Posted in Faith

Being wholly committed

I’ve written before about commitment, especially how overcoming a divorce and allowing God to show me my core issues with trust has helped me recommit myself to those around me and my new husband.

ImageBeing wholly committed means to be completely sold out for something…believing in something so much that you hold fast to it, proclaim allegiance to it, and will die for it.  Many people we know are soldiers in our nations’ military branches and they sign papers stating as such.  In relation to God, where does being wholly committed fall?  Do we worship on Sunday and then grumble when someone is taking too long to pull out of their parking space after church?

ImageDo we share a word of Scripture with a friend in public, but then shake our head when we get off the phone with them when they need prayer?

Are we ALL IN?  In poker, it means “wagering one’s stake”.  Do we do that with our faith?  Can we claim to be completely sold out?  If so, I would venture to say that our lives would reflect it.  Right?

After all, we claim to be followers of Jesus, so I’m sure anyone watching us would say our faith is evident and our lives reflect just what we say.  {Are you already shaking your head because you know that couldn’t be further from the truth? 😉 }

Here’s the reality: We’re all fallen.  Yep, fallen.  We were held in such regard that angels admired us.  God did make us with the intent of glorifying Himself in a way that angels can’t.  And yet, we, through Adam, have lived with sin from generation to generation.  We can’t escape it.  Even though Jesus died on the cross and rose for our sins, we cannot get away from the taint of sin and its effects on our lives and the ways we affect others on this Earth.

ImageIsaiah 1:18  promises that “though our sins were like scarlet, they will be white as snow”, but we won’t see the change until we are present with God at the end of the world when He returns.  For now, it’s going to continue, and we can’t change it.

So does being a sinner mean that I can’t be wholly committed?  What makes believers different?  I believe the difference should be the whole title of this post: being wholly committed.  And more truthfully, we need to be wholly committed to our relationship with Jesus.  Because by connecting with Him, He will align our days/times/events/appointments, etc.

In the realization that He is ordering our steps, Image we become committed to many things: HIM, other people, the calling He has designed for us individually, sharing His gospel, loving when others don’t know how, forgiving when it’s not easy, being a listening ear for those who are hurting, etc.  Being committed to those things and Jesus will show the world the difference in our lives.

We still sin and have it in our bloodline, but we have the Holy Spirit in us, who can rebuke, change, humble and convict us.  Instead of giving into sin, which is what the world does, we have the opportunity to say no to it, and move on, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  Image

God does not do the tempting, but He does allow it.  He uses it to test us, and He provides a way out for us.  The world may ask why does God test us at all?  It’s because He is sharpening us, for something more than we can understand.  He has Imagegiven us the tools to fight Satan, but it’s up to us to use them.  Following the flesh is what the world does.  Following Christ is what Christians do.  Allowing the Holy Spirit {who is also God and Jesus} to do His job, allows us to see the need to detour instead of walking down the wrong path.

So one of this week’s online bible study questions is: Is God calling you to a deeper commitment?  My response is YES. He has and He is.  He knows me so well, He knows this is going to be a challenge for me, but this is how I look at it: I tend to get overwhelmed when I do things my way (it took 33 years to accept that truth), and when I finally give up, He has always been there with the strength, grace and mercy that is necessary for me to trust Him.

Looking at my three day planners (yes, three), I have something almost every day, in almost every block.  One is for school tasks, one is for my AVON business and one is for family and friend events, so we don’t overlap things. For those who say, “there’s an app for that”, I would have to tell you that I do keep track of immediate appointments that way, but looking at a constant colored schedule of what I am SUPPOSED to be doing, is quite disheartening.  Many times, my appointments have run over, and I have to rearrange the time increments and it’s just too much work.  It’s much easier to just cross off when complete! 🙂

Thankfully this past summer, our women’s ministry has been meeting at the lake on Wednesday evenings to talk about making time for God, and how it shouldn’t be an add-on to our day, but it should be the start.  It should be penciled in.  It should be a primary focus on how we arrange our time.  We all have twenty four hours in a day.  I know I’m always busy because of my interests and heart for people, but I’m also just human.  I’ve realized I cannot be everywhere at once, and Jesus couldn’t do it either when He was in bodily form.  By taking the time to go to those Wednesday meetings, I learned that I’m not the only crazy woman who needs to rest and say no to everything that begs for my time. Image

So the reason I know God is asking me to go deeper with Him is because I just started school again this week.  There is another schedule to consider.  Going back to school requires time in the books and preparing papers.  It will impede my time with Him.  But I have to dig in deeper with my heels because when I don’t commit fully to Him, chaos abounds.  I have gotten to a good place where I focus on Him, but I know He wants more than just a 1/2 hour to an hour a day.  I’m learning to let him have my whole day.  That HAS to continue.  I have to be wholly committed to Him.

Lysa commented in her book that,

“Radical obedience is not just following a list of right things to do.  Nonbelievers can do that and call it ‘good’.  Radical obedience is choosing to exchange what is ‘right’ for God’s righteousness.”

For me to SAY YES to Him, I have to be understanding that His schedule is COMPLETELY different than mine.  I’m totally believing that God wants me to complete my homework assignments on time, simply because that is for school and is part of my obligation to my student loans.  But I also understand that the time I waste, may need to be filled with something He desires for me to do instead, and I’ll have to be obedient.  And be assured, awesome reader, that God is not being the fun police.  Much of our fun is not fruitful or reflective of our love for Him and others.  So, if He calls us out of something, to do something that serves someone else, He is backing up what He said in Scripture.  He doesn’t contradict Himself, He proves Himself over and over again.

If you are concerned about becoming completely and wholly committed to God, I’d like to share with you Lysa’s words of truth from chapter four:

“God made us for the relationship of His perfect love.  While we are not capable of perfect performance this side of eternity, we are capable of perfect love.  We can settle in our hearts that we will choose God’s love and the pursuit of a love relationship with Him above all else, no matter what comes our way.”

I’m going to spend some time with God alone now, asking for His continued guidance, and help in allowing me the opportunity to see what is important and what isn’t.  I desire to serve Him fully and daily I choose to reaffirm my commitment to Him.  May you also be compelled to let go of all that is holding you back, and re-confirm your commitment to our Lord.  He is so faithful, and is the definition of commitment.  Jesus went to the grave and back to prove His love for us, surely we can give Him the time He requests.  Have a blessed week!

I’m going all in!

Posted in Faith

Restless- a personal story of #FreshVision

It seemed like a regular Tuesday night.  My two stepdaughters were just leaving for the evening.  We had such a nice dinner, laughing and talking like usual, and then we said goodnight.  The only thing I could think of that would make my day complete was to relax with my husband in our hot tub.  Thankfully he had turned the heat up earlier so I just had to put my bathing suit on, and we went outside.

We sat back and relaxed our heads on the headrests, recapped the day, and shared some insights about a family situation we are praying about.  After about twenty minutes, we called it a night and were brushing our teeth side by side in the bathroom.  I took off my glasses, and rubbed my eyes.  Image

I work from home, and after being on the computer all day, I felt like my eyes were sandpaper. I was rushing to finish washing my face just so I could close my tired eyes!  And the only thought on my mind was how glorious it would feel in a few minutes to just rest.

I climbed into bed, locked my legs with Kevin’s and closed my eyes.  Kevin fell right to sleep, and I laid there awake.  I rolled over slightly, and felt completely restless.  I was so exhausted, and it was now time to be falling asleep. So why wasn’t my body cooperating??

I rolled over again toward the dresser and laid there for about five minutes.  “Okay, seriously?? This isn’t right…Lord, please let me go to bed.  I’m so tired…what am I doing UP!?”  His response: Nothing.  For a few minutes…and then…

I rolled over one more time toward Kevin, took his left hand in my right hand and complained to God again. “God, please help me fall asleep.”  When it was clear I was awake for a reason, I prayed again, “Okay, I’m up.  You obviously are keeping me up for something.  I’m listening.”

As I clung to Kevin, I began to drift off, but not to sleep or a wonderfully relaxing dream.  God began walking me through some painful memories.

Okay, WHAT?!

Let me jog back a few months so it makes sense.

Around the month of April, I had heard about a study at our church that the women’s ministry was doing called Captivating.  The study focuses on explaining a woman’s true identity in Christ, and how we are made in the image of God.  It also explains how the deception that Satan used in the garden of Eden against Eve set the framework for how Satan still lies to women today.  Because of this deception, we grow up not understanding how much Jesus really loves us, and we tend to believe lies that Satan tells us, because we believe God is holding out on us.  Because of that disconnect, we have emotional scars, and a skewed image of who God really is.

Needless to say, I was intrigued.  One of my friends in my life group had actually given me the book for Christmas last year, so I already had the book.  And being a divorcee, I wanted to go- obviously I have scars.  But because of my school schedule, I couldn’t take the time to devote to it that I wanted, so I planned to attend another event when it was available.  ImageWhen a time finally arrived where I could go to the study, I did.  It opened my eyes up to so much about myself, God and some issues I knew were there, but I didn’t know how to deal with.

