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Marriage and Divorce

I Thought My Family Was Perfect: Twelve Truths on Marriage and Divorce

Growing up, my family wasn’t perfect. But… I thought it was. Spending quality time together was a huge priority for us. We were extremely close knit. Most of my cousin’s lived within a few miles. We spent summer holidays picnicking at Kars Park and winter holidays having family get-togethers. Most Sunday afternoons, we would swim and have dinner at my grandparent’s house. On the way home, we would visit my other grandparent’s before heading home for the night.

They were simple days, but they were my fondest childhood memories. I was healthy, happy, and filled to overflowing with love. In fact, life was so good that I wanted nothing more than to emulate my childhood with my own family. As a young adult, I envisioned carrying on these same traditions with my future husband and children.

It is amazing how quickly your world can be turned up-side down.

Sixteen years ago, my mom broke the news to me that after twenty-eight years of marriage, she was leaving my father. In that moment, my life took a dramatic turn. Devastated only scratches the surface of the emotions I felt.

The next few years were some of the toughest of my life.  Despite the fact that, at the time, they were gut-wrenchingly unbearable, the growth I experienced during that season of my life has proven to be invaluable. I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not gone through those hard years. I am continually amazed by how much we learn from the times that are the hardest in life.

James 1:2-4, “…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The wisdom I gained has benefitted me tremendously in my life and relationships.  And I often remind myself of this truth when faced with challenges today.

With the knowledge that comes from both living through a traumatic divorce and being happily married for twelve years myself, I want to share with you a few of truths I have learned about marriage and divorce. I pray that you receive these words, not with condemnation for past mistakes, but with expectant hope and understanding for a brighter tomorrow.

  1. While time heals many of the wounds of divorce, the effects of it can be felt for years to come. Don’t make this decision without recognizing the far-reaching effects. Today as a thirty-eight year old woman, my life (and the lives of my children) is still impacted today by my parent’s choice to end their marriage. While I have made a beautiful life for myself, there are many things that I would like to experience with my family that are simply not a possibility for us today.
  2. The grass may look a lot greener on the other side, but it is not. Every relationship has its challenges. When you start a new relationship, you get a new set of problems. They may look different than the ones you had before, but there are still challenges. To have a great relationship, you must learn how to work through your differences.
  3. You don’t “fall” out of love. You make a choice to quit loving the same way you make a choice to start loving. It is never too late to begin to love again. If you will begin to treat your spouse like you’d treat the person you’d pursue after your divorce was final, you would begin to see your current spouse in a whole new light.
  4. “Feeling butterflies” does not equal love. In fact, it is one of the lowest ways to determine true love. Love is a commitment based on a decision, not an emotion. Disregard the fluttery feelings and place a high value on honoring your commitment. Having a good marriage does not happen on accident. It is intentional.
  5. The best way to have a better marriage is to become a better spouse. That means learning to love more selflessly than you ever imagined. It means laying aside your desires, to give your spouse what they want. Practically, it means giving them your spot you on the couch, the juicier steak and the opportunity to sleep in on the weekend. It means sacrificing your comfort for theirs, not insisting on your way all the time, and trying their way even when you know your way is better. (And not saying, “I told you so.”)
  6. Don’t sweep your problems under the rug. If you always “give in” to “keep the peace,” your peace will blow up in your face one day and you will end up quitting on your marriage. (For you peace-makers…You matter. Your opinions matter. Your desires matter. In some cases, you need to put your foot down and make sure you have your say and do things your way every once in a while. Otherwise, you will end up resentful.)
  7. Confront your issues. Confrontation -in love- is your friend. It may be painful at the time, but if you are diligent, confrontation brings resolution. Resolution results in happy marriages.
  8. Get to the root of your problems and discuss them. Don’t waste time knit-picking details. It may take time to figure out what the root is. So, don’t speak until you have figured out the root of the problem. For example, anger generally stems from hurt. Find out why you are hurting and discuss that. If you will recognize that you and your spouse are a team working together to solve a problem, you can approach the problem from the same side and solve it.
  9. Timing matters. The manner in which you approach each conversation highly determines the outcome. Use wisdom in when you choose to discuss a subject matter. The right words at the wrong time are the wrong words. Make sure you wait until your emotions have settled down, and stop the conversation once you have quit making progress. (But don’t leave it under the rug. Pick it back up later and talk as many times as it takes to resolve the issue.)
  10. Good communication is key. Pray before you speak. (I even pray as I am talking to my husband. I ask the Lord to help me communicate in a way that shows love and resolves conflict. I ask God to help me see the problem from his perspective, as well. The results are amazing.) Use a loving tone in all your conversations. Don’t make “always” and “never” statements. Don’t name call. Encourage your spouse before and after the confrontation. Reinforce your love for your spouse after a disagreement. And never use the “D” word (divorce). If you don’t use it, it will never become an option.
  11. In daily life, be quick to point out what is right with your spouse. Even if it is something very small. The more good you point out in them, the more good you will see in them. The more good you point out, the more your spouse will try to live up to your opinion. (Unfortunately, this works in the negative sense too. So be very careful of being critical of your spouse.)
  12. Always believe the best about your spouse. Love always believes the best no matter what the situation. If you spend years assuming the worst, you will have a bad opinion of your spouse. If you want to have a good opinion of them, start assuming the best instead. Give them the benefit of the doubt and the grace you would like to receive. And remember, love covers a multitude of sins.

The Lord desires that you have happy, healthy relationships. Nothing is impossible with Him. If you will remain steadfast in Him, He will walk you down the path to victory.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would show every person who reads this post the truth about their relationships. That we would take a hard look at who we are and the life that you have called us to live. That we would be obedient to your voice. I pray we would not buy into the lie of the enemy that says our situation is beyond repair. But that a new sense of hope would rise up on the inside of us this day and that you would lead us down the path to victory in our relationships. I declare in this moment, that restoration is possible in each and every circumstance that is present here today. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love Does.

 

One evening last week my husband, Landon, made a statement that caught me a little off guard. Through his casual comment, he gave voice to a desire dwelling on the inside of him. On hearing the comment, my mind reeled. On one hand, his idea was laced with whimsy and full of excitement. But in the moment, I didn’t recognize it as such. Instead, my flesh tensed as I immediately traveled to the amount of sacrifice it would take to make his dream a reality.

In our marriage, I am usually the one dreaming big, taking risks, and stepping out of the boat. My natural tendency is to take the plunge and trust God with the details. Landon, on the other hand, typically prefers to take the “safe” route. While I am out water walking, he prefers to sit in the boat until it is full of water. Then, when he has no other options, he begins to swim. His natural tendency is to use wisdom and avoid risk at all cost.

Being intimately acquainted with every detail of my beloved husband, I knew my response to his statement would largely determine the direction our lives would take. In essence, I held the power to turn this whimsical statement into a real possibility in our lives. In the same manner, I could squash his dream all together solely based on my response.

Would I choose to water-walk? Or sit in the boat?

It humbles me to think that as his wife, my choices have this much influence on who my husband becomes. But, ladies, it is the truth. With our support, our husbands can conquer the world. Without it, their chances are slim at best.

In my flesh, I wanted nothing more than to scream, “No way! We are NOT doing that. If North is the direction I need to go to fulfill my dreams, this one has me headed due South. Haven’t I made enough sacrifices already? I shouldn’t have to do it again!”

But… I recently heard a message on what it means to show genuine love in relationships. (i.e. Love says, “What can I do for you?) And… I also happened to be reading a book, called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. So, instead of responding in my flesh, I spent the evening in prayer.

When I woke up the next morning, I knew in my heart exactly what I needed to do.

I would love, not just with my words, but in my actions, as well. I would ignore the voice of fear and rise to the occasion. I would step out in faith and support my husband down this path of unknowns. I would willingly sacrifice my comfort and my dream (for now) in order to help him fulfill his.

Because that’s what Love Does.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Love steps outside of what works best for me. Love is selfless. Love sacrifices. Love lays down her life for the one she loves. Love doesn’t just talk. Love Acts. Love Does.

The next morning I cried as I wrote a letter to my husband urging him to take the next step in making his dream a reality. By putting the words on paper, I laid down my dreams to help him fulfill his. And despite the tears, I had (and do have) a deep sense of peace that I made the right decision.

See, I have learned not to judge circumstances by what they look like in the natural. After all, God’s economy doesn’t work like the worlds. The God-kind of love doesn’t look like the rest of the world, either. And while many would say my decision is foolish, I have learned that being obedient to the voice of God trumps the voice of the world every time. Though this decision looks to be in the complete opposite direction of my dreams, deep down on the inside, I believe it is actually the next step in fulfilling them.

It would have been easy to disregard  my husband’s statement. I have no physical proof that anything will develop from it. Only God knows the impact of what one simple “yes” will have on our future. But– I am learning that the more I say “yes” to God, the more wonder I discover in who He is.

Lord, I pray that you would give each and every person who reads this post the courage to say “yes” to you. I pray that you would give them supernatural ability to see beyond their present circumstance into the good plan that you have for their life. That they would know the power of the act of love you demonstrated toward them on Calvary when you laid down your life for theirs. And Father, I pray your abundant peace over them as they seek your face in every area of their life today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Hold on to the Promises of God: A Cloud the Size of a Man’s Hand.

The sun beat through the car window warming my skin. A gentle breeze I often take for granted in this lovely place I call home, blew across the river below. Hovering above me was a perfectly blue sky.

“What a fabulous day to get off early,” I thought as I drove over the Hubert Humphrey Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.

Grateful for this beautifully painted scenery, I turned my head to soak in the moment. As I did I saw a lone cloud in the sky to the north. Immediately, I did a double take and a portion of scripture rose up on the inside of me. Indeed, just above the sky line was a “cloud the size of a man’s hand” in this vast sea of blue.

“A cloud the size of a man’s hand…”

At first glance this cloud wouldn’t mean much to anyone, me included. But with this mild nudging from the Holy Spirit and the knowledge behind this portion of scripture, this small, lone cloud gave me a fresh reminder of the power of holding on to the promises of God.

The setting for the scripture in this Old Testament story is this: In the middle of a three year drought, the Lord made a promise to the prophet Elijah stating that He would send rain to Israel. But, like many promises, this one did not come to pass right away. In fact, after the promise was made, there was no visible change in sight.

Unmoved, Elijah began to cry out to the Lord in prayer- standing on the promise of God. Six times he prayed. Six times he sent his servant to look for any sign of rain. Six times, Elijah’s servant came back with nothing.

No Word. No Sign. No Hope.

Despite the grim report, Elijah remained steadfast by continuing in prayer. Undaunted, he sent his servant out a seventh time. Only this time his servant came back with a tiny glimmer of hope- stating, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than a man’s hand rising out of the sea.”

Many of us would have written off this small glimmer of hope. After living in a time of drought for so long, we likely would have ignored this sign and/or quit praying all together. But not Elijah. On report of this small cloud, Elijah told the king to “go down before the rain stops you.”

Can you guess what happened next?

After three long years, the Lord fulfilled His Word. It began to rain.

There are many promises written in the Word of God for us. For instance, the Word says, the Lord shall supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19); that you were healed by His stripes (1 Peter 2:24); if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). He promises you peace and a good night sleep (Psalm 4:8); And that the fruit of your womb is blessed (Deuteronomy 28:4).

What we do with the promises written in the Word of God make the difference in our lives between rain and drought- a promise made and a promise fulfilled.

If Elijah had not clung to the word of the Lord; if he had stopped praying on the sixth time; if he had ignored the glimpse of hope, who knows how long it would have been before the answer came.

I don’t know what your heart’s desire is. Or what promise you long to see fulfilled in your life, but I encourage you today… Be on the lookout for the cloud in your life that reminds you of His promise.  And if you don’t see it right away… Keep looking. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep standing.

Isaiah 55:11, “In the same way, the promise that I (the Lord) make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.”

Spit it Out.

Before I woke up this morning, I got some company. My youngest son, Ty, hopped in bed, threw his head on the pillow and a puddle of water filled his eyes.

“What’s the matter, Ty?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he cried.

Hmmm. That’s strange. Because, when I throw myself in bed with tears flooding my eyes, something is definitely wrong.

And so, the probing began… “Are you hurt? Did Jayce take the ball from you? Did he say something mean to you? What is the matter?”

After a series of questions, I am able to determine that his big brother hurt his feelings. Because I know how important communication is, I tell Ty he is going to have to let Jayce in on how he is feeling. Nonetheless, Ty lies in silence, not breathing a word.

“Go ahead, tell him that he hurt your feelings,” I implore.

Still silent, Ty offers not a word.

He knows what is wrong. And so do I. Now, Jayce even knows. Yet my little Ty simply can’t get the words out.

This scene is oh, so familiar to me.

I return in my mind to the early years of my marriage when my feelings had been hurt and I wanted so much to “just get the words out.” I would lie on the edge of my bed rehearsing how I had been wronged and what I would say. My husband would ask, “Honey, what is the matter?” In my mind, I would continue to rehearse. Yet out of my mouth, no words would come.

Why is it so hard to expose the way we are feeling?

Before I got married, I promised myself that I would not  be one of those wives that made her husband “figure out” what he had done wrong. I would always tell him how I felt. I would always speak the truth in love. In every instance, I would be an excellent communicator. Yet lying on the crease of the bed at night, carrying out my promise seemed like an impossible feat.

I knew that without some desperately needed help in the area of communication, like so many others, our marriage would eventually fail. So, I prayed. Right there on the edge of my bed. Asking God to help me overcome this fear. Or pride. Or whatever it was that kept me from voicing how I felt.

Proverbs 16:23, says “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth…” What an incredible verse. Think about it a moment… “The heart of the WISE… TEACHES his MOUTH.”

My mouth desperately needed to learn how to communicate. And I was the only one who could train it. So, rather than carry around a bag of resentment over my shoulder for the rest of my marriage, I decided I’d better teach my mouth how to get the words out- no matter how hard it was.

So… I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and spit out the words I so desperately needed to say.

It was tough, I’ll admit. But the more I practiced, the easier it got. Now, it doesn’t take much effort at all. And boy has my marriage benefitted from it. I have discovered that most of the time, when my feelings are hurt, it was unintentional. Usually, Landon doesn’t have any idea he has even upset me. By talking to him about my feelings, we are able to resolve the conflict . And I… am free to let go of the resentment. (Thank you Jesus!)

This morning, I decided to teach Ty how to train his mouth, too. I made him repeat the words he so desperately needed to say… “Jayce, you hurt my feelings.” It was like pulling teeth to get him to spit the words out. I actually had to have him repeat it – one word at a time. It certainly wasn’t perfect (and was really more of a mumble),but it was a start. And taking the first step is often the most difficult to do.

Relationships rise or fall largely on how well two people communicate. I pray this morning that you will take the first steps in learning how to a better communicator, too; That you will train your mouth to speak what your heart so desperately longs to say. Instead of rehearsing in your mind what you want to say, that you will take the plunge and spit them out- Always speaking the truth in love.

This Mama Bear Almost Ate Her Cub For Breakfast.

There is something unique and beautiful about a mother’s love. Truly, a mother sees her children through rose-colored glasses. When the world sees the worst, she sees the best. If someone says a negative word about him, whether it is true or not, she is quick to defend. And don’t even think about trying to bully her baby, if she is anywhere in sight, Mama Bear is sure to put up a fight.

From the beginning of time, mothers have sacrificed their own well-being to benefit the children they love. Her desire is to make her child’s life the best it can possibly be.

I am no different.

I love my children to the moon and back. To each of them, I am wholly devoted. It is my goal to equip them to live the best life they can. I want to be as diligent in my efforts with the last as I have been with the first. However, while I am the mommy to all of them, I don’t parent each child the same.

I try to.

In some instances, I do better. I have learned a lot from my previous mistakes. In many areas, I improved drastically the second and third time around. However (as much as I hate to admit it), I have come to recognize that in at least one area, I am failing.

My youngest son has managed to get away with a lot more than the eldest two. He seems to have this sense of entitlement my other two don’t.

Maybe it because I have been able to give him much more than the first two. Money was tight when Aspen and Jayce were small. When we entered a store, they knew not to ask for things, because the answer was consistently the same. “No.”

Maybe it’s because, with two other children, my plate is already full and I am  tired. Over the past ten years, I have said “no” at least 4.5 billion times. Quite frankly, it is much easier to say “yes,” so I find myself saying it more and more.

Maybe it is because he is my youngest. I know how quickly he will grow up. So, I hold him a little longer. I cuddle with him a little more. Sometimes I still spoon feed him his dinner. Just because he wants me to. And…. he’s my baby.

I certainly don’t love him any more than my other children. And I definitely don’t intend to treat him differently, but somehow I have.

It all came to a head last month when I said “no”- refusing his request for a pair of “long socks.” He threw his head back in disgust and let out a “na-na, na-na, naaa” — chalked full of disrespect.

“Excuse me. What did you just say?” I asked.

Boldy, he repeated his mocking…“na-na, na-na, naaaaa.”

With that, the same Mama Bear that generally defends her cub, was ready to claw her own and eat him for breakfast.

That is when it hit me… I have done this to my five year old.Though it was not my intention, I have turned him in to this.

Proverbs 29:15, A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.”

Before I became a parent, I often wondered how children from the same family- raised by the same parents- could turn out so differently.

Now I know.

We get tired. We give in. We say yes when we should say no. We let them get away with things when we should discipline. We “baby” the baby.

After this episode a few weeks ago, I realized I needed to make some adjustments in my parenting. So… I have gotten a bit firmer with my baby. I have put a hold on buying him things –from the box of Tic-Tacs at Walmart to the Bug Juice at the Circle K. I have disciplined him more and reintroduced him to Mr. Spoon. (And in case you are wondering. Eventually I did buy him the long socks. But, he had to earn them. It took him three weeks. Now he really appreciates them; and wears them every day.)

Already, I can see a difference.

I am responsible for who Ty grows up to become. I can’t “baby my baby” forever. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this “na-na, na-na, naaaa” moment helped me make a life changing adjustment. For that, I am forever grateful.

How about you? Is there an area in your life that you need to make an adjustment? It is never too late to admit your faults and take a step in a new direction.

You Can Do It.

One afternoon in early 1999, Rhonda and I talked about taking a trip to Europe. We discussed the sites we’d see- paintings we’d study, architecture we’d tour and museums we’d visit if we ever were able to travel abroad.

“Would you rather visit the Buckingham Palace in London? Or the Eiffel Tower in Paris?” Rhonda asked. “Hike the Swiss Alps? Ride a gondola through Venice? Or stroll the cobblestone streets of Heidelberg?” she continued

I really didn’t have an answer to any of her questions.

Growing up, my family never really took vacations. Unless it was to visit someone in a nearby city. Rarely did we cross the state line, so the thought of crossing an ocean was a near impossibility in my mind.

“Someday, we’ll have to do that.” I thought.

The next time I saw Rhonda, with an itinerary in hand, she asked, “Do you think we could do it sometime this summer? While I have off.”

Surprised by her efforts, I asked, “What? Are we really going to go?

“Yes,” she stated emphatically. “You said you wanted to. Right?”

Of course I wanted to. “Want to” wasn’t the problem. There were many things I wanted to do. I wanted to get married and have a family. I wanted to own my own home. I wanted to write a book and teach thousands of people about Jesus.

Yes! I definitely wanted to, but… didn’t she know there was a WHOLE OCEAN to cross?

Certainly, I wanted to fulfill my dreams. I even hoped to. But somehow, my dreams were out of reach. They were oceans away. My dreams lived on the other side of the four walls of the box I was in. And my box was small. Too small to hold such big dreams.

I needed a paradigm shift. My vision expanded. My borders enlarged.

1 Chronicles 4:10 says, “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.”

Apparently I am not the only one with a box too small.

Like me, Jabez needed his vision expanded too. In order to hold the dreams the Lord had placed on the inside of Him, Jabez’s box needed enlarging, as well. So he asked God to expand his borders… And the Lord granted him his request!

I don’t know what it is that you dream about in your quiet time, but I can assure you, God’s dreams for you are bigger. He longs to satisfy your deepest desires and fulfill your every need.

In those days, I needed someone to help me take that first step. Someone who recognized, while it may be a big ocean, it really isn’t that difficult to cross. Someone to help me put one foot in front of the other, until I saw my dream become a reality.

In June of 1999, I spent my 24th birthday overlooking Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, Rhonda and I made a lot of great memories in a number of different countries that summer. But the most important thing I gleaned from that trip so many years ago, had nothing to do with the tour itself, and everything to do with how to get there.

That trip taught me to quit dreaming and start doing. It tore the walls off my box and showed me that I was dreaming way too small.

Maybe you are where I was a few years ago… Trying to hold your big dream in small box. Do you need someone to help you take that first step to fulfill your dream? Someone to help you unleash your dream. Someone to encourage you.

Look no further, you found that person. Whatever it is, you can do it!

Go ahead. I dare you. Ask the Lord today to enlarge your borders. To blow off the walls that have held you captive. To push the boundaries on your box. And cross the line, you have yet to cross toward fulfilling that dream.

If you are willing to take the risk, I have a feeling, He just might grant you your request.

The Road to Happiness.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up. Everything about being an adult appealed to me. I wanted to break away from everything that prevented me from living the life I dreamed of. I yearned for the freedom to do what I wanted to do.

I longed to be in charge of my own life.

“If only I was able to drive,” I thought,” I could go anywhere I wanted. I could do whatever I please. When I can finally drive… then… life will be grand.”

And for a while, it was.

Until the excitement wore off and I was left longing for something more.

Towards the end of high school I found myself in deep anticipation for the next season of life. The season where life would really begin. The place I could indeed spread my wings. The time when life would truly be grand…

College.

But that wasn’t what I envisioned it to be either.

“I know. I know,” I thought. “When I graduate from college, I will never have to spend another night studying. That is what is making my life so difficult. When I am finally through with school, then I will be free to really enjoy my life. Then, life will be grand.”

Graduation couldn’t come soon enough.

When it finally arrived, the studying ceased. But the longing for more was still present.

So I reasoned yet again.

“All of those other things are just— things. Things won’t make me happy. What I really need is companionship. When I meet Mr. Right,” I reasoned, “then I will find true happiness.”

I spent a lot of time looking for the road to happiness.

I forever believed that- When I get this… then… I would be that.

If only I could… then… life will be grand.

I spent a lot of my young life wishing I was somewhere I wasn’t, striving to attain my personal goals and putting my hope in things (and people) that failed me.

I was constantly searching for the station. The time when I would finally arrive. The place where all my longings would be fulfilled. The season when my world would be perfect, and LIFE WOULD TRULY BE GRAND.

Instead of reaching the station, however, somewhere in the midst of my searching, I discovered this truth… True happiness is not wrapped up in things. Or people.

As cliché as it sounds, true happiness can only be found deep within. It is discovered only when the void on the inside of you is filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 16:24,”Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

You can search to the ends of the earth. But I promise you, you will find only one relationship that brings lasting joy. There is only One who will fill you up. Only One who will never fail you.

I learned this important truth through the school of hard knocks. At a time when many of the people in my life let me down, Jesus became my sustenance.

I know this is foreign (and maybe even verges on a weird) for some of you reading this. You may be wondering how I can have so much faith in something, someone, I can’t even see? And, while I don’t have all the answers, I can assure you, it is the truth.

I spent years searching for the road to happiness.

I looked everywhere, including religion.

It was only when I began a real relationship with Christ, that the void in my heart was finally filled.

I didn’t get to this place in my life overnight. I simply said “yes” when I felt the knock on my heart. I had no idea that one simple “yes” was the turn I needed to put me on the road to happiness. I was clueless that this one yes would turn into this amazing, fulfilled life.

How about you? Have you answered the knock at the door of your heart? Have you said “yes” to the One who created you? Have you said “yes” to the One who longs to fill the deepest desire of your heart?

If you haven’t yet, but want to say yes to the Lord today, I encourage you to pray this prayer with me right now. I assure you, you will never regret it.

Dear Lord, Thank you Lord for sending your son, Jesus, to the earth to die for my sins on the cross at Calvary.  I have tried to do life my own way, and I realize my limitations. Forgive me for falling short so many times. This day, I invite you to come and live on the inside of me. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. I give you the reigns to my life. I ask you to sit in the driver’s seat. Lead me down the path You have prepared for me. Place people in my life to help me to walk in Your ways. Today, I surrender my life to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

How I Met My Husband.

Over and over again throughout my twenties, I envisioned meeting my future husband. I wondered where. And when. And how it would happen. Many times we sat down next to each other at church. I was introduced to him by friends. We bumped into each other at the grocery store. I even danced with him in my dreams.

I anticipated “The Day.” Every day. For years.

And for years, I was disappointed. Every date. Every set up. Every man. Every. Single. Time.

Until this day… April 20, 2002.

To my surprise, we weren’t singing praises in God’s house. We weren’t introduced by our Bible-believing friends. Nor did we have a divinely orchestrated meeting in line at Publix. Instead, the man I would one day spend forever with sat across from me. In a bar- Of all places.

Dressed in a stark white, collared shirt, his big blue eyes, dark brown hair and contagious smile begged me to go talk to him.

“Amy… Are you crazy? Nice. Christian. Gentlemen. Don’t come to bars.” I told myself.

“They could.” I responded. “You are here. Aren’t you?”

“You have got everything to gain. And nothing to lose,” I told myself. “Remember what you always say… You miss every opportunity you don’t take.”

And with that little inward dialogue, I left my seat to parade myself a little closer to him. As I did, that hunk of a man sitting across the bar leaned his chair back and asked if we could talk. He wasted little time on small chat and cut right to the chase.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” He asked.

Feeling a school girl crush I thought would end for sure the moment I laid my heart on the line, I answered truthfully, “What I want more than anything… is to be a wife and mother. So if in five years, I could be anywhere, that is where I would be.” I beamed.

In that moment, the Red Sea parted and the heavens opened wide. A piece of my heart had been swept away.

This one conversation. That looked nothing like I envisioned. In a loud, smoky room filled with beer drinking strangers, started a love affair that could be scripted by none other than the Keeper of the Stars.

Isaiah 55:8-9,For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

For years, I put God in a box. I expected His answer to come on my terms. On my time-table. The way I had planned. I had no idea of the crazy place the Lord would introduce me- to the man I spent my young life praying for, nor the wild ride He would take me on to get me to that place.

I had no idea of the years I would spend waiting, searching, and hoping.

I had no idea His answer would look nothing like my plan.

I believe My Father did it that way on purpose. To teach me His Higher way. To help me understand that He has perfectly crafted every detail of every plan. In His own time. On His own terms. In His own glorious way.

Who are we to think we know better than He?

Maybe the answer to your prayer looks a little different than you thought it would, too.

A little shorter. A little taller. Long hair or none at all.

Maybe it pays a little more or a little less.

Maybe it has one less bedroom. Or carpet throughout.

Maybe your answer will come from Asia, or China, or right next door.

Like David, the shepherd boy. Esther, the orphaned Jew. Or Jesus, the carpenter’s son. Often, God wraps His promises in settings that look very different than we expect. I am so grateful I didn’t allow the picture of what my answer was suppose to look like get in the way of the master-work the Lord had planned.

How about you? Are you holding the Lord to a time table? Are you so wrapped up in your own plan that you have forgotten to ask Him about His? If so, I encourage you to take a moment and pray this prayer with me…

Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for putting you in a box. Expand my vision to encompass Your plans for my life. Forgive me, also, for trying so hard to work my plan, instead of letting your plan be worked in me. Show me the broad picture. And guide me in the fine details. Lead me to a place where my will is completely and totally surrendered to Yours. Bring me to the place where I see your goodness fulfilled – as I trust in your perfect plan. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

The Day Terror Struck.

I had just driven home from my grandfather-in-law’s funeral in Missouri. We were in desperate need of groceries, so I piled the kids in the car and headed to Publix.  I was catching up with my sister on the phone when I noticed a small stream running down the side of the bridge in front of me. Then, before I could make sense of what was happening, a huge ball of fire erupted in front of my eyes. It was an explosion of colossal proportions. The kind you see in the movies.

My heart began pumping like a racehorse on speed. Anxiety coursed through my veins. I threw the phone down in horror and let out a screech that could be heard for miles. For a moment I forgot my, then four and six year old, kids were in the car. I lost all the composure a mother is supposed to keep when trying to protect her children from such catastrophic events and sat frozen in my car mere feet from the bridge now consumed with fire and smoke.

Within seconds a slew of police cars surrounded the scene. Officers waved me to safety and brought me to the courthouse for questioning. Amazingly, at this very busy intersection, there was very little traffic and few who witnessed the truck and gasoline tanker collide and come crashing over the 528 overpass to hit the ground in front of me.

For weeks following this tragic event, questions of “what if” surged through me. “What if I had been there four seconds earlier? What if I hadn’t listened to the bag lady tell her whole story at Publix? What if I hadn’t had to slow down for that red light? What if? What if? What if?”

For weeks, each time I approached the bridge, fear would begin to lay hold of me. Over and over, my heart would begin to race. I couldn’t pass an oil tanker (or any kind of semi truck for that matter) without feeling the physical effect of fear manifesting in my body. Moreover, the mere thought of it would cause panic to set in all over again.

I knew what the Word of God said about resisting the temptation to give in to fear. Yet fear, was beckoning me to sit down at her table.

Truly, I needed to stop this fear from laying hold of my heart. But how?

How do you stop a physical reaction from taking place within you that seems impossible to control?

Here’s how I did it…

First of all, I recognized that this feeling of fear was not given to me by the Lord. The Word says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “The Lord has not given me a spirit of fear (NKJ), but of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control (Amp),” so I knew the feelings I felt could be overcome.

Next, I asked the Lord for help and made an active decision to exercise the spirit of discipline that He had placed on the inside of me. I decided what the outcome would be from the beginning… That I would not walk in this fear.

Then, I began to get on the offensive against my enemy. I used mental discipline as I drove toward my fear (the bridge/tankers). I talked to myself and often actually spoke out loud. I reminded myself that that I had nothing to fear; that God had given me a calm, self-disciplined mind; that the He did not design me to shrink back in fear over anything.

I repeated these steps for weeks, constantly reminding myself what God’s Word said. As I approached bridges and tankers and every time my mind began to wander to the “what ifs,” I told myself how this would end… In victory over fear. With fear subject to the Word of God.

This afternoon, the draw bridge on the way to my house was up. I got stuck (for at least five minutes) at the exact sight of the accident.

As I waited, I recounted the events that had taken place that January afternoon over three years ago. Two oil tankers drove directly above my head. Yet, not one ounce of anxiety crept through my veins. Not one bit of fear.

In those moments, I was reminded what a mighty God we serve. I was reminded of His grace and the power of His Word to those who will reach for it and not let go.

If you are struggling with fear or anxiety over anything, you are not reading this by accident. God longs to set you free. He has equipped you with every tool you need for success. I encourage you today, to make a decision to see His plan unfold in your life. Decide today what your end is going to look like. Then pray this prayer with me.

“Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your perfect love toward me that casts out all fear. Thank you for equipping me with the tools I need to overcome every ounce of anxiety that courses through me. I declare, I will walk in self-discipline. I will trust Your Word over my feelings. In this moment, I declare that I will no longer give into the feeling of fear. I choose to believe You for victory in my life. I am an overcomer. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”  

Last Week, I Went Off the Deep End.

My heart’s desire was to help. No doubt. I had nothing but their best interest in mind. In all honesty, I could not find one selfish motive on the inside of me. Yet still, from every side I was being attacked. My character was assaulted. And I… was completely misunderstood.

Like knives to the heart, the wounds cut deep.

In fact, the wounds are still fresh. Even today, I hear whispers of untruths being spoken about me from people I love.

Here in this moment, I have some choices to make… I can carry the guilt they want to put on me. Become bitter. I could get angry and shut out those I love. Or get defensive and try to change their mind. I can worry about it and lose sleep. Or I could be hurt and stay there.

But none of these choices sound good to me. None are productive. Nor do they create the type of life I want to live.

So, instead, I choose to forgive.

Not because they deserve it. Nor because I am wrong. But because I know a little secret that others in the midst of turmoil often forget…

Bitterness and unforgiveness cause ME trouble.

Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

I don’t want TROUBLE in my life. So rather than cause further damage to myself and others, I chose to cut off the source of trouble…By walking in forgiveness. Rather than wasting my time being bitter, I choose to focus my time and energy on things that produce joy in my life.

Does that mean it comes easily? Not always.

Does it mean I never fail? Absolutely not.

Once last week, I went off the deep end. I was literally as mad as I have ever been in my entire life. I screamed louder than I have ever yelled at anyone in my life. (My husband and daughter actually came into my bedroom asking what alien took over my body.) But rather than give bitterness a foothold, I apologized right away for losing my cool. And, before hearing an apology on the other end of the line, I forgave my offender. Because I know that bitterness and unforgiveness only end up causing ME trouble.

I don’t want trouble, so I choose forgiveness.

To ask. To receive. And to forgive.

No matter who is right or wrong. No matter how, or what or why, I hold the key to my future.

And you hold yours.

Your destiny is in the palm of your hand. Your future is what You make of it. No one (other than you) can choose to let bitterness take root on the inside of you. Likewise, no one can choose forgiveness for you.

It is a power only you can give away.

It is a choice only you can make.