Something New

You know how sometimes a verse just sticks in your brain and you can’t get it out, and you realize that it is then the Lord is speaking to you through that verse, even though it was a different time, a different people, spoken thousands of years ago?

For me, that started happening quite frequently about 2 1/2 years ago in a deeper way than I have ever known. The harder thing was that I couldn’t hold onto them well, or believe that they could be true…. let alone that I think we Christians are often accused of “cherry picking” verses we like and taking them way out of context, and I didn’t want to be doing that just because I liked the verse.

No, this one I came across in normal reading, I didn’t go looking for and I didn’t find in a devotional to try and hold onto. I was in a time in life where everything I knew had just crumbled, and I was trying to make sense of it all as I figured out a new way to be. It was into this place in time I stumbled across the following (well known) verse:

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:18-19.

Now, most of the time I have heard this verse used to explain how Isaiah was speaking to the people of Israel of the messiah to come, that is, as a pre-cursor to Christ. I’m not saying that isn’t the case in the bigger picture. Sure, it could have had two meanings. Yet to the Israelites at the time under Babylonian rule, this was actually spoken about what God was doing in their present time. The new thing God was doing then was preparing to bring Cyrus, the Persian king, to take over Babylon and their oppressive way of ruling, and to bring Israel home (see. Isaiah 45:1 and 13.. it happened in 539BC). So the new thing that Isaiah was speaking about was actually deliverance … just deliverance in a very real and tangible way.

I just kept coming back to this verse. What if I didn’t want new? What if I wanted what was? I couldn’t change things, and I knew I had to keep moving forward to find my “new normal”, and so I did. I dove into things I loved to do – I hiked mountains, I went on long trail rides, and I loved on people. I read, I studied, I pressed into God when it was hard, and I hung onto things I could scarcely believe. (Lest you think it was all roses….yes I went to counseling, and yes I got angry and had panic attacks and cried and grieved and journaled a TON.)

I did what I knew would bring me back to being whole: I reestablished my identity as a child of God alone, and I chose to be content no matter what my new normal was going to be. I couldn’t see what “new thing” God was doing yet, so holding onto the verse for me was more of a puzzling thing.

I know, Lord, I know you are doing something new in my life right now. I just don’t get it yet. I guess you will show me when I am ready.

Enter Trung… the man to whom I am now engaged.

(Love the slippers, don’t you? Just admit it)

It has been a year and a half since we first started talking. I know.. much of what has been going on since we started dating has not made it to my blog, and that is on purpose. I have been protective of this entire journey except for a few select folks, mainly because I’m not the type to share some huge monumental personal things, but also because I wanted to honor him in this process, as he is a pretty personal type of guy (he’s an 5 on the enneagram).

Yet even when he came into the picture, I still had a hard time wrapping my head around this “new thing” God was doing… for me AND for him. Sometimes I still struggle to wrap my head around the depth of what it has become, and as I look out at the wedding being planned for this August, I realize I no longer have any twinge of sadness when I see folks posting about their anniversaries of many years.

I am finally – finally! Leaning into the new thing God is doing, and I cannot wait to start life with this amazing guy God has given me. August can’t come soon enough. We may be streaming it on Facebook if no one can come, but we are getting married!

Ok now back to the purpose of this blog…I really didn’t want this post to be just about me. I know I am certainly not the only one who has had to find a new normal at some point in their lives. Heck, its all everyone is talking about now with all the quarantines across our country and the world.

Finding a new normal isn’t new though.

It seems to be the way of humanity whenever big things happen, have you noticed that?

—Scripturally – Israel wanted ‘what was’ after God delivered them from slavery. Somehow things seemed better back in Egypt. After return from Babylonian captivity, Israel wanted ‘what was’ and tried to figure out how to become a nation again. When they started rebuilding the temple, many wept who had been alive and had seen the prior temple built by Solomon.

— In our current day, things have shifted and changed after every war. After 9/11. After the first school shooting. After the internet became available for everyone, after cell phones became a necessity. Some generations long for the decades when things seemed “better” – but were they really? Yes we still deal with racism in our country. Yes we still hurt each other, we fail to take care of and defend those that need it, but at least discussions are on the table. It’s out in the open. Everything doesn’t have to be hidden now that was in the past in our country, and its time for healing. I’d like to think having to suffer together as the human race makes us realize our mortality and how much we need each other, no matter our race, ethnicity, religious background (or none), sexuality, education or economic status.

Moving forward, whether personally or as a society doesn’t mean we automatically stop longing for what was. It’s like we get stuck, where the past can seem to have been “better” than the present. Do we realize in saying that we overlook the flaws of what was? Massive flaws that were there before and just could never be fixed, or maybe could never be seen.

That, my friends, is the challenge of the times in which we are living. Sure, we are all learning a “new normal”.. and please hear me: I am NOT SAYING that God is the source of this virus to teach us something new. I’m just asking, are we up to the challenge of LEARNING in the midst of it?

Although this wasn’t intended to be a Covid survival post, I do think it can be a time for us to look honestly at what we are learning in this time… about being alone, about being with “stuck” with family, about helping and serving others… about how much money we spent on ourselves or on things that we really do not need, about how we handle finances, where we find our peace – and make some purposeful changes about how we do life, when things get “back to normal”.

What are you learning you will not let go of when the quarantine is over?

In with the new?

As believers, we might easily quote verses and pictures proclaiming “Beauty for Ashes”, holding to the image that God can bring anything good out of something hard. Or, we find encouragement in a song like “God’s not done with you” – clinging to the fact that our unfinished stories can still hold purpose and promise in the years ahead.

I honestly believe this is true, yet the reality is that until you have had this truth tested, it only feel so real to you. It’s not “yours” – until you walk it, own it, and come out the other side. Then… its no longer just a cute little picture. Its a deep truth, burned into your life, built into your theology.

I will share this as a precursor to the post: I look back, and have to admit there was a day where I once felt like a piece of my heart died with my marriage, and I wondered if it would ever return. I trusted God would bring me back to life. I thought for sure all of my heart would be resurrected…. Then I would hit a day every now and then and wonder if I could ever experience delight and joy in a relationship like I had before. It was on a day where those feelings were right on the surface that I wrote this.

I share this just as a testimony to how much the Lord heals our memories, how much he can shift things for us that need to be shifted, even when we seem stuck. Because in reading this over again – I guess I was stuck. I hope it will be an encouragement for some of you that may be stuck in your own way.

P.S. In case you’re wondering.. Joy has returned and I am floored at quite a number of things right now 🙂

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Today I ran for the first time in a while. Spring finally in full display, from the trees to the flowers blooming, to the scents that mark a holiday weekend floating in the air (everyone was grilling out for Memorial Day cookouts). It was beautiful. It reminded me of when life was simple, and all I cared about was life and loving Jesus more and more. Sometimes I wish I could go back – back before the scars, before the hurt of life marred the way I see the world. Before I had to start over all again.

I keep thinking of a verse the Lord gave me a while back:

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing; Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” Says the Lord (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)

It’s hard for us as people, not to look back, isn’t it? Back to before when we were younger, or when we were single or married, or before we lost our job, our loved one, our whatever we built our life around before it got so complex. Before we gave into the addiction, before our body started breaking down, before we left the life we had and moved across the country. Before we started asking questions or …. before whatever.

You know we’re not alone in thinking that way, right?

The Israelites did the same thing. Over and over, when God was bringing them to freedom in the wilderness, they longed for the things of Egypt. They longed for when they had meat in abundance and luxuries, obviously forgetting their great slavery. They forgot that the idols they worshipped were powerless, that the gods they served were but figments of their imagination.

I’m not saying things in our past were idols necessarily. After years of fearing anything I enjoyed was an idol, I have set down that way of thinking, and I’m not about to take it back up again. Yet what is it about looking back and longing for things that were?

Sure, sometimes its because we are afraid of change, but that’s not always it.

More often, I can’t help but wonder if its because its what we know, and the new seems unfamiliar and strange. There is no map, there isn’t a pocket guidebook for what’s next or what to do when we get there.

Later in this same passage in Isaiah, the Lord reminds them that the foundations of Jerusalem will be rebuilt. He will move on their behalf, even though they don’t remember him

Isaiah 45:2-3 (NIV)

“I will go before you

and will level the mountains;

I will break down gates of bronze

and cut through bars of iron.

I will give you hidden treasures,

riches stored in secret places,

so that you may know that I am the Lord,

the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Poetic. Mysterious. Something to make them wonder. He never tells them what the “hidden treasures” will look like, or how He will move, but he says He will.

Even though they still forget him.

Maybe we are more like them than we realize, unable to see or even perceive what He is up to in our years to come. Maybe we wonder, how could what is to come ever be better than what was?

Oh… but if we remember the heart of our God… He is a God that always keeps His promises. His love is true, it is faithful and never gives up. It was offered to us over a sacred meal with a cup of wine, a new promise.

We question how the new could ever be better….yet if we are able to dwell in the mystery that is the Lord, and swim in the love that He offers us, somehow I think we will find it that the new – however different – is still just as full of joy and delight in ways we could never imagine.

Are you willing to keep pressing into the One who loves you, to let Him do this for you? I hope so my friend….I am praying for courage for you for the journey forward!

The big reveal…

So… I know in a few of my other blogs I have mentioned I have a guy.

Those of you who know me have probably wondered when I was going to talk more about him. Those of you who don’t know me personally can skip this blog if you want, or you can keep reading for the fun of it. I will leave it up to you.

I figured it’s time to write a bit about this mysterious person to whom I’ve referred. I’ve been hesitant for a few reasons. One being that my ex (Jon) reads my blog (at least I think he still does), and I didn’t want any of this to be hard for him to read. We’re in a good place though, and I know he’s happy for me, so I assume he won’t mind. The other reason is that the guy I’m dating is a pretty personal guy and he keeps quiet about a lot of things, and so I want to honor him in not revealing too much too soon. We’re just dating….. but after nearly 7 months its kind of hard not to be honest that I’m learning a ton about myself in this dating process.

I guess first thing I need to get out there is that I was pretty careful about when I started even considering dating. I knew I didn’t want to find someone just to fill the hole that Jon left. I knew I needed to work on my own healing before I ever considered looking, and so I did. It started just trying to see who was out there, around my age, and who had similar interests. NOT EASY! Plus for some reason lots of folks who are in the Springs don’t wear wedding bands and its hard to tell who is single, and I don’t do the bar scene so…..I did what I said I would never do. I signed up for a “Fitness Singles” dating app. I figured it might be a way to meet people who lived near me and were into things I was into.

Let’s just say the dating world has changed a TON, and there is no “warming up” to it. Once you’re out there, you’re out there. It’s weird.

I quickly learned my filter criteria, and had three standard answers:

– you live too far away

– I’m in seminary, and faith is real for me. I expect that of someone I’m going to date

– I was married for 25 years and have a gay ex that I’m still friends with

Most of those tended to drive folks away. NO ONE could hang with those three things… and I am not sure if it was the seminary or the gay ex that freaked guys out more. I was ok with that. I figured if you couldn’t hang with those truths you weren’t worth my time.

Needless to say, I was shocked when Trung didn’t let any of those things stop him. In fact, they started some really good conversations between the two of us. Our first “date” we found that we shared a lot of the same passions: a love for outdoorsy stuff, helping others, mentoring the next generation. Being independent. Faith. It was quite a surprise for me. I could go on and on, about how that week he read literally EVERY blog I had written to get to know me more, or how he’s asked good questions on how to connect with the girls… but this blog isn’t about everything that has gone on.

As I said at the start, dating Trung is teaching me a lot about myself, more than I could ever expect.

