I sold myself…..and now I know why.

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I started selling myself when I was 14. Not the on the corner selling. Not online selling. But the please pay attention to me and love me kind of selling. Please tell me I am enough selling. My mother did not drop me at a brothel in order for my siblings to survive. I did it to myself. Some choices I made. Some were made for me.

Me in my skin tight jeans. Me in my overalls. Me in my long skirts. Me in my short skirts. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing or who I was. It had to do with who I wasn’t. I don’t ever dare compare myself to the millions of children each year that are forced into sex work. Or the girls who are walking the red light districts in their villages to survive. Never. I would never even think that the horror that they experience every day is in any way comparable to my mid- western choices. But one thing I thing I can relate to is the shell of the person that I became. When you give yourself away and are left with just a shell of disconnect.

I turn forty next month. If I think about it long enough I can get anxious and start thinking of all of the things I have yet to accomplish and the things I never became or missed. Having lived forty years I have to say that the last five have been the hardest and yet produced most growth. Through being stuck in Uganda and not knowing when I would see my whole family again. To suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and attachment issues when I returned. And then to be hit with more news of another child who had been suffering all along. And to watch as she went through years of testing and evaluation in order to receive a diagnosis that is lifelong. I have walked through grief and relief all on the same breathe.

But nothing can compare to knowing that I more fully myself than I have ever been. I am confident that I am stronger and braver than I ever thought I could be. I am more confident that my experiences in the past are ONLY used for good. And thank you Jesus that he is letting me see the fruit of that pain today.

But me taking off my clothes for years did more damage than anyone could see. It left me lonely for the next 25. I know that others argue when you give yourself away it won’t affect you. God forgives you and you are fully redeemed. Yes. Yes to all of that. But it does not take away the reality that you are not all of you were supposed to be. There was so much of me missing. So many parts of me still lay in backseats, parks, beaches, hotels, and beds. So much of me lingered there for years waiting for my soul to collect me. Waiting for me to forgive.

And I think all the time of the sweet angels all over the world tonight that are asking others to love them. To buy them. To sell them. I want to scream and plead. I want to hold them and love them and tell them “you are already enough. “

I want to tell them it will take years for the pieces of you to fully return to a new healed soul. But this is not my job. My job is to be there voice. I can. You can. I now work for an organization called Trades of Hope. We partner with marginalized women all over the world. We sell jewelry that is ethically produced by using Fair Trade principle. By marketing their creations we offer artisans a way to provide for their families without entering into slavery, a way to keep their children rather than giving them to orphanages or to the sex trade. I love everything about this company. But the thing I love the most is that 25 years ago God saw the mess that I was making of my life and continued to make for years and whispered gently “I will make all things new.”

Yet it wasn’t until now I that I hear Him.

But he said to me , “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2Cor 12:9

What a ham, Santa and a girl from Pakistan taught me about Christmas

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When I was younger my grandfather was Santa. No lie. He was. Every year at midnight mass Silent night would begin to play and from the back of church “Santa” would silently walk down the aisle. He would remove his red and white hat and with one knee bent kneel before the manger. I tear up now just thinking about it. How beautiful and precious that was. I know theologically it wasn’t perhaps right. But for the reverence it displayed it was exactly what Christmas is supposed to be.

I mess up Christmas every year. Flat on my face mess up. I do. I get anxious about not having enough money. Or no money at all. I get overwhelmed with schedules that seem to double three weeks before the magical day. I am paralyzed with the amount of people around me all the time. Talking and wanting me to respond. I am exhausted with trying to be enough for everyone moment of every day. And like today I am hiding in my house with tea and books surrounding me because my soul knows that I am getting it all wrong.

And when I am getting it wrong I missing the manger. I am filling it with bigger presents. And louder music and bigger productions. And saying yes to everything that is “Christmasy”. I am spending money on more things instead on things that matter. I am forgetting who I am and what I believe.

I believe that Jesus came simple. He came as a baby. Quiet. Bloodied in a manger with animals and dirt and hay. There was no big production. He did not come with crowned jewels on his head. He came a bloodied mess and left the earth the same way. And when we turn Christmas into a big production we miss him. I miss Him.

And so He needs to remind me. He needs to quiet my soul again and whisper “I am here”.

Every morning we pick up a little girl from Pakistan to go to school. She has been in the US for a few months now. It is just she and her parents. She doesn’t answer when I ask her about other family still in Pakistan. I have learned there are subjects and conversations I need to earn. And so I will wait. A few weeks ago we were waiting for her outside of her apartment building and I was feeling rushed. My entitled self-had no time to wait. I had things to do that day that I am sure were extremely important. Except for the life of me I can’t remember what they were now. I turned around to see what was taking her so long to walk to the car and there she stood. Perfectly still, in the middle of the courtyard not moving towards the car.

Mouth open.

Tongue out.

Catching snowflakes.

I had to catch my breathe.

This was Christmas. This was silent night.

In the simple. In the snowflakes on the tongue of the little girl from the Middle East who had never seen snow before.

And then just last night. I needed to be reminded again. By a nine year old neighbor boy from across the street. Standing at my door with a ham and boxed mashed potatoes in a torn plastic bag. He said that his mother did not know what to give us for Christmas so she gave us this ham. The ham from the food pantry that she stood in line for hours before to feed her family. The ham that was their best. And they gave. They gave everything they had.

This is Christmas. This is silent night.

 

I just stood there and cried whispering “thank you’s…”

I needed to be reminded of what my soul craves. What your soul really craves. It is not the more and better. It is the enough. It is the hard conversations. It is the folding of the laundry. It is for the ringing of the bell. It is for the red bucket. It is the paying for someone’s gas. It is for the cookies we never bake. It is for the sister we drive hundreds of miles to comfort. It is for the letter that we need to write. It is for the forgiving we need to receive. It is for the hot cocoa we need to sip with our children. It is for the groceries we help carry in. It is for the asking questions. It is for the slower mornings. It is for the saying no to really good things. It is for the grace that we lavishly give. It is for the prayers that we pray over those in our homes. It is for hearing when our friend says she is overwhelmed and not leaving her alone. It is for the games that we play on the floor.

It is for the quiet and the simple.

The here and the now.

The snowflakes and the ham.

It is the midnight mass with candles. It is the one knee bent to our savior.

This is Christmas. This is silent night

Gerbils and Golden Grahams – When we realize what we are slaves to.

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I opened up Pandora’s box last night and now I am regretting I ever did it. I am sitting here and my stomach is turning.

I should eat something.

I should eat cereal. Boxes of it. Cause boxes of cereal will make everything ok.

I asked a few of my people to give me some feedback. I asked them to help me with a writing project I thought I was working on. And so I put it out there.

And then….crickets.

Crickets. And so I will eat a box of cereal and make it all better.

I will stuff my anxiety with golden goodness of Golden Grahams.

Because somehow me consuming thousands of calories will show them.

I did not expect this.

I did not expect my anxiety to reel its ugly head over this. I walk back and forth to the computer checking it like 745 times just to make sure that it is still working. I turn my phone on and off to see if I still have a connection. And then I think oh crap they are all talking behind my back and wondering how to break it to me that I am just a mess. Wait? They are talking behind my back? I hate that. I hate being talked about and not to. I hate that more than anything. Like way more than I hate cats. SO if they are talking about me and deciding that I am a mess then when are they going to confront me? Are they going to do it in person or gang up on me?

Do you see how logical I am being?

But I did this. I opened the box. I asked for feedback. I asked for help. And now I feel like a gerbil on a spinning wheel. And I really don’t like gerbils either. ( I mean really? A tiny squirrel in your house?)

And then it hits me. I am a slave. I wake up every morning and carefully put the chains back on my wrists. I make sure that I have locked them around my ankles and try to walk through the day. I am a slave every day to what controls me. And today. Today I choose to let approval control me. I decided that I needed the approval of my people to continue my day.

Yesterday I woke up and decided that I would be ruled by jealousy. It reeled its ugly head when a friend got amazing news and all of a sudden instead of rejoicing with her I decided that it wasn’t fair. That I work so hard. That I don’t have all the benefits that she does. That somehow the “kingdom of I” was not being served and my self -righteous attitude was justified.

Some days I decide to be a slave to multiple things. Anger, fear, anxiety, food, my past, and the list could go on and on.

And I put myself on the gerbil wheel again. But I knowingly placed myself there. It has nothing to do with my friends and how quickly they get back to me. It has nothing even with the words that they will say. It has to do with where my eyes are focused. My eyes are focused on me.

And when my eyes are focused on me I forget whose Kingdom I am living in.

Because my kingdom is exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry around the chains every day and expect others to know and unlock those them.

In my kingdom I just sit with my chains and eat Golden Grahams. And Golden Grahams are not going to break anything.

