I am excited to have my friend Jaclyn on the blog today! She and I went to high school together but live in different states now. Thanks to social media, I read a small part of her story when she shared a post not too long ago. I knew I wanted her to guest blog for us because she has a story women can resonate with...body image. I am thankful for her transparency and I pray it can help someone today! Please know you can always email us at email@example.com if you need prayer!
When I was little, how much I weighed or what size pants I wore was never brought up. Who cared??
I was never called fat, always an average size. Because I started tumbling at the age of five and always stayed busy with some form of athletic sport, my bottom half was always on the larger size compared to my waist. It was in high school when I started to pay more attention to my weight and size. The models in clothing ads were much thinner than me (and of course taller, too). I was 5'1" and wore a size 6. I was no where near fat but the BMI chart said I was overweight.
After high school, I was determined to not gain the "Freshman 15." I wanted the opposite. I was going to be thin like society said I should be. Being an average size 6 was not good enough, and there the obsession began. I was obsessed with looking at myself in the mirror and judging my flaws around my waist, hips and thighs. I would turn this way and that way, suck in my stomach and would wish I was a size 0 or 2. Working out and eating low fat and fat-free was not doing the trick anymore.
There had to be something else.
That's when I started purging my food. It was wrong, but I justified it because I didn't do it all the time and not every meal. The truth of the matter was I was bulimic. I became more obsessed when I started working at a local gym part-time. I would get there an hour before the gym opened to workout and then stay after my shift to workout some more. It was working. By the end of the summer, I was a size 0/2. Just what I wanted. My friends were concerned. My family wondered. I just denied anything and said I had been working out a lot, which was true, but I kept the bulimia a secret.
When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and my workouts became less and my eating habits were lax, I had to purge even more. It happened at every meal and then eventually became everything I ate. I would be in tears in the bathroom because it hurt to purge my food. In my apartment, I would cry while looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself I needed to stop. But I couldn't. I was gaining weight. I had to keep throwing up. I was now a size 4 and extremely unhealthy.
This went on for over 6 years. It wasn't until I met the man who is now my husband that I revealed my secret. When we started dating, I told him who I really was. I was bulimic. He was a smoker so we made a pact to face the things that were taking over our lives head on. I needed more than just his help to get me out of the pit. I needed prayers and God's help. I emailed my friend and family and confessed my secret and begged them for prayers to help me. It was a slow recovery, and I went through a lot of changes. I gained more weight, and my metabolism was gone. My body was hanging onto everything in fear it was going to go without food. My teeth were ruined, my esophagus scarred and I was no longer "thin", but I was getting better. It was a very long road to recovery but I had God on my side along with friends and family who cared about me. Prayers and God's love and grace were my strength and I realized that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
It has taken years for my metabolism to begin to fully function like it should, which in turn caused me to struggle with my weight. Now I'm finally at a place where I no longer look at the number on the scale or my pant size. It's all about how I feel. Yes, I still look in the mirror and want to lose some inches, I'm human, but my ultimate goal is to just be healthy.
Now that I have kids, especially a daughter, I hope I can instill good healthy habits in them. I want them to see me eating whole foods and exercising because I want to be healthy, not skinny. Because of society and the pressures we put on ourselves, I can only pray that my kids don't go down the road I traveled. God made us all different, yet beautiful in His eyes. We just need to see the beauty within us.
I’m Jaclyn and from a really small town called Calvert City in Kentucky. I accepted Christ and was baptized when I was eighteen, after graduating high school. I moved to Louisville when I was twenty and never left! I married my best friend in 2006 and my last name changed for the 4th and final time. We have two amazing kiddos; Jackson who is eight and Evelyn who is four. They are full of life and keep us on our toes. I am the office manager for a local eye company called VisionFirst. Life is hard and marriage is hard but I am thankful for the love and grace that God gives us.
You ALL know our sweet friend today. In fact, she’s been here before. We know you will be encouraged by her own story of how the Lord not only saved her, but continues to walk with her today. Please welcome Susannah back as she shares about God’s goodness in her life.
