When Standing by Your Man Harms Your Heart

I have had lots of thought lately with regards to what it looks like to be a follower of Christ, specifically, a woman of God in a toxic marriage… only because I lived in one for so long. My heart hurts when I think about the many Jesus-loving sisters who share a similar journey. Thank the Lord that my story is now being rewritten and I no longer am living that life. God’s grace rescued me and rerouted my journey and now I am married to a man who shows me what it’s like to be loved as God intended. It’s not perfect as we are not perfect. We both have messy stories from our past. We both have scars. We both have had our walls. But God!! When our stories collided the walls began coming down and a new story began. It’s a story formed and being written by God’s incredible grace and I truly am amazed. I am thankful for my past – not because of the pain – but because of what I learned in the midst of it. I have gleaned some wisdom and see things much differently then I once did. So please bear with me as I try to put into words my thoughts as of late.

I have heard comments like, “She was such a good woman, she put up with so much from him!” referring to her alcoholic and cheating husband.  Women have been deemed as somewhat heroes when spoken of with regards to standing by their man as he cheated, lied, and lived a life that not only dishonored the covenant of marriage but dishonored his wife with reckless living.  Some of these women have been blessed with the fruit of their enduring stance…their prayers were answered and their marriage and hearts have been beautifully made new and whole by the redemptive power of Christ.  BUT for some, that has not been the case…not even close.

Remember this song?

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Givin’ all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times and he’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand
But if you love him you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand

And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
Cause after all he’s just a man

This song is similar to what my mom and countless others grew up believing (okay, maybe in part, I need to include myself in this…ugh!). This is what many were taught to do and how to live as a wife. I can tell you without a doubt that there have been so many wounded hearts and mentally scarred wives for having believed this way. Though this is not by any means labeled a “Christian” song, the Christian community embraces this kind of thinking and even MORE so. After-all, God HATES divorce! An underlying belief is that as a “Christian” wife, you stay with your man at all costs. He is deemed the leader of the home and you submit no matter what. He can lie, cheat, be a drunk, choose porn, frequent sex chat rooms, be abusive and more….but still, your calling in life is to win him over by your sweet and quiet spirit. Just pray more, read your Bible more, have dinner ready when he comes home, make yourself sexually available to him 24/7 AND have faith that one day he will turn his life around. You may separate from him if your life is in danger but don’t EVER entertain the idea of the “D” word. That is the unforgivable sin. As long as he wants to be your husband, then so be it. After all, he’s just a man. Part of your holy calling is to continually show him the love of Christ, even when you become aware of him habitually making a mockery of your marriage vows with reckless ways and lifestyle choices that wound your heart. You will be okay! Your heart matters but only to the degree that you sacrifice yourself at the mercy of his choices because after all, he’s just a man. Suck it up, cry those tears but hang in there. While he lives a double life behind closed doors don’t dare disrespect him by revealing truth to those who only see his mask. Keep his secrets and just tell Jesus. That’s respect and that is what you are called to give him.

AND before I get off this rant…… if your husband happens to be a Pastor or involved in some sort of leadership role within the church, just grin and bear it, sister.  YOU would be the one to bring shame upon your family AND the church, should you reach out for help…YOU not him.  No one would believe you anyway!  Not him? Your words certainly would not line up with the way others see him in public, right? UGH!!!!

Oh, sweet sisters…..This. Is. SO. Messed. Up. Some of this may sound extreme but the harsh truth is…so much of it is true, even if nobody wants to admit it.

Let’s be real. The above picture of marriage is NOT the way our God created marriage to be. How in the world did we ever come this far as to put marriage on such a pedestal that the marriage itself is of more value than the hearts involved? Does the husband not have any responsibility? Of course he does. Read the Word. ALL the Word! Not just the parts about the wife being submissive. That ONE SCRIPTURE has been used and abused in so many ways. It is time the church rises up and protects God’s beloved daughters instead of telling them what THEY must do differently, then sending them back home to appease and enable the toxic, addictive and hurtful behaviors of their husband. It’s time for my sisters in Christ to rise up from their ashes and reclaim their strength and dignity as abundantly loved and cherished daughters of God Almighty! It’s time for our own daughters to be told and taught truth about boundaries and their value and worth in Christ. It’s time for those who have been in a toxic relationship to rise up and be a VOICE for righteousness and Holiness as we hold out HOPE for our wounded sisters.

IF you are currently living in a toxic marriage, by all means find a trusted confidant/counselor/pastor whom you can talk to. Do NOT allow your husband’s ongoing and hurtful secrets to become your secrets. You will become a shell of a woman in doing so. As a wife, you are called to be your husband’s helper; NOT his doormat. You were created by God Almighty. You are chosen, valued and treasured….so much so that Jesus died for YOU! If you are frequently being treated less than this, please realize this is NOT how God ordained marriage to be.

I know you are very familiar with the Scripture about wives being submissive to their husband’s but go BACK and read the verses that follow. Your husband is commanded to love YOU the way Christ loves the church. What does this look like? I am not saying he will be perfect but what I am saying is if your heart is wounded and broken by the same behavior and betrayal over and over again…you are in a toxic relationship and your marriage is NOT as God intended it to be. Get help, my friend. Do not overlook, deny, or enable. Rise up and show love to the man you married by holding him accountable to Truth. There is NO benefit in carrying on with life behind a mask and covering up his “stuff” in the name of pride, fear or even love. You must have boundaries if your man is habitually dishonoring you and the vows He made to you. I am NOT talking about a man who is repentant and taking full responsibility by working through and owning his stuff but is still struggling. I am no way condoning divorce nor am I encouraging it. What I am saying is do all that YOU can do to stop this destructive cycle. Don’t believe that if you just keep hoping for change that change will happen. Don’t believe that your “calling” is to simply love away your husband’s habitual, addictive and hurtful behaviors. It won’t work! That kind of love only enables his lifestyle of betrayal. You need to be brave and decide that this is NOT God’s best for you, your husband or your family! God WILL show you things and reveal things to you as you humbly keep your eyes on HIM. He will give you wisdom when you ask for it! If your husband has narcissistic tendencies, please read up on this and become educated on how to handle this type of personality.

