Tag: Intentionality

Guatemala Stories: The Avocado Lady

I first saw her after our first day of ministry at The Ravine School in Chimaltenango.

She was sitting on a stool with her produce to the left of the school’s entrance. She was beautiful, and she was selling my favorite thing: avocados. With my photographer’s eye, I noted the perfect contrast of her green sweater, the green-blue building, her colorful dress, and the gorgeous avocados in the orange basket. I had to take her picture.

I took a few stealthy shots but they weren’t at an ideal angle. Unfortunately, that’s what happens sometimes when trying to be sneaky.

Avocado Lady

I worked up the courage to ask her if I could take her photo, only to be told “no” by this beautiful lady. I respected her wishes and retreated to the van.

I couldn’t get her out of my mind, and as I talked with the other ladies in the van about her, we came up with a plan for the next day to try to win her over – not solely for the purpose of taking her picture, though. We had something bigger in mind.

I mentioned that I would love to buy some of her avocados, and one of my teammates said, “Why don’t we buy ALL of them?” And the plan was set.

As we prepared to leave the school that day, “Avocado Lady” laughed at us silly Americans because we were so excited about a man with two cows walking down the street. That broke the ice a little. I waved to her as we drove away and she was still smiling at us.

Silly Americans, so easily amused...

When we returned to the school the next day, we were so excited about our plan. Sure enough, as soon as school was finished, she was there with her goods, hoping to sell enough to provide for her family.

We approached her and I asked her, in Spanish, how much each avocado cost. She replied that they were 1 Quetzal each (about $0.13). The three of us had decided to give her $20 for all of them, so I held up the money and told her that we wanted to buy them ALL. Her eyes widened and she smiled as she gladly accepted the money. She put the avocados into my teammate’s backpack with a smile on her face the entire time.

To give perspective, had she sold all of her avocados at the normal price, she would have made $4. Most of the time, these ladies who sell produce don’t sell everything that they prepare (fruit in bags, etc.), and it goes to waste. We paid her $0.75 an avocado (a great price here in Pennsylvania!) in an effort to bless her and provide some extra money for her and her family because we could.

Because $20 isn’t a whole lot of money to most Americans, but to a Guatemalan woman who is working hard for pennies a day, it’s an abundant gift (about 150 Q). It was worth every penny to see the gratitude in her eyes. We didn’t just make an impression on her – there were quite a few children around who kept saying (in Spanish) “$20!” and smiling in wonder at the $20 from the strange American women.

After we bought all of her produce, she agreed to let us take a picture with her.

1898539_10100154516834390_276019840_o

She may not be smiling in this picture, but she was definitely smiling inside.

Hopefully she decided that these crazy Americans weren’t so bad after all.

Hopefully she’ll wonder what we were doing in the school next door. And if her children aren’t already in school, hopefully that will change.

We decided to give some of the avocados to our team’s drivers, and we gave the rest to the orphanage at which we served that afternoon and the next day so that Papa Cesar could make some more of his famous guacamole for the girls, which made this mutual blessing stretch even further.

I can’t think of a better way to spend $20.

Day Twenty-Three: I’m Thankful For…The Start Experiment (and Jon Acuff)

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. 🙂

Meet-up in the food court!

If you had told me a year ago that in the summer of 2013 I’d willingly join a community of people I have never met, and that I’d be sharing openly and honestly with them about my passions, dreams, and struggles, I likely would have laughed at you. But that is exactly what happened this past July (and continues in the present).

In late June, I received an email from Jon Acuff inviting me (and all of his readers) to join him on an adventure. He said it might require a passport and a machete. He sent the email to 250,000 people, and only 2,500 responded.

I was at Christian Retreat Center doing camp photography the day I received the email, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be in on this…that I needed this. It resonated with me. So, even though I had no idea what was about to happen, I said “yes” and dove in.

The first round started on July 15, and my world was changed in some fantastic ways.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Jon Acuff created a secret Facebook group and invited those who responded to his invitation to join.
  • Each day for 24 days, Jon sent out an email with a challenge for the day at 5am.
  • A community was formed that is so hard to describe because it’s so awesome.
  • We all worked hard toward our various goals and helped each other along the way.
  • There ended up being a “Round Two” so that we could invite people to do “Start 101” while the “alumni” did “Start 201” – and it was awesome. Same format with emails being sent daily (and the theme was “audacious”).

(To read my blog posts about “The Start Experiment”, click here.)

When Jon sent out that email, I was in the perfect position to accept the invitation. I had been unemployed for almost two months. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. I didn’t know what my dream was. I was just taking one day at a time, hoping that God would give me some direction.

Through the course of Round One, while I worked on being more self-disciplined, I was able to discover what I believe I was created to do: missions photography. I was able to take steps forward and bring this dream a little bit closer to reality. And I couldn’t have done this without Jon’s leadership/mentoring AND the amazing community that he built in The Start Experiment. 

My dream...

This community is real, open, honest, a little silly, loving, supportive, encouraging, non-judgmental. It’s a safe place to share your fears and your successes (“brag table”) without fear. It’s the closest thing to Heaven that I’ve experienced here on earth, by far. 

A literal brag table

I had the amazing privilege of being able to attend The Start Conference in Nashville in September, during which I strengthened these friendships “in real life” and made connections with people who are doing what I want to do (like Jeremy Cowart). I left that conference feeling so inspired, empowered, fulfilled, and energized. 

Punching Fear in the Face

If you are struggling with finding your dream, or if you know what your dream is but are struggling to make progress, please check out Jon’s website and his books – Quitter and Start. Both of this books have really impacted my life and have given me wise and practical advice about chasing my dream. If you’d like to join our Facebook community, let me know and I can talk to you about it!

If it weren’t for The Start Experiment, I can honestly say I’d be in a totally different place right now in terms of my career and plans for the future. I have gained so much confidence and have overcome so many fears through this community!

I am so thankful for Jon and for his leadership through example.

A place to type our fears...and then destroy them.

The Start Experiment: Choosing Destruction Over God’s Perfect Plan

In my “One Year Bible” the Old Testament passage today was from 2 Chronicles 25. It has been fascinating reading about all of the past kings of Israel and Judah and how they followed (or didn’t follow) God’s leading. In today’s passage, the king was following God but encountered fear when presented with a message from the Lord that required significant sacrifice.

For context, at this time, the nation of Israel was not following the Lord but the nation of Judah was. King Amaziah of Judah was building up his army so that he would be prepared when battle arose (which it often did). He surveyed his available troops and found that he didn’t have quite as many as he wanted to have; so, he hired men from Israel to join his troops and paid them 7,500 pounds of silver in exchange. That’s quite an investment.

After this, the Lord sent a messenger to King Amaziah to warn him to not bring in troops from Israel and said that if he added those troops he would surely fail in battle, no matter how well he fought. Essentially, the Lord said to not have anything to do with Israel because He knew what was best in the long run for King Amaziah and Judah.

v.8 If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.

This brings us to the verse that struck me this morning:

v.9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 

Let’s sum this up. Amaziah hears from the Lord that if he continues with his plan he will be destroyed by the Lord Himself. His first thought is about the money that he invested and what he will lose if he follows what the Lord is telling him to do, not on the fact that the Lord is saving his life and the lives of his troops from certain destruction! God knew the hearts of the people of Israel and knew that it would be worse for them to infiltrate the army of Judah and spread their influence than to just destroy them all. So he has two choices: be destroyed and waste your investment, or be saved and waste your investment.

From our perspective this seems so ridiculous. We look at Amaziah and think, “What a moron! Be grateful!” But, if we think about this in simpler terms, we realize that we all do this. We convince ourselves that we “need” whatever our temptation may be and we don’t want to give it up because the sacrifice seems to be too great.

