Twisted (poem)

Like a wet rag in your hands

my heart is twisted

until every drop

leaks out my eyes.

But God

collects every one.

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Blown Up Bridges

I’m going to say from the outset – I’m PRO marriage. I’m for sticking through it even when it is tough and feels hopeless.

I find it interesting though that those who have more tenuous reasons for divorce, especially over instances of ongoing verbal (which includes, emotional and financial) abuses tend to be pro-leaving. Now,  not all are like that, but I found it interesting when I was trying to get editors and agents to consider publishing my book, Lessons from the Trenches: Staying in a Difficult Marriage that women who had left argued for me to leave too.

I’m not judging them for divorcing. It may not have even been their choice. The end result though is that they are free from the ongoing assault and want others to share that freedom.

I get it. I really do. I know that verbal abuse can have health impacts far more damaging and long lasting than physical abuse and that it can escalate to physical abuse and that women who chose to leave find themselves in the most dangerous period of time ever.

But God hasn’t given me permission to leave and I first and foremost have to obey Him. It is painfully difficult. It wounds deeply.

I thought about how in wartime, enemies would blow up bridges to keep their opponents from moving forward. A marriage with a verbally abusive spouse is like trying to cross a blown up bridge. Planks are missing, the railing is gone and  the supports are broken. Sometimes you have to jump to get across the empty spaces and my legs are short.

In real life, no one would even attempt to cross a bridge like that. But in a marriage, when a spouse has blown up the bridge with his words and actions, it takes great faith to take those steps and not abandon the bridge. If this were a physical bridge – you would be considered a fool to cross. Even with the marriage bridge blown to smithereens, many would consider those who stay equally foolish. Grenades explode all around. Bullets fly. If we seek to walk as Christ did, we don’t abuse in return.

Sounds painful. Impossible. Insane. One therapist I saw told me I had to leave. This was toxic. And he was right – it is toxic. But we don’t criticize a family stuck in a house filled with black mold making their kids sick, because they stay. We can understand how hard it would be when you have a mortgage and you can’t sell the home and how are you going to live when your money is invested in a home that is worthless?

But isn’t it like that in a marriage? No one is going to bail you out and make it easy. I know from walking alongside friends who have made the choice to leave, just how gut-wrenchingly painful it can be. Sure they have some freedom from the abuse but they also carry other heavy burdens as well. The grass isn’t always greener.

God is faithful. He has been my support when the under-girding of my marriage has been decimated. He helps me over the gaps and helps fill in the holes with his presence. It still hurts. Many times I wish I could jump off that bridge into the world of single motherhood but to do so without His holding my hand would be suicide.

So I stay. And it hurts. And I despair the bridge ever being able to be rebuilt because my spouse refuses the tools available to him by the Master Bridge Builder, the only One whom I can trust.

Blessings. Stand firm.

Lilly Grace

Secondary Losses

I was at a retreat for writers and had a delightful roommate. In our conversation she had mentioned that her therapist had been talking to her about secondary losses. Now I’ve just re-blogged the last four weeks on secondary gains. Losses, while I understood them, I had not necessary written about. So here goes.

For my friend, being a widow, there were so many things that come along with the loss of a spouse – but she had not recognized that there were things she gained as well.

Being in a difficult marriage sometimes all we see is our losses as well. What have we lost? Maybe we’ve lost the security we had hoped to have in marriage, financially, or relationally. How secure can one be when a spouse is drinking or drugging the paycheck away? Or sleeping with a coworker?

I think too often we soldier on and try to gloss over the loss but it eats at us from the inside out.

We have lost, and along with the hope of a healthy marriage where we feel loved, we have lost even more.

Perhaps your children don’t feel comfortable inviting friends over.

You would love to have company but your spouse offends people too often and you often get “I’m sorry, we can’t make it, thank you very much,” When you make your invitation.

Maybe you have lost the hope of buying a home due to a spouse’s financial mismanagement.

Or lost the opportunity to serve in a way you would love to – because you cannot depend on your spouse to support you and be there to care for the children. Or his behaviors reflect negatively on you because people don’t fully understand what’s happening.

Maybe you’ve lost the comfort of your spouse worshiping alongside you on a Sunday morning.

