love

His Love Knows No Bounds

"And may you have the power to understand....how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is." (Ephesians 3:18)

Stop for just a moment and take a deep breath. All other thoughts aside, focus for one minute on how much God loves His children. YOU included. I know sometimes when we hear about His love for us, even in a daily devotion, we become somewhat callused to the idea. We may even shrug it off....

Something in our heart tells us we are "ok", we don't need or want His love, but our Father is RELENTLESS. He never leaves your side, and is eager to embrace you with His presence. It's in the times that we claim "we dont need it", when we need it the most.

Our Father has glorious unlimited resources to empower you with inner strength! (Ephesians 3:16) So no matter what is going on this very minute, day, or season of life, He is here to help you along. The bible says that as you trust Jesus, He will make himself a home in your heart. (Ephesians 3:17) Though it is too great to fully understand the love of Jesus, let us experience it! (Ephesians 3:19)

Do not be discouraged when the word says that Jesus' love is beyond our understanding, instead be elevated to know that you will spend this lifetime experiencing how wide, long, high, deep His love truly is! We can have it here and now, His love has no bounds! (Hosea 14:14) Then when our time on earth is complete, we will be with Jesus, in His glory! So until then....Try not to fight off his love, but dive in and get soaked in it!

My prayer is that we see what a gift it is to experience God's love on a daily basis. That we really realize that we have an eternity of His presence here and in a time to come where there is no tears. We may not be who we want to be in Christ yet, but we are no where NEAR where we used to be without Him! That we would always give Him praise for being here with us, doing a work in us, and choosing to use us while we are here. No matter how much we may resist, let us take comfort in knowing that His love will empower us, even in the hardest of times.

In Christ,
Leslie

Better to be a Whore in Church, than a Christian who has Committed Moral Failure?

I grew up hearing a crude expression as a little girl. 

“I was more nervous than a whore in church!”

Believe me. I’ve been the whore in church before. And I find that it is far better to be in that highly celebrated position than it is to be part of a Christian marriage which has been disqualified from ministry because of moral failure.

“I was more nervous than a Christian who committed moral failure in church.”  Yep. Far more nerve wrecking and scandalous.

Let me explain.

You see, when a person like me got saved in my mid twenties, I had “sold” my body for things like cheap dinners on dates with men who never even acknowledged my soul. I was living with a man who had zero intention to commit to me outside of my keeping him from being lonely cold in his bed at night. When Jesus wooed my heart to Himself, I gave up that life and ran far away from it, without ease. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like as a follower of Jesus, but I was all in. 

Thats the kind of story that is (rightly) celebrated by the church. 

As I sit here and write, I recall being baptized and the congregation cheering after I shared what God did to radically change my heart and life completely. I felt loved, welcomed, accepted among the people.

No more hiding. No more secretly using drugs or my body to get me the fulfillment I so badly desired. 

In addition to my new life, I had met and married a godly man who was the complete opposite of the ones before him. He was intentional about giving me his last name from the moment we met, committed to serving the Lord and me. It really was, and is, an incredible story about how God plucks people from the pit and places them in the story created by His design for those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

What does it feel like to be a Christian exposed as a moral failure in the church? 

Oh. I would rather be the whore in church any day than feel the weight of that shame we carried as we walked back into that same church for the first time since our marriage came tumbling down.  

Hand in hand, we walked to the pew on the opposite side of where we used to sit, unable to even entertain the idea of being in the same spot, because we were no longer the same couple who used to sit there. 

Limping at best, we parked in the pew, holding hands for dear life.

Though I was angry with my husband, there was no one else who felt more safe in that moment than he did. Its as if the war in our marriage was put aside in order to celebrate a sacred holiday. I “put down my gun”, so to speak, clinging to him and our bloodied marriage.

It was difficult to look anyone in the eye.

This was a church who loved us well, allowed us to serve in worship, cared for our children, poured out time and resources on our behalf. Talk about massive weight in shame to come back, knowing that from a biblical perspective, we were disqualified from serving at any capacity in the church. 

All the trust and status we had going for us, no longer served as any form of comfort. 

Most friends didn’t know what to say to us. I can understand that. I didn’t know what to say either. My husband and I could only cling to one another and the gospel, relying on the power of Christ and his ability to turn our disaster of a story into sweet redemption. 

Which is Jesus’s thing, by the way.

I take this lesson as a great gift. The gift of empathy for those who are lifting their hands high in worship of Jesus, who are so deep in their secret sin it take God’s exposure to set them free.  Once they are exposed, they are in need of the utmost care! 

Instead of running away in fear of christians who are found in their mess, let us run toward them, offering them the hopeful assurance that it was God’s mercy on their lives for Him to expose them, reminding them that the gospel is ever as powerful for the newly converted whore in church as it is for the saint who has utterly rebelled against the God he loves.

For this is true;

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

New Adventures & New Life

Things are a lot different these days.

Our marriage is different, our family dynamic is changed, and hope permeates this house like it never has before. The fruit of resurrection tastes awfully sweet, making solid our commitment to keep up the hard work that comes with rebuilding our marriage.

When the conduit is broken.

I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but while adultery was present, I sensed my husband's prayers for me and our family were hitting the ceiling, so to speak. Along with the difficulty to connect with one another (no matter how many date nights we had), there was also the impression that the separation was even bigger between Burris and God.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7

When the conduit is fixed.

Since everything was exposed, we are experiencing the fruit of repentance, reconciliation and (daily) restoration, a joy which is astonishing. Prayers are no longer hindered for my husband, making our lives full of adventure, laughter, and the ability to see enemy tactics. The connection we now have, though requiring heaps of diligence on our part, is full of adventure and wonder. 

Thanks to the Spirit, there is a renewed sense of purpose and calling on our lives.

We have no idea what is in store for us, but the presence of God is tangible in our home again, causing us to be eager for the unfolding of our story, together. I feel grateful to be on the receiving end of unhindered blessing.

I guess we do know ONE thing in store for us…

I snuggled in with my son one night, running my fingers along his ear as his eyes rolled back into his head, nursing himself to sleep. With every gulp, waves of nausea crashed over me, causing me to look around the room for something to throw up in. A startling thought jumped to the forefront of my mind..could I be pregnant?

Yes, I could. And, I am. 

Speculation: Cause For Separation or a Tool for Glory?

5 a.m. I woke from a nightmare. 

I headed downstairs to boil water for french press, feeling insecure and furious. I hate dreams like this. They tend to set the tone for my day, rousing irrational anxiety, making it difficult work to find joy. I need grounding. I pull out my bible, open the Mac and begin documenting. I won’t go into detail, but the nightmare involved a woman I follow on Instagram, and a certain man I get to snuggle every night.

Yeah. One of those dreams.

Since we have been doing the hard work of reconciliation, there are some boundaries, that with lots of conversation, are becoming more flexible these days. When we lay in bed, Burris will grab my phone and scroll through my social media. We laugh at viral videos, read controversial blog posts, and talk about some of the crazy photos you all are posting. 

Ok, back to the dream. The girl is an old aquaintance who can be found snapping photos of herself in her bathing suit, mini skirts, high heals and the like. Which, whatever. I like the girl. She is obviously hurting and desires validation (what human doesn’t). We used to go to the same church. But in light of what happened nearly a year ago, recounting my REM caused my heart to thump a little faster.

I stop and begin to pray.

“Lord, I am feeling anxious and curious this morning because of that dream. Did my husband click on her profile and look through her photos? Is this a dream of warning or fear? Is this irrational thinking? I know he sees her posts when looking at my feed, because I see them. Please help.”

”Ask him.” replies the Familiar Whisper.

“Ask him!? But what if he did? How can I endure that kind of pain? What if he didn’t, and my asking rouses anger? It is 7am, this could ruin our morning and set a dark tone for our day.” I plead.

”I AM at hand.”  He reminds.

Speculation between spouses, or anyone for that matter, is cause for separation, and God is always about the work of reconciling people. When we are willing to engage with our fear and ask the person in question, it is another building block to the foundation of trust. Specifically, when two believers stand in conversation, any wall of offense has been removed because of the finished work of Christ; they can talk about ANYTHING. 

Isn’t that just like the Lord? Unwilling to waste an opportunity to restore a marriage, no matter what messy tools (even nightmares) we have to offer.

And the Whisper comes again;

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

My soul laid bare before them, I chose a road less traveled, facing the fear of inquiry. The three of us stood in that kitchen addressing the nightmare and turns out, he was feeling just as awkward about her photos as I was, uncertain how to process it himself. His eyes lingering with mine, speak apology, redressing again, my seeping wound.

We prayed, and kissed long. 

Moments of redemption like this mean everything.

 

The Waiting Room - An Update

Next month marks one year that our marriage, deemed dead, was made alive.

With Burris in his chair, and me in mine, Sunday morning was a familiar sight. Three children running around in diapers, coffee in hand, and a messy yet profound sense of gratitude in the room.

Yes, resurrection sure looks good, this side of heaven.

 

But it sure isn’t easy.

What has the True Physician been up to in our lives since our dead body of a marriage began miraculously breathing?

I looked at my husband sitting there and wondered where he thought our marriage was today in medical terms; Are we in the ER? Surgery? ICU? Physical therapy? Out patient care? Dare I say, hospice?

 

“the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together… 
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.” 
                                        Isaiah 40: 5&11

“Les, if I were to gauge, we are in the waiting room, and our marriage is having open heart surgery.” He looked at me deeply. “This is a very risky procedure and we are not out of the woods, but thankfully this procedure has been done thousands of time before. God knows what he is doing, and His skilled hand is having his way on our heart. The center of our marriage.”

I looked away. 

Feeling disappointed, my assessment had us sitting up in bed, looking forward to physical therapy!

“We are doing well, but we are not out of the woods.” He replied.

“How will we know when the surgery is complete and successful?” I ask.

“When we stop checking out from one another, and engage.  We have been trying these tools out, but are not convinced yet. When we jump in fully, that will be a sign that the surgery is complete. The rest of our lives are spent in recovery. Of course, we will be finally healed when we are in eternity with the Lord, but there is a process on this side of heaven.” He grinned.

We will always be in recovery.

 

How freeing is that? We don’t have to arrive to this sort of marital bliss destination that is somewhere down the road in a few years. Instead, we get to share in these tangible redemptive moments together, where we know that God, the Perfect Surgeon, is opening up the blockages of our heart in order to see to it our earthly marriage thrives on what it was created to; rely on Christ alone.

Call it sanctification, if you dare, a holy recognition that this life, spent together as husband and wife, is but a mere dress rehearsal for a perfect marriage to come.  Sure, it is painful recovery, but after this year, I cannot imagine missing out on the milestones that derives from healing wounds.

“He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
 They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.”
                                     Isaiah 40:28-31

So we sit, hand in hand in the waiting room, with strengthening knees, getting a taste of the hope to come. Knowing that our time in the ICU is coming, a beautiful gift this side of heaven.

Here’s to another year of seeing what is in store for our crazy clan.

Grief in the Discovery - Part 6 - The First Laugh

It's that awkward moment of grief, when you feel so full of hopelessness, angry tears flowing, when suddenly something makes you...laugh.

Here's a great example of the grief cycle in a short 2.5 minute clip, taken from one of my favorite movies of all time, "Steal Magnolias".

 

Just look at the expression on Sally Field's face when her crew begins laughing, at her daughter's funeral! That scene still gives me a strange feeling in my belly, and I wonder whether or not I was supposed to be laughing at that moment. While laughing is not a stage in the grieving cycle, the first laugh has to happen eventually, and when it does, it might feel awkward.  

Grief had a way of swallowing me up so deeply in pain, that when I laughed, I questioned whether or not it was appropriate. 

I had only been home for two days, after the two week separation from my husband, when we experienced this awkward moment.  The kids were tucked in bed, and Burris and I had enough arguing and crying for the day, when we turned on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. 

With my husband on one end of the couch and I on the other, we didn't even make it half way through the monologue when Fallon was able to get a chuckle out of us. We made eye contact, and the question came as instant as the flip of a light switch, is it ok to laugh?

A couple of thoughts came to mind in that moment on the couch. First,  I wasn't sure if I was honoring my pain by laughing. That sounds silly, I know, but I couldn't deny that laughing felt good, and I had been feeling so hurt for such a long stretch that it caught me off guard. Second, and perhaps this is where I felt I was dishonoring my pain, I didn't want to communicate to my husband that my laughing meant what he did was "ok". 

It was not ok, but man, did it feel great to laugh.

Those first few times I laughed and played with my husband again, taught me some big lessons; 

  1. Laughing doesn't cancel out grief. It just gives a momentary break. It's a gift. Enjoy it.
  2. When the laughing is over, you might go back into heavy grieving again. Just because you laughed or had a good day, doesn't mean that you should be "over" your grieving. This is where it is imperative to receive the compassion of Jesus for yourself.
  3. Laughing in sorrow is a picture of the hope to come. Jesus says in Luke 6:21 "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." Most of us are aware that life here is hard and painful, but for those who are in Christ, there will be a day where there is no more sin and we will laugh in joyful perfection. 

Grief in the discovery will usher us into our first laugh, and may the laughter be like a cup of cold water to a parched soul. Thank God for his kindness in all things funny, even when a part of us feels like it has died. 

Do you have a memory of laughing for the first time in the midst of grief? How did it make you feel?