Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Thanks a lot" and also, Thanksgiving

Just before Thanksgiving, a friend of mine called to ask if I could fill in for her capricious nanny until Christmas break, while they look for a more permanent replacement. I said sure! I always want to help a friend; I could use a paying gig.

Sunday after Thanksgiving, we made our budget for December, proud of the success of November's frugal, cash-only budgeting and laid December on the altar for the holes that paychecks won't fill, knowing God is always providing for us in crazy ways. And this doesn't even take Christmas Consumerism into consideration...just the basics. Maybe a little less than the basics, but we're alright.

Monday morning comes too early, but there I am, with my own toddler in tow, ready to serve. My friend answers the door, gaunt and slouched, eyes drooping, barely standing, barely breathing.

"Are you okay?" I quickly begin to realize something is very wrong.

No, she is not. Her husband has left her. He told her--on Thanksgiving-- that he wanted out of their almost-20-year marriage, and then sat down with their three kids to feast on the meal she'd been cooking all day, while she went to an out-of-town friend's house to crumble into a pile of rubble, a ruined city. Alone.

My friend is the heartbroken, heart of ashes, languid spirit. Mourning has it's place and I try not to bombard her with messages of hope, and I do my best to know the pain with her, share hugs and tears and to be hands and feet in her home for what seems the trivial daily grind next to remembering to breathe.

I am feeling disappointed (understatement) in yet another spouse giving up, making a conscious choice to be discontent and withdrawing from relationship, instead of playing through. NEWSFLASH: there is no perfect relationship. You will never find that person who never bugs you, whom you have everything in common with forever. REALLY-- You want your life to look like a sit-com, with strings of disposable relationships based on your own comfort and entertainment? Life is not like TV and movies, duh! This guy says he's "not leaving the kids" but what kind of dad will he be if he's just in relationship for convenience? I have a 12-year old know-it-all daughter battling to the death of wills every day and let me tell you, it's not comfortable, entertaining or convenient in the least! There are days when I look at my husband and wonder what alien has taken his place and I'm horrified that I'm set up to grow old with this dork... but I play through and things iron out. God is always moving, we are always growing, there are ups and downs. This stuff requires grace and patience and second chances over and over.

Dude: you are leaving your kids by leaving your relationship with the wife of your youth. And they will probably know it before you do.

This guy has a problem, and I feel sorry for him, too. He's totally unhappy, and has been for a while and I think it has little if anything to do with his wife. I am just sick of this magical thinking. I am sick of the struggle with it in my own brain. It's an evil lie. But I am really sick of watching my friends and their children suffer the fallout. It might be "normal" but it is not okay. STOP ABANDONING EACH OTHER. That's what I'd spray-paint on a stop sign if I could.

But this is not the only thing I wanted to write about. Off the tirade, back to our budget.

Now I don't think my friend here is walking with the Lord. I think that is a thing of the distant past for her (we met through a church group). But little does she know it, God is using her. The money she set aside to pay her nanny is now going to fill in the holes in our budget! We might be able to pay all the bills! Buy the food we need (the end of the month is always slim pickins around here)! Maybe fill some Christmas stockings! What a blessing, albeit a mixed bag of emotions...God works all things, you know? It's just weird, maybe enlightening to be on the other side of this.

The other thing is that being able to be there, present for my friend in this dark night of hers is a gift of redemption for me. It gives the dark times I've been through purpose. It wasn't all for nothing. Now I get to be, once more, Grace to the Brokenhearted. And I know this is only one small way God will redeem my own Ruined City. Like a giant oak next to a sprouting acorn, the evidence of God's grace in my life is so very apparent. It's been a while since I read the manifesto of that first year when truth and recovery began, the Year of His Favor, so I'm reading it aloud to you now. My story is in here:

Isaiah 61 (the message)

Announce Freedom to All Captives
 1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, 
   heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, 
   pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace— 
   a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— 
   and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, 
   give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom, 
   a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" 
   planted by God to display his glory.
They'll rebuild the old ruins, 
   raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities, 
   take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks 
   and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God," 
   honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations, 
   you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble 
   and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled 
   and your joy go on forever.
 8-9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
   and hate thievery and crime,
I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
   and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
   Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
   as the people I have blessed."
 10-11I will sing for joy in God,
   explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
   he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
   and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
   and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
   and puts praise on display before the nations.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Being Attracted vs Being in Love

On Sunday we were discussing Jacob, who stole his brother's blessing and then ran into the desert to hide. His reverence to God is conditional, he brings chaos and jealous, adulterous baby-making to his unhappy wives ("What? You want me to just have sex with your servants? Gee, okay, if you insist..."). What a mess! As a husband and a servant of God, he's kind of a wuss. Jacob is not turning out to be a very attractive man in my opinion.

But still... God has a plan. Jacob's been blessed, and God is moving forward with it. As over-dramatic as his response seems, Jacob has an encounter with God and proclaims, "Surely, the Lord is in this place!" In the middle of nowhere, God meets this most undeserving man with grace and mercy.
These lives in the bible, they are all examples of the stuff we live too, and the stories all point to Jesus and the grace and mercy he gave to the undeserving.

And I'm realizing that I don't have to always be attracted to my husband. I just have to always be in love with my ever-faithful God. He has a plan, He's doing it. And the purpose, never forget, is for my story to point to Jesus, and the immeasurable grace and mercy he demonstrated to me (undeserving) on the cross.

So my marriage? Surely God is in this place. I just need to be looking for Him. what, exactly?

He calls me, excited at spending more time with one of "his guys", getting to share more of our story. "And it's encouraging people!" He is clearly smiling on the other end of the connection. Today, at this moment, he is having a good day.

But. I am not feeling encouraged. In fact, I am increasingly losing hope.

I am feeling the weight of a string of little betrayals, little slips, little character flaws coming to the surface. Lately, he has not been fighting like a warrior; in fact, he reminds me of a teenager who doesn't want to do his homework, whining and procrastinating and... failing the Test.

I'll be straight with you, it turns me off. Mighty warrior, fighting for God, fighting for me... now that's sexy! Lazy, acne-ridden teenager? Not so much.

My hope comes into question, then. Am I just a loony, hanging on to this? Should I be kicking myself in the rear for placing just a tiny bit of hope in having a husband who loves me and fights for me, who honors God and raises his children with intentionality and fervor? He seemed like he was on his way to maturity, one of the strongest men I know, to get this far. He has fought through so many obstacles....

But is it all just there, under the surface, like cancer cells, waiting to spring up and kill us off? How much of remission is his will to survive, and how much is still generations of sin, hidden, clinging on?

What am I hoping for, anyway?
Am I hoping that he will grow into a husband who loves me and our kids with his subservience to God?
Am I hoping that we just somehow stop passing on the majority (if not all) the psycho strongholds we brought into marriage?
Am I hoping that I will manage to honor my Father God with my own heart's intentions, whatever may come of my husband? That's a hard one...because how do you explain it to the kids: all the subtle ramifications of his sin that affect their lives: lost jobs, parents not being on the same page, his subtle isolation from them and from mommy. When they ask the questions and I know the answer, and I have to do something I rarely do: not trust them with the truth. What about all that?
We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good. Good always necessitates long waiting. --Ann Voskamp

I have to teach them that God is trustworthy. That we can wait in hope for God because he is doing a good thing...we just have to wait. Maybe even generations. They might have to wait too, not ever seeing what we all want to see: Daddy choose God and Mommy over medicating his discomfort. Daddy finding his identity in God, trusting the process, fighting through pain like a warrior who has a legacy to protect, a King to serve!

I don't know how I'll explain those awkward, painful things. I have to hope that God will meet me in those moments too. I have to hope that God is resurrecting something good in me, and consequently, in my children. Not only in spite of my addict husband, but--I'll admit it--in spite

Monday, August 22, 2011

Remembering the Promise

Many times, in order to keep perspective on what addiction recovery is all about, I think of myself as being married to someone with a medical condition. For instance, if my husband, whom I love dearly and have committed my life to-- in sickness and in health-- had had a stroke, I wouldn't have up and left him saying, "I didn't sign up for this! Hmph!" While stroke and addiction are very different, strokes are debilitating, unfair and therefore a kind of painful betrayal, and while you will  never be the person you were before, it is often possible to recover almost completely with years of patient, hard work. It would be heartbreaking and immeasurably difficult, but if I made that choice to stay, I would have to remember that this is the life I'd chosen to take on. And the person you become as a result of the struggle and fight to recover might even be a person you like better anyway.

This last week we had a situation. A friend invited the kids and I to an overnight at a beach house with her family. One of my first thoughts, admittedly, was that I can't stay trapped at home forever by my husband's "problem"... aaaand things have been feeling more "normal" lately so we should be fine-see-you-on-the-flip-side-bye-bye. He went to work, I went to the beach, end of story.

If only.

I have signed up to be the main helper of  a man with a debilitating disease, and I just left him for a weekend without preparing, without making a plan for his care in my absence. Loneliness swept in with full force and before he knew what was happening, he was slipping.

I'm not saying it's my fault, or that he's not responsible for his own choices and actions. But both of us have a longing to be "normal" (whatever that means), to have a break from the arduous work of recovery. Sometimes, when the work has become a normal part of life and everyone looks healthy, it's easy to forget that we are healthy because we are doing that hard work. If you throw something different into the day, you have to compensate by changing your recovery plan, or "changing your meds" as I like to say. We should have made a Relapse Prevention Plan*. Being active in recovery affords us the freedom of being apart, or doing things that are otherwise triggers to us. So when loneliness comes pounding on the door, my husband would be prepared to answer. And I, instead of secretly worrying like a codependent, could enjoy my time at the beach more fully.

What the Locusts Have Eaten...

There have been years and years-- generations in our family history-- that have been eaten up by an army of locusts...

What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
Joel 1.4

...and I forget that this isn't just a clinical disease that I can control and fix with educated, strategic choices. I forget that a promise has been given to me. I forget what my husband once said that I had to write on the wall because it was so profound it had to be our family mantra: It's not just a fight to survive, we're serving God! It's the promise; the promise is why we're doing this. I saw it again this morning, in Joel:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten--
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm--
my great army that I sent among you
Joel 2.25

Over and over again the Bible tells the same story: the people don't trust Him, they rebel and find their own way and end up leading themselves into destruction. God helps expediate their destruction because He is in a hurry for His people to return to Him. And then the promises: I will repay you... you will have plenty... you will know... because I am faithful... never again will my people be shamed (2.27).

I am not JUST following doctor's orders. I am living out a promise! What the locusts have eaten, God is restoring...and  I will praise the name of the Lord my God, who has worked wonders for me!

*Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan helps you to remain 'sober' and offers you a way to escape when tempted. I will work on posting a more detailed description of a Relapse Prevention Plan in the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Personal Transformation

Someday I want to explain to you the layers upon layers that are in this sermon, and the reasons it absolutely rocked my world, and is still rocking my world today. The Word of God. Man... It does not come back void. A promise He gives you one day, will still be true and alive later. To look back on this sermon from -oh my goodness- FOUR years ago and to know how God has been keeping and has yet to fulfill even more His promise to transform us for His glory is nothing short of the most humbling, amazing realization. I know without a doubt, I am seen and loved by God, because of how much He cares about my story and what He can do with it.

Near the end of the sermon Rick (the pastor) talks about a woman who sent him an email about her husband's adultery... well, that was me! I hope you have time to give this a listen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dr. Ted Roberts on Sexual Addiction

Dr. Roberts used to be our pastor.  We started going to his church because of his Pure Desire ministry, and it was a great first step toward healing both of us.  It is at the same time refreshing and depressing to hear someone speak about sexual addiction with such understanding and knowledge.  It has been a long and painful road to where we stand today (which I haven't told you, is pretty good) but it has been worth it.  But it's heartbreaking how big the problem is, and how ill-equipped the church seems to be to love addicts through to recovery.  I want to be better equipped to help from where I stand, but I'm overwhelmed at the thought of it.  But one day at a time, right?  I listen to God and He leads me where He needs me to go...

Dr. Ted Roberts on Sexual Addiction (Full Interview) from Catalyst on Vimeo.
"Sometimes you feel like Hosea, and you're just trying to take care of Gomer.  'Cause addicts lie and they'll betray you and they'll stab you in the back.  But I see guys coming out, and I see their marriages restored's worth the pain.  It's worth the pain." --Dr. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire Ministries

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Hosea And Being Married To An Unfaithful Spouse

For future reference:

Also, although I've always scoffed at romance novels, much less a Christian romance novel, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers painted a touching and tangible picture for me of our Great Romance with God through the retelling of the biblical story of Hosea.  The more I understand how faithless and adulterous I am with a God whose love for me is boundless, the more understanding and compassion I have for the man I married.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I always intend to come here to write something long, polished and encouraging. But I think I need to succumb to the snippet. Today, all I have is this:

my heart is melting into my stomach
a vacuum-pressure so heavy
is left in its void
a thick coagulation in my gut