Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

So we’ve talked about surviving the craziness of the Christmas season and some simple things we can do to slow down and enjoy this time of year versus hiding until sometime after the new year.

Now let’s talk about what we can do to survive (and thrive) as we engage with our immediate family as well as our distant cousins.

If you are new on this journey…

I want to start by saying – if you are new on this journey and this is your first holiday since your world fell apart – I think it’s really important to take some time to decide what you will be able to handle and what you won’t be able to deal withAnd don’t even think about apologizing for what you can’t manage!

For instance, you might not be up for going to your in-laws house for Christmas, even if it’s just for Christmas morning.  And while you might feel terrible saying no – I encourage you to think through what you feel safe engaging in and what you need to bow out of.

Some women feel better going to family functions with the understanding that the grief and pain is on hold until later in the day or even a couple of days later.  (I remember Jason and I taking these “time outs” for family functions early on in our process.  I was so afraid that Jason might forget that we are NOT okay.  I made it real clear that I was putting this on hold and we would revisit it at xyz time frame.)

Some women, on the other hand, can’t even imagine engaging family and prefer to alter their plans all together.  Jason and I did this as well and it helped that Jason would absorb the repercussions, not me.

Whichever you choose – remember the key is what do you need?  And what would help you feel the safest?  Think this through and if your husband is working his recovery (not just checking the boxes mind you but also doing the heart work) and if you feel safe talking to him about this – share with him what is doable for you and what isn’t.

If you are going to be around his family…

Two things come to mind that I think are really important to work through before celebrating with his family.

First – it’s super important to be on the same page before the gathering.  Jason and I literally have to have no less than three conversations as we prep for time with his family and one of the biggest things that we plan for is taking time every day to check in with each other in order to keep the lines of communication wide open.

We will usually try to go for a walk or a run but if that isn’t possible, then we will make sure to connect before going to bed.  The focus for us is on intimacy so we share what we are struggling with, what might feel tender, and also what we feel is going smoothly.  Remember men – defensiveness is the enemy of empathy so watch for this and work toward caring for your wife’s heart more than anyone else’s.

Second – is to have a conversation about the role he played in his family of origin.  For instance, was he the golden child?  Was he the funny guy that kept everyone laughing?  Was he momma’s boy with some unhealthy attachments?  Whatever it might be – it’s important at some point to explore this together and gain awareness so he can take the initiative to not slip back into the role that made the “system” function back then.  Talk about triggering for us wives.  Whew.

If you are going to be around your family…

More than anything – I needed Jason to show his character changes to my family.  And even today, I still need that.

So if you are second guessing yourself on what you need from him – don’t.  God created us with needs and when we are around our families – those needs go way up!

For instance – one of the things that can really send me into a tail spin is if Jason just lounges on the couch and doesn’t help with the dishes and food prep or with the boys.  Another thing that drives me crazy is if he doesn’t engage with my family and retreats to the bedroom for hours on end.  Um – no.  Totally triggers what he used to be like before his sexual integrity issues came to light:  self-absorbed, checked out and basically not even there.

While Jason loves his time alone (going to a coffee shop to journal or going on a bike ride) – he is always careful to plan it at a time when it won’t impact the entire family and/or put extra stress on me.  Likewise, while Jason doesn’t always love playing games with my competitive family – he will engage in a game or two here and there because he knows it’s important to me.

So think about what you need from your husband before the event or trip and again, if you feel that your husband is engaged in his recovery and if you feel safe having this sort of convo with him – talk to him about it.

A note for those of you whose husbands are not in recovery

I know this can be tricky because if you explore what you need and yet your husband isn’t about to listen to you or care for your heart in that way – then what?

If this is you – it’s still important to still get your needs met (think: needs met by God, self and others) and to also set boundaries with your husband in order to survive and thrive.  It might be that you focus on your kids at the family gathering and don’t spend energy focusing on your husband and the way he behaves when he is around extended family (I would call this healthy detachment).  It might be that you alert your go-to girls that you are going in and it might be ugly and you need them on stand-by in case you find yourself locked in your aunt’s bathroom and unable to leave because of the anger or the tears.

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Hear my heart as I wrap this up – I want each of you to know that you are not alone and there are women across the world in similar situations to yours.  Trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas with grace and ease.  How to honor their families and children and also honor their emotions as they walk through one of the most difficult seasons one could go through.

If all else fails – I encourage you to put on some comfy clothes, grab some of this and turn this on right away.  I promise, you will feel better almost immediately.

Would love to hear your ideas for how you are going to survive and thrive with your extended families this holiday season.

xo – Shelley

Surviving the Holidays – Part 1

There are two things we must talk about when it comes to this time of year.  Surviving the holidays.  And surviving the holidays.

I see this “survival of the holidays” not only from the stand point of surviving the madness of shopping, decorating, partying, etc. but also (and probably more importantly) from the stand point of surviving the family dynamics that we walk into as we celebrate with loved ones near and far.

I know for myself – I tend to bury my head in the sand starting just prior to Thanksgiving alllll the way through to New Year’s Day.  Whew.  I get SO overwhelmed with putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, purchasing presents, gifting our neighbors, attending holiday gatherings, shopping for outfits for the Christmas photo,  traveling to celebrate with family, delivering Christmas cards, baking – oh my gosh, I am about to have a panic attack just listing all of these extra things that are supposed to be fun and bring us closer to our families and help us draw closer to Jesus – and yet, they just put me in a really bad mood.

This year – I am determined more than ever to do it differently.  Here are three things that have helped thus far:

We wrote out all of our holiday options / responsibilities and looked at my list and decided what we were really interested in doing and then we let the rest go.

And that means saying “no”.  For those of you that might have a hard time keeping boundaries – this will be hard.  I know it is for me.  What can you say no to this holiday season that isn’t adding any value to your already packed schedule?

The other tricky yet rewarding aspect that goes with saying no is that we have to know ourselves well.  We have to know what we like and don’t like, what we are passionate about and where our values lie.  For women walking through betrayal – this is especially hard because betrayal is pretty much just like a mid-life crisis and what we thought we liked or were passionate about – all of a sudden goes out the window.  No doubt – this journey is an opportunity to really dig into who we are and who God created us to be.

I started thinking about presents before December.

For real, most years – it’s December 20th and I’m thinking it might be time to do some Christmas shopping.  But not this year.  No way.  I ended up taking notes on my phone when I heard the boys or Jason talk about what they would love to have.  It’s not even December yet and I’m more than half-way done with my purchases!  This is unprecedented for me.  And it will help me with my last pointer, below.

I want to actually slow down and practice advent versus it being an after thought.

So much of my journey over the last decade plus has been about figuring out how to wait well.  And not just waiting well but waiting with hope.  In other words, an expectant wait.

Not only was I waiting to see if Jason would become the man God created him to be, I was also waiting for my broken heart to heal.  I was waiting to see if my marriage would survive.  And if we’d have a family and share a life together.  (And to be clear, I wasn’t waiting with my legs propped up on the couch watching The View – my wait involved working the process in between bouts of the View.  bahaha!)

What I didn’t realize at the time was that what God was doing within me during that wait was just as important (if not more so) than what I was waiting for.  The wait is brutal, painful, not glitzy and oh-so-vital to our journeys.

So we are planning the most wonderful day of the year (thanks to the suggestion I found in this magazine) and allowing anticipation to build as we think about the games we want to play, the lights we want to go see and the cookies we want to bake.

This is the same kind of anticipation that we as Christians get the opportunity to experience every Christmas season as we await the birth of baby Jesus – the One that bridged the gap for us, making things like forgiveness, restoration, healing and wholeness even possible in the first place.

I’ll be back with Part 2 here soon.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  xo – Shelley

Photo Credit

 

 

Respite for your weary soul (+ possibly your weary body)

Ladies!  It is not too late for you to join me next weekend at Restore in the DC area.  If you have any questions about this workshop – please email me.  We will laugh, cry, get angry, and be besties before it’s all over.

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This is not exactly how I wanted to spend the last ten days.

Especially because it’s my favorite season of the year – *Fall*.  I want to be out and about, enjoying the color changes here in Denver along with the gorgeous weather (minus the snow storm that blew through here some two weeks ago).

Instead – I find myself in bed.  Sick.  Jason made an executive decision yesterday and hauled me to the doctor and I didn’t have enough energy to protest.  The doc thinks I came down with a virus about ten days ago and then caught a second one earlier this week.

Lovely.

So that’s why I haven’t been able to get any traction, turn the corner, and move on with life.

