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A Purpose in the suffering

Some of you are going to be able to relate to my story, and some of you won’t. No matter which side of the coin you are on I hope this brings to light some of the very real and scary situations that a lot of Christian women find themselves in. If you are in a healthy Christian marriage and have no idea what I’m talking about, well I think that is wonderful and a true blessing! But chances are you rub shoulders with someone who is not so fortunate. So maybe this blog and some of the resources I will publish on here, will offer you some insight into how you can help those around you who are suffering, or at the very least understand them better.

Now for those of you on the other side of the coin…First let me say I am so sorry that you can relate. No one should ever have to experience ongoing abuse in their own home, at the hands of someone who promised to love you and take care of you. I am so sorry that you are experiencing pain, frustration, betrayal, confusion, anger and a loss of self.

My hope is to encourage you. To let you know that healing from abuse is possible. But I will be completely transparent, and say that only by the power and love of Jesus Christ, is full healing something you can accomplish. He is the only way you will find freedom for your Soul. I believe in trauma therapy, counseling and practicing self-care, but non of those things in and of themselves will truly set you free. When you submit yourself to Christ you will gain what has been lost. You will see your infinite value and beauty.

I will also say that I am not there yet. I am still stumbling through the recovery and healing process. I will probably say things here one week and a few weeks later have to backpedal as I learn new information or recognize a new trigger. But that’s ok. I believe that there is a lot of value in being vulnerable and honest about the process. When all we see is someone who has it all together after they experienced something truly evil, it creates guilt and shame in ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not being better at this healing thing, thinking that something must be wrong with us if it takes a long time to get past something. I am tired of feeling that way and I am tired of pretending. This is me, it is messy, confusing and sometimes down right aggravating. But as much as I want to share my struggles, to let you know you are not alone, I also want to share my triumphs. Because healing is a lot of work, and there will be a lot of little triumphs along the way that no one will ever see. And we deserve a high five or a way to go once in a while when we succeed in doing something seemingly trivial, like find a job after being a stay at home mom for a decade…

I promise to always validate and believe victims of abuse, your reality is valid. One of the first steps to healing is acknowledging that you are actually living with abuse or have been subjected to it in the past. I will be posting some helpful links on this subject to help you identify if your relationship is destructive or just difficult.

So I will share my suffering and share my healing. There can be beauty out of the ashes of life. God is not done with me yet and he is not done with you either.

There is nothing special about me. My story reads like countless others. I got married young, to a man I met at a Bible School, thought we would have a good and happy life together, only to be blindsided with substance abuse issues, other forms of addiction, intense control, manipulations, lies and the kind of treatment that leaves you feeling hopeless, worthless and turns you into a person you don’t even recognize. I became a shell of a person. I was not allowed to have needs, opinions or values. Through all of the years in this environment there was only one truth I was able to count on. Christ. I didn’t always feel close to him, or hear his voice, but I knew He was there with me. He is who rescued me and set my Soul free. And He can set you free as well.

Blessings over the Children

As a single parent you feel the weight of your child’s well being on a whole new level. And let me tell you, it is no walk in the park. I’m not just talking about their physical health and needs (which are significant and hard to manage, especially on a less than ideal budget), but their emotional, mental and spiritual needs as well. I can’t count the number of nights I have tossed and turned, anxious about my children’s state of mind, their fears, their struggles, their future. I know most parents feel this way about their kids, but as the only parent in your kids life, the weight of it falls on you alone, no partner to confide in, pray with, someone who feels the same burden for the babies in your home. The stress that this produces is profound. But in truth, we are not alone as single moms or dads. There is one who carries the burden with us, who wants to ease our anxiety and fears. He holds all things together and he is, really, the only one we can trust with our children.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. ” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

I think there are a few different things this passage can teach us but I’m going to focus on one that stood out to me today. The parents. The parents physically brought their children to Jesus. They not only brought them along, but they brought them specifically so Jesus could touch them and bless them. They did not go to Jesus seeking their own blessing. They were doing what good parents do. Seeking blessings over their children. What a show of faithfulness, of godly wisdom and of true faith! And Jesus not only blessed them, he held them in his arms. He could have just spoken a blessing over them, and sent them on their way. But instead, he took his time. He made sure that the children felt safe, cared for, loved. The picture in my head is beautiful. And I can so easily imagine myself as one of the mothers in the crowd, weeping with joy and relief because Jesus was holding my child and blessing him. I am not doing this alone! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

This weight of their spiritual well being just got a little lighter. I have brought my children to Jesus since the time of their conception. I have spent many hours in prayer of them. I have wept many tears and prayed passionate pleas for their safety, both physically and emotionally. And those tears, those words, those feelings of helplessness were not ignored. They were received by the one who loves them even more than I do. Jesus has held my babies in his arms, he holds one of them now up in heaven with him. He has carried them through dark times and he has spoken encouragement to their little hearts in the night. He has blessed them with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and has promised to never leave or forsake them. He has claimed them and they have claimed Him. I hope this thought brings some encouragement to all the moms and dad’s out there that are doing this on their own. That this picture of a parent sacrificing their own blessing so that their children will be blessed rings true for you. What greater gift can we give our children? What safer place to take them? And what greater legacy for your family, than to teach them to love others this way?

I know my kids will still suffer hardship, and in truth, that is a good thing. Hardship teaches us dependence on the only one who can really satisfy our hearts desires. My kids will still carry some pain and misconceptions from their childhood into their adulthood, because we all do. But they will not walk alone. They have been held and touched by Jesus. They have his blessing on their heads. God will provide wisdom for the parent who seeks it, strength when we are weak, patience and joy in the journey. Now, weary mother, you can rest.

The struggle with singleness

Have you ever been so torn about something in your life that you just want to scream? Like on a consistent basis? That’s how I have been feeling for the last couple of years. You see, I enjoy being single. And I hate it.

I got married very young, so I didn’t have very much experience in being a single Christian woman. While I experienced loneliness at times as a teenager, and also while married, it pales in comparison to the loneliness one feels after divorce (or becoming a widow). The intensity of it can take your breath away, it makes your muscles ache and your heart feel like it wants to bury itself. I have never experienced anything so tangibly sorrowful.

While I dipped my toe, very briefly, back into the dating world my first year of being single, I quickly realized how unprepared I was for the new relationship step. Not to mention that dating in you mid thirties with kids in the picture, in this day and age is not an easy task!!! My fears and anxieties of being controlled again, deceived, abused or of losing my sense of self were so strong that I quickly recoiled. I could write many many stories or paragraphs about what that quick stint in the dating scene taught me or what it is that I long for in a relationship. I think my time would be better spent on where I am now.

This month I have been investing significant time in trauma therapy which uses muscle testing and tapping and rapid eye movement, but most importantly prayer and scripture. Through this therapy I have learned how to name sexual trauma that has happened to me, released shame that I have carried around since I was 18 related to said trauma (this is before the marital abuse) and taken steps to rewire my thinking. One area that needed re wiring is in regard to singleness. I have been wrestling with this for some time because of my split feelings on the issue. On one hand I hate it but on the other hand I actually enjoy it. For some reason my heart of hearts truly believes that if I am single for a long time it proves that I am unlovable, not worth loving or even despised. So I had to confess this wrong thinking this week. I had to cry and pray and be willing to let God’s voice ring true in my heart. Singleness right now is a gift to me. It is Jesus caring for my heart. I need this time. And when I am honest I want it too. But that makes me weird right? Who in their right mind wants to be single? Everywhere you turn there is the message that you should be in a relationship. That being single is sad and pathetic. What a lie that is! Look at the apostle Paul and what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:28, 34-35

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. …An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs, her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of the is world, how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Paul was not saying that being married is bad, on the contrary, God created marriage and rejoices in a godly union, but what Paul is saying is that being single isn’t bad either. Both are good, both are hard. And maybe the work that God has for me during this time requires my full attention, not one that is divided.

My heart longs for God, for his presence, his fullness, his love. I don’t believe that this season will last forever, I do believe that when the time is right God will bring someone into my life who will honor me and most importantly honor God, but in the meantime I can stop fretting, stressing or worrying about who it might be or when it might be. And THAT means freedom. I feel free to be myself, to take care of my kids and work hard and not worry about when or where I might meet someone. I can let go of my self condemning voice who screams that soon I’ll be too old to find love again. I am not a naïve 19 year old anymore, I understand the complexity of relationships and how hard it would be to blend two families or how to trust someone to parent my kids along side me. I understand that the butterflies of a new relationship fade over time and marriage is hard. I understand that even though my experience was not so, marriage can be beautiful. Maybe one day I will get to see that for myself, but for now I am going to be thankful for my singleness.

I will keep praying that God would comfort me when the loneliness hits, because while I think this singleness is a gift, it does not take away the physical ache of wanting to be held from time to time. And to be honest I really just miss having a good guy friend. I grew up a tomboy, I always had guy friends. Then I got married and obviously gave up male friendships, but now I am in this boat of really wanting just a male friend and have no idea about how to achieve such a thing without giving off the wrong idea. So I guess for now I will hang tight. After all I have been blessed with some pretty amazing girlfriends, not to mention a whole family who loves me and bring me joy.

So I will pray that in all things, in all seasons of life, I will be content and trust the Lord to make me feel whole and complete in Him.

Letting go of who the world expects me to be, and embracing who God created me to be!

