Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Being of Noble Character


Proverbs 12:4 "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones."

Decay in the bones slowly and painfully eats away at you until you are left completely and utterly disabled, defeated, and in constant discomfort. It is not a surprise, then, that the Bible uses this analogy to describe the effect on a husband who has a disgraceful wife. In real life terms, this is the wife who is constantly harping at or belittling her husband. The wife makes a disrespectful or snooty comment, and there is an unmistakable look on her husband's face of disbelief (did you really just say that?), discouragement (do you really think I'm as stupid or incapable as you came across?), and pain (wow, that hurt!). When this happens, he may initially stand up for himself by arguing back or by telling her that he doesn't appreciate the way she was talking to him. Usually, though, this just makes her more angry and verbal, unless she has learned to control her tongue. 

Over time, the husband realizes that nothing he can say will help, and he stops trying to protect himself against her words. This is the husband who "stonewalls" when his wife wants to have a "discussion" about something that is bothering her. He has lost the energy and the desire to even try because he knows how it will end - with him feeling belittled, disrespected, and defeated. This used to played out in my own marriage. I used to have horrible control of my tongue and would make snarky, cynical comments without even considering or caring how they made my husband feel. I was too caught up in how I was feeling in the moment to consider him. Fortunately for both of us, I was forced to face how I was treating him. I took a good look at how I was using my words and my feelings and realized that they were not in line with how the Bible calls me to act (towards my husband and people in general). Once my husband felt free to express how he had been feeling without the threat of retaliatory words (I have at times literally had to force my mouth to stay shut), he was able to tell me how I had been making him feel. It's ironic, but I had always wanted him to be the strong, dependable leader of our home, but I was creating the opposite with my words.

Recently, I was struggling a bit emotionally and briefly lost control of my tongue a few times. I can still see it in my mind: the look of disbelief in his eyes, the slight lowering of his shoulders, the almost imperceptible sigh and shake of his head. I knew I had crossed the line, and I should have apologized. Unfortunately, I didn't. Later on in the car, he was a little quiet. Finally, he said, "Can I be honest with you about something?" Immediately and impulsively, my defenses went up. But, I pushed it back down and said, "Yes." He went on, "I have felt a little disrespected by some of your comments lately." Again came up the ire along with, "well, I've been tired, stressed, grumpy..." but I swallowed it back down and said, "I know, and I'm sorry for treating you like that." It wasn't a fun conversation for either of us, but it was necessary. He was able to be real with me without getting ripped apart, and I was reminded that I need to keep my temper in check and really pay attention to how I am making him feel with my words. 

So, then, what does it look like to have a noble character? Ruth was described in the Bible as being a woman of noble character. Ruth 3:11 "All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character." Ruth's story is a beautiful one to study. She experienced the pain of losing her husband and her father-in-law, of having nothing and no one but her mother-in-law (who wanted to leave Ruth's town to go back to the town she and her deceased husband and sons came from), facing the unknown of going with her mother-in-law to a town and religion she didn't know, and finally redemption. Through it all, she exuded a character that became known by everyone around as being noble and honorable. Ruth was fiercely devoted. Even when it was tough and the easy thing to do would have been to go back to her father's house, Ruth remained faithful by staying with her mother-in-law. Naomi even tried to convince Ruth to leave her, but Ruth said, "Don't urge me to leave you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God..." (1:16). Ruth was also humble. When she and Naomi arrived, Ruth immediately began doing what she could so that she and Naomi would have food to eat. At Naomi's instruction, Ruth went into the field of a man named Boaz and began to glean what she could from the ground behind the workers who were harvesting Boaz's barley. This is the position of a beggar, although it didn't stop Ruth. Ruth was a hard worker. In response to Boaz inquiring about Ruth, one of his men said, "she went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter" (2:7). Finally, Ruth's reputation preceded her. She was a foreigner, so people were naturally going to be curious of her. She was watched and was found to be an extraordinary woman. Boaz was both kind and gracious to her. When Boaz and Ruth were finally able to sit together, she asked him why she had found such favor in his eyes. He responded, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law...May the Lord repay you for what you have done: (2: 10, 11). And God did repay Ruth, for she was in the maternal line of Kind David!

A man who has a wife like that is rich in blessing. I want to be that kind of wife! Neither women or men are perfect, but if we each try to mold and shape our character to be more noble, we will become blessings to our spouses, and we will make them want to stand tall, proud and strong!


