The Disqualified Christian – Part Four: Abortion Forgiveness

A couple weeks ago I received a message on Instagram from a follower. This person had suffered quite a loss and began to share it with me. I’ve never met this person and I think sometimes it is easier that way, to share something so personal with a stranger you’ll never see face to face.

This person is a cancer survivor, a great photographer and from what I could tell a follower of God. As he was sharing his life, he mentioned a mortal sin that he could never forgive of someone from his past. The words mortal sin, hit me like a train. As I continued reading his message I knew without having to ask, which sin he meant, but I still asked, “what sin is it that you consider a mortal sin?” and he responded with, “Abortion.” That was what I thought he would say and I found it quite intriguing what God was doing. God knew that if I ever wanted to be a speaker that helps women overcome their past and invite him into their life – I’d have to tell my story time and time again, until it became easier.

This persons message was lengthy and filled with frustration and pain. He was quite frank in his personal feelings on abortion and God’s disgust with it. He went on to detail how it affected him with the loss of two children he didn’t know even existed. She had two abortions years prior without his knowledge. I could not imagine that type of loss and betrayal he must have felt. It was important for me to honor his loss, his feelings and the way he was deceived. It would have been easy for me to have just let him share, prayed for him and moved on with my day. It would have been easy to hide behind my Instagram, my beautiful quotes and inspirational messages and remain a glow in my highlight reel social media life. However, I knew God wanted more of me in this moment. When I asked God if he was leading me to be a listener, or both a listener and to share my story he responded very clearly, “Yes” to both.

When you listen to someone detesting something or someone, very firmly and feeling that their convictions are backed by the bible, and God – it is frightening to say you’ve sinned in the same way. As I heard the way he spoke and thought of this woman who hurt him greatly, the very thought to say – I’m just like her, made me nervous. Though I knew it was necessary for me to be obedient to my promise to God, to be a vessel and share his grace and forgiveness in my life.

When I responded it was first and foremost necessary for me to honor his loss, his feelings and his position even. I wanted him to know that for all he had gone through – I could see where those feelings came from and that his feelings were valid. Then it was important for me to share with him a little of my story and how I came to start this part of my life. He needed to know that the person he has been following, the person who he thanks daily for inspiration and sharing God’s word – had also had an abortion.

It was important for a few reasons. First, I needed to own my truth and be fully transparent. My testimony is my why, it is where God uses me and where his praise resides. Second, it felt important to inform him that this woman surely has suffered in a way he may not have noticed and it is doubtful she is carefree and without judgment today. That the experience of an abortion is life altering and traumatic and most women suffer in silence. I don’t care who says having an abortion did not affect them, it does. The third reason was because I wanted him to know that God forgave me and that I know if you repent and trust in God all your sins are wiped clean.

In my case I was only a child, unmarried and my boyfriend was aware and made the choice as well. There was a disconnect between my heart and mind, between what I knew to be Gods word and what I chose. Though I must admit I lacked the emotional ability to understand the destructive choice I was making, the life I was taking or the affect it would have on me for many years to come. Regardless, I was still equal to this woman he detested. We were the same, and I told him my truth. As I sat there waiting to see if he would respond harshly with judgment or at all – my heart was at peace knowing I did the right thing by telling him.

It is unnerving to share something that carries the heaviness of guilt and humiliation. The thought of giving someone else the power to judge me or disqualify me was uncomfortable. However, the healing, grace and mercy over-flooded my soul when God led me to share my redemption story. It didn’t matter if he responded or condemned me because I knew my worth didn’t lay in mans opinion of what my past held. God’s truth for me was; I’m forgiven.

When his response came through it said this, “You might be the most complete human being I’ve ever encountered. I applaud you for being penitent to God and I applaud you for the courage it took to share this. I have your back and so does God because you first went to him. You don’t hide from your past or pontificate where you are currently. You counsel and testify all the while being funny, kind and unique.” I sat there for a moment and re-read his words and while I responded with graciousness I also informed him that I was not complete yet but God was still working on me.

It is easier to judge than it is to forgive and cutting off people because of past choices does the exact opposite of what God demonstrates to us daily. For me, it was abortion. For you it could have been addiction, pornography, criminality or numerous other sins. We know that God detests seven things:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. – Proverbs 6:16-19

Did you know though that these along with many other sins are all equal in Gods eyes? A sin is a sin, is a sin. Jesus’ blood was shed for forgiveness of ALL sins, not just the easy ones, or the minor ones or for the people he favors most. ALL who repent and follow him will be forgiven for ALL of our sins. ALL.

We need to be more gracious and open to the past of others, we should want to encourage their repentance and be open to loving them regardless of a past we may not have chosen or understand. My friends, it does not matter the choices you made long ago, yesterday or even today, if you let God in, trust in him and give him your life – he will give you a new name, a new heart and a clean slate. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:10-12 NIV

The Disqualified Christian – Part Three: Bite your tongue.

What would you think if I told you that the majority of people who don’t go to church not only know but love God? Being unfamiliar with Jesus isn’t what is preventing a closer relationship with him; it’s us and our tongues. You’ve heard the saying ‘bite your tongue’ and I think we should be doing more of that.

The other day a feeling came over me that the reason most people don’t get connected with a church is that they fear judgment. The most obvious assumption would be God’s judgment, but it is not his judgment that is keeping people away, it is ours. For me, that was true for many years, especially living in a small town. The things I had worked on and began healing from, others were quick to rip the bandage off the wound – exposing my scrapes and scars to whoever would look.

We need to remember that church is a hospital, everyone there is needing healing in some manner or another. We all have wounds, scrapes and scars – those are reminders of our mistakes, our imperfections and what leads to humility and acceptance. They are pieces of our testimony which are meant to draw people in, to encourage them in having a closer relationship with God, and understanding his mercy and forgiveness.

This excerpt below explains gossip ingeniously and how detrimental it truly is:

“Who am I? I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cruel and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I’m nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and ruin marriages. I destroy careers and cause heartache and sleepless nights. I wreck churches and separate Christians. I spawn suspicion and generate grief, make innocent people cry on their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am gossip.”

Charles Kimball

WOW! If that is not enough to make you take a step back and think for a minute, I don’t know what is. Take Kanye for example, the moment he shared he was saved, a moment that most people are overjoyed and even encouraged to share – was ruined by hypocrisy. Many people took to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs even to say – it was a crock. He was being interviewed not for the incredible transformation, or the power in our Lord and Saviors blood but the validity of it. Now, I understand the importance of discernment and knowing when someone is a false teacher or not – but that was not the basis behind any reports, interviews, posts, etc., the basis was a disqualification. The last time I checked, we aren’t who disqualifies.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew to focus on our issues, pasts, shortcomings, faults, and sins. Once those are remedied only then should you help your brother. Help him, not condemn him, there is a big difference. It is a sleight of hand trick in a sense that deflects a flaw normally worse than the individuals flaw you’re so eager to reveal. Why do we do this?

Gossip is likened to a tasty morsel and without gods help in taming our tongues, it is near impossible to break the habit. Judgment goes hand in hand with this also because one feeds off of the other. So, how can we limit this nasty package duo? Here are five ways I think could help:

  1. Sometimes the gossip comes to you. When this happens you should be able to identify it rather quickly, change the subject or defend the person.
  2. If what you are whispering involves tragedy, a plot of evil, discouragement, disgrace or someone else’s secret – let it die and not leave your lips.
  3. Disengage. You can do this by identifying why you feel the need to share something negative. There is most likely something underlying within you that is feeding that unhealthy desire.
  4. Pretend that either the person you are speaking about or Jesus is standing beside you. If you can still share it, go right ahead.
  5. Last but not least, we were created in Gods image and with that comes his reputation. Each time we judge, criticize or condemn another person, we make our father look bad. We were taught love, mercy, and grace – that is what he uses with us, why would we treat others any differently?

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV

The Disqualified Christian Part Two: The Flame of Infidelity and Adultery

The whole purpose of this series is to inform you that you are not disqualified by your sins. It is impossible to be a Disqualified Christian.

Even as I heal – there will always be cracks in who I am as a woman. There is no way around that, and I am learning to love and appreciate the cracks for the gifts that they are. I think we learn to love ourselves more each day, as we mature, as we conquer challenges and receive Gods grace despite our shortcomings. I’ve learned that love is an act, it is a choice and it takes work. It is not a fleeting moment or a gaze when the moon hits just right – that is hallmark and romance – and while I am sucker for that too – you can’t chase that. It will not sustain you.

I’m the last person in the world who would ever give marriage advice, but I can absolutely give you – “you’ll regret this” and “you’ll lose sleep at night” and “you will carry this shame with you because I have been there” support. So please know that what I am sharing with you is because I have been there, and with zero judgment I want you to know you are not alone. And, it is not over. God is the ultimate redeemer. When I read the book of John and came across the story of Jesus and the Woman caught in adultery – my shame started to diminish. It was as if God was speaking to me and I no longer felt alone. That is what I want you to experience too.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her”

John 8:1-11

Marriage before my husband now was not valued or understood as it was intended to be. That saddens me because I didn’t comprehend the weight of the vows I made to the other person, to myself and especially to God. But even as unworthy as I felt, God made good on his promise. 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 NIV

To be forward and fully transparent in the past I traded infatuation for love. Popularity for acceptance and abuse for companionship. It would take me years to learn that I would never replenish what I was lacking with such convoluted thoughts and actions. A compliment led to things and places it never should have. Attention was much like a wolf in sheeps clothing; dangerous and disingenuous. The truth was it all happened so fast that before I knew it, I was in too deep. And when you are in too deep – the enemy loves that. And you find yourself wanting things you never actually wanted, you find yourself doing things you never would have done until one day you are promising two people – what you can’t even promise to yourself.

When something superficially pleasing is suffocated by secrecy, lies and shame – it can’t be right. There are so many aspects of affairs, the damage it inflicts to all involved and what really lies at the core of a breakdown of a marriage that is not possible for me to cover it in one blog post. The desire that has been placed on my heart is to speak to the women who are ashamed and think they are unworthy of Gods love, forgiveness and grace. This is for them.

If you’re a woman involved in or have had an affair whether it be emotional or physical please hear me when I say this, you are still a good person. Your feelings that you had/have about your marriage, yourself and this other person were/are real to you and I honor your feelings. What matters most to me though is that you are able to see yourself as the woman you would respect years from now, and that you considered your actions with your spouse and how it will affect them. Your marriage has the possibility of being saved still, you can choose at any moment to honor yourself, your spouse and your marriage enough to seek a marriage counselor, personal counselor or someone at your church even. And, if you are suffering in the shame of a past infidelity there is hope for you as well. This does not have to end here, not like this. You are still valuable.

If you’re a woman involved in an affair with a married man, the same goes for you – except I encourage you to honestly ask yourself this: What am I really getting from this? Is this the way love looks, acts and feels? Am I fooling myself to believe that this man who sneaks behind his wife’s back won’t do the same to me? Am I foolish to believe he will leave her for me? And, if he does – would I want that? The reason I say this is because you are making the choice knowingly to potentially destroy someone else’s marriage – someone who meant their vows, someone who loves their husband and do you know that 75% of marriages that have suffered an affair, survive? My worry is that you’ll lose yourself, while they repair themselves and I love and care about you too much to standby and not speak up. You deserve better than this. This is not Gods plan for you, I can tell you that wholeheartedly.

Please hear me when I say if you don’t take anything from this post but this next statement – I will consider this a win. – God will not send you anything or anyone that you must sin to have -. A married person is not yours, and if you are married, someone else is not yours either. Trust me, I understand the deceitful passion, the misleading and fictitious feeling of need. The feeling that this person must have been made for you or they wouldn’t be in front of you right now. But that is the devil – not God. You cannot start a fire in a place that you are unable to contain it. You cannot start a fire in hopes for warmth with infatuation. Steven Furtick said, the word infatuation in Latin means false fire. It looks like and acts like fire – but it can’t keep you warm. It can however get away from you, and there will be collateral damage as it burns everything around you to the ground. And, it will.

I regret not knowing God then like I do now and this is in part why I am sharing this series with you. If only I realized then that he could fill me up, that his words and promises could have been the man that headed our table and our family. And, to immerse myself in the peace and knowledge that he would eventually lead me to the husband I have today – the man who was set apart for our family. But I took the hard road as I always have and learned it for myself.

I promised God I would share my failures in order to reveal his grace, and his love for us as sinners. It is not easy to share my flaws. The only reason I do is in hopes that my words deter you. And remind you that even if you have a past that involves some form of infidelity – you are not disqualified. Gods love for sinners is abundantly and freely given when you trust in him and give him the weight that has been too heavy to carry – he just wants your heart, and he can heal it.

The Disqualified Christian – Part One: The Divorcé

“So you’ve got a past, who doesn’t? What I need to know is if there is a place for me in your future?” – Andrew Hennings, Sweet Home Alabama.

That is one of my favorite quotes from the movie Sweet Home Alabama. The southern twang, the idea of first loves being our once in a lifetime love and the idea that what’s meant to be will find it’s way. That and I like to imagine that this is God talking to me as well, asking if I have a place for him in my future, regardless of my past.

Growing up all I wanted was a family, a husband, children, sitting around the table eating dinner together each night. That is it. Sure I had thought about what I would do for a living but nothing mattered more than being a wife and mother. My grandfather also told me that I should never date someone who I couldn’t see myself marrying. Which now makes sense, but then it did not. So, I set off searching for my head of the table and my perfect relationship. Blindly, it was a path set forth by generational curses that I was unaware existed. A path littered with infidelity, divorce, deceit, abuse – everything that seemingly disqualifies a woman to herself, a potential spouse and God.

Being divorced again rocked me to my core. All I wanted was a family and it caused me to hide from God, I was humiliated and ashamed. It would take me some time before I realized that I didn’t need to hide what he already knew.

Divorce to some is not a big deal, but to me it was. It meant that I had failed more than once at making a vow to God, and a vow to my husband. It meant I lied, it meant I let the three of us down and under it all – it meant I was impossible to love.

Being divorced once or twice seems more socially acceptable these days. In fact some religions require you to remarry immediately. But it is no secret that God detests divorce, in fact divorce was created by man, not God. So for me it was easy to assume that God detested me as well and I was doomed to hell.

But I was so wrong. In fact for those of us who have faltered and lost our way only to be found and repent, Jesus shed his blood to cleanse us and our sins – ALL SINS not just a couple that he sees fit.

Divorce does not label you as a person. It does not disqualify or discredit you. Maybe your spouse left you and you feel like no one could ever love you – that is not true. Maybe your spouse cheated and you asked him to stay because you wanted to work on things, and the cheating never stopped. Maybe you were unfaithful, you just grew apart, both wanted different things, couldn’t manage finances, agree on children – maybe you had different faiths. There are a variety of reasons that lead to divorce. And, they are all emotionally destructive. Even the amicable ones, can still sting.

My advice to you is just take it to God. Release it and release yourself. God cannot heal what you don’t reveal. And God is the ultimate restorer. You don’t need to carry the weight of yesterday into tomorrow.

Our experiences that did not work out as planned are not a label you wear that reads unworthy, failure or unlovable. Those moments that our plans failed are actually full of love, mercy and grace from God. That was Gods way of saying, “Okay, I let you try your way even though it was wrong and now I’m taking over because I love you enough to close this door for you.” God does not label you as anything but worthy. You say those lies to yourself and allow when others say them to you, to matter. Just like the lies I said to myself each time I failed, “I’m a failure.” “No one will love ever love me.” “I’m too damaged.” “Who wants to marry someone whose been married before?” “God must be really punishing me.” Wrong sister, Wrong!

Try to remember these four important truths when you feel like you failed or are unworthy of self love, Gods love or love from a spouse.

  1. God does not punish, he loves you entirely. All he wants is your heart. All that time I spent hiding away in shame, he knew. It is so funny when you wake up and realize GOD knows EVERYTHING – and he still pursues us. Read Jeremiah 29:11
  2. You control your self-talk. My goal for other women is being the drunk girl in the bar bathroom at 2 am – minus the drunk, and the bar. Those ladies are kind, they compliment, they care, they talk – zero comparison and zero judgment. I want women to feel loved, empowered, and valued just as they are. I need to talk to myself the same way. Try it. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  3. Trust me, there are good men who marry flawed women and vice versa. Oh this one is true. I should know. It took me 14 years of brokenness to find the one person who could hold me together – God. And, then my husband. My husband could care less about my past. He just loves me. And, that right there is proof of Gods grace.
  4. It is important to heal, to sit in your pain for a period and process it. Don’t place a bandage over something that is hemorrhaging – it won’t hold. You can’t move forward when so much crap is holding you back. You want to sort it out, to feel it, to experience the emotions and all that go with loss, heartache, and anger even. It is okay to feel disappointed.

All of this to say you are not disqualified as a woman, in this world or in God eyes for being divorced once, twice or more. In John chapter 4, there is a story of a Samaritan woman at the well. She had been married five times and was living with a man that was not her husband. Jesus sought her out. Jesus spoke to her. And, for the first time in the Gospel of John shared that he was the messiah, to a woman no less, who had been rejected, disqualified and discounted. If Jesus spoke to her, you are no different my friend.

The Disqualified Christian – Blog Series: Intro

In a world heavy -laden with competition, one-uppers and an insatiable desire to discredit or disqualify anyone that is disliked, misunderstood or written off by unpopular opinion – now more than ever you need to know the truth. God doesn’t disqualify sinners, people with a past or imperfect Christians. He actually seeks them, dines with them and loves them.

Every person has a past and as I’ve matured I realized that no one is perfect, that no one has it easy and that just because their life path looks different, more affluent, privileged etc. it does not make them more favorable in the eyes of God. He loves us all just as we are.

My heart has always been with the lost, the ones with difficult backstories and the ones who suffer in silent pain or shame. Those are my people. Having a past made it easy to believe the lies from the enemy, other people who didn’t wish me well and even myself that I was disqualified. This set in motion a life lost in proving myself to others, seeking approval and gaining my worth through the wrong people.

Have you ever sat by and watched someone else succeed? Clapping while someone else lived your dream? My senior quote in our yearbook was by Will Rogers and read “We can’t all be heroes, because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by” and when you hear the saying speak your life into existence, that is exactly what I did. I started off disqualifying myself from the beginning.

And, I want to save you the heartache by telling you that you are not disqualified either.

-Beautiful Smile to hide the Pain

I saw a saying the other day that read “PSA: Please don’t tell people how to heal from something you’ve never been through” and that was so good. And, exactly why I started writing. I wanted to make people see that with me you are not alone. That in so many scenarios, I have been there and I do get it. That you are not unworthy, and that God still chooses you.

Over the next week, I am going to cover topics, hot button topics that not only make us uncomfortable to talk about but also uncomfortable to admit. The very things that often make us as human beings, new believers and even seasoned Christians question our purpose, our worth and even if we’re disqualified. I hope you’ll join me and share with others that may feel lost, confused and possibly unloved to read along as well.

Until Tomorrow – Jess

It is okay to love God.

okay that may be taking it to far – but it got your attention didn’t it. I wish I could apologize to every person I thought was annoying, trying to save me. Because, I get it now.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Everything felt new, exciting and as if you had this renewed sense of purpose. Any topic could be related to this new love in some way or another. You would think about this person non-stop all day long, and you would find creative ways to say their name just because you loved the way it sounded.

You were kinder, gentler, slow to anger because you were truly happy from the inside out and as cliché as it sounded, you felt complete. This is how I feel about God right now, but instead of sharing with the whole world excitedly, I was quiet at first, and walking on egg shells even.

When I first started talking about God, I caught myself whispering. I prepared myself for people to think that I had either lost my mind, or was about to. I’ve become overly conscious of offending someone, and preparing for the death of dearly loved friendships. Why do you ask? Because God is controversial, because sin is universal, and nothing divides people more than church and state.

The offenses run rampant and the offended are looking for someone to blame for their transgressions, anger, heartbreak and their loss. And, God is usually the one taking the fall. In our society today one breath out of context can be held against you, and the world wants inclusion while excluding one thing, God.

No one is unfamiliar with the amount of (removal) of God in our society today. Teachers teach evolution and can’t speak on religion or beliefs. Court rooms don’t all use the bible anymore. Classrooms rarely say the national anthem before the day starts, praying in public is more offensive than breastfeeding used to be. And, breastfeeding is beautiful!

We condemn, we separate and the world acts on how they “feel” and assume that is enough. Someone saying “Have a blessed day, God Bless you, or Merry Christmas” at work or in public, is risking their livelihood, but to the brave ones, they know their livelihood is in Jesus’ hands.

Who is the one person who has never let you down, never left your side, never not loved or accepted you? For me that only qualifies as one person. God. He is always where I left him, when I walked away. He is always forgiving and loving, and while his lessons may be hard, and his timeline askew from mine, everything in my life has connected as it should.

WE ARE ASLEEP people. We are not even showing up to the battle because we are sleeping right through it. We will complain about a waitress who didn’t serve well, an employee who doesn’t show up or doesn’t work hard, yet we aren’t serving, we aren’t showing up or working hard either! We break down the people who are busy building a better life, a better world, better children, better environment – because we’re not up to par. We need to up our game. It is okay to LOVE GOD.

I allowed Satan to make me think my sins, failures and brokenness prevented me from being whole again. And, let me tell you, the second God forgave all my sins, and I accepted that forgiveness, I became whole again. God uses broken people, because they are loud, unafraid warriors who are used to going against the crowd, used to walking alone and making their own path and there is nothing stronger than a broken person being made whole again, by God. A unafraid, exuberant baby Christian.

I’ve been cracked wide open to show that inside the center of every living being is raw and unedited goodness. All those days I spent in shame over what I had done in my past, but had already asked God for forgiveness years ago, was because I allowed the negativity and judgment of people to take over. When I realized God already knew, god had already forgiven me, it clicked that what you think of me, doesn’t matter.

It has no effect on my walk with Jesus, or the validity in the goodness of my heart. Your need to condemn me, that is something you must address personally. There is a reason you feel the need to point out the failures and judge others, and it is not because you are a Christian and God tells you to, because we know that is false. True and good Christians do not get even and they do not keep score. They simply love.

When you honor God during times of trouble, you shame satan back to hell. That’s what we need to do every day. Did the Tenboom Family stop hiding Jews in their watch repair shop from the Nazi’s, to keep themselves safe? No. Did Jesus drop the cross, run and hide away so that people would stop being offended by his message? Nope. Did Martin Luther King Jr turn off his microphone during his speech, so he wasn’t too loud for the people in the back? Not one bit.

So why in God’s name would I? It’s time to up my game.

The real-talk kind of mom.

Personally, I envision my children as adults rather regularly, and some of those days are full of confidence and some of those days are frightening! I mean, let’s be honest here. Gage can cook a full meal, yet become annoyed with the task of sweeping the hallway. Cole loves to be in the mix with adults and young children, yet making him go outside and play with friends his own age – can literally open Pandora’s box. And, Gracie, she can basically do anything, and do it well, like really well – but failure, making mistakes, not understanding something, will throw her into a tailspin.

They may be teenagers today, but I’m raising more than that, I’m raising someone’s future spouse, parent, employee, friend etc. And, sometimes I think that our job in preparing them for success in these areas is forgotten.

Uncomfortable or not, I answer their questions.

The first time Gage asked as he giggled from the backseat if I liked hot dogs or tacos when he was younger, or when Gracie asked what rape was, I learned to be prepared to be uncomfortable. Gracie and Gage are two years apart, and their questions kept me (still, actually) on my toes. Some were silly, some were good, some were completely inappropriate, some I didn’t know and had to research, and some were embarrassing to answer, and took an act of god in keeping my composure. But, I did it because if they were comfortable enough to come to me and ask the question, there was a reason they were, and I had better be comfortable enough to answer it, honestly. Trust me, three teenagers keep the questions ever flowing and super awkward.

We talk about everything – ev-er-y-thing!

When Matt and Cole moved in, they didn’t talk about anything, and I do mean anything. The first time Gracie talked about her period, Matt was squirming and unsure if he should run out the door, or throw up. It was hilarious because for us it was second nature. Cole had at one point made a flippant comment about being among the kids in the world with one testicle. Matt laughed it off and told him he had two testicles, and they went on about their day. Literally, went on like nothing. I was in shock, telling him he needed to check, do something, but he swore he was certain he had two testicles. In his defense I remember that Gage had two testicles from changing his diapers, and that super awkward moment when he was two or three years old and called me in during bath time to inquire as to what that dot was between his legs – it was just a mole. It was also the last time I saw that area, thank goodness! But, I could see how seeing it once would make you assume it was still the same.

Now, while Cole is now every bit my son, then the idea of asking him to drop trou so his stepmom could investigate his nether regions was not appealing to either of us and he adamantly refused to let his dad. So… with football coming up and his need for a sports physical – I did what every other mom not wanting to see that region does, I took him to our pediatrician! One uncomfortable appointment with the pediatrician later, led to an even more uncomfortable visit to a urologist, and then a subsequent surgery retrieving an undescended testicle. You want to guess who talks to me about everything now? Yep, you guessed it, Cole! And, Matt too actually.

I think before saying: “You’re only a child, you don’t know.”

In my childhood home you were raised to be seen, not heard, to be pleasant not pretentious and that respect was given, not earned. Like with most traditional norms in your family that you were raised with and despised, you counteract those in your own family life. Some households may see that as not requiring vegetables, I on the other hand require open communication. The words “you’re only a child, you don’t know, or “you are too young to understand” will never leave my mouth. Because, I wasn’t too young to understand a lot of things, and even as a child, your mind still processes feelings, and emotions such as self-worth, love and acceptance.

I’m not their mom, I’m your mom.

What Susie’s parents let her do doesn’t matter to me, aside from possibly encouraging that friendship to continue. I’m not in the parenting business to make friends, and I am okay not doing what other parents do. My children need to know that sometimes the right thing, is not what Susie and everyone else is doing. Sometimes the right thing is the least cool thing to do. It’s not going to a party where everyone will be drinking, or where a parent allows that. Sometimes, it won’t be extending a curfew just because a friends parent did. This is teaching them that it is okay to be and do different, that going with the crowd isn’t always going to be beneficial, and that thinking for their self is more important than what others think of them.

I actively choose to give them a voice.

You’ve heard the saying “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, my dad is going to kill me if he finds out” and “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, I need to call my dad” well, I could never call my dad – and I refused to let my children down by continuing that as a mother myself. That is a priority in our relationship, confidence in them knowing I’m always a call away, no matter the situation.

We as parents learn something new every day, so how does it make sense to think that while raising our children we aren’t raising ourselves as well? I try to not suppress their voice, in fact I encourage it.

Open dialogue builds confidence. I’ve never been the type of parent who thinks I know more even when I think I may. Giving them the floor so to speak and allowing them to share what is on their mind, in their hearts, in a safe environment – is colossal in developing confidence. This voice will be what protects them, asserts them, what lands that job, what saves a life, what defends themselves or a friend, what talks someone out of a bad situation and most importantly the very voice that empowers and speaks love to themselves throughout their life.

I Pick my battles.

My husband loves many things about me, but this is not one. Picking my battles and saying yes more than no, are two things he and I differ on greatly. He is a “no” first kind of parent – he even said no to the boys to going to youth group once, before he realized what they had asked. We joke that if he were offered a million dollars, he would say no without even thinking because it’s like second nature to him.

I try for the most part to live with a motto of “I say yes, unless there is a reason to say no” and it has worked. This halts a majority of lying, it fosters respect and communication, and it teaches trust. When Cole first came to live with us, I said the words “I can’t stand up for you, if I can’t trust you, and I can’t say yes to you, if you’re showing reasons I should say no” until I was blue in the face and it has changed his ways almost completely. The little things can add up, and the big things can seem so minor when you break them down. So, I’ve learned to pick and choose what battles are necessary and why I am saying no instead yes. If I am saying no just because I can, it is the wrong answer. In my opinion the more we say yes in situations, the more opportunity we have for communication, lessons, mistakes etc.

I don’t hide all my mistakes or hardships.

It is essential that our children know that we make mistakes, that we do not have everything figured out and that sometimes in life things go badly. This is where they see you work through those hard times. Especially if your mistake is with them, they need to see you take responsibility of that, to not let pride keep you from being an example. Taking ownership, compassion and making amends are key factors to healthy relationships. You are who they will mimic when life gets difficult. If all your children ever see is sunshine and roses, what are they going to do when it rains, and that flower dies? They won’t just be ill prepared for the real word, but chances are they’ll feel like their childhood was a lie.

Parents who tell their children, “do as I say, not as I do,” aren’t giving their children enough credit. Children, especially teens still see, still know and still will most likely do as you did because that is natural. You can’t say don’t, then do it, and expect them to simply listen. That is where communication comes in, the “why” before the mistake is sometimes the magical deterrent. Also, personalizing the mistake, showing them that all humans makes mistakes, and that nobody is perfect, helps too. There is great power in saying I did this…, and this happened…, it was bad because…, I wish I hadn’t because it cost this… or caused this…, so when I say don’t – it is because I don’t want that to happen to you. You’ll have much better odds that way, versus just saying “because I said so.”

Religion vs. Relationship with God.

The greatest blessing of my childhood was being taught about God. As you become older and see the bigger picture in life you also see that all the answers you need are in the bible. Being raised catholic left a bad taste in my mouth in that not all things made sense, and being forced to believe what my family believed didn’t feel right, so I made a goal to not force a religion but instead introduce a relationship with God.

Going to church now more regularly, when they are old enough to understand what a relationship with God means is important, it shows that someones struggles may not make sense to us, or be visible to us, but that we still love them without judgment, just as God does us. It shows that we will have difficult times, but we are never alone. They are old enough now to ask questions, to put his scriptures into daily life and to see what true forgiveness means. That God, forgiveness and love all are part of the bigger plan.

Age appropriate responsibility.

Teens right now get drunk to hang out and have fun, have sex to be accepted and do drugs to numb and escape life. I want my kids to see that you can have fun without having a drink. That sex is more than how to “feel” loved and to live a life that never needs to be numbed or escaped. Their life can already be difficult with a variety of outside factors, but adding in these variables, only causes worse situations. There are reasons you get a license at sixteen, it is to get to a job. There is a reason you can’t drink until twenty-one, it allows brain development. And, there is a reason you wait to have sex until you’re married, because it creates an emotional and mental connection, it seals a covenant and promise and because it causes children!

Do I think that my children will wait until they are 21 to have their first drink, or until marriage to have sex? The drinking – no, but will I try and explain the importance of why they should until I am blue in the face? Yes. Teens these days are in a rush for everything which takes away the excitement. If you drive at twelve, what fun is sixteen? If you drink at fourteen, what fun is twenty-one? If you have sex at sixteen, and meet the man/woman of your dreams at nineteen, what are you giving them that is just theirs? With age becomes responsibility and if we rush these, the lessons are nullified in a sense. It is okay to hold hands before you kiss, to practice before you excel and to take small steps before a giant leap.

The Man That Stays.

Thank you.

The biggest disadvantage in my life has been loving temporary people, permanently. I’ve done this my entire life with not just loved ones but also romantic relationships and friendships.

Friends excite me. There is this enjoyment I experience in meeting new people, hearing their stories and the connection that follows. You know that feeling when you really click with someone and you just want to experience everything with this new friend?! That is me. And, I come on way too strong. Every time. It’s like I stick a fork in a light socket – its explosive, bright and exciting – until all power is lost and I’m left alone sitting in the dark.

So, when I decided to try yet again with not just love, but marriage –  the majority of people thought (maybe still think) I was crazy. But as we continue our adventure in this life, our 7th year together, I’m pretty sure God provided me with a blessing of a man who carried a couple extra buckets.

The love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries. I still believe this. Now, let me preface this with saying, no, I don’t think he loved me enough for the both of us or that I think someone has the capability of loving us back to normal. But what I am saying is that while I was learning what real love was and commitment meant, what it entailed, and the seriousness of my vows made to him – I also saw the person in myself that he was choosing to love each day.

This is a letter to my husband –

Broken women, run. We do, and often without notice or even our own knowledge. It is second nature to leave before being left. The thought of being valued, appreciated and wanted is unimaginable. And, the desire to find a man to love you when you are still learning to love yourself runs deep. We just want to be loved and accepted.

That is a whole heck-of a lot of baggage for one man. Yet you picked up each of my bags and built a home with me. You helped me unpack, sort and discard the items that I no longer needed to travel with – because my traveling days were over unless they included you. When my stubborn streaks and independence was full of “I don’t need you” and “I can do it all on my own” – you stepped back and let me do just that. And, patiently waited for me to come to terms with the beauty of wanting a partner and wanting the help – not needing it.

When my days crumble and go to crap and nothing makes sense, you let me collapse into your lap, sink my face into the side of your neck and cry, piss and moan or pout. When my hormones are out of whack and I am throwing a tantrum that makes a two-year-old jealous – you don’t engage. When my actions are full of quit and you see that I am preparing for you to do the same, you don’t. When my words and actions make zero sense or I am just flat out being a pain in the butt, you have no problem telling me to, “cut the crap!” And, then try kissing me. It is super weird, you are super weird  – but I love that.

If we argue – it’s quick. Mostly because my memory is shot – but still. If we disagree – we talk it out and then agree that I was right – okay, okay – mostly right. You laugh at my corny jokes and love that I get mushy over hallmark movies. You make goofy snap chat videos with me, and will retake pictures until my double chin doesn’t show. You watch the Real Housewives, and This is Us with me too – and possibly when I am not in the room. You let my daughter, now your daughter, paint your toes that one time, remember? Oh, and do you remember that time you dressed up as Olaf for Halloween? Yep, you are that man, that husband – that makes his wife happy. That matters you know, more than you realize.

You tell me I am beautiful without even looking at me – which at first bothered me because I thought beauty was visually pleasing. Until the day I was un-showered, hair thrown up in a messy bun, zero makeup – probably looking all kinds of unkempt – and you looked me in the eyes, pulled me close and told me, “I’m so in love with you and you are so beautiful.” It was then that it clicked, you see me differently. You see me with love.

You stepped in as a father, a coach, a friend and a support for my children. You’ve been reminded you are not their father, and then loved as being one. You’ve gifted me another son and afforded my heart the ability to stretch even bigger than I imagined it could. You showed me the beauty of understanding and meaning my vows. Love doesn’t always make sense. But it always makes a choice. It chooses to give the benefit of the doubt. It chooses to trust. It chooses to listen, care and hope. Most of all, love chooses to STAY. Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if you were dropped on your head as a child, because that is the only explainable reason you could possibly love me as much as you do. Remind me to thank your parents next time I see them for possibly being inattentive.

You are the man that chose the remaining pieces let over. The scraps, if you will. It’s incredible the sustenance and substance you can find in what someone else discarded. I’ve learned commitment from you. I’ve learned unconditional love from you. I’ve learned what a real, godly and faith driven marriage is from you. And, I love you endlessly and want to say thank you for loving and choosing me everyday.

The Hope Buckets

Today I was a contributing writer at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine. Below is a snippet of the “The Hope Buckets” – I hope you enjoy.

I struggle with wanting to be real and wanting to be healed. And, I realize the two go hand in hand. Yet, I shy away at times with being raw and revealing a tattered version of myself because in those moments of transparency and vulnerability – I am broken. I am not whole, and I am most definitely not healed. We do not stay there though, it is a moment in time revealing the road leading up to a certain point, not the end of the road.

The enemy wants us to see the road as a dead end. He wants us to give up and remain broken. The goal is for us to not trust, to question the intentions of those around us and to halt any progress we may be making. Those are the days we stay in bed, the days we listen to the lies and mimic an unhealthy and sometimes jealous self-talk. We tell ourselves we are not good enough, that God may have forgiven me but no one else has. Everyone is keeping tabs on my mistakes. I will never be good enough and I will always be judged.

Read more at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine.

The Weeds and Wheat Parable.

The wheat and tares parable has me enthralled currently. I never thought I would be the girl who not only enjoys reading the bible, but even more so gets personally into the word for a deeper meaning so that I can apply it to my life.

In this parable, Jesus’ is talking about his kingdom and he explains it like this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 NIV

Why the botany lesson? And, how on earth does this apply to our own personal lives? Well let me tell you.

The weed in this parable is called a darnel, more commonly known as the “false wheat” because it bears such a close resemblance to wheat and is only noticeable once the ear spikes. Wheat is heavy causing the stem to bend and darnel is light leaving the poisonous weed standing tall. Ironic isn’t that the good plant, the wheat falls bending over and the bad plant, the weed remains stoic as it matures?

What am I getting at? Well, yes the bible is describing the kingdom of god and how his followers are the wheat and the enemies are the poisonous darnel. But personally speaking we are surrounded by our own poisonous weeds in our life currently. Each day the enemy attacks us, our families and our lives by sowing in these tares in the wheat we’ve planted.

Imagine that you and I are the wheat. And the people around us that want to see us fail, who hurt us and deceive us, are the weeds. We don’t see them as weeds at first because they resemble wheat, they look just like you and I. They resemble a friend, a partner or a loved one. Over time as we grow beside them we are equally given the same opportunities that will allow us to grow. It isn’t until full maturity that we realize what or who has been beside us was never wheat at all – or that others see the weed we knew was there all along.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV

Sure, we could pull the weeds the second we see the difference but at what cost? Is it worth damaging the wheat? If I am looking at this as if I am the wheat then I risk damaging myself and my own worth and the sustenance that was planted in me. The worth God has sown into me could become uprooted.

Now imagine the opposite. Imagine that we are the weeds. Our seed came from a poison plant. It is in our nature to grow as a strong and deadly weed. Our whole purpose is to deceive and destroy – it is all we know. That is what we were planted to do. Do you believe that a bad seed must remain as such? We both grow in the same ground, with the same nutrients and the same opportunities. Why not allow yourself the opportunity to grow as a seed that supplies nourishment?

If you are anything like me, you have been hurt in your life by someone important to you, possibly a loved one and maybe you’ve even been the weed in someone else’s wheat field as well. But God has the ability to plant a seed of goodness around the seeds of deceit and despair. And, he knows the good seeds among the poison and the depth of the root.

There are days we want vindication, days where we want the poison to be extracted from our lives either as our backstory or a current threat to our crops today. But, it is not our harvest to glean. We must have faith that he will harvest and separate the wheat and weeds when the timing is right. We need only be still in the dirt we were planted in, and keep growing in whatever season God has us in. You may be planted beside a weed for a reason you aren’t mature enough to under at this moment. We have to remember the presence of weeds can never cancel out the power of the wheat. The heaviness of the wheat leads us to bend, and when we do we pray for the weeds to be harvested and planted as good seeds instead.