Last night as 2020 finally came to an end, the clock struck midnight here in Montana, and fireworks started to scream for joy at the completion of this year. I wanted to join them, but my youngest son had just fallen asleep in front of our Christmas tree on the recliner ten minutes earlier. My daughter had gone to be with friends in another town. So, when the clock struck twelve and this year was finally over, I smiled and whispered, “Happy New Year.” I thanked God that I was alive and that all my friends and family had made it through this last year.
Wanting to experience the full effect of the night’s celebration, I grabbed my winter coat, made sure my son was asleep and slipped out the back door. The night air was crisp as the dark sky exploded in colors above my head. As the fireworks started to subside, I looked towards Canada as three Japanese lanterns slowly made their way towards my streetlights, flickering dimly. I wondered what hopes were sent out with these lanterns for the coming year. A few of my neighbors still had their lights on, and others had their campfires burning as others blew their little noisemakers when midnight hit.
Even though I was alone, the sound of scattered celebration reminded me that I was surrounded by a whole world of other souls who had experienced this last daunting year together.
After taking a few deep breaths of the cold night air, I slowly made my way back inside my house, hoping for a better tomorrow. As I unplugged the Christmas lights, kissed my son’s cheek, and headed off to snuggle down in my bed, I thanked God for all our blessings this last year. I slept soundly last night with the knowledge that in the morning, we would all get a fresh, new start.
This morning as I was drinking my coffee, I hesitantly planned a brief outline of what I wanted these next twelve months to look like.
Even though hardly any of my 2020 plans had turned out the way I had expected,
I chose to dream again, anyway.
I dreamt in dark, rich colors of chocolate brown, gold, and burgundy. I envisioned a little Charles Dicken’s styled town with flat-faced brick historical buildings that housed a downtown business community. I saw lots of foot traffic excitedly gazing at the beautiful shop window displays. I saw a thriving community filled with hope, laughter, common courtesy, and small talk. The riches of the world were being brought to this small town because of the clothing manufacturing company that was producing world-renown, vintage-inspired clothing. The manufacturing part of the company had been established on the hillside above the town acting as a beacon of economic hope for the locals. The second part of the company was a downtown storefront that housed the company’s clothing line and other products. The locals found not only work, good pay, great benefits but an extended family in the business that had long been needed in the small, poverty-stricken town. The economy had finally been restored, and a way to make a good living had returned.
I saw soft, silk scarves that I had designed adorning the necks of customers and street merchants. I saw Mongolian cashmere, French berets fashioned in the factory being worn by the locals with pride. I saw fine, Italian leather satchels and steamer trunk luggage that the company had manufactured being toted all over the world with its buyers. I could imagine the smell of the Italian leather luggage, purses, and shoes which reminded me of my grandfather.
I saw a Western-style vintage with a hint of English appeal that made our town famous, calling in merchants and buyers from all over the world.
I saw the flat-faced buildings painted with a theme and a color scheme. The nostalgic feel of the town enchanted all the outsiders who were seeking a new experience. I saw a little white village that had a simple strand of Christmas lights outlining its historical design. This village glowed as the hallmark of the town. I saw an ice-skating rink accompanied by a coffee, hot chocolate, and roasted chestnut stand. The stand was a cute, little flat-faced shed in the village being enjoyed by all the locals. The travelers who chose to stay for a few nights in the restored, downtown historical hotel also enjoyed the activities.
During December, the town’s shop keepers dressed in a Charles Dickens style and a horse-drawn sleigh gave visitors an authentic ride through the streets of downtown. Folks came from miles to visit this cute, little town that had once been the Christmas tree capital of the world. It was now famous for a world-renown manufacturing company and having a resounding theme of being lost in time.
The travelers had finally returned, and hope of a better tomorrow danced on everyone’s next breath.
I could almost smell the freshly poured peppermint-pine, gingerbread, and nutcracker, soy-wax candles that intoxicate the air in the fashion house’s storefront. The sounds of the bells above the front door ringing as customers joyfully patronized the shop. They came by the multitudes to marvel and pick up their custom-made clothing which was hand wrapped in brown paper bag packaging and tied up with string. “The finest clothing this side of the Mississippi,” proclaimed the customers as they exuberantly tucked their packages under their arms. Their eyes sparkled as though they had just inherited the family fortune. The dress shop had an old-fashioned feel about it which added to its allure. It reminded me of a custom tailor’s shop you’d see on the streets of London in the late 1800’s.
It had a European class with a small-town western charm.
I was known as the Dress Maker, and I adored the title. I saw strangers with our custom-made satchels strapped across their bodies. I smiled as I walked past, knowing that something that started as an idea was now draped across a tourist’s shoulder. A soon-to-be bride giggles as she excitedly throws open the double doors to make her grand entrance. She stops as she is taken back by the wonder of it all. The atmosphere of the store front’s crown molding, crystal chandeliers, and yards and yards of imported fabrics overwhelms her senses. She takes in all the colors of the beautiful wedding gowns that the manufacturing company has transformed into custom-made pieces. She starts to believe that just maybe, Fairy Godmothers do make dreams come true. The lace itself would stop any frilly-loving girl in her tracks. She and her friends have heard that our wedding dresses are the finest in the land and have come from across the sea for her first fitting. Of course, she brings her entire wedding party, and we accommodate them with our antique sofas, organic crushed mint-lemon sparkling water, raspberry cream tarts, strawberries and whipped cream, and imported Belgian chocolates.
One afternoon stop to the storefront makes any woman feel like she just treated herself to a month-long luxurious trip through Europe. From the rich feel of the fabrics imported from Spain to the B.V. Inc.’s signature perfumes to the engraved custom hat boxes, the whole experience makes every woman feel like a million dollars.
I think of all the marvelous items that the company will design and make as the world looks on in wonder. They watch in curiosity to see what glorious products will come next out of B.V. Inc.’s (B.Virtues Incorporated’s) fashion house.
I think about the public’s reactions and smile with delight. I think of the colors that will be chosen, and the world-suppliers that will supply the silks, satins, and cashmere. I also see a few partners working alongside me to make this vision become a reality. I see a New Year’s Eve party being held next year at the manufacturing company for all the employees and their spouses. I see black suits and ties and custom-made dresses for all the ladies who are present. I can imagine delicious charcuterie boards, a chocolate fountain, and sparkling cider as the firework display ignites the whole town with a sense of prosperity.
I also see that I am no longer alone in this journey and thank God for the few partners that will accompany me in making this come to pass. I thank God for the horizon of a new and coming year.
Without vision, we perish.
So, let us put the past to rest and look forward to a new beginning filled with life, laughter, and gourmet chocolates!
No matter how hard this last year has been on all of us, we cannot turn back the hands of time and, we cannot change anything.
So, let us not forget to dream, envision, and have hope for a better life ahead. If there is breath in your lungs, then there is hope.
If we change our perspective, then we can change your lives.
I pray that God restores, refreshes, and renews the vision that you once had.
And always remember to dream in color.
All my love,
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, and the wealth of the nation’s shall come to you.
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As I sit at my writing desk, I sip my warm echinacea tea and watch the snow fall gently out my kitchen window. The Pumpkin-Pecan candle from Bath & Body flickers, bringing a delightfully sweet aroma to my home here in Montana. The air is chili this December as the white lights of Christmas illuminate our kitchen window frames. Even though I do live in a small town a few miles south of the Canadian Rockies I was lucky enough to find an older farmhouse for my children and me to live in. I love the nostalgic feel of old farmhouses. The high ceilings, wooden floors, and the oversize square kitchens. It’s perfect for my two youngest children and I. My older two children are grown and out in the great big world on their own.
I am at peace here.
I have not always been at peace. There was a time of devastating brokenness that took place in my heart, marriage, and family many years ago. I was married for over fifteen years. The first seven were good until the hurricane of adultery ripped through our home leaving a pile of instant wreckage. I made it through that storm, and I have now come back for you. No one should be left in that haunting state of brokenness.
I want to share with you how I found moments of peace in the eye of that hurricane. When I was going through that tectonic shift in the plates of our marriage, I found little split seconds of peace. If that is where you are, completely rejected during this time, I want to walk alongside you and share with you how I made it through that violent uproar.
As I started sewing this morning on a vintage-inspired apron my mind started wondering and I could not stop thinking of all that I needed to say to you. So, I put my business on hold to write you this quick letter, whoever you may be.
It is time to pack up the pieces of your life and keep going.
You can keep going.
Trying to find peace in the hurricane can feel impossible, but it can be found.
The first thing I would encourage you to do is to make time for yourself.
I know that a thousand emotions are coming out of every part of your being (sorrow, rage, disappointment, feelings of neglect, rejection, and hopelessness among many others) but do not neglect your need for self-care. Remember to eat. Remember to bathe.
You are worth taking care of.
I know that you may not feel that way right now, but you are. Your husband may have rejected you, but you and your children desperately need you to be somewhat healthy. You and your children’s world has or is fixing to turn completely upside down.
I remember when my husband and I separated we lived a few blocks from our children’s school. In the mornings I would walk the children to school and go straight home and soak in a bubble bath. Our children and I stayed in our small 3-bedroom house in town while my husband moved in with his father. We had a claw foot bathtub, and I would light my candles and pour the aromatherapy ‘Stress Relief’ milky liquid into the running bath. The smells of eucalyptus and spearmint would calm me, and I would sink into the bubbles for at least an hour. Somedays I would continually keep adding hot water and stay until I was wrinkled. I was enrolled in our local college and was taking classes online. I was majoring in Marketing during this time, going through a separation and had all four of my children at home. So, while they were at school, I would take that time to take care of me. I would then do my college work online. If I had a test, I would burn the midnight oil and take it while they were sound asleep.
Another thing to remember is to make sure you are drinking enough water and eating a healthy diet. One of my main downfalls during that time was that I would forget to eat and then when I remembered I would binge.
Another thing that helped me was right before lunch I would take a two-mile walk. There was freedom and release in my daily walk. In the consistency of the same route, there was a simple form of peace.
The second thing I did was surround myself with girlfriends.
Never underestimate the power of a true friend. I had the best girlfriends who would laugh with me. They would love on me, help me clean my house, and just shared this heartache with me. That was so incredibly imperative to my recovery. I do not think that I would have made it through that time without my girlfriends. They popped in unexpectedly bringing gifts, a hug, or just a smile and would spend hours with me giggling and eating chocolate brownies (Do NOT forget to eat chocolate)!
We would laugh together, pray together, cry together, let our children have play dates together, and simply do life together. All my girlfriends were married so it was easy for me to stay out of the bars and stay out of trouble plus my moral compass would not allow it. Our families had been friends for years before this time of separation.
A few times we even had Italian Nights together. We would all make delicious Italian dishes, come together, set the table, laugh, and have dinner with our children and their husbands.
Make sure to stay connected to your girls they can help your heart feel lighter and at peace during this hard time.
The third thing is to be gentle with yourself.
Laugh at your mistakes. Forgive yourself for not always being a good wife. Release yourself from taking full blame. Love the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of yourself that makeup who you are.
Give yours a break.
You are going through a death. The death of your dreams your marriage and your family. Life will never be the same after this. You will see this time as a deep mark on your timeline. You will refer to your life before and after this time and that is ok.
You are going to be O.K.
You will make it through this. You will see the light at the end of this tunnel. You will wake up someday with a smile spread across your face simply because you love your new life. Your children will rise and call you blessed. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow but if you choose to keep going and keep healing, that day will come. I pray over you now the peace which surpasses all understanding and that it would be yours. I pray that you will find it in the simple things in this life…
I pray that you will find it in hanging the freshly bleached sheets on the clothesline, in the sound of your children’s laughter. You will find it in a devoted friend’s hug, the morning sun kissing your face as you savor your fresh ground coffee. I pray you feel it in the goodnight hugs from little arms wrapped around your neck, a slow winter’s snowfall and the taste of old-fashioned Christmas cookies. You will find it in the snuggly wool socks by the fire on a cold winter’s night.
You will see this in one of these sunrises.
You will find this good life. You will heal. You will dance and you will live again but until that day comes find your peace in the simplicity of everyday life.
Let peace rest upon you, my friend.
All my love,
(Angela B. Bowland author of More Than a Mud Flap)
If we wage war and conquer our adversaries and have not love, it is meaningless. If we gain the whole world but have not love, it is futile. If we conquer the greatest of quests and do not have love, it’s utterly forlorn. If we do this life right and follow all the rules but have not love, it is pointless.
If we give away all that we have and offer our bodies up to the flames but have not love, we gain nothing.
We search for it as though it is a lost treasure. We seek it as though it is a rare gem. We live and die for it as though it is a valiant sacrifice that we are more than willing to make but where is this love? This love that fills us to the brink, so we thirst no more.
Wars have been waged for it. Seas have been crossed for it. A million songs have been sung about it but where is it? Where does this all-completing love hide? This fleeting love that we search the world over for. This vapor we cannot grab ahold of. Once we think we have it, it vanishes.
It is as though we put on our full armor and move towards a quest that something unknowingly powerful calls us to. As though, we take a deep breath, leap of faith, and cross over the impossible ravines to find this missing piece.
We were created for love. This seems so cruel considering that there is a piece of us missing, but we were also created to live in the fullness of this love.
Eve could not resist the apple.
She was drawn to the fruit as though she did not have enough. She lived in the fullness of this love surrounded by unsurmountable beauty, completely adored by Adam and yet she was deceived into believing she hungered for more. Perhaps this is the downfall of all mankind and this is the aftermath of lost control. Our eyes are wide open, and we are fully aware of the need for this love. We hunger and thirst for it as though it is the fountain of youth but look for it in all the wrong places.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy.
“Everybody, everybody wants to love. Everybody, everybody wants to be loved”…..by Ingrid Michaelson.
A million songs dancing across the radio waves remind us of this lost love. Two ships passing in the night. A vapor that intoxicates and then vanishes.
When all eyes are on the young maiden, it is the queen who draws my attention. It is she who has been pierced with the thorn of sorrow. She too, chased after this love only to hold the ashes of her heart in the palms of her hands. She looks on with longing as the untouched maiden finds “true love” and she bereaves with jealously. The queen has a deep-seated reason that she has turned into the monster that she is portrayed to be. At one point she was also a young maiden searching for her true love’s kiss. Underneath her evil plots palpitates the brokenness of a life once lived. She has come to the brink of herself and justifies, “if I can’t have it, no one can have it.”
It all starts with the thorn in the flesh.
The evil queen was once loved deeply and thoroughly by her beloved. She hoped and dreamed and spent her days singing with the birds in the woods. She danced and loved to the fullest of her being. She gave it all in return for his love which in the end was unveiled as a counterfeit.
I believe at least once we have all experienced a taste of this unsatisfying love. If we have lived long enough, we have a story tell.
Last night, as I lay in my bed snuggled under heavy comforters reading my book, a flicker of light on the world map tacked to my wall caught my eye. The temperature has dropped below freezing here in Montana and I really didn’t want to get out from under my comforters. I decided to crawl across my bed keeping my eye upon the light. The light I saw was my bedroom lap casting light upon a thumb tack. The tack was stuck over the country of Tanzania. I placed tacks into my map indicating the countries that my blog has reached. It’s kind of a fun thing that keeps me motivated to continue my writings. Its kind of exciting knowing that some curious reader in that country has read at least one of my blog posts.
Why did it have to be Tanzania?
I am taken back. My left-hand feels the nakedness of the one carat that used to adorn its ring finger.
Once upon a time, there was a proposal, and the ring was imported from Tanzania. It was one of the tanzanite jewels that had been mined out of the hills there. The story goes that foreigners were mining the jewels and the natives didn’t like it. The natives decided to shut the operations down. I am unsure of the full story.
That seems like a lifetime ago as my ring finger feels the silence of this “forever love.” The cold mountain air chills me and I jump back under my covers.
Again, my condolences are with the queen.
As I sit at my desk this morning drinking my first cup of fresh ground coffee, looking over my world map, I feel the Lord directing me to Psalms 21.
“You have given him his heart’s desires and have not withheld the request of his lips.”
Then He asks me, “Angela, what is your deepest heart’s desire?” and my response comes surprisingly quick, “To be loved.”
I then look back over my life and realize that everything that I have done or tried to achieve is meaningless without love. I think about my childhood and my marriage. I think about my children and my life’s work…
“What is one thing that your deepest heart desires?” again I feel Him ask in my spirit.
To be loved, Lord. To be unconditionally loved. Regardless of my flaws, mishaps, and insecurities, to simply be loved.
Then He takes me to 1 Corinthians and has me read it in a whole different light.
I always looked at this passage as a call to love, but today I see it as a call to be loved.
We cannot give what we do not first receive.
“If I speak in a tongue of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
I think back over my life, ” have I been loved?”
But what if, this whole time He had been standing right next to you and me offering us this love?
How would our lives be different if we truly knew that we had always been loved?
What if the treasure that we had always sot had been with us the whole time?
