holy trouble

Something from two years ago…

Father, Abba, who knows me so perfectly, so intimately, so beautifully and wisely; You wise, true, faithful and all powerful God, created a story for me…not to make much of me, but to put on display your glory, your splendor through a broken and crushed daughter.  A girl born into sin, yet fearfully and wonderfully made.  A girl who would deny you a thousand times; stand with scoffers.  A girl who chose sin, lust, self; hurting, beaten, bruised – seeking heavenly salve, yet her soul did not know it.  Salve from heaven came down and covered the girl, and with Holy salve came the weight of Holy trouble.  The girl began to have frequent and familiar encounters with a Holy God who gives and takes away; and in the taking, hope was born.  In the taking there was grief.  In the taking there was suffering.  In the taking there was anguish.  There stood the girl stripped, yet clothed.  Clothed in heavenly attire, clothed in a righteousness that on her own she could not claim.  With every stripping, the robe remains to cover her nothingness, her nakedness apart from Him.  There are days when suffering stings, yet the robe is safe.  There are moments of sin, yet the robe, still safe.  There are hours and days where darkness hovers, and there standing in the robe, the girl is reminded that even the “darkness is not dark to Him.”  There are days she cannot stand, and there, on Holy ground, crying for more salve, the robe remains.  The lower she goes, the thicker and heavier the sweet heavenly salve.  It won’t be long and she’ll stand again.  How could she stand at all having not known the depth of the weight of Holy trouble?  A weight that crushes, yet renews.  A weight that breaks and stops a selfish heart and slowly re-starts the rhythmic beating of two hearts, a girl’s and her King’s.

tie me to you

“I’m afraid I might hurt them…I’m so scared…maybe if you tie our ankles together while we sleep it will help me feel safe…”  I said in a barely voice.  A cracked voice whispering through the effects of dehydration and an all consuming anxiety that had left me 11 pounds less than me in 11 days. For the past few months I had been fighting.  Fighting hard.  Fighting for peace.  Fighting for joy.  Fighting for happiness.  Fighting to please.  Fighting to keep the girl, the wife, the mama.  If I could just keep her alive I wouldn’t sink into it all, I wouldn’t lose everything I counted as gain. My husband would stay.  My friends would still look up to me.  My kids wouldn’t lose their mom to a psych ward.  I waved the white flag and collapsed.

As a young wife and mom, I was in a place I never thought I would fit. I loved it. I loved who I had become.  I was married to a man born out of pride and responsibility and he was safe. He bought me a home and then a bigger home.  We gave our kids lessons, and love and prettied up pieces of broken.  I saw him and knew I would marry him.  He told me he would marry me on our third alcohol slushed day together.  I walked into his arms and fell into his bed in a haze of brandy and cokes.  By a righteous outstretched arm over us and a stitching of holiness we’re still here minus the haze.   I was jagged, raw-edged, skin-stretched before my time.  I had a list of erased names belonging to men.  I had cigarette breath and alcohol veins.  I gave off an aroma of pride mingled with shame and the scent of a God who gave up.  I didnt’ even know I ran from the God who hounded, wildly…furiously.   I stood with mockers and ran into a darkness that would continue its fight for me.  I bared it all because I had nothing to lose and the eyes of strange men saw everything..

Seven years old held a heart written with  new words of life, breathed on by Spirit, awakened to grace.  I loved my Jesus and desired to do everything He wanted me to do.  I was a good girl on the outside.  I loved to read and get good grades and please my parents, but inside rebellion ran deep and I didn’t just dip my toes in it, I played the game of who can touch the bottom first and I won every time. I drank from a mason jar something that burned my throat when I was 14, and though I hated the taste I loved the euphoria.