Happy to link up with A Fireman's WifeDIY DaddyTraffic Jam WeekendBlogger's Pit Stop, and Oh My Heartsie Girl.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Hard Doesn't Always Mean Harmful

We were all relaxing together, watching different comedy clips and movie trailers, passing the final minutes between the ending of a movie and bedtime. After a Dumbo trailer ended, a few commented that they'd like to watch the movie. Our sensitive, deep feeling youngest said that she did not. "It's too sad," she said. I drew close to her, snuggled right up so that my words might go through her ears and into her heart, that she might always remember. I said, "Sometimes the most beautiful stories have some sad in them."

It's true, though. As humans, we tend to shy away from the hard, the sad. In our relationships with others, we skirt along the comfortable path, not wanting to create or add conflict by addressing issues or approaching hard topics. In our marriages and friendships we settle into a steady rhythm of day in and day out, sweeping the difficult and sad under the carpet and going along our day because there are too many other things to worry about. The hurtful comment gets pushed aside. The hard conversations about tight finances or the rebelling child or the family member or the other person's behavior get put on the back burner to make room for discussions about dinner or the weekend plans or the funny thing that happened that day. The hard stuff gets avoided, but it doesn't go away.

There are several reasons why we do this. It tends to be in most people's nature to avoid things that feel uncomfortable. We like comfort. Also, though, most people avoid difficult conversations because they just don't know how to have them. Often these conversations end up with one or both people angry and yelling or just walking away and avoiding. Generally one or both will get defensive and spend the whole conversation defending their own actions rather than hearing what the other person is trying to say. Friendships get severed. Relationships become strained.

The thing is, though, that when you know or learn how to have these conversations the right way, you have the potential to have a story that gets more beautiful through the hard and the sad. Husbands and wives can work through the conflict in a way that makes them feel closer and more in love than they felt beforehand, when the conflict was there simmering under the surface. Friendships can deepen and become more meaningful and longer lasting when friends understand that relationship is work that is worth it. If you can grow through the hard and sad you will have a friendship that will weather any storm and last a lifetime. 

In our interactions with others there will eventually be hard situations and sadness. But if we can tackle the sad and hard together we can grow through them, and we can be a part of a story that is breathtakingly beautiful.

Do you avoid talking about conflict in your relationships? Do you want to learn the best way to have the hard conversations?

Happy to link up with A Fireman's WifeDIY Daddy, Traffic Jam WeekendBlogger's Pit Stop, and Oh My Heartsie Girl.
 

Monday, November 19, 2018

In the Fire, How God Moved in Big Ways to Redeem My Failing Marriage

After Scott moved out, I had some choices to make. I had to face the fact that he was gone and was planning on not coming back. I realized that I could react in one of two ways. I could let myself go off the deep end and become filled with anger and resentment and agree to go forward with the divorce. Or I could choose to focus on forgiving him and trying to reconcile our marriage. For me it was no question. From the very beginning I was determined to pray fervently that God would reconcile our marriage. Yes, he had hurt me in a way that I wasn't certain I would ever be able to heal from. But because of my experience growing up in a divorced family, I was determined that I did not want that for our children. I also realized that because we had children together, he was going to continue to be a part of my life regardless of what happened with him and me. I knew I would have to forgive him eventually anyway because I didn't want to live the rest of my life with the noose of unforgiveness around my neck. And in the end, I would rather still have him as my husband. So, I began praying constantly that God would change his heart and heal our marriage. I knew that God was bigger than the situation, bigger than my hurt, and that God was the only one who could save my marriage. 

Another thing that I realized early on was that I could not change the situation and I could not change Scott's heart, but I could take responsibility for my own actions and change myself. I knew that I should not take responsibility for Scott's decisions, but I had to own the fact that I had not been a great wife to him over the previous few years. Yes, he hadn't been the best husband either, but that was not for me to focus on. My prayers were that God would heal our marriage, and I was determined to be the best wife I could be from that point on. I read everything I could find on what it looks like to be a godly wife and how to have a godly marriage. In the meantime, I stopped trying to convince Scott to come back home and decided to let go of control and leave it up to God. Instead, I just started treating Scott with respect. In Ephesians 5:33 it says, "Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." It's a command for spouses to treat each other with love and respect without the caveat of whether or not they deserve it. That verse told me to treat my husband in the way God created a godly marriage to function, regardless of his worthiness. This discipline would continue to be valuable for years afterwards.  

We went on to be separated for a total of 2 months. Scott continued his relationship with the other woman and insisted that he wanted a divorce, but he did not take any steps to get a lawyer and file papers. I continued to pray that God would fix us, even though I didn't see how it could happen. I realized I had put many priorities out of order, had put my husband on a pedestal that he wasn't created to be on, and was looking to other things to fill a void in me that only God could fill. So I allowed God to change in me the things that needed changing. Many people stepped in to help me with my babies, and I was in a constant state of prayer and learning. Finally, I began to see some changes in him. I could see that he was conflicted, and then finally the day came when he began to change his mind. He finally allowed his heart to be opened to hear God's voice. And God told him it was time to come back home.

The work that lay ahead for us in the days and weeks and years after he returned home was perhaps harder than finding out about the affair and dealing with being separated. The overwhelming work that had to be done could only be tackled a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time, otherwise it would seem too difficult a thing. Only by the grace and strength of God were we able to walk through to the other side.

It is doable to weather a storm in your marriage, even the fierce storm of infidelity. If you are in a similar situation or are in another kind of storm, I promise you that though it is hard to stick it out and grow through the process into a better wife or husband or human, it is so worth it once you get to the other side.     





Friday, November 9, 2018

Marriage CAN Survive the Storm. I Know Because Mine Almost Didn't

In February of 2010, my life looked very different than it does now. My husband and I had been married 5 years, we had a 3 and 2 year old, and I was very pregnant with our third child. Our marriage was in a very rocky spot, and we had been in marriage counseling for a few weeks. Other than finally going to counseling, we felt like we were essentially alone in our struggles. We felt like we had no one in our lives to turn to who would understand. Like some of you may have been at some time or even are now, we were in a marriage crisis, and we didn’t have the resources to fix it. Over the course of a few weeks, our third sweet baby was born and the stress level increased. Three weeks after the birth, the walls finally crumbled down around us. Scott told me that he wanted a divorce. He told me that he was not in love with me anymore and that he was in love with another woman. He had been in a emotional affair with her for several months already, and he was ready to end our marriage and be with her. A few days later, he moved out of our home and got an apartment. He would ultimately be gone for 2 months. Thankfully, that is not where our story ends. In fact, it really was the place where the potential for so much good began. But it would take a while.


Our marriage and the life that we had built together came to a crossroads on that evening when I found out about the other woman. We had the choice of staying together and working through the storm, or ending it all and going our separate ways. Because of the hurt and resentment that had built up over the years, Scott thought it would be better to end our troubled marriage. I have to stop here, though, and point out that our marriage did not get to that place overnight, and no one else’s does either. It truly is a slow fade. Unless there has been some time of significant stress and unresolved conflict, no one wakes up one morning and says, “You know what? I think I want a divorce.” We had made several critical mistakes throughout our marriage that had gotten us to that crisis point. 

Firstly, though both of us were Christians, neither of us were seeking God daily in rich and growing relationship with him. We were not connected to the true Vine, and both of us had a struggling faith because of it. Because of this, we weren't hearing direction and truth from God, and Scott was able to be convinced that he was making the right choice. Secondly, we just weren’t doing marriage right. We were in the exhausting throes of new babyhood and job difficulties for Scott, and were focusing all of our energy on surviving through that phase of our lives. Though neither of us were doing it on purpose, I was treating him disrespectfully and he was treating me unlovingly. We had been in a cycle of hurt and avoidance that continued to build over several years. Though we loved each other, we were not treating each other well. Thirdly, we were not putting any effort into growing and tending to our relationship with each other. Marriage enrichment was not something we even thought about. Once babies started coming, we stopped investing much in each other without even realizing it. And lastly, when the first cracks started to form (well before the actual leaving), when things first started going down the path of getting to their worst, we continued to avoid the issue rather than seek out help. By the time we had started counseling that January, it was too little too late. We were past the point of no return.


*In the next post, I will share what happened after Scott moved out and what steps we took to recover what was lost.*



Friday, November 2, 2018

The Growing Place

Hebrews 13:21 "... may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him." 


I was struggling, the fear and the lies and the temptation to forget it all creeping around my neck like a noose. I was in the growing place, the place I needed to be in in order to get from who I was to who I wanted to be. A place I'm all too familiar with. I tell myself that perhaps I spend more time in the growing place than others, but I'm going to go out on a limb and decide that that's not true. I do have very deep scars of hurt and insecurity and fear that are taking years to fully work through, but I'm willing to bet that I'm not alone. I'm willing to bet that there are others out there who find themselves in the growing place, and are probably telling themselves the same things I've told myself.

The growing place is uncomfortable. Maybe you find yourself there now. Maybe you are trying to be a more loving wife or a more patient mother. Perhaps you are trying to fight lies and fears that you've held onto but now are ready for God to replace with truth. Maybe you are in ministry and feel burned out and are ready to quit. Possibly, like me, you feel that God is calling you to cast off old chains and walk into the promises that he gave you long ago but you've been afraid to walk towards. Maybe you feel inspired to grow beyond your comfort zone. But you feel the fear and insecurity and temptation to pull away from the growth.

The good news is that you are not alone, and that God can use the growing place to bless you more than you could ever imagine. The promise is that growth is not dependent on you alone. God is the one who enables and equips us for the growth. He is the one who will "do something new" (Isaiah 43:19) in you, and in me. There is an enemy to your growth, though, and he will do whatever he can to keep you from growing. The bible calls him a liar and the Father of Lies. When you are in the growing place, the enemy will be the one whispering lies into your ear, telling you that you can't do it, aren't good enough to consider it, will never be strong enough to accomplish it. He never has anything good to say. And he is unfortunately a very convincing liar. But, the score card has already been written and the victory dance is ours because God is and always will be victorious over the enemy every. single. time.

So when you find yourself in the growing place, the keys to getting through it are to keep your eyes focused on God and his promises, reach out to friends who will remind you of the truth and pray for you, and to prayerfully ask and allow God to grow and stretch you. That means continuing on when you feel like quitting. It means choosing to believe that you can do what God is calling you to do, because God is the one who does it through you. It means reminding yourself that you can do hard things. And it means doing them. 


Romans 8:37 "Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us."





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

God Is Your Spouse's Father, Too

I do not question the intimacy and relationship with God as my Father. I know some struggle with this aspect of God, especially if their earthly father provided a poor example of what a loving father looks like. But I understand and depend on it, even more since becoming a parent myself. My doubts and questions sink in when it comes to the question of my worthiness to receive the blessings and gifts the Father has to offer, but that's a different topic for different posts (some of which have already been written). I even look to God as Father to my children, trusting that He loves them more than I can comprehend and has plans for them that I can put my trust in. No problem.

I was surprised, then, to realize that I had not, at any point in my marriage, been thinking of God as Father to Scott, my husband. I was reading a bible study called A Lifelong Love, by Gary Thomas. I opened my bible to read 1 John 3:1, not realizing yet that the verse and the study together were about to reveal truths and change my thinking and prayers for Scott forever.

"See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Automatically I applied this to myself. But then I looked at the study, where the author wrote about the time when he sensed God telling him that his wife wasn't just his wife, but she was also God's daughter, and that he needed to treat her as such. I thought about my husband and asked myself whether I thought of, and prayed for, him as God's son. I realized with sadness that the prayers I had been praying for him, though not wrong in and of themselves, were not the messages that he needed to hear from God as his Father. And actually, the prayers I had been praying for him went right along with his weaknesses, insecurities, and battles that he already fights.

The fact is, most men journey through their life battling the fear that they don't quite have what it takes. This manifests differently depending on the personality of the man, but in general men spend their lives fighting this battle and proving to themselves and the people they love that they do have what it takes. Or they live defeated, believing the lie that they don't. My husband is no different. So when I thought about the things I have been praying over him, my heart broke. He doesn't need me to pray that God would change him or grow him or stretch him past his comfort place. Again, those things aren't wrong, and actually are what we as Christians should be striving for. But my man? He needs to hear that he is loved by God, his Father, more than he can imagine, and nothing could ever make him love him more or less. He needs to hear that he is absolutely cherished as a son, even more than he cherishes our son. He needs God to tell him that he was wonderfully made and equipped to accomplish every task that God has for him. He needs to hear that he may not always have what it takes, but he has a God that will more than fill in the gaps. And when he feels and truly knows that, the things that God can go on to accomplish through him are limitless. These are the things that will fill up my prayers for my husband from now on. I want him to walk in the freedom of knowing that God is his Father, and with a Daddy like that you can do anything. 



Image result for 1 John 3:1

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Again



Is there ever a situation where it's too late to start again?

Ever a period where you've cried too many tears to be heard?

Ever a time where God is unable to redeem?

Is it true that because I've been quiet on here, there's no use trying again?

That's what the enemy tells me. As I've contemplated the gentle nudges from the Father to write, the enemy of my heart hisses in my ear, "Are you even kidding? Just look at what you looked like this year! Afraid. Defeated. Silenced. Weak. Who do you think you are to even imagine that you could be used for anything good?"

He's right, of course. At least partly. God has brought me through some really hard things recently. Some I had gone through prior to beginning this blog. Some I experienced after. But does experiencing the pain, and suffering because of it, invalidate the voice that God has given me? Does that fact that I am so easily shaken, so easily silenced (there, I said it!) mean that in my weakness I can't be used for good?

No matter where this goes, no matter if anyone sees it or no one does, even if it is simply a space for me to lay milestones to show what God has brought me through, it will be worth it. Because I am walking in obedience. Who do I think I am? I am a messenger with an important message. I am humble and even more humbled, but I am not unwilling. I am a child of God. And nothing can undo that.


   Green by *megan_elzey*