When Sunday Morning Doesn’t Come

“I agree that marriage it hard, and a good marriage is worth it.  However, the hardest thing I’ve ever done isn’t marriage….the hardest thing I’ve ever done was a long, ugly, extremely messy divorce and the unhealthy, dysfunctional co-parenting relationship I have with their dad.”

I was sitting in the studio interviewing relationship experts Jeff and Debbie McElroy about the goodness of marriage when my phone buzzed with this message from a friend who was listening. She knew she could contact me, because we have walked the same journey of “long, ugly, messy divorce”.

As I sat in the studio with Jeff and Debbie I was encouraged. Encouraged to see two people so deeply committed to each other and so obviously in love. As Jeff described the “why” of marriage I found myself nodding along, “yes, this is what marriage is for! It’s for showing the gospel!” Jeff and Debbie continued painting the picture of how marriage models the gospel for us, how it shows us redemption in tangible ways. How in each marriage God wants to enter into every hopeless and dead place and bring resurrection. As Jeff says “Every marriage has a Sunday Morning coming.”

After they left the studio I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I needed to sit with the reality that the “Sunday Morning” of my marriage will never come. I needed space to grieve that fact, to take that truth to Jesus and sit with Him in the pain of it.

lily

Last week we received a message from someone who was hurting. He had heard a story of how God had healed a man’s wife of cancer, but his wife died. The same God who allowed cancer to take his wife’s life allowed another man’s wife to have more years with her husband and kids. His “Sunday Morning” of cancer-free-life will never come. And, I imagine, the reality of that truth hurts daily.

What do we do when the reality of our situation is that for us here in this moment Sunday Morning isn’t coming?

Today I’ve been thinking about Job and all that he lost. I saw him sitting there in sackcloth and ashes with dust literally pouring from his head and I was jealous. Not of all that Job had gone through, but of the time Job took to sit and mourn his loss. I was jealous of Job’s ashes. Ashes that told everyone who saw him and everyone who came in contact with him that this was a man in mourning.

I sometimes wish we had something to wear to let others know that our season of mourning hasn’t past yet and that we are still filled with grief.

I think we do a pretty lousy job in our American culture of grieving that which is important. We wear black to funerals and the next morning wake up and put on whatever color suits us. As quickly as the flowers from the funeral spray shrivel up, die, and are thrown in the trash, society tells us to move on. We’re not allowed to sit and blankly stare, or to talk about our loss, or cry. Our employers give us a day, maybe two, off of work to attend the funeral and say our goodbyes and then we’re expected to return to work and the task at hand.

But grief isn’t an occasion that comes and passes, it comes and stays, lingering at the door of our heart. It sneaks up on you unexpectantly in the strangest places. When you’re going through your day as normal and all of a sudden you catch the scent of something that reminds you of them. When those day’s come when time slows and memories seem to wrap your mind like a blanket and grief is stirred back up again. And you have to leave the room and lock yourself in the bathroom to mourn in private, because it’s unacceptable to mourn in public.

We live in a society that is afraid of emotion. We don’t know how to express it and we don’t know how to comfort others that do. We’ve been trained to not grieve and mourn, we’ve been trained to get over it, or at least pretend that we have.

But God is not afraid of our grief, or our anger, or questioning, or fear. He is not caught off guard or intimidated when we come to Him with shaking fists and tear stained cheeks and beg for the pain to go away. He doesn’t mind when our eyes fill up with tears at the most awkward moments. He doesn’t turn His back to us when we come with questions and fears and ask “why”.

Jesus was a man acquainted with grief. He wept and was sorrowful. Jesus mourned. And He shed tears, unashamedly.

He welcomed the broken woman who literally washed His feet with her tears and He did not push her away or tell her to pull herself together. He welcomed her to His feet to pour out every single bit of grief that she had carried for so many years. He did not dismiss her tears. Yet, we feel as if we can’t bring our emotions into the throne room of grace because we feel like we can’t bring our emotions into our modern day churches or workplaces or homes. But if there is one place that grief is welcome, it is in the presence of God.

