Like the pain of labor, the experience of suffering can force you to draw inward-to process and struggle and walk it out. It can be a lonely and often solitary experience. Like a birthing room, there are special people allowed inside this sacred little world where something beautiful and powerful and glorious and messy happens. New Life happens inside-bursting forth new and slippery and making itself known with a loud cry.
For nearly the last three years, I've been inside a world like this.
My son's labor was induced. And it took more than a day. So on day two of labor, when my co-workers thought I would be all done with labor and happily cuddling my newborn, the kind HR lady from work called my hospital room. I had fought my way to 3 centimeters and was grim and miserable when the phone rang. I remember hearing my husband answer the phone and say, "I'm sorry, she's in labor at the moment. Can I take a message?" What a surreal and funny thing to say! He told me who had called and that she had called to get our baby's name and birth weight so she could email all my co-workers and share our happy news. Our baby wasn't there yet. We didn't have a name and gender and birth weight to give her. We didn't have happy news yet. I was still in labor.
There are times I have struggled to find words to say here on this blog. I've done my level best because I love and care about you beloved readers and I felt such pain because I felt I did not have much to offer. Years ago I started this blog because I was bursting at the seams to brag on God and tell you all he had done for me and urge and encourage you to take the next step forward with God toward the healing and wholeness I am convinced he wants to give you...to give all of us. But in the 2 years following my husband's adultery, since I was so busy completely rebuilding my life, I wasn't ready to offer every time people asked. People called. Good people called and emailed me to give me special invitations to speak...radio appearances...live speaking opportunities...and I wasn't ready.
I did say yes to three interviews because they were done over the course of a couple of days and I didn't feel put on the spot. And they were good and beautiful experiences. Thank you Matthew Paul Turner , thank you Pastor Matt and thank you Anonymous Pastor. It was an honor and a joy to talk with you. I did say yes to many of the emails and requests for coaching calls if I felt ready to address their topic of concern. Some, not all of them.
I felt so torn. Torn because these were exactly the kind of opportunities I had prayed for and so desired, because these opportunities would allow me to meet more dear people and share my story with them. I felt like I was letting the inviters down. I felt like I was letting the untouched audience down. I felt like I was letting myself down. I felt like I was letting God down. Such anguish.
At this important Change Point, a dear friend offered me such love and wisdom.
From the day I announced my divorce due to my husband's adultery, Eryn-Faye Frans gave me words of comfort and love and told me she was praying for me. Known as Canada's Passion Coach, Eryn-Faye told me she would be traveling to the States and asked if we could meet when she was in my hometown. Of course I said yes. Over glasses of iced tea, I poured out my story and described my dilemma: thankful for opportunities to offer but being forced to admit to myself that I wasn't ready to offer all I was being asked to offer.
"Well", she told me with such a nonjudgmental calm spirit, "it seems to me that those who get the most growth out of a painful season are the ones who embrace the season, embrace the pain, and be where they are until they aren't there anymore. Giving yourself permission to be there and acknowledging that's currently just where you're at. That's the only way to really grow and learn all you're supposed to learn from the situation."
She gave me permission.
I was in.
Because it made sense. It was congruent to my heart and who I am. See, I never do anything halfway. So that's why I felt such anxiety. Because encouraging other women full steam ahead was not something I could devote such a large part of my energy to at the moment. And the state of doing something halfway bothered me. Greatly.
At this Change Point, I made Building My New Life the thing I did full steam ahead not halfway.
And I learned that sometimes doing halfway was okay. Sometimes doing 25 percent was okay. It's called enduring. I endured.
For all the invitations I said No to, the things I said Yes to were so precious. SO PRECIOUS. Every time a woman shared her story and asked for coaching and I was able to offer the woman I was coaching something from my heart that helped her, that felt like gorgeous treasure to me. I felt so humbled and happy, I felt like I could pay her.
After a few such experiences, I began to understand why my Spiritual Director would sometimes thank me at the end of a session. Why my Counselor would sometimes thank me. Why my Pastor or Coach would sometimes thank me. I actually asked the Pastor, "Why are you thanking me? I come in here and cry all over your office and use up your Kleenex why is that a thankable moment for you?" He looked at me with warm eyes and told me it made him happy to see someone really give God permission, really go for it grow for it. He said seeing that gave him joy.
So, I say to you, each of you dear precious women, and a few husbands too....THANK YOU. Thank you for allowing me to sow into your life. Seeing you go for it and grow for it gives me so much joy! Thank you for being used by God to teach me that every time we give God permission in our lives then we at some later point will have something precious to offer someone else.
Even now, in this single-again season that I thought would never happen to me. I get it. I understand that my brain and my heart did not disappear because my bed is currently empty. Everything I learned as an awakened sensuous wife is still there in my heart. Plus a lot of other beautiful trans-formative things God did and is doing in this season of suffering. Things I'm only now beginning to understand.
Here's what I've gleaned so far....
be where you are
Surrender is where you say yes to what your life is requesting of you and mean it . Embrace the current season that you are standing knee deep in. (thank you Eryn-Faye Frans for teaching me this!) Embrace where you are and make giving God permission to teach you grow you and heal you your number 1 priority. Be humble. Be teachable. Do whatever it takes.
receive godly counsel
Surround yourself with safe godly people who love you and whose heart you trust, check in with them on a regular consistent basis and do what they say. Deliberately intentionally put yourself into the care of safe people. If you later find you cannot trust them, or if what they ask you to do seems really wrong to you, then fire them and hire someone else and get busy listening to them. Do not try to negotiate a major life change lone-ranger style. You will go up in flames if you try to do this by yourself.
offer what you can
If you can't offer a gallon, offer a sip. Just offer what you can.
There's a song by Amy Grant called Shine All Your Light that says this very well...
like sand on a mountain
rain on a fountain
shade on a shadow
a breeze in this tornado
do what you can
clap with one hand
shine all your light in the sun
The first time I heard that song, I loved the melody but the lyrics mystified me. That was before I was schooled in the way of suffering. Now I understand that in God's economy, he demands our all. And he is satisfied with our all. Even when our all feels tiny to us. When our all all looks tiny to other people. When the widow gave 2 tenths of a penny in the offering plate, Jesus said it was the biggest offering. Because it was her all. Oh the dignity and glory of that! My tiny offering is not just enough. Not just acceptable. It's precious. Precious! So is yours.
your heart is reason enough
As much as I love and enjoy offering my encouragement strength and hope to you dear readers, I learned a very important lesson in this season of suffering. My heart is reason enough. When going through difficult seasons it can be inspiring and motivating to think once I get through this I'm gonna have so much more to offer someone else and that's true. But sometimes the pain is so great and the loss is so deep you think you're never gonna have something to offer anyone ever. And in those moments, Grace says " Your heart is reason enough. If you never hold the microphone again if you never write a blog post again, this is between you and me. Will you give me permission to do my thing in your heart? Will you let me heal you? Will you let me carry you through? Will you still be my girl even through this time of pain and tremendous heartache? If you never talk about it to anyone ever. Never write about it. Never speak about it. If all you ever gain from this is to live free before me, will you do it?"
Yes yes yes yes yes yes.
Being useful is fabulous. Redemptive. Rewarding.
But we are loved beyond our usefulness. (thank you Leigh Barkalow for teaching me this!)
When looking for a reason to persevere, my own heart is reason enough. I love Shula too much to bail on her.
an undeniable, non-negotiable, bedrock love for the savior will get you through when nothing else will
How much do you love him?
Are you willing to be his no matter what?
When God was doling out blessings in the Old Testament, he said to Abraham I am your exceeding great reward. When I first read that years ago I thought oh well how ethereal and intangible is that??. Now I understand.
My Jesus-our beautiful proprietary sense of belonging to one another- I am his and he is mine- that is my most precious treasure. And when he has brought you through. When you love him like that, the thought of not being his is unthinkable. "Lord to whom should we go you alone have the words of life."
So what am I doing now?
I'm doing life with people who love me. I live a majority of my life in regular normal everyday life having one-on-one conversations with people that I love. The majority of my time and energy is not in public ministry like speaking or twitter or blogging. I share when I have something to share. In the meantime, I'm busy living. This is really working for me.
I'm writing fiction. The short stories of fictional couples working through a Change Point that sometimes appear in a blog post...I'm writing longer versions of those. Some of them will become novels.
I'm saying yes to more coaching opportunities. And I'm thrilled for the woman I have the privilege to talk with. I celebrate God's goodness when I hear the hope in her voice and see the light bulb go off over her head in a coaching session or hear the joy in her voice when she tells me her couple time with her husband is a lot easier and a lot more fun.
I'm serving my guests at the store and celebrating their victories. It makes me want to fist-bump God when I get an email ten days after an order is received that says: "Oh.My.God. Best.Anniversary.Ever."
Since I am currently celibate (you know I will always view this season as temporary) I'm pursuing every righteous way to thrill my senses that I can think of. Any suggestions? Some of my favorite ways are sailing so fast it makes me whoop and holler and ballroom dancing with my partner holding me close enough that I have been known to bliss out and miss a step because he feels so good.
I'm writing workshop curriculum. The next time somebody offers me the microphone, I'll be ready.
Would you be willing to pray for me as I write? I'd really appreciate it.
How would you like me to pray for you?
And beloved lurkers, it would mean a LOT for me to hear from you. Now is a good time.
Love you all,