I See You

There have been specific times in my life when I did not feel seen. It has happened at various times while I was growing up and even after I became an adult. The results were always devastating. Before I found a semblance of healing, my natural response was to get more and more outrageous in behavior until someone acknowledged me. I have since learned healthier ways to navigate my need to be seen, especially by those that I love.

So, in the spirit of camaraderie with anyone who is walking an exceptionally challenging valley right now, I am just here to say I see you.

To anyone who is still reeling from the impacts of childhood (and adult) trauma, I see you. I see you doing your best to heal from what wounded you. Even when you do not necessarily have all the tools. Jesus mourns with you in your mourning and He died to redeem you from its impact. Therapy, counseling and professional help is not shameful. It is a God-given tool in your deliverance and wholeness. Use them as often as the need arises and God will complete the work, in this life and the next.

To anyone who is waiting and waiting for God to fulfill the promise He made to you what seemed like many lifetimes ago. I see you. I see you being faithful even when others have long since abandoned the higher calling. I see you holding on to the flicker of hope left in your heart, willing the flame to live. And I see you mourning your empty hands that have failed to grasp what your heart so deeply desires. And I want you to know that you have every right to your pain. Your feelings are valid and you are not a bad Christian for mourning so deeply. Jesus knows our sorrows; He is with you and He loves you. You are not being punished. If God has promised, He will fulfill. Remain obedient, remain faithful and remain steadfast. He will uphold you in the waiting and your joy WILL be full.

To anyone grieving a loss that the world may not necessarily know about. I see you. And I know that you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But fear not. Even in this seemingly desolate place, you are not forgotten. I see you carrying the sackcloth and ashes of your despair. I see you heavy under the weight of your loss. And God sees you. He will be with you. He will lead you beside still waters. He will restore your soul. You have gone out mourning but you will come back rejoicing. Cling ever closer to Calvary. Cry, weep, lay it all before Him. Yell, scream, give voice to the silent anger in your heart about the unfairness of what you are being tasked to carry. It is okay. God is not offended by your emotions. He created them and He is best capable of managing them. He will still love you in your anger. He will still love you in your pain. He is still with you in your mourning. He sees you and I see you.

To anyone whose marriage is in crisis or has drifted irrevocably towards divorce. I see you. And I am so sorry. This was not the future you imagined when you said your vows. This was not what we expected when you wore your dress and walked that aisle. This was not the outcome you planned for when you joined your lives or started your family. It has been said that divorce/separation is akin to the death of a loved one. You have every right to mourn this tragedy. I see you and I am praying for you. I am praying that the God of reconciliation and resurrection works in your heart as only He can do. That what man has called dead will hear the word of God and come back to life, better than before. I pray that the glory of your latter days will be greater than the former. You are not broken because your marriage failed. God can still make beautiful things out of these ashes. He can reconcile hearts to Himself and one another. He can rebuild what men have broken. He can do the impossible. Cling to the hope of resurrection and life. He will sustain you.

When you feel forgotten in your circumstance, know that you are fully known and fully loved by your Heavenly Father. He loves you and He sees you.

And so do I.


When Marriage Is No Longer A Dream

I am only six years and nine months into marriage. By most definitions I am still a newlywed, and thus I do not have all the answers. But I have some (this is the year of walking in God-given truth rather than false humility). I have walked through a few valleys in my short time as a wife, and I have been privileged to walk with other couples as they journeyed towards one flesh. I paid attention to how conflict, life-changes and even sin impacts marriages. I take special note when marriages come back from the brink of despair and divorce versus when they fall over the edge. There are lessons to learn in good times and in bad. And applying my heart to wisdom has saved me from some critical missteps.

When marriage is no longer a dream because the joy is gone – pray for and apply the grace to make yourself joyful. There are many times when I am convincing myself that areas of my marriage will get better when my husband starts or stops doing certain things. If he would only do xyz, then I could be happy. I have realized that being joyful is a heart position. If I wait on my husband to make me happy before I decide to choose happiness, I would be waiting a long time and building up resentment in the meantime. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit so before we go on with all the self-care suggestions, get before the Lord and pray for His joy to flood your heart. And begin to choose joy in every moment. If all you have to be grateful for in a day (because there are some really crappy days) is the fact that you are alive, then rejoice for the grace to see another day. And commit to trying for more joy tomorrow. If what infuses you with joy is a good book, some silence, quality time with your spouse/friends, music or even a good meal – go for it! Whatever you joy “hack” is, plan it for yourself and indulge to your heart’s content. Do not wait on your husband to make you happy. Infuse the joy you want to see into your union. Your joy will rub off on your spouse and hopefully begin to infuse new joy into your union.

When marriage is no longer a dream because your spouse has morphed into a less lovable, caring, thoughtful, or functional version of who you thought you married – look in before you look out. A lot of times, the way people treat us as less to do with us than it does with what is going on with them internally. Before you decide that your spouse is just a terrible person and you can’t do anything more for them, are there any life-changes that could have prompted the behavior your spouse is exhibiting? Any changes to either of your schedules, lifestyles, careers, family (expanding or shifting) or sense of self that could be at the root of this unhappy version of your spouse? Do you know if you spouse’s needs for love, security, respect, affirmation, touch and emotional connection are being met? Don’t guess. Ask. Start there and do the deep digging to find out how satisfied your spouse is with the quality of their life. If you do not have the tools to ask the right type of questions or your spouse seems closed up to your prodding, get professional help through a trusted counselor, advisor or therapist. In a lot of the cases that I have observed, this is usually where the problem lies. Because “life changes” can cover everything from a change in work schedule to the frequency of sex in your marriage. Anything can affect the dynamics in a marriage. A marriage is a function of two different personalities and when one of those personalities shifts even a little bit, the dynamics in the relationship will shift too, oftentimes drastically. Most of the time, when a good marriage goes sour, it is because a need is no longer being met. Either what worked yesterday no longer works today because each individual has grown or changed. Or a new need arises that the couple does not realize is not being met. Most of the marriages that thrive in my own circle of influence are unions where husband and wife are forever recalibrating to each other’s changing needs. It takes intentionality and work but the payoff is worth it.

Most of us want the path of least resistance. If you liked flowers three years ago, I want to give you flowers forever and ever and assume that’s the best way to make you feel better. When your affinity for flowers disappears and is replaced by a longing for deep conversation and quality time, if I am not paying attention, I will miss the shift and begin to be resentful when I do not get the same positive reactions to flowers that I have begin to expect.

When marriage is no longer a dream because one of us (either me or my spouse) is in crisis, then it is time to put the work behind my vows. “Through thick and thin/rich and poor/sickness and health” are not just words. They are my soul’s pledge to do the right thing when everything else says otherwise. When I am in crisis, it is easy to focus on the object of my disdain and lose even the desire to invest in my spouse. But God knew that the crisis would arise before He called me to the ministry of marriage and when I give an account for what I did in my home, He will not excuse my neglect or sin against my spouse because life got hard – even impossibly hard. Even if the best I can manage in my crisis, is not to push my spouse away, and to accept their love when they give it – I believe grace will cover the rest. When my spouse is the one in crisis, unable to function as my partner and covering like I need them to be, I have to believe that God can cover what is missing for me. God did not create me to languish in the union He told me to enter into. If there is a need that is beyond my spouse at the moment, it is not beyond God. He has to fill me up, so I am not running on empty while trying to single-handedly keep my marriage alive (because my spouse is unwilling or unable). The good news is that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. Whatever challenges are bombarding my marriage because of the fallen and sinful world in which we live, Christ has already made provision for me to overcome. The God who can bring back life after the grave can resurrect my marriage even at the point where it seems irrevocably broken.

When marriage is no longer a dream because little foxes (third parties/affairs, unsupportive family/loved ones, exes and prior relationships) are coming in to spoil the vines, it is time to set some trap and catch the critters. How do you set the trap? By praying specifically against the wiles of the enemy and being watchful about which entryways they are using to infiltrate your marriage. If certain conversations are poisoning your heart towards each other, it is time to cut off those communications. You may or may not have to cut off the parties involve all together. Let wisdom lead you. But if it is people that you must stay in community with out of necessity, but they want to know what is going on in your marriage so they can discourage you, perfect the art of the one-word answer, and pivot.

“How are things between you and [your spouse]? – someone digging for dirt.

“Great! [the one-word answer]. Did you see that video with [insert something unrelated]? [the pivot] – you, blocking entryways for the little foxes.

If family members, exes, or previous relationships are the ones tripping you up, it is time to set some hard-lined boundaries. Be prepared for the pushback when the people who are used to having free access to you begin to meet road blocks. The guards you set in place to protect yourself and your union will be treated like a declaration of war. And for the sake of your marriage, you may have to make peace with being misunderstood. Everyone is not under the same obligation to protect your marriage at all costs like you are. They will give an account for their own behavior but God is not gonna ask them about what went wrong in your union. That responsibility is squarely on your shoulders. Be unapologetic about championing the health of your marriage before any other relationship (yes, even relationships with your parents or your children; if God wanted those relationships to be more important than your marriage, He would not have called you to leave them and cleave to your spouse).

If someone has interjected themselves into your marriage to steal the love, affection, emotional connection or physical intimacy that rightfully belongs to you or your spouse, I am of the “righteous indignation” persuasion. God appointed you to your position in your spouse’s life, any other “rival” is an illegitimate adversary. Stand firm in your position and do not give an inch to the enemy or his devices. Seek guidance and counseling to give you the proper tools to overcome this assault on your union but do not lay down your weapons and surrender just because the enemy mounted an attack. Even if you lose ONE battle, win the war.

Marriage is a HOLY covenant. It is not a man-made institution. The devil hates marriages and he will use all manners of devices, people and institutions to undermine something so near and dear to the heart of God. If you are enduring challenges and agony in your marriage, please send me a private message. I would love to pray with you and send you some resources. God made us to thrive in our unions and He alone can give us what we need to not only endure the hard times but flourish through them.



So…I Wasn’t Crazy

B222BA2C-741F-4E24-B135-0F184D6BA3D7This post can also be titled “Through The Fire Part 3” because the journey continues. If you have not read Part 1 and 2, get them here! Through The Fire and From Breakdown to Breakthrough -Through The Fire Part 2

It has been exactly one year since the panic attack that exposed my deep-seethed battle against fear and anxiety. Before that incident, I did not recognize that I had a problem with fear. I thought I was just a person that was prone to worry.  I started therapy three months after that attack and have been able to identify the root of my fear and anxiety. When I reflect back, I recognize that the fear in my heart was amplified in law school. Every day for three years, I lived daily with the fear of failing out of school and facing the humiliation of public failure. Everyone knew I was in law school. If I did not pass or graduate, they would know why. It never occurred to me that my sensitivities and law school were a bad match. I just did my best to power through.

My professors and fellow classmates did much to reiterate the fear I had regarding failure. There was constant talk about who failed and why. We analyzed and reanalyzed all the ways to answer a question wrong and thus fail a final exam or bar essay. All of those discussions made it abundantly clear to me that failing as a law student or a lawyer would be the worst thing in the world. I bought the narrative – hook, line and sinker. I do not know if law school graduation or passing the bar was supposed to magically heal the fear that had been instilled in my heart for over three years but, they did not. I graduated with a paralyzing fear of failure and a conviction that being a lawyer was more important than being human. To fail as a lawyer was to fail as a human being.

I practiced law for eleven years driven by the fear that was instilled in me in law school. I thought it was normal. But when my anxiety attack showed me that this was not a sustainable way of life, I ultimately decided that there was something wrong with me.

Maybe I was just crazy. Everyone else that practiced law seemed to be perfectly fine carrying the load of other people’s personal, legal and life-altering issues. Maybe I was just doing this legal career thing wrong. I am surrounded by colleagues, including family members, who are thriving in the practice of law. The fact that I buckled under the pressure felt to me like a personal failure on my own part.

This Friday, February 7th, 2020 – for the first time in over a year, I found out that I was not crazy. I was sitting in a CLE (continuing legal education for lawyers) and for the first time in over sixteen years, another lawyer confirmed what I was feeling. Her summation of what law school did to us was right on the money. (Paraphrasing her points) Law school broke me down without building me up and then released me into a career filled with people who are also broken and are conditioned to medicate their brokenness through substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) which usually worsens conditions such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. The speaker spoke of lawyers who felt like they were “phonies” who would eventually be exposed as terrible lawyers. Their thoughts were so consuming that most of the lawyers in her stories died by suicide.

A light bulb went off in my head. I have spent years being overwhelmed by the unrelenting imposter syndrome that has plagued me since my first C grade in law school. In my own eyes, I was a terrible lawyer and it was only a matter of time before everyone would find out. Had I continued down the path my thoughts wanted to lead me, there is no telling if I could have ended up becoming one of those “who would rather be a dead lawyer than a living human,” (quote from the speaker).  I had an immediate flashback to the first moment of my panic attack; the prevailing thought was “I rather just die than feel like this.” Thankfully, I had enough emotional stability to recognize that thought as wholly illogical and unworthy of further investment. I had too much to live for. I could not let one moment of terror steal my life from me.

But sitting in the CLE, having a stranger recount my own thoughts to me was jaw-dropping and deeply affirming. I was not crazy for feeling the weight of this profession for the twelve years I practiced. I was not crazy for deciding that getting away from private practice was the best thing for my emotional, physical and even financial health. I was not crazy for recognizing that had I continued to practice law in the same way, I would have ended up on a dangerous path towards a complete mental and emotional breakdown. I was not crazy.

It is possible to enter into the career you have always dreamed about only to realize that you do not want it. It is possible to have a title that other people respected but it did not bring any significance or joy to you. It is possible to be surrounded by people who were doing the same work as you but seem to enjoy it in a way that you have never experienced. And there is nothing wrong with that. It does not make you a failure or an anomaly or a crazy person. I am not crazy for finding my purpose, my joy and my peace outside of the practice of law. And I am done beating myself up from stepping away from it. God has more for me to do than to wake up every day with dread in my belly at having to take on the mental load of clients whose lives hang in the balance of my representation. I wholeheartedly relinquish the burden to be the savior of others. Jesus already died for them. I choose to rest.

I am thankful for the new path in my career that allows me to work, consult, earn and not take on any stress of anybody’s livelihood. I am grateful for the gift of writing, teaching and speaking to women. I am grateful for the family that I still have time to love and cherish and nurture because I did not allow the enemy to kill me with fear or stress. I am thankful for my new beginning. And I am not crazy for starting over.

(The CLE I referred to was hosted by the High Point Bar and Nixon Law Offices. When I get the speaker’s name, I will include her details. She did a phenomenal job on the mental health portion of the day).