Tuesday, February 2, 2016

7 years ago...

7 years ago, our life took a turn. Our life of 'perfection', 'love', 'romance', 'marriage', 'Christianity', and so many other adjectives that we would have used to describe it, took a terrible, horrific turn. All of the adjectives used to describe our marriage became questionable, some of them false, and our entire life became a huge mess. Life, the world, and our marriage collided. Our marriage seemed to have lost.

I remember the day like it just happened 5 minutes ago. I was home with a 6 month old baby and Tony called saying he was coming home early. I could not have been more thrilled! It was a cool January evening and fun baby time and dinner along with just time together was always welcome! It turned out, though, that he was not coming home early because he wanted to but because he had just lost his job. That's right. His stable, provides an income and health insurance, consistent paycheck, moving up the ladder job was over. The life we knew was over. Boy do I wish the story ended there and we picked up and moved on to another job.

There's more to the story. You see, Tony didn't just loose his job because of downsize or even because of an unfair situation. Tony lost his job due to a choice of his that started when he was much younger. Beginning at a young age, Tony became one of the 68% of young men that viewed pornography at least once a week. This 'quick glance' became a full fledged addiction. I knew that I was marrying a man that walked a fine line of 'looking at it a little too much' but what wife and woman doesn't think that she will be the end to this situation!?!? Besides, why would he look at pornography again, when he has me to look at all the time, right? At least this is what I thought.... until I got that phone call.

I then realized that pornography wasn't just a casual thing. It wasn't just hopping on a website, like I hop onto Google. This was an addiction and it was going to ruin my life and destroy my marriage. Our family had been sacrificed to this god of modern age technology. I wanted to die. I wanted to kill Tony first. I wanted to run away. I wanted a divorce. I wanted Tony to be well. I wanted to help him fix this. I wanted all of these things, plus millions of more things..... and I wanted them all for naught. It seemed as though all of what I wanted spiraled into a black hole of nothingness to never be seen or heard from again.

My stability was gone. My love was crushed. My spirit was broken. My faith was shaken. The months and years to come were a huge question mark. Would Tony chose to get well and get help or chose to be content where he was? Would I chose to take responsibility for the things that I could be responsible for and the things that I could do on my own and grow closer to God and grow from this on my own? Oh the agony and oh the heartache.

In this time, I can't tell you what I did. I can't tell you how I made it months on end at the end of my rope. I can't tell you the shame I felt, the lack of self confidence that I suffered with, the betrayal that I experienced and so many other things during this time. I also can't say that the decision to seek help and counseling and to better ourselves were always for the right reasons. I can just say that every day I look back, and I thank God for directing my steps each day. I would be a liar if I said that I actually LISTENED and OBEYED each direction God put me in but overall, I was able, somehow to make it to the other side of the pit of Hell.

Fast forward through months and  years of counseling, Celebrate Recovery, hard conversations, relapse, fights, tough decisions on both of our part, and you will find a couple that literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death, not just feared evil but saw it, experienced it, and walked hand in hand with it at times. We had many fights in the midst of the healing. Hard conversations were drudged through with gritted teeth, tears, and clenched fists. Brokenness was revealed in both of our lives - brokenness that needed healing between each of us and our Maker as well as acceptance and patience from each other. I learned how to love myself and not depend on Tony as my source of love and purpose. I learned that there are things in life that you can be in control of and then there are those things that you are at the mercy of. I also learned that I am responsible for my reactions, my responses, my attitude, my job as a wife - I am responsible for ME. Don't confuse this with me saying that what he did was ok, excusable, or anything else of that sort, but that there is always one factor that I was responsible for and that factor was me. I knew that if in the end, things didn't work out for a plethora of reasons, that I would have to still be responsible for myself in the midst of it. I knew that my becoming a better woman of God, mom, wife, person, friend, etc mattered and that I was 100% responsible for me - not Tony.

So why today? Why tell our story? Well, it hasn't been a secret - free to anyone who has asked - but there is such a lack of transparency in the overall Christian Church. There is such a need for real stories to be told - stories that are ugly, hard, full of hate and despair, but in the end have the grace and freedom that only Jesus can write into a story such as ours. Jesus - He is the real reason for this story! He is the part of our story that MILLIONS of people and couples struggling with pornography in their marriage need to know that Jesus is in their story too. He is the part of our story that those trapped in the lies of pornography need to know that Jesus is THE TRUTH. He is the reason that there is freedom in transparency. Jesus is why the lie of 'they are a sweet innocent young couple' can't stand and real ministry can happen. We care passionately and hold our story with a holy reverence because we know the magnitude and reality that Jesus carried us through the valley of the shadow of death. He transformed each of our hearts in a way that even our friends admit that we aren't the same people but better on the other side of this. We aren't perfect - we argue almost every day about something - but we know that what we have in our marriage is a jewel - a gift from God. A gift poured out on us not to squander by staying silent about His power and majesty but a gift he expects us to share with the world through encouragement and love.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In a Boat, on a Lake, in the Middle of a Storm by Heather Peacock

So here we are. We are all pretty desperate at this point. Desperate for peace, answers, healing, sleep and an end to the seemingly endless waves that randomly crash into our boat most every day. Just when you think you have your footing, when the pounding of your heart has slowed and you are trying to fix your eyes on the horizon to navigate out of the danger, another, bigger wave crashes into you knocking you down again, leaving you grappling for a safe handhold and struggling just to breathe.

We found ourselves there again in the dark of the night and all that was left to do was to cry “Mercy!” To cry out to a Father who is neither surprised nor alarmed by this moment and beg him for rescue, for answers, for insight. And suddenly my frantic pleading was stopped short by the voice of One I have heard before.

Peace, be still.

Into my mind came the picture of a boatload of terrified disciples in the midst of their own storm.

Mark 4: 35-41
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

My heart was calmed by the undeniable truth that the One who commands the wind and waves is still in control. At any moment He can calm my storm too. A promise that had been forgotten in the midst of my fear.

But then, my heart was rebuked.

Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Where had my faith gone?  Had it been misplaced by hoping for answers from doctors that have not come? Or a false faith in my own strength that if I just read enough or search hard enough I can find the answers myself? This is not my first storm after all. Hadn’t the Lord rescued me before? Hadn’t I rejoiced in the beautiful reality of Psalm 124, freed by His hand alone from the fowler’s snare? Hadn’t I experienced His supernatural healing in my own body and witnessed it in others?

How did I get here so blind and terrified and gasping for air?

Perhaps I had lost sight of who Jesus is.

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

This quote for Rene Latourelle seems to explain it a bit.
“Jesus is victorious over death, sickness, sin, and the forces of nature, simply because in his very being he is God-among-us. It is not more difficult for him to control the wind and the sea than to prevail over sin and death.”

It is always a struggle for the human mind to grasp even the tiniest understanding of the nature of our
Heavenly Father. Who He is not what I am or will ever be. Even when I am free of my flesh I shall only be able to fall in wonder with the rest of heaven and cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Lord, help my unbelief. Teach me daily to rely only on you. Help me lay aside the idols of my heart. May I know you more fully as I wait for You to still the wind and the waves.

***this was written by my dearest friend, Heather Peacock.***

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To the person who says "Well, are you going to have any more?!?!"

Yeah, so I have taken a sabbatical from blogging because we have been on another food allergy/tummy issue journey with our youngest. We have been from the pediatrician to the allergist then to the Pediatric GI specialist and back again over the last few months. Scary tests have been run, lots of blood has been taken, poop samples have been given and a firm diagnosis is still unknown. Through all of this, if I have been asked once, I have been asked a hundred times, "well, are you going to have any more after all this?!?!" and I've been told "Surely you are done having children!" This question/statement has not been asked out of genuine concern or even excited anticipation for another life but out of pity and sorrow and with the implication that something is wrong with the two children we do have.

Well, let me take a moment to tell you what is wrong with my children. My 7-year old thinks he is grown and knows everything. He wants to be independent but still needs his mom to tuck him in at night. He is very good at working technology but technology could run his life if I allowed him to be attached to it as often as he wanted, therefore he knows not his own boundaries. He has a head full of hair that gets tangled often. He is left-handed and therefore has to wait on his dad who is left-handed, too, to teach him how to do a few specific things. He is on a reading level above his current grade as well as can do math a year ahead, too. He loves peanut butter and jelly a little too much and so I have to tell him no when he wants his 3rd PB&J for the day. OH - I did forget to mention that he can't have eggs and cow dairy, but that just means he has to have different milk and ice cream and can't eat typical fast food like other kids. *sarcasm implied if you didn't catch that*

My 16-month old is a whole other story. He has many more things 'wrong' with him. He climbs stairs, has fits, hits, throws things when he is mad, cries when he doesn't get what he wants, poops and pees his pants, doesn't always sleep through the night, wants to be fed 4 times a day and goodness gracious, can't do ANYTHING for himself. Aside from that, he does have a soy allergy and some tummy trouble, but that is nothing compared to the other things I listed that are 'wrong' with him. *this was sarcastic, too. I'm just saying in case you missed it.*

Let me share with you, though, what all is right about my children: they laugh, love, give great hugs, kiss me often, tell me "i love you", thank me for helping them, and they can walk and talk. They also have all their senses intact 100%, their organs all function properly, they aren't living off of a machine, they don't have to be hooked up to machines to help their bodies function, they actually HAVE all of their body parts, they are social, they are beautiful, they are children of God on loan to me for a short while. They run, they play, they are mesmerized by the little things in life, they pick me flowers, they build with blocks and legos, they color me pictures, they adore their daddy. They have friends, make friends, talk with adults, they have manners (most of the time), they love going to church, hearing about Jesus, praying for other people, and singing everywhere we go. Oh I could go on and on, but I'm pretty sure you get the point - they are great kids!

So when you ask me if I am going to have any other children, you might catch me on a day where my oldest has back talked me 103 times, the baby has climbed the steps twice, and they both had allergic reactions to something that I gave them from not paying great attention. And I might give you a look with a little 'crazy' in my eyes and say "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? I'm 0-2!!!" But that doesn't make my children bad or wrong - it makes them typical kids. So when you see me with 'crazy' on my shoulders and tears in my eyes from having a brief mom moment, don't ask me "are you going to have any more!?!?" That question implies that you think your opinion matters to me, my convictions with the Lord are your business, and my family is 'enough' in your opinion. And let me just say.... the only opinion that matters is NOT yours!

Monday, September 28, 2015

the life of a ministry spouse

So I know people write about being a ministry spouse all the time, and I've not ever read one of those posts that I don't agree with at least a majority of their viewpoints and opinions on the matter. The opinions about the loneliness, friendless, and glass house life you live is true. The perspective of the outsider, yet the insider is a perspective few experience, but among those who experience it, all agree that it is not always (not even often) pretty. The blessings you get to see firsthand and the opportunity to pray for others in a way that many don't get the opportunity to ever understand is one of high responsibility and high calling - and one of high blessing! There is a perspective, though, that I've not heard of often - and that is the perspective of the spouses CHOICE in this matter.

People often ask me if I'm "happy" here in Pennsylvania. People often ask me if I'm "happy" being a ministry wife and a SAH (stay at home) mom and homeschooling the boys so that we can have the life that we want to have all while being fully available for "the ministry". Here is the kicker - being "happy" is a CHOICE I have made. When I married Tony, I didn't marry him with stipulations and regulations about how and where our life together had to take us. I married him because I was smitten with his looks, his heart, and who he was together. Life had a way of playing itself out in some not so pretty ways and then in some beautiful ways, and in all those times, I had a CHOICE to make - keep running the race with him, or not. The choice to join in the ministry with Tony was a choice that fell into place with all of the other choices I make daily. The choice to get up in the morning and be "happy" is a responsibility that falls on nobody else but me. Circumstances seem to sometimes dictate whether people are happy or not, and that is a fallacy that has crept into our thinking. I can dislike circumstances and things that have happened, but happiness is a choice of the position in which your heart takes during those times. Happiness is a matter of the heart, not a matter of circumstance.

Today's culture is skewed in the thinking that other people and other things make you happy. I promise you, if that were true, I would be always searching for that - which seems to be what so many other people are doing - searching for happiness. Happiness is a choice we have to clothe ourselves in - just like we pick out our clothes for the day, we must choose what we will clothe our hearts in each day. We are given each breath, each moment to make a choice, and that choice is ours.

So I choose to be happy married to an imperfect man who has made terrible choices and has daily failed me. I choose to be content staying home with two imperfect children who are just as fallen short of the glory of the Lord as I am. I choose to be a spouse of a minister who prays for and is burdened by so many in the walls of the church. I choose to pray for and over those in the church and in ministry because they need a covering. I choose that my heart will daily shout praises to the Lord even while the world around me seems to crumble.

Joshua 24:14-15 says "Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Happiness and so many other conditions of the heart are a choice! Even Joshua knew that we must choose and that some would not....

"Choose this day whom you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."