Friday, March 17, 2017

Perspective

When Zane's accident happened in 2011, I had a choice. My husband almost died; we spent months in hospitals; I fed, bathed, and changed him; and his body was permanently disfigured with scars. Most people would say I had every right to be mad, bitter, depressed, and sad.

Almost 2 years ago homeland security showed up at our door and 19 months later my husband was handcuffed in front of me and taken to jail. I was left to take care of our toddler, 4 businesses, all our personal matters, and sell our house. I'd experienced betrayal, disappointment, and extreme deep hurt like I'd never felt before. And again, I had a choice.

The past two and a half months, I've been more overwhelmed than I ever thought possible and struggled to manage my responsibilities with some sense of grace. Each day I wake up with my little dog where my husband should be and I realize again... I have a choice.

The thing is, we ALWAYS have a choice. You can be a victim, or you can be a survivor. You can focus on YOU and your pain, or your can focus on others. The thing is, when you shift your focus off yourself, you realize that SO many people out there have it worse than you. If you're still alive, the truth is that is COULD be worse. It's all a matter of perspective.

When Zane was in the hospital, I could have focused on my own loss and the challenges that were ahead. But the second I took my eyes off all that, I realized that there were people whose loved ones would never leave that hospital alive. There were people who had no support. Most of all, there were people who had no faith.

Through this whole ordeal with Zane's addiction and legal issues, it has been harder than ever to keep perspective. There were times I did lose perspective, and the thought of our future was enough to make me question whether life was worth living.

It's a dangerous thing when you lose that grip on reality. It happens so fast and it feels like the ceiling of life is just crashing down around you. The only advice I can give is to breathe. Have a moment of grief, and process those feelings. But don't stay there. Tie that knot my sister talked about at the end of your rope and just hang on.

God doesn't promise a worry-free life. He doesn't always give us answers when we want them, and things don't always make sense. Of that, I'm personally very sure. But I do know that there is a drastic difference when our lives are not centered around ourselves. When you stop to look around, that hole you feel you're stuck in doesn't seem so deep.

I went through a period where I was mad at God and didn't want to hear from him or let him in. Honestly, a big part of that was because I was focused on my pain. It took me a little while to process all of that, and get my eyes off myself. I still can't explain of all the "why?" questions, but what I do know is this: doing this with God and allowing Him to hold my heart through my struggles is a heck of a lot better than when I thought I didn't need Him or couldn't trust Him. And, this life we have on earth is only a short time compared to eternity. Keeping that eternal perspective brings many of our selfish thoughts back into check.

Life is made up of many events and many choices. Sometimes you have the power to make decisions about what will or will not happen. But sometimes, things just happen to you, or around you, and your only decision is what you'll do about it.

I like having control of my life as much as anyone. Zane's accident and then his legal issues more or less just happened to me. I had no say in the matter, and both events shook my world. It would be easy to play the victim. But what good would that do?

A victim mindset robs everyone around you from something valuable. If you go through struggles and focus on yourself, you don't learn anything from it. You don't ever get to share the gift of experience with others.

If I went through all this, and never shared our story, I never would have heard from so many people who were touched by it. If I never turned my eyes to the other people around me, my heart would be so much more selfish and ugly. I'm still a work in progress. My natural tendency isn't to be the most tender, compassionate person in the room. For a girl, I'm not the most sensitive one in the bunch. But my experiences have softened me. God has taken my pain and allowed me a glimpse into what others feel. He's given me compassion for people that I may have been skeptical or even judgmental of previously.

I share all of this to remind you.. if you feel like you're sinking, look around, and look up. It could always be worse, and when looking at the big picture in light of eternity, our problems seem much more manageable. Take a breath. Cry if you need to. Then start naming your blessings. You can't do that for too long without having a perspective shift, and it will make the dark & heavy times a whole lot lighter. Whenever you're faced with a challenge, you have a choice. You are not powerless. You can get through it. It may not always look pretty or graceful, but there is a way to hold on.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

This Foreign Reality

I haven't written for almost a month for several reasons. Primarily, I have been incredibly busy trying to keep up with my increased responsibility load. It was already a pretty hefty load but with Zane gone, I have genuinely struggled to keep it all together.

I've also been scared to continue to be open about our lives. With that openness comes a vulnerability that I hate to expose. I just recently felt like it was probably time to share an update, and today I discovered an open and viscous attack on one of my stores because of Zane. Although it's incredibly petty and inaccurate (since I am the sole owner of all three- not Zane), the attacks hurt. I wish I could thicken my skin and not let things phase me, but it's much easier said than done.

To those compelled to spew such hate, let me just ask this: what do you seek to accomplish? Why would you ever take pleasure in destroying other people's lives? Who gave you the moral authority to sit in judgement of other's struggles? Do you not realize that you will be judged in the same way you are judging? What if it was your loved one that people were demonizing and maliciously labeling?

I would much rather just stop talking about all this and let time wipe away the reminders. But what good would that accomplish? I might feel more comfortable, more safe... but then no one else benefits. I am so overjoyed to hear from so many of you who have started having the hard conversations in your homes... those of you who have opened up about your own struggles... and the countless messages of prayer and support. So it's for you that I write. I pray you find encouragement, that your eyes are opened to some of the "forgotten" in our culture, and that maybe you're reminded to love a little harder.

I've been very fortunate to be able to speak with Zane on the phone twice per day for 15 minutes. He calls each morning and night through a prepaid phone account. He could call more, but we limit it because the calls are very costly. I am able to visit him twice per week, as long as I call and register before the alotted spaces fill up. The drive is 3 1/2 hours one way, and the visit only lasts an hour, but it's 100% worth it.

I've never visited a jail before and had no idea what to expect. The reality of the situation was one that was incredibly hard to swallow. Four men are kept in a single living area with two bunk rooms. There is one small window and the walls are entirely cinder block and this time of year, very cold. They are given a jumpsuit to wear. They can purchase two T-shirts and two long sleeve thermal shirts so long as a loved one funds a commissary account for them. If temperatures outside are cold, it's often very chilly inside as well. There is a table with stationary backless metal stools in the living area. They have a bunk with a 1-2 inch thick mattress, a desk, and another metal stool in the bunk room. That is it for furniture. There is no couch, no comfortable surface.

There is a TV that comes on around 10am and goes off around 11pm. There is no place to exercise and no way to do any kind of work or be productive. They are permitted to go to the library twice per week. They are not allowed to have any books brought in from family/friends. After 4 weeks, we finally got approval to bring Zane a watch. I dropped it off on Monday. He still doesn't have it yet. Just walking into the jail, it's clear that it's a very cold, depressing environment.

I don't honestly know how anyone in that environment is supposed to get any better. Sure, they are there because they have committed a crime. It shouldn't be a cushy, fancy place. But, ultimately, what is our desire for criminals as a community? Do we not want them to get the help they need and become honest, upright, and productive members of the community again? I would MUCH rather my tax dollars be used to rehabilitate people than to simply lock them up in a depressing place and release them to go right back to what got them there in the first place.

I would venture to say that most inmates have struggled with mental health in some form- whether it be moral or simply mental. How then are we achieving a goal of rehabilitation if we are encouraging them to sit around doing nothing but watch TV in a genuinely depressing environment? Our system is surely flawed.

Thankfully, Zane has continued to be one of the strongest people I know. He's been reading every good book from the library he can get his hands on. He's been writing super long letters to me and to many family and friends. He's been studying two different versions of the Bible, and has read all the way through more than once. He views this time as his chance to grow closer to God and continue becoming a better man. His outlook has remained very positive and often I find him being the one encouraging me. I see genuine growth, true healing, and a strength that could only come from God.

We have started to get to know the people at the jail. I've gotten familiar with the other family members who faithfully visit, and Zane has gotten to know the guys in his cell block. It's incredibly sad to hear about the vicious cycle that drugs have so many of them caught in. I just can't help but think that there must be a better way to break this cycle.

Interacting with the people there has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It has humbled me and given me a love for so many of the people that our society rejects. I feel like instead of seeing someone's outer shell, I've started to see the humanity in them.. and my heart breaks for them just as it was broken for my own situation. The reality is.. every sinner and every "saint" is loved so deeply by our Heavenly Father and his heart breaks for all the pain in our lives. It's a shame more of us couldn't learn to love people like him.. myself included.

I have seen what support, forgiveness, and accountability have done for Zane. He's a different person than he was when trapped in this addiction. I wonder what those same things could do for others. This approach certainly does not dismiss sin, crime, or wrongdoing of any kind. But it instead provides an environment in which it can be addressed and eliminated through love.

