The labeling must STOP!!

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

-Matthew 7:1-2 NIV

How many times have you corrected your children for labeling something? I know I do it almost daily.  From my teenager to my twin toddlers – at some point everyday I reference labeling in some way.

“Don’t push the broccoli away just because it’s green” – me, to my twin girls, haha!

“You don’t have to have name brand everything – the label doesn’t make it any more or less effective” – me to my teenager who thinks she needs another pair of Patagonia shorts, eeeeeeeek!! Momma doesn’t wear $40 shorts!

Labels are a part of our everyday lives. We brand things with a label. We use labels to describe the contents of a product. We use labels to organize materials and thoughts. We use labels all day everyday. Everything has a label, but there is so much more to things than just what is written on the label. Some products are much better than the label describes, some are much worse! And labels certainly do not always tell the truth! When is the last time you read the label on your peanut butter jar??? I’m a macro counter, and I can tell you that your PB jar says 2 Tbsp of PB is 33 grams…. but try weighing that out yourself. Would you believe the label is actually incorrect?

Okay, okay… I know you are wondering where we are going with this??? How do labels and some scripture on judgement apply to my ex-husband and his Momma??

Don’t let the label define the relationship!

Labels are only surface level information. There’s always something deeper that isn’t captured by a label. We tend to be so quick to judge the actions or intent of our exes or their families. We are defensive, we are sensitive to their words, we often believe they have ill-intent. And sometimes they may. But God doesn’t want us to live like that.  We take statements that are made by our exes and we analyze them, we give Satan time to twist and turn those words until we are just straight offended by a statement that would have been completely harmless had it been made by anyone other than our ex!

Let me give you an example…. Just a couple of years ago, myself, my husband, my ex-husband, and his girlfriend were all at the ballpark to watch my teenager play softball. We had been there allllllllllll day long! It was hot and raining on and off. At some point during that day, my exes girlfriend got her shoes and socks soaked. I didn’t realize this, but I can’t say that it would have mattered if I did. My teenage daughter had her Chaco’s in my ballpark wagon and my ex husband had grabbed them and given them to her to throw on.  My initial reaction was sooooooooo out of line. I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t crazy rude. I rolled my eyes as though I was completely annoyed – where she could see me and walked off with the meanest thoughts in my head…. seriously, mean thoughts.

“who does she think she is?”

“ummmm, I bought those!”

“have your own daughter, then you can wear her shoes…”

“I might need to wear those!”

“She’s just trying get under my skin.”

“She knows EXACTLY what she’s doing”

“How dare she!”

Y’all….. I could probably keep going.  I’m not a mean-hearted person and generally not a jealous person. But, oh my! Satan was having a hay day in my thoughts and I wasn’t taking control of them! I was completely flustered! Face red, mean thoughts, on-the-verge of tears, ready to leave and miss the next game, FLUSTERED. I had my twins in the stroller and proceeded to head towards the parking lot to fight back my frustrations. Along the way, I started to pray. Not pray a pretty, sweet, genuine prayer that I wish I could share… but pray most reluctantly about a pair of shoes my ex-husbands girlfriend was wearing…. pray because I knew God would get it, surely He would see how rude that was of her!

True to His word, God answered my prayer. I didn’t like what He answered at first, but He answered none-the-less!

As I’m praying God puts this on my heart…

“Would you feel the same way if it were any other female at that park?”

STOP IT, JESUS!!

I reply in my head, “yes, I would feel this way no matter who the girlfriend was”. My next thought is this…

Not the girlfriend – ANYONE else… If a lady walked up to you and said, “I’m here to watch a game, I live almost an hour away and I have no shoes to wear… do you have any I could borrow for just an hour and a half? I will return them to you in the same condition I got them in”. Would you really not give her the extra pair of shoes you had??

SERIOUSLY GOD, DO I HAVE TO EAT CROW RIGHT NOW???

The answer is yes, yes I do have to eat crow! You know why? Because I labeled her as my ex-husbands girlfriend. I let the enemy create all kinds of “what if’s” and “you should’s” in my head. This had nothing to do with the shoes. This was only frustrating to me because of the “label” of who she was. It wasn’t even based off of her – little did I know then, they would go on to get married and I would soon absolutely love the role she has in my daughter’s life. She’s a wonderful person and my other two girls LOVE her to pieces too! I was only upset because of the label. To answer that thought God gave me – had anyone else in the entire world asked to borrow those shoes, I would have given them the shoes and probably a raincoat too!

