5 Words to Reflect on Before 2019

Can I just say how ready I am for 2019? I recently turned 29 and being the natural competitor I am, I feel a challenge to make 29 the best year of this decade. Pray for my poor husband, haha! 2018 was a beautiful year for me. But, beauty tends to come from ashes and 2017 was full of fire. 

Heartache was a theme for 2017 as relationships with people I loved and trusted burned down among other disappointments. God was there through it all. I know that without Him, 2018 wouldn't have been half as great as it was because I would have been too focused on the pain. Don't get it twisted...2018 was far from perfect. I felt deep growing pains and faced realities I would have rather ignored. But, I made it through and so did you my friend. 

I look back on the last twelve months and I have to stop and say, "Lord...thank you. Thank you for always rescuing me from my humanity when I get too wrapped up in the world and not in you."

I usually spend much of December reflecting on the year as I turn another year older, so does the world, and so does my marriage on New Years Day! December is a time for me think of what went right, wrong, and what hope I have for the upcoming trip around the sun for myself, the world, and my marriage. I also pray for God to give me a word to focus on. So far this year I am hearing the word "build" <3 



Below are the five words I am reflecting on as this year comes to an end. 

WHO

Is there someone in your life that deserves recognition this year? The whole book of Philippians reminds me of the importance of thanking the "who" in our lives...especially verses 1:3-5, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always will pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now..." Who has been in your corner this year?

WHAT

What are you proud of? What made your heart beat faster? What made you take a step back and think deeper? 

WHERE

Did you go somewhere new? Where would you like to go next year? 

WHEN

When during the year did you feel joy? When did you feel pain? Peace? Chaos? 

HOW

Speaking of "when"....how did those moments change you?


LM ACTION: Over in the Last Marriages Connected Facebook group I will be answering these 5 questions tomorrow. Join us there and share your answers as well! 

-- Cayla 

Check out Last Marriage's Core Values here

Sometimes Holidays Aren't Jolly

I don't have a specific point for this post except to let whoever may be reading know: whatever you need to do to get through the holidays is what you should do. 

I know that it seems odd to have to give ourselves permission to authentically feel the ups and downs of life. But, when the world is blaring "may your days be merry and bright" and you feel nothing of the sort...it can be a good reminder. Sometimes there are seasons of our lives so full of pain that the last thing we want is to fake emotion for the sake of holiday expectations. 

You may be experiencing a new lonely that leaves you anxious under the weight of hopes that you wished had been met, but weren't. You may be processing a reality that you never dreamed would be yours. You may feel silly attempting to create the perfect holiday, but you just can't deal with one more gloomy day. Whatever feelings you may be experiencing this year, please trust that you are not alone.

I feel that too often we are forced to act in ways that we don't want to in order to meet someone's expectation that we are "fine".



It's okay not to be okay. 

If the thought of going to a traditional gathering hurts, don't go.

If the idea of decorating a tree feels is daunting with heaviness of your current reality, don't decorate. 

If you want to go to Target and buy thirty candles to light for a loved one that's gone and everyone else seems to be forgetting, do it. 

If you want frozen pizza at home instead of ham at your Grandma's, stay in. 

If you are regularly disrespected by a toxic relative so you want to visit a friend this year instead, go be with your friend.

If you feel like decorating your house from top to bottom and baking dozens of cookies while blaring Christmas music, do it

The word family doesn't make you a doormat. The number of years spent in a relationship doesn't make you a punching bag.

You don't have to fake happiness for the comfort of others. 
The people who truly love and respect you will give you space to do what you need and process what you are going through. 




I know that joy will come. But, if for whatever reason you need lament this week and beyond..then please, lament. I believe that we serve a God who doesn't want you to fake emotions. He wants to be your comfort. He cares for you and is ready to listen if you are ready to talk. 




LM ACTION: Last year was a particularly hard Christmas season for my husband and I. The last five months of 2017 were very stressful. I remember the people who loved us when we needed to just be with our four walls family and supported us as we found our new normal.

I spent much of that time meditating on the book of Psalms. This verse was one of my favorites: Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. Psalm 102:1-2

-- Cayla




CONVERSATION: Friendship VS. Wedding Prep...

AUTHOR: Kaitlyn

Ashley* and I were best friends. When we both were proposed to at the same time we were ecstatic. How many friends of twenty years could say they got to plan their weddings together? 

We both chose each other as our maids of honor. I was already done with college, so I dove head first into the waters of bridal magazines, DIY reception decor, venue visits, and honeymoon planning. Ashley still had one year left and was in an intense hospital rotation. Naturally, as her best friend, I also began looking for ways to assist her in any way that I could while she was at the hospital.

I don't even know why I signed up to do half of the things that I did...like a spread in a bridal magazine featuring best friends (ahem, Ashley and myself) who were getting to plan their events together. As payment, I negotiated that they would cover part of the costs for the catering at our receptions. I began working out like mad to be in perfect shape for the spread. I was also working hard to be the perfect maid of honor for Ashley. 

I addressed her "Save The Dates" and mailed them out for her. 

I ordered cake samples and took them to her at work. 

I had linen samples mailed to her. 

I was bound and determined to be the best bride and maid of honor. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the dive I took into wedding planning turned into drowning. 


One Saturday afternoon, about a month after Ashley's engagement party, we drove to the local bridal shop to meet close family and friends to try on dresses. I had called the owner and got us in after hours so we could have the place to ourselves. I had picked up matching lattes with "Future Mrs." on the cups as well as champagne. 

I'm not sure exactly how it went down, but some where in the dressing room between me zipping Ashley and Ashley zipping me, she admitted to me that she had broken off her engagement. She informed me that her fiance had been looking at porn for the last few months so she decided to call it off. This had been an issue in their relationship before, but she thought he had stopped after they discussed it. 

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I lost it. 


"ASHLEY. I have done EVERYTHING for you for over the last 8 months. I have spent my own money and time I can never get back for US to have the perfect day! For US to save money! All while supporting your nursing career! Now you are going to ruin all of this over some porn?! How dare you! If you do this the magazine will drop us! It has to be BOTH of us!! We can't afford the catering costs without it! Why are you so selfish?!"

While still in the dressing room, both of us half zipped up, I dropped her as my maid of honor. She tried to apologize and explain, but I refused to listen. In that moment, I declared her as a threat to my "perfect-day" and never looked back. I'm not sure of much that happened after that, but I am sure that my choices destroyed a 20 year friendship. 




This happened almost three years ago and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Not only because I lost my friend, but also because I was in no way, shape, or form an example of Christ. While I was stressed about having a Pinterest-worthy wedding, Ashley was stressed about having a Christ-worthy marriage! She was interested in marrying someone who respected her and entering into a covenant with Christ that she felt could survive for better or for worse. 



LM ACTION: I really loved the perspective of Kaitlyn's conversation. It's not one we hear from often. We often hear of the bride or groom pressured into marriage after the fact, but not usually from the person who attempted to apply the pressure for whatever reason. I appreciate her honesty. 

Previously on the blog, we had another conversation where the groom felt pressured to get married. I think that more couples are pressured into getting married than we care to realize. It's sad to think that they are are scared to lose family, friends, or investments. 

Have you ever pressured someone to make a choice that they weren't comfortable with? What kind of strain did it cause in the relationship?

-- Cayla

Would you like to write for Last Marriages? Click here

*name has been changed for anonymity. 

Motherhood Hack: Learn to Date Yourself

Date yourself. 
Treat yo' self...whatever. 
You get where I'm going with this post! 



I recently had a few mamas who joined the: [LAST MARRIAGES] CONNECTED  Facebook group ask if I would would write a "surviving motherhood" post. To be honest...I'm only six years in...so I don't feel qualified to write such a post! However, I can say that about 12 months ago I made a one change that has impacted my motherhood journey in only positive ways. 



The change? I learned to date myself.






I'm not proclaiming this was an easy change to make. It was a struggle to find time for just myself in the midst of my husband's schedule, my ex-husband's schedule, my schedule, volunteer work, three daughters and their schedules, friends, family, my day job, blog start-up, etc. It was even MORE of a struggle to mentally disconnect myself from ALL. THE. TASKS. swarming in my head. However, once I got into the habit of prioritizing myself, I began to crave and look forward to this time alone.

This has surprisingly helped my motherhood journey in many ways. I have noticed I have more patience during daily tasks [aka: stress] because I know I have this time to look forward to. I feel like my anxiety levels have decreased and that I appreciate what I accomplish instead of viewing it as a heavy load.



Sooo, what exactly does dating yourself look like? It looks like taking time to disconnect from those that need something from you. Personally, I love a bath with Netflix on my iPhone. But, if it would be to tempting for you to check social media notifications...that may not be for you! I also love to hop in the car (yes, three kids in an Accord over here!), grab Starbucks (or 7-11 wannabe concoctions, whatever's in the budget that week) and listen to a podcast. Maybe you are more of a "run two miles and forget the world" kind of person...whatever you're into girl...schedule it. Commit to it. DO IT!



Some Treat yo' self themes you can have at your door in 48 hours:


*Soak + Quiet*

      


*Let Mommy Color Something Other Than Elsa*


     


*Netflix, Joggers, + Wine*


      


*Get Relaxed Tea + Jodi P*


      

*Caramel Macchiato + Chill*

      



LM ACTION: Declaring time for your self can be one of the hardest tasks to approach in life. I think the reason I avoided it for so long was because it felt selfish. But, I learned quickly there is nothing selfish about it. Even God rested on the 7th day :) 

Creating space to recharge is essential. There may be times where you are able to make the time regularly, and other times where the time is spaced out more. 


Do you make time for yourself regularly? What are some of your motherhood hacks? 

-- Cayla


CONVERSATION: I Stayed With My Husband...But I Want a New Church


AUTHOR: Leslie

I have been married to the same man for 30 years. We have two beautiful, adult children together. Most of my life we have attended a church of close to 100 people. It really isn't too fancy of a place, but I enjoy walking into the building that I was married and raised my children in. That is until recently. Unfortunately, recently, I have been looking at other churches to attend. 

I feel guilty about "church-shopping," as many believers call it, but I also feel guilty about waking up each Sunday and dreading going to service.

Almost two years ago my husband informed me of an affair he was having. The whole event felt catastrophic for me. I was crushed, but I knew that if anyone could make it through this, it would be us. Quickly after I found out, we enrolled in marriage counseling and decided what was best for of us was to stay married. 


We were in such a close knit church, that we decided to talk about it with another couple when they were telling us about a marital issue they were having. We had hoped it would encourage them that if we could stay together then they could too. But, they did not agree.




A few weeks later, I was at our Women's Ministry Quilting Group. I tried not to let it bother me, but I could tell that women were avoiding speaking with me. Finally, I asked them what was going on.

"Do you feel like you forgave him too fast?" a fellow quilter asked. Many other questions followed, including, 
"We can not help but wonder if our husbands would expect the same easy forgiveness from us?"

I didn't know what to say. I wasn't sure why they felt the desire to compare situations.


I believe having an affair take place after thirty years of marriage is very difficult. I don't suppose there was anything easy or natural in regards to forgiving my husband. When I chose to stay in my marriage, I don't believe I was condoning his actions. Yet, after that unfortunate conversation with my quilting group, I spend many hours of my day wondering why I suddenly feel like a "bad guy."

I am not sure if I will continue going to church there or not. I am saddened at the thought of leaving, but I will admit that being in this position has opened my eyes. I do not cast judgement as easily as I used to. I no longer reside in a facade that the world is black and white. I now realize that when I forgive and accept people, heedless of their mistakes, I am not condoning any specific behaviors. Instead, I am ingenuously accepting someone the same way that Jesus has accepted me. I now spend more time reading Jesus' examples on loving others where as I used to spend more time understanding "right and wrong". In ways, I am thankful that this experience took place in my life as I feel I now have a broader understanding of the Word. Perhaps the issue at hand is not my church family's response to my choice to stay with my husband. Maybe the issue is that after going through this stage of my life, I have simply outgrown my church. 




LM ACTION: Wow, I loved reading Leslie's story. I know that it can be hard not to feel supported by people you have spent consistent time with during your life. However, I love the point she makes at the end, "maybe the issue is that I have outgrown my church". 

I am encouraged by this conversation to remember not to compare my marriage to other marriages. I feel inspired to be someone who takes my fears to the cross instead of putting them on someone else. I never want to discourage what God is doing in someone's life. 

Matthew 11:28-30: Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." 

Have you ever outgrown a church? What was the process like for finding a new church home? 

-- Cayla

Have you read LM's other conversation pieces? 








 

Six (mostly) Faith Based Shirts You Need In Your Closet

I recently posted on LM's Instagram story asking what my readers wanted to see on the blog this week. The most common response I received was "faith shirts" or "shirts with verses". I really wasn't expecting that, but as an avid shopper...I'm here for it! 


Below you will find 6 fun designs that you can order from Amazon in time for Christmas gifts...or for yourself!  :) 


"I love Jesus...but I cuss a little"


"Faith"




"Raising Arrows"


"With Jesus in her heart & coffee in her hand, she is unstoppable"


"It is well with my soul"





My personal fav, "Raising tiny disciples" :D 





Which one is your favorite? 


Would you like to see a giveaway for one of the designs above? 



