Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Uncategorized, Word, Writing

Glamour Shots

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I was purging old stuff in the garage this morning. I don’t even want to tell you what ALL I found. But I came across something that got me thinking.

I came across old Glamour Shots pics  of myself from 1995. That was the year I got married. I looked at my pic for a long while. My makeup is extremely thick and I have what I affectionately call my big Texas hair. This was when poofy bangs and a feathery look was the thing. I was 20 and beautiful, but I had absolutely no clue what I wanted out of life.

Like. Zero. Clue.

The girl I was back then thought she had knew what she wanted. Note the engagement ring in the pic. She had a good job as a retail manager. She was planning a wedding, ran 3 miles a day, and was at her ideal weight.

Here’s the deal – the 20-year-old girl in the picture would never have known what she really wanted or needed if she did not go through all the heartache she went through to get her to today: age 44 and 13 days.

That pic was pre-kids, pre-divorce, pre-assault(s), pre-brother’s death to Cancer, pre-heartache, pre-financial woes, pre-depression, pre-Cancer, pre-Bachelor’s degree, pre-Master’s degree, pre-single-parenting-for-16-years, pre-job-loss, pre-so-much-life.

Right now the kids are in the living room going through the old baby pics of them I found. I’m enjoying their laughter. It’s been difficult, being a single parent. It is certainly different than I expected parenting would be. But without it, I wouldn’t have my youngest.
My kids have changed my priorities in life for sure and for the better.
I am so grateful for the three blessings I have.
I am grateful for Katie’s funny jokes and stories about life and all the joy she lets me in on, on her path to get her teaching degree. She has the most even-keeled personality – ever.
I am grateful for Stephanie singing her heart out at all times and her all-over-the-place emotional greatness. She has the best laugh.
I am grateful for Gavin’s 11-year-old-boy sense of humor. For his knowing every part of every movie score he’s ever heard and being able to sing it back on cue. He has the sweetest heart.

My bestie tribe has helped me clarify what is good for me and what is not. I thoroughly enjoy their wisdom. Without going through my divorce I may have missed out on these 3 amazing people who are in my “tribe” – my inner circle. They keep me prayed up. They lovingly tell me when I’m wrong about something. They make me laugh every single day.

But the main things that have enhanced my life and made me grow are my heartaches – both my mistakes and just awful things I have had to walk through. Like divorce. Like Cancer. Like losing my brother to death and then my sister to the fallout over grieving him. Like so many things.
Trauma made me struggle and cry and bend. It made me stronger in the weak places. If I hadn’t gone through so much trauma, I wouldn’t have so much true joy.

This is because the struggle made me appreciate what I do have. It made me grateful every single day for my kids and my parents and my tribe and all the other friends I have.

The struggle drove me to God. It drove me to soak in His Word. It drove me to be better. It made me stronger.

As I went through the pictures today, I asked God to redeem each heartache. I asked Him to allow me to see where He was along the way. I found He was true to His promise to never leave me nor forsake me.

As for the glamour shot pic – I don’t look at it and wish I were younger. I just don’t. I look at it and realize how much more glamorous my heart is today. How much more confident, secure, and full of wisdom. AND I realized I’ve aged gracefully. The pics here are 24 years apart. I haven’t really aged all that much. I feel comfortable in my skin, but love myself enough to want to exercise and eat healthy and be a better version of myself day-by-day.

I’m glad I stumbled across my struggles today – it helped me appreciate my strengths.

Posted in family, Letters, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Writing

For my Daughters and Nieces

Dolls,

You are lovely. You are beautiful, captivating, intelligent, lovely, and kind.

As a Mom and an Aunt I feel I’ve done you an injustice by living in an unhealthy way physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have not correctly modeled “healthy” for you. Please forgive me. I plan to rectify all that over the next days and weeks.

I have not lived as if I’m a daughter of God. I’ve lived as if my worth, security, and confidence depend on the approval or disapproval of a man, of other women, or of society. Thank God He brought all this to my attention. I’ve just been so entirely wrong for so entirely long.

