Category Archives: Grace

“Where Can I Find Happiness?”

As I waited for the divorce lawyer to return my call regarding Bigamy and Contempt, I had another court case to tackle: my DUI.

When I first got out of jail, I immediately called a friend who just so happens to be a judge.  He was extremely kind, sympathetic and nonjudgmental upon hearing my plight.  He pointed me towards a good (expensive) criminal attorney.  I hired the firm right away.

It was suggested that I take a proactive stance in my case.  I did have a good chance of getting the DUI dismissed, but I had to show some earnestness in my “desire to be rehabilitated.”

I was definitely earnest.  I would do just about anything to lessen my punishment.

“You should probably attend some AA meetings,” my lawyer advised over the phone one afternoon. She went on to explain that some judges require defendants to attend meetings, or work in the morgue.  It was a fairly standard punishment.

“I’ll send you a court card and you can get started.  You just have to get the secretary to sign off on your attendance and you’ll get credit for the meeting.  Try to get five or six meetings in before your court appearance next month.  I can’t guarantee anything, but it certainly won’t hurt your case.”

I hated the thought of having to attend an AA meeting.  I couldn’t believe that I had found myself in a situation where Alcoholics Anonymous was involved.  It was humiliating.  Furthermore, I was way more interested in going to the morgue to see dead bodies.

Nevertheless, I obliged.  I wanted to get it done – out of the way – and show the judge assigned to my case that I was a GOOD girl who had made a mistake, and would never do it again.

I’ll never forget that first AA meeting.  I rose early to attend the 6:15 a.m. gathering.  It was held in a Fellowship Hall at a Presbyterian church.  I pulled up a chair and sat in the back, and listened to people mumble for an hour.  The room echoed and it was difficult to hear.  Occasionally the attendees shouted in unison, and a few pounded their fists on the folding tables.  They laughed, listened, hugged one another and repeatedly sipped coffee from little styrofoam cups.

I brought my own coffee.  I sat with my arms folded tightly against my chest for the hour and didn’t say a word.  I dropped my court card and a crumpled dollar bill into the basket as it passed.

After the meeting adjourned, I raced to the front to find my signed card.  Several people sought me out to welcome me, congratulate me for being brave, and offer me literature.

I just smiled, nodded and reached nervously for that damn card.  One down.

I didn’t need salvation from alcohol or drug addiction.  I didn’t need to make any new friends.  I didn’t need any more suggestions on how to live my life, even if it had been excessively hard lately due to circumstance and/or poor choices.  I just needed to endure the punishment and get the hell out.

I found a noon meeting to attend.  After about four gatherings, I realized I was learning something.

I had to write.

*****

The familiar smell of “thrift shop” wafts through my nostrils as I enter the darkened room.  Cushioned folding chairs are aligned with care, and icicle-like Christmas lights hang over the main table.  The wall is adorned with wooden placards, and old felt banners read, “ONE DAY AT A TIME!”  I am positive the room was decorated in 1974. I find a seat along the western wall and clutch my phone, as if it will save me from…what?

I’m five minutes early, which can be a good and bad thing.  The smell of cigarette smoke drifts in and out of the room, as the men gathered at the front of the building inhale their last bit of carbon monoxide before the meeting begins.

I glance around the room.  Directly in front of me sits Justin Bieber.  He is hunched over his phone, furiously texting with one hand and biting his nails on the other.  I do about seventeen takes and cannot actually figure out if it is Justin Bieber or not. Regardless, it makes me chuckle, and I relax a bit.

A small Chinese man storms through the center aisle, hugging everyone in his path.  He is fierce in his intentions, and laughs extremely loudly as sarcasm drips from his lips.  I didn’t realize that such a loud voice could come from such a small body.

At the main table sits a doughy woman whose arms are adorned with tattoos.  She cracks open her first of two sodas (that she will drink in the span of one hour) and looks at the clock.

The meeting is called to order, and people straggle in at 10, 15, even 30 minutes past the hour.  One latecomer plants himself right next to me.  He’s a soccer player in his early 20s. I notice his freshly shaved head and manicured toenails.  He sniffles throughout the entire meeting, keeps his back turned away from the main table and barely listens to what anyone has to say.  At times I think he might be crying, but I soon realize that he is just wiping his nose and snorting the mucous back up into his brain.  Later, I remind myself to wash my hands, since I end up holding his, reciting the Serenity Prayer.

It is time to reward achievement, so the little Chinese man jumps up and jubilantly passes out little chips, screaming, “Chips from the Chino!”  I laugh at his unabashed racism, and relax a little more.  I decide that if they make “Hangover 3”, this guy could give Ken Jeong a real run for his money.

Later, the little Chinese man shares his story.  He is an alcoholic and a drug addict.  He begins speaking in anger towards a few other relapsed alcoholics whom he had helped find jobs.  Subsequently, he lost his, and needs prayer to deal with both.

The room nods.

Little Chinese Man opens up about his days as a “skilled outdoorsman” (homeless man).  He would stand outside the local 7-11 and beg for money.  Once he made $5.00 he knew he’d be able to get a “fix”.  He finally checked himself into rehab.  A few days into his sobriety, Little Chinese Man offered to wash his counselor’s car.  He detailed it with precision and care, and, in the end, his counselor handed him a crisp, five-dollar bill.  His eyes fill with tears as he describes the realization that he had earned every penny of that $5.00.

He goes on to explain an old Chinese parable of a puppy that asks his mother where he can find happiness.  The mother tells the puppy that his happiness is in his tail.  So, the puppy spends years chasing his tail.

Frustrated, the puppy goes to his mother again and asks, “Where can I find my happiness?”

“I told you,” his mother replies, gently.  “Your happiness is in your tail, and it will follow you wherever you go.”

The room sighs.

Little Chinese Man thanks “the rest of you low life’s” for allowing him to share.

A big, fat biker guy in the back demands his time to share.  He curses and speaks with authority, and talks about “these rooms”.   He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for “these walls”, so we’d all “fuckin’ better fuckin’ keep coming back, because it fuckin’ works if you fuckin’ work it!”

Later, he falls asleep.

A former dentist speaks up.  His drug of choice was crack cocaine.  Little Chinese Man gasps.

A slender, tan and weathered woman speaks up.  She is dressed in a striped mini-dress with matching espadrilles.  Her nails are painted lime green, and look like they are straight out of a travel advertisement for Thailand.  Her nails keep clacking her soda can.  She sheds tears over the years she lost, drowning her sorrows in her wine glass.  She doesn’t want to feel bad anymore.

Justin Bieber has switched from texting to playing “Words with Friends”.

As the hour passes, more and more people share their stories.  Some share the same story they did the day before.  Some shed tears.  Others sit in stoic silence.  But, all in all, they come together as humans with a purpose:  humans who are wanting to end their addictions; humans who are seeking God.  Humans who are broken, ashamed, torn up, spit out, rejected, abandoned and hurting.

Human beings who are beautiful, precious children of God.

I will return to “these rooms” for a few more hours, out of an act of service.  Preventative action.  Punishment. Hope.  Perhaps I will share my story, perhaps not.  One thing I have learned so far is to face my fears.  I may not identify completely with the people who attend the meetings, but I am just as broken and hurting as the rest.  And, for that, I say, bring on the styrofoam coffee cups and the stale sugar packets; bring on the strip mall parking lot adorned with the stunning view of the San Gabriel mountains.  Bring on Justin Bieber and his Honda.

I will laugh and cry with my fellow human beings, and I will even hold their snot-ridden hands.  It feels good to be alive.

~LS
4/27/11

“I Just Want to Heal”

It was extremely difficult to forgive myself after my night in jail.  As I had predicted, I beat myself up constantly.  At the same time, life had to go on.  I worked, and I hid.  Very few people knew about my arrest.  Those who did were extremely supportive, loving and encouraging.  Still, I worried.  It was hard to put the fear of the unknown out of my mind.

I hired a lawyer to help me with my court case.  I was done doing things on my own. My “do it yourself” divorce was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting.  I knew I needed help to get through the misdemeanor as smartly as possible.  I owed it to myself, and my new life, to treat myself right.

I hoped and prayed for a reduced sentence, but all I could do was wait for my court date in May.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time alone.  I poured out my pain and brokenness as I started to process my divorce.  It was finally final, yet I felt more confused than ever.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lord. 

Sunday morning and I’m hiding.  Why am I hiding?  I’m afraid.  Why am I afraid?  What is happening?  I think (I’m feeling) the brevity of the divorce, working, my mistakes, my infractions, hopes, curiosities, deep desires…why do I constantly look at all men’s left hands?  Seemingly, all the good ones are taken.  Why do I feel like I’m never going to get married or have a baby?  Like I missed my chance?

My pride is in the way.  Pride and fear.  Pride, fear and shame.  Forgive me, Lord.  I am such a big piece of crap, and without You I am not even worthy of being a thought of crap.

I am tired.  Weary.  Spent.  Don’t have energy.  Need rest.  Need You desperately.  May You be blessed by my heart and worship, O Lord.

(I feel like) my obsession with wanting someone has become idolatry.  Wanting this “perfect” relationship because my marriage to X was so hard in the end.  And that there is this mythical, perfect person out there.

Wrong answer.

Why am I OK being alone?  Because I am protecting myself from hurt and pain.  I don’t want to be hurt again.  Terrified of a broken heart.

If I have feelings for someone then it all goes to pot. I end up rejected, or not treated very well.  So, I’m hiding.  I’m hiding and I will continue to isolate myself.  I feel crazy.  Lord, I need help.  I acknowledge my desperate need for You; for grace and redemption.  I confess my jealousy of people who have strong marriages and beautiful children; who have people other than themselves for which to live.

Got a message from an online dating guy who thanked me for my honesty and “thoroughness”.  He acknowledged me as a woman of God.  Oh, Lord, would that be so.  I can’t think of a greater compliment.

I am divorced.  I am divorced.  I am divorced.

Who am I kidding?  How on earth will I overcome a divorce, relationship issues, desires, how?  You will carry me.  How will I get through next weekend?  The rest of tax season?  Court?

