Why it hurts whenever I hear the words “if my husband ever cheated on me, I would leave him”

[Author’s note: I am incredibly grateful to my husband for encouraging me to write about and share this very personal part of our story. He believes, as do I, that God has called us to use our past to encourage and give hope to others. For his selflessness and bravery, I love him all the more.]

Friends in cafe
Copyright: peus / 123RF Stock Photo

There we are, sitting at a table in a busy restaurant, enjoying a “mom’s night out”. The talk at the table turns to a friend of a friend who is going through a painful divorce. Her husband had an affair and she is, of course, devastated and trying to pick up the pieces of her life. And then it’s said. That one sentence that I know is coming. “My husband knows if he ever cheated on me it would be over!”

Around the table heads nod in agreement and friends chime in with their unanimous support of this statement. And I shift in my chair uncomfortably. I pretend to study the menu a little more closely. I sip my drink until there’s just ice. Anything to avoid eye contact or weighing in on this conversation.

I know my friends have no idea how hard it is for me to hear this statement. How much it hurts. I know because ten years ago I could be found sitting around a table of girlfriends saying the same thing.

But that was before.

Before I knew what it was really like to be faced with that reality.

Growing up I saw the devastating effects of infidelity in my parent’s marriages. As a child I felt the repercussions. I also saw and lived through the life-altering effects of divorce, and at times grasped for a life-ring in the wake of the pain and destruction it left. From my child’s eyes it was so simple. I would never, ever get divorced, I vowed. That is…unless…he cheated on me. I mean, after-all the Bible gives us an out on this. As Christians we can say this in mixed company and no one will judge us. Everyone will agree.

But then.

Then your life, your marriage, doesn’t always go the way you plan. Hell, does anything go the way we plan?

We had been married for 5 years when I found out that my husband had been unfaithful. It was the most devastating experience I could never have fathomed. The air was sucked out of me and I was living a bad dream, just waiting to wake up. While it was a one-time occurrence, I found out that it had been triggered by a spiraling addiction to pornography that my husband had managed to keep hidden from me for the 9 years we’d been together. An addiction he’d struggled with since he was a boy. As with any addiction, it escalated, sending him down a dark rabbit hole and dragging him deeper and deeper until it was completely out-of-control. The shame, guilt, and fear he lived with everyday…well I can only try to imagine.

When the truth came out I was in a state of shock for weeks. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or where to turn. But I knew two things. 1. My life would never be the same, and 2. I didn’t want to pack my bags and leave like I had always thought I would if faced with this news.

I saw before me a broken, hurting man. The man I loved so dearly. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I wanted to scream and yell and hit him, and sometimes I did those things. But mostly I wanted to love him.

Once he confessed it all, he immediately offered to go seek the help he knew he needed. We both went to counseling, separately. Him to face his addiction, and me to deal with this new reality.

I told only two people in my life what had happened.

I prayed. A lot.

I went through days where everything seemed fine and normal, and days when I just cried for hours, barely able to get out of bed. I questioned him over and over again. What else had he done? Who else had he been with? What wasn’t he telling me? All trust was out the window and gone and I was scared. So, so scared that it would never be there again.

I won’t sugar coat it. It was hard. We went through some excruciatingly dark periods. For a while I had the number of a divorce attorney in my Rolodex at work, and many days I thought, ‘today is the day I will call’.

It took the better part of two years of counseling to get through the worst of it. And at least another two years before I really started to believe we were going to make it.

I recall one night lying in bed after an argument with my husband, crying and pleading with God. “How will we ever get through this? Will I ever truly be able to forgive and trust him again?” And I remember so clearly, as if He was in the room with me, God whispered in my ear and said “If I can forgive him and love him, so can you. If I can forgive you of all the wrongs you’ve done, how can you not also forgive him?”

I didn’t wake up the next day and find everything had magically fallen into place. But, after that moment I was able to see my husband as a beloved, hurting child of God who was worthy of forgiveness. And over time I was able to forgive him — really, truly forgive and let go — and eventually trust him again.

