Wednesday, January 16, 2019

When The Thing You Fear Comes True

Almost 9 years ago, I was sitting in my counselor's office, my life and heart shattered. My counselor looked me right in the eyes and said it. He said, "Yes, you're right. Your biggest fears have come true. But you know what? You are surviving. You are doing it." I had just finished telling him how all of the biggest things I had always feared were my new reality. My husband was gone. I had essentially been replaced. And I was alone with my three babies. And instead of letting me wallow in my sorrow, he straight up agreed with me. Because they were my fears, and they were my reality, and I could either survive them or let them conquer me. Now I have the hindsight of knowing that my husband would come back home, God would restore our marriage and family, and we would end up with a better marriage than we could have ever hoped. But at the time, I had the one reality to spur me on. I was surviving. I was doing it.

Ever since my children have been big enough to play in woods, I have feared ticks. I have feared them for one reason and one reason only: Lyme Disease. Though I didn't know much about the disease, I knew it was one I did not want to have to deal with when it came to my children. And ticks are especially scary to me because of how easily they can hide. So we've always done "tick checks" after my children have been playing in the woods. Back in September, my son was bitten by what we thought was a spider. We never saw what had bitten him, but the bite looked ugly and the several doctors who saw him all agreed that it was a spider. So he was treated with antibiotics to help his body fight the infection. A month later, he suddenly was hit with rapid fire unexplained joint pain and swelling. First hip, then knee, then shoulder, all within a week and a half. Crazy weird, but we all thought his body was still processing the spider venom. Some blood testing and a few specialist appointments later, we got the diagnosis that broke my heart. Lyme Disease. Despite all of my efforts, my son ended up with Lyme Disease because of a tick that we didn't even know had been on him. My fear was once again my reality. I cried. I questioned. But I couldn't walk away from the fact that this was now my son's reality, too. One that he would potentially have to deal with for the rest of his life. My counselor's words from years ago came back to me. Letting this new reality conquer me was not an option. I have spent the last week figuring out how to survive this. Because we will. I have never believed that God makes mistakes, and I still don't. God is writing the story of my son's life, and I trust every chapter that He puts in it. I am learning ways to give my son the best chance at living his life with Lyme Disease successfully. And we are surviving it. Because there is no other choice.   

The thing about fears is that they have the most power when they stay inside our head. They have the ability to grow to insurmountable sizes. We have a lot of fears that never come true, but they still swirl in our minds, terrorizing our hearts and holding us captive to the imagination of the worst. The first step in conquering fears is praying about them. God is big enough to handle our fears and worries. When we trust our situations to Him, He can take our fears and replace them with peace and trust. The second step is speaking our fears out loud to someone we trust. Not only can those people speak truth to us, but the act of speaking out loud about the fears gives them less power to debilitate us. There have been many times where I have gone from frozen fear to faith and hope just because I have had a good conversation with someone about what was causing me to fear. Another step in conquering our fears is surviving them. Sometimes our fears do come true. Sometimes we are faced with the very thing we feared. And the beautiful truth is that we can survive them. Often not without tears and prayers and people who love us coming beside us. But we can survive them. Because as people, we are a lot more resilient than we think.


Ps. 56:9b "This I know: God is on my side!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Worry Box That Can Help You Worry Less

Do you have a worry box? Perhaps you've never really thought about it. Did you know that you could utilize the idea of a worry box to help you worry less? The Bible tells us to not worry about anything, but instead to pray about everything. Philippians 4:6 says, "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." Praying about everything and offering our needs up to God can become a habit if we work on it. But then after that is when the worry box kicks in. We pray about the issue, but then continue to think and worry about it once we've said "amen" and gone on with our day. The battle is not in telling God about our needs, the battle is in leaving them with him.
I first became aware of the idea of a worry box when my husband and I were separated and he was in a relationship with another woman. After he moved out, I was suddenly on my own every day and night with our three small children. The hurt and worry were at an all time high and I realized how easily I could get swallowed up by it all. I began a habit every night, as the children slept in their room and I was heading to bed, of kneeling down on the floor outside their door and cupping my hands together as I began to pray. I would mentally put my children and my marriage and my heart and my sanity in my hands and lift them up over my head. I prayerfully surrendered everything in my hands up to God. Night after night I would do this. I imagined myself putting all of the shattered pieces of my life into my hands and then giving them all to God, asking him to put them back together. I would go to bed with a true and deep peace that God was in control and that I could trust him with literally every aspect of my life. I would sleep in peace and begin a new day in the morning. However, as my day wore on I found myself thinking and dwelling on my situation and I would feel the vice grip of fear wrap around my heart and mind. I was offering everything up to God in the evening, but then taking it back every morning. I knew I could not continue in this pattern. So, I began to utilize a worry box. Whenever I would catch myself worrying about my marriage or thinking about how broken my heart was or trying to figure out what I was going to do if my husband did file for divorce, I would stop myself. I would mentally picture a cardboard box, imagine myself putting everything inside of it, closing the top, and handing it up to God. I would then walk away into the rest of my day. I often did this many times a day, every day. Sometimes I would suddenly realize that at some point I had quietly taken the box back from God and opened it, sadly fishing through its contents without even realizing it. Other times, in my anger, I would grab the box and rip open the top, pouring the hurt out on the floor so it would mix with my tears and remind God what was going on in my life. But then I would always box it back up and surrender it back to God, because I knew that he was the only one with hands big enough to handle it all. That worry box was the only way I was able to get through those days and months without being completely consumed by worry and fear. It was a simple concept that had a profound impact on my every day.

I still utilize a worry box, though it isn't quite as beaten and battered as that first worry box. The beautiful thing about it being an imaginary box is that it can go anywhere with me. Sometimes I'm better at using it than others, but a worry box helps me remember that God is in control and that surrendering my worry-inducing situations to him daily and hourly will do more to help me walk through them than worrying about them. And continually boxing up my worries and fears and surrendering them to God is the only way I can fully live out Philippians 4:6.    

Are you walking through a difficult situation or struggle with worry in your life? Consider using a worry box. Let me know in the comments if you do and I will pray for you that it will be as helpful for you as it is for me.  

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."