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.

Advertisements

You’d Better…

Would you rather your kids “act right” or “love right”? Obviously, the better we love, the better we tend to act. But, if it’s just actions, where’s the love?

Loving “right” comes with all kinds of hard stuff. Courage to speak their truth, admitting anger and hurt, learning empathy, communicating their preferences, thoughts, opinions (that may be very different than my own). For them to love themselves and me properly, this all needs to come in to play. Still, I’d rather them love right than just act right and hurt quietly for shame that I won’t care about their pain or problems. I want them to love well, properly, healthfully.

This takes a lot of letting go. This will take a lot of prayer. This takes loving discipline. And, a lot less controlling. May they be raised seeing grace and care, so that they will be the first to recognize when it isn’t present. May they learn to love and appreciate the differences in themselves and others.

Loving is messy and hard, just look at the cross. It’s in the marriages, the loss of loved ones, the illnesses of children, and the rebellion of family members that this is tested and shown in all it’s painful brilliance. To love “right” isn’t easy. To act “right” can be. Superficial, but just that, an act.

May we love well. May we be willing to let go so that we can. They are their own beings with their own hearts, decisions, choices, and futures ahead of them. May I love them well through them all. Whatever they may be.

Being a parent opened my heart to the love of God when I realized that He loves my kids even more than I do. That’s hard for me to comprehend, but I know that it’s true. They were His before they were mine. But, it also reminds me that I am His child. And, I also think He’d rather me love right than just act right. And, I know now how much of a difference there really is.

Storms Take Many Forms

“The lightnin’ flashes in her eyes and he knows that she knows…..and the thunder rolls.” Just like in the Garth Brooks hit “The Thunder Rolls”, we are made aware very soon in life that storms come in many forms.

We take physical cover in hail storms. We watch helplessly as windows and cars are hammered. We can hear the sirens and sounds of freight trains when a tornado comes close. We rush to the stores to stock up when there is talk of an ice storm hitting the metroplex. We batten down the hatches to prepare for hurricanes. We do all we can do, but are still left to watch and see how nature will take it’s course.

Relationships go through storms. Marriages, friends, family….Eventually, someone will get hurt and find themselves in the eye of the storm needing to ask for forgiveness or grant it. And the thunder rolls……

Some make it, some don’t. Kids and others are left to watch helplessly in the wake of lost friendships and divorce. The relationships that do make it come out stronger because the love is made more evident in the willingness to ask, receive, and bestow the forgiveness. Asking isn’t easy, granting isn’t easy. Both take humility and grace.

Financial strains cause storms. The stress associated with being out of work, working when you don’t want to, working at a job you dislike, or for a boss who doesn’t seem to care at all about you, wondering whether or not to go back to work. Asking for help with bills. And the thunder rolls….

Storms come in many forms. May we always look to Jesus in them. May we take cover in His Name, like we do in the closet with our babies covered by a mattress. May we go face down before Him when the storms come and ask Him to carry us through. May we stock up on scripture and prayer warrior friends like we stock up on bottled waters and batteries. These are the storms where an umbrella won’t cut it. These are the storms where we do all that we can do and then hunker down and wait and see what the damage is.

Hurricane Harvey ravished Houston a couple weeks ago. Hurricane Irma plowed through the Caribbean yesterday and is moving towards Florida this weekend. Last I heard there are two coming up behind her. Just like tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and ice storms are expected on this earth, so are all the other kinds of storms. Sometimes they seem to come one right after another.

Strengthen us, Lord. Batten down our hatches. Help us to ask for and grant forgiveness in our storms. Show us how to reflect you when we inevitably mess up or someone else does. And, thank You for Your grace. Your grace is like the first responders running in when everyone else runs outs. Your grace is the rescue helicopters and semis pulling in with diapers and blankets. Your grace is the food we feast on when famished and in dire need.

And, if the storm rages and ultimately takes us out, may we still look to You because then we will be able to see You looking at us.

My Love Story….

My love story will be different…It won’t be a “married to my high school sweetheart” story. It won’t be a “rocky marriage and reconciliation” story. It won’t be a “happily ever after right after divorce” story. No, my love story will be different.

My love story will be learning about how much God loves me, even in the midst of painful losses and rejections. My love story will be learning to love myself in the midst of them to0. Learning to love myself even when made to feel unlovable. Learning to love myself after being torn down to a nub by men in my life. Learning that not all men and women are the same….

Right after my divorce, I fell hard for a guy. He gave me more attention that I’d ever received from my ex-husband. We dated over a year, but he refused to commit. So, heartbroken again, I knew I had to stop the rollercoaster of not knowing what he wanted from me. Cue the next few guys who wanted to marry me after our first date. And some even before. What was going on?!?

First guy turned out to be on parole for double homicide (his wife and another guy)! Next two had mental issues, so much so, that suicide was mentioned after ending things. The fear of God set in. What was a single mom with two daughters to do?  Just stop? Or keep trying, trusting God. I chose the latter……My love story will be different.

The only way I could trust God with my romantic life after these stories was IF I loved Him enough and trusted His love for me. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cried out, thinking it won’t happen for me. It just can’t after these stories…The fear would be too great or the rug would be yanked out from under me, again.

