Journey to Healing and Joy

Self-Awareness & Our Healing

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I hadn’t thought much about the role self-awareness plays in our healing until I asked a former client what treasure she had found because of her healing journey. Her answer? “Self-awareness.” But I haven’t stopped pondering that conversation since. And I’ve discovered she is absolutely correct! Learning to live in self-awareness can be labeled a treasure, but it is also a necessary tool for our healing. How is it so essential? you might ask, just as I did. But now I know the answer to that question.

Tags: Healing, Marsha Self-Aware Mindfulness Processing 90 Minute Cycle Feelings List Trauma Chest

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Thank You, Dad

I have this burning passion to help ministers and others see through my lens when they encounter sex addicts and their partners. Most of them still sit in judgement, and can only see the broken and hurting as “living in sin.” But I want them to see through my lens—because my lens formed out of the love and grace God gave me—and all of us, if we will just turn to him with our failures.

Because of my dear father, I know what I’m looking for. Please listen as I tell you a true story.

Tags: Church Dad Football Grace Love Marsha family

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Jen And Alex Lesko's Story

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Jen Lesko and her husband, Alex, have an amazing story about what God and steadfast support from others can do to redeem lives and a marriage shattered by sex addiction. I met Jen when she was a member of one of my Journey to Healing & Joy support groups, and her story warms my heart every time I read it. All of us whose lives and marriages are shattered by sex addiction long for the treasure Jen and Alex have found. Though we don't all get what they have, God's love and faithfulness is available to all, and He offers each of us a new beginning, whether that's with our husband or a new life. I hope that you, like me, will feel renewed hope as you read Jen's story, as shared in her church's newsletter, Watermark News.

"Growing up, I mocked Christians for going to church on Sundays and basically thought the God of Christianity is like believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny," said Jen Lesko. I was a hardcore atheist and would have gladly told you so.

"I grew up with the warped belief that sex equaled love. I've bounced from relationship to relationship, and I used my body to create fake love. Shortly after graduating college, I got married and had children, believing that was the next logical step. This marriage came to an end 10 years later.

"Coming out of the divorce, I was not at all clear-headed about how to build a new life, or if I should even be dating. I fell for Alex, quickly, but I was pursuing a feeling, not Alex. When I walked down the aisle at our wedding, Alex didn't look all that excited to see me. What a terrible way to begin a marriage.

"During our first three years of marriage, I was the moon circling the planet Alex. I operated the house, worked full-time, took care of the kids, and rarely connected with my husband. When we had conflict, Alex would get white-hot angry. We had no idea how to communicate with each other.

"By 2016, I was pretty sure Alex was being unfaithful. I confronted him once about some pictures on his phone, but he talked his way out of it. When I found more evidence, I crumbled. I'd never experienced that kind of betrayal.

"After I separated from Alex, his brother recommended that we check out re|engage At Watermark. I had never stepped into a church except for a wedding or graduation, and so when I got to re|engage and saw people praying and worshiping with their hands in the air, I thought they were crazy. When a couple shared a testimony of what God had done in their broken marriage, it was the wildest thing I'd heard in my life. Then, the worship band played a song called 'O Come to the Altar.' As I heard the words of that song, my heart just opened, and I wanted to come back to re|engage again and again.

"When I learned about a Heavenly Father would never leave me and his love is always faithful, I was in – hook, line, and sinker. I had spent 38 years running away from the Lord, but he never left me once. That was amazing, and I chose to trust Christ.

"We continued to go to re|engage, and as more details about Alex's past came out I soon realized I had no idea who the man I married really was. Many people in my life were telling me to divorce him, but our leaders, Mark and Mary McLaughlin, encouraged us to keep coming

"Alex's choices left a huge hole in my heart, and I was so hungry to fill it. I started reading God's word and Christian books on forgiveness. I read about the book of Hosea, God's unfailing love for his people. I learned because I have been forgiven and loved sacrificially by God, I am called to forgive and love sacrificially as well. Slowly, the Lord began changing my heart toward Alex.

"With the support of other believers God placed in our lives, Alex met with me and confessed all the destructive things he had done throughout his life, and during our marriage. As you can imagine, that was a difficult time. But because of what the Lord taught me about forgiveness, it was a turning point in our marriage. Eight weeks after Alex shared the truth with me, we reconciled and began a new life together in Christ.

"For 14 years, I raised kids without including God in my life or theirs. For them to see both of us choose to follow Christ and to reconcile with one another was the best gift we could give to our children and to one another. Now I know that my job is not only to love my family the best I can but also to reflect Christ's love as I care for them. Of course, we still struggle, but things are so much better now that we are committed to faithfulness to God and reconciliation and unity with one another.

"If I've learned anything from this experience, it's that forgiveness is not a one-time choice. I get up every day and struggle with fear, insecurity, and reminders from the past. I have the choice to get angry and try to control Alex, or to choose to love and forgive my husband because I have been loved and forgiven by God. I'm not in charge of my life anymore. God is, and everything is so much easier now that I've surrendered to him."

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Of all the tools we use to help us heal from betrayal trauma, Intentional Joy is the winner. How I wish I could send you an audio file of one of my groups yesterday, which of course I would never do. But if I could, you would fully understand how much “magic” this tool can bring to our shattered hearts and dreams. And I know that you, like me, would delight in hearing women “get” the power and life-changing potential Intentional Joy brings to our lives. And the best part? It leads us straight to our buried treasure! One of those group members wants to help you “hear” what I heard. This is Ellen’s story, and if you listen carefully, near the end, you can hear her striking gold:

Read more: Ellen’s Story: How the Tool of Joy Is Helping Her Search for Treasure

The Tool of Attitude

At the risk of appearing to take your heart-ripping pain lightly, I want to share two tools that helped me in my own healing journey, and continue to inspire me every day. I hope you can trust that I’m not being glib in sharing them, but rather I don’t want to omit a tool that has the power to help you as much as it helped me. So please hear my heart as you read the following.

As a teen I discovered Victor Frankel and his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in my school library. How I admired this man who had lost almost everything, yet found reason to go on living by finding a new dream. He became one of my hero’s. A man who had endured nakedness, hunger, freezing cold, abuse, and the loss of almost his entire family, including his wife. Only a sister survived the Nazi death camps. I want to share with you a quote I found online that highlights why this book so powerfully inspires hope and fosters healing. As partners of sex addicts, we too are in need of hope and healing.

Though the agony Frankel survived, and went on to thrive, is on a different level than our pain and loss, it does hold the ability to enable us to see our hurt and loss from a different perspective, so we can survive – and go on to thrive – as Frankel did. He’s what one who knew him said:

Even in the degradation and abject misery of a concentration camp, Frankel was able to exercise the most important freedom of all – the freedom to determine one’s own attitude and spiritual well-being. No sadistic Nazi assassin guard was able to take that away from him or control the inner life of Frankel’s soul. One of the ways he found the strength to fight to stay alive and not lose hope was to think of his wife. Frankel clearly saw that it was those who had nothing to live for who died quickest in the concentration camp.

Though in the end, Victor Frankel learned his wife had died at the hands of the Nazi’s, he knew and held to the concept that “this too shall pass,) and life extended beyond his existence in the camp. So if you find that you feel like giving up on life, as I did in the early days of my journey, I encourage you to read Man’s Search for Meaning. And in addition, I want to share a one-page document written by Charles Swindoll years ago. Though many years have passed since I first discovered this page, I’ve kept it where I could see it because it always provides a healthier perspective when I struggle. I hope you find it helpful too.