Posted in healing, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Girl, Lift Your Face

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I look in the mirror in the mornings. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women usually did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why she was there alone. She felt shame. She was hiding.

Hiding from other women. From society. From her soiled reputation.

Guilt will always point out what I’ve done (which is healthy), but shame sneaks in and replaces my own name.

Hello, my name is (fill-in-the-blank).

  • Adulteress
  • Fat girl
  • Single Mom
  • Divorced
  • Lonely
  • Heart-broken
  • Insecure
  • Flawed
  • Unwanted
  • Ugly
  • Annoying
  • Unworthy
  • Useless
  • Stupid
  • Unlovable

Has shame ever replaced your name with something else?

It has replaced every one of the above names for my name at times throughout my life.

So there she was – sneaking away to get water, and that’s when she met Jesus – the man who would change the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m (fill-in-the-blank).” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

How many times over the past 16 years have I been asked to go get my husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows I don’t have one? By a mean girl? I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of my trembling mouth. My eyes glance down, or away.
I, I… have no husband. He left me for someone else he got pregnant.

Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”

Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here.

Can I just be honest? Every time I read this story I put myself in her place, but I imagine Jesus’ answer to me would be more like, “You’re right – since your husband left you’ve had 2 other women’s husbands and 2 boyfriends you let act like a husband.”

The fact that Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life always astounds me. He did this same thing for me when I was in a similar place as that woman.

Forgiveness heals.

I want to address something else shame has done to me over the years. Because I was sexually assaulted, shame has said I’m damaged – permanently.

I hope you’ve never endured a sexual assault of any kind, but something tells me someone reading right now either has or knows someone who has.

It was not your fault. It wasn’t.

Shame likes to whisper that it was. Shame likes to whisper that if I just wouldn’t have opened the door it wouldn’t have happened.

That’s a lie.

Girl, lift your face.

Enter Jesus who replaced my name with who he says I am.

My name is:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Righteousness
  • Beautiful
  • Daughter
  • Lovely
  • Loved
  • Lovable
  • Pure

The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus gave me back my hope and strength and dignity. And he wants to do the same for you.

I had to stop going back to the places I thought would give me the love I want so badly. It just made me thirsty for more so I just kept going back.

But I was never satisfied, because that was not love.

My Jesus met me where I was – even though I was trying to hide my shame from everyone. He gave me all the love I’ll ever want.

Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh darling, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity. THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes, I absolutely do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Drink up, sister. Drink deeply of His love. Nothing else will ever satisfy.

Hello, my name is: Melissa, Loved, Beautiful, Hand-crafted, Adored, Poetess, Daughter of God.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Lookin’ For Love

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I mentor single moms. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why: shame.
She was hiding.

From other women. From society. From her shame.

That’s when she met Jesus – the man who would alter the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m detestable.” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

Single momma, how many times have you been asked to go get your husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows you don’t have one? By a mean girl? You know what this feels like. I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of your trembling mouth. Your eyes glance down, or away.
“I, I… have no husband.”
Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here. I’d be willing to bet more than one of the 5 wasn’t her own husband, but someone else’s husband. Just keeping it real.
But Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life. He did for me when I was that woman.

Forgiveness heals. You. The other person. It heals.

I know this hits more than single moms, but that’s who is on my mind today.

Girl, lift up your face.
I’ve done worse than you. Don’t believe me? Sit down for coffee with me one day. I’m not afraid to tell you about my past anymore because it does not own me. But hearing about it might just set you free.
Because if God can know my heart the way it was, forgive me anyway, give me a new heart, and offer me forgiveness and fill me up with love, He can and will for you too.
The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus wants to give you back your hope and strength and dignity.
Drink deeply of His Word.
You keep going back to the places you know will give you the love you want so badly, but you get thirsty again and just have to keep going back. And truth be told, you do the walk of shame all the way there and all the way home. Because it’s not love.

Enter Jesus.

He’s waiting to meet you and give you all the love you’ll ever want. Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity and THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes I do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Now a man who loves Jesus and drinks deeply from His love, I’ll walk with THAT guy forever and five days.

Seriously: drink up, sister.

You’ll never thirst for love again once you’ve had the real thing.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love, Writing

One heart. Many faces.

I made a huge mistake at work today. To be fair, it’s my first week of actually doing my job and I’m still onboarding. But the impact of this was far-reaching.

I control 2 email inboxes from the same email account. One is my personal company email. The other is my team’s email. I was tasked with sending our team’s newsletter out to 500+ call center agents and managers from our team’s email. I made the newsletter, hit send, and waited for it to arrive in my personal inbox (since I fall within the recipient list).

It arrived. But it was NOT from the team email. It came from my personal account.

Audible gasp.

My breath caught. My lungs seized. My heart chugged deep and slow like the 2am train that runs through town. People who matter would see my mistake.

Got me thinking though. How many times in life do I live duplicitously?

How many sides can there be?

Work me. Home me. Friend me. Inner circle me. Church me. Mom me.

And how many times have I been caught saying something that must sound strange to an audience who either knows a different side of me, or who knows me better?

I used to be this way more than now. Now I try to always just aim for being real.

I find that this throws people off though.

I’m an encourager. I just am.

But when I struggle nowadays, and people read it in my blog or on my social media pages, they’re like…”that’s the girl who is always up. Why is SHE struggling?” And my private message box fills up with concerns.

Here’s the thing:

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

I’m gonna repeat that in case someone missed it.

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

Fallen is my natural state.

But see, now when I fail and when I fall, I get excited. Not right away. Not till I dust off my knees and clean up my wounds. But eventually I get excited.

Not for me. I get excited for others.

Because now I can see when someone else is about to fall in that same pit and I can say…”HEY! YOU! THERE’S A HUGE PIT RIGHT THERE.”

And if they fall anyway, I get to say…”Here’s my hand…let’s get you get back up. Keep going.”

So when I broadcast on social media what my inner circle already knows I’m struggling with, people aren’t ready for it. They’re ready for more encouragement. More happy.

But conversely, my inner circle probably rolls collective eyes when they see me broadcast supergirl encouragement when I just blew up our group or private chats with how I cried myself to sleep for the fifth time this week.

But what I understand is – I learn and grow best by struggling, being transparent, and getting back up.

I really do possess the capacity to walk beside people who have hurt me. And this is because I have been forgiven much, and have been loved much – so I am quick to forgive much, and quick to love much.

My teammates at work expected to see that weekly newsletter from the team, not the new-hire.

But at the end of the day (after I recalled the email and had another team member send it correctly) I realized that all the information I sent was correct.

And that’s the point. If you’re correct in what you say and how you live, you don’t have to worry about who sees or hears you.

Side note: it wasn’t my fault after all – my email lacks a setting that allows me to send anything from the team.

I’ll put in a ticket to IT on Monday.

Y’all have a great weekend.

Live with integrity.

One heart. One voice.

Life is short. Love well.

I love you.

Posted in Life Lessons, Word

Startled – What is This?

What is This?

You’re sitting there, tears falling over freshly dried tears, wondering how on earth you got to this place. Whatever your this is, it feels like hell. It feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. Maybe you’ve done everything right. Maybe you’ve done everything wrong. I’ve been on both sides of the right or the wrong of the “this.”

Whatever happened, this was nowhere in the original plan. Whatever happened, you’ve been finally, fully startled awake.

My THIS List:

Here is my lifetime “this” list (so far):

  • Divorce
  • Sexual assault
  • Financial ruin
  • Being cheated on
  • Being deceived
  • Deceiving others
  • Facing Cancer
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members
  • Almost losing a child to suicide
  • Losing a ministry
  • Being in an abusive relationship

That’s the short list.

Moving Forward

I was talking with a friend recently and he gave me some amazing advice that I want to pass along.

  • People change only when there are no more options.
  • Start forgiving right now so you can start to heal. Don’t wait.
  • Move on.

My Dad always taught me that I need to:

  • “face reality squarely,” (Job 38)
  • “live a life that pleases God,” (Colossians 1:10), and
  • “separate the precious from the worthless.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

So I’m suggesting that right this minute you should begin to sift through the rubble, call it what it is – rubble, own your part in what happened, retrieve the precious, and walk away from the worthless.

I’ve learned by experience (mostly by falling on my face) that the Lord really does work all things for my good because he has called me according to his purpose and I’ve tried to live my life with a “yes, Lord” posture. (Romans 8:28)

Sift. Separate. Own your part. Pray. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it quickly. Ask God “what’s next?”. Move forward.

This, too, really shall pass. But you’ve got to get up out of the rubble.

And if you need to talk, my ears are always open and I’m always up for some good conversation over a skinny vanilla latte.

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!