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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.

Deep Waters

 

I have been having a very difficult time the last few months. Life is just so hard at times, and I find myself battling depression quite frequently. You would think that having survived my husband’s adultery would make other problems, like financial worries, seem so trivial and easy to handle, but that is not the case for me. Perhaps the reason why is that the affair was temporary, but the situations I live with every day are chronic, and there seems to be no end in sight. I have been feeling very discouraged and am battling depression from the endless onslaught of life. I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and there are times when I have honestly wondered how much more I can handle.

My husband has chronic, severe migraines that are debilitating. Lately, he has been having hemiplegic migraines more frequently. Hemiplegic migraines have many of the same symptoms as a stroke, so they are hard to deal with. Dealing with a chronic illness that so drastically affects one’s quality of life is quite challenging. It takes its toll on all involved.

In addition to my husband’s health, I help take care of my MIL, who also has multiple physical problems. My daughter has issues with anxiety, and she is simply not able to handle attending public school right now, so we teach her at home. With my husband’s illness, I am the one who primarily has the responsibility of teaching. Add to that the daily demands of housekeeping–dishes, laundry, and routing cleaning, and I feel like I am drowning. Handling these problems has been a huge adjustment for me, and, to be honest, I have not handled the adjustment well. I feel exhausted and worn out, which only compounds my feelings of depression and discouragement.

A couple of days ago, I was taking my daughter to an appointment about an hour north of where we live, and she was playing music from my iPhone. Her favorite song is Hillsong’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” I have never paid much attention to the lyrics because it is hard to understand the words at times. But this day was different. Before my daughter and I were even out of town, I was already feeling like the dam of emotions washing over me was able to break. I did not want to be a basket case for the appointment, so I started asking God to help me.

I am very honest with God about how I feel and how I see things, so my prayer began with something like, “God, I really need help right now. I don’t know how much more I can take. Please help me.” I asked Him to help me focus on Him, to remember His goodness, provision and faithfulness instead of me focusing on all the complications of life and how I feel. Then, my daughter played her favorite song, and I really listened to the lyrics, and God began to reveal things to me as I continued to pray.

For one, I walk by faith. I must choose to walk by faith daily, sometimes several times a day. I must choose to walk by faith, not to walk based on what I can see or on how I am feeling. I cannot let my emotions guide me. Secondly, faith requires me to give up control, and that is a hard one for me. It’s hard for me to accept that the dishes may not get done or the laundry may not get folded and put away because I simply have too many other issues to contend with.

I began speaking God’s word over my life and circumstances and I reminded God of things in His word as I prayed. I asked for wisdom and direction and guidance. I spoke words of life over myself, and I began to encourage myself in the Lord. It was a battle, I’m not going to lie. I did NOT feel like focusing on God, like focusing on His Word, or like reminding myself of who He is and what He has done. It was a deliberate act of my will to recall the times God has taken care of me and helped me, to remember His goodness and faithfulness. By the time the song by Hillsong had ended, I was feeling much better in my spirit. My soul was not in despair and chaos. Instead, I had a sense of peace, not because my situations may change, but because I knew that Jesus is in the storm with me.

I felt as if God was telling me it is time to go into deeper water, water that may be so deep I cannot possibly make it on my own; water that is so deep that my feet may fail. Yet, it is in the deeper water that I can learn to trust my Savior more; it is in the deeper water that I realize I don’t have to worry about drowning, because Jesus is holding out His hands to me, pulling me up. In deeper waters, the boundaries of my faith will be tested, but I need only to remember that the One who, with one word, can calm the storm is in the boat with me. His sovereign hand will guide me and keep me. But the wonder of faith is that it is only strengthened when it is tested and challenged. It can only grow as much as I allow it to grow. It won’t grow if I stay in shallow waters where it is safe, waters where I can see where I am and the things that are around me, waters I can easily get out of in my own strength. No, God has me in deeper waters, so my prayer has now become not for God to help me out of the water, but to help me WALK on the water. That’s a huge stretch for my faith, but I’d rather walk on the water and experience Jesus reaching out His hands to rescue me if I start to drown than to stay in the boat, afraid of the wind and waves that grow louder and louder, throwing my soul into chaos. That’s not how I choose to live my life. I choose to venture into the deeper waters where I know my faith can grow.

The Art of Communication

Communication. That’s a tough one to learn in relationships. Rather, let me clarify—learning how to communicate in a healthy way is tough to learn. Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a marriage or relationship. Learning to communicate with my husband, and he with me, in a positive, mutually beneficial way is often a challenge. We have different communication styles, and we frequently butt heads, but, thank God, we have learned what works and what does not.

Here are some things to consider about the way you communicate:

  1. Are you more interested in winning the argument, or in being proven “right,” than you are in resolving the conflict? When we are more concerned with winning an argument, we are more likely to fight dirty and rely on tactics that are manipulative and unfair. Maybe you are right, but what is more important– being right or having a good relationship and finding ways to resolve a conflict in a manner that is beneficial for both parties?
  2. Do you always have to have the last word? If so, why? Is it part of winning the argument? Why not just let the issue go? Sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue than it is to respond. Some people like to have the last word because of their pride. That’s it plain and simple. They would rather keep the conflict stirred up than find peace and a resolution. They may use the last word to insult, accuse, or take some sort of parting jab at the other person. It takes an enormous amount of self-control to refrain from having to have the last word. It takes maturity and a willingness to consider if what you want to say will help or hurt the situation and if it will build up or tear down the other person. A wise person knows when to hold his tongue, but a foolish person likes to keep talking.
  3. Avoid using qualifiers like always, never, every time, all the time, etc. Simply rephrase what you want to say. Instead of using one of those words, use something that is more indicative of reality, such as often, rarely, seldom, frequently, etc. Using qualifiers puts the other person on defensive. Think about it. Does that person really ALWAYS do X? Does that person honestly NEVER do Y? What is your first response when someone accuses you of ALWAYS doing something? Isn’t your response something like, “I do not always do that…”? If you don’t want others to use qualifiers when talking about you, give them the same courtesy.
  4. Do not play the “tit-for-tat” game. For those of you who are not familiar with that phrase, it is when someone says you do X, and then you come back with, “Well, you do Y,” and bring up irrelevant or petty things, or even  dredge up something that was already supposed to be settled; in many cases, it was supposedly settled years or months ago. Focus on the current issue and take responsibility for your part of the situation at that moment.
  5. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. You and your spouse will hurt each other’s feelings; that’s an inevitability. However, if your spouse says something that hurts your feelings, don’t automatically assume he meant to hurt you. Give him the benefit of the doubt. When you feel ready to address it, let him know he hurt your feelings and why. Sometimes we say things in the wrong way and it comes across as insensitive or insulting when that was not the intention. How many times have you been frustrated or sick or rushed and responded in a way that came across as mean or insensitive or harsh, but that wasn’t how you meant it? I love my husband; however, I sometimes say things in a manner that is harsh because I’m frustrated, but I’m not using a harsh tone with the intention of hurting his feelings. He gives me the benefit of the doubt and I do the same for him. I’m NOT saying you should overlook negative patterns of communication or ignore hurtful things. Those things should be addressed, but you need to be careful how to address them.
  6. Do not be disrespectful or scornful in your communication. How many times have you responded with “Whatever!” in a sarcastic tone? I have many times, and I have apologized for it. I get that it can be frustrating when you feel like that person does not understand what you are saying or when that person disagrees with you, but always try to respond in a respectful, courteous manner. The Golden Rule of do to others what you would have them do to you applies to communication, too. If you want others to talk to you with respect and courtesy, talk to them in the same manner.
  7. Don’t disregard or shrug off what someone says because you disagree or don’t like what he is saying. Avoid using phrases like, “Blah, blah, blah” or “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Those phrases are not only disrespectful, they also demonstrate a great deal of immaturity. The other person is just as entitled to his/her opinion as you are to yours. You do not have to agree or like what the other person says to respond maturely and respectfully.
  8. Fight clean. Avoid accusations, insults, sarcasm, name-calling, and saying things you know will put the other person on the defensive. If you would not want someone to say that to you or to say something to you in the way you are saying it, then give that person the same respect and courtesy you desire from him. Own your feelings and clearly, but respectfully, let the other person know how his/her actions or words affected you. You might want to say something like “Your actions (words) really hurt me” and then calmly explain why. Or politely express that you disagree and why you disagree without calling the other person names or hurling accusations or insults.
  9. It’s okay to disagree; in fact, you won’t find anyone who will agree with you 100 percent of the time. The key is learning how to work through disagreements and accepting someone’s disagreement simply as that—disagreement—instead of assuming the person has malevolent or evil motives or taking the disagreement as some sort of personal insult or attack against you.
  10. Understand that there is a difference between making excuses and offering an explanation. An excuse, however, is not always negative and is not necessarily about the person trying to get out of taking responsibility for his/her actions. Some excuses are legitimate. You miss work because you are sick, and you must give your employer a doctor’s excuse. It is not okay, though, for someone to excuse hurtful behavior or bad choices by refusing to accept responsibility. Trying to figure out the cause of something or offering an explanation should not be confused with the negative connotation of making an excuse.