I chose to love my husband when many would have told me to run. I chose to do this. What came naturally was hurt, anger, and disgust. But if I had held on to that natural response, I genuinely don't know where Zane or I would be today. Healing doesn't come through hate or bitterness. And nothing good ever came from judgement and malice.

This time in our lives may be excruciatingly trying, but I meant my marriage vows when I said them. We've been through every one of those situations together (better or worse, sickness & health, etc.), and I am certainly not going to check out when the going gets tough. I know many people whose marriages fell apart against their best efforts, and I know that it's not always up to you. I don't fault anyone for that. But in my situation, I have a husband that is fully repentive, has genuinely confessed and owned up to his actions, and is completely committed to living his life free from that addiction. Sure, he has a past. He's made mistakes. But for me to hold onto that and walk away simply because I don't want to put the effort in or it makes me uncomfortable would be selfish and weak. I'm sure I wouldn't have hate coming my way if I had left Zane, but commitment isn't just for the easy times. Real commitment means you hang on and you get through the garbage together. And I would much rather be getting through this garbage with Zane than have any other man by my side.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Silence.. And Breaking It

Before I continue with our story, let me make a few disclaimers.

I'm sharing this not because I want pity or attention. If you know me personally, you know that nothing could be farther from the truth. I would much rather let things blow over and focus on trying to figure out how to balance being a solo parent while Zane is in jail and running four businesses in addition to trying to manage our personal stuff. I'm sharing this because it's a conversation that needs to be had. We need to talk about the hard stuff, and people need to know that they're not alone in their struggles. We need to change the environment we live in, and if sharing my story can help just one other person, one family, one community... it's worth it.

Disclaimer #2: This post doesn't talk about the girls in the photos. People seem to jump all over me if I don't talk about them so let me just say this: That is not my story to tell. My heart 100% breaks for them, and my motherly instincts want to protect them as much as you do. But I don't know their story, and I have nothing more to expand on the subject than that they and many others are victims to a very dangerous industry that I would love nothing more than to shut down. But what can I do about it? I certainly can't fly to Asia and search for them. What I can do is try my hardest to help foster a society that stops addiction and gets people help before it's too late. That is what I am trying to do here. By not bringing them up, I am not ignoring their pain. By forgiving Zane and showing him grace, I am not making light of their suffering. Pity for the victims and grace for Zane are not opposing ideals. They are equally necessary. If you are one who feels so passionately about their suffering, I would invite you to do something that actually makes a difference. Reminding me over & over that they suffered does nothing but continue the shame and remorse. However, showing love and grace to people will absolutely make a difference. Talking to our children about the hard things has the power to save them. People might just feel safe enough to reach out for help, and we might just prevent a dangerous cycle from starting.

Also... this may be a very long post. Sorry about that.

After finding out about Zane's addiction, my priority became his healing. Luckily for me, this wasn't something I had to push. Many men would have responded in a defensive and self-protectant way. Instead, Zane opened up completely. He not only admitted his faults/sins/crime, but he rushed to be rid of them. Like I said previously, he had fought a pornography addiction for 16 years and had tried time after time to get rid of the habit on his own. Now that he had been found out, he became so focused on getting his mind free of the disease that had been tearing him down. He began growing and learning and I watched the miracle of a changed life unfold before my eyes.

From that moment on, Zane started on an uphill climb to healing. His spiritual life got stronger as he was finally able to be free of the one thing that had held him back for so long.

I knew that above all else, Zane needed my love, my grace. He needed to know that his addiction did not define him in my eyes. I continued to ask the hard questions, and I certainly took control of monitoring & limiting any of his internet usage, but did all this with the motive of rebuilding Zane, our marriage, and my trust in him. For the next 10 months, I put everything I had into loving him.. and into protecting him from judgemental opinions.

The same stigma that kept Zane from asking for help also kept me quiet. While Zane met with our pastor and saw a counselor, I didn't speak to anyone about what we were going through. Zane even encouraged me multiple times to talk to someone. Call it survival mode perhaps, but I was so focused on making sure he got better that I ignored my own need for support. In retrospect, it was probably not the smartest decision. I held a lot in, and even my closest friends and family had no idea. But... that's what you do for people you love. Their needs go before your own.

