Why you need to send out fat Christmas cards.

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail.

All the time I wish that for the month of December the mailman would only deliver packages and Christmas cards. He could hold onto all of the bills until February, because if I am honest that is when I will pay them anyways.

I string the cards up across the walkways of our living room with clothespins and twine. I like to think of it as a display of those from near and far that have carried us as a family. And that we vow to carry too. A tangible glittery display of our village.

One thing that that bothers me or just stirs my heart when I get cards though is when the whole family is not in them.  It is just a picture of a perfectly behaved GAP dressed child/children.

I used to do this. I would send out a picture of my angelic, straight “A”, prodigy children to all of my family and friends. After skimming through dozens of photos where the kids would look their best and no one was picking their nose I would put a stamp on it send it out. I purposely did not include a picture of my husband and I. Telling myself year after year that when I lost weight or had my hair a better color, then I would consider putting myself in the Christmas card. When in reality the reason we were not in the card is because we were sending a picture out of what our family really was. It was our kids.  Our children were holding our family together. Our children were the center of our world. And if we were honest if it wasn’t for our kids we would not be together.

And I thought no one wanted to get that Christmas card.

No one wants to know that you can’t stand the site of yourself and you are embarrassed to show the world. No one wants to know that you’ve put on thirty pounds and you’ve never felt so empty.

But the thing I am understanding. They already know. If you have a village of people around, a healthy village, they want your picture. They want to see your people and YOU. Your village does not care what the scale says. They do not even care what your therapist says. They want to see you. They want to cover their walls and their doorways with you. They want to pray for you. The not happy with yourself you. The your marriage is falling apart you. The you are in so much debt you can’t afford Christmas you. The your spouse is struggling to get out of bed you. The your child has been in and out of rehab you. The you are not sure you even believe in the church you.

I think that if your village only wants to see your kids and your perfect marriage then you need a new village. It took me years to find my village. It has wavered very little in the last eight years though. When we were first married I had no idea we needed people. No idea we needed a village. I just looked in from the outside at the Christmas cards people were presenting to the world and I thought that we must be the only ones who wanted to tear each other apart. We must have been the only ones who looked up the cost of divorce lawyers and cried themselves to sleep.

We were not alone and neither are you.

Your village wants the truth. They want to know that they are not alone and want to help carry you.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that our village is what heals us or destroys us.

Be a village of truth and healing.

So when I open the cards and see that only the kids are on them I think….sweet one, they are not your world. Your world needs to be bigger than what you brought into it. I learned this the hard way and many therapists later. I learned that I my schedule and my days revolved around my kids. I learned that I forgot who I walked down the aisle to. I learned that my marriage was and is hard and is a daily decision to choose my spouse OVER my kids. I learned that the truth I present to the world is the same truth I am presenting to my kids. If I show the world that my world is my kids I am showing my kids that they are the world.

I don’t want that for my kids. I want more. I want to show them that their dad is what matters. That our marriage is the most important thing under our roof. I want them to know that their dad comes before them in every moment. To show them that our family means all seven of us. I mess this up all the time. I get wrapped up in five kids with five different schedules and then wonder why my marriage is struggling. I spend money on their activities and making sure they have everything they need rather than saving it so the husband and I could go on vacation together. I make these mistakes all the time. I still do. But I want to do better. I need to do better.

I want to hang truth over my doorway this year. In turn I want to send truth out to the world. Even if my truth is messy and a little pudgy this year

 

Bob Dylan and Birkenstocks- when you love someone else.

I remember sitting in the therapists’ office that early August afternoon biting my nails. I think it was the one with the dying plant on the basement office window that smelled like wet towels. The therapist looked like Napoleon Dynamite or someone who really needed a good haircut. I recall sitting there on the burnt orange couch thinking I cannot believe I am here telling my life story to someone who literally looks like he  just graduated high school. He was our fourth therapist if you were not counting priests. The fourth one in five years of marital bliss. It wasn’t the best track record and I was sure that this one was going to tell us what I wanted to hear.

God forbid I hear the truth.

My truth was the layers of bitterness that held my husband at arm’s length.

