Maawige, Maawige is what bwings us twogever today…..

Well, apparently this is my new hobby because I love to write stuff SO MUCH!  It’s really helping me clean my house because I make a deal with myself that I can’t sit down and write until all my chores for the day are done.  My mother would be really proud of my house cleaning enthusiasm, but really it’s so I can get it done and write.  I have decided to stretch my legs with this new writing thing.  I really want to feel my way through it and use words to express myself.  Later I will learn how to write things using fewer words.  For those that endeavor to read these words, bless your heart!  Your feed back is invaluable to me.

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Today, what is rattling around in my brain is marriage.  I wanted to write down what I have learned from the Lord so far about marriage.  Also I want to remember where we were and where we are now.  The fact that we are still married is amazing in and of itself.  My marriage at times has been like the Texas weather; wait 15 minutes and it will change.  It’s also like Texas weather in that we have had a little bit of everything.  We have had the super hot love for each other, the surprise of a winter storm with ice and snow, the storms that rattled our home, tornado’s that blew everything up, and the dawn of spring that gives you hope for the future.  The one thing I have learned about marriage is that you just have to hang on and let God do His work.  As bad as it has been for us, we have also seen the sweetest miracles.

Do you remember this clip from the Princess Bride?

This clip makes me laugh so hard!  I have watched about 100 times while sitting here writing.  I think it ties into what I am going to write about because I approached my marriage like Prince Humperdinck does, “Man and wife! say man and wife!”  I  just wanted to get to the end and I had no idea what I was getting into.

Jesse and I entered marriage not knowing God, or caring what He thought of marriage.  For 10 years we bumped along as best we could.  We gave it the ol’ college try with the best tools we had.  The only reason that I have any words to say about marriage is that in year 10 of our marriage we started to ask God what He thought about marriage.  Well He answered us basically saying, “Yeah, everything y’all are doing around here, none of that is what I designed marriage for.”  (Sorry, God talks to me in a TX accent)  God invented marriage, so He must be the one we should go to for instructions, right? absolutely!  We have been walking with the Lord together for the past 5 years.  So we have 10 years without the Lord and 5 with the Lord–as you can imagine it is still a work in progress.  We are re-learning how to do this marriage thing.

God created marriage because Adam needed a partner and companion in the garden of Eden.  We see the record of this in the following excerpt from Genesis 2:

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,

and flesh from my flesh!

She will be called ‘woman,’

because she was taken from ‘man.’ ”

You see, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone…”  Adam was evidently thrilled with her because he breaks into song.  And it has to be said that anyone who goes to my church always reads this scripture the same way.  When we were going through a marriage series a few years ago Pastor Doug was emphasising how  excited Adam was to have Eve.  Doug actually broke into a rap and rapped this whole verse to us.  Lets just say if you were there you would never forget this verse, if you were not there ask him to rap it for you–it is epic.  Anyway,  my point is, one of the reasons for marriage is companionship.

Companionship is an anomaly to me.  I don’t know where this went wrong in me, but the thought of telling someone I need them around because I am lonely makes me want to slap myself in the face.  “Get it together girl, you don’t need anyone!”  I can tell you that this feeling does not serve me well.  I have had to learn, through counseling, that it is ok to let my hubs know I need him.  That I need to be held and cared for.  That I need someone to watch Netflix with.  That I need someone to see me as a women, a lover and friend.  Uugghh, just typing out the word “need” is hard for me.  Let me tell you why I make myself feel this.  When Jesse knows I need him, we take a step closer to unity.  If I scream at him “I don’t need you for anything!” we step away from unity.

Another purpose for marriage is for us to have a safe space to experience sex.  There are obvious dangers for having sex outside of marriage.  Unplanned pregnancy, disease, and emotional damage are all reasons to have sex only inside of a biblical marriage.  Look at the following scripture from I Corinthians 7:

But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust

In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul is addressing the immorality going on in the church at Corinth.  He is saying, “Hey, if you are lusting after a chick, marry her! It’s better than thinking about being with her all the time.”  I hope Paul doesn’t mind me paraphrasing him.  The main point here is Paul says the way to deal with lust is to get married.  Then you have a safe outlet for it.

As someone who did not adhere to the “sex should only be experienced in the safety of marriage,”  I can attest to the fact that there is a ton of emotional baggage that accompanies you when you have sex outside of marriage.  The damage comes from the fact that you are giving something to a man which does not belong to him.  You are giving something away that is not yours to give outside of marriage. God invented sex for us to enjoy in marriage.  In marriage we don’t have to be ashamed of it or embarrassed by it.  Outside of marriage sex leads us to emotional baggage.  In a culture that has no regard for the uniqueness of sex the damage is done before we even know what we are doing.  The “swipe right for a hook-up” mentality will leave a mark, and you will have to work through that in your marriage, just like I did.

In my opinion the most important purpose for marriage is that it is the earthly representation of what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like.  Take a look at this description of Christ in Ephesians 5:

23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

Now hold on, I know women who read that go, “Aw, hell no!  My husband is not my head, give me a break! What is this, 1950?”  Hold on girl, we are gonna get there.  I am the same way, every feminist bell in my head goes off when I read stuff like that.  Stay with me.  The point of this scripture is to show us that Christ is the head of the church and our marriage is a representation of that.  That being said, if our marriage is the representation of Christ and the Church, doesn’t it stand to reason that satan would attack marriages like they were enemy number one?  Yes he would, everyday of the week (and twice on Sundays).  The problem is satan is succeeding in blowing up marriage.  WE have to fight for this representation of Christ and the Church.  We have to stick it out, we have to hang on!

So if our marriage is the example of Christ and the Church, what should that look like.  There are so many opinions on this that it is important to really see what God says about it.  Take a look at this jewel in Ephesians 5:

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

YIKES!! Truth-bomb!  The fifth word in that excerpt is for sure a cuss word.  Can you believe God would tell us to SUBMIT to our husbands.  What the heck? I am supposed to submit to my husband the way the Church submits Christ (God)?  Lawdy, lawdy, have you met my husband?  Do you know what I have to put up with?  Guess what God’s response to us is:  “DO YOU KNOW WHAT I, AS GOD, HAVE HAD TO PUT UP WITH?”  My response to that is, “No God, I don’t know what you have had to put up with.”  What I want to point out in tandem with the whole submit thing is, that husbands are supposed to love their wives like Christ loves the church.  That is really a beautiful exchange between husbands and wives.  Men are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to submit to their husbands.  I myself cannot believe that I can actually type that out!  It goes against everything in my flesh.  But let me try to show how God brought me around and convinced my heart that the above statement is a good thing.

When I first read this verse six years ago I decided that it had to be a typo in the bible.  I knew that it had to mean something else and that the scribe who translated it had to have been a chauvinist pig with a wife he wanted to put under his thumb.  Honestly, to get to the bottom of this “submit” thing is what drove my desire to go to bible school. In bible school I learned how to study the bible and how to research what the words mean.  So let me share with you what I found.

I started with looking into other translations of this verse.  What I mean is that I learned at bible school that there were other translations of the bible.  I had an NLT bible and I thought, “Well maybe, I have an outdated version, let me check other ones.”  Here’s what I found:

New King James version, Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

English Standard version, Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

New International version, Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord

New American Standard Bible, Ephesians 5:

22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

WELL, SHOOT! No luck there!  After that disappointment, I decided to study what the greek word that they use here actually means.