Maybe you feel trapped? Stuck? You have the ability to change this but first you have to get fear out of the way. With an open heart, ask God to show you what you should do, then do it. I will ask you the same question that was asked to me…if not now, when? Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time….YOU ARE VALUED, YOU ARE CHOSEN, YOU MATTER! Maybe today is the day you embrace TRUTH and really hear what God is speaking to your heart. HE LOVES YOU and has GOOD plans for YOU no matter what lies have become your truth and painfully comfortable. YOU can’t be your husband’s savior nor the hero of your story. Only GOD can change hearts! Your husband needs a divine encounter with the ONE who died to free him. Just maybe it’s time for YOU to be brave, execute boundaries and get out the way so that God can do what only God can do. Truth WILL BE revealed as you give God a chance to work! I promise you this…no matter what is revealed, HE STILL HAS PLANS THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU!! They just may not look like what you thought they would but nonetheless, they will be undeniably beautiful and full of His amazing, extravagant grace! Believe it, sweet sister!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-32

Live Loved

live+loved

Live Loved……….

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this as I type.  I will try to explain.  Each year I pray and seek God regarding my “word” for the year.  This seems to be a trendy thing to do now days but I can testify to how richly and hugely God has used this in my life in recent years.  It’s a powerful thing! I have found it to be so much MORE than just claiming a “word” for the year.  It helps to keep my easily distracted brain focused and gives me an anchor to hold onto, especially in the difficult and challenging moments.   You see, I don’t just look at it as a word but I also gather scripture references that magnify what God desires for me to embrace in whatever season I may be facing. However, this year I truly struggled with what my “word” should be.  I had a list that I brainstormed but none of those words seemed to jump out at me like times past.

On a side note,  one of the changes that I had been praying for in 2020 was that I would experience complete freedom from my past.  How many of you know that God, in His great mercy, can and at times, does rescue us physically AND relationally. However,  we have to prayerfully and intentionally not allow ourselves to remain bound mentally and emotionally? Right?  Easier said than done!  In my case, I have triggers that rise their ugly heads from my past that I am having to confront. SO many triggers that seem incredibly silly, nevertheless, they are real for me.  I can tell you, our past can indiscriminately effect our today and tomorrows if we don’t get a grip.  It is altogether ridiculous when you take a step back and see them for what they are.  Even though they are real and my experience with them includes automatic panic with a knee-jerk racing heart beat and lump in my throat (PTSD?) …they are dumb! Yes that’s my word for them…ha!! God in His AMAZING GRACE and MERCY rescued me….took me OUT of the pit that I had lived in for years and yet here I am STILL dealing with the aftermath of what was..ugh! Dumb! I believe it’s the enemy’s way to keep us in the yuck that God has freed us from! I have been adamantly praying that in 2020 that I would have wisdom and insight as to how to handle them more victoriously as they come.  You see, obviously before I was remarried, these recent triggers lay dormant as I was not in such a relationship.  The truth is, some healing can only come as we are forced to face our emotional hangups.  Getting remarried has been my force.  It’s been abundantly beautiful in some ways and extremely hard in others.   I have, most assuredly, had many growth opportunities that I did not even realize I needed, ha!  Some progress can seem slow and get downright frustrating.  This messy girl is thankful that God has blessed me with a sweet husband who understands grace because he has experienced it in abundance for himself. He is patient and graciously helps me face and walk through these triggers in a safe space.  The thing about triggers is they can come at any moment, out of now where, and trip me up.  TO say I dislike them is an understatement, but my dislike for them does not make them go away, by no means. However, my obedience to Christ in my messy moments, CAN!  Maybe this is resonating somehow with you and if so, please hang with me.  We can all have things from our past that distracts and seeks to destroy the very freedom that Christ has already given to us.

Back to my “word” for 2020.  My husband and I chose to take a week to pray and fast to start off our new year.  I was anticipating that one of the things that God would reveal was that special “word”.  A we ended our fast, I still had no clue.  Though I was feeling disappointed, I continued to believe it would come. That was on a Friday night…fast forward to Sunday morning.  I was waiting to leave for church and it hit me….YES!!! Thank you, Jesus! AND it makes SO much sense though I can’t fully comprehend the magnitude of it at this moment.

Live loved…..

I understand about living loved by God and what it looks like to walk that out.  Such a precious and life-giving, life-changing revelation.  That Divine knowledge has been my lifeline and saving grace throughout (okay, maybe I haven’t fully comprehended ALL that entails in my human mind as I still get tripped up at times,  but I have understood it enough for His amazing love and grace to be a difference maker in my life!) However, it is living loved within marriage, by my spouse, that gets me tripped up and entangled in all kinds of anxiety and insecurities.  As I have mentioned before, love to me within marriage meant pain.  It meant that my heart was never safe with my spouse.  It meant that after a heart-breaking reveal, it would be just a matter of time before my heart was broken again.  I was taught by my wounds that things weren’t always as they seemed and that there were always secrets lurking in the darkness. It meant there was no trust.  It meant half truths, if any truth at all.  Subsequently, I never fully experienced the love that God ordained to be shared between husband and wife.  How do I know this? Because of what God has allowed me to experience now! Like wow!! My NEW normal has been a huge beautiful adjustment and my heart, at times, is still trying to catch up and walk in it’s Truths. THAT, my friend is why this is extremely exiting to me!