Proceed with caution

Just a few weeks ago I was feeling on top of the world, like nothing could bring me down. Now….well, not so much. I promised you at the beginning of this blog that I would be honest about the healing journey. That it would be up and down. I promised to be authentic and genuine, not pretend like all is well when it is not. It is so easy these days to feel inferior, to feel like there is something inherently wrong with you because all you see is people on social media with their lives in tact. You see smiles and beautiful families and vacations and romance and obedient children and all the highlights of peoples lives. You see people who have overcome great pain but you don’t see the process of overcoming that pain. So you think, why is it taking me so long to heal? Why am I such a mess? What is wrong with me? Well, I am no expert, and I don’t know you….but I’ll wager that there is nothing wrong with you. Pain and trauma take a long long long time to heal and they do not generally go away on their own. There is pretending to be ok and then there is actually doing the work to become ok. It is messy. It is up and down, it is exhausting. And trauma is not generally understood by the people in your life, unless they have gone through it themselves. This can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings and frustrations on both ends as you navigate the healing process. But it can also draw you closer to someone, teach you patience, build trust and help you build a new foundation for your life.

About 3 weeks ago I had a rough day. I was turned down for a loan (thanks ex who won’t pay child support), lost the chance at getting our own place (thanks Colorado for overpriced cost of living), was turned down for a date, and was told my kids couldn’t go back to school for the foreseeable future (thanks Covid). That was one day. I felt crushed, angry, fearful, rejected and so so alone. But more than that one day was what was coming, what I felt brewing in my chest. God was not done with me yet. There is more for me to overcome, more healing to take place. And I knew I wouldn’t like it.

While I have worked through so much of the narcissistic abuse and forgiven my ex for so many hurts, there has always been this lingering trauma, deep down in the recesses of my mind that I did not want to address, did not feel brave enough, or strong enough to tackle. I prayed it would just go away. I prayed that it would heal on it’s own over time. But that is not how trauma works. Especially sexual trauma. Can I just say that even writing those two words took me forever.

I have mentioned the sexual abuse before to my counselor, to close friends, even written tiny bits about it, but always in a very detached kind of way. It was just a fact, it was not a feeling. I was almost laughing about it. But now my cptsd has flared up big time and I find myself having panic attacks. jumping between hypervigilance and numbness. Staring at yogurt in the grocery store, completely frozen and not able to process what I am looking at. Or being too afraid to go to sleep because I don’t want the nightmares to return.

Sexual trauma is considered by the experts to be right in line with war time combat trauma. It imprints the brain in a significant way. Often it gets buried so deeply in the recess of you mind that you don’t even remember it. But your body keeps the score. Read “your body keeps the score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Well, I remember. I have 15 years of sexual abuse to remember. Now I have to work through all the confusion and the questions. Fighting him did not work, I tried. I tried reasoning with him, I tried pleading, I prayed. Eventually I gave up fighting. Because dealing with the consequences of “disrespect” was worse. Nothing has ever made me feel less human, less valued, less respected or less hopeless than those moments. The physical pain was nothing compared to the heart pain.

Images, memories flood my brain. Fear grips my heart, as if the events were happening right now, not a couple of years ago or in some cases 15 years ago. In the last few weeks I have learned that my body is suffering in significant ways because of the sexual trauma that has not been properly processed or released. I am in physical pain every day, my weight has jumped up 50lbs in two years despite my exercise and eating habits barley changing. The cortisol from stress and living in hypervigilance is producing side effects I had no idea would be so damaging. Basically my body is on constant alert for danger and feels like I have no control over my own body or my world. I have had times of feeling more safe, times of relaxing and self care. But as soon as something triggers or alerts that part of my brain that is storing the sexual trauma, all hell brakes loose. Adding the pandemic and all the challenges and stress of that to the healing process has been almost more than I can handle.

Thankfully I am not completely unaware of what is happening. I have tackled ptsd before, I have processed a lot of pain before, so I will put on my big girl panties (literally, haha) and face this.

My heart is determined to make 2021 my year for health. And I’m not just talking about the weight, because that is not the most important thing, but my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. I am investing in therapy and EMDR and chiropractic care. I am taking all the vitamins and supplements. am exercising in a way that won’t hurt my body, I am staying hydrated and taking mental breaks to do things that bring me joy, like playing the piano or painting. I am going to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Books on mental health will be read, my quiet time with Jesus will continue to start my days, and my kids will be homeschooled to give them some sense of stability in this crazy time. I have never been one to make big new years resolutions, and when I have they are usually given up by February, so I am not calling this a new years resolution. This is just my time. Time to become a whole person again. Time to restore what has been stolen from me. I am scared of failing but I am more scared of not trying.

Most of all, I will try and give myself some grace. I will try and be kind to myself, to speak gently to my heart and remember how far I’ve come. I will try and be patient and stop hating my body and my shame and my weakness. I will be thankful for how hard my body has had to work to survive. I will cry all the tears that I had held in for so many years and I will work hard at not being embarrassed about what has happened, recognizing that I had no real control over it.

And I will cling to His promise “being confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. ” Philippian1:6

Withholding no good thing…

Sometimes God’s goodness towards me takes my breath away. I have consistantly found that when I leave something in his hands and stop trying to manipulate it or make it happen on my own, he exceeds all expectation.

I moved out away from the town I love, the people I love, because of the hardship of living in a small town with an ex who was determined to stalk, threaten and harass me (and also because of this tiny thing called a pandemic and stay at home orders). It felt like a loss, a defeat, to leave. But God has used that surrender to bring about so much peace, so much good. I have gained so much by losing what I was clinging to.

The other day while journaling, I found myself wanting to complain about just how hard and awful this year 2020 has been. And then I decided to turn it around and find 20 good things about this year. I found 21 🙂

Because with every hardship I faced, I saw God’s hand weaving something for my good. What seemed like the lowest moments, he brought forth something fruitful.

A possible job loss because of relocation turned into an opportunity to work from home and be able to navigate the kids ever changing schedules. It has also given me the opportunity to expand my own business and add new skills/services to my resume. Who knew becoming a traveling Notary Public would be something to come out of the Pandemic?

All the pain and anxiety of dealing with the courts, lawyers and legal advisers turned into being capable of representing myself in court and fight for the wellbeing of my boys. Two years of navigating visitations and the emotional abuse my sons and I had to endure, has now turned to supervised visits WHEN the children request it. That is so far beyond what I had dared hope.

Losing my home, moving in with my parents, has turned into building up my savings, getting much needed rest and now the opportunity to buy a home for my family (still in the process of applications and whatnot but things are looking promising). I never thought I would be in a position to be able to buy a house as a single mom. Never. But again, God has exceeded my limited expectation and has shown me his love and his character.

Giving up all child/spousal support this year in exchange for the boys safety and well being has led to God providing a raise, increased work and a freedom I was not expecting.

I know hard times are still ahead of me. I know trials will continue to come. But I think the difference between now and a few years ago, is that I can see and fully trust God’s heart towards me. All those years of living in fear and pain were not wasted years. They built in me the courage, perspective, faith and grit I would need to face the challenges ahead. They also reaffirmed that being faithful to the Lord has far greater rewards than anything this world has to offer.

God has been revealing to me his faithfulness. When I truly let go and trust him, He knocks my socks off. So now when I start getting anxious thoughts (about money, dating, boys becoming teenagers, finding community….) I remind myself that God likes to exceed my expectations. And I get excited about how he is going to do so! The kind of peace that brings to my heart is so so good. I do not need to fret or try so hard, he’s got this.

“For the Lord is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor, no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. ”

Psalm 84:11-12

Cling to what is good….Part One

Sometimes you have to be willing to dig through the mud to find something worth holding on to.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud., but be willing to associate with people of low position.” Romans 12:9-16

If you are looking for a guide on how to live a godly and fulfilling life, this passage is it in a nutshell.

Cling to what is good. God is good. Gratitude is good. Hope, love, faith are good. Forgiveness and selflessness are good. When I hear the word “cling” I think of a baby chimp hanging on to his mother. Trusting her to take him where he needs to go, keeping him safe and warm. He has to cling on to her because she is using her arms and legs to keep moving. God is moving, we have to cling to him. We have to choose Him. You have to cling to Him as if your life depends on it, because it does. Because darkness is constantly trying to steal the good. And too often we let it.

Can I just say that “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer” is becoming my new anthem? I often find myself skeptical of hope, impatient and angry in affliction and impassioned in prayer. Am I alone in this? I don’t think I am. I see/hear it all the time around me. People have a hard time clinging to good.

I want to be joyful in hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 1:19) I had so many years of false hope, hope for a change that would never happen. So when I started my new life, I shied away from hope. I didn’t dare hope for anything beyond surviving. I couldn’t bring myself to hope for financial stability, for resolution from my past, for a true and godly love from a man. Hope hurt too much. But now I feel the stirrings of hope building up in me again. And it is bringing me joy, because I am seeing God’s heart for me. He could do “just enough” to help me survive. He could be hands off and let me do my own thing, but he isn’t. He hears my silent tears in the night. He answers my prayers in such a way that makes me feel more cared for than I have ever felt in my life. I have learned to be specific and detailed in my prayers but also holding everything up to him with open hands and praying for His will because I have seen that His way benefits not only myself but those around me as well. This last year He has continually given me a way to provide for my kids. It is a responsibility that I never thought I would have, to be the breadwinner of our family, and it is a mighty hard task for someone who with no education to speak of. But he is faithful in his care for us. I am joyful in my hope for a home of our own one day! And while I am quite content (most of the time) as a single woman, I am finally willing to “tentatively” hope for someone to share my life with. Of course this is the most complicated part of my healing and therefor my hope is often challenged by fear and self doubt and just a dash of “Hell no!” Kidding, but not really…. But that is why I am surrounded by good friends who so kindly remind me that not all men are life sucking predators, lol. So I will bite my lip and try to hope for better than I believe is really out there for me.

Patient in affliction-ummm hello 2020….I am defiantly not alone when I say that this year has been one of affliction. I can’t even go into all the hell that this year has let loose but I can say that I have not always been patient in it. I just want it to end. I want schools to be open and normal. I want to be able to shake peoples hands and give hugs (yes even in public!!!). I want us to be able to see each others faces and smiles. I want to not be worried about riots and hate and division. I just want something to feel consistent and stable. But we are told to be patient. So I will turn my eyes on the Lord and wait patiently for him. I will try and be flexible with the ever changing landscape of this life and be grateful for what we have. Affliction is not the end. It is a great teacher though. Through affliction I have learned compassion, resilience and the power of forgiveness. Patience is not learned without inconvenience or affliction.

Faithful in prayer. My favorite part of this passage, maybe because it is the one I don’t struggle with so much, haha. Prayer is a healing balm to my soul. It gives me energy and passion and drive. Prayer is an all day every day kind of thing. Sometimes it’s what my grandma Betty used to call “pop corn prayers” because life as mom is busy and fast and draining so all we can manage is quick “help me Jesus” prayer. Often its an hour long conversation with my maker while on a hike or walk. Sometimes its what lulls me to sleep as I lay my burdens down at his feet at night. Whatever prayer looks like for you, the goal is to be faithful in it. Not to only remember to pray when big hard things are in front of you. Being faithful in prayer means fighting for others who need support, who maybe can’t fight for themselves at the time. Prayer is going to war against the unseen with a mighty weapon. Prayer is a release of pretense and a time when you know you can truly be who you are and say what you really think and knowing that God loves you anyway. Prayer is the front line of the battlefield. I am sure to have drawn some funny glances from people who pass by me when I’m out on my prayer walks. My arms moving, talking out loud, usually a few tears on my face, sometimes singing and yes even dancing a little (if you can call what I do dancing, my kids would probably challenge that definition). The point is that faithful prayer warriors are vital, we need all the warriors we can get in this crazy, unpredictable world. So be a warrior.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Yes Jesus, let it be so.

Submission

This word makes me cringe. It makes a flood of emotions run through my brain, my heart and my spirit. A ball of conflicting thoughts rage within. I have always believed in submission. As a child of God we must submit our will to His. I get that. I have lived that. As a wife I believed I had to submit to my husband. It is what good Christian girls are taught. And abusive “Christian” men learn to use as a weapon.

This weekend I was really wrestling with the Lord about this subject. I panic when I think of being in a relationship with a man (not that there is anything on the horizon at this point) for many reasons, but this idea of submission is definitely at the top of my panic buttons. Let me explain what submission in an abusive marriage looks like.

Submission meant I had no say in my own life. It meant I had to bend, twist and hide in order to be “in line” with his expectations. If I refused his advances at any time, I would get scripture quoted at me to submit. It did not matter if I was in pain, had just given birth, was about to have my appendix burst, was grieving a loss, or any other reason, if I refused him I was an ungodly, rebellious, unloving, disrespecting wife. Even if I had the courage to refuse, he used force. So I submitted.

Submission meant lying for him. Lying to his boss or employees about why he was not at work, lying to the state about his sobriety when driving, lying to friends and family about his addictions, his abuse. If I refused or dared speak up, I was not being a good wife. I would get punished. So I submitted.

Submission meant never talking about the pain he caused me. It meant taking all the responsibility in the brokenness of our relationship. It meant not being allowed to challenge his ultimate god-given authority over me. After all I am the weaker vessel right? So I submitted.

Submission meant that as parents, He is right, I am wrong. That if he yells, cusses, hits our children it is his right to do so. If I dared get in the way of that, well it’s time to call the pastor and set me straight. I was ruining the children’s chances of becoming “real men” if I got in his way. He is the head. I am to follow. So I submitted.

I am sure I could think of many other ways that submission played a role in our marriage, but this gets the point across, right? My issues with submission in a nutshell. So the very idea of ever getting remarried, causes fear, rebellion, anxiety to well up inside of me. Never again will I submit to a man! That is what my heart screams! Even when I am lonely and wrestle with my own desires and dreams of a happy family….

And then, God whispers to my very broken heart. When I ran away from my husband, I was submitting myself to Christ. I was following His voice, His calling, His will. For the first time in 15 years I was willing to obey Christ more than my husband. It was not God’s plan for me to submit to an ungodly marriage. A marriage that mocked God. That is not the submission God had in mind when he commanded wives to submit to their husbands.

A godly man would not demand submission to himself and his every desire at the cost of his wife’s spirit. A godly man would encourage a deeper relationship with Christ and lead by example. A godly man would lead a life in submission to his savior, and would therefore encourage me to do the same. A godly man would take responsibility for himself and recognize his head of household position as a privilege and a responsibility to live in righteousness. A godly man would not use scripture to punish, guilt or ridicule his wife, all the while living in complete disobedience to scripture himself.

A godly man. Not a perfect man. Not incapable of selfishness, mess ups and causing pain. But a godly man who fixes his mess ups, who apologizes for the pain, who ultimately knows how to empathize and show compassion. A man who continually seeks the Lord, seeks spiritual growth and loves his wife the way Christ loves his church.

