affair recovery · Community · spiritual growth

Serendipity at the Cappuccino Bar

FullSizeRender(13)This is the tale of two women, the day God decided they needed to meet, and the morning they learned why.

It was a lazy Saturday morning in February, and my husband and I were laying in bed sipping coffee while we leaned into one another and let time drift by with little conversation. We had nowhere to be, so we were going to take our time getting there.

Finally, at 10:30AM, our stomachs began growling. We decided to forgo some of the routine regimes of basic hygiene and see if we could find some breakfast. Simply put: we skipped showering to go eat eggs.

We drove to a quaint little restaurant up the road in Agritopia, but he line at The Coffee Shop was out the door. We didn’t want to wait in a long line–waiting in a long line in Agritopia was far from Utopian and seemed like an oxymoron. We pushed down the growling in our stomachs and decided to drive further from home to an equally quaint little area and eat at The Farm House.

What we didn’t know was downtown Gilbert was hosting their popular farmer’s market. The wait at The Farm House was over an hour. It was now 11:13AM. Starvation was imminent.

FullSizeRender(16)Right next to The Farm House we saw another restaurant, Liberty Market.

Liberty Market was equal in its quaintness, therefore it was equally popular, but waiting no longer mattered. We were hungry and as uninviting as it was to think of waiting in a long line, it was more uninviting to think of tearing my teeth into my husband’s flesh to find nourishment. (Refer to earlier in the post where I stated WE DID NOT SHOWER. Even zombies should maintain health standards when it comes to food consumption.)

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We lined up behind approximately twenty-five other zombies, equally hungry but equally unimpressed with the idea of eating their mate.  We had been standing in line for less than one minute when a gentleman, most likely the restaurant manager, approached my husband and I and said, “If you don’t want to wait in this line any longer, there are a couple seats at the cappuccino bar. You can sit there and order anything you’d like from the menu.”

It seemed a little awkward, as there were other couples in line in front of us who should have been given the opportunity rather than us, but in the name of hunger–we moved quickly. We took two of the three remaining seats at the cappuccino bar and ordered some over-medium, biscuit and gravy deliciousness. While we waited we powered down two cups of dark coffee. Life was slowly starting to make sense again.

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Sarah* woke with a yearning for a specialty cup of coffee.  Before going to bed the night before she had been pinning pictures of cappuccino novelties to her Pinterest board. When she woke the next morning she was craving a cappuccino reminiscent of one she had once had in Rome.

Her husband was working on a big project over the weekend, and her teenage children were busy being teenagers. As she approached Liberty Market she planned to get her specialty coffee to go. She thought maybe she would take it someplace quiet and read. As she was walking towards the restaurant she had a strong feeling she should go back to her car and get her book. She felt like God was prompting her to sit at the cappuccino bar and read.

Sarah was only sitting next to me for a few moments when she caught me looking at her. She felt me looking at her cute coffee drink and she felt my eyes reading the title of her book. She saw me looking at her and she smiled.

It wasn’t long before Sarah was engaged in a conversation with both my husband and me. We spoke of the church she attends, and mentioned the one we attend. My husband and she talked of towns they had each visited on their respective trips to Italy. She shared of their family’s relocation from the Midwest to the desert. We talked of raising teens to young adults, and the intricacies of dating your spouse in the wake of ever changing lifestyles.

FullSizeRender(15)This meeting alone wouldn’t suffice to be an act of serendipity. The idea of three adults conversing at a cappuccino bar is not unusual. The unusual thing is what was happening to me. I could barely speak. I was tongue tied, and it was more than just a feeling of inadequacy or shyness. I had a strong feeling of grief and joy. I feared opening my mouth to speak. I feared no words would come. I feared I would cry for no reason. This woman was filled with so much joy and love. Grace poured out, and it was a magnet drawing me to her. Knowing the path my husband and I had traveled to end up seated at this cappuccino bar made the meeting feel ordained.

It’s hard to remember everything we had said, or how exactly it had happened, but by the time we left Liberty Market we had exchanged cell phone numbers. When I arrived home I wrote the beginning of this blog.