This stops today.

Here’s what I now fully understand: I am not the product of nor do I bow at the bidding of my own faults, the faults of others, or anyone but God. And neither do you.

1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 (CSB) says this:

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.”

Ladies, you are God’s holy temple, his dwelling place: mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Psalms 84:1‭-‬4 (CSB) says this:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Armies. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young — near your altars, Lord of Armies, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually. Selah”

Ladies, I reside in His house. YOU reside in His house. We are lovely. How happy are we who reside in God’s house. Future generations dwell in you.

What a joy and a privilege!

Katie: you are wonderful, beautiful, generous with kindness, and full of patience. This next generation needs a teacher like you. Walk in strength, wisdom, confidence, and security.

Stephanie: you are full of light, life, and creativity. We need your gift of worship to draw us to God. Walk in love, creativity, confidence, and security.

Madi: you are lovely, witty, curious, and highly intelligent. This generation needs your steadfast devotion to God. Walk in wisdom, godliness, confidence, and security.

Bree: you are beautiful, nurturing, fun-loving, and a pure delight. Your children will rise and call you blessed. Your husband is delighted with you for good reason. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

Lauren: you are the sparkle in your Daddy’s eye. You are a joy to all you encounter. The world needs your smile. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

To my future step-daughter (whom I have never met): you are a light in a dark world, a delight to your father, and a joy I have yet to behold. Your generation needs your light. Walk in boldness, grace, confidence and security.

To my goddaughters, my future granddaughters, and all my future greats: you are lovely, pure, intelligent, and kind. The world needs your love. Walk in wisdom, faith, confidence, and security.
I love you ladies. All of you. I applaud you and so enjoy watching you become women who love God.

Our battle isn’t against Dr. Pepper, carbs, comparison, or insecurity, but against evil itself.

Let’s remember to put on the armor of God daily. Walk like you’re walking next to Jesus. Remember you have angels assigned to you.

Write this on your mirror in dry-erase marker (I know y’all do this): I am a child of the Lord of Armies and today I will walk in confidence and security.

Remember I love you. Always.

Love,

Momma, Mommy, Aunt Melissa, M&M, and whatever all you grand-darlins will call me one of these years

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, waiting, Word, Writing

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Miracle. This word used to conjure up images of Sunday School mornings in 1984 with 9-year-old me in blonde pigtails in a flowered dress with ruffle back panties, lacy socks, and Mary Janes. It made me picture a flannel graph board with felt-backed cut-outs of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus inevitably had on a brown and tan striped robe and sandals. He was always healing a blind man.

That was then.

The word miracle began taking on a new meaning for me in April 1998. My husband had just left to go to his Dad’s garage to work on his truck, and I had just picked up a tiny redheaded Katie (now 22) from her playpen and headed out the door for groceries. It was spaghetti night.

We laughed and cooed at each other on the way out the door, as always. She’s always been a living doll.

We lived in a good-sized trailer park community just outside of town. I turned around to lock the front door behind us, when something horrible caught my eye at the back of our lot. I reopened the door, put Katie back in her playpen, picked up the cordless phone, and ran outside, calling 911 as I ran.

“Little girl, sweetie, are you okay? Sweetheart, can you hear me?” I screamed this at the limp little girl hanging from some coaxial cable some kids strung up in the alleyway from a tall Oak tree.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

I can’t remember much of what I said to the operator. No, I didn’t know how old she was (turns out she was 11). No, I didn’t know what race she was. She was purple. I reported that. Purple. She’d wet herself. She was ice cold.

I’ll never ever forget how cold.

All I knew is that I couldn’t climb this particular tree because it was too high.

Just then my neighbor and his friend came out of their house and I called for them. They raced to the tree, climbed it, and got the ropes (and the girl) down. Paramedics arrived and started CPR in my front yard while I prayed out loud using words only my spirit could understand. She was not conscious when they took her to the hospital. She was in ICU for 3 days.

I called my husband back home and we were questioned by the police. It turns out the girl was a part of a group of kids playing and this little darlin’ got caught with the ropes under her armpits and across her chest, which cut off her airway. Her friends got scared and ran off.

I was numb for 3 days. I went to work like a robot, then came home and waited for word.

She woke up asking for her Momma on the 3rd day, like nothing ever happened. I got the call and was overjoyed. That little girl – she was dead when she left my yard, then revived in the ambulance, and now she was alive and okay. It was a miracle.

The man who climbed the tree came by the next week. We went together to check on her now that she was home. We gave her a teddy bear. She hugged me so tightly and thanked me.

But what happened with the Mom was amazing. Her Mom spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. That day we had a full conversation just with body language. No words were necessary to express her gratitude or my relief and joy.

Smiles. Hugs. Tears of joy.

This is why I say:

“A smile is a complete sentence.

A hug is a full conversation.”

When I say that, I remember a little girl who had a chance to grow up because God had me at the right place at the right time and a conversation with a grateful Momma.

Two more minutes and I’d have a different story to tell. But God…

Do you believe in miracles?

Tell me about it.

Posted in Love, Poetry, waiting, Writing

I’m not the only one thinking this…

Not all words are meant for publication.

Words like these that come at the urging of melatonin and a cup of chamomile tea usually find their way into my journal, but not onto my blog screen.

Maybe these will. Who knows.

Who knows how to navigate this long, strange corridor of a queen bed for one?

What’s the remedy for how to adequately express the words in my head, aloud, when no one will hear them and laugh or sigh or contribute some of their own?

My journal won’t do. It doesn’t speak or express or feel.

Neither the screen.

Nor the silence around me.

What do you do with a giving, unconditional love no one will receive?

How many years should I keep reaching out in the dark, hoping to find a hand to hold, but none is there?

Perhaps these sleep-aid induced ramblings should file themselves away like good soldiers – single-file – left, right, left – back into my mind.

But for all my questions and inquiries, I know for sure that prayers pass through tissue and brain matter, past heart muscle and wall spackle, and reach the ever ready ears and mind and heart of God.

And I know one day I’ll reach my hand out and find one to receive mine. And I know it won’t be long. And I know without a doubt it will have been worth the wait. And I know the waiting will have prepared me for one who is also praying and hoping and reaching out in the dark for the amazing love stored neatly in the storehouses of my heart.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who ever has these thoughts.

I just know I can’t be the only one…

Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Word

When the Unexpected Happens

Has your life ever come to an end punctuation that you weren’t quite expecting? Haven’t you been so sure of one thing, only to, at the turn of a phrase, been suddenly unsure, and ended your sentence with a question mark instead of an exclamation point?! (Okay – that’s the word nerd in me.)

More practical:
Have you ever gone home to what you thought was a solid marriage, but then had to pack your bags suddenly because you discovered your spouse was cheating or wanting out? Or have you ever had an unexpected Cancer diagnosis? Or have you ever gone to work carefree one morning only to find out your job was suddenly ending? Or been in the car talking about dinner one minute and been hit by a deer the next and found yourself covered in glass and debris? That last one happened to one of my best friends this week. (Praise God she’s recovering well.)

I’m saying – there’s not much in life that is constant. At least not in mine. I feel like for the past 16 years I have been living in “what if” mode.

I’m constantly wondering what’s next.

But I’ve found some constants that keep me steady when things change suddenly.

  • Daily Bible reading
  • Worship music in my earbuds at work
  • Family time
  • Intentional time with friends

If I am not in the Word and constantly reminding myself that “God’s got this even when the unexpected happens,” then when the unexpected does happen, I return to my former ways of thinking. These include being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger.

But the Word reminds me to “…understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
James 1:19‭-‬20 CSB

And that, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.”
Psalms 145:8 CSB

I want to be more like Him.

So I perked up when I came across Beth Moore’s quote from “The Faithful” Bible Study on Old Testament Heroes that says “When our old priorities don’t go with our new life, we either return to our old life or adopt new priorities.”

