Community · marriage

Back to Our Future, aka: We’re Moving!

It was 1988, I had been a Christian for less than 2 years, David was one month out of Bible college, and we were three weeks into our marriage, when we left California and drove across the country to Danville, Illinois, where my husband had taken a job as a Youth Pastor. During the transition, people called us “fearless.” Honestly, we weren’t fearless. Clueless, perhaps–but fearless? Not even close.

We learned pretty early on that our lifestyle was different than our peers, as their date nights and toddler’s schedules didn’t revolve around other people’s teenagers. Investing in someone else’s teenager is much like a welcoming a virus into your home, as the joys and trials overtake your thoughts, conversations, and family activities.

In the two decades that followed, we were both blessed and exasperated by the hundreds of young people we encountered living and ministering in the midwest and Southern California. We witnessed teenage friendships evolve into dating relationships that sometimes resulted in marriages, and then we experienced the joy of watching most of those marriages thrive and the grief when some of the marriages ended in divorce. My husband stood beside a young man when the frightened seventeen-year-old told his parents that his girlfriend was pregnant, and thanks to social media, we’ve watched that unplanned child be loved as she grew into a beautiful young woman. To say the least, our lives were positively altered by the teenagers who allowed us to be a part of their lives.

Over the course of the last decade, David’s ministry role within the church shifted. He was subtly ushered into jobs that were highly administrative and less relational. It would take several blog posts to explain how the transition began, how we each responded to and resisted these new roles and the way the undesired change affected his self-esteem, self-confidence, and ultimately our marriage. Mentioning the shift is irrelevant anyway, except in that it eventually frustrated us both to the point of asking questions in regards to what we wanted out of life, and the ways in which we each desired to serve the Lord and the community.

We began asking each other the romanticized question, “If money were no object, what would you do?” My answer was easy and obvious (#amwriting). David’s took months of contemplation to be realized.

After much prayer, consideration, and conversation, David is leaving his career as a Pastor to become a High School teacher.

Days after David made this decision, I woke up with random thoughts of Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham. My heart sank as I compared myself to the upstanding woman. I thought, perhaps, if David had married a woman like Ruth, his life might have turned out so differently. Those in church leadership might value all he has to offer.  I blamed myself, the selfishness of my infidelity, for David’s life taking such a dramatic change. I felt as if I robbed him of a great life.

Once I was able to conjugate my shame into words, I shared my brokenness with my husband.

“If you had married someone like Ruth Graham, you wouldn’t be leaving the ministry,” I whispered through restrained tears.

“Who says I’m leaving the ministry?” he responded, “I’ll never stop doing ministry…and besides, if this is what comes of everything that happened, then GOOD! I couldn’t be more pleased,” and in his gentleness, he pulled me out of myself and into his belief.

And, he’s right. I can see how he will love these students and how they will bless his life. This man was created to be involved in the lives of students; he is a natural shepherd, a breathing example of God’s love as it is available through Christ. So, we leave the life we have always known for the life we once knew.

But, where?

95ccea7ce7a76aa1011145a2d49a9c43Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “the third time is a charm”, but do you know it’s folk history? The saying evolved from a British law, which said any person who survived three hanging attempts would be set free. The law came about in 1885 when a West Country sailor was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. After three failed attempts, the sailor was imprisoned and later released. He died a free man in the 1940’s.

Likewise, after two attempts at living in the Antelope Valley we are returning for the third time to live in the high desert of California. Beginning August 8th, David will be teaching at a public High School, and we will be investing in the community that has twice before been our home.  We are eager for whatever God has planned as we return to living in the wide open spaces, amid the wild poppies and Joshua Trees. Our hope is that the third time will be a charm, and this will be our final relocation. We have felt for a while that ‘the best is yet to come’, and we see that in going back we are moving forward. 

affair recovery · marriage

He said, She said

heartsHe said he would be her friend.

She said she had never had a friend like him.

He said, “Let’s take a walk on the beach.”

She said, “You can hold my hand.”

He said, “I’ll write to you from England.”

She said, “You can kiss me goodbye.”

He said, “I want a Christmas wedding.”

She said “I do.”

He said, “I hope we have a girl.”

She said, “I can’t believe we have a daughter!”

He said, “Don’t be afraid to love a baby boy”

She said, “I like the name Austin.”

He said, “God loves this baby.”

She said, “I think her name is Molly.”

He said, “Our family is complete.”

She said, “I’m pregnant…again.”

He said, “We will hold our baby girl in heaven.”

She said, “I’m clinging to that truth.”

He said, “We need to find another church home.”

She said, “I will follow you anywhere.”

He said that he was sorry.

She said that it wasn’t his fault.

He said, “There’s been a car accident”

She said, “I loved Dan, too.”

He said, “My Mom is gone.”

She said, “I’m sorry.”

He said, “That boy wants to marry our daughter.”

She said, “I want him to marry her, too”

He said, “Our son is going to marry that girl.”

She said, “I certainly hope so.”

He said, “I can’t wait to be a Grandpa”

She said, “No one will do it better.”

He said, “What’s wrong?”

She said, “I lied and I fell.”

He said, “I forgive you.”

She said, “I messed everything up.”

He said, “I love you more.”

She couldn’t respond.

He said, “God has a plan.”

She said, “I believe you.”

He said she was his best friend.

She said she had never had a friend like him.


affair recovery

His Love > his Love

If you want to see a small social media riot evolve, simply write a tweet in support of the Common Core Math Standards and watch your Twitter go viral. The controversial math standards have been in the headlines for months, and with the start of the new school year they have become the topic of many frustrated parent’s Facebook status updates.

Understanding Common Core is not a necessity in my life, which is probably a good thing because in my limited research for this post, I didn’t find much that left me feeling enlightened. I even visited a site that was Pro-Common Core, thinking they would do their best to explain the elementary school problems in a simplified way that made it easy to understand and thus gain supporters. No such luck–I was more confused after visiting than before I read their featured article.

Perhaps I am atypical in my understanding of the new learning style, because to be fair, I am not a woman who is known for her love of math. Rather, I am a lover of words.

math meme

As a lover of words, I was in one of my happy spots last night when I was able to listen to Amena Brown create beauty with her words. The gifted poet was the key-note speaker at an event I attended at my church in Chandler, Arizona. While her husband, Matt “DJ Opdiggy” Owen, skillfully stylized music in the background she shared the truth of God’s love with her own stories and original spoken word poetry.  She shared briefly about her marriage, and she talked about how her understanding of God’s love was enhanced by the love of her husband. She said that she had realized that even as she enjoyed the fulfillment of her husband’s love in her life, God was still trying to get her to understand the magnitude of His love. She shared that God was saying to her,

Your husband’s love for you is just a tiny fraction of the love I have for you.

Amena Brown at Remix

As she shared the words, I felt a lump rise in my throat. It is true for me as well. As great as my husband’s love is for me–it is but a tiny, tiny fraction of the love that my Heavenly Father, who does not change like shifting shadows, has for me.

And my husband’s love speaks volumes.  You see, my husband’s love is obvious.  My husband’s love is tangible. I can feel it, I can see it. Others can, too. This is not a new love of something nearly lost. For years, if there was an attribute that defined my husband, it was his affectionate love for his wife.

At times my husband’s desire to be close to me, to engage me in conversation, to spend time with me has been “a force to be reckoned with” and those desires send this girl, who once replaced real intimacy with sex, running for the dark places in her mind.

To imagine a Heavenly Father who loves me more than this man is…well…unimaginable. And yet, it’s true. God’s love may seem unimaginable and unfathomable–but it’s real and it’s demonstrated in ways that are equally obvious and equally tangible.

Several months ago I received a piece of hate mail that spawned my entitled Stop Being Happy on Facebook post. In the article I shared that I had received a letter from a woman who was offended that I had been sharing my story of surviving my own infidelity on my blog.  She wouldn’t have a problem with my journey if I were “the victim” but since I caused all the pain, my thoughts and my journey were an affront to her.

In the letter she stated, “…you think you are above reproach for what you did just because your husband forgave you.” Apparently, it was an assault to her that I was moving forward and that I was proud of the way my husband had behaved when he discovered the truth about the relationship I had been cultivating with another man. Fortunately, the words didn’t stick on my skin for more than a few hours. I woke in the early hours and realized that I don’t THINK I am above reproach for what I’ve done because my husband forgave me. I KNOW I am  above reproach for the sin of adultery because God forgave me. Even without the love and the support of my husband–my sin is abolished.

