My latest…

Advertisements

Divorce and the Believer

This is a blog I’ve wanted to write for a while, but needed to take a few years to wrap my head around. I have a sweet friend, Jennifer Taylor, who posted a beautifully written article about a couple on the edge of divorce, who were able, only through the unfailing grace of God, to restore their marriage and stay together. I know for a fact this can happen. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. But what about the other side of that coin? What if you find yourself divorced (or divorcing) as a Christian? Have we totally let both our families and our Creator down? I’d like to share (some) of my personal experience. 

I became a Christian at the age of ten. I grew up in the church, and cultivated a very real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was always taught that if I wished to marry, I should pray that God would send me the spouse He intended for me. I did, for many, many years. Without boring you with unnecessary details, in my Christian walk, I’ve had seasons of being close to God, and seasons of being further away. I think most of us can relate. Probably beginning with college, I found myself living more for me than HIM. This was what I refer to as my “season of selfishness.” I made my own choices, and consulted with God on very little. He was never fully absent in my life, but the static and noise of my everyday life became too loud for me to ever really listen to Him. During this time, and into adulthood, I made mistakes- many of them. Some people proclaim loudly, “I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, because it’s made me the person I am today.” I’m not those people. There is SO MUCH I would go back and change if I could. Stupid decisions, most taking merely seconds to make, have had a long-lasting ripple effects (dare I say “consequences”) throughout my life.

One of those would be when it came to marriage. The Bible tells us that we are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). This means if you are a Christian, we are not to marry non-Christians. As a Christian, we receive the Holy Spirit. A non-Christian doesn’t have that gift. They aren’t able to view life, the world, and the will of God for their lives as we are. This creates a myriad of difficulties for an unyoked couple to overcome. I’ve even realized that we may marry someone who says they are a Christian, but I would encourage you to look for FRUIT. Do you actually SEE Jesus in their lives? Is it reflected in how they conduct their daily lives? If you do not, I firmly believe this is yet another example of being unyoked. 

Anyway, considering I have young children, and I always state that the “why” behind the unraveling of my marriage is unimportant (someday, perhaps my children and I will have that discussion, maybe not). Let’s just say that my marriage and my home became an uninhabitable place. For years, I pleaded with God for the restoration of my marriage. I cried out to Him to preserve this family unit that I so desperately wanted to keep intact. There were pastors involved, counseling, praying friends, etc. We would experience brief moments of peace, but ultimately, the chaos and unrest would creep back in and overtake any peace that had been found. This is where the battle for me truly began. How can I, as a Christian, get a divorce? Doesn’t this go against every ounce of scripture and teaching of Christ I had ever been taught? Won’t this be an embarrassment for my extended family? How can I demonstrate a Christian walk, and knowingly walk headfirst into a divorce?

Here’s what I’ve learned… first, you will be judged. This initial judgment is by the world. It’s painful. However, after about 3 years of fighting fiercely to keep my family together, I realized that by staying I was actually doing my children more harm. The words, the actions, the fights they were witnessing was doing damage to them. I’m supposed to protect them, right? What protection was I offering them by keeping them in a hotbed of anger? Those who judge aren’t privy to the endless hours of calling out to God for reconciliation. Those who judge aren’t witness to the nights of laying with my face to the floor praying to God for His mercy. Those people didn’t have to live within my four walls. They don’t know the behind the scenes damage taking place in my lovely, historical home. 

Second, I knew that God would judge me. However, I also know that I serve a God of forgiveness. As painful a decision as it was to agree to the decision the day I had papers served to me just months after the death of my father, I knew that it would take more than one person to salvage this marriage. I couldn’t do all the work for the both of us. It doesn’t work that way. So, I continued to pray, and ask for forgiveness and for covering for my family. 

Third, I will freely admit that this was one of the darkest periods of my life. I’ve never felt so empty, so helpless, so hopeless, so alone. My only comfort was that I had an amazing support system of friends and family who offered prayer and support throughout. There were many days I didn’t feel that I’d survive it. I had only two reasons to get out of bed each day, and their names were Ava and Elijah. I wanted them to see their mother not devastated by the circumstances, but instead leaning on my hope in my Heavenly Father. I was so weak, but He was strong. 