The way you communicate with others says a lot more about you than you realize. If you always assign blame to the other person, accuse others, insult others, etc., then you need to learn more effective and healthy communication skills or you will never have a satisfying relationship. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who consistently fights dirty? I know it is easy to speak out of hurt and other emotions, but one sign of maturity is avoiding doing those things. Speaking out of emotion is rarely wise; it often leads to more conflict. I have learned (am still learning) to go off by myself for a while if I need to calm down and get some perspective. I’ve also learned (along with my husband) that there are certain times of the month when I should avoid talking about heavy subjects because it will almost always lead to an argument. I’ve learned that when I am irritable, tired, or sick, I also need to avoid certain topics or even certain people or situations.

You have to be on guard and take the necessary steps to avoid heading into an argument with others. Sometimes all it takes to be able to resolve a conflict in a mutually beneficial way is to wait until you have had some time to think about things and get yourself under control before talking about it. Sometimes, walking away from a person or from a situation is necessary, too; this is especially true for dealing with people who just like to argue. Walk away…You don’t have to say anything. Just walk away. When that person is ready to talk to you in a calm, courteous, respectful way, then, and only then, should you talk to them. If they start in with what I call drama or they start fighting dirty, then walk away. It takes two people to argue. I’m not saying it’s easy to do these things, but it is worthwhile for the sake of your emotional health.

I do not claim to always do these 10 things, but I do try. I’m learning how to better communicate with my husband, and he is learning how to communicate with me more effectively, and our relationship is reaping the benefits of it. So, I’m just challenging you to check yourself. If any of these tips helps you avoid an argument, isn’t it worth it? Wouldn’t you rather have peace with that person instead of there being drama and needless hostility or antagonism? You cannot control what the other person says or does, but you always have control over what you say and do; so, just work on yourself. If you are anything like me, that is enough work for a lifetime!

Those Pesky “Little” Things

I shared this post on my Facebook page early last year. I saw it today, and it still challenges me.

 

Over the past few weeks, I have been hit hard by “little” things. Little things that don’t really matter but are frustrating, aggravating, disappointing, and a big inconvenience. As my husband has watched me react (yes, react—not respond; there is a big difference), he has admonished with me the Word.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV).

He has also reminded me: “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, KJV), and “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV). He asked me, “Do you love God?” “Yes.” “Are you called according to his purpose?” “Yes.” “Then ALL things work together for your good.” It does not matter how big or small the things are; they all work together for my good as a daughter of the King. Even those pesky little things that drive me crazy…

He has asked me, “When you are hit, what comes out of you?” In other words, when troubles, trials, irritations, annoyances, offenses, and problems come your way, are you responding according to the Spirit of God that lives inside of you, or are you reacting out of the flesh and your emotions? God uses little things just as much as big things to make us more into His image. Sometimes, it may be an aggravating driver who is following too closely. Other times, it may be a person at Walmart who is blocking the aisle and seems oblivious to others who need to get by them. At times, it may be a company who made a mistake and messed up your account, and it becomes a major inconvenience for you. Maybe it is a child who uses your cell phone until the battery is almost dead and she neglects to tell you the battery needs to be charged. Or maybe the same child is listening to music on your phone and does not tell you when a text message comes through. The list is endless, so pick your “little” things.