I am grateful every single day that my husband chose to stay with me, but the reality is, even if he had asked me to move out, I would still be forgiven and I would still be above reproach for the sin I once chose. My repentance is what leads me to a new life, not the love of a man. Christ took my sin away, and it doesn’t own me anymore.

It’s a concept that can seem confusing because my husband and I are experiencing so much hope. Because of my husband’s forgiveness towards me the love of God has been penetrating our lives and His Grace has been transforming our marriage. The restoration of our marriage is vital to us, as it is to our children, but the restoration of me as an individual is the core of what makes the marital restoration even possible. God had a strong call on me to turn away from my sin and confess it to my husband, but He had an even stronger call on me to turn away from my sin and turn in repentance towards Him.  Understanding God’s love, and not running away from intimacy with Him and into the dark places in my mind–is something that I have to learn to sit with and embrace or I will never be able to fully embrace the love my husband wants to give so freely.

It’s not as confusing as trying to solve a simple math problem using common core and it doesn’t raise the same controversy, but when I write honestly about it, it can certainly raise a few comments in my inbox. People like problems that are easy to solve–the kind where one plus one equals two. But, for my husband and I–that equation didn’t add up, and now I have to daily decrease, so that God can increase. With less of me and more of Him–the math that works is one plus one plus the One equals one.

affair recovery · spiritual growth

Getting Rid of Damaged Mirrors

Last week on a particularly hot August day, my mind was my companion as I was in the middle of the organizing and packing associated with this relocation adventure.  Although I was alone, I could hear a phrase over and over in my thoughts as clearly as if someone were speaking to me.

Everything is a mirror,” it called to me over the crunch of the packing paper.

Everything is a mirror,” it whispered to me while I taped a box closed.

Everything is a mirror,” it finally stopped me from all productivity.

I grabbed my pen and my journal. I was going to search within myself to uncover the meaning behind the phrase. As I began to write, I had images of Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. This nonsensical phrase was ringing in my ears and disturbing my day, and I was going to silence it for good.

After some time praying and writing, the voice seemed to have calmed significantly. Through my writing I had gained an understanding to the way I was transferring my own fears onto other people. The concern that I had over letting go of people that I care for, was the realization that they have the ability to let go of me. My fears of moving on were really the greater fear that others will move on without me. It seemed to be very simple. I praised God for allowing me to have this small insight into myself, and I prayed for the courage to let Him continue to transform me.  The voice was silenced, and I could hear my memory work, along with the other familiar household sounds.

I placed my journal on the table, and I made my way to the closet I where I was currently de-cluttering. I hadn’t walked but a few steps when I heard it again. “Everything is a mirror.”

What the heck?

I returned to my favorite place to read and journal, but this time I pulled out my phone. I opened the Google app, and I typed in: “Is everything a mirror” (side note: I would have asked Siri, but she has a tendency to be disrespectful.)

In 0.33 seconds I had 167,000,000 results. I began to scroll through the results. I was on a mission, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I was seeking. I closed my eyes and prayed not only for the protection of my heart, but I also I asked our God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, to give me wisdom.

  • I read an unrelated article about the difference between a mirror image and photographic image. (Cameras do add 10 pounds!)
  • I saw the lyrics to a Justin Timberlake song.   (…it’s like you’re a mirror…I don’t wanna lose you now)
  • I found a commentary on on 1 Corinthians 13:12. (Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known)
  • I read an article explaining why mirrors exchange left for right, but not up for down. (Don’t think about this one for too long–you’ll get a migraine)

Then, I stumbled on an article in Psychology Today, Are Other People Your Mirror?, by Michael Formica. As I read the article I could hear it resonating with the truths I have come to know about myself. I could hear it speaking; it was as if the author knew secrets about myself that I have known for years.

The article spoke of a person’s Healthy Self Perception, in relationship to a person’s “Reflective Self Perception”. Obviously with a healthy self perception we see ourselves in the truest light of who we really are. With the latter, we begin to allow what others think about us to reflect and  dictate the decisions we make.  The more we do this, the less dimensional we become.  In the same way that a mirror is not as full, we become less full and less vibrant. We slowly become a reflection of what we think others think we are.

When a person is controlled by a Reflective Self Perception, they lose themselves. They slowly evolve into what they BELIEVE others think they are. They don’t necessarily become what others think they are–they become the person THEY THINK others think they are. This resonated so deeply with me, I could feel it in the tears that sprang up and stung my eyes.


For years I have believed that everyone else believes the reason my husband and I are still married is due to his strong character–in spite of the woman I am. This was a belief I held long before I had opened myself up to the advances of another man. This was decades of seeing myself in a negative light. We had faced every parent’s nightmare when our daughter died, and statistically 80% of marriages end when there is the death of a child.  For years I believed that the people who really knew us credited my husband’s faith with being the glue that held us together.

For years I also made every demeaning joke about my sexual past that I could. Because I had made poor choices prior to meeting my husband, I constantly derided myself in a so-called effort to be the girl who could “laugh at her past”. I would jokingly refer to my former self as a “skank-whore” or an “SW”. But deep inside it was really an effort to say what I believed most people really thought. For me, it was better that I say what they were really thinking anyway. People who loved me would tell me to stop, but it was so deeply ingrained–I would think it even if I didn’t say it out loud.

As I read the Psychology Today article, it reminded me of a book I had read years ago, The Art of Racing in the Rain. The book relies on the premise that the things we think about, eventually transpire. For some people that may be a little too New Age way of thinking. I don’t buy into the health, wealth and prosperity of it, but I do think that the things we believe internally about ourselves will eventually surface in one way or another.

racing“The car goes where the eyes go” ~ Garth Stein

In so many ways, I had steered myself right into adultery by devaluing myself. I had driven myself right into the arms of someone else by believing terrible things about myself for so many years. My Reflective Self Perception was so low that I was a car accident waiting to happen. The garage door was wide open for the enemy to take advantage of the situation.

Since that day, I have taken these thoughts up with my therapist and with the people closest to me. Asking them if they see this in me, and if they see this in their own lives. Do we really become what we THINK others think we are? The idea seems to hold weight for others as well.

Since that day, I have been praying over these thoughts, and I have asked God to give me insight and wisdom in how to proceed. The simplicity of not caring what other people think doesn’t hold water for me. If I pull something OUT of my head, I have to replace it with something. As I worked through these thoughts today, the Lord gave me a plan.




It seems repetitive, and perhaps that is because it is really that simple. It comes down to listening to the ones who are willing to speak rather than listening to the imaginary thoughts of people who haven’t made an effort to communicate.

1) LISTEN to the those who are communicating with me. Dozens and dozens of people have reached out to encourage with their belief in me, their hopes for my future, and the good that they still see in our marriage. These are loving people who have taken time to write and tell me what they do think. I need to take the time to go back and read the letters that have been written, and allow them to remind me of the good that is not only in me–but in the heart of a person who would be willing to encourage another person, in spite of the person’s guilt.

2) LISTEN to the man who loves me more than any person on this planet. I don’t understand my husband’s love. I cannot explain to anyone–even to my children. In my lifetime, I have never felt such love and I have never had a person who spoke my language when I needed it more. For several years–more years than I was in the affair–I didn’t value this man or the things he would say to me. I believed the positive things he said to build me up were a testimony to his character, not mine. I believed that he would have loved his wife as Christ loved the church no matter who he had married, and that it had nothing to do with me. He tells me this is not the case.

Shortly after the affair came out, he drew me into his arms and told me that he would rather be married to me–on my worst day, than to be with anyone else–even a woman who “would never do something like this.”  He told me that the same part of me that messed everything up was the part of me that he loved the most. This man speaks truth into who I am, and into who I want to become.

3) LISTEN to the One who knows me like no other. Hidden in scripture are verses telling me of God’s passion for me. I have heard them and passed over them time and again. Well, those times need to change. At this moment, I cannot quote even one scripture to you that would remind me of how God sees me–but, I know they are in there. And, as I have been meditating and memorizing on other passages, I have a renewed confidence in my ability to find them and to learn them. I will allow them to swallow me up and transform me.

If it is true that we are all touched a little by the Reflective Self Perception then it’s just time for me to change the mirror that I have been using. The old mirror was damaged and worn, and since I am in the process of cleaning out closets it seems like the perfect time to toss it in the trash or to trade it in for a mirror that reflects not just who I want to be, but who I was always meant to become.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Corinthians 4:16-18



spiritual growth

Finding God at Pieology

“He wants us to look for Him,” he spoke gently, but with authority.

As my husband and I sat on the love seat in our therapist’s office, we listened while our marriage counselor spoke to us about finding God in the most difficult times.  I have been the one who has been having a hard time “shaking the sadness” and being purposeful and joyful, so his eyes were on me as he continued. He reassured me that God has not abandoned my husband and I in this time of transition. My nervous system feels a little out of whack right now, and because I am facing something I have never faced before it makes it more difficult for me to find God in the equation.

When we are experiencing something that is brand new it is easy to feel like we are in it alone. We are on a new road where we have never traveled, and we don’t have a familiar template to recognize God. Because we know the nature of God, we know He has not abandoned us, but it can feel like He is hiding.

While it is not certain, it is very likely that my husband and I will be leaving California and relocating. We have relocated several times in our marriage and the signs are pointing to it happening again. The difference is that this time I do not get to take my children with me. I do not get to take my family with me.

If we were relocating for any reason it would be difficult, but knowing the catalyst for this particular change is due to my selfishness makes it more painful.  To know that my husband will have to leave his granddaughter because of decisions I made makes me question my ability to bring good into his life. Friends and family argue that I am not the one who made my husband lose his job. That choice was made by others in response to how my sin made them feel. We have examined it over and over and looked at it up against scripture, and what my friends and family have told me is Biblically sound. My husband should not have lost his job for what I did.

That being said, for me the bottom line is this: within a couple of months I am most likely going to leave those I love.  The reality of what is coming knocks the breath out of me.  As I was sharing this with our therapist he asked my husband and I to think of a time when we were children and we had made a mess of something. He wanted us to think of a time when we had made choices that had caused some kind of grief for our parents.

One of the memories that came to mind for myself involved ordering a pizza. I shared a story about the first time I ever ordered pizza for the family. I was about ten years old and someone had elected me to order pizza for the family. (Seriously?) I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t have the forethought to ask what anyone else wanted on the pizza. I called and ordered a large pizza with one topping. What topping?

Hmmm…how about…mushrooms.

Needless to say when the pizza was delivered no one in the family was thrilled with my choice of topping. The response was unpleasant to say the least. I had failed and there was not a lot of grace from those who were hungry. It was one of the those moments that has stayed with me for years. “The Night Jackie Ruined Dinner for the Family“. Looking back on it now it holds little value–it’s a meal and meaningless in all ways except for how it shaped me. We talked through the silly timeless event and proceeded with an understanding of how these events when left unattended can do their own kind of damage to us for years. Reevaluating a small and seemingly insignificant event can be a productive step towards closing unhealthy doors and passageways in the current day.

Before we left the therapist office he had some final instructions. He urged us to seek God out in times when it may feel like He is hidden. He reminded us of scripture that spoke into the desire of God to be sought out by his beloved.

Once we were on the road my husband turned to me and said, “All that conversation about pizza made me want Pieology.”

We drove to the local trending pizza parlor for some lunch. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, my heart began to beat faster and I felt nauseous. When I relayed the uneasy feeling to my husband he immediately retracted his desire for pizza, and told me he was willing to eat at home. I could not shake the strange feeling, but I really wanted to try to enjoy the moment. We’ve had so much isolation for the last five months, and at least if we were out of the house it would feel a little more healthy.


We ordered our pizzas (and yes, along with the other toppings, my personal pie had mushrooms).  We stepped out onto a side patio to eat lunch in the sunshine. When the pizzas arrived we bowed our heads to pray. In his prayer my husband asked God to help us to see Him. He asked God to open our eyes to the places where He might be hidden. I wanted to feel what my husband was praying, but in the moment there was a part of me that was a little cynical, and while he prayed I opened my eyes and I spied a couple of jalapenos on my pizza.  Silently I wondered if I could somehow see the shape of a fish in them. Was God going to be hiding in my pizza?

I had just taken the first bite of my cheesy-deliousness when something caught my eye. Through two windows of the restaurant I noticed the silhouette of  young friend standing out on the sidewalk leading into the establishment. Because of the shadows and the distance from where we were sitting, I could barely see him, but I recognized his profile none the less. He is a pastor on staff, and I had seen a post this morning on Instagram reminding me that today was his birthday. I looked to see who he was with–it was another recognizable silhouette. And then I saw another. And another.

When we love people, we don’t have to see the whole person to feel better–even just their silhouette can bring encouragement.

I jumped up and grabbed my husband’s arm, “Come with me…I think some of our people are here!” We rushed to the front of the patio and shouted a hello to several friends who were gathering for a birthday lunch. Their sweet faces turned to us and cheered. Being greeted warmly is never so sweet as it is after humiliation and failure. Hugs and smiles hold more weight than ever, while distance and shunning are like knives to the heart. A few moments later, we found ourselves “crashing” the party of about thirty church staff people we admire.

JP's birthday lunch

It seems that today, that is where God had been hiding.

It was such a small thing. It was lunch at a pizza joint, but it reminded me of God’s compassion for us even when we are unworthy. We may be feeling cynical and doubtful, but He is not. He isn’t even tempted to behave that way towards us–for He cannot be tempted by evil. It will be easier for us to find Him if we stay away from those attributes, but He isn’t going to wait for us to “get our act together” to reveal Himself. That’s not His nature.

My world didn’t change today, and I am still most likely going to be leaving people I love. Because living so far from all of my children will be new and unfamiliar it is going to take all that is within me to seek God when I am unable to “shake the sadness.”  I will have to remind myself to remember in the midst of the worst moments, I am not alone. God will be with me, and my prayer will be that on the days I cannot see Him he will just let me glimpse His silhouette.



Post Script: If you are seeking a Christian therapist, my husband and I  highly recommend Dr. Raymond Jones–for couples and/or individual therapy. Click this link for contact information

Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at:
Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at:
Raymond Jones PhD, LMFT, CSAT-S – Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – See more at:


affair recovery · marriage

Why I Don’t Like Weddings Anymore

I used to like weddings. 

There is something surreal about them; everything is familiar, and yet, different. There are the basic elements: bride, groom, flowers, a general feeling of enchantment, and the personality of the couple shines in the variations that emerge. At one wedding the relaxed nature of the couple shines in the simple elegance, while at the next wedding the bride’s whimsical flare, spice and love for life seems to bounce off the over-the-top centerpieces. White rose buds tipped in golden glitter line the isles, and cream colored satin ribbons dance in the breeze. Chairs sit uniformly under lofty trees as guests arrive and greet one another.

Yes, I used to like weddings. But, as I am going through this season in my life, I feel differently about weddings.

The music begins, heads turn to the back of the room, and as the bride makes her way down the isle my eyes are fixed on the groom. He believes in her, and it shows in his eyes. He pursued her for this moment. He has arrived to make promises to be true to her for the rest of his life. I remember when my husband had that look in his eyes–and my heart cringes at how I disappointed him. The vows are made–vows to be honorable and respectful. I think of my vows, and I believe I meant them with all sincerity when I made them. I didn’t enter into marriage lightly, and yet, I still found myself in the place of those who are often accused of doing just that.

My heart beats against my chest when the couple takes their vows. They are making a covenant before God and before the people who matter the most in their life. This is a sacred and holy moment, and this is why I have realized that while I used to like weddings, I can’t say I like them anymore.

Because, now…I love weddings.

Inside of this shattered soul the difference between liking a wedding and loving a wedding is the difference between death and life. Yes, the reminder of how I failed is real, and dreadfully painful–but there is another fascinating reminder I’ve encountered. Now,  more than ever before, I am so thankful for the covenant of marriage. A marriage covenant is a vow that a man and a woman make before God that involves promises and commitments. It’s a spectacular thing. The obvious point of taking the vows is to keep them–a promise to be faithful is meant to be kept, and if I could change the past–that would be my story.

That’s not my story.  However, my story still has the wonder of the blessing of a covenant. When my heart failed, my husband’s heart held tight to the covenant HE had made. When I was blind, he led me. When I couldn’t believe, he believed for me.

The first few weeks after the affair was disclosed I was horribly confused. My mind was completely out of kilter when it came to making the most basic decisions. On the very first day I said these words: “I’ll be okay if I end up alone.” Interestingly, that same night when “alone” came calling I had a near panic attack. I was lost in a world of fear, and my self-made isolation was a breeding ground for lies and insecurities. My nervous system was a wreck, and all of the tension and anxiety I had been pushing down came screaming out in the way of ticks and nail biting. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It’s amazing that my husband didn’t turn and run. And, why didn’t he?

Because he made a vow.

