Yesterday was my ninth wedding anniversary. We’re still officially married, so we’ve been officially married for nine years. Of course, I’d like to shave off a few, but that’s not the way it works. I wasn’t sure if the day would be hard for me and if I should plan some sort of distraction. For all our hard times, this was our very first July 13th to ever spend apart (since we’ve been married, of course). But it wasn’t hard. I woke up, thought of the first morning I woke up with my engagement ring on my finger, thought of the way Papa Bear looked at my hand every second for those first few weeks, thought about the secrecy of our wedding day…and I just turned over in bed and smiled. I still smile when I think of my husband. And, for better or worse, I hope it’s always that way. People can think I’m naive if they want to, that I don’t know the road he’s walking…that I either am or choose to be blind. That’s fine. If I choose to see my husband the way I believe God would have me see him–through His blood–I guess I’m going to have to take the hardships that go with that.
But last night, I took my youngest daughter to the nicest restaurant in town. As we sat with our chicken parmesan and our macaroni and cheese, me with my Shiraz and her with her Sprite, I explained to her that, “This is the day I married your daddy.”
“You married Daddy here?!”
“No, not here. I married your daddy on this day nine years ago.”
“Every year, Daddy and I have gone on a date to celebrate the day we got married. And this year, I wanted to spend that date with you.”
‘Why?” she smiled.
“Well, I think you’ve been needing a special date. And this is a very special date. If I hadn’t ever married your daddy, then I wouldn’t have you for a daughter. So, no matter what happens, this will always be one of my very favorite days. Because I love you, oh so much!”
At that, she leaped from her seat to hug me. I should have been prepared for that; she’s a hugger. I wasn’t prepared. So, we both just sat there and sniffled. But just for a minute, then we were back to girl talk and fabulous food.
I have such a story to tell you, it’s hard to know where to start. I haven’t known how to blog anything significant for the past three months because, apart from writing a book, I’ve been waiting for the green light on this post. I feel like I have that, now.
On the 15th of February, I was minding my own business, lounging on Bossman’s couch with a cup of coffee, when God told me to write a book–a devotional–on forgiveness. Y’all know that the topic of forgiveness is near and dear to my heart, so I was immediately excited! He even gave me the title, which is lovely–you’ll have to wait for the official release to know more, though. I promise that will be very soon.
Papa Bear was in the room, and as I heard “clues” in my spirit regarding the book, I immediately relayed them to him. As outside my own body, I heard myself say, “And I’m supposed to write it from the first of March to the thirty-first of March…and then publish it a few months later!” What?! How on earth was I supposed to write a book in 31 days while homeschooling, parenting, packing, and moving?! Impossible. I must not have heard from God.
Still, the excitement lingered so intensely that I couldn’t shake it. I kept telling people about it; I couldn’t help it. This was going to happen, somehow. But on the first of March we were just barely moved into our newest in the series of temporary housing. Papa Bear was getting his toes wet in his new business. Life was as chaotic as it has ever been. It was not the time to write a book, so I very sternly rebuked myself for thinking I could hear that clearly and specifically from God. After all, we all know that God does not ask people to do impossible things!
I could tell this story in such detail that no one would reach the end of this post alive. Instead, I think I’ll just skip ahead. I don’t know how it happened, I didn’t make myself a schedule or follow a plan, but when I stopped writing, when the book was completely unedited but finished, it was 12:05 on the morning of April 1st. It wasn’t until then that I was even fully convinced God had spoken to me. My mouth fell open, and then I dropped to my knees and I cried.
Of course, I then wanted to know if the book was any good, so I began dragging ladies from the four corners of friendship into a private focus group on Facebook. They read it, liked it, commented on it, and critiqued it. Now I understood why I was not instructed to publish it immediately after writing–or so I thought. My spare minutes were consumed with editing, planning, commissioning artwork, and taking pictures. There was not a single person on the whole entire planet I was mad at. I was ready to publish my book on forgiveness and change the hearts and lives of women everywhere!
And then my husband walked out the door.
When Papa Bear left, in December of 2010, I was shocked. We’d hit a rough patch, but I never dreamed he’d walk out. We were over four years removed from what had been the powerful destructive forces in our marriage. We’d survived so much and had overwhelming victory. I no longer felt that I was fighting for my marriage…I was enjoying it. Satan convinced my husband of the opposite, however, and that led to an eight month separation that I vehemently opposed and, at least in prayer, protested.
