Category Archives: Counseling

I Committed Adultery

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I never thought I would.

I never imagined I could.

And that, right there, was my downfall.

It didn’t occur to me that I would ever be able to cheat on my husband (now ex-husband).  Phat and I seemed to be in a very solid place.  Not passionate, life was too hard for passion.  We’d been married for 25 years and had weathered many storms.  We were still in the midst of what we imagined would be the worst storm of our life.  Our son was dealing with the fallout of his bad choices and I had been sick for many years.  But, we would hang on.  Over the years we had dealt with unemployment, miscarriage, poverty, sickness, incarcerations…and the good stuff…years of ministry, our beautiful children, homeschooling, lots of close family, vacations, good memories…lots of laughs…and yes, many tears.  But…isn’t that just what life brings?

Yes,  we were definitely comfortable.
Hmmm…
Maybe…even…complacent…?

Complacent.
Contented to a fault.
Self-satisfied and unconcerned.

Oh.  Webster’s:
Marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
You’ve seen it, that smug smile. Imagining you couldn’t go wrong…

Unaware of actual dangers or deficiencies.

Some people say I’m naive.  I didn’t imagine I could be with all I’ve seen in this world.  Even though I was raised in a sheltered home and in a ‘holiness’ community, it was the 60’s…and the 70’s.  How sheltered can one be with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll running rampant in the streets?  I was known as the “goody-goody” — which was actually my self-righteousness run amuck — because I didn’t participate in the activities of the day.  But, I still knew about them.  I wasn’t unaware of dangers…I just figured I’d never fall.  I was deficient in sizing up myself.

What’s the saying, “Pride goes before the fall”…?

Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. ~Proverbs 16:18

We became prideful of our marriage.
We felt we had one of the strongest relationships around.
Phat used to say, “Don’t you wish everyone could have a relationship like ours?”

A neighbor recently stated, “So, you’re  wearing the scarlet letter, huh?”
I felt my face turn red with that announcement!
Thankfully, I was able to say,

“Yes, to the world I am an adulterer. But to God, I am clean.”

I do believe that, even when I’m too exhausted to fight the demons speaking in the dark of night, I still do believe God has forgiven me.  When the tears stop and I can see clearly, past the shadows of death, I know I am forgiven.

I went on to explain the hard times we’d endured and how we both got side-tracked…looking for something to ease the pain.  Hoping for something to bring fulfillment once again, we moved outside of our commitments to one another…

Trying to reconcile was a mountain we wouldn’t climb.
He walked past it, not wanting to let go of his anger.
I looked at it and wondered how to climb without his love.
And now that mountain is in the far distance, neither of us willing to turn around…

I’ve learned not to think too highly of myself…or, of you.
Any one of us can fall.
Given the situation, the weariness of the world, the pleasures available to us…

Anyone of us can fall.

Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers––none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God. There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you. ~1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Anyone of us can fall.
Every one of us can be redeemed.
Every one of us…

There was a time when some of you were just like that…

But now your sins have been washed away.

Are You in Denial?

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“Nothing will deteriorate a relationship faster than denial.”

I found that quote in a book concerning disabilities.  It hit me right between the eyes.  I took the truth of it into my situation, forgetting all about the focus of the book.  I asked myself these questions:

Do I have relationships that have deteriorated? 
How have I been in denial concerning them? 
Or, have they been in denial…?

Denial deteriorates our relationships.

Denial — the refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.

Self-protection gone amuck. 
A refusal to grant the truth of a statement. 
To contradict.

Denial destroys relationship.

I can see places in my own life where denial has ruined relationship. 

A refusal from me to acknowledge a painful reality. 
A refusal from him to acknowledge my feelings. 
A refusal from you to hear my thoughts…or vice versa…
A refusal to see truth from another’s perspective.

To choose not to hear another, because what I’m saying is more important.
To protect myself from others.
To NOT admit my own sin which has affected you.

A refusal to sacrifice my “rights” for yours.

“I refuse to see the situation as you see it.”

What does that do to the relationship?
It stops it.
It brings it up short.

Either, you must see for the both of you,
Or choose to overlook the other’s dismissal of you.
In either case you have denial — more lies — with which to deal.

I’ve learned through Celebrate Recovery to “own my stuff.”
I try not to put-off on others what I have done.
And, I try not to accept responsibility for what others have done to me.

It’s very hard, but necessary, to be honest with myself.

I desire to live in truth — not lies — any longer.

How ’bout you?

Get honest.
Purpose to see the truth.
Refuse to live in denial.

It will only kill relationship.

‘Fess up.

