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I Asked My Abusive Ex-Husband to Forgive Me

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Oh, my heart is so full of things I want to say, that I feel I don’t know where to begin.  Please bear with me as my heart is heavy with these words.

Abuse is wrong.  Abuse in ALL forms is wrong.  I don’t care if it’s physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, etc.  And I don’t believe being a submissive wife means that you allow your husband to abuse you.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:25-28, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives…”  (emphasis mine).  If a husband is abusing his wife, in any way, he is certainly not leaving her spotless or without blemish, and thus not loving her in a Biblical manner.

It’s something that on the whole, the church is just ignoring, and from the stories I’ve heard, it’s a rampant problem.  My ex and I sought various types of counseling for years before our divorce.  For many years, I never labeled what he did as abuse.  He said and did things that “weren’t nice,” but he never beat me, so he wasn’t abusive.  But he tore me down year after year until I was just a ghost of my former self.  I literally ended up in the hospital with my organs shutting down before I realized how bad things were, and how desperately things needed to change.  And yet, I stayed.  I stayed another year or so until I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I firmly believed I was going to end up dead (from sickness) or in a mental health facility.

Originally I wanted a trial separation, but my ex refused.  He wanted all or nothing.  When I went to talk to my pastor, he said (and I quote), that since I had never been “hit in the face” that I didn’t have a Biblical reason for divorce.  He acknowledged my husband treated me poorly, that he had a raging addiction to pornography, but apparently he wasn’t the right kind of abusive for the church.

I left the meeting and filed for divorce.

Eventually, I met and married Andy and joined his church.  The Lord convicted me for some things regarding my divorce, and I confessed my sins to Him and moved on.  Except I couldn’t.  My spiritual life was stagnant.  I was going to church faithfully, reading my Bible, listening to godly music, but I was so distant from the Lord.  I began to earnestly cry out to Him, “Show me what I’ve done!”  “I NEED you, Lord!” “Bring me back to you!”

The Scripture says in Number 32:23 to “…be sure your sin will find you out.” And boy did they ever.  Over and over and over again.  The Lord brought to mind time after time that I was not the wife that I should have been to my Ex.  You see, I started out as every young Christian bride, planning on being the submissive loving wife, but as he let me down, I stopped trying.  I gave up on him.  And honestly, I became a hateful, vile wife.  I said and did just hateful things that I am deeply ashamed of.  Things that there is no excuse for, as I have the Holy Spirit living inside me.  And as the Lord brought those things to mind, it became clear what I needed to do.  Not just confess them to the Lord, but seek forgiveness from my Ex.

I talked it over with Andy, and he graciously listened and prayed with me.  I set up the meeting with my Ex for the next day.  I met with him, and with tears in my eyes, apologized for not being the wife that God had called me to be.  You see Ephesians has some words for us wives too.  It says in 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  It doesn’t say if they’re nice.  It doesn’t say if they deserve it.  It just says if they’re your husband.

Now, again, I’m not saying anyone should stay in an abusive marriage.  That’s between you and the Lord.  But I chose to stay for 6 years.  And during that time, I should have done my best as a wife to follow the instructions given to me by the Lord.  And I didn’t.  Who knows the changes that could have been made in my Ex if I had.  I never gave him that opportunity.  Maybe it would have all ended the same.  I’ll never know.

I also felt God calling me to apologize to that pastor who gave me the terrible advice.  He was my pastor, and I had placed myself under his authority.  To be honest, apologizing to him was WAY harder than talking with my Ex.  Not that what he said was right AT ALL, but I should have been willing to sit under counseling with him and my Ex for a period of time, and I wasn’t.  I simply wanted his stamp of approval on my actions, and when I didn’t get it, I stomped out.

But here’s the deal.  The only reason the Lord blessed is because I truly humbled myself and truly sought forgiveness only.  Because you know what? Neither one of them apologized back.  My Ex has always blamed me for the divorce, so I imagine he felt pretty validated.  And that pastor? His response was pretty smug.  But, I got my clear and full relationship with Jesus back.

As 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

It may not be your Ex.  I may be your parents or a sibling or a friend who has wronged you that you may need to ask forgiveness of  It’s not easy, but peace with God and yourself is SO very worth it.

