the marriage fight


In November of 2013 – I wrote this. In October of 2013 – this.

You might want to reread those if you need to.

In February – I was asked to speak at our local MOPS group – on dealing with what happened a year and a half ago. Bringing mental health to light. Absolutely.

I’ve blogged about it before – about grace. And I didn’t say as much as I wanted to when I spoke – and since a few people were sad to miss – I thought I would write about it.

And you’ve seen this many times on our blogs – but here it is again. A promise. From God. Because it helps explain – everything.

You will get pregnant again. And even though you will default in your minds that you will probably miscarry – oh no. You will have a healthy child – possibly twins! It will be huge and massive BUT you must keep it to yourselves and announce at the END of the first trimester. 

This is a promise from God and you will rename the son Enoch. God is NOT done with you. He’s just starting. You need to tuck this word on your hearts and cover it. The Enoch tattoo was intended as a remembrance BUT in God’s time was a prophetic act as to your next son’s name being branded. 

It will be a massive testimony and will restore relationships, friendships, and family ties in ways you never thought possible. It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. BUT you MUST NOT announce it until the end of the 1st trimester. Not even to close friends or family. YOU MUST WAIT!

(Again – that word – MASSIVE. MAMMOTH. Both of your families will be astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. It will restore relationships – friendships – family ties – in ways you never thought possible. Check. Check. And check. Friendships have been repaired – friendships that I thought were beyond any sort of repair. Family relationships have been healed. Because I was in a time of absolute need? Because I was hurting – we were hurting – and really in the end – why were we having issues in the first place? Remarkably astounded. God has given me remarkable strength and grace. Strength and grace to deal with mania and depression and what comes with each of those. Things I never imagined I would encounter. Ever. Strength to be a fantastic momma to an amazing little boy. Strength to carry a miracle – a promised child of  God. Strength to stand by my husband when I wanted to run. And hide. For a long time. Grace. Forgiveness. A love that runs much deeper than romantic love. Deeper than – kiss you on the way out the door – love. Deeper than – XOXO – written on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. Love that is ugly and beautiful at the same time. Love that makes you sob on the bathroom floor. Love that makes you pray harder than ever. Love that writes YOU CAN DO IT on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. That screams. Love that makes you angry. Love that keeps your family together. Love that means far more than anything you could have imagined when you said your vows. Love that only Jesus can teach. Love that I was – and still am – incapable of on my own. I don’t know what I imagined those words could have meant – what God will do through this next pregnancy – but I didn’t imagine this.)

I honestly feel stronger about this than the word I gave you for Fitzy! You can’t even tell me when you first find out – I will already know. You can’t tell ANYONE! BELIEVE IT! RECEIVE IT! ACT! God is good and will be massively glorified through it. Save these messages for confirmation and documentation. Not for me – but so that we can honor Christ Jesus & God’s ridiculous faithfulness. He is good. He is really REALLY good!

That was all from an earlier blog post. But still very relevant. Especially that part about love. And about how God would be MASSIVELY GLORIFIED through it.

When I was thinking about what to say – a picture came to me. God’s grace. It’s like an iceberg – we will only ever see the part that’s out of the water. But there is SO MUCH MORE underneath the surface. Grace that we won’t understand this side of heaven.

Our lives changed. We were comfortable. Things seemed wonderful. Finally. After a miscarriage and trying for what seemed like forever to get pregnant – we had our sweet Fitzgerald. In the midst – were confessions of pornography. But he would tell me he was done. Again. And eventually – I started to believe him or just didn’t understand that it was an issue. A much bigger issue than I could ever imagine. Having Fitzy was wonderful – and brought along new challenges. Navigating friendships and establishing boundaries in ways we’ve never had to. I am a firm believer that married (or dating or engaged) men should not have really close relationships with other women. And vice-versa. It’s not a jealousy issue – but merely a precaution. For example – I have a second shooter that I take to weddings with me sometimes. He is fantastic. He’s a young guy. And if we travel to a wedding – the client has to provide two hotel rooms. Because while I completely trust that nothing would ever happen – I refuse to even put myself in that situation. Call me prude – call me old-fashioned. Call me what you will. But I won’t do it. Jared started having private (meaning hidden or purposefully keeping me out) conversations. And while nothing romantic was ever happening – just the fact that things were secret – was a problem in itself. But neither of them considered this a problem. But here’s the thing. I’ve never heard of anyone intending to have an affair. But man – my husband is really really being a jerk – and there’s this guy at work (or wherever) and he gets me. His wife is a nagging – you know what – (or he’s not married – which still doesn’t matter because he knows that you are) and it’s just nice to have an ear to listen and totally get it. He gets me. And the next thing you know – you’re lying in bed with someone that is not your husband and wondering. HOW DID WE GET HERE. When really the process started months ago. With that listening ear. Hey – text me when you need it. You know – to vent. I’m here. I can love you. Like you deserve. Um – that’s circumstance. Not love. That’s how you get there. And I would NOT be wondering how my marriage got there. So we fought. In our marriage. And for our marriage. We held onto our marriage with both hands. Tight. Made hard decisions that didn’t make people happy. But we knew that for OUR marriage to be happy and successful – they had to be made. Two more miscarriages. Then this word about Enoch – and a pregnancy – that stayed. Finally feeling secure in our relationship. And things were looking great!

