2 is better than 1

Finally received some footage of our beautiful wedding day and I can’t wait to share it with you! I love how this video instantly takes me right back there. 

In other news, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our place…AND I LOVE IT!

 

 

more than thankful

I love it when the mail arrives everyday. Maybe it’s cause we don’t actually own a mail box. Nope, we’ve got this really cool hole slot in the side of the house that empties into the deep, unknown of an old musty-smelling closet. It’s a daily adventure just trying to salvage every envelope and postcard. Or quite possibly it’s because I’ve grown up in a world where email is at the tip of my fingers. There’s just nothing quite like an envelope addressed solely to me, shrouded in mystery until the seal is broken.

It was just such an experience last week when I opened an envelope which revealed a beautiful cream and green wedding invitation. The groom is not a close friend by any means; but, in a way, we shared something more powerful than friendship. We were fellow survivors; survivors of broken dreams and failed marriages. After twelve years of marriage, his wife had told him she wanted a divorce and he was devastated. It’s a story I’ve told many times on this blog.

And yet, despite the pain that threatened to forever haunt him, on December 31st of this year, he will marry a new woman who has captured his heart. His sister (who happens to be one of my very best friends) describes his new bride as an “angel”, and I can relate.

Today, I am thankful for new beginnings. That no matter how bad life gets – there’s always hope. Jeff and I have now completed the process of moving me into our house and organizing all of my old belongings. As I’ve gone through countless boxes, it seems as if there’s always some old letter or belonging, etc. reminding of my old life  – – and it still occasionally hurts. The truth is, it takes a long time to clean up a life; to clean up the  debris from broken dreams.

But, I married a man who didn’t mind wading his way through my mess to find my heart. He didn’t care what people would think about him dating the “freshly divorced girl”. He didn’t mind that I harbored major trust issues.

And even more importantly I serve a God who offers me (and you) a new beginning every morning; no matter what happened the night before. My God is a God like this husband, who, after accidentally throwing away his wife’s $10,000 wedding ring, suited up and combed through a 10-foot pile of garbage at the local landfill. He didn’t give up despite digging through trash, feces and carcasses, and sure enough, after enough time, spotted the ring glinting in the sun light. What a picture of God! He doesn’t mind sifting through all of our garbage in order to find our hearts. He’ll clean us up. Because with God, there’s always a new beginning. 

I got re-married two months ago, and I’m starting my new life. I’m decorating for Christmas and I’m hanging up lights. I’m starting new traditions and I’m slowly opening my heart up again to life. God is good and he has seen me through. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!”

Lamentations 3:22-23

my first song: the video

Several months ago, I published this post, which was the lyrics to the first worship song I wrote, entitled, “I Come to You.”

I just got ahold of the video of the Rock Band playing my song for the first time last Christmas. The Rock band consisted of a special group of kids that are near and dear to my heart (Danny on acoustic guitar- who wrote the music for the song, Billy on bass guitar, David on drums, and Katie on background vocals). Since we performed this song, the kids have now gone off in separate directions to various colleges and the Rock building is no longer I place I’m constantly at. But, I’ve learned that people come and go and buildings can be locked up, but the truth in the words of this song will forever be in my heart. I hope you like.

The Rock band playing at Schlitterbahn 5-21-11

We can now call ourselves "songwriters"! Me and Danny

three generations

We had such a great time last week in Michigan visiting my grandparents (Opa & Oma). They have passed on to me an incredible spiritual heritage and a history (59 years!) of love for one another. It was wonderful finally introducing them to Jeff, learning two new german recipes, and hearing stories about my mother when she was a little girl. (Apparently she sold pictures of her Twiggy-look-a-like sister to the German boys for 5 marks! Little entrepreneur!) 

Opa & me - he told Jeff not to get jealous!

Three generations 🙂 Christie, Leopoldine and Jenilee

from someone who’s been there

On our recent road trip, I couldn’t help but get sucked into some celebrity gossip while passing the time. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past year it’s that I’m in no place to judge any other person for their life. But, with that said, it’s shocking to me to read of celebrities who have lavish, public weddings only to change their minds 72 days later and file for divorce.

