I enjoyed this photo shoot so much! Special thanks to Nik Robinson for his creative genius! To book him, please visit his Facebook page: IntuitionPhotos
Life is too short to haphazardly go through each day barely existing! That used to be me until I realized that I wasn’t a participant in my own life. I can remember the day I chose to truly LIVE & my life hasn’t been the same since. Don’t let the troubles of this world leave its imprint on you, leave your imprint on the world. Today’s a new day, get out there and LIVE!!
If I had a dollar for every time I heard how different I looked in the last six months, I’d be on my way to being a solid millionairefollow. I usually reply with thanks or I’m just happy. While it’s much deeper than that, I go with it for the sake of time. I had a friend text me, who’s not even on social media, after she was shown a recent picture of me. She said I looked radiant. I honestly can’t take any credit, I refuse to. If I had enough time to tell you in words how much junk has been cleared from depths of my soul, then maybe you would understand my reluctance. We go through life as human trash cans, absolutely accepting every bit of the filth and garbage that life’s circumstances or negativity can throw our way. We then spend our lives trying to maneuver our way out the bottom of the barrel or remove the stench from its damage. Our hearts are absolutely clouded with residue and incapable of embracing the joys of life because in a lot of ways we’ve gotten comfortable living in garbage. I share my experience because my life has been an example of all that grace isn’t and is. I’m not perfect by any means these days, but I live free, open to life’s ups and downs, and with confidence in who I’m called to be. I’m fresh out of apologizing for it. As long as our hearts remain a landfill, we remain void of any potential for good to come our way. I spent many years struggling to shake the immaturity that came with a garbage heart. The simplest way I can put what has happened to me in the last year, is that my heart finally grew up!
I have encountered a number of people over the last few days that have put me in an awkward position. Not intentionally. I knew it would get to this point but I wanted to be sensitive to God’s timing. I felt prompted to write about it tonight after something extraordinary happened this morning. I’ve met a lot of people recently, who have struggled with unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and just stinking attitudes about life. I don’t believe one man’s struggle is greater than another. A struggle is a struggle. In my own journey to overcome these little heart leeches, I have learned that no matter how much we beg God to change someone or a situation, he will always start with changing us.
I’ve shared a little about my marriage difficulty, and with that being said, as a result have been walking down the path to dissolve my marriage for the last 8 months. I know this is a shock to many of you, and I would like to thank all that have kept this walk in confidence and allowed my family to heal in peace and without gossip. The fact that many of you are just finding out is a testament to the caliber of people we have surrounded ourselves with. Anyhow, I had to make a decision 8 months ago on how I was going to proceed. Not legally, but in my heart. Would I allow the bitterness that God had healed me from to creep back in and put on my boxing gloves? Or was I going to make the hard decision to pick up my cross and truly follow Christ. So I decided to take a gamble against human nature, and pick up my cross.
This meant giving up certain friends, refusing to speak negatively, eliminating the need to force our family or friends to choose sides, refusing to use my kids as pawns to get even, and even swallowing my pride to ride to church with him every single Sunday for the last 8 months because my kids wanted him there and realizing that he didn’t need my anger, finger pointing, or disappointment, he needed Christ. Taking solace in the fact that while he may not have gotten things right in time to save our marriage, there was still enough time for him to get it right with Christ. Not because I want him to, but because our kids need him to.
I wrote his family a letter 8 months ago, absolving them of the need to get in the middle or feeling like it was my side or his side. I assured them that I would do everything in my power to make sure the kids were still a part of their lives and encouraged them to pick their son’s side, not because they agreed with his actions, but because he needed their love and support if he was ever going to be healed. I say all that to say, my letter wasn’t received very well. It wasn’t personal, they were hurt like I was. We parted ways and there has been little communication, until today.
I won’t get into all the details but when we do things God’s way, no matter how difficult, he always gives us his best. We spend a lot of time fighting for what we think is right instead of fighting to get our hearts right. We can’t ever expect God to move on our behalf when we haven’t checked our motives. The old saying that God doesn’t bless no mess isn’t necessarily true, he can bless a mess, he just won’t bless a messy heart. Anyhow, after walking this road drama free, not because I couldn’t, but because I chose to follow Christ, my mother in law reached out to me this morning and it was a really good conversation. She asked if we could keep in touch, and my reply was, sure. God’s grace is amazing! This really could have been ugly, but when you choose the path of the cross, even in the ugly, beauty always, significantly abounds.
I’ve watched people who have hurt me move on with their lives as if nothing happened. They left me struggling to pick up the pieces from their damage for years. Until one day I developed this theory while begging God to take the pain away: Hurt me once, shame on you! But hurting myself twice because I can’t forgive what you did, shame on me!! Listen, aint nobody got time for that!! I forgive because I haven’t met a person who hurt me yet that was worth fretting over for the rest of my life. Their hurt is not worth my energy or my health! When memories of an offense try to rise up in my heart, I say “Hey heart, not my monkey, not my zoo, let’s keep it moving!
“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve”
Lyrics by Matthew West
I remember when this song was released. I was in my car driving home crying while I listened to it play over the radio. I had walked the hard road of forgiveness many times over by the time I’d heard it. When God tells us to forgive someone 490 times, it’s really hard to comprehend why? I haven’t always been a forgiving person. In fact, my mom would always say, “Winter, you should work on having more mercy”. I didn’t understand what she really meant, but at the time I thought, I’m forgiving, I’m just allergic to BS. OK, so maybe she had a point back then, but boy does life have a way of teaching us the lessons we don’t necessarily plan to teach ourselves.
