My Side of the Story…

If you read this blog, you’ve picked up on pieces of my story, and if you attend C3 Church or listen to Byron’s podcasts, you’ve heard other pieces…

Every person’s story has many pieces to it – like a giant and intricate puzzle – and the reality is that even each “piece” is multifaceted…

This Sunday, Byron spoke of part of our story as a couple…about our separation and near-divorce 5 years ago.  As always, he was incredibly gracious and kind and put all of the responsibility on himself for our marriage…our world seeming to burn right in front of us.

But that’s his side of the story…

Here’s mine:

What happened to our marriage 5 years ago really began many years earlier.  I grew up in a seemingly happy, Christian home – the preacher’s daughter.  While I would not compare my upbringing and childhood to others who suffered horrible abuse and awful conditions, there was still abuse – even if everything looked perfect on the outside.  I just learned to cover…smile and cover.  

By the time Byron and I were married, and I went from “Preacher’s Daughter” to “Preacher’s Wife”, I was an expert at covering my true feelings, but the cracks began to show…

By 25, I had two beautiful daughters and although we were “seminary-poor”, we looked like the perfect family…except for the fact that at 5’9″ I weighed 100 lbs., suffered with debilitating depression and never slept more than 3 hours at a time.  But, if you asked…I was great.

By 35, I had 4 beautiful children and it was a daily struggle to hide the storm that was building inside me.  I gained 40 lbs. in 18 months even though I hardly ate, I was having “night terrors” and I began to think that my beautiful family would certainly be better off without me…

Still, if you had asked me, I would have said that I was a little stressed, but I would have never acknowledged that I was toying with burning my life to the ground…

Over the next 6-7 years, Byron tried everything to pull me out of the deep end of the ocean, but I didn’t want to be rescued.  I would have rather drown than to admit that I had been so badly broken in my childhood and beyond, that I truly didn’t believe I was worth saving.

So, by 42 I was living separately from Byron, and I did the “every other week” thing with my kids, and I had to look at their faces and know they were suffering…

all because I decided to burn myself to the ground just to stop the pain.

But, I learned something:

I learned that if you light a match and burn your house down, you’re not the only one who gets burned.  

I learned that if you run away, you take your pain with you.

I learned that you are not defined by what’s been done to you, but you will always carry what you’ve done to others.

I learned that there’s a difference between pain and remorse.  Other’s can cause you deep pain, but remorse comes from your own choices…and it’s a much heavier burden to bear.

I learned that I can choose to end the cycle of pain and remorse.  I can choose to be the person I needed when I was growing up.  I can create the family that I never had.  

I can deal with my pain and stop it from dealing with me with every breath.

I can.

I have the power to choose a new path.

You do as well.

We can’t just light a match and walk away…

Pain only goes away when it heals properly.  

Grace is the only fire strong enough to burn down hell…and it can burn down the hell your living in, if you let it.

I still have the scars to prove that I’ve been through the fire, but thank God, I’m also living proof that you don’t have to be consumed by it.

Peace to you…


Living Proof…

We all have a story…a path. Sometimes it can seem like we were placed on that path and we are powerless to ever veer from it.

My recent physical challenges – dealing with severe injury to my neck and back in a car accident, coping with the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, and battling a brain tumor – are really just one small aspect of my path…

For many years I struggled under the weight of debilitating depression. I was on every medication possible, and still just barely escaped suicide. At my lowest point, I chose to leave my marriage because I just felt too unworthy to have a “good life”…

I truly believed that my husband…my children would just be better of without me.

The decision to take my life back was humbling and hard…and I’m still fighting.
Besides a completely holistic approach to my health and a decision that the answers to my chronic pain and depression don’t lie in any prescription bottle, my biggest challenge has been my own thoughts.

You see, words carry weight. They carry within them either life or death. And your thoughts are nothing more than the words you say to yourself. So many times I’ve been guilty of saying things to myself that I would never say to someone else…and if someone else said them to someone that I love, I would turn into some kind of ninja warrior, Jedi-type lioness…

But yet I allowed myself to say such things to myself.

And then I realized that true health is more than what you’re eating and drinking – it’s also what you’re thinking and saying.

You are not just placed upon a path that you can’t change. You are not the sum total of everything that has ever happened to you. You are more than all the mistakes you’ve ever made.

You are precious.
Don’t live below your privilege as a child of God.
Don’t sacrifice your future on the alter of the present.
You are more.

God created you – He will deliver you, restore you and sustain you!
If you want to tell yourself something – tell yourself that!

The only way to begin again is to begin…again. Some days it’s not even one foot in front of the other, it’s just about standing back up.
You can do it…I’m living proof.

Peace to you…

Crushing Violets…

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” – Mark Twain

How do you forgive someone…I mean, really forgive?

Are we mandated to just “forgive and forget” as if we were never offended…damaged…betrayed…broken?

Well, the truth is that we were not made to have to even fathom the concept of forgiveness since we were made to live in The Garden…in perfection.

We were not made for this world with its viciousness and filth. But, of course, we do live in a fallen and sinful world where predators prey on the most innocent among us. So, how do we forgive?

Just like the violet, we’ve been crushed – the fragrance that comes from us after that “crushing” is not determined by how we feel about the “heel” that crushed us, but instead by the choice to be the opposite of that “heel”.

I choose to look at forgiveness this way: As long as I let my anger, resentment, hatred, fear…etc. consume me, I am still controlled by the one who offended me. I choose to work through my grief, yes, but not allow my focus to be on the offender, but rather to be on my own healing.

Because hatred toward another, no matter what the offense, will always damage us more than them.

I’m trying to master this myself and am by no means there yet, but I do long for the day when the actions of others – past and present – don’t consume my thoughts, control my emotions or steal my peace and joy.

Forgiveness just means letting go by a choice of the will.
It doesn’t mean condoning or enabling; Instead, it’s an understanding that a God is far more capable than we are to deal with the offender, and we can’t possibly focus on revenge or retribution…or even carrying a grudge, and properly focus on healing at the same time.

Forgiveness means freedom because the freedom is for the violet…not the heel that’s left covered in the fragrance like a constant reminder.

The truth is that forgiveness isn’t about the offender; it’s about the one who is wounded. To “forgive and forget” is a phrase mistakenly used to describe how we should look at the one who has offended us. Instead, I believe it’s an attitude of mental, emotional and spiritual freedom that allows us to “forget” in the sense that the offense neither defines us nor controls us.

The beauty of forgiveness is that it allows us to fully function in the rhythms of God’s grace.
And by that grace we can heal and live in the freedom – the way we were created to live.

Because we were not created to have to forgive (we were made to live in fellowship with God and man in The Garden) it is a truly supernatural act – we are never more like our Creator than when we function in His power…
And I just believe it makes God smile to see us live in such freedom.

Choosing to forgive is a choice to not live beneath your privilege, but instead to just be free!
Peace to you…

Angie ❣

Finding Joy in the Dark Places

Many of you know, and for those of you who don’t, I struggled for many years under the weight of debilitating depression and it took me to some very dark places.  For some time now, I have felt free of that weight and have been able to move forward with a new sense of purpose and joy…

Of course, being a believer for nearly 40 years now has taught me a thing or two about joy.

I believe you can only know if you truly possess joy and peace if it still remains in the darkest hours and in the darkest places.  I’m old enough to know that during the times when you feel the strongest, come the deepest…often the most personal tests of that strength.

It is during such times that I draw on the Scripture that I committed to memory when I was younger…Scriptures like “in my weakness, He is made strong.”  But with each point of overcoming comes a new round of arrows from the Enemy…

So, as I have entered this time of corporate Scripture memory and personal devotion, I should have been prepared for the onslaught of possible discouragement that would be aimed in my direction.