The word “submit” in Ephesians 5:23 is the greek word hupotassō.  What does that mean? I don’t know, it’s all greek to me!  Seriously though, in greek there are all these things like the tense of verbs, participles, present things, passive things, genders, and so on.  Maybe when my kids get out of my house I will learn greek, for now I am going to give you the basic definition of this word.  Here you go:

5293.  ὑποτάσσω hupŏtassō, hoop-ot-as´-so; from 5259 and 5021; to subordinate; reflex. to obey:—be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 75. Print.

The moral of this story?  When I read this definition what stood out to me is that last phrase, “submit self unto.”  This is where God started to woo my heart into belief of this command.  I saw that this submission is a choice I get to make.  It is not forced on me.  Suddenly all my fears of “being subdued” by my husband were put in check.  The fear that I had of a God that would “hold me down” because I was a woman were put under a spotlight, and I questioned them.  God was not putting me under my husband, he was asking me to put myself under my husband.  I had a choice.  Lets look at the verse again:

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (NLT)

Now that I can read that word and see that it is something I choose to do, I read it like this.  Wives, put yourself under your husband, the same way you put yourself under the Lord.  In the past this verse has been used to “put women in their place.”  Men actually thought that women were not as smart, or capable as men.  My heart aches when my mom tells me stories of a time when she was told she could not do something or was not chosen for something directly because she was a woman.  This is shameful.  Men and women are equal.  We are equally responsible for our relationship with the Lord.  Equally responsible for our sin and its consequences.  The difference between men and women are the roles God asks us to live out.

Not sold yet?  Let me give you another example.  One thing I have learned about the Lord is that he is the God of order.  He loves unity and order.  He is not the God of chaos.  So when he made marriage he knew if he did not designate a leader in the relationship there would be disunity and chaos.  In the same way that a business would be unsuccessful if everyone was the boss and no one was the worker, a marriage will not be successful if there is not a designated leader.  God designated that my husband is the leader and I am to put myself under him.  It is not my job to question God on why he made the man the leader it is my job to learn how to submit to my husband.

So where does it all go wrong?  Well to start with, it’s our aversion to do what God says and our flesh keeps us from putting ourselves in the roles God gave us.  We would rather be in control, we think, until we look up and realize the weight of our entire family is on our shoulders–or so I’ve heard….  Men think they don’t want the responsibility of leading so they defer to their wives, until they realize they are treated like a kid and then suddenly they fight for the right to lead.  So there is this forever fight going on in the marriage for control.  The leadership role is wrestled from one person, and then wrestled back by the other.

Why do we have this aversion to our roles.  Well because of sin.  Sin is simply anything we do that goes against the Lord.  Sin entered the world in the garden of Eden.  Eve was deceived by satan and decided to eat from the one tree in the garden that the Lord told them not to eat from.  She took the lead of the situation and then lead her husband Adam in to sin as well.  As a result of their disobedience the Lord cursed mankind.  Take a look at Genesis 3:

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,

and in pain you will give birth.

And you will desire to control your husband,

but he will rule over you.”

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree

whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,

the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains.

19 By the sweat of your brow

will you have food to eat

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.” (NLT)

So lets see if this curse is real and if we experience it ourselves nowdays:

LADIES:

Pain in pregnancy and birth? CHECK

You will desire to control your husband? CHECK

DUDES:

Struggle to make a good living? CHECK

Work all your life until you die?  CHECK

So, yes we are still experiencing the results of these curses today.  This is why it is so hard for us women to swallow that word submit.  This is why guys would much rather check out, instead of work hard until they die.  Not only are we cursed but we also have a very active propensity to sin.  We don’t want to do what God says and everything we do that is against what God says is sin.

And another thing.  You know that song RESPECT by Aretha Franklin?  It has become a sort of anthem for women.  And it is true for us.  We do want men to respect us and not use us as objects.  In a marriage however you may think you want him to respect you but you actually want him to love you.  You see, when God created the roles, and then the curses, He also gave us the way to succeed in marriage.  Let me show you what I mean.  In Ephesians 5 God explains it to us through the apostle Paul:

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (ESV)

You see!!! He command men to love us!!!  It goes against their nature to love us.  You see it as men’s natural nature is played out.  In the world, who mostly reject God’s commands, you see how men treat women?  All over the world women are oppressed, sold for sex and objectified.  Look at the magnitude of the #rightnow movement.  Women are crying out for men to stop treating us like we are objects.  Without God’s command to love us, men would not naturally love and protect us.

Now us women, we have the job of respecting our husbands……wait what did that say?  Yes! We have to submit to AND respect our husbands.  You see we are creatures who love naturally.  We love our husbands, and no one has to tell us to do that.  Conversely, we don’t naturally respect them.  We want to baby them and parent them and love them into doing  what we want them to do.  God has to tell us to respect them because this is not our natural bent.  This is how God makes marriage a representation of Christ and the Church.

After I combed that scripture for translation errors or hidden meanings and found none, I had to accept that submission to my husband and respect for my husband is what the Lord was asking of me.  So as a very good Christ follower does, I added caveats to all those scriptures.  Example: ” I will respect him when he acts respectable, he has to earn my respect.”  “I will submit to him when he knows as much as I do about the Lord.” This stagnated my walk with the Lord.  I was literally stuck until my sweet dean at bible school said to me, “Sarah, YOUR sin is the reason you and Jesse are fighting.”  Let me add that I had just given her a detailed list of everything Jesse was doing wrong to justify my behavior towards him.  But as God always does, he used her words to pierce my hard heart and I realized I had some work to do.  Let’s look at that scripture one more time.  I want to show you something that I learned this year.

Ephesians 5:

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

Do you see where it says, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.”  Let that sink in.  Think about how you would submit to Christ.  If Christ was in your livingroom and asked you to do anything you would say, “YES!”  So we are supposed to submit to our husbands in the same way we submit to Christ.

Guess what I found out about myself.  I don’t submit to Christ in everything.  There are things that I worry about–that means I don’t submit to Him telling me “worry about nothing.”  I compare myself to other people–that means I don’t submit to him telling me to run my own race.  I question why things are happening to me–that means I don’t submit to Christ when He tells me to do all things without grumbling and complaining.  I want to be famous and the best at everything–that means I don’t submit to the Lord when he says to adopt a spirit of humility, putting others before myself.   Those are just a few examples, there are more, but if you know me at all you are aware of them.  So if I don’t submit to Christ, how in the world can I submit to my husband?  The answer is I can’t.  Until I can learn to submit to the Lord, I have no hope of becoming a submissive wife.  So that is where I am camping out.  I’m letting God teach me what it means to be in submission to him.  It is a magical journey of humbling moments, a lot of tears, and a lot of confession about how unsubmissive I am.

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Guess what my marriage teaches me about my unsubmissiveness to the Lord?  Everywhere that I struggle to submit to Jesse is an area where I struggle submitting to God.  I don’t want Jesse telling me what to do=I don’t want the Lord to tell me what to do.  I don’t want Jesse deciding what direction we are going as a family=I don’t want the Lord to tell me what direction to go.  I don’t want to submit to Jesse when he tells me he would prefer I not do something=I don’t want the Lord to tell me what not to do.  Unsure of your level of unsubmissiveness?  Take stock of your submissiveness to your husband.  Then put your big girl panties on and admit you are not submissive.  Join the club, we have T-shirts.

A word about respect.  Lets look at the last part of that scripture again.  Ephesians 5:

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one

33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband

It says that this great mystery, marriage, is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.  And then he says, “So again I say,………and the wife must respect her husband.”  Our respect of our husband is an illustration of how Christ and the church are unified.  Do you as a member of the church respect Jesus Christ?  Because if you don’t respect Christ you have no hope or respecting your husband.  How big God is to you directly affects how you follow him.  If Jesus is no big deal to you, then respecting your husband will be no big deal.  If He is a big deal to you then respecting your husband will be a big deal because your relationship represents your relationship with Christ.

I am laughing out loud right now at the thought of anyone who knew me before I knew Jesus, reading this.  They would be dying laughing.  They would be saying, “Her? do what her husband says, yeah right!”  “Her not be the boss of something, Yeah right!”  I would answer, “I know right! Crazy!”  I would say, “This is your proof that there is a God and he changes people who know Him!”

Now I am going to try to illustrate these points with my very own marriage.  We have been non-believing married people, and we have been a 1 believer/1 non-believer marriage, and we have become two believers trying to be married.  Through all of this, God has had to convince me to believe His commands.  He loved me and showed me success in small ways that encouraged me along the way.  The point is, I could have never decided to do this on my own and expected it to change my marriage.  God had to move, teach my heart and woo me into believing Him.

When we started out we were two selfish individuals living two different lives in the same house.  We loved each other for sure, but there was no direction we moved together.  We fought over who was in charge, who was the leader. We were more like roommates.  For myself I can tell you I was totally focused on getting to the olympics.  I was a dressage rider and could think of nothing but “making it” in the dressage horse world.  I also got really good at getting my way without including Jesse at all.  I took control of all the money, the bills and effectively it was the Sarah Griffith show.  I would “go off” on Jesse if he ever dared to stand up to me.  Essentially he just gave up because he is not a fighter and it was easier for him to just go along with it all.

I’m already at 3000 words so I’ll just sum up the next few years of our marriage like this, things got hard.  We ran out of money, had to sell everything and move to survive and we had kids to raise.  We both found ways to cope.  I dove even deeper into horses amidst having two kids and a business.  I turned to the horses for purpose and turned to the kids for love.  Suddenly one day I looked up and I was sitting in the grocery store parking lot wondering what would happen if I just left.  Left Jesse, left everything and started over with my kids somewhere in the world.  I knew I was dying on the inside or was already dead and needed something.  The Lord was coming for me.

Two weeks later I was standing in my garage talking to my daughters’ best-friend’s mom, and she is asking me to visit her church because she had felt how I felt, dead and unhappy in her marriage.  That lady’s name was Autumn and I will never forget her.  I thought, church?  I’m not sure they would let me in.  You see, years of coping led me to be on several anti-depressant, anti-anxiety drugs and I was a closet chain smoker–which is really hard because that is a lot of time in the closet and a lot of Bath and Body Works spray to cover up the smell.  Anyway, I went to church with her and within the first month I started to believe in God.  I would like to write a separate blog post about the day of my salvation, but for now just understand that I didn’t believe in God, and then sitting in church one day He changed my mind, and I believed.  I had a crazy experience with the Lord that day and I will never forget it.  Anyway, after that I turned into a HUGE JESUS FREAK.

Jesus set me free of everything I had been struggling with and I was in love with Him.  Now it has to be said that anything I get into I do 100 MPH and full bore, so everyone in my life was kind of like “aaannnnddd, now she is into Jesus.”  It took awhile for Jesse to understand that this was not a passing phase, that I was different.  I could not get enough of the Lord.  I studied everything I could about Him.  That is when I first learned that the husband is supposed to be the leader of the house.  I started learning that a woman should respect her husband.  In my first zeal for the Lord, I was totally in with all these things.  It wasn’t until the “honeymoon was over” so to speak that I started questioning about those words submit and respect.

To say I was insufferable in the beginning is an understatement.  Jesse looked up and he was married to a massive Jesus freak on fire for the Lord.  In my zeal for the Lord I decided, “Ok God, I’ll let Jesse lead this family.”  One day I sat Jesse down and said, “God says you are supposed to lead the family so, here you go M*#^%$ F@#%&*, you get to pay the bills, the insurance, and you get to make all the decisions.  Go!”  He was in a bit of shock and also not ready for that kind of truth-bomb.  To say God had to work on me becoming a little more gentle is also an understatement.  I was all zeal and no wisdom.  Wisdom would have said, one step at a time, let’s get him to believe in the Lord first.  But, no, I have an affinity to do things in the most difficult way.  I also did not give the Lord a chance to teach me what HE meant by “leading a family.” I took my americanized, military raised, feminist can-do attitude and looked at that scripture and said, “Oh, yeah, I got this.”  What I should have said is, “Oh Lord God in Heaven, take me to heaven now because I don’t got this!”

It was a mess.  Not a small one.  Jesse was frustrated and I was angry.  It went on like this for a year until it finally broke, for real.  Jesse couldn’t take it anymore and neither could I.  My thought was, “Lord, if I could just be free of him, I could really serve you for real.”  We separated over spring break in either 2010 or 2011, I can’t remember which.  I was glad to finally get him out of my house.  I was glad to be free.  I was sad for my kids, but I thought we would do just fine without him.

Let me tell you, in case you are considering this route, this separation BROKE ME.  I was so convinced I did everything around the house anyway, I couldn’t understand why I was so burdened by the to-do list for the day.  I was so convinced I had no emotional attachment to him that I couldn’t understand why I cried myself sleep every night.  I was so convinced the Lord was ok with me divorcing him I couldn’t understand why I wanted him back so badly.

All the feelings were because the Lord did not want me to divorce him.  I was driving down the road and had just hung up from making my first appointment with an attorney.  God, as clear as day, said to me, “Wait, wait and see what I might do in him.”  I thought of the change in myself because of the Lord and I was curious about what he might do, so I did wait.  Two weeks later, Jesse called me and said, “Sarah, I gave up, I gave into God, I want to know Him and follow Him too.”  That was all it took, we started the reconciliation process.

We started to go to biblical counseling together where we learned about what I shared with you above.  About the curses, leadership and love and respect. We also learned that I had effectively become his mother and he was my child.  We learned that I had to step out of leadership and into submission, and Jesse had to step out of the kid role and up to the leader role.  We learned that leading the family was not as simple as just paying all the bills and the insurance and making all the decisions.  We had to ask each other hard questions.  The hardest one for me was, “What can I do to make you feel like I respect you?” The process of reconciliation also included us having to get on the same page about money, kids and where we wanted to go in life.  We were two sinful people trying to figure out this biblical marriage thing.  It was ugly at times and full of change.  Within the first year after we reconciled we decided to live in a motor home for a summer, and sell everything we owned and go to bible school in Michigan.  Like I said, I like to do things the hard way.

In this time of reconciliation I learned that when I was unsubmissive to Jesse or I disrespected him I was sinning.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  I also realized I knew what the Lord wanted me to do on paper but in real life it was a mess.  As I said above, I started to learn the art of asking for forgiveness from the Lord.  It is a wonderful gift He gives to us.  We get to confess to the Lord when we mess up and then ask Him to forgive us, which He does every single time.  He also works in our heart to point out to us when something is going against what He wants from us.  This amazing relationship we have with the Lord is where the change really starts happening.

I remember repenting to the Lord for my behavior towards Jesse way before I ever actually asked for forgiveness from Jesse.  I do however remember vividly the first time I did ask Jesse to forgive me for how I had just spoken to him.  We were moving out of our house to get ready to go to bible school and I let a slew of cuss words go on him.  I stopped short when I saw his face.  I took a breath and said, “I’m sorry for cussing at you.”  Jesse responded by saying, “Which time are you talking about, that time or the time before that?”  I said, “That’s for before, now and tomorrow.”  Like I said, it is messy.

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I also firmly believe that there is a thing called holy duct tape.  I remember experiencing the holy duct tape for the first time in my kitchen.  Jesse was telling me that he was going to do something, and I opened my mouth to tell him the “right” way to do it.  All of a sudden I felt this pressure over my mouth like a piece of duct tape.  It kept me from saying anything except, “sounds good babe!”  It was a moment that I realized I didn’t have to say everything that comes to mind, and that Jesse was a grown up and could do things his own way.  Go figure!  This was the way God started to convict me of sin before I ever acted on it.

Where are we now? Well, still married–ALL THE PRAISE HANDS!!!  I’m learning how to try to be a submissive/respectful wife, how to fail at it, and how to ask for forgiveness when I do.  My marriage is my priority now, so if things aren’t good with Jess, nothing else happens until we work it out.  It is messy and frustrating and I don’t want you to think for a second that we have it figured out.  We only know what the ideal is now and are trying adhere to it in ways that we can.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because since I wrote all this down I can almost guarantee you that my marriage will be a dumpster fire this week.  Anytime you declare that you have some knowledge about something the Lord will test it for sure.  So if you see me and Jesse screaming at each other somewhere just remember, I warned you.


I want to share with you some tools that have really helped us.  First, biblical counseling, you know I am a fan of counseling.  It was very valuable to have a mediator at first because there was a few months there where everything Jesse said caused me to scream the F-Word.  In counseling our counselor suggested we read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.  Seriously, this book should be a must-read for anyone who thinks they may want to get married, married people, parents of engaged people, and people who are around married people. Another tool was the Dave Ramsey program.  This program gave us a plan we could both agree on.  We stopped using money as a tool to get our way and started making it work for us.  During our separation and reconciliation we were involved in a community group at our church.  These Godly people loved us and allowed us to work through our troubles.  They surrounded us and loved us no matter what.  Jesse often says that those dudes that loved him during that time were part of what led him to Christ.  After we moved home from bible school we had the opportunity to do RE|engage at our church.  In that program we learned how to forgive one another and how to really communicate through conflict.  Our leaders, Chris and Laura, led by example and encouraged us to really dig into the material.  If you find yourself in a season of struggle I encourage you to grab hold of one of these tools.

 


Why did I write all of this? Because I want a marriage that represents Christ and the Church.  I want to be the wife who builds up her husband instead of tearing him down.  I want to be happy and be unified with Jesse.  I want my kids to know that our family is solid and they don’t have to worry about someone leaving.  I want all these things and if I try to do them in my own strength it ends up being a dumpster fire.  I have to submit to the Lord first, I have to respect the Lord.  Then He empowers me to be a submissive woman.  As I think about what it takes and what it will cost me to be submissive and respectful in this culture that says men are dumb, I realize a submissive woman is the strongest kind of woman out there.  I have to be brave to step into this role.  I have to say no when I am in group of women that start bagging on their husbands. I have to talk respectfully about my friends’ husbands, which I haven’t done well.  And most of all it’s not just an act, I have to ask God to actually change my heart toward my husband, and to help me be the woman God wants me to be for Jesse.  These are all prayers I am praying for me and the women of my generation.

 

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This guy! Can’t live with him, can’t kill him.  Just kidding, where would  I be without him?  He provides an amazing life for us.  He loves the Lord and is learning to lead us with a quiet strength that makes you want to follow him.  He has been dealt some tough blows and some hard hurts but he loves anyway.  He reads every word I write no matter how bad or long (we are 7000+ words in this post alone).  He has cared for me through not 1, not 2 but 8 surgeries, two broken ankles, and two pregnancies.  At this point and after all of that he is basically a doctor.  This man who God gave me before I even knew God is the perfect match for me.  Now to be perfectly frank, he didn’t start off that way.  God had to change him, and me, from those selfish kids who were just roommates to two sinful people who are just wanting to do things the way the Lord wants them to.  I can honestly tell you that the man I am married to today is not the same one that I married 15 years ago.  This one has been though a sifting and made it through to the other side.  And you know what?  I am not the same girl either.  I have been sifted as well, refined, asked to seek gentleness.  So if you are sitting here, still reading this exceptionally long post, thinking to yourself, there is no way my marriage will ever reflect God’s design, let me tell you something, I witnessed a miracle from the Lord in my house 6 years ago.  I prayed to the Lord and told him I couldn’t do this marriage anymore.  I told the Lord I was at the end of what I could do.  Guess what his answer was?  He said, “Good, now you can give it to me, stop trying to fix it your way, and let me get to work.”  I pray that you will give your marriage to Him today, then sit back and watch the miracle.therewillbemiracles.jpg

 

I’m Just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love me.

Oh my gosh, Notting Hill, the best movie ever.  I am sitting here watching it while I write this.  It is the epitome of what I have always wanted in my heart.  Someone to love me, just for me.  To love me just as I am, not for any other reason.  Take a look…..

Rejection, in my opinion, is the opposite of love.  Honestly, I think the fear of rejection might be my biggest fear of all.  I think the fear of rejection fuels a lot of my actions, and a lot of my hurt feelings.  When I ask myself, “Self? Where did this fear of rejection come from?”, what popped into my mind was a kickball field at Taft Elementary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was in 5th grade and two kids where standing in front of group of kids.  Taking turns, they would call out a name and that kid was “on the team!”  Guess whose name was last?  Guess what that heartless boy said when he saw it was me standing there?  “Ugh! I guess we have to have her on our team.”  What a jerk!  I should have punched him square in his stupid jaw.  Anyway, to avoid that kind of rejection from ever happening to me again  I put on a protective candy shell called “Look at me I am awesome!”  As long as I can keep you looking at me and talking to me, you can’t reject me.  As I said, in the end I just want to be loved.  The problem with trying to get everyone to love me and no one to reject me is that it is a bucket with a hole in it.  No one can ever fill me with the love I really need.  There is only one person who can love me the way I need to be loved.  One guess who!

Last year, Jesse and I were meeting with Pastor Doug.  He asked me if I ever struggled with God’s love for me.  Without any hesitation, I said, “No, I don’t struggle at all with God’s love.  I know He loves me.”  In my mind I thought, but did not say out loud, “Have you met me Pastor Doug?  Do you know all the things I do for God?  How much I think about Him?  How consistently I pray to Him?  How I study my bible? Of course God loves me! I am the bomb.com!”  Anybody ever heard the proverb that says “Pride comes before a fall?”  I was so confident that God loved me because I was doing all the things He told me to do.  If I screwed up I would repent, punish myself and beg God to forgive me. God was coming for my heart though, He was about to show me His love was not based on me….

Jesse and I spent two years at bible school in Michigan.  We got to spend two years studying the bible and learning about God.  When we left school,  I was in AWE of God.  I was fully ready to worship and serve Him for the rest of the time He gave me.  I learned that He created the universe, that He was telling a story of redemption in His word and that He wanted me to be a part of the story.  When I think about my mindset as we came home, I think I can best describe it with these scriptures:

Exodus 14:31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 33: 6 The Lord merely spoke,

and the heavens were created.

He breathed the word,

and all the stars were born.

He assigned the sea its boundaries

and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.

Let the whole world fear the Lord,

and let everyone stand in awe of him.

For when he spoke, the world began!

It appeared at his command

God is all-powerful and all-knowing and created the whole universe.  He merely spoke and the world began.  He unleashed 9 plagues on Egypt to show the Egyptians who he was and to set the Israelites back on their heals.  Through no fault of any of my professors, and most likely because of my massive fear of rejection, that is where I stayed.  Set back on my heals in awe, and in fear and trembling of God.  So afraid God would reject me. I knew in my heart that the things He did where because He loved us, but I was stuck in place with “fear of the Lord.”  Awe does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It causes us to want to do what God says, andto avoid His wrath.  It causes us to acknowledge that God is God and to worship Him.  It causes you to straighten up and fly right so to speak.

So what would be so wrong with just staying in awe of God?  What’s wrong with fearing Him so you will fly right? The problem is that you would be doing those things out of fear and that is not the kind of relationship He wants with us.  He doesn’t want me to be in fear of rejection. Fear cannot change me, it can only make me do stuff.  Fear leaves me feeling heavy and like a slave.  God does not think of me as His slave.

How do I know that the God who created the universe loves me?  The bible tells me so!

Psalm 139: 13You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

16 You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!

18 I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

you are still with me!

Have you ever knit anything?  It is a labor of love.  It takes concentration and fortitude.  It takes patience and skill.  It takes thought and planning.  I broke my ankle a few years ago and to stave off the bordem I learned how to knit.  Let’s just say, after the cast came off the knitting went by the wayside because it is so hard!  But what I think of when I knit something is how much I loved what I finished.  I was so proud of my handy work.  I also loved giving what I had made to someone.  Knowing what little I do about knitting I can see how much God loves me because He says He knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

 That Psalm also says He watched me while I was formed.  That does not sound to me like a God who is uninterested in me or waiting to reject me.  I remember when my kids were newborns I would just watch them over-flowing with love for them.  To see them move their little hands, and make noise was so amazing and made me drunk in love with them.

But the kicker is at the end of that portion of the Psalm.  “How precious are your thoughts about me, they cannot be numbered.”  I am struck by the fact that the God who spoke the world into existence, put all the stars in the sky, and designed the ocean, has precious thoughts of me.  The bible is overflowing with declarations of God’s love for us.  One more amazing example is that we are adopted by Him when we believe in Jesus and we get to call Him “Abba., Father.”

Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

“Abba” is a greek word that is a personal name for someone in your family circle.  People generally think it means something like Daddy.  WAIT! You mean to tell me that the God that created the universe say’s I can call Him daddy.  So I am not a slave of His, I am His daughter and I get to call Him Daddy.  This drove home the fact that I do not have to live in fear of God not loving me and rejecting me.  I have not received a spirit that makes me a fearful slave, just doing things because I am afraid of God.


I think it is only natural that if God tells us that he is our Daddy it makes us think of our earthly father.  I hope you have a dad like I do.  He is strong and faithful.  He always comes through for me.  He is always expecting  more out of me than I think I am capable of. He believes I can do anything.  He is a very steady presence in my life.  I am almost 40 years old and an encouraging text from my dad is still just what I need sometimes.  These are all things that illustrate for me some minute portion of how God feels about me.  He created me, he knit me together, planned my days gave me a family and thinks about me.

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I am so sorry if your earthly father was in no way a representation of your heavenly father.  What you need to know is earthly fathers might make mistakes sometimes but your heavenly father never makes mistakes.  Not when he made you, not when he prepared your life for you, and He loves you.


 

Had Pastor Doug not asked me that question last year I probably would still be stuck in awe and being just a girl standing in front of a Big God asking IF He loves me.  I would be doing things and serving at church because I was afraid God would not love me if I didn’t.  But because I am loved by God he started showing me how he loves me.  I realized that my Awe of God makes me sure of His love for me.  What I mean is that my awe of God makes the bible real to me, and if the bible is real to me then I have to believe what it says.  In the bible God says He loves me.  Because I know he is all-powerful, all-knowing and my creator I know that He is the one who can fill that endless need for love inside me.  In fact I would say with some certainty that He put that need to be loved inside of me so I would run to Him.

Do you remember when you first started liking a guy?  I do! I would meet a guy and be all impressed by him and wanted him to be impressed by me.  To start off I would put my best foot forward.  If I was going somewhere I thought that he might be I looked my cutest.  When I was around him I would act super cool so he would think I was cool.  It was thrilling to find out what he thought of me or if he even noticed me.  I would study him, and do things that would impress him. I’m not saying I was a stalker but as I think back over time spent “studying” guys, I may have come close to that line. Anyway,   I was mortified if I did anything that made him think I was a dork. I was always on high alert around him.  At times the anxiety of being around him would create butterflies in my stomach.

This is where I have been with the Lord.  Totally impressed and in awe of Him that I have butterflies in my stomach. Always on my best behavior so He will notice me and think I am cool.  Trying to impress him and being scared of doing something that He would think is not cool.  Wondering what he thought of me.

So then lets, say, I got the guy from above.  Let’s call him Jesse.  Jesse and I are now married.  I start to let him see me without make-up and in sweatpants.  I start to trust that I am not going to be a dork in front of him.  I start to have less anxiety and more trust that he is not going anywhere and that he loves me.

So that is where I am with God right now.  The time is passing and the awe is doing what it is meant to do.  It makes me want to know more about the Lord.  Be around Him more.  Learn to trust Him, learn how He loves me.  I get butterflies when He shows me that He sees me, and answers my specific prayers.  I am just a girl standing in front of a Big God asking Him if He loves her.  AND HIS ANSWER IS A RESOUNDING YES!!!  I love you!  Unlike that jackwagon, William in Notting Hill, who says “Can I say no?”

 


I wanted to share with you a few things God has used to help me really understand his love for me. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/be-held-lullabies-for-the-beloved/1278332199

Yes that is a lullaby album meant for children, but for someone who needs a remedial course in God’s love, it was amazing.  Christy Nockles wrote songs based on scripture that teach us about God’s love.  It is amazing.


https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/high-view-of-gods-love/id203009159?i=1000318773012&mt=2

This past fall, Pastor Doug did a series on the High Views of God.  One of our High Views is His Love, check out this podcast.


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And most importantly, time in my prayer chair.  Just being with Him, reading His word and letting Him teach me about how he loves me.


 

In the end believing God loves me is the most important thing.  Otherewise I become a girl standing infront of (any number of things, people, service opprotunites) asking them to love me.  No one but God can fill that need for me.  If I try to fill it with my husband’s love, it will fall short, even though I happen to have the best husband, because he is human and he has the same need for God’s love that I do.  If I try to fill it with people, I will have to jump from friend to friend because I will get disapointed. And likewise if I live in fear of God instead of a relationship with Him I will be a slave to trying to impress God enough so he will love me.  What I am reminding myself of with this post is that God loves me.  I don’t have to be afraid of Him, I can be in awe and love Him at the same time. His word says that while I was still a enemy of God, He sent Jesus to make a way for me to be at peace with God.  I am reminding myself that God loves me right now.  He is not holding His love back for the future Sarah that has walked with Him for 50 years and is all holy, respectful, and chill.  He loves me now, because where I am right now is what He had planned for me as he was watching me grow in my mother’s womb.  Thank you Lord, I love you for that.

Everything I know about life I learned from my daughters’ goats.

Do you remember those posters from the 90’s.  It was like “everything I know about life I learned from my kids,” or “everything I know about life I learned from my dog.”  Well this is the goat edition.

First, I want to say that I am going to make comparisons between myself and the goats.  Here is why that is ok.  There are three ways that we can get to know the Lord.  His creation, His word and our experience with Him.  His creation is meant to cause us to be in awe of Him and to see his handy work.  His word is where we get to know His story.  Our experience with Him is how we learn to be in a relationship with Him.  When I am dealing with some of the animals He created I reminded of things that He teaches me in His word.  I know that probably sounds like a very simplistic mentality, but for me when I am paying attention to creation and created things around me what I know in my brain about the Lord comes alive to me.  So yes, I am going to compare myself to a goat.  Ya know what else, God compares me to a goat too.  In His word He calls us His sheep.  Sheep/goat, there is not much difference.  So stick with me.

Proverbs 3:21-26 has been bouncing around in my brain since I read it a few days ago.  It says, My Son, let them not depart from your eyes–Keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.  Do not be afraid of sudden terror, not of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.  I love how God tells us that if we keep wisdom and discretion in the front of our mind we will have sweet sleep.  Wisdom is acknowledging that God is God and discretion comes with walking with the Lord.  For me, when I try to be God in my own life my sleep goes right out the window.  When I remember I am not God, and God is God I have sweet sleep, easy! (And everyone laughed and laughed because it is not easy to remember you are not God.)   But that is not the part of the scripture I want to write about tonight.

Look at the part of  that scripture where it says “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, not of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.”

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Look at that sweet girl!  Totally unafraid and confident.  I took this the day after we had a really nasty cold snap.  (nasty cold snap in TX means it was 28, don’t hate us because we are warm down here)  The goats were jumping around, running, leaping and playing, loving every minute of freedom.  They were sure their foot would not be caught!  Now here is the problem, they had complete confidence in themselves.  Let me show you what happens when they are really confident in themselves.

Sydney came in from the barn this morning and said that the girls had a sorority party in the barn.  Apparently they made the confident decision to open their stall door and trash their beautiful barn, their stockpiled hay, peed all over everywhere, tried to break into their grain can and finally pushed the cabinet over to get to the animal crackers. (yes, goats eat animal crackers, yes, it’s ironic I know, I didn’t make the rules)  Let me show you what the barn normally looks like so you can really feel the magnitude of the situation.

See there, contained goats, clean barn.  Now basically, and don’t tell Sydney this, but, I have been watching them all day waiting for them to keel over.  I mean, they ate so much food last night!  If they were horses they would for sure be dead. (or at least need a $10,000.00 surgery)  Surprise, surprise they are still alive.  For sure they were worn out from their night-time adventures, they looked a little hung over and sick to their little goat stomachs.  But, they pulled through.  They were confident in themselves and made a decision that did not serve them well. The fall out from their party was that Sydney and I spent 2 hours cleaning the barn after school today.  We were cleaning up after someone else’s bad decision.

And here comes the comparison.  I have confidence in myself and make decisions all the time that don’t serve me well or that leave fall out for someone else to clean up. I get all, “Girl Power!” or “I Got This!” or “CHARGE!” and full steam ahead I do something…….please see exhibit A:

Wait for it….

 

 

 

Get ready:

 

 

 

BOOM!!!!

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Yes, I did! I confidently decided to cut my own bangs, and then hair spray them straight back.  Look, the 80’s happened to all of us.  Thank the Lord that Rachel’s hair on Friends showed up in the 90’s to save us all from ourselves.  Anyway, with absolute confidence in myself I walked into that picture day knowing I NAILED it!  The fall-out is that my parents had to hang this on their wall for a whole year!

I am confident in myself.  I do things all the time based on my own confidence level.  I sign up for things I can’t really commit to because I am so confident in myself.  I say yes to things based on if I think I can do them.  I don’t do things I don’t think I can do.  I have a confidence that would make Julie Andrews proud.

Now listen, I’m not hating on Julie Andrews because let’s be honest, if you know me at all you know I want to be like her, or Celine Dion.  I’m just saying, what happens when you have all the confidence in the world in yourself and things still go terribly wrong?

As I study that proverb from above I see the glaring problem.  It says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and He will keep your foot from being caught. The Lord will be your confidence, He will keep your foot from being caught.  I have to be confident in the Lord.  The Lord is the one who will keep me from being afraid and will keep me from getting caught.  Confidence in myself only leads me to lean on my own strength, as I have shown you, I cannot be trusted.  (see picture above)  The confidence that I get to draw on comes from the Lord.  I have Jesus to be confident in.  He is perfect, and strong, and doesn’t make mistakes.  He also wants me to know Him.  Just to drive the point home for me, the Lord put this Psalm in my path today:

For you will light my lamp;

The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop,

by my God I can leap over a wall.

As for God, His way is perfect;

The word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?

And who is a rock, except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength,

AND MAKES MY WAY PERFECT.

He makes my feet like the feet of deer(or goats),

and sets me on my high places.

He teaches my hands to make war,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

Psalm 18: 28-34

For someone who has been struggling with feeling like a joke and identifying with naughty goats, that Proverb and this Psalm were music to my ears.  Do you see that? By My God I can leap over a wall for My God is perfect.  Who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.  JESUS, I LOVE YOU!!!! Thank you for being my confidence and strength.  Thank you that I don’t have to rely on myself but that You are my ROCK!

 


A word on that word perfect because that can be a trap for me.  I read perfect and I think my path will be without mistakes and “right.”  Well let me tell you that is not how God thinks of perfect.  His ways are so much greater than ours and He is in the business of teaching us about His perfectness.  So a perfect path for us is one that shows us our imperfections and points us to His perfectness.  Those bumps on our perfect path make us realize our need for the perfect savior.


 

So as I read back over this I think, “Gosh this flies in the face of everything our culture teaches.”  We are the “be confident in yourself” generation.  Self-esteem ranks higher than truth.  “Everyone wins,” “I’m gonna be me,” and “YOLO” have taken the day.  Well let me tell you something, I lived that life and it is a LIE.  Putting confidence in yourself will disappoint you every time.  You will wake up like the goats did, in an alfalfa induced hang over wondering where it all went wrong.  I’m writing this to my own kids now.  Brock and Sydney,  put yourself aside and follow the Lord.  Don’t follow your heart, you can’t trust it.  It will lead you to do things based on your own strength and try to fix things that only the Lord can fix. The Lord is the only one you can trust.  Your very life depends on it.  It will take humility, you will have to admit that you are not perfect and that God is.  Do it!  It is so worth it.  He will be your lit path, He will enlighten the darkness and He will be your rock.  This world and our culture is sand, Who is a rock except our God?  Be confident in the Lord.

Can’t get around writing about this. Is my crazy showing?

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I have been waiting for another topic to write about but words will only come about the one thing I don’t really want to record on paper (or blog).  I sat down to jot down an outline and even just jotting stuff down about it makes me cry.  I also feel like if I start writing about it I may not stop.  That sign above is hanging on the wall behind my desk.  All the little kids in my life call me Auntie Crazy, on purpose.  I mean, I totally want them to.  I want them to remember I am the fun one, willing to do fun and crazy things.  My friend, Justine,  got me this sign last year.  I love it!!  It becomes more true of me everyday!  Do you remember the girl in Mean Girls who didn’t even go to that school but had a lot of feelings?

 

That is what I feel like I am about to unload on this blog.  I don’t really want a cake made of rainbows, but alas I do have a lot of feelings.  That is warning before you proceed!  If I am going to record what Jesus is doing in my life I have to start here.

I am coming out of season of battling functional depression, anxiety and unreasonable obsession.  I say functional depression because unlike years past I was still able to get out of bed and do my day-to-day stuff.  I say unreasonable obsession because I had cast a vision for what my life with God should look like and I could not let go of it.  I have been a believer in Jesus walking around beating myself up on the inside because I was not a joyful follower.  I mean, I know where I am going when I die, I know God loves me and I have a relationship with the Lord; I should be the most joyful person on earth.  I crucified myself for feeling low and pushed myself to work harder, serve more and get over it.  The only balm was reading God’s word.  He promised to transform me by the renewing of my mind and I thought this struggle and striving was just part of it.  How wrong I was.

So I am going to tell you the end of the story first.  Right now I feel better than I have felt in YEARS.  The last few months were the breaking point.  In September I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.  No big deal I have had them before.  They have to be removed and we move on.  This one was a little different because they came on the heals of me being on steroids to get over Poison Ivy (there will be a blog post in the future about my hatred of Poison Ivy).  My GYN wanted to wait and see if everything would work itself out.  So I waited.  I was in a lot of pain and had to take Norco on regular basis to get through the day.  So after a month of waiting they had not gone away so my GYN said it was time for them to go.  When she got in there she realized my ovary had flipped over twice on my fallopian tube and she had to take my ovary out.  When I woke up she told me I would need to think about hormone therapy and she took some blood to do a baseline.  She emailed me and asked if I had been feeling depressed because my hormones were way out of whack.  She said I had way high Estrogen and undetectable Testosterone.  Now, I have to insert the funniest quote here.  I told my friend Ashley that I had high Estrogen and undetectable Testosterone and her response was as follows:

“Well that makes sense since you were a feminist, your estrogen ate all your testosterone” ~~~~Ashley Potts

It’s my favorite quote of 2017, for sure.  Love that girl.  So all that to say, my hormones were crazy nuts and I started hormone therapy and it feels like I am coming out of a fog.  It’s really remarkable.

The balanced hormones have allowed me to look back at the last few years and realize how bad I felt.  So is it the chicken or the egg?  Did my distrust of Jesus and pride over the last few years lead me to depression and anxiety.  I am sure you have read that prolonged indulgence in those two things can throw your hormones out of whack? OR did a hormone imbalance lead me to depression and anxiety? I say indulgence because I have to take ownership of the situation.  I could have gotten help sooner but I was too prideful.   Either way I have to acknowledge that God is sovereign over me and allowed me to travel this road so He could bring me here.  This is the transforming of my mind that I was praying for.  We are fallen creatures who have things in us that keep us from turning to God.  God is constantly in pursuit of our hearts.  He is always close to those who are grieving.  God knows we won’t always turn to Him first.  God actually uses suffering to bring us closer to Him.  I write that so that if my 50 year old self comes back to re-read this I will be reminded that this is the point of suffering–to know Him in a deeper and new way.  I have also been HUMBLED in the last few months.  Humbled because I tried to do things my way and that just about killed me.  Humbled because somewhere along the way I thought I would not have to deal with depression again since being a believer.  Wrong!

So as I look back I realize I have been depressed since we left for bible school.  I feel like I was a bit of a ticking time bomb.  I suffered from a misconception that everything would be easy once we got to bible school.  Oh man I was wrong.  Everything just got magnified by 100%.  I see it now as a blessing because I was really able to face my flesh and start to learn about who I was as a follower of Jesus.  It was the most painful thing I had ever done.  I can remember the depression starting then because I didn’t want to do anything social.  Neighbors there would invite us to do stuff and I would say “Oh, no, Jesse won’t be into that kind of thing.”  That’s a wife’s privilege to throw her husband under the bus.  I was really held back by anxiety.  Worry over if we were pleasing God, worry about Jesse quitting and running back to TX, worry about the other people at bible school and worry about what was going on back at home without us.  I distinctly remember the first time I was dealing with obsession.  It presented itself at lunch with my dean one day.  I actually voiced to her, “I don’t think anyone here really likes me, I’m pretty sure everyone thinks I am a joke.”  Her response was so good but fell on deaf ears (until now, because I get it now).  She said, “Well if that were true, which it’s not, it doesn’t matter because God loves you and knows you are not a joke.”

I won’t bore you with all the details of the 2 years in between then and now because I don’t want to find out if Word Press has a word limit.  Just picture someone limping along who is having to talk really nasty to herself all day to get stuff done, who is worried about everything (most of all if her husband is doing the things he should do), and is concluding from almost every conversation that she has that people think she is a joke.  I think the best picture rendering would be as follows:

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So where was the Lord during all this?  Right by my side.  Walking me through it.  Teaching me how to confess and be restored.  Using me to further His kingdom despite my aching insides.  Protecting my husband from my incessant harassment–and not the sexual kind. Growing my husband into a leader capable of directing me back to the Lord. In the past two years I have witnessed God move in miraculous ways.  I have learned about the gifts He has given me and the good deeds he has prepared for me and me alone.  The breaking point came in the last few months.  It is important to remind myself that by breaking point I mean that my pride was finally broken and I was desperate to be closer to the Lord.

I like to call last summer (2017) the summer of heartburn.  This was my first inclination that I might be off the rails.  Remember I told you that in college my heartburn started because of my anxiety attacks?  Well that triggered a thought in me.  I thought, “I physically cannot control this worry and it is getting to the point where it is causing a physiological response–that’s probably not going to end well.”   My friend Laura always says this awesome phrase.  She says, “Well, hang 10 years on that and it won’t be pretty.”  That saying kept going through my head, and I thought, this really won’t be pretty in 10 years time.  Heading into August I got really angry.  I mean like:

Yes, Dr. Banner I was always angry.  Mad at everything and everyone.  I also couldn’t seem to stop hurting the people I loved most.  I started feeling like Dr. Banner–one minute ok, next minute green and smashing things.  I had become so self focused and obsessed about being a good follower of Jesus I had totally forgotten my first love–just loving Jesus.  I was desperate to show everyone around me that I was sold out for serving Jesus.  I don’t know why I got that in my head.  I hit bottom when I realized I couldn’t hear criticism from anyone about anything.  However when you are turning green and smashing things, someone is going to say something to you, ya know?  I was so busy condemning myself I didn’t want anyone to agree with me.  The pain and the hurt did what it was meant to do, it forced me to my knees and made me call out to my heavenly Father for help.  And that’s when the restoration began.

The first step on the path to restoration was counseling.  I have this amazing counselor named Dana, that I started seeing in college when I realized I was having anxiety attacks.  I did not know it at the time but she is a believer in Jesus.  She would always encourage me to pray and to recognize that I was not alone–I was like, “Whatever lady, how do I get these things to stop.”  Anyway, years later after I became a believer I called her and asked her if she believed in Jesus.  She said yes.  I told her I was a believer too.  She told me she had been praying for me for years and knew I would find Him eventually.  Since then she has been so instrumental in helping me heal from the damage I do to myself.  When I talked to her in August 2017 she said something I will never forget.  She said, “Sarah, there is nothing wrong with you, these are habits you have learned that have allowed you to cope and now God wants you to learn new, healthy, godly ones.”  I was literally set free from shame at that point.  I was set free from the pressure to get it together.  I was set free from looking like a hypocrite Jesus follower who couldn’t hide her crazy.  Dana and I sorted through all the lies and all the hurt I had caused. Then the hard work started of capturing thoughts that were lies I was believing and confessing them to the Lord.  This took most of my energy and stamina.  I guess I am lucky that at the same time that ol’ ovarian cyst showed up and I got my schedule cleared for 2 months.  (Luck or a blessing?)