Sweet friends, God doesn’t miss a thing! This challenge to “live loved” has touched my heart in ways that words can’t express.  I do NOT have to live less than loved any longer by my spouse.  It’s like God is revealing to me that it’s okay.  My heart is now safe.  It’s a NEW season, a NEW day and God is doing a NEW thing!  No more toxicity.  No more betrayal.  I am free! I can breathe.  I can relax.  I can let go of marital fears and doubts,  suspicious thinking and ENJOY this life that God has so blessed me with.  AND peace, such sweet peace.    I can “live loved” as I am abundantly loved by God AND deeply and affectionately loved by my husband.  It’s going to take work on my part.  New thinking, aggressively taking thoughts captive that are attached to the past, and embracing every sweet and beautiful thing about living in freedom.

My husband, since I met him,  has declared over and over that he wants to be beautiful for me.  Honestly, when he first shared that with me,  I thought it sounded strange and I did not quite understand what he was trying to say.  But now, I get it! He has certainly taught me and continues to teach me what it looks like AND feels like too experience love, God’s way! God is so good, ya’ll!

I am striving to embrace this “LIVE LOVED” life as I detach from toxic mindsets. Maybe you need freedom, too? Maybe your story is different from mine but you still have ugly, messy “stuff” from the past that is battling to keep you bound.  Can I encourage you today?  Don’t give up! Keep pushing through….keep wrestling!  A trigger moment does not make you are a failure or any less spiritual.  God understands why you are the way you are! However, His love for you will not leave you that way nor abandon you to battle alone.  Maybe you need some outside intervention.  Maybe you need a mentor to come along side of you.  Maybe YOU need a “word”, an anchor of sorts to hold you steady with scriptures to combat your triggers.  Maybe YOU need a divine and/or renewed revelation of how very much GOD loves YOU!! Sweet friend, pray and seek God and wait for His answer.  He knows what lies ahead of you and He will graciously equip you to rise above all that desires to hold you captive. LIVE LOVED and know that greater is HE that is in YOU than all the yuck, the lies, the deceit, the wounds, the losses, the betrayals and the disappointments of your past! Rise up, sweet sister!! God has amazing plans for YOU!!! You are extravagantly and completely loved! Now go and live like you believe it! By God’s amazing grace and power, we CAN do this!!

1 John 4:16: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Psalm 143:8: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Song of Solomon 4:9: “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.”

 

Freedom in Knowing and Embracing Truth

Truth will set you free

Friend, I don’t know about you, but as the longevity of my walk with Jesus increases day by day, my heart is becoming more aware of the lies that I had previously believed and embraced over the years.

Time and time again the enemy whispered in my ear.  He told me I was not good enough and that my life would always consist of pain and brokenness, that there was no way out. After-all, I was a Christian and Christians endure the unthinkable.  They never give up on a relationship.  They sacrifice for the sake of others, just like Jesus.  They embrace brokenness and heartache as a good soldier of Christ.

When you begin to believe the lie that your heart does not matter and that God has called you to live a life full of brokenness for the sake of another – friend, that is called enabling.  Last time I checked, enabling another to continue in their repetitive sin and hurt those who love them only brings disrespect towards you and in no way do those actions bring honor to God.  I used to very much dislike that word.  That very word was penned to wives who found themselves in similar situations like mine.  How could I possibly be “enabling” sinful behavior when it was the very thing that broke me time and time again? All I wanted was to be the kind of wife who helped, supported, and encouraged my husband.  However, this is where the problem was.  I wanted it MORE than my (then) husband wanted it and therefore, I was blinded by my own skin in the game.

Read the Bible more carefully! What did Jesus do? How did he respond to those who chose to continue in their sin?  Don’t fool yourself, please!  Don’t think that what you are doing by loving without boundaries and allowing yourself  to be wounded by the same kinds of betrayal over and over and over again is honorable.  I have come to learn that we can live sacrificially in a way that brings honor to God but we can also live sacrificially and nothing about our sacrifice is God-honoring.  This kind of sacrifice does not at all help the person who is held in bondage.  We may color it pretty with all the right “Christianeese” wording, but this will only work for so long.  A high cost is being paid for you to continue to stay in the pit with your betrayer….something needs to change and it starts with YOU!

I recently read a quote by author Gary Thomas which said, “It’s not a failure to know when it’s time to walk away; it’s a gift.”  I agree! The key is KNOWING.  Until you know, you wait.  Until you know that you know…there will more than likely be MORE heartbreak but the treasure of KNOWING is worth the waiting. Be patient.  Knowing is a process.  It is NOT a quick fix nor an easy way out.  It is NOT a decision to be made based on emotions. It’s attained by much waiting, prayer, fasting, wrestling, seeking God, and counsel. To know is powerful.  Knowing will NOT leave behind a heart of regret.  Knowing will give you the courage and confidence to move forward with strength and dignity as your God-given shield to combat the unknown and possibly difficult season ahead. But remember, unlike what you are used to, it will only be a SEASON; not a life-style of messiness and brokenness! Big difference!

I know this sounds harsh and somewhat bold but these are things that I wish someone would have shared with me.  And maybe they did, but my heart wasn’t ready to listen.