It’s been 9 years since I found out about my husband’s affair. I tell you the truth when I say I love and respect this man more today than I did the day I married him. He spent over four years in counseling working through his addiction, his past and all of the hurt and pain it had caused in his life. I am amazed at his fortitude and all he’s overcome.

Our marriage is far from perfect. We argue, and get on each other’s nerves, and sometimes…every once in a while…when we’re not communicating as often as we need to I still feel a little bit of the old worry and doubt creep in. But over the years this happens less and less; maybe one day it won’t happen at all. Or maybe it will always be there on some small scale as a reminder of where we’ve been and just how far we’ve come. I don’t know.

What I do know is that this does not define us. My husband’s addiction and sin does not define him as a man or a husband. Being the wife who was cheated on is not my label. Being the couple who survived infidelity is not who we are. We are so much more than this. We are sinful, broken children of God who are doing our best to live the life He called us to lead. To be the husband and wife He knows we can be. The parents He has blessed us to be.

Please, please know that this is our story only. I share this not as a model for what I think all couples who are facing infidelity must do. I cast absolutely no judgement on anyone who has walked away from a marriage broken and hurting. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

I write this and share it with all of you because I want you to know there is hope. If your marriage has been broken, if you are facing an addiction, living with shame — there is hope. You must want it, and you must work for it and, above all, you must be patient and trust the Lord to heal you and your relationship, but it can be done. Whether the relationship survives or it doesn’t, the Lord will mend your heart if you let Him.

Just promise me…next time you’re sitting with a group of friends talking about marriages and infidelity, try to remember that until you’ve been there and walked that broken road, you don’t really know what you will choose. And, God forbid, if you ever do find yourself in that situation, know that there is no shame and no weakness in choosing to stay.

What is your Goliath?

I wrote earlier this week about how my Sunday morning didn’t get off to a good start. Thankfully, with some Godly intervention, I was in a much better frame of mind once worship service started. A good thing for me because it was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. We’ve been studying 1st and 2nd Samuel this summer at GCC North, and most recently the story of David. This Sunday the focus was on 1 Samuel 17 which chronicles the well-told story of David and Goliath.

David and Goliath is probably one of the best-known stories in the Bible. It’s the original under-dog story, and Hollywood should thank Samuel for providing the plot line for 50% of all movies ever made. But honestly? I’ve never really found it all that applicable to my life. I mean, it’s a great example of putting your trust in the Lord, but I’ve just never been able to relate to the young shepherd boy who defeated the giant warrior with nothing but a slingshot and a prayer. This Sunday, though, my friend and Pastor, Lee Reams, managed to give us a fresh view of David and Goliath as well as some practical application.

Lee set the tone for the sermon by presenting David and Goliath…MLB style! Check out these awesome trading cards he made for our antagonist and hero:

goliath_front goliath_back
david_front david_back

On paper, David might seem an unlikely foe for the colossal warrior. But David never had any doubt he could beat Goliath. His faith was so strong, and his trust in the Lord so steadfast that he almost seemed matter-of-fact about the whole situation when speaking to King Saul. Lee broke it down into five things (a metaphor for the five smooth stones David picks up before going to the front-line) that equipped David to feel this way. They were: Perspective, Experience, Identity, Knowledge, and Child-like Faith.

Perspective – “David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). David’s faith in God allowed him to be able to look at Goliath with a different perspective. He saw him simply as a mortal man defying an all-powerful God.

Experience – “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death” (1 Samuel 17:34-35). David’s experience as a shepherd gave him strength and confidence to battle Goliath.

Identity – “He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:40). David rejected the armor Saul offered him. He knew he was a shepherd, not a soldier, and relied on the tools of his trade.

Knowledge – “And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:47). David knew that God was in charge of the situation and would protect him.

