Dear Single Mom-Part 3

Recently a mom asked me to write about practical tips for staying healthy and feminine in a busy life style. I told her I’d be happy to do so, because this is an important and fun topic for Christian women, but it seems only a few (and especially one) aspect of Godly femininity is usually mentioned and taught.

There is so much more to a truly beautiful woman. Godly beauty starts inwardly, yet shows itself outwardly.

Many Christian women read 1 Timothy 2:9 and interpret the Greek word used for “modest” as covering themselves appropriately. We are taught from an early age not to show too much skin and to cover our bodies in public. But I want to say, this is only part of the meaning of modesty.

“….Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9

KJV translates the word for modest with this: “orderly; that is, decorous; of good behavior, modest”

Though I believe appropriately covering our bodies is important, it is difficult to argue that this is the primary meaning of the Greek word “kosmios”. Rather, I see that God wants us to wear clothing that is pleasing to the eye in a modest manner. We are to take care of our appearance and make sure it is orderly and even decorous. In short, women who are pleasant in their appearance bring glory to God.

The Christian church has focused on “modesty” (their interpretation of modesty) more than on health. I’ve watched the results—many fully covered, unhealthy, unhappy women who are not taught the actual meaning of “kosmios”.

Here are a few things I believe are vital for Godly womanhood:

1. Do what you can to stay healthy.

One of the first steps to spiritual, emotional, and physical health is to keep our weight in check. Buy the weight loss program if you have to. Make it priority—rule over food rather than allow food to rule over you.

Buy a good scale and watch your weight–and if you’re married, do this even while pregnant. “Eating for two” doesn’t mean inhaling two donuts or five pancakes. Double up on the veggies, protein, and vitamins instead, if you need to. If we’re really eating for two rather than eating for ourselves, we’ll be eating in ways that are actually good for our baby and our body. Remember, you’re eating for your baby to form in the healthiest way possible.

The scale is your friend. Use it often and if you see numbers go up, do what it takes to stop the incline before you have serious regrets. This includes while you’re pregnant. If you consume too many empty calories while pregnant, the scale won’t drop easily after the baby is born. (Don’t allow yourself to gain 80 pounds if you only need to gain 40, etc.)

I’m not talking about being a size 2. BUT, I believe women need to encourage each other to stay healthy. Emotionally eating ourselves to ten sizes larger than we should be is not becoming for Godly women. This is a sensitive topic and not one we hear taught, but we need to start hearing it! Physical appearance matters and it affects us more than we know. Let’s not label health and fitness as worldly, but realize this is an area where the church often fails to live exemplary lives. Others look on and wonder why Christians preach against addictions, yet are addicted to over-indulgence with food. Do not all addictions harm the body, and why should teens accept preaching against nicotine from a father or mother who is grossly overweight and literally killing him/herself with sugar?

These are tough questions. But strong women are not afraid to face tough questions. It is high time for us to have worthy answers for those looking on.

Let’s face it—all addictions (not just some) are harmful and unbecoming to Christian women. And often, the more “religious” a group is, the numbers of overweight and unhealthy people increase. Religion labels certain things, but the Spirit of Christ sanctifies ALL things.

2. Exercise.

Getting active is vital for our health as moms. For many years, I pushed two or three babies in a used stroller for my exercise. I walked into town with them, walked around blocks before dinner, pushed them up and down a dusty country road. Wherever we lived, I did what I could with what I could.

Later years allowed for Cross Fit, weights, etc., but even then, the gym was a treat rather than a constant. Busy moms can even get on their living room floor and do leg lifts, crunches, and squats. We can do jumping jacks with our kids and have the best laughs watching them try to co-ordinate their limbs as they jump!

After each of my babies was born, I’d lay on my floor and lift my legs a few inches off the ground to tighten my stomach muscle. The burn and tightness in my abdominal muscles was entirely cost-free, took ten minutes, and could be done with my children all around me. My exercise was incredibly simple some years, but the point was to get moving!

In olden days, a woman’s regular day brought natural effort to their bodies. Scrubbing clothes by hand, hoeing a garden, or walking for water all fostered community and exercise. In today’s world, we can throw laundry into a washer, throw rice into an insta pot, and turn on a faucet for water. The end result is ease but no exercise. So, we have to be intentional about health as never before.

3. Don’t over-spend.

In today’s world, you can wear attractive clothing for only a few dollars. Don’t buy into the lie that it’s okay to walk around looking terrible because you’re a mom and don’t have extra money. Keep yourself fresh and clean, especially if you’re married. (You don’t need make-up—you just need health, peace, kindness, and good hygiene.

I’ve had very little manicures or pedicures. My hands have callouses and I usually stare wistfully at beautifully maintained finger nails, but I simply don’t have the time or money to spend on pedis and manis. Honestly, I’d rather head to a garden or a barn than into a nail salon, but that’s my Amish farm girl coming out. Those who know me best know I’m happiest out with the animals and dirt, or scaling a mountain.

I buy inexpensive jewelry. When I get compliments I often have to say, “This cost me $5.” I don’t own expensive jewelry and I’m okay with that.

So for those of us who think we can let ourselves go because we don’t have money for a gym membership or clothe purchases, just know that you can purchase a few outfits at Goodwill and work out at home. Even healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Be content and be disciplined!!

I put aside the cotton over alls I wanted due to price. I did purchase the $13 Walmart dress. Choices like these help us manage both our wallets and appearance!

4. Let go of the lie that in order to be pleasantly dressed you have to be into the latest fashion.

Truth is, I dislike some of the latest fashions and the other truth is, I don’t want to spend money being up to par with all of that. BUT, I do study clothing and body shapes. Some of us look terrible in what others look great in. Some things are appropriate for one body shape but too revealing for another. Whatever the case, I’ve found joy in a simple approach to clothing where I ponder what looks good or doesn’t look good, yet am not a slave to keeping up with all the latest fads.

We are not Hollywood actresses or fashion models—but hear me carefully, Christian women—our physical appearance is important when it comes to staying healthy and knowing how to dress.

Our bodies are not our own and are to glorify Christ. He is all goodness and love. Do people feel inspired when they look at us?

5. Don’t gain attention by showing too much skin.

Real women don’t have to show everything in order to know they are worth more than anything. Be beautiful, but keep your sexuality for the bedroom. When in public, have class and dignity about you that attracts appreciation and respect more than whistles and leers from player men.

A truly beautiful woman is a faithful woman who loves her husband and strives to be his best friend.

And if I can put a word in for swim wear, here: girls, some of your bikinis aren’t even bikinis anymore. If you’re okay with wearing one, at least cover your bum. Enough said. 🙂

6. Skin Care.

I’m not rigorous about the perfect skin care routine, but it is important to put at least moisturizer on your face twice a day. Wash and care for your skin. Take daily showers, especially if you’re married. The beauty of a woman is the cleanliness of a woman more than the expense spent on a woman. In other words, a healthy, clean woman is often more attractive than an unhealthy woman who spends hundreds of dollars each month to doll herself up.

So don’t stress about skin. You can go as easy as a natural coconut oil if you like. Most of us can’t afford dermatology or expensive skin care and that’s okay! Health comes from the inside out which means what you put into your body affects your skin.

And as you age, forget about getting as tan as you can in summer. Protect your skin more than you used to, to avoid brown spots and leathery skin. Especially if you live in the South! Staying tan is difficult in winter anyway, but healthy skin can be enjoyed year round.

7. Embrace Aging.

What is more needed and lovely than a radiant grandma?! I don’t know about you, but I need grandmothers with grey hair, soft arms, and fires burning in their hearth, heart, and homes. I need grandmothers whose bodies may be growing feeble while their hearts burn with wisdom and insight more than ever.

Only a selfish woman who thinks her value comes from youth and outer beauty will fight and kick the aging process. Having this as your focus leaves you empty, with nothing for the soul of others to connect to. Stay healthy, active, and pleasant—but don’t fret the wrinkles! Just smile a little more as you grow older and allow the joy of you to override the aging of you.

7. Worship.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who worships her way through life. Honor God by worshiping Him through your tears. Truly thank Him for the joys of life. Be a thousand times grateful for the one time critical or negative.

Remember that your soul can be beautiful regardless of who or what is around you. What atmosphere do others get in your presence? Who are YOU—because who your soul is matters more than what your circumstances are.

Christian woman, remember there is so much more to modesty than what is usually taught. Be a lovely, feminine, attractive person in your soul, and strive to show that in your appearance. Even if you’re a tomboy who hates girly things and finds herself out shooting guns and riding horses—be a real woman and be proud of it!!

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

Psalm 34:5

XO,

Sara

Dear Single Mom, Part 1

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 Son of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.”

Malachi 4:2

Three Steps in Finding the Will of God

I remember when I had a decision to make of staying on the west coast or moving my four children to the east, closer to family and away from the greatest tragedy of our lives.

I stalled for months. When it comes to big decisions, how does one know?

I know I’m not the only one who has difficulty feeling confident with major decision making. But especially as an Amish girl, taught to serve, obey, and submit my will to men, I really wasn’t prepared to face the world when I grew older.

Decision making threw me into a panic. But I’ve learned some things since then that I’d love to share with you because they’ve brought me such peace.

1. You can’t always wait to make a decision until all your fears or questions are gone.

Sometimes God leads you to move into something in spite of questions or fears. As with the case for moving my children from Washington state to North Carolina, all I knew was that something needed to change and we needed help. So, I put my faith in Jesus and decided to put in a legal request and trust that God’s will would manifest in the court’s decision.

The day our lawyers fought like cats and dogs over mine and the children’s future was stressful enough to put me into bed for a few hours. The court session ended with no answers except that the judge would keep looking into the situation and get back to us. I waited for days, then suddenly picked up the phone to my attorney’s voice, “Sara, you can move.”

One sentence changed everything.

I still didn’t feel confident but trusted that God knew all things. In the next three weeks I packed up our 3400 square foot home, sold most of our belongings, cleaned out the large shop building, purchased plane tickets, and made the arrangements online to move into a rental we had never seen, in an area where we knew only one other family.

As my therapist always said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

See this—my confidence had to shift from my own fallible self to a good Father God who knew all things and watched over us night and day.

Two years later I see what God saw all along. I’m sitting here smiling, realizing how He was putting pieces together for a better life, long before I knew. He led us to the right church, people, places, and things.

Always remember that courage is not the absence of fear; courage is moving forward in spite of fear. So if there’s a decision to make today, lean into it and make the best one you know how to make. Trust God to fill in any gaps you don’t see, just as you do for your own children.

Move carefully, but always make sure that you’re not giving in to paralysis from analysis.

We can paralyze ourselves from moving into God’s will for us because we’re so afraid of being out of His will. There’s a much better way to live—a way of confidence even while questions remain. Sometimes it takes moving forward to make the cowardly fear slink back into the shadows while the peace of God becomes stronger and stronger.

Immobility can cause even greater havoc in our circumstances or our hearts. Yet, we stay immobile out of fear because we’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing. Interesting, is it not? Satan loves to get us huddled in fear and sorrow when we could be moving in light and joy. Seeing the goodness and grace of God sets us free from immobilizing fear.

2. If the decision to make involves right or wrong, and you’re not sure what is right, look at scripture first.

Feelings are fallible, our minds can trick us, and people can lead us wrongly. But God’s written Word brings light from heaven that will never change or leave.

I was listening to a podcast in my car one day, sent to me by someone who wanted me to believe something was right, when suddenly a car in front of me swerved left with these words on the bumper, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

In that moment I realized that I couldn’t base my personal convictions off any preacher or person’s interpretation of scripture, but on scripture itself. I ended up realizing how “off” the speaker was and how I could not embrace what he taught. And as time went by I found increasing peace in what scripture plainly taught because I put God’s word above all human opinions of His word.

God may use dreams, a sense of personal peace, other people, pastors and speakers to help us determine His will. But His will is never opposing scripture. If someone differs from scripture or your own feelings differ from scripture, always fall back on the Word of God and require your feelings to subject themselves to God.

Don’t listen to people who say, “God would never require that of you.” The truth is, God does sometimes lead us down difficult paths. His way is narrow and He does ask hard things of His children sometimes. But He’s there to carry us along and we find His peace better than any easier way of our own.

In this way, you build a foundation that will never be shaken. Feelings change, people’s opinions vary—but the Word of God stands forever.

Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And the rains fell and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24&25)

I love and appreciate the fact that I am no slave to my own opinion or feelings. God’s will always sets me free to live a full and abundant life when my own emotions would take me down or lead me into things not lining up to the best life He has for me.

God is always freedom. Saying yes to His will can only bring you upward and onward.

3. Never stay stuck in a place of fear.

Immobility and isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tactics. But when God is at work, things move, change, and bring us into community with others.

I want us to know that putting God in a box is degrading the magnitude of Christ. When Christians hold to standards not found in the Word of God, they do not allow God to move as He’s able.

With Christ, there is wisdom but there are no boxes. If two young Christians decide to join a Christian dating app, rather than freak out, pray for them. When a seemingly positive answer comes along, help them process. Do away with the “Thou shalt nots” (unless it’s in the Bible), and replace them with a constant anticipation of watching God do something for the good of those He loves.

The shift in thinking is life giving to all those around you but immediate and swift judgment and standards on things Christ doesn’t even bother mentioning is oppressive to everyone around you.

Many, many Christians exercise control out of fear. The “will of God” becomes an excuse to push people away, create boxes, draw lines, and limit a magnificent Christ Who loves to work wonders in many different ways.

Mobilize yourself into love and keep an open mind to watching God at work in ways you didn’t expect or think of as “normal”.

And remember to back everything up to the Word of God. His no is not deprivation, but always an invitation to a better yes!

When you see all God says yes to, you can easily surrender when He says no. But if you’re immobile out of fear, you will be missing out on the goodness of God and in that way, fall more easily into wrong posture of heart or even sin.

Creating our own boxes keeps us in a box where we don’t see God move and are incapable of living His true will. There, we fall prey to unbelief, fear, depression, and judgment. All the while, God is moving in circles of LIGHT, LIFE, and LOVE where He invites us to join Him as we step out of fear and into His heart.

Stay when He tells you to stay, but remember that, even as you stay, He will move you into good. God is always on the move.

When your circumstances don’t change, remember that God is moving to change your heart. And a heart changed by a moving, loving, intimate Father God is the greatest move of all.

Stay in Grace, release control, have courage in spite of fear, and lean heavily into Jesus where all is grace.

Until next time,

Sara

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

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 by Moving On–and What That Really Means (Part 5)

Most people, when they mention moving on, are referring to a readiness to get into another romantic relationship.

But moving on can be so much more. I’m here to tell you that you can “move on” without moving into the arms of another man. For me, moving on means finding soul-freedom from my past more than it means finding human love.

Letting go of a person when he’s dead can be difficult, but letting go when he’s alive can be brutal. Death brings finality and closure that cannot be avoided; divorce brings rejection and betrayal that, by all means, could and should have been avoided.

Divorce brings the death of a dream. It wasn’t only a marriage, though that would be enough. For me, divorce also brought the death of my children’s security, my dream home, my friends, the mountains and sea that I loved with all my heart, and my church. My ex didn’t think the loss would be so great, and wanted me on good friendship terms while he slept with our daughter’s 16 year old friend five minutes away. In his mind, we could live a good “friendship’, co-parenting life style in close proximity with each other.

When I realized how his brain really worked, I realized how confused mine had become. Narcissists are good at that—love bombing while tearing you to shreds—and if you don’t enjoy it, they’ll tell you that something must be wrong with you for being so sad.

Divorce taught me to see God, but it also taught me to see a lot of other things. Facing my grief with God allowed me not only to see His hand move on my behalf, but also His Love so pure that it was nothing like the “love” I thought I had with my ex-husband.

Seeing God means you own up to what He’s saying about everything. You start seeing evil for what it really is while you see goodness in ways that take your breath away.

Yesterday when a friend asked me how I’ve moved on, I had to stop and think. How has all that not destroyed me?

By choice, I don’t have a boyfriend. So I can’t credit healing to finally being in a healthy relationship.

It sounds clique to say that it was God’s presence that allowed me to stay intact and learn how to thrive again, but it’s true. I learned how to live autonomously before Jesus Christ and see what He said over me, to me, and for me—completely apart from any other human being.

You can lose everything, yet still hold on to the most important thing. This is because Jesus’ death on the cross annihilated not only sin, but also the effects of sin. Salvation was not only meant to take your sin away, but also to remove the affects of another’s sin toward you.

I took years to process the fact that my husband would walk away. I took even longer to process the fact that he wouldn’t come visit his children, and my little boy hasn’t seen his father in almost two years. Trust me when I say the processing included many tears, more grief than anger, and that devastating realization hitting hard when I woke each morning not wanting to place my feet on the ground.

So I’m not offering you some magic formula of moving on. It’s more like a solid refusal to go under no matter what you might feel in a day. It looks a lot like reaching out for help, like processing long and hard, like talking to God through it all, about it all. It looks like owning your own faults, while recognizing that the divorce is not your fault.

Moving on takes some hard-knock-life stuff. Avoidance or oblivion may make you feel momentarily that you’re moving on, but in reality, you’re only shutting down. Be willing to engage every day, even if you have a few where you don’t get out of bed.

Some of that hard-as-hell stuff in life will knock you flat for life unless you get hold of the delight Jesus Christ has over you. He says to me, to you, “I loved you before marriage, I loved you during marriage, and I love you just as much after marriage.”

The purity culture has good to offer, but we often end up idolizing the perfect romantic relationship, thinking that our well being is tied up in another person. We are much less prepared than the world is, to be cheated on and discarded. We find our identity in serving and submitting to a man, and try to perfect ourselves and our relationships as much as we try to have a relationship with God.

Slowly and unawares, a man becomes God to us. We really don’t think we can be okay without a good man in our lives.

The best women can be wrecked the most when betrayal happens, or even when marriage is less than it should be. But I want to tell you that your man is not your God. Your man is not your Savior. And your man will never keep your heart full of pure, unadulterated joy before God.

Idolizing marriage puts you in a cage of your man’s perfection—which he will never attain to, and if you expect him to be perfect for you, you’ll spend each day griping about one thing or another.

I’ve seen women gripe daily over good, faithful men as if they cannot live autonomously before God and find soul satisfaction on their own. As if it takes their men seeing a need and fixing it before they can fix their own hearts. As if their entire well being is contingent on their men treating them perfectly.

Heaven help these men if they’re trying hard, yet aren’t filling the quota their wives place on them to fill.

Coming out of abuse and the worst kind of betrayal allowed me to see the idol marriage was to me. Surrendering that to the Lord allowed me to take hold of His love, plan, purpose, and design for my life. No man can wreck that up—the only person who will ever wreck God’s perfect design for your life is YOU.

Seeing God changes everything.

Moses knew there was a burning bush in his vicinity, but the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw that Moses turned aside and looked.

Moving on doesn’t have to mean moving into another relationship. The best moving on comes when we turn to face what God is doing—first, in grief, sorrow, pain, and anger. We don’t run from these negative emotions, but process them facing Jesus.

As the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw Moses turn aside to really look, so He will speak to you when you stop everything to look at His face.

If you really face everything with God, you’ll find more soul freedom than many find who never have trauma but live a relatively easy life.

Facing God with our emotions is the only way to heal properly. Denial is not healing; it is debilitating.

As we face God with our grief, we begin to see God do things to help us. We credit God for His works as we move aside to see God.

I knew it was God who helped me run a successful AirBnB.

I knew it was God when I paid for my car in cash.

I knew it was God when I craved chicken and a widow lady called me up to ask if I could help her eat a larger amount she didn’t need. Somedays, small things meant even more than big things. They showed me God was watching closely.

I knew it was God when I found a house online and moved within three weeks from one coast to another.

Friends, God is always doing things for us, yet we are not always turning aside to see God and give Him credit. Many times we are stopping in our tracks to gripe over what we don’t have, and missing out on the marvelous works of God on our behalf.

“And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.

When the Lord saw that He turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’” (Exodus 3:3&4, ESV)

God spoke when Moses turned to see.

Friends, if you’re seeing devastation in your life, imperfections in your spouse that leave you empty and wanting, make sure you turn aside to see God and His works even more.