I remember in my early days of my (then) marriage reading the book “You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband”.  I marked it up, I hung onto every word.  I highlighted most pages and rewrote quotes in my journal.  I tried my best to live out the advice from this sister in Christ regarding how a wife who loves Jesus lived to make her man happy and above all to please Christ. It seemed to be on point with my understanding of marriage at the time.  Somehow I came to believe that if I did all the right things, checked them off my list of “what Godly wives do” my (then) husband would forever love me and his commitment would never waver.  Unfortunately, as time went on, I learned from actions and my repeated brokenness I couldn’t trust this person.  So, what did I do?  I  determined in my heart if I couldn’t trust him, I would just trust Jesus and I penned this as victoriously living. This is how I lived – for 30+ years.  Yet, it was far from victorious.   There was a constant wrestling full of battles I could never win.  You know why? Because this is NOT how God intended marriage to be.  Marriage should be a safe place to land not one of continued betrayal.

In hindsight, I had some really skewed thinking when it came to forgiveness.  Actually, I had the forgiveness part down…but my mercy was way out of balance.  In my thinking, if someone says they are sorry then as a Christian I need to forgive 70 times 7, which is true, right?  You CAN (and should) forgive… it’s a process that we have to work through with much prayer and surrender.  Forgiveness is about YOU, not the betrayer.  Forgiveness sets YOUR heart free from the bitterness that brokenness can cause.  However, we get this so messed up.  Forgiveness is totally separate from reconciliation….it takes only ONE to forgive but TWO to reconcile.  You CAN and SHOULD forgive without giving the repeated offender, the proven untrustworthy person, access to your heart again.  Don’t do it!! Did you notice that I said, “proven untrustworthy person”?  I am not talking about a stand-alone moment or event that hurt you; rather, I am talking about a lifestyle or pattern of behavior – repeated consistently with no repentance  – which has proven unsafe for your heart.

And Boundaries? Hmmmm.  What were those anyway? This term should be reserved for markings on a softball field or lines on a basketball court, right? Once you are married – in my happily ever-after girl mentality – I would have never thought you even needed them.   I. was. so. wrong.

All I knew was I had waited all my life to be married; to have babies and be the best wife and mom I could be with a husband who loved me as much as I loved him.  I was stubbornly determined to make it work even if it meant living life as a broken girl. Was it pride? Maybe! Was it fear? I am sure it was!  Was it about my children? Of course! Was it the desire not to disappoint others, including God?  Yes, that too.  I adamantly held on trusting that God would fix it and would take care of what I couldn’t as long as I worked on making myself a better wife, kept the faith and kept believing.

Yet, there I was.  Depressed, lonely, and crying buckets of tears behind closed doors nobody knew about.  I was so broken.  Suicidal thoughts? Yep, nothing serious, but nonetheless…my heart was full of regret.   There were times I wrestled with feeling hopeless, stuck, and trapped. This was not what I had signed up for.  I didn’t know love could hurt so deeply and so often.  However, I began to think it was normal.  After all, every couple has problems and are told to work through them, stick it out, work on changing yourself and let God take care of the rest.  So this is what I struggled to do over and over and over again, but somehow, I always fell short and my (then) marriage and broken heart proved it.

I poured my soul onto tear stained pages of pretty covered journals during those long ago seasons.  It was therapy for me. A means of  letting out what my heart so deeply felt but I couldn’t dare tell anyone.  Recently, I read back through some of those journals and literately cried for the girl that was.  She was young and gullible and so wanted to get it right that her stubborn resolve resulted in a toxic mindset of jumping through hoops of religious “good enough’s” and enduring relational pain that was destroying her from the inside out. What was once done out of love for her Savior soon turned into acts done with selfish motivation in hopes to save herself from being hurt again and to save her family.  With each new heartbreaking discovery came words out of anger that led her to feelings of guilt and shame.  It was a vicious cycle. Feeling as though if she just tried harder….prayed more, read her Bible more, etc. things would change and her heart could finally have a chance to heal.  She  was a broken, trapped young wife who didn’t understand why this was the life she was called to live.  She had done all she knew to do and yet, her life was marked by a brokenness that only Jesus could understand.

I saw a quote which said, “Marriage is like having a sleepover with your best friend every night of the week.”  Sounds so sweet, right?  Thanks be to Jesus, I now can say a big “Amen!” to that! But back then, not even close!  Secrets and betrayal do NOT nurture this kind of relationship; they only destroy it.   I finally realized, after many years,  what I thought was cut and dry as a “Christian” wife didn’t quite work like I had believed to my core to be true.  Yes, God hears and answers prayers! Yes, God is a way-maker! Yes, God heals broken marriages everyday.  Mine was just not going to be one of those and today I am okay with this.  I have not only survived, but I have felt peace and freedom of my soul like I have not remembered knowing before.  My kids have survived and thrived and I can honestly say we are all stronger and closer as a family than ever before!  God is truly restoring the “years the locusts have eaten” and He can do the same for YOU!

Here is the truth…..marriage was created by God to be a mirror of His extravagant and sacrificial love for the church.  However, it takes TWO in a marriage, humbly submitting to Him, then to each other for it to be a true reflection of how God designed marriage to be.  When both are living as God designed, it is beautiful.  Not perfect, but beautiful, nonetheless.  Grace in action – knowing the other never intentionally seeks to hurt, betray, dishonor, or destroy the heart of the other.

Let’s be honest…life can be messy and break our hearts. Yes, especially in marriage. However, even when there has been an incident of betrayal (not a lifestyle), there are many testimonies where there was true repentance and the couple was able to restore their relationship and come out on the other side stronger and with a story that helps others for the glory of God.  Subsequently, this is not always the case.  Sometimes the betrayal never stops. My lessons learned do not come from a one-time, backsliding season but from a lifetime of lies, deceit and betrayal over and over again.  Just like everything else God created, Satan seeks to tarnish it and ultimately destroy it.  He may have won the battle and left a heart full of scars. BUT God!

The lies I believed were exposed and I have now have a greater appreciation for God’s abundant grace.  Everything I have today is all because of His amazing, extravagant grace.  Yes, there has been a divorce; hearts of have been broken and lives have forever been changed.  Does this mean I am headed for hell? Does this mean God’s grace isn’t enough for all the messy brokenness that has affected so many? Is divorce the unpardonable sin? Is divorce even a sin?  All of these questions can only be answered in truth by God himself.  Who are we to put marriage on such a pedestal in the Christian community and think that only those who are married and have been able to stay married are more holy than those who have walked through the devastation of such terrible destruction and still have their faith intact?  I know my Jesus.  I know his heart for me and my children is nothing but love and healing of our broken hearts.  I know that while I was a divorced single mom, I was still accepted by God and He was STILL very much ordering my steps with His wisdom while pouring out blessings in the midst of the pain and challenges.  I have stories that involve “only God” moments!  Nobody can ever tell me differently. I have walked through it and I have experienced His faithfulness in abundance time and time again.  The religious haters of our day who call me and others who have been divorced and remarried adulterers and bombard us with Scriptures about God hating divorce are focusing on the wrong thing.  Shame off us and shame on them! We ALL are in need of the extravagant grace of God; not to habitually take part in sin, but to overcome it and rise above the trials and tribulations that come from living in a broken world.

To my divorced sisters who love Jesus and never thought their story would include the “D” word…..I would say, you are the bravest and gutsiest girls I know.  It takes BRAVERY to finally stand up to toxicity.  It takes GUTS to open your eyes to truth and quit justifying, downplaying, and hoping your life away while taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy and hurtful choices.  It takes a HOLY RESOLVE to STOP the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome.  It takes DIVINE STRENGTH to rise up and realize you are valued and worthy to be treated as such.  It takes DETERMINATION to walk through the darkness of divorce with your dignity intact. It takes COURAGE to fight for what is right and not allow compromise and rules to be broken because of scare tactics and threats.  YOU are chosen; YOU are loved; You are called; and YOU are the beloved daughter of a God whose grace and mercy trumps divorce and all the bad accolades that come with it.  He, my friend, is your Healer.  He did not cause your divorce but He is the ONE who can bring redemption to your broken heart and beauty for your ashes. None of us would have chosen this.  Life happens and we cannot control how others choose to walk it out, but we CAN choose to grab on to the hand of Jesus as we step out of the sinking boat and walk with Him towards a future that is full of His abundant grace and sweet beauty.

As I am writing this, I am profusely  in awe of my God.  Back then, I would have never imagined I would be where I am today.  Instead of tears of pain on the pages of my new pretty covered journals there are tears of joy and thankfulness.  The really amazing thing is when I look back I don’t see as much of the yuck as I see of God’s love in every page of my story – even the worst parts!  No doubt, I am where I am today because because I serve a God who redeems and makes all things NEW for HIS glory!   The pages that are now being written are full of life I have never experienced before and it is altogether beautiful and lovely.

Our God is writing your story, too, my friend.  You may be in the midst of the most horrific chapters this very moment but it’s NOT the end of your story.  New chapters are already in the works.  Don’t get stuck on one page, one period, and certainly not on one drama-filled event or even the heartbreaks and wounds that never seem to heal.  Pause if you need to; catch your breath and determinedly hit the carpet surrendering your messiness and heartbreak to your Savior. Be Brave, sweet sister! Pray, wait, seek counsel then follow through in obedience to what God shows you to do.  Anticipate His goodness.  He is NOT finished writing YOUR story! Keep turning those pages.  Keep your focus on HIM knowing that the best is yet to come.  Your heart will NOT always hurt as bad as it does today.  Because you are in the midst of…in the middle of….in the trenches of…. you may be wondering where God is.  You may feel as though your prayers are hitting the ceiling.  Keep praying.  He hears you, my friend. He sees you.  In His timing, He will reveal what you need to know.   As your story continues to be written and revealed….. God’s fingerprints of faithfulness from the front cover to the back will be undeniably evident! True story! Believe it!

What I Love About You….Our Happily Even-After

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     I truly felt like a love-stricken teenager at heart as I taped each envelope on the door to surprise my sweet husband.  This was only our second Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife but felt even more significant than our first. Why? Not sure! But I think it may have to do with the fact that I feel like I fall in love with him more everyday! Yes, it’s true!

As I purposely wrote each thought my heart was overwhelmed by God’s abundant faithfulness and amazing grace.

You see, Just a few years ago I really didn’t think I could entrust my heart to anyone in marriage again. The risk seemed way too high for this messy girl.  From my past experiences, love to me was painful and it meant to live sacrificially broken with unrelenting heart wounds for the sake of another…..because that’s what Jesus-loving girls do, right!??? (Not!! That was simply WRONG thinking! Blog post or maybe I should say “rant” coming soon, ha!) Unfortunately, just when hope of change was sparked and healing was in sight the messiness would come again and again….and again. So the story goes. 

But God….

When I first met Chris, even though I was undeniably drawn to him, my fears told me to run and I listened…ha! I was understandably scared and with a determined  stance, I stuck a  “closed” sign tightly over my heart.  But thankfully, with much prayer and wrestling AND the support of my dear mentors and friends the story didn’t end there! Chris respectfully, patiently and gently continued the pursuit and the rest is our happily-even-after!!! 

Even after….. 

Even after we both had made our share of mistakes. Even after we both had hidden scars from our messy and broken past. Even after we both had experienced the tearing apart of significant relationships. All because our God is the God of the “even after”! Our God is so so good!! He truly does bring beauty from ashes!