I had somehow found myself the mother of three and I heard the Voice without sound whisper into hungover ears one Sunday, “take them to church” and we drove until we stumbled in, and I remembered Jesus.  There were fresh tears and new hope and Jesus said He had always been there and I believed Him and wanted to tell my babes everything I knew to be true of Him and all of the beautiful new things He was teaching me. There were conversations about God and heaven between toddlers and mama… and angels stooped low to listen.  I memorized scripture while they napped, lungs filled with worship, that burst through deaf tones, and I didn’t care that I couldn’t match a note to a scale, I was sure the sound of angels joining in my chorus drowned out my flats and sharps. And this is the way it went.  God blessed and I stayed home and cooked and baked and attended bible studies and learned to pray on a floor and get intestine honest with God. At first I was afraid to have my bible out in front of my husband, but after a while I didn’t care.  I ate and stayed hungry.  I thirsted and stayed thirsty.   I read everything I could on godly marriages and grace-filled parenting.  I studied each child’s love language and spoke in each of their tongues.  I was pretty sure I was doing it all right and God was pleased.

It was in the middle of my right where everything turned sideways and wouldn’t stand straight again. Even me, sideways in bed.  I couldn’t get up.  Something hit me so hard one day it knocked air from my lungs and I literally couldn’t breathe.  I struggled for every breath. Food became my enemy.   I couldn’t swallow because my throat always felt like it was closing in on anything I would try and eat or drink.  I trembled violently each time I brought fork to mouth. I feared the worst.  I feared they would lock me away and I would never see my children again.  just when I thought I couldn’t fear anything else, the images came. I was afraid I would lose my mind all together and hurt my own children.  I closed my eyes tight and commanded them to leave in Jesus name.  I tried to chase them out with scriptures on peace and resisting the devil.  They fearlessly stared back at me. It’s as if my fear strengthened them.  I called my husband home from work and dissolved into his arms on the hull of our garage.  I wept and felt his chest heave in unison with mine as he wiped his own tears before they wet my hair. I feared losing my children.  He feared losing me.  We were both losing. I went to bed and didn’t get up.  For days.  He brought me half turkey sandwiches and pressed them to my lips, while he whispered in close “please eat, baby…”  He got low and prayed.  He offered, “I’m here, baby” and reached for my hand in my terror filled sleepless nights.  He brought me xanax and sleeping pills.  He tied our ankles together each night with the belt of my robe so I wouldn’t wander.  He searched for me in the pitch of night and found me on the floor of my middle daughter’s room trying to be as near to her as possible in hopes that the nearness would grant me – me back….I was a good mom!  But the images had lied to me.  He reached into me where I was so lost, took my hand and said, “c’mon baby, lets go back to bed, she knows you love her.”…more words would come,  “c’mon baby, get in the shower, I’ll go with you.”  He led me to the bathroom while bones through skin shook and I couldn’t look up. I steadied myself on the bathroom counter and looked into hallow eyes.  Someone was in the mirror staring back at me, but it wasn’t me.  Where did I go?!  I screamed from inside.  I can’t find her!  I got into the shower and held one trembling hand toward heaven and begged God to take my life and stop my racing heart.  I wanted to die but was too afraid to take my own life.  I couldn’t face another day.  But God breathed a silent no over me and I groped for Him but couldn’t find Him.   I opened my Bible and stared at black words against thin white and yelled at God.  My mind so distracted I couldn’t read one verse.  I pressed my bible into my chest hoping it would save me from the cancer-fluid of self filling my lungs.  I asked God to breathe for me.  My friends were afraid of me, like Job. In a daze of staring at empty words in between leather binding,  I yelled, “if this is what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want any of it!” and a tiny stream of light broke through into my solitary hell.  I showered and put on mascara and lip gloss.  Still weak, I walked into my husband’s office and tears fell out of his eyes onto his suit. He took my hand and we walked outside and he said he’d never seen anything more beautiful.  The healing had started, but the wounds still raw…

