How will Your heart Respond?

Friend, if God never answered another prayer, would you STILL love Him and live for Him?

Will you continue to trust HIM when things aren’t going as you had prayed and believed? Will you stubbornly choose to be faithful to Him no matter what comes your way?

What about your relationship with Him? Is it the same in good times as well as bad? In the times you have understanding and the times you don’t? OR do you distance yourself from Him and blame Him for your loss, your pain, your brokenness or your unwanted consequences?

Will you be obedient to Him not because of what you are hoping to gain but simply because He LOVES you and has redeemed you?

Will you walk with an “even if” heart stance even when others turn away?

Final and most important question….Is what Jesus did for YOU at the cross enough?

These are probing questions that are good to consider BEFORE the bad things happen, the hard times come and your faith is challenged.

How will your heart respond?

You will find, He is the SAME God during the painful seasons as He is in the painless seasons. I don’t say this as just some “Christianeese” fluff but as a beloved daughter of God who has walked through her own unwanted and heart wrenching seasons.

Dear friend, there are blessings to be found in BOTH seasons. #truestory

Let me encourage you today! Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop trusting. Don’t stop believing in faith for good things.

And don’t EVER stop seeking…BUT seek His heart MORE than His blessings. He will never fail you!

The truth is, on this sacred journey there WILL be more painful seasons, more struggles, and more difficulties, this side of heaven.

BUT there will also be MORE abundant grace AND your heart will begin to look MORE like His as you walk with Him and learn from Him even through the valleys.

That is beauty, my friend, that can never fade!!!

Remember this, He is preparing you and me for our happily eternal after.

Choose Christ and keep on choosing Him! There are many choosing with you, though it may seem like only a few.

Heaven is cheering for you and Jesus is praying for you!

Your eternal reward WILL come!

Your BEST days are in front of you!!

Our god is faithful! Believe it! 💗

Psalm 34:19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the lord delivers him from them all.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers (sisters) whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance..

Isaiah 43:1 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

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

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!