And God said, “Wait.”

Suddenly, I was compelled to stop writing. I knew I had experienced something wonderful, but I also knew God was telling me, “Not yet. Not now.” I have learned that being obedient to God is all that is required. If I am chasing after Him in obedience, nothing can touch me.

Weeks passed, and on most days I forgot about meeting the stranger at the cappuccino bar. Sarah had mentioned starting a new job, and I was busier than ever with house guests, working, and writing. I still had her cell number, but I didn’t consider actually contacting her.

Last week Sarah sent me a text asking if I wanted to get together, and my initial thought was, “No.”

It wasn’t a question of her value. Without meeting her for a second time, I was already certain she would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s life.  However, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to open myself up to her. After several weeks of thinking about our encounter, the event had lost its luster. Initially, I was inspired by the way it had unfolded, now, almost four weeks later; it was just three people who talked while they drank coffee. “People meet all the time, what’s the big deal?” I said to myself.

Plus I imagined the way it might go if we were to meet. Her heart would shine bright and I would see a strong charitable woman. I would leave feeling inspired by her, but equally ashamed of the reality of choices I’ve made. If we became friends eventually I would have to decide if I wanted to foster transparency and let her see what post-infidelity looks like on a Christian woman. In that moment I would see who she was. While she may want to accept me for who I am, she may struggle. Sexual sin assaults the senses of many. What if she were to decide I wasn’t worth the struggle?

But, there was another part of me that wondered. What if it was arranged, ordained, planned? What if God had decided we should meet? Was I ignoring a uniquely wrapped gift?

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Yesterday morning Sarah and I met at Liberty Market. I ordered pancakes and she introduced me to a cute little coffee drink.

It probably won’t be a surprise to read that I shared a brief version of what my husband, my family and I have gone through over the last year. I could elaborate on how the conversation weaved to that point and I could evaluate my own motives, but none of that is the point.

Reading that Sarah responded with grace when I mentioned the affair probably won’t surprise you either. After all, you already like her. I told you she was special and you want us to become friends. You have been rooting for us to connect from the beginning of this post.

Without knowing hardly a thing about Sarah, you want her for me. Now, what if you were God and you knew everything about every person alive? Do you think you would ever desire that certain people meet?

Sarah listened to what I shared and handed me a napkin for my tears. She told me she was sorry. She stared across the table with the loveliest light eyes and went on to tell me that her marriage had also been touched by infidelity.

My heart sank. First for her: she knew. Second for me: I didn’t want to look in those light eyes when I heard her say that her husband had been unfaithful.

But Sarah didn’t tell me a story of an unfaithful husband. She told me instead the story of an unfaithful wife. She maintained eye contact with me when she told me that she, too, had once chosen to be unfaithful to a really good man.

The rest of the conversation was a mixture of private thoughts and encouragement. But beneath it all, and woven into each thought was a feeling of awe. We serve a God who knows us intimately and quite often He handpicks people and orchestrates serendipitous events to give us the gift of one another. We only need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and available and we will usually find something good without even looking.

*Sarah’s name was changed to protect her privacy. Thank you for reading.

Community · spiritual growth

Greedy with Love

Women_with_umbrella_(1875)_by_Claude_MonetThe man was hungry.

Or maybe he was thirsty and wanted money for vodka. Maybe he wanted money to buy something else altogether, there really isn’t any way to know for sure. The cardboard sign that he held said he was hungry, so most likely his hunger was real.

We saw him sitting on a two foot wall along the outer perimeter of a Denny’s restaurant. He was near the parking lot where we had parked, and most of us had looked at him quickly and then looked the other way.

It was years ago, my husband, my children and I were walking into the restaurant with a group of college people from our church when we passed the man seeking financial assistance. I don’t remember if anyone from the group gave him a dollar or two. What I do remember is my youngest son, who was in the third grade at the time, turned and asked if he could give the man some money. My son had his own wallet, he had some dollar bills, and he wanted to help.

I told him he could help the stranger, and I inwardly prided myself for the child I was raising. “Look at my child, he’s so loving and generous.

