Dear Single Mom

I’ll never forget the day I opened up the door to a lady handing me a large yellow envelope.

My throat went dry. “Is this what I think it is?” I asked quietly.

She nodded her head as she studied my face, and tears filled her eyes before she turned and silently walked away.

The day I looked over those complicated divorce papers was the D-Day of my life.

So I’m here to tell you, single mom, that you’re not alone and I get it. For me, you don’t have to appear brave when you need to cry. It’s honestly okay to be a wreck for awhile.

I get the nausea that won’t allow you to eat.

I get eating whatever goes down, when it goes down, even if it’s not nutritious.

I get the sudden survival mode that kicks in for your babes as you start working hard to provide for them.

I get the mom guilt that makes you try to over-compensate for a father’s absence by filling in all the gaps– and I get the resulting exhaustion that makes you love bedtime more than any other time of day.

I get how painful it is when you run to the grocery store the night before Thanksgiving and see the girl who replaced you, also out purchasing groceries, for the man you used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for.

I get the struggle of forgiveness and the confusion of what that even looks like when you feel all the tension rise one more time in the face of such oddities.

I get the pain of holidays, where you give up the parties you used to throw—then decide to throw them anyway because you’re finally seeing that life can go on and you can still do the things you love, and your friends love you just as much as before.

I get the angst of your soul as you lift your face to the sky and ask God why. “Why, when I tried so hard to be a good wife, did it not work?”

I get the anger when you see other wives mistreating their husbands and the men still stay. How you’d like to remind them of the good they have, and how that goodness should be rewarded and respected.

I get it when it all seems so unfair.

I get it when you’re suddenly a single person, and other women look at you as a threat rather than a gift– and you’d like to walk around with a T-shirt that says, “I’d die a thousand deaths before I’d hurt any woman the way I’ve been hurt.”

I get it when it’s hard to receive help, and how slowly you learn the absolute necessity of it, how grateful you become for the brothers in law and family who help you unendingly when you need it—-and don’t stop when you tell them you don’t need it because they know better than you do.

But here’s the thing:

I also get it when you start smiling again because Jesus comes closer than any human being could ever come.

I get it when your hard work pays off and you’re able to support yourself and your children without child support.

I get the satisfied tiredness that comes at the end of a work week when you do payroll, and still have enough for your bills even when rent is high and groceries are out of this world.

I get the deep appreciation for your friends who get the fact that you don’t have time to spare even when you’d love to have them over—because just getting to sit on your couch with coffee feels like vacation.

I get the gratefulness mingled with frustration when you spend too much money on Dr. visits, trying to get well again after burning out from years of emotional trauma.

I get the joy of hiking hours into the wilds so you can be in touch with something bigger than yourself.

I get the deep friendships that form when others join your steep adventures and everyone talks non-stop about all of life while the legs burn upward before eyes rest on majestic views that defy every pain you’ve ever felt.

I get the gratefulness of those moments when pain melts into oblivion, even just for a few minutes as something better takes over your mind.

I get the deep appreciation for those friends who send their husbands over to fix your broken sinks and change the tire on your son’s bike. Woman to woman, it’s their way of saying, “I got your back” and they’ll never know how much it means to us.

I get the joy over small things, because joy is a gift and you feel it coming, coming, coming as it used to be—though now, it is richer, fuller, and better because it is not dependent on another human being.

I get it that you’re grateful for your sorrow because it led you to your joy.

I get it that you felt broken much longer than you wanted, yet realized that your heart broken open absorbed light more than before.

I get the peace that comes from no dependence on relationship for your happiness, and the profound realization that you’re going to be more than okay, not because of a human being but because “The Son of Man has risen with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2) and He met you in your tears so He could wipe them away.

I get the wonder that He never left, never became impatient, and always looked at you with love.

I get the realization that you’re His favorite—but so is everyone else around you, and they should all be treated as such, created in the image of God for the glory of God. The realization of your own value collides beautifully with the realization of everyone’s value, and you want the whole world to circle with love, endlessly.

And I truly get it that now, though you love everyone, you no longer trust everyone. You’ve learned to know when you know when someone’s character is solid and they’ve earned trust without trying—because they didn’t need to prove what already was.

You are now the girl reading with new insight this verse: “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

You live carefully, but courageously. Fear may threaten you, but love will overtake you.

Dear single mom, I get it that the Love of Jesus is now your anchor beyond what you ever knew before, and how, no matter what the future holds, you are set on HIM because you’ve found His love better than any other kind of love.

You are no longer the girl longing for the perfect life; you are now the girl held with perfect love in a very imperfect world.

“But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.”

Malachi 4:2

Seven Steps to Real Friendship

I thought perhaps I’d feel lonely in a city by myself, but the opposite was true as I faced a window and unashamedly inhaled a large burger while watching hundreds of people pass by.

Asheville is a city of the arts and it shows on the people walking downtown on a Friday night. “Love” is all you need seems to be written on faces as they puff out clouds of nicotine and show their purple hair.

Others are tourist-like families, here to enjoy mountains for a short while before heading back to stuffy offices and brick church buildings. Still others are local people, enjoying their flavorful city while hosting those of us who wish to live here, but cannot.

The back door to my air bnb is wide open and I’m sharing a small, earthy looking bathroom with dear knows who. A cock roach creeps down stucco-like walls and disappears behind a cotton curtain hung to hide the plumbing. I open the door while I brush my teeth so I can escape quickly should it scramble at me from beneath the curtain.

But back to people watching!

Everyone was out to connect. Dinner together, walking together, listening to live music together—the whole town was buzzing and I realized all over again how much humans need connection.

We are body and spirit, with the greater part of us being spirit. We get lonely because we focus on bodily needs while we neglect the greater needs of soul and spirit.

Did you know loneliness is one of the worst things for our health? We were born to be connected, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. And most importantly, creation was made to connect to the Creator.

Yet, people look at bodily image to decide whether or not to connect their soul to another. Popular, pretty girls want to be friends with other popular pretty girls, forgetting that no one can decide what features they possess, yet everyone can decide what heart they carry. When girls choose their friends on appearance and popularity, they often by-pass the most golden people who could show them the real meaning of love and friendship.

It’s time for humanity to remember the importance of the soul. Look deep within and choose your people based on the kind of people they are in their soul.

Let’s look at a few ways we can connect with others. How do we make friends?

1. Ask about other people’s lives.

We all know the Sallys and Janes who talk non-stop about themselves until you want to groan and plug your ear with a corn cob. Or peanuts. Or anything to stop the incessant self-focused chatter.

When you’re with other people, purposefully ponder what questions are fitting to ask about their lives and interests. Rare is the person who delights in others so well that he asks question after question to get another person to open up and enjoy a conversation.

When others talk about something, rather than switch the conversation back on yourself with your own story, ask another question about what they just said. You’ll be surprised at the difference in feedback and engagement as others feel heard and wanted.

2. Learn to know who your people are.

Not everyone is cut out to be your friend. You are not everyone’s cup of tea. This is okay, because you’ll be another person’s favorite drink. And when you find that instant connection kind of friend, hang onto it and develop it purposefully. Learn what your friend loves—and do the thing.

One of mine sent me a coffee mug with a goat on it because she found out I love goats. It warms my heart every time I fill it with coffee. Periodically she sends me goat videos. It’s odd how something so small makes me feel connected to her and loved by her.

If you’re not connecting with someone, relax and accept it. Don’t force friendships. Go with the flow and love everyone with a laid back ease void of stress. Just love people and smile at them.

3. “A (woman) who has friends must show herself friendly.

Somewhere along the way, extroverts have been made out to be “more spiritual” than introverts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Showing yourself friendly doesn’t have to mean you love crowds and can’t wait to host families for lunch after church. Being friendly could mean you hate crowds and prefer one to one conversation because there, you can connect deeply. It might mean you don’t enjoy hosting but you do it anyway, sometimes, because there’s a need for old fashioned hospitality. You may not be bubbly but you will definitely be loving. You may not barbeque and serve exotic drinks but you’ll invite others onto your couch and gather them around your table in your own way of loving them.

And if you can’t have people over, you can take a meal to someone. A warm casserole speaks a thousand words!

4. Celebrate others.

Women who celebrate other women are real queens. We know them when we find them. They are secure in Christ, busy doing what they’re called to do, and satisfied with the love of Jesus. There is no need to compare or want another’s life when we’re in the life we know we’re called to live.

Only when you truly celebrate another woman’s joys do you have the right to enter her sorrow.

Let’s sit on that for a minute.

A woman who is uncomfortable with your success can easily come rushing to “comfort” you when grief strikes. She is more comfortable with your loss than your gain. Please sisters, let’s be bigger than that. Be a woman who provides community and belonging to all because everyone senses your deep desire to see them thrive.

Celebrating others is FUN!

4. Don’t be offended if some people are too busy to strike up the friendship you’d love to share with them.

I was a preacher’s daughter and my whole life geared to hosting, reaching out, and making sure others felt loved by our family. We were so busy loving on others that we sometimes neglected each other. So I never expect to be close friends with pastors or leaders even though I’m drawn to them. The conversation is different when you hang out with motivated leaders—but the pull you feel toward them may be your invitation to join them in what they do rather than add more ministry to what they do. The former will give life to both of you while the latter could drain them and disappoint you.

Rather than demand friendship or feel left out if you’re not invited over, realize that a family cannot possibly have everyone in the church over. Look for other ways to find your people. Join a small group, volunteer for worship or women’s ministry or Sunday School—involve yourself in your own gifts rather than wait to be invited or included. We are all responsible to cultivate and utilize our gifts!

5. Don’t expect to make your friends on a Sunday morning.

Church is not the only place for deep friendships to happen. Good friends need space outside of church to hang out and do life together. (My best friends are those I see outside of church.)

Be the kind of person another feels safe with, watch for the people who will naturally connect with you, and invite those who need friends whether or not you connect well with them. As much as possible, host people in your home and around your table. Let them see you real and raw, in your own space. Find more joy in reaching out to lonely people than you do in being included by others.

Christians are in their best element when they are connecting with Christ and the world around them. This might even look like heading downtown to the most poverty stricken areas with a team of people, just to love and be there for others. The world is so full of people wanting connection that there is less reason than ever for anyone to live in loneliness.

6. Be Yourself.

Be comfortable in your own skin. Be the same person with your model friend as you are with your back-woodsy, goat loving farm friend. Remember that every human soul longs for connection. Your model friend isn’t looking for class as much as she’s looking for connection. Be warm to all and you’ll find warmth from a vast variety of people, non of whom need you to change who you are.

7. Always Improve Yourself.

Be inspiring to hang out with. There’s something invigorating about being with others who are passionate about their callings, love their hobbies, and are content with what they have. Improving ourselves doesn’t have to mean possessing material things; growth is a heart posture where we see what is lacking and work toward becoming better people, where we take a good look at our gifts and callings, then purpose to function in those to the best of our ability.

Be light and life—and in your own way, just LOVE PEOPLE.

Why Spouses Should be Treated Better than Strangers

It’s weird how we can sit in cafes or walk streets, expecting everyone to be kind, even though most are complete strangers to each other.

We all just kinda know how humans are supposed to treat each other.

Most of us wouldn’t be too impressed with someone yelling at a customer or someone receiving a favor without saying thank you or showing appreciation of some sort.

We’d probably wrinkle up our noses and be happy we can walk on. Some people are just yuck and make us glad we don’t have to be around them.

And if someone continuously criticized a friend, that friend would probably either confront the problem, or quit hanging out as much.

Negative actions usually cause negative responses.

But, this simple principal seems to be forgotten by many spouses. So I’m writing from my heart here, and just asking this:

1. Do you ignore your spouse—yet get hurt when you’re not pursued?

2. Do you avoid conflict—yet remain bothered that your spouse doesn’t know how you really feel about something?

3. Do you continually give negative or correctional responses when your spouse shares an idea or simply vents his/her feelings—yet get hurt when they close off and don’t want to talk?

4. Do you avoid helping out—yet carry a grudge when your spouse doesn’t help as much as you want him/ her to help out?

5. Do you ignore them when they speak—yet feel hurt when they don’t look at you when they speak, but choose to focus on another person in the room?

6. Do you make your dislike of them known—yet become hurt when they don’t pursue you in the bedroom?

7. Do you treat them as little more than a room mate—yet complain when they don’t date you well on special events?

I’d like to call attention to the fact that people often treat strangers better than their own spouses. Strangers who may be a million times worse than your spouse, strangers with whom you have no connection—hear this carefully—are getting better treatment from some of you than your spouses are getting.

That very stranger would keep distance if you treated him/her as you treat your spouse. Withdrawing to avoid more pain is a natural response of the human heart.

There’s a story of a man who greatly disliked his wife and went to get counsel. His therapist told him that he could divorce her after three months IF he tried the following recommendation first.

He was to go home and treat her as if he genuinely LIKED her.

We can picture what this meant. Smiles, kind words, acts of service, hanging out, and all the things we do with our best friends.

His therapist waited in vain for the man call, then finally called him. He was ecstatic. “I treated her as if I liked her, and everything changed”

You better believe there was no divorce for that couple! Simple, basic human kindness and dignity re-ignited their love when it would have otherwise been snuffed right out and the courts would have seen one more broken couple filing divorce papers while their children’s eyes take on a whole other look than the care-free, joyful ones they previously had.

So I’m here to say to every unhappy spouse who is married to a faithful, albeit imperfect, person: Just take a big, bold dare to love them, and show it. This can be the bravest thing you do. And sometimes, this dare to actively show love does more than many hours in a counselor’s office.

(To those who’ve tried this and nothing changed, please know that loving is something we do because we’re connected to God more than because we’re connected to our spouse. Sometimes, loving well doesn’t change a drastic need in a spouse. In those cases, we simply do what God asks us to do, then leave the rest. We are not responsible to change another; we are responsible to love well, then trust God with the results.)

Remember this–we love because God loved us first. Loving well is something every person does who sees the value God places on each human being.

Loving well is not optional when we see the great love God gives us personally. Loving well is part of our own dignity, character, and value. In Christ, it is who we are. Someone else’s character cannot rob us of God’s character and grace within us.

Treat your spouse as well or better than you treat your best friends, and watch what happens! If you know what it takes to stay a friend to someone, please know it takes the same kind of thing to create a happy marriage where both of you find the companionship you crave.

For the cause of LOVE,

Sara

Why Deborah’s Initiative is as Important as Sarah’s Submission

(Co-Authored by a man with a heart for Christ centered leadership)

I’m not sure I’d want to sit under a tree named after myself, judging the tribes of Israel.

I most certainly would not want to join an army—and if the battle was won, I probably wouldn’t sing a song describing myself as the mother of Israel.

The thought is almost funny.

Yet, scripture is written for our edification and instruction. The story of Deborah tells us a lot.

  • She was a WIFE.
  • She heard from GOD.
  • She was a PROPHETESS.
  • She sat under a palm tree named after herself, “The Palm of Deborah”.
  • She summoned a man to her station and delivered a WORD FROM THE LORD.
  • She gave detailed descriptions of what Barak needed to do during this war.
  • Somehow, she had gained the utmost respect of Barak, who was a leader and commander, most likely a type A man with great abilities of his own.
  • After victory, she gave glory to God, and included herself in that story.
  • In a patriarchal culture, she reminded a strong man that the battle would be won by a woman.
  • God Himself chose to use two women to execute victory in a battle fought by men.
  • Deborah wasn’t trying to DO EVERYTHING a man could do; she was fully BEING EVERYTHING she was called to be as a woman. (please note the difference here).
  • When Barak asked her to go with him into battle, she agreed to go.
  • Barak was not too proud to ask—and she did not disqualify herself from a place of great importance in this story because she was a woman.
  • Both man and woman did exactly what God wanted them to do by working together to perform what He asked.

Then there is the awe-inspiring, Proverbs 31 Woman! A woman can expect to hear the words “You’re such a Proverbs 31 woman”, —when she arises early to pack her husband’s lunch, do his laundry, or prep his dinner. But there is more that we need to be teaching our daughters.

I want to take a deeper look at this distinguished woman from the book of Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman also:

  • Had a husband who trusted her decisions.
  • She made intelligent business moves that put their estate at an advantage.
  • She didn’t just shop locally, but sought out the best purchases from around the country. This meant being well informed and knowledgeable.
  • She had maids to free up more of her own time.
  • She purchased real estate.
  • She took care of her body and strengthened it.
  • She knew that her business was profitable.
  • She helped the poor.
  • Her clothing was fine linen and purple.
  • She created, sold, and distributed her products to merchants.
  • She was marked with strength and dignity.
  • She opened her mouth with wisdom (which meant she had wisdom others heard and received).
  • She spoke with kindness.
  • She looked after her household WELL (and that also meant knowing her limits by hiring maids).
  • Her husband, who was an established, productive leader, PRAISED her.

Notice, she excelled personally, at home, at business, in her community, in the market place AND she was PRAISED by her husband.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

While we see far reaching extremes from oppressive patriarchal “Christian” cultures for women, all the way to brash, feministic, non-christian culture, it is clear from the examples of Deborah and the Proverbs 31 woman that both of these extremes are a far cry from the good, loving heart of our Heavenly Father.

I’d like us to take a quick look at Sarah, who is mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Sarah is described as a woman who obeyed her husband and called him lord. Unfortunately, this passage is often taken so out of context that it has produced a cult-like, oppressive environment for women, where, in all honesty, if she operated like a true Proverbs 31 woman, she’d be labeled as “too much”, “too strong” or even “rebellious”. Scripture never contradicts scripture, but actually compliments scripture. If it appears to contradict, we must simply look further or deeper at what God is saying as a whole, which can involve context and further study.

I have seen women who are struggling in painful marriages, yet afraid of “dishonoring” their husbands by getting help and exposing the real truth of his actions and words behind closed doors, The husbands expect their wives to quietly “find a solution” that protects their reputation, which usually looks like the (already submissive) wife being “more submissive”.

In many of these marriages, the problems are quickly blamed on something a wife does or doesn’t do while the man refuses to own his need simply because he’s “the leader”.

There are times where the topic of lust and purity is a matter of how a woman dresses more than that of the man’s own heart.

Some of these men are content leading in minor material areas of life (or being the admired leader/authority figure) of their homes while leaving the most important (relational or spiritual) areas to their wives.

It’s become more of an emphasis on Position and Authority than being the reasonable, responsible and respectable leader by God’s standards. The aftermath of this “authority” focus is devastating on women.

For example, there are women still weeping over sexual abuse after many years because they’re told to forgive more than told that God is angry with what has happened. (forgiveness can only happen when you know God is just and will bring justice). In some of these cases, a perpetrator is still allowed to live freely among the women he violated. (Even a minor can be removed from the girls he wronged).

At times, if women become “too upset” because they are NOT BEING HEARD, they’ll be labeled as being “bitter” or “rebellious” and told to submit. The men of the church will decide what should and shouldn’t be done—which sometimes, means the perpetrator is allowed to stay. I realize this would be unthinkable to many good and Godly men, but this is the reality for many women in some religious communities.

To add Insult to Injury these same women are strongly admonished to: Serve their families, especially their husbands; Be eager for sex; Continue admiring of their husbands; Stay silent on what matters most—unless the husband agrees. At most, she can very gently and “submissively” broach the subject but cannot make strong statements on things even as great as what to do with a perpetrator.

The Result?? Christian men, many of your women are weeping. Some of them are becoming emotionally distraught by the lack of true friendship and loving relationship.

It’s time for God-Inspired Leadership. What does it look like?

God-Inspired Leadership:

  1. Listens – the cry of every woman, (person really) is “to be heard” – Do you value her voice?
  2. Leads by example – Purity of heart, sacrificially, does the hard things, NOT just the fun things.
  3. Lets her function in her gifts, too – She has God-given influence – can you “allow” her, or even better, HELP her accomplish her goals, pursue her gifts and talents?
  4. Lavishes her with goodness – Give to her & help her, provide for her, be generous to her.
  5. Lessens her Load – Help her with the kids, share in household responsibilities, hire a maid…
  6. Loves Loudly – Leave no doubt in her mind of your love her, let her hear it often, and see it always …Love hard!

This is what Godly Leadership in our homes should look like! A man is a covering, not a lid. We cover what we love and want to protect, we cover what we value, we cover what we don’t want any damage to come to.

Recently I asked one of my happily married friends if she would defer to her husband if a major decision needed to be made and they did not agree. She immediately said “Oh, yes!”

I asked her because I noticed that they were mutually happy in their relationship.

I asked her because I noticed her countenance was joyful.

I asked her because I noticed she lived without pressure, and her atmosphere spoke of peace rather than stress.

Let me assure you that I’m still in love with 1 Peter 3, where Sarah is spoken of as an exemplary woman, one we would do well to follow.

But, the leadership we often see in Christian churches is destructive for men as well, because it is producing women they don’t want to produce. Unknowingly, men are digging their own graves to a happy, fulfilling relationship—all in the name of “Biblical” teaching. Women usually won’t be happy and fun unless they are treated well, with differing roles but with equal value.

Satan laughs while women weep. He’s successfully taken a beautiful, God-given plan for the family and turned it into a damaging, patriarchal system of selfishness and hierarchy.

Godly leadership will make a good woman COME ALIVE.

Before I close out, I want to thank every man who’s shown us what it looks like to love a woman well. I sincerely hope some of you speak up in the church, for the church, for your sisters who are suffering in ways you have no idea and would come to arms if you only knew.

My faith in men stands strong because of you. And my faith in God’s plan remains unshaken as I continue to pursue a culture of honor. Perfection is never expected on either end. But mutual effort, open and kind communication, love reciprocated, and mutual honor for each other.

As one Godly man said, “It looks a lot like team work!”

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.

……….Let each of you love his wife as himself.” Ephesians 5:25-29, &33a, ESV

Eight Ways to Help Grieving People

It was seven years ago, but doesn’t seem so long ago that I got the call from my sister asking if I had heard about our brother.

I knew instinctively that he had died, and it was my first experience with numbing grief. I’d never before gone basically immobile where all I could do was cry. And in the days that followed, my usually active self could barely move to serve those around me who were also grieving.

I learned a lot in those days.

We flew to Honduras to try to find his body in the beautiful lake he had disappeared into, and on the third day, as professional divers, friends, and family called it quits one more time, his body suddenly floated up to the surface right beside the boat.

The sight of my brother’s body on news headlines, being drug out of the water, was almost too much for me. We buried him on a dark mountainside in Honduras, our questions unanswered. All we knew was that he was a good swimmer, yet went under quickly.

No struggle, no resurfacing. And because we were in another country, the autopsy we desperately wanted didn’t happen.

Our questions remain unanswered. Now, when others are wrecked with grief we try to remember all we learned in those days, try to reach out to others in ways that will help them rather than hurt them even more.

Lake of my brother’s moments into heaven.

A few weeks ago one of my dearest friends lost her husband. The grief was great, even for me, and I felt I needed to be there. But I remembered—did she need me now, or later? Sure enough, she told me she had lots of people at the moment and would need me in a few weeks more than now. Loving my friend best meant waiting rather than rushing into crisis.

When my cousin Susanna Kauffman died a few weeks ago, I wanted others NOT to do or say some things that had happened to us. I wanted to spare the family from questions asked at the wrong times, from news links broad casted across social media before they could even process what was happening, and from well meaning people hurting rather than helping them.

None of us always know what to do or say to someone in crisis. Do we speak or stay silent? Do we go or stay?

But as I walked personal grief and watched family members process in their own ways, I learned some things on what to do or not do. And I’d love to develop a community of well-taught believers who walk grief with others in a healing way.

1. Be okay with unanswered questions.

A funeral, memorial service, or even the days prior and after are not the days to ask a crisis family all the questions on your mind. Don’t ask numerous questions of how they died, why they died, exactly what happened, etc. Reality is not always sinking in for the family and there is plenty of time for questions to be answered in the future.

2. Be okay with just showing up.

I just walked into a room to see one of my best friends weeping, bill in her hand for $38,000 (Her husband had just lost his job along with the accompanying insurance, and his life flight alone was this much). She was playing worship music as she wept, telling me that it’s all paid for. Not by the Go Fund Me page where almost that exact amount was given, but by another source. I wrapped her up and wept with her.

Showing up can be in person or with your pocket book. Many people show up with words, yet those in crisis often need tangible presence or help more than verbal help.

You don’t have to know what to say. Most of the time you don’t need to say anything. Just show up. Just be there. Just do the thing without much ado, and make sure they are covered.

3. Don’t overwhelm weary minds with your own crisis stories.

That is not the best way to “be relatable” at a funeral. I remember standing before a long line of well-wishers, listening to someone else tell us of their own death story. We were too exhausted to stand there, much less listen to stories of another crisis. If you come to a memorial, keep your words calm, sympathetic, and short. Presence is better than speech.

4. Don’t crowd into their home after the funeral.

The family will be exhausted. They won’t need to sit for hours, answering questions and processing for or with you at that time. DO visit them in the following weeks and months as reality settles in.

5. Notice what they need, emotionally or physically.

People in crisis often find it hard to eat and even harder to cook. Take them baskets of ready made food and leave it sitting on the counter with flowers. You can come and go in a few minutes, leaving a note or a hug.

If you see a sink full of dishes, perhaps wash them quickly if the time seems right. Keep your eyes peeled for what might mean most to them.

People process differently. My friend needs quality time and someone to just sit on her couch and process with her. One of her daughters is the same, and joins us there. Her other daughter needs to move and talk, stay busy, and keep up with school work. Reality may hit her a few months down the road.

There is no right or wrong way to process grief. Don’t try to force your own way of healing onto someone else, but rather take note of each person’s make-up and go out of your way to accommodate their way of grieving. If someone needs to talk or do something, go with that flow and take them out for an activity. If they need to sit and cry, make sure your presence is there—really there.

6. Remember to mention the passed loved one in the coming months and years.

People often don’t mention someone who passed away because they don’t want to stir unnecessary grief. But the family is mourning whether or not their loved one is mentioned. A smile with a story of what you loved about the person will soothe their hearts a little. This opens the door for them to talk, process, and share about their loved one if they want to. They will probably pull out photos to share, and will love any detail you have of a pleasant memory.

It is very difficult to live a new reality. When others never mention a loved one, it can feel like you’re in your world alone.

7. Make sure all their physical needs are met.

If you see a need somewhere, just fill it. No need to ask a ton of questions. The less they have to think about and take care of, the better. They may not have the energy to thank you then, but you will be remembered as someone who truly helped. Stay tuned in for a long time, remember that months later can be more difficult than the immediate shock. Pray, stop by, and help financially or in any other way you notice they need help.

8. Don’t quote Bible verses to try to “get them out of grief”.

Be okay with grief. Cry with them. Never quote a verse about joy or say things like “Your loved one is better off with Jesus” or “You’ll see him again some day” or “Things will get better.”

Jesus stood weeping with Martha and Mary before he called Lazarus from the tomb. Even in His Godhead, where He stood ready to do the miraculous, He first made time for mourning. He didn’t have to, but He chose to.

Remember that many deaths are traumatic. Not only is a family grieving loss, often they are also trying not to remember how someone died. Pray healing over their minds—and as one friend put it to me a few weeks ago, pray that they would process what God wants them to process, and leave the rest to Him. There is grief, and there is excessive, destructive grief. Pray that they would grieve with Jesus so despair would not get in.

Let’s choose to love in ways people need us to love them. This is all about them, not about us. In this way, the God of HOPE will come into our atmospheres and change the way we sit with others in their grief.

Love to all,

Sara

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, ESV

Regaining Emotional Clarity—Eight Steps to Healing (Part 6)

When people reach out to ask what the most helpful things have been for soul-healing, my brain does a spin while my heart pauses.

Healing was long, difficult, and multi-faceted with no assurance I was ever going to get there. Divorce and betrayal so deeply devastated me that I couldn’t know then what I know now.

My sister would tell me, “Sara, you won’t always feel this way. You won’t always be this sad.”

I could smile, yes. But I couldn’t shake that deep despair and dread threatening to engulf me with each waking morning. This lasted, much of the time, for a few years. So I can relate to the person whose spouse has cheated and he or she lives with debilitating despair.

Jesus Christ healed me as only He can do. It was not a simple fix after someone glibly quoted “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Don’t ever do that to a grieving person, by the way.) My healing was long, on-going, and needed to happen from every angle. It came bit by bit, and God was okay with that. But after 3.5 years, I knew it had happened.

The spirit of God touched me at a conference and I knew then that I was free. Weeping on a church floor does something to you. Staying there helplessly, like a child, letting God take your everything while filling you with SOMETHING (rather, SOMEONE), allows the tension to dissipate while your soul sinks into a peace not known by natural circumstances.

To those asking me about healing, I want you to know a few things:

1. God is okay with your process.

Others may think you’re not “spiritual enough” or “surrendered enough” if you continue grieving, but Jesus never said that.

When Lazarus died, Jesus didn’t rush to resurrect Him, though He knew that’s what He would do in the end. Get this, friend—Jesus stood there, weeping when He could have rushed to call Lazarus from the tomb. I believe Jesus wanted Mary and Martha to know He was engaging in their grief.

Isaiah 53:3 calls Him a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.

One of the first and most important steps to healing from grief is to first engage it honestly. This might look like a day in bed, months where you watch Netflix more than read the inspirational books you used to read, or anything else that helps. A traumatized soul means a weary brain. And a weary brain needs to rest in order to rebuild itself.

Accept your grief, accept your weakness—and be okay with staying there for awhile. Just make sure you invite Jesus to stay there with you. That makes all the difference because He won’t leave you there.

2. Do things you’ve always wanted to do.

Since my divorce I’ve been on my best and longest mountain hikes (with some of the best people), I’ve gone sky-diving and allowed my body to hurl out of a plane two miles in the air, I’ve jumped from 100 foot towers, and learned dancing (which I’ve wanted to do for years).

Stepping out for things you love is vital to healing because it removes trauma from your brain for a short while. Like a shocker, you’re reminded that there are other aspects to life than the part that makes you curl up in a ball, weeping. You get glimpses of hope even if you may not stay there. These small glimpses give you courage to keep going even if despair rolls back in.

Whatever it is that makes you come alive, do it and keep doing it.

3. Engage your anger, but don’t turn into an angry person.

My nature, I am not an angry person. But I had to accept that feeling angry over betrayal was a good thing. I tried various outlets including burning garbage and old furniture, cleaning out all the remaining belongings of the person I was hurt by, and I even tried breaking glass jars one day. Seeing my husband with a teen-aged child did something to me that I can’t describe and I needed outward outlets for the inner pressure. This is not wrong and can be helpful.

But after releasing anger, choose to forgive. Bitterness will only cage your own soul in. You deserve more than to turn into an ugly person because of the ugly someone else threw your way. And I have to say, there are few things as ugly as a bitter woman. I was determined not to turn into one, and I realized I didn’t have to. There was so much good to immerse my soul into, that was more powerful than the one bad thing I could have sunk into.

4. Immerse yourself in a culture of honor.

Simply put, you need people to surround you, be there for you, and call out the best in you during the worst time of your life. My community of friends saved me. They believed in me. They rallied for me. Before, during, and after the divorce they treated me the same—with more honor than I had ever received in my life.

Find yourself friends who lift your soul rather than drag you into more depression. Find friends who know your heart so well that they don’t even need to ask about anything else. Sit with them and let them love you. Go out to dinners with them as you’ve always done. Cry with them and let them weep with you. Whatever you do, make sure you have a community who lifts your soul.

5. Choose forgiveness.

I asked it for years, “God, what does forgiveness look like? What does it feel like? How do I know I’ve forgiven?”

When I realized how much Father God hated what was done to me, I realized how much I could trust Him to take care of what was done to me. Seeing God changes everything. God does not blithely pass by one of His daughters in distress. You will get to stand still and watch Him fight for you.

When you realize you can hand your offender into the hands of God, you realize you’re okay with however God chooses to handle that person.

At that point, any gaps in your feelings become less than the focal point. God has taken over. You’ve chosen forgiveness, you’ve chosen God, and as the years pass by He will take you deeper into that secret place where you know what forgiveness feels like. Until then, trust Him with your lesser feelings as you choose Him for His greater LOVE.

6. Repent and own your mistakes

I remember when a friend reached out with these words, “Sara, you don’t have to be perfect.”

At the time, she knew why she said that more than I knew. I was so devastated by the divorce that I felt like I had to be perfect. Slowly, I realized no one can possibly be perfect and it was not only okay for me to acknowledge my imperfections; it was also important. I owned my mistakes in life without taking ownership for the divorce.

This set my soul free from the bondage of needing to be a perfect woman. I realized it was impossible, and it was fully okay to be human and to verbalize areas of growth that needed to happen in my life while in no way agreeing to or owning the divorce. (Of course I agreed to it later as the affair became obvious and ongoing).

For everyone in every season of life, a God-awareness of personal need is a gift. I learned to bask in the love of Jesus and talk to Him about all of it, telling Him I was sorry for any and every failure, and asking Him to help me change. Here, I learned how very much He loved me and was with me even when I wasn’t perfect. What a gift this became to my soul!

7. Stay on track.

In times of grief it is easier to lose sight of who we are, but so important to stay on track. If you’re a faithful, God fearing woman, keep right on being one. If you have children, keep prioritizing them. Remind yourself that keeping your home clean, serving your children, getting out of bed when it’s hard to do so–all of it will pay off and will help you keep building your life even as parts of it crash. Wash your face, clean the toilets, cook dinner for the kids–do what you’ve always done to create a lovely atmosphere for your family.

Above all else, keep your morals. Be careful with men. Vulnerable women can still be faithful women. Don’t allow the devil to rob you of even more by giving him space in this area of your life. The rewards for faithfulness are great and it is a vital part of your healing.

8. Never stop seeking.

I promise you. You who are in the depths of despair—I promise you that if you seek Jesus, He will heal you. Perhaps not in your time or way, but He will—and that’s all that matters. And while you feel no hope, I speak hope over you, to you, for you, and into you.

Never give up. Sooner or later, your soul will rise to the Son of Man who has already risen with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)

And if you want to talk, find me in the contact page and I will get back to you. I will weep with you, stand in the gap for you, speak things over you that you cannot yet believe for yourself.

I’m here for you.

Love,

Sara

About the Sex Thing

I’m a single woman with strong convictions on sexual purity outside of marriage. But, I was married for many years and have been passionate about women’s health for many years—so it’s time to pick back up where I left off and not allow my status as a single woman render me voiceless on this important topic that is still dear to my heart because it concerns the health of women and relationships.

The sex topic is huge. Not only huge, it is sensitive, vulnerable, threatening to some, and painful to others. Some avoid it while others seek it. So I write this carefully, but I’m writing to those who are married, given my stand on sex only being permissible within marriage.

I’m not very old (yet), but I’ve seen a lot. From the purity culture to a feminist world, the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of women took my interest many years ago. I saw door-mat-like, voiceless women, I watched truly happy, fulfilled women, and I observed feministic women who talk about “being themselves” while avoiding everything feminine that would bring out the best of their true make-up as a woman. “Being themselves” led them far from their true selves.

In both the Amish world and the secular world, I noticed something—women are happier, healthier, and more satisfied in their marriages when they see the goodness of sex.

Not just monthly sex, either. Sex as an important part of life, where you make time for your husband and uncover the beauty of sex, makes for happier women in the long run. Not just happier, but also healthier. Some women may say they don’t need it—and if hormones are causing your body a temporary shut down, that’s understandable—but you still need to connect with your husband sexually before too much time passes.

Sex is a goldmine that should be pursued and uncovered at the expense of other priorities, if need be.

In a healthy marriage, sex brings mutual satisfaction to both partners. It is no longer one giving and one receiving, but both giving and receiving for a mutually satisfying experience.

Sex is a unifying physical act with major emotional and spiritual ties connected to it. This is why God wants commitment to precede sex. It is not cheap, light, or without ramifications.

Women are valuable. I try to speak that to my daughters in a sex saturated world where the pressure is high. Some loser kid in a truck hasn’t earned you, child. You’re worth more than to be used, then discarded for the next hot kiss.

I’m pulling my teens onto my bed at night while I read Teaching True Love to a Sex-at-Thirteen Generation by Eric and Leslie Ludy. Of course they groan and think I’m giving speech number 101 on sexual purity, but I smile and tell them that at least they’ll never be able to say that mama skirted uncomfortable topics.

At our house, we talk about all of it. Body parts, bodily functions, sex, it’s meaning, it’s value, when it should and shouldn’t happen. The topic is endless when there are three teens in the house.

Sex is a good topic, not a shameful one. Mothers need to embrace and enjoy sex, then transfer that attitude to their daughters. Some days you’ll laugh, some days you’ll be serious—but whatever you do, don’t assume your child is okay, even if they’re in youth group or church.

There can be so much toxicity even in church groups that we can take nothing for granted. A mother can think her child is in good company, yet find out there was a loser kid in the crowd who took advantage of her daughter.

When your children are extra sad or grumpy, check in. Ask them if they’ve been violated. Leave no stone un-turned when you sit on that bed and talk to your teen. Even if they don’t want to talk at the moment, they will know that mama is unafraid of any topic. When they’re ready, they will know it’s okay to talk.

Silence in the sex arena has led to devastation on all accounts.

Sexual abuse runs untamed because women are too afraid to uncover the sin. Sometimes, they’re even told to forgive by being silent and letting it go. What a horrible, wrong interpretation of forgiveness. (Read more on forgiveness in a previous blog).

Women like this often grow up afraid of sex rather than able to enjoy it. Now, they wonder how to bridge the gap between themselves and their husband. Could this have been avoided if mothers had checked in many years ago and helped a daughter process and heal long before marriage?

Sex is important to men—and to many women as well. We may laugh about it, joke about it, make fun of it, or heaven forbid, resent it. But it’s importance is true, and God wants us to embrace it gladly and make it a vital part of marriage.

Habitually depriving your husband of something his body needs can be debilitating to a man. Especially because a good man will know that his wife is the only one who can satisfy his (God created) sexual needs. He may be tempted to cheat—but God forbid he does, even after years of deprivation.

If he did cheat, you better believe all the ladies would rally around his wife and comfort her. I would, and so would you. Rightly so.

But here’s the punch line.

Not giving your husband sex when you’re the only one who can righteously do so, yet expecting him not to get it anywhere else, is a bit like your husband not giving you food, were it strictly in his power to bring it to you.

If you were hungry every day, yet your husband didn’t feel like bringing you food, I think you’d run to the nearest grocery store even if (hypothetically speaking), It was forbidden. You’d make sure you weren’t half-hungry all the time.

What if he only fed you once a day, just enough to function and get by, yet ignored your repeated requests for more needed energy and food?

Is that just a little like a wife refusing to engage in sex when it is strictly in her power to give it to him?

Some of you may be a little upset with me by this analogy. That’s okay—but I want us to seriously stop and consider what would happen if our men deliberately deprived us of a major need, then expected us to feel loved as we lived in deprivation.

Feminism has taken over and given women a brash attitude about a man’s sexual needs. Or, it has taken over and given women entitled attitudes about “not giving him sex if he doesn’t take me on dates every week”, or “doesn’t help enough around the house” or “doesn’t know how to meet my emotional needs”.

The aftermath of selfish women is devastating. A man literally has to know it all, do it all perfectly, and be it all before his woman is available sexually.

Ladies, may I ask you, do you want your man to withhold his love from you when you also have gaping flaws, needs, and things you don’t change even when he’d love you to change?

Who gets to deprive the other first?

Men are suffering because women nonchalantly dismiss one of their greatest needs.

“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5, ESV)

There can be times for abstinence, but Paul makes it clear that it should be for good reason, with good communication, to give ourselves to prayer before coming together again. This indicates a purposeful abstinence that needs to end at some point. Time for healing from abuse, time for prayer, time for anything good that you can talk about and express clearly to your husband. Coming together again helps avoid temptation both of you would fall into were you to remain abstinent.

If you choose a season of abstinence, your husband needs to know that your heart is to find answers so you can be there for him sexually.

You may say, “I don’t need sex and wouldn’t be tempted without it.” But in marriage, we are called to give 100% for the good of the other. This means we are no longer only interested in our own needs, but just as concerned for the needs of the other. And if you don’t “need” sex, you most likely need connection and will be tempted by another man if you are not actively building connection in your marriage.

Sex needs to be viewed by women as a powerful connecting tool in their marriage rather than a selfish want a man may have that he can live without. The latter is a lie straight from the pit of hell.

If sex was merely a physical “want”, purity would no longer matter. Sex could happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone—just as we eat food or drink water, or sleep when we’re tired.

Sex is so much more. This is why God places boundaries on it, elevates it, and asks us to honor it as a vital part of marriage.

God’s ways are perfect, and as you give yourself to this, you will notice a place in your soul that is healed simply by the act of sex with the man you wed. God knows what he’s doing when he creates a man to need it, often. Sex is good, holy, fun, and can bring a couple closer together than ever before—even when there are areas of need in your marriage that you have yet to find answers for.

What if you embrace the goodness of sex and allow that to help dissipate trouble in your marriage rather than add to it?

What if you transfer this attitude to your daughters, and allow yourself to be a small part of bringing sexual wholeness back into our society?

Regaining Emotional Clarity with FORGIVENESS (Part Four)

Forgiveness allows the pain in your past to propel you toward the purpose in your future—but only a true understanding of forgiveness can do that. Let’s talk about one of the most misunderstood principals in the Christian world.

I will never glibly tell a betrayed, angry person, “You need to forgive” or “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, or any other Christian quote people like to throw out when they’re uncomfortable with humanity’s mess. I will not say that until I’ve sat with her or him through the hurt of it all.

Jesus was angry.

Jesus cried.

Jesus said it how it was.

Jesus didn’t pretend nothing was wrong when everything was wrong.

Jesus didn’t pretend he wasn’t hurt; He actually experienced hurt on a human level so we could see Him in our own, and take courage.

Get this—the Son of God felt pain. And, He experienced anger so strong that He overturned tables in the temple when He could have just nicely asked religious people to leave.

The pain you feel is a good thing, in that it lets you know something is wrong.

The anger you feel is a good thing, in that it aligns you to the heart of God who is also angry with what has been done to you.

When you feel pain, grief, or anger, don’t run from it. Embrace it, reckon with it, and process it carefully because when you talk to God about your negative emotions, He walks you through them and teaches you a lot in the process.

Reckoning carefully with negative emotions brings us closer to the positive. Many people do the opposite. They shut down and deny negative emotions out of fear and discomfort—but I’m here to assure you that dealing with it all is the only way to clarity.

Seeing my (then) husband ride around town in a big red truck with his sixteen year old girlfriend brought me pain that almost made me numb. Why? Because it was wrong and my heart was letting me know that when it tightened in protest with my emotions.

Many of us run from pain rather than stand before it, asking why it’s there at the moment.

We shove it aside, as if that will make it go away rather than fester and grow.

