Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two Becoming One

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.
Proverbs 12:4

All I knew was my husband wasn't living up to my expectations.

I started questioning his motives and intentions. Every action he took or didn't take seemed like a personal attack. 

"He left his socks on the floor just to spite me." 
"He forgot to text me from work because someone else was on his mind." 
"He didn't want intimacy tonight because he doesn't like me anymore."

Then I started to distance myself emotionally from my husband. If he was in the house, I would only give him passive-aggressive hints about how he had disappointed me that day or I'd give him the cold shoulder, expecting him to know what he had done wrong.

I could only see things from my perspective. I could only see how my husband's actions were affecting me. I could only see my unfulfilled dreams and shattered expectations. I only knew my hurt and my pain. I was so trapped inside my own thoughts I couldn't see how my thoughts and actions were affecting my husband. I expected him to make me happy and be the amazing man I had always dreamed he'd be. 

And what man wants to come home to that? Even the Bible says: 

It is better to live on a corner of the roof than to share the house with a nagging wife
Proverbs 21:9

He saw an angry and distanced woman and stayed away. I saw an insensitive man and wanted to punish him for it. Both of us were hurting, but each was too hurt and proud to let the other one know it.

Then one day, a friend painted for us a large, beautiful canvas that symbolized our unity and told our story--something I had never thought about before. We were a family, we had a history, and we had a beautiful future that was ours to create. Why had I been trying to run away from that for so long?

The painting that now hangs in our living room.

This was the first time I remember ever seeing my husband and I as a unit, as a family, as a team. I no longer saw us as two single people who were married or two adults who shared a house and a kid. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my mind. I had a "duh!" moment. 

The change in my heart was dramatic. All the things that my husband did that used to drive me nuts no longer did. In fact, it was the opposite. I saw the socks on the floor and instead of a mess I saw the man who came home tired each night to provide for us. Instead of a cold, distant husband I saw a man who was struggling with his own issues, with worries, and fears that he had no one else to share with. I had been so blinded by my own fears that I couldn't see that he was fighting a losing battle with his own insecurities and with feeling he could never measure up to the world, his boss, his family, and now even his wife. 

But the walls around my heart had been torn down. I opened up to him and shared my fears. But most importantly I shared that I wasn't angry at him, that he was not my enemy, that anything I had held against him was gone and was not going to be coming back. God had done a complete heart-transplant on me towards my husband. And what God does, no one can undo (Isaiah 22:22). 

I can tell you this moment came after nearly a year and a half of struggle with my own thoughts about leaving my husband (see more about that here). It came after months of prayer and advice from mentors (see my last post).  It came after allowing friends and family to speak hard truths into my life and allowing the Lord to change me, instead of praying for him to change my husband. 

If you are where I was these past couple of years, if you're wondering what happened to your husband or like me, wondering if there's someone out there who might be a better fit, let God do the deep work in your heart. Let him lift the veil from your eyes so you see yourself and your marriage in a new light. Let God breathe new life into your home. Marriage is His idea and was from the beginning, and not just a hum-drum marriage, but a marriage that's deeper and richer and sweeter than anything you could have ever imagined for yourself. 

Who can find a capable wife?

        Her value is far beyond that of pearls.

    Her husband trusts her from his heart.
Proverbs 31:10,11

Friday, March 10, 2017

Taming My Tongue

So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things.
With it we bless God, the Father; and with it we curse people, who were made in the image of God.  Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing! Brothers, it isn’t right for things to be this way.
James 3:5,9

My name is Sarah and I am a gossip.

A few months ago I found myself sharing with my husband some things a friend had shared with me in confidence. I shared no intimate details, but just enough to get his view of the situation and some advice as to how to handle it. 

But that had been enough to change my husband's view of that person. Just a few minutes into our conversation I wish I had never opened my mouth.

Then the next morning, as I was doing an online Bible Study, the Lord began to show me the other times in my life where I have done the same thing. I have shared a friend's precious secrets under the guise of "needing prayer" or "just venting" or "wanting advice." 

And suddenly I became aware that I do this multiple times a day, with every conversation I have. A little complaint here, a little venting there, and I have been pulled in to the very thing I have always hated...gossip. 

A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.
Proverbs 11:13

I have caused more heartache than I probably know, and probably more drama. And the worst is that I have hardened the hearts of people towards those they have never even met. My husband and I have been the center of gossip before, and we didn't even know it until months later. It hurt a lot to learn that we had been talked about to people we didn't interact with or even know. To think I may have caused someone else the same pain! 

I didn't start out looking to slander anyone's name or reputation. I started out with what I call "good gossip." I wanted to share all the good things the people in my life had done with the other people in my life. But it's so easy to slip from the good someone has done to the little things they do that are different from us. Then to the things that irk us. Then to the bigger issues of our relationships with them. Until it's hard to see the good in that person and only the irritations and short-comings. 

It's one thing to seek advice from a mentor or friend for my own issues and struggles. But when it comes to the issues and struggles of others, I want to keep those between the Lord and them. I want to pray with the person and trust that God will sort it all out in their hearts. And if I must vent, I will vent to my journal and the Lord or go for a walk. Maybe invest in a punching bag. 

I want to be a woman above reproach. That goal seems so insurmountable. Especially in the light of this new revelation that my heart is not where it should be. But my Father is the Lord of new mercies and new creations. Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me!

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I've Learned About Being Mentored

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 13:20

They have been professors and boss's wives, fellow co-workers, church ladies, and distant relatives. They have taught me everything from how to make a chicken pot pie and balance a checkbook, to how to respect a husband, pray, and raise children, to how to say no with grace and tact. Were it not for them, I would be a very different person today.

