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Have you ever been so completely overwhelmed by a situation it’s as if you’re drowning in a sea of regret. Have you ever been to the point where you’re asking yourself “what if?”, or dreaming about “if only I had done things like differently”. Or perhaps you’ve been so completely overwhelmed by a situation that you became numb; not caring one way or another how it turned out, as long as you didn’t have to feel anymore? I’ve been there. I’m sure you have too. Maybe you’re there right now.
Last week I had a close friend contact me in regards to their marriage. They made the following statements:
“I don’t feel special.”
“I don’t understand why I come back.”
“I am miserable again.”
“They cry when we fight….but I feel no remorse.”
“I feel so empty.”
Now, keep in mind I personally know this couple. I have a vested interest in their lives, and in their happiness. However, regardless of your situation, the thing/relationship/addiction/overwhelming obstacle that makes you feel regret or emptiness, I believe the advice is beneficial.
Here’s part of my response:
Let me tell you what I do in a difficult situation: I try my best, in every situation to…
1. Dwell upon the word of God. Even Jesus had to talk to His Father before any choice was made, or any action could be done.
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” John 5:30
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19
“Jesus therefore said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.'” (John 8:28).
When facing a really hard time in my life (of which I have had many) I dwell in the Word. I try to read everything I can that would be relevant to my situation….not just what I to hear from God’s word, but what He wants to me to hear.
2. I pray. I diligently seek the wisdom of God. I pray before I read my Bible, while I read my Bible, after I read my Bible. I try to pray constantly. (I fail miserably at this….miserably.) I often get in the way. I think I truly desire what God wants for me, but in the midst of my pain I also want Him to give me what I want. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I have learned time and time again that God works in His own way, in His own time.
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11
3. I trust. I try to wait patiently for God to reveal Himself to me and what He has planned for my life. This is excruciatingly painful for me. I don’t trust easily. And I am one of the most impatient people you will ever know. I want things in my time and the way I see fit. I think I know how it should be, and I will attempt to manipulate a situation so that it goes “my way”. Trust is incredibly hard for me. I’m sure it’s hard for you too. People fail us all the time. Constantly. But, God is faithful. He never fails. He is the one true constant in my life, and yours. It’s time to start trusting Him again.
“For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Psalm 33:4-6
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5&6
4. I seek good (godly) council. It’s okay to ask for help. You came to me with a BIG question (and I hope I’m helping). Too many people (especially men) have a tendency to go into self-preservation mode, hide, or try the “do-it-yourself” way. Very few people seek help. And by “help” I mean someone who can actually provide sound, effective advice. My dad always says, “don’t ask your broke buddy how to manage your money”, because obviously THAT person doesn’t know what they’re doing. So, if your having car trouble…seek a good mechanic. If you need weight loss advice, ask your personal trainer, or a friend that is physically fit. Do not ask the YO-YO dieter in the family. And, if you’re having marriage trouble…..seek out a trusted, married couple, and, or better yet, a marriage counselor. Professional help DOES work. It’s OKAY to seek the advice of people who are happily married, and people who are educated, certified counselors. As a matter of fact, when it gets really bad you should probably seek the professional help before it’s too late. (Side note: I am not a professional. However, I have taken many courses and have given advice to a slew of people for over the last 15 years. I have also been happily married for over a decade and still going strong. So, I’m not a professional, but I am an “expert” by way of experience. LOL)
“Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.” Proverbs 20:18
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong. They fill their hearts with God’s law, so they will never slip from his path.” Proverbs 37: 30-31
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,” Proverbs 1:5
In my opinion, (remember this comes from the depths of my love for you and your spouse) you should seek professional counseling. You should each attend individualized therapy, and you should attend marriage counseling together. You should also find a support system. Family, friends, a good church, and/or a 12 step program….a place where you can plug in, feel accepted, loved, cared for and supported, lifted up, encouraged. “No man is an island.” You will not be able to traverse this on your own. I think you’ve already discovered how difficult it is to “fix it” on your own.