Child-like Faith – “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him” (1 Samuel 17:48). David didn’t hesitate, or weigh the pro’s and con’s of fighting Goliath, or try to plan out a detailed strategy. He just ran straight to the battle-line with complete faith that God was in control.

While all of the above are valuable tools that God has equipped us with, the one that stands out the most for me is perspective. How often in my life have I experienced challenges, struggles, hurt, or conflict that could have been avoided if I had simply altered my perspective of the situation?

Then Lee asked us to think about what “Goliath(s)” we were facing in our lives. What are those things that we feel are too big, too unbeatable? It could be an illness, a broken relationship, an addiction — anything really. I wrote down four: stress, lack of patience, the future, and my health. What startled me about my list is that it’s all me. My adversaries are all internal and they are things that (with God’s help) I can change or overcome. Do you know what that means? I am my own Goliath! And for at least the first three of my items, a little perspective could have a HUGE impact. So to help me maintain that perspective, I decided to create my own trading cards and keep them in my Bible as a little reminder. Here they are:

Jelise's trading card
Scary Jelise trading card

Stressed and impatient Jelise is not a pretty sight, huh? She’s my Goliath…looming large and scary, seemingly undefeatable. But the reality is that God has equipped me with all of the tools I need to beat her.

What is your Goliath? How can a little perspective, knowledge, experience, identity, or child-like faith help you to defeat your biggest, scariest struggles?

 

[A very big thanks to Lee Reams for allowing me to steal his sermon and use his trading card images for my blog!]

Be still and let go of these things

This past Sunday my morning started like many Sunday mornings do for me. The alarm went off and I hit snooze because I was exhausted from the previous day’s activities. After sleeping a good 30 minutes later than I should have, I finally woke up and went to check on the kids. They were leaving right after church to spend a few days with my mom, so they had been given explicit instructions the night before that upon waking they were to start packing for their trip and once that was completed to start cleaning their rooms. Of course, none of this had happened. I was bombarded by whines and complaints the moment I opened my bedroom door. My eldest was completely outraged that her brother had just woken her up by bursting in her room and yelling “time to get up and pack!” My son  was running around in circles yelling “I have no clean clothes!” And my youngest daughter who, to her credit, had at least attempted to pack, showed me her packed bag which consisted of 5 shirts, one pair of leggings and a dirty pair of shorts. We had 50 minutes until we had to leave for church.

snooze button
Image source: Shenandoah Country Q102

In fairness to my kids, they had all gotten to bed late the night before because we’d been helping the school they attend pack and move equipment and only finished about 9:30 p.m. with the last load. And because I had spent my entire Saturday helping to move the school and running my kids to a birthday party, I had neglected to do any laundry. But at this point, all I could think was how I needed to be at church early today because it was my job to set-up for communion and if everyone didn’t hurry up and get their act in gear I would never get three kids dressed, fed, packed, and teeth brushed, let alone shower and dress myself in 50, no wait only 45 minutes now! I should mention at this point that my husband had already left for church because he’s in the praise band and has to be there 2-hours before service, so I was on my own with this one. The next hour was a blur of over-cooked frozen waffles, yelling “did you brush your teeth” 500 times, putting hair into ponytails, time-0uts, and pulling clothes out of the hamper that looked “clean enough” to be sent with them to Nana’s house (every mom out there knows, if it passes the sniff test and has no visible stains, it’s perfectly acceptable to dress your kids in dirty clothes).

We loaded into the car 10 minutes later than I wanted to and I felt every bit of tension and frustration that had built up that morning. I started to list in my head all the reasons I was stretched too thin and something had to give. I started to resent the school and my church for the time they were taking (for things I volunteered to do, mind you) and for turning me into crazy, grumpy mom. By the time we pulled into the parking lot I had reached the point where one side-ways glance from someone would have sent me into a full-blown emotional meltdown. Thank God I go to church with the most amazing people and when I walked in I was greeted only with smiles and hellos. No one commented on my being late, and in fact, as if they could sense my stress, two other friends said they’d been having a difficult morning.

