My Marriage Needs a (Very Specific) Miracle, God

Several years ago, in the middle of my church-led reconciliation attempt, we were in a meeting with several church leaders who had been trying to put our cracked marriage back together.

And one of the men said this, “My prayer is that someday down the road, our prayers will be answered for a miracle and I will be able to tell other couples who are on the verge of breaking up to go talk to you two…that your marriage and lives will be shining trophies for Jesus.”

Hmm.

I knew he meant well.  Every person who told me they were “praying for a miracle” meant well.  But this is what I said in response, “Please take this with all due respect, but whether or not this marriage ends, I fully intend for my children and for me to live lives that are shining trophies for Jesus.  If this marriage ends, my kids and I will not be straddled with God’s plan B for the rest of our lives.”

I had so many people tell me that they were praying for a miracle.  And when they said this, they meant only one thing: that my then-husband would come around, and that we’d reconcile.  I want to be careful not to discount that because yes, if we would’ve reconciled, that would have been a miracle; trust me.

But here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then: reconciliation wasn’t the only miracle for our situation. I was programmed to believe that it was, but it wasn’t.

(Do not get me wrong: RECONCILIATION IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF EVERY HURTING MARRIAGE and I AM NOT A PROPONENT OF DIVORCE.)

But think about the implications of staunchly believing reconciliation is the only miracle. If […]

Am I Ready to Date?

DISCLAIMER: This post is NOT for women who are married or who are separated (because you are still married).

I am often asked how to know if you’re ready to date or if it’s shortchanging the sovereignty of God by getting out there and trying something like online dating.

When I tried online dating last year, it was not because I thought it would be fun. In fact, the thought of it basically creeped me out.  It seemed – I don’t know – desperate, maybe.

And I wasn’t desperate. I had come to a place of being fine on my own. But then I found myself waking up to the reality that I believe God had created me for partnership and companionship, and, as it turned out, marriage was something that I desired.

The problem is is that I’m shy. And an introvert. And my idea of a good time is either a girls’ night out (and by girls’ night out, I mean tea and something chocolaty with my girls) or a night on my couch with Netflix or a book. And I work from home. And I don’t go to bars. And I don’t really know any men who are single.  You get my point.

So unless a super cute, forty-something, godly repairman happened to walk through my kitchen one day, I was out of luck.

So my friends suggested I try online dating and that I have an open mind. I did this with reluctance and fear and doubt that anything would come of it.

But five first dates later, and I realized that there were not only some really good men out there, but I ended up finding one. (Bam.)

So let me attempt to answer the two questions […]

By |February 23rd, 2015|dating, wholeness|3 Comments

Should I Stay Married or Can I Divorce?

This is the question I am asked over and over and over again over email.  Christian women in hard marriages from all over the world email me to ask me if they are allowed to leave their marriages.

I hate this question.

I hate this question because I know the pain that it represents.
I hate this question because it means that this woman must be living in some measure of isolation if she feels compelled to write a stranger to ask a life-altering question of someone she does not know.
I hate this question because the answer is polarizing and life-changing and is never black and white.
I hate this question because I refuse to answer it.

When I started writing about all of this a few years ago – hard Christian marriages, abuse, separation, divorce, the Church’s response – I made a promise to myself and to God that I would never, ever tell a woman she should divorce her husband (or conversely that she should stay married).

(My strong opinion is that NO ONE should be telling a woman either of these things, but that’s neither here nor there today.)

This decision is, in my strong opinion, between the woman, her husband and God.  And when it cannot be reached with the husband – which is often the case in difficult Christian marriages where abuse and addiction are involved – it is between the woman and her God to decide.

So though I cannot possibly answer this question for every single person, because it’s not my place, and because it is such a complicated issue, and because every situation is different, and because volumes have been written on this topic, I do have some thoughts.

If you or […]

How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Blinkin’ Proposal?

I posted this on my Facebook writer page recently:

Relational Tip of the Day: If you have been dating a man for a significant amount of time and you have to twist his arm into having conversations about marriage or the future, this should be a red flag. A godly man with a good heart who loves you WILL WANT TO MARRY YOU. If you are begging – as hard as this may be to hear – he is not the one.

And a few responded with, “What do you consider to be a reasonable amount of time?”

I had to beg to be proposed to the first time around. It was conversations and ways I could convince and lists of pros and nagging and pleading. I was insecure. I was scared. I wanted to know what my future would hold. I wanted this man – okay, any man – to want me, love me, marry me.  So I begged.

And he proposed.

And then he broke our engagement.

And we broke up and got back together and broke up and got back together. Still insecure. Still scared. Still needy. Still broken. Still bottomless. And I started begging again. And he proposed again.

And four years and one day from our first date, we got married.

And I always, always wondered if he ever would’ve married me if I hadn’t badgered him into it.

Fast forward twenty some odd years and I’m out of that marriage and grieved it all and healed up and sufficient time has gone by to get me to a place of being ready to date and I went on five first dates and then I found a man who loves me.

And not once did I bring up marriage.  […]

By |February 16th, 2015|dating, remarriage|6 Comments

All About That Grace, So I Thought

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was staunch in my beliefs. And it was annoying.  I didn’t think I was annoying at the time, but I’m slightly annoyed with myself looking back.

But then I went through a rough separation and a devastating divorce, and some people – readers and people I knew – treated my heart like a punching bag.  And I experienced firsthand what it felt like to have grace withheld. (Not from God…never from God…just from some self-righteous people.)

And it softened me like nobody’s business. In things like divorce. As in, at this point in my life and in my work, for the most part, when a woman comes to me, I don’t need to know how she got to where she is, just that she’s in pain and needs support.  If you’re divorcing, you’re hurting, and that’s all I need to know.

But I am finding that I have a sticking point – that shall remain nameless – that I am firm in.  To the point that it is affecting a couple relationships.

There is one thing that I believe so fiercely – out of protection for the people involved – that I am finding myself being unable to support their decisions.  And I don’t know what to do about it.

Because I know I can’t see it from my house.

And I know that I only need to keep my side of the street clean.

And I know I’m not “in their  scene” as my mentor says.

And I know that they are grown-ups and they will have to live with the consequences of their actions.

And I know that if I were making a decision that I felt strongly about that I’d want […]

By |February 12th, 2015|emotions, faith, healing|3 Comments

You are Not Responsible for Your Ex-Spouse

When you are married, you are in a covenant with someone to love and honor and cherish. Interwoven into those vows, at least in my mind, is a promise to help carry the other’s person load, to be a support, to have their back, to speak truth, to even – depending on the situation – come to the rescue.

(Quick side note: when I say ‘come to the rescue’, I mean to drive to them if they get a flat tire, not bail them out for their third DUI.)

This idea however can become murky when lies or addiction come into play. When you don’t know what your reality is, when you find yourself enabling sin.

But then some of us in difficult marriages find ourselves divorced.

We went from married women who were – in varying degrees – working on our marriages with our partners.

To women in difficult marriages who were trying to save our marriages, sometimes alone.

To women in dying marriages who were being extricated from our marriages.

To women who were no longer in marriages.

And no matter how long you were married to someone, there is a bond. There is a oneness. And that is not easily severed. You do not wake up on divorce day feeling completely separated and done and disentangled.  It takes a while to undo not just the damage but the good.  It takes a while to go from that man being the person who is supposed to be your highest human priority to not knowing where he is or what he is doing or who he is doing it with.

In other words, it takes time to shift from caring completely to having to choose not to involve yourself.

When I was in […]

By |February 9th, 2015|divorce|5 Comments

Marriage Means Becoming Someone’s Robot

Recently I posted this on my Facebook writer page:

“Sweet girls, I hope this will please your hearts to know that I now send my posts to Tall-Shadow for his input before I publish them, and he occasionally texts me with a tweak or two. The best part is that his heart is even more tender than mine is towards all of you and people in pain in general, so his suggestions are always along the lines of ‘this could be softer or more encouraging’. Sweet man.”

Though most responses were kind and encouraging, I also received this:

“Will you always think he will need to preview your words before you speak or write them? Is this what marriage is….or what honoring each other is?”

What an interesting take on what I was trying to share. My intent in posting what I did was to convey to my readers that partnership was adding to my ability to minister to them, not detracting or taking anything away.

And yet, one of the comments was an immediate questioning of why do I feel the need to get Tall-Shadow’s input?

First off, I don’t feel that I NEED to have him preview my words. I want him to. For years now, I have only had one side of the story – the female version. But I am marrying a man who has been through the wringer and can speak to the other perspective.  I want to know his side of things, how he sees the same situation I see. It’s fascinating to me, and it rounds out my writing and capacity to reach out in a more holistic and fair way.

Secondly, I hope I ALWAYS want his opinion. That’s what good partners do […]

What I Thought I Wanted

I’ve had a list in my head (okay, and in my journal, like a teenager) of what I was looking for the second time around, if God were to so bless me with a second time around, that is.

It started with a prayer that I made up and prayed sometimes many times a day on my lonely, lonely post-divorce days, rehearsing it almost like a mantra.

God, please bring my future husband and me deeper into healing, deeper with you, and to each other when we’re both ready, if there’s even one out there for me, Lord willing. Amen.

Now, my list started off – umm, borne out of much pain – with things like, not mean to me, and no addictions pretty please.

But it began to evolve over time once I realized how abnormal those things were.  I raised my bar.  And amended my list.

With things like he will read my writing and he will love Jesus more than he loves me and so on and so forth, filling up a page.

But you see, what I was doing in that list-making of mine is what I had done all along in my marriage. I had created this image in my head of what a Christian couple is supposed to look like.  And when it fell short, I criticized and nagged and lamented and tried to jam us into that self-made image.

And then I started dating.  And after each first date, I thought, “Hmm, turns out that fill-in-the-blank characteristic isn’t all that important after all,” or, “Umm, yeah, I super want such-and-such…who knew?”

And then I met Tall-Shadow.  And he and I are pretty different.  And it is wonderful.

I thought I wanted a partner in ministry. And […]

By |February 2nd, 2015|dating|3 Comments

“I Just Want You to Be Happy”…Wait, What?!?

Some conversations stick in my mind from years and years ago. I remember sitting on my couch with a friend while our kids toddled at our feet, and my friend was sharing a story about her husband and she said, “He just wants me to be happy.”

I laughed. I thought she was kidding.

Fast forward a handful of years and I was away with three of my closest friends and I was recalling a recent incident where I had been standing by my thermostat trying to cool it down by waving a piece of paper at it and begging Jesus to make the number go down, moments before my then-husband was supposed to come home, as I had it turned up higher than he liked and forgot to turn it back down in time.

They all looked at me, stunned.

I said, “What, you guys don’t do that?”

They shook their heads no and one of them said, “I’m pretty sure my husband would just want me warm and comfortable in my own home.”

I thought she was full of BS.

And one time, I was with a girlfriend shopping, and she was updating me on how her husband and marriage were and she said, almost in passing, “He just cherishes me.”

I started crying right there in the scrapbook store.

Clearly, my normal was so far from center and yet so completely ingrained in me that I honestly thought all those friends of mine were in the minority.

Until recently.

Because I’ve not just met a man who adores me and treats me well, but now that we’re planning a wedding together, I have been very, freakishly, pleasantly surprised.

Me: “Honey, how much input do you want to have in the wedding plans?”
Tall-Shadow: “As […]

Hello, New Girls!

Hello new subscribers (and longtime readers)!

I wanted to acknowledge all the new readers that found their way here from my Crosswalk.com article that was recently reposted, and welcome you.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself.  I am a 44-year-old mother of two great teenagers, Sara (18) and Jack (16-1/2). We live in a sweet little town in Illinois. I’ve been writing and speaking for almost fifteen years, doing what I always wanted to do but never dreaming I could or would.

Most of my writing these days is borne out of the pain of my very difficult almost-nineteen-year marriage that ended in the summer of 2012 when my then-husband counter-filed for divorce against my filing for legal separation after a fifteen-month church-led reconciliation attempt that ended with our church leadership releasing me to separate.

I write candidly because I remember feeling so alone for almost twenty years.  I remember the pain like it was yesterday. And yet, I have grappled with the grieving and the lessons learned and accepting my part in the demise of my marriage. I am now an advocate for women in difficult Christian marriages and those who find themselves walking through divorce. I get abuse of all kinds, the intricacies of addiction, and the pain of being shunned within the Church. My desire is to be a voice to those of you who are hurting and to create resources that help hurting women like you by bringing you hope.

Here are a few of those resources that I have created over the past few years:

If in a difficult marriage:
My e-book/PDF, Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage, came out of my almost-nineteen-year difficult marriage, available here.

My novel, World Split Open, about a […]

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