Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Prayer Through the Pain

The protective cushioning of denial has been slowly eroding and as it chips away, the depths of despair are ever deeper. My heart screams out that this can't be real, it can't be happening, but reality screams back at me that I need to wake up. I can't even fully process how bad I hurt... I know that is because some part of my mind has attempted to protect me from the full force of the rejection and betrayal that I feel. I can't even articulate the strange dichotomy going on in me. I thought I knew pain. I'm realizing what a buffer denial provided. Now that it's wearing away I'm sinking lower and lower.

I know You are there. I know You're working all things out for my good, but that just seems so distant and far away. I have to survive to get there, and right now, I don't want to. I want to escape this pain that threatens to consume my entire existence. I know that I have to hold it together to take care of my girls. I don't know if I can do it. I can't... At least not alone. God- I need you like I have never needed you before. Please, I beg of you, help my unbelief. I am losing hope, God. I don't want to let go of him. I don't want to concede defeat. But I am terrified that I don't have any choice in the matter. I don't understand what happened. I don't understand how I arrived at this desolate location where I feel so far removed from what I once was. Can we truly be over? Oh, God, please don't let it be so.

I know that I can survive without him. I know that life can be good again one day. I know that Your plan is best. I know that You are working all things out for good. I know that I have to combat what I feel with the truth of Your Word, because what I feel is a hollow despair that begs to be numbed. I have had such a hard time making myself open the Bible or even some of my books. I don't know why, but I know it's making this time even worse. God, please. Help me. Give me the strength to put on your armor. The enemy can smell victory and he's closing in for the kill shot. Please protect me from him. Please protect my whole family from him. We've been his targets for way too long. Please save us from him. Help us to resist his lies and his manipulations. Help us to stand in your strength and not our own.

Please, help me, God. The pain begs me to breathe it in and drown in it. Help me to walk across this ocean of despair instead of sinking into it. Help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to remember your promise in Isaiah 43:2 - You will be with me when I pass through the waters, and when I pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm me. Only with your help, my Lord, is this possible. Thank you for your faithfulness and your love, and most of all, your overwhelming grace that comes like a breath of fresh air just when I think I have breathed my last. Thank you that our pain is never wasted. Thank you for keeping track of our tears. Thank you for your intercession. Thank you, God. Just thank you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Surrender All

So, this is going to be pretty personal, but I feel led to share. Have you ever felt like God wanted you to surrender something to Him, but you weren't quite willing to actually do so, so you offer up everything else but that one thing? Let me go back quite a few months...

Beginning in April, there was a growing distance between my husband and I that I fought to erase. I chased and pulled and clung to him and did everything I could think of, in complete desperation. I was almost in a frenzy trying to win him back. In July we went to teen camp and I felt God asking me to surrender my all to Him. I went forward to the altar and told God I would surrender everything to Him, but please don't ask me to surrender my family- namely my husband. I knew that during this time of trying to win my husband's affections again that I had elevated him to a place that only God belonged. I wasn't quite willing to let go of that yet.

After camp things continued to deteriorate and I grew more and more desperate. I was clinging to God and begging Him to fix things, but I still hadn't come to the place where I had put Him back in the number one position. In August, my husband went on a missions trip, and was gone for 9 days. They were among the worst days of my life(up to that point). I missed him so much. I cried every day. I knew that the way I missed him seemed overly dramatic, but no one saw the fear I had inside that he would realize how much he enjoyed being away from me.

During this time, I decided to join in our church's challenge to read the New Testament during the month of August trying to find peace in God's Word. The first few days were uneventful, but then I came to the verses that changed my life.
“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
I have read these verses before. More than once. But when I read them on August 8 they jumped right off the page at me. I began to study them. When Jesus said this to Simon, he was telling Simon that Satan wanted to sift the all of the apostles like wheat. The original Greek word for that first "you" was plural. But then Jesus told Simon that He had prayed for him specifically. I saw "Simon, Simon", but what I was hearing inside was "Jeannie, Jeannie, look out! Satan has asked to sift your family like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your family." That day I knew God was calling me to surrender everything to Him. Everything. And this time I was willing. I wrote by the verses in my Bible "I surrender all - 8/8/13"

I also felt called. To something... but to what I did not immediately know. Even not knowing exactly what I was agreeing to do, I felt that it would involve trying to encourage other people. In my small minded way of thinking, I thought maybe this blog was it, although the thought of sharing such intimate things about myself in trying to encourage others was quite intimidating. It wasn't very long afterward when God revealed what He had in mind for me. And suddenly a blog wasn't so intimidating!

During this time of extreme stress in my marriage, I had sought help from a Biblical counselor. During one of my conversations with her when I was sharing the feeling that God was calling me to something she asked me a question. She asked if I had ever considered counseling others. Ummm... yes! I had a major interest in psychology and had thought in the past that I would love to be a counselor. When she asked me that it was as if God was saying to me, "This is what I have planned for you. Not only are you going to strengthen your family, you are going to strengthen other families through marriage and family counseling."

But, as is typical when God asks me to do something, I begin to think of reasons why I can't. "Lord, my own marriage is falling apart. How in the world can I counsel anyone else? Who would want my advice?" Shortly after that, my husband ended up moving out. Naturally, that just furthered my idea that I was not qualified for this. Then I saw a quote that says "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called". I think of Moses and his denials that he was the man for the job God called him to. I think of the fact that God created Moses so He certainly knew whether or not he was suited to the job. And the same can be said of me. God created me and He had a plan and a purpose for me long before I was ever born. If He calls you to do something, it is because He created you to do that very thing.

Although my husband still isn't back, I have faith that he will be back and our marriage will grow stronger than ever. And it will be out of what seemed to be the ashes of my marriage that I will have developed the empathy, sympathy, and compassion needed to counsel those that find themselves in similar situations. I will have been qualified by the very one that carried me through the days I didn't know if I could walk out the door and face the world without losing it.

I still don't have it all together and many days I fall victim to the lies of Satan and mourn my marriage as if it were over. There are still days I beg God to end this now, even though I know He will not let this last any longer than needed to prepare me for what He has prepared for me, and to refine me. But it is through the brokenness that He will be able to shine through. And that's what I want to come of all of this. I want people to see God through me. It's time to pull myself up by the bootstraps, and squeeze every possible lesson out of this trial, and begin to strengthen my family and sisters in Christ.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Never Alone

I have contemplated this blog post day after day after day, and I still just don't know what to write. Life goes on around me, and nothing is different in the world. The sun still shines, the days turn to nights, and the stars still twinkle, yet my whole world has been rocked.

Even in the midst of what is by far the hardest thing I have ever gone through, I have experienced the peace of God in a way I never have before, although every so often Satan will try to convince me what I feel is denial instead of faith. I know the truth though. My Father has promised me that He hears me, and that He will answer me. He's been telling me for a while that He needs to be first in my life, and enough for me, and I just didn't know how to make it happen. When He takes away what comes before Him, it becomes much easier....

When I feel like I can't take one more breath without completely shattering, He envelopes me in His arms. When the tears feel like they will never stop, He reminds me that His love never fails, never ends, and never leaves. He's so much more than I deserve, yet He loves me with a love beyond comprehension.

I thanked God today for bringing me to this place that has completely broken me. There are some attributes of God you can't fully appreciate unless you are first broken. I know that even if my marriage is never restored, He will work this all out for my good. He never promises life won't hurt, but that hurt is not wasted. Nothing catches Him by surprise, and nothing is unable to be redeemed or restored. I will cry many more tears before healing or restoration takes place, but I'm never without hope, for my hope is found in Him. And He not only understands my tears, but I believe He sheds them along with me. He's no stranger to rejection and betrayal. I'm so thankful for the humanity of Jesus. I'm thankful for Jesus, period.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Behind the Smile

I used to be the girl that could hide everything behind a smile. Somewhere along the way, I became a lot more transparent. I guess sometimes that's a good thing? Sometimes we really just want to hide and pretend that life is peachy, and not have people look at us questioningly. Sometimes we don't want to talk about why we want to curl up in a ball and cry until we fall asleep. Sleep...that blessed escape.

I find myself in such a profound sadness right now. I hurt physically. I hurt emotionally. I hurt spiritually. I have been on such an emotional roller coaster lately. I know that tomorrow, I may be heading back up to the top of the coaster. Or the next day. I know it's coming. I know I won't stay where I'm at. But even that's little consolation to me right now. Here is what is a consolation though... I'm so glad I serve a God that loves broken people. I don't have to keep it together for Him. I can fall apart right into His arms and be loved unconditionally. I can't earn His love, and I can't lose His love. I just have it. What a comfort for me. Even when I don't understand His plan, I know, feel and trust His love.

I'm not a big Freud fan, but I do love this quote of his - "One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful". I have seen in my own life the beauty of surrendering it all to God, especially when there is simply no other option. You give it all to Him, and trust Him to make something beautiful out of the ashes and dust of your shattered dreams and plans. Only God can turn our messes into something beautiful, but it's only after we realize we can't do it on our own and surrender it to Him. And oftentimes what He makes of it is so much more than we ever would have asked for, or even imagined.

Have you ever heard the expression about having champagne taste on a beer budget? I think we have a tendency to be the opposite way with God. We ask for so much less than what He truly wants to give us, and I can just imagine the delight He takes in overwhelming us with His goodness. I know as a parent, I love giving my kids something bigger than what they were expecting. How much more must He love it?!?

Give me eyes to see You God, and not my circumstances. Give me a heart that yearns for intimacy with You. Give me a thirst for your Word. Mold me into the woman you created me to be, in spite of my getting in Your way time and time again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bwessed Hope (To be read Princess Bride style)

So, it's been a little while since I've shared my heart. There have been many ups and downs since that time. I'd alternate between wanting to pour my heart out and not wanting to see my heart in print. I've had some really really bad days. And then I have days where I'm so hopeful my heart could burst. At the moment I'm full of hope. Five minutes from now could be a different story. One of my greatest weaknesses is allowing circumstances to dictate how much hope I have. I read a quote just a little bit ago that said do not doubt in the dark what God promised in the light. If that doesn't describe to a "t" how I've been dealing with life lately, I don't know what does.

Yet, I don't doubt the end result. I have full confidence that God is going to answer my prayer as I have put it before Him. I trust that completely. It's the road to that answered prayer that causes me so much heartache, and doubt and fear. When I step back and gain perspective, it seems silly to allow the daily issues to overshadow the certainty that God is going to grant me the desires of my heart. But in the trenches, it gets a lot murkier. My prayer is that God would grant me that same clarity that perspective gives, even when I'm in the trenches. I want my hope to come from the faith I have in God, not what is happening around me. That way, no matter how terrible things are, I have the same hope as when things are going great.

I belong to a God that works all things together for our good. But my flesh wants to see this immediately, or I begin to doubt. I'm so thankful for a God that is gracious enough to forgive our tiny little finite minds for doubting His awesomely amazing power and love. I have been blessed in so many ways even during the trials of the past couple of years. I have made so many new friends that I love so much, and cannot imagine life without them. My church family is becoming more like real family every day. I sometimes get tiny glimpses of Heaven when we are all together and fellowship and worship together. I have been blessed well beyond what I could ever deserve, and that's because my Daddy God loves me more than I can ever imagine. How can I ever doubt that He is working behind the scenes and creating something even more amazing than I could even ask for? Ephesians 3:20-21 are such beautiful verses. "Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

I hear inside a small voice that says "I've got this, my daughter. Leave it in my hands. You'll thank me a million times over. Just. Trust. Me."

I'm trusting you, God. Through the good. Through the bad. Through the light. Through the dark. If again I'm tempted to begin doubting, help my unbelief.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bewildered in the Wilderness

I came across a book recently that I put on my Amazon wish list. After sending a sample of the book to my Kindle, I promptly purchased the actual book. It's entitled "Wilderness Skills for Women: How to Survive Heartbreak and Other Full-Blown Meltdowns". The title was what first caught my eye, and for anyone following this blog you can imagine why. Here are some of the excerpts I read that told me this was a book I needed and needed now.

Throughout the Bible, a wilderness season is a time of testing, trying, and training an individual. It is often marked by a period of isolation, loneliness, temptation, sorrow, and waiting. Why? Circumstances that try us, train us. Situations that break us, shape us. Such is the wilderness. In the midst of the “dark night of the soul,” we are often miserable, but there, we are made. Transformed by the testing...if we pass the test, that is.