Lake Holiday
The lake in our community where we live and worship.

Those of us on the worship team typically gather to go through the service plan and pray about 30 minutes before service starts. Usually we meet in a small boardroom, but this day our Pastor had us follow him outside. I live in a community that has a 240 acre lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we are blessed to be able to hold church service in the community club house which is situated right on the lake. So we walked down to the fishing pier and our Pastor told us he had called us outside so we could take a few moments to just be at peace and let go of whatever we were carrying that morning and have a moment with God. I stared into the clear ripples of the lake and felt the frustration of the morning come flooding back. My eyes welled-up as I was hit with guilty feelings. Guilt for having yelled at my kids, guilt for hitting the snooze button when I knew better, and guilt for feeling resentful of my commitments to serve the school and church when I knew I had asked to do those things. As the hot tears slid down my cheeks I heard God gently say to me “be still.” Two little words, but they washed over me completely. Then I heard it again “be still, my child. Let go of these things and just be in My presence.” I felt such an immediate rush of relief and release at that moment, and I almost laughed out loud because it was such a simple statement, but just the exact thing I needed to hear.

I realized how bringing all of my negative “stuff” in the door was a distraction and could have kept me from fully receiving the day’s message and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I wondered, how many Sunday mornings have I entered the doors like this? (too many) And how often was the enemy using these every-day stresses to get in the way and prevent me from just being still and being with God? (more than I realize, I’m sure)

That night I happened to see a blog post from Christian author Jon Acuff that humorously addressed the fact that right before church was the moment of the week he and his wife were most likely to get into a fight. As I read his blog post and then read through the comments I realized that I’m in good company and Sunday morning conflict and stress is a pretty common occurrence. Well, duh! Of course the enemy is going to try and get in our way and do whatever he can to muddle our hearts, cloud our perspective, and maybe even prevent us from going to worship.

Ephesians 6:12 says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” But, as my Pastor reminded us during the sermon that day, God has already given us all the tools we need to fight and defeat the enemy; and I believe forewarned is forearmed. There are things we can do to impede spiritual warfare, or at least lessen the impact. For me, I know my number one issue is time. By cutting my time too short I’m giving the enemy more ammunition to use against me. I realize I must start getting up earlier on Sundays so I can ease into the day and allow time for all of the things that might go wrong. Then, maybe, just maybe I can walk through those doors and leave it all behind. I can come in and “be still” and be truly present.

What about you? Do you find yourself consistently stressed, frustrated, angry or in conflict on Sunday mornings? What is one area you can change and give the enemy less ammunition? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

My daughters and the dreaded bikini talk

I have two daughters, aged 11 and 8. Still young, tender-hearted little girls who play with My Little Ponies and love going to the playground. Yet, in this world where children — especially young girls — are growing up faster and faster, my husband and I have found ourselves dealing with issues we didn’t expect to address so soon. One of these that has reared its ugly head in the last few weeks is the bikini issue.

Last month we went bathing suit shopping.

At Costco.

Yep, that’s right, because I’m cool-like-that. And because I have found that now that my girls are wearing size 10 clothes, finding age appropriate bathing suits is very difficult. For the last several years I ordered them online, but had to exchange sizes almost every time which is a royal pain. So this year we had the joy of buying a case of granola bars, a lifetime supply of sugar-free gum, a tent, and bathing suits all in the same trip. Don’t you love Costco?

But as we approached the bathing suit table, which had at least 10 one-piece styles and only two bikini-styles, my girls quickly honed in on the bikinis and asked if they could get them. I said no.

“Why?”

“Because you’re too young and it’s not appropriate.”

“But little babies wear bikinis, why can’t we?”

“You’re not a baby and you’re not an adult. When you turn 18 you can make your own decisions about what you wear.” Said in my best “because I’m-the-mommy-and-I-say-so” tone of voice.

OK, so maybe that was the lazy answer or coward’s way out. But truthfully, I didn’t feel like the middle of Costco was the right place or time to have a discussion about modesty and sexuality and all the real reasons I’m not a fan of bikinis for young girls. They finally let it go and chose some cute, practical one-piece suits. I thought the discussion was over. Wrong!

beach fun
Fun at the beach building sand castles and just being kids.

Three weeks ago we headed to the beach for our annual family vacation. Each day we went to the beach my kids sought out other kids their age to play with and almost without exception the little girls they found to play with were wearing bikinis. These new friends ranged in age from 6 to 12. As soon as we got in the car on the first day I was hit with the question: “why can’t I wear a bikini? Everyone else is!” Ah, my very favorite rationale to argue as a parent. If you ask my kids they will tell you they are the ONLY ones who have to adhere to the school dress-code policy, don’t have TVs in their rooms, don’t have their own phones, etc., etc. Such depravity! I’ll include the link to donate to their future psychiatric fund at the end of this post.

So this time I decided I would try and nip this in the bud and address the question head-on. I had recently read a number of articles and blog posts by young women (teens and 20-somethings) who explained why they choose modesty when it comes to clothes and swimwear. I had been hoping to find one I could share with my girls, but they all went to some topics that I felt were a little too grown-up. So I knew I was going to have to suck it up and tackle this one on my own. Deep breath.

“Here’s the thing girls…when a girl dresses in a bikini they are no more covered than they would be in their bra and underpants, right? So when boys, and later men, look at girls dressed like this they are seeing a lot more of her body than they normally would..and um…(palms now sweating)…well…when that happens they are focused more on…um…the girls body than her personality or how smart she is and…(oh I’m losing them, I can feel it)…and well, you don’t want boys to only look at you for your body, do you?”

“But I don’t get it! Little babies wear bikinis!” (oh geez, this argument again?!)

“Yes, that’s true, but you’re not little babies. You’re young ladies; and while you might not care if boys notice you (and let’s face it this was really more for my 8-year-old than my 11-year-old who is already way more interested in boys and very close to getting herself home-schooled if she doesn’t cut-back on her talk of boys), if you dress in a bikini people will notice and they will look at your body, and…and…the Bible teaches us that we should dress modestly!” There, phew! I said it! They can’t argue with the Bible, right? Wrong.

“But why does the Bible say that?” Oh gosh. How do I break this down for an 8- and 11-year-old? And why is my husband just sitting there quietly not saying anything!! Maybe if I glare at him hard enough he will jump in here. Nope, not working. He’s looking straight ahead, pretending he’s all focused on driving the car. Who does he think he’s kidding?!

I can’t tell you exactly what came out of my mouth next, but it was a very painful, PG-rated explanation of guys lusting after girls, and how it might make their girlfriends or wives feel, blah, blah, blah. And it ended with my eight-year-old son saying “yeah, I don’t want to see girls in their underwear!” God bless that boy.

The girls finally stopped asking. That day. But I’m pretty sure it’s because they didn’t want to hear their mom’s uncomfortable explanations any longer, not because they really got it. And I was left wondering, once again, where the heck that damn parenting manual was.

The thing is, I believed every word I told the girls. I was trying to give them honest, real answers, in a way that would make sense to their young minds. I do feel like learning modesty at a young age is important. Both because it’s what the Lord wants for us and because I don’t think a girl’s identity should be tied to what her body looks like. And as much as I want to protect my impressionable young daughters from things like body-image issues, and worrying about what other people think of the way they dress, my 11-year-old has been known to come out of her room, hand-on-hip, saying “Do I look cool in this?”, and my 8-year-old has said the dreaded words “I look fat!” (which has now been deemed as a “bad word” in our house).