During the actual study, I had prayed to God to reveal to me the root of many of the lies that I had believed.  I had asked God specifically to show me these moments so that I could learn the root cause of my sin, and see the path it set me on, so that I could truly accept His grace.  I wanted to examine each and every time that I had allowed someone else to take God’s place.  And I wanted to know exactly what I was holding onto, because I knew something was blocking me from fully being joyful.

God happily obliged…at 10:30pm on August 6, 2013.

 He spent all night replaying images of past events and times that I had been blinded to His truth.  ImageHe replayed many moments of my weaknesses, times I had felt left out, abandoned, lost. Image He also let me feel the physical and emotional pain of decisions I had made while feeling the above listed emotions.  Image

I remember laying in bed feeling completely frozen, and pinned down.

Images flashed in my mind of being young and in grade school.  I saw the faces of those who made fun of me, my appearance, my height, my awkwardness.  I saw images of being in high school and the faces of those who laughed at me for dressing differently.  I saw coworkers from a previous restaurant job picking on me, for choosing to “date” the guy who just got his ex-girlfriend pregnant.  I saw the younger version of me getting into a car of an airline pilot who wanted to take me out to a steak dinner, just so he could show me his boat later that evening, and try to get me drunk.  I saw someone who was supposed to be part of my new family making fun of me with someone I trusted, and I felt the humiliation when a certain ex-wife felt the need to get her girlfriends involved in my life, but I couldn’t say anything in retaliation for fear of what my stepdaughters might think about me.  And when I finally did snap, I saw the way certain family members turned things around to make everything my fault.

I saw my weakness in not being able to say no, I saw my hatred for those who made fun of me and tried to use me, I saw my disgust at my own actions, and I saw my shame.

God replayed the period of time that I was dating my first husband, and I visually reviewed in my mind the times that comments would fly out of my ex’s mouth about me while we were dating…comments that should have sent me walking, but in my desperation to not lose him, I let him say whatever he wanted, because later we would be intimate, and I believed that he loved me anyway.

I trusted people that should never have been trusted, and I tried to believe that they had good intentions, but I learned the hard way that adults can still play games just like high-schoolers.  I learned that no matter how badly I wanted to see the good in people, I needed to realize that some people are just bad, and you have to accept it.

Slowly but progressively, every incident began to deteriorate me.  Any self-image I had, was gone.  Any self-esteem I had, was depleted, and any belief I had that I could do better, was non-existent.

He brought to my mind how often I had tried to replace Him, with alcohol, men, busyness, all because I was seeking someone to let me know that I was loved and when God tried to answer it, I didn’t want to hear it.  I had married my first husband, knowing my heart wasn’t completely into it, but thinking if I was with him (my ex) long enough, he would change and things would get better. My heartache and drinking had only intensified when I realized what a fool I had been.

I became self-destructive during my first marriage because I knew I had made a mistake and didn’t want to own up to it.  And instead of asking God for help, I closed the door to Him and allowed Satan to let men try to answer the question of who I was.

Through the images, God kept repeating how He had loved me the whole time, but I kept drowning Him out.  As much as He would provide a sunrise, or a song on the radio with lyrics meant for my heart, I would avert my gaze, or change the radio station.  I was disgusted with God trying to love me when I felt unloved.

I felt helpless and weak reviewing these moments, but I had asked for them.  And as the tape replayed in my mind of these hurtful moments, I could see how I wasn’t willing to see God in the picture of my life.  I had always pushed Him away, because I wanted to be able to take care of myself, but my choices had cost me a marriage, and trust with any man.

And surprisingly at one point, he brought to my mind a conversation that another woman had posted about in the Proverbs 31 Online bible study website for the first week of “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”.  This particular woman had brought up the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.  In the story, found in John 4: 5-26, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman (which is clearly forbidden in that time, as He was a Jew) at a public well, and in His brief, yet powerful encounter, He tells her to go get her husband.  The woman replies that she has no husband, and Jesus replied that He already knew that, and that the man she was with then, wasn’t even her husband.

God clearly explained to me that in that story, the Samaritan woman had never had a wedding ceremony.  The truth is that she was never married.  She was being rebuked by the Lord of the Universe for sleeping around!  He knew she wasn’t legally married, but that she gave herself away over and over again to men who would take her.

And even more bizarre, God took me back to room 100A at Lutheran West High School and a moment in time in Mr. Jim Fenske’s Christian Ethics class.  I could picture Mr. Fenske standing in front of his chalkboard, stating that anytime we sleep with someone, we give ourselves away.  Mr. Fenske wanted us to understand that when we make a choice for sex, it needed to be within the boundaries God provided.  That is where the blessing is.

God revealed to me that He designed marriage and He has made it clear, about the connection/bond/union that happens when two bodies consummate and become one.  His point was that we don’t have to marry someone in the legal court system for God to see us as married.  NOTHING GETS PAST HIM.  He sees everything.  And any time we give ourselves away to someone else during sexual acts, we are “marrying” them.  We become part of that other person, hence why the physical act of sex is reserved for marriage, because God explains that the unity of a man and a woman is beautiful and not distorted when it is preserved for just one person.  God blesses us when we don’t misuse this gift of our body.

What He was telling me was that we don’t have to be legally married to be considered an adulterer or adulteress in God’s eyes.  The second we sleep with someone other than our spouse (which means if you’re not married, you’re in a very bad spiritual position!), we are committing adultery.

I was blown away!!  I was scared, and moved to repentance for years already past, but boy did that insight answer a lot of questions for me!  He also reminded me of the verse about lusting after someone with our eyes.  Our heart has already sinned by doing so.  I believe God wanted me to really understand how serious my past had dragged me away from Him.  He needed me to understand how I had misused a gift from Him and how it had separated me from His true love.

During this evening with God, He was letting me know His reason for being upset with my previous decisions.  I hadn’t realized that something I had done as a teenager was blurring my understanding of Scripture.  I didn’t realize my view of love was messed up because I had tried to view sex and love, marriage and devotion through tainted lenses.  I was ashamed and repentant, overwhelmed and amazed.

Needless to say, I was emotionally drained after the events and these revelations going through my mind.  I felt completely exhausted and I remember coming back to consciousness with tears just all over my face.  Kevin’s alarm for work was going off…great, it was 4:30am!  I was planning on starting work at 5am.  I had no idea if I had even slept, or just gone through visual memory hell!  I prayed and told God that I understood what He had shared with me, and that I wanted Him to keep revealing things since it made me feel so close to Him.  I wanted to heal.

As Kevin got up and started brushing his teeth, completely unknowing that I had gone on the largest spiritual journey of my entire life, I prayed, “Lord, I’m so tired, and I want to start work…”

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He answered, “I got you through the night, I’ll get you through the day.”

Kevin came back into the bedroom and held me.  I didn’t say a word, I knew I had to get up and start working and I didn’t want to make Kevin late for work.  So I hugged him back, kissed him and told him that I hoped his day was quick.  He left the house, and I walked into the office and turned on the computer.

I began shaking my head.  I was in awe of what had happened.  I couldn’t believe that God had come through, that He had heard me and wanted to heal me, but that He was waiting for obedience…radical obedience from me first.

I have recently joined an online study that I’ve spoken about previously.  The whole premise is opening up to God and letting Him use us as we are, so that He can change us, teach us, lead us and grow us for His purposes.  We have to be willing to step out of the box.  When I had signed up for the study, I didn’t know when I was going to fit it in, or if I could even do it, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to be part of a Christian community, devoted to letting go and surrendering to God.

Because I chose to say Yes to Him for this study, God chose the first week of this study to be the time that He overwhelmed me with some answers that would help me heal.  Because of radical obedience, He came through.  I knew He had heard me, but was just wondering when He was going to answer.

And out of everything He shared with me that Tuesday night, He reminded me of Jesus and His death, the cost of my sin, and the debt that is gone.  Every moment that had replayed has been forgiven by Him, and has been forgiven by me.  He needed me to see what He was healing me from, and how His love covered the shame and disgust I felt toward myself.

When I sat at the computer on the morning of August 7, I had a peace I cannot explain inside of me.  My focus for work was on target, my heart was at rest, and anything that I heard about during the day that normally would trigger heartache, anger or pain, didn’t have the same effect.  My view on life has changed so dramatically.  I’m writing this a week after the fact, just to confirm that the peace is still here.

On the night of August 6, God cleansed me from years of hurt and disobedience to Him, He showed me His truths that overruled years of lies, and He gave me peace that has proven to last over time.  I believe God forgave me years ago, on the cross THOUSANDS of years ago, to be exact.  But He met me at 10:30pm on a night when all I wanted to do was sleep.  He took me out of my comfort zone, and messed up my body clock just so He could tell me that He loved me and has always loved me, and that my life will never be what it was.  And I know that to be true.

I see now how my husband is one of my biggest blessings from God.  Kevin is so undeserved, yet so faithful!  I have someone who knows every intimate detail of my life story, and treats me the way God showed me that night- with undeserved mercy and love.  My husband reaffirms me every day, tells me audibly that I am beautiful, and reassures me that he isn’t the same man he once was.