I love my new life. If you knew me before I surrendered to God, you know why. My old life was a mess. With Him life is not perfect, but the storms don’t shake me as much. And new friends and readers – if you read back over archived blogs about my life, you’ll find more storm damage than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew combined.

In fact, it’s stormy season for me right now, but you probably have no idea – because I’m in the boat with the God who tames the winds and rains and waves. Like this:

“…and as they [Jesus’ disciples] were sailing he [Jesus] fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!”
Luke 8:23‭-‬25 CSB

In my old life I lived on my own time, with my own priorities, and on the little faith I thought I had (which was mostly self-centered.) In my new life I find that I need so much more Jesus than I think I do. Contrary to popular memes, I’m really NOT enough. In fact, I’m NOTHING without Jesus.

One final thought about new priorities that go with a new life: it’s so easy in this social media era to revisit our past and to “like” things just to be noticed. Please avoid this. If you’ve moved on to a new life, just move on.

And as we discussed in my Sunday morning group, “If that thought, lyric, or image put Jesus on the cross, (if it causes someone else to lust, or entices them to stumble, or is aimed at irritating them in some way) then it’s probably not worth liking, commenting, or posting.”

New life. New priorities. New year.

My word for 2019 is “MORE”.

What’s yours?

Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting

My Thoughts on Raising Kids After Divorce

Good evening. It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts to paper. Tonight has me feeling reflective. So I thought I’d write til my thoughts are exhausted. I pray you are well, wherever you are.

This was the kind of week that had no breaks. None. Every day was long. Tuesday I spent almost $400 on new tires. Then my son’s school nurse called – he was sick with upper respiratory sinus junk. He’s been home all week, so I’ve worked from home all week. This was the kind of work week I like – full of learning new things, of reaching for new solutions. I love to learn. I love my job.

Friday, though, is what is on my mind tonight. On Friday, I had an accommodations meeting for my daughter at the High School where she is a Senior.

In preparation for this meeting I reached for a binder I made for her last year when she was undergoing inpatient treatment for depression and anxiety. I made a title page that says Stephanie’s Story. Included in this well-organized binder were basic program information sheets, attendance notes for multiple days missed, worksheets she had done in individual and family therapy, notes from psychiatrists and therapists, and at the very end – divorce/custody papers.

I hadn’t looked at this notebook in over a year. Looking through its contents reminded me of how far she’d come; it reminded me of how far we’ve come together. She went from depressed and anxious and cutting and low self-esteem to Miss bubbly 4.0 who almost has her cosmetology license and wants to be a pediatric nurse. You can read her backstory in a previous blog called Pocket Full of Shoestrings.

You see, in the middle of that rough patch, she decided she wants to be the kind of nurse who helps kids who need psychiatric care. So she is pursuing a cosmetology license in high school to pay her way through nursing school. I love it when God takes what was meant to harm us and uses it for good.

She inspires me.

It’s the last document in that binder, though, that has me thinking tonight: the divorce/custody papers.

Here are a few things I learned through divorce and custody issues:

  • You cannot get over a divorce until you’ve owned your part of what went wrong. In my case, it was being too focused on ministry.
  • Your only job is to love and advocate for your kids.
  • Even if what happened on the weekend they’re with their other parent was less than wholesome, this needs to be the first thing out of your mouth after you say “I’ve missed you/I love you”: “Tell me about the best things that happened this weekend.”
  • Pick your battles wisely – let some things go.
  • Never put down the other parent in front of or to your kids. The kids will realize it themselves if the other parent is doing something on the not-approved list. Actions speak louder. Yours included.
  • Safety first.
  • Do something kind for yourself every single day. Be intentional. You deserve it.
  • You deserve a break now and again. A vacation, even.
  • Who you hang around is who you become like. Choose your friends and adult outings when the kids are away wisely.
  • You are always a parent. You’re never off-duty. Even when they’re at the other’s house. Never be so impaired that you can’t pick the kids up at a moment’s notice.
  • Create a support system. Church. Community. Friends. Family. Don’t skip this one.
  • Write everything down (appts, financials, custody issues). You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Laugh.
  • Play board games and have movie nights with your kids. Leave your cell on the charger in the other room.
  • Be present.
  • Don’t bring your dates around the kids until you are at least “Facebook official.” This assumes you’ve vetted them and have made sure you two are going to last.
  • Remember that you’re not raising kids, you’re raising adults. Proceed with their future in mind.

