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Goodbye, Daddy

On Tuesday, November 26, my father passed away. Although his passing was not altogether unexpected due to his poor health, it did occur earlier than any of us thought it would. As I have grieved his passing, I have also had much time to reflect on the man I called “Daddy.” I have shared in earlier blog posts that for much of my adult life, I have not felt close to my father. After he and my mother divorced, my and his relationship drastically changed, and I had a difficult time coming to terms with the new normal.

However, death has a way of making us reflect and see things in a healthier perspective. It is not a time to focus on the what ifs and what I didn’t have, but rather a time to zoom in on the good things; the special moments and precious memories.

Here are the good things I have chosen to focus on about my Daddy: He loved me; He was always willing to help in any way he could. He worked hard to provide for us and see that our needs were met. He would lie in the floor and let us play with his belly and would playfully wrestle with us. He would sing loudly and confidently about Jesus. He had a hearty laugh, and he was a friendly, outgoing person. He loved sports and enjoyed coaching youth softball. He made sure we went to church regularly and he regularly talked to us about God and Jesus, thereby introducing us to Jesus. He taught us positive life principles: love God, love others, respect people, treat others the way you want to be treated, work hard. He also lovingly disciplined us when we needed it. As his health deteriorated, he still chose to focus on God’s goodness and faithfulness to him. He still took the time to listen to the concerns and problems of others. He still laughed and smiled and loved with all he had in him.

So, at his funeral yesterday, I didn’t grieve as one who was full of guilt and remorse, rather I grieved because I no longer have this man to continue to teach me about life. I will never hear his hearty laugh again or see his smile or hear him say he loves me. But I do have confidence that I will see him again on the other side of eternity. I know that he loved Jesus, and that gives me joy and hope in the midst of my grief.

His passing is showing me that perspective is everything–in my job, in my relationship with God, in my relationship with others, in the midst of life’s challenges and troubles. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we always have the power to choose to have the right perspective. Maybe you were deeply hurt by that person? You have the power to choose to forgive and let go of bitterness and anger and resentment that will surely destroy you over time. Maybe you didn’t get the job you desperately wanted? Be thankful for the job you have, even if you have to deal with difficult people. Not getting along with someone? Listen to them, show them respect and and treat them like you would want to be treated. Also, realize that their approval, in the end, doesn’t really matter. God’s approval does. No matter what your circumstances are, you make a choice how you are going to view things. I am so thankful that with dad, and later with my husband, I chose to forgive. I chose to give them grace and understanding. I chose to let go of any and all bitterness, resentment, anger, hatred, etc. and embrace love and forgiveness. I don’t have to carry those heavy weights anymore, and I am extremely grateful for that now that my father has died. I can grieve his death without being weighed down by negative, destructive, and poisonous feelings that hinder healing and moving forward.

I write this post with the sincere hope that you will check yourself. Examine your heart and attitudes. Is there something you have been holding on to that is holding you back? You have the power to let it go. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It is a daily, minute by minute, hour by hour decision, but you can do it if you commit yourself to it. Life is too short to hold on to anger. It’s too short to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to skew your perspective and destroy you. You are in charge of your thoughts and feelings; they don’t have to control you. Please, for the sake of your mental, spiritual and physical health, choose to love, to forgive, to understand, and let go of grievances and offenses. Choose to embrace freedom!

The pawns

Seriously, what kind of parent uses their child as a pawn? What kind of person deliberately attempts to sabotage their child’s relationship with the other parent? What parents who do this do not realize is that they are damaging their child. A child wants and deserves to feel safe, secure and accepted with both parents. A parent who is consistently negatively talking about the other parent, no matter the reason or how justified it seems, is damaging the child emotionally and psychologically. In my professional opinion, parents who smack talk the other parent in front of or around their children are engaging in emotional abuse. The simple truth is that children love both parents and want a relationship with both parents in most instances. A responsible parent who is handling things maturely will understand this truth and will not attempt to undermine or actively interfere in their child’s relationship with the other parent.

You don’t have to like the other parent or agree with the other parent in order to commit to handle things in a healthy, mature manner. My husband and his first wife never talked badly about each other, certainly not in front of their daughter. Nor did they allow anyone else to do so. And that child is now almost 23 years old and she is thankful for the atmosphere her parents deliberately created for her sake. She is also thankful for the example they set in that regard. My husband and I do not talk negatively about his son’s mother either. Nor do we allow anyone else to do so. Regardless of the details about the relationship, we encourage his son to love and respect and obey his mother. That’s the way it should be.

