I Love Your Guts!

workEvery day I consider myself a work in progress.  The ups and downs of my life over the past four years have proven that to me over and over again.  Sometimes it is hard to see if I am moving forward or standing still in the same place I’ve always been.

One thing I do know is that I am not where I have been.  I am not in those first days post “fallout”.  I am not afraid to walk out of my house any more for fear that God will strike me dead.  Just because I am not in that place anymore doesn’t mean I don’t remember how it felt.

Ray and I are being contacted by fallen men and women at an alarming rate. Every day there are new email messages from people who have been or are still in an adulterous relationship with their pastor or another leader/member in their church. Why are they emailing us? Because these people have realized the weight of their sin and they are desperate for someone to talk to.

Some have been discovered and are slowly plummeting out of control.  They turn to the world-wide web in the hopes of finding something or someone that might help them.  Most of them are convinced that they have fallen not only from their church but from the grace of God.  Some of them have been suffering a crisis of belief for a long time that led them to sin in the first place.

Sadly Ray and I know what that kind of desperation is like. When you have nbnwcommitted a sin that is ugly and awful and you feel like the worst person ever to walk the planet you are sure there is no one out there to talk to. And even if there were someone out there to talk to you are sure they would turn heel and run once you told them what you had done. It’s a hopeless feeling. It’s sad and it’s lonely.

I felt that way once and I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either. That is why I am here. I will listen to anyone who needs someone to talk to. Ray will as well. That is our ministry.

Recently I have talked with two women in particular with whom I have come to know well and I have enjoyed walking with them. The one thing I have told them both is that we are all just broken people.  We have all come from different walks of life and we have all sinned.  I can’t judge them for their sin any more than they can judge friends-2-women-walking-down-pathme for mine.

There is nothing I want more than to heal their hurts and to take away all the sin and the pain they are suffering. God doesn’t give us the ability to do that but He can. My job is to hold these women’s hands and to walk with them on this journey.  To remind them that no matter how badly they have sinned they can never sin themselves out of God’s heart.  He loves each and every one of us.

I am often overwhelmed when a woman I am lending an ear to tells me how wonderful I am or what a great soul I must possess.  I don’t see myself that way at all.  The women that I listen to and talk with are just as much a ministry to me as I am to them.  God uses these women to teach me.  I learn more and more about myself and about God each time I email, text or talk with a women who reaches out to me.

If I could thank them publicly for all they have helped me to learn I would but in the interest of trust I will keep it to myself.  If you are reading this “C” or “R” please know I love your guts!  And thank you, God for leading these ladies to me.guts

 

 

Published in: on April 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM  Comments (1)  

Three Little Words

When someone you have wronged forgives you, how do you know?  Most sorry3likely they will tell you won’t they?  Even if they don’t say the words you just know it right?  The answer to those two questions is… Maybe.

How many times a day to you utter the phrase “I am sorry”?  It is a very common part of my daily vocabulary.  Though sincere as I am when I use it it is probably not really necessary 90 percent of the time.

sorry2When I have wronged someone or caused them hurt or pain it is very important to me to apologize to them.  While I will use the phrase “I am sorry” my apology will also be filled with any number of things I can think of to right the wrong I have done to them.  I know that just because I apologize to them doesn’t mean they will forgive me but I’ll be honest… I always want to hear them say they do.

And why is it that saying “I am sorry” seems so insufficient a thing for us to say as the offender but when you are the one waiting to hear those words they can make the difference between knowing you are loved or believing you are hated.

The three little words “I am sorry” are very important when they need to forgive5be said.  But there are three other words that can have more impact than the apology and they are  “I forgive you”.

What if you give someone an apology and they don’t say those three little words?  What if they leave you to wonder whether or not your apology had an impact on them.  Even hearing anger and hurt from them is better than nothing at all… Isn’t it?

Have you ever apologized to someone only to hear them say, “Well, we all make mistakes”………… and that’s it?  One of my favorites is,  “I forgot about that a long time ago.  No need to apologize now”.

forgive4If I am trying to apologize to someone it means I believe I have hurt them and I would whole-heartedly like to make amends.  Is it too much to expect the apology to mean as much to them as it does to me?  Is it too much for me to expect for them to accept my apology?  These are good questions to be pondered.

My daughter Leslie is so sweet.  Any time she thinks she owes me an apology she will say the sweetest little “I’m sorry, Mommy…”  after which sorry4she will say, “Will you forgive me?”  It is human nature.  We all have that need to not only hear an “I am sorry” when we have been hurt but we also have a need to hear an “I forgive you” when we mess up.

Matthew 6:14 & 15 says  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses(English Standard Version) 

I believe it is unrealistic to think that God  expects us to forgive right away.  Some things are easier to forgive than others.  God knows that when our hearts are deeply wounded it is not easy to forgive.  He made each of us.  We are human.  We are flawed.  If we weren’t there would be no need for forgiveness because there would be nothing to apologize for.

forgive2I believe what this passage means is that we are to constantly work towards forgiveness.  I believe it means that as long as we are working towards forgiving heart and understanding in the matter we are allowed to give ourselves time to heal.

If we say the words, “I forgive you” to someone but we are still hanging on to a grudge in our hearts that is not true forgiveness.  We can however say to that person, “I am not there yet but I am working on having a forgiving heart towards you.  Please be patient with me.”

I think that is as fair as anyone could expect you to be.  Demanding sorry1forgiveness from someone after you have apologized is not okay.  Anyone who demands forgiveness from you probably really isn’t very sorry.

On the flip side of that they do have the right to confront you about the sincerity of your forgiveness if you tell them you forgive them and then continue to hold their wrongdoing over their heads.