In closing, and in case you’re wondering, God brought me through that dark wilderness. He never left my side. I had to fight many battles, and there were times that I only made it because He carried me. Isn’t that what our gracious Father is all about, after all? Even when we mess up, He still loves us unconditionally. So much so, in fact, that He made the ultimate sacrifice, sending His own Son, to pay for our transgressions. Today, five years later, I’m in a place of peace that I never ever thought possible. God has poured out blessing over blessing upon me and my children. So, yes, I am divorced. More importantly, I am a child of God, who has been forgiven from the moment my sweet Jesus experiences His nail-scarred hands. God is so good. Never lose sight of the fact that He is present in all times, even those when we are struggling to see the Light ourselves. 

Be blessed, my friends. ❤️

The Struggle is Real

I’ve always experienced a tinge of guilt anytime I have a bad day. Guilt that I don’t feel like my normal, happy self. Guilt that I feel fussy, when in reality I know how incredibly blessed I am. This week though… this week has been a doozy. I’m writing this in the same clothes I had on two days ago. I feel unmotivated and a little bit sad, although it’s been really difficult to pinpoint exactly why. It’s rainy here this week, but I love the rain, so that can’t be it. I’m missing my love who is 6 hours away, but he’s always 6 hours away, so that can’t really be it. My kids have been great this week- getting along- so it’s not your regular “mom” stress. 

Then, this morning it hit me like a mack truck.  Our Bible study this week was about Jesus instructing us to be fishers of men. Mark 1:17 says, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  I challenged each of our ladies, myself included, to do some fishing this week. I think God wants us to talk to people in our daily lives about Him, although for some this can mean stepping a bit outside of our comfort zones. I gave them some examples of my past experiences witnessing for Christ, and told them that I’ve even asked God to bring the people directly to me. Like, just open that door a smidge, so I can get a toe in, and then I’ll kick it on open. We’ve been sharing victories and experiences, and plan to revisit this on Monday.

That has to be it. This is the hardest week I’ve had in a very long time, and it just HAPPENS to coincide with the week I’ve committed to sharing the good news of God with others. Coincidence? I don’t think so, not one little bit. Let me tell you a secret… I don’t picture the devil (Satan) as this little, red creature with pointy ears and a pointy tail holding a pitchfork. My spiritual mind envisions the devil as attitudes and words spoken. He comes to us in secret thoughts and quiet deceptions. He typically doesn’t show himself in all of his full-force evilness, because this would scare most discerning people away. He starts gently and softly speaking words of doubt and negativity to us. He hopes to get his claws into us this way. What he can fill your mind with will become what seeps over into your soul, and eventually what comes out of your mouth. The devil gave me a crappy attitude this week. It wasn’t my actual days that were bad, it was how I felt overall. If he can keep me wallowing in self pity- “Oh, poor me, life is so hard sometimes… it’s so unfair…” then I’m not going to be in any state to even want to talk to others about the awesomeness of my God. If he can keep my eyes focused on ME instead of my heavenly duties, then he’s won. Sad to say, I let him have most of the last few days. I’m not proud of it. Today though, things are changing!

Today becomes less Amanda, more JESUS! This is how I want my everyday to be experienced. Let’s not give the devil the upper hand, and sink into his plan for our destruction. You hear everyday that life is too short, and we should make each day count. I completely agree with this in theory. I’m going to be training myself to actually put it into action. 

In closing, a Chris Tomlinson song keeps rolling in the background of my mind as I’m typing today. Let me share it with you. “Our God is Greater” is a wonderful song about the magnitude of the power of our God. I hope you listen and are blessed by it. The struggle is real, friends. We all have struggle most days. Who are we going to listen to?… the devil who wants to pull us down as far as he can, and convince us that there is no promise in our future? Or, do we listen to our God, the Creator of the universe, Who already resides in the future and is waiting for us there with His hand extended out to us? Be blessed, my friends. 

https://youtu.be/O5d_gm9zrnY

Grounding Amanda

For the first time in as far back as I can remember- perhaps ever- I am having an experience that is difficult to even put into words.  It seems that for the majority of my life, when it comes to personal relationships with the opposite sex, my heart was always in the right place; but my decision-making skills were lingering somewhere around Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland.  Never heard of it?  Exactly.

Something amazing has recently happened.  Here.  Now.  Just weeks shy of turning 47 years old, God has allowed the sweetest and most unexpected blessing to quietly drift back into my life.  My heart is so full of joy and thanksgiving that I scarcely know how to contain it.  I’m not even sure where to begin.  Let’s just start here…

About six years ago, I wrote a blog entitled, “The Boy in the Book.”  https://mandaclair.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/the-boy-in-the-book/

This story describes an encounter I had with a young man back in 1991 when my sister and I were just starting our college experience at East Tennessee State University.  I won’t retell the story, as I know you are capable of clicking the link and reading it for yourself.  The boy, Jeff, was an important part of my college time.  He and I shared a few years of love, and eventually parted ways.  Without even realizing at the time, he would leave a lasting impression that even the grandest attempts of others to match would fall painfully short in comparison.

My memories of Jeff were always good ones.  He was the guy my girlfriends loved.  When our crew of 5-7 girls would go out in the evenings for dinner and dancing, he was the one who went along as our bodyguard.  He was the friend and the protector of our group.  Jeff was the guy who brought Georgia peaches to my mother when he would visit- a fact that now, to this day, she still mentions every time his name comes up.  He was the guy who was thoughtful, and caring, and paid attention to the little details. He was the guy who loves his mother and sisters with a love so big that it makes your heart smile.  Jeff was smart, funny, witty, kind, sincere, and had a beautiful face and smile that would send your heart swooning.

I thought about him after graduation. We spoke on the phone a few times, but eventually that faded away into no contact, and life just moved on. I thought about him every now and then, and hoped life was being kind to him. I tried searching for him online a few years later, but it was as if he had fallen off the planet. The years following lead to marriage and children. Things became very busy. Life happens.

Fast forward about 24 years. Over Christmas break of this year (2017) my sister and I had a wonderful visit from our college girlfriends. We fell into fits of laughter with storytelling of “remember the time when…” stories. It was such fun!  Throughout our stories, Jeff’s name kept popping up. He was a part of many of our fun adventures. One of the girls says to me, “You really need to try to find him.” I sort of blew it off. He was most likely married with children of his own, and even more likely would be impossible to find still. I brushed the idea aside for a few days, but it stayed hidden quietly in the back of my mind.

One day, a few weeks later, it occurred to me to look for him. I pull up Facebook, which I had recently taken a 4-year hiatus from, typed in his name, and BAM! He was right there. 😊 I went into private investigator mode, and searched through pictures, and comments, and everything I could get my “non-friended” eyes on! I decided to bite the bullet, and just send him a message. I did. It was light and easy. Something like, “The girls came for a visit, and your name kept coming up. Just wanted to say hello. Nice to see you’re still out there somewhere…” Anyway, a few days pass, and I hear nothing. I start wondering if I should have reached out at all. Then, I see it. I see by reading his latest Fb post that his father had just died. That very day. My heart broke for him. I know firsthand what a devastating time that is. It occurred to me that it was interesting that of any day, out of any week, out of the past 24 years that I could have reached out to him, it just “happened” to fall on the moment in time that his father passed. Maybe God needed me to be here for him. Could it be that? Although I’d not heard back from the first message yet, I knew I needed to send him another. I told him that I had no idea his father had been ill, and was so sorry for what he and his family were going through. I told him I’d definitely be praying for them all. I said that we’d gone through this with my own dad in 2011, and it’s horrible and surreal; but that he would get through this, and I’d be here to talk if he needed. I ended by telling him that I wouldn’t message again, as I knew he had much he needed to be taking care of during this time.” So, after that,  I just prayed for him for days. Anytime his name crossed my mind, I prayed.

It was five days from that last message that I heard from him. I was so excited to talk to him, and incredibly nervous, although I really couldn’t pinpoint why. He was sweet and I could hear in his voice that he was happy to be talking to me. I could also pick up on the sadness from the week’s events. I wanted to make him smile. His voice sounded exactly the same. It was the neatest experience. On the other end of this phone line was the exact same voice I’d loved 24 years ago. Just sweetness. He asked me if I was on FaceTime. I said, “Right now?” He replied, “No, I mean do you have it, and do you use it?” I told him I wasn’t really a fan of FaceTime. Something about the video phone (like from the old school Jetson’s cartoons) made me nervous. Anyway, that voice that I instantly recognized said he needed to see my face, and in that moment I became the biggest fan of FaceTime on the planet! We Facetimed one another. Often. This began an instant connection that neither of us could really explain.

