Posted in Faith, Family

To be known

"Sweet One"
Our house guest on 9/9/18

Ahhhh yes, this is a picture of our sweet guest whom we met Sunday morning after arriving home from visiting with friends in Port Clinton for the weekend.  I have a nickname on my street.  I put out bird seed and corn, and as a result, squirrels, rabbits and ducks tend to come to the tree in the front of our home.  I’m known as “Snow White” and I love it.  I’m not sure all of my neighbors are fond of my furry and feathered friends, but I listened.  I don’t want to be an annoyance to others with gardens, so I tailored back a bit when there were deer starting to come (how I miss them, but I do live in the city…).

So, Kevin and I arrived home on Sunday morning, and before he went to pull into the garage, I went to hop out of the car in the driveway.  I saw a small duck by the front tree.  Nothing unusual – there are usually way more than ONE duck, but I figured she beat the crowd of 25-40 we get from time to time.  When I got out and closed the door, she didn’t really seem to move.  Hmmmm.  I knew since we had been gone, there wasn’t a lot of feed down, so I went to the garage and got the bag of crushed corn to spread out.  I figured I wouldn’t be able to get too close, but I’d spread it nearby for her.

As I neared the base of the tree, the little duck got up a bit and then stumbled.  She clanged.  Yes, clanged as something metal hit her foot.  I started to sense something was wrong, so I looked at her right webbed foot and it had a fishing lure with a metal flap sticking out of it.  I paled, and looked over to my hubs in the garage who was beginning to unpack the car.

fishing lure

“Babe!!”  I screamed.  He was surprised, and stuck his head out, “What??”

“Something is wrong with her.  Can you come here?  Can you help?!?”

I didn’t even know what was going on, or if we could help, or how…all that mattered was getting that thing out of her!  I began to pray.

Lord, you see her.  What happened?  This looks really bad.

It had rained for two days straight.  The front lawn was saturated.  Even the small bit of leftover corn that was on the ground in front of the tree was sitting in a pond made by the overflow of water.  The little duck tried to get away from me by this point.  I had knelt down in my jeans a few feet from her, and tried not to panic.  It was raining and I wanted to cry.  I can’t stand seeing anyone or anything in pain.  You cry, I cry.

Kevin assessed the situation and then lovingly said, “Grab the fishing line, and hold it gently.  Don’t let her get away.”  So I grabbed the line that was trailing behind her, about eight feet, and held on.  I couldn’t stop repeating, “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay…it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.”  I had no reassurance but I wanted to calm her.  She tried to take off of the ground once, but I held fast to the line.  I was so worried I was hurting her worse!

She landed again, and realized she wasn’t going to get away.  Kevin walked slowly to me, and knelt down as well.  He placed his hands on her back and sides and held her tightly.  He slowly rolled her a little bit to the side and that’s when we saw the three-pronged fishing barb in her underbelly.  My stomach sunk!  Tears began to pour and I had to take a deep breath.

Then Kevin looked at me and said, “Hun, I need you to hold her exactly as I’m doing while I go get some pliers.”

“I’m sorry, what?!?…Okay…I’ll try…”

More tears, more prayers.

Kevin lifted his fingers from the duck, and as he did, my hands replaced his.  I felt the beating of her heart, blood rushing through her little body so fast.  I’m sure mine was matching hers.

Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can do this…

Her little duck face was pressing into the grass a bit, as we had her on her stomach.  I slowly re-positioned her so she could relax a bit.  My hands literally encompassed the entire width of her little body.  I kept taking my thumbs and softly rubbed her back while whispering that it would be okay.  “It’ll be okay, sweetheart, it’ll be okay.”

How is it that we can comfort others when every fear known to man is flooding our own minds?  Love seems to take over.

My legs, of course, started to burn as I was sitting in an awkward position- concentrated on holding the duck.  Not too tight, but not too light to where she would take off and I’d have to grab the string again.  I shifted. Ugh, it was freaking me out!

Kevin quickly returned, and was so calm, told me how to hold her while he worked.  He was able to remove the entire hook from her foot. I couldn’t even fathom how she got snagged like that!

