Thank you for asking my to share my story. I’m sorry that it may not be the fairytale for which you were hoping. I may have been naive about a lot of things when I started dating my husband, but one thing that I was well aware of was pornography. I was personally exposed to it at a very young age by a neighbor girl and have since learned just how addictive and harmful it can be. That’s why, just weeks into a brand new relationship, I asked my then boyfriend about his experience with porn.
When was he exposed?
What did he see?
Did he still look at it?
He assured me that those other women would have no place in our relationship and that his struggle with porn was a thing of the past. Still, I continued to check in. I would ask him a few times a year if he was struggling? Were his needs were being met? Was he ever in tempting situations?
He assured me, time and again, that all was well.
Fast forward, 5 years into our marriage. Things were crumbling. Everything looked great on the outside but in my heart of hearts, I knew something was wrong. Sex was dull. We bickered. I felt unloved. Still, I never suspected pornography because in our 7 years together, my husband never once admitted to looking at it. And after all, I had asked all the right questions.
Knowing something was off, I began to pray that God would shake my husband out of whatever he was going through. I prayed that he would feel unrest until the core of our problems came to light. A week into that prayer, my husband revealed the truth to me. He had been looking at porn on and off our whole relationship. Always thinking he’d get a handle on it on his own. Sometime he would go months without it. But handling an addiction in the dark on your own is never successful.
I was crushed. It wasn’t just the porn, but the lying. I felt betrayed. Deceived. And to top it off, I felt like the worst wife ever.
What did I do wrong?
How didn’t I see this?
Why didn’t he come to me sooner?
We went to a church counselor who suggested that maybe I wear something sexier to bed. I had never felt so low, so ugly, so inadequate in my life. In my mind, my husband’s addiction was now my fault. If only I had been more… (fill in the blank).
Clinging to Jesus, we slowly began to rebuild trust and my self-esteem. I had to look to Christ for my identity. I was reminded over and over that my husband’s pornography addiction was not my fault. I had to know who I was in Christ before I could forgive my husband and myself so that we could move forward.
Finding my identity in Christ was not easy. I had to stop believing the lie that my husband’s choices were my fault. I filled my mind with scripture and tried to shove out the lies.
“We love because He first loved us.”
“Be kind and compassionate, forgiving as Christ forgave you.”
“God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love.”
“God showed His love for us while we were still sinners.”
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
“Be humble and gentle, making allowance for each other’s faults because of love”
Once the blame lifted off my shoulders, I was able to see clearly. If I wanted my marriage to survive this, I had to forgive and move on. I would never feel the love or peace I was meant to have if my heart held onto that hurt and bitterness. Of course the hurt lingered, and the consequences of sin showed it’s ugly face in areas I never knew porn affected. But it was (and still is) a constant reminder to go to the feet of Jesus daily and ask for grace.
Here’s the deal, the moment I lose sight of who I am in Christ, things fall apart. It’s a slippery slope when you try to compare yourself to those photos and when you dwell on the “if onlys.”
If only I had been more sexy…
If only I had asked him about porn more often…
If only I had not been so naive…
That’s not where I want my mind, it’s not where my husband wants my mind and it’s not where Christ wants my mind.
I wish I could wrap our story up with a pretty little ribbon and tell you that if you follow these three easy steps everything will be shiny and new again. But the truth is, years later, we still deal with the consequences. Our marriage is great, but it’s not perfect. We are moving on, pressing forward, reaching for sanctification in Christ. And it’s beautiful, messy, wonderful and hard all at the same time.
All I know is that without Jesus, my marriage would not have survived. Without him, I wouldn’t know who I am. If you’re in the midst of something similar, cling to Jesus for dear life because He’s the only way you’ll come out whole on the other side.
Dear Future Son, At some point some in your life you will have the opportunity to click on something that will feel very exciting and very wrong all at the same time. A friend might show you. It might come across a web search. Or you might even go seeking it out. And in that moment you are being exposed to something that your little brain is completely unprepared for. And if given the chance, it will do everything in its power to destroy you. Disconnect you. Debilitate you. And the desire for it will grow the more you click. I know you don’t understand how something so enticing can be so damaging. But it is. And it will. Do damage. The greatest news is God’s love is bigger. And can conquer anything. My hope is just that He won’t need to conquer this area for you. That you will be like David who wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Love, Love, Love
Your Future Mother
When I was married, there was another woman sharing my husband. I wasn’t certain but I sensed her presence.
When we fought,
when he was distant,
when he wasn’t interested in me.
And I asked a few times if perhaps there might be someone else. He insisted there was not so I was faced with a choice, believe him or prove him a liar. I chose to believe him. Because I was in love with him. Because, after all, this was the man to whom I had committed my life. And to be honest, I was unprepared to consider that I might have married someone who loved me, but not enough.
Not enough to give up his woman on the side. After it was over, I asked about her one last time. And he told me the truth. He had met her when he was young, introduced by a friend. He had tried hard to stay away and at times been successful. “When I met you”, he wrote, “I stopped seeing her completely because that is what I thought you would want me to do”. And he was right. But when the pressure of marriage was more than he could bear, he went back to her.
Their relationship had more history,
And as a brand new wife, with desires, hopes and needs, I just couldn’t compete with her. Who can, really? She doesn’t nag him to take out the trash or question why he bought new tires. She doesn’t get moody or wistful or lonely. She never demands he put down his phone and talk . Or burst into tears because of a misunderstanding. She just lays there in her photograph. Ready to offer release.
And I could not compete. I wasn’t enough for him and I was too much all at the same time. And so she won. She got her man.
The crazy thing is I knew about porn when I got married. I had plenty of guy friends who talked openly about their struggles with purity. Victoria’s Secret catalogs and all that. But when it came to marriage, we just glossed over the topic and said our vows. I don’t remember even thinking about having the conversation.
Now, it’s not an easy conversation to have. The porn talk. It takes courage, vulnerability and utter transparency. But so does marriage. I have had friends, who know my story, come to me after the porn talk to debrief. And my advice is gnarly. I know. I can’t actually imagine having this kind of talk either (and might not ever have the chance after posting this blog) but here is what I tell them.
If I could go back in time, this is the conversation I would like to have been brave enough to have.
When was the last time you looked at porn?
What was your longest binge? (Season of looking at it regularly)
How long have you been sober? (Not looked at porn)
How young were you when you started?
What kind of stuff are we talking about? How deep did it go?
Scary questions. I know. And they go both ways. But I think if you are going to marry someone in this day and age-it needs to be discussed. A history of porn wouldn’t automatically rule someone out, it would just need to be talked about. Honestly. Openly. Fearlessly.
I don’t have the answers to all of this. I have the scars it leaves behind. And if my story can prevent another precious girl from competing with someone they have no chance against, I’m willing to be uncomfortable and go first. I have had friends whose marriages have withstood addictions. And I would love to be able to tell you that so did mine. That through prayer and patience God did a miracle. But that isn’t my story. Oh that it were. And to be honest, I have a few people that I wish would tell you why it worked for them. And maybe they will someday.
But until then, here is what I would say.
If you have met someone wonderful, be brave enough to talk about your secrets. All of them. Before the ring is on the finger and the escape hatch has closed. It will be scary and messy and uncertain. But it is so worth it. Because our God is a God of miracles, grace, redemption and restoration. And it starts with talking about what is in darkness so that it can be healed in the light.
If you are a mama or a daddy, get armed with how to talk about this stuff with your kids. Because there is a war going on for kid’s hearts, innocence and purity. And the enemy is ruthless. Please don’t put your head in that sand on this one. It must be terrifying. And awkward. But I don’t think it can be hoped or wished away. This is not my area to speak into but I do know that there are lot’s of AMAZING blogs and articles that talk about this. Find them. According to uKnowKids, “ it’s reported that at least 90 percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 16 have watched pornography online at least once. Not only have most tweens and teens seen porn, but boys ages 12 to 17 are actually the largest consumers of online pornography.”
And if you are in a marriage where you think you are competing with an unknown woman, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. I ignored it. And that did not work. I didn’t really know what was going on until after it was all over. We had bigger fish to fry. I just had my suspicions. So my guess would be talk to someone. Choose wisely. Someone trustworthy. Who isn’t afraid to be open and honest. Who will pray with you. Guide you. Speak Biblical wisdom to you. And if by chance you have isolated yourself and don’t have anyone like that in your life, go see a counselor. And don’t try to take him with you. I kept waiting for us to heal together. I really needed God to heal me first. And He did. Just not quite how I imagined. But that’s a story for another day.
One of the things I love about being single is getting to travel. Light. With no schlepping of strollers and car seats and suitcases that I am responsible to pack that don’t belong to me. Children. Toys. You get the gist. I look forward to traveling with my sweetheart and family someday but there is something to be said about traveling solo. It’s a bit easier.
Now that I have summer’s off (Teaching Rocks!) my plan is travel as much as possible. I’ve had moments of wanting to delay adventure because I’d rather see the world with that special someone. But time is ticking and there is no guarantee that a) he has put his life on hold for me or b) we’d always want to see the same places in the same way. I am an art history buff and love saturating my brain in museums. That may not be my Mr. Right’s idea of a good time. So. Bring on the adventure. Single style.