Forgive and forget then?  In some cases I would say yes but not always.  I don’t believe God wants us to forget everything but he doesn’t want someones past mistakes to influence the way we trust or view them in the future.  Maybe He wants us to remember some of those things because later we may need compassion and grace from them for committing the same offense.

jesusI have been on both sides of the apology/forgiveness business.  I have wanted to love and to be loved.  I have hated and not wanted to be hated.  I believe in order for us to all live a life that is holy we do not have be perfect.  We just have to work towards holiness.  There was only one perfect person and his name was Jesus.

Published in: on July 13, 2013 at 7:23 PM  Comments (3)  

My First BFF

I have made many friends in my 36 years on this earth.  Some were friends 22 for a long time and some were friends for a short time.  All of them brought something different into my life.  Many of them gave me something special and have added goodness to me I might not have had otherwise.

Out of all the friends I have had in my life I have never made friends as close as the friends I made as a child.  We all have friends that we “grew up with”.  Those friends are the ones that go back to our roots.  The ones that know where we came from because they came from there too.

59As we grow older we all grow apart.  Some of our parents moved us away.  Some of us went off to college.  Some of us stayed around and never left this town.  Regardless of where life has led us we all have jobs and families and grown-up responsibilities that keep us from each other.  It’s sad but it’s true.

A few days ago I had a chance to meet up with one of my first best friends.  She would be too modest to tell anyone what a phenomenal influence she was in my life… so I would like to do that now.

Monica was a year ahead of me in school.  She lived one street over from 57me growing up and we started hanging out sometime around middle school.  She was the third child of four and with her two older sisters off to college and married she pretty much raised her little brother when her parents had to work.

We had a lot of fun together.  Her family were the first ones to take me to church.  Monica’s mother was a hard-working nurse and a woman deeply rooted in her faith.  Her father was a funny guy.  He nicknamed me Jennifer and that would name would stay with me for the rest of the time I knew him.

67I was sad a few years ago to hear he had passed away.  I visited Monica and her mother before his memorial service.  It hardly seemed like enough tribute to pay considering what Monica did to visit me when my father passed.

My dad’s visitation would be two days before Christmas in 1998.  Monica had already married and moved to Evansville by then and I hadn’t talked to her much since then.  When she heard about my father’s death she made plans to come to and see me.

I was sitting alone in the back row of the parlor at the funeral home 49watching people come in and out.  I spotted Monica and she came straight to me.  I was so happy to see my friend.  She had worked that day and after work she had locked her keys in her car.

It was snowing and sleeting outside when she made the trip from Evansville to see me.  A drive that would take about about two hours on a good day.  If my memory serves me right her heat was also on the fritz.  I will never forget what she overcame just to see me and to make sure that I was okay.

58As teens we would cruise the mall.  That was the thing to do in our town at the time.  I don’t know how many circles we made around that place.  We would spend hours in her bathroom spraying our hair up just as tall as we could get it.  Make-up would take just as long.

We never missed a church night.  28Our youth group was fun.  Monica volunteered one night a week to watch children at the church for a group of military wives who would meet to pray for their husbands while they were deployed.  Sometimes I would go to help her.  She always had a heart for kids.  It is no surprise to me that she now has four of her own and takes care of her niece and nephew as well.

Monica lived her life by biblical standards even as a teen.  She counseled43 me many times and helped me to choose to do right over wrong.  There were times I didn’t listen or I didn’t seek her advice at all but regardless what I chose to do she was still my friend anyway.  She loved me unconditionally.  She was able to love me many times even though I wasn’t able to love myself.

62After school many days we would go to her house to watch the Young and the Restless and eat Oreos dunked in milk.  When one of their characters (Marlena) became possessed a demon that was pretty much the end of interest for me.

We would do homework sometimes in the afternoons.  Monica struggled to help me understand algebra but sadly to this day I still don’t.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying.

We spent hours and hours talking about the ins and outs of daily life and 24dreaming about the future.  Those times spent with her were some of the best of my life.  I have her to thank for contributing to my salvation and for helping me to develop the very foundation of my faith.

She was my first BFF and aside from my husband she will likely be my last.  I treasure the sweet time I had with her all those years ago and I look forward to my life as my friendship with her continues to grow.

25If you have a BFF make sure you tell them how much you love them.  Pray for them daily.  Take the time to reminisce with them when you can.  None of us has a promise of tomorrow but we do have the love that God has given us to give to others for today.

I love you, Monica!

Published in: on July 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM  Comments (1)  

Alli’s Story, Part Two

What you are about to read is not an account written by myself, Allison Carroll (fallenpastorswife), but one written by another fallen woman who God has connected me with throughout my journey.  Her name just happens to be Allison too.  She has many people who refer to her as ‘Allie’ and I chose to as well, hoping to avoid any confusion.  I am grateful for her willingness to share.  To learn more about Allie,  you can visit her blog, “Life in the Ripples.”

(Continued from Allie’s Story,  Part Two)

WARNING:  My story is not intended to give a green light to having an affair, divorcing your spouse, or doing as you please because ‘God forgives’.  Our story doesn’t end with a ‘happily ever after’.  We are daily living out consequences from our sin.  Precious little innocent lives were affected and we cannot undo what has been done.  We hurt many people and most of all, sinned against God.   Though we choose not to wallow in our past and allow it to define us for the rest of our journey on this earth; it has forever tainted our integrity and how others view us.  We are open with our children that we have made bad choices, and we are open with our children that God has forgiven us.  We will forever live in the ripples of our past choices…God’s grace alone is sufficient.  It always is.

I found out I was pregnant.  I had gone nine long years thinking I was unable to bear children, and yet the nurse 6       confirmed my suspicion with a phone call.  Now what?  I would lose everything.  My ministry, friends, marriage, home and all the other things that made life comfortable.  What was everyone going to think?  Would the stress alone cause me to miscarry and lose this child that for some reason God chose to give me in the midst of my sin?  That was it.  Adam and I decided to leave our spouses and join together to raise this baby.  We could make this work.  Days passed and I felt sick, hormonal and my moods were all over the page.

Adam and I came to the conclusion one evening that we could not ignore the fact that both of our spouses wanted us back and wanted to seek reconciliation and in God’s eyes that was the only answer.  I packed my bags and agreed to go home…to my husband.  He packed his bags and agreed to head to Arizona with his wife and kids to go to intense counseling.  When I heard that he had left. it felt final.  I knew it was the right thing, but I was so upset.  I was devastated for myself and for this child.  For the selfish decisions that put us in this predicament.

7I did go back home.  I was open to restoration and working to earn back trust that had been so brutally broken.  I knew God could restore my feelings for this man…but I did not want Him to.  I had fallen out of love and now was carrying a child that was not his.  It would affect the rest of our lives and our interaction with his family and friends.  A lot of forgiveness would have to take place and I saw, and truly believed, it would be impossible.

After some setbacks I decided I could not do it.  I packed my bags and resorted to being a single mom.  I would do whatever I could to give this a child a good life and make up for the bad choices I had made.  I filed for divorce.  The process of our divorce was rough at first but as details smoothed out, it ended as well as it could have.  Our process did not take up many lawyer fees, and we never entered a court room.  My ex-husband chose to forgive me and to pray for my future. He never wanted me to have a ‘bad life’ but prayed God would use this in my life to somehow bring Him glory.  What were ashes could be turned into something beautiful, and in the midst of his pain, I knew he sincerely wished me the best and wanted me to 8find true happiness, first in my relationship with God and also in life.

In the midst of this all taking place, I found out that Adam had made a decision.  He came to a point that he felt that he and his wife could not restore the brokenness in their marriage and made his way back to Texas.  He was filing for divorce and would pay dearly for doing so.  His children had a difficult time with all the changes and things got extremely hard.  Adam tried his best to be there for the kids as he could and as he was allowed to.

In the midst of these things going on, I was hitting the third trimester in my pregnancy and we had some decisions to make.  How would he be involved?  Would we pursue each other or figure out how to parent this child separately as friends. It was never easy, and I would never want to go through it again.  The pain, guilt, and depression were overwhelming at times.  Even if I felt I was doing the right thing, my thoughts were in the wrong place.  The outward didn’t always match the inward.  June arrived, and we welcomed into the world a beautiful baby boy.  Our lives were changed forever.  Bringing a new life into the world always changes things.

10We found friendship in some people, others kept their distance.  Others had written us off with the feeling that we were no longer heaven bound.  But God wasn’t done yet.  He never is.  Adam did what he could to be there for all of his children, and I was so thankful for his presence as Bryson’s dad those first months.

Then it hit me one day…I was in love with this man.  Should I be?  Probably not.  Would we ever be able to make it work?  Some have placed bets. Could God take something so ugly and make it into something that He could work with?  Maybe.  We had so many questions and doubts.  Nothing was clear.  People had opinions and others just seemed glad to not be in our situation.  But I was finally a mom.  Everything changed that year.

Throughout my pregnancy, because of the drama and all the hurt my sin had caused, I would never be the same again.  I always knew God’s grace was sufficient…but for a ‘good ol’ Baptist girl…I didn’t need as much grace as others.  Right?  WRONG!  God taught me the extent of his grace.  Grace in a little boy that has brought me more joy in life than I can ever even begin to describe.  Adam and I got married.  He has brought much joy and happiness to my life when I thought I would never be able to have those feelings again.  Adam is a joy not because he works hard to do it (which he does), but because we have found forgiveness and our eyes have been opened to the things that can damage a marriage.  Things that seem so trivial and so insignificant but can lead to destruction.  11

Is our marriage safeguarded?  Absolutely.  Have we worked to pinpoint our issues in our previous marriages?  You bet.  Were we at fault outside of the affair for the destruction of our first marriages?  Without a doubt.  Did God love us through it all?  He never stopped.  God’s grace is sufficient.  Not just in areas that are convenient for us.  But in areas of our life that He shouldn’t extend grace.  Areas that He has every right to give up.  Those things in our lives that are so farfetched that He should be at a loss.  But God is never at that point.  He shelters us in His wings and extends mercy that we do not deserve.  That is what mercy is.  It isn’t for the ‘little’ sins or for those that don’t seem as ginormous.  All sin is ugly to Him.  As Jesus died for the sins of the world it included sins of bitterness, hate, murder, lies, adultery, selfish motives, gossip and self-righteous acts.

In losing everything, I found so much more.  God and His unconditional love.  Without it, there would be no reason to live.  No reason to keep trying.  No reason to pursue holiness.  Even now I live with holes in my heart that were caused by sin…praise God they are on the road to healing.  In my weakness I failed.  I failed miserably.  But God has lifted me out of that deep pit and restored to me the joy of my salvation.  Now having a larger view of what He has saved me from.  His grace is greater than mine and Adam’s sins.  His grace is overwhelming.  His grace is undeserved.  I am 12awestruck that He even chooses to extend it to a sinner such as I.  His mercies are new every morning.  I see it in my husband’s prayers before he heads off to work, in the smile of my little boy as he eagerly awaits me to pick him up out of his crib to start a new day, I see it in my life, my home and all that He has given me in spite of my undeserving self.

I have fallen in love…with the One who loves me not because of what I do or don’t do…but because He just does.  Not because of what I can or cannot offer Him.  Because of what He has to offer me.  He doesn’t need me, He wants me.    That is reason enough to wake up each morning…that is enough to give me the strength to press on.  But only in His strength.  Mine has failed because what I thought to be strength was absolute weakness.  Through the storms of my life, I have found my anchor and I cannot afford to ever let go again.

