When Someone Joins this Journey

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A friend sent me a copy of a blog yesterday.  It was a blog sharing the loss of another Christian marriage. I’d already read it, but I opened it…just to glance at it again.  As if to remind myself what had just happened to this lovely Christian woman.  And fresh heartache came to me…not just for her and her family, but for the many husbands and wives who have had to walk this path.  Who have had to end a marriage through divorce because of the choice of a spouse to abandon.

Every week I hear at least one story of a marriage ending.  Every. Single. Week. Sometimes more than once a week.  It is always, always sad, but sometimes I find myself numb to it.  As though, my thoughts are, “Oh.  Again?  Yes, of course.”  It’s those words, “again” and “of course” that cause a deep sigh.

But I will admit that reading her blog shook me…a lot. My thought was, “Lord, what in the world?!? Can anyone to be trusted?”  I know the answer is a resounding, “YES!” but doesn’t it sometimes feel that the answer is “Well, probably not”?

I hear it echoed in conversations with my children who, although each wants to be married with a family, feel that nothing is guaranteed…no covenant is necessarily going to be kept.  It’s a reality of our world that relationships are often viewed as disposable, but dang…

I asked my son Peter, who desperately wants a tattoo, if he would consider getting one on his ring finger when he gets married some day.  He said, “No way, Mom! What if it didn’t work out?”  My heart breaks.

My daughter Emma recently shared with me that even if a young man presents himself as a believer, how is she to truly know?  What if he is just faking it?  What then?   I didn’t have an answer, except trust God.

That is a good answer for anything…for everything actually.

Marriage isn’t something we humans came up with…I believe God created and designed the covenant of marriage as the perfect picture of His covenant with us.  

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  Genesis 17:7

This covenant God made with His people – to never leave us or forsake us, to love us always – is beautiful.  A perfect God binding Himself in covenant with his very imperfect people.

And when two imperfect people bind themselves together in the covenant of marriage it is also a beautiful thing…to promise before God to love, honor, and respect one another, to live beside one another, united, committed to love until death…what a gift!  What a blessing!

Maybe it’s social media…all the stories we read.  Maybe it’s the ease of communication, the open sharing, the willingness to sin in public…I don’t know, but it feels as though a barrage of bad things is raining down sometimes.  

And I wonder if this is just the world now…vows and covenants and promises are truly disposable – just things that can be thrown away when they are no longer useful, relevant, or fun.  

It seems that working on a relationship is viewed as unnecessary. Why should we have to do that?  Things should just be blissfully wonderful all the time.  Right?  Not in my experience.

Why is working seen as a bad thing anyway?  We work towards many things we want…work towards getting, keeping or excelling at a job.  Work towards health.  Work towards fitness.  Work towards organization.  Work towards goals.  

Why is working towards a better marriage not considered a viable option by some.  Why do some bail?  I don’t understand.  I really truly don’t.

No person is perfect.  No relationship is without bumps – we, men and women, are made differently…wonderfully different.  God’s design.  And through relationship we grow, are refined, are challenged, are strengthened…through relationships God does amazing things in our lives…or not – if we don’t let Him.  If we are unwilling to invest in each other, to love sacrificially, to value one another, to fight for “us”, what hope is there for relationships that truly reveal the glorious covenant relationship we share with each other and with God?

Oh dear – I will step off my soapbox (a little bit…)

There is a way God wants me to see things.

All along, from the beginning, God had a plan for what marriage would be…what it would mean…what it would reveal about Him.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  Ephesians 5:22-33

We have twisted and tried to destroy that revelation, but God has not changed His plan or His vision for what this beautiful covenant means.

This covenant of love between us…the Bridegroom and His bride.

It is not shaken by man’s sin…not denied its power nor its message.  Not shattered like so many happily ever afters…

It remains intact…strong as from the beginning of time…firm in its foundation…held together by the very God who holds the stars in their places.  

Unshaken…never ending…never forsaking…never forgetting…unchanging…unaffected by time or tears or tests…always…forever…

My hope for marriage might wobbly a bit with each end of marriage message…but even in these moments of misery God is not absent.  He reminds me that He is the covenant keeper who never fails.  He will never abandon His children, His bride.

There is always hope because there is always God.

And when others share their stories of marriages ending, there is still hope.  Because as a dear friend pointed out, we don’t hear about the marriages going along smoothly…the marriages where grace, love and respect thrive, not perfectly but beautifully.  Mess gets the most attention.

But maybe we need to look beyond the mess and see the Bridegroom before us.  See the One who takes care of the Covenant completely.  Who doesn’t need us to do anything but trust that He has got it covered.

My marriage covenant shattered…my faith did not.  

My spouse abandoned…my Savior never will.  

