My Love Story….

My love story will be different…It won’t be a “married to my high school sweetheart” story. It won’t be a “rocky marriage and reconciliation” story. It won’t be a “happily ever after right after divorce” story. No, my love story will be different.

My love story will be learning about how much God loves me, even in the midst of painful losses and rejections. My love story will be learning to love myself in the midst of them to0. Learning to love myself even when made to feel unlovable. Learning to love myself after being torn down to a nub by men in my life. Learning that not all men and women are the same….

Right after my divorce, I fell hard for a guy. He gave me more attention that I’d ever received from my ex-husband. We dated over a year, but he refused to commit. So, heartbroken again, I knew I had to stop the rollercoaster of not knowing what he wanted from me. Cue the next few guys who wanted to marry me after our first date. And some even before. What was going on?!?

First guy turned out to be on parole for double homicide (his wife and another guy)! Next two had mental issues, so much so, that suicide was mentioned after ending things. The fear of God set in. What was a single mom with two daughters to do?  Just stop? Or keep trying, trusting God. I chose the latter……My love story will be different.

The only way I could trust God with my romantic life after these stories was IF I loved Him enough and trusted His love for me. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cried out, thinking it won’t happen for me. It just can’t after these stories…The fear would be too great or the rug would be yanked out from under me, again.

I dated a guy who truly loved me, but we split over spiritual beliefs. I’ve dated a guy recommended by one of my best friends. I thought that he was my reward for standing up for my beliefs. That turned out to be false too and ever so painful and confusing all over again. What was going on?!?

The guy before has come back around. God spoke to his heart in my absence and it turns out our spiritual beliefs aren’t as different as we thought. Surprisingly, close. He knows all my fears, issues, and concerns. His love still rings true. God’s will be done.

My love story will be different….God will be my first love. My love story will be an open book of the love we share. I will run to Him when I hurt. I will lean on Him when I’m scared. I will share who He is to me. I will trust Him with my life. And, if it turns out that He just wants me all to Himself, my love story will be complete. I will live to please and honor Him all the days of my life.

 

 

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…But I won’t do that.

There are many things I would compromise on, but feeling loved is not one of them. My experiences have brought me to the point and realization that words fall short. If I don’t feel loved by a person, their words are just that, words.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NIV)

Looking back, It’s the same with my relationship with Jesus, it wasn’t until I felt His love for myself, that I could believe it. Once I believed it, I built my life around it. This is where transformation comes in. When His love washes over us and we realize He’s been waiting and pursuing us all along, our hearts are drawn to Him. It’s in these moments, that we worship in tears and awe, sometimes even speechless.

So, when it comes to my future husband, I will compromise. But, I will not settle. To settle would be to commit my life to a man that I’m not sure loves me. To quote Meat Loaf, “I would do anything for love…but I won’t do that.”

I questioned my ex-husband’s love for the 10 years we were together. I will not do that again. One thing I ask the Lord to provide most of all, is a deep sense of assurance. A love I can rest in. A love I can be myself with. A love I can be emotional with. A love I can be honest with. A love I don’t ever question. A love like His. Everything else comes and goes. If we find this kind of love on this earth, romantic or otherwise, cling to it and thank God for it. It’s a love from Him.

Laser Focus

laser-focus

The closer I get to Jesus, the less legalistic and judgmental I get. I think this is because the closer we get to Him, the more our own imperfections are highlighted. Not in a bad way, but in a way that helps us realize we need Him more than ever and how much we are all alike. Sinners searching.

Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Matthew 7:1-2 (GNT)

The closer I get to Jesus, although my own sinfulness is exposed, His love is amplified. He loves me anyway.

The closer I get to Jesus, the more I can empathize. Rather than seeing rebellion and hatefulness, I see the hurt behind it. I don’t necessarily engage or react like I used to (at least I try not to), but I do understand why it’s there. They are either trying to earn a love that is already there or they are not feeling the love that is already there. Both scenarios are sad. In these circumstances, remind yourself of His unwavering love and pray. Pray they will feel the Love they need. The Love we all need. The Love that is already there.

The closer I get to Jesus, the other “stuff” doesn’t seem to matter as much. A bad day at work is just that. A misunderstanding with a friend is an opportunity to grow. A temper tantrum thrown is an opportunity to practice patience. A tight month financially is an opportunity to trust. A critical comment is an opportunity to test my faith. A rejection is an opportunity to test my resolve. A mistake is an opportunity to show grace.

The closer I get to Jesus, the more thankful I get. It’s because of His love that any of us are here and it’s because of His love that we get to live with Him forever. It’s because of Jesus that I fight the fear to share. And, it’s because of Him, that I get to.

The closer we get to Jesus, the more He shines. My goal on this earth is to walk as closely as I can with my Jesus until that blessed day I get to look Him in the face….

Where is your focus? On the problem? The fight? The hardship? Focus on Jesus, take His hand, and don’t look down. Look full in His wonderful face. With laser focus on Him, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace….

Guilt to Gratitude

thank you Jesus

Growing up I had the rules, but lacked the relationship. I felt like the only way to earn and stay in God’s favor was to do or not do certain things. And, I failed….constantly. Being a born pleaser, I felt like I must certainly be letting him down like all the time. I loved Him and I wanted His love, but felt unworthy because I couldn’t live up to what I thought He expected from me. Even when I did the “right” things, I didn’t understand why I had to in order to be loved. Either I was or I wasn’t, right?

My “hard to please” God eventually turned into one I gave up trying to please. I just accepted the fact that I never could. I was too sinful, too guilty, too wrong. If he loved me, it must be out of pity. It would have to be in spite of my efforts because I could never do enough or get it right.

Slowly, but ever so surely, I started feeling His love more. I began studying, searching, seeking, wondering….could it be true? He would speak to me. He would tell me it was true. But, my imperfections were the bullhorn and His voice was hard to hear. I started straining to hear His voice. I started reading books that spoke about it. Reading about and talking to people with the same issues and questions as me. People who’s lives were transformed by the love of God in spite of themselves and their actions hoping on a prayer that He could love me the same.

Guess what? He does. Now, I know that His love for me is regardless of my actions. Anything I do or don’t know in His name as a sacrifice is a beautiful thing, but I don’t HAVE to do anything for Him to love me any more than He already does each and every day. This fuels joy like I’ve never felt. This makes me want to shout His name from the mountaintops! This makes me WANT to live for and with Him. This unconditional love is worth changing our lives for and I firmly believe is the only thing powerful enough to do so.

My hang-ups are people pleasing, guilt, fear, worry. He meets me here. He loves me through it. He empowers me, calms me, walks with me, and reminds me that I’m human. While we see the struggle and feel the shame, He sees the reason that He came. Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for us, if we didn’t need Him to. He did it because He loves and He knew He had to. Being human means that we are sinful. We are sinful and selfish as two year olds. As we grow up, we can control ourselves better and make better choices, but we are still sinful and it takes complete dependence on Jesus when we realize that our works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

When we realize our condition, we are sometimes prone to run the other way. We could never measure up! Instead, let us turn our guilt into gratitude. Let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and say “Thank you!! Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for loving me then, now, and tomorrow, no matter what. Thank you, sweet Jesus, for taking everything I’ve ever done and ever will do to the cross. Help me to live in a way that honors you!”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:40-41 (NLT)

Even the men Jesus chose to walk beside him were weak. Peter wanted to fight for Jesus. Peter drew a sword when they came to take Him. Peter swore He’d never deny Jesus. But, Peter couldn’t even stay awake while Jesus (his best friend, his Savior) sweat drops of blood in agony just a few feet away. Jesus asked them to do one thing, yet their flesh was too weak. THIS is why He died for us. He knows what we are up against. He knows the frailties of our minds, bodies, and spirits.

That being said, can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul?

One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ Matthew 22:35-37 (NLT)

Jesus KNOWS our limitations as humans. He also knows our hearts crave His love. If we allow His love into our hearts and start to live in the freedom of it, our lives will reflect that. We will be filled with Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit. We will not be perfect, but we will be surrendered. Rather than hiding because of our guilt or trying to earn His love, let’s go face down in gratefulness to our Father in heaven. Because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and we could never do enough to even come close to what He’s already done for us.

Mary Magdalene loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much (Luke 7:47). That forgiveness and love is available to each one of us. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…..Only Jesus can save a wretch like me. Thank you Jesus!

Why wait?

waiting

Why would God give us something that feels as good as sex and then ask us to wait? Once we get our first good hit, we’re hooked and looking for the next one. Reminds me of when my brother took his first bite of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. He said: “What do they put in these things? Heroin?” They’re good!

Our bodies go through all kinds of changes as we grow up. Sexual desires and feelings are natural in this process. And, when puberty ends, that’s just the beginning. God created sex for us to not just be fruitful and multiply, but to enjoy. To come together as husband and wife over and over and over again. Each time we do, we honor God with our bodies and our marriage.

But, what about before? Before I got married, one of my favorite things about a committed relationship was consistent sex. I enjoyed it with my boyfriend and felt little shame. We were “committed” after all. But, is that the commitment God desires? Our boyfriend is not our husband. Our boyfriend has not pledged his life to us. Boyfriends come and go. Husbands are supposed to stay. I realize now that this is God’s desire and definition of commitment.

Covenant love gets to enjoy sexual relations free of shame and free from the fear of parting ways. Sex is a gift that God intends and promotes for true commitment. These days divorce is so common, I can understand how even marriage can feel iffy in the “not parting ways” department. Mine was. This fact makes it that much more important to me to know how committed my future mate is.

In my mid 30s and back in the dating pool, the Lord spoke to my heart and I had the question for the first time in my life: “How do I date without sex?” “How do I have a relationship without it?” Is it even possible? I mean, what do we do instead? How far is too far? What’s ok, what’s not? How will we connect? How will our love grow? To me, that was all part of being and growing in a relationship. And, once I’d crossed that line, what was the point in not crossing again?

Then, the questions: How would I want my daughters to date? Wouldn’t I want them to know it’s possible? What example do I want to set? How does grace play in? I hadn’t held back since my teens. So, I thought I’d write to share my struggle with you. If it’s hard for you, I get it. I’m living it. And, I’d love your tips if you have any. This is new and very difficult territory here.

My best tips are communication and peace. Communicate with God. Ask Him for help and guidance. Have the “talk”. Let your dates know up front that it’s your desire to wait. If they bail, you know early! If they have the same desire, Hallelujah! They can and should help you. If they don’t, they’ll go elsewhere. Don’t expect it to be easy for them either. You will both struggle. But, it will be together.

Keep talking as your relationship progresses. It will grow in a completely different way. Let peace be your guide. If you have it, you’ll know. If you don’t, you may be going too far. Communicate again with God and each other. Because, there is so much more to it…

You are not alone. There are Christian singles out there with the same desire to honor God with their lives, hearts, and bodies. Both men and women. They are out there, but few and far between. It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. It’s so difficult in fact, that it may prohibit some from dating at all.

If you find someone who is willing to battle this with you, they are willing to fight for you. They know, like you, that in order to get to the other side with someone who respects themselves and desires to honor God is worth that wait.

Your willingness to communicate your desire to wait has to be stronger than the fear of embarrassment or rejection. In this case, you have to look at rejection as a blessing. The man who honors you, honors his Father in heaven. And, that’s the kind of guy you’d want for your daughters, right? A man who knows how to cherish, protect, and wait for what he wants most too. And, that’s you. A woman who knows her worth and God’s definition of commitment.

Your heart is the ultimate benefit after the ring. Add that to the other benefits and that’s a marriage to cherish!

 

Looking Back…

looking back

Looking back isn’t easy. We are told to leave the past in the past. As much as I agree with not living in the past, we can and should definitely learn from it. Looking back can also help us realize how far we’ve come and what we’ve been delivered from.

One of my best friends has recently had the courage to share her story of childhood sexual abuse. What bravery. Her willingness to share helps others to know they are not alone. Sharing removes the mask and the secrets and shame the enemy wants us to carry forever. Jesus broke that chain and empowered her. She has forgiven her abuser, but forgiveness doesn’t mean she can’t share her story. It’s the truth and it’s her story to share. Her willingness to forgive brings grace front and center when we realize what she’s been through. Her courage inspires me to look back and share.

This is me looking back. Maybe someone can relate. Maybe someone won’t feel alone. Maybe someone knows someone else who needs to read this. Maybe someone can learn something.

Looking back on my wedding, I remember the hurt feelings.  I can still feel my shoulders fall and the tears sting during our first dance. I knew, at that moment, I would remember it for the rest of my life. That special moment was ruined for me by a flippant comment he made. Looking back on our honeymoon, I remember his excitement when he found Motocross on TV and his annoyance with the beach. The honeymoon was less about us and much more about what he was willing to do while we were there. One night he actually wanted to go to the beach…..but alone.

Looking back, I remember begging to get pregnant and both times finally getting a very reluctant, “ok, if it means you stop asking and crying” agreement. At the time, that made me so happy. None of it was happily ever after or how it should be. I was neglected, physically and emotionally. I wasn’t doted on or taken care of. I wasn’t told I was beautiful. Instead, I felt lucky to be pregnant and when I complained he reminded me of that fact. This is what I wanted, after all. I put on a happy face and looked forward to us being a happy family one day. I thought maybe he would love me more if I had his child, especially a son.

We had two girls.

I remember the look of disappointment both times when he found out. I remember, even his parents, saying they would need time to get over the fact that the second wasn’t a boy.  They wanted him to have a son too. A football player, a hunting partner. Looking back, I felt sorry for him that I wasn’t giving him one.

Looking back, I remember feeling like my meals weren’t good enough and like I didn’t clean house well enough. We both worked full time.

Looking back, I remember being made to feel like a dismissive mom when I asked if he would take time off to take our daughter to the doctor or stay home when she had fever. Our first was sick a lot. She had recurrent UTIs, ear infections, and strep throat. I missed a lot of work with her. I remember when I asked him, I would get the response: “Don’t you want to take her to the doctor? You’re the mom.” Ummmmm….yes. It’s not a matter of want. Of course, I do. But, I have a job too. Instead of saying that, I would think “you’re right, I am the mom. I should take off…” And, I’d call in or cancel my patients….again. I tried so hard to be the best mom and wife I could be.

Looking back, I remember trying so hard to stay out of debt. Telling him, yes, I’d love to have a boat too, but can we pay such and such off first? He bought the boat the next day. If he wanted it, he got it. He bought boats, guns, second vehicles, hunting gear, and dear leases. When I asked to go on vacation, we could never afford it. “What a waste of money” he thought. I took our daughter to Disney World twice…once alone and once with my mom.

I knew we couldn’t afford for me to go part time at work. But, I did it anyway. That’s the one time I knew I made a risky financial decision, but it was worth it to me. We could have easily afforded it and vacations, if it weren’t for his spending. I remember buying him gifts he returned and buying tickets to events specifically for him that he refused to go to or chose to take someone else. Looking back, I didn’t tell my friends or family about this treatment because I wanted them to love him as much as I wanted him to love me.

Looking back, emotional pain overshadows a lot. Still, I would constantly try to focus on my blessings. The pain continued. What should have been special times in my life were taken from me. Looking back, my oldest daughter’s toddler years were precious to me, but my “incompetence” in his eyes seemed to increase. I am just now regaining and recognizing the fact that I was and am a good mom to our girls.

My youngest was one year old when he left. Her first birthday party was a disaster. He held back from being in any pictures. I was convinced that was the night that he’d come back home. Instead, he called me manipulative and blamed me for everything after the party. I gave him an open door and he slammed the door to our marriage tighter. I should have been the one throwing him out by the way he was treating me and he was refusing to come home. I just couldn’t understand. The pain increased.

While the pain of my divorce was intense. Looking back, the pain I endured during the marriage probably did the most damage and is taking the longest to unfold, recover, and learn from. Story after story after story. Looking back, I remember, holding my head in my hands and asking my mom “Let me get this straight. He treated me like this and then left me?” She simply nodded, yes.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t bare the thought of my girls thinking this treatment was okay, that I stood up. It wasn’t until he stopped touching me at all. He wouldn’t even hug me if I asked. I would never want them treated that way by anyone, especially their husband. And, if they were, I’d have no one to blame but myself for allowing it. That’s what it took. And, that was his way out. Out of a marriage he hadn’t wanted to be in for a long time. And, he took it. He blamed me on the way out the door…”Just so you know, you kicked me out. I didn’t leave my family.” After begging him to come home one night (Why? To work on the marriage, I didn’t want a divorce), he told me he’d rather live in a ditch than come home to me.

His words hurt in the very beginning. His words hurt in the middle. His words hurt at the very end. By the time he left, I was an emotional bloody pulp.

Looking back, I see how bad it was. I couldn’t when I was in it. Looking back, I see God showing me more love than I’d ever known or felt in the midst of the least love I’d ever known. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was with me. Even through the deceit and blaming, God covered me. The emotional pain was killing me and God wouldn’t allow that treatment one more year, one more day. My desire to stay married and honor my vows, no matter what, prevented me from walking away. Instead, I got left after summoning the strength to stand up. The Lord removed him. Then He picked me up, washed me off, and started the work of healing, comforting, and teaching. What a beautiful sight.

I thought that I was just that miserable to live with, but it turns out he was in love with someone else. They’ve been together ever since.

From the moment I knew divorce was imminent, I started asking God to help me. To help me forgive. To help me coparent. To help me do it to His Glory. And to protect our girls. I have forgiven him. I release that pain to my Father. And, I have learned from it. We still deal with each other on an almost daily basis because of the girls. But, he treats me better now. He loves them very much. He comes to their events. He takes them to the doctor. He’s a better dad now. And, I thank God for that.

My prayer for him is not that his marriage falls apart. Not that he comes back. Not that he gets left. Not that he suffers like I did. Not that he feels abandoned or blamed. But, that he treats her better. That our daughters will see him treat his wife well. That he will look to the Lord for guidance and learn to respect women. That he receives the love and grace offered to him. And, whether he chooses to or not, that our girls will never consider that treatment normal or acceptable. That they will know they are worthy of respect and kindness. That they will value themselves enough to stand up to the alternative. I care too much about their hearts and futures to pass along anything else.

Thank you, Lord, for the strength to stand up and the strength the share.

 

 

 

The Love We Crave

 

mercy

The love we crave is merciful. The love we crave is consistent, compassionate. The love we crave is unconditional, accepting, understanding. This is the kind of love we crave in all our relationships. Whether our parent, coworker, classmate, friend, or spouse is a Christian or not, we all crave this kind of love. Because, it’s respectful. It’s kind. It’s real.

If you’ve been raised or surrounded by the alternative (critical, rude, exclusive, controlling, demanding, or apathetic) you may not realize that you weren’t witnessing real love. If you’ve respected and loved someone with these characteristics, you’ll think you deserved the behavior because you loved the person dishing it out. You’ll find yourself drawn towards people like it because you think it’s love. If it’s all you’ve known, it’s all you know. Until someone polar opposite comes along and shows you or Jesus grabs a hold of your heart and shows Himself, your perspective is skewed.

Truth is, the character of Christ is where you find what true love is.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

If a person is not patient or kind, don’t blame yourself. If a person is rude, guard your heart. If a person is controlling or demeaning, protect yourself. And, I’ll be the first to admit, this person has been me. When I act this way it is because I’m feeling depleted of love, tired, angry, over it. I’m needing refueled. I’m feeling unappreciated, unhappy, unloved. Many people who act this way, don’t realize this is the case. They don’t want to talk it out. They don’t want to be friends. They don’t want to share or trust. They just want to be left alone. If this is someone you love, respect, and admire, this is extra hard. Especially as daughters, if it is our dad, we crave this so much that we may inadvertently date and marry guys with similar characteristics in hopes of breaking a barrier that shouldn’t have to be broken in the first place. Trying to earn their love, approval, compassion.

Learn what love is and what love is not. Learn from Jesus. Watch their fruit. Pay attention to how they treat others. Be forgiving and merciful yourself. Most people are doing the best they know to do on any given day. Try to be a friend/coworker/sister/mom/spouse who displays this kind of love. How else will your children learn if they don’t see it for themselves? You can find that answer in the last sentence of paragraph two.

Perfect love does not come from our human relationships because we are all imperfect. But, by leaning into and immersing ourselves in the perfect love of God, we can have healthier, closer, and more genuine relationships with each other. Real love opens the gates of mercy, honesty, understanding, forgiveness, grace, and endurance.

The ultimate love we crave comes from Jesus who bled and died for us. Jesus, who when asked, loves to give love advice and has. Read about Him and how he treated others. All races, all sins, all diseases, all professions, all intellects. All social classes. He loved them all. And, He still does.

His love is why I write. His love is how we give and receive the love we crave to and from each other. His love is how we love ourselves properly. His love is why we’re here today. His love is why we’ll be in heaven forever. His love has been there all along. His love is the love we crave.