Lamentations of the Heart…

Let’s dive into Lamentations. A not-so-popular book of the Bible – one that we don’t typically get excited to read. It’s a little deep and harsh but, to me, the desolation that is described so closely mimics the reality of a broken home, a broken nation, and the broken world we live in.

Lamentations 1:2 New International Version (NIV)

Bitterly she weeps at night,
    tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
    they have become her enemies.

I believe, America, as a whole, is in a crisis of fallen marriages, broken homes, and relational poverty. WE all crave relationship. Whole relationships – with parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends. But we are each so broken we can’t make relationships work. We question the legitimacy of love, trust, and loyalty. We didn’t just arrive here because of one recent divorce.

Having lunch with a friend of mine earlier in the week, I was talking to her about how I got to where I was emotionally when I decided I was ready for divorce. I told her that we never get there in one step. We all start at our baseline. None of us wake up and set out to trash a marriage. BUT – one little step at time, we get pretty far from our baseline. Let’s say our baseline is at zero. If I step to the left to one, I’ve just stepped a little out of the way. Not far enough for anyone to notice or for me to feel terribly guilty about it. But then, a bit later, I step over to two. Because I had settled in at one, I still don’t see that two is a big step. This process goes on and on and on. One day, we look up and realize that we are on a hundred and miles from our baseline or what we set out to do. Does that make sense? I kind of see our culture that way today. Americans never set out to abolish the idea of true love or forever. They never intended to destroy families and generations. But little by little through each generation we have taken little steps from the baseline of how Christ wanted us to live and reap the benefits of His promises.  When I look around, I am generations from the family relationships Christ intended for me to have. I can’t possibly operate out of the fullness He intended for me to have. Not without HIM.

I know as a divorcee, you probably do not want to be reminded of how we have each contributed to this crisis. But the reality is, if you look around you –  at least half of the people you see have been damaged by divorce in some way. Maybe through their own divorce, that of their parents or even grandparents. Divorce leaves a legacy of brokenness behind us. So many of us are grieving what we thought was forever. We are weeping and lonely. Full of uncertainty inside and yet we don’t understand what keeps causing us to fall.  A path of destruction that we never intended. And one that we MUST break. Through forgiveness and repentance we can change our legacy. Walking in relationship with God can completely fill us. We can learn to trust and love. We can pour that fullness into our children and generations that follow us. ONE STEP AT A TIME, WE CAN GET BACK TO OUR BASELINE. Who Christ created us to be.

In Lamentations, we see the fall of Jerusalem. It was in complete ruins. The people of Jerusalem had lived in sin. They had stepped way off the baseline they were given. God allowed terrible destruction, but not without compassion and hope for the future.

First, a little history on Lamentations for you – just so you’ll be able to get the context of it’s verses. Lamentations doesn’t say who wrote the book, but the general consensus is that it was Jeremiah the prophet.  None-the-less, the author was present when the Babylonian Army  captured Jerusalem and demolished Solomon’s temple in 586 B.C. He laments over the destruction and serious suffering of the people during the siege and the  aftermath. The author was clearly a victim of this tragedy but also a spectator. Many of us are victims of our own divorce but also spectated the divorce of our parents or grandparents. Back to Lamentations…

lam·en·ta·tion

/ˌlamənˈtāSH(ə)n/
noun
plural noun: lamentations
  1. the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.
    “scenes of lamentation”
    synonyms: weeping, wailing, crying, sobbing, moaning, lament, keening, grieving, mourning

    “the survivors’ lamentation”
    • a book of the Bible telling of the desolation of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
      singular proper noun: Lamentations; singular proper noun: Lamentations of Jeremiah; noun: Lamentations

Obviously, Lamentations is not the book we turn to for the quick pick-me-up scripture. However, within its pages we can find some powerful lessons about God and the truths that hold dominion over our lives. I think its important, as we walk through the steps to rebuild our lives after divorce, that we are honest with ourselves. Honest about what the Bible says regarding divorce and honest about things that we may have done to contribute to our divorce.  And we’ve all done at least one thing that we could have done better. The scripture is very clear to me, divorce is a sin. There are some exceptions noted. And this is a highly debated topic. But what I want us to take away from this is that it is so important to align our present and our future with Gods word.

I don’t believe for a second that God is casting each of us down to Hell for our divorce. I do, however, know that there are earthly consequences for my sins. (That’s the beauty of the grace Jesus died for – He paid the eternal price for our sin – we have access to forgiveness through repentance).

One of those earthly consequences for me was the emotional and financial disaster I found myself in after my divorce. But the disaster wasn’t that God was bestowing suffering upon me because I did wrong. The disaster came because we can’t live by earthly standards and sin yet still reap the benefits of the joy God promised us. Not because He doesn’t want us to have it. God used His word to warn us of sin because He already knows the destruction each sin can cause in our lives. Some of us even become “self-destructive” in our sin. So please – don’t take this wrong. I’m not trying to make you feel bad or guilty. I’m standing right beside you saying – “Hey, I screwed up too!”. There is hope in destruction. And when we get down to our bare bones and have nothing to cling to, God is still there. He can rebuild, restore, and repair us.

 I believe God desires to bless us rather than afflict us:

Lamentations 3:21-25 New International Version (NIV)

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

No matter what your situation looks like today, find hope in Him. No matter the mistakes you’ve made or the sins you’ve committed, you can repent. Turn back. Change your ways. You can choose to align your life with God’s word and have the joy and happiness that He promises us in the Bible. Lamentations of the heart are temporary. Hope is eternal. Your sorrow and hurt from your divorce will pass – don’t let it define you. Even in your greatest despair, you are not alone. Choose what you want your legacy to be. Everyday do one thing to contribute to that legacy. One day you will look over your shoulder and see that step-by-step God healed you and changed you.

Unforgiveness, Fear, and Lies – Look in the Mirror…

Get comfy for this one… Hold onto your seat and be prepared to get mad at me. We’ve all been told that forgiveness isn’t necessarily for the offending party, but rather, forgiveness sets US free. TRUE STATEMENT. But lets take that a step deeper… deeper into our own souls and how it really can change us more than most of us even understand.

UNFORGIVENESS, FEAR, AND LIES. 

I can hear it now – you think I’m referring to your adversaries. Your ex. The other ex. The side chick. The ex-mother-in-law. The new wife. The step-mom. Whoever it may be in your case. I’m not talking about or to them. I’m talking about and to YOU. I promise – if you’ll be transparent with yourself for just a little bit here, you’re gonna find some soul ties to unforgiveness, fear, and lies. This topic is extremely broad but for our purpose, I’m gonna reel it in and relate it specifically to divorce and the obstacles we face through it.

I wish there was a way to really break this down and separate the three into individual categories. But they are so closely linked, I can’t hardly speak about one without tying it into the other. So instead I’m just gonna break it down into different situations and how they can and WILL be toxic to us. Let’s start here:

When we believe lies, we empower them!

-Pastor Bill Johnson – Bethel Church, Redding, California

Powerful lies…

Did you know that research shows that we are told more lies in our on minds than we are told by all the people we encounter in our lives? We hear more untruth’s about ourselves from the enemy than we hear if we added up every lie we’ve been told by another human. THAT’S SCARY!!!!

When we believe and empower lies – we align ourselves with them. One of the biggest lies Satan uses is fueling anger and bitterness towards other people. So I’m gonna drop a bomb right here. Let’s say that your ex was unfaithful. Maybe once – in a long term relationship with another person, or maybe frequently – with multiple partners. Regardless, you’re angry about it… right?

If you’re a woman, I’d be willing to bet you’ve looked at this other person. You’ve analyzed her. You’ve measured up every inch of yourself to her. It’s highly likely that you have access to photos of her in your pocket. Either on your phone or through social media. You look at her and think she has something you don’t. Your flesh needs an answer, why??? Satan gladly answers that question for you – She’s prettier. Her boobs are bigger. Her hair is blonde and yours isn’t. She has it all together. She’s more fun. She’s younger. She’s older. She’s taller or shorter. She’s skinnier. There. Has. To. Be. Something.

But when we allow those lies to come into question in our minds, we empower them. WE GIVE our adversary power over us! Not because our spouse lied to us. Not because this person betrayed us. But simply by believing a lie that the enemy has presented in our thoughts about us. This lie isn’t about them, it isn’t from them. But is much more powerful than any lie another person could tell. In the course of believing these little lies, we now align ourselves with them… we change on the inside. We look in the mirror and we see less than. We feel hurt and anger. And then the enemy strikes again – he convinces us to look again. To analyze a different area. We open our phone we look at the picture again – and instead it making us feel better like the enemy deceived us into believing, we now see something else. We hear another lie. We believe it. We empower it.

The most powerful lies in our divorce are not those we’ve been told by our ex. They are the ones that the enemy tells us about ourselves. These lies start a chain reaction of events that is hard to get a grip on.

Betrayal > Unforgiveness > Bitterness > Anger > The enemy sneaks in > Lies from the enemy > Fear sets in > We believe the lies >  More anger > more lies from the enemy > more fear > repeat cycle!

Forgiving the unforgivable…

What kind of wrongs are unforgivable? Any kind of wrong that you are still considerably affected by is UNFORGIVABLE TO YOU. And of course, there are those wrongs that we want to forgive but can’t seem to shake. And the kind that we have to forgive daily, because just when we forgive one wrong – there is another offense. So I’m gonna share an experience my husband and I have been through and are still walking through. An experience that has and can STILL bring us down if we don’t keep our thoughts captive and our circumstances in perspective.

My husband and I have been married for six and a half years. This is a second marriage for both of us. He came into our marriage with three children from his previous wife. I came into it with one child from my previous marriage. That makes four kids total and we now have twin two-year-olds together. So a grand total of six kids. That’s quite a mouthful to spit-out. But there’s also a whole lot of room in there for the enemy to rear his ugly head. And Satan has done just that. We married in 2012 and it didn’t take long for the enemy to pounce.

Here’s how the attack manifested –

In 2013, my husbands ex-wife launched some pretty nasty allegations against him. Abuse that was alleged to have taken place in our home. Allegations that greatly inhibited his relationship with all three of his children. This set in motion an overwhelming investigation. Our local police, DHR from our home county, and DHR from the county that his children resided in, our District Attorney, and the District Attorney from their county – ALL INVESTIGATED. No charges were ever filed. The case was presented to the Grand Jury where it was “no billed”. The DHR investigation from both entities found the allegations to be “unfounded”. To narrow down what my husband and I already knew to be true – no abuse took place.

Unfortunately – this investigation took almost two years to complete. That means for two years – we had no visitation with his children. In that time – they relocated over two hours away with their Mom and her new husband. It took us an additional two years and a private investigator to pinpoint there whereabouts to attempt to rebuild what was broken. Were they false allegations??? Yes, but I think they were made with good intentions for an ulterior motive. I don’t think the allegations were made specifically to hurt us as much as to protect her own relationship and role in the life of her children. Now, y’all are gonna think I’m crazy here but I’m not mad at her for it. Did it turn our world upside down? Yep. Did it shake us?? Just for a few minutes – it did! It completely robbed the hope we had for the future of our family together.  But those allegations did not succeed in taking our future away, it just made it look different than what we had planned.

Why would she make those allegations if they weren’t true? UNFORGIVENESS, FEAR, AND LIES. I don’t pretend to know her heart. But through years of hard and honest talks with God – He has enabled me to see her in the way He sees her. A beautiful but wounded Mom – just like me. I can truly say my heart hurts to think anyone else has to walk the broken road of divorce or has to experience any of the fears associated with a broken family dynamic.

Here’s how the enemy played his part –

UNFORGIVENESS, FEAR, AND LIES. Until you put your kids in the car with another woman that will be “playing” the role of Mom for them for the weekend while they are at there Dad’s, you don’t understand the fears and anxiety that come over your Momma heart. Same goes for the men, until you’ve shared your role as the Father of your children – you don’t understand the thoughts and worries that are provoked. I’ve done it – God just happened to help me overcome those feelings before they overcame me. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever think them, it means I constantly replace them with scripture.

There is no way for me to ever really know what was taking place in her mind and heart during this time but I truly believe she experienced some of the exact same fears, anxieties, and lies from the enemy that I did. The enemy will fill your head with thought’s like:

“Why do they think their step-mom is so awesome?”

“If I do break the relationship down with the other parent, then I can have them all to myself.”

“Is there step-mom fun than me?”

“What if they like her better than me?”

“She has so much to offer that I don’t have…”

“She’s enough for my ex-husband and their Father, and I wasn’t – will my kids think she’s better?”

“Why is she fixing my kids hair? Why doesn’t she worry about her own kids?”

“Why is she getting in my Mommy space?”

I could literally type out a list of real thoughts that have crossed my mind and it would be a hundred pages long. But the point is that these are lies that the enemy plants in our mind. And they set in motion a chain of events that can take us so far from reality that we find ourselves believing COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL LIES. See, when we combine these little lies with our role of parenthood it stabs us down to our very core. We come up fighting –  and it is straight “fight or flight” mode! There is nothing we won’t do to fight for our children. This is a good thing… when it’s based on truths. God fights for us, His children, in this same way. He will part seas and even let us wander aimlessly for forty-years just to get to our hearts. But “fight or flight” based on untruth’s is dangerous territory.

I honestly feel like these doubts and fears and anxiety of the unknown, along with sharing the kids, was a driving force behind these crazy allegations. So, believe it or not, I’m not mad at her. My battle isn’t with her, its with the enemy who lied to her. I believe she did what she thought she needed to do to protect her relationship with children and her role as their Mother. I believe she truly hated my husband at that point.  I believe she still had some unforgiveness towards him and she allowed that bitterness to justify her actions in her heart. I wasn’t around before or during their divorce but I’m 100% positive that they both did and said things in anger. They both walked away with bitterness towards one another – I saw that unfold in a courtroom in 2013. My heart actually hurts for her. It hurts because I know that fear. I’ve believed that lie before. I’ve given it power over me and it has beaten me every time I believed it. Certainly, she is responsible for her own actions. But I must admit, she’s a good Mom. She loves her kids and they love her. So often we lash out at the person who is hurting us instead of the enemy who is fueling it. She is NOT a crazy-evil lady – haha! But her actions are based on crazy-evil lies from the enemy.