Each of us has our own soft-spots…our own points of weakness, and the minute I think about someone else, “Well, that wouldn’t hurt or bother me at all!”, I have to recognize my spirit of judgment and realize that the Enemy is smart enough to know the individual arrows to wing at each one of us.

One area I struggle the most in is the area of approval from others.  Some of you who know me might say “No way she cares what people think!” based on my demeanor, expressions or even some of the crazy clothes I choose to wear (Admit it, friends, you have thought on occasion “What was she thinking??!!”), but the truth is that I was raised the first-born in a pastor’s home, constantly on display…and utterly aware of my responsibilities to uphold the family name.

All of this set me on a path of trying to always do things “right” all the time.  A path which is both impossible to navigate…and even more impossible to remain on.

It also just plain doesn’t exist.

This set me up for a whole lot of angst when the church that my husband pastored basically died, 1000 people chose to leave the church, and we set out to establish a new movement amid the loss of almost every friend, our financial security…and our “standing” among most of the “churched” people in our community.

If I found it necessary to gain the approval of others, then I was in for an emotional famine like I had never thought possible.

Many of you know my story following so much loss and personal unraveling that I, and my family, experienced over the next 5 years…

But, recently, I have found a new peace and joy and a strength that I didn’t seem to remember that I possessed – although I always did, I was just in too dark a place to realize I was living so below my privilege.  I have found strength not only in Christ’s presence, in a renewed connection to His Word, but also through the blessing of new friendships and old that have lifted me up and encouraged me.

Of course, friendship is a double-edged sword, isn’t it?

The minute I allow myself to find comfort in the encouragement of others, I can just as surely find discouragement waiting around the bend…and often in such measure that I can allow it to totally negate any encouragement I’ve received…

So, I can feel right back where I started:  like an easy target with a huge bullseye on my back!

During the darkest years of this journey, I honestly got to the place where I just didn’t engage…with anyone.  I wouldn’t make eye-contact at the grocery store for fear of what I might see in someone’s expression, I didn’t reach out to people that I didn’t know for fear that they might already have made up their mind about me, my husband and our “church”,  I didn’t even really seem to trust God with how vulnerable I felt…after all, He had allowed all of the loss…

But, like I said, in more recent months, I have felt a renewed sense of freedom…

And there has been so much encouragement and kindness – so much balm for the wounded soul…

There has also been the inevitable:  that moment when I’ve met a new friend, am having a lovely conversation about our children, etc, and I see my new “friend’s” eyes begin to narrow and hear the dreaded words, “Your husband looks sooo familiar…I wonder where I’ve seen him before…”, and feeling that all-too-familiar chill come over us as she excuses herself and just…never comes back again.

It’s rough, I must admit, and it’s hard, no matter how many friends are made, not to concentrate on those who seem to “eye me” from a distance as if I’ve done some great offense to them – and they don’t even know me at all.  It’s hard to feel the joy and encouragement from 10 new friends if there’s just 1 that seems to despise you.

But, I’m old enough to know where it’s coming from, ultimately.

And I’m working on my response, my spirit, my contentment, my peace…my joy.

If the Apostle Paul could truly have joy while chained to a guard, awaiting a death-sentence, then I suppose I can handle a few cold-shoulders at the football field.  Paul and I serve the same God.  We both have said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”  We both have suffered injustice, betrayal, abuse and still recognize the Sovereignty of a loving and just God.

I just have to follow Paul’s lead, humble myself and know that anything I may suffer just causes me to resemble more closely our Savior…as long as I choose to respond appropriately.

Please pray that I always respond appropriately…

That will definitely increase your prayer life!! 😉

I thank my God when I remember all of you who have offered words of encouragement to me.  As I’ve often said, we truly don’t know what someone is walking through at a given moment…

Love wins!

No discouragement can change that fact.