Monday, October 26, 2015

My Ugly heart and marriage as a mirror.

I have to be honest. Having a broken foot the past three weeks has been a nightmare. Not so much for me, but for my husband. I am not the easiest person to live with normally anyway- but add in some broken limbs, an inability to do much for myself, and the frustration of not being able to accomplish what I want, and I can truly be a lot to handle.
The truth is, I still have a perfectionist spirit that likes to rear it's ugly head. I have worked hard over the years to give it over to God, but it is very much a stronghold in my life. I will do okay for awhile, and then something will happen where I feel the need to take control back. For whatever reason, it always seems to happen at the worst possible times. The biggest struggle with my foot being broken is that I can't clean the way I'm used to. I can only stand for so long, and there are only certain things that I can do when I CAN stand. I feel frustrated and overwhelmed and like a failure when I try to keep things in perfect order. What a joke that is with a broken foot, and a VERY energetic two year old. My husband has been amazing during the whole thing. He has picked up the slack. He has managed to keep the house clean and in order, and Justin alive. He has driven me everywhere I need to go, helped me in and out of the bathtub, and makes sure that we are all fed, and it has not been easy on him. He has numerous health issues, and my foot being broken is making it harder on him health-wise. He has put his life on hold and pushed his commitments aside to help take care of me.
Surely ANY wife would be grateful. But not me. God has really convicted me that I have not been very nice to my husband through this whole process. It could be a combination of the pain, the frustration, and the perfectionism. But more than that, it's because I have issues. Spiritual issues.  I am not as grateful as I should be, not as nice as I should be, not as thankful as I should be. I have a lot going on spiritually right now, and my husband is the one who gets the brunt of it. He is the one in the line of fire when I lash out. He is the one who gets the worst of me, while everyone else gets my best, and that's not fair to him.
I think God uses marriage as a mirror, so that we can truly see ourselves. People that we work with, ,do ministry with, or go to church with usually only see our good sides. The sides we want to show them. We can hide all of the ugly parts- all of the things within us that are not so pretty, not so nice, not so presentable. Our spouses get all of our baggage, our character defects, our bad habits, our struggles, our fears, our doubts, our frustrations. We are so close to them that we can't hide or deny these things- and I think that's why God designed marriage the way He did. He uses our spouse to be a mirror to things in our life that God wants us to fix. Things that God sees, even if no one else does. It's hard to think that you're doing well when you just screamed at your poor husband that spent all afternoon doing the laundry because you tripped over a shoe in the floor that he didn't pick up. Your own shoe at that. When things like that happen, my need for God is glaringly obvious.
That's what God wants. He wants me to see where I am weak spiritually, so that I can go to Him and have him heal it. As long as we deny that there is a problem, we can't fix it. My poor attitude towards my husband reminds me that I desperately need the only one who can fix me. My husband can't fulfill me, as much as he tries. Only God can do that. When I start expecting my husband to live up to ridiculously high, God like standards, I have a problem. I need to be going to God with my frustrations and hurts, not trying to deal with them on my own in my flesh and wounding my poor innocent husband in the process.
God has brought me a long way from where I was, but I am still messed up. We all are, aren't we? Sometimes I just feel like I am extra messed up because of how TOTALLY messed up I was when God found me. He has done miraculous changes in my life, but I still have a long way to go. Just ask my husband. When he said his vows, he took them seriously. More seriously than I could ever really expect anyone to. Deal with me until you die? Now THAT'S commitment!

The thing is, he knew what he was getting into. He knew I was messed up. He knew I had issues and flaws, and he made a commitment to love me until death anyway. He vowed to stand by me in sickness and health, for better or for worse, til death do us part- and he has paid his dues. Marriage is hard. Infatuation is easy. My husband's true love sees the ugly, broken, insecure pieces of me, and loves me anyway. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to pretend to have it all together. He loves me with a love that lets me know that I am safe. I can freak out over tripping over my own shoe and blaming him for it, and he won't leave. No amount of craziness can drive him away. It can be dangerous to be vulnerable and let your flaws be known to people, for there is always the chance that they will use them against you. Marriage, however, requires vulnerability. It requires trust on such a deep level to know the ugly parts of yourself won't be used against you, and that you can truly be yourself- the good, the bad, and the ugly- and your spouse will love ALL of you. The worst parts of my heart are safe with him. He knows the true me- all of me. Not just the sides I want to show. He knows me as a whole, and yet he still loves me for it. The craziness of all that is me is still worth it to him in the end.
Just like God. God sees the deepest, darkest areas of my heart, and he loves me anyway. Nothing I can do or say will ever be able to drive Him away, or get Him to stop loving me. My heart- all of it- is safe with Him. He saw me at my darkest, much darker than even my husband has seen. Yet Holy God wanted my ugly heart. He wants me to understand the broken parts of my heart that are there, so I can give them to Him to mend. He vowed to never leave or forsake me, no matter what.  Much like my husband.
My husband truly is one of the greatest things that have ever happened to me. He has loved me in a way that no one else in my life ever has. Even when I don't deserve it. Thank God for mirrors. Now if you'd excuse me, I have some apologizing to do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How painful will God's best be?

