Our pastor made an interesting statement in a sermon last week that my mind has replayed, so I’m going to share it today. At Church of the Open Door in Elyria, we’re in a sermon series about “Arrested Development” which basically is awakening ourselves to when our spiritual life is at a halt, and then doing something about it.
Pastor Jim’s statement was, “We are where we are today because of the choices we’ve made…”
Maybe you’ve heard someone make that claim before, or have even said it yourself. It’s acceptance of reality, at this point in time. In any self-analysis, we are evaluating ourselves completely naked (and Christ-followers are called to do it quite often). And though it almost seems redundant or obvious to say that we are who we are because of what we’ve done or chosen to do, it is a fact that we ARE a product of our choices.
Figurative forks in the road are common (if you see literal forks, I’d love an SMS text of said event). Choices occur daily, whether it’s standing in the closet determining what sweater will keep you the warmest today, standing in the line at a coffee shop debating between a chai latte or a cafe mocha, or driving to work and questioning whether to take a shortcut since traffic is at a slow crawl.
We make choices by the minute, and though the statement itself doesn’t seem to draw any dramatic conclusion, let’s walk through a self-evaluation I did recently.
Five years ago, I was bartending as a result of a layoff and working days/nights/whenever-I-could to get cash to pay bills. My divorce wasn’t yet finalized, but my ex-husband and myself were living in two separate locations. I was torn between two worlds. I was praying about where to attend church because I missed the stability that had brought my life in the past, yet also drinking so heavily that I would pass out almost every night. I was a real mess and to be honest, my choices were based on the moment. I was selfish and solely focused on Grace (my actual first name), not the grace of God that I so desperately needed.
Fast forward to NOW. Present day, I’m newly married, have two amazing stepdaughters, two supportive families, loving and hilarious friends and a husband who is a gift! He truly balances who I am.
I am now attending church regularly and feeding on the Word of God during the week without prompting. I am aware of my sin, my need for grace and forgiveness, and write when the ideas come. I am a student who in four years will have the skills to counsel others, with more knowledge than God has already given me. Things have definitely rebounded. But how did I get here?
Simply? My response was surrender. I chose to give up. Five years ago, I was focused on myself and getting by. I now know that I have obligations to myself, my Lord, my husband and my family. Jesus has transformed my priorities. And it’s a daily process of shredding my flesh and walking in the Spirit. I still CHOOSE to give up.
I surrender daily to God to show a surrendered life, and to represent Christ to a hurting world. I can’t do that if I’m drinking myself into oblivion, or disregarding my sin. Where I used to drive straight to the bar to meet up with my “chosen family”, I now patiently sit in the Avon High School parking lot to pick up my stepdaughter. Just seeing her emerge from the building brings me more joy than a cold beer ever did after a long work day. And don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian, who like Donald Miller, still loves a cold beer, but my focus has shifted.
No longer is my life about drowning in sadness and self-pity. It’s now serving others, because by doing so, my heart begins to overflow.
One of my greatest achievements is becoming a stepmom. When I was younger, I chose to marry someone to have a family with them. That didn’t work out, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. We weren’t compatible and certainly chose to look past the warning signs (another choice that led to where I am now).
In marrying my current husband, I’ve acquired two teenage daughters. He and I talked at length about having a family of our own, and decided we are content with our life where we’re at (another choice). In time, when the girls are older, we’d like to serve in missions (another choice) and having a child at this point will change that dream. Unless God has other plans, we’re fine with helping the girls decide on their future (yet another choice…see the pattern?) and then we’ll see where God moves us.
My greatest joy is helping to shape these young womens’ lives. It’s a high calling. Because of Kevin’s life choice, we (the girls and I) are now a part of each others’ lives. I know when my husband asked me to marry him, there was no hesitation on my end. I knew this guy was the top of the line and I felt peace in just being in his presence!
But accepting a marriage proposal from someone who already has an established family can be scary at first. In the past, I never saw myself loving someone else’s kids. I’ve heard before that, “No young woman ever wakes up and says, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a stepmom’.” And truly, that had never been a consideration of mine until I was divorced and actively dating. I didn’t know of anyone who was happy in their step-situation. I had heard horror stories from friends who had divorced parents, and never gave much thought to the heartache and anxiety that divorce produces. If anything, when I said yes to Kevin, I thought I had signed up for heartache for the rest of my life. But that hasn’t been the case, a relief to all sides! I chose to commit to the girls too.
The reality is that I didn’t give birth to them. I didn’t change their diapers or dress them, teach them how to eat/drink/talk/write, etc. But I have influence in their lives now. That is a choice I am most proud of. Of course, I could decide to be selfish and live for myself…after all, they’re not my blood children. But I simply can’t live like that. Because of my marriage and my commitment to God and my husband, they ARE my children. I have just as much of a commitment to them, as I do their father. I have acquired them by marriage, but will never abandon them. They ARE my life now.
Children, no matter what age, watch and absorb everything. They read body language, listen to conversations in the household, can sense emotions spoken and non-spoken, and internalize what they feel. I’m aware of the girls’ hurt and pray constantly and am actively seeking to stay in their world because I don’t ever want to cause pain for them that is in excess of what they’re already dealing with. They’re amazing young women with many gifts/skills/abilities. They teach me daily, and I love that they incorporate me into what they like to listen to and what they’re learning. Their perspectives are so unique, yet beautiful.
The choice to remarry was a huge one, as well as to marry someone with children. There is an ex-wife still present and I had to accept that this woman will be in my life for the rest of my life. I had to accept that this was already an existing family and I could be rejected. And for a time, I was/am.
But God has been working in the intimate small moments of our lives, and slowly turning hearts toward Him. The reactions and changes have been dramatic, yet heartwarming. And they’re worth it. The step in faith, was a choice, for love, for the future, for surrendering to God to see what He could do in my life. And I’m pretty amazed when I step back and analyze where I’ve come from. I’m blessed….simply blessed because of my decision for Christ.
Things aren’t always rosy, but as a family, we definitely pull through the storms, respect and understand each other, and love shoots up and grows where thorns had once laid claim.
We are where we are today because of the choices we’ve made. And I’m grateful!!