Monday, November 12, 2012

A Message to the Grieving

They say that deaths come in threes.  And I thought that was true, when I heard of the third one last week.  Since then however I have heard of two more that are just beyond any sense of reason.  It just seems this week I have been surrounded by people I know and care about who have lost loved ones.  It  started with a friend my age who lost her dad to a heart attack, yesterday it was a running friend of mine who was on a morning run with her running partner, and the partner was hit by a car and killed.  Today my "might as well be an uncle" informed me of his daughter losing her baby during child birth.  I'm overwhelmed with sadness for these people, whom I care about, going through the pain I am so intimate with.

I realize that I empathize so much more with those who have unexpectedly lost loved ones than ever before.  I have experienced a significant amount of death in my family, but none of it compared to losing my husband.  Hearing of these deaths this week has broken my heart for those who are left behind.  I walked the path, and I know what is ahead of them.  I made mistakes along the journey, and had to learn a few things on my own to help me through the process.  I find myself this week sharing nuggets of truth, pieces of wisdom for the mourners. So I thought I should write them here.

1.  Words can't take away the hurt you feel in your heart right now.  But know that God will heal that hurt, fill the void and bring you peace again!

2.  You don't have to be strong.  Don't hold it in.  Let it out. Cry. Scream. Yell.  Do what you need to.  You don't have to be strong.  Look around, there is someone being strong for you to lean on, but now isn't your time.

3.  Death happens.  It isn't fair. It doesn't make sense. And its not your fault.  Don't take the bait of guilt.  Its not your fault.

4.  Being grateful doesn't negate the pain you feel, or invalidate the life of your loved one. Don't feel bad for being glad you are alive.  Its okay to see the good in the midst of a horrible situation.  Its a good thing.  Don't feel bad for doing it.

5.  For those supporting a loved one who has suffered extreme loss... here is a word of caution.  They may be some what of an emotional wreck, now, in two weeks and probably in two months.  They will not have their right senses about them, and may not make the best decisions.  Protect them.  Help them. Look over their shoulder.  The old saying is true, don't make any major decisions for 6 months... and I'll add on even if they were already planned. I did some really stupid, really really stupid things, within months after losing my husband.  Looking back I wish someone who loved me would have guarded me more, and helped me to avoid some of them.

I was hurt. I was broken. I was lost.  But God healed that hurt, pain, and confusion.  It took time, and I'm grateful for the process I went through to heal stronger than I was before.  You will be stronger. I know that means nothing to you now, but it needs to be said. Let the grief process work through you in a healthy way.  When you feel an emotion, work it out.  But don't camp there either.  There is a healthy curve, you feel the emotion building, you give in to and it releases.  Listen to and look for the release.  When it comes, move on.  Don't camp there!

 Don't blame yourself, even if it seems like you should.  I'm grateful I never blamed myself for his death.  I didn't know if he killed himself because of the divorce, but I knew that I was not responsible for any actions beyond my own.  I didn't blame myself.   And I'm glad I didn't because a year and half after his death I learned of a heart condition, and that it more than likely was the killer.  How grateful I am I didn't destroy myself with unnecessary guilt for 18 months, then have to work out of that in addition to everything else.

Finally, sometimes there are lights in the midst of the darkness.  Don't ever feel bad for seeing them.  It doesn't mean you aren't mourning the loss, or that you don't love the person who passed away.  I loved Jonathan.  I truly did.  But his death set us all free.  He was bound in multiple addictions, and quickly destroying his life, and by association ours.  It was healthy for me to recognize that.  It didn't mean I didn't mourn.  It didn't mean I didn't love.  It didn't mean I was insensitive.  I was honest.  And to heal properly you need to be honest.  So pay attention to the lights, find things to be grateful for. It's okay.  Its healthy.  And your soul needs it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012



[adj., n. pur-fikt; v. per-fekt] 
entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.

I try to be perfect.  I expect myself to be perfect.  Regardless of how hard I try, and how much I expect perfection, I am not.  I'm NOT perfect.  I have flaws, I have shortcomings.  I am a work in progress. And its time to be okay with it.

I am a self proclaimed perfectionist.  I expect myself to perform to a certain level, and live to a high standard.  Mediocrity is not acceptable.  I must push myself, I must be the best that I can be.  I constantly compare myself to myself, my goals, and my expectations.  And I constantly fall short.  Its a vicious cycle.  I expect perfection of myself, I work towards perfection, I fall short of perfection, I get frustrated... because I am not perfect.

I am a dreamer.  I visualize what I want my life to be.  I set goals.  Goals are a motivator. They place my focus on a target, and help me to build actions to reach that target. If I didn't have goals, I wouldn't put the effort in to reach them, I wouldn't develop the framework to support the goals.  

Goals are a measuring stick for success. When I reach a goal I know that I am winning. I have attained the prize, I have conquered. Goals are something to work toward and be attained. I have goals for many areas of my life. I have financial goals. I have spiritual goals.  I have professional goals. I have physical goals. As I runner, I have kept myself motivated through goals. My running goals are: to run 1 race a month, to run 20 miles a week, and to run a half marathon in every state.  I'm actively pursuing my goals, and am diligent in my effort to meet them.  I know that these goals keep me from falling back in my running. Because I have these goals I push forward, I maintain my effort, I focus.  But I'm not perfect. I don't meet every goal.  And it frustrates me.  

I have flaws. My greatest flaw is expecting more of myself than I can always give, and feeling bad for not attaining perfection.  Instead of looking at the effort I'm making and the success I'm achieving, I look at the one area I missed. And it captures my attention. I get frustrated because I'm not running 4 days a week.  I'm only running 3, and so I feel like a failure. I get stressed because I'm not achieving perfection.  I lose sight of the fact that this time last year I didn't run. I lose sight of the fact that in the past year I have run over a dozen races, and completed 7 half marathons.  I pay no attention to my running pace dropping from a 14 minute mile to an 11 minute mile.  These aren't the areas which gain my focus- its that one day a week that I don't have time to run.  Its the shortcoming, lack of perfection where I glance.

Its time for me to get in line with God.  He knows I'm not perfect.  And even more than that He doesn't expect me to be.  If God doesn't expect me to be perfect, because He knows I can't be, why do I?  I set myself up for failure.  I set myself up for frustration. Goals are good.  And ultimately they are achieving their purpose. Even though I don't meet every goal, the effort I put into getting there, the level which I achieve, although falling short of meeting the goal, is greater than what I would have accomplished had I not tried at all.

I'm deciding today to change my definition of perfection.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Lighthouse Half Marathon

It was 50 degrees and rainy, but I had signed up for the inaugural race of the Lighthouse Half Marathon, and I was going to run it! I knew it was going to be a challenging course weeks before I signed up, having continuous hills for 10 of the 13 miles.  Add in the 3 hour time limit, if you don't finish in 3 hours, you don't get a medal or an official time... and the pressure was on.  Two weeks before, I had run another half marathon, that was also hilly, and I finished that in 2:48.  So I was nervous.  But I knew I wanted to be part of the race, and I decided to rise to the challenge.

Everything seemed perfect, the temperature was in the mid 50s, and the continual rain for the past 24 hours, had stopped! I met a really nice girl on the bus, who had was running her first race ever... and a half marathon at that!  The day was looking great!  I knew I would encounter a few bumps along the way, specifically the hills, and mud from all the rain, as a good portion of the race was on trails or dirt roads.  But I wasn't moved by it.  I had made up my mind, I was gonna win the battle in my head, and have a great race!

Moments before the gun went off, the rain started.  And it never stopped.  Not for 3 hours.  It changed from terrential down pour, to down pour, and an occasional rain, but never let up.  Once again I decided that my will, my outlook would determine my success.  So I ran, in the rain. And I enjoyed it, most of the time anyway.  I remember the moment when I hit the half mile up hill at mile 9.5, and I was struggling.  I wanted to run it all, without walking, but it just wasn't gonna happen.  It was hard, so I pushed myself a lot, like I had committed, and took as few walk breaks as possible.

 It was in that moment I realized that this race was so much like life.  Even though we get self deluded and think life is supposed to be easy, and everything should magically fall in place, it doesn't work that way.  That's how life is.  Its a challenge.  And so was this race.  The hills were a challenge.  The rain was a challenge, even the down hills were a challenge! Yes even in the decline there were obstacles to over come.  The mud was a challenge.  Despite all the challenges I stayed steady, true and strong and pushed through for the prize!  I made a mental decision, long before I was in the middle of the challenging situation, that I would face it and conquer it!  And in the moment when I wanted to cave I remembered that.  I would state my goal to myself, and then do it!  In the middle of this half mile hill I reminded myself that I have a medal waiting for me at the end, and it is worth the struggle to receive the prize!

The past 5 years of my life felt much like a half marathon, it was hard.  I faced challenges, they were hard, they hurt, and I wanted to give up more than once.  But I made the decision in my head, long before I ever was in the situation, that I am a winner, a conqueror, and that life will not move me! I kept my eyes on the prize, the promises of God for my life.  And in the middle of the hard times I repeated them to myself over and over.  "God you have great plans for me!" (My version of Jeremiah 29:11).  I took walk breaks when needed, but never let the situation crush or stop me.  I pressed on, until the finish line was in sight.  And now I feel like I've just crossed that line, wearing my medal, happy and proud of myself for making it through.  I'm experiencing the thrill of victory, and it wipes away all the pain of the struggle.

Where ever you are in your race of life, whatever challenge you face, don't give up! Make the decision in your head to conquer and win.  Keep your eye on the prize, and speak God's promise to yourself when you need to keep yourself going!  You will get through this.  You will get the medal! You will survive!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Face to Face

Today I did something I never, EVER, thought I would do.  Nor did I think I would ever want to.  Today I talked to her.  Its been 3 years since I last came face to face with the woman with whom my late husband had a 7 month affair.  And the one time I saw her I cringed.  I wanted to shout very unpleasant things to all those around so they would know the truth of the matter.   At that time it had only been a year since I found out, our marriage was still rocky, and her presence at an out of state business meeting infuriated me.  I didn't want to face her.  I didn't want her there.  I wanted to hide from it all.

I knew when I decided to go to the business meeting today that she would be there.  I wasn't sure I was ready to face her again.  So much has happened in the last 3 years.  I had no idea what would happen and how I would respond.  I figured it would be hard, I figured I may encounter some unexpected emotions, afterall I would be seeing many people who had known Jonathan and his many issues.  Walking into it this setting, after being so far removed from it all, was a bit scary.

When I first saw her, I again was disappointed that in fact she was there, and once again I had to face her.  All through lunch my eyes continued to glance her way.  I don't know why it is, but she was like a magnet.  However unlike 3 years ago I didn't feel anger or pain when I glanced her way.  Perhaps the draw was my way of getting used to the idea that yes she is here, and this is going to be part of life at these annual business meetings.

As lunch was drawing to a close, a very random thought crossed my mind.  Perhaps I should break the ice... but what would I say?  Do you tell the woman who was inimate with your husband, "I forgive you?"  Does it need to be said?  Is it the right thing to say?  And most importantly had I really forgiven her? Perhaps its more an issue of being "over it".   Instantly I ruled out the idea, why on earth would I want to talk to her.  Such a bad idea.  Then it started, my heart began to beat, it began to race.  At that moment I knew God was telling me, yes! Yes, I need to talk to her.

I still had no idea what to say.  I wasn't really sure I had anything to say.  I have closed that door of my life, I have moved on. I'm  remarried, and so so happy!  Life is peaceful again, and the memory of the affair is fading.  Although I did not know what to say, I knew I needed to move on this urge I had recieved from God, before it was too late: either she leaves, or I chicken out.  So I walked across the room, sat down beside her, put my hand on her shoulder to get her attention and simply said, "I wanted to stop over and say Hi."  My voice was quivering, it was obvious from within and without that I was nervous.  This was a really hard moment.  I had suffered so much pain because of her, yet here I was coming to her, and holding out an olive branch. 