I watched as my son opened his wallet and gave the man ALL of his money. He had over twenty dollars in his wallet, and it had taken him a few weeks to save the cash. The pride I had felt at being influential in my son’s generosity came spiraling down when my own heart was quickly revealed. I spoke without thinking, “Wait, son, what are you doing?! You’re giving him ALL of your money?!”

“Yes,” my child replied. “He doesn’t have any money for food, and I don’t need money. You will buy me food.”

I was embarrassed at the way I had responded, but I wasn’t totally surprised at my shameful reaction. At the time I hadn’t considered myself greedy, but this was before I had witnessed God reveal his nature through His steadfast safety-net of provisions. Since then having opportunities to give have brought me a long way, but recently I realized I still have a long way to grow.

Greed: noun \ˈgrēd\  a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed

Claude_Monet_-_La_Corniche_near_Monaco_(1884)It struck me as I read a a friend’s reply to a comment I had left on her Instagram. My Insta-friend is doing something truly remarkable with her time and her resources. She is a single woman with a young-adult child, and in this new season of her life she has dedicated herself to helping orphans in Kenya. After two short term trips with her church, she made a return visit last summer during which she worked with a local pastor. Together they gathered the people and resources to start an orphanage for eight boys who were living on the streets.

Since that time she has returned to America and continued doing the work needed to sustain the undertaking. Last week she posted a picture on Instagram where she spoke of her upcoming trip. She is returning to Kenya for 45 days. When I saw the post and was reminded of the sacrifices she is making, I had to applaud her publicly. I had to speak life into her. Simply put, I had to tell her how proud of her I was. I left her a comment telling her just that. She responded, “Wow, thank you SO much. Your words mean a lot to me.”

That’s when it struck me. She said my words meant a lot to her, and I understood the depth of what she was saying.

Through this time of public shame, I have learned to value public affirmation, as well as private messages of encouragement, like I had never valued them before. I have a greater understanding of how the right word said at the right time can inspire unlike anything else. Her thankful response made me realize I had given her that same gift which I value.

But along with the gift of today, I saw the greed of my past.

  • Monet_-_Frauen_im_GartenI have spent too many years reluctant to fully embrace and acknowledge the accomplishments of other women.
  • I have missed out on too many chances that I could have shown abundant and public appreciation when I witnessed a woman who was bringing beauty into the world.
  • I have wasted too many opportunities withholding affirmations in the lives of other women.

I have spent too many years being greedy for the thing that I have always wanted.

Greed isn’t just about money.

If there is something we are holding back from giving to another person, there is a strong chance it is because we fear we don’t have enough of it in our own lives. We seem to understand this fear when it comes to money. I am beginning to see that it is not just about money. Greed is when we hold too tightly to the thing we desire the most and fear not having enough of.

  • We can be greedy with our affections. We hold back from initiating human contact–while (ironically) craving connection. We hold ourselves back from giving that which we may not receive in return.
  • We can be greedy with intimacy towards our husbands. We avoid eye contact during sex, but then we look for romance in a movie or a book. We desire something more than just the physical act of sex, but we hold tightly to the intimacy required for true marital romance, as if we will lose what we give away.
  • We can be greedy with our affirmations to others who are gifted–especially if their gift mirrors our own in some way. We fear someone else getting more attention for their talent–as if there won’t be enough left over for us.

And this is where we can learn from the simple, yet deep, thoughts of a third grader. We can give it all away, because our Father will give us what we need.

“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” -Sarah Bernhardt

We can give away the thing we desire most because we trust God’s nature and His steadfast safety-net of provisions will never be limited to the financial aspects of our lives. Philanthropists have testified that a person grows less greedy in financial dealings by being generous with their resources.  Wouldn’t it follow suit to trust God with things that money can’t buy?

Perhaps in the giving away we receive more. Perhaps we require less. Perhaps it is both.

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spiritual growth

Text Messaging and Blow Dryers…Instruments of the Lord.

“Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.” -The Atlantic

It was already decided. On Monday morning, between the hours of 10-11 AM, I would seek employment as a Food Server in the hip downtown area of a neighboring city. Working in that atmosphere would fit my personality and still allow me time to pour into my reading and writing. I had already scoped out the upscale restaurants where I hoped to garnish employment, and now I just needed to go in confidently and convince one of the establishments that hiring me was the best choice they would make this month.

Then the alarm went off. It wasn’t an audible alarm–it was an alarm inside of me that had been growing. My hope has been draining over the last few days and the alarming feeling inside was telling me that things were never going to get better, or feel different. My hopelessness was showing through to a few friends, and they were commenting on how important it was that I didn’t withdraw at this time. One friend was bold enough to say, “not allowing people to get close hurt you when it came to having people who would have called you out on the affair, or for you to talk about the feelings you were having.”

ouch.

As soon as I had chosen an outfit for the day, I grabbed my iPhone and worded a text message asking for prayer. I hoped that having others pray would sooth my nerves. My hands were shaking so badly, I had to resort to using the vocal commands to finish the text message. I asked for prayers of confidence. I knew I wanted to send it to a group of people, but I didn’t want to overload anybody’s phone and cause an explosion. I added names, and I deleted names. Satan was having a hey-day even in this simple task of texting. The inner voices started yelling, “She doesn’t want you to keep bothering her!…Don’t text her…she’s got enough on her plate!” and the winner of them all, “Seriously…you are asking for prayer to become a WAITRESS?”

Adding one of the names made me feel especially insecure. She is younger than I am, and busy with her toddler. She was my hairdresser for a couple of years, and I would have continued with her had my daughter not taken over the laborious task of covering my gray. I have admiration for her and her calm spirit, and she has been especially graceful in sending me text messages and in her willingness to pray for me over the last few months. But still…this request seemed so silly. Despite my fears, I added her to the group MMS.

text messaging and blow dryers

The group responded enthusiastically with prayerful responses. My heart was calming down, and I proceeded to apply my make-up with less shaky hand movements. My fears of the younger woman even subsided when she responded to the group text message with a verse:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” 1 Timothy 2:7

I grabbed my blow dryer and began the arduous task of drying my locks. Almost immediately something shot out of the barrel. Then there were SPARKS and SMOKE. The blow dryer exploded and died.

Now, the death of a blow dryer on any occasion is a sad state of affairs, but this was unbelievable. I looked at the plastic carcass of the appliance that had served me so well over the years. Perhaps I should have felt sad for the blow dryer, but honestly, in that moment, I could only think of myself. “Are you kidding me?” I said to the lady with wet hair who stood in the mirror.

The first thing I thought of was the group text message. This was embarrassing. I had asked for prayer, and now it was evident that I was never going to make it to any of the upscale restaurants before the lunchtime rush. I imagined that my unreliable blow dryer would be annoying news to these godly women. I felt like a drug addict telling my sponsor that I had just smoked crack. Still, I had to tell them what was happening. Reluctantly, I typed out a text message sharing the news of my blow dryer’s demise.

Almost immediately, the younger woman responded, “I have an extra dryer if you need it!”

Within 15 minutes I found myself sitting in the downstairs bathroom of my former hairdresser’s home (which coincidentally is just 2 miles from the hip downtown city filled with upscale restaurants). My faithful friend used her blow dryer and her skills to style my hair so that I might go forward with confidence to seek employment.

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My heart swells and tears fill my eyes at the phenomenal way God works in our lives. The death of my blower dryer was not a surprise to God. He knew my blow dryer was on it’s last leg, and it was His Spirit within me who was prompting me to include her when asking for prayer. I didn’t need to have exceptionally well styled hair to go job hunting, but what I did need to experience was grace and faith in action. This woman was not merely using her words to proclaim that she would be there for me while I climbed out of the mess I had made, she was willing to use her time and her talent. THAT is LOVE. The enemy wants me to doubt myself and live in isolation–but that is not God’s plan for any of us. We are created and called to live in community. Sometimes others make decisions that make finding that community more difficult, but God will use any means to draw us closer to one another if we allow Him access to our lives.