For King Amaziah, it was manpower and money. For me, it is sugar. I love ice cream. I love chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that is genetic. When faced with facts like a family history of diabetes, being overweight, knowledge that the longer I wait to reform my lifestyle the harder it will be, it seems like it should be as simple as deciding not to drink alcohol was (due to family history of alcoholism)…but it isn’t.

If I take the verses above and put them into my context, here’s how they would read:

If you keep allowing sugar and unhealthy eating be part of your life, you will be defeated by your desires no matter how well you fight. 

Lesa asked the man of God, “But what about all that I am going to miss out on? I will be giving up so much!”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 

In the moment, when presented with ice cream on a hot day, or chocolate everywhere I go in Hershey, it is so hard to remember the greater gift that lies ahead if I will just submit to a healthy lifestyle: weight loss and self-confidence, a longer life (in theory) because of my body being healthier, being a better example to our future children about what is really important in life, and most importantly, honoring God with the body He has given to me and keeping it holy and set-apart… Instead, all I can think about is what I am giving up in the moment. When that is my focus, it is easy to cave into the justifications like “You only live once!” or “Just this once, it won’t happen again” and eat that ice cream instead of exercising self-control.

Giving up refined sugar is hard. It is everywhere. But that can’t be an excuse for me to give in to temptation. There ARE ways to avoid it, even though it feels like I’m making a huge sacrifice. Fear tries to tell me that this is just too uncomfortable, that it isn’t worth it, that I can wait until tomorrow to start this…but the Voice of Truth says that the God I serve is greater than any of these things that my brain (and the world) tells me are desirable and worthy of my attention.

The New Testament passage today was from Romans 12, and this passage fit perfectly with the one above:

v.2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s Will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to give up something that will cause destruction in the end just because of what you have invested in it, or because of how uncomfortable it will be in the moment to let it go. God is greater than anything you are struggling with and He can give us FAR better things in exchange if we will just follow Him! 

 

New Chapter…

Friday marks my last day as an employee of my company. I am the second one in my department to be laid off due to budget cuts, which means that my small department has now lost 20% of their workforce.

I have been trying to leave this job for well over a year…I’ve been trying to find something that better fit my passions, skills, interests, etc. and I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to “be” in terms of a career. This job was never going to be a career–it was a stepping stone to hopefully move onto different positions within the company…and I have now been here for two years and eight months, not due to lack of trying!

About three weeks ago, after God continued to close door after door, I had resigned myself to the fact that I needed to just stay put until we had a kid. I moved my office furniture around, dove into projects and was pro-active about taking an extra project on that needed to be done. I was actually enjoying my job for the first time in quite a while because I had DECIDED to enjoy it.

I definitely did not expect what happened last Wednesday to happen. No one did. My bosses were quite upset about it and apologized profusely to me. I was stunned. I felt strangely sad, though I had been praying that God would release me for a long time now, and the only reason that makes sense is this: I didn’t get to leave on MY terms. I didn’t get to give my notice, and it wasn’t for my reasons. This isn’t my choice. My choice was to stay here until the time comes to be a stay-at-home mother, not to be let go because the company is making cuts.

Over the past week I have grappled with this new reality and still have no answers. However, I fully believe that God is completely sovereign and that He loves me deeply. I believe that His ways are far more wise than my own. So I will trust Him and choose to be content.

We are not worried at all–we have no doubt that He will provide for us – He has done it continuously and will do so again and again. I am truly content and am excited to see what comes my way! I’m excited to be able to be at home more to take care of things like planting our vegetable garden, finishing projects that we need to finish, and doing other tasks that need to be done around the house on a regular basis so that Brennan doesn’t have to do as much in the evenings (i.e. yard work now that spring is here). I’m looking forward to whatever temp agency assignments come my way and excited to meet the people who God has planned for me to meet.

