Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Uncategorized, Word, Writing

Glamour Shots

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I was purging old stuff in the garage this morning. I don’t even want to tell you what ALL I found. But I came across something that got me thinking.

I came across old Glamour Shots pics  of myself from 1995. That was the year I got married. I looked at my pic for a long while. My makeup is extremely thick and I have what I affectionately call my big Texas hair. This was when poofy bangs and a feathery look was the thing. I was 20 and beautiful, but I had absolutely no clue what I wanted out of life.

Like. Zero. Clue.

The girl I was back then thought she had knew what she wanted. Note the engagement ring in the pic. She had a good job as a retail manager. She was planning a wedding, ran 3 miles a day, and was at her ideal weight.

Here’s the deal – the 20-year-old girl in the picture would never have known what she really wanted or needed if she did not go through all the heartache she went through to get her to today: age 44 and 13 days.

That pic was pre-kids, pre-divorce, pre-assault(s), pre-brother’s death to Cancer, pre-heartache, pre-financial woes, pre-depression, pre-Cancer, pre-Bachelor’s degree, pre-Master’s degree, pre-single-parenting-for-16-years, pre-job-loss, pre-so-much-life.

Right now the kids are in the living room going through the old baby pics of them I found. I’m enjoying their laughter. It’s been difficult, being a single parent. It is certainly different than I expected parenting would be. But without it, I wouldn’t have my youngest.
My kids have changed my priorities in life for sure and for the better.
I am so grateful for the three blessings I have.
I am grateful for Katie’s funny jokes and stories about life and all the joy she lets me in on, on her path to get her teaching degree. She has the most even-keeled personality – ever.
I am grateful for Stephanie singing her heart out at all times and her all-over-the-place emotional greatness. She has the best laugh.
I am grateful for Gavin’s 11-year-old-boy sense of humor. For his knowing every part of every movie score he’s ever heard and being able to sing it back on cue. He has the sweetest heart.

My bestie tribe has helped me clarify what is good for me and what is not. I thoroughly enjoy their wisdom. Without going through my divorce I may have missed out on these 3 amazing people who are in my “tribe” – my inner circle. They keep me prayed up. They lovingly tell me when I’m wrong about something. They make me laugh every single day.

But the main things that have enhanced my life and made me grow are my heartaches – both my mistakes and just awful things I have had to walk through. Like divorce. Like Cancer. Like losing my brother to death and then my sister to the fallout over grieving him. Like so many things.
Trauma made me struggle and cry and bend. It made me stronger in the weak places. If I hadn’t gone through so much trauma, I wouldn’t have so much true joy.

This is because the struggle made me appreciate what I do have. It made me grateful every single day for my kids and my parents and my tribe and all the other friends I have.

The struggle drove me to God. It drove me to soak in His Word. It drove me to be better. It made me stronger.

As I went through the pictures today, I asked God to redeem each heartache. I asked Him to allow me to see where He was along the way. I found He was true to His promise to never leave me nor forsake me.

As for the glamour shot pic – I don’t look at it and wish I were younger. I just don’t. I look at it and realize how much more glamorous my heart is today. How much more confident, secure, and full of wisdom. AND I realized I’ve aged gracefully. The pics here are 24 years apart. I haven’t really aged all that much. I feel comfortable in my skin, but love myself enough to want to exercise and eat healthy and be a better version of myself day-by-day.

I’m glad I stumbled across my struggles today – it helped me appreciate my strengths.

Posted in family, Letters, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Writing

For my Daughters and Nieces

Dolls,

You are lovely. You are beautiful, captivating, intelligent, lovely, and kind.

As a Mom and an Aunt I feel I’ve done you an injustice by living in an unhealthy way physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have not correctly modeled “healthy” for you. Please forgive me. I plan to rectify all that over the next days and weeks.

I have not lived as if I’m a daughter of God. I’ve lived as if my worth, security, and confidence depend on the approval or disapproval of a man, of other women, or of society. Thank God He brought all this to my attention. I’ve just been so entirely wrong for so entirely long.

This stops today.

Here’s what I now fully understand: I am not the product of nor do I bow at the bidding of my own faults, the faults of others, or anyone but God. And neither do you.

1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 (CSB) says this:

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.”

Ladies, you are God’s holy temple, his dwelling place: mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Psalms 84:1‭-‬4 (CSB) says this:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Armies. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young — near your altars, Lord of Armies, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually. Selah”

Ladies, I reside in His house. YOU reside in His house. We are lovely. How happy are we who reside in God’s house. Future generations dwell in you.

What a joy and a privilege!

Katie: you are wonderful, beautiful, generous with kindness, and full of patience. This next generation needs a teacher like you. Walk in strength, wisdom, confidence, and security.

Stephanie: you are full of light, life, and creativity. We need your gift of worship to draw us to God. Walk in love, creativity, confidence, and security.

Madi: you are lovely, witty, curious, and highly intelligent. This generation needs your steadfast devotion to God. Walk in wisdom, godliness, confidence, and security.

Bree: you are beautiful, nurturing, fun-loving, and a pure delight. Your children will rise and call you blessed. Your husband is delighted with you for good reason. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

Lauren: you are the sparkle in your Daddy’s eye. You are a joy to all you encounter. The world needs your smile. Walk in love, laughter, confidence, and security.

To my future step-daughter (whom I have never met): you are a light in a dark world, a delight to your father, and a joy I have yet to behold. Your generation needs your light. Walk in boldness, grace, confidence and security.

To my goddaughters, my future granddaughters, and all my future greats: you are lovely, pure, intelligent, and kind. The world needs your love. Walk in wisdom, faith, confidence, and security.
I love you ladies. All of you. I applaud you and so enjoy watching you become women who love God.

Our battle isn’t against Dr. Pepper, carbs, comparison, or insecurity, but against evil itself.

Let’s remember to put on the armor of God daily. Walk like you’re walking next to Jesus. Remember you have angels assigned to you.

Write this on your mirror in dry-erase marker (I know y’all do this): I am a child of the Lord of Armies and today I will walk in confidence and security.

Remember I love you. Always.

Love,

Momma, Mommy, Aunt Melissa, M&M, and whatever all you grand-darlins will call me one of these years

Posted in Life Lessons, waiting, Word, Writing

The Gentle Gardener

One morning shortly after my divorce, as I woke up, I had this vision. I clearly saw a pair of rugged male hands reaching down, digging in, and clasping together underneath a wilted plant. Actually, the plant was beyond wilted—it was dried by the sun, and what had once been some kind of small growth was now beginning to fly off in the wind. It was that dry. It was almost entirely dead. Its roots, however, were entirely alive. As the hands came down and clasped together, they carefully pulled the plant out of the soil – carefully keeping its roots intact. The “Gentle Gardener” as I have sometimes described the owner of the hands, removed the plant from the ground with the roots sticking out between his loosly clasped fingers. The process of extracting the plant took some time, as the dry ground was caked around the roots. Some digging, pulling, and scraping went on for what seemed like an hour. As the hands lifted together and transported the plant, I noticed the hands, up to the wrists, were now caked with soil and there was dirt caked under his fingernails. Some blood began to pool and dry around a scrape. The gardener was fully invested in this process.

Then the scene in my vision widened out – as in a movie. I noticed that the whole field that the plant had been pulled out of was a dry, cracked land. I would call it parched. Thirsty. What once may have been a field of beautiful wild flowers was now barren.
At this point, I surveyed the entirety of the landscape. I began to have a new realization: I could no longer see the plant, nor the hands, nor the roots – because I was the plant, and I was being intentionally moved. But to where? Suddenly panic set in. What if I fell from this height? Was I destined for the fire pit, the compost pile, or – hold on, what’s this? As the hands came down and I descended, I (now as the plant) peeked over the edge of the hands that carried me. I saw the greenest grass, flowers were budding, new trees danced and swayed, and a bubbling, flowing mane of water caressed the soft curves of the land.
Water! My parched soul rejoiced! But the water did not come to quench me for a long time. Replanting was painful – physically agonizing. As my roots settled into the earth, something strange happened at the surface.
Nothing.
Nothing happened. Not for a long while.
While my roots underneath the surface reestablished a bond with the earth, I remained dry and cracked and thirsty above.

While all around me everything was glorious and full of life, I kept my head down and tried to hide my ugliness.

And then something else happened.

I began to cry.

I began to ugly cry. The kind of tears that run hot and wild. The kind of tears that arrive as a whimper, then become a sob, then a wail. I cried for a season – and then another – and suddenly, I was no longer seeing from the perspective of the flower, but from the viewpoint of the Gentle Gardener. Or was
I? Had I grown to this height?
Yes! I had. He had planted me in the center of his beautiful garden. I had not started as a
seed, but as an acorn. He saw that I had fallen on the side of the fence that did not have the proper environment for growth. Furthermore, I was not watered by the river, but by my own tears. My eyes were so swollen from crying that I did not notice my growth until I had become a glorious Oak. Tall and mighty.
Beautiful and sturdy. Arms outstretched toward the sun. Birds nested in my branches. Squirrels gathered and scattered my acorns. Bunnies frolicked in my shadow. I provided oxygen—I gave life where once I was almost dead.
The last I saw of the hands they were clean and glowing and applauding me.

Perhaps you’re in a dry season. Perhaps you’ve been in this season for a long time. But perhaps it is a season not of dying and thirsting, but of crying and learning and growing. That is where I have been lately: in a crying, learning, growing season. Let me encourage you to trust the Gentle Gardener.
Cry. Let your eyes swell shut if you must – but when the season ends, you’ll find you’re just what you ought to be – glorious, life-giving, quenched. And best of all, your arms will be outstretched toward the sun once more.

Posted in waiting, Word, Writing

Wait Lifting #3 – Finding Hope to See in the Dark

For the past few weeks I have been immersed in a hands-on education in waiting. I’ve written more on this subject here (Life Lessons – Patience),  here (Waiting Room), here (Learning to Wait), and here (Minding Your Ps [Pauses] and Qs [Quizzes]).

Today I want to write about my latest discovery – how to find hope when you’re waiting in the darkest places.

“Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
My Savior and my God.”
Psalm 42:5

Have you ever been in a really dark place in life? What was it? Write it down, type it out, or just hold it for a moment in your mind.

Got it?

Right now my dark place is a job search.

Do you have your list? Now what? If you’re anything like me, walking through dark places makes me feel a bit lost, lonely, irritated, angry, disappointed.

How do you trust God with disappointment? How do you trust God in the dark? Just how?

As I mentioned, my latest “moment” has been walking through trying to find a job. I have a really great lead right now, but it’s March 10th and this has been ongoing since January 1st. Just how do I avoid depression and hopelessness when the bills continue to go unpaid?

For me, hope is a candle in the dark. When I place my situation and my hope in God’s hands, I can be in the darkest of places and still walk straight ahead as if I could see, because in the darkest times, he leads me.

My grandmother was legally blind. She could only see a couple of inches in front of her. We would go to the grocery store and she would hold products up close to her glasses and read the labels from inches away. But wherever she walked, I would lead her. She never slowed down. We went all over the place – the mall, restaurants, parks, concerts, ballet recitals, the grocery store. I would take her arm gently and she learned to follow me. That meant she had to trust that I was watching for curbs and obstacles in her path. I would say – “Step up, now” or “Curb” or “Steep incline.” When we watched movies or my daughters’ ballet recitals I would tell her what was happening in vivid detail. She never missed a thing (this is partly why you can read my words and feel like you can see what I’m describing – I learned to describe so that even a blind person could see).

And this is what God does with us. When we learn to trust his voice or his direction even when we cannot see the way ahead, we can keep moving forward.

My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.
John 10:27

So trust. Let him lead you by the arm in the dark places. Let him describe in detail what your heart cannot see.

I don’t know what next week’s job interview will bring.

What I DO know is that I’ve followed his voice. I’m letting him lead. I’m trusting that he knows where he’s leading me. I trust that he’s led me to this particular job and through this particular job interview process. I know his voice. I have followed.

I never said it was easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing to trust in what you cannot see. This is faith. THIS is where the Light meets the dark.

Just try this week. Stop. Look. Listen.

Are you waiting because it seems dark, or are you going to trust God to lead you out?

Let me know how it goes.

I’m praying for you.

Love, Melissa

Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Word

When the Unexpected Happens

Has your life ever come to an end punctuation that you weren’t quite expecting? Haven’t you been so sure of one thing, only to, at the turn of a phrase, been suddenly unsure, and ended your sentence with a question mark instead of an exclamation point?! (Okay – that’s the word nerd in me.)

More practical:
Have you ever gone home to what you thought was a solid marriage, but then had to pack your bags suddenly because you discovered your spouse was cheating or wanting out? Or have you ever had an unexpected Cancer diagnosis? Or have you ever gone to work carefree one morning only to find out your job was suddenly ending? Or been in the car talking about dinner one minute and been hit by a deer the next and found yourself covered in glass and debris? That last one happened to one of my best friends this week. (Praise God she’s recovering well.)

I’m saying – there’s not much in life that is constant. At least not in mine. I feel like for the past 16 years I have been living in “what if” mode.

I’m constantly wondering what’s next.

But I’ve found some constants that keep me steady when things change suddenly.

  • Daily Bible reading
  • Worship music in my earbuds at work
  • Family time
  • Intentional time with friends

If I am not in the Word and constantly reminding myself that “God’s got this even when the unexpected happens,” then when the unexpected does happen, I return to my former ways of thinking. These include being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger.

But the Word reminds me to “…understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
James 1:19‭-‬20 CSB

And that, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.”
Psalms 145:8 CSB

I want to be more like Him.

So I perked up when I came across Beth Moore’s quote from “The Faithful” Bible Study on Old Testament Heroes that says “When our old priorities don’t go with our new life, we either return to our old life or adopt new priorities.”

I love my new life. If you knew me before I surrendered to God, you know why. My old life was a mess. With Him life is not perfect, but the storms don’t shake me as much. And new friends and readers – if you read back over archived blogs about my life, you’ll find more storm damage than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew combined.

In fact, it’s stormy season for me right now, but you probably have no idea – because I’m in the boat with the God who tames the winds and rains and waves. Like this:

“…and as they [Jesus’ disciples] were sailing he [Jesus] fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!”
Luke 8:23‭-‬25 CSB

In my old life I lived on my own time, with my own priorities, and on the little faith I thought I had (which was mostly self-centered.) In my new life I find that I need so much more Jesus than I think I do. Contrary to popular memes, I’m really NOT enough. In fact, I’m NOTHING without Jesus.

One final thought about new priorities that go with a new life: it’s so easy in this social media era to revisit our past and to “like” things just to be noticed. Please avoid this. If you’ve moved on to a new life, just move on.

And as we discussed in my Sunday morning group, “If that thought, lyric, or image put Jesus on the cross, (if it causes someone else to lust, or entices them to stumble, or is aimed at irritating them in some way) then it’s probably not worth liking, commenting, or posting.”

New life. New priorities. New year.

My word for 2019 is “MORE”.

What’s yours?

Posted in Life Lessons

Unanticipated

Life has its dips and straights.

Sometimes Summer feels more like Spring, sometimes Spring feels more like Winter.

Sometimes the road is paved with love and laughter; sometimes it is washed out by torrents of tears.

When I look back over my life I’ve always known what is right and what is wrong. And I’ve always known that my God is a good God.

I’ve not always chosen the recommended path. I have scars on my skin and my heart as mile markers for the roads to avoid.

Sometimes my silence shrieks while my karaoked daily routine resounds like a symphony.

I’ve come full-circle from where I thought my life ended to where I felt alive again. I stood on the precipice of hope, only to find what I’ve longed for is just out of reach, then gone.

When the straight highway to the great unknown I’ve anticipated takes an unanticipated turn in a valley ahead, and the road bends from an exclamation point into more of a question mark, I will choose to take a moment and ask for this one thing: God, if you’ll give me more of your Holy Spirit and I can feel your presence, then I’ll continue on. I can’t live without the power and the presence of the Almighty. In fact, I won’t.

 

Lord, fill me with your presence in this valley so I can get to that glorious unknown you have waiting over there for me to inhabit.

You’re a good God. Without you I add up to nothing.

Posted in Word

Is This On My Kid’s School Supply List?!

This is the week before school begins. More than usual, this week is all about family dinner nights out, Wal-Mart excursions (for school supplies), and various other ways the kids are finding to raid my bank account.

When I was shopping for my own school supplies at M.E. Moses (that was a five & dime store, remember those?) for elementary school, it was crayons, scissors, glue, watercolors, and construction paper. Now it’s all of that plus copy paper, Expo markers, and earbuds. Yes – earbuds.

Times, they are a changin’.

This is my last year with an elementary school student. My middle child is in her Senior year of high school. And my eldest is a Junior at the University. Sigh.

All of these changes lately have me asking questions.

Where did the time go?

How did we get here?

How do I make the most of this year with them?

What the heck?

I’m in the 2nd week of a FREE Beth Moore online Bible study called The Quest. The sessions are free, you just have to buy your workbook (I bought mine on Amazon.com). The sessions are free to view online until September 30th. I get there by going to https://blog.lifeway.com.

In The Quest I’m learning not just to study the Bible (as you’d expect from Beth Moore), but to let the lessons dust off the leaf-covered paths in my life of faith. Somehow I’ve become so accustomed to lacing up my hiking boots and grabbing a water bottle on my way out to hike this forest of faith, but I’ve forgotten all direction. I’m all routine. No destination.

I’d forgotten beautiful well-worn paths I’ve walked with God. I’m so accustomed to throwing in a pair of necessary-for-life (and apparently elementary school) earbuds and listening to worship music or re-listening to the Sunday sermon via podcast, or scrolling through my Bible app and letting it read the Word to me, but I’ve left my gold-edged brown leather Bible pages to stick together and gather dust on a shelf.

But the last 2 weeks, highlighter and colored pens in hand, I’ve been cross- referencing and journaling and pouring my heart out to God aloud and onto the workbook pages and my life suddenly feels right. Fulfilled.

I’m encouraging you, as I’ve encouraged my kids this week – get in the Word and see what happens.

Like poetry? Psalms

Need wisdom? Proverbs

Like great stories? Genesis & Exodus

I find a new treasure every time I read.

This weeks challege:

Skip Netflix, ditch your earbuds, read the Word.

Posted in family, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Minutes or Moments?

180731_170208_collage-11755689728.jpgA new dad waiting for his first baby to be born understands the value of a minute.
A new dad hearing that baby’s first cry understands the value of a moment.

Lately I’ve been pondering the difference between minutes and moments.

I don’t know about at your house, but at my house we seem to talk about time – a lot. It’s time for bed! Time to get up! Hurry up! Time’s a wastin’. Bathtime! Dinnertime. Storytime. Time out. Time’s up!

In the Beginning…

In my cover-to-cover trek through the Bible I’ve just finished reading Genesis and Exodus. The first concept introduced in Genesis, besides God as Creator, is time. Time is necessary. Its parameters were among the first set in motion in the beginning. By the end of the first chapter, the first 6 days have occurred. Ask my 10-year-old what happens in Genesis chapter 1 and he’ll surmise that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and he rested on the 7th.

Ask my poet’s heart and I’ll tell you that the first chapter takes much longer than a week to ponder. Why? Because I stop and wonder what it was like to bow in reverence at that first sunrise. I want to grab a blanket and go sit in an open field and marvel at the sea of stars overhead. I want to be there as the first waves tumbled to the shore. I want to see the dolphins jump and hear the wolves howl. My heart wants to savor every single moment.

So why don’t I? Why don’t I savor each moment? Why do I waste so much life enslaved to my planner when I could be living and doing and savoring?

A New Approach

My end-goal for this blog is not another 350 words on a page that take up more of your time. My end-goal is that we approach life in a new way.

Let’s savor our moments.

A collection of moments makes up a beautiful life. Don’t miss a single one. Be present.

Posted in Life Lessons, Word

Startled – What is This?

What is This?

You’re sitting there, tears falling over freshly dried tears, wondering how on earth you got to this place. Whatever your this is, it feels like hell. It feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. Maybe you’ve done everything right. Maybe you’ve done everything wrong. I’ve been on both sides of the right or the wrong of the “this.”

Whatever happened, this was nowhere in the original plan. Whatever happened, you’ve been finally, fully startled awake.

My THIS List:

Here is my lifetime “this” list (so far):

  • Divorce
  • Sexual assault
  • Financial ruin
  • Being cheated on
  • Being deceived
  • Deceiving others
  • Facing Cancer
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members
  • Almost losing a child to suicide
  • Losing a ministry
  • Being in an abusive relationship

That’s the short list.

Moving Forward

I was talking with a friend recently and he gave me some amazing advice that I want to pass along.

  • People change only when there are no more options.
  • Start forgiving right now so you can start to heal. Don’t wait.
  • Move on.

My Dad always taught me that I need to:

  • “face reality squarely,” (Job 38)
  • “live a life that pleases God,” (Colossians 1:10), and
  • “separate the precious from the worthless.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

So I’m suggesting that right this minute you should begin to sift through the rubble, call it what it is – rubble, own your part in what happened, retrieve the precious, and walk away from the worthless.

I’ve learned by experience (mostly by falling on my face) that the Lord really does work all things for my good because he has called me according to his purpose and I’ve tried to live my life with a “yes, Lord” posture. (Romans 8:28)

Sift. Separate. Own your part. Pray. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it quickly. Ask God “what’s next?”. Move forward.

This, too, really shall pass. But you’ve got to get up out of the rubble.

And if you need to talk, my ears are always open and I’m always up for some good conversation over a skinny vanilla latte.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word

Don’t Read This Blog, Please

It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.

But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:

  • I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
  • I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
  • No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.

So let me back up and set the scene.

Broken Lives

In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.

In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.

It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.

I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):

Separated is still married. 

We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.

This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.

We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.

So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.

Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.

And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.

I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.

Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.

Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.

Faithful in Prayer

I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.

I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.

I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?

So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”

That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.

If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5

Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.

Lord, how do I restore her heart?

Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.

I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.

And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.

As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.

It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.

To this day  – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”

Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:

  1. This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
  2. Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
  3. If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.

If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.

So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.

And I am forever changed.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!