I opened up Beth Moore’s breaking free and God spoke to me about everything He had shattered in the breaking so that I might be free.  He said I had to forget who I was, so that I would always remember who I was in Him.  He taught me who He was and who I was as His beloved and we danced.  Oh, I was still afraid to dance, clumsy and weak, but He led and we swayed together under heaven’s orchestra, my head to His heart.   He breathed for me and I inhaled Him. I stopped shaking and fighting images.  I started to sleep.  I remembered how to laugh.  I remembered God.  And I begged Him again.  This time I begged Him never to take me back there.  Each time I looked back in fear, Jesus gently took my chin and tenderly turned my gaze toward Him.  He became my life, my treasure, my love, my joy.  I had a new understanding that even the flames of hell are free to singe me in His sovereignty, but their licks can only reach so far. That even the image of my sweet husband tying our ankles together so I wouldn’t wander alone in the dark, reminded me that nothing would separate me from Christ and His love and I began to trust. I learned that I had an identity so steeped in being the good wife, the best mom…because that’s what Christian women do, and it somehow cleaned up my past. At least that’s what I had believed. But he took those false beliefs and showed me truth and showed me that He not only runs to the broken but He breaks those who think they’re shatter-proof.  He showed me the cross again and this time I saw real blood and wanted to taste it.  I drank His blood and let Him wash me in it anew.  I let His mercy scrub me raw.  I wet His feet with tears and snot again and again and again in more gratitude in groans than words in voice. He showed me how to cling to the cross and believe down to my toes that I couldn’t earn His approval through righteous works and obedience to my role as a wife and mother. I could never be perfect enough, He was the perfect one!  In His severest of mercies He let me crumble in a heap unable to distinguish reality from insanity and sang to me there.  And then one day He whispered, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.  For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.  The fig tree has ripened its figs and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.  Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!”  (Song of Solomon 2:10-13). He kissed me and tied Himself to me and I was no longer afraid.

coffee and oil (2 Kings 4)

At a.m. and black I craved more spoonfuls of milky sleep drift…cuz sometimes He feeds them to me.  Other times he feeds me words and pours out morning oil. This morning was for coffee and oil. After loving the lump (aka Ezra dog) and feeding that cat..I found my spot somewhere at the end of the fourth watch.  Through the soul-cry of the psalter I learned about the night watches, how his soul waited for the Lord more than the watchman waits for the morning…and it sang to my soul, and so as most mornings go…I came before His table to watch and to eat words.  If I don’t go to that banquet table and drink deeply from sweet wine, allow myself to be kissed by God, inhale His breath…I will starve and try and fill up on Facebook, Twitter, to-do lists…but then I would feel like I so often have when I overeat, I should have stopped, slowed down. Now I’m sick and for some reason I keep pitch forking it in. I’ve learned, this kind of filling up never satisfies. I need real food.  I need manna. I need pure milk.  I need raisin cakes and apples, the sweet juice of pomegranates.  It’s all been set before me.  The God who never slumbers nor sleeps prepares it for me before light greets earth.

I’m in a long season of feasting right now.  I’m steady. I want to stay steady.  But steady won’t stay if I shut my ears to the Shiver-whisper that beckons in the still dark.  So I go.  I didn’t always go.  This self serving, sleep loving girl used to think, I don’t need the banquet, I’m sure I can grab a protein bar.  Something power packed in five minutes, on the run, in between checking my phone, peeping into windows of Facebook friends, joining the song of tweets instead of waiting for the song of  real feathered worship just outside my window.  But somehow, just reading an online devotion in ten minutes, or skimming a psalm, lifting up distracted and interrupted prayers, wouldn’t sustain me.  If I didn’t take time to savor what Jesus had prepared for me, to eat choice words and drink sweet wine, to feel and touch and taste and see his goodness and just stay…then I could never be ready for husband and kids and schedules and appointments and ministry and pressing needs.  It’s like trying to serve them me without Jesus, and me minus Jesus…ain’t pretty and she sure ain’t sweet. The law of kindness that’s supposed to be on my tongue is more like the law of Trish, harsh, demanding an obedience that reeks of gallows…Trish is both judge and jury and as far as she is concerned your all guilty. But when I’ve slowed down to Jesus pace, filled up on his words that have become the joy and rejoicing of my heart, waited in the garden with Him for more than one hour…then nothing is wasted, I’m no longer anxious.  When I wish my young adult kids would just go and make their lives, I am reminded of coffee and oil.  He poured it out on me so I could pour it out on them. Cuz that’s what we moms do, we pour and we pour and we pour, but if we don’t let the One who turned five loaves and two fish into enough to feed thousands, feed us….we won’t find any oil at the end of the jar.

finding the better in the worse

She said she slipped on something.   He said, “don’t take off your shoes.” He did, and felt the saturation of urine filled carpet seep through his socks and slip between toes.  Thick air…smoke still heavy finding its way through every inhale, silently filling unaccustomed lungs.  Mingled odor trails of an unattended dog and cigarettes making a trail through hallways and rooms…”be careful where you step.” Butts and ashes…piled high and falling off the edges of liquor filled glasses. “She wanted a party” he said, “we have to have a party…everyone loved her.” My soul was colliding with the woman’s I was led into conversation with.  I didn’t want to go to this event.  So I had prayed.  I always prayed. “Lord, give me grace, help me to really love people tonight, give me something meaningful here.”  I crave meaningful conversation. I avoid small talk at all costs.  It’s too awkward.  You’re forced to say things that you care nothing about….and worse yet, to people you care nothing about.  Energy is wasted digging into deep brain pathways, searching for words that stumble along and awkwardly bump into each other….and then they land on a soon forgotten conversation. Except for this conversation. This one was different….a gift wrapped in words that crashed into my heart.

It was in the end she would call three times each hour.  “I need to go to the bathroom” and so, driven by nothing more than an intense love for his bride of 40 years, he faithfully walked across the gravel drive that connected two homes…two hearts.  His home the garage, her’s the home he had built for her. He had been forced to move out of the home he shared with this love of his…his asthma could no longer fight the grey thick swirl that hovered in their home.  And so with every call, he went.  He walked into a place he never thought he would go. You don’t think “for worse” when your tongue forms a promise woven into your heart. It’s possible to say it and even mean it, without thinking it.  This man meant it.  And so his days consisted of dying as he entered into the last days and weeks with his bride. The worst days…some would say, or were they “for better?”   Every twenty minutes, with every step, a  part of him would die as he walked from garage to house in order to gently lift his bride from the couch and carry her to the bathroom.  On his walk he would lift his eyes to her once prized gardens, now overcome, tangled and choking through strong rooted weeds…a bloom here and there peeking through crevices of light…watching him, as if to say, “we’re still here, can you see us?” he saw them.  It’s like our life, he thinks, some just can’t see the beauty in it, but I know…I see it.  And then outside the bathroom door he would graciously wait…. and then stoop low to once again lovingly cradle his bride always careful not to cause pain, and walk her back to the couch.

Alcohol and dementia rob.  There is no other way to make sense of it.  And just as a thief vandalizes a property breaking into something that doesn’t belong to him, alcohol and dementia can shatter everything that built and sustained a precious life, two lives, multiplied into five.   And it happens slowly and subtly, often going unnoticed.  But once they find their way in, the victim is left vulnerable, exposed.  Dignity disappears as fast as the liquor.  And what’s left?  I kept listening…

“She was green when I saw her in the hospital, her liver didn’t work anymore… but she knew us. We tried to get her to stop, but she would rather drink then eat…she loved being social that way….she had a DNR…this is what she wanted… but she waited for Mike, he was her favorite, and then she went.” Her words formed one long run-on sentence, because when a soul spills it runs over all things proper.  But it’s more real this way.  I want real.  How old was she?” I asked. “Sixty-nine.”