I hear people talk often about how in Heaven we’ll never cry again, but I’m not sure that’s true. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”. To me the picture of Jesus wiping tears from our eyes is not the picture of bride who never cries, but a picture of a husband who lets her, and who comforts her when she does.

Tears are precious to God. He collects them, He doesn’t dismiss them. We are welcomed into the presence of God when our hearts are filled with grief and sorrow.

I find it interesting that in biblical times ashes were a symbol of grief. When someone they loved died or a tragedy happened they would literally take ashes and throw them on their heads. They would cover themselves in filth to represent the darkness of heart they felt.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa. 61:3

Jesus offers us a holy exchange. He invites us to come to Him, ash covered and tear stained. He bends down into our sorrow and He wipes the tears from our eyes and pours oil over our heads. And as that oil runs rivets down our face and our shoulders and our hands and feet, it washes away the ashes of our mourning.

But we have to come.

We have to come to Him and bring every bit of sorrow. We have to come and sit with Him in the pain. Only when we come can He reveal the true beauty there.

~Keri

Photo by jmtimages Licensed under CC BY 2.0

My Unfolding, When Love Runs Towards You

20140801-014818.jpg

Almost seventeen years ago I told him to run and that loving me would be a little too messy for a pastor’s kid like him. He couldn’t help what his heart felt, love ran towards me instead of away. Sometimes messy, complicated love is what a structured renegade really wants.

He told me he would wait because he knew I was what he wanted. He stirred his hot tea and I felt sorry for my new best friend who made me feel safe. We were so different that everyone tried to keep us apart. My friends, his friends, my inner circle, his folks and even my mom had their doubts.

But love doesn’t run away from you, it runs towards you. We sure tried to listen to everyone, but we ran towards each other anyway.

Like the father ran towards the prodigal son, like a safe preacher’s son with a lovesick heart, he ran so hard towards me that love had to teach me how to run towards him.

God’s love stays the course even when the ride is bumpy and blinding and brutal. Even when loving messy, insecure hearts is baffling. Love still stays because it’s crazy-stubborn like that.

I still run sometimes, especially when I’m hurting or sick. I tried to run this weekend at a big conference reverting back to my ‘broken girl syndrome’ because I assume I’m only loved when I’m nice. Sweet. Annoyingly forgiving. Gah, that’s exhausting. I had nothing to give, but I gave anyways and God blew my mind, gave me new hearts to love, and open doors.

My heart knew who I could run to when I was sick, my Broken Girl BFF and soul sister, Keri. She took care of me, truth be told, she’s never witnessed me that ill or messed up.

She spoke truth into my heart like true friends do and she knew exactly what to do when my blood sugar level dropped so low I almost passed out. Later, she called me the equivalent of a spiritual lapdog who feels the need to stay by the side of someone who is hurting. She’s right. I run towards the hurting, but run away when I’m hurting and frail.

My heart gravitates towards certain people, our stories unfold and soon I understand why. Inside of our beating hearts is a gravitational pull, our hearts are like magnets. Together we are better and less twisted because in our brokenness we are the very same messy, complicated kind. The kind that lets us know we are not alone.

I still run, but this time I know who I can run to. Most of the time I just run to God like a rag doll and let him do His cutting surgery within. I’m so honest with Him, I always have been because His love pierces through me and sees every wrecked place. His love fixes me, His mercy is stronger than the frailty in me. His love makes me run toward Him and He runs to meet me.

I’m not the same girl my husband married sixteen years ago. I’m more confident and I’m less insecure. But sometimes when I’m weak and the furthest thing from the nice Southern girl who learned to turn the other cheek…I wonder if I’m still worth it. So I run away to my tender place with my first love, my Savior, and I’m reminded why He loves my fragile, complicated heart. And in that flailing moment, I know for certain I’m definitely worth it simply because I’m His girl and always will be.