But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception.  ~Hebrews 3:13

May Your ear be attentive and Your eyes be open to hear the prayer of Your servant that I am praying to You today throughout both day and night on behalf of Your servants…I am confessing the sins…that we have committed against You – both I myself and my family have sinned.  ~Nehemiah 1:6

When an individual becomes guilty with regard to one of these things (a past sin, even done in ignorance, which the individual has realized) he must confess how he has sinned.  ~Leviticus 5:5 (italics mine)

The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy.  ~Proverbs 28:13

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. ~James 5:16

Above all keep your love for one another fervent,
because love covers a multitude of sins. 
~1 Peter 4:8

Growing Pains

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I found a new gem…for me:  Dazzling Wings

She writes about abuse and the freeing life she has found in Christ.  I find her thoughts honest and transparent, and, often, she has expressed my exact feelings.  I’m still learning how to recover from many abuses and the shame that can overwhelm.  If you need help, as well, check out Tanya T. Warrington at Dazzling Wings.  She has lots of good things to share.  Here’s a poem she wrote that puts words to my most recent journey:

Mind Control

I was cold;
You said I was not.
I was frightened;
You said I couldn’t be.
I was angry;
You said I must be tired.

My emotions had no room,
No floor.
They were wrong,
Always wrong

I learned to doubt myself,
To assume I must be mistaken.
Feelings were wrong and so were banished,
Shoved into an invisible box, hidden deep inside

I walked in numbness
Wasting years
Before God awakened me,
Helping me to new life

But learning to trust myself
Is a slow journey,
Believing in myself a lofty pinnacle,
Accepting what my senses tell me,
Another slow lesson

I walk in life,
Trying and failing,
Experiencing and shutting down,
Rejoicing at freedom,
Chaffing at old habits,
And fighting old thoughts

You, you’d say I was crazy
That I made up my past,
But I know better now.
You’re in denial and I won’t join you–
Not any more,
Not ever again!

~Tanya T. Warrington

Another gem: www.brokenbelievers.com

The Closet

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When you awake from a much needed sleep with a crash and cannot begin to find the source of the catastrophe, it’s logical to determine you were dreaming…right?

Well, until later in the day when you need something from the closet…
And find all of the clothes and boxes have collapsed onto the floor!

First thought?
It may be time to purge.
‘Ya think?

Too much stuff…too many clothes…too many “keepsakes”…

Throwing away the pileup…cleaning out the cobwebs…
A couple of days later and a couple of coats of paint…
A trip to the neighborhood hardware store for better boxes and cubbies…
Ta-daah!

A new closet.
No more skeletons.
No more idols.
Everything in. its. place.

Neat and tidy…
Haha!!
If only it were so easy.

Never be surprised at the crumbling of an idol or the disclosure of a skeleton”
~Lord Acton

When you have come to know and love Christ, the worst thing that can happen is to sense His fellowship retreating from you. I had to surrender. “I’ll give You the key,” I said sadly, “but You’ll have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven’t the strength to do it.”

“I know,” He said. “I know you haven’t. Just give me the key. Just authorize me to take care of that closet and I will.” So with trembling fingers I passed the key to Him. He took it from my hand, walked over to the door, opened it, entered it, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there, and threw it away. Then He cleaned the closet and painted it, fixed it up, doing it all in a moment’s time. Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!

~excerpt from, “My Heart Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger

Have I tried to hide my sins as people normally do,
hiding my guilt in a closet?
~Job

O God, let the secrets of my heart be uncovered,
and let my wandering thoughts be tested:
See if there is any way of sorrow in me,
and be my guide in the eternal way.
~Psalm 139:23-24 (BBE)

Bold Love

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“Love, as a reflection of the glory of God, is the ground of being, the reason for existing, and the core of the gospel.  It is the most basic staple of  life; yet it is nearly impossible to wrap words around love’s vastness, to describe how to be transformed by it, or to use it for the sake of another — especially in a world that hurts us regularly and often deeply…

…I am compelled to answer the question, “What does it mean to love those who harm me?”…I am faced, as you are, with transgressions of love that cry for forgiveness and the unrelenting demand of God to forgive.

But there is a struggle for most of us in forgiving those who harm us.  The greater the damage, it seems, the more difficult it is to forgive.  If you are a Christian, you have a redeemed, but still sinful, heart that struggles to forgive.  God’s inexorable demand to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to offer one’s coat to an enemy is at times infuriating, at other times illogical, and always costly beyond right or reason.

What does it mean to love my enemy? — the one who sexually abused me; my spouse who is angry and insensitive; my friend who gossiped behind my back and damaged my reputation; my child who snarls at my offer to go for a walk; the surgeon or service station mechanic who fails to act in my best interest.  The list is endless.

For every person, in every instance, either brief or interminable, cruel or civil, warm or hostile, there will be enough sin in all our relationships that forgiveness is required if they are to continue toward an end that is good.  This book will discuss forgiving love — the kind that can deal with tragic and incomprehensible harm like sexual abuse, as well as the ordinary and explainable struggles, like insensitivity or impatience.”

I have a new crush: Dan Allender.  (Old crush: C.S. Lewis)  His books speak straight to my needs.  If you have deep wounds that need healing, deeper than you ever imagined, he might be the guy to read.  He’s helping me re-evaluate and learn to discern in ways I’ve barely understood.

Have you had a hard time forgiving
when the wounds have cut so deep you still feel the pain?

“Trust Me…I Know Best”

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She thought she was doing a good thing. She felt she was helping me out.

“Michelle, I like you.” (We’d only met an hour before.) “I want to add some color to the front of your hair. Trust me. It will be beautiful. I’ll make you look like a movie star.” (We had discussed another color before making the final decision.) “I won’t charge you any extra for the color…trust me…you’ll be beautiful!”

I did.
I trusted her.

She was a sweetheart and we were sharing easily with one another. She knew what I wanted and what I didn’t. We had discussed it fully before starting.

When the towel came away from my newly colored, soaking wet hair, I could tell something wasn’t right. The deepness of the color was closer to a purple than an orange. But she wanted to surprise me and didn’t want me to look until she had completely finished. As she cut and styled, I prayed, “God, how did she get the color so wrong?!?!  Didn’t she see the plugs I pulled to show her exactly what I wanted?  I never touched those deeper reds!!  Oh Lord, I know it’s just hair, please, help me be graceful!”

Phat sat in the chair opposite with frequent comments:
“Wow.”
“You’re gonna like it.”
“It looks really nice, Michelle.”

The final spritz.  “Just some sparkle to make you shine!” 
Then…the reveal.
She was all smiles, knowing full well I would love it.

Well, you already know what happened…

Shock.  Disappointment.  Frustration.  Anger.  But…

…resignation…maybe even some appreciation…for the effort and the thought.

Yeah, weird, huh?  I appreciated her attention and care.  Her desire to do something “nice” for me.  I was thankful for the love she was trying to express through the action…but…

It was an action I didn’t want.
It was a color I would have never chosen.
It was a style I couldn’t pull off.  (Glamour and Michelle just don’t go together!!)

I did thank her.  Actually, we hugged, that’s how much we enjoyed one another’s company.  I gave her a large tip for the time and effort spent…four hours!  But…deep inside…I began to wonder why I couldn’t really let her know how I felt.  Somehow, in my mind, it was wrong to let her know her controlling, audacious act had overstepped my boundaries.  I was an object for her to show off her amazing talents.  I was a glamour girl for her to uncover.  And as lovely as it was…it wasn’t anything close to what I had asked for.  It wasn’t me.

Then…I remembered my daughter…a few days before.

“But, Mags, it will look so lovely.  Just a little bit of make-up.  You’ll be surprised the difference it will make.  Just let me show you.  You’ll love it…trust me.”  I didn’t understand why she acted as though I had violated her.  It was just make-up!  She could wash it off if she didn’t like it…

I was pushy.
I knew better than her.
I was controlling and forceful, but in a “nice” way…

(She should appreciate what I’m doing for her and understand how much better I am at choosing…)

“Trust me, honey.”

Ugh.

Stepping on people. 

It’s never pretty. 

Even when we think we know better…

The Broken Reed

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What is the better path?…the best path is through the valley of the shadow of death.  The crags of doubt and the valleys of despair offer a proving ground of God that no other terrain can provide.  God does show Himself faithful; but the geography is often desert-dry and mountainous-demanding, to the point that the path seems too dangerous to face the journey ahead.  Who wants to travel with the paltry amount of supplies that we possess or the outdated map we seem to be following, when so many more modern guides are readily available?

The journey involves bringing our wounded heart before God, a heart that is full of rage, overwhelmed with doubt, bloodied but unbroken, rebellious, stained, and lonely.  It does not seem possible that anyone can handle, let alone embrace, our wounded and sinful heart.  But the path involves the risk of putting into words the condition of our inner being and placing those words before God for His response.  The Lord has promised He will not put out the smoldering flax or break the broken reed (see Isaiah 42:3).  But the promises have been made before by a supposedly trustworthy person, and we swore the betrayal was the last we would ever allow our soul to experience.  The obstacle to life is the conviction that God will damage us and destroy us.  The problem is that the path does involve His hurting us, but only in order to heal us.

~Dan B. Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The best path is through the valley of the shadow of death.

Bighearted and Courteous

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My heart wants to love the unlovely.  Always has.  Always will.

You see, I don’t think of myself as lovely.
I’m not the popular one.
I’m the goon from elementary and junior high.
The kid all the other kids teased.

What was cute for old people in the nursing home was reason enough for bullying in my younger years.

Bullying may be too harsh a word.
It could have just been “good fun” in their minds, but not mine.
In my mind it was hatred and I felt less than them.
That’s what happens when one is bullied…in good fun.