I dated a guy who truly loved me, but we split over spiritual beliefs. I’ve dated a guy recommended by one of my best friends. I thought that he was my reward for standing up for my beliefs. That turned out to be false too and ever so painful and confusing all over again. What was going on?!?

The guy before has come back around. God spoke to his heart in my absence and it turns out our spiritual beliefs aren’t as different as we thought. Surprisingly, close. He knows all my fears, issues, and concerns. His love still rings true. God’s will be done.

My love story will be different….God will be my first love. My love story will be an open book of the love we share. I will run to Him when I hurt. I will lean on Him when I’m scared. I will share who He is to me. I will trust Him with my life. And, if it turns out that He just wants me all to Himself, my love story will be complete. I will live to please and honor Him all the days of my life.

 

 

Always a Risk…

A calculated risk is still a risk…One thing I’ve learned in the medical field is that we can only do so much when it comes to prevention. We can and should do what we can do, but nothing guarantees we won’t be born with a congenital defect, have a heart attack, arrhythmia, or cancer.

We’ve all heard the stories about people who contract lung cancer having never smoked a day in their lives and about the women diagnosed with breast cancer and absolutely no family history. I’ve personally scanned multiple young healthy patients who have had heart attacks. They exercise every day, maintain a healthy weight, eat clean, yet still…I’ve also scanned the 500 pound smoker who’s heart is as healthy as can be.

We should do everything we can as far as preventive screening and healthy living to avoid and promote what we can. But, just like every time we drive a car, we risk getting into a wreck. Every time we fly in a plane, we risk crashing. Every time we change jobs, we risk not liking it like we’d hoped. The same goes for relationships and marriage. They both run the risk of break up and divorce.

This is not intended to be morbid post, but a truthful one. I’ve also learned that although we can never be a perfect spouse, we can be a GREAT one and still get left. Our spouse can die unexpectedly or our own lives can get cut short. Because of this, do what you can in the process of picking a mate, pray fervently, ask for God’s help, make your list, be true to what you want and don’t want, and then try and trust. Trust that if the break up comes before marriage, He’s watching out for you and if it comes after, He’s still beside you. Yes, there’s risk, but you’ll never know unless you try and fly.

So, eat your veggies, stay away from tobacco, limit your alcohol, watch your weight, wear your sunscreen and your seatbelts, get your mammograms and teeth cleaned, lock your doors at night, and give that guy a try. The one who fits. The one who has what you’re looking for, but you’re too afraid to try or what people might think. Know that every relationship, romantic and otherwise, is a risk we have to be willing to take. Truth is, we can’t experience love without potential heartbreak.

The more I learn about relationships, the more proud I am of the risks I’ve taken. I’ve tried, I’ve lost, I’ve learned, I’ve let go, and I’ve tried again. There’s so much to be said for perseverance, patience, and priorities. It takes a lot of courage to get back up on that horse after getting bucked off, especially multiple times. But, you’ll have to get back on in order to ride off into the sunset one day…

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.

 

Painful Dealbreaker

dealbreaker

I find myself on the outskirts of another painful breakup. Another reason dating is hard. Another risk I’ve taken, put my kids in the middle of, and opened myself up to. This is very hard because he was a wonderful boyfriend. He treated me better than I’d been treated before, he respected me, committed to me, and loved me well. Marriage was on the horizon. Yet, here we are…

I go between sad, irritated, and thankful. Sad that it’s over. I miss him. Irritated that it came to this. Yet, thankful it came to a head before a wedding and not after. This didn’t come down to lack of love, rather compatibility. I have no doubt he loved me, all of me. All of me except my faith. That’s what it came down to. My church was our issue. He doesn’t agree with it and I do. The more he searched, the less he did. The more I pray and ask, the more I do.

No church is perfect. They are all set up by and filled with imperfect human beings, but I feel called in to serve and to help, not called out.

Once it finally came out that he wouldn’t/couldn’t marry a person of my denomination, I knew there was a change that needed to take place. Either I leave my church or we part ways. It came down to lack of peace vrs. pain. I knew in my heart, that I would feel a lack of peace walking away from my church.  Leaving would be turning my back to truth I believe in and that I want my daughters to learn as well. I also knew we would both feel pain letting this relationship go. We loved each other, no doubt. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean lack of peace. Peace may lead to pain if it means letting go of something you wanted so badly to work out.

This has been hard for us both. We both want what’s best for each other and I guess it’s not us together. I’ve learned another painful lesson. Two people can love Jesus with all they have, but if other beliefs are polar opposite, it can lead to unrest in a marriage and confusion for the kids. To be equally yoked is more than loving God. To be equally yoked is to be able to have a conversation about core beliefs and nod rather than shake your head. It makes sense to me that if you’re both following God and it’s leading you in different directions, it must be best to let that happen. This narrows the dating pool down even further than age, location, love, and tenderness. And, we all know how hard those are to come by.

I know in my head that I’d rather be single than forsake a faith that I believe in. But, my heart is grieving this loss and I pray that God will heal us both. I want us both ready for the ones He knows will meet our deepest desires in Him.