We basically started at, “So, what have you done from the moment you left school until now?…” The conversations were easy. Some were happy stories, and some were sad. Both of us had been married for 10 years. Both of us had experienced the sadness of divorce. Both of us had two children- a girl first and then a boy. Both of us have children whose ages are close. Both of us lost our fathers to a brain disease. The more we spoke, it was uncanny how many overlaps and similarities our life experiences had.

To condense what has taken place in the following weeks is almost impossible, but something sat up in me and took notice one night when Jeff and I were texting and he sent me a picture of a bible. It had his name engraved on the front, and handwritten inscriptions inside. It was a bible I had given to him as a gift in 1992. He told me he had kept it close for all these years.  In what felt like an instant both of us knew that God had completely ordained this, and we just loved each other again. We didn’t say it out loud at the time, but we knew. Both of us agree that it’s like we left our heart with the other 25 years ago and it has only been lent out to other people for all these years.  We agree this all makes so much sense now- why nothing else worked. We believe we’ve just sort of come full circle, and Jeff says he’s back to reclaim this love with me.  I can hardly believe this amazing answer to my years of prayer has finally arrived. I’m not going to share every detail of US, because I want to leave some of the beauty of our story just for us. I can tell you, I had completely given up on ever getting to experience this pure, spiritual connection and love with any man. I’ve just not been “lucky” in most of my relationships. My mother says I like to do what she calls “missionary dating.” I find someone who needs help or fixing, and it becomes my personal challenge to try to help fix them. I can assure you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this “fixing” never occurs, and you find yourself in an empty relationship, where you are spending the majority of your time trying to meet the other person’s needs. Eventually, your needs are completely forgotten, and the focus is on the other person 24-7. It’s exhausting and can cause you to completely lose sight of who YOU are. This is the beauty of Jeff. I don’t want to fix him. I just want to love him. He’s a Christian. He’s an amazing man. He’s breathtakingly handsome. He loves his family- mother, father, stepdad, sisters. He’s become a father since I knew him and he worships his kids. He’s a hard worker with goals and ambition. He’s everything I’ve ever needed in a partner, but have never found.

The whole thing has happened so fast, but with such amazing PEACE that we both instantly recognized this is Jesus, not us. God has allowed me to have a very full life. I have a wonderful family. I adore my children. I’m blessed with a career I love. This has just been the icing on top. I feel complete, solid. I feel grounded. We’ve already talked to both families. All are praying and excited. Now we just wait for what God tells us is the next move. We are thankful, we are prayerful, and we are hopeful for the future. ❤

A Reflection on “The Shack”

More

When We Give Pornography to Our Children

Do I have your attention? Good, I want to. I’m coming to you with a serious topic, but one which is important and is on my mind often. Let me begin with a disclaimer- this could get a little rough. I hope you’ll read this in its entirety, though. I really want your feedback. Please feel free to comment directly to this blog, or to this post through Facebook. 

Let’s  jump right in… Parenting is the most challenging role I’ve ever had. I’d say any of us who are parents could agree with this statement. I’m sure this same sentiment has been reverberated from parent to parent throughout history. I believe, however, that parenting in the 21st century comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles. 

Today our children have access to more information at their fingertips (literally) than any other generation before them. Through the use of modern technology, our children have a virtual Pandora’s box of information accessible to them. The moment we place that iPhone, iPad, other smartphone, or computer into their hands, we allow them passageway into any chat room, social media site, group text, private text, or search engine. It is staggering the information- both good and bad- which we so willingly hand over to our very eager children. As a parent, this has been a concern of mine for a while now, and I’d like to ask what your family does to safeguard against all of the harmful things they can and do very easily stumble across. 