Dawn

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Mishaps, Mistakes, and Misery

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  – Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with my sister downtown, when I had a little accident.  I am a terrible parallel parker, and in trying to park, I hit another car.  This has never happened to me before, and although the damage was minimal, I was afraid to tell Andy.  We have only been married for 4 months, and he’s still traveling out of town each week, so I wasn’t sure what the best way would be to tell him.  With my heart beating fast, I called him on the phone and spilled the story.  And you know what his reaction was?  “It’s no big deal, I’m just glad you’re ok.”  That was it.  Once he got home and actually saw the car, we had a little chuckle about my parking skills, and we moved on.  The End.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  Although I won’t go into the details, Andy did something that I thought was incredibly stupid.  (I’m not proud to say that, but I’m being honest here).  As the time progressed, and we dealt with the consequences of his decision, I got madder and madder, until finally, I blew up and snapped at him.  A much different reaction than the one he gave me after my bad parking experience.

As I have been studying Eve, I have been more and more convicted about my role as a wife, and how often I fail to meet the requirements.  In his book Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur explains the roles this way,

 “Adam was created first; then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence.  Adam was the head; Eve was his helper.  Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader.  Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper.”

As I look on this list of “job roles,” I couldn’t help but think about all of the ways Andy meets his requirements.  He is a wonderful father.  He works long hours and far away (for now) to be a good provider.  We have a lovely home, no debt, and I get to fulfill my dream of being a stay at home mom.  He would do anything to protect us, and even though I don’t always agree with his decisions, he is always focused on making decisions the way he believes God is leading him.

So, why do I find it so hard to fulfill my roles? Although I love being a mom, I can’t say that I am always great at comforting and nurturing my kids (or husband), and I certainly am not always a happy helper.  When the situation arose this past weekend, instead of pointing out the discomfort I was facing, I should have stood behind my husband the same way he did me.  My attitude should have been, “It’s no big deal.  I’m glad we’re all ok.”  Because we were.  No harm was done, and one day in the future, I know we will look back on that time and chuckle.

May God continue to point out ways in which I fail my family, so that in the future when mistakes and mishaps occur, instead of following it up with misery, I can show our family mercy and create a merry atmosphere.

Dawn

(Originally Written in 2013)

 

 

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When the Going Gets Tough

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4 (ESV)

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The past few weeks have been very rough on me. Andy was given an amazing work opportunity that will be great for his career, but requires him to be gone Sunday – Thursday every week for 6+ weeks.  That means that the running of the household has fallen on me.  I have been trying to juggle kids, school, work, Christmas shopping, etc., and at times, my strength has failed me.  It’s been especially hard because the Triplets and I are still learning how to navigate as a family. 

As much as I even hate to admit it, I had to ask Andy’s forgiveness last week for calling him during a “crisis” and adding stress to his plate instead of turning to my Lord and having Him help me deal with it on my own.  It’s a fine line between wanting Andy to know that everything is handled at home and letting him know that he is still needed and missed.

I have often felt like a failure in the past few weeks, but today Andy sent me this incredible email that not only blessed my heart tremendously, but helped me refocus:

 

“Every time I’ve seen a picture of a king on TV or a magazine, I’ve always looked at his crown first. There’s something fascinating about it sitting on his head, covered in jewels, inlaid in gold. It shines and is a symbol of his position and place in the world. It shows his authority to lead. It garners respect from others around him and sets him apart. In effect, it makes him special and without his crown he’s just another man in the room. Without the crown, he cannot accomplish anything. But with it he can build great things, lead others, and care for a kingdom that God has given him.

You are the beautiful crown of my life, Dawn. You make me special and help me accomplish what I set out to do. Without your help I couldn’t do very much. Thank you for lifting me up and supporting me. I hope I am doing the same for you. As a crown you’ll never be hidden or stepped on. Crowns are for wearing and adorning; boots are for stepping and kicking. I love you with all my heart. I’m so very thankful for you.”

As a woman who was raised to be a “Proverbs 31 woman,” I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to hear my husband say this to me.  Not that I am a perfect wife (I am not even close), and not that we have a perfect marriage relationship, but isn’t this what we’re all trying to attain? For our husbands to feel supported and secure, to know that his wife is behind him no matter what.  This certainly isn’t a prideful thing for me, but much more of an admonishment and reminder of what my husband needs from me.  May I always be able to let go of my selfish ways, my need to be reaffirmed, and my complaining and put my husband first.  Not an easy task by any means, but well worth it to gain favor in the sight of my husband and God.

Dawn

(Originally written in 2012)

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My Husband Doesn’t Expect Perfection…Why Do I???

When Will I Learn to Trust that my Husband Means What He Says?

I admittedly have a problem with perfection.  I have spent my adult life trying to attain and keep standards that are physically impossible.  Although I’d like to think that I’m getting better, these past few weeks have laid open another area of sin in my life.  My obsession with perfection. 

For me, this obsession with perfection centers around my desire to be the best wife and mom that I can be.  Although these are noble goals, they often take my focus off the Lord and put it on earthly things.  My biggest desire in marrying Andy was to become his help-meet in every sense of the word.  I wanted to completely take over his stress and problems and frustrations, and leave him surrounded in calm and peace.  I feel accomplished when I am able to get home from work, get the kids off the bus, get homework done, and dinner on the table before Andy comes home from work.  I guess it’s how I gauge myself on if I’m being a good wife or not.  Andy has told me several times that things don’t need to be perfect, and that I need to give myself some rest, but I secretly believe he is disappointed if the house is untidy in any way, if all the laundry isn’t done, or if I haven’t made a homemade dinner. 

Well for the past two weeks, I have had a migraine headache nonstop.  I have been bedridden, to the Dr. and the hospital, all with very little relief.  I have been unable to keep up with the kids or the housework – it has all fallen on Andy, and he has done an amazing job.  One night he was apologizing for not getting something done, and I told him, “I really don’t care at all.  You’re doing the best you can.  You’re doing a great job.”  And I meant it.  It occurred to me then that he probably feels the same way when he’s telling me that I’m doing a great job.  I have just chosen to not believe him. 

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 5:32 “You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (ESV). 

The Lord (nor my husband) seeks perfection from me.  All I am asked to do is follow what I know the Lord has commanded me to do.  While that certainly includes being a focused and committed wife and mother, it does not mean that my toilets have to always be clean and that the kids can’t ever have their toys on the floor.  More than that, I need to believe what my husband says, and trust that he is on my side working with me, and not let my own insecurities shake my faith in his word.

Dawn

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Searching for Peace

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7 ESV)

This may seem like common sense to most of you, but a divorce does not bring peace.  When I was living in my first marriage, all I wanted was peace.  I wanted a home that was filled with the quiet contentment of being in a family where everyone was loved and secure.  While Andy and I are working hard to achieve this in our home, it’s becoming very apparent that we are facing external enemies that are working to destroy our peace.

The above verse has been hanging in our kitchen for the past few months, and it’s one that we’ve been clinging to, but the Lord gave us a chance to put it into practice last night.

Without going into too many details, we had parent conferences for the triplets. During that time spent with Andy’s ex-wife, we were lied to, lied about, and vilified.  Though we haven’t been married for long, I consider the triplets to be as much my children as Daughter P.  I know the hurt, pain, and confusion they have experienced at the hands of their mother, but last night I was able to witness first hand the all-consuming hate that would love to destroy our attempt at a godly marriage.  It’s the kind of hate that you really have to experience before you can believe it exists.  The kind that leaves no doubt that we are facing many enemies.

By God’ grace alone, I was able to keep my mouth shut and not try to correct the wrongs being spoken about us.  Andy was also able to focus on the task at hand, interact with the teachers, and ignore the negative.  We were able to get the information we needed about the kids, their grades, and how to best help them, which is why we were there.

After a dinner filled with me spouting off about all of the wrongs dealt us (just for clarification – the children were NOT with us during this time), we went home were the first thing I saw was this verse, and I was reminded that the Lord calls for me to please HIM with my ways, no one else.  He promises that if I live a life pleasing to the LORD, eventually even my enemies will have nothing negative to say about me.  And even if they try, no one will believe them 🙂

I know we have a long road ahead of us as we raise our children.  I know that I won’t always be able to stay calm like I did last night.  But I also know that if I keep my focus on HIM, my enemies will eventually be left speechless.

Dawn

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It’s Not Always Easy to Forget

After my divorce, I was in very intensive weekly counseling for about 6 months.  Slowly, the memories of my marriage and the anxiety it produced subsided.  Sometimes though, the past comes jolting back in a very real way, and it never fails to catch me off guard.

One such memory came flooding back to me this week at a doctor’s appointment.  One of the most devastating things that happened in my marriage took place during a time when I was extremely ill with (what ended up being) mono.  I was hospitalized for a week and in-and-out of doctor’s appointments for many months after.  The details don’t matter, except for the fact that it was my mom and sister who came to care for me from South Carolina and Washington D.C. respectively.  It was a very trying time physically, but also when my family started to confront me about some of the serious issues they were seeing in my marriage.  It’s very hard for me to think back on that time, and I don’t do so if I can at all help it.