As little girls we all dream of the day we finally get to wear our beautiful white gowns. The day the whole world gasps as we walk down the aisle. We dream of the one who will wrap us in his tender kisses and protect us from all others. We dream of a beautiful life.
We dream of ever after only to grown up and realize that monsters…. really do exist.
During the hardest season, our generation has seen yet, being ordered to the confinement of your own home with a man who chooses his love for substance or immorality over his family, would feel like hell on earth. This man started out as the love of your life. He was the man that you dreamt of on your bed as a little girl. You prayed and waited for him to come into your life. At first, your heart skipped a beat when he walked into the room but that was years ago. Your once vibrant hope of a beautiful family life fades away as you walk through the after math of broken promises, broken foundations and broken vows. You look as this man standing before you and barely recognize him as the man you first loved. You go into a state of unbelief as he acts in ways that contradict the man he once was. Your heart breaks as you watch your children desperately needing the love and guidance of their father as he slips out the backdoor into the night.
Perhaps you are in a situation like this? Perhaps you too, have lost your first love to substance abuse? Perhaps you are praying for a way out of your confinement? When the whole earth is focused on one enemy on the outside, you are focused on the enemy within your four walls. You wonder why he could blow off a deadly pandemic so easily. You look at your children and wonder if they will have enough food and cough syrup to get through this. You have been unsure if they will make it in the circumstances that you have been in let alone a worldwide plague. Fear is ever-present in your home as the paper products have already been diminished because your husband refuses to spend the last of your money on toilet paper as he cracks open his stash of Busch beer, pops another pain pill, and lights up a cigarette. You plead with this man to find counsel. You have now been propelled to the head of the house to take care of the children and find what measly work you can to provide food for your family. You put far too much responsibility on your oldest child because you cannot rely on your husband.
He is supposed to be your provider and your protector but if he is your protector, then who will protect you and your children from his anger?
Your stomach turns when he even thinks about moving towards intimacy because you know that you are not the only woman that he has been with. He “lost” his wedding ring years ago and leaves you and the children for days on end. When he does return, he is unkind to the children for singing too loudly while he is trying to sleep off a hangover.
You refuse to sleep with the enemy, so you make your bed on the floor of your children’s room, partly to avoid your marriage bed and partly to protect them from any unpredictable outbursts.
You lost all respect for this man many years ago and now stay only out of obligation.
In the midnight hours, you pray for God to change his heart or remove him from your life.
His “friends” randomly show up in the middle of the night to “borrow” stuff.
You have even found yourself repenting from asking God to send the virus his way. You do not know this monster that he has become. He is no where near the man you first meet.
You are terrified and are unsure of which direction to turn. Your house is a mess from the constant neglect of basic supplies like dish soap, laundry detergent, and food. You are behind on every bill and your washing machine broke down two months ago. The bill collectors will not stop calling, your landlord keeps leaving eviction notices on your front door and you fear being homeless, again.
Your heart breaks every time your children proclaim, “mommy, I’m hungry.”
You fear asking your husband for money because last time you tried standing between him and his substance you only received a bruised arm and faults accusations being screamed into your face. This startles you considering the warm intimacy that you once shared.
You have no consistent income; no family budget and all your resources have been exhausted. The insurance on your car has expired and if you get another no-insurance ticket the state is going to take your driver’s license. So, now you walk to the grocery store to buy bread, lunch meat, and milk with the money that your mother secretly gave to you. You also buy napkins instead of toilet paper so you can get more for your money.
You do not want to be a burden on your friends and family, and you are too embarrassed to allow them into your reality. In fear of losing your children to social services or worse you stay silent and allow the situation to escalate. It is now beyond where it ever should have been. No one should be expected to live the way you and your children are living but you have no way out and have lost hope of ever escaping. You have no self-esteem because of the constant faults-accusations being hurled at you. Now you cannot leave because the governor has ordered that you ‘shelter in place’. You can not believe what is unfolding in your own home. This is not the story that you wrote in your dreams as a little girl. This is not your prince, and this is NOT your happily ever after.
You feel hopeless that your life will ever be more than this.
Just know, my Sweet Sister, all hope for you is not lost.
You are not the only one in this situation. This kind of domestic violence, substance abuse and neglect are real, and it is happening all over America right now.
How do I know?
I lived it!
I will probably never be able tell the full depth of my story, knowing that my children’s precious eyes will someday be reading through my writings.
However, I will tell you that I know the helpless feeling of being stuck. I know the fear of not knowing if your children will be able to eat the next day. I know the fear of walking on eggshells. I know the hopeless feeling of watching the man that you love slip further and further into his addictions.
I also know the freedom of releasing him.
The only regret I have is not getting my children out of the situation sooner.
Can I be so truthful to tell you that life is too short to spend your God-given years trying to build your home around chaos?
Chaos is sinking sand.
This kind of situation is lethal, unbearable, and could easily steal your sanity and faith if allowed.
Can I be so bold as to say that there is an invisible line in front of you which needs your undivided attention?
There are choices that you need to make.
You can make those choices.
There is an unspoken step that your new life is waiting for you to take.
You can take that step.
Your children are looking to you for guidance.
You can lead and guide your children.
Allow me to share a piece of my story with you so just maybe, it will give you a little bit of hope and courage so you too can make those necessary decisions.
In November of 2016, I took a job as a Caretaker (Inn Keeper) at a lodge 2miles south of the Canadian border in Montana. I had been separated from my husband for a little over a year at the time. The lodge had 10 cabins, a beautiful main lodge and an office/caretaker’s building. It was tucked back into the mountainside and reminded me of a small village that you would see in a Hallmark movie. It was the perfect Montana getaway. Travelers from all over the globe stayed there. The lodge’s managers turned down my application the first time around because they did not want any trouble with my husband (even though we no longer lived together). I reassured them that we were getting a divorce. I knew then that I could not move into my future while holding on to my past.
It was time to let go.
The job included a 3 bedroom/2-bathroom house and a monthly salary. The house had wood flooring throughout except in the bedrooms and a cute glass front wood stove. It had an orange maple tree out of the living room window and the bus stopped in front of the lodge.
They agreed to give me a six-month probation period. I did so well that they extended my contract twice. We ended up living/working there for two years and four months. The work was physically intense, but the benefits were well worth it.
During those two-plus years, my husband was not allowed on the property. It became a haven. The children could spend time with their dad but not at the lodge. We also felt very taken care of having every bill paid. The rent, electric, water, sewer, wi-fi, and Dish network were all included. I was able to clean up my credit and buy a nice SUV (Rav4).
My divorce was scheduled for the September following my hire date. The Northwind blew early that year causing forty-degree winds to chill our region. The forest fires had hit hard that summer so starting a fire in the woodstove was prohibited unless the chimney had the proper coverage.
After the summer season was over and my 12 to 17-hour days had subsided I put in for a weekend off. I signed up to go to a women’s retreat at a beautiful mountain lake the weekend before divorce court.
I did not care how cold it was; I had just worked through one of the hardest summers of my life at the lodge and needed this much-awaited sanctuary. I was about ready to make a pivotal decision and I was desperate to hear a clear answer from the Lord. Even though the children and I had gotten out of the situation that we had been in I had still struggled with the biblical aspect of the divorce.
I was a Christian woman who had prayed fervently for my broken marriage for over eight years. I read every marriage book I could get my hands on. I cleaned more, cooked more, loved him more, prayed more and no amount of trying on my part made any difference in my marriage. We were married for fifteen years and after the first seven, my husband had an affair with one of my good friends. The last eight years was us walking through the aftermath of those choices and him falling further and further into prescription and illicit drug abuse.
It was time to lay it all down.
No children, no work, no responsibilities just me, my Lord, and the great outdoors of Montana. I loaded my S.U.V., instructed my mother on how to take care of my children, and left everything behind.
I took a few deep breathes, stopped at a coffee drive-through for an Americano and a vanilla covered biscotti, cranked up the music, and released it all.
The ecstasy of being alone in the great outdoors of The Rocky Mountains was invigorating.
Even though it hit below forty degrees the sun was still shining when I arrived. The lake was so clear and glossy. I thought about all the years I had spent there as a child attending bible camp. Year after year, summer after summer as a child, I would indulge myself in the icy cold waters and my aunt’s delicious home-made cooking. She was the camp cook and dowsed every dish with extra butter. I remember swimming in the lake and smelling her lasagna and garlic bread knowing that diner was going to be completely satisfying that evening.
It seemed like a life time ago.
As I got to my cabin and started unpacking, I realized that I had the entire two-story cabin to myself. Being that it was my old stomping grounds I was at peace being alone. I needed that time to think, release all burdens, and cry myself to sleep. I could see my breath in the cabin but was completely warm in my full body pajamas inside the down sleeping bag one of my girlfriends had loaned to me. Noticing the old familiar orange camp canoes when I had arrived, I decided that I would take a ride the following afternoon.
I cried out to God that night as I lay in my cabin alone without children, work, responsibilities, or my smartphone. It was so quiet compared to the constant affairs of running the lodge, training the maids, and trying to be both parents to my youngest two children. For the past months, I had been constantly plagued with their questions regarding their father.
I left it all behind that night and the next morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee by the docks I breathed in the smell of fresh, mountain air, bacon, pancakes, and lake water. It was as though the breath of life had reentered my spirit man with every freshwater wave that slowly splashed upon the shore. The lake had always been one of my favorites growing up. If it would have been warmer, I would have dived off the end of the dock, swam out to the far dock, and stayed there all afternoon. On that chilly day, the canoe ride would have to satisfy my hunger for adventure.
I went to the retreat looking for answers.
“Will I be less in Your Kingdom Lord, if I am unmarried?” “Am I making the right decision” “Will I have to share my children with their father and his twenty-year-old girlfriend?” “Will she try to get them to call her ‘Mother’?” “How can I let go of all that I had fought for in prayer for over the past eight years?” “What about all of Your promises of restoration?” “Is this really how this story ends after years of fighting for my marriage?” “What about the vow I made to You? I cannot break that vow.” “If You have released me then verbally tell me.”
After breakfast, as more women had shown up, we ventured towards the chapel for devotions. I could smell the smoke of Doug Fur burning in the woodstove and knew one of the ladies had lit a fire. We sang, worshiped, prayed, and cried together as every woman there had brought some form of burden to the retreat. Even though I did not know any of the woman we smiled at each other and strolled back to the kitchen for more coffee, cinnamon rolls, and crafts. I was not there to be social. I had just come seeking the voice of the Lord.
One of my girlfriends showed up around lunchtime that day and we ran to claim one of the canoes for our adventure. I soaked in the sun, the mountains, the sky, and the fish below trying to forget my sorrow of days to come. The lake was calm and glossy as the canoe cut through the clear mountain waters. My girlfriend and I did not need to say much but allowed the sounds of nature to ring dominate that afternoon. I could see the rope swing on the far side of the lake, which took up a lot of my childhood summers. I used to be so adventures and wild. I looked forward to the day I was to become a woman and run my own life. I would have never guessed back then what my life might have looked liked in the future.
My soul needed that canoe ride just as much as my lungs needed the fresh, mountain air.
There is no place like the wilderness of Montana to heal the soul.
My girlfriend and I met other women at the dinner table. I was still struggling for answers and told God that I was not leaving the camp without them.
My greatest fear at that point was standing before the judge the following week without peace or having heard the voice of God.
We prayed with our new friends after dinner. The younger woman shared with us of her marriage and divorce to an abusive husband. I cried and never would have guessed by looking at her that she had gone through some of the same things that I had. The night before, during chapel she had led us into the presence of the Lord through her worship. One thing that she said stuck out to me, “You are standing behind an invisible line. All the past chaos is on the side that you are on now but once you cross that line (the divorce) a whole new life, with new opportunities, will open for you. A fresh, new life with the presence of the Lord will be yours.
The last night of the retreat as I poured out all my fears, worries, and bottled-up pain to my close friend, the answer came.
My close friend told me her story and even though she had told me many times before there was a nugget in it this time that I grabbed ahold of. God had promised my friend that she would marry out of high school and bear twins and so she did. She had a baby girl and a baby boy. The son was healthy, but the baby girl had contracted a virus and only lived for a month after birth. Her husband and others went to pray for the baby girl believing for a resurrection, but none came. The day that she and her husband had to bury their baby girl she said that something inside of her had also died that day (later realizing it was her faith).
She explained to me how God had promised her twins and she had birthed twins. Her promise was fulfilled but not in the way that she had assumed that it would be. She also explained how death had come in with the fall of Adam and Eve and how death was never a part of God’s perfect plan. She explained that it was never God’s plan for death to take her baby girl, but man fell, and death entered in. She also explained to me that it was never God’s plan for adultery to kill my marriage either, but it did.
I cried knowing that I had gotten my answer.
Even though I knew, when my husband and I had met, God told me that He had given him to me but my husband had stepped out of the will of the Lord when he chose to commit adultery. I was released from my vows. What I had failed to realize was that my vows had been broken for years.
I left all my questions behind on the banks of that beautiful lake, packed my belongings, hugged my friend, and left.
On the eve of my divorce, I had a vision; I was in full armor. I had lacerations all over my arms and face as I bowed on one knee before my Mighty King. My sword was stuck into the ground held by my hand who had known the curve of the handle well. I looked up to my King as He sat upon His throne. I could only see Him from behind His throne looking upon the back/side view of His silhouette.
I lifted my battle-weary head from the last eight years of trying to save not only my marriage but my husband’s soul.
“I’m sorry I lost this battle.”
As I wept before my King, He spoke to me in the vision, “You have fought valiantly but it is now time to lay down your sword.” Still weeping at His feet, I fell on both knees, turned my sword over holding it in the palm of my hands, and laid it down at His feet as He confirmed, “This battle now, belongs to Me.” As I finished laying my sword at His feet, He presented me with the biggest, brightest red, yellow, orange sunflower that I had ever seen.
“It is now your time to rest.”
On September 28th I went to divorce court and stood before the judge, alone. My divorce was finalized on that day in 2017 a week and 15 years after my husband and I had said, “I do.”
I drove the hour and a half home from our county’s courthouse with the song ‘Battle Scars’ playing over and over in my mind. With my children still at one of my friend’s houses I went home and slept for three hours unsure of how this finalization was going to affect me. When I woke, I felt no sorrow, no regret, no loss. God had taken it all from me. The only thing I felt was freedom and release.
The week after court I went to church. I stood in church worshiping my Great King through song and I heard the Lord speak to my spirit, “Look at you! Still standing there, still praising Me!” I smiled in the knowing that I had just conquered one of my greatest fears.
I feared that I would lose my faith after believing for so long and then having to let go.
While sitting in the service the preacher made a golden statement that I will never forget.
He said, “Great Faith is seeing your prayers get answered but True Faith is trusting God regardless of the answer.”
It has been three years since my divorce. Since then, my first book has been published, I left the lodge and started my own clothing company. I write monthly in a blog dedicated to heart issues. My children live peaceful lives in a cute two-story farmhouse in a quiet, little town in Northwest Montana. My cabinets are full and the sounds of my children singing and laughing illuminate our home. I smile a lot these days and bake as often as possible. Usually, it is the smell of double, chocolate chip brownies that fills our kitchen. My middle daughter has also taken to baking bread.
I even took my children to the Oregon coast to see the ocean for the first time this last summer.
My children and I planted a little herb garden this summer consisting of herbs and sunflowers.
My ex-husband no longer sees his twenty-year-old girlfriend and comes around for a few minutes every other month to see his children.
My children and I are still hurt by our past but are learning to let go and live for today.
I made the courageous decision that my children and I deserved better and took that leap of faith, crossed that invisible line, and guess what? The lady at the woman’s retreat was right. There is only good and God’s promises waiting on this side. Is it hard financially? Yes, but God always provides for us, and because I can work, I can pay our bills and spend the money on the necessary things that my children and I need, like clothes, food, and rent.
I am not here to promote divorce. I am here to promote life.
Every situation is different. Marriages can be saved but, in our situation, divorce was the answer.
Again, I am not here to promote divorce. I am here to promote courage for you to make the right choices for yourself and your children and if the Lord leads you to divorce then that is your way out of the abuse and neglect.
If this is the route that you are forced to choose then to know that you are not condemned. You are not less than any other woman. You are not used up or second best. God can and still will use you after divorce.
Never allow anyone to make you feel guilty for making positive choices to better yours and your children’s lives.
I am praying for every woman reading this that God would give you the courage to take that first step. If you want out bad enough God will show you the away.
The hardest thing that I have ever had to do in this journey through life is to love. I know that sounds so ridiculous, but it is the truth. Do we truly love? Exactly what is true love? Starting as little girls, we are lulled to conformity through these fairy tales that proclaim love at first sight. We are convinced that this is the love that we so desperately need and if we could just find this “True Love”, we would live happily ever after. So many, if not all of us, fall under the spell of seeking this love and acceptance. We giggle and envy when we think that one of our girlfriends has finally found her prince. We wonder if there could possibly be anymore out there. “Where is MY prince, and is it too late for him to ride in on his white horse and carry me off to our castle? Where have all the good men gone?” We ask with this desperate yearning, crying out from within the deepest part of ourselves.
