I’m Bossy

Around the Christian community we hear a lot about men’s and women’s roles in marriage. We talk often about husbands as leaders and women as being… (that often misunderstood and misrepresented word) submissive. 

Feminism has caused us to hear that word and interpret it as “brainlessly subservient.” We instantly think, “Great. I’ll never be allowed to have an opinion again.” That’s not at all what submission means. In fact, submission is an empowering and sanctifying heart position. The greek word used in the New Testament translated as “submit,” is hupotasso. It’s a generally military term used in regard to ranking. The husband is often called the king of the home, while the wife is the queen. This is proper order and ranking. However, the king has to answer to his subjects as well as to God. So it’s not as simple as the husband calls all the shots while the wife gets no vote. That’s misuse of his role.

“in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight [direct your ways].” -Proverbs 3:6

Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” -Hebrews 13:7

Notice in the above scriptures it’s not only wives who are called to submit. Many places in scripture call us ALL to submit to the Lord, His will, spiritual and natural authority. Our fleshly and sinful nature hates the idea of submission simply because we desire to be in control of our lives. However, God calls us to “put down” our sinful ways and “pick up” our cross by choosing His ways and giving up control to Him who cares for us.

As women, we especially like to to manage, organize, and control. It’s part of our nature. I think that’s why wives are specifically told to submit to husbands’ headship in 3 different places [Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, 1 Pet. 3:11] The reason we are so resistant to the idea is because our flesh wants to be bossy!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21

I find it interesting that the above verse is right before the dreaded Ephesians 5:23 [“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”]. Everyone zooms in on the first half of the wives’ instructions, but don’t notice that right before that, everyone was commanded to submit to each other. When read in context, women are not so specifically being singled out. Read the whole chapter, instead of taking a single verse out of context. There are some heavy responsibilities placed on men in verses 25-30.

More importantly, there is an order. As believers, we are to submit to God first in everything. That means giving up control to Him and allowing Him to shape us into Christlikeness. Secondly, as wives, we are to submit to our husbands. If a husband asks his wife to do something against God’s will, that request is not to be obeyed. Why? Because we are to submit to God first! 

How is a wife to know if her husband is contradicting God? Aside from the obvious ones like stealing, killing, and lying, how should a wife know when it’s proper to submit (obey, go along with, etc) to her husband’s leadership? The answer is simple: godly wisdom and discernment which can only come from a personal relationship with God. We all must cultivate our own relationship with Christ as believers. We should be pursuing His will in our own personal time.

So this is where the wife’s role becomes so empowering. You see, we aren’t called to be brainless “Yes Women.” We’re called to be Christ followers first and foremost. When a difference in opinion (perhaps in regard to a job change or a move) arises, both husband and wife place their wisdom and perspective on the table, perhaps they prayerfully weigh the options (together and individually). If they are still at an impass, the husband, as the head of the home, makes the final call. It is at this point that submission comes into play. It should operate like a benevolent democracy at home. Once all the votes are cast, the husband has the power of veto. And the wife shouldn’t grumble and complain if the decision doesn’t go her way.

“A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.” -Proverbs 19:13

At the core, submission is more about allowing the husband to take the lead. Not just letting, but encouraging him to be the head of the household. God created the husband to be the leader. It’s our job as wives to cultivate the leader and call out the king in our husbands.

All that does not mean there aren’t amazing women leaders, teachers, and speakers. There are many wonderful married female Christian speakers. Lisa Bevere, Beth Moore, and Christine Caine to name a few. Public speaking, authoring, and teaching scripture has little to do with being a submissive wife on its own. Submission applies in terms of family ranking. If a woman’s husband encourages her to operate in her gifting as a Christian counselor or speaker, there is no reason not to further the kingdom in that way! Unless God says no. Then of course submit to that. A godly man will recognize the spiritual gifting you have and encourage you to use it rather than squash it because he feels threatened.

So, fellow single ladies, how does all of this submission talk help us?! I’m glad you asked. First, it helps us to demystify the expectation of our future role as wives. Do not think that once you get married, you suddenly won’t be allowed to have an opinion. In fact, a godly man will value your wisdom.

