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Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Dena Johnson Martin

Crosswalk.com blogspot for Dena Johnson of Dena's Devos

It’s hard to believe Roy and I will soon celebrate our first anniversary.

Our year has been…indescribable. There have been incredible moments of joy. We have enjoyed the companionship. It’s been great to watch him bond with my kids, to see him step up to the plate as the dad my kids have always wanted. He has surprised me repeatedly with beautiful roses and sweet surprises. We have laughed and enjoyed each other. He has loved me as Christ loves the church.

We have also experienced a tremendous amount of pain and heartache. There’s a lot I can’t go into, but some of it I have shared…including the death of his dad. While we know he is now victorious over his cancer, enjoying the presence of his Savior, there’s a huge void in Roy’s heart.

But for all the pain and loss we have experienced, Roy’s special needs daughter has suffered more. Without ways to adequately express her pain and grief, she turned to behaviors. Drastic behaviors. Behaviors that made her a danger to herself and to others.

After fighting for months to find help for his daughter, the decision was finally made to place her in a treatment facility where they could use behavioral techniques and medication to help her cope with her emotions. She’s been there for six months, and there has been some progress. She is still fighting her demons, but our visits have been mostly pleasant.

We learned last week she will be coming home soon. Honestly, neither of us was prepared for the sudden change in treatment plans; we anticipated a few more months to prepare and be ready for her return. But here we are.

As we prepare for her return, would you pray with us? Would you pray for us? Can you pray for…

Faith over fear. Roy’s daughter’s return comes with so many mixed emotions…one of which is definitely fear. I can’t even begin to describe the environment in which we lived for six months as we fought to find the right help. We never knew what would set off a tantrum, what the tantrum would consist of. And NOTHING we did ever settled her down.

I know perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I know faith is the opposite of fear. But to be honest, I am struggling to reach a place where my faith is stronger than my fear.

Can you pray for God to strengthen our faith?

A united front. The therapists we have met have stated they are used to working with divorced couples because these types of behaviors often drive a wedge between the parents. These behaviors are so extreme few couples survive them.

I knew our lives would be impacted by her physical and mental disabilities. I knew it would be difficult to adjust to needing a babysitter if we wanted to be alone. I knew it would be a change to be stuck at the house after she went to bed. But nothing could have prepared us for what we experienced.

Roy and I rarely argue, but we’ve had our share our fights over how to proceed. We love each other dearly, but also recognize the severity of the problems we are facing. We want to do everything we can to be united, to protect our marriage from being a statistic in the face of a mental health crisis.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 3:12

Wisdom and direction. The future is uncertain. We are searching for options, for resources. We want what is best for his daughter…and we want what is best for our family. We want those choices to be compatible, to be the same.

We also know there may be difficult decisions to make. The entire situation is unfair and unclear. We want more than anything to have God guiding our steps, for Him to illuminate the path and make us both see clearly what is best.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Protection of our family. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Maybe it’s physical protection. Maybe it’s emotional protection. Maybe it’s all of the above…and more.

As before, we don’t want to lose our family. Please just pray for God to protect us.

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Intimacy with the Father. I know from experience the joy of intimacy with the Father, a gift that often comes through the trials of this life. I know the joy of walking so closely to the Father you can actually feel His presence, hear His sweet whispers. I know the joy of getting to know the Father in ways you never dreamed possible…all because we choose to walk closely with the Father through the refining fires of this life.

That’s my prayer for Roy, for me, for my kids as we walk through the upcoming days. Please pray He will be near. Please pray He will do a mighty work in us so He can do a mighty work through us.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Healing for Roy. I can’t even start to understand the pain Roy must be feeling. I’ve only told you the tip of the iceberg from his year. The loss. The pain. The grief. I can’t even start to comprehend what he must feel, how he must hurt.

I also know our Father is the God of healing. I know He’s the one who can pick up the pieces, put us back together, make us better than before. I know He’s the one who brings beauty from ashes, who makes beauty out of a broken life.

And I trust Him to do just that for Roy.

Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. Hosea 6:1

Grace and compassion to abound. Roy always says the military teaches you to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, but they never teach you how to turn that off. They never teach you to care for yourself, to make sure you are in a good place.