I have seen the opposite happen, however, and the results were not good. My parents divorced when I was thirteen. My mom and her family never talked badly about my father, but my father’s family did not behave that way. Although my dad never really talked badly about my mother, he allowed his sister and mother to do so. What he should have done is told them that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. We needed him to protect us, and part of protecting us was providing a safe, calm environment for us. Eventually, my dad’s lack of action pushed all of us away from him, and, to this day, none of us have a close relationship with him. My brother’s first wife also smack talked him in front of their sons and made things difficult. As soon as the younger son was old enough to have a choice about which parent he lived with, he chose to live with my brother. The judge honored his wishes. That son will tell you that he got so tired of his mother consistently talking badly about his father; he got tired of the bickering and negativity. My brother and his wife did not engage in the same types of behavior. They created a safe, positive, accepting environment that was free of negative talk about the boy’s mother, and my nephew respected it and craved it. Not long afterwards, my brother’s older son also chose to live with my brother. Both boys had had it with their mother and the kind of atmosphere she had created. I’ve seen it time and time again. Children don”t want to be around negativity, anger, hatred and bitterness, and they shouldn’t have to be. It’s hard enough for children when their parents aren’t together. Please don’t make it any harder by talking negatively about the other parent. In more cases than not, smack talk backfires on the one who engages in it.

I know the ending of a relationship can be rough, and it involves a lot of strong feelings. I also understand those feelings can be hard to manage and contain. But, please, for the sake of your children, keep those feelings to yourself. Talk to trusted adults all you need to, but don’t do it in front of your children. You are not only damaging and hurting your child, you are damaging your relationship with your child. In that case, do not be surprised if your child decides to leave you as soon as they are legally able to do so. You will have no one to blame but yourself. If you excuse and justify your actions by telling yourself you are only telling your child the truth, I can assure you that if what you are saying is indeed true, your child will see it soon enough without your help. Also, know that your version of the truth is your version and is skewed by your feelings about the other person. It may not actually be the whole, pure truth. There are at least two sides to every story.

For the sake of your child, use some wisdom and self-control and keep your mouth shut about the other parent. Do not drag your children into your problems with the other parent. Protect them and nurture them and help them thrive. You can’t do that if you are consistently talking badly about their other parent. Create an environment your child loves to be in and one that is safe and accepting. Your child deserves that and needs that.  Continue reading

The Proposal

Several days ago, my 13-year old daughter and her daddy were having some special time together. At one point, she asked my husband how he proposed to me. This is that story.

There is a place called Lake Serene that was near to the town in which we were living. One night, he took me there and we talked about our relationship and shared our hearts with each other. We also talked about the significance of the place where we were, and I will get to that in a moment. Then, he got down on one knee and proposed to me. With tears in my eyes and tremendous joy in my heart, I accepted his proposal. We were married in September of that year.

Lake Serene…the name says it all really.  At least that is what it came to mean to us–peace and serenity. Not the shallow and fleeting peace and serenity of this world, but the peace that comes through Jesus. A peace that is so indescribable. A strong, deep, confident, assured peace. Earlier in our relationship, we were facing some opposition. We had been very hurt by some individuals in the singles group at our church, people we thought were our friends had turned their back on us because they took up someone else’s offense, an offense that was totally unnecessary at that. My husband was at that time facing a situation with his first wife’s parents, and it was also greatly troubling us.

We were driving around one night, listening to music and talking, and we decided to go to Lake Serene. There’s just something peaceful and soothing about water, you know? Now I realize that we didn’t decide anything. God was leading us there for a reason. We got to Lake Serene and walked to the edge of the water. As we were looking at the water, we both noticed something. The water in the area in front of us was perfectly still and calm, but the waters around it were not. The wind was blowing, the water had waves, but the area in front of us was calm. It was really amazing. My husband and I both realized what God was telling us: There was definitely a storm around us, the winds of pain and adversity were blowing, but he was giving us peace. He was the calm and the peace. The same Jesus who centuries ago spoke to the wind and waves to be still was the same Jesus who had stilled the water in front of us. God was painting a beautiful picture of how safe and secure we were in him. He wasn’t promising to end the storm, but he was promising to give us peace in the midst of it. The water perfectly illustrated the story as God whispered it to us.

That’s why my husband chose Lake Serene. It was special to us because it was one place where God had made himself very real to us. We knew that our marriage and life together would face storms, but we also knew that Jesus was right there with us; and just as he was in control of the waters at Lake Serene, he was in control of every situation and circumstance.

I had no idea at that time JUST how significant the events at Lake Serene were. Lake Serene, however, was only one of multiple times that God really showed up and showed out throughout my husband’s and my dating relationship. God gave us so much confirmation about our relationship that it was unbelievable! Little did I know how important Lake Serene and all the other confirmation would be seven years later.

When S was committing adultery, I was in the storm and fight of my life. What we went through while we were dating was nothing in comparison, but that doesn’t mean lessons I learned weren’t important. At a time in my life when it hurt to breathe, when I wanted so desperately to stop hurting, when it took all I had in me just to survive, God brought the events from seven years earlier back to my mind. When I agonized in prayer over whether I was supposed to leave my husband, God brought the confirmation back to my mind. I became so thankful that God, in his goodness and mercy, gave me those nuggets years earlier. The confirmation wasn’t for nothing. It had a purpose, and God had a plan.

When the waters of my life became dangerously choppy and the wind blew so hard that it seemed I could not withstand it, God gave me peace. In the midst of the most epic storm in my life, one that threatened everything dear to me, God calmed the waters of my soul. Just as he was in control of the stormy waters and winds over 2,000 years ago, and just as he was in control of the waters of Lake Serene, he was in control of the hurricane my life had become. The storm blew fiercely for two long, hard, and tiring years, but it was well with my soul. Wow!

As my husband and I have talked about his affair and the problems and blessings (yes, there have been blessings out of something so terrible) that have come from it, I still choose to say “Yes,” to accept his proposal anew every day. Because you see, those storms–all the heartache, all the anguish, all the suffocating darkness of those two years, they had a purpose. I chose to fight for my husband and my marriage then, and I make that choice every day…to continue the good fight. Is it always easy? No! It is, however, always worth it…time and time again.

The song “Shine On Us” by Phillips, Craig and Dean was sang at our wedding. That song still brings me to tears because I realize that for S and myself, that song wasn’t just a prayer, it was also somewhat prophetic. In our darkest night, God gave us life and light. He has given us amazing, powerful grace to face even the toughest storms.

Complacent no more!

Okay, so here is an explanation for why I have been absent for so long. I am not excusing my absence, simply explaining it.

I became complacent. As a result, I grew luke-warm in my relationship with God. I lost my sense of purpose. I stopped reading the Bible and praying, except on rare occasions, and the things that I used to be passionate about (like this blog and helping other women/men who are going through a similar experience) faded.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one day in late 2018, and a friend shared how she was praying for the church, and God spoke to hear that the church in America is lukewarm. Many of you may not know the significance of being lukewarm. In Revelation 3:16, God says: “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Just before that verse, God says, “…you are neither cold nor hot; How I wish you were one or the other!” (NIV). God would rather have me hot or cold than lukewarm. He hates it when we are lukewarm. It disgusts him to the point that he wants to spit us out of his mouth. Those are some strong words.

God desires to be our first-love. Nothing else in our life should come before him, nor should any earthly relationship take priority over our relationship with God. Either love him with your entire heart and soul or do not love him at all. There is really no room for being in the middle.

As I read what my friend wrote, it reminded me of something I had read earlier from the book of Jeremiah about the people being complacent and the consequences of that. God spoke to me, “Kim, you are lukewarm because you are complacent.” That was a stern rebuke from God. But, he was certainly correct. I was lukewarm. I was going through the motions but not truly drawing near to him or seeking him. As a result, I felt like I was just existing rather than really living. I felt dry and barren in my spirit. All because I was complacent. I knew I needed a change but I was expecting something drastic, I guess. It’s kind of like I was expecting God to flip the switch from off to on, but then I realized…God doesn’t force himself on anyone. It’s my choice and my responsibility how close I am to God. God loves us and will pursue us and draw us but the choice of how we respond is ours. If I wanted to feel alive and full of purpose again, I was going to have to take steps toward God. He was waiting, and He would meet me once I took those steps.

As part of becoming hot again, I have set goals for myself this year. First part of the day, my goal is to read my Bible/devotion. Another goal is to pray daily. Those are simple goals, and with surrender and discipline, I can meet those goals. I don’t want God to spit me out of his mouth. I want him to once again be my first-love.

What about you? Are you hot or cold? What can you do to take steps toward God, who loves you immeasurable more than you can imagine and desires a relationship with you? It’s your choice. Choose wisely.

Word for 2019

Hi, everyone! I know it has been quite some time since you have heard from me, and for that I apologize. I left you all hanging, and I am sorry. I will explain why it has been so long since I have updated this blog in another post to immediately follow this one.

As the end of 2018 drew near, I was challenged by a couple of friends on Facebook who were praying about a word from God for 2019. I was curious about this practice as I have never done it. But, I decided I would take the challenge and I began praying and asking God to give me a word for 2019. I also asked him to confirm the word because I wanted to be sure it was of him and not something that just popped into my head of my own.

On January 7, I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at school, and I was praying. I remember I was specifically praying for a word for 2019. Then, I heard that still, small voice: surrender. Immediately, I questioned if it was me or God, so the voice repeated, “surrender.” I had my word from God for 2019. Surrender. I don’t know what word I was expecting, but it was not surrender. Nevertheless, I have started asking God to teach me what surrender means. I do not know what forms surrender may take or the different ways it may look, but I know God will teach me.

When God gave me the word surrender, two areas of my life immediately came to my mind. The first was money/finances. I worry a lot about money and how my family can pay the bills. As many of you know, my husband is disabled due to chronic, severe migraines, and I am not able to work outside of the home. It is hard to find regular work to do from home. So, money is a concern. I need to learn to surrender those worries and concerns to God. The other area is my relationship with my thirteen-year-old daughter. I find myself getting into power struggles with her. It frustrates me, and I do not know how to handle it. I have to surrender that to God. One thing I have been doing is not engaging her when she starts being difficult or stubborn. I am learning to withdraw from those types of situations, even if only for a few minutes, until I can approach the situation in a positive manner. I talked to my husband about this dilemma, and he and I agreed that when I find myself entering into a tug-of-war with my daughter, I need to tell him about it and let him handle her.

It is obvious that surrender requires obedience to God. I am also realizing, though, that surrender also requires wisdom. I have been asking God to give me wisdom and understanding because I desperately need those things in my life. I can’t do this on my own. Interestingly, one of my devotion apps, First5, is going through the book of Proverbs, and one of the main themes of Proverbs is wisdom. In the book of James, James tells us that if we need wisdom, we need to ask it of God, who will give it to us (James 1:5). I need wisdom to recognize when I need to surrender and in what ways.

I also am learning that surrender means I put God first in my life. He doesn’t need to get the leftovers; he needs the first and the best I have. That means taking time in the mornings to spend time reading the Bible, meditating upon it, and praying. It means stopping what I am doing or putting off what I want/need to do if God calls me to do something else. I’m very bad about having a one-track mind and getting so focused on what I am doing or what I need to do that I neglect other things. I don’t like being interrupted when I am in the middle of something because I have a do-it-now mentality. Sometimes, God wants me to just stop and be still and listen to him. It’s hard changing this part of who I am and getting out of this pattern, but I can do it with God’s help.

I want to encourage those of you who are Christians to seek God about what he wants to do in your life in 2019. I’m excited about where this journey will lead and what God will accomplish in me as I surrender.

 

The power of hope

Several days ago my husband and I were watching something on television, and it reminded us of what we have been through. Now, at this point, nearly 10 years after the fact, we hardly talk about his affair. But there are occasions when something takes us back to those days.

We discussed how hopeless things seem when you are in such immense, all-consuming pain.  I told him how dark and bleak things seemed, how all I could see was darkness and pain, and how there seemed to be no way I would ever feel anything other than the agony I was experiencing. I could not see my way past it. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I could not imagine a day when I felt anything other than pain and despair. I could not imagine tears ceasing to flow from my eyes. But, you know what…despite the pain, I did have one thing, even though it seemed like a long shot…I had hope. Albeit just a sliver of it, but I still had it. And in the end, hope won. I hung on, clinging to hope that I would not always hurt, and, eventually I stopped hurting. Eventually the sun shined again. Eventually the tears stopped falling from my eyes.

So, for those of you who are asking yourself these same kinds of questions, who are wondering if you will ever stop hurting, you have hope. I don’t know how long you will hurt, how many tears you will have to cry, before you start feeling the sun shining again, but it will happen. Just hang on…cling to hope. It won’t let you down.