My trip this summer involves my friend Heidi. We both just graduated from college, again. She got her MBA and I got my teaching certificate. So we decided to take a celebratory trip. Heidi, being gracious, allowed me to pick the destination. ROME! Why, Rome? I visited for 3 days after college and that was just not enough for me. I want to be sick of the city by the time we leave.
Heidi was my first friend on Maui when I moved 13 years ago. She had just finished up an internship at the church and was looking for a roommate. Enter me. We lived together for a year and bonded over our love for God, love of Truth and love of the South. The rest is history. She is hands down one of the funniest people I know. Pee your pants, did she just say that, funny. She is also one person I want to be in the room with me while I’m giving birth. Her ability to distract and diffuse with humor will make her an amazing doula. Her squeamishness and slight horror at the birthing process, not so much.
Anyway, we will be there for 9 days and would love any tips, advice or suggestions that would make our trip to Rome unforgettable. We already have our hotel locked in but please feel free to overwhelm us with information. Places to eat. What to wear. Things to see. Little Nooks and Crannies that can’t be missed.
Love, Love, Love,
The Girl Who Lives in My Head.
P.S. I have a house sitter while I’m gone. That’s one of my favorite things about traveling is being able to offer my place to visitors while I am away.
P.P.S. I am going to Prague to see Marek and Cori too. So if you have any advice, I'm open.
I used to work at a charming little bookshop called “by the Book”. It was right after I quit full-time ministry and before I became a teacher. I loved it. I have always been a reader. As a child I spent my money on two things. Candy and books. Books were and still are some of my best friends.
As much as I loved working at the bookstore, there was one season I loathed. Returns. Every quarter, a bookstore is allowed to pull all the books that have not sold within a certain time frame and send them back. Small bookstores need this in order to keep their shelves fresh and doors open. It really is a nice perk.
If you are the employee, however, this requires lots of boxing and schlepping and details. Three things that I don’t especially enjoy. It was like a really long tedious scavenger hunt. Searching for books that had been miscategorized or improperly shelved. My boss would hand me a 40 page list with the doomed titles circled in red and the hunt was on.
Later when I managed my own shop, I was amazed that certain employees thrived on returns. The challenge. The sense of accomplishment as they surveyed the stacks and stack of books that had been found. The list conquered.
I was not this employee. It was an exhausting chore. Sadly, I would gather all the books that would never go home with a loving fan. No one would dog ear their pages, scribble in the margins or hand them off to a friend because, “You just have to read this.” No. These books were the unchosen. Unloved. Soon to be forgotten.
And inevitably, I would get distracted by one of the titles or the cover. It would pique my interest and I would sit down cross-legged and begin to read. 20 minutes would pass and I would think to myself, Maybe if we put this in Women, it would sell or If people could just see the cover then someone would buy it. So I would rescue the ill-fated book, take it to the Women’s Section and give it reprieve for a few more months. Needless to say, follows directions is not one of my strengths.
It was on one of these days that I found a beautiful book that gave voice to an idea that had been brewing in my heart since my return to Maui. I can still remember the feeling of discovery as I sat on the carpet, my forehead pressed into my fists with the book open on my lap. It was called “Permission to Speak Freely”, by Anne Jackson. What blew me away was what the author called the “gift of going second”. She explains that when we are brave and share our story with someone-not just the pretty parts that can be pinned on Pinterest for the world to emulate. But when we confess the hard stuff, the dark stuff, the nitty-gritty honest struggles of the day-to-day, we give people the opportunity to open up as well. Or as the author calls it, the gift of going second.
Something in my soul started tingling. I call it the Holy Spirit hot flashes. When God puts his finger on my heart and whispers “Pay attention.” Sitting there in that bookstore years ago, I had no idea that He would be calling me to a lifetime of going first.
Sharing what the Lord is doing/has done in my life is easy for me (now). I am so amazed by his love, blown away by his grace and overwhelmed by his affection that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut. He rescued me so dramatically and thoroughly from a life of despair that it is impossible not to tell my story. It just flows freely from my lips, making it’s way into everyday conversations.
It has not always been this way. I had an incident in junior high that taught me to never be myself. To keep the real me untouchable so that no one could ever wound my soul like that again. So I learned how to blend. Vowing that I would never let someone know all of me. When I was dating and engaged, I began to let my walls down. But soon after we were married, I faced the greatest rejection I could imagine. When the person who says I do, changes their mind. But it would be years before I left. So I did what I had always done. Put on a brave face and blended into the background. Dying a slow death. Longing to be known.
It was when I moved back to Maui six years ago that I knew something in my life had to change. What I was doing was not working. In recovery they say, “We are only as sick as our secrets,” so I decided I would choose one person to reveal all of me to. My thinking was, I got myself in a mess by trying to do it on my own. I do not want to ever do that again. So this time around, whatever was going on in my life, one person would know it all.
Enter the Blond Bombshell. Gorgeous. Inside and out. I had known her before I got married. She actually threw my bridal shower. Coming out of a broken marriage, my biggest fear (besides ever being rejected like that again) was becoming bitter, hollow and angry. To me, the Blond Bombshell was everything I wanted to become. Kind. Warm. Inviting. Loving. Fun. Gracious. Charming. Generous. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Besides all that, she is a wonderful wife and incredible mom to two grown kids. But the main reason I chose her to help me navigate my way out of the darkness was because her life has not been easy. She was born with spinal bifida and has had to learn to walk four times in her life. Three times while raising children. And there is not a seed of bitterness, anger or pity in her. She has made peace with all of it before the Cross. That is why I choose her to be my secret keeper.
And I’ve told her some doozies. And she has walked me through some heart wrenching seasons. But she was also there when my heart, which had been frozen in fear, started beating again. And she was there when my dreams began to blossom. And she has been there, cheering me on, when I began to fly.
I write all of this because in my dream scenario, this blog would help others find freedom. That by going first on some hard issues, others might have the gift of going second. A lot of what I write might feel raw but the reality is I have been working on these issues for a while now. With the Blond Bombshell and the other amazing women God has brought into my life. My hope is that by being honest, vulnerable and transparent, we can get some conversations going and in the words of Goodwill Hunting, let the healing begin.
“Sometime later I was at a concert with a youth group I was working with. I noticed a girl sitting by herself and really felt God pressing on me to talk to her about porn. What an awkward conversation to start! But I did and after I was done sharing she broke down in tears. It turns out she had been trapped in porn since she was 10 years old. She never felt like she could tell anyone, and she thought she was the only one, so when I told her about my story, she realized she wasn’t alone. She was able to start confessing and start healing. Fast forward to today. This girl got counseling and eventually got licensed in counseling herself. Now she has a ministry to help women who are trapped in sexual addictions. I gave her the gift of going second and now she’s giving that same gift to thousands of girls.”
And then, they all started popping out the babies. And that was pretty sweet.
But then apparently, babies change things. My social life as I knew it changed.
So I stretched my wings and met some new people.
And that’s when I met these crazy girls.
And they changed my life for the better.
We went on long drives in Blanche.
And got our craft on.
And became dear friends. Who walked through all kinds of seasons together.
It was wonderful.
They hung around another year.
And our friendship went even deeper.
We talked about God. Our hopes and dreams for the future.
We went on crazy adventures. Talked about life, love and boys.
And then Alyssa moved away.
And fell in love with this guy.
So of course, we went to the wedding.
And had a ball. Catching up, laughing and dancing the night away.
And now she and her sweetheart just moved back to Maui!! And brought a little extra something to the party.
(Sorry Kins, I know it’s not the most flattering shot)
Risa stayed on Maui a little longer. And our friendship went even deeper. We had a blast. Late night laundry chats. Laying in my bed eating ice cream. Talking about everything under the sun.
(I also got to know this amazing lady)
And then in a fairytale, Risa met a boy at Young Life camp. And they fell in love. He popped the question. The stars magically aligned and Alyssa and I got the privilege to help her pick out her dress.
(Ring the Bell, Baby)
So of course, we went to the wedding.
Here’s the handsome man who swept her off her feet.
And now, they have a little bun in the oven.
And I can’t wait to meet him!!!
This is just a snapshot of a few of the amazing women that God has brought into my life. And I adore them all.
Sometimes when we are in a season of life that we wish was different, we can overlook what is right in front of us. I’m so thankful that my life has not gone according to plan. I would have missed out on so many amazing relationships and adventures. I would not trade anything for the the friendships God has given me. If I were married with kiddo’s I would not have been able to invest in these women with the faithfulness, depth and drop everything mentality that being single allowed me to do. I try very hard to not take it for granted. Because it won’t always be this way.
So, the question of the day.
Is there anyone or anything in your life that you are overlooking because you want things to be different? Are there people you could be investing in or things you could be doing because of the way God has designed this season of life? What is keeping you from going for it?