 

Trusting Christ During Tough Times

Let me just start by saying...this is HARD. Like, REALLY hard. Maybe the hardest thing about being a Christ follower...to trust Him when everything hits the fan.

Want to hear the good news? The more you do it the more natural it becomes.

I remember during one point of my divorce, I felt so overwhelmed. It was a new overwhelmed I had never felt before. It was physically heavy to just live. For much of this time I was going mostly to people I loved for advice. I was still going to church, reading my Bible, even meeting with a mentor...but in no way was I laying down my burdens to Christ. In fact, I would say there was even a bit of a boundary there.

I couldn't imagine talking to Christ about it because that meant two things: 


1. It was real. No denial...everything that was exploding around me was really happening. 

2.  I would have to let go of control.

Yikes...the C word. My Sunday School teacher didn't tell me about the struggle with that one ;) 

In many ways, control is nothing more than an illusion. Very little times in life will you literally be 100% control. So much of your life is going to be spent attempting to show people who you are while making choices and plans that go towards a variety of hoped for outcomes. While you may not always have control...you do always have the option to hope. 

I wish I could tell you that my divorce was the last time I had to turn to Christ and have hope, but it is not. Each year it seems like there is at least one event that takes place where I look to the sky and ask, "Why?" 

My life is far from flawless and seamless...but, my action steps are in a different order now. I attempt to go to Christ first and say, "I don't understand, but I trust and have hope in you." From there, it is a waiting game...a faith game. Sometimes I feel like I understand right away. Other times, I'm left waiting for months and months. But, He hasn't failed me yet.

Hope with me. Look to Heaven with me! Believe with me!

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 


LM ACTION: Something I encourage you to try is to make a note in your phone of the date and time that an unfortunate event occurred. It can be as simple as "laid off 11/20/18" or it can be a few sentences. Whatever your style -- write it. Breathe. Let go of some of the control you wish you had and look to Christ.  

There will be a lot of things that take place after you write that note: prayers, phone calls, events, new Netflix shows, weather changes, celebrations, new boundaries being set, holidays, etc. But, at some point in the future you will come back across that note. I have faith that you will feel the warmth of His presence when you read it. I have faith that you will see God's provision in one way or more. 

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

If you ever need a fellow hope warrior, I am here for you. 

-- Cayla

Learn more about me here!



CONVERSATION: Lack of Visible Grief Hurt My Former Wife


AUTHOR: Ryan

This could be an extremely long conversation post. Pages and pages long, so I will make it as short as possible.

I am a gay man who married a straight woman. 

At 15, I came out to my parents and youth pastor. I was encouraged to keep my exploratory thoughts to myself and was told my attraction would naturally work itself out. So I married a girl I grew up with and prayed they were right.

After 6 years of marriage and one child my wife discovered my secret. I thought she would lose her mind, but she didn't. To my surprise she was supportive, understanding, and said she had suspected it since we were kids. I offered to stay married so she would have financial support, but she wasn't interested. I did not blame her. We agreed to file for divorce so that she could find a husband who could give her what she really needed. She was adamant about not telling anyone about my sexuality until I was ready and we thought our child could handle it. 

Our parents asked us to stay married and accept that we were in a multi-orientation marriage. They sent us statistics attempting to scare us; things like, I would end up with HIV or that our son would become a drug addict in high school if he didn't have two biological parents in the same home. Honestly, I could not respect any of their advice, because it was their advice that lead me here 20 years ago. So, my ex-wife and I lived in the same house for about a year before I moved out. I quit attending church, because I wasn't sure where I was at spiritually. I knew I still believed in God, but I really did not know what else I believed. I was processing a lot of guilt, realize that if I hadn't married Taylor*, she wouldn't have to go through everything she has. If I wouldn't have listened to my parents and former youth pastor, my child would have not had to go through it either.

Things were getting along fine, and our son seemed to be adjusting well to his new routines. I was overjoyed for my ex-wife as she was able to move on and find a guy who loved both her and my son. After 6 months of dating, he proposed.


This is when the story starts to take some sad turns...



Some women at our previous church started gossiping that Taylor must have been unfaithful to me to have already moved on so quickly (we had been legally divorced for a year now).  She had found this out through a Facebook group message the other women had going on, not realize she was in it. This was destructive for her life, she she worked full-time at the church. She asked for a meeting with the head pastor, to which he stated, "You cannot blame them for making assumptions. You have never acted as though your divorce negatively affected you." 


Up until that point, Taylor had been strong. But, these were not just messages of women wondering what happened or considering sitting down with her to figure it out. These were women tearing her to shreds, women she worked with everyday, grew up with, took means to after they gave birth, babysat for, helped paint their houses. Now, they were accusing her of being unfaithful, a liar, going to Hell, and more. One said that she was the reason I was "driven out of church" - the farthest thing from the truth.

I begged her to tell them the truth and I offered to tell them myself. But, she wouldn't have it. It would add fuel to the fire, she said. We didn't want this to be the way our son found out. I had already made one decision for her, and that was letting her marry a man living a lie, and I did not feel I had the right to take another decision away by coming out before she was ready. 


I understand that this is not completely our past church family's fault. I should have never married a woman and it was our choice to keep why we divorced private. I guess that I just thought people were better than this. I really did not think for a minute that she would be treated badly by people she worshiped beside throughout her lifetime. I often wonder what happened in those women's lives to make them think such dark things about others, especially someone as genuine and kind as my former wife.



LM ACTION: I will admit that I have had some anxiety about making this conversation live on the blog. My anxiety stems from the fact that I truly never want this page to be a place where people receive condemnation based on decisions they have made. While I know that homosexuality is very heavily debated in the church, I hope that you can look past it and instead put yourself in the shoes of not only the author, but his former wife. 

What happened to her was largely no fault of her own, yet the blame was placed on her anyways because she didn't seem to grieve the loss of her marriage. 

Grieving can be deceiving. Someone's grief may take them to a place where they need everything in their life to stay as normal as it was before. Sometimes they may need space for weeks or months just to process what happened. Other times, they may live in a cycle of relief and pain. 

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." 1 Peter 3:8

Have you been treated unfairly due to either grieving too much or not enough? I'm not sure that there is a right or wrong way to act when grieving. But, I do think that it is fair not to judge someones level of grief based on the outward emotions you see. What do you think? 

-- Cayla

Read LM's last conversation post here!

*name changed for anonymity
















The Harm in Idolizing Other Marriages (and Divorces)

AUTHOR: CAYLA POLSTON

You see blended families on social media where parents and step-parents wear matching shirts to baseball games. They are labeled "mom","bonus mom", "dad", and "bonus dad". You wonder where you went wrong in co-parenting as you think of the explosive fight you just had with your ex over book rental fees. Doesn't God know how badly you crave peace in those moments?


You see a couple holding hands in line at the store, laughing and smiling...and you feel pain wondering why your wife isn't that happy around you. You feel guilty thinking back to those nights you were hoping she'd be asleep before you got home. "Just one night this week I'd like to not be criticized," you think. "Why doesn't God fix her?"

You go to church and see the former single mom who was divorced and remarried in less than two years. God brought her a partner so fast. Doesn't He see that you are close to drowning in the waters of single-parenting?

All of us have fallen victim to envy in one way or another. I personally had a really hard time with the fact that my co-parenting journey was far from perfect. I had a lot of hope that things would flow together once the marriage was over. I was envious of other people who seemed to have "picture-perfect" co-parenting relationships. I was annoyed with other people who didn't understand that sometimes, regardless of how hard you try, co-parenting with your ex spouse isn't any easier than being married to them was.

Co-parenting has improved over time (including my attitude and grasp on reality), but it wasn't easy. It took realizing that I was spending more time thinking of other divorced couples instead of focusing on my blessings. While envy may have been new to me, it wasn't new to God.

Envy goes all the way back to the book of Genesis. Cain reacted quite harshly (where are my murderinos at?) when he saw his brother being shown favor in ways that he wasn't. Instead of staying in his own lane focusing on his own relationship with God....he was focused on what God was doing for his brother. He then gave into his emotions instead of looking at the situation honestly, which led him to even more destruction.

In the end, God protected Cain and provided another son for Adam. I would say that His response was ultimately one of favor and grace.

I could write dozens of examples from the Bible (or TMZ) of envy and the harm it leads to, but you get the idea: envy is dangerous. It puts a wall up between the favor you have received from God and the favor that is still to come. Your situation may not measure up to someone else you admire, but that doesn't mean His work is done or that He hasn't shown you favor in the past.

God says in Jeremiah, "I'll show up and take care of you. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out -- plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen."

That doesn't sound like a God who has forgotten about you or me or a God who doesn't have prosperous plans for us.




LM ACTION: Begin by thanking God for the favor you have seen in your life recently. A great verse to meditate over is Psalm 20:4, "May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose." Pray just that...that He will help you fulfill your own purpose and guide you through your journey.

--Cayla

Get to know me here