So maybe I can finally be at peace when I think of that word. Maybe there will be such a man for me who can restore my faith in the idea of a godly marriage, and maybe there won’t be. I am ok either way, because I KNOW that I am living my life in submission to Christ and His will for me. I KNOW that I am doing the best I can with what this life has given me.

I can submit to Jesus. He has carried me, he has loved me, he has provided for me. He is my heart, my song, my strength, it is an honor and a privilege to submit to him.

Homesick

You know that feeling of familiarity? It is comforting and warm. It can be anything from a homecooked meal to the scent of your grandmothers perfume. It can be something wonderful like a place, a person, an item or a meal, but it can also be something dangerous and toxic. Familiar is not always good.

For so many years my heart and my body were in a state of chaos. Conflicting emotions, an unstable and hostile environment, anxiety was my closest friend. But what took a while to understand since being free, is that this chaos was actually comfortable to me in that it was familiar. I knew how to survive in it. I knew how to live with the certainty that I was going to get hurt. Even with all the pain, at least I knew what to expect. It was familiar. I wish people would understand this about victims of abuse. Sometimes it is hard for us to get past the hurdle of leaving our abuser because it has become our only sense of security. It is the only familiar thing in our lives. Chaos. We don’t know how to exist with out it.

Women who come out of or are trying to come out of an abusive relationship can be misunderstood as hysterical or crazy. They don’t make sense in a world where everyone else exists in relative calm and logical thinking. They might not be able to see past the scary idea of being on their own because they no longer know who they are without the abuser. Their world does not make sense without the gaslighting, accusations, doubt, threats or the constant pit of fear in their stomachs. There is a sense of guilt, shame and doubt when they step out on their own, this takes a very long time to overcome.

Victims of abuse, especially long term abuse, need constant affirmation that they are doing the right thing. That they are loved, that they are capable of making a new life for themselves. They need the wisdom of a good trauma therapist, they need financial help, practical help, and lots of time to process everything. They need to not feel rushed to “get over it” or “move on” or “just forgive”. They don’t believe in themselves, they desperately need others to believe in them and walk with them through all the murky waters of healing. It can be exhausting walking along someone like this. I should know, I exhausted a few friends to the point of no return. I don’t blame them, it is a long weary road. It takes incredible patience, love and a willingness to be repetitive and constant for someone who is suffering with CPTSD or other trauma related issues. I am eternally grateful for my tribe of friends and family who have so patiently walked this path with me.

But, while to road to healing is long and seemingly impossible, you eventually start to see little pieces of hope. And as always, I want to focus on that hope because it is all that really matters.

Normally, whenever I have to return to my hometown for the children’s visitations with their dad, I get a knot in my stomach. The whole weekend is filled with anxiety, fear of running into him, fear of him stalking me, fear of what he will do or say. A flood of mixed memories fill my mind. Some memories so sweet, like birthing my two babies or going on incredibly beautiful hikes…but more often the memories of crying myself to sleep next to a drunken man who had threatened to take my children from me, or memories of being called names and being monitored at all times take over. His voice in my head my constant companion.

But this weekend, for the first time in a very very long time, I drove up to my little mountain town and experienced no anxiety. Instead I felt homesick. Homesick for the friends and the town that I have loved for nearly 20 years. For once, my abuser was not in the forefront of my mind. He was a blimp on the map. I am finally able to see him for what he is. A coward and a bully. While he had me believe for so long that he was powerful and smarter/better than me, I now (finally) see the truth. His power was instilling fear and knowing how to inflict pain to my soul. His power was words and threats. But I have taken that power away from him now. I have proven that I will not back down when it comes to protecting my sons. I have proven that he does not determine my worth. He no longer has power over me.

I can’t believe it has taken almost 2 years to get to this point. Two years that have felt like an eternity. Two years of constant hard work and therapy and tears.

Sometimes his words still hurt, and his voice is still very strong in my head, but I am free from the fear.

So this weekend I got to actually miss my home, yet truly know in my heart that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The boys and I needed a fresh start, a new home. We need my family around us. We did the right thing by moving away, I am just thankful that we still get to go back every once in a while, and from now on I will be able to focus on the good memories made there.

The place where both my sons accepted Christ and we baptized, the place I went to bible school, the place I have met some of the most amazing people, the place I found a job, the place I have hiked for endless miles, the place I came face to face with God’s goodness.

See the Battle

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

For the last several weeks, there has been a battle going on in my home. I have been mentally and emotionally exhausted from the constant fighting, arguing, policing of my two sons. I know all siblings fight, I know boys can be extra destructive and aggressive at times. This was not that. I am overwhelmed with working from home while trying to parent and navigating the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren. I am anxious about the school year, knowing it will be unlike any other before it. I am angry at the powers that be who are dictating what school will be allowed to look like, with so little consideration for those who do not have the option to homeschool full time. I am frustrated with child support checks that either don’t show up at all or bounce after I deposit them. My life feels like a battleground, because it is. But this is not just a battle against hard circumstances.