When Papa Bear came back home last summer, he wasn’t ready. And I knew he wasn’t ready, but I hoped God would continue to heal his heart as he lived in and led our home. I’m going to be very real with you here and risk dishonoring my husband, but Papa Bear never did allow God to heal him. So, sadly, when he walked out again in the second week of this past April, I wasn’t shocked. I was sad, but I wasn’t shocked.
Now, I know some of you are wondering what I plan to do about moving on. It is with fear and trembling that I tell you I am still not fully ready to give up on my marriage. And it’s with terror (because I hate confrontation), that I tell you the Bible does not–God does not–allow for Christians falling out of love simply for the sake of falling out of love. Love is effort, love is evident…true love is not an emotion. If the unbeliever departs, we [the immovable believer] are to let them depart. But the one in love with Jesus simply loves.
Yes, there are valid, more than valid, reasons for divorce! But people in love with the Lord Jesus do not get divorced due to lack of feelings. Not ever. That is the world’s doctrine, but it should not be adopted by the Church. I believe that my husband was created to walk with Jesus and be the vibrant and successful head of our home. I know that God has spoken that on several occasions. Do I know that Papa Bear will become a radically changed man after God’s heart and begin to seek God’s will for his life and for our marriage? No, I do not know that. If I say that I “know” that, I’m speaking out of faith–words of life–not out of delusion. I plan to continue speaking life for as long as HE empowers me to do so. But I do not “know” what the end result of my faith will be.
When I’ve thought about my marriage over the past few months, God has continually brought Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to my mind. Specifically, He’s reminded me of these few verses from John 11:
5When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
It was not in spite of, but because of Jesus’ great love for Lazarus and his sisters that he stayed away long enough for Lazarus to die. There can be no resurrection without a complete, coroner stamped death. And Jesus loves raising things [people, dreams, callings] back to life! Jesus’ words regarding her brother’s sickness must have made their way back to Mary. Her Savior promised that her brother’s sickness would not end in death, so her mind probably swam in dark circles as she wrapped his body and relinquished him to the darkness of their family tomb. When Jesus finally arrived, she wept at his feet when what she wanted to do was grab Him and shake Him…making sure He fully felt her pain. “Jesus, if you’d only been here!!” she wailed, still cautiously hopeful that He’d come to help. And He had, He always does, but before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. He feels every ounce of our pain!
Currently, I’m planning to accept my marriage’s death with a certificate of divorce (one that I will be filing). I am still hopeful for a resurrection, but what God does with my hope is up to Him. I am willing, and I will trust Him, either way. I now know more confidently than ever that I do hear Him. And it is that voice, and that voice alone, that will guide me from here.
Needless to say, there was a pause in the progression of my book after Papa Bear left. A few pages would even have to be rewritten to reflect what was now true in our home. But somehow, after just a few days of freeze tag, my muscles burning from standing so still, God reached down and pressed play. I begin to watch life move and grow all around me, and I realized something I might never have known in a happy marriage: I had fully, finally forgiven my husband. I had fully, finally learned how to forgive.
And, based solely on the things written in Jesus’ manual, I’d written it all down in a book.
P.S. While I love to hear from you and would always regret closing the comments, this is a place for encouragement and exhortation. I have many people, as I hope you all do, who have the authority to speak into my life directly and in person. Please understand that the comments section of a blog is not the place for directive or instructive comments. Additionally, disrespect toward my husband will not be tolerated. Based on this criteria, all comments will now be moderated by an outside party. I hope you will understand.
In my cupboard, at this very moment, is an almost empty jar of coconut oil mixed with honey and cocoa powder. When I need something sweet, I grab a spoon.
It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it’s healthy (it’s also awesome on toast).
Last night, while licking said spoon and doing a happy dance alone in the kitchen, I giggled, “I am coconut oil!”
Let me back up.
All over the country, maybe right now at this very moment, wives of porn addicts are meeting for comraderie, comfort and advice. I used to be one of those women. One of the main purposes for meeting is to educate each other on why a man might choose something fake over something real (and I understand that women struggle with porn addiction, too, but I think the reasons behind that are a little different).
One of my favorite analogies is the steak versus the fast food hamburger. While most men would rather have a steak, they don’t know that one will be “hot and ready” for them when they walk through their front door. Stresses of life and the need for a quick fix (not to mention a scientifically proven chemical addiction to the quick fix) often drive them to the arms of the fast food burger. They know they’ll regret it and drive home sick. But, sadly, the urge is often too strong to resist (without Jesus).