Our culture has cheapened the covenant of marriage. Instead of a permanent, lifetime bond, marriage has now become a trial – if it fits, wonderful; if not, just take it back off and throw it aside! Divorce used to be likened to a curse word; the simple utterance of it bringing a distaste to the mouth. Now, divorce is a common word – and it breaks my heart.

Is divorce as simple as some celebrities make it out to be? Does it even have lasting implications? Or is it easy? For me, it was real and destructive in these ways…

1. Financially – I only preferred my lawyer to do the bare-minimum for me, but with lawyers, everything costs. During every phone call, every email, and every meeting the clock is ticking and the calculator is adding up. I literally turned over my entire final paycheck to my lawyer. I remember selling  my entire library of beloved books to pay yet another attorney bill. I got another job working at a salon during the holidays to continue paying those bills. Divorce is not cheap. If it’s anything like mine, the cost will be in the thousands.

2. Time – From the first time I met with my lawyer to the date I received the signed divorce decree back from the judge was five long months. Struggling through a divorce was extremely painful for me. I knew the marriage was over and biblically speaking, it was irreparable – so to just sit around and wait was difficult. I longed to have my maiden last name back and to start working towards discovering who I was again. I wanted to be done arguing over real estate, the separation of bills, and our material goods. Time was the enemy. After everything I’d suffered through – I just wanted it to be over. 

3. Family Relations – It hurts to lose people and it hurts to lose in-laws, whether they be mothers, grandmothers or sisters. Divorce is painful during the holidays. It’s difficult letting go of old traditions and forming new ones. (My incredible new husband has helped me so much in trusting people again and not being so skeptical of their love towards me. He is my hero.)

4. Disappointments – mine and others. I remember speaking with a friend who took over the youth ministry with her husband after us. She told me, “The teenagers are really hurting. They keep saying, ‘Marriage means nothing anymore. If ____ and Jen couldn’t make it last, then who can?'” That phone call took the wind out of my sails. I spent five years trying to be an example to the students I was working with and even though I wasn’t in control of my spouse and his decisions, it still hurt that my marriage had let those kids down. But, looking back – I think through my divorce, I taught them more than I ever did while working in the youth ministry. Because, they were able to watch me at my lowest – praising God instead of cursing him.

5. Material goods – We were living in a beautiful house, but during the divorce neither of us could afford it any longer. We had never missed a house payment, and yet, I ended up having to short-sale my house. I must have spend 30 hours on the phone with my mortgage company and real estate agent in negotiations. Here I was, twenty-five years old, losing a house and trying to sell my wedding ring so I could afford my bills. I put my wedding ring on Craigslist and sold it to an asian man working in a nail salon. Together, Jeff and I followed him across the street to Sam’s club so he could have the jeweler verify that it was real. In the parking lot, I exchanged the ring, for his money and we drove off in the cover of a winter blizzard. It was so surreal. We were driving in slow-motion through what felt like a snow globe and I couldn’t get over the fact that I had just sold my wedding ring. I called my mom and said, “No girl should ever have to do that.”

6. Emotionally – This is where divorce made the greatest devastation in my life. There arn’t enough words to describe the pain and the different ways it took hold on me. I wasn’t the perfect wife, but I was invested in my marriage; I meant what I said during the ceremony; divorce never was a probability. It caught me completely off guard.

In my opinion, divorce isn’t a quick fix, and it’s not a bandaid. I heard once on the radio that divorce doesn’t solve a bad marriage – it’s just like trading in one pain for another, different pain. In my situation, there wasn’t another option, (and God has since blessed me with an incredible new husband) but I want couples to know that far-reaching implications of divorce. For those couples who struggle with continual arguing, please, never throw divorce in each other’s face as a probability! It’s more than a signed decree. It’s more than taking off a ring. It’s real. And it has its costs. 

the record

On a train traveling to Ludwigsburg, Germany sat a young man. Head in his hands, paying no mind to his fellow travelers, he did nothing to try and stop the large, crocodile tears that fell continuously out of his ocean blue eyes. For twelve hours, miles of landscape passed by the windows and the steam engine continued to hum. Alois squeezed his eyes shut and balled up his fists in desperation.

Though he was only 18, life had lost all of its purpose. There was no longer any rhyme and reason. He had successfully escaped from his communist-led homeland of Czechoslovakia.  But what waited on the other side; freedom and happiness? No. All he had known had been pain, hunger, and disappointment.

He was supposed to be alongside his three friends en route to Australia and a better life. But, his visa had been denied and he was sent back to the refugee camp in Ludwigsburg. He would depart the train there completely and utterly alone; no friends, no family. There was no one in Germany to share his pain and sorrow. His escape had been for nothing. He had left his family back in Czechoslovakia and they did not even know he was alive.

Alois contemplated jumping from the train and ending it all. He felt numb; lifeless. To God, he prayed, “If you are really up there, look at me, what is happening to me? My three friends go to their new lives, and I go back to nothing. I do not have one human being in Germany to go to and I am at the end of my strength.”

Alois is my grandfather and he has an incredible story; a story of disappointments and sorrow, but also a story of God’s passionate love. My grandfather (or as I affectionately call him, “Opa”) penned his story. As I read this section, I suddenly felt a bond form between him and I, which I never knew we shared.

You see, I too sat in a seat, while tears fell constantly down my cheeks, believing my life was over and nothing was left. I shoved my face into the crevice of the seat. For 14 hours on a flight to London I battled my own personal demons. From all looks of it, God had abandoned me.

Without any forewarning, my marriage had fallen apart. My greatest fears had become a reality. My dream job was ripped away. Everything was gone. My heart was broken into countless pieces and I was deeply scarred.

Sixty-one years after my grandfather contemplated the value of his life, I followed in his footsteps. But, thankfully, Opa kept his record.  Yes, it was began as a record of his lowest moment on the train to Ludwigsburg. But, it became a record, which later tells of him meeting my Grandmother in Ludwigsburg. A record of passionate love between a daredevil of a man and his sweet bride.

Without the rejected visa and train ride back to Ludwigsburg, my Opa would never have met my Oma. Without that day, my mom would not exist – and neither would I.

I called Opa the day I read of his suicidal thoughts on the train to Ludwigsburg. He said, “Jeni, you know that was probably the lowest moment of my life. But, as I look back on it now, it was the best moment of my life.”

God has a way of doing that, doesn’t he? We blame him for orchestrating the devastation of our own personal tragedies. And, maybe we are fair to do that. Because, more often then not, He is behind our worst moments. But, while we cannot see past the reality of that single moment of pain, the same box does not bind God. He sees  the glory that awaits. In His tender way, He smiles down on us and says, “I know child. I see. But, please, just wait. just wait…”

Opa and Oma showing me the route of the train to Ludwigsburg, Germany


unanswered questions

Last year I really felt like in many ways, I lost my innocence. Like my nieve bubble abruptly popped. As if the whole of my life had just been an audition for the reality I was then facing.

The Christian life never guarantees success. The fact is, sometimes the marriage fails, the pregnancy test reads negative again, and the business bombs despite all efforts. Failure (just typing that word puts a bitter taste in my mouth) happens; and often times to those who don’t deserve it.

And then the questions become:

Was the sacrifice worth it? What of the four years I gave to that marriage? I gave so much, yet reaped so little. 

Sometimes, there are no answers, and no simple bible verses to explain why God actually allows the unexplainable.

Depressing? Yes. But, honest and real.

At 25 years old, I experienced divorce and watched my beloved, childhood church building foreclose, despite all efforts. Pain jumped out from the dictionary and became a living, breathing thing, whose grip clawed at me, threatening to chain me up forever.

Maybe your world is falling apart. Maybe there arn’t answers to your situation. But, I know one thing:

James 5:11 “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

TRANSLATION: “God REALLY cares.”

Like little children in the backseat during a road trip, in the midst of suffering, we ask God, “Are we there yet?“; “Am I done with this suffering?”; and “Are we going the right way, God?“.

The truth is – He WILL get us where we need to go. As Galatians 5:9 promises, “in due time”, or God’s divinely appointed date, the suffering will be over.

Two weeks ago, Christian Newsome, the pastor of Journey Church International spoke of my testimony of divorce, recovery, and rediscovered love. It was amazing to realize that only a year ago, I didn’t believe I could ever smile again, much less fall in love again.

I wrote a prayer in the margins of my Bible asking God to give me open doors to share my testimony – that while life can fall apart, God can heal and restore. My story is a story of hope, and my hope is that God will allow many opportunities for me to share my story.

Listen to Pastor Christian’s sermon, “Patience While Suffering” here.