Matters Of The Heart

On Monday  Lisa and I did a video on our experience with racism as Southern married women with families living in small rural towns. I think our intent was a good one. Our premise was to discuss our differences coming out of the same Christian background as widows and how we arrived there. 

 

 

If you watched you know that I was uncomfortable from the very beginning. I asked to pray on air which is something we never do. My mic was off, my words were jumbled, and I felt the oppression from the enemy from the very second I agreed to do it. I held back on some very important thoughts that I shouldn’t have and I repeated points redundantly without clarity. I called my husband small minded with a world view. Actually,  I think he was a  tradionalist by choice with a world view. The whole thing was a train wreck. But that is what satan does.

 

 

When I was first widowed and there was still so much salt in that open wound people said some really stupid things to me. Jumbled Up things. Wrong things. And then there were the akward silent room people who didn’t know what to say. I mean, they were at the funeral, we all knew he was dead! I needed them to acknowledge him. I needed them to acknowledge me. I didn’t want a whole insightment of my 27 year marriage—it was too raw at the time I couldnt have handled it. But a hug and “love you” was perfect.

 

 

I was abused by a relative when my brother was a toddler. I know the time frame only because we were on vacation and when I ran into the kitchen my mother was feeding my brother in a high chair. The horror on her face said she knew. She dismissed me. I surpressed this memory for 33 years. My entire childhood was black until my 40th birthday. And then I remembered. All of it. First I wanted to die. Then I wanted my mother to die. And then I wanted my mother to pay. And I think that is where we are as a nation. The pain is just too much. But I’m going to tell you:  my mother didn’t change nor take ownership. Like at all.

 

“Lillibet what would you have me do? That was three decades ago!”

 

 

Does any of this sound familiar, people?

 

 

God changed my heart towards my mother. It is something supernatural that I can never explain. I was with her the last months of her life and He rectified all that hurt. It was beautiful.

 

 

So what I didn’t say on air is that I maybe understand a nano second of this discussion: as a widow I wanted to be acknowledged that my pain was real and I just needed to be loved. I also didn’t appreciate the stupid things people said but I knew they were trying and it was just an awkward circumstance.

 

 

Likewise as a child abuse survivor I know that Jesus Christ had to change my heart to forgive. I was the victim but there was absolutely no one coming forward to say they were sorry. No one. I knew I was going to destroy everything and everyone I loved if I could not get it together. Jesus changed MY heart. I was the victim and He changed my worldview. Read that again. I was the victim and I forgave. I no longer felt a need for reciprocity for every single horrific thing that happened to me. What I did feel? I wanted everyone I knew to have a changed heart like me—yes, I know, I’m a lot for a lot of people! LOL

 

 

So when I said on air this is a matter of the heart? I know first hand that it is. I don’t claim to know the African American plight. And I dont diminish that. But I also don’t diminish anyone’s pain nor apologize for it -ever. God is in the business of saving us. We need to let Him do his job because we do a lousy job of doing it collectively for ourselves. 

His Wondrous Glory

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I recently read a commentary that perfectly depicted how many of us are walking out our faith as we enter into Holy Week:  defeated from a long cold winter.  Dry bones. Let me paraphrase the commentary:

Winter is departing and with the resurrection the dead season is gone and new life begins. We are changed because of the dead season but not barren. Christ brings new life if we choose to leave winter and spring forward.

I adore this analogy. Just when we think we absolutely can not take one more second of the season? The Lord gives us a glimpse of His wondrous glory.

Christ gives us the choice to commune with him in new life because of the resurrection. Because of Jesus. A chance to move forward in anticipation of new hope and new life. How many of us choose to let fear keep us from moving forward? How many of us can’t quite let go of the past season in order to embrace the new birth of a bright fresh new season?

My puppy Henry, as frustrating as he is, has been my saving grace since my husband passed away last July. Henry and I have struggled mightily over who is in charge. One thing Henry has taught me? He doesn’t remember when I’ve scolded him or if he does he doesn’t show it. He leaves the past season in the past. He eagerly awaits my entrance every single time I come into his peripheral  vision. He only sees the here and now. He only sees the good. Regardless of how I’ve behaved he’s eager to welcome me by bouncing and literally hugging me with his two front legs and paws. He loves me unconditionally even when I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we all be welcoming Jesus and  new seasons exactly in the same manner in which Henry does? Jesus most certainly treats us with the same regard.