Even when I failed–he held his side of the vow. This is the reason I am so much more in awe of the marriage covenant.  The marriage covenant was not made for the days we spend on the beach watching the sunset. It wasn’t made for the late nights we sneak in and watch our children, or our grandchildren, sleeping in their beds. The marriage covenant was not made for the Instagram days. The marriage covenant was made for the days that one of us may feel like quitting.

On day two after disclosure, my husband looked at me and asked, “Do you want it to work?”  I had already asked myself that question over and over, so sadly, I knew the answer was not going to please him. I couldn’t tell him that I wanted it to work. The best I could give him was, “I want to want it to work.”

In that moment, when I might have given up, he wouldn’t quit. My husband remembered our covenant–for the both of us.

Brennan Manning talks about a time in his life when he longed for “more”. The unattainable “more” was leading him and his choices. First he searched for “more” in military accolades, then he searched for “more” by chasing his dreams of being a writer, until finally he had an encounter with God and he was given a glimpse of everything that Christ truly is. He describes it in All Is Grace,

It was not that I found the more but rather the more found me. Christianity was not some moral code; it was a love affair, and I had experienced it firsthand.

We have made a covenant with our Lord, and He longs to have a love affair with us. It’s a love affair that is made stronger by the covenant–a lot like a husband pursuing his wife whom he adores. And in the same way that my husband believed when I was trapped in a place of doubt, when we cannot find the unattainable more God allows His more to find us.

God longs for us with the same furious love that a husband longs for a wayward wife. He wants so badly to bring us back into the relationship that we once had, and He will stop at nothing in that pursuit.

The weddings of Kings and Queens, of Dukes and Royals, the wedding of even the fairest young Princess does not compete with the glorious day that we made that covenant with our Lord. Every wedding I attend reminds me of the strong man I married and of the faithful God who pursued me.

There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and no vow broken that cannot mend. A wedding is a day, and a covenant is a lifetime. Jack and Billie McElroy

affair recovery · spiritual growth

The Secret Life of a Tattle Tale

As children we were quick to learn the pros and cons of being a tattle tale.  We learned that sometimes we could be a hero when being a tattle tale, especially if the behavior of others might have unintentionally caused someone to lose a limb.  In these instances, the parent often chose to overlook the tattle-telling that was occurring for the safety of others.  Other times it didn’t fare well to be the bearer of  disappointing news.  When there was a small injustice, and the parent was 7 weeks into summer vacation a tattle-telling instance may have been met with rolling eyes and sharp words from an exasperated parent.

Over the last couple months, I have been learning a great deal about being a tattle tale.  The person I am telling on is myself.

In a marriage where infidelity has occurred, there is a change in what accountability is required for the betrayed spouse to feel safe.  It isn’t unusual for couples to share an email or Facebook account to help maintain safe boundaries.  I can only imagine that every couple will deal with relearning trust differently.  There are different trigger points for everyone, and the couples will have to learn what those triggers are. According to if accountability isn’t freely given, it’s going to be much harder for the couples to move forward towards lasting intimacy.

…if a cheating spouse has a genuine change of heart, he/she will want to prove their sincerity and will take the initiative in opening up the hidden areas of their lives to give assurance of their honesty.

Prior to my having an affair my husband was inquisitive to knowing what was on my mind.  He was always interested in knowing my heart–I was the one with the block, and I chose not to be honest.  I understand this differently than I did prior to my affair being disclosed, and now I want to open up to my husband–not because he stands over me watching every move I make.  I have a greater understanding of my triggers, and a better understanding of the reasons why I should not only listen to my thought life–but share it with him.  I have an understanding of how hiding small things will eventually grow to hiding larger things.

So…that’s all fine and dandy…but, what does that look like for the person who has nothing to hide? Ahhh…see, this is where the enemy gets us. There is always something to hide. Sometimes it appears harmless, but there are moments in all of our lives where we are in the position to open up and share–or keep silent. Keeping silent is a step towards isolation.

Our tendency is to try to conquer our demons on our own. We don’t see the monster we are facing as the GIGANTIC, SHARP TOOTHED, BLOOD-THIRSTY, EVIL CREATURE that it is. We see it as ‘a struggle’. We see a half truth as less offensive than a lie. We may even have the best intentions, “I don’t want to cause him to feel insecure…” Sometimes, we may even want to avoid a fight.