If you read my bio, you know that I married my college sweetheart at 19. I’m sure you could imagine the struggles of a young married couple. Finances, navigating relationships with in-laws, parenting, and learning how to be a godly couple. Marriage is a lot of things, but I consider it an illuminator. It will literally shine a light on every flaw you didn’t even know you had. Mine was pride & respect. I did not respect my husband & had trouble apologizing when I was disrespectful. Our fighting, due to our age, was so ridiculous. After one fight, he told me he was leaving me. He packed his backpack with nothing in it and walked around the apartment building only to come back home 10 minutes later. Plum silly! Yet, we struggled on, growing and learning more about ourselves with each passing day.
After 4 years of marriage, we found ourselves in a totally new state & environment once he signed a contract to play in the NFL. It was new & exciting, but ultimately it was the freight train we never saw coming. I thank God for being in a place of deep relationship with him at the time. It’s amazing how we can feel God pulling at us to draw closer to him at times. Please know that if we refuse to give into those gentle tugs, we could be rejecting the very thing that may get us through a difficult time. I had been meeting with a group of sister-friends for prayer for months in preparation for a conference. When we arrived at the conference I remember praying for quite a few women. One of the women shared with me regarding her marriage and how depressed she was due to her husbands infidelity. To this day I can remember this thought “Thank God I don’t know what that’s like”. I often wonder what God thought about my arrogant stupidity at that moment. It is amazing how much pride & confidence we place in ourselves, man, and the things of this world. Anyhow, it ended up being an amazing weekend. Lives were changed and I still hear from women who were impacted that weekend.
I arrived home and life continued as usual. About two months after, I was hit the news of infidelity in my marriage. I can’t even begin to articulate the abysmal depth of pain I felt during that time. Forget feeling forsaken by God, I felt as if He had betrayed me. How in the world could this have happened?! I had done my best to live right, and at that moment, living right sucked! I remembered those words my mom had always spoken to me about mercy when deciding how I would proceed from that point forward. For the first time in my life, I made a decision to sincerely commit to walking the path of forgiveness regardless of where it led.
There were clearly some bumps in the road moving forward. My choice to follow Christ down the road of “seventy times seven” was tested everyday. In our humanness it is almost impossible to forgive and forget offenses, especially offenses of the heart. In fact, I believe that is why Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7, because forgiveness is a continual choice that you make every single day. We choose to forgive every time our mind wants to press rewind on that old tired cassette tape of offense.
We often judge people by their capacity to love, but loving is easy for most people. I believe that God judges our capacity to forgive. We do not forgive so the person who offended us can get away with what they did, but we forgive so we can get away from under the weight of what they did.
I wrote a while back about sowing the right way. Forgiveness is our opportunity to sow the right way. The harvest we seek may not be related to the current situation that requires forgiveness, but instead, to the peace we desire to walk in after an offense has been committed. Forgiveness requires us to lay down our brushes of pride, bitterness, resentment, and retaliation before the person who ruined our painting. It is an unnatural skill and we have to work at getting better at it every single day. God is the master of restoring tainted art. I learned that the real choice wasn’t about whether to stay or leave my circumstance, but rather to submit to the process of being repainted by the master artist. I’ve learned that mercy & forgiveness is not only the right thing, but it’s the only thing that can restore the beauty of a ruined painting, unleash new possibilities with each stroke, and leave wondrous evidence of His majesty at work on the canvas of our lives!
P.S. If you have suffered the devastating blow of an affair in your marriage, I want you to reach out to me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for prayer. There is hope regardless of the decision you make going forward. You are treasured by a gracious Father in heaven who loves you more than you could ever imagine!
Until next time dear friends, I pray that each of you find the strength to forgive & enjoy living weight free!
I have been listening to the song You Make Me Brave over and over again. I’ve never seen a force with a stronger grip that can keep us more bound up than fear. It is as crippling, as it is paralyzing. I’ve been writing a lot……….nothing will keep a story untold more than fear. It’s been almost a year since I spent 2 weeks fighting for my life in the hospital. I consider that time more of a divine encounter. I know I was never the same when I left. I struggled with fear a lot prior to that experience. Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the past, and anxiety about certain situations and outcomes. What I learned is that if we believe that God is in control, then we have to be willing to relinquish control and fully put our trust in him. Fear causes a healthy dose of what I like to call, faux anxiety. You allow mountains to be made out of molehills. Fear causes us to look at life through our rearview mirrors all the while missing the opportunities of the wide open windshield in front of us. In Philippians 3:13 it says “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Fear mutes the powerful words of our heart and silences the ability of our minds to think as God would have us to. We can be assured of a couple of things if fear is in our driver’s seat: we have made a choice to let fear drive and we have told God that we do not trust him enough to handle our lives. How silly is that if you think you think about it? I couldn’t tell Toyota how to fix their cars, they made them. Likewise, how silly of us not to trust the God who made us, went before us, and has already gone ahead of us. I pray that we all learn reject fear’s whispers of intimidation. We have no reason to be afraid and therefore if God brings you through it, he has done so for a reason that is meant to impact more than just you. Do not be afraid to share what He has done!