Friday, July 24, 2020

Watch out, some sheep have claws

 
"It is not the wolf who looks like a wolf who is most dangerous...it is the wolf who looks most like a sheep." Herald of Gospel Liberty




Friends. Dating later in life is no joke. I knew it would be hard but nothing has prepared me for this minefield. It's more important than ever to know my values, know my worth, and know my boundaries. 

When I began this blog in 2011, I wanted to focus on faith, family, the church. I wasn't a writer, just a mom looking for an outlet for all the words swirling in my head. It became a way for me to make sense of what I thought and felt. I'm a processor so writing is a natural fit. 

Now, almost 10 years later, I'm a divorced mom of two writing in stolen moments of time venturing into the dating world and wondering if things can really be different a second time around. 

Is there a man who is honorable and trustworthy in his ways?

Mehhhh. lol

I've done a lot of work on myself in the last two years (with a lot more to go). God's been healing old wounds and I'm reaffirming my identity in Christ. 

After the divorce, I wasn't so rooted. I was lost. I hope this story helps someone else from making the same mistake I did and know a wolf in sheep's clothing (a narcissist in this case)from a real man of God. Even (especially) if they are professing Christians. 

This man taught me something I had yet to experience at this level and added new words to my vocabulary. 

Narcissists are hard to discern at first but trust me the more secure and discerning you get the easier it is to spot them!

Here's my story...

***
A few months after the divorce I tried to date. 

It was not good. I'm just gonna be honest. It was a flat out train wreck.  

(First, let me say this, I was not ready to date. It was too soon.)

In my desperation to end the sadness and have hope that someone good was being brought into my life, I thought he could really be the one. I did a background check. And by that I mean I thoroughly scoped him out on social media! Ha! 

I thought my conclusions from what I saw online were accurate (Right?! Because everything you see on social media is accurate! ;)) 

People aren't who they "post" to be ;) 

I had talked to friends and asked questions to those who knew him (I thought they knew him. Turns out it was a couple in-passing conversations and from that, they gathered he was a great guy...sheesh).

On paper, social media, and word of mouth, he was the man!

He has a master's degree in Theology, he was on the worship team at his church, he seemed to be a good man and dad (his kids looked so happy to be with him on social media). He appeared to be mature and grounded.  Everything I was hoping to find...

Anatomy of a Narcissist
This graphic is a great way to describe who a narcissist is. 


He said all the right things that made me fall hard fast. He asked a lot of deep questions (some that made me uncomfortable) but I love swimming in the deep end so I welcomed the questions. He appeared to be the total package inside and out. He said words my heart had been longing to hear. I felt seen. 

My heart lept and all common sense went out the window. 

In the beginning, he always wanted to see me, he texted all the time, was very attentive and flirty. He paid lots of compliments and really built me up. I loved the attention. And it was A LOT of attention! I was gaga over this guy.

(Little did I know, I had been love-bombed. The first step in a narcissist's cycle.)

For the first time in a long time, I was smiling and laughing. I had hope for a better future with a good and godly man.

Buuuuut, when your good sense goes and your spirit isn't in control anymore you miss a lot of red flags. 

Or rather I saw them and chose to ignore them. My sister says I drove through them like I was in the Indy 500 race, lol. Not a lie, I did.

If I would've taken the time to heal, I believe the relationship never would have taken off. 

I would have seen the red flags and immediately told him it wouldn't work. 



(The second stage of the cycle- The Devaluation now begins...)

What I thought would be a happily ever after turned into over a year of mind games, manipulation, lies, emotional abuse, and control. I think it made him happy to upset me and give me the silent treatment.  Once a narcissist knows they have you hooked they turn. It starts slowly. Little digs or insults played off by, "I'm joking." Gaslighting, making you think you misheard them, remembered wrong.

Or my favorite- saying he didn't remember. Amnesia of events and conversations are the best, wouldn't you say? How can you call out a person's bad behavior if they don't remember??


My worth and dignity were in the ditch and weren't getting out unless I made a different decision. 

God removed him!

I began the new year fasting and praying about the relationship and moving on. I knew it was time but I was struggling to let go. 

If I'm being completely honest, I was hoping God would intervene and heal him. 

But that wasn't meant to be. 

However, he began his new year, and maybe even sooner, by seeing someone else without a single word to me. In fact, he was at the time giving me the silent treatment. (This is the Discard phase)

I believe Jesus stepped between us and separated us, I saw this in my spirit during the fast. Jesus was standing between us with his arms stretched out. One arm towards me and the other towards him. He stepped between us, for my good.  