Where do we find this love that so totally fills our every need? Some fair maidens search the world over and over, happening upon their “prince” in the dark underworld of the cyber illusions. Not caring so much if who he proclaims to be is true or not, but if he can fill this need that runs far deeper than mirrors and magic. And even if a hint of this longing is filled, somehow these maidens are momentarily satisfied. If only for a word or two these precious princesses are willing to exchange their souls to be loved. This is also the mindset that I conformed to as a young maiden, waiting for the prince who had forgotten my address. I took it upon myself to search for him, searching long and wide for this “man” to fill my every need. And I am here to tell you fair maidens, man cannot fill this deep seeded need. I tell you now through all the lies, fairy tales, and the love at first sight experience, love is a choice, not a man-made Potion No9.
The veil was torn in two the night that True Love died. True love is one giving One’s life, One’s desires, and One’s will to save mankind. Ultimate true love is a sacrifice. To love is to give.
I once heard of a sailor who took his son and his son’s friend out on the high seas. A storm brewed, as the fishing boat rocked, and both young men went into the sea. The sailor had but one life-preserver and threw it to his son’s friend. As the sailor vigorously pulled the young man to safety he watched as the waves swallowed his own son. Consumed by confusion to why the sailor would save his life above the man’s sons, the friend inquired of the father. The sailor’s reply was simple, ” My son knew his Savior and therefore I will see him again.”
This, dear friends, is true love.
The hardest part of this for me has been trying to love those who have so willingly left their scars upon my heart. We are commanded to love; it is not a suggestion. It is a choice that must be made to die to one’s self, and love through all hurt and pain. This love is humbling to receive, and almost impossible for humans to give. This love cuts through the darkest of souls and has no boundaries. The enemy cannot stand in it, men melt like wax in it, chains are broken, harsh souls are healed, wounds are sealed, shattered hearts are conformed, tears fall, and emotions soar in the presences of this kind of love. Mankind naturally knows it not, for it does not come from man. It is undeserved and breaks the laws of reason. We must choose to be brave enough to walk into this kind of love, for our human nature will resist it, not wanting it to operate in our fallen mortality.
Beautiful Beloved, shall we conform to the ways of this fallen world and hate those who hate us? Hurt those who have hurt us? Shall we call forth the winds of revenge when they are not ours to command? Or will we choose to follow the leading of the One who called us out of the darkness? Shall we choose to love like the One who forsook His son to save us while we were still drowning? Shall we dare exchange this fairy tale for a sacrificial existence, knowing that we will battle within ourselves to give this kind of love?
Will this love fill us the way we long to be filled deep down, or will it destroy us? As much as it feels like this love will overthrow us to receive it, and kill us to give it, this love is proven more powerful than any other counterfeit, and will set us free if we embrace it.
“The glory of God is man fully alive.” John Eldridge-Wild at Heart
As the leaves turn vibrant colors, I find myself standing at a crossroad.
I’m not talking about a railroad crossing on a dirt road in the backwoods of Montana. I’m talking about a major life-changing decision that leaves me in deep thought for weeks. I question if I have what it takes to make this decision on my own. I question if I have what it takes at all. I question if this is like every other great adventure presented and turns out to be me choosing fear, dropping all hope of a different life, and returning to Familiar.
I want this time to be different.
I so desperately want this time to be different.
I want to find my courage, recklessly abandon my need for other people’s approval and run wildly after the desires of my own heart. The desires that have been burning deep down since childhood. I don’t want to be irresponsible or ridiculous in my decision making. I do have children who rely on me, but I fear if I do not choose my heart over everything else this time, I could be in danger of losing it forever.
I fear that I have been overly responsible for too long. I have also placed other people’s opinions before my own. I know that putting others before me is a good thing, to a point. Sometimes, I justify choosing others over my own heart as being unselfish and sacrificial. I fear that I have allowed this to keep me stuck in the same rut year after year.
It is time to allow my deepest heart’s desires to have their way.
I am not talking about abandoning all responsibilities and jumping on the back of a stranger’s Harley.
Though some days it’s tempting this would be irrational. I’m talking about something different here.
I am talking about loosing the chains of fear that have kept the holy calling in my deepest heart bound and unproductive for far too long.
These crossroads determine if I will choose Familiar (comfort without conflict) or if I will choose the desires that were placed in me as a child.
I could stay in a place that I have always been, doing the same things that I have always done, expecting a different result,
I could pack up my house, load up my children, rent a U-Haul, and move us across the United States.
There, I know that I would be able to hear my heart take a deep breath and sing once again.
After coming home from an unexpected trip to Missoula, I decided to make a pros and cons list. I sat on my couch yesterday, wrapped in a cozy blanket, sipping my warm coffee examining every aspect of this decision.
I wondered if it would actually happen.
I sank farther into the middle of my overstuffed couch as the tree across the street caught my eye. I looked out of my living room window marveling at the vibrant yellow shades the old growth had turned this last week. It was nice to be home listening to my children talking with their friends in the other rooms of our house. I wondered how long this would be our home. I got excited and scared simultaneously thinking of a new season, more opportunities, a clean slate, new schools, different church, and a whole new life.
I thought about washing off the dust of yesterday and diving into the refreshing waters of tomorrow.
I resonated that the beauty of new beginning awaited us.
My excitement always tends to turn to fear as I think about how I am the only parent trying to protect and take care of my children. When I think of this aspect in a new place, most of the time, this is when I throw in the towel and stay in Familiar.
I worry about my children but I have to remember that ‘single mother or not my Heavenly Father is my ultimate protector and provider’. It is then I start to feel a little bit more at peace and the dreaming and planning continue.
Fall is in the air. For some reason, it is always this time of year that changes take place in my life. Yesterday morning I pulled into a Starbucks to get my usual hazelnut coffee and a seasonal piece of pumpkin bread and noticed a sign which read “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”
I smiled and thought about some of the things that I have had to let go of throughout the years.
The season of Autumn for me is about the Winds of Change.
In the changing colors, I am reminded to allow the old things to illuminate in all of their glory, fall to the ground, and be blown away by the harsh North Wind. Then and only then can the promise of spring time be known.
It was nice having a little breather and driving the three and a half hours home from Missoula alone yesterday. I could think, pray, and ponder the future. My mother stayed the night with my two youngest children so I could take my middle daughter back to Missoula. On the drive back, I realized that I had placed everyone else’s comfort above my own. I had put everyone else’s feelings, ideas, and fears regarding my future above my own choices. I realized that I was so afraid of disappointing a select few that I had made my decisions around their opinions.
I also determined that this was no longer going to be the case.
I’ve heard it to be said that opportunities are like a fares wheel. They come and go, and you have to be brave enough to jump off of the solid ground and grab a hold of that ride. You have to be fearless enough take hold of that opportunity as it comes by. Some of those opportunities come back around and some do not.
I think of maple trees and pumpkin patches. I think of the vision collage that I made over eleven years ago. I’m reminded of the picture of an old book store that I recently realized was in a town an hour away from where the Lord is calling me. I found out that all of the pictures on my collage are from around the same place.
I’ve heard that New England in the Fall is breathtaking.
I’ve waited for over eleven years to see if that could be true. This month one of my daughters, a friend, and I will board a train, travel east, and see if New England is as beautiful in the Fall as I’ve heard it to be.
I will also see what awaits me there.
I wonder, “what exactly is it going to take to get me out of my comfort zone and living the life I dreamt of as a little girl?”
I am talking about digging deep and remembering those childhood hopes and dreams and moving towards the direction of them manifesting.
I can no longer allow others to convince me that my heart is childish and foolish. I will no longer suppress my deepest desires.
I was born for greatness. I was born for such a time as this. I have an epic role to play in this end-time legendary battle. I refuse to back down or allow others to cheat me out of this calling that so heavily lays upon my life.
I was not born for mediocracy.
I was born to change the world. I have always known this.
Some of you were also born for greatness, and we betray our own hearts when we allow them to gasp for air when we have the power to free them, to feed them.
We hold the pen to our destinies, yet on most occasions, if you’re like me, we have allowed others to write our stories.
I have decided that I will no longer allow others to dictate the story of my life.
I have one life to live and I will live it to the fullest.
I will no longer allow other people’s guilt trips or fears to stop me from doing what I know I desperately need to do.
I cannot. It is too costly.
There is a fierce battle with my name on it that only I can win.
