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Guideposts magazine is full of fluffy content like that one time an angel disguised as a blue bird hopped on your windowsill to remind you that God is good and He is watching over you. This is not one of those stories. This is my story, written because my dad encouraged me to submit it to a Guidepost contest. So without further adieu, here it is…

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My head was whirling and drawing in oxygen was growing more difficult with each breath. Did what I just witness actually happen or am I trapped in someone else’s nightmare? How did I end up here sitting on this bus stop bench in Tucson, Arizona next to a complete stranger who is also somehow my husband?

A few minutes ago, a taxi cab pulled up in front of us and a beautiful brunette stepped out wearing a form-fitting business blazer, pencil skirt, and black high heels. I will never forget how she briskly came clickety-clacking up to us in a tizzy. “Excuse me,” she gushed. “I just moved here from Connecticut three days ago and I’m in dire need of some crack rock. Do you know where I might be able to find a dealer?”

I was torn between being excited that I have just met a fellow who is also from Connecticut and feeling pity for this woman who is so addicted to illegal drugs that she risked admitting her sin to the lot of us bus-riding folk, any one of whom could have been an undercover police officer ready to arrest her for the confession. But of course we are simply good citizens who just want to get to work and certainly don’t know anything about…

“Just a moment,” the man who looked exactly like my husband replied. He whipped out a pocket-sized notebook and pen and began jotting down a name and number from memory. He swiftly ripped the piece of paper from the pad and handed it to the well-dressed woman who clutched it to her breast like she had just won the lottery. With tears welling in her eyes, she profusely thanked the man who I thought was my husband only a moment ago. “No problem!” He called out as if he were a knight in shining armor who just saved the day. She stepped back into the taxi and drove off.

Everything was spinning. My own husband, who used to teach Wednesday night Bible study at my church back in Connecticut only two years ago, knows a crack rock dealer’s phone number by heart. Is this real life? Certainly I have wandered onto the set of the wrong movie because I didn’t know my lines or even my part. Wait a minute, who am I?

Now let me see, I know my name is Dannielle and I come from a small conservative farming town in Connecticut where the neighbors are your friends and you can leave your bicycle out in your yard without worrying that someone might steal it. I was raised since infancy in an evangelical Christian church where we were so close I called people Mimi and Uncle who were not my Mimi and Uncle. I was the girl who was saving my first kiss for marriage. I was the girl who, at six years old, knew who would be my bridesmaids and what color they were going to wear as I waltzed down the aisle holding a bouquet of fragrant stargazer lilies which represent purity. I know who I am, but who is my groom? This man, who now appears much thinner to me, is not the man I married.

The man I married wouldn’t have stopped going to church right after the honeymoon. The man I married wouldn’t have hit me six months after the wedding in the truck on the way to Ohio. The man I married wouldn’t have continued hitting me or sat me down and told me he no longer believed in the Bible or Jesus. The man I married wouldn’t have stayed out late at night lying about where he was and who he was with and what he was doing. Things started making sense in my mind as I pieced together the puzzle. The man I married wouldn’t have told me he’s moving to Arizona with or without me… but yet he did. I only followed him here because I was desperately trying to save my marriage. I was in denial about who I married and I was just now seeing clearly.

You see, I come from a community where divorce is not a word in our vocabulary. Divorce was what other people did, not us. When things are broken, you fix them. You don’t throw them away. I had been trying to “fix” my husband for four years and I was just now realizing that it’s impossible to fix people. My loving pastor, in his limited human wisdom, gave me the best biblical advice he knew how at the time: He gave me 1 Peter 3:1 which tells the wife of a husband who is disobedient to God’s Word to win him over without a word by her chaste behavior. I clung to that verse like a life preserver in the middle of a stormy ocean. It was that verse that kept me going when my husband choked me, threw me down the stairs, and even when one night he put a knife to my throat. I knew I could endure the suffering because one day it would all be worth it when I won my husband back to Christ and we both lived happily ever after and rode off into the sunset on white stallions. It was also the verse that allowed me to forgive my husband when he told me he no longer believed I was his soul mate and I found out he had been at another woman’s apartment at 2 am.

I don’t tell you these things to hurt my ex-husband in any way. I wish no ill upon him. I still deeply love him as a human being and I still pray for him. I tell you these things because it’s my story, too, and I have a right to tell it. Yes, he is my ex-husband now because shortly after that day when I discovered he was doing drugs he packed up his belongings and he drove away from me. I had begged him to stay. I had pleaded with him that we could work things out. He could go to drug rehab. We could get marriage counseling. But he didn’t want to fix anything, he just wanted to continue doing drugs without my nagging for him to stop.

That was seven years ago. It feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago, but also like it was just yesterday. I was willing to reconcile with him and I wish a reconciliation were the end of my story, but it’s not. For reconciliation to happen, both people have to be willing to make sacrifices. My husband called about three months after he left and said he’d be willing to reconcile if I would give up the Bible. I really wish I were making this up, but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. “You’re brainwashed by the church,” he told me. “If you burn your Bible, then I will know you really love me.” It sounds so ridiculous, like a line from a cheesy Christian movie they threw out because no one would believe anyone would actually say it. I told him that while I loved him and wanted to reconcile, I loved God more and I would not be burning my Bible. If he wanted to reconcile with me, he would have to repent of his sins and walk with Jesus Christ again as I believe he once had. Again, I really wish I were making this up, but one time when my dad was organizing some boxes my ex-husband left in my parents’ basement, he found a dark book among his belongings about mind control and manipulation techniques. It could very well be that he was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing the whole time.

For many years, my identity was wrapped around being a wife. So much of my purpose in life was centered on supporting my husband, helping him get better, and “winning him over without a word.” When he left me, I didn’t know what to do with myself or even who I was anymore. I blamed myself for not loving him good enough to win him over to Christ. But you know what? I am not defined by what happened to me and his choices were not my fault. I am a beloved daughter of the one true God, created for good works that He prepared beforehand. Even if my husband changed into a man I didn’t recognize, I still serve a God who never changes and who is always faithful to provide a way of escape. Not a sparrow falls from the sky without His knowing it.

The only time the heroine wins the monster over is in fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast. I learned that I can’t change someone else’s behavior, but I can change how I respond. The blood of Jesus Christ alone has the transforming power to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

My Sabbatical Year

I got married on June 7th, 2009. 2020 marks seven years since my husband left me.

Seven is an important number to God and is the most frequent number mentioned in His Word. In fact, the Bible returns 483 results for seven, seventh, sevenfold, etc. (I just realized I am writing this on the seventh day of the month.)

seven

Seven is thought to represent “completion” as the Lord created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. I am thinking about this idea of completion and I am hoping that several things in my life will be completed. One thing that I hope will be completed is my anxiety over my singleness.

ANXIETY

For years I have fretted over the lack of single Christian men and the very real statistical probability that I will end up dying alone because of the sheer lack of marriageable Christian men in church. But what does God say about anxiety?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 4:6-7

My anxiety stems from a lack of trust in God. If God wants to give me a husband then He will. He is a God who is not only able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) but as our Father who loves us, He desires to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). I guess I’ve been struggling to really internalize this truth.

Another important instance where the number seven shows up in the Bible is when God tells the Israelites to fallow the fields every seven years. The land needs to rest and be left alone to rejuvenate itself. This is so that the fields can produce a better harvest and also so that the poor people would be provided for.


“But on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

-Exodus 23:11

The phrase “year you shall let it rest” is all one Hebrew word. The word is “shamat” and Blue Letter Bible tells me that the KJV translates it in several different ways including: release, throw down, discontinue, and let rest. I think 2020 is the year that I plow and harrow the soil of my heart, but do not sow seeds in it in order to restore the fertility. There has been so much exhausting toiling to find a husband: joining every dating site I can find online, participating in speed dating events, church hopping and joining Bible studies from different churches, and joining single Christian groups on Facebook. I am doing a lot of planting, but I am not harvesting anything except bitter disappointment and envy that others have what I long for. I hope this will be the year that all my striving ceases, I cast my cares on the Lord, and take up His yoke.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:30

DEBT

When my husband left me, I went into a tailspin of financial crisis. He left me with a mountain of debt that I couldn’t begin to pay off with my minimum wage job. I had to downsize to a smaller apartment that I could afford which was stressful because I had to let go of many of my belongings in order to fit into my cramped little home. I struggled living paycheck to paycheck for years and had to count pennies and live with a bare bones budget that did not allow for any entertainment whatsoever.

Leviticus 25 not only talks about the sabbatical year of resting the dirt, but it also talks about the year of Jubilee which takes place in the 50th year (after seven times seven years). In the year of Jubilee, slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, and property that has been taken is restored to the rightful owner’s family. So this year, I pray that I will work hard to pay off all that I owe and be freed from that burden. This year, I hope, is the year my debt will be completed.

SLAVERY

I have been a slave to my emotions for years. I was finally done grieving the loss of my marriage and the future I imagined for us together after about two years, but I am still to this day grieving who I used to be before I got married and the future I could have had if I never married him. I left everything I loved behind when I moved to Arizona in a last ditch effort to save my crumbling marriage: my job, the masters degree I was working toward, my family and my church family I loved. I had to start all over in a new place with no support.

Whereas I never before struggled with lust, sexual temptation became a part of my daily struggles after my husband left me. Whereas I never used to be an envious person, I frequently find envy creeping into my heart when I see happy married couples, especially those with children. I felt angry at God for allowing me to be abused for so many years and I felt disconnected from Him for allowing me to get into that situation in the first place since He knew what would ultimately happen and could have prevented it. As each year that goes by and I am still alone, loneliness threatens to choke me to death. Fears that I will always be alone keep me up late at night crying into my pillow. Resentment at God for letting this happen and for not providing someone else I can be a “helper suitable” to loom over my head and make me feel guilty, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop these feelings from growing more and more out of control like pesky weeds.

Ruth got a kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4:13-14 ) and Job was given twice of what he had before (Job 42:10). The people of Israel were restored to them the years that the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). Maybe 2020 is the year that I let go of my impatience and anger and I am freed from the chains of resentment, self pity, bitterness, and depression. I need to count my blessings every day and hold on to hope that something beautiful is in my future.

The Seven Steps to Resolving Unbiblical Thoughts and Bad Feelings

1. Confess the sin as I recognize it

– 1 John 1:9

2. Commit to follow Jesus

– Luke 9:23-24

3. Judge myself biblically

– Matthew 7:1-5

4. Love God and love others

– Matthew 22:37-39

5. Practice forgiveness

– Ephesians 4:32

6. Count trials as joy

– James 1:2

7. Pray unceasingly

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

Serious Trust Issues

At long last, this blog entry unveils a message I have been endeavoring but have been unable to write for some time. I’m not sure where to begin so I’ll just dive in.

trustissues

In the beginning of March, I deleted my online dating profile for the first time after nearly a year of membership. This was to focus on someone who I believed had a lot of potential. After a month, we both agreed that we weren’t compatible. It was disappointing, but I was okay. For the first time since I started dating after my divorce, I didn’t go right back to seeing who else was out there. I decided to give online dating a break and focus on my relationship with God. I haven’t re-activated my profile since.

The month of April was pretty rough because my best friend died of cancer. However, April was also full of blessings because my youngest sister got married and I was able to spend time with family in Connecticut as her bridesmaid. I decided on the guest bed of my parent’s rental house (my childhood home burned down last August) that if I never get married again that I was content with that. That was the first time since my husband left me that I was able to say that and genuinely mean it. I wrote in my journal that night that I couldn’t picture my future wedding. All my life I had been planning my dream wedding and I got to see it unfold exactly how I imagined in 2009. (I even wrote a blog entry about how it still remains the best day of my life.) But now I couldn’t picture the dress, I couldn’t picture my bridesmaids, and most of all, I couldn’t picture falling in love again.


My heart was calloused and bruised from so many rejections and heartbreaks, I didn’t think my heart was capable of feeling anything for anyone ever again.


At the end of May, a very dear friend who I admire and deeply respect began pursuing me romantically. I’ve known him since October of last year, we have the same friend group, and we see each other on a weekly basis. I was unsure if taking our friendship to the next level was the best choice so I prayed about it every day, but I didn’t get an answer. Meanwhile, as I began praying about him, my feelings for him began to deepen as I thought about him in a new way that I hadn’t really let myself before. I became smitten with him, complete with the butterflies in my stomach when I thought about him and all the other clichés you can think of. But he flip-flopped back and forth every day about whether or not he wanted to commit to me. One day he would tell me, “I’m sure God brought you into my life for a reason and I believe that it’s because you’re the dream woman I’ve been praying for my whole life.” Then the next day he would tell me with worry in his voice, “Are we too similar to each other? Do our lifestyles coalesce? I’m just not sure if this is what God wants.” That very night he would apologize for doubting and say I was exactly what he needed and that he wanted to invest his time in me. “I’m sorry I did that to you, I have a fear of rejection. Please be patient with me.” He promised me he wouldn’t change his mind again but then of course the next day he would. My emotions were on a roller coaster with him and my heart was anxious and upset all the time. The feelings I felt surrounding his unpredictability were akin to those when I was I an abusive marriage. I knew I had to escape this cycle of pain but an unhealthy neediness had ravished my heart. I was addicted to this sick game. The next time he asked me to be his girlfriend, he said he had peace when he prayed about it and he was sure this time. I thought we were finally done riding the roller coaster so I said, “Yes.” That was a very good day. 🙂 The next day, however, he kissed me, and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel loved when he kissed me… I just felt kind of used. He assured me that his kiss meant something special and not to take it lightly because he hadn’t kissed anyone in seven years. That made me feel better. The next day we were holding hands while watching a movie in the theatre and he let go of my hand about fifteen minutes into the movie and said, “Holding your hand is distracting me. I can’t focus on the movie and I’ve been wanting to see it for a long time.” What he said was so shocking that I couldn’t believe my ears. “Really?” Was all I could reply. Not going to lie, this disturbed me more than anything else that had previously happened in our relationship. If you can’t hold your girlfriend’s hand, what’s the point of dating in the first place? You might as well just be friends. Physical touch is my love language and I definitely did not feel loved in that moment… I felt rejected, abandoned, and unwanted. Call me a drama queen if you wish, but this was the final straw. I did NOT want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t want to be close to me in that way.

broken

That relationship messed me up big time and turned my world upside down. The sense of loss was so much deeper than any other because this was a trusted friend I had invested a lot of time and love into who was breaking my heart. I found myself crying all the time. Fear wracked my body that I would be alone forever and no one would ever love me. My own dear friend couldn’t even love me, what was wrong with me? The world swirled around me in a blur as loneliness hung over me like a dark cloud. I pulled my body out of bed every morning and went to work but inside I was thinking, “What’s the point?” I went from being content in my singleness to desperately, urgently needing someone to love me or else I would be miserable for the rest of my life.

This whole ordeal was God’s answer to my prayer a few weeks earlier. I asked God to break my heart because when I am broken, I am closest to Him (Psalm 34:18) and there is NOTHING I want more in this life than to be close to Him. Pain brings us to our knees and makes us cry out to Him because there is no where else to turn for peace and comfort.

I still long for someone I can come home to. Who will just let me cry on his shoulder if I had a bad day at work. Someone who won’t get tired of my presence or feel the need for space from me. Someone who will accept me and adore me, even if I’m feeling crappy.

Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. GOD is that One who loves me with this kind of love. He is the One I should be running to at the end of a long, hard day.

But…

I still long for a man. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. I think God created me with a desire to be a wife and He wouldn’t give me that desire and not meet that need. I need to trust Him that He WILL provide the right person at the right time. And if there isn’t a person after all, I need to believe that is His very best plan for my life. His way is better than my way.

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I need to let go of this idea that my life will be better if I’m in a relationship.


All being in a relationship has brought me in the past is PAIN. If I never find a man who loves me the way I deserve to be loved… who wants to spend all his time with me, holding me tight and having deep conversations with me, that means I’ll do better with just me and God. If I never find this man, that means God has looked high and low all over planet Earth and has not found a single soul who will compliment me and make my life better. Maybe my life is better alone. I could choose to view this as a complete slap in the face or I could view it as a blessing. God knows exactly what my heart and soul need and He doesn’t want me to have anything less than that. It’s better to be alone than be in a frustrating relationship where my needs aren’t being met and let’s be honest… I’m a pretty needy person. 😉

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Is God really good?
  • Do I trust God to be God?

Who do you say God is? Do you believe He sees you? Do you believe He will meet your needs? Does He not fill the Heavens and the Earth? (Jeremiah 23:24) Does anything escape His notice? (Psalm 139:7) Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1). He can do all things and no plan of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). He knows everything from every hair on your head (Matthew 10:30) to every star in the sky and each one has a special name He’s given it (Psalm 147:4). Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without God’s allowance (Matthew 10:29). He is Sovereign over all. He has mighty power over all things at all times in all ways and His understanding is infinite.

“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” -Jeremiah 32:17

If you are struggling with pain today, please take comfort in knowing that God not only knows your situation but He deeply cares (1 Peter 5:7). He is holding you in the palm of His hand and He will never, ever let you go (Deuteronomy 31:6). If you worship a God who is somehow limited in His power then you do not worship the same God I do. If you worship a God who doesn’t care about you or isn’t capable of helping you, then you do not worship the same God I do. (Psalm 107:1) My God is mighty to save and He wants to fill up my cup til it overflows.

When it comes to trusting God’s goodness C. S. Lewis said it best, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

The mind feasts on what it is focused on. If you keep thinking about what you don’t have, you’ll be miserable. If you count your blessings, you’ll have a thankful heart. What consumes your mind will be the making or breaking of your identity. Instead of thinking about how badly I need a relationship to be happy, I will replace those thoughts with this prayer, “God, I trust that you are good at being God. I trust you will take care of me and do what is best for me.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26:3

My whole life I’ve searched for a love that would fill me up.. a love in which I was known intimately and deeply treasured. The truth is, when God created me, His heart exploded with a tremendous love and He’s been pursuing me ever since, wooing me and whispering, “I love you. I will never let you go.” When I dwell on this truth, my heart is filled up with love. I have been desperately craving this affectionate embrace and I’ve been looking everywhere except up. If I live from this place of abundant love, I will stop begging men for scraps of love.

My feelings may shift when people I love are unpredictable, but the Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He quiets my heart with His love. He leads me besides quiet waters and refreshes my soul. When I am confused and hesitant, He is assurance. When I am hopeless, He is strength. When I depleated, He is fulfillment. When I am exhausted, He is rejuvination.

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

Every time I become enamored with something that I think will bring lasting fulfillment, I make room in my heart for it. I forget that I’m already complete in Christ and I don’t need anything else to make my happy (Colossians 2:10, Psalm 16:11). And every single time, the thing I am in love with proves its absolute inability to fulfill me and I feel even more empty than before.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” -Philippians 3:8

Beauty, Loneliness, & Eternity

I never feel more lonely than when I’m surrounded by absolute breathtaking beauty such as gazing at the sunset over the Sonoran Desert from the top Mount Lemmon. Beauty has a way of reminding us of the Eden that we have never known but somehow always knew we were meant for.

“Every experience of beauty points to eternity.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar

I know it’s not as lovely as hearing it in person, but if you’ve never heard the haunting, melancholy wail of a loon, please listen to this video clip.

Laying awake at night in the cabin on Bear Lake in Waterford, Maine where I spent every summer with my family, I would be startled by this long, wistful howl that awakened a mournful longing within me. Sometimes the beauty was so great it stirred me to tears and made me feel desperately lonely.

A deep pang of painful yearning similar to my experience in Maine has been pulling on my heartstrings as of late. I could not name the empty place inside me until I picked up the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, a birthday present from my sister.

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

-Ann Voskamp

Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been feeling. Instead of being thankful for all I’ve been blessed with, I start to believe the serpent’s hissing lie whispering in my ear that God must not love me enough because He’s withholding good things from me. I try to fill the emptiness by putting on my dancing shoes as often as possible, devouring poetry, and crafting pretty things but always, always I feel the ache.

It’s not really my fault though, is it? The gaping hole in my soul will always be there until I am restored to glory and present with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were never meant for this dark, lonely world. We were created for a loving relationship with God.

Strangely enough, there is one person with whom I feel at peace. One person who makes the hole seem less cavernous. When I am in his presence, the hollowness melts away and I feel safe and able to rest. His company is inviting, nourishing, and comforting. I never want to say “good bye” but I am not allowed to be with him forever. It seems unfair that God would tease me with everything I’ve always wanted so close I could touch it but hold it just out of my grasp.

I think the grief I feel over this is natural and healthy. The sadness I feel because I am alone is due to living in a sinful, broken world where people don’t keep their vows and abandon their spouses. The sadness I feel because I am unwanted and rejected means I know my worth.

The wound of grief says, “This is not the way life is supposed to be. You were created to be dearly loved and cherished. You were never meant to be alone.” And the beauty in the world points me to hope. The loon’s cry sings, “There is still beauty in this lonely world.” It is an echo of what once was before sin spoiled its perfection. It is a mere shadow of the glorious beauty that will one day be revealed to us when Christ returns for His bride.

I am looking forward to that marvelous day.