boundaries, featured, grief, HER Voice, Hope Redefined, how to help with porn addiction, pornography addiction, recovery, the everyday, Uncategorized

The Gift of Grief

“I just want to get it all out so it’ll be gone,” I said bitterly. 

“It’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. You’ll get better at grieving,” she said. My friend Alice was a fellow traveler in my 12-Step program, but she had more experience with grief than I did

“I don’t want to get better at it. I want it to be done,” I asserted, not so much to Alice as to the incessant writhing in my stomach. I’m pretty sure I raised my eyebrows as I spoke. If I’d been talking to my children, they’d have known it was the last straw, and they’d better quit wreaking havoc before mom totally lost it. 

I grew up in a dysfunctional home – one parent with mental illness and both struggling with addictions. I was too busy keeping my head above water to feel my feelings, and when I did express any sort of emotion, it was quickly shut down. I learned to be self-sufficient, easy-going, and to diffuse every bomb with a joke, so as not to allow those pesky feelings to surface. Add to that being a seven on the Enneagram, and you can see how everything in me is built to avoid negative emotions. I can see the silver lining in the darkest of clouds. It’s a gift most of the time, but the danger is that I can easily stuff my negative feelings rather than deal with them. By the time I had my first child at 26, there was a hurricane brewing. 

Perhaps it was being a new mom and having a baby to protect. Maybe it was that I was just so damn tired. Whatever the reasons, there came a moment when I knew I had to do something different. I set some “boundaries” with my parents right after my first child was born–both a new word and a new behavior for me. My parents didn’t take too well to that, and the conflict that arose sent me on a journey of self-discovery and healing. While those words may stir up images of leather journals, steaming cups of coffee and self-help books, for me it felt more like being awake for open-heart surgery. 

On the recommendation of my therapist, I attended a 12-Step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, the program gives people a process by which to participate in their own healing. I liked the idea of having a plan. I knew it would be painful, but at least there was an end. If I made it to Step 12, I could close the book and move on, right?

In ACA I began unpacking all those stuffed feelings. All the work of identifying, surrendering, and taking inventory of my (and my family’s) dysfunction meant going back to old wounds, naming losses, crying, talking about my feelings (ugh!), and saying no to my usual coping mechanisms. In a nutshell, it meant grieving–not just the things I’d lost, but also the things that I never had. As a black-belt people pleaser, I did all the exercises the program recommended. I made lists. I spent time reflecting on each item as a loss, asking God to heal that wound. I groaned as I set a timer for my grief work so I would be forced to sit through it and not just skip over the painful feelings the exercise stirred up. 

I attended meetings weekly. Every meeting would include reading some of the ACA literature. The Promises were my favorite: a drink of optimism in the dry desert of reality I was crossing. The last one says, “Gradually, with our Higher Power’s help, we learn to expect the best and get it.” Yes! That’s the guarantee I was working for. Forget the silver lining, I want the whole bright blue sky! I worked the program to finish the program. I so looked forward to closing the book and getting on with living my best life. That’s why getting to “the end” was such a disappointment. 

Step 10 says that we, “Continued to take personal inventory, and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” I should have seen immediately how I’d been duped, but I proceeded to read my chapter and do my homework like a good little rule follower. The assignment for Step 10 was to make a list of questions related to our struggles. Did I play the victim today? Did I say “yes” out of guilt? Did I avoid grief rather than experience it? Then I was to place these questions by my bedside and read them every night as a way of maintenance. And there it was. Maintenance?! For how long?! I searched for a time frame in the text that followed, but there was none. The implication was terrifying. I’d just traversed an entire desert, and I wanted to swim in the rivers of living water on the other side. Instead I found myself, like the Israelites having just fled Egypt, next to nowhere on the side of a mountain, wondering what the Egyptians were having for dinner that night. I’d have to continue the work of grieving and healing to pursue wholeness. 

“I feel really angry. I wanted this to fix everything. I wanted to have surgery and remove the parasite, but instead, I feel like I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic grief issue and just given a bunch of tools for dealing with it,” I shared at my next meeting. I hoped to incite some righteous anger, or least some smug indignation from my fellow travelers. “Thanks for sharing,” they all said in unison. And the meeting continued. 

Despite the injustice I felt, I completed the program. And I returned the following week for another meeting. And one after. And then another… for about seven more years. While I couldn’t articulate it at the time, something unexpected happened during the course of all that grieving: I got better at it.

The sky wasn’t bright blue when I finished Step 12, but it was bluer than before. It continues to brighten. There are days when I need to go back to Step 1, recognize that I’m powerless and surrender to God. There are days where I need to act on Step 9 and make amends for a mistake. And there’s plenty of grieving to do as life goes on with all its challenges. I still don’t like grieving, but I let myself do it. I think I understand now what Alice meant when she said that I’d get better at grieving. It’s work. And like the Twelve Steps, it’s not a one-and-done, but rather an ongoing work. 

God, as I’ve come to understand Him, is not a one-and-done kind of God. He’s infinite, and His redemptive work is infinite. In my humanity I can’t imagine a bluer blue than blue, but when the sky clears a little more, and things get a shade brighter, I’m once again amazed at the healing that’s possible. What’s more, I’ve become thankful for processes that allow me to participate in my own healing.

Grief has been a big one.

