Staying in my Lane

I was reminded of a clip from the 1987 Blockbuster – Baby Boom as I wrote this post. In the movie, Diane Keaton plays this high-powered corporate executive in New York City. She happens to inherit a baby girl from a distant cousin and I remember at one point in the movie – she is trying to keep up with the other women power walking to work.

As I recall, for a moment, she tries to keep up with the other high-powered exec’s but then realizes – she can’t do it anymore. So she slows down and this look of resignation comes over her.

It’s crazy that I remember that clip so well from a movie that I watched when I was just a kid. Maybe because I find time and again that I’m that woman. Trying to keep up, to be the same, and then realizing I just can’t.

Case in point, I’ve been on the treadmill lately. Running around like a crazy mama to sports practices and games like no. body’s. biz. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that we have 11 sports practices and 10 games this week ALONE. And my 2nd half is headed out of town. Oh my.

With the marathon that has been my life over the last 6-7 weeks, I have slowly started to slip away from some of the habits that continually keep me grounded. Namely spending time reading my Bible (being connected to God), journaling (being connected to myself), and working toward staying connected emotionally to Jason (being connected with others).

This fraying of the cord that anchors me has started to infiltrate other areas of life. I have started to feel pressure “to be the same”. To do whatever it takes to “fit in”. The problem is – fitting in changes with every situation.

I’ve also started to get super caught up in what other people (both near and far) are doing with their time (I hate social media in this way) while I have just gotten more and more frustrated and disappointed with how much I am NOT doing. Discontent is the word that comes to mind.

And this, my friends, is NOT how I want to live.

So on Sunday night – after a day of feeling pretty much anxious and powerless – I took some steps in the right direction. I ran a couple of errands to better help me be ready for the week (self care people). I wrote Jason a note and left it by his keys. I dusted off my Bible on Monday morning and picked up where I left off months ago.

Then yesterday, while I was prepping for this talk – I picked up this book that I read a couple of years ago – and flipped to a page speaking to what I have been struggling with. He mentions differentiation and this is what he says:

Differentiation involves the ability to hold on to who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinct values and goals apart from the pressures around you while remaining close to the people important to you helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation… can choose… how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others.

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality p 82

Ironically – out in the margin, written in my hand writing from 2017 – it says “I think I have some work to do.” (You don’t say!)

This, my friends, was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. I need to get in my own lane and stay there for a while. I need to get super clear with God on what my next steps look like. I need to go back to my values and what makes me unique. I need to think boundaries and seeing myself apart from others while also being connected to God, self and others. I’m not running someone else’s race. I’m running my own race and God hasn’t forgotten about me.

Here is the deal – I know I’m not alone in looking at others, seeing what all they are doing or not doing and wondering – what went wrong. {Heck, I was texting with a sweet soul yesterday and we were talking about what we thought this season would look like versus what it actually looks like. I told her – and I’m serious – I thought by now I’d have another book in the world (um, not happening), I’d have a well-thought-out designed home (bahaha), and I’d have time to take a shower and wash my hair on a daily basis (for the love). She as well was sharing where she expected to be by now, but wasn’t.}

We all have big plans. And for a lot of us – those plans went into the porta-potty when life blew up before our eyes. (And for some of us, we had big plans and then we had a baby.)

Either way – know that God hasn’t forgotten about you. Know that if you are in a season of barely keeping up, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted from recovery and from life – He is doing a good work in you and through you even in the wait.

Let’s stay in our lanes. Let’s be ourselves, be different. Let’s encourage one another, support one another and cheer each other on. And let’s take a lot of pit stops – preferably with comfy restrooms and not porta-potty’s.

On the journey with you – Shelley

On forgiveness – a letter to my younger self

Of all the hoops and hurdles that we, as the betrayed, must face head on – forgiveness is probably one of the more challenging and weighted parts of the process.

Early on in my marriage with Jason, he opened the door into his secret world, told me a couple of things and then shut and locked the door tight.

My solution? Forgiveness.

I believed that if I could just forgive Jason and move on – the marriage would heal and we could live our happily ever after.

Obviously – I was wrong. And as the weeds of bitterness started to grow in my heartI realized that forgiveness was not quick, was not easy and was not simple as I had always thought. Nor would forgiveness magically heal my marriage.

Oh the power I gave forgiveness.

To be clear – forgiveness IS powerful. And it works. But it doesn’t take away pain and grief nor is it the sole silver bullet we can use to heal our marriages.

I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness over the last 16 years, not only from my own personal experience but also while walking alongside others that are working the process. For that – I am grateful.

Below is a letter written to my younger self in regards to forgiveness. These are the things I wish I could have told myself back then.

Dear Me – I know you want to do the right thing and forgive Jason quickly – isn’t that what any noble and good Christian wife would choose? I know you want to push the pain down and not have to grieve. I know you want to move on from this nightmare and pretend like none of this ever happened.

To you, forgiveness would take all of this away. You could forgive Jason (for what exactly, you’re not sure) and then you could move on. Just skip over this mess that has become your life.

Please hear me say – this quick and easy forgiveness isn’t the way to go. If you are using forgiveness to circumvent the grieving process and to push it all under the rug – don’t do it.

Listen. Look in my eyes. Hear me say – forgiveness WILL come. You don’t need to panic. God equipped you with His power to do the forgiveness work. But first, you must sit in the pain. You must feel the feels. That in and of itself is a big part of the forgiveness journey – being true to how you feel and sitting in it.

You will hear people say – “you just need to forgive him” and it’s going to make you feel dumb. But you aren’t dumb. Forgiveness is for you and it’s a gift from God. He will help you get there.

The road will be slow for you. And it will be messy. You won’t fully understand how forgiveness works when you are ready to take that leap of faith. You will have your doubts. But God will make it really really clear when the time comes to take that leap of faith. Your job is to trust in Him.

And as you press into your big yes of forgiveness, you will experience a Kairos moment – where heaven and earth collide. Forgiveness will be an act of worship, an act of obedience, as you intentionally let Jason out of the prison cell of your heart.

Try not to panic when you wake up a couple of days later after your big yes and you feel resentment…again. It’s not that you didn’t do it right. It’s just that forgiveness is a process. You will continue to go back to that holy ground and forgive again and again and again (not for repeated offenses but for all the past offenses).

Forgiveness will draw you closer to God. It will humble you. It will remind you that you need Jesus.

In the end, you will have a new found respect for forgiveness. You will see how it has worked in your life – how it has set you free. You will also see that it takes sitting in the pain and grieving. You will see that it doesn’t mean the pain is gone or that the relationship has been restored. You will see that it’s mysterious and something that can’t be accomplished by human hearts alone.

So go now. Grieve. Get comfy in it. Cry a river of tears. And be at peace that it will happen in due time.

Love, me

Will you Join me?

I am so looking forward to the Hope Rising Conference in Austin, TX on October 12th. You can click here for more information and to register for the conference.

On Belonging

Back in May, I did a number on myself by over-committing primarily at my boys’ schools. Summer came and I needed a break from civilization. I checked in with myself toward the end of June and nope, I still felt like I needed a break. So I plodded along, keeping to myself (well, let’s be honest – keeping to myself + Jason + my boys + my work + well, you know…)

Fast forward to August and my balance was off once again, but in the other direction. I felt alone and lonely. I was reminded of the sacredness of having a place to belong. I was reminded of the fact that it’s HARD for me to belong – I have some serious roadblocks to getting there (see below). I was reminded that belonging is a value of mine and one that is important for me to nourish.

I started to wonder – who feels like they belong? Who feels like they have people in their corner that they can count on? The ones that will pitch a tent and keep it warm inside, the ones that will see us and hear us and do life with us? Isn’t that something we all yearn for? And yet, it seems so few of us truly have that.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Roadblocks to Belonging

Before we can make progress toward belonging, I think it’s important to identify what holds us back. This might look different for each of us – maybe it’s the pain of betrayal that holds you back – not wanting others to know what is really going on behind closed doors. Maybe it’s shame from past experiences that hold you back – thinking it’s safest to keep them all tucked inside. Maybe it’s fear of rejection. Maybe it’s the pace of your life and all the things you are working to accomplish. All valid reasons for not being able to fully press in to relationships and belong.

I’d say for me, while this list changes, depending on the season, there tend to be two things that consistently hold me back from belonging. One of those things happens to be the limits I have on my emotional bandwidth. Between raising these sweet littles (turning into bigs), running a ministry that helps those that are hurting, and trying to keep my marriage to Jason a priority – my tank tends to run low.

Second, and probably more of a problem, is this fear that I won’t be accepted if people really really knew what I was like – aka – a fear of rejection. While I realize we live in a culture of covering up and while I realize the importance of taking off masks (I preach on this) – I STILL struggle with this.

It’s like there is that little girl, still inside me, that so badly wants to be liked. No. matter. the. cost.

Unfortunately – that cost is high and not worth it.

I have been very very aware over the last month of how I have been tempted to be who I think people want me to be, versus firmly grounding myself in ME. I’ve had several fails where I have walked away and realized – I have some work to do.

And – the good news – I have also had a couple of successes. Where I have walked into a situation or experience (I can count two recent times) and I committed to myself to be me. No matter the cost. It was hard and scary and freeing.

What about for you? What do you see as the things that hold you back from belonging?

The Key to Belonging

What I have realized as I look back on these experiences – is first, I have to belong to myself. What I mean by this is – I have to truly accept myself – my quirks, my differences, my opinions, my fears, the things I love, the things I hate. All of me (hmmm…this is beginning to sound like a mix of boundary work + self care) or as much of me as I know – has to be acknowledged and accepted – in order for me to belong to myself.

As we begin to accept ourselves and find belonging from within – we are then able to show the true and real version of ourselves to others. And when we share the real and true with others – this my friends is when we will start to experience belonging.

So Who are You?

There is something about the death of a marriage that forces one to figure out who they really are. We are all handed this {opportunity} as we face the heartache of betrayal. It’s been a big part of my journey and a big part of what I do as I walk with women via groups and one on one.

And it’s also super scary to dig into who we really are. The pain of betrayal can in the short-term cause us to fit more tightly into our masks and what we *think* we need to look like, act like, be like. If you resonate with this – know that it’s a big part of the the healing process. We don’t want to be hurt again – so no wonder we self-protect with the masks.

The masks we wear, however, lead to isolation, loneliness and death at a soul level.

Below are some simple suggestions for getting to know you. Think of this as gently peeking out from under the mask.

You can look in the Rescued workbook in Chapter 3 and start to explore the things that fill you up and the things that deplete you. You can also start to explore your healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Both of these things are simple ways to start to get to know yourself better and what makes you unique.

I love the Enneagram and here is an inexpensive test (click on the RHETO) you can take that will help you figure out your type. I also like this book and this book which will help you explore the Enneagram even more.

Know that if you struggle to accept yourself, to know who you really are, to belong – you aren’t alone. I am on this journey with you and I’m figuring it out, too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

What I’m learning these days about forgiveness

On Sunday evening, Jason was sharing his heart with me. He was talking about a recent hurt and all the feelings it brought up when he saw this person that had hurt him. Listening to him opened up some wounds that I thought were fairly healed and even while I was on my run this morning, I recognized the bitter weeds taking up space in my heart.

After rolling my eyes and thinking – this is unbelievable that I’m here again – does the pain ever go away?! I said to myself – I have forgiven (this person) and I will forgive again.

Forgiveness is one of the most mysterious, most fascinating, most gut-wrenching and also freeing experiences I’ve ever endured. (Can I get an Amen?!)

I have to confess that I didn’t have much experience in the forgiveness arena until life blew up some 16 years ago. I really thought back then that forgiveness was what we used, as Christians, to circumvent the healing process and to move forward and not look back. In essence, I adhered to the “forgive and forget” mentality.

While I look back and am in some ways horrified by what I once believed, I’m equally as horrified that this notion – of forgiving and moving on – is still what a lot of folks adhere to. For real – it is 2019. Back in the early 2000’s – maybe we didn’t know any better but today?! Come on!

I wrote a post on myths about forgiveness for Focus on the Family last summer that you can look at here. Since then, God has given me more opportunities to work on forgiveness – enter: my convo with Jason on Sunday evening + this morning’s run. I am grateful for the school-of-hard-knocks-forgiveness-training that I went through with J and all that I have learned. And yet, I find that it is still hard work.

If you are reading this and grappling with forgiveness with the one that betrayed you, or maybe with someone else in your life – I first want you to know that I see you. This forgiveness work is tough stuff for most. I’m on the journey with you and I get it. I hope my recent findings are a source of comfort and strength for you as you keep plowing ahead.

#1 – Recognizing that sometimes when I need to forgive (again) for things I have already forgiven – it also means there is more grief work to do

Ladies – I am oftentimes shocked at how much grief is inside of me. I’m a feeler, this is true. And – I am also beginning to truly appreciate that grief might just take a life time.

Before you start to get truly petrified by my last statement – let me just say that I believe grieving evolves overtime. Early on, grief is all-encompassing, right under the surface, and it feels like it just might take us down for good. However, if we do good grief work early on in our processes – it starts to become more manageable, more contained. Not all the time contained, but more often than not. Then the time comes when we feel like – yep, we have grieved all we needed to.

And yet, what I have found is there are still pockets of grief that I haven’t worked through. I don’t realize this until I move through life and encounter new experiences – some of which force me to grieve something in a whole new way. (Case in point, my conversation with Jason on Sunday evening and how what he experienced and the hurt he was feeling caused me to see that yes, I still had some hurt to work through as well.)

So what I am working on in real time, today, is giving myself space and grace to recognize that when I start to feel hurt over something from the past – it means there is a pocket of grief that needs to be tended to. Instead of giving myself a hard time for needing to forgive again, I am working on giving myself space to grieve. In other words, even after all the grief and forgiveness work I’ve done in this particular situation, I am allowing myself to grieve and forgive a little more. And I’m expecting it to be much speedier!

#2 – Jesus commands us to forgive and while I used to think this was really bad news, I now see it as good news.

I read an article a while back that talked about how forgiveness is an imperative. It’s a commandment to forgive others.

I have to admit – I have never liked this. I don’t like being told what to do and especially when it comes to something as downright difficult as forgiveness!

But the article also stated that if Jesus tells us we must forgive others – that means he has given us the ability to do so! In addition, there are no time constraints given to us about forgiveness work.

This is good news – we can do it and we can take our time.

#3 – Forgiveness work cultivates a posture of humility

I have to tell you that almost nothing draws me closer to God than recognizing my need to forgive. I go through life feeling like I’ve got a handle on things and then wham – out of nowhere – I start to sense the bitterness and resentment and it takes me to my knees.

And that’s what humility is all about. Literally it means to bend the knee or to be lowly. When I realize my need to forgive another – I realize that I can’t do it without God’s mighty hand. I can come with a willing heart (and a lot of resistance) but his supernatural power must intercede on my behalf and make the impossible something truly possible.

Ladies, freedom awaits you on your journey toward forgiveness. Take your time, grieve as much as you can, know that you are capable and also remember that it will draw you closer to God.

xo – Shelley

Restore Workshop – won’t you join me?

Ladies – I want to personally invite each of you to join me at the next Restore workshop. It’s less than two weeks away in Dallas, TX and I am so so excited to come sit with each of you that is attending and talk you through the highs and the lows of this journey!

