I Said Yes

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I was weary about sharing this exciting news with the Her Soul Repair community. I know the range of fragility that is out there and I wanted to be respectful of where you all stand. When you’re freshly separated or divorced it’s hard to even stomach the idea of marriage (at least it was for me). You launch into thinking of how this could all happen again and how much more could you possibly handle and so on and so forth. However, here I am to show you that there is hope at the end of the healing tunnel! One broken marriage does not have to equal a forever broken view of this sacred partnership. The cynicism will lessen and you will see the beauty in a forever love once again. Here I am, living proof of this.

One of my favorite bible verses and one that God repeatedly promised to me during the hardest times of my life was, Joel 2:25. Verse 25 says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—  the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]—my great army that I sent among you.” The version of the verse in New King James uses the word, restore in place of repay. “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” I believed God when He told me this, but my belief had a skeptic undertone. There were years of the locusts eating up every part of my life. And there God was acknowledging that He had plans for restoring these very years.

Fast forward to my recent engagement and here I am sitting back, watching God’s promises revealed. And not only revealed, but better than anything I could have ever imagined. When you can see God’s hand in a promise that was at one point just a nice idea, it’s unbelievably humbling. The whispered promises I heard are now being shouted from the rooftops. I am overwhelmed by how much He protected me from what the locusts had destroyed. Patience is rough when the locusts are destroying every facet of your life, but God’s promises are always true. My prayer is that if you’re waiting for God to repay you for those years that were destroyed by infidelity and divorce, you’ll find hope in my story. The years may feel long now, but God’s plan for your happily ever after is worth the wait.

Annul What?

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Annulment. A foreign and often misunderstood word to most of the non-Catholic friends out there. Actually, I think it’s safe to say it’s even misunderstood by some of the Catholic community as well. I am going to share my take on the process and what I learned from my experience. If this topic interests you or you are thinking of starting the process, I would encourage you to read this article. It does a real good job of explaining all that the process entails in layman’s terms.

When my divorce was looking more and more final, I thought to myself, what more can I possibly handle? I knew because I was married in the Catholic church I also needed an annulment and I selfishly thought that it was asking a lot of me. Divorce and annulment? I was not on board. Initially, my reaction to all things annulment was a very emotional one. If I was the victim, why did I have to go through this long-winded process to erase my marriage from the Church. It wasn’t my fault my marriage ended. Shouldn’t I get to skip ahead to the auto annul stamp? And how will my baby feel when she finds out that the church erased the very union that brought her into this world. At one point I remember thinking, I won’t do that to her, I’d rather not get married in the church to prove my point. Crazed thoughts all over the place.

When the emotions were somewhat removed and I was able to wrap my mind around this idea, I met with many priests, nuns, and strong Catholic influences. I would be visiting a parish or at a retreat or at confession and I would just ask and ask. I wanted to hear different perspectives from different circles. I wanted to talk with and find out everything there was to know about why this was necessary. I also wanted to talk with children whose parents had gone through a divorce and annulment. I wanted to hear their take on it and how it made them feel. Turns out the folks I spoke with all said that an annulment is a second chance at the way God intended my marriage to be. It’s the church’s blessing on your future, especially if that includes remarrying in the church. It’s declaring that, sadly, one party in the marriage did not enter their life-long vows with permanence in mind. I understand how heartbreaking this is, but in reality, there is a level of truth. Did your spouse say their vows in hopes of the marriage falling apart? Probably not. But in my case, my ex did feel that he had the freedom to be unfaithful only three years into our marriage. That doesn’t exactly scream permanence. And from a child’s perspective? Not one of the adult children I spoke with had any ill feelings about the fact that their parents had an annulment.

If you are Catholic and are debating this process, do your research! As I said, I read A LOT, listened to many respected people, and prayed for an open heart. Don’t rush this process. It took me a good year before I saw the beauty that this process had to offer. Please contact ME too. I would be happy to walk you through any misconceptions or details you’d like to know about.

Once the emotional exhaustion lessened and I understood the goodness this could bring, I decided to embark on my petition for the annulment. As I was starting the extensive packet of questions and recaps, I couldn’t help but respect how the church views marriage. These questions were thorough to say the very least. There was a set of questions for myself, my ex (who chose not to participate), our family members, our friends, and the deacon who married us. The questions explored many elements of the marriage and at all different points of the relationship. They asked questions of people who knew us before we met, while were dating, while engaged, in our marriage, and in our separation. The feel I got was that they weren’t just handing out annulments like candy. There needed to be REAL reasons for the marriage ending in order for the annulment to be granted. I liked this. After all the questionnaires were submitted by myself, friends, and family members, we waited. The case was reviewed by the diocesan tribunal ( a group of respected priests and deacons in the church).

Right around a year later, the annulment was granted (just last week. yay!). This was an exciting time as it meant, if it’s God’s will, I was now able to remarry in the church. It felt as if the scarlet letter I had been holding on to had been removed. It also felt like one more final nail in the coffin. Those moments of further finality help in the healing of your heart. A process that once brought me emotions of annoyance suddenly brought me peace and assurance. A sacred blessing over moving forward with what the future holds.

Image by The Hipster Housewife

 

Anniversary Survival Guide

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Never in a million years did I think my wedding anniversary would be a day marked by sadness. Joy, love, commitment, growth, reflection, celebration maybe, but never sadness. No one says their vows in hopes of five years from their wedding day no longer being together. A completely foolish and ridiculous thought, I know. Thankfully, it’s safe to say, the majority of people enter their vows with a lifetime in mind. That’s why divorce is so difficult. You never plan on the death do us part commitment changing. It’s just not part of the plan. Making the backing out of the commitment so painful.

My ex and I spent just as many anniversaries together as we did apart. Our 3rd anniversary we were pretty freshly separated. At this point, I was NOT giving up on my marriage. I assumed this was one of those “bad times” in the good times and bad. The morning of that anniversary I went to mass at the church where we got married with our daughter and my ex-husband showed up as well. After the mass, a priest talked to us, commenting on our beautiful family and how in love we looked. Very strange how people’s lives look one way on the surface. It was a sweet time for our family though. This was shortly before his brief comeback to our marriage, so it’s possible this was part of his testing the waters. Later in the day, he gave me a card and flowers (doubtful his girlfriend knew). And that night I went out with my closest friends, sisters and mother-in-law. When you’re separated and not celebrating your anniversary with your spouse, you sure as hell deserve to celebrate it with all of the close ladyfriends in your life!

In looking through my old journals and writing from this time I recently found a note I wanted to write to the other woman on this anniversary that we spent apart. I never ended up sending it, but the words show where my heart was at the time: “Anniversaries between a husband and wife are meant to not only celebrate their love, but their commitment to one another. This year I will fight for that love and commitment. I will fight for my marriage and my beautiful family. I hope one day you find a man, who’s not already married, to share that love and commitment with.” On our 3rd anniversary, my hope was for our marriage to be restored.

The next two anniversaries to follow we had already filed for divorce. My ex-husband was back to living with his girlfriend, and my fight had a bit less oomph to it. The date stung, but I didn’t feel that same drive to make the marriage work. I felt more bitterness than anything. Actually, the card I got him on our 4th anniversary just said QUITTER on the front (you really can find anything on Etsy). I spent these days sad, surrounded by friends and family, and in prayer for my future.

And now this year, I heard the date and thought, oh yeah. Ugh. It stung much less. It may always be a trigger day for me and one that’s hard to forget. The date this year I was reminded of God’s protection. I had a peaceful morning at mass that was centered around God’s protection over his flock and the image of Him wiping away our tears. God protected me from a marriage that would have destroyed my value and wiped tears upon tears. Even on a day with less sting, God was so gracious with me. I was reminded God has been with me the entire time. He was there when I said my vows and He was there six years later as my steadfast protector. 

Ultimately, this day that is hard to forget, brought me my daughter. As you’ve heard me say before, she is my brightest of all silver lining. If you have children from a broken marriage, focus on the gift of your little ones. The day marked by your union is what brought you those sweet littles. If you’re still married, but separated on your anniversary, this may just be an off year. Don’t give up hope! Some marriages last up to 60 years. A few bad ones and 55+ good ones is not too shabby. Spend time reflecting on what you or your spouse can do to make next year an anniversary really worth celebrating. If you’re separated, going through a divorce, or freshly divorced, spend time in prayer and surrounded by people who care for you. Do whatever it takes to get through the day, remembering tomorrow is a new one. Pray for what God wants for your heart and your future. Meditate on one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

The One Year Mark

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As I said earlier this week, I can’t believe my divorce has been final for one whole year! Since we were separated for two years on and off before the finality of the divorce, our marriage really is a distant, blurred memory. Glancing at pictures in our daughter’s baby book, seeing our name on a piece of mail together, running into a mutual acquaintance who hadn’t heard we split up… They are all somewhat surreal experiences. I see myself in the pictures, but have difficulty fathoming the feelings that were there at the time. For the most part, I look back on my marriage fondly. I see the marriage and then separation/divorce as two completely separate entities. Keeping them separate has helped me in holding on to the positive memories and stories I will be able to share with my daughter of our family pre-affair/divorce. Before you get the wrong idea, I don’t spend my days fantasizing about my former life. Far from it. However, I think when there’s a child involved it’s important to hold on to any possible good you can about the person you are co-parenting with. Okay, moving on. My point is that my marriage seems like a distant memory, but the fact that I’ve worn the divorce label for a full year seems crazy. It feels like just yesterday that I got that legal stamp.