Busyness can numb pain.  Or maybe hands that were made to work find solace and comfort in moving and navigating through deep painful waters.  It’s a way of coming up for air.  Stillness doesn’t work in these moments.  That’s for later.  They say there are five stages of grief one must go through. I hesitate to put numbers to what the human heart experiences.  That’s only for God to lift…. and to press in His time. there is no science to grief.   Some stages are never entered, other stages last years before the next barges in uninvited one day.  But hours after the loss of her mama she was just doing what her mom had taught her to do.  Work and love people.  This is what she wanted….  and so, she got busy.  She got busy emptying those overflowing glasses, scrubbing down walls, teaming up with the others, ya know those ones her mom loved…hard, like her favorite, Mike.  And they worked until, that once beautiful house and brilliant gardens surrounding it, shone once again, freshly cleaned, alive and fresh with outside air. “My mom was really into her community, they needed this.”  

and as the sun was being tucked into a sleepy sky with a blanket of pink woven into white and blue… and the conversation was coming to a close I asked, “How did he do it?”  She simply responded in the words of her dad when she had asked him the same question…”for better or for worse, honey… for better or for worse.”  

God had answered my prayer.  I wanted meaningful and I got it.  What could be more meaningful then hearing about someone finding the better in the worse?  Loving until death separated.  Carrying a bride to the bathroom when skin is sagging, mind fading, tangled and confused….loving…really loving… until the end.  This is love…and true love endures through the worse.  What a gift to hear the story of a man who opened my eyes to the better in the worse…

the invisible scar

It was just there one day, that scar.  It must have been there for years, and somehow I had missed it.  How could I have missed something like that? It wasn’t even small.   I mean for 21 years of story after story….21 years of bodies intertwined and tangled up in dark, in light…in sickness and in health.. In ugliness and beauty…..in time-stopped wonder and racing the minutes…. this scar had been exposed to my eyes again and again and somehow I had missed it.  It wasn’t even in a strange place or a hidden spot.  Did I mistake it for a crease?   After all, it was right there where the knee bends and skin folds. I studied it for awhile in silence.  Silence except for the songs in the woods.  My best friend and I had decided to spend a cherished afternoon together in our favorite place.  We had to fight for that afternoon.  The morning had started off normal and right as we had attended worship services together.  My favorite psalm was preached.  And afterward, we had the afternoon to ourselves.  The rain bird and the musician (our two adult children still at home) were both gone! The afternoon was ours.  Can you believe we began to get irritated with one another over where to eat lunch? We almost lost the fight, but I was determined to enjoy the gift of my husband and his company on a nothing -Sunday afternoon.  Sunday’s are for nothing…I say.  I mean except worship and rest.  The rest is just that “nothing.”  Glorious, rest-filled nothing.  Enjoying to its fullest a sabbath intended to restore one and refresh a tired mind and body in preparation for a week’s work. And I couldn’t wait to do nothing with this cherished friend of mine. His heart knitted to mine.  A love betrothed and sin-stained from the start, somehow redeemed and set in motion by the God who hangs stars and commands the morning.  A covenant God was keeping these last 21 years for us.  I don’t think either one of us take credit.  We have simply been bathed in grace, and scrubbed in mercy.  And that’s where I saw it, right in the middle of nothing. Every scar tells a story….I wanted to hear it.  Us writers, well we love stories.  We crave meaningful conversations that dig a little deeper into a soul.  Stories that prick and spill a little blood…its worth the stain, if I can’t get it off or out of my heart.  The stories that give us insight into how you ever got here…ya know this place where you love what you love, crave what you crave, hate what you hate, do what you do…say what you say- Why you put words to carefully reflected on thoughts or have after-thoughts to words recklessly spoken… Words that budged in front of the quiet Voice without sound and trampled down a soul.  If you can’t share with me the deep hidden “who,” instead of the surface “what” I think I see, well, I’m probably not interested. So I ask, and then I write.

“Is that a scar?” I said. A little embarrassed to have finally noticed after 21 years.  He traced my brown-eyed line of sight to his knee.  “Yeah.”  “How did it happen?” “I wiped out on the scooter when I was a teenager. It could have been the time I was severely drunk.” He said with a chuckle.  I know a lot about my husband’s heart and I ache to know more.  We sat again in silence. Sweet soul -swaddling silence. And the silence made words float in and out of my head. Words like “scar” and the words I previously wrote about, “the heart of her husband…” And somehow they go together.  If I had missed this visible scar all of these years, surely I had missed the “invisible” scars  of my husband’s heart. It’s possible I was responsible for some of those scars, more than possible, I can guarantee you I’m guilty.   And could it just be that since I was called to help my husband in a way that his heart trusts in me, that I had more work to do? I’m not talking about trying to dig into your husband’s mind and heart and annoy him to death.  I am talking about digging into the word of God in order that you might unearth the wisdom into what God has called you to when it comes to your husband’s heart.

Last we met, we talked about the parallel of Titus 2:4-5 and Proverbs 31:11.  The older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands and how the heart of her husband trusts in her.  Let’s pick up with the same two instructions a couple words further.  The text says “the heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11-12).  So here we are…still learning about our husband’s heart and what and how loving them with an affectionate love helps us burrow into that red pulsating seat of emotions, where courage to lead is either strengthened and built upon or torn down by our own hands (see Proverbs 14: 1).  A place that can either harbor a safe shelter of understanding towards us, or run from finding a resolution to conflict.  A lump of beating red able to store away sweet memories or avoid even making a memory because memories aren’t safe… too many scars. How do we handle our husband’s hearts with the gentlest of care and the tenderest of touch with our affectionate love in order to create a sanctuary of trust and safety?  You see the next word “trust” means just that, “to feel safe, secure, confident and bold, careless, to hope.”  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon puts it this way, “to confide in anyone, to set ones hope and confidence upon.”  Surely, this sounds like a huge responsibility for us.  After all, they are the ones instructed to lead us, right? Yes, but what a privilege to be given the responsibility to help our husband’s lead with courage, boldness and confidence!  And what a sweet gift we are given when we lay open bare our own hearts inviting our husband’s in where he feels safe enough to confide his deepest fears and longings…and how even more glorious when we have practiced confession of sin to our husband’s in such a way that they feel safe enough to trust us with their own confession of sin. This is possible.  But we need to return to the ancient paths I wrote about in my blog titled, “I Want To Teach You To Sink” and “Order in The Garden.”  Listen to the next verse in Proverbs 31:12, ” she does him good and not evil, all the days of her life…” ALL THE DAYS OF HER LIFE! This woman, who fears the Lord, is first looking out for her husband before herself, before her children, before her work, before her household duties, before her ministry. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. OF HER LIFE. The two scriptures I am blogging about put in order our precious and sacred responsibility under the authority of a Holy God.  Our responsibility is first to fear the Lord, and then to do good to our husbands all the days of our lives in such a way that their fragile hearts may go forth in confidence having no lack of gain.  What is gain? It is defined in the Hebrew as plunder or booty, as the goods obtained from war.  Now, I could go into how marriage is war….and it can be sometimes, but I don’t believe that is the context here.  The context actually means that he is blessed.  Literally with “his life as booty” that he is “preserved alive.” Now I am not a fan of modern day psychology even though I graduated with a degree in it, but some of what I learned was sincerely valuable.  Like when I took a class on gender and one of the studies researched on women who stay home verses women who work revealed that men who have stay at home wives tend to live healthier and longer lives, then men who are married to women who work.  I found this fascinating, but really it’s simple.  The men who had stay at home wives were more focused on their husbands needs, more focused on caring for their husbands, mind, body and soul. They realized their main job and priority was to invest in their husband and studies proved their husbands were blessed with longer lives as a result of it.