Roy is a passionate, loving man. He also wants to be the rock for everyone to lean on. I go along thinking Roy is doing just fine, but underneath he’s hurting. He’s lost his dad. His daughter is fighting horrible demons. He’s been hit with wave after wave of loss. And he usually hides it all really well.

I never want to forget his pain. I want to make sure I am always reminding myself what burden he carries, the immense pain he is suffering. He rarely talks about it, so I have to constantly tell myself to look at things from his perspective. When I can stop and see things from his point of view, it often pulls me out of a downward spiral of negative thinking.

I need eyes of compassion and grace when I look at Roy. I need words of love and empathy when we talk about these things. When I look at him, I need to see the pain that is below the surface.

Christ to be our solid rock. Neither of us has ever been in a truly Christ-centered marriage, and we both want Him to be our solid rock upon which our lives and marriage are built. Honestly, we are simply trying to figure out exactly how that looks. And, when your life is hit by wave after wave of pain and grief and loss, it’s really hard to take time to figure it all out.

We are seeking to pray together regularly. We are trying to take time to spend with one another alone…without all the kids clamoring for our attention. We are trying to find the church where we should plant our lives, our family. We are looking for a group of fellow Christians to do life with.

Please pray for God to give us a vision of what a Christ-centered marriage entails...and the discipline to follow through.

I can’t even start to tell you all just how much you mean to me…every single one of you who reads this blog and utters a prayer for us. You all have walked this journey with me, shared your hearts with me. You have been the answer to so many of my prayers.

So today, I come to you humbly asking you to be my mighty prayer warriors. For when two or more are gathered in His name, He is with us. And we need Him now.

Much love!

 

When Dreams Die

My kids are on my mind a lot lately.

If my life were perfect, I would probably work part-time and devote so much more time to my kids. I would be the mom who is at every activity. I would be the mom with home-cooked meals every night. I would be the mom with fresh-baked cookies after school.

If my life were perfect, I would have put my kids in a private Christian school from the time they were little. I would spend hours praying for my kids, with my kids. I would commit myself to working with the youth at our church. I would be the sponsor the youth minister always knew he could count on.

If my life were perfect, I would never give my kids the left-overs. They would always get the best. We would spend countless hours every summer having fun, creating memories, finding creative ways to entertain ourselves. I would be the fun mom, always ready for an adventure.

But my life isn’t perfect.

I cooked a good meal last night. It’s probably the first real meal I’ve cooked in at least three weeks. We’ve kind of just been scrounging around, everyone finding something for themselves. Even last night, I was home from work late enough that we still didn’t sit down and eat together. My plate of chicken was being eaten faster than I could get it cooked.

I managed to take one day off this summer to spend with my kids. We went to Turner Falls, a beautiful area south of Oklahoma City where we hiked and played in the water. It was a great little get-away. But it was the only day I’ve been able to just play with my kids. The rest of my summer has been spent working.

My oldest moves to college in less than two weeks. Our year has been so chaotic and exhausting that it really hasn’t sunk in with me. I marched through his senior year like a zombie, watching all of the lasts slip through my hands without savoring them. I don’t think any of it has hit me yet.

My younger son stays so busy with his activities. I almost can’t keep up with him. We often seem to just pass in the night, with very few words spoken. It might be that the only words I speak are mom commands: “Clean your room.” “Mow the yard.” “Carry out the trash.” I long for real conversations with him.

My baby is struggling with school starting. She wants so badly to be in an environment where Christ is King, where she can be herself without fear of judgement. She wants to be in a place where she can let her true personality show without others making fun of her. I want to be able to make her dreams come true, to put her in that place where she feels safe.

I spend so much time working, cleaning, trying to keep all the plates spinning perfectly. I feel like life—my kids’ lives—are slipping away before my very eyes. The days of making memories are short as one is already out the door, the other two in high school.

And my heart breaks as I mourn the life I always dreamed of…

Most days, I love my life. I’m thankful for all the beauty, for all the ways we have been able to grow and learn throughout this life, even though it is nothing like what I dreamed. My kids are pretty independent and self-sufficient, a trait they had to learn because I just couldn’t do it all. My kids are so appreciative for all the things they have. They’ve learned gratitude and sacrifice as they’ve watched me work to provide for them. We have enjoyed watching God provide every day, looking back and seeing how God was silently working in the background to prepare the perfect alternative life for us.

We have enjoyed so much.

But I often feel robbed. Robbed of the opportunity to be available to my kids. Robbed of the opportunity to fulfill the dreams I always had of what my family would be like. Robbed of the opportunity to build a lifetime of memories of laughter and fun and vacations and time together.

I guess I’m struggling, mostly with sheer exhaustion and burn-out, wondering how to achieve balance in my life. I know the importance of balance, but it’s completely overwhelming. How do I work full-time and be the mom I want to be? How do I give time and attention to my husband the way I need to? How do I keep writing and fulfilling the calling God has placed on my life? How do I do it all?

I’m sure this is a common concern among our culture. It’s not just me. It’s all of us who work and have families and desire to be all God has called us to be. I wish there were easy answers for all of us. I wish this work of hoping in God so we can rise up on eagle’s wings, run and not grow weary was easier to implement in our lives. I wish I knew just how to take His yoke upon me knowing His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I know it’s there, it’s available, it’s promised by Him.

But finding it, making it a reality, often seems elusive.  

So what do we do when our dreams die, when the life we always dreamed is no longer a possibility? How do we reconcile the life we always wanted with the life that is a reality?

I’ll be totally honest. I don’t usually mourn the past any longer. I’m totally ok with the life God has given me, has given us. I’m overjoyed with the blessings in my life. I’m thankful for the amazing kids I have, the wonderful husband who is also an incredible father. I’m blessed with a wonderful place to live and a ministry bigger than anything I ever imagined.

But it’s those days I struggle with what I wanted for my life, for my kids, the dreams I had for them. And right now, I’m struggling to make peace with what is versus what I wanted.

Maybe you understand. Maybe you have ideas…ideas on how to be a full-time mom and a full-time employee. Maybe you have stumbled upon an incredible way to make your kids feel as important as they are in their heart. Maybe you have some simple ideas we could all implement. If so, I’d LOVE for you to share them with me.

For me, I started tonight. My daughter and I went out for a mommy-daughter date. Just a quick dinner for the two of us before church. Tomorrow, I drive my oldest to Dallas for a post-surgery check-up. While I hate the idea of six hours in the car, I love the thought of six hours with my son. Next, I need to make my incredibly busy younger son take an evening and spend an hour with me…an hour of just the two of us connecting.

I want to make it a regular event, just spending small amounts of uninterrupted time with each one individually. That’s my first objective.

I’ve been heavily focused on praying for them recently, too. Praying over every part of their lives. Praying for God to go before them and surround them. I’ve walked the college campus where my oldest one will soon be living, praying over this next chapter in his life.

I don’t know exactly where we go from here, but maybe if we start with small steps… With God, who knows where those small steps might lead. Who knows how He might take our broken dreams and make them beautiful…

Lies!!

Hello. I know you don’t know me but a few years ago, I met (your ex-husband) on a dating site….He mentioned the divorce on that first date but didn’t give much details. We continued to go out and I would kind of press him on the issue. He made it sound like you were the one who had cheated and he wanted to make it work anyway but it just didn’t after that….”

I received this message from a complete stranger recently. I had heard rumors of how I just woke up one day and didn’t love him anymore. I had an employer contact me with a letter recommending they fire me for the two affairs I had, for the two marriages I destroyed.

I always knew there were false accusations, but this message really confirmed it.

For all those years, he twisted reality and made me look like the bad guy to anyone who would listen. He did everything he could to ruin me, to ruin my reputation.

Ironically, I have stacks of explicit emails between him and his former lover. I have copies of his online dating profile and messages between him and women on that dating website. I have divorce papers that are public record clearly stating our divorce was granted on the basis of his infidelity…a fact he never disputed and was only allowed because of the incredible amount of evidence I had.

But God…

God has always been so faithful to bring the truth to light, to let my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6).

God has always gone before me and fought for me as I sought to be still (Exodus 14:14).

God has always heard my pleas, answered my prayers to protect my reputation.

God has always been my Defender.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen God bring just the right person along, the one who knew the full story. I’ve seen him open the eyes of the blind, shedding light on the truth.

And this situation was no different. You see, as only God could do, He orchestrated events to bring this woman across my blog. I’m certain it was difficult to discern who was telling the truth, but she shared with me there was a check in her spirit, something wasn’t setting right. But it was several months into their dating relationship when she found out he was also dating someone else.

Yes, God brought truth to light.

So often, I hear people lament the slander, the false accusations thrown at them in the midst of the devastation known as divorce. People ask all the time how they should handle the lies, how they should defend themselves and their reputations.

While there is a time and place to defend ourselves, I’ve found God is the best Defender. I’ve learned over the years it is much better to let Him handle the accuser. He knows the truth. He knows not only my actions—both good and bad—but also my heart. He knows my desires, the righteousness I long to walk in. He knows and is able to bring the truth to light in ways only He can.

Have you walked this path? Have you been accused of wrongdoings of which you are completely innocent? Maybe it’s not even a divorce. Maybe you just got caught up in some unrelated situation, accused of an act you didn’t do.

Whatever the circumstances, here’s a few thoughts for when you are falsely accused.

Live above the level of reproach. When we live above the level of reproach, false accusations don’t stick. If we are choosing righteousness and holiness, our reputation goes before us, protecting us. We are known by our goodness, our righteousness, and others will take the accusations lightly.

But when we compromise…

I spent over a year fighting for my marriage after I found out about his affair. When I finally realized he had chosen to continue his affair, I was free. I felt God release me from the bondage of a sick, dysfunctional marriage. However, I was also terrified. I found myself immediately jumping into a relationship with a man whose divorce had just been finalized. My husband and I were separated. He had moved out of our home. The divorce was filed but not finalized in the court of law, but it had been over for a long time in my eyes and in God’s eyes.

Looking back, I realize I was simply looking for love, for security, for someone to care for me in the midst of my pain. But at the time, I thought I was healed and ready to move forward. My choice to move forward so quickly became the foundation for the accusations that still haunt me nearly ten years later.

If I had it all to do over again, I would have taken time to heal. I would have chosen to live above the level of reproach, to make sure my marriage was legally ended before I jumped into any type of relationship. I would have done things differently. But, I learned you simply don’t know what you will do, how you will respond in the midst of your pain.

Live your life in such a way there can be no accusations made against you. It’s the best protection against false accusations.

Pray for God to bring truth to light. I discovered one of my favorite passages during the early days of false accusations.

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.  Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:5-7

I have prayed these verses so many times in the last decade. I have cried out for God to let my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun repeatedly. I have shared with others the same plea, the same prayer.

And repeatedly, I’ve seen God bring the truth to light. Deeds done in darkness cannot hide. He always sheds His light of truth on them, exposing all around to the life-giving light.

Tell your story. There are people out there today who believe I was the cause of our divorce, that I was the one who had the affair. Most of these people I don’t know, maybe I have never met. They are people he met and associated with after our divorce. Ultimately, let them believe what they want. I know the One who knows the full story, and I know I stand before Him, washed in the blood of His Son, righteous and clean before Him.

But those who have known me for years? Those who knew us for the 17 years of our marriage? Those who cared enough to find out the truth of the situation?

They all support me fully.

I have learned the importance of telling our stories, of sharing the gut-wrenching pain with honesty and authenticity. I can’t overemphasize the importance of letting others know our pain and the faithfulness of our Father to bring beauty out of that same brokenness. Others see the pain, the faith, the hope, the endurance and know only one who has walked through the fire can possibly use their pain as an encouragement to others.

We must learn to tell our stories. We must learn to tell our stories for the right reasons—to comfort others with the comfort we have received, to point a lost and dying world to the One who saves. We must learn to tell our stories, stories of God’s faithfulness, without tearing others down.

When I started writing, I often struggled to focus on my life, on what God was doing to carry me through the pain. I sometimes found myself going down a path of talking about my ex-husband, about all the ways he had failed me. I would stop, delete everything, and start over. As I grew, as I healed, as I saw God’s goodness in my pain, as forgiveness took hold and removed the roots of bitterness, it became easier to tell my story with just the facts about him. My story has never been told about him; it has always been told as an encouragement to those walking through similar pain. And God has been faithful to use my pain for others, to answer my prayer that my pain might not be in vain.

False accusation hurt. But we can trust our Father to be our Defender, to bring truth to light in His time. If you are in the midst of lies being spread about you, hold your head high. Remember you live for One, the One who knows your heart and every detail of the truth. He will care for you, defend you, and make sure you come through.

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