How Can Pain Be a Blessing?

We learn from pain. Some more than others and some quicker than others, but we all do in some form. If not, we wouldn’t be careful around hot stoves or warn our kids not to touch them. We usually have to experience enough pain to change anything about ourselves or what we do. Physical pain brought on by ourselves makes us more careful. You’ll more than likely avoid that coffee table corner after stubbing your toe on it or that person after being hurt over and over.

Pain we witness from others makes us more careful too. “Wow, that could be me!” It can make us think twice. Hopefully, we learn this way too. Pain brought upon us by others makes us mad. We didn’t want this pain. We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t even make the mistake to cause it. Still, so much to learn from this anger and frustration. There’s always something to learn.

As unpleasant as pain is, imagine what life would be like without pain receptors. The only way to know if we were hurt would be to see bones or blood. So, thank God for pain receptors. How would we live day to day without them? Extremely timidly, constantly hurt, and continually supervised.

If we learn from pain, it makes sense that the wisest people we know have experienced the most of it. They haven’t just been through it, they’ve allowed themselves to feel it. They’ve gone there, they’ve grieved, they’ve felt and expressed the pain rather than avoiding or covering it up. They’ve taken it to God. They’ve owned their part and they’ve changed because of it.

The pain of divorce may lead some to fight for marriage while others blame marriage itself and refuse to even consider it again. The pain of co-parenting may lead some to surrender and embrace while others vengefully fight the rest of their lives. The pain of betrayal may lead some to a deeper intimacy with Jesus and others to deem it foolish to trust anyone again or become untrustworthy themselves. The pain of failed relationships may lead some to a deeper appreciation of the one who’s different or to write them off altogether. The pain of family disapproval may lead to a deeper reliance on God’s or a life lived to please others.

Are you being crushed? All of these are painful, but it is in the crushing that the sweet aroma is produced. Grapes and olives must be crushed to make wine and oil, as it is with us. The deeper the crushing, the more pure the outcome.

Have you seen the joy and laughter it brings people to stomp grapes with their bare feet? That’s how I imagine the devil looks while we are being trampled on, thinking he’s doing us in. But, it leads to something so beautiful in the transformation and only possible by the crushing. I don’t recommend looking for pain. But, I do recommend gleaning whatever wisdom you can from it, looking for the blessings during in it, and remaining thankful in spite of it. There is always something to be thankful for. He’s always there and He knows how you feel. He may have allowed it, but He hasn’t forsaken you because of it.

The Lord says, “It was my plan to crush him and cause him to suffer. I made his life an offering to pay for sin. But he will see all his children after him. In fact, he will continue to live. My plan will be brought about through him. Isaiah 53:10 (NIRV)

Jesus wasn’t just crucified for us, He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually crushed before it for us. It’s in contemplating this pain that we come to tears and surrender over what He did for us. The suffering He endured for us is how His love was expressed and our ultimate gift provided.

I hate that Jesus experienced any pain because I love Him so much, but if He hadn’t, I couldn’t live with Him forever. He did it for me. It was because of God’s immense love for us that His worst pain turned into our biggest blessing.

Being crushed for His purposes hurts like no other in the process, but coming out the other side you recognize the honor that it is and the joy it ultimately brings. You’ll come out closer, forever changed, and with a sweet personal aroma (story) of who He is to you.

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I Hope You Dance….

This is how Mama dances…

Co-parenting is hard. When both parents want the kids all the time. When both parents want to be involved and at every milestone. Switching weekends and sharing holidays, scheduling trips, and forgetting clothes. When one parent doesn’t like the school choice of a parent or the new relationship of the other. When both parents want their kids in different activities. When both parents have different priorities and dreams for their children. When they attend different churches or one stops going altogether. When both parents care deeply for the kids but one couldn’t care less about the other parents feelings. When both parents….tug of war.

Parenting is hard enough….

My girls dad and stepmom have a more flexible work schedule than I do. Girls asked, so they signed them up for dance lessons. Not just dance class, but multiple classes, even elite companies and competitions. Lots of money and lots of time go into this.  A lot of “my time” with the girls is affected by their dance schedules now. But, theirs is too. Lord, help me. They pay for it and they make sure they get there (since I’m working when most of the classes start).

I can’t help but feel out of the loop, it’s more their thing than our thing. For me to nix it altogether just because I could or because I want them in different activities doesn’t seem fair either. Girls would wonder why?? So, I do my best to support, but it’s hard and it hurts.

Their dance schedules have taken over our lives. Four nights a week and weekends. It just feels like too much. I don’t like it when they miss church for it, I don’t like it when they miss school functions for it, and I don’t like that they aren’t on school teams because of it.

Once again, I feel held hostage by what he wants to do. I also feel like they’re missing out on other things and overextended. But, then I go and I watch them dance. I see the passion in my oldest’s eyes when she does. I see the improvement, confidence, posture, and elegance. She prays about dance. She wants to go to class, she wants to succeed, she wants to keep dancing. How could I deny that? So, I will say “thank you”. Thank you that they even have the opportunity. Because if it were just me, they wouldn’t. This isn’t easy, ya’ll.

