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Today is our 19th anniversary. As I posted this picture on Facebook, I knew my phone would be beeping all day with updates and well wishes from friends near and far. I appreciate all of the people who are taking the time to acknowledge our 19 year accomplishment, especially those who have had a hand in helping us grow together over the years. There are a few comments in particular that touched me in the deep places in my heart, and as I’m in bed sick today with my 2nd major sinus infection of the year, and Benny is in Boulder for our weekly SEVENS meal, I have some time for introspection.

The first person to wish us Happy Anniversary was a young woman who is a former youth group member of ours. It’s been 10 years since we were her youth ministers, but she is still a regular part of our lives. She’s been close enough to us to see past the shiny happy stuff and witnessed our ugly sides plenty of times, but she told me once that our marriage has made a difference to her. Like many of us, she struggled through her parent’s divorce and a few rocky relationships of her own. I like to think that watching us struggle and get back up to press on again gives her hope and a reason to believe that she too will someday be celebrating 19 years.

One of my friends asked where she could find a man like Benny. lol I always laugh when people tell me how lucky I am to have him. Why? Because I know it’s true. Benny was not at all what I was looking for in a mate (I was thinking more about shallow things then), but he is everything that I needed and am now so grateful I have. We are opposites in so many ways, but we share the same heart for the Lord, and for people. I could have missed out on all that he is, but I didn’t. He chose me. I chose him back. As for others like him? They’re out there. I’ve met some of them. Strong, passionate, committed, loving, creative types.

Another friend said that marriage just keeps getting better and better. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that when I was younger. What could be better than the tingling, giggly, burning flames of young love? I get it now. When you’ve been married for a long time and you continually pursue each other and feed the marriage, then the fear and uncertainty of being newly married wears off. You settle into a comfortable place. Don’t mistake the word comfortable for the word lazy. Marriage is work, and it is choosing over and over to keep going even when it’s challenging to do so, but there’s a peace that accompanies years of marriage. The commitment isn’t any more cemented than the day you stood up in front of friends and family and declared it, but it has been tested and tried and you know it’s strength better than you did all those years before. It transforms the tingling, giggly, burning into something…well…more heart-swelling, deep, and steady. It’s nice. I like it.

Every May 5th seems like a milestone to me. I’m reminded of our first few rocky years and the day we decided (out loud) that we were going to stay together rather than give up. We decided to fight for a great marriage instead of sinking into the ugliness of where we were at the time. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. As I said in the last post, I love sharing my engagement story,  but that was an event. My marriage story is still unfolding and it is shared daily with everyone around me who is paying attention, especially the 4 children growing up in our home. We want a marriage that honors each other and blesses those around us. Our marriage tells the story of forgiveness, commitment, friendship, perseverance, and laughter, lots of laughter. What about you?

Does your anniversary seem like a milestone? Does your marriage honor of your mate and bless those around you? How are you sharing your marriage story?

“Tell me how you and Benny met…you know, how you got together.”

Aha! I LOVE that story. I was hanging out with a group of my favorite teens when Matty turned her attention to me and with a grin on her face, uttered those words. It was perfect girl-time conversation, and I always love the laughter when I get to the punchline – the line Benny used to ask me to marry him.

I love telling girls my story. They giggle in all the right places, understand that holding hands with fingers intertwined is completely different from holding hands the other way, and they get that dreamy, far away look in their eyes as they imagine what their story will be. It brings me great joy to recount the details of the beginning of “us”. It’s a beautiful reminder of the effort he made for me. He made me look good. He thought it all out and planned it carefully. He proposed in one of my favorite places with my best friends there as witnesses. It was the moment I knew for sure that he loved me for me, flaws and all, and 18 years later, he still does.

What about you? Does telling your story bring you sweet memories and peals of laughter? Did you celebrate with friends and family? Or were you like us – poor college students who didn’t have a clue about marriage, but naively pressed ahead, hand in hand? Are you inspiring others to dream about the possibilities in their lives by sharing your story? What was your punchline?

Here’s the quick version of our story: Benny told the story from the Bible about Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac’s servant was sent to find him a wife, but along the way there, he got nervous about choosing the wrong girl, so he made an agreement with God that whichever woman came to the well and offered not only him a drink, but offered to give his camels water too, she would be the one for Isaac. After talking briefly about our year long engagement, Benny told all of our friends that there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to ask that all important question. He got down on one knee, gazed into my eyes and said…

“Niki, will you water my camels?”

Hello!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m back! I had stepped away from blogging here while I went through an intense period of healing. I was going to start again last summer and the signs were there that it was about time to return, but I wasn’t ready. Now I am.

I am rebuilding this blog and will have new posts up in the next few weeks. What’s another few weeks after a year and a half, right? For now, please ignore the mess as I play with the layout, graphics, resources, etc.

Thank you to everyone who continued to check back, leave new comments on old posts, and encourage me to keep going. I am so grateful! :)

I am passionate about the topics of Sex, Love, and Marriage. I’ll continue to discuss them with anyone who is willing, but over the past year my commitments have changed and my blogging availability is limited. If you are a regular subscriber through Feedblitz, or if you stop by here occasionally to see if there’s anything new posted, THANK YOU for sticking with me for so long! I’ve appreciate the discussions that have happened over the topics I’ve covered, and the time you’ve taken to leave comments here.

You can still find me over at my main website, www.nikinowell.com and on Facebook.

I believe this blog served it’s purpose, and I’m better for sharing the journey with you.

Thank You Again!

I’ve been a long time fan and supporter of XXXChurch.com and it’s co-founders, Mike Foster and Craig Gross. Two years ago I read what has become one of my favorite books, The Gutter written by Craig. I was so deeply moved by the amazing job he did communicating the heart of what it looks like to love people right where they are, I made the book suggested reading for everyone participating in our summer program this year. I told all my friends about it, and bought extra books to give away. So when I heard Craig had a new project coming out this year, I was ecstatic and signed up to promote it. I am SO glad I did.

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Jesus Loves You…This I Know

Craig and his friend and co-author Jason Harper, outdid themselves with Jesus Loves You…This I Know. The message they offer is one of the most misunderstood and often rejected phrases of our time. To believers, “Jesus loves you” has become a cliche. To those who don’t yet know Jesus, it’s offensive and unbelievable, after all, some of the people who claim to represent Jesus are sending a different message- a message that does not communicate love, but judgment and condemnation. Through their book, Craig and Jason share their desire to live a life compelled by love and share their passion to tell everyone that they are loved no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they do.

It is essential to show people that they can belong in your world even if they don’t act, think, behave, or believe like you do.

I was glad they wrote about the process of belonging before believing or behaving differently. The idea didn’t start with them, but with Jesus when he loved those whom people hated. He dined with tax collectors, accepted water from adulterous women, and met privately with a Pharisee who had questions. His encounter with people changed them and they behaved differently after they knew the belonging He offered them. What a beautiful picture of God’s grace and mercy.

The world divides. Jesus Unites.

Jason’s story “Water for the Thirsty,” had me simultaneously weeping and cheering “YES!” while Craig’s story about Jesus loving the religious – those who judge (and who happen to be those I tend to judge) hit me where it hurts. I wept some more, this time with a repentant heart.  Craig and Jason aren’t your typical Pastors, and their book is filled with stories of how their calling has brought them into community with unlikely friends and earned them hate mail from others.

Why should you read this book? Because it will challenge, inspire, and change you. Visit jesuslovesyou.net to download a pdf sample or audio sample, read what others think of the book, watch films, share your story, purchase the book, and more. Buy a copy for your brother or your best friend, then tell others about it and do your best to live the message. Find Craig and Jason on Facebook and Twitter. You can never have too many friends. :)

Other Books by Craig:


The Gutter: Where Life is Meant to be Lived


Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About Sex…


The Dirty Little Secret: Uncovering the Truth…


Starving Jesus: Off the Pew, into the World

There is so much I could say about the healing process. The book mentioned in the last post has been a big help to me. Talking to friends about my struggle to forgive, and seeing a professional to help me work through what my past abuse has done to me-how it’s effected who I am and how I function, have been paramount in my own process. I’m still dealing with some anger issues, but I know I’ll get there – that place of wholeness.

Whoever said “Time heals all wounds” was an idiot. The only thing time does is pass. It’s what we do with time that makes a difference. It’s about making choices.

I choose NOT to be a victim. I choose to heal.

I choose NOT to live in the past. I choose to move forward.

I choose NOT to hate. I choose to forgive.

I choose to speak out and share my story so that others might find their path to healing.

I make some of those choices daily, and that’s o.k. I want to encourage people to speak up and get help if they need it, but I also want to be very clear that living in the pain of the past is not really living at all. It’s the opposite of living.  It’s camping on the doorstep of hell, watching life go on without you, and who wants to live there??

One of the healing choices I’ve made over the past few months is to not have any future contact with the abusive people in my past. One of them is getting out of prison soon, and one of them is a dirty old man who wasn’t changed at all by his short prison sentence several years ago. There are others, but these two are the most likely to try to contact me. One of them had the nerve to send me a friend request on Facebook.

Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation, a fact I wish I would have learned years ago. Forgiveness means acknowledging that I was wronged, but not holding that wrongdoing over the head of the offender. I choose to forgive, but I have boundaries in place so I can’t be abused by these people again. That is what makes reconciliation impossible for me. These men are repeat offenders and I can not give them opportunity to bring me or my family harm. I believe that people can change, but there’s been little indication of that with these men, and I refuse to camp on the doorstep of hell.

I choose to live.

And you can too.

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Back in December, I took a retreat from the world.  My in-laws were out of town and graciously allowed me to use their home as a hide-out.  I had a creative project I wanted to work on, but the real reason for the trip was to face some ugly things from my past and begin a book/workbook that I had purchased.  I knew it was going to be a hard weekend, and yet I was unprepared for the intensity of it.  My planned 3 day getaway stretched into 9. I have a wonderful, understanding, and supportive husband!  He told me to stay and get my crap together as long as I was home by Christmas. :)

I didn’t go unarmed or unprepared. I had friends all over the country praying for me, another one close by in case I needed a shoulder to cry on, and I knew God was with me. Even my cell phone worked the whole time I was there, and it NEVER works at their house. Then I opened my book and began to read. Instantly I felt isolated, alone, and nauseous. Wave after wave of dread and fear threatened to drown me. I was ready and aching to move forward to new depths of healing, so I prayed with trembling lips for courage to keep going and face the secrets that lay hidden within me. I wish I could tell you those feelings immediately left and the rest of my time there was a breeze, but the week was hard as I battled and cried and got so mad I thought I would explode. I wept for innocence lost and time spent finding the pieces of me that buried themselves for pure survival. Blazing hot tears spilled down my face as I yelled at a pillow that was standing in as a surrogate caregiver, representing all who did not protect me. There were tears for all of the people I had hurt over the years because I didn’t know how to handle strong emotions and just be me. I finally curled up into a ball on the couch and lay there in silence for a few hours, completely spent, staring at nothing until I fell asleep. It was the most exhausting week of my whole year. I was happy to be alone, and I made it halfway through the book.

When I finally returned home, I put the unfinished book on my desk and didn’t touch it again until last week.  I recommended it to others, but wouldn’t make the time to continue the journey myself. I remained locked in my anger towards those who didn’t believe my story, and those who suspected something was going on but did nothing to help me. I’ve been wearing my anger like a hundred pound chain around my neck, all the while keeping too busy to process further. I also stopped writing with the exception of an occasional blog post written out of guilt. I knew my words would betray me and I needed to handle this monster in my own way, but how?

It’s frustrating to know that I’ve let emotions hold me back from my passions. I’m tired of being angry. Why is anger always my default emotion? And why can’t I just call it by it’s true name and say it’s fear? Because I’m not a fearful woman.  I never have been.  Fierce? Yes.  Fiery? Occasionally. Fearful? Not me. It’s just not a word used to describe me, by me or anyone else.  I learned long ago that fearful women get taken advantage of, walked on, and hurt. It was easier to harden myself and become a control freak. If I was in control then nothing could hurt me, right? I have lived so long in the paradox of controlling my surroundings, while yearning to be safe enough to give up that same control. It’s exhausting being in control all the time. Having to be “on” and alert and never letting my guard down. I don’t want to live that way, so I’m facing my fears. And let me tell you, it’s hard work and it sucks!!

Being real and authentic (One of my big goals in life) has meant learning how to release and feel emotions in a safe manner. It has meant acknowledging those places that need work or healing, and finding ways to let go and forgive. I know the above paragraphs make it sound like I’ve been an emotional basket case, but truly I haven’t. It has been a difficult few months, but I’m receiving counsel and I’m coping as I heal. Those 9 days spent away from my everyday life were like vacationing in a huge, dark, emotional pit, but it wasn’t all gloom and despair. There were sunshiny moments sprinkled in there. On one of my “couch” afternoons, I was praying and I felt blanketed in peace…literally.  I could feel it like a real blanket lovingly draped over me. I was also blessed enough to hang out with my older and wiser friend Linda. She loved me through that week. I’m going to be fine…no, better than fine…I’m going to be whole.

That heavy chain I talked about earlier has been coming off one link at a time.  I wish I could take it off all at once, but it’s just not happening that way. I have hope and I am confident that as I heal, I will be free in ways I never imagined, so I keep moving forward.

Why write about my emotional process coming to a volcanic head? I know there are others out there who are dealing with this same issue. They are lost, scared, and too vulnerable to share this stuff with people in their own lives. I want them to know that they are not alone, and it’s never too late to face your past.  While you can’t change what happened to you as a child, you can change how it affects you as an adult, which also affects how you handle life and relate to those around you. The healing process isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone.

If you are reading this and can relate to what I’ve written here, please consider this permission to vent and a plea to get help. You are not a prisoner destined to be bound in chains of the abuse cycle until you die. You can break free, and there are resources out there that will aid you on your journey. If you know someone who would benefit from reading these posts, please pass along a link to my site.  It’s always easier to journey with a friend. There is a lot of information out there for those of us walking this path. This is the book I’m working through:

the-wounded-heart1

It is available on amazon.com and chances are, your local book stores. I bought mine through Family Christian Stores.  The amazon site allows to you have a sneak peak at the inside of the book if you want to check it out before buying it. In my opinion, it is a little too scholarly in places, but it is helping me, and it’s one of the best resources I’ve found so far. I’ve recently discovered a few websites that I’m checking out before recommending them here. There are over half a million websites that deal with the topic of sexual abuse. Thanks for stopping by mine.

Coming soon – Part 3 – Thoughts on healing and the stages of grief

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