Day 12: The story of us (Part 4)

When I first heard God speak to me about praying for our marriage to be restored, I thought He was crazy.  Then I thought I was crazy for thinking that, because I know that really, God is the only one of us who is completely not crazy.  As crazy as His ideas appear at times.

Trust me, there was a whole lot of craziness just beginning.

At the time of our lives that this was happening between me and God, my husband and I weren’t even speaking to each other.  We were both still healing in our own ways, and for a time of several years couldn’t communicate effectively with each other directly.  God gave us an amazing blessing in the form of my mother-in-law, who kept the lines of communication open between us (albeit indirectly), and who helped us maintain what had become the normal routine for our kids.

So how on earth could this marriage be restored, completely renovated and rebuilt when neither of us had the tools or inclination to even want to make it happen?  We didn’t even remotely like each other at that point, let alone want to be married again.

Here’s the thing I know now – it was never up to us to make it happen.  That was God’s job, His desire and His plan, and He knew how it was all going to play out.  And so many times along the way, I really wished He’d given me the script of how this story was to unfold, because for the most part, I was completely lost.

It took me some time to actually become an active participant in this grand plan – well, active in that I decided to take part.  That makes me laugh so hard now, thinking that I actually had a choice about this whole thing.  Of course, I had a choice (we can always choose whether we follow God’s leading or not), but ultimately this was God’s master plan for us, and He created the desire in me to want to follow the steps along the way.

A month or so after I reluctantly prayed the prayer to see our marriage restored, I went and saw the movie ‘The Lake House’.  It’s the story of two characters separated by time, communicating via letters left in a letterbox at a lake house they both lived in at different points in time.  Without wanting to spoil the story (and I highly recommend you do see it if you haven’t already, it’s a favourite of mine), there’s an event that leads Sandra Bullock’s character to implore Keanu Reeves’ to wait, to just wait.

As I was watching the scene, I heard God speak to me again, as clear as day, in the voice I was coming to recognise as His.  I heard Him say ‘Just wait, I promise you it will be worth it’.

I came out of the movie completely energised and so excited to see what that would mean, what this promise of ‘it will be worth it’ would look like, how it would come to life.  I was convinced that it would be in the form of a new relationship, and that it would happen soon, because surely His promise was about fulfilling the deep-rooted desire I had to be in a relationship.

It was.

It totally was.

Just not exactly how I was picturing it.  Or in my ideal timeline.  Or by my reckoning.

In fact, what I thought I wanted did not even remotely look like what God had in store for me, and had I known the details of what would make up the journey ahead, especially without knowing the ending, I doubt I would have been a willing participant.  It was my first real lesson in faith, in trusting God, and learning to understand why God doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what’s ahead of us because if we knew, what would we need Him for?

It took another several months before the first signs of repair and rebuilding between my husband and I really started to show.  During that time, we were both in the ‘planning stage’, much like when you build or renovate a house.  Not that we knew it at the time, but God was doing His work in both of us, quietly and without fanfare.

He was laying the foundation for a new building, a new life, a new love.  I had no idea how painful and difficult that would be, but man, was I about to find out.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

Day 11: Love is kind

love is kind illustration. Paola Zakimi

via pinterest

I love this image.  It was just something I happened upon on Pinterest, but it so sums up for me what comes to mind when I think about kindness.  Being with someone, coming alongside them and being what they need at a given point in time.

The Message translates the verse as ‘Love cares more for others than for self’.  I love this.  That’s ultimately what kindness is, isn’t it?  Putting someone before yourself.  Giving them what they need over what you might need, or think you need.  And doing it without expectation of anything in return.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a whimsical, skipping-amongst-the-daisies act to live out.  Putting people before ourselves is so often counter-intuitive and ‘unnatural’ for us.  As human beings, there is much of us that is inherently selfish and self-serving, and to put that aside and consider what someone else might need and act on that, whilst at the same time considering what we need, is not something that tends to come naturally to most of us.  At least, that’s been my experience, I’d love to hear your views and experiences, so please feel free to share!

I believe that that this is one of the hardest things we are faced with in relationships – serving the other, and putting them and their needs before ourselves.  Of course, in a perfect world, if we all did this, then everyone would be serving everyone else, and everyone’s needs would be met!  But as we know, this isn’t the case, and many hurts and much pain is caused by lack of kindness in relationships.

Relationships ebb and flow.  I think of them as being like a see-saw – sometimes my needs are greater, and I pray that the people around me can help me with what I need.  And vice versa, there are times when I need to put my self aside and be whatever someone needs me to be for them.  Let me be very clear, however – I am not talking about letting people walk over you and abuse your heart.  That is not kindness or grace, and is an abuse of power in a relationship.

Kindness comes in the big and the small things.  From smiling at a stranger who looks like they just need someone to care, to giving up our time and serving in our communities.  Sitting with a friend while she cries hot tears and taking a meal to a family wearied by life.  Swallowing our opinions (when we think they would really really help) because the other person just needs to offload, and doing things we really don’t like doing, just because someone else does.

Kindness doesn’t cost anything, but it is the greatest gift we can give.  It is one of the foundations of how we are to live – Jesus tells us this is what we need to do, to love one another, as He loved us.  And if love is kind, then we are to be kind.

Mother Theresa Quotes - Bing Images - via http://bit.ly/epinner

 via pinterest

Show kindness.  Speak kindness.  Live kindness.  In the small and the big, when you feel like it, and when you don’t.  A little kindness goes a long way, and its’ effects are far reaching, beyond what we can see.

Kind word can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are endless...Mother Teresa #handlettering #illustration

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Day 10: Love is always worth it

I came across this song when I saw ‘Fireproof‘, and it’s words left me in a hot, melting mess, because they are truth.

Every. Single. Word.

Love is not a battlefield, it’s not a place where we go to fight, but it is absolutely, always, worth the fight.  To keep it.  To live it.  To make it stronger.  To make it real. Love is not a pick and choose kind of deal.  It’s a place we stay, we don’t just get to leave when it gets hard, and yes, it is hard. Every day.  With every relationship we have.  I don’t know about you, but one thing I’ve learnt in my 37 years is that the things in life that are worth something are hard work, and worth the effort.

I will never back down from this truth, and will never pull any punches in speaking the realities of love. It is not all sunshine and lollipops and red hearts and warm fuzzies.  It is hard.  It is gut wrenching.  It drains every ounce of energy we have, and brings us to depths we never knew existed.  It can feel like we’re fighting round after round after round of fear, discontent, hopelessness, grief, anger and pain when we’re trying to hold onto what we believe in, to make it real.  It can take what feels like everything from us, can completely change our reality and turn our world upside down, and sometimes, that’s where we need to be, so that God can rebuild.  Because God, He is Love defined.

 

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It’s a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave

So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We’ll work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

To some, love is a word
That they can fall into
But when they’re falling out
Keeping that word is hard to do

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

Love will come to save us
If we’ll only call
He will ask nothing from us
But demand we give our all

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It’s worth fighting for

What are you fighting for, right now?  I would love to hear more of your story, to pray for you and encourage you through whatever is your testing ground at the moment.  Please feel free to share in the comments, or e-mail me at stitchingmum at gmail dot com.  One thing about this whole love thing, we’re not alone.

Day 9: The story of us (Part 3) – All you need is just a little patience

love never gives up. If one gives up then it was never love at all.

via pinterest

Patience.

So not one of my ‘natural’ better qualities.

I’m in a season of realising more and more how much I crave instant gratification, and have my whole life, so that gives you some idea of how I lived through a process that took 7 years from God telling me to pray for our marriage to be restored, to us coming back together.

Not very patiently, at all.

I should back up a bit – when God first spoke to me about being married again to my husband, I did not want that to happen.  At all.  Ever.  It took another nearly 3 years before my heart changed, before God changed my heart to that being what I wanted, to that becoming the desire of my heart.  For me, the true test of patience came once I realised I had fallen in love with my husband again, and then had to wait and see what would happen.

It was a situation where so many elements were completely out of my control, and the only thing I could do was to keep trusting God that His promises were true, and to wait.  Like I said, not one of my strong points.

The King James Version of ‘Love is patient’ reads ‘Charity suffereth long’ Strong’s Concordance translates ‘suffereth long’ as:

 (I) ‘to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart’, (A) ‘to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles’

Merriam-Webster defines patient as:

1
:  bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2
:  manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3
:  not hasty or impetuous
4
:  steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
5
a    :  able or willing to bear —used with of

Bearing pains.

Not hasty.

Steadfast

Able or willing to bear.

To be of a long spirit.

Not to lose heart.

To persevere patiently and bravely.

I only read these words in the last couple of days as I sought out the definition of and the Biblical application of the word ‘patient’, and I discovered the simple description of what is was to wait on the promise God gave me, one that initially I didn’t believe.  Let’s just say that I was not a picture of patience by these definitions.

So many times, I grew impatient, I did lose heart, and I gave up on seeing His promise fulfilled.  I tried to rush things because I didn’t think God was making things happen when they should.  I got sick of waiting.  I thought ‘if it hasn’t happened by now, it will never happen’.  I thought I knew how it should all happen.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

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I would have times when I could hardly physically bear the longing, the desperation of wanting to see His promise to me, to us, come to life, when the love I felt for my husband was almost crippling, and I wondered how on earth I could keep living like this.  I told myself that this was the cross I had to bear for not ‘getting it right’ in our marriage the first time, and sometimes told myself that actually, I had it all wrong, this wasn’t really what God had in mind for us.  But deep within, in a place I have yet to uncover inside myself, I knew, without a doubt, that I was wrong, that His promise was true, and that when His timing was perfect, I would see it come to life.

And I did.  We’re now living the fulfilment of His promise, and He’s nowhere near finished with us yet.  It wasn’t until I gave up on trying to do everything in my power, and came to a quiet acceptance that I just had to be patient and keep trusting and waiting that anything changed.  And it wasn’t God that changed.  It was each of us, being made into who He intended us to be all along.

Hebrews 6:15 (Patience)

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God is each of those definitions of patience.  He is not hasty, He is steadfast and doesn’t lose heart with us, He waits patiently for us.  And this is how we are to love, not just our spouses but everyone in our lives – our kids, family, friends, work colleagues, everyone who comes across our path in life.  I know every time I take a deep breath and wait a few moments in those frustrating situations with my kids, the end result is always so much better than when I give into my initial impulse and just yell at them.  When I take the time to listen to a friend and feel some of the pain or struggle they’re experiencing, they feel more loved and encouraged than if I just told them what I thought and what they should do.

This is what God does with us, how He loves us, and so this is how we need to love each other.  It’s really very simple, but it is so hard to put into practice, because we’re not God.  A deep breath, count to 5, and asking Him for His heart makes such a difference in how we love.

Guns ‘n’ Roses had it right all along, a little patience is all we need.  It doesn’t take much, but it can make a huge difference.  I’ll leave you with this classic for your viewing pleasure, and in the meantime, tell me, how do you ‘practice’ patience?  For me, it’s a whole lot of deep breathing and clamping my mouth shut before I let the words come out.  There are times when I’m very, very quiet……..

” Therefore continue to wait in hope, for although the promise may linger, it will never come too late”

– Charles Spurgeon

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

Day 8: The story of us (Part 2) – Love is patient.

After I left my husband, we went through a lengthy court case to settle the ongoing care of the kids and property, the usual procedure here in Australia, but something I didn’t expect to happen.  We were both wounded and hurting, unable to communicate with each other, and the whole procedure was painful and devastating.  We eventually came to an agreement on all counts, and the kids continued in the routine that we had all settled into.

Soon after we finished in court, I applied for a divorce, an astonishingly simple procedure, and after a phone link-up with the Family Law Court, our marriage was declared null and void, with no objections voiced by anyone.  I was surprised by my reaction to all this, how my heart hurt and I cried for a long time after I hung up the phone.  I had thought that this was just another inevitable step in the procedure, that I was finished with pain and heartache, and that now I could move on with my life – whatever that meant.  I didn’t expect the deep ache I felt inside, knowing that what had once been my dream had been declared effectively dead by someone in a courtroom a long way away.

Eventually, as it always did, the hurt diminished, and I began to look with hope toward the future for my heart, assuming that I would one day begin a new relationship, one that I pictured would be better than my first marriage.  I had already started a nursing degree, and was excited at the prospect of becoming a midwife (as was my dream) once I finished my study.

It wasn’t long after our divorce was finalised, about 2 months or so, that through a series of events I found myself coming to know Jesus as very real in my life, and I surrendered myself to His love in March 2006.  It was another completely unexpected turn of events in my life, especially for a girl who thought she had God all figured out.  My coming to faith was the first step for me in seeing Him rebuild our marriage, although I had no idea that that was His plan then.

But He didn’t take long to let me know what He had in mind.  A few months after coming to faith, I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, venting about a particularly frustrating time I was going through with my ex-husband.  As I was explaining the situation to her, a thought came to my mind – no, a directive – one that took me completely by surprise and left me wondering where on earth it came from.

In a moment when I was wondering how long I would have to keep going through the difficulty of raising kids in a divorced family, God told me to pray for the restoration of our marriage.

Yep.  God told me to pray to be married again to a man I didn’t want to have anything to do with, but would have to for the rest of my life because of our children.  I didn’t even really know then what it was to hear God speak, but I had a crash course in hearing God that day.  And it was no whisper.

After I responded ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, no way am I doing that, I don’t want to be married to him again!!’, I knew I couldn’t be completely disobedient, so I quickly prayed ‘Fine, Lord, if that’s what You really want, I pray that eventually our marriage will be restored’, and promptly resolved to never think of this curious little exchange again.

I couldn’t have had any idea on that day in June 2006, 13 years after I told the boy I loved that I would wait for him, that I was starting a new journey in waiting, one that would take a lot longer than a few days this time.  7 years later, I know that was the beginning of my lesson in patience, in learning what it is to be patient.

Tomorrow we’ll explore the definitions of patience, but for now, what has been one of your life-lessons in learning to be patient?  Big or small, extraordinary or mundane, share in the comments below how you’ve come to know this lesson of love.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

Day 7 – The story of us (Part 1)

“‘I’ll wait” I said, on a bright, cool winter’s day.

I was on the cusp of 17, he about to turn 18, and we loved each other.  But he was trying to sort out where to go in life, this boy who was not made for school, and wanted us to wait until high school was over to start a relationship.  So I said I’d wait.

We could never have known then that it would take 20 years for our picture of love and life together to really become real.

I loved him, and I knew he loved me, and that was all that mattered, right?

At 16, what did I know of love?  What did I know of waiting, of patience?

I was living through my parent’s divorce, one that had taken nearly my whole life to eventually happen, so I thought I knew what love and marriage wasn’t.  I knew what I didn’t want our marriage to be.

And I knew I was going to marry this boy.  That was as true to me as knowing that the sun rose in the morning and set at night, because even though I didn’t know it then, they were words God had spoken into my heart.

A few days after our conversation, we started ‘going out’, as dating was called in our part of the world in the 1990’s, and I thought I had everything I wanted.  A boyfriend, great friends, the end of high school and the start of becoming an adult in sight.  I had an on-and-off relationship with God, having been raised in church with my mum and my sister, and never questioning that God was real.  But I didn’t know Him, didn’t know that He was as real and present in my life as the people around me, and that above everything, He loved me.

Fast forward 10 years, and the dream life I had pictured was falling apart.  After high school I had gone to uni (university) for a year, and hated it so I came home, and he started working.  We moved in together, and I got a job, eventually moving to a town an hour away for work.  We got engaged, and then a few months later life took a turn for the unexpected.

I became pregnant.  So not a part of the plan, but a very welcome surprise nonetheless.

Our eldest son was born, and at 21 my heart’s deepest desire came true – I was a mum, and I was going to be a wife.  I didn’t think I could be any happier, but even then, our life together wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  On the surface we looked happy enough, but you didn’t have to dig very far to see the discontent, the struggle, the wounding and the damage caused by words spoken in anger.

Our son was nearly two years old when we got married, we bought a house the next year, and our daughter came along 8 months later.  Our youngest child, another son, joined us when our daughter was 21 months old, deciding to arrive 6 weeks early and throwing life into a tailspin.  But we managed, and eventually settled into life with 3 kids, me a stay-at-home mum and he a shift-worker in a local factory.  I thought I was living the life I wanted, the life we had dreamed of having – simple, hard work, and time to enjoy our completed family.

If only.

When our youngest son was about 4 months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, and I can honestly say that that was the worst time of my life – of our lives – and it was all downhill from there.  The cracks in our marriage became wider and deeper, and neither of us had the energy that we really needed to try and fix things, try and make it work.  We became two people struggling for survival, almost completely unable to help the other, despite knowing we had to for us to stay together.  We were beyond exhausted, and just existed in the same house together, doing our best to raise our kids and trying not to fail in the process.

There was only so long we could keep going like that, and in January 2004, the day before our youngest son’s birthday, we had an argument that was a repeat of the thousand we’d had before, and in that moment, I knew that was it.  I had a moment of pure clarity where I realised that I couldn’t change him, despite how hard I’d tried, and that I couldn’t keep living the way we were.  We couldn’t keep living the way we were.

It was then that I knew I had to leave, and the relief was overwhelming.

I had thought of leaving before, but had always dismissed the idea, because as far as I was concerned, that wasn’t an option.  I was never going to repeat what happened to my parents, I was never going to put my kids through what I had experienced (even though I had always thought that my parents had a ‘good’ divorce), and so to me, a broken marriage would mean that I had failed, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

But it did.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Of course, that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time.  Our world as we knew it had been blown up, and we sat stunned amongst the debris of our life together, barely knowing where to start, what to do, where to go.  The dream I had so desperately tried to live had been completely destroyed.

Back then I had no idea of the concept that for God to truly be able to do His work in us, for His plans and purposes for us to be realised, that which we create and hold dear in place of Him  – our idols – has to be broken and torn down and destroyed so that He can work in us, work for us, building in us the real dreams and hopes that He had planned for us all along.

God created me to be a wife and a mum, it was my picture-perfect expectations of marriage and motherhood that became my idol, one that I could never live up to.  We both know now that we didn’t really know what it meant to be married, the true purpose of marriage – to love and respect and serve your spouse above yourself, not to seek to be fulfilled by what they can do for you.

Structures with shaky foundations never last, they need to be torn down and a new foundation laid, so they can be rebuilt as something strong that will last forever.  That’s what happened to us, to our marriage, we were built on a shaky foundation, and now after the tearing down, we’re living in a construction zone of being rebuilt into something that will last forever.

Our broken marriage and the subsequent journey I’ve lived over the last 10 years has taught me what real love is, what it means to truly love someone – not just my husband, but everyone in my life.  If that was the sole purpose of that experience in life, to learn true love, God-style, then it was totally worth it.  It is a challenging lesson I live and learn every. single. day, and every day I learn a little bit more about how to love, how to be loved, how much God loves me.

Love never fails, despite what we think,  and I thank God for that truth every day of my life.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction