Making Space

Most days my home feels pretty chaotic. It’s loud, covered in food crumbs, and rarely looks put together. I guess that’s to be expected since we have three girls all under the age of eight. It’s not uncommon that every hour of the day involves someone crying, sometimes multiple people crying at the same time and in those moments I often turn to my husband and half jokingly say, “Well, we did this to ourselves.” Many days I can barely keep it together. I find myself frustrated that the dishes have piled up or that every room in my house has toys and clothes on the floor. I somehow think that I should be able to do better than this. Clutter in my home creates clutter in my brain and it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed with it all.

Early in my motherhood experience I somehow thought I should be able to do it all. I like to think I can juggle everything and never let anything drop. With only one child this mentality was mostly manageable. But when baby girl number two arrived I quickly realized that I could not juggle everything like I wanted to. I learned that if I wanted to be a sane mommy I needed to create some space for myself. I needed some time to be Heather.

Along with baby number two also came the realization, through marriage counseling, that I had allowed our first child to consume me. She became my world and while some of that is natural, it affected my marriage without me realizing it. I didn’t make the time for my husband. We didn’t go on dates. We barely made time to talk about our dreams and encourage one another, something that was, and still is, so much a part of our relationship. Our marriage suffered.

Feeling frazzled and overwhelmed daily is not how I like to live. I don’t function well. I’ve learned over time that in order to be the best version of myself I need to make space for myself. For me, this looks like a date night with my husband enjoying live music and eating delicious food, because Nashville has no shortage of amazing restaurants and music. Or, it may look like a coffee date with one of my girl friends. And, if I’m totally honest it even includes a solo trip to Target to conquer my “to do” list but at a much slower and enjoyable pace than normal. Now, with a third little girl in the mix it can often take much more planning to make any of this happen, but I know that it’s important. My husband is very much onboard as well. He will often be the one pushing me out the door and I’m always thankful when he does. He’s a keeper y’all!

When I make the time to break away I come back a better mommy. I am able to handle the constant crying and fighting and even control my own emotions better. I’m also a more loving wife when I’ve made the time to connect with my husband. When we come back from a date night we feel much more connected and ready to take on this world together.

The reality is that I don’t always get to break away as much as I would like. Sometimes we have weeks that are just too busy with work and school. I’ve realized with the craziness in our home I need at least one moment every day to take a breath and soak in a moment of peace…and quiet. Each morning I try to sit and take a moment to read and pray. It may only last five minutes, because I have a two year old who loves to eat constantly, but at least its five minutes. I will often walk outside to pray. I breathe in fresh air and remember that I’m thankful for my little piece of this world no matter how crazy it is. My husband and my girls are a beautiful reminder of how my Father is so loving and absolutely adores me. He is so good to my little family and in my moments outside I tell Him I’m thankful.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me; you’ll recover your life. Walk with me; learn unforced rhythms of grace.” Matthew 11:28

In Matthew Jesus invites us to come to Him. To be a better mom, wife, or friend, we need these moments of “unforced rhythms of grace” and we find them with Him, in Him.

So, what about you? Does your daily life feel a tad crazy? Are you making space for yourself? Are you taking a moment each day to connect with others and breathe? If not, what can you do to make this happen? Maybe schedule that date night with your husband or meet a friend for lunch. You could even break away for a couple of days to rest and replenish. Make the time because I promise you, you need it and you won’t regret it.

Heather Williamson, a native Texan resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Steven and her three girls Kayley, Kaidence, and Kaitlyn. Heather and Steven celebrate that God rescued them from a broken marriage and redeemed their relationship with one another and their Savior. They have a passion for walking along-side couples who are struggling in their own marriages praying God will use their broken story to be a testament of hope. Heather also loves sharing life around a table with other women as they enjoy the God given pleasure of a good meal. Speaking of food, she loves the gift of a good taco, queso, or guacamole…really she just loves Tex Mex.