We try to deny it, as if reality changes with our reckoning of it, or not.

Humanity was created for unity with God, which is all things love, joy, and peace. We are created to react negatively to wrong because we’re created in the image of God with a high propensity for things that line up to the character of God.

We enter the world, eager to experience the best in life, love, and liberty. But a fallen world means there is evil all around us, people with freedom of choice, and sin greater than we can handle in our own strength.

The aftermath of sin can be staggering, life-altering, and painful enough to make one need years to move on.

I don’t believe in clique christian quotes, glibly pouring from mouths who have no idea what it’s like to walk hell on earth. I don’t believe God does everything. I don’t believe in the age old saying of “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

I believe in reckoning with every form of human emotion, head on.

I believe some things are so evil that God most certainly did not do it, cause it, or want it. But because He’s good, He will work in spite of it, through it, and absolutely overcome it.

And, I believe that life does give us more than we can handle. This is when God pulls us toward His strength and we get to experience supernatural grace. A very real depiction of the fact that life is too much for us sometimes, is watching people end up in mental institutions with no where to go but a deteriorating brain because the trauma is too much for them to handle.

Or, watching others grasp hold of divine Grace where God always over-rides trauma and shows us that love wins. We just need to get close to the heart of God and access divine love.

Because God is good, I believe in forgiveness.

Because He heals my heart, I believe in love.

Because He is all Grace, I believe I can get through anything.

In Christ, we are unstoppable.

My (then) husband’s on-going affair with a girl twenty-two years younger than me led me through things I never imagined I’d go through. But it also led me toward other things.

Having everything taken from me allows me to learn that I’m entrepreneural at heart, that I can do business and investments, learn, grow, and ask advice from those more knowledgeable than I.

Having my husband leave opens my eyes to the idol marriage was for me, and sets me free to experience life, love, and grace in spite of the loss.

Forgiveness is a personal choice that sets me free to see beautiful again.

Forgiveness allows something that would have wrecked me to turn into my greatest growth, instead.

True forgiveness doesn’t hide sin, but exposes it and deals with it. Only then can you properly release it.

When you hide or deny what’s been done to you, you keep and hold the event in your heart as something permanent. Bringing it to light allows you to hand it over to the Giver of Light where nothing is hidden and all things will be manifest one day. This process is imperative to keep you on track with your purpose.

Seeing the goodness of God allows me to let go of the depravity of man.

I can forgive my husband. I can forgive the girl I used to mother, right along with my own children. I can forgive them.

I can know there’s a baby coming, and I can withhold bitterness toward the child who will rival my own children’s attention from their father.

Seeing the goodness of God changes everything.

Because I trust God, I can give the situation into God’s hands, knowing that God knows all, sees all, and has wisdom for all circumstances. Giving my ex-husband and his girlfriend into God’s hands allows me to walk away internally and not have to look back for anything.

I don’t have to get revenge. Walking around with a chip on my shoulder is unbecoming to a daughter of the King who knows she is loved and cared for. It is what it is—but God is also who He says He is—and He doesn’t take it lightly when His sons or daughters are trampled on.

I’m in good hands when I’m in the hands of God.

And when I ask myself for the hundredth time, “What does forgiveness look like?”, I can know that Jesus knows what forgiveness looks and feels like when I don’t know.

I still feel angry sometimes.

I still cry sometimes.

But all of it leads me toward grace. Enter your grief and engage your anger for a season, but allow both to pull you toward God where He engages both in a mighty win over death, hell, and everything in between.

Forgiveness allows my pain to propel me toward my purpose. On the other hand, denial would push me into numbness where I would feel no anger, no grief, and—hear this carefully—I would also feel no passion, no pleasure, and no purpose.

Trying to stay righteous by denying anger is the death to true life. You were meant to feel angry over some things. You just can’t allow anger to push you to bitterness. Jesus never asked you to feel no anger; He did ask you not to sin when you’re angry. (Ephesians 4:26)

True holiness never renders a person numb and silent; it always pulls a person toward life and purpose.

As Lysa Tuerkurst so beautifully says, “I choose to forgive; and for whatever my feelings will not allow, the blood of Jesus will cover.” (Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by LT).

Engage your grief and allow it to pull you into GRACE.

Every day, say it aloud, “I choose to forgive.”

Keeping Emotional Clarity: Don’t Run with the Boundaries Concept (Part Three)

Recently a friend and I were discussing the divorce epidemic, and how it seems many people are justifying divorce without proper cause.

Both men and women are taking Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on boundaries out of context, and the results are devastating. I do believe there are times where divorce is inevitable, but I’m addressing something different, here.

I can’t put the dilemna into better words than he did, so I’m going to revise his words a bit and share them anonymously (with permission).

I quote:

“Dr. Henry Cloud’s boundaries have their place, but people start misapplying these principals, and it’s comparable to deciding to get chemo and radiation treatments when you need a much less aggressive or invasive treatment.

So many people are taking that teaching and saying things like, ‘I’ve been telling my husband I need help around the house for years. He always apologizes and promises to help more, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks. Then he slips back into the usual. I can’t handle these broken promises, continual apologies, yet no lasting change. If he loved me, he’d change and help me more around the house. I deserve better. I’m putting up boundaries; no contact, no connection until I see lasting change. I’m so hurt, maybe I should even separate from him until he sees what he has and changes for good.’

Then enters some man showing kindness, attention, money, etc. They are already disconnected and the grass looks greener to her. Boom—marriage done.

It’s like all the “You deserve to be happy” and “It’s your time for you” folks grabbed that boundaries teaching and boxed it into a “mental health” box with pretty new wrapping paper on it, and started selling their same old secular, selfish-minded philosophy in a way that opens minds to a deceptive way of thinking.

In my opinion, it is hell’s new form of psychological warfare on believers.”

“Mic-Drop” was all I could think when I read this.

For some years, I’ve been hesitant to share parts of my story because I didn’t want people to take what I say, run with it, and keep hollering the “Stand up for yourself” cry.

But I also saw the other side of the planet where women can’t say anything without being told they’re not submissive enough. This was me. This is many, many women—and it is for these women that I write.

On the other hand, there are many men and women who take truth and twist it into self-serving, humanistic approaches to gain what they want by taking the easy way out of a marriage that has issues to work through. For these men and women, I write this caution.

Emotional health and mental clarity will never come from selfishly applying boundaries to good-hearted spouses with needs you don’t like. Your health will come from obeying Jesus and loving your spouse as you love yourself.

My parents are still married after forty-three years, not because my father fills all my mother’s emotional needs, or because my mother fills all my father’s needs. They are still married because love and commitment over-ride an entitled view of themselves that would make them ditch each other for “something better”.

Their home is established on more than unmet needs; it is established on the Word of God, the God who promises to be more than they will ever need. With grace, they love each other and help each other grow. With even more grace, they accept each other’s flaws and choose to keep loving–whether or not the other changes.

I signed my divorce papers for one thing only—and that was my husband’s ongoing affair with a minor child almost the same age as our oldest daughter. Today, the girl is pregnant and they are still together, albeit not legally married.

Hear me carefully when I say there were many things I could have divorced him over. I had no lack of “reasons” I could have used. But I refused to sign divorce papers until it became undeniably clear that there was no other way.

I am divorced with a good conscience. My plea to everyone out there is this: love your spouse, stay with your spouse for better or for worse unless it is simply impossible and your spouse’s sin meets the criteria for divorce as said in the scriptures. Don’t take this teaching on boundaries to mean you can put up walls for everything hurtful in your marriage. You will not heal your heart like this; you will hurt your soul, your spouse, and your children. You will be selfish, refusing to love until your own needs are met. This is not the way of the cross.

In God’s kingdom, the way up is the way down. Get on your knees, ask God how you can love your spouse best, and learn what specifically speaks love to him/her.

Somewhere along the way you will be surprised with inner soul freedom that is so much greater than you’d experience if you quit and ran for something you thought was better.

It won’t be better.

Every good marriage has at least one partner who is willing to love extravagantly even when the other does not deserve it.

My challenge for all of you today is this: take your spouse’s faults and choose to love extravagantly, anyway. Give 100%. Love the person you once fell in love with, and love them hard. Find out what makes your particular spouse feel loved, and just do it, without question.

What speaks love to your spouse may be entirely different than what speaks love to you. Study your spouse, ask questions, and go all out for the growth of your marriage.

You will never regret it!

Stay faithful, and God will faithfully clarify your thoughts, bring healing to your soul, and help you grow—even if your spouse’s faults continue.

Never give up unless, as in my own case, your marriage is no longer possible. Cheers to all beautiful, committed souls who grow, grow, and grow a marriage!

Regaining Emotional Clarity, Introduction (Part One)

Going through a divorce and an-over-three-year-long court process has been anything but fun. But as is His nature, God is redeeming everything by allowing me to encourage others going through similar things.

My heart could faint a little at the stories I hear from both men and women. You see, girls, this is not just a male problem. I’m hearing of far too many women using the same nasty tactics on their men.

Narcissism is a human problem, not just a guy problem.

One man writes of his wife leaving him after years of neglect.

A young woman writes of her husband blaming her for not trusting him after he actively broke her trust.

Another wife asks me if she should have sex with her husband if he’s with another girl.

Humanity is groaning under the weight of a heavy humanistic mantle that shrouds the beauty of simple goodness.

“I don’t love you anymore, so I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“I’m not happy anymore, so I’m going to divorce you.”

The things we experience and are told really do affect us. I’m not here to tackle all of it, but the one thing on my heart to take us toward is how to clear our minds from years of psychological manipulation where we’re told things we know aren’t true, yet lodge in our heads as if they were.

Does that wake you up a little because you can relate? If so, this series is for you.

I’m going to walk you into personal scenarios of my own or others (anonymous) lives so you can see and relate clearly. Then, I’m going to take you step by step through the experience and out of it to the other side with the opportunity to have your mental sanity restored or intact.

The grace and goodness of God promise peace rather than confusion.

I don’t have a counseling degree. I simply share my experiences with those who ask advice, what I’ve learned, how I found freedom and clarity after years of confusion, and of course, the Jesus I know and love Who talks to me personally and through His written word.

God is the author of peace. Let’s take a look at that peace when our lives have thrown us the opposite.

How does a person keep mental sanity when someone throws curve balls that spin us into confusion because we can’t reconcile what’s being said and done one day, to the person who does the opposite the next day?

Being held and hugged one day to being torn apart the next day is confusing and doesn’t line up. We desperately want to believe the problem lies with us because we know we’re the only ones we can fix. We’re ready to repent and ask forgiveness.

For some of us it may take years to see that the problem doesn’t lie with us, and there’s something we can’t fix.

As ready as we are to shoulder blame, as much as we’ve done it for years, it seems a foreign idea floating somewhere in outer space that maybe—just maybe—it’s not our fault after all.

But that sends us into greater fear because at that point, we realize how powerless we are to change anything.

I remember reading some blog on narcissism and being blown away that I could relate so readily to what was said. Like someone finally gave a name to my experience. I took a page of notes, then threw it all away.

Like a cancer diagnosis, realizing the truth of what’s going on in your marriage can be more terrifying than closing your eyes and going about your day.

It can be easier to give, give, and give than to wake up to the truth that no matter how much you give, you will never be enough.

If you have to admit you’re married to a narcissist, you also have to realize they probably won’t change.

Remember, sin is not a gender problem; it is a human problem.

I was a bit like the person who knows she has a tumor growing on her chest but avoids seeing a doctor because pretending is easier than getting a scary diagnosis she may not be able to heal.

But the tumor is still there, and it is growing.

In the same way, faking peace in your marriage without dealing with the real issue is like turning a blind eye to a tumor while it grows steadily into something fatal.

It didn’t matter that I cried alone while my husband went out to bars at night, nor that I shut my mouth when he told me to submit to it. It didn’t help, save, or heal our marriage; it merely pacified him while the problem festered and he knew I’d always do what it took to keep his disgust at bay.

There was “peace” but there was no peace. I lived with a gnawing knowledge that there were deep underlying issues we needed help to get to the bottom of. That didn’t happen, and once again, I was told to submit rather than bring up the need for counseling one more time.

Everyone’s situation is different. But the underlying theme I keep hearing is what prompts me to write this blog series. Men and women are suffering greatly with spouses who pull off abnormally wrong behavior but want to be treated as if nothing is wrong.

This does a number on people.

When a man breaks a woman’s trust by asking for a threesome, then treats her as if she’s stupid for not trusting him, that’s a wrench on her mind.

First of all, she has to come to grips with the fact that her husband actually wants other women in her bed. (For the record, ladies, not all men want multiple women. I know a lot of good men who would cringe at the thought of a threesome because they wouldn’t want to wreck the special connection with the woman they love.)

And secondly, she automatically wonders if she’s the problem. She’ll most likely double up on sex, buy new lingerie, and try her best to “trust”–all the while taking responsibility for something that is not her problem at all.

Did you know it’s humanly impossible to trust someone who hasn’t earned it? Like, that’s not even something you should try to do because you are incapable of doing it. Not because you’re incapable as a person, but because two plus two is not five; two plus three is five.

If your spouse is giving you two plus two, wanting you to say “five” as the answer, you cannot honestly say “five”, but will say “four” instead.

If your spouse at that point gets upset that you are not giving them a “five”, whose fault is that? How can you possibly give a number that is not honestly feasible to give?

At that point, you will need to express the impossibility of what they’re asking. If they become upset with you, you will need to calmly ask for a two plus three so you can give them their desired “five”.

The truth will set you free regardless of their anger with you. This is what I want you to see in the blog series I’m giving over the next months.

We will be rerouting our brains into truth.

We will be owning the truth of all things, whether it’s the truth of our pain, their wrong, our faults, our fears, or simply our utter incapability of giving them what they’re asking, and how terrified we are of losing them.

No denial can exist in a healthy brain.

I didn’t realize how unhealthy my brain was, how I had never learned to think for myself, and how that only fed into the problem in my marriage.

A man may want control and he may want you to submit when he’s wrong, but deep down he will respect you far more if you’re not desperate to keep him. My addiction to my marriage was sickening and it wasn’t broken until long after he packed his bags.

My desperation to please my husband put me in an impossible wrench. We must never be desperate for anything other than Jesus and His truth, allowing light to shed clarity on even the most painful things we’d love to avoid.

We are going to draw a line in the sand between ourselves and falsehood.

Until next time, stay in grace. To those who are asking me, I promise you there is help, hope, and peace.

God is who He says He is—even when, and especially when, people are not.