He will come to you.

He will work in you.

He will work for you.

Though your spouse may never change, remember that the gift of Life is autonomously given, no man can take it, and, just as importantly, no man can give it.

Seeing God changes everything.

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.”

Regaining Emotional Clarity by Finding Help (Part Two)

The day I walked into a professional counselor’s office started the change in my life.

It was hard, and I wanted to disappear. I had chosen an older, christian male counselor because I desperately wanted to know if I was wrong. He looked at me kindly and said, “So, you’re a strong woman, aren’t you?”

All I could do was whisper, “I hope so”, then cry for the next hour as years of pain surfaced and I shared the dilemna I was in with my husband’s repeated suggestion that perhaps marriage should be “open”. He’d promise me that he’d never live it out unless we were both okay with it, and he didn’t know where he stood on the matter as of yet. But it threw me into turmoil, and lots of it.

I remember asking myself if I was selfish for wanting to be the only woman in my husband’s life.

I wanted God’s will, I wanted to please my husband, but when it came to this topic I would have rather been alone than be in an open marriage.

For many years, I kept hearing things like “Maybe God designed men to have multiple women and that’s why they struggle with lust.”

Or, when seeing one man surrounded with three beautiful ladies at dinner, “See? Isn’t there something exemplary about that?”

I’d shake my head and want to gag. No, that didn’t look exemplary to me; that looked needy and sinful to me.

The pornography topic wasn’t even mentioned in our home as a problem until one night, out of nowhere, I was prompted to ask him about it. The answer I got put me in turmoil for many years.

“I’ve been looking at some to pray about whether or not it’s right to view. I can’t lie about that—and you shouldn’t have asked me about it.”

At that moment, my inner reality changed while my outer world kept spinning as if nothing happened.

Amish girls are raised with the three big S words: submit, serve, and silence.

So, though my stomach tied in knots, that is what I did. Obviously, with the three other S words, there came a fourth S word: SEX.

I absorbed blame in our relationship and took internal responsibility very quickly. Saying “I’m sorry” was much easier for me than learning how not to say “I’m sorry” while asking for what I needed and deserved in a relationship.”

Writing about all this sickens me because I see who I used to be. Pathetically naive and dependent, with no ability to see beyond the perceived safety I felt in marriage to a man who would confuse my brain, then leave me with four children to figure life out on my own.

I thought he was good. I idolized him as good. And I was determined that nothing in all the world would wreck our marriage.

I should have known, right after marriage, when he told me I wasn’t allowed to go home to see my parents and siblings “because you’re addicted to them”, that something was dreadfully wrong. But, I wasn’t raised to think—I was raised to obey and serve.

I don’t know if I had even heard the word narcissism.

I had watched little to no movies or television, so I operated with an incredibly small worldview. I had never traveled out of the country or lived on my own. From working hard to please my father (who is a good man), to working hard to being a good wife and mother, this is what I knew to do.

The Jesus I know now was more of a God to please, back then. I didn’t know I could trust Him fully to love me unconditionally. I had no idea of a relationship where I didn’t have to perform in order to be loved and accepted.

I had little autonomy, but even while married, I began to see that something was off balance. God used friends to show me what could be, and I embraced it eagerly. I was beyond excited that God had a beautiful balance for women, somewhere between the door mat thing I saw in one world, and the feministic attitudes I saw in another world. Slowly, I learned that it was ok to be myself, that my voice really mattered, that I could think, reason, and be alive with or without the approval of others.

The voice of God was strong enough to start changing me while I was still in an almost hopeless situation that only got worse with time. As with everything else, I started writing out what I was learning, so when my publisher asked me for a book, I hesitated, then gave her that file on my laptop. I have no regrets in letting her publish it, even though my marriage ended afterward.

The only thing any one of us can do is change ourselves. We have no responsibility or ability to change another person, but growing ourselves up is imperative.

I thank God for healing me, for loving me, for giving me a voice to use, for giving me life apart from any man on this earth. I thank God that I now know this one thing—I am as important to God as any man could ever be. He loves me, and I trust Him.

But many years ago, though my heart was crushed over the answer I received about the pornography issue (many years before my husband left), all I knew to do was pretend nothing happened. Hear me carefully—this brought fake peace while it allowed the problem to continue until one day, years later, I received an email telling me that we disagreed on this matter and I was free to leave him.

“I might come back to you in five years,” he’d tell me and others. The pain and confusion of it all rocked me.

I continued to fight for our marriage until he packed his bags six months later and told me that he doesn’t want to sleep with other women while he’s married to me, but after the divorce he’s not sure. In reality, it was only a very short time until he was sleeping with our daughter’s friend, a few long years before the divorce was final.

Do you see the confusion here? And you, men and women whose spouses are acting up in similar ways—- know that freedom comes when you no longer try to make sense of the mess. Evil is often confusing and doesn’t make sense. Give your brain a break.

Hear this carefully—for many years, I was too frightened of the trouble that would come if I didn’t “submit and be silent”. Are any of you in that place? Please know that you don’t have to stay there.

No one has to suffocate under a religious definition of “submission”.

The patriarchal system gives the picture of a perfectly loving man IF the woman does everything right. “If you give your husband lots of sex, he won’t be tempted to have an affair.”

“If you submit to him well, he will never raise his voice.”

I tried it, friends. I tried to be “perfect” so the end result would line up with what I was basically promised—a kind, loving husband who would adore me and treat me well.

That never happened. Outward, public chivalry, yes. Holding my hand, yes. But emotional healing, mutual respect, love in the places of my soul that were hurting, no.

Anyone can pull off decent outward behavior. Only some will wound your soul with moral issues while they hold your hand, pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

Before I go further, let me assure you that I’m a firm believer in the goodness of sex. What I’m calling our attention to is something different—and that is, either partner shutting down vital parts of their emotions in order to function well in the bedroom. Marriage should be a safe place for body, soul, and spirit together, with neither part of us shutting down but all aspects of us becoming better.

When either partner is breaking trust, it is not only right to discuss and work through the pain of it all; it is vital.

But many of us do the opposite. We shut down our brains so our bodies can comply with our inner false responsibility to give and enjoy sex while the other partner breaks trust. We do this out of fear and a desperation to connect on some level.

I was determined that if my husband was into pornography, it wouldn’t be my fault.

If he ever left me, he wouldn’t be able to say it was because I didn’t give him enough sex.

So, I did what it took with my emotions so that I could keep doing what I thought constituted a “good wife”.

I kept the house clean, home schooled the children, cut the grass, did the grocery shopping, laundry, packed his lunches and cooked his dinners.

But, I hurt my heart and soul by not validating the pain. I didn’t know how to live as if I was worth something, too.

Later, the truth met me that there were some things no one can fix, no matter what they do. That truth saved me.

“Am I selfish for not wanting to study open marriage with my husband?” Is he right that we should be able to discuss these things together?”

My husband ordered a book for us to study on the topic, which I agreed to study with him. I was desperate for his approval and reasoned that God could keep me in truth by His Spirit.

But when the book arrived, I could read one page before begging him to remove it from the house. My husband was disappointed and said that time was the best time of our marriage as he felt we could talk about everything.

Do you see the number this put on my dependent brain? He wasn’t mentioning SIN; he was talking God’s will, an open mind, best time of our marriage because we could communicate about everything.

He used everything I wanted most to pull me into the thing I wanted least. Hear me carefully on this—this is a very, very common tactic for narcissists to use.

I needed help to keep my head on straight. And whether or not your situation is as drastic as mine was, you need the same help. The kindness we get one day mixes with the abuse we get another day, until it is very difficult to think clearly on our own.

Keep your brain sharp. Keep your mind above the fog. Reach out for help. This is point number three. Please don’t do what so many men and women do—stay silent out of “respect” for their spouses. That, my friend, is not respect; that is fear.

Those who truly love you will assure you that you’re not selfish to want answers. They will tell you that you’re right on track. You need to hear truth verbally, whatever it is—and you need it now.

This time, don’t walk to a closet to cry it out–walk to a counselor’s office to find answers. Trust Jesus and His heart for your emotional healing and mental clarity, trust that others will surround you with love, trust that you can and should reach out.

Love,

Sara