Up until this point, I had never really even gotten to know her. We were friendly and talked at the ballpark but I had let the label “ex-husbands girlfriend” define her and her intentions. I let the label define the relationship. I judged her in a way I wouldn’t want to be judged. I would never want someone to assume such thoughts about me…

I did indeed walk back and apologize to her. By the time I got back, she had put the CHACOS back (which felt like it mega-sized my order of crow…lol) and was in her wet socks and shoes again. You see, she didn’t have bad intentions at all. It never crossed her mind that it my upset me. She truly just had wet feet and wanted dry shoes!

So many times, I have gotten upset about something simply because of the label of who it was associated with. But a label doesn’t include emotions, intentions, and motives. The label gives Satan a playground to help you assume the emotions, intentions, and motives.   We must take captive our thoughts!

thought

The Struggle is SOOOOOO Real!

So lets get to the nitty-gritty… lets talk about why the name of this blog is “Jesus loves your Ex-Husband and his Momma too”.  It’s not because I have it all together and want to tell the world how to do it, it’s because it’s a work in progress. From my fleshly perspective, it is ALWAYS a struggle to truly empathize for or see things from my ex-husbands perspective. But from my knees – I can see him and his family in the same light that our Heavenly Father shines on me. I can see grace for him, I can see forgiveness, I can see the good heart God gave him, I can see the blessing he is to OUR daughter!

To be truly transparent here I want to give you some back story.  I’m divorced because I left. I left a marriage that was young, fragile, fractured – but not broken. I can’t give you some huge sob story to convince you all to see that he was a terrible human being and I needed to get out. There’s not one. We each had our fair share of wrongs. Our perspective was WAYYYYYYYYY off base on what marriage is because we both grew up in homes that were ran by one parent. One parent CONTROLLED EVERYTHING. Control was an issue for both of us. I would dare say we both created huge wounds in each other by exerting control in different areas of our lives. But the bigger issue was insecurity. I can’t speak for my ex so this next part is just about me.

INSECURITY is an understatement for the emotional roller coaster I lived on and still fight to stay off of to this day. I wanted to believe that people around me loved me and would never leave me but I didn’t. I wanted to put ALL MY HOPE in the people right beside me. And when those people let me down, I felt betrayed and hurt. I didn’t know Jesus the way I know him now. I was searching for something only God could give me but I didn’t even know I was missing anything. I was young physically but emotionally I was a child. I needed sooooo much more than any one human could give. I don’t tell you these things to lessen the reality that I walked out on a marriage. I tell you this so you will understand the level of desperation I created in myself. I can’t play like a victim of divorce – I created the divorce. It was me. Did he do some things along the way, sure. Did he leave? Nope. I did.

In 2006, I decided I wanted out. It was too much to trust that this was gonna last. It was too much to forgive the things he had or hadn’t done. And it was easier to cling to someone new to fill all the voids I had in my heart. I had seen, lived, and been told that marriages don’t last and all husbands are cheaters so why stick around?? He didn’t cheat and I actually didn’t either. I just left like it was a high school boyfriend I could walk away from and move right onto the next man. I left and within two-weeks or so I had another crush from work to spend time with and that gave me all the crazy feelings that would temporarily fill the wounds in my heart. I just knew he would love me better. For the first few months of my separation from my ex-husband, I dated this new guy. Then my ex-husband and I decided we would try to work it out. But after just a couple of months, I  left again and went straight back to the same boyfriend.  I would later find that this boyfriend was affirmation for all the things I had been told – “men are rotten”, “all men cheat at some point”, and “men don’t stick around”. Yep – he was rotten, he was a cheater, and he would break-up with me at the drop of a hat and then swoop back-in with the right words just when he wanted to. This went on for a number of years… from the end of 2006 to 2010 we were on again… off again! Thankfully, around the end of  2009 I had started attending some Wednesday night services at a local church with a friend and was beginning to be exposed to more and more of God’s word. If you’ve read my first blog, you know I gave my life to Christ in 2011 at the funeral of my ex-husbands second wife’s father… haha! God clearly has a sense of humor as that has now become my testimony and I find myself sharing that nearly everyday! And to further that humor, God got right up in my face about that boyfriend.

After nearly a year of attending Wednesday night services at Church of the Highlands (Birmingham, Al), I began to really see and feel that everything I was doing was wrong. In late 2010, I hadn’t yet given my life to Christ but I started to pray. Pray for Christ to lead me and show me direction. I knew I wasn’t supposed be hurting emotionally or feeling empty the way I did. I felt that God was weighing on my heart to get rid of that boyfriend. I had finally decided to break it off for good in October 2010. Per his usual fashion, around mid-November, he called and insisted on meeting for dinner at a Mexican restaurant after I got off from work one day. I obliged, but didn’t feel quite right about it. I remember driving to the restaurant and yelling out “God – help me! I’m so confused! Show me a sign or give me something! Damn it! Why are you letting me do this? God I’m tired of being hurt. DO SOMETHING PLEASE GOD!” and I ended that prayer/demand/desperate plea with a nice slammed fist on my steering wheel as I parked my car. I walked into the restaurant and put a smile on as he proceeded to woo me with all the right words. By the end of dinner, he had convinced me to come back to his house for a movie night. Little did I know, I was about to get that sign from God I had just ever-so-politely demanded, haha! As he walked me to my car to leave, I could see something stuck to my driver-side window. When we got closer I could see a boot on my tire. The sticker on the window read “you aren’t supposed to be here” it was signed by the tow-truck driver with a hand-written cellphone number to call. I knew immediately! I wasn’t supposed to be there and I wasn’t supposed to go watch movies! I quickly turned and said to my boyfriend – “you need to go, now! I asked God for a sign and this is it – we’re done!”. After a small discussion and looking at me like I just fell out of the Bible-thumper-tree, he left. I called the tow-truck driver to come remove the boot. It was supposed to be a $250 fee. But when he got there, I was visibly upset and he asked if I was okay. As I started to share with him what I felt like was my sign from God, he looked at me and said “young-lady, when God speaks you listen – if you don’t He’s gonna get all up in your face until you do”! He didn’t charge me a dime. He sent me on my way on a promise that I would seek God every time I missed that boyfriend. Oh how I wish I had gotten his name or even paid attention to the small name on his homemade tow-truck!

Of course, there is a lot of details that happened between 2006 and my salvation in 2011. Many of those details will be subjects of future blogs. But what I want you to take away from this blog today, is I am not innocent…. I have my fair share of wrongs. I left a marriage for a boyfriend. I filled the nights that I didn’t have my daughter with bars, parties, and alcohol to keep my heart from hurting while she was gone or to keep myself too busy to grieve my marriage. But God can do so much with the messes we create! And I had no idea of the things to come that would make my testimony and turn me into the person I am today!

A psalm of David.

PSALM 23, NIV

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Transformed!

Transformed from a bitter, nasty divorce and a drawn out custody battle into a beautiful little alliance of parents. Doesn’t seem possible…right? Today, I’m still astounded at how quickly and completely God transformed my heart. I can’t speak for my ex-husband, but I can speak for his actions – and by his actions, his heart was clearly transformed too! Sometimes when we just take that one little step towards God, He sweeps in and picks us up. Much like a Father would when his children run up to him as he comes in the door from work.

Being transformed isn’t just about changing how others see you, its about changing how you see others. For the first time in three years, I began to see my ex-husband as Ana’s Daddy and not as the whole list “done me wrongs” I had kept since our divorce. I begin to thank God for anything and everything positive I could find in him. I remember a time I was so irritated that her Dad came to her softball practice that fell on my time with her – but all of the sudden, I was thanking God that I didn’t have to explain to Ana why her Dad wasn’t there. Who was this person I was becoming and where on earth did those prayers come from? {Please don’t stop reading here thinking this is one of those “fairytale” they fell back in love and lived happily ever-after stories. That’s not our story at all – by this time (2011) Her Dad was married to his second wife and I was soon to be engaged to my current husband.}

Within a few weeks of finding my salvation in a funeral home – at a service for someone I didn’t even like, I found myself seated in a row at a local church praying for this transformation to overflow… I had tasted just a tiny bit of the freedom offered by our Mighty Savior and felt just a little weight lifted. Just enough to know I wanted more. More of Him and less of me.

John 3:30-36 New International Version (NIV)

30 He must become greater; I must become less.”[a]

What I did not know at this time, was that we had not yet faced our biggest post-divorce dilemmas. There would be many more trials and situations headed our way. But God had begun a work in my heart so that I could see these predicaments for what they were. I could see the enemy all-over them. God was constantly reminding me –

Ephesians 6:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

If you’re thinking to yourself “but you don’t know what my ex has done!” or “You would never feel that way if you had been through what I’ve been through” – Please stay tuned for future blogs. God’s moved some mighty mountains between my ex-husband and I. He has also blessed both of us with loving spouses who are on board and supportive of our active roles in Ana’s life. My husband and I are still standing in faith for the mountains He will continue to move in our future. Check back to get the details on some amazing things Christ has used for good in our lives!

Genesis 50:20 NIV

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Grace starts here.

Thanks for joining me! I’m super passionate about changing the nasty cycle of divorce we continue to see divide our families and the hearts of our children! This blog will be geared toward how God can change our current circumstances with our ex-spouses and their families, in-turn providing the best opportunity for our children to grow up with two involved and loving families!

But first, a little background on who I am and what drives my passion in this area. I am a product of a divorced home and I married at 20 years old, only to find myself divorced by 23. This is a cycle we see time and time again. Incomplete, broken, and emotionally wounded children that grow up with no understanding of what or how marriage is. A whole generation that does not comprehend forever… a generation that laugh’s at the thought of being married to one person for life. Those laugh’s are not because of ignorance or rebellious thoughts and actions. The majority of those thoughts are because of emotional wounds carried by them or even their parents.

During my morning prayer about 9 years ago, God revealed something to me… He revealed to me that I, through my own divorce and emotional wounds, was setting my daughter up for the same emotional insecurities and wounds I carried myself. I came from home where my Father wasn’t present. He was around, just not daily, or even weekly. We talked to him and saw him on holidays. But I had no idea what a functioning marriage looked like or what it felt like to feel whole. I didn’t know I wasn’t whole. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed feel broken. The thoughts and beliefs I carried toward marriage and fathers were so far from reality. But they were MY reality. The thing is, I can’t look back at my childhood and say “oh, my dad was a dead beat” or “my mom was crazy”. From the outside, we actually had a very normal childhood with two loving and hardworking parents. No one, including myself, knew how shattered my security and confidence really was.

I didn’t even start to see my own brokenness until I saw it in my daughter. I saw me in her. I saw shattered and scared. I saw unsure and worried. I saw anxiety and control over what she could control. I saw all the things I lived and was too young to understand. I saw broken. And it terrified me. I repeated the cycle and my ex-husband was also from a shattered home. He had a father who left and wasn’t around. Didn’t call. Didn’t come for holidays. So essentially, we had two big broken messes… that didn’t know they were broken. We repeated the cycle. Married. Divorced. Fuss and tear down. I mean society tells us it’s okay to hate our ex…right? In fact, society actually fuels the fire and animosity between divorcee’s.

January 12, 2011 is the day I received the greatest Grace man could know. I remember this day for several reasons. The biggest reason is this is the day I was saved… reborn… set free… restored… oh, so beautifully saved! The other reason I remember this day because this was also the day of my ex-husbands second wife’s fathers funeral. Did you catch all that? Yep, I got saved at the funeral of my daughter’s, step-moms, father. How is that for God’s sense of humor? I, in support of my daughter, went to the funeral. I remember getting ready to go and being totally annoyed by the thought of it but knowing  I should go and do the right thing for my Ana. The preacher doing the eulogy begins talking about being saved and then starts to pray. He ask anyone who wants to be saved to raise their hand, out of nowhere, my hand shoots straight up in the air! I even said to myself, “what are you doing, put your hand down!” But my hand stayed and I reluctantly began repeating the words he was speaking. As the words were coming out, the weight was lifting off of me. I could feel the changes in my heart starting.

Over the next nine years, God transformed a nasty, bitter divorce into a team of parents that work synergistically to raise a beautiful daughter in a loving environment. I say team because Ana has myself, my husband, her Dad, and his wife; along with all the grandparents from all four of those parents. We are team Ana. And this is where this blog will begin – Transformed…

“Quit asking man for something only God can give you.”   -Kathy Devaughn