My hope wavered…my Hope remains.  

My future seemed uncertain…His plan stands firm.

God’s covenant to be our God…to be with us always…to love us relentlessly, unconditionally, unceasingly…to provide an eternal inheritance beyond our imaginings…that Covenant will never shatter.

As we sojourn here, whether married, divorced, widowed, or single, it is our joy to remember that our Father is with us always.  There is no place, no circumstance, no sin beyond His reach…there is no person beyond His reach.  So as we pray for one another, encourage one another, identify with one another, weep or rejoice with one another, let us never forget the One who keeps the most important Covenant strong and unwavering. The One who knows what betrayal feels like, the One who felt abandonment, the One who choose to trust and obey in circumstances beyond our imaginings.  This is the One who goes before us, the One who stands beside us, the One who is always with us, the One who never, never leaves us nor forsakes us.

When I was in the thick of things a few years back this verse brought me comfort:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus understood, still does.  He beckons us to trust confidently…to approach Him without fear…to know that He has all that we need.  

The Covenant is secure.

 

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Taking 4 Steps Back

IMG_3911Once upon a time…

There was a little girl who dreamed of being married and raising beautiful little children who would love the Lord and each other.  There wasn’t a white picket fence, but there was a big oak tree with a tire swing, a creek with tadpoles, a kitchen counter with a fresh loaf of homemade bread, and a mommy and daddy who loved each other with abandon.

Not surprisingly, that little girl was me.

It seemed for a very long time that things were headed that way…I’d jumped into the chariot, married Prince Charming, and started making beautiful babies.  The house was full – joyfully chaotic and plentiful in love.

But underneath the calm beauty of a life built together, there were secrets and hurtful things.  Sin was stealing in to destroy and devastate.

After almost 18 years of family building, it became a marriage collapse.

It was easy to assume that this marriage collapse would spell the end of this precious family.

But because God can always make beauty from ashes, we would survive…me and my little band of beauties.

We wobbled, we swayed, but we didn’t fall.  In fact, in many ways we became stronger – closer and more determined to thrive, not just survive.

Picking up the pieces after divorce is no easy task.  In fact, it’s exhausting, but the pieces, with God’s help, do fit back together.  The picture isn’t the same, but it can still be beautiful.  It can still be joyful.

My picture hasn’t fallen back into place easily.  It’s taking time.  It’s taking a bunch of perseverance and patience…things I often don’t feel I have near enough of.

There are days I still mourn my “once upon a time no more”.  There are days I still feel a deep pain in my chest when I ponder what I’ve lost.

But maybe the key is not to focus on what I’ve lost, but to realize what I have gained…been blessed with…have.

And again God brings me back to Whose I am…who I am.

It’s so easy to forget in the busyness of the day…I just feel so much without thinking.

I feel so overwhelmed.  I feel so impatient.  I feel so much pressure.  I feel such failure.  I feel such hopelessness at times.

What.  In.  The.  World????

Hopeless.

How did I get here?

I honestly don’t know…one small step after another I guess.

One step toward thinking I can handle it all.

One step away from the strength of the Lord and into the illusion of my own strength.

One step away from moments of peace and rest and into the hurried and overwhelmed moments of a day without boundaries.

One step away from prayer and into thinking I should be able to do this.

One step away from the Word and into my own wisdom, my own knowledge, my own perspective.

Taking those steps over and over again…those have gotten me here.

To this place of stress and anxious thoughts and overwhelming emotions.

How do I get back to the start…to the better place?

One step at a time…

Step one…on my knees.  Prayer is my lifeline.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knowns what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Step two…dive into the Word.  Knowing Him through His word gives me such abiding hope, often a new perspective, and the wisdom I need so desperately to lead my little band.

Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Psalm 50:6

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31-32

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is the truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  John 17:17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16

Step three… sit down!!  Chill…relax…rest.  Rest in the knowledge that I am His daughter.  Rest in the knowledge that He has my life in the palm of His hand.  Rest in the knowledge that He will take care of me and my children.  Rest in the knowledge that He loves me.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Step four…gratitude.  I cannot have a good attitude without gratitude.  If I would but take a moment and think about the good things…the precious people and massive number of blessings God has lavished on me…I’d see that it is quite easy to count my blessings.  But even if God had not graciously blessed me with people and things and opportunities and provision, He has blessed me with Christ…with grace and mercy, with the joy of the Lord, with salvation, with life, with hope, with peace, with eternity.  How can my lips not praise and thank Him!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderous works to the children of man!  Psalm 107:8

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7  

 I know there are more steps to take…but that will get me started moving forward with grace and peace.

Lord, thank you so much that you love me regardless of my attitude or actions.  Lord, thank you that I know that you will take care of me and my children.  Forgive me for so often trying to take control of my life.  Forgive me for not resting in the knowledge that I can trust you.  Thank you Father that you are faithful and kind even in the face of my unfaithfulness.  I am in awe of you!  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What’s Your Choice?

basketball

This past weekend my youngest daughters started playing basketball with a local Christian program.  It’s such fun to see them playing.  They’ve never played before and at times it looked like a cross between football, soccer, rugby, and wrestling.  I was laughing a lot.  But another feeling crept in as I sat in that gymnasium. I was overcome with feelings of sorrow for what I have lost…what my children have lost.

Families came in together.  Fathers and mothers with little lines of children walked through the doors one after the other. I saw interaction I’ve missed.  I saw affection, unity, and love between parents.  I saw married couples coaching together and parents parenting together.

It brought back feelings of disbelief again.

How in the world did my life happen?

I never imagined when I walked down the aisle to my husband that life would be anything but love for a lifetime, raising our children to love the Lord, and serving Him together.  Together.

Sitting together watching the rugby match…I mean basketball practice…enjoying our children’s activities together.

How is our family not together?

There are still days when I can’t believe this is the life my God has allowed for my children.  When those thoughts land heavily on my mind and heart, I, over and over again, endeavor to take them captive.  (I wish I could think of a good basketball analogy for this…but alas, I cannot…just…too…tired…)

Today I’m working on it.  I’m taking them captive again…and again and again.

God brought me to Psalm 145 and showed me some things:

  • I will not get the answers here…at least not all of them, but my God is greater than the answers I seek and I know I can trust Him.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.  (v. 3)

  • There are always wonderful things about God’s faithfulness I can share with my children and others (like you!).  I’m paying attention to the blessings.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. (v. 4-5)

  •  This verse seems rather self-explanatory

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The LORD is good to all and his mercy is over all that he has made. (vs. 8-9)

  • My Lord is faithful.

The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. (v.13b)

  • My Father will hold me through this trial.

The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. (v. 14)

  • My God will provide all I need.

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (v.16)

  • My Lord is with me and He is good!

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:17-18

  • My Savior will do this life with me…there is togetherness with God.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (v. 18)

  • My Lord will save and preserve me.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. (vs. 19-20)

Throughout my life, I’ve had to continually remind myself of my God and His great love for me.

Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by this world…it is NOT my home.  (Thankfully!!!!)

So much is not how I imagined it would be when I was little and looking forward to being a wife and mother.  It’s not how I imagined it would be when I said “yes” to my kneeling husband.  It’s not how I imagined it would be when I held each of my dear children for the 1st time.  At no point did I imagine this life for me or my children…or my ex-husband for that matter.

This life is just unimaginable.

But it is my life…so I don’t have to imagine it anyway.  I just have to live it.  Just get on the court and play ball.  (There it is…I knew I had one basketball reference in me!)

How do I do that?

How do I live this life in a way that doesn’t ache constantly?  I haven’t quite figured that out yet.  God is showing me.

I will say that when I’m in the Word and praying…the ache is barely noticeable.

It’s the same lesson I learn over and over and over and over (how many overs can I write to convey how often I “learn” this lesson…oh that I would actually learn it).

That lesson…focus on Christ not my circumstances.

Choose to be overwhelmed by life or by Christ.

Well…today right now…I’m making a choice.  Things might still hurt at times.  Sorrow might surprise me with a visit at the most inopportune times.  Disappointment might descend when I’m trying to find the good in this life.  Challenges might chase me down each and every day…BUT…

Today…today…I’m choosing Christ.

Blissfully Aware

clutterSomeone shared with me recently that if a fire fighter trips and hurts himself while trying to save you from your burning house, you can be sued…for a lot of money.

I’m not sure why my friend shared that with me…well, maybe it was a subtle encouragement regarding the clutter in my home.

Golly, I hope my house doesn’t catch on fire ’cause I’d get sued for sure!

There’s just something about the hallway upstairs…it’s full of tripping hazards. Laundry, books, baskets of odds and ends, piles of dirty clothes, towels (damp and dry), an occasional doll, parts of games, sometime a pair of shoes or just one, and a basket of a ridiculous amount of odd socks.

The most confounding thing is that my children are oblivious! Honestly, I believe it’s all invisible to them. What is that?

And why don’t I have it?

What a blessing blissfully unaware would be!

Unfortunately I’m exceedingly aware of the messiness and all the tripping hazards…and it’s driving me bonkers.

Of course, being driven bonkers implies that it’s my destination…I think bonkers is the vehicle I’m riding in.

I just can’t figure out if I’m driving it or riding in it!

