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Author Archives: Stephanie Clayton

  • Healing Your Marriage

    Posted on July 12, 2013 by Stephanie Clayton

    Stephanie

    "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'" John 4:10 (NIV)

    I try so hard, and for what? I get nothing in return.

    Things will never change. I have been praying for years. I'm ready to give up.

    Maybe I just married the wrong person. Why do I have to stay in a marriage when I am miserable?

    I just want him to notice me ...

    These are the cries of a burned out, emotionally drained wife. How do I know? Because I have been there.

    The first eight years of my marriage were rough. My husband and I were young and had a difficult time making decisions and just doing life together. He wanted one thing and I wanted another. Would we ever see eye-to-eye? Would he be able to meet my needs? Desperately desiring happiness, I began to resent him rather than dealing with the actual root of my sadness and lack of fulfillment ... which was my past.

    I entered our marriage with a great deal of hurt from my past that I refused to deal with. Unrealistically, I expected when I got married, this hurt would disappear. But it didn't. It hung on. And I became bitter toward my husband for not being enough to right the wrongs in my life.

    But the truth is, it wasn't my husband's responsibility to be my cure-all. Even if he had tried, no one and no thing on earth could have fixed the hurt or filled my emptiness. No, I had to find my healing and hope in something else. The answer to my dissatisfaction was found in John 4 in the story of another unhappy woman.

    One day this woman, who had been married five times and was now living with another man, went to draw water from a well. There she met Jesus. Seeing clear through her hurt and pain, and recognizing her heart's desire to be loved, Jesus shared this life-changing truth with her:

    "'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. ... Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst'" (vs. 10, 14a).

    Jesus invited her into a relationship with Him. Not because He wanted to take the place of any husband or man in her life, but because He wanted to take a higher position within her heart. He offered to be her all-satisfying Savior.

    Jesus invited this heart-parched woman to drink from Him and be refreshed, cheered, revived, comforted, and so much more. He assured her that in Him, she would never thirst again.

    So often we look to our husbands (or other people, positions, or possessions) with unrealistic expectations, wanting them to offer what only Christ can: perfect healing, unending love, and sufficient validation.

    But every marriage has its seasons. There will be times when you feel deeply fulfilled, and there will be times you may feel stark, barren and empty. That is why it is important to look to Christ alone for your value and fulfillment. He is your only Savior.

    How do you do this? Get to know Him, just like you did your husband when you were dating! Study the Bible, pray and spend time alone with God daily. Replace thoughts of unworthiness, doubt or belittling with truth you find in Scripture.

    With time, God healed our marriage. It took me going to counseling to deal with my past and a godly man to mentor my husband. As we began to find personal satisfaction in our individual relationships with Christ, we simultaneously began to grow closer to each other. The first step to restoring our marriage, though, was accepting the Lord's exclusive invitation to drink the water only He provides.

    Will you accept it today too? He's offering you living water. Let's drink deep and allow the healing to begin.

    Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to have a relationship with me. Help me seek Him and find my satisfaction in Him alone. As that happens, please heal me and my marriage. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    A Confident Heart by Renee Swope will help you find the soul-satisfying love and assurance your heart longs for!

     

    Reflect and Respond:
    Take an honest assessment: do you expect your husband to make the pain from your past better, to fulfill you and to be your source of happiness?

    Take time today to get to know Jesus by studying Scripture and praying.

    Power Verse:
    Isaiah 55:1, "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • When Trust in a Marriage is Violated

    Posted on April 3, 2013 by Stephanie Clayton

     

    Stephanie

    "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

    Hide it! This was my first instinct. I was certain if my husband found out, he would leave me. So I rushed home at lunch every day to remove another credit card statement from our mailbox. My payments were late; fees were stacking up. I was sinking deeper and deeper into a financial and emotional abyss.

    My husband was clueless about my debt ... now our debt. He never would have condoned my spending habits, as he is wiser with finances. So the spending was my secret.

    Soon, it wasn't just letters in the mail, the phone calls began. I was either going to have to fess up or continue to try and hide it. But at that point, hiding was next to impossible.

    I wondered things like, if I tell him, will he divorce me? Will he ever trust me again? Things are already bad, will this make them worse? They are just credit cards, right?