This past year has been equal parts rich blessings, continued healing, coping with triggers, and rejecting the stigmas. When I knew my marriage was officially over, I prayed for some pretty specific qualities that I wanted in my next love. And did God ever deliver. The blessings I have experienced from my current relationship are the epitome of God’s faithfulness. As I outlined in Dating After Divorce, the more time you spend healing and alone, the better! Hands down, the goodness of my new manfriend is without a doubt the highlight of my one year mark.

The progress in healing has been real nice too. It’s a continual process though, even still. There were times throughout this past year where my grieving was more difficult than others. I am writing a whole separate post on the grief process in divorce, but in short you must itemize your losses. I learned the importance of this in DivorceCare. You aren’t just losing a marriage. You must break it down by individual losses. I lost my spouse, my life partner, my drinking buddy, my travel companion, our family of three under one roof, my daughter having married parents, the future house we wanted to build, the three more children we wanted to have… and the list goes on. You don’t just lose your marriage in divorce, you lose an entire life and future. I will tell you, I made that list two years ago and the first time I put it to paper I was balling my eyes out. Now I simply look at it as a life that could have been. There’s no real sadness this time around. Loss, but no sadness. The only one I wrestle with is the loss of my daughter having married parents. She is certainly not short on love and will have a wonderful blended family, no doubt. It’s still just something I grieve for her, since she was an innocent bystander in all of this. Anyhow! One year later, I will say, I have experienced much peace from grieving my former life. I happily look forward to what my new life has in store. 

There’s a whole chapter in my book devoted to dealing with triggers. Man, they can just hit you out of nowhere and make you feel like you’ve regressed years. The reaction to them does get less intense with time, but they still show up, which sucks. Only one trigger from this past year really stands out to me and that was when I was reorganizing my kitchen. In the very back of a high up cabinet I found one of our wedding favors, a bottle of wine we drank at our wedding, and a bottle that we had brought back from a trip we had gone on. Bang, bang, bang. That was a rough site to see. It caught me off guard and it did make me sad. So I felt sad, sent a depressing text to my ex (just being real), and then I simply brought all three items to the recycle bin. Farewell, my friends! I’d say one intense trigger in the past year is not all that bad. Sadly, in the beginning, they were everywhere. Time really helps in this. 

My last bit of wisdom from the one year mark: steer clear of the stigmas. Damn that divorce stigma. I hate it. Yes, people will have thoughts and opinions. Some will share with their words, others will share with their looks. If you have young children especially, parents at preschool assume you’re married. Of course they do, who calls it quits when they just had a baby? Well, it’s not their fault that they assume you’re married. Correct them if need be, and move on. For me, I had to change all of my medical and insurance policies through my job. I will never forget meeting with HR and the director wrote DIVORCED on a post-it and put it on my file to remind her to change my beneficiary. I left that meeting and immediately needed a pick-me-up cocktail. Sheesh! Talk about scarlet letter. There is no way around the stigma or label that seems to stalk you at times. The general public may think you gave up, that it was all your fault, that you were an impossible spouse, and how on earth could you do this to your child! Blah, blah. Ignore and avoid it. All of it. You know your story, don’t let the stigmas drown out your strength.

All in all, one year later, the blessings are abundant, the triggers show up less, and I’ve decided to reject the lies told by stigmas. My one year mark can be graciously summed up by one of God’s promises that would show up like clockwork during my entire divorce.

Isaiah 61:1-3 says,

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oak, that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”

Keep On, Keepin’ On

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Women write in by the week who are victims of infidelity. More often than not they are on the verge of finalizing their divorce or starting life as a divorced twenty/thirty-something. However, some of my most prayed over followers are the ones who are still married and trying to rebuild after the trauma of an affair. I pray for you often and diligently. You are making the brave choice. The choice that some of us weren’t given. Not in any way am I saying it’s an easy choice though. Quite the opposite.

There’s no denying when you’re in this place the days are long, the conversations are awkward, and it feels like you’re living with a complete stranger. You cling to any shared moment of laughter or fond memory that comes about. I am not in any way dumbing down what you are living through. However, it’s not impossible to rebuild with two willing partners. God will honor your effort and obedience.

As I was perusing some favorite marriage blogs the other morning, I stumbled upon a handful of new ones I hadn’t heard of before. I guess I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum for a while now, meaning healing from divorce not fighting for my marriage. Glimpses of that period still feel fresh in my mind though. I still enjoy and of course, stand behind those blogs and writers who have a full ministry based around enriching marriages. One new blog I found was called, Beating The 50 Percent. One piece of advice they offered for couples was something called Navigator’s Council. This includes a series of questions to discuss with your spouse.

“Each week we ask each other a series of questions that we came to a consensus on during our honeymoon. Many of them are similar to the “marriage journal” questions that our premarital counselor’s urged us to use, but we added/subtracted/changed a few. These are the seven questions we ask each other and record our answers in our Navigator’s Council journal every Sunday.

Navigator’s Council:

  • What brought you joy this week?
  • What was something that was hard this week?
  • What’s one specific thing I can do for you this week?
  • How can I pray for you this week?
  • Is there anything that’s gone unsaid, convictions, confessions, unresolved hurt?
  • What’s a dream, desire or thought that’s been on the forefront of your mind this week?
  • How are we stewarding our finances?
  • How is our sex life?

Ask each other a question. We always end our time in prayer.”

These questions are easy to think about when you’re bright-eyed, riding the newlywed train. They are much harder to delve into when you’re attempting to bounce back from an affair. While you’re already making the bold choice to work on your marriage after the heartache you’ve experienced, give it that extra go and embrace vulnerability. Stay open to the connections that are looking to sync up again. Look to the future and the vision of your restored marriage. Be the couple that will come out of this on top. Three cheers to you for choosing faith over fear.  

Image by Jen B. Peters

Book Teaser: The Blame Game

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If you haven’t read chapters 1-3 of my book teasers, check them out here! This next chapter is near and dear to my heart as it is a slippery slope women can fall into once they’ve found out about their husband’s infidelity. News of an affair is a huge blow to even the most confident person. One thing I can assure you is searching for ways to blame yourself won’t lessen the blow. Enjoy the teaser and I beg of you, steer clear of the blame game.  

4. THE BLAME GAME

“Sadly (and believe me, I wish this wasn’t the case), it is not all the seductive act of an adulteress as to why any of this happened. Why she picked him and why he embraced her is not always important. Those details are rarely helpful in the healing process. She may have “came after” him, but life is about choices. Every. Day. And when we talk about severity, he broke his lifelong vows and abandoned his marriage. She cheated on a silly boyfriend. There’s a big difference.

When I first found out about the whirlwind that was my husband’s double life, my mind was playing the rerun on steroids game. I would rethink every conversation, every phone call, every place he had been, doubting the truth in all of it. And how easy it is to assign every personal flaw or insecurity to a different portion of why this happened in the first place. If your mind has the tendency to play this game, STOP IT.  The reasons husbands cheat have very little to do with their wives. There is no perfect spouse, so why focus on any flaws you brought to the marriage. Any mature beings would voice unmet needs, work together to improve them, and above all commit to one another regardless of feelings or circumstances. Welcome to marriage!

The reasons given for why an affair happened are never the REAL reasons. There are much deeper emotional issues behind why a man leaves his wife and family. The selfishness is deep rooted. The delusion is thick and the lies are ones they have clung to for far longer than you know. Don’t blame yourself. Nothing about who you are excuses your husband’s choices.

One of my life lines and recommended reads to anyone who has experienced this type of betrayal is, Shattered Vows by Debora Laaser. It’s funny how before this happened to me I would have glanced at this self-help book, thinking to myself, ‘How dramatic! Get a grip, women!’ Now, of course, I see the title of this book as nothing but fitting. Shattered is the only way to describe the state of your world when there has been such an intense deception. This book helped me understand the whys behind affairs. It shed some much needed light on the common issues that lead to an affair.

The chapter I will focus on helps answer, “How Could This Have Happened?” … Who to blame? The wife? The husband? The culture? Well, let’s be real the reason behind this poor of a choice comes from a web of undealt messes.

‘Infidelity of any kind is really about searching for something that is missing in one’s life- and probably has been missing for a very long time. It is about using a false substitute for something genuine that is desired. It is an intimacy disorder- a need to connect at a deep emotional and spiritual level with one’s spouse and with others but a lack of the skills to do so. The problem, then, is much deeper than sexual impurity itself. It is about a yearning for something more and a determination to find more- even at emotional, spiritual, and relational prices no human being can afford.’

The problem is never the problem! The way we cope with the problem is the problem … Sexual acting out is always a sinful choice. Still, you need to understand that it is about coping with feelings such as anger, fear, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, boredom, and disappointment.’

‘I want you to hear again: your husband’s sexual betrayal is not about you. You didn’t cause it. It is one of his ways of coping with painful feelings, and it is a horrible, sinful choice. All coping is destructive to those who turn to it. Over time and with repetition, any coping mechanism can become addictive. And whether it is sex or food or work or rage or withdrawal, the consequence of turning toward coping mechanisms instead of safe people and healthy choices is that you will slowly lose your heart- your connection to God and to people you love.’

Oh my!! These words were, and on the hard days, still are my saving grace. It is very important that you do not wear the weight of your husband’s choices in any way, shape or form. New insecurities will be coming at you hard, fight em off. Hold on to the core of who you are. Remind yourself of the amazing qualities that make up your worth. It may seem odd and some may even deem it vain, but for the time being, it’s very necessary. Don’t focus on why your husband made the choices he did. You can’t control his choices. You can’t control his desires. And you sure as hell can’t control the path he will ultimately take. However! You can control your reactions to this horrible hand you’ve been dealt. You can control what you allow your mind to fixate on. Above all, you can control the path you take, the one lined with obedience that WILL move you forward.”

Image by Elissa Anne Photography

Book Teaser: Homewreckers Need Fathers

If you haven’t read my previous book teasers, please do so here and here so you are all caught up. As I’ve mentioned before, these snippets are brief glimpses into the story. They sometimes come from right in the middle of a chapter, so bear with me if you don’t feel the flow. This chapter is one I feel very passionately about. This chapter is my plea to men. More specifically men who are husbands and fathers of daughters. These men play are a huge role in the (hopeful) decrease of future homewreckers.  Husbands and fathers, please take your job seriously. Let’s help this next generation of daughters glow with dignity and desire righteousness.

3. Homewreckers Need Fathers

“Much of my initial shock came with the disgusted confusion of what type of girl would do such a thing? This struck a real chord in me. I became very passionate about family structure and more specifically, men’s role in family. I also became very passionate about intentionally raising a daughter with enough self-respect to never touch a married man. John Mayer’s wonderland of a body says it all, ‘Fathers be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do.’

Disclaimer: I am not saying that ALL women who have poor relationships with their fathers will grow up to be homewreckers. I am saying that rarely has there ever been a girl to come after a married man (with an infant daughter, in my case) who had a secure relationship with her father and a strong marriage modeled by her parents. On the other hand, I know plenty of amazing women who didn’t have great fathers, beat the odds, and are incredible people today. The side I am arguing is based on my situation, my marriage, and my findings on why girls come after married men. Okay, rant done!

Men, if you have daughters, show them love and cherish them so their security won’t come from the wrong places. Don’t make them wonder how you feel about them or their mommy. Make it known. The obsession should be obnoxious.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family states, ‘Fathers have an incalculable impact on their daughters. Most psychologists believe, and I am one of them, that all future romantic relationships are influenced positively or negatively by the way a girl interacts with her dad in the childhood years. If that is true, then fathers should give careful thought to this responsibility and seek to be what their daughters need of them … A dad should always look for ways to build the self-confidence of his little girl. If she believes he thinks she is pretty and special, she will be inclined to see herself that way. He holds the key to her self-acceptance.’

When we found out we were having a daughter, BD and I had many conversations about why so many girls in our society today have such horrible ‘daddy issues.’ Having the affair hit so early in our marriage was pretty surprising (on many accounts), but mostly because of all we had talked about to protect our daughter from ever having to deal with such issues. BD and I always agreed that part of being a parent is taking on the role of showing your child how to develop healthy relationships. At our daughter’s baptism, the Deacon who baptized her (and married us) said, ‘The greatest gift you can give your daughter is a loving marriage.’ I will never forget this gem. Children crave the security of a stable and loving marriage …

A big part of keeping a marriage stable is protecting it! Marriage is susceptible to all sorts of crazy influences. Protecting your marriage in turn protects your children and their children. Poor decisions in a marriage do not just break up the union between a man and his wife, but the future generations that make up a family unit.

Regardless of if you have children, protecting your marriage is crucial in the world we live in. Always make it a point to protect and fight for your marriage against all else. As much as my perspective has a lot to do with men and their role in family, as to why homewreckers exist in the first place, it’s still a team effort to keep them away. Take precautions to make sure that each partner is satisfied with the state of the marriage, knowing full well, that you are dealing with two imperfect people living in one union …

One outstanding blog I came across during the trek to save my marriage was, Nitty Gritty Love and it just tells everything straight up. My favorite advice is blunt and practical, laced with humor (all of which I hope this book gives to you!).  This is an excerpt from their post Follow Your Heart (and other bad ideas) … ‘There will be times you feel hopeless. You will even wonder if happiness is possible. You will be tempted to look for greener grass, but as we know, grass is greener where you water it. Your heart will encourage you to be self-serving and it will convince you that you need more.  I hate to break it to you, but your heart is a filthy liar. My heart has been such a jerk to me, I just can’t rely on it anymore. ’The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?’ Jeremiah 17:9. This refers to our will, thoughts, motivations and emotions. Verse 5 says, ‘Thus says Yahweh, ‘Cursed is the person who trusts in humankind and makes his flesh his strength, and turns aside his heart from Yahweh.’ When we turn away from God, and trust in our own intuition, we will hurt ourselves, and others. We have to remain faithful to our promises, knowing things will get better as we walk through together. Following our hearts sounds nice, until others around us want to follow theirs at our expense. If we all focus on simply what makes us feel good, there will be hurting people everywhere.’

This excerpt perfectly illustrates just what happens when we are not protecting our hearts from the maddening emotional experiences out there. Protect your marriage from deceptive feelings and the downward spiral of lies they tell you. Hold your marriage tight for dear life. There’s no other way to come out in one piece.”

Cover photo: Stacy Allen & Meg McClung

Healing the Family Tree

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I wrote this article awhile back on God’s healing hand in our families. I need the reminder when I fixate on the fear of how my ex-husband’s choices will affect my daughter. A family can be corrupted in many ways, not just through divorce. Happily I hold on to the truth that God takes our ashes and makes them beautiful and whole once again.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” -Pope John Paul II

If you’ve never been to a healing mass, I strongly recommend attending one. Each healing mass I’ve participated in has had God’s supernatural hope written all over it. Bringing healing to my life in all new levels. In most cases, at the end of the mass, the priest will have the attendees come forward. The priest will then lay hands on each individual and say a prayer. Each time I have received these prayers, they were very specific to what I was going through at the time. Sometimes scary how spot-on the prayers were in speaking to the depths of my heart.

Last year I attended a healing mass titled, “The Healing of the Family Tree.” The entire mass was centered around the healing of families, encompassing everything from addiction to mental disorders to resentment amongst siblings. When I went to the Family Tree mass, the prayer the priest had for me related to both a childhood insecurity and the hardship I was experiencing at the time. I couldn’t believe my ears, as I thought I was going to hear a more generic blessing over all families, not completely specific to mine. I think of this moment often. I reflect and say that same prayer whenever I start to feel the repercussions of what I’ve gone through. I realized we must not discount that our family wounds not only run deep, but affect how we function today. Prayers for family healing should be our lifeline as people of faith.

It’s safe to say that God cares a great deal about family. The comparison of marriage to Christ’s union with the church is a strong depiction of the ruthless and sacrificial love He wants in our families. Catholic social teaching holds that marriage and family life is the basic unit of every society. A society is only as healthy and stable with moral values as its families. A nation can be strong even if it sustains crushing economic and political burdens, so long as its families are strong. Healthy marriages and good, stable family life must be the concern of every civic minded person. The life of the Church depends upon its families. Strong, faith-filled families are made possible by a strong prayer life, genuine devotion to the church and active protection from evil.

As I was doing some light Catechism reading, I stumbled upon this warning of sin entering our family:

Marriage under the regime of sin

1606 Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character.

1607 According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations;96 their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;97 and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.98

1608 Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them.99 Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them “in the beginning.”

God tells us our families will encounter sin. In fact, family units are a favorite victim of sin. The other morning I woke up disappointed by something that had happened the evening prior and thought to myself, is there anything worse than sin? It’s just so awful. It tricks you into dissatisfaction while throwing guilt at you from every angle, then ultimately leaves you deeply bothered. It is this very cycle that brings sadness into our families. Sadness that convinces people they’ll never heal from their past. Sadness that paralyzes one’s thoughts, fixating on their family discord being too impossible for God. And sadness that discourages bringing children into our world altogether. We MUST combat this delusion with our faith in God’s healing power through prayer. There are real dimensions in all of our families that need very specific prayer.

I’ve recently started reading through, “The Healing of Families: How to Pray Effectively for Those Stubborn Personal and Familial Problems” by Fr. Yozefu – B. Ssemakula (your guess is as good as mine on that pronunciation). This book discusses different access points where sin can enter your family and how to overcome them in prayer. The four main “access points” this book covers are: unforgiveness and/or childhood trauma, unhealthy relationships with friends, occult involvement, and family bondages. The book goes into a thorough explanation of each point and what prayers to say for deliverance. The end of the book outlines A Family Healing Prayer Service. The mass involves both immediate and extended family members and for each access point, there are scripted prayers and times of confession. What hope.

Where this book is helpful in a practical sense, what is even more important is our belief that God actually can do what He says. I believe in the power of prayer with all that I am. Not only because I’ve seen its miraculous ways, but because I’m closer to God because of it. I’m with C.S. Lewis on this one, I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

Pray with fervence that God can heal every facet of sin that has crept into your family. Pray that He protects the family bonds that bring Him glory and believe in His power to figure out all of the crazy in between.  

Image by Wildflowers Photography

5 Reasons Marriage Still Works

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I originally wrote this article for another blog, Words of Witness. It was a huge encouragement to the married folk out there, so I thought it was worth re-posting on here:  

As I was reading through my Facebook News Feed the other night, I was stopped mid-scroll by an article that someone had posted. The title of the article read: “5 Reasons Why We Can’t Handle Marriage Anymore.” Sadness overwhelmed me.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link and started reading. Now, the content that followed was not exactly the marriage downer I was expecting. The author did communicate a desire for marriage and spoke of it as sacred. He went on to present 5 realistic points that work against our marriages. The points he made were extremely relevant in today’s world. Valid as they were, I instinctively wanted to counter each one of them. My counter list was in no way meant to discourage his article, but more to provide a pro-active list that helps couples out of thinking they can’t handle marriage anymore.

According to the article above, this list is why our present day culture can’t handle marriage:

  1. Sex becomes almost non-existent.
  2. Finances cripple us.
  3. We’re more connected than ever before, but completely disconnected at the same time.
  4. Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved.
  5. Social media just invited a few thousand people into bed with you.

Scary, huh? And true. However, as with everything, we have control over what we do with the influences in our lives.

You may be wondering what qualifications I have to counter this list in the first place? Well, experience and my faith. The irony that lines my story is that I am no longer married, but that decision was not mine. If anything the outcome of my marriage gives me a unique perspective. Sometimes sin’s destruction overpowers God’s design. It’s unfortunate when this happens, but the beauty in this is God’s model for marriage does not waver. Whether you are married or unmarried, I hope my perspective encourages you.

So here goes. My pro-active list of how to counter marriage hiccups. First point, sex. Of course. Our world exudes all things sexual. Sex within marriage is one of God’s most beautiful gifts to us. Being open to and creating a family is absolutely unreal. Parenthood is a true glimpse into God’s love for us as His children. Sadly, the way sex has been distorted is nothing short of depressing. With the abundance of distortion must come the reminders of God’s way. Don’t let the 50 Shades of Victoria’s Secret get in your head. Fill your marriage with Truth about sex. When you’re married, does God want you having it? Absolutely. Is self-control and abstinence still a factor? At times. Should it ever become almost non-existent? Very rarely. In knowing these truths at hand, decide against the sexless marriage. Pray that God will bless and preserve the intimacy in your marriage. In vulnerability, there is always risk, but who better to risk with than the spouse God entrusted you with.

Second point, money. Our cushy Southern California life puts so much pressure on this. There is no denying that finances can be stressful. However, making the choice to spend within and below your means allows for less of those negative numbers in the old bank account. Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial author, says in every marriage there is a saver and a spender. Know who is who and decide on necessary boundaries. Know your limits, practice self-control, and be a wise steward with what has been given to you. Rich are the marriages that give generously and spend wisely.

Third point, overly, under-connected. The article states that “we’ve removed human emotion from our relationships, and we’ve replaced it with colorful bubbles.” Put your damn phone down. One of my favorite articles on the topic of technology and marriage is, “How Technology Threatens Marriage The article parallels how communication has changed in the past 30 years.

“It’s 1975 and Mr. Company Manager needs to talk to Ms. Sales Manager about an account. It’s after hours, so he picks up the phone and calls her at home. Her husband answers. The two chat for a bit about the latest Maple Leafs’ loss, and then husband passes the phone to wife.

Now it’s 2013, … Mr. Company Manager texts Ms. Sales Manager about the account. They banter back and forth, in texts that grow increasingly personal. He never actually talks to Ms. Sales Manager’s husband, and thus often forgets the man exists.

That family phone at one point acted as a gatekeeper. You couldn’t just call a married individual of the opposite sex without also talking to that person’s spouse or kids. You were constantly reminded that the person was part of a larger unit. You had no real way to pursue a more personal relationship unless you did so deliberately. Today often innocent texts can turn into something more.

Or take Facebook. According to the Loyola University Health System, it’s implicated in 20% of U.S. divorces. You can flirt with someone while sitting next to your spouse! He’s watching football; she’s messaging Johnny.”

I beg of you, to be careful with this one. Do co-workers of the opposite sex really need your cell phone #? Is there a time frame for when cell phones are turned off in your house? Are cell phones at the dinner table? This may sound extreme, but actively protecting your marriage from the worst case scenario is a lot less painful than divorce, believe me.

The final two points go hand in hand. First, attention trumps love. And then, attention trumps real life. Check your motives for all things social media. Has Facebook turned into Bragbook? Are you too interested in the pose or place to actually engage in a conversation or moment with your spouse? Do you thrive off of other’s approval so deeply that a good old fashioned compliment from your spouse is second best? Keep this dimension of your life at a safe spot. The attention from your Facebook friends should not build you up more than encouragement from your spouse. I am not saying that affirmation from people other than your spouse is bad, in fact, it’s wonderful and necessary. Simply be careful of it’s place in the trophy case. Social media opens outlets of attention and communication that are not always appropriate. Be mindful of this and protect your marriage from your ego.

So, there’s my how to win in marriage list, comprised from an article of blaring cultural norms. Frightening as this article’s points may seem, our God has stood and will stand stronger than anything that challenges His design for marriage. God cares a great deal about thriving marriages and will help you through any of the roadblocks thrown your way. If two souls are first committed to the Lord, then to His design for marriage in all its entirety, and lastly to serving one another sacrificially, even the world’s craziest notions won’t bring you down.

Image by Mark Brooke Photography

Book Teaser: It’s All Okay Until It’s Not

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If you haven’t had the chance to read the previous book teaser, please do so! Also, I would like to put a disclaimer out there. There are parts of my book that have some colorful language. This is not meant to offend people or discount the faith I stand for. The fact of the matter is that sometimes life events call for the four letter words. It’s unrealistic to think that people of faith are the exception to these reactions and emotions. This chapter explains a little of how and when I found out about my ex-husband’s affair. Needless to say, this would be one of those colorful chapters.

2. It’s All Okay Until It’s Not

“When you see a drunk girl, in a skin tight dress, at a one year old’s birthday straddling her boyfriend while giving your husband the eye, trust your gut. The bitch is out to wreck your home.

As soon as you enter parenthood, all of a sudden EVERY person with kids the same age as yours is your “friend.” Meaning you go to a lot of first birthday parties of new found acquaintances. Put on by proud parents who have thought of every possible detail to make this the perfect first birthday. This particular first birthday, I noticed only one detail and that was a party guest who appeared to be rather smitten with my husband.

In the fall of 2012, I noticed a significant change in BD. He was distant and simply not himself. Things had been pretty off between us since late September. And by off, I know now, he was living a double life. Dealing with that mental torment is bound to make anyone a little “off”. In MY mind, all I thought was that we were in a little rut, a dry spell, a time where we weren’t giddy in love. These times are natural in marriage and I was convinced this was where it ended.

During what I had defined as a rut, BD would go on “long drives” to clear his mind. I knew he was struggling with something pretty hard. Mentally, he was always somewhere else. When I would ask to discuss just what the hell was going on with him (in a much kinder, godlier wife tone), he would put it off and simply ask for more time to himself. I believe there are times as individuals where you do need to process on a solo level in order to bring a better version of yourself back to the marriage. I had this scenario in mind when giving BD the benefit of the doubt.

Not to say my mind did not wander and build up what in the world was going on. I remember thinking to myself, I wonder if he’s killed someone? What would I do? Would I stay married to him if he was convicted of murder?  He was acting THAT strange. Clearly, my mind was far from the possibility of an affair. I thought dead body in a field over infidelity. This illustrates just how strange he was acting and just how much confidence I had in my marriage.

Only a couple days into 2013, that confidence I had in my marriage came crashing down. We had planned on finally talking about all of the madness that was going on with BD. The night that this conversation was to take place, BD left to get a pack of cigarettes in preparation for confessing the horrific news. While at the liquor store, I saw that he had left his phone at home (still not sure if it was on purpose or not). The cell phone showed a new message, so with no ill intent, I glanced and saw a text message that utterly shocked me. It was a dialogue between him and another friend all about how much he loved the homewrecker (again, the most respectful label I could come up with for this particular content). The conversation went a little something like, “You just need to tell Lauren … I know I need to tell her … Does the homewrecker know how much I love her? … She does. And you deserve to be happy. Tell Lauren you’re leaving.”

BD came home to quite the shit storm. I could not believe what I was reading. The pit in my stomach was as deep as they come. All I could think was somebody better pinch me soon because this must be a horrible, horrible dream. This can’t be happening. How did this happen? What about my family? A journal excerpt from the day after I found out:

“This year will possibly be the hardest one yet. My marriage is in trouble, my heart is broken, and I’ve been betrayed by the man who I am supposed to share the most intimate parts of my life with. I have hope in the Lord. I have hope that He can redeem, restore, and rebuild. I pray in the name of Jesus that this will be true of our marriage.

Isaiah 40:29

29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.”

Over the course of the following month, I heard three versions of BD’s story in terms of the affair. The first, second, and third version. The PG, the R, and the X rated versions. I don’t feel the need to spell out all of the gory details, rehashing is not healthy or helpful. Let’s just say an inappropriate friendship including a handful of emails, turned into seeing each other outside of work a couple times, turned into every worst case scenario you can think of happening and had been happening for the past 4 months.

Once the X-rated version surfaced, I asked BD to move out. I was not going to settle for that level of disrespect in my marriage. I wanted him to take time to figure out what life he wanted. Conversations that followed in this hellish time period included a lot of outlandish comments. All of the statements were said with angry eyes. These are the eyes that BD took on when news of the affair came out. They are exactly what they sound like. His eyes were scary, shallow, and all round angry. What came out of his mouth sounded a little something like this: ‘I’ve never loved you. I married you for the wrong reasons. We have no physical or emotional intimacy. We have no chemistry. I am in love with the homewrecker and she owns me.’”