I was in love with someone else. I had been for years. I loved someone that was not in my life anymore. Yet he was in my every thought. There was not a day that went by that I did not think of him. I would replay the last time we had seen each other and beg God for us to meet again .He was a English major who played Bob Dylan on his guitar with curly dark hair and my hippie heart had fallen head over Birkenstocks in love with him.

And here I was married. Sitting on another therapists couch and carrying this secret inside.

Except it really wasn’t a secret.

Every silent moment. Every slammed door. Every night my body said no. Every tear stained pillow. Every blaming word. Every layer of resentment was always through this deceitful filter I carried around.

And I painfully made it clear that I would never be in love again.

The therapist that August afternoon told us to get a divorce. He told us it would be less painful for our children if we just walked away now.

If we drew the line in the sand.

 

Instead I did what any irrational stubborn Catholic school girl would do.

I decided that I would change who I had married into who I loved.

I would put the filter of who I needed him to be and judge every word and action through it. If he did not meet that expectation I would throw the D word back in his face.

This may have not been the healthiest thing to do for our marriage.

He in turn would shut down and refuse to speak to me or include me in any family decision.

While I was tearing our little family apart he was trying make sure I didn’t  do anymore collateral damage.

 

That was over twelve years ago.

This past weekend I had the privilege in the most tragic way, to witness again why I walked down the aisle to the one I share this marriage with.

I sat in the middle of the crowded somber church on Sunday afternoon and listened while my husband gave a eulogy for one of his beloved students. I listened as he tenderly told story after story of a life that ended too soon. I watched as he shuffled the papers in his hand and tried to hold back the tears of grief and confusion.

As tears filled my eyes I thought, how can this be the same man?

How can God still let me be married to him?

For so many years I had put an unattainable filtered expectation on him and yet he stayed.

God had seen fit from the beginning that he would refine us and continually mold us into one.

Even though we had both walked down the aisle with years of dysfunctional baggage he unpacked it all.

The truth is so much ugliness still comes out. My heart still finds itself putting filters on my marriage. On my kids. On my friends. I expect that they will meet my desires instead of letting God shape them into his.

As I watched my husband this past week deal with the grief of losing a child loved. I saw him rise to who I never knew I needed. To hear others say what they love about him as a teacher, as a leader, as a man I was humbled and embarrassed.

Embarrassed because this was the first time I was seeing clearly who these children and parents and community had seen all along.

They saw a man who was true to his word. A man who adored the work he does.  A man who knows his students and will do anything for them. A man whose heart is genuine and gentle. They saw a man who could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. A man who believes his faith holds him together and isn’t afraid to talk about it. A man who got to see that the work he does matters.

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we treat each other that way. If we treat each other without filters of fear. Filters of manufactured regret. Filters of jealousy. Filters of expectation.

What would happen if when we talk to each other? When we pray for each other. When we fight with each other. What if we were just brave enough to set those down? Brave enough to say that who they are is enough.

Brave enough to believe that God will make them and transform us into exactly who we are meant to be.

I want to go back to that therapist’s office today. I want to go back and tell him he got it all wrong. The parts where he said to walk away. The parts where he said we could never make this work.

I want to show him the line in the sand.

The line in the sand where Jesus says watch how I will reconcile it all.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, owe are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Corinthians 5:18-21

I choose you- what vows look like after 17 years

This week the husband and I renewed our vows. And by renew I mean wrote all new words. Because after seventeen years you need to say new words. The words you say when you are a young bride with no idea how to keep a promise to yourself, much less promises to another person for the rest of your life, well words need to be said again.

When you are walking down the aisle more concerned about the size of your waist and if your nursing bra is leaking more than the person at the end of the aisle it is perhaps not the picture of matrimonial bliss.

Writing vows again after seventeen years looks less like a Pinterest dream and more like a masterpiece of redemption.

It looks like late night arguing and late morning swollen eyes.

It looks like crayon drawings on the wall and Band-Aid covered knees.

It looks like pasta again for dinner with thirty dollars left in the checking account.

It looks like trips to the in-laws and silent anger the way home.

It looks like catching her passed out on the bathroom floor when she promised to stop.

It looks like spending the savings account again on a car they couldn’t afford in the first place.

It looks like soccer families meaning more than ones you left at home.

It looks like littles in pj’s crying behind closed doors as parents open the suitcases of resentment on each other.

It looks like buying your first house in a neighborhood friends never came to.

It looks like sleeping on the couch for nights turned into weeks.

It looks like a Bible opened for the first time.

It looks like you first before me.

It looks like midnight calls to ones you pour your secrets to.

It looks like college funds turned into therapy bills.

It looks like a home with a door revolving to those who need a place to stay.

It looks like forgiveness when she realizes she is the one she needs to forgive.

It looks like catching fireflies with smore’s still on their faces.

It looks like driving to the treatment center because this time has to be the last.

It looks like your knees bruised from pleading with God.

It looks like admitting the ugliness you’ve hid for years.

It looks like Saturday mornings on the porch before anyone else is awake.

It looks like telling the truth that no one wants to hear.

It looks like catching him praying over her before he goes to school.

It looks like finding friends who help you clean up the pieces.

It looks like falling on your face with the brokenness that you have become.

It looks like saying out loud that change needs to happen.

It looks like restoration.

And so we gathered our people.  Our marriage warriors. And we stood in our backyard, in the neighborhood we claimed as our home and put a stake in the ground for the legacy of our family.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal

One of the most precious moment in the ceremony was when our good friend and pastor gathered us around our children and prayed the blood of Jesus over our family. That the chains of relationships would be broken and for the future spouses and callings of our sweet babes. I may have ugly cried my way through this.

 

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal

And instead of promises. We made choices.

 

I choose to fight for you. To fight for us. I choose to daily lay your life before Jesus and ask that he guard your heart and mind to only His will. I choose to be present. To focus on what makes us a family not what makes others happy. I choose to put you first before our children. Because I know that is what is best for them. I choose to break the cycle of relationships gone before us by choosing healthy over happy. I choose to let you be the spiritual leader in our home and believing that God will equip you to do so. I choose to love you even when I am so unlovable.

But most of all. I choose this. I choose to pursue Jesus with all of my heart and passion. Because if we have learned anything these past 17 years it is this….He is our healer and redeemer.

And only He can restore.

#TELLHISSTORY

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal

( The gorgeous photo’s were taken by Sabrina Nohling and the yard was transformed by Mary Kay from the Homestead in Plano.)

Dear Kids, I love you too much….. A Valentines Day repost.

Dear kids,

I love you.

I love you with all my heart. I love to watch you sleep at night. (not like creepy crawl in your window to watch you) but more like I want to count the freckles on your sun kissed face. I love to hear the sound of your voices laughing with each other, whispering secrets while you are supposed to be sleeping. I love to watch you scream with all your might when your brother scores in soccer. I love to curl your hair when you want to be just like mommy. I love to take you out on dates all dressed up and sit across from you and wipe the whip cream off your lip. I love to find notes on my pillow from you. I love to watch you make new friends or even just try. I love to see you help each other up when one of you falls. I love to watch you smelling the neighbor’s flowers after you decided that all of ours needed to be picked. I love writing you notes to find in your lunchbox or on the mirror in the morning. I love to plan the perfect gift for your birthday that only I would know you loved. I love to hear about your day and who made you mad. I love to watch you explain just why being an apple farmer makes sense for your life. I love to listen to you sing 1D in the shower and then pretend that you don’t even like them. I love to watch you doodle while you are supposed to be doing Algebra again. I love to wake to the sound of the cartoons on Saturday morning and footy pj’s on the wood floors. I love to hear your secrets and who you wish you could be. I love to catch you writing songs on the piano when you think you are all alone. I love you this much and even more.
But you see sweet one I am sorry.

I am sorry I have loved you more than your dad. My husband. The one I promised to love forever. The one I made a covenant with. You see, I was reminded recently by ones that are pouring into us that I have really messed up. But you and I know that with messing up always comes second chances. And for me it’s more like a hundred chances. So here I am asking for you to forgive me.

I need to love your dad even more than I love you. I need to love him with all my heart. I need to watch him sleep at night. I need to love the sound of his voice laughing. I need to encourage him from the sidelines every day. All day. I need to go out on dates with your dad every week and remember that we need to work at love. I need to ask for notes from your dad. I need to write them too. I need to thank him for helping our neighbors all the time and not complain that things aren’t done around here. I need to pack his lunch in the morning and make sure he knows that I value him. I need to smile and kiss your dad when he brings me flowers. I need to ignore you when your dad walks in the door because it’s his turn to be heard. I need to respect and support your dad when he goes for another job and not worry about how far away we will be from family. I need to buy him gifts just because it’s not his birthday. I need hold your dads hand when we are together. I need to sleep in more with the door closed on Saturday mornings. I need to listen more talk less. I need to tell him my secrets that I’m afraid to live. I need to lean in and lead with grace. I need to love your dad this much and even more.

So sweet children, know this. I love you. I really do. This may send you all into therapy ( yet we all know you will probably already end up there anyways). I have done you such a disservice. I should have done a better job at being a wife. Because that is the commitment I made. I am the example that you will learn from. And I want nothing more for you than to learn from your dad and I that who we are as a couple is the best gift we can give you.

With love, mom
And if you can’t find me…..I will be kissing your dad.tim

8 things I remembered about my husband- guest post by Kaelyn Benham

 

 

 

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I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to surround ourselves with those who speak truth and share their stories. Kaelyn Benham is joining us again this week to share a part of her redemptive story. I am so honored and blessed to call her friend. She not only lives in freedom but loves in it too. 

 

I have been purging everything lately. EVERY. THING. Donating things, selling things, and handing things down and over to move them from my house. I am doing this in attempt to “ keep the main things the main things.” The process has been time consuming, but part of a larger focus on only the things that matter.

This past weekend the bookshelf was my target. As I pulled books off the shelf that we no longer need to refer to I started noticing things. A note fell out of a book that my husband and I were reading shortly after my first son was born. He had begun traveling and while he was away I would find these notes tucked in all kinds of different places telling me he loved me and that he was thinking of me. Some were silly and some were deeper and more meaningful.

As I sat there with note in hand, I started looking through the books that I was about to get rid of and was flooded with this appreciation for all we had been through together. With the kids, our growth, the travel, our healing, and all kinds of other ways the Lord was reminding me of who my husband was.

8 things I remembered about my husband while cleaning out our bookshelf

  • He takes his responsibilities seriously

He read every one of the books we have on parenting. When he knows that he has something he is responsible for, he does HIS best. He doesn’t go around it he moves and learns his way through it. He steps up to the plate.

  • He knows love is an action

He loves us all with his words of course, but He acts in love by sacrificing time and efforts to make sure we know we are loved. He was the “master-swaddler” and really took all that he had read and put it to action to provide a safe and secure place for our kiddos and me.

  • He makes me a priority

He keeps our marriage sacred by honoring it over all other relationships in the house. We check in with each other and work together so we both have what we need. He recognized in books where it said this was important.

  • He needs to be reminded

Just like he marked these pages as reminders, he needs to be reminded on occasion what is REALLY important. I should not expect that if he heard it 1 time he knows it completely.

  • He knows he can’t do it alone

He often seeks counsel and reads about topics that he is leaning about. These books are just a fraction of “resources” that were engaged when we first started to experience parenting.

  • He is humble and not ashamed to say he doesn’t know

I remember after our second son was born he asked to get the books out again so we could practice and get a refresh on some techniques that really were helpful to us.

  • He is not perfect, but shows up to practice

We would argue some about our different approaches and sometimes it would cause a rift between us for some time, but we would always come back together and “practice” what needed to be worked on TOGETHER.

  • He always wants to learn and grow

This is the CORE of who my husband is. Humble and always knowing there is more to learn.

You can imagine after having this moment with the books, I ran to find him and told him I was thankful for him. Not because he is perfect. Not because our marriage is perfect. But because I remembered the “main thing” and I was focused on that.

To read more about Kaelyn and find out where she will be next you can follow these links.

http://www.kaelynbenham.com/

http://bit.ly/1zE6033

The loneliest marriage- when the sin of making your children happy has stolen the gift of your covenant. .

