Day 299

My time at home was like a pause button on my life. I wasn’t making any earth shattering decisions. I knew I wanted to stay married, and no one could talk me out of that. I kept reanalyzing my situation. How did we get to this point? What had made my husband do this to us? Was I to blame? How long would it hurt this bad? I didn’t want to tell a lot of people. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. I had only been married a little over a year and already we were having SERIOUS problems. I wanted to get through this rough patch in our lives without letting people know how broken we were. How broken I was.

But God had different plans. One day while I was home I received a facebook message (of all things) from a wonderful friend. A man I adored, admired, loved. A man who has been like the older brother I never had. Galloway. It was a simple message, just asking how I was doing…and when I went to respond I poured out the whole story. I don’t know why I didn’t just answer with a quick generic report on life, but something at that moment compelled me to be brutally honest. And do you know what he did? He drove to me. From North Carolina to Tennessee. He. Drove. To. Me. Talk about feeling humbled and loved and safe and validated.

At our wedding, my husband and I asked everyone to stand up and pledge to support us in our marriage. When I asked Galloway why he had driven to me, he said it was because of that pledge. He had made a commitment to us to be a part of our union and he didn’t take that commitment lightly. What a blessing. Look what God can do! If you haven’t been in that position, then maybe you can’t understand what it feels like to be in the darkest place of your life. Unloved. Ashamed. Disgusted. Hoping to be invisible, and then God sends you a ray of light and you are reminded, even for a small amount of time, that someone out there loves you. You matter. And maybe that ray of light is what gives you the energy to keep going. To fight just a little bit longer. To hope just a little bit harder.

During my time with Galloway he let me talk about whatever I needed to talk about. He listened. We ate cheese. And sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I cried. And even though things were bad…and they were going to get a lot worse, for that moment in time, things were good. I was happy. And you know what? He didn’t make me feel ashamed. He never made me feel like any of it was my fault. It was the first time that I hadn’t been embarrassed of myself since I found out. Seeing someone else love me helped me to love myself a little bit. There is power in loving yourself. There is beauty in loving yourself. It’s OK to love yourself. God certainly love you!

Looking back, God, once again, gave me just what I needed at the time I needed it. I needed to remember that I was still worth loving. I hadn’t disappeared. I wasn’t invisible. I was a person who was loved by a very dear friend and I mattered. I needed the reminder that I was strong and brave. The reminder that someone out there believed in me. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to go back into battle…and these reminders saved me on so many levels. God knew. And I will forever be grateful for the gift he gave me, the gift of time with a friend. The gift of unexpected love.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Day 277

I have something to tell you and you aren’t going to like it and you may not even agree with me. Love is not enough. You will hear it from movies and books and social media and silly girls who don’t really know what they are talking about…they will say, “But we love each other. As long as you have love, that’s enough.” Love is super. It feels great to be loved. It feels great to show love. But it certainly isn’t enough, on its own, to sustain any kind of relationship. And I’ll tell you something else, all earthly love is conditional. All of it. The only true all-encompassing unconditional love comes from our Heavenly Father.

I get that I am obviously not the love guru. There are all types of love and so many different ways to show love. We each have specific gifts that help us give love to others and we each respond to love in our own way. I have a beautiful friend who, over the past year, has helped me understand better how I give and receive love. Understanding those attributes in myself has helped me heal while still being able to open myself up to love…love in all forms.

We all would like to think that love, in some way, is like what we hear about in fairy tales. That once you find the one whom your heart desires most in the world, nothing can tear you apart. It’s a beautiful thought, but it’s a lie. Love alone can never be enough. Relationships only work when love is combined with so many other actions. Love without respect, compromise, honor, understanding, HARD WORK, sacrifice, commitment, etc. is not sustainable. This goes for the love that drives a marriage just as much as for the love that drives a friendship or a sisterhood.

The second part of this message is that all the love you feel is conditional. This wasn’t something I had thought a lot about until recently, but it’s true. And that’s what makes God’s love so special. Y’all, I know my mother loves my sisters and me like nothing else in this world, but it’s still conditional. It’s human. It’s of this world. God’s love is different. NOTHING can separate us from his love. Nothing we have done, nothing we have felt, nothing we have said. It is given freely and his supply of love will never run out. I thought my love for my husband was unconditional, and I certainly showed him a wonderful love, but now I feel every day that love slipping further and further away from me. I thought his love for me was unconditional, but that love left long ago. Without explanation. Without regret. Without consequence.

“All You Need Is Love” is only a good song. Not a mantra to live by. It’s time we all change how we see love. Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. And, oddly enough, I learned this not through my husband or my marriage. I learned this in the way others have shown me love in the past two years. It was taught to me through my parents opening up their home to me, my best friend making me coffee in the morning, my sisters listening to me vent, my colleagues going over that tap number “one more time” so that I could get it right, and the telephone calls that reminded me to keep moving.

These actions and so many more are the reasons our conditional love is still beautiful, and this beauty is given by the unconditional love of our Father.

1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Day 271

There’s a lot I could write about during my two weeks home. Several things stick out in my mind. The first is how optimistic I was. I truly believed that this was just going to be a horrible season in my life, but that, eventually, my husband and I would reconcile and all would be right with the world. I believed this would be my testimony. How I stood by my man through thick and thin. How through God’s grace and hard work, our marriage was healed. A reminder to never give up on your commitments, to always rely on God, to believe in the power of prayer. This was my attitude on the outside. These were the mantras I was spouting. I had them memorized, and I believed them.

But, on the inside, I was battling some severe depression. The amount of energy it required to do ANYTHING was more than I could handle. I took this time to call a few friends and let them know why I’d fallen off the grid. Everyone was surprised. No one could believe this was actually happening. Truth be told, no one saw this coming, which gave me some relief. At least I wasn’t some complete moron who married a man everyone knew would cheat on her. I slept a lot. I was always tired. My parents made me eat. I would go for long walks. I prayed constantly. I cried. And my husband went on vacation to California.

Now I’m going to get on my soap box, because over the past two years I have heard so many stories about husbands who have treated their wives like crap. Ladies, if your husband cheats on you and treats you like you are less than and devalues you on ANY kind of level (physical, emotional, mental) and then feels it is perfectly acceptable to travel across the country with his “bros” and have a ball…that is completely and totally wrong. I was in such a state of depression and denial that I made excuses for him and continued to call him and check up on his trip, while he was doing God only knows what. You are worth more! I was worth more! Even if you are fighting for your marriage, you have the right to say “No. Stop disrespecting me. I’m your wife.” God wants more for you! Trust me on this one.

When I look back on that first week home, I see myself as a weak and defeated woman. And I was. I was losing weight, had no energy, and more importantly I felt worthless. I was grasping at straws, hoping that my husband would have some kind of revelation during my time away and I would magically return to a changed man. And if there is anything I could tell that defeated and sad woman, it would be this: You are worthy because you are a child of God. His love will sustain you. You are here for a purpose. You are not a mistake. Don’t you dare let this man make you feel like a mistake.

Even today, when I am sad and lonely and depressed (because sometimes I am depressed and that’s ok), I have to remind myself that I am not a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes. I am his and that is more than enough.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”