events I found myself coming to know Jesus as very real in my life, and I surrendered myself to His love in March 2006.  It was another completely unexpected turn of events in my life, especially for a girl who thought she had God all figured out.  My coming to faith was the first step for me in seeing Him rebuild our marriage, although I had no idea that that was His plan then.

But He didn’t take long to let me know what He had in mind.  A few months after coming to faith, I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, venting about a particularly frustrating time I was going through with my ex-husband.  As I was explaining the situation to her, a thought came to my mind – no, a directive – one that took me completely by surprise and left me wondering where on earth it came from.

In a moment when I was wondering how long I would have to keep going through the difficulty of raising kids in a divorced family, God told me to pray for the restoration of our marriage.

Yep.  God told me to pray to be married again to a man I didn’t want to have anything to do with, but would have to for the rest of my life because of our children.  I didn’t even really know then what it was to hear God speak, but I had a crash course in hearing God that day.  And it was no whisper.

After I responded ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, no way am I doing that, I don’t want to be married to him again!!’, I knew I couldn’t be completely disobedient, so I quickly prayed ‘Fine, Lord, if that’s what You really want, I pray that eventually our marriage will be restored’, and promptly resolved to never think of this curious little exchange again.

I couldn’t have had any idea on that day in June 2006, 13 years after I told the boy I loved that I would wait for him, that I was starting a new journey in waiting, one that would take a lot longer than a few days this time.  7 years later, I know that was the beginning of my lesson in patience, in learning what it is to be patient.

Tomorrow we’ll explore the definitions of patience, but for now, what has been one of your life-lessons in learning to be patient?  Big or small, extraordinary or mundane, share in the comments below how you’ve come to know this lesson of love.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

Day 7 – The story of us (Part 1)

“‘I’ll wait” I said, on a bright, cool winter’s day.

I was on the cusp of 17, he about to turn 18, and we loved each other.  But he was trying to sort out where to go in life, this boy who was not made for school, and wanted us to wait until high school was over to start a relationship.  So I said I’d wait.

We could never have known then that it would take 20 years for our picture of love and life together to really become real.

I loved him, and I knew he loved me, and that was all that mattered, right?

At 16, what did I know of love?  What did I know of waiting, of patience?

I was living through my parent’s divorce, one that had taken nearly my whole life to eventually happen, so I thought I knew what love and marriage wasn’t.  I knew what I didn’t want our marriage to be.

And I knew I was going to marry this boy.  That was as true to me as knowing that the sun rose in the morning and set at night, because even though I didn’t know it then, they were words God had spoken into my heart.

A few days after our conversation, we started ‘going out’, as dating was called in our part of the world in the 1990’s, and I thought I had everything I wanted.  A boyfriend, great friends, the end of high school and the start of becoming an adult in sight.  I had an on-and-off relationship with God, having been raised in church with my mum and my sister, and never questioning that God was real.  But I didn’t know Him, didn’t know that He was as real and present in my life as the people around me, and that above everything, He loved me.

Fast forward 10 years, and the dream life I had pictured was falling apart.  After high school I had gone to uni (university) for a year, and hated it so I came home, and he started working.  We moved in together, and I got a job, eventually moving to a town an hour away for work.  We got engaged, and then a few months later life took a turn for the unexpected.

I became pregnant.  So not a part of the plan, but a very welcome surprise nonetheless.

Our eldest son was born, and at 21 my heart’s deepest desire came true – I was a mum, and I was going to be a wife.  I didn’t think I could be any happier, but even then, our life together wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  On the surface we looked happy enough, but you didn’t have to dig very far to see the discontent, the struggle, the wounding and the damage caused by words spoken in anger.

Our son was nearly two years old when we got married, we bought a house the next year, and our daughter came along 8 months later.  Our youngest child, another son, joined us when our daughter was 21 months old, deciding to arrive 6 weeks early and throwing life into a tailspin.  But we managed, and eventually settled into life with 3 kids, me a stay-at-home mum and he a shift-worker in a local factory.  I thought I was living the life I wanted, the life we had dreamed of having – simple, hard work, and time to enjoy our completed family.

If only.

When our youngest son was about 4 months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, and I can honestly say that that was the worst time of my life – of our lives – and it was all downhill from there.  The cracks in our marriage became wider and deeper, and neither of us had the energy that we really needed to try and fix things, try and make it work.  We became two people struggling for survival, almost completely unable to help the other, despite knowing we had to for us to stay together.  We were beyond exhausted, and just existed in the same house together, doing our best to raise our kids and trying not to fail in the process.