Or he is with you but the verbal abuse you got on the way to church interferes with your ability to focus on God as you desire to.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my confidence in my ability to make good decisions because they’ve been so often questioned and condemned.

Sometimes – we lose hope.

I think it’s good to recognize our losses and acknowledge them, because grief can hit us from out of the blue and knock us off our hard won stride as we try, step by step, to move forward and to stand firm.

So how about you? What losses have you had as you have chosen the path you are on?

Lilly Grace

 

Procovery

As life deals us those brutal blows and we struggle with the reality of here and now, it’s tempting to long for what we used to have, whether it be health, a happy home, that lost loved one. But sometimes our “plan A” is just not ever going to be reality. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Many years ago I attended a conference on mental health and heard Kathleen Crowley tell her story. As a result of a medical mishap, she was forced to live with permanent intense pain. Pain medication made her mentally unstable. But medication for depression intensified her pain. She ended up in a mental ward at the hospital and she writes about her experience in a book called The Day Room.

Out of her tragic story (she still experiences intense pain) she developed a concept called procovery. It’s not even a “plan B” for life. Instead of seeking to get back to prior health (physical or mental), she purports that we need to come to a new concept of recovery. That where we are now IS where we are supposed to be and to live successfully within that.

This is difficult. Does that mean we give in and simply state that “this is who I am and it’s not going to change?” How does one do that in the face of health challenges. Is it every totally hopeless that you can recover what you lost? When do we give up and give in?

I’ve been struggling with this as I fight my own health battles. My chiropractor was telling me “This may just be the way you ARE, and you may need to live with that.” When it comes to weight loss, or chronic back issues or depression – is there every really a point where you just give in and accept instead of frustratingly fight?

How does one live in the reality of “this may be all the better it may get” and yet the hope that God in His infinite mercy could possibly change things – if HE chose?

Michael J Fox tries all kinds of treatments to halt the progression of Parkinson’s. I’m not saying that’s bad, but to what point will he accept that this disease will eventually win the battle? Christopher Reeve did all kinds of therapy to help him regain the use of his body, paralyzed due to a fall from horseback. In the end pneumonia claimed his life.

Sometimes I wonder if our modern day treatments and our western mentality that wants what we want and we want it NOW raises the standard too high for our expectations that lives can be saved and improved with the miracle of modern medicine.  We rail against God when we don’t get the answer WE want. This wasn’t as big of an issue 100 yrs ago when the reality of death, while hard, was more easily accepted as a natural part of life. Life is terminal.

What do we lose when we put all our energies into our recovery instead of seeking what God wants to teach us in the midst of our pain?

Mentally I’m not a peace with living forever with my various health challenges. I struggle to find contentment in the present while at the same time doing what is good and healthy that could hopefully turn things around. Because of this cognitive dissonance, I often sabotage my efforts in the latter category. I want to lose weight – but then I eat too much. I work out but don’t know to what degree that triggers the inflammation issues of my Hashimoto’s disease and will backfire causing me to gain weight rather than lose it.

On the flip side, I have a broken marriage. I’m still with my husband.  But I’ve emotionally given up hope of restoration of the marriage relationship. Have I then given up on the fact that God COULD do that? I beat myself up for my lack of faith and giving in to reality.

Procovery is a good goal – but it’s a hard one. Hard because if we believe in Jesus Christ and that God is sovereign over it all , we don’t know when He may choose to act to change things. IF we want it to be His will, then we have to stop praying for healing, and simply start seeking His face and trusting Him for today and focus more on glorifying Him in THIS moment – rather than focusing on our own future dream.

I sure wish I was better at this.  Do you struggle as well? May you find God to be faithful to you in the process.

Blessings,

LGB

The Anti-Love Story?

I chuckled when I discovered that my non-fiction book: “Lessons from the Trenches: Staying in a Difficult Marriage” did not make the cut in the Women of Faith/Westbow competition.

It looks like most of the finalists were romance. Yes, we all want romance. Who wants reality?

A few months back when I was working on the book, a bride-to-be and her mother were sitting down at a table next to me planning for a wedding. The irony of that struck me. She has stars in her eyes, dreams in her heart and confidence in the power of love that will sustain her till she is old and grey through whatever comes their way. It’s a dream we all buy into, isn’t it?

That’s why Disney has made so much money. Why my daughter loves to watch movies about Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid . . . we are raised from early on in the good ol’ US of A to believe that the pursuit of happiness means “happily ever after.”

And no one could tell us it’s a myth. Yet it’s as much a deception as the prosperity gospel that promises that God desires us all to be wealthy and healthy and anything less is an abomination to the faith.

Hosea was told to marry a prostitute and repeatedly take her back as an example to the Israel of how they were treating God. How Hosea’s heart must have been crushed over and over. Now maybe he was a less than stellar example of manhood. We really don’t know. But it had to be a blow to his pride to have his wife repeatedly seek her “entertainment” with other men.

Most women feel shamed and slighted even when a husband chooses to stimulate himself through pornography. It’s like they are not enough to hold his interest, to satisfy his needs. Actually it has nothing to do with that – but tell that to a woman’s hurting heart.

We women long to be the center of our husband’s love. After Jesus, we want to be important, secure, protected, cherished. And we crash inwardly when that is withheld from us for whatever reason.

The enemy is behind all these lies that we have bought into and we are gullible enough to keep pursuing the myth.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  I remember one where I got a dozen red roses. I still have the vase. It’s in my bathroom with silk roses. A mockery of the promise of vibrant love that turned plastic. The diamond I had been given one year, I ended up giving back. I then got it as a necklace, I was too hurt and afraid to wear. Last year due to our financially difficulties I finally sold it to help buy groceries. I put it to better use than sitting in a drawer where it had been for 20+ years, another reminder of pain and sorrow. I still have my wedding ring, although it too feels like a mockery of promises made and unkept.

So reality sucks, doesn’t it? When we have been hurt, abandoned, criticized, abused. . . Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem like a nice holiday. It mocks us and reminds us of our loss and maybe even brings us to grieve again those childhood dreams.

I’m still married in spite of all that. I’m walking in obedience to my Lord in the midst of my pain and struggle. My girlfriend said that my book is not an “un-romance” but rather a look at the most important romance of all – of me and my Jesus. The God who pursued me and gave me more than diamonds. He gave His life to redeem mine. That is true love and it is eternal and far more secure than what any human on earth can give.

So, this Valentine’s Day, I do wish you love and joy. But I pray that you ultimately are finding that in the arms of a Savior who desires you more than any human ever could. He will never leave or forsake you and He will walk with you through the pain of the other disappointments that this life dishes out. This world is not my home. Someday I will have all the hearts and flowers and a place to live beyond compare that my Lord is building for me – and for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Blessings

LGB

Dream Bigger

I often ask God for things that I want or think I need. New house, new husband (hahaha!), healed son, health, financial security. The list could go on. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly stressed my prayers simply become requests for help or rescue.

But for twenty years rescue hasn’t come.

What if my dreams and prayers are too small? Maybe a house, which could burn down, would not ultimately satisfy me. Or if my husband were Brad Pitt or better yet Gilles Marini! Still, he may not satisfy (looks ain’t everything, gals!).

What if my kids were perfect angels, obeying everything, picked up after themselves and helped around the house? Okay, wait. I cannot find anything wrong with that!

I struggle with this verse in Scripture:

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Mat 21:22 ESV)

Whatever? Really? But when? So I can ask for riches – and for my debts to be cleared away. Anything goes right? Does that mean that I can sin with abandon and ask God to clean up after me so I don’t have to face the consequences? See what I mean? It seems like there might be a limit to “whatever” even though even in the Greek it seems to mean exactly what it says. Oh, how easy to believe a false prosperity gospel based on that one verse!

Maybe the clincher is “if you have faith.” Maybe part of me doubts God’s willingness to rescue me in my difficult circumstances. That would be a sin of unbelief. Maybe my faith is misplaced in asking for things that are not in line with what God desires for me? That is probably the key. Faith means believing in what we don’t see. That God has some greater purpose and plan beyond my ability to know or understand. Even Abraham did not see the Promised Land and his descendants as innumerable as the sands on the shore or the stars in the sky. God promised and did it – but Abraham never saw it while he walked on this earth.