Man, I wish I could be normal for like fifteen minutes…and then those fifteen minutes are up and I realize that those minutes were the most wasted, boring fifteen minutes of my life.

I can’t wait to share the rest of this Unfolding journey and the book I’ve been writing this year with you. I can’t wait for you to read more of Keri’s work…because it’s amazing and will help you. I’m her lapdog.

We are still Broken Girls, but this time it’s for a different reason, it’s for you and for the unfinished, unfolding story inside of you.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

20140801-015525.jpg

How To Love Someone In A Midlife Crisis

Photo Cred-Lynne Hand, Boat

As I sit down to type I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I’m in the middle of the worst battle of my life trying to see if I can fix someone else’s midlife crisis. It seems like I should just keep trying everything and doing the very best that I can. But, I’m not sure how much longer I can tread water in this crisis before the waves pull me under and I sink hard and fast with the ship I used to like living in.

I’m so heartbroken at this and my real thoughts might seem really honest and cold, but I think the definition of midlife crisis should be: a one-way trip to a place of selfishness.

I do not want to go on this trip, but who’s to say I won’t experience my own mid-life soul crisis? I’ve battled depression on and off for years and I remember thinking that my husband was strong enough to lift the dark cloud off of me. But, he couldn’t. Somewhere in my headspace, my winter months of darkness and bareness of joy, I wrestled with prayer and with God and stopped wrestling with others. My hands were up in surrender with the white flag raised, “God, If you can save me, throw me a lifeline. I’m desperate, I’ll take crumbs I don’t even need a full meal. I just need something.”

And God always came to my rescue. Sometimes it seemed like the sadness lasted for much too long, but it eventually left and my color returned. Laughter filled my lungs and a song spilled out from a renewed heart. When I couldn’t pray, I asked others to pray for me and had trusted friends to hold my hand on the journey. I never asked them to jump in my pit of despair with me, just maybe take me out for chips and salsa and give me a reason to change out of my yoga pants. And after the conversation became lighter and tears stopped, we would have a cake-date afterwards. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories because if we can’t, our expectations might be a little too Hollywood, airbrushed fakeness, and not based on reality.

I’ve learned that letting others see my ugly and broken moments is receiving love when I’m the furthest thing from perfect. In the past, I wanted others to only see me when I was happy and living life to the fullest, but God has given me the truest friends and family that have been unwilling to leave my side at dark, broken moments. They love me just because, no strings-attached, no need to jump through hoops or fake anything. I just get to show up and that’s enough. Man, that’s nice. 

I guess that is what I’m trying to do now as my loved one has a head-on collision with this thing called mid-life. Just show up and try not to check out when things get hard.

But it’s freaking hard right now.

So, how do we love someone in their mid-life crisis and soul funk?

Realize that it’s bigger than you. Ask really good questions about feelings and what they need from you.

Realize that if you are doing all the things that they “need” and it’s still not enough, take breaks for your heart and do whatever you can to not go into crisis-mode with them. Someone has to be the strong one; Lord knows it doesn’t feel fair. But someone has to be the voice of reason and hear the voice of God if the other person’s judgment is murky.

If you feel yourself fighting so hard, like I am now, look them in the eyes repeatedly as you walk on edge through the crappy minefield and say, “We are treating each other like the enemy when we are allies.” And join forces again. Keep reminding yourself that this is not who they are, but as they wrestle with change in their hearts, minds, hormones, and brain chemistry, everything is pretty much based on fear and a lie. The things that used to make them happy don’t anymore and they don’t even know why. That’s brutal.

Get help! You might need personal, or couples therapy, it’s so brave and should be celebrated, not an embarrassment. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you care enough to not give up. You need a friend that is sticking as close as a soul sister possibly can. Prayer journal, angry journal, or verbally barf on someone who can speak truth like:

You are not alone.

