Redneck Princess

I am a Redneck Princess.

Let me tell you a little about myself and my family. My Grandpa was born in 1911. He was the oldest of seven boys (bless my great grandmother’s heart). Because he was the oldest, he was basically the ranch foreman—responsible for looking out for all of his younger brothers and making sure everyone got their farm chores finished. It was a vital role for a poor farm family. Everyone had to do their part or they went hungry.

My grandfather was blessed with the opportunity to go to college. He earned a degree in math education and became a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. He eventually went on to earn a Master’s degree in school administration and was a principal for many years. That’s how he supported my grandmother and my dad.

In addition to teaching, my grandpa continued to farm—and my dad was his labor. The money he earned farming and selling insurance was his investment money. He made some very wise decisions with his money.

Dad is the only surviving child. He didn’t have all those brothers and sisters to help him on the farm. But, he continued to help my grandpa well into my childhood. I remember taking two weeks every May, and all six of us would stay in this little two room farmhouse. Dad would work the fields all day. I remember vividly riding the big red tractor with my daddy! Great memories of together time…

Eventually, Grandpa retired from farming. However, farm life was deeply instilled in my dad. Our lives bear the imprint of that upbringing. We grew up with a huge garden (I had never eaten store bought green beans until college). My mom canned produce all summer. We had the best homemade jelly (chigger plum jelly…mmmm).

We also had a very outdoorsy kind of life. I was my Dad’s little fishing buddy for years. Our vacations were spent at the lake, water-skiing and fishing. I can still remember sitting out in the boat in the middle of the lake as the sun set beyond the horizon. I would find myself moved by the beauty of God’s creation surrounding me. We would quietly begin to sing the old hymns that were burned deep within my soul. For me, the lake is the perfect place to worship God, the creative Creator.

Although I never went, my dad taught my brother to hunt from the time he was a small child (forgive me if you are against hunting…it’s a religious activity here in Oklahoma). Every weekend during deer season, my dad and brother would load up and head out. Those times together forged a strong bond between them. And, it also helped ensure that my brother stayed out of trouble. When other teens were getting into trouble on the weekends, he was out in the woods with our dad.

Now, I must tell you that somewhere along the way I lost that part of me. When I was married, my husband wanted no part of the outdoors, so I kind of just gave it up. I chose to put my upbringing behind me because he wasn’t interested, and I changed myself to enjoy whatever he enjoyed (OU football and movies). While I enjoyed those things too, I truly gave up a huge part of myself, sacrificing who God created me to be to support him in his endeavors.

As my marriage began to unravel, I traveled down to the farm to stay with my then 97-year-old grandpa. He was still amazingly spry at the time, and there was NO place he loved more than his farm. I loaded up my kids and my grandpa, and we drove out to the land. I started all three 4-wheelers, and the kids and I took off flying across the pastures. As the wind whipped through my hair and I saw the unbelievable joy on my kids’ faces, I suddenly came face-to-face with the truth: I did not know who I was any more. I made a decision that day to rediscover who I am, who God created me to be.

And, the truth is that I have farmer blood coursing through my veins. I recognize it every morning when I wake up before the sun comes up without an alarm (oh how I wish I could sleep past 5:30 just on weekends!). I see it as I find myself reduced to tears as the sun sets over the lake. I find it as my mouth begins to water, anticipating the savory taste of home-grown fruits and vegetables. I know it when there’s a fresh catch of fish frying. It is a part of who I am.

However, I also have a very feminine side. I can’t stand to see an animal shot (but I am mourning the last package of deer meat). My idea of camping must involve air conditioning and indoor plumbing. I love to fish as long as someone else baits my hook and takes the fish off. And, a broken nail is a call for emergency medical treatment.

There is a true battle that wages within me. There’s the part that battles to be a redneck, while my fierce princess alter-ego begs to be at the forefront.

But, I’m a single mom…

What does that have to do with anything, you might ask? I am a single mom of two boys. One of my boys is passionate about hunting and fishing; that farmer blood is obviously genetic. He carefully studies the hunting seasons, and he can tell you when opening day is for deer, turkey, and dove. If there is a season, he is ready to go! And, he loves to eat his wild game! One day, he came home from the neighbor’s house as I was finishing dinner. I asked him if he was ready to eat, and he informed me that he had already eaten squirrel with the neighbor. Squirrel is a rodent. Rodents are meant to be killed…but not eaten. You see my princess side coming out?

Anyway, my Cole is a passionate outdoorsman. Since dove season opened September 1, he has pointed out every single dove in the county. He can spot one a mile away! There is no father in the house to take him to do these outdoor activities. Normally, my dad, brother, sister, and brother-in-law are great about taking my boys out. But, this weekend they weren’t available…and Cole was desperate to go dove hunting.

Super single mom to the rescue!

If I were still married, I would have pushed it to the side and told his dad to go with him. However, that was not an option. So, I took up the challenge to take my boy hunting (with the supervision of the neighbor and his teenage son).