There is a fierce battle with your name on it that only you can win.
Allowing other people’s opinions of us to steer our lives is not only dangerous but downright treason against our divine purpose.
We need to take back control of our lives and our destinies.
There is a great calling in all of our deepest hearts. The question is, will we chose to answer that calling?
I want to teach my children to be fearless and grab ahold of those opportunities when they present themselves. I want to show my children what a life sold out to God looks like. I want to teach them what great faith is like even if, sometimes we fall flat on our faces. I want to encourage them to never oppress the desires that have been placed in their hearts. Who knows that if one day they will be called upon to change the world.
God give me the courage to step out of Familiar and grab ahold of this great opportunity. Help me to fulfill the desires that You have placed in me and ride this ride to its fullest.
I pray that I would show my children, by example how to live a life fully alive.
I’m not talking about the ‘eating a hard shell taco while driving’ kind of falling apart. I’m talking about an invisible explosion that left a mark so deep upon my heart and timeline that I refer to my life before and after this event.
October of 2009 was that year for me. It was warm that fall as I waited for the leaves to turn colors and illuminate the sky above me on my sacred evening walk. I had my fourth child a few years before and looked forward to my nightly walks, alone.
While I anticipated my most favorite time of the year I could feel unrest and knew something was deeply wrong in my marriage. It was like the calm before the storm.
It was the red sky in the morning for the sailor.
This was the year that my husband’s extramarital affair finally surfaced. When this happened not only did I lose all of the obvious but I also lost something quietly unnoticed, like the passing of another year.
My compass which had always pointed me home had just been shattered.
I was like a sailor on a stormy night with no stars to direct my way.
I was lost at sea.
At that moment, of his darkest truth, something deep within me died. I knew that I had lost many, many things that year but I never realized how great the impact had been on our home life until this last week.
Last week my children and I took a trip to the Oregon Coast. I had volunteered to take one of my daughter’s childhood friends to a wellness center, giving me an excuse to go the extra hour to the ocean. Taking my children to the ocean was one of the main things that I wanted to accomplish this summer.
Oh, how I had missed the ocean and hadn’t been back since I had left Florida in ‘97’.
Before we left for Oregon I felt lead to go to a nearby church instead of our usual church. The sermon was good that morning and resonated with my spirit but what really stood out was the backdrop at the old theater. Behind the musicians, the movie screen had a picture of the ocean on it with the word “Hope” splashed a crossed it. I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my spirit,
“There is hope at the ocean for you”.
That was enough for me. I went home and I told the children to pack their bags, we were going to Oregon. My love for the ocean won out over all reasoning. I chose to take a chance, follow the Lord, and find this lost ‘hope’ which awaited me on the other side of fear.
After ten and a half hours of driving, we checked in late to our little seaside hotel and crashed hard. The next morning my anticipation to be reunited with the ocean was overwhelming. We all got up and around fast so I could introduce my children to one of my greatest loves. My children had never seen the ocean before. When we drove up to the beach my heart started pounding and my eyes weld up with tears. I felt as though I finally had come home. Like I had been away for many, many years and I could finally hear, smell and be with the one I loved again. In all of my time away I felt like the ocean had been calling for me to return.
Somehow that sounds foolish, I guess.
The Pacific was vast, strong, unpredictable yet steadfast in its coming and going.
I inhaled deeply of the salty, moist air as I watched the tide coming in and going out, so faithfully. The sand squished through our bare feet as my children and I walked a crossed the beach towards the sounds of the waves crashing along the shore. The seagulls cried and my children laughed joyously at the sight of all the seashells and little critters that had washed up. My youngest daughter (of 16years) was so enthralled by the small mole crabs that came in with every wave. With a squeal of excitement, she summoned me over to her side to ask me what kind of sea critters they were. At first, we both thought that they were tiny sea turtles but then we realized that they were crabs. My children were thoroughly enjoying themselves. My middle daughter lost no time as she and her childhood friend ran quickly towards the great, vast body of water and joyously dove into the waves, laughing and trying to jump the white caps. My son had forgotten his water shoes and refused to get his skateboarding shoes wet so he stayed ashore.
A smile crossed my lips as I watched my children’s delight in the splendor of it all.
I felt like I had finally come home.
I let out a deep sigh of gratitude for not selling out or allowing fear to stop me from experiencing that moment with my children.
Oh, how I had missed my long, lost love and didn’t even know or remember how great my love for the sea was. Hidden deep down in my heart was this love that had been forgotten, until then.
Awaken my heart.
Even though I grew up in Montana I was born in California.
A few hundred feet off the shore stood The Tillamook lighthouse. A beacon of hope for those lost at sea.
I thought at first that this was the hope that the Lord had for me and I kept waiting to discover this lost treasure of hope that I had left behind all those years ago in ‘09’.
I waited thinking perhaps that was it. I found it, now it’s time to go home. The adventuress side of me honestly contemplated renting a house in Seaside, Oregon, and staying there. My responsible side shut that one down quickly.
But the ocean was only part of the ‘hope’.
On our way home while my 21-year-old daughter was driving we drove through a town that I felt that we should have stayed at. It was getting late and the sun had already set and we still had five hours just to make it back to Missoula, Montana.
After missing the last decent hotel for miles, avoiding a prison town, and all that entails and driving for way too long in the dark we finally made it to Ritzville. I was praying for God’s favor and a safe hotel.
We pulled into a Motel 6 and found out that they had no vacancy. I was relieved. My middle daughter said that she had seen a Best Western on our way off the freeway. We plugged it into Google Maps and it was close.
Upon check-in, the lady at the front desk told me that they had a room, served breakfast and their pool was open 24 hours. Due to the pandemic, none of the other hotel’s pools were open and nobody was serving breakfast.
To say the least, we were all very relieved and went for a midnight swim. I soaked in the hot tub and believed that God would keep the virus away from us.
We all slept deeply that night.
The feel of the hotel was homey and cozy (like grandma’s homemade apple pie). In the entranceway was a fireplace with an old trunk, a rocking chair, a hutch and decorations of the American Flag, and a child’s wooden rocking horse. The pictures on the walls in our room were of a time gone by. An old farmhouse with carefully crafted quilts hanging on the clothesline sparked something in my heart of hearts. The walls were a deep red with bright white trim. I realized the next morning as I was drinking my coffee and we were all eating our grab-and-go breakfast that this hotel reminded me of a life I once knew.
A life I had once lived.
When we had arrived the night before the bible that had been left on the nightstand was opened to Psalms 107. My daughter read out of it as something stirred within me. I listened as I sipped my coffee and opened my bible up. I realized that I had brought my old bible and that inside the pages of the scriptures was part of a Fall leaf that I remember picking up off of our bench swing and placing in there to save my place in Proverbs 31, many, many years ago. I touched the leaf, as my daughter read aloud and my mind went back, remembering a time gone by….
It was fall of 2006 and I had delivered our son late that summer, introducing him to three older sisters. I was desperate for some time away from the constant nursing, changing and burping my newborn but couldn’t go too far. So, I had opened my bedroom window where my sweet baby boy was sleeping in his cradle and slipped out the back door to enjoy the fall leaves. I sat on our bench swing that my husband had established by our little garden. I remember my husband and I were having a rough time with the bills of the new addition to our family that year. I remember opening my bible and reading Proverbs 31 as I sat on the swing that day and feeling like I could never live up to this impossible woman. I just couldn’t. To say the least I was overwhelmed by my human frailty.
The afternoon sun was shinny through the burnt orange leaves as I read the devotion beside the verse. In the devotion the author quoted William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, giving a tribute to his wife at the time of her death:
To me she has been made of God, never-failing sympathy, reliable wisdom, and unvarnished truth-in short, all that is noble and good; and consequently a tower of strength, a mine of wealth, and an everflowing fountain of comfort and joy.
On the right side of the devotion I had written “Will I ever mean this much to anyone on earth?”
I remembered the way I had felt that day, like I was messing it all up, missing the mark, falling short of all that I was supposed to be. All that the Proverbs 31 woman said I should be.
I wept on the bench swing that day so many years ago. A few months shy of fourteen years now. I remember feeling that I could never live up to the Proverbs 31 woman…
I sipped some more of my coffee and looked up and smiled at my daughter, who had finished reading Psalms 107 out load. I acknowledged her reading and showed my children the partial leaf that I had kept. My daughter asked if she could see it so I handed her my bible. After a few minutes, she said, “Mom, listen to this! This is you”…and started quoting William Booth’s contribution about his wife back to me.
Something happened. I instantly got overwhelmed and thanked God that I finally meant that much to someone (my children). When she was done all of my children were looking at me with the reassurance that it was true.