Secondly, as we navigate the dating world, look for a godly man who will see your gifting and encourage you to operate in it. Find someone who appreciates your life experience and godly wisdom. Wait for a man who honors your kingdom role as a woman. Adversely, run from the one who claims that because he’s the man he gets to call all the shots and control you. That’s just abuse.

Finally, when you are intentionally dating a godly man, practice godly submission. Let him take the lead. Encourage him to step out and take risks. Call out the king in him. And when it comes to heavier decisions, respectfully offer your opinion and then let him make the final decision. Remember, that you are not married yet, so you don’t have to submit to anything. However, the courtship dynamic sets the tone for a potential future marriage. If you want your future husband to be a leader, let your current boyfriend practice leading.

Waiting For Superman

Okay, ladies. It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Most of us have made a list at one point or another. You know what I’m talking about. The list of all the qualities your future husband should have. Don’t deny it. We’ve all made one. Years ago, I took it to a whole new nerdy level… I had a spreadsheet. It had a weighted scoring algorithm and everything. I could rate a guy I was seeing and it would give me a compatibility percentage. Don’t judge.

I read a book once that walked me through how to think through and write out the ultimate husband list. We’re talking wishlist on steroids! Physical appearance, personality, sex, finances, etc. Nothing was untouched. So a list in the form of a personal ad (cuz it’s just funnier that way) would read as follows:

“SWF seeking tall, ridiculously good looking, intelligent male. Must love dogs and children. If you like long walks on the beach while holding hands and talking about the future and feelings, keep reading! If you like dancing in the rain and are wildly hilarious, we should talk. Volunteering whenever possible while being career driven is necessary. ‘Scrubs’ and freeloaders need not apply. Singing, dancing, and a great sense of humor are highly desired. Cooking, cleaning, and auto repair are a plus. Must be light-hearted and fun while also grounded and practical. Open communication and sensitivity are a priority. No issues, exes, or bad habits. If you want to save my day, contact me for more ideals you’ll never be able to meet.”

I hate to break it to you, girls, but we’ve set an impossible standard. The guy described above (and on most of our lists) doesn’t exist. You’ll be a bachelorette until the rapture with a list like some women have. For starters, some of the items are contradictory or unimportant. Expecting a man who is both career driven and volunteers regularly is highly unlikely. And good luck finding anyone with any amount of life experience that comes without and issues, exes, or bad habits. The truth is we need to be a little more realistic with our expectations.

Research shows that the number one quality women look for is a sense of humor. That’s just plain embarrassing. First of all, if that were true, comedians would be the most attractive pool of men. Typically speaking, that’s not the case, though. Even so, it’s sad that our society is so superficial that the thing we value most in a partner is the ability to entertain us. Don’t get me wrong. A sense of humor is a great bonus. It can make getting through the tough stuff bearable. But good luck getting through the tough stuff with laughter alone and without resolve or persistence.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, character is what we should be looking for. So if you must make a list, make it about things of substance like integrity, honesty, fortitude, self-control, and a love for Christ above all else.

But with any list, we must be careful not to set the bar so high as to expect perfection. Remember that we are all human and in process. No one man will have every godly character and spiritual fruit evident in their life. You may meet someone who is self-controlled, slow to anger, and compassionate, but still struggles with patience. If he acknowledges that area and you see that he is actively working on building patience, give the guy a break! No one is perfect. Not you, me, or any potential suitor.

Prayerfully consider which items are important and which are not. Things like gentleness, faithfulness, and peace should far outweigh tall, dark, and handsome. Deal breakers should be things like lying, cheating, and any form of abuse. Take an honest look at your list and pray for God to show you any blind spots or superficial desires. Make sure you’re not waiting for Superman to come sweep you off your feet. Cuz that ain’t gonna happen, girlfriend.

However, there are good men of godly character out there. I promise! I’ve even met some of these elusive unicorns in real life. But God can’t bring a wonderful, godly man into your life if you aren’t 1) focusing on Him and 2) keeping realistic expectations.