God, the God of the Bible, is longing to share with every broken human heart that there is NOTHING that we can do that would be so bad that He won’t forgive us.  He needs us to ask Him for help to see sin in our lives.  When we live every day as if what we say/do doesn’t matter, we mask the need for Christ and we believe lies from Satan that we don’t need God.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Any time apart from Him is not truly living.

Jesus came to give life, but we have to seek Him out to find it.  Work is necessary on our part to turn to Him.  Jeremiah 29:13 is a promise from God that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.  If anything in life is distracting you from Him, He can’t be found.  But you can find Him when you make time in your schedule, when you call on Him first thing in the morning, when you are driving to work and need reassurance of His grace, when you royally mess up and you need His forgiveness, when you ask for truth and painful memories.  He will show up.  He will answer your deepest, darkest questions, and He will restore you like He did with me.  He will provide peace you can’t even comprehend (Philippians 4:7), and strength for the day when you haven’t slept a wink.

Will you choose to be radically obedient today?  Step out of your comfort zone and ask Him to show you what is holding you back from a peaceful time with Him, and an understanding of His true love?  If you know of something in your life that is preventing you from experiencing God truly, you need to repent and let Him love on you.  It’s overwhelming, but incredibly necessary.  God will provide #FreshVision for you when you ask Him.

May you have a “restless” night, and may our Lord’s peace be on you. 🙂

Posted in Faith

Saying Yes to God

Wow, it’s truly been an amazing seven months and I haven’t blogged about any of it!  I apologize for that.  This year has truly been one of learning and growth, and love and surrender.  Much will come soon.

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To briefly share an update, I’m currently doing an online bible study that is opening my eyes to so many things. The book that is being used is shown above.  I decided to join the online study through Proverbs 31 Ministries because of the freedom of not having to do the study at a set time.  It allows me to do the study at my own pace, and I love things like that [online college student here as well- 😉 ].

We’re currently in week one, after reading the first chapter regarding a “soul that longs for more” and in that first chapter, Lysa described a time that God asked her to step out of her comfort zone and give away her well-worn and personal bible to a complete stranger on a plane.  Her reaction at first was the same as ours would have been, to question God and wonder if we’d heard Him right.  But when it was clear that THAT was exactly what God was asking her to do, she surrendered.  She gave it to the man, stating God had told her to give it to him, and that sometimes God pauses to touch the heart of one person, and it was him.  The man went on to become a believer in Jesus Christ, and has since shared his testimony with seemingly everyone he encounters.

In reviewing and rereading that story (up to five times-it just strikes me differently each time), I felt prompted to answer one of the suggested questions and write about a time that struck me as COMPLETELY stepping out of my comfort zone, for God’s glory.

I am a stepmother.  I have married a man who had an already existing family and became one of them.  This also means that there is a biological mother in the picture.  And as many other blended families go, ours is similar in the fact that she and I have not seen eye to eye in the past.  In fact, there have been many difficult exchanges, and emotional arguments that brought nothing but heartache to both sides.  Since about a year ago, it has become my new law to not engage with the bio mother, for frustration with miscommunications and lack of closure when something is taken the wrong way.  It’s just not worth it.  We’re like oil and water.

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One thing I know I have in common with this woman (whom we will call “M”) is a love for dogs.  She and my two stepdaughters had a black lab that was about six years old last year.  She was spunky, loved to play and fetch tennis balls, and was a great companion to their mom when the girls were with us.

Sadly, and completely unexpectedly one morning last November, our youngest (whom we will call K2) woke up to her beloved dog breathing oddly.  She shared her panic with her mother, who rushed the dog to the vet and within an hour, their pooch ended up dying there.  M and the girls were completely distraught.  Our eldest, K1, was working, and was told while on her shift about the dog’s passing.  How dreadful!

I was a wreck, as my husband called me at work to let me know, and I couldn’t stop crying, as I know how much M and the girls loved this dog.  I was in shock, and completely heartbroken simply because they were.

God began to tell me that this could be an opportunity to help M and the girls heal.  “I’m sorry, Lord…what!?”  How could a dog dying help M’s and my relationship (or lack of)?  And seriously, the woman can’t stand me, so how in the world can my understanding of her pain, help her?  She wants nothing to do with me, and I’m sure could care less that I care about her.  It made no sense.

So I listened, and God made it clear he wanted me to offer for the girls to stay home that night, if they wanted, instead of coming to our house as the schedule normally stated.

I went into “other shoes” mode.  When some situations are unclear to me, I try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes, to stay humble, and to give God an opportunity for me to see past myself. I imagined M being alone, crying all day and questioning, and just wanting to hold her girls.

