Ugh. February. No, I’m not “ugh-ing” it because of all the sappy celebrations of romantic love we’re deluged with this time of year. I’m “ugh-ing” it because it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the sun. It’s frigid, blustery, dark, and illnesses are rampant.
I’m feeling it. SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Judging from the amount of cranky people in my office, I’d say I’m not the only one. Are you feeling it?
I’m not as bad as normal though! My mom gave me a happy light for Christmas and I use it almost every day at work. I think it really does help. I get a lot of questions about it too and I’ve offered to let other people use it, but so far they’ve all turned me down. But yeah, every year at this time I’ve struggled with it. Last year it was so bad we postponed our wedding because of it, which was kind of the beginning of the end of that chapter of our relationship.
So, I’m doing pretty good. Better, now that God is not frowning at me anymore (He was slightly frowny because I was making my heart hard towards a certain someone and God kind of frowns on hard hearts). But we’re good now! I was nice to TM, everything’s fine again. And God is talking again.
Like the other day I was doing my daily Bible reading and He talked to me. I’m in Exodus, and I was reading about the actual exodus – the night when the Israelites left Egypt. There’s a verse in chapter 13 that says “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.”
It felt like God was looking over my shoulder as I read that verse and reminiscing about leading the Israelites out of Egypt. “Ah, they were so full of hope and promise.” He said, “They were following and trusting me, in a few short months they would receive the promised land. At least, that was My plan A.”
If you’ve ever read Exodus (and Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) you’ll know that God’s plan A was not how it went down. God led the Israelites into the desert initially to prepare them for taking the Promised Land, to give them His commands, and to let them get a little taste of battle before the final test of taking possession of the land He had sworn to give to them.
But when the moment came for them to actually do it, they faltered. They looked at their foes and fear took over. They took their eyes off the Pillar of Fire by night and the Pillar of Cloud by day that had led them faithfully through the desert and the “small” tests and the One who was guiding them into a deeper trust in Him. Because of their fear and doubt in Him, God gave them the consequence that none of that generation would ever step foot in the Promised Land. Instead they would wander in the desert for 40 years, until every person who had left Egypt had died (except for the two whose trust in God and what He could do never faltered: Joshua and Caleb).
As I read that passage and heard God’s voice, parallels between the Israelites and my situation popped into my head.
God lead both TM and I out of certain circumstances toward each other. We did not expect to find each other and both of us were not really looking for a relationship – for both of us it was more like “if it happens, fine, if it doesn’t, also fine.” God didn’t immediately lead us into marriage, much to the surprise of my brother, who thought that TM would propose the first time I went to Indiana to see him three months after we started talking. We took our time, wanting to make sure that we were doing what God wanted us to do, making sure we had a firm foundation, trying to prepare ourselves for the battles we knew were waiting for us in our future.
But when we got up to the border we looked at the foes and our fears took over. Both of us chickened out when the moment of decision came. I don’t believe for one second that breaking up was God’s plan for us. He allowed it to happen because God doesn’t force anyone to trust Him. We have to make that decision for ourselves.
So now we’re in the wilderness. Hopefully we’re not here for the same amount of time. Maybe in our wilderness one Israelite year translates to one week of ours, so 40 years = 40 weeks. “Whaddya think of that, God? Good plan? Of course, You’re right – Your timing is best. Whenever You want, God. Even if it’s 40 years.”
Honestly, the wilderness has good and bad points. No, it’s not where we want to be. But, God is still there with us. The fear is still lingering in our brains but God provides grace and strength daily, just like He provided manna daily for the Israelites in the wilderness. The promise is still there, and it’s not God who says “no, you don’t get the promised land of Me-ordained marriage anymore.” There are still lessons to be learned in the wilderness about trusting God. I know it’s only been seven and a half months since we entered the wilderness, but God is still renewing my hope, not letting it die, not throwing up brick walls like I’ve been asking Him to if marriage to TM is not His plan for me. If anything, He’s breaking down the brick walls of fear one by one that I originally erected as reasons why TM and I should not be married.
There are still dreams. That bad one with the kidnappers was not repeated, but I had another TM dream last night. Well, he made a cameo but it was mostly about his daughter.
You know that TM has a daughter, right? I’ll call her E. E is a preschooler. Her parents have been separated since E was just over a year old. I haven’t written a lot about her, and there’s a few reasons for that.
I was apprehensive about becoming a step-mother. They do kind of have a slightly negative rap (thanks, Disney). And I struggled with the fact that this child who was not mine would be a big part of my life forever and that I would always have to share my beloved TM with her in a way I would not have to share him with our own children. I was putting my niece down for a nap one day early in our relationship and thinking about step-parenting and reading articles on Pinterest about it when God spoke to me. He said, “Anessa, you already love children who are not your own like they were your own.” It’s true. I am very close with one of my nephews and one of my nieces. I was present at their births, I see them every day, I love spending time with them. So I know that I am capable of loving children who are not my own like they were my own. I kept reading a lot about step-parenting. I filled a whole Pinterest board with articles about being a step-mother. My mom bought me a book called The Smart Stepmom by Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge. It is excellent – at least, the half I read was excellent. I was halfway through it when TM broke up with me and I haven’t picked it up again.
I resented E. I resented the fact that it was because of her that TM couldn’t leave his geographical location and move to my geographical location so that I could be more physically present with my family. I resented the fact that on weekends when he had her, I may have well not existed. He tried, for a while, to help me feel included and loved on the weekends when he had her and it helped. But after the postponement and first break up, he didn’t put as much effort into making sure I didn’t feel neglected on those weekends. Honestly, I shouldn’t have felt the way I did. I’m an adult, I should have been able to put my own feelings aside on those weekends and encourage him to focus on her. But I was depressed. I was not chemically capable of managing my emotions logically.
The times when I was there on a weekend he had her were wonderful. She is a bright, mostly cheerful little girl (she’s also human, so of course she has her moments when she is not entirely cheerful). I have a knack with most kids. I can connect with them pretty well and they usually seem to gravitate to me, so it didn’t take very long before she warmed up to me. I took longer warming up to her. I was always kind, of course, yet firm – I fancied myself a regular Mary Poppins. I rationalized that if I didn’t get too attached to her then she couldn’t hurt me, because EVERYTHING I read about step families had that caution added to it – children of divorce are hurt people, and hurt people hurt people. As young as she is, she already knows that she has been dealt a bum rap in life.
But I think she loved me. I remember the one time I got there in the evening, tired and spent from the fourteen hour drive and she was there. She just wanted to be with me, be touching me. I sat at their dining room table eating chili and she insisted on perching on my knee while I ate. She always wanted to play with me or cuddle with me while we read books or watched movies. She let me do her hair. We went to a parade the last time I was there and although we brought the stroller with us, she wanted to sit on my lap for most of the parade. We took her to Cedar Point the last time I was there and she wanted me to go on the rides with her – even the roller coaster (which was not my favorite because I can usually only handle roller coasters with my eyes closed and what kind of wimp closes their eyes on a kiddie roller coaster?).
I was nice to her, but I wish I had been nicer in my own head to her. I wish I had learned quicker to love her and treasure her like she deserved to be loved and treasured. The two most recent TM dreams I’ve had have featured her. In both of them she and I were cuddling and talking. It makes me miss her. I’ve never missed her before. They make me want to be with her almost as much as I still want to be with TM. Right after the break up I made her a quilt, because she had asked for one. Honestly, I also made it to assuage my guilt. I felt guilty because I hadn’t been the potential step-mother she deserved. Yes, from outward appearances everything was fine. But my heart towards her was all wrong. That’s changed. But I know that unless God does a mighty work I won’t get the chance to prove that God has changed my heart where she is concerned.
I talked to TM about this post, about talking about his daughter to make sure it was alright with him. He said “I’m mostly just concerned if she might read it in the future, that she will know she’s being referenced.” E, if someday in the future you read this, I’m sorry my attitude towards you was not what it should have been. I still hope that I get the chance to make it up to you, but if I don’t, know that I love you, I pray for you, and I wish you all the best in the world.