God uses many different things to chisel us and get the junk out of us and our lives. It is not a pleasant process, but it is necessary if we are to mature in Christ. I will admit that I did not want to hear what my husband has been saying to me, but I NEEDED to hear it. I needed an attitude adjustment; I needed to regain the right perspective. I am thankful for a husband who loves me so much, but loves God even more, that he speaks truth to me and washes me with the word (Ephesians 5:26). I can choose to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to what God is trying to teach me, or I can fight against Him, hindering the work He is trying to accomplish in me. The choice is always mine to make. God does not force His will on anyone, but there is always blessing in obedience, even though it is often hard to obey.

On the way to my interview this morning, a song by Francesa Battistelli began to play on the radio. I told my husband, “This song is very relevant for me right now.”

So, what are the “little” things that God is using in your life? And, as my husband asked me, “When you’re hit, what comes out of you?” Relevant questions indeed!

Expectations

We all enter marriage with expectations about what marriage is like and what our spouse is like and how our spouse should treat us. Often our expectations are not realistic or achievable. When I married my husband, I had expectations that quickly led me to become disillusioned. I expected him to meet my needs, I expected him to make me happy, I expected our marriage to be wonderful and easy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I know I am not alone in having such lofty, yet unrealistic, expectations of marriage.

My husband and I recently watched the television show “Married at First Sight.” As we watched the couples adjust to each other and try to live out their vows, we frequently talked about their expectations.

“It shouldn’t be this hard.”

“I want to be happy.”

“I don’t want to get hurt.”

Marriage is by no means easy. It takes work and commitment. It requires that you put aside your feelings and desires and think about the other person. It requires that you make sacrifices. However, marriage is also immensely rewarding and fulfilling, as long as you keep the proper perspective.

Happiness. That’s a common one. Desiring to be happy is not a bad thing in and of itself, but far too many people make being happy a priority. But what if your idea of happiness is not the same as the person’s you are married to? What if having children is part of what would make your spouse happy but not something that would necessarily make you happy? Happiness is relative to the individual. What do you do when the ideas of happiness clash? Who gets to choose? That’s the problem. If more people would go into marriage understanding that the person they are marrying cannot always make them happy and they will not always make the other person happy, perhaps more people would find marriage more satisfying. I have learned in the sixteen years of being married that being content and having peace, feeling comfortable and safe, living life with my best friend by my side, is more valuable than being happy. Those are actually forms of happiness, in some ways. I have had many times in my marriage when I certainly was anything but happy (obviously).

I also understand people not wanting to get hurt. No one desires to be hurt, but you and your spouse will hurt each other. You will disappoint each other. You will anger each other. The only way to avoid getting hurt is to avoid people, which makes marriage an impossibility. The key is learning how to handle the hurt, how to talk about the disappointments, how to express the anger in healthy and positive ways that will strengthen the relationship. And being willing to say “I’m sorry” when you hurt someone.

My husband and I exchanged traditional wedding vows at our wedding, and we meant what we said, and we also gave some thought to the implications of what we were saying. I think for a lot of people vows are just words that go along with the ceremony, and they never stop to carefully consider the extent of the vows.

In sickness or in health: We’ve had more sickness than health. My husband was diagnosed with chronic severe migraines several years ago. There are days when he cannot get out of bed because of the migraines. There are times when the migraines keep him from interacting with me and the children as much as he would like. He has had to give up some hobbies, and he had to retire from a job he loved and had done most of his adult life because it was so physically demanding, and too much physical exertion is a trigger for his migraines. We have to be flexible regarding appointments and activities. We cannot make commitments to definitely do something or be somewhere. It’s hard and wearisome, but it is our life. I’ve learned to try to go with the flow, but its not the ideal situation. None of this is what either of us expected.

For richer or poorer: There was a time during the last couple of years my husband was able to work that we had a high income. We built a house and each of us had new vehicles. After my husband’s health got worse, and he could no longer work, our income was drastically cut. We lost the house we had waited years to build; we lost our vehicles. We lost our land, land that had been in the family for decades. Our life became more complicated, and it certainly was not fun, nor did it make us happy. Again, this is nothing either of us anticipated or expected.

For better or for worse: We’ve had some extremely difficult times. At times, things have seemed to go from bad, to worse, to worst. Adultery is the worse part. Health problems are the worse part. Losing almost everything is the worse part. Despite all the worse parts, though, there is always a silver lining, a glimmer of hope. All the situations, pains, and struggles my husband and I have endured, at times barely  hanging on, have made each of us stronger, and in turn has made our marriage better and stronger. Our faith has also been deepened, and we have experienced God in a myriad of wonderful, miraculous ways. We wouldn’t have chosen any of the things that have happened, but instead of letting these situations make us angry and bitter, we have allowed them to make us better and stronger.

Here’s a piece of wisdom I wish more people would realize before they say “I do.” The wedding will last only a while, but the marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. Therefore, put more of your energy and time into preparing for the marriage than preparing for the wedding. Because once the stars are out of your eyes and reality hits, you learn quickly that marriage is not all you thought it would be. That person gets on your nerves. That person makes you so angry you can’t see straight. That person has annoying habits. And so do you. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the good things. How your spouse makes you laugh. How hard he works. How diligently she cares for the house and children. It all comes down to perspective.

So in those times when your spouse and your marriage are not meeting your expectations, reflect on your vows and continue to honor them as best you know how. Extend grace and mercy, forgive quickly and often, apologize quickly and often, be kind, be respectful, be compassionate and gentle. You won’t hit the target every time, but never stop trying. You have a lifetime to love and learn.

On a final note, there is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that made me cry the first time I heard it. It’s called “Go There With You.” When my husband and I married, I had the chorus to that song printed on our napkins. I meant those words sixteen years ago, and I still mean them today. I’ve posted the video for you.

 

On the Other Side

I never thought we would get this far during those 2 horrific years. But, amazingly, and by the wonderful grace of Almighty God, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in September. It was a time for us to look back on all the things we have been through. All the ways God has been with us, even when we were at the brink of destruction. All of God’s favor and goodness to us, even when we most certainly did not deserve those things.

The past few years, our marriage has been better than ever. We have reached new depths of intimacy in every area of our relationship. We have rekindled the friendship we lost during his affair. We have shared our hopes and dreams, many of  which have been reborn. There are some things we have shared with each other that are just little glimpses of how well God knows us, the deepest, even the silliest, of our desires. For example, my husband told me that he had always liked my name (my first name) long before he met me. The cool thing is that his first wife was supposed to be named my name, but not long before she was born, her mother and father decided to name her something different. So, that little seemingly insignificant desire my husband had eventually came to pass, even though he had to go through some very hard times to see it fulfilled.

We have had lazy Saturdays where he have cuddled up in bed and watched movies or television and just talked about things, some important, but mostly just getting to know each other better. Those are the times that have really strengthened our relationship. Those are the conversations that have given us glimpses into who each other is and what our marriage can be as we move forward.

One night, my husband and I watched a movie on Amazon. The name of it was “The Song.” It is about a man whose father committed adultery, and it ruined his life and the life of his family. The man’s actions had a profound effect on his son, from whose perspective the story was told, and the son grew up desiring only one thing of God: wisdom. Like Solomon, he asked God for wisdom. I need to add that the narrator quoted parts of the book of Ecclesiastes throughout the movie. The man’s father had been a successful country singer, and the son struggled to overcome his father’s shadow. The son met a beautiful young lady, whom he married. She inspired him to write a song about her. The song catapulted the man to stardom. Unfortunately, success and fame did to the son what it did  to his father. He ended up cheating on his wife. As he pursued all the things Solomon mentions in Ecclesiastes, things that we pursue because we think they will fulfill us, those things dismantled and destroyed his life. I won’t tell you the rest of the story. You can watch the movie to see what became of the man and his life.

Needless to say, my husband could definitely identify with man. The movie sparked some conversation between us. One thing my husband revealed to me was that he knew when I told him I forgave him that I would not divorce him. I told him I did not know at that point that I would not divorce him, but he said he just knew. He then told me that he also realized at that point that if he wanted out, if he wanted to marry the other woman, he would have to divorce me, but he knew he could not do that. Although he was in sin, he understood that God would not bless that relationship, not even if he divorced me. Because in God’s eyes, he would still have been in adultery. He knew he could have had no peace in that relationship. He would have been miserable, not necessarily from the other woman, but from knowing deep down that it was wrong.

I am sharing these experiences with you to offer you hope. I do not wish the hell I went through on anyone, and I would not have chosen that path for myself. But, when I see where my marriage is now, how much my husband and I have grown as a couple, how we have grown individually, I can see enormous value in the experience. Painful though it was, it brought good things, but we had to be willing to confront our pain, our anger, deal with our issues, and engage in honest communication. We had to do some very painful work that at times seemed overwhelming and pointless, but it was worth the struggle.
None of us like suffering. We don’t like pain. We don’t like facing the truth. But suffering has a purpose. In those dark times, we learn lessons about ourselves, about life, about God, and those lessons remain with us long after the suffering ends. Those lessons change us; they help shape us. They give us a perspective we would have never had. They are stepping stones to a brighter future, a deeper relationship with God and with each, a better understanding of ourselves. If we are willing to press through. If we refuse to give up. If we are willing to do the work. Growth doesn’t come easily to most of us. Growth and healing cannot come as long as we refuse to be honest, as long as we run from the pain. As a song by Francesca Battistelli says, “The truth is harder than a lie” (from If We’re Honest). But the truth is what we need to acknowledge and embrace if we have any hope for positive change.

So, I am now on the other side of the darkest valley of my life. I’m on the other side of soul-baring, life-altering pain and struggle. I’m on the other side, and it is a wonderful, liberating, beautiful place to be. Some of you, maybe most of you, will not make it to the other side with your marriage intact. But all of you will make it to the other side, whether as single or married. What awaits you on the other side is largely dependent on you–on the choices you make now. On how willing you are to let go of the pain, anger, and disappointment. On how willing you are to forgive those who have hurt and wronged you. What do you want the other side to look like? What can you do to make the other side be a good place for you?

 

How BIG is the box?

Sometimes I look back on what has happened and I wonder how I ever survived. As a Christian, I know in my head that God is in control and that He can take any situation and work it together for my good (Romans 8:28). I’ve witnessed Him do it, yet in my heart, I still struggle sometimes to comprehend how big God is. I mean, Who else could have healed me, restored my marriage, and helped me walk in forgiveness, not to mention helped me let go of all the bitterness, anger, and pain I felt? Who else could have comforted me and given me such deep peace in the midst of such dark circumstances? Who else could have given me the strength to carry on and not give up? Only God can do what was done in my life and in my marriage. I make no apologies for that.

Yet, here I am, 8 years after the fact and I still struggle with keeping God in a box when He wants to totally bust through it. You would think I would never doubt how powerful and awesome God is; I would never question His ability to act on my behalf nor His ability to work miracles, but I do. I too frequently get my eyes off of God and put them on my circumstances, and then I start feeling anxious or worried. I know sometimes God must be shaking His head at me, wondering what it will take for me to trust Him in everything. I know this struggle is not unique to me, though.

I did have a revelation of sorts several weeks ago. I was talking to friend after church one Sunday and we were talking about Romans 8:28. For those of you who do not know that verse, it says: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT). As I quoted this verse, I realized that God not only used that dark situation for my good, He also used it for the good of others, and He keeps using it. The purpose for the circumstances I walked through go far beyond me and my life. God always has a bigger picture in mind. He is always thinking of eternity. I had boxed God in–I realized that He worked all things together for my good, but I had not realized that He was using my trials and struggles to bless others and to help others; to work things together for the good of others. I also boxed God in on how he was using the struggle in my life. To this day, I am still discovering little bits of truth that God deposited in me in those two horrendously long years, and I know I have only begun to scratch the surface. God is telling me that He is so much bigger than I can possibly comprehend. I cannot contain His vastness.

He is the same God that spoke into nothing to create something. He spoke into the darkness and created light. He spoke the universe and everything in it into existence. The same God I often put in a neat little box is the same God that parted the Red Sea for His people to cross; the same God that appeared in fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; the same God who shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was in the lions’ den; the same God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush. I could go on…

The  apostle Paul in Colossians 1:15-17 explains the sovereignty and power of God this way: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (NLT).

In John 1, the apostle John writes: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.
 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:1-5, NLT). 

I say God is a big God, but I ask myself if I really believe that. If I believe that, my life should show it. Am I expecting big things of God? Do I believe He can do the impossible? Do I seek Him and believe He will do all He has promised? Do I expect Him to do miracles? I must ask myself these kinds of questions from time to time; they serve as a reality check. Inevitably, every time I consider these questions, God takes me back to those dark, lonely, painful nights when my husband was with another woman. He reminds me of how He spoke to me, carried me, strengthened me, and answered me. He reminds me that He is just as powerful and able now as He was then. He reminds me of the miracles He did then, of how He did things everyone else (myself included) thought impossible. I once again hear His still, small voice calling out to me, beckoning me to trust Him, to seek Him, to let Him out of the box I have put Him in. It is as if He is telling me to unleash Him, to let Him loose, so He can blow my mind with how awesome He is once again. He is limitless, yet I limit Him far too often. I need to get rid of the box…

My Whatever Moment

THE WHATEVER MOMENT

When I was 9 years old, I walked the aisle at a church and gave my heart to Jesus. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing. Nevertheless, I had the foundation laid in my life, and I held to the values and convictions my parents had instilled in me throughout my adolescent years and into my late twenties. When I was about 26 or 27 years old, I became very lonely, restless and dissatisfied with my life. In loneliness, I met men over the Internet and went out on a few dates. I desperately wanted a relationship because I felt so lonely. It was the kind of loneliness that physically hurts, and it didn’t let up. At times, it was so bad that I didn’t think I could stand it. I thought a relationship would bring me happiness and fulfillment, but with every new man I met and went out with, the feelings of loneliness, restlessness and dissatisfaction remained. I became jaded and disillusioned.

I had a master’s degree and was working in my chosen profession, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. These feelings plagued me for months, causing me to examine my life and myself. I began to wonder what my purpose was, what was I supposed to do with my life, and why I didn’t feel fulfilled. I started praying and seeking God and telling him about the storm of emotions inside me. I remember thinking there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing.

One night, out of exasperation, I knelt beside my bed and prayed what I now call a “whatever” prayer. I told Jesus I was his. If I never made a lot of money; if I never got married; if my dreams never came true. I was his whatever. There were no conditions attached. As I prayed, I began to feel so free, and peace like I had never known filled my heart. I had finally found what I had been missing. I had found the only One who could satisfy and fulfill me. I had found the One who could give my life purpose and meaning. I had discovered the One who is Life. I had found Jesus, and I counted the cost and realized that I wanted Jesus whatever it required and wherever it might lead.

Since that night, I have had many other whatever moments. Moments when I forgave deep wrongs when I wanted to hold on to the hate. Moments when I gave up something I really wanted because I knew it wasn’t what God wanted. Moments when I let go of my dreams to pursue God’s dreams for me. Moments when I did the right thing even when it cost me. God has led me to countless whatever moments. Those whatever moments have often been hard, uncomfortable and painful, but every one has been worth what God required of me. Maybe you call those moments surrender or dying to self or defining moments. But, no matter how you label those moments, the only answer God requires of you is “Whatever.”