Then my thoughts went to a fisherman who had to have known that there was something attached to the end of his line…anger began to burn in my heart.  How could they leave her like that!?!  And then I had to pray it away and accept that I didn’t know how it happened.  Maybe there was no one to blame, or maybe there was, but it’s not my place.  God knew, and the good news was that she came to our yard and was getting help.  I let out a sigh of relief, but had to pray away that she might begin to bleed or try to bite us, or fly away…there were a number of possibilities that could happen, but panicking never seems to solve anything.

“Babe, I need you to make sure you don’t let her go.  I have to do the stomach now.”  I looked into his eyes, and saw tenderness.  More tears.  More prayers.  “Wait, let me shift.”  And I adjusted my footing in the wet grass, my knees burning in pain, but I imagined nothing like what this sweet girl was experiencing.  Her heartbeat was still a million miles a minute.  I rubbed her back some more, and then rotated her a little.  Lord, hold us.

“Hold her still here…”  he pointed. And I did.  My mind was asking the Lord for the physical strength to hold her and calm her, and please heal her, and let her be okay.  Kevin twisted the pliers, and little pieces broke off.  He worked so tenderly, and our little duck never made a noise or tried to get away.  She just laid there.  He worked some more, and some more little pieces removed from her underside.  And finally, he took a break, wiped his face (rain was dripping from the tree above us onto our faces the entire time), and looked at me.

“She may get a little agitated.  This last one might hurt.”  I held her a little tighter, and he tried again to get the last piece that was twisted into her feathers on her stomach.  I couldn’t even look. I was so afraid to see her wound.  It was hard enough to know she was in pain in my hands.

“That’s the best I can do. I think she’ll be okay.  You can let go when you’re ready, but be careful.”  His words scared me, because what if I let go too quickly? What if something happened and she yanked? I know the Lord calmed my spirit, because I was still repeating, “It’s going to be okay…it’s going to be okay, sweetheart…”  Her little body was facing down, but her head was turned a little to look at us.  I lifted my hands.

She didn’t move.

I began to cry again.

And then I realized she was in shock.

“Honey, maybe step back a little bit.  Let her readjust.  She’s probably really freaked out right now.”

Kevin reassured me.  I stood up and moved to the other side of the tree.  And within two minutes, she finally moved.  Not quickly, but enough to get herself right side up again.  I then cried tears of joy.  I didn’t want to leave her side.

She’s not my pet.  I have a dog that is my shadow, and my heart is so full because she’s in our home.  But man, I would’ve taken that little “sweet one” into my house so fast.  Bella Bean probably wouldn’t have even minded. She is so passive now. 😉

I moved into the house to help him unpack.  But I wanted to see if our little girl in the front yard would make it.  There was no blood.  No cry.  No frantic movement.  We removed the fishing line, she had a wounded foot, but there was still a small piece of the lure in her stomach.  There was nothing we could do anymore.  I had to rest in the fact that God knows her length of life.  For me, it was everything to hold an animal I have admired for years in my front yard.  Because of her woundedness, she allowed us to get close and we were able to have an impact.

From inside the window, I watched her, and she leaned forward, starting to eat the seed at the base of the tree, and I cried tears of thankfulness.  Within a few minutes, she then took off.  Low to the ground, but she began to glide higher as she went.

Kevin met me in the living room and wrapped his arms around me.  I was still crying.

“Thank you so much for helping her!!”  I sobbed into his neck and he hugged me so tightly.

“Babe, I know your heart.  I did what I thought would work.”

Then a few minutes later in the kitchen, he said, “I wonder if she’s one of your regulars, and she knew it’d be okay to come here.”  An interesting thought.  What if she had been here the whole time we were gone? How long HAD she been here?

And from the living room couch a few minutes later, Kevin said, “How wild for her to be here when we got home.”  Yep, I thought.  I’m so glad we were able to be here for her.

She arrived on Monday evening for dinner, but got chased out by other ducks, and I saw her fly over to a neighbor’s driveway waiting.  She was limping, so I knew it was her.  When a kid on a bicycle went by, she took off, low to the ground.  Darn it!! I thought.

