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

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!