Hope, Encouragement, Love, and Direction for Women and marriages wounded by sexual sin.

I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.~ Isaiah 41:10

Friday, August 21, 2015

Falling into Love- What Christians should remember about Josh Duggar

Falling in love is a wonderful, thrilling, adventure. It easily leaves us breathless, broken, elated, or even blinded. The smartest people on this earth cannot fully explain the powerful emotions associated with falling in love. Yes, we understand that endorphins and hormones attribute to these emotions, yet this phenomenon remains a mystery to those who have not experienced the thrill of it.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another form of “falling in love” that holds equal mystery and power. This powerful phenomenon is simply found when the body of Christ, follows Jesus’s example of grace and becomes a safe place for people to Fall into Love.
This week my phone, tv, and newsfeed have been plastered with the actions of a prominent Christian figure. His hypocrisy has been labeled, his family has been exposed, and his fate has been argued by Christians and the rest of the world. And the judgment has been a harsh one and most would say, he deserves every harsh criticism. He has humiliated his family, injured his wife, and led Americans down a road which he was unwilling to faithfully travel himself. However, when I look at this man, I see something different. I see my husband. I remember years ago in his early 20’s when he too struggled with a sin that had him by the throat and threatened his very eternity along with his marriage. I remember the nights where he would cry and tell me how he begged God on a daily basis to take this temptation away, to rescue him from himself, and to save me from the hurt that his sexual addiction was inflicting. 
Falling in love with Ray as a teenager was a powerful thing, but the only thing that trumped it in my life, was when together we found a safe place where we could experience the thrill of falling into the love of the body of Christ. Yes, we fell….I struggled with fear, and I punished my husband regularly. Ray struggled with pornography, prostitution, and the like. But even though we fell over and over again, the Lord had lovingly blessed us with Christians who said, “It’s ok, you can fall here. We love you enough to hold you up when you do.We will walk with you through the pain and the dysfunction, to help you reach your hand to the Father who wants to help you take the next step.”
Ray and I could fall and we were caught by love…every time. It is a mystery even to me how God empowered those people He entrusted us to, all I know is that through the Holy Spirit, He gave them the strength to minister to us time and time again, even when we let them down. What a picture of Christ that was in my life.
Ray and I have both been believers since childhood, yet we made some whopper mistakes. Ray’s sexual addiction started in his teen years, as a result of the belief that he wasn’t valuable. He was looking for something to cover the pain he felt day in and day out. And like so many other young men, the enemy prayed on a vulnerable boy and told him that this woman undressing for him, was doing it because she thought he was worth taking her clothes off for. Josh is no different. His choices, while wrong, are most likely the result of deep pain, which has been coped with unhealthily. Almost all addicts in the church, act out of the need to cope for pain, often unconscious pain. It isn't fair to their families, and it is incredibly hard for them to fight alone. It also, does not disqualify that person forever, it isn't impossible to overcome, and there is hope for those who look to Jesus for help and actually follow him. 
Here is what the Church needs to understand, sexual sin is everything that the Lord says it is in scripture. He detests and despises it. It ruins families and it breaks homes. BUT it does not change the identity of the one who falls into it. My husband was still a child of the King, dearly loved, wanted, and valuable, even though he broke my heart and God's heart every time he forgot who he was and turned to the world for comfort instead of God. We write words on Facebook, we judge, we speak harshly, but God looks at us and says, "That is my son you are talking about."
It is a miracle that I can type these words. I of all people should be throwing stones at Josh Duggar. It should rattle me to the core that another man would destroy his family by turning to sex for comfort instead of turning to God. I have had the sleepless nights that I imagine his wife, Anna, has had this week. I have felt the pain of finding letters to prostitutes in my husbands email. I have searched for God in the middle of my pain, and found Him faithful even when my husband wouldn’t be. It should enrage me that Josh Duggar would stand on a platform that God gave him one minute and then sin the next. But then I would have to point that finger right back at my own face. How often have I stood on the platform God has trusted me with and turned around and done exactly what I tell people not to? I preach about fear and how to overcome it, and then there are days that I am so afraid that my husband will cheat again that I can barely move. How often have I forgotten my identity and given way to insecurity, even though I mentor women about that very thing. We all, and I do mean all, have platforms…somewhere that God wants to use our stories to Glorify him, and we all have a target on our back while we stand there.
A friend of mine always says “Show me your greatest struggle, and I will show you your calling.” Men and Women of God- we should be mature enough to know that the place where God asks you to minister is the first place the enemy tries to take you out. I have seen it in my own life.  One of my greatest struggles has been with my identity- BECAUSE God has called me to teach people how to find their identity in Him. Josh is no exception to this rule. I have no doubt that God gave him a platform years ago to speak about moral and family issues because God wanted to get glory out of Josh’s life. Well- what a shocker that Satan got upset and took him out with the very thing that God had asked Josh to speak about.
This is why the Lord tells us in 1st Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Yes, Josh let his guard down, he lost that battle. So did my husband, so did King David with Bathsheba, so have I, so have you….
An astoundingly high number of the people who sit in our churches in America have sexual addictions. It may be pornography, it may be more extreme, but even the extreme is becoming more and more prevalent because pornography is a gateway drug that leaves it’s viewer soon hungry for more of a high.  Porn isn’t enough to satisfy the pain, the need to be valued, the need to be wanted, and so men peruse more.  I believe God wants Josh to remind the Church that there is a problem plaguing the men and women of our churches that has gone ignored for too long. If we don’t start understanding our identity and value as God’s children, we won't be able to stand under the pressure the enemy brings. 
I don’t presume to know Josh’s heart. I hope he is repentant, and if he is, I pray God uses him and his family in a new, mighty way. I don’t believe God is done with them. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Josh’s struggles have been real, and he has fallen, but falling and failing are two different things. This will not be a failure unless Josh is unrepentant. It is never failure if God gets to use it to redeem and restore.
People of God, lets not sit here and quote scripture about the judgment of God and how he hates sexual sin. Those things are biblical and true, but let me tell you as someone who has lived watching a Godly man fight for freedom that seemed unreachable, it wasn’t the judgmental ones who had no idea what we were going through or the ones who corrected harshly that led my husband to get the help he needed. It was the kindness of God in giving him a body of believers that would be a safe place to work out his faith with, that led Ray to find radical freedom through the power of Jesus Christ. Having a place to fall, and land in love will bring restoration. Falling into judgment and criticism only breeds self loathing, offense, self pity, and other ineffective things. "God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” Romans 2:4b.
I will close with this final thought. When I was 21 and found out that Ray had spent our savings on prostitutes, I fled in pain to my family home. There I was welcomed in love by my parents and brother, Brent. Brent was only 15 at the time and Ray had been his hero for years. He became so angry at Ray and a mixture of sobbing a rage were on his face. I was in so much pain, but seeing Brent in pain was almost worse. I found myself making one simple request of my family in that moment. “If you really love me, pray for Ray. I want my marriage to succeed, but more than that, I am worried for his eternity. Ray is in a moment of deciding what kind of man he will be. Please pray for him instead of getting angry at him. Your anger does me no good at all.”
My family stopped and for the next 2 hours all five of us (including my sister who was out of state at the time) interceded for Ray.
During that same 2 hour span, the people who were ministering to Ray at that moment, saw a change come over him.
There is such great power in prayer. We believe it, we teach it, but do we live it? If you know an addict, and you say you care for their family, pray for the addict and the family will reap the benefits. Pray for the family and the addict will reap the benefits, and in all of it, God will move on their behalf.  I have seen so many posts crucifying Josh, while in the same breath agreeing to pray for Anna and the kids. If you really care about them at all, pray for Josh. Pray for real and complete life change. Sexual addiction is just like any other addiction. It can be a long process, it can be hard for all parties.  BUT our God is big enough to complete a miracle. He can restore a man to his wife and children and protect this home from being one that the enemy gets to take credit for breaking up. God’s plans are always, always for his children to move up…Josh has a window where he gets to choose to move up, to become the man God called him to be a long time ago. He can choose, like my husband did, to do the hard work, while totally depending on God. God is able to heal and transform him to walk in freedom.  I believe in this family, BECAUSE I believe in God. If they turn to him, and if we the church will catch them in love and pray for them, I know we will see amazing things to come.~