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure co-parenting lately. It’s stressful. Honestly, I have felt more pushed around than primary custodian because of all this. I feel like if this were my idea, I would get an earth shattering “No” from him. But, because it’s his or hers, it’s expected for me to go along with it. I’m not telling them what’s happening, they are telling me. None of this is easy.

I’m sure many of my issues with dance go back to my childhood. Dance was a “no no” growing up, in all forms. Of course, I wanted to. I think about how I have always loved to dance with a pure heart. I think about how beautiful a first dance is and how sweet a father/daughter dance would have been. I also think about how David danced before the Lord. I think about the athleticism involved, the artistry, creativity, and the outlet for expressing emotion. I think about the good things…but still worry about so much.

Once again, I struggle with what people will think and which battles to pick. But, Jesus says, “Look at Me”. In all things, all these hard and new things, I will look to Him and ask Him to calm my anxious mind and thoughts and trust that He is working. I think I will look back one day and say “Thank the Lord they danced.” May they never feel the shame associated with it that I did.

I pray for protection for my babies, their dreams, and their hearts for Him. That they flourish and that they dance to His glory. Meanwhile, I will go to every competition, recital, and performance I possibly can. The alternative would be to miss out on something they’ve grown to love, are talented at, and have a heart for. I thank God for their health and legs that can leap and plié and point. I pray that His will be done in their lives and that His grace abounds in mine. Because, I need it. Lots of it.

He knows my heart. He alone knows and holds theirs….

To my girls, I’d like to finish this by sharing a song that has always brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat, because it’s beautiful and true. I mean this from the bottom of my heart…. Whether it’s writing, drawing, singing, playing, going on that adventure, staying close to home, or twirling in your tutu….I hope in whatever form it comes, when you get the chance to sit it out or dance….please dance.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance….” — Lee Ann Womack

My Letter to Her…

letter

I’ll never understand how, what, when, or exactly why. I don’t need to, nor do I even want to at this point. What I do know is I didn’t worry about you as his coworker. You were a friend, our friend I thought. You were married and I remember your health was a concern from time to time. My husband talked such a big game about others who strayed, I never thought he would. I don’t know when it went from coworkers to friends to more. I don’t know how he fell. But, he did. He fell so in love with you that he wanted out. But, he didn’t know how to do it.

He had already stopped spending family time together, stopped date nights, made excuses even when we had a babysitter not to go, yet none of that was enough. It wasn’t until I went months with him refusing to touch me at all, that I asked him to leave for a week for some soul searching to figure out what was going on. And leave he did, so fast my head spun. Never to return, except for his things. Gone like the wind. I still didn’t know about you. I asked multiple times if there was someone else, was told “no”, and I still never thought it possible. We had an infant and a five year old at the time. It was all I could do to keep my head above water and his time, mind, and body was elsewhere. With you.

And, he’s still with you. Married to you. Raising our kids with you. When I actually did get confirmation about you, it was painful, but in some ways a relief to know I was right. There was someone else and it was you.

I’ve always been drawn to women’s ministry and God spoke to my heart early on that if my heart for and work with women is to flourish, I can’t have a bitter heart towards you. I may encounter women who have walked in both of our shoes. I can’t hate you. I can’t wish you harm. I can’t shame you. I should cry out to God. I should pray over you. I should be thankful you love my girls and they love you. I should foster their relationship with you.

This is not what I wanted, but it is what I received. So, in order to make the best of this co-parenting situation, I must forgive and wish you both the best. Every other option hurts the kids and me more. I know from experience because my own parents are divorced. The child should never feel the strain between natural and step parent. It’s not the child’s fault that they have both. Making the child feel guilty for loving the other parent is placing blame where it doesn’t belong. They should be able to love both without one or the other getting offended.

I fought for our marriage long after he was already gone. He was just waiting for me to ask him to go so he could blame me for the separation. He ran straight to you. I’ll never know how your relationship got to the point it did, but I don’t blame you any more than I blame him. You both made the choice to be together. The pain I experienced when he withdrew emotionally and physically was confusing. The pain I felt when he left and blamed me on the way out the door was excruciating. The pain I felt when I got the proof of you was nauseating. I remember blacking out and needing to sit down. But, the pain I experienced when my girls loved and clung to you from the very beginning cannot be put into words. Their sweet hearts didn’t understand what was happening. I thank God they didn’t feel it at the time and pray they never, ever personally do.

This pain has changed me forever. I pray for the better. It has brought me to my knees and onto my face. It has broken me wide open. This pain brought me to the only One who could put breath in my lungs and a desire to turn this over. It is also what propels me to come alongside others who feel it or help others prevent it. We all need forgiveness. We all need grace. We all need love. And, we all need hope. May God be glorified through this pain and my story. May He alone be seen as the Deliverer of what we all need most and that is peace in a situation that could, would, should lead to anything but.

My prayer for you is that he loves you well. And, that our daughters see that. My prayer is that your marriage be long and be your last. That you help him in every way that I couldn’t. That he’s faithful to you. That’s he’s engaged. That he prioritizes family time. That he’s affectionate when you need him to be. And, that you remain healthy. If my girls are destined a stepmother, I’m thankful they have one like you. Involved, caring, supportive, present, eager to love and nurture.

None of this has been easy for me. But, knowing they are loved when they are at their dad’s is not something I have had to worry about. And, I thank you for that. Now, let’s raise some girls together.