Then was the really fun part of admitting to God that I was obsessing over what I was going to do for Him and what I need to do for Him.  I had to admit that He was God and I was not.  I had to create space in my soul for Him to show me what He had planned for me.  By create space in my soul I mean that I had to stop telling God, (and everyone else) what I should be doing and let God tell me what I should be doing.  In this space also I had some relationship restoration to do.  I had really hurt some people who I really love and I had to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. It is truly my favorite pass time to admit I was wrong, said me never, ever, ever.  The other part of this is starting to talk to myself the way God talks to me instead of the way Satan talks to me.  In the bible satan is called the “accuser.”  He points out all the things that we do wrong, or against God.  In the bible God calls believers His “beloved” and His “children.”  As I come out of the fog I am able to really take stock of what my internal dialog sounds like.  It’s not good.  There has to be a lane in between self verbal abuse and self hype man.  I am trying to find that lane.  A godly self talk that leads me to repentance when I am convicted of sin, and leads me to live in the freedom God intended for me.

And to wrap this all up, because the National Championship game is on, Go! Bulldogs!  Once I submitted to God and stopped fighting Him in all of this I was able to start to see what he has for me.  This blog is one of them.  I have things I want to write down, I don’t know why. I can only assume its so my kids will have something to show their therapist when they have to go one day.  I can say that I get through the day so much more joyfully now.  This joyful contentment leaves space in my brain to seek the Lord and allow Him to lead me.  I fully believe, as I am transformed by the Lord, He puts new desires in my heart.  I’m interested in finding out how to honor those desires.  As I process the possibility of everyone thinking I am a joke, I think this blog goes a long way to tell you where I am with those thoughts–trying not to care, because I started a blog for goodness sake!  Trying not to second guess every word I write because I think someone somewhere might think I’m dumb.  I am ok with people thinking I am a joke, I am not ok being disobedient to the Lord.  Pastor Doug reminded us this weekend that the bible says “You cannot serve two masters.  You will end up loving one and hating the other.”  I can’t worry about what people think AND follow Jesus, there is not enough bandwidth in my brain.  This is hard to reconcile in my mind because my flesh really wants to be liked and respected, but my flesh can’t win this one.  If my flesh wins I am left in bondage.  Because of my faith in Jesus I have the power to say no to my flesh and say yes to Jesus.  He is waiting to lead me deeper into freedom, always pursuing my heart.  He never leaves me, but will not hesitate to lead me into suffer if it will draw me into a greater dependence.  So, don’t think for one second I would not go through all of this again.  I would do it again because of the freedom I am experiencing now.  And because this post has been long(2712 words–in your face Instagram)  and emotional, please enjoy the following corgi in the dishwasher (the dishes are dirty so calm down).

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My Insta-blog did not work so here is an official blog from me, who could have seen this coming?

 

Well, I was foiled with the Insta-blog plan.  Apparently they do not want their site used for blog length posts.  So that led to some frustration on my part, which I of course I whined about to my sweet husband.  He said “well, I guess you better just do a blog for real.”  He has the gift of cutting through drama and finding a solution.  So for $48 a year, he got me this page.  If I set it up right you should be able to see it from FB and Twitter.  I’m not sure how to share it on Instagram–so if you have thoughts on that, let me know!

I wanted to go ahead and share my entry for today, even though I was sort of able to get it out there tonight, but then I had to delete it.

 


 

My sleepless night after I wrote about sweet sleep

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And so it goes, I wrote about having sweet sleep and then last night I had a sleepless night.  I woke up out of dead sleep from a bad dream and then laid there, replaying just about every bone-headed thing I have done in the last six months.  Until I was reminded (by the Lord), “Oh hey, didn’t I just write something down about sweet sleep?  Didn’t I just record myself realizing that sweet sleep comes with trusting the Lord?” As He always does with me the Lord invited me into a conversation in the dead of night, while my mind was whirling.  He lovingly reminded me that nothing can be done in the dead of night, that I was enough and that He loves me no matter what bone-headed thing I do.  Not that I went right back to sleep.  No, I got up and got some Cheerios and some water.  When I went back to my room the puppies had decided it was puppy food time.  I had to let them out and talk them into going back to sleep.  By talk I mean yelling at them to be quit.  Jesse has the gift of sweet sleep, because he did not hear anything of what was going on.  I did finally lay back down and thanked the Lord for always teaching me and for making sure I am really living what I am saying out loud to my family and my friends.  He is so real and present to me at night because I have spent so many years laying awake.  I was such an anxious child.  I started having panic attacks at night when I was seven.  Bless my mom’s heart, she sat with me, rubbed my back and talked to me at least once a week from seven-eighteen years old.  Then when I went to college she would answer my phone calls at 2 AM and talk me out of it.  It wasn’t until I went to the Student Health Center at Texas Tech to see if I could get a pill for my “heartburn” that I found out there was a name for my night-time attacks.  I was still not a believer in Jesus yet, so the best I could do at that point was to manage the symptoms of the deeper problem.  When I became a believer, suddenly I had Someone greater than myself to trust in.  Putting my faith in God, who is perfect, faithful and also made payment for my sin, took the panic out of my soul.  Jesus says in His word “come to me those of you who are weary and I will give you rest.” That is what my soul was longing for, rest.  Obviously I still struggle with anxiety, sometimes I wonder if I will ever be “over” this anxiety thing.  What I am learning is it’s a process and it starts with me knowing Jesus and doing battle spiritually with Him.  It’s saying no to my flesh that wants to worry and panic, and saying yes to my spirit that longs for a relationship with God.  My bedroom is where I war against this anxiety. My bedroom is where my bible time, and prayer time happens.  This is where I spend a lot of time saying no to my flesh and yes to my spirit.  I keep calling it my room, but it is Jesse’s room too.  Just wanted that to be clear. 

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Because I need this space to be clean and functional at ALL TIMES, we decided to put in hardwood floors.  The dogs will destroy a carpet faster than anything, so because we where changing things up we upgraded to hardwood.  The walls are a soft grey, trim is bright white. The plantation shutters were already here and I made the curtains out of a printed burlap.  The wall sconces, night stands, coffee table and faux fireplace I found at local Rockwall shops.  The bed and dresser are my beloved Magnolia Home purchases from Nebraska Furniture Mart. (Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal) The prayer chairs I found in the clearance section of Nebraska Furniture Mart.  The “In the morning when I rise give me Jesus” and the “Every love story is beautiful but ours is my favorite” signs were also local finds. The “It is well with my soul” sign and the lamp were actual Magnolia Market at the Silos buys.  The “You are my sunshine” mason jar holder was made for us by our neighbors at bible school.  The rugs are target finds. 

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It has to be recorded that I was gonna record a story about the goats today but as I was praying this morning the Lord reminded me, “Don’t be a hypocrite, don’t record one day that you understand sweet sleep comes from trusting the Lord, and then gloss over the awful night you had. Just write it down.”  He is always teaching me and I love Him for it.