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Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.

Psalm 25:16

It’s not anything to be proud of. If anything its embarrassing. To sit before your best friend with tears and say you have never been lonelier.

My life is full. Full of children. Full of friends. Full of schedules. Full of running. Full of activities. Full of noise. Full of appointments.

It’s full. But I am empty.

And if I’m being honest. It’s not me. It’s not him.

It’s us. We.

We are empty. We are lonely.

Relieve the troubles of my heart     and free me from my anguish.

Psalm 25:17

We stay busy. With school. With soccer. With swimming. With basketball. With volleyball. With doctors. With therapists. With coaching. With volunteering.

We become busy. We become lonely.

And my heart is empty in the fullest schedules.

Look on my affliction and my distress     and take away all my sins.

Psalm 25:18

So we become who we were.

Two parents living parallel lives. Working for the five little ones we love instead of loving for the five little ones to thrive.

Until the silence is too thick to hear the faint crying against my pillow.

When I believe that the only way to feel heard is to let myself become sick again.

When one or both decide that we need help.

We need to crawl back again to those that speak truth over us.

When late night phone calls are made to say ….”please”

Guard my life and rescue me;do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20

The moment we realize again we are doing what we know instead of what we’d hoped.

We know the patterns that we grew up with. We know how devastating that story ends. We know the schedules of the families around us. We know that we justify by saying they are just like us. We know that it comes every fall and spring. We know that we don’t know any better.

Until knowing better has to be better than this.

So we make the late night phone calls and bear our soul. We admit again that we’ve stumbled. That the sin of making our children happy has stolen the gift of our covenant. That we would rather watch our children succeed than face the silence that has become our pain.

We reach out knowing that we will hear things we don’t want to hear. We reach out knowing that things will need to change. That yes’s will have to become no’s. That our children will learn to sacrifice in order for us to thrive.

May integrity and uprightness protect me,  because my hope, Lord, is in you Psalm 25:21

We admit that the world that we portray is the world of our activities, not of our life. Our pictures and accomplishments do not show the loneliness and pain that are stealing our marriage.

We admit that we cannot. Should not. Will not do this alone.

That we will fight. We will be still. We will pray. We will cry. We will dig. We will admit. We will be honest. We will ask for help. We will try.

For the sake of the covenant we made.

 

 

Do you have a story of fighting for freedom that you’d like to share? I’d love to have you on the blog sharing your fight, your beginning, your road to freedom. Whatever your struggle is you are not alone. -sheli

Yes, I will marry you….but first I need therapy. #FreedomFriday

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For a while now I have thought about giving guest bloggers and authors a chance to share their voice here. There is nothing more empowering than to know that you are not alone in this journey. That you are not the only one in the struggle and fighting for freedom. As many of you that have followed my journey know that I have wrestled with my fair share of demons. You also know though that I have done hard work and found freedom in entering into the pain, I still have so much work to do. But I know that I continue to fight every day. When you are in the trenches or walking around them (as I did for years) you are drawn to others who are actually authentic and truthful in their struggles. Who call you out and want nothing more than to help you break the chains you continue to carry around.

Kaelyn Benham is just that. She is what many would call a warrior. She continually enters into the pain of her past and present and is learning to not run. This beautiful woman has embraced her struggles with motherhood, love, marriage, pregnancy, truth and transformed it into power. She has left her pain at the feet of Jesus and trusted that He would use it for good. Through years of uncovering lies and experiencing freedom she helps others discover their true self through Life Coaching. She is a person that sees into your soul and calls out the love that so many of us bury under years of pain we become comfortable with. Her stories of freedom are inspiring and filled with hope.

So for our first ever #FreedomFriday I am grateful to share with you part of her courageous story……

Scott and I had been intentionally dating for about 3 months when we started to talk about getting married. Though neither of us had been in this kind of relationship before, we both sensed in our own ways that this relationship would be the one we would commit to forever. And though that sense was a part of me, every day it was a choice for me to act accordingly. My fear drove me to act in ways that were completely contradictory of this “sense” I had. I would avoid him. I would get easily irritated by him and things he would do. All in an effort to remain in control and keep my heart positioned safely.