As a bonus hint, a man who is developing these fruits and character traits is going to be looking for the same in his woman. So seek God and grow in Him before you start wondering “where have all the cowboys gone.”

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” -Galatians 5:22-24

gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For?

So we’ve safely established in this series how to embrace your single season and wait for the right person. I can hear some of you saying, “But how do I know if they’re the right person?” I’m glad you asked.

There are a ton of books out there around this particular topic. I’ve read several excellent books with a Christian perspective on what to look for and what should be your deal-breakers. I’m not going to repeat all that stuff. However, there is one thing that is worth discussing at length.

The most important thing to look for in a partner. Something worth its weight in gold. Something more important than looks, attraction, or even personality. Chivalry can’t even touch it. This one thing will determine the success or failure of a potential relationship more than any other factor. Have you guessed it yet?

I’m talking about character. It’s the one thing we don’t talk nearly enough about in terms of dating, but will have the greatest impact on your relationship. Think about it. If a man has integrity, he won’t cheat. If a woman is honest, she won’t lie. If your partner has strong character, they won’t put you in a compromising or harmful situation. Character is what will determine how your partner treats you. Physical attraction waxes and wanes, but how a person treats you will have a lasting effect.

How many of us have fallen for someone charismatic, physically attractive, or with a great personality? I’m willing to bet all of us at some point. But charm and charisma alone, can’t be trusted. If they’re charming you, they could likely be charming someone else. My favorite example of this is a line from the Broadway musical turned big picture, “Into The Woods,” when Cinderella catches Prince Charming cheating…

As for physical attraction, that can change over time as we age. I’ve seen sad stories of people who left their spouse because of physically altering accident. True love, the kind that lasts, isn’t there only because of outward beauty. Proverbs 31:30 addresses this well, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” Men aren’t exempt, though. It goes both ways. A partner who fears the Lord (has a real relationship with God and genuine, good character) is of far more value than anything else.

So how do you find someone of good, strong character? “Where have all the good ones gone?!” I hear some of you lamenting. It’s simple really. The only way you will be able to find someone of good character is to BE someone of good character. Because people of good character have already figured out how important it is to find someone who values integrity, honor, and compassion. So naturally, they are looking for someone who exhibits those same values. Like attracts like.

So how do you become a person of good character? What are good character traits? Start by reading the book of Proverbs. It is a book full of wisdom. And that will set you in the right direction.

“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” ~Philemon 1:11

Then Suddenly Everything Changed…

I grew up on a farm. Not a working farm per say. There were no high yielding crops or livestock. We had a lot of acres in the middle of a national forest. It was beautiful with plenty of room to run and dream. We had a dog and a cat for most of my years growing up along with the occasional rabbit, horse, milk Jersey, and a handful of calves.

All I wanted to do was grow up, find a successful career in some lucrative field, making oodles of money and travel the world. I wanted (and still do) to see and experience all the cultures of our vast and diverse planet. I wanted cars and houses and vacation houses. Anything BUT a farmer’s life! No stinky animals and poop scooping for me, thank you very much!

In fact, I vividly remember playing dress up in my grandmother’s furs on a particular occasion when I was about 7 (it was a regular game we played). On this particular day, I, “Mrs. Jones,” was unveiling with dramatic flare all the beautiful cars, boats, houses and jet planes I had just acquired. This is the glamorous life I have envisioned since childhood. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous would cover my story one day.

And then I grew up.

Did I stop desiring or dreaming that childhood dream? No. Never. My dad has, to this day, affectionately called me his “city mouse.” Moving back to the family farm for a short 2 years some time ago was painful. No cell service?! A 45-minute commute?! Torture, I tell you. Sheer torture!

Then, last week everything changed. A friend who has a farm near our city, posted a Facebook request for help feeding her litter of orphaned St. Bernards. I thought it would be a fun opportunity for my kids to get some overdue puppy therapy and volunteer at the same time. As we pulled up the driveway, we noted all the animals on their farm. Cows, horses, chickens and an ornery goat all greeted us as we drove up the gravel road. My four year old daughter squealed, “Can I ride the UNICORN?!?!” Of course I told her she could… if she could find it. Haha!

When we piled out of the vehicle, we saw the puppies and their father in front of the house as well as a litter of frisky calico kittens. As we spent the evening feeding, sorting, and photographing the 10 ravenous little cuties, I felt a peace wash over me. I observed my 11 year old son who has dealt with so much trauma and heartache in his short life become caring, calm, and diligent. My son, who is normally so hyperactive and careless, was gently feeding and rocking each puppy to sleep before laying it down next to a furry sibling. Then he would gingerly repeat the process until all 10 pups laid napping in a giant ball of fluffiness.

It has taken me a full week to process the events of that evening. My son came ALIVE in caring for those animals. He and his sister have been begging for a puppy every day since. But a puppy isn’t the cure for what ails him. They have asked for a kitten, too. Although that would be far more conducive to our apartment living than a 200 pound St. Bernard, a kitten isn’t the cure either.

My son has always been what I call “an animal whisperer.” He has a gift. People confound him. He thinks he has to be the funniest, the most obnoxious or impressive person for people to like him. But when he’s around animals, he is his truest and happiest self. All the cares and frustrations of life’s unfairness disappear when he is nose to nose with something furry. He doesn’t have to perform. He doesn’t have to disguise the pain. He only has to be. He radiates compassion and genuineness when he is caring for animals. It’s a level of responsibility I have NEVER seen him exhibit towards his bedroom and household chores! Haha!

My son, riding a horse a few weeks ago. Look how tall and proud he is!

Yesterday, as I was reading Scriptures and praying for wisdom and direction to lead my children into their callings it became crystal clear: It’s not about me and my selfish desires to jet set. It’s about cultivating the two little people God has entrusted me with to their own greatness. I was born into farm life for a reason and I am coming to believe that this is why. Not for me, but for my son and daughter.

Now that I have resigned to what I believe is part of God’s plan for our family, it actually excites me to consider starting a hobby farm (mucking stalls and all). It doesn’t overwhelm or terrify me (as long as there’s cell service). There’s a peace that surpasses all understanding as I embrace this slightly different plan. It’s not even a resistant obedience. In my heart I’m not saying, “Fine, God, if I HAVE to.” Truthfully, as I saw my kids not just enjoy, but flourish in that setting, I realize that a farming life is part of our destiny. It is something I can’t outrun. And now, finally, I don’t want to.

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Spring Has Sprung

I love spring! The gloomy winter months are melting away. Beneath the dirty snow is new life just waiting to bloom. The days are getting warmer and I can finally break out the flowy dresses and bright colors. There’s a feeling in the air of change brewing, but in a new and different way.

I love that God has given us seasons to remind us that life is ever changing, ever evolving. Nothing stays the same. For some, this is a terrifying and harsh reality. For others, it’s a welcomed adventure. You never know what might be just ahead.

In South Dakota, we have a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” Life is much like that. If you don’t like the current circumstances, wait. Change is bound to come!

A few months ago, I felt like everything was perfectly in place. All was going according to my plan. I remember looking around my home and thinking, “It is all as it should be. Now I can just coast.” But God, in His infinite wisdom, had other plans!

Like a Jenga tower, I had stacked all the pieces of my life into what I thought would be perfect. Controlled. Calculated. In order. Then God pulled two or three pieces out and I thought my world was falling apart. I couldn’t understand why one thing after another seemed to be crumbling before me. I had placed everything so carefully!

The day I received terrible news from my son’s school, I held the phone to my ear as tears welled up in my eyes. I thought, “This couldn’t come at a worse time. I’m in the middle of a career change. How am I going to do this?!” And then, almost audibly, I heard a song: “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…”

A peace washed over me as I realized God is in control. I don’t have to fear the future or any changes ahead because ultimately, God is in control and will work everything together for my good. He holds the pieces. The greatest lesson I’ve learned in the last few months is simply to let go and let God. There’s no need to scramble around, grasping for control. It was never mine to begin with.