The root of the problem is built on fear. Fear that was allowed inside through a little door we left open called Unforgiveness. What’s the most common way we fight fear??? Control. When we are fearful, we exert our control in any way we can. So when the enemy plants a little lie in our thoughts and we believe that lie – we empower it. The second we allow a lie to take root in our hearts – it has an immense amount of power over us.  We do crazy things over something that isn’t even truth. We are now controlling the environment around us to keep the lie that Satan planted from coming into fruition. But it was lie – so it was never going to come into fruition anyway…

Again, when we believe lies – we empower them!

When we empower lies we start a never-ending cycle of trying to stay on top of the what-if’s. So here is a better visual of how this cycle looks:

Betrayal > Unforgiveness > Bitterness > Anger > The enemy sneaks in > Lies from the enemy > Fear sets in > Fight or flight >  More anger > more lies from the enemy > more fear > more frantic fight or flight > repeat cycle!

It’s a cycle we can’t quite seem to get out of. But in order to keep from adding to that cycle, we truly need to forgive those who are acting on the lies. We need to see things for what they are. We need to see people the way God sees them. But do you know what keeps us from forgiving?

Fear keeps us from forgiving…

Most fears are based on lies that have been strategically given to us with one purpose in mind. That purpose is to thwart us from the path and life that we experience when we live in relationship with God and His truth.

How do we stop UNFORGIVENESS, FEAR, AND LIES?

The first step is to come into relationship with Christ! The second step is to replace those lies with truth’s. As cliche as it sounds, we have to take EVERY thought captive. One of the girls in my small group pointed out last week that so often we hear the first part of that verse – take every thought captive, but we don’t read the rest of it. So here it is for you…

2 Corinthians 10:5 New International Version (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Taking our thoughts captive means making them obedient to Christ. To do this, we must align EVERY thought that sets itself up in our minds with the word of God. Whatever that thought may be, whether about ourselves or someone else – we must align it with God’s Word. If it doesn’t line up with what God says is true, then we need to replace it with a scripture and make it obedient.

Aside from coming into relationship with Christ, one of the biggest things we can do is forgive. Forgive those who betrayed us. Forgive even when we don’t want to. Forgive and choose to see our offenders the way Christ sees them. As much as we hate our ex, the side chick, the ex-mother-in-law, or the other ex… Jesus loves them. He loves them as much as he loves us! We need to remember to see their actions for what they are, your battle isn’t with the side chick and mine isn’t with my husband’s ex – wife. It’s bigger than that. It’s deeper than that. Truth be told, that offender is broken and wounded. They are hurting too.

Forgiveness isn’t always a one-time deal. It’s not something we just say and it happens. It’s a work of God in our hearts that takes place over time. I truly do not believe we possess the ability in our flesh to forgive without the help of Christ. Some offenses are harder to forgive than others. Some days I don’t feel like I’ve forgiven things as much as other days. Some times its hard because we forgive and before we can heal there is another offense and then another. Forgiveness is a journey we live out everyday. Everyday we have to make the choice to walk with God in forgiveness for those who have hurt us. EVERYDAY I pray to stay open-hearted towards my husbands ex-wife. I ask God to help me to continue to choose to see good in her and continue to allow me to see her the way He does.

Breaking the power of Unforgiveness, fear, and lies doesn’t start with our offenders, it starts with us! When we look in the mirror we should see how valuable God says we are…

IMG_6194

1 Peter 3:4 New International Version (NIV)

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Jesus didn’t “fit-in”

The last couple of blogs have been a little serious – just kind of missing the humor that I usually write with. Those were hard topics but very much the REALITY of divorce. Divorce is hard – it has its’ very own grief process. If that process isn’t handled with care, if we don’t accept and receive the grace God has given us – our divorce could very well define us. These last few post have just been some small reminders to help you recognize and unpack those unwanted feelings. And of course, to shine some light on the fact that YOU are not the only one who is struggling.

To be absolutely honest with you, I was planning to wade through another deep post today. But God – His plan is ALWAYS better than mine. Today has been one of those days that I truly just need to laugh. I need to give myself permission to laugh at myself, my mishaps, my mistakes, and my failures. Mainly because I’ve experienced all of the aforementioned today and we are only half-way through the day.  As I prayed while getting ready to sit down and write, I had a little God-wink about todays blog.  And I was reminded that we are all knee-deep in stress and feelings – while those feelings and experiences are reality, we also need to be able let go and laugh! That’s what this blog is about. There is absolutely nothing funny about divorce, but we do need to lighten the weight of our divorce that we carry around with us. So we’ll get back to the deeper stuff soon, but today I just need to laugh and I hope you do too!

First – let me give you a quick re-cap of my morning thus far… I started my day at the gym at 5AM. Next to God and my husband – these gym folks are MY people (even if we don’t always get to chat – there’s something about sweating it out next to them that just kind of seals our friendships). I’m usually there at 5AM religiously. My Coach is a rock for me – and I don’t have words that would do her justice. However, in my sleep- deprived state, I’ve missed a few days lately and gotten a little slack on my eating.  So at 4:00AM my alarm goes off and as I’m getting dressed I realize I can’t do today’s workout in any of my current shorts. I’m feeling my slack and I’ve packed on a little pudge in the rear and it is highly likely that I will rip the butt straight out of my shorts if I squat (and todays workout is packed with squats)! So I pulled out a pair of Nike shorts I wore when I first started my fitness journey – eeeeeeeeek! They were frumpy and big but at least I could walk and squat – HAHA! Oh how I did not need the tight clothes struggle this morning! This was laugh or cry moment #1 – #BigBootyProblems.

I come in from the gym and have my coffee, banana, and bacon. My two year old twins are still asleep so after my devotion time – Momma takes a nap (remember, I said above -completely sleep deprived – lol)! Around 9:30 I start packing everyone up to head over and check out my oldest daughter for an orthodontist appointment at 10:00. I’ve been lazy and let the twins sleep in so I pack them an “on-the-go” breakfast bowl. We get my oldest from school and get to the orthodontist right on time. I realize as they call her back for her appointment, I’ve forgotten the entire diaper bag – breakfast and all, at home! It’s gonna be 10:45 before my two year-olds eat breakfast. Laugh or cry moment #2 – #MomFail.

To recover my #MomFail on the breakfast, we shoot over to Chick-fil-A for some nuggets before checking my oldest back into school. As I’m leaving Chick-fil-A, I realize I didn’t make her follow-up appointment when we left the orthodontist and I didn’t get her school excuse – I just walked right out! So we have to go back to the orthodontist before we can go back to school. Doctor’s excuse is a must! Laugh or cry moment #3 – #MyForgetfulMistake.

Finally, all my kiddo’s are fed and we’ve checked my daughter back into school. I whip in the driveway ready to make a run for the restroom – my body may have recovered from the twin pregnancy but my bladder has not! I make it just in time! And then I REALIZE, my pants are on BACKWARDS. Probably not a huge deal since they are just black Nike – Pro leggings, right? EXCEPT, they have a reflective, silver Nike swoosh that normally sits right around my left hip-flexor if my pants are on correctly. Being that they are on backwards, it now sits about mid-level on my right but cheek! Remember how I said I’m packing a little pudge in the rear?? Yeah – that swoosh sign was stretched out and reflecting right across the big booty I was trying to minimize with my black leggings! Laugh or cry moment #4 – #WardrobeMishaps. 

I began singing Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ – HaHa!

How does #BigBootyProblems, #MomFail, #MyForgetfulMistakes, and #WardrobeMishaps relate to you and your divorce??? In more ways than you would think!

How do you react to yourself when you mess-up?

When you make a mess, when you forget something, when you embarrass yourself – how do you react? Do you cry? Get angry? Withdraw? All of the above? If you over-react or get completely derailed by your own mishaps, how can you expect to handle mishaps with others? Especially your Ex??

Did you know how you react to yourself closely mirrors how you react to those around you?

I’m not saying we are never allowed to mess-up and dwell on it. I’m also not saying that I always laugh and let it go – that’s far from the truth! But I am saying we need to be able to take ourselves a little less seriously. WE need to lessen the consequences we give ourselves for messing up! We tend to hold others accountable to the same standard we hold ourselves. That’s actually a good thing, EXCEPT – we have gotten to a place in society where we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that is almost unattainable.

Is God perfect? YES! God is absolutely perfect! But other than Jesus, the Son of God, not a soul has walked the earth in perfection. Not the disciple. Not even Joseph and Mary-who were chosen to raise Jesus here on earth. Think back to the book of Luke, imagine Joseph and Mary when they realized they had walked “a days journey” after the Passover feast and not accounted for the whereabouts of their son Jesus. I’ve read that this journey would have been equivalent to driving from Chicago to Minneapolis before noticing your child isn’t with you. Can you imagine? I don’t believe at all that they “forgot” about Jesus – I believe we don’t understand the full scenario but its likely that by this point, Jesus had proven himself so responsible that there wasn’t a need to keep a thumb on him at every step. Also,  the Jewish culture celebrated a boys transition into a young man at the age of 12 – so Jesus was considered “of age”. The point is not whether Mary and Joseph “messed up” and left him, rather it’s that this story doesn’t define who they are as parents or as people in society. The story doesn’t tell us how Mary coped along that journey – I like to imagine that means her faith in God’s protection and plan was so strong that she wasn’t shaken.  It does say they sought his whereabouts amongst kinfolk and acquaintances before heading back to Jerusalem. Jesus was found in Jerusalem in the temple learning and asking questions.

The idea here is that our foundation is in Christ. No mistake, mishap, or fail is big enough to break our foundation. We can choose if we allow these messes to dictate our future or if we focus on our faith in God for our future and laugh at our messes!

Messes and mistakes are part of life on earth! We all make them. Our exes make them too! Jesus challenged the “norms” of society for His day in time. He didn’t fit in, He didn’t follow along, He didn’t sell himself short on account of being liked. He stood strong in His purpose, He let offenses roll off His back, He loved on His enemies, He was an includer, He sought to glorify the Father and that actually made Him rather “unpopular” to some. What if we challenged the “norms” of our society? I challenge you to do just this! Allow yourself to laugh today – at yourself, at things you’ve done in the past, at mistakes others have made that you were mad at. Just LAUGH. Don’t worry about how your mistakes may look to others or how they perceive you. Don’t try to “fit in”. Don’t follow along. Don’t sell yourself short. Let offenses (especially by your ex roll-off your back). Show Christ-like love to your enemies. Glorify God in all that you do – YES, this means do your best to glorify Him in your interactions with your ex! You know why? Because Jesus loves your ex!

We aren’t called to fit-in, we were made to stand-out!

Divorce – Where Unknown Avenue runs into Guilty Street

Unknown Avenue

In previous blog-post, we’ve already established that Unknown Avenue is the lonely road we walk after divorce. The road we didn’t plan for, the one that doesn’t seem well-lit and is cluttered with landmarks that blow-up like booby traps every step we take.

“The enemy is doing everything he possibly can to keep you from being in relationship with Christ, including composing a defining moment to create doubt in your mind.”                -Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands -Birmingham, AL

When you are walking along Unknown Avenue, there is nothing more carefully orchestrated by the enemy than the guilt he attempts to snare you in. That’s the problem with guilt. It is a “booby trap”, it’s land-mine set by the enemy to cause destruction within our lives and, somehow, we step in right in the trap over and over again. It is disguised in so many ways that sometimes we don’t even recognize it and we jump into it with both feet! Even when we do recognize it, it’s just against our nature to tell ourselves are “feelings” are wrong. But they are – and when we follow our feelings we usually end up ensnared in a trap that was set just for us.

Romans 5:3-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

God intends for us to rejoice in our sufferings. He doesn’t intend for us to lounge around obsessing over what we could’ve – should’ve- would’ve! We don’t need to lug guilt around and bear the burden for sins that have already been paid for.  So let’s breakdown some the ways that guilt presents itself in our divorces and in our relationships with our exes.

image

Guilty Street

We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced guilt and that gut wrenching feeling in our stomach. The funny part is – we can even feel guilty for things we know we didn’t have any part in. Guilt is truly one of Satan’s biggest weapons. It can actually induce the anxiety and need for approval we talked about in the last two posts. Guilt is wildly prevalent in the hurting heart. It morphs itself into a new shapes and sizes daily. If we don’t get a grip on guilt, guilt will wrap its nasty hands around us and literally steal the life out of us.

Guilt had a hold on me.

Since I’m always pretty transparent about my struggles with y’all, I’m gonna breakdown the ways it manifested in my life after my divorce – even if it seems a little crazy!

Guilt and shame are the enemy’s way of making you feel like you don’t deserve the grace that God sent His son here to die for on the cross!

Guilt –

Guilt is feeling bad about our behavior and our choices we have made. There are five types of guilt. Guilt about something we did, guilt about something we did we didn’t want to do, guilt about something we “think” we did, guilt about not doing enough, and guilt about having more than others. When we experience guilt, our nature wants to “fix-it”. Even if we are prideful and don’t carry-out the behaviors necessary to repair what went wrong, we still have the internal drive to “fix-it”.  We often create battles within ourselves trying to fix what we feel guilty for. The problem is, the guilt was a trap from the beginning.

I felt extremely guilty for my divorce, I felt guilty for betraying my vows, guilty for ruining my daughter’s “family”, and guilty for not trying hard enough to stay married.

But was waking up everyday and wading through these feelings really what God wanted for me?

Feeling ashamed –

Shame is very similar to guilt, however, shame is associated with a sense of who we are. When we experience shame – we feel bad about who we are, like we are now tarnished and no longer pure. Shame shows up in number of ways but our fleshly nature is to mask it. Hide it. Cover it up and move on. We all hide emotions differently but here are a few common shame-driven behaviors – striking out at others in attempt to feel better about ourselves, becoming perfectionist in order prevent any future shame, seeking to become powerful in order to increase our “value”, diverting blame so we can avoid responsibility, people-pleasing to increase our worthiness to those around us, and sometimes withdrawal so we can completely escape the consequences of our feelings.

To be honest, I did all of these. I often spoke out against my ex to friends or family, I would put him down for his behaviors or things I thought would make him appear inferior to me or less of a parent than I was. I became obsessed with doing things perfectly and portraying to others that my life was in perfect order. If anyone thought anything about me was less than perfect they were wrong and I became super defensive.  I didn’t necessarily seek out ways to become powerful in society but I certainly developed an instinct for control so I could be powerful in the things I did. Blameless, that was my middle-name. I did no wrong, it was all my exes fault. If anyone didn’t already know that fact then I assure you, I informed them. Withdrawing was actually the very first thing I did, I withdrew from everyone and everything associated with my marriage – our friends, my very best-friend, our little rock church in the backwoods of Alabama, my ex, his family, some of my family, and myself. It was my escape initially.

Did God intend for me live feeling like my halo had been tarnished and was now slightly tilted to the left with my two horns holding it up??

Condemnation, Feeling like a Failure, Depression, Indecisiveness –

These four are all directly linked to either guilt or shame. Condemnation left me feeling like I could never again be worthy. I felt like an absolute failure for walking away from my marriage. Why in the world would anyone find anything about me valuable. I stepped into a dark place where I literally rolled around in my “stinkin-thinkin” all day. Constant reminders of things I had done wrong and things I should’ve done differently. I had arrived at a place where I was completely unable to make the smallest decisions because it overwhelmed me with fear of making more bad decisions.

This became a cycle in my life. Sometimes the cycle would start in the morning and by night, I had been through all four phases. Sometimes each phase of the cycle would last for days. But, none-the-less, this cycle was stuck on repeat and I desperately needed it to stop.

This was not only influencing me and my life, but it was controlling my ability to parent my daughter in the best way possible.

Could this really be how God wanted me to feel?? Was this my consequences for my sins?

When we realize we are stuck in the middle of the Intersection at Unknown Avenue and Guilty Street, where do we turn to get back to our purpose?

In 2010, I had been divorced for a few years and had just started attending church on a regular basis. I began journaling things that spoke to me from sermons I heard at church. I’m going to share a few things I had highlighted in my journal. Things that I know changed my way of thinking and helped free me from some of the guilt and shame I carried.

Failure to let go of your past can destroy your destiny!

I’m so far from the broken-ness I felt inside at that time, that can’t even imagine what I thought about when I wrote that down. But I scribbled it in ALL CAPS across the top of the page. It makes perfect sense to me now. Something about the way I underlined it tells me that at that time, I had never heard or believed that. So just as a reminder – in case no one has ever told you – LET GO OF YOUR PAST! Let go of your rights, your wrongs, your mistakes, your could’ve – would’ve – should’ve! LET GO and LET GOD!

Anxiety marks the spot where we are doubting God.

I didn’t have a clue that I couldn’t be anxious over something and give it to God at the same time. If we truly give something to God – we must completely trust Him with it. ALL OF IT. We need not hang-on to any little pieces that we think we can fix ourselves.

Worry is Satan’s way of making you think you can control something God NEVER intended for YOU to handle.

Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Al

I’m sure most people know worry is wasteful. But, in my journal, I wrote this down and next to it scribbled – WOW! I must not have realized my worrying wasn’t fixing anything. NOPE. WE CAN’T. If we could fix whatever we are worrying about, we wouldn’t have ever been worried about it to begin with. We would just go out and fix it…right? We only worry over things we can not control. Instead of worrying – we should just know God didn’t intend for us to handle those things – He’s handling them and He doesn’t need our help.

Don’t disqualify yourself.

We are all on a path to a purpose. Even if we have screwed up tremendously, God can still use us for our purpose. But so often, we disqualify ourselves. We see all of our mistakes and all of our wrongs and WE decide we are not good enough. DON’T FALL VICTIM. YOU ARE VICTORIOUS. YOU ARE MADE NEW AND WHOLE IN HIM WHO CREATED YOU! You are more than qualified to carry-out the purpose God has planned for your life! I’m assuming I wrote this down because I had dis-qualified myself from the life of joy that God intended for me.

Wisdom is the ability to apply what we already know.

Ha! Self-explanatory… right?? We already know the end of the book, Satan fights battles but God wins the war! Apply it to your life. Don’t wait around to be proven innocent to start living like you are worthy. Live like you are worthy now! Because you are! If you believe all the promises that God has given us in the Bible, then start living like it NOW!

The Holy Spirit brings CONVICTION – not condemnation. Satan brings condemnation.

