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

 

 

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.

A half-gallon of ice cream versus connecting – it’s a hard choice.

About a month ago now, I had one of the most painfully awkward sessions with my life coach to date.  I could have thought of a million things to do besides chat with her for fifty minutes.  I was in such a terrible funk – the LAST thing I wanted to do was to TALK.

I don’t know if any of you can relate to this – but when I’m feeling not just down but in the dumps – it is incredibly difficult for me to reach out.  Tillamook chocolate chip ice cream and my bed covers sound much more appealing.

However – this is quite the opposite of what I “preach” to the ladies that come along side me via support groups or at speaking events.  This journey of healing from betrayal has shown me that it’s being fully known (intimacy) with those that I feel safe with that will actually help me move through the down-dumps with grace; not isolating under the covers with a half-gallon of ice cream. {Although seriously?!  That sounds really nice in the moment!  Can we call that some self-care or what?!  All kidding aside – the problem is – after the ice cream is downed – and I come out from under the covers – I’ve done nothing to move through the feelings.  I’m back at square one.}

And yet, the default setting is broken and my flesh will always want to hide and isolate more than the desire to reach out, connect and share it like it is.  Yes, I point to Adam and Eve for part of the explanation – because what did they do in the Garden of Eden?  They hid.

There is a residual level of this desire to hide in all of us.

But why else might it be so hard for me to reach out when I’m in the spiral?  A couple of other reasons come to mind –

The fear of not being loved or accepted if I’m not happy.  Not sure when or where this fear developed but in a world where we put on a mask when we walk out the door – it’s no surprise that I fear I won’t be accepted if I’m down.

Lack of control.  I talk to so many women that say they have control issues.  Me too!  It’s just I like to put a different spin on it – I’m a control enthusiast!  Being down and sharing it with others – the ugly cry, the darkness, the hopelessness – it’s pretty out of control.  And that’s not a comfortable place for me.

The fear that if I actually allow myself to go there – I’ll stay there forever.  Oftentimes I believe if I can just stay on the edge of a complete melt-down, I’m doing myself a favor.  Because if I do melt – there is no turning back and who knows HOW long it will take to climb back out of the hole.  Taps into the powerlessness mentioned above.

The list goes on and on – the point is – there are some real reasons that I move toward complete isolation and withdrawal when I’m starting to spiral.

Back to my session with my life coach – I realized I’d never truly allowed anyone (except Jason) to see me the way I presented to her that Thursday afternoon in April.  I was convinced by the end of the session that she’d fire me.  And if she didn’t fire me on the spot – certainly when we met again – she’d give me the axe.

But girls – two weeks later when our next session came around – she started our session by saying this – “I have more admiration and respect for you because of how you came onto the call and sat with me on the call two weeks ago.”

I wanted to fall out of my chair (but thankfully was firmly planted in it).  She didn’t fire me.  In fact, she did quite the opposite.  She loved me even more.

The TRUTH is – when we show our brokenness to others – they love us more.  When we confess our shortcomings, when we share our fears, when we look up with tears in our eyes and say – I’m a mess – that’s when love comes a-pouring in.

I KNOW this because I see it happen in my groups, I’ve seen it happen with Jason, and I experienced this big time one month ago with Dale.

AND… I also know, that there will probably never be a day when this comes easy.

So I’m closing with this – I’m begging you to show up by being you.  If you are down, say it.  If you feel hopeless – express it.  If you feel angry – get it out.  Let’s all commit to bringing our full selves to the table.  Not what we think others want to see, but how we actually feel.  Right now.  Today.  And every day.

Amen.

The Dear Me Series – #2

One of the final exercises I instruct the ladies to do as apart of the RLFW support groups is to write a “Dear Me” letter.  Although there is a ton of trepidation to take part in this exercise – time and time again, it proves to be really meaningful.  To be able to look back and talk to your younger you and encourage and inspire her!  To look back and tell her that she’s going to make it – it’s powerful.

I was inspired to include this in the workbook after reading about others that wrote a letter to their sixteen year-old selves.  You can read a couple of examples here and here.

The letters the ladies in my groups write are to the younger version of themselves when everything hit the fan and they felt lost, without hope, and were looking for that life preserver to get them through the day in front of them – not the next week, not the next year – just the next day.  Can any of you relate?

Thank you, Kim for sharing your letter with such courage here today.

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Dear Me,

Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit or the protection of your angel. You were listening to that inner voice (the Holy Spirit’s guidance) on the night of discovery. The voice that directed you to check his phone despite your belief that he was totally faithful. There was no reason for you to wake up in the middle of the night and check. But you did and that started a journey you could have never imagined. God knew that you and your husband were ready to begin a new kind of healing. One that would be mostly out of your hands and in the willingness of your husband to work and to change. That is where God will show you how to depend on Him and Him alone for your comfort.

Don’t be too hard on yourself as you doubt things the first year after discovery. You will try to understand what is going on and how to address your doubts but you just won’t have the tools yet.

Continue to trust in God’s timing and the need for process, because the recovery road will be a process for you and your husband.

Good job on listening to the Holy Spirit again and for finding your voice to say that things were still not right and the connection was not there. Good job for insisting that you both seek help as you reached out for counseling. Good job on trusting your inner voice that there was more to learn and for braving through more discovery. God will be there during this time providing you a super spiritual ability to hold onto God while you fight for your marriage. God will provide even as you doubt.

You don’t know this, but your courage to reach out for help will be where God meets you with true healing. As you join Shelley and the other ladies you will think it’s a group that will provide comfort to you on this journey. It will be much more than that. It is where you will learn how to use your voice, set boundaries and gain tools for true redemption. You will work with your group and you will ultimately become closer to the women God wants/needs you to be. You will use what you learn, not only in your marriage but in your parenting and friendships. You will have a better understanding of community and the way God intended it for good. This process is ordained by God and he will meet you there to offer you protection and healing.

Dear Me, I promise that you will feel God’s presence throughout this journey.

Perhaps His closeness will be felt most as you forgive your husband on the mountain top where you married him. It is something you could never have imagined on the night of discovery or even during that first year of recovery. Use your righteous anger to get to the depths of your hurt. Don’t push yourself to forgive because when you finally feel God’s leading to forgive, it will provide you true freedom. You will feel ready to forgive your husband even though God’s work in him is not complete.

Be patient. You will understand God’s redemption like never before as you watch your husband fight for your trust and learn how to connect with you in a deeper and more spiritual way.

You could never know this on the night of discovery, but the timing for all of this is ordained by God. You know this because of the healing that has occurred over the past 3 years. Although there have been many ups and downs, stops and restarts, God has carried you. You now rest in a place of connection with your husband, trust in God’s process and true healing for yourself. Know that this will be a lifelong process of healing and keep trusting that God will show up.

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A little about Kim – she loves to spend time with her two adult daughters and go on adventures with her husband as they enter this new phase of empty-nesting.  She is happy eating enchiladas, volunteering and searching for profound quotes to get her through the day.

And if you missed the first Dear Me Letter – you can read it here.

Image credits here and here.

The Dear Me Series – #1

One of the final exercises I instruct the ladies to do as apart of the RLFW support groups is to write a “Dear Me” letter.  Although there is a ton of trepidation to take part in this exercise – time and time again, it proves to be really meaningful.  To be able to look back and talk to your younger you and encourage and inspire her!  To look back and tell her that she’s going to make it – it’s powerful.

I was inspired to include this in the workbook after reading about others that wrote a letter to their sixteen year-old selves.  You can read a couple of examples here and here.

The letters the ladies in my groups write are to the younger version of themselves when everything hit the fan and they felt lost, without hope, and were looking for that life preserver to get them through the day in front of them – not the next week, not the next year – just the next day.  Can any of you relate?

Thank you, Erika, for going first.  I hope each of you enjoys this first installment of the Dear Me series.

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When you think of the early days and all the tears you cried. The number of times you cried yourself to sleep and even wept while you were sleeping. Only to wake up to a wet pillow, praying that it was just a dream. Know that God holds your tears. He was there crying right beside you.

You’ve come a long way since discovery. You waited many, many months for disclosure, and are still waiting for the amends letter. You constantly struggled with replaying all these years over and over in your mind hoping for a different outcome that is not going to happen. Slowly, you’ve learned to live with the facts of the past and forgive, not for him but you. Although it has been a long journey and came at the cost of innocence, you have peace you didn’t have two years ago.

You may never fully understand his choices of betrayal. But rest assured that his decisions do not mean you failed as a wife, or as a woman. Contrary to well-meaning advice, it wasn’t due to your lack of prayer, or encouragement, or availability to have sex or any other thing a Christian wife is “supposed to do and be.” Remember that no matter whom he married he would be this way. Your disability has not made you worth less than other women.

I know how desperately you wished you knew the truth a long time ago, especially before your health deteriorated. At times you have felt cheated, and that life is unfair. That’s because you were and it is. It is OK to feel this way at times. At the same time recall how God has been there with you, drawing you closer to Him.

Be kind to yourself that you didn’t put the pieces together. How could you? Who would think he was doing the things he was while at the same time having a fruitful ministry? Who thinks their husband is capable of such things? He was a master liar and manipulator who worked carefully to hide the facts and make you doubt the things you raised.

Be proud that you stand up for yourself now. That you realize you do not need to protect everyone and try to make sure everyone else is happy, especially at your own expense. As you continue to forge new patterns in your relationships, remember what you want matters at least just as much as others want. It is not selfish for you to want others to give and not just take.

As you go forward, listen to that inner voice. Let your words continue to match your feelings. Stand your ground and enforce your boundaries. It’s OK to be scared right now because you don’t know if your marriage will survive.

You’re not ready for this to be your story. That’s OK. You promised yourself that you would not let this experience harden your heart and make you bitter. Hold onto that promise.

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A little about Erika – she enjoys listening to audio books, working on jigsaw puzzles, and mentoring people with cerebral palsy.

Photo credits here and here.

I’ve got work to do – Part 3

Before reading this post, it will help to read Part 1 and Part 2 of “I’ve got work to do”.  I’d hate to confuse you anymore than necessary!

As I mentioned in Part 2, I received some feedback from my life coach as I was doing this forgiveness work.  She pointed out two areas that, for all intents and purposes, I missed.

Here are the two critical parts in my big release that I didn’t realize would be helpful to my healing –

Part One – I didn’t spend near the time and effort writing out why I felt hurt in these four five relationships (okay, seriously, I am feeling insecure that I might be coming across as super unhealthy given the number FIVE.  Oh well.  It’s my truth today.  The end).  I was advised to write out every single thing that hurt and to shush the “fairness police” peering over my shoulder telling me I’m too sensitive or too whatever.  Instead, by doing naming the hurts, we are choosing to value ourselves.

Part Two – In releasing others (aka forgiving them), it’s helpful to remember we are forgiving past hurts – not necessarily on-going hurts where there hasn’t been a chance to detach, get safe, and grieve.  As in, oftentimes, we must get some distance and perspective before forgiveness can take place.

Check out this excerpt from Boundaries

“Forgiveness has to do with the past.  Reconciliation and boundaries have to do with the future.  Limits guard my property until someone has repented and can be trusted to visit again.” (page 263)

Going a little further, something we can ask ourselves is this – What will I do differently next time? By asking this question, I’m able to actively figure out what I can do (not anyone else) in the future to help guard my heart in a healthy way.  Empowering.

____________________________________

So a couple of days later, I went back to the drawing board.  I listed out the hurts. I thought through and wrote down what I will do differently next time.  And let me just tell you – this was SO validating and healing for me.

Doing these extra couple of steps also helped me come to this realization – a lot of my “do differents” had more to do with boundaries and self-control than anything else!  (I literally pulled back out my boundaries book and have been flipping through it over the last couple of days.)  Again, empowering to figure out what I can do differently moving forward!

All that said, let me tell you ladies – I am under no such illusion that because I have released these five precious women from my heart – that I will never ever struggle with feeling bitter or resentful toward them.  I know this all too well from my forgiveness journey with Jason.

Jesus take the wheel!

What I DO have is greater peace.  Greater freedom.  My load is lighter because I have let them go.  I’m not spending near the amount of emotional energy thinking about the hurt!

If any of this is hitting home with you – I want you to know, you can do this too!  I’ve never met someone that needs help with forgiveness more than me!  So, whether it be forgiveness work related to betrayal or forgiveness work in a completely different relationship, there is freedom awaiting you!  Chances are, it won’t be glitzy or glamorous.  It will happen only with a LOT of effort on the front end followed by creating a quiet space to meet with Jesus and allow Him to work through you in a mighty and mystical way that we can’t explain.

One last thing, remember as I mentioned above, forgiveness requires a LOT of grieving and naming the hurt.  I used to think I could forgive in order to circumvent the grief process but I know differently today – grieving is a big part OF the forgiveness journey.

xo – Shelley

I’ve got work to do – Part 2

I was waiting for the perfect opportunity for my big release.

(I encourage the women in my groups to go before God and ask Him – is there a particular way that you’d like for me to forgive my husband?  The other woman, the other man?  That said, I’ve heard of some really powerful ways that this forgiveness work has transpired – releasing helium balloons with each one symbolizing a different hurt, hurling rocks in a lake with each one labeled with a different offense.)

I wanted to get creative – and at the same time, I wanted to be obedient to what I knew would be a fleeting kairos moment that I felt deep in my soul.

(Side note – do y’all know what I mean by this?  Oftentimes, I sense God pushing me to forgive someone for a minor offense or to be generous with my time or money.  I hear it, I acknowledge it…and then life moves on and it becomes a fleeting desire that I never act upon.  This happens so often to me.  So I KNEW – creativity needed to just fly right out the window so I could be obedient to what He was asking of me.)

So I asked God.  I waited.

And what I ended up doing was neither glitzy nor glamorous.  I tucked my youngest in bed for his nap last Tuesday afternoon and had exactly one hour before my olders would walk in the door from elementary school.  I knew it was time.

I sat down with my Bible, pen and journal.  I prepared my heart by writing out about 5 verses to inspire me to let it go.  Here’s a couple of them –

Work toward being compassionate, kind, humble, patient and gentle.  I choose to forgive because Jesus forgives me.  I choose to love because this is the greatest commandment. (paraphrased from Colossians 3:12-14)

It’s good for me to suffer so that I might learn your ways, LORD. (paraphrased from Psalm 119:71)

I then asked Jesus to be right by my side.  I took each woman individually (I added one more to the mix, after a rough weekend with a neighbor) and started with confessing what I did wrong.**  What I regretted doing or not doing.  I then spent just a little bit of energy writing out how I was hurt.  And then I released each one of them – pen and paper, just me and God.

This took me less than an hour to do and by the time I was done, not only was my hand cramping but my soul felt lighter (I say this because I never really think it’s going to work!  Anyone relate?)

However – and it’s a really BIG however – I missed some critical steps that I wouldn’t have realized if it hadn’t been for me processing this with my life coach.

And I’m SO thrilled to share this with you ladies in Part 3 because I think it’s really REALLY big!!!  Don’t worry, you won’t be waiting long for the conclusion.

Until then, any of you feel like there is someone God is asking you to release?  Anyone that comes to mind that is taking up so much emotional energy that it’s time to sit down and do some business with God and experience more freedom than you have at this very moment?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

xo – Shelley

(**A note to those of you contemplating forgiving your husband after finding out about his betrayal – I don’t know that in your case there will be much, if any “confession work” for you to do.  Confession and asking God to reveal any shortcomings is important work but to be clear, I’ve yet to meet a woman that forced her husband to look at porn or have an affair.  For these sorts of hurts, I can’t imagine there is anything to confess.

What I shared in this blog post is about releasing women that I’ve been in relationship with where the hurts have been much much more minor than betrayal in marriage.  Thus, this is slightly different than the forgiveness work you will do with your husband.  I would never want you to think you bear any blame for your husband’s choices (which is something I struggled with for months and is why I want to make this perfectly clear).

I hope this helps clarify any doubts creeping in.  xo)

 

I’ve got work to do – Part 1

Do you ever know that you have some work to do?  And you know what the end result needs to look like?  But you just don’t know how to get there?

Kinda reminds me of my forgiveness journey.  I knew I wanted and needed to forgive Jason.  I knew that by forgiving him, my burden would be lighter.  I knew that the ONLY way to live a whole and joy-filled life was to chase after forgiveness.  And yet, I really didn’t know how to get there.

I had no choice (Actually, I had a choice – I could stew in my bitterness and resentment or I could GRIEVE) but to slowly and surely put one foot in front of the other and TRUST that God would lead the way, just as he did with the Israelites as they left Egypt some 3500 years ago –

“By day, the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night, in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” – Exodus 13:21-22

And that’s exactly what happened – I started to get real (I mean, REAL) uncomfortable sitting in my pain and grieving my reality and allowing God to lead the way.  Grieving that the one man on the planet that I chose and that I thought had chosen me – also chose other women, too.  And he never told me this reality until after I said – “I do”.  I had to grieve that no. matter. what. my marriage was officially tainted.  I had to grieve that I was officially broken.  Oh yes, so so much to grieve.

And little did I know that it was that grieving that propelled me toward forgiveness.  More specifically to the grieving, it was putting on my brave pants and getting super honest about how I felt.  You ask why it required my brave pants?  It’s because there is NO way I could FIX those feelings.  I had to SIT with them.  I had to SIT with them.  I had to SIT with them.  UGH.

And then I realized, the one and only way to move forward through the pain was to lay it all at the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to do a miracle in my heart and release me from the hurt and the pain that Jason caused.

Jason never could do enough to pay me back.

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So maybe that’s the answer to my question from above.  I know I have work to do.  I acknowledged late last week that there are not one, not two, not three but FOUR people that I need to release.  Dear me.

I keep thinking of Paula Rinehart from Strong Women, Soft Hearts, where she talks about pulling out her yellow legal pad and going to town – just she and Jesus – looking inward and asking the big question – who do I need to let go of?  It’s something she says she does every six months.  Inspiring.

I’d say that’s my next step – to take out the paper and make my confessions obvious in black and white – a marker of sorts.  To confess what I did wrong in these relationships.  To confess that I’ve harbored bitterness and resentment.  And then to ask Jesus to work in me and through me to change my heart.

I am ready to release.  I am ready to be more free.  Anybody want to join me?

The Truth About Sexual Intimacy

Hello Ladies!  Such a pleasure to write for MOPS where this article was recently published both on their blog as well as in their Fall 2017 MOPS magazine.  Enjoy!

Also, the Restore Workshop will be in the DC area in less than two weeks.  Would love to meet you there!

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My husband, Jason, and I have a complicated history with sexual intimacy – betrayal on his part and an eating disorder on mine. Oftentimes, I feel like we are stumbling along in this area. It’s true – there are still times when we don’t want to be seen naked by the other person or we hit teeth or go weeks or months (yep, I said months) without it and, well, you get the picture.

I believe for most wives, we are taught through cultural influences that sex is the vehicle to connect with our husbands. If we feel disconnected – have sex. If we want to feel heard or understood – have sex. If we’ve had a bad day – just have sex! We are also taught that in order to have a healthy sex life we must adhere to some sort of schedule. Almost like keeping up with the Joneses in the sex department. It seems sex is about quantity, not quality. In many cases, sex has been deduced to loving one another with our bodies only.

But what if this isn’t how God intended sex to be? What if quality is more important than quantity, and what if using sex as the only means for connection is leaving us less fulfilled than ever in our marriages? What if sexual intimacy is more than just loving each other’s bodies? What if it’s also loving each other’s mind, heart and soul?

Jason will readily admit that early on in our marriage, sex was the only vehicle for him to feel loved. So, if I didn’t want to have sex, he instantly felt rejected and unloved by me. Thus, each time I said “no,” sex became a weapon he used against me by distancing himself and resenting and blaming me.

On the other hand, I felt completely confused by the matter. I wondered why I didn’t want to have sex with him and why I felt so inadequate in this area. When we did engage sexually, I didn’t enjoy it and I always felt empty afterward – like an object in the bedroom. I didn’t feel loved; I felt used. Jason didn’t feel loved either; he felt rejected.

The type of sex we were engaging in wasn’t the love Jesus intended for us. Sex, for us, was a physical act of confusion. We’ve sought to take out the confusion and put sex in its rightful place. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:

Don’t degrade sexual intimacy to an action item on your to-do list. Take it right off the calendar. In lieu of scheduling time for sex, schedule time to connect through emotional intimacy (understanding one another’s feelings), or recreational intimacy (finding something you like to do together). Allow yourselves to build a foundation of intimacy in other areas before engaging sexually.

Use sex as a celebration for connecting in other ways versus the only way for connecting. This gets tricky with littles under foot, jobs to maintain, errands to run – well, it’s no wonder that sex is downgraded to a couple’s only avenue of connection. We regularly ask ourselves before engaging sexually, “Are we about to use sex as our only means of connection or rather as a celebration because we feel so connected in other areas – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually?”

If you aren’t feeling like engaging in sexual intimacy, try to be honest and talk about it. This one is hard for me. Because of our story of betrayal, there is still this tiny part of me that thinks I better always say yes to sex. Yet, we realized that if either one of us isn’t in the mood, we’re probably going to end up feeling empty and disappointed. No reason to fake something that’s not there. When we get honest and vulnerable about why one of us isn’t feeling like connecting sexually, more often than not, this is the very thing that connects us emotionally and propels us closer toward sexual intimacy.

If you struggle with a sexual integrity issue like pornography, more sex is not the answer. I believed that Jason’s struggles with pornography and affairs were because I didn’t engage sexually with him at a frequency that was acceptable. It’s true, our sexual intimacy was lacking, but turning into a “sexy wife” did NOT fix the problem. I tried it and it only led to more emptiness and more pain for me, and heaps of shame for Jason.

Give yourself permission for sex to be wonky. We have had to literally wipe the slate clean when it comes to sex. It might just take a lifetime to figure out how we can use it as an expression of our love and connection. We’re OK with this. We’re willing to take our time and laugh (a lot) along the way.

What would it look like if you engaged in sexual intimacy with new eyes – to not view sex as the only means of connection, but rather to use it as a celebration of the full love you share in marriage? Instead of sex being deduced to loving one another with bodies only, strive for it to be a true and whole expression of love connecting heart, mind and soul. Sexual intimacy with your husband can be the reflection of love that Jesus desires for your marriage, you need only to be open to a new perspective.

…and now that I feel all kinds of vulnerable – would love to hear your thoughts! 

xo – Shelley