Endless HOPE, relentless JOY started with a baby boy.
– for king and country
By the grace of God, I’ve always been able to separate the actions of people from the character of God. I wasn’t angry at God when my mom would hit, scream, throw and punish. I wasn’t angry at God when my dad let it happen. I wasn’t angry at God when three people who were friends and family did things to my body that no first grader should experience. I wasn’t angry at God when a man I thought I would marry would become angry at the word “no” and took what he wanted anyway. I wasn’t angry at God for anything that came with that- filing a restraining order, taking a pregnancy test and getting tested for STDs. I wasn’t angry at God when the man I did marry consumed pornography and then had to detail more egregious missteps than anything I had encountered up to that point in my life.
No, it wasn’t God. In fact, it was His character and mercy that saved me from so many consequences. I still love my parents and have a relationship with them. I wasn’t susceptible to a proposition from a stranger who said “there’s nothing wrong if it’s just talking”. When I was reeling from the shock of rape and became physically involved with another man having little care for my own safety, there was no pregnancy or STD. By so many smart people’s calculations I should be a statistic.
Don’t get me wrong. I self medicated with alcohol at a young age and had to learn that not everyone has an ulterior motive when doing something as innocent as paying me a compliment. But I can look back and see God’s mercy and grace over my life like a blanket keeping out so many more things. And that’s how I know.
JESUS has and will continue to keep me safe. Yes, there have been many unjust things done to me in my life. And you know what? Jesus was right there with me through it all. And He took it a billion steps further. He took the punishment I actually have earned through my sin and broken human-ness. I will NEVER be abandoned by God. I will NEVER experience the agony Jesus felt when the Father poured out his wrath and turned away.
In Him there truly is Endless Hope and Relentless Joy.
And it started so long ago. When my Jesus said “I will be that Hope. I will be that Joy.” He came as a baby boy to heal and restore and defend.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for walking in fire with me. Thank you for being Hope. Thank you for being Joy.
The sole purpose of HER Voice is to provide an opportunity for those who have walked in our shared experience of betrayal to tell their stories and open their hearts. These stories are meant to be personal testimonies from women who are still unpacking pieces of their hearts and looking to the one who is the ultimate Healer. Our God is creative and no two journeys look the same. These posts are authored by women at various places in their journey towards healing and hope, so please understand they are in process like all of us. We encourage you to use self care when reading other’s testimonies. These blogs are not meant to “tell you how to do it,” but are meant to encourage and provide hope for others, wherever they may be in their healing process.
Even though in my mind, I’ve placed Him in a stinky manger, far off and in another time, He calls himself Emmanuel. God with us. These very words can also be heard often throughout the season in a Christmas song that plays throughout your shopping day, church and possibly your own playlist while you are at home.
What does it really mean, though? What does it mean to see Emmanuel in a story riddled by betrayal during a season that is supposed to be joyful, bright and filled with happiness? I sat quietly in my office for a moment as I thought about this question for myself and for so many others around me.
He is with us when we can’t bring ourselves to send the Christmas card with the “family” photo because it feels like a lie, or maybe it shows our new reality of divorce or separation.
He is with us when we try to decorate the Christmas tree with our kids and find it near impossible as we pull out ornaments that overwhelm us with memories of a past that appeared to be one thing, but was actually something else.
He is with us when we are traveling to extended family and know there won’t be a soul there who gets us. Instead, there will be those who stand back in judgement and lay expectations on us to show up for the sake of the season.
He is with us when
we are in a store and experience a trigger that is so massive it backs us up in
a corner and holds us there until we can catch our breath again.
He is with us as we lay in bed and look at our husband’s face in the dark, wondering what is going on “over there.”
He is with us when we need that frightened little girl inside of us to be held.
He is with us as we navigate so many of the unknowns. He sees the brave face and the secret tears.
He is with us when we call our adult children and ask about their holiday plans. Praying they include us, and also wrestling with the possibility of being in the same space with our ex spouse.
He is with us as we search the internet for THE thing that will make the bleeding of our soul stop.
He is with us when
we are pouring over scripture looking for answers and a glimpse of hope.
He is with us when we pause for a moment and do something that is caring for ourselves and refreshing for our soul.
He is with us when
we stand in church and sing from a depth in our soul that can only hold a
fraction of His power.
Can I be honest? I lose sight and think Jesus is twirling through the holiday season like a Nutcracker character, far removed from the grief and hurt that can wrap itself around us this time of year. The truth of the matter is, He sits in the middle of the hard and downright impossible with each of us.
So once again I will stand in awe this Christmas season of all that He has done for us. I will remember that He isn’t back in the manger, far off, fragile, small and dependent on His parents. He is still the Savior who died and rose again. The One who sent the Holy Spirit to live within us and be Emmanuel, God with us. And, He is smiling when we see His presence and ask for more of Him.
Lord, your word is
stuffed with promises that we need to be reminded of over and over. Help us to
see your presence as we attempt to stay present. Help us to sense your
affections toward us as we try to navigate a season that can feel so
conflicting. Help us to find our strength in Your joy over us. Father, we know
that you ask for our weakness so that we can be made strong again. Help us to
surrender the things we are holding on to and receive your strength for this
day and this season. In Jesus Name, Amen.
‘If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Mark 9:22-23 (emphasis added)
The taste of grape juice lingered on my lips. I had just left a Bible study where communion was given at the end as we listened and sought the Lord to speak to the innermost depths in our hearts. While resting in the presence of the Lord, each one of us asked the Lord for the bread and juice to symbolically soak into the crevices, the brokenness, and heal parts of our hearts only able to be healed by the One, the Healer.
That whole day I had been crying out to the Lord in a variety of ways. Asking for encouragement, asking Him to heal the broken areas of my heart, grieving losses. A friend shared a testimony of how the Lord had healed her heart and asked her to let go of hurts, to cross a line and decide to let go, no longer holding onto the hurts of her past. And in a challenge, an exhortation from our Lord, asked if we all would be able to do the same.
God often uses a process to heal. Could I believe in a miracle healing? Could I believe, if I just chose to step across the line, that all would be healed? My heart wanted to believe. I so wanted to believe. As I waited for my turn to go up to take communion, in faith I whispered under my breath, “Lord, help my unbelief, Lord… I believe. “
On the way home, the Lord asked me a question, one I needed to be asked.
Do you believe I can redeem all of this?
This is an interesting question because I’ve seen the Lord redeem so much in my life. He redeemed the worst decision of my life–to have an abortion. Now I have opportunities to travel and minister to other women who have had abortions. He has even redeemed details of the abortion and He has redeemed that day. He has blessed me with three beautiful, amazing children. He has blessed me beyond anything I could ask, hope or imagine. He has vindicated me and canceled my debt. Instead of shame (which is what I deserved), He has given me double honor. Yes Lord, I believe.
If the Lord can redeem something as horrid as abortion, He surely could redeem this situation. Hope restored. Redeemed hope. Yes Lord, I believe.
For those reading this today, I don’t know where you are in your journey. I don’t know if you are full of faith for your healing or desperately searching for a glimmer of hope to hold onto. Belief can be birthed in the despair of desperation. I have seen Jesus redeem. For you and for me today, I am speaking to our faith, encouraging belief.
Therefore, I ask you the same question He asked me, “Do you believe I can redeem all of this?” It is why Jesus gave His life. It is why He came. He came to redeem. It is the whole point of the gospel message. Lord, I believe.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus and that He gave His life to redeem all, not just some things, but all things. There is no “If you can”, Lord. I know you can. Lord, I believe. Thank you for redeeming all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The sole purpose of HER Voice is to provide an opportunity for those who have walked in our shared experience of betrayal to tell their stories and open their hearts. These stories are meant to be personal testimonies from women who are still unpacking pieces of their hearts and looking to the one who is the ultimate Healer. Our God is creative and no two journeys look the same. These posts are authored by women at various places in their journey towards healing and hope, so please understand they are in process like all of us. We encourage you to use self care when reading others testimonies. These blogs are not meant to “tell you how to do it,” but are meant to encourage and provide hope for others, wherever they may be in their healing process.