    The regrets are many as I look back at this time. We pay high interest rates because of my choices. But even more, I regret violating my husband's trust. I created trust issues in our marriage that run deep and have required much time, effort, and grace to mend. What started out as just small pieces of plastic, ended up creating a gigantic rift in our marriage.

    Trust issues in marriage can come in one form or another. There are the things that can knock us down quickly such as lying, committing adultery, and falling captive to an addiction such as alcohol or pornography. And then there are the things that chip away at trust over time like constantly showing up late, paying more attention to a phone or electronic device, cancelling date night repetitively, and refusing intimacy more often than not.

    Most of us experience some combination of both major and minor trust-violating incidents unique to our marriage, resulting in trust gaps, and ultimately feelings of abandonment, anger, and rejection.

    So how do we mend trust in a relationship as delicate as a marriage? Especially when we are the offender? A great place to start is looking at Philippians 2:3-4. In these verses, Christ calls us to imitate His humility. To do nothing out of selfishness, but value others above ourselves.

    Imagine how your marriage would change if you and your spouse both chose to follow these principles. And even if your spouse is not on board, imagine how your life would change if you decided to consider his needs above your own?

    This certainly is not a suggestion to be a doormat or endure an abusive situation. Healthy boundaries should be set if there is abuse of any kind. But what I am condoning is healthy humble behavior. Be cognizant of the words you speak to and the tone you use with your spouse. Do not disrespect him verbally. Encourage him every chance you get. Choose to consult him regarding the decisions you make, even the small ones.

    Marriage is a partnership. Communicate the value and importance of your husband's opinions. The miracle of humility and respect is when we present it to others, it tends to come back to us in greater amounts.

    My marriage is on the mend. I have submitted our finances to my husband. Not because he is a dictator or longs to be in control, but because he is wise in this area and leads in a way of spending and saving that looks out for the interests of our family.

    Moving forward, let's choose to test our actions against Philippians 2:3-4 and try to look out for the interests of our husband, not just ourselves. A great first step is to ask for forgiveness from the Lord, be honest with our husband, and move forward together, learning from each other's trust-violating habits. Trust in a marriage is a beautiful, and attainable, thing.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for hiding in the dark what should be in the light. Please prepare my husband's heart to hear what I need to confess, and give us the wisdom on how to move forward, together ... with You are our guide. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    For over 17 years, Proverbs 31 Ministries has been a trusted friend, offering biblical perspective on marriage, parenting, friendships and more. This wisdom has been recorded in 366 devotions that unpack Scripture and are interspersed in the new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women. Click here for your copy!

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are you violating the trust in your marriage right now? If so, make a plan to tell you husband. If you are nervous, pray about having a third party there to help mediate.

    Power Verse:
    Ephesians 5:21, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Stressed-Less Living

    Posted on March 15, 2013 by Stephanie Clayton

    Stephanie

    "Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave." Psalm 107:19-20 (NIV)

    As I sat in my abnormal psychology class, my face turned red and my heart raced. I remembered the small black box hiding under my blouse. A few days before, the cardiologist had given me a monitor and instructed me to hit a button on it every time my heart sped. It was happening again, and this time in a classroom.

    That day, my class was learning about people who have frequent physical complaints with no organic cause. What if that was me?? What if my heart issues were nothing more than stress and anxiety? I actually hoped the doctor would find something physically wrong with my heart so she wouldn't scrawl "crazy girl" on my medical chart.

    Over the next few months, with more testing, my doctor determined low thyroid levels were the organic basis for my heart problems. I began taking prescription medication, however my heart issues continued. Curious as to why, I began writing down what was happening during the times my heart raced.

    It occurred when I made a class presentation and when I walked alone in a dark parking lot. It happened when I faced confrontation and when certain people came around me. After a week of writing these triggers down, I realized my heart issues were in part related to anxiety.

    A Christian girl shouldn't struggle with anxiety, should she? Especially one majoring in counseling. I wanted desperately to hide the struggle attacking me physically and emotionally, but it was getting difficult to function. Christian counseling helped me process the cause of my anxiety. I also dug into God's Word. Psalm 107:19-20 spoke volumes to my situation.

    "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave."

    I chose to believe and trust in the scripture map found in Psalm 107:19-20. Cry out... trust Him to save me... His Word would heal me... and I would be rescued from the grave.

