Leading through brokenness…

Walking around my neighborhood park one morning, I pulled out my ear buds so I could listen to the world around me without music playing in my ears. I wanted to hear the sounds of a new day beginning — and listen for God. Not even halfway around my usual route tears began trickling down my cheeks, which is not unusual these days — tears dripping with memories which replay often lately. Suddenly a voice breaks the silence — a voice I realize is my own — as I question out loud:  “Why won’t these memories stop? What am I suppose to do with all these memories of another time of my life, of an abusive marriage?” And then I heard it — Write!

Back from my walk and still thinking on what I’d heard, I slip off my walking shoes, grab my coffee and open up Facebook, only to see this:

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But like on my walk, when I heardwriteand questioned out loud, “Who would care about my story” and “What exactly am I suppose to write about”, so it was when this meme popped up in my Facebook feed — I questioned whether my story is really something that matters.

Yet don’t all of our stories matter? They shape us into who we are. Our stories tell of the journey we take in this life. Some roads are easy and pot-hole free, while others take us around bends and over bumps which shake us up. But every road we take in this life, easy or difficult, leads us to where we are today,

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And while I’m grateful that the rough road I walked for years is behind me, I’m also honored that God felt me brave enough to travel that road with Him by my side.

There are days though when I wonder if I’m dwelling too much on the past and perhaps haven’t truly let go or completely healed. I’m often bewildered as to why these long ago, heart-wrenching memories continue invading my mind when I would like nothing more than to lay them to rest. But as much as I try to shake them they often won’t let go of me.

And so, I write.

I type heart-wrenching memories here on my blog and share a little of my wounded heart, But is that what it’s about? To remember so it can all be written down — so my story is not forgotten? Or are my words meant to help others trying to navigate the same roads I once did? You see, I don’t believe it’s primarily about my journey through an abusive marriage that makes my story worth remembering and passing on, I believe the most important part of my story, is that of God’s redemption in my life of all those lost years, as I hung on for the ride and followed Him despite the bumps and pot holes along my life’s journey.
I think that is the purpose of everybody’s story, to help others find their way along a similar path and give them hope that God does work all things for His Glory.

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I know my story is important and has value, as it’s been through that story — my life — I have helped minister to other women walking a similar road. I’m grateful for the opportunity of having stumbled along that journey so I can offer hope and encouragement to help make the journey for others perhaps a little less daunting — to shine a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

So perhaps it is time to write my story. A story of brokenness and redemption. A story of a life turned to ashes in which something beautiful was made. A story of God’s faithfulness and love never-ending, even in the messiness and brokenness of this woman’s life.

No matter what our story is — no matter where the journey takes us or how we arrive at our destination — the most important part of our life’s story is Who we allow in the driver’s seat. Life is full of ups and downs. There will be storms shaking us awake questioning why God left us and trials making us wonder “why me?”, but in the midst of it all, in the very depths of our heartaches and the darkness of the pit we may find ourselves in — it is right there that God reaches out to us and offers His hope and grace.

So let’s tell our stories, let’s share our heartaches, battles, and all the messiness this life brings. Let’s be real and broken together. Let’s share about how lost we once were but how we found our way. Let our life story be a road map for someone else as they struggle to navigate a similar journey. 

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I pray that my story of brokenness brings hope and encouragement to others struggling to find their way through an often confusing, scary and seemingly endless road. There is life on the other side, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I promise. I’ve been there and I’ve gotten through to the other side. With God as the navigator there are no wrong turns, there is only freedom.

May you dear reader find hope and encouragement today as you navigate the sometime dark roads in your life, with the knowledge that others have gone before you and found light at the end of the tunnel.

Blessings!

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Time to let go?

I’ve shared this meme on my Facebook page a couple times because one, I love Fall and am so excited it’s finally here after an extremely hot summer; and two, something about this quote really spoke to me.

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Just as the trees go through a season of losing their leaves in preparation for new growth, we too may have to let something go in order for God to bring new growth into our lives.

If you are still trying to hang on to a toxic relationship maybe you need to seek God’s guidance in whether it’s time to let go. Letting go doesn’t automatically mean divorce if you are married – letting go can simply mean a season of separation and individual counseling until you feel certain there is true repentance and lasting change. Some times though, letting go means separating permanently to keep yourself and your children safe and free from abuse.

Letting go can be hard — actually it’s very hard, especially if you’ve invested years into a relationship. Doubts, fears, and uncertainties can keep you hanging on, even when you know deep down it’s time to let go.