Friday begins a new chapter in our lives with no title. No introduction. Nothing written down yet. We’ll just take one day at a time and see where God leads. 🙂

Practical Products I Love: eMeals

 eMeals - Dinner Done

About a year ago we decided to finally try eMeals – a meal planning program that Dave Ramsey endorses as it saves time and money while also simplifying the meal-planning process.

“Food is the biggest budget buster of all. I’ve wanted someone to create a practical solution to the “beans and rice, rice and beans” dilemma. Finally… eMeals has done it! Now thousands of my listeners subscribe to eMeals. You will save a ton of time and money.”

— Dave Ramsey

We used it the past two weeks exclusively for the first time and were SO pleased! Granted, we don’t eat every meal they create simply due to our tastes/likes (i.e. I don’t like fish), but everything that we tried was fantastic!

We’re currently using the “Slow Cooker Clean Eating” plan for two people, and this has saved us SO much time, energy, and money already because we’re only buying what we need, dinner is ready when we get home, and I don’t have to spend extra time planning out what we’re going to cook and what we’ll need to make it. It has also helped because our plan is for two people so the portions are appropriate and we don’t have extra food.

How does it work? Each week you will receive an email with the week’s recipes AND shopping list. They come in .pdf format so that you can keep them forever. Even better–if you have a smart phone, download the eMeals app and it gives you full and easy access to everything; plus, with the app, you can “skip meals” that you won’t use and it modifies the shopping list for you! Brilliant! You can change your plan once a month and there are plenty to choose from.

Click on the banner below for more details and start saving time and money!

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

Full disclosure: if you sign up with my link I get a small commission (available to all subscribers!) for referring you.

New Perspective…Part One.

So, something occurred to me in the past twenty-four hours that just might be an answer to a long-standing prayer of mine. Maybe. It’s at least getting me closer to understanding the “why” of my jobs, past and present. I have split this into two blog posts because it’s far too much for one post.

First, some background:

In 2001, I was ready to take on the world. I wanted to be the governor of California someday, with every intention of being my friend’s vice-president in 2028 (we even had a website!). High-profile aspiration is an understatement.

That’s how I saw myself: working in politics to change our country for the better, and everyone would know my name and how awesome I was. I wanted to feel important, to feel admired, to feel respected because of my capabilities, talents, and brilliance. In one word: pride.

Over the next few years I interned with Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. (2003), I worked on (and ran) several campaigns, attended the 2005 Presidential Inauguration (and a ball) and was even on ABC for thirty-seconds. I attended campaign training at President Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara and was pictured in TIME Magazine with the rest of the training group. I was on my way…or so I thought.

Fast-forward to 2007: Two years past graduation and I was still living in Southern California (not my plan). I kept trying to get back to D.C. but doors just would not open. Instead, I was working for a financial company fixing tax returns all day long–completely low-profile–along with doing youth ministry at my church (nearly full-time for a while). I eventually became content (but not fully happy) in the tax job and even tried to move into management, to no avail. Even though my bosses said I was the perfect candidate for management, I continued to be passed over for promotions, and it didn’t make sense to any of us. But, it was a good job so I remained there.

In December 2007, I felt God urging me to pray for discomfort. My faith had grown stagnant and I was desperate for a change. He brought to my attention all of the accounts in the Bible of people who grew tremendously through trials and discomfort (and never through times of prosperity or easy living)…

…so I did it. I began praying for the next year that God would make me uncomfortable in order for me to become more like Jesus. God definitely delivered. 2008 was one of the toughest years of my life thus far, and I never DREAMED of what God would call me to do/lead me through. From the spiritual struggles to the physical (pneumonia), He used that year to the fullest to mold and shape me. I knew it would be a challenging year (I could probably write a book), but I never dreamed of the growth and transformation that would take place by surrendering to God’s plan and letting go of my own.

The biggest change was my move to Pennsylvania. I had been contemplating this for many years but kept trying to do things my way and nothing ever worked out. I visited PA in October 2007 and during that trip I realized that I didn’t want to live in Southern California anymore, at all. The realization even brought me to tears one day.

