God Cares For Me In Every Season

agnes-amos-god-cares-every-season

[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Agnes Amos’ latest book, God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage, and Divorce.  (I did receive a copy of this book so that I could pick out the excerpt!) Agnes contributes regularly to Devotional Diva and has become a good friend of mine, so I wrote this endorsement that appears in the book; I wanted to include it here, too:

Each of us goes through at least one of the seasons discussed in this book – singleness may be our total path, or perhaps we go through all three seasons into divorce. In today’s modern world, these seasons are indeed normal and like Agnes discusses, trials of faith. I receive emails from women all around the world in the same positions and I know these chapters of encouragement are much-needed. Singleness and divorce especially are not discussed enough in the church, which is why I think this book is so unique. The situations are not unique, but the conversation is. There has been so much shame and guilt around both singleness and divorce, but Agnes reminds us in this book that God never leaves us – not then, not ever. Singleness is not a curse. Marriage may not be perfect (I know mine is not! Marriage is work!) and divorce may be inevitable. But you are always loved, Child of God.]

God Cares for Me in Every Season

I am an avid walker—this is a hobby I inherited from my earthly father, Papa Amos.

Walking is a time when I seek God’s face for my life and for others, and it is during these times that the Holy Spirit gets my attention. So that I don’t forget what He says, I often record it on my cell phone.

For those of you who are wondering, “Does God speak to humans like us?” The answer is Yes, He does in many natural ways. Here are the most common: Impulse, Ideas, Inspirations. The Bible is filled with many examples of how God speaks to His children.

Personally, I am learning to listen when God speaks, and my life continues to be transformed by this experience.

It was during one of these experiences that the Lord laid on my heart to write this book to encourage global Christians (and non-Christians) on His never wavering care during every season of their lives, especially the seasons of singleness, marriage, and divorce. I have to admit that when the idea came, I was reluctant to respond, and asked the Lord, “Why me?” The reason for this question is because the season of marriage is one where I have failed woefully in the past.

I do not consider myself to be an expert in these three seasons—at least that is what I thought. But the Holy Spirit reminded me of a truism I have heard in church many times: “A faith that is not tested cannot be trusted,”

My friends, I have been tested, and have failed and been redeemed in each of the three seasons I share in this book—single, married, and divorced. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I am here to share with you the truth that the Lord is in every one of these seasons. I want you to know beyond a doubt that He is indeed interested in and present with you in every season of your life.

For many years, I found myself struggling in each of these seasons. I was walking through each season with one leg in the world and one leg in Christ. After years of failing to succeed in any season, I finally discovered that living God’s way in every season of life is the best decision I could ever make. I have now begun a journey into a new and fulfilling lifestyle in marriage by focusing on Christ rather than my marital situation. I praise God for the truth of His Word in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 that says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

My prayer for you as you read this book is that you will be encouraged as you discover that our God is the God of the impossible. Nothing that happens in your life is impossible for Him to handle (Luke 1: 37). He will do the impossible for you in each of these seasons. He is the God that can convert your pain to gain and cause all things to work together for your good (Romans 8: 28). I had to learn that lesson, and you may need to learn it too. Perhaps, you will discover—like I did—the God who waits to help you in your seasons of singleness, marriage, or divorce.

Agnes is a leader with proven business acumen in a variety of industries. She holds an executive MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP).She is the author of God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage and DivorceThe Provisions of God: Insights from a Cat Named Mascot, and  Weekly Insights for the Workplace: A Devotional for Christian Professionals

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I lost more than a marriage

tin can phone

[Guest Post by Kathy Moore – I have been walking alongside my friend through her separation, and then divorce. It has been especially hard to watch as the gossip train has started, and doesn’t seem to stop. If you are a “Christian” who knows others who have been destroyed by gossip, please forward this to them. If you are one of them — be encouraged by my friend Kathy’s story today.]

I am divorced.  

Out of obedience to the Lord, I have been silent to share my story — until now. Due to continuing gossip, I have felt the Lord’s prompting to speak truth.

Matthew 5:13-14 reminds me as a Jesus follower I am to be salt and light to the world.  Salt, as we all know, flavors, and light reveals. In addition to being a flavoring, salt is a healing agent, though at first it stings like no one’s business.

And light? While we are thankful for all the wonderful gifts it brings into our lives. Sometimes, when we look straight into it — we are blinded. I realize that there is a cost in being salt and light.

I have had my own healing happen through the stinging, cleansing agents of salt. I have looked into the light and been found wanting.  

I have yielded to both the stinging and the blinding, and I have come out stronger for it. I have come out a stronger follower of Jesus, a more compassionate friend, an empathetic leader, and a mom who is able to instill healthy boundaries into her children.

It was not without pain, tears or anger at God. 
God has brought me full circle. 

He took an anger so deep that it turned logic into chaos. He lovingly comforted me as I came to the cross, a 41 year old broken, humbled, beaten woman full of repentance and asking for forgiveness. He has restored my heart, even in my deep brokenness.

It is time to speak up and confront the abuse — spiritual and otherwise — that continues in my life and the lives of my children.

January 2011, my life unraveled. 

I had known for many years that things were not right. I worked and worked to make things right. But. Nothing stuck. Healing did not occur. My husband and I had separated 3 times in 15 years together.

The final time, I sought assistance from church leaders. I realize now they were not equipped for such a large task. I knew that my church did not support divorce, and I didn’t want one — but I knew I could not keep living in a terrible situation.

I was angry.
I was hurting.
I was out of options. 

The problems had started years and years before. I never really had the guts to bring the situation into the light. My husband and I did not fight well. As a matter of fact, the fights often turned abusive. Chocking, hitting, name calling, and being thrown down occurred more than once.

I admit, sometimes I fought back. The last time we fought, my diamond left a cut above his eye. But years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse left their mark on me. All I wanted was out. And so I began swallowing over-the-counter migraine medicine. That one act created a firestorm that led to my eventual divorce. Unfortunately, the firestorm really didn’t hit the true cause of my misery — abuse. It only added to the abuse by adding a layer of spiritual abuse.

When I filed for legal separation, I lost more than a marriage, I lost a church family and the support of those I had counted on.  

I was left a shadow of what I had once been.

What I have failed to mention is all the gossip that has occurred since my separation, and then divorce. Though I filed for separation, I was not the one to check the divorce box. I never wanted divorce. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was happening inside the four walls was not healthy for me or my kids and it wasn’t getting any better.

I have been called a run-away wife. 
I have been told that he found better women. 
I have been told I am a terrible mother.
It has been said that I’ve slept around.

And who said all these things? Christians. The very ones who turned their backs and didn’t wait around for the real story.

I am tired. 
I am righteously angry. 
And now, my children have gotten caught in the insipid chatter.

Ladies and gentleman, abuse is never ok. Abuse is a symptom of a much deeper issue. 

I tried everything imaginable to stop the abuse. I stayed for 15 years. I loved my husband. I wanted a better future.  I drove those who really loved and cared about me nuts, because I could not leave my marriage. And yet, the marriage and abuse were killing me, slowly.

It is a rare day when I don’t pray for my children’s father.
It is a rare day that goes by when I don’t grieve over my broken marriage.
It is a rare day that goes by when I am not confronted with the damage of divorce. 

On the other hand, rarely am I not thankful for who I have become. I wish I had had this strength when I was married, I believe maybe there could have been a different ending.

I like who I am.
I like who God created me to be.
I like the woman who relies fully on Jesus — for everything. 

God has shown up and continues to show up — financially, emotionally, and with gifts I couldn’t have asked for.

And yet, the gossip continues. People. I am divorced. I left an ugly situation hoping and praying for a different outcome, which still hasn’t come. However, God has come into my life and scooped out the anger and given me a heart of forgiveness towards my children’s dad; a forgiveness I’ve extended verbally to him.

Before the Lord, I am clean.

I have kept silent about the true nature of my marriage, because I wanted to protect not only my kids, but their dad as well.

I prayed that understanding would come. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord for someone to stand up for me — and yet here I am, with full peace knowing I must stand up now and speak truth.

Truth shines light on wrongdoings. 
Truth exposes sin. 
Truth is love. 

Love isn’t just sappy and happy. Sometimes love hurts. But, what is the outcome? Peace. True, God-given peace. I have walked a very lonely road. Often times the road has left me in the dark, by myself for long periods of time.

I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful that I know Jesus intimately.
I’m thankful that it’s purely Jesus, me and my kids going down this road.

I continue to pray for the kid’s dad. I pray true, salt and light repentance occurs.   continue to speak truth into my kid’s lives. I continue to love them and have fun with them and all the while encourage a deeper relationship with Jesus. For those that think they are helping by speaking “truth” into my kid’s lives about me or my church or my life — stop it. If you really want to help, confront the sin that is standing right in front of you masquerading as “right” living.

For the rest of you who have so faithfully stood by my side through tears and really, really tough junk. Thank you. I pray one day I can do the same for you.

Kathy MooreI am Kathy Moore, a daughter of Jesus and mom to three. Writing is my passion and encouraging others towards a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus is my goal. I’m funny, serious, a bit weird at times, but overall a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been through a lot–just like the rest of humanity and try to use my “a lot” to help others. Connect with me at delivered2thrive.com.

[photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc]

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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

when-your-world-comes-crashing-down

[Guest Post by Rochelle Frazier – I met her through the Top 10 Blogs for Christian Women post I compiled. She was nominated for the list, and when I looked at her blog–I knew I had to have her share! For anyone who has seen their picture perfect like come crashing down, this is for you today. Be encouraged! You are not alone.]

Is it possible to arrive at the place where you stop asking, “Is there more? Should I be more?”

Is it possible that your restless heart could actually find rest right where you are?

Satisfied?
I dare to say “Yes!”

I don’t have the story of overcoming an addiction or a broken, battered, and abused childhood. I not only grew up in church, but you could find me there whenever the doors were open. My story was more on the line of the over-achieving, people-pleasing perfectionist. Everything in order and perfectly decorated, even my children.

From the outside, it appeared I had it all. And according to the “American Gospel,” I had every reason to believe that I did. You know the gospel that teaches us to be all that we can be, to own, possess, and claim what is ours, to climb a ladder that is placed on the wrong mountain and burst through the ceiling that has no eternal significance. And do it our way! This same spirit even carried into the way I served the church.

So when my perfectly orchestrated life left me empty searching for something more, I had no idea it was Him that I was missing.

I had it all together, right? Believing I was spiritually full, I offered my little teacup to the world asking… will you fill me?

But it didn’t come as I expected being a wife or a mother.
Nor through my perfectly decorated home waiting on Southern Living to arrive.
Nor from improving my figure or my social agenda.
Nor from becoming the top of my industry.

And then when my perfect little world came crashing down in 2006, broken and believing irredeemable, I turned to the very things I had avoided in my pursuit of perfection to see if they would fill me. But nothing satisfied the deep longing of my soul.

And then I finally came to the end of me, and because I needed God so desperately I would finally fill the calling of Jeremiah 29–not the one that I had worn on t-shirts and pasted on journals claiming that He has plans for me, but the rest of the verse that says,

“When you seek with your whole heart, I will be found. And bring you back from captivity.”

I was praying for captives. Quick to point out the captives. I had even prayed for God to open a door so that I might visit the captives in Africa. And then reality hit that I was a captive. My heart would become restless trying free other captives who, like me, bought into the wrong gospel.

So how did I come to this place?

There was a year that changed my life. Our community was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a few months later I would be diagnosed with congestive heart failure delivering twins, and while seeking to beat all odds against me, I would become a single mom.  I was told I may never work again, and with my three precious angels and a healing heart, I offered up a prayer,

“Would you give me an idea that would change my life?”

And He did. I began writing what is now the children’s series, Sweeteas, and these precious little characters would absolutely change my life. However, what truly changed me was that He answered that prayer.

A collision with the fully present God who I had enthroned in eternity wrecked my life. I was never to be the same. He became a reality and my life had to adjust to the true Gospel. The Gospel that says,

“You will find your life when you lose it” (Matthew 10:39).

And I did!

Sweet friends, when your world comes crashing down your heart has tasted eternity (Ecc 3:11). It will be restless until you return to His love. But when you do, you will find that the longing of your weary soul is satisfied!

Rochelle FrazierRochelle is a storyteller by nature infused with undeniable markings of a true Southern girl: charming accent, gracious hospitality, and her passionate and infectious faith. She is the author of the children’s series Sweeteas and He Gave Me Pearls and journeys with women daily through her blog “Living with Divine Purpose.” Her story is one of inspiration birthed at a time of desperation, and gives hope to women that He still brings beauty from ashes. She is the mother to a beautifully blended family of seven including her husband Todd, and children Joy, Jadyn, Holland, Houston & Jackson. She is currently finishing her newest book, Something More: Daring to Live on Purpose. Connect with Rochelle at http://www.rochellefrazier.com.

[Photo: A National Acrobat via photopin cc]

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My Scarlet Letter

my scarlet letter

[Guest Post by Kathy Moore – I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Kathy for a few years, and now that we live close to each other she’s become a close friend. I hope you’ll love her redemption from divorce story as much as I’ve enjoyed watching it in real life!]

Let’s get real—It’s been an intense three years. It seems that hit (sometimes literally) after hit keep coming.

Thankfully it hasn’t been constant and there have been more figurative hits than literal, but the fact remains, it’s been a tough three years since my husband and I got divorced. This is just a fact, nothing more. I have crumbled a lot. I have also risen to heights that make Everest look puny (no disrespect).

I have come full circle and I wear a Scarlet Letter to prove it.

There have been times when I have doubled over in laughter as I have heard of different Scarlet Letters that have been assigned to me by “Christians” and those whom I thought were my friends.

Here’s a great one: A. We all know what that one means and WOW! It sure would be nice to remember when that happened and with whom. Amazing how God Redeems the Righteous by life circumstances where the boldface lie is so beautifully defaced–it kind of makes those who believed the lie squirm a bit.

Here’s another one: C for Crazy. I will claim that one. I even have the paperwork from a Psychiatrist to prove it–due to the Extreme Circumstances I found myself in for 15 years. I’m fine with wearing that letter, especially since it’s a lowercase “c” that was taken care of when the circumstances changed and my whole health picture changed from caged to free.

And this one: B for Backslider. Yep, I am a backslider from a place (places) that kept me chained and beaten down. I upslid to a place where His freedom reigns. Where the Holy Spirit’s power is allowed to flow and Christ’s power is encouraged in the lives of His kids.

“The majority of my most challenging relationships were with those inside the church. I wish it weren’t true, but my most pain-inducing, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching relationship struggles have been with others who claim the Name of Christ just as I do” (Shelley Hendrix).

Ouch.

Yet true.

Shelley and I aren’t the only walking wounded from “friendly” fire.

I would say that most of America has been hurt in one form or another from those inside the church.

Do not misunderstand me, I’m not mad, I’m honest and I have the scarlet letter to prove it. You see, my letter is “R” and it has two meanings. Through my trial I have shed light and truth on things shoved under the carpet. I haven’t done it perfectly, but I’ve done it, in a Righteous manner. And through the honesty, I have been Redeemed.

Yet, many don’t want to see the truth or accept the redemption.

That’s on them.

My job is to do what Shelley Hendrix says–to live at peace.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

I’m not to live with my mouth closed. I’m not to live caged. I’m not to live clipped—that’s not peace.

On the flip side, I’m not to spread gossip, believe rumors, and use others to fight my battles. That is also not peace. I am to live at peace As Far As It Depends On Me.

And so, I will proudly wear my scarlet R because I know that God’s got my back, I’ve been redeemed, and it’s been done righteously.

Kathy MooreI am Kathy Moore, a daughter of Jesus and mom to three. Writing is my passion and encouraging others towards a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus is my goal. I’m funny, serious, a bit weird at times, but overall a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been through a lot–just like the rest of humanity and try to use my “a lot” to help others.

[Photo: Leo Reynolds, Creative Commons]

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Single Mom by Choice

single mom by choice

[Guest Post by Krista Pettiford – We met each other through the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild. She is a gifted and talented writer, and I am absolutely thrilled to have Krista share her story about her family. If you know of any broken families who might need encouragement, please pass this one along!]

I was married and had four children when I became a Christian.

Before that, I was very worldly. Though I had been raised by religious parents and even went to Catholic school for my early education I never had a real example of godly living.

When I met my husband I was an unwed mother of two young children. Though he wasn’t a born-again Christian, we both believed in Jesus–and he loved and accepted me and my children. We began living together, and had two more children before we got married. We had what seemed like a wonderful life.

He is very well off and gave me everything a worldly woman could wish for, nice houses, fancy cars, vacations and shopping trips, plus a nanny and a house keeper. We did lots of things as a family, and just the two of us. But then his aunt invited me to church and everything changed.

I became a born-again Christian and went eagerly after the things of God, but we began to walk down two very different paths.

Instead of things getting better and being able to experience my new life in Christ with my family–we began falling apart. My husband was not ready to accept the changes in me, nor was he ready to change. I was young in the Lord with zeal and passion, but lacked wisdom.

I tried to win him to the Lord with much talking but that just pushed him further away. We became unequally yoked. Our marriage did not survive the change. We separated three years after I became a born-again Christian and eventually divorced.

Once again I was a single mother, only this time I was a Christian.

However, I didn’t blame God, He was my refuge; instead I blamed myself. Because of the life I lived before I became a Christian guilt and regret weighed on me heavily. The thought of not having the opportunity to be a Christian family with my husband was overwhelmingly difficult to face.

During the time of our separation I prayed for my husband to come back. We dated, spent holidays together and still did things as a family, but he didn’t move back in. Instead we had an open door policy which meant we had keys to each other’s places but he still wouldn’t commit. When we finally divorced, he continued to pursue me–but wouldn’t commit.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was in an unhealthy relationship of compromise without boundaries.

I lived this way for several years.

The hope of things coming back together fogged my judgment.

As for dating other men, I chose not to for my children’s sake. I decided to become a single mom by choice. I figured they had been through enough being first a blended, then a broken family. Looking back, I believe not dating other men was the right thing to do but I don’t believe dating my ex-husband without any boundaries was right. It left me and my children hanging on for years until he finally moved on.

He eventually stopped seeing my children that weren’t his, and their hearts we broken.

Through it, all somehow the joy of Lord was my strength.

When he moved on–it pushed me to move forward. Our lives had been held hostage by putting my hope in him. When I finally let go, instead of falling into the pit of nothingness and hopelessness that I imagined was waiting for me I found a freedom that is truly indescribable.

Moving on allowed me to start dreaming again and was also healthy for my children.

All four of my children, now ages 23, 19, 17 and 15 were affected by our unhealthy choices in some way or another. Though children are resilient, some things only God can heal–and He has, in many areas. We’ve moved on as a new kind of family and have learned to accept who we are and cherish each other.

Though I understand that no story is the same, many people are going through similar situations. The fruit of what my children and I went through is being able to sharing our story truthfully with others so they can make better choices.

Krista PettifordWorshiper and follower of Christ, Krista Pettiford is the mother of four children in a beautifully blended family, the women’s ministry leader and a prayer leader in her local church. She is an author, and an IT manager by day with degrees in Information Technology and Biblical Studies. She once lived like Martha, Mary’s busy sister. She longed to live a balanced life but it seemed to escape me for many years until she finally found the key–living like Mary, at Jesus’ feet first. Now she enjoys sharing the steps to create a life of surrendered balance and how to have Mary Moments™ at Jesus’ feet first, with other busy women at kristapettiford.com.

[Photo: Krista and her four children]

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God First Family Second

god first family second

[Guest Post by Beth Berry – I am overjoyed to introduce my second mother-daughter blog duo on devotionaldiva.com. Rachel Berry, Beth’s daughter and I previously met at the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild. She shared her blog here about losing the Miss Oregon crown. Now, I bring you her mom. Please welcome Beth with open arms.]

I left my office at 10:00 p.m. one cool September night, looking forward to crawling into my warm bed and snuggling up next to my husband of twenty four years.

Like every evening, I looked forward to sharing my day with him and hearing about his.

But that night was different than any other–instead of business meeting recaps or an update on one of our kids’ sports games, the words he spoke were piercing. He coldly pushed my embrace away as he spoke in a stern whisper that he loved me, but wasn’t in love with me. He wanted a divorce.

I resisted his words by initiating a hug, and cried aloud.

No. Please, no.

We have worked so hard to get where we are. We have an incredible family. And above all, I’m in love with you.

What I didn’t realize was that I could not change my husband’s mind, actions, or his ability to love me.

I knew my husband had been unhappy with his life for several years, but I didn’t think he would get to a point where he felt divorce was the solution to his discontentment.

I was angry, and became resentful. I tried in my own power and flesh to make my husband fall back in love with me. I had a successful business and worked another part time job thinking that the more money I made, the more he would love me. As a competitive runner, I thought if I ran faster, won more road races, and completed more marathons, he would love me more.

Those were all empty lies from the enemy.

The voice that didn’t lie was God–which urged me to let go and hand the situation over to Him, where it belonged.

God reminded me that only He can transform a heart. I needed to release my marriage into God’s hands completely.

Because I knew God’s word says he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), I figured that God wouldn’t allow a divorce to occur between my husband and me. I was wrong. I questioned and doubted God when the divorce became final months later, disregarding what I knew to be true–that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine, even if I don’t understand.

During the years since my divorce, God has shown me that He alone is my provider, my healer, my rock, and my best friend. He revealed to me that my husband had been my idol.

I did everything to please and fear my husband first, and God second–instead of putting God first family second.

God has called me to stand in the gap and pray for my husband’s salvation and the restoration of our marriage. I have joy and peace knowing that I am not in charge of rekindling love into my husband’s heart. I know that God is the almighty restorer and healer.

If you are gazing down the dim road of marital dysfunction, divorce, or are divorced, I challenge you to pursue forgiveness for your spouse and surrender the hurt they have caused to the Lord. He alone has the power to heal and restore your heart, your spouse, and your relationship.

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:6, NKJV).

Beth BerryBeth’s world was shaken when her husband of 24 years unexpectedly filed for divorce at the same time her older sister died suddenly of cancer. After seeking God’s promises through this stormy season, she has a heart for preserving marriage as God intends and standing against the enemy’s plots of family destruction. Beth is the mother of 3 grown children and lives in Southern California where she enjoys long distance running, road cycling, serving in her church. You can find her at http://www.foreverfaithfulfamilies.com/ and on Twitter.

[Photo credit: adwriter via photopin cc]

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Staying Together Damaged Me

staying together damaged me

[Guest Post by Anonymous – Today’s guest wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her family. If you know of anyone who is suffering in silence in a marriage that is both damaging and abusive, please encourage them that they are not alone–and it’s okay to get help!]

Living together damaged me.

I can hear the traditionalists cheering and saying “Finally!” Hold those cheers ones of traditional leanings…you may not like what I have coming.

I have a history of doing the “right” thing. In high school I didn’t drink because I played sports, and the legal age for drinking was 21, not 15, 16, or 17.

I stayed pure because I wanted to save myself for my husband.

And really, even in college, I deemed no boyfriend worthy of all this fleshly goodness–and then I met my future husband, who also wanted to do the right thing.

But.

It’s so hard being in your 20’s and not giving in to the wonders of the flesh.

Since I knew I was going to marry him–well, I’d saved myself long enough–I jumped in. We married a few months later and I really believed life would be my fairy tale–until I found myself divorced 17 years later.

Living together damaged me.

Staying together damaged me.

I previously said I had a history of doing the right thing.

I followed rules. 

I ate right. 

I took care of my physical body. 

I made my husband breakfast every morning, and lunch, and dinner. I had sex with him even though exhaustion ravaged my body. I paid the bills, then when he deemed I couldn’t handle finances, I let him take over to the point of freezing me out of bank accounts. After all, that is what good wives did.

The right thing to do is to follow your husband’s lead.

I took care of the kids night and day. I got them to school or schooled them myself. I got a job—to help out the family. I served, or over-served, in my church. I spoke my husband up, even though I lived with a massive secret. I did all this because it was the right thing–the wifely thing to do.

And my sense of worth suffered.

I worked harder in ministry because I didn’t quite have it right. I cleaned the house every day because it needed to be just right. I kept all forms of kid fighting off the radar when daddy got home, because that was the right thing to do. I kept our fights, my bruises, the insults and harsh words a secret—all in the name of the right thing to do.

And then I cracked.

I suffered. 

I cried. 

I screamed. 

I fell apart. 

I started throwing over the counter migraine medicine down my throat because all the right things had caught up to me and I realized how wrong I had been.

For years and years I stayed in an unhealthy situation, because I thought it was the right thing to do.

For years and years I cultivated a marriage, I lived together, in a situation where sin abounded and so many, many people got caught in its crossfire. For years and years I let unhealthy people walk all over me, believing it was the right thing to do.

And all the while, staying together was damaging me.

I grieve over the loss of my marriage.

I grieve over the loss of family.

I hate divorce, even though I am divorced.   

But I celebrate in the broken pieces being renewed. I celebrate healthy living—not in the physical form, but in the mental, emotional and spiritual form. And I have come to this conclusion:

Sometimes, living together in the covenant of marriage can damage you, but living together outside the covenant of marriage will always leave its imperfect mark on the relationship.

[Photo credit: Grumpy-Puddin via photopin cc]

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My Married Story Has Ended

marriage story

[Guest Post by Sue Birdseye. I met Sue through my friends at Tyndale Publishers about her book When Happily Ever After Shatters. If your story has ended and you feel like a failure because of it–I hope her story will encourage you.]

My story ended and began with these few little words uttered by my husband of 17 years.

“I think I’m going to leave.”

As our 5 children and their friends raced around us, my husband spoke words that changed the course of my life, our lives, and our family forever.

The next few days and weeks were a desperate attempt on my part to convince my husband to stay–even after the revelation of his affair.

I held out hope that God could work a miracle–that our marriage could be even stronger because we had faced this, determined to reconcile and relied on God to work mightily in our family.

Unfortunately God allowed something entirely different to happen.

Although I tried everything I could think of to save my marriage, I couldn’t. 

My husband had already decided to leave. 

I thought we were happy. I’d been blissfully unaware, and now I was blindsided by his betrayal. I couldn’t reconcile what was happening with the man I loved.

And although that was a nightmare and more painful than I think I could ever express, there was a beauty to the way God met me in my sorrow. He showed Himself so real and faithful to me.

While the man who had covenanted with me broke all his vows, my Heavenly Father who had covenanted with me, kept His over and over and over again. Even while I struggled with trusting Him, He remained loving and kind.

I lived grace.

Grace to go through difficulties with a focus on Christ. Grace to love when love was not returned. Grace to fight for something against all odds. Grace to let go of anger. Grace to struggle. Grace to trust.

Grace to forgive.

I believe learning to forgive and be forgiven was the biggest thing. The biggest thing in my healing and the biggest thing in my life.

Forgiveness was a process. 

It began when I asked that God would enable me to forgive. I thought He’d grant me some supernatural ability to forgive my ex-husband, instead He revealed the state of my own heart.

Ugh. 

And yet I’m so grateful He did. 

When I saw my own tendencies to sin, it gave me a measure of compassion for my ex-husband. And with that the process began.

I learned that grace is more than just something I received at the Cross.

It’s something to experience every day–and not just the bad days. God’s grace gives me something I don’t deserve–forgiveness and a relationship with Him. God’s grace also gives me the ability to live each day with hope and peace no matter the circumstances.

As a single mama to 5 children, every day has its challenges.

And I’m continually reminded that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Even in my weakest moments–when sorrow, frustration and fear overwhelm me–His grace is sufficient.

I’ve also learned that grace is more than just what I get, it’s who He is.

Grace is a defining attribute of the Lord. 

Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

Grace is part of God’s character and it’s the very reason He offers us grace. 

I want to be a graceful woman–a grace-filled woman.

When I think of being graceful words like wisdom, compassion, and gentleness…kindness, justice, and love. It’s one of those words that brings many ideas to mind–all good.

This grace thing is definitely a work in progress.

I’ll be trying to grasp this concept for quite a while, but I know my God is the originator of it and each day I experience it. And although things haven’t been easy since that sorrowful day years ago, God has been faithful, loving and kind to me and mine.  He’s been graceful, offered grace, and enabled me to walk this path gracefully.

My married story has ended–although maybe I should say that chapter has ended–and a new one has begun.

One filled with grace. 

And that is a beautiful thing!

sue birdseyeAfter seventeen years of marriage, adultery, abandonment, and divorce changed Sue Birdseye’s world forever. But God made beauty of ashes, gave her the ability to find hope and humor even in difficult times, and blessed her with a sweet ministry to others facing challenging circumstances. As a writer and speaker to women’s groups around the country, Sue comes alongside those who find themselves on a similar path—helping them to find joy in the face of shattered dreams, trust in times of great trial, and the ability to extend grace on very little sleep. Sue is a single mom to her 5 wonderful children, one in every stage of development—proving God has a sense of humor.

[Written by Sue Birdseye, author of When Happily Ever After Shatters, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers March 2013]

[Photo: Brandice Schnabel, Creative Commons]

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Living Together As A Step Family

step family

[Guest Post by Jeanne Cesena. I’ve known Jeanne now for many years through our mentor Pam Farrel. She and her husband have an incredible ministry to step/blended families. If you are the person who thought you’d always marry a pastor–you have to read her article!]

In a Step Family, there is at least one spouse that has gone through a divorce.

It’s like throwing everyone in a microwave and turning it on high.

Divorce was a very hard season in my life.  My ex husband and I were on staff at a church as worship leaders and youth pastors. My ex began to do drugs and sleep with women. Pastors told me stay with him, pray for him and he will change. We did not know that the Senior Pastor was also committing adultery with the secretary.  The senior pastor ended up leaving his wife and five kids.

I stayed with my ex for five years and had two beautiful children.

I left the church after my ex was fired for drinking and drugs.

At the new church I started attending, a policeman heard my story and said if he went into my house and found cocaine I would lose my children. I told my husband that I was going to leave. He hit me and said he would kill me and take my children if I left.

I ended up in a battered women’s home.

My parents wired me money to move back home. I took what I could in trash bags for me and the children and quickly flew home to start my life over again. Through this entire time God was with me. He gave me Palms 91 to comfort me and protect me.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress my God in whom I trust (Palms 91:1-2).

I met my future husband at a business meeting.

I had been single for ten years and had gone through much healing from much pain. When my future husband came into my life, I did not think he was right for me.

I thought I would marry another pastor, after all that is all I knew.

God started to work in my heart to show me what His love was all about. I would see my future husband be kind and compassionate to others. He had healthy relationships. Because of all the abuse in my life I was uncomfortable at first. After one of our many dates and getting to know one another, he dropped me off, reached over and kissed me.

At that moment, I decided to stay. Our relationship became strong.  After about a year of loving God and each other we got engaged and married within two years. We made a commitment to God and each other to not have sex until our wedding night. It was a wonderful thing to see my life becoming Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good.”

After our honeymoon we came home so much in love and ready to start our new lives together.

My husband was suddenly a new dad of a ten year old boy. They had many challenges but my husband was able to win our sons heart over in time. Our daughter was not as comfortable with the whole Dad situation. We went through many years of pain as our marriage progressed.

Living as a step family can be a hard situation.

Jeanne CesenaThere are so many dynamics that take place. Currently Jeanne and her husband help lead the Step Family Ministry, an Outreach Ministry at the Rock Church in San Diego, California. We meet with Step Family couples individually, in groups and we work with different churches. If you are interested in knowing more please visit Step Up 4 God.

[Photo: KREYC, Creative Commons]

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Living By Myself

living by myself

[Guest Post by Jessica Baumgardner. Jessica and I connected on Facebook and I asked her to write a piece on living together by herself. She thought I was crazy, but I’m so glad she did! She has a big heart and has been through a lot. I think we could all learn a lot from her, actually!]

I have always believed in God my entire life, but I never had a relationship with Him or even knew what that meant.

I was forced to go to church when I was younger and I did not understand anything about it. My parents finally stopped making us go once I got to high school and I never went back to church until I was 21 years old.

When I was in college, I was very far away from God and my lifestyle reflected that.

I actually started dating someone who was in the military when I was 18 years old and we were engaged within 6 months of dating.

I got married at 19 years old and divorced by the time I was 20 years old.

Once we got married and moved in together, it completely tore us apart.

We did not know each other well enough and we rushed in to something that should be taken very seriously. I was in to partying back then, and my ex husband had a drinking problem. We tried to go to marriage counseling to mend our relationship because we continuously argued.

The counseling did not help us and I could not handle the emotional abuse anymore.

I consulted with my mom because I knew that God was against divorce. But, there were times when my ex husband and I got in to arguments and it almost turned in to physical abuse. With the help of my parents, I decided that it would be best to go through with the divorce.

After my divorce was finalized, I started dating someone quickly after.

We met in college. Dating this person helped me become more confident in myself because he treated me completely different than my ex husband. That confidence helped me to quit smoking cigarettes (I smoked a pack a day) and made me want to take care of my body. I lost 60 lbs by starting to eat healthier and exercising.

This was the first stage of becoming a Proverbs 31 woman.

Things started to become very serious with my boyfriend. I moved to another state after graduating college, but we decided to stay together. We only saw each other on the weekends, but we grew closer and closer.

We talked about getting engaged and married some day.

However, our relationship didn’t really seem to be moving forward. We were living in two different cities and that caused us to argue because we were so unhappy with not being able to see each other often.

My unhealthy relationship affected every other area of my life.

I couldn’t see my life without him, so I decided to keep trying for a while. One day I decided that after three and a half years together, I could not go on being so unhappy. I loved him a lot and didn’t think I could survive by myself being single because I had never really done that before. We had many differences and I had recently started going to church again and wanted to get more involved, but we didn’t see eye to eye on that.

I decided to end things with him, which was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done emotionally, even harder than my divorce.

We continued talking back and forth for a few months after the break up, which wasn’t helping me move on. But, I had started going to church more often after our break up. Then I ended up recommitting my life to Christ again and got baptized.  Once I made this decision, God literally helped me change everything about my life.

This is when the other stages of becoming a Proverbs 31 came to fruition.

I did have more confidence from losing weight and leading a healthier lifestyle.

But, I was not mentally or spiritually healthy. God gave me the strength and courage to join a Bible study with a group of women I didn’t know. He also gave me the courage to start volunteering at church and in the community. This is where God truly transformed me mentally and spiritually.

I began to read the Bible, pray, and learned what having a relationship with God really meant.

I stopped being so afraid to go outside of my comfort zone and meet new people. I started coming out of the depression from my break up. I met so many amazing people who impacted my life and helped me grow to where I am now healthy mentally and spiritually.

A divorce and break up from a long-term boyfriend were extremely hard situations to go through.

But, I would not be who I am now if it weren’t for these situations. I never thought I would be able to say that I ran a half marathon, got my Master’s degree, went on a mission trip to Poland, and become a health and fitness coach to help others achieve their goals.

I am now living by myself with my two kitties, and enjoy being single.

I am healthy spiritually, mentally, and physically, and I am working on becoming the best woman I can for God and His kingdom.

Jessica BaumgardnerI’m a 25-year-old girlie girl from the South who is truly destined for the big city. I love my family more than life itself and have a knack for fashion. God transformed my entire life by taking me from an overweight, depressed, disrespectful, and dark place in my life to a positive, uplifting, faith-driven fitness coach. I have an absolute passion for helping others achieve their goals and God has given me a vision to start a faith, fitness, and fashion ministry to help women struggling for change and desiring happiness.

[Photo: Mrs Suzie Cue, Creative Commons

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