>The Journal Is Out

>I have out the journals. Now these journal entries will be shared with the utmost discretion. My mother and close friends have been told of there whereabouts and have been instructed that if the Lord so wills to bring me home in a quick manner they are to burn these journals before they are read by anyone. You see they hold my insanity. I learned a long time ago that if I would put my emotions on paper, in writing, it cleared my head and my heart and helped me to think more rationally. In my Christian walk I have learned that I can stop Satan’s lies if I put them down on paper and then hold them up to the Word of God. So many times I don’t even realize it is a lie of that serpent of old until I see it in writing.

I have open in my lap now a journal entry from January 23, 2002. At this point I had been a wife for two and a half years, a step-mother for two and a half years, a mother for seven months, and a newly wholly surrendered believer for one month.

My prayer in my journal on January 23, 2002…
“Lord I pray that You will teach me to submit to my husband. I pray that you will help me bite my tongue and my pride so that I will live more according to Your will. You are the Almighty God who in all things are possible so I know You can do this! “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13) “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.” (Titus 2:4-5)”

My prayer in my journal on January 24, 2002…
“I pray that You will continue to speak to my heart and I pray that I will hear Your words. I also pray that You’ll help me to submit to Patrick, Lord I will have a hard struggle with this and I need Your hand on this situation because I don’t believe I really know how to submit. Father, I just want to make You proud!”

I find it absolutely not a coincidence that the first area that God opened my eyes to was my marriage and my place in it. You see I was a hard-hearted woman. I had lost faith in men as a whole. I was a jaded, independent, self-sufficient, stubborn red-headed Halbrooks. I needed no one, so I thought. When I married I told myself and others that I would never be a “kept” woman. I depended on no one but myself  and really trusted no one, including my husband. My husband telling me as much was what shook me to the point of picking up my Bible again.

The first small group class that the Lord put me in was Manna for Moms and Sue Fallin was the teacher. The first class I recall sitting through was on submission, and I remember well my neck stiffening and my back straightening in defiance to what she was saying. I believe I even had a little snitful comment to make about it also. However, she spoke truth, and it is the truth that sets you free. So I have spent the last twelve years learning how to submit to my husband. This is not a 6 week, 12 step, fix it and forget it subject. This is a learn as you go till death do you part subject.   

I thank God for the godly women that He has placed in my life. He surrounded me with Titus 2:4-5. He placed me with those who could teach me how to love my husband and my children. I could learn from them and I am so glad that I have chosen to listen. I know that I am not there yet, I could probably turn to my 2011 journal and find an entry that once again cries out to God to help me submit to my husband.

If I can give a word of advice to any married couple it would be this: If you are struggling in anyway in your marriage (and by the way if you are not struggling now I can almost bet there will come a day that you will, it’s just life and love) make a connection with a couple that has succeeded. Find that couple that after 30, 40, 50 years together they still hold hands when they walk out of church or smile at each other and compliment each other. You can see their love and commitment to each other and to the Lord in their eyes. Find them, and talk with them, and listen and learn from them.

Choose Death

confessions

“Whoever said that marrying and having children was to be trouble free? It’s one of the hardest things in the world. It just happens to be right and rewarding.” (John Piper)

Yeh, so who was it that said marrying and having children would be trouble free? I can’t recall it. I don’t know where that lie began. With Disney? With Hollywood? With fictional romance novels? I mean Shakespeare did not write that way. Look at Romeo and Juliet. Homer did not write that way. Have you ever read the tangled mess of life and love in The Odyssey and The Iliad? The Bible certainly did not say that. Look at Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. Look at Noah and his sons. Look at Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Ishmael. Look at Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Esau. Look at David. Good grief I could just keep going on and on.
So where exactly did we come up with the delusion of a trouble free marriage?
In the words of an old Saturday Night Live skit, “Could it be, could it be, Satan?”

Let’s just stop and think for a moment of what a marriage in our fallen world actually is. It is two completely separate people who are raised in completely different homes by completely different parents. They have separate personalities. Separate backgrounds, even if they were raised in the same neighborhood and grew up in the same church from the womb, they are still two separate and unique individuals.

Then in our “dating” society, these two separate individuals catch each others eye and then spend the next however many days, months, years, pretending to be the perfect person for this one whose eyes they have caught. They are on their best behaviour at all times, they say things they don’t mean, they pretend to like things they really hate, they do things they have never done in a way they have never done it because they think this person likes it that way. They assume, compromise, fake, twist, distort, fabricate all in the name of “love”.

Then when they have successfully pulled the wool over each others eyes, they come together and say “I do”. Then it happens, it’s harder to keep up the charade on a 24 hr, 7 day a week basis. The scary thing is that usually neither one of you even really realized that it was a charade. You were just playing the game. You saw what you wanted and you did what you had to do to get it and now you have it and you have just realized you have no clue what to do with it.

You also have just realized that you have forgotten who you really were as you pretended to be something and someone else for so long. Now you look in the mirror at this stranger in front of you and then over to the other side of the bed at this stranger lying beside you.

Now it becomes a mission. I will make this work. I will continue to be who I have convinced this person I am if it kills me… and it will. Here lies the test of faith. Here is where the rubber will meet the road. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Oh yes, we will try to keep it up, the charade. We will work our fingers to the bone and concoct all sorts of strategies to make it work. We will read books and watch Dr Phil and we will grow tired and frustrated. The other stranger will not meet our expectations. We will accuse each other of not trying hard enough to pretend to be someone we never really were to begin with… and then it comes to the moment of do or die.

Will you choose to die? Will you choose to stop the charade? Will you choose to die to who you are pretending to be, to who you were, to the you, you are trying to hold on to? Will you choose to die?

If you choose death, then your marriage will live. “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Yes, unless that grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. Marriage is God taking two completely different unique individuals and meshing them into a brand new creation and birthing out of this creation fruit of uniqueness. If you are a skeptic on miracles, how much more of a miracle is this? Why would Satan be working so hard to destroy our marriages and redefine what a marriage is, if it did not so amazingly and wonderfully display the glory of our God?

A living marriage is a double suicide. Two people choosing to die (or kill each other in the process) and allowing God to breathe life back into them and raise them from the dead to live a life of unity, to become one flesh. The awesome thing is that God can make us one flesh without ever destroying our uniqueness. While if we try to do it ourselves, apart from Him, we do destroy our uniqueness.

No matter how or where the marriage began, no matter how far and how long the charade game has been played, no matter the mess, if both will choose die to themselves then God will validate that covenant and it will bear much fruit. Here lies the test of faith. When the rubber meets the road will you be willing to die?

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily”. The truth is marriage is not trouble free, raising children is not easy, learning to live in unity with another unique individual is hard, but not impossible. With God all things are possible and if we will place our marriage in the hand of God then He will use it to display His image, His glory, and His grace.

“So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12)

>Friendship

>

Drained

confessions

Well it’s now Sunday night… the drive home always gets me. After worshipping God through teaching Sunday school, then worshipping God in song and sitting under my Pastor’s teaching with ears ready to hear what ever the Lord is willing to reveal to me, then coming home and fixing lunch for my family and cleaning up the mess to then return to church and teach a Precept class, I am drained.

It is a spiritual, emotional, and physical drain.{I suppose going to bed after midnight and getting up before 6am didn’t help either.}

It is at this point that I have learned that I must be VERY careful.

It is at this point, that the short snipey answers will come to the questions of little girls. It is at that this time that when a little voice says, “I’m hungry” I will snap with a “How can you possibly be hungry!” (I mean really didn’t you just eat 6 hours ago???) Or it’s the, “Could I at least get into the door before you start demanding things?!?” (I mean really how dare you expect me to actually act like a mother…) Then sad eyes will look up at me and I will feel like a complete horses butt, but even then, if I am not VERY careful I will take that feeling and twist it into more justification to get even crabbier… oh my poor children.

Yet even after this they still think I am amazing.

It started again today, almost, but thankfully as I began to type and share, a renewed strength came and the power of the Holy Spirit within me has revived me. So my emotions are once again under control. Now, as I type, my oldest is fixing her and her sister some late “dinner” as I explain to her how to do it (our computer is in the kitchen). She is like her Daddy, she likes to cook. I am glad. I believe I shall pass the cooking duty off to her as she gets older and I’ll take over the dishes.

I believe the Word of God is true, and when God says confess your sins to one another, it is for a reason. If I had not been here confessing my struggle to you, then I probably would be at the point of yelling at my children just for wanting another glass of kool-aid. Exhaustion will do that to you. I believe this is one of the reasons why God said “Honor the Sabbath”. He knows if we are to win this battle of flesh and Spirit, this battle of good and evil, we must be well rested. The enemy gets no greater foothold than when weariness overtakes us. We live in a world that wants us weary. Have you picked up on that yet?

I believe that is also why He says be devoted to Him, devoted to prayer, and devoted to each other. We need Him and we need each other. You see I don’t have it all together yet, and I have reached the point that I don’t care who knows that I don’t have it all together, and it’s for purely selfish reasons that I have come to this point. The selfish reason… my girls.

I have decided that I would rather have all the world know all my faults and see all of me, then to have my girls see two different faces on this Christian housewife. What you see is what you are going to get. I am not going to put on my church face and then my “all hell’s broke loose” face as soon as I walk in the door. I just don’t have the time or the energy for that game. As Meg Ryan says in the movie French Kiss, “Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion”

I just want to be real, all the time, not rude, mind you, just real. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh in public and private. Obeying the Word of God in public and private. Honoring my God, my husband, my children, my family, my friends, in public and private.

There is nothing that terrifies me more than me being the reason that my children would ever doubt the reality and power and holiness and love of their Creator. So if that means letting others see the evidence of this ugly flesh of mine, then so be it, but more so I pray that what truly will be seen is the glory of the grace of God. I pray that what will be seen most is this amazing grace in which I stand by faith in my Savior Jesus Christ.

>Today was a Good Day

>Our 12th wedding anniversary was a good day 🙂
After awaking from an exciting night of sleep with basketball, Lady Gaga, and a tree… I found a Happy Anniversary card waiting for me on the counter. I read it 2 or 3 times while my coffee was making, then headed outside to pile up on the back door steps (because all the outside tables and chairs were still wet from yesterday’s downpours).
I spent the early morning hours praising my God and thanking Him for who and all He is as I studied through Isaiah 36-39. There’s just nothing like reading and being reminded that your God is the Lord of hosts, the Creator of heaven and earth, and is enthroned above the cherubim as you listen to His creation waking up and visit with Him in the cool of the morning. It is my favorite time.
As the house wakes up, I head in and help the girls get some breakfast and then throw on some clothes and watch Patrick and the girls play a game of wii golf. By now it’s brunch-ish and so I attempt to prepare some Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper, with some microwaved scrambled eggs, and toast… which I manage to mess up (but my husband is not going to complain, even goes so far as to say how good it was, because he doesn’t want me to cook any less than I already do, I am not a fan of cooking).
After brunch, Patrick and me and the girls head to the thrift store to do some shopping and talk about how we need to start yard-saleing again…
Then we are off to my parent’s to help my sister move into their new home. So we spend the next few hours loading trucks and a trailer and the unloading trucks and a trailer and decorating and placing furniture and fighting with kids and nieces and nephews.
During one of the trips between houses my nieces scream out and I head out the door, they are beside themselves as they point and scream, “look Nay-Nay that cow is having a baby!!” Yep there she is! In the midst of birth right in the middle of the pasture. Of course the moving stops as we watch this miracle take place. Yes these are the days that I love being a country girl, and raising our girls in the country. There the momma cow stands and as my 10 yr old says “just poops it out”! It’s a beautiful little calf that just lays there for a moment and we all sit in great anticipation as we wait to see signs of life. And yes there’s a leg kick, an ear move, a head lift. The calf is alive and well. So we spend the next half-hour watching and waiting for the calf to stand and finally up it goes as it tries to stand and then falls face first back to the ground. But after several attempts and its momma’s constant nudges it finally stands on it’s oh so cute wobbly legs.
Baby Calf’s first steps
After all this we head to the park for some food, fun, friends, and fireworks.
So our 12th Anniversary was special and sweet and filled with all the wonderful things this life together has brought us. Our children, our family, our church, our friends, our life. Yes, today was a good day.

>Basketball, Lady Gaga, and A Tree

>Note to self: Never, ever, ever again watch Lady Gaga on David Letterman before bed.

