I want my name back and Love is not free

Hard and painful it’s been. Tim and I have not been spoken to for over a month.  The boys seem to take turns (unplanned) and as of right now, neither one is talking to us.  The home is being terrorized, things get broken and calling 911 is on the table.  We no longer have a life.

It’s very sad the boys can’t see what they’ve been given.  They have been given family, they have been given future, they have been given love.  But love is never free, someone is paying a price. It’s costing someone something.  And to the boys… it’s still a blaming game, they are not seeing fault in themselves, and things are getting worse.  And we realize (with the help of a team) that it’s being abused, we are being abused.  And so we need to change things around here.

We can’t love more, and we can’t do anything different.

As sad as it is, Tim and I need to withdraw emotionally.  We’ve been battling this for a long time.  We don’t want to withdraw; we took in children who needed a home and safety to love, not withdraw.  So I am broken.  Broken over needing to let go. Broken over not being able to love more or do something different.  And so sadly, I need my name back. Today the boys will hear (in a therapy session) that I am considering asking them to call me Maddy again.  For how can I let go when, when I hear ‘mom’, everything in me wants to rise up and love.  I need distance.  They need distance.  There were times Boy 1 stopped calling me mom and started calling me Maddy, out of anger. My name switch is done out of self-preservation and, love.

We dont know where we’re headed.  The future is unknown.  We still know all children from hard places can heal.  It’s just not something we can control or make happen on our own.  So we surrender and embrace our circumstances no matter how it goes against nature, or our will.


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A Love Letter

In our marriage counseling our pastor had asked us to write down the things we like about one another. He said we could do that in any way we wanted. To me, that was an open invitation to write Tim a longggg letter. Our pastor kind of made fun of this during our wedding ceremony because it is often that the guy sums up a list of things, while the woman pours out her heart on many pages, and we were no different.

On our anniversary Tim and I watched our wedding video for the very fist time. Our dear friend Dave has put many hours into getting us our memories on video and it was the most perfect gift for our one year anniversary. Hearing our pastor speak about my letter and sharing it with our family and friends during the ceremony made me want to share my longggg love letter here. As I was hearing it back, I was stunned at how right on I was with my words about Tim. Everything I said about Tim is actually very true today. Of course I have gotten to know Tim better over this past year, but the guy I got to know 21 months ago is a reality!

To my dearest Tim,
I am very honest and I don’t take these words lightly when I tell you that I have never met a man as Good as you. And I know having a dad like I had can make that not a big deal.  But besides my dad there were men in my life like neighbors, teachers, friends and pastors and no one was merely as good as you.  And I am honest when I say again that packing up my life in Holland to come here, to come to you, was very easy.  That is a compliment to you.  I know I have God to praise for this, and I have God to praise for you. He has designed for you to be a Good man and you could have chosen to walk a different path many times.  Your childhood in boarding school could have changed you, going through a divorce could have changed you.  But no such thing happened, you choose Good.  
When we met in church and had that first date way into the night, that is not when I got to know your character all that much.  It’s through our skype conversations that your character shone through strongly. It’s something stable and something I trust. I love your character, and I admire that you are a Good man.
I love that you are honest.
I love that you are such a happy person.
I love that you are humble.
I love that you will sit down with God on a daily basis.
I love that you are always willing to look at yourself first.
I love you are able to say you are sorry.
I love that you always see things from the bright side of life.
I love that you believe the best in a person.
I love that you are a giver and are always willing to help out.
I love that you are open to being confronted.
I love that you ask for help.
I love that you treat people with respect.
I love that you take your roll as son, brother, friend, neighbor, church go-er, my fiancé very seriously and you are a good son, good brother, good friend, good neighbor, good church go-er and an excellent fiancé.
Babe, you are really an excellent person. You are righteous.  You are remarkable.
All this really shows you are an amazing man, a Good man with a capital G because you really do reflect Jesus in your life.
There is much I love about you but for sure your character is your strongest asset. But how can I deny mentioning your hotness? Your appearance is stunning, your eyes are amazing, your facial features are so handsome.  I love your length, I love your muscles and let me mention I love your facial hair, I love your hair in general for that matter, ooooh that chest hair is sexy.
And than you have your ways that I love.  I often just sit there and look at you and take you in because when I am with you there is so much about you I just want to take in.  There are little ways, little things to you that are big to me like making sure you walk on the outer side of the road when we go out for a walk.  We have learned we are not to do that when we bike together because only then is my life not secure 😉   I love that you can get so cheery just because I am around you, and I love even more you let me know that fact.  I love the way you laugh.  I love your enthusiasm in life, over sports for instance, man do you get loud!  I love that you will ALWAYS grab my hand when we walk next to each other, whether that is from the car to the supermarket or during a long anticipated walk.
There are loves:
Can I mention here that you are an awesome athlete.
And I love your low singing voice.
I love you are strong.
I love your hugs and the way you kiss me.
I love how you make new people feel comfortable.
I love that the Gabonese are so important to you.
I love that you desire love over things.
I love you long to excel at work, to not just do your job but be good at it.
I love that you consider me in your decisions.
And than I get into some thank you’s:
Thank you for playing my childish games with me, even though they were weird at first maybe, but you still haven’t stopped racing me when we get out of the car and I yell: “Who gets there first?”  Thank you for partnering with me in those things that make me ME.  
Thank you that you ask me about my heart on a regular basis, what an honor it is to have you ask “How is your heart today honey?” in such a beautiful and compassionate way.
Thank you for trying to understand my ways of feeling loved.  I acknowledge that you go out of your set and comfortable ways to love me.
Thank you for your willingness to stand up as a man and leader, even if it means going against me. You are a tremendous leader.
Thank you for getting things done for me because you know they are important to me.  I acknowledge your wonderful and faithful efforts like with getting a home on time, getting a few pieces of furniture and getting me internet.
Thank you for taking me in account like when you made sure I had a phone while in the States the first time so I could be in touch not only with you, but also with my friends. Not to forget mentioning signing me up for the gym.  That really blessed my heart.  
Thank you for risking to fail (in your opinion) at loving me in practical ways like getting me Burlap and Bean coffee.
Thank you for keeping healthy by exercising on a daily basis.
Thank you for being my friend, I love hanging out with you whatever we do.
Thank you for laughing with me.
Thank you for laughing at me.
Thank you for reigning me in when I need to be reigned in.
Thank you for trying hard to love me well.
Babe, you deserve a Good woman.  You deserve to be acknowledged and honored.  It will be my important job in this world to be good to you, to honor you as a man and give you all the space you need to move, and to move well.  
You are easy to love.
I love you… tons!
Yours with lots of kisses, hugs and smooches,
MaddyChristine Hope

Love isn’t a feeling

Jesus gave us a great example of Love.
Why, then, is it so hard to be like Him?
Jesus’ love is:
Literally dying to self.
And I know I cannot be Jesus, I cannot be perfect. But He gave an example over and over again. Why is it hard to follow?
It was bound to happen right? Me learning to love Tim when he’s not so in tune with where I am at, or when he makes that odd remark or makes a joke at the wrong time. It is actually really hard. It is hard to be disciplined about loving him when I really feel like walking away because I feel hurt by him.
But what rights do I have?
What is Love?
What is my role?
Let me just say… I am learning a lot… again… still…
Tim’s change of work and ministry has brought him into a rough season; a season where he is not always his happy, cheery self. This is why I need to step up to the plate and perhaps give more, and certainly love when he is falling short. Tim’s been short with me a few times, and I certainly get it… he deserves grace in this season that came rather abruptly. And yet… I lack. I fail.
I hoped I would never be like this. I am embarrassed to admit, but I want to walk away when I get hurt. I want to move to the other side of the couch (and I have) when I hurt. I have a desperate need to protect myself from pain.
I have never had a man devoted to me. I have never been married, and so now I may put way too much responsibility on Tim. It’s so wonderful to have someone who loves me, physically around. But with that comes that I depend too much on Tim to love me and make me feel good. So when he made a bad call a few times in a row, I turned around and separated myself from him. Not good! I even felt God guide me back in toward Tim, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t disciplined. I wasn’t the graceful wife. I wasn’t the loving wife. All I wanted was to be alone and deal with it alone.
I am realizing I always need God first, before I need Tim. Tim cannot and will not ever satisfy me. He is also not responsible for me. In a way, sure he is, but at the root he really isn’t. So while I enjoy human love for the first time, I kind of fall into the trap of thinking this makes Tim responsible for my well being and me feeling love. It wasn’t without reason that I put in my vows that “I realize that love isn’t a feeling. It will be my choice.”
So God is kindly pointing out His truth and His good ways. They are better than my thoughts, truths and ways.
Tim and I went to this marriage conference a few weeks back. It was our first 😉 and what struck me most is when Paul Tripp said: “Women, you love your husband because God loved you first.” And: “So you don’t love your husband when he is good to you. No! You especially love him when he fails, because God loved you first. You possess everything you need to love your husband.” It struck me! It pointed me to my need for Jesus. Yes, it may be hard to choose love when I am not feeling it, but when I choose and am disciplined to call out to Jesus, He will be faithful and make it possible, right there in that moment. I posses everything I need to love my husband and love him well.
Jesus’ love was sacrificial. Maybe true love is love that hurts a little. For Jesus it meant given everything. It hurt. It wasn’t easy. He even asked His Father if there wasn’t a different way (Matthew 26:39). It meant sacrificing His life so we can have ours, and we didn’t deserve it. Paul Trip mentioned that love isn’t really love until it is sacrificing for the good on another, especially when the other doesn’t deserve it. So I truly love Tim when it costs me something.
I need to treasure God’s love over my husband’s love. I need to go after God’s love before going after my husband’s love. Love isn’t about me getting from my husband, it is about me loving Him well. And in turn it means loving Tim when he ‘deserves’ it least. I know Tim does the same for me and THAT makes a good marriage.
I love because God loved me first.
I possess everything I need to love my husband well.
Love is still not a feeling. It will be my choice.
I need to treasure God’s love over my husband’s love.
True love costs a little. True love is sacrificial.

I Love Valentine’s Day

Yesterday or any day before I would not have said I love Valentine’s Day. I feel it is a commercialized day which lots of people going crazy with money and the only people who benefit are store owners. Yes, that is truly how I felt. I don’t like to do things that have lost the true reason for the season (or day). Maybe it’s because I was single all those years. Maybe because I had no one to share deep love with that made Valentine’s Day meaningless. But even as Valentine’s Day came closer and closer my feelings didn’t change. I didn’t want Tim to feel he had to spend money on gifts and such. I wanted to express my love for him, but in a Maddy way which was probably with home made things like baking love heart cookies or something.
I started writing this blog post yesterday and see there is not much love for Valentine’s Day: Since last year Valentine’s Day became actually special. Still, I would say I am not crazy about this day. I refuse to spend much money, that is NOT what this day is about. I refuse! But I couldn’t help to think about ways I could let Tim know he is special to me. But Tim’s love language is not ‘words’ so writing him a card is not the way. 🙁 This is sad to me because I am all about the written word.
And now a day later, the day after Valentine’s Day I would say it is an amazing day. A wonderful day. A Lovely day. It is a day where love is spread and communicated in sweet ways. Tim is amazing at it! And I would be crazy to not embrace that. So yes, it was probably my singleness that gave no meaning to this day. Because now, now I get it!
I felt so joyous. I felt such love from Tim and for Tim. Tim really gave the day meaning and in the best (and inexpensive) of ways showed me love. I felt it all very deep in my heart.
Without discussing the day much we both found sweet ways to love on each other. Tim had asked me weeks ago if it would be okay if we celebrated Valentine’s Day with friends and I thought it was a great idea. Tim knows I love surprises and so that is all I knew about it. This in and of itself blessed me. Tim knew keeping things a secret would bless my heart.
In the morning my tea and OJ were accompanied by love heart straws. Such a simple and cheap way for him to show me his love and it spoke volumes of “I think of you today in special ways. You matter!” Then I walked downstairs and I stumbled upon this gigantic card. I had seen those cards in the store (remember, in my pre-Valentine’s Day attitude) and I thought: “Yeah right, 6 dollars for a mega card like that, that will have no place in the home in the end.” Well the card HAS a place in our home for now. Even though Tim’s love language isn’t words, he lacked no creativity when he wrote this card. And this, this made my day.
We spend a lovely day together, me still getting over me being sick. We went for a little walk in Longwood Gardens where Tim was very patient with me when I wanted to take photos (of him). Another way he shows me love. Patience communicates love people!
When we got home I found this by our door:
I was amazed Tim had more in store for me. I was fully satisfied with the straws, and the card. This just blew my mind. I had not expected it and Tim really did an awesome job of being my husband and showering me with his love. He got me Dutch tulips! With a card that had a sentence from his vows to me. How precious and meaningful. Thought through, through and through. You can imagine my change of heart right?
And I knew what I had up my sleeve for later. I was going to make a love heart trail to our decorated bedroom where he would find a romantic scene with champagne, love heart brownies and our vows in frames.
Altogether it was a sweet day. A day that changed my look on Valentine’s Day. 
I did think of my single friends and family and felt for them. I know for many of them it is an awkward day. You try to focus on God, knowing His will is best, but that can be hard on a day like this. So I prayed for you girls. Know that!
Melissa was extremely happy for me yesterday, my first Valentine’s day with Tim and she wrote me this: “Ido feel like this day is a gift to me as far as your life story goes. I always felt so burdened to try to make it special for you– and to let you know how loved you were (are!). But now I know that will be MORE than taken care of by the BEST person possible.”
And she is right… Melissa did think of me, her single friend, on Valentine’s Day. Now I will take on that burden for my single loved ones…
Our plans got changed last night. Our friend Kristin was sick and so the romantic plans Jason made felt through. We ended up hanging with awesome Joe and Joy. That is always good fun!
Love is in the air with these two…
I remember last year… Last year, 9 days before Valentine’s Day, I walked into who would soon be my husband. Being an ocean apart, he sent me flowers and the most meaningful card, having selected his words carefully.
This year, we were together, as husband and wife, for the very first time. Valentine’s Day, in a way, I hope is a day like any other. The effort we make today, I hope we make every day.