I know M’s email address, so I sent her an email to let her know that Kevin had told me the news, that I was sorry and if there was anything I could do, to let us know.  Normally any communication sent by me to her is ignored and she refuses to acknowledge it.  Much to my surprise, she responded that they were heartbroken and she thanked me.

WHAT!?!!?

Was the wall coming down, or was she just vulnerable and thankful?  I tried to make no assumption, and just be thankful that she responded.

From my desk at work, I texted my husband about offering for the kids to stay with their mom, who said he agreed, and he offered.  Both girls declined and said that they still wanted to come over.  I don’t know their reasons, and won’t assume any.  They both deal with death and stress differently.

I was shocked, and thought, oh no, M will have to be alone all night.  So I just prayed.  I prayed for God to comfort her, for people to surround her, to give her His peace.  The kids came to our home later that day, were very quiet and laid on the couch.  Kevin and I just let them know how sorry we were and let them cry. I rubbed K2’s back while she laid with her face buried in the couch cushions.  K1 clung to her daddy.  I’m not sure we did much talking that evening.

And over the course of the next two days, God was telling me to step out of my comfort zone and show M that I cared about her loss.  I was wrestling with God about it, because any encounter with M usually starts and ends with awkward silence and staring/glaring.  It’s quite painful, and irritating.  So, in telling God I wanted to stay away and not “poke the bear”, He urged me to do what I normally do when friends have a loss: get them a card, explain my heartache with them, and give them a gift.

“You’re insane, Lord…simply insane.  You know she hates me, right?”

Randomly driving down the street Friday afternoon, I laughed at God.  I laughed out loud.  In my head, I pictured getting M a poinsettia and a card, and giving it to her.  And I laughed, because we don’t even go near each other unless we have to.  And she’s not my friend.  I would love for things to be cordial and friend-like, but the truth is there’s no acceptance on the other side.  I couldn’t possibly show her love in her brokenness.  How in the world would I give her a gift, a card and let her know my sympathy?

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And Saturday morning came…I was to pick up K2 and we were going to head to Nana’s for our Thanksgiving dinner with her.  Kevin and K1 were working and would come later.  Seeing as how I had to go get K2, it meant I would be in the vicinity of M.  Whoa…really, Lord?  I have to go to her house?  So instead of turning left to go to her home, my car went to the right…in the direction of the grocery store…

God led me to the card section, and I still couldn’t believe I was doing it.  I found a card that said exactly what I wanted it to say (imagine that) and I picked out a gorgeous poinsettia.  I was elated at the idea (I’m always hopeful), yet so nervous even paying for the items.  How ridiculous, right?

So I drove to M’s house and started brainstorming.  Do I just leave the plant and card by the front door?  Do I knock?  Good Lord, I can’t knock…what if she doesn’t answer?  I hate rejection!!  Lord…do you know what you’re asking me to do??

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I pulled into the driveway and texted K2 that I was there.  I had our greyhound/lab in the backseat, next to the plant.  And I began questioning, “How do I get the plant to the door?  Maybe I’ll just give it to K2 and she can take it in…yeah, she can do it, it’ll be nicer coming from her…”  And as these thoughts are coming, the side door opens and M comes out, not K2.

OH…CRAP…

I’ve got a gorgeous plant in the backseat, our dog, and a card on the front seat.  M didn’t look into my car, she walked down the driveway past  my car, and went to the mailbox.  I got this urgent PUSH from the Holy Spirit!!

ImageI grabbed the card from the seat next to me, and the plant from the backseat and met M as she was coming back up the drive.  She was wrapped in a blanket, and tears were just pouring down her face.  I almost lost it!  I handed her the card and the plant and fumbled with words.

“M, I am so sorry…I got you this.  I can’t stop thinking about you guys…”  She just looked at me with tears and sadness, and said, “We are so heartbroken!”  I choked up…and I reached out my hand.  I wanted to hug, but she’s not a hugger (certainly not with me), so instead, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “I’ll be praying for you.”

At this time, K2 emerged from the side door, and was just standing there.  Later I found out she was saying inside of her head, “Oh wow, are they going to hug?”

While K2 was putting her book bag in the car, M leaned in through the back window to pet my Bella.  I really choked up, because I know how much she was missing her girl.  And I just said again before pulling away, “I’m sorry.”

Now unlike Lysa’s story, I have no idea what happened after I followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  I have no clue if M was thankful, or touched, or anything.  I don’t know if she kept the card, hung it up, or burned it.  And I don’t have to worry about any of that.  I did what was asked, and I have to leave it at that.

The eldest, when she got to Nana’s that night, said what I had done for her mom was extremely nice.  I just know I went out of my way to do something I REALLY didn’t want to do, for the sake of showing love to someone who needed it.