When God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, He led them through the desert. It’s no wonder they were angry and disappointed to arrive at Mt. Sinai. They were probably wanting to close the book and be done, but that wasn’t God’s plan. He gave them a process. Just like the sacrificial system is the process by which God reconciled us to Himself, grief is the process He gifted us so that we could reconcile our broken reality with that for which we were created. And like the sacrificial system, grief is a messy work.

We can approach it with groaning and complaining, making golden calves out of our brilliant coping strategies, or we can surrender to it and let it heal us one day at a time. 

Written and contributed by Chera Meredith

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. 




boundaries, featured, Hope Redefined, how to help with porn addiction, pornography addiction, recovery, the everyday

Boundaries After Betrayal

If you’ve been on the journey of recovery from sexual betrayal for any length of time, you’ve probably come across the term “boundaries.” That’s because betrayal trauma experts know that boundary work is one of the most important skills you can learn to not only survive the betrayal, but to regain sure footing and confidently live beyond it. Today on the blog, I want to give an introduction to boundary work. We’ll look at what it is and why we need it, as well as what God says about it. There is no way I, nor anyone else, could cover all there is to know about boundaries in a single article or even in a book! But, I hope this will be helpful for now, and at the end, I’ll give you some resources so you can continue your work.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “boundary” as “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” The simplest way for me to understand the concept of a boundary early on was to think about a fence around my property. “What does the fence do?” my therapist asked. “Well,” I responded, “it keeps out people and animals we don’t want on our property, and it keeps us safe within our property.” Bingo! From there, I could easily agree that I needed some boundaries in my life…physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual boundaries. I wanted to keep IN things like peace, safety, and joy, and I wanted to keep OUT things like deceit, manipulation, and anything harmful. Sometimes in my practice, a betrayed spouse would misunderstand boundary work, thinking that she could manipulate or force behavior change by setting boundaries. But creating and maintaining boundaries is not about forcing behavior change in another person. Instead, boundaries help create safety in each of us and in our relationships. They say “This is where I start and stop,” “This is what I will/won’t accept,” “This is what I will do if you choose to ___ “, and so much more.

There are several versions of this quote floating around out there, but it’s worth sharing, even though I’m not sure where it originated: “How people treat you is a reflection of them. What you accept is a reflection of you.” Read that again. This is Boundaries 101. 

As I said before, if you’ve been in recovery, you’ve heard of boundaries. It’s kind of a pop-term that has definitely gained interest since Henry Cloud and John Townsend released their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes; How to Say No, in 1992. But, as culturally popular as it may be, it’s more important to understand that setting and enforcing boundaries is a Biblical principle. As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and boundaries are no different. Cloud and Townsend didn’t actually come up with this concept; the Holy Trinity did before the heavens and Earth were formed. You only have to look at creation to see the existence and use of boundaries: oceans stop, lands begin; days are numbered; Adam and Eve have free reign in the Garden except for the forbidden fruit, and God enforced consequences when they didn’t honor His boundary. We can also look at Jesus’ life to see how he dealt with boundaries, remembering that He was without sin and completely loving. Jesus said “No” to inappropriate behavior such as demands (Luke 5:15-16), entitlement (Matthew 12:46-50), cynicism (Luke 23:8-9), pride (Matthew 13:58), abuse (Luke 4:28-30), baiting questions (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-22), and manipulation (Matthew 16:23). Jesus knew that he had needs that could only be met through time with the Father (Matthew 6:6; Mark 14:32-42). Jesus was honest and direct (Matthew 5:37). Jesus set priorities (Mark 12:29-31; Mark 1:38). Jesus sought to please God, not people (John 5:44). Jesus met His own personal needs (Matthew 26:18, 20; Mark 1:16, 3:23, 4:38; Luke 7:36; John 10:40, 12:2). And finally, we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 to “control our own body (or possess our own vessel) in holiness and honor.” I’m going to end this section with a quote from one of my favorite modern-day theologians, Rachel Jankovic. It really summarizes what should inform all of our boundary work:

God’s Word is the perfect law of liberty because it both commands us and protects us. It is a Living Word. To know your boundaries, know your God and His Word.”

In addition to understanding what boundaries are, why you need them, and what God says about them, I also want you to know that there are many challenges to doing this work. The part of your brain that has been damaged by betrayal trauma needs boundaries in order to create safety, in order to heal. But, it’s the damaged part of your brain that makes it so difficult to do that. This is why getting support for this work is absolutely essential. It is priceless to have an experienced, trusted person tell you that you’re not crazy, that your needs and wants are valid, and to help you navigate through setting boundaries that will help you heal.

It is for this reason that I am inviting you to plug into Hope Online, a community of Hope Redefined. A webinar and group course on boundaries is coming soon, along with lots of other great resources to help you on your journey. As I said at the beginning of this blog article, there is no way to cover everything here. However, we will get super practical and give you chances to ask questions and get lots of guidance and practice in doing your own boundary work in the webinar and group course.

I hope you’ll join us!

from the wife, HER Voice, holidays, Hope Redefined, recovery, the everyday, Uncategorized

Endless Hope, Relentless Joy

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.

photo courtesy of unsplash.com

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. 

holidays, Hope Redefined, recovery, the everyday

Emmanuel, God With Us

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. 

from the wife, HER Voice, Hope Redefined, pornography addiction, recovery, the everyday, Uncategorized

Do You Believe I Can Redeem All Of This?

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.

photo courtesy of unsplash.com

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.