Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journey to Thanksgiving

I am currently reading One Thousand Gifts A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp right now. Ladies, this is one you will want in your library; it is poetically written and theologically sound! The book has me thinking a lot about thankfulness and realizing how much I have always taken and still take for granted. My ex-husband used to always call me an ingrate, and although he was coming from a mean and sinful spirit, I think there is some truth to my ingratitude. I have taken many gifts for granted and rarely do I step back and reflect upon nor thank God for all I have been given.

I am contemplating (hopefully can commit to) writing a weekly blog on what I am thankful for in 2012. Ann Voskamp (I’m only in the 3rd chapter) writes about the 1000 gifts she is thankful for through a series of lists. I am not a list person and I know what one formula works for one does not work for another but I would like to reflect more on what I am thankful for and rather than this being an exercise in discipline, I am hoping this just makes me more aware of what I constantly take for granted. Although I don’t plan to start this until next week, I really do want to take a few minutes and reflect on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me…my husband.

1) Jesus: Nothing More, Nothing Less. He always points me to Jesus. The one thing I think my husband probably desires most for me is to see Jesus rightly. Since our first conversation, he has always pointed me to the cross to find healing and rest.

2) Jesus: White as Snow. I am thankful my husband sees me as Jesus sees me…white as snow. He does not see me through my behavior, choices, or lack of thankfulness (ingrate).

3) Jesus: Sacrificial Service. My husband always serves me sacrificially. He wakes me up most mornings with coffee, he gets up and turns the heat on, he makes my lunch, and he warms my car up for me…even when I have to be out of the house at 5am. Upon my return, he greets me with my favorite drink, a pillow under my feet, and a dinner served just the way I have requested (he asks this question during the day by the way). If I want something we don’t have, he will make a special trip to get it. He rubs my feet and he rubs my head, whenever I ask and sometimes just because.

4) Jesus: Freedom. He enjoys it when I am free to be me! My husband loves it when my girly playfulness comes out and his enjoyment of it brings me joy. I am thankful to be free enough with my husband to be girly and silly.

5) Jesus: Covenant Marriage. I am thankful my husband desires oneness and thinks I’m hot! I am truly thankful that my husband thinks I am beautiful and desires (only me) all the time.

6) Jesus: Holy Spirit. I am thankful for my husband’s dependence on the Holy Spirit. God has gifted him with discernment and he relies on the Spirit to help him see what the natural eye cannot.

7) Jesus: Love. My husband loves. Greatly. Deeply. I am so thankful for his love of me, our daughters, our friends, and the church body. He deeply desires everyone to know and understand Jesus and what the cross accomplished.

8) Jesus: Simply Jesus. I am so thankful for Jesus in my husband. He has an unbelievable love for Jesus and the cross and lives there. He’s usually the first one to the cross, the first one to confess, the first one to repent, the first one to seek forgiveness, the first to pray, and the first one to worship. I am thankful for his leadership, love, and dependence on the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Jesus, thank you for choosing this man for me. Thank you for revealing yourself to him so he can be You to me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

God's Hand on My Life

I wanted to share this moment I had with my daughter yesterday as it blessed me greatly.

We were driving to go wedding dress shopping yesterday and we were processing the news we had just heard about a death of someone we knew due to liver damage from alcoholism. I was wondering how someone who had such an amazing family would choose a life of alcohol over a beautiful family and what kind of darkness he must have lived with daily to have made that choice. My daughter spoke up and said that I was one of those amazing stories as most people could never have endured what I had endured and be in the place I am today. She then said, “God truly had His hand on you”. For me, there was so much (godly) irony in her statement but realized that I had never realized that my daughter had seen God’s hand on me!

It has always been God’s hand on my daughter that brought me to faith! I felt like I had to share this beautiful story!

When my daughter was two we were visiting my parents at Christmastime and had gone to mass with them at their Catholic church. At this point, Kaitlyn had never even been inside a church. That Christmas had already been pretty magical for us…we had family, snow, lights, and a lot of love that year. We had been building up Christmas with her from the presents, to visiting the beautiful lit houses in the neighborhood, to the making cookies for Santa with grandpa, and Christmas Eve mass where she could visit the nativity scene and see the baby Jesus in the manger. She was in great anticipation of going to church and coming home and leaving her home baked cookies and milk out for Santa (I think I even still have the letter “we” wrote for him). We showed her the nativity set when we go there and she was wonderful during mass, probably even more than me as I was had no clue what I was supposed to be doing half the time but as we began to walk out of the church building she burst into tears and we had to spend some time consoling her. Once she was able to stop the flow of tears and near hysteria she let us know that we could not leave yet…she had not met baby Jesus yet!

We had no idea that she actually thought she was going to meet a real baby that night, her Lord and Savior Jesus. It was more than evident to me that night that my daughter had some knowledge of Jesus and little did I know at that moment her heart would forever be connected to Him. The amazing thing for me was that her knowledge of Jesus was completely supernatural! I never spoke of Jesus and aside from knowledge that my parents went to church and spoke occasionally about God, Jesus was not a topic of conversation in our lives. In fact, although I had spent a lot of time in church in my teen years, I had no real knowledge of Jesus…my understanding did not include a triune God where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were one person.

From that night on, Kaitlyn was very intrigued with Jesus, God, the bible, and especially worship music. During that time, the Songs for Worship infomercial appeared on TV regularly and Kaitlyn had already shown a great appreciation for music. The preview of those songs would stick with her and she was always singing them…Shout to the Lord was her favorite and she ended up singing this at our wedding 8 years later! I started taking her to a little chapel at the base we lived on that year. It was so cute…she really didn’t know who God was and for the longest time believed that the minister was God.

A few months into her 1st grade year, it became apparent that she would need the extra attention of a smaller class and a more structured learning environment so I enrolled her at a private Christian School. Her faith flourished that year. She would always ask to go to church, sing her worship songs with the appropriate interpretative dance moves, and was eager to introduce my co-workers to her Jesus. I remember driving home from work one night with Kaitlyn in tears because she realized one of my co-workers whom she adored did not know Jesus and it was her first realization this individual might not be joining her in heaven…she was 6! She was pondering ways in which she could share Jesus with this gal and I had to have the “hard” conversation with her that she probably should not be having these conversations at my work as I could get in trouble.

In 2nd grade, her teacher was a local youth pastor who absolutely adored her. He always encouraged me to bring her to church, would go out of his way to speak to me about what a joy she was and what a dynamic personality she had. He told me once that he could see her someday speaking in front of thousands of women about Jesus. I of course always smiled politely and did my part make sure her faith and desires were fostered while staying as far removed as I possibly could from the church and from God.

That year all she could talk about was being baptized, when, when, when could that day happen was all she wanted to know. I had grown up in the Baptist church and little children weren’t baptized. I had been taught that you could not make that decision until you were at least a teenager. As I explained to her that you cannot possibly understand or know what God was calling you to until then that baptism was reserved for older kids. I remember her teacher approaching me and asking me why I was resistant to her being baptized and once I explained to him that she couldn’t possibly understand what she was doing at her age he quickly corrected me. He told me that he had never met a child as young as Kaitlyn that was more assured in her faith and knew who Jesus and God were and that I was interfering with her faith by not allowing her to express it. Oh, I didn’t realize all that! So she was baptized by her 2nd grade teacher and I honestly can’t remember a time she was more joyful and pleased…well maybe yesterday after we were done wedding dress shopping 

When Kaitlyn was around 9 my life started to unravel…again. I found myself in great despair with little hope. What hope I did have, I found completely in her. She was my saving grace, or so I thought. I was able to get up most days and move forward because of her. It was during this time, of taking her to church, dropping her off, and waiting that I began to wonder. What was it she had that gave her such joy? Why didn’t I have it? How could I have what she had? So instead of just dropping her off, I started attending the services. It wasn’t long before I was on my knees crying out to God to give me what He had always given her. I finally understood and I finally surrendered.

So, when my daughter said yesterday that it was clear God’s hand had always been on me, she was right and I do believe that wholeheartedly. The (godly) irony here was that I have always seen God’s hand on her, long before I even knew who God was. My daughter was never introduced to Jesus, Jesus simply had placed His Spirit in her little heart long before she had the ability to decide on her own. I believe for as far back as Kaitlyn has memories of me, she also has memories of Jesus. He has always been a part of her heart, her love, and her life and for that I am eternally grateful.

I was not deserving of such a gift. I could not have raised such an amazing girl without a supernatural intervention from Jesus Himself! To hear her proclaim God’s hand on my life was a joyous moment but only because of my understanding that it was His hand on her life that saved me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Naked and Unashamed - God's Glory

I have always thought we had a pretty good marriage. It was definitely tumultuous in the early years but mostly as I was learning how to live with someone who pursued so intently…it used to enrage me. In the last 5 years though I would say it has been pretty good…at least until I understood what God intended for my marriage. Even though we have not used the last 8 years to glorify God, he has used our sin to show us more of Him.

For the most part we got along. We did not have any moral sin between us, the sins against each other were generally from not loving each other well but they had become more irregular. We have always been united in our theology, parenting (mostly), financial decisions, and household decisions. Arguments were generally over small things that disrupted comfort more than anything. Physical intimacy (although enjoyed) was more of a sticking point. With a lot of my health issues, my desire has been pretty low. My husband however has always been really gracious and not pushed too hard. Little did we know that complacency here was profoundly impacting us.

My husband has always pursued me pretty intently, I often joked about feeling like I was in a 24/7 counseling “sesh”. Although appearing light hearted about it I think I had put up some pretty big walls in my perception of why he was pursuing me.Sometimes I believed he was pursuing me because he wanted me to change, other times I thought he was just going through the motions. If I pursued him, I would get answers like nice, good, fine with no lead in to pursue further. He often felt like my pursual was information gathering so I could figure out how to control the situation better, whatever the situation was. We both struggled with receiving pursual and love from each other. We both were exerting a lot of energy trying to love each other but neither of us really felt loved.

Add onto this the demands of work, ministry, community, and life and neither of us was too eager to extend ourselves further relationally to each other. Often my husband would come home tired and weary (joyless) and I would immediately allow lies about how he felt about me to cause separation. I think most of the time we were ok with the way things were in our marriage because it didn’t take a lot of effort. If our expectations were low of each other we were less likely to be disappointed. He stopped fighting for physical intimacy and I stopped fighting for emotional intimacy.

This summer it all kind of came to a massive confrontation where he was not willing to be ok with the state of our physical intimacy, yet I had become so protected I did not know how to allow my body to respond or enjoy his presence. Most dates ended with me in tears and my back towards him as we fell asleep. I didn’t feel known by him and he often felt like a stranger asking me for something I was incapable of giving. Men have always just taken from me what they wanted and left me discarded…my husband has never done this but he has certainly paid the price from all the men who have. The minute I believe that my husband “needs” something from me; I’m like a soggy biscuit incapable of responding.

Our marriage literally blew up when our entire world was flipped upside down last month. We were forced into being completely dependent on Jesus and only having each other to work through it. Initially we were in such pain and so desperate all we could do to find peace was be in each other’s presence and crying out to God in desperation. When we had to be separated for even a few hours it was absolutely agonizing…actually we are still experiencing that! Our time in each other’s presence was spent holding each other, talking through our fears and our hurt, praying to God about what we were supposed to do, how to respond, how to move forward relationally. We found amazing comfort in physical intimacy…absolute oneness. Lovemaking started with prayer, continued with prayer, and finished in prayer. It was a brand new experience altogether.

I had such distortions about physical intimacy coming into my marriage and although I’ve had enough biblical teaching…the truth had not penetrated my heart nor had I ever experienced the kind of oneness shared in the bible. My experience, even in this marriage, was that intimacy was used to satisfy some longing (physical) or some need. I didn’t fully grasp how God could be glorified in physical intimacy other than I was submitting my body and my will to my husband, neither of which I could do joyfully or freely. That was when things were fine let alone in the midst of sin or conflict. My complete motivation in moments of conflict or sin was to make him pay by withholding myself…generally with my eyes shut and my back towards him.

Now by experiencing physical intimacy often and regularly, the emotional intimacy has just followed. We are one. If we don’t experience the physical intimacy, we have a hard time connecting emotionally. I believe that is the way God designed it. It was not intended to be a needs driven activity but a union between a husband and a wife in the presence of a Covenant God. When we make God the center of our lovemaking, he joins us in a way that I never imagined possibly…truly God glorifying!

That oneness has carried over into every part of life for us. We have truly enjoyed being in each other’s company, dates have been so fun and enjoyable, hanging out together in bed on the weekends has become one of my favorite times. Enjoying coffee, reading, laughing, praying, lovemaking, and fellowship together and with God has been some of the sweetest moments in our marriage. There are some days I don’t even want to leave my bedroom because I have absolutely everything I could possibly need in that moment.

In the past, I would have found ways to dull the pain or mask it; pretending it wasn’t there either by doing things or visiting people or just not having to face it alone. God has met us right where we were at in the most amazing way imaginable. For this, I would not change a single moment in the last 45 days. My marriage has been completely wrecked and God has finally been glorified by our marriage.

Matthew 19:5-6
'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fighting for Oneness in the Messiness of Sin

I’ve been meaning to write a blog for the last week about the amazing things God has been doing in my marriage but lo’ and behold the enemy has other plans the last few days. We had been hitting a pretty good rhythm of intentionality, intimacy, and oneness and even fighting hard for each other in the midst of conflict. I’m not sure what happened this week but it has been hard. We have been hearing a lot of lies (both of us), struggling to find meaning, and in the midst completely missing each other. I don’t know if it coincided with returning to community group or not but this week has been weighty and tiring.

In the midst of it, my husband went centered and I went controlling. As he was seeking his comfort and relief from his pain, I turned to withholding. Old habits that I have prayed would never return in our marriage. I really wanted to share about all God has done in the last few weeks to unite us and bring us unbelievable peace, comfort, and joy.

I absolutely hate this feeling of being separated from him; divided. I am angry and hurt right now. I am quite content sitting in my world of entitlement. I deserve to be loved greater than this, if he’s going to choose to be self-centered why is up to me to move us towards oneness? As much as I hate being divided, I in the moment hate the humility it takes for me to move towards him in love and grace to see past this moment and fight for unity. He is wrong and he is not loving or leading me well in this moment. Like every moment we’ve endured in the last month, this one needs the blood of Jesus as much as those.

I would much rather go to bed right now, justified in my anger and hurt, and make him pay for treating me this way. Sadly, I probably will but not because I am justified or because I have the (right) or ability to make him pay but because I am a great sinner and in the moment don’t want to choose God’s truth for our marriage.

God has done amazing things in our marriage lately and I’m not going to discount any of it just because I’m frustrated. I am however very aware of how much we’ve learned over the last month was not just when things are really bad but these are truths for every moment of everyday. I just pray that God would pour out His grace on me right now so that I can extend it to my husband. I am too tired and too weak in this moment to do anything, which may be exactly the best place to be.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RAD - Christ in the Midst of Chaos

Our friends recently adopted an eight year old boy into their family (I will call him Elijah). We had the privilege of meeting Elijah a few weeks ago for the first time. Upon meeting him, he looked like a very happy, typical 8 year old boy but from the conversations I had with his parents and from some interaction I learned that Elijah suffers greatly.

This little man was born as a twin prematurely and spent time in the hospital long after his twin went home. Once home, he was the youngest of 5. For reasons unknown (or speculated), he had developed Reactive Detachment Disorder (RAD) and once home was not comfortable with being held or touched. Since the mom was a single parent and had her hands full with the other children, Elijah probably spent most of his time in his crib, untouched. Once he was older, the behaviors generally displayed by kids with RAD began and the adults in the home resorted to more violent extremes of discipline or even as far as abuse. When Elijah begins to feel out of control, he lashes out with anger and at times violent outbursts in an attempt to regain control.

I was really impressed and overjoyed watching these first time parents love and guide Elijah during our visit. To go from never having children to having one with serious behavioral issues is remarkable and their love and care for him is a blessing to experience. I wanted to share this story because out of a conversation I had with my friend regarding this disorder, how they have to communicate with Elijah and how Elijah processes situations, I had an unbelievable revelation!

My friend was explaining that in their conversations, they need to start to make Elijah more aware of what’s going on in his heart and what is actually happening around him. I won’t do the conversation justice but the idea was that his heart as a baby was not nurtured and he at a very early age built walls around it and therefore kept his heart as that of an infant. His capability of experiencing love is that of an infant. For example, they have to have really intentional “cuddle” time to help his baby heart and they have to talk him through what they are doing and why so he can start to put understanding around what is taking place and begin to articulate what is happening. As my friend was describing the walls he’s put up around his heart I realized that I do the very same thing! I have always done that, I could totally relate to Elijah in that moment!

I went on to share with my friend how I had so closely guarded my heart when James and I married. I struggled intensely our first few years of marriage to trust being vulnerable with him. Of course, my husband doesn’t live in superficiality and pressed in even harder the more I tried to guard my heart. This resulted in chaos within my heart and complete fear of being hurt more by someone I was learning to trust. What ensued was a rage that was beyond describable. I literally felt like I was going insane. The anger and rage and confusion had me completely upside down and the enemy used those moments to pummel me with lies. Reflecting back to those moments, my heart completely ached for Elijah and I so understood exactly how he felt and what he was going through.

I found this description of RAD in adults and was quite intrigued.

Adults with attachment issues may be clinging, co-dependent, and needy, or they may exert a level of anger and hostility that prevents others from getting close, while others might live their lives superficially, unable to access their true emotions, in each case relying upon patterns that may have helped them survive as children, but leaving them isolated as adults.
Depending upon the genetic personality traits of the individual, and their early life experiences, an insecurely attached adult will fall into one of two categories:

Intense anger and loss, hostile, overly critical of others, sensitive to blame, ; lack of empathy, views others as untrustworthy or undependable, views self as unlovable, or too good for others, relationships feel either threatening to one's sense of control, not worth the effort, or both, compulsive self-reliance, passive withdrawal, low levels of perceived support, difficulty getting along with co-workers, often preferring to work alone, work may provide a good excuse to avoid personal relations, fear of closeness in relationships, avoidance of intimacy, unlikely to idealize the love relationship, tendency toward self-criticism.

Compulsive caregiving, feel overinvolved and underappreciated, no long-term relationships, idealizing of others, strong desire for partner to reciprocate in relationship, desire for extensive contact and declarations of affections, overinvests his/her emotions in a relationship, perceives relationships as imbalanced, preoccupation or dependence on relationship, views partner as desirable but unpredictable (sometimes available, sometimes not), perceives others as difficult to understand, relationship is primary method by which one can experience a sense of security, unlikely to view others as altruistic, sensitive to rejection, discomfort with anger, extreme emotions, jealous, possessive, views self as unlovable, suicide attempts, mood swings, tendency toward dependent depression.

I actually will swing between both the Avoidant and Anxious/Ambivalent depending on where I am in terms of relationships, fear, or safety. I generally will think of how I have guarded my heart in terms of my husband because that is a constant tension. I have however protected my heart in general from every relationship I have ever had. In the beginning of our marriage, I displayed many of these behaviors and through the consistent pursual and love of my husband and mostly Jesus Christ, I can say that I have received a lot of healing and redemption but I also have to acknowledge I have not fully arrived either.

The main difference between Elijah and I comes down to sin. Plus maturity and the ability to recognize a lie versus what I know to be unequivocally true. Elijah at this point does not have a complete understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross on his behalf. Unfortunately, I did not have enough conversation with Elijah to know what his Gospel understanding was or who Jesus Christ was to him but I’m guessing even at 8 years old without the Holy Spirit, he would have a hard time understanding the depth and meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross.

I do understand what Jesus did on the cross and I have experienced unbelievable healing and redemption in my life and in my marriage. I still however at times struggle with an intense desire to gain back control when I feel like I have lost it. I still tend to withhold intimacy from my husband (especially physical) when I don’t “feel” love from him. I have completely defined what love should look like and when he doesn’t meet it, my body is completely resistant to him. He has spoken a lot recently how much he realizes that my lips (kissing) and my body are completely connected to my heart and when my heart doesn’t feel safe or loved, everything shuts down. We’ve had great conversation and a lot of realization recently how connected my heart and my body are.

I often feel justified in my sinful response to my husband; I have elevated my heart above oneness with my husband and with my Lord for sake of protection and control. I have entertained the enemy’s lies about who I am, who my husband is, and who my Savior is. Yes, a lot of wrong has been done against me and I have a lot of distortions but the truth is I know the “ultimate” truth and God has chosen me and given me a spirit to know the things of God so I am without excuse.

I am excited for what lies ahead for Elijah as I know his parents are fully giving him the gospel truth in the midst of the madness that was given to him as a child. Just like God gives us His gospel (Christ and Him crucified), in the midst of our madness. That is where the gospel makes the most sense when everything else doesn’t. Even though I don’t fully know what Elijah’s understanding of Jesus on the cross is, I do know that his parents are fully in need of this truth and dependent on it as parents and that is being poured out on Elijah with every interaction.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers[b] loved by God, that he has chosen you,5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

It’s sad, so sad
It’s a sad, sad situation
And it’s getting more and more absurd
It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Confession: I love Barry Manilow…especially his covers of the songs from the 60’s & 70’s. I was driving to work this morning listening to the Greatest Songs of the 60’s & 70’s, some of my favorite songs growing up and realized how unbelievably depressing most of them are. They are about loss; cheating; unreturned love…the list goes on. Why have I ever felt comfort in these songs? I guess probably because I could relate so well with many of the themes.

The one that weighed really heavy on me though was Barry’s cover of Elton John’s Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word. These lyrics hit me pretty hard, and it is so sad and it is getting more and more absurd!

I have told women for years, forgiveness is 100% supernatural (to forgive like God); we do not have a natural ability to forgive. If it is that difficult to forgive, how much more so is it to ask for forgiveness? I think impossible. Yet, knowing this, I am amazed at how often I resort to my natural self to try and muster the ability to say sorry or to extend forgiveness.

In the midst of my sin, you can more than likely find a pretty pissed off Gina. At the center of most of my sin is an angry heart that is either rebelling or fighting to be right. I have such a ridiculous need to be right. I do not know if that stems from as a young girl not having a voice and not being heard or just plain sin. I like to hold onto the idea that it would make sense for me to have such a need because “hey look at what I’ve endured”. This is such a therapeutic response to my sin and is even uglier than the sin itself. Why is “sorry” the hardest word for me?

We are made in the image of God and therefore it is natural to reflect back His attributes. God is love; we desire to love and be loved. God was righteously angry; we too are angry. God calls us to be righteously angry yet not sin. God is just; we understand and (sinfully) desire justice. The problem is that we embody the attributes of God in a fallen body and fallen world and we have a distorted lens and ruined desires that interfere with us being able to reflect back to God what He has given us, in our own ability.

For me, I have defined what love should look like and when the definition hasn’t been met by my husband, I resort to manipulation to make him pay. I will say 92.5% of the time our arguments are not because he has sinned against me but because of my sin, yet I feel justified 99.5% of the time because I am more caught up in how he is responding to my sin. I am always more interested in being right than being unified. In those moments where I have been “wronged”, my “justness” is served by withholding relationship from him. I will withhold relationship, intimacy, affection, my heart, and even my words. My silence to him is the most extreme form of violence and I know this, yet it’s usually the first place I will land.

Here’s where my husband has probably exemplified Jesus the most to me in our marriage. In these moments, it is usually him that will come around and apologize. Not sinfully to dust things under the carpet but in a redemptive way to fight for unity. He would much rather fight for unity and grace me than stand his ground when he knows that he has not sinned. This would be sin if he were doing so passively for the sake of peace but for those of you who know him, this is not a possibility. He does own his part in the equation in a way that humbly acknowledges in the moment I wasn’t being loved yet he’s not being manipulated by my sin. I think it’s a tricky balance but ultimately done through the Spirit. I feel very blessed that my husband is 99.9% of the time more interested in unity than being right.

As I wrestle with the idea that we are created in God’s image, embody His attributes (specifically justice), yet nothing we do can cause us to be justified outside of Jesus Christ on the Cross…why do I put the energy forth pretending I can?

Romans 3:22-26
22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
I had Romans 3:22-26 tattooed on my arm this summer as it is a perfect reminder of ALL Christ did for me and that nothing in me is good, righteous, or just outside of Christ in me. I am reminded that God condemned His son on the cross because I could not keep my side of the covenant. He fully honored the covenant that I was not capable of honoring. He did His part AND He did my part. I am righteous, holy, and justified because I have Christ in me not because I am right or good or even worthy.

I have sinned frequently in the last few weeks but more frequently and immediately I have “turned away” from seeking my own wrath and apologized. I am no longer comfortable being separated from my husband even for a moment, it is far too painful. As I watch him during this season, walking in humility, grace and a sweet tenderness, I am in awe of God in this man and thankful God chose me to be His daughter and chose me to be this man’s wife.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Misplaced Hope – Sin Abounding

I had a momentary freak out last night when it felt like all my hope had been shattered…I quickly moved into control, manipulate, and protect mode. It was a fleeting moment where my husband responded defensively and the enemy rushed it to “convince” me that I had been deceived and that I had no hope in this situation.

After a complete melt down and night of despair I realized this morning that I had placed my hope in the wrong thing. I cannot place my hope in how my husband responds. I cannot place my hope in my husband, period. I have to place my hope on God, solely. I can have hope of God in my husband, and God working through my husband. The truth is my husband does not have his own natural ability to respond in humility and grace, only Jesus can do that for him.

I can expect Jesus from him but know that when he misses that bar it doesn’t change anything. I can be disappointed and I can express that in a gracious way that invites my husband into resolution rather than moving to power and control through a meltdown. The meltdown only serves me…it causes me to spiral faster and deeper into darkness where I can’t even cry out to God to help me see it differently. I feel justified. The enemy is given a little bit of ground in those moments and our unity is broken.

Lord I pray that I can be an instrument of grace and encouragement for my husband when his sin is exposed. Father I pray that I can respond with your heart and love for him and not out of my fear and need to control. Father, you have united us and I ask for your Spirit to bind us closer to you and each other in the midst of sin not just when it’s easy. I ask for your forgiveness in not trusting you in those moments and for allowing the enemy to have any ground in our marriage. James, I ask for your forgiveness for trying to control and not extending to you the same grace you lavish upon me time and time again.

Hebrews 10:22-25
22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Running Towards Suffering - A Lesson from Hebrews

I have spent a lifetime running from pain, all kinds. I learned at a very young age how to numb myself from the pain around me…the pain of abuse, the pain of neglect, the pain of rejection, physical pain, and especially emotional pain. I hated to hurt but I guess that really doesn’t make me too unique does it?

As a girl growing up and even as a young woman, I learned how to buck up and put on a happy face and “pretend” that I was strong and unbreakable. This worked, I learned to keep pain and suffering at a distance but in the process my heart was numb, disconnected, and holed up in a bunker. I was emotionally unavailable to anyone until God broke through. God reached down and cupped his hands around my face ever so gently, pulled me near and said “No daughter, I have more for you, I am meeting you in your pain and I need you to face your pain so that you can learn to depend on me.”

I placed my faith in Him at that moment but only because He gave me the ability to. Things of course didn’t get easier but for the first time ever I began to feel the pain of my abuse, the pain of my sin and depravity, the pain of lost relationships and loved ones who didn’t protect, the pain of infertility, and the pain of learning how to live as a godly daughter, wife, and mother in a man-centered body and world.

As I read through Hebrews this morning, God’s word was a perfect reminder and brought great comfort. In my sharing, I am not trying to break down the theology of God’s word but to share how His word is stirring my heart. This passage is a warning against neglecting salvation and although not directly related to my suffering (at the moment), the truths here extend far and wide in my life and in this great reminder of what Jesus has accomplished, I can’t help but find myself at the foot of His throne in awe and reverence of what He has finished.

Hebrews 2:5-10

5Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6It has been testified somewhere,

"What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8putting everything in subjection under his feet."

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.” He left nothing outside of His control! How reassuring that nothing happens outside the will of God…He is in control. If I believe God’s promises, if I believe He is good, if I believe He is love, then in my suffering I can believe that He will be my comfort and He will see this through for His glory.

“Crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Salvation, my salvation has been made perfect through suffering! My suffering could never compare to the suffering my Lord endured on the cross because of my sin. I am not alone in my suffering, he is there to comfort. Ultimately, God will use this momentary affliction for His glory and I pray that God would use this situation, our humility and our repentance to advance the gospel.

Lord Jesus, I know that you are not above suffering; in fact you understand and have experienced suffering far beyond anything I will ever endure. You were perfected in suffering so that I could enter into the Father’s presence and rest. I rest in the fact that nothing is outside of your control, that all things happen for your purpose and your glory. So daddy, I pray that you will continue to shower me with peace and joy. I pray that your loving kindness would give us the strength to walk out this new season of life in humility and grace, all to your glory!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Living Vulnerably, in Humility by Grace

I have not updated my blog in a really long time, in fact I have not written anything in over a year. I realized that I have been really disconnected from my heart, my relationships, my husband, and God. I do not consider myself a writer by any means…I start out with great ideas but they usually fall pretty flat with no strong conclusion. What I am realizing though is that writing allows me to be vulnerable with myself and others. Sometimes just writing down the thoughts in my head can make the tears flow faster than anything. Maybe that is why I stopped writing. I have definitely been protecting myself from a lot this past year and in doing so have to some extent stopped feeling.

We are entering into a very new season of life, one in which we have not seen in the eight years of our marriage. With that comes a real need for truth, honesty, humility, grace, vulnerability, a greater need for community, a greater desire for oneness in my marriage, and a completely new dependence on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I have been clinging tightly to God’s word and truth the last few weeks. My thirst is great and my hunger deep. There have been some really significant verses that have brought me sincere comfort and peace and most of these were from dear friends in their desire to encourage me and love on me, so that makes them even that much sweeter.

I know the season we are in is absolutely God’s goodness and best for us and I cling to this truth. In this truth, I find real peace, real joy, real hope and the ability to extend grace at any given moment even when it feels like everything is exploding around me.

I hope that by sharing my heart in these moments I can pass on the same encouragement and hope that is continually being extended to me.

2 Corinthians 1:9
9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[h] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

John 5:30-46
30 "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Psalm 40
My Help and My Deliverer
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
4Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
5You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.[a]
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7Then I said, "Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."
9I have told the glad news of deliverance[b]
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
15Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, "Aha, Aha!"
16But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, "Great is the LORD!"
17As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 31
Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
3For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
6I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
7I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
9Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
11Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
15My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
19Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
21Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22I had said in my alarm,[b]
"I am cut off from your sight."
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
23Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!

Psalm 37
He Will Not Forsake His Saints
[a] Of David.
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
20But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22for those blessed by the LORD[c] shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
25I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.
27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.
30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
32The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.[d]
36But he passed away,[e] and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.