For those of you who have been married for a number of years… believe me, its hard to imagine. You go in thinking you know yourself, only to realize the version of you is so molded to the person you were married to that you have to build an entirely new framework with which to see this new person. How easy it is to compare, even when you don’t mean to. I have had to remind myself numerous times that different doesn’t mean it’s not good. Just different. (I’m sure those of you in the dating world now could have taught me a thing or two about this 🙂 )

The cool thing is we are into different outdoorsy stuff, so I’m getting to try new things (white water rafting planned for this summer) and revisit some older things (skiing). It’s FUN! I’m hoping he’ll get out his bike and go on some rides and do some hikes with me too, once the weather is nicer. Plus, he’s Vietnamese and a great cook so I get to try all sorts of new foods. I’ve had fun meeting his friends, and he has met some of mine.

What I think is hardest for me, even though I am such an extrovert, is the reality that I am stepping into a world where he has history, an entire lifetime of friends and relationships, and he is known… and I am not. My world like that isn’t here. He gets to know me, he’s met my family, but he never sees me operate in the world I came from, where I was known and where my gifts and talents (in the church) were being used. It’s made me realize how much I think that a person of faith has to see what I’m capable of, or what my gifts are, before they will appreciate me, as if “just me” isn’t enough (and I’m not saying that to get kudos from anyone, trust me. Just sharing what I’ve processed already).

Talk about a huge recognition.

You see, Trung doesn’t live in the Springs – he’s an hour and a half away from me, up near Boulder. We go to church when we are together, but that’s only every now and then. Besides, I know I am in a learning season spiritually (not just because of Seminary) – and so I’m not doing anything big in church. I’m just being faithful to love the people God puts around me. Which is what we are supposed to do, I know. Needless to say, God has put me in position where I have nothing to show, and therefore I can’t use it to “prove” myself. I had no idea that was still something in me.

It’s been humbling to know that someone is interested in me, and can see Jesus in me even if I’m not “doing” anything in church they can see. Having met Jon in college and much of our life together revolving around serving in ministry together….. this is such a new thing.

It’s me learning that I am who God has made me to be, and I am worth getting to know just for who I am, not because of what I do.

I thought I learned that lesson years ago. Funny how God teaches you those things over… and over… and over again, isn’t it?

I’m not sure I have much of a challenge for you here in this blog, seeing as how this one was a bit more personal. But I’ll leave you with this:

I have found that the faithfulness of God to make us whole has so many more facets that we can ever even begin to imagine. Don’t overlook the role others play in helping you get there… for He can use anyone to remind you of truths you need to hold onto!

Boy Erased: Another side

Boy Erased.

I’m not sure how many of you have gone to see it, or how many of you will. I haven’t yet, but I’m slowly reading through the book. For those of you who haven’t heard or read about it, the book (and movie) is essentially the story of Garrard Conley, a young gay man who went through conversion therapy at the insistence of his religious parents. It dives into the types of things that were taught, the way any non-hetero sexual urges were handled, and the struggle he had knowing he was still gay. After being suicidal, he eventually came to terms with his sexuality while attending college.

First off, I’m glad he’s telling his story. It needs to be told, even if its a hard one to hear – and I realize I am glossing over a ton of detail and nuances in my summary that should never be glossed over, because the negative impact that conversion therapy has had on the past generation (and is evidently still going on???) is horrendous. I should know. I was married to someone who also went through it for the first 10 years of our marriage. It destroyed him… and I never knew how much until he told me one night through tears that he loved me, and he hated the how much he knew he was hurting his best friend, but he couldn’t keep this part of his identity hidden any longer. I never knew he was suffering so much. There was so much he never said. So much I overlooked. All out of love, because love endures all things, hopes all things, never fails.

And so, with all the media coverage on Boy Erased, I can’t stay silent. There is another side of the impact of conversion therapy and/or teaching that ignores sexual orientation that probably won’t ever be made in to a book (unless I write one) or a movie: What happens when someone who is LGBTQ marries someone who is not (and either hides it or promises they will work on their “same sex attraction” because its the right thing for a Christian to do). Or because they have been taught it will make them straight, or they have been told it is the only option. Because…. who knows the other reasons. But they marry and raise a family and dream dreams with this other person who commits their whole self to the relationship.

The other side is what happens when the realization comes that its not working. The drive is too strong, the orientation yells for validation, and the only way to make peace with self is to end the relationship.

We are the ones who get left in the wake of sexuality being hidden for so long.

The children who end up with stories they never wanted.

The young adults who now wonder if real love is actually possible, who now look back and wonder what they saw of their parents’ love was real?

The spouses who suddenly find themselves single after having married with the expectation they would grow old with their spouse. The loss of a best friend, the loss of dreams and hopes and … the one they thought was their “person”.

Don’t get me wrong, friends – this isn’t easy for the one that is coming out either. It’s heartbreaking for them too. How the relationship ends is critical. It can get very ugly, or it can be full of sorrow, grace, and forgiveness in a very unique way. Ultimately, both have to decide what they want this to look like… but “hard to go through” doesn’t even come close. Death would be more like it – for both spouses.

Sometimes what happens is that the one who is coming out leaves to find community where they will be accepted, because they are not accepted in their friend or church groups any longer. There can be great celebration when someone who has hidden their sexuality (or had it forcibly shoved down due to external pressures) is finally able to come out and realize who they really are. There is a mountain of shame to overcome,there are courageous steps they have to take to fight back voices and lies and hurt and only God knows what else. If any of you know me or Jon, you know this is what he has dealt with, and this is what he has fought for in the past year. I cannot begin to imagine what its been like.

Others stay hidden and wrestle with where they fit in, feeling lost but knowing they cannot stay married. This might be the harder road, but the impact is no less. I have a new friend that is going down this road and it’s just as painful to watch.

What you must understand though, is that I am not writing this to get support or sympathy. I am not writing this to say that what I and the girls have gone through is anything near what Jon has. We have all been broken in this. We have all hurt. BUT we are all healing and we are going to be ok. God’s grace IS enough for us. If my older daughter’s recent Facebook post isn’t proof… I don’t know what is.

I am writing this because although the media coverage is exposing the pain of conversion therapy and church teaching, it isn’t talking about the impact it has had in the lives of those who ACTED on the advice and recommendations. It’s not just that we need to understand how harmful conversion therapy has been for so many.

We need to realize that because of it, there are families that are broken that never should have had to go through such hurt and pain. Choices are made to break covenant by people for whom covenant is real and binding, and so it hurts like hell to know you are breaking it — yet who would ever understand or believe that laying down your life in love can be the very act of letting your LGBTQ spouse go? None of the love and the memories and kids that come out of these marriages bring regret, mind you. The marriage was never a lie. The love and care and concern for them was always there and still is. The families created mean the world to both spouses. But regret for the hurt and pain? Yeah.. there’s that. Lots of it. There is a great deal of trusting God can heal things in ways that we can’t even begin to know how to make right. There’s the work of not letting yourself get lost in a pity party, or villianizing your former spouse. There’s the choice to parent the kids in a way that is honoring to both people (regardless of age). There’s the choice to believe that grace can help navigate the narrow way of still being kind to each other, and want the best for each other. It doesn’t come easy…. but it is possible

I know the Body of Christ is divided over same-sex marriage. I am not addressing that here. Yet I think the church (big “C”) needs to think carefully about this one. Can we at least make the church safe enough so that someone who does identify as LTBTQ can be honest about their sexuality and not feel ashamed? Can we welcome them – their gifts, their personality, their faith – and not think they are less than, or are only valid if they marry the opposite sex?

Whatever we do, I am begging you, please don’t think that telling someone to get married will “fix” their sexuality. I’m not saying a mixed-orientation-marriage (which is a marriage where one spouse is opposite sex attracted and one is not) can’t work – but if its something two people are considering, they need to go into it with eyes wide open to the challenges they will face. They are real.

Something has to change. It starts with us.