In September 2015, I was 34-years-old and had just self-published my first book, “Ten Years Taken”. It was a joyous time because my childhood dreams were finally coming true! Since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a writer. And finally, after many years of writing and editing and ripping up manuscripts, everything was coming full circle. I was travelling around the state to speak at book clubs and libraries, appearing at book signings in community centers and churches, giving interviews to local newspapers and radio stations and recognized as a real author. People even stopped me in Target to talk about my novel and the characters I had invented! It was such a surreal time, and I was ecstatic when “Ten Years Taken” was listed among the Top 30 best-selling self-published books on Amazon.
My mother was truly my biggest fan. She was on the front row at every event, first in line at every book signing and she bought 18 copies of each newspaper or publication I was featured in. She constantly advertised my book and shared my blog posts on social media and continually told me how proud of me she was. She said she’d always known I’d be an author.
One cool Saturday night in September, my mama hung the next day’s church clothes on her closet door. She placed a cup of water on her nightstand next to my novel and climbed into her plush bed. And sometime during the night, while my mother slept, her soul went to be with Jesus.
I watched my young father die of a heart attack when I was eleven, and when my mother passed away, I suddenly felt like an orphan. I felt like a 34-year-old orphan. I was so utterly lost and alone and without any roots. I didn’t know how in the world I was expected to live a lifetime without my mother because she had been my rock, my friend, my spiritual mentor, my everything.
Of course, it is normal for a daughter to mourn her mother’s death, but I went beyond typical grieving. I spiraled down into a dark, deep pit of despair. I knew my mother was resting at our Savior’s feet, without the cares of this world, but I couldn’t even find joy or peace in that beautiful truth. I just so selfishly wanted her here with me. I needed her advice. I wanted to hear her laugh. I wanted to feel her fingers running through my hair. I wanted her by my side. I just wanted my mother.
As the months passed, I was still unable to get out of bed many days. I was unable to cook dinner for my family or attend my children’s ballgames. Not only was I devastated at the void in my life, but I was bitter and angry. While spending so much time in my bed sobbing and hiding from the world, I mourned my father’s death all over again. I didn’t foresee my joy ever being restored.
I’ve been saved since I was a little girl. My mother was a great Godly woman and raised me on the promises found in the Word of God. I knew all the Scriptures about hope and restoration and how Jesus was near to the brokenhearted, but still I was utterly broken.
And finally, worn and weary and heavy-laden, I could no longer bear the burden. I was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, and in a moment of sweet surrender, as tears fell from my eyes, I gave it all to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot continue living in this dark pit of grief. I need you.”
When I finally let go of the rope ‒ when I finally surrendered the hurt, the ache, the void ‒ my Savior was so gracious to catch me. He came to me right where I was and gave rest to my weary soul. He gave me peace that passes all understanding. He gave me light in the darkness. He restored my joy.
The Lord has even revealed great purpose in my pain. I’ve been able to show the comfort that He has shown me to others, just as we are instructed to do in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7. I’ve continually drawn closer to Him and relied on His sweet grace and mercy, and in turn, He’s called me to do things I never thought possible. He’s called me to speak His promises of life and hope to those who are grieving. He’s called me to point the hurting and the broken to Him. He’s called me to use my writing for His glory. He’s given me beauty for ashes not only concerning the deaths of my parents, but also infertility and alcohol abuse and many other trials.
Jesus was battered and beaten and bloodied. He was mocked and ridiculed, and then He hung on an old, rugged cross to die for our sins. What incredible pain and sorrow He went through! But the purpose, the beautiful purpose, was revealed three days later when that tomb proved empty.
And like Jesus’ pain, our pain has great purpose, too.
Of course, I still miss my parents every day. Lord, what I wouldn’t give to be able to pick up the phone and call my mother and ask her to make me a Mississippi Mud Cake. But if my mother was still here, I wouldn’t be commissioned to point others to the Great Comforter. I wouldn’t have experienced His agape love and been proved time and time again that He truly is near to the brokenhearted. I wouldn’t realize so fully how our Father truly works ALL things together for good.
No matter the pain or sorrow or longing we experience here in our temporary home, if it points us to Jesus, it’s worth it.
As a special treat for Father's Day, we are featuring our second male guest blogger! I have known Kevin Carson my entire life. His father was the pastor of the church (the one with the holy saltines) that I wrote about in my salvation story. I have always thought of Kevin's entire family as salt-of-the-earth type of people - so authentic, so humble, and so Christlike. While I knew him as a kid, he is now a pastor, professor, counselor, author, and speaker. And today, he is writing as a father on a subject that has touched the lives of so many of our readers. May his story fill your burdened heart with great hope.
Today is my sweet baby’s nineteenth birthday. Kayla lived for one short month. We had hoped to enjoy her for our lifetime, but in God’s plan her days were so few in number. Her impact though has far outweighed her days. In some ways it seems like yesterday and like we were kids when we had her; in other ways, it seems like an eternity ago. Although some of the feelings change, the hurt and the loss never go away. Oh to sing to her again just one more time, to hold her, to caress her head, to read to her, to tell her how pretty she is, to say, “I love you.” This many years later, it still makes me cry.
There are so many parents like me and like us. When your child dies, your world changes. Things are never the same again. Something inside of you constitutionally is different. It’s a club no parent wanted to be part of – those who have lost a child. Yes, there’s laughter. Yes, there are good days. Yes, life goes on. But don’t confuse living and going on with life as if there is no pain, no hurt, or no loss.
Then in the midst of life, we remember that the Bible is for life. The Bible teaches that God’s plan for each of Christ’s followers is to change into His image, to become like Christ. Additionally, the Bible itself is for life change. God gives us His Word in order for us to change in the power of the Spirit to become more like Christ. Therefore, the Bible’s verses are to be applied to life’s circumstances.
As a grieving father with my sweet girl’s grieving mother, my challenge is to apply the Bible to our daughter’s death as well. There are many passages I could consider (and maybe someday will), but two specifically stand out to me as I consider 19 years and counting.
Challenging Passage #1: James 1:2
James was written to fellow Christians who were in deep persecution. People are dying. They are running for their lives. They are disappointed Christ has not come back to earth yet like He promised. It is a rough time. In the midst of this incredibly rough time, our Pastor James, Jesus’ brother, writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
What? How in the world are they – how in the world are we – how in the world are you supposed to count it all joy when you undergo trials of every sort? Does he include when your baby dies?
Over the years this verse has challenged me and helped me. In the midst of the simplest trials or in the throes of life’s greatest trials, the truth of this verse does not change. That’s what makes it so challenging.
How is it possible to count it all joy when you go through this kind of trial?
Let me help you first by considering two key words and then pointing to the greater context. The first key word is “count.” Here, Pastor James is using an accounting term. In other words, when you put pencil and paper to this problem, the answer to this real-life math equation is joy. As you consider the overall picture of God’s plan in this, ultimately we recognize that this fits in the positive category of joy.
So then, what’s “joy?” Joy here is a state of being, not an emotion. Joy does not mean that you just paste a smile on and pretend that nothing happened or that everything is ok. Joy is not feeling happy. Here joy refers to a deep-seated contentment in God’s plan even in the midst of pain, heartache, and pressure. It is a thankful trust in God’s character and plan.
The context highlights God’s plan. James writes further, “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4). This trial or tough circumstance, in this case the death of our baby, as we go through the circumstance and its aftermath, is meant to produce spiritual maturity and growth. The trial helps give me pieces of my character that were formerly missing.
This is the reason why the math equation works. You and I can have joy – even in the midst of deep sadness – because we know that God even uses life’s hardest events to help grow our faith, our character, and our spiritual maturity. We trust God and His plan even in the middle of heartache because He will use this for His glory and our good. Joy – this deep-seated contentment – can rule me even when my heart aches and even in the center of this sadness.
Challenging Passage #2: Philippians 4:11
The passage in James leads me to another challenging passage by a different author in Philippians. Paul writes, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11).
How is it possible to be content with the death of a child?
First, it is only possible by the strength Christ provides. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). It is impossible to be content and to count it joy as you go through this life circumstance without the power of the Christ working in you. We do not have enough strength or ability to be content on our own. We must turn toward Christ and the strength He provides. We must depend upon Him, call out to Him, and desperately turn to Him for help.
Paul continues, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil 4:12). Paul does not deny the realities of suffering. The Bible does not pretend that everything is fine. The text does not say to live in a pretend world. It is even in the midst of deep suffering that we can turn to Christ who allows us to be content with God’s plan.
In the Midst of the Pain
Does this mean that the pain goes away? Do these passages suggest that I put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine? Do I just pretend for the glory of God?
No. No. No. No.
What these passages do mean is that even in the heart of significant trouble – like our baby dying – we can trust God’s character and plan. In the middle of this circumstance, we can recognize God is using even our hurts, our tears, and heartache for His glory as we grow into Christlikeness. As days turn into years, we learn to focus on God and trust His character even as we visit a gravesite, celebrate birthdays in heaven, and miss all the opportunities of watching a baby grow up into a beautiful young lady.
For sake of space I will not rehearse all the ways that God has grown me through this trial. As today marks another birthday of our sweet little girl, I can say that God continues to grow me. I recognize I’m not the man I was back then. And with sadness I also accept the fact that possibly I would have never grown, never been humble enough, or never have paid attention to aspects of my character that have changed because of her short life and untimely death.
Can I be content in Christ? Can I consider it joy? Yes and yes. Does it mean that this day isn’t filled with hurt, tears, and a true recognition of loss? Oh no. It is. Real loss. Real tears. Real hurt. But as I type through tear-filled eyes, there is still contentment that God knows, God cares, God provides, and God continues to grow me through the trial.
In addition, I also know that the promises of heaven and eternity are sweet promises. We wait in anticipation.
Kevin Carson is the Pastor of the Sonrise Baptist Church in Ozark, Missouri. In addition to his pastoral ministry, he serves as the department chair of biblical counseling at the Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. He also serves as a counselor at Sonrise Biblical Counseling Ministry, is ACBC Certified, IABC Certified, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, author, and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and seminars. He and his wife, Kelly, have four children.
You can follow him on Twitter at @pastorkevinc, on Facebook, and his blog.
Hey! It's Laura and I am so excited to have Amberly on the blog today. She is actually our first Friend Friday Vlog (that means video, in case you're technologically challenged like me)! Amberly and I met over ten years ago through our husbands and we were actually pregnant with our daughters at the same time too! I have watched as the Lord has totally turned their world upside down for His glory! Today she shares about how the Lord has called them into foster care.
You only get a six minute video today, but you MUST go follow their family at Growing Up Houser because you will want to know more about them! The Houser's let you into their crazy life with laughter, tears and complete transparency...that's what I love about them the most!
I am a mother, wife, and self-proclaimed hot mess. My husband Matt and I began our journey as foster parents in 2017. We currently parent 6 kids: 3 biological, and 3 foster siblings that we love dearly. By day, I am an elementary school teacher. By night, I drive kids to and from practices in my big blue bus while blaring Jesus music. Donuts are the way to my heart, followed closely by witty t-shirts and Bible journaling. I constantly pray that God will show me the front of the puzzle box but He just keeps handing me one piece at a time. Someday's I am thankful for that and other days I'm bitter. Jesus loves me anyway. I believe I can accomplish anything in a day with a cup of coffee, dry shampoo and fake lashes. This is the story of my life and what it's like to Grow Up Houser.
Maybe we didn’t sing the birthday song with quite as much enthusiasm as we had on other occasions, but we did sing it. Because by golly, it doesn't matter how you feel. It doesn’t matter if your work is hard or your relationship is suffering, or your kid is terrible, or if you have a migraine; in my family, we are going to sing the song.
There will be cake and a candle and the song. And not just the normal birthday song. This is a special, cajun, toe-tapping version that requires clapping and some charismatic emphasis as you spell it out H A P - P Y B- IRTHDAY. It took real effort to sing the song that day.
We sat in the living room where, for decades, we opened gifts with Granny and Papaw. Matt was sitting in Papaw’s place, and I thought how odd he looked sitting next to the fireplace where Papaw should be - close to the fire so he could stoke it and worry it to death.
My mother was now one of the older women in the room with greasy, loud boys leaning on her and playing at her feet. She looked much too young to be the grandmother.
The vaulted ceilings and wood floors multiplied our incessant talking, laughing and teasing and tossed the sound across the room. There were presents, of course. And, the song. The song that I didn't feel like singing, but I did. I was having a bad day but I knew I had to sing the song.
And in that moment looking at my boys sing the silly song, along with the adults who had taught them the silly song, I thought about heaven. We were just practicing. This was just another dress rehearsal. We were practicing the wrong song, but then again we haven’t heard the music of heaven.
We were practicing being together and eating good food and singing and loving. And the lasagna was made with zucchini because we were trying to be healthy and the chocolate cake ended up falling apart, but we had food because we were celebrating.
And we loved each other even though the kids were too loud and we didn't always agree. And we were reliving decades of singing and celebrating another year of life together, in my grandparents house where we now lived. They were gone now, but we were still singing. We were practicing for the real thing and the practicing was an important part of making it here on earth.
And my bad day felt less bad. One day there would be 10,000 years since we last stood there with the falling apart chocolate cake singing the silly song, missing the ones who had already left and we would be singing a new song and we would be together. More importantly, we would be with the One our hearts long for.
We keep practicing, because in the practicing there is an ache and longing that gets comforted. It never really goes away. It won’t go away. Because when we celebrate here its only a taste of the celebration that will never end.
Maybe it’s an overly analytical way to view birthday parties, but on my worst day I’m thankful for the hints of glory. The light that pierces through the clouds. The moments that remind me this isn't all there is.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Ginger Williams is the managing editor of the Jackson Business Journal. She has pursued a career in journalism, marketing and sales, after several years as a homeschool mom. Ginger attended Boyce College where she received her bachelor of arts in biblical studies. She lives in Jackson Tennessee with her husband Matt and sons, Blake and Ethan.
I remember when my first baby was about two weeks old. I had been thrust into this terrifying world of trying desperately to keep a tiny human being alive. I fell into bed at night, exhausted, but I woke up at every slight noise coming from my fragile little charge. I constantly worried that she couldn’t breathe or that she was in some kind of distress that I was too ignorant to recognize. Night and day were all one big blur of feedings and diaper changes and rocking and swaying and bouncing, with no real clue what I was doing.
Yet, even in those days of my body and mind being completely invaded by this pint-sized little soul, I remember I turned to my mother one day, my eyes half closed, my shirt covered in spit up, and said, Being a mother suits me to a T. I honestly felt like I had been wandering through life up until that point, just waiting for God’s big purpose for my life to fall into my lap. I decided it was motherhood.
It’s easy to see how I could think so. After all, the soul-deep love that God puts in a mother’s heart is powerful. It is consuming in a way that we didn’t understand was possible before we were already eaten up with it. It can overshadow a lot of things in life, especially in the early years. Motherhood is hard. It’s all at once beautiful and devastating in a million different ways. It brings things out in us that we didn’t know were there, both good and bad. And, it teaches us so much about God’s love for us.
A few days ago, I was in the dollar store, searching for cool prizes for our Wednesday night program at church. I was alone, as I often am these days, getting lots of things accomplished while all three of my kids were at school. It’s a new phase for me, and I’m still learning how to deal with the quiet. Suddenly, from across the store I heard the happy voice of a baby. He had obviously just learned his first word or two, and his mother was playing peek-a-boo with him. I could hear the sheer delight in his mother’s voice as she said again and again, Where’s mama? Every time she dropped her hands and revealed the sweet face that her baby knows and loves, he squealed, Mama! as if he had just won the world’s greatest prize. And right there in the middle of the toy aisle, surrounded by plastic snakes and miniature harmonicas, I felt my heart bust wide open at those sweet sounds that felt so familiar. I understood the absolute thrill that the young mother was getting in the dollar store on an ordinary Tuesday, when her baby showed in the way that only babies can, that he adores her to no end. And it broke my heart into a million pieces.
That’s not my life anymore.
Those days are gone. I don’t have babies. Adelade has traded in sippy cups for lip gloss. Sawyer, pacifiers for braces. Emerald gave up her blankie for a backpack. If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s how quickly phases of life come and go.
The thing about hindsight is that it tends to gloss over the realities of past experiences. It doesn’t remind you about the long nights sitting up with a sick baby, frantic over a too-high temperature. It doesn’t recall how much time it took you to accomplish anything at all while a little one was clinging to you all day and night. It doesn’t bring up the fact that you felt frustrated over your lack of social life, your lack of sleep, your lack of time with your husband, your lack of personal space. No, that precious hindsight only brings to mind the sweetest moments, the epiphanies about how wonderful motherhood is, the secret, sweet times that only you remember, like peek-a-boo in the dollar store on an otherwise hectic, unproductive weekday. This rosy memory-vision is one reason that grandmothers are so quick to approach a frazzled young mother in the grocery store to tell her to appreciate every moment.
I wanted to go over to speak to the young mother, too. I wanted to say to her, somehow, that I understand the soul-crushing love that she feels for her child. I wanted her to know that the moment she was having there was as familiar to me as the little country road that leads to my childhood home. I wanted to tell her that the thrill of hearing that tiny voice holler Mama will feel just a fresh and real to her twenty years from now. I wanted her to know that she doesn’t have to dread and fear the growing up of her precious little boy because motherhood is NOT the purpose of her life. It is an indescribable blessing. It is the source of endless joy. It is one way that God shows us how much we need Him, and it is one way that we learn to lay our lives down for someone else.
But, what we call motherhood–training and raising and caring for children–is fleeting, just like everything else. It doesn’t last forever, this phase of life. Children grow and they change and you grow and you change, and then they begin a new life out in this great big world. If, as I once believed, motherhood is the reason God made me, then what use am I when this phase of life is over?
It doesn’t mean that our hearts won’t still creak and crack and melt just a little when we remember what we once had. It doesn’t mean that what we’re doing here, in the wilds of motherhood, doesn’t have eternal significance. But, God’s purposes are big. Much bigger than we can imagine. The purpose of our lives is to glorify Him in all that we do, whether we are mothers or not. Whether we are in the thick of chasing toddlers everywhere or simply remembering those days, a little misty-eyed. God’s purposes don’t have dates of expiration. They don’t apply to only one section of our lives. And they certainly aren’t wrapped up solely in the too-short phases of mothering children.
I wanted to tell her all of these things, but I knew it was too much. Instead, I just walked past and smiled at her baby. The sweet young mother watched me, and when our eyes met, I nodded. She nodded back, and then I walked out the door, my hands empty, heart filled with the truth of God’s goodness in all the phases of life.
Can you remember the friend you have had the longest? I sure can...and she is still one of my dearest friends today! We laid in cribs next to each other in the church nursery. I bet if you can remember a friend like that, you will remember her mom, too! She was like my second mom and I was at her house as much as my own. I am thankful to have Glenda, my childhood friend's mom on the blog today! I am watching as many women are walking through what she faced many years ago. So, I asked her to share her story and she did so beautifully!
Hopes and dreams of an 18 year old bride:
1. A home like my parents
2. A husband like my daddy
We married young; it wasn’t unusual in the 70s to marry right after high school. Ricky was the ripe old age of twenty and I was eighteen. It was ok because we knew everything about everything. At least, we thought we did. Enter reality…
I can’t even explain how naïve we were, me especially. I’ve always been a reader and thought my life would be like a Hallmark movie! Our first year was pretty rough because we each had our own idea of what wedded bliss looked like.
In my eyes, the home my parents built was almost perfect. I rarely saw any disagreement, any conflict or any strife at home. If it existed between my parents, I sure didn’t know it, and to this day, I believe in family life, primarily because of my parents. My daddy was my hero and still is. He was a hard-working, respected man, who put his family first. In our home, there was never any question of where we would be on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. I never felt rebellious about it, that was just the way it was. Ricky also came from a church-going family, but he fell out of church when he was a teenager. He would tell you he only went back after we began to date. He gave his heart to Jesus when he was nineteen, but once again, he gradually got out of church. While we were dating, he’d go with me on Sunday nights, but that was about it. Of course, I thought I could change all of that once we were married! It didn’t happen.
I have so much admiration for any person who is faithful to attend church by themselves. Church, just like anywhere else we go, is full of people who look like they have it all together. That’s just a big fat lie that Satan tells us! But, in my eyes as a young bride, I felt like all eyes were on me and everyone was wondering what was wrong with my marriage because my husband wasn’t with me at church. Another lie...perception is not truth! The truth was this: Even though Ricky wasn’t with me at church, he was still a great husband and we were building a lasting relationship.
But, my perceptions and expectations caused lots of arguments when it came to Sunday morning. I became that nagging wife that Proverbs says is like a dripping faucet. My insecurities led to trying to “make” Ricky come with me to church. I thought if he came, we’d have a perfect marriage. Little did I know at this time, God had a plan. You see, up until then, I had lived a sheltered life. I had a great home life and a great church life. No one had challenged my beliefs. For the first time in my life, it was up to me to see if my faith was real, or if I was living off of my parents’ faith.
God was growing me. I can’t express how hard this time was for me; the tearing down of my expectations was so painful. However, what was being built up was far more valuable. The lessons God taught me during this time only caused me to love Him more, to step up and be the wife He would want me to be and the mom to our daughters when they came along later in our marriage. I learned to nurture the most important relationships in my life, the one with my heavenly Father, my Husband, and those that I need at any time and in any place. He is perfect and is always with me. He loves me unconditionally; He is the lover of my soul.
Our first daughter, Jessica, was born about three years into our marriage. I felt the responsibility of leading her in the path that would lead her to faith in Christ. That responsibility was doubled when Elyssa was born. It takes a village to raise children, a village populated with folks who love Jesus, who care about people and a have a passion for sharing their love. I found that in my church. We need each other!
Fast forward about twenty-two years into our marriage….Ricky was still not attending church with me and our girls are now nineteen and sixteen. Life started throwing some heavy situations into our lives and into our girls’ lives. They were the kind of situations that only God can control, situations that became wake-up calls.
Through a series of these events, my husband was drawn back to church. Not only to church attendance, but to church service. Oh my goodness, it got to the point where he wanted to go to church more than I did!
Just because couples go to church together, doesn’t mean all is good in their home. Our marriage was great, other than the church thing. I’ve seen church-going couples split up. Just because you go to church together doesn’t mean you have a perfect marriage.
I was so frustrated! I just needed help, help getting the kids ready and out the door. I needed companionship, a companion to sit with so I wouldn’t feel alone in a crowd. I longed for “couple” fellowship. I saw other couples from church hanging out together, and I wanted that. At the time, nothing much was offered for single ladies at our church. Even though I was married, I felt like a single person at church.
I’m so very thankful for the season in my life where God strengthened my walk with Him. I would have been so tempted to “piggyback” off of my husband’s faith, instead of seeking after Christ. I’ve learned God is good in every season, that He alone is my source.
The most important lesson I learned is this: I am not the Holy Spirit. I can’t be the Holy Spirit for anyone. Only God convicts. But, His promises are true. If I seek Him and His will in my life, He will bring it to pass. I wish I had known this when I was nagging Ricky to come with me! I think all I did with my nagging was to push him away. Once I let go and let God handle it, He gave me the desire of my heart, a Godly husband, who loves the Lord with all his heart.