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!

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

 

 

 

Trusting and Waiting

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It happened several years ago, one August morning. In some ways it seems like forever ago.  Yet, I still remember it so vividly.  I was awakened from a deep sleep with the following scripture on my heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:3-5

I would love to sound all spiritual and say this was a normal occurrence in my life.  However, being awakened with a Word from God just pouring into my spirit wasn’t something that I was used to.  It is for that very reason that I knew this was special and I needed to pay attention. Of course, I didn’t understand it then but it was soon to be my life-line for the most difficult season I had ever encountered.

You see, a few years before that memorable August morning, something had gone way south in my marriage. It had happened many times before but this time was different. I knew it. Sure, our marriage had been extremely difficult over the years and there was much brokenness and betrayal throughout but I believed that we had finally progressed beyond all of that.  I so longed for the testimony that we had previously shared with our church family,  to continue to be the testimony of our tomorrows.  I knew God was able! Even though my gut persistently screamed at me and I saw the red flags waving, I didn’t want to give significance to any of it.  I wanted to believe that I was just being paranoid and overly sensitive.  But deep in my core, I knew.

My consistent and gut wrenching prayers became more desperate as time went on.  I asked God to bring light to the darkness, for Him to reveal what I felt like I already knew.   I begged Him and pleaded with him time and time again.   Consequently, there was no big reveal, no explanation, no tangible evidence, nothing! However, God was not totally silent. Thankfully, He gave me an anchor to hold onto.  The word “faithful” was graciously dropped in my spirit.  What did that mean?  I knew.  God was calling me to be faithful in the midst of the not knowing, the brokenness and the pain. He was asking me to simply trust Him and wait.  I had to be faithful…as a wife, as a mom, as a daughter of God and in God’s timing, He would bring truth to light and reveal His wisdom.  I could not let my feelings dictate my actions.  I could not run, I could not give up.  I had to continue right where I was, doing what I knew to do in that season of waiting.  It was a daily battle.  I prayed and surrendered my concerns, fears, frustrations, anger and pain to Jesus as I had so many times before.  However, things seemed to only get worse.  I cried and grieved a lot during that time and to say a lot is not an exaggeration. I think I knew in my heart what was coming and it broke me.  I had dear friends who tried to intervene but, unfortunately,  their kind efforts were unfruitful.

Looking back, I am beyond grateful that I was given the gift of divine space to begin the grieving process while still within the boundaries of marriage. I think I can compare it to a loved one being taken care of by Hospice at the end of this life. You know the end is coming and God, in His amazing love and grace, begins to prepare your heart to let go. I have no words to describe the difficulty of that season. It truly was like a slow death.

In the short years that followed, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I was his care-giver.  He lived in my home  before he entered his heavenly home. I will not go into the added chaos and brokenness this brought into my life but it was very much a distraction from the sinking feeling that my world was about to be forever changed in more ways than I could comprehend.  Looking back now, the Lord was so very gracious.  He cares so very much about our burdens and brokenness. He knew this broken girl could only handle one huge life changing thing at a time.  It was not until about seven months after my dad had passed away that some truths were finally revealed. Subsequently, a month or two after I had awakened with the scripture I mentioned earlier. God’s timing is always perfect!  His ways are so much higher than our own!  Though my heart was broken in more pieces than I could count, I praised my God! I distinctly remember falling to me knees at that precise moment…it was bittersweet.   I thanked Him for finally bringing to light what I needed to know, even though it hurt so deeply.   It was then that I knew it was time. When you know, you just know.  I was rescued. I was released.

I used to always wonder how couples who had been married for 30 years could end up getting a divorce.  It seemed totally crazy to me. After-all, if you made it that far, you should be able to ride it out for the long haul, right?  Well, now I get it.  There comes a time when you finally say, enough is enough. I can’t do this any longer.  I need peace. I need to take the short years I have left and live them to the fullest even if it means living them alone.  It is not the life we would have chosen but that is how things sometimes turn out this side of heaven.

It has been nearly three years since I made that decision,  I dealt with two deaths in a short amount of time, the death of my father and the death of my marriage.  The death of my father was so very hard..but the death of my marriage and the challenges that have followed have proven to be the most challenging and painful season I have EVER walked through. Even though the struggles were overwhelming at times, I know my God rescued me.  Yes, God ordained marriage, Yes, God hates divorce! However, I know He loves His daughters MORE than He hates divorce.   I do not for one second condone divorce.  It is ugly.  It is hurtful.  It is devastating.  It affects SO many people. It is not how it was supposed to be.  I would NOT encourage any sister of mine to walk this path without first seeking wise Godly counsel and WAITING for God to reveal His guidance.  Waiting is a key factor.  You cannot make this decision based on your hurt and brokenness.  Emotional decisions are not wise.  You have to give yourself time to work through some of your brokenness before making such a life-altering decision…this applies to every area of our life!

I am 100% FOR marriage!  I am 100% for commitment and staying for the duration.  I am also 100% convinced that when you have done all you can do… the braver, more courageous choice is to let go and let God lead you out.  After 30 years, it was scary, it was stepping out of the boat of “I can’t do this” and taking hold of Jesus, trusting Him to keep me and my children from sinking.  It was like having a somewhat twisted, toxic and unhealthy security being pulled out from under us.

So why am I writing all this? Because somebody needs to hear it.  I used to think that going through a divorce was the worst thing that could ever happen, so I adamantly avoided it at all costs.  Friend, I can confidently say with humble thankfulness, that what seems like the worst thing that could ever happen is NOT the worst thing because we serve a faithful God! He  walks with us through the yuck and the messy and helps us to be braver and more courageous than we ever thought we could.

The morning when I woke up with Proverbs 3:3-5 on my heart was a divine father-daughter moment in which I will never forget.  Of course I did not understand the significance of it then but now, wow!!  He wanted me to know that I could trust Him through the unwanted, challenging and downright messy season I was about to enter into.  He was going to be with me… leading, guiding, protecting, and upholding me and my children and though I would not understand it all, I could still trust Him.  He would make me brave.  He would give me courage to face what was coming.

Throughout this journey, I was reminded of that scripture  time and time again.  I prayed it, repeated it, cried through it and stubbornly held onto it when my feelings told me otherwise and my God never failed me.

AND so it it with you, dear sister!  Our God can be trusted!  I have heard it said, “You don’t really know what trust is until you have to trust!” That is so true!  I can tell you, at your point of desperation, God is there.  He is with you.   He is writing your story and His grace and mercy are weaved all through it bringing beauty from what may have appeared to be something that you could not fathom having to endure.