    To begin, I got real with God about my pain. He already knew my heart, but crying out to Him helped me swallow my pride and acknowledge that He is capable of what I am not.

    Next, I chose to trust that He would save me. When I doubted the promises of His Word, I prayed that He would help me overcome my unbelief.

    Then I acknowledged the healing power of His Word. At first, I believed lies such as I am unlovable and will never be good enough. These lies were much louder than the scriptures I read. However, the more I repeated verses and altered my behavior to His commands, belief began to manifest.

    Last, I consented to a rescue from the grave. I hadn't been eager for freedom because anxiety was a method of control. As long as I worried, I felt in control. If Christ was going to rescue me from the grave of anxiety, I would have to give up control and trust Him. And that seemed scary! But even scarier was the idea of continued physical and emotional death. Choosing to trust Him involved a shift in my focus. I chose to see and accept the good in my life and to focus on what I could learn in this difficult season. Trusting Him meant choosing joy in the present over despair.

    It's been several years since that day in abnormal psychology class wearing my heart monitor. I've come to realize that although stress, anxiety, and worry will always try to attack us, they don't have permission to infiltrate our heart and mind. Only God has permission to do that. We can battle anxiety with Scripture truth that God is in control, has plans for us, and there is no need to be anxious over circumstances. He is our healer, rescuer, Savior. He is our freedom from the grave of anxiety, stress, and worry.

    Dear Lord, help me trust You, consent to Your healing, and spend time in Your Word and in prayer. Rescue me from my distress and from the grave. Thank You for caring about my life and that I can be free from stress. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles

    Reflect and Respond:
    Write out the scripture map from Psalm 107:19-20. Cry out... trust Him to save you... His Word would heal you... and you would be rescued from the grave.

    Over the next 24 hours, walk each step out.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." (NIV 1984)

    © 2013 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • When an Apology Never Comes

    Posted on February 19, 2013 by Stephanie Clayton

    Stephanie

    "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

    Numb to the pain, I sat in my counselor's office to talk about the rape that occurred 10 years prior. I wanted to share what happened but the words would not come. Even if they did, would I feel better? I hoped so, but doubted the process. This part of my life had been hidden for 10 years; surely another 10 wouldn't hurt, right?

    Although I wanted desperately to run, I desired freedom more than escape.

    Freedom from nightmares, uncontrollable mood swings, panic attacks, and the feeling of gasping for air. Freedom from unforgiveness. Hiding any longer from my pain would never help me move forward. So I stayed in counseling.

    Uneasy, I described what happened. The sounds, sights, and smells returned as if it were yesterday. I was left wanting one thing.

    An apology.

    Couldn't someone say they were sorry for what happened? Not a shallow apology, but one that would restore meaning to my life. One that would somehow return my loss of innocence. Surely an apology from the man who raped me would make a difference, right?

    After 10 years, I knew I wanted freedom from the unforgiveness that seemed to enslave me. But how was I supposed to forgive when he never said, "I'm sorry"? I spent a lot of time praying and studying how to move forward when bitter and angry. How to forgive when an apology never comes. Along that journey, I learned a few things.

    First of all, for forgiveness to bring freedom, I had to offer it freely, with no strings attached. Not because the person who hurt me earned it, but because it's Christ's gift. If you are a Christian, no one's sin, not even your own, has the right to hold you captive. That means you are free to forgive.

    You may not feel like forgiving, but that is where you ask for God's strength. Ask Him daily for help until you are able to offer forgiveness freely to yourself and others.

    Second, I had to release my shame. Often when someone hurts us, we blame ourselves. If we had been a better person, done something differently, or spoken more assertively we could have avoided what happened. Right? Wrong! Pressing shame and blame upon ourselves is not conducive to freedom and healing. Galatians 5:1 says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

    Shame is a yoke of slavery. Instead of accepting shame, choose to stand firm in Jesus' love. Stand firm in His freedom that releases you from shame. Because of His sacrifice on the cross you are free!

    Third, I had to keep walking forward. To move past your past you must walk through it to move beyond it. This might involve time and professional help ... but here's the freeing part: your past does not define you, Christ does!

    I never received an apology from the man who raped me. But I've come to realize that even if he were to apologize it would not make up for the hurt he caused. His apology could not and would not set me free.

    Freedom is not contingent upon receiving an apology from those who have hurt us. Instead, forgiveness leads to freedom and is possible because Christ's death on the cross set us free.

    Dear Lord, thank You that Your death on the cross gives us all the strength we need to forgive those who have hurt us. Where there is unforgiveness, uproot it with grace. Allow Your mercy to fall on the burdened places of our hearts and minds and show us the areas we need to be set free. Thank You that Your grace, always has been, and will always be, enough. In Jesus' Name I Pray, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    In what ways are you living with unforgiveness that anchors you in a victim stance?

    What is the first step you can take to forgive? If your heart is unwilling, ask Christ for the strength it will take to set you free.

    Power Verse:
    John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Renewing My Vows

    Posted on October 5, 2012 by Stephanie Clayton

    Stephanie

    "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:14-15 (NIV)

    As a young girl I wanted desperately to be thin. Instead, I was the "chunky girl" on the swim team, the slightly overweight dancer, and always felt awkward in a two-piece swimsuit. When I turned 15, I discovered weight loss shakes and exercised constantly.

    It worked! I lost a good deal of weight and starting hanging out with the group I'd always admired.

    At that point I made an internal vow: I will never be overweight again.

    During my first pregnancy I was so paranoid about weight gain I ran three miles a day until the day I gave birth to my son Ryan. I was willing to pay any price to keep my vow. I served my need and desire to be thin.

    After Ryan was born, I craved being even thinner. My diet consisted mostly of sugar-free drinks and hard candy. Every now and then I'd squeeze in a meal or a few small bites of real food. Quickly I dropped another 10 pounds.

    When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had a scare that landed me on bed rest and forced me to discontinue exercise and to eat more. After Lauren's birth, I went the complete opposite direction and ate everything in sight, putting on over 40 pounds.

    I never really understood my battle with eating until a few months ago when I heard a sermon about generational bondage and internal vows.

    Growing up, I remembered my parents struggling with their weight. In fact, my family has struggled with food issues for generations. It was a pattern I vowed not to repeat.

    But rather than giving this bondage to the Lord, and looking to Him for freedom, I made a commitment to control things myself. I will NEVER be overweight again.

    But the vow I made took me not just one way in the wrong direction, but to both extremes. The only way I would find a healthy balance was to give my struggle to the Lord.

    I had to make a new vow with God, not myself, in a way that relinquished control to Him.

    Today's key verse reminds us that we can call on the Lord in times of trouble and He will deliver us as we seek to honor Him with our lives. Yet many times we choose to see if we can get through life's difficulties on our own.

    But what if we chose to sacrifice one of the greatest thank offerings of all? What if we sacrificed our need to control?

    Internal vows lead to self-centered striving.

    Vows made to the Lord lead to Christ-centered peace.

    Can you think of any internal vows you've made as a result of pain or struggles you've experienced in your family? Are there patterns that have existed in your family for years? It doesn't have to be overeating. Other examples of generational bondage are substance abuse, anger, sexual abuse, physical violence, etc.

    Internal vows may seem good on the surface, but they can be detrimental to our spiritual growth. We begin to serve our vows instead of the Lord. While it was good for my health that I did not want to repeat my family's patterns of unhealthy eating, it wasn't possible until I surrendered this area of my life completely to the Lord.

    I am now on my way to a healthy weight. Not because of my own strength, but because I have made my vow to Jesus. I'm learning to trust Him to help with every area of my life, including my food cravings.

    Dear Lord, when I rely on my own strength I become weary and fall. Help me place my trust in You. Your Word says that when I call on You, You will deliver and honor me! Thank You that there is freedom in the power of Your Name. I choose to look upon Your strength and guidance as I move forward. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

    Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles

    Reflect and Respond:
    Draw your family tree. As you write down names, think about any internal vows they may have made. Also think about any internal vows you may have made from witnessing their struggles. Take time to reflect on any behavioral patterns you may identify.

    Write down one internal vow you have made. How you can begin to offer this struggle as a thank offering to the Lord, trusting in His strength and guidance as you begin to move forward?

    Power Verse:
    1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (NIV 1984)

    © 2012 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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