I was myself, I was obedient, and I was blessed.  Out of this study, I’m learning that EVERY SINGLE DAY is a chance to show love to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Every single day is an opportunity to show God we are listening and to be obedient to whatever His call may be.  From paying for the person in the toll booth behind you, to holding the door for someone, to giving a card to someone who needs it, to pushing aside years of hate and anger because we all have moments of loss.

God has a strong desire to show each and every one of us HIS LOVE.  And for those of us who sit in pews, who sing hymns, who serve our communities, if we are not showing LOVE for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, it means nothing.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.  But the first three verses are crucial to understanding LOVE at all.  They talk about believers doing all of the necessary things that would seem to show the world our commitment to Christ, but if we do ANY of those things without LOVE, it is meaningless.  See below:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

May I invite you to turn an ear toward Heaven, to reach out with willing arms, to look past previous hurts to the One who already died and rose for those hurts, and to simply say YES?  “Yes, Lord, I will do what you have asked.”

How many moments slip by that could change the life of another human being?  How many opportunities are presented to us, and we let fear override our love button because we don’t want the rejection?  How many times have we said NO?

I’m turning my #palmsup to my King, and letting go, so He can place something inside of my hands that far surpasses what I held onto in the first place.  And I’m rejoicing with my over 10,000 sisters in Christ who are on this “letting go and saying yes to God” journey.   These next few weeks may be incredibly painful, but I am assured and confident that our Lord will reveal His true self to us.  We just have to have our hands open!

Posted in Faith

New Year…New perspective (again)…

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HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear ones!  God’s richest blessings to all of you.

Typically each new year, I would try to think of a resolution (or more than one) to work on throughout the year.  Last year, I wrote about not letting what others think about me, affect me.  I’m sad to say that I failed miserably.  If I look back over the past year, I can pinpoint certain areas where God was trying to get my attention, and yet, I was too busy pointing fingers at others, so I missed many of His teaching opportunities and glorified myself instead…ugh…

For future notice, however, I’m changing the course.  This year, I’m not going to list things I’d like to change.  Instead, I’m going to meditate on a passage of Scripture that caught my eye, has resonated in my heart, and has become this year’s newest desire…to follow the one command, and it’s one that I’m pretty sure I can’t screw up…

Second Corinthians 13:5 states the following:

 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

This statement is clearly a command; to test oneself, and check our genuine faith in Christ.  It’s a statement (for those who claim to be Christians) to be aware that it’s very easy to fall back into old ways of thinking and acting.  Notice there’s not one hint of comparing oneself to someone else or judging others.  We are to simply test ourselves to be sure we haven’t been swayed, that our actions follow His.  It’s a self-evaluation of our hearts.  That’s it.  And honestly, it’s simple.  

In the book of Galatians, beginning at chapter five, Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Galatia, mainly to the Gentiles there who were being swayed by others who were pushing legalism.  His goal for the letter was to bring the gospel message forefront once again.

St-Paul-Preaching-in-Athens
Paul preaching in Athens

At verse 13, Paul addresses the church’s issues with legalism and explains how all believers are free, however freedom isn’t meant to be used for fleshly purposes.  Paul wanted the church to understand that the freedom given by Christ was meant to serve each other in the Spirit, not continue to be led by the law.

If you, dear reader, are new to the concept of being a Christian, flesh is defined as human nature and the parts of ourselves that are still vulnerable to Satan and his advances (natural instincts, sinful tendencies, anything that gratifies US literally and emotionally).  In the context of Scripture, the flesh is always fighting with the Holy Spirit who comes upon believers at the moment they surrender their lives to Christ.

The Bible says only one of them wins.

If the flesh wins, we give into sin and selfish desires that separate us from God.  

If the Holy Spirit wins, flesh is left at the base of the cross, as Christ was crucified, and we give God Lordship of our lives.

The two can coexist, but they are constantly at war.

The command to test ourselves means that we need to constantly be checking our behaviors and attitudes, thoughts and desires, to make sure that they are in line with the Holy Spirit whom we represent.  This means DAILY.  Here are the differences.

Galatians 5:19-21 states the FLESH problems: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

not Kingdom worthy
not Kingdom worthy

Clearly the things listed here are direct, listed for our attention and should not be skipped over.  Any one of these things is in direct contrast to the will of God in our lives, and separates us from Him.  The warning at the end solidifies the destination of those who partake of these behaviors.

On the contrary, the rest of the passage defines the FRUIT of the SPIRIT: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Spirit-producing
Spirit-producing

At any time, if we don’t see “fruit” being produced in our own lives by the items listed above, we can be sure that there is a “glitch in the Matrix” so-to-speak, and we need to realign ourselves through repentance and connection with God.  It’s that simple.