Her children will rise and call her blessed.
Years later I must have revisited this passage because there was an additional note below it in different colored ink that read,” Yes, you do, to your children.”
When we got home from our trip the Holy Spirit showed me that it wasn’t only the ocean that gave me hope but that hotel and the memories that it had awakened within me.
I realized when the atomic bomb went off in 2009 it had blown up the piece of my heart called “Home’. From that October I had freely given that part of my heart, that so desperately wanted a home, away. I left it there that day, in pieces, and walked away. Paralyzed by my husband’s darkest truth and what that meant for me and our children. Every part of me, as a mother and wife had tried my very best to make our house a home but at that time, I felt like it wasn’t good enough.
I wasn’t good enough.
I had believed that I had failed my family, my husband, and myself and that I would never be good enough to have a family or a marriage.
I didn’t even realize that this important piece of my heart had been stolen from me until last week.
I had given up on “home”.
I gave up on the home where the children’s laughter was louder than any problem, where the walls were filled with love and security in a marriage and all the beds were covered with colorful quilts homemade by grandma.
My desire of having a family was destroyed and ever since then I have been surviving as this Alpha parent. Mom and dad meshed together as one. I lost my place as wife and mother and it had been replaced with this role that for the past eleven years was not mine to live.
A role of survival.
I had stepped over the line of being just the mom and stepped into being dad, too. I had lost my place.
I had lost my way.
I was being tost to and fro between both parent’s duties.
I realized last week while driving out of that hotel’s parking lot that we haven’t had a home since ’09’ but only houses that we have lived in trying to survive the aftermath of that one epic day that changed our lifeline and the course of our lives forever.
I am home now from the coast.
My children are swimming in the fresh Montana waters of a nearby lake. The evening sun shines crimson as I sit at my kitchen desk, eating Lasagna while watching out my window at the neighbor work in his garden. He works the ground at the Victorian bed and breakfast a crossed the street from out house. I wonder if all the work he’s’ doing is in vain? Is he building a home or just a place that he’s passing through? Is he working the ground for nothing?
Before this trip one of my girlfriends had asked me if I was in love with this old farmhouse that we live in and if I would be sad if we had to move. I told her that I appreciated and was thankful for it but that I had learned to take houses and leave houses because I know that I am only passing through this life.
But what if this is the whole reason I went to the coast? What if this is exactly the hope that I needed?
Sometimes I feel like a wandering gypsy just traveling through this life with no place to call home.
But what if God wants to restore what was so violently stolen from my children and I all those years ago?
What if, in this next season I will learn to stay awhile, perhaps be able to be just the mom and create a home worthy enough of my children’s laughter?
Perhaps I’ll plant a big garden or a whole field of sunflowers. Maybe I’ll learn to settle down.
Oh, February, why do you taunt me so badly? For others, your month is one of love and Valentines but for me, when you come around, I wonder why I still live in Montana. Its chilling temperatures and snow-covered mountain peaks seem to take my heart back to a place I don’t want to go. You remind me of the thorn on the stem of a red rose…. I see a man walking by my house that vaguely resembles the One my heart loved. Somehow I barely recognize this man. Years of drug abuse has had its way with him, causing his facial features to change and his hair to prematurely grey. He walks with a limp and his eyes have lost their luster. Everything he owns is carried in a bag on his back. The children run to him as if he just saved the world in some Marvel movie. He passes by our home only a few times a month, for a few minutes at a time, yet he resembles a fracture of the hero they once knew. If only they had known you the way I once knew you…. Dark hair, crystal blue eyes, and a big, beautiful smile found me when I needed love. My heart skipped a beat the first time I met you. I didn’t know you but I knew somehow our paths had been destined to cross, so many years ago, almost twenty now. We were both so young, in our early twenties. I had worked at the sawmill for awhile before you were hired. I had seniority over you and trained you on the roundtable. I had been praying for a man like you and there you were, standing right before my eyes in all of your charming ways. Instantly our chemistry ignited and we couldn’t take our eyes off of each other. We always wanted to be near each other. We both felt it from the start. One hot, summer night I was bold enough to ask you to deliver some lumber to my house and you did and life as we knew it was over from that night on. I dreamt of the life we would have, leading up to our wedding day. It was perfect. If I would have saved all of the roses that you had bought me I could have planted a rose garden. Their beauty enchanted me from seeing their thorns. You were there beside me for the next seven years, making love, having babies, having fights, making up, changing jobs, moving to different houses, kissing (oh, how you always kissed me passionately). It didn’t matter if we were in a crowded room I drank deeply of your love. We were mad for each other. No one could deny it. Year after year I gave you more of my heart. Baby after baby we grow closer to together. We refused to stop loving each other. We expressed it in public, at the lake, in your old Ford truck. We were always together. Time moved slow back then and I can only remember now in black and white. I loved you more than I had ever loved any man. You were the man that I had dreamt about. You were my hero, my lover, my friend and the father of my children. You were the one for me. I haven’t thought about you for years but the other day I heard our wedding song while I was at the market place. It took me back to the way you looked at me on that crimson day in September, highlighted in fall colors. “Oh how I love you, let me give my life to you. Let me drown in your laughter; let me die in your arms. Let me lay here beside you and always be with you. Come let me love you. Come love me again,” untraditionally I walked down the aisle towards your expecting eyes, hearing these words played by local musicians. Standing there in the market place I was on the verge of being angry until the bewilderment of it all, took over. Why now? Why? When I think I am healed and over you why are these memories surfacing now? I stood there starring at the potato chips for the duration of the song. As a store clerk walked past I realized the assault that had just taken place on my heart and left abruptly. I reluctantly go back to that place of white picket fences, red, yellow and orange sunflowers, passionate kisses and watching the rain on our front porch swing together. Sometimes a smell or a song will trigger me though. I avoid it like the plague knowing that its treason against my own heart. I will never travel that way again. Back then, for a split second, life was as good as it was going to get. If only, If only I could have seen it coming. If only I would have listened to my heart and not given it all to you. If only I didn’t love you with everything in me. If only I would have held something back maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so badly. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so wrecked. But I didn’t. I loved you with my whole heart. If only she hadn’t been so beautiful…. But that seems like a whole lifetime ago. Today I look at the stranger out of my kitchen window and it’s hard to believe that at one time we were so intimate. I can’t even imagine that he was once you. This man looks, acts, talks dresses nothing like you. A few weeks back I had walked right passed him at the gas station mistaking him for a transient. If only you had a grave that I could have grieved you at. But you don’t. Somewhere out there your body still wonders the night. The man that my heart loved has been gone for years but here stands a remnant of the man that I once knew. The world of shadows summoned you away from the children and me almost a decade ago and you have never been released. Others chastise me for loving you but how could they have known the deep crevices of my heart? When I am kind to the stranger outside my window they speak of me loving him again. What they don’t understand is that I don’t even know that man. I had a dream about you last night. In my dream, you were still my husband (my beloved) and I remembered you as though you were still next to me. My arm reached for you but then I awoke. It’s been so long. My heart grieved as though I still knew you. I thought about where we would be in this life, today . I thought about the plans we had made to raise our children, build our family and be wild and free together. I remember the places we wanted to take our children and the things we wanted to do. You would have had grey hair in your freshly trimmed beard by now. If you could only see your children, they are almost grown. Our baby boy will soon be graduating from the eighth grade and our oldest is in college. Our two middle daughters are so beautiful and are nearly ready to be walked down the aisle themselves. I wish you would have been here to help me raise them, guide them and lead them with that Godly wisdom that you once had. You would be so proud of your son. He is so big and grown-up. He’s almost as tall as I am. His feet are bigger than mine. It’s been so hard raising him without you. You’re a grandfather now. You would have made the very best Papa. As I spoke to this man today I thought that I had gotten a glimpse of you and could feel the thorn piercing my heart again for the hundred thousandth time. I spoke to this shell of a man as if he had once known my Love but I’m not sure if he remembers you at all. I was hoping that somewhere deep down this man could somehow pass on the message through time, space, years to the One my heart loved. I realized today that I have been thinking of you lately because it’s time to fully let you go. It’s time to finally release you, to build that bed of branches, float you down a river and shoot that fiery arrow towards you, igniting you. It’s time for the past to burn and the ashesto be blown away with the winds of today. It’s time for me to move on so I let you go today. I finally released the balloon with your name on it. Your body roams this world but you are gone. The One my heart loved left me a long time ago. I miss you so bad. I miss the man that I married but I let go of you today. I say my final goodbyes and hopes that somehow you hear me. It’s so weird seeing this man standing before me yet knowing that you have been gone for almost a decade. I grieve you one last time today and free my heart from holding on. I wish all the best for the man out my kitchen window. I hope someday that he will find you again. My heart has loved no other but you. It was always you for me. Peace be with you James where ever you may be. All my love,