He's not for you and can't go where you're going, I heard God say.

When you're in the middle of chaos you truly don't see how toxic a situation is.

It was crushing and yet for the best. He was not the one for me. And he's definitely not the good and godly man he portrayed to me in the beginning and the one he shows the world (think Jekyll and Hyde).

I broke the promise to myself to let God lead and to choose better. 



I've had to give myself a lot of grace. 

I sit here writing this after many months of prayer, reflection, receiving forgiveness from God, and extending forgiveness. An apology from him is one I know I will never receive, so I forgive anyways knowing I want to be better and not bitter. Otherwise, he wins. 

I've had to do some soul searching and asking some hard questions of myself-Why was I willing to settle for this kind of behavior?

I spend my days chasing down healing like it's my full-time job, and writing out my story here is a part of that. I don't think a lot of people know or understand narcissism. And yet it's thrown around like the latest fad word. 

***





Sweet friends, a godly man will not only know God's word but he will live it out. His words and actions will show you his fruit. His heart will overflow into his actions and his intentions will be clear. 

There won't be chaos and confusion.
"Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

A godly man will help you heal and make you better. He will lead you to God, not away. The questions to ask if you're unsure...is he kind? is he loving? is he patient? is he self-controlled?  is he easily angered? is he prideful? is he selfish? is he list keeper of your wrongs? (1Cor 13)

Wolves are an imitation of the light because they know the darkness within themselves.

They look good, they smell good, and their words are like honey to your heart. They will make you think you are their soul mate and no other relationship before you could have worked out because YOU are the one. 

But wolves come to steal, kill, and destroy. And that will happen with every single one. They are silver-tongued and know quickly what you want to hear before they turn on you and blame you. 

It's easy to get sucked in and be deceived. 

Don't make excuses and ignore your gut feeling. Intuition is a gift from God. 

I'm glad I have finally come to a place of thankfulness for this relationship. It showed me where I still needed healing and where I failed so that next time I can do better. 
Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." Amen.
My friends, if you are single this is your second chance and your time.

Heal and don't settle!

You have all that you need within you to make a good decision, don't let fear and insecurity rob you of that.

No man is worth sacrificing your dignity and worth. 

Please, learn from me. Even if we fall down and fail a hundred times, grace will be there to pick us up a thousand more. Every time. 

You are LOVED. 

As for me and dating. I'm hanging that up for a while. God will have to drop that man on my front porch if He wants me to date him! lol!!! 

Seriously though, I'm going to take this sabbatical to heal, rest, dive deeper with God, and love on my children. 

All good things. 

Love you, friends. 


P.S. Jesus is the only man worth chasing. Period. 

Praising Him,
Alecia 





Friday, February 14, 2020

Discovering Life Through the F Word

Did January feel extra long to anyone else?



Every year my church starts the New Year with 21-days of prayer and fasting. There were a few things I knew right away I would fast off.

Social media, sleep, wine.

They had a service that began at 6 am every morning at the campus and I've NEVER gotten up and gone. (Mainly because I feel like that's an ungodly hour to wake up and then actually leave the house by.)

Not this time! No, ma'am! I made my whiny toddler-like self go to bed on time, set the alarm for 5 am and did it! Hence, the fasting on sleep or should I say staying in bed until the last possible second and then running late.

I had to ask myself some hard questions like ...where do my comfort and hope come from?

Does it come from tv, social media, alcohol, food, sleep, relationships??

Yes...all of the above.

There was one thing I wasn't planning on giving up...coffee. (UGH!!)

But once God asked me to lay it down -I thought about it, whined that it wasn't a problem, (pitched a mini tantrum and sulked) - I obediently did so ;).

A shift happened around Day 7 in my heart.

I realized I hadn't felt this "hungry" for God in a long time. So I took it one step further and adopted a partial fast each day.
I wanted MORE. And in some weird way, I knew the pain would make me needier for God.

My stomach had become a demanding god (demanding mostly pizza, ahem). My soul was bossing around my emotions and sending me into tailspins that would take me days to get out of.

When the body and soul are too loud they lead to destruction. (Proverbs 14)

I learned fasting allows the body and soul to simmer down, quite literally, so that the spirit can rise up.

It's a fascinating experience. (And no doubt why the fitness industry has caught on with its intermittent fasting as a BREAKTHROUGH new diet. Naw, God created it thousands of years ago ;))

Your mind clears up (your digestion system gets back into balance) your world gets quiet, and all the things that were vying for your attention now have to take a step back.

Social media had become and still is a mindless trap. It was messing with my emotions big time. When I got off I slept better than I had in years and my anxiety was WAY down. 

I listened to a podcast interview with best-selling author and former manager of (in)courage who went off social media several months ago and I loved what she said about it...
"Social media doesn't have deep roots. You think you can't live without it and yet when you do, you realize you can...social media inflates ourselves. The story becomes about us. It grossly over-inflates who we are." Lisa Jo Baker


All The YESES!!! 

Less about us and more about others. The lesson of Jesus. Over and over. ( I think social media could be its own little post)

I've made gods out of many things, I'm ashamed to say, and I've let God get smaller and smaller.

But through fasting, it allowed me to put things in proper order 1. Spirit 2. Body 3. Soul
(and keep putting in proper order because it's EASY to get disordered)

When I'm spirit led I turn to God and praise Him NO MATTER what I'm going through.

When I'm Body led I turn to food and alcohol.

When I'm Soul led I let my emotions send me straight into the pit of depression.

I will have no master over me but God. Amen.

In my own strength I can't do it, but can I do anything worth doing in my own strength anyway?
"Everything is permissible for me" - but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"-but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12)
"Your good thing has become your god thing, and you are no longer free to abandon yourself completely to the worship of your Creator." Alisa Keeton, The Wellness Revelation
Isn't this what true freedom is about?
***
What about you? Is there anything in your life you've let have too much of your time? What are your little g's? Maybe it's time to reorder to create order.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Lessons for My Son

I see you growing into your man-skin. Growing tall, hair, muscles, attitude. Not quite a man and not still a child.

I want so much for you and who you will become. If I could tell you anything I've learned in my days of dealing with men, it would be this...

1. Respect. Always. Especially when you don't feel like it. Show it to me, your dad, family, boss, teachers, friends, coworkers. Spread it around like confetti. Show respect in all you do and it will come back to you. Show it with what you say, how you say it, your body language (sometimes our face will say what our mouths don't) You will always want respect, learn to give it too.

2. Love. You are loved. You are loved well by your family, but most importantly your Father God. I know you're still figuring out what you believe. And you don't know yet the full love of your heavenly Father. But you will one day. And one day you will love Him. So much so you won't believe it. When you know that you know that you are loved,  you will then love others well. I pray you to know this early in life (it would've saved me a lot of pain).

3. Communicate. Don't ever assume others know what you want or what you are thinking or why you're mad, hurt, happy, etc. In today's world of technology, it's easy to miscommunicate. And it's even easier to be passive-aggressive and not communicate at all. Learn to voice your truth and say your words, even if you're afraid, especially if you're afraid. Learn to speak or write clearly and you will save yourself a lot of problems. (Ask me how I know)

4. Forgive. Oh, my son, this is a big one, so lean down and listen up. You've already experienced the need to forgive, (mainly from your dad and me, we've messed up a lot) and it's a lesson you won't quit learning until the day you die. Forgive when it's unfair and it's the last thing on earth you want to do. One thing I know, forgiveness is about you, not them. The way forward is paved with forgiveness. You will relearn this and relearn this...

5. Work Hard. Don't be lazy and complacent in life. Go after what you want. Chase your dreams. Chase God. Chase life. Don't chase money. I pray your work is a blessing and provides all your needs, but I also pray it doesn't consume you. Put money and work in their proper order and it will be well with your soul.

6. Lead. Many men today struggle in this area. They want to lead but are unsure how. My son, you must learn to lead well. In your home first and with your personal relationships. Learn from God-ask Him how to be a good leader, and then use what you've learned to master the art of leading well. A good leader is worth their weight and a poor one not worth a dime. Study those who have gone before you, follow their lead until you can take the lead.


7. Seek God. First and foremost before anything I tell you. Seek Him, know Him, grow to love Him. You won't regret it. You will get lost in this world if you don't have a solid foundation to stand on. This world will try to shake you and make you fall, and you will do just that if you don't have something (the Holy Spirit) stronger in you that is in this world. Let Him be your Rock.

8. Marry/Date Well. Marrying well begins with dating well. Open the door, call don't text (things get lost in translation when you text- and for the love! Don't ask her out over text, CALL her) ( Use your God-given wisdom and discernment. If you know in your gut she's not the one, tell her to her face (I REPEAT DO NOT TEXT THIS), and let her go. It'll be best for both of you down the road. A man of honor and respect is important), pay for her dinner, hold her hand, compliment her, listen when she talks, really listen. Talkback, engage in conversation. Refer back to #3. This is important.

9. Have Good Friends. Oh my goodness, son, your friendships will be some of the most important relationships you will have in your life. Keep good friends. In my opinion the smaller the circle the better. Quality over quantity. You're a lot like me in this regard, so I think you'll agree with me on this one. IF you have good friends they will encourage you to keep pushing and doing better. Bad ones will get you into trouble (the same can be said for girl relationships (which I should've added above) ). When you're doubting yourself, they will lift you up. When you're being a jerk, they will straight up tell you.

Good friends have your back and won't stab you in the back. There's a quote that says, "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future." This is so true. Get you some good ones.

10.  Integrity. You will live and die by this. People will know you by your word. Be honest, man. Don't take shortcuts they lead to dead ends. In all your ways and in all you do be a man of your word. Keep your word. Tell the truth, even when it may get you into trouble. Not doing so will lead to more trouble. If people can't believe what you say, you've set yourself up on sinking sand.

Own your mistakes and don't blame others for them, this shows maturity and growth. People want to know they can trust you, don't give them a reason not to. A man's word is gold and means everything.



11. Keep Learning. Never stop learning how to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, leader, employee, etc. The moment you stop learning and growing you die. You are made for more than complacency and status quo. You are made to be different. And different starts with what's going on inside your heart. Be a leader at home first then you can truly be a man in the world (be careful not to get this backward, many do). Who you are in private means more than the person you show the world. 

*****
That's it. All I can think of for now. I initially only did 10 but then added one more I felt was important, I won't tell you which ;) I'm sure as time goes on I could add more... :)

********
What would you add to this list?




Thursday, January 2, 2020

Choosing to be Sober-Minded

2020 Word: Sober-Minded 

I wasn't sure I would choose a word this year, I haven't in a while. But the words Sober-Minded kept appearing in my mind so I did a little digging in the Bible and I stopped at 1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."



The opposite of sober is drunk. And one doesn't have to be drunk on alcohol in order to be "drunk."

It's anything we use to dull the senses that would knock us off our guard and cause us to be in "sleepiness."

In seasons of extreme stress and suffering it's easy to take comfort in too much food, alcohol, social media, or tv. It seems easier to dull the pain with the world's quick fixes than to turn to God and His Word.

But a quick fix is a band-aid.

Believe me, I know. Vegging out on the couch with a glass of wine and season after season of The Crown is something I'm quite familiar with.

All the stressors hit me and the last thing I want to do is read my Bible. And yet it is the only thing that will lift my soul out of the pit and set it back on level ground. And that's not some holy-line I'm feeding you, it's the truth I've learned from the pit myself.

The enemy -the devil -uses those moments when we are feeling weak and looking for relief from our pain to pounce straight on us. The battle always begins in our minds, his weapons are doubt, fear, accusations, shame, old memories, wounds...the onslaught is relentless and we look to dull the pain. To just not feel anything for a little while.

But it doesn't help. Because the next day we still have the same problems only we've now added more to them. The consequences of living our own way will stare us dead in the face the next morning.

The Bible assures us we are not enduring anything that people before us haven't endured. The enemy has no new tricks because the old ones are still working so well.

This year I'm challenging myself to stay sober-minded and alert. I know my weaknesses and I want the Lord to grow me through them. I don't want to be picked off and I don't want to fall like a house of cards.

We have a real enemy who seeks to devour and destroy us but we also have power from the Holy Spirit to overcome and live in freedom.

God is the only way through hard seasons. I've learned this and relearned this and will probably continue to do so because I have a short memory.

However, I'm tired of quick fixes. I want to do the hard work of healing and persevering under pressure. 

I've begun asking myself when faced with a decision, Is this the easy way or the hard way? If the answer is the easy way, then I push it aside and prepare myself to dig deep for the hard way.

The deep is where God is found and where He does His best work.

May I pray for us?

Prayer for the New Year,

Dear Father,

I give this new year to you. I surrender and lay down at the cross all my fears, failings, shame, and shortcomings. I can't do this without you, I know. I ask for more of your peace and a fresh intaking of your Spirit to renew my heart and mind. When I'm tempted to turn to other things to satisfy my aching soul may my spirit rise up and remember Your goodness and unfailing love and promises never fail.  Nothing can satisfy me like You. Nothing. Forgive me for trying to fill the voids in my life with cheap imitations. Thank you, Father, for your unending mercy, grace, and love.

In Jesus' Name,
Amen



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