I could go on.

The bottom line is, I’m at peace with who I am and where I am.

But don’t let my calm demeanor fool you. I’ve had many rough seasons over the past 15 years. My battles have been fierce and have taken a toll on me.

I learned, however, that losing is not an option, that I must keep moving forward, and that whatever I’m walking through is a life-season, not a life-sentence.

And now…I need a grande sugar-free pumpkin-spice latte made with coconut milk and 2 Stevias, si vous plait.

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Teenager, Love, Poetry

Oh, Turn Your…

When I was alone or felt I was alone as a child, I couldn’t stand it. The minute the door shut and the lights went out I felt like the walls came alive and a living, retching monster might come forth at any given moment and find in me a tasty snack.

Often when I would find myself in this anxiety-inducing darkness, I would hear something from the living room that eased my fears and allowed me to rest. I would hear music.

You see, as far back as I can remember, my mom has been a pianist at church. I grew up with her practicing hymns on the piano. When she’s not actually playing, my mind still recalls stanzas of God’s promises and choruses reminding me of His goodness, His faithfulness, His love. It lives inside of me.

Age 11 often found me sitting outside, usually nestled in the ample bicep of the Oak tree by the back porch, writing. I was usually writing poetry. Writing has always been my solace. It started as a fortress against the monsters in the walls. Like the music mom played, writing in verse and rhyme is a majestic theme my mind uses to relax and feel safe.

In 2017, when I walked the halls of the hospital where my daughter was receiving therapy for her own anxieties, I found myself alone and in a place where, it seemed, a monster was pacing me; it wanted to find me – panicked, cowering, alone.

Instead, my earbuds provided a conduit for those hymns (and few new ones) to invade my heart and flood me with peace in an otherwise terrifying place.

When the soundtrack of your life is God’s love and faith is your refrain, the darkness and the monsters must flee.

Last week Lauren Daigle came out with a new version of one of the old hymns mom used to play on the piano. It is my favorite. My heart just cannot stop singing it. Now when I hear it, it’s my daughter Stephanie’s voice I hear in my heart – she has the most angelic voice I’ve ever heard.

The song? Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

I’m not solely writing to tell you where I go to find my solace.

I’m writing to ask you – “Where do you find yours?”
I’m also asking you to reflect on my favorite song.

This world is far too full of darkness and, despite being so connected, entirely too lonely.

Won’t you turn your eyes?

 

 

 

Posted in Love

Swipe Right? Dating in 2018

It’s increasingly difficult to be over 35 and dating. Swipe left? Swipe right? What IS this? We’ve been dumbed down to 1 second glances now?

Who’s your type? What’s your “sign”? What’s your idea of a good first date? Do you drink: Never, Often, or On Social Occasions?

Are these REALLY the first things we wanna know about each other?

Then, when you finally think…okay…eHarmony’s matching system says 100% on Exclusivity, Romance, AND Religious Values, and he sends you a smile and you’re past all the canned questions, and you finally get into a “message” session and his first real question is –

“Hey pretty, what are you wearing?”

You have GOT to be kidding me!

BLOCK!

Big sigh.

SERIOUSLY!?

Honestly, girl, you’re worth more than that. You don’t fit anyone’s mold. Psalm 139 says you were fearfully and wonderfully made. And seriously – there is no category for brilliant-word-nerd-with-a-heart-that-won’t-stop-giving + a Jesus-lovin’-momma-who-has-survived projectile-vomiting–from-a-1-year-old-AND-middle-school-sass-all-before-8-am-on-the-same-morning.

There’s just not.

You just don’t belong in a swipe-left world, nor at the bar hoping you get picked before last call, nor in any Instagram chat session that starts out: “Hey pretty, I like to know you better, please do you have any naked selfies?”

You’re worth way more.

The truth is – I have no big plan to reveal here. No secret to all this. Nothing. I don’t know why some of my friends have gotten divorced and remarried two years later and I’m on year 15 of still looking. I just don’t get it. But here’s what I do know:

I know my worth. I know what I will and won’t tolerate, and you should too. You do this by discovering who you are. As a Christian, I found out what I believe about Jesus and I attach my identity to him.

Therefore I will not tolerate nor participate in this swipe right dating world. I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Not some dude’s selfish version of it.

I won’t subject myself to bad dates (ask me about the time I was on a date and started choking at the restaurant and my date pulled his water close to his chest and refused to let me have it, even as I turned red and tears streamed down my face from trying to catch a breath). Yep – I win on the worst date.

I’ve also had good dates that just didn’t work out. You’re looking for the one for you. There ARE great men out there.

I have no solutions other than to know your worth and wait for the one who treats you like you’re special. And don’t give up.

Just a note on narrowing down your choices: the one you ultimately choose is not just your head of household, he is also your children’s head of household. Moms, ask yourself before you date anyone: would I let my daughter date him?

I do have one request: Whether you’re married or single, if you know someone over 35 who is in this dating cycle – please stick close to them. Sisters – we need each other. Friday and Saturday nights are hard for all the single ladies. We need prayer. We need to have good, clean fun, and we need to support each other.

My challenge to my single sisters – uninstall that dating app and come to Karaoke with me on Saturday night or find some friends to hang with. Your heart will thank you for it.

Posted in family, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Minutes or Moments?

180731_170208_collage-11755689728.jpgA new dad waiting for his first baby to be born understands the value of a minute.
A new dad hearing that baby’s first cry understands the value of a moment.

Lately I’ve been pondering the difference between minutes and moments.

I don’t know about at your house, but at my house we seem to talk about time – a lot. It’s time for bed! Time to get up! Hurry up! Time’s a wastin’. Bathtime! Dinnertime. Storytime. Time out. Time’s up!

In the Beginning…

In my cover-to-cover trek through the Bible I’ve just finished reading Genesis and Exodus. The first concept introduced in Genesis, besides God as Creator, is time. Time is necessary. Its parameters were among the first set in motion in the beginning. By the end of the first chapter, the first 6 days have occurred. Ask my 10-year-old what happens in Genesis chapter 1 and he’ll surmise that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and he rested on the 7th.

Ask my poet’s heart and I’ll tell you that the first chapter takes much longer than a week to ponder. Why? Because I stop and wonder what it was like to bow in reverence at that first sunrise. I want to grab a blanket and go sit in an open field and marvel at the sea of stars overhead. I want to be there as the first waves tumbled to the shore. I want to see the dolphins jump and hear the wolves howl. My heart wants to savor every single moment.

So why don’t I? Why don’t I savor each moment? Why do I waste so much life enslaved to my planner when I could be living and doing and savoring?

A New Approach

My end-goal for this blog is not another 350 words on a page that take up more of your time. My end-goal is that we approach life in a new way.

Let’s savor our moments.

A collection of moments makes up a beautiful life. Don’t miss a single one. Be present.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word

Don’t Read This Blog, Please

It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.

But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:

  • I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
  • I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
  • No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.

So let me back up and set the scene.

Broken Lives

In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.

In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.

It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.

I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):

Separated is still married. 

We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.

This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.

We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.

So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.

Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.

And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.

I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.

Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.

Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.

Faithful in Prayer

I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.

I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.

I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?

So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”

That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.

If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5

Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.

Lord, how do I restore her heart?

Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.

I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.

And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.

As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.

It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.

To this day  – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”

Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:

  1. This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
  2. Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
  3. If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.

If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.

So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.

And I am forever changed.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!