I wish I knew, but didn’t: Part 3

This is part 3 of 4 about things I have learned from my love relationships

We met October 2014, and started dating January 2015. We would get engaged in April 2016, I would break off the engagement December 2016 and the relationship would terminate early 2017.

Lesson 1: Christ must be first & central

Why did I not learn this the first time around? Grr.

Too often in my dating relationship with him, I would choose him over being in God’s Word or over church attendance. Though time with our significant other is important, time with Christ must be 1st priority.

Lesson 2: Dating does not equal married

It’s not an easy confession, but he and I lived together for just over a year. For over a year, I did laundry and cooked for a man I wasn’t married to. I lived as his wife, without the commitment.

Living together outside of marriage not only encourages sexual misconduct, but creates the disappointment of having no commitment. Without a marriage, there was little legally I could do to recoup from the financial blow of the breakup. Without a marriage, there was no legal action to serve as severege of the relationship.

Lesson 3: Equal efforts

If a relationship is strongly one sided, there’s your red flag.

In my relationship with him, I was the one who pursued him. I was the one who tried to schedule special dates. I was the one who tried to get us back into church as a couple, not just me going by myself.

Ladies, if you are constantly doing for him but he won’t do anything for you…run.

Men, if the lady in your life will not go to church with you or encourages you to miss often… run.

Lesson 4: Know their fruits

I *thought* He was a good, Christian man. What I failed to do was to test his fruits.

 Matthew 7:17 NKJV — “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

He could talk the talk of being a Christian, but he certainly did not live a life that reflected him being an actual Christ follower.

Remember this: even Satan believes in God, and knows scripture. Be sure that the Christian guy/gal you are chasing isn’t just the devil in disguise.

Lesson 5: KNOW your partner

I am going to sound somewhat judgemental at first, but please hear me out.

Find out about your partner, early. Know their history.

I will be the first to say that YES, GOD can and does certainly change people. But if there is a continuous record of the person doing the same things over and over and over again without any signs of remorse, they may not have had their true experience with GOD yet.

I wish I had known.

I had been dating *j* for nearly a year when I found out that he had quite a rap sheet. It was the very pattern of devious behavior that I could have learned had I asked the right questions early on or if I had just done a simple “hey, has this person been arrested for anything serious” search on the internet.

I also advise to not be afraid to ask the person straight out to discuss their flaws/faults.  I know I am not forever condemned or defined by my past, but I do own up to my mistakes.

 

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The Little Prayer Chair

I stood in the back of the church, begging my eyes to memorize the way the paneling looked and my nose to memorize the deep smell of chestnut wood.

It was September 2009. In less than a week, the building would be completely torn down. the building: My home church.

I called It home

When the church was first built over 125 years ago, my family was among the founders. The original church building sat about 3 miles up the road from where my family’s homeplace is. I have often heard stories that my great-grandmother helped raise money from selling fresh baked goods to start the very first Sunday School program there.

I can first remember visiting the church in July 1989. My dad tells me that he took me there on several occasions as a young child, none of which can I remember.

It was there I first experienced a church young group, and had some important milestones in my faith journey. And that it why I called it home- still do though it is not the church in which I was actually saved in 2011.

The burial of the old church

The building that I grew up knowing and loving was the second building that the church was ever housed in. Over it’s nearly 100 years of standing in the valley, it had become heavily damaged by black mold and age. It had not been structurally sound for full time services in over three years in 2009, and the last youth service had been held in it a year prior. It had well lived it’s time, and needed to be torn down.

My dad and I stepped into the church for what would be our last walk through. I ran my hands across the panels, and wept as I looked stood in the empty sanctuary.

As we stood there, the Pastor said to Daddy and I “If there is anything left that you would like to have, you are welcome to it”. Dad’s eyes went immediately to a slightly damaged copy of the church covenant.

I wondered the tiny classrooms, not expecting to find anything to take home.

The Chair

Three little child-sized chairs sat in the remains of one of the classrooms. I pointed to one with a cracked seat and asked the Pastor “May I have that?”. He said yes.

I loaded the chair up in my jeep that day, not knowing where or how I would ever use it. Perhaps for decor, I thought. It was a rough little chair, and it had well long since lost its time for being a useful chair.

The chair would travel with me just 2 years later over 30 miles, and then again another 30 miles in 2014. It had served as sort of a display chair for my Muppets collection that I once had.

In 2014, I placed it in the corner of my bedroom and just wept. The chair was a reminder of just how much I had failed the Biblical teachings that I had been raised in, lessons that I had even learned in my home church.

I spoke to my dad a few days after placing the empty chair in a corner, and mentioned in during the conversation.

“Why don’t you make that your family alter, little one? You can list your prayers on the wall beside it, and sit beside it to pray, or read your Bible.”

And that was exactly what I did.

Remembering A Different Chair

I can remember in my 20s hearing a little analogy about a man using a chair for prayer. It goes:

“All of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head..”

“I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.

“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, in fact, beyond strange-kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

(Source: The Empty Chair)

I’ve thought about that sometimes, when I have laid my head on that chair crying out to My Heavenly Father.

What about you- do you have a special place in your home as your prayer room/alter?

 

Grasp

Another share from my previous blog

I love watching a young child learning how to walk. I love the way they wrap their tiny fingers around the large fingers of their parents. It would seem, at first, that the child has the tightest grip; but any parent knows that it is the parent who grips tighter, to keep their child safe.

In your grasp

What are you holding on to?

I’m not referring to the remote control or computer mouse in your hand, although they may have something to do with it.

What ideas, thoughts and memories do you carry around with you so tightly that they have begun to embed themselves into your skin?

Maybe it is the memory of a loved one. Perhaps it is the hateful last words that you spoke to a friend, on constant replay in your mind. Do worries and fears shadow your every thought?

In my grasp

I admit: I have a death-grip on my worries about money. I can barely remember a time in my life that the sickening fear of poverty has not been with me.

I have found, though, that my money fears have not made me richer. Worrying has not balanced my checkbook or wrote out a budget. Pacing floors has never put a single penny into my pocket. It does not matter how tightly I hold on to my money fears; the fears are not helping me get by.

Giving up our grasp

So, let go.

No, you won’t fall. No, the world will not discontinue its’ revolving.

Like the wee child holding onto his parent, we will not fall when we let go of our grasp. We have a wise Father that holds onto us.

“My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.”
~ John 10:29

If we have surrendered our lives to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then we are in HIS grasp.

If you have not surrendered your life to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then what is stopping you?? What good has the things you are clinging so tightly to really doing?

Smug to Sin

Posted on my original blog in 2008

Smug


Many of us who have surrendered themselves to the LORDship and salavation of the LORD JESUS Christ have become smug/complacent to our sins. We (I include myself here) have become too comfortable in the fact that we have an eternal, incorruptable salvation. Because of this comfortableness/smugness, we don’t tend to deal with our sins as we should, or we treat them as normalacies.  The Smugness MUST end.

Why is this a big issue?

As Followers of CHRIST JESUS, we are servants to a HOLY and Righteous GOD (Leviticus 20:26). We must serve HIM with clean hearts (Psalm 24:4). Because we know from the Word of GOD that HE is a HOLY GOD, HE cannot be in the midst of filth. Do we desire to be close to the LORD or to be separated from HIS presence in our lives because of the iniquities of our sins?

Just a little …

Why is it of importance to deal with the little sins in our lives? We know that everyone sins, and that living a sinless life is impossible. Although these statements are true, they do not take into account the effects of sin. Sin is like yeast. In Galations 5:9, we are told that just a tiny amount of leaven effects the whole loaf. “That makes sense,” you may think, “But what does that have to do with sin?”. The Jews of JESUS’ time would have understood the seriousness of this statement. In preperation for the feast of Unleavened Bread, they were to throw out all yeast (called leaven in the KJV translation) (See Exodus 12:15). If just a tiny bit was left lying around or somehow got into their dough, any bread backed during that time would show this. Sin, in likeness, shows up in our lives. We can try to cover it, disguise it or ignore it, but the results of the sin show up. The longer the sin festers, like yeast proofing, the more it will permiate your life.

Don’t Be Fooled

Don’t fool yourself. It may seem that your tiny sins have no effect on your life (and they do). It may seem okay to brush off tiny wrongs (and it’s not). GOD’s WORD is true and will always be true: “..be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23b)

I wish I knew, but didn’t: Lessons Learned, Part 2

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We first met in 1993. We would lose touch until 1997, and then stay in touch on and off until 2009. We would only date for a few months before we would get married in a private ceremony on October 8, 2011. We would divorce in 2014.

Lesson 1: Being a friend is different than being a Spouse

He & I were wonderful friends. He got my nerdiness, and I got him awkwardness. But we were TERRIBLE at being married.

We would not force- and never should have tried to force- a friendship to be a marriage.

Lesson 2: Make time to Spend time

We were so rarely together, in each other’s presence. There would be weeks when we would rarely see one another for more than 8 hours.

For a marriage to grow, it must be tended like a garden. You must spend time in it.

Lesson 4: CHRIST must be central & HE must be involved

We were married less than a year after my true Christian conversion. But I confess.. we did not make our relationship with Christ central in our marriage nor did we pray together as much as we should have.

Lesson 5: Make Marriage a Priority

This was our biggest issue, and ultimately one of the main reasons our marriage did not survive.

As a Christian, my first and main focus should be Christ and my relationship with Him. In my second marriage, I did not pursue GOD as I should have. I did not pray daily. I did not make time to be in GOD’s Word daily. Those were big mistakes, and I regret them much,

Being in a marriage also means, though, that you make your spouse a priority. We live in a world that does sometimes require both the husband and wife to work. Please hear my heart when I say: don’t be more married to your job than you are your spouse. Don’t be more married to your birth family or friends or hobbies than you are your spouse. Your spouse needs to know that you are there for them, that they matter, and making the marriage work must always be something to be sought after.

 

 

Briar specialist

Another piece from my previous blog.

I am a briar aficionado. If it grows in the Appalachian mountains, I have probably squirmed, pulled and fought my way through whatever species of briar it is. With trial and scars, a young Appalachian learns to quickly unsnag themselves.

There is the exception of saw briar – there is no quick methodology of escape from them. 

Saw briar, thick in mass. Curl their tiny talon-like teeth into skin. Fighting their pull deepens their bite, shredding away your skin as you pull. Slow, meticulous care to gently ease out each and every spur is often the only means of escape.

Life’s thickets are full of briar and among them are saw briars, too. The briars in my life go by the better known alias of Brutal Honesty.

I like honest people. Being betrayed and whipped by the dishonesty of others is sonething of a rare hobby for most. Honesty is refreshing. Honesty heals. The old adage tells us ‘ The truth shall set you free.’ It is even more so true of Brutal Honesty. 

Brutal Honesty is yielded by wise and caring individuals, while other times abused by selfish people. 

The precise coil of the caring individuals words will curl the talons of truth deep into the victim’s heart but the shipmates will do so with earnest love for the victim. As the victim seeks to deal with the laceration, the whipmaster will annoint the wound with oils of loving words and encouragement. 

As I continue to pursue my education in briars, I have found the briars of honesty my bitter-sweet teacher. I am thankful for the wise and caring whipmasters in my life that gave coiled words of truth around me. I am thankful for the brambles, even though they hurt. Brutal Honesty,  like saw briars, will hurt as it instructs you. I have learned from the saw briars a means of escape; I long to learn from the brutal honesty how best to heed it and apply it to my life. 

I wish I knew, but didn’t: Lessons Learned, Part 1

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We met in May 1997. He was shy, and I the social butterfly. It would take until August before I would ask him out for a date- and he turned me down. He made up for it though- he would take me on our first official date a week later. We would get engaged in January of 1998, and marry on July 11, 1998. We would seperate in November 2010, and divorce in 2011.

Lesson 1: A “good church going boy” does not equal a Godly husband

He came from a good church going family. Wasn’t that what every girl longs for?

I didn’t take the time to see if he was truly a Christ follower, or if he was merely a pew warmer. I didn’t have my relationship with Christ right at the time either. Big mistake. If GOD isn’t in it, problems will arise. GOD must be #1 in the relationship- for the husband and the wife; for the couple.

Lesson 2: Guarding the marriage isn’t only about affairs

It is something I’m rather ashamed of, but it is the honest truth: I had an affair when I was married to him. I can make excuses from here to the moon, but it was wrong. Plain & simple. There is Never an excuse for adultery.

Guarding the marriage, though, should have been about more than guarding it from unfaithfulness. There were way too may people calling the shots in the marriage. Yes, we were young. And yes, we perhaps needed advice. But at the end of the day, the decisions should have been he & I & GOD- no one more.