I dream every night. It seems as though I never actually sleep because the dreams are so vivid and real and usually always ridiculously crazy. I, at first, fall into bed with that stretch out on stomach and head on pillow sigh of ahhhhhh and close my eyes thinking, yes tonight I will sleep, after all it’s been a good day. However I awake at 1:30am with a start and rush to the bathroom checking to make sure I didn’t wet the bed because I have to pee so bad! I sit in the bathroom wondering if it’s just the 7pm coffee or are Depends right around the corner… on this note I return to bed.
Yes and then the dreams…
What I can recall (and am willing to share) is somehow I am in a gym and there’s a jv and high school basketball tournament going on. One boys team is getting ready to play and a wormy coach walks out all puffed up looking for his dry erase marker and then one of his coach assistant’s who is a rather muscled up big guy jumps up and runs to get one for the wormy coach who in turn throws it back at the dudes face because he wanted a different one, to which the bigger dude, ducks his head and heads off to get the other marker. I shake my head and walk away. There is nothing that perplexes me more than a grown man licking another man’s boots as he walks around in pompous arrogance…
Next thing I am sitting watching a jv girls team getting ready to practice and divide up into teams and the Hispanic talking coach grabs me and says “here you play on this team”. I look at her with a ‘hello!?!??’ I’m 34 not 12, I think they’ll notice. To which she replies, no they won’t, I have the paperwork to prove you’re of age, get out their and play. She then looks at me and says, ‘it’s okay, you just need to go get in the egg and meditate and be reborn. Have you experienced rebirth today?’ To which all of a sudden now I am on the team and I look over and my basketball playing cousin who is also in her 30’s is playing with me. We just look at each other and shrug our shoulders. Game on?
Next thing I know I am outside and I look over and here comes a young girl I have known since a child dressed up in the Lady Gaga gear of the David Letterman interview. She prances up as if it is no big deal that she is dressed this way. I am thinking “Good Lord what is the world coming to? Please do not allow this woman to influence our youth, she uses Your words but she twists them to her own will.”
Somehow from there I end up being put in charge of my friend Michelle’s favorite tree. It is a tree that looks like a dinosaur leg bone and she loves it and wants to keep it safe. I at first find this utterly ridiculous, but as the men come to try and take the tree away I grab on for dear life and am holding on with heaping sobs to this tree… They finally jerk it away and I am standing there explaining what happened to my friend and am still sobbing as I say, I can’t believe I got so attached to a stupid tree…

Now if I were a dream analyzer I could spend hours trying to decipher through all this mess, but it’s really quite simple…
Don’t watch the News or Lady Gaga on David Lettermen before going to bed.

>Favorite Proposal

>Well, I am not much on Hollywood’s idea of love, but there are some one liners in some films that just stick with you forever. Considering that tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, I would like to share one of my favorite.
Richard Gere in Runaway Bride is talking with Julia Roberts about how a man should really propose. He tells her, “Look, I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me”
I LOVE THIS!
This is the truth. There will be tough times. There will be times when you will look at each other and, well, just not like each other that much. Those times will come, but they will also go. If we walk away, give up, because of a tough time… oh my the amazing good times we miss.
I have learned that each anniversary has become sweeter. The best days were not the “honeymoon” days, the best days are now. The best days are when we come through a trial together. The best days are when both kids wake up throwing up in the middle of the night and you spend the entire night and next day tag teaming between kids, vomit buckets, throwing towels and blankets and shirts and what ever you can find to catch what doesn’t make it in the bucket or bathroom. The best days are holding each other up when you’re waiting in the hospital. The best days are when you realize that you are not perfect and neither are they, but together you manage to even each other out somehow.
I have learned that God has used my husband to make me a better woman. I hope that God has used me to make him a better man. I have learned that love (Biblical love) never fails. I have learned that if I can live out the Word of God in my home, I can live it out anywhere.
I have learned that the more time I invest in knowing my husband and trusting in his character the more deeply I fall in love with him, because I freely fall with no reservations. I have learned that as the walls of self protection fall the safety of true intimacy is all the protection I need.
So the Runaway Bride proposal was one of my favorite, but my very favorite proposal of all time, was the one in my apartment bathroom 12 years ago.
To my wonderful husband of 12 years, Mr Patrick Vaughn, Happy Anniversary! I love you so much and I know in my heart that you are the only one for me…  🙂

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn