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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ewwww..... Yuck

Yes, I know. Three blogs in one night is a little too much. But this will make you feel so much better about your own house, and it made me laugh.

I was cleaning the playroom on Saturday. I found a dead bird in the toybox. No lie. Dead bird.

Maybe I should clean a little more often.

I just can't help myself

Sharing our deepest hurts has opened up amazing doors for ministry. We are seeing our people - for the first time ever in ministry - be open and honest and totally real. No more masks. That's amazing. I am so thankful for all of this. However, digging it all back up again after seven years has been exhausting. I guess it's like this: digging up anything that's been dead for seven years is gonna stink. Even if you're digging it up to find the buried treasure.

Our Story - part 7 (guest blog by Shawn)

Ok, well, LaRissa let me hijack her blog one more time so I could finish telling you my part of our story.

Remember, I told you that in almost every one of the great love stories, there is a princess and a prince who fall madly in love. Their love, however, is threatened by an evil enemy. The enemy often captures the prince and keeps him enslaved with a horrible monster. Meanwhile, he plunges the princess into a horrible darkness.

Well, that is where I left off with our story. Satan was the enemy who had captured and enslaved me with the horrible monster of a pornography addiction. But, it wouldn't be a very good story if that were all there were to it. In the fairy tales, the prince destroys the monster, overcomes the enemy, rescues the princess and brings her out of the darkness with a kiss, the symbol of his love and devotion.

In our story, I killed the monster. How did I do it? Well, there were several necessary elements to defeating the monster. The first thing I learned was that the monster was seriously weakened in the light. So long as the monster of pornography addiction is kept in the dark, is kept a secret, it thrives and grows stronger and more horrific. But the minute it is exposed to the light, the instant the secret is out, the monster begins to die. Like Pastor Rick Warren says, "The hurt can't be healed until the secret is revealed." Once the secret life of addiction comes into the light, it can be dealt with. Help can be sought. Unresolved issues and struggles can be confronted openly and honestly. So long as I kept the secret, so long as the monster was in the dark, it had control over my life and kept me captive.

Second, I found that the monster's goal is to keep you isolated and alone, but the monster does not like you fighting with others. The prince called in help. I confided my struggles and hurts to my best friend and he began to fight with me and for me. Now, this guy was a great champion, a mighty warrior who had slain many dragons in his life. So this monster didn't stand much of a chance once he entered the fight. I learned that you need other guys in the fight with you.

Third, I discovered a powerful weapon for defeating the monster. It is called the sword of truth. I committed to memorizing some key Scriptures related to defeating this monster. Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Philippians 4:8, "Finally, my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable--if there is anything excellent or praiseworthy--think on these things." As I committed to memorizing, quoting, and meditating and these and other passages of Scripture, I found that the monster's chains were falling away more and more.

Fourth, I committed to stay far away from the monster's lair. Don't go near where he held me captive. Don't even get close to the dark forests and pathways where he lies in wait for someone to devour.

So, with those four things, the prince killed the monster. But there was still a princess to revive. The princess had been in darkness for a long time. Depression, discouragement, fear and a host of other forces were all tools the enemy used to destroy the princess's heart. But I was determined to win it back. I did everything I could to demonstrate love to LaRissa. She detailed those things in her last post, but I just wanted to reemphasize that I was committed to loving my wife unconditionally, even if she never loved me back.

Now, it didn't happen all at once, like in the fairy tales. And it took way more than a kiss. But slowly and surely the princess came alive. In fact, for the first time ever, she is truly alive and she is more beautiful than she has ever been. Ours is one of the greatest of all love stories.

Happily ever after? Who wants it? Somehow we got better than happily ever after.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Story - part 6

Bringing a marriage back from the dead was hard work. We tried lots of stuff that worked, and lots of stuff that didn't. Looking back, there were a few things that dramatically changed our marriage and made it incredible.

My husband started the new chapter of our marriage in several ways. He attempted to love me unconditionally - probably for the first time. In the immediate wake of our disaster, I was too angry to talk to him much. I wasn't giving him the silent treatment, I had just made the decision to avoid speaking anything out loud that I would regret later in my marriage. That left me with very little to say. So Shawn began loving me by writing long love letters to me every morning on our bathroom mirror with a bar of soap. He figured that if I was getting ready in the bathroom, I would have to read what he'd written.

One of the most important things that Shawn did was get up early so that he could spend time with me in God's Word. We started reading the Bible together. It took us nearly 5 years to finish. We read a chapter or two every morning and prayed together. I could pray with him long before I could talk to him again. It was as I heard him pray, that I began to believe his heart was changing. As long as Shawn sat by me on the couch every morning for that quiet time, I knew that he loved me and wanted to work things out. Now that I am commuting, and getting up at 5:00, he no longer gets up for that. I will say that I desperately, hungrily miss our time together every morning.

Shawn made the commitment to date me. He tried all kinds of dates. We went to the movies, we had dinner at home, we did a fondue picnic in our bedroom, we went to a variety of events, we took ballroom dancing lessons, he bought me gifts, and sang love songs to me in public places. In fact we did anything that he could find that he thought I might possibly enjoy. He even bought a box at a bookstore called, "Simply Romantic Nights." It had date ideas inside....and he needed all the help he could get. I will say that my favorite date from that time was the night he surprised me. A babysitter arrived, I got into our truck, and he drove out to a beach at the lake. He built a bonfire with the firewood he had brought. He spread out a quilt and opened a carefully packed picnic basket. He fed me a huge variety of specialty cheeses, breads, and grapes. We had sparkling grape juice to drink in fancy glasses. We laid on the quilt and watched the stars come out one by one, and talked about a future together. I will remember the beauty of that night for the rest of my life. Maybe the most special part of that night was that he deliberately planned it for a time of the month where he knew he would receive nothing in return. So that way I knew that it was just because he loved strings attached.

We made some other immediate changes. We cancelled our cable for nearly 2 years. I owned the internet password, and if Shawn was on the internet, I was in the room. I no longer went to bed alone. He went to bed when I did, whether he was sleepy or not. He carried a list in his wallet of all the reasons he wanted to be married, to help him avoid temptation on the go. He met faithfully with our counselor for accountability, and learned to cope with and find healing from his addiction.

On my side of things, I took up running. If I was running, I was not able to think, and the picture seared into my mind of the look on his face as he was enjoying the porn was erased for a few minutes. One day as I was running, I heard God speak through Chris Tomlin's song, "More than Enough." I began to realize that God was my "Enough." For way too many years, I had expected my husband to complete me and fulfill me. I came to understand that my God is the only One capable of filling me up. I began to more fully understand God's love and His faithfulness. God also used "Shout to the Lord," to teach me that He was still in the business of moving mountains out of my way. I knew I didn't have the strength to climb this mountain, but I began to believe that God had the power to move it.

I began to practically apply the Bible to my marriage to the best of my ability and understanding. I began to unconditionally respect my husband based on reading Eph. 5. In the past, I showed my husband respect when he earned it. However, I came to a point where I began to demonstrate respect and honor to my husband just because God asked me. I began to treat him as a man capable of great and mighty things, not because I believed in him just yet, but because I believed that God was capable of doing those things in his life. I encouraged him and began to speak positive words into our relationship. I saved my venting for my girlfriends and for God. (Remember that my girlfriends listened, never said a negative word back, and prayed for my husband because they loved him and thought he would someday become a great man.)

Immediately after the addiction came out, I was horribly self-conscious. Like most women in that situation, I thought it was all my fault. I was not air brushed, and most certainly had the body to prove I had given birth many times. I think some of my stretch marks are at least 3 feet long - no lie! So in my head I thought that if only I was skinnier, hotter, more attractive, with bodacious ta-tas, maybe a tan..... And so I began to undress and change clothes in my walk-in closet with the door locked. Then I read I Corinthians 7:4. I became convicted to use my body as a way to love my husband. Not for my own satisfaction, but to unconditionally meet my husband's needs. I was not excited about this. I had enjoyed sex at times in our marriage, but after the addiction came out, I felt very used. Honestly, I did not ever want him to touch me again.

I had always viewed sex as proof that my husband wanted to be married, and I used it to try to fulfill my need for approval and love. If my husband was happy, then I was worthy. But I no longer needed him to find me worthy, because God found me worthy. So I was now set free to just love him in a very tangible way that he could understand. I finally accepted that men are wired up to understand love through their physical relationship with their spouse. That's why over the last several years, I have made it my goal to become an expert on how to love my husband in the bedroom. I have read books, asked happily married friends lots of personal questions, and studied the Song of Solomon in great detail. I even frequently pick up Cosmo to see if I can find a new position or idea that I haven't tried before. My goal is to have at least one new idea every week. Some of my ideas have turned out amazing and, well, some have given us YEARS of good laughs....did I say YEARS......and fact, I'm laughing now.....

In short, I have made it my goal to far surpass any pleasure he ever had in his addiction. To quote a famous pastor's wife, Joyce Rogers, "I wanted to make sure my husband had steak at home so he wouldn't be tempted to stop off for bologna on the way." I knew that I could not cure his addiction, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him to turn down temptation. In so doing, I have discovered pleasure beyond any I ever dreamed.

Bottom line - the secret to the redemption of our marriage can be summed up like this - Both of us reached the conclusion that marriage is not about me. We BOTH made it our goal to unconditionally love the other person in ways that they understood. Shawn loved me with absolute showers of romance. He tried continually to find new ways to show me how much he adored me. In return, I loved him with unconditional respect and with frequent, good sex. Along with treating each other with unconditional love and respect, we were spending time together in God's presence every morning ....which was the secret to saving our marriage. The marriage did not heal overnight. It did take about 6 months before I began to feel any positive emotions for Shawn again, and it was years before he regained my trust. But today our marriage is absolutely beautiful.

One last thing: I hear couples say some variation of this same thing all the time. They feel like their needs are unmet and so they are waiting for the other person to love them first. They don't want to be the one in their marriage getting screwed over and used, and so they will not be the first to love their spouse unconditionally. Instead they cling to resentment and bitterness. ('Cause that's working well?) I am living proof that living for the other person in your marriage leads to a marriage that will set your soul on fire with love and passion. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?