This past month, I had the honor of receiving my certification from an organization that is committed to training and equipping helping professionals understand betrayal trauma and the impact of sexual addiction. The organization is called APSATS (Association of Partners of Sex Addiction Trauma Specialist). This certification makes me a Certified Partner Coach. Crazy job title to be excited over, right?
I feel such a pressing on my heart to share why this is such a big deal, not only for me but for the women around me.
The day I received the certificate, I posted on social media my gratitude and excitement about getting to this point. What I didn’t mention was that when I sat back down in the back of the room and tried to contain my excitement, I heard this still small voice say, “Open the folder, Lyschel, and sit with this for a moment.” I have a tendency to run through life and quickly move from one thing to the next – physically, mentally and emotionally. The Lord knows this about me.
I immediately opened the green folder containing my certificate and I just sat with it for a moment. Within a few seconds, the tears began to fall as I felt the Spirit remind me of all that happened prior to this moment. All of the mountains that were conquered, overcome or walked around to get to this moment.
The first thing that came to mind was my husband. The grief of his addiction is still there. It’s still something I ache over and the reality of what it has stolen from him, me and us. I hate that this is part of his story, and as a result, a part of mine. But man, we have weathered some storms – more like a tsunami quickly followed by a tornado. Some of these storms have been faced together and others I went through all on my own, with God by my side. Every single one of those storms contributed to the moment I was having in the back of this meeting room, looking at this simple piece of paper.
Second, I thought of my children. They have sacrificed for their mom to be able to walk in this calling. There were missed dinners and basketball games, along with a few field trips here and there. While I can wrestle with guilt over missing moments, I also think about the home life they are receiving because of the healing and investment I have made in myself to grow. It’s like they are getting to start from a level up.
Next, my thoughts and gratitude quickly moved to the women who have sat with me over the last seven years. Beautiful faces on the computer in our online groups and hugs received in our face to face groups. I can’t count the number of times women have thanked me for giving God my Yes. This was one more of those Yes moments.
also thought of the incredible opposition that came from so many places
as I have stepped into this space. Opposition from the enemy, but also opposition from other people.
I love the quote Brené Brown uses in her work, Daring Greatly from Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
This is the kind of wisdom we have to hold on to when we live in a place that requires incredible vulnerability, uncertainty and courage.
I guess you could consider this my acceptance speech. And I do accept this certification with pride, honor and intentionality.
Looking back over my life, I can see how much I’ve learned and grown. I have a love and hunger to care for hurting people that does not make sense most days. I know with confidence that these things were given to me as a gift from God. I wholeheartedly receive this gift and will wake up tomorrow and whisper (probably into my coffee cup), “What’s on the agenda for today, Lord?”
I hope you find this kind of fight within yourself, whatever the area is. I hope you wake up tomorrow, give Him your Yes, and then buckle up for a crazy ride.
Thank you APSATS Board, Laura Hall, Barbara Steffens, Jen Cole, Jeanne, Carol, Dan, Janice and so many others who gave their yeses, too, so we could be way-makers.
I hate exercise. But I love cycling. I can’t even call it exercise because I love it that much. I’m not talking about a spinning class or riding a stationary bicycle, I’m talking about taking my bike out on a trail and riding across gravel and crunchy leaves and over old bridges.
A few months ago I was blessed with the gift of a few hours of time to myself, as for the first time ever, my kids were in school at the same time. I made a promise to myself not to spend that time cleaning or running errands, but biking on my trusty old mountain bike, one of my favorite past times. And it was glorious.
One afternoon a couple of weeks ago, the weather was finally cooler and it was an ideal autumn day. I set out on a ride with my playlist in full swing and I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Each week I had been able to push myself further and further, and it had been a long time since I’ve had something I’ve truly wanted to invest in for myself. I was rocking it. Then, bam! Out of nowhere, my pedals started spinning aimlessly and my bike stopped moving. I switched gears in a panic, causing my bike to completely lock up. I’m stuck. Just like that, I’m a walker – you know, those people I always pity as I’m riding, because riding gets the job done so much quicker. I can see more scenery and accomplish more in shorter time period. Not so with walking. So, I started the slow walk back to the car, which took double the time. And as each helpful citizen passed and offered to help me out, the amazing feeling I had earlier slowly dwindled. I’m humbled as well as extremely bummed. I wasn’t able to conquer the thing I love doing most, nor the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this new season.
Here I am two weeks later and I’m back on the trail. Only still walking as I wait for my “new bike fund” to grow. I’m forced to go slow, for now. Instead of making it to the winding part of the trail with the creek to my left, I can only make it to the old bridge about halfway down my usual route. It feels like I’m crawling.
Quite honestly, my fitness life isn’t the only thing feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. Many things do in this season, including my husband’s recovery. Despite the amazing progress he has made over the past couple of years in the way of his addiction, his progress has now leveled off. Praise God he has been porn free for nearly two years, but there is a piece of his heart that is still holding on to the day in and day out struggles. Like my bike ride, my husband’s progress at first was drastic and encouraging, but eventually it slowed to a jog, and then a walk, and now it feels like a crawl. Sometimes it feels he will never be truly free.
Over the course of our marriage, especially in the early days, I tried everything that I thought would bring freedom to my husband. As we all have done, I took it upon myself to do anything that I thought would conquer this problem. I got angry and expressed my hurt in unhealthy ways. I didn’t get angry enough and tried to ignore the problem. I sent him articles, book recommendations, support group options and videos that I thought maybe, just maybe, might finally change his heart. I checked countless search histories behind his back to try to find something I could use that maybe would force him to give this up.
But, none of these things ever worked. I cannot conquer this sin for him. I cannot conquer it any more than I can will my bike to start working again, even though I can clearly see parts of the bike’s mechanics disconnected from the bike itself. It needs repairs that I am in no way capable of doing myself. My bike needs a skilled repair man and my husband needs his heart in the hands of a mighty God.
And so, I felt God whisper a request to me at the start of this year. He was asking me to let go. To surrender my husband to Him. To take the burden of trying to keep up with his progress or lack thereof, and hand it over. Despite the huge changes my husband had made, there was still more needing to be done that only God could do. Only God could conquer my husband’s heart.
All of what God was asking me to do came together one night as I came to the story in Genesis 32 of Jacob face to face encounter with God. This story takes place the night before Jacob is to meet his brother Esau – the brother he deceived long ago. The brother that as far as Jacob knows, wants to kill him. The scriptures tell us Jacob was afraid for his life, therefore his typical planning and scheming nature kicks in. But here, on the eve of this meeting, Jacob, the expert deceiver, could no longer rely on his own lies and schemes. God meets him and wrestles with him. In this moment, Jacob’s only option was to rely on God’s blessing. He had nothing else. The words of David Guzik’s commentary (Enduring Word https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/genesis-32/) really hit home for me:
“This is an invaluable place for everyone to come to: where God conquers us. There is something to be said for every man doing his wrestling with God, and then acknowledging God’s greatness after having been defeated. We must know we serve a God who is greater than us, and we cannot conquer anything until He conquers us.”
Something else interesting about this story – God wrestled with Jacob. He approached Jacob, not the other way around. God finds us in our sinful state, our pain, our shame and our brokenness – and he takes our hearts in His hands and remakes us. He conquers us. I’ve witnessed this first hand in my own heart over the past two years. I did not ask for God to come into my life and expose the most hurtful parts of my husband’s sin, but through it my heart was conquered and changed in ways I still am unable to fully understand.
So for months now, I’ve prayed what feels like a risky prayer for my husband: Conquer. Lord, conquer my husband’s heart. Risky in the sense that I am scared of how God might go about that. But, like a skilled bike repair man, this is His business and I can trust Him. I can see the changes in my husband, bit by bit. The wrestling is happening, even if it is at a snail’s pace.
My walks on the trail have now become quiet times of reflection. I can still take in the scenery, even though I don’t make it to all of my favorite landmarks. And there is still beauty in this season, as I vacillate between words of praise to God, then to questions and frustrations and sometimes just silence. Don’t get me wrong, I will be so happy the day I can race down the trail on my bike, but for now, I’m in a season of slow change remembering that God can conquer it all.