When I lift my eyes and focus on the Creator all else goes away. The chains are broken. HE does not put them on me. HE breaks them. It is me who decides to solder them back together.

And with patience He reminds me I am free. Free from the slavery of sin. Free from the slavery of acceptance. Free from jealousy. Free from anger. Free from anxiety.

I am free.

SO today.

Right now.

I choose. I choose to get off the gerbil wheel. I choose to accept what comes to me.

I choose to walk away from the Golden Grahams and be free.

Grieving the high chair.

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I bought the high chair at a rummage sale. It was wooden with chipped, white paint flaking the sides. I had known from the moment I saw it that I wanted it to be mine. It reminded me of high chairs I would see in vintage black and white photos. It had no safety precautions, yet I am sure it had stories it could tell. Stories of the families and children it had served.

At the time that I purchased it for ten dollars,  I was not even pregnant. We had just started the process of filling out the paperwork for our adoption. And as we all know that high chair did not get used for a very long time. What we expected to take months took years. Years of waiting. Years of praying. Years of hoping. Years of anxiety, anger, frustration, signatures, home studies, finger prints, and did I mention paper work?

Yet after three years we were sitting across from our sweet little boy.

That high chair became the place where my little one ate his first meal as a family of seven.

It became the place where he clearly showed us that broccoli was never going to be one of his foods.

It became the place where he fell asleep when days were just too long for him and he couldn’t make it through dinner.

It became the place where he discovered pasta for the first time and decided the walls needed it too.

It became the place where his personality began to emerge and he entertained us all.

What I didn’t expect is that it would become a symbol of grief for me.

After little one clearly could not fit in the high chair any longer I scrubbed it all down and left it in the corner of the room for months. I would walk by it and think about what was next for our family. I would dream of my belly expanding and getting to wear cute maternity jeans. I would rationalize that I was keeping it for my grandchildren some day. Knowing full well that any mother would not let their infant sit in a chair with zero safety features.

And breathing in that I knew why I was really keeping it.

I was keeping it because I wasn’t ready to face my truth.

My truth, that I would never carry another child in my belly again.

Seven years before I lay on a hospital bed, sobbing as I signed on the dotted line. I wanted someone to save me. To save me from the choice. I needed someone else to make the decision for me.

I knew that the level of depression that I had suffered after each of the four children I birthed, had only gotten worse. I knew that I needed to make a permanent decision that I later would come to grieve. I knew at the time that I was scared of who I was after each child. And although I firmly believe in medication and that God created Prozac on the eighth day,  I could not function as a human.I knew that depression would swallow me if I chose to continue to grow our family through childbirth.

I remember the day I sold that white high chair in the corner. It went to a woman who loved to refurbish furniture. To make things new.

My truth, is that I grieve every moment when a friend or loved one is struggling with infertility or a miscarriage. The truth is, that I feel like I was so selfish to take that choice away from my family.

But I know this.

I know God uses everything. He opened my eyes to adoption, to safe families, to foster care and to taking in those around me. He shows me daily how I am that high chair. Chipped, tired, and covered with messes. But in His grace and mercy He is making me new. He is filling me with joy and wonderment. He is letting me heal and rest in in Him.

Where ever you are sweet one. Worn. Tired. Lonely. Grieving. Searching. Empty. Anxious. Fearful.

He is there.

He is binding Himself to you.

Making you new.

 

“Let us then approach God’s Throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Leggings & Superheroes – hills not to die on moms

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When I was younger. Much younger. Like I had a crush on Richard Marx younger, I shaved my head. Not my whole head cause that wouldn’t be cool. But only half of my head because apparently that was way cooler. I decided one day that I would feel better about myself if not only I had bleached blonde hair but I also willing took half of my hair away. Now don’t go thinking I went all crazy. I was conservative enough to only shave underneath all the bleach blonde Drew Barrymore hair. Yes, in my eyes I was fitting in. I was edgy. If I even knew what edgy was. Because when you grow up in Catholic schools it can be considered edgy if you hike your plaid skirt above the knees some days.

So when my second oldest decided that she wanted half of her gorgeous hair shaved off or when my youngest decided that he wanted The Flash symbol into the side of his head I said okay. But I didn’t say okay because I had done it before. Lord knows if I said okay to everything I did when I was younger I would basically be running a juvenile detention center. And since I don’t really look good in orange I do have some boundaries. Yet I have learned after being a mom for 17 years I choose to not die on every hill.

When I was a very young and new mom my girls dressed alike and always matched. They also always had brand new clothes. The staff at baby GAP knew me by name. I had retail issues. I admit it. I equated dressing perfectly with good parenting. I honestly thought when seeing other moms that this is what we did. We played dress up with our kids, went to story time, provided crafts for every moment, and made sure they only ate organic cookies. Well many years and children later I figured out that if I can just get them to brush their teeth a few times a week and actually change their underwear I am hitting it out of the park. I decided that I was not going to argue with a seven year old why she could not wear the same sweatpants every day. It was more important for me to connect than me to correct fashion choices. I decided that I was not going to live under the rule of Gymboree but by the peace in my home.

As my children have gotten older I have begun to hear that if I let my teenage daughters wear leggings then I am letting her look like a streetwalker. Um. Seriously? I am just wondering how we got from comfy leggings to streetwalker in the matter of one clothing change. This too is not a hill I am going to die on. My girls have extremely long legs and they are growing at rapid speed. Jeans are expensive. Jeans are uncomfortable for them. And let’s just face it leggings are so comfy. Yes they cover themselves and no I do not let them walk the streets. I have some standards. But I have chosen to not die on the hill of leggings.

I choose to die on the hill of character, and honesty, and strength, and family, and loyalty, and health, and laughter, and kindness, and empathy, and courage, and faith. I choose to die on hills that matter not hills that others think determine our worth.

I choose to decide to be a mom who cares about what is going on in my children’s hearts and souls. I choose to discover the reasoning behind their fashion and hair choices. I choose to be a mom of superheros and leggings.

 

Eggs and Rice- living the truth of who you are

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When I was younger I remember my mom making scrambled eggs and rice with cinnamon on it a few times a month. It was usually when my dad was late at work or out of town. At least that is what I told myself. Yet as I have gotten older and become a mom to five hungry mouths every night I realize that may have not been the truth. The truth of which I believed is not the truth at that dinner table. The truth was more likely that these items were all that was left in the cupboards by the end of the pay period. The truth was is that it was easy to make and quite filling for a table full of athletes. The truth was is that she may have been so exhausted from working third shift as a nurse, driving all of us to school, sleeping a few hours every day and then picking us all up from school and to our events later that this was the best she could do. The truth was is that we were excited when it was “eggs and rice night” because we thought it was a treat.

Lately I have had this memory in my head and continually poking at my heart. What is my eggs and rice? What is my truth?

When is the moment when we decide to live truth filled lives? To embrace and stand in who or what we are?

I can count many times that I was asked out for coffee or a meal with someone and the whole time there my stomach would be turning because I couldn’t afford to be there. I had no right to even except the invitation. I knew that I would have to make the last fifty dollars in our bank account last until the end of the week not knowing how that was going to happen. Yet I was more concerned about saying no and looking foolish then living the truth of where I was financially.

This is an issue that comes up many times for me. I have friends who are let’s say a “bit better off in their bank accounts” than we are. My pride seems to creep in when I see them asking how they should decorate their houses on Facebook when all I can think about it how we are ever going to pay the heating bill or put food on the table next week. Yet when I choose to live and claim my “eggs and rice” and am honest with God. He shows up. In countless stories of “this could only be God” in our lives.

My “eggs and rice” weaves its way into every area of my life. For example my kids conferences at school were not Facebook worthy. In fact they were hard. To sit across from the teacher trying to figure out how we can intervene and help my sweet girls. I left in tears and called my best friend feeling defeated. My truth is that my child is not perfect and will never measure up to yours. My “ eggs and rice “ is that my teenagers are hard. I mess up with them all the time. I have given them more reasons to go to therapy than not to. My truth is that marriage is more than I can handle most days. I like to be alone and hate to be touched. My truth is that I made the mistake of loving my friends more and better than my husband for years. My truth is that I have an ugly jealous heart that needs to apologize regularly for not leading with grace. My truth is that I feared my father more than God in my life. My truth is that I went for years not apologizing to my sister and lost so many moments of memories because of my justified self- righteous attitude. My truth is that asking for forgiveness is so hard for me. My truth is that my PTSD kept me in bondage of fears that I could never utter out loud. My truth is that I feel overwhelmed with my daughter’s future. My truth is that I have a difficult time forgiving myself for my past that plays in my head all the time. My truth is that I sometimes hide when my kids come home from school because it’s just so hard. My truth is that I live in fear of my eating disorder rearing its ugly head again. My truth is that I don’t talk about international adoption because of the horrible things that I saw. My truth is I grieve daily that I can’t have any more kids because of my post-partum depression.

My truth is that my “eggs and rice” are messy. Yet I know this. God can take my “eggs and rice” and weave them into something beautiful and redemptive. He always does.

Before you leave home- a letter to my daughter

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Before you leave…..

Sweet one you graduate in 19 months from high school. Although that means you are home for another year and half. It means you are only home for another year and half and this mama’s heart just needs to let you know some things.

I’ve had a check list of things I’ve wanted you to know before you left. Now while this list seem trivial to some I believe that they are important life skills to know.

-Mow a lawn because you will not make enough money to have someone mow your lawn when you leave this house. Also we never made enough money to have someone mow our lawn as educators. Plus it’s very therapeutic.

-Cook more than noodles. Well because you need to eat more than just carbs for the rest of your life. There is nothing like making someone’s belly happy with a great meal that you created with your own two hands.

-Clean the house. Again defer to the amount of money you will most likely make. And I really believe that if God allows to live in a home that you should count that as a blessing and treat it as such. I know I am not the best housekeeper but when my in-laws come I know how to clean it.

– Fail. I know this seems harsh but I don’t want you to do this for the first time when you are not with me. I want to be able to walk you through this. Life is not fair. And many times you are not going to understand why. I don’t. But when you fail, and you will, I want to be able to talk you through it and watch you try again and again.

-Tell the truth. To be honest this one is hard for me. I have struggled with this one my whole life. To be honest with who you are. What your past was. And who you are now. I want you to live a truthful life. A life that screams the reality of who you are and not who others need you to be.

-Clean the toilet. I am not trying to make you a Cinderella but for the love know how to clean up your own messes. And I am not ashamed that I have given this as one of your chores.

– Wash your clothes. You will shrink clothes. But I want you to learn it here and not on the first week you are married and your sweet husband now needs to fit into Barbie sized clothing because I never taught you the correct way to actually do laundry.

– Ask for help. Please. Do not try to get through life alone. Your dad and I should be in your top three people to ask for help. Know that we always will. We always will help and ask questions later. I don’t know what I would have done without my village. You will need a village of help and love.

– Forgive. It took me many years to figure this out. I hope the day you graduate, if not sooner you have learned to forgive. Forgive the friend that doesn’t act the way you think they should. Forgive your sibling that keeps “borrowing” your clothes. Forgive your parents. We did the best we could. If you hang on to the unforgiveness it is only hurting you. It is chaining you to expectations that will never be met. Grace sweet one. Pour out grace.

-Respect your elders. I see the opposite of this so much it hurts me. When kids and adults have no respect for those that are older or in authority. Those that teach you, go before you, are around you are there to protect and love you. Look closely and you can see little glimpses of who you are going to be. How you treat others is a direct window into what is inside your heart.

– Laugh at yourself and have friends that laugh with you. Have friends who think you are funny. I know you don’t think I am “Sarah Braverman” but my friends do and that is just fine with me. Laughing cleans out the hardness that likes to make its way into our hearts. Deep belly laughs frees the spirit to sour.

-Get a job, with a boss- I started working when I was 15. Because my parents said if I wanted extra things I needed to earn it. I also thought it would be cool to fry up burgers. (not so much) But I want you to earn your own money. I want you to answer to someone other than your parents. I want you to manage your own schedule and money. I think there is so much value in actually working outside of the home and not relying on gifts of money that you receive.

-Know Jesus. Really know Him. Look for Him everywhere. He is here. He is walking right beside you every day. And on days when it is so dark and so much evil clouds your vision He is fighting the battle to keep your heart. I want you to own your faith. To claim it as your own. Ask questions. Seek answers. I want you to stand firm in your own faith not ours. He needs to work redemption out for you and I need to let you experience it.

Sweet one, as I am writing this list I realize I could go on and on at the things I hope you have learned. I realize though all the things you have taught me. You have taught me to fight for those I love. You have taught me that I love you when I just show up. You have taught me that all you ever wanted was my time. You taught me that you are grateful that your dad and I fought to stay together even though I wanted out so many times. You have taught me that all God wanted for me was to return. You have taught me there is healing when I admit my wrongs. You have taught me that late night giggles are best if not interrupted. You have taught me that I made the best decision by never walking into that clinic seventeen years ago. You taught me that second chances are moments we need to be awake for. You have taught me that each day I have a chance to do better. You have taught me that family is more than blood.

Even if you have only learned one thing. Know this. You have been loved so deeply and fiercely wanted from the day I learned of your beating heart.

Now go change the world sweet baby girl…..

love you to the moon and back.

mom

Waking up separate- #FreedomFridays

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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.

It started like any other Monday. Waking groggy around 5:30 to my baby wanting to eat; it’s as if she knows when he leaves. To teach a spin class at a local gym, Scott leaves the house around 4:45 on those mornings. At about 7:15 he gets back home. At this point, the morning is in full swing with teeth brushing battles, breakfast table antics, or some sort of other ruckus that ensues when trying to get 3 children out of the house at a certain time. So, like every other week, it happened this way, only this day was not just any other Monday in my heart or in his.

This was the day that 8 years ago we said, “I do.”

We didn’t start this special day together. We woke up separate. So this morning when he walked in the door I was already guarded. I had distanced myself already. Without realizing it at the time, I had already started the story in my head. The story creates distance. I had expectations that weren’t being met. Scott walks in with Starbucks and flowers in hand and I have “cynicism” in my heart already. I had allowed the enemy entry and he convinced me the day could not be salvaged.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the enemy, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1Peter 5:8

Based on the morning antics with the kiddos, I wanted him to bring breakfast. I wished he hadn’t spent money on flowers. I was upset he spent extra time to get them and came home a bit later than usual. He brought me a drink from Starbucks, but it was wrong. All of this adding to the power of the story I was building up in my mind. The one the enemy was telling me as if it were true. Convincing me that all these things really mattered and were worth the distance I was creating. Darkness was saying, in my voice and with my thoughts, “you are not important” and “today is just going to be like any other day” and “there is nothing special about your anniversary.” In my mind it was equal to, there is nothing special about you.

The enemy, the one that comes to destroy and separate, was also reminding me of promises we had made years ago. We were going to be together on birthdays and anniversaries. That was Scott’s idea and now the enemy was reminding me of those words and pinning Scott as a liar. All of a sudden more came in my mind. We didn’t start the morning together and we won’t end the day together either. He was leaving that night for a work trip.

These things floated around in my mind and tangled themselves on each other creating a knot so twisted I feared they couldn’t be untangled. A knot can ravel itself so quickly, and so tightly before you even recognize it.

I could feel the anger swelling. I was aware of the cold shoulder I was offering. I had a choice. I could keep going this way towards heart separation. Or I could fight. Decide against the unfortunate comfort of anger. Or choose the uncomfortable untangling back to the truth. I realized what was happening.

I chose to fight.

I started to fight.

Thankfully, I trust the heart of my husband. I know he is not a liar. I started to tell myself TRUTH. Our intention was always to be together on birthdays and anniversaries. We had already had the hard conversation and agreed he needed to leave that evening. We BOTH decided that was best. Him being gone that morning was an oversight for both of us. An oversight our hearts BOTH felt. Not just my heart was craving the connection. The enemy wants to take this day and ruin it. He hates our marriage. He hates that we love each other so much. He hates that our marriage and our family is a priority. Of course he was after us. The more I thought about it; we had let him take over slowly the past couple of weeks.

One unplanned “yes” after another.

One last minute errand.

Yes to one more invitation.

Yes to afterhours meetings and emails.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

On our anniversary, God was showing us how we had left ourselves vulnerable. Unguarded to the thief.  Open for destruction. He was showing us clearly the distance each “yes” to others had created in our hearts. Each “one more email” and each “impulsive errand” was leaving our family, our marriage, and our hearts unprotected.

We start to do the uncomfortable untangling back to the truth. We took steps back towards each other with admissions of where we chose “other.” We came back to the “practice field” together. We are a team, preparing again for the battle.

In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:11

We remember we must protect our time. No one else will do that for us. We continue the practice of “stewardship of self” as Dr. David Benner says, in order to keep our family, our marriage and each heart protected.

These are the hard things to practice in a world that believes different. Expects different. That protecting our time is a practice in protecting our hearts. But now, in Truth, having one more battle under our belt we rise together. We rise stronger. Ready for another year.

If you have a story of freedom to share I would love to have you here. Every Friday I will be posting a story about personal freedoms and the fight it took to get there! Just email me at shelim9@gmail.com and I will share your truth…..sheli

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.