I find myself feeling frustrated, powerless, and disappointed.  I find myself saying – I have missed a whole week of my life!

My boys look at me with anticipation in their eyes every morning and after school – I can tell they are wondering – is momma any better?  I shake my head – and say I’m not quite there yet, but I’ll be better soon…

And then last night – Jason and I are lying in bed and I ask him to pray for me, for us.  As he prays – he mentions surrender.  He mentions not resisting but rather allowing this to play out.  And giving us the strength to get through.  ‘Cause momma’s don’t have time to get sick.

Something in me shifted as I heard Jason drift off to sleep and I lied there fully awake – hurting too much to slumber.  What if I were to just let go – to surrender this, too.  To know that there is goodness in everything and something for me even in this week.

Maybe the week that was wasted, that I missed, was actually a week where I was able to be… reminded of my fragility.  To see that I’m really not as in control as I want to be.

Maybe this week – because of my pain and inability to sleep – was not wasted because… I was able to pray for a dear friend battling cancer and another dear friend battling a chronic disease.

Maybe this week – because of my inability to get up and go – was not wasted because… I saw that asking for help is a good thing.  It allows me to practice humility and to actually see that I have needs that I can’t always meet myself.

And of course – my heart goes to y’all – my dear readers.  You might be having the same thoughts.

He’s ruined my life.  Because of my grief – I have missed out on my baby’s first year.  I have missed out on the joy that usually surrounds my birthday.  What a waste.  And will I ever EVER be repaired enough to find that joy, that hope ever again.

I want you to know that there isn’t anything in this life that has happened to you that God didn’t touch first.  (Thank you Dale for your wisdom):

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

He knew of your heart break.  He knew of your pain.

And while it might seem ridiculous to even think about right now – God has so much good planned for you because of the trials and tribulations you are facing right now.

“What you intended for harm, God intended for good.”  Genesis 50:20

While I believe getting to a place of acceptance can take years and buckets of tears and grappling with questions that don’t necessarily have any answers – I believe that surrender – yes, surrendering whatever load it is that you are carrying TODAY – can be a short term respite for your weary soul.

What is it that you need to surrender?  Can you get specific?  And then – what would it look like in practical terms to release it?

For me – I need to surrender this illness that has (temporarily) taken over my day to day.  I can choose to wait patiently, to ask for help, to pray for others while I wait, to look my children in their eyes and be reminded of how much I love them even though I can’t show them in any other way right now how much they mean to me.

Wishing each of you a much healthier week that what I’ve had the last couple.

xo – Shelley

 

I’m a better person when…

Hey Y’all – before I get into this short and sweet blog post for today – just three quick things I want you to be aware of. 

First – there are two new groups starting in November.  If you are interested at all in one of these groups – I would love to hear from you. 

Second – the Restore Workshop is just around the corner!  Would love for you to join me there – it’s a packed weekend and I promise you will walk away with so much hope and clarity as to your next steps to move forward toward wholeness and freedom!

Third – I enjoyed being on this podcast a couple of weeks ago.  If you listen to it – you might notice it sounds like I am running around during the first 5-6 minutes of the show.  And that’s because I WAS.  I was on my land-line and the battery was low (and beeping) and I was literally running around the house from room to room looking for the 2nd phone which took me a loooooong while to find.  Oh my goodness – talk about terrible timing.

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It was last Sunday at church that I thought these 5 words – “I’m a better person when…”  I found myself actually looking for people I knew to say “hi” to in the hallways after church versus my usual – keeping my head down, collecting my kids and flying out the door.

I thought to myself – I am a better person when I actually make an intentional effort to connect with people I know.

Another reminder that while isolation is always easier – it’s not in any kind of way better.

And then I started to wonder – what else makes me a better person?  So I started compiling a list and here is the start of it –

I’m a better person when…

  • I get up before my kids and have even just 5-10 minutes to connect with myself and God before my day gets underway.
  • I carve out space to exercise.
  • I call the mail lady by name and say a word or ten when I see her at my door or on the street.
  • I have food in my pantry and in my fridge.
  • I have clear boundaries and expectations with my children and I stick to what I say.
  • I make my Friday morning date with Jason a priority.
  • I reach for a vegetable instead of a slice of cake. (Which I just indulged in and loved every bite!  haha!  Maybe I should remove this one from my list.)
  • I carve out time at the end of the day to cuddle with each of my boys once they are in bed.
  • I map out my week by Sunday evenings – just so there are no surprises.
  • I have margin in my day (which I haven’t had in the last 10 days or so – eeks!).