Or drop a truth-bomb, “What is coming out of your mouth doesn’t line up with the Word.” Don’t let what you feel rule what you know to be true. Like, this too shall pass like a kidney stone with spikes the size of Texas, but it will pass. So, let me speak truth wrapped up in love and hold you while you cry. 

Be careful, if you are brutally honest and feel like that’s okay, but you can’t take it when someone is brutally honest with you…then it’s going to be really difficult for you to receive correction and help. You’ll have to swallow your pride and not choke on it when someone thinks you can handle the same kind of “strong medicine and truth” you normally dish out.

Everyone feels like they don’t want to be married at some point, but choosing to stay and fight is the new brave. Running, leaving, and freaking out is the old, ineffective way of “finding yourself.” Marriage isn’t about finding yourself; but losing yourself. The merging of hearts and differences is the laying down of your selfishness to become a better, stronger one flesh. Christ died to show us how to love each other, but we don’t want to crucify strong desires and egos, we want to fight for it. Man, I think we are missing it.

Laying down your will and wants for someone else is so attractive. Maybe sexy isn’t a shape, or non-saggy breasts and firm bodies on a Victoria’s Secret add. Maybe sexy isn’t a man with a six-pack, perfect abs and David Beckham-like face.

Maybe sexy is serving your spouse in stretched-out skin with all the extra, soft middle the years have added and losing yourself instead of making everyone around you miserable. “Finding yourself” and “the new you” shouldn’t seem like a punishment for others, the “renewed you” should be the gift that we all really desire to be for the ones we love. 

Figure out your default setting. For me shutting down emotionally is what I do. I’m working on it. When you feel yourself shutting down, ask yourself why. And together with your man, teach him how to keep your heart unlocked. For me, my broken girl syndrome might emerge instead of the confident, godly woman that I have become. Anytime I felt backed into a corner, trapped, or embarrassed publicly, I would just check out and put up a wall to protect my heart. Or I would come out swinging. My default is flight, not fight. I hate conflict, but boundaries need to happen if someone is crossing lines and just expecting you to deal with it and be the nice one. Communicating is essential if you want to have something that lasts. Period. If you stop the lines of communication, you might as well stamp an expiration date on your healthy marriage or relationship.

When you are in love you do whatever it takes to protect the one you love. A person in crisis no longer knows how to protect and cultivate your tender heart; they are focused on what they are feeling and what they need. So, it feels very personal and selfish. Try to focus on what you love about the two of you together, remember the better days and pray for better days to be restored.

Figure out their default setting. Harsh truth, anyone in a mid-life soul crisis doesn’t even know what their default setting is. So…there’s that. But, they do have a love language and things that fill up their tank. Try those things. If they need their love tank-on-steroids filled up so fast and often that you can’t even keep up, you might feel yourself feeling deep resentment towards them and feel like a dog jumping through hoops of fire. It’s soul-burn out. I’m pretty much at this stage and trying not to be.

Stop doing the same things. For me personally, I am completely bored with every summer looking the same. If everyone were happy and healthy, sameness wouldn’t be so awful and boring. When you are going through a major crisis, you need something to look forward to. I feel trapped by the sameness, so I am currently searching for the perfect vacation with my man so I have something to look forward to. I also have some amazing trips that are coming up for me personally and I’m finding joy in knowing that awesome things are coming.

Find a reason to hope and dream again, take your “wounded one” with you and live a little. No lists, agendas, or jumping through the hoops, just courting each other again and chasing after joy and each other until love returns.

Just because they are in a mid-life funk doesn’t mean you have to be too. When I was going through my seasons of depression, I didn’t need my man, or friends, to join me and set up camp there. It was my depression and because I love them, I just needed them to understand, love me, and pray for me. Not push me or tell me I’m wrong for feeling that way. I never expected them to fix me, so it would be stupid for me to feel like I am the Junior Holy Spirit and able to fix a soul-crisis. But, truth be told, I sure have tried to fix this jacked-up state of being. But I can’t.

Guard your heart and mind and take your thoughts captive, it’s the only thing you are accountable for right now. The crazy-cycle in a relationship brings out the very worst in all of us, that’s why I’m so grateful for a God that loves me just because I’m His and I’m enough for Him, even when I’m at my worst. Repentance is apart of my journey right now because my thoughts are scaring the crap out of me and I’ve whispered words that sound a little like giving up and that’s just not me.

I thought I could list some books for us to read, but no one has written, “Help, Midlife Crisis Sucks” yet. I could rattle off some deep, spiritual verses and wisdom that might help, but all that is coming to mind right now is quotes from the movie What About Bob where the therapist goes mad. I don’t know if I’m Bob or the therapist, or if perhaps he’s my Bob and I’m trying to not loose my ever-loving mind, either way this is deep as I can get right now…

“I’m baby stepping. I’m doing the work. I’m not a slacker!”

I’m just trying to sail, not sink. You too?

We have so much to celebrate…and go to therapy over, either way, we are only as good as our thoughts and how much work we put into selfless love.

Love you like crazy, while trying not to be crazy.

Jennifer Renee

Photo Cred by Lynne Hand

Why I Love Tina Turner, When Mothers Learn To Stand

Fab Tina: https-::www.flickr.com:photos:herry:

 

You can’t possibly understand how much I love Tina Turner. Seriously. You just can’t, but maybe you will after you read this. She’s the soundtrack to pieces of me and after writing a really difficult chapter in my book, sobbing like someone had just ripped out pieces of my heart and mangled it, I turned on Tina and I danced. And I was happy again. 

Momma liked to listen to Tina Turner so it was only natural for me to fall in love with her too. I didn’t always understand the lyrics although I could sing every line by heart; looking back I understand that Mrs. Turner helped Momma learn to be strong and fierce. Loving Jesus helped her more, but I still want to give Tina a little credit. For three solid minutes two battered women connected and Tina sang for her letting her know it was okay. Perhaps we can’t have “Proud Mary” moments without learning that it’s not okay for someone to knock the wind out of us, and sometimes the life out of us.

When Tina sang to us, I believed her. Line by line the words spoke that we could just say it, “You better be good to me.” And later when I was sifting through teenage hormones, falling in and out of love, I let go of a boy who wasn’t being very good to me. Even broken girls can know that they are worth so much more than they are getting; Tina said so.

I’ll never forget what it looked like watching her get shoved to the ground. Young brown eyes watching from an upstairs window, pulling curtains back to make sure she was okay. Mad, but okay. I’ll never forget the moment our eyes met and I knew she saw me standing there looking down on a moment where mothers learn to stand. Momma got up, she always did. Sometimes we opt for a risky love and Momma was willing to risk love twice, but just barely. Love would build them back up and show them a better way, one with Jesus at the center, but it took time and years and tears in the night.

Blending families and children and past mistakes leaves a wake of crazy, but I envy their love sometimes, my mom and my second-heart dad. It’s the attached at the hip kind, like you can’t say one name without the other. Two messed up hearts can become whole together and if you ask me if I think we get better as we age I would say, “Heck yes, we do,” because I’ve watched it.

Standing in the hallway all grown up looking at the picture of two brown-eyed girls and one foxy momma, just the three of them together but a complete family unit. I looked over at my heart-dad and said, “This is my favorite picture…”

He smiled and said, “Mine, too.”

“Is that what we looked like when you fell in love with us?” I had never asked that before; but I already knew the answer.

“Yeah, it is.” He gave a slight smile reflective of quiet, good heart.

We didn’t say anything after that, no words needed between us because if we did, we would both be crying. His soft heart entwined with mine, no bloodlines to connect us. But if you were to ask us, we would tell you that we love each other like flesh and blood because we are flesh and blood and mended love.

I’m so glad he fell in love with us. I’m just so glad he wasn’t afraid of how scared and stubborn she was sometimes because she knew what it was like to lose her voice and her way. All she wanted when she was much to young was a happy family and a happy marriage. Marriage, not love, left a mark on her, the kind that even time can’t erase. But Momma found her love to grow old with, but not without a few bumps and bruises and thoughts of running again. But this time, love didn’t run because it didn’t have to. It won. A thread of redeeming grace was waiting for both of them in a tiny church decades ago. A wounded woman who loved God and bathed her decision to love again in prayer sitting next to man who looked a little like love and a little like trouble. He didn’t love Jesus, he just loved her and as she prayed telling God she couldn’t go through heartache again… she looked up and noticed that the man who loved her walked up to the front of the tiny church to love Jesus too.

And that’s what we do, we walk up to the front and try to love Jesus and His redeeming grace that loves the freaking mess we’ve made on our own. He picks up shattered pieces and wipes away the bloody mess from our hands because He’s already redeemed years and years of sins and bad mistakes. Jesus knows we can’t clean up life-mess like that; His wounded hands and side cover and clean all the stains and shards we cannot. We walk up to the front and sometimes our sanctification process is so slow, but it’s the lasting kind that changes our spiritual DNA and reserves a seat for us in heaven and for new life walking in abundance and blessing here on this broken earth.

Momma didn’t have to tell me why she loved those songs because I felt it, singing Landslide in the backseat I wondered what getting older would feel like and if I would be afraid of changing too. But when you are little you can’t really wrap your mind around grownup lyrics, but in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense. We listened to so many things, mostly Christian songs and radio stations, but every now and then I had Proud Mary moments in Momma’s car and I fell in love with words and lyrics and a soul-stirring, three-minute story.

Our stories are much longer than three minutes, but if we we’re willing to listen to the song our heart wants to sing, what would be your song? Your anthem? Your hope? Sing a good song, even if it’s a broken one because when you break free, you teach another soul how to break free too. Our testimony and the power behind it heals the leftover hurt and pain that resides inside of us, extracting the ugly baggage giving us new and better things to hold onto.

Much love to you…and all you Proud Mary’s keep on burning.

Jennifer Renee

Photo by Henry Lawford

 

 

Permission to Run

20140421-131747.jpg

A three-hour drive would be enough time to tell him everything, my plan was to end with this: Run.

Forget about how much you love me. Forget about asking for my hand in marriage and getting your first job to pay for my engagement ring. Don’t think about the fact that I’m the first woman you ever said, “I love you” to in a car parked at your daddy’s church with the rain falling so hard it sang us a love song. Just drive me home and I’ll tell you everything and all the reasons why you should run.

But, he didn’t run. As my words spilled out, I watched him grip the steering wheel so tight I thought it would snap. I watched creases and frown lines etched from pain from hearing my story. I found myself comforting him, but I tried not to reach for his hand, for his anything.

I wasn’t raised in a pastor’s home like he was. I didn’t have the view of marriage that he did. Marriage scared me to death. I knew marriage was supposed to mean forever, but I also knew I never, ever wanted my parents back together. Sometimes people come together and become toxic. When one person wants Jesus and the other wants a bottle and to chase women, marriage is a trap and toxic. That wasn’t the way Jesus meant for it to be. In my young mind I thought if you stayed in that you became broken down, trapped, and flailing. Everyday is about survival and brutal. You watch your little girls become different people when a man and fear walks through the door. Your strong self, becomes a scared self. You think about taking your life, you think about running, and you pray with groans, not words. You pray with tears and one-worded-prayers…Help.

And I didn’t want that, not for me. Not ever. I wanted the fairy tale, but fairy tales were a lie and somehow fairy tales saved my life at the same time. I had reason to hope, to dream, and I started that process of escape when I was too little to know what a dreamer was. If it got loud, if I heard raised voices, I could slip away to another place that I created in my head, my La la land, and I liked it there because it was safe. My dad called it having my head up my a**, but I called it wonderful. I felt Jesus there, that heavenly Daddy. And every time I went somewhere else in my mind, I found Jesus waiting for me in my secret space.

