Sunday, February 9, 2014

Promiscuous Grace...part 1

(I stole this title from our pastor as his sermon today inspired this writing. It is straight from my heart. I have several half written, thought out blogs about "important topics" but The Lord brought this to me in 10 minutes. It's rough around the edges but it is what He wants me to say. If you've ever felt this way, I hope you follow this story to the end because with The Lord, the end always brings His glory. He can redeem anything.) 

She begged The Lord, no she pleaded for Him to please not take His hand off her life. She had known Him from a young age, and since coming to the cross, she had never felt so separated from Him. She knew she deserved Him to turn away and leave her this way. She also knew of His love, but how can she accept it when she is now so unlovable? 

She hadn't always been broken, or so she thought. There was a time she felt whole. She walked with the lofty church ladies. She lived the cliche. She prayed at Bible Study for "Sally, who has fallen away...and can you believe what she has done?" The ladies all shake their head in sympathetic, but never empathetic, shame. 
She preached God's grace but looking back, she can't remember how often she actually showed it. She was sure to let you know all she stood for and even more, all she stood AGAINST. Everything was black and white and she pitied anyone who didn't understand the world from that view. She listened to the stories of the woman at the well and also of the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and expensive perfume, but she could not comprehend the depth of love these women had come to know because they had been forgiven MUCH. The stories were always good examples to share in a pinch, but she never equated gossip or "little white lies" with the sins of these women. I mean, she would never be a prostitue. She was too busy sitting behind the church walls with like-minded friends as they patted one another on the back and said "amen" to moralism and legalism.

Now, on this cold day, she wanted to peel off her skin. She prayed The Lord would make her someone else.  She would trade her sin for another, if He would just let her struggle be something else. Not this. She wanted to go back in time. Be one of those church ladies again. The shame began to mutilply and come at her. Ironically, often times brought on by those she had once seen herself as a part of. Those knowing eyes and "come to Jesus" emails intended to set her back on the path of righteousness. She knows she is now the topic at those aforementioned Bible studies. A voice reminds her loudly, "they're using prayer to gossip about me". Her shame is now combined with anger.  Anger because they don't understand. But then again, neither does she. She will one day, though. One day she will see all she must overcome to be who The Lord always intended. 

She hits her knees. She hates herself. She knows God must hate her too. How could He not? The shame brings embarrassment. Like the world can see her sin and brokenness. She puts up walls. She keeps secrets. She needs to protect the heart so full of pain. 

The lies flow through her brain. She believes them. She feels worthless...broken...alone...unlovable... covered in chains. 

Her face is wet with tears as she collapses into a ball. "Why me, God?!??!" , she screams as she begs God to make her whole again, and she pleads for forgiveness. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Don't Fear The Dream. . .

You have to be brutally realistic about your present circumstances and wildly unrealistic about your future circumstances (pg 35). 

Riding down the streets of Savannah Friday evening, Brian says to me, "You know, baby, you don't have to write your whole book in one day." I laughed because this man knows me all too well.  I am "all or nothing" to the core.  If I can't do it all at once or if it seems too big to fit in my box of a life, I shut down and do nothing at all.  Here is just a little example.  For right at two years, I have wanted to redecorate my house.  I want new paint, new furniture, new bedding, new pictures on the walls.  The problem is, up until recently, it has seemed unfathomable to shell out the cash to do that all at once.  The solutions to this predicament seem quite obvious to the sensible person.  You either A. put aside money into a specific savings account until you can do it all at once or B. you focus on one thing at a time.  Seems pretty doable, right? Well, not for me.  Why? Because I want it all, and I want it all now.  Setting up a plan to attack it step by step sends my brain into some kind of shutdown mode similar to when I ask my iphone to perform too many tasks at once.  Maybe I have decorating Attention Deficit Disorder.  Even now, we have made a plan to make all this stuff happen, and things keep working against me so I just get frustrated and want to say, "Forget it!  I will sit on this stupid red couch, and I will pout about this carpet forever."  I then go into a default grumpy mode forgetting some things just take time and things go wrong.  My friend told me when I finally get my new couch, we are having a "couch party." You know when your friend says something like this, they are tired of hearing about your couch predicaments, but hey, even though I am unsure what one does at a couch party,  all I need is an excuse to party.  

Today, riding home from church, I said to him, "I want to write.  I just need a story." to which he replied, "I think you already have the story." I knew what he was referring to.  The book I trashed... He thinks I can take that story and make it what it was meant to be.  Maybe I can.  I am just not sure I am ready to resurrect it yet.  I have a lot of ideas swirling in my head with a lot of excuses not to write.  A lot of excuses and insecurities standing in the way of my dream.  I will always be the first person to do what is needed for someone else, but I will make an excuse in a minute as to why I cannot do something for myself.  
Fear is a suffocating thing.  I let it bind my hands from the keyboard and take all the breath out of the words I put on paper.  I let it take over and lie to me.  I hear the voice of fear saying, "Your dream will always be on the tip of your fingers because while you are close, you really just aren't good enough." I ride down the road, alone, and the words flow through my mind, but then, I sit, lap top open...I tell myself, "ready. . .set. . .go." I stare at the blank page, and hear that nasty voice of fear, "Might as well stop now.  All those ideas you had in the car.  Yeah, they just weren't that good." 

We had dinner with friends tonight.  The wife of this couple is someone who always challenges me with my writing.  She is always honest and pushes me to achieve MY goals.  Whenever anyone asks about my life, I usually defer to answering based on what is going on with Brian or the kids.  While that is great and important, I think sometimes my dreams get lost in every day life.  So, at dinner, she asked me, "What are your goals for 2013? Your PERSONAL goals.  Not your family's goals." It stumped me for a minute, but I told her I want to have a good portion of another book written, and I want to run the Kiawah half marathon in November.  To accomplish either of these things, I must move step-by-step, and I must drown out the voice of fear.  
There will be no short cuts to finishing a second novel.  There will be no short cuts to training to run a half marathon.  There are no short cuts from average to awesome!

Today, Cinco de Mayo twenty-thirteen, I started my second book.  Reminding myself if Kathryn Stockett's had given up after being rejected from publishers sixty times, the world would have missed out on a best-selling novel turned movie, "The Help." I may never have the success of Stockett.  But then again. . .maybe I will.  

What are your dreams? What are you letting fear take from you? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Marriage God Redeemed (Part 4: What's Next?)

“You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.”
Beth Moore, Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman 

I have put off writing this post as it might be my most painful yet.  The words stream through my mind daily, and they have for a couple months.  What do I say next? How do I begin to share the next part of my story? Why do I even want to be so vulnerable on such a public forum? Who reads this?  What do they take away from it? Today I heard the words to a new song by Tenth Avenue North. The lyrics stopped me in my tracks.  They reminded me why I write.  They reminded me HE can use the broken pieces of my life to bring healing to others.  I have had a front row seat to all the Lord can do, and there is nothing HE cannot redeem.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that's frail 
and torn
I wanna know a song can rise from the
ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside can be reborn
Cause I am worn

Brian and I will celebrate 11 years of marriage in just a few days.  I think back to a scary, chilly night in early April of 2011 in contrast to that beautiful, hopeful day in January of 2002.  I am struck by how lucky I am that this man still adores me.  I am reminded he had every right to walk away that April night, but the moment the words, "THIS WILL NOT END US!" exited his lips, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he meant them.  He is the most steady man I have ever known.  I knew he would be by my side, but I was still uncertain of what was next.  In that instant, as Brian got on his knees with me and told me to pray with him, I had no clue all the mercies our Lord had waiting.  

Not long after this night, I received a private message on Facebook from a dear friend.  She said she was unsure of what was going on in my life, but she wanted me to know the change she had seen in me.  She wanted me to know that my eyes shined brighter, and she didn't know what it was, but she knew my change had come from repentance and peace.  She could not have been more right. I don't want to pretend like there weren't moments when I felt Satan's lies all over me.  Telling me Brian and I would never really work through this.  Telling me I didn't deserve to be happy.  While my repentance was like a simple switch I had been waiting to flip, my healing would be a much longer process.  I cannot sit here today and pretend there are not places in my heart that are still very tender as well as places that haven't healed. Places I have put a hard shell over the top of to protect.  My marriage wasn't "fixed" the next day. It took work on both our parts, just as it will every day for the rest of our lives, but it was and is WORTH IT!  Every marriage requires work, and ours was in a place of needing some extra special care.  

It was in the month following that I discovered the Lord's greatest mercy in all of this, I was pregnant.  The Lord gave me living and breathing proof that HE is bigger than all my mistakes.  HE is bigger than all my plans.  HE is bigger than all my hurts.  HE IS BIGGER. . .

Each day, the Lord reminds me of all He has redeemed.  I don't say any of this to pretend like that past doesn't still haunt both Brian and I at times.  You can't paint over it like it never existed.  It is now a part of who we are.  

There are moments you realize your past will always be with you.  Sometimes it is fuzzy and lost in a haze, drowned out by the excitement and anticipation of the future while other times you will hear its quiet whisper reminding you where you have been, and what you have done in a not-so-obvious-way, yet tugging at your heart strings.  Then, there are the moments when your past sneaks up on you, blind-sides you and depending on what it is, busts you in the face.  There was a particular morning last May when the past gave Brian and I a "bust you in the face" moment.  Up until this point, we had sat together on many occasions having candid, yet gentle conversations about the "what's next" for us.  I am not sure either of us were prepared for an email Brian received causing us to relive moments we were still healing from.  An email that could have caused a storm of furry or bring us together, even stronger than the day before.  After the initial shock, Brian looked at me and said, "What's next? What do we do?" I asked, "We respond?" to which he replied, "Yes, we will respond. We will respond together."  We spent time praying together, and then he left for work as I sat to write. To date, this particular letter was one of the hardest I have ever had to write, but one of the most therapeutic at the same time.  I was able to honestly pour my heart into a letter to someone I barely know, and I was able to share my story of redemption with someone who will never really understand the depths of what the Lord has done or the depths of deception I allowed in my life. Someone who will probably spend most of their life with a not so pleasant view of me, but I remind myself frequently that this person has a very narrow perception of a very intricate situation and their opinion of me does not define me.

Ephesians 5:13-14 say, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said, 'Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" This verse reminds me that bringing my darkness to light will bring Glory to a Christ who saved me!

So. . .what's next?  The past is there.  It will always be there.  BUT our God is in the business of redeeming for His glory.  I've already seen it in so many ways.  I don't know what exactly the next step is, but I am trusting in a God who found me lost deep in a dark place with no way out and brought me to the light...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Marriage God Redeemed (Part 3: You are More)

You are more than the choices that you've made
you are more than the sum of your past mistakes
you are more than the problems you create
you've been remade. .

I wanted to write more last week and share how amazing last Saturday night was.  The Holy Spirit completely took over as Brian and I shared our story.  I felt calm and confident in who God had made me and what He had brought us through.  I felt peace in knowing our story can help others.  We were overwhelmed with the loving response we received, and I spent all day Sunday on a "spiritual high." Monday was a different story.  I felt everything I have ever done tumble down on top of me.  Flashes of darkness invaded my mind.  Memories of pain. Visions of things I wish to forget.  I spent all week fighting a battle with myself.  

Then, someone posted THIS blog.  Her story is very different than mine, but it has impacted me in ways I can't explain.  The truth is, I did have to walk through the dessert to be all God wants me to be.  The Lord saw His plans for me on the other side of darkness.  Do I celebrate the choices I made, the dark path I took?  NO!  Do I celebrate I am redeemed, and I can now be who the Lord intended? YES! 

The chorus above from Tenth Avenue North was popular in April of 2011, and I clung to the words each and every time I heard it played.  My amazing husband would even text me, "you are more" at the perfect time.  Getting beat down by what I had done and where I had been would not bring Glory to God.  Rather, rejoicing in His remaking of me would impact HIS Kingdom in ways I have been privileged to see as well as in ways that are yet to come.  

I think back to who I was in my early twenties.  I was a girl who loved her God but was narrow and righteous in her ways.  I rarely saw past the surface of someone's pain.  I did not offer sincere compassion.  I was not a giver of grace.  Don't get me wrong, I was not cruel, but I was self-righteous and I liked my "Christian bubble." 

Today, I tell you that there is no story anyone could bring my way that I would not immediately offer them grace, understanding, compassion.  My focus is no longer that sin but rather what brought them to such a place and how can healing begin.  I want relationships that reach beyond "Sunday school level." I want to see Kingdom building be the outcome of every single story.  No matter how bleak it may seem.  

I don't think I would have ever described myself as arrogant, but I have to tell you, that is exactly what I was.  And Satan knew it.  He knew taking a mixture of my righteous arrogance, my trusting nature, my naive ways, and all my insecurities that he would create the "perfect storm." 

Brian and I were also arrogant.  We thought we had it all figured out. . .the problem was, we didn't and we left the door wide open for Satan to try to destroy us.  We allowed toxic people in our lives.  We stopped being intentional with one another.  We stopped focusing on Christ.  Satan was knocking at our door, and as much as it shames me to say, I am the one who answered.  I let him in. 

I praise God, though, that our story is about REDEMPTION.  WE ARE MORE! God had and has so much more planned for us.  That was not destroyed.  His plan is bigger, and I get to be a part of that plan. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Marriage God Redeemed. . .(Part 2: This is Where the Healing Begins)

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Today, I didn't run The Bridge, I didn't jog, I didn't even walk fast enough to keep a high pulse.  I set my Pandora to "Need to Breath Radio," and I prayed, worshiped and took the time to abide in the great healer of my broken soul. I praised Him for healing me, and I pondered the areas of my heart that still need His healing.  The places with bitter scars, the places of forgiveness for myself as well as others.  Others that will never care if I have forgiven them, but I need to because that is what God asks of me.  Forgiveness will lead to healing....God continuing His mighty healing in the soft spots of my heart.  

 I thought back to October, 4 years ago, and how Satan's plan was in its most early motions.  I was oblivious.  Still believing I was rooted in an unwavering faith but becoming more and more complacent, unintentional in my walk with every step I took.  I wasn't using the map and though the Lord was warning me and knocking at my heart, I couldn't hear Him because quite frankly I wasn't listening.  Rather, I allowed the lies to be louder and drowned out the Voice of Truth.  Lies telling me that change was a good thing.  That everyone kept me in a box. I grew anxious...

I thought back to October, 3 years ago, and how my heart was broken.  How I wasn't sure how I had gotten to such a dark, scary and lonely place.  How I hated who I saw in the mirror, and I wanted to feel worthy of love again.  I went through the motions of life.  I knew all the right things to say and do, but when I was alone, I cried in my brokenness.  I begged God to help me, but I did not repent. . .my prayers were from a heart that felt empty.  My husband tried to understand the place I was in. He tried to be a part of it. He did not understand the depths of my darkness. I loved him, and my heart hurt, but I pushed him away.  I was in the midst of a "season of Seduction" Beth Moore refers to in, "When Godly people do Ungodly Things." 