So maybe I simply don’t dream big enough. A house will burn or decay. My health doesn’t matter once I’m dead (and we all achieve that end at some point). Consider the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 which ends thus:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. “ (Heb 11:39-40 ESV)

So we get whatever we ask – when we ask in faith – but even those who did, didn’t see the fulfillment of what God had promised. They got something better!

Maybe I need to pray bigger prayers. Maybe prayers that my children will overcome the generations of sin and spiritual bondage that have held our families back from impacting the world for the glory of God. Prayers that the work I do today, even in writing a blog, or a book, will in the long run, impact women, save marriages and strengthen the church in ways I might never see or fully understand. Maybe even one life will come to know Jesus in a real, powerful, life changing way and embrace Him as not only their Savior, but Lord, and in bending their knee and wholeheartedly following Him, they will have a great impact on people I will never meet this side of heaven.

Maybe instead of temporal things I need to dream of a bigger legacy of a way that God, right now, today, would reach down and through this blog and other words I might speak, or hugs I might give, extend His message of grace to a hurting world.

My circumstances might stink. Sometimes I truly do want to quit the fight. But then I think of things like this and feel emboldened to stretch a little further. To take just one more step today in faith, knowing that in heaven, I will see the fruit of my labor and rejoice because I will have received the commendation of God. That joy will far outweigh my sorrows here. Some days I need to be reminded of that, don’t you?

As I typed this, Chris Rice’s song “Deep Enough to Dream” kept going through my head. Maybe it will inspire you to dream bigger as well. Blessings,

LGB

Pressure Cooker

I don’t have a pressure cooker.  But I’ve seen and heard about them.  You know, those large pans where you lock on a lid and then set things to boiling and the steam cannot come out until it reaches a certain pressure.  The benefits of a pressure cooker are that foods can cook much faster as the heat is distributed, “very evenly, quickly and deeply.” (Wikipedia).

Pressure cookers also have a “safety valve” in case the pressure gets too high and the gauge isn’t working. This keeps the entire thing from exploding! Kabooom!  Not what you really want to happen in your kitchen when the temperature is that hot.  It’s also not a pretty thing to happen to us emotionally either – spewing our negativity to all around us is definitely ugly.

Well, sometimes life can feel like this, can’t it?  When the pressure builds up and we can’t go anywhere with it.  When someone wrongly accuses you but won’t listen to your explanation or taken responsibility for their own sin.  Pressure builds.  When disappointments pile up, seemingly small, one after another.  Pressure builds.  When attacks come against you that are unexpected and you can’t fight because the perpetrator is unknown.  Pressure builds. When then bills keep piling up and the checking account is empty. Pressure builds.  When the kids keep whining and fighting and making demands and you get no break and your sleep deprived.  Pressure.

So, where’s your safety valve?  I’m feeling pressure in some of those areas. Through the haze of the steam it makes it harder to see things as they really are.  Sometimes I want to curse myself for being so vulnerable to pressure.  It makes me feel so emotionally fragile at times.  Sometimes being “human” is just not fun.   Is anyone tracking with me here?

I’m not saying I have this figured out. I don’t.  My only comfort is in reminding myself that God is maybe “cooking” me through the circumstances of life so that I WILL be more tender and sensitive to the hurts of those around me.  Can I submit to the pressure knowing that there’s a higher purpose to it all?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4)

That’s all well and good, but still – what is my safety valve?  What’s yours?  Prayer.  Praising God with music.  Maybe coffee with a friend.  Oh, a massage would help (if the checking account thing weren’t the issue), a phone call to someone who understands, journaling, maybe just a good long walk to expend some of the pent up adrenaline that occurs physically when there are emotional challenges?  A good, from the diaphragm, scream?

How do you decompress?  Seriously – any ideas would be welcome because sometimes we share things that can help others.

Here’s a song by Billy Joel that kind of exemplifies the challenge.  Joel says “Here you are with your faith and your Peter Pan advice. . . and you cannot handle pressure.”  Yes, Billy, there is a cosmic plan and while pressure will come, there’s nothing magical about the fact that we all have to deal with it.  While I may not always understand God’s rationale for my pain and struggles, I can trust him and I am not alone.  In this we have a hope that Mr. Joel has missed.  Let’s not make his same mistake.