Obedience & Frustration

I love telling my story, it’s a story of rebellion, a modern-day prodigal daughter story. A girl feels the love of her Father, knows that all of his goodness is at her fingertips but can’t quite believe that great love for her. So she tests the waters and runs towards a Rebel Life, spending two years doing whatever she wants. At the end of two years, she is more empty than before and she runs back to her fathers arms, begging for forgiveness.

Often, when I have told my story, it’s met with sympathetic looks and comments of “But you can’t beat yourself up about that”, or “You know you’re forgiven, right?”.

I really do believe that I need to embrace all aspects of my story, the good the bad and the ugly, in order to truly see God’s work in it. When I admit my faults, my terrible decisions, my flaws, I can show people who I used to be and how much God has changed me. I can be a reflection of God’s relentless love and overflowing grace. When I admit how bad my story really became, I show people the power of God’s transformation.

Tears are a part of my story but they’re not tears of shame. They’re tears of acknowledgement. Tears of wonder. Tears of gratitude. God rescued me from the pit and brought me into the light. He gently showed me what I had done wrong and how I could correct it. He led me through the steps it would take to return to myself. And he’s given me strength to deal with the consequences that came with my sin.

As much as it frustrates me sometimes to follow what God is asking, I need to do it. I need to keep my heart soft to his voice and to obey his requests. He is my true love. The only one that knows my heart and it’s desires. He is who my soul craves intimacy with. He sees what has been and what is to come. Even if his direction isn’t something I want for myself right now, I need to remember that there is more to life than what I can see. God knows me and his direction for me is because he sees what the next phase of life will bring and he is preparing me for it.

I see life with God and life without him like a comparison between casual sex and deep intimacy. Life without God is like sex. It can be pleasurable, but there’s very little connection with just that act and it leaves you feeling less-than. Life with God is like intimacy, there’s no comparison to the heart to heart, soul to soul connection you feel when you’re involved in that type of relationship.

God desires to be close to us and sometimes, often actually, this takes some sacrifice. It means we need to trust his direction and allow him to take the lead. It might not make sense right now, but one day it will, and we will be grateful we were obedient.

My biggest fear is to be outside of God’s plan for me. I have felt the sadness, the unsettling feeling that it brings to have built up walls between my God and I and that is a place I never want to go again.

 

 

For Better & For Worse

Vegas is always a fun place to go, especially when you’re at your wits end in your marriage and just wanting to let off steam. I didn’t party though, I had gone there on a business training trip. On the last night one of the girls and I went out to see the sights.

A quick gander of the Cowboy Ugly saloon in New York New York lead to meeting a few random people and we explored with them for the rest of the night. One pub here, a restaurant there…little to no drinking on my part, but it was fun! Flirting, laughing, exploring…one of the guys in the group and I hit it off by the end of the night and he had asked me up to his room. As far as I remember, there was no physical contact between us, but that doesn’t mean the desire wasn’t there. In a setting like that, when your marriage is struggling, of course the desire is there. I said no to his offer even though I wanted to. I just knew that I couldn’t realistically act on that urge.

This was another sign to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If the temptation to cheat was so strong, eventually I would give in to it, and I couldn’t do that to my husband. I needed to leave before I hurt him like that. He needed someone to love him more than I did.

It’s so interesting to me that feelings like this and others I had felt in the past, were signs to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If I was struggling with these thoughts, I assumed that I didn’t love my husband enough and I shouldn’t be in my marriage…when in actuality, they were signs of the dysfunction of my own heart, and red flags of correction that I, personally, needed to make. They shouldn’t have been reasons for me to leave my husband, they should have been reasons I needed to be honest with myself and my husband and seek help.

These struggles weren’t abnormal, they were ones that many individuals go through. They aren’t a reason to divorce, they’re a reason to assess the situation. Maybe love isn’t being given and / or received so the individual is looking else where. Maybe connection isn’t being felt. Maybe there’s a spiritual imbalance which has lead to an unhealthy thought life.

None of these issues are impossible! They’re all able to be corrected with counseling, intentional changes within the marriage, corrections to thought processes…But of course, that would mean admitting to my own faults, humbly asking for help and working at applying the steps it would take to make a change.

Doing this is so difficult, admitting unhealthy behaviour or thoughts is a blow to the pride and ego. But leaving a marriage because of these issues doesn’t mean they stop. You still carry these issues into whatever life situation comes next.

Dealing with your own issues before ruining a marriage because of them is the healthier, albeit harder option. It saves a severing that takes years to recover from, if at all. It prevents a situation that God has said he hates. It allows two people to work on themselves and become better individuals and a healthier team. You’ll grow, you’ll learn and God will bless the efforts he sees you making to heal yourself and your covenant.

I truly believe that a bigger blessing is waiting for you on the other side of this struggle. The covenant we make in front of God on our wedding day is sacred, it’s an earthly and obvious reflection of God’s relationship with us. He will back the efforts we put into it and will show us his presence in ways we thought were impossible. We need to stubbornly push through the For Worse to reach the For Better.

Bonding

“But it’s different for me,” I responded “I’m divorced.”

This conversation was between my sister and I, but I had talked about this with multiple people.

Waiting for a second marriage to have sex didn’t count for me, I told myself. I had been married before and so my body and mind had already experienced it. Not only that, but I was closing in on my 30’s. Realistically, I wasn’t going to wait until marriage to have sex again and neither were the guys I would be dating.

Not only had I already experienced sex but, in my mind, because I had experienced it, it wasn’t as big of deal to continue.

What I was saying, without being conscious of it, was that sexual interactions were no longer precious.

Isn’t that how the world views sexual interactions? It’s a physical deed with little importance. I mean, yes, it marks an important moment in a relationship, but other than that it’s for physical pleasure. Sex, the world says, is to an individual what air is to a human. It’s a need, a necessity, and one we quickly take for granted.

Even though, scientifically, we are bonded to another human by having sex or even a more simplistic orgasmic experience because of the release of chemicals, the world shouts that the bond doesn’t matter. Or they don’t acknowledge it. It doesn’t affect us, the world says. It’s the physical act of sex that is appreciated, not the connection it creates.

I have learned about the bonding agent of sexual experiences the hard way. It’s taken broken hearts, STI’s, and lengthened heart-attachments. Embarrassment, shame and one night stands. As much as I wish I could go back, change it all and learn the easy way, I know that my personality needed these difficult moments to truly teach me the importance of sexual connection.

I’ve learned that sex is a bonding agent between two people. Yes, it’s (usually) a special moment, but it’s actually even more than that. It ties two individuals together. It makes you feel connected on a deeper level, even if the foundation of that connection isn’t established. It makes your heart yearn for the person you’ve shared this experience with after they’re long gone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a committed relationship or a casual one.

If all of these things happen with the act of sex, why are we flippant with one night stands? Why do we rush the sexual moments? Why do we not consider the importance and depth of this experience?

A while ago I decided to get to know someone without adding sex to the mix. For several weeks we just got to know each other, went for walks and hikes, watched movies and had great chats. Although he wasn’t wanting the relationship to stay at that level, he did respect my wishes.

When we decided to go our separate ways, I noticed that I was able to mentally move on from that relationship so much faster than any other in the past. I didn’t feel a lengthened attachment to him. I felt like our relationship had a healthy break instead of a strained one.

In the past the relationships that had included sex took so much longer to break from. My heart ached for those connections longer and hurt deeper.

I think that we need to not only see the act of sex but also the connection that is built because of sex, as important and precious. We need to acknowledge it, preach it, believe it. It’s so easy to tell our kids, or even adults that aren’t married yet, that sex should be saved for marriage. But when we tell them about the depth of connection that happens, it’s more than just saving these moments for marriage. It’s saving these bonds for our spouses, these in-depth emotional connections and feelings for someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with.

I am constantly reminding myself of this part of sex. It’s so easy to be brainwashed by the worlds definition of relationships and what should be part of dating. Sometimes it’s hard to remember why I’m trying to set myself apart in this way. But when I remember the hurt that I’ve been through before and how I felt linked to guys that I wanted to be separated from, it’s easier to hold back sexually.