I’m excited for this new season of change that blowing through my life because it’s a clear reminder that God has a destiny for each of us.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”


I remember as a little girl watching the Miss America Pageant with my grandmother every year. We would get dressed up in our “ball gowns” and her fur coats. We’d put out mini cakes and a full tea party. She and I would “ooh” and “aah” over the beautiful gowns and lovely hairdos. We admired their talents. We even discussed the intelligent responses to the questions posed. My grandmother would comment on how well-rounded these young ladies were and how I could grow up to be like any one of them.

Flash forward 30 years. One night, I stumbled across the infamous 2015 Miss Universe. I reminisced for a moment and thought of my grandmother. I quickly realized that she would be appalled by the swimsuit competition. Moreover, the only categories highlighted in the 2 hour program was swimsuit and ball gown. So, the message conveyed is no longer, “well rounded, intelligent, talented women are vital to our society.” It is this: “Looks are everything. A perfect body is everything.” Not to mention, it’s very clear that all of these lean, thin bodies are in competition with each other.

My 3 year old daughter saw only a few minutes of the evening gown portion. Rather than admiring the beautiful dresses, she immediately ran to my closet, brought out my highest heels and began swinging her hips as she pranced around the house. While she was absolutely adorable and innocent, my insides began to scream!!! NOOOOO! She should NOT be parading around like a little sexpot! I don’t want her to compare herself to anyone! Certainly not the ultra thin, “perfect” bodies that are half naked (even in ball gowns) on TV. I want her to be her own kind of beautiful.

The other thing I noticed during the show was that although it was called “Miss Universe,” international diversity was NOT shown or embraced. While all of the women were beautiful, they all sort of looked the same… Westernized Barbies. And of course there was no variety of body type. Background, talent, and intelligence were not even mentioned.

Now, let me share with you my personal experience… I once competed in a local level of Miss America. I was 19 at the time and hopeful to receive a small scholarship for college. At the time, I aspired to be a music teacher. I had not been in any pageants previously. So I was probably far too naive to be “competing.” The “experienced” pageant girls had fake hair,  gel bra inserts, fake teeth, eating disorders, and spent endless hours in the gym. I was on an unfair playing ground.

It was a valuable experience. But one that was painful. As a size 8, I was made to feel like the “fat one.” Although we were told that interview and talent counted for the majority of our score, it really came down to swimsuit. I was confident and poised, but I wore a one piece suit. And I didn’t win. I don’t share this experience as a sore loser. Rather as a cautionary tale. I remember feeling scrutinized for every jiggle, dimple and normalcy of my body. I might as well have been an animal on display at the zoo. A polar bear perhaps.

This experience led to years of body-shaming and comparison. The shouting voice in my head, “She looks better in a swimsuit than you do,” and “If you only had toned arms like her or a flat stomach like her…” In my mind I was constantly making a patchwork of “perfect” body parts to compare myself to. Thoughts like this have plagued me and so many others for years. About 5 minutes into watching the pageant, those voices were back with a vengeance, berating me for having flaws of any sort.

Pageants are gross. There are so many beautiful, strong, intelligent women who will never get on a stage, platform or runway. Rather than comparing ourselves to one another and feeling in competition with each other, we should embrace our differences and see the wonder and strength in diversity. God created each of us to be individuals not copy cats. He made us to compliment each other, not compete with one another. I’d rather seek unity than perfection.

This is why my daughter (and son) will not be allowed to watch pageants ever again. The fake, cookie cutter idea of perfect is not reality. That ideal is not who we should be comparing ourselves to and it’s certainly not the standard our Creator uses. We are so much more than something pretty to prance on a stage for the world.

Don’t fall for the lie. Be more. See more.

In The Garden

“Many will say to me [Jesus] on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:22-23

This particular passage has always confounded me. If people are doing all those miracles in the name of Jesus, clearly they would know Him and be operating in His authority. Why, then, would He send them away? That has bothered me for years. I’ve grown up hearing stories that have focused on the love and mercy of God. But this verse seems to be angry and far from merciful.