The words I wrote on each note were a reflection of my heart being able to experience…for the first time ever, the love that was meant to be shared between a husband and a wife! It’s altogether beautiful and I can say that I am truly thankful for the lessons learned from our “before” scars that have brought us to our “even after” story today. 

Friend, whatever your gut-wrenching story looks like today, it’s not over! In Christ, it is only a chapter, a season, and a tool to propel you towards your God-ordained, God-weaved, God-blessed and God-planned destiny! YOUR happily even-after story is coming! Believe it! 

Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

You’re Going to Be Okay!

 

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Are you at a messy place right now and your mind wonders if  God really does redeem our stories?  Not just when we enter our heavenly home but here and now, this side of eternity?  Maybe you have found yourself on a detour that you never saw coming.  Maybe you are facing this very moment some ugly, difficult and untended parts of your story that have left you face down on the carpet desperate for God’s intervention.

Friend, can you just pause for a moment from your tears, your questions, your doubts and hang with me for a moment?  Our. God. Is. Faithful. Always.   I get it….. your circumstances may NOT be okay!  However, YOU’RE going to be okay! How can I proclaim this so boldly and confidently? Because I have walked through those kind of chapters and am now reaping the joys that God brings as the pages turn.

The pain in my eyes that I had for literally years is now gone and has been replaced with precious peace and radical relief.  God DOES redeem! He takes the worst parts of our stories and redeems and truly creates beauty from the ashes that may surround us.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:1-3

If you need hope this very moment please read the above scripture again.  Pay attention to every word.  Do you see it?  Heavy words like brokenhearted, captive, darkness, prisoner, the grieving and all who mourn are the ones being addressed in this passage.   Friend, if any of those words describe who you are or where you find yourself on this journey, your heart can be FULL of hope! You’re going to be okay!! Why? Because Jesus came for YOU! He has already made a way for you.  Your ashes are no match for His abundant grace.

February 2, 2019 represents so much more than my wedding day…but a rescue of sorts.  A day when God boldly declared to my heart as well as others that He is well able to redeem and take what the enemy meant to destroy me and my family and make it so beautiful.  It represents the answer to countless prayers prayed by many that I did not even know were  praying for me and my family.   You see, it’s not just our victory in Jesus but other’s victory and testimony, too!  Those who loved us, supported us, believed in us and more importantly those who believed that God had good plans for us in spite of how it looked then.  My heart is so thankful.  My prayer is that in sharing this it will give YOU a shot of hope because at numerous times, I was wondering and struggling, too! Broken, wounded, stressed to the hilt, and ever so desperate.  It wasn’t just one hard thing but many that left me with eye twitches and stress rashes…..but God! No, things did not happened as I had prayed but God took me on a path that has been paved with amazing grace and beauty for ashes.  If you are wondering if this could ever happen for you my answer to you is a resounding and confident YES!!! It is so hard to believe when your heart is filled with pain and you can’t see clearly for the fog that surrounds you. I get it. I really do. I promise you, our God is faithful.  He sees you.  He invites you to trust Him as He is working out the future that He has for you and those you love.

So my friend, whatever chapter you are in know this;   it’s only for a season.  Many times we have no control how long our painful seasons may last  but you can be assured that God’s timing is perfect and purposeful. You, my friend, are on the pathway to greater joy and intimacy with Christ than you have ever known.  Stay on the carpet, ugly cry and let your knees burn.  Don’t ever stop wrestling. Stubbornly hold on to your faith as you hold on to your God.   Follow hard after him…stay obedient no matter what your feelings tell you. Expect God to move! He will sweet sister, He will!! Your waiting time is not wasted time…He is creating room in you for the beauty that is yet to come!  One day,  you will see clearly that He not one time left you in your darkest moments.  He was cutting away the lies from the past to make room for a NEW season, a NEW beginning that could not compare to anything you have experience before.

Psalm 27:14

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the lord.

 

 

Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Over the past few years we have experienced the death of two marriages in our family. To say that our family dynamics have dramatically changed is an understatement.  To see where we are today is nothing short of a miracle.  Not the instantaneous kind but the kind that comes from wrestling and determinedly walking out your days with God’s gutsy braveness and strength not because you are super spiritual but because there is no other option.   The odds were certainly against us.  The chances of us coming through such huge changes with relationships still in tact were not at all in our favor.

To be perfectly honest, when my oldest daughter came to me and told me she was getting a divorce…I selfishly fought against it.  See,  I was in the midst of my own messy, crazy and hard divorce from her father.  I held it together for the moment and then as soon as I could get away, I hit the carpet in disbelief.  Really, Lord? Why now? This is absurd! I can’t carry her brokenness and my own at the same time let alone my other kid’s brokenness!!  This was just too much….for her, for me, and for our family.  “Like mother, like daughter” was not a phrase that felt good  in the midst of our unwanted circumstances though it would seem fitting, Ugh! Having five children experience the terrible aftermath of the destruction of their own family unit is one thing.  However, to have one of those five children also experience the same kind of loss……in the same season, was inviting chaos of the worst kind to reek havoc in the hearts and minds of ALL my children. Oh my word!! I knew I had to get a grip.  As I ugly cried into the carpet that day in prayer pleading with God to intervene and wallowing in my own pity party,  I was reminded that He knows all things.  This was absolutely no surprise to Him.  His grace would be sufficient.   What seemed like such horrible timing and so messy would be worked for good no matter how things felt or looked from my limited perspective.  I had no choice and I knew it.  I had to embrace what I knew to be true of God and not let my emotions get the best of me.  I had to be strong for all of us.  I eventually stood up with a stubborn resolve but it was only a short time after that the guilt bombs and accusations attacked my mind from different directions. Subsequently, this only gave way to even more stinkin’ thinking.   I went from “please, God” to “oh, no…did I cause this?  Were my children reaping the consequences of my decisions? Was my own divorce giving my precious daughter permission to give up on HER marriage?  After-all, God hates divorce.”  Reality is, I hate divorce and yet here I was on the cusp of the “D” word being a part of my story and now doubly so for my daughter. We all know as a mom,  it’s one thing for life to happen to us but when it hits our kids it’s a whole different kind of brokenness.  They had already lost enough.  The possibility of it being a part of my daughter’s story, too…broke me.  “How dare I claim to be a christian and put my family through this.  Have I opened the door of destruction for those that I hold most dear to my heart?”  This thinking and more attacked every aspect of who I have ever claimed or wanted to be.   I hated the helplessness I felt but I knew  I had no control over outcomes.  This was not something I could fix nor wish away.  In the midst of this overwhelming sorrow, I repented.  I begged for God’s mercy to cover and heal any brokenness in my children that I may have caused.  I was so sorry for my part in all of this messiness.  Then I rehearsed in my mind the road that led me to the decisions that I had made and  I had a renewed resolve.  Now was not the time to question what I had already previously settled in my heart and mind through much prayer and counsel.  I knew what I knew.  I needed to be extremely careful of whose voice I was giving power to.  Did what I was hearing line up with what I knew to be true, if not…then I had to choose to let it go!! Not to say that I didn’t struggle anymore, because I did. I just did not allow those tormenting thoughts to be the boss of me……..I surrendered them to Jesus over and over again and slowly but surely they lost their power over me.  Thank you, Jesus!

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.     John 1:16

Now, several years later we are living out our stories redemption style.  The losses we went through do not compare to the new joys we are now experiencing.  What was meant to destroy us has only made us stronger and has given us a story that shouts of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness.  Only my children know the depths of the chaos and craziness that we have walked through but with that they have also known and witnessed the greatness of our God as He has came to our rescue time and time again!

Just recently, as I had a few precious moments with my daughter before she said “I do”, I was given the opportunity to pray with her.   As the words begin to flow, so did my tears. God so sweetly reminded me of how He had given us each other to share not only in the pain that had been a part of our stories, but also in these specific joy-filled beauty-for-ashes moments.  I don’t know of any mom who would ever plan nor want to go through a divorce at the same time as her daughter BUT not every mom gets the blessing of sharing the season of being engaged and married with her own daughter either.  How precious and how special.  I could not see in the get go, as I poured out my heart beside my bed that day, that God would so graciously weave our stories so closely together and create a beautiful ever after from the ashes we both carried.  I could not see then that God would take the ugliness of divorce and bring a strength and closeness among my children that wasn’t there before.  I couldn’t see then that I would get to meet and marry a special man and have the privilege of being  a bonus mom to two incredible kids and a mother-in-law to a man that would love my daughter and her siblings like no other!

Our God is truly the God of abundant mercy and grace and He is no respecter of persons.  In the midst of the unwanted parts of our stories, God redeems. He covers our shame with His love and creates within our story HIS story of amazing grace.  His grace is even more beautiful to me now than ever before.  I have been ever so desperate for it and I have  experienced the extravagance of it.   His grace has anchored my messiness to His marvelous perfection and created something so beautifully new.  His grace has truly been sufficient for me and my children and I can assure you that His grace is truly sufficient for you. Believe it, my friend!

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage;  Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord. Psalm 27-13-14 

I have set the Lord continually before me;  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

…May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be realized in and through Christ, freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts]. 1 Peter 1:2

 

 

 

Unanswered Prayers and Longing Hearts

Daisies were my mom’s favorite flower. Honestly, her life resembled their beauty. She was a sweet spirited, gracious woman of faith pouring out JOY and the love of Christ to all who knew her.  Though her marriage of almost 50 years was not how she would have envisioned it, she stood strong and courageous and embraced her place.  She believed God for better days ahead and kept believing, in spite of the many obstacles.  Hidden behind her beautiful smile, her life consisted of frequent frustrations and brokenness.  There were seasons when she wanted to walk away but it was fear that kept her where she was but faith that gave her the guts to dare to believe that her tomorrows would be different.

I understand my mom so much better these days. The struggle between fear and faith, comfortable and risky, holding on and letting go.  Oh, how I wish her life could have been different.  Fear is a prison that shows no mercy if not reckoned with.  As her daughter, my heart breaks for hers still today but really, that’s so silly.  She is basking in her eternal home with Jesus now which takes away so much more than the sting of death but also the brokenness that she lived through.

I hoped and believed with my mom for things to change.   After all, we knew we were praying according to God’s will, so why did my mom not get to witness the fruit of her prayers?   I know about free will, choices, and all of that however, being aware of those kinds of things doesn’t lessen the pain of our heart’s longings, right?

SO, what do we do with unanswered prayers, longing hearts and chronic suffering?

The day I lost my mom is the day I lost my best friend.  It was a loss like no other.  I  think about my fervent, pleading prayers and belief for my mom to be healed of cancer and am wistfully reminded of her passing each day and most heavily each time my kids have milestone moments that I am unable to share with her.  AND now with my precious grand-babies, her loss is felt even more.  Oh, how she would so love them!! Nevertheless, I am quite aware that we are not, by no means, the only ones on the planet to experience this kind of long-suffering in what seems to be a never-ending journey through the wilderness of pain and unanswered prayers.

I think about the couple who unceasingly prayed for years to conceive a child, finally giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, only to have their dreams forever crushed as they lost their precious baby to cancer.

I think of the little girl who cries out to God to heal her daddy, only to have him die in a car accident, three months later.

I think about the parents who fervently prayed for their child who was put into prison for drugs, only to have him released and then die from an overdose.

I think about the missionary who felt the call of God to go to a foreign country, who interceded on behalf of the lost, who believed God for protection only to be martyred, never seeing the fruit of his labors.

I could go on and on about loss, suffering, and unanswered prayers and perhaps even add your story to the above. This side of Heaven, THIS. IS. LIFE. IT. IS. HARD.  However, this is not meant to depress you, to tell you that prayer is meaningless or to deflate your faith!  Please stay with me.

Though my mom’s prayers were not answered  this side of heaven the way she had hoped,  she died in faith, STILL believing that our God is faithful.  And you know what?  There are MANY who passed before her, whose FAITH stood the test of much patience, suffering, brokenness, along with those who were burned, tortured, stoned, imprisoned, whipped and oppressed even unto death. Of course, for the most part, these beautifully brave and courageous followers of Christ were not noticed by our world Their faith did not earn them any special accolades or awards.  I can promise you this; if they were standing before us they would say none of that mattered to them.  They were doing what they did for an audience of ONE.  Friends, that ONE took SPECIAL notice of their kind of faith, so much so, that He felt it important enough to speak of them…

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                Hebrews 11:13-14

Did you catch that?  Read the first part again.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them.  

They did not receive what was promised

Friends, sometimes our prayers are answered quickly, obviously, and even miraculously.  Our faith is ignited and our doubts are laid dormant in light of God’s evident working power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Other times, God’s perfect plan comes to fruition in ways that we might not recognize or understand.

Over the long haul of asking and believing, it gets tough. We get weary.  Our faith wavers.  We don’t like to think about having to continue in the wilderness of suffering and unmet longings and certainly we don’t want to even consider leaving this earth without seeing our gut-wrenching prayers answered.  Friend, you already know this, but maybe it is time to really embrace it; your prayers may not be answered THIS side of Heaven the way you would like them to be.  Can you be okay with that? What will your response be when things don’t go as you had prayed?

Whatever it is you are praying for or against, GOD has a purpose weaved all through it.  He lovingly filters ALL things that impacts the lives of his children.  If he allowed it, HE plans to use it for GOOD.  Not only will He use it to transform YOU, but to bring about HIS Kingdom purposes on this earth and in the hearts of those you love.

This is a quote worth sharing;

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”  Tim Keller

If you step back and look at it from a Heavenly perspective, those in Hebrews 11 really received the GREATER promise…the promise of their happy eternal after with Jesus.  By God’s grace and strength, that is what they kept their eye on, as the scripture tells us.  That is how they faced the horrific and unimaginable suffering that they were subjected to.  I adamantly pray that I could do the same. How about you?

Friends, this journey on this earth is NOT the MAIN thing!  So much of the time we are so short sighted that we lose our eternal perspective.  In the scheme of things, THIS life on earth is SO short, so minute compared to eternity.  Let me just remind all of us, myself included,  that God’s calling upon our lives, first and foremost is to be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.  That is God’s heart…to save the lost.   Are we grieving over the lost and interceding for them or are we obsessing more over our own unanswered prayers? I know for me, sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world that I lose sight of what is REALLY important.  I get so distracted by what is right in front of me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am in no way belittling the heart-wrenching things you may be praying about.   Even as I write this, there are tough and difficult circumstances in my own life that I am continually laying on the alter of prayer.   I want things fixed NOW! I don’t like waiting, I don’t like feeling out of control, I don’t like pain, and I don’t like the unknown.  So, are things changing? No, not altogether…but what is changing is me.  Trusting, believing, and even waiting brings growth and maturity that cannot come otherwise.  For now, that is MORE important to my loving Father than to change the circumstances I am praying about.  So,  I will keep praying and believing that my God is in control and hears every prayer. I can be confident that God has a Divine plan that exceeds my limited vision.

It is obvious that prayer is important to God.  After all, it has been noted that there are around 650 prayers in the bible. Prayer is powerful and brings about amazing and Divine things on this earth! Jesus even prayed and gave us the ultimate example to follow.

Without prayer, there is no communication and no communication means no relationship!  Therefore, keep praying, by all means.  And as you do so, think about your difficulties this way; if what you are suffering and/or praying for is keeping you humble and dependent upon Jesus then consider it a divine blessing of grace! Amen?!

Will you continue to believe God and not allow your faith to be shaken though your prayers may seem stagnant in the wilderness of waiting or chronic long suffering? Can you passionately pray a bold and courageous prayer just as Jesus did and proclaim from the depth of your soul “not my will but thine be done”?  Lord, Jesus help us!

Will YOUR name be added to the precious saints that God deemed worth mentioning because, by FAITH, you continue to believe until your last breath on earth?  I don’t know about you, but Hebrews 11:13 gives me tenacious HOPE and a resolve to bravely and steadfastly continue to BELIEVE and TRUST God no matter how long the waiting or the pain of brokenness my heart may endure.

Friend, God sees you! God hears you and His perfect love for you will answer your hearts cry as every circumstance and every difficulty is filtered through His amazing grace.  Keep praying, keep believing, keep trusting, and keep serving!  Always remember what God has ALREADY done for you! May you be filled with HOPE as you see heaven and Jesus as the backdrop in every single thing you encounter on this journey! He is faithful and the ultimate Promise Keeper! Believe it!

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in Heaven which we have not yet seen.  The troubles will soon be over; the joys to come will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:18

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24