She smiled at me, and to be honest I have no idea what she said.  Probably something about being glad that I had come to the meeting.  I continued in my nervous state and said a few really stupid things, all in the gesture of breaking the ice.  It was awkward, it was weird. And we both felt it.  I got ready to excuse myself, and then the conversation just took off.  We sat and chatted for probably a good 15 minutes, mostly about business.  She told me she had really hoped that I would come today.  Oddly enough her presence was almost enough to keep me from going.  But as I sat there I found myself thinking how nice she was, and how easy is was to talk to her.  Even as I sit here writing it I find it completely bizzarre to have those thoughts flow from my brain.

As I ended the conversation, and we stood up, once again I awkwardly asked, "can I hug you?"  And then I did.  I felt I needed that as an act of completion, the completion of my season of anger and hurt.  It marked the end of my season of feeling intimidated by her.  I hugged my once enemy, and even meant it.

I'm sitting here writing, hoping that it helps me to process all that happened in that 15 minutes.  It was so important, a defining moment in my journey, that much I know.  Perhaps this conversation was a way of bringing closure.  It was a long time ago, literally in another life, and I don't want to carry the hurts and wounds of that life into my new one.  I am so blessed, I have all the promises God gave me unfolding before my very eyes, so why should I hold on to this previous hurt?

A common theme along my healing journey has been "Nothing will have power over me."  Time and time again God had me face very hard situaitons, the things from which I ran, were the very things God caused me to face.  And in so doing, I recieved freedom.  This woman had power over me.  I felt it the moment I saw her, although I didn't realize it at the time.  I felt awkward, uncomfortable, and wished she were gone.  I was overly aware of who was around, and it seemed to dictate my actions.  Her simple presence was bondage.  Yet the moment I walked over and said hello, I took control of that bondage.  I was in control, and I was freed from that situation.  Talking to her freed me. I was no longer angry, hurt, bitter, or afraid.  I faced the giant, and realized it wasn't anything to be afraid of.

In my mind I keep replaying how nice she was and how easy it was talking to her.  I have to stop and literally remind myself that this was the woman who had a relationship with MY husband while we were married.  I have to on purpose make myself look at her through those eyes again, because today something changed.  I don't want to carry the offense against her, I don't want to make myself mad at the situation. 

There was a healing that took place in my heart towards her, in that short 15 minute conversation.  I saw her as a person.  Before she was not.  She was the woman who hurt me.  However that isn't true.  I'm understanding tonight that while her actions were not right or justified, it was not about me.  She didn't know me.  She didn't hurt me.  It was my husband who did.  He made vows to be with me.  He knew me, and committed to be with me, and HE was the one who sinned against me.  HE was the one who hurt me.  Yet I was able to forgive him, move past it and attempt to reconcile, because I loved him.  If I was able to do that with someone who knowingly brought hurt and betrayal into my life, I should be able to do it to someone who didn't know me and intentionally hurt me.  I find it very interesting that we do quite the opposite, we demonize the "other woman", and throw all our hurt, rejection and anger on her, while we give every effort to work it out and forgive our husbands, who are the ones who actually betrayed us.  I guess today I realized that if I am willing to forgive and release one, I need to forgive and release the other.

I don't know that I can say I have forgiven, or that the forgiveness is complete.  But I can say that today I made a large step in that direction.  You never really know if you've forgiven a person, truly, until you come face to face.  Perhaps the fact that I no longer feel I need to hide from her, is a sign of forgiveness at work in my heart, no matter what stage it may be.  As much as I want her to say she's sorry for what she did, that did not happen.  It would be nice to hear, but I don't need to hear it in order to forgive.  Forgiveness is for me.  Its my step which releases me from the bonds of the past.

I'm really proud of myself for what I did today.  It wasn't easy, but it was necessary.  I want to move on from my painful past.  I want to be 100% free.  I want to be able to hold my head up high knowing that I am living just and right, and giving God glory, even in the midst of painful experiences.  Most imporantly I want to have all the chains from my previous marriage broken, so that I am completely free to love my new husband and build a healthy relationship. 

I don't know what the future holds.  Will we speak again at the next business meeting? Perhaps.  I wouldn't be opposed to it.  If I saw her I probably would approach her, and give a quick hello.  I refuse to let that power her presence once held ever return. Regardless, I know that something happened in me today that was critical to my healing.  Only with time will God be able to fully reveal to me what happened inside as I came face to face with my fear. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just for a Season

  Fall is in full swing.  The leaves have changed, and begun to fall.  Its cold, and overcast.  And worst of all we have finally resorted to turning to furnace on.  The signs of fall are all around.  This being my first fall up north, 3 more hours north than before, I have been in awe of all the beautiful scenes around me.  The leaves changing color is far more striking than down state, rows and rows of orange, red, and yellow line the streets, over looking lakes, and up and down rolling hills. I've stopped a few times just to admire and take it all in.  I have enjoyed every bit of the change of seasons.  But as we press further into fall, I'm not as in love as I once was.  The intial thrill I found in pulling out my long sleeve shirts, jeans, and boots is gone.  Now I'm resisting wearing a very necessary coat, and waiting to see how much cold I can endure before turning the heat on.

Season bring change, some of the change we enjoy, while other parts we dread.  We all have a favorite season, one we enjoy more than others, and its usually hard to let go of that season and welcome the new one.

About a year and a half ago I entered the doors of a new church for a Saturday evening Easter service. I was going to support some dear friends who were involved in the service.  They had been a huge support to me in the previous 4 months since the passing of my first husband.  I had hardly attended a church other than my own for the past 12 years, but this night I ventured out.  Not long into the worship service I heard God say to my spirit, "come here and heal."  That was it.  I knew at that moment that the time had come to leave my home church of 12 years.

God had already been preparing me for months.  He had told me that fall that my new husband would not be at my home church.  I listened carefully, but continued to attend.  I knew that God would direct me when the time was to go.  As a matter of fact, there were a few instances during the several months while I still attended that I was extremely frustrated and I wanted to leave.  "That's it! I'm done!"  But once I cooled down, I knew it wasn't the right time.  And I continued to wait for God to show me when and where to go.