It’s important to remember that this workshop is not only an excellent way to gain support, which I believe is one of the most critical components for success when it comes to recovering from betrayal. But it’s also a place to learn and grow. You will leave with tools and hand-holds to help you as you move forward in your journey. And you will also leave a different person than who you were when you arrived.

Restore is an experience and the ladies that lead the break-out groups are phenomenal at what they do.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions. Would so love to see you there.

xo – Shelley

A letter to you, dear brave woman.

Last week, I received a voicemail from a friend that I initially met here on the blog. She later joined an RLFW support group and is now in a place where she is helping women at her local church. She was preparing a letter to women in her community that reach out asking for support. She wanted to know from me – what are the 2 or 3 things that I think might be valuable for women to hear when they reach out for help.

It got me to thinking about all the things I would want a hurting woman to know after she realizes her world won’t quite ever be the same – the moment she realizes that her husband has betrayed her. I wish I could meet for coffee with each of you. To sit across from you and tell you these things…

Dear Brave Woman –

I know your heart is hurting. Chances are, it’s the most painful thing you’ve experienced to date. Your husband wasn’t who you thought he was. You chose someone that you were convinced would protect you. Someone that only had eyes for you. And now you are faced with the truth that he has betrayed you.

There are a several things you must know as you move forward on your journey. First – please know that you didn’t do anything to cause this to happen. Chances are, your husband has blamed you. Possibly in subtle ways and possibly in more explicit ways. It might be that he told you he wished you’d have more sex or different sex with him. Or maybe he complained about how you dressed or wore your hair – all under the guise of – “I’m not attracted to you anymore.” All these hurtful things, chances are, were said well before you even became privy to his problem.

And if your husband hasn’t pointed the finger, well then, it doesn’t help that our culture points the finger on the woman that has been betrayed. Your friends might even make comments about random women on TV or in real life that go through the heartbreak of infidelity and say {stupid} things like – “no wonder he cheated on her, given the way she treats him…”. This is so incredibly hurtful, damaging and inaccurate.

Trust me when I say this – betrayal has no proclivity to one woman over another. Women of all backgrounds, shapes, sizes, colors, statures (the list goes on and on) are affected by betrayal. Fill in the blank – if only I had _________ or __________ this wouldn’t have happened. Well, let me tell you – it’s not true. Even if you had __________ or _________; it wouldn’t have prevented this from happening to you.

Your husbands choices were just that – his choices. And those choices were informed by the wounds from his childhood. They were informed by his inability to be intimate with others and his choice to cope in an unhealthy way that ultimately hurt you.

Please don’t change who you are, how God created you, knit you together in your mother’s womb because of his choices. It’s so easy to want to fix it this way but learn from my mistakes – it won’t fix a thing.

Second – There is a lot (I mean a LOT) of grieving work to do. This might be your first shot at grieving or maybe you’ve had experience in this area. For myself, it was my first big shot. I want to encourage you to buckle up and get ready for the ride. It’s intense. It’s crazy. It’s unsettling. Some women find they don’t want to go to the deep dark places (I can’t blame them) and they hope to get through it as quickly as possible. Others deny it and skip over it all together. It’s been my experience that while we can try to bury our grief – it won’t ever completely go away until we work through it. But how? Well, similar to how you’d eat an elephant – it’s one bite at a time.

Not only can it feel insurmountable and like the most daunting of tasks, but it’s also difficult to grieve if your husband isn’t capable of giving you the empathy and compassion that you need (this is very common early on in the process because he hasn’t had a chance to do his work yet). One of the most painful things I’ve seen in my work with women is when she has to carry the grief alone. It’s antithetical to how we grieve best – which is in the presence of others. So if he won’t create space for your grief, find a trusted girlfriend or group that will. And be clear about what you need – you need someone to sit in the pain with you. To listen and not fix. To encourage you and pray for you.

It would also be nice if we had a road map for the grief. You know what I mean – an A to Z process for how to get over it in a timely manner (pretty please) and only at convenient times (NOT when my children need me or when I’m giving a presentation at work). You know, we could check boxes and see our progress as we move forward?!

I hate to burst your bubble but this is not how it goes. Grief is unpredictable, it ebbs and flows, it takes us by surprise and then when we are ready and willing to grieve – it won’t join us.

“Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable…”

– Josephine Barry (Diana Barry’s great aunt in Anne with an E)

When the grief did wash over me in those early days, I feared it would take me out. What I didn’t realize is this: the cleansing work of deep grief is actually just what I needed to breathe lighter and easier. Going to the dark places moved me closer to healing. I couldn’t check a box or see some great improvement week to week; but when I looked back over the months – I saw that the work was paying off.

So give yourself permission to grieve. Find someone that will hold you in your pain (a girlfriend, mentor, therapist, coach or husband, if he is capable) and know that it’s the most unpredictable thing ever.

Third – Self Care. And I don’t mean the things you think you ought to do but don’t want to do. I’m talking about the things that will help you survive this season that actually bring you a sliver of joy. For those of us that are energetic, it could be a run or a walk in nature. For those of us that get energy from tidiness, it could be organizing a closet. And for those of us that yearn for comfort, it might be sitting on the couch with a cozy blanket and watching a NetFlix show.

I can’t emphasize this enough – finding those couple of things to help you get through the day. Every day. Your life is dependent on it.

Much love – Shelley

Image #1 – Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Image #2 – Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

Image #3 – Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

Happy Weekend! Happy Summer!

Hello All! It’s official – today marks the first day of summer break. 11 glorious weeks where I won’t be rushing my boys off to school, packing lunches, and asking what homework they have when they get home.

I approach summer with just as much fear as I do relief. I have three high-energy boys. Need I say more?

I do feel a certain amount of hope as well – I have been thinking about my summer goals (which cracks me up because I know full well I will accomplish about 2 things on my list of 20). My biggest goal is to cut out some of the NOISE in my life. Scrolling through the apple news feed (time to take a break from the depressing stories), unsubscribing to the overwhelming flurry of marketing emails I get in my inbox, decluttering my boys’ tiny closets, etc. Yes – I think this is the summer where I am going to focus on reducing the noise and increasing the white space.

And with that time? I want to read a couple of good books, see the whites of my children’s eyes, work on a couple of house projects, bike to sweet cow for ice cream, and lounge at the pool, do a couple of craft days, lemonade stands… (I know, I know, the list is long). It’s going to be good (or it’s going to be a complete nightmare – I don’t know quite yet!).

I wanted to send a link to a podcast that both Jason and I were on recently. The podcast is called Whine Down with Jana Kramer. We loved being on her show.

xo – Shelley

Raising Boys of Integrity – but first, my mistakes…

As the days start to warm up (although right now it’s literally snowing outside my window) – Jason and I love to take a brisk walk after dinner. The boys usually ride their bikes or scooters and off we go around the ‘hood. I know it sounds lovely but if I’m fully transparent – we’ve started to wonder why we even try. The boys usually cry because they don’t get a choice in the matter and then they argue with us about their mode of transportation. “Mom, we will just walk with you.” {Um, no honey, ride your bike so that I an talk to dad and also so I don’t have to carry you after about about 2 blocks!} I guess we really do love something about the walks because it never fails that there is some sort of a fight in making it happen.

A couple of weeks ago, we were winding up our walk and I shared some frustrations I was feeling toward Jason. In my heart, I really thought that being honest with him would be helpful. Whether I didn’t choose my words wisely or whether he simply wasn’t in a place to receive them – let me just tell you – it didn’t go well.

Things started to escalate and by the time we walked in the door, I told Jason that I had regretted even bringing it up. He then responded to that in a not-so-kind way and it sent me over. the. edge.

Weyal. I turned around, yelled at him in front of the boys, and told him – he was being an @$%. I marched to the back of the house – trying to get as far away from everyone as possible as the guilt and shame started to set in. I wanted to just be alone but I heard Jason’s footsteps coming down the hall. Did I want to talk to him? Absolutely not. So I told him don’t even come close. {I can be feisty.}

Jason left me alone and I was left wondering what just happened and what I should do. My boys witnessed me yelling at Jason – which isn’t the very end of the world – I don’t want my boys to think that marriage is all Carebears and rainbows. But I knew what I said was wrong and how I reacted was wrong. There would need to be some repair work with each of them.

My shame told me to hide and not come out. Don’t make eye contact and just tuck this far far away. I’m a mistake and a worthless mom and wife.

My heart, on the other hand, told me that we all make mistakes and I’m not the sum total of them. And that even this could be used as a teaching moment for my boys.

I dusted myself off and was able to apologize to Jason for my behavior later that evening. And over the next couple of days, I sat down with each of my boys and asked them how my outburst made them feel. One of my boys cried immediately when I asked him {he might be my sensitive one!} and he said it made him sad. Sadness was a word all three of them expressed. Another common feeling they shared – scared. {Ouch.}

After validating how each of them felt, I talked to them about how much shame I felt after it happened. And how badly I wanted to hide and not talk about it. We then talked about the antidote to shame – intimacy – and what it looks like to be fully known when everything in us just wants to hide. I then genuinely apologized to each of them for making a mistake. This took several conversations over the next week with each of them – it wasn’t quick and easy, let me tell you.

With that said, here are three critical concepts (from the story above) that we can teach our children as we work toward helping prevent them from developing sexual integrity issues –

The first – Talking openly and honestly about feelings and giving affirmation and validation for them – this can’t be overstated. Giving our children space to explore and share their feelings is one of our biggest jobs.

It’s not easy – we hear “I’m frustrated” a lot in our house and I oftentimes want to bark back – “well then, figure it out”. (How is that for validation and affirmation?! Eeks!) I’m working at taking a breath, stopping what I am doing and asking for clarification on the feeling/s and what has prompted them. (Spoiler alert – usually I’m the cause.) It can be exhausting and oftentimes inconvenient. However, giving our children a safe space to talk about how they feel will help them manage their feelings in healthier ways. We use a technique called mirroring from this book that I am happy to discuss in a future blog post – it works really really well.

The second – naming shame and talking about how it affects us and the best way to work through the shame – this is a big one people. Where there is shame – there is acting in. Where there is shame – there is hiding and secrecy. By the time my boys hit 1st to 2nd grade I started to see shame play a role in their lives. We are constantly looking for signs of shame in our boys and then working at helping them name it (if indeed it is what they are feeling). However – we might get even more mileage when we talk about our shame (case in point – story from above) and what we want to do (hide) versus what we need to do (pull it all into the light).

And last – apologizing and seeking forgiveness when we do something wrong. I think humility is a huge part of this journey for our husbands and the quicker we can instill humility in our children – the better. Apologizing and seeking forgiveness can be tricky because for some people, apologizing can cause shame. It’s important for our children to see that making mistakes happens and while it’s painful for all involved – our mistakes can promote empathy and humility and grace.

All three of these habits are critical to help my boys live a life of integrity.

It’s getting real ladies. My boys are getting older and just as I wonder why we even try with going on evening walk/rides; I also wonder – is it possible and even worth trying to raise boys to one day be men of integrity?

The answer is yes – it is worth trying. Prevention on the front end is worth every anxious heart beat, every stomach-ache, every awkward conversation. Will it be perfect? No. Do we need help? Yes. We can’t do this alone. It’s going to take us all, including God.

Dear God – Help. Amen.

xo – Shelley

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Moving through the pain

I’ve had a couple of gals email me recently asking about a particular part of the process that they are really struggling with. It’s something that I know many of you can relate to. It’s summed up in these questions – how will I ever move past the pain? How can I look at him, touch him – without thinking of her or without thinking of what he has done? Will I ever be able to look at him and not think about the pain and the hurt?

After Jason shared his ugly truth with me – my new reality set in slowly. There was the usual shock and denial that helped me absorb the weight of his actions. Anger was soon to follow with bouts of further shock and denial; as well as hopelessness and depression. It wasn’t long before I realized – I was in the thick of grieving.

As I continued to grieve – the pain never quite seemed to leave me. It was always just one trigger or one thought away.

I was able to busy myself with my career or with socializing with friends. But it was always there. Like a heavy bag around my shoulder with contents I couldn’t seem to unload.

And it would meet me at the most unexpected of times. I might be talking with a friend and boom – something would remind me of Jason’s infidelity. Or I might be minding my own business driving down the street and bam – out of nowhere, it would hit me like a ton of bricks.

These crude reminders that yes – this is my life. My husband was unfaithful and now I am broken – possibly beyond repair. As one woman this week said – she is haunted by what he has done.

I wondered during those times – would the weight – the heavy bag I was carrying – ever go away? Could I ever live a normal life again? Free from the constant reminders, the constant pain, the weight of it all?

Below are three things that helped me move forward through the weight, through the constant reminders, through the thoughts that held me down –

Three things I needed in order to move forward


The first thing that I needed was validation. Keeping the thoughts and the feelings bottled up inside did me little to no good. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t handle it anymore and I needed to get it out. Sharing with Jason was potentially most helpful. Receiving validation from the one that has wronged us can really do wonders but Jason wasn’t always in a place to do this. If Jason was in a place of humility and was willing to listen to my pain – then sharing my pain with him was fruitful. But there were times when I had to rely on a group of women that God had placed in my life.

When it came to my go-to girls – early on, I didn’t need someone to fix me. I didn’t need someone to tell me what to change. I just needed someone to sit in the pain with me. To be empathetic and to hear the depths of the pain that I was experiencing.

Born out of the validation and empathy I received from others – I was able to validate myself. And this, my friends, was huge. To not minimize or shame myself but rather to say – yes, this pain is unbearable. This weight is too much to carry. The hurt is real and these women I trust say it’s brutal, too.

Brain Stops

Girls – I had to get really really good at stopping my brain from being on the hamster wheel. This. Well… it was a process.

I had to work HARD to set down the bag of hurt and pain and walk into an exercise class and just tell myself – I’m leaving this at the door and it will be here when I come back out. I can pick it up then.

I’d be driving around in my car in those early years (I worked out of my car) and I’d have to say out loud – “BRAIN STOP. Just stop. I’m going to take a break. I’m not going to think about this right now.”

I’d focus my mind on memorizing Bible verses in my car (my mom would be so proud if she knew this!) or immersing myself into a good book – just to get a break from the constant that was in my head and heart.


If I were to stay married to Jason – he had to allow God to transform him. God transforming my husband = the weight in the bag became lighter. Jason not doing the hard work God needed him to do = I’m carrying the bag. And while Jason couldn’t fully ever take away my pain – he could work toward cultivating character traits that would help me drop the bag and run back to him.

And when I say change – I’m not just talking about living with integrity. I’m talking about the deeper heart change that had to take place. Trading the pride for humility, switching out hopelessness and resignation for determination and leading the way, exchanging a posture of unforgiveableness to one of being forgiveable.

In effect – what Jason was able to do was to pick up my bag of pain and give me the respite I needed to keep going. When he was humble and I came to him with my hurt – he was in effect saying – I see you, I hear you and what you are going through isn’t okay. I should have never put you here in the first place. And I’ll sit with you in this for as long as it takes and help your heart heal.

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of waiting and watching on my part, not knowing what the future might hold – would the marriage be restored? Or would I heal on my own?

I’ve heard it said – “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for.” (John Ortberg)

It was through the wait that I learned to lean on God and trust Him before anything else. It was through the wait that I learned what it looks like to surrender my life to Him. It was through the wait that God started a good work in me, cultivating character and strength, hope and love; and born out of the suffering – immense joy.

xo – Shelley

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