Lesson 3: It’s okay to admit that everything isn’t okay

This was something we struggled greatly with. We didn’t want anyone to know we were having marriage struggles.

Every relationship is going to struggle at times. It’s like growing pains- sometimes it’s going to hurt a bit. It’s perfectly okay to admit that there is a problem and then DO something about it: seek Christian counseling. Stop fighting with each other and start fighting for each other.

Lesson 4: Build a community that supports your marriage

Oh, how I wish I had known this then.

We were professionals at isolating ourselves. We did not take the time to build and nurture relationships with other Christian couples. It is OKAY to have friends outside of marriage, and in fact it is essential. Please be sure, though, to keep not be in a close friendship with someone who could potentially harm the marriage.

Lesson 5: Be in constant Pursuit

Wooing our spouse does not end in dating. Daily, there is a need to remind the person “hey, thank you for choosing me.” Letting the spark die at home can create the temptation for outside fires.

Lesson 6: Be open

One of the biggest things we both allowed to creep into our marriage and create a problem was one thing: cell phones.

If you have to hide Facebook messenger, your snapchat, or text messages from your spouse, that is a BIG red flag. STOP! Be open enough to hand your phone to your spouse and say “hey honey, I got this message from so-and-so and before I deleted it I wanted you to know what was going on”.

Also, don’t be afraid to be open. Yes, there is a need for privacy to a point. I don’t necessarily want my future-spouse to know I am having female problems- but I shouldn’t be ashamed to say “Sweetie, I am going to message with my best friend about some female issues that I am having”. There shouldn’t be any message we send, any conversation we have that we should be afraid to let our spouse be aware of.

Lesson 7: It MUST BE Christ-Centered, or it will suffer

I won’t say that a non-Christ-Centered relationship cannot last. I am not that naive. I am saying that without Christ as the Center, any marriage will suffer.

It is Christ that holds all things together. It is through Christ we are able to be patient, kind, long suffering, and non selfish. It is through Christ we are able to love our spouse more than ourselves.

 

The Legacy of sin, or how I broke my family tree

Mind you, I have many Godly people in my lineage. I am most blessed to come from a line of ministers and prayer warriors. But, there are also some darker limbs of my family tree.

It’s not about the details

I’ll spare my living family any shame by simply saying that there is a generational scar of abuse. 

I don’t think I had ever reflected much on how my own history was so deeply influenced by things of the past until the last year. It was a sullen thought of how many of those in my genealogy suffered because of this scar of abuse.

So, I broke my limb

I gingerly approach this topic as I know that some people would be angered and shamed. It is out of utmost respect to them that I leave details very general.

I confess: I did suffer abuse growing up. Details, again, are arbitrary. 

Lamentations 3:58-59 NASB —

 O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause;

You have redeemed my life. O LORD, You have seen my oppression;

Judge my case.

I made the intentional decision when I became a parent that I would NOT abuse. Yes, abuse is a choice. I also chose to Not let my children be alone with those who were the abusers in my childhood.

But, there was yet one decision left to make. The limb of the family tree was broken, but still attached. I needed to cut it off and plant a new tree. I need to forgive.

Please understand me when I say that my abuse was in no way comparative to what others face. This isn’t a measuring contest. Abuse hurts, no matter the degree.

So that is my current journey in prayer: praying for God to help me to forgive the abuse and to truly heal from it. 

Revisiting the Stones

Seven years. At least, that’s how long I estimate it had been. 

It was different this time. It had been so sad the last time I stood here. Today, I felt an awareness of my journey.

Stone marked places: Bible

6“Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’

7then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

 -Joshua 4:6-7, NASB

1 Kings 18:32 NASB — So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 NASB — A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

Ecclesiastes 3: 5 ran through my head as I stood in this stone place Friday.

Stone Marked Places: Mine

  • The triangle Celtic tombs of Red Bird
  • The small brick marker at Heritage
  • The little black rock gathered from Cove Lake
  • The rocks surrounding the Pinnacle

These 4 “stones” in my life mark places where things began and things ended. Most of all they mark places and times from which God has grown me.

Gather & Toss

I think going back this week was the milestone (punintended) of me dealing with more recent things I needed to finally toss.

The triangle graves will always be a part of my story about how GOD pursued me. And I am grateful that in that case, God is now showing me what things/memories to gather close..and which to toss.