And then it got strange. And things were not looking great. Scary and weird. Jared had textbook symptoms of a manic episode (which we didn’t realize until it was almost too late) – and life was about to change. And get really uncomfortable. Jared told me that God had released me from my vow to him and I needed to leave. He was at peace with never seeing Fitzy again or even meeting Enoch. He thought he could walk on water. And then he broke down. And the rebuilding started.

And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to hurt me. Again. His pornography addiction had reached a point that I wasn’t even aware of. Those secrets. You think that it will never happen to you. I know my spouse. There is NO WAY he could lie to me like that. Hide things. Wrong. You are wrong. We are all capable of awful things – especially when we are in awful places. He had told me so many times before that he was done. That it wasn’t an issue. And now. This. I truly believe that the severity of his addiction is what caused his breakdown. And I would not willingly go back to that life. Nope. No way.

(a quick side note – for most women that deal with pornography in their marriage – it’s a personal attack. I’m not good enough. I’ll never look like those women. He wants me to be something I’m not. He wishes I was thinner or prettier or just all together different. Not for me. And you can go ahead and roll your eyes and not believe me if it makes you feel better. But I know that I’m good enough. (except those late and early and up all nights with babies that wouldn’t sleep at night or during the day – that’s where I struggle with there must be something wrong with me – I’m not good enough – but that’s a different blog entry altogether) I’m comfortable with how I look. And you know what – even when I had an additional 90 pounds on me – I felt confident. You wouldn’t know I had 90 pounds to lose because I didn’t whine about it. I didn’t put down “skinny” girls because they looked better than me. I owned what I was. ANYWAY – I digress – again. It was never about what his porn addiction did to me. Self-esteem and confidence is a big one ladies. Own you. No one – and I mean NOT ONE person can take away your self-identity unless you allow them. And it’s hard. I’m sure you’ve all seen those awkward Harry Potter look-alike pictures I’ve posted. But own your awkward self. And knowing that I’m good enough isn’t a cocky attitude. I promise. It’s hard for lots of women to relate to me and vice-versa – because I don’t deal with self-esteem issues. I AM enough. And you are too. And I can guarantee that if you get to the heart of that issue – your perspective will change. I know that my husband’s addiction isn’t because he wishes he was with someone else. I know that he loves me and wants me. And it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around.)

So – anyway – I didn’t want to go back to lies and promises that were broken. As a matter of fact – I made it perfectly clear that pornography would have NO place in our home. In our lives. We have two little boys to raise. In a sex-crazed world. Like it’s not hard enough. Nope. Won’t do it.

Really – I wanted to run and hide at my parents and just pretend this nightmare was really truly just a nightmare. But I had a little guy to take care of. And a growing baby inside to think about. And I photographed four weddings in the time that Jared started to spiral down and the secrets all come out.

The first one – I was furious. I wanted to run up to the altar and shake them. Scream. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?! Sure – wedding vows sound awesome right now – but what about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about the part when your husband becomes someone you don’t know? THINK ABOUT THIS. I was so mad.

By the fourth – I was sobbing. What about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about it? I said yes. That’s what it’s about. I stood here and said yes. Yes. I will. And even though the world was full of heart shaped clouds on our wedding day – the only thing we could see was the beautiful road before us – that wasn’t reality. Reality is hard and ugly and beautiful and wonderful. All wrapped into one.

So running and hiding wasn’t an option. Even though he had kept secrets that left me crying on the floor for days. Even though I couldn’t tangibly understand how trust would EVER come back in our relationship. God had to work on my heart. I was terrified that our marriage was gone. And equally terrified that it would survive. Because survival meant that I had to forgive. A lot. I had to extend a whole lot of grace. More than what I’ve ever seen sticking out of the water. More than I ever wanted to extend actually. It meant trusting my heart to this man that hurt me. And trusting that it wouldn’t happen again.

But here’s the crazy thing. Well two things.

One – we hurt each other. We let each other down. Because we’re human. Marriage – any relationship – is not perfect. Is not smooth. Is not without offense of some kind. It will happen. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift. For both parties. But it’s also scary. Because 70 x 7. And I don’t believe that means – let people do what they will and keep forgiving with a smile on your face knowing that you will get hit again and again – it does mean forgive. And in any relationship (or marriage) (especially in terms of addiction) working toward restoration and healing. And believing for that. For miracles. So sometimes my mind travels. And I’m afraid that Jared is lying to me. Again. And panic sets in. I ask. But I don’t believe. And it shows in every aspect of my life. And I have to lean on God. Not Jared. Because that trust is STILL rebuilding. I have to trust God that Jared is healed. And you know what – it’s really really hard. But points me to God – not Jared. And you might think – but don’t you want to be pointed to your husband. Yes. You do. But when the past hurts and you’re trying with all your might – it doesn’t work sometimes. And God is our ultimate trust. And hope. You hope that he’s telling the truth. You hope that your lives won’t be turned upside down again. You hope that the love and affection you once had for your husband returns. You hope. And you try. And you believe. Because God has seen your heart and your hurt. And He knows that pornography cannot have a place in our lives. And miracles do happen. Even when you’ve lost faith. Sometimes – especially when you’ve lost faith.

Two – the crazy amount of grace that God gave me to get through each moment – and still gives me – cus whoa – I need lots. And lots. That crazy amount of grace that God gave me for Jared. Jared gives it to me. For the entire time that we’ve been together. Because here’s the thing. I didn’t have a big secret. But listen. I’m kind of hard to deal with. I’m impatient and right. I have ridiculous expectations. I’m a hot mess. And he loves me. He doesn’t just deal with me. He just loves me.

He gives me more grace that I deserve. He meaning God. And Jared.

And it’ll be two years this summer since everything happened – and life isn’t perfect. Because it never will be. But it’s a whole lot of beautiful right now. And we are still working on things. Creating boundaries. Healthy friendships. Always working on things. Being honest. Always trying. A whole lot of forgiveness. Rebuilding trust. Holding onto each other and hope.

I leave you with this – the lyrics to Glorious Ruins from Hillsong – a song Jared insisted (while he was manic) would be the theme of our lives.

When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign

And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing

When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence

Read More

A Healthy Marriage (He Said)


Posted By on Mar 4, 2015

I recently listened to a great teaching called “Healthy Families” by Kris Vallotton. Like many of his teachings, I so much enjoyed this one. I highly recommend taking an hour or so to listen to it. During the talk he shared 4 values of healthy families, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on one.

Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.

For years I held on to a huge secret in our marriage. It was my addiction to pornography. I’ve touched on the subject on my personal site, but I’ll mention just a bit of my struggle here. My exposure began like it does for many men – as a teenager to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Over the years the content of what I watched became increasingly worse.

My addiction got so bad that it played a large part in my manic episode I detailed in a previous post. I was viewing porn (and terrible stuff at that) and I still, to this day, have absolutely no recollection of it. That is an incredibly scary thing for me.

After my manic episode I had one more relapse in my pornography addiction that was incredibly hurtful to our marriage. I confessed this relapse to Danielle, and she was devastated.

It took months to heal our marriage, and in all honesty, the healing occurs bit by bit to this day.

Pornography is an incredibly destructive force. It leads to secretive behavior. It keeps the husband from being completely honest and open with his wife. And it ends up leaving the wife feeling hurt, at best, and completely devastated and devalued at worst. It also leads to a huge lack of trust in a relationship once it has been exposed.

Fortunately for me Danielle has shown me untold amounts of grace. Firstly, she decided to stay with me during my mania even though I had told her at the time she was free to go and that God was telling me that (He obviously wasn’t).

Secondly, she stayed with me after my pornography admission bombshell. Which may have been even more difficult (you’d have to ask her). I can only begin to imagine the pain she dealt with and the anger that admission caused.

People have asked me how I got over my addiction to pornography, and I’ve told them I really believe it was a miracle. Nothing short of a miracle. Right before it ended there was a word given to me that everything would have to be torn down before it could be built back up. Our lives were “torn down” due to my manic episode (which this person had no idea about) and by my addiction to pornography. Ever since, our marriage has been built back up, although it hasn’t been easy.

So I don’t really have a good answer when it comes to getting out of the bondage of pornography. I struggled with it for YEARS. But I do know you should tell someone you trust, get help, get counseling if you need it and be open and honest with your wife.

Maybe the last part was the key that broke things once and for all. I had not been completely honest with Danielle. Once I was, and we went through the hurt and ugliness of the process, I believe that’s when I was completely healed from my addiction. But it took hard work, on both our parts, to begin the restoration process for our marriage. Nobody ever said marriage would be easy. Marriage takes a lot of work. Especially when working through such an ugly addiction. It would have been easy for Danielle to give up on me, especially since I had failed her time and time again. But she didn’t. She chose to fight for our marriage.

Pornography and sexual material seem to be absolutely everywhere it seems. You can find something attractive at your local Walmart aisle, the movies (50 Shades anyone?), or just a mouse click away. That is by no means an excuse for men. It is a reminder to us guys that we need to be ever vigilant regarding what we put before our eyes and what we allow our minds to dwell on.

Pornography can have NO PLACE in a marriage. It just can’t.  You might be able to convince yourself that it will be okay for a while, but it will blow up in the end, and it won’t be pretty. Hopefully you’ll have someone like a Danielle to help pick up the pieces of the mess you made.

Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.

Read More

ten years (she said)


Posted By on Jun 26, 2014

We were married ten years ago today. At 6:30 in the evening – we stood before God and our families and friends and said yes. We will. Forever.

While we were on vacation last month – my sister pointed something out to me. She said – why is it that growing up – YOU were the romantic. And now you’re not? We’ve kind of switched roles. And it hit me. She’s right. Growing up – I daydreamed about love and boyfriends and marriage and romance and dates and romantic getaways. There was ALWAYS a boy that I liked – one that didn’t like me back – but oh did I like him. Every time. And in my journals – I gushed about love. It’s all I thought about. I just wanted to be married and have babies. That’s it. No college – no job. Just love and marriage and baby carriages. But those boys didn’t return my affections. So off to college I went – more boys to oogle over and more boys that didn’t return my affections. And I still journaled about love. I still daydreamed about romance.

And then I met Jared. And he pursued me. And I didn’t know what to think. He had a reputation in college – a good one – don’t get me wrong. But he was THE Jared Barden. It was intimidating. Why would HE want ME? All the other boys I pined about didn’t. And it scared me. I called my mom and she said – Danielle – if you don’t give this Jared guy a chance – you could be missing out on your whole life. So I did. Our first date was my brother’s soccer game. He met my family. He knew within a few weeks that he would marry me – but it took me a little longer. And then all my notions of romance seemed silly. Over the top. Who needs roses and candlelit dinners and teddy bears holding little hearts when this guy loves me when I’m in my sweats and eating a carton of icing. Jared fit into my family perfectly. I fell in love with his kind heart and sweet spirit. And we said yes. We will. Forever.

And almost right away – reality set in. Losing jobs – leaving apartments – praying for paychecks. Moving into a home that I didn’t want to be in (and still being there today) – battling chronic pain and wondering if I would ever feel well again – deciding that it was time to start a family (and losing and struggling and finally holding a baby in our arms – now two). Rehoming our sweet puppy – starting a business (pouring myself into it) – struggling with anxiety. Time has flown by. Seriously. And I look back and wonder – what ON EARTH did we do with our time. How have we been married 10 years already? I’m breathing heavy just thinking about the next 10 years FLYING by.

And just when things seemed to finally be “normal” – life threw us yet another curve. The biggest yet. And I was lost and broken and hurting. My best friend became someone I didn’t know. My husband – the man I vowed forever with – was trapped. Recovery was intense – secrets exposed. Our world was crashing. But we said yes. Forever. And I loved him. I needed him. And my love took on an even less romantic feel and more of a survival mode. Fighting for our relationship and our life we had built. In the midst of that fight – romantic love was hard to find – is still hard to find sometimes. Forgiving (really truly forgiving) and moving on (not holding on to yesterday). Taking care of a toddler and welcoming a new baby into the mix – all while recovering and literally just trying to survive day by day – overwhelmed me. Still overwhelms me at times.

And then this man walks in the door at 5:20 and looks at me. And smiles. At me. The girl he pursued over ten years ago. The girl that he chose. The girl that he asked to spend his life with him. This man that has struggled and worked so hard over the past year to show me his sorrow and his love. This man that loves me. The man that God put in my path. The man that has given me two beautiful boys. The man that just loves me.

And I am truly amazed.

I love you Jared Barden. And I am anxious to experience a whole new level of love with you.

Read More

in deep (she said)


Posted By on Dec 9, 2013

In the height of his mania – Jared told me that I was released from the vow I made to him on our wedding day. I could leave if I couldn’t handle what was happening (which none of us knew what really was happening at that point) and God would understand. He would forgive me. He said – go to your parents. Stay with them for a few months. Think about it. But my life is going to change – immensely – and I don’t think you are ready for it. I cried. So much. I begged him to stop acting so – crazy. Think about what he was saying. What it really meant. To leave? He couldn’t even explain to me what was happening. I couldn’t explain what was happening. We were at the beach – supposed to be having the time of our lives (which turns out – we did – just not in the way you usually think of it). We have a beautiful son together and another on the way. A specific promise from God. To us. Not just me. Us. Please – think about what you are saying. What you are doing. What it would really mean for me to leave and never see you again.

He felt at peace. He felt calm. He felt more in tune with God than at any other time in his life. From his perspective – he was slow and rational. Calm and making more sense than he ever had. To us – he was operating in fast forward. Making irrational decisions. He was anything but calm and very rarely made sense. It was – by far – the strangest and scariest experience of my life. This man that I had spent 10 years of my life with – was suddenly a different person. Completely different. With no evidence of the man I knew.

We were in deep. But then again – our whole relationship has been that way.

If you know me at all – you know that I don’t do things quietly. It’s all or nothing. While I hate drama – I am very dramatic. And my whole life – it’s always something. Maybe it’s why I have the view I do. While others call is pessimism – I call it reality. The man in black says it best. Life is pain highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. It’s such a perfect line. So true. While life is beautiful – it’s also painful. In my experience – more often than not. Constantly finding the beauty from pain. Seeing what the pain in life brings. Because God sees the whole plan – we can’t imagine what good the pain will do. But He knows. He’s known all along. Where we see hurt and heartache – He sees happiness and rejoicing.

In deep. When I said – I do. I meant just that. Yes. I do. For always. Now – don’t get me wrong. There are things that happen in marriages – relationships – that aren’t acceptable. Things that would most definitely make me leave. After – what I hope would be – several efforts at making it work. Counseling. Rehabilitation. Whatever was needed.

I knew this was different. I knew something wasn’t right. I knew this wasn’t Jared. But I had no clue what. In finding out that it was a manic episode and we would have to deal with this for a while – it made it easier. Only in the way that we had an answer. The process was hard. Painful. Ugly. It’s still hard. Not as much – thank You Jesus.

In deep. Yes – I was pregnant. Yes – we had a two year old to think about. Yes – I was terrified. Yes – I was scared. Yes – I was tired – mostly from crying. But I dug deeper. I prayed harder. Asked for strength beyond anything I could imagine. Told Fitzy stories about his daddy. How much he loved him. How we needed to pray for him. Dear Jesus – heal my daddy – amen. Again mommy? Dear Jesus – heal my daddy – amen. I tried – and failed at times – to not talk about it all in front of him. While I was hurt and confused and angry – I never wanted to put Jared in a bad light. I never wanted to tear him down. I never wanted Fitzy to be hurt and angry – just because I was. And you know what – that’s Jesus. The fact that I love my husband more today than 4 months ago – that’s Jesus.

I couldn’t leave. While I needed to think about myself and my babies – I also had to think about Jared. Because – that’s what marriage is. And I’ve done a pretty crappy job in that area – for most of our marriage. When I got married – I thought the hardest thing would be dealing with only child Jared. Turns out – the hardest thing was dealing with a bossy oldest child. One with ridiculous expectations of how things needed to look and be arranged. Jared and I both struggle with perfectionism. His is more about what people think of him and how he needs to be perceived by people. Mine is more about organization and having hangers an equal distance apart – ridiculous things that don’t matter. Things that take up way too much time and energy. Things that will never ever matter. Thankfully – I’ve learned that. For the most part. But when we were first married – it was tough. Jared certainly did not put the milk where it should go. He didn’t leave his towels on the right rack. His shoes didn’t go THERE – they go HERE. Seriously. I wish I was kidding. When life starts to spin out of my control – I take control. In those areas. And it gets intense. So really – truly – looking back – I was more in love with controlling Jared and making him into what I wanted than I was in sharing a life with him. Ugh. It’s rough to type that. And sometimes – that feeling creeps up on me. Life is getting out of control again – WHY AREN’T THE DISHES DONE. And Jared says – because there are only two bowls in the sink. And I huff out to the kitchen and do them – with an attitude. Because I need to have control. And order. In order to not spin out of control.

So I’m working on that. Learning to let go. To not be so selfish. And I’m not trying to say – Jared’s never selfish – don’t blame him. He totally is. And so am I. And the only person I CAN control – is me. The only reactions I CAN control are mine. God really knew what He was doing when he sent me Fitzy. When Fitzy spills something – he immediately looks at me and says – it’s okay momma (and moves his hands in a so-so motion) it’s okay momma. I sigh. I count to 3. And I say – right babe. It’s okay. It’s just water. Next time – let’s be more careful – but it’s just water. I could be wrong – but I’m pretty sure I haven’t freaked out on him about spilling something or putting something out of my precious order. God just knows that in order to reign in my crazy – I need that little boy to remind me – it’s okay.

Fitzy dealt with everything amazingly. He wanted his home. He wanted his daddy. I couldn’t keep him from him. For both of their sakes. Like I said – if certain things had happened – then I obviously wouldn’t have stayed in an unsafe environment. Being home kept life stable for Fitzy – as stable as it could be.

In deep. I cried to my mom – why now? Why couldn’t this have happened when we didn’t have kids? She said – because that would be one more reason to leave. You love Jared – I know that. But without kids in the picture – while it’s still hard – it’s easier to walk away. Easier to say – forget it. I didn’t sign up for this. You figure it out. And that’s not what I’m about – that’s not what marriage is about.

I prayed. And prayed and prayed. God – do You want me to leave him? Do I leave him to figure this out on his own?

When we were at the beach – when it got really intense – I said to Jared. Listen to me. I am not afraid to be a single mom. I’ve got awesome parents and an awesome family. You’ve got awesome parents and an awesome family. I can and will do it. Awesomely. But I am afraid of two things. Doing this life without you. And our boys experiencing this life without you. You are my love. And if you are telling me that God is speaking to you about this dream you have – then we will do it. I support you. I love you. I said yes. To you. But don’t you dare tell me that I can leave. Don’t tell me that you can do this without me – and not be sad about that.

After that conversation – we went inside. Jared laid down on the couch and fell asleep. I went in the bedroom and cried. And prayed. Prayed that God would make him sick. Make him blind. Make him deaf. Make him not know what day it was. Make him understand the severity of what was happening and let us take him to the hospital. I had called our family doctor and told him what was happening and he urged that Jared see a doctor. Now. I prayed like I’ve never prayed before. Things that are just out of my comfort zone to pray – and I don’t really know why. I said – Jesus lives in me. Therefore – I have power in Jesus’ name. Make him sick. Make him confused. Now.

I went out and woke him up – told him that our doctor was on the phone. Jared looked at me like he didn’t know me. He was panicked. He kept asking what day it was. He didn’t believe us. My heart raced. THANK YOU JESUS. He talked with our doctor and agreed to let us take him to the ER because physically he didn’t feel right. And so began a long and painful night. A night where I watched my husband break down and his mind betray him.

I prayed a lot – about a lot of things. And about leaving. For a short time – for a long time. And I never felt God say – yes. I put my feelings aside – of course I wanted to stay with my husband. But there were also times that running to my mom and dad’s and falling into their arms – for a long time – was very tempting. Very. I just can’t explain it. I never felt like I could.

In deep.

Next year we will celebrate 10 years of marriage – and let me tell you – it will be a celebration! We’ve been through so much together. More than I ever thought would happen. Like I’ve said before – I don’t know what I expected to be ahead of us when I stood there and said I do – but it wasn’t this. At least – not this way. Not with so much pain and heartache.

I expected us to fall deeply in love with each passing day. And we have. I expected us to have beautiful children. And we do. I expected to touch people’s lives. And we are. We are in this. Deep. I didn’t expect that the hardest times of our lives would cause us to become closer. I didn’t expect to look back on the past 10 years and see how we’ve grown – so much. Grown up and just grown. As a husband and a wife. As a mother and a father. As a son and a daughter. I didn’t think that we would experience a miscarriage – let alone three. I didn’t think this would be our ministry. Praying for and encouraging people who are wanting a baby. People who are where we were. I didn’t think that I would ever feel insecure in our relationship. I didn’t think that experience could help anyone. And it has. It’s moved us closer together. It’s forced us to look at our marriage and what was missing. I didn’t think that my husband having a manic episode would be the amazing testimony that God was talking about when He told us about Enoch’s existence. I never thought that I would see anything good come from it. Anything. Ever. I never thought that I would be sitting here. With Fitzy leaning his little head against my shoulder. Christmas lights shining on the face of a second miracle. A miracle that is sleeping on his daddy’s chest. A daddy that four months ago – I wasn’t sure would be here – emotionally. Or physically for that matter.

I didn’t think our life would ever be the same. I didn’t think it would ever be normal. I’m discovering that it won’t. It won’t ever be the same. Or normal.

And that’s not a bad thing.

In fact – it might be the best thing that ever happens to us.

In deep. It’s what we ask of God. Take us deeper.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

Hillsong

Read More

grace (she said)


Posted By on Sep 2, 2013

Grace.

When I asked google to define grace – I got this.

1. simple elegance or refinement of movement.

2. (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

Wikipedia gave me this –

The love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man – “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”.

I don’t ask for grace – either from God for me or for me toward others. In fact – I don’t think I can ever remember asking for it.

Until the middle of July. It’s interesting that the last few posts that we wrote were about our craziness and how hard marriage is. If you need to go back and read those posts – please do. It’s important to what I’m writing here.

And – I don’t know if we shared this word from God on this blog or not – but I wanted to share it now.

I firmly believe that God gives words to people. And visions and dreams. This specific word in our life came from God through a dear friend. Two days after a conversation Jared and I had about our next pregnancy – should we ever have one. Two days after a decision that no one else knew about. A decision to not tell anyone if we got pregnant again. Not until the first trimester was over. Confirmation. While I don’t know much about God and how He communicates with us sometimes – I do know this. Confirmation is important. Very. Important. When you are given a word for someone – you don’t take it lightly. You hold it and pray. You might even consult with the ones that YOU hold dear and counsel with. You pray. And then you pray again. And – in my opinion – when God says – now. Share this now. You do. After prayer and consideration. But – like I said – that’s just my opinion – and I don’t know much about it. At all.

So – our dear friend sent us this in a text on 9.8.2012.

“You will get pregnant again. And even though you will default in your minds that you will probably miscarry – oh no. You will have a healthy child – possibly twins! It will be huge and massive BUT you must keep it to yourselves and announce at the END of the first trimester.

This is a promise from God and you will rename the son Enoch. God is NOT done with you. He’s just starting. You need to tuck this word on your hearts and cover it. The Enoch tattoo was intended as a remembrance BUT in God’s time was a prophetic act as to your next son’s name being branded. 

It will be a massive testimony and will restore relationships, friendships, and family ties in ways you never thought possible. It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. BUT you MUST NOT announce it until the end of the 1st trimester. Not even to close friends or family. YOU MUST WAIT!

I honestly feel stronger about this than the word I gave you for Fitzy! You can’t even tell me when you first find out – I will already know. You can’t tell ANYONE! BELIEVE IT! RECEIVE IT! ACT! God is good and will be massively glorified through it. Save these messages for confirmation and documentation. Not for me – but so that we can honor Christ Jesus & God’s ridiculous faithfulness. He is good. He is really REALLY good!”

Awesome – right?

I share this now – because it’s important. When we announced our pregnancy at Fitzy’s birthday party – I read that text to everyone. Not the part about a son and a name – we waited to share that. And then when we blogged about it – we shared this. In joy and excitement. Not to bring focus to the person that God shared it with – who shared it with us – but bring honor and glory to God. To share His promise. His faithfulness. To encourage. To share what God does and is doing. Right this moment.

And when I look back on it – I can see the signs. Starting – the day we announced our pregnancy. The signs showing me that something wasn’t right. That while I was chalking it up to my emotions and being pregnant and being – well – crazy – there was something deeper going on. Something building. Something that would change my life. In what seemed like an instant. But was really building since that day. The something that made me beg God for grace. For myself and for my family.

While I am sure we will write about it more and share more as time goes on – for now – you just need to know this. That something was manic depression. That something was building in Jared. That something boiled over into mania the middle of July. I watched as my husband became someone I didn’t know. I begged him to stop acting so … strange. I had no idea what it was at first. I thought maybe it was my emotions again. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive. I had no idea that Jared was struggling under the surface. He didn’t have any idea. And it was the hardest thing we’ve ever done.

Once we figured out what was going on – I thought it would be over. Get some new medicine and he will be back to his normal self. Ya know – tomorrow. It didn’t happen like that. It got worse before it got better. It’s not my story to tell – so I won’t.

But I will tell you about grace. About how much I think that footprints poem is silly and overdone – but I can honestly tell you – without a doubt – that God carried (and is still carrying) me. It’s not so silly now. I am telling you that I have NEVER ever felt the strength of God like I have over the past month. While there were moments that I was absolutely confused. Hurting. Upset. Whether just in general or with my husband – I felt the strength of God – like never before. And I felt something else. His grace. At first – without even asking. Then more and more as I cried out and asked. Begged. Help me to not hold these things against Jared. Help me to not hold them against You.

It’s so easy to have the – why me – it’s not fair – mentality. I’ve been there before. Miscarrying and trying for a baby. It can take you to a deep dark place. A place where satan wants you to live. A place where he wants to drag you. A place where he will play dirty. One of our friends told me – satan’s goal is to confuse. Confuse your thoughts. Confuse your love. Confuse the good things that God has given you. The good things God is GOING to give you. And he will confuse you. And you must be prepared. So I prayed. I prayed that God would continue to pour out His grace on me. And give me a lot of it for Jared. Not God’s grace for him – I can’t do that. But the grace of a wife toward her husband. The forgiveness of a wife toward her husband. The love of a wife toward her husband. Please God – help me to support him and forgive him and show him grace. And while I asked for it quite a bit – I found that He was giving it to me quite a bit. And more. And some more.

While I am NOT a grudge holding person – I am a “don’t hurt me again” person. Forgiveness is amazing and awesome. It’s freeing. It’s beautiful. But I want to make sure that I don’t need to give it again. So – I guard myself. I don’t get as close as I was. Because while I need to forgive – I don’t need to be hurt over and over again. Which is true. But forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. Right? Not seven. Not seventy seven. Seventy times seven. Which doesn’t mean 490 times. Basically – always. Forever. Again? Yes. Again. So I know I needed it. And God gave it to me.