However, this morning I had a revelation. As I woke (before my kids), in the stillness of the morning, I could feel God whispering to my heart, “Come spend time with me.” As I rolled out of bed, I started thinking of all the things on my to-do list for the day. In that moment I started considering which chapters I would read in the Bible and how much time I would have to do that before I needed to get going on my tasks. Then I felt Him say, “Stop! This is not another thing to check off your list. Just come sit with Me.”

Have you ever been in a relationship when it seemed like you were two ships passing in the night? Each running in their own direction, but never stopping to just be together. That’s usually when the relationship feels distant and cold. Or how about “friendships” on social media? So often we observe and know others by what they put on the inter web, but we don’t truly know them. We know of them, but our knowledge is very superficial at best.

So often, this is how we treat our relationship with Jesus. We read the Books, we attend gatherings in His Name, and we may even use His Name to perform miracles. But that’s not why He came to the earth and sacrificed himself. He came so we could have a real relationship with Him. Not a “fakebook” relationship. He desires a real, everyday, closer than a best friend relationship. He wants to get messy with you. He does not want to be another item to check off our task lists.

As I  processed through this with King Jesus this morning, I could hear my grandfather’s deep baritone voice belting a familiar hymn: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

Today, take the time to develop a deep and private relationship with Savior and walk in the garden with Him. There is so much peace and joy there.

Redemption, Pt. 2

The next day, I called the nurse’s station for an update on my ex-husband’s status. She politely informed me that I had been removed from the “family” list and could no longer receive information about my ex-husband. “Who made that decision?! I may not be family, but our son IS!” I retorted. “I’m sorry ma’am. The patient’s brother has requested that you be excluded from any communication.” Initially, I was angry. Hurt. Offended. Who did he think he was?! This is my son’s father we’re talking about! We may have had our differences in the past, but my ex-husband had recently said repeatedly, “You’re family, Susan. I don’t care what anyone says. You’re the mother of my son. You will always be family.” And now his brother says otherwise. With a simple word, I’m cut out.

But then I realized something. My ex-brother-in-law was in the midst of the most terrifying and unmanageable situation. His little brother was on life support, fighting for survival. There was nothing he could do to control what was happening. But the one little thing he could control was who had access to the information. It was an exercise in futility. But it was something.

I only had this realization because I was simultaneously up to my eyeballs in a Step Study with Celebrate Recovery. It was through that study and the amazing support I found through Celebrate Recovery that I was able to process any of what was happening. Celebrate Recovery taught me how to understand the human reaction to an unmanageable situation: grasping at control. Most of all, I was ready to make amends and able to hear God’s voice throughout the coming days.

Six days passed with no word. No updates from my ex-husband’s family. No phone calls to my son. Nothing. I was talking to a dear friend and mentor when I voiced my concern. I needed to know what was going on for my son’s sake. She encouraged me to be a “mama bear.” She said to call and don’t take “no” for an answer. So I did.

I called the nurse’s station and said, “I know I’m not on the list and you can’t give me any specifics. But can you tell me if I should prepare his son for the worst or can we look forward to seeing him in a regular hospital room soon?” The nurse whispered into the receiver, “Don’t break any laws, but get here as soon as you possibly can. They are taking him off life support right now.

I obeyed all traffic laws and quickly drove to the hospital. I marched my son straight to the ICU room where his father lay with immediate family around the bed. No tubes. No IVs. No machines.

I stood in the doorway and looked to my ex-mother-in-law for permission to enter. She nodded and gestured for my son to enter the room. My seven year old son bravely, but hesitantly approached the bed where his father laid, gasping for air and still in a coma. He held his dad’s hand and said, “I love you, Daddy. I’ll see you in heaven someday. I’ll miss you.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. My son literally said goodbye as his father breathed his last breaths. I am so grateful that he will always have that moment to look back on and know that he was able to have closure.

Late that night, when we got home, my son asked if he could sleep in my bed with me. Of course! How could I refuse? I held him tightly as we wept together. When he finally spoke, he said, “I’m so afraid I’ll forget my dad! I’m so young. What if I lose all my memories of him?” I assured him that I would help him remember and we could talk about his dad any time he wanted. We hugged and cried together. I mourned for my son’s loss. I am so proud of how very brave he was that evening.

Several days later at the funeral, I had prepared a little eulogy. I knew I needed to get up in front of all the former family and friends. These were the people who had primarily only heard his side of the story over the years. I was nervous as walked to the podium. I could feel their eyes boring into me. I trembled as I took out the notes I’d prepared. Then I looked at my son’s big, brown eyes. This was why I was standing in front of a room full of people who were not my supporters. For my boy. He needed to hear these words. He needed to hear me honor his father’s memory.

The journey since that day has not been easy. Parenting a child through the loss of their other parent is the most difficult challenge I’ve ever faced. Knowing that my son will not have his father at his graduations, his wedding, or his children’s births is heartbreaking. Not having his father as he approaches adolescence is confusing. Walking my son through the stages of grief when I cannot possibly comprehend what he’s going through is overwhelming at times.

However, through it all, we have a faithful heavenly Father. We have had many opportunities to discuss the steadfast and immeasurable love of God. And while statements like, “God will be your Father,” feel less than helpful now, I hope that one day my son will comprehend how deep our Abba Father’s love is. Someday, he will look back and see that God’s love held him up through the most difficult and trying time of his young life.

As I reflect on that last week of my ex-husband’s life, I am overwhelmed by how clearly God was in control. From allowing me the opportunity to be alone in that hospital room to pray and make amends with my him, to pushing me to call and arrive at the hospital just in time for my son to say goodbye without traumatic machines present. In the midst of an unmanageable situation, God was in complete control. A moment which is filled with pain; God redeemed for hope, peace, and mercy. My son now lives without his earthly father, but he has comfort in the knowledge that his daddy is in heaven with God the Father.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

Redemption, Pt. 1

It was mid-November when I received the frantic call from my former step daughter, “Daddy had a heart attack and he’s in ICU,” she said panicked. “You need to come to the hospital right away.”

Her father and I had been divorced for nearly 7 years. But we have a son together and had already walked through the years of divorce and custody related animosity to finally reach a point of mutual respect and co-parenting.

When I arrived at the hospital, I got a clearer picture of his health situation. My ex-husband had been sick for several weeks with some kind of flu virus, running a fever spiking to at least 105 degrees. No one knew exactly what it was because he had been too stubborn to go to the doctor.

A buddy of his had stopped by his home to check on him the evening before and discovered him in bed, unresponsive. The friend began CPR and called 911. The EMT’s were able to resuscitate him and transport him to the hospital where he was admitted to ICU. He was on life support, in a medically-induced coma. The nurses gave me a very grim prognosis. They had no way of knowing how long his brain had been without oxygen before the friend discovered him. So if he pulled through, he could be a vegetable for the remainder of his life. Moreover, they had no idea what his original illness was because they couldn’t ask him what symptoms he’d been experiencing. What they did know was that whatever infection had made him ill had gone systemic. It was attacking his blood and because of years of unhealthy choices and alcoholism, his liver and kidneys were not filtering the infection on their own.

I left our 8 year old son in the waiting room with his extended family so I could assess the situation for myself. I entered the room where the father of my son laid in a coma with tubes going in and out of his body, connected to machines that were breathing for him, feeding him, and medicating him. His mother stood at the foot of his bed in shock, tears streaming down her face. She kept touching his feet, hoping for a miracle as she helplessly watched machines breathe for her son. After a few moments, she said I needed some time alone with him and left me there with my ex-husband.

In those moments, I held his hand and spoke to him as though he was napping and could hear me just fine. I made amends for the years of hurt between us. I apologized for my part in the failure of our marriage. I knew this may be the last time I would get to speak my heart to him.

At that moment I felt an urgency in my heart to pray for him. He had never really believed in God and at times even poked fun at my faith, calling me a “Bible Thumper.” But I knew if ever there was a moment he needed Jesus, it was now. I spoke to him and said, “I know you can hear me and even though you can’t respond with words, I know your spirit can agree…”  Then I prayed the prayer of salvation and told him that if he confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart, he’d be saved. “The Bible says that even the rocks will cry out to praise God. So I know you can, too…”

Then he nodded.

He slowly nodded his comatose head right off the pillow!

I held his hand and wept tears of joy. That was the confirmation I needed to be assured that he had accepted Christ as his Savior. Through my tears, I reminisced with him about our son. I reminded him of the day our baby boy was born; and all the proud moments we shared as parents to our son.

Then I released him. I told him that if his body just couldn’t fight, that we would be okay. I would raise our son in a way that would make him proud. I would keep alive the happy memories for our boy. I assured him that we would see him in heaven one day if he chose to leave.

But if he wanted to stay on this planet, he better fight and fight hard. I let him know that being an invalid just to appease everyone else’s request for him to hang on would be unacceptable.  That’s not what he would’ve wanted either. It would be a complete recovery or none at all.

That may seem like an extreme ultimatum to make to a man in a coma. But I knew my ex-husband. In fact, I recall several conversations he and I had about his wishes should a situation like this arise. But he didn’t have a will. He was young. He thought he had all the time in the world.

I chose not to let my son see his father in this state. If this was his end, I didn’t want our boy’s last memory of his dad to be clouded by tubes, machines and helplessness.

I went home that night and told my son the beautiful story of how his daddy accepted Jesus into his heart. He was glad, but of course still saddened by the situation. He was confused. We all were. Why was this happening? Why his daddy? Why couldn’t he see him at the hospital?

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

I Can’t Do This

The last few weeks, I have been stressed to my gills. I quite literally have been feeling like a rhinoceros is sitting on my chest. The anxiety and pressure have been slowly building until finally, I called one of my dear friends, nearly in tears because I’ve been trying to hold it all together on my own.

I keep thinking that I can come up with a solution to this specific issue I’m having all on my own. I keep telling myself, I can do this. God gave me a brain and certain skills. I can fix this. By myself. And then I inevitably end up panicking, beating my head against the wall and having a mental meltdown. I get overwhelmed and freeze up. The fear and anxiety take over every thought until I’m obssessing over something truly small in the grand scheme of things.

Then, yesterday morning I was helping my 3 year old daughter get dressed for preschool. She was wearing pajamas which are slightly small and really quite due for donation. But she loves them and insists on wearing them anyway. She was struggling to get out of theses pajamas and ultimately tying herself up as though she was in a straight jacket. I offered to help, but she adamantly said she didn’t want help. A few more minutes of fighting and tangling herself up even more went by. Now she was frustrated nearly to the point of tears. Again, I offered to help saying, “You can’t do this by yourself. Let Mommy help you.”

“NO! I do it MYSELF!” she yelled at me. And then continued to struggle and fight the pajamas (which were clearly winning). Finally, she gave up, surrendered to my help and in less than 5 seconds, we had her safely out of the cumbersome pajamas. She had shed tears and sweat for no reason. I was right there and willing to help the whole time. But, dangit if she’s not the most stubborn, independent, and downright infuriating girl EVER!

Later, God whispered to my heart, “That’s what you look like right now.” BURN! All my freaking out, worrying, and attempts to “do it all myself” are as futile as my toddler struggling to take off pj’s that are too tight. I struggle and frustrate myself with worry and worst case scenarios for no reason. There’s an easy solution. But the solution requires me to surrender to God and say, “I can’t do this alone. Will you help me with this?”

The issue I face still exists. I don’t have the “happily ever after” yet. But I do know this: God can take care of it. Knowing that He is in control gives me so much peace. And when the worrying thoughts begin to creep up, I remind myself that I don’t know the answer yet, but God does and He’s working it out on my behalf. Until then, I will trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs :5-6