promises

“Will He lead you out? Yes, eventually. But first, there might be a time that He is simply with you there.”

A reflection printed in my Blessed is She journal three years ago, meant to be an encouragement for those of us in a season of waiting as we counted down to Christmas.

How little I knew then about how prophetic those words would be. At that point, all I knew was the conflict heavy in my own home; that month’s journal was page after page of notes on neglect, silence, anger, and anxiety. So much anxiety. My body was in panic mode and my heart was in turmoil. I was waiting. Waiting for something to give, something to change, some hope to enter into the drama of my marriage.

My response to that day’s prompt:

“When the desires of my heart don’t line up with reality or the desires of my husband’s heart or even the timing of Your heart- it’s okay to be sad. You hear my prayers- someday there will be a fulfillment of the prayer for a joyful, holy family and a holy husband who knows You. In the meantime You will wait with me here…When my heart feels separate from my husband, my world, You are there. You see me and You know me… Even in suffering and sadness, You are gentle and patient, waiting for me to see You and love You and let You love me. You are with me.”

Christmas morning came that year without my miracle. Without magic. Not the slightest glimmer of hope or sign God saw my waiting and matched it with grace. I was miserable.

“I feel misunderstood and lonely and hurt and very sad that this is my life. After all this, I’m exhausted and suffering. Why? Why do I feel so alone?”

Instead of rejoicing, I was begging. 

“A savior is born. Save me.”

Another year goes by. Another journal fills up.

I am more confused. 

“I need to step away from the part of my heart that wonders, ‘should I have married him or not?’ I need to let that go and fully embrace this and where I am…I need to trust You- I did when You brought me here, now I have to trust where You lead me.”

I used to think I was bad for questioning the solidity of my marriage. I used to think it was holy and good to trudge along alone, trusting, trusting, trusting. 

I heard the passage from Luke, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promise to her” and knew it was for me. I had been promised a life of joy and abundance. I had been promised satisfaction. I had been promised life, and life to the full. God would fix it so I could have it, and He would do it here.

Obviously, He had other plans.

My husband didn’t start going to church. He didn’t start paying better attention to me. We didn’t have a home full of joy. We didn’t start building a family.

However. 

I had asked Him to lead me, and He was faithful to those prayers. He led me – straight out of my marriage.

But what of my promises? I was convinced! Convicted! Trusting! I believed! 

Instead of getting what I’d dreamed of, I was alone, wondering what does God actually promise me?

His faithfulness.

Had He been faithful? Had I been comforted? Had I been strengthened? Was I bold enough to change my life? Yes.

His love.

Had He shown me that love? Had I been blessed by His presence? Wisdom? The love of some seriously solid friends and a wildly generous family? Yes.

His abundance.

Had I flourished? Found new confidence? Found healing and hope and permission to be myself in a bigger, more beautiful way? Yes.

God Himself walked through the valley of death. Someday there will be life without suffering, but why should my journey on earth look any different than His? In the meantime, there is daily mercy. Daily grace.

I do believe that someday I’ll have what my heart longs for. I’ll have a love where I’m known and thriving and a way to share my heart as a mother. Whatever that looks like, however those desires are answered, I know I am already seen. Already loved. Already full.

A new prayer for today:

Lord, I trust in Your promises. 

I believe You promised life, and I still believe, even here, even when Your answer broke my heart. Thank You for seeing me. Thank You for saving me. 

Today, I hear again “Blessed is she who believed” and respond the way Your mother did:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

You are a keeper of promises. 

My soul rejoices, and I believe.


And blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her.

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:45-55

were you there

There’s a song that gets pulled out at church around Good Friday every year that used to give me chills. It’s lyrics lead the congregation through Jesus’ Passion in an uncomplicated but profound way, personally asking each of us if we’ve walked the journey with our Christ: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Laid Him in the tomb?

I heard it again last Sunday and it’s lyrics felt more personal than years before. I found myself in the same sort of sadness, but also somewhere new. It felt almost indignant. Don’t ask me where I was, Lord. Where were You? Were You there? Were you there on the nights I cried alone? Were You there for the panic attacks? For the abandonment? For the anger? For the confusion?

Were You there when I was coerced? When no didn’t mean no? When I was ignored? When I was the target of undeserved hatred? Were You there when I was made to feel less than wanted, less than beautiful, less than a woman? When the desires of my heart, the ones I begged You for, went unanswered, year after year?

Were You there when I had to hide my marriage from others, from myself? When I didn’t know how to explain the strange undercurrent of dread, dissatisfaction, loneliness? When I begged You to bring my husband back to me? Bring Your peace into our home?

When I trusted deeply and implicitly that everything would be okay-  were You listening or laughing? When I felt You tell me everything would turn out alright- is this heartbreak what You had in mind? When I prayed for him to know You and see me, did You know that would never come to be?

I think back to that pivotal morning I met with the priest. That day when we walked through the tortured turns of my marriage I was looking for advice, looking for someone to tell me again it would all be okay. Instead of something encouraging I could tuck into my pocket and casually take back home, he reassured me that, yes, it would all be alright, but no, things could not go on as they had. He said You wanted better for me, and I would need to be brave enough to step out into the world and away from my husband. It was the first time I was faced with someone confirming out loud a truth I had been hiding in my heart. I needed to leave.

Something settled over me when I finally faced that truth- a bittersweet mix of acceptance, relief, and dread. I knew what I needed, but, my gosh, the road ahead was going to be long. It was going to be brutal. Excruciating.

