Oh man, I was typing out this A.M.A.Z.I.N.G blog post about hermeneutics and how to interpret the bible correctly. I titled it “Hermeneutics Brought to you by a Housewife.” The problem was I couldn’t bring myself to type out “housewife.” I can’t put “housewife,” no one will take that seriously. I have to communicate that I have studied this and got an A. I have to communicate that I have a handle on this or else people will just laugh. So I searched for other words….amateur bible student, professional bible student, Texas Tech grad, and nothing seemed right because, guess what, I am a housewife. As I sat there staring at the screen I thought, “Well, Jesus, I guess we better press-on into this, because this seems likely to be a problem.” So here’s what happened this week:
I realized that I am a housewife. I realized when people ask me, “What do you do?” I either say, “I am just a housewife.” Or I make up a slightly more sexy title if it is someone I am trying to impress. For example: “Oh, my husband and I just got back from bible school and we are open to whatever God has for us.” The problem with that answer is that Jesus has already told us what He has for us, I just am not totally in love with what He has for me. I am totally in love with what he has for Jesse. I am totally in love with what he has for my friends from bible school. I am totally in love with what he has for all my friends that I do life with. So I had to ask myself, why? Why is this hard for me to admit, live, thrive at and be proud of.
First, before I go any further I have to acknowledge that my kids and my hubs read this. And I want to say, there is no one I would rather be than your mom and your wife. This is not about me not loving being a mom. This is not about me not loving and caring for our family. This is not about me not loving picking up your belongings for the 4 trillionth time this week–well, maybe it is. The fact is, I have already settled this question. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am where God wants me and I love our life. Watching Jesse grow into the leader of this family and watching my kids grow to love Jesus is my joy in life. Running this house is my jam. Setting food down in front of you that you actually like is so fun for me. Fifth grade math I could live without, but time spent with y’all doing homework is the best time. What I am asking is why is it hard for me to tell people this is my job title? Why do I feel like that is not enough in the world? Why do I feel like I should be a housewife along with something else?
So I did press into this with Jesus this week. I asked why I feel like a housewife is not enough. I committed to praying about it, I meditated on it, I poked at it, and I looked down into the grossness of it. And do you know why I did this with Jesus? Because any thoughts that make me feel less-than, or not worthy, or that God is not pleased with me are lies that have taken hold. Lies that take hold keep me from living in the freedom Jesus has provided for me. And that is crap, and I am not living in bondage anymore. So when I come across something like this it is a full-stop, and sit with Jesus and get the truth in and lies out.
I have to start with truth because obviously I can’t alway trust that my feeling are right or truth. So what does the Word say about my job title in life? What does it say about doing the job The Lord has given you to do on earth? Here are some notable verses that came to my mind:
1 Corinthians 12: 12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
So my take-away from this scripture is that there are many parts to a working body. Not everybody can do the same thing. There are some super sexy jobs and then there are some more behind the scenes jobs. So if I am a foot and I look at a hand and think, “That hand is super useful and loved by everyone, and I am just a foot,” I am actually telling God He did not put me in the right spot. This scripture clearly says in verse 18 that God has put each part just where He wants it. Now, I know God is perfect so telling Him he made a mistake would be called a sin. The end. No way around it.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
This scripture is preceded by an essay on the Pillars of Faith that the Jews could model themselves after because of their faith. The Jews that this letter was written to were about to deny Christ and go back to worshiping with the pharisees. So the point of this letter was to encourage them to stay strong in their race despite their circumstances. What stands out to me is “run the race God has set before us.” God gives us a race to run, so to speak, in this life on earth. We should run and stay focused, not letting sin trip us up. You know, the sin like telling God He made me the wrong body part in the body….or something like that.
Ephesians 2: 8God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
What stands out to me here is that salvation is a gift from God. I don’t get credit toward salvation based on what I do. So if I don’t do another thing for the rest of my life except watch Netflix, God still gives me salvation because of my belief in Jesus. (Calm down, I know we stand before Him and give an account for how we spent our time here, and no, I don’t want to say to my Savior–Dude! I am all caught up on Grey’s Anatomy!) Our salvation is God’s masterpiece, we are a new creation when we believe in Jesus. And get this, the whole point is so we can do the good things God planned for us long ago. God has a plan for my life that he laid out long ago. And when I disagree with my lot in life I am telling that perfect God that He made a mistake, again, which He didn’t because He is perfect, which comes back around to that sin of telling God he is wrong, again.
And that is where it jumped off the page at me. This is a submission issue, not a job title issue. This is me looking up at the potter and saying, “You did not make me for the right thing, and you did not make me the right way.” DANG IT!!! It just keeps coming down to submission for me, and my lack of it. I can submit to the race laid out before me or I can jump the white line on the track, tell God He is wrong, and try to run someone else’s race. That is why I have a hard time telling people I am a housewife. Somewhere along the way I believed the lie that the race set before me is not good enough, and that God must have gotten it wrong.
So how do I know God wants me to be a housewife right now? How do I know that this is my race for right now? (I say right now because eventually these little people in my house might leave and go have families of their own, then my race might be different.) Here are some practical tell-tale signs. One: I am married and my husband wants me to stay home and take care of our house and family. Two: I have two kids that need a cook, maid, spiritual coach, taxi driver and tutor (thank you Google, you make me look like a genius). Three: Nothing else I try to title myself with brings peace to my life, it brings strife. Four: This is hard to qualify with words because I don’t like to say “follow your feelings,” but in my gut, I know this is the race He has laid out for me. This is what He knows will grow Me into a person who looks more like Him. This is the whole point of the race, to get to know Him more. And I want to stress–This is not your race, this is mine. Yours is different than mine. Both of our races are perfect, because God made them. Don’t fall into the ditch of thinking you have to run my race.
Ok, so then I had to ask myself:
Do you believe that God is perfect? YES!
Do you believe that He has currently set a race before you called “housewife?” YES!
Do you want to do what God has asked you to do? YES!
Do you want to become more like Christ? YES!
Do you know that the only person who you have to worry about pleasing is Jesus? YES–Wait, do I really know that? No I don’t, because if I really knew that I would have no problem telling anyone who asks, I am a housewife. And there it is, the ugly truth. I worry more about other people thinking I am awesome, than I do about pleasing Jesus. What pleases Jesus is my submission to His plan for my life.
So why? Why do I have a hard time with this? I think it is because at some point in my life I decided that being a housewife was not enough for someone to do with their life. I wanted to be a housewife, a horse trainer, an olympian, and a business owner. I decided that if I was “just a housewife” I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I thought, only busy people are taken seriously. I wouldn’t be seen by the everyone as a world-changer. People would look at me as if I was just a housewife and think I am a joke. I wanted to be something. I wanted people to look at me and say “Wow, she has it all. Perfect husband, perfect kids, awesome horses, gold medal, and she is making money hand over fist!
So I took this wrong-thinking into my Christian life with me. I looked around and saw pillars of faith, KILLING IT for Jesus. I was like, well I better figure out how to kill it for Jesus too! Jesus can’t just want me to be a housewife, I mean this is not 1950! He wants me to be a bible student, a missionary, a bible-study leader, a worship leader, be on staff at a church, raise my children into pillars of faith, and have a marriage that reflects Christ’s relationship with the church. Hey listen, I read all about the Proverbs 31 woman. I turned that proverb into a checklist and I set out to nail it. People would look at me and think, “GOOD GOD IN HEAVEN! That girl loves the Lord! People just look at her and get saved!”
Then I took that wrong-thinking even further. I decided that if you were not doing “all the things” and “leading all the things” for Jesus you were not a good Christian. I decided that just being faithful in my role as a housewife was not enough for God. I needed to do more for Him. I need to pursue more for Him. I decided if I was not suffering for Jesus, I was not truly living the Christian life. I wanted Jesus to be pleased with me. I knew that He could only be pleased with someone who was going full-bore, full-tilt, 100 mph for Him.
But then I remembered this little jewel:
Romans 12: 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
The wrongness of my thinking jumps off the page at me. “Give your bodies to God”–don’t tell Him what to do with your body. “Let them [your bodies] be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him”–giving yourself to Him is worshipful, not telling him what you will do for him. Don’t follow the world, let God change you into a new person by changing the way you think. “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Denying His will for you is not good and pleasing and perfect, its wrong. And it all comes back to submission to God, my friends. That is what giving your body as living sacrifice means. It means give yourself to Him, don’t tell Him what you want to do for Him. Oh Jesus, thank you for freeing me from this thinking.
I will confess, in the last two years God has really shown me my lack of submission to Him. I confess that I will probably always be a person that wants more to do, and wants to strive and strain and have a long to-do list. I have fought with Jesus over what my lot in life is. I have declared and decided and pushed my way into things that were never mine in the first place. How do I know I was pursuing things that weren’t mine? Because it produced disunity in the body of Christ, instead of unity. Let me give you some examples.
I pursued being a straight-A bible scholar–almost to the detriment of my marriage.
I pursued being on staff at my church–almost to the detriment of my relationship with my Pastor, his wife, and other staff members, like my own husband.
I pursued being a kick-ass worship leader–almost to the detriment of my friendship with our worship leader and his wife.
I pursued being a bible-study teacher–almost to the detriment of my sanity and the welfare of my family.
Am I proud of my behavior? No, of course not. Am I embarrassed that I behaved this way? YES! Do I wish all the people in my life that I have hurt could just forget what I did? Oh my gosh, that would be the best! Am I thankful for God’s grace and His ability to bring reconciliation to relationships–YES! Do I wish He had made me submissive?–YES! Just kidding! He did not make a mistake, remember? Did I expect Him to teach me about another area of un-submission to Him through typing out the word housewife? No–but I am glad He did because I already have more freedom.
So what now? What happens when my wrong-thinking is exposed and I have to change? Well, simply, I let God change me. He is not wrong, I am. I know that this is not a job or title issue it is a heart issue. I know myself well enough to know if I was any of those things from above, I would still look at someone else and say, “Well they are cooler than me, their job is more important than mine.” It’s not about the race, it’s about my lack of submission.
The problem with my wrong-thinking is that it leads me to rely on myself to serve God and to decide for myself how I will serve God. In the end that points people who look at me to see me, and not Jesus. That is not living out that scripture from above which tells us to let God transform you. The problem with my wrong-thinking is that when I decide there is something I should be doing for God, I will do whatever it takes to get it done, instead of waiting on God’s timing. The problem with my wrong thinking is it makes me want to call myself something other than housewife because I think other parts of the body are cooler than me. My pride desperately wants you to think I am cool, that you should listen to me and know I am not a joke. Well, pride and submission can’t exist together. And I am sorry but I love God more than any of you reading this. God wants me to say, “I am a housewife because this is the race God has laid out in front of me.”
So, I am Sarah Griffith, a -gulp- housewife. That 1950’s wife and Rosie The Riveter are both part of my make-up. I dare you to ask me if I lay around all day and watch soap operas–you will walk away with a fat lip. I may have been accountable to some wrong thinking, but I would not test my response to this yet. I am learning how to be honoring of this job because I am love of the God who gave it to me. Do I still struggle with wanting people to take me seriously? Yes! Do I still want to start every conversation with, “You should think I am cool because of ________________?” Yes! But God, is teaching me something. The God that lives in me is more powerful, smarter and cooler than anything I could do in my own power. People are attracted to the God in me, not the pride in me. This God that made the universe also has a race for me, Sarah Griffith, to run and He just wants me to submit to Him, thats it.
I am on a church camp high this week. Jesus has been moving so clearly in my life that insufferable Jesus Freak Sarah is bubbling right under the surface this week. I mean He showed up this week in personal ways, just for me, to show me He is fully present. This Savior blows me away. I can say things to Him like, “Are you here? Do you really see me?” and He answers me every time. I am struck by how dumb this question is. The clay pot made by the potter, looking up at the potter saying, “Are you here? Do you see me?” The potter could say, “Dude, do you feel my hands around you molding you and shaping you? Who do you think is doing that? You dumb pot.” But Jesus, the potter says, “Yes, pot, I am here, I have my hands around you and I am molding you, searching you for areas that need my attention, I will never let you go because I made you and I am delighted with what I made, I also love to bless you!” GGGAAHHHH! His word tells us this is true. The Creator of the universe is the same person who is grooming me to look more like Jesus. It makes me want to write down what He has done in me this week.
The week started with Jesse and I kicking off our first week of leading Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. This class is so special to us because it is the same one that we went through 6 years ago when we were in financial crisis. As any good Christian wife does, I pray “God help me to respect Jesse the way you want me to. Make him impressive to me, so I can be impressed by him the way You impress me, Lord.” And HE DID. Where I have had to micro-manage this class before to make sure everything would go off without a hitch, now stands a man who said, “Lady, I got this under control, get off my job.” As always my first response to this was super holy and Godly, and I said something like, “yeah right, we’ll see about that.” But God worked on my thought process and asked me to pray for Jesse instead of critique him. That is hard for me because critiquing Jesse is my spiritual gift. But I tried, and I was encouraged by Jesus every step of the way. In the end, I watched my husband start that class with a confidence I have never seen in him before. He knew what he was going to say, was comfortable in front of the class, and funny (which I put a very high value on.) I stood there humbled and amazed at what God has done in this man. And I thanked God for him. Did you hear me? I THANKED GOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT CLASS FOR THE MAN HE IS GROWING JESSE INTO. I am so struck by this because when we first did this class I was not thankful for this husband of mine. The fact that we have lived through our financial crisis and are able to lead other people though it is truly a miracle. The fact that my heart can be thankful we went through all that is proof that God is real for sure. Here is a brief history of Sarah and Jesse and money–a Greek tragedy.
So here’s the deal. There is no reason why Jesse and I should have ever had money trouble. We were blessed with a fully functioning portfolio that, placed in the proper hands, would have sustained a family for a lifetime. We have parents who taught us how to be responsible. We took the MC Hammer route instead. (MC Hammer is a rapper that became rich really fast, spent it all and then had to declare bankruptcy.) The reason we had money trouble is because we were two selfish people with no other desire when it came to money except to spend it. And spend it we did. We kept up with the Joneses, who we didn’t even know, but we were keeping up with them. We were buying things, experiences, horses, cars, and crap to try to find what only God could give us. I have mentioned before about that gaping hole in my chest. Well one attempt to fill that hole, meant only to be filled by God, was to fill it by spending money. We were totally ill-equipped to manage the legacy that had been placed into our greedy hands. I will give you a very unbiased picture of what happened–It was all Jesse’s fault. Just kidding! If you have taken a Dave Ramsey class with us, you know I am the actual spender, Jesse is the saver, but lets just hold onto the fact that we were both to blame. As it turns out, money problems could touch us…….(watch the video)
See what I did there? I crack myself up. And yes, I can do that whole rap and dance, just ask me.
As God does, he used our circumstances to finally draw us to him. Wanting more things, and making more and more purchases leaves you with one problem, no money left. “No money left” hit us hard. With no plan and jobs that didn’t pay us enough to sustain our spending, loans, and lifestyle, we hit rock bottom. Our rock bottom did what it should do. It made us change, and though we did not know it at the time, it was drawing us closer to the Lord. For the first time ever we had to look at each other and decide how to solve the problem we had gotten ourselves into. Our first step was to get help. We had to take a family bail-out just so we didn’t lose our house. We had to hire a financial planner to teach us what in the world to do to get out of the red. Our only option was a major change and major fire sale. We had to sell everything that we could. Cars, horse, house, barn, truck, trailer, crap, toys, clothes, shoes, and tools. Essentially the lifestyle we had become accustomed to was over. It was change, or live off our family for the rest of our lives. So where there was a fancy house over in the fancy part of town, now there was a rental house on the affordable side of town. Where there were fancy new cars, there were used cars. Where there was excess, there was now a budget. And this girl had to learn to make dinner so we could eat something other than mac-n-cheese, because the budget did not allow for eating out.
God used all of that to woo us to Him. If we had not moved to the “affordable” side of town, I would not have met Autumn, who invited me to church, where eventually I got saved. If I did not sell my barn, I would not have made the one hour commute to the barn in Aubrey allowing me to hear Dave Ramsey on the radio for the first time. Dave Ramsey told me that God had something to say about how I spend money. If Jesse and I didn’t have to finally work together we would have continued to live separate lives using money as our companions. If we had not had all the money stripped away we would have never realized that the money wasn’t the problem, we were. Those are just a few examples of how God used our circumstances to get us to know Him. The biggest one being that money was our god instead of Jesus. We trusted money to save us, not God. We trusted money to fill the gaping hole, not God. We trusted money to make us happy and feel loved, not God. This sweet Savior was not ok with us continuing to ignore Him. He furiously ran us down, until we had to make a choice. Love Jesus, or love money. By some miracle of God we trusted Him and started to release our grip on money. It took us 5 years to undo what we had done to ourselves. It took being humiliated, and talked about as “the people who lost all their money” by supposed friends. It took being crushed by our choices, to get us to finally do this money thing God’s way.
Because I am trying to get to a point, I will skip ahead to us attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University for the first time. For the first time we had a plan for money and how to spend it. For the first time we were not using money to make us happy. I say for the first time because it would take us starting the Dave Ramsey program THREE times before it actually stuck. Sin nature would rear up every time. A mix of budget summits, pie charts, intense negotiations, “I’m right!, No I’m right!”, finger-pointing, and intentionally blowing the budget ended up leading us to several false starts. The flesh dies hard, sometimes it takes us down. We had to see that rock bottom coming at us again to finally buckle down, be grown ups and submit to what God says about how to spend money. We were getting to know the Lord and learning to start to trust Him in this area. He encouraged us with little victories. Those victories taught us to keep saying no to our flesh and to keep saying yes to God.
So on this side of financial freedom it is important to us to lead these classes so other people are free too. Money is not a good master, Jesus is a good master. Debt is a slave driver that will have no mercy on you. We are so blown away that people actually sign up for these classes because we know how hard it is to take that step. We are also fully aware of our short-comings and realize only Jesus would use us to tell people about money. He uses the most jacked up people because they know how badly they messed up with money. This week when we started another class, we had the sweetest reminder of His faithfulness.
This car. This car is just a car. But this car represents a time when we did not know God. This car is one of the things that got sold off in the great fire sale. This car was Jesse’s dream car. He drove it in parades (that is why it has City Bank on the side), he worked on it, he dreamed of things he would do to it and with it. We originally bought it at The Cattle Barron’s Ball in Lubbock. Jesse let me bid on it, so naturally I spent too much on it because that was my super power then. During the great-sell off we knew we owed Jesse’s mom money for some horse stalls she gave us for my barn. We called her and asked if she would take the mustang instead, and she said yes. Little did we know that the real reason she did that was to hang on to it so someday Jesse could have it back. Those are the kind of things awesome moms do. Little did we know God had a plan for it too. At the time we were just thrilled we had settled another debt, we didn’t care why she wanted it.
This week, the same week we started another Dave Ramsey class, we got this car back. You can’t tell me that is not the Lord. You can’t tell me that God is not all over that to encourage us. You can’t tell me that God does not love to bless His children in the sweetest most personal ways. Once this car was a tool we used to settle a debt, now it is a reminder of God’s faithfulness. God promises to meet our every need. We didn’t know that because we trusted money to meet our every need. As we got to know the Lord we learned to put money in its place, a resource God will use in our lives to bring Him Glory. Nothing more, nothing less. We had to start living by God’s principles for money. As we said no to our desire to trust money to meet our needs and asked God to meet our needs we crawled toward financial freedom. We are at place right now where we are free of debt and have a place to put a project car like this. That is a MIRACLE. Hear me when I say I am not patting us on the back. I am giving Jesus a high-five for rescuing us! We had to let go of this car to get it back in a way that brings God glory. Even the way it got here is a blessing.
When we were in Lubbock for Johnny’s funeral I caught Jesse and Brock out in my Mother in law’s garage looking over the mustang. They talked almost all the way to Sweetwater about what they would do to the mustang if they had it back. It was an “if” conversation for sure. Then Jesse talked for some time about how Johnny left the legacy of how to build things with Jesse, and Jesse wanted to leave that same legacy with Brock. He wanted to teach our kids the importance of pursing you passion and letting God use it for His glory. That planted a seed in my heart. You see, I am the best wife in the world. Seriously I should win an award. I decided that I would try to buy this car back from my Mother in law for my guys for Valentines day. I was able to make this decision because we are finally in a position where Jesse could have a project car again. I called my mother in law a week later and asked if I could buy it back. That’s when God started to show off. I say he started to show off because my mother in law’s response was, “Sarah, that has alway’s been Jesse’s car and you don’t have to buy it back from me.” What?!? Then as we started to discuss how to get it here, she decided to just bring it down here to us. WHAT?!? So I don’t even have to go to Lubbock to get it? My mother in law is amazing, yes, but God used her to bless us beyond measure. So Monday afternoon this beauty showed up. As the best wife in the world I was so excited to see how Jesse reacted. He couldn’t even talk, He just said, “How did you do that, and how much did it cost?” He is a saver to his core. Maybe it’s because I am a girl, maybe it’s because of my flare for drama, but it is not just a car anymore.
Where there used to be a car, bought to try to fill a hole, there is a car where a father and son will get to work to make it run, driveable and cool. A father will pass on to his son the skills he is passionate about. Most importantly a father will teach his son that this car represents a time when he did not trust the Lord, and then a time when he did trust the Lord and the Lord blessed him. He will tell his son that making a car work can be a skill God will use to bless someone, and making a car cool can tip over into worshiping the car. These are all lessons Jesse has learned, and lived out. As a fellow believer in Christ I love to see Jesus bless Jesse and encourage him in this personal way. As someone who has struggled with materialism it is cool to see God say, “It’s not the stuff, it’s the heart posture, stay focused on Me, and have fun with this car.” For me I look at this car and see God’s faithfulness to us. He promised us that if we would trust Him he would meet all our needs. That is the understatement of the century. If we trust Him we enter into the sweetest relationship in the universe. The Good, Good Father, meets our needs but also blesses us in such personal ways. The Creator of the universe cared that we were worshiping money and not Him and pursued us to teach us that Jesus is better.
Jesus is better. I read a book this week that is centered around that theme. It is “If You Only Knew,” by Jamie Ivey. Even that book was a personal blessing for me because she talks about how to live in a vulnerable way. Moments that have led me to think this blog is a joke were washed away because God used her story to encourage me to keep writing about what God is doing in my life. Telling people what God has done, taught and lead us through brings God glory. Even writing about how we have done things wrong, but Jesus is right, brings God glory. And the tears come, because Jesus is better. I cry because He shows me His loving-kindness when I look back. When I see where we were and where we have come from. When I look up and see that I am married to a Godly man who loves the Lord enough to stand up to me and say, “Lady, I got this, back off!” When I look up and see that money doesn’t have any control over me anymore. When I look up and see that I get to use what God has given us to bless other people. Jesus is better, just like Jamie says in her book. Jesus is so much better. We didn’t get ourselves out of financial trouble, Jesus saved us. We don’t live generously becasue we are so great, we live generously becasue Jesus changed our hearts. I don’t write this blog because I need more attention, I write it so that Jesus gets more attention in my life. Jesus is better.
I am absolutely cracking up right now as I revise this again for the 3rd time. I wrote this last week, re-read it and decided it would offend too many people. I revised it, neutered it and was left with a partial story that only reflected half of what God has taught me about this subject. I didn’t have time to send it to my editor (Jesse) so I just saved it and was going to send it today. Then we went to church on Sunday. Now, I’m mature enough to know that the whole church service was not just for me, but let me just tell you that the whole church service was just for me! We went over Ephesians 2:19-22. Pastor Doug made the point that our foundation is built on the truth of God, not on our feelings. Can I just say how much I love that Pastor Doug is bold enough to always tell us the truth? No matter how uncomfortable it makes him, he knows the truth is what will really change us. Now what does that all that have to do with me? Well, writing down that feelings are not what I base my life on is what I took out of the original post. And I, in that church service on Sunday gulped, because I always do that when God shows me that HE IS REALLY WATCHING ME AND GUIDING ME, and then I remembered that I am not writing these things down to make friends with anyone, I am writing them down to keep track of what God is doing in my life. So here is the real story.
Yes, I have a gaping hole in my chest. I don’t like to talk about it, in fact I like to just keep it covered up, and I try to ignore it. It is there though, and I have tried to manage it for years as it just kept getting deeper and deeper. As with anything I write about you know there will be a back story!
As a kid my anxiety lead me to try to control as much of my life as I could. What I could plan, I would, and where I couldn’t plan, I would fight for power or control of the situation. This mainly fell to my little brother. I’m so sorry bro, I know I was awful to you. Please accept my spoiling of your kids as payment for my transgressions. Also I took you to the arcade for your birthday, what else do you want from me? Plus I toughened you up so you could serve in the military and I never got a thank you note from you. It also fell on my mom. Listen, there have been conversations with her where I just say, “mom, I’m so sorry for the years I was 16-21.” I was a psycho to her. She truly is a saint for not murdering me. I don’t think the authorities would have prosecuted her, especially after they talked to my brother. I would imagine she has had some satisfaction as she watches me try to navigate the teen years with Sydney. My parents did something amazing though when I was 13. They got me into horses. I was able to really focus my energy on horses and it was a really great outlet for me. But the anxiety had to go somewhere. It could not be ignored, it could only be stuffed down the gaping hole in my chest.
In High School I turned to drinking and partying and chasing boys. I took on the, “Well, at least the drinking and partying numbs the anxiousness, and the boys make me feel good about myself” mentality. Thank the Lord in heaven that High School is only 4 years long because no one would survive that place if it was any longer. My high school years were the first time I felt and understood what I call my “gaping hole in my chest.” No, I do not have an actual gaping hole in my chest. I mean that I started to feel this emptiness, a sort of missing part of who I was. This gaping hole was the unrest or lack of peace that kept me searching for something to fill it with, to give me peace. It was the place I stuffed all the anxiety, disappointment and pain that one gather’s during that awful time called high school.
Then college. Oh, Texas Tech how I love you to my core. You were freedom and my stomping ground. You, beloved Tech, where I learned about roommates who drive you nuts, financial aid lines, admission lines, food lines, and meat judging. My time at Tech I think has been slightly romanticized in my mind, but none the less it was an amazing time for me. And the exams, God help us all, the exams. My kryptonite. Give me a project to do, a paper I can buy off the internet, but not 4 exams for a final grade. The anxiety that this caused me lead to some of the most horrific panic attacks. I would stuff all this down that gaping hole and then eventually there was a kind of volcanic explosion. It’s like my stomach said, “Oh no, you are not stuffing all that down here!” And it rejected it with some force. There are only so many volcanic reactions to stress your body can handle. My roommates knew something was wrong, or that I was crazy and told me to go to the med center at Tech. Up to that point I had always suffered with panic attacks, albeit not volcanic ones, but never knew what they were. The medical center at Tech helped me understand and treat them. They said, “plenty of sleep,” (right, the bars don’t open until 10), “eat right and drink lots of water,” (sure thing, Zima is 90% water), and “make sure you set aside plenty of time to study so you won’t have to cram,” (right, let’s not get crazy now). This is when I learned how to “manage” my anxiety.
Managing anxiety came in the form of lovely new pill called Zoloft. It was a blessing, I think, because it allowed me to finish school and get my degree in Agricultural Economics. Now, I only graduated with a 2.4 gpa, but I did graduate. That is what matters. Remember that gaping hole in my chest? Well the Zoloft made me feel that hole less and less. It also allowed me to think, “You know what self, I bet when you get this degree, that hole will close up finally.” Guess what, it didn’t. The hole just became bigger when graduation did not satisfy that hole. However, the good news was this cowboy had caught my eye, we were getting married and just knew that marriage is what that hole needed.
Oh sweet Jesse. Do you think he knew at that point that he was marrying someone who had Olympic level anxiety and a gaping hole in her chest? Do you think he knew that she expected him to solve the anxiety problem and fill that hole? No, he did not. Because in that moment he was thinking, “You complete me” and I was thinking, “You complete me” (damn you Jerry McGuire, for putting that thought in our heads), and in the end neither of us completed anything and we wound up with two broken halves. I can remember when I woke up from that “honeymoon” stage and realized that the hole was still there. The disappointment I felt when I realized marriage had not filled the hole, but made the hole even bigger and deeper. So I looked for something else to ease, cover up and deal with that hole.
This is where we take a big left turn. I jumped fully-clothed into the deep end of the homeopathic, chakra-aligning, aura-sensing, crystal-carrying, herb, guided-meditation, Reiki-practicing, house-smudging pool. Remember I am someone who, when I do something, I jump in feet first, full-tilt, 100 mph. I studied, I researched, I went to classes and I practiced everything I learned that might help fill this hole. I decided I was out of alignment with the universe and I had to get myself cleansed of all the bad energy that got me off-balance in the first place. Poor Jesse, pray for him. I drug him into it too. I would mix up tinctures for him, encourage him to realign his chakras and made him carry different crystals in his pockets. I also feng shui-ed our house and barn. Then I smudged them with a special sage I bought in New Mexico. I would have loved to know what the horses thought about all that. I imagine it was something like, “Look at the crazy broad lighting that hay on fire. Does she think that will make us do what she says? Has she been smoking that hay?” I got more and more involved in these practices and just thought the better I got at them the more relief I would feel. I spent several years studying these practices. I was getting in tune with my feelings. If it didn’t feel good, I didn’t do it. If it felt good, I would do it. I started to let my feelings and my heart guide me. The problem is that the deeper I got into this way of living, the worse I felt. After a few very scary experiences trying to “connect” with the universe, and a few shyster’s that took a lot of money from me, I was left disappointed. Guess what, that hole just got bigger and bigger.
After that disappointment, I just threw myself head-long into my horse career. I felt like this was my purpose and I needed to get this done and be the best. I went to California, bought an imported horse from Germany, and I started to go to shows all the time to build a name for myself. Libero is a dream horse. I literally won all the awards you can win in Texas on him except for one. He is a great horse, and I’m happy to say living a very nice retired life with his girlfriend at my friend’s house here in Rockwall. When it was all said and done, I still had that hole. So my heart said, “buy another horse, even better than Libero!” So I did, and soon after had to put him down because of a birth defect. In the end, I was left disappointed again, and very sad. That hole was even bigger.
In the midst of the horse situation I decided I needed to have kids. Nothing fixes a situation like having kids. I mean, they make a family a family right? WRONG! But my heart said. “go for it!” I found out that kids are terrorists who work for some sort of underground group until they are a least 4 years old. It’s not until then that you can get a rational thought to come out of them. God makes them cute so you don’t realize you are actually a hostage in a hostile situation with no one to come rescue you. All of you who say, “Oh, you will miss it, it goes by so fast,” let me respond by saying it doesn’t go fast enough! And every time you said that to me I thought to myself, “I don’t know how I will miss this at all, I just want to survive it.” Of course some part of that is true, and what I miss now is the little babies who looked up at you cooed and loved you because they could do nothing for themselves. Little do you know at the time that those sweet infants drink a certain amount of milk and turn into toddlers who work for terrorists. It’s like gremlins, but way worse. They don’t just come out and kill you, they kill you slowly over time—4 years to be exact. When you finally think that you are literally going to die, they look up at you and say something rational for the first time and your hope in life is restored. But then they do the most heinous thing possible, they start to grow up. They start to have their own thoughts and things they want to do. They don’t need you anymore like they once did. And you feel your heart start to break into pieces because you realized there is nothing for it, they will leave you some day. Or worse, they might never leave because you did not do your job of raising them. After Jesse’s edit of this post he feels that I come off a little “anti-kid” in this paragraph. Please know that I am not anti-kid, but I am anti-kid if you are having a kid to fix the gaping hole in your chest. Now that I know the Lord I wish I could have a million kids because I would find so much joy in parenting a toddler now as a believer. Trying to raise kids with that gaping hole was really hard, and I do miss it, and I do wish I could do it again. All I am trying to communicate here is that kids did not fix the hole.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I went into survival mode because there was no other ideas to fill the hole. In the midst of pre-school, PTA, Region 9 Dressage championships, counseling, money problems and marriage problems I just shut it all down. I sought anything that would numb that gaping hole. I turned to legal drugs and smoking. I say legal drugs only because my Doctor prescribed them, in the end I was doing the same thing anyone who is seeking recreational drugs is doing—numbing out. I smoked like they were going to stop making cigarettes. It didn’t help that most horse people smoked too. The anxiety was still there but I just stopped myself from feeling anything. I stopped myself from feeling good, bad or other. I was just there, going thought the motions of the American dream.
Here is the hard truth that I learned. No matter what I thought would fill it, no matter what I did would fix it, no matter what new things I tied, no matter what “next goal” I achieved, no matter what my feelings told me, that gaping hole just got bigger and bigger. The size of it alone was so scary I didn’t even want to look down into it because I was afraid of what was there. Every time I put my trust in someone or something and was disappointed, that disappointment led to the bottom of that hole getting deeper and deeper. The good news is that the hole served a purpose. It drove me to the end of myself. It drove me to throw my hands up and say I can’t fix, fill or hide this hole anymore. I had to stop trusting my feelings and find the one thing that wouldn’t disappoint me. I believe we all have this hole in us. I believe that we, as God’s creation, were given this hole for the very reason that it will eventually bring us to the end of us trying to fix it. It brings us to the end of trying to understand this life without God at the center of it. We either surrender to the truth that God is the one who can fix us or we give up entirely. You see, what God taught me is that the gaping hole I was feeling in my chest was made by me trying to build my life on my feelings.
All these feelings I have, that I follow because I believe I know what will make life better, are actually lies. I would put all my hopes in them and give it the ol’ college try and eventually I was left disappointed, again. Do you feel yourself say, “If I can just get to this point, everything will be better.” Or do you look at someone else and say, “If I could be ___________ like her, I would be happy.” Do you buy in over and over to the “next big thing?” Let me say, I have been there too. I wish I could have the money back from the times I got fully on board with something that I hoped would have filled that gaping hole. If I can put this bug in your ear and tell you, I have been to the bottom of that thought process, it will disappoint. I will admit that all this disappointment has made me a little cynical about things that make promises. The only answer is Jesus. I have tried to cover that gaping hole in my chest with everything I could think of, everything I felt was right, and every time I took that covering off, there was that gaping hole, even deeper than the last time I looked at it. The thing with Jesus is he doesn’t cover that hole, he fills it.
My feelings, husband, my kids, my money, my stuff, my horses, my friends, my social status, my home and my ability to align my chakras all left that hole a little bigger when I trusted them to make it all better. And then this savior, this Jesus came in and started to pour himself into that gaping hole. I started to feel full, whole. For the fist time ever I started feeling a stability that I had never felt before. I had somewhere to put that anxiety, someone to give it to who could actually do something with it. I had someone to talk to when I was losing it. He didn’t tell me “Here is how you fix it, try this.” He said, “You can’t fix it, believe in me.” He told me, “Just because you feel this way does not mean it is true, I am truth, trust me. Is it an easy life with Jesus? No, it is not. It takes me sitting down and studying my bible even though I don’t want to. Filling that gaping hole takes me denying myself, saying no to feelings that don’t line up with what Jesus says, and saying no to my desire to satisfy my own needs, and following Jesus. And of course, I can’t just decide to do these things. It can only happen when I have a relationship with Jesus and He empowers me to do these things. Without that relationship I would never willingly read my bible! The reward, though, oh my gosh the reward! The stability, the fullness, the wholeness I get to walk in now makes all that pain worth it. Do you feel a gaping hole? I pray you will let Jesus fill it.
Well I guess I can officially call myself a blogger since I have written 8 blog posts in the last month. Wordpress is very encouraging because they give you these little badges that say “You made it to 10 followers!” and “You have 5 likes!” As I have discussed at length, I love winning things, so this feels very productive to me. However, I woke up yesterday morning with my first blogging injury.
When I got up my lower eyelid on my right eye was twitching. Just a little bit, jumping around here and there. It was annoying but not too bad. Then as the day went on I was convinced it was turning into Parkinson’s disease. I’m not diminishing Parkinson’s, it is one of my biggest fears to come down with that and I’m constantly on the look out for tremors. We drove home from Lubbock yesterday and I tried not strain my eye at all. Luckily for me Jesse loves to drive so he drove all the way home. Jesse convinced me that with a good night sleep in our bed it would be fine in the morning.
Well, it wasn’t. This morning it was really spazzing. It was to the point that when Jesse saw me he was like, “You are freaking me out, are you possessed?” I called my eye doctor and he got me right in. Jesse said, “Get out of here you look like Clint Eastwood giving me the evil eye.” So I hit the road, preparing myself, as any good hypochondriac does, for the impending eye removal surgery, and what kind of eye patch I would wear.
Well as it turns out it is not a big deal at all. It is called blepharospasm. It is caused by eye strain, stress, caffeine and computer screens—which pretty much describes the last month for me. He also said that I need—gulp—readers. To which I replied, “Oh, I have those, I got them at the grocery store.” He said, “You are beyond what they sell at the grocery store.” This is what 39 years old looks like. What happens at 40 because I am running out of parts to remove and apparently I will be blind as bat.
All that to say, I’m not sure when I will learn to pace myself better. I just know that I have discovered that I love to write about what God is doing in my life and what he is teaching me. I think the Lord will always have to give me a steadying “Whoa” when I get going with something. He made me passionate so I can pour myself out on these pages, but He also taught to me to listen to Him. (This time in the form of a spazzing eye twitch.) Just a reminder to say, “Sarah, you don’t have to write all the things in the first month, we have a life time to record these things.” And in the end I get one more lesson in submitting to the Lord. And I will try—this post is only 500 words! That’s almost like a tweet for me!
As with any week, I guess, this one didn’t turn out how I planned in so many ways. There were high points and low points. We are getting ready to start raising chickens. My mother-in-law happens to be a chicken expert and a master builder. She came down to build us a chicken coop. Of course she had to delay her trip because our disease fest last week, but she came in on Friday. A few days into her trip we found out that Papaw Johnny, her father, had died. Obviously this was devastating to all of us. Papaw has been such a constant in our lives. Always working on something, fixing things, driving HUGE machinery around and locking anything that was unlocked. I loved him dearly and the week turned into one of refection, even in the midst of building a chicken coop.
Saturday morning Sue and I got up and went to Lowes to get supplies. She brought plans for us to build it from scratch. She has one of those architectural engineering brains that sees plans and then also sees how to improve them. The job was a big one for sure. I looked at the plans and thought to myself, dear God, that looks intimidating. But I like things to be unique and special and “from scratch” so I was happy to help in any way I could. We were two women on mission!
So I have to take a pause and let you know a little about me and my mother in law. If our family were giving out superlatives mine would be “Most likely to not want to do it the easy way,” and Sue’s would be “Most likely to build it from scratch exactly how she wants it.” We are some of the most determined people you have ever met. She and I would travel to horse shows together and we would care for, make show ready, feed, and clean up after three horses. Not to mention we have driven about 30,000 miles to all sorts of shows together. And for Sue’s part she has designed and built at least three houses, totally built an equestrian center from the ground up, not to mention ran it herself. So the point is, we are the kind of people who decide we want to do something and do it, our way. Knowing that about us makes this next part so amazing.
We had to go to Tractor Supply after Lowe’s to get a few other things and to start figuring out an outdoor structure for the chickens to scratch in. We pull up and they have these coop’s set up out front. We start looking at one to see how the scratching pen is set up, and then we start looking at the coop part. And then the amazing part. We look at each other and say at exactly the same time, “What if we just bought a coop kit?” I think we both said it a little trepidatiously because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and she didn’t wan to disappoint me. Putting that aside we went in to find out if they had any more. Long story short. They had a great one that Sue thought she could re-engineer to make work for us. This huge pivot was a big deal for us. Now we didn’t know it at the time but it was actually God’s providential care over us because we didn’t know our time together to build this thing would be cut short. I am thankful for that.
This led to the best Griffith Saturday in a long time. Our foreman, Sue, deciphered the instructions and got us organized. Then with the unity of the military we all worked together, one step after another and we built that coop! Sydney and Brock learned from Sue how to use a power drill. And then of course Brock kept trying to drill things that didn’t need to be fastened, but it was all a learning experience. The dogs made it exciting by taking wood pieces that we needed and running off with them. They like to test me to see how close they can get to watching me murder one of them. As we were working I found myself thanking God for giving me Sue. Thanking Him for gifting her with the ability to build and see how things should come together. That thankfulness did what it should do and lead me to reflect on what God has done in our relationship and in all my relationships in general.
In my BC life there were no rules in my relationships with people. It was simply who was right and who had the power. I got good at being right and telling everyone I was right until they would back down. The problem with this is that it doesn’t lead to unity. It leads to someone being in charge and someone being a subordinate. The power struggle leads to fights and the fights lead to splits in relationships. With no agreed upon rule book the rightness and power struggle eventually took its toll. I also was under the assumption that how I did things was the right and only way to do things. I was trying to exercise my will on everyone around me. I am sorry to say that I have been really awful to my mother-in-law in the past. It was about getting my way and furthering my cause. Of course I loved her and loved becoming part of the family, but operating under the delusion that I was doing everything right doesn’t help you see the good in other people.
After Christ came into my life I started to learn that God had some things to say about relationships and how a believer should conduct themselves with other people. As He started to mold and shape me He also started to break down my pride. My pride told me I was right, and did everything right, and no one else held the same rightness that I held. What a jerk! Humility was a foreign word to me, but that word was used over and over in the bible. As I started to study His word He started to address my pride, and by address I mean pulverize it into a million pieces. Take a look at what God says relationships should look like:
Philippians 2: 1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
Man! I just love that! It’s a rule book for relationships. Now Paul is specifically speaking about relationships with other believers but I don’t think we can go wrong if we adopt it in all our relationships. Power struggles and rightness have no place in relationships that honor God.
I love that when I struggle with pride in my relationships, God, like a sharp-shooter, shoots a huge hole in all my “go-to” power plays. Selfishly want my way? God says “Don’t be selfish.” Impress others with my rightness? God says “Don’t try to impress others.” Think I am better at life than everyone else? God says “Be humble, think of others as better than yourself.” Obsessed about myself? (how am I doing? how am I feeling? how do I feel about any number of situations? am I right? am I wrong?) God says “Don’t just look out for your own interest but take an interest in others.” The coolest thing about God’s ideas for relationships is that they bring unity to every relationship.
So how do I choose humility? How do I let go of pride and choose to put others first? I have no idea. All I know is that because I have a relationship with Christ I have the power to choose God’s way and I have the power to say no to my pride. Without Him I can only do it the way the world does, power-struggles and rightness. For me it’s putting one foot in front of the other and taking those baby steps toward humility and away from pride. The incentive for me is that Jesus did this. You see in that passage above that He gave up His claim to God-ness and Glory and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross to save us. In its most basic form I think “Well if He can do that, and he asks me to be humble I will give it shot, it must be important to Him.”
I read a quote from C.S Lewis this summer and it really showed me where I am trying to get to with this humility thing. Check it out:
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pg. 128
As with everything I do when it comes to God’s commands, I read that passage in Philippians about humility and thought, “Oh, I got this, imma be the most humblest person I know.” The problem with managing your own humility instead of letting God teach you about humility is that you turn into a really self-centered insecure person. I fell into a ditch of always monitoring myself to make sure I was coming across humble. I was putting myself down when I talked to other people. Honestly that fake humility is what kept me from writing, until now. When I read that quote from C.S. Lewis I nearly hit my knees thanking God for the clarity about humility. And that is why I say I don’t know how to be humble. Instead of reading that passage and saying, “Oh I got this,” I am saying, “Oh God, I don’t got this, please teach me.” I just know I have the power to choose humility and a God who will teach me how to be humble. And thanks to C.S. Lewis I know it starts with thinking about others more than I think about myself.
And so to bring all this humility talk back to relationships, Godly relationships require humility. When I start taking interest in others I start to see God at work in them. I start to see how God made them. I start to see that maybe they have something to teach me. One thing I have learned is that Godly relationships are the meat and potatoes of the Christian life. I have learned more about God and myself through pursing unity with people than I think any bible study has ever taught me. I say it is the meat and potatoes because you can know all you want to about God, but if you can’t walk out what He teaches about having Godly relationships you really don’t get that life-changing relationship with Him. To avoid coming off hypocritical, let me add that there are still many relationships in my life that do not reflect my belief in Christ. That is where the sifting will come, and my pride will be broken down even more because God wants me to be humble and unified in all my relationships.
And so, back to the chicken coop. As I was working with my mother in law I was practicing choosing humility. I was trying to put her wants before my own, I was practicing taking an interest in her. I was practicing not being absorbed in myself. I was amazed at what God showed me. I watched a woman in her element. I watched a woman exercising the gifting she was given. I watched her hands move so carefully over the tools, so precise. I watched her stop and give instruction to her grandchildren with patience and joy. I watched her smile and cheer them on as they learned how to use the tools. I watched her think though things and plan the next step. I watched her work methodically with an attention to detail that I could only dream of. I watched her stand back and admire what she had accomplished, and I was so thankful for this woman, in a way I have never felt before. Below are some examples of her handy work.
Sue engineered this sliding door with a pull string on the outside.
The pull string.
Egg gathering door that needed further engineering by Sue to work correctly.
I then got to watch this woman receive the news that her beloved father had died. She was so strong and so brave. Her husband and brother encouraged her to stay here because there really wasn’t anything for her to do at home. We have known Johnny would pass sometime soon, and everything had been planned for a while. There was nothing for her to do at home except for wait for the funeral, so she stayed with us. I watched her go back to work on the chicken coop. She even baked some bread that will be the death of me because it is so good! She said that she needed to be busy. I watched her grieve for her father and I loved her the best way I knew how.
She said to me one day that Papaw Johnny was the one who taught her everything she knew about building. She said she felt like he was with her when she was building. The funny thing is Jesse said the same thing. Papaw Johnny was very important to Jesse. He and Johnny spent many hours tinkering and building. Johnny was the first person Jesse shared his faith with. It is our biggest comfort right now to know, as a result of that conversation, that Johnny had put his faith in Christ. We know he is in heaven with Jesus. Jesse and I have been warmed by the thought that Johnny gets to tinker with anything he wants now without cancer and Alzheimer’s to slow him down. Praise Jesus for saving him.
I then got watch Jesse and Sue work together. Two people grieving for someone they loved so much, and doing the very thing he taught them both how to do. It was really beautiful and I felt like it really honored Johnny’s memory. I feel like this chicken coop is not just a chicken coop anymore. It feels more like a tribute to Johnny. I love you Papaw, thank you for always smiling at me and giving me a hug. Thanks you for always making sure the barn was locked and the horses were in out of the weather. Thank you for always watching the road to be sure no shady characters drove up at night. Thank you for teaching Jesse to be a useful worker and for making him so capable. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us. Thank you for always saying yes when I needed some hay moved or some dirt harrowed. Most of all thank you for welcoming me into the family the way you did. I miss you so much. Tell Jesus HI for me.
There was this one time I was sitting in church and I thought I was having a heart attack. Now, anyone who knew me before I started to go to church would totally be nodding their heads right now say, “Yeah, I bet when you walked into church people started spritzing you with holy water and pointing their crucifixes at you, the dudes probably started loading their silver bullets.” Lets just agree that no one would have accused me of spending too much time in a church. In fact I was the object of a lot of prayer by people who knew me. The heart attack won’t make sense unless you have the whole story.
I didn’t know it then but I know now that God was working in my life way before I started going to church. He was moving and shaping things and bringing me to a point where I would be open to Him. Jesse and I had a lot of fun the first few years of our marriage. By “fun” I mean we spent a lot of money and we bought a lot of things. I think we were trying to buy happiness. Then one day we found out we had overspent to the point that we were in serious trouble. When you have to get a loan to pay your way out of debt you know you are in trouble. We had to sell our house and move over to the, shall we say, more affordable side of town. We had to rent a house, take Sydney out of private school and sell everything else we had to get out of trouble.
Up to this point I had been a horse trainer. I was hell-bent on getting to the olympics and had a horse that I was hopeful would be a possible mount for that purpose, or at least get me close. Unfortunately, I had to put him down because of an undiagnosed birth defect that showed up. I found my horse career stagnated after that. I did not want to go forward with another horse and I wasn’t happy with the current horse I had. I was just kind of stuck. I found myself questioning why I was even doing this horse thing especially because it cost us so much money that we really didn’t have.
This is VanRanst, the horse I had to put down. He was so fancy, I miss that sweet face.
This is Libero, the best horse I ever had. He is still alive and living a lovely retirement at my friend Justine’s house.
My marriage was also on the skids. This was the time in our lives where I woke up one day and realized we were just roommates. And not even good roommates because I did everything. I paid all the bills, was totally responsible for the kids and keeping everything spinning. We knew we were in trouble financially but we approached the problem totally differently. We were not unified, and it separated us more. I was totally consumed with trying to make things better. I literally tried everything but God, but that is a story for another time.
This “trying to fix things” led me deeper and deeper into depression and anxiety. I was absolutely under the weight of everything. I constantly felt like there was no way out. This “trying to escape” lead me to be on several anti-depression drugs and anti-anxiety medicine to get some relief. When those didn’t work I picked up chain-smoking. Notice I didn’t say smoking, I say chain-smoking because I totally skipped from social smoker to chain smoker with no stops in between. It was all an attempt to calm this feeling in me that I took care of everything and everyone and no one was taking care of me. It was all on me or it would all fall apart. I hit the bottom in a grocery store parking lot. I was sitting there in the parking lot of Tom Thumb and I came so close to just driving away from it all. Leaving everything and taking my kids and running. It scares me how close I came. In that moment I said to myself, “If things don’t get better, I am going to leave, I can’t keep doing this.”
Around this same time my best friend suffered a terrible loss. Her father died suddenly. It was a shock and it shook her to the core. After the funeral and all the busy stuff that happens at the time of a death, she was left searching for answers. On night on the phone she said to me “Sarah, I have to find a church because I need to know what happens to us when we die. I need to find something, I need to get back to God.” I remember thinking, “Oh boy, she has jumped off the deep end. Time to call someone.” But, I lit another cigarette, because that is what I did back then, and I said, “Ok, lets find one to go to.”
Do you remember me telling you that Sydney had to stop going to private school. Well, she started going to the public school right by our house. I think from her first day at school she was friends with a little girl named Breelie. Breelie and Sydney became fast friends and it made Sydney’s transition so much easier. Breelie’s mom, Autumn and I became friends because the girls were friends and we were room-mom’s together. As it turns out, she was another map point that God put in front of me. We had lost all our friends when we had to move and I was so lonely. She was so kind and fun to be around.
Now, here’s the thing. I was a rough woman, ok. I had this nick name in the horse world. They called me F-ing Sarah because I said the F-word so much. One day, I am just letting the language fly in the volunteer room at the school. (I am not proud to write this, but it is important.) We are laughing and carrying on and whatever. Autumn says something about her church. She was literally just saying something totally benign like, “I was driving by my church,” and my heart sank. Not because I was worried about offending her but because I was like, “Oh great, she is one of those church people.” I immediately wrote her off as a friend because I didn’t need someone telling me what a bad person I was. But here is the funny thing, this is all happening at the same time as I am breaking down on the inside. Autumn didn’t give up on me, she kept being my friend even though I totally distanced myself. And finally one day I realized I liked being her friend more than I liked avoiding her and I let my guard down. And wouldn’t you know it, that darn churchy person invited me to church.
I can honestly say the only reason I went with her to church was because I literally thought if I didn’t go she would stop talking to me. So I went with her one Sunday and I was shocked at what I found. In my mind I had made up this vision of what church should look like. Well, Cornerstone did not check any of those boxes. It was so disarming. First, they didn’t have a choir, they had a band. The pastor said words like “bro” and “totally.” And everyone was wearing jeans! Except for me. I wore a dress because that is what I thought you were supposed to wear at these churchy functions. I’m nothing if I am not fashionable. And the biggest thing at this weirdo church was that a bible was placed in my hands.
Something inside me started to sit up and sniff the air at this point. I was intrigued by this church. I was caught off guard and I was interested in this place. I called up my best friend, the one who had lost her father, and said “Hey, I think we gotta check this out.” The weirdest thing for me was I wanted to go to this church. I wanted to know what was going on with these people. I wanted them to share with me their cocktail of medicine so I could be happy like they were. I wanted to know why Pastor Doug made such a big deal about the bible. My first step of investigation was purchasing “The Bible For Dummies.” I found it at Half Priced Books while looking for something else. It was not a huge investment. I read it in one night. Then I wanted to know more.
This is my real copy of this book, which I still have becasue it reminds me where I came from.
The heart attack happened after about a month of going to church at Cornerstone. It was in June and I think it was 2010, but it could have been 2011. Anyway, Pastor Doug was preaching about Mathew 11: 28-30. Take a look:
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
Doug was encouraging us to put our faith and burdens in Jesus’ hands. Then towards the end he said, “You see, if you feel like you have to take care of everything and everybody and nobody takes care of you it’s because you don’t know Jesus.” At that moment the world stopped. I just stared at him, and thought how did he know I have said that for years. I couldn’t hear anything even though people were around me. Autumn was sitting right next to me and I grabbed for her hand. I felt something break in my chest and a flood of tears followed. I was in real pain and my heart felt like it might jump out of my chest in some sort of horrible Alien scene. I told Autumn I was not feeling well and I started to get up and leave but I couldn’t. I just sat there and absolutely sobbed. And not pretty crying, like ugly savage shoulder shaking crying. People around me were handing me tissues, and I was like screw your tissues, I need a doctor! It was noticeable enough that after church was over Pastor Doug approached me, cautiously, and asked if I was ok. I choked out that I had been saying that exact phrase for years and that I didn’t know how he knew that. Then the thing that really changed everything was the thought that surfaced. “If Jesus can handle the weight of what I have been carrying then I want Him to take it.” Pastor Doug suggested that he and I meet. I invited him over to our house because I wanted Jesse to meet him too.
I went home when I felt like I could hold it together enough. Jesse saw me when I came in and said, “What happened at that church?” He probably assumed I had just witnessed some sort of sacrifice or something. I just said to him, “I don’t know what happened but I think Jesus might be real.” He was like, “Oh, ok.” I am pretty sure he made a mental note to call my doctor to have my prescriptions adjusted.
When I sobered up the next day after my church experience, I realized, “Oh my God a pastor is coming over to my house, and he is a Californian.” Like any good Texas woman I decided the best thing to do was have food ready. I did some mental research on what Californians eat and landed on guacamole, humus, and tortilla chips. I also cleaned and put away anything that was un-churchy. No sign of rock and roll, no sign of alcohol, no sign of fun of any kind. I didn’t know much about this church thing but I knew you could not have fun for sure.
Well as it turned out Pastor Doug in highly allergic to avocado’s and he declined all the California food I put out. I was sure I was out of the Churchy club for sure. He started asking me questions about what happened on Sunday. I told him what had happened and he started to explain to me how salvation works. He told me that when you put your faith in Jesus He cleanses you of your sin. He gives you life and He gives you the Holy Spirit. I learned that God is perfect and righteous, and that to have a relationship with Him I had to pay for my unrighteousness. He told me that Jesus was that payment for me. He pays your debt that you owe to make a way for you to have a relationship with the Father. I was listening to all that saying to myself, “Yeah, that’s great Doug but you don’t know what I have done, and I hid all the fun stuff in this house so you really don’t know who you are dealing with.” He said to me, “Sarah do you want to put your faith in Jesus?” I said “Yes, I really do!” He said, “Then you are saved.” I said to him the first two things that came to mind, “Doug, I can’t be saved, I smoke and I have gay friends.” I have no idea why I decided those were the two things God couldn’t handle, but that is what came out. With tears in my eyes, I tell you that Pastor Doug said to me, “Sarah, you are still saved, you don’t have to be perfect to be saved. God came to save everyone.” And that is all she wrote folks. I was reborn that day as new Christian. Everything changed but also nothing changed all at the same time. What I mean is, I was different on the inside, but I was still in the same surroundings.
That day, Jesus took the weight of my life off my shoulders. I learned that I did not have to try so hard but I did have to learn how to have faith in God. Now, to be sure everything was not butterflies and rainbows, but suddenly I had hope. Hope was the thing that I was dearly missing in my BC (before Christ) life. I was totally sold and wanted to know more about this Man who paid my sin debt and loved me. Jesus freak is an understatement. I was in the deep end of the Jesus freak pool working on my back stroke. I don’t know why, and I don’t tell you that to make you think I am super holy. I just literally could not belive the change in my life. I felt like Harry Potter did when he got his letter to Hogwarts. I was like, “You mean I don’t have to live that life anymore and I have been adopted into an eternal relationship with the Great I AM? YYYYEEESSSSS! I’m totally in!”
My favorite Jesus shirt by my friend Stacy Graves. To get yours shoot her an email at email@example.com
I also wanted EVERYONE to know about it. This was the definition of all zeal and no wisdom. I was on a church camp high that summer. I would go up to the community pool and tell anyone who would listen about Jesus and what He did in my life. It got to the point where people at the pool would see me coming and NOT make eye contact. I didn’t care. I was on fire!
Poor Jesse, he didn’t know what hit him. There was suddenly a $70 charge on Itunes for music purchases from Chris Tomlin, Hillsong and Jesus Culture. He must have thought our account had been hacked. The only conversation he could get out of me was “Why he, Jesse, had not given his life to Christ yet?” And, “When was he planning on going to church with me?” And, “Lets join a bible study!” And, “Lets join a Community Group!” And, “Hey, can we move to Michigan and go to bible school?” And, “Hey! Did you give your life to Christ yet?” “Want to get baptized with me?” Pray for him, he doesn’t have it easy with me. Here is a pic of the first Jesus music downloads.
The first Jesus music downloads!
That day in church obviously changed everything. It was all God. He moved and pushed and led me home to Him. He had to let me go through that journey in the desert of life to soften me and bring me to a point where I would finally stop trying to fix things myself. Writing this brings thankful tears to my eyes. Remembering makes me thankful all over again. I can still feel that relief that flooded my heart the day I found out I don’t have to take care of everything and I can stop trying harder. I fell into His loving arms, and have fallen into them hundreds of times since then. I pray that you know Him. He loves you and wants you to believe in Him. He wants a relationship with you. All you have to do is stop trying to fix this life yourself and put your faith in Him.
The title of this post pretty much sums up our week. It was like a bad joke! The current events around here are Brock came down with the flu Sunday night. This set off a magical couple of days around here. The start of this magical time was me screaming at Brock not to throw up his Tamiflu, followed by Brock projectile vomiting up his tamiflu, then crying hysterically because he was so afraid I was going to make him take more. Tuesday started with me finding Jesse laying in the back of his truck because his back went out, followed by me realizing I had come down with the flu. By “realize” I mean I realized Brock was not throwing up because of the tamiflu, but realizing the flu starts with an upset stomach. I’ll leave it there. Sydney stayed home on Tuesday not because she was sick but literally becasue neither of us could drive her. So that was a win for sure.
So the whole Brock throwing up his Tamiflu turned into the biggest parenting fail I have had in a while. This poor kid. There he is feeling awful, and on top of that having to deal with a crazy mother who is screaming at him that the “Tamiflu cost $200 and you absolutely cannot throw it up!” The worst feeling as a parent for me is realizing I have scared my child. The look he gave me, and the tears that followed, and the “Mama, please, I’m gonna throw up, don’t make me take more,” has haunted me. I just cried that night when I got in bed. I want to be remembered by my kids as ” the best parent in the world!” Then I have a fail like that and realize I am the reason they will have to go to therapy and I better start saving my money so I can pay for it. It is in those moments that I am keenly aware of how thankful I am that the Lord forgives my sin. I am thankful that I can go to the Lord and say, “I screwed that up, please forgive me.” The Lord does forgive me, every single time, no matter what. I am also thankful that the Lord empowers me to go to my sweet son and say, “Dude, mama really screwed that up. I am so sorry that I scared you, I am sorry I yelled at you, will you forgive me?” Even if he is a little more resistant to forgive me than the Lord, he always does. And we both learn something about the Lord. I learn a little more clearly about my need for Him, and Brock learns that mama is just a sinner saved by the Lord.
So then my main man and his back. First I have to publicly apologize to my guy because it is my fault his back went out. You see, I wrote a blog post about how women should respect their husbands. The Lord hates hypocrites so if I write it I better be able to walk it out, right? Right! So in His loving-kindness the Lord put me in a situation where I get to practice what I wrote. Let me not be a hypocrite and tell you that it was a fail! I don’t know what is wrong with me but when Jesse is physically hurt I don’t go all “caring, loving, sweet, patient wife.” No, no, I go all Drill Sargent: “Get off your butt and tough it out son, this war ain’t going to win itself. And if you die, walk it off!” Now please remember this is the same man who has walked me through 8 surgeries and nary a word of reproof escaped his lips. He has changed bandages, wiped drool, and monitored meds and never complained! Isn’t that so annoying?
Respecting him in this situation would look like me taking him at his word and doing what I can to make him feel better. Disrespecting him would look like telling him all the things he has done wrong which lead him to his back going out, and having an attitude with him of “you deserve this.” Respecting him would look like focusing my thoughts on how to get him relief, putting my own needs aside. Disrespecting looks like in my mind thinking he is doing this “on purpose” and that he is faking it to make me be nice to him. Respecting him would be getting control of my thoughts about what everyone else will think and put my husbands needs above my fear of what others think. Disrespecting him would be letting my thoughts run wild about what people think, how he will lose his job and how he will lay here not doing anything to help himself for weeks on end. Two guesses on which path I took. Pray for my husband, he does not have it easy with me.
And so I did get to practice what I wrote. But not in the way that I would really like to report to you. I would like to say that upon finding my sweet husband laying in the back of the truck all my respectful wife instincts kicked in. I would like to say that I scooped him up, got him inside, prayed over him while humming his favorite song to him, at the same time planning his favorite lunch to make him feel better. Well, no that didn’t happen. No it was more like, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe on top of everything else I have to deal with you now too!” So I got to practice asking for forgiveness, like I wrote about in that blog, something I really enjoy doing–said me never. I got to practice taking disrespectful thoughts captive and calling them what they are, disrespectful thoughts about my husband, AKA sin. I got to practice putting my fears and worry in check, and putting my husband first. I got to see how far I still have to go to be a respectful wife–it’s a long way.
It’s a humbling endeavor to follow the Lord and do what He asks of us. When I first read that you should be a respectful wife several years ago I thought, “Oh, I got this!” My response should have been, “Oh dear Lord I don’t got this! Help me!” Since then God has been exposing to me where I need to change because of my sin. My friend Cheryl reminded me yesterday that this is the Lord “refining” me. I love that because it means I’m becoming something else, something more pure. To get to that place though takes me dealing with me, not to put to fine a point on it. I am constantly exposed to how sinful I am. I am learning to let this do its job and push me to the Lord. The Lord revealing sin to us is hard to take.
Inevitibly, when exposed to my sin, I hid at first. I remember that Adam and Eve did the same thing in the garden. After their first sin they were afraid to be confronted by the Lord. Take a look:
Genesis 3: 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her
So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
Do you see, their eyes were opened to shame and nakedness when they sinned. Before that they had a perfect relationship with the Lord. Suddenly they felt like they needed to hide and cover up. For me hiding looks like ignoring the Lord’s prompting or ignoring the commands He gives me in His word. That gentle voice that says, “Sarah, that is not what I want you to be like, I want you to me more like Me.” I can very easily ignore that voice and drowned it out with my own noise. My “fig leaves” to cover my nakedness is my olympic-caliber justification of my sin. If I you asked me what my super power is I would say justifying my behavior. It’s not a super sexy super power like super strength or super speed but it is power. It’s such a powerful power that it takes God to break it down. It takes God saying “Stop telling me why you did this, agree with me that it was wrong and ask me to forgive you so we can move on. But noooooooooooo, like Mouth says in Goonies. I have to sit in my own jacked up situation, holding out on the friendship I could have with God and justify why I am a jerk to my husband. Here are some examples:
Lord, I am right and he is WRONG. When he admits that he is wrong I will say I am sorry for yelling at him.
Lord, he is not doing what he needs to do to be his best self. I can’t respect him when he is doing that.
Lord, seriously, he is driving me crazy because of insufferable perfectness and holiness and I’m going to lose it!
The Lord’s response to me is always the same. As any loving father would say, “I am asking you to do this because it is good for you.” “You will learn more about Me, Sarah, when you deny yourself and follow me.” “Sarah, you pray to be closer to me and we can’t be close if you are in sin, so get over it and agree with me.” The bible says that God only disciplines the ones He loves. It tells us to not be afraid of the discipline from the Lord because it is for our good and His glory. So I am trying to let it do its job. Show me my sin, cause me to cry out to the Lord, and empower me to do things a different way.
It’s important to know that I am the only one surprised by my sin. The Lord is not surprised by my sin. He was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. In fact the entire story of the bible is about my sin (and yours too) and God’s perfection. It is a story about His desire to have a relationship with us just like He had Adam and Eve and how He moved in the world to bring us back into a relationship with Him. I think I spent a lot of my first few years with the Lord, “not sinning.” I was so disappointed by how I could not get it right before the Lord. I knew I needed Jesus because He dealt with my sin for me. However I think I got hung up in, “Because you did that for me Jesus, I will spend the rest of my life “not sinning” to pay you back. Well that thinking will crush you, and it for sure crushed me. Also with my super power of justification I was in danger of explaining away my sin and never learning to agree with the Lord over my sin. Always hiding, always covering up. Jesus said he came to give us an abundant life. Take a look:
John 10: 10 The thief’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
So I’m no scholar but if my life becomes about covering up sin and hiding from God, that does not sound like a rich and satisfying life. No, that is not the life God wants for me. Take a look at this exchange in the scripture from above:
Genesis 3: 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
First what stands out to me is that the Lord walked with them in the cool of the evening. This was evidently a normal thing because they were not surprised that he was there, they were surprised because they felt shame. They had never felt that before. The Lord is not looking to smite them, He asks, “Where are you?” He does the same thing with me. He is looking for me when I hide, saying “Where are you?” I don’t have to hide from Him because he is not surprised by my sinfulness. He wants me to come out into the open and confess to Him and let Him do the work of changing me.
For sure God, hates sin. The whole bible is the story of how sin destroyed creation and how God is bringing creation back to a sin free state, known as perfection. I am for sure not saying sin is ok. I am saying sin is sin. Sin is anything we do that is not right, or goes against what God has asked us to do. If I try to cover it up and hide from God, I am the one who is hurt. Our loving father has made a way for sin to be dealt with in a way that brings us closer to him. Jesus was our payment for sin. When He went to the cross He became our sin and God poured out on Him, His own son, the wrath that we deserved. This was so God could love us and deal with our sin at the same time. All you have to do is believe that you are sinner and that you need a savior. When you put your faith in Jesus your life becomes more about getting closer to God and less about covering up your sin. It is the greatest relationship I have ever experienced. But wait there’s more! Upon belief in Jesus you are in-dwelt with the very Spirit of God. This Holy Spirit points you to God and helps you understand God’s holiness and your sin. The Holy Spirit is what empowers me to capture those disrespectful thoughts and points me to confess to the Lord.
And so, here I sit after a pretty significant failure of a week, so thankful for this God who says, “Where are you?” Who looks for me when I am hiding, holding out his hand asking me to come out of hiding and confess to him. I love you Lord, thank you for looking for me.
Brock looks like he is on the mend. Jesse got a steroid shot and some muscle relaxers and is up and moving again. In fact just got up to go to the grocery store because we are out of milk, and to get dinner. He is so perfect, that is his super power. He just keeps going, keeps loving me and keeps forgiving me. Sydney looks to have escaped the flu. Her only grievance right now is that this freezing weather causes her to have to haul water from the house to get water to the goats. And to feel a little better about myself I just saw on the news that teens are eating Tide Pods, at least I am not doing that.
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.
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:
9 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.ὑποτάσσωhupŏtassō, 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:
Pain in pregnancy and birth? CHECK
You will desire to control your husband? CHECK
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read this book now!
Agree on a financial plan!
Find your biblical community ASAP!
Look how happy this couple is in their counseling appointment!
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.
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.
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 Iscrewed up I would repent, punish myselfand 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.
7 He assigned the sea its boundaries
and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let the whole world fear the Lord,
and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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….
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.
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:
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).
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
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.
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.
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.