You will be in my prayers this week.
You are not alone.
Earlier this week I had a Facebook friend private message me one of the toughest questions I’ve ever faced: What does true love feel like? I was actually taken aback by the question, because, 1) it came out of the blue and, 2) because I’ve never had to answer that question. I have answered other difficult questions…questions about God, Jesus, my faith, my family. But, never about how love “feels”. After several minutes of wracking my brain I started to think about the love in my life, and this was my response:
“Hmmmmm…..tough question. LOL. I’m not sure I can tell you what it “feels” like, but I can tell you what true love looks like for me.
True love is selfless, self-sacrificing. True love follows the model of Christ…. forgiveness, mercy, and it’s not about me…. it’s about Jesus first, then others and then me.
In a relationship, the only way to model true love is to have your priorities in order (Jesus, Others, You), and have your heart and mind in the right place. It’s a commitment; one you make every day. It’s not a once and done deal. I have to choose to commit every day, in every relationship.
For me, true love is having a husband, who doesn’t like heavy metal or rock music, take you to a live show, spend money on merchandise, stay out way too late…. just because he knows I love it. It’s when I go out of my way to do his laundry…. and when I encourage him in his endeavors and dreams…. even if it will take me outside my comfort zone, or interrupt my day. True love is knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my spouse loves me, likes me, (love and like are different LOL) supports me, (in my ministry, my music, my dreams) cares for me, provides for me (hates his job and goes anyway), is a wonderful father to our kids, makes time for me, etc.
I guess, in a nutshell, true love ‘feels’ like I’m special and cherished by someone.
I hope that helps.”
Two great moments in our lives are, 1) when we are born, and 2) the day we discover why we’re born.
We were created for a reason. A divine purpose. Our lives are not accidents or fate. Whether your parents were happily married, unhappily married or “hooking up” when you were conceived… Whether you’re adopted, lived in foster care, raised by an extended family member, living in an abusive home, or in a loving home…..God has a personal plan for each of us. His purpose in our lives can only be accomplished because of Jesus Christ.
The life of Jesus Christ is the turning point of ALL history. For example, our calendar hinges on His birth. This is a man from a small town called Nazareth, in the Middle East, prophets announced His birth hundreds of years before He arrived, He fulfilled every single prophecy regarding the Messiah in His lifetime. Many great men have come and gone, yet none of them were divine, announced beforehand, fulfilled all the messianic prophecies, except ONE man, Jesus Christ.
When Jesus started His ministry He selected 12 men to help Him. I think it’s important to note that all of Jesus’ disciples decided to follow Him. They weren’t tricked, coerced, manipulated…they made a choice. Another important note: each of them came from a different walk of life/family history. None of them were “awesome” or “one of a kind”. As a matter of fact, Peter had a really bad temper, Simon the Zealot is nearly a total mystery with very little known about him, and Andrew wasn’t as popular as his cousin John the Baptist, and lived in his shadow. There isn’t a single one that was incredibly important, until they met Jesus. The point is, they simply believed.
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:34-43
Peter said that God wants to forgive us and bring peace into our lives. Jesus provides the way to peace—peace with God and peace with others. Other people have sinned against us and we have sinned against other people. We can do something about both by asking God to forgive us of our sins and forgiving others for their sins against us.
The life of Christ calls for a decision. Was He just a good teacher/spiritual leader? Or was He who He claimed to be? The Son of God, who has the power to forgive sins and grant everlasting life to all who will believe on Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Life has two roads, and we’re on one of them. One leads to death and eternal punishment. The other to everlasting life. Jesus taught us that every person will exist for eternity. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.“ However, choosing the right road is simple. Romans 10:9-10, “…if you confess with your mouth the Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
We all know in our hearts that we have sinned. Even if we’ve never read the Bible, or can’t understand what it means to sin against God, we know we’re sinners. God created us with a conscience. We know what we don’t want others doing to us. We don’t want them lying , stealing from us or being unkind, and when we do it to other people our conscience let’s us know we have done wrong.
The penalty for sin is death. BUT, 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God, became a man. He lived for 33 years, without sin. Then He was murdered. He paid the penalty for sin without committing any crime. So death had no power over Him. After 3 days, He came back to life again. HE IS ALIVE! And now He offers forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.
You can receive Christ as your Savior RIGHT NOW. You can tell Him in your own words that you’re sorry for your sins and want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Ask God to change your heart and life. It’s your prayer. He wants to hear you. You must say it from your heart and mean it. (Romans 10:9-10)
“God, I know I have sinned. I believe your son, Jesus Christ, died to take the punishment for my sin. I believe Jesus came back to life from death, and has the power to forgive my sins and change my life. Forgive me. Come into my life and change me. I want to live for you and follow your plan for my life. I believe you have forgiven me, and I thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
God has forgiven you if you prayed this prayer and meant it from your heart. Now you can begin the life He has planned for you. Step by step God will lead you to what He has planned for you. He will show you the way to live.
My husband, Chris, and I have been through a lot in the last 15 years of our relationship. Marriage, job loss, infertility, foreclosure, bankruptcy, four failed adoptions, a major move from Illinois to Colorado, being foster parents to 16 children within a 2 year period (lots of loss involved there), the foster/adoption of our son Nathan, the surprising birth of our biological daughter, Annabella, my near death experience after giving birth, loss of our business as a result of the time Chris took off to take care of me and the kids, difficulties with our son post adoption, ministry hardships and so much more. (That’s just to name a few.)
People have often asked us how we’ve stayed married through all of this. Especially since, in today’s day and age, divorce is the new commitment. If it gets too hard you can always bail out. Most couples getting married, or talking about marriage, have their “out strategy” planned. Being a youth pastor I’ve heard many young people say, “I’m committed to the relationship until they do __________.” Our society’s “Have it Your Way” mentality, which is the McDonald’s slogan for having your sandwich with or without pickles, has morphed into how we view marriage. “I liked my spouse when we married, but now those things that I thought were cute are now annoying. So, I’m out.” Many couples hit the Escape button when things get too uncomfortable. And we’re teaching the next generation to do the same.
(Disclaimer: There are lots of exceptions. Every realtionship has two people, and they deal with their own set of issues, personalities and experiences, etc.)
I am not trying to start a debate about marriage, or tell anyone how to live their life. However, Chris and I entered into this marriage knowing there’s only one way out; death. This idea sounds terribly morbid, however it’s Biblical. Plus, we knew each other really well before we got married. Not completely, but really well. And my parents raised me to be a committed person. My dad said on hundreds of occasions, “Dittmer’s don’t quit!” (my maiden name) So, when Chris and I got married we knew what we were getting into. His constant talking and trying to make jokes…I knew about it. My constant correcting, or “mothering” as he’s called it…he knew about. So, they’re not reasons to bail. It’s become a family joke, “I knew exactly what I was getting into, so it’s my fault!”
With that said, our marriage is not perfect. We are continuously working on ourselves and our marriage. But, we are unified in our efforts. We like being together. Spending time together is important to us, both alone and with our children. My husband is my best friend and I am his. We make a focused effort to maintain unity in our marriage, and we try to keep our priorities in order:
4. Everything else
Sometimes I fail. Actually, I fail way more than I succeed. But, I’m aware of the times I falter, whether by intuition (that snazzy women’s intuition) or by being told, or rather putting my foot in my mouth and having someone remove it for me. And I make an effort to correct it.
Unity in my marriage is extremely important to me. Knowing that my husband has my back and I have his provides me with the stability I need to function as a wife and mother, and wear the many hats that I do. My husband is a hard worker. He goes to work every day and gives 110%, no excuses. He is also a towering example of fatherhood and leadership for our family, church and community. He leads by example and I am proud to be his wife.
So, to answer the question of how we’ve stayed together through the good times and the bad times; through the well-to-do times and the Ramen noodle poor times; through sickness and health, until death do us part? Our bond is strong because we stay focused on Jesus and on each other. And nothing will divide us.
Nap time is a precious commodity in our home, especially for me. From the moment my daughter’s eyes open in the morning until the moment they finally close at night, she’s a handful. My own personal two-year-old “tear-up-the-house tornado”. My little jabber-jaw. The only peace I get during daytime hours is during her nap time. This is when I find time to write, such as this article. It’s when I find time to clean and then decide I could be doing other, more useful things, such as drink another cup of coffee, or read, or take a shower (another precious commodity). However, I was talking with a friend of mine today and we were discussing what a handful my toddler is and she said, “I would be terrified of the moment she wakes up”. She meant it in good fun. She knows my daughter pretty well and understands just how much trouble my little one can get herself into. But, it got me thinking…..
My life won’t always be this way. Someday my big-eyed baby girl won’t look up at me with that jelly-covered face and ask me, repeatedly, to read her a “bood” (book), or play Mickey Mouse, Criffird (Clifford the Big Red Dog), Bears (Care Bears) and “Tocker” (Daniel Tiger). One day she won’t ask me to to spin her ’round and ’round until I’m so dizzy I could faint. She will stop asking me, “Mommy sit. Play.” Someday, very soon, she’ll be too busy with her friends or ‘too cool’ to hang out with me and I’ll be embarrassing to her. One day she’ll stop asking me “what’s dis?” for every little thing she sees, or hears or smells. We won’t make up silly songs together or dance around the house like no one is watching. She will stop asking me to take her the park. She will stop playing during bath time and playing with bubbles will be a thing of the past. Cuddle time will completely disappear and my heart will break. She will be able to comfort herself after a nightmare, or put herself to sleep every night without being wrapped tight in a blankie and rocking. She won’t need help on and off the potty, and she won’t want to talk to me while I’m on the potty. One day, too soon for this mother’s heart to handle, she won’t need me for everything, and I will miss it.
So, even though I often look forward to nap time, I am going to try and cherish all of the tiresome questions, obnoxious behaviors, maddening temper tantrums, and vexatious messes for what they are: a precious necessity to my daughter’s development.
Unlike many of you, I have difficulty finding time to write. (sarcasm intended) I am a stay-at-home mommy with a busy teenager and an active toddler. My daily routine consists of potty training, running my kids around (the typical soccer mom, minus the soccer), band practice and writing music (that’s a whole different topic), cleaning, laundry, making meals and other mommy and wife duties. Plus, church activities. I really feel like I’m leaving something out. Oh, right! Me time. Hahah. That was a little joke. My life basically revolves around Mickey Mouse cartoons, nap time and high school activities. So, finding the time to write can be challenging. (Even as I write this article my daughter is refusing to lay down for her nap. I’ll be right back…..)
Don’t get me wrong….I am NOT complaining. My mother tells the story of how I proclaimed, quite pointedly, “I am going to be a wife, a mommy, a singer and write stuff”, when I was just four years old. So, in reality, I am living my dream! And what adult actually gets to have their dream job? However, it does get hard to juggle it all. Sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind. Coffee helps. (I love coffee!) The real goal is to do it all and maintain my sanity. After all, how do you say “No” to a face like this?
My husband will tell you, without hesitation, that I do too much. Or that I don’t know how to say “No”. He’s right. (Yes, honey you can use this as written proof that I’ve said this at least once in our marriage.)
I (might) do too much. I (might) take on too many responsibilities. I (might) carry too many burdens. I (might) wear too many hats. You know what? I love it. I love everything I do. It might be hard work, but it’s worth it. Every minute is fulfilling and magical. (cue the Mickey Mouse theme song…”hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog….”)
The point is, if I’m trying to make a point here, that I must do everything with purpose. The time I spend with my kids is precious, so it should be treated that way. And if I want to find time to write the worlds next masterpiece novel, I will have to specifically carve out time to do so. Otherwise, a day goes by and then a year goes by and I’ve written nothing.
I guess it’s time to make time.