Saturday morning, I got up and showered and fixed my hair. I went to the nail salon because my nails were an absolute mess! (You should see them…hot pink with sparkles!) With freshly manicured hands and pedicured toes, I threw on my new camo shirt, my camo boots (with hot pink trim). I put my hair in a hot pink ponytail holder and carefully put my camo (with hot pink) hat on my head. Then, we loaded up the ammo and guns and made the two hour drive to the farm.

Redneck princess on the grounds!

We drove around the land looking for the perfect location. Between the boys and the neighbor, they decided on the old home place (where my dad and grandparents had lived). We stopped and began to pack the ammo in bags. With guns loaded and safety reminders stated, the two boys began the trek across the plowed ground. As the neighbor and I kept a careful eye on them, shots began to pierce the stillness of the evening. We could see the absolute joy and excitement in their faces as birds began to fall from the sky.

I didn’t hunt (although I carried my pistol in case I should encounter a rattler—I think I could handle killing a rattlesnake). But, I was there with my son. I had the joy of watching him drop his first dove. I had the joy of interacting with him in his favorite place. I had the joy of watching him grow from a young boy to a confident young man. I heard the excitement in his voice as he knew that he was killing his own food. Lets’ face it…men were created as conquerors, hunters, providers. He was conquering his prey and providing food for his family. He was on cloud 9!

While I have never been that interested in hunting, I am so thankful that I went—and I have determined to go hunting more. I’m not excited about sitting out in a deer stand when it is twenty degrees outside, patiently waiting for a deer to happen by. I’m not excited about shooting an animal as exquisite as the deer. But I am excited about entering my son’s world. I am excited about sharing with him in his passion. I am excited about stepping into his world, nurturing his passions, allowing that redneck blood to keep flowing to the next generation.

But you better believe that I’ll have my nails done first!

My position as single mom has placed me in a situation where I am far more willing to stretch myself, to try new things outside my comfort zone. It forces me to interact with my kids in activities that I have never cared about. Their passions are not the same as mine. But, I don’t want to make the mistake of allowing these days to pass me by without entering their worlds. I want to be the mom who steps in, actively participates, encourages and nurtures their pursuits.

I guess it’s now time to hit the basketball court with my oldest. Just hope I don’t break a nail…

To Reconcile…Or Not (Part 2)

As I said, I am going to attempt to dive a little deeper into this topic. I have written and rewritten this post multiple times in the last few days. To be honest, I’ve gone from downright angry to attempting to be firm yet gracious. I only hope that comes across in my words.

Since I began writing about my divorce, I have been repeatedly faced with criticisms about choosing divorce. I have been told that if I remarry, I will be living in adultery and therefore condemned to hell. I have been told that the only option is to stand in the gap for my now ex-husband as long as it takes until he repents. I have been told that because I made a covenant before God and man to this individual, it holds until death do we part—regardless of the circumstances surrounding our divorce.

I have several problems with this particular viewpoint, however.

  1. It heaps guilt and shame upon those of us who, for whatever reason, have experienced the hurt, pain, and shame of divorce. Always remember that Satan comes to shame, blame, and condemn; the Holy Spirit comes to lovingly convict and correct.
  2. This interpretation of scripture is only one view. Holding to this view and forcing it upon everyone is forcing man-made religion upon people and discounting the personal relationship that we are afforded with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.
  3. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. We win others into the Kingdom by the love we show, not be forcing a questionable and judgmental doctrine upon others.
  4. It is hard enough for us as divorced individuals to muster the courage to walk through the doors of a church alone; if we experience condemnation and shame, it is a sure way to get us to turn our backs on the one thing—Jesus Christ—who can heal us, put us back together, and use our painful circumstances for our good and his glory.

When I learned of my husband’s adultery, I offered forgiveness. However, that forgiveness was rejected as he continued in his hard-heartedness, continued in his relationship with the other woman. While I was fighting to keep my marriage together, he was choosing to live in unrepentant sexual immorality. I learned that it only takes one person to walk away from a marriage; however, it takes two people, fully committed to God and to working through issues, to keep a marriage together. In my case, I could not save my marriage alone.

It took me a year, many amazing Christian advisors and counselors, and many tears and agonizing prayers to walk away. When you enter marriage with a forever mindset… When you never thought or uttered the word divorce… When you gave your all to a marriage only to be rejected… When you never wanted anything more than to have a marriage that goes the distance… When you longed to be like your grandparents who were married for 72 years… There is no way to express how difficult it is to hear God whispering, “It’s ok to walk away.”

But, I did hear those words.

In that instant, I was free! In that instant, I knew that I had done everything I could do. In that instant, I knew that God had given me the freedom to walk away, that he had set me free from the covenant.