It’s sobering thinking about what Jesus physically endured for us. When I have that picture in my mind? I am embarrassed that I can’t let go of some of the dead bones from the winter season. Jesus. Brutally beaten to a pulp to take away our sins. We certainly don’t deserve it. He did it freely for us.

When we are walking around with dead bones? That is bondage.  That’s us allowing the enemy to steal our rightful place in the Kingdom. This week let us all spring forward into thanksgiving and praise for the One who died to give us the freedom of new life.

“Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible”-Luke 1:37

Back To The Throne

Every evening before I go to sleep and every morning before I rise I ask God to show me what He would like me to share. To write. If I hear silence I don’t write. This week I have heard a lot. I’ve waited for Him to help me express it but the words just haven’t come. I can tell you that if the words aren’t His I won’t write it.

This week two topics have been placed heavy on my heart. The first is our time here on earth. The second is our children. I will be honest I am somewhat of a coward. I know exactly what He wants me to write and I haven’t done it. I will say time is short. Oh so very short. There is an urgency to bring all luke warm Believers back to the Throne. To become entrenched in falling in love with Him again. To be Awake. Ready. Actively seeking Him.

The second is praying for our children. Seems simple right? Well it is not. I have prayed for our children their whole lives. I know they are each His.  One of our children has a very strong walk with the Lord.  Another one of our children has the most miraculous testimony. But she doesn’t see that  yet. I know that she will come back to Him. My fear is that our time is limited. As a friend told me earlier this week “You can count on that promise! It is fact, God’s word tells us  if our kids have been trained up in the way that they  should go? They will come back. God is a man of His word. Period. (Proverbs 22:6)”.

I think in previous decades and generations our parents turned a blind eye when we were in college. They trusted our judgement. They knew we had been raised in the church. They knew we would be back when we married and had children. This generation is different. Much different. Traditional biblical values are no longer the thread of our national upbringing. Everything is immediate. Everything is about Me. This generation is not learning how to have a relationship. There are no social skills. I really believe that plays a huge part of the enemies plan to destroy our children. When your child is faced with immediate gratification monetarily, mentally, sexually, and morally why in the world would they want to take the time to read and learn the bible? To develop a relationship with Christ? When every child in this nation is pushed to be a winner? Or handed a trophy for making it to class? Why would they need a Savior? They’re being taught to be their own saviors.

The book of Joel, Timothy, Peter, John, Mathew, Luke, Revelation all tell us that we are living amongst the last generation. People, Christians specifically, do not want to hear this. I will tackle the scripture for this at a later date.

Back to our kids. We must be obedient, diligent, and deliberate in our prayers for our children and grandchildren. Here are some pretty great promises from our Savior.

1) Pray that they will come to know Christ at an early age. (Timothy 3:15)
2) Pray that they will recognize sin and have a hatred for it (Psalms 97:10)
3) Pray that they will be caught when guilty (Psalms 119:71)
4) Pray that they will be protected from evil in their emotional, spiritual and physical areas of their lives (John 17:15)
5) Pray that they will have a responsible attitude in all of their interpersonal relationships (Daniel 6:3)
6) Pray that they will respect those in authority over them (Romans 13:1)
7) Pray that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends (Proverbs1:10-11)
8) Pray that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one (2 Cor. 6:14-17)
9) Pray that they will learn to submit totally to God & resist satan in all circumstances (James 4:7)
10) Pray that they will be willing to be sold out totally to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)

The most powerful tool that we have as parents is to pray for our kids. Pray for their hearts. Pray for their decisions. If need be? Pray for them to be broken of the chains of this generation.  It is in our depths of despair that we cry out  and turn back to God.  God hears us! He is not going to leave a single one of His children behind.

Time is short. Pray for the ones you love. Cry out to the heavens. Be prepared to witness miracles.

“He learned obedience through the things he suffered”-Hebrews 5:8

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Emptied Of Ourselves

Someone recently told me that they suffer from the fear of missing out. With a straight face. She was dead serious. She actually had a physician tell her that she is possibly suffering from this “disease”. I tried not to laugh. To humor myself I googled it. Get out! It’s a thing. A real life phobia.