We are in a spiritual battle. It is all around us, all the time. Sometimes it fades into the background and you hardly even notice it, other times we are on the frontlines and have to fight for our survival.

I should have seen this recent battle coming. After all, I did just have a victory a few weeks ago.

As I stood in that courtroom, with as much bravery and courage I could muster, I fought for my children. I fought for their safety and protection. God stood with me. Truth was seen and heard by the court. It was denied/minimized by the abuser, but in the end we had victory! Now there are court orders in place to protect my babies. Their visitations are reduced to once a month and must be under the eyes of a supervisor. Hallelujah praise the Lord! Relief washed over our household. Joy with grief all mixed together, for this is just not how life is supposed to be.

But victories always bring new battles in the spiritual realms. The dark forces of this world will stop at nothing to try and devour and destroy God’s children. The wounds inflicted onto my sons cut deep. The constant rejection they face from their own father, the lies and manipulations they have to navigate confuse and anger them. Is it any wonder my home is fraught with tension and emotional outbursts and sibling conflict? Is it any wonder that anxiety has taken root? Am I really surprised by this?

When I take my eyes off of Christ, even for a moment, my world starts sinking. All I can see is the darkness, the depression that is trying to steal one son, the anger that is trying to burn the other. All I can feel is scared for their futures. All I can think is how I have failed them, how I should have protected them sooner, better. Will they turn out like their father? Will addictions and entitlement rule their lives? Will they understand and live by God’s word, full of empathy and convictions? Will they end up entrenched in a Narcissistic Personality Disorder from which there is little hope of recovery?

Tears have flown freely, almost daily, for weeks. But yesterday my perspective changed. In the midst of the fight to survive, I forgot about the spiritual forces at war. This battle is not about the children just not loving each other enough. It is not about feeling insecure about the future. It is about Satan not wanting us to have victory. It is about Him trying to steal our hope our focus. It is about His lies and manipulations trying to overtake us. As long as he can keep us distracted, he wins. Distracted followers of Christ are ineffective for the kingdom.

Realization of this hit me like a ton of bricks as I was driving the kids to their various appointments. We stopped everything and prayed together. I reminded the children who the real enemy is here. It is not each other, the government, the virus, or even their father. The enemy is Satan, who makes no secret of his contempt for us, his relentless pursuit of us. Each child repented for sinful behavior, asked for God’s protection and forgiveness. I repented for taking my eyes off the truth and letting myself become distracted. We prayed against the forces of depression, addiction, hopelessness, anger and fear. It was as if my compass got restored and my life came into perspective again. After our prayers, a calm came over us. My frustrations at them dissipated. The rest of the day went much much smoother. I am amazed at how quickly I feel disoriented, scared and angry when I take my eyes off the real battle, even for just a few weeks or even days.

I am praying that our eyes stay open, that our hearts stay engaged and encouraged. The battles raging against Christianity, against morals, against unity are in full swing all around the world. Hate seems to be escalating, chaos is abounding. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, disgusted and scared when we see all this evil in the world. But I challenge you, to see the real battle. This is a battle for peoples souls. We are to be a light in the world of darkness. How can we be a light if we are too distracted from God’s word, God’s truth. How can we be a light if we let fear reign? See the forces at work, see the way distraction from Christ derails your sense of peace. See the real battle….after all we are fighting along side the one who already has claimed the victory! And that alone is reason for hope, joy and peace.

A Field of Hope

A field, covered in rich dark soil, ready for a life of beauty and color. Seeds of wildflowers sprinkled into the dirt, watered, bathed in sunlight, begin to grow.

The flowers begin their  journey of rising to the surface. The water in the ground feeds the roots and give the plants strength. Finally, the flowers reach their faces to the sun,  blooms beginning to open as they feel the warmth of the light. Rejoicing in their potential and hoping to share their joy with the world.

While the flowers anticipate the warmth and glory of blooming, other plants start to appear close by. The flowers, unsuspecting, welcome the plants as friends, hoping to share the warmth with them. The flowers, full of love to give, give too much. The weeds grow too close, they loom over the flowers, blocking the sun and it’s warmth. They steal the water from the ground and create a dark shadow over the flowers.

The flowers try to reason with the weeds, to reassure them that there is enough space for all of them to grow and flourish. The weeds mock the flowers and their beauty, calling them weak and insignificant. They thrive as they deplete the flowers of all hope and joy, all color and luster for life.

Soon the field is covered in weeds, chocking out any life besides it’s own.  Overtaking, overgrowing, delighting in their cleverness and strength.

But the farmer sees the field and burns with anger at the weeds. He has compassion on the flower and longs to see it’s beauty.

Diligently, carefully, he gets on his knees and pulls the weeds out from the soil. He removes one at a time, being careful to not let any seeds fall between his fingers.

He smooths out the soil and waters the flowers, encouraging them to not give up. He speaks to the flowers, in a gentle, kind voice.