Beyond that, when I think about the connection I want with my husband one day and the distance I want from men in my past, it’s easier to hold back sexually. Still a mental (and spiritual) process, but it’s easier to keep my sights on what is true.

Sex & God

I am totally fascinated by sexuality and the effects of sex on a human being. I’m taking a psychology course and I am completely enamoured with how the human mind works and specifically how sex changes us.

My goal with the course started with becoming a marriage and family counselor, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need to focus more on the sexual aspect of relationships. It’s what fires me up, puts me on the edge of my seat, makes my eyes light up and my words come out really. really. fast. There’s an obvious passion built into me about this topic and I believe that God has written my story in a way that allows me help others in this area.

It’s interesting looking back on my life and seeing myself progress in the sexual intimacy department. I used to be (probably still am…) the friend that would crack the “that’s what she said” jokes and make innocent comments sexual (it’s amazing what raising your eyebrows can do). From my friends point of view, my marriage sex-life must have been passionate and the sex itself, frequent. If I was so open about sexuality in our friend-group, of course I would be just as open about it when my husband and I were alone.

Not the case.

We had a good sex life, the sex we did have was enjoyable and frequent, but it took some convincing for me to want to participate.

When I heard on Sexy Marriage Radio that sex is a form of communication, it really made me assess my sex life. Dr. Corey Allan and Shannon Ethridge mentioned that the way you live out this part of your life is often the way you live out your day-to-day life.

If this is true, what did it mean for me?

In my marital sex life, I was very distrusting and on edge.

It took everything in me to believe that my husband wasn’t just using me.

I had to be convinced to relax and be vulnerable.

Big sigh.

All of these things could be translated into my life in general.

In friendships I held emotional connection back, creating walls, until I saw that it was safe to let my heart participate. People around me may not have seen the hesitation, but inside, my mind was telling me I shouldn’t trust.

In my day-to-day, my first thought was that people were using me or going to hurt me, and it took a mental game to convince myself that they genuinely wanted a friendship.

I often had to be coerced to do something out of my comfort zone and even when I did participate it took a while for me to relax and enjoy myself. In the meantime a bad attitude and an edgy-ness was obvious (both defense mechanisms).

The way I lived out my marital sex life was absolutely a direct reflection of how I lived out my every day.

Now, what do I do with this knowledge?

Knowledge is power.

I consider how I have changed through the last few years, and how my sex-life has gone from one extreme to another only to settle into what I believe God has called me to. How does this reflect my life and how I communicate myself to others?

Is this even important? To consider how our sex lives are a reflection of other parts of us? I think it is. Sex was given to us by God, built into our humanity. It’s a drive for each of us. It’s important to acknowledge it and it gives us insight to other aspects of our lives.

Even if it’s just helping us see ourselves in a new light, that is important.

So looking at my current sex life (or lack thereof), I can see how I have changed. How I have matured. How God is working and molding me. Leading me in His direction and not my own.

I see the forgiveness I’ve received. The softness of my heart. The grace. The patience. When I look at my sexual journey, strange as it may seem, I see God and His work in my life.

 

 

 

Secrets

I was reminded today, in a completely unexpected way, of a part of my story. A little forewarning, this is a sensitive subject.

When I was little, and until my mid teens, I had a very disturbing reoccurring dream. I didn’t tell anyone about it, I was ashamed, I felt gross and I was completely embarrassed. I would pray, beg, for this dream to stop, but for years it would roll through my sleeping hours.

Finally, close to my 20’s, the dream seemed to go away. Even so, I was left with the emotional damage. The feelings of shame, inadequacy, filth, failure and helplessness. I remember having intense emotional breakdowns, feeling overwhelmed with pain and inner struggle.

The scariest thing about these dreams was that I was sure who the perpetrator was. Not only this but I was becoming more and more confident that these dreams were images of acts that had been committed against me as a child.

