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

The Struggle is SOOOOOO Real!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A psalm of David.

PSALM 23, NIV

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

Transformed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:12 New International Version (NIV)

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

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

Genesis 50:20 NIV

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

Grace starts here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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