Over the years, I have struggled with guilt and shame. What if I had prayed more? What if I had stayed longer? What if I’d had more faith? The truth is, only God knows. My personal opinion is that God knew my husband was not going to repent and therefore he set me free. He came so that we might know the truth and the truth would set us free (John 8:32). He does not want us to live our lives in bondage, and I was in a place of bondage.

Now is where it gets sticky.

I believe with all my heart that God set me free from my marriage. If God set me free, no one has the right to tell me that I am bound to my husband until one of us dies. However, there is a mindset that would say divorce is never allowed for a Christian. But, it is only one interpretation of scripture.

There are black and white issues in scripture. Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Love God. Love others. Show mercy. Give generously. There are no exceptions to these commands.

Then there are gray areas, areas in which even the experts cannot reach complete agreement. It is completely clear that God’s perfect plan was one man and woman for life. However, he gave an exception in the case of sexual immorality. Paul gave an exception in the case of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Moses permitted a certificate of divorce. Was it ever God’s preferred, perfect will? Never! But, God recognizes that we live in a fallen world where hearts can become hardened toward him. Therefore, he gave exceptions.

Briefly, I am going to provide some reading material for you.

I found this article on Crosswalk.com, and it resonated so well with me!

This link was sent to me by a reader encouraging me to stand on the permanence of my marriage, purporting that I must remain faithful to my now ex-husband.

This article provides an overview of the different views of marriage and divorce and gives some examples of when divorce may be allowed.

Here’s an interesting article about God’s own divorce from the northern kingdom of Israel.

Another article from Crosswalk.com that discusses biblical reasons for divorce.

These articles represent some vastly different views on marriage and divorce as it relates to the Christian. But, let me start by pointing out one similarity: Each article is written by a student of scripture, one who has studied deeply and has a much greater understanding than I do. And therein lies my biggest issue: Even the scholars cannot agree on the interpretation of scripture on this subject. Any time there is a gray area in scripture, I believe God would call us to extend a significant amount of grace and mercy rather than cast judgment and try to force others to accept our interpretation of scripture.

While we all agree that God’s perfect design was for a lifetime commitment, we live in a fallen world. Unfortunately, sin abounds. Many of us did not want our divorce, but we were not given an option in the situation. Our spouses abandoned us—some physically, some emotionally. We might have been victims of abuse (it doesn’t have to be physical abuse). Some were married to non-Christians who chose to walk away (the Bible addresses that one, too).

If you come to me and say, “I believe God is calling me to stand in the gap in prayer for my now ex-husband,” I am going to rejoice with you! I will stand beside you and encourage you every step of the way. I will be on my knees in prayer for you, your spouse each and every day. I will offer you every word of encouragement that I possibly can.

However, if you come to me and tell me that I need to be standing in the gap for my ex-husband, praying for reconciliation, I will call Pharisee. To try to take one interpretation of scripture and put it on me discounts my walk with Christ, all of the time I have spent on my knees in prayer seeking him. It discounts everything that he has spoken directly to my soul through scripture, through his people, through my own relationship with him. It sets me back in my walk, in my journey, as I have struggled through overcoming the guilt and condemnation already heaped upon me by the Accuser of the Brethren and by fellow Christians.

To insist that there is only one right interpretation of these scriptures—whether it is praying for reconciliation or the divorce is allowed interpretation—is the height of pride and arrogance. It reeks of Pharisaism. You see, the Pharisees were known for taking the scriptures, putting their interpretation on them, and holding everyone to their man-made rules for following scripture. They put themselves in the place of God—judging everyone by their outward actions, their adherence to their interpretation of scripture. While they were looking at outward appearance, only God has the right or the ability to look within and judge our hearts.

Let’s go just a step further. What did Jesus have to say about the religious leaders who stood in judgment over the people? He said they were like white-washed sepulchers, clean on the outside but dead on the inside. “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8). People who try to hold you to a specific interpretation of scripture in a gray area are clinging to a man-made tradition rather than to God.

And yet, how did Jesus respond to sinners? To the woman caught in adultery, he refused to condemn her. Instead, in his grace and mercy, he set her free and told her to go and sin no more (John 8). His best friends were the sinners and tax collectors—the lowest of the low. He spent his time with the outcasts, the downtrodden. It was the prostitutes who lavished him with love because they understood the depth of his forgiveness. It was the sick who flocked to him, knowing they needed his healing. It was the dead that he raised back to new life.

What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? To love God and to love your neighbor (Matthew 22. And, BTW, this statement was in response to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him.)

How about the Old Testament? What about the scripture that says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God“ (Micah 6:8).

So…what is the answer?

  1. Love God with all your heart. If you are doing your best to walk closely to Him, the Holy Spirit will guide you on the path he has for you. No one can determine that path in the gray areas except you in communion with the Spirit. Perhaps he will lead you to stand in the gap for your wayward spouse/ex-spouse. If so, stand strong in faith! Perhaps, however, he will set you free as he did for me. Hold your head high, knowing that you are approved by God even when others try to convince you that their way is right.
  2. Love your neighbor. There will be those who continue to try to turn you to a particular interpretation of scripture. While you should be strong, you can do so with love and not condemnation. I have been the object of insults because I disagreed with the stance others took. I try to never stoop to the level of hurling insults. I always try to take the high road. But, this road sometimes means a firm, strong stand (as I said, I have been accused of pride and anger).
  3. Always, always, always err on the side of grace and mercy. I have been in a church service when the pastor referred to “divorced people.” I felt myself horrified and humiliated. I remember thinking—even saying—that if my faith had not been so strong, if I had been someone going through divorce looking for love and acceptance and help, I would have never, never, never stepped back into a church building. We as Christians tend to be known more for what we are against than being known for our love. We are guilty of keeping others away from Christ by our religious talk and our judgmental attitudes. I don’t want to be guilty of scaring others away. Jesus said others will know we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:34-35). I want my love for others to draw people to Christ.
  4. Never let anyone heap guilt and condemnation upon you. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He comes to steal your peace. He comes to throw guilt and condemnation upon you. He wants you to suffer, to think that you will never be able to be used for God’s kingdom again because of your divorce (or whatever is in your past). However, the Holy Spirit never condemns, never throws guilt at you. The Holy Spirit comes to convict, to show you the error of your ways, to draw you back to himself. If you are suffering guilt and condemnation, it is not from God. If you are walking with him, doing your best to live in obedience, your sins have been thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

While I am not angry with anyone who tries to convince me that I must cling to the hope of reconciliation, I refuse to accept that there is anyone who can say with 100% certainty that he/she has the correct interpretation of these scripture. I have made the decision that I have the Holy Spirit living within me. He is here to direct me, to guide me, to lead me into all truth. I stand today knowing that he has led me to this place where I am free from my ex-husband. Why this path is the one he chose, I may never fully understand. But, I know I stand redeemed in the eyes of my Savior.

And, I live for an audience of The One. His opinion of me is the only one that matters.

Just a few quick thoughts…

Hi, Friends!

I usually post mid-week. However, my plans have changed this week. Let me give you a quick update on what’s going on around here in Oklahoma.

First, if you have emailed me or commented on a post, please be patient! Let me assure you that I have read each comment and email, I have cried with you, I have prayed over you. And, I will respond as soon as I can. Between particularly busy work weeks, three kids with orthodontic/post-op/strep throat appointments, and an unusually high volume of emails and comments, I am simply running way behind. You all are precious to me! The way you open your hearts to me, pour out your hurts and concerns, ask for my opinion… I am absolutely blown away. My heart breaks for you, it rejoices with you. I long to be able to sit with each of you, wrap my arms around you as you weep over broken hearts and broken relationships. I rejoice with those who have found their way back to peace, to those who have the joy of seeing God’s redeeming power. My heart is full…

Second, here is a link to my most recent article at Crosswalk. It has obviously struck a chord with many. I hope that you can see how God chooses us for trials because of the work he has for us, because of the perfecting of our faith that he wants to accomplish in us. I will never forget the day I came to understand that I was chosen for this assignment. Somehow, it completely changed my mindset and put me on the road toward healing. While God doesn’t want any of us to experience the pain and hurt of divorce, he does allow it…and he allows it so that we can be changed into his image.

Finally, as I said, I have received an overwhelming number of emails/comments about my recent post on “To Reconcile…Or Not.” While most have been overwhelmingly positive… While I have had so many people tell me how much comfort they found in my words…. While many have told me that they are at peace in their circumstances for the first time in many years… I have also had my share of stones hurled at me. It is often covered in love and concern for me, but it is a judgmental and critical spirit that holds to one specific interpretation of difficult scriptures. I would really like to take some time to dive more deeply into this topic. I have been accused of being blinded by pride and anger. While I know I am not perfect by any means, while I know that pride is something I must fight, I will stand and firmly defend myself from these attacks because I know the battle I have fought to overcome guilt and condemnation. It’s a fierce battle that is not easily won, and I refuse to let anyone steal my peace, joy, and hope.

Anger? I initially said no, I’m not angry. But, to be honest, I am. I have a fierce and righteous anger welling up inside of me. It is burning deep within as I am faced with critical spirits and judgmental attitudes. I am angry that my fellow Christians who have suffered unbelievable hurt and pain at the hands of a spouse would also face more hurt and pain at the hands of Christians. Granted, these individuals mean well. But, we must always be careful when we believe that our way is the only right way.

With that said, I would like to take some time to put together another post on some of the interpretations of scriptures dealing with divorce. However, it will take me some time (hopefully not more than a couple of days…if no more children drop to strep throat…). I will give you one quick hint: where there is a gray area in scripture (and there are multiple interpretations of these passages), I will always err on the side of grace and mercy and love.

Until I can get back with you, be blessed. Know that someone cares. Know that you are in my prayers. Know that just as God promises to be close to the broken-hearted, I am close to you in my spirit.

To Reconcile…Or Not

Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

“Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” Matthew 19:3-9

I find it interesting that this discussion came from a question designed to trap Jesus. Obviously, marriage and divorce were an important dilemma in Jesus’ culture. While God says in Malachi 2 that he hates divorce, if you read the context you find that God hates the actions of the unfaithful spouse—that the unfaithful spouse is heaping violence upon her (v 16).

Although Moses permitted divorce, Jesus elevated the importance of marriage. He stated that divorce should only be reserved for cases of adultery. Arguments can be made from scripture that there are other biblical reasons, including abandonment and abuse. It’s a tough and touchy subject with views that range from never divorce and never remarry to we are covered by grace.

I recently received an email from a reader encouraging me to stand in the gap in prayer for my ex-husband, praying faithfully that I might be reconciled to him. While I believe the heart is right, I sometimes feel as if some people are simply trying to trap me. I know that I will never convince them to see my point of view, and therefore I refuse to argue. But, let me share why I take the stand I do.

I believe strongly in the covenant of marriage. When I stood before God and man and pledged my life to my husband, I meant it with every ounce of my being. Divorce was never a word that entered my vocabulary. It simply was not an option.

Until it was…

I endured much throughout my seventeen year marriage. Without going into all of the private details, I will simply say that I was in a one-sided marriage. I did my best to stand strong, to love, to support, to encourage. But, in the end, he chose to break the covenant that we had made to God and one another.

When I first spoke to the divorce attorney, I told her that it was of utmost importance that my divorce was granted on biblical grounds: adultery. It was the only way that I could walk away from my marriage. When the attorney told me that I would need concrete evidence of his unfaithfulness, I pulled out a stack of emails. After a few seconds of reading, she set them aside and said, “We will file on the basis of adultery.”

Despite knowing that I had biblical grounds for divorce, it was a very difficult decision for me to walk away from a commitment, a covenant that I had made. But, I knew that I walked away having done everything I possibly could to keep my marriage together. I walked away knowing that God had given me permission to leave the covenant.

There are those who believe that even though I had biblical grounds for marriage, I am not free to remarry. They believe that I should put my life on hold, praying fervently for my ex-husband’s repentance and reconciliation.

I do pray regularly for my ex-husband. I do pray that he will experience the fullness of God’s grace and mercy. I pray that he will grow into the amazing man and father that God created him to be, the one that I once saw buried deep inside of him. I pray that he will fully surrender to God’s life-changing power, that he will allow God to do an amazing work in him so he can do an amazing work through him. I pray that all of the gifts and talents that he possesses will be used mightily for the Kingdom of God.

But I do not pray for reconciliation.

I believe that some are called to stand in the gap for their unfaithful spouses, to pray for reconciliation as long as is necessary. They represent God’s amazing power to resurrect a marriage from death to life again. And God gets the glory!

If God has told you to faithfully stand in prayer for your spouse—even if you are already divorced—then I am the first to say, “Do exactly what God has called you to do!” Trust God to do a work that you could never even conceive, something you could never ask or imagine. Cling to his promise to resurrect your marriage and allow you to be an example to the world around you of what God can do in a marriage.

But, perhaps you are like me. Perhaps your spouse has been unfaithful or abandoned you. Perhaps you have walked away, believing with all your heart that God set you free from the covenant you made with God and your spouse. You do not sense God calling you to hold to reconciliation. Instead, you believe—as I do—that God freed you from that covenant. You hear God reassuring you that he has an amazing future for you—without your former spouse.

Stand strong, and hold your head high! When others throw stones and try to condemn you for not praying for reconciliation, know that you are not alone. Know that you are covered by the grace of God, the blood of Christ Jesus. Know that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and the Holy Spirit comes only to gently and lovingly convict you of sin. If you feel guilt and condemnation, it is not from God.

While I longed to be one of the marriages that was resurrected, that has not been the reality for me. For whatever reason, my ex-husband did not choose to surrender. The conflict between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will may forever be a mystery to me.

But, what I know is that God needs some of us whose marriages did not survive so that we can minister to others in our situation. While I never would have chosen this journey, I would also never go back to the way things were. God can use my divorce for his glory just like he can use those marriages that have been resurrected from the dead.

I may never fully understand why God chose this path for me, but I will be faithful to use it for his glory—to allow him to use it to mold me in his image, to build my faith, to minister to others.

I will never apologize for the path I am traveling because I am doing my best to follow my Savior.

And therein lies the key: get so close to the Savior that you can know what he is calling you to. Is he calling you to faithfully seek reconciliation? Then fervently pray that direction. Has he set you free from your covenant? Then walk forward with joy, in anticipation of an abundant future, and the confident reassurance that you are approved by God.

Lord Jesus, I know there are many suffering from the guilt that is often heaped upon our heads. I pray that you would give each one strength and confidence, reassurance from you that they are approved. I pray that they would see how you can use their situation—whatever it may look like—for your glory if they will only surrender. Help them to walk so closely to you that there is not a doubt as to the path they should take. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Live Out Loud!

My house is loud!

At the moment, I am enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet. My kids are with their dad, so it is just me, my music playing quietly in the background, and the dog lying at my feet. But, on a normal day, my house gets loud and rowdy!

With a teenage boy, a near-teen boy, a tween girl, a dog, and a puppy, my home is a revolving door. All of the neighborhood teen boys (about five in addition to my own) consider this house a second home. I frequently find basketball games in my driveway even when my kids aren’t home. A few days ago, one of the neighborhood boys was sitting at my dining room table as I cooked dinner. He had come down for help with his algebra homework. I joked with his dad that I was a one-stop shop: hit Dena’s house for friendship, food, basketball, tutoring. (I even found his dirty socks on my kitchen counter recently! Ugh! Definitely a second home!)

And, when the average number of children in my house at any given time is around seven, I GUARANTEE that my house gets loud! Really loud!

The ironic thing is that I am the quiet, reserved, calm one in my family of origin. My siblings are all far more extraverted than I am; I would never choose to be on a stage. I am perfectly happy to sit in the peace and quiet, soak up the beauty around me, let others take center-stage. While my daughter will choose the most flamboyant outfit she can simply so she can thrust herself into the spotlight, I would much rather choose a simple, classic look so I don’t draw attention to myself. I can easily blend into the background and be perfectly happy. I like the security of being with an out-going person so that I don’t have the pressure of carrying the conversation, of jumping into the middle of the action. I can simply ride someone else’s coattails.

I am a simple, quiet girl from Oklahoma. I grew up as the smart girl, the bookworm, class valedictorian, editor of the yearbook. I was too terrified to put myself out there and do something crazy like try out for cheerleader. I avoided the party scene because it was uncomfortable to be in the middle of the action. I preferred solitude, peace, a degree of anonymity.

Yet God has called me to live my life out loud!

Live out loud! The words seem to be constantly echoing through my mind. Live out loud! Be an open book. Live out loud! Let the world see your heartbreak and pain. Live out loud! Show the world the power that God has to restore a broken life.

As I attempt to follow God’s path for my life, I find myself thrust into the limelight—the most uncomfortable place in the world for someone with my quiet personality. I wonder how in the world I ended up on a radio show discussing the most painful event of my life, sharing the most intimate betrayal with an audience. I wonder how I ended up writing for an international audience at crosswalk.com. I wonder how (and why) I have a blog with the most wonderful and devoted readers possible.

I’ve been told repeatedly that my openness and vulnerability are what make my blog what it is, the things that draw people to me. Ironically, my gut reaction when I learned about my husband’s infidelity was to hide. I put on a mask and went about my life as if everything was still perfect. I hid my hurt and pain from my family and those closest to me. I pretended that I was ok.

But I wasn’t.

It wasn’t until I opened my life to others and let them love me that I began to see a bright future. It wasn’t until I was willing to admit that I was powerless to handle this pain on my own that I began to find the strength to move forward. It wasn’t until I allowed other believers to surround me and hold me up in my darkest and most difficult days that I began to be able to walk, then run, into the amazing future God has for me. It wasn’t until I opened my heart to others that my heart was able to begin healing.

I never want to wear the mask again. I want others to know that it’s ok to hurt, it’s ok to not be perfect. I want others to know that someone understands, that someone has walked the difficult path and survived. I want others to know that there is an abundant life waiting for them when they get through the darkness. I want others to know that what Satan meant for evil, God will use for good!

I want to live my life out loud, shout it from a mountaintop that God is good—even when life is crashing all around you. I want the world to know that God has the power to resurrect a broken, hurting life and make it a beacon of light to the world around us! I want the world to know that the Great I Am is standing, waiting for the opportunity to step in and reveal his mighty power! I want the world to know that there is no hurt too deep, no pain too great, no betrayal too big to be transformed into a story of redemption! I want the world to know that there is a God who sees, a God who hears, and God who loves.

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10

Peter and John were going about their normal lives when they were interrupted. They were ready to pray, worship. They were leaders in the church, important, needed. But there was a man in need. He had spent his entire life crippled, broken, hurting. So they stopped. They spoke. They offered hope and healing to this lame man begging for help. They had something he needed, and they weren’t content to go about their day without reaching out to someone who needed God’s love.

Right there, before they offered their praise to God, they offered the healing power of God to another. Suddenly, the man who had never walked before was not just walking; he was running, he was jumping, and he was praising God. Peter and John knew that they had been called to live their lives out loud. They knew that God had entrusted them with a message for all the world. They knew that their words and prayers were only a small part of what God wanted from them. He wanted them to share this message, the healing power with a broken world around them.

And because Peter and John chose to live out loud, they showed others how to live out loud. This man was not quiet about the restoration he experienced. He was LOUD! He was shouting it from a mountain top! He wanted the world to know that he had once been sick, hopeless, broken. But now, because of the power of God, he was singing a new song. He had a brand new life with a bright future!

That’s how I feel. My life was broken, ruined. My heart was shredded, my dreams and future gone. But the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, those who reached out to love me and encourage me in the darkest days of my life, helped me see the Savior who was waiting for me. I’ve had such a remarkable change, seen such an amazing work in my life that I can’t quit shouting! I am living my life out loud! I am letting the world see how God picks up the pieces of a broken life and puts it together to make something beautiful. It might be vastly different from what I dreamed or imagined, but he promises it will be better than I could ever ask or imagine!

Are you hurting and in pain? Please don’t hide behind a mask, pretending that you are ok. Let others in. Let them lift you before the Father when you hurt so badly you can’t pray yourself. Admit your weakness because God promises that his strength is made perfect in our weakness. Has God done an amazing work in your life, carried you through difficult days of trial and tribulation? He didn’t pull you through so you could keep that story to yourself. Share it! Open up and be vulnerable! Someone out there needs to hear your story, to be encouraged by what God has done in you. He has given you a message that needs to be shared. Live out loud!

Some would argue that I’m sharing too much, too open. Some would say that the intimate details of betrayal should be kept quiet, that it’s not something to be shared publicly. But, the longer I write, the more I share, the more I live out loud, the more I find that others are waiting for someone to be open and vulnerable. Others need someone to say that it’s ok to be real. As a friend recently said, “Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.” It is my great pleasure to have you open up, share your hurts and fears with me. Our world is desperately in need of people who will be real, vulnerable, open. We as Christians need to get rid of the masks and let the world see that we aren’t perfect and don’t pretend to be. We are real humans who have the hope of brighter days because of our Savior! We need to live out loud in a world where other voices are drowning us out.

Join me today in living our lives out loud!

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Missed the show? This past Sunday, I was on The Sitting Room with Kathy Chiero discussing life after adultery. Missed the show? You can listen to it at http://sittingroomradio.com/

Going Live!!

Today at 5:00 EST/4:00CST at http://www.610wtvn.com, I will be live with Kathy Chiero in The Sitting Room. We will be discussing Life After Adultery. Shock, forgiveness, moving forward… Is it possible? Is there beauty after betrayal? How do we avoid becoming angry and bitter? How do we cling to hope that there are brighter days ahead?

What do I need from you? First, pray that God will speak through me. I don’t want to get in the way of what he has planned. Second, join us live online (or on the radio if you are in Ohio!). If you can’t listen today, I will post a link to the broadcast when it’s available.

Lord Jesus, you amaze me! How does a girl from Oklahoma end up where I am? How do you find me worthy to take these trials, hurts, and pains and create a ministry. My prayer today is simply that I might decrease so that you might increase, that you would let YOUR words flow from my mouth. I only want to be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to you, prepared for every good work. Let my words bring hope and encouragement to those who are hurting. Use me! I am yours!

Sweet Revenge!

This morning in my Bible reading, I came across the absolutely horrific story of dysfunction in David’s family. Not only was David an adulterer who tried to cover his actions with murder, but his children were downright awful at times! (Moral 1 of the story: God is never out of reach of the one who is truly repentant of his/her actions. Moral 2 of the story: You can be one after God’s own heart and still have prodigal children.)

Anyway, right after David repents from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, we find the story of a few of David’s children. I’m going to summarize the events, but you can read the entire account in 2 Samuel 13 at www.biblegateway.com.

As happened in Bible times, David had multiple wives. That made for a very interesting blended family of half-siblings. Amnon, one of David’s sons, fell in love (really, lust) with his half-sister, Tamar. He devised a plan to have his way with her—and it worked. After he forcibly raped her, his lust turned to absolute hatred and he threw her out, humiliated and disgraced.

In biblical times, losing one’s virginity outside of marriage left a woman an absolute disgrace, forever unwanted by any man. Tamar was no longer acceptable as a wife. However, she had another brother—a full-blood brother, Absalom. As a brother should be, Absalom was fiercely protective of his sister. He lovingly brought her into his home to care for her, but his anger toward Amnon burned deep within him.

Finally, Amnon could not handle his anger any longer. He devised a plan—to murder his half-brother in an effort to avenge the crime against his sister. Absalom did just that, and then ran away. And, David was left mourning the loss of both sons.

This story is unbelievably difficult to stomach in so many ways. Rape. Incest. Lust. Murder. Deceit. Everything, in every way, reeks of the most vile dysfunction in a family—a family whose patriarch is known as a man after God’s own heart.

As I read this story this morning, I found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with my own brother this weekend. As he should be, he is fiercely protective of me—his baby sister (I actually only look younger). He has a lot of anger toward my ex-husband for the wrongs he committed against me. He probably could not say one nice thing about my ex-husband, and I don’t think it would be wise for the two of them to be in the same room together—maybe not even the same county.

I’m not even sure how the conversation came up this weekend, but something was said about my ex-husband again pastoring a church. As my brother and I were talking, he said, “You are a better person than I am. If I were you, I would have taken all of those emails you have and sent them to the church long ago. I would have exposed him for what he is.”

You see, at each church my ex-husband has served since our divorce, I somehow learn the reason for our divorce. Without fail, the reasons seem to involve my alleged indiscretions, my decision that I simply no longer loved him, my decision that I wanted to marry someone else, my choice to kick him out. I have yet to hear a story of his three-year long affair or his active dating on an online dating site long before divorce was even mentioned.

While I believe in complete forgiveness, grace, and restoration when one has truly repented and changed their ways, I find it difficult to accept that my ex-husband has truly reached that place in his life. I pray that he does, but I’ve yet to see the fruit.

And, within my possession to this day, I have very detailed correspondence between him and his girlfriend in the final years of our marriage and copies of his online dating profile. The only way I could file for divorce on the biblical basis of infidelity (which was of utmost importance to me) was to produce proof of the adulterous relationship. Therefore, I did produce undeniable evidence, evidence that I continue to hold onto for a variety of reasons undisclosed here.

And, yes, the thought has often crossed my mind that I should send those emails to his church, expose the truth.

But, I have not—and I will not. I have even had others offer to send them for me, and I have refused to let them do it. Oh, yes, it would be sweet to clear my name of the accusations thrown against me. It would be nice to have my reputation cleared. And, honestly, it would feel oh so good to get revenge, to see him suffer a fraction of the pain that I have experienced, to give him a good dose of his own medicine.

And yet, I know in my heart that Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who curse you (Matthew 5:43-48). He said that if someone strikes you on one cheek to turn the other cheek as well (Matthew 5:38). He told us to look at others as harassed, helpless sheep in need of a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus changed the model of revenge to one of love and compassion. He told the story of the good Samaritan—the one who was hated and reviled by the Jews and yet was the only one willing to stop and help—and he told us to go and do likewise.

And, therefore, I must choose forgiveness over hatred. I must choose compassion over bitterness. I must choose to pray for blessings instead of curses. I must choose to become a servant of all, just as my Jesus chose to serve even Judas Iscariot as he washed the feet of the disciples.

Yet, I still get my sweet revenge…

How you might ask…

First, I trust God to be my defender. I have asked God to let my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6). As I pray that God will protect my reputation, protect me from the slanderous attacks against my character, it seems that he inevitably brings along someone who knows the whole truth, someone willing to stand up for me—without my intervention.

Next, I focus on becoming the woman he created me to be. You see, I know that I am God’s masterpiece, created to do good works that he ordained for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10). I will not allow the hurt and pain my ex-husband caused to define who I am. I will choose to become better and not bitter. I will let God use the trials of this world to refine me and not define me. I will become the most amazing person I can possibly be—and show him exactly what he gave up!

Finally, I will remember that what man intended for evil, God will use for good (Genesis 50: 20). I must remember that when I surrender my life to God, he will work it all together into an amazing mosaic called life—and he promises that it will work for my good (Romans 8:28). I will cling to the promise that these trials and tribulations are brief, momentary, but they are working an eternal glory that far outweighs the pain (2 Corinthians 4:17). I will trust that as I humble myself under his mighty hand and allow him to change me and transform me, he will lift me up at his appointed hour (James 4:10). No pain will ever be wasted; it will all be used for my good and his glory!

While earthly revenge may seem sweet, it only causes immense suffering to all those involved. What suffering would I experience if I chose the worldly path? I might clear my name, but I would hurt my children. I would set a precedent for them that clearly says, “It’s better to get even than to forgive.” It would tell them that everyone in this world is worthy of forgiveness and grace—except their own biological father. It would hurt the church where he serves, those who are trusting him to lead where God is calling. It would hurt the name of Christ to have his children behaving as the world does. It would only extend the circle of damage already caused by our divorce, and I refuse to cause any more damage.

I refuse to live my life shackled by the hatred and bitterness that would cause me to seek revenge. Instead, I choose to let the righteous anger that burns within me—anger for the wrongs done against me and the reputation of Christ—to fuel my passion to encourage those who are beaten down by the pain of adultery and divorce. I choose to let my passion drive me to live a life of complete purity and encourage others to join me. I choose to let the pains of this life compel me to experience all the fullness of God’s grace and power that is available to me.

I choose to let God seek revenge his way, knowing that his way is always best.

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Don’t forget, this Sunday at 5:00 pm EST, I will be a guest on The Sitting Room (610 WTVN) with Kathy Chiero discussing Life after Adultery. Can’t wait to meet in the Sitting Room!

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Check out the awesome new Bible app iniative, seeking to make mobile more inspirational! My friend, Brian, is working to create at least five new Bible apps for your phone. Check it out at www.thebibleappproject.org