A while ago I was sitting at a wedding shower visiting with an old friend of mine while the beautiful young bride was opening her treasures. After a moment or two of silence, she leaned over and whispered “Is this hard for you?”
I flashed back to when we were dating. So young. So full of hope. Potential. The courtship. The late night conversations. God Talks. Future Talks. The laughter. The answered prayers. His proposal. The ups and downs of planning a wedding and merging two lives. The beautiful shower. The pre-marital counseling. The greenlight. Friends praying over us and for us. God being the center and having hard conversations. We were building the love and intimacy that starts with dating, builds with engagement and strengthens in marriage. Only ours never strengthened. There were undisclosed secrets that kept us from bonding. When the foundation blew out within six months of the wedding bells ringing and marriage didn’t fix the hole from his childhood, instead of turning to God and doing the work, he just went numb. And I spent the next 4.5 years turning myself inside out in hopes of bringing back the boy I had fallen in love with. I figured I must have broken us so I had to fix us. Thankfully, God sent some wise counselors to speak truth into my heart before it died forever. And in a story for another day, I was rescued, redeemed and restored.
I paused for a second,
“It used to be but not anymore.”
“We had all of this,” gesturing towards the community of women celebrating this lovely bride-to-be.
“Every marriage starts with the same potential. In my case, two people who loved God and loved each other. It’s just there is no guarantee that both people with continually choose to follow God. And there is no guarantee that both people will be willing to do the hard work it takes to stay married. So it’s kind of a crapshoot. And that’s what terrifies me. You have no control that the other person will keep choosing you…or God.” I smiled and kind of shrugged.
We went back to sipping our sweet tea and quietly observing the “oohs and ahs” as present were opened.
And then to my surprise she leaned over and said, “You know, you’re right.”
“There is no reason that B and I should still be married. We got knocked up in high school, lost a child to illness, and have another that struggles with addiction. We didn’t become Christians until later in life and have been through all kinds of hell.”
We continued chatting but that conversation has stayed with me.
And today, as I was typing this post, a friend responded to a text I sent her earlier congratulating her on the news that she was having another le petit bebe. (Don’t worry, I won’t skip her baby shower) And I started thinking about how pregnancy and delivery is a crapshoot. You can plan and prepare and try to do everything right but sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Devastating things. Earth shattering things. Life-altering things.
There are so many aspects of life that are absolutely and completely out of my control. Uncertainty is constant. And that terrifies me. Especially because I have crashed and burned at so many things. But what I call a crapshoot is actually a trust walk. It’s me asking, “Papa Grande, are you really good? Do you really care about my life? I know you love me but do you actually like me? Can I trust you to take care of me? When the disappointment is excruciating and the rejection feels so fresh will you be faithful? Will you keep your promises?
And I can say without a shadow of a doubt, the answer is yes.
He has been good because He is good. He cares about my life. He really, really likes me. He actually thinks I’m pretty funny. He has always taken care of me. He has and will always be faithful. He has kept every promise. It’s who He is. It is in His nature. And the same God who loves me, adores you to. And all the things He has been to me, He is to you.
Larry Crabb say that in everyone’s life, some dream will shatter. Something you thought you could count on won’t come through. No one leaves this world unscathed. And whether you believe God allowed it or ordained it, He could have prevented it. And you have to make peace with that God*. That is what the last six years of my life have been about. Making peace with a God whose plans are different than mine.
And as crazy as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade my story for anything. It has made me who I am today. One step closer to the best version of myself.
I started this blog out of obedience because I feel like the Lord is writing a beautiful story through my life and I’m supposed to share my journey. It has been six years since everything shattered. I have been rescued, redeemed and restored. It took work, surrender and wise counsel but I know my heart is whole.
And as my friend Robin texted me this earlier this week,
“You are whole. Jesus did that for you and in you. Live like the woman you always wanted to be because, honey, you already are that woman. “Jesus said, ‘Daughter you took a risk trusting me and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!’” Luke 8:48
l’ll be honest, healing is not for sissies. It takes guts and courage and faith and brutal honesty. But it is so worth it. As my hero Wanda Beth says, “Time doesn’t heal all wounds. God does. Time will tell.”
If you can relate to my story in any way, know that you are not alone. And that God is good. He is involved. And He especially fond of you**.
Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives in My Head
crapshoot: (n) something that has an unpredictable outcome
PS This is not a theological stance. It’s a girl working out her faith with fear and trembling before her God. Grace and Peace to you.
*This is a rough summary of what I got out ofShattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. An amazing read if your life has fallen apart. If everything is going well, you will want to burn it. At least I did when I read it the first time.