I began praying that God would allow me to move to PA, and I prayed for six months before I felt an answer from the Lord. He said that I could stay or go, and that He would use me wherever I was. That was a huge lesson in itself, realizing that sometimes God allows us to make decisions and that sometimes there is no “right” answer.

I moved to Harrisburg, PA on July 31, 2008 knowing only two people in the city, having no job, and having very little money. I chose Harrisburg because of it being the center of Pennsylvania politics. I worked through a temp agency for awhile until obtaining a job with a lobbying firm–which I thought was PERFECT! This was it–my door into the political arena!

Boy, was I wrong. Looking back, I firmly believe that God allowed me to have that position for a year to show me that He did NOT want me in politics. It was a terrible year–the job was a terrible fit and I was so miserable in that role. I saw a side of politics that I had never seen before and I was completely disillusioned. I was let go on 09/09/09 and the joy that I felt was indescribable! Most people aren’t happy after being fired (or, in my case, “forced to quit”), but I felt all the heaviness that had weighed on my heart disappear and I felt so free.

From there, I was unemployed for a year, and that year was an incredible gift to me. I watched as God provided faithfully for me and I was able to pay my rent until April 2010, when I moved in with Brennan’s aunt and uncle until our wedding. I was able to focus on church planting and mission trips, and I was so joy-filled through it all. I got engaged during this time, so this also allowed me to focus on wedding plans/marriage. God’s provision was constant, and though it was a humbling year, I learned to accept help from others and to not be proud.

I worked for a temp agency as much as possible (talk about humbling), and in June 2010 I began working part-time for a consulting firm (huge blessing). In September 2010 I obtained a second part-time job (my current role) and was finally working full-time again. I learned more during that year of unemployment than I thought possible! It was a humbling and faith-filled year.

That brings me to today…I have been in my current role for two and a half years. I have never been recognized or thanked for my work by my supervisor. I do work that a high school student could do. I have never had a raise (and I don’t make much to begin with). I do not use my very expensive, hard-earned bachelor’s degree. I go most days completely unnoticed by my co-workers (and have NEVER been asked to join them for lunch when they go out). My gifts and talents go by the wayside as I watch the clock day by day, waiting for 3:00pm to arrive so that I can do things that actually matter. I feel completely unappreciated and overlooked. I have applied for and even interviewed for MANY jobs during this time period, but God has not opened any other doors. So I have remained here, despite how miserable I tend to be here.

Even my role as a relief houseparent at MHS is largely a “thankless” job (from the students themselves, not from the supervisors or the houseparents…students aren’t going to thank you for disciplining them, haha). Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE it, and it’s highly rewarding to help these students make decisions and learn lessons! My point is that they don’t care about the fact that I’m intelligent, a great musician/vocalist; they don’t really care that I am a good photographer, or that I was once in TIME Magazine. They just want to be fed (they are middle school boys, after all 🙂 ), entertained, and kept safe. Above all, they want to be loved.

So why has God been allowing me to go through these things? I think I’ve determined His reasons…

To be continued…

Day Nine: I’m Thankful For…Mr. Milton S. Hershey.

Preface: I thought it was fitting to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I’ve never taken the time to do this, and it will be a challenge to blog each day, but it’s so important to recognize the blessings God has given us! 🙂 These are in NO particular order…

I used to say that if I could meet any historical figure it would be James Madison. While I would still love to sit down with Mr. Madison, I have a new answer to that question: Mr. Milton S. Hershey, truly one of the world’s greatest men.

In a world filled with greed and selfishness, hearing stories and accounts of truly amazing and generous people is very refreshing. Mr. Hershey fits the definition of selflessness.

In the past two years of working for one of his companies (and now for his school), I have learned so much about the man and his vision. The more I learn, the more I love and respect him, even though I’ve never had the privilege of meeting him. Without Mr. Hershey’s vision and determination this would likely still be a rural area with a struggling economy, and thousands of boys and girls would never have been impacted by the school that he and his wife began. And it all started with chocolate. 🙂

Now that we work for the Milton Hershey School (caring for HIS kids), I am even more thankful for what he left as a legacy (to read more about why we love working for MHS, see this post). He was a man determined to put others before himself and he was always focused on giving his wealth where it was most needed. These kids have a safe, loving environment to grow up in at no cost to them or their families…all because Mr. Hershey didn’t see wealth as something to hold on to, but something to give to those in need.

He built the entire town of Hershey for his employees–that they might have a great place to live, work, and play. I have loved living in Hershey for the past 14 months, surrounded by such a rich history.

There’s so much more that could be said about him. I’m so thankful that he was not blinded by his wealth, nor was he selfish. Instead, he gave it all away so that “his kids” would be funded indefinitely and ensured of a better life. And that’s a great reason to buy Hershey’s Chocolate 🙂

Guest Post: Building Up the Men in Our Lives

Featured authors

Building Up the Men in Our Lives
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NIV)
 
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
 
learn more ▶
 
When our husbands let us down, it’s hard not to voice our anger and disappointment. We don’t do it to hurt or embarrass our husbands. We are women, and we’re wired to share our hearts with another person. We definitely need one another to become the women we want to be, but we need to be careful not to cripple our men by uncovering their weaknesses to everyone.Obviously we all need someone to help us sort through our feelings. I think it is best to find one or two trustworthy people who are in favor of our marriages and won’t repeat our conversation to others. I have two best friends to whom I tell everything because they help me see things from my husband’s perspective and help me fight for my marriage by praying and sharing wisdom from the Word. I am careful, even with them, not to overshare in a way that would humiliate my husband, Steve.

Think about how we would feel if our husbands talked about our weaknesses at their workplaces. Let’s commit to covering our men and not exposing them, and let’s pray for them to grow as leaders.

Don’t Enable . . .

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Because we women are so good at leading, many times we leave our men in the dust or allow them to become weak leaders. How are they ever supposed to learn to lead if we do everything for them? We are not their mothers; we are their wives. Christ asked them to love, lead, and take care of us the way He loves the church.

It’s important that we not try to do things that are our husbands’ responsibility unless they are absolutely necessary. Even if we can do their job better than they can, we’re not helping them become the men they long to be; we are enabling them. They will see us as their mothers and not their wives, which will make us bitter toward them and produce the fruit of self-hate in their lives.

Do What You Can to Empower Him . . .

Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. (1 Peter 3:6)

I used to think it was strange that Sarah called her husband “master.” I thought maybe she was even putting her husband before God. But today I realize she was a wise woman. She was empowering her husband to find his place as her leader. We can also help our husbands become godly leaders for us. Even if they do not rise up right away, we shouldn’t give up on them. We can keep praying and empowering them. Whatever they do, big or small, let’s encourage them. Let’s be like Sarah and do whatever it takes to empower our men to be great.

For more teaching from the Your Heart’s Desire book and Bible study, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

Watch the trailer:

Watch the trailer

Guest Post: “We Are on the Same Team and Fighting the Same Enemy”

Featured authors

We Are on the Same Team and Fighting the Same Enemy
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
 
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
 
learn more ▶
 
Think about what makes your heart melt when you watch a great love story. It’s not the hero’s physical strength or his beloved’s beauty, is it? No, you and I are drawn to the power of true love and its inexplicable ability to prevail over tragedy and adversity. The greater the conflict, the stronger the love must be in order to resolve the issue. When the hero does whatever it takes to save the relationship, our hearts soar with renewed hope. Likewise, as we seek to truly listen and understand our men when differences between us create friction, we set ourselves up for more satisfying and loving relationships.

The Author of love and life and the Designer of our differences knew there would be conflict between men and women. The real problem comes, though, when we get accustomed to seeing relational problems solved in the time it takes to eat a bag of popcorn. Our hero and his beauty have less than two hours to defeat the dragons and overcome unspeakable challenges. You and I are not going to magically resolve deep relationship conflicts in our own wisdom and definitely not in less than two hours.

When I met my husband, Steve, I was sure we were a match made in heaven. In fact, we have had the privilege of being in ministry together for most of our marriage. I wish I could tell you it’s been an effortless, wonderful life for the two of us, but I would be lying to you.

I learned to fight loud and strong by watching my parents. My brother and I would hide together in my bedroom as our parents tore into each other during arguments, often screaming and throwing things. Because of my broken family, when I first got married I was sure that every conflict between me and Steve would end our marriage.

Steve was raised by parents who had stayed married, so it was impossible for him to relate to my fears and worries. He was raised in quieter surroundings. His parents dealt with conflict quite differently from mine. There was no rage. No yelling. No broken furniture. His parents rarely fought—and never in front of their children. But his family also had no system to resolve conflict. That meant issues went unresolved—though not unnoticed.

Steve’s and my fighting techniques were drastically different. However, neither of us had been equipped to deal appropriately with marital conflict. That led to major challenges early in our marriage whenever we attempted to resolve a disagreement. To make things even more difficult, when I married Steve I was a new Christian and had not yet learned how to channel my anger properly.

I tried everything to get him to react or resolve conflict with me, and as I waited, I became more bitter and he became more distant. One day I couldn’t take Steve’s calm, cool responses anymore. From my perspective, he obviously needed some lessons on how to fight for our marriage. I’d had enough of his “let’s work it out peacefully by ignoring our problems” act. In my mind, he was being polite only to annoy me.

“Why don’t you ever show some emotion and prove to me you care about our marriage?” I yelled.

Steve stood there quietly, shaking his head and looking down at the ground. Then suddenly, he turned toward the mirror on our bedroom closet door and kicked it as hard as he could, smashing it to bits.

Wow, I thought, what a performance. He sure learns fast.

Suddenly I began to laugh hysterically through my tears. I was so shocked I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or ready to run from what I saw. His toenail was jutting out at a bizarre angle as he asked me, “Is that enough emotion for you? If it would help, I could probably throw myself on the floor and work up a good cry.” We both began to laugh together as we attempted to pick up the glass fragments scattered all over our bedroom floor. In that moment I realized how much we had shattered each other just because we were different and had not been trained on how to resolve conflict. Our marriage was not the problem; it was our hearts. Neither of us had a teachable spirit.

It took several years, a lot of tears, and one expensive closet door mirror to repair the damage inflicted during those early years. We still have conflict, as all couples do, but we now understand that we are on the same team and that it’s okay not to agree on everything.

After twenty-five years of marriage, we’ve decided it’s worth letting go of the little things and fighting to understand one another. Conflict comes no matter who we marry. We may be fighting about different things with different men, but there will always be major differences between men and women. I once heard a pastor say that if spouses agreed on everything, only one of them would be needed. Let’s not allow our differences to divide us any longer!

For a sneak peek of Sheri Rose’s Your Heart’s Desire Group Experience, or to learn more about her ministry, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

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Guest Post: “Desiring a “Happily Ever After”: Fighting the Temptation to Give Up on Love and Marriage”

I am so blessed to have the privilege of sharing the next few articles from author Sheri Rose Shepherd on my blog! She offers wisdom and encouragement that is biblically based and I will be posting articles from her over the next three weeks. If these apply to someone you know, please share the posts with him/her!

 
 

 
Featured authors

       
Desiring a “Happily Ever After”
Fighting the Temptation to Give Up on Love and Marriage
 
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
 Sheri Rose Shepherd
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I don’t know where you stand today with the man you love or loved—or if you are single, divorced, separated, or widowed. I can tell you, though, that if you’ve been hurt, you can be sure Your heavenly Father knows how hard it is to love and forgive the one who caused you pain. Yet regardless of the relational devastation you face, no one can keep you from finishing strong for God’s glory!I was raised in a non-Christian home. My parents have each been married and divorced to three different people. As part of several blended families, all I understood about marriage when I was growing up was “unhappily ever after.” But then I became a Christian at twenty-four and married my husband, Steve, just a few years later. Because of my love for God and my husband, I honestly didn’t think anything could shake my own marriage or faith.

In the summer of 2007, however, my happily ever after was wiped out and my faith was tested. The family foundation I had worked so hard to build and protect was almost destroyed, along with my ministry, in that season of my life. I truly believed that God had forsaken me.

I had just finished writing my book for mothers about raising sons to become godly husbands. As I excitedly ran upstairs to e-mail the manuscript to the publisher, I suddenly felt as if something dark hovered over me. My passion for the book’s message was drowned out by the fear of an attack from the enemy that could come against me and my family if I stepped on his territory . . . young men and their future marriages.

I called the publisher and said I’d need to wait and pray for courage before submitting the manuscript. I went to my son, Jake, who was eighteen years old and a senior in high school at the time, and asked him if he had any plans of rebelling against his faith once he graduated from high school. I told him I was willing to give him freedom to find his own faith in Christ, but I didn’t want to put out a book about raising boys if my own son was going to walk away from the Lord. He reassured me that he was strong in his faith and that he felt I should publish the book. I decided to take the chance to make a difference and sent in the manuscript.

The book began climbing the charts, and everything seemed to be going well. I even began speaking with my son at conferences for mothers of boys. Then three months into my book tour, my fear of attack hit. My husband had taken a job that we had both prayed for. This job appeared to be a blessing; however, his new position required him to violate some of the boundaries we had put in place to protect our marriage, and we ended up separated.

There I was in the public eye of ministry, fighting to save future marriages, and somehow my own marriage was falling apart. My son was devastated by the division between me and his dad. It was too hard for him to deal with all his confusion, pain, and anger, so he took a break from his faith and began using drugs and alcohol to comfort himself. I had always known to run to God for cover when there was a great attack, but now I felt like He had left me alone on the battlefield to fight for myself. It appeared that all I had believed about God and all my effort to build a strong foundation for my own family had been shattered. My pain, my shame, and my life were an embarrassment. I felt as if I were battling an out-of-control fire that would burn up everything I loved and lived for. Every night I would cry myself to sleep as I struggled to understand why God had not protected me while I was attempting to accomplish something for His glory.

One night I could not take it anymore, so I fell to my knees and told God I either wanted Him to fix my family or I wanted to quit the ministry. Then I felt the Lord asking me a bigger question: Was My life, given on a cross for you, not enough for you to finish strong even if it means surrendering the life you wanted? For the first time I realized that my heart’s true desire was to feel loved and secure, and yet no man on earth could love me the way my Lord does. In that moment of crisis I found the true meaning of following Christ. God had not forsaken me, but He did want to free me from depending on others to give me my happily ever after.

That night I gave my heart’s deepest desire to God and chose to follow Him at any cost. In exchange, He gave me something so much better; He gave me peace that was more powerful than my circumstances. My faith was no longer in people; it was in Christ alone. Although nothing outwardly had changed yet, I had been changed. Today, Steve and I have celebrated twenty-five years of marriage, and our son serves God with His whole heart. He and his bride have given us our first grandbaby girl. However, to be honest, restoring our marriage was excruciatingly painful and more difficult than either of us expected. As hard as this trial was, it taught me a valuable lesson: our Lord is the God of comfort and the author of a new beginning. He can and will rebuild a beautiful life out of any broken heart willing to make a change. He will use one sacrificial choice; one act of forgiveness; one sincere, repentant heart; and one woman who is willing to step out in faith and start rebuilding with His love for His glory.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

For more teaching from the Your Heart’s Desire book and Bible study, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

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