As Mother’s Day weekend approaches, I’m looking forward to the special treatment I will receive from my own family, but I’m ten hours away from my mom this year and it will be the first time I won’t get to spend it with her. It makes me think of how difficult this day will be for so many women for so many different reasons.
I lost my dad when I was just two years old and every June when Father’s Day arrives, I feel like I’m hit over the head with reminders that I didn’t even get the chance to have a relationship with him before he was taken from me.
I dread Father’s Day. I can’t hardly stand to log onto Facebook and see all of the heartwarming photos and posts about how much everyone’s dad has enriched their lives and made them who they are. I fight back tears every year at church when they ask all the fathers to stand and I am reminded just how unfair life can be.
I know there are so many of you who dread Mother’s Day too. Some of you have lost your mom at a young age, or maybe even recently. A lot of you live far away from her, like I do. You might have a mother you haven’t spoken to in years or a biological mother you’ve never met, but always wanted to know. You might still be dealing with feelings of abandonment or a broken mother-daughter relationship. So many of you are longing to be a mother yourself, but are struggling with infertility. You are mourning a miscarriage or the loss of a child. Whatever your pain associated with motherhood is, I feel the ache of the empty place in your heart right along with you.
If I could, I would reach through these words and hold your hands so tightly. I would tell you that God sees you. He feels your pain and knows your heart’s cry. He loves you and knows you more deeply than any earthly mother ever could and you are blessed because you know Him. I also know it’s much easier to say those words than to let them sink into your soul and believe they are true.
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)
So, try this. Look around you this weekend. Are there strong women in your life who have wrapped their arms around you when you needed it? Do you know a kind woman who has fixed you a meal or taken you shopping? Do you have someone you can count on for sound advice? Maybe God has placed a woman in your life to help fill the void, but you’ve never thought of her that way before. Maybe you are blessed with an incredible dad who has tried his best to make up for what’s missing. God provides, even when we don’t acknowledge it or give him the glory like we should.
Have you been that mother figure for someone else? If not, could you be? Is there a young girl in your life who might need some extra love and attention? Is there a motherless teenager in your youth group you could invite out for coffee? Could you step in and help out an overwhelmed single mom? Is there someone who needs to hear the infertility story that you’ve been too afraid to share? Is it finally time for you to answer the calling on your life to foster or adopt? Maybe you could send flowers to another hurting woman for Mother’s Day this year. There are ways to help fill that void in your life and it might just be to help fill someone else’s.
So for those who are struggling on a day that most people associate with brunch and Hallmark cards, I pray you won’t associate it with grief, pain, or loss. I pray that God will replace those feelings with good memories, a willingness to help others, thankfulness for the relationships that you do have, and hope for what is to come. I pray that when the enemy tries to remind you of what you have lost, God will remind you of all that you have gained by living a life for Him. I pray that you will take that time and look around and honor the women who have been there for you.
For me personally, I couldn’t be more thankful to have a mom who stepped in and played both roles for my older brother and me after my dad passed. The strength and courage it took to suddenly find herself as a single mom at 30 and then later raise 9 kids in our mixed family is beyond my maternal comprehension! While it’s so hard to understand how God can allow a young parent to be taken from his children, He helped fill the void through my relationship with my mother and for that I am so grateful. She has enriched my life and made me who I am. Thank you mom.
And when Father’s Day approaches and I’m struggling, I know God will remind me of His goodness and faithfulness and these words I share with you today.
I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:13)
I’ve got a terrible confession to make. If you know me, you might already know I do this and are glad I’m finally figuring it out. Maybe I’ve hurt you specifically. Hopefully by confessing it here, I will feel a bit more accountable and therefore aware of what I’m doing, so here it goes…
I am extremely cliquey.
I have my cliques and I like them. I love my friends. I love getting really comfortable with certain people and don’t always like to let others in because I don’t feel like I can be myself around them.
I’m comfortable being around people who believe what I believe. I enjoy spending my time with people who are in a similar season of life. I want to be with people who get me. I like to go to bible study and talk to women who agree with me on most big issues. Is this a bad thing? No, unless those are the only people I choose to be around. When I start avoiding relationships with others who are different from me, it’s time to make some changes.
I hadn’t given this a ton of thought until I came across the story of Matthew, a tax collector, who chose to get up from his tax collector’s booth and follow Jesus. He took Jesus to his house where they, along with the disciples, had dinner with many other tax collectors and “sinners”. The Pharisees saw this and asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus heard this and said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
When I read this, conviction rushed through me. I started asking myself some hard questions. When I reach out to others, are they mostly women who are like me? Do I only offer to pray with women I know pray too? Do I spend my time reaching out solely to my own circle of Christian friends, rather than searching for those in need? Do I only share what God has done for me with people who already know Him?
If my goal in life is to strive to be more like Jesus, this just isn’t going to work anymore. Instead of always reaching out to the neighbor I’ve gotten to know, who is my age, and in a similar stage of life, maybe it’s time to take a plate of cookies to the neighbor who lives alone and is a whole generation of life experiences ahead of me. I bet I could learn a lot from her and maybe I could make her feel a little less lonely.
There are so many things I can do, but maybe I’ll just start there. One day at a time. One person at a time. I want to pray specifically for wisdom as I go about my day. Who can I reach for you, Jesus? Who is lonely? Who is struggling? Who is depressed? Who needs to know you? Send me to them so I can be your hands, feet, and voice right here in my community. Show me where to show mercy.
Don’t get me wrong. Close friendships are such a vital part of getting through this messy life. I know from experience that a strong group of like-minded sisters in Christ will help pull you out of a pit like no one else. Don’t give up these friendships. Just look up from that comforting circle every now and then to see who else might need to join in. Just like the disciples joined Jesus and the “sinners” for dinner, include your friends in your attempt to reach those in desperate need of some truth, comfort, laughter, prayer, and friendship.
I don’t want to be “cliquey” anymore. I don’t want to close my dinner table to outsiders. I want to bring them in to dine with me so I can love them like Jesus would.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,
I am ashamed by the number of times I have asked this question. Suffering has pretty much taken up residence in my life despite my efforts to do good, act good, and be good. It just keeps coming back, no matter how much I try to take control so it can be avoided.
Things can be moving along beautifully, blessings pouring in, and yet I wait. I wait for the dreaded, all too familiar shoe to drop. It’s a pattern in my life I’ve grown so accustomed to that I anticipate it. What terrible tragedy will happen that will break me wide open again, just as I’ve started to heal from the last one? This is not how God intended for me to live, yet the fear of suffering still festers deep inside of me.
If we are truly living our lives on this earth for Christ, shouldn’t we embrace suffering and all that comes with it? I want His glory to be revealed in me, but am I truly willing to suffer for it? Am I able to surrender everything I hold dear and trust that He is good, no matter what?
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
Suffering brings us closer to our Savior in a way we never could have imagined. It changes the way we perceive and trust and love others. It gives us a testimony that we can’t help but share so that glory can be given to our King. It gives us compassion for others who are suffering. It teaches us how to pray out of true belief rather than routine. But most importantly, it gives us a longing for our heavenly home, the only place where there is no more suffering.
“There are parts of Jesus we will never know apart from suffering.”
– Kelly Minter, All Things New
Suffering will come into our lives in many different forms. Loss of loved ones, illness, addiction, violence, and severed relationships are all part of living in a broken world. As difficult as it has been, my strength has come in the suffering and therefore, I would not trade it. Would I have been able to say that while I was in the middle of it? Definitely not. It’s not fair. It hurts so deeply. It’s so difficult to understand and usually we never will. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to stay faithful in the midst of our suffering. Stay in the Word, pray even when we don’t want to, ask for and accept help from others and seek counsel from the right people.
If you are suffering today, I pray that you feel His loving arms holding you through your pain. I know the feeling of hurting so deeply it actually manifests into physical pain. I know what it’s like to repeatedly ask God how He could let this happen. I know how lonely it can feel. God did not promise us that we would not suffer, but the good news is He did promise that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Know that you are not forgotten. You are not being punished. You are so loved. Take this opportunity to breathe in your Savior like never before and search for the beauty buried deep within the ashes with every new day. It is in this sacred place where you will find your strength.
“Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.” – Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
I want to be in shape, but I really don’t want to exercise. I want to be a woman with a spotless house, but I really don’t want to clean it. I want to be a great cook, but I hate making dinner.
Can you relate? So many times we want to be rather than do.
We want to be a perfect mother, rather than simply loving our children. We want be in a happy marriage, rather than intentionally working on it. We want to be friends with everyone, rather than forming lasting friendships. We want to be known as a servant, rather than having a true desire to serve. We want to be a minister, rather than quietly ministering to others right where we are.
Can it be that the desire to be all of these things comes from our desire for approval from other people, rather than God? We want everyone to think we are all of these things, so we just continue to put on a show day after exhausting day.
Meanwhile, we are silently screaming through our holy Facebook posts, staged Instagram photos, and seemingly squeaky-clean images, “Please see me! Please love me! Please think I’m important!” What we don’t realize is that the whole time we’re searching though the crowd for someone to respond, Jesus gently whispers, “I see you. I love you. You are important.”
I remember when I was a kid and I would come home and tell my mom when someone said something mean about me. She would always tell me the opposite and assure me they were wrong, but I remember thinking, “She’s my mom, of course she thinks that.” Instead of believing the loving words of the person who knew me best, I believed the hurtful words of a fellow 12 year old with their own issues and insecurities.
As an adult, I do the same thing. I believe the enemy’s lies about me, rather than the truth given by a loving Father who knows me best. I seek approval from others to affirm the lies are untrue instead of turning to God for my affirmation.
We were not put on this earth to please others. We were not meant to constantly try to prove our worth. We don’t need to be anything other than a loved child of God who desires to pass that love onto others and make Him known. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It might look messy or overly simple or terribly flawed to others, but if we were perfect we wouldn’t need God. And we so desperately need to need Him.
Sometimes our fears shift from not being able to please man to not being able to please God. The good news is…grace. God’s grace does not change based on our works or our sin. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His grace is sufficient for each and every one of us. We can’t mess up too much to lose His love or do enough to win it. It’s already ours. There is so much freedom in that truth!
On the other hand, does this truth give us the green light to do anything our flesh craves? Of course not.
“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1
A life lived for Jesus is a life that strives to be more like him. We should avoid sin because it can and will lead to destruction in our lives and relationships. However, we are forgiven. We are understood. We are loved without condition.
I want to make a daily choice to look to God and God alone for my recognition, my approval, and my worth. I want to do rather than to be. And when I mess up, I want to breathe in His grace and know that I am loved by Him and that is enough.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18
Sometimes I have good ideas and other times I have absolutely ridiculous ones. Like the time I decided to take my two small children to dinner at a sit-down restaurant when my husband was out of town.
Autism affects my 6 year old son’s mind in such a way that it can be both a brilliant gift and a debilitating hindrance, depending on the day. No matter how much we prepare, sometimes something so insignificant can completely set him off. He sees a fly. His peanut butter sandwich has slightly too much peanut butter. The lights are too bright. The soda machine is too loud. Because of this, we live our lives trying to anticipate all of these hidden factors, but it doesn’t always work. This was one of those times.
As soon as we sat down with our food, I immediately had to clutch my plate so it didn’t get tossed. His face turned bright red and he screamed at such a high pitch I could see the people around us wincing. He stiffened out and slid under the table. He jammed his fingers in the cracks in the wall. He tossed his toy across the restaurant. I ran to get it as I barked at my daughter, “Go get some to-go boxes!” I scraped food off our plates while simultaneously trying to keep him from clawing his own cheeks with his fingernails.
I gathered up all of our things, attempted to balance our food and pick him up at the same time, all while trying desperately to avoid eye contact with all of the people who I assumed were judging my parenting because he looks so “normal”. I was so tired of living life in this constant state of embarrassment, seclusion, and exhaustion. So very tired.
Then it happened. A hand reached out and gently touched my shoulder.
“Hey, I just want you to know this happens to all of us and it’s ok. It’s usually her!” She pointed to her small daughter sitting at the table. She gave me a warm, reassuring smile and my eyes filled with tears. I squeaked out a “thank you”, hung my head, and bolted to the car.
All the way home I couldn’t stop thinking of the kindness of that woman. She was a stranger who didn’t know me, but sympathized with my situation and wanted me to know I wasn’t alone. It meant so much more to me than the quick “thank you” I muttered and I regretted that was all I was able to offer in return at that moment.
How many times have I had the same opportunity to reach out and touch a shoulder and I’ve let it go by? How many times have I missed the opportunity to say some of the most important words a fellow frustrated, worn out woman can hear?
You are not alone.
I love the Message version of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 .
It says, “Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out to the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.”
I know that night in the restaurant, I sure did feel like an exhausted straggler who needed to be pulled to my feet. All it took was a little encouragement from a stranger to remind me that there are probably more people looking at my parenting struggles with empathy than with judgment.
I hope that I can open my eyes to the other stragglers around me and have the courage to place my hand on their shoulders. I pray that with God’s direction, I can be brave enough to pull them to their feet by offering a kind word, a helping hand, or even just a reassuring smile. If we truly are the hands and feet of God, we must show the world that He is good by taking care of each other when we feel that nudge in our hearts telling us that it’s needed.
If you feel like you are the exhausted straggler today and no one is reaching out, God sees you and He will pull you to your feet. Hand Him your weariness, your problems, your frustrations, and your worries and He will carry them for you.
How many times a week do we say this? Send it in a text or email? Use it as a Facebook comment?
Do you ever avoid social media because every time you log on you have to add eight new desperate needs to your mental prayer list? It’s just too overwhelming sometimes. It might be a stranger with a missing child, a family member with a terrible illness, or an anxious friend having a hard day. If you’re like me, we want to pray for people. We know they need it. We sympathize with them. Our hearts break with them. We want to comfort them, so we reach out and use the only words we know to offer in that moment.
“I’m praying for you.”
We have great intentions, but then we keep scrolling, get distracted, and by the time we log off, we’ve forgotten what we promised we would pray for.
If you’re like me, you know our friend is in need and we genuinely intend on praying when we hear about her situation, but then life happens. By the time you pack lunches, drive your kids to soccer, fix dinner, and catch up on your DVR, you fall into bed and are asleep before your unwashed hair hits the pillow. The day has gone by and you have just forgotten.
Days later, that request for prayer crosses your mind and you beat yourself up for not following through with that reassuring promise to pray. You text or call to ask your friend how she is doing. Her storm has passed and she thanks you for praying.
Thank God for His grace, but seriously, we need to stop throwing these words around carelessly. Please hear my heart here…this post is not to judge, it’s to remind myself and all of us that prayer is powerful. It’s where the battle begins! Let’s be intentional for each other and utilize the power we have access to. Let’s not take it for granted any longer. God has called us to pray and intercede for each other. It’s serious business. He longs to hear our voice calling out to Him. He wants to answer our prayers.
What if we pulled out our smartphones and used our notes to keep track of more than our grocery lists? Or downloaded a prayer journal app or emailed ourselves a reminder? What if we wrote names down and hung them on the bathroom mirror and prayed while we get ready for the day? How about we treat ourselves to a cute new journal and a good pen just for prayer?
We are all busy, but we can find time for prayer. Let’s get up early. Let’s pray during our lunch hour or while our toddlers are taking a nap. Let’s pray in the shower or on the treadmill. Let’s call out names while we fold laundry or during our commute to work. There are pockets of time that we can use to make a difference in someone’s life.
Join me today…let’s start fresh…let’s make “I’m praying for you” a statement less about comforting others and more about intentionally going into battle and activating God’s power.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
I showed up to a get-together with a covered dish and some juicy news to share. It was an opportunity to shock my friends and therefore receive some odd sense of satisfaction, attention, and praise for revealing such scandalous information. Before I could get it out, one of the ladies asked,
“Who has some good gossip?”
Now I was the one who was shocked! We can’t “gossip”. That’s so sinful! How dare she just come out and say that!
At least my friend wasn’t in denial about it. She called it what it was. She named it and it made me think twice about what I was about to reveal. Good southern Christian girls like me don’t like to name our sin because acknowledgement brings that uninvited guest named Conviction to spoil our party.
Gossip seeps its’ way into my perfectly innocent conversations, even ones that start out to be godly and life-giving. It is anything but harmless and we have to stop.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein
on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
I didn’t recognize gossip as a problem in my life until my own filthy laundry became the hot topic. When people have been whispering about you, it is beyond hurtful and embarrassing. It permanently damages friendships and deteriorates trust. It’s anything but harmless.
God, help me not to harm others with my desire for entertaining conversation.
Being highly experienced in this area, I’ve narrowed gossip down to four types so it will be easier to recognize the next time it sneaks into your conversation.
1. Secret Telling Gossip
“Promise you won’t tell.”
Even if you are dying to spill someone else’s secret and you know you can trust your best friend, it’s still gossip. If it’s not YOUR business, keep it to yourself.
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
therefore do not associate with a gossip.” -Proverbs 20:19
2. Prodding Gossip
“How’s Sarah? I heard she’s going through a tough time…”
If you are on the receiving end of a gossipy loaded question, you are not required to answer! People will respect that you politely refuse to give up information and you will prove yourself to be trustworthy.
“For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer,
contention quiets down.” -Proverbs 26:20
3. Angry Gossip
“Her marriage is falling apart, so she’s taking it out on me!”
Someone hurts you so you tell others all of the unattractive things you know about her life. Don’t let your short term emotions cause long term effects. You will regret it later.
“Argue your case with your neighbor,
And do not reveal the secret of another.”-Proverbs 25:9
4. Concerned Friend Gossip
“You need to pray for our friend because you won’t believe what happened…”
Of course we need to pray for and support each other. Just always make sure to keep your motives and your sincerity in check when you reveal anything personal about someone else’s life.
As you go back to your workplace, play dates, and PTA meetings, keep in mind what God’s Word says about gossip. Learn to recognize it, call it by name, and put a stop to it. Don’t let this “innocent” sin creep its’ way into what could otherwise be sacred spaces of trust, encouragement and friendship.
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.” –Psalm 141:3
It has lurked its’ way into my thoughts my entire life. I was terrified of storms as a little girl, afraid I wouldn’t be accepted as a teenager, and still spend way too much energy worrying about everything as an adult. In a world where a child can be snatched from his father’s hand on a family vacation and a horrifying shooting takes place almost daily, it’s so easy to be overtaken by fear.
A week ago, my husband and I meticulously bubble-wrapped every belonging in our house and packed it all on a truck that would meet us at our new home halfway across the country. I knew it was God’s will for our family to make this move, but once again, fear took over. How will we make new friends? What if our kids hate their schools? Can we afford this financially? Should we be doing this?
We stayed at a hotel with a water park on our way from our old home to the new one. My husband has been trying to convince our daughter to go down a water slide with him for years. He’s offered her every reward he could think of and tried every tactic to help her believe she will be safe with no luck. He knew how much fun she would have if she just gave it a try. He finally miraculously convinced her to climb the massive set of stairs all the way to the top. He slid down first so she knew survival was possible and then waited at the bottom for her, yelling up words of encouragement. She mustered up all of the courage she had, reluctantly sat down, and let the water carry her into the dark tube. When she got to the bottom, she was all smiles! She absolutely loved it! She dragged her daddy back up those stairs and down that slide over and over for the rest of the morning. When we were leaving I asked her if she realized what she had been missing all this time. She said,
“I learned that when you are afraid,
you miss out on really great things in life.”
It took a hotel water slide and a 9-year-old little girl to open my eyes to the fear that was gripping me. Just like her earthly father went first down the water slide, our heavenly Father goes before us in everything we do.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
He goes before us. He knows what’s in my family’s future and He placed it on our hearts to make this move anyway. I have nothing to fear. He has big things in store for us if we will just step away from what makes us comfortable and trust Him to bless our obedience.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9
Wherever I go. Even 600 miles away from the only place I’ve ever lived. He tells us right there, in black and white – do not be afraid. While it’s true that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7),
He also commands us not to be afraid.
Believe me, I know all too well how much easier it is to say it than to actually do it. While I have so many irrational fears that will most likely never happen, I have also had some of my biggest fears in life come true. Fears I thought I’d never survive if they actually manifested. But guess what? Not only did I survive, I truly believe God is real because of the way he carried me through those times in such a precious way.
In the midst of strife and sorrow, we can feel God more closely than we ever do when life is going our way. He didn’t promise us that nothing bad would ever happen, but He does promise that He will be there to help us through it.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33
He is always with us, even when our fears become our reality, so we never have to be afraid.
All of that being said, because I know myself and my human nature, I know that fear will slink its’ way back into my thoughts again as my family and I continue to face so many unknowns. When it does, I am going to try my best to intentionally seek Him and His truth because I know He alone can rescue me from my fear.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears. -Psalm 34:4
I don’t know what fear is controlling you today or what it is keeping you from doing, but I hope you will join me in trying to seek the Lord rather than spending more of our short time on this earth contemplating worst case scenarios. What do you feel God telling you to do? What doors have been opened that are calling you in a direction you aren’t particularly comfortable going?
What’s YOUR water slide?
My daughter realized that day how much fun she had been missing out on for so many years because she was afraid. I don’t want to miss anything that God has for me. Let’s choose obedience over uncertainty. Trust over fear. Let’s climb those stairs, sit down at the very tip top of that water slide, and enjoy the ride because the ride is where we get to experience Him the most.
I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.
Not this time.
No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.
I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.
My husband had come home.
Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.
But not by my Jesus.
He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.
My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.
Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.
God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.
It took a battle like that to open my eyes.
I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.
I know now…
A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.
Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.
Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.
A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.
A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.
Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…
Strive for a heart like Jesus.
Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.
“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore
No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.
“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
We thought we had it figured out. We couldn’t understand why all of our couple friends had such a hard time getting along. We didn’t get how someone could consider divorce if they had simply chosen their spouse wisely. We left get-togethers and dinner parties rolling our eyes knowingly. “Amateurs. If only everyone knew what we knew and did what we did. They wouldn’t ever fight either.” We were happy. We liked each other. We had fun together. And that was enough.
Until it wasn’t.
Donny and I both had stressful, demanding jobs that we absolutely loved. We found our identity in them. We were both doing what we always dreamed we would do. We bought a house that we loved. Even our dog was perfect. He was obedient, well-trained, and easy to control. Life was easy. Why did everyone around us not know how to do this?
After about six years of marriage, we finally decided to bring a baby into our little perfect world we had created out of our own hard work and determination. We welcomed a breath-taking baby girl that was absolutely perfect in every way. She grew to be a an above-average toddler, of course. She was obedient, well-trained, and easy to control. Life was easy. Why didn’t every parent know how to do this?
We were so good at this parenting thing, it was only natural to add another perfect child to the mix to round out our perfect family. But in spite of our hard work, determination, and flawless parenting, we couldn’t control the miscarriage that would take our second child from us or that our third child would be born into this world with autism.
Life became very messy very quickly. Things were no longer going as planned. We were over-stressed, over-worked and over-tired.
We became secluded from others to hide the embarrassment of our son’s public meltdowns. I became obsessed with becoming knowledgeable, being my son’s advocate, and exposing him to every possible theory that might make him better. Donny threw himself into his work. It was all he knew to do. I was going to figure out how to fix it and Donny was going to figure out how to pay for it.
We grew apart. We had no idea it was happening. We never saw it coming. We were just too busy.
Things went from happy to content to discontent to downright terrible before either of us knew what hit us. This left us vulnerable to everything this broken world tells us is the norm. I started bad-mouthing my husband to girlfriends who encouraged me to “just vent”, which accomplished nothing other than adding to my resentment. He spent more time away from home and found more excuses to escape the reality of our difficult situation. We murmured “I love you” frequently, but not with the same meaning as before.
We didn’t talk about it. Talking about it might cause a fight or worse, make it real. We were both peacemakers. Non-confrontational. We’d rather sit in silence watching old Seinfeld episodes than have to actually deal with the truth.
Finally, the worst case scenario struck our marriage and shook me to my absolute core. He filed for divorce and left our once happy home. How had I let this happen? At what point had things gone wrong? It was as if the scales had fallen off and I could finally see what we had both become. His love had become the pursuit of success. My love had become the pursuit of perfection. Neither had anything to do with the other.
I spent several months living life as a single parent. My perfect life had been stripped away from me and I was left wondering why. I spent my days and nights praying, reading scripture, seeking truth and answers. What I found was the will and the need to FIGHT for my imperfect family.
After an excruciating battle, by the grace and mercy of God alone, my husband and I reconciled our marriage and made the intentional decision to make it our priority. During the time we were apart and in the time that followed, I learned so much.
Every single day I intentionally thanked God for my marriage and thought about what I could do to keep it healthy and strong. I read books and sought advice from godly women who were further along in their marriage journey. I prayed and asked for guidance. I actually talked to my husband about our marriage. (What a concept, right?) What if I had done this before I almost lost it all? If I knew then what I know now, could all of the hurt have been avoided? My sincere prayer is that others will learn from our mistakes and take a proactive approach in their marriages. We have to do everything we can to end this damaging, socially acceptable cycle of broken families.
These are the most important things I have learned that I feel led to share. However, let me make a disclaimer and say that if you are in an abusive relationship, these suggestions are not for you. There is no excuse for abuse and you have every right to get out of an abusive situation. Also, if you have been divorced, I am in no way judging you. Lord knows I have no room to judge a soul on this earth. Your situation is unique to you and restoration looks different for everyone. And then there’s grace. Thank God for His grace.
Set aside time and energy for your husband every day.
Your marriage should come before your children. This might shock you and I never would have said it a few years ago, but every mother I know struggles with this. We think we are bad moms and fear the judgment of others if we get a sitter too often or go on a trip without our kids. I lived this false guilt for years. I said no to invitations to join my husband on business trips and decided it was just easier and cheaper to stay home on a Friday night. Listen to me.The absolute best thing a mother can do for her children is to invest in her relationship with their daddy.
Take time for each other. If you can’t afford a sitter, make a deal with a friend who also has kids and share babysitting duties. (She needs time with her husband too!) Eat a nice meal without a kids’ menu or a highchair. If Taco Bell is all you can afford, then have an adult conversation over a couple of burritos! Talk about the old days and dream about the future. This is what will remind you why you fell in love and ultimately help you not fall out of it. You will go back to your children refreshed and ready to be better parents than you were when you left. Hit that reset button. It’s more than okay. It’s crucial.
Whether you work at home or outside of the home, at the end of the day you feel like you have nothing left to give and your husband is just going to have to understand. There will be days like that, but it can’t become an everyday occurrence. He matters. Your time together matters. Do your best to get your second wind.
Never assume your husband knows how much you love him.
Say it. Text it. Email it. Tell others. Be proud of each other. I used to think saying “I love you” after a phone conversation or when we kissed goodnight was enough, but it’s really not. Don’t let those words become meaningless. You have to be the one who makes your husband feel wanted and needed and desirable. If you don’t, someone else will. He might not act like he needs you to tell him he’s handsome or good at his job or a great dad, but he does.
We all need to feel loved and appreciated and if we don’t we are setting ourselves up to find it somewhere else, even if we didn’t know we were looking for it. Tell your spouse WHY you love him or her.
Women are the absolute worst at this. It starts with one woman venting because her husband never puts his dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The conversation builds and builds until we are ultimately trying to outdo each other. Before we even realize it, we have reduced all of the men in our lives to total imbeciles who would be completely helpless without our superior supervision. It’s just not okay. Most TV sitcoms might base their comedy on the idea that men are complete buffoons, but this mentality does nothing but damage our marriages. Try building him up rather than tearing him down. When other women start verbally displaying all of their husbands’ weaknesses, change the tone of the conversation by bragging on your husband’s strengths. I guarantee the other women will follow suit. After all, we do hate to be outdone, don’t we?
Protect your promise.
You promised before God and men to be married forever. Sometimes we forget the “for better or for worse” part of that promise. Our world has become one in which everything is temporary. Nothing is forever. Are we all conditioned to think this way? To give up when things get hard or when one of you makes a mistake? Has unconditional love become socially unacceptable?I can tell you from experience, unfortunately it has. But the good news is that we can be the generation that changes things.
Don’t be afraid to fight for your marriage. Pray over your marriage and your family. Pray against temptation and distraction. Be on guard and don’t ever be so naive as to think your marriage is safe from attack. Stay in the Word and believe God’s truths because they tend to be very different than what the world wants you to believe.
Your relationship with Christ comes before your marriage.Above all, the most important thing I have learned through all of this is that God is for marriage, but He doesn’t want us to find our fulfillment in another human being. Human beings are flawed. We are imperfect and make so many mistakes. God wants us to find our fulfillment in him. You can only pour into your spouse when you are filled up by Jesus. Your relationship with him will directly affect your relationship with your spouse. You can only give grace when you receive it from Him. Grace is essential when two people decide to live together forever. God wants you to find joy, companionship, intimacy, and divine love in your marriage. Your spouse’s role is not to be your life, but to enrich a life lived for Jesus.
No matter who you are, how you met, or how much you love each other, marriage is work. But when you do make the decision to become intentional, your marriage can be some of the most beautiful, fulfilling, rewarding work you have ever done. Don’t give up. Protect your promise.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:6
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