Divorce – Where Unknown Avenue runs into Approval Street…

Unknown Avenue

The unknown road that we travel down after divorce can be long and treacherous. Every little bump and twist stings to our very core. Worries we never knew existed can seem to overtake us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

We don’t have to allow our divorce to determine what our trip down Unknown Avenue looks like. Through God’s word, we can pick ourselves back up and put the pieces back together. We can navigate this road gracefully by letting God breakdown the “landmarks” that surround us. By landmarks I mean strongholds.

WE CAN HAVE GRACE UNDER FIRE!

In my previous blog, I mentioned several strongholds that I faced after my divorce. In that post we broke-down Anxiety.  Today’s post will be focused on the crazy need for approval that sneaks-in in the midst of turmoil.

Addiction to Approval

Yes – I called it an addiction. And that’s exactly what it is…  we get snared into its’ trap so easily. Everything we once found our sense of belonging in – our roles in our marriage and in our home –  has crumbled. We need emotional/mental support from those around us and so desperately want to know that we are doing a good job managing our trip down this Unknown Avenue.

I recall, immediately after my divorce,  an overwhelming amount of my self-value came directly from the approval of others. I had completely lost my footing – every disapproval  or disagreement (especially from my ex) felt like rejection and a stark reminder that I was not enough. As much as I didn’t want to serve the needs of my ex – I would cave and seek his approval. I became an all-around “people pleaser”. I wanted to be “ENOUGH” by myself and I searched for that validation in the approval of those around me.

So lets unpack that mess written above…

1- Finding our self value in the approval of others.

This looks like it’s pretty black and white. Like, we are all adults here and we all know this. Yes, we do! But do we live it? Most of us don’t… not in our post – divorce state, anyway. We are searching to cling to any little thing that can help us feel whole, even if it’s only momentarily. We are broken and often emotionally exhausted. It feels so good to have a little pick-up or pat on the back. Unfortunately, that approval we receive provides that little glimpse of happy that makes us feel whole for just a little bit. BUT BEWARE! The idea of needing approval is a lie. The enemy deceives us into believing that we need that approval in order to be whole. That’s untrue and far, far from what God has for us. That approval only offers a temporary “feel good”. Shift your focus to the word of God – it provides long-lasting wisdom and comfort. God’s word provides a lifetime of wholeness and completeness in us that cannot be provided by any human.

John 4:14 English Standard Version (ESV)

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a]The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

2- Every disapproval or disagreement feels like rejection (especially from our ex)

I think the title is self-explanatory… Oh the sting of our ex not liking something else that we’ve done. I allowed this to manifest as ” I don’t really care what he thinks” or “I’m not married to him anymore so it doesn’t matter what he thinks”. BUT – those were lies. Those were the things I spoke allowed because it cut me like a knife every time. Initially, after my divorce – no one could make me question myself like my ex-husband. Every time he didn’t approve, I would find myself obsessing over ways to make him admit that I AM A GOOD MOTHER! Guess what? That’s a goose chase… How crazy was I? Trying to get the person that hated me the most to give me my self-worth!?!? But I didn’t stop with my ex – I got to the point where I literally shut out people who didn’t offer their approval of my actions or decisions. I couldn’t take it – every disapproval brought back the wrenching feeling of rejection. I let friends go and turned away family that wouldn’t feed my need for approval. I lost me – my self-confidence, my self-esteem, and my ability to make decisions on my own. I questioned my own judgement. But I sought healing in the people around me – so when I got some approval it temporarily put a band aid over my hurts. Do you see how this could become an addiction??? You know where I found real healing for those rejections and that dis-approval?

GOD’S WORD

THAT’S RIGHT… OUR LORD AND SAVIOR CAME TO MY RESCUE – EVEN WHEN I WASN’T BEING LOVABLE.. HE HEALED MY NEED FOR APPROVAL, AND HE WILL HEAL YOURS IF YOU WILL GIVE IT TO HIM!

Psalm 147:3 English Standard Version (ESV)

He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.

3- People Pleasing

To an extent – we all aim to please people. It’s not in our fleshly nature to intentionally disappoint those around us. But it’s also not our purpose to please people. Our purpose is to serve our God and His purpose for our life. People pleasing can actually become sin. It’s a sin I’m guilty of myself. When we people please, we are serving people and not serving God. When we desire to please those around us more than we desire to please God we can actually make our trip down Unknown Avenue more difficult. Thankfully, our God is a God of grace and forgiveness. He pours out His grace on us, we should pour out that same grace to those around us. Ask God to help you keep your focus on pleasing Him. Ask Him what pleases Him if you are unsure. Ask for forgiveness for serving those around you instead of serving Him – and live out the blessings He has planned for your trip down Unknown Avenue!

Psalm 103:12 Living Bible (TLB)

12 He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.

4- Am I Enough, by myself?

NOPE! You are not enough by yourself. But WITH GOD, you are more than enough! Today, I can feel those words as I type them. Twelve years ago – I would’ve rolled my eyes and said “yeah, right”… I didn’t feel strong enough, pretty enough, worthy enough, smart enough, cool enough, religious enough, and I certainly didn’t have enough money! So reading those words wouldn’t have said the same thing to me then, as they do now… But for you, I want you to see and feel what those words mean NOW. YOU ARE ENOUGH. I know because God created you perfectly according to His plan. We don’t “earn” our grace or salvation. God gives it to us for free! NO ONE’s disapproval can change the plan God has for you. NO ONE’s opinion can take away God’s blessings for your life. NO ONE’s opinion should cause you to lose hope for your future.  With God, you are enough.

Romans 11:6

And if it is by God’s kindness, then it is not by their being good enough. For in that case the free gift would no longer be free—it isn’t free when it is earned.

Divorce – Where Unknown Avenue runs into Anxiety Road…

Unknown Avenue

Did anyone of us set out to become divorced?? Did we know on the day we said “I do” that we wouldn’t always honor that? Probably not – I say probably because we all know that one person that can’t admit they were wrong, so they back it up with ” I knew it wasn’t gonna work”! And please don’t send an email and tell me that one person is your ex – Haha!

Seriously, no one sets out to get divorced. Even if we were the cause of our divorce, we didn’t set out for that to happen. We didn’t spend time in our marriage day-dreaming about the things we would do in our future ALONE. Most of us spent countless hours planning for our future together. We had hopes and dreams and plans that have now been taken from us. Instead of living out those plans, we wake up each day and set out on a road we never intended to travel. We don’t know where the road leads but more importantly, we didn’t spend a lifetime preparing our hearts for this journey. How do we navigate it? 1 Timothy 4:8

Unknown Avenue is what I call the road we find ourselves on post-divorce. It’s dark, lonely, and filled with what-if’s, guilt, and how to’s… but it doesn’t have to be!

Struggles we thought we beat a long time ago begin to resurface. Our security, our peace, and our comfort zone has been rocked. We have worries and anxiety over the simplest of things. WE HAVE FEAR – FEAR OF THINGS WE’VE NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT.

If you are looking around wondering why you are feeling all these things… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE TRAVELING ON UKNOWN AVENUE…

Because when I started driving we didn’t have GPS and all the fancy digital maps, I am a landmark person. I memorize landmarks – it’s second nature to me now. I don’t even think about it. So I wanna give you a few landmarks I remember about Unknown Avenue.

ANXIETY. ADDICTION TO APPROVAL OF OTHERS. GUILT. ANGER. FEAR. FEELING LOST.

We don’t know the future. We cannot change the road you are on. But with God, we CAN breakdown and remove these landmarks. We can adorn Unknown Avenue with precious memories and new hopes! Todays post is going to cover Anxiety Road. Future post will cover the additional landmarks.

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Anxiety Road

All of the sudden, I found myself consumed with anxiety. Things that I took for granted now paralyzed me. Worry literally ruled my life. I worried whether others would see me differently now? How many friends would side with me and how many with my ex? What is he telling everyone? I can’t even put words on the worry over social media and all that goes along with that. Does my daughter like me better or him better? Is it safe to share my feelings with anyone? Can I trust my friends not to tell him everything I say? This list could be a mile long… but let’s start unpacking this way of thinking before we give the negative more attention than it deserves.

1- Do others really see you differently now?

Honestly, yes! Yes, PEOPLE see you differently now. But no matter how much you worry about it, it will not change. GOD, however, does not see you as any less worthy of His promises than He did before! No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Don’t allow people access to your emotional well-being. Give that to God – seek Him in all situations that arise where you feel others see you as less than or unworthy.

John 6:37 English Standard Version (ESV)

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

 

2- How many friends will side with me and how many will side with my ex?

Twelve years later – it’s pretty easy for me to look back and say “Who cares”! But I remember so well that nothing stings like the broken friendships that you thought were going to stand the test of time. Some of those friendships are going to end. Some will be maintained but not really the same. That makes this season of our lives SOOOOOO much harder. When we are married, we build our lives around our marriage. We often encourage friendships between our spouse and our friends spouse. When we are at our lowest and most vulnerable in our divorce we need FRIENDS. Instead of pushing friends to “choose” a side – ASK GOD. Pray. Pray. Pray. Let friends be friends. When we start pushing people we remove the trust that built the friendship. It is perfectly okay to have friends that are also still friends with your ex. We cannot and should not control our friends. BUT and this is a HUGE BUT – set boundaries on your friendships. You do not need to talk about and constantly stir up negative conversations about you ex or your divorce with everyone. You can still enjoy things that you have always done with those friends without discussing your divorce. Choose wisely who to share details with. Ask God to bring Godly friends to light your path. Go to Him FIRST with your problems and with your struggles. Allow Him to show you safe places to seek guidance on situations that arise. Don’t throw away friendships because you want someone to choose you. Be grateful that there are people out there who can and will be a positive influence on your ex!

Isaiah 58:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.

 

3 – What is my ex telling everyone?

This question will STEAL so much of your joy and your time. Let’s face it – we don’t really know. And what we hear is only “hearsay”. It’s what we do with what we hear that steals our joy from us. We analyze it, we let it get under our skin and make us angry. We let it hurt us.  What would you think if I told you that you have to give someone permission to steal your joy? You cannot control what your ex says about you or your situation but you also do not have to let it CONTROL you. Guess what? If your ex says the most horrible, nasty things to people you love and care about – it doesn’t change the truth of who you are or your situation. If your like me – you may over-react and lose your cool a few times… but at some point, we have to draw the line. We need to make a conscious decision to not let the words of our ex steal our joy! The enemy is looking for a way to steal your joy and he would love nothing more, than to use the words of your ex to stop you from experiencing the joy God intended for you!

1 Peter 5:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

 

4- Social Media + divorce = ANXIETY ON STEROIDS

Just don’t. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t do it to everyone else. Don’t do it to your ex. Don’t do it to your children. I’m talking about airing your dirty laundry on social media. DO NOT DO IT. When I first divorced, social media had not yet made its grand entry into our everyday lives.  I may not be as experienced in this area of anxiety as I am the others but we all know divorce makes us do some pretty crazy, irrational, and at times – questionable things. Don’t let posting trash about your ex or your situation be on your list of crazy things you’ve done. But for me, I think scrolling through and seeing everyone else’s “perfect” lives and marriages and vacations and children and friendships and parties and homes and… and… and… ENOUGH – can we throw up already? Not only do we not want to expose our garbage in a social media format, we also don’t want to let everyone else’s portrayal of perfection bring us down. It’s not real. They may have had a great vacay – but I guarantee they didn’t post about the name – calling, all out screaming battle they had trying to get to the airport on time?? Every marriage is hard. Some people learn to adapt. But they are all hard. Don’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram reminiscing the “what-if’s” or the “should haves” or the “I no longer haves”. If you need to delete social media altogether for a period of time to allow your heart to heal and process only your failures and your successes. (Especially if you are a super-empathetic person). Just turn it off – and turn to God or His word every single time you think about Social Media.

Isaiah 41:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

5 – Does my child/children like me better or my ex better?

It’s another trap from the enemy. It’s a fleshly need for vindication that we should shut down as soon as we feel it. This too will steal so much of the time and joy that we have to make memories with our children. The truth is – God intended for our children to love and have both of us. Regardless of the situation, your ex is not your competition. Its one of the BIGGEST mistakes divorced parents make. Don’t compete with your ex, don’t breakdown your child’s relationship with your ex. EMBRACE THE RELATIONSHIP THAT YOUR CHILD HAS WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT. Even if the other parent isn’t doing everything they should or if you need to put certain boundaries in place to protect your children, you can still be positive and offer hope for the other parents future.  But don’t allow the enemy to turn you into a whipping post that he can strike daily with new ideas about how your kids feel about your ex. I discussed something similar with someone in my small group recently. I reminded her that we have to really control our reactions to what our kids say about what happened at the other parents home. Our kids do not like to upset or disappoint us. Not just bad stuff, but also when our ex does something our kids thought was really cool! When they tell us something and we allow our emotions to react, we cut that line of communication with our children. Our reaction doesn’t encourage or stop certain behaviors by our ex or at their home, but it does stop our children from telling us about it – our kids seek to please us and make us happy.

2 Corinthians 5:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

for we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

6- Is it safe to share my feelings with anyone?

The safest place to share your feelings is with Christ. Every. Single. Time. He never betrays you, He never shares your secrets or twist your words. We talked earlier about setting boundaries with friends. I would like to recommend setting boundaries with family members too! Especially if you have children with your ex! Just because your divorced doesn’t mean your family members won’t ever need to communicate or see your ex. Remember – you will get over some of the things that have been done to you and when you do, you will regret sharing those things with some people. So try to keep it clean. Find one or two Holy Spirit led friends to really open up to. The kind of friends that are so full of grace that you feel it radiate off of them. Allow them to help you on your journey. Surround yourself with others that will speak life into you. Make it a point to speak life into those around – even your ex. You will be amazed at the work God can do in your heart when you allow Him to work through you. Don’t get bogged down with all the he said, she said… it will make you a paranoid mess!!!!!! TRUST ME!

John 14:27 English Standard Version (ESV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That’s really just a very surface look into the anxiety that overwhelmed me after my divorce. We each have our own issues. But our God can heal them all just the same. Go to God with those things that worry you!

And look for Divorce – Where Unknown Avenue meets Addiction to Approval Street coming tomorrow!!

Abandoned Places of the Heart…

Honestly, I had this post outlined and I came across the photograph below – it said more to me than any words I could write down… If I could capture an image of what divorce does to a heart, this would be it.

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Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard
The vibrant colors that once filled this space are faded. The paint that gave it character has been covered. The old still seeps through in some places but the majority is hidden by something that was supposed to make it better.That cover is now peeling away piece by piece. The brick that was once the foundation is partially exposed. The foundation appears unharmed if you could only get to it through the mess that lays over it. All the plaster and shallow fillers are crumbling around the brick. An open chair that was once occupied by so many. Now there isn’t a human being that would really understand the mess that surrounds that seat. The very floor where everyone walked is rotten. No longer able to provide a sturdy surface for anyone or anything.  I feel like I could go on for days about this space. Seriously – this is what my heart felt like when the storm of my divorce passed and I sat down long enough to catch a glimpse of myself – ABANDONED…

Divorce creates tons of abandoned places in our hearts. They are like little doors that we shut-off from the world and even ourselves. All of our hopes and dreams for our marriage. Our ideas for our future together. Our plans for our children. All abandoned. The little quirky things that made us laugh, the annoying habits of the other, the things we did for one another. ABANDONED. No matter what shape your marriage was in when it was over, at some point that relationship brought joy to you. At some point you left behind that “me” mindset and it became a “we”. Whatever adjustments, sacrifices, and compromises you made to make that marriage work now feel like festering wounds in your heart. Our fleshly nature is to abandon those places in our heart. Close them up and seal them off….

But y’all, our God is SOOOOOOO good and so mighty! I’m gonna start with the foundation in this photograph and work outward from there. First, I want to point out that divorce is spiritual in nature. It’s not about you or breaking just your marriage – it’s about the enemy keeping division alive and manifesting ungodly brokenness in a whole generation of people. It’s about keeping you, your ex, your children, and your entire family from experiencing the joy God intended for all of us to live in!

The Foundation

I hope you noted in the photograph that the foundation -THE BRICK- remains unharmed. THAT MEANS THE WORK GOD STARTED IN YOUR HEART, YOUR PURPOSE, IS NOT BROKEN! No mistake or past decision you’ve made can keep you from the promises God has for each of us.  Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord”. Now, there are certainly earthly consequences for our actions but those consequences do NOT have to define our future.

That’s a big deal! It’s a REAL BIG PROMISE – one that changes EVERYTHING! The plan that Satan had to destroy us can become the thing that God uses to BUILD us. I had someone tell me just this week, “God is using your ashes to help me”. And I believe to my very core – that is TRUE! But I believe He can use all of our ashes to help light the way for another, not just mine! WE (that means YOU) all have a purpose in this battle!

No matter where you came from or what your past looks like, your FOUNDATION is in Christ. He is your CREATOR. I know many of you look around and think, “I don’t even have a solid foundation” or “my foundation is cracked”. That is a lie from the enemy! Our God didn’t create us broken – We are fearfully and wonderfully made in his image – Psalm 139:14. We have a LOVING Father. Some of you may not have experienced the same in your earthly fathers, but again, OUR FOUNDATION IS IN CHRIST. No matter who you are or who you were.

He loved us enough to create us, to create this world. Our Father is the Holy Trinity. He is three in one! Our God functions as our Father, He functions as Jesus the son of God, and He functions as the Holy Spirit. Our Father in Heaven is our Creator. He sent his son Jesus to earth to die for us. Jesus walked and talked in the same way we do. He experienced pain, suffering, loss, betrayal , and more hurt than we can imagine. The Holy Spirit is the third part of that Trinity – the Holy Spirit is God, it’s not some spooky figure or crazy religion. The Holy Spirit is God here on earth. God functions on earth through the Holy Spirit. Don’t wait to allow the Holy Spirit to fill you – we won’t need the Holy Spirit when we get to Heaven – we need Him NOW. We need the Holy Spirit while we are here on earth, it’s how God flows through us!

We are not going to see our foundations change and improve by our own natural abilities – but by the Holy Spirit.

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Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard

Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit”. Take a minute and pray. Right here. Right now. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your life, your home, your office, your relationships, and anything you come in contact with!! Connecting with the Holy Spirit is how we repair our foundations. It’s how God restores us! He renews His Spirit within us! Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.

The Wall

Seeing that vibrant pink paint peek through on the wall reminds me of that perky, trusting, and giggling girl I was before I even acknowledged love in the way I do now. That heart that had not yet been broken, that hand that had not been held by anyone in “that way”, and those ears that had never heard words whispered in such a manner. When we think back on our innocence (I’m not only referring to sexual purity but our emotional innocence), we often think we can never have that again. WRONG – that’s the enemy talking.

Much like that wall, our hearts will never look exactly like they did. There will always be streaks of the mess we tried to cover it up with. BUT we can choose to peel back those layers and restore the beauty our Creator put within us or we can choose to allow those streaks to remain and hold us back from purpose we’ve been given.

The project-loving artist inside of me wants nothing more than to grab a scraper and have my way with that wall! I wanna get rid of the peeling paint and crumbling plaster and reveal the beauty that lies behind it. I do it with my hands frequently – I so love to restore furniture and antique pieces. Sometimes I restore them to their initial purpose or beauty, but usually I restore them to function for a current purpose in a completely new light….

So why not do that with our heart??

If we want to restore our hearts to their former beauty, we simply need to start by asking Christ to help us.

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Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard

God loves to hear all the good and He loves us when we are at our best. But we need him MOST in the areas where we are our worst. And He’s that kind of God! He’s the kind of God that loves YOU AND ALL OF YOUR FLAWS. He wants to hear about what hurts so bad and He wants to you to invite him into that place in your heart that has kept you from trusting, He only wants us to ask! Just like that paint and plaster isn’t just going to jump off that wall, our past hurts and wounds aren’t just going to jump out of our hearts. We have to use our actions to set things in motion for our desired result. Wounds don’t just go away… but we can replace those wounds with scripture and with the promises God gave us. I literally sat down with a pen paper not too long after I rededicated my life to Christ. I made a list of every hurt I could remember. Anything from my childhood all the way through my divorce. Over the next several months – and yes it took MONTHS (because my list was several pages, front and back) – I sat down every night and replaced each hurt with a scripture. I would read it enough to memorize each one and then I’d cross that hurt off my list. The scripture didn’t have to directly pertain to the hurt, it was pretty hard to find a scripture directly linked to my feelings being hurt about who I bunked with at church camp in 1991. But in my heart I let go of that and replaced it. Looking back, I’m amazed that I walked around with pages of baggage weighing me down. I can’t believe how much unforgiveness covered the beauty our God had given me!!!

The Chair

We once had a space in our heart where our spouse sat. They filled that chair. But now it sits empty. ABANDONED. Not suitable for anyone. Two things come to mind here.

One – in my first marriage I allowed my spouse to sit in that seat. I looked to him to do things for me only God could do. I ran to him with my emotions and my every need. I took a seat that should have belonged to the Holy Spirit and I gave it to my husband. Our spouses have a seat in our hearts but their seat isn’t before Christ.

Two- that picture of that chair seriously depicts an emptiness I had in my heart better than I could ever describe! See, we spend our whole lives imagining what our future will be like and building our plans. Making that seat in our hearts for our spouse just the way we want it. The way television and social media tell us it should be.

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Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard

Someone actually took time with that chair. They picked out the fabric it would be covered in and they strategically placed it where it would best suit their needs.

We do this with our hearts. When we are hurt, we pray and ask God to change the offender. We pray that He will fix them. But if this were your chair in your heart would you allow someone else to decide where and how it would best fit your needs??

Look at that abandoned place in your heart where your spouse used to sit. Do you need them to be fixed to make life easier for you?? Nope! The enemy creates that illusion. Before we see situations around us change we have to see our spirit change. No matter how many people you sit in that chair, it will sit the same in your heart unless you change the chair!! Let me say that again, NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU SIT IN THAT CHAIR IT WILL SIT THE SAME UNLESS YOU MOVE THE CHAIR OR CHANGE IT!

We ask God to change our ex, but how many times do we ask Him to change us?? The truth is, even if God changes our ex – if we don’t change our own perspective, we won’t know they’ve changed!

That chair is empty now but it doesn’t have to be abandoned! We can start restoring it today! We can move it, replace it, recover it, start preparing it for whatever occupant God has planned for it – I mean it may be your ex if reconciliation is in your future. It may be someone new. It may be a purpose outside of marriage that God has planned for you. Whatever it is, we don’t want it sitting in the same messy chair that’s been left abandoned and exposed to the elements. We want it to be new, fresh, moved to the place that best serves its purpose currently and most of all, WE WANT IT COVERED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT!

The Floor

I know it seems like we should’ve addressed the floor before the chair and maybe even before the wall. But to me, the floor is our access to every part of this space. We must first walk across the floor to get to the chair or the wall. The foundation holds the floor up like it does everything else. So I guess in my mind, the floor protrudes out further than anything in this space.

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Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard

What a mess we see on the floor. It’s where all the broken parts fall. It catches everything. Except the parts that are rotten and now allowing anything and everything in.

God can use the floor to be a boundary, a filter sort of. Everything that comes in has to walk across the floor but everything that walks across the floor doesn’t have to be allowed to touch the chair or the walls and it certainly cannot break the foundation. The floor may crack, it may fall. It will likely let us down in some ways. But the floor is REPLACEABLE. God can build it anew. Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit”.  Let God build that floor back with His Word. Read the scriptures and let God reveal what He needs you to hear from them. Let the Holy Spirit be the floor that must be walked across. Let Him be the filter for who and what gets to enter those parts of your heart that were previously abandoned.

Don’t keep any part of your heart closed off or abandoned. That allows the enemy to use it and create worries and scenarios in our minds that are likely never going to come into fruition.  Open all the abandoned places in your heart. Allow God to fill those voids and create new places in you.

And before I close this out I want to give a shout out to https://www.instagram.com/bowtizbeard – Go check out some of the amazing work he has captured! This is not a paid shoutout – Haha! Really, he and his wife are friends from childhood and I just happen to run across some of his photography work recently. I haven’t seen either of them in close to twenty years…  I am in awe of the gift he has and think you all would enjoy it as well!

Please comment below on some the abandoned places you found in your heart – your ashes can be a light for someone else!

God is our peace…

John 14:27 New International Version (NIV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I know… I know… everyone is currently rolling their eyes saying “live in peace with my ex?? You haven’t met my ex”! Haha – you’re right I haven’t! But God has and guess what?He loves your ex the same as He loves you!

It is so, so important that we learn to live in peace. We don’t have to create our own peace – we have God’s peace! Refer back to John 14:27 – Jesus left His peace here for us. How awesome is that?? Peace is here, we don’t have to create it. We just have to open the word and find it!

Finding peace in the word of God is actually much easier than we make it. Peace is literally everywhere – God is peace, He is also omnipresent – therefore, we are surrounded by peace. However, the enemy loves to distract us with barriers that keep us from experiencing the peace that Christ intended for each of us.

I’m pretty sure society has created an idea that living in peace with your ex-spouse is paradoxical. Funny how SOCIETY so often creates the “norm” for everything. We (including myself) follow feelings that aren’t even there because society teaches us that’s how we “should” feel. Have you ever looked around in a situation and wondered why you didn’t really feel the way people around you do or how others think you should feel?

I remember a conversation with my Dad years ago regarding the loss of someone in his childhood. He recalled looking around and seeing everyone crying and sad but he didn’t feel that way on the inside. He wondered if there was something wrong with him or if he was missing something because he didn’t feel the same way that everyone thought he should. Well-meaning adults were depicting feelings onto him and he eventually played along outwardly because he thought that is how he should have felt. Society said he should be completely devastated, he should be in mourning. But the little boy in him really just wanted to rush on over to the baseball field and hit some balls with his buddies. Part of that is truly because his child-like mind wasn’t able to comprehend forever – forever gone or forever here – forever isn’t really something most adults can process much less a pre-adolescent. But part of that was truly because he was not feeling the same emotions that society projects onto children that lose a loved one.

We can not allow society to define the “norm” of our relationships based on the title of the person. If it were socially acceptable – I believe we would see many more blended families and exes interacting together for the best interest of their children. Why are we conforming to society? Why are we allowing society to define how we interact, when we should be annoyed, when we should be worried, and who we should be compared to? Why do people think my husband and I are crazy when we tell them we took our children to dinner with my ex-husband and his wife? Why do people seem so confused when I call my ex-husbands wife a friend of mine? Because society and the enemy tell us that’s strange, we should be angry at our ex. How many times have you had others make a derogatory statement about their ex? Probably more than you’ve heard someone defend their ex…

When we are not living in the peace God intended for us, we stay distracted by every little thing that passes by. We shouldn’t be so distracted by the title ex-husband that we lose our peace and are unable to focus on the task at hand.

Example…. (because I love sharing how mean my flesh is – haha!)

Rewind to Summer 2011 – my daughter was 7 years old and had just finished her softball season. We were celebrating the end of the season with our team at the bowling alley.  As all coaches do these days, her coach had purchased a trophy for each player to receive. The awards are given and my daughter walks back to her seat waving her trophy with a BIG smile. She was so proud! But for me the anxiety increased the moment she turned to walk back towards us with that trophy in her hand.  WHO WAS GONNA TAKE THAT TROPHY HOME?

“I keep all of her keepsakes.”

“He’s only doing that to mess with me.”

“I have a place on her dresser for that trophy.”

“What could he possibly want with that trophy?”

“I’m taking that trophy to my house – I want to have it with me”

Oh y’all – the thoughts that creep in my head as distractions are unreal! I remember this story vividly. I can almost feel my heart racing as I’m typing it out. Not because I feel the same but because I’m so mad that the enemy was able to STEAL so much peace from me before I caught it!!!

Back to the story – Immediately, I recognize that my daughters dad is wanting that trophy too! There were no words exchanged but the looks that were passed said far more than our words could have. In just mere seconds and one moment of joy for our daughter, we had created turmoil over nothing. Was it something? Yes, it was a trophy. But it was nothing because it didn’t belong to either of us. It was HERS. She practiced, she played, and she earned it. The coach bought it for HER. And to be honest, both houses were her house so no matter which house it went to it still belonged to HER.

I thank God that my husband spoke up! I mentioned to him that I was a little frustrated because I thought my daughter would take the trophy to her dads with her when they left (it was his weekend so she would leave with him). He looked at me almost cross-eyed and said “do you really care whose house the trophy goes to, doesn’t it belong to her?” Against my better judgement, I proceeded to rationalize to him why I wanted the trophy to come to our house. He looked at me and said – “what would you think about me if I wanted one of my children’s trophies?” He then reminded me that I get all of her school work and artwork daily as she comes in from school… how often had I shared any of that with him, and why was I entitled to any of that any more than he was??

YIKES!!!!!

My husband just took sides with my ex?? Seriously? But, he was right… it was a trophy! One that is likely going to sit and collect dust for about ten years before being boxed up and stuck in an attic until she gets married and decides to throw it away!

But do you see how something so tiny and frivolous can be built up into a mountain if we let satan run wild with our thoughts?? See how just the fact that he is my ex-husband automatically changed his motives in my mind? Do you know how many of my girlfriends I could’ve called and their response would have been “what a jerk!” as they fueled the fire.

 

PEACE. Peace in ALL things. Peace EVERYWHERE. Peace, especially in those places that there is apprehensions – find the peace that God gave us and walk in it. Look for a way or call out to God to help you find peace in every part of your interactions with your ex!

Could the motives and thoughts I projected on him be right? Absolutely, they could be, but they are just as likely to be wrong. But to choose to live out that turmoil and ride the crazy-train that goes along with it would be choosing to neglect the precious gifts of peace and joy that our Heavenly Father gave to us!

Years later, I am much, much better at recognizing these distractions BUT I still need God every single day to renew my mind and fill my heart so that I can see these insignificant troubles for what they are worth. Our flesh will always need earthly vindication if we do not humble ourselves before Christ. I still have to wait before I respond so I can take time to align my thoughts with God’s Word. I actually have Yahweh Shalom tattooed on my wrist as a reminder – IN ALL SITUATIONS – God called me to live in peace… Trust Him… and lean on my Faith where I have fleshly needs for vindication…..

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There’s more to it than just that…

There’s more to it than just that… Than just what? Anything – there is more to everything than just what we see, what our perspective is, or even just the way it affects us directly. He made us fearfully and wonderfully. He made us in His image. We live in the earthly realm of a spiritual world.

While you are reading this blog, it is important for you to understand that I’m not writing this to tell you how you should do things or what you are doing wrong. I am writing this because WE are in a battle. I am in the same battle as you, and I have to surrender EVERYDAY – to make sure I allow God’s armor to fight my battles. As you know, the end of the war is written, and GOD WINS. Everyday I have to remind myself that we are not at war with the people we see in front of us.

This means, as much as you think your ex is Satan himself… your ex is not who you are fighting. 

I know that is not what any of us want to hear. I too, did not like for anyone to tell me that my ex wasn’t all that bad stuff I thought he was. So in order to keep our friendship, I’m just gonna let God’s word do the talking here…

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Yes – that’s right! God’s word tells us the enemy sits around looking for ways to distract us from the plan that God has for our lives!

So let me clarify here… I don’t think, at all, that every little thing is Satan.  Example – Satan didn’t make me throw a remote control at my ex-husband’s head – haha! I am to blame for throwing the remote – I did it! But satan did cause enough distraction that I took my eyes and heart off the plan God had for my life and allowed anger and bitterness to fill me from head to toe! And Satan didn’t stop there – his plan to devour my marriage, and yours too, was not about me or you or your ex… THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN JUST THAT!!! We’re gonna get more in depth about spiritual warfare and divorce and division in another blog – I could type or talk for days on this…. but back to this post –

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So what if we take a step back and really apply this scripture to our everyday interactions with our ex?

When I say apply this verse to our ex – I don’t mean that our ex is the enemy – haha! I know initially that is how I felt and you prob do or did, at some point, also!

Let me just show you what it looked like the first time I put this scripture to work in my divorce… lol!

“He can’t help that Satan is attacking him”

“He’s the one that is lost, satan is attacking him” 

“Bless his heart, he doesn’t know that Satan is using him to carry out evil against one of God’s most precious angels”

And yes, I believed I was now one of God’s most precious angels. (I still do believe that, I just realize now that we are ALL His most precious angels)

I was completely in the mindset that Satan was attacking my ex-husband. WRONG, AGAIN. It took me a long while to really understand how to apply this to myself. We can’t wage a war for someone else’s thoughts. So that battle can’t be one that God intended for us to fight. But we can wage a war on our own thoughts and actions. We can certainly pray for the thoughts of those around us, but even then, I find God usually transforms my thoughts about them…

Eventually, I applied this verse to my interactions more like this…

“Satan is at work and the battle is against the enemy.”

“The enemy is not my ex-husband and Satan isn’t attacking him. Satan is attacking my perception of him and my thoughts regarding interactions with him.”

“Satan is trying to devour our ability to communicate and raise our daughter.”

“Satan is trying to keep us in constant turmoil to distract us from God’s plan.”

Now that looks more like a battle that God wants to help me fight! See, that’s just it. Satan is so nasty and slithery that he even uses our own thoughts to convince us that the problem lies somewhere else. I am not saying our exes our innocent. I AM saying that they are not the cause of everything, they do not decide which thoughts we allow in. We are responsible for our own thoughts…

So in reality, it looks something like this…

My ex calls and says, “I have two tickets to the Alabama Football game on Saturday, I know it’s not my weekend but I’d really like to take Ana to the game… would you mind?”

I can CHOOSE to perceive this in several different ways. I can CHOOSE to have the mind of Christ in this situation, to trust God and align my thoughts with His word. But I can also CHOOSE to allow satan to twist my thoughts and wreak havoc on this situation.

Before we respond to this question, let’s first take a look at the different perceptions and try to decide how God would want us to perceive this (because God’s word does not discriminate against exes or anyone else). We could turn this into many different scenarios but the point is to make sure our thoughts align with the word of God. So here a few different ways we could think – or at least these are different ways I have thought…

1- “He just got tickets to the game because he knew I had planned to take Ana to the movies and he always tries to out-do me. He never gets tickets on his weekend.”

 

2-”He only wants to take her to do fun stuff when I have her so she will want to be with him instead of me.”

 

3- “I’m glad he thought to ask Ana to the game, that’s one of her favorite things to do.”

 

4- “He really misses Ana, and thought it might be fun to take her to see her favorite team.”

Those are all completely, logical thought processes. It is not wrong to have any of those thoughts. But we must CHOOSE which thoughts to listen to and act on. Sure it’s possible that there was some kind of vindictive nature behind his request. It’s also just as likely that there wasn’t. This is what I call satan’s playground. The enemy would love nothing more than for you to fixate on the first two perceptions. Then he can lead you down the slippery slope that leads to nowhere but constant struggling and emotional torture.

CHOOSING to align our thoughts with Christ does not mean we always have to respond with a “yes” or allow our exes to have what they are asking for. It simply means we do not act on or analyze thoughts from satan. We do not allow the enemy to convince us of our exes intentions. Unless, your ex shares with you their intentions, there is NO WAY we could possibly understand their motives. We shut those thoughts down as soon as we recognize them. We choose to focus only on the thoughts that align with what Christ says about us and calls us to be. The reality of the situation could be a million different things. The only facts we have are the ones that were given in the call and the Word of God.

The facts in this situation are :

-My ex has tickets to a football game.

-He wants to take my daughter.

-Its my weekend, I would need to give up or trade out time with her.

This is actually an example of one of the first interactions that I CHOSE to see my ex and his intentions as Christ called me to do. Mind you- that what Christ called me to believe and carry out, was not at all what I felt like doing. But our feelings can lead us so far from reality that in hindsight, those first two thought processes seem pretty far-fetched.

You may be thinking, “that’s not far-fetched for my ex”, he really does that… And that may be true, he may have crooked intentions. But it is definitely far-fetched from the joy that Christ intended for us to live in. And we can’t live in His victory while fixating on thoughts that are tempted by satan. We have to CHOOSE  to hone-in on Christ-like thoughts. Even if you choose to fixate on one of the first two perceptions, you would be fixating on a “possibility” that satan threw into your thoughts as bait. Just because you CHOOSE to fixate on that possibility doesn’t make it true, it just causes you anguish.

In this particular situation, my ex had a friend that won tickets to the football game but he and his family had plans to be out of town that weekend. So his friend thought he might want to take our daughter. Truly, there was no way for John to know that I had planned to take her to a movie that day. But I promise if I wanted to, I could have convinced myself he did know. Instead, for the first time – I CHOSE not to.  And the freedom that came with CHOOSING to align my thoughts with the word of God was amazing. I decided to let her go with her dad to the football game, I could take her to the movie anytime.

For the first time, I wasn’t worried that she would have more fun with him than she would with me, I wasn’t worried that he was somehow winning because he got to take her somewhere instead, I wasn’t worried about comparing myself to him or anyone else. For the first-time since my divorce, I had made a decision that wasn’t based on any twisted or construed thoughts. I wasn’t riding my feelings through my decision like a broken roller coaster – through God, I had taken complete control of my thoughts, aligned them with the word, and finally made a decision based only on the facts and what was best for our daughter. And for the first-time, I had made the right decision. There was no guilt or worry tied to that decision.

Wow! That seems like a lot of steps to get to an easy “yes or no”. But rotten thoughts become such a habit that we literally have to re-learn how to think the way God intended for us to think. I had to pray, pray, pray – and I still do!

 

“Our problems look smaller from our knees”

-Joe Mcgee

There is more to every interaction we have than just what we see. There is more to the above interaction than just a football game. See satan intended to use me to further his turmoil and keep distraction and division alive – not to make ME miserable – there’s still more to it than just that! Satan isn’t trying to devour just me, not even just my children – but he is trying to consume generations… He is at work scheming to interrupt the plans God has for our lives. If we don’t walk closely with God and stay in His word, its easy to get mixed up in our thoughts. Its not a battle we win once and have victory over. It’s a battle we must fight daily on earth – but God’s already won the war!

 

What’s your current situation?

This is a Day of New Beginnings

This is a day of new beginnings,

time to remember and move on,

time to believe what love is bringing,

laying to rest the pain that’s gone. *

Brian Wren

UM Hymnal, No. 383

Where do we start?

Here’s my current situation. I’m almost 36, I’ve been divorced since 2007, I have a 14 year old daughter from that marriage. I’ve been remarried since 2012. My husband has three children from his previous marriage. My husband and I have twin daughters that are 2. That means we total out at 6 kids. My oldest daughter lives with us through the school year and spends the summer at her Dad’s. He lives just down the road so we are both actively involved in all of her activities and she sees both of us much more than our “visitation” schedule alotted for. We get along exceptionally well and consider he and his wife to be friends of ours, but we didn’t start out that way.

My husbands situation is quite the opposite. We’ve spent six years constantly battling for every second of visitation that he can get. We don’t get normal visitation as they live 2 hours away and one of them is starting college. We’ve been accused of every thing under the sun, we’ve been told they hate us, and we’ve kept fighting. We’ve been to court more times than I can count. So trust me when I say, with God walking hand in hand alongside us – we ‘ve walked both extremes. It is absolutely possible to find and live in God’s peace and joy no matter what circumstances surround your divorce. It’s also very possible for us to get stuck in our flesh occasionally and let our perception and our problems control our situations. I’ve done both! I still do both! I need God and his immeasurable grace every single day to keep my perceptions aligned with His word and His promises for me and my family.

Just a reminder, He gives that same immeasurable grace to your ex! Haha!

If you are reading this blog, then you are likely already divorced, going through a divorce, soon to be divorced, or know someone that falls into one of these categories. As you sit here and read, I want to encourage you to take every opportunity to remind yourself that shame and condemnation are not from our God.  While the scriptures regarding divorce in the Bible can be a hot topic amongst denominations, the one thing we all agree on is that our God sent his son to die on the cross to pay for our sins, our mistakes, our offenses… His Grace is an incredible gift. When we receive the grace that our Father freely gives us, we should allow ourselves freedom from the guilt, shame bitterness, anger, and embarrassment that society ties to divorce. I don’t want to get too in depth, as we all carry different emotions depending on our specific situations… but if you are reading this and feel you are carrying these attributes around on your shoulders, then please stop here. Walk outside look around and take a DEEEEEEEP breath. Know that our Savior SPOKE  this whole earth into being. So when you breathe that air in, it is His breath that is filling you. How much sweeter could His grace be? Let that be your reminder, that no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done… YOU ARE FORGIVEN! You are whole, you are pure. It is never too late to change. And it is never too late to change how you communicate and relate with your ex…

Change begins in our own hearts…

Change is hard. Changing your thinking is harder. Changing your mind to think positive in a situation that is socially accepted as negative is EVEN HARDER. By about 2010, I knew change was imminent for my circumstances. I could not possibly live the rest of my life  sharing a daughter with my ex and hating him. At least not without damaging all of us emotionally along the way. Joint Custody arrangements were court ordered so the only thing in our circumstance that I could change was the anger portion in my own heart.

I desperately needed to make a decision in which direction to go. And at this point, somehow – in my twenty-something year old head, I made the best decision of my life… One that I would make over and over again. I chose to seek God first in my co-parenting arrangements. I did not know what that meant or how to do it, but knew I was looking for something… something more, something deeper… something better. 

I remember praying and asking God how to erase all those nasty feelings in my heart. Praying for Him to make it all go away. Honestly, I also remember just praying for him to make my ex go away – Haha! And if you’ve never prayed that then you are better than I am! I don’t remember getting a direct answer from God on this. Not like the one he gave about the boyfriend in my The Struggle is Sooooo Real  blog. But I do remember the tug on my heart to follow Jesus getting stronger and more regular almost like contractions only instead of pain it was a feeling of freedom…

God was transforming my heart for this journey but I didn’t know where it would lead. I wasn’t even aware that I was on a journey at all. I knew I was hurting, I knew I hated my ex-husband. I knew I thought everything was all his fault. And most of all, I knew that, I thought I knew better than anyone else what was best for my daughter. Looking back at those last few sentences, I see one thing consistently.. “I’… “I”… ”I”… and unfortunately, at that time, that’s what my life was about… ME. But God had a different plan… and that plan was to change me and change the way I think.

In no way did I start my divorced life with the intentions of it becoming what it is today.  My divorce and co-parenting style started pretty similar to the average divorced relationship. Anyone related to, or friends with my ex was automatically considered to be the enemy. That’s what my life had become… two teams… my team… and his team. Anyone see anything wrong here?? Who does God tell us the enemy is? See how messed up my thinking was?

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Our lives quickly became one big game, that no one could win. Just a continuous baseball game that was stuck in overtime. Inning after inning… He’d do something, score and get ahead, and then I’d do something to score, and we were tied again… Another inning started… Same thing over… Chaos and confusion – just how satan liked it.

The problem here is that there was no “Team Ana”. While I can’t speak for my ex-husband, I can speak for myself and say that most of my motives were driven by selfishness and competition. Being better, looking better, having more, and being loved more than the other parent.

At this time, I wanted everyone to know just how awful my ex was and he wanted the same. I desperately needed our friends to pick a side and have a seat behind the corresponding dug-out… so they could buy popcorn and cokes and cheer on the team they chose… And since this was a never-ending game, this life quickly became EXHAUSTING! Exhaustion lead to further opportunity for Satan to weasel his way in our thoughts and hearts and satan’s temptations and planted thoughts would lead to further bad decision making. Which you can see started a cycle that only led us back to the same problems and arguments over and over again….

Ex·haus·tion –  ¹Extreme weakness or fatigue. ²The total consumption of something.

exhaustion. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 19, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/exhaustion

Satan loves to hide out in our weaknesses. When we are exhausted we often expose our weaknesses to him.  He loves to curl up real small and fit perfectly into the thought of an exhausted Momma or Daddy. The enemy can completely devour the very strong person you thought you were before you became exhausted. He can convince you that your ex is no good, that he is unimportant, that his opinions are wrong or invaluable, that he is invaluable, or that he doesn’t deserve some type of place in your children’s lives. He can make you believe that every word and action of your ex was a well thought out plan to harm you… or make your children dislike you.  He can eat you up with guilt and shame… spit you out, deep fry you and eat you again… And this is where it gets worse, during that deep frying phase, he totally consumes you. He changes you on the inside when his nasty thoughts have taken root in your heart. When you think he is done, he takes those TOTALLY CONSUMED THOUGHTS and convinces you to believe all of those same nasty things about YOURSELF.

Total consumption… now there’s a thought.  We as humans are totally consumed by our thoughts. Even when we try our best not to be or feel that it is not true.  What we think about and focus on fills us up and overflows out of us. If something overflows out of me, it affects my children.  

I’m not saying your ex or mine did not do anything to justify any of your feelings or behaviors. I am saying that as a Momma, we have to be VERY careful what we focus on. If we get side-tracked thinking about how much we hate or disagree with something our ex is doing, the enemy uses that as a vessel to set sail in your thoughts. But if we stay focused on God and His purpose for us, then we prevent satan from entering because without a vessel he will sink. (Thankfully, our God walks on water! He doesn’t need a vessel! And He sure doesn’t sink when we forget about Him ;-))

In a co-parenting or divorced situation, our purpose is BIG. There are no words to describe how amazing the purpose of being a parent is…

Parent purposeTo be chosen by God to conceive, carry, adopt, raise, mentor, grow, rear, support, cultivate, and/or nurture another being created by Christ himself.

This is an INCREDIBLE PURPOSE. It is not our only purpose, but I feel strongly that in the grand scheme of purposes… it probably ranks pretty high!

There are some really big changes I would make if I could go back and start my Momma purpose over. There are probably some things regarding your parenting role, in your past, that you wish you could change too. No matter how badly we want to change them, we can not. We can, however, apologize or make amends. It’s like emotional restoration for wrongs we have done or things we didn’t do that we know we should have. We can verbalize them or just pray about them. I strongly suggest praying about these things first and allowing God guide you on how and who you should ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the very first step in changing our circumstances. Asking for God’s forgiveness, forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and asking for others to forgive us.

Thank you God, that Jesus is indeed the same Jesus today that He has always been and that He will be that Jesus tomorrow and next year! God has changed my life, my insight, and my heart. My journey has now become clear to me.  My journey is to be a “walking with God everyday and every step of the way” kinda Momma… Daughter… Sister… Wife… Friend… and yes “Ex-wife”.

Those are big roles to fill considering the hate and bitterness that consumed my heart just ten short years ago when this journey began! It is important to remember that God can change emotions and feelings that are deeply rooted in our hearts. But we first have to invite Him into those places in our hearts… so starting right now… call out to God and INVITE HIM INTO your divorce and your relationship with your ex and their family/friends! Even if you do not feel like forgiving. Even when you know in your heart that YOU DO HATE THAT EX OF YOURS. Go to Him in prayer, and ask Him to change your heart. Be honest, tell him how you feel and declare and speak into life what you want to see change in your heart…

“Lord, I want my heart to be in line with your word… but it’s not. I know I am supposed give others the same grace you have given me, but I don’t feel like I want to. I need you Lord… I am not able to repress these thoughts and feelings of anger and bitterness on my own… Honestly, I hate ________. I know that isn’t how you intended for me to live and I know I can’t embrace the joy you created for me to live in while my heart carries this hate… change my heart Lord…”

I prayed something similar to that prayer everyday for months… I didn’t notice big changes in my feelings day to day. But when I compared my feelings from the start, to my feelings months down the road, I realized that piece by piece, God had indeed chiselled away the roots of hate and bitterness that satan had planted in my heart. This began a major change of my perceptions and communication with my ex. This allowed me to step out of the way and let God do his work in both of our hearts.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! (English Standard Version Bible. Hebrews 13:8)

***side note – I love old hymns, music and worship are like a gateway to my personal time with God and thats why you will occasionally see my blogs start with whatever hymn God was speaking through to me.

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