Mundane Vessel

 

Do you ever feel like you are caught up in a cycle of living life through mundane moments?  Do you wonder how other people manage to live their lives in an almost constant state of wonder and awe, with incredible depths of holiness?  Over the last months, we have settled into a sometimes predictable pattern of work, school, family time, spouse time, sleep, church on the weekends, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that “steady is sexy”, but I yearn in my heart for the depth of closeness that comes from truly abiding in the presence of my Maker.  He didn’t call me to be another average “susie-homemaker”; He called me to leave a legacy of faith, kindness, love, and selflessness.

As I have been preparing for the next season of life, learning and leadership; I have immersed myself in study and listening.  I have studied politics, historical figures, Biblical figures, the wisdom of leadership, the fashion of leaders, the food of fit people, the needs of those around me, the frustrations of those who feel un-heard, and the sermons of those much wiser and more eloquent than myself. I was voracious in my study, feeling soul-parched as I consumed wisdom to satisfy my “thirst”.

It has often felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. It’s worked, but it hasn’t resonated that I am fully living my life the way that I was designed to live it. I have often felt the pressure to act a certain way in a certain situation, to look a certain way at certain times; and I fully understand the importance of honoring others with a respectful appearance and decorum; but I am not like every other person in the world, North America, and especially within the West Michigan culture. I AM ME.

God has specifically allowed every single moment of my life to shape me for this moment, and the next. Who am I to limit Him by trying to be someone that He didn’t create me to be?  It’s a form of using His name in vain. Think about it.  He created a specific purpose for me, as I am; to fulfill. By me changing things to be “more acceptable” or more “palatable”, then I am really saying that I don’t trust him fully to use me as I am.

This morning, I just longed for a deep connection with my Maker.  I sat in my window seat with my Bible, and just absorbed the quiet; asking Him to silence my preconceived ideas, to silence the distractions of the enemy through Jesus Christ, and simply to speak.  I sat in silence, thinking about God’s kindness and goodness to me. I opened my Bible to Psalm 81.

There’s a part in it that mentions the “feast of the new moon”, and I wanted to know more about it so I searched the term, the history, and the origin.  I learned that it was designed to be a monthly re-focus and dedication for the Hebrew people. It was a time of renewal; but it was held as something deeper than that. It was believed that the Hebrew people were actually “making the new moon holy”. Below is an excerpt that explains it:

Do you want to understand this? Take a lesson from the serving vessels in the Holy Sanctuary. Moses sanctified the tabernacle. Who sanctified all the tabernacle’s vessels? You might think that Moses did. But actually, what happened was that a High Priest would bring a simple mundane cup or other vessel, and put something holy in it, and the cup would automatically be holy. It worked the same was as when Moses sprinkled sacrificial blood on the altar and it became holy; or when he poured a wine libation, or performed any aspect of the Holy Temple service with any mundane vessel, and it thereby became holy. -Midrash Shmos Rabbah 15:24 [emphasis mine]

 Leviticus 20:7-8 is below:

“Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy.

~~~~~~~~~

Do you see it, beloved?  Do you understand?

The Hebrew people were called away from their past traditions and routines, to intentionally and deliberately focus on the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night.  Their daily life consisted of traveling, following, walking, eating, setting up camp, and resting…with worship at the tabernacle on the Sabbath.

How mundane is that?

Yet, the act of faith in following is the process for God to fill our mundane lives with His  Holiness!

For example, if we consider ourselves to be the “mundane vessels”, then what or who is the “Holy” inside of us?

The Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit makes us holy!  As we turn our backs to past patterns and traditions, to the former ways of life; we face God the Father. As we seek to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; following Christ’s example, the Holy Spirit within us is the holiness!

Think of a plant! If you place it on a plate, without dirt, it will eventually die because it needs sustenance for its roots, light, and water. We are like the plant in our spiritual growth!  We need to be rooted in studying God’s word (Jesus) and in focusing on the light of God the Father’s love, dependent on the Holy Spirit inside of us! The plant can’t just be moved into a greenhouse or a garden and hope to grow; it also needs the life within for it to grow and flourish!

We, the mundane vessels, as we go about our days; are filled with holiness through the Holy Spirit. By Christ’s grace, we are holy just as our Father is Holy. So focus in amazement and awe of Him in His Holiness, goodness and love; as you celebrate the beauty of the one who chooses us as we are…mundane vessels, being filled with his Holiness!

mundane vessels

“Mundane Vessel” (c)Gracie K. Harold 2017

Thankful Thursday – Provision

   Struggle and pressure do not equal failure. Tight finances, budget battles and overdue bills do not equate failure, either. There are times when things just don’t work out, health fails, or the crops don’t yield, or someone else’s decisions limit your financial freedom.
    There are days spent pleading with God for just one person to help you out with ten dollars worth of gas. There are moments when you press for grace in your prayers, utilizing all your energy, and hope for the kind benevolence of a stranger as you eke out all the change you own onto the counter of the gas station. There are moments of watching person after person count their money, look guiltily at you, and then clutch their wallet tighter as they walk away.
   There are moments of telling people gently but honestly that you have no gas money for the week, and have no idea how your spouse will get to work, only to be dismissed with “I will pray for you”.
    Faith [even if exhibited through prayer] without works is dead. James 2:26b
   The beginning of that verse states, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” 
    After months of praying and telling people we needed help with gas money, this past week brought an old friend from many miles away. She asked how to pray for us, and I told her. She didn’t hesitate to give me her last twelve dollars, so we could have gas and buy lunch for the kids.
    The food ran out, and I called a community organization who had been assisting us with paying some of our bills as we seek to find stability….and we wrestle through health challenges.
    Before I left, I wrote out a prayer in faith, thanking God for how he would provide us with
1. A home to own
2. Financial security
3. Food
4. Gas money
5. Protection for our family
6. A job for me
7. Provision for our bills
8. Money to buy the medicine we need
9. Abundant life living in full deliverance
10. Hearts that seek God first, and after loving God, that we love
others
        The community place was amazing. They gave me seven pair of pants for the kids, they are going to help me with job hunting and placement, they are going to help us with financial counseling and credit help so we can pursue home ownership, and they gave us this:

image

And this…

image

Today, I am so thankful for their “works”, even if they are not a “faith based” organization.
     A friend of mine heard this story and saw the pictures, and she gave me money to apply for the licensing required in the job I am pursuing.  We put gas in the tank with it until this Friday when are paid again. James has been blessed with extra hours, so hopefully we can start to make steps closer to full freedom.
    Meanwhile, I am thankful for a good, loving God who will and does provide for his children…sometimes through those we call “within faith”, and sometimes through the “works” of other agencies.
     I am thankful that despite the times when my faith has had no works, He remains faithful…and He continues to work.
    May you go forth today and live a life where your faith and works intertwine in a masterpiece of worship.

Quick Sale

My last post, “Power-less”  explained our recent adventure in life without power.

After two days of hearing no word from the organization we had contacted for help, we listed our second car for sale on a website.

Within an HOUR, we had a phone call.

James and I decided the minimum amount we would take as we prayed fervently for things to go smoothly with the test drive.

We were offered three hundred dollars more than our lowest preference, and two hundred dollars more than we had bought the car for in the first place.

One Hour Sale (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

One Hour Sale (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Sometimes, when you take steps of faith and obedience, things get worse before they get better.

Moses and the people had to live through the ten plagues before being allowed to leave.  Even then, God led them into an apparent Dead End.

Only when all their resources were exhausted did He do the un-thinkable and part an entire SEA for them to walk through…on dry ground.

Today, if your situation looks impossible, keep the faith….God sees you.  He is the God of the One Hour Car Sale, and He will be your God of overcoming the Impossible!

“So, then, just as you received Christ Jesus as LORD, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2:6-7

Faith (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Faith (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Power-less

Leaps of faith are not guarantees that there will be a perfect landing.

James and I know in our marrow that College for him is the right thing.  We have full confidence that it is the right time, and even that he is attending the right place.

There are some people who disagree.

That’s fine, it’s their choice…just as this choice is ours.

All this to say that we have wrestled through some health issues in the last few months.  Despite our best efforts and even requests for help, our power went off.

I rushed to the local power company, armed with medical documents, and the last $40.00 we had.

This was on a Wednesday, and James’ last check was coming in on Friday.

The woman at the power company would not even LOOK at my medical documents, pull up the medical sheet that has been on file for 9 years, or even accept partial payment.  She refused to let me speak with a supervisor, telling me instead that she had the final say in the matter.

So, we made the most of it.

We lit candles.

We put batteries in the lanterns.

We rushed our frozen food to a family members’ freezer, and loaded the cooler with ice.

We grilled our suppers, and learned to shop for food on the day that we needed it.

We sat with the kids by lantern light and candlelight every night, telling stories or playing card games.

After they were in bed with flashlights and a book, James and I lit candles and simply enjoyed being together.

One night (we were powerless for 6 days), I asked James what the best part of his week was.

“Right now, holding you and simply talking in the candlelight.”

Of course I was choked up.

Later, as I finished my nighttime routine, I prayed over what he had said.

It was like Jesus said to me, “Gracie, every morning before you wake up, I light a candle for you.  I sit there all day and simply wait for you to stop being so busy.  I long for you to be still with me.”

Power-less (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Power-less (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“Be still and know that I AM GOD” Psalm 46:10

Fashion Woes and Womanhood

 Look 03

***Images from torrid.com****

I really like fashion.  A lot.  Growing up, I loved following the latest trends.  I’ve decided that having a hysterectomy is not going to mean that I lose my sense of fashion.  This is hard.  Quite frankly, it kind of sucks.  I gained 15 pounds in 10 days from “water retention and inflammation”.  (Great! Now my ‘moldy old cake’ is waterlogged…confused? Read my former post for an explanation).

I probably should have explained sooner that I am under the influence of a lot of Benadryl® due to hives…which we assume are from the antibiotics (round 4 in two weeks), and I may be a bit abrupt, ADD, lacking a filter, etc.

Anyways, yesterday James took me for a leisurely stroll through the area mall so that we could get ideas of what I can wear after surgery.  I know that I will be bloated even more than now, and I will be sedated and sleepy; but I still want to at least look like I tried to look presentable.  I unashamedly admit today that I have quite a bit of pride about this.

When I started to feel good about my body again after the auto accident, I transitioned into clothes that were more form-fitting.  In his typical gentle way, James challenged me to also mix in some “baggier, boxy” clothes; never once in a tyrannical way but in a friendly, “have you considered trying this?” way.

I like it.  The shirts are comfy, yet they don’t hang on me like a shapeless tent.

This whole experience has been so humbling.

I am so bloated…only over my uterus, so I look about 3-4 months pregnant.  But I’m not.

We walked into a new, hip, store for larger sizes, “Torrid”.  (***All images are from their website, torrid.com, except my “Lightplay 5″***)

TORRID.COM - Chevron Print Wide Leg Soft Pant  TORRID.COM - Off-The-Shoulder TeeTORRID.COM - Double Layer Hi-Lo Swing TopTORRID.COM - Military Jacket

The sales associate was so genuinely helpful and kind.  She showed me the Fall Fashion Trends, including the highwaisted,  harem pants, baggy graphic tanks, flowing swing sweaters, and of course; scarves.  She pointed out some adorable, loose knit dresses which would effectively help cover my swelling.

I almost cried in the store.  Her help was so heartfelt and genuine and her thoughtfulness spoke volumes.

James reminded me (for maybe the 100th time) that he.loves.me.  It doesn’t depend on my swollen abdomen, or flat abdomen, or anything else.

He loves me because I am me.

I’m trying to take ownership of the reality that who I am doesn’t change when the way that I look changes.

So, today, world, I want to say that I am Gracie K. Harold.  I have a swollen belly, but I am not pregnant…even though I may look like I am.  I will do my best to rest and recover before and after surgery.  I have a beautiful gift to take care of…my body.  It’s lumpy and swollen right now, but it’s protecting and cushioning my soul and my heart.  My heart is a rather tender thing in this moment…so please be kind and see me as I am.

I am a child of my Abba.  I am loved.  I am a wife. I have a mother heart.  I am a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend.  I love passionately, and protect my loved ones fiercely, but with mercy.

World, please be gentle with me.

Women, my sisters…please.  See past my size. See my heart.  I will do the same. 

Love,

Gracie

PS, Feel free to see more of my ideas on my “Pinterest” board, “Hysterectomy Fashion and tips”.  If you would like to join my board, email your email address  or Pinterest username to gracie.k.harold@gmail.com and I’ll invite you to join! (Happy pinning!)

Unexpected Cross Road

The crossroad.  Where two different paths intersect.  Life and grief.  Death and life.  Fear and courage.  Faith and doubt.  Questions and answers.

Pain and tenderness.  Sorrow and beauty.  Loss and worship…not of what is gone, but in wholehearted, pain-engulfed dependency on the ONE who took my place and died…that I may live.

 B. Taylor once said, “The most beautiful sunsets are the ones with the clouds.”    It takes rain for a rainbow, and sometimes, clouds need to envelop us before we see the colors reflected in them.  Sometimes, the deepest beauty is seen in the most painful moments.  Seek until you find it.

Unexpected Cross Road (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Unexpected Cross Road (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Fixated

Fixated (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Fixated (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Guess what’s in this photo!  What do you think it is?

Seriously, indulge me.  =)

I discovered this image a while back when I was zooming in on a photograph that I had taken.  I remembered a workshop that I attended one year during the Diversity Seminar while at Taylor.  We watched a video clip and had to guess what was happening.  We were all surprised when the answer was revealed, as it demonstrated that our assumptions were not correct.

Grief can reemphasize our existing assumptions.  It can fixate us on our loss, on our own pain, and eventually cause us to push away the ones that we love.

It’s not a purposeful isolation, but it happens.

This week was hard.  Terribly hard.  I was processing so much, so many things.  I retreated into myself to sort things out.  I caught myself, though, only having “good moments” with the kids when James was home after work.  Granted, I was tired, and ill, and trying to figure things out…but I inadvertently closed down emotionally.

I snapped out of it yesterday, when God mercifully reminded me that they.are.still.here.  I am NOT minimizing my losses or my grief.  I am simply saying that death is an unfortunate part of life.  It sucks, it hurts to say goodbye, it hurts to be apart, but it happens.

If I allow myself to only think about what I’ve lost, or who I’ve said goodbye to; eventually I become fixated on what I’ve lost and I miss what I have right here in front of me.  I have people in my life who need my love.  I can be physically and mentally present here today for the people around me, whether or not they originated in my womb.

Grieving is a journey.  It takes time.  You have permission to grieve.  You also have permission to honor your loved ones by living life.  See the ones who are still here.  They love you, and are here to join you on the journey.  You are surrounded and engulfed by a bigger support than you realize.  Open your eyes and see the big picture.

Take a deep breath, pray for courage, and then step out in faith.

He’s already there.

Contact me if you would like, but know that I am praying today that your grief journey finds you enveloped by love, support, acceptance, and healing.

Love,

Gracie

P.S. Here’s the  Fixated Answer

“True confidence comes from realizing the view.”
– Tulku Urgyen

Wordless Wednesday

 

sorrows collected in a PDF file.

Feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who needs the reminder.

Love,

Gracie

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8 (NLT)  Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”        Psalm 56:8 (NLT) Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

 

 

Lilacs & Shackles, sneak peek

2014-05-19 11.26.04

Lilacs & Shackles (c)GracieKHarold2014

“Lilacs & Shackles”, excerpted from “Across the Street From Normal” by Gracie K. Harold, (c) 2014, used by permission.

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: drug recovery, addiction, abuse, miscarriage, grief, acceptance, motherhood

It started with the lilacs.  It was barely spring when my Daddy and my three children gave me a lilac bouquet in honor of Mother’s Day.  Instinctively, I rummaged for a vase in my cupboard, filled it with water and placed the flowers on my table.

That night, after my kids were in bed, I realized that my mom had given me the vase as a wedding present.  The last time that lilacs were in that vase was on my wedding day many years earlier.  My bouquet had been lilacs and a single white rose (in honor of the daughter I had miscarried).

My dad and step-mom planted their bushes after I was married.  The previous spring brought a few blooms, but this spring had the bushes “heavy-laden” with flowers.

So, there I sat.  I had an immense, fragrant “wedding bouquet” in my “wedding vase”.

I had grieved in the three and a half years since we left; but now I grieved the fact that it had never been a “living” marriage.  The bottom line was that it was DOA and I spent five years desperately trying to revive it.  Before our wedding, I knew that my ex-husband had been through drug recovery, but his family members and friends assured me that it was all in his past.  He had recently graduated from a Bible College with an Associate’s Degree in Theology, and it seemed like he and I would have a great partnership working with inner-city kids and their families.  I was naïve and deceived.

I found out on my honeymoon (2,000 miles away from home) that I had indeed married an addict.  When I confronted him about the substances, he told me that he hated me and never should have married me.

I was humiliated, devastated, and ashamed.  I felt like such a fool.  I had given up the jobs that I loved for him.  I had given up some of my friends, and I had given up my neighborhood, too.  I slipped into denial.  I desperately thought that if I could just love him better, I wouldn’t be a failure at marriage.

Being the skilled charmer/deceiver that he is, he proceeded to “spoil” me and lavish gifts on me for the rest of the honeymoon; all the while promising that he would change and things would get better once we were home.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, I woke up at 3:00 in the morning.  The back door was swinging in the breeze, and he was gone.  No note, no explanation, nothing.  I called his cell phone, and he yelled at me.  He was at a party with his friends.

Later that month, I was vacuuming the house and rearranging the furniture when I discovered a plate and a straw under our couch.  He had gone through $3,000 of drugs in a month.  (I eventually found out that his mother had been meeting him to give him money behind my back).

I tried to talk to one of the pastors who had officiated at our wedding.  The pastor and his wife blamed me and told my ex-husband that he never should have married me!  They told me that I needed to “submit” more under his “Headship as the leader of the Household”, and then he wouldn’t be so stressed out.  They accused me of “causing his addiction by not being completely submitted” as a wife.

I spun into deeper denial and guilt, doing everything I could think of to please him.  It was never enough.

Around the Christmas holiday season, he decided to sell drugs.  I went ballistic.  I told him that there was no way that I would have that in my house.

I called another pastor from our wedding, and that pastor warned my ex-husband that I would get him arrested if he didn’t keep me under control.  Then, I called a Pastor friend of mine for advice.  He said, “Gracie, is he beating you or throwing you around?”  I answered, “No.”  The pastor literally said, “Then stop being so bitchy and just love your husband”.

So I did, after being absolutely positive that drugs would not be sold.

Right around the same time, we discovered mold in our rental house.  To me, it was the perfect illustration.  From the outside, the house was an adorable little bungalow.  Inside, it was filled with toxins.  The entire time that my ex-husband was using drugs, we went to church.  He played guitar and helped lead worship.  I kept thinking that his addiction was spreading out of control the same way that the mold was rapidly taking over parts of the house.

We ended up moving out of the rental due to health reasons.  While in our temporary housing one night, my ex went out to “talk with a friend”.  I had a horrible feeling about it before he left, and begged him not to go.  He insisted on leaving, and ended up having an altercation with the man; who jammed a gun into his chest.  Miraculously, my ex was able to run out of the house and call the police.  We found out afterwards that the man had pulled the trigger on his gun as my ex ran away; but it wouldn’t fire.  The situation resulted in a stand-off with police, until the man surrendered.

About a week later, we discovered that I was pregnant with our first child.

I thought that if we left our state and were connected with new friends and a new church, then my ex-husband would be able to break free of his addictions.  I was wrong.  I misjudged and underestimated the determination of an addict.  I later learned that he could walk through an unfamiliar crowded street and pick up his drug of choice within 20 minutes.

My Dr. told me that I had a high-risk pregnancy, and I knew I needed my family.  Mercifully, my ex finally relented and we returned home months later.  My hope returned one night when he dumped out all of his substances and said that he was ready to change.  However, throughout the pregnancy, life was an emotional roller coaster.

One minute he would be talking sweetly to my rapidly-growing belly; and the next he would be accusing me of carrying someone else’s baby.  I never knew how long the “good” would last.

We became involved with a good church.  We had a great network of other young married couples; and I honestly believed that maybe we could finally be “normal”.  It was only an illusion.  We joined a small group.  I maintained the façade for a while, but it was only a matter of time before reality reared its ugly head.  He had a way of humiliating people with subtle comments and snide remarks.  Little by little, the truth about his temper and obsession with control began to show.

I was about 27 weeks along in my pregnancy when I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor.  My contractions were so strong that the NICU specialist came into my room to explain everything that would be done to save my baby.  Because I had previously lost my daughter through a miscarriage, I was terrified of losing this baby, too.  I’ll never forget the isolated feeling that night after my ex fell asleep.  I felt so alone, abandoned and desolate.

I began to cry and beg God to heal my baby and my body.  And then, I prayed and dedicated my baby to God.  I surrendered.  I knew that my child was a part of God’s plan long before conception.  I yielded my child…for as long as God decided to bless me with my baby.  Suddenly, peace washed over me.  I knew that no matter what, God would hold me; and I was not alone.  I was in the hospital for days, and then amazingly, I was released.

I ended up on bed rest for 10 weeks. People from church were very kind to us.  They brought us meals, did our laundry, and prayed for us.  We entered into a relatively calm phase.

However, after I was cleared from bed rest, I started having contractions one evening.  They were six minutes apart.   My ex-husband screamed at me that it was not time to have the baby.  He was not ready for this.  He shrieked that I needed to knock it off, and he refused to let me go to the hospital.  My contractions stopped after a while.  This happened at least two more times over the next few weeks.

I was scheduled to be induced on an upcoming holiday.  The Sunday before, I thought my water broke.  After the initial exam, the Resident told me that they had an extra bed open; and I could be induced the next morning.   My ex-husband looked at her and said, “No thank you.  She’s scheduled to be induced on the holiday.  This baby is being born the day after.”

Thankfully, the wise woman said, “I’ll leave you two alone for a moment.  Grace, remember that you’re two weeks past your due date.  You’re already here, and you’re welcome to stay.”

I knew I was “safe” at the hospital, I knew that he wouldn’t dream of yelling at me or trying to force me to leave.  I put my foot down.  I told him we were staying.  He was very angry, but for once, powerless.

My son was born and his name was deliberately chosen to remind me that “Yahweh is the God who provides!”   What a gift his life has been to me!  He has indeed been a constant reminder that Yahweh does provide for all of our needs!

Eventually, we switched to a church that was in our new neighborhood.  I knew a lot of people there through the school that I had attended, and I finally felt like my ex-husband was finding his niche as well.  He had given up substances in order to be a good father.  He had friends who were men of faith.

The following June, we dedicated our son, renewed our vows, and my ex-husband baptized me.  We helped out with the kids program that summer.  We took a mission trip to New York in August.  That’s where things started to unravel.

He had spent a year in New York at a drug recovery center.  When we went back to visit, he slipped back into the same old habits.  He flirted with other women right in front of me.  He demanded that he be allowed to play guitar for worship.  He insisted that he only do certain volunteer jobs at the ministry place.  He swore at me, yelled at me, and then turned around to hold the door open for me if other people were nearby.

One afternoon, we were helping out with a project on a covered basketball court.  I had our son, David, in his stroller.  The wind picked up, and it started raining so hard that the only dry place was at center court.  Suddenly, we saw treetops getting snapped off about a half mile away.  I grabbed my son out of the stroller, and another worker yelled, “Quick!  Run to the retaining wall and hunker down!”  I did.  My ex-husband crouched down a few feet away from me.  The other man grabbed him and yelled, “Cover your wife!  I’ll cover you!”  As the wind roared above us like a train, and trees were snapped in two; I began to cry at the realization that my ex was only concerned about himself.  If the other man had not been with us, I would have been the only one trying to protect our son.  No one was injured, thank God; and we spent a long afternoon and evening helping with the clean-up effort.

When it was time to leave New York, I was told that our trip money had been spent, so we could no longer afford a hotel like I had originally planned.  We had to drive straight through the night from New York to Michigan.  When we pulled into our driveway, we discovered that my ex had left the back door unlocked for the entire ten days that we were gone.  Miraculously, nothing had been touched.  I remembered how devastated I was at his lack of desire to keep us and our home safe from harm.

The dampness on my cheeks startled me back to reality as I began to cry over the recollections of my past marriage. The smell of lilacs wafted over to me again, and I realized that all of these horrific memories were condensed to the first 18 months of my marriage!  I endured that much hell in only 18 months?!  I grieved the death of my expectations.  I grieved and mourned and wailed for the death of my dreams.   I became indignant and angry over the good that I had not been given.

I have wrestled throughout my life with allowing my sadness to be expressed.  I constantly struggle with feeling inferior if I start to cry.  Over the years, I would literally assign time to cry…at night when my children were asleep; or while in the shower, or while running (in the rain).  This time, I completely surrendered to my sorrow.  I simply let it run its course.

I was surprised by how cleansed I felt afterward.  I pulled myself up from the crumpled heap that I had become; and unflinchingly buried my face in the lilac bouquet, breathing in the heady deliciousness.  I remembered something that my counselor friend had said about flashbacks.  He had told me once that   “the worst thing a flashback can do is scare you”.  The truth of his statement resonated with me in this moment as I took a quivering deep breath.

I exhaled slowly and evenly, visualizing all of my pain from the rejection of my first marriage.  I spoke aloud in a surprisingly firm voice, and said, “The worst thing that my former marriage can do is sadden me.  It has no power over me anymore.  I am loved by God, I am carried by Him and I can do this”.  I recalled a quote from L.M. Montgomery in her book, “A Tangled Web”.  The story outlines one of the heroines being jilted by her fiancée’ until he eventually finds himself jilted; at which point he comes back to beg her forgiveness in order to avoid being alone.  The heroine’s thoughts after she sends him away are as follows:

“To come back so soon – so shamelessly.  Hadn’t he any depth? Couldn’t he care really for anybody? But he had come—and his coming had set her free from phantom fetters.”

I repeated the phrase “phantom fetters” out loud.  The very shackles that I was so afraid of, the ones that I feared would limit me and hold me back; were merely “phantom fetters”.  They weren’t shackles at all.  I was only bound by my resistance to live my new life freely.  I held the power to walk forth unafraid.  What I thought were my shackles were as a hologram, a shadow of reality.

In that moment, I resolved to embrace life; not to run from it in fear.

I remembered sleeping in my childhood room on summer nights; with the intoxicating smell of lilacs wafting through the screened windows until my bedroom was saturated with the fragrance.

Why should he be allowed to steal the fragrance of my favorite flowers?  He had already stolen so much.  I was no longer shackled to him.

I picked up the vase, and brought it down to my bedside table.  As the aroma of freshly picked lilacs drifted around me, I peacefully gave myself over to a dream-filled sleep.

You can purchase “Across the Street From Normal” for this and other chapters of our life!

Wordless Wednesday – July 16

Rugged Hope (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Rugged Hope (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Hole or Heart? (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Hole or Heart? (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Beautiful Scars (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Beautiful Scars (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightplay overshadows the Darkness. (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightplay overshadows the Darkness. (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Rest and Tranquility (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Rest and Tranquility (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014