It happens in homes, too.  I’ve heard mothers say they don’t stop their kids from calling each other names because it happens in the real world and they need to get used to it.  “It’s just part of growing up.”

Homes need to be safety zones.
Homes need to be places where every one belongs.
Homes need to be nurturing.

“Good fun” isn’t good if someone is hurting.

No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. For in the past we were foolish, hard in heart, turned from the true way, servants of evil desires and pleasures, living in bad feeling and envy, hated and hating one another.

But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, He saved us from all that. It was all His doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with Him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come–an eternity of life! You can count on this. I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone.  ~Titus 3 (MSG)

Feeling a bit like putting my foot down today.
Those type behaviors in “good fun” truly come from an evil source.
You may think it’s cute, funny, charming.
Nope. It’s not. It hurts.

We are to show the kindness of our God.

Am I being too sensitive?  Do you see hurtful words said in a teasing manner as just “good fun”???  Is your home safe for every one?

Yesterday’s Trails

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“It’s more fun walking down yesterday’s trails than taking this very real one.”

Do you ever find yourself dreaming about the past?
Yesterday’s trails…life before… 

It felt good. 
It felt right. 
It felt real.

We had twenty very good years. We were young and excited about living for the Lord. Our family was set-apart for God. We had the privilege of watching our children grow to love Him. We dedicated our lives separately, and our life together, to Him.

It was ordered as we saw fit, as we understood God’s will for us.  Our daily plans were fulfilled and we progressed through the years learning and growing and teaching and giving. We set our sites for the future and hoped our choices were what He would have. We didn’t think anything we had chosen was not for His good pleasure. We did not intentionally go wrong…but something very wrong was happening.

How does one sort out the good intentions from the reality…the fall-out?

I’ve spent the last three years in counseling trying to do that very thing. 
Sort it out.

And I’ve spent the last year in Celebrate Recovery to further get my head around the shame from abuse and a legalistic upbringing.

This very real trail I’m walking down today is beyond painful.  To unravel the ball of yarn of my life…to peel back the oh-so-thin layers of the onion…whatever analogy works best for you…well, it hurts.  It’s necessary.  But, it hurts.

And that’s the place from which I’ve written this blog: a place of pain.  And y’all, my readers, only really know this aspect of my life.  I’ve shared it hoping to bring light to darkness, maybe healing salve for wounded people. 

But, I hope this point hasn’t escaped your notice: although I am perplexed and hurting, I am not despairing.  He holds me up through it all.  His power is working in my weakness.  I’ve had days of deep pain, not able to do much more than stare at the wall, wondering when I’ll feel “normal” again.  Months of sessions with my counselor weeping from the insights God began revealing.  But…

I am not forsaken. 
I am not despairing.
I know in Whom I trust. 

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing…

Yesterday’s trails were beautiful.  Today’s still hurt.  But tomorrow’s…

…only He knows…

Thankfully,
I know,
He is good.

 

Oh, Boy!!!

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It’s New Year’s Eve.

A new year and a new decade starts tomorrow. 
(Did you know that?!?  🙄  )

Goals, Resolutions, Plans…

I don’t have ’em.  And yet, as soon as I say that, something within whispers that I do.

I do.  I have plans.  But I’m keeping those to myself…and my God. 

And I’ll live as I’ve been learning to live…

…in the moment.

I’m beginning to get that it’s the essence of faith.

What do I have control over, really? 
Not much.  Only the choices I make in life.

Others can make choices that will affect me. 
And I can make choices that will affect them.
But, I can’t worry about their choices. 

Between peoples’ choices, and God’s sovereignty, and whatever boundaries God allows Satan to have…I really don’t control much.  And to be perfectly clear, you don’t either.

Yet,  I am responsible for the choices I make. 

With all the roles God has given me, what will I choose to do?

I’m a woman.  I’m a worshipper.  I’m a wife.  I’m a mother.  I’m a daughter.  I’m a sister.  I’m a friend.  I’m an artist.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a gardener (when the energy is available).  And now, after two years of blogging, maybe…I’m a writer…?

I can affect everyone within my hemisphere by the choices I make. 

And I will be held responsible for those choices.

So…with that much responsibility, what’s the safest route to take?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is safest to live one moment at a time, trusting in Jesus.

Now, doesn’t that seem nebulous?  Well, it’s not.   It’s quite concrete. 

I have a choice to make every minute.  Will I please myself, or God?   For you see, before I’m a wife, mother, friend…I’m a worshipper.  Will I fulfill my responsibilities, or will I throw my hands into the air and declare, “Just have fun!”  So many people, myself included, make poor choices when fun is the goal.  When not seeing the pain, choosing to bury it or pushing it aside, we only delay our responsibilities.  For we will be held responsible.  At some point in time, either here…or there…we will give an account.

And the only thing that will last is what we did for the Kingdom.