Oh sweet woman of God, dear beloved daughter, this is not to incite within you bitterness and resentment towards caring for your husband.  When we return to the ancient paths God has called us to, something soul-satisfyingly sweet happens within this earthly covenant love.  Would you join me in traveling that ancient path and becoming a student of our husband’s hearts? I promise you when you walk that path in search of God’s heart…messed up marriages begin to make sense even amidst the mess, and as you peer into your husband’s heart, may you see a reflection of your own heart, your own scars that need to be exposed and seen in order that you can run to the One who bled for these two hearts…. that they, together, may breathe fresh life with every beat of their brokenness glorifying Christ and reflecting to this broken world an all consuming, relentlessly pursuing, ever-chasing Invisible Love?

Next time we meet, I hope to give some practical suggestions and insight gleaned from this search…this 21 year, swimming in grace, reclining on Christ, being scrubbed down with grace at the cross, life.

Consumed in His love, no really…swaddled and wrapped and held,

trish

The night I told my husband I was in love with someone else…

The heart of her husband…the heart of her husband. Five little words that in themselves do not form a sentence…they are but a fragment of something bigger, yet those parts to a bigger whole, words that dig holes….and stay a while, or search for a home….or tunnel down deep in order to get to the other side….that’s what they were doing….the heart of her husband…trusts in her…those parts, they just kept digging until they became a prayer in sync with my breath.  Teach me, Lord, would you teach me about the heart of my husband?

It was quiet in our bedroom the other night.  There were no announcers talking about the British Open, or background noise from a giant crowd mixed with shrill squeaking of rubber soles on polished wood.  My soul was sinking into the word of God by lamplight as my body sunk a bit deeper into my well indented side of the bed.  The goose was next to me…where he always was.  Nothing had ever separated us in 21 years.  Grace.   “Where are you?”  Without taking my eyes off the page, I answered, “Ephesians.”  “What part of Ephesians?” Quietly pondering where this conversation might be being sovereignly led, I said, “I’m reading and praying through Epehsians 1.” Another question from the goose, “What do you pray about?”  More pondering…. I could answer in a short brushing him off sort of way in order to get back to my reading, or I could let him in to what was stirring so deeply within me.  Could I let him in…there?  The place that longs and yearns and pants and feels crushed with a soul thirsty craving that my partner in life could never satisfy? Was never meant to? Was it safe? What would he say? Could I share my innermost thoughts, passions, emotions, and ache with him? That ache that I didn’t even know existed before I met Someone else?  Could I really let him in there? I decided to let him in…”I can’t get over His grace.  When I read I can’t get over that I was chosen before the foundation of the world!  I have to stop and pray every few words...”I love Jesus so much…so very much.  He lavishes grace and love on us!! It’s too much sometimes.  I can’t get over that He would choose to lavish such grace on us. I ache for more of him, like deep in my bones, I can feel it.  When I pray there are always tears.  He leads me to repentance and I just always want to be in His presence.  It’s like fresh rain, or a sweet and heavy holiness I can’t understand but instinctively know is there.  I’m not afraid.  I want to know Him more and more.  I’m so in love.  You know I’m in love with Him, right?”  the words just sort of spilled out and rolled along and bumped into one another….Quiet hesitation, and then another question, “Yeah, I know.  That’s not going to affect our marriage is it?”  “What? Me being in Love with Jesus? No! It will only make our marriage better, it can only make me love you more!” “It’s hard following Christ, Trish.”  “I know, but in a way it’s simple, He promises his burden is easy and His yoke is light.

So there it was, I had let him in…I had been asking God to teach me about my husband’s heart. When we last met here, I had been hoping to start blogging about God’s non-negotiable instructions to women regarding our husbands, children and households given to us in Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. The first verses that parallel one another within those instructions have to do with the heart of our husband, and I needed to learn more.  So I began to pray, “Lord, teach me about the heart of my husband.”  I don’t think there was any coincidence why we entered into such an intimate conversation that night.  In God’s mysterious and intricately woven way of answering prayer, soveriegn love was stirring and connecting two hearts in the beauty of holiness and wonder. But how does this coincide with Titus 2 and Proverbs 31?  It has been said and passed down from one generation of women to the next that the way to to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Now I love cooking for my husband and family and friends.  I experience sheer joy in full and satisfied bellies.  I love nourishing their bodies this way.  My heart rejoices when all the college kid can think about is coming home to her mama’s home-cooking.  What a privilege to bless my loved ones this way, yet I can assure you, the way to your husband’s heart is not through his stomach, but through Christ and Christ alone.  So we must start there. We cannot love our husband’s in a way that glorifies God unless we return to our first love in Christ. How will the heart of our husband trust in us if we are not daily seeking and pursuing Christ and His authority in our lives? How will we even know what that means, unless we desire to know Christ above all else? You see, it is vitally important that we understand that Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 are so much more than rules to follow.  When joyously applied within the context of pursuing to know Christ, they become a language of love flowing from our hearts first to our God, and then to those God has directly blessed us with.

The heart is mentioned over and over in Scripture, and is defined in the Hebrew as the “inner man, the seat of appetites and emotions, passions, the soul, mind, understanding, resolution and determination, thinking, reflection, memory, friendly, comfortably and care.”  Wow.  That is a lot to think about for sure when we are being mindful of our husband’s heart. But how mysteriously beautiful and wonderful that through pursuing God, he may lead us to deeper intimacy with our husband’s as we get to know their hearts? However, I cannot stress enough that this can only come through knowing and pursuing Christ and “adorning the gospel” in our marriages.  To “adorn” literally means to “wear” and to put on display.  I once read it was like decorating a Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments and brilliant lights. So we must take great care in living out the gospel in our marriages and ask ourselves, “Are we putting on display the fruit of the Spirit written to us in Galatians 5:19-22, in our relationships?  Are we living out love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? To get practical, how is the attitude of your heart when your husband asks you to do something for him that you see as an inconvenience? Do you roll your eyes as I often have? Do you immediately think, “what has he done for me lately? Doesn’t he see how much I do for him already?” Do you hesitate in your answer or answer with a tone of irritation? Or is your heart willing to serve in the attitude of serving Christ? Are you thanking God daily for the gift of your husband even when he feels more like a burden than a gift? Are you regularly praying for him? For him to love the Lord with all of his heart and lead his family well?  Are you trusting in God’s sovereignty even when he doesn’t? Are you trusting in His sovereignty even when your children are grown and he hasn’t led in the way you have desired? How can the heart of our husband’s trust in us, if we don’t trust in the sovereignty of God and have no fear of our future, like the Proverbs 31 woman? So much more I intend to write about dear one….but for now, some thoughts:  We must handle with greatest care the heart of our husbands as we look to the only One Who holds our hearts and knows our hearts, both ours and our husbands. We will never know everything there is to know about our husband’s heart, for only God can know that, but before I sign off, think and pray through the meaning of the word “heart” in scripture. Remember these words as you reflect on these questions and intentionally pray through them:  courage, emotions, soul, mind, understanding, thinking, reflection, memory, friendly, comfortably, care.  Are we helping our husband’s in a way that promotes courage to lead within them? Are we helping them control their emotions by not provoking them or manipulating them with our tendencies to be over- sensitive or demanding our own way? Are we praying for their soul, especially if they are unbelievers? Are we praying about godly conversations that encourage quiet reflection and understanding and in turn lead to growth in the marriage? Are our husband’s comfortable with us? Do they feel safe with us in order that they don’  have to worry about being attacked or torn down?  Are we trusting God and letting them lead even when we think our way is better? Are we letting them into our hearts as we adorn the gospel….desiring more than anything to show them our love for Christ, and in so doing loving them as Christ loved us? Do we lavish grace on them when they have wronged us? Or do we withhold in some form of punishment? Do we withhold affection? Conversation? Serving?  But understand, it is never about doing things better, but loving Christ more…if we get this…if we aim for this….then may our husband’s hearts become a place where we invest and the world catches a glimpse of an invisible God….

Much love,

trish