If you yell at me, I will check out. I will put my head up my a** and only come back to you when you stop the yelling and scaring me and scarring me.

That was when I learned how to build walls and go somewhere else, an isolated fortress of protection. That’s when I learned how to run, even if it was only in my mind. A running dreamer.

I could emotionally run away until I learned that I didn’t have to anymore. I could stand. I could pray one-worded-prayers. I could hold on. I could let go. And I could ask God to teach me how to let someone love me even if I thought running would be a better, smarter idea.

Sometimes we have baggage that we picked up from other people, our family history, and the ones we love. We wonder if genetics and bloodlines will be stronger than the new creation that God is building in us. But, with all my heart I believe that the old has gone and the new has come when we become followers of Christ and we must be brave enough to believe that the Word will cut and be sharper than all the wrong things we picked up along the way. Sometimes we have to wrestle with the truth for a little while because we have believed lies for so long.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV)

The old self carried around baggage that we thought belonged to us, the new “us” is not tethered to the past, bloodlines, and bruised knees from falling so hard. When our past life is more like a poorly written country song instead of a fairy tale, we can take God up on His word and ask for a little bit of “new” and a little more of letting go. We can add to our one-word-prayers and add five more words.

Help me let go of yesterday.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Is 43:18 NIV)

The NLT version says it this way, “But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”

I love that. Forget about all that, all of the mess, and the things you would rather not replay in your mind, and watch what I am about to do because it’s going to blow your mind.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26 NIV)

I know what it’s like to have a heart of stone. I know what it is like to shut people out and runaway to my emotional hiding place. And I know what it is like to let the former things remain in their proper place, out of my way and a thing of the past. And you can too, you don’t have to carry around the former, broken things and beat-up baggage from bloodlines and bad mistakes. If all you can utter right now is “Help” that’s okay. But, if you can and you mean it, add the five other words, “Help me let go of yesterday.”

Much love to you,

Jennifer

When Marriage Is Bumpy Roads & Walmart Flowers

20140320-140311.jpg

I found a prayer that I wrote a year ago and because I’m either brave, or the people with the white coats need to come and take me away, I am going to share it with you.

Lord,
I need you to help me love him the way you have called me to. I refuse to carry bitterness and make long lists of yesterday’s junk or my record of wrongs. I seek Your face, You alone can be all that my heart needs and longs for. In You I am whole, loved for who I am, and not lacking.

And then I wrote some other things and prayed on paper asking for help because sometimes loving your man is hard and we have to say “I do” all over again with a greater realization that our love had to grow up and take on new shapes. We’ve both changed into people that I’m so proud of. We’ve grown up together, we’ve fallen in and out of love, and at times I’ve hated his guts and wanted to punch him in the face…and then all the anger drains out of me as I watch him be the father and steady leader we have needed desperately. The truth is, I wouldn’t trade this sometimes bumpy ride for anything.

I still “do” because together we are better and sometimes terrible. We are messy and real, sweet and sour, and worth fighting for.

I’ve learned something so profound by falling in and out of love and I’m pretty sure that the best parts of me are because of him. He’ll probably be completely bald by the time he’s forty-five and I’ll probably have to cross my legs every time I sneeze.

I’ll tweeze his ear hair and tell him he’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and he’ll have to pretend he still loves my cooking and eat cereal right before he goes to bed.

We will keep loving and forgiving one another. We will keep kissing in front of our daughters and laugh because it “grosses them out”.

I’ll keep writing out prayers and asking God to help me be soft and loving, and not the broom-riding hag that I feel like sometimes. We will keep saying “I do” and loving this messy, beautiful life we have been given because it’s a gift.

Write out your prayers, ask God to change your heart first before you ask God to “fix him” and then throw away your record of wrongs. Chase after softness and forgiveness. Chase after the messy, redemptive love that comes with bumpy roads and Walmart flowers.