In the chapel afterwards all I felt was the Garden. The Garden Jesus wrestled His Heart in, begging God for the cup to pass. He saw what was ahead of Him and knew it would be Good, but oh, how terrible. The pain of a broken body and broken heart, rejection and suffering. It all lay ahead of Him, yet He still saw that the only way to the Glory of Resurrection was through Hell.

I was in my own small corner of that Garden that day. I was already exhausted and couldn’t fathom how I would be able to pull my heart into even more pieces than it had already been broken. A sense of real grief and no, I’m really not looking forward to this, let’s fast forward, let’s just not. It was easier to suffer in the silence and predictability of my life then rip it all apart completely.

When I walked out of the chapel, eyes swollen from tears, I found myself in the lush sweetness of a rose garden. A little slice of paradise. A little bit of beauty bordering my Gethsemane.

So maybe You were there. Maybe You meant it when You said it would all be okay. Maybe You were present and waiting to set me free the whole time. From abuse, from death, from sin, from fear.

It took me an awfully long time to get there, though, and I’m not sure why I found myself leaving a life I had prayed so hard to start. Why did we go this way? Why did we take this road? I wish I knew.

I’m trying to trust Your presence and grace. You’re writing a story for glory, a crown of roses from a crown of thorns. I’m trying to trust again with that same unwavering faith that You are real and You will heal. You will make paths straight and there will be life renewed. Life abundant.

I’d like to think that You are holding vigil while I hide in the darkness, in this small tomb of unknowing, and while I am waiting here You are sowing a garden. When these stones roll away there will be morning, and I will be met with new life.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

a little feminism, a little catholicism

Let’s clear something up.

Being divorced does not make me a bad Catholic.

We no longer live in a time when women are meant to be white-knuckling it through years of misery for the sake of ‘offering it up.’ We are educated, independent, and now have the resources to pursue our callings in ways that generations before us did not have. There’s no need for us to settle for the facade of holiness when, in reality, our homes are flooded with backwater. 

That being said, you’re not doing anyone any favors, not even God, when you’re staying in a relationship just for the sake of what appears to be a straightforward Christian life. Better for God, and everyone else, to courageously move into the unknown. 

I’m not saying there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. I’m also not saying that love isn’t a sacrifice or active choice. I do believe that even the best of relationships face their challenges, and there will always be ‘offer it up’ days. Please stick around when the Cross is shared in love and the promise of Easter stands above you. 

For today, let’s consider those relationships built on such gravel they could hardly survive a breeze, let alone the storm of real life. These relationships are not going to make it anywhere healthy, no matter who says they hope it’ll work it out. They are plagued far beyond that run of the mill struggle straightened out in therapy. They are fundamentally unwell. 

I had a long, winding talk with a priest about this before I left my own marriage. He was honest, reminding me that God could always work a miracle, and I could stay and hope for the transformation of grace. He also told me that as a woman with intellect, I should feel free to make my decision based on the truth of what had been shown to me in the past and what was happening in the present. 

Based on the facts, our marriage was going nowhere, and had not been God’s plan for marriage from the start. According to this priest, and, I’m sure, Christ, I was made for more. I was made for joy, and freedom, and life. I needed to bravely look at what I believed to be true- all marriages are forever- and walk instead into foreign territory. I had to shift my framework, take a deeper look, and start a new life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Whatever you believe, please don’t tell me you think I should be back with my husband because it says so in your Christian Marriage 101 textbook. I promise, nothing about what was going on there fit the Christian ideal. None of it was meeting the life-giving, holy-growing criteria of what a mutual marriage should be, and anyone thinking I should stick around for more of that is sick in the head.

Also, for the record, asking me if I discerned my relationship with my ex feels a little weird. Of course I did. I didn’t just wander into a marriage without serious consideration and prayer. I’m still sorting out why everything ended up the way it did, but assuming my lack of proper discernment is to blame for the dysfunction somehow makes it my fault everything sucked.

I did not wind up in this situation because I didn’t pray hard enough.

Basically, this is my long way of saying that staying in a place of decay just because it looks Christian is not always the right thing to do. And anyway, when was the last time we chose the Christian life because it looked good? We choose Christianity because it embraces what is actually good.

I can tell you that since I’ve left, I feel more like myself than I have in years. I am free. I don’t have to hide my faith anymore, and I don’t avoid going deeper into my relationship with God for fear of distancing myself from a husband who resented Him. I’m at a point in my life where I am free to take care of my soul, and I’d say that’s the holiest place to be. Not trapped in a life-sucking situation for the sake of what made me a good Catholic on paper. 

Let’s broaden our idea of what good Catholicism looks like. It’s not always going to be sweet domestic bliss, because life is not always like that. A lot of us don’t have that version of the dream, and even when we have something close, there’s something else lurking in our closets. There’s drugs and depression, scandal and abuse, broken families and loneliness and sin. 

That is the beauty of real, tangible Catholicism: it is for real, tangible people. We are dirty and hungry and walking a road through the valley of death. We are clinging to a God Who is merciful. He meets us, broken and poor, and invites us to a table with Him. He doesn’t ask us if we prayed hard enough or why the heck we are broken in the first place. He didn’t look at Mary Magdalene and ask her why did she became a prostitute, ridiculous and sinful woman. He got down in the dust with her and offered her a hand. 

Sometimes what is right doesn’t look the same as what we thought before. 

It’s time to shift the framework.