And so now, it’s four days later.  A squadron of mallards came for dinner at 7pm tonight and of course, my nose was pressed to the window.  I didn’t see her.

“Lord, will you send her here for dinner, just so we can know she’s okay?”

The group of mallards took off, and then within minutes, she showed up.  She laid down by the food and began to eat.  A louder duck landed nearby and walked up on her, but they ate together in peace.  She stood up once to move, and because of the hobble, I knew it was her.

“You heard me, Lord…thank You!”

duck 2 I know it’s not the best picture, but she’s in the front.  I sat on the porch until it got dark to make sure she was able to eat.  She did, and then she took off again with her friend.

I love these little sweet animals.  I love interacting with God’s creation.  I don’t engage those whom I know will hurt me. I keep my distance.  But I absolutely am intrigued by behaviors, markings, patterns, etc.  Animals are incredible creatures with instinct and protective behavior, but they are still here on Earth for a reason.  Sure, someone could take my ducks and have dinner tomorrow.  I get it.  But I love to admire them.  I think they’re beautiful and I love interacting with them.

A few weeks ago, I built trust with a squirrel who comes once a week to my feeder from across the street.  She and I are able to sit a few feet apart from each other on the front lawn. She will take unsalted peanuts from my hand and plant them in my grass.  Will she find them all again? Probably not.  But she is doing what comes to her naturally.  I find it fascinating.   Our Lord is so creative and I love to see Him glorified by them.

I share all of this to share about being known. My husband doesn’t think I’m crazy for feeding animals.  He knows my love, appreciation and fascination for them.  He’s crazy about me, so he stepped into my panic and helped the duck.  It was a moment in time where we both worked toward the same outcome, trusted each other, and were both relieved when it was over.

This weekend, we celebrate seven years being married.  He truly is my best friend.  He deals with my quirks, my need to verbally process my emotions, my love for seeing success in forgiveness moments.  He understands my ache when I am rejected, and lovingly encourages me to stay who I am, that those who reject me are missing out on something special.  He and I had a hard year.  We learned more about each other this year than the other six combined.  But we grew, we endured, we recommitted.

Loving someone else is risk.  It involves taking them at their best and their worst.  And forgiving constantly without remembering.  Because peace should reign in the walls you call home.  And we have something we’ve both prayed for, for years.  It takes work, but it’s so easy at the same time.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the moment on Sunday that the Lord allowed us to have with “Sweet One” the duck.  It reassured me that my Lord sees me, and knows my heart, but so does the man He’s entrusted with it.  And I’m grateful for their love.

I love you with all of my kidney, Kevin.  ❤

Advertisements
Posted in Faith, Family

What’s Next for us (a sweet testimony of the love and goodness of my husband and God)

 I cannot believe it’s been four years since I walked down the aisle to my groom.

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.

new startcake2

candles

God's KnotThe day had finally come.

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.


We both were so excited and were ready to commit to each other.  We could have done without the trimmings and planning. We just wanted to be together!   me staring offKevin excited

listening to In Christ Aloneso happyfrom the startrings

our new stepfamilyStarting over would be an adjustment for me.

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.God's Knot cord 3 strands

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?

hold everything in your hands


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:

  1. Kevin wasn’t responsible for the actions of those who hurt me, so I had to stop treating him as if he was.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

flowers butterflies marriage walking the future

Posted in Faith, Family

Shaken to the core

Recently I had something happen in my life that shook me to my core. 

Normally this type of feeling is spurred on by something happening outside of my control (c’mon ladies…you can nod here), or when I am incapable of understanding something that takes time to process.  It usually involves me processing my faith again at another level, and sometimes it can be pain-inducing.  I can only count on one hand the number of times I’ve been shaken to my core, but it seems to be happening a lot more lately. 

Since last fall’s private retreat, I’ve been on a healing journey with Christ, and He is walking me through some incredibly painful memories, for the purpose of joy and healing, but also to address my issue with lack of trust in Him in certain areas.  And I only have a few sisters in Christ I know of, who welcome these moments of healing and pain, to get to the other side.  I’m not sure we wake up every morning saying, “Bring on the pain!”  We just pray, “Bring on the day, and whatever that means, I’m willing to walk beside you still…”

Being in a stepfamily, there are many opportunities for miscommunication, feelings being hurt, unintentional heartache, and hurt emotions.  I have two stepdaughters.  Both girls are in their teens, are progressing in school and their goals, and we talk about everything under the sun.  Normally… 

Somehow in the commotion of life, I was out of the loop on a planned event that was coming up for them.  It’s not uncommon.  Communication with exes aren’t always the best.  And we’re all human.  But once the event was revealed, I had another obligation the same night and I was unable to attend the event with them.  My issue wasn’t only NOT being able to attend the important event with them, it was how Satan twisted my unavailability to go (and the lack of communication) right to my core lie:

That I don’t matter

Image

I can’t explain how my emotions looked on the surface, but if you have ever seen a two year old’s drawing with no consistency whatsoever, you can imagine how my feelings were that evening.  Not being included on the invite wasn’t the issue.  It was how I slowly got the time and date of the event, from people who weren’t family, and from an email that wasn’t sent to me. 

I wasn’t even included. 

And if you’re a stepparent who cares deeply about the children you’ve grown to love, you want to be present for as much as possible.  Granted there will be times you can’t be, and the kids don’t hold things like that over your head especially when you do attend things with them.  You are putting your time and money into them, even when it’s not received or cared about.  It’s for the greater good, that someday because of something you’ve done/said/contributed to/prayed about/etc., you have made an impact in their life and it’s going to MATTER!  Darn, there’s that word again. 

I don’t know how many people struggle with the negative self-talk that seems to plague so many of us.  But for those of you who are aware of it, the issue becomes when the emotions rise, there’s no way out of the situation, and we just have to roll with it, that we are pushed into the arena of faith.  It wasn’t my first instinct this time.  Lately, I’ve been progressing toward a direction where the moment that initial anger begins to rise, Christ stops it, I calm down, and choose another route.  But the other evening sent me to the dark place. 

Image

The place where all I have around me are hurtful words, hateful stares, and a crooked smile from the one who loves every minute she gets to cause me pain.  And I camped there for a bit.  I couldn’t process.  I couldn’t even hold my hurt back.  I blew up and said stupid remarks that reflected my hurt but came across as attacking words.  I blamed, and I raised my voice.  My family left the house, and I folded laundry.  And then my night began with my planned event that took me from being with the rest of my family.  And as I stood there, putting out food for my guests, I held back tears and started praying.  I have learned that when my emotions get out of control, the best thing to do is take all of it to God.  Holding back from Him was only going to hurt me more. 

So I was honest with Him. I told Him that I was pissed.  That I couldn’t believe that this far into our marriage, that something so little could set me off just right, that I wasn’t able to define the actual hurt, and that I was upset about something out of my control- which is exactly where HE wants me to be.  And then I decided to just let Him take it.  The hurt, the lie, the anger.  And I proceeded to have a fantastic evening.  Instead of festering on the hurt and heartache, I was able to hand it over to the One who died for all of this crazy stupidity anyway. 

I have two lessons learned from this:

ONE: Realize what is really necessary. 

A girlfriend of mine said earlier this week in a prayer meeting that after her mother passed, it gave her a perspective of life, and that a lot of things we prioritize sometimes aren’t really necessary.  Many things don’t really matter other than the time spent with people.  And I was able to witness the truth of her words the very next day.  In the scope of life, one instance of being passed over wasn’t going to define me, or make me feel inadequate in a marriage that I know I am very well loved in.  One instance of not being included didn’t mean that my stepdaughters didn’t want me there, or that the miscommunication was intentional.  If I let Satan win that day, I would’ve believed all of that.

TWO: My reaction matters. 

Emotions fluctuate.  This event was a reminder that sometimes in life, things are beyond my control, and the mark of a Christian is continuing to love through pain, and letting go so God can handle it.  How does my reaction define my heart’s stance on whether or not I am willing to let Christ handle something?  Do I trust God to handle my broken heart?  Do I allow Him to have control when I feel so out of control? 

I think it’s important to realize that life triggers SO MANY DIFFERENT EMOTIONS.  We tend to realize the bad ones because they have an effect on those around us.  There’s always forgiveness, there’s always grace, and there’s always communication that needs to take place so hurting hearts don’t continue to hurt other hearts.  But there’s that first step of admitting it too. 

Image

It’s a beautiful thing to ask God to help us be aware of our emotions, and what sets them off, so we can go to Him to help us handle them.  He gets it.  He’s taken on human flesh so He could experience the pain and heartache that He died for.  God knows the pain that we cause each other, intentionally and unintentionally.  It’s why He came to Earth to die and be resurrected so we could have hope to move past the heartache and hurt.

My cousin once put the crux of the Crucifixion into perspective for me by saying, “Grace, He hung on the cross and bore the sins of the person who was murdered and the murderer, the woman neglected and the adulteress, the person being raped, and the rapist…”  We tend to see things from a judgemental perspective, but the truth is that hurting people hurt people.  Are there victims in situations?  Absolutely.  But acknowledging a hurt, and forgiving it gives us the perspective of Christ.  Hurt happens.  Sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally.  Either way, we must respond the same.  He died so we could provide the grace to each other.  This life is not all there is.  There is much more planned, and much more to come.  Holding onto hurts will just prevent the growth He is trying to accomplish in us. 

This week, we celebrate the life of Jesus, our Lord who took on every painful moment that has happened, IS happening, and WILL HAPPEN.  He entered into humanity to conquer death and provide LIFE to the fullest.  The same God who walked the Israelites through the desert and provided for them in their impatience and distrust, is the same God who listens to my anger prayers and my cry for stability when my emotions take over.  I was shaken to the core by something so menial, yet HUGE to me, because of my healing journey.  I choose to forgive, to hand it over to Christ, and let Him dispose of it for me. 

He really is LOVE.  He really is GRACE.  He really is FORGIVENESS.  And He really is RISEN!! 

Image

Posted in Faith, Family

Choices (part 2)

Today, May 2nd, is an anniversary for me, and a sad one.  It is the day that the Cuyahoga County court gave my ex-husband and me, the divorce we wanted, five years ago.

Though I was the one to physically leave the home in November of 2006, my ex-husband was the one to file paperwork in January of  2007.  I had no idea what I was doing or how to go about the divorce/disillusionment.  I just wanted out.  He and I quickly agreed to terms (I let him keep the house because he had my dog, and I had moved to an apartment where I couldn’t have an animal), we split everything down the middle for the most part, I read through the first draft he gave me, questioned if there was any hope for us, and waited for the end date to come.  While I waited, I drank Miller Lite like it was going out of style.

When the day finally arrived, it was a Tuesday.  Thankfully I wasn’t present at the courthouse.  We were told only one of us had to go, and my ex volunteered.  I remember the day very well.  I was scheduled to tend bar that evening and had woken up late that day around 9am.  I didn’t even want to get out of bed.  I felt so anxious.

Finally my phone sang on the coffee table at the rental I was sharing with a roommate.  I don’t remember the exact time, but the words were in black and white.

The text read, “You’re free, have a nice life.”

 

 

I think that’s when I started shaking.  I, who had gotten sick of his verbal abuse and finally stood up to him, now all of a sudden had a shocking realization: I WAS COMPLETELY ALONE.

I had gone through moments since I’d moved out of the house, battling the confusion I had in my mind: thinking maybe we’d work things out, maybe I’d still have to chase him to bars, maybe we’d do counseling, maybe we’d have kids and they’d never know their father because he chose not to be home with me, maybe we’d learn to love each other again even though I was completely numb.  I believed anything was possible with God.  After all, I’d returned to church and felt renewed in my faith.

Yet, when the text came that alerted me to the freedom I’d prayed for so much, I shook with fear, thankfulness, timidity, joy, and anger.

At that moment, I freaked out.  Had I done the right thing?  Had I really disliked his behavior so much that I went against the commitment I had stated in front of God, family, friends??  Was this even allowed?  What if my selfishness at wanting to be away from him kept me from Heaven?  Doubt and fear consumed me, and I had never felt so scared in my life.  The battle in my mind continued for months.  And my behavior declined as I began to self-destruct.  

That is one time that Satan really had a hold on me.  I began doing drugs with the people who would come into the bar.  A lot of the patrons were not shy about their extracurricular activities, and I finally felt “FREE” so I had no one to answer to, but myself (or did I?).

I lied to almost everyone I met.  It became such a pattern, I couldn’t even keep the lies straight.  I called off of work just because I didn’t want to get out of bed.  When I did go to work, I went to my day job still hung over from the night before.  I was working two jobs to pay my bills, and more than anything, I just wanted to die.  I eventually got to a place where I was okay with my marital choice, but the shame I had caused in myself had overwhelmed me.

I met a man who I got along with really well.  We talked a lot, but I even lied to him, because I began drinking so much, that my life revolved around the bar scene and I couldn’t keep my days straight, my details, my lies, etc.  I was a wreck!!
I almost lost him.  My heart hurts as I remember the shock and heartache at him leaving.
I remember one morning that changed everything.  He and I would go to a place by the lake that only the two of us knew about.  We would go there to talk and listen to one another.  Our friendship had grown over a period of eight months, and we trusted each other (or so we thought).  When he showed up at my rental unannounced, and assumed something had happened (which hadn’t, but with my track record of lies, I’m not sure I would’ve believed me), he sped off.
I called off work (again) and took off in my car.  I went to the lake, and sure enough, found his car there.  I walked to our spot, and he was just sitting there, fuming.  I don’t think we talked for some time.  We just both stared at the water.  We didn’t sit near each other.

Eventually, we had to be real with each other.  We had become best friends, so we had to say something.  And finally we did.

We screamed, we argued, we cried, we laughed, we yelled some more.  But eventually, we broke.  We sat there holding each other, realizing our lives were both complete messes and we had to make some serious decisions if we were going to take our relationship further.

We made a verbal commitment to each other to get rid of all the things in our lives that made us less of who we were meant to be.

We vowed to never do drugs again (and I can proudly say I haven’t SINCE), and we promised each other that we would contact one another if we ended up in a sticky situation that could turn ugly.

We became accountable to each other, and love blossomed where disgusting darkness once lived.  Where I felt Satan holding on tightly to my disobedience to God, his grip began to loosen as I began to stare into the darkness without fear.

I dove into Bible study.  I slowly pulled away from the bar scene.  I had already quit my job as a bartender, I just had to stop going to the bar on the days that I felt bored.  I prayed that God would transform my mind, as I believed Scripture says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  I became more aware of my decisions and my choices.

I realized that just because a peer wanted to do something, didn’t mean it was right, and I was free to say NO if I wanted.

I also attended a bible study at my church which was based on the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  

The truths that were provided in that book helped me realize that I did have a voice, I could make my own decisions, and not everything I did had to end in shame/regret.

I began to protect my body, my mind and my heart.  I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ and walked away from a lot of the temptations that used to have a hold on me.  I’m still a work in progress, but where sexual sin used to abound, it no longer even entices me.  Satan lost the battle on that one.

My best friend stayed close to me, believed in me, and began to go to my church with me.  His eyes were opened to the truth of the gospel too, and he recommitted his life to God as well.  He changed his harmful behavior and let the Lord open up his heart to the idea of loving again, knowing this time it would be reciprocated.  We made choices that benefited our own lives, but also each others’ lives.  We gave God complete control of our lives, and learned to step back and wait for His response in certain situations.  The love that blossomed from the ugliness of our pasts grew into a full-blown relationship, dating season, engagement and now a new marriage.

I trust no other man as much as I trust my husband. He has seen me at my worst, and never rejected me. He loved me when I felt unworthy. He endured watching me let go of “old Grace” and rejoiced with me when I was able to get my license back, name cleared, a new job, new car and a new home. He stood by me when I thought all hope was lost, and he provided constant attention and encouragement. He is such a remarkable human being.

I catch myself staring at my husband every day and in my mind, I let myself go back to one of my old memories. When he asks me what I’m thinking about, I just reply, “You” and we both smile.

I wish every wife would take a moment to look deep into the eyes of the man they married, and remember the newness of meeting him, getting to know him, and falling in love with him. Initial feelings of lust do subside, but the longevity of love, trust and commitment can withstand time. With time, comes familiarity and a closeness that bonds us together so incredibly. And with Jesus at the helm, we are accomplishing much.

Though I divorced my first husband and felt guilt at leaving a then-hopeless marriage, could it have been saved?  Knowing what I know now about the power of God, my answer is yes.  Yet, I live in the present.  That time is gone.

I did have to forgive myself for not believing God could restore what my ex and I had broken.  I had to learn to love myself again and see myself the way God does, covered in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness.  I will not rejoice that my first marriage is over, but will continue to pray for my ex-husband that he sees the need for God in his life, that he surrenders to him, so that maybe we can see each other again when this life is over (who knows, maybe even before).

And for now, I’ll be happy with the choices that brought me Kevin’s love, and the desire to know my Lord more.

Every disgusting memory I had in my old life is blurry, every unfathomable scene that haunted my mind in fear of losing God’s grace is gone, every lie that Satan told me has been conquered with the truth of the gospel.  

I’m not indestructible.  I’d like to say that I conquered sin, but that was Jesus’ job, not mine.  I know now to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) to fend off the darkness that consumes us even though we can’t see it.  We are at war with the unseen, in a struggle for power over our souls, and I am not letting Satan have me.  God claimed me long ago, and I am now strong enough to stand under His protection.  My choices now are to accept my past faults that led me to a new life in Christ, accept the forgiveness for my sin and the redemption of my life from my Heavenly Father who fought for me, and accept the outpouring of love from a man who overwhelms me with his adoration.

Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Marital statistics

If you’re like me, you hate stats. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out.

I don’t like them simply because I believe people can beat odds, no matter what the numbers are (I’m a Christian-miracles happen daily and often). I’m not a math whiz, and never figured out a really cool formula, so I’m pretty sure that THAT fact alone may keep me out of the statistical nerd bracket. If you’re a bean counter and love numbers, formulas and theorems, I do envy you, but my strength has always been more in language.

However, something interesting to me was a few stats I read from a stepmother blog. I’ll share with you an excerpt from the “Stepfamily Love Maintenance” edition from February 25. The blog opens with numbers, then shares a few practical ways to stay in touch with your mate, and make time for each other, because obviously life and other things can get in the way.

Let me state that our children are not an interruption in our lives in any way, but they do take time away from quality spouse time. Hence, one of the obstacles marriages have to overcome; how to NOT lose each other when family takes precedence. Christ says spouse first, then family, then yourself.

“Most of us know that the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50%. For every re-marriage one has, the divorce rate goes up. So second marriages are in greater danger. Third marriages in even greater peril, etc. If one or more partners has children from a previous marriage the divorce rate spikes to 75%. There is very controversial research that says if a brand new stepmother enters a family with stepdaughters ages 12 to 17, the divorce rates shoots up to 99%. This research does not include families in which the stepmother entered the family when the children are young.

Scary numbers, right?”

http://becomingastepmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/stepfamily-love-maintenance/#wpl-likebox

The hardest stat to accept was the one about a remarriage that has two teenage daughters. Guess which bracket I fall into? Unfortunately (yet fortunately for me), Kevin is on his third (and last) marriage to me. I’m on my second. He has two teenage daughters, so if I believed what I read above, I should be closing out a bank account and looking for someplace to live. Seriously…99%!?!?

However, I feel empowered by this statistic. Truly empowered, challenged and motivated more than ever before. And here’s why: I dated Kevin, knowing that he had earlier issues that have been dealt with, he didn’t truly know Jesus (he was raised Catholic and felt something was missing) and he longed for the intimate, caring part of a relationship that he had never had. All he kept telling me was that he wanted a best friend.

I had weaknesses that grew out of insecurities and a verbally abusive first marriage. I, too longed for someone to be my best friend. I didn’t want to go down the “bar” road again, though. I knew the person I wanted to share my life with, would allow me to be myself, have faith in Jesus and let me worship with wild abandon. I need freedom to write, sing, and be worshipful, without being judged and scoffed at.

Kevin never laughed at my faith. He was encouraged by it, and often encouraged me to learn more so that we could talk about it.  I would read my bible and complete a bible study and then talk about it with him.  We grew in Scripture and learned how some of our behavior was unacceptable.  We learned of true repentance, asking forgiveness, and letting God renew our minds from the inside after we accept Him as Lord.

It is through these faith talks that God opened my eyes to his hurt and gave me a love for Kevin that I never imagined I could have. And Kevin saw in me, the best friend he’d always longed for. We are the other half of each other, yet wholly unique and full in Christ. It’s awesome!

Kevin and I overcame many obstacles in our five-year (so far) friendship. And we grew to love each other, love Christ, and give Him all the dark parts of ourselves. So, entering a committed marriage, knowing the ODDS were against us, seemed like nothing, since we gave our lives to Christ and are loving and supporting each other daily.  That’s not to say that there aren’t trials and heartaches.  We have them, but hardly ever with each other.  It’s usually other people in our lives that tend to put stress on us, but we in turn, TURN TO GOD AND EACH OTHER, and hold hands, knowing it’s all or nothing.

If one of us stands, so does the other.  We face things head on.  We don’t run, we don’t play ostrich, we don’t pretend things didn’t happen.  We are raw and real. And I think that the foundation we’ve built, in helping each other through some tough struggles at the beginning of our relationship, and the glue of Christ, will help us beat the statistic that the world is almost hoping we won’t make it.

I love my two teenage stepdaughters.  Are they perfect?  Absolutely not.  Am I? Goodness, no…not even close.  But do I live a life now that is honest, fair and forgiving?  Yes, and with Christ’s help, Kevin and I can last forever, until we are called home.

If you fall into one of the statistics above, I pray you are seeking Christ in your decisions.  Satan WILL try to separate the marital bond. Remember we are dealing with things unseen, not so much the humans that carry out some of the evil.  Satan hates unity, he hates love and he hates God.

Newsflash: If you represent God, then he hates you too.  He doesn’t want us to succeed.  But I’m aware of his lies and deception.

So, stand firm on the truth of the gospel, pray often and daily with your spouse, for each other, your loved ones and the lost, and never give up.

May God build a fortress around the THREE of you, and when you are called to serve, step carefully from your tower, knowing God has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not let Satan have you.

I believe in the power of prayer, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the love that Kevin and I have for each other. Nothing is getting through these walls!

Posted in Faith, Family

Choices (part 1)

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!!

Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Being a stepmother

One of my favorite authors, Jane Green, posted a question on her facebook page not too long ago, asking her readers to share their experiences as someone in a blended stepfamily.  Being newly married, I had to share my two cents.  Below is my response.  And I’m proud of every word.  I still need prayer daily, as it is not always easy, but I love my new life!

In the midst of beauty

“Truthfully being a stepmother for me, is a joy. The two young women that God has blessed me with, through the marriage to my husband, gives us three hilarious nights of laughter and love-the nights we have them over, in addition to our fun alone nights. That’s not to say there aren’t days where there are disagreements and heartache. There are many difficult situations with his ex-wife and miscommunications happen, but I’m willing to learn through the pain because I love my husband and my stepdaughters immensely.

I have accepted the idea that if I can be a good example in my words and behavior, that I will teach them much, and that through my lack of selfishness, they’ll become stronger women who can make good choices. I know my rewards may be small now, but I’m looking forward to the long-term payoff in their character. I also know that because I choose to spend time learning about them and listening to them when they’re in our home, that I’ll have a great relationship with them as they get older, which makes me love them even more.

I talk to God and my husband frequently about the heartache, and I pray about how to best represent Christ. I also am completely myself when they’re over, which is goofy and non-traditional, and that has allowed the girls to let their guard down. I accept that it’s a constant process, but something I ultimately agree with, is Ron Deal’s explanation that blended families are like Crockpots, slowly blending ingredients, and it’s something you don’t want to rush. Be genuine, love the kids, and love your spouse. Put God first and seek Him in all things, and there can be hope for stepfamilies. :)”