I’ve always wanted an organized, beautiful home. Who doesn’t?!
In the past I wanted order in my home for different reasons. I wanted our home to be a restful place for my husband when he returned from work and for my children to know the joy of a peaceful environment. I also wanted to be able to offer hospitality on a whim.

Now I want my house to be nice because I don’t want to lose any more of my mind….really.

This past week has been exceedingly busy and it culminated with the stomach bug hitting. Right now, our house is not as lovely as I’d like. And, to some degree, I’m okay with that.

But on another degree (is that even a saying?) it’s really stressing me out. And it isn’t because people are going to stop by – I’m pretty sure the flu has stopped anyone from dropping in!

It’s because this life is so crazy…I don’t want my house to be too.

A messy house = a terribly impatient mother.

It’s like I become as messy emotionally and mentally as my home.
I keep trying to point it out to my children but they aren’t getting it.

I’m not sure why because I can certainly tell I’m impatient and irritated easily.

Maybe this is another case of them being blissfully unaware.

Maybe I need to be a bit blissfully unaware too.

There was a season a few years ago right after my husband left when I was. I whittled life down to the essentials and the house being immaculate was not an essential….at all.

Essential was defined as loving my children with my actions, words, and time spent together.

In thinking back, I’m realizing it was a choice. I chose to focus on the people in my life instead of the things.

I want to choose that place again.

I don’t have to be blissfully unaware of my surroundings, but I’d like to be blissfully aware of my children.

My children are much more important than the clutter they create.

I could start by figuring out what absolutely needs to be done and working with my children in a gracious and organized way to get it done!

I could choose to spend time with them rather than spending all my time fussing about the house. Honestly I do feel like I spend all if not most of my time grumping about the house. My poor children!

I could pray that God would calm my mind and heart so I could hear His leading on this. I know He desires me to bring everything to Him and He truly does care about all my silly and not so silly stuff.

Lord, there’s so much to do and I don’t want to be only doing. Father, I want to be momma more than housekeeper. Please help me use my time wisely and efficiently so I can focus on the precious people in my life rather than the things that literally trip me up!

Is Life Ever Gonna Be Normal?

cool cloud“Everything is going on around me as if nothing is happening…as if my world is not crashing…exploding…imploding…”

I remember thinking those words when my marriage began its shattering.

Nobody knew. And life continued.

I recall standing up before a class of 5th and 6th graders teaching them grammar and thinking, “How do I do this? How do I pretend that this is just a normal day? That I don’t just want to crawl into a corner and weep?”

It’s such a surreal thing…trying to be normal when everything isn’t.

I’m feeling that way again as I watch my father’s health decline dramatically.

The other day I sat next to him propping him up with my shoulder, holding his hand, and leaning in to hear his soft, mumbled words. I was struck again by life’s challenges.

I’d spent the day with my children playing at the park – running, laughing, and sweating. Now I was sitting still, crying a bit, and well…sweating  …my Dad’s room is pretty stuffy.

It’s weird to walk through all these emotions. I remember that walk when my husband left. I remember trying to make life normal and fun with my children. I’d laugh with them during the day and cry when I was alone at night. It was a truly terrible walk for a season, but I haven’t walked there in a while…until now.

Anyone who has suffered a loss or tragedy or challenge of any kind can understand…life goes on.
We still need to set alarms, pack lunches, get kids to school, do school with children, go to work, make dinner, drive to soccer games, smile at people, listen to other’s share their stories, and just plain live life.

I’m finding it difficult to figure out how to be normal anymore…I mean not that I’ve ever been completely normal (LOL!)…but how do I find normal when things keep getting wonky on me?

My prayer partner and I pray each year that this will be the year without trauma or drama….so far we are 0-6. Not a great record. BUT I will say that God continues to work in me and around me despite the decidedly difficult times.
He continues to show me He is faithful before, during, and after the troubling times.

Somehow or another, even when I can’t necessarily see it or really understand it, He makes it all bearable. At the end of the day, I realize I’ve survived. And so have all my children.

And it isn’t just survival…I’ve learned so much about myself and about Him through each heartbreak and sorrow.
God loves me and my children (and you and yours) so very much.

Lately God has been showing me how very very much He loves me and my children…and you and yours. There is no limit to His love…the amount doesn’t diminish on a bad day or even increase on a good day. He loves us perfectly and completely because He is love.

I read a quote years ago by A.W. Tozer from his book Knowledge of the Holy

“Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself.”

I’m so blessed by that…so thankful that God loves me regardless of me or my circumstances or my fears or my challenges or my difficulties or my emotions or my failures…God loves me because He made me to love.

There is hope for me in that…there is hope that even when everything seems completely out of sorts and daily life must continue on, I can trust that God has it because He loves me. I can trust that I am secure in His unfailing love.

Even when life shatters, God’s love keeps me together.