Not being completely honest may not be the same as having a secret cell phone, but withholding any part of ourselves from our spouse is the first step to giving ourselves to someone else.

4951204501_9e8a5ba3d2_zFor myself, I am learning to “tell on myself” when I am struggling with the emotional after affects of the affair.  I tell on myself when I am feeling sad. That may seem harmless, even silly, to some. Why would I struggle with telling my husband I am sad? Well, quite simply, since I am the one who caused all the heartache, I feel guilty when I am sad about the trials we are now facing.  The guilt I already felt for my betrayal was compounded when my husband lost his job due to my behavior. If I am not open and honest about my sadness and guilt, those emotions have the ability to morph into something more unpleasant and even sinful. Over time they can become a wedge between us.

When possible, I concentrate on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. But, when what I am facing is not one of these things–I quickly become a tattle tale.

affair recovery · marriage

Outtakes of a Crisis

Over the last 12 weeks, David and I have been on a journey, and because we had our situation announced to the large ministry I was a part of, we decided that we would not hide what was happening in our lives from the people who were interested and invested in walking this journey with us. We’ve posted pictures of us at the Grand Canyon, scriptures that have touched us deeply, moments with our granddaughter, and other updates. This morning, as I lay awake in the too-dark-to-get-up-hours, I began to scroll through pictures that haven’t made the cut. These outtakes made me smile and reminded me of some simple things I’ve come to learn.

my family

I didn’t lose everything.

Initially, the enemy wanted me to believe that I had lost everything.  “You’ve lost your job… you’ve lost your reputation…you’ve lost friendships…you’ve lost your platform…you’ve lost your voice!” he laughed at me.

 But, really…I did not lose the most important thing. My husband and my children stood close to me on the day I disclosed my affair. It was not easy for them to do, but in their anger…they did not sin. They chose to forgive me over focusing on their pain. We’ve had hard moments. Ugly, tense, tear-filled moments. But we’ve had them together.

boys will be boys

There are young men watching it all. 

My husband did not sign up for this. He wouldn’t have chose it, and given the chance to redo it all, I wouldn’t have chose it for him either. But, here he is. An example to younger men. We have an all male college/young adult Lifegroup that meets in our home weekly, and these young men were told in the first week what was happening in our marriage. They have continued to gather in our home, and they are like family to us. As they come and go from our home, they have seen my husband talking and praying with me on our front porch on many occasions. The way he has treated me is penetrating them in ways they aren’t even fully aware. Seeds are being planted without them having a foreknowledge of their future trials. How will they respond if their wife should fail them in this way, or another? Will they ask her to leave? Will they punish her and treat her badly? Or will they walk with her through the mess she created? 

beach family

We get to share what we are learning. 

That’s such a great privilege. It’s one I don’t feel I deserve, but God has already begun to redeem this sin in this way. In the same way that young men are watching my husband and how he responds to me, we are watching our adult children differently. We are open and honest about the ways we neglected small issues early in marriage.They are asking questions and we are willing to share honestly–with a broadened perspective.  We are blessed to have this time with people who want to learn from our mistakes, so that they can make different choices…better choices.

us at the parkIsla at the park

We are going to be okay.

Sometimes it’s scary. Last week when the leaders of the church decided that there was no longer a job for my husband at the church, we were heartbroken. It felt like it would be the final blow when we were already down for the count. But, that’s not the truth. God is still on His throne. He wasn’t surprised by the affair, and He wasn’t surprised by the reaction of others. He has had a plan for us that included the responses of everyone involved. God is the redeemer of all.

isla selfie

God’s timing is perfect. 

When our daughter died in 1995, our younger son was an infant. Days after we buried her, I remember glancing over at our messy little nine-month-old boy in his high chair and saying, “well, hello.”

God had given me an infant to love at the darkest time in my life. My baby was completely dependent on me and he didn’t have a clue as to the depth of my pain. He just knew that he wanted his Momma. And here I am, nearly 20 years beyond those dark days,  and I have found myself revisiting some terrible days filled with terrible fears. And then there is Isla. God has given me this precious little granddaughter to love at one of the darker times in my life.

How can I doubt a God who took these things into consideration? He knew these wonderful hearts–the way they would be burdened by my sin, and He still showed mercy on me. I did not deserve the mercy I have found, and I will never be the same after experiencing it.