The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity of God.  He is GOD dwelt in us.  Believers, though surrendered, are still vulnerable to sin.  Because of the blood of Jesus, however, the Holy Spirit comes to rest in us and helps to transform us into the image of Christ.  Each day will present new opportunities to follow the legalistic rule of the world, to point fingers and judge, to fulfill a narcissistic way of thinking that glorifies ourselves, but that is not the mark of those who walk with Christ.  Only those who have surrendered their lives and are being led by the Holy Spirit will have fruit that is visible to the world around us.

not physical fruit, but our actions that lead the hurting world to Jesus
not physical fruit, but our actions that can lead the hurting world to Jesus

The life of a believer is constantly yielding to the direction of the One who is in us, who is in the process of creating, transforming, changing, revealing and perfecting.  We will not be perfect here, but we can learn to be less of ourselves, for the glory of the Lord.  We can’t even boast that it’s because of ourselves, because apart from God, we all go back to our old ways.

So, instead of trying to keep a list of things I need to change and trying to work on them this year, I’m going to instead focus on testing myself (yes, just myself).

Am I showing love to everyone, even those who hurt me?  Am I aware of the consequences if certain words pass my lips?  Do I put others before myself?  Am I patient?  Do I hold grudges?  Am I not listening?  All of these things, as small as they might seem, become a slow fade into old Grace, and that’s not who I am any longer.  I am redeemed and capable of producing fruit for the glory of God.  My new year’s prayer is that you too can walk with the Holy Spirit and shed the flesh that holds you back from being all that you are meant to be in Christ.

This year, instead of focusing on how I’ll fail by February, I’m going to focus on the presence of God in my life.  I’m going to self-evaluate my behavior, actions, thoughts, and stay in constant communication with God.  I know that He is walking with me daily, and that through my obedience and surrender, He is able to produce fruit that shines into a dark world.  To Him be all glory.

Posted in Faith

Comfort

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The precious dog above, is my lab/greyhound mix rescue named Bella.  Her third birthday is today and unfortunately, I also scheduled her annual vet visit (complete with vaccinations) this morning.  I tend to do that for myself, just so my birthday becomes a health reminder as well.

Our morning ride to see Dr. Taylor was calm, however as we got to the parking lot of Landings Animal Hospital here in Avon Lake, Bella looked out the window and observed another dog in the backseat of the car next to ours, and she began to whimper.  I’m assuming she wanted to play because her tail went crazy and she began to whine expectantly.  The owner of the dog next to us, just grabbed the pets’ leash, let the dog out of the backseat, shut their car door and went inside the building.  I kept Bella in the car for five more minutes so she could calm down and so that when we did go into the vet, the other dog would be comfortably in their exam room.

When we finally entered the building, Bella and I were placed in an exam room immediately, she was weighed and we were left to wait for Dr. Taylor with a small treat.  She began to whine, sniff the floor, pace, and whine more…higher than I’d ever heard her whine.  I couldn’t seem to console her, and she kept going to the door to smell underneath.  I’m sure she knew there were other pooches/animals in the building.

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When Dr. Taylor finally arrived, Bella got a little more antsy, but he easily hooked the slip collar over her neck and led her back to the weighing table.  She went up on the table, and shook.  I would LOVE to know what goes through their poor little minds when we take our animals to the vet.  These are not torture chambers, we swear!!

He examined Bella, felt for any nodules/fatty pockets/lumps/bumps/etc. and checked her gums.  His once-over gave me comfort, as he stated that Bella was right where she should be, weight-wise, and her gums/teeth looked perfectly healthy.  He asked if there were any issues, and I told him of one that we had been treating her for in the past, that finally seems to be resolving.  Then he prepared to give her the vaccinations we came to get.

Bella just stared at the table she was on, looking so uncomfortable.  He took the stethoscope and placed in on Bella’s chest.  In an effort to calm her, I reached out and put my hand on her little head and said, “Bella, you’re my strong girl.”  Dr. Taylor leaned back, pulled the stethoscope off of her, and looked at me.

“When I put the stethoscope on her chest, her heart was beating a mile a minute, ” he said. “But when you reached out to touch her head, her heart immediately slowed down…amazing.”

I thanked him, and it made me realize something.

A touch means so much.  It’s no secret that in our home, Bella for whatever reason has bonded strongly with me.  When she is frightened by storms, or frantic when her tummy is upset, she runs to me.  She will wake me up out of a deep sleep, dig her head into my chest and lay there until she is calmed.  I love that, because