Time has passed. At times so swiftly, other times without regard for my impatience. But it sure seems fleeting.
Four years of marriage is not a normal celebratory year, at least in popular circles or in card shops. Typically, we tend to celebrate the first, fifth and every fifth year after that for patterned events.
So why is four such a big deal to me today?
Because I want to share where God has moved in the lives of two simple people in Ohio, out of the entire Universe. And I finally am ready to share a deep hurt that was healed and overcome. But first, some highlights of one of the happiest days of my life…becoming Mrs. Hejnal.
My husband and I had a lot of strife getting to that day.
As with every wedding, there are moments that things don’t go as planned, and ours was no different. Leading up to our wedding day, we had a few hiccups: reservations and contracts for locations that went missing (gasp!), family issues with unforeseen miscommunication (with people who weren’t even part of our day) (YIKES!) and deadlines we didn’t plan for (seriously!?). Waking up the morning of the wedding, I just prayed for God to handle it all, and we would soak up every minute.
And on the day of the wedding, everything fell into place.
I had been divorced for a few years, and I was used to doing things on my own. My personality is independent by nature. For as long as I can remember, once I conquered something, it was on to bigger and better. I didn’t like someone telling me what to do or how to do it. I would figure it out and then move on.
So, I definitely had a lot to learn about submitting to a man. Obstacles, schmobstacles…
It couldn’t be that hard, though, right? I mean, this guy and I seem to get along so well. We play video games together, go to church together, grocery shop together. For those who are afraid we do too much together, we do have separate interests and hobbies, but they are done in moderation. We truly enjoy each others’ company. I’ve never had such an amazing and supportive guy best friend. So moving into the house that was now ours, and sharing EVERYTHING shouldn’t be so bad, right?
Sadly, I didn’t prepare myself for everything. I did what I normally did, which was to jump into the abyss and run full speed.
We had those who opposed Kevin’s and my marriage, and I felt obligated to try to change their minds, quite verbally, I remember. I had those who slandered me on a regular basis, so I found myself in defensive positions constantly. And I felt I had to prove to everyone that I was capable of being a stepmother, since I’d had no previous children of my own. How hard could this be? (Just reading this, I’m exhausted.)
Another factor I didn’t really see ahead of me that would test my patience and willpower were his daughters. At the time, they were 14 and 17. They are both beautiful women now, and have always been loving and understanding. They have grown a ton, and so have we. But let’s be honest ladies, learning to love someone else’s children seems to come easy, but it comes with being on the back burner and being rejected A LOT. If you keep your eyes open for the lessons, however, it also teaches you humility and compassion.
I was young (and I say that to be humorous, but also to indicate my maturity level in all of this). I expected things to go swimmingly all of the time. I am not one for confrontation, so I didn’t have to worry about arguing with the kids. They rarely voiced discontentment. They were eerily silent more than I could stand at times. But I learned about them, I stretched myself and spent time with them when they were in our home, and I shared as much about myself as I could with them. They were adjusting too.
Was our daily life all roses and gumdrops? Absolutely not. I can remember a few days where I stayed in our bedroom and avoided them, after an argument with their mother, or someone else in the family who wouldn’t accept me. I had to become aware of the times that the enemy would try to pin Kevin against me, and when the enemy would isolate me. Sometimes I felt excluded, unwanted or just plain ignored. Those were painful times, but they passed. We all grew.
Now the kicker: I’ve shared previously on this blog that I wanted to go back to school when God revealed that He wanted me to go into Christian counseling. What I didn’t share was how I made that decision solely by myself, signed up for, was accepted into college and THEN told my husband. Who does that!?! Ugh, I hate that things went down that way.
Kevin and I have had many conversations about US adjusting to each other. And at the height of one of our saddest but most raw arguments, he admitted how hurt he was by that, and I was ashamed that I’d not even seen that I had done it.
My point for all of this is to share what my view of marriage is, and how it’s taught me to rely on my Lord and my husband. And to share that through some of the heartache, pain and humbling heart condition checks that were necessary, God is not done with Kevin and me. There is more to come, and it
can WILL be accomplished with our Lord and my unselfish, unconditional loving husband.
A ceremonial addition we incorporated into our service was God’s Knot. It’s a cord of three colored ropes that you braid during your ceremony. The groom holds the ring and the bride braids the three colors together. Below you can see the description, and the shadow box I made of our knot after the wedding.
I loved this aspect of the ceremony, but the truth is that I didn’t know how to incorporate it into my marriage.
I had my faith, Kevin had his, and we would meet in the middle, I was sure of it. We were growing as a couple. We were going to church. We were attending life group, and I could see Kevin’s growth, and it just fueled me to do more at church because God wanted me to be helping others in their lives. After all, mine was perfectly fine…
Yet in all honesty, for the first two and a half years of our marriage, I was running my race to the goal line (whatever event I had created in my mind), and Kevin was jogging behind, lovingly supporting me, but keeping silent.
Newsflash, brides: That’s not journeying through life together.
That’s living as though you’re still single, and just having the guy’s last name. What could be more emasculating to an amazing man (or any man for that matter)?
I have learned so much in the time since I’ve walked down the aisle.
I have learned the ability to admit my wrongdoings.
It’s not that I didn’t know how to do it before, it’s just that in the past, my lips seemed to go numb, and my mouth wouldn’t open to get the words out. 😉 I mean, come on, who loves to say, “I was wrong”? If it seems hard to say, take a few minutes to repeat that over and over…it gets easier.
I have learned the ability to put my partner first.
Kevin is so simple, and I mean that so lovingly. He really doesn’t ask for much. He’s not extravagant, he doesn’t have unrealistic expectations for me, he just lives so simply, and if he sees a need somewhere, he does it/fixes it/helps someone/loves on people. I couldn’t ask for a better example of who Jesus is.
Kevin really is a living example of someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to see others love their lives and Christ. But my nature (and let’s be honest again, it’s not a personality flaw, it’s my sin nature), was to put myself first. And I have a background, so here’s where I used to justify it.
Coming from a first marriage that ended in my leaving abruptly, I wasn’t used to putting the other person first. I had been dealing with someone who had so many expectations for me to live up to, and a facade I couldn’t pull off…well, it just was such a relief to get away from someone trying to change me and I could finally have an opinion without him making fun of me, or calling me a name because I thought differently. But unfortunately, my desire to overcome that part of my past, left Kevin in the dust! I had opened a business and gone back to school all by myself. Surely, you’re proud of me, right, honey? Honey??
I’m going to take you back to a moment in time that is forever seared into my memory. It’s painful, but becomes beauty from its original ashes.
Thankfully, God got a hold of me one morning/afternoon in February 2014. And let me tell you, where I should have been treated harshly for the words I let spew out of my mouth during a Valentine’s dinner to my sweet husband, God wrapped His arms around me and said, “Tell me what’s wrong.”
The afternoon after that dinner, when I was alone in my living room (Kevin was at work), I had such shame. Have you ever been so mad at something, but had so much going on, you didn’t know who to blame or where to put the pain? I was at my wits end! (Clearly.)
I had allowed myself to become so overwhelmed, overworked, disappointed, and so angry at everyone and everything, that I didn’t even want to go into the Lord’s presence. Quite honestly, I figured He didn’t want to talk to me. He was there at the restaurant the night before, when I unleashed venom against my husband (who had done nothing wrong), and made him my punching bag for my built up anger. Surely, God’s back would be to me.
I wrestled in the living room. I went from couch to chair to couch and thought, This is ridiculous. I can’t even muster up the courage to talk to God. And though I wanted to cry (and for those of you who know me- that’s not a hard feat for me to accomplish), I couldn’t get any moisture from my eyes. How sad…now what?
And so I texted a few of my soul sisters from church: “Will you ladies pray for me? Without going into detail, I’ve hurt my husband and feel like I can’t pray.”
Within minutes, my dear sisters countered the enemy’s lies and told me to press into God, to seek Him with my heart and He would reveal a way to redeem myself with Kevin, that I need to resist the devil, draw near to God (James 4:7-8) and just boldly go to Him.
I stretched myself out on the floor facing downward. And then I laughed.
How absurd, I thought! I have no words to even say. Obviously I’m sorry, but where do I begin?
So I stayed on the floor, arms stretched out in front of me. And I started, “Lord, I don’t even know what you want me to say…”
Within seconds, He spoke into my spirit, not words of condemnation or ridicule, but peace and truth. He somehow got me to the point of repentance. I can’t even explain exactly how, but with my arms out in front of me,
I began to sob,
and then cry,
and then mourn loudly.
I hadn’t let tears out in a LONG TIME! On my knees, still facing the floor, I knew what I had done wrong. I knew I had gone before Kevin and hurt him, but God was letting me know that I had RUN IN FRONT OF HIM AS WELL! Talk about a 2×4 to the face! I’m just living my dream, without regard for anyone. What in the world is wrong with me?!?
The Lord is our judge, yet also a loving Father. That day, when I should have had Him laying out the record of all of the times I had wronged my husband, God chose to show me His grace. (And if you know 1 Corinthians 13, Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, so this clearly shows you where my belief about God didn’t match up with His character.)
He spread out such merciful, totally needed, completely undeserved GRACE.
Still sitting on the floor, I cried endlessly, and felt His love, compassion and clarity. I knew within minutes that I had to back out of school, close up shop on my business, and put my focus on HIM and my husband, and then my family.
Words that echoed in my spirit, which will never go forgotten, were the following: “Grace, you’re calling me the Lord of your life, but you’re not letting me do it.”
That realization hit me so hard.
I had such remorse for my treatment of Kevin. He didn’t deserve my tongue-lashing. I had immediate sadness at knowing my dream of finishing college would again go to the wayside. But knowing that I was a fraud to myself and my Lord was the most painful. Who was I kidding? Yes, my grades were high where I wanted them to be, but the grade for my contribution to my marriage was F after F. My priorities were so skewed. Devastated, but hopeful, my heart ached horribly, but I couldn’t wait to talk to my husband.
Later that evening in our bedroom, I finally had the opportunity to apologize to Kevin. He had been quiet all day when he got in from work, and my stepdaughters were over. I certainly didn’t want to do this in front of them, so I asked the Lord to give me the words at the right time. Kevin listened so intently, and yet his face would look away at times. I shared with him all that the Lord revealed to me during my quiet time, and when I was finally done, he looked at me, and said, “I can never stop you, Grace. You get something in your mind and you just run with it. I’m in awe of you. Everything you’ve ever wanted to do, you can do it. But what killed me was that you’ve never asked me, not that you need my permission, but that you would consider me. You’re still living like you’re single.”
Dear friends, if I can impart wisdom to you regarding marriage- which is a holy, beautiful, institution using two broken, imperfect people (one man, one woman), take my words to heart. YOU CANNOT CLEAVE TO SOMEONE BY YOUR OWN WILL. The Bible is so full of wisdom and truth regarding marriage being an institution that reflects the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. That one would lay down their life, they would cleave to each other, they would forsake all others, they would lead, serve, submit… I wasn’t doing any of that. And I had been so blinded because of my own selfishness, I didn’t realize the pain Kevin even felt.
I used to pride myself on telling others to “put the shoe on the other foot”, but I couldn’t follow my own advice. And because I had squashed the Holy Spirit, I wasn’t hearing His gentle rebukes to consult my husband, pray before deciding, wait to see if it was something the Lord wanted of me. All of these steps I took were “GRACE-driven”, but not grace-driven.
I have learned the ability to squash the enemy instead of the Spirit.
If you are married or considering it, your primary concern will always be for the other person. Yes, you have dreams and goals, but trust me, if they don’t include your spouse, you live a life of secrecy and darkness. These things always come to light, Scripture says. Even in the midst of a godly marriage. If we’re not seeking the Lord and our spouse’s approval on things, are we truly surrendered to their ideas, opinions, viewpoints? And let’s not gloss over the fact that the enemy HATES marriage, so he will do anything he can to separate, isolate and KILL off any part of you that works in conjunction with your spouse. Instead of running ahead of your mate and figuring things out, seek your spouse’s opinion (communication is sexy, people) and see what he has to say. You may be surprised by his wisdom and acceptance of your ideas.
Submission to a man of God is easy.
If a man loves the Lord, and follows His commands (most importantly to put YOU first in his life, and love you like Jesus loves the church), you can easily walk alongside him and submit to him. I know every marriage is not like this. But if you are a godly woman, you are not alone. Your Lord is your husband and voice of wisdom until He gets through to your husband.
I learned that my husband “gets” the idea of unconditional love (and it’s something I cannot take for granted)
When I screwed up royally, Kevin never held it over my head. We have thousands of dollars in college loans for a degree that I never finished, and he’s never said another word about it, except to tell me that we have to remember a certain amount coming out monthly. He said it’s a lesson that we learned together.
Talk about GRACE!! Could you do that? If your husband cost you THOUSANDS of dollars for a dream that God called you out of, would you be able to NOT talk about it? I mean, we may want to tell our girlfriends why we can’t go out for coffee or dinner, “because let me tell you what my husband did…”.
He NEVER did that. He just moves forward with me, seeking God for our next step. That’s insane, but possible with God. Kevin’s love for me overshadows my mistakes. Sound like anyone else you know? 😉
I’ve learned God’s plans for me do coincide with my dreams (after all, He put them there), but I can wait for His direction and timing to execute them.
My frustration and becoming overwhelmed was because I was putting pressure on myself that was never meant to be there. I needed to seek God and His Word regarding my steps, but I was too busy running to stop and read (or listen). And out of that journey of running, I realized many reasons why I was pushing to prove myself. I am now equipped with Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. I know the schemes against me, I know the tactics the enemy uses, I know his cunning behavior. I cannot prepare myself for everything, but I can be aware, and that is what is required of us. We need to watch and know that he seeks to KILL us and DESTROY us. This is your ENEMY…the one that knows he loses in the end. So remind him of that.
And ultimately, I have a few dreams that are in my think tank. I know the Lord put them there. He is slowly revealing timing for certain things, but I’m more patient than I’ve ever been. I know when I see myself putting on tennis shoes in my mind’s eye, I need to sit back on the bench and consider him and my husband first.
The cord of three strands is essential to a vital, godly marriage. Kevin is a flawed human being. As am I. And there is only one other person involved in our marriage, who has a vested interest in our marriage, who is not flawed. God designed it, He knows the obstacles, but He has the power and the resources to conquer them. And He’s given us the wisdom to learn how to do it.
Put simply: RELIANCE ON THE LORD HIMSELF.
I can come up with some pretty awesome ideas (brushed knuckles on chest), but if I haven’t sought the Lord or Kevin, I will be devastated at the loss of time spent by choosing to go the path alone. I’ve witnessed after a long day of work, Kevin come home and say something that neither one of us has talked about, but that I know the Lord must have put on His heart. That is evidence enough for me that He is present in both of our lives. And He has to be! We are so prone to going our own way, but in a marriage, it’s always about the other person. Sacrifice to self is essential.
Something else that the Lord brought to my mind in the living room that day was that friends lay down their lives for each other. I hadn’t done that. For me to be successful as a wife, submitted to my husband and completely surrendered to the Lord, I had to lay down my hopes/dreams/college credits/Avon makeup business for the sake of Kevin and my longevity. It’s not that these were bad ideas, but sometimes the Lord asks us to give up things that are in the way of what He is trying to accomplish through us. If my grip had been so tight on school or my business, where would that have left Kevin?
I’ve learned to let go of hurtful, hateful moments and live in the NOW.
Earlier, I had mentioned how things went wrong leading up to our wedding day. Life isn’t perfect, and moments aren’t as tidy or neat as Pinterest tries to convince us. Over the last two years, the Lord has been working on my heart of unforgiveness. I’ve been holding onto so much, about so many people, that it had become a huge wedge in our marriage. I had to come to the realization of three things:
- Kevin wasn’t responsible for the actions of those who hurt me, so I had to stop treating him as if he was.
- Holding onto the anger for what others had done wasn’t hurting them. It was hurting me. And Kevin. And other family members. My responses weren’t Christlike many times, and if I was trying to be a light, I wasn’t accomplishing it very well.
- Forgiveness is able to be done by humans, but the peace that comes as a result, is something only the Lord can give. I have said I’ve forgiven and forgotten a ton of times. But I hadn’t ever given the situation to the Lord. Then, all of a sudden in 2013, God started messing with my sleep schedule. He would keep me up, replaying an incident or how I handled it. My anger would rage, my thoughts would get wound up, and I would want to scream. But when I learned to take those moments and hand them over to the One who already died for their mistakes, and mine too, I was able to let Him deal with that person and no longer hold it over their heads. I cannot tell you the freedom I have, and the lack of weight on my shoulders for doing this! If you need help with forgiveness or unforgiveness, call me, text me, email me. I will be doing a bible study on this topic because it is so beneficial to our mental and physiological well-being.
I’ve learned that where God said No for now, it doesn’t mean forever.
I still have dreams. I also have a husband whose work schedule might change, and stepdaughters in college. I want to be there for them. This doesn’t mean my goal of counseling will fade. It means that the Lord will be faithful in what He told me: He will give me what I need when I need it. And I can rest in that.
I’ve learned that everyone needs second chances, and third, and eighteenth, and ninety-seventh, and…
The beautiful truth about the God of the Bible is that He is full of grace and mercy, justice and truth. He gives grace much more than He punishes. Like the loving parent that He is, He disciplines those He loves, but He doesn’t leave us in timeout, or in prison! He conquered death so we could be with Him. Is He happy with our choices and behavior all of the time? That depends on your walk with Him. But the good news is that when we screw up, He is faithful and just to see the sin, cover it with the blood of His Son, and grant us newness. Out of that thankfulness, we need to be appreciative and turn our lives in another direction.
Where our sin is great, His grace is greater!
So that’s my story. At least for now. Four years may not seem like a long time, but for me, it’s been packed with lesson after lesson and grace upon grace. I’ve titled this post “What’s Next for us”, but to be truthful, only God knows that.
I just know that we’re all in, whatever that looks like. And we’re going to do it hand-in-hand until He calls us home.