On that Saturday evening I entered a new season of life.  For months I had been known at church only by my current pain, my late husbands struggles, and a single mom and widow.  I felt alone.  I felt that everyone was watching me. I felt that I had to keep up a facade so that God would get praise.  But the moment I closed that door, and opened a new one, at the new church, I found freedom.  No one knew me.  No one knew my situation.  No one had to know.  All they knew was I was Jenn, and I loved God.  During that season I found freedom to truly worship God with all my heart, in reckless abandon, caring not what others think, but what God thought.  I found myself at the altar almost every Sunday.  Sometimes it was to worship, other times to praise.  Often it was to kneel before God's presence, almost in a lump at the altar, broken, hurting and helpless before God.

In that season I fell in love.  I fell in love with worship.  I fell in love with the new freedom I had found.  I fell in love with God again.  I would go to church solely to meet with God.  It was just me and Him.  And then I would leave.  I grew in faith. I grew in knowledge.  I broadened the scope of my understanding with God. It was wonderful.

Then, just as the cold continues to set in, and its time to change over your closet, a new season began in my life.  I met a man, a wonderful man. This man captured my heart, and carried it 3 hours north.  Now I live 3 hours away from the church that I had become so connected with.  At first it was hard, and we would discuss often about how powerful my home church was, and I would cry about leaving.  I had experienced such wonderful things while there I didn't want to leave it for a church that didn't experience what I had, or worship the way I had grown to worship.  After several conversations we decided to find a church at which we as a couple fit better, and we did.  Now that I have been up here for several months, and regularly attending a new church, I've had the grace to let go.

God told me "come here and heal."  That's exactly what I did.  Like a hospital stay, I came in broken.  During my stay I received care. I was rejuvenated. And I was healed.  Now that I am healed God has released me to move forward.  He healed me, so that I would be ready for the life I am now building.  He healed me so that I would be able to love, when the man He had chosen came into my life.  He healed me so that I could walk away from everyone I knew, and everything I had, and trust Him to create a new life for me.  He healed me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back in a Moment

The further down the path you are, the more you forget.  You forget the hurt, the pain, the reality of it all.  Even starting a new life, I look back as if I'm watching a movie. My emotions are limited, best compared to the reaction I felt as I watched The Notebook, or Titanic.  Except its not Kate Winslet playing the lead, its the vaguely familiar girl, who I don't realize at first, is myself.  Its sad, it pulls at my heart, but it doesn't feel real.  That is until the moment comes...

Someone says something, you walk into a familiar place, or facing a new experience alone.  Suddenly you are back, and it only took a moment.  Your mind, heart, and soul fall back in that moment, and its real.  The triggers are unexpected, and can't be tracked.  Throughout my journey as a widow I found myself back in the moment, in the oddest situations: attending preschool parent night, walking into the restaurant where he took me the night he proposed, attending an industry training meeting.  Last night it was hearing someone say "I want my wife to pass on first, so she doesn't face the pain of burying me." POOF! I was back in the moment.

I felt the overwhelming confusion, why did I go back to work? How did I even function.  And I felt this sadness slowly creeping over me.  I thought about kneeling at the grave the day we buried him, and saying "I leave it all here.  I'm burying it all."  Why is it that our emotions do that? Why does a simple phrase, smell or location take us back to the moment?  Perhaps thats how healing works.  We move on, we live life, and every so often our emotions flex out of shape.  Just like a broken bone acts up when it rains, our pain lies dormant, and when the weather changes, we remember.

Healing is a process, its not an event.  I know that no matter how wonderful life is, how complete I feel, that moments like these will happen.  I know that the longer I live, the less often they will be.  Perhaps these moments are for my benefit.  Maybe I need to remember, so that I can truly live.  Remembering makes me realize how far I have come, how much I have grown and how amazingly God has turned my life around in 2 short years.  Remembering helps me reach out to those who are on the path I once walked.  Remembering is important.  No matter how long I live, how strong and happy of a marriage I have, I want to remember what I have been through.  I want to look back on the movie of my life, shed a few tears, then turn off the TV, wipe my eyes, and enjoy the reality of the life in which I now live.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Super MOM

I used to think, "I'm super woman.... I can do it all!"  Of course that was when I was newly married, no full time kids, and a teacher.  I thought I could be a mom, teacher, and a wife, and do them all very well.  Then my heart started to change.  The closer I got to having my own family I realized that I really wanted to opportunity to stay home and raise them. I loved my job as a teacher.  But I didn't want to raise other people's children, in exchange for raising mine.  And when I had my son I was ready! Ready to leave the teaching world and enter the world of stay at home moms.

I was blessed to stay home with my son for the first 18 months.  I loved being home.  I joined clubs with other stay at home moms, and Gabe and I had play dates.  We also had the opportunity to care for my father as he suffered with cancer.  It was a great season.  Then life happened.  Finances changed and the security I once had in my marriage vanished.  I had to go back to work, no matter how hard it was.  So I began the world of part time employment.

It seems ideal on the outside: I get to work and I get to spend time with my son.  But it wasn't ideal. I was trapped between two worlds: working mom, and stay at home mom. I didn't fit in with either.  I continued to give my all at work, even though it was only a half day.  And by the time I came home I was exhausted, my son was having nap time, and I still had all the responsibilities of a stay at home mom.  After all I "only" worked part time, I should be able to clean the house, plan meals, pay bills, grocery shop, cook dinner, and spend quality time with my son.  All in the extra 3 hours each day.  It was some what of a nightmare.  I loved the fact that I had more time with my son, but the exhaustion and extra responsibilities that a full time working mom doesn't carry, seemed to out weigh the benefits.

Then my challenging situation got even harder.  My husband died, and I became a single working mom.  I took over a family business, kept teaching part time, and now had to raise my 3 year old son all on my own.  This was the hardest season of them all.  Fortunately I was able to end teaching at the end of the year and just work at the business.  But still I was out of balance. When I was working, I'd come home exhausted.  I'd feel overwhelmed at the tasks ahead of me: dinner, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc.  It was too much for one woman to take on.  I was not super mom.  And I was okay with it.

That's where I've come from, thats been my life for the past 4 years.  The challenges I faced reveal to me how wonderful and balanced my life is now.  My working life and my stay at home mom life are very clearly divided.  I travel 3 hours away, a few days every other week for work.  So when I am gone, my soul focus, my only task is work.  I can work late, I don't have to cook dinner, or worry about kid's homework.  On the contrast when I am home, I'm home.  I still work but its in a home office, on my own schedule, and no one is home during the day.  I am able to organize my day to take care of my family: laundry, groceries, meals, etc.  I end it at 2 each day, so that I am focused and ready to pick up my 3 kids.  I find such a strange joy in picking them up from school each day.  And when we get home, we have a snack, and start homework. I'm single minded, so I am able to provide structure for them and give them my full attention.  I have flexibility to volunteer in my son's class, attend field trips and just be around.  I still get to use my mind, and challenge myself through work, but also focus 100% on my family when they walk through the door. Its the life I've always dreamed of!

Its taken a few weeks to really get in the groove.  Finding out how to get a run in during the day, but not sacrifice work.  Setting a schedule for grocery shopping, and planning meals.  Squeezing loads of laundry in between work.  What days to volunteer and what days to travel for work.  Its somewhat of a balancing act.  But I'm working it... and I'm enjoying it.  I can't summarize it any better than this: My step daughter says to me, "I've always wanted a stay at home mom" and she proceeds to tell me how she enjoys that I can pick her up from school, and on the days she has dance right after, I bring her snacks.

I may not be superwoman, but I AM supermom!  But not in the way I once thought. I'm not a mom who does everything. I pick and choose.  I prioritize.  I am supermom, because I am a good mom. My family knows they are my priority and they feel my love.  And that is what makes me supermom!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


 Every season, every experience through which we pass in life, sharpens us.  It refines and polishes.  Not one season is better than the other, each has its benefits to our lives, and each one has molded us into the person we are today.  Looking back in my season of singleness I recognized the beauty of that season.  Despite its frustrations, despite its periods of loneliness, there was a benefit to being single.  For in that time of being alone, on my own, I was able to search and discover who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

During my season as a single I discovered a strength within myself I never knew existed.  Had I not had to reach deep within myself, this self drive, self determination and utter fight within to not just survive, but to thrive, may have laid dormant.  In life we have so many wonderful opportunities to live life with others: family, spouses, and friends, and we lean on them before leaning on ourselves.  These partners in life are a gift, and help us along the journey.  They help us recognize and overcome our own weaknesses.  And we need them.  But there is an inner drive, an inner conflict, an inner victory which no exterior person can see, grasp or conquer.

During my season as a widow, I was alone.  I was more alone than I had ever been in my life.  I had to learn to make choices I've never had to make before.  I recall the bewilderment I felt when having to select which shade of tan to paint my house. It was terrifying. I realized "I don't know how to make choice and be confident in it."  In that process I learned to stick to my gut as a realtor pressured me to invest upwards of $5,000 in granite for my house to sell it. I knew I didn't have the money, and despite her persistence and forceful nature, I dug my own feet in, and stood strong.

I grew in my authority as a boss, not having anyone but my own head to consult in what should have been the simplest business decisions.  It was a defining moment when an employee asked me if his camouflage tipped boots were appropriate for the uniform.  I remember thinking, "I don't have a clue. Ask someone else."  I wasn't a good decision maker, and I would waiver.  I was used to being under a strong authority, without freedom to pursue my own decision making process.  As the employee stood before me, I heard God speak to me from my heart "Make a decision. And stick with it."  So I did.  That moment changed me.  It was not about what decision I made, but rather gaining confidence in it.  It was a skill I had to develop to survive.

At my first half marathon!
In my singleness I developed a love for running.  I began to push myself.  I pushed through what limited me, and broke barriers I never felt possible.  In 5 months I went from not being able to run a mile, to completing my first half marathon! It was the most proud moment of my life.  It was 100% driven and accomplished by me.  No one suggested it, no one pushed me through the process, no one was there when I wanted to give up, and no one was there when I finished.  I did it for me.  There is a life skill gained through that experience that is irreplaceable.  There will be times in life when we have a dream and a vision, and those around us may not carry that same desire.  They may not understand it, they may think we are crazy, and they make try to deter us.  Our success doesn't start, or end on them, it starts and ends with us! We must find the courage within to start, the drive to continue and the perseverance to complete, and we can only find it within.

In my season as a single, I made mistakes, lots of them.  I had no one to blame but myself.  I had to face the weaknesses within, because there was no "better half" making up for them. I had to learn to compensate for them myself.  I had to gain self-control when I felt I had none. I had to be disciplined when I wanted to fall apart.  I had to admit when I was wrong, confess my faults to others, and work that much harder to overcome them.

I found the true nature of the woman we call Jenn. It was a process, letting the woman on the inside, slowly move to the woman on the outside.  I found myself a strong, confident, secure woman.  A woman who was specific about what she wanted, who found freedom to worship, a desire to serve God, and a willingness to push herself beyond the limits.  I have become a woman who is able to make decisions, even when those around me doubt.  I can hold my head up high and say we are going to do this! And inside I believe it! I have dreams, goals, visions and plans for my life.  And I know they will happen, because God has given them to me, and given me the gift of singleness to develop the drive and confidence to see them through.  Besides, if I can successfully face singleness, glean from it, and walk away stronger, I can do anything!

The word single is often defined as alone, lonely, restricted and secluded.  It can be those things if we allow it.  But I challenge you to grasp hold of the true meaning of single! Let singleness express itself fully in you.  Be exceptional, original, special, undivided, unique, unrivaled and without equal!

Main Entry:
single [sing-guhl]  Show IPA
Part of Speech:adjective
Definition:alone, distinct
Synonyms:distinguishedespecial, exceptionalexclusive,individualindivisible, isolatedlone, lonernotgeneral, not public, oddoneonlyoriginal,particularpeerlesspersonalprivaterare,restrictedsecludedseparateseparated,simplesingled-out, singularsolesolitary,specialspecificstrangeunalloyed, unblended,uncommonuncompounded, undivided, unique,unitary, unmixed, unrivaledunshared, unusual,without equal

excerpt from

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Jenn

I haven't blogged in a few months, and I am sure some of you are wondering "what is going on with Jennifer?" Some of you know I recently married, and that alone would be reason enough to take a hiatus from posting my journey and reflections of life.  In fact, my wedding, honey moon, and transitions into a new family have been a majority of the reason I have disappeared from the blogosphere.  Add into the mix a major transition in the staffing at work, along with moving 200 miles away,  and a new travel schedule for work, and yes there is very little time left for processing my thoughts through the keyboard.  But there is something more which has been underlying in my absence, hiding beneath the surface, almost undetected.

Its so easy to blame our schedule, activities and the busyness of life for hindering us from accomplishing goals.  But as I sat and and blogged last week I realized it was actually something far greater than these surface issues. As usual I blogged a new revelation I had about my healing, my grief, and my widowhood.  I got my thoughts out on the screen, and found deeper levels of understanding and peace within myself for sharing them.  I set up automatic post for the following morning and thought, "Yes! I'm back!"  However, as I lay in bed ready to fall asleep confusion set in.  I've learned that a lack of peace is easily identified by confusion.  When confusion arises, something is wrong and its time to STOP! I don't have to know what choice to make, or what to do, but rather to STOP! And thats what I did.  I logged into blogger and stopped the post.  I instantly felt better.

So what was it about this post that I couldn't publish it?  You may be wondering, is it the final secret? No, there were no secrets, no shocking truths, aside from a few raw details of my past.  What held me up was an identity confusion.  Who am I? What is my life? How do people see me? I realized that my marriage, my new family, new home town, new friends, all of it brought me a new start.  I have a second chance at life, an opportunity to redefine my life.  So often in my widowhood I wanted to just be "Jenn".  I hated being "the woman who...",  "the widow", "the single mom", and worst of all... "Jonathan's wife (insert sad look of pity here)".  I just wanted to be me, Jenn.  I wanted to be seen for who I was, not the situation I was in, or the victim of someone's illness.  Jonathan's death had brought a freedom for me, a separation from the issues, the drama.  I no longer wanted to identify with the pain, hurt and struggles.

Two years later I have processed a large amount of the pain.  I have worked through what I experienced and the trauma I went through.  I have let go of the hurt, I have released the anger, and let God remove the pain.  I was broken. Faithfully God answered my prayer to take my brokenness and make something beautiful! He made me beautiful and gave my son and I a beautiful new start at life.  I am no longer the woman I was a year ago.  I am not a widow.  I am not a victim.  I am not hurting, struggling and gasping for air.  I am whole.  I am complete.  I am content.  I walk in a daily peace I have not felt for so long I forgot what peace truly felt like.  I have met my soul mate, and I have the blessing of building a life together with him, hundreds of miles away from my past.

Now I stand in the crossroads, who I was and who I am now.  I don't want to be defined by my past. I want to glance back, with my head held high, and move forward.  And that is what stopped me from publishing the post.  I want to establish my new life, carrying the lessons learned from my past in my heart, but not being defined by them.  I want to simply be Jenn.  I'm not entirely sure what that means... but this I do know: I have the freedom to choose what I share, when I share and with whom.  I believe there is wisdom in that! I know my story, the wisdom gained from my experiences, the support I can offer to women in similar situations and the hope from the testimony of how God turned a horrifying situation around for His glory need to be shared! I will share, and I will give God glory.  But I will let God lead the timing, I will let God build and develop a new life for me, independent of where I came from, free from baggage.  And I know in His timing doors will open, and people will marvel at God's grace in my life.

But that's not today... today is a day for focusing on my future, and enjoying my present.  Today is a day for learning my role in this new family, remembering how to be a wife, and simply enjoying the newness of life.  I have a second chance, a new life, and I'm not looking back.  I'm moving forward!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It simply amazes me. Women are deeply complex. In some ways that is a beautiful wonder and mystery. Yet those same complexities are the ones that irritate and confuse me. I have faced some of the hardest situations a wife could ever face: drug addictions, alcoholism, infidelity, and death. And now I am out, beyond the pain and walking down the path of my glorious future. Life is good and full of hope. Yet in the midst of it the other night I find myself discouraged about my body image. It's a warped perception to be discouraged over my body image after all I have been through. Not to mention the fact that I'm two sizes smaller, a half marathon runner, in the best shape of my life and not ashamed to wear skinny jeans or leggings.

Why are we women so easily moved by body image? Why is it that no matter how much weight we lose we still don't see our selves every day as the beautiful women we are? Why is it that in the midst of life turning the corner and our dreams becoming a reality. We can find ourselves in a pit of discouragement, when we should be celebrating?

We need to renew our perception. We need to stop viewing ourselves in light of what we want to be, focusing on the short comings instead of what we are and it's beauty! We need to gain gods perspective. While we were still sinners he saw us valuable enough to send his son to die for us. He sees the good in the midst of all the bad. He isn't moved by our weight, our love handles or muffin top. He sees us gorgeous. Why? Because we are. God is not a liar. God sees us beautiful and worthy because we are. God sees us beautiful because we are smart intelligent and amazing creatures. We balance work, motherhood, health, households and personal relationships. We sacrifice ourselves for our children and our husbands. We give life to a baby with in us, carry it for nine months,and nurture them into this world. We are amazing. It doesnt matter if our bathing suit doesn't make us look like a cover model, we are beautiful. When we feel like a rock star, whether or not we look like it, we are beautiful. Change perspective. Don't see your failures, see your successes. Embrace yourself and what makes you amazing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I purpose to live my life with integrity.  I try to be honest, even when its hard to tell the truth.  I'm grateful I live my life as a woman of her word, because a few weeks ago the last secret became public.  I have been very open about my story, for the most part.  I know that as embarrassing and difficult my experiences in life and in marriage have been, being transparent opens the door for hope.  I didn't choose to be in this situation, but since I am I might as well let as much good come out of it as it can.  So as I am honest and share the truth of the issues in my previous marriage: the drug addictions, alcoholism, and many struggles my late husband had, women in my situation find hope.  I purpose to live my life as a light to the women who are pages behind me in the story life: strong women, who are encompassed by darkness.  This darkness is not self imposed.  This darkness is shed on them by others, and it holds them back, like bars on a jail cell.

But there is one last secret which I didn't share.  I suppose I wasn't ready.  I suppose I still felt a sense of embarrassment, however unnecessary it may be.  I didn't share this last secret out of respect for my children and my late husband.  I'm not one who likes to air people's dirty laundry. While my late husband may not have respected himself, I have always honored him as my husband, in death as much as in life.  I believe that is how God would have it.  I strive to be an honorable women, and so I have tried my best to honor him.  I know I've failed at times.  I called him names, I've shouted at the sky to him.  But I always wanted people to remember him for the good that was in him and not sensationalize his downfalls.

I also didn't share for my children's sake.  I vowed that they would never know, because I didn't want to taint their image of their daddy.  I would tell the occasional person as it seems necessary, but in person only.  I never wanted to put it in print, for fear that they would find it!  And at this point I am still holding to that.  Even though it made its way into print, it wasn't by me.  And though I have been forced to tell my children the truth, it was out of necessity, not of ill intent to dishonor and shame their dad.  Perhaps someday I may write my complete story in a book, but toI even struggle with writing it here.  I have a new life, and I love the freedom of not carrying it with me, not being "the woman who...."  I am not ready to take that step, to publicly share, and associate myself with his final secret, not in that way.  So I will continue to share about the last secret in person only, and in writing generically.

Several weeks ago, the thing I dreaded, the final secret made its way public.  The details surrounding my late husband's life falling apart, that I had guarded for so long, were released in the media.  My life, and personal pain was sensationalized for all to see, simply because its a "good story" and it sells! Looking back I almost laugh because its been so typical in my healing process for me to face everything which I have tried so hard to avoid.  God has brought me full circle to face everything I held as a symbol of pain, everything that I wanted to forget.

Perhaps I couldn't truly move on with skeletons in the closet.  Perhaps I needed to face the pain, for the pain to heal.  I equate it to a broken bone, the kind where the doctor has to break it again so it heals properly.  Thats been my story.  My late husband broke some bones, and in order for me to heal properly and regain full use of my life again, those broken bones must be broken again and reset into place.  It hurt when it happened, and it hurt when I faced it again.  But each time I move past it I feel freer than before.  I feel another chain, another weight taken off of me.  My step and stride is lighter, easier and happier.

I've faced the places I equate with pain, I've faced the people who were instruments of pain, and I've now faced the public humiliation of his actions.  Although I was afraid, and tried to avoid facing it, I'm glad God had me do it.  I trust God enough to let Him guide me through this process, to take my hand and show me all the things I didn't want to see.  I am glad He was there holding my hand.  And now as I walk away, I hold my head up high.  Because I am free!  Nothing has a hold on me.  Nothing has power over me: not a secret, a person, an action, or my past.  I no longer want to define myself, or let others define me by my past experiences.  Taylor Swift sings it best, "Who you are is not where you've been... Your still an innocent."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Second Time

Today I have been doing a lot of reflecting.  It seems that the further I step into my future the more I understand my past.  As many of you know I was widowed a year and a half ago. I was in the midst of marriage hell.  I married a man, whom I loved dearly, and who loved me, but he was sick. He had personal issues that were beyond repair.  Those personal issues showed up early in our marriage and the longer we were together, the deeper the issues became.  Initially they ate away at the level of interaction, communication and closeness we had.  Then it ate away at our marriage, then our finances, our security, and finally our entire life.  His issues were destroying him, which ultimately was destroying my life.  I was a casualty of his self destruction.

In the past 18 months I have been spending time healing.  I have been praying. I have been crying. I have been discovering who I am. And I've been hoping! I have hoped that someday I would meet a man who will love me the way I long to be loved.  I hoped that I would find a man who would receive the overwhelming love I long to feel for another.  I hoped that my son would receive from God the promise He gave, a new daddy to raise him.  Friends, that day is here! I met an amazing man, and soon we are going to be married!

When I am with him, everything just fits.  It flows. Its natural.  My son and I find comfort in being part of a family that loves and respects each other.  I have realized the fullness of our lives is not in what we have, but who we have to share it with.  God has blessed us! I have felt emptiness and despair.  I have felt a longing to be loved. I have felt rejection. I have longed to give myself to someone and have them receive it with open arms!  God has answered my hopes, He has answered my prayers.  He has shown me that He does take us from glory to glory, and that the latter will be better than the first.  

Since our engagement, I've been reflecting on my love for my fiancĂ©.  Throughout this whole process of growing in love together, I've been comparing.  It feels so different than when I dated and married my late husband.  I am sure no one wants to be compared in such a way, but in all honesty its completely normal and totally unavoidable! We are going to compare.  And the good news is, the more I compare the more my fiancĂ© comes out on top.  I become increasingly aware of the healthy nature, and maturity of our relationship and love.  Its a completely different creature than my past relationship.

I wish I could find the words to express this difference.  Perhaps the best I can say is this love is deep, like the deep love you feel when you have been married for a while.  When I married the first time I didn't really know my husband.  He never really let me know him. He had a wall.  It was bigger than the Berlin Wall, and longer than the Great Wall of China, and it was impenetrable.   He would say to me time and time again that he didn't want to let me in because he was afraid for me to see the real him.  Ironic isn't it? I experienced the worst times of his life, and my love didn't shake.  But still he felt this need to hide behind the wall.  The wall was there when we met, there when we married and there in his final days. It never came down. 

As I think back on our dating days I think about the great effort he made to woo me.  He showered me with roses, and gifts.  He made every effort to be the perfect man.  As my good friend described it, "I had never seen anyone pursue like that."  And all the attention captured me.  He "won" me.  And I fell into what I thought was love.  I'm not saying I didn't ever love him.  With time, I grew into that deep level of love that is what God designed for us to experience.  But that initial love I felt, wasn't deep.  It was surface.  It took time for me to really love him because I had to first experience him.  

Today I realized he pursued in me that way because he couldn't just be himself.  He didn't want to let me fall in love with who he was because he didn't love himself, and feared if I saw the real man I wouldn't love him either.  So he did all the right things externally, a form of smoke and mirrors to place my attention on his actions and how I felt, instead of discovering the man he was.  He said the right things.  He bought me all the gifts.  He put a dozen roses on my car while I was at work.  The whole time I didn't realize the surface level of our relationship, and the wall which I was soon to encounter.

Its odd to be reflecting on my first relationship so much during these exciting days of engagement.  It seems random to be gaining more understanding about the past I am so far away from.  But it is my past which brought me to this place, on the edge of my glorious future.  And by looking back I am only able to hold on tighter to my future.  I realize the depth of love I feel this time is deeper because there are no smoke and mirrors.  My finance isn't saying and doing all the right things to win me over.  He is real.  He is himself 24/7.  He exposes who he really is: the good and the bad.  This time when I fell in love, I fell in love with a man, vulnerable, unguarded and willing to give himself to me completely.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Several months ago God revealed a very deep and sad aspect of my life I hadn't noticed before: I have never experienced real love.  It was a selah, stop and think about that, moment.  I was 34 and up to that point I had not had a person love me the way God intended.  That's not to say people didn't feel love for me, they have.  My parents love me. My late husband loved me.  But they didn't know how to love me, to show it in a healthy and functional way.  Because I had never experienced a complete and healthy love, real love, I continued to allow people to enter my life who loved me incompletely.  The result was pain.

What followed this realization was a season of God showing me what real love is, so I would know it when it comes.  God loves me so much, He doesn't want me to repeat the past.  He doesn't want me to live a life of unhealthy love.  He wants me to experience real love.  I know how to love, but I have never been loved.  Love and intimacy should be 100% reciprocated. So God began to teach me about love.  He took me on a journey through Song of Solomon and the book of Ruth to show me what real love is.  He showed me not how to love, but how to be loved, what receiving real love from another person looks like.

Love is not only about what I do for them, and how I love them. Its about loving me because of who I am!  If I didn't do one more thing for them would they still love me and treat me the same?

Love desires to hear my voice and see my face.

Love can't stand to be apart from each other and will take extreme measures to be together.

Love isn't moved by your flaws.

Love is aroused, captured and drawn in, it is not flaunted or teased.

Love gives their heart freely.

Love is a close friendship, and value is placed in that friendship.

Love "sees" you and your value.

Love sees you as beautiful and tells you and others.

Love makes you their world.

Love protects you.

Love provides for you.

Love comforts you.

This is how God loves.  God's love is complete, its perfect.  God's love is the example for all to follow.  And once you experience real love, you will never settle for anything less.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Diva Half Marathon

Sometimes in life when you experience a tragedy, or someone you love and trust fails you, you find it hard to find the good in situations, or the good in people. This past weekend however, I was reassured that there are good people out there.  Lots of them.  They may be virtual friends or complete strangers, and even though they don't know you, they care! They will go out of their way to be there for you.  There are good people out there! This weekend they were wearing hot pink, feather boas, and tiaras.  They were the Divas who took on Myrtle Beach!

The first taste of goodness: the RMM
I discovered the Diva Half Marathon from a private Facebook group, the running moms (RMM).  Inspired by the determination of my friend Kelly, I decided to sign up.  I've been part of the RMM for only 10 short months, but this virtual support group full of wisdom for running, and the race of life, have quickly won my heart.  This was going to be a meet-up, moms from around the country coming together to run! I signed up, got air plane tickets and joined some of the mamas in a room.   It was exciting to be going down to South Carolina to finally these women with whom I have shared some of life's most personal issues, and found some of my greatest support.

I flew down with a few local mamas, and the second I stepped off the plane, one of the ladies had overwhelmed me with goodness.  She had rented a car and had already found out where my hotel was in order to drive me there. On top of it she had contacted my roommates (whom I had never met) to make sure that I had a ride to the pasta dinner meet up the next day.  I hadn't taken time to plan any of it out, and mama Candice had taken the time to make sure I was covered.   Candice is proof that There are still good people out there.

The second taste of goodness: Diva runners from Florida

I'm a fairly social gal.  Even as a runner, I'm usually commenting or chatting it up on the race course.  Diva was no different.  Around mile 10 I was feeling the heat, the sun shining on me was tough.  I'm a northern girl and our sun has barely started to shine. Needless to say, most of my training was in the cold, or very least overcast.  So the hot South Carolina sunshine was tiring me out, and fast. I had started taking walk breaks, which I never do.  It was frustrating to me, but thinking about my fatherless son back home, I knew I needed to play it safe.  Pushing myself was fine, but I had to be smart about it.  

I don't remember what comment I said around mile 10, but it sparked the divas from Florida to invite me to join them.  They were doing intervals: running 1 minute, walking 1 minute.  When asked to join, I decided it was probably a good idea.  Those ladies kindness brought me through the last 3miles. They encouraged me, they pushed me, and most importantly they let me walk just enough to keep me going. As we neared the end, about a quarter mile out, where the crowds were, they said, "let's run in!" and I did.  They pushed me and I needed it.  These divas didn't know me, had no vested interest in my life, but they took time to pull me in alongside, challenge and push me. It was just what I needed. The divas from Florida are proof there are good people out there.  

The final taste of goodness: no mama left behind

After finishing the race I started to look for my RMM friends, after reuniting with almost all of them, we noticed my roommate had not yet finished.  We started back along the course to find her.  Not too far out we saw her... surrounded! Several other RMM mamas had already gone back, and here they were running with our caboose!  I jumped onto the course with a few others and cheering our friend along, we ran down the shoot all the way towards to finish line.  Shouts of encouragement were continual and the support was practically tangible.  I stepped off the course to watch my roomie cross the finish line and I wanted to cry.  A group of perfect strangers, united on facebook as mothers who love to run, had just dropped everything to help a fellow mama.  

I can't put into words the experience, and the emotions of watching Kate surrounded by women who hardly knew her, giving their all for her.  They were not willing to cheer her on, or watch her finish, but rather to get on the course with her, running along side her, taking part in her victory to make sure she finished!  Perhaps that's how I can describe the running moms, we aren't spectators, or cheerleaders.  We are in the trenches with each other, whether at a race, or virtually via Facebook.  We help each other in our everyday struggles, we grab arms and run along side.  We make sure that no mama is left behind.  Every mama crosses the finish line and receives her medal!  The mamas who ran with Kate are proof that good people are out there!

I'm grateful for running.  I'm grateful for the divas from florida and the RMM.  After all I have been through: betrayal, deceit, trials and pain, I have found good trustworthy people are NOT the exception, they are the rule. And they are out there!  You just have to open your heart and give them a place to come in.