You.

God, I’m sorry that I keep looking to see Your blessings and cease to recognize You, the Giver.  I should be seeking You with all my heart.  Am I doing this?  Am I just expecting results instead of waiting for You?

I confuse myself.

I am struggling, Lord.  I’m trying to get up and do all this on my own.  “Look at me, Jesus!  Look what I can do!”  But the truth is, I can’t do ANYTHING.  Nothing.  I can’t even open my mouth to speak or sing without You.

You have given me gifts because of Your abundant grace.

PAIN.  Pain in my heart.  New healing, new awareness of who I am and who God is.

Later —

Happiness is not found in another person; a circumstance; an opportunity.  Completeness is found in Christ alone.

Why does it take me sinking to the floor of the valley to realize this; to rest in it?  At the same time, it is OK to long for — or even be afraid of — a relationship.  It has been a year since I left X.  And healing has come but I am sure there is much further to go.  I don’t want to hear people tell me I’m not ready because I so much want to be.

But my heart knows.  I have to heal. 

I’m so unworthy of You, Lord.  I hide my face in shame.  How can I even begin to grasp the breadth and depth of Your grace?  OH, GOD, I am restless.  So very restless.  I don’t know how to be content.

What can I do, but thank You?

What can I do, but give my life to You?

I long to be pursued, I long for a man to know me.  I long to have that moment – “did I just meet you?”

I am so broken.  So broken.  I hurt, I grieve, I ache.  I cannot find purpose.  I need You.  I just want to heal.

Learning to live day-to-day is probably the singular, most difficult thing I have done yet.  I am trying not to worry about upcoming events; trying not to plan or control my future.  I can’t do it.  I cannot live on my own, without Your grace and mercy; without Your blessing.  How can I even get out of bed in the morning without Your grace?

With You, I can face anything.

Broken/Free

After I was booked out, I walked down the long, empty corridor towards the jail lobby.  I felt dirty, exhausted, ashamed, embarrassed and relieved, all at once.

I pushed open the large, heavy double doors and saw my father sitting on the bench.  He was waiting for me.  I quickened my pace towards him as he stood up.  He had a seemingly large sticker affixed to his chest.

I burst into tears.

My father is waiting for me.

He gave me a huge hug, and patted me on the back as I sobbed into his shoulder.

“It’s OK, Leslie.  I’ve been to jail, too!”  he joked.

My dad had gotten a call from my mom around 6:00 a.m., notifying him exactly where I was.  Thankfully I had provided the address to the jail.  He immediately left his house to come pick me up, and had been waiting for me in the lobby since 7:00 in the morning.

It was well past 11:00 a.m. when I was released.

My father waited for me for hours — waited for his train wreck, eldest, adult daughter to be released from JAIL.   

“Wanna go get breakfast?”  My dad asked, as if nothing had happened.

I nodded.  Fresh tears sprang into my eyes.

I was so busy judging myself that I forgot about grace.

Grace.

As we stepped out into the warm, harsh light of day, I immediately noticed I was not downtown.

“Where the heck is this place, anyway?”  I asked, shielding my eyes from the bright sunlight.

My dad laughed.  “Girl, you be in SOUTH CENTRAL!”

I was horrified.  At the same time, I knew there was a reason I kept feeling like a badass.

“Oh, shit.  Well, if you’re going to go to jail, you might as well do it right.”

We laughed as my dad opened the car door for me.  He is such a good man.

I thought back to my friends in the cells and marveled at the fact that I was not harmed in any way.  South Central Los Angeles was no place for a “perfect” little white, Christian girl like me.

Yet, at the same time, it was.

I suddenly realized I needed to call work and explain why I was late.  I also needed to call Joseph and tell him that I shouldn’t be allowed to babysit his children.  I most certainly wasn’t worthy of leading worship at church that Sunday.

Nobody wants a criminal.

To my surprise, my employers were sympathetic and understanding.  They gave me the day off and told me they’d be happy to welcome me back on Monday.

Joseph also treated me with grace and kindness.

“There is no judgment, Leslie,” he spoke, lovingly, as I blubbered and bawled.   “We all make mistakes.”

It just so happened that his plans had changed, and didn’t need me to babysit, after all.  But of course I was welcome to take care of his kids – to be a part of his and Katie’s life – anytime.  Not leading worship was out of the question, and, in fact, the songs that I had chosen the week earlier were so fitting.

Capture me with grace.

And so, that bright, merciful March morning, after bailing my car out of the tow yard, my dad took me to breakfast.  I told him the whole story – of the arrest, the booking and the hours of holding.  I re-enacted the scenes starring Pot and Tamale Lady, Pock Face and Pretty Gum Chewer.

We ate pancakes, drank coffee and laughed.  I felt embarrassed about my now-unkempt, unshowered, I-spent-the-night-in-South-Central-jail appearance, but my dad told me I looked just fine.  In fact, I looked beautiful.

Grace.  Unconditional love.

I started to slowly realize that things would – eventually — be OK.  I wasn’t fully aware of the consequences of my crime, but I would get through it.  There was a good possibility of avoiding a DUI conviction altogether.  I had judged myself so severely already, yet I had the overwhelming love and support of my family and friends.

