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.

How the Shattering Pain of Betrayal Made Me Kinder

I really didn’t know what it was like to suffer from heart break until I was in my mid to late-twenties. Sure, life hadn’t been perfect before then — I had felt pain before.

But this was different. This was a kind of pain I never expected to feel. The kind of pain I thought for sure I was protected from. I’d been through a hardship already — an eating disorder. So I assumed I’d earned my badge of honor: how a painful experience builds character and changed the way I saw the world. I really thought I was good to go.

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Enter the fall of 2003 when my husband told me his ugly truth. That he was addicted to porn and as his addiction escalated, his behaviors became riskier. To the point of having affairs with other women. And I had no idea. I thought he was faithful to me alone. That’s really when life took a turn for the worst. That’s when the suffering began.

{Head over here, to the MOPs blog, where this post was initially published, to continue reading.}

And don’t forget to come back here if you’d like to leave a comment.

xo-Shelley

 

 

A Little Christmas Eve Pep Talk

Hello Ladies!

I’m so excited to start working through your burning questions that you have asked me from the last blog post.  Such great questions and I’m excited to dig deep with you guys.  If you are new here, it’s not too late to add your question.  Go here to do so.

I was actually planning on answering one of those questions here today.  But as I sat down to write, I realized my heart was leaning toward talking to each of you about what you might encounter over the next 24-48 hours with your family.  With your husband.  The craziness of Christmas.

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Think of this as a pep talk.  I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now and if you were sitting across from me with something warm and yummy in your hands, this is what I would want to tell you:

1)  Some of you might be experiencing your first Christmas without your husband by your side.  It might be that you are separated or newly divorced.  This probably wasn’t the way you thought it would go.  Know that I’m proud of you for not putting up with his shenanigans anymore.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to love ourselves enough to walk away.

2)  Some of you might be experiencing your first Christmas with a man that you never thought would break your heart as badly as he has.  He might be working hard to repair your heart or he might be flailing in the background.  Either way, I want you to know that it does get better.  It won’t hurt this bad forever.  I can’t guarantee the outcome of your marriage but I’m here to tell you that we are all guaranteed to have Jesus by our side as we walk through this ugly mess.

3)  Some of you might feel like you are in the thick of a wait this Christmas.  It’s not your first Christmas knowing his ugly truth.  You might not have clarity yet on which way to go.  It’s okay to camp out there.  To take your time.  This is your choice and nobody else’s.

4)  Listen, sweets, you are not responsible for your husband’s actions.  If he chooses to (insert a number of behaviors here, but for example – ) disconnect and sit on the couch on his phone all Christmas day, it’s not your fault.  Will it effect you?  Absolutely.  Do you have every right to feel disappointed?  Yes ma’am.  Does this mean you can’t enjoy the day with your family or friends?  No, it doesn’t.  This is where healthy detachment comes in and we choose into focusing our energy elsewhere other than our husband’s choices.

5)  This Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect.  Release yourself from the pressures that might be building.  This is a time to connect with those you love.  To celebrate Jesus’s coming to save us from having to be perfect.  Do you see?  We don’t have to be perfect anymore because of Jesus.  Now that’s something to celebrate!

6)  Give yourself grace over the next couple of days.  Heaps and heaps of grace.  Remind yourself that you are worthy and you are loved because you are a Daughter of the King.  This isn’t anything that you’ve earned.  It was given to you.  There is no need to prove yourself worthy with the meal you make or the gift you give.  No way.  So your turkey ends up being dry.  Big deal.  Turkey is overrated.  Give yourself grace.  (And as far as I’m concerned, be proud that you know how to make a turkey.  I have no clue.)

7)  As you are working toward being fully known and loving yourself well remember that the best thing you can offer yourself and others is honesty, grace, and love.  It’s when we do this that we move closer to Jesus.  That we comprehend His love for us.  Unconditional.  And this being fully known and loving is really. hard. work.

8)  And some of you might be pinching yourself this Christmas because your husband is changing before your eyes.  You can hardly believe it.  He’s working really hard.  And maybe you’re watching and waiting OR maybe he’s inspired you to work really hard, too.  Either way, take a breath and thank God for the progress you see.  Know that it’s real and it’s okay to feel the joy.

I’m glad we could have this talk.

xo-Shelley

 

 

 

Making it through the holidays (you will have to read on to understand!)

I found this blog post recently.  I intended to send it out just before Christmas.  But we all know how craZy December can be.  And it never made it out.

I was reminded that I had it after a gal in one of my groups courageously opened up about the array of emotions she felt when she went to the store to pick out a card for her husband’s birthday.  Her husband has worked hard in his recovery.  And so has she.  And yet, looking for a card that would mirror how she feels in her heart was, well, impossible.  I can SO relate.  Keep reading for more…

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Special events including birthdays and holidays can be especially difficult for us wives, whether you are two weeks in or two years into your process.  I’ve had the chance to dialogue with some of my groups about this over the last month.  How do we enjoy the holiday season yet still be true to our current feelings?  How do we go to special gatherings with the man that has betrayed us and pretend like everything is fine?  How do the holidays not sting and hurt more than any other day?

This is hard.  Really hard.  For the longest, I used Jason’s birthday as a gauge for the condition of my heart towards him.  It was for many many years (probably around 7 to be exact), that I’d go select a card for Jason and as I looked through them, never could find one that didn’t make me want to rip him (and it) to shreds.  All that to say, early on, Jason didn’t get a birthday card.  And at some point, as my heart started to thaw, I was able to find a simple card that would do.  It’s only been in the last four years or so that I’ve been able to select a card for him and felt wholly in agreement with what the card said.

If you find yourself feeling like you are having to wear a mask this holiday season, here’s what I’d like to tell you:

  • Listen sweets (this is a name I use with much adoration and affection), it’s not going to be this way forever.  I pinky-swear promise.
  • You’re in good company.  I’ve been there and so has every other woman that shares a similar story.
  • Depending on your life stage and the family and friends you are going to be with, it’s okay to give yourself permission to unplug from your present reality and allow yourself to enjoy the day (with or without your husband).
  • Even this (see preceding point) will take a lot of work.  You may have to do a “brain stop” every ten seconds. (A brain-stop is when you stop yourself as your mind starts to wander and conjure up the past.  You can say “STOP!” out loud, or to yourself.  Just know that your family may give you strange looks if you say this out loud.)
  • It’s also okay to open your hands wide and grieve hard.  Get it out.  Know that God meets you where you are.  He’s kept a record of your every tear (psalm 56:8).
  • Gently speak truth to yourself:  It’s because of Jesus that we don’t have to be perfect.  We don’t have to forgive perfectly, grieve perfectly, or go through this process perfectly.  Jesus bridges the gap for us.

Wishing each of you a very merry Christmas.  I’m so thankful for YOU.  And I’m so looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

Love – Shelley

I guess I should say, wishing you a happy summer!  And I AM so thankful for each and every one of you.  What about you – have you found it especially difficult to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or other holiday?  Does it give you peace to know it took me 7-8 years before my heart was aligned with the birthday cards I perused at the store?

Giving myself grace {An update on loving myself well – a 2015 intentional (#1)}

Friendships are a gift.  I hold them close and try not to take them for granted.  Friendships are also difficult.  I’ve experienced the difficult side as of late.  Within the difficult, I’ve allowed myself to grieve and process for months now.  And the processing continues.

Allow me to pause on that thought and bring in another:  I read Donald Miller’s Scary Close earlier this month.  It’s a fabulous book.  In fact, it’s my favorite read thus far of 2015.  It’s all about intimacy.  And within the book, Don talks about a concept he learned while away at a retreat.  The therapist put three pillows on the floor and asked for Don and another person to stand on two of the pillows.  The pillow Don was standing on was his life, his territory, his soul.  And the pillow the other person was standing on was her life, her territory, her soul.  The third pillow symbolized their relationship.  Each could stand on that third pillow (which symbolized the relationship) but never was it okay to stand on each other’s pillow.  “What goes on in the other person’s soul is none of your business.”  And in this way, we aren’t controlling or managing another needlessly.