My heart only grew for my husband. My love dug deeper. The marriage fight. I was in it. I had a period of sadness and absolute despair. It was short compared to the period with boxing gloves on. Fighting. For my marriage. For my husband. For our boys. For our life together. For the glory of God.

Remember that certain part of the word we were given –

It will be a massive testimony and will restore relationships, friendships, and family ties in ways you never thought possible. It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy.

Restore relationships. Not break them down. Restore. Our marriage. Our love. Our commitment. Right before and then right after Jared was diagnosed – I had weddings to shoot. The first one – I was angry when I heard those vows. I wanted to interject and say – what about when your husband acts insane and you don’t know what to do. Even then? What about when you are so confused and don’t understand this sudden change in your husband. Even then? Little did I know how much I needed to be there. Right then. Capturing a beautiful bride and her groom – promising their lives to one another. Not knowing what might be ahead of them. But making a promise to be there. Together. Fighting. For their marriage. And then the next wedding – I was a wreck. I cried when I heard their vows. Knowing that the answer was – yes – even then. Yes. In sickness and health. In good times and bad. For richer for poorer. In sorrow and in joy. Yes. Even then. Together. Fighting.

When someone asked what I needed – I told them. Pray for me. Pray that bitterness does not take root. Pray that I can encourage and love my husband. Pray that he will be better than ever through this. Pray for him. Pray for him. Pray for him. God is carrying me. Pray for him.

When I was 22 weeks pregnant with Fitzgerald – Jared told me that he was very depressed. He was in one of the darkest places I’ve ever seen him. When Fitzy was born – Jared finally felt “normal”. I was 22 weeks pregnant with Enoch when we discovered what was happening with Jared this time. The doctor told me that it might take 3 1/2 to 4 months for him to truly feel “normal”. Taking us right to our due date.

It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy.

Those are words that God gave us. Words that I held onto. Words that renewed my strength. Words that grew my faith. Words that I know are from God. This pregnancy – what happened last month – while I don’t understand why (and we will probably never know) – I do know that God knows. Because He is awesome.

Even through this – through everything – Danielle – how can you say that? Because He is. And if He isn’t. Then why are we here? What are we doing?

As for me and my family. We are serving Jesus. We are believing in His power. We are waiting for Him.

In grace. Simple. Elegant. Grace. A refined movement.

 

Read More

Writing that title without capital letters is hard. But I’ve done much harder things in life. Watching your wife suffer with jaw pain, praying for a 24-year old friend to beat cancer and then standing in front of his casket, hearing your dad has Leukemia, are just a handful of the hard things I’ve walked through.

Being a dad is hard. Mostly because I’m not a kid person. I find it hard to relate, hard to pretend “play”, etc.

But marriage. Marriage is hard. Marriage is everyday. It’s 24/7 hard. Like hard. For realz (as the kids say).

Don’t get me wrong. I love being married, and I LOVE Danielle, but loving Danielle every day and holding up my end of the vows is not always a walk in the park.

You see, I’m fairly forgetful, I think it’s part of the Male condition, for whatever reason. And Danielle values having things done (gifts of service for you 5 Love Languages peeps). And I try, I really do. Sometimes I try too much and just ending up forgetting in incredibly epic fashion. #FAIL, if you will.

And yet Danielle loves me, even though I drive her completely cuckoo at times. For that, I’m eternally grateful. She claims not to be patient and caring sometimes, but she is.

Lately Danielle has been “interesting” to live with. I blame the baby! (just kidding, Baby Barden) Something about hormones and such. And I get it. I do. But it can be challenging at times. I risked bodily harm by informing her one evening that she was, frankly, being crazy. She took it remarkably well, because she’s awesome like that. She can admit when she’s being more Almond Joy than Mounds.

And here’s a little secret. Ready? Being an only child, I value my alone time. Because for roughly 20 years of my life or so I basically had as much of it as I wanted. So to be by myself for a day, or two, or three, is no big deal. It’s not that I don’t like being around Danielle or Fitzy, but sometimes…I just need my space.

I enjoy golfing. 3-4 hours of just being out in the elements playing a game that is deeply maddening and enjoyable at the same time, usually with friends. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But, it does take me away from the rest of my family. So I am working on finding a balance. Which is hard.

Lately Danielle has been on my nerves and I’ve been on hers. Sometimes I think we need a separate vacation, but you didn’t hear that from me ;) I think my problem is that I assume she’s going to be upset about something, so I go on defense automatically. I just can’t help it. And Danielle assumes I will forget something or not do something, so she goes into “prepare to be disappointed” mode, if you will.

And yet we work. We keep at it, because it’s worth it. Now, more than ever, society needs examples of marriages that work, in spite of all the challenges. So we fight.

Read More