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 9:00 AM  Comments (5)  

Alli’s Story, Part One

What you are about to read is not an account written by myself, Allison Carroll (fallenpastorswife), but one written by another fallen woman who God has connected me with throughout my journey.  Her name just happens to be Allison too.  She has many people who refer to her as ‘Alli’ and I chose to as well, hoping to avoid any confusion.  I am grateful for her willingness to share. To learn more about Allie,  you can visit her blog, “Life in the Ripples.”

Alli’s Story,  Part One

WARNING:  My story is not intended to give a green light to having an affair, divorcing your spouse, or doing as you please because ‘God forgives’.  Our story doesn’t end with a ‘happily ever after’.  We are daily living out consequences from our sin.  Precious little innocent lives were affected and we cannot undo what has been done.  We hurt many people and most of all, sinned against God.   Though we choose not to wallow in our past and allow it to define us for the rest of our journey on this earth; it has forever tainted our integrity and how others view us.  We are open with our children that we have made bad choices, and we are open with our children that God has forgiven us.  We will forever live in the ripples of our past choices…God’s grace alone is sufficient.  It always is. 

This is my life.  A life I never thought would be mine.  A life seemingly now defined by choices I never thought I would 1make.  I was raised in a relatively small Baptist church and was brought up in the teachings of God’s Word.  I enjoyed learning about God, had a huge heart for the elderly in our congregation, and felt like an ‘overall good Christian girl’.

Yet here I am, happily married to a wonderful man with a precious baby boy, as well as two of the sweetest step-children. We do not have a glamorous story, and I honestly cringe when asked how my husband and I met.  Our story consists of bad choices, broken relationships, isolation, and sin…ugly sin.

I married my first husband straight out of high school.  He was five years older than me, and I thought things would be great.  He was a great guy who was responsible and dependable.  We were married for eleven years.

During those years, I knew God had called me to ministry, and not just any ministry.  I had the absolute privilege of working with children.  What started out as a part time job became everything to me.  I had a passion so deep that I lived and breathed Children’s Ministry.  I loved teaching, leading in worship, and guiding children to that moment they realized life is not all about them.  I loved planning programs and aligning all we did to our vision for the church and their families.  I loved the church I worked with, loved the parents, kids, and all the interaction with others who shared my passion.  I had huge visions that made life worth living.

2Everything was great…that is except my home life. I had put so much work into my passion for kids that my marriage was no longer where it needed to be, and I honestly thought it would be okay.  We could just live our own lives and things would work themselves out.  I invested in friendships outside of my husband, many of which were male friendships.  I had very little female interaction throughout my week and never once gave it a second thought.  It seems I could justify everything because I was happy in every other area of my life.  I loved church, the families that attended, and my friendships.  I just didn’t feel like I loved or liked my spouse any more.  It was a heart issue for me, and I can honestly say that my ex-husband never realized how bad I thought things were.

I was able to go on like this for so long that I just buried it.  It was easy to make my life look any way I wanted depending on the company I was in and my mood for the day.  I was comfortable and knew that sharing too much of how I really felt would make me uncomfortable.  Who wants to be uncomfortable?

My first husband and I lived separate lives.  We had separate friends, schedules, checking accounts, and views on life.  I enjoyed hanging out with my own friends and chasing after whatever passion had a hold of me that day.  There were many ups and downs.  My first husband adored me, loved me and would have done whatever he could for me…even if it meant going into debt.  I was selfish, greedy and prideful.  I had no desire to attain to the Proverbs 31 picture of a wife.  With me it was all or nothing, and I knew that I would never attain to all of it.  I invested my time, energy, thoughts and passions into everything else except for my marriage.  We drifted apart. Worlds apart.  I left my heart unguarded and was never the same again.

I had struggled with infertility for nine years, and it had been a roller coaster of emotions.  Depression, anxiety, worry, 3fear and self-pity gripped me in a way I was blind to.  Month after month was one failure after another, and my dreams of motherhood were broken.  People that knew me well knew I was bitter…knew I was frustrated and hurt.  I took all my pain, frustration, and hurts and instead of presenting them to God, slandered them to anyone that would hear my complaints about my predicament.  Why me?  Part of my job was supposed to be visiting mothers in the hospital that had just given birth.  I chose not to go to so many of those visits because I was so wrapped up in my hurt and bitterness that the very thought of walking into a maternity ward made me nauseous.

All of this led to a slow fade.  A slow descent into a pit I would not wish on my worst enemy.  I opened up my heart.  Not to a girlfriend I trusted.  To a man I worked with.  A man that listened to me and cared about my hurts and fears.  A man I had been in ministry with for over five years and even became part of his family.  I was Aunt Alli to his kids.  I loved my friendship with his wife.  She and I enjoyed each other’s company when we could find time to catch up with all that was going on in life.  I loved her mothering, her creativity and purposeful 4living.  I admired their family.  He was a great father every time I saw him with his kids and they were the perfect team.  At least to the naked eye.  That’s the problem with sin.  It happens to us all, and then we feel we cannot be real, we cannot share our times in the pit and figure that we can act like it isn’t a pit at all in front of others.  We begin to think it isn’t really as deep a pit as others.  If there is ground beneath our feet, we could be lower than we are.  So we believe we can keep things together and just get through our days.  If we can take one good day at a time, we can take one bad day at a time.

Adam and I became close friends.  He made me laugh, my husband didn’t.  He noticed things about me that my husband hadn’t noticed in years.  He loved leading worship, I loved leading with him.  I began the comparison game…which never ends well.  I opened my heart to the possibility that I had made a poor choice at much too young an age in choosing God’s man for me and was no longer in a spot to admit it to anyone or ask for help.  Adam and I got 5closer.  Nothing physical, but we enjoyed hanging out and being around each other.  I enjoyed his company more than my own husbands.  So many warning signs along the way, and I saw them, but chose to look the other way.  I was happier this way.  Adam and I then got closer.  It was no longer about friendship but we added in flirting and making jokes that we should have never made with each other.  We spiraled into an affair.

I was happy again…at least during the moments.  Then the time came for him to go home to his family and me to go home to mine.  That was never easy.  I had broken my commitment to my spouse, to the family and friends who witnessed our vows and to God who saw us as one flesh.  I had messed up and could not fix what had happened.  Then the time came to figure out where it was going.  Were we just a fling?  Did we want to just leave our spouses and be together?  Would that ever work? Would we lose our salvation and spend eternity in hell if we pursued what we knew to be wrong?  Then things got worse…

Continue reading by clicking  Alli’s Story,  Part Two

Does Someone Like Me Deserve to Be Happy?

Does someone like me deserve to be happy?  It depends on who you ask.  To be honest, depending on my particular mood on any given day my answer to that question will change.

There are many who live by the “You’ve made your bed now you must lie in it” code.  I agree indexwith that statement to a point.  I believe there is nothing wrong with accepting the consequences of your actions.  It is something that all of us have to do. But are we destined to lie in that proverbial bed forever?

I sinned.  I admit that.  What I did was wrong and it hurt a lot of people.  There were consequences for my actions.  I accept that.  Do I have to live with those consequences for the rest of my life?  Yes.  So when is it okay for me to expect people to stop punishing me?

When we have accepted and are living with the consequences of our actions does that mean that we don’t deserve compassion when those consequences turn out to be hard ones to suffer and difficult to live with?  The bible tells us the answer to that question is no.

compassionWebster’s dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.  Based on that definition feeling or showing compassion to someone does not mean you are condoning their behavior.  That is something I wish I could make some of my old friends see.

There are days when I feel like Martin Luther.  I punish myself over and over and over again for the terrible things that I have done.  I feel like I am worthy of compassion from no one and especially not from God.  I feel like all of the people who believe I don’t deserve to be happy ever again are right.  Why should I be happy?  Why should I expect grace and mercy from all those out there who are staring down at me?  I shouldn’t.

Sometimes I tell myself that I don’t deserve a single blessing from God.  I deserve to not have a friend in the world.  I deserve every single terrible thing that anyone says about me.  I deserve every single bad thing that happens to me.

And then…….. I remember.

God has already forgiven me.  He has taken my sin and He has thrown it as far as the East is from the West.  I am the one throwing my sin up in my face continually because God forgcertainly doesn’t.

So what does that say for others who just won’t let my sin go?  I don’t know the answer to that.  I wonder if they can’t see my repentance.  One of my favorite quotes from Ray’s book is, “your repentance has to be more notorious than your sin”.  My sin was huge.  Has my repentance not been?

When you ask God for forgiveness and you move in the direction of doing your best to live a life of righteousness from that point forward, how do you show that to other people?  We can’t get a signed and notarized Letter of Forgiveness from God.  We don’t get a patch or a pin or a banner saying that we have been forgiven so what does it take?  I really wish I knew.

Living in social exile is not fun.  It is sad and it hurts.

CampbellJonahandthewhale147I am always looking for God’s hand in my situation.  It has just occurred to me to that maybe God has led me to this place so that I might get closer to him.  Instead of grieving the loss of the people in my life who have turned their backs on me I should be rejoicing in the relationship that my Father is trying to have with me.

When God pins you down in the belly of a fish it sends a pretty strong message.  If you have read the book of Jonah you will know what I am saying.  God will use whatever means necessary to get our attention.  Thank goodness He chose to pursue me and not forsake me.  I also thank God for using my husband, Ray and his sermon on Jonah this week to deliver this message to me.

Losing My Pastor

That bad first experience paved the way to what I never realized wouldlong road be a long road to finding just the right place to worship.  Aside from the fact that I fell in love with my pastor and had an affair with him, I truly have never met his match in the pulpit.

Not to slight my current pastor or the one that I had before we moved to the church we belong to now.  Those men are both incredible and gifted pastors.  They both hold a special place in my heart.  I am thankful that God has allowed me and still allows me to have those men in my life.

Long before I had feelings for Ray I fear I may have actually idolized him.  In fact, I know I did.  So much so that every pastor I’ve heard preach since then just can’t quite reach me the way that he did.

preacherIdolization is the number one thing we can do to destroy someone’s perfect image.  Anyone that we idolize will disappoint us eventually because we set an impossible expectation for them.  Ray actually wrote about that in his book.

Losing Ray as my pastor has been one of the hardest things to overcome throughout this whole process.  I was saved and baptized when I was a teenager but everything I really know about what I believe I learned from Ray.

I’m sure most people never think about this but when they lost their pastor I lost mine as well.  Now when I look to him to answer my thoughtfulnever ending questions about all of the things I don’t understand, he graciously answers me but as my husband and not my pastor.  The relationship is different.

I am thankful for the realtionship we have.  I prayed for many years for a godly husband.  A husband who would lead me in the right direction when I felt lost or found myself led astray.  I never imagined God would give me all of those things through Ray but he has.

Published in: on April 22, 2013 at 9:00 AM  Leave a Comment  

Finding a Church

Before our affair got physical I left our church in search of a new place to worship.  It was important to me to find a place that supported the churchsame beliefs as me and one that would help me to instill those beliefs in my daughter.

Ray was concerned about where we would go as well and recommended a few churches that were pastored by his friends.  He knew these men and knew their theology.  They both pastored churches who supported our common beliefs.

I first chose a place in our county that I had visited a few times before.  The pastor there went to seminary with Ray and Ray considered him to be a good friend.

The first time I visited the pastor recognized me as a member of Ray’s church and he approached me with concern about some things he had been hearing about Ray.

Some months before, Ray had decided to liquidate his theological library and to sell most of his big, heavy books.  His intention was none other than to make space on his shelves.  He could access everything he needed using an online format and thought it would be a more efficient way to organize his resources.

imagesCAA1WO3MHis friend the pastor took this as a sign that he might be losing his faith.  He had also heard of Ray’s recent resignation from his pastoral position and this further fed his suspicion.  He seemed very concerned about Ray.  He was asking me question after question to which my only answer was something along the lines of, “Maybe you should call him and ask him about XYZ”.

Ray and I were having an emotional affair and I was the only other person in the world who knew for certain that Ray had not lost his faith but there was definitely a reason for his resignation and that was me.

I would conclude my visit there with a well guided tour of the imagesCALV2EU3church’s facilities as well as introductions to a few of the staff members and class teachers that would teach mine and my daughters classes.

I felt good about the visit aside from the fact that I couldn’t tell this pastor I was having an affair with his friend.  After I left I started feeling more and more guilty and ashamed.

The next time I would visit that church my affair with Ray had been exposed.  I will always remember the look I got from the pastor, who only two weeks before had been so eager to talk to me.  This time I would have to go out of my way to get his attention and approach him to talk.  He did his best to avoid me.

imagesCAICYQF9Taking slow and deep breaths I patiently waited my turn in the line of people waiting to talk to the pastor. I don’t know what I thought I was going to say to him.  I didn’t know what he would say to me.  I was in a terrible place and suffering from the effects of the fallout and whatever he had to say I was anxious to hear it.  I needed help. I needed grace and love.  I needed someone to minister to me.

What I got from him was quite different.  In the nicest way possible heimagesCAJ19VG1 told me what he had heard and that he thought it might be better if I found another place to worship.  He said he didn’t feel like his church was the place for me.

I was dumbfounded.

imagesCAA8D7UMDid I expect his arms to open wide and for him to hug me and tell me that there was forgiveness to be had?  No.  But I surely didn’t think I would be disinvited to worship with his congregation.  This would be my first experience with good, upstanding Christians outside of the church from which I left.  I didn’t know church people could be so harsh and unforgiving.  To say I was disappointed would be an  understatement.

Fast forward three and a half years and I have had more than a few ofimagesCAA4GJ92 those type of experiences.  The good news is that just a few days ago Ray had lunch with that pastor friend and he offered Ray an apology.  He told him that he was sorry for the way he had treated me and about the way he had handled the situation.

Eventually most everyone has been able to bring themselves to face us again.  Some took longer than others.  The best thing about all of it is that while those people were unable to extend grace and mercy to us God wasn’t.  And in his own time he was able to turn their hearts back towards forgiveness for us and even to a reconciliation with some.

For that… I am thankful.

Published in: on April 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM  Leave a Comment  

Lisa’s Story, Part Two

This is part two of Lisa’s story. Please read part one before continuing. All names have been changed but this story is very real.

When Pastor Dave found out about the note (because Jack told him) he became ballistic. He made us come and meet with him immediately. It was imagesnot a private meeting. Two others from the staff met us there in a neutral place. It was like me against THREE others. It was awful.

Jed was still reeling from the hurt of the betrayal from me – and actually bought into a little of what our pastor was saying – when he said I was sick – like I had cancer. And didn’t I know any better? He underlined everything I wrote in the note that I had written IN FRONT OF MY HUSBAND and accused me of flirting and still wanting the relationship.

It was awful. It was sabotage in it’s truest form and I will never forget how his huge form became even larger and his face seemed to turn green in his rage – like an alien creature. I sat numb – did not cry – which I know now made him even angrier. He was trying to break me.

imagesCAXGVD93He threw scripture verses at me, I think “create in me a clean heart” was thrown in there. Meanwhile I was suffering from separation anxiety from my friend and brother. Couldn’t understand why he sided with our pastor and would not tell me why he did what he did and then went into hiding.

I did get an answer to our note that evening by Jack. But with Pastor Dave looking over his shoulder writing it – it was not written like Jack. Gone was the easy “give and take” and cheerful lighthearted banter. Totally gone. I was blamed for everything. It was stiff and condescending in its tone.

In the months and years to follow I have heard from Jack a few times. Once when he wanted validation for feeling bad (told me he cried for months) – and to tell me that he was okay – never asking if I was (after what he pulled on me). Another time to open communication up and forgive and forget – only to shut it down again.

When questioned he became agitated and accusatory – again blaming me – untitledtelling me I must not be “over it” and telling me how inappropriate the whole relationship was – I mean “it was you who wanted to leave your husband and had thoughts for me”. I had never said that. I had leaned on him pretty heavy and told him I had doubts and thoughts about my life – and that I wish things were different – but never said what he accused me of saying.

Ugh. It’s hard to write this and remember it. In fact I know I’m leaving out many details – but you get the general idea. Why did he turn me in? Turn everything around? When I had ended it? I will never know.

One female counselor that I saw only one time really helped me. She validated me. She herself had been involved in a physical affair years before and she knew what I was feeling – even though mine was emotional. She believed the pain and hurt from anything emotional is even worse.

imagesCALLYE2OWhen I shared my story with her she did not condemn me. She gave me healing words of love and validation. She told me I was not crazy – even though my pastor and this man had made me feel like I was. She told me that Jack must really have loved me. I don’t know why – but I needed to hear it.

It was truth that everyone else who knew our situation were afraid to say. She said, “they will never tell you the truth because they are afraid it will perpetuate the emotions and drive you right into his arms. But it doesn’t, does it?’ No it didn’t. All I felt was terrible overwhelming sadness. And I missed my friend.

What would have helped me? If my pastor would have been able to see through this. To validate that we are all human and this can happen to anyone given the right circumstances. To have been able to see a troubled man scarred from a bad relationship and that he was very responsible for much of the drama and communication.

I felt scarred for so long after this. He also should have said, “hey we’re all cindy7sinners and capable of great mistakes”. To tell me that I was not totally to blame – that I made bad choices and should not have trusted so much but that it’s not the end of the world and can be fixed.

He made me feel dirty and small. He wanted my facebook account closed. I felt like I had people spying on everything I said and who I talked to. I was afraid to talk to anyone of the opposite sex – fearing they would think anything I was saying or doing was inappropriate. Jed said that was going a little too far and never supported him in this. And no, I never stopped talking with people and finding those who also had a story to tell.

I started writing a blog and found many who could relate with my “general” state of mind – and many took a journey of healing with me back then even though I never mentioned any specifics or named any names. My facebook account was never closed.

imagesCAMS06H4I am happy to report that in spite of these very sad events I am well and happy today. My marriage is stronger and better. Jed showed me incredible grace during this time. He has come to see that our pastor was wrong to jump to the conclusions he did. We are no longer associated with that church or pastor.

He has come to understand what drove me to seek the attentions of another man – even though I did not look for it. He sees how easy it was for me to be flattered by the attention and even feel powerful for helping someone. It has taken this long path and these sad circumstances in order to help our rather dry and emotionally dead marriage and to WAKE US UP out of our slumber and complacency.

If any of you are involved or have been in an emotional relationship with someone – here is what I would tell you:

1. You are valuable.
2. You are not a bad person for wanting connection with someone who really understands you
3. Just remember those feelings of validation and connection can seem “heightened” when it is done in “secret”. I am sure that my friendship would not have crossed into inappropriate feelings (and I had plenty) if those around me did not disapprove so much – even forbid it.
4. The feeling of “you and me against the world” can actually make the relationship seem like it is something that it is not.
5. Create ways to make the relationship with your spouse “fun” and playful.
6. Go back to the time when things were in their early stages with your spouse. What did you like – what were you drawn to about them?
7. Ask yourself, “Would my spouse ever find emotional connection with someone else because I’m not emotionally available for them”?
8. Be that person you are seeking.
9. Forgive yourself.
10. Forgive others.

Here’s something else you can do. Mourn the sadness and loss and then move on to new challenges and things that excite you.

Talk with your spouse about your plans, thoughts, dreams and fears.

You may be surprised what you find – right within your own marriage.

Find people you trust and talk things through with them. Don’t isolate yourself and feel like no one understands. You are not alone – and there are plenty of us that do understand and have been there and lived to talk about it.

Get involved with helping others who are not as far along on the journey of sadness, betrayal and loss. This may be just what you are created to do. Be an inspiration and blessing to others.

How can you help someone involved or vulnerable to emotional relationships?

1. Validate them
2. Don’t shut them down when they try to talk and express themselves
3. Try to create an atmosphere of safety
4. Remain constant and steady
5. Quickly diffuse a volatile situation by being accepting of friendships your spouse may have with the opposite sex
6. Don’t shut down conversations because you’re jealous and threatened (remember things heightened and got to a crazy place because Jack and I both felt the disapproval to our “friendship”)
7. Keep asking questions and stay tuned in
8. Do you understand how your spouse likes to communicate? Ask and get involved!
9. Remain calm when things look and feel scary to you
10. Be that person your spouse wants to talk to – don’t let someone get the job!

I will always miss Jack and be forever grateful for what he added to my life. He helped me open up and address some deep dark things in my past and in my present life that I didn’t want to talk about. Because of him I was able to clearly get an understanding of what I needed to do to stay healthy – NOT STUFF.

I am not happy how he chose to “throw me under the bus” when he got hurt – but clearly my marriage and my life are in so much better a place because of him. So Jack – I bless you. I miss your friendship and what you taught me. I wish you well. A part of me will always love you.

If you need someone to talk to – I have been there and I would love to talk to you and it can be arranged through Allison and Ray just let them know and they will make sure I get your message.

Blessings!

Lisa

Lisa’s Story, Part One

This is a guest blog written by my friend, “Lisa“.  I think you will enjoy reading her story.  I appreciate her willingness to share.

The names and some of the circumstances are changed to protect those in my life and help me maintain my anoynominity – but the events are true.

I write this to help those that feel alone. I want to help those who have been in an emotional affair – or who are presently involved in one. I also hope to encourage and give insight to those who have a spouse involved in one.

My name is Lisa. I felt alone. I had no one to talk to. These things happened almost 5 years ago. I am learning to go on with life in a “normal” way – but it has been a long journey.

My husband of 28 years, Jed and I were on staff at a large church in Colorado. I was in business for myself and worked from home.

I became reacquainted with a man, recently divorced with a small son. He fbattended our church and I knew him casually. One day he “friended” me on facebook and began a long conversation with me online. Jack was very eager to chat and because he was 10 years younger I did not see the harm. I actually seemed to “lift” his spirits. He confided in me about his divorce and looked up to both Jed and me. We had “spiritual” conversations sharing the same beliefs – talking about everything under the sun.

When I first started talking with Jack there were some ‘cyber bullies’ online and they made me feel small and stupid by their remarks on a facebook page. Jack was right there protecting me from them adding comments in my defense. I thought it was so sweet of him to “rescue” me.

He made me laugh out loud with some of the absurdities of people and life in general. He even created a page on facebook and made me a partner. Again it was harmless fun and it made me laugh because he was witty and made me feel alive.

As time went by – he and his son would visit our home and we would have fun conversations in person too – but always connected again online. He could cindy8also be difficult and demanding – something that I noticed from time to time – but just ignored it. After all – I was helping him, right? I remember a cold chill coming over me a couple of times when I recalled what I had confided in him – but he seemed so safe and steady – really “spiritual” and I saw no real harm in telling him some of my feelings. He made me feel like I could say anything and that it would be okay. He even gave great advice – and from a man divorced it had much more weight.

