Cleaning out the junk

I was reading back through my journal today, and came across this entry. It’s something that I wrote just a few weeks after the day I discovered the affair.

Jeff had moved out and my existence was full of confusion, sadness, anxiety, fear and mostly, pain. Emotional, spiritual, physical pain that I can only describe as nearly unbearable. The kind where you go back and forth between feeling like you are being torn apart to this feeling of numbness, of nothing at all, because your heart, mind and body can only stand the pain in increments, so you simply shut down.

Some days I just honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I mostly wanted to lay in the floor and cry and hide from everything.

From everyone.

From the reality of the world that had so cruelly crashed in on me.    To just crawl out of my skin.               I suddenly understood why people want to lose themselves in alcohol or whatever their vice is. Anything to just make you forget. You can’t change what happened, so the closest thing to it is to be able to forget.

To drown it out.

But I had no intention of letting myself actually do it. I knew that those things, they can’t actually make you forget. Nothing can make you forget. They only dull the pain momentarily. Thankfully I knew that path only leads to more pain.

So I tried to find things to keep me busy. So that I would have something to focus on besides the fact of how devastated, heartbroken, scared and angry I was.

So on that particular day, I picked a room and started cleaning stuff out. I wasn’t sure at the time that I would be able to afford to keep the house after the divorce, so I felt like I needed to start getting things in order and cleaning stuff out so it would be less overwhelming when and if that time came. But mostly, I just couldn’t sit still.

Anyway, that is what inspired this journal entry that day.

September 26, 2015

“With all of the craziness and confusion that has been my life for the last few weeks, I have found myself feeling compelled to clean things out. To get rid of the clutter, put things in order, make my world a little cleaner, and more organized.
I don’t know why I’ve felt so compelled to do it.
Yes, I do.
I do know why.
Control.
I need to feel like I have some control.
Over something.
Anything.
Maybe because doing this gives me just a hint of the feeling that I have even a tiny bit of control over at least something in this mess that has become my life.
For this entire year up until that awful day, I had no control at all. I was in the dark. There were signs, yes. But I brushed them off. Until those last couple of weeks, there was nothing substantial that made me believe he had or ever would ACTUALLY betray me. And even in those last couple of weeks, before I knew the whole truth, I wanted to believe that it wasn’t what my instincts were telling me. He wouldn’t do that. He really wouldn’t actually do that.                                              But….he did.                                                         I had no say. Jeff had been living a whole different existence while I’d been oblivious to it all, just going about our life. The life I was living was a deception. The movie of my life that was showing on my screen only hid the play that was happening on the stage behind it.     I only saw the illusion.                         I had no control over what the reality was behind the scenes.            I only thought I was in control of my life. Of what happens to me. Of what happens to my family. Knowing now that I wasn’t, it’s disarming.

Everything about an affair is horrible.                                               But the deception, the deception is the worst.                                           And that loss of control leaves you feeling vulnerable and victimized and so you search for anything to try and get that feeling of control back.                                                        So that.
That’s what this is really about.

As I went through stuff today, I realized how symbolic cleaning it all out was. How cleaning out the literal junk was very much the same process as cleaning out the figurative junk. The junk in our minds. In our hearts. In our lives.

Something happens when you start to clean out the junk. You start picking away at the pile of stuff. At first it seems that you’ll never reach the bottom of the pile.
So. much. JUNK.
You see that there is stuff there that you had tossed aside. Out of sight, out of mind.
You dig a little deeper and you see stuff that maybe you had wanted to hold on to, although now you’re not really sure why.

And you keep digging, and you find junk that you didn’t even know was there.                                                 Where did this stuff come from? How did I not know that this was here, hiding underneath the surface?
And you realize that junk isn’t yours. You aren’t the one that put it there. Yet here you are, literally drowning in it.
You didn’t even know it was there. You couldn’t see it because it was hidden from you. It was hidden so well, and you didn’t have access to it before.                                               Yet somehow, without even knowing it, you had lost yourself in it.

Slowly, you start to sift your way through. You even find a few hidden treasures.                          Some bright spots.                      Tokens of light and memories of happier times. Proof that God’s goodness is there.                     Always.                                               Even in the midst of all the junk.

Finally, as the pile begins to clear, you see an open space. One that’s been hidden by all this junk for far too long.
You suddenly realize the weight of all that junk. You suddenly realize how it had been crushing you, how it had been blocking out all the light.
In that clear space, you feel a sliver of freedom.                               Freedom from the bondage of all that weight.                                        And although you can’t fully see it yet, and you don’t know exactly where this path will take you, you know that there is light ahead.     That underneath all this junk, there is a clear path.
That there is peace to be found beyond the junk.”

 

Reading that entry now, I’m not even sure how I was able to write that then. How I was able for even a moment to see past the pain and believe there could be peace ahead. There were so many more moments of darkness than light during that time in my life. But to read this now, and remember all the moments in that darkness that He spoke peace and comfort to me, it’s proof of how near God is in our sorrow. It’s proof of his goodness in the midst of our pain.

I’ve got a lot more cleaning out left to do.
It’s not an easy task. There are times that I feel like it’s just too much.
There are times that as I’m digging that junk out, I trip over it and fall.

How grateful I am that I have people to pick me back up. How grateful I am that I have people that not only pick me back up, but help me clear the path.
How grateful I am that we can set those piles of junk on fire, and that the ashes left behind can be replaced with beauty, and the burden of the weight of all that junk can be replaced with freedom. And eventually, hopefully… No…I refuse to only hope.
I have to EXPECT.
I have to expect that cleared path that I find will lead to peace.
Not only peace, but also joy.

We just have to believe it,
And keep cleaning out the junk.

Amy Thurston Gordy

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And they lived happily ever,after

I thought I didn’t get the fairy tale love story that I had wished for.
Turns out, maybe I actually did.

Things are going well with us. As far as marriage goes, I feel like we are getting it right for once. Being attentive. Thoughtful. Present. Communicating well. There’s a sweetness about it that wasn’t there before.

Before.

It’s wedding season. It seems everyday I see news of engagements or wedding pictures. Posts that say “I finally found my happily ever after.”
I find myself looking at those announcements, and wondering what’s ahead for them. Will they be happy? Will one of them eventually betray the other? I look at their faces. Full of joy. Of hope. Of love. Our faces looked like that once.
In our “before”.

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It’s so rare. A marriage that stands the test of time. A marriage that holds true, til death do us part, unblemished by infidelity. Unmarked by betrayal.
My heart sinks at the thought of it.

I wanted that. I wanted to grow old together. Knowing that I had been his one and only love since the day we took those vows for all of our years. We all want that. Unfortunately we don’t always get what we want.

I look at those people, starting their lives together and I pray that God grants them that. I pray they treasure each other. I pray they never have to experience the pain of betrayal.
Happily ever after.

Or should that be happily ever, after. That comma. It changes everything.

After the betrayal. After the pain. After the heartache. After the devastation.

I’ve never really thought about that saying in quite that way before. The fairy tales always end with it. “And they lived happily ever after”.
We say we want the fairy tale love. In our minds we think of it as always happy, always good. A constant and forever love.
But in every one of those fairy tales, the couple goes through something traumatic.
Adversity, betrayal, loss, grief. It is only when they find their way through it that they get their “happily ever after.”

It comes after.

Be careful what you wish for.
I thought I didn’t get the fairy tale love story that I had wished for.
Turns out, maybe I actually did.

So from now on, when I see pics of young love, looking for their happily ever after, I hope they find their happily ever.

Just ever.

I hope they don’t need the after.
And then I thank God for His goodness. I thank God that there can still be happily.
Even in the after.

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Amy Thurston Gordy

Motherhood…aka: Oh dear heavens these are actual tiny humans.Dear God don’t let me screw this up.

I had a great Mother’s Day. I can’t remember a Mother’s Day before this one that I have been made to feel more special or appreciated. On Friday, I got to spend a fun afternoon with my Mom and sisters and a couple of cousins. Then Jeff and Anna Kate and I spent a night at the lake with his sister’s family. Fishing and camping. And by camping, I mean in my sister in law’s camper, which is basically like staying in a nice hotel. Because y’all know this girl doesn’t do tents or snakes or bugs.
My daughter and her boyfriend surprised me by painting my kitchen while I was away, and on Sunday, they made me a beautiful surprise brunch, complete with flowers, all the food made from scratch, and the table set with the good crystal glasses.
Jeff took me shopping and waited oh so patiently while I tried on EVERY item in the store. Then proceeded to tell me he had so much fun with me. And meant it. My youngest sent me a sweet Mother’s Day message. Several others gave me special gifts.
It’s one of God’s ways of showing me how He turns something bad into something better. One of the good things that have come out of this is Jeff’s attentiveness and appreciation for me. They all went out of their way to make it a special day and it was really beautiful and I was so blessed by it.

I had always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I can remember. I think it started with my little brother. He is one of my first memories in life. I was 3 and a half when my mom brought him home. I thought he was the best thing in the world. I just assumed he was mine. I carried him around, and dressed him up and put him in my little wooden baby doll cradle, right up until he was about 3 and wouldn’t fit in it anymore, bless him. 😂

Becoming a mom didn’t happen as easily as I had hoped it would though. Month after month after month would go by with negative test after negative test. So I was thrilled to find out that I was finally going to have a baby.
And then 4 years later, I was lucky enough to have another one.
I have two beautiful, smart, healthy girls. What an amazing gift that I’d been blessed with. And what an enormous responsibility.

WAIT…
I was responsible for them. For taking care of them. Making sure every need is met. Making sure they were healthy. Happy. Safe. Making sure they felt loved. Making sure they knew about God and how much he loved them. Teaching them right from wrong. Teaching them to believe in themselves. Keeping them safe.
Did I mention keeping them safe?

Wait. a. minute.

So they aren’t just cute and precious and smell yummy like Johnson and Johnson baby lotion and love me more than anything?
They are living breathing humans with bodies and spirits and souls and I’m expected not only to take care of their needs but also to NOT screw them up.

Umm.
Did you other Mamas that have gone before us forget to tell us this? Or did we just not listen because that darn tiny little itty bitty onesie with the monkey on the butt was so cute we couldn’t think about anything else?

Being a mom, it’s wonderful and beautiful , and there are no words to describe how fulfilling it can be, but it can also be downright terrifying.
Like many of you, I’m my own worst critic. As moms, so many of us second guess every decision we make. “Was that the right way to handle that? Am I getting it right? Should I have said yes to that? Should I have said no?”
Or we beat ourselves up for the times we know for certain that we failed. For the times that we responded to them in frustration, or just plain exhaustion. For the times we had a lapse of judgement. We wonder if we scarred them for life. Or if we broke their spirit. Have we caused damage that can’t be undone?
Oh how our hearts ache to go back to those moments and respond with wisdom, kindness, patience, and love.

And then there’s that whole keeping them safe part. And not just their physical bodies, Lord knows that’s not easy. Emily once stuck a metal key into the electrical socket and nearly electrocuted herself, and Anna Kate flipped right off the bed into the edge of a bedside table and left more blood all over our Disney hotel room than a scene from CSI.
Dear baby Jesus.

But their minds and their hearts. We especially want to protect those.

When our family fell apart last year, nothing broke my heart more than seeing how their hearts were broken. The one thing I had always been so intent that we would spare them was a broken home. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t protect them from that moment.
And I hated myself for it.
Because they are my sweet, sweet babies and I couldn’t keep their world from crumbling around them.
Sometimes even when we try our best to do everything right, even when we do everything in our power to keep them from pain, even though we do everything we can to control what happens to them, sometimes things just happen that are out of our control.
The truth is that we can’t protect them from the world. We can’t protect them from experiencing pain.
And sometimes that’s the hardest truth to learn as a Mom.

Because they aren’t really in our hands. They never really were. They are His. They always have been. And although it’s hard for us to imagine it’s even possible, He loves them even more than we do.

We can’t keep bad things from happening to them. We can’t stop them from having their hearts broken. We can’t spare them pain or disappointment or sadness. All we can do is just be there to love them through it.
But we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when they experience those things, they have a heavenly Father that will be there to comfort them, and who promises to work ALL things for their good.

I couldn’t keep their world from caving in. But since that happened, they’ve learned about forgiveness. They’ve learned what humility, and what true repentance looks like. They’ve learned about grace. They’ve seen the difference in just having love for each other in a relationship and BEING love to each other in a relationship. They’ve learned about redemption. They’ve seen firsthand the goodness of God, and the way he can take something so ugly and so painful, and replace it with something beautiful. They’ve seen what it means to push through the hard stuff. To have faith and to have hope that the good stuff will just keep getting better.
They may not even know it, or realize that they’ve learned all these things yet. But in their own lives, they will have those things stored up to draw from should they ever need it. Instead of what happened to us harming them and their ability to trust or affecting their future relationships in life badly in any way, I have faith that these bits of goodness and lessons in love will be what sticks with them. I can believe in that because God promises He will redeem everything. Every bad situation or circumstance. Not just for me. Not just for Jeff. But for them too. For ALL of us.

There’s another important thing that we need to remember.
We are all human. We aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. And holding ourselves to this unattainable picture of parenting perfection, well, it’s just not realistic. Or healthy. And while we are busy criticizing ourselves about our failures, whether they are just perceived or real, we are teaching our kids to do the same,and soon enough we see that they become all too critical of themselves too. Second guessing themselves. Never feeling like they are enough. That’s not something I want to pass on to them.

Sometimes as parents we worry over making the right decisions and instilling all the important stuff in our kids, and we beat ourselves up for every time we feel we may have failed at getting it right, and we wonder “Are they getting it? Are they getting the good stuff?”
Then God gives us the gift of these little moments where we get to see who they are, and who they are becoming. We get to see the way their hearts and minds are open. We get to see the sweetness of their spirits and the kindness in their souls. We get to see who God is in them. They do get it. They get what God and love is about more than a lot of adults I know, and nothing blesses this mama more than that.

So rest easy tonight sweet Mamas. You aren’t getting it wrong. Because you love those babies with everything that you are.
And love always wins.
So when our precious babies fall down, or when their hearts are broken, we will scoop them up and love them the way only a Mama can, and then we will watch God bring goodness to their lives in a way that we can’t. ❤️
Amy Thurston Gordy

I told the God of the Universe that I was mad at Him

I’ve just been struggling internally these past few days. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, depression maybe? I wasn’t sure. It’s not that I’m unhappy. There’s a lot of good in my life. How is it that a person can feel not unhappy, yet so very sad all at once?

As I was praying about it and trying to work through it and break through this sadness I was feeling, I came to the realization of something. Something that I’ve known but have pushed back.
Not acknowledged.
It was just too painful to acknowledge.
And ugly.
And terrifying to say out loud.

I’m struggling to even write it.

I was still angry.
Angry at what Jeff did. Angry at what she did.
But the thing I’ve been avoiding. Denying.
Pushing down to the most inner depths of myself so that it doesn’t see the light of day,
is that,
they aren’t the only ones I’ve been angry at.

As I still do, I prayed a lot in my old life. I prayed specific prayers.
“God, please free Jeff of his addiction so that He can be the person you made him to be.”
“God, please don’t let his addiction lead him to have an affair, and if he ever finds himself in that situation, do something to stop it. Don’t allow him to cross that line. Protect our marriage and our family.”

The movie “The War Room” is very popular right now. It inspires many to pray more intentionally and specifically for their families and their marriages. And I think that’s wonderful. But I also find it hard to watch. Because it’s a little too close to home. And because the wife in that movie prays those prayers. The very same ones I prayed.
And in the movie, (spoiler alert) when the husband is about to partake in an affair, God stops him. At the moment that he was about to go off with the other woman, he gets struck with a bout of terrible food poisoning, and is unable to go through with it.
It’s just a movie. But it strikes a chord in the deepest parts of me. Where I’d like to keep these thoughts hidden.

God didn’t stop Jeff.

I was faithful to Jeff.
And I was faithful to God.

And I felt betrayed by them both.

I felt betrayed by them BOTH.

I almost can’t breathe just typing the words.

No, I wasn’t just angry with Jeff or the other woman. I’ve been angry at God.

He could have stepped in. He could have smacked Jeff in the head and given him a divine revelation without having to go through all of this. He could have made his phone malfunction so he didn’t get her messages. He could have kept him from taking that stupid job in the first place. He could have hit him with such conviction as he walked to her car and turned him around and sent him home to me.
He could have given them food poisoning.
Anything.
He could have intervened. Because He’s God.

But He didn’t.

And I get it. I get that He knew that Jeff had to fall. He knew that was what it would take for him to become the person he was meant to be.

But what about me? Who was looking out for me? What about what this would do to me? Did I not matter?

We’ve all heard people say, “We have God looking out for us, protecting us from any harm that might come to us”. I’ve said it myself on many occasions.
But since all of this happened, when I would hear someone say that, sometimes I would think:
“but He didn’t protect me from this. He didn’t keep this from happening to me. God why did you not protect me from this?”

So God and I had a come to Jesus meeting last night. And I admitted it. All of it. And it was a scary thing to do.
Because He’s God.
And who am I to be mad at God? But there in the shower, I poured it all out.

And ever so softly, ever so tenderly, He reminded me who He is.

You’ve heard the saying, “when God closes one door, He opens another one”.
I believe that the truth is, that there are no closed doors. All the doors are open. Some of them lead to good things, and some of them hold all the things that are the very worst for us.
Now pay attention because I might just blow your mind with this next statement.

God’s not up there opening or closing any doors.
The doors are simply there.

And WE choose which to walk through and which not to.
He simply walks with us, no matter which door we choose.
Does He sometimes protect us from bodily harm, such as keeping us from an accident? Yes, I believe in those cases He sometimes does intervene. But when it comes to matters of the heart and of the soul, and whether or not we close those doors or walk through them,
the choices are always left to us.

God didn’t intervene.
He didn’t stop Jeff from making the choices to do the horrible things he did. He didn’t stop him from stepping through that door. Because that’s not who He is.
It’s not because God didn’t love me. It’s not because He didn’t want to spare me that pain.
It’s because He doesn’t force himself on anyone.
It’s because Jeff had to choose.
And I wasn’t the only one that was heartbroken. God was heartbroken too.

And He never turned away from me. He reminded me of the way He spoke to me, before I knew the truth. The way He clearly let my spirit know that all was not well. The way I answered that nudging by pleading with Him to show me what I was missing. To show me what I couldn’t see. He reminded me of his gentle whisper the next morning of what I would later learn was Luke 8:17, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open”. He reminded me how He spoke that to me all day long. I didn’t know what it meant. Was that a scripture? Had I read that before? I wasn’t sure. But I heard Him speak it to me over and over, until I started repeating it aloud in the car that afternoon. And I said ” I don’t know why I’m hearing this. But I know it’s you. So let it be so. I know there’s more going on with him than I know. Reveal whatever this is that is hidden.”
A few days later, that’s exactly what came to pass. I picked up Jeff’s phone and what popped up on his screen at that very moment was all that had been hidden from me for all those months.

And then God reminded me how He was there. Through every excruciating second of it. He never left my side, and I remembered the sweetness of His presence in the midst of all that pain.

He never promised that bad things wouldn’t happen to us. He never promised that life would treat us fairly.

But He is who He says He is.

And He says that He will turn what is meant for our harm into good.
He says that He is always with us.
He says that when we hurt, He hurts.
He says that He’s my loving Father, and I’m his precious jewel.
Even when I’m angry at Him. Even when I don’t understand.

I told the God of the Universe that I was mad at Him.

And He responded with compassion, and with grace, and with the comfort that only He can give.

He loves me.

He LOVES me.

Oh how He loves me.

And I’m not angry at Him anymore.

Amy Thurston Gordy