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Back to friendship. Although I have felt a ton of pain over words said, I also have desired to be completely gracious and fair.  And in that, I’ve opened up my heart to owning what I need to own.  This has been very much a growth thing for me.  I’ll admit my pride wants to self-protect, strong-arm, and blame.  Humble pie is hard to swallow.

And I think I might be on to something – what if I’ve stepped on someone else’s pillow?  (I know, you can laugh…we are talking about pillows here.)  What if I have tried to control and manage?  What if I have done this in other relationships unknowingly as well?  What if it took these difficulties for me to see my role?

I’d rather not “what if” myself into the ground.  And let me just tell you how hard I’ve had to try to love myself well through this.  To cast out the lies that circle around like a rotisserie grille in my head.

For me, it comes down to a choice.  Will I choose to give myself grace?  To walk in the freedom of imperfection.  To make mistakes. To allow this to be an opportunity for personal growth.  And to hope that others will love me in spite of my ugly.

Or will I choose to hear the lies.  To withdraw and self-protect.  To blame and criticize.  These choices never end well.

Today I choose the former.  And it seems that every few days I find myself at another cross-road.  And I’m faced with the same decision.

Although this post is focused on friendship, the same applies in marriage.  It’s that delicate balance of allowing our selves and those we are close to to make their own decisions and be their own person all the while loving, accepting and forgiving each other through it all.  Is this hard for you?  Or maybe it’s just me.

Being perfect. A no-win situation.

It seems a big part of my process over the last year is giving myself grace.  In particular, grace to make mistakes.  To admit when I am wrong.  To say “I’m sorry” and to genuinely mean it.  To humbly acknowledge my humanly-flawed-self.

For the most part, I have walked away feeling lighter.  Feeling freedom.  But sometimes, sometimes – i still feel the shame.  I still feel like I’m so broken.  And not in a free way, in a hopeless way.

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Enter perfect:  Lately, the word “perfect” has been bubbling to the surface.  It’s in what I read, it’s in conversation.  I recognize that a part of my eating disorder had to do with perfectionism.  I thought (and I will stress thought) that by having the perfect body, the perfect grades, being the perfect friend….I thought these were the reasons I was accepted, loved and chosen.

I’ve never allowed this concept I have of perfectionism and this journey toward giving myself grace – I’ve never allowed the two to meet eye-to-eye.

And so it seems, the next step in my process is to be able to name the part that perfection has played.  To allow myself to dissect perfection out of my heart and out of my soul.  So that there is even more room for grace.

Because the truth is, I don’t have to be perfect.  And the truth is, I don’t even want to be perfect anymore.  It’s pretty boring.  It’s overrated.  And for myself, it’s a gateway to shame.

And here’s why:  when I do feel shame after making a mistake, it’s almost always connected to the lie that I have to be perfect to be okay.  To be chosen.  To be loveable.

Nobody wins when I expect myself to be perfect.

I will never win because I can’t ever be perfect.

Nobody else will ever win when I expect myself to be perfect.  Because when I put pressure on myself to be perfect, I also put pressure on those around me to be perfect.  So unfair.

So where do I go from here?  I’m not sure.  But I can tell you, something has shifted.  Being able to name my shame and its roots wrapped up in this false belief that I have to be perfect…well, there is freedom in that.  I feel lighter.  I feel like I can breathe.

Goodbye perfectionism.  Hello more freedom, more healing, more wholeness.

What about for you…do you hold onto this false belief that you have to be perfect?  Perfect in some way in order to be loveable?  In order to be accepted?  In order to be chosen?  I’d love to hear from you.  xoxo