That is literally the very beginning of what could turn into a long list.  I’d love for you to join me in thinking this through as you go about your day and then sharing with me – what are the things that make you a better you.

And then – let’s go do them (minus subbing the veggies for cake) – ’cause we all need a little cake in our lives!

xo – Shelley

Manna

Well Ladies – I am officially on a roll.  I have three littles in school and have a total of four hours to myself, five days a week.  Last week was the first week of this new schedule and I have to laugh – the day before my youngest started preschool – I was worried I would have too much free time.  I was slightly concerned that I might just roll around in bed all morning long and eat potato chips and watch “As the World Turns” or something similar.  Jason just laughed and shook his head when I told him my deepest worry for the Fall season.  How could he?!

Then – last week happened and it was a mixture of frenzy, glory and tears.  The words out of my mouth by the end of the week – “Four hours isn’t NEAR enough time!  No!!!”

I’d like to say that this is more of the perseverance that I spoke of in the last blog post – but I’d be kidding.  I am thankful for my small allotment of time.  It flies – but it’s filling my soul.

I’m listening to some different podcasts while I tidy the house (which how in the world could the 5 of us make such a mess in the morning that it takes me 90 minutes to pick up once everyone is up and running?! – does anyone else experience this?).  I’m starting to work on some projects that have been sitting on the shelf for far too long.  And I’m working hard to wake up before the boys for those 20 magical moments so I can read, journal, reflect, and pray.  Ladies – for real – this last part is so hard for me – but it is filling my soul.

Recently, I came across this devo that I had tucked into a rickety chest of drawers next to my desk until I finished this study which took me forev to do!  The devotional was given to me by a precious woman in one of my groups and in the introduction – the author, Nancy Guthrie talks about a horrific time in her life and her search for what could possibly get her through the next day, what could possibly fill her soul.  It was the author’s sister-in-law that answered – “manna”.

Just as the Israelites depended on God for food to get them through the day for 40 years – we as well depend on God to nourish our souls so that we as well can get through our days.  Especially when we think we might not make it.

And just as the Israelites couldn’t store up the food (except for the Sabbath) – nor can we.  As Nancy says – “every day, we need a fresh touch, a fresh word to nourish us and sustain us.  Yesterday’s manna, yesterday’s insights may inform us, but every day we need something new to keep us moving forward toward healing” (p.xvi, Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope).  LURVE that!

These fresh touches, fresh words – oftentimes they do come in the still and quiet of the morning while my feet hit the pavement or while I am sitting in my cramped office, that also serves as a catch-all, reading a study or journaling to God.  But other times these touches and words come from my community – family and friends that know me.  And then there are those sweet times when it’s God disguised as a stranger.

Yesterday – the manna for my day – the thing that kept me moving forward toward healing was in the midst of a conversation I had with a fellow group facilitator.  We were processing something that came up in her group and she asked – when we choose not to show up – is it because we can’t accept ourselves right where we are at?

Her question gave me pause.  I’ve thought of all the times when I choose hiding over showing up.  When I lurk into the shadows instead of bravely walking into the light and saying – here I am – pain, hurt, ugliness and all.

It also had me wondering – what comes first – accepting ourselves (in isolation) before sharing the ugly with others?  Or sharing the ugly with others (in community) and then learning to accept ourselves as we see those around us accept us first?

I believe it’s the latter that is the more likely way we experience healing.  And that is a hard pill to swallow.  I’m reminded of something I re-read recently – We get hurt in relationships.  And – we heal in relationships.

As you continue on your journey toward hope, healing and wholeness – what is the manna that is getting you through today?  It could be words of truth in a conversation (like my example above) or it could be encouragement or grace or love.  I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

xo – Shelley

 

 

embracing this season

As my boys slowly return to school and I find myself getting a little more margin in my life – I am grateful to have some space to breathe.

I love summer.  I love the warmth.  I love the slowing down of life.  I love being with my boys.

I also love it when they go back to school.

And I always look back at the summer and wonder – How did I get by?  How did I DO it?