I'm talking about my mentors. Men and women who have, usually unknowingly, taught me some of life's greatest lessons.  

I wanted to share more about mentors and the mentoring process because the lessons I've learned from them come up often in my conversations and in my writing. I wanted to dispel a few myths and speak truth about what a mentoring relationship can be and what it shouldn't be. 

1.)  A mentor is usually someone older, but doesn't always have to be. I've had a couple of mentors who are my age but who are a few seasons ahead of me in life. This means they have already walked where I am (as it pertains to things like raising children or their spiritual lives) and their stories inspire me to keep going. 

2.)  A mentoring relationship is different from the ones you have with your girlfriends ...and it should be. With a girlfriend, I share funny moments and hard times and usually get a "I know, right?" reaction out of them, some sympathy, or a "It's going to be ok" hug. We share life on a moment-to-moment basis because we're usually in the same stage of life. 

But I don't go to a girlfriend for advice on what to do with my child or where my life is going.  My mentors are wiser and can offer advice my girlfriends, as wonderful as they are, just don't have the experience for.  I walk into a mentoring relationship with a quiet mouth and an open heart. I go in humbly knowing I have very little to teach and a lot to learn. I go in knowing that they may tell me hard truths that I may not want to hear but that I need. 

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my headMy head will not refuse it
Psalm 141:5

3.)  A mentor is usually your gender, but doesn't always have to be. That said, there are certain precautions to take when interacting with mentors who are the opposite gender. When I was in high school and college, my mentors were all men (I realize now that this was because the Lord was filling in places where my dad should have stepped in and didn't). They took care to meet with their female mentorees in public places and usually in groups. They were all married, so if any of us girls had deep issues we needed to work through, these guys would have their wives handle it. In doing so, they kept themselves from becoming emotionally attached and therefore possibly romantically attached to any one of us. I didn't understand this at the time, but now I realize how wise they were being in protecting both themselves and us. 

4.)  A mentoring relationship doesn't need a label. What I mean is you don't have to have an all-out-official-sit-down with your potential mentor and sign a contract-in-blood detailing every aspect of your relationship to them. With almost all my mentors, the relationship has come about gradually and naturally. We form a friendship first, and as we talk and meet for coffee or do ministry together, a mentoring relationship develops and grows. 

5.)  A mentor may not even know they are mentoring you. Again, I think almost all the women I consider mentors don't even realize they are. We just have a friendship where we do things and have conversations and I am quietly taking mental notes about how they react to situations or how they handle pressures in their lives. Some of my mentors know they are mentors even though we've never used that term to define our relationship. They are the ones I go to when I need prayer and guidance and some more structured time together.

Although all the mentors I meet physically with are women, the male mentors in my life are writers and speakers whom I may never meet and who certainly don't realize they are mentoring me!

6.) A mentor is not forever. The one lesson I've had a tough time learning is that no relationship in life is forever. A mentor may come into our life to encourage a specific situation we are struggling with or they may stay for a few years, but eventually you both must part ways as you both change and grow. 

7.)  A mentor has a life outside of their relationship with you. Do not demand your mentor be available to you at all hours. Good mentors will know how to set boundaries with you. Please respect their time, their normal jobs, and their families. 

This also means they will probably have other people they mentor, and you should have other people who mentor you. No mentor, no matter how amazing, can answer every question or deal with every situation you have. 

8.) A mentor does not have to have the same worldview or spiritual beliefs as you. That said, since I am a Christian speaking to Christians, I believe most of our mentors should share our beliefs in order to be able to speak into our lives. But that doesn't mean we write off every soul who doesn't. I have learned important lessons about money, nutrition, charity, and health from mentors who call themselves atheist, New Age, Mormon, and homosexual. Many times experience and age can teach us a lot more than a person's label can.  

9.) A mentor doesn't have to be (and I would add, probably shouldn't be) a high-profile person. In our show-biz centered society, we idolize the people who are up-on-stage and in the spotlight. We somehow think that if we score a mentor who is popular and leads great ministries, that we'll somehow have the upper-hand. Let me tell you that if you're seeking mentors who are only in the spotlight, you will be disappointed. People like this usually already have full schedules and are in high demand by everyone. Except for rare instances, they will not have the time or energy to devote to a one-on-one mentoring relationship with you. Admire them from afar, read their books, shake their hands, but unless you already had a relationship with them before they were famous, or are pretty famous yourself, chances are a mentoring relationship with them will not happen.

And finally, and possibly most importantly...

10.) Pray your mentor in. There have been times in my life when I have gone a year or more without someone speaking into my life. Those have been some difficult times. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I learned that I could ask the Lord for a mentor.  A lot of us either because of the backgrounds we came out of or the constant moving we've done, don't have a lot of quality people around us to choose from. Ask the Lord to send some quality people to you. Ask him specifically to send you people who are where you want to be. If you want to see what a happy marriage looks like, ask him to send you mentors who are happily married. If you want to do a certain ministry one day, ask him to send you people who are already doing that and doing it well. And ask him to send people who can speak into the parts of your life that need to change and/or blindspots you can't see. Those are the mentors who have been the most influential in my life.

My whole adult life has been shaped by the mentors I've had. They have given me examples to look up to and taught me lessons about the Lord, and relationships, and being a Godly woman. They have shown me how to overcome fear and depression and discouragement. I am praying the same for each of you. May the Lord send you mentors in the most unlikely places and may you have the heart and eyes to see them and be taught by them. 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22