Dear readers, I hung on for 20 years even when in the end there was nothing to hold on to. But the fear of making it on my own after all those years as a stay-at-home mom; the worry of my boys not having a two-parent home; the condemnation thrown at me that “God hates divorce” and will therefore hate me too; and the doubts of whether I’d really tried hard enough — all of those things and more kept me hanging on to something which had died a long time before.

The day God set me free, the day my then-husband walked out, was the most liberating day in my life, but it wouldn’t be for another year when I finally let that true freedom began. The day my ex waltzed out the front door of the home we’d made in all this weird fanfare like he was actually excited to be leaving, left me dazed and confused, but more importantly, it set me free. I was finally free from something which had been destroying me and my children. It was like being released from a prison, the door finally swung open after decades of holding me prisoner. I fell to my knees on that sunny afternoon as the front door closed behind him and sobbed.

Although I didn’t see it in that moment, it was on that day when God was beginning a new work in my life — preparing a way for new growth in me.

Life was not easy for a long time after that day, yet the reality was — life had never been easy for the 20 years prior. But this time was different. I clung to the Lord allowing Him to lead me and although it took over a year from the day my ex walked out, and nonstop praying for the Lord to open my eyes and give me clarity, the day came when I knew without a doubt the time had come to release that marriage — so it let go of what had died so I could move into living again.

And believe me, letting go wasn’t easy especially with people condemning, judging and turning away from me, but you know what I came to realize in all those times on my knees talking to God and trying to make sense of all that had been, and asking for direction — in this life people will always let you down, but the one true constant I had then and have to this day, is God.

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It took me over a year from the day my abusive ex walked out of our home to finally let go of that marriage. It wasn’t something I did flippantly or with little to care about the affects to my children — it was still a difficult, frightening decision — but much less difficult and frightening than going back to abuse.

Is it time to let go? Perhaps it’s time to cling to life instead of trying to hang on to something which is dying or already dead. New growth cannot begin until we let go of the old.

Blessings!

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Please don’t say that…

“Wrong things to say to a victim:

1. What did you do to provoke him?

2. Pray harder—prayer changes things.

3. Go home, cook your husband’s favorite meal, and give him some extra attention.

4. The Bible says you need to forgive him seventy times seven.

5. Things could be worse.

6. If you try harder and become more submissive, your husband will change.

7. God hates divorce, so you must do whatever you can to hold your marriage together, even if it means suffering for Jesus.

8. Your children need a father, so it is up to you to keep the family together.

9. If he has not hit you before, you probably aren’t in any danger now.

10. He is a good man and a good provider. He may be under a lot of stress at work. Maybe you need to be more understanding and provide a peaceful refuge at home.”

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This list popped up on Facebook the other day and I just knowingly nodded my head as I read through it. How familiar it all sounded. I’d had most of these things said to me during my 20-year abusive marriage and even after my ex walked out on me. Words like these only caused me further doubt and did more harm than good. And haven’t we all heard that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything? Well, that certainly applies here.

Please be careful what you say to an abuse victim for they are already doubting themselves and struggling with what to do to save themselves and their children, and have often been dealing with abuse for many, many years. An abuse victim lives with constant doubts, heartache and the struggle to do the right thing. And any words spoken have the ability to cause either more confusion and doubt, or to uplift and encourage.

 

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Please, do not…

…minimize what they are going through by asking, “Well, did he ever hit you?” like was asked of me. I can guarantee abuse is not just physical and when you ask that question you put more doubt into the victim’s already doubtful thinking because that is what her abuser has done for years. You show her your doubt of her and she feels even more alone.

…tell her to pray harder, submit more and respect no matter what because that will change her abuser. I say bull—t. No person can change another, period. And a victim of abuse CANNOT change her abuser.

…tell her to serve him especially in the aftermath of abuse. My then-husband and I once served at our former church’s kids camp. We took our travel trailer there and in some fit of rage after we got there, my ex left. He left me stranded there. But God gave me rest that day, I took a long beautiful nap free from his hate and coldness towards me. And when I got up to help serve dinner that evening to the kids, my ex showed back up and simply sat down at one of the picnic tables. One of the women in the food line made up a plate, handed it to me, and gave me a shove towards my husband saying, “Here, take him a plate.” I stood frozen for a minute and finally walk the plate of food over to him, but not because I wanted to, only because I felt pushed to serve him. Would that woman have put a plate of food in the hands of a rape victim and had her serve her rapist? Would that plate of food been placed in the hands of a bullied child for him/her to serve their tormentor?

…tell her to keep the marriage together because her children need a father. A family is more than just a two-parent home, it should be a place of love and acceptance, not hate and abuse. Yes, her children would be better off having a father in their lives, but not one that destroys their hearts and souls.

…tell her to forgive, let it go and reconcile. Forgiveness and reconciliation do not go hand in hand. That is foolishness. A victim of abuse can and should forgive her abuser, but doing so does not mean she should be foolish enough to go back to an abusive situation. Forgiveness places the abuser in the hands of God who will deal rightly with them, taking that burden off of the victim.

…tell her God hates divorce. Just please do not say this to a victim of abuse who is most likely struggling greatly with the idea of divorce and often sees it as a last resort. Please read all of Malachi 1 & 2 and learn what is truly being said. God hates many things, especially the violence and abuse in a marriage which may make divorce necessary to save the sanity and soul of His child, the victim of abuse.

 

So please, if you must speak words to an abuse victim, only offer love and encouragement — choose your words wisely — or choose not to say anything.

Blessings!

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Winning the battle

Lately I’ve been in a warfare of sorts. An internal battle which engulfs me and entangles me to the point of not being able to shake free. I feel pulled down to where it becomes difficult to find the way out, to see the light for the darkness.

Some days are harder than others. There are days when my past failures flash before my eyes; comparisons drown me; and self-doubt makes me wonder if I would be missed were I not here.

I’ve been taken prisoner by the lies of the enemy.

And while I know the way to freedom — the key to opening the door to this cell I’ve been locked away in — there are days where I feel zapped of all my strength to pray.

“When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.”  ~Psalm 118:5

 

This post today over at Ann Voskamp’s blog really spoke to me this morning as I woke up determined to fight this battle I’m in — determined to win over those lies which distort my thinking and view of myself.

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If you are battling lies in your life, please jump over to Ann’s blog and read her post, and remember that God is bigger than any battle we may be in and He has already won it for us.

“Save me, for I am yours;
    I have sought out your precepts.”  ~Psalm 119:94

 

Blessings!

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Speaking love

“Imagine if we all spoke of the things we love about ourselves instead of the things we don’t like…” @paleohacks

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Wow…just wow. Could God speak any louder to me lately?

It could possibly just be hormones, most likely it is, but lately I’m struggling. Struggling to be content where I am and struggling to speak love to myself instead of criticism.

So when this quote popped up on my Instagram — yay, for social media! —  I just felt the Lord speaking directly to me especially after the hard day I allowed myself to wallow in.

For too long in my life I had criticism slapped in my face and negative words spewed at me, and very rarely was any love spoken to me. Over time, I soon became my worst critic. And some days I’m still really good at it — like today.

But when I read the above quote I thought — what if I allow myself to believe fully in God’s love for me — believing without a doubt how I am wonderfully made by Him (Psalm 139:14) — and I only spoke love to myself instead of being self-critical of all the things I don’t like about me?

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~Psalm 139:14

 

What if we truly believed God loves us not for who we are, but because of who He is?

What if we took each and every negative thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and weighed it against what God’s Word tells us is true? And while I believe this verse is speaking more of spiritual warfare and being discerning of false religions and teachers, I think that any thought which is negative and hurtful, even to ourselves, should be taken captive and not allowed to hold us hostage to wrongful thinking — including negative thoughts we have about ourselves.

We are told God made us in His image or likeness, so if we think of ourselves as lowly and unworthy, ugly and invaluable, then those thoughts are contradictory to who scripture tells us God is, and therefore, untrue about ourselves.

Some days are difficult — and many days are made more difficult because of our own critical voice directed at ourselves. Comparisons bombard us daily making a way for discontent to creep into our lives over time until one day we find ourselves doubting our worth, judging our value and just feeling crushed beneath the weight of thinking we’re not enough.

 

So perhaps, if I speak love to myself those critical thoughts will not have a chance at controlling my days — they will be taken captive.

And perhaps, if I truly believe God to be who He says He is, then I can look at myself in the mirror with love and acceptance, just as I believe He does.

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There will always be hard days, some harder than others, but may we all find our love and worth through the eyes of God who created us and loves us, not for who we are or what we do, but because of who He is.

Blessings!

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