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote yesterday, and it spoke profoundly to me. We have had a very hard past couple of days as a family. Some major decisions have had to be made. All of our plans have begun to go awry. I have questioned my calling to ministry, I've been wondering if it's worth it. All of the sacrifices and loneliness, the effects that have begun to rear their ugly head with my family. The cost, it seems, is almost too much. I'm tired of doing things alone with out a support system. Sometimes it seems as if my husband and I are the only ones who think this thing is worth fighting for. Others think it's a good cause, and worth  it when it's convenient for them. But they don't let it consume their lives. At the end of the day, if it's too hard, they can quit. When it starts affecting their children, they can quit. When they aren't getting support from anyone else and things are too hard to bear alone, they can quit. I was at the point of quitting yesterday. If they can, I can too. My calling is painful, and I've had enough pain in my life. It doesn't seem fair sometimes. Honestly, the thought of having continue to do this for what could end up being years started to make me nauseous. I'm not sure how much more I can take. This week has left me feeling like a huge failure in more areas than I'd like to admit.

The isolation is deafening. Having problems that you can't speak about to anyone is a hard burden to carry. We had to make some major decisions and sacrifices regarding our son. Things that we need to grieve over, things we need to adjust in our lives for his benefit. My son will always come first, and every sacrifice for him is worth it, but the pain of my husband and I bearing these decisions alone is hard. My husband went to talk to our pastor about what was going on. He said he needed to talk to somebody. Somebody who wouldn't judge, someone we don't have to be an example for. Someone who he doesn't have to worry about using his flaws and shortcomings and failures against him. Someone who understands ministry.Then he looked at me somberly, and said this : ".... And I feel bad because you don't have anyone like that to talk to." And I started crying. Because he's right.

I spent most of yesterday in pity party, feeling sorry for myself and for my wayward plans. Things are not turning out how they were supposed to. I was feeling sorry for my loneliness. I was comparing how all of the other women ministry leaders and pastor's wives have people rallying around to help them, wanting to be their friend, to help with their kids, to help them carry the load. I was sure that when God told us to start CROSSROADS,  he would send in people to help. So why am I going  through ministry alone, without even a friend I can truly talk to about everything~ besides my husband, who already has enough to deal with? Surely God would want that for me!

Sitting in pity can get comfortable. It's so easy to look at all the bad and justify feeling sorry for yourself.  That can be incredibly dangerous for me, because it leads me down the road to depression. That's not road I can go down again, because it could cost me my life. Luckily I recognized it creeping in. I knew nothing else to do but to pray. Ask God why. Why is everything going haywire, why do I feel so isolated, why is there no one to help, why aren't things going right for my son, why do I feel so alone? WHERE ARE YOU GOD?. TAKE THE PAIN AWAY!

Then, quietly, I realized that pain is part of the process. It always has been. The most painful times in my life are when God worked the most. My fiance committing suicide got me to a point where I surrendered to God out of desperation, seeking for something to make the pain go away. My years of drug addiction broke me down to the point that I have compassion and empathy for people in the same situation because I remember that torturous  pain so vividly. My years of being thrust into ministry leadership in the women's home in Milwaukee were years of being being attacked, and knowing the pain of not having a person to lean on. But I learned how to fight, and I learned to lean on God.

My greatest spiritual lessons and growth have been born from pain. In  retrospect, it's easy to look back and see how God worked it all out for good. But boy, is it hard to realize it when you're going through it. My husband's favorite saying is  "no matter what, it's going to be okay." And I know that. I know that God truly does work it all out for our good. But I also know that he uses painful circumstances to bring about that good. That's the part I don't like. That's the scary part. Knowing that God's best could mean I have to go through another death, another loss, another humbling experience, another stretch of loneliness to make me utterly dependent on Him and Him alone is what I have a hard time dealing with. I know it will be used for good, but I don't want to go through it. I wish there was an easier, softer way. A way for God to bring about his will softly and gently.

For some people, that IS how he works. But I'm hard headed. Pain gets my attention. When things are going good and I'm happy, it's easy to push God to the side. When I need to focus on him, pain does the trick. When I start veering off course, he has to smack me upside the head sometimes to straighten out my vision. And that's what I'm holding onto. God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. And if pain is what he needs to use to change me, so be it. I just need to remind myself, that He has never failed me, and he won't stop now. Nothing we go through is wasted, nothing is unnecessary. It may be painful- but it will be used for my good, and one day I will be able to look back on this time in my life and see how God was there all along, and was working His plan out through it all.

It's just up to me to keep walking through the valley. Psalms 23 says though I WALK through the valley of the shadow of death. It doesn't say anything about sitting laying down and sitting in the valley. I have to get up. I have to keep going. I can't let the pain stop me, or let the devil convince me that it's not worth it. I know what God has told me, and I hang onto it for dear life when I reach my breaking point.  I have to know that God is going to bring me through the other side, and that one day this pain will be a memory, a testimony, one more thing to build my faith, one more testament to God's faithfulness.

But boy, does it hurt.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What I lose sleep over...

God grants his beloved sleep. I know it's true because it says so in the bible. I'd like to think of myself as God’s beloved. Scratch that. I KNOW I'm God’s beloved. So why am I wide awake at  2 am, even though I've had an exhausting day? Even though I've had an exhausting month? I come home every day with the anticipation of going to bed early. I truly have good intentions. Yet, here I sit. Awake. Again.

I could blame it on the five cups of coffee drank today. Or the shiny new phone I got this afternoon that has over stimulated my brain with the unnatural light. Or the horrible, throbbing  pain in my broken foot. But the reality is that the reason I'm awake is much more than that. And this is not an isolated incident. Most nights I struggle to sleep, wake up exhausted the next day, and then do it all over again.

If I'm honest, the reason I can't sleep is because of my brain. I sit up at night over analyzing the events of the day, the events of the past, the unknown events of the future. I plan and I regret and I worry. I take on things that were never intended for me to take on. I take on things that only God can handle. I try to figure out a way to control things outside of him. And it robs me of my peace. It robs  me of my sleep. It robs  me of my intimacy  with God ~ who wants nothing more than for me to give all of my cares  and worries to him, trust him with them, and leave them there.

The thing is, I know God is faithful. I know he always comes through. He's done it my entire life, and will continue to until the day I die. Yet sometimes, the cares of this world consume me. If I focus on life and all of its issues instead of focusing on God and his faithfulness, it becomes very easy to think I need to come up with a solution myself. What you focus on really does consume you. The busyness of my life sometimes leaves little room for God, and it messes up my focus. When Peter walked  out of the boat and onto the water, he was stable as long as he fixed his gaze on Jesus. As  soon as he started looking at the wind and waves and the circumstances around him, he fell. He focused on the elements instead of the one that controlled them, and it cost him.

Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He wants us to be at peace, to rest, and to abide in him alone. But it's up to us to trade our burdens for his. To give him out troubled thoughts and anxieties. Sometimes it feels good to keep them ourselves, to not bother God with the trivial aspects of our life. The creator of the universe has important things to do.

It's important to remember that to him, WE are the important things. He cares about every detail of our lives. He wants us to give him all of the pieces and trust that he'll put them all together the way they need to be. It really is to much for us to bear. We were never intended to do God's job ~ and if we try, we will end up losing sleep.

Admitting it is the first step. Now, I'm off to read my Bible, pray, and rest in the fact that  HE WANT TO GIVE ME REST. Hopefully that happens before  3 am. But if not, there's always tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CROSSroads' Recovery Breakfast

Here are just a few photos of the AWESOME recovery breakfast that was hosted at Faith Fellowship Church by CROSSroads. Four local churches each took a Saturday to host a recovery breakfast to bring an awareness about the drug addiction in town to their congregation and lay people, and this week was our turn. It was a gathering of the recovery community, area churches, law enforcement, concerned parents, and members of the community that want to know how they can help the addiction problem in Marshfield. There was worship, delicious food, testimonies, teaching, and preaching~ all courtesy of many guest speakers of the recovery community (including alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous, celebrate recovery, and the drug court program)and fellow churches. There was also  resource sharing,  lots of prayer and connections made thanks to of all of the amazing people in the community who voulenteered their time to make it possible . We specifically highlighted the need for restoration homes where addicts could live free of charge for 9-12 months as they learn about God and how to live drug free. Thank you to everyone who came out, and for everyone that was involved! It was truly a joy to listen to the speakers, fellowship, and eat delicious food! You all made it possible- through planning, cooking, coordinating, inviting people, and teaching. All my husband and I did was supply the venue, introduce the great speakers, enjoy and  eat  ;) It was such a wonderful time of fellowship!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Yes, my husband really is that great!

 The past few days have been hard. I broke my ankle (again!) in a freak accident Monday night. This is the second time in less than a year and a half! Having a broken ankle means that I can't do what I normally do, and that I have to depend on my husband much more than usual. Which is really hard for someone who is self sufficient and likes to be in control of their environment!
 Bless my husband's heart, not only has he put up with my mood swings that come and go with the pain, but today he came home with a dozen roses, a bouquet of wildflowers, a box of chocolates, and a Starbucks gift card- then helped me hobble out to the car where he took me out to our local Thai restaurant for lunch! He really knows how to lift a girl's spirits!
I am so appreciative that God has blessed me with such a caring man who is by my side through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. I really don't know what I would do without him. I'm so thankful that I can take the time to rest and heal that I need to, because he is there picking up the slack and doing all he can to raise my spirits!

Now, if I could just get out of this darned boot and off of these crutches! Four to six weeks to go!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Another CROSSroads gathering down on the farm

Fellowship gatherings at the farm are becoming a regular occurrence for CROSSroads. Between food, good company, four wheelers, and SOBER fun, people are seeing that there is so much more to life than drinking and getting high! Here are some photos from our most recent gathering.