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was married at the age of 22. Even though this pain that the dreams had left me with was still so present, I was certain that if I ignored it, it would go away. I believed that I was dealing with it myself and that my husband didn’t need to know. It would have been to hard for me to share the details with him, and I didn’t see the point of intentionally bringing that hurt into our marriage. The symptoms would disappear eventually. Right?

Fast-forward four point five years later and our marriage had hit a rough spot. I was drained and borderline depressed, barely having the strength to get out of bed or off the couch, let alone put energy into our relationship. But my husband wouldn’t accept that and he forced me / us to go to counseling. He is a good man.

Counseling was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I was shaking uncontrollably the entire two hour drive to the counseling session. I didn’t want to go and I hated my husband for making me. I couldn’t even look at him. I was positive that the counselor was going to tell me what a bad Christian wife I was being.

But it wasn’t like that. This session was the first of several we would go to and it did help me get a little closer to healing.

During the session the counselor used EMDR Therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. A simplistic description of this therapy is that you follow the therapists hand movements with your eyes. Sometimes the client will loose sight of the fingers, showing that there is a blind spot in that area. Since humans process most memories visually, these blind spots are signs of repressed memories.

When the counselor hit a blind spot of mine, my body fell off balance and I struggled to stand upright. She asked what thoughts had come to mind in that moment and I lied and said that nothing had. But it was the memories of these dreams that had resurfaced. I quickly looked at my husband and knew I couldn’t bring them up. Once again, I believed the lie that acknowledging them would be pointless and that I was dealing with them on my own.

I know now that if I had been honest and brought up what had come to mind during the EMDR treatment, my story would be very different. I would not doubt that it would have saved my marriage. But instead, I decided to struggle with my secret on my own, thinking that everything would work out just fine.

I couldn’t see that this secret, although so far in the past, was affecting everything about myself and my marriage. It affected my confidence and body image, my view of men, my sexual experiences and view of these moments, the way I accepted affection and love…and that’s just a couple things that come to mind.

Secrets slowly seep into your life and darken everything.

Secrets kill. They are a deadly rust that spreads throughout relationships, slowly crumbling the foundation until it all topples over.

I refuse to feel guilt and shame from my past. I will acknowledge the wrong and move forward with those lessons. But I will fight the lies that Satan would love to tie me down with. I will share my story in order to help others in their walks, knowing that God has given me this plot for a reason. There is a purpose to my path and I believe that is to give glory to his name and to help those struggling around me.

So my offering of help today is this: Are you keeping a secret? Is there something you think that you’re dealing with on your own?

It might be hard, you might be shaking the entire time you do it, but share your secret with someone. Help them carry this burden. Ask for guidance or just spill the beans. Go to someone wise, loving and full of grace.

And friends, if you’re the one helping to share the burden, be gentle. Guide with truth and bring God into this conversation. Pray, listen, and remember that words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being a sounding board. Have the wherewithal to suggest therapy if needed, or hold your friends hand all the way to the pastors office if you have to. But most of all, be open and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Sharing secrets is painful but that pain will pass. It doesn’t feel like it, I understand that. But please believe me when I say, dealing with secrets is so much better than hiding them.

 

 

 

 

Position

Continue to put yourself in a position where you can watch God do something through you or around you that blows your mind.

– Lisa Whittle

I was married before. Have I told you that? Girl, I’m going to tell you that every chance I have.

I was 22 when I married, just a baby, and at that point I just assumed that life happened and you went along with the flow. You tried, you put in some effort, but if something wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. Either you were successful or you weren’t. Either you were happy or you weren’t. At the time I wasn’t conscious of this type of thinking. Hindsight is 20/20.

So I left this marriage. I ran, sprinted, away from the Lord and my husband. I lived how I wanted to live and did what I wanted to do. At the end of two years of living this way, I was exhausted. I was empty, confused, and completely exhausted.

I truly believe that God allows us to go down the wrong road in order to show us that everything we thought we wanted wasn’t at all what we needed.

When I left my marriage, I had a list of things I was searching for. A physical list. And at the end of two Rebel Years of achieving this list, I realized that none of it mattered. Not one of those items filled my soul.

When I finally stopped running, I looked at God, who had been walking patiently beside me the whole time. This gentle, Loving Giant had watched all my sin and all my wrong turns and had allowed me to mess up. He had tolerated me calling the shots and watched as I realized the results didn’t lead to the fulfillment or success I thought they would. When I finally looked at him and asked “Lord, what do you want? What do I do?” he was there. Ready with another list, one would fill my soul.

God had allowed me to get to brokenness in order to make me a willing participant in his plan for my life. 

I was now eager to follow his commands. Whatever he wanted, I was willing to do. Because I had run so far from him and seen the emptiness of chasing after my own unsuccessful definition of happiness, I was willing to do whatever he asked me, knowing that it would lead to more fulfillment than I had found so far.

I know that putting yourself in a position to see God work can be hard.

Sometimes we are scared of what it will mean. How hard will he actually allow it to get? What will change because of these prayers? How far out of my comfort zone will I have to go?

Praying these prayers can be difficult, challenging, angering…I have felt all of these emotions while I pray to be put in a place to see God work. Even after God has brought me so far, often because God has brought me so far, I struggle to pray those words.

I’ve often prayed these prayers even when I’m not feeling able to surrender, because I know that being in a place of surrender is the best place for my soul.

I have lived a life where my own plan fell flat. Where all I wanted was nothing that satisfied. Because of that lesson being so painfully etched into my heart, I am willing to go through whatever God wants for me, knowing that will ultimately lead to a fullness and wholeness that nothing else can compare to.

The trials are worth it, the discomfort is worth it, the brokenness is worth it. It will all lead to what we were built to crave: intimacy with our saviour. Enter heart emoji here. Continue to put yourself in a position where you see God Work. Continue to push through the fear and doubt and trust that he’s asking you to do this for a reason. He’s got this.

 

Am I Alone?

Nothing can prepare you for the reality of marriage. People try. There’s books, advice, seminars, counseling…but nothing can truly prepare you for the depth of what you’re about to immerse yourself in. Much like childbirth. There’s only so many words to explain the experience and nothing can come close to just experiencing it.

Marriage. Childbirth. Divorce. Three major life experiences that you cannot prepare yourself for. You can try, and that is applauded, but unless you experience it, you cannot fully describe it or help someone to prepare for it.

I thought that divorce was just a separation of two people. Splitting the household items, going on with life without the person I used to call Husband. Media taught me that it was relatively easy. The first stage would be painful, the movies said, but happiness and completeness would come in time. I would find my lobster, Friends told me. My Noah was out there, The Notebook said.

At first, I believed it. I was ‘happy’, I was finally being my true self, I was doing what I wanted to do and wasn’t held back.

But the longer I lived in this Divorce Stage, the more I struggled to believe this was true. I tried online dating, I tried partying, I tried casual sex, I tried committed relationships, I tried not dating.

The movies, the songs, don’t prepare you for the soul connection that Divorce leaves you with. That attachment you can’t shake. That piece of you that you attempted to terminate and leaves you with a gaping hole. They tell you that it will go away, but I’m not convinced that it ever does.

Don’t think that I feel hopeless, depressed or lonely. I am a happy, healthy, well-rounded 30-something woman who is pursuing a relationship with the Lord, a career and meaningful friendships and tons of fun adventures in-between. But because of my divorce, I do believe that a part of me will always remain empty. When I left my marriage I purposely, although unknowingly, gave myself and my husband a marital-amputation that would leave me with phantom pains.

And this is what I’m wanting to focus on at KJS Online. Marriage relationships, life after divorce, sex and intimacy, the feelings / consequences of divorce, are some topics on my heart.

I hope that you’ll enjoy the learning journey I’m on and that you find it encouraging, interesting and hopefully somewhat funny. I don’t believe that I am alone in my feelings of life after divorce, so many of us are struggling with the How-To’s  and What-Now’s of this life stage. I hope that we can come together, share, cry, laugh and spur each other on towards more fulfillment as we try to figure it all out.