Oh, Father, I cannot comprehend the punishment, I shakily wrote in my journal.  Jail was enough.  I am thankful that I have not been judged by my family, or friends.  I am not OK.  I need You.  I am broken and ashamed; humiliated, yet also hopeful.  I am thankful to not be in jail —  I will be proactive to lessen my sentence.  I beg for mercy, Lord, but I accept the consequences of my STUPID choices. 

God, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid to drink anymore.  I am thankful to have not lost my employment, yet future employment could be at risk. (These are) ALL consequences of my actions.

Why is it so hard to love myself?  Why?  I’m going to beat myself up continually.  I want this behind me – I can’t hide from it, I can only learn and grow from it.

I AM NOT PERFECT!  I must cease trying to be.  Striving and striving to be perfect.  I got ARRESTED, went to JAIL and will face SENTENCING for DRUNK DRIVING.

Leslie.

“Spencer!”

But You still love me.  And my dad loves me.  And my friends love me.  And You will carry me through this.  I need you, Jesus.  I need help.  I can’t do this.  You will pick me up.  You will make it OK.  Whatever it becomes, we will face it together.

SO BROKEN.

That Sunday, I played the piano and sang with more conviction, humility and gratitude than ever before.  It was so amazing; so comforting to see myself as my earthly and heavenly Father see me: a beautiful, precious child who isn’t defined by her infractions.

My eyes were finally being adjusted to the brilliance of overwhelming grace.

When I got home that beautiful Sunday evening, I opened up my computer, and clicked on the LA Superior Court’s website.  I dutifully typed in my court case number, to check the status of my divorce.

The screen popped up.  I yawned, and prepared myself for “Status: PENDING”.

“CASE SUMMARY”, it read.

Filing Date: 04/02/2010
Case Type: Dissolution of Marriage (General Jurisdiction)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.  Get to the point.

My eyes scanned the page for the status.  Status, status, status.

Status: STIPULATED JUDGMENT  03/03/2011

I was overcome with shock, grief, joy, relief, sadness and elation.

I am divorced.

I blinked through tears of mixed emotions and re-read the date that the divorce had been finalized.

03/03/2011

I burst out laughing.  I had spent my first night as a free woman — in jail.

 

Rescue (Jail, Part Three)

I was startled awake by the sound of keys opening the heavy door.

My cellmate shot straight up.

“Breakfast!” she cried, and scrambled towards the female officer delivering our food.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes.  I was astonished that I had actually fallen asleep, and immediately wished I knew for how long.  It had to have been at least 6:00 a.m.

My cellmate eagerly handed me a box of orange juice and a tray of something that looked like eggs and hash browns.  She waited at the door for her share.

“Thank you so much.”
I was immediately overcome with tenderness towards my new friend, who had served me first before serving herself.

I was extremely thirsty, so I lapped up the orange juice.  I marveled at how much it did not taste like orange juice.  I pushed the plastic spoon at the “eggs” and tried a bite, but was immediately repulsed.

I looked over at my cellmate, who was already finishing her last bite.  She grunted and snorted as she chewed.

“Would you like mine? “ I asked, gently. “I’m not going to eat it.”

She pawed at and grabbed my tray.  “Yes, thank you.”

More grunting and snorting ensued, and my roommate was asleep again.

I sat and stared at the wall, and listened to the footsteps.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Keys rattled.

Back and forth.

Another hour passed, and, finally, the footsteps stopped at my cell.  I heard the keys turn in the lock.  My heart leapt.

Finally, I’m getting out!

“Spencer.  Follow me.”

Oh, PTL. 

I stood up, and unfolded my Prisoner’s Receipt.  I didn’t know how I’d get home, but, worst case scenario, I’d call a cab.  I just wanted to take a shower and get into bed.

I’m never taking my bed — or my freedom —  for granted, ever again.

The officer guided me a few short steps down the hall.  We stopped at a different cell.  My heart sank as he unlocked the door.

“We’re going to hold you in here for now, “ he said.  “We have to clean that other cell. Plus, you’ll be alone in here.”

I immediately missed my snoring cellmate.

But I don’t want to be alone!  My heart screamed.  Don’t leave me here!  

“You’ll be out of here soon,” he said, and he shut the door and locked it behind him.

AUGHHHHHH!!!  NOOOOO!!!  Everyone keeps saying that, but no one is following through!  I want out, I want out, I WANT OUT!

Dejected, I collapsed onto the bench.  It felt even colder and harder than the last one.

My eyes scanned the room.

The floor plan of this cell was slightly different from the last, except that the camera was aimed straight at the toilet.  I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom – badly — but I didn’t want to be on display for all to see.

Damn orange juice.

I debated for a while until I finally made the choice to make my bladder gladder.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I did so as quickly as possible, turning my face away from the camera.

It was definitely not my most shining, camera-ready moment.

And then, I sat on the bench.  I waited.  I sat.  I held my head in my hands.  I thought. I listened.

Footsteps.

Back and forth.  Back and forth.

Voices.  Keys.  Footsteps.

I sat.

And, finally, I thought about what I had done.  It’s true: jail is a great place for self-reflection; for rehabilitation.

I thought about the day that was ahead of me.  I was supposed to be at work at 11:00 a.m. I had no idea what time it was, but I figured that tax preparation was probably not going to be on the agenda anymore.  In fact, I’d probably get fired.  I was supposed to babysit Joseph and Katie’s young daughters – girls that looked up to me – that evening.

I was also scheduled to lead worship at church on Sunday morning.

How would I babysit my pastor’s kids?  How would I lead worship at church?  ME?   I was now a common criminal.  I was a Christian Girl whose marriage had failed.  I was alone.  What’s more, I was alone in a jail cell.  I was hurting.  I was angry.  I was desperately in need, and in pain.  I was a girl who, admittedly, had been drinking too much lately.  I made a choice – a mistake – and got caught.

How was I even worthy of anything anymore?

My mind drifted to the lyrics of one particular song I had selected to lead.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue,
where else can I go?

Footsteps.

I paused and held my breath, but they passed me by.

I closed my eyes as the tears began to fall.  I collapsed my head in my hands and sobbed.

I had hit rock bottom, and bottom had given way.

There’s no other name by which I am saved…
capture me with grace.

Grace.  Grace.  Grace.  Oh, that word.  It started to take on a whole new meaning.  I thought about my husband.  I had expended so much energy being angry with him for his choices and mistakes.  In that moment, I humbly realized that I was no different than he.  I was no different than my crackhead cellmate, either.  My hard, holier-than-thou heart softened.  I needed grace and forgiveness just as much as anyone else.

Through my tears, I forced myself to hum the melody of the song.  And then, humming turned into singing.  The acoustics in my cramped jail cell were quite astounding.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue!

It felt good to sing.

Where else can I go?  There’s no other name by which I am saved –

My voice got a little louder, a little stronger.

Capture me with grace.
CAPTURE ME WITH GRACE!
Won’t you capture me with GRACE?!

Footsteps.

They stopped at my door.

 

New Life

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

~Habakkuk 3:17-19

Monday, October 11, 2010

God, these past few days have been so hard.  From finishing divorce paperwork to dealing with the house issues – the easement, moving, termites, etc. — oh, Father, I simply can’t do any of this.  I can’t do it alone.  I am spent.  Exhausted.  I don’t know how to anymore. 

Life.

I feel so beaten down.  Oh, God, I know You love me.  You love me.  You love me.  You love me. 

Help, help, help. help, help.

WHAT AM I DOING?
WHERE AM I GOING?
WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?!
I PRAY FOR JUSTICE.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oh, Lord, I have been praying for justice, and what to do about house stuff and when… You continue to orchestrate perfectly…all that’s left is the couch and some belongings.  I hope tomorrow it is all done; gone.  

JUSTICE.  YOUR WILL.  FREEDOM!

Oh, Father, I pray that You would illuminate the way.  You are continuing to lead me out of this marriage, this house, maybe even out of Los Angeles?  I do not know.  I am afraid.  I feel displaced.  Uncertain.

Oh, Lord, You are so good.  You are too good.  I don’t understand, but You bring beauty from all my pain. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My 11th wedding anniversary would have been in one week.  It makes me sad.  If all goes “well” – YOUR plan, Lord – then escrow will close next week; next Friday?  And then Saturday will come.  I think it’s hitting me now.  I wanted so much to celebrate year 11, year 12, 15, 20, 40…but I never will.  Ever.  Not with him.  Ever.

It’s so sad, Lord.  My heart hurts.  I still mourn the loss of my marriage.

I hope this all will end soon, and that the pain and hurt will look less like scars and more like character.

Oh, Lord, the pain is so present.  I try to cover it up but it doesn’t go away.  You are the only true comfort.  I cannot depend upon anyone but You.

This has all been so traumatic.  I continue to love and trust You and put my HOPE in YOU.  Hope for my future that You have already so lovingly planned for me! 

Oh, Lord, I ask for favor and blessing.  Do You want me to stay in LA?  NYC?  I ask for financial blessing.   I ask that you would bless me with a faithful, godly, HUNKY, ATTRACTIVE, amazing, talented, confident, big-penised husband!!!  (ha ha!) And babies!

Wednesday, October 27. 2010

Father, I had hoped that escrow would close today.  It did not, and now it may take even LONGER.  LORD, I need help.  I am a disaster.  Satan is doing everything he can —  flailing around like a fool, trying to throw a wrench in Your plan.  God, I TRUST YOU.  You have carried me through ALL of this.  And I trust You to carry me through, to the end.

I am exhausted.  My eyes are still swollen from sobbing last night.  Sobbing and sobbing…my body and spirit are so weak.

As hard as it is, God, I pray for my husband, and his friends.  They know You and they have hurt so many people.  I do not know what happened to them or what will happen to them.  It is difficult for me to pray for any of them.  But I do.  I don’t even know what to pray.

I am drowning.  I want to hide.  Please, no more hurt.  Please help me, Jesus.  I need You.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good morning, Lord!

I had a wonderful night’s rest.  Had a good conversation with Curt last night…went to bed early…

Escrow closes today.  T O D A Y.  The funding went through yesterday – Kathy worked so hard!  I may even have the money today.  Not that I care about the money; it is the price I receive for my marriage.

I still struggle with the pain of the betrayal.  I know healing will take a long time, but I feel that I can finally start to heal, and will be able to get on my feet and do something for myself.  Now I get to focus on what YOU and I are doing – not that I wasn’t before? I don’t know.

And, of course, the pain of October 30th – my wedding anniversary – will be there.   Is there.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  ~Romans 5:5

I do not understand why all of this happened.  I held on as long as I could to everything — my husband, especially.  God, I see how beautifully and perfectly You orchestrated the gentle shift in ownership of my home, in exactly six months.  Amazing.

I believe that the divorce will be final in Your perfect timing, as well.  I pray that the paperwork will be complete; that nothing will have to be returned.  I don’t want to have to see my husband for a LONG, LONG time.  Too painful.  TOO painful.

He was my husband and I loved him so much…dreams slipped away like sand through my fist.  Life as I knew it is OVER.  Let this new life begin. 

I’m atop the mountain right now.  I hiked up here, all by myself.  I’m above the Hollywood sign, and it is so beautiful. I can see oil rigs in the ocean.  I can see for miles.  It is so very quiet.

Just You and me, God.

I don’t have to know anything now.  Today is huge.  Today is the biggest in letting go.  You carried me through it all. 

Oh, LORD!  The relief and freedom I feel!  I can go anywhere; do anything.  My life then is but a memory.  I will not linger in the past.  I will try hard not to blame my husband for such pain and hardship.  The work is done. 

New life.  New life.   NEW LIFE!!

New Me in New York

I went to New York last week.

Every time I fly in, I cry.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I just do.  I have always cried upon landing.  The minute I see the skyline, I burst into tears.

I think it’s because it feels like I am finally home.

The last time I flew into the City was in 2009.  I was flying back from Amsterdam, where I had just completed an almost two-week tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.  We toured Canada and parts of Europe.  I had gotten special permission to take a hiatus from my off-Broadway show.  My contract would end in just five weeks, and I was completely at a loss as to what I should do.

On the long flight back, the man sitting next to me had a mild heart attack.  He was sitting with his family and needed to lie down after the fact, so they asked me if I would mind giving up my seat.  The plane was full, so I was placed me in the jump seat for a few hours.  Finally, I was re-seated: in the very back.  It smelled like shit.  But, because I had been so nice and accommodating, I was given an extra glass of wine and a tiny porcelain Dutch house with the airline’s logo on the bottom.  I studied it for a moment, slammed my glass of wine, and started furiously writing.

July 19, 2009

On the plane back to New York…tour is over.  I had to change seats because they guy next to me just about died — wonder what they gave him as a “prize”?

Last night’s gig was amazing.  I was invited to fly in a private jet to Pori from Helsinki.  We drank Dom Perignon…what a treat!

Yet I couldn’t truly enjoy it.

My marriage is falling apart.  [My husband] is nicely trying to explain that his feelings for me have changed – that it broke him when I left (the first two months), and now he doesn’t need me like he used to.

He’s going on the road until mid-October and then not sure what, but it looks like six more months in Hawaii for whatever.  He wants me to stay in New York.  I don’t want to.  I regret everything; how could I not?  He says “our decision changed everything,” and “our relationship is different”.  All I know from that is doom and gloom.

I thought You wanted me in New York, God.  I thought I was supposed to be there.  I was wrong. 

I am numb.  I feel sick.  I single-handedly unraveled my marriage…  WHY?  Why didn’t I listen to the people who said DON’T GO?

And [husband] says I could have heart the sadness in his voice but obviously I was so self-centered and didn’t pay enough attention.  And now it is too late.

I don’t know when I’m going to see him again.

Part of me is angry that he gave up on me so easily.  I have sat at home for six years waiting for him to come back.  I have endured his selfishness and when it was finally my turn, it bit me in the ass.  I cried to him that I was so sorry but he deosn’t understand why I am so sad.  He says this opportunity (for him) would have never been a thought had I not left.  So, whoopee, I left, and a world of opportunity opened up for him and closed on me.

What is awful is that I am alone, broke and facing unemployment.  I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO.  It is agonizing.  Crippling.  Heart-breaking.

Thoughts run through my head:

~He met someone else
~Maybe we should separate
~I will go back to LA until tour and then move to NY in January 2010.
~Where is God in all of this?  I thought we were special.  I thought we would prove to the world that our love was different; we were different, and that was good.
~What the heck is going to happen to my career?
~Will I be alone?
~Will I ever have children?
~Who am I, why am I here?  What am I supposed to do?
Going home solves nothing.  Perhaps it will provide some sort of solace for me after my 32nd birthday/contract ends.

~Where will he be on our 10th wedding anniversary?  Where will I be?
~Am I getting divorced?
~Why do I think such final, cryptic, awful thoughts?

I haven’t really slept in two days…how much longer is this suffering going to last?  I don’t have the strength to deal with this.  Last night, I Skyped [Husband] from my hotel room in Helsinki. I told him that I had no career or husband.  He said I have both but I can’t see it.  Maybe I am too pessimistic.  I am so grateful for my opportunities but maybe I’ve been granted too much freedom.

Maybe I am destined to have loved only him, but for a short period of time.

I can’t imagine loving anyone else.  I never want to get married ever again.  It’s too painful.  Maybe I’ll end up a bitchy old spinster in NYC with a sperm-bank baby when I am 40.  Gross.

I failed, God.  I failed, failed, failed.  I made my career too much of a priority and I missed the window of opportunity of grace and selflessness.

I don’t know what You are doing, God.  I don’t know how I can continue like this.  I shouldn’t have put everything into my marriage OR career.  And here I am, totally financially broke, totally broken.  Do with me what You will.  I want so much to turn away from You in my pain and brokenness but YOU ARE ALL I HAVE.

You, God, are all I have.

You are all I have.

You are the only one who knows me intimately and deeply and You are the only one here now.  There is no husband.  There is only You. You are my God.  And You give and You take away.

I don’t know what else to do but turn in absolute desperation to You.  I thought I knew what I was doing but it is so abundantly clear.

I don’t know what You have for me.
I don’t know what you have for my husband.
I don’t know if You still will have us together.  I don’t 
even know when I’m going to see my husband again.

I have to let him go.

It hurts.  It’s not fair.

I AM ANGRY.  I DON’T HAVE CLOSURE.  I DON’T HAVE ANSWERS. 

I HAVE NOTHING.

Five weeks later, I would fly out of New York, back to Los Angeles.  I sobbed and sobbed upon leaving, because I didn’t know when I’d be back again.  I would return, just a few short months later (via tour bus), but my world was upside down.  It was hard to be back in New York during that time.  I was working so hard to save my doomed marriage.

Fast forward to December 19, 2011.  For the first time in two years, I finally returned home.

I gazed out the small airplane window as we landed, yearning to see that skyline I love so much.  It just so happened that I was seated on the wrong side of the plane, so all I saw was Long Island City and Queens.  Still, it was enough to send me into my typical, blubbering blurb of salty tears.

Tears of joy.

I gathered my luggage, wrapped my scarf around my neck and fought my way towards a NYC taxi.  I wanted to clap and squeal when I slid into the backseat of the cab; I wanted to hug my cab driver and pat the turban around his head.  I wanted to kiss the pavement, but I maintained my composure.

It just felt so good – so right – to be back.

My schedule was full for my brief trip to the City.  The next day, after breakfast in Union Square with a talented friend, I strolled up Broadway.  I popped into my favorite dish store, Fishs Eddy, to do some Christmas shopping.  I had about an hour to kill before my next reunion with a dear friend, so I continued to happily wander around.

As I found myself nearing the Flatiron District, I stopped, and gazed up at the Empire State Building.   Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

And then I remembered.

The last time I was in the neighborhood was with my (ex) husband.  It was March of 2009, just a few weeks after I had moved to the City.  It would be the only time my husband would visit me in the short seven months I lived there.

I don’t remember many details, or why we were in the area, but I do remember exactly where we sat.  We took a picture, with the Empire State Building looming in the background.  We both have forced smiles on our faces.  My husband spent the majority of our time together that weekend, texting his lover.

All of this came flooding back to me as I stared up at the Empire State Building.  Out of the blue, I started to cry.  The old, familiar grief welled up inside of me and I had to let it out.  I pulled up the same chair I had sat upon with my husband, nearly three years ago, sat down, and allowed myself to sob, quietly.

That moment surprised me.  Grief will sneak up on you at the most unexpected moments.  At the same time, I felt a sense of renewal and strength.

Closure.

As I wiped my tears away, I silently reclaimed New York for me again.  Then, I slowly realized that it had always been mine.  I was supposed to be there in 2009, no matter what. I hadn’t failed at anything.  As I reflected upon the New Me in New York, I marveled at how easily I fit back in.  It actually felt like I hadn’t ever left.  Nothing about the City had changed in two years, except for one thing.

I am the one who has changed.

In a few short days, 2012 will be upon us.  I have no idea what is in store for me in this New Year, but I am hopeful and expectant.  Funny how my questions have remained the same over the past few years.  I still wonder what the heck is going to happen with my career.  I still yearn to live in New York.  I still wonder if I’ll ever have children.

For now, I know this:  There is no rush to arrive.  We never, truly “arrive”.  More importantly, we never miss any window of opportunity for grace.   I’ll always be embarking upon a journey, and I hope to keep changing and growing into the woman that God wants me to be.

By the Grace of God

Yet, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t pull the trigger.

I still loved him.

Dammit.

So, I went back to marriage counseling and self-help books.

We went to church together and tried to pretend like everything was normal.  The first Sunday back, our charismatic pastor delivered an outstanding sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33.  I could have sworn he was looking right at us the entire time, else we were the only people sitting in the pew.  Things got intense when the pastor paced, sweated and screamed, “HUSBANDS! LOOOOVVVVEEE YOUR WIVES!”

Members of the congregation communicated right back:  “A-men!  Preach!”

The man directly in front of me put his arm around his wife.  She responded by reaching over to scratch his back with her left hand.  Her diamond sparkled in the chapel’s bright light.  For a moment, it hurt my eyes.

Myhusband and I sat dutifully on our wooden bench, not touching.  We had always made fun of the “back scratchers” in church.  I glanced down at the tiny diamond adorning my tired left hand.  It was dull, dirty.  I rotated my wrist around in the light, trying to manipulate the stone to reflect some brilliance.  I briefly caught a faint glimmer, and made a mental note to get my ring cleaned.

I later re-capped the play-by-play of the sermon in my journal.
Most poignant was the definition of sin, that it is self-centeredness. We end up with the inability to look beyond our own needs and consider anyone else’s…I spent the majority of the service crying, which is always awesome.  I keep having angry outbursts at [him] which is even more awesome…God, his heart is still so very far away.  Help me to forgive him, Lord.  I need and want to forgive him and heal from this.  I need patience for his re-attachment to form, if it ever will.  I pray that it does.

Every day over the next few weeks was a complete struggle.  I had no self-esteem whatsoever.  The only time I felt “normal” or alive was when I was doing tasks that didn’t involve my husband.  I still felt like I was in a one-sided marriage, and thus a failure at everything I was trying to do.  I beat myself up for overreacting, for not being thankful or forgiving enough, for constantly “taking the temperature” of our relationship, and, most of all, for not trusting God.  I was desperate to trust Him in that He would change my husband.  I wanted to see immediate results of repentance and spiritual growth.

Isn’t it funny?  Little did I know – especially then – that God was changing me.

Marriage counseling was beginning to help.  In one session, our counselor had us face one another and apologize.  I said I was sorry for having an “affair” with my career, with New York.  My husband apologized for having an affair with a 24-year old married girl from the Ukraine.

We then looked into each other’s eyes and said we forgave one another.

Our counselor defined New Testament love as action, not feeling, and explained that, after ten years of marriage, we may not necessarily “feel” love, but we act it, and the feelings will follow.

Hmmm.  Too bad I still actually felt love for the guy.  I wanted to raise my hand and demand a gold star in the love and feelings department, but I kept my hands to myself.

Our next task was to re-write our wedding vows.  Our counselor — one of two pastors that had married us ten years earlier — rummaged through several metal cabinets until he finally found our file.  It was complete with notes he had taken during our pre-marital counseling sessions, as well as our original vows that we had recited on our wedding day.  As he opened the coffee-stained folder, a 4×6 wedding picture fell out.  My husband picked it up and studied it for a moment, before handing it back.

I studied him and wondered what he was thinking.

Our counselor had us read our old vows.  They were pretty traditional, but cut straight to the point.   My heart briefly sank when my eyes scanned the “forsaking all others and remaining true as long as we both shall live” section.  It seemed null and void at that point.  I again wondered what my husband was thinking.  I decided to just be glad that he was there, participating.

Our counselor then gave us a few suggestions on re-writing our new vows.  This time, we’d write them ourselves, but could use phrases such as, “With Jesus as my guide,” and “By the grace of God.”

“Why not throw in a few ‘Hail Marys’ and ‘Hare Krishnas’, as well?” I joked.

We all laughed, and left our counseling session that day, feeling somewhat peaceful.

I quickly wrote out my new vows.  Part of them felt generic, but I wanted to get the point across that I supported my man, and wanted to trust him.  And, above all else, I loved him.

By the grace of God I take you as my husband.

I offer myself only as I am.

With Jesus as my guide, I promise to be “your best”, your wife.  I promise to be faithful and true to you in the good times, and especially in the most trying times.  Wherever God may lead us, I know that with His help and our commitment to one another, we can be “bigger than life.”

I promise to care for you and provide an encouraging, supportive, forgiving and loving home as we continue to rebuild our marriage and become one.

By God’s grace and mercy, I promise to trust you as my faithful and only husband, to lift you up, pray for you, encourage you and passionately love you forever.

I promise to stand firm in my faith, knowing that our marriage is and will continue to be God’s amazing plan for our lives.  Without Him, we are nothing.

I love you so much.

A few days later, my husband flew to Portugal – again.  I was about to commence a six-week tour, myself.  We made plans to meet up in Baltimore for Thanksgiving, and I obtained permission for my husband to spend a week on the road with me.  Our goal was to re-build our marriage, and, at the same time, our careers.

My husband’s plane took off on a Wednesday morning, early.  When I finally awoke, I found his vows sitting on the kitchen table.

He called me his wife.  His only.He told me he loved me more than words could ever express.  He loved me with everything in him. He acknowledged that he failed daily, but even his worst failings didn’t change the fact that and that his heart was now — and always would be — mine.

He wanted to be “big” for me; to make a place where my talent could shine.  He said he had never known someone with a greater talent, or bigger heart than mine.  And he wanted to mirror back all the love that I had shown him.

What struck me most in his letter was that he referred to me as an inspiration. He promised to become an inspiration to me.

All by the grace of God.