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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pure Joy

I had the pleasure of listening to a friend speak this morning about the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. There were some very thought provoking moments for me as she spoke, one of which I felt that I had to share with you all.
I don't know if you are like me at all, but I have often found myself falling into the trap of believing that as a child of the King, he will protect me from suffering too badly. I know in my heart that this is not the truth, I mean look at my life! I was so angry at God when I first found out that Ray had cheated on me with a prostitute...multiple times. I remember one particular conversation with my savior that consisted of me yelling..."WHY!!!??? We stayed pure until marriage, I have done everything you asked of me!? Why wouldn't you protect me from this!!??"
"God will never give you more than you can handle, he says so in the bible!" This was my justification of my anger....
OH MY, how often do we as christians misquote that scripture...The text actually states this: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also offer you a way out, so that you can endure it. (1st Corinthians 10:13)
So why do we take that verse and twist it to say that he will never give us any circumstance what-so-ever that is beyond what we feel capable of handling? Am I alone in this? Don't you hear this concept thrown around all the time in our culture??
So, for those of you who are maybe like I was, and feeling a little let down by the the reality that we face, a reality that includes suffering...any suffering, in any amount....lets look at the life of Mary for a second and find some hope there.
When Mary was approached by an angel who told that she would carry the Son of God, do you think that she maybe freaked out a little bit!? If I were MARY my thought process would be less "let that which you say be done unto me" and more 'Are you KIDDING ME!! I have followed the Lord so faithfully and my reward is to be pregnant outside of marriage, shunned, judged unfairly, mocked, and probably lose everything! No thanks!!"
When just a few months later, I had to travel 60 miles on foot or the back of a donkey, when I was literally on the verge of giving birth to this Christ child, I would feel a little bit of resentment..."God, where are you, I was willing to go through with this, and instead of being like every other women I know, resting and staying home at this stage of pregnancy, you are making me travel on the back of an animal for weeks!??"
And how about when there was NO WHERE to sleep, no where to have this baby...no place that was better than a barn in the mud and hay, with animals right next to me. I think I would be thinking "I must have missed something, how could God be in this? If this is his son, why wouldn't he give him a better place to be born? God where are you, why aren't you taking care of my most basic needs!!?"
Then a crazy king tries to have the baby killed, and we are forced to flee for our lives...."God? Do you see this? What are you doing up there!?"
Oh if I were Mary...This story would have been majorly screwed up....
Mary's journey included suffering, suffering that would cause any american to throw their hands in the air and proclaim their new found religion...atheism. We would feel completely abandoned and confused if we had to bear the conditions Mary did... all in the name of God.
Have you ever felt that way? Have the circumstances around you looked so bleak that you thought there was NO WAY that God was in this place?? Has your marriage ever looked that way?
Well, here is the Hope and Encouragement that I want us to all grasp together....
Mary Got to see things that no one else saw.... 
She saw an angel and got marching orders directly from his mouth....
She saw 3 kings come to bring gifts to her child...
She saw her little boy teach the religious leaders of his day....
She saw God protect them through giving dreams to her husband....
She got to hold and love the SON OF GOD.....
She had blessing after blessing....
What are the miracles that you get to see that no one else does?? Is it transformation for your family? Is it surrender of a man to the Lord? Is it the heart change in your own life? Is it steps that you don't see now, but God sees will point your children right to the Throne of God?
Mary didn't see the end result, but we all know that every step was God's plan.....Just like it is for you!
In that stable, Mary didn't understand that it was for a purpose that the king of kings would have such a humble beginning. But we know it now don't we??
Where you stand right now, you might not be able to see that there are purposes in the things that feel like suffering to you...but God sees, he knows, and he has great plans for it. So, when you feel like you can't bear the things that God is asking you to walk through...consider it PURE JOY...Because he is working out his perfect plans for your life, and when you look back years from now, you will see that it was full of one miracle after another.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Expectations Examined

I have always enjoyed reading, and for many years that included christian authors who wrote romantic story lines. We all know the same material, Girl in crisis, Boy who is hopelessly devoted to the Lord, selfless in all he does, woes the girl tenderly, and he is seemingly perfect in every way. It isn't just in books, we find these scenes played out in hollywood drama as well. I recently just realized that there are whole areas of pintrest devoted to the true romantic, where women can dream away about the romantic things that their husbands...could do to sweep them off their feet.
When Ray and I began to rebuild our marriage after his first infidelity 7 years ago, I was still spending hours in the evenings reading. I would be transported to a happier life than mine filled with love, selfless men, and some REALLY lucky women...right?! Oh my...I found that I was increasingly feeling sorry for myself. Why wasn't Ray being selfless 100% of the time? Why didn't he plan romantic adventures, or completely see past my selfish attitude and only act in pure love in the moments when I was acting like a child?? Why wasn't he enamored with my every move? My marriage was so messed up and so was my husband...Right?!?
Ladies, This is your official warning. It isn't healthy to stay in that place. I currently see so many women clouded by unrealistic expectations on romance. For those of you who are fighting tooth and nail to just keep your marriage together, this is especially dangerous for you! Please don't get me wrong, I am not speaking against these authors or films. Many love Jesus and are trying to impact the world in a positive way!! I am saying that when you are fighting the fight to hold a broken marriage together, these may not be the healthiest outlets IF you are finding yourself struggle the way I did.  The truth is that the expectations that can come from these forms of entertainment can be skewed for you women who are already struggling in your marriage. These seemingly harmless plots and stories can breed a mind full of LIES FROM SATAN! I know, I know...you only read Christian authors!! It doesn't matter...What is the fruit you are seeing when you read these books or watch those movies? What does it do to your heart?? If you are anything like me, you feel emotions like disappointment, discouragement, hopelessness, dis-satisfaction, and jealousy. My books never bred hope in me, they never bred a resolve to act more Christ like myself, no they made me angry that my husband wasn't more christ like...cause if he was, he would ______ fill in the blank. None of which lined up with what Jesus himself said is a Godly husband.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5 is such a great scripture...now before you read this and say "SEE my husband doesn't love me enough!!" Remember, he is commanded to love you as Christ loves the church, not they way that man in that book loves that girl.  Some of you might not have even the smallest form of Godly love being shown, and for you I want you to know, that God sees you. He loves you perfectly and as you pray for your husband, God promises to be doing all things for your good in that place. I am praying with you that your husband begins to see you through God's eyes and love you with a Christ like love. And know...its ok to pray what seem like pathetic prayers. For years my deepest prayer was "God, please teach Ray how to love me the way you do". God honored those prayers. And his heart is to honor you.
But....For those of you who have a Godly husband who loves you, I want YOU to see that when God commands to love the way he does, you need to ask the question...How does God love the church?? Don't put words in God's mouth like I once did. God didn't drool over the church. He didn't ignore her flaws and just fawn over her when she was being rebellious. No he spoke truth in love, he protected and provided, he even gave his life for her. But did he stroke her ego? Did he sit and watch enamored by her every move? Not really.
For me, this scripture was an expectation killer. I had to see that Ray was acting in Christ like love toward me. He may not be a romantic who plans nice dates, and he doesn't watch me as I sleep in adoration, and he may not flatter me every day. But I know he would die for me. I know he goes to a job that he doesn't like very much, because he feels a strong need to provide for me. He sometimes gives up time with friends because he has been busy and hasn't seen the kids and I all week. And once in a blue moon, he even helps clean the house to serve me. Ladies...WE need to change our expectations and the one it benefits the most is OURSELVES!! If I had continued to feel sorry for myself and indulge in my emotional porn, I would have constantly been feeling unloved and abandoned. I had to agree with what the Lord says in his word, and stop listening to the lies the enemy was telling me about what love really looked like. I personally don't even read those books or watch those dramas anymore...it's not worth it. I feel yucky every time. I decided my time was better spent on things that built my hope not crush my hope. I am not saying that is the right move for you, but be willing, ask the Lord. These false expectations might be something that is blocking you from the healing God is trying to give you. You may need to stop feeding that beast for a time.
Go forward today determined to see the small things that your husband is doing right. Be wiling to find love in the small things instead of thinking it needs to look a certain way and be blessed.
And please note: I am writing all this with plans tonight to go watch "Anne of Avonlea" with a couple girlfriends. So...I am not saying you need a ban on all romance...I am saying..Watch for the lies and stay alert. And if you can't gain control...just be vigilant about what you are putting in your head!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Rescuer

Do you ever just need to be rescued?? I know I have had those days many many times. I have had to CLING to the cross, begging God to simply rescue me. 

Are you in that season right now? Do you need to know how God feels about you even when those around you tell you that you aren't worth it?? Do you need to remember that there is someone who is for you? That there is someone who not only loves to rescue his children, but has all power and authority to actually pull us out of our deepest darkest places and make a beautiful masterpiece out of our most broken pieces?! 
I think, the hardest faith journey is when the next moves are completely out of our control, when we have to have faith that God can change someone else, like our spouse. We don't get to surrender for them, or turn to the Lord for them, or repent, or recognize the truth FOR THEM!!! Isn't it so frustrating!!!??? My most fervent prayers to be rescued have usually come from a place of needing God to move in my husband as much as I need him to move in me. 
If you are in that place today, where you are having to have GREAT faith for God to do a work in someone that you love, take comfort in what the Lord says in Psalm 91. This message isn't just for that person that you are praying for....it is for YOU! He wants you to know that he is on your side, and he is fighting for you!
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”.........
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will reward him
    and show him my salvation.

Take comfort in this!! God hears your prayers! He loves to rescue his children. There is NOTHING that he can't protect you from. There is NOTHING he can't fix, NOTHING he doesn't see, and he LACKS NOTHING! All power is his and He always moves on your behalf with HONOR, LOVE, and A GENTLE HEART that is for your marriage, your family, and your great future that is full of his great purposes!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Digging Ditches of Faith

 God is ready to use your pain. God is not shocked by the things going on around you.  The things that your husband has done in secret have never been a secret to God. The anger and hurt you feel is not a secret to God.  And because he can see all and can heal all, he is excited to do a work in your life that will give glory to him alone.  Do you believe that God wants to get glory out of every situation in your life, even the difficult ones? Do you believe God has a plan for YOU; his daughter whom he loves? And do you believe it is God’s plan to raise your husband up out of the muck to be a mighty man of God?
He can use every moment of pain, rejection, and loss to grow you into the woman he created you to be. He can use all the sorrow, remorse, and failed attempts to gain control on his own, to grow your husband into a man of great faith and victory. In Romans 5:3-5 we see a picture of how God wants to use suffering in our lives. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Do you feel the same sense of Hope I do when you read that? He has a plan for your pain, not only to grow you as a person, but to let that hope pass on to others. Look at the world around you. There are so many women in your shoes who are in pain because of their husband’s sexual sins. What if YOUR story could help someone else? What if the chains that fall off of your husband can bring generational healing for your children? What if your example of forgiveness can inspire others to forgive? Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  The first time your husband let you down, God did not wring his hands and yell “OH NO, how am I gonna fix this? How am I gonna protect my daughter?” NO! He began at that moment to fill you with the strength that you needed to get through this. And he began to unfold a future for you that brought glory to him through your healing.  God has a beautiful future for you, but it requires surrender and action steps from you. YOU have to pursue your healing with God. Don’t expect it to come through your husband and don’t expect God to just reach out and do it for you, he gave you free will so that you will call out and ASK for his help. He wants you to seek him and then you will find the healing he has for you. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
The steps of faith you take toward healing will not go unanswered. In 2nd Kings 3 we read about Elisha being called upon by the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom during a time of war against Moab. The kings and their armies found themselves in a place with no water and looked to Elisha to ask God for help. He told the kings, (v. 17) “This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. (v. 18) This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you.” Now the thing that has been pointed out to me by a beloved pastor, Steven Furtick, is that our God does not need the labor of men to build ditches. If he can make water with no rain, he can certainly make some ditches appear in the ground. But there was a point to God’s command. He was looking for an act of faith, a moment of surrender, an acknowledgement of complete trust and dependence on God. Action steps. That is what he looks for from us. He knows your heart is broken and he desperately wants to fix it, but you need to take some steps of surrender and give it to God. What are the steps of faith God is calling you to?  For me, the hugest ditch I had to dig, was forgiving my husband even when he didn’t deserve it. (because God tells us that when we don’t forgive, we can’t be forgiven.) There were some more ditches dug along the way, forgiving the prostitutes and other women who sell their bodies and trap so many men in lust, seeking counseling, studying the word to find out if God thought I was valuable, and admitting I couldn’t heal without God. In verse 20 we see that God answered so quickly, as soon as he saw the act of obedience. It says “The next morning…there it was-water flowing from the direction of Edom and all the land was filled with water.” None of these things come automatically, but once you start to dig that ditch you will be amazed at how quickly God rains his healing down on you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Healing is between you and God....Period.

 I honestly believed that when Ray turned from his sin and had true brokenness about what he had done to me, then I would know that I could move on and be safe. I smile as I know many of you reading this are saying “EXACTLY!!” Well, I hate to break it to you, but not only is that NOT how it works, it isn’t even close to God’s design for healing your wounded heart.  I can promise you that if you wait for your husband to mend your broken heart, you are going to have a long and miserable wait. There is a story of a couple we know that comes to mind. The wife is lovely, always well groomed and smiling when you see her. And her husband of 8+ years is a man who loves the Lord with all his heart and has a passion for helping young men stand against temptation and feels a call to help men with pornography addictions. When this couple was younger, Nikki’s world came crashing down around her when she found out her husband had been deep into the realm of pornography and she NEVER knew! She was angry and so hurt. In time her husband began to pursue the Lord and his hurting wife. He was completely freed from his addiction and even began ministering to others. I remember thinking, “wow, I would give anything to see Ray doing that, she is so lucky.” Well, unfortunately Nikki didn’t see it that way. She had waited for years to see her husband become her dream man, but even when he did, she was too bitter to see it. It breaks my heart to say that to this day, she still lives in a state of depression, illness, and emotional chaos. She harbors resentment and hurt so deeply. You wouldn’t know it if you ran into her on the street, but it is there. All you need is to spend 20 minutes with her and her husband to see the yelling, degrading, and deep rooted bitterness that Nikki spews at her husband. And it all stems from that deep hurt that she has kept locked away, untouched by the Savior’s hands, as she waits for her husband to fix her. 
This story breaks my heart, because this story is the norm. Women sit and wait for years for their husband to change, and even when he does, they have spent so much time in bitterness, unforgivness, and pain, that they are stuck. They can’t see a way out and they are miserable. I can’t stress this enough ladies, THIS IS NOT HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. There are some hard truths that you need to start praying about as you pursue your healing with God. 
There is only one person who has the power to heal your heart. If all power on heaven and earth belong to God, than how can we believe anyone else has the power to heal our emotions? I don’t care who your husband is or how good his intentions are, he does not have the power to heal you. Nothing he does can heal the wounds that are in your heart. Whether you have low self esteem, have felt like you are not enough to satisfy your husband, or you are so angry at him that you can’t even think of one reason that you love him anymore, there is someone who has the power to heal EVERY hurt. God wants you to come to the throne of grace humbly and ask him to help you. 
After I realized that Ray was never going to be able to heal me, I noticed that wasn’t my only problem. I also had the false belief that I could fix myself or at least do a really good job fooling myself and everyone else into believing I was ok. I sucked it up and even continued as the worship leader at our church, even though I desperately wanted to quit. I was so emotionally exhausted; I didn’t want to lead others into worship. But I couldn’t let anyone see that! God made our bodies to only bear so much fake healing. I was stuffing all my emotions and pretending that I forgave Ray. Pretending I had moved past it. Because none of it was true, and I was stuffing so much pain, I began to get physically sick. 
Statistically there are an extremely high number of people who have physical illness that is caused solely by stress and stuffing their emotions. I became one of those people. I was literally throwing up multiple times a day, but could find no medical reason. I even began eating only fruits and vegetables thinking that there was some horrible food allergy that I couldn’t find. There was still no relief; until Ray moved to Ohio for 8 weeks to find counseling. The whole time he was gone, I was fine! This is when I realized that this was nothing physical. I sought out Godly counseling myself and was able to fully surrender my darkest fears, my issues with rejection and abandonment, and my anger at Ray. This was only the tip of the iceberg in my journey toward healing, but it was like a salve that seemed to flow through my body, and I stopped getting sick. I tell you this story so that you see that not only is it impossible for our husbands to make it better, we can’t make it better either. We will only mess it up terribly, and even if we buy it in our minds, our bodies and spirit won’t fall for it.  It is only through the power of God at work in our hearts that we can truly find healing. 
Don't let that bring you down. It is not as impossible as it seems. You see we delight the heart of our father when we throw our hands out in surrender and tell him "I need you, I can't do this on my own." As you surrender and begin to pray through all of the things in your heart that are keeping you in pain, HE will do all the legwork and begin to heal your heart. There is NOTHING that he will withhold from his children when we come to him and align our prayers with his will. And his will is for you, his daughter, to be whole. He has a calling for your story, every part of it. The pain and more importantly, the restoration and transformation that he can and will accomplish when you let him. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't Miss It!

This week I had the honor of traveling 'home' to Ohio to see old friends and bring a couple of new friends to meet with one of our favorite pastors of all time. A man who has counseled many and who God uses to facilitate emotional healing that honestly blows me away every time I see it. I was blown away again this week as God did what he always does, and heals where we need it most, in the most gentle way possible. 3 women left Minnesota on Tuesday, and 3 completely different women came back on Thursday. I did not have the privilege of meeting with my pastor and friend, but my life changed just being a participant in all the things God was doing this week in those around me. And this is the resounding beat of my heart today...Will I continue to let God change me by participating actively in the things that he is doing?
I honestly have to say I was feeling a little bitter when I started my week. I was angry that my trip was so short. It almost felt like a waste. But as he does so often, God reminded me to trust him. This was his trip. I can't even explain to you all of the things God did this week, but I can tell you that the moment I surrendered my short trip to him and trusted him that he could and would accomplish all he needed to, I saw the hand of God move. God reminded me that he is bigger than I give him credit for and that he is not constricted by time. The things he did would seem little to some, but they were huge to me. I was able to talk with a dear friend as she worked through some generational strongholds and made a choice to give them to Jesus and pursue change and healing for herself and her family. I was able to watch another dear friend minister to one of the ladies I brought to ohio with me, and in the process I got to see first hand the calling that God has on her life, and the healing he has brought for her. She would never have been able to minister like that 5 years ago and it brought me to tears to see the faithfulness of God. When we give him permission to heal us, he does it. I was in awe of the work he has done in the friends that I love. And I was so blessed that he allowed me to be a part of these things. He was not restricted by the fact that I only had 30 hours, he multiplied my time and blessed my steps as I trusted him with my life.
It is a reminder to all of us. Do we trust him when things don't go our way? And do we actively look for the works of his hands around us? Or do we miss the blessings he has for us because we are mad that our plans don't go exactly the way we want them to?
I could have missed all of the amazing God moments this week if I had stayed in a place of frustration. Surrender brings so many wonderful rewards my friend. The heart of the Father delights in us when out of a pure heart we trust him and surrender our will to his saying "Ok Daddy, I know you have me, and your plan for me in this moment is better than my plans could ever be, so I trust you...Have your way in my life, take the steering wheel, and lead me to where you want me to be. Open my eyes to see the things you want me to, don't let me miss the things you are doing around me."
I challenge you to take that approach this week when you face something that doesn't go the way you hoped it would.
And remember, the best place to practice this, is in your marriage. Don't let anger or hurt or a need to control blind you to the things God is doing in your spouse. We miss so much when we try to hold on to our own way. Let God have his way in your marriage. I PROMISE you that when you surrender to him, he will do miracles on your behalf. And if you are paying attention, you will see them and give glory to God for the Good things he has done.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Taking every thought captive

Because of past wounds, Ray doesn't even have to do anything for trust to be hard for me. All it takes is satan whispering in my ear "He is probably cheating on you again".  Does that happen to you? Or how about when you are having a really really good time with your husband, and all of a sudden an image pops in your head of him drooling over a woman on a computer screen....special moment ruined right!?
I have come to realize through many ruined moments, and many self inflicted pity parties that went on for far too long, that I always have to make a choice when that lying voice invades my space. Will I give the enemy power to lie to me today? Or am I going to take that thought captive? You see just like we hope, NO expect our husbands to take their thoughts captive if they see a half naked girl, or hear a crude song on the radio, God hopes for the same from us.
2nd corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
How are you doing?? See it isn't just for your husband, and it isn't only a command for those who struggle with lust. When the enemy comes at me telling me that Ray is a no good liar who is cheating on me and doesn't love me...my GOD GIVEN job is to consider the source and immediately make those thoughts come under the Lordship of Christ.
What about when the enemy lies to you and tells you that you are too fat, or not worth the love of those around you? Is that the truth? Cause I can promise you that God would NEVER tell you that. So it obviously isn't coming from him. I know it is hard, but in those moments, the most powerful thing you can do is take the enemy's power away by agreeing with the truth of who God says you are. God's hope for you is that in that moment, you will not even give satan 5 seconds of your time.
Taking every thought captive comes with an enormous blessing in our marriage relationship as well. Not only does it role model a Godly attribute that inspires your mate to work on his thought life, but it blesses the restorative work that God is trying to do in your marriage. Let me explain- if you are not constantly giving way to lies that cause you to nag and control your husband, or hound him with accusations, he might have a chance to believe in the work God is doing in your marriage. He might have enough break from guilt and shame to have a glimmer of hope again.
And what about the lies you believe about yourself? Our words have power, and if we are constantly telling our husbands how fat we are and how worthless we feel, or how there is probably a better wife and mother out there, he will slowly begin to believe it. When someone hears something over and over again, it eventually starts to resonate in their brain as a truth. Why not take those thoughts captive and speak life about yourself?? When you believe in the beauty that God has put inside you and walk out your day in confidence instead of oppression, your husband will take notice. And there is nothing in this world more attractive to a man than a woman who knows who she is and isn't afraid to be confident in it.
So, my challenge to you is to examine the areas where you may be letting satan lie to you. If you see some, be conscious as you walk out your week. When a thought comes into your mind that doesn't line up with the truth of God, take it captive, refuse to go down that road in your mind. Sometimes I honestly have to just sing a worship song in my head to get my perspective back on track. Or maybe get out a scripture that I keep in my purse, but whatever works for you to bring your thoughts into obedience with Christ....Do it! I know you can, because.....I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-14 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The destructive power of shame

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1, NIV)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."(Hebrews 12:2, NIV)
Shame and guilt are tools that only come from one source-Satan himself. God does not use those tools to train his children, it is not in his nature. He came us to save us from these things. 
God does use humbling, Godly remorse, and conviction of sin. These things are very very different from shame and guilt. If you look up shame in the dictionary, one of the meanings you will find there is "dishonor and disgrace". God does not ever do this to his children. He is a God of honor and grace- the complete opposite of these things! I am not saying that he doesn't have consequences for sin, and judges us accordingly, but as I said before, his motives and methods are different. His great love for us compels him to die for our sins, not to rub them in our face and dishonor us with our sin. 
Have you ever seen someone under the heavy weight of shame? I have...My husband. The hope was gone from his eyes, the weight was so heavy it looked as if it was hard to even stand. "I am not worth it" was his response when I told him that I loved him. What a heavy weight to bear....what a lie from the pit of hell. 
Shame does not offer hope, it does not offer a clear path out, it does not point to the cross. 
I hope you don't desire your husband to feel shame or guilt for the things he has done. I know that I desired that at one point in my life..."put him to shame" oh I feel sick when I remember that I ever hoped for that. I thought that if he felt true guilt and shame, that it would drive some radical transformation in his life...just the opposite my friends. Those tools do not offer the hope and joy of Christ!
If you want God's great and wonderful purposes in your husband and in your marriage, it is time to change your prayers. Pray PROTECTION from the enemy's tools of guilt and shame, for they will only drive your husband to despair. Pray for Godly remorse, humility that brings wisdom, and true conviction of sin. All of these things have the hope of the cross at the end. They all come with a clear path out. God will meet your husband when he can come out from under shame and run to the cross, to find the grace, mercy, and hope that is poured out there. 

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2, NIV)
God, give us as wives, the humility and wisdom we need as well. We know that even though our husband's sin inflicts pain, we are no better. We all have sin that separates us from you and we would be nothing without you. Let us move forward with humility in our prayers for our husbands, not prayers of vengeance, but of hope, agape love, and in agreement with your perfect will for our families. Protect every woman who is reading this, and cover her family from shame and guilt in your perfect love, wrap them in peace and hope. Amen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Creating Intimacy with God and Man

To create intimacy with man we must first understand how to have intimacy with God. 

I have heard this said on multiple occasions, and find the concept life changing for many reasons.  
Now understand that when I am talking about intimacy, I am not talking about simply sex. 
Notice here that sex is actually the final piece when the dictionary defines Intimacy:
1 : an intimate quality or state: such as a : emotional warmth and closeness 
  the intimacy of their relationship
b a quality that suggests informal warmth or closeness
 The band liked the intimacy of the nightclub.
2  : sexual relations

To create intimacy with man we must first understand how to have intimacy with God. 

When Ray and I embarked and re-embarked on healing for our marriage I found it continually harder to be intimate in ANY and ALL senses of the word. How do you feel emotional warmth toward someone who betrayed you time and time again? How do you have a close relationship when you are constantly afraid that you are being lied to? How do you have sex when you aren't even sure he loves you? Do you ever have these problems? 
I know the depth of the pain I felt, and had I given way to it, I think it would have eaten me alive. I remember laying in the fetal position on my bed one night after a fight with Ray, I was pleading with God to make my husband into a man who actually loved me. I was begging him to help me figure out how I would ever have children with a man who I wished would never touch me again. I actually think that the first times of infidelity were easier…the more it happened…the farther and harder my heart grew toward Ray when it came to intimacy. I still wanted God's best for my marriage, and I wanted Ray to find freedom and healing, and I knew that the concept of 'keeping myself from him' would only backfire; I mean he was a sexual addict for goodness sake…that wasn't gonna work!! Right? The pressure I felt to meet his needs, only intensified my own pain and fear. How was I going to protect myself??
And there it was….If I was vulnerable with him, trusted him, was intimate with him…what if he hurt me again?? 
If I just shut it all off and don't care…maybe then it won't hurt so bad next time. 
The reality of my subconscious belief hit me like a ton of bricks. Who am I to think that I have any power at all to protect myself by putting my husband at arms length. The truth is whether I am intimate with him or not, the betrayal hurts the same. The real person I put at arm's length when I choose to protect myself is GOD. 
All I was doing was saying to my heavenly father "you don't do a good enough job protecting me, I will take over from here." 
To create intimacy with man we must first understand how to have intimacy with God. 
Remember that one?? I knew at this point I had a trust issue. So I went back to intimacy. "Lord, help me" was about all I could muster. A flood of love and compassion was what followed. I knew that Jesus understood the depth of my pain and that he cared about the success of my marriage. He also cared that the intimacy I needed with my husband for our marriage to be able to move forward. He began to assure me that even though I felt totally unable to trust my husband…I could trust him. I began to focus my attention on building intimacy with Jesus, knowing that he would show me how to transfer that over to my marriage. Our quote above interestingly enough does not say that "to be handed intimacy we must have intimacy"…no it uses a much different word doesn't it???
Let me make myself clear, I have ZERO power to create anything myself, but I do have the power to choose obedience…which then creates an environment where God himself can meet with me and we together can create a beautiful relationship. I knew I needed to partner with God to create intimacy with him before anything else could move forward.  I made time to be in his word and to PRAY for my marriage and my husband. Most days my heartfelt prayers were pitiful at best…but I believe God uses our broken prayers just as much as he uses our eloquent ones. I would even pray for things as simple as "help me believe that my husband CAN change." During this time I began to experience a kind of relationship with The Lord that I had never had before. But like all things in life, I had to work at it. I had to make choice to pursue my relationship with God on a regular basis. As I was faithful in this, The Lord was faithful to me. I will never forget the day that I felt the Lord whisper to my heart "Be with Ray as an act of worship to ME." I love my husband very much, but as many of you know all too well, physical intimacy and betrayal are never good friends. I could hardly manage the thought much less the act. And there was that ugly feeling again I HAVE TO PROTECT MYSELF. But that was why it was an act of worship. It wasn't about Ray, it was about me. I had to take an obedient and deliberate step forward into the trusting arms of my Father. Could I trust HIM enough to restore my physical relationship with Ray, with full awareness that Ray might hurt me again? And guess what? Ray did hurt me again…and again…but each time my Daddy would hold me, protect my heart, and cultivate his perfect will as I grew through those experiences. Each time was battle ground revisited…but each time as I surrendered to the intimate relationship I had with my Jesus, He would help me heal and trust again. 
The single act of obedience to be physically intimate with Ray as an act of worship to my king, was the best thing I ever did. I won't lie and tell you that it was easy, but I will tell you that as I looked past Ray, I saw a gracious and loving God who was proud of me. And who honored my obedience by making it less painful, and to this day…I have a wonderful intimate relationship with my husband. Sometimes I have to hold my ground and take thoughts captive when the enemy tries to reignite the pain, but all in all, I have been so in awe of the healing work that God can do when we surrender and let him heal every part of us. It may require great steps of faith in your life, maybe it involves being willing to be intimate again, but maybe for you it involves just being willing to trust God for a change to happen in YOUR heart toward your husband. Either way, remember…You and you alone can choose to partner with the Lord to create intimacy with him and the people you love. 

If you want to learn more about how to take your thoughts captive when the enemy bombards you, be sure to check out next weeks blog post!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Worship in his Arms

The above link is to a song by Meredith Andrews. I strongly encourage you to take 4 minutes and have a listen. Even better, find a quiet place and truly let the words minister to you, worship the one who holds you so perfectly. Surprisingly I heard this song long after the name HELD had been chosen for this ministry, but when I heard it, I wept. 
When you are in a season of pain, this song will minister to you....
I have found that in my journey toward healing, the BEST thing I can do for myself is to worship. It puts everything in perspective. When I can't imagine going forward, Worship puts me at the feet of the one who helps me go forward even when I can't walk myself. In that place, HE reminds me of his faithfulness, his plans for me, his desire to bring glory to himself through my trials. Worship reminds me that there is ONE who will never abandon me, never break my heart, and who loves me unconditionally. It reminds me that when I feel weary, HE holds me up and will never let me go. He knows exactly what I need, when I need it, what my future holds, and how to get me there. Never underestimate the power of worship. You gain the perspective of a King while putting a liar in chains at the same time. 

This particular song above speaks for itself. I hope you remember my friend that there is no better place for you than in the arms of the one who loves you; that even when things aren't changing the way we want them to in our marriages, all you have to do is call his name and he will be there. Give him control of your fears, your dreams, and your heart. I promise you that he will take good care of you. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fear vs. Faith

“We fall when we walk in fear instead of faith.”- Jon Hohm (Pastor)
Nothing God wants to do in your life will ever be accomplished because he “scared” you into it. And the great plans that he has for your life can and WILL be interrupted when you let fear hold you back. As my pastor spoke about this, I was reminded of the time in my life, soon after Ray had told me of his infidelity, when I decided that if I just controlled everything in our life, I would be safe. Of course I never made this decision consciously. No, it was deeply rooted in my subconscious, but wow did it have a powerful hold on me. I began to obsess about every aspect of my husband’s life. If he had to work late, I would call his work phone just to make sure that was where he really was. If he wanted to go out with the guys, I would call every hour looking for some clue that he had lied to me. I totally managed all of our social activities and had him on a very short leash. 
Now it is so easy to judge the women around us who do this. We find them to be a nag, a control freak, or just a b****. When we do these things ourselves, we never think that we have become that person; I know I lived in denial of it for a long time. I want to offer us a Godly insight into the lives of the women like this. They are driven by fear!! I didn’t control everything because my personality is just that way, or because it made me feel powerful. I did it because I was scared. I was afraid of being hurt again. If I could control everything around my husband, maybe I would be safe; maybe he wouldn’t hurt me again. Fear had me by the throat. I remember times I felt paralyzed by fear. I would lay in bed waiting for Ray to get home just ready to attack him for being 5 minutes late, automatically assuming he was up to no good. I would even avoid looking at email or the bank account for fear of seeing that he had purchased porn again. So, I locked every computer, took away cell phones, or whatever I saw necessary, as if I was his mother….So SAD. As I did this, the opposite of my intention would unfold; Ray resented my mothering and nagging and just fell deeper away from me and God. Fear does terrible things, when we allow it to rule us.  As God allowed me to see this about myself it did 2 things for me. 
  • It allowed me to truly deal with the fear I was being controlled by. I know when your husband breaks your trust, it feels like you will never trust again. But take hope in the truth that GOD was with you every step of the way and will be for the rest of your journey. HE can be trusted even when you don’t feel like you can trust others. When I began to put my trust in the ONE who could protect me, and released Ray to him, I felt peace for the first time. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not Ray would fall again. I knew that no matter what happened, I would be protected by my father in heaven who wants to see Ray succeed even more than I do.  

So If you are a woman who is living with fear, I encourage you to take 1 step today. Tell the Lord how you feel and ask him to start to build your faith and help you trust.  Ask him to bring it to your attention when you start to act in ways that are driven by fear instead of trust. He will allow you to see it and then he will help you change. 

  • It gave me compassion for the women around me who act this way. They most likely don’t even see the way they come across, and the truth is that they are only doing it because of deep wounds that you can’t see from the outside. They are not evil nags who want to punish their husband on a daily basis. They are afraid of feeling hurt again, and that fear drives them to do things they never thought they would.  So let’s have grace for each other ladies. When we see these women, remember the times we have done the same things in effort to protect ourselves, and pray for these women! It is the most powerful gift you could ever give them. 

Strength for the Journey -Part 2

There is so much wisdom in Hebrews 11, I could honestly write about it for a month, but for now I will condense into 2 parts. 

Hebrews 11:24-26 
It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share in the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah that to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him. 

I know that this post may be particularly hard for some women. I am going to ask a lot of you. And I want you to keep in mind that it is for the good of you personally and your marriage, family, and spiritual health.  I am going to ask you to DIE to yourself. This is something that most people in the church have heard of before, but it is a concept that often arouses anger in the hearts of the wounded. But keep in mind, while you may be the victim of your husband’s bad choices, you are not meant to live with a victim mentality. God wants you to live everyday as a victor because HE is the victory we need and the victory our husband’s need. Because of him, we can see past our own hurts, and care more about the heavenly destiny God has for our husbands. 
When Moses gave up a life of pleasure for a life of hardship it took faith and the ability to see beyond himself. He saw a people, a plan, a God, and eventually a destiny. When you look at your marriage what do you see? Hurt, betrayal, disappointment?  I want you to know God sees a future, a testimony, Glory, victory, and freedom. 
YOU alone can decide how you are going to respond to the situation you now find yourself in. Are you willing to die to yourself and walk in faith? Or would you rather live like a victim?
I will talk more on this blog about what it looks like to walk in faith for your marriage, but I want to take a lesson from Moses. When he left pharaoh, he didn’t sit and wallow in his family’s hut, feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t ask for pity, because his life had just changed in a way he wasn’t ready for. He got into the mud and straw and began to build bricks with his people. 
Rebuilding your marriage will be a process, it goes slow and steady and takes one brick at a time, but PLEASE don’t make your husband build it back up alone, it will take forever, and he will only feel alone, which only leaves him more vulnerable to attack from the enemy. When Moses saw a fellow slave being beaten, he got out of the mud, ran to his rescue and fought FOR him. Are you willing to fight for your husband? Are you willing to build bricks with him? Start today, with just making the decision to be a team, to die to yourself and want God’s glory for your marriage, more that you want to be a victim. 

Strength for the Journey -Part 1

I have been studying Hebrews 11 in efforts to learn the secrets held by the Heroes of the faith. Moses, Abraham, Noah, Joseph, all had lives of deep faith.  I am learning so much about what faith looks like as I walk on my journey, and I hope as you press into the Lord, you are learning how to trust him more too. Faith is IMPOSSIBLE unless you trust God, and believe that he wants and knows and can bring to pass good things for you and your family. Do you believe his will is perfect? That he rewards our faith?
When you are going through crisis in your marriage due to sexual sin, it takes an abundance of faith to get through. I had a woman ask me, "what was the one thing that helped you stay with Ray when everything fell apart?" My answer was an easy one…God told me to. 
If we believe that God has told us to stay in our marriage, we must also have the faith that he will give us the strength to do so.  In Hebrews 11:10 Abraham was “confidently looking forward” and in verse 11 we read that Abraham “Believed that God would keep his promises” again in verse 20 we read that “He had confidence in what God was going to do in the future.” I had to HOLD TIGHT to the promises of God. I love how Sheila Walsh puts it in her testimony of recovery "you have to CLING TO THE CROSS. 
I asked the Lord if I could leave Ray after the first affair, and when I knew God was telling me that he wanted me to stay and fight for my marriage, I also felt God assure me in my heart that he wanted Ray to be a mighty man of God and had great plans for him. The same is true for you. Your husband is deeply loved by God and he wants your husband to be free and highly effective in the kingdom of God.  
So many times, when faith was hard to muster, I would remember that God wanted Ray’s transformation even more than I did, and that his promises to be with me and to renew my husband’s mind as he sought God, were TRUE and those promises gave me faith to keep going. 
If we decide to be a martyr in our decision to stay, we rob God of the blessings he wants to pour out in our marriages and in our own personal healing. If we constantly doubt our husband’s ability to change, we make it 1000 times harder for him to believe in himself, and we quickly diminish his ability to have faith that God can win the battle. BUT if we trust in God, and have faith that HE can do a work in our husband, we will be able to encourage our husband, stand strong, and see the FRUIT of God’s promises. I would much rather be an extension of God’s hands to my husband, than tie God’s hands. 
So, remember Abraham…He looked ahead to the future with CONFIDENCE, remembering that God keeps his promises whether we can see it at that moment or not. You can glean strength for your journey by doing the same.  Ask God to assure you of his plans for you and for your husband, cause they are wonderful. Jeremiah 29:11 I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you not harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

Our Story

It is with great humility, and in attempt to honor my God and my husband, that I relay to you the story of the greatest transformation that I have seen with my own eyes; The transformation of not only a man and a woman, but of a marriage, a family, a story, and a ministry in the making. It is a transformation that can only be attributed to the Lord Jesus and it is one that I believe he wants to use for his glory, to help transform the lives of those who hear of his great love, gentleness, healing, and power. I hope the account of this transformation encourages you and gives you hope. 
This blog is dedicated to ministering to all those who have faced, or are facing pain in their marriage due to sexual sin. There is Healing, Encouragement, Love, and Direction to be found. It is found when you are HELD in the loving and capable hands of Jesus. 
Dear Lord, I pray for all who read this blog, that you would begin the process of healing the wounds in their hearts and marriages.  I thank you that your love for us is endless, that you know every tear that we have shed, you know every secret that we try to keep locked away, and you know our greatest fears.  I thank you that not only do you know them, but you desire to draw near to us and hold us when we are unable to stand anymore. You desire to show us how to move forward into wholeness. I pray for blessing and protection to cover every marriage. I pray you give us the courage to change when we have to, and to trust you in all things. I pray for eyes to be opened to the things that wound you and wound our spouse. Give us humility to admit that we cannot do anything in our own strength. You took every sin upon yourself when you sacrificed your life on the cross for us. You do not wring your hands and worry when we choose sin or when the ones we love wound us with their sin. Your love protects, hopes, and sets our feet on a solid rock. God thank you for loving us, for choosing us, and calling us your children, we are yours and we know you will never hesitate to come to our rescue when we call to you. We need you and we trust in your power to transform our lives, our marriages, and our families. Give us wisdom and strength as we move forward toward healing. 
God is so good to his children. That he can transform the heart of a man and bring him from the deepest darkest pits of sexual addiction to a life of freedom and spiritual maturity amazes me. But even more than the journey that God has brought my husband through, I am in awe of the transformation in my own life. 
When Ray first told me about his infidelity and sexual addiction 7 years ago, I remember feeling ill. It is funny how our memory works. I can barely remember the things that happened last month, but that day is so cemented in my memory that I remember every detail. I even remember the blob of makeup on my finger as Ray told me what had happened to the 300$ that I had found missing from our bank accounts. I still remember wondering what to do with my make-up filled hand as I fled from the room “paying for sex” ringing in my ears. I felt lost, nowhere to turn, completely confused. Where did this come from!?? We were high school sweethearts, dated 5 years before we got married. We were good little Christian kids, And guess what?? We stayed sexually pure in our relationship! I thought that was kind of a guarantee that my husband would be able to stay pure within the marriage relationship. And what about God!? I did everything he commanded, why was he punishing me? 
The girl who I was that day, and the woman I am now are so different that I can hardly remember that Lauren. I was so sure that this was all Ray’s responsibility, I was perfect, and he screwed it all up. I was convinced I had no role what-so-ever in the rebuilding of our marriage. In the words many women have said to me since “He broke it- he can fix it”.  I not only refused to see the role God wanted me to play in the freedom journey for my husband and marriage, but I also refused to pursue healing for myself at first.  I had NO self esteem left, I listened to lie after lie from the enemy that it was my fault, that if I were skinnier or prettier, this wouldn’t have happened. Ray only reinforced it by believing the same lies. It was a great cop out, he could excuse his behavior by blaming me.  Satan even inspired my own pastor to counsel me to get help being more “appealing” to Ray. Understand, I was not a woman who walked around in my Pj’s or anything like that. Looking back now, I can see; because I didn’t believe I was worth what God says I am worth, I didn’t present myself as a woman who truly values herself, but I was a professional and always looked the part. I think the real lack of luster was in my eyes. They were lifeless, hollow, and void of the love that I longed to feel directed at me.  I lashed out at Ray on a frequent basis. I almost resented that I had heard God clearly tell me to stay and fight for my marriage. I made sure to play the role of a martyr at times. I rubbed his mistakes in his face for months. Every time I felt pain, I made sure he knew it and knew it was his fault. I demanded every soiled detail of his lust and then lashed out in pain when he obliged. He tried to tell me it was useless for me to know, but I couldn’t help it, I had to know what my “competition” was. As the details of the years of lust and sin unfolded in counseling, I felt like I didn’t even know Ray. Before that incident, I totally believed that Ray was pure and upstanding- just like every other Christian man, right? The statistics shock me to this day:  over 80% of men in the church struggle with sexual sin on some level.  And the worst part for me was that I truly believed that now that it was out in the open, it would just stop. Ray would change, and we could move on. OH MY, I was so naive. YEARS followed of pain, Ray continuing to fall to sexual sin, and me begging God to make it stop. But Today in 2013 as I look back at those years, I don’t only see the pain and hardship. I see a slow, steady process. I see a woman who surrendered to her savior, admitted her inability to do this on her own. I see Ray, who truly wanted to serve the Lord and be a man of God, even though he didn’t know how to change;  A man who wanted freedom desperately and began to peruse it as hard as he could. I see a Lauren who began to pursue healing instead of just expecting God to open up the heavens and make it all go away in an instant, I started fighting for the healing I so desperately needed. I began to ask GOD what he wanted from me as a Godly wife, I asked him to teach me how to respect a man that I felt like didn’t deserve an ounce of my respect. I began to TRUST GOD even when I couldn’t trust Ray. I began to surrender to a point where I was willing to experience pain, if it meant God would move Ray to maturity in Christ. I began to understand Grace and Agape love, that wants what is best for others, more than what we believe is best for ourselves. (because often what we think is best, is not what God knows is best for us) I began to believe in Ray before Ray ever believed in himself, and it was through the power of God in my heart. He didn’t deserve for me to lift him up, encourage him, believe in him….but then I didn’t deserve Jesus dying for me, so how could I not put myself to death for my brother in Christ, the man God choose to be my mate? I know this will sound like pure craziness to some. Let me clarify that God never called me to be a door mat, he just called me to be like Jesus. And if you think this is impossible or crazy, keep following this story. I think the transformation of my husband, my marriage, and my life will speak for themselves. There is no doubt in my mind that God can heal ANY marriage, and it is because he bought mine from the deepest, darkest pit imaginable and set it up in the light, made it something beautiful and even something that he wants to use in his kingdom. It doesn’t get any better than that, and I can’t wait to share all that he has done…with you!