I thought back to October, 2 years ago.  Still such a broken soul, a fallen girl.  I sought comfort in all the wrong places hoping to find myself somewhere in the midst of it all, but my heart was not repentant.  The healing would not come as I hid in my darkness.  I continued through the motions, just as I had a year ago, but I pushed away love.  I was angry.  The pain was more than I could carry on my shoulders.  I wondered just how many cracks I could take before I would shatter into a million pieces.  I pushed my husband away. He saw my pain, but he was at a loss. I did not know it then, but he was praying for me just as the Prodigal son's father prayed for him to return.  He knew the roots of my heart would bring me home as long as he prayed with expectancy   

Finally, with great praise, I thought of October, 1 year ago.  Just 6 months earlier, I was brought to true repentance. I felt joy again. I felt the movement of my baby boy, a blessing of mercy inside my womb. I felt the full love of my husband again, and I felt worthy to receive it. I praised God for taking me back. I sought guidance in His Word. I felt comfort in the prayers of trusted friends. I felt
renewal in worship.  I vowed to make Satan sorry he messed with our family. Covered in grace, I was humbled knowing I did not have to walk with my head in shame.  I praised the Father, from whom all blessings flow every single day....a year later, I still do. My darkness met the light and the healing began.

***I wrote this yesterday, but I didn't post it. I didn't post it because I became concerned and overwhelmed with the people who read my blog and then gossip about me. People using their own conjecture to fill the gaps of my story. But today, The Lord reminded me why He has me blog. He reminded me that I'm fearing idle gossip from people who don't matter. He reminded me of His plan, and that He has my hand and wants me to walk boldly. So, here I am, vulnerable once again on the World Wide Web.

Finally, Brian and I would like to ask those of you praying for us for this coming Saturday night to pray specifically or our hearts and minds to be protected this week. We also ask that you pray if there is anything in our talk God would have us change that we would hear His voice and not resist Him. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Marriage God has Redeemed. . .(Part 1: The Courage to tell our story). . .

This coming Saturday night, Brian and I will stand in front of friends, acquaintances and strangers to tell the story of how God redeemed our marriage at an event at our church.  I sit here now, a mere six days before, filled with nervous excitement and a bit terrified as I wait in anticipation. I feel like the Lord has revealed to us exactly what and how much He wants us to share as we are now finalizing and polishing, but I am also unnerved as I feel the attacks of Satan.  That inner voice in my head telling me I don't have any business up on that stage.  I feel him making me tired and edgy.  I hear the darts telling me I will get up there and make a fool of myself, ironically with my rambling. You know what, he is right about one thing, I don't have any business up on that stage. . .that is, in my own power, but through the authority of God the Father and the blood of Christ, I am given the power to stand up and tell our story of grace. . .of restoration. . .of hope.

Our story has a beginning (young love), a middle, and what Satan wanted to be an end, but God has a bigger plan for us, and through Him, our marriage has been saved.  I walk in that everyday, and I savor the grace and mercy that was bestowed upon me.

I will update more during the week.  Asking for specific prayer requests and working through elements of our story in my own mind.  It always helps me to write things out.  Tonight, I remind myself that our story isn't about a fallen girl, it isn't about a wonderful man who perhaps grew complacent, it isn't about the power of either of them. . .our story is about a redeeming God.  For without Him, nothing could be explained, including and especially the birth of our baby boy.  I pray now for the people who will sit in the audience.  Telling our story in our home church will be difficult, and I pray they receive our story with compassionate hearts.  I pray it reaches everyone, no matter where they might be right now.  I pray they hear what God has done, not what Brian or I have done.  I pray they don't get bogged down by the details in a gossipy manner but rather they praise God for what He has brought us through.   I pray for anyone who believes their marriage to be perfect, just as we did just four years ago, and I pray specifically for them, that they don't tune-us-out thinking, "that could never be me." That, my friends, can be the scariest place of all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This Sure is the Good Life We're Livin'

It's been a long day, and I am at the end of my rope.  I still need to stop at Publix, and we have the drive from Mt. Pleasant to our house across town ahead of us.  I feel like a spaz- I feel weary- sure I look tired and unorganized to anyone I pass.

As we leave Hannah's Occupational Therapy appointment, we approach the elevator- me pushing the stoller with Wyatt unwilling to be pushed on my hip, my enormous diaper bag on one shoulder and Hannah at my side. We are met by a tall, slender blonde wearing a form fitting pencil skirt with a business style blouse perfectly pressed. I quickly note her red bottom shoes, also known as Louis Vuitton. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a pair of red bottom shoes.  Her hair is smooth, and her smile is sweet as we approach.  I don't think there was a flaw on her-she looked perfect, pulling behind her, a small case-I decide she is a pharmesutical sales rep.  I think of the ease and status associated with such a career- I think of what life would be like if I had decided to follow a career.

She makes polite small talk with us as we enter the elevator. The doors close, and I am left with the reflections of 2 women- both in their early thirties- with completely different lives, or so I presume.

I study the beautiful rep.  She isn't wearing a wedding ring.  In my imagination, she will pull away in her company-paid-for Acura after sending a few texts finalizing plans for sushi and drinks with friends. Her condo with a view awaits her as she runs in to freshen up from a day of work and to slide into designer jeans- everything inside her home perfectly in place. No laundry over flowing.  No dishes in the sink.  No homework left undone or toys to trip over.

I then look at myself- giving due credit. I am certainly not unfortunate looking.  I notice my hair could use a brush, though, thanks to the pace of the day and Wyatt grabbing for my sunglasses on top of my head.  I think how I am thankful on this particular morning, I found the time to straighten my hair- the carefree look is nice for those who are actually carefree- my personality doesn't match the beachy waves my hair falls to when diapers, bottles, and early mornings don't allow for more. I scan down- my pre baby body is, mostly, back but my style has changed.  My heals are retired for now, and my shirts smell of spit up.  That morning, I quickly grabbed the most comfortable jeans I could find. In the moment I look down to notice how badly I need a pedicure, Wyatt spits-up- I catch it in my hand and wipe it on my jeans. Did she just look at me with pity? Wyatt throws down his sippy cup.  Hannah picks it up for me. I wonder what this woman was making of my life in these moments.

The home awaiting me has a view of middle class suburbia. There will be no drinks and sushi tonight. Instead, I will face piles of laundry, dirty dishes, undone homework. I will pick up toys, cook dinner, and give baths. I am tired.

For the smallest second.  A second I am deeply ashamed of....I was jealous of her. Jealous of her life. Jealous that there were no tired circles under her eyes. Jealous her clothes looked neat and did not smell of spit up. Jealous, oh so jealous, of those red bottom shoes. Jealous of the life I created for her in my mind.

I think of that woman the entire ride home. I am embarrassed to admit, I fantasized what my life would be life like if Brian and I owned a condo with a view, and I had a career that warranted pencil skirts and sexy tops.

I get home to the mail---oh, the reality that is in the mail. Bills.  Discount ads.  Life.  Real life.

Wyatt screams as I place him on the living room floor in order to try and get Hannah's homework finished and dinner started.  I just need a break. 

I consider going to hide in my bedroom when...

The greatest part of the day arrives, and I hear the garage door go up signaling the greatest part of me is home.  As he walks in the door, I forget all about the woman. My heart overflows as he immediately picks up the screaming baby from the floor, kisses Hannah and walks over to place his arms around me. I realize there is no other life I could ever want. Not even the fantasy life I created for the beautiful rep.

There are moments I am tired. Moments when I wonder what life with 2 incomes would be like.
Moments when I forget I am a woman and feel like nothing but a mom. Moments where I want to scream because my inner perfectionist can't handle the mess that is life with kids.  Moments where I need to get out on the town and feel like a woman...just a woman, not mommy.

But. . .

There is no greater joy than being Wyatt and Hannah's mommy. I am reminded I am beautiful to them when my hair is a mess and my clothes are rumpled from a busy day. One day, I will miss the toys that clutter the house, and I will ache for the days of bedtime routine.  The Lord picked me for this very special role.  The status is greater than any career I could pursue, and the rewards are far more than red bottom shoes.

There will be days, I will briefly envy the woman in the elevator, but I am exactly where I'm
supposed to be- exactly where I want to be....

The next day, I let my hair flow natural, and I embrace every moment loving my two precious gifts forgetting the stresses, ignoring the mess.....