Is Jesus Really Enough?

Whether a woman is single, separated, divorced, or like me, in a difficult marriage, the longing of our heart is met with sentiments like: God is your husband, you don’t need a man to complete your or make you whole, and Jesus is enough.

I’m not disputing any of those three claims.

God is my husband. He leads, protects, provides and loves me better and more completely than any man ever could.

It is true that my value and worth is complete without a man. I am designed by God to fulfill His purposes, right here and now, without a husband.

A friend said the other day, “But I’m tired of dealing with household crisis alone. I need a handyman!” Would be nice, huh? Well, I have a husband and still find myself learning to fix a lot of things on my own. It’s not my natural giftedness, but I’ve survived. Hernia and tendonitis aside from doing tasks that my body couldn’t cope with have been a livable consequences.

I’m married. It’s not a good marriage. I’m going to be brutally honest here: It’s been years since I’ve had sex. A man sometimes sleeps in my bed, I sign his name to checks and a tax return (but the direct deposit goes for that return goes into his checking account and kept from me). There are no hugs, kisses, gifts, words of affirmation, offers to help with projects.

It’s not that I don’t desire sex or affection. I do! I am a romantic. I write romance novels. I crave being wooed and cherished and because I’ve seen good marriages, I know it’s not just the stuff of fiction.

Is Jesus really enough?

Is He enough for every unfulfilled longing?

Sex is a powerful desire, so is love, security, to serve or fulfill a lifelong dream that was denied.

We all have longings and many struggle with unfulfilled desires.  Everyone has limits on how we meet those challenges. I think God sometimes leaves us with holes because we are forced then to come to him instead of feeling like we have it all covered on our own strength.  It’s not comfortable or fun, but then most of the challenges in life (and we all have them) aren’t.

How about you, is Jesus enough for the trial you are in?

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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Victim of Well-Intentioned Divorcees

I’m pro-marriage.

I won’t condemn someone who chooses another path. I haven’t walked in their shoes.

What I do have a hard time with though are those who have, willingly or unwillingly,  taken the route of divorce and then turn around and tell me that’s what I should do.

I don’t rule out separation at some point but God hasn’t lined things up for me to do what could lead to that.

So the thinking is that if you are abused – leave. Jesus walked away from abuse so we can to. True. Jesus walked away from PHYSICAL abuse. And I agree. If you are being hit – get out NOW. It doesn’t mean divorce, but you need to be safe.

Jesus didn’t always walk away from verbal abuse. Sometimes he told a story to confound them. Sometimes he pointed out their sin and hypocrisy. Of course when you look at the end of his life he didn’t walk away from the physical or verbal abuse at all. He endured it.

I’ve also been told that IF I love my husband, I need to confront his sin. Tell him what’s wrong and confront it and draw a line in the sand and take the consequences. Well…. I’ve confronted my husband before and only was abused more for it (verbally). Others have also confronted him and pretty much have been blown off.  I pick my battles now, based on what’s best for me – not his eternal soul – since he’s made it clear I have no business even thinking about that.

God’s word does say to walk away from a person who is repeatedly unrepentant.  God also hates divorce and he has not made a way for me to separate. So I stay. As I do so, I hear well-meaning Christian people telling me I should leave.

I resent this. Isn’t this my life to live before God? Aren’t I supposed to be following HIM and His Holy Spirit (along with wise counsel? Not everyone tells me to leave!) So why does that mean your choice is also best for me?

Why does this bother me so much? Because they have freedom and I don’t? Well, I’ve seen the cost of that freedom and it doesn’t come cheap.  It bothers me because while I understand how well-intentioned those people are, they are in fact, re-victimizing me all over again. Now I’m not only a victim of my husband’s verbal/emotional abuse, but I’m getting it from people in the church. Just a different group than those who would be condemning me for leaving if I chose that path instead. I can’t win.

So that leaves me in a bit of a no-man’s land (hahaha! Except he’s still here!). I don’t always love my husband. I struggle to pray for him. I don’t always care that much about my marriage. In many ways I’m done. I’ve walked away emotionally and spiritually even though I physically share the same address.

Does that shock you?

I struggle with grace in my circumstances and it can cause me to spin my wheels in my own self-care when I feel that sense of “I’m not doing enough to save my marriage.” I’ve tried. Trust me. I have. For the sake of my own mental and spiritual health I can’t do it any more.

I will treat my husband with respect. I will submit where I can. I will model and try to teach my children to respect their dad even when his actions are anything but deserving of such. And I will try to move on to a full life in the midst of my difficult marriage.

So please, don’t put me down for staying. This is not an easy path to trod, but I do know what the choices are and the consequences and for now, under the authority of the Holy Spirit at work in my heart, this is the path I chose.

Why I love Dancing with the Stars

dancing with the starsYes, I admit, I watch Dancing with the Stars. There is something about watching a couple in synch moving about the floor, interacting with each other physically and emotionally, that is breathtaking. The man leading with care and grace and the woman following but very much her own person.

Every dance expresses emotion. It’s more than going through motions because when it is it’s not as beautiful to watch. There’s the much flaunted “musicality” where the dancers need to keep in step with the music and not get out of timing with it.

When it’s done right, it is beautiful. A well done dance can make you smile or cry.

I guess I see it as an illustration of marriage. First, it takes two partners equally committed to the steps of the dance. Second, it takes a listening to the music of the Holy Spirit as God guides the couple through the ups and downs, spins and turns of life. Third, it takes discipline. None of the dancers can do what they do if they are not committed and practice. The final dance seen on the show is only the result of the hard work done behind the scenes: sore muscles, fights and tears, trips and falls, but the couple completely committed to following through – together.

A dance is not beautiful when one partner fails to practice, or doesn’t care, refuses to listen to the music or doesn’t even show up to the floor. Those dancers don’t stay on the show long. The other partner can dance 100% but if the slacker is there it only highlights how poorly he or she is really doing. My heart often goes out to the professionals who had given it their all with a partner that just can’t get it—or won’t.

A marriage is the same. It looks “off” when one partner refuses to dance or even touch the other. Where there is only animosity. Life is not an unending pase doble.  Or when the partner walks off the floor but still calls them self part of the dancing team of two.

I’m not fond of all the skimpy costumes on the show, but I am fond of the romance of it, and the fun. I love the behind the scenes where you see how hard it is.  Winners though rarely complain, they just dig in and do the work and don’t waste time thinking about just how hard it is.  Losers however justify their failures with how hard it is. They become victims of the trial before them – a trial they chose.

I would love to dance in my marriage in time with a spouse to the beauty of the music of the Holy Spirit.  I dance alone and sometimes I resort to the whining about just how hard it is, especially without a partner to support and encourage and share the hardship and joy of the dance.

Yes, I’m still married, but my spouse has stepped off the dance floor and doesn’t care about how well I do. Still, I need to do my best, even if it’s a solo number, and give it as much dedication and passion as if I had that partner to share it with. I need to imagine that Jesus is that partner.

How about you? How are you doing in the dance of a difficult marriage?

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Be Jesus to Me

Scripture tells me that God loves me. He died for me. He chose me before the beginning of time. Zephaniah 3:17 states he even delights in me.

I realized though that right now my relationship with God is a bit stale. I’ve been wounded to be sure and while those wounds were not from God they make me a bit hesitant to engage with Him. When words and actions of those who were supposed to love me have been anything but loving and kind, it’s hard to know that God is not like them.

I struggle. I know God is good. He has been very good to me. I know He loves me. He’s faithful. I struggle to grasp the depth of his delight in me. His unconditional regard and love for me even in my distance.

It’s not that I want to be distant. I don’t. Certain people who swore they loved God and said they loved me have proven to be false. It’s an unfortunate reality of life in a sinful world.  I’m amazed that God still speaks to me, uses me, works in and through me in spite of my perceived failure in drawing as close to Him as I feel I should be.

I know. I shouldn’t should myself. It’s a nasty habit.

I’m being honest. When day after day my husband abuses or ignores me, it feels like God is too. My husband is not God but in a biblical sense a husband is to be Jesus to his wife. He is to love her as Christ loved the church. That’s a tall order.

I long to be loved like that. I long to have a man love me as an extension, albeit flawed, of Jesus’ love for me. I long to be cherished as God cherishes me. I long to be sacrificed for, considered worthy of being protected and served.

Instead I get abuse and neglect. The wounds cut deep because the longing is huge.

Maybe someday God will send me a man who is worthy of that task who will be willing to bridge the hurt and help me to trust again. Maybe he won’t so I don’t make that man an idol. I long to be loved like that. I long to be led by that. I can barely fathom what it would be like to be in a relationship like that.

So maybe it’s unrealistic? I’m married to a man entrenched in his own self-importance and blames me for his own sins and failures. I become hopeless that he will ever change although  God is perfectly capable of doing it. However, if a man refuses to even admit his need for God and his need to change, God leaves him to his own devices. As a result I’m left with nothing but a shell of a marriage, in name only, and that hurts.

I wish I had an answer to my dilemma. I will continue to pray. I will be faithful to my vows and will not seek solace in another man’s arms. I will keep pursuing God with my wounded heart and pray He will continue to lovingly and gently woo me to himself in spite of the roadblocks humans have erected in my path.

God will hold those who hurt me accountable and I can take solace in that fact. The hurtful words and actions have consequences for me now but for them in eternity if they fail to bend their knee. Someday, my Prince will come and all will be made right because Jesus will be Jesus to me even if my husband refuses to.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Do I Even Know How to Be Happy?

My therapist had pointed out that  the list of things I had been bringing in and reporting lately have all been generally good. My autoimmune disease is in remission. I’ve been offered a contract for my book. My kids are doing well.

I sat there later, at home, and thought: If things are going so good, how come I don’t feel happier? Do I even know how to be happy?

It’s a stupid question really. I do know and have experienced happiness and joy and the bliss and freedom of contentment in Christ when I have been in those “sweet spot” moments in ministry. But here? Now? When my marriage is still filled with control and abuse? When I have a title of a married woman but no relationship with a husband due to said abuses and his choices?

See, it seems WRONG to feel happy when that one major aspect of my life sucks.  It’s like a woolen cloak I have to carry around with me to remind myself how miserable I really am and should be. Like I deserve this. Like I’ve earned the right to be angry and miserable.

But why would I choose that? Isn’t that a bit twisted? God is doing great things. My dog makes me smile every time I come home and he so eagerly greets me. My children want hugs and to be with me. I have wonderful friends and a writing career on the brink of something fabulous. After years of hard work my body is healing itself in a rare and cool way.   I should be happy!

Being happy doesn’t alter the reality that still sucks. It doesn’t make my husband my best friend and lover. It means that in spite of that, I can still choose joy. I can make a choice to focus on the negative of which I can do nothing about and try to garner sympathy, which is twisted because out of respect for my husband (that he does not deserve) I cannot shout his abuses towards me from the mountaintops (or at least on Facebook!).

In spite of my husband I should choose happiness and to live there. In spite of him I should choose joy. Because GOD is my lover and provider and is always faithful, I should find my contentment in HIM in all things. Because God is working out GOOD things for me to bring glory to Him and in spite of the darkness of the backdrop of my marriage in which those things are placed – they illuminate His glory all the more!

So, right now. Today. I choose to smile. I choose to rejoice. Because I have a happy God. Because I have a GOD who delights in and loves me JUST AS I AM. Because He has done great things. How about you? Can YOU be happy? Maybe this song below will help. We have so much to be happy about in Jesus!

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Happy Day – by FEE

 

Three Weddings and a Funeral

Yes, I know , the movie staring Hugh Grant was actually FOUR Weddings and a Funeral. But this isn’t about Hugh Grant, even though he is cute and has a lovely accent and is fun to watch in the movies. My life has not been quite so comedic although I did plan three weddings.

Today I woke up unsettled as I kept feeling like August 17th was supposed to have some meaning to me. Like it was important somehow.  I checked my  calendar. Nothing written down. No birthday or anniversary or anything even really scheduled.  As I sat spending time in God’s Word and praying and journaling and reading some other great authors on faith – it hit me.

Today is the day I had originally scheduled my first wedding.  I felt grief and sorrow hit me in the gut. See, I ended up marrying that man a few years later after much heartache. I look back on that young 19 year old girl and see now that the patterns for abuse that I experience today –were already germinating back then. They were even set in place long before I met this man I would eventually marry. I despise how desperately needy I was for love that I didn’t see it and felt I didn’t deserve any better.

And I despise the fact that the enemy keeps telling me those lies even now.

The engagement took place on Valentine’s Day, and the wedding planned for August. Why wait? Except that the big surprise was that my fiancé, the one who surprisingly proposed to me, ended up calling it off.  I was heartbroken. He of course blamed me, saying I was forcing him to marry me. Really? I don’t remember holding a gun to his head to propose. But my undervaluing of my personhood by my biological family only affirmed that yes, I was not worthy to marry this man (or any man for that matter – who would ever want me?). I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough and obviously, according to this man,  I was too controlling.

Hindsight makes me want to weep at how wrong my fragile young  heart was.

We did get engaged again,  and I called off that one on the day of the wedding.  We eventually did marry a few years later after much more abuse I was too ashamed to admit to because after all, I was a Christian.  I was so used to taking the blame for the negative things that happened to me. I felt the weight of someone else’s sin as if it were my own and shame prevented me from speaking about it.

So I planned three weddings,  went through with one, all to the same man. I’ve stayed married to him through better and worse. Mostly worse. I keep seeking God’s wisdom and truth about who I am in the midst of my challenging circumstances.  And I pray for rescue.

See, I believe if God wants me out of my marriage He can do it. I don’t pray for my husband’s death, but I have thought about what life would be like when that happens.  Practical things like liquidating his business and frivolous things like finally buying the bed that would be best for MY back.  God could also bring my husband to divorce me, and I would consider him as an unbeliever and let him go.  God could also decide to change things in my marriage as well.

So far there’s been no funeral.

Does that mean I should never consider legal separation? I don’t have biblical grounds (in the truest sense) to justify divorce. My husband, I believe, is mentally ill. I married for “in sickness and in health.” He won’t get treatment and is blind to his foolish ways and won’t seek wise counsel. I pray for God’s leading and guiding.

It is hard not to long for escape.  Today I grieve a young woman who did the best she could in her circumstances 26 years ago.  I weep for her vulnerable heart and I grieve for the loss of many dreams – primarily of being loved and cherished by my husband.  I have to believe my “happily ever after” ultimately is with Jesus and my lack in this life and marriage forces me to depend on Him in a deeper way than I probably would have otherwise.

Do I sound foolish to you? Many would say “Leave” but it really is not so easy. However I am praying a different prayer now. Not just one of “rescue” or for a job or some other way to survive. I’m praying that for the sake of the glory of God and His name and power shown through my life, that He will break the bonds of control that are currently holding me captive. Not just that I would endure them with grace, or that I would try to break them on my own (realistically, it would not happen even with a divorce or separation, no matter what a lawyer might tell me).  My heart has to listen to my God and that can be a difficult voice to hear amongst the negativity, grief and old message tapes that tell me I am unworthy of the love and devotion of a godly man.

In realityI have the love and devotion of a godly man already. His name is Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, if I were not struggling in the way that I am, I would not be as driven to seek my value, worth and love from my Creator King who also says:

“For your husband is your Maker. His name is Yaweh of Hosts – and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like wife of youth when she is cast off.”  (Isaiah 54:5-6)

I am loved and cherished and worthy of that from the One who made me and will use me for His glory, in spite of my pain and suffering. If God can be glorified in me today, then I will be grateful that I was found usable by Him.  I may not see the impact. I have to trust the outcome to Him and cling to my Husband and trust Him for everything else. He’s my God. He can do it.

Pigs and Pearls

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6  HCSB)

I love this verse. It has been a reminder to me for many years that I need to be careful with whom I share the things in my life that are important. Let me give you an example. I used to go visit my family. I served in ministry, on staff of a small church plant. I was married, and was going to an Evangelical graduate school.  I was content with the work God had given me to do. But my family didn’t believe in a life lived in whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. When I would go home on holidays to share my joys I was met with criticism and rejection.  I should divorce my husband (they didn’t like him, and they had some good reasons for that). I should get a ‘real” job. I should lose weight. If there were anything they could find fault with in my life, they did.

Eventually a younger, fellow counseling student that I was meeting with, brought me to this verse. I needed to stop casting my pearls before people who would only trample them. We saw God move in our church in amazing ways. It was a time of significant personal and spiritual growth for me. My family however would never be able to appreciate or celebrate those things because they were “holy treasures” to me. My “pearls.”  My husband would laugh as I would go home to visit family (an hour drive) and repeat to myself: “My family are pigs. My parents are swine.”

Not very Christian, huh? I laugh now, but I was dead serious then. See, I really desired and needed their approval and acceptance as it has always been withheld. It became clear that living the life that God had called me to would never give me that kind of love and acceptance with my family. I could “want” it  but not “need” it. Easier said than lived out. So I had to learn that when I went home, I did not share my heart or my dreams or my life with my family. I listened and asked questions.  Over the years of doing this I have felt more and more like a foreigner visiting a land where I do not know the language. I do not feel a part of my family because they cannot accept or approve of my choices in life.  Persevere in a difficult marriage?  Unheard of –just get a divorce.  Stay at home with children or even home school them (which I did for a few years). I should be using my Master’s degree!

Today I revisited this verse when I spent time meditating on God’s Word and I realized that the context of this verse puts a little bit of a different spin on its meaning.  Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount and cautions about judging others without first looking at the sin in our own life. Right after that comes this verse. I sat there thinking about it, perplexed, because I struggled to figure out the connection based on the way I had been applying it in my life.  Finally I grabbed “The Bible Knowledge Commentary” off my bookshelf and looked it up and on page 33 it says this:

“. . . when seeking to help another, one must exercise care to do what would be appreciated and beneficial. One should never entrust holy things (what is sacred) to unholy people or throw pearls to pigs. Dogs and pigs were despised in those days.” (Walvoord, J.F & Zuck R.B, Victor Books, Wheaton Il 1983).

Now at first glance that appears to fit my application. But I’ve been reading a chapter of Proverbs almost every day for the past seven months and there is a recurring theme regarding the wise and foolish (unholy) people of this world.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and correction.” (Prov. 1:7)

“The one who corrects a mocker will bring dishonor on himself.” (Prov. 9:7)

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid.” (Prov 12:1)

Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despise the insight of your words.” (Prov. 23:9)

A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.” (Prov. 25:12)

I’m not saying that my previous application of this verse was wrong. I think that this broadens the application. Not only do we need to be careful who we share our life, our hopes, dreams and challenges with as we follow Jesus, because we do need the encouragement of support of the body of Christ. In addition to that, however, we need to be careful when we are called to give feedback or try to challenge someone, even a “supposed” Christian.

First, we need to follow Jesus’ words and make sure our own hearts are pure and that we are not doing the very same things (or worse) that we are about to confront someone about. Secondly, if we know that person well, we need to assess if they might even be receptive to hearing our heart of concern for them and their walk with God.  Are they a wise person or a fool?  Sometimes we don’t know until we have to try to confront, and tell the truth in love.

Let me give two examples.  First a negative one.  I had someone slander me in ministry. I prayed, I confessed, I sought insight from an accountability partner as to whether the very sin I was aware of in this other person might be something I myself was engaging in.  God showed me an area where I had seriously erred in the relationship.  So I met with this woman and began by confessing my own sin and apologizing for the words I had spoken in haste.  She was receptive to that. But when I turned and pointed to the slander that she had committed to writing to another person about me, she laughed in my face.  I was sad because I had liked this woman and had hoped to have her serving in our ministry.  After that conversation however, I left knowing that “fool” or “unsafe” were better applied to her and that I could never entrust leadership to a woman who would so callously abuse my reputation with lies and willingly confessed to doing it to many others.  The funny thing was, she claimed she wanted to support me in ministry and was blind to the fact that this in essence undermined my efforts to serve and lead. My pearls were trampled.

A more positive example. A week ago a woman from my small group called me up on the phone. She was so apologetic and said that she wondered if I had been hurt by her in some way and if there was something she needed to repent of because she had felt that on Sunday mornings I had been distant and not “warm” in my interactions with her.  I sat there stunned. She had not done anything wrong. I apologized profusely for any unintentional hurt I might have caused and applauded her courage and her sweet spirit in the way she confronted me. She didn’t even mean to confront me! She thought it was her fault. Talk about a humble, gentle and sweet spirit.  We had a wonderful conversation for over an hour and our relationship grew because she was wise in how and who she shared her issue with.  I’m not perfect. I could have taken offense and trampled her feelings (like the previous woman had done to me).  But I treasured the holy pearls that this woman brought before me and in the end, they got a little more polished from the interaction. More beautiful.

So who do you know that you can share your pearls with and who are the pigs and dogs in your life?  Sometimes it’s good to know these things  before troubles and conflict emerge. Not that we never confront a fool, but in doing so we go in knowing that we may be a bit bruised for the effort and trust God work in their hearts.  Jesus gives us permission to be careful with who we judge and how we do it. He gives us guidance, because we do need to judge at times. But first let us be found worthy of treasuring the pearls of others instead of acting like pigs ourselves.

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