Athazagoraphobia:  “noun. An irrational fear of being forgotten or replaced”.

Oh, Dear Lawd! I could feel it coming. My biblical tirade. I choked it down. “Wow! I’m so sorry” was all I could come up with. Their $40 co-pay went to someone who decided tacking on one more label to an already confused person was a good thing. I really wanted to call this Doctor and educate her. But then I realized it doesn’t matter.  Nothing I say is going to make a difference. She has to work it out for herself. Come to the epiphany on her own.

So let me tell you what doctor of biblical studies Elizabeth thinks (you know that’s sarcasm right?). We can not be full of the Holy Spirit until we are emptied of ourselves. If the Lord can’t get us to leave a situation, relationship, lifestyle on our own accord? He causes our circumstances to change. That falling away of self causes extreme loneliness. It causes depression. It causes deep grief for what once was. He’s stripping away. He’s taking away the hangups, hiccups, and pride. He’s undoing the chains and releasing us from bondage.

Sometimes those emotions are so frightening we seek medical help. I get that. Been there done that.  We fill our ears, get them tickled, with words that help explain our pain. The feelings are real. I don’t discount that. But the Lord wants us to come to Him for the answers. When you love someone such as a  child, spouse, best friend,  or parent what do you want to do? Spend time with them!  One on one time to share news, stories, thoughts, feelings about their life and yours. When God pulls us away from social situations we feel completely alone. Left out. Unloved. The reality? He is so in love with us He wants us all to Himself. He wants us to share our fears, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, heartache with Him. He wants that season of our lives all to Him. So that He can mend us. Heal us. Strengthen us. Love us. Build us up so that He can release us back into the world made brand new in His sight.

The process is excruciating. Sometimes paralyzing. But He has us in the palm of His hand. When we can shed our pride and our fear God is able to do amazing things in our lives. Mental illness is very real. There was a time in my life when I was so paralyzed with fear and depression that I didn’t want to participate in daily life. I understand it and I’m not making light of it. Psychologists couldn’t help. My husband couldn’t help. Someone invited me to a bible study. For five years the Lord sloughed off and made new what was once dull and broken. I remember sleeping with the bible on my face. I would read scripture before I went to sleep. I’d leave the open bible on my face. All the while praying for God to rearrange my brain. Change my thought process. Take away the pain of feeling left out, left behind, betrayed, not good enough, etc. etc..

There is no doubt that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). God gives us that beautiful promise. But we have to want the help. His help. We have to trust that in that broken space and time He’s at work. In the silence He is there holding us up, retraining, regrouping, rearranging.  He’s closing doors to what once was. But if we can trust Him? Hang on? Cling to Him? What He has in store for us is better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”-2 Corinthians 5:17

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Step Aside So He Can Step In

“Please don’t ask me how my kid is doing” I was thinking to myself after spotting one of my children’s former teachers in the grocery store.  Bless this Saints heart!  “How are you? The family?”   Easy enough. “Everyone is doing great and your crowd?” I replied.

One of my dear friends had a child who was figuring out life. It just so happened this particular young adult was taking a little bit longer to find stride. I remember her telling me how difficult it was to answer prying questions about this adult child. I thought, quite honestly, she was being overly sensitive and a tad ridiculous. How wrong I was. I get it! Totally get it.

It’s not that you are questioning your past abilities as a parent or that you are embarrassed. They are grown now. It’s a fine line between being overly informative and protective. It’s easy to brag on the successes of the child who has thrived. The child who is lost or struggling is a different story. You know it won’t make sense to others because you can’t make heads or tails of it yourself.

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Operative word is trying. I want to let go. It’s time to let go. I know this. My hopes and dreams? My husbands hopes and dreams? They are just that: ours. They are not necessarily what God has in the big picture.

I’ve spent weeks talking to God about what we did wrong or didn’t do wrong. Let’s be honest: what I did wrong. Silence. I was awoken in the middle of the night recently. I had a dream. In the dream God-I didn’t see Him or hear Him– I knew in the dream it was God. He clearly and precisely  stated  “Let go so that I may catch her“.

How many of us cling so tightly for control that we forget the freedom we found in Christ to begin with?  Why do we do that? When we trust Him enough with our own lives why can’t we entrust the lives of those we love to Him?

So this week I’m going to practice what Matthew preaches in chapter 6 verse 27: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?“.  I’m committed to praying.  I’m committed to trusting Him. Let’s be real, I may only make it until Monday night. But I’m going to try to step aside so He can step in.

So here’s to all of us with bruised or broken  hearts: the silent worriers, the control freaks, the grieving, and the depressed.  May we greet each other in public places not with the Spanish Acquisition but rather may we acknowledge one another with hugs, prayers, laughter, and kindness.  May we give it all to God so that we can get on with the business of living the life He has set before us. Amen.

“God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved”-Psalm 46:5

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Lord I Choose You

It’s always a challenge for me to identify what circumstances I have allowed or created in my life versus what God has allowed. Or what simply is out of my control.

I remember my mother telling me at the end of her life: “Lillibet, no one ever intentionally sets out to be a bad parent. We do the very best we can at that very moment. Sometimes we get it so wrong. Other times we sigh with relief that God got it right”.  It wasn’t until Jane was gone that I realized the gem she had been. And now? Here I sit in my quiet time whispering  “God, you know my heart, I only wanted to be a good Mama. No a great Mama. The fixer. The mender. The master of my domain. The Savior”.

You see the thing is God loves us so much that He gives us free will. We can teach right from wrong, good from evil. We can love, threaten, punish, ignore, manipulate, and plea. Ultimately it is our fleshly free will that determines our choices. We choose. God lets us choose. And sometimes we choose to play god rather than thinking God is capable of being God.

For those of us who are planners and organizers we want to orchestrate our choices for those we love. Maybe we hold so tightly that our kids don’t ever think they are able to choose their life. Some of us cling too tightly while others not tightly enough. All of us think we are striving for the perfect balance. The perfect path. The perfect future. The reality? We have no control. In the end they choose.

Sometimes we have to let those we love fall. We have to let go. Get out of the way so that He can catch them. We forget God is in the business of saving. We aren’t the life line or the life boat. We aren’t the answer. Because quite frankly we aren’t God.

And I guess that’s what the Lord has been whispering to me these past weeks. Free will. Life is free will because of the cross. And sometimes it hurts. A lot. Sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe. Sometimes the pain is staggering. Blinding. And then? He gently reminds me of the pain He felt when we, His beloved, rebelled (rebel) against Him. He understands our sorrow and our grief. He understands my pain and your pain because He felt it. Died for it. Died for us.

His word promises us that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He’s always there. If we choose to wait for Him. If we choose to trust that He has a divine plan for all of us. A plan that can’t be thwarted no matter how tightly we try to cling. Or save.  Or rescue.

So Lord, I’m letting go. I don’t know for how long. And knowing my control freak nature? I probably will (let’s be honest I will) throw you back up on that cross a time or two. But right now? In this moment? By faith I’m choosing to let you be God of something I can control: me. God of what  I can’t control: others. With your help hopefully I’ll recognize the difference.

Lord I choose you.

“I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments, I have laid before me.”-Psalm 119:30image

 

Keep It Messy

I had a revelation of sorts yesterday. I Googled a home product I was looking for. No joke ten decorating blogs came back in my search engine. I clicked on several. Each blog was a meticulously decorated home with perfect kids, a dog, a perfectly chiseled Daddy, and a ten plus ten Mama. They each blogged about their perfect lives. My first thought was “Dang, Elizabeth, you are doing this Jesus blog thing all wrong! You need to write about how perfect life is. These blogs have serious followers!” Yeah, that thought was gone in a hot second.

Back to my revelation. No wonder young people don’t know who they are. They are trying to start their lives mimicking perfection. Immolating perfect meals, decorating, and child rearing. All based on the fantasy life of someone in blog utopia.

Real life, at least as I remember it? Carting kids all over kingdom come. Preschool, elementary school, middle school. Going to the grocery store while my kids were occupied in higher education. Possibly picking up the house. Folding some laundry. Putting groceries away. Catching an occasional lunch with friends. Maybe getting to the gym. Back home getting work done on the computer. Picking up from school. Eating snacks in the car on the way to dance or ball practice. Getting home at six. Trying to cook with one kid coming off their Adderall in a total melt down. Another kid fighting about doing homework. Husband walks into utter chaos. Eat. Tackle nightly baths. Clean up kitchen. Make lunches for the next school day. Time to breath. Oh wait, nope. Promised husband a “date night”.

Jump in shower for the first time in 24 hours. Shave legs for the first time in two weeks. In the bed by 11PM. “Date night” interrupted by at least one child wanting a glass of water. Husband gets out of bed to get said child glass of water. Returns to “date night” only to find me asleep and snoring…and if we’re being honest…probably drooling. Alarm goes off at 5:30AM and the same routine starts the next day. Anyone? Absolutely no perfection what so ever. I wouldn’t change one single bit of it either. If anything, I’d change being so married to the calendar. Getting to the next thing on the list. Perfection? Ha! That’s laughable.

Perfection is unattainable. Despite what HGTV, Pinterest or  Instagram tell you. You will kill your marriage, your relationship with your kids, your self esteem, and your friendships trying to achieve it.  Life is messy. And it should be. The mess is the good stuff. The mess is where we realize how much we love our husbands. How much we need them. The mess is where we watch our babies achieve milestones. The mess is where we realize we are not perfect. The mess is where we learn what we are made of. And what we are not made of. The mess is where we cry out to God “Lord, what the heck?! This is so hard! Help me, please!” The mess is where humility is born. The mess is where we let go. The mess is where we let God step in. The mess is where we learn that our weakness only means we are getting it right…not wrong like the world wants us to believe. For in that weakness He makes us strong.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 we read “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I  love this scripture, don’t you?!  Modern day cable news has nothing on being radical. Jesus was radical. Paul is telling us that God’s grace is enough for us. His grace covers our faults, our sins, our weaknesses, our idolatry. When we realize that we don’t have to put on heirs? When we recognize we can’t do it all? When we admit that we are living a lie? When we confess to Him our sins of trying to be perfect? That’s where He meets us! The power of the Holy Spirit is allowed to do great and mighty things through us despite ourselves! Is that not the greatest news ever? Do you feel a weight lifted off your shoulders? When that light bulb went off for me I truly felt a literal rebirth. I was so tired and didn’t even realize the extent of it.

Having a true revelation of who we are in Christ should be the goal…not the perfect life. When we see ourselves as Christ sees us? The junk  we worry about no longer matters. All that matters is wanting more of Him. With that comes a complete peace. We are able to love deeper. Give freely without resentment. Yes, I still want an architectural digest looking house. It’s different now. It is not my idol. It is not my consumption. I don’t care if someone has a bigger or better home. I can actually be happy for them because I’m happy with me. My standards are based on the King of Kings. My standards are based on the blood that was shed for me. Not my neighbor, not Instagram, not Facebook, not Bravo, not Glamour. Jesus Christ. Amen?!

So young mothers and wives keep it messy. Perfection is overrated. Love those babies. Hug those necks. Kiss those fat fingers. Steal away in the bathroom with your husband once in awhile. Burn dinner. Run late in carpool. Fold laundry when you can. It is one season in life of many. Live it for Him first. Your weakness will fill you with the Holy Spirit. You’ll be able to love those in your life that matter most. The rest of the crap? It just won’t matter.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all’.”-Proverbs 31:28-29

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Live Like You’re Dying

What do you do when someone confronts you with untruths? Do you defend yourself? Are you simply silent? Do you believe them? Do you laugh it off? If you have the privilege to live long enough someone is bound not to like you. And it is likely that, if you live long enough, somebody will attack your character.

 

I’ve known people in the past that have character assassinations on a pretty regular basis. They are so grounded in who the Lord says they are. The attacks don’t phase them.

 

I grew up with a friend who thrived on daily drama. Seriously upset if she wasn’t the topic of conversation. She loved stirring the pot. She thrived on controversy.

 

I have another friend who has spent her whole life trying to make sure that everyone likes her. Her fear of being disliked is akin to my fear of the stomach bug. She subconsciously does everything in her power to assure no attack ever comes. To never ever have confrontation in her life. But good gracious she’s exhausted.

 

David Jeremiah once said:

“How we respond to problems in our life exposes our values, priorities, and especially our spiritual beliefs. Our goal in life shouldn’t be to eliminate problems–that will never happen. Rather, our goal should be to keep them in perspective and respond in a biblical fashion”.

 

I love this quote because it is truthful and it is easily applicable. If we respond from our emotions we most surely will rely on our feelings. If we respond based on God’s word we can rest in undeniable truth.

 

My mother in law gave me the smartest advice I’ve ever received. When we first moved back to my husbands home town, almost three decades ago, she lovingly advised :

“never talk about anyone unless it’s in the confines of your own four walls. Your home is your confessional between you, your husband, your children, and God. What is said inside your four walls is sacred and should remain there. Whatever opinions you or your family have that are unkind need to remain in the sanctuary”.

This is also the same lovely woman who told us “No matter how poor you are buy one piece of art or antique furniture that you love each year of your marriage. When you reach middle age your home will contain only things you love and lots of beautiful memories”. In other words, my mother in law is one wise woman.

 

My husband and I have followed her advice on suggestion #2. Unfortunately, through my late 20’s and probably early 30’s, I didn’t heed her #1 advice. I gossiped. Probably more than I’d care to admit or remember. I most probably hurt some precious people. And ultimately it hurt me. It was a painful lesson. It was a necessary lesson. Immaturity, insecurity in who I was, the need to feel liked, the need to appear more than, and the need to ward off confrontation were what drove my poor decisions. And boy did I pay the price!

 

Just as David Jeremiah stated we must respond to attacks and controversy from a biblical position. What does that mean? Hopefully you are bonded with friends with whom you no longer need to gossip and cause controversy. But in the event that you are accused of any kind of social wrong doing gossip, lying, etc. you must approach it from a biblical standpoint.

 

First and foremost you must be right with Jesus. You must repent of your sins. And I don’t mean throwing Him back up on that cross in the name of the law. I mean just as your children will come to you periodically “Mama, I really wasn’t at Jane’s I’m so sorry for lying please forgive me”. Likewise that does not mean you intentionally sin knowing that you will be forgiven.

 

If you obey Him you can rest in His peace in all of your decisions. Our goal as a sinful people is to let Jesus mold us into who He says we are. That involves sometimes being silent and sometimes it involves discussion. Jesus wants us to approach one another in humility and forgiveness. Matthew 18 is an incredibly powerful chapter on inclusiveness and reconciliation.

 

Tim McGraw’s song Live Like You Are Dying could truly have been an anthem for the church. If we live like we are dying? Well, we speak sweeter. We offer forgiveness where none is due. We literally die to our sinful nature in anticipation of our heavenly home. We acknowledge our past and present sins, conscientiously live in the here and now, and anticipate our heavenly future. We treat each other the way Jesus treats us, Amen?

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”-Matthew 18:15-16

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Insert Smiley Face Here

I had someone contact me this past week asking if I could talk. She wanted marital advice. I assured her I was not who she needed to talk too. Like, hands down, not her answer. In our town, in our age group, there are some extraordinary examples of loving marriages with longevity. “Talk to those couples” I told her. She went on to explain that I was who she needed to talk too. She wanted to know how my husband and I have managed to stay happily married for almost 27 years. “Especially in the face of all that y’all have experienced in the past several years?” This made me laugh. “Oh my, you don’t even know the half of it” I thought to myself. Insert smiley face here 😀. She wanted to know our “secret”. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. “God” Literally. No magic potion. No fairy dust. We’ve always had a great affection for one another. But even that “spark” wasn’t enough to sustain a long term marriage, of any substance, once the enemy set his foot in our home.

 
Several years ago my precious husband and I separated. Well, I didn’t think he was real precious then. And, if we are being candid, he probably would have described me with a word that starts with the letter “B”. At the time we had one daughter in boarding school and one in college. We had separated for all of, I think, a week. He texted me and said “Can we talk? I want to come home.” We were both miserable. But my pride was so strongly misplaced I told him “No”. I wanted him to suffer. Yep, that “B” word was probably quite accurate. Insert another smiley face here.😀

 
What drives two people, crazy about each other since they were legal to vote, to be unable to see eye to eye? Two people who had been best friends, crazy in love, loved their children? Two people who consciously planned out their goals, their expectations, their dreams? Two people active in their church, their children’s school, and their community? Two people who adored each other and their family? How did we become so detached?

 

 

We sought Godly counsel and marriage counselors. Every professional said the same thing “Y’all are at an impasse. It’s not resolvable.” One counselor said “What makes you think you should stay married?” Both of us responded exactly the same “We believe in marriage. We love each other. We don’t like each other right now. But we don’t want to give up.”
And we didn’t. We decided to ditch outside advice. I’d like to tell you we held hands and prayed together. Sang kumbaya. That we ran down to the beach for a romantic weekend. We didn’t. My husband came home. And actually we slept in separate bedrooms for several weeks. I could hear him snoring in the guest bedroom. I prayed constantly for him to change. Isn’t that hilarious? Not me. Him. I’m sure he prayed constantly that I would just shut the bleep up.

 
I will say this young wives and mothers: Put God first. Period. Next, love your husband. Keep your marriage your number one earthly priority. Then your children. When our girls were young my in-laws graciously took care of our girls about one weekend a month. We put romance on the calendar. Yes. Yes, we did. We actually wrote “it” on the calendar. Plugged romance into our blackberries ( remember those?) Sometimes to a fun destination. Sometimes a weekend in a hotel in the Capitol city. Other times just a quick overnight to the beach. We put us first. As long as we did that consistently we were on the same page. We penciled in these date weekends until our oldest hit travel ball age. The youngest had just started showing ponies competitively.

 
Our new approach to that season of life was divide and conquer. I took one child he took another. One of us was watching horse shows all weekend while the other was watching a ball game. Our weekends were consumed with our children’s aspirations of athletic excellence. We bought into it. And, don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful season in life. We cherished that time with our daughters. Memories to last a life time. Good memories. Fun times. Great friendships with other parents were made. But little by little we lost us. Conversations were about our kids. Calendars were penciled in with pictures of field hockey sticks, basketballs or ponies. No more red hearts symbolizing our sacred weekend getaways. We were in hotels alright–each with a different kid often in different states–not together.

 
Loving our kids to death just about killed our marriage. We were always a united front when it came to our kids. But as a couple we had lost intimacy. There wasn’t one defining moment. It just happened. Some how, some way, the enemy got a foothold into our marriage. Young wives and mothers put your husband and your marriage first. You’re welcome. Insert know-it-all smiley face here.😯

 
I don’t know when it happened. It wasn’t one big thing. It wasn’t one love story moment made for life time TV. We both just decided to stop acting like selfish children. We vowed to keep past wounds in the past. For real. We don’t ever revisit “you said & you did”. Honestly, God just showed up. I’m sure He was always there. But for whatever reason, maybe He was waiting for us to stop acting like six year olds, we forgave each other.

 

 

We each vowed to do for the other what made us feel special. I cook 4-5 nights a week. I have dinner ready when Robin walks in the door. I know this makes him feel taken care of. Appreciated. He’s hungry when he gets home and he’s cranky (hangry). Prepared food literally lights up his entire face. Sounds old fashioned? I figured it out. He makes decisions all day long. Big ones that effect peoples lives. When I have food ready someone has made a decision for him that he can enjoy.He brings me flowers every single Friday. I look forward to it more than you can imagine. They’re different varieties and colors every week. They make me smile every time I walk into the kitchen. He grocery shops for me now. I’m claiming that one! I know it’s probably because he can better stick to a budget. Don’t care–just love that it’s done.

 

 

We don’t schedule romance anymore. For the most part it just happens. Probably not as frequently as my husband would like. Insert winking smiley face 😉. But I don’t hear him often complain–so there you go.We’ve been together since we were 18 years old. That’s a lot of mistakes. A lot of trial and error. A lot of pain. But a whole lot of love. A great friendship. And a lot of fun. We had a really strong foundation in our marriage. We really had good intentions.

 

 

I’m just going to put this out there: putting our kids first, for that short season, was detrimental to our marriage. And if we are being really honest? Making them the center of our universe probably was detrimental to their decision making.

 

 

Warning: I have a theory. As a married couple you become yoked as one. Through that yoking God shows you humility and servitude to and for your partner. You love and respect that person. You want to make them happy. When the biblical order of marriage and life gets rearranged? You become unyoked.  Have you ever tried to separate a yoke from egg whites in a pan? You can’t do it. Crack a full egg into a hot pan. Let it sizzle, heat up. Take your fork and try to just make a fried yoke by separating it from the center of the frying egg. It runs all over the place. Eventually you just have to make scrambled eggs. Everything becomes a scrambled mess.  It all ran together with no definition of separation. Just sort of thrown together. It’s still good. It works just find but its not great.  And there lies the rub–you separated the yoke and convinced yourself that just okay was good enough for today.

 

 
Do we each still have our own issues to work on? Absolutely. Do we each still have idiosyncrasies that drive each other crazy? Yes! That’s called life. Is it now all butterflies, unicorns, skittles, and rainbows? Insert laughing hysterically smiley face 😂.  Um, absolutely not. Would I change any of it? No, not for a moment. We have two grown daughters that are truly joys to be around. We, now, have a biblical marriage. There’s no one I’d rather spend my days with than this man. No one.

 

 
It’s funny, if you do marriage God’s way there really isn’t that much work. And, yes, I’d be the first one to say “Oh, Dear Gawd, paleez!” But it’s true! Pray together. Pray for each other. Pray for your children. Keep romance alive and well –even when you don’t feel like it. It makes your spouse feel like the most important man on the planet. It makes your spouse think you are Wonder Woman. Who doesn’t want to be Wonder Woman?

 

 
Slowly you’ll find you are serving each other before yourself in all aspects of life. Without complaint. With joy. There are no more runny egg yokes. There are no more sub-par scrambled eggs. The yoke is light, easy, and perfectly cooked. Insert heart eyes smiley face here.😍


“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and  you will find rest for your souls.”-Matthew 11:29

  

Monkey Business

For the past three weeks I have not watched television. Okay that’s not entirely true. I’ve watched Fixer Upper on HGTV on Tuesday nights. But that’s it. All weather and news updates I’ve read on the Internet.

What I’ve found is that my husband and I don’t miss it. We’ve been watching series and documentaries on Netflix and YouTube. We’ve been going to bed almost an hour earlier and reading a half hour longer. This revelation has prompted us to consider removing our cable all together.

A friend recently said “You still will see the same junk on Netflix that you see on cable”. Well, yes and no. What we have both found is that without watching TV you don’t channel surf. You consciously choose what you are going to watch. If it has nudity, sex, foul language you forward through it.

Twenty seven years ago (as a wedding gift) we received three porcelain Japanese monkeys. Each of the figurines represents the principal “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The gift giver enclosed a card:  “see no evil, listen to no evil, and speak no evil . Your marriage will be prosperous and free of monkey business.” Pretty clever. Actually there is a considerable amount of wisdom in those words.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior our slate is wiped clean. The bible tells us:

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”-2 Corinthians 5:17 

All of our “junk” is forgiven and forgotten. The garbage is disposed of. We are made brand new in His image. So, if we are all clean and shiny on the inside? Why in the world would we subject our eyes, ears, and mouth to the filth of the world?

Think about it another way. You total a brand new car. It’s your fault. Your Dad forgives you no questions asked. He then turns around and buys you another brand new car. You do not deserve it. You learned your lesson and you promise your dad to drive responsibly. And you do. However you don’t wash the car. It is filthy. But you haven’t wrecked it so you think you are doing just fine. Your Dad repeatedly asks you when you are going to clean the vehicle. “I will! Dad I promise! I’m doing great though, aren’t I? The car is dirty but No traffic violations”.

Jesus provides us with this remarkable gift of new life. He wants what we hear, see, say, and do to reflect all that He has bestowed us. It doesn’t matter that we are just following the “rules”. If we are still living in the muck we have missed the point. God calls us to live righteously.

After three weeks of clean watching? I have noticed more of the beauty in and around my home and neighborhood. I am acutely aware of not only my words and actions but those around me. My heart is lighter, brighter, and more optimistic. I feel renewed. Without all the noise and messiness of the day to day influences of life? I clearly see what He wants me to see. Strive to be who He wants me to be.

Paul puts it this way “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”-Romans 12:2

Turn the television off. Turn off the radio in your car. Read, study, pray, praise. It’s an amazing world He has given us!

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”-Philippians 4:8