How To Set A Boundary

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in relationships where we need to define a boundary. But what is a boundary? Think of a boundary as a property line.  For your house, you know exactly where your yard ends and your neighbor’s yard begins. The same principle applies when it comes to our own relational property. There is a line of where I end and you begin—and it is up to us to show others where that line is.

Do we want a thick wall around ourselves to keep people out? No. Do we want an open yard where any one can walk on the grass or throw trash in our yard? No. We want a fence with a gate that gives us the ability to let people in and out as we determine.

So how do we build that in ourselves? We set limits so people know what we will allow and what we won’t allow. And we should do this in love.

There are three parts to setting a boundary:

  1. Let them know you are for them: No one is a villain here. Many people have no idea they even crossed your boundary because you never let them know. Start your conversation from a place of compassion instead of anger.
  2. State what happened and how it made you feel: This is not a time for blaming, attacking or accusing, instead we are to own what happened and our feelings in it. This helps the other listen to what you are saying without having to be defensive.  
  3. Help them understand what you want for your relationship in the future:  This is where you will set the line so they now know what it is you desire in the relationship.

For example: Your spouse is late for dinner and it is becoming consistent.  Instead of arguing or accusing, sit them down and say “I love you and I know you have a great work ethic, and that work ethic is keeping you from being home for dinner. When that happens, I am afraid that you don’t want to be home with us for dinner and it hurts my feelings. In the future, I would like you to call me as soon as you know you will be staying later so I know you are thinking of us.”

This keep dialogue open and your needs known.

Setting limits in love is hard, which is one reason why we created the Marriage Workshop for couples to learn how to talk to each other in a way that they can be heard and understood. We have had couples tell us that they have had more effective and connecting conversation in the one weekend than they had in the last 2 years.  We hope you can join us!

Lindsey Castleman, marriage and family counselor Connect with her at Findyourpathway.com Sign up for the next marriage event at 7ConversationsNashville.com

Finding Rest In New Seasons

For many households this month means 'back to school' and it brings a mixed bag of emotions as well as demands. On Thursday I shared some tips on self care for women on Nashville's Channel 4, Today In Nashville News. You can watch it here.

We can't pour out in our daily demands if we aren't being filled up - with the Word and allowing ourselves to find rest and balance the way God intended (Matthew 11:28-30). 

As a Mom of three, I remember the first days of school oh so well. The excitement, concerns, laughter, and tears. Now, as an empty nester, all three of our children are married and they each have babies - but I still remember what those school year days were like. 

Here are a few things I have learned that help us as women practice healthy self care:

TIME MANAGEMENT -  This one is so basic but so critical. I'm not a time management guru but I did learn when my children were still at home in school that putting the backpack (Bonus tip: Double check for all the homework. You're welcome;) in a consistent spot by the door, making lunches the night before, laying out clothes the night before (socks and shoes too!) made the mornings more doable. 

Also, learning to yes to the right things is a game changer. To keep the most important things the most important things, you have to know when to say no. Two of my favorite resources around boundaries are: The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. 

DON'T COMPARE - There is so much pressure in social media to measure up. Comparison is destructive to your soul, robs joy, distorts identity, and make you miss the purposes God has for you.

Don't compare your children to other children or yourself as a woman or mom to other women. Just don't. God has created you to be uniquely beautiful YOU (Psalm 139). Don't miss the life you were meant to live.

TOXIC FREE LIVING - This is a hot topic and I feel like I'm late to the party, but better late than never. Did you know the average woman applies over 300 chemicals a day to her body just through soaps, makeup, shampoos, and hair care products? I've been on the chemical free journey for a bit now using essential oils and products from Young Living and can't imagine ever going back. At 49, I feel amazing and ready to take on the next half. Join me here for more education on this topic. 

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF AND CONNECT WITH GOD - This is a must, ladies. Make time every day for yourself to breathe. When our kids were still home I would get up before them to have coffee and some quiet time with God. If you can't do that, then do it at night or any time during the day. I learned to have ongoing conversations with God throughout the day. He's always there, always speaking, always present - and He cares for every detail of your life.

Get rest, feed your body good stuff, and get some physical activity. Even a walk around the block on the busiest days can help clear our minds and it's great for our body, soul, and minds.

Make time to connect meaningfully with other women no matter what stage of life you're in. Learning from and encouraging each other is a gift. We are not competitors. The more you see yourself as God does, the more free you will be to love and encourage others as well as learn from. 

Are you ready for a weekend to catch your breath and exhale?

Exhale Women has created Exhale Weekend - a retreat for women to rest, receive, and to be encouraged and inspired no matter where they are on their journey. See Our Story. This year Exhale Weekend will take place September 29 - September 30 and you're invited. We're almost full, so don't miss out! Details here and register here with 20% promo code: backtoschool through August 15th. 

This year's theme is A Full Life In The Emptiest Of Places - Isaiah 58:11-12 (The MSG)

I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

Holly Newton is the Exhale Women Visionary. You can read her story here and connect with her on Instagram here.

 

 

Knowing Who I Am

For as long as I can remember I’ve been searching to find my place. In high school I can remember feeling like I needed to find my circle of friends and keep my spot in that group. In college I sought to figure out how I could establish myself valuable and able as I auditioned for operas and ensembles. And even as an adult I’ve struggled with trying to find my place in our church home. I vividly remember sitting on my couch with my husband crying about the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a role or was wanted. Everywhere I tried to serve felt forced. I often felt like I wasn’t wise enough or smart enough to lead a group. Or that no one was asking me to help in their ministry because I wasn’t good enough. (Side note: Now looking back I see that my perspective was so off and that my identity is in Christ - not in what I do. I wasn’t on staff or didn’t have an official title, but I was part of so many pieces of our church and it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t every week and it wasn’t consistent, but I learned to love that. I learned that that was perfect for me. Its funny how our perspective can be so distorted by our feelings.)

This desire to fit in or feel a part of something has come along with me here in Tennessee. When we first moved here I was content with not finding my place. Everything was so new and I was trying my best to adjust to our new home. But about six months in as I started to connect with others and settle in a little more I found myself asking again, “Where’s my place?” and  “Am I valuable?”.

Though I have these moments of insecurity I’ve learned how to sit and wait for God to reveal to me where to serve. I’ve learned how to be ok with not having a title.  I know the things I’m passionate about and I pray for my Father to show me next steps and to present them to me when the time is right. And if that takes awhile, I’m ok with that. I don’t have to prove to anyone that I love Jesus and I don’t have to be in an official position to love others well. I know who I am and am content to rest in that as I wait for next steps.

Though my Father has been so patient and gracious with me as I learn these lessons, I still struggle in other ways. We live in an area where strong women surround me. Everyone seems to have a purpose, a calling, and a passion. I love how there are so many creative people in this city who are making a difference. They are sharing their ideas and dreams and encouraging others to do the same. In so many ways I am inspired. It’s contagious! Nashville has always been magical to me and now living here I feel this desire to dream more. I find myself far more open to the possibilities of big things that God may have for me than I did back in Texas. But, I often feel like I’m not enough for those big dreams. And if I were back in Texas would I still dream this way? I often feel like a little fish in a big pond. I’m fearful that I don’t really know what I’m doing. The story I tell myself is that when I share a glimpse of the path God may be leading me down others look at me and think, “So many other people are doing that. You’re nothing special.”

You guys, sometimes I’m a mess! I let fear and insecurity take over. I allow myself to feel inferior to those around me. I let these things paralyze me and I do nothing!

But God.

As I navigate these questions of what I should pursue or what should be my next steps and wrestle with my insecurities and fears Jesus reminds me that these things I’m telling myself, the words that are filling my head with doubt and worry, are not who I am because they are not who He created me to be. He reminds me constantly that I am His and I am loved (1 John 4:10). He reminds me that He created me with such purpose and intentionality. That I’m not randomly put together but that the desires and passions I have are there on purpose (Psalm 139:13-14). He tells me often that its ok that I’m human and that I fail because it’s not about me being strong or perfect (2nd Corinthians 12:9). He tells me that He will always lead me. If I ask He will provide (Philippians 4:19). And even if I don’t ask, He still knows my heart, my struggles, and my mess and He will still provide.

God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18

I don’t have to strive or struggle trying to figure it all out. It’s ok that I don’t know all of the answers. I don’t have to prove myself. I can rest and be still. I can wait. I can find my peace in the fact that I have a Father who loves me and will guide me as I do my best each day to connect with Him and love others.

What about you? Do you question yourself? Do you ever just feel not good enough? In those moments fill your heart and mind with words from your Father. Fill your soul with truth. Remember that you have a Father who adores you. You are precious to Him. Rest in that and He will reveal to you your next steps.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Heather Williamson, a native Texan resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Steven and her three girls Kayley, Kaidence, and Kaitlyn. Heather and Steven celebrate that God rescued them from a broken marriage and redeemed their relationship with one another and their Savior. They have a passion for walking along-side couples who are struggling in their own marriages praying God will use their broken story to be a testament of hope. Heather also loves sharing life around a table with other women as they enjoy the God given pleasure of a good meal. Speaking of food, she loves the gift of a good taco, queso, or guacamole…really she just loves Tex Mex.

Comparison

Comparison can steal our joy. It diminishes who we are in Christ and the blessings God has given us. It can rob us of understanding our identity and embracing our destiny because we are too busy wishing for someone else’s life. It’s a trap that we easily fall into in our culture and too often becomes the measurement of how we feel about our lives.

We are so loved and accepted by Jesus, no matter what we’ve done, and no matter what has been done to us. He came to set us free from all the sin and shame - walls, masks, labels, pressures and comparisons that distract us from our own journey and keep us from walking fully in His promises.

I grew up in a suburb where there was a lot of pressure to measure up, even in the church. For so much of my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood I felt less than enough. There was always someone better looking, more talented, smarter, more capable…more. I compared, measured, and tried to prove myself. It was tiring. Exhausting, really.

Living in the comparison cycle is exhausting, and more importantly, it is not the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Have you ever measured your life in light of what someone else’s appeared to be on the outside? God’s heart for us is that our identity is so sealed in who we are in Him that we don’t feel the need to compare ourselves to anyone else and that we would not wish for any other life than our own.

Read Psalm 139.

Verses 13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

God’s character goes into the creation of every person. When we were in the womb, God saw us. He sees us in the hidden places. He knew all of our days before we drew a breath. What if you began each day declaring that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by your good Father? How would that affect how you view yourself and your life? How would that change how you view others?

When I experienced how fully known I am - and loved - by Jesus in my darkest days, I began to understand  how real His love is for me - for all of us. Intimacy with God and confidence in His unique plan for your life will bring deep satisfaction to your soul and confidence, joy, and strength for your personal journey. This world needs you to be you – the you God created for this time and space.

Have you ever compared your life, looks, job, kids, marriage to that of another? How can comparing derail us from our own destiny? What would it look like if instead of comparing we refocus our attention to our Father and stand on the truths in His word about who He says we are?

Holly Newton is the Exhale Women Visionary. Read the story here. You can connect with her on Instagram
 

A Time for Everything

"There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Recently our pastor gave a sermon on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. For about forty-eight hours after the sermon both my husband and I found ourselves processing our current “season”. We’ve recently come out of a really tough season. One where we felt unsure and anxious. A season where our faith felt tested and some days shaky. But, in all of that uncertainty it was also a beautiful time of growth where I felt Jesus draw me closer. Seasons like this are hard, but I wouldn’t trade them. They are often the ones that define much of our relationship with our Father. These are the moments where the true character of God shines through and its good!

“For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

My husband also found himself processing a different part of our season. Over the past year we’ve seen a change in a close relationship. Changes that we didn’t choose. Changes that we haven’t wanted. But here we are watching the relationship shift and we can’t control it. For almost a year we’ve found ourselves fighting it. The fight has been internal as we’ve processed feelings of hurt and confusion. We’ve made efforts to figure it out. We’ve reached out trying to get answers. Yet, it’s still changing.

My husband shared with me that he thinks we need to stop fighting the change. It’s both of our natural tendencies to fight for the things we love and care about. We both feel big and love big. So when something is important to us, we will fight for it. But maybe this isn’t our fight. Sometimes “it’s a time to search and a time to count as lost” so maybe this is our time to “count as lost”? We spin our wheels trying to control the season or muster up enough strength to change it, but ultimately we can’t control it. So maybe we have to allow it to change.

Today I find myself in a season of rebuilding and dreaming. It’s a good place to be. But as I sensed a new season of peace coming I prayed that I would not allow myself to be distracted by the good and pay less attention to my relationship with my Father. Have you ever done this? In the most desperate and trying times in our lives we spend much of our time praying and asking. Seeking and hoping. In these moments God feels so close we could touch him. We recognize how much we need Him. But then our season changes, our anxieties lessen, and we don’t feel so desperate for help. We talk less and our relationship feels like it shifts…even if just a little.

But I don’t want this. To put it simply I don’t want to be a flake. I want my relationship with my Father to be consistent. I don’t want it to feel like the tide, flowing in and out. I want it to be steady. The truth is, it’s not my Father who is wavering, it’s me. I don’t make the time to pray and talk to Him. I allow my mornings to be taken over by my “to do” list instead of making the time to sit and be still. There are two of us in this relationship and I need to make the time. So, that’s where I am right now. I’m thankful for the good and peaceful season but struggling to keep my connection with my Savior priority as I allow this world to distract me with all the things. What I need to remind myself it that though it may feel like it, my relationship in of itself is not changing. My God still loves me and we are still connected. It just looks different in this season. And there is grace…always grace.

The beauty of changing seasons is that Jesus is always there. He’s always consistent. He embraces us in the struggle and celebrates with us in the joy. He hears our prayers and He knows our hearts. He never leaves us. Ever.

“The Lord is good to everyone; his compassions rests on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9

What season do you find yourself in right now? Is it one of struggle or one of joy? Whatever it may be, find a way to embrace it. Lean in to Jesus as you are processing and walking it out. Don’t miss the chance to learn and grow. Don’t pass up a chance to see Jesus in whatever season you are walking through. He’s there. Always.

Heather Williamson, a native Texan resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Steven and her three girls Kayley, Kaidence, and Kaitlyn. Heather and Steven celebrate that God rescued them from a broken marriage and redeemed their relationship with one another and their Savior. They have a passion for walking along-side couples who are struggling in their own marriages praying God will use their broken story to be a testament of hope. Heather also loves sharing life around a table with other women as they enjoy the God given pleasure of a good meal.  Speaking of food, she loves the gift of a good taco, queso, or guacamole…really she just loves Tex Mex.

Take Courage

We long for a life filled with purpose and meaning and there are seasons when we have to wait for God’s plan to unfold. We wait, watch, and hope. We want to believe. But circumstances around us can sometimes tempt us to wonder if God has forgotten us as we hope for the unseen. The waiting time can make us weary and cause us to doubt.

I grew up in the church and felt like I knew a lot of answers – at least I knew where to find them in the Bible. However, many years later and on the other side of brokenness and redemption I realize how much I really didn’t know about the heart of God - as the merciful grace giving good Father, One who invites us into an intimate relationship ask the hard questions, share our deepest doubts, fears, and struggles with. 

In times of disbelief and darkness, our core beliefs about who God is make all the difference in whether we let doubt rule or let the peace and hope that He alone offers rule our hearts. Through the storms and beside still waters - God is still God. He is present in your circumstance even when you doubt. When life is bigger than we are, He is still there. He never leaves us.

Matthew 14:22-32 (NIV) reads, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from the land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake, they were terrified. “it’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

I love how Jesus addressed Peter’s doubt first. Jesus responded to his doubts with “take courage”. 

Peter was undaunted by danger. He was doing the miraculous until he began to stare at the storm around him. He began to sink because his focus was no longer on the One who called him out on the water. He lost focus on Jesus’ authority and ability and instead began to look at what he was limited to within his own ability. 

Have you ever felt like Peter? 

Have you ever lost perspective and begun to wonder where was God was in the middle of your challenge? Or, have you ever wanted Jesus so badly that you would do anything, like Peter - stepping out of what is comfortable and familiar to do what seems impossible because God called? 

We may never walk on water, but we will walk through tough situations and circumstances that can cause us to doubt. I think Peter must have worshipped in a whole different realm than the other disciples that night after his encounter with Jesus. I know on this side of redemption and my rewritten story I sure do.

Storms push us closer to God. As I’ve wrestled through my humanity (and still do in different ways), insecurities, and fears - God is faithful. He never changes. He is able to walk on water and He can calm the storms with two simple words – Be still. And through Christ, He gives us that authority in our own lives. By speaking His truth over our circumstances, anxiety is turned into peace.


We have never been hidden from God. Even before we drew a breath, He saw us and knew us. Devastating days can make it hard to hold onto hope. It can fade in the waiting or the stacking disappointments. The unseen can make us weary and cause us to shrink back. But that’s not what God intended. While there is breath in your lungs, there is hope – the promise of a new day. 

Because of God’s love we don’t have to be consumed by our circumstances. His compassions and faithfulness are real. Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV) assures us, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

The key is to trust God whenever we feel like we can’t and wait on Him. His word and promises stand no matter the circumstance. Whether it’s waiting for a relationship to be restored, financial breakthrough, a job situation to shift, a child to be conceived, or whatever your specific situation is – He can be trusted to provide for your needs and help you walk in His plan for your life. Trusting in His faithfulness day by day increases our confidence and perseverance. God invites us into the unseen for intimacy with Him. It’s in this place where hope is born, which produces faith and belief. Hope is one of our greatest gifts and weapons. It is one of God’s foundational promises for us. The unseen is not meant to make us weary in the waiting. It’s an opportunity for us to know and trust God’s heart more. 

Is there a circumstance you have been hoping will change in your life?

What would it look like to let hope rise up in the midst of waiting, even though outwardly the circumstance is the same?  And what truths from God’s word can you begin speaking over your circumstances? How can we pray for you? 

Holly Newton is the Exhale Women Visionary. Read the story here. You can connect with her on  Instagram and www.hollyanewton.com

We Don't Have To Fight Alone

We have been married twelve years now…twelve! I don’t look that old right? I look back at our wedding pictures that sit on a table in our home and think, “We were babies!” And we were! We were twenty and twenty-one. Married in the middle of college. We somehow managed to juggle the whole newlywed thing and still finish our degrees. I’d say that was an “only God” thing in our lives. We have a lot of those…

As I think back on our twelve years I like to sum up each year or group of years in a word or two based on what God did in our lives in that season. Years 1 and 2 were new, fresh and fun. Years 3-6 were our coasting years, tough but that's how we thought it was supposed to be. Year 7 was our hardest, our REDEMPTION year! Years 8-10 were growing years full of new babies and a new home, living out our new normal and thankful for a redeemed marriage...fun and exciting. Year 11 was our risk year. The year we decided to leave all that we knew to be comfortable and move our family of five from Texas to Tennessee. And year 12…I’m not sure what this year’s word is yet. I won’t really know until it’s over. But I promise you, there will be a clear word that will define this year and tell a story…God’s story in our twelfth year of marriage.

Today I want to talk about our most significant year thus far, year seven, our Redemption year. This year sticks out most to me for many reasons. Year seven was the year my world felt like it fell apart.  Year seven was the year my heart was broken. Year seven was the year I had to fight hard for my marriage, for my family. Year seven is when Jesus became tangible and more real to me than He had been in a long time. Year seven was the year I fell in love with my husband all over again. Year seven was when God showed me how He is a God who redeems.

If you’ve ever walked through a broken season in your marriage or are maybe in one right now you know that it can feel very lonely and confusing. I remember sitting in my bed just days after multiple heartbreaking conversations with my husband thinking, “How did we get here?” I remember wishing I could go back to before it all crashed. I wanted to feel “normal” again. I felt so alone. Like no one would understand how I felt because their marriages weren’t falling apart. Let me tell you, my friends, this could not be further from the truth. No, not everyone’s marriage is falling apart. But, everyone struggles.

Relationships are hard! Many are working through small things or still trying to figure it out but some are fighting for their marriages. It’s more common than we talk about. But here’s the thing; we don’t have to fight alone. There’s a couple we often share about who walked this journey of healing and restoration in our marriage with us. This couple sat with us when we were weeping. They held our hands when we wondered if we’d ever feel normal again. They held us accountable as we did the work. And they celebrated with us (and still do) when we came out on the other side. Our marriage, our family legacy, would not be what it is today if we had tried to do it all alone. God has this beautiful way of placing the right people in our lives to walk out the messy stuff with us. He works through his children. And what’s even more beautiful is He weaves hearts together in it all. My husband and I want to be available to others who need friends like we had. We want to be available to walk out the tough stuff with other couples and help them to know they aren’t alone. We want to share hope.

I fully believe that it takes humility and hard work to get through the most difficult seasons in our marriages. And I want couples to know they have someone on their side, rooting for them, as they walk through it all. I also believe that when we confess our weaknesses or sins to one another healing can happen. In James we are told, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” (James 5:16) When we confess it breaks the power of the sin in our lives and is the “next right step” in transforming our hearts and minds in whatever darkness we are pushing through.

I have always been in awe of the way God can use our broken stories to bring hope to others. This has been our prayer from the beginning. That His story would pierce through the darkness of such a painful season for us. And in true “only God” fashion, He has done just that. In ways I could never plan. I’ve found that we don’t have to push our stories out into the world to make a difference. We need only to sit back and allow God to be God and He always creates something beautiful.

He always redeems. It’s who He is. When we look back at the Old Testament we see how even in the most painful, rebellious, sometimes scary moments in history God is always wooing His children back to Himself. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33

He draws His children in close and redeems all that sin has taken from them. He desires His creation to know Him. To be close to him. He doesn’t want us to be broken. He is always mending, fixing, healing, restoring, REDEEMING.

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:13-14

Its not easy to share our stories. I question if my story really matters. Everyone has a story, right? So why share mine? Because its ultimately not my story. Its His. I’m just along for the ride. But, my hope is that our year seven will be a testament to how we have a God who fights for us. We are never alone. If you are in a tough season in your marriage, I’m here and would love to pray with you. You do not have to fight alone.

Heather Williamson, a native Texan resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Steven and her three girls Kayley, Kaidence, and Kaitlyn. Heather and Steven celebrate that God rescued them from a broken marriage and redeemed their relationship with one another and their Savior. They have a passion for walking along-side couples who are struggling in their own marriages praying God will use their broken story to be a testament of hope. Heather also loves sharing life around a table with other women as they enjoy the God given pleasure of a good meal.  Speaking of food, she loves the gift of a good taco, queso, or guacamole…really she just loves Tex Mex.