When we would argue – which was often – it was exciting and new. My own husband had never argued and challenged me. He had always been safe and non confrontational. It was slowly lulling me to sleep. I began to question whether I had ever loved Jed. Did I settle for something safe and bland? Did he really understand me like Jack? At the time it didn’t seem like it. Jed always shut me down when I became too “emotional” and “irrational” – and Jack encouraged me to be myself and say anything I wanted.

I was unhappy with the ministry and my life in it. I saw the years stretching cindy9out in front on me and I didn’t like what I saw. Jack was making me feel younger and alive. And I was enjoying it. So many people in my life, starting with my parents had always tried to control me and make me settle down – not get so excited and not be so “self indulgent” so I learned to stuff everything. Even in my marriage. There were things I could never say to Jed and I found myself telling Jack everything. How could he know me so well when I had only known him for a few months?

But it felt secretive –though part of me loved the thrill of it. And my feelings were scary – how could I feel happy and yet so sad at the same time? One time after a particularly intense debate I tried to walk away and say that it wasn’t good for us to be friends anymore – I think I said something like, “I can’t help you” or something like that. He didn’t like it and I felt his grasp on me intensify. The emotions I was feeling was so confusing. Did I love him? Yes. I believed I did. But he also scared me.

There was one time when I went to bed after one of our long conversations online that I thought, “what would happen if I told Jack we couldn’t be cindy10friends anymore?” – and I knew it would not be good. Jack had shown me a side to his personality that was dark and scary. I did not know what he was capable of – and yet I was addicted to the “high” of the feeling too. It was very confusing. He was the nicest guy normally – very shy and unassuming. How could he be both?

Finally things came to a head for us as Jed began to suspect more than just a casual “friendship” going on. Oh he knew that we talked and were good friends – again because of the age difference he didn’t worry about anything either. I had even tried to talk to him more about my feelings of self doubt and unhappiness in ministry and with the way things were as Jack had encouraged me to do – but he was not ready to hear it.

Then there was the day that changed everything for me forever. It was a day like any other. The night before Jack and his son were over at our house playing games and watching TV. Jed began to question me on my “friendship” with Jack. As he began to ask he became increasingly agitated. I had never seen him this way before and it honestly surprised me and scared me a little too! Again – I felt justified in having a friend that would listen – never dreaming I was so in over my head. But I was.

So – hard as it was – I called Jack and told him how upset Jed was – and that I couldn’t talk to him anymore. It was a tough conversation and I was very emotional. Jack was quiet but seemed to take it well – like we both knew that the rest of the world was not going to take kindly to us being friends – especially close friends who were kindred spirits. Ah, such is life – cut your losses, hard as it is and move on.

That would have been fine – sad, but fine IF that were the end to the story. But it was not. A few hours later Jed received a phone call from our pastor the same man who was also my husband’s boss. He told Jed that he had just had a visit from Jack. My heart stopped. I never in a million years expected that Jack would go to our PASTOR and tell him what he did. He confessed to having an “inappropriate affair” with me.

He and our pastor called it an “emotional affair” – the first time I had ever cindy3heard that term. Isn’t an affair supposed to be about sex? Ours was NOT. Not even close. I was not even physically attracted to Jack – so it seemed ridiculous to me. It was like the rug was pulled out from me. Where was the friend who was supposed to protect and have my back? The one I just knew would never betray me?

Jed and I were called in to talk to pastor Dave. Dave is a big man – but seemed even bigger to me during that meeting. He did NOT understand. It was then that I learned that Jack had actually made copies of all our conversations. You know the ones where I felt “safe”? I said WAY TOO MUCH I should not have. It’s embarrassing to me – even almost 5 years later.

Things were conveniently left out of those emails – and my remarks and confessions seemed even more provocative. Not only did pastor Dave share those with Jed – but also made copies and everyone on the board got a copy too! Talk about humiliating. My husband was hurt – I was in disbelief and reeling from the loss and betrayal of a good friend.

Pastor Dave was not a counselor and should not have said some of the things imagesCAZD4XXGhe said. He took Jack’s side and was convinced that I was sinful and sick and needed to be in counseling right away. It was planned that both Jed and I would go to a place in up state New York for a week of “marriage counseling”.

I did not want to go and fought it – but Jed would have lost his position at the church if I did not cooperate. We were set to go about 4 weeks later. Before we went – at the end of June – even though Jack had sent me a text saying that he would leave the church – Jed and I decided to turn in our resignation. Pastor Dave only wanted us back if we were healthy. Healthy? What is that?

Before we were slated to go on our counseling trip – Jed and I had hours and HOURS to really talk and reconnect again. We did more talking in that couple of weeks than we had done in 28 years before that!

We did a few counseling sessions locally too at the insistence of Pastor Dave. At first it was hard to reconnect – our patterns were pretty well established. But we got used to a “new normal” and we explored the reasons why I was drawn to Jack and that connection that we had.

Because of all of talking – we both decided to write a note to Jack. We wrote itimagesCA1H8U8U together. Pastor Dave had demanded NO CONTACT with him – but Jack had contacted me through text and then gone on this strange “silent treatment” everything from facebook to email.

We knew it was because of what Pastor Dave had told him – and not his idea. He simply was not that kind of person – and we were anxious to forgive and forget – let God heal the hurt and all be friends again. I was anxious to know why he had done what he did – and was ready even then to forgive him for doing something when obviously he was in turmoil and so much pain.

_______________

Please stay tuned for part two of Lisa’s story tomorrow.

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The account of a former Southern Baptist Pastor who fell from grace after breaking the seventh commandment.

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