 

At one point, Scott said something to me more seriously about getting married. Through our discussion we even loosely talked through timing of when this forever union would begin. Up to that point, unlike most girls, I had done zero planning in my mind about my wedding. All I knew was I had a love for October and so I imagined it would be a good time to walk down a leafy isle. I felt this race of excitement in my heart about the plans starting to be made, but also this impending heaviness about what those plans implied.

 

Although I had not put much time contemplating colors, flowers, dresses or cakes for my wedding, I had spent a HUGE amount of time thinking about my marriage. The problem was I had spent so much time thinking about what I did NOT want my marriage to look like, but not much time learning how to make it look like what I wanted. And so when Scott suggested that we get married that October, just 5 months later, my response was very romantically, “okay, but I have to go to therapy.” To this day I wonder what about that response did not make him run for the hills, but am thankful every day that he didn’t. Without even knowing it at the time he was showing me that whatever I brought to the table he was ready to accept.

 

That was the start of a new way of brave living for both of us. This blank slate that said, I am going to “show up” for you and I am going to trust that you are going to “show up” for me. Neither of us had been in any relationship that had that sort of bravery and commitment attached to it. Both of us knew that it was going to be hard to bridge all the gaps that past pains had caused, but we were willing to be all in with each other.

 

That day when I laid all my pain out on the table in front of me, I fully expected Scott to run. He didn’t. In fact he was patient and let me do my work from the inside out. He allowed me to bring him parts of my healing as they happened. As I would do that he would reveal his own wounds and how they were impacting the way he was thinking about things.

Unknowingly at this time we formed a silent pact that said, “We are FOR each other”. This is what we wanted our marriage to be about. Bravely living FOR each other through Christ. This was what we started planning and practicing.

 

How do I trust you that you are always “for” me no matter what?

 

How do I lay down my defenses to protect myself trusting you are going to have my best interest in mind?

 

How am I patient while you learn what my best interest even is?

 

How do I know what yours is?

 

How do we handle each other’s hearts when we have done something that might have broken it a bit?

 

What does it feel like to have God between us always pulling us towards Him and so towards each other?

 

What do I do when I want to run?

 

What do I do when I realize I want to stay?

 

What do I do when I don’t know how I feel? Or when I fear how you feel?

 

This process is hard and painful, but so worth it. It allows you access to a part of you and your spouse that people rarely experience. All under the umbrella of God’s love which you are able to experience in a new way as more of Him is revealed in each of you and in this sacred space of your marriage.

 

Brave living is choosing to move forward THROUGH the pain, the discomfort, or the uncertainty. It is saying I know that I can’t stay here, wherever “here” is, and taking steps to grow

Always, remembering, as a follower of Christ, the end has already been determined.

 

You are safe.

 

Christ wins!

 

When I live with this perspective then I know that my current circumstance will ultimately give way to a win if I choose brave living.

If you have a story about finding freedom and would like to share your story I would love to have you tell it here. Just submit your story to shelim9@gmail.com and with #FreedomFriday in the subject line. I will link it to your author page or your blog. Remember there is such freedom in telling your story and knowing you are not alone.

A broken Gomer-I chose pleasure over protection . #shereadstruth

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For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,

who give me my bread and my water,

my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Hosea 2:5

 

Write a number.

What?

Write a number.

Write the number.

Write the number of men.

Write the number that you know.

The true number.

I can’t.

No.

Give me the number. On this paper write the number.

She knelt at my feet.

Years of guilt and shame poured down my cheek.

I wanted to vomit. I wanted to run. I wanted to look at her and say no.

Instead I wrote the number.

  And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals

when she burned offerings to them

and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,

and went after her lovers

and forgot me, declares the Lord. Hosea 2:13

 

The number of lives that I destroyed. The number of innocent moments I had taken from another woman’s wedding night. The number of times I denied that God’s plan was better for my life. The number of times I choose pleasure over protection. The number of times I craved acceptance over wholeness. The number of times I willingly and unwillingly gave a piece of who I was to another.