(And for those of you that home school – all I can say is – you, my dear ones, are the HEROES during this time of year.  I have always thought that home schooling would be SO cool, SO amazing, SO the thing for me.

Until I drop off my kids that first day and limp home, licking my wounds from the summer, and I realize – I almost didn’t make it, once again.)

Picking up where I left off earlier this month – I am in a season girls.  I have been fighting it and resisting it.  Doing anything and everything in my power to deny that it’s a rough one.

All up until last week, the first week of school, when I took that breath, sat down and then realized – this isn’t going away anytime soon.

Maybe that is the first step in surrendering these ugly seasons – agreeing that they are indeed right in front of us and not magically disappearing.

As for what to do next – well – I decided I need to name it.  If I was going to get comfortable in this season of wading through some tough parenting and some tough fighting with Jason – I needed a word (or several) for it.

(As a side note – recognize that there is power in naming things.  Whether we are naming our children when they are born, Adam naming all the living creatures that God created, or God renaming people in the Bible – there is power and authority when we call it what it is.)

So, last Thursday – Norman and I went on a bike ride/run (Norms doesn’t start preschool until next week.  Can you guys guess who was riding the bike and who was running?!) and I was asking God – what shall we call this season you have me in?

I started thinking through the best words to describe where I’m at – sh%# show would work but I just didn’t feel like that was the most godly of descriptions to use.  So I thought longer and deeper as Norman started to complain about his legs getting tired while he was biking (Y’all – did you really think I would make my five year old run while I rode the bike?!).

Patience…perseverance…steadfastness…surrender…endurance…

I don’t like those words.  I mostly don’t like perseverance.  And it was perseverance that I kept circling back to as I asked God – is this the word you have for me?

Aaaaaaaaand – it was just about then that I look down and Norman has a flat tire and is crying to go home.

I start crying, too.

I want to go home, too.

Why is everything SO hard?!  For crying out loud (literally) – why can’t I just go on a run to try to get grounded and feel good without it turning into a sh%# show?!

I walked in circles, took some deep breaths, and then told myself – oh, and Norman (since he was standing right there with his bike) – we’d make it home.  One way or another, we would.  It might take some serious perseverance (for the love!), but we would get there.

And isn’t this exactly what God is saying to us?  While we lose hope, feel despair and depression, wonder what in the world is going on – God is right there beside us telling us we will make it home.  One way or another we will get there and He’s not going to leave us until we do.

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Some of you might be in a winter season of your soul like me.  If you are – I encourage you to name it.  Start by simply asking God – what in the world are we going to name this season?  You might be surprised with what comes to mind as you present that question to Him.

Then – look up the word in your concordance in the back of your Bible.  You can use this website to help you look up verses and start to pick apart the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words used.

That’s what I’m working on this week before the boys wake up in the morning and here is a little of what I have learned:

  • perseverance means to bear up courageously under suffering (Matthew 24:13).
  • it also means hopeful endurance (Romans 2:6-7) and is the opposite of cowardice or despondency
  • there is a connotation of steadfastness (1 Cor 15:58) and refers to someone that is fixed in purpose
  • another Greek word for perseverance refers to being patient and brave in enduring misfortunes and troubles; to have long patience (Hebrews 6:15)
  • and last – when we persevere – the result is completeness and wholeness (James 1:2-4)

Maybe I’m starting to grow fond of the word perseverance.  If the end result is wholeness and completeness – I think I’m game to sit in this a little longer.

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Would love to hear your heart on this.  What season are you in?  What has it looked like to let go and allow it to be rather than fighting it and denying it?  xo – Shelley

 

Truth for your day

This week – I was acutely reminded of the pain of the first days and weeks following Jason’s disclosure of his secret past.  The gut-wrenching – deer in headlights – I think I’m going to vomit sort of pain that brings us all to our knees.

The good news is (because I’m always looking for the brighter side) is Jason is living with integrity and living a godly life with purpose.  He is all in.  I as well am all in and living a life trying to pursue God and His path for me and not my own (the struggle is real!).  Yes – the good news is Jason and I are together and intact and fighting strong.

While I know sharing particulars here isn’t wise – the last few days have brought back some of the priceless and ever-so-important realities that I had to mine for in the weeks and months following Jason’s confessions.

So if you are new on this journey or a seasoned veteran like myself – I think you will appreciate hearing what keeps bubbling up in my head as we wade through the waters –

There isn’t a one of us that can fully prevent bad things from happening.  As much as I’d like to believe I can be perfect – this week has reminded me once again that it’s impossible.  God is the only one in this life that is perfect.  We are not.  I heard this quote yesterday and appreciated it – “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence I can reach for, perfection is God’s business.”  -Michael J Fox

Boy, did I struggle early on in our journey with questions such as – how could I have prevented this?  How could I have prevented myself from marrying a sex addict?  How could I have somehow been a better wife, a better lover so that this wasn’t my story?

The truth is – bad things happen to good people and it wasn’t my fault – but it was so hard to get there.  Especially when I suffered consequences as if it were my fault.

Isolation breeds fear.  It’s critical to talk about it.  One of the hardest things we will ever do is to share our pain with someone else.  I can remember 15 years ago – how I held onto my story.  Wondering if I just didn’t tell anyone – maybe it wouldn’t be real.  However – holding it all inside for month after month sickened me.  There was so much fear that I carried around inside of me.  John 11:10 says “but if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

When we choose to drag what is dark into the light – no matter how scary it is – there is always freedom awaiting us.  It certainly doesn’t take away the consequences or the reality of the choices made by those we love (or made by ourselves for that matter) – but it does something powerfully healing when we share our truth with someone else that we consider safe.

My heart aches for all the women out there that haven’t shared their stories with a single soul.  That, my friends, is why I believe so much in these support groups.  Because it’s a place where you can share your story and work toward being real, true and authentic.

I’m reminded (and oftentimes forget) I’m no better than anyone else.  Then tragedy strikes and I’m back on my knees, realizing none of us are better-than.  It comes back to humility and there is nothing like the humbling work that Jesus does in our lives.  It’s painful.  It’s harsh.  And it’s also necessary.  Because living from a place of lowliness – continually choosing hands wide open, asking God to get us through the next minute, the next hour – there is such a sweet richness there that can quickly fade when life is throwing us Care Bears and rainbows.

What good will come from this?  I remember asking God – how will you redeem this?  How in the world could any good come from it?  I heart Genesis 50:20 when Joseph says to his brothers years after they betrayed him – “what you meant for harm, God meant for good.  The saving of many lives.”

Oh God – how much we all want that for our stories – for it NOT to be for harm but instead be for good.  And for not just one life to be saved because of our pain but for many lives to be saved.  Yes – that’s what we want!

Here’s to hoping that when you read this post – you are resting in God’s goodness – even if you feel like you are at the bottom of the food chain.  xo – Shelley

An encounter with a porta-potty and how it was a metaphor for the week I barely survived.

Do you ever have a week that you just want to end because it’s kicking your behind?

A week where you feel like you can’t, will not, no matter what you do – get ahead?

Forget about get ahead – a week where you just want to maintain?  But can’t even do that?!

That was me this past week.  Between intense discussions with Jason that wouldn’t end (aka a fight), not so nice texts and emails, painful conversations, and getting ready for family to come into town – let’s just say that I felt like I was getting beat up.

I have never been so happy for a week to end – and end with a bang it did.

Jason and I went for a run on Friday morning (bonus) and as we were nearing the end of our run, behind us came a truck with a porta-potty on a trailer.  There were a lot of small bumps in the road so the truck was hauling the porta-potty quite slowly.  Since we were going in the same direction and because we are such speedy runners (just kidding!), the port-a-potty, it seemed, stayed put right beside us for several minutes.

Unfortunately – this particular porta-potty was full of you know what.  This was obvious because it didn’t take long before the WORST stench filled the air.  It was so bad that I almost started gagging.

You would think that we would have just stopped, or even turned down a street and gone in a different direction.  But none of that we did.  We just kept right on running right beside it as we groaned, punched the air with our fists, and started laughing.

What a perfect metaphor for the week I’d had – a week that left me feeling like poop.

We finally started thinking straight and stopped running so that the truck could take that port-a-potty far, far away from us.  And shortly there after, it pulled out onto a busier street and that was the end of the porta-potty full of poop.

When I’m having a poopy week – one of the things that is of utmost importance is connecting with someone that I trust and being able to just say it like it is.  (To be clear – there are many things I need – a moscow mule, a good book, an all expense paid for vacation, a shopping spree, time alone with God….)  But back to connecting with someone – I need a safe place to vent and get it all out.  If ALL I do is vent and feel heard – that in and of itself works wonders.