Like a long, lost Love calling from across a foggy sea, I hear you calling to me. I hear my name coming out of you as though a piece of you is missing. I feel this longing for you that has always been in the deepest recesses of my soul and is now getting louder. Sometimes I want to experience you so badly that I cry at night. Be still, my soul. Only you are not a man that I would have known you, but a country, a nation. You are a culture that calls to me as though I know your name and have spoken your language. I have not. The only thing I know of you is that you call to me, in the middle of the night, in my dreams, when I hear a song sung out in your language. When I see pictures of your fashion houses and your Palace of Versailles it stirs something within me. I love you but I don’t even know you. But you call me as if I do. I long to visit you, inhaling deeply of your art and tasting of your history. I want to see the paint strokes of De Vinci on your walls at the Louvre. And walk the halls of the Palace of Versailles that your great Louis XVI walked. Has my love for you always been there? I believe so. I believe that I was born with a piece of you in me that I must return. What do I have that you need? What do you have that I need? Is there someone in you that needs to hear what I have to say? Is there someone there that needs something that I have? I feel as though you are missing a piece of your country and that piece is me. Sometimes I think that I was born on the wrong side of the sea. I dream of you when the north wind blows and the winter frost stings my ears. I dream of you when I taste the sweetness of a red grape. I dream of you when I see your Eiffel tower so strong and proud. My ears long to hear your language being spoken into them as though life will not be full without it. My tongue yearns to eat from your market place. The souls of my bare feet want to tread upon your vineyards. You have always been within me. There, hidden in the deepest parts of my soul. Could my love for you come from the knowledge that you are the fashion capital of the world? Perhaps. Why do you call to me? What is it that I have that you need? What is it that I can contribute to you and your people? “Come away with me,” I hear a whisper upon the warm breeze. “Come away with me,” again and again. I can’t stop thinking about you. I can’t stop wanting to see you for myself and not just in the movies. What is it about you that intrigues me? Is it your French renaissance that I want to know of? When I was young and wild you were there calling me. Now that I am mature and wise you are still calling to me. I have to be careful thinking about you because when I think of you too much it makes me want to sell everything I own and go to you. I must go. One of these days I will come to you. One of these days soon this longing will be fulfilled. Soon, I will be on an airplane with you as my destination and I will touch down on your rich soil and drink deeply of your presence. Outwardly, I blame it on my gypsy roots but inwardly, I know it runs deeper. I know that my Creator placed this longing in me for a reason and I must go and find out why. Even though your voice, France is the loudest, there are others that call to me as well; Italy, Ireland, and England I hear you, too. My heart beats for the nations. My heart beats for you. It always has and it always will but until then I will send my letters to you in hopes that you will read them and know that I hear you and I am coming soon. All of my love, Angela B. Bowland
Oh, these lazy, after Christmas days. My heart is full as I pour myself a cup of dark, rich, full-bodied coffee. I linger in my country kitchen wearing my Christmas pajamas while snacking on the thumbprint cookies that my mother makes every year. I sip my warm coffee watching a few flakes of snow trying to fall, through the window panes. We have had a very unusually warm Christmas this year in Montana. This is the first Christmas since I was pregnant with my youngest daughter (sixteen years ago) that we have not had snow. The year before last we had a record-breaking snowfall and I had not shoveled so much white slush in my life but this year was different. My eyes take in all of the red and white Christmas decorations knowing that they will soon have to be stored away until next year. The sound of my teenage children playing with their newfound treasures in their bedrooms causes a sweep of gratitude to fill my heart. Quite and empty now, this kitchen looked so different the last few days, filled with laughter and light conversations as my family gathered to love on one another and of course, eat the goodies. My grandson’s giggle alone, made my heart soar. As my middle daughter baked her gluten-free cookies, my oldest daughter telling us of her life in the bigger city where she attends college and my youngest daughter snitches the chocolate covered candies that my mother and older sister make every year for Christmas, my heart sings. I watch as the laughter fills the air and breathe it all in knowing that this too shall pass. The smell of the Coca-Cola Ham, garlic, butter bread sticks, and roasted veggies heightens the senses as we prepare for another Christmas dinner. Every holiday is so different but I’m thinking this one was my favorite. My children would tell you that I say that every year but this one was very special for me.
I honestly wasn’t sure if I would live to see all of my children as either teenagers or grown, live to see us all laughing and enjoying our lives, live to see any grandchildren. I feel too young to be a grandmother at forty-four but I am so blessed with my sweet grandson.
As I stood there, I wondered if this is the life that my Lord was talking about all of those years ago when He refused to leave me down for the count. All of those many moons back when life was not so good and my family was not so overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
My mind takes me to a place a decade before now, which seems like a lifetime ago…
I remember the vision so vividly.
A defeat that had taken place as I lay in the ring knowing that the enemy had me pinned. For some reason, we had been boxing and wrestling at the same time. We had been fighting for what seemed like years with the destiny of generations hanging in the balance but it was that final blow that knocked me on my back. I knew that he had won. Even though he had me pinned to the matt I had no will left to live. I had no desire to move. I had no passion left in my veins. All was gone, drained out with the cold, hard truth. With that final blow of rejection, I was done. I wanted nothing more than to just give him the win and be released of all suffering. I begged God to send someone to raise my children and take my life. He refused me and replied that “The only way is through. You have to go through this to get to the other side, Angela.” The journey promised to be too painful and I did not think that I would survive it. How could anyone survive this? Many things, in this life I could handle but not this. I would have to have been a mountain goat to ascend this terrain. I no longer believed that I was a good wife, mother or person. I no longer believed that I was worth fighting for.
What some don’t understand is infidelity is more than just a man breaking faith with you. It’s more than just cheating. It’s an entire life of rejection as a child only to be accepted by your husband and then rejected completely again. It’s the entire world that you built around your family, children, and home shattered in a split second. The reality that you knew, all becomes smoke and mirrors and your life becomes this vast question of truth and lies.
There is nothing like being broken to cause you to come fully alive.
How could I mother my four children? My son (who is the youngest) was only three at the time. How could I teach them to be good, loving people if I did not believe that I was worth loving anymore?
Some, who have never had to endure this form of rejection, judged me calling me weak and telling me to just get over it but how could one get over having your soul, family, and future torn from your hands?
I remember seeing angels down on the matt screaming at me to “GET UP!” “GET UP!” But I didn’t want to. I wanted to die right there in the arena. I could hear the referee counting “ONE!!!” as he slammed his hand on the matt and the angels again screaming, “GET UP!!!” GET UP!!!” but why would I care if I won this match between me and the enemy? “TWO!” I didn’t anymore. As the referee was fixing to slap his hand down for that final “three,” indicating that the enemy had won, I remember seeing a light figure up behind me to the right. As the enemy was smiling and all of his demons laughing with the knowledge that he had conquered me, I saw Jesus walk in. An overwhelming sorrow came over me and I thought about everything that He had endured on the cross and getting to the cross, for me. He never gave up. He endured it all. He never quit. He never threw in the towel or threw his hands up. For whatever unseen future I had, I knew it was detrimental that I got back up, for my children and future generations. All I did was chose to live another day. I remember in the vision I barely lifted my head and instantly a rush of power overtook me. I could see the fear in the enemy’s eyes as he and his company were taken back as I came up off that matt with a jump. A fighter’s undefeated holler was released through my vocals as I caught my balance. All the angels rejoiced and I could see my Lord smile! I raised both hands, as only a champion would and the enemy knew the battle had been won.
My Lord had given me the strength to fight another day.
That happened to be over 3650 days ago and I am still standing in the strength of my Father.
I believe that I am now living the life that I had to make it through that battle to see. I am seeing my heritage through the birthing of the next generation and my heart rejoices over the steadfastness that only my King could have given.
The sounds of my two-year-old grandson’s little, bare feet and laughter as he tries to chase me around the kitchen island, overflows gratefulness in my soul that I can’t put to words. Listening to the four beautiful, kind-hearted children that I have raised is like a well-orchestrated symphony being played upon my heartstrings. The twinkling lights coming from the spruce tree in the living room, that one of my faithful girlfriend’s and I harvested a few weeks back, lights the atmosphere with warmth and I smile.
The smell of a victorious life permeates the kitchen and I think…
This, this is why I had to get back up.
All my love,
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
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