Well, this week I had a Dr.’s appointment at the same hospital where I was admitted during that illness.  When I checked into my appointment this week, the nurse went through and updated my information.  My emergency contacts listed were two of my aunts….not my ex-husband as it should have been, because I knew that I couldn’t count on him to come if there was an emergency.  The feelings and emotions of how utterly alone I was during the time of my illness came flooding back, until I turned to see Andy sitting with my daughter P in the waiting room, ready to go through anything with me.

It happens sometimes when I go get Daughter P.  My ex-husband still lives in our old home, and although I would never want to be back there, sometimes I am overwhelmed with sadness just remembering what I hoped our home and family would be like there, and the failure of my marriage.

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes when Andy says a certain phrase that my ex-husband would say, and I have to fight back the tears or harsh comments that threaten to spill forth from me.

I guess my point is this….just because you are removed from a situation, it doesn’t mean that it won’t still affect you for years to come.  Letting go of the hopes and dreams you had for your life is hard.  Even if you were in a horrible marriage, it is still necessary to grieve the loss of it.  I have had to grieve the loss of the person I was before my first marriage.  Some of the thoughts these memories bring up are straight from the enemy, and I have to confront them as that.  I find myself repeating the lies that I had gotten used to believing about myself, and I start to feel the guilt and failure all over again.

For those of you who have suffered through a separation or divorce, or who are suffering in a difficult marriage now, I highly suggest that you work to begin looking at yourself as God sees you.  Search through Scripture to find the wonderful thoughts and promises that He has for His children.  When those negative thoughts and lies creep up, replace them with the Truth from God’s Word.  Memories are powerful things, but the Lord who created us is more powerful.  Cling to the Truth about your present and your future, and leave the lies of the past behind.

Dawn

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How to Survive in the Workplace When Your Heart is at Home

“Whenever the Bible expressly talks about the marks of an excellent woman, the stress is always on feminine virtue.  The most significant women in Scripture were influential not because of their careers, but because of their character.” – John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women.

      As I mentioned yesterday, my desire has always been to be a wife and mother.  More specifically, a stay-at-home wife and mother.  Now please do not take offense if this is not your desire.  This is not a post bashing women who choose to be in the workplace, but rather an encouragement for those women who desire to stay home, but can’t.

     Although I’ve always wanted to stay home, in the four years that I have been a mother, this dream of mine has never been fulfilled. For whatever reason, the Lord has never allowed for this door to be open to me. I originally went into teaching thinking that given the time off, it would be the next best thing to staying at home, and it was.  However, in the past few years, even this door has been closed, and I have taken a job in the public workforce.  My schedule is great for during the week, but includes a lot of Saturdays.  This means a lot of missed quality family time.

     From now until the end of the year, I have to work 9 weekends.  Just thinking about it almost gives me a panic attack.  That’s 9 Saturdays where my precious children and husband will be out enjoying the Fall weather and participating in fun holiday activities without me.

     In my previous marriage, this became a source of contention, and I am determined to not let that be the case in my new marriage.  Before, I had to work because I was the one with the steady job and I made more money than my spouse.  More importantly, I think, it was not an important goal for my ex-husband.  Things could not be more different this time around.  Andy has a good, steady, well-paying job, and more importantly, he greatly desires for me to be home taking care of the house and the children.  Unfortunately, I acquired the majority of the debt from my previous marriage, and it’s going to take a little bit of time working and applying my paycheck to that in order for it to be paid off.  I am fully on board with our plan, and I believe that I should work to help get it paid off, but I still like to lament about my circumstances sometimes.

     I was doing just this thing the other day (with tears and all), and Andy shared that he was carrying guilt about me having to work.  Well, talk about guilt…the Lord greatly convicted me about my attitude.  It was not lifting up my husband at all, but actually tearing him down.  I resolved to stick it out, and keep any complaints to myself.  I am focusing on one weekend at a time, not the 9 ahead of me, and we are figuring out how to make regular week nights family fun nights (not an easy task with elementary aged triplets and their massive amounts of homework).

    What have I decided to focus on? What I can do when I am home.  For me this week, that has meant sprucing up small areas of the house with fall decorations.  As the quote above states, I will not be known for my job in the public sector or as a stay-at-home mom, but for my virtue.  I don’t want to have the character of a complainer, and more importantly, I don’t want my husband to see me as a complainer.  So I challenge you moms who work outside of the home: don’t focus on everything you miss, but be determined to be purposeful in the time you do have in your home, and make every moment there as peaceful and as joyful as you can for yourself, your children, and your spouse.  You will be remembered for it.

Dawn

(Originally Written in 2012)