I’m Back

So, I took July off from writing and thinking so hard and strategizing because I was just plain wiped out, and it was just what I needed.  I rested, I read, I walked, I dated some boys.  It was fun and slow and quiet and just plain good.  I feel so much more me again. I have started to re-remember why I do what I do every day and it’s a really good, calm, settled feeling.

So as I continue to plot and plan how to reach as many hurting women as I can with hope and healing, here’s a little of what you can expect.

I will be posting here on the blog on Mondays and Thursdays. Though you, of course, are more than welcome to read every single post I ever toss up here, these days will have certain themes as I realize my audience is a bit varied.

Mondays: I’ll touch on topics related to difficult marriages, abuse, the Church.
Thursdays: I’ll write about divorce, single parenting, dating and pain in general.

During my time off, I combed through all 647 posts and categorized them correctly, so you can look to your right and click on a specific topic that hits home for you.

Also, if you want to make sure you receive my blog in your inbox for your convenience, you can sign up for it by clicking here.  As a thank you, you’ll receive my Top 10 Tips for Getting through a Crisis AND the kinda crazy (what-am-I-thinking?!) option to PAY WHATEVER YOU WANT for my three e-books. Yeah, I rock like that.

A reminder that my novel, World Split Open, releases in September in e-book form AND paperback. I’m so excited about this I can hardly believe it.  And by excited, I also mean a tad scared. But in the best ways.  So, be looking for that.

And my speaking schedule is resuming in September with a few retreats on the books.  If you or your women’s ministry or MOPS’ group or church or DivorceCare group would like to book me for an event, click here for more information.  I would LOVE to come speak in your area and meet as many of you as I can!

Let me just toss something out here…  I need you each to know that just because I have now been divorced over two years and I am venturing out into the world of dating absolutely does not mean that I can no longer resonate with those of you in difficult marriages or that I’m living chaos-free in the peaceful pastures of post-divorce-land.  Umm, no. I am meeting with a sweet woman in a hard marriage and when we talk, I remember vividly how it felt and I know – like really, really know and understand – how she is currently feeling. I still get it.  You can trust that. And I am in the middle of a divorce-related situation that is absolutely mind-numbingly nuts that I have no idea really how to navigate. So, yeah, I still get what it feels like to be divorced. You can know that.  I have been where you are. I am where you are. I understand your pain.  And Jesus has walked me through every last moment up til now and will continue to hold me through what’s to come.  I hear you, I understand you, I’m on your side.  We will get through this. YOU will get through this.

And in the meantime, girls, we’ve got work to do.

If my work has encouraged you and you’d like to partner with me as I reach out to help hurting women, click here  for more information.

What If You’re the Mean One?

Ah yes, anger that flares out of control. I was an angry, angry woman for a very, very long time.  I’m not saying I don’t have anger issues anymore, but I will say, it has been, I don’t know, six months since I yelled at someone.  And I’ve confessed this here before, but I used to yell several times a day.

This is a strange phenomenon in the domestic abuse world because the typical picture imagined is that the perpetrator is mean and loud and throws things and sometimes hits and totally yells.  While the victim is meek and mild and mousy and wouldn’t even think to stand up for herself, let alone raise her voice.

In my case, things were flip-flopped.  He was the calm one.  I was the out-of-control one.  And talk about then having to try to prove my case fifteen-plus years later when everyone pretty much knew me as the – pardon my French but there’s no other way to say it – Christian bitch.  People thought, I’m sure, Well, if I were married to Beth, I’d fill-in-the-blank too.

So, sweet one in a difficult marriage, say this is you.  Say your abuser is charming, and more subtle in his attempts to manipulate and control, and say you are a mess, retaliating in your anger with loud words and perhaps even violence.

I may have shared this before but I remember the day the lights went on for me on this specific issue.  We were outside and an argument was starting up.  The words of my current counselor were ringing in my ears that the moment I felt myself about to lose control, I was supposed to say something like, “I can tell I’m going to lose it…I need to go calm down…we can talk about this again in (ten minutes/tonight/tomorrow morning/whatever).”

The argument had taken a nasty turn and I was going to try this tactic.  Because I desperately wanted to get better.  I was honest and said I was about to lose my temper and I needed to go cool down.