No steak can compete with the ease of a fast food burger, though she has it beat in every other way. I mean, even burnt and a little fatty, it’s still better than drive-through. Still, I’ve watched wives mourn the absolute fact that they will simply never be as convenient as that danged burger.
Maybe that’s why it made me so incredibly happy, last night, when I felt the honest right to compare myself to my new favorite food.
I’m healthy, delicious, and yeah, I said it…I’m easy! There’s nothing better for him than me.
Cause tonight, when Papa Bear’s work day began to drag into the evening (like it’s been doing, recently, since his work load has instantly doubled), I didn’t resent him for being gone while I was at home with a mess of kids. I didn’t wonder if he could be working a little faster and was possibly wasting time. I didn’t suspect him of anything I might have in the past.
I know, I’m presenting myself in such a flattering light, here.
Instead, I felt sorry for him. You know, like I should! I felt sorry that he was working in the freezing cold while I was in our warm little home with my babies. And I didn’t just keep those thoughts to myself, either.
Nope, I texted them.
“I’m so in love with my hard working husband!”
And then, knowing how much I meant every word, I just sat and smiled at the screen.
When Papa Bear left, I made no secret of the fact that the things Satan had wedged between us were not actual things (the past never counts), but were vain imaginations. And vain imaginations produce vain thoughts, and vain thoughts produce vain words and emotions and facial expressions…and eventually vain actions. We all need to be appreciated. And we all need to believe that we’re better than where we’ve been (especially since, more often than not, we simply become who we’re believed to be). Papa Bear’s leaving wasn’t my fault, I’ve never meant to insinuate that. But I could have made it harder for Satan to get a toe in.
And I plan to, til death do us part.
_________________________________ (pretend this line is a brilliant segue.)
A few days ago, we had a beautiful snowstorm. Yes, I just used the words “beautiful” and “snow” in the same sentence…and it’s waaay past October. I don’t know what’s gotten in to me. I stepped outside in my bare feet to untangle the dog’s leash (he’s supposed to carry it inside the house, but sometimes he has trouble), and I saw that about a foot of fluffy, gorgeous powder had fallen since I’d last thought to check. I whispered, “Oh, please let my husband go skiing tomorrow.” And then I wandered back inside, holding a shivering dog and still muttering a prayer.
“It’s March, and he hasn’t gone skiing yet this season. I’d really love it if you’d do this for him tomorrow.”
I almost got on Facebook to see if anyone had extra tickets for the next day. I almost did. But God said something equivelant to, “I’ve got this.” So, I stopped.
By the evening, I’d forgotten all about it. That is, until Papa Bear stood in the kitchen scooping green chile stew from the crock pot as I laid on my back on the living room floor (I’d eaten hours before). We were both exhausted. These past few weeks have been exhausting. Then, he said…a little worried…
“Ummm, Mr. So and So has an extra ticket for tomorrow. If I can manage a day off, what would you think of my spending it skiing?”
Yesterday afternoon, Tiny Dancer helped me make the hummus for our afternoon snack. Certain children thought it was a little too spicy (I’m a garlic fan), so I scooped out some peanut butter, too. Now, I can’t explain why the concept of grabbing a carrot stick from a skinny end and dipping it into a mound of peanut butter eludes my Lil Prince. It’s just that it does. He has to hold the carrot by its side and get as much peanut butter on the carrot (and his fingers and sleeve) as he possibly can. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I do with my McDonald’s nuggets and hot mustard sauce.
Hmmm. Well, because I hadn’t thought of that yesterday, I kinda snapped a bit.
“Lil Prince! Get up right now and wash your hands. Don’t come back till you’re clean.”
And he did. He returned with still moist but very clean hands. And because I have that mom ESP, I got a little pit in my stomach (a very little pit, probably from a plum). “Lil Prince, is there peanut butter on my bathroom towel?”
“Yes!” he answered pretty proudly. “I didn’t want to get the soap all dirty!”
I later told this story to Papa Bear as the best one-liner of the day. He answered that it actually did makes some sense to him.
Later in the evening, I was standing at the same bathroom sink (cause we only have one), staring at a dirty towel, when I’m pretty darn sure God said, “Objects in your rear view mirror are larger (not closer, larger) than they appear.”
I looked in the mirror and muttered, “That doesn’t really make sense to me.”
And then He said, “It’s not for you.”
Oh, so I’m posting it here. Just in case it might be for you.
That’s normal, right?!
Speaking of my rear view mirror, though, Papa Bear used to buy me cards for special occasions (and no occasion at all) and not write a darn thing in them. This bugged me. And I told him so. It took me four years to realize that he had been spending quite a bit of time in front of large selections of cards before picking just the right one to bring home. It already said what he wanted it to say. When I realized that, I got out all my old cards (the ones I had saved), I reread them, and I cried.
Well, this Valentine’s Day I repeated my mistake. Yeah, I’m good at that. We went to a marriage conference for our Valentine to each other, and I wasn’t expecting anything else from him. So, when he exited the church with one of the Valentine’s decorations (a huge Valentine’s Day card that he’d asked the pastor for), I giggled, “You can’t give me a reused card!”
It was three days before I opened it and read it.
I texted him at work, “Did you read that card that you gave me?”
“Yep, that’s why I asked for it.”
“Oh….crap. Well, thank you and I’m sorry and I love it!”
And he replied so deeply, “LOL.”
But when he got home, he grabbed the card and he asked for a pen. He signed his name and included the date. “Keep this in good shape,” he said. “I’m going to sign it and date it every year.
And even though he bought me the coolest ever peacock earrings and two locally made necklaces for my real present.
Last week, I received a comment from a passer by that accused me of dwelling needlessly in pain. It was just one stranger’s opinion, and if I took those to heart I’d go crazy.(Your comments do mean so much to me, but I hope you understand that I cannot and do not change my direction because of them). But it did make me stop and think, this comment, “Am I giving the wrong impression? Am I leading people to believe that following God’s voice means life is lesser or more painful than it would otherwise be?” Because I do not believe those things, I thought I’d take a time out and talk a little about [what I think about] pain (and then I still want to tell you what Papa Bear got me for Valentine’s Day!).
When our children are young, we work tirelessly to help them avoid pain. “No! The stove is hot!” “Be careful, you don’t want to fall.” In the end, everyone gets burned and falls down, but we desperately want them to avoid as many hardships and stitches and scars as possible. We love them. And we know that when they do reach out and touch the stove, the pain in that moment will serve no other purpose than to persuade them from ever repeating their mistake.
So, if they’d just listen to us, it’d be easier!
Much of life’s pain is like this, I believe, a warning sign of things to be avoided. Facing this kind of pain head on requires a certain amount of idiocy, or at least adrenaline addiction, I think. There is, though, another kind of pain. There is a pain laced equally with excitement. There is a pain that though deep and intense produces beauty beyond our wildest dreams. I don’t want my children to run from this pain. And I know God will help them discern between the two.
Baby Bear’s birth has been my only natural childbirth experience. I’ve also experienced a cesarean and a vbac with an epidural, and God often uses these three experiences to speak to me (because they are each so personal to me). In labor with Baby Bear, after a relatively smooth zero to seven, I thought transition would rip me feet from shoulders. There is simply no way to describe the intensity of the labor experience. But there’s also no way to describe the excitement. He’s almost here! This is really happening! Everyone who has seen an accurate model of a baby in his mother’s pelvis knows that birth is essentially impossible. God made our bodies to perform miracles before our very eyes. And, sans epidural, we are experiencing every aspect of that miracle (this post isn’t really anti-epidural, it’s just the best analogy I can come up with!).
The moment my second son (first singleton, fifth baby) exited my body, the pain became an immediate memory. A vivid one, mind you, but a memory none the less. The pain itself was gone. And I love to tell about the pain, as all women love to tell their birth stories. But in the telling, I don’t wince or writhe or sweat…I smile and I giggle and I laugh. It’s my badge of honor, my birth story. What I’m showing off isn’t my pain, but what the pain brought me…my baby.
When my husband left last year, it took me a few days to find my path. We’d been blogging about our redeemed marriage for nearly two years, we’d both counseled couples over the phone, and we could both see the path God had laid out for us. I could have never imagined the public and private pain that his leaving would cause me. Of course, I also couldn’t imagine the pain it would cause him, but that’s not my story to tell. In the first twenty four hours after he left, I did nothing right. Nothing. The pain was unbearable, and I clawed at the walls to get out….somewhere that didn’t feel like this.
But then, I looked at my children. I knew I had some decisions to make.
Let me stop there and rewind by about a year. Because, almost a year before, my little sister (not biological, but as close as they come) lost her three week old baby boy. The kids were in bed as the news came in. First, he wasn’t breathing and was being rushed to the hospital. Then, like a nightmare I still shiver when remembering, he was gone. Just, gone. I screamed and I cried in my kitchen, “No! Noo! NOOO!” It was not possible that this was happening. It simply was not possible. I asked God to put him on Elijah’s bed. I paced and prayed till the sun came up, and then I went to cry and be with my family.
It took less than twenty four hours for whispers to make there way around the room. Suprisingly to us, most of us felt led to pray for resurrection instead of immediately beginning to grieve. We met in secret, because only crazy people believe that God raises the dead, and we didn’t want to give false hope to the mother. But who I couldn’t hide my prayers from were my children. They already knew God raised the dead, and they wanted to join in the fight. Sheepishly and hessitantly, I let them pray. But in the back of my mind was always the question, “Is this going to crush their faith? What if God doesn’t answer the way we are hoping?” And in the end, He didn’t. We lowered that missed little baby into the ground, knowing full well his ressurrection was of the permanent kind. And then, we went about our lives as best we could.
At the graveside, my children were there. I didn’t know what to say, and I hoped God would make it all easy. “God didn’t bring him back from the dead.” One of them said matter-of-factly. “I guess He just decided not to,” another replied.
“But God is still good,” I said, somewhat questioningly.
“Oh, yes! And the baby is with Him!” they agreed before asking about lunch.
God does raise the dead, physically, spiritually and emotionally. My children need to know that. If I only allow them to pray for things that I know will come to pass, how will they learn the ways and mysteries of their God? And, silly me, I thought there might me damage done, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like all things mysterious and holy, their faith was strengthened in those two days. What they learned is that we pray. And even when He doesn’t say “yes,” we truth Him.
Fast forwarding again to last year, bear with me, in that first week Papa Bear was gone…God immediately led me to pray for my husband’s relationship with Him. And because I do not believe that people fall out of love while their eyes are on their Savior, I also felt led to pray that God would bring Him back to me. When my children asked about the change in their lives, I told them nothing new. I respected my husband at every turn, but I refused to alter what their father and I had already taught them, together, throughout the entirely of their lives to that point. They’d been taught that marriage and love were forever. I wasn’t about to answer, “Never mind.”
I refused to raise double-minded children; and, as a result, they were never confused. They weren’t being taught something brand new, now that their parents’ marriage had failed…like their beliefs were built on solid sand. And like they’d said at least once a day from the time they’d been able to voice it, when I told them their father wasn’t sure he wanted to be married, but he absolutely loved them with his whole heart and soul, they simply answered, “Let’s pray, Mommy, let’s pray.” And, yes, I let them.
Oh, how my children pray!
I didn’t go with the epidural. When the pain came, I let it come. And with it I welcomed the excitement. I have a personal relationship with my God, He talks to me. And He told me to pray for a miracle. It didn’t make the pain go away, the holy excitement, but as I went about my life, caring for my children and loving my God, I knew something beautiful was coming, in time. I felt certain that my pains were of the birthing kind. And I also knew that if God didn’t answer in the way I hoped, I would absolutely continue to trust Him. None of this was about my relationship with a man, all of it was about my relationship with the man, Jesus Christ. None, absolutely none of my pain was purposeless or wasted. And after a few months, I was fine, my children were fine. Most days, we danced and were happy (though the absence of a parent in day to day life always makes things harder), but that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted the rightful head of our home to be fine, too. And nothing in Scripture led me to believe that God would lead him away from his family.
This time, God did answer like I believed He would, but that’s never, ever the point.
When pain comes, we want to stop it. But sometimes it’s essential to the process. If we go numb, damage is still being done. And when we finally begin to feel again, we often have more to heal from as as result. My epidural, and the deep scars I still bear from my painless birth, taught me this.
When I write about my past hurts, those who cannot imagine their commitment being worth what I think mine is wonder why I wouldn’t just get the epidural. “Turn it off, stop feeling!” Never mind that I promised to love for better or for worse. But now, I’m once again living in the better, the beautiful, and when I write about my pain, I’m giggling as I write. I’m only here to talk about my baby. We’re not seven miserable people trapped in a prison of religion, we’re seven people who together survived a birth. We might be keeping our baby safe and protected instead of fully showing it off to the world, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled. Eight months after God began to once again piece back together my family, if you still hear pain in what I write, understand that it’s purely from memory.
For nostalgia, and to prove my point, here’s Baby Bear’s birth video….enjoy!