If you are feeling condemned. It’s the enemy, AGAIN. He is still out there prowling around looking for weaknesses to prey on. Clearly, I was weak and he preyed on me in this area. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. But that was a trap! Put on your armor and fight back! Conviction is a sense of needing to repent and correct our steps in the future not feeling like we’ve messed up so bad we are no longer worthy!

Retain peace in your heart REGARDLESS of what the other person decides to do.

Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, AL

This was written in huge, girly, bubble letters. Haha. Ladies, you know exactly what kind of letters I’m referring to. I actually remember this sermon. I remember the change in perspective and it marks a change in my life. REGARDLESS of what your ex decides to do – you live in peace. Don’t wait for them to validate you to forgive yourself, do it now. Don’t wait for them to apologize to forgive them, do it now. Don’t wait until they are nice to quit living in turmoil, do it now. DO IT NOW. LIVE IN PEACE! It’s my motto, it’s God’s motto – He is a God of peace – Yahweh Shalom… I have it tattooed on my wrist as a reminder – don’t wait for someone else to bring peace. God is peace. Decide now to live in that peace!

When we hold onto anger and bitterness we give the enemy access to our soul that belongs to Christ.

Don’t leave any doors open for the enemy. I am an old pro at holding onto anger and bitternerss. I would love to say that this is not a battle I still fight, but that would be a lie. I don’t struggle with it for my ex any longer but it just moved over to another area. I have to pray and let go daily! Satan knows how to stop us in our tracks. He is searching for a way to distract you, to isolate you, so he can thwart the plan God has for you. But we serve a God whose plans cannot be thwarted. We can’t serve God and the world at the same time. Let go and Let God!

Jesus didn’t “feel” like hanging on the cross – He said “not my will Lord, but yours”. Choices lead – feelings follow…

Don’t rely on your feelings. Just because you “feel” less than doesn’t make it true. Just because you “feel” angry doesn’t mean you should act on it. God’s own son taught us that God’s will is more than how we feel. Jesus didn’t follow His feelings, He followed His Father’s will and we should too! He made a choice to serve God’s purpose, don’t let your feelings steal your opportunity to serve God – it’s about His will!

You see the world differently from your knees

Joe McGee

We can change our perception of every situation through prayer. Hit your knees and you will see fears turn to confidence, anger turn to joy, and your enemies will become smaller as your God becomes BIGGER!

Some of our greatest battles in life are not external, but internal.

YESSSSSSS!!!!!! Some of the hardest things I have fought in my life have been my own thoughts. Imagine if we had always listened to every thought we’ve had about ourselves?? I think back to the night I gave my heart to God in 2010 in a funeral home – yes, seriously – and I remember my head battling my heart. I remember raising my hand and putting it down and then raising it again and the preacher saying “just leave it up young lady!”… How could he have known what kind of battle was going on inside of me? He couldn’t – but God knew.  We battle ourselves and our thoughts daily, we battle good and bad, right and wrong.

Joy doesn’t come from EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES it comes from INTERNAL FAITH.

If you didn’t already shout AMEN, then you should – RIGHT NOW! It doesn’t matter what kind of hell you are walking through, your joy comes from your faith in GOD. No situation around you can change the truths and we, as christians, live by the truths written in the Bible. If your ex is acting like a crazy fool and refuses to cooperate with you on anything – it doesn’t change the fact that God is still God. That He created you for a purpose and no person can deter you from your destiny. Sometimes we meet people walking through unimaginable pain and suffering, yet we still see hope and joy in them. We don’t understand how or why? It’s because they get their joy from unwavering faith!

Somethings we can do if we are struggling with guilt or shame or condemnation?

PRAY

Praying brings us closer to God and intensifies our faith.

FAST

When we fast it helps us unplug from the world and our earthly dependencies

DECLARE OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD

Write down or say aloud what we are depending on God for. Give it to Him completely and let it go.

ASK FOR FORGIVENESS

Repent and ask God to help you change your heart and your ways.

RE-FOCUS ON THE ETERNAL

Don’t just live in the present. Keep your eyes on the prize. The end of your story is beautiful. Focus on that.

INVITE THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD INTO YOUR LIFE

Ask God to fill you, your home, and everywhere you go! Tell Him you want Him there and you NEED Him there!

WRITE DOWN AND MEMORIZE SCRIPTURES

Replace worries or bad feelings with scripture and  promises from God.

ASSOCIATE WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE A LIKE PURPOSE – NOT WITH THOSE WHO ARE MOST LIKE YOU….

Find other people who are looking to walk with and serve Christ. Join them and help them in their purpose. Don’t be distracted by choosing to be with people who just like you.

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.

scriptureart_0817_-_philippians_1_6_nlt_english_157x157

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.

fullsizeoutput_2d45
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.

fullsizeoutput_2d4f
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.

Image-1-6
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.

fullsizeoutput_2d53
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.

IMG_5108
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!