I saw a girl who didn't seem to have joy. A woman who didn't have assurance that the future was filled with hope, and, therefore, she was living in the pit of despair. I saw a pathetic, broken-down, miserably sad woman who obviously didn't believe that God was in control or had a purpose in her heartbreak. But I did believe—with all of my heart, by the way. I just wasn't choosing to live out what I believed; therefore, my emotions were ruling the day, and I was in the crazy place more often than I care to admit. And do you want to know the worst part? The real tragedy was my witness. My fretful and fearful response to my situation was speaking volumes to a watching world about my faith in my God.

That day, the breaking point, I cried out to God. I didn't want to live in despair anymore. Help me! I want joy again. Help me, Lord! I want peace again. Show me why I am an emotional basket case. Where am I failing to live out my faith?

I knew I had a decision to make. You see, walking by faith is a choice. I had to choose to believe who my God is, to believe what my God has said, and to believe what my God is able to do. Turning to the Bible, God taught me how other wilderness wanderers like me came forth triumphant from their seasons of testing in the wilderness. And He also taught me skills that I needed to learn from their experiences. These lessons are what you hold

Jordan, Marian. Wilderness Skills for Women: How to Survive Heartbreak and Other Full-Blown Meltdowns. B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Reading those I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was having a wilderness experience. I have known all along that God was using this to mold me for something, but it's easy to get lost in the pain and lose sight of His plan. I will admit I have spent much of the last week angry at God and questioning what He's doing and why He's taking so long to answer my prayers. I have prayed, I have fasted, I have begged, I have pleaded. I have thrown myself at His feet broken and hopeless. And in all this, I realize I am prolonging my wilderness experience, because I am no longer learning. I quit drawing close to God and instead got angry because He didn't jump when I demanded it. I'm reminded of the words He spoke to Job in Job 38-40. He is God. He is in control. It's time I start living like that is what I truly believe. Will life instantly fall into place? I wish... But I can trust that nothing I am going through will be wasted. Not one single moment, because God is in charge of them all.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No More Fairy Tale

Is there anything more painful than watching your "happily ever after" morph into "once upon a time"? If there is, I don't want to ever experience it. I have tried several times to make myself write...errrr...type up this post, but I was afraid of being too transparent, or sharing too much. I decided I needed prayer more than I needed to protect anyone. I am shattered on the inside. I have watched my husband pull further and further into himself and build walls that I can't penetrate or climb over, and I have tried. I know that all things work together for good. I know that nothing happens to me that God doesn't allow. I know God is good. But I also know the awful pain of looking at the emptiness inside his eyes... I know the pain of hearing "I love you" less and less frequently. I know the pain of watching happy couples and feeling an ache inside that I can't even describe. For those of you that have struggled with infertility, you know the ache I am talking about. It's the same one you get when yet another friend announces they are pregnant, and you still aren't... It's the same ache you get when you're late but the test is negative once again. It's a pain that seems to be bottomless. Every time you think you get a handle on it, it comes out of no where and hits you like a ton of bricks. I never in a million years thought I'd be here... I keep hoping that I'll wake up and realize that it was all just a pizza and chocolate induced nightmare, but every day it's the same thing. I can lay right next to him but there's a gulf between us that I can't cross. We need prayer, desperately. I know God is going to turn this around, but please pray for us in the meantime.

I'm clinging to the promises in God's Word. His grace is sufficient for me - His strength is made perfect in my weakness - all things work together for good - I can do ALL things through Christ - the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much - delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart - God is near to the broken hearted - He knows every tear I have cried.

I just read one that I am laying ahold of and not letting go of until I see it come to fruition...

Psalm 138:8
The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me...

I'm trusting you, God, through the pain. I lift my hands to you, and though my hallelujah may be hoarse, I will still sing your praises. You are good, even when life is not, and through it all, you work it out for our good. When the pain seems unbearable, help me to remember that I am not alone.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Temper Temper

“You’re telling me that faith is all I need, but fear is all that I can find in me.” – Lindsay McCaul

One of the things I love about Spotify is being introduced to artists I would not have heard of otherwise. This is how I discovered the amazing words of Lindsay McCaul. So many of the words of her songs could have been taken right off the pages of my mind. When I read the line above, I realized something that I had not recognized before. Yes, I am fearful, but I am acting in faith at the same time. I am not all fear and no faith. Many of the things I am doing scare me, BUT I’m doing them!

It’s not easy to open up and let people see the unedited version of you, the one that isn’t airbrushed to perfection. I want to be real, even when that means looking ugly. And aren’t we all ugly at some point? I know I was yesterday. I lost my temper not just once, but twice. And I didn’t even feel the least bit better for the least little bit of time. There was no release or relief in it. Instead I felt worse than I did before exploding. Turns out in addition to fearful, I’m angry. I want to backspace and take that out, but it is true and it is real. I have such a need to control my circumstances and letting God take charge has left me scared and easily angered.

So – what do you do in a case like that? The same thing you do when you encounter any other problem. You look to God and see what He has to say. I looked up several verses on anger, and when I got to this one, I knew it was THE one God wanted me to see. Proverbs 19:11 says “A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.” I was immediately convicted upon reading this because in the particular situation I am in, I know what thoughts and feelings are going through this person’s mind. I have been in their shoes, and felt their turmoil myself. I remember those days so clearly…except when it comes to this person offending me in the midst of their turmoil. Lord, help me to remember the pain they are in. Help me to be patient with them and to forgive quickly and completely. Help me not strike back, but rather “overlook an offense”. Let your love shine through me, drawing them to you. Help me to love them as you do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No Pain No Gain

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  ― C.S. Lewis

I first read this quote years ago and even then it resonated with me, long before I knew what REAL trials were, lol. I know that everything that God does is for my ultimate good. I know it will bring Him glory. I know one day I'll look back and be thankful for every single moment, no matter how painful. But I haven't figured out how to make that help me right now. I have such a hard time handling the unknown, wondering how long the painful parts will last. Then I feel guilty for having a hard time handling it, because I feel if I had more faith or read my Bible more or prayed more, or just did something more, I wouldn't feel that way.

Why do I view God as someone from whom I must earn favor? Does anyone else have this problem? He loves me. Just as I am. He loved me before I ever loved Him. He knows me better than I know myself. My fear does not take Him by surprise. When I cry out to Him asking "Why, God?" or "How long, God, will this last?" He knows the ache inside prompting the questions. He does not leave me comfortless, but so many times I initially reject the comfort because I am so fixated on wanting answers and wanting resolution. I know that this trial will last just as long as it needs to and not one second more to bring to pass what God wants to accomplish. And I know it will be a beautiful thing on the other side.

If I'm honest, I will admit that I'm not ready for the trial to be over from a spiritual standpoint. I know that I have not yet gotten everything out of this that I need to. I still have learning to do. Although I want the pain to go away, I don't want to continue living life in my own strength. I need to cultivate this intimate relationship with the lover of my soul, and to truly have it take precedence in my life. I guess this is definitely one of those cases where the saying "no pain no gain" is apropos. So, even though it hurts more than anything I've ever known, and even though I don't know when the end will come, Jesus, continue stirring my love for you, until I yearn for you above all else. Hold me close when the tears just won't stop, and soothe me with your promises.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fear Factor

It was what felt like an earth shaking revelation, but it came to me in a quiet whisper as I sat swinging with raindrops falling around me one by one. My marriage is not the problem. My fear is. Sounds simplistic, but it shook me to my core to realize I'd been looking at the wrong thing for all this time. Fear told me my marriage was in trouble. This same fear took isolated events (well, maybe not so isolated, there are a lot of them) and used them as negative reinforcement of that fear, causing even more distress, anxiety and heartache. Even as I write this I am deluged with thoughts about the issues and trials that do exist in my marriage. But things that would normally seem small and sometimes even trivial are blown into these seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Then the things that are already kind of big and truly important just cause me to shut down. I become a basket case. However, at the true heart of the issue lies one thing....fear.

Realizing that fear is the root of the issue has empowered me to attack this problem in a whole new light. I was spending so much time and energy trying to fix my marriage but even if everything had suddenly become perfect, the true problem would still be there, because I never addressed the root of it all. Fear magnifies every negative and belittles every positive. But I know where the fear and the magnification of these thoughts is coming from. I know Who to give it to. I fail to do that so often and end up suffering needlessly.

Jesus, give me strength to lay my fears at your feet and leave them there. Allow me to experience the peace of surrendering myself to the One who is and has always been in control. Help me to stop trying to control everything out of fear. Help me to be still and rest in Your peace. Help me to find wholeness and healing in You alone. Help me to be a light to others who feel the darkness closing in on them and feel that hope is gone. And help me to be the friend that my husband needs me to be, even when I long to be so much more. Use me God. For your glory. Not mine