Can We?

Can we give thanks for opportunities to forgive? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve felt the loneliest? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve been betrayed and felt the most hurt? The ultimate thanksgiving.

For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) Mentally, physically, spiritually, it took all He had and He did it for us.

God is the Giver of all good things. (James 1:17) He is also with us when things and people are taken away. (Joshua 1:9) When we can see these difficult situations as times to deepen our relationship and increase our dependence on Him, we can view them through different lenses. The lenses of thankfulness. Thankful that our God never changes. Thankful that our God is the same God in the good times as in the bad. Thankful that He still died for us. And thankful that He is coming back to take us home.

Can you, like me, look back on your worst times and think, “Wow, I lived through that and I came out closer to Christ. Leaning on Him harder than ever.” I have different trials now. We all do. Can I look at each of these and say “Thank you, Lord.” “Thank you that You hear me and although You have the Power to remove them completely, You may not. You may walk beside me instead.” Either way, Lord, I say thank You.

Those “opportunities” to forgive mean someone has wronged us. That’s never pleasant. Can we, instead, view them as opportunities to catch a glimpse of how much grace God lavishes on us? How often we let Him down and how His love never fails or wavers? Can we forgive someone and say thank You, Lord, for forgiving me…?

Can we say “Thank you God, for what you give. And, thank You for what You do not.” It takes great faith that God IS love to do that.

Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (GNT)

When our child turns away, runs away…..When our spouse leaves, when our health fails, when our job is uncertain, when money is tight, when tension is high. As tears roll down our face, can we say, “Thank You, Lord, for never forsaking me.”

Because, no matter what, I have this blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…’O what a foretaste of glory divine’…

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The Gift of Forgiveness

For anyone who has blown it and felt the grace of forgiveness, to anyone who has known a forgiver, to anyone boggled by someone else’s forgiveness, we know it’s a supernatural gift and can only come from above. It’s the exact opposite of what the devil wants for our lives.

Do you realize the gift forgiveness is for ourselves? Not just to receive, but to grant. When Jesus tells us to forgive, it’s because He knows it’s the only way we can live the abundant life He died to give us. Forgiveness is a choice. Refusing to do so adds more pain, heaviness, bitterness, anger. It poisons us and affects the people around us.

When we choose to forgive, it’s not natural. For me, the process started with “Lord, I want to forgive. I have that desire. Will you help me?” And, every day, sometimes every twenty minutes, I’d ask Him…”Help me forgive”. The alternative hurts too much. Take this pain and burden. It’s not immediate, but over time, if we humble ourselves and ask for His help, He will show us how and start clearing out the pain and bitterness, making room for more of Him. The forgiver will start to feel relief like never before. This is a gift Jesus wants to help us receive through His strength alone. For our own good on this earth.

Through this process, He opened my eyes to my own sinfulness. To what He’s forgiven in me. To how we all fall short. To how the person who wronged me may be completely unaware to the amount of pain they have caused. “Jesus forgive them, they know not what they do”. To the fact that I’m sure I have harmed others without knowing the extent. To the fact that forgiveness frees us. To how sweet it is to be forgiven. Ask and you shall receive. Give and it will be given to you.

This entry is to let you know that forgiving someone else is as much a gift as being forgiven. The deeper the pain or betrayal, the harder it is to do so, but the sweeter the reward. I don’t wish pain, loss, or betrayal on anyone, but the gift of forgiveness after the fact is something you can’t learn or experience without it. When you feel the kind of pain that can alter the trajectory of your life and make the decision to forgive instead, you will be moving in God’s will for your story rather than the devil’s. He has a path he wants you to take as well and that’s as far away from God as possible. He wants us to follow our pain, Jesus wants us to give it to Him through forgiveness.

Jesus knew what He was doing. He knows that without offering forgiveness for the wrongs others do to us, we carry more pain than He died to remove. When you can honestly love them in Christ and wish them the best, you know you’re on your way.

Forgiving is not condoning. Forgiving is loving and forgiving as Jesus loves and forgives us. It’s not easy, but it’s a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Ask Him for the scissors today.

 

Feel to Heal

feel

I was talking to one of my coworkers about her mom yesterday…She’s in the last stages of cancer and has been struggling with it for years now. I asked if she was in any pain. She said no, she’s actually numb now due to her neuropathy. Relieved, I said, “We’ll take numb over pain any day, right??” Yes, so true. Whether it’s for ourselves or our loved ones, we want them free of pain. Just take this, take that, anything to numb or lessen the physical pain.

I know one of the most comforting things for the family when a patient is put on hospice is that they help them to feel no pain. Please, just take their pain away.

This got me thinking about the difference between physical pain and emotional pain. You don’t have to feel the pain to heal physically. You will, until properly medicated, but healing isn’t dependent on feeling the pain associated with the injury or illness.

With emotional pain, we naturally WANT to numb the pain, but healing comes from feeling it. Going there. Expressing it. Grieving it. When our loved ones are emotionally hurt, we naturally want to numb them too. We just want them pain free. The best thing you can do is listen, talk, ask. Engage. Be willing to hear. It helps the healing. It helps. Numbing prolongs. Distracting avoids. Suppressing hinders.

We need safe people who will go there. If you’re having a hard time finding a safe person to go there with, pray for one. Look for a counselor or a trusted Christian friend. One you can trust with your story. Someone who will go there, listen, and hug you through it.

Sometimes the people you want to go to and expect to be able to, won’t be willing or able to. Sometimes they can’t handle your hurt or sometimes it brings up too much of their own.

I know someone who’s son actually left the house when he was going through his separation and divorce. Not because he didn’t care, but because it hurt him too much to witness his dad’s pain. Know that some of the people who love you can’t handle watching or hearing you in pain. Show them mercy.

Find someone who will. There are those who can bare your burdens and walk you through it. You’ll always remember these people. They will help you heal. They know the process. They know what you need. And, that is to be heard.

I have a heart for the hurting and want to help people feel comfortable expressing their pain. I know how hard it is. I know the fear in doing so. But, I also know the relief in doing so. I want to be a safe person. I want to help because I have been helped. I know what it takes.

As attractive as numb sounds, I’d still rather feel to heal.

 

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.

That Doesn’t Feel Good!

heart

I look at hearts for a living. This morning as I was scanning a rather large patient, a parallel came to mind. The larger the patient, the harder I have to push with my probe to see what I need to see. I usually say “I know this doesn’t feel good, but I have to push pretty hard here. Just know, I’m only pushing as hard as I have to in order to get good pictures. I’m not trying to hurt you.” I say this quite a bit in my job. Some of my patients can’t take the pressure and I have to let the doctor know why the pictures look like they do.

Today, I thought isn’t that just like God? The bigger the problem, the harder He has to push to get His outcome. The pushing and pressing doesn’t feel good. He pushes and pries into our inner most beings to cleanse and transform us. This process doesn’t feel good at all. Matter of fact, it is downright painful, when He makes it crystal clear what the problem is. What our specific problem is.

Some of us ask Him to stop or do whatever we can to avoid the painful pressing. We’d rather have “bad” pictures or no pictures at all if it feels like that. The pushing and pressing is for our own good, just like my patients. If they don’t let me press, I can’t do the study. I can’t give the doctors the images they need to assess their hearts.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

When He presses, He’s pointing out and removing what needs to come out. When He releases, we have more room for Him. It hurts, but the filling is the change. We have to be pressed to be changed. So, squeeze Lord. Push. Press. Do whatever you need to do in me so I can have more of You. There is more room for the sweet fruits of the Spirit like joy, peace, patience, and self control after a good pressing. Make room, Lord. I want to look like You. I want to act like You. I want Your wisdom and Your courage. I want to love myself and others like You do.

If you’re in a situation right now where you are feeling pressed on all sides, remember that the bigger the person, the harder I have to press. The bigger the problem, the harder He presses. Cry out to Him in your discomfort and know that He is at work. It doesn’t feel good to be pressed, it’s not a massage. It’s a painful inner pressure when He is working inside you. He is pointing out your specific problem and it takes humility and willingness to allow that pain.

Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue.  And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. James 1:3-5 9 (NIRV)

Braces hurt, but lead to straight teeth. Working out hurts, but leads to a better body. If you are willing to stick with Him through the pressing, you will come out the other side with immense relief and more prepared for the next press. You will have Jesus. All of Him. And He will have you, all of you. And, that’s the prettiest picture we could ask for.

Looking Back…

looking back

Looking back isn’t easy. We are told to leave the past in the past. As much as I agree with not living in the past, we can and should definitely learn from it. Looking back can also help us realize how far we’ve come and what we’ve been delivered from.

One of my best friends has recently had the courage to share her story of childhood sexual abuse. What bravery. Her willingness to share helps others to know they are not alone. Sharing removes the mask and the secrets and shame the enemy wants us to carry forever. Jesus broke that chain and empowered her. She has forgiven her abuser, but forgiveness doesn’t mean she can’t share her story. It’s the truth and it’s her story to share. Her willingness to forgive brings grace front and center when we realize what she’s been through. Her courage inspires me to look back and share.

This is me looking back. Maybe someone can relate. Maybe someone won’t feel alone. Maybe someone knows someone else who needs to read this. Maybe someone can learn something.

Looking back on my wedding, I remember the hurt feelings.  I can still feel my shoulders fall and the tears sting during our first dance. I knew, at that moment, I would remember it for the rest of my life. That special moment was ruined for me by a flippant comment he made. Looking back on our honeymoon, I remember his excitement when he found Motocross on TV and his annoyance with the beach. The honeymoon was less about us and much more about what he was willing to do while we were there. One night he actually wanted to go to the beach…..but alone.

Looking back, I remember begging to get pregnant and both times finally getting a very reluctant, “ok, if it means you stop asking and crying” agreement. At the time, that made me so happy. None of it was happily ever after or how it should be. I was neglected, physically and emotionally. I wasn’t doted on or taken care of. I wasn’t told I was beautiful. Instead, I felt lucky to be pregnant and when I complained he reminded me of that fact. This is what I wanted, after all. I put on a happy face and looked forward to us being a happy family one day. I thought maybe he would love me more if I had his child, especially a son.

We had two girls.

I remember the look of disappointment both times when he found out. I remember, even his parents, saying they would need time to get over the fact that the second wasn’t a boy.  They wanted him to have a son too. A football player, a hunting partner. Looking back, I felt sorry for him that I wasn’t giving him one.

Looking back, I remember feeling like my meals weren’t good enough and like I didn’t clean house well enough. We both worked full time.

Looking back, I remember being made to feel like a dismissive mom when I asked if he would take time off to take our daughter to the doctor or stay home when she had fever. Our first was sick a lot. She had recurrent UTIs, ear infections, and strep throat. I missed a lot of work with her. I remember when I asked him, I would get the response: “Don’t you want to take her to the doctor? You’re the mom.” Ummmmm….yes. It’s not a matter of want. Of course, I do. But, I have a job too. Instead of saying that, I would think “you’re right, I am the mom. I should take off…” And, I’d call in or cancel my patients….again. I tried so hard to be the best mom and wife I could be.

Looking back, I remember trying so hard to stay out of debt. Telling him, yes, I’d love to have a boat too, but can we pay such and such off first? He bought the boat the next day. If he wanted it, he got it. He bought boats, guns, second vehicles, hunting gear, and dear leases. When I asked to go on vacation, we could never afford it. “What a waste of money” he thought. I took our daughter to Disney World twice…once alone and once with my mom.

I knew we couldn’t afford for me to go part time at work. But, I did it anyway. That’s the one time I knew I made a risky financial decision, but it was worth it to me. We could have easily afforded it and vacations, if it weren’t for his spending. I remember buying him gifts he returned and buying tickets to events specifically for him that he refused to go to or chose to take someone else. Looking back, I didn’t tell my friends or family about this treatment because I wanted them to love him as much as I wanted him to love me.

Looking back, emotional pain overshadows a lot. Still, I would constantly try to focus on my blessings. The pain continued. What should have been special times in my life were taken from me. Looking back, my oldest daughter’s toddler years were precious to me, but my “incompetence” in his eyes seemed to increase. I am just now regaining and recognizing the fact that I was and am a good mom to our girls.

My youngest was one year old when he left. Her first birthday party was a disaster. He held back from being in any pictures. I was convinced that was the night that he’d come back home. Instead, he called me manipulative and blamed me for everything after the party. I gave him an open door and he slammed the door to our marriage tighter. I should have been the one throwing him out by the way he was treating me and he was refusing to come home. I just couldn’t understand. The pain increased.

While the pain of my divorce was intense. Looking back, the pain I endured during the marriage probably did the most damage and is taking the longest to unfold, recover, and learn from. Story after story after story. Looking back, I remember, holding my head in my hands and asking my mom “Let me get this straight. He treated me like this and then left me?” She simply nodded, yes.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t bare the thought of my girls thinking this treatment was okay, that I stood up. It wasn’t until he stopped touching me at all. He wouldn’t even hug me if I asked. I would never want them treated that way by anyone, especially their husband. And, if they were, I’d have no one to blame but myself for allowing it. That’s what it took. And, that was his way out. Out of a marriage he hadn’t wanted to be in for a long time. And, he took it. He blamed me on the way out the door…”Just so you know, you kicked me out. I didn’t leave my family.” After begging him to come home one night (Why? To work on the marriage, I didn’t want a divorce), he told me he’d rather live in a ditch than come home to me.

His words hurt in the very beginning. His words hurt in the middle. His words hurt at the very end. By the time he left, I was an emotional bloody pulp.

Looking back, I see how bad it was. I couldn’t when I was in it. Looking back, I see God showing me more love than I’d ever known or felt in the midst of the least love I’d ever known. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was with me. Even through the deceit and blaming, God covered me. The emotional pain was killing me and God wouldn’t allow that treatment one more year, one more day. My desire to stay married and honor my vows, no matter what, prevented me from walking away. Instead, I got left after summoning the strength to stand up. The Lord removed him. Then He picked me up, washed me off, and started the work of healing, comforting, and teaching. What a beautiful sight.

I thought that I was just that miserable to live with, but it turns out he was in love with someone else. They’ve been together ever since.

From the moment I knew divorce was imminent, I started asking God to help me. To help me forgive. To help me coparent. To help me do it to His Glory. And to protect our girls. I have forgiven him. I release that pain to my Father. And, I have learned from it. We still deal with each other on an almost daily basis because of the girls. But, he treats me better now. He loves them very much. He comes to their events. He takes them to the doctor. He’s a better dad now. And, I thank God for that.

My prayer for him is not that his marriage falls apart. Not that he comes back. Not that he gets left. Not that he suffers like I did. Not that he feels abandoned or blamed. But, that he treats her better. That our daughters will see him treat his wife well. That he will look to the Lord for guidance and learn to respect women. That he receives the love and grace offered to him. And, whether he chooses to or not, that our girls will never consider that treatment normal or acceptable. That they will know they are worthy of respect and kindness. That they will value themselves enough to stand up to the alternative. I care too much about their hearts and futures to pass along anything else.

Thank you, Lord, for the strength to stand up and the strength the share.