Let me explain just a bit further. It is human nature to be curious about things. This is a good time to point out that this “human nature” of which I speak is also our “sin nature.” Scripture tells us that we are all sinners by nature (think Adam and Eve), and we are creatures who can easily be led astray by temptations of this world. I want to speak to you frankly here, but I’ll keep it delicate. I think this level of brutal honesty is necessary for the point to be fully realized. I can remember as a child the very first time my eyes saw something that they shouldn’t have. I can tell you my age, the place, and what I was doing. I knew that someone my family knew kept a certain type of magazine in their house (hidden, no less); but regardless, it was stumbled across one day and the temptation began. As a child, I flipped through those pages, knowing full well that my eyes had NO BUSINESS being there, but my human nature took over. I was curious. I didn’t realize it at the time in my childish mind, but in that moment an invisible threshold was crossed. A boundary of innocence which, through the years and through life experiences, gets whittled away a tiny sliver at a time until that innocence is so far in our background that we have to strain to remember it. Think back to your personal situations. I’ll bet most of you can remember these life-altering and life-affecting moments without even having to try very much. 

I can tell you that it was in the fifth grade that I cheated on a test for the first time, and was so overcome with guilt that I was sick to my stomach for weeks afterwards. Another life-changing moment. A threshold moment. 

I can tell you the first time I snuck and watched a Rated “R” movie. I can tell you my age, where I was, the name of the movie, and the scene which had the most impact. A life-changing moment. A threshold moment.

I can remember being a teenager, and my mother speaking to my sister and I about the importance of our sexual purity. I remember her explanation that not only was it God’s plan that we reserve these sacred, sexual acts to take place within the sanctity of marriage, but that there was an emotional and environmental consequence as well if we fell outside the boundaries of God’s guidelines. She said that once a girl (or boy) loses their virginity, then it’s most likely that they will continue to be intimate from that point on with anyone and everyone else they date up until finding their future spouse. Once your virginity has been “lost” (What a deceiving way to say that really. I’m pretty sure we know EXACTLY where it went), there’s nothing left to save for our future spouse, right? So, this being the thinking, why should I wait with anyone else? I remember understanding some of her words, but not fully grasping their truth, until I watched a close friend live out this experience. She gave herself over and over, moving from one failed relationship to the next. Leaving invisible, but very real remnants of herself behind in each relationship as she moved through them. Small pieces of her soul, her essence, being chiseled off and left behind with the boyfriend of that month. Eventually, there isn’t much of “you” left. You couldn’t see it at the time, but again, life-changing moments. Threshold moments. 

Our children today don’t have to accidentally stumble across the sin in this world, they don’t have to wait until they are at a friend’s home or even until they are out of their parent’s eyesight, it’s handed to them for birthdays and Christmases. It’s wrapped up with a pretty red bow in packages of 8, 16, and 32 gigabytes. We hand it to our children, children who have been taught right from wrong, and we just TRUST them to make the right decisions. Reality check- they are CHILDREN. These threshold moments actually play into the fabric of who we become as adults. Once these thresholds are crossed, there is no going back. You can’t regain innocence once it’s gone.

How many of you have ever seen the experiment that was on tv a few years ago, where a group of children who had been taught about gun safety, were placed in a room with an unloaded gun, and were secretly recorded to show their reactions? Here’s a link in case you haven’t:

https://youtu.be/7fdnyvwIzg0 Children and Guns

I see this as exactly what we are doing to our kids and teens when we arm them with these life-alterers, these creators of threshold moments, disguised as pieces of technology. I’ll bet if you took your child’s phone at this very moment, and simply did a Google search of any number of violent or sexually-driven words, and then clicked on “images” you’d be astounded to see what they can so easily pull up. Our children can see pornography (FREE) at their fingertips in the comfort of their own home, car, or school. There are pictures and videos that NO ONE would want their child having access to, and yet we not only give this access to our kids, but we also pay the bill for this each month. What is going on???! If Snapchat doesn’t make you a little bit nervous, I think maybe you’ve not thoroughly thought things through. 

So, I’m not trying to get completely overboard with this, and saying no one should ever have a phone. I am saying, however, that parents need to be cognizant of what their children have access to, what they are viewing, who they are talking with, and what those conversations consist of daily. Children are children. They are curious. Just like I was. Just like you were. It would be foolish of us to assume our child is always going to make the “right” decision. We want them to, of course, and we pray to that end, but just like us, they are human. 

I’d like to hear from you if you don’t mind to share your thoughts on the matter.  What parental controls have you placed on your devices, on your children, and on your environment to ensure that your child is being protected? After all, isn’t that our job as the parent? We can’t keep them innocent forever, but aren’t we supposed to protect them for as long as we can? 

For My Father… (printed on back of his tribute program)

For My Father… (printed on back of his tribute program).

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: