divorcehope

My divorce story…picking up the pieces, making sense of the mess, single parenting, and other encouragement along the way!

Parenting Encouragement! January 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 2:50 pm

mom

 

As my sweet baby boy is quickly approaching his twos, I am remembering and having flashbacks on how difficult this season is. The struggle for independence and the constant testing of boundaries – often at the most inconvenient times – is enough to push one over the edge. For me as a single parent, it also brings to the surface the grief of being in this “alone”, and the loss of having a partner in parenting and life in general…which can make it even harder.

 
I am constantly being reminded and reminding myself – I am not in this alone. The Holy Spirit is my constant Helper. I pray daily for my children to be covered and protected, and for God to supernaturally make up any difference in my shortcomings, when my abilities and capacities are simply not enough. Although it has been a journey, He is also sending people to encourage and to provide some practical help as well, which is a huge answer to my prayers.
 
Single parents, be encouraged. The weight of responsibility in parenting in general is huge, and I know it can be even heavier as a single parent. It is helpful to remind myself that my children are not my own. They belong to God, and I have been entrusted to steward their hearts and point them to Him. They are a gift and a blessing.
 
James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
 
Psalm 127 –
 
“Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.
 
It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil—for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.
 
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
 
As arrows are in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
 
Happy, blessed, and fortunate is the man whose quiver is filled with them! They will not be put to shame when they speak with their adversaries [in gatherings] at the [city’s] gate.”
 
As I’ve shared with other areas of my life, I can tend to fall in to the anxious, striving category – feeling like it all depends on me and carrying a weight and responsibility that is not entirely mine to carry. I was so encouraged by these verses reminding me that children are such a GIFT and BLESSING from God and He is in control equipping us with what we need to care for them and enjoy them!! I found the following article almost exactly one year ago when I was in the throes of the twos with my daughter, and it was so encouraging to me both then and now – providing practical application for these Sriptures.
 
DISCIPLING our children is the ultimate goal – teaching and modeling the loving heart of God the Father, how to walk in intimate relationship with Him, and how to hear and obey His voice. I am convicted as I think about how I have missed the mark too many times by focusing on rules and punishment rather than on relationship.
 
My struggle as a single parent of young children is often feeling a loss of control since there is only one of me and I can only handle so much both physically and emotionally at any given moment. That is why I can tend to default to some of the negative parenting tactics in in the most trying moments. I forget too often that I can tap into the grace and help of the Holy Spirit, who is always ready and willing to provide the love, wisdom, patience, and whatever else is needed for each situation. We are blessed to have so many resources available and accessible to help along the way – I found the following article applicable in providing practical tips on how to focus on positive / relationship-centered parenting, so I wanted to share a few excerpts with you.
 
My prayer is that as we seek His guidance and choose to partner with Him, the Holy Spirit will come close to us wherever we are on our parenting journeys, and provide exactly what we need (from perspective to strength, strategy, rest, practical help and partnerships) to be able “train up our children in the way they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). “It” being – knowing WHO God is, walking in the fullness of relationship with Him, and fulfilling His plans and purposes for each of their lives.
 
Lord, help me to have Your perspective on parenting. Help me to not get so caught up in the daily details that I lose sight of the greater goal. Help me to realize that my children are a gift from you and that I have been entrusted to steward their hearts and lives and to teach them to be true disciples in your Kingdom, in Jesus’ name!
 

How to Use Positive Parenting
By Dr. Laura Markham

 
Discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Punishment is imposing something unpleasant on a person in response to behavior deemed wrong by the punisher. Discipline comes from the Latin verb to teach or guide, as does the word Disciple. Positive Discipline, therefore, is Positive Guidance. Some people also call it Gentle Guidance, to distinguish it from the more harsh training that often passes for teaching in our society. Because we all grew up with such negative associations to the word “discipline,” I prefer to use the words “Positive parenting.” That also encompasses everything we do as parents to connect with our child and support him so he’s open to our guidance.
 
This page gives you ten tips for practicing positive parenting at your house. If you’re wondering whether that’s a good idea, the short answer is that punishment undermines your relationship with your child, makes kids feel worse about themselves (which makes them act worse) and sabotages your child’s development of self-discipline. Isn’t your goal to help your child feel good and act better? Click here for more information on WHY positive parenting raises great kids.
 
Here’s how to use positive parenting, or Gentle Guidance, to raise an amazing, emotionally intelligent, child.
 
1. Positive parenting starts by creating a good relationship with your child, so that he responds to gentle guidance as opposed to threats and punishment. The most effective discipline strategy is having a close bond with your child. Kids who feel connected to their parents naturally want to please them.
 
2. Evaluate all teaching based on whether it strengthens or weakens your relationship with your child. Think Loving Guidance, not punishment. Punishment is destructive to your relationship with your child and ultimately creates more misbehavior. Loving guidance is setting limits and reinforcing expectations as necessary, but in an empathic way that helps the child focus on improving her behavior rather than on being angry at you.
 
3. Start all correction by reaffirming the connection.
 
• Stoop down to her level and look her in the eye: “You are mad but no biting!”
• Pick her up: “You wish you could play longer but it’s time for bed.”
• Make loving eye contact: “You are so upset right now.”
• Put your hand on her shoulder: “You’re scared to tell me about the cookie.”
 
4. Don’t hesitate to set limits as necessary, but set them with empathy. Of course you need to enforce your rules. But you can also acknowledge her perspective. When kids feel understood, they’re more able to accept our limits.
 
• “You’re very very mad and hurt, but we don’t bite. Let’s use your words to tell your brother how you feel.”
• “You wish you could play longer, but it’s bedtime. I know that makes you sad.”
• “You don’t want Mommy to say No, but the answer is No. We don’t say ‘Shut Up’ to each other, but it’s ok to be sad and mad.”
• “You are scared, but we always tell the truth to each other.”
 
5. In any situation posing physical danger, intervene immediately to set limits, but simultaneously connect by empathizing. “The rule is no hitting, even though she made you really mad by teasing like that. Let’s sit down and talk about this.”
 
6. Defiance is a relationship problem. If your child does not accept your direction (“I don’t care what you say, you can’t make me!”), it’s always an indication that the relationship is not strong enough to support the teaching. This happens to all of us from time to time. At that point, stop and think about how to strengthen the relationship, not how to make the child “mind.” Turning the situation into a power struggle will just deepen the rift between you.
 
7. Avoid Timeouts. They create more misbehavior. Timeouts, while infinitely better than hitting, are just another version of punishment by banishment and humiliation. They leave kids alone to manage their tangled-up emotions, so they undermine emotional intelligence. They erode, rather than strengthen, your relationship with your child. They set up a power struggle. And they only work while you’re bigger. They’re a more humane form of bullying than physical discipline. Click here for more information on why Timeouts don’t work.
 
8. Consequences teach the wrong lesson if you’re involved in creating them. On the face of it, Consequences make sense: The child does (or doesn’t do) something, and learns from the consequences. Which, when it happens naturally, can be a terrific learning experience. But most of the time, parents engineer the consequences, and enforce the time out, so that any child can explain to you that consequences are actually punishment. Click here for more information on why Consequences don’t work.
 
If the parent is not involved in the consequences (for instance, if they don’t study and flunk their test, or they don’t brush and get a cavity) — and if you can handle the bad result — kids can learn a lot from suffering the consequences of their actions. Of course, you don’t want it to happen more than once, or their self image becomes that of a person who flunks test and gets cavities, and they have learned an unintended lesson. My own view is that it works better, if possible, for them to skip such lessons, but as a last ditch strategy, we all certainly learn from letting things go wrong.
 
Unfortunately, most kids whose parents use “consequences” as punishment don’t think of them as the natural result of their own actions (“I forgot my lunch today so I was hungry”), but as the threats they hear through their parents’ clenched teeth: “If I have to stop this car and come back there, there will be CONSEQUENCES!!” If parents are in charge of consequences, then the consequences aren’t the natural result of the child’s actions, but simply punishment.
 
To the degree that Consequences are seen as punishment by kids — and they almost always are — they are not as effective as positive discipline to encourage good behavior. Using them on your kids should be considered a last result and a signal that you need to come up with another strategy.
 
9. Kids will do almost anything we request if we make the request with a loving heart. Find a way to say YES instead of NO even while you set your limit. “YES, it’s time to clean up, and YES I will help you and YES we can leave your tower up and YES you can growl about it and YES if we hurry we can read an extra story and YES we can make this fun and YES I adore you and YES how did I get so lucky to be your parent? YES!” Your child will respond with the generosity of spirit that matches yours.
 
10. How you treat your child is how she will learn to treat herself. If you’re harsh with her, she’ll be harsh with herself. If you’re loving with her while firm about setting appropriate limits, she’ll develop the ability to set firm but loving limits on her own behavior.
 
Harsh discipline and punishment, ironically, interfere with the child’s ability to develop self discipline. The problem with internalizing harshness isn’t just that it makes for unhappy kids and, eventually, unhappy adults, it’s that it doesn’t work. Kids who are given discipline that is not loving never learn to manage themselves constructively.
 
To the degree that we’re harsh with ourselves because of the way we were parented, we respond to it by rebelling (how many times do we cheat on our diets?) or martyring ourselves (trying hard to be good girls and boys but building up resentment and lashing out at those we love, or not giving ourselves a break and ultimately breaking down.)
 
To the degree that we can accept our own loving guidance because we’ve learned from our parents to treat ourselves that way, we are able to set goals and use our self-discipline to attain them. Ultimately, loving guidance and positive parenting result in the child’s developing the holy grail toward which all child-raising is aimed: the child’s own self-discipline.

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The Fall-Out December 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 9:50 pm

house

First came the shock.

The girl who had passionately loved God since childhood –the one who had walked it out right until now – the girl who had sincerely saved herself for her husband – who took seriously and believed in covenant…the one who had fought and believed for her husband and her marriage for years…. The girl who had been put on a pedestal by the ones who knew her best…that girl had fallen….hard.

My own mother didn’t believe my husband when he called to break the news. Besides my parents and the other family – we kept it a secret for the first several weeks while the shock was absorbed. The details that filled the next hellish year could easily fill a novel.

My husband’s shock and anger was to be expected at first, but nothing could have prepared me for his response. I clearly wasn’t thinking about these kinds of things when I made the sinful choices I did, however, at this point, I think I really expected my heart to be seen. I was truly repentant for what I had fallen into and I truly wanted out – I also wanted help to sort through the deception, wrong beliefs, and desperation that had gotten me to this point. While I had clearly not thought through the consequences, I guess I honestly expected mercy and forgiveness from my husband where mercy and forgiveness had been given many times over.

The best way I know how to explain the next several months is that my sin exposed what was really true about my whole life.  I began to see things in my husband that had not been fully revealed – or more accurately, things God was revealing to me that I hadn’t been willing or able to see before – and over time, my pain began to make sense.  His actions revealed hard truths about our relationship that I had not been willing to accept before now.  I could no longer deny the reality that I was treated as a possession – I was always trying to do the right thing by him, and my heart was always keeping me in a position of one-down.  But before now, I had never truly tested his ability to love and forgive me despite the fact that I had failed miserably and hurt him deeply.  I stayed in a marriage where I was not honored and valued because I truly believed if I was a good enough wife, if I did and said the right things, and if I prayed hard enough, that eventually something would change. My heart was changing in a way that was healthier, and it was becoming painfully clear now that I had failed and was no longer the “perfect wife”, he didn’t want me anymore.

(Just a side note – I do believe that God was at work and would have eventually either changed his heart, or allowed another set of circumstances that would have gotten me out of the relationship. And hopefully I have made it clear that my choice (even through the pain, deception, and temptation by the enemy) to try to get my needs met apart from God was wrong and incredibly destructive. But even still, God has and is using it all.)

I was completely open to “punishment” for what I had done and was willing to do almost anything to save my marriage. Having been betrayed and mistreated long enough, I understand full well that reconciliation, forgiveness, and rebuilding trust is a process. I was all for walking through this process and getting whatever help I needed. I was also completely overwhelmed with guilt and shame for what I had done.

The other family decided right away that they were going stay together and do whatever they could to preserve his career/image, yet I have no idea what that has meant for them. But what very few people understand, and what complicated the situation even further, is that it appeared as though I was not going to have that same option. My husband completely lost it, and I became a prisoner of his rage.

I literally became a captive in my own home. He monitored my every move and every word. Like I mentioned above, I was not opposed to this due to the circumstances…had it been in a healthy way with the right motives, but it was not. He wanted to punish me. I found out later he decided early on that he wanted a divorce and had sought legal counsel on how to walk it out and protect himself – once again fitting the theme that I wasn’t really worth it, I wasn’t valued, and it was never about having a mutually loving and intimate relationship.  But I have always mattered to my Heavenly Father…..and I was embarking on a journey of knowing Him on a whole new level and discovering Him as the perfect husband.

My husband hired a technical investigator to get my cell phone transcripts from the past few months and reviewed, analyzed, and obsessed over every word of the affair. There was no rest during that season. He would completely lose control in fits of rage day and night – I never knew when and what would set him off. He would come and find me or wake me and terrorize me with the details. The abuse was mostly verbal and emotional, although a few times it did become physical.

I was not allowed to talk to my own parents or anyone who would try to speak life or hope into the situation. In fact, he would cut out and discredit anyone who would say anything except how horrible I was. There was no doubt that the situation was excruciatingly difficult, but at some point, you have to make a choice to move forward, and he would not.

I really felt that I deserved his anger. I kept hoping that something would change. I prayed he would turn a corner and decide to try to work it out. I wanted reconciliation desperately, especially for our daughter. I was absolutely heartbroken, sick, and grief-stricken for her sake. But his anger didn’t subside. In fact, the fits of rage just worsened…and he no longer filtered his behavior in front of our daughter. That’s where I had to take a stand.

We had been seeing a counselor, but after he lost it a few times in therapy and stormed out, it was mutually decided that the first counselor was not the best fit, so we were referred to another counselor through our church. Plus, I wanted and needed both spiritual and individual counseling as well as the marital counseling, and he wasn’t willing to pay for me to get the help I needed. Counseling was free through the church for crisis situations, which was the main reason he agreed to make the switch. Again, the painful reality that I wasn’t worth it rang true….yet not to my Heavenly Father. He was at work behind the scenes.

I am so thankful for the hand of the Lord that literally covered me during this season. He protected me, our daughter, and my unborn son. And furthermore, he orchestrated divine connections that would be crucial for my healing and my future. It was through the counselor at the church that we were able to make some of the decisions that needed to be made (ultimately the decision to separate). She also referred me to the counselor that I am still meeting with regularly to this day. These were absolute God appointments that I am humbled and beyond grateful for.

After a few sessions with the new counselor, my husband’s rage continued – he simply could not handle addressing anything beyond “what I had done”, and was unwilling to talk about our relationship as a whole or his role in any of it. After a frustrating session, he accused the counselor of being unqualified, stormed out, and refused to return.

He also refused any kind of meeting with the other family. I went along with it, as I was still trying to submit to “the process” and save my marriage. Looking back, for so many reasons, I believe the Lord’s hand of protection was also on those details.  Furthermore, my husband pushed some things legally with the other family that I’m not sure I would have had the strength or courage to initiate on my own, that have ended up being necessary. Even then, God’s mercy and grace was at work.

What it all came down to as the birth of the baby was approaching was the decision I was going to make….whether I would keep the baby or place him for adoption with another family.  The other family had indicated early on that adoption would be the best option for them – as they just wanted their lives to go on as if nothing had happened. That seemed to be the theme for them – they just wanted it all to go away. While I do not believe it is necessary to go into all the details, I will say the way things were handled with the other family only added to the mess. Their response ultimately resulted in a restraining order and everything needing to be handled in court. It was all so surreal – I could not believe what was happening.  It is important for me to share that after I had the baby and things settled in a little, I did send a letter seeking forgiveness, which never received a response.

My husband had decided that he would not be able to parent a child that wasn’t his. He had indicated that if I did choose to place the child for adoption, he would try to forgive me, but as I prayed and sought the Lord, I knew in my Spirit that he would never be able let it go to the point of reconciling the marriage relationship. The double standards he held had been too real and too consistent. I had been willing to live like this for so long because I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do to be a submissive, God-fearing wife. But I could no longer deny that what was ok for him was not and would never be ok for me. And I knew the Lord was not asking me to give this child up.

But still, I agonized over the decision and was diligent in the decision-making process.  I met with different counselors, including an adoption counselor. What would be best for this baby? The unknown with me or the unknown with a two-parent home? I was still overcome with guilt and shame and wanted to do what was “right”. While there are so many more details that played in to the decision, I decided to go with what I felt the Lord was saying to me, trust His promises to provide, and keep my son.

And so, with the volatile environment at home and my desire to protect both of my children, I moved out a few weeks before my due date, still hopeful that my husband would have a change of heart and choose forgiveness and reconciliation. I left with half of our bank accounts and a few things from our home (which wasn’t much) and faith that God was going to provide. I didn’t take everything the day I moved out, just the basics, thinking that I would come back for loose ends. Little did I know that within a couple of weeks, despite the fact that the home was still ours, my husband would change the locks and not allow me back in.

There’s a reason the Scripture says that God hates divorce. It is truly the most painful experience I have ever encountered – the ripping apart two lives and two people who had become one. And to have children involved makes it even worse.

And so – there I was – completely abandoned by my husband because of my mistakes, abandoned by the father of my unborn child who refused to take any responsibility willingly, abandoned by people who I thought were my friends. It was like I was at a masquerade ball and everyone around me was taking off their masks one by one – from my husband, to the other family, to those less involved.  My shell of a life was in pieces all around me. Battles raging on every side – relational battles, legal battles, and the grief and shame I was battling within – all while preparing to bring a child into the world – unsure how it was all going to play out and how I was going to support myself and my children.

Here’s what I’ve learned. I did not lose my salvation, although my sinful choices have had grave consequences. I never stopped loving God and He never stopped loving me. He was not angry with me – Isaiah 54:9 – “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry and punish you.”  Was He grieved by my selfish and sinful choices? – Yes. Did I hurt and disappoint a lot of people? –Yes. Have innocent people been negatively affected by my sin? – Yes!  Have I walked through a season of the Lord’s discipline? – Absolutely. But He never left me. He has truly made His presence known in the midst of the mess – every step of the way.

It’s His kindness that leads to repentance. And that’s why we’re called to be kind to each other; and not to JUDGE. We rarely know the whole story or have all the facts – just as there are other sides to my story. We’re called to LOVE – first God – with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength – and then one another. And we’re called to FORGIVE each other just as we’ve been forgiven.

Romans 2:1-4: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].

1 John 4:16 –  And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.

In my naivety from a lack of life experience, I used to be a little judgmental and self-righteous myself – a bit of a Pharisee, if you will.  Let me tell you…no longer. There’s nothing like falling flat on your face, having your pride completely shattered publicly, being stripped of your life as you’ve know it, and then being judged and refused forgiveness by almost everyone around you on top of it all to change your perspective!

To say it’s been a difficult couple of years would be an understatement. I’ve worn a “scarlet letter” – and been through a season of literally being afraid to leave my house. The shame has been overwhelming at times. Could I have given up or chosen to become hard and bitter? Sure. But through it all, I’ve come to know God and experience Him in all the ways that were only concepts and ideals before.

You see – I had all the head knowledge, I’d been reading ABOUT Him for years – but now I was forced to depend on God for literally everything. He has been my perfect Husband, my Counselor, and my Peace in the moments when the pain, fear and anxiety were paralyzing. He has been my Covering and my Provider…step by step, day by day, month by month – He has helped me rebuild my life from nothing – He has provided a place to live, a good job, and just enough money to pay my bills and feed and clothe my children. It has not been easy, but I am here to testify of the goodness and faithfulness of God even in the midst of my sin and failure.

He has been a Father to my children – He’s covered, shielded, and protected them in ways I know I’m not even aware of. He’s given me strength to make it through the days and nights when I was responsible for a newborn and a toddler and exhaustion was threatening to destroy me.  He was with me in the hospital when I gave birth to my son, not knowing what tomorrow would hold – rejoicing with me over his life – a life that is fearfully and wonderfully made, and predestined to be, whether I can wrap my mind around it or not (more to come).

He’s given me wisdom, discernment, and favor through the legal battles – and been my companion when I’ve had to face and literally look my greatest fears right in the eyes. And even though I’ve known pain beyond description, He’s been with me through every accusation, betrayal, and judgment passed. I know He is my Shield and Defender. It’s been incredibly difficult for someone like me to feel so misunderstood and to feel defined by my mistakes….but God has been in every detail – more than I can list and more than I even know.

Treat people gently. Love generously.  Be quick to forgive. You just never know what someone is walking through. And you never know when you’re going to need forgiveness. I know I’ve caused great damage and my choices have negatively impacted many lives. I’ve grieved and still grieve these things more than I can describe. I’ve had to walk heavy consequences, and I still have to choose on a regular basis to forgive myself.

I’ve been hard enough on myself, and I certainly didn’t need anybody else throwing stones. The moments of kindness, compassion, empathy, and encouragement I’ve received have meant more to me than I can describe. I know I am unworthy and undeserving, but isn’t that what Christianity is all about? We were all unworthy and undeserving, but God still sent his Son Jesus to die so that we could be restored to righteousness and relationship with the Father.  I realize now more than ever that even though my salvation is secured through my continual faith and belief in Jesus Christ and my sins are forgiven through His blood with confession and repentance, MY CHOICES STILL MATTER.  I have hope that my life is not over – that as I continue to walk in repentance, humility, faith and obedience, God can and will work ALL things together for good. I also have hope that He is able to bring healing and restoration to the broken hearts and broken relationships – in His timing and for His purposes.

Stay tuned…

 

The Pit November 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 6:36 pm

storm quote 4
 
I have prayed and wrestled over how to share this part of the story. I have written and re-written from different angles. There is just no way around the fact that this part of the story is not easy to tell. I don’t have it all figured out and I may never understand it all. I’ve decided for the purpose of telling the story and getting through this part that it’s best to just go with what I know.
 
So here’s what I know for sure:
 
I am just a girl who has passionately loved and served the Lord since I first invited Him into my heart and life when I was 5 years old. I loved growing up in church, worshipping God, and learning about Him and how to walk in His ways.
 
I got very involved in my church youth group in junior high and high school. I spent my high school and early college years serving in my youth group and in the Christian organizations at my school that gave others opportunities to practically experience God’s love. I had such a heart for my classmates and peers. I regularly set aside time to pray and fast for them to know and encounter the love of God. I worked and raised money so I could spend my summers going on mission trips and was involved in many different outreach projects.
 
I share all of this simply to communicate that my heart has always been for the things of God. As I entered my early college years, I prayed and hoped to find a life partner that shared my heart and passion for Him – one that I could partner with to continue on the journey of life and of knowing and walking with Jesus…as well as someone I could partner with in ministry and in the adventures of serving God together.
 
As I’ve shared, there were still some deep wounds in my soul as a result the brokenness in my family that had not yet been fully identified or addressed. While my desires were pure and sincere, I had no idea that my heart might not be able to see what was best for me. In my naivety, and because of my past (patterns learned that I didn’t even know were there), I truly believed that I could do just about anything…including making a marriage work.
 
Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way what my heart was clueless to in that season (or simply my pride) that I believed I could do anything. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Oh how I wish we could all learn a different way…but even still God is so gracious to use our circumstances to teach us and draw us back to Himself!
 
What I do know is that after 9 years of fighting and believing for a healthy marriage, and enduring deep and repeated rejection from my husband, I grew weary and lost sight of the only One who could carry me through and bring hope to my situation.
 
In Matthew 4 (and also in Luke 4), we read about Jesus being tempted by the devil immediately following 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. You can imagine how weak He must have been in the flesh. The Bible says that although He was tempted in every way, the devil found no place in Him. Sadly, when the enemy came after my life, he was able to find a place in me.
 
I had opened a door, and for the first time in my almost 30 years, I found myself completely overwhelmed and overcome with temptation. I was faced (on the surface) with an image of what I thought I had always wanted – someone that saw me, knew me, loved and admired me just for who I was. Someone who had a heart for the things of God and ministry…someone who was fun and family-oriented…someone who was creative, talented, and passionate. However, these good and innocent things I had hoped for in marriage had become an idol…something I desired and focused on more than completely relinquishing control and trusting God with my situation.
 
The emotional affair had moved into fantasy land. Somehow, I was able to create a fantasy world that was completely separate from real life. As James 1:14-15 states, my desires had given birth to sin. Sinful thoughts had become words and as sin goes, eventually over time, words became actions.
 
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
 
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45)
 
If we are not careful, our unguarded thoughts become words and words are so powerful. The Bible is full of instruction on the importance of guarding our tongues or watching our words…they literally have the power to bring about life or death.
 
For me, it happened slowly and subtly – compromise can be a slippery slope. As lines were crossed one at a time, I allowed my conscience to become seared one word, one conversation, one day at a time.
 
I wish I could describe the conflict within me during these fateful few months. I gradually lost sight not only of who I was, but of who my God was. While I knew He was right there with me through it all and that He would never leave me or forsake me (and He didn’t), I forgot who He was TO ME – and that He was and is EVERYTHING I will ever need.
 
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has set eternity in the hearts of men.” We were all born with an insatiable inner nagging for something more. No matter how humanity has tried to satisfy the hunger or quench the thirst, eternity still pulls at our hearts. A longing to know and experience God persists….and even more, a longing for Heaven and for the way things are “supposed to be” persists.
 
That’s why it really doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, if everything is going your way, or if your life is falling apart….our need for the presence and reality of God in our lives cannot be satisfied any other way but complete surrender to and dependence on Him. In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
 
And so, in this season of being tempted by the enemy, I simply grew weary. I bought into the lies, and I forgot where my fulfillment was found. I forgot who my God was. I forgot about His all-encompassing, never-ending, passionate, jealous love for me. And I believed the lie that I could get my needs met apart from Him.
 
On top of that, my husband, my life partner, the person whom I was “one” with was completely oblivious. I know full well the differences between men and women, and have touched on the tension between finding fulfillment in God vs. man. Still, how could he not see how much I was hurting and that I had strayed for the first time in my life from everything I had known and believed? How was this so easy to “get away” with? I knew deep down that I wasn’t “getting away” with anything…I knew the truth that sin is always exposed and that light always eventually shines on what’s hidden in darkness, but for a season, I couldn’t believe how “easy” it was.
 
While I don’t blame him, I do know that had my husband been more “tuned in”, things never would have gone as far as they did. In fact, once the affair was exposed, he actually said that during this season, he had been “the happiest he had ever been in our marriage.” That statement cut deeply, but at the same time, it brought some understanding to why the relationship had been so strained for me. This was the first time I basically expected nothing from him emotionally. I was distracted, but still taking care of everything on the home front, so he was free to come and go as he pleased. He was completely satisfied with minimal communication and next to no connection.
 
But still – I wanted to be found out….to be exposed….to be pulled out of the pit I was in. While the affair filled a temporary need and provided a temporary fix….in reality, it was bondage and emotional agony. I wanted desperately to be SEEN and to be RESCUED. There had been talk for months and months about my husband’s job getting relocated…hopefully closer to our families…I hoped and prayed that would be my way out.
 
While I could never have predicted the “fall-out”, and there are parts of it that I simply cannot make sense of or wrap my mind around, the truth is that Jesus saw me, and He came to my rescue.

The affair itself did not last long, and very shortly after it began, I became pregnant. The day I went to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy, I passed out in the office and threw up all the way home. What was I going to do? I knew it was just a matter of time.

storm

And then that fateful day came. I wish I could forget it. We were just waking up on a crisp September Saturday morning. My husband happened to look at my phone for the first time in months. I panicked for a minute and then decided now was as good a time as any to confess.

We got our neighbor to come over and stay with our daughter while we went out to “talk”. Within minutes, he ended up driving over to the other family’s house and storming in wrecklessly to confront him and tell his wife. The fall-out had begun.
 
They say you never really know a person’s character until you see how they respond when squeezed or in crisis. Nothing could have prepared me for the days, weeks, and months that followed. It was dark and ugly. But I am here to testify that while I had failed Him, God NEVER left my side. While I have walked an excruciating season of experiencing both the consequences of sin and the discipline of the Lord – He has loved me through it and has truly become my everything.
 
Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline of the Lord:

Verses 4-11 – “You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood.

5 And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him;

6 For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.

7 You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline?

8 Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all].

9 Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded [to them] and respected [them for training us]. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits and so [truly] live?

10 For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness.

11 For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].
 
As this passage indicates, although I could not fully see it yet, the Lord was bringing me back to Him and it has been for my GOOD, however painful. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, but I am here to say that even in the midst of my betrayal, sin, failure, and the consequences and discipline that followed, God was there every step of the way, loving me and drawing me back to Himself…ready to forgive, wash me in the blood of Jesus, and begin restoring and making all things new the minute I repented.
 
I must also say that the wages of sin is death and the warnings of sin and unrighteousness in the Bible are REAL and TRUE – and the pain sin causes is always far greater than any temporary fix or thrill. For me, it was the death of relationships and of my marriage, and ultimately of my life as I knew it – BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).
 
As you will see as the story continues to unfold, despite the pain I’ve caused and had to endure, Jesus truly came to my rescue…He breathed LIFE (literally) and brought LIGHT into the darkness in a way that ONLY He could, and in a way in which ONLY He could be glorified. He is so good. I have learned the hard way that He is truly everything we need in this life – Savior, Father, Comforter, Counselor, Husband, Friend, Companion, Redeemer, Restorer, Provider, Protector, Defender. Whatever you need, HE IS.
 
It’s not easy to expose my sin and failure, but I believe every word in the Bible because I’ve tried it and found it to be true! 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I pray with all of my heart that God allows my story to bring hope to the most hopeless of situations because I’ve been there and can testify that there is eternal hope in JESUS CHRIST…but even more, I pray that my story will save someone from falling into the same pit and having to live through the same pain and grief.
 
Music has brought so much healing to my heart and soul and has helped me to restore my intimacy with the Lord. This song is such an expression of my heart…I hope it is an encouragement to you as well.
 

Back to You (www.forallseasonsmusic.com)

By Jeffrey Luckey

I’m sorry, Lord, for the heir I’ve become

I never thought that I would be this far from home

All the love you gave never lied in waste,

It keeps me hanging on

When I look around and there’s nowhere else to run.

These filthy hands I lift in faith

Longing for redeeming grace

To cleanse my heart and bring me back to You

Chorus:

Bring me back to You

I’m so undeserving of the love

You so freely offer us

I will place my trust in You and never look back

Because of who you are, because of what You’ve done

Forgive me, Lord, for my ungrateful heart

When I thought that I would be better off alone

When deception came, I thought I had the strength to fight foolishness away

I forgot where all my strength comes from

These filthy hands I lift to praise

A holy God with love that saves

A wounded soul in need of Your embrace

Bring me back to You

I’m so undeserving of the love

You so freely offer us

I will place my trust in you and never look back

Because of who You are, because of what You’ve done

Bring me back to You

 

The Perfect Storm October 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 5:08 pm

lonely8

“Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

It is with holy reverence and complete humility that I reach this point in my story.

Revelation 12:10-11 – “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

And so, I continue to share my testimony as a means of overcoming the enemy and gaining greater healing and freedom in my life; but also with a hope that my story is an encouragement to you wherever you are in your journey.  My greatest hope is that my story may be able to prevent someone from making the same mistakes I did.  But regardless of where you are, what you may have done in the past, what storm may be brewing, or what you may be caught in the middle of….you need to know IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. 

God is a Redeemer.  No situation takes Him by surprise and no situation is too big for Him.  There are certainly natural consequences for sin, but He uses it all and begins to turn our lives around and weave circumstances together for our GOOD and His GLORY the minute we turn it over to Him.  He can bring unspeakable beauty out of the ugliest messes….all because of the greatness of His love for us.

Ephesians 3 states that “the love of Christ far surpasses mere knowledge without experience.”  God longs for us to know and experience the depth of His love for us.  It’s our hearts that He’s after…not sacrifice or religion, not being good enough or simply doing and saying the right things….He wants our whole hearts – the good parts, the hurt and broken parts, the secret and hidden parts, the dysfunctional parts, the parts we think no one understands and the parts we don’t even fully understand….He wants it all and He will do whatever it takes to reach us.  He is relentless in His pursuit of our hearts.  Yet we still have a choice….to harden our hearts and reject Him or to open our hearts and surrender to Him.

And so I pick up where I left off in my last entry.  New mama, new season, new job working part time for our friends….it was a whole new world for me.  On top of the new world of motherhood, I was also learning a new business and we were attending a new church….I was trying to find my place in all of my new worlds.

As I explained previously, some contention had arisen in our marriage again due to our new season and my new job and trying to find the balance and rhythm of our roles within the marriage.  I sensed my husband’s overall displeasure with me, but he had fallen back into his pattern of not wanting to address the conflict and work through it.  His perspective was always right, and I was somehow just supposed to know, understand, and go with it.  However, not only am I my own person with my own worldview, communication style, and relational needs, I also have a real need to understand and work through disagreements.

I also explained previously that since we had so little in common, our daughter had become our sole focus and point of connection.  In some ways, it was a good thing as it brought us together for a season, but as we settled into our new life, for me, there was still such a lack of connection and relationship apart from the shared responsibilities and joys of parenting.

I found myself becoming isolated again.  As issues were arising again in the marriage, I didn’t know where to turn.  My pride wouldn’t let me say anything to our old community.  I felt (and believed the enemy’s lies) that I had my chance with the separation to get the major kinks worked out of the marriage, and the fact that some of the same issues were coming up again was my fault.  What a stupid thing to believe looking back!  But that’s what the devil does….He lies, tries to isolate us, and he sets us up.

Proverbs 16:18: “Pride comes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.”  I looked up the word haughty – it means having a feeling of superiority, condescending, arrogant, and proud.  The definition of pride itself is – satisfaction with self; the happy satisfied feeling somebody experiences when having or achieving something that other people admire; believing you’re better than others.  Ouch.

1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands – who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm – take heed lest he fall into sin.”

While I’ve certainly been guilty at times of pride, I’m not naturally a person who sees myself as better than others…I would err more on the side of not liking myself or viewing myself as inferior.  My struggle was more with self-sufficiency….and that is what happened for me during this season.  When my attempts to get back into counseling proved more difficult than I had hoped, I didn’t know how to ask for help and was perhaps even a little too proud to admit I needed help…but even more so, I think I was too rooted in shame from my past with an alcoholic father and the destructive patterns in the marriage.

Joyce Meyer describes shame as deeper than guilt over something we’ve done wrong – shame makes us feel bad about who we are.  When a person has a shame-based nature, as I did, it becomes the source or root of many complex inner problems like depression, loneliness, isolation, alienation, and confusion.

I also recently heard someone wise say the nature of deception is that you don’t know that you are deceived.   Because of my past and the years of trying to survive a difficult marriage that I had not really dealt with, I was becoming increasingly deceived.

In the middle of the storm I am about to describe, as my life was blowing up all around me, I came across a book that has really given me words for what I believe happened to me.  It is written by Beth Moore, one of the best Bible teachers out there in my opinion, and it is called When Godly People do Ungodly Things.  The entire book describes how Satan attacks sincere Believers and how those who genuinely love God can be drawn away.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it….I just re-read it as I was preparing to write this part of my story.

Satan knows the Word of God and he knows how he is defeated – by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies.  Since there is nothing he can do about the blood of Jesus covering the redeemed, the dwelling places of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 16:19-20), he is out to destroy the testimony of the Believer in Christ. “Satan’s favorite prey is a person of Godly influence.”

Beth shares about two specific attacks in her own life that I can completely identify with.  Her words could have been my own, “I thought I was the only young woman in the whole Christian world who ever fell grievously into sin after sincerely devoting her life to vocational ministry.  I was completely devastated.  Totally shamed.”

I feel like my first “attack” of sorts came when I met, dated, and chose to marry my husband despite the red flags….and I’m about to describe the second attack on my life, my testimony, and my influence.

1 Peter 5:8-9 – “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Satan knows he is a defeated foe.  However, he is doing everything he can between now and the end of the age, when Jesus comes back, to take out God’s people and destroy our testimony and our influence.

Charles Spurgeon said:

“There is nothing that Satan can do for his evil cause that he does not do.  We may be halfhearted, but he never is.  He is the very image of ceaseless industry and untiring earnestness.  He will do all that can be done in the time of his permitted rage.  We may be sure that he will never lose a day.”

2 Corinthians 11:2-3: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

I hate to admit that this is exactly what happened to me.  I’ve pulled a few excerpts from Beth’s book that describe how the enemy works and how he got me…

“The sufferings that are mentioned in 1 Peter 5 that believers are undergoing all over the world come in various forms.  Some of come in an unexpected, overwhelming season of temptation, not unlike the temptations Satan hurled at Christ, but one thing is for sure:  They are tailor-made to catch the believer off guard.  Many sincere believers fall before they even know what hit them.”

“How can a person who has consistently walked with God be so powerfully seduced to ungodliness?  Somewhere along the way, the godly person walked into a well-spun lie.  Lies are Satan’s stock in trade.  He “fathers” every deception (John 8:44) and seduction (2 Cor. 11:2-3).”

“When we receive Christ, we are made clean.  Ephesians 5:25-26 tells us that ‘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.’  Satan so vehemently despises what Christ has done for mortals that one of his chief objectives is to make the clean feel unclean.  Oh how he desires to stain the beautiful bride of Christ.  Satan can’t make the bride do anything, so he does everything he can to get her to by corrupting thoughts and manipulating feelings.”

“If we have received Christ as our Savior, Satan is forced to work from the outside rather than the inside.  Thus, he manipulates outside influences to affect the inside decision-makers of the heart and mind.”

I was a prime target.  Awesome new life season, yet pulling away from old friends, struggling with self-sufficiency, pride and deception….vulnerable.

I was also trying to find my fit with my new job.  Without going into too much detail, it was a new business for me and on top of that, I was trying to figure out how to work with/for friends and how to balance business with friendship.  I was taking on more and more responsibility, handling scheduling, communication, managing staff and dealing with customers so the email communication between me and my boss was increasing as well as the meetings.  It was a lot to balance.

I was not getting much, if any, support at home, and I was also struggling with having to watch and face daily this family (our friends) that seemed to be everything I had always wanted.  The Bible also talks about the dangers of comparison and coveting….both are dangerous sins that I struggled with greatly during this season.

Again, Beth’s words could be my own:  “I did not plan to veer from the path.  Nothing could have been further from my mind.  I loved God with every ounce of my handicapped heartIf I had known then what I know now, I would have known I was a devout young woman sitting pretty for seduction.  I had several tangles with the devil before I allowed God to teach me how to defend myself.  I hate some of the places I’ve been and ways I had to learn, but I am here to testify that I am no longer easy prey.”

I’m sure you can tell by now where this is headed.  This is my story so I cannot speak for the man involved or judge his heart or motives in any way except to say that he was used meticulously by the enemy in his attack.  Satan’s ambush was calculated, timed perfectly, and he was in no hurry.

While Satan’s attack was targeted and the details were perfectly orchestrated, we also know from the book of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.  And now that I can see clearly, looking back, the situation is as old as time.

It all came about slowly.  First it was the increase in email communication and building a working relationship.  Early on, his wife was very involved, but shortly after I took over, her focus shifted almost completely to their home/family and her involvement in the business was minimal.  As he and I got to know each other better, there was some joking around.  While it was fun, I was mostly just trying to find the balance with the working relationship.

Pretty soon, the one-on-one meetings he was calling were increasing.  During this time, he sent a couple of suggestive messages, but quickly dismissed them as typos / sent in error.  I had no idea until much later that he was testing the waters.

Subtly, he waited for the perfect opportunity to take the relationship to the next level.  I remember it clearly.  My dad, only 58 years old at the time, had a minor heart attack – a completely clogged artery that he caught literally in the nick of time.  My husband was out of town when it happened, and he and his wife came by to check on me.  Later that night, he texted me to ask if I was ok….and he started asking questions….about my family and about me…..he showed genuine interest, care and concern.  Something my heart hadn’t felt in a very long time.  Somewhat innocently, I went along with it and began to open up.

My husband became increasingly checked out during this season….he was traveling a little for work and quite a bit for fun, whether it was hunting or golfing…he was often gone on the weekends leaving me and our daughter alone.

The communication increased again – work correspondence would often move into a personal conversation and we would email late into the evenings, although it still seemed harmless.

Then it happened.  My husband was out of town on a hunting trip.  His wife was also out of town.  It was a Friday evening and he texted me.  We joked around a bit and then he hit on me.  He made a joke about coming over.  I had no idea what was happening.  I was shocked.  He persisted…  I laughed off, dismissed it, and ended the conversation.

I remember calling my mom the next morning and telling her what had happened.  I was still in shock.  What had happened?  Weren’t they the perfect couple, the perfect family?  Didn’t they have it all?  I was a nobody….hurting, frustrated, wanting desperately to be seen, to be known, to be loved.  My mom advised me to ignore it, let it go, and be very careful.

It happened again the next night.  I laughed off again and tried to dismiss it.  Was he being serious?  Was he just playing around?  What was happening?  This was someone I trusted….someone who had been a spiritual leader in my life….someone I admired…and all of that aside, my boss.  I had known and been a part of their family for years now.  They helped me through my separation and I had lived in their home.  His wife was one of my best friends.  I loved her….she trusted me.  I loved their kids.  I was a role model and had spent time with their oldest.  Their youngest was just a few months older than our daughter…they were sure to be close friends.  I was practically running their business.  He was in the public eye…he had a reputation to uphold.

What was I supposed to do now?  I was terrified and felt trapped instantly.  The deeply loyal part of me wouldn’t let me say anything.  How could I?  I could handle this.  I was strong.  Nothing was going to happen anyway.  I couldn’t say anything….I felt responsible (obviously false responsibility!!).  I didn’t want to hurt his wife, their family, or him for that matter.  I didn’t want to lose my job.  What would happen?  And so….I decided to cover it….keep it secret…..handle it.  Big mistake.

The problem with that was that I couldn’t handle it.  Part of me craved the attention.  Little did I know I was already in over my head (remember the nature of deception) and my decision to keep it secret sealed my fate.  Looking back, I really believe that the only way out for me would have been to quit the job and completely walk away.

Galations 6:1 talks about getting “caught” in sin.  One of the definitions of the Greek word for “caught” or prolambano describes sin like this: “catching the individual by surprise, suddenly, without notice…before he is aware of what has happened.  After catching his prey off guard, then the enemy does all he can to make the victim feel completely trapped.”

I dismissed the first few passes, but truth is, I was hooked…..this was my “unexpected, tailor-made, overwhelming season of temptation” described earlier.  Once I decided to stay in it, I was powerless and truly felt trapped.  Lie, lie, lie!!!  It is through tears and knots in my stomach that I share this.  It grieves me so deeply.  I don’t want to recount it….I don’t want to go there.  It hurts to admit what I did.  But I choose to go there for deeper healing and freedom for myself and hopefully for others, for overcoming Satan by the word of my testimony, and to continue to forgive myself.

For the next couple of months, text conversations continued ….and continued to cross line after line.  We were in a full-blown emotional affair.

I can’t speak for him because I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes, but my husband was completely clueless….which made it even easier to go deeper and deeper.  I’ll address this piece later, but I can’t begin to explain the pain of being caught so deeply in sin, betraying everything you’ve ever known and believed….the very essence of who you are, and having the person that you are supposed to be one with not even notice. 

As these things go, unguarded thoughts became words and the words eventually became actions.  One thing lead to another and within a few short months, the affair became physical.

For the sake of length, I’m going to break here.  Stay tuned. Thanks for bearing with me.

 

The Calm Before the Storm October 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 8:05 pm

calm

The year and a half that followed moving back in was the best year of our marriage.  He was making an effort to be home and to engage in meals and activities together.  For the first time in our marriage, he agreed to let us host a small group in our home.  I had always wanted to have people in our home, and it was not something he was ever very open to.

We were both busy continuing to build our careers, and while we were not in counseling anymore, it felt a bit like a “honeymoon phase” being back together again.  Although we knew we wanted kids, he hadn’t been open to discussing it until now.  It was around this time that he decided we would stop preventing it from happening.  I say “he” because he was rarely open to discussing these types of things or planning/dreaming together…he avoided emotional closeness/intimacy.  If he did not agree about something, he would simply avoid the conversation or conflict in general.  He was very passive aggressive, which was immensely frustrating for someone like me who craves/thrives on emotional closeness and words of affirmation.

Either way, I was thrilled as I had always wanted a baby!  It took a few months to get pregnant, but it was an exciting time nonetheless. That following summer (2009), I had an opportunity to go to Paris for work/ministry. I felt pretty nauseous on the trip, but assumed it was just from traveling and jet lag. The week I returned, I found out I was pregnant.

And so, the preparation for becoming new parents began. However, in some aspects, the future became a bit unclear.  I had a desire in my heart to stay home or work from home, and he had been raised by a working mom…in fact, she was the breadwinner and also managed everything at home.  We hadn’t talked about it much since it was a bit of a touchy subject, and as I mentioned, he really didn’t like to talk about the future.  I have since learned that he has an avoidant attachment style, which makes intimate relationships nearly impossible.

Regardless, I did not feel like I would be able to continue in my current job (with the amount of responsibility I carried) and be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I worked closely with the founder and president of a growing international ministry, and my job required a lot of me and my time. So, we determined that I would take an indefinite maternity leave and go from there.

I left my job at the beginning of April, and our precious baby girl was born just a few weeks later.  And just like that, the thrill and journey of being new parents began.

Let me back up and cover a few details…  I mentioned previously that shortly after we got back together in 2008, we began hosting a small group in our home…something that had always been a desire of mine. This went well for a few months, but as life normalized again, my husband gradually settled back into old patterns and grew tired of hosting the group and a bit resentful about it. As I have also mentioned before, he was never a big fan of the church we attended. During this time, several families had left the church as a result of a couple of different disagreements and there had also been some red flags arise with some of the leadership / church politics.

One of the families who had left the church was the couple that I lived with during our separation and who had been friends and mentors to us. I was trying so hard to build our new family and future together that I agreed to use the natural transition of having a baby and starting a new season as a family as a natural transition out of the church as well.

Since there had been some disagreements between people we knew and respected and the church leadership that caused uncertainty and doubt, I agreed the timing was probably right to leave the church and agree on one together for the first time. We gave notice to our small group and a couple of months later, we left the church. We ended up going to a church that we had visited when we first moved to town and that my husband had been keen on. They were very family oriented and had a great children’s program, so while there were a few things lacking for me, I agreed it was a good place to begin our new season.

Also, after our friends/mentors left, they went through some changes as well. He was a musician who had been traveling and touring for the past few years. The falling out with the leadership at the former church forced some changes in their lives as well.  During this time, he transitioned from being on the road to opening a small business that quickly took off.

They also had a young and growing family and were in need of lots of administrative help with the business.  It seemed like a natural fit.  So…they offered me a part time position as the operations director as soon as I was ready to start working again.

Life seemed to be lining up perfectly.  We were totally overwhelmed with love for our baby girl and our new family. I absolutely loved being a new mama…everything about it! My husband was a great daddy, and in a lot of ways, she really brought us together for a season. Since we hadn’t built a strong foundation of relationship, she gave us common ground – an incredible life that we created together and the common goal of providing her the best possible care.

I stayed home for a couple of months, and then started my new part-time job working for our friends. I was home in the mornings, and then I would go to the office in the afternoons for a few hours.

For the first couple of months, our daughter went to work with me. When she became mobile and it was too difficult, my husband worked from home a couple of days a week, so we did our best to work our schedules out, so our need for outside childcare was minimal. I would arrange a babysitter a couple of days a week to come over when she got up from her nap for a couple of hours until I got home. I arranged the sitters, the schedule and worked out all of the details, and my husband agreed to fill in the gaps where needed since he was working from home. But soon, he began to get frustrated.

I knew in my gut that the tension would eventually come out somehow. While I was certainly not bringing home the salary that I was before we had our daughter, I was still working part-time and contributing. I was also working out all the childcare details according to what we had discussed and agreed upon and was able to be home with our daughter most of the time. However, he began to resent the fact that I was working and not making as much money as he thought I should be making.

As usual, communication about things we didn’t completely agree on became challenging. He was growing more resentful of having to fill in the gaps with our daughter on the days she would wake up early from a nap before the sitter would arrive or if anything would not go perfectly according to schedule, and the fact that he didn’t feel like I was getting paid enough for what I was doing.

I will be the first to admit there was some validity to his concerns, as I am the type to put my whole self into whatever I do. I did have more work than I could fit into my hours at the office, so I was increasingly answering emails, etc. at night after our daughter went to bed. However as was the pattern in the past, he would refuse to talk things through and resolve conflict in a healthy way. He was unwilling to work together to create a budget for our family or problem solve. He would only passively express frustration, which just made me feel like nothing I did was good enough. It was also his pattern after a long workday to fall into his chair and checkout into his various TV shows most evenings. It was a challenge to get him to engage in any type of conversation or activity after the baby was in bed. He just wanted to zone out in front of the TV (which had been an issue before the separation). So, I would sit with him, but if I wasn’t into a certain show, I would turn on my computer and try to get a few things done while he was watching TV.

Since we had hit some areas of tension that we couldn’t seem to make in progress in, I suggested we get back into some counseling. After all, we had been out for a while, we were parents now and our family had had been through some major life changes, communication seemed to be a bit of a challenge in this area, so it made perfect sense to me to go ahead and get some help getting back on the same page before things got worse. There were no major problems…we had just hit some communication bumps and needed help working through our differences before they escalated. Seemed perfectly logical to me. Plus, while I mentioned above that it was nice for us to have our daughter to connect over, it had gotten to the point that she was our only connection. I wanted and needed more.

The first couple of times I brought counseling up, he reasoned that we were fine and that was really unnecessary. I brought it up a couple more times, and he finally agreed to let me look into it. So I made a couple of calls to the counselor that had worked with us through the separation. I found out he was no longer working at the same place, but had taken a job as the counseling director at a local church. I made a couple of calls to the church, only to find out that his caseload was full and we wouldn’t be able to get in to see him easily at this time. So for the time being, I figured things weren’t that bad and decided to begin the search for a new counselor, although I knew it would be much more difficult to get my husband to agree to go to someone new.

Looking back, there is so much to be gleaned from this season. I have learned that we can never ignore our instincts – or what is also known as the “still small” voice of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us as Christians.  The Holy Spirit is one of the most awesome and mysterious gifts to us as born again believers.

In John 14:26, Jesus said, “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.”

What an awesome promise!  When we look to Him and depend on Him, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate comforter, counselor, strengthener, helper, and guide…..but He also bridges the gap between us and God – He intercedes for us 24/7…check out this next verse!!

Romans 8:26-27 says, “So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.   And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.

When we cannot see, when we don’t know what to pray, when our perspectives are limited or we are hurting, He searches our hearts and helps connect us to the heart and will of God.  That is almost beyond my comprehension.

And what’s even crazier is the next verse in Romans that I cannot seem to get away from:

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

Please read the rest of chapter 8…it is so good, I really can’t comprehend it!!  When we are in Christ, we really CAN’T fail.

I so wish I would have leaned into the Holy Spirit in complete trust and dependence during this season of my life, fought for counseling, and even been willing to go alone.  But what’s unfathomable is that even in failure, God is constantly at work on behalf of those who love Him, weaving ALL things together for good, even our mistakes.

I have deeply grieved not obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit during this and the following season of my life….mainly the loss of what He could have done and what could have been had I obeyed.  I have also grieved and continue to grieve the loss for my children, who now come from a “broken home”. However, in so many other ways, I would not trade what I have been through and the character it has developed in me and the opportunities it has created for redemption, ministry, and ultimately knowing Him more intimately and trusting Him more deeply.

There were some deeply broken places in me as a result of coming from an alcoholic home and simply from living in this fallen world that I’m not sure would have been reached any other way.  And although I don’t fully understand, I praise God that I have been delivered from a miserable, unequally yoked, and emotionally abusive marriage.  I have truly been given a second chance.  I trust God with my future and with my children….because I know without a doubt that He is a good beyond all comprehension.  He is a Redeemer and He delights in restoring His beloved….me and you!  Here are just a few of literally thousands of promises found in His Word…the depth of His love for His people is truly beyond comprehension….and I am HIS!!

Isaiah 54 –

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. 

Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. 

You will forget the shame of your youth.

The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer he is called God of all the earth.

“With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer….”my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace removed,”says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli.  I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.  All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

Isaiah 43 –

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.   See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Isaiah 61 –

Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

Zephaniah 3 –

Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.  The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.

Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.  The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.

He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

 

The Separation September 3, 2013

Filed under: Divorce,Encouragement — justmejesusandsippycups @ 8:59 pm

Continuing with my story…..see my previous post “Ships in the Night” to catch up!

separate

For me the separation brought great peace. I was in a safe place, living with a family I had always admired, surrounded by a supportive community of Believers, involved at church, getting time with God in an emotionally peaceful environment, and as a result, I was experiencing lots of clarity where there had been confusion. The ministry I was working with was celebrating a huge milestone anniversary, and I was a part of all the event planning as well as traveling some for work, so life was busy.

Peace is really the best way for me to describe this time looking back. Sure, there was grief for the choices my husband was making and for our marriage, but I no longer had to see it and face the pain of rejection on a daily basis. It was really out of my hands at that point. I was standing and fighting for my marriage the way God created marriage to be and the choice was his whether he wanted to make changes and remain married or not. He had broken the marriage covenant, and the relationship was over unless he was willing to make an effort.

For him, the first couple of months of the separation were basically a free-for-all. He was finally free to live the life that he had been so drawn to. He was out drinking and partying almost every night. I’m not sure I’ll ever know the extent of all that happened during that time.

He had agreed to start counseling, so we would see each other weekly during that time. It gave me an opportunity to be honest about how hurt I was and about how I was truly done if he was not willing to renew his commitment to me and to God. He was completely shocked to hear and see where my heart was in these sessions. He had been ignoring my cries, or was simply unable to hear them.

One evening after counseling, we stood in the parking lot and had a conversation about where things had gotten and where they were going from there. He told me he wanted me to accept him for who he was and where he was at. That he would never want to live the kind of life I wanted to live (although we seemed to be headed in the same direction when we got married). I had ignored the nonverbal cues (which I’ll get into later). He made excuses for his extra-marital relationships and justified them by blaming me for setting a standard that was too high. When I told him this was not the life I wanted to live either, he asked if we could civilly divide our belongings, let him keep the house, and remain friends. I told him that after some time, we may be able to build a friendship, but I could not make any promises. It was just so strange to me how far apart we really were.

This is another thing that has been hard for me to reconcile. He used to say that I was his best friend, but I never felt that he was my best friend or really a friend at all. Maybe it’s because I WAS a good friend to him. With the help of the Holy Spirit within me, I truly loved him with a selfless, Biblical love. And while, I was nowhere near perfect, I truly fought for him and our marriage. I sought to know him and value the things he valued. I was patient, kind, forgiving, and long suffering. Yet I never felt like he did that for me. I never felt like he really knew me or even cared to. I always felt like his friends (both men and women) had a deeper friendship, confidence, and connection with him than I had. He told me he loved me when we got married, he worked hard to provide, and every now and then he would throw me a bone by taking me to dinner or to do something together, but it always felt begrudging…like he was just “putting in his time”.

After two months of being separated, and shortly after this conversation, he had a “rock bottom” experience and ended at the ER with alcohol poisoning, unsure of how he even got there. He woke up alone and scared. He began to realize this really wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted and that he did want to be married. He decided he was ready to make some changes.

lonely7

I don’t remember the details exactly, but I do believe he thought all he would have to do was pick up the phone and ask me to come home and I would. Thankfully I had a good support system to help me navigate the next couple of months.

With the help of the couple I was staying with, I outlined some steps that would need to happen before I would consider moving back in…mainly for my own safety and emotional well-being. He had been such a pro at lip service and I knew I couldn’t fall for that again. I asked that he remain in counseling, meet with some guys from church for accountability, show up at church and get involved, change his phone number to cut off some of the unhealthy relationships he had formed, and quit frequenting the bar that had been his home away from home. At first he bucked at my requests feeling like they were unreasonable, but eventually complied.

During this time, he would call my mom on a nightly basis and complain about how hard I was making things. She would encourage him (often for hours at a time), and try to help him to understand where I was coming from.

He was persistent in wanting to argue with the process and hurry it along. Why is hindsight, particularly with red flags, so much more clear? Anyway, I was ambivalent about moving back in so quickly, but felt like since he was my husband, and I really did love him, and since he wanted a second chance…I owed it to him.

The other piece to the timing of us getting back together was that the couple I was staying with was expecting their second child in July. So…while the spiritual counselors in my life felt like the reconciliation process needed more time and he needed more time to grow and settle, I had two options – find somewhere else to stay or move back in.

So….in June 2008 after being separated for four months, I moved back into to our home.

Things went very well at first. He was enthusiastic and present, willing to actually work at the relationship for the first time in our marriage. Shortly after I moved back in, against my better judgment, our marriage counselor basically said that things were good now and that we no longer needed regular counseling.  I was absolutely terrified to stop counseling as it was the only place I felt safe to share my true feelings and know that I would be heard. I was not ready to stop counseling and I did not find out until recently that we should have had the option to continue.

I realize this is my side of the story, but the purpose of this blog is for me to work through the details, the grief, and the regrets unto healing, hope, and the ability to love and help others! I know that God completes what He begins, and while He certainly does not will for us to walk through horribly painful times, He goes with us and is always at work behind the scenes on our behalf.

Romans 8:26-28:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we out to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And WE KNOW that ALL THINGS work together for GOOD to those who love God, to those who have been called according to His purpose.”

While I may not understand the things I have walked through, and my life may not make sense to me at this point, it all makes PERFECT SENSE to GOD because my life is a small piece of a much greater picture. And through it all, He is preparing each of us for something great. When we belong to Him, there is nothing we can do to thwart His plan…NOTHING.

Music has gotten me through some painful and lonely spots over the past couple of years. I loved the lyrics to the following song, “Nothing is Wasted” by Jason Grey. It’s so true that God never wastes our pain. He is a Redeemer….and He wants us to be a part of His love story….He loves us so much He sent his only Son to die for us.

Jesus came to save us, adopt us into His Kingdom, give us a new name, and a royal destiny and inheritance….and then He allows us to partner with Him to overcome evil and reach a lost and dying world. Just like Jesus came to Earth and lived as a man to relate to our humanity, so can our pain and life experiences give us a perspective and ability to reach those who are lost and hurting. He can be trusted with every detail of our lives.

“Nothing Is Wasted”

The hurt that broke your heart
And left you trembling in the dark
Feeling lost and alone
Will tell you hope’s a lie
But what if every tear you cry
Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

It’s from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will see before the end
That every broken piece is
Gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what’s lost will be found again

Nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

From the ruins
From the ashes
Beauty will rise
From the wreckage
From the darkness
Glory will shine
Nothing is wasted

In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

Glory will shine

 

From Lonliness to Hope August 28, 2013

Filed under: Divorce,Encouragement,Uncategorized — justmejesusandsippycups @ 8:48 pm

Hope = joyful anticipation of good. Pastor Bill Johnson said that when we are in Christ, any area of our lives that we are not experiencing joyful anticipation of good is under the influence of a lie.

hope3

I’ve really been leaning into the Lord in my loneliness in this season. My job is a little mundane…so that leaves me with plenty of time alone, away from my kids, to think. This can be a bit maddening if I allow it, but it can also be a great opportunity when applied properly and intentionally!

I have been asking the Lord about the timing of looking for another job where I can be challenged and used more to the level of my capacity/ability, but the response I get is that I am right where I am supposed to be for this season. I am grateful for the stability, provision, and flexibility with my current job, and on the slower days, for the opportunity to take every thought captive, to choose to have the mind of Christ, and to love the Lord with all my mind!

My goal in this season of singleness is to reach deep within and work out as much of the brokenness from my past as possible. I am peeling back layer after layer of lies that I have allowed to become strongholds. I am also seeking to truly depend on the Lord for EVERYTHING – to look to him as my Husband, Father and Father to my children, Provider, Friend, Comforter, Counselor, and Guide. He is my portion, and He is always MORE THAN ENOUGH. The question is….will I allow Him to fill me or will I look to other things which will NEVER be enough?

I do not think it is a coincidence that He is using this season to realign my thoughts and to make me fully dependent on Him before allowing me to move into a new season. I hope to be married again and that God will provide an earthly father for my son, but I want it to be right and in His perfect timing. I want to be completely healed and whole before moving into a new relationship so that  I can offer the best me possible!

We can tend to blame other people or outside circumstances on having to wait for things we desire, but more often, God is waiting for us to change our perspectives, to let go, or to simply surrender and let Him completely fill us despite our circumstances. My mom believed for years for my dad to get saved and give up alcohol…she anguished, waited, and fought. However, it wasn’t until she fully gave it over to God and allowed herself to be fulfilled and completely satisfied in Him that my dad finally came to the Lord. She had to learn to depend on Him first as well as start moving into the ministry God had for her before she began to see change around her.

The incredibly wise Ruth Bell Graham said:

“It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”

And yet, there are those innate desires that we were created with and that cry out from within. In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge describes three longings that lie at the heart of every man: a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, and an adventure to live. He goes on to say that women have three main longings in their hearts as well: to be fought for, to share in an adventure, and to have her beauty unveiled. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I could say it better myself.

And so the challenge becomes, how do these longings get fulfilled? Where’s the balance between fulfillment in God and fulfillment in a man of God? A question I have been wrestling with lately. I know I will never find complete fulfillment in man, but I also believe that we need each other.

I think it comes down to being content while contending. We must choose to let go and trust that God has good things in store for us because that’s His character. His Word is FULL of His promises for His children…promises that are far better than anything we could ask for or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20) So, we rest in Him and trust in Him. We let go of what we can’t control and trust God to do things HIS WAY and in HIS TIMING. We truly rest in Him and become DOERS of the Word. We allow His Word to renew our minds. We spend time with Him and in His presence because He is worthy of it all.

Take a few minutes to read and reflect on His promises in this amazing and comforting passage of Scripture…and this is just one of THOUSANDS. As a woman who has lived through the drama and shame of a scandalous affair and divorce, these promises bring me so much hope and peace. I choose to believe and stand on God’s Word….I will not be defined by my past, but will continue to fight for freedom and righteousness in every area of my life….not only for myself but for my children and the generations to follow.

I wanted to highlight this whole passage it’s so good!!!! Check this out and let’s choose to JUST LET GO and walk in obedience, trust, and rest in Him!

Isaiah 54 –

“Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame. For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not [seriously] remember the reproach of your widowhood any more.

For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord of hosts is His name—and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.

For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken, grieved in spirit, and heartsore—even a wife [wooed and won] in youth, when she is [later] refused and scorned, says your God.

For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion and mercy I will gather you [to Me] again.

In a little burst of wrath I hid My face from you for a moment, but with age-enduring love and kindness I will have compassion and mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

For this is like the days of Noah to Me; as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you.

For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you.

O you afflicted [city], storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in fair colors [in antimony to enhance their brilliance] and lay your foundations with sapphires.

And I will make your windows and pinnacles of [sparkling] agates or rubies, and your gates of [shining] carbuncles, and all your walls [of your enclosures] of precious stones.

And all your [spiritual] children shall be disciples [taught by the Lord and obedient to His will], and great shall be the peace and undisturbed composure of your children.

You shall establish yourself in righteousness (rightness, in conformity with God’s will and order): you shall be far from even the thought of oppression or destruction, for you shall not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near you.

Behold, they may gather together and stir up strife, but it is not from Me. Whoever stirs up strife against you shall fall and surrender to you.

Behold, I have created the smith who blows on the fire of coals and who produces a weapon for its purpose; and I have created the devastator to destroy.

But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord.”