For 10 months, we wondered what would happen next. The officers had the evidence. They would turn it over.. but it was hard to say what could come from it. They told us there was a chance the case would get buried and we'd never hear from them, and there was a chance that he would be prosecuted and go to jail. For ten very long months we had no idea what our future would look like.

During that time, I closed on real estate for a second business location and in doing so formed a third business- a property management company. We began plans for renovations and started making staffing decisions. In my 30th week of pregnancy I flew to Atlanta for prom market and swelled up in a slightly alarming way. They started monitoring me for signs of pre-eclampsia. By week 33, I went in for a routine checkup and was admitted to the hospital for sky high blood pressure. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and considered high risk. The next morning, I flew to LA for bridal market. When a good part of your success depends on the inventory you buy, you don't put that responsibility in anyone else's hands.. you pull yourself together and do what needs to be done.

Upon my return, I was put on bed rest. To say I was under a bit of stress would be an understatement. After a particularly stressful event in week 35, I went in for another checkup. My blood pressure had gotten dangerously high and I was diagnosed with HELPS syndrome. I was taken by ambulance to Bangor where I had an emergency C-section. The whole thing is a story for another time, but the last month of my pregnancy was a particularly hellish experience.

I went through all the challenges new moms do.. lack of sleep, feelings of total inadequacy, struggles with not being able to breastfeed. I had a baby in the NICU and had to leave him at the hospital while I went to a hotel. Luckily, we were able to go home after a week. Due to some unfortunate events, I had to get back to work within days of returning home. I was barely able to get in & out of bed due to post C-section pain but had no choice but to work.

Behind all of the outer struggles, I still held the weight of this enormous secret and impending legal repercussions. I slipped into a postpartum depression and sincerely struggled to feel any connection to my new baby. I held it together and even did a live segment on the morning TV news a couple weeks after giving birth. I carried on and only admitted my feelings to Zane and my mom. Again.. no one wants people to know they're struggling. We would rather suck it up & put on a smile than be real.

Six weeks after having Jonah, I hired the management for our new store. A few weeks after that, Zane had surgery to get his cochlear implant (his damaged hearing is a result of his accident in 2010). A few weeks after that, we got a small second floor studio apartment (in very rough condition) in Bangor (2 1/2 hrs away) and moved a bunch of our stuff down so that we could spend half the week there and half at home while we got the new store opened. Zane was fortunately able to work out of Bangor during that time. Every Saturday night we drove to Bangor, worked Sunday-Tuesday and drove home Tuesday night. With a newborn. In the middle of the winter.

At the end of February, the store was doing very well so we decided to move home. Our relationship had grown, and although we had been working like crazy people, we were doing what we loved to do- building our dream alongside each other. Zane had grown immensely and his counselor was thrilled with his progress. We were approached about buying a store in Portland and started considering that possibility. Things were looking up. A lot of time had passed and we began to hope that maybe we'd never hear from the authorities.

Then one night in March it all changed. Zane got a letter telling him that the feds were going to prosecute. My parents had been over visiting and when they left he shared the letter with me. I broke.

The weight that I had been carrying was just too much. My world, that I had been trying so desperately to keep afloat, came crashing down around me. I called my parents and told them to come back. I told Zane it was time to tell them. He called our pastor and asked him to come too.

As our sweet baby boy slept, Zane explained everything to them. I sat silently as my pain made it's way down my face in the form of tears. They were stunned. Confused. Completely blindsided. And very concerned for my mental state, as I fear it became quite obvious that I was no longer "okay".

They responded to Zane with love. I am so blessed to have parents that not only taught me the values of forgiveness and grace, but actually modeled it. They reassured Zane that they loved him and that they would do anything they could to support both of us. Zane broke too as he felt the freedom of forgiveness from the person he feared would judge and disown him the most- my father.

I knew Zane would be okay. He had gotten to a really good place. I didn't have the same confidence in myself. I knew I needed some space... to process, and to feel things that I hadn't let myself feel previously. I packed a bag for myself and Jonah, and I took him to my parents house. I sat in my old bedroom and let myself come completely undone. I felt the one thing I hadn't allowed myself to feel yet- anger.

I was so angry at Zane. At God. Because of Zane's choices and mistakes, my life as I knew it was ending. I mourned that loss. I screamed at God, "Haven't we been through enough?".

I had almost been a widow at 21, but I had stayed faithful to God the whole time. I had sincerely tried to live my life in a way that would honor God for my whole life. And this was my thanks? Nearly losing my husband to a freak accident and then finding out that he had an addiction that was going to ruin our lives? I let all those emotions out, and I'm pretty sure I swore in front of my parents for the first time.

I let myself be angry and work through those feelings, but I never lost my love for Zane, or my respect for how he handled this situation. After a night alone, I asked him to come join me at mom and dad's. We were both quite depressed.. a feeling neither of us had ever struggled with before. I went through periods where all I could do was hold him and periods where I couldn't be near him. We were both too emotionally distraught to do much and my parents stepped in to help with Jonah.

Zane met with an attorney and was told he was most likely looking at 3-5 years in jail. That devastated me... absolutely shook me to the core. I watched as my mind played out the possibilities.. Jonah growing up without a dad, Zane losing his job, us losing our house, losing our businesses, the community turning on us, having to move away from the area... I felt as though my world was falling apart and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

We stayed with my parents for a week or two as I didn't feel strong enough to go home. I struggled just walking back into our house to get clothes. It somehow reminded me of the life we were supposed to have. I looked at my baby grand piano.. a heartfelt gift from my parents that I'd wished for my whole life... and I couldn't even touch it. It too was a symbol of a happy and simple life we had hoped for.

In those moments, there was one thing that kept Zane and I from taking our own lives- Jonah. That sweet baby boy was counting on us to take care of him and his giggles were often our only reason to smile. He became our joy. I had never been plagued by dark thoughts of such things, and I had never carried such baggage. I didn't know how to handle it, but now with the support of family I didn't feel alone.

We slowly began telling our family and friends.. and every single one supported not only me, but Zane. Many guys Zane told opened up about their own struggle with pornography. It was reassuring, freeing, and very therapeutic to be able to simply talk about the situation. It became clear that God wanted to use our situation to start a conversation. No one admits their own faults until someone else does first.

I went through a very dark period with my faith. I had never hit such a low before, and I openly questioned many things. I wasn't sure that God was good.. I wasn't sure He loved me.. I wasn't sure that I could trust Him. And honestly, there was no magical revelation that lifted me out of that pit.

Time certainly helped cool off my anger.. and as time passed I was able to start seeing God's hand in what was happening. Some may disagree with me, but here's what it came down to: I could turn my back on God and abandon my faith. I could focus on myself, my own pain, and the injustice I felt over what had happened to me. That was option one. Or, I could trust. I could "tie a knot at the end of my rope and hold on", as one of my sisters likes to say. It wasn't heroic or noble or even brave. I just simply held on.. because my past had proven to me that God had certainly taken care of me then. And facing an unknown future is much scarier on your own.

To this day I still don't completely understand the "why". I don't know as if I ever will. What I do know is this: Zane has a tremendously dedicated heart for God and wants so badly to do amazing things for Him. And the devil absolutely hates that. He is so intimidated by it that he has thrown a mountain of evil Zane's way. He trapped Zane into addiction, tried to kill him in a freak accident, and tried to destroy him with the threat of losing everything he loved- me, his son, our families and friends. And, I just happen to be married to him, and have felt the brunt of these attacks. If the devil is attacking, it has to mean you're doing something right.

I also know this: our earthly perspective struggles to grasp a heavenly view. We are so stinking focused on what matters to us in this life that we magnify our own problems way out of proportion. The reality of our situation is that our lives will go on. Someday our family will be reunited. This is not forever. We will survive. In those dark moments, it definitely doesn't seem that way. But, as the saying goes, "We must not forget in the darkness what we knew in the light".

I was listening to a song recently that completely convicted me about my heart through this situation. One part of the song says this:

If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will


I don't pretend to have all the answers, and there are days that I still mourn the life we had. Watching officers cuff my husband and take him away is an image that will forever be burned into my mind. Local media shared that Zane mouthed the words "I love you" as they took him away, but what she left out was what he said first- "Have faith". During our phone calls and jail visits, Zane is the one encouraging me. He has all day long to read the bible and pray, and has been using this time to grow in his faith.

Society would like to label Zane in many cruel and judgemental ways, but they would be so wrong. They don't know the man I know, and they have not walked this journey beside us. The devil absolutely hates that I'm sharing our story and bringing light to issues no one dares talk about.. he would much rather keep people trapped by shame. He has tried to tear me down with harsh comments and so-called "well meaning friends", but God is bigger and has filled our lives with some of the most supportive, sincere, and kind human beings. For that, I am so thankful.

We're walking a difficult road.. one I pray you never have to walk. But, we're not alone. God is surrounding us with an army of love. Each day is a battle, but Zane and I are both fighters. We will not let the devil win. I often hate that I have to do this, but someone has to break the silence.

Sin, addiction, and struggle are real, and they do not discriminate. Chances are, there is someone you love struggling with something. What kind of a difference could we make if we admitted our own struggles and spread a message of love and forgiveness instead? Please help me break the silence.. I really believe beautiful things will happen.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Finding Out

I contemplated trying to respond to some of the questions out there, or addressing the comments that have arisen, but I don't want this to be purely reactionary. It's easy to feel like I'm being thrown around in the waves of the storm right now, so instead I've chosen to stay steady and stick to the plan. I believe God wants me to share my story.. to shed light on immense problems in our culture, to be a voice of truth in a gossip-driven world, and to encourage those going through their own struggles. So here is the beginning of my story. I pray my vulnerability will be received by ears that are willing to listen before judging and understand before assuming.

In May of 2015 I was 4 months pregnant, working in our first store full time and a little over a month away from closing on real estate that would house our second location. It was a normal Thursday night and we had just cleaned up from supper when two men knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as agents from Homeland Security and instantly the mood became tense. We sat at the kitchen table as they told us they had tracked the download of child pornography to our IP address. I sat there stunned as I wondered who might have used our internet to do such a thing.

Zane was silent for a moment then looked at me and told me he needed to tell me something. I told him he could tell me right there and then. I watched as the man I love broke down and confessed to the officers that he was the one who was responsible for the download. His whole body tensed and he shook with the agony of a man who held an ocean of self hate inside. I remember hearing him tell the officers that he had been fighting this addiction for 16 years, always wanting to get clean but always fearing the judgement that would come along with the truth. He said, "You don't know what people say about this stuff. No one understands."

I sat in shock, tears running down my face and in a room of 4 people, I felt utterly and completely alone. I held my stomach as the baby kicked and awakened an enormous fear inside me for the future of this innocent child. I remained frozen, paralyzed by the pain of my life as I knew it dying before my eyes.

Another officer entered our house, the technology expert, and he, one of the agents, and Zane went upstairs to our home office where Zane willingly surrendered his computer. There was no search warrant, no requirement at that point for Zane to do anything. But it was as if he had been waiting for this day. Obviously not that he would be caught by the government, but he had been waiting to be free. To come clean. To get help.

They were upstairs for maybe 15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity as I tried to sort through the emotions going through my mind and heart. I whispered many quick prayers, mostly consisting of "God help me do the right thing" and "Lord, hold my broken heart". The agent waiting downstairs with me tried to make small talk about the baby and work, but I could barely answer in my stunned, frozen state.

Eventually the agents came downstairs with the computer, handed Zane some kind of receipt, and left. It was just us. I had moved to the couch and Zane walked into the living room to face me. I've never seen remorse so completely overtake a man's body before. He walked towards me and despite my shock, pain, and confusion, I stood up and hugged him. He broke. I'm sure the last thing he expected was love. He had been trapped into silent addiction for more than half his life because he believed no one would understand, and no one would love him if they found out.

My first words to him were "I love you. This does not change that. But, I have a lot of questions, and I need answers".

"Anything", he said. "Ask me anything. I'm so sorry."

I listened as he explained how his addiction had started. He had been a typical pre-teen boy, curious about the opposite sex. And because those things just weren't something you talked about, his curiosity sent him to the internet. Zane has always been smart with technology and was able to keep it hidden from his parents. Naturally, he wanted to look at girls his own age rather than adults, so he found content that filled that desire.

He grew up in a culture that didn't talk about porn, and the only mention of sex was that it should be saved for marriage. But of course, that didn't stop a boy's curiosity. It wasn't long before looking at porn was a regular thing, but still kept completely secret since he knew it was wrong. And like many addictions start, the thrill of doing something risky or wrong became intoxicating.

As he got older, the girls that he was attracted to got older as well. But he was gripped strongly by an addiction to pornography at that point, and as any addict will tell you, sometimes you feel like you need more, a bigger rush, a riskier move. Occasionally, the addiction pulled him back to the initial thrill he'd found when he was younger. It took me a long time to understand the psychology behind Zane going back to looking at underage girls. I can't even hope to fully explain it here. For a while, I thought there must be something deeply wrong with him.. something that would take some kind of crazy psychotherapy to fix. But the more I studied, the more I understood addiction and the actual affects of it on the brain. Please read this if you're struggling to understand as I did. I guarantee, it is eye-opening.

Zane has always been a strong Christian guy. He has a heart that so badly wanted to do something great for God. If you read this blog during his accident in 2010 I think you know that to be true. He would completely delete everything pornographic from his computer, swear he was done with it, and pray for God to take it away from him time after time. But because of the stigma associated with porn, and his fear of those he loved abandoning him, he never did. The devil had him convinced that he would be unlovable if anyone knew.

The devil LOVES addiction and the lies it tells people. Some believe lies that they can't survive without their drugs or alcohol, that they have to starve to be beautiful, that no one will understand or love them if they asked for help. But most of all, people fear judgement.

And you know what? That fear is unfortunately very well warranted. I made the mistake of reading some of the awful hurtful comments people have made about Zane. Some people lashed out saying I should divorce him, or even that he should be killed. Let me be crystal clear. This destructive, judgmental rhetoric is exactly what keeps so many addicts from getting the help they need.

None of the content Zane had possession of depicted violence but my heart still broke because of the innocent girls who were likely victims of the sex trade industry overseas where the magazine originated. Some of you have expressed similar sentiments, and I understand completely. Showing Zane grace or love does not dismiss a deep sympathy for the victims in those photos. I plan to address this issue further in another post, but feel the need to at least acknowledge the very real problem that sex trafficking is in our society. Those victims absolutely need people to stand up for them, although destructive anonymous comments on the internet do nothing to solve that problem. I would ask you to start in your own homes. Talk to your kids about the hard stuff. Be open and understanding and not judgemental. Let's create an environment where those who struggle with addictions can reach out and get help rather than become stuck in a cycle that feeds the demand for such terrible acts against others (it's not just female children- people of all ages and genders are sucked into this industry every day). The reality is that broken people are hurting people, and both parties need our help. Loving the broken and encouraging them in their recovery is helping to put a stop to this problem, not ignore it. And as someone who has been forgiven of my own sins by God, I have no choice but to extend that forgiveness and grace to others. After all, we will all be judged in the same way we have passed judgement. As the famous scripture says, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

Luckily, Zane's fears of judgement were not the response he received from me or our families. Sure, I had every right to judge him, leave him. He had been unfaithful and his sins were about to turn our world upside down. But what good would that have done? I would be alone. He would be alone. He wouldn't have the support he needed to get through this, and I would never learn to love like Jesus and experience the healing that showing grace can bring.

Zane handled being found out as well as any man could have. He faced it head on and completely acknowledged his problem. He met with our pastor, who referred him to a counselor well versed in dealing with pornography addictions. He gave me full access to every device in our home and I set up passwords that only I knew and monitoring that reported all internet usage to me and our pastor. I deleted certain apps on his phone (like Instagram) that too easily put images of half naked women in front of people. He unfollowed or unfriended many people on Facebook who often shared questionable content. We both worked hard to remove triggers, and he worked even harder to let God reshape his mind. I am so fortunate that from that terrible day forward, he has been completely clean.

Zane had my forgiveness right away. But my trust was something that had to be rebuilt. I asked all the hard questions, and continued checking in to see how he was doing. I watched carefully and cautiously as he worked hard to fill his mind with what his identity was in Christ, rather than what the world had told him it was. Gradually, I began to witness the most remarkable change. In situations that he normally may have shown selfishness, I found him putting my needs first. Any addiction starts with a bit of selfishness, and as he recovered from his addiction I found him putting himself last and showing me a love that I had never known before.

Unfortunately, society is what it is. I too feared what people would think if they found out. And so for almost a year, I didn't speak to a single soul about what I was going through. Even my closest and most trusted friends and family had no idea that we were facing this trial. This post is already far too long, so I'll save my side of the story for another post. Thank you for taking the time to read, and thank you so much for the support we have received. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support that has literally brightened my darkest moments since Wednesday. You are the people who will help change our culture. Thank you for loving people, for encouraging us, and for extending grace. I pray God blesses you in tremendous ways, just as your words have been a blessing to me.