What it comes back to is connection and leaning into being intimate with others.

I was reminded of this last night as I was talking to one of my groups – we were talking about how with men that struggle with sexual integrity issues – the issue is an intimacy issue – not a lack of sex issue.  For these men – they don’t know how to be fully known (intimate) with others because of the very real risk of rejection.  Oftentimes us wives find ourselves struggling to be fully known, too.

But wait – we were created to be fully known.  We are commanded by God to love him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul.  We are also commanded to love others as we love God (Luke 10:27).  That means we love others with our heart, mind, body and soul, too.

It’s innate for us to live from a place of fully known.  But in this world we live in – it’s always going to be a challenge.  Take media for instance – we feel a little bit connected as we watch our favorite show – but it’s not intimate or real.  Then there’s social media (don’t even get me started!) – we might think we really know the gal we follow on Instagram – but in all seriousness – how well do you fully know her from a photo of what she ate for dinner last night?

All that to say – we are not set up in this life to be fully known and true and real – quite the opposite in fact.  But when we are having a poopy week (Ralenda – I want you to know I am really trying to behave with my words!) – the antidote is intimacy.  It’s being fully known and fully knowing.  It’s understanding that there is a very real risk of rejection – but showing up anyways and taking off the mask and saying – this is what’s really going on.  This is who I really am.  And this is what I’m struggling with.

So that’s what I did.  I talked to a friend poolside and told her all about my difficult week.  I then called two different friends this week and vented to them.  And let me just tell you – while it was hard to lean in (it always is) and risk with what I was really feeling – as always – it helped.  Sure, there are no guarantees but I know that I know that this is the answer – to be real and true with myself, with others and also with God.

What would it look like for you to lean in as this week comes to a close?  What could you do today to work toward being fully known with someone else that you deem safe?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

our wedding anniversary – 2018

Just a couple of days ago – Jason and I passed the 18-year mark in marriage.

While most couples would celebrate this with a card to each other at a minimum and a dinner and night away at a hotel at the other end of the spectrum – Jason and I did none of the above.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was driving to Red Rocks for an early morning workout that I realized…. it’s our anniversary!

As Jason and I went through the day together – we started to be silly and hug each other – then look at each other with one eye brow raised and say – Happy Anniversary.  I know what you are thinking so I’ll just say it out loud – this was the most non-glamorous anniversary imaginable.  No cards, no gifts, no nothing.

At least that is what it might look like from the outside.

However – on the inside there was so much more happening.

For starters, we talked throughout the day about how grateful we were to be married to each other.  And how innocent and naive our 23-year-old selves were on that day as we walked down the aisle.

I realized that – at least for the day – I had much less bitterness toward Jason than I had in the past on our anniversary.  In the past – I’ve felt so much hurt on our anniversary.  Because our wedding was a big fat lie.  What a waste.

Yet fast forward to this year – and I felt more grace than ever before for our younger selves.  More grace for Jason – knowing he was in a vicious cycle that was trying to forever take him down.  More grace for myself – that I wasn’t stupid or ignorant or blind but that I truly loved him and saw the best in him, not the worst – and certainly not his sexual integrity issues.

Second, I was able to take the day to remind myself that I have no regrets in staying with Jason.  Sure – there are no promises – I realize he is always one step away from blowing up our lives again.  I also realize that I’m one step away, too.  We are simply not the best CEO’s of our lives.  That’s why we need Jesus.

This – in fact – might be one of my biggest take-aways from this journey to date – we are all just one step away from blowing it up.

I used to think I was about infinity steps away – because I would NEVER hurt Jason by being unfaithful to him.  But as God has chipped away at my hard outer shell of arrogance and pride throughout this journey – I now see my faulty ways, too.  I need Jesus every. single. day.

Maybe I haven’t hurt Jason in the same ways he has hurt me – but I’ve hurt him nonetheless.  I am broken too.

(One caveat I need to mention here – you don’t need to look at your brokenness at the on-set of this journey.  If you are new in this process – you work on grieving – which includes a lot of kleenex, tears, snot and anger.  You’ll know when it’s time to work on you – but this is not the time and you are not the cause of your husband’s choices.)

And last – I was reminded of how much more I like myself today than ever before.  Girls – this one is just as HUGE.  Because when my marriage started to blow – I was convinced I was ruined.  My heart would never repair.  My soul was damaged for good.  Heaven come quick.

My biggest fear was I could never get the images, the stories, the experiences that my husband had without me – out of my mind.  I was tainted. Ruined. My life was over.

I am SO grateful to sit here in this coffee shop today as I type this post and tell you this – that has NOT been the case.

Sure – it has taken years to get to an inner peace in my heart and soul.  It’s taken a TON of grieving – more than I’d like to admit.  It’s taken going round and round with God and with Jason to get that repair work done.  Dang – it’s been intense.

And it’s been worth it.

So if you’re down and out and wonder – how will I ever get there – know that it’s one small step at a time.  It’s about the process.  Whether your marriage makes it or whether your marriage goes down in flames – know that YOU can and will make it.

Don’t stop fighting.  Never ever.

What is God calling you to do next?  Step out and do it – for yourself, for your marriage, for your children, for the legacy that you will leave behind.  Don’t wait.  Go now.

xo – Shelley

 

 

 

When God feels a million miles away

I mentioned in the last blog post about the most painful of sessions with my life coach.  I’ve continued to look back on April and wonder – what the heck was that and how did I get there?  So glad that month is over.

I genuinely think I was dealing with a situational depression of sorts.  I know a couple of the factors that played in – parenting being one of the biggies for sure.  And I’m also more than surprised that instead of clinging to God – I started to pull away from Him (why this takes me by surprise every time, I’m not sure!).  Pulling away from God did not help matters one bit.  In fact, it made things worse.

My daily alone time to read some of God’s truth gave way to hitting snooze on my alarm three to four times.  My desire to stay connected to God throughout the day with a skip in my heart gave way to wondering where He was and why He wanted to make my life so hard.

The gap started to widen.

It reminded me of the downward spiritual spiral I experienced just three years into my healing journey.

I wanted a break from recovery.

What I didn’t realize was that recovery and God were closely linked.  We had just moved to Denver and I was struggling to connect with other believers.  My heart started to slowly distance from God.  And before I knew it – I started wondering why would God allow the pain I had endured in my marriage.  That little break from recovery turned into a full-fledged spiritual crisis that lasted a good three years.

So back to last month – I knew deep down that the one thing I DID NOT want to happen was for my relationship with God to suffer.  And yet – how could I be true and real in the midst of my difficult season?  Could I even say I was struggling spiritually?

In some ways – I felt like that wasn’t an option.  “I mean come on now, I thought, people are counting on me.  I’ve got to be strong!  I’ve got to persevere.  And even if I need to fake it – I better do so.”

Stop the press – this is completely antithetical to what I teach and preach and emulate in my day to day.

What was I thinking?!

Someone wise proceeded to tell me – just because I’m questioning God and in a season of distrust with Him doesn’t disqualify me from helping others!  So to even think I needed to fake my relationship with God – no way.

At about this time – someone mentioned feeling distant from God in one of my groups and it opened up the door for me to say – “Me too”.  The heavy weight started to lift.  It wasn’t just me, it wasn’t just her – there were several of us.

I realized – although for some of us on this journey – our faith is what keeps us hemmed in – for others of us – there is a real spiritual crisis that we find ourselves walking through.

The latter can be down right scary.

Note to self – this is a critical part of the process if you find yourself here.  To have the space to question God.  To say things like – I don’t understand God’s timing.  I don’t understand His ways.  I don’t think He hears me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure He is a million miles away.

It’s hard stuff to say.  And hard stuff to hear.  Especially when there are no answers in the moment that can offer much reassurance.

I’ve noticed for myself that feeling and being heard can sometimes be the best medicine.  Not necessarily an answer but rather someone simply saying – “I hear you and you’re not crazy.  It makes perfect sense.  Me too.”

So if you’re finding yourself strong-arming God and questioning His goodness (for instance, you might be reading this and asking – what goodness?!) – I want you to know you are safe here.  You are not alone.  This is incredibly common for women walking this journey of betrayal.  I’d love to hear more about what you are struggling with.  I might not have the answers but I can tell you I get it.  I’ve been there.  And surprisingly (or not!), I’ll be there again.