Timid and afraid, shaken and broken, the flowers resist at first. They cower and refuse to look into the light, ashamed at their weakness, ashamed of their colorless blooms and wilted leaves. Still the farmer tends to them. Nothing but love is poured out over them. Slowly, meekly, the flowers turn their faces to the voice. They drink in the farmers words and soak up his water.

Little by little they gain strength, the color returns to their blossoms. They dare to hope for a joy they had once had, a joy that had vanished in the shadows.

The farmer, is vigilant in his protection over his flowers, yet weeds continue to try and take root, they threaten to overtake the field while promising to change and share the space.

But now, girded with love and truth, the flowers resist the weeds. They do not cower or shake or give over their field. They have overcome the shadows, they have seen the goodness of the farmer and put their trust in His provision. They keep their faces pointing towards the sun, knowing that the sun is their strength, their courage and their life.

The farmer has given the flowers everything they need to flourish, bloom, and bring joy to the world. What once was  field of darkness, is now a field of beauty. A field of hope.

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

(For those of you who didn’t pick up on the imagery…. The field is life, new life, filled with wonder and hope. The flowers are your soul, your heart, your mind. The Sun is Christ, who gives strength and warmth. The weeds are lies, toxic people ripping you down, the farmer is God the Father, protecting and providing. The water is the Holy Spirit, nurturing, guiding, refreshing your soul. )

A teepee, a fire, a smile

Firsts…my life over the last 20 months keeps revolving around this word. Every time I embark on something new, I think, this is a first for me as a single Mom. Sometimes the firsts are so scary and intimidating that I freeze up, unsure of what my next step should be. Some first surprise me with joy and a feeling of “I’ve got this!”. And other firsts leave me weeping because life as a parent should never have to be done alone.

This week is full of firsts. I have been working so much and have been busy with relocating us, fighting an ugly custody battle and trying desperately to find friends for my boys in our new home, that my boys have been missing me, even though I have been working from home, the stressed out version of mommy they have been getting is not cutting it. So I made a plan. We might not have a lot of money right now, but that does not mean we can’t take a little vacation.

And tonight, as I am laying in a huge Teepee in South Dakota, my boys snuggled by my side, all of us smelling of campfire and sticky s’mores, I smile.

I smile when I think of our road trip that entailed no road rage, angry music or cussing. No anxiety in our stomachs, just lots of worship music, chatter and junk food. I smile at the memories we just made visiting long time friends on their ranch in Nebraska. Riding horses and ATV’s, going turtle hunting, lighting fire crackers, watching 8 children laugh and play late into the night. I smile at being able to provide my sons with education about the presidents as we visit Mt. Rushmore, seeing them be more impressed by the huge ice cream cones than the marvelous sculpting of our forefathers. Kids just allowed to be kids.

I smile at the excitement they had about camping just the three of us, eager to help me set up, even more eager to jump into the pool. With big eyes and huge smiles they keep thanking me for the “best vacation ever!” when all I can think is that it is so little. It has been a good reminder that what they really treasure is time with me. Time uninterrupted.

I am thankful they don’t see that my nights have been fitful and my thoughts often consumed with how and when to file the modified parenting restrictions against my Ex. The tear filled conversations with lawyers and counselors as I try and navigate this next week. They are not concerned with what next weekend with their dad will look like, at least not yet. For this I am grateful.

So bring on the firsts! My first road trip as a single parent. My first time visiting friends that had been good friends to both my ex and I, my first time reaching out and visiting with my Ex’s relatives as we pass through their neck of the woods, my first time taking the kids camping on my own. My first time going into a old gold mine (had to swallow some claustrophobia!!!) because the boys were so excited to see a real mine and get to do some panning! First time panning for gold with the boys and getting just as excited as them when we collected tiny bits of gold dust. Let’s face it, little boys are a lot of fun and always up for adventure!

I don’t always love firsts, often times I truly hate them. But today, this week, I am thankful for them. They remind me that this life is good. That God has got us in his palm, and He knows what we need. I will always remember this first. I will remember all of these firsts over the last year and a half, because they have shaped me. They have encouraged me to keep going. They have shown me that I need not be so afraid, that I am stronger than I think I am and that as long as my eyes on on Jesus all is well with my soul. No enemy can steal what I have built between myself and my boys. The bond is stronger than I ever could have imagined and their love for me and for each other (while not always evident in their bickering) is deep. I have watched them play and laugh and yes fight a little as well, but also encourage, help and support each other these past few days especially on Fathers day when they both felt that deep cut of not having a good and loving earthly father.

I smile, even though I am exhausted from driving, lugging all the suitcases and bags around, planning every meal, snack, route and activity….I even smile when I realize that they kids left their scooters back in Nebraska and we will have to make a detour back home to pick them up. I love these boys and all of their craziness. And I am thankful that God is allowing me to experience these firsts, but mostly I am grateful that He is walking through them with me. Because with out him there would have never even been a first step in the right direction.