Foolishness and Faith

Some people look on a woman who chooses to stay married to a man who is “difficult,. as a fool. Some will argue and advise.

Leave. You need to leave to be free to be all God has created you to be. 

Leave. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. 

Leave. I did and now have a wonderful marriage with a different man. You could have that too. 

Get a job so you are not so dependant on your spouse. 

As a side note, they might even say, “but, of course you should do what God tells you to do.”

Isn’t that just the kicker? Out of one side of the mouth being told that an intentional choice to stay married is wrong but at the same time told to follow the very God who has led us to that choice.

They often don’t see that they are inextricably linked. Staying has to be a choice of faith and obedience to God as much as leaving. If every step of our lives is to be in obedience to God then we don’t look for the “out” or excuse to leave. We stay in spite of excuses and cling, not to the opinion of men (or women) but instead to the leading of God through his Word and the Holy Spirit.

And should God open that door to leave, we will also pray that we have the courage to follow Him there as well.

Have courage and stand firm, clinging to the God who loves you dearly.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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Fighting the Victim Mentality

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is challenging when beset by any chronic issue, whether it be health, family stuff that never changes, or, a difficult marriage, to not feel like a victim.

I’ve had all three and fight so often from falling into that “woe is me” type of thinking. As if I am stuck.

But it sure feels that way in the moment.

That’s where I have to remind myself that I have choices.  For now, in my marriage, I chose to stay for a variety of compelling reasons. I would struggle whether I stay or go, but I covered that in another post.

So here’s the deal. I have to remind myself and soak up affirmation from others since I won’t get it from my husband. Affirmation on my personhood, my mothering, my work and ministry I engage in. No one friend can handle and provide all I need. I still need to be willing to listen, care and pray about their struggles and pain. There are also wonderful words of Scripture that I got to for comfort and affirmation too. God delights and loves me even if my husband doesn’t.

I also set boundaries. Sometimes establishing some guidelines for decisions helps when the time comes to use them. They provide a shield to hide behind and minimize some of the situations where I feel helpless.

  • I don’t email my friends every day with the latest in my saga. After awhile if feels like just more of the same. I bore myself with the same ol’ same ol’.   Most of the time God is the only one who needs to hear my struggle. I have a private journal for that. 
  • I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” boundary because of my husband’s verbal abuse. I kept offering to share my life with him and kept getting abused. So now I don’t share anything personal without being asked. The sad thing is, he never asks. Thankfully I have friends to share my joys and sorrows with as my husband is not interested in hearing about them . 
  • I also determine how much I can do. Do I have to bend to every autocratic demand he makes. No. I don’t, and neither do the kids. See, sometimes his demands are not for “family time” like he says, but for boosting his image in the eyes of others. So there are times I say no, but in a respectful manner. He can go do whatever he wants and we will abstain. 
  • Because he regularly fails to show up when I need him, I’ve learned to live my life without him. I plan for events when it will least inconvenience my children. Like when they are in school. Or hire a sitter if I need to go out. They are getting older now and  need that less. If he’s able to do it, I let him, but I don’t count on him and it saves me a ton of disappointment. 
  • When I was teaching, I used to have a boundary on when I would be a substitute on a  worship team. It could never been on the same weekend because I knew I couldn’t count on my husband for that much and didn’t want to relegate my children to the background of ministry. 
  • Another boundary I have is physical. He alienated me years ago so bedtime isn’t the issue. (It is hard to be aroused when you are told how fat you are, like really?) Being in the same bathroom or kitchen together is a problem. It sets me up for attack if he perceives I am in his way. Sometimes that means the dishes don’t get done or the dishwasher unloaded when I would like, but I prefer the peace, that avoiding being in close proximity to him, provides. 
  • We finally established a more livable routine for Sunday mornings, too. He takes a separate car because he is often late and the kids and I despise that. So we go on by ourselves. Quite often he never shows, but my car is filled with other kids from the neighborhood. I shake off any shame of being abandoned by him knowing he’s the one making himself look bad. Not me.

By taking even the smallest steps to do things that are good and healthy for me, I do better against succumbing to the victim mentality. I’m not saying my thinking never goes there. It does. I had lived there for so long it is a habit that is hard to break. I’m not doing these things to be selfish either. He has made choices to abuse and I have, in response, made choices to protect myself. Some abuses have escalated the more I thrive apart from him, but that’s understandable. I am not reacting the way he wants or expects.

Too bad. So sad.

Do I feel bad that he is losing out on life with me and the kids? Absolutely. But he’s made his choices too and I just got off the crazy train and forged my own, healthier path.

How about you? What boundaries can you set to be emotionally healthier as you stay married?

Blessings, Lilly Grace

The Beauty of Perseverance

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My neighbor has vines growing up the side of her house. In the fall it can be a spectacular view from my writing space. They are only just starting to turn color but I found this vibrant red part while out taking a walk with my dog.

These vines are beautiful and year after year they climb higher and higher. The main stems grow thicker and stronger. They can cover up windows and block doors if left unchecked. But as seasons change they become more and more beautiful.

They persevere. They stick to stucco and defy gravity. Squirrels climb them and birds perch in the leaves. You cannot rip them down with your bare hands. They are too strong.

Strong, beautiful and persevering.

The longer I walk with Christ, that is how I hope I  become. I really have no choice but to grow if I truly obey Him. To disobey though is the equivalent of taking a saw to separate me from him. Should that happen, I would wither up and die. Ugly and useless to everyone. Something to be burned in my neighbor’s fire pit.

See, I am not passive, a victim or a martyr in my difficult marriage. I chose to stay out of obedience to Christ. I know full well the consequences on both sides of the fence (staying or leaving) and neither one is a very appetizing picture. Should God ask me to take a leap of faith and separate then I will, but I will remain clinging to the vine and not be cut off if HE is the one directing my path.

Oftentimes, when a woman is in a painful marriage, her health issues increase. Mine have gone away. The ones I do have are genetic. I was going to have those issues regardless of what was going on in my life.  So I praise God for the work He has done and is doing. I won’t be perfected until heaven, but hopefully I will grow in strength and beauty as I cling to the vine.

If my husband had a broken back. If he had a stroke. If he had a traumatic brain injury. What about Alzheimer’s? Would I be condemned then for staying and honoring my vows even if my spouse could not fulfill His? Even then I would need to have good boundaries, a healthy support system, prayer and time away to refill my cup.

I may not always be the strongest branch on the vine, but I’m here and I’m clinging for all I’m worth because some days, it is ONLY by Gods’ grace and mercy that I obey, and stay.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

The Double-minded Marriage.

James 1: 5-8 says:

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. but let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea drive and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

If you read that and said “Yeah, but Lilly Grace, that’s about a person – not a marriage.” You would be correct. Except that when a couple marries, they become one.

This isn’t going to be a post that encourages you to stay married. I apologize for that. Instead it is about the harsh reality in which some of us live, especially if we have a spouse who is abusive in anyway (verbal, emotional, financial, sexual . . .).  Patricia Evans in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship delineates that an abuser isn’t thinking in the same reality that we are. It’s like there are two realities in one home.

Let me illustrate.

My husband told me that I could take X amount of dollars out of the business account a week to provide for the needs of our family (groceries, gas for the car, clothes for kids, etc). On Monday’s I would go to take out my “allowance.” Unfortunately many times there was not any money there for me to take. Or he would have failed to budget for it and the account would get overdrawn. So he blamed me.  Then he complained (to others) that I embezzled from the company. When we finally sat down and went over the figures I was able to prove that the money that disappeared form his account was actually withdrawn by him. I took out far less than he did, and far less than he claimed.

He still claims I embezzled – even confronted with the truth. After all, it’s much nicer to blame the wife than to accept responsibility for your own financial mismanagement and failure to provide for your family.

Two different realities. One roof. A double-minded marriage.

This more than two different perspectives with a need for compromise. This is a battle over facts.

I have been beating myself up for the fact that I continue to get angry over my husbands reality. He isn’t going to change barring a miracle of God. At some point I may even need to be part of the stimulus for that. But I seek wisdom in the waiting and God’s leading even though so many times I just want out.

Have you ever been there?

The fact is my husband doesn’t want to change. He doesn’t want to admit he’s wrong. He doesn’t want to see that what he often says is the opposite of the way he lives and acts – as a husband, father, or even a Christian.

He fools a lot of people. He doesn’t fool me or our children.

Unstable. Untenable in some respects. I have to give up the ideal that he is ever going to see my reality and accept it and I need to fight to stay grounded in truth in spite of the accusations and lies he might try to sway me with. His interpretation is skewed far more than the average person.

Yes, I sin. Yes, I fail. Yes, I sometimes want to cast all blame on my husband when I have some part in it. I’m trying hard to own my failures and face them in spite of my fears. God is good and gracious in the midst of it all.

Can you relate? Is your marriage unstable because your spouse lives in a different reality and sees things through a distorted looking glass as he gazes at the world outside his head?

My pastor, my therapist and my close friends who know the truth help me stay grounded and from being sucked into that madness. That, and the Holy Word of God. I”m so grateful for His provision and faithfulness in the midst of the insecurity of an unstable marriage. I long for the day when God rescues me from it entirely.

 

Facing Fear

I never realized until recently just how much fear plays a part in holding me back in my life. Sure I will feel anxious but I never fully embraced the reality that fear was behind it all.

So what am I afraid of?

Well, I’m afraid of my book, Lessons from the Trenches ,doing really well. Now, I know, what kind of silly fear is that? It’s a real one because I do want it to be something that women will find helpful as they seek to stay in difficult marriages. I want to reach my audience. What is scary is putting myself out there because my book is real and at times brutally honest about my own struggle. Private struggles. Some I have never told anyone (except those that have now read and helped me with the book). Sigh.

And because of that authenticity, I don’t want personal publicity. I don’t want to do a television interview or have my face plastered anywhere because I have another name that I live by and I don’t want my persona of Lilly Grace to be connected to that in a public way.

I don’t slander anyone and I would gladly come and do speaking engagements but I don’t want publicity.

How twisted is that?

I’m also afraid because I know that what I write about is controversial. There are many, even in the church that will say that any kind of abuse is just grounds for divorce. I’m not disputing that at all and I’m not advocating for that, however there are many well meaning people who love Jesus who firmly believe that no woman should stay in a difficult marriage. It doesn’t matter to them what Jesus may be telling that wife. They have no room in their argument for obeying God in painful circumstances. Now, they would probably sing a different tune if your spouse was in the hospital or suffering some horrible illness. Sure it’s hard but you stay married. You serve. You suffer and you grow. Unless you Pat Robertson who believes that Alzheimer’s is a good enough excuse for a spouse to divorce. But I digress.

The fact is this. No matter how wonderful my book – or any book is – there will always be haters out there ready to fling stones and condemn and criticize. Still, this is my life and my choice as I follow God. What I find really sad is that it will be Christian’s throwing those stones. People who have not walked in my specific shoes. Or maybe they have walked a similar path and God led them to a different choice.  I’m happy for those who have left and found true love in a healthy marriage. I really am. I wish it were me. But my allegiance isn’t to a pipe dream of wishes that may or may not come true. My allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone.  And it’s a hard path I walk and I want to validate those who are choosing that same path.

So if you are on that path, please pray for me and my book and the team that is helping me get it ready. We have a enemy that would love to stop the message and destroy marriages just as much as we have a God that wants to do wonderful things in and through those of us He calls to stay.

I’m afraid but God is not the author of that fear. The enemy is. But we do not live our Christian lives in isolation.  I would covet your prayers for courage and strength for the months ahead as we prepare. If you are willing to be part of my launch team, my “tribe”, please email me at lillygracebrown@yahoo.com.  I would love to have all the help I can get to spread the word when this book becomes available. Too many women need the hope and to know they are not alone.   You can also follow me at http://www.facebook.com/lillygracebrown or on twitter at @lillygbrown.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Help me Reach Hurting Women

My book, Lessons from the Trenches: Staying in a Difficult Marriage is due out in 2014, but just because my book is not published yet doesn’t mean that I would not love to come and speak to women and encourage them as they stay in difficult marriages. Next year it looks like I”ll be traveling to North Carolina, possibly Colorado, Texas, Illinois and Indiana. If you would be interested in having me piggyback a speaking engagement onto those trips I would be delight to come and meet and encourage women who are trying to stay in difficult marriages.  Please do not hesitate to email me at lillygracebrown@yahoo.com.  If you can point more people to this site or to me on twitter @lillygbrown that would be super too.

I’ve been hearing this song on the radio and love it – although for someone who is hurting like I am in a broken marraige, I don’t want restoration – I want God to build something totally new. Still, I love the message of this song.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Decorated in Dignity

I’ve been making great strides in my personal life. Confronting some of the lies. Making positive steps forward. I thought I was doing pretty good.

Then I spent the night at a friend’s home. At first I thought I was jealous of the beautiful house and all the lovely things that make it so gorgeous. But I know my friend and I know the yuck she has been through in her life and I would never begrudge her the bounty God has blessed her with in her marriage and the material things she has been able to purchase. Things I cannot even dream of owning.

It was a comfortable home and I enjoyed my stay and her gracious hospitality. I came away refreshed. And a bit inspired.

I also realize that her tastes are different than mine. As beautiful as her home is, I would not decorate quite the way she does. We’re just different.  I would chose different colors etc. Yet I was comfortable there.

But for a little bit there I felt like I was trailer-trash because of some of the ways I do live. See, I’m not a very good housekeeper. My house is relatively clean and tidy but wide open spaces can give more of an appearance of that than there really is. I still have clutter on my desk and in my kitchen. I need to scrub the toilets more often.

But I recognize that I have been believing a lie  believing that I am trailer trash. I get that message (not in those exact words) from two people in my life. My mom and my husband. My husband doesn’t complain about my housekeeping. He’s totally content and rarely lifts a finger to help with anything anyway. Plus he’s rarely here. My kids don’t care either. My mom has always criticized every attempt to create beauty. Nothing is ever good enough. After I showed her a newly painted bedroom , she swiped her finger along a door and told me I need to dust. Wow. Thanks for the affirmation, Mom.

So I gave up caring. If it’s never good enough, why bother?  If my husband doesn’t affirm me for making the attempts, why bother?

I know God does not care if I’ve swept up every dust bunny or crumb. I know He’s not bothered by the stack of papers that need to go to the garbage that have collected on the island in the kitchen, or the stuff to be filed or tossed in my office.

He doesn’t care about that. He cares about my heart.

But my friend’s home expresses the beauty of our Creator. No clutter distracted from that.

I’m distracted by many things. They all take me away from the beauty of God.

And because of the messages I’ve had, I have allowed myself to live as if it were true. That I were trailer trash. Unworthy of beauty and neatness. I’ve been trashed by my husband when I do something creative as it is considered a waste of money. Funny how when I looked at my friend’s stuff all I could see was dollar signs. And grieve the lack of finances to embrace finer things myself.

So I’m challenged to confront my lack of dignity. God says of a wise woman: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (Proverbs 31:25)

I don’t smile at the future because it feels like in my difficult marriage it will be more like it has in the past. Because I’m putting all my perception of myself as that of my husband’s words and treatment of me.  Oh, this is so easy to do!

But I’m going to try to walk in dignity. Take more pride in my home. Baby steps at first. Little things over time.  I can make my home sparkle with my personality like my friend has done with hers. I may have limitations in my spouse and finances but that doesn’t mean I have to live like I do. I am creative and I love to express that. Cutting myself off from that denies a part of who God made me to be.

In what ways do you need to put on the mantle of dignity for yourself?

Blessings,

Lilly

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