Sweet sister. NO matter what your scary thing is, God is bigger! Though you may experience pain like you never have before, you will also experience God’s amazing grace like never before. He is such a loving Father.  So what is it? What scary thing is the enemy using to torment you with by whispering “you can’t do it, you can’t make it, you’re not good enough, God can’t use you, you’re too messed up, you are not smart enough”, etc? Stop listening to THAT voice and take hold of what God says! Your problems are no match for God’s promises! Be brave and take hold of HIS grace and step onto the waters of obedience and mercy and see what He will do!  

Is it a time of waiting and preparation or is it a time of action and application? 

Whatever season you are in, God’s grace is precise and sufficient for YOU! Trust HIM with ALL of your heart.  God’s plan is so much bigger than what you can think or imagine.   Seek that father-daughter relationship with Him and as you do, you can be CONFIDENT that He will hold you, comfort you, lead you, protect you, provide for you, empower you, bless you, and work ALL things together for your good and for HIS glory!  THAT, my friend is WHO HE IS!  Believe it!

Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28

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.  Psalm 27:14

Divorce, Remarriage and a Handful of Stones

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I never thought I would find myself writing about this subject matter.   This week, someone, who did not like my posts about my journey through divorce, shared my link in a “Christian” group page.  Since then, several have contacted me with regard to their disdain towards me.

Because I am divorced and I am a Christ follower, I have been sent videos on divorce and remarriage, that condemns both.  I have received horrible comments.  Some of these strangers who commented were seemingly kind but felt the need to correct my erroneous thinking.  Some picked up stones,  surrounding them with pretty bows of christian “cliches” and then proceeded to throw their ugliness full force.  Some just got right to their stone throwing without hesitation.

Below are some of the comments I have received.

  • “You should not be making believe that God approves of your divorce.”
  • ‘God does not bless your disobedience.  He hates it.”
  • “You need to repent of breaking your home and be forgiving toward your husband.”
  • “No true Christian can pursue divorce and claim Christ.  These two are incompatible. You do not know the heart of Christ if you claim otherwise.”
  • “Marriage is permanent. No exceptions.”
  • “You are still every bit married today in God’s eyes as you were on your wedding day….”
  • “Your sin brings destruction on the Church and smears Christ’s face in the mud.”(This one hurt the most)

The purpose of my blog is NOT to draw the attention of those who believe differently than me and inadvertently invite their judgement.  The intended purpose is to encourage other broken girls who need hope and courage in the midst of their own difficult journey.

I will not post, debate nor will I respond personally to comments from people who choose to carry stones in their hands.  That would be useless and of no good benefit, anyway.  I want to honor God not use this outlet to prove a point or debate such things.

I get it, there is a wide chasm that separates “Christians” because of their beliefs about divorce and remarriage, among other things.  There are scriptures that can be misconstrued, twisted, and taken out of context to support both sides of this debate. I have researched both arguments.   I have sought the heart of God for my own self.  While I do not in any way claim to be a biblical scholar, nor a “know it all” when it comes to this subject, I am at peace with what I feel God has revealed to me.

So why am I writing this? Part of me is venting, ha! The other part of me is sharing because this is a learning curve for me that maybe others can learn from, as well.

It’s a rough world out there friends, yes, even among those who identify themselves as Christians.  I have never, in my 50+ years on this planet, been addressed by “Christian” strangers in such a condescending, condemning and ugly way.   Sadly, I know this happens in the church world all the time but this is new for me.   I am frustrated and trying to find my footing in the midst of such ugliness.  I have prayed that the Lord would search and purify my heart from the evilness that is behind this.   I am reminded of Psalm 37 that has been my go to throughout the last couple of years.  I wrote about that here:  https://blessed-is-she.com/2018/03/22/185/.  I have to make an intentional decision to not fret, to trust God, to commit to Him, delight in Him, wait upon Him, guard my own heart and leave the hearts of others in His hands. SO much easier said than done BUT by God’s grace it CAN be done and done well! STILL learning this one!

The blessing that I am choosing to find in this messiness is that these people have caused me to reflect and search my own heart.  How do I treat others who do not believe the way I believe? Who interpret scripture differently from me?  There is a right way and a absolute wrong way.   I would not want to be guilty of causing my sister or brother in Christ to feel that they were my latest target for judgmental stoning because we believe differently.  I understand that there are times when we DO judge for our own protection.  The Word specifically tell us that we will “know” them by their fruits.  This requires judging the actions and behaviors of others BUT not ever for the purpose of condemning or picking up stones. That kind of judgement is rooted in pride, arrogance and an accusatory mindset.  However,  I may not have been as bold and cruel as these people but in my thoughts am I guilty of judging (stoning), as well? Have I done this very thing to others?  God knows our thoughts and motives way before others experience our actions.  Lord, please forgive me. What about you?  If we were all honest, we all have done this more than we care to admit.  We can do better!

Lord, Jesus help us! Help us to minister your love to those who are broken among us and to those who believe differently about such debatable topics.  God is big enough to correct each and every one of us if our hearts stay humble and teachable.  We have no idea the things some of our brothers and sisters in Christ have had to walk through.  There are many hurting.  There are many wounded.  Life is hard.  Help us to remember why you have given us space on this planet.  Not to throw stones but to be a light for you for the unsaved and to come along side of and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we be humble vessels that bring honor to your name as ambassadors for Christ.  Empower us to represent you well, so that others will experience your love through us.  Your Word tells us that it is your kindness that leads to repentance.  Together, may we show your kindness to those who are struggling to find their way.  We need you Lord! ALL of us! The married, the divorced, the widowed, the single, the remarried. the young, the old and all in between!  Judgmental Stones were meant to hurt not to heal.  Help us to use stones only to build a bridge so that others may find their way towards You.  The world is watching.  May they see the love of Christ in place of judgmental stoning within our church body and communities.  May we allow the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do and quit thinking that it is up to us to change or “fix” others.   May we fix our eyes on Jesus and thank Him for His amazing grace that transforms not only our own lives but the lives of those we are called to love and serve, even if they believe differently than we do.

He Gets Me!

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The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him.  Nahum 1:7

I am so very grateful that God gets me.  He understands me.  Lately, I have found great comfort in knowing this.  Not to justify or make excuses for my messiness but to find the grace and strength to expect change.  I can’t do it without Him, nor do I have to! Thank you, Jesus!  He knows why I am the way I am.  He has witnessed my brokenness.  He understands my insecurities. He understands why I am so messy! A toxic marriage and now divorce have left their ugly marks and I sometimes get frustrated with the depth of those marks. Ugh!  I am good at justifying and downplaying red flags.  I question my own intuition.  I struggle with insecurities.   I sometimes carry the burden and responsibility of the choices and consequences of other’s upon myself.   Please tell me I am not the only one? Oh, and there is more…Ha! The truth is, we can get upset and frustrated about our own weaknesses and struggles OR we can thank God that we recognize them and allow Him to turn our weaknesses into strengths that will glorify and honor him.

Transformation is more often than not, an intense and long process.  Unfortunately, short cuts cannot be taken. Old mind sets can take a while to rewire.  It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes a whole lot of grace.  However, we need not allow our struggles define us.  We have a loving Father who patiently and kindly reveals, heals, and makes new.  He is so eminently patient with us and FULL of grace.   He WILL complete the good work he started in you and in me.  He loves each of us way too much to allow stinkin’ thinking and past survivor- mode- mindsets to continue to hold us hostage.   He wants us free and He will not relent until that happens.

Today, I choose to surrender wholly to Him all my inconsistencies, all my insecurities, all my stinkin’ thinkin’, all my fears and all of my messiness.  The truth is, life will continue to have its messiness in one way or another, which means more messiness in me to work through, ha! Therefore, this will, by no means, be a one time event, but an ongoing need throughout this journey.  AND that’s okay because as long as you and I continue to surrender and replace lies with Truth,  the devil can’t win and we are truly made MORE than conquerors through our Savior who love us! Amen!?

How about you? Aren’t you glad that God gets YOU? You don’t have to invite discouragement to be your companion because you are still struggling to overcome.   The Lord understands.  Let me remind you that He has walked with you through your most darkest seasons.  He has witnessed all that your heart has gone through.  He has seen the well of tears that you have cried when nobody was looking.  He is fully aware of your knee jerk reactions to certain situations because of your past.  He knows that you want to be free and the good news is… He reveals only to heal, sweet sister!   He is the Master Potter who re-forms, re-shapes and chisels away those unwanted rough and sharp edges that are placed in His hands of mercy.  As the scripture says, “The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble…”  Think about that! He is GOOD! He is your STRENGTH and He is your STRONGHOLD in the midst or your troubled heart.  “He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him.”  Rest in that, my dear sister knowing that you are understood and that your God GETS you and even MORE profound than that is that He’s GOT you! Friend, remain on the Potter’s wheel and your beauty will shine forth as you encounter your happily-even-after days ahead! Believe it!

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  Jeremiah 18:1-4

What Divorce has Taught me About Life and the Hard Stuff

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I thought I knew a few things about God, life, myself and relationships pre-divorce… ha!! Needless to say, I knew so very little.  It is interesting how going through the wilderness seasons can be so full of difficulties and yet it is during those times that we learn and grow the most.

Just a warning, this is a long post. I am breaking the “blogger’s 101 rules for success”…but I am okay with that!  Believe me, there is more I could write on this subject so there may be a part 2 at a later time.

Please understand that journaling is heart therapy for me and because I am choosing to live #fearless in 2018, I am sharing!  Everyone’s journey through divorce is different so not everyone will be able to relate to everything that I mention.  However, just maybe there is at least one nugget that may help you in your own life if you find yourself in this place.  If divorce is not a part of your story, maybe this will help you in understanding some of the thoughts and struggles that divorce brings to the heart and mind of someone you may love and care about.

The following is the result of things said to me, things I had to learn the hard way, things that God showed me, things that helped me, things that I struggled with and things that I felt needed to be said. New things will be added later as I am still on this journey.  Please don’t judge me or anyone else who is walking down this road.  Nobody approaches their wedding day thinking or wanting this to be a part of their story! It is so messy, so hard, and so crazy difficult!

First of all, you CAN be divorced AND love Jesus!  You CAN have God’s favor and blessing over your life unlike what some may have told you!  You are NOT a heathen.  You have not been ousted from God’s grace and love. Yes, I had to say it! Now we can move on…ha!

Divorce is life-changing not life-ending!  Your marriage may have died but you are still here! Believe Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11.  The Word of God STILL applies to you!  God’s promises for you have not changed!

Letting go of your toxic marriage is NOT giving up on God NOR your faith.  There are times when it takes MORE faith and courage to let go than to hang on.  KNOW the difference.  I believed that lie for way longer than I care to admit to.  Our Father God is so gracious toward His broken daughters!

There are many losses that divorce demands.  The loss of  your dreams, your family unit, some friends, your extended family,  your “wife” and “Mrs.” status, your plans of growing old together, celebrating 50 years together, sharing grand-babies together and on and on. It is good heart therapy to make a list of your losses and take time to grieve over each one.  It is a process.  Embrace this season and the pain you are feeling.  Don’t deny it or try to hide it so that you can get THROUGH it!

Need some joy?  Let God use you in the midst of your own brokenness! Yep, it is possible!  Sister, you have NOT been put on a shelf! You are not deemed unusable for the Kingdom of God.  That is a lie from the enemy!  I understand that you may need to take a break from some ministry commitments for a season, and understandably so.  However, being overly self-absorbed for a lengthy period of time is not at all beneficial.   Take some time to reach out or simply make yourself  available to encourage a hurting sister.   Not only will it bring you joy to do so, but it might just help with your own healing!

You will be judged.  That’s okay!  Not everyone will understand because not everyone knows the details of your story…AND not everyone needs to know.  The Lord will reveal truth in His timing to those who need to know, the rest… let go!

Guard your heart! You are vulnerable!  Give yourself time to heal.  Give your kids time to heal.  Do NOT rush into another relationship! Make peace with who you are and embrace your singleness. Wait until you can confidently say and know that you are going to be okay with or without being in another relationship.  Ask your Godly mentors and friends if they think you are ready to date.  USE wisdom! Don’t be needy thinking you HAVE to have another man in your life…sister, you don’t!  Under these circumstances, desperation invites devastation! Seek God’s will for YOU!! HE knows what you need! Deal with your stuff…your mess, as much as possible so that you are not a target for another toxic person to come along and bring MORE messiness to your life.  Remember, your choices effect all those in your sphere of influence, especially your children….choose wisely!

The big “D” label it feels you are wearing on your forehead does not exist.  You are not an outcast as though you have the plague. Hold your head up! You are the beloved daughter of God Almighty! Walk like it, talk like it, and act like it!

Find your tribe! You will need prayer warriors who will go to battle for you and your kids on a consistent basis.  You will need those surrounding you who will speak God’s truths to you to combat the lies that the enemy wants you to believe.  You will need mentors, counselors and/or pastors who will come along side of you giving you encouragement and much needed support, wisdom and even rebuke. This is so very important!  Seek them out! Pray about who God wants to use in your life that will have your best interest at heart along with Godly wisdom.  There will be days when you will be in a brain fog, numb, and unable to even pray, but these precious God-sent people will fill in the gaps and lock shields in prayer on your behalf.  DO not for one second underestimate the power of your inner circle and those who you are allowing to speak into your life!

The enemy is your accuser, not God!  You are a child of God.  Your marital status does NOT define you, only God does!

Do NOT use your kids to hurt or get back at your ex.  Do NOT try to get them on your “side” by slandering and speaking negatively about your ex!  Do NOT post degrading and ugly things on social media about your ex!  Your children don’t miss a thing! They are watching! They are listening! Let God be your defender. Let God reveal truth. Do NOT bring more messiness to their broken hearts by taking part in this type of yuck!  Love your kids MORE than yourself and your need for revenge! (Leave the revenge part in God’s hands! Take the high road  always! Read and study Psalm 37) Look out for their best interests! Keeping your mouth shut is the best policy.  If they ask questions, speak truth as God leads but stick with the facts. Don’t bring your emotions into it.  This is not easy but the most beneficial and God honoring, heart-protecting thing you can do.

Some relationship dynamics will change.  Don’t be upset with the friends who do not send you invites any longer.  Show grace.  After all, it’s awkward.  Things ARE different.  Just maybe they do not know what to do with you so they just don’t invite you.  They don’t want to hurt your feelings when all the couples show up and then there is you.  Maybe they think they are protecting you.  Again, show grace, live in grace, and do NOT let offense take root in your heart.  You have enough messiness to deal with, don’t add to it!  God knows the close circle of friends that you need surrounding you.  Be thankful for them and don’t get bogged down with those who are choosing to love you at a distance, it’s okay!

Live. One. Day. At. A. Time. Seriously, I HAD to live this way on my darkest days.  I could not fathom my tomorrows and how things were going to turn out with all the craziness that never seemed to end.  Friend, God will give you grace for THIS day.  AND when tomorrow comes He will give you sufficient grace for THAT day.  He tells us to NOT worry about tomorrow.  Be obedient to His word. Trust Him with ALL of your heart. AND at the end of the day do it all again the next day! HE is faithful!

There are times when you will want to hide from the world and go into seclusion. This is okay in small amounts but if you find yourself in a pity party in which you can’t seem to find the exit door, force yourself to reach out to a friend or mentor.  You were not created to live life without community.   Recognize that caving into seclusion is a tactic by the enemy to destroy you.  Don’t let him.  YOU have a choice to make….choose wisely and don’t ignore that text from a friend or that phone call.  It just may be God’s life line and blessing towards you…receive it!

If your ex is toxic (and maybe even if he is not), cut off all ties except for what is absolutely necessary (due to children).  Looking at his posts on social media will keep you bound and hold you back from moving forward.  I did this. I looked. I watched. I checked it often. AND guess what?  It was NOT at all beneficial to me or my healing, it was just the opposite.  I ugly cried, I battled with the “that’s not fair” scenarios, I got angry, I had to forgive over and over again, I lived in fear.  I wanted to defend myself (thankfully, I didn’t! Always choose the high road!!!)….it broke me time and time again.  Everyone kept telling me to stop but I found it so difficult to do.  Thankfully, God’s mercy saw to it that it was stopped by His intervention and I am SO thankful! Guess what it did for me? FREEDOM! That’s right! Wow! I did not even realize how very much it was affecting me until it was stopped.  I walked a little more upright  without that heavy burden of accusations and negativity that I was allowing to keep me bound.  I moved forward in ways that I hadn’t before.  It may be hard to do but once you break that need to “see” and “know” you will find freedom that is so lovely, I promise! LET it go!!!  Just do it already!

It’s okay to not be okay!  You will experience some of the same emotions as if someone you loved had died.  You may be sad, angry, depressed, lonely, and downright heartbroken… you are normal! You are grieving the death of your marriage. It’s a process.  You are not crazy! AND just when you think you have got your footing, it starts all over again.  That just means you loved deeply and there is no fault in that!  Jesus’ promise to you is that He is with you…He is close to you in your brokenness!  You are NOT alone!  Psalm 27:18 declares it!

This could very well be the time that you have to be braver than you have ever been! You may have to stand up for what you believe is right! Let God empower your backbone! Fight for righteousness, fight for what’s in the best interest of your kids, speak the truth and don’t cower in the face of opposition.  You will be surprised at the inner strength and courage Gods give you….it’s a beautiful thing, really! “Jesus makes me brave” became the words I spoke over myself SO many times! AND He DID it!  I did things I felt so incapable of doing because of Jesus in me! He is the difference maker AND game changer in any and all things that we will face in this life! We are blessed! If God is for you, who can be against you? Romans 8:31

Just to re-emphasize…..You may have lost your partner in life but recognize that you are not alone, not ever.  God is your partner, He will help you and fill in the gaps. He will help you as a single mom, as well! It’s you and Jesus and He will not fail you!

A few final thoughts…

Friend, you are going to be okay! Jesus came for broken girls just like you and me. His Word tells us that He came to bind up the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:3).  He is the God of new beginnings and fresh starts.  He forgives, heals, redeems and makes new!! I understand that this is not the life you had planned. It stinks. It hurts. It’s devastating. However, this is NOT the end of your story! There are chapters still to be written! The Lord’s GOOD plans for you are STILL good and have not changed just because your marital status changed.  What you are going through right now is only for a season.  It will not always be this hard or hurt this deeply! I promise! I understand that may be difficult to imagine right now.  However, I am confident that you will look back one day and be amazed at what you gleaned and the beauty that emerged from this time of broken holy dependence upon God…..from one broken sister to another, that is TRUTH, my friend! Our God is faithful, Believe it!

 

Perfect Timing

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It was a dreaded and difficult day as I sat across the table from my oldest children at a local restaurant and shared the devastating news to them that would forever change our family dynamics.  I hated it.  It was the first conversation of several that I never wanted to have.  We do all we can to protect our kids from such things but sometimes our efforts are just not good enough.  I tried to come across strong and full of God confidence but inside I felt as though I had failed them as a mom and I was a broken mess.

Subsequently, just a few short days later, I found myself sitting across the table at our favorite coffee shop with my daughter and her husband as they excitedly announced that they were expecting their first sweet bundle of joy and for me, my second precious grand-baby.  Wow!  Talk about the gamut of emotions not only that I was experiencing but my daughter and our whole family, as well.  I was elated and filled with happy tears and yet the truth of our current circumstances quickly and unfairly tried to deplete and overshadow our sweet blessing.

Isn’t life like that?  One moment is painful, difficult and unwanted and the next is full of eager anticipation and downright excitement!  God created us as really amazing beings to be able to emotionally and physically handle the wide chasm of heart-changing, heart-breaking, and heart-warming circumstances that are inevitability, a part of our story.  How do we keep our footing?  How do we balance it all and keep moving forward?

In my mind, life certainly did not seem fair in those moments, especially for my daughter.  My heart broke as I tried to imagine what she was going through at the painful news of her mom and dad’s pending divorce intertwined with the thrilling news of expecting her first precious baby.  Loss and new life certainly makes for a bittersweet bag of emotions! Even though there was a side of this momma bear’s heart that roared and questioned God’s timing, there was an anchor of hope that held steady.  Yes, our family was broken and on the cusp of entering a season of questions, change, pain, and loss,  BUT GOD.  There was a fierce battle raging in my soul for my children, but God’s amazing grace came to my rescue and silenced the voice of the enemy.  He so sweetly reminded me that His timing is always perfect….even at that very moment when our world seemed to be crumbling before our very eyes. Even in the midst of our broken hearts.  He was giving us a precious blessing that ignited JOY and lit up the darkness which hovered heavily overhead.  Yes, this indeed was HIS perfect timing and HIS perfect grace cascading over us.  A precious and welcomed diversion from the hard and burdensome days that lie ahead.  My anxious thoughts were put to rest as I embraced God’s timing knowing that He divinely ordained ALL of what was happening.  His precise grace would cover and protect my daughter as he equipped her with inner strength and bravery to embrace this painful season of change AND precious season of pregnancy. New life and new beginnings were being birthed in more ways than I could comprehend.  My children WERE going to be okay and our family WOULD overcome this difficult season of divorce, in spite of what the enemy was whispering in my ear.

SO it is with you, sweet sister! Whatever losses or uninvited and unexpected predicament you find yourself in, God knows. AND not only is He aware but He is working His purposes in the midst of your messiness!  Yes, there may be loss and pain that you never saw coming but God has been preparing you for this day.  He is not at all surprised at what you are facing! If you will allow yourself, you will see HIM.  He WILL reveal Himself to YOU! He WILL bring blessings that will bring light to the darkness that surrounds you.  What may seem as horrible timing is God’s perfect timing.  You may very well have tears because of your pain but God will provide blessings that will bring you tears of JOY!  Embrace them! It really is possible to experience both! He wants you to know that HE is with you in the mess, in the loss, in the brokenness! You are so loved by Him! Your future is secure in Christ! YOU have this anchor of hope to keep you steady in the midst of the unwanted seasons. There is beauty arising from the ashes. Believe it, my friend!

Let me tell you the rest of the story….the beauty and blessing is that God gave our family this precious baby girl but there is a much bigger picture of grace in how God divinely orchestrated it all.   You see, my first birthday following my separation and pending divorce, was the very day she was born.  For most people who have gone through the arduous season of divorce, every first holiday following is painful, just as when someone you love has passed away.  However, God in His extravagant mercy gave me a precious gift and a MORE extraordinary reason to celebrate than I had to grieve.  AND, this was not just any birthday, it was my 50th birthday.  Coincidence? Absolutely not! God’s timing is perfect and significant, always! Now, year after year, on my birthday AND hers, I am humbly and delightedly reminded of God’s abundant faithfulness and amazing grace in the middle of our mess.  I have much to celebrate, year after year….because I will remember!  That is how our God works, that is who He is and this messy momma and blessed Mimi will forever be thankful!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance... Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  Psalm 126:3

Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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Psalm 27:13-14  I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

What does despair really mean anyway?  The dictionary defines despair as losing all hope.  Have you ever been there? Does that describe how you are feeling today?  If so, I believe that it is by no accident that YOU are reading this right now! David declares in the above Psalm that he would have been in the same place you have found yourself in (without hope) had he not BELIEVED that he would see the goodness of the Lord this side of Heaven.  He made a choice to believe that He would see God’s goodness even though His circumstances did not change right away.   Believing meant he had to wait on God.  I know we do not like to wait. ever. But believing followed by waiting is key.  I believe that our God super-naturally and graciously imparts to us just what we need to push through and push forward when we choose to believe.

Believe + wait = strength + courage + hope + peace + trust + Joy

Though, at the moment, you may not be able to see anything “good” IN your circumstances, we know that God IS good and because God is good, His goodness CAN be experienced in the midst of our darkest moments, in the here and now, no matter what that “now” looks like!  As Christ followers, we believe to see not see to believe!  SO, look for Him, wait for Him….EXPECT to see His goodness revealed even BEFORE your mess changes.  I understand that some of your hopes and dreams may not be alive and well in the land of the living.  I get it! Actually, you may be having to grieve the death of some of them, BUT God!!  Friend, no matter how painful, hurtful,  devastating and unwanted your losses or you mess may be, GOD desires to pour out His goodness upon YOU, His beloved daughter!

Psalm 23 is often quoted at funerals and rightfully so,  but I have come to love this scripture in walking through my own valley of the shadow of death.   Death of my marriage,  death to my dreams and death to what I thought my life was supposed to look like.  Despair tried too many times to count to take up residence in my heart and mind.  Believing that God was with me and that His Word trumped my feelings and despairing thoughts helped me to rise up from the ashes in the valley and keep walking through the darkness…  Sometimes, actually many times,  it took the prayers and encouragement of my faithful friends and church family upholding me and pouring God’s love into my broken heart.  That, my friend was part of God’s goodness that I was blessed to experience.  His goodness is there all the time, we just have to have eyes open to see it!

What about you?  What hopes and dreams have you had to grieve over?  While the enemy roars defeating accusations to your vulnerable self,  God’s Word for you declares that there is reason to HOPE in this valley of death.  HE is our shepherd, HE walks with us in the valley and He comforts us.  He brings us through to bring us out and when we come out we are never the same.  As God’s chosen daughters, His invitation to walk us THROUGH brings transformation and treasures we take with us as He leads us OUT.

Psalm 31:19  says “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!” I want to draw your attention to the word ABUNDANT.  You could easily exchange that word for plentiful, liberal, bountiful,  or even galore.  Let me ask you, do you fear God?  Are you His child? Do you take refuge in Him? Then this promise is for YOU! God has an abundance of  Goodness galore…that is stored up just for you! Stored up means it is ongoing, it will never run out! It is there when you need it! OF course, the devil would like to shout to you otherwise and cause you to lose all hope and stay and live in his prison of despair.  Don’t do it! Believe God’s Truth and live in freedom that keeps you free no matter what you are facing! HE is with you my friend, and HE will not fail you, no, not ever! EXPECT to see God’s goodness galore, WAIT for it. Be strong, be courageous, TAKE refuge in GOD and HE will bring you through this valley with goodness and mercy as your faithful companions.  Rise up dear sister, and believe that you WILL see God’s goodness in your midst! There are many rising with you!

Freedom in Surrender

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He came unexpectedly and out of nowhere.  She uncomfortably and bashfully squirmed with a smile as she tried to embrace the extremely sweet and generous affirming words coming from the other end of the phone.  Her heart undeniably longed for them to be true and trustworthy but her heart struggled to believe.  And rightly so.

Over the years, she had gotten used to feeling less than and undervalued.  It was her normal.  All the while, masking the deep desire she had for her spouse’s love behind stubborn faith and her Father God’s unconditional love and acceptance.  After all, as a woman of faith, God’s love was what mattered most.  So what if her then husband’s actions broke and wounded her heart time and time again?  So what if she could not trust him?  She tried really hard.  She wanted that with all of your heart.  On several occasions, she even prayed to have a bride like love-like-you-have-never-been-hurt kind of trust but the truth is, trust has to be earned and earning it was not something her, then husband, did very well.  However, she had God. She could trust HIM.  We are never told in scripture to trust man, anyway, right? She was called to love the unlovable and just maybe her love would be the catalyst for the deliverance she adamantly waged war for.  Her battle scars were many, with wounds that never stood a chance of healing with each new discovery and reminder that she would never be enough.  Nothing could fix this.   Each season of counseling and accountability gave her hope but hope that quickly would turn to despair again.  Nevertheless, she did not let that stop her.  Consequently, she even began to wear that as a type of prideful badge of martyrdom after years of the same brokenness.  BUT just maybe that is what helped her heart to survive each new season of pain.   She wanted so badly for God to be glorified in her life and in her marriage.  And for her, if that meant sacrificing her own heart, then so be it.  To some, she came across as strong and whole but inside there was a different kind of story to tell.

She kept believing after every revealing that maybe THIS TIME would be the LAST time.  After years of the same destructive cycles repeating,  it had become obvious to her that she could not control his last time  but she could control HER last time, and she did.  She finally gave up on her dream that change would permanently come.  She knew that the final revealing was her prayers and the prayers of others being answered.  Freedom and bravery came to her that day.   You see, God always answers our prayers but it may not look like what we had envisioned.  Nevertheless, His ways are so much higher.   She knew she was being released and rescued and she embraced it.  For her, it was bittersweet.  Tears of relief but yet tears of sadness realizing how far unchecked sin can takes us.

And Now.

After nearly two years following her divorce, she meets him.  Their meeting was nothing but miraculous and still yet, she was determinedly cautious and understandably fearful.  Looking for red flags and any reason to run, she did what she could to find out about this man who was awakening things in her heart that she had long ago determined to let go of.  And slowly but surely, it happened.  She began to imagine life with someone whose values and love for God were similar to her own.  She began to dream again.  She hesitantly allowed herself to believe that just maybe there was someone that could love her as God intended.

She is still learning. She is still growing.  She is moving forward.  She is intentionally surrendering her past at the feet of her Savior and He is setting her heart free. Free to believe in love again and free to hope in new beginnings.   And, even though she is not fully confident she can trust again, there is a glimmer of hope in her heart that just maybe she can.  SO it is with that, that she is bravely allowing her soul to be awakened to love and her gut tells her, it may just be worth it!  Let it be so, Lord!

What about you?  What is it in your life that you need to let go of in order to embrace the good plans that God has for you? Are there fears from your past that are holding you back from your tomorrows?  Friend, God is faithful and He can be trusted to take your mess, your hurts, and your disappointments and work them together for good and for a future that has His blessing and favor interwoven throughout.  No need to fear…God’s got you! Today, will you be brave and choose to surrender all the ashes from your past and give your heart freedom to experience life to the full? With God’s grace, you CAN do it! There is truly freedom in surrender…freedom to embrace this new day, new beginning, new chapter and new you!  Let’s do it! Are you with me?

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].  Psalm 37:2

Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19

No Fretting Allowed

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Psalm 37:3-6

Do not fret because of evildoers,

Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,

And wither as the green herb.

TRUST in the Lord, and DO GOOD;

DWELL in the land, and FEED on His Faithfulness.

DELIGHT yourself in the Lord,

and HE SHALL GIVE you the desires of your heart.

COMMIT your way to the Lord,

TRUST also in Him,

and HE SHALL BRING IT to pass.

HE SHALL BRING FORTH your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

REST in the Lord, and WAIT patiently for Him;

DO NOT FRET because of him who prospers in his way,

Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;

DO NOT FRET—it only causes harm.

Before I get into these scriptures, I want to preface it by making it clear that the words above have been my anchor and my guide throughout what seemed like a very long and difficult season.  Going through a divorce and the aftermath that goes with it is full of obstacles and challenges.  I have been brought back to these verses time and time again!  In the get go, I embraced solid and loving advice that was given to me ….”Don’t shoot arrows back no matter what! Take the high road and God will take care of everything else.”  Good, Godly wisdom, right?  Well, Psalm 37 shows us what that really looks like.  As I am sure you are aware,  social media can be used as a blessing or a curse and even for ministry or misery.  As Christ followers, no matter who is coming against us, we must be careful what we post and how we respond to the posts of others.  Many are creeping on your Facebook page. Especially when there is drama going on! Many want to see if your actions line up with who you claim to be as a follower of Christ.  I can tell you that as I have chosen to take the high road and put these scriptures into practice I have seen God reveal truth and clothe me with strength and dignity time and time again.  Thank you, Lord!!

Friend, God has made it so very clear as to what we are to do when faced with opposition and it applies to EVERY Christ follower including you and me. Those who say that Christianity is just a crutch obviously don’t get it.   Let them try holding their tongue, to forego the opportunity to seek revenge,  to not be easily offended, to not worry themselves right into a full blown panic attack, to turn the other cheek or to determine to think on good things in the midst of the mess!  It takes a woman of strength and courage to believe God when all hell is breaking lose!  Okay, this rant is over…let’s dive into this scripture.

No matter what your life looks like this very moment, The above scriptures can help you experience abundant joy instead of discouragement, peace instead of chaos, rest instead of panic and calm instead of confusion.  They contain the antidote against anger, revenge and bitterness and even fear.  Yuck, yuck and yuck!!! However, it won’t just happen because you have read them and checked these scriptures off of your daily reading list.  NOR will they help you just because you call yourself a Christian.  There are things YOU have to DO.  You see, my friend, we cannot be lazy disciples of Christ and expect to receive ALL that God has for us.  We cannot be passive and just allow our circumstances or emotions to rule our lives.  We must be intentional.  It is work.  It is hard.  It is warfare.  It is not for the faint of heart.

So why this Psalm of encouragement? Obviously, those David were addressing were really struggling with some of the people that were in their midst, evil-hearted people to be exact.  It seems that these certain people were causing so much alarm in the camp that David decided to step up and say enough is enough! Maybe those he was addressing were wanting to escape their homes and run away in fear because of the evil doers. Maybe they were fretting over things that were being said to discredit their character.  Though we don’t know exactly what their enemies were up to, we know it was causing an emotional response by those who were getting the brunt of it.  Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and fretting with them, David shows them how to handle their situation God’s way!  It seems that the real battle here is in their own minds which is where most of all our battles take place, as well. SO what does he tell them? Don’t fret about them, your enemy, because God will take care of you.  David mentions the word “fret” three times in this Psalm.  In verse 6, the bible tells us it can lead to harm.  Obviously, we need to take these instructions to heart. When we are fretting, we can be anxious, worried, upset, displeased, troubled, angry, and even grieved.    He is telling us to NOT fret about the actions of others…..GOD will take care of “THEM” as we choose to trust in HIM!! It won’t happen by accident.  It goes against our flesh.  However, as followers of Christ, it is who we are and what we do! It is a life of day in and day out faith in our God.  Subsequently, we TRUST Him but we don’t just trust Him…we do good!  DO good, really?  That’s asking a little much, HA!  So, I can’t try to fix this MY way?  I can’t put them in their place?  I can’t go after them the way they have come after me? How many times are we tempted to make wrong choices in the midst of being attacked by the enemy?  We allow ourselves to dwell on them and become consumed with what “they are doing or saying” and find a way to get back at them.  This is not God’s way. His way is actually quite the opposite!

SO, what do we do?  We trust, we do good and we stand tall and courageous…not ducking our tails and running away in fear and shame.  We stay put.  We dwell in our place in peace, while feeding on God’s faithfulness.   How do you feed on God’s faithfulness?  Honestly, you are feeding on something at all times.  You are choosing what you think about, what you dwell on and what you allow inside your Spirit.  You can choose to fret and live in fear and allow your enemy to consume your every thought OR you can choose to feed on God’s faithfulness.  SO, in other words you can choose junk food or healthy food to feed on?  David’s menu recommendation is to chew on what we know to be true about God and his character. His very nature is faithful, steadfast, and constant.  He never changes.  When we remind ourselves of that and choose to have a steady diet of His Word, we then can’t help but do the next thing….DELIGHT in HIM instead of focusing on “them”.

Delight yourself in the LORD and you won’t be fretting about your enemy! THAT is what we are called to do.  No excuses will suffice.  Either you are going to believe God is who He says He is and choose to delight in Him OR you will lead a miserable, less than, defeated life.  It’s a no brainer, right? Again, I know first hand, that it is not at all easy to do.  Our flesh wars against our spirit constantly.  Thankfully, God has given us the grace and the keys on how to overcome and live victorious!

The next few verses go onto say commit, trust, rest, wait and again do not fret!  As we trust and commit our lives, our circumstances, our loved ones and even our enemies to our gracious Father, we will find rest for our anxious souls.  Rest that enables us to wait patiently for HIS plans and HIS will to unfold.

Now the good part…..tucked in the middle of what we are called to do is a sweet but bold word of encouragement that we can lean into that will help carry us through.  God tell us the HE will bring forth our righteousness and justice as the noon day sun! There it is.  This is God’s promise to you and to me! Our righteousness is God’s character shining in and through us that invites His light into every messy and unwanted moment. It is God who goes before us and will extinguish every fiery dart that is pointed our way.  He will do that!  His justice will be demanded….we do not have to seek it for ourselves, God will do it!

I do not know about you, but Psalm 37 helps my anxious heart to rise up and say no to the enemy and his attack on my life and and big yes to God.  Friend, can I encourage you to read it, study it, learn from it and DO IT!!! Go and Fret no more!

 

Lay Your Burdens Down

Are you heavy burdened today? Me, too!  It started last night for me.  Dealing with the repercussions of divorce is hard.  However, getting a front row seat and sitting by helplessly as you watch your children deal with it is just too much.   I thought by the time I went to bed that I was good.  I had prayed and surrendered their broken hearts with determined trust.  However, this morning the heaviness was back. What I appreciate is that God knew we would have moments and even days like this!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken”.  Psalm 55:22

I am so thankful that the heaviness I was feeling this morning was unwarranted and became obsolete in the presence of my Lord.  The song below is the song that God placed on my heart to hush my anxious thoughts and sound the battle cry of my heart.  An invitation to lay my burdens down in complete surrender.  Honestly, the first few times I listened to it involved the ugly cry….laying down those we hold so dear is hard! Especially for us momma bears! But, I was determined. By the 10th time of repeating it (okay, it wasn’t quite that many times, ha!) my heart finally found release.  This ole flesh is stubborn, ya’ll!  The struggle is real! But God! He is so patient and gracious!   What about you, my friend?  Can I encourage you to make the time, find a song, and worship your King in the midst of your troubles! Choose to cast your burdens at the feet of Him who longs to be your Burden-bearer!  Your circumstances will most likely not immediately change, but God WILL sustain you by His sufficient grace and His powerful presence! You were not meant to be the one to carry those heavy burdens.  Jesus paid a high price to take all of your unwanted baggage upon Himself.  Sweet one, you are free! God’s got you and will take care of the things that compete for the consumption of your mind space.  How are we able to cast those burdens onto Jesus?  We can do this because we trust that He cares of us and those we love.  It is a beautiful act of faith! It is strategic warfare!  As we lay our burdens down we rise victorious!  Go and be victorious today!

 

Our New Normal

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It has been just short of two years since my divorce.  For the first year and a half, thinking about entering into a new relationship has had no appeal.  Instead,  I lived with an intentional guarded heart as I  poured my time and energy into my children and in the quiet moments, gleaning over all that had previously transpired.  It was a precious season of healing and blessings in spite of the many court dates, the attorney fees, the forced bravery and the utter unbelievable craziness that had unfolded. However, within this defining journey, came the realization of how very distracted my mind had been throughout the longevity of my marriage, by the way, which never served me nor my children well.  I could easily say this became an idol in my life, an all consuming thief of my emotional energy and time. I was overly occupied with fighting for my marriage and for my husband.   This is not a bad thing…for a season.   However,  being on this side of that battle shows me that I was fighting a war I would never win without losing myself in the process. I am not talking about the lose-yourself-like-Jesus-sacrificial way but the lose-yourself-like-your-heart-doesn’t-matter kind of way. Yet, I was determined.  Many of my days consisted of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about doing all I could to keep my family together while dealing with my own personal brokenness and pain.   I had learned to wear the mask well and hide my messy self behind my stubborn faith and relentless hope that things would get better.  However, I know in my heart that my preoccupation with my, then husband, and his issues is what occupied a huge space in my thoughts and with my actions.

It is interesting and yet, sad to me how we can learn to live with brokenness and weeping wounds, for YEARS for the sake of marriage, children, reputation, and what you think is the “biblical” way for those who claim to follow Jesus.  The pain is always there no matter how hard you try to pray it away.  However, God is so faithful! He is right there with you in the middle of your mess. He is so very gracious to His daughters whose only desire was to grow up, get married, have children and live their happily ever after.  Am I the only one?  I don’t think so!  Maybe you are reading this right now, and you can relate.  I can tell you, my God never left me.  His sweet presence enabled me to rise, if only my head at times, from the pit that had become so familiar in a twisted yet comfortable way and I am utterly thankful! He saw every gut wrenching tear and I am wholly confident that He even divinely protected my heart from things that I still to this day, do not know a thing about.  AND, I am okay with not knowing.  I know enough.  Exposing lies and secrets became my dreaded challenge time and time again.  However, the uncovering of hurtful things never got easier, never.

My prayers for my, then husband, and our marriage were not answered the way I, and so many others had prayed and hoped, and I am okay with that now, too.  He had his issues and I had mine.  We were both broken, just broken differently.  By God’s undeserved and extravagant grace, He rescued me.  The lie that I had held close for so long was gently and unashamedly exposed.  To let go of my marriage was not, by no means, giving up on God NOR my faith.  It was quite the opposite. Trusting that my God had brought me through only to lead me out took MORE bravery and MORE courage and challenged my faith way beyond what this girl could ever muster.  Instead of gaining a healthy marriage, I gained something so much more than I even have words to express.  I gained Christ. Yes, I know… I was His daughter throughout but I have undeniably experienced a deeper level of his amazing grace, his presence, his love, his strength, his faithfulness, and his blessings like I had never experienced before.   All this in the midst of my broken, unpredictable and unintended journey. That to me, is worth SO much more than answered prayers.  What I have experienced is something that no earthly relationship can ever compare to, at least that’s my broken girl story, for now. 

I am not shameful of who I was all those years, at least not now.  I have worked through the shame that tried to attach itself to me in my brokenness. You see, I know I tried. I tried REALLY hard to be the best wife I could be and the best mom I could be.  I endeavored to do everything I could to fix us, to fix him (this is NOT recommended, you can only fix yourself), to make it better, to hide the hurt and to survive.  I was not at all perfect nor was I a “holier than thou” kind of wife.  I had my sins, my struggles, and my shattered heart that wanted control so that I would not get hurt, again.  I have realized that is what fueled my selfish stubbornness, at times.  I own it.  AND I have released it, forgiven by my Father whose extravagant love for me overshadows the broken girl that I have been.  If not for the grace of God, where would I be?

Subsequently, the first year following my divorce I found freedom.  Freedom to be the mom I had always longed to be buried beneath the insecurities, the confirmed suspicions and a wounded heart.  My kids captured my complete attention.  They are who I built my life around.  Them and Jesus.  We needed each other.  They needed to know by my priorities that they had someone in their corner.   Someone that they could depend on. Someone who would love them, invest in them, and love them unconditionally.  And I needed to know that I could do this single mom thing with the Lord up girding me, day in and day out.  Life as we knew it had forever changed; new home, new school, new job, new friends, and only the three of us.  And yet, our faith was our constant companion.  Our God never changes even when we feel ripped to shreds in the confines of the crazy and the messy.  Even when our heads were bent low attempting to escape the new labels and scary statistics that the world threw at us. By the way, have you seen them lately? Well, don’t seek them out if you are a divorced parent….your kids don’t stand a chance from what I have read. BUT GOD is all I can say to that!!! HE IS BIGGER!!! Amen?

Since then, we have pushed through, we have stood together, strong though broken.  We have experienced God’s sweetest blessings through the relentless support of family, faithful friends, church family and Pastors. We have proven that life can go on after such brokenness and that we can even laugh, smile, and enjoy our space again. The beauty of God in our midst is the light that has invited confident hope in the darkest places of our hearts.  It has not been easy.  I will not candy coat any of it. There has been more hard stuff and more brokenness to walk through that caught me blind sided.  That. is. life.  My “word” for 2017 was surrender and that is exactly what I had to do time and time again.  Hitting the carpet in abandoned surrender was truly my survival arsenal.   AND yet, again, God has been so faithful.  HE has been our Anchor that has held us steady through the most horrific storms.  I am abundantly thankful!

A new season is within reach! I am looking forward to the future God has for me and for my children with expectancy and anticipation and maybe, just maybe I will find love again and if not, that’s okay, too! My God is faithful!  My God is enough! I am one blessed girl that has learned that trusting God does not always mean our marriages will be saved or our journey will look like what we had desired or even prayed for. 

What about you?  Has your life taken you on an unintended journey?  Have there been gut-wrenching prayers that seemed to go unnoticed and unanswered?  Sweet sister, God has heard every single one!  You and I can be fully confident that our loving and gracious Father is creating beauty from our ashes, purpose from our pain and preparing us for our eternal ever after!  So be it, Lord!