There was only so long we could keep going like that, and in January 2004, the day before our youngest son’s birthday, we had an argument that was a repeat of the thousand we’d had before, and in that moment, I knew that was it.  I had a moment of pure clarity where I realised that I couldn’t change him, despite how hard I’d tried, and that I couldn’t keep living the way we were.  We couldn’t keep living the way we were.

It was then that I knew I had to leave, and the relief was overwhelming.

I had thought of leaving before, but had always dismissed the idea, because as far as I was concerned, that wasn’t an option.  I was never going to repeat what happened to my parents, I was never going to put my kids through what I had experienced (even though I had always thought that my parents had a ‘good’ divorce), and so to me, a broken marriage would mean that I had failed, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

But it did.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Of course, that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time.  Our world as we knew it had been blown up, and we sat stunned amongst the debris of our life together, barely knowing where to start, what to do, where to go.  The dream I had so desperately tried to live had been completely destroyed.

Back then I had no idea of the concept that for God to truly be able to do His work in us, for His plans and purposes for us to be realised, that which we create and hold dear in place of Him  – our idols – has to be broken and torn down and destroyed so that He can work in us, work for us, building in us the real dreams and hopes that He had planned for us all along.

God created me to be a wife and a mum, it was my picture-perfect expectations of marriage and motherhood that became my idol, one that I could never live up to.  We both know now that we didn’t really know what it meant to be married, the true purpose of marriage – to love and respect and serve your spouse above yourself, not to seek to be fulfilled by what they can do for you.

Structures with shaky foundations never last, they need to be torn down and a new foundation laid, so they can be rebuilt as something strong that will last forever.  That’s what happened to us, to our marriage, we were built on a shaky foundation, and now after the tearing down, we’re living in a construction zone of being rebuilt into something that will last forever.

Our broken marriage and the subsequent journey I’ve lived over the last 10 years has taught me what real love is, what it means to truly love someone – not just my husband, but everyone in my life.  If that was the sole purpose of that experience in life, to learn true love, God-style, then it was totally worth it.  It is a challenging lesson I live and learn every. single. day, and every day I learn a little bit more about how to love, how to be loved, how much God loves me.

Love never fails, despite what we think,  and I thank God for that truth every day of my life.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

Day 5: Let me tell you a story

All the words are whirling around in my head, and I’m having trouble catching them and forming them into something that will tell the story.

My story.

The story that God has gifted me with, one that I could never have written, one that has taught me real love.

I’ve been struggling to articulate how Paul’s words – God’s words – to the Corinthians have come to show me the true meaning of love, and I’ve realised it’s because when I try to explain things, I generally use an example, a lived experience, a story.  I tell stories to try and explain life, it’s what I do.  I’m learning that it’s how God has made me.  To be a storyteller.

We all have stories, we all have a voice, and I love Jeff Goins’ words regarding how we all need to tell our stories:

Stories are written to be shared, and it is our responsibility to retell those that we witness — not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of others. Stories change people. They shape entire cultures.

I have believed this for as long as I can remember, and I encourage everyone I know to tell what has shaped their lives, encouraged them to believe that their story is worth telling.  But I haven’t practised what I’ve been preaching, not entirely, and it’s been because of fear.  Fear that my story isn’t important enough, interesting enough, that it’s not worth telling because it’s already been told (by someone who did it better), that I won’t tell it well enough, and perhaps more than anything, that once I write the words, it’s out there, and I can’t take it back.

Fear.  It’s a killer.  Well, it would be if we didn’t love, because there is no fear in love, and perfect love – God’s love – drives out fear.  So with that in mind, I’m going to tell you my story, and how it made real the words of love for me in my life.  If you were to pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, curious about what’s inside, this is what you might read:

Once upon a time, there was a girl.  And a boy (I’m sure you already know where this is going…).

High-school sweethearts, they thought they knew what love was, and just assumed that it would last forever.

But it didn’t.  Not how they thought it would, anyway.

Life just happened, as it does, and eventually, the walls fell down, and everything fell apart, ending in the pain of divorce.  3 kids, a marriage, a house, dreams and hope – all wounded and terribly broken by, well, two people who didn’t know how to really love one another.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Because the love they thought would last forever?  It did. They discovered that real love never dies, it doesn’t give up, it keeps going to the end.

This is the story of loss and restoration, of renovated hearts and lives, and how love always, always wins.