So obviously, despite my best efforts, they are already thinking about what they look like and how they are perceived by their peers. To them wearing a bikini is a way to be like “the other girls” and be noticed. And even though my girls are being raised to know the Lord and follow His ways, the importance of modesty is a difficult topic for them to grasp. And me…well, I don’t have the magical answer on how to explain it to them. If you were reading this post hoping it would be one of those “and then I said this and everyone nodded their heads and smiled and we all went out for ice-cream. The End.” kind of posts, sorry to disappoint. But my truth is I’m making this parenting thing up as I go along. I’m pretty sure my sad attempt to explain the no-bikini rule in our house did not fully satisfy my daughters and this will definitely not be the last time I hear the question “but why can’t I wear a bikini?” I can only hope that with time, prayer, and practice I will get a little bit better at explaining the answer, my palms will sweat a little bit less, I’ll stop shooting daggers with my eyes at my husband while he sits there silently, and maybe, one day, they will get it. And by “it” I don’t just mean that “this is the rule, get over it.” I mean that they will understand that modesty represents beauty and confidence. That being noticed for your laugh and kindness is more important than being noticed for your tanned belly. And they will make the choice to dress modestly and appropriately for their age, and be happy with that decision.

 

I survived the canoe disaster of 2014

Let me set the stage for you. It’s a sunny, beautiful June day in Chincoteague Island, VA. My family and I are here on our annual pilgrimage for a relaxing vacation in our favorite  beach town in the world. We’ve hauled our kayak and canoe the 5.5 hours from our home in the Shenandoah Valley in anticipation of some fun paddling adventures and decided today is the day. We’re not amateurs, mind you. My husband is an avid kayak fisherman who has spent many days on lakes, rivers and saltwater bays in his kayak. I grew up canoeing at summer camp, spent a week canoeing down the Shenandoah River when I was 13 and in college took canoe as one of my P.E. courses (seriously, Appalachian State rocks). Of course, it was during the final trip in that college course where my partner and I ended up flipping on a damn dam-controlled river, right as the waters were released, and our canoe got wedged under the rising water and we had to finish the trip sitting in the middle of classmates’ canoes. Five days later our instructor and some other people from the University went back to the river to rescue our canoe, which still had my trusty Jansport backpack tied to it. But I digress.

The point is my husband and I aren’t novices when it comes to paddling on water and we’ve taken our kids out on the lake where we live a number of times, so a day of paddling the waters of Oyster Bay seemed like a good idea. The afternoon started well enough. The house we rented is right on a little channel, so we boarded our vessels from the back yard and started our adventure. I was in the three-seater canoe with my two girls and my husband and son were in a tandem kayak. We exited the little channel that empties into Oyster Bay and, except for some very shallow areas where we skimmed bottom, we had no issues. We headed for an area across the bay called Morris Island in hopes of finding a sandy spot on the shore to dock and hunt for seashells.

Canoeing in Oyster Bay
The girls and I, before things took a turn for the worse.

As we got further out into the bay and closer to the island the wind started to pick up and so did the current. Pretty soon I was noticing the ripples in the water were looking more like small waves and the canoe was rocking pretty hard. This is is where the story starts to take a turn for the worse. As I tried to steer our canoe north (the wind was blowing south-east) I was met with serious resistance. The wind was turning us sideways, which meant the waves were hitting the side of the canoe and rocking us pretty badly. I started to get very nervous at this point and decided it was best we start heading back. But for each stroke of my paddle it felt like we were getting pushed further back in the opposite direction.

I’d like to tell you that this is the moment where I rose above it all. I stayed calm for the sake of my girls, said a silent prayer, put all my trust in God and a gentle breeze blew us across the little bay to the safety of the canal. Yep, I’d like to tell you that, but it’s not how things went down. Instead, I started to yell at my girls to paddle harder. I looked up at my husband floating in the kayak beside us; he seemed apathetic to the whole situation which totally frustrated me and so I said through gritted teeth “I don’t like this.” To which he responded “what do you want to do?” What did I want to do? I wanted to get the hell out of there, that’s what I wanted! And then a familiar thing happened, my fear turned to anger. And I directed all that anger at this man because he didn’t have the answer. I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe he would magically produce a trolling motor? I knew it was not rational, but somehow this was all his fault, I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe it was because when I suggested the current looked a little fast before we embarked he said he thought it looked fine. Maybe it was his fault because he had been kayaking in these waters before and should have known what would happen. Or maybe it was just because he was in a kayak that in that moment looked like an aerodynamic engineering marvel while I felt like I was trying to navigate in a cement block. Then I noticed he had his little Go-Pro camera on his head and I yelled at him in my you-better-not-have-the-wrong-answer voice “are you recording this?” The poor man. He said nothing, but he did press the button to stop recording.

At this point my arms were burning and I started to panic a bit. I was having visions of the Coast Guard having to come rescue us. And my voice started to crack as I yelled at my girls to keep paddling. Then my eight year old started to cry and I felt like the absolute worst mom ever. How could I let them see my fear and worry? How could I bring them out into this bay without having explored it first myself? How could I yell at these little girls to paddle harder? The wave of humility and conviction hit me so hard I could barley breath past the lump in my throat. At that point I managed to steer us to the side of a marsh area that would keep us from being pushed any further back by the current so we could rest our weary arms. I told the girls it was all going to be OK, we just needed to rest and wait for the wind to die down a bit. After about 10 minutes I said “OK girls, we can do this!” and we started again. We got a little bit further, but the wind was pushing so hard that I had to constantly steer to keep us pointed in the right direction. This meant I was doing little paddling and my poor girls just didn’t have the strength in their strokes to make much progress against the current. So my husband yelled out he was going back to the house to get a rope so he could tow us home, and he and my son took off through the channel in their kayak cutting through the water like a hot knife through butter.

Somehow my girls and I managed to paddle our Yugo-of-a-water-vessel a little further and hit a shallow area covered in oyster shells and bottomed out in another effort to give us a rest. I started to consider getting out of the canoe and pulling it back to the canal. It was low tide and the shallow waters were knee-deep at best through a good bit of the bay. But we continued on, getting stuck a little further ahead on a sand bar. Then we saw my husband and son paddling toward us like the cavalry coming to our rescue. Eventually my 11 year old, who had been dying to get out of the canoe to play in the water and shells, and my husband, pushed the canoe off the sand bar and we were able to paddle the last little bit of bay into the safety of the canal.

Needless to say, it was not my finest moment. Not as a mother, wife, or believer. I let fear take over and that turned to frustration, anger, humility, and shame. Although I channeled it at my poor husband, the person I was most angry with was myself. Angry because I felt I couldn’t get us out of this situation, frustrated that I couldn’t be that mom you read about in news articles who stays calm in the midst of a crisis for the sake of her children. And humility and shame that not once during the entire situation did I try to let go of control and give it over to God. Why do I still forget to do that? How can I have been a believer for 25 years and still not get that one essential thing right?

Pslam 91 14-15 says “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” And Proverbs 3:5, 7 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…Do not be wise in your own eyes.” This is a pretty common theme throughout the Bible, and these are just two of the verses that remind us to put our faith and trust in God and not in ourselves. I know this, of course, but I still struggle with it. In so many areas of my life I try to keep it all together. Be the super-mom, perfect wife, shining-star employee, most thoughtful friend, etc., etc. But usually I’m doing those things to glorify myself and not God and as a result I almost always fall short. Today was a humbling reminder that I’m neither a super-star canoe paddler, or a model of grace-under-pressure. It was also a reminder that I can’t fix every situation. Some things (ok most things) are just out of my control and no matter how hard I paddle, if I am relying on myself, the wind and the current are going to push me back and I’ll just end up tired and frustrated.

As I finish writing this, my eight-year-old, whom I’m pretty sure I will not be able to convince to get into a canoe ever again, comes over and says “thanks for encouraging us today, mommy.” Me, with a baffled look on my face: “How did I encourage you today?” “You kept telling us we were doing a good job and to keep going.”

Next time I’m going to silent my fear and ego and listen for the Father so I can hear Him telling me I’m doing a good job, and to keep on going.

Romans 8:38-39