Is It Worth It?

When Michael left me years ago I was pregnant with our third child, Jason. Because of his father’s rejection, he had a lot of fear and rejection to overcome in his life. Each of our children reacted differently to their woundings and each was healed in a very special way by Jesus. Jason’s journey was a very difficult one but the Lord brought him through miraculously to the powerful man of God he is today.

This morning Jason gave me an engraving for Christmas. This is what it says.

Dear Mom,

As I scan the horizon and observe the lives of others I am often reminded of how truly fortunate and blessed I am.

So many individuals live lives full of compromise, searching for something that will never make them whole. Despite the extraordinary circumstances that you have endured, I am grateful that you took the stand that you did in standing for Dad. Our family has been and forever will be changed as a result of this decision.

What rich lives we lead. I thank God for your faithfulness. Imagine where our family would be today had you decided to take the road that so many others have chosen to take.

– James 1:12

Merry Christmas! I love you, Mom.  Jason


Ever wonder if it’s worth it?  You bet it is!  Merry Christmas! Love, Marilyn

Be It Done Unto Me According to Your Will

This time of year I always think about Mary. For us the Christmas story is filled with wonder and joy, but I often think of how Mary arrived at the fulfillment of God’s promise.

She was a young girl, engaged to be married, and, no doubt, preparing as all brides do for her wedding day. Then one day an angel appeared to her. Now that in itself would shake up most of us. The angel greeted her with words of honor and prophecy, “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” The Message says that Mary “was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.” I guess.

As the angel explained God’s plan to her, she must have been shaken even more. What an awesome call God had placed on her life! Not only was she going to carry the Messiah, but she was going to do it as an unwed mother. Under Jewish law, she could be stoned for sexual immorality. Would Joseph understand? How could she tell him that an angel had visited her and that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Who was going to buy that?

And yet in the midst of what had to be a flood of questions and anxious thoughts, Mary willingly accepted God’s plan for her life and replied, “Be it done unto me according to your will.”

And the worst happened. Joseph thought she had been sexually involved with someone else and decided to quietly divorce her to prevent a scandal. The man she loved and had planned to spend her life with rejected her and thought the worst of her.

No doubt others who knew her well, her family and her friends, must have thought the same about her. Shame and disgrace followed her everywhere. And yet she served the Lord and carried the child He had given her. She must have prayed a good deal and begun each day trusting that God would carry her through because all the time she knew that it was being done unto her according to His will.

An angel visited Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about Mary and her baby. What a joy it must have been for her to have the man she loved believe her and trust her again! They were married and Mary must have thought the worst was over. Now everything would settle into a normal routine and before she knew it, her little baby would be born.

But that was not to be. We all know the story of how Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to register just before the baby was to be born. Long days of travel on hot dusty roads must have been very hard on a pregnant woman. Car travel is hard enough during pregnancy. Can you imagine riding a donkey? Many times during that trip she must have said again and again, “Be it done unto me according to your will.”

And then, just when she thought they had arrived in town and she would be able to rest in a nice, warm bed for the night, there was no room for them in the inn. Now in labor, she must have wondered what God had planned. Was she going to deliver her baby in the street? The manger, although probably the last place she wanted to give birth, had to have seemed like a welcome place compared to the alternative.

And there in that manger, amidst the animals and all that accompanies them, she gave birth to the Messiah, the Savior. How she must have wondered what God’s plan was to have His Son born in such a strange place. By then, though, I think Mary must have been understanding better and better that when she surrendered her life into God’s hands, He had a plan that He would work out, even if it didn’t make sense to her.

I think that’s why I relate to Mary so well. She set such good example for us all. We need to surrender our lives in the same way she did We each need to say, “Be it done unto me according to your will.” And then we need to stop fighting God at every twist and turn when we do not understand. Circumstances may look absolutely helpless and painful. Those around us may not understand. We may walk in shame and the contempt of others. And yet, through it all, God has a plan. When it makes no sense, He is still at work.

This Christmas may Mary’s example be an encouragement to you. She walked in faith and trust through the worst of circumstances because she had chosen to obey God. She didn’t know how the story ended. She only knew that God had made a promise to her and that He is faithful. For her, that was enough.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas, filled with love, joy, and peace and that the New Year brings you into an even deeper walk with the Lord. Love, Marilyn

“And [the shepherds] came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered in her heart.”  Luke 2:16-19

Overcoming Holiday Challenges

Perhaps the hardest time of the year to be standing for your marriage is during the holiday season. Not only is it a time that makes you feel more alone than usual, but it is also filled with memories of much happier times. Difficult as they may be, though, the holidays do not need to overwhelm you. There are many things you can do to walk in victory during these challenges days.

First of all, focus on what you do have, not on what you miss. Your life is filled with daily blessings from the Lord and as you allow those blessings to loom bigger in your life than the loss you are feeling, you will begin to develop a much healthier attitude. I just got an app for my phone that is called a Gratitude Journal. Each day I can write down what I am thankful for that day. There is rating system from one to five stars and a place to put a special picture from that day. It is fun to look back over a time period and see all the special ways that God blessed me.

You don’t need a phone app to do the same thing. Each evening write down the blessings of that day. When you face a particularly challenging moment, pull out your journal and give thanks for all that God has done for you. Can you walk? Can you talk? Did you enjoy the warm sun on your face? Did you see a beautiful flower or enjoy the smile of a stranger? Did you have food on your table? Did your child hold your hand? Every day is filled with God’s special moments of blessing. We just need to focus on them.

If you have small children, remember that this is a very precious time of year for them. (Actually it is for the older ones too.) Do not let your emotions override the joy of the moment. When I was a little girl we lived with my aunt and uncle while my dad was stationed in Korea. Just before Christmas my uncle died. I missed him very much, but what I remember as even worse than his death was that the next day the tree came down and Christmas ended. I couldn’t understand why all the presents were put away and all the lights and decorations were removed from inside and outside of the house. When I asked why we weren’t having Christmas, the adults reacted as if I were disrespectful of the dead. As a child I missed my uncle, but I could not make the connection between his death and the end of Christmas.

Your children already miss your spouse. Do not make Christmas a time of mourning or drawn out discussions of what it would be like if he or she were home. Help them enjoy the moment. Infuse the time with love and joy and if they want to talk about their missing parent make sure you keep it a discussion of their feelings, not yours. If they cry, comfort them with hope and peace. You will probably shed a few tears of your own, but try to keep the focus on them. They do not need to feel responsible for your joy and peace.

Remind them that Christmas is all about Jesus and that He will never leave them or forsake them.

If time with your children is divided between you and your spouse, send them as ambassadors of love to the other home, not as spies to the enemy camp. The pure heart of a child, unhindered by adult motives or directives, can touch the hardest of hearts. Trust the Lord to cover them and keep them. And if they come back home with glowing reports of the fun they had, remember they are children and Christmas is a very special time for a child. Do not make them feel guilty for enjoying Christmas, no matter who they were with.

Why not start some special new tradition that you and your children can enjoy together? Service to others is a wonderful way to take your mind off your own needs and it’s a terrific way to teach your children the true meaning of Christmas. Volunteer as a family to help with a Christmas outreach. Incorporate each child in age-appropriate activities. Teach them to reach out from their own need to help meet the needs of others. That is a lesson that will last them a lifetime.

If funds are a challenge, check out church Christmas programs in your area. Most of the time they are free to the public. Watch a good Christmas movie on TV, pop some popcorn and snuggle together in blankets and pillows and have a family movie night. Make gifts for each other instead of buying expensive presents. Or offer a gift of service to each other. Even the smallest child can help a sibling pick up toys or some other easy activity. Have older children read a story to younger ones.

While I was standing our daughter made three cassette tapes for her younger brother who couldn’t read. She read a book on each tape and then placed a matching colored dot on the book and the tape that accompanied it. She not only read the story, but also told him when to turn the page and made comments about things in the book that he liked. For almost two years those were his favorite tapes and books. Plus it gave us a sweet keepsake from their childhood.

There really is no end to what you can do to overcome holiday challenges. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your heart filled with His promises and His joy. Remember the story of Christmas is all about God’s promises fulfilled. It is about a couple who overcame the challenges of travel right before the birth of their baby. It is about a baby born in a stable because there was no room for Him in the inn. It is about poor shepherds who were chosen to be the first to hear the good news. It is a story of faith and power. It is a story about God standing in faith for those He loves. Love, Marilyn

If you have ideas or suggestions for standing during this season, drop us a comment that we can share with others.

“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2

“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

What To Do With the Pain of Betrayal

Over the years I have met many people whose spouses betrayed them in adultery. 99.9% of them are divorced. Most of them explained to me that they divorced their spouse when they discovered the betrayal because they felt they could never trust him or her again. In this group of divorced people I have found one thing to be universally true ~ no matter how long it has been since they divorced, they are all still hurting from the betrayal.

When we discover that the person we love most in the whole world has rejected us for someone else, we have several options.

Decide that we don’t have to take this kind of treatment and end the relationship.

  • Stay in the relationship but make him or her pay dearly.
  • Stay emotionally detached so we can’t get hurt again.
  • Find someone and have our own affair.
  • Forgive and get our heart healed.

Of all the options, those who chose the last one seem to be the only people I meet who are not still carrying hurts and anger. Forgiveness and healing are truly the only road to a healthy life.

I have always felt the initial question to someone whose spouse has committed adultery should not be, “Are you going to stand for your marriage?” I believe it should be, “Do you want to be healed?”

When people ask me how I can talk about all that happened with our marriage and not still be hurting, I share with them that when Jesus heals, He heals completely. It is not anything extraordinary that I did or anything that is special about me. I simply submitted my broken heart to Jesus and walked closely with Him as He taught me what true forgiveness is. I was devastated, hurt beyond words, angry, and periodically in despair. There was no superhuman strength within me personally. It was all His strength and His healing.

I truly believe there is no shortcut past forgiveness.

You cannot decide to just get on with your life and hope for health. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks all the other doors. Personal healing comes when you release the hold that betrayal has on you. And I believe it is not just a one-time deal. I had to forgive over and over again and repent over and over again when my heart began to harden once more. When we make a decision to forgive, Jesus walks through the steps of what true forgiveness means.

Feelings or emotions seem to be the last to conform to true forgiveness. Many times people are waiting to “feel” like forgiving. Forget it! That is the last thing you are going to feel when you are in a thousand emotional pieces. Choosing to forgive when nothing within you feels like it is what starts you on the journey.

I have heard it said that forgiveness releases all claim for the wrong and I believe that is part of it, but the end result of forgiveness, I truly believe, is compassion and blessing. As your own heart is healed by the Lord, He can then begin pouring His compassion into that healthy vessel.

The compassion of the Lord is what brought Him to tears over Jerusalem. His compassion for the lost nailed Him to the cross. When His compassion for your spouse begins to flow through your heart, you will see with new eyes of understanding. Your intercession will come out of a desire to see your spouse set free and walking with the Lord. You will desire to bless, not out of a need to receive in return, but out of a heart that overflows with God’s love and compassion.

Whatever decisions you make about your broken marriage, I pray that the first one is to forgive and be healed. There simply are no shortcuts past that road. Love, Marilyn

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”  Psalm 103:1-4

It’s Not Just for You

Something very special happened yesterday. And the Lord did it in the most unusual way.

I have always been a bit uncomfortable when the people we are with in a restaurant ask the waitress if she is a Christian when she first walks up to our table. I am equally uncomfortable when people ask the same question of salespeople in a store or a stranger on a bus. I’m not saying they are wrong and I am right or that I am wrong and they are right. I’ve just never been comfortable with the approach.

I’ve always felt that God puts certain people in each of our lives and gives us the privilege of living our lives before them. We are given positions of influence in the lives of people we know. I know that many lead people to the Lord on planes and in lines at the store, but I have always had a burden to make sure those I lead to the Lord are discipled and mentored in the faith.

I once led a woman to the Lord on a plane after she and I had been engaged in lively conversation for a while. I got her address and phone number and called her as soon as we both got home. I found a Spirit-filled church near her and put the folks there in touch with her. I called her and followed up with her for six months following her acceptance of Jesus to make sure she was getting grounded in the faith and discipled in the Lord. Guess it’s just the way the Lord has wired me, but I can’t bear to just have someone say a prayer and then walk out of his or her life.

Which brings me to the special thing Jesus did yesterday. For a little over a year now I have been getting a manicure twice a month as a special treat. Not only have I been blessed with beautiful nails, but the Lord has given me a whole new sphere of influence.

Here is where my hesitancy to jump on people about Jesus comes in. I have shared where I am with the Lord and have shared bits of our testimony with my nail tech. She had a very hard marriage and has been divorced for many years now.

When you have a standing nail appointment you get to know the woman right before you and the one right after you pretty well. A couple months ago a new woman started coming for her appointment right after me. Since we overlap about 20 minutes, we talked and I learned a bit about her life. Divorced several years ago she is still struggling with emotions and hurts. I asked the Lord what I was to share and He told me just to get to know her and to hear her heart.

Yesterday the topic of Tiger Woods came up and both women said they thought his wife should divorce him and take all she could get. Immediately my nail tech said, “But that’s not what you would recommend, is it?” She had heard my heart about marriage healing!

She shared briefly with the other client about our marriage healing and our ministry. Then the client looked at me and asked, “How could you do that? The pain of betrayal is just too much.” And the door opened wide!

I truly believe if we wait for the Holy Spirit’s timing and follow His leading, He takes us to places that are so far beyond what we could personally ever arrange. For several uninterrupted minutes I was able to share the depth of what God had done in my own heart and then in our marriage. I told her, “It was not me. I couldn’t do it, but Jesus could.” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I have known that depth of relationship with Him. I have heard His voice like you said you did.”

There was a noticeable softening in her face and voice as she said, “I used to share Jesus like that at work but no one seemed to understand me. I need to start doing that again.”

 There is nothing that thrills my heart more than to see another person activated in their faith and energized in their walk with the Lord. The first week I met this woman she was swearing a blue streak. This week she determined to renew her walk with the Lord and begin sharing His life with others again. Don’t ever underestimate how God wants to influence those He places in your life through your life.

In the end I said to them both, “You never know what God wants to do with your life. Sometimes when we are going through something very painful, we think it is all about our own survival but it isn’t. It is about what God wants to do for others through you.” And today I encourage you with those same words. Love, Marilyn

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11