~For those of you who have been stirred by the Duggar story because it hits a little too close to home,  take hope in the two things that the Lord has been reminding me of through this story. 
1)   God exposes every hidden thing.
2)   God only exposes for the purpose of His Glory.
This story reminds us that God exposes all, in his perfect timing, by whatever means necessary. So you never have to live in fear that you will be unprotected or ignored by God, when your spouse is overcoming addiction. It also reminds us that our story is never over. God didn't have to expose Josh's sin, it would have probably been less drama if He hadn't. But God is out to reveal his faithfulness and transforming power through every hurt. He will most definitely use this story as He will most definitely use yours. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Go for the Porcupine By: Jackie

Something really struck me as I sat listening to a speaker.  He said, 'would you rather get rid of the quill, or the whole porcupine'?  Now, that's taken out of context, so let me enlighten you.  What he was talking about, at least the way I took it, was dealing with the surface issue or the root.  

So, let's say someone hurts you, in a big way.  If you're like me, you have to wrestle with not taking offense.  It's painful.  Do you want to deal with the quill or the whole porcupine? Ok, let's take it to an extreme - let's say someone violates you sexually. Now, that's a tough one - it not only messes with you physically, but mentally & spiritually, and, as in my case, it messed with me for many years to come and on into my marriage.  Now, that's pretty painful - the quill, or the whole porcupine?  Do you see it?  The enemy is so intentional about wanting to mess us up!  Our knee-jerk reaction is to put a bandaid on the pain (quill) and not to deal with the root (the porcupine).  We just want to do whatever it takes to give us relief from our pain.

Sometimes dealing with the whole porcupine can take time - its a process, but its so much better than putting a bandage on the wound and ignoring the infection underneath. Jesus know's our wounds intimately and He alone will help us navigate our way through the pain.  He never meant for us to deal with it alone - no matter what it is.

Another thing that I believe the enemy throws at us is distraction. Distraction keeps us from dealing with the 'real' junk inside, which, when dealt with, leads to freedom in Christ and awesome spiritual growth.  The enemy knows exactly what he's doing when he's distracting us - it's something he uses more than we realize.  

Let's be bold and not fight the painful things that come into our lives. Let's not allow them to be distractions either - getting our focus off of Christ.  But rather, let's allow God to use them in our lives as a tool of self-acceptance & recovery in us as followers of a loving God.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

{Keys to Unlocking God's Power in your Circumstance} Key 2: Trust

Have you ever had a relationship with a person where real trust was present? Where even when something seemed, off, your relationship was what you leaned on, more than the circumstances surrounding it? I have someone like that in my life. A dear friend, who is constantly moving forward with the Lord in ways that I don't always understand. The faith leaps she takes make no sense in the physical realm, but in the spiritual- they are profound on a world changing level.  Even in the times where she is jumping off a cliff and I think she is crazy- I will go forward with her simply because of our history together. I trust her heart and have seen over and over that the things God tells her ARE from him and do bring breakthrough. We have established a pattern of trust from doing life together. We have established a pattern of trust, because we know each other's hearts and gifts and we can testify that they are aligned with the heart of God.
It isn't always easy to trust, especially when we have been wounded. Our natural response after wounding is almost always self protection. When someone lets me down, the natural would be to build up a wall so it doesn't happen again. When someone misleads or mis-commuicates, the natural response would be for me to get offended and not trust them ever again. Or how about when a particular group has let you down more than once? So many women that I work with, have a grudge against all men, because they have had a pattern of being let down by them.
It is the human response to put up a wall and protect ourselves, and so often, we subconciously project those things onto the Lord. We put up walls with him and even feel the need to protect ourselves from his sovereignty. When man lets us down, we too often jump to the assumption that "God let it happen, therefore he let me down too".
In order for God to do a powerful transforming work in our lives, we have to Trust him. If we don't trust someone, we don't let them close, and if the Lord can't come close to us, we will not see the fullness of his goodness in our lives.
So I ask this question. Have you established a pattern of trust with the Lord? Even when people let you down and hard things happen in your life, has he ever abandoned you? So why do we assume he will THIS time?
Has he ever let you totally fall on your face for no purpose? Than why do we assume that this time, our crisis is meaningless and no good could possibly come out of it?
God uses the hard circumstances in our lives, to build history. I look over my years of trauma, and see that even though people let me down, I have a history that was build with the Lord, where he proved himself to be trustworthy. And now, just like with my friend, I can take leaps with him, because we are close. We have a history that tells me I can walk these difficult things out in PERFECT PEACE, because he has never let me down.
One of my favorite verses of all time is Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

No matter what you are going through presently, reflect on your history with the Lord. And lean on that in the moments you find it hard to trust. He won't let you go, he will fight for you, you don't have to be afraid. And as you trust him, watch and see your heart change. The fear and discouragement gets replaced with faith, hope, and peace. It isn't always easy, the enemy will fight to take those things away again, but keep your focus on The Lord, and the truth of who he has always been for you, and let him restore your trust.

Seasons~ A message from Jackie

As our 'seasons' are changing from summer to fall, it makes me think about life and how it seems to be made up of 'seasons', one that leads into another. It isn't until we look back that we see how they fit.  Often, at the time, they seem to make no sense. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that, 'There is a time for everything, and a 'season' for every activity under heaven;' and it goes on the list several things that there are 'seasons' for. You can even look at a life, from birth to death, in 'seasons' - spring, summer, fall & winter. To break it down even more, within the 'seasons', are 'phases'. - shorter than a 'season', but no less meaningful - sometimes even more so.  

All this to say, all of us go through trials, hardships, difficulties, flat out really hard and unwanted things in our lives.  We may shake our fists at God, and ask why?  I think,more specifically, but not limited to, those that have endured the hardship of sexual abuse.  I have endured this one myself, and I have had to deal with the fallout.  I have asked God why?!!!!  Now that I am older, looking back I see that God has revealed Himself in many ways through the sexual abuse. I see that this was a 'season', and even a phase in my life that God used for good - His good. You couldn't have convinced me that God would bring good out of it at the time, but our God is always faithful.  The journey of restoration - I won't sugarcoat it - it was difficult. But it's the difficulties that God uses to mold & shape us.  I guess I feel that I wouldn't jump at the chance to go through it all again, but I wouldn't trade what God has done in my life for anything.  

These 'seasons' in our lives God will use to make us into who He wants us to be, if we will let Him.  Otherwise, it's all for nothing, and what a tragedy that would be.  Make the 'seasons' in your life count for Christ.  Yield everything - the sweet, the ugly, all of the 'seasons and phases' that make up your life, yield it all to the Lord Jesus Christ. He will make your life something beautiful!  I promise.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

All In~ A message from Jackie

As I sit down to write this blog for the month of July, the words ‘All In’ come to my mind.  As usual, I really don’t know why, but also, as usual, I know that those words mean something in someone’s life!  I know they mean something in my life.  

I have been examining my life lately, mostly in the spiritual realm. I have felt the Holy Spirit also looking at the things in my life, right along with me - helping me to sort out what is necessary and what needs to go - what can be useful for the Kingdom, and what isn’t.  After some examination, I think to myself, ‘am I ‘All In’’?  What I mean by asking myself that question is, ‘is part of me in relationship with the world and part of me trying to be in relationship with the Lord’?  I’m being very transparent here because I had an experience over these past 2 weeks that I don’t really want to have again.  Let me explain....

I’ve received a wonderful deliverance & healing from sexual abuse and promiscuity in my past just not too long ago thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ!  Now, this healing didn’t just drop in my lap. For me it was a process - and once this healing took root down inside of me, I needed to start living it & walking it out in faith. Well, over the course of the previous 2 weeks, the enemy began to get a foothold. By that I mean, I began to take my eyes off God and look at the things around me, etc. It was so subtle, I didn’t even realize it was happening until - BOOM - I found myself slipping back to where I was before receiving my healing.  It was an ugly place to be and I don’t want to go back there.  God taught me some things - namely, about being ‘All In’. God showed me that I need to be ‘All In’ with Him in order to maintain this healing or I am done for.  His grace and mercy are always mine, but when I take my eyes off the promise of that grace and mercy, I lose out on a lot!!!  I need to keep it before me at all times - that’s what it is to walk it and live it out.  I learned a lesson. I need my Savior every moment of every day. I am a needy person and I don’t have a problem admitting that.  I need God’s grace & mercy flowing in and through me at all times.  I thank God for His goodness and longsuffering.  He has these things for us all.  Are you ‘All In’?  If not, do some examining of your own. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit in sorting out what needs to go in your life and what God can use for the Kingdom.  The Holy Spirit will gently help you in this process.  Maybe you’re like me & you’ve allowed the enemy to gain some ground into a place where he has no right to. Go to God & ask for forgiveness & His help in taking back what is rightfully yours.  Most of all, keep your eyes on Jesus. That’s the only way to be ‘All In’.

Thank you,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Believe - By Jackie H.

My blog this month is entitled simply, ‘Believe’. As I was praying about what to write this month, this is what the Lord tucked in my heart. It begs the question, ‘do you believe’? That can be a loaded question, but I will be more specific - do you believe that God can heal your brokenness? You might be believing that you’re not worthy more than you might be believing that God can't heal your brokenness. I have been there, and quite honestly, can still struggle with that same lie sometimes. 

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, you feel that brokenness and know what I’m talking about. The thing is, we are all broken and need God’s touch - the healing that only the Savior can give.  

In Hebrews 11:6 it states that, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God...’, but the good news is that we all have at least a tiny bit of faith to offer! Matthew 17:20 says that,’...if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it WILL move. Nothing will be impossible for you’. (emphasis mine)  God is saying that all you have to have is a little bit of faith in order to believe and it releases His power to do whatever is needed in your circumstances.  

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse of some kind, low self-esteem (unworthiness), is often times an unwanted traveling companion on this journey of healing. So, once again, I ask - ‘do you believe’??
God believes in you and He alone has all the healing you need. You’re not too far gone, your sin is not too great to be forgiven, you are not unworthy. I would encourage you to believe with that mustard seed of faith that’s inside of you. God will meet you where you’re at. Let the healing begin!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

{Keys to Unlocking God's Power in your Circumstance} Key 1: Prayer

When faced with the question "What is your heart for this ministry in one sentence?" I had to sit and think for a minute. How do you express a heart that is burning for freedom and revival in one sentence?? My answer was so true, but almost shocked me, "For people to understand their role in their own story, no matter how big the hurts, that they would understand that the Lord wants to transform every trauma into a story of a life consumed, and redeemed by the power of our savior." 
I am not going to lie, I am seriously considering changing the mission statement of Held Ministries after I heard that answer come out of my mouth! It really expresses the heart of the Father in heaven and what he has asked of this ministry.
So, what does that mean for you, his precious child? How do you come to understand your role in your own story. The first step is for you to understand this...
God did NOT create ANYONE to be a victim. 
I love this verse, where the Lord tells us so clearly, that because of his love, we can do anything....
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37
The Lord didn't carry you through that trial so that you could sit around feeling depressed or hopeless for the rest of your life.
I wanted to do that for a long time, I pushed everyone away because there was no way they could understand my pain, I sat and waited for my life to get better, but guess what...it never did. It wasn't until I decided to be an active participant in my own life change, that I saw the truth in that scripture... "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
That looks different for everyone but there are a couple keys that you need to have during this process and today we will talk about the first one...

Prayer changes anything and everything
As christians we are really, really good at saying that, but not so good at believing it. So often I would pray from a hopeless place, where the words were coming out of my mouth, but I didn't really believe that God would do anything. How that lie robs God's children. It breaks my heart that satan constantly convinces us that we are powerless and that we pray to a distant God who may or may not care about our plea....WE NEED to grasp the truth about God's heart toward his children.

" This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." 1st John 5:14-15
We are his precious children, and not only does he long to answer our prayers, but there is so much power in bringing the things that weigh on our heart to the Lord. Whether it has been my marriage, my kids behavior, my hurts from churches letting me down, my family drama, WHATEVER, God has shown me that when I become an active participant in prayer, I get to take a front row seat to what God is about to do. Every time, EVERY TIME, I have seen God answer my prayers, it's not always the way I wanted, but it has always been BETTER than what I could ask for, because it was his will, which is best for me. 
I will leave you with one example, that is probably close to the hearts of many of you who struggle with changes or hurts in your church...

There was a change coming in my church, and I didn't like it. I was angry, and grieving because someone I loved very much was leaving. Now yes, they were following God's call on their life, but I was still selfishly angry and hurt. I was mostly angry at God. In my mind, my church was going to go down the tubes now. Where was God's protection? Why hadn't he been answering my prayers for my church, this was in fact the opposite to what I had been praying for!! 
Well, without going into a million details, I went home and cried out to God in my anger, but because I immediately went to my heavenly father, he rewarded me with an answer. "Lauren, Trust me. You have prayed far to long for my will in this church, and you need to trust that I am working out my will right now, even though it hurts." 
Amazing, anger instantly melted, a heart of trust began to wait expectantly for the goodness of God to show up in my church. And let me tell you, it has. I miss my friend, pastor, mentor, family...but I have seen God move my church forward in ways I never, ever imagined possible. I sit in awe on almost a daily basis at the Good things God has done in this church, even through the pain of loss. 
Now- do you see the key? There are so many who have not asked for God's perspective in their situation, and so they sit in anger, hurt, disillusionment, and shaken trust. They are victims to their own lack of perspective. We need God's perspective for the hard situations we are walking through. If we don't ask for it, how will we get his heart? How will we have his peace without his perspective?? Ask Him...Ask him for his heart toward that thing that you are walking through, be willing to listen for his answer and TRUST him even if the answer isn't what you wanted to hear. My next post will talk about the 2nd key which is that TRUST relationship that we need to have with Jesus to be able to walk free from the seat of a victim, but today, practice the first key to your freedom. PRAY. Ask the Lord to do amazing things through the painful situation you are in. Keep praying, don't give up, the answer often comes more quickly than we expect. 
When we pray, what we are doing is letting God do all the leg work in our circumstance and letting him change our hearts in the process. :)