And here I was twenty years later finally pushing towards freedom.

Satan holds me. Held me. To the number.

Tried for years to tattoo it to my vision. To remind me that who I was is who I am.

I was done. I am done letting sins twisted in sheets control me.

  For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. Hosea 2:17

The chains of lies that held me then still controlled me now. Believing that I was used up, I was of no use. I had had my fair share of lovers. And to never be touched again would be too soon.

The shame that I let clothe me felt too heavy to carry alone. I was ready.

To find freedom. To see freedom. To crawl towards it.

And the first step was truth. To be honest with myself. To be honest with my husband. And to find someone to tell my truth to. Someone safe that would guide me, walk with me, pray for me, and lead me to the One who would ultimately bind up the wounds I had left gaping for years.

 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. Hosea 2:19

Where you are. Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve done or didn’t do. He is there waiting. Crying seeing you carry your chains around. Lay them down. He is waiting. Calling you home.

Its time.

Time to return.

He is gentle and safe.

He is justice and mercy.

He faithful and true.

With arms open

Calling you to freedom.

#shesharestruth

Are you a marriage warrior? A story of a marriage that shouldn’t have lasted.

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I feel like every day I hear of another marriage ending. When I was in Uganda two years ago my best friend called to tell me that someone that I had put on a pedestal for so long had left her kids and marriage. I was overwhelmed. I remember falling to my knees in heaping mess. I needed her to stay on the pedestal I had her on. I needed her to be a constant. I needed her example of gentle selfless love to be true. But it wasn’t. It was ugly. It was going to get even uglier and I was stuck on the other side of the world. Feeling helpless and sad. And if I told the truth, I saw the end coming for a long time. But did nothing. I stood by and said “it’s none of my business”.

Those of us that have been married for a while we all know that divorce doesn’t just happen. We don’t just wake up one day and decide to “uncouple” or walk away on a Tuesday. Well maybe some do, but I know this is not true of myself or those around me.

Sixteen years ago I walked down the aisle as a scared little girl. We were young, stupid, selfish, scared and had no idea what we were headed into. We started off with a three month old as cute as a button but that sure was not enough to keep the regret from smothering us. I was naïve enough to think that marriage would be a lot like registering for your wedding gifts. Sure there would be a few disagreements as to how many servings of silverware you needed, but eventually all was ended with a kiss and a great list from Crate and Barrel.

Our marriage from the beginning was lacking. In support. In truth. We had lost all of our friends at the time. They were in med school or grad school hundreds of miles away and here we were trying to just make it through the day. And the only truth I was seeing was the daytime shows that filled my day. Those around me were trying their best to “give us space”. We didn’t need space. We needed help. So everything we were just manifested in socially acceptable behaviors.

I was jealous that he got to go to work. He was resentful that he was no longer the soccer star. I was angry that we had to move so far away from my family. He was confused as to why family was even important to me. I was frustrated that I had lost who I was. He was pushing to reclaim what he had lost. I was bitter that he got to go back to grad school. He was exhausted working and going to school. I was lonely and filled my world with friends and causes that gave me value. He was lonely and the silence had become deafening. We were both trying to make ourselves feel better, look better, be better but in the process were lost as to who we were really supposed to be.

Eleven years ago and we found our way into a church that would turn our “it’s all about my happiness” world upside. There we met people who called out truth in us. Who got in our face, sometimes with grace and sometimes with reality to call out the ugliness. We had people who prayed fervently for our marriage. That our pride, anger, resentment, and fear would be washed away. We had people that showed up on our doorstep without being asked. We had people who were not watching from the outside but entering in and pealing back the layers. We had people who when we fell, just picked us up. We had people that told us that divorce was not an option. We had people that we were not called to be happy, we were called to be holy. We had people that were not afraid to get messy with our filth but just looked for the next mess to dig through.

To those of you that are “our people” you know who you are. We are. I am. He is. Eternally grateful. I am crying as I am writing this. I see your faces and can’t imagine our lives without you. Some have been with us for years and a few just in this past year.
Thank you. Thank you for not just talking about us behind our backs or putting us on a prayer chain but for entering in and telling the truth. Thank you to those that didn’t just stand by and watch it happen. Thank you for never claiming “well it’s none of my business” as your excuse. Thank you to those that knew it was your business. That when someone around you is hurting you don’t politely stay quiet. You got loud. You showed up. You listened. You cried with us. You encouraged us. You laughed with us. You called out the good in us. You let us see that it wasn’t about us, it was all about God. You were gentle with us. You were grace filled. You told us your stories of pain and defeat. You showed us that authenticity is healing. And healing will make us whole.

Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for believing that God could wreck us only to piece us back together.

Thank you for not being done with us. For knowing that we still need help. For calling us out when you see old patterns emerge. For wanting us to be better. For knowing that we can be. Thank you.

So on this anniversary of 16 years I wish I could hug each of you. Each of you for being marriage warriors. Truth tellers. Grace givers. God seekers.

Thank you….all my love…..Sheli

The Clothes I Wear Say Who I Am #SheSharesTruth

The clothes I wear say who I am.

When I was younger I imagined that early on I wore clothes that said
Adventurous spirit
Tree climber with skinned knees
Roller-skater who was afraid to fall
Dare devil that loved the challenge
Imaginative storyteller
Creative with space
Quiet thinker

I’m not sure of the exact age, but I can speculate, when I started noticing these clothes disappear.
They would get shoved under my pillow. Or in the corner. Maybe they got left under the picnic table that fateful summer.

Whatever happened, I seem to find new shirts to wear. Ones that spoke for me.

Quiet spirit
Confused
Sad storyteller
Fearful thinker
Afraid
Imaginative girl who never knew the difference between the stories she told and what was real.

When the knees stopped being skinned and my pigtails were gone, I started letting others put clothes on me.
Or take them off.
And at the end all I was left with was clothes that said

Empty

As a teenager I wore empty like it owned me.

It did. It owned me.

Empty love. Empty food. Empty exercise. Empty puking. Empty drugs. Empty attention. Empty feelings. Empty touch. Empty alcohol. Empty lying. Empty school. Empty fear. Empty friends. Empty security. Empty soul. Empty faith.

Empty.

I continued to wake up every day for years and decide that this was what I was going to wear. I deserved to wear it. There were days or moments when I wanted to find another shirt to wear. To borrow someone else’s shirt. To see if what they were wearing would fit me. I was convinced that I could feel better in what they carried on their backs then the years of weighted clothes I carried on my shoulders.

Years later I knew it was safe to start taking the shirts of lies off. I had begun to surround myself with souls who breathed life into me. Who called out truth. Who saw the truth and leaned in even closer.

When I began to explore the thought that there was a God who wanted to slowly come to me with palms open I was timidly skeptical. Was I willing to take the layers of clothes I had worn off? Was I willing to throw them away? Was I willing to lay them ALL at his feet? Was I brave enough to let others see the scars that I had been covering for years?

I was.

I am.

Naked.

Exposed for the world to see.
For Christ to wash me.
For my husband to understand me.
For my friends to receive me.
For the mirror to reveal me.
Who I was years ago. Who I am today.

Enough.

The shirt He asks me to wear.

He asks you to wear everyday
says
Enough.

You are not what happened to you. You are not who cheated on you. You are not your child’s illness. You are not your pain. You are not your divorce. You are not your weight. You are not the food you eat. You are not the alcohol that devours you. You are not your addiction. You are not your husband’s rage. You are not the fear that drowns you. You are not the loss you ache for. You are not the girl who didn’t know better. You are not the countless times you gave yourself away. You are not the porn that calls you back to feast. You are not the secrets that hold you captive. You are not your job that engrosses you. You are not your child’s behaviors. You are not the girl you used to be.

You.Are.Enough.

You are brave enough.
You are courageous enough.
You are enough.

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10

It’s time. It’s time to take off the layers of lies you’ve been wearing. It’s time to stop letting others put filth on you. It’s time to be brave enough to wear the truth Christ has been holding in his arms for you.
The truth that says

Enough.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, Ruth 4:14

#SheSharesTruth
#SheReadsTruth