The response, “What? You can’t have an adult conversation?” I paused, feeling confused and defensive.  “No, I just really want to try to work on my anger and I need to calm down.”

“If you walk away now, we’re done with this topic.” Then it hit me in that moment that after years of being told to stop yelling, to quiet down, to lower my voice, of how much my yelling was despised…it turns out, my yelling was actually loved.  Because I looked out of control, and completely looked like the bad guy in the equation.  And those comments above – things I had heard for years – were controlling, manipulative threats.  So, I turned around, and literally fled, running through my yard as fast as I could to get away. I ran away like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife.

Because, as it turns out, I believe the desired response – all those years – was for me to sin in my anger.

So here’s what you need to do, and it’s going to be difficult: whatever you do, do not let your abuser incite you into losing your temper and losing control.  Because then, he will win.

Take my counselor’s advice: say that you need to stop and cool down, walk away, and then come back when you’re more collected.

And if your abuser says things to try to trap you into staying beyond your boiling point, don’t bite. “What, you can’t have an adult conversation?” “Yes, I can, but I’m going to go calm down first.” Then walk away.  “If you walk away now, we’re done with this topic.” “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I still need to go calm down.” Then walk away. Trust me, nothing is worth losing self-respect or ground you have gained in trying to get healthy.

And, listen, if your abuser is really trying to change as well, he will be more than happy to give you the time you need to collect your thoughts.  Stand strong.

 

 

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.

Getting to the 2nd Date (not to be confused with getting to 2nd base…dudes, please)

IMG_4215 JPGFrankly, I’m not sure I ever thought this day would come. I thought I was just going to become the first-date pro, leaving myself wondering if my standards were too high or my emotional radar were out of whack.

You see, I had my criteria that I was planning to stick to at least for a few months and then reevaluate if no one were ticking all the boxes. I have to give a shout-out to my sweet kid sister (holla, Whitney!) who gave me the idea of coming up with five things to look for in a man. Now, she pretty much meant overall, but I took it to mean on the first date. (Bar is forever and always now raised high, ladies.)

So, these are the things that had to make an appearance on the first date to warrant a second date: (*to be clear: this is JUST MY LIST…not gospel truth)

  1. Attractive. I have to think, ‘Yep, I’d want him to kiss me at the end of the night’, even if he doesn’t and even if I have no intention of letting him. I should want to be kissed by the man who I’m trying to find to spend the rest of my life with.
  2. Good conversation. I do not want to steer the whole thing nor pull conversational teeth. It should flow. To quote a guy friend, “The man should come with a (figurative) bag of questions in his pocket.”
  3. Banter. Humor is super important to me. Let’s be honest: I’m funny. And it’s important to me that the person I’m with think I’m funny too and be funny himself. Not in an identical way, but that we get each other and make each other laugh, a lot. (Life’s hard.)
  4. Faith. I believe I can tell in one conversation if Jesus is someone’s most important priority. I want — no, need – a man who will be self-leading in his walk with Christ. Like, I should be able to tell that his relationship with Christ had already been going on well before I came into the picture, or I’ll spend another several decades trying to change someone into who I want him to be. And that’s just no good for anyone.
  5. A common experience with brokenness. Now, I don’t mean I wanted to set out to find someone with huge issues. Nor does my potential partner’s path have to resemble mine identically. However, if someone says “it is what it is” like ten times describing his divorce and I can tell he learned nary a lesson or he has to harken back to his childhood to dredge up a pain that doesn’t even come close to what I’ve been through, I can tell that they don’t get what it means to be broken in the way I’ve been broken. This is important to me because my life’s work is walking alongside broken women. My life’s work is watching God turn my pain into redemption. So it’s super necessary to me that my future partner understand brokenness and redemption and will support this hard thing that I’m trying to do each and every day.

Umm, yeah. I walked into all my first dates looking for ALL of these things.  No wonder I had four first dates and no second dates.  I met some really great guys…hard-working, funny, kind, attractive. But not one met all these things in the ways I was hoping for. (Actually, not true: one did. But then he turned around and wasn’t nice to me the very next day. So yeah.)

Until last week. When one sweet man ticked off boxes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  And when he asked to see me again, I didn’t hesitate in saying, “When?” with a goofy grin on my face.IMG_1040

So, ladies who are out there in the dating world, let me say again, there are good men. There are.

You know there a bunch more things that are super important to me, but those things can be discerned in time.

Again I proclaim: don’t settle. Just too, too much is at stake…your heart, your future, your peace, your generational line, just to name a few things. Single-lonely is a thousand times more endurable than married-lonely.  If Jesus has a man for you, trust him to bring him to you when you and he are both ready.

Today, maybe come up with your top five first-date criteria and I’d love it if you’d share one or two with us below.

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

Melancholy Park

Question: “My divorce has been final for a while. Why am I still so sad?”

Over a year-and-a-half ago, I felt so lost. (And again a time or two since then.) Sad. Blah. Passion-less. I purchased a book* to help me work through the sad state I was in and I was clicking right along. I did everything it told me to do: I came up with a life timeline, listed the negative points, processed the redemption that had come from each, and decided upon my five primary roles. This was all good and fine; I really felt like I was accomplishing something.

And then…and then I hit a wall.

So I did what I usually do when I hit a wall: I spent some time with my mentor. And I told her about the process that I was making myself go through and how, when I got to the step where it asked what my ambitions were – how I wanted to live out my life in each of my five roles – how I hit a wall and couldn’t think of anything to write down under any of them, after thinking and praying about it for several days.

I told her that for the past twenty years, I’ve had various passions. Mothering young children, then women’s ministry, then social justice. That I’d poured myself into each of these things, wrote about these things, been an advocate for these things. But that right then, I didn’t feel like I had a passion for anything.

And she said, “I have your answer.”

“Okay,” I said. “What is it?”

And then she said this, “Years ago, when people lost someone they loved, it was expected that they would mourn for a year. They were given black arm bands to wear.  They even put black wreathes on their front doors. They were to rest and grieve and heal. They even had places in the middle of their town called Melancholy Park where they would be allowed to go and just sit.  Can you imagine? No one would bother them, no one made fun of them, no one pushed them to get back into their regular lives. They were not only allowed but encouraged to do the grieving work, for a year.”

I sat there, tears streaming down my face, not even four months past my divorce. (I had been kicking myself for not yet feeling healed and whole already.)

She continued, “You have lost something big. Picture yourself with a black arm band. Let yourself rest. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself heal. I’ll let you know if I think you’re not doing enough. But right now, just rest. Because if you don’t do the work now, it’ll come out eventually.”

I went home and put that book away. The process of finding my new place, my next chapter, my next thing, would just have to wait a few months. (Okay, several months.)

Because in that season, I had the deeper works of rest and grieving and healing to accomplish. How I had wished I could live in Melancholy Park, but she said we can only visit.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –Psalm 34:18 (NLT)-

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

 

*Storyline by Donald Miller

What If My Husband Never Changes?

Question: “What if our marriage never changes, what if the bad things he’s doing aren’t just a phase, like people keep telling me?”

There was a period of a few months when I lived in the most emotionally uncomfortable place I’d ever been. I had woken up fully to my reality: my marriage was hard and not getting better. But I had just asked for help with one final plea and the team of people that surrounded us (so grateful for them) needed to see what I was seeing for themselves. This meant, I had to keep living in this deep pain, knowingly, while they surveyed the situation…like, for months. It was one thing to live in when I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was, when I thought our normal was everyone’s normal, but to do so while being completely aware of the dysfunction was one of the most emotionally tenuous stretches of my life.

Thankfully, the people surrounding me knew what they were looking for: they were looking for heart change and behavior change, not just the right words, from both of us.  Most of my wisdom on this subject comes from Henry Cloud’s amazing book entitled Necessary Endings. This book gave me the tools to know what I should be looking for, along with the courage to hold on long enough for time to pass and truth to reveal itself.

“Look at the past behavior in some areas that count: promises, commitments, and responsibility, and then seeing what the track record has been. That is important because the best predictor of the future is the past. What he has done in the past will be what he does in the future, unless there has been some big change.  When you ask yourself if you should have hope for this person to get better, the first diagnostic is to see what has been happening up to this point. Unless something changes, that is exactly what you can expect to happen in the future. The past does not lie. Of course, you might immediately ask, “Can’t someone do better than their past?” Of course!  If that were not true, we would all be hopeless. But the key is this: There had better be good reason to believe that someone is going to do better. Without any new information or actions, though, the past is the best predictor of the future.

Let’s say, for instance, that your spouse has a drug problem.  You’ve talked about it with him until you’re blue in the face.  He has told you a hundred times that he’s going to quit, or he’s even told you that he doesn’t have a problem and you’re being overdramatic.  He may have even had pills in his hand and looked you in the eye and told you that he wasn’t using.  But then let’s say one time, for whatever reason, he says he’s going to get help.  You are hopeful, though he’s said this before.  But you want to believe him (more than likely because a part of you still loves a part of him).  So he asks for three months to get his act together.  What do you look for during this time?

Initiative. Is he setting up treatment or counseling or accountability, or is he expecting you to do it, or just dragging his feet and not doing it at all?  True change absolutely must come from within himself. He must want it or it’s either not going to happen or not going to last.

Changes. Has the drug-using (or drinking or abuse or infidelity or whatever) stopped? Or is he still blatantly doing what he was doing before?

Truth. Is he telling you the truth? Has he been caught in any lies?

Openness. This one is key. Is he humble enough to understand that you have the right to ask him anything you need to ask him, and is he answering non-defensively?  If your desire is that, for example, every night he comes home, you want him to empty his pockets in front of you, or take a breathalyzer, or show you his cell phone, and he says no, then he’s not getting it.  If you ask him each night where he’s been during the day, and after a week, he says something like, “Don’t you trust me yet?”, he’s not there.  A truly repentant person who has betrayed you will understand that rebuilding deep trust takes time. The man who is truly changing will do anything to get you back, including the sometimes humiliating thing of answering uncomfortable questions, if it will make you feel better.

I’m just barely scratching the surface here. Begin with prayer…ask the Holy Spirit to make you smarter than you are, to help you know things you do not know, to reveal secret things to you. I remember one day begging Jesus to help me find just one receipt (“Just one receipt, Jesus, please…” I pleaded on repeat for an hour) to prove what I believed to be true (and to prove to our team of counselors what I believed to be true), and I found one.

I don’t think God wants us to be walking around clueless, constantly being deceived.  He wants to give us clear minds and wisdom.  This will all take time, but if you are walking with God, and you’ve got your emotional eyes wide open, I believe you can know one way or the other for certain if the person in your life is really changing for the better.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.

 

I’m a Christian Serial Dater (Apparently)

As we’ve discussed, I’ve decided to try dating by joining an online dating site.  And I’m learning a TON. About life and boys and even myself. Go figure.

But one issue that’s come up is the little phrase “serial dater”. I have been super clear with the men that I’m communicating with that I am not “that kind of girl”. (I’m not sure what kind of girl I thought that was, but I was certain I was not it.)

Until I looked up the definition of serial dating:

One who engages in the process of systematically dating an obscene amount people in a short span of time. -UrbanDictionary.com

I gasped. That was me!!!

Okay, not an OBSCENE amount of people, but (at the time of this writing), five first dates in three weeks is obscene if you look at the number of first dates I’ve had in my life (five pre-marriage TOTAL).

But I’ve come to realize something. I realized that this is how I am going to handle this whole dating-total-strangers thing (and it’s not for everyone).

You see, with Mr. Good Man, we emailed and IM’d and called and FaceTime’d and texted for five months before we met. In other words, I totally loved the guy before our first date. Umm, yeah. That’s probably not duplicatable. Or necessarily recommended.

So, in an effort to protect my heart and the hearts of every man I communicate with, I’ve developed a bit of a system. (That I have dating system should shock no one.)

Pre-Step one: my profile has a statement that makes it uber clear that Jesus is my highest priority and that he will be my future husband’s highest priority. If I could have it flashing in neon, I would. This doesn’t keep all the creepers away, but I’m hoping it separates a bit of the wheat from the chaff.

Step one: they must initiate contact with me. I may be a quote-unquote serial dater, but I’m an old-fashioned serial dater.

Step two: if all they do is send a wink or smile or like a picture or favorite me or what-have-you, I do not respond.  They must write me something. And it HAS to be kind and respectful. Bonus if it’s funny.

Step three: we email a bit.  If my phone number is asked for or a date is requested in the first day or two, I say simply, ‘not yet’.  How they respond is key because my desire for slowness and to have my wishes understood and heeded is paramount.

Step four: I ask two important questions. One, what are your thoughts on this whole online dating thing/communicating with more than one person at a time? And two, what does Jesus mean to you?

Step five: I assess their responses, and I write them back with how I’d answer those two questions.

(My responses, in case you’re curious:

My thoughts on the online dating thing, just for full disclosure. I had one boyfriend before my husband, then dated my husband for four years, and was married for just under nineteen years. I have been divorced for two years and I have just in the past few months considered dating. I have been on just a few first dates in the past two months, and none before that for 23 years. I’m a dating novice.

One thing I learned through my very difficult marriage is not to settle. And though I have no intention of being what I hear people call a “serial dater” and I wouldn’t be a game-player even if I knew how to be, I am currently communicating a little bit with a few men at the same time right now and may even go out with a few around the same time as well, as I guess I figured that’s what this is all about.

But I wouldn’t drag something out if I didn’t feel chemistry, I wouldn’t seriously date more than one man at a time, and I will always be honest with each man where things are.

My take on who Jesus is…  I accepted Christ as my personal Savior when I was fifteen and I am trying to live a life that brings me closer to him. He is my closest friend, he is who I call to for help and guidance, he is who I want to become more like. I spend time with him every morning through prayer and journaling and reading Scripture. I attend church weekly. When I write and speak, I try to point the women I’m talking with to Jesus.  And the highest priority for my choice of a future husband will be that he knows and loves Jesus and has a growing relationship with him.)

Step six: if we’re both okay with how the other responded to those couple things, I’ll typically ask if they still want my phone number, and then we move to texting and a call or two.

Step seven: if all of this is going well, I’ll ask them if they still want to meet me, and then we’ll set a date.

(You’d think this would take FOREVER. It doesn’t.  This takes about five days to two weeks, depending on how often the man is able to communicate.  And this may seem really quick to some of you – the opposite of slowness, which I get. But why drag things out at the beginning? I now realize I can tell pretty quickly if there will be a connection with someone, and if there isn’t, let’s both move on. So the beginning is somewhat quick in the first-impressions stage; but then we’d move slowly beyond this point.)

Step eight: we meet.  This is fun and a little bit scary but not as scary as I thought it would be.  And I’m even a shy introvert whose idea of a good time is watching Alias on Netflix while sipping tea.  (Party animal that I am.)

*Actual date tips:
Choose someplace public.
Choose someplace in between.
Do not get picked up by THIS STRANGER; drive there yourself.
Tell someone the following details ahead of time: who you’re meeting (name and phone number), where you’re meeting, when you’re meeting, and plan to contact this person when you’re safely home.
Bonus tip: A good male friend of mine said that upon first sight, you really should immediately think “oh wow”, not “oh boy”, (which I’ll touch on below).

Step nine: This is now the day-after the first date. I spend time being contemplative and prayerful because I take this search of mine super seriously.  And I’ve come up with a philosophy with the help of two male friends who gave me some advice after one of the first dates left me a bit confused. I had shared that though my date was a very kind and good man, I wasn’t attracted to him and didn’t feel any chemistry, so I was wondering whether to go on a second date for open-mindedness’ sake (even saying, “So, even though I don’t want to see him again, should I just push through and see him again?” Yeah, I know. I’m a nut.)

Their responses:

“No attraction.” Really? Whether or not you have set the bar too high, I question the emotional wisdom of seeking to spend time with someone to whom you are not attracted. You would then have to “work” on learning how to be attracted to someone you are not attracted to. As for the bar being set too high…as a Christ follower, you do just that. Set the bar as high as the cross. As a woman who has suffered much, do not settle. Be humble in your endeavors to seek love, but do not settle if your “eyes,” heart and mind are not one. –male counselor

If you truly knew your worth as a woman, you wouldn’t go on a second date with a man you weren’t excited about in all ways. –guy friend

So basically, I’m allowed to decide what I’m looking for in a man, what’s important to me (after godly, of course). Which means, if I want ______________ and _______________ and _______________, I can look for those things.

Marriage is a big deal. My first marriage was hard and broke me. I would rather be alone than in something boring or not right or lonely or painful or simply parallel.  I won’t get married again for just eh.

So, as long as I’m prayerful and willing to possibly be on my own longer (or forever) if I don’t find those things, it’s my choice and my life.

In other words, if you’re walking closely with Christ, you can trust your judgment. You are your very own expert, according to my awesome pastor. And Scripture says that we’ve been given a sound mind and that we have the mind of Christ.

Step ten: If I want to see the man again, and he asks me out again, I will go out again.  But if I don’t want to see the man again, I will let him know by the end of the day after our first date. Hearts will be hurt through this process, I’m sure, but I promised myself I will not drag something out or lead someone on.

So, I don’t think I’m a serial dater; I’m just doing this the best I know how, having never done anything like this at all before in my life. And you’ve got to know that every step of the way, I am praying for clarity and discernment. I do not take this lightly.  And if you’re out there too, it might be helpful to come up with a few standards of your own to help you navigate this craziness.  Because trust me, it’s crazy.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  -Matthew 6:33-

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

Shattering the Stereotype of the Abusive Marriage

She’s the one who says things like, “He didn’t mean to do it,” and “he promises it’ll never happen again”. She doesn’t speak up. She has no opinions of her own. She cowers. She covers up. She enables. She makes excuses. She’s disheveled and looks tired all the time.

The husband is brooding, a known-bully. He is controlling. He is regularly getting into conflicts with others. He’s a drunk, perhaps. He loses his temper in public. You fear for the woman married to this man.

You can picture this scene, right? It’s something straight out of a Lifetime TV movie. Except for the fact that this is not at all how this typically plays out in the average Christian abusive marriage.

The couple tends to be just your average couple. They attend church. They both serve, sometimes even in leadership. The husband is charming and well-liked.

In my case, I served a lot.  I was a control freak (even once called a Pharisee for how much I stuck to the rules in my church staff position) who was opinionated and often found myself in many conflict resolution meetings. My take on this, looking back, is that I was presumed to be a bitch and if there were problems, they were all because of me.

But let’s hear from some other women in abusive marriages about why you may have no idea that the couple sitting next to you in church might very well be in marital distress.

My family and a couple of insightful friends had seen my decline and knew something was up, but didn’t necessarily know what. But we were pastor-and-wife at the church, and that was a very easy banner to hide under.”

“I went into overdrive in ministry, outreach, homeschooling, leading worship, etc. Overcompensating, I guess.”

“I kept it to myself hoping it would change or hide it in shame for what others would think of us.”

“I was previously a worship leader, involved in Women’s Ministries, all while raising our kids. We still appear to be a model family. If they only knew…”

“Actually, it was a friend, who was in divinity school at the time, who told ME I was being emotionally abused. It took a couple more years before I could see it for myself.”

I moderate two private groups on Facebook for Christian women in either difficult marriages or going through difficult divorces. We are up to almost nine hundred women in two years of word-of-mouth “promotion”. I have read the stories of these women and listened in on their past situations and current dilemmas and I can tell you that these women are not the woman I describe in the first paragraph above. And their husbands (or ex-husbands) are not the men I describe in the second paragraph. They do not fit the stereotypical mold of victim/abuser.

These women are women who love God. These are women who meant what they said when they took their vows. These are women who desperately want – or wanted – to keep their marriages together. These are women who are raising their children and serving in their churches and praying for their husbands and trying to heal their marriages. They are in counseling. They are reading books. They are going to recovery groups. They are working on themselves. Yes, they lose their temper from time to time. Yes, they have even lost hope from time to time. But they are doing their best. And they just might be sitting next to you, totally dying inside.  Abuse doesn’t always look the way you think it does.(Here, we talk about what you can do to help.)

 

If my work has encouraged you and you’d like to partner with me as I reach out to help hurting women, click here  for more information.

Is Divorce an Unforgivable Sin?

When I first announced my separation, I lost several speaking engagements.  On the one hand, I understood where the people were coming from, being a former women’s ministry director, but I have to admit, I felt such shame in those moments.

I think one of my blog readers who commented last week hit the nail on the head: “I had one person go as far as to tell me that {God} doesn’t forgive {divorce}.” I think there are people who believe that divorce is the unforgivable sin. Or, at the very least, that talking about it is the same as condoning it, and no one wants to be caught condoning it.

But, as I’ve talked about here before, divorce is never black and white, even when it appears to be. I do not believe every divorce is a sin, though I do believe some is. See, even I – a divorcee – can’t see my way through all the grey.

Some things are cut and dry totally not sin. If I brought cookies to a friend because I care about her, completely not a sin. And some things are cut and dry totally a sin. If I had an affair with a married man, totally always sin (for both of us).

But divorce, grey grey grey. If my husband cheated on me and were unrepentant, I believe I could get a divorce and not be in sin. If my husband repeatedly abused me and were unrepentant, I believe I could get a divorce and not be in sin (sadly, many, many people disagree with this point). But if my husband just drove me crazy or I weren’t in love with him anymore or I found someone else who gave me butterflies, I believe that if I got a divorce, I’d be sinning.

HOWEVER, with that said, regardless of the circumstances regarding your divorce, I do not believe you will be forever frozen in some sin state. And this is where I believe so many of us divorced people feel stuck and feel shame. We feel labeled by others who disapprove of us and we feel the weight of our own guilt barreling down on ourselves.

But let me be clear: there is only one “unforgivable sin” mentioned in the Bible and it is not divorce. If you are divorced, you are not forever bound to your sin, regardless of how you got there; if you are repentant and have sought God’s forgiveness, you are forgiven and cleansed and free.

How dare any of us act as if God can’t forgive a divorced person. Seriously. Who deemed you the person to look at the cross and then look back again at our lives and shake your head with disapproval and judgment? Last I checked, church-going people, there is only one God, and you are not him.

My blog commenter continued: “After much Scripture searching and prayer {on my part}, she said it {to me} again. I finally had to speak up! ‘Do you mean that God can forgive a murderer but not me because I have been divorced? Do you mean that God can forgive thieves but not me? Do you mean that he can even forgive you for passing judgment on me and condemning me to hell, but he can’t forgive me? Do you mean that his word that says ‘there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus’ is wrong?’’ Yes, I believe marriage is meant to last a lifetime but, I believe God still loves me.”

Read those words again: “Do you mean that his word that says ‘there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus’ is wrong?” Whew. I’m probably preaching to the choir here because I doubt too many judgers read my blog; but if you have ever said anything like what this woman endured, or what I have endured, or what many of the divorced women I hear from endured, please consider asking her for an apology. And if you’ve even thought it, please think – for just a few moments – not just about your mound of sin, but about your mountain of judgments. You’re living in a scary place in your faith because if you believe divorce can’t be forgiven, then you must not believe your sin can be either. And who wants to live their life that way? It is the judger that I feel the most sorry for.

As my sweet girlfriend said to me in a text, “You have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing!” Sweet divorced ones, start today to lay down your guilt and shame. If you’ve been on the receiving end of harsh words, know they are not from Jesus. Know that the person who spoke them was wrong. And instead soak up God’s grace and mercy. He loves you. He does not condemn you. You are free.

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

Online Dating Tips

Last week I talked about how I was on an online dating site for eight days but that I took my profile down after an unfortunate incident so that I could “reassess”.  Well, I figured, it might be helpful to actually do some reassessing and think through what I learned, even in that short period, before I try it again.  And as it turns out, I actually learned quite a lot.

I learned that:

-I am discerning and it’s okay to delete someone based off my own criteria and not feel badly about it. (Some are deleting me too, I’m sure.)
-I can pretty much tell in one meeting if there’s chemistry. (Not fully sure what to do with that information, but good to know that I can tell.)
-I am capable of ending things graciously.
-I can be spontaneous. (Who knew??)
-it’s okay to have fun.
-I am brave.
-at 43+, I was completely myself on both first dates. No game-playing (wouldn’t know how) and not putting on a charade to seem better than I was. I was just me.
-I need the man to be communicative about what he feels about me. (Okay, that’s probably not a new learning, but still…)
-I can insist on slowness and I can reinforce that it’s a priority to me.
-I’m a little bit naïve (and that’s okay).
-I am capable of not giving away the emotional farm within a week. This is progress, people.
-it’s important for me to be honest with the men that I’m communicating with more than one at a time, and to find out how they feel about it, giving them an out early on.
-it’s a good idea to tell someone where I’m going and when and with whom for my safety.
-I need to be more ready for anything to happen and not be so thrown/stunned if someone isn’t kind to me or things go south.
-there are some good men out there.
-despite my pleas to Jesus to the contrary, I have a feeling this won’t be wrapped up quickly…I will need to be patient and take a longer view and will, more than likely, have to “go through” a lot of guys (sounds horrible, but you hopefully know what I mean).
-though I’ve alluded to it being difficult to reenter the dating world in your 40s (and it is), one huge advantage is that I actually know myself and what I’m looking for now  and I actually have the tools to wisely chose my life partner.
-you can punch in all the parameters you want regarding distance and age and faith and such and you’re still going to get a not-yet-fully-divorced 71-year-old atheistic Floridian “winking” at you. Hypothetically. I can’t even…

Some huge lessons learned in eight days, people.  Huge.

Now here’s what some of you shared with me last week from your online dating experiences:

Guard your heart. (Yes.)

Guard your wallet (lots of scammers). (Good one.)

Don’t believe everything you read or what you’re told – be discerning. (Sad, but true.)

Just because it’s a “Christian” dating site doesn’t mean everyone believes what you believe. (Yep.)

It’s fun but it can be emotionally draining. (It’s practically like having a part-time job if you’re not careful!)

Some people do online dating thinking that they don’t have to do their homework and get to know these men.  Be your own detective. (Use Google, get a background check, etc.)

I am trying to look at online dating as practice for me in setting boundaries and educating the other person about me, something that is new to me.  (Love.)

Be aware that most, I do repeat most, of the people you will meet are not keepers. (Aww…)

It’s best to meet early on and shatter any illusions that may be developing, before your heart gets hurt. (Agree times ten.)

Great tips, ladies!  Let me pray for us…

Jesus, for those of us out in the dating world, longing for a good man to call our husband, please give us quicker discernment, an open mind, thicker skin, steadier emotions, and lots and lots of heart protection. And help us not make relational choices based out of fear, insecurity, low self-esteem, woundedness, loneliness or old stories. Bring us the men you want for us when we are ready, and in the meantime, draw us closer to you, making us more whole and into the people you want us to be. Amen.

And remember, sweet ones: we are already fully loved.  (I know, I know…Jesus isn’t our boyfriend, but still.  Don’t settle.  Keep that bar high.)

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

Your Canvas is Calling

I spent the weekend being a part of our three church services, a gift in and of itself of being welcomed into the tribe, of being told that I had something to share of value to the rest, of being pulled in. I was humbled, honored, blown away, excited, happy.

We’ve been talking about bringing our God-given creativity out of hiding and letting God use the whole of our lives to bring light and hope to our individual worlds, and this weekend we were exploring the interplay between creativity and pain. Two of my favorite subjects, seriously. I’m kinda weird that way. I love talking about writing. I love talking about the hard things in life. And I love talking about God taking something hard and turning it into something beautiful.

We’ve been reminded – or maybe learning for the first time – that we each have a canvas. That we are each artists. That we are each image-bearers of a Creator God and that we don’t need to be quote-unquote artists in the way we might typically think of them – dancers, songwriters, painters – to be considered creative. That our entire lives are our canvases. I love this.

And I love the idea that our most beautiful creations can come at the intersection of our pain and our willingness to let God transform it.

I’ve long been buoyed up by the verse that says we have a God who comforts us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. –II Corinthians 1:3-4-

What a promise. Even if the verse stopped with the hope that God comforts us in all our troubles, we’d be set and we’d have reason to be deeply grateful. Because life is so hard and we all have pain and we all need, from time to time, the comfort of God.

But it doesn’t stop there. The verse goes on to say that he provides us with this comfort so that we can comfort others.

So that.

God does what he does so that we can do what we can do. Something only we can do.

So if you’re looking at your life and thinking you’ve got nothing to offer, I will beg to differ with you every single time. I would ask you about one of the deep pains in your life. And I would not judge if this pain happened to you or came at your own hand. And I would point out to you that whatever that pain is – divorce or a hard marriage or an abortion from a long time ago or an eating disorder or a prodigal child or a battle with depression or whatever – whatever it is, is your so that. Whatever you have received the comfort of God to get you through (and can I point out that just that you’re breathing still, he has gotten you through?), whatever he has gotten you through is your canvas. It’s your so that. It’s your thing that only you can do. You have received a comfort through your pain that you can turn around and offer to someone else in a way that only you can do.

Your canvas is calling. It’s waiting. No one else can or will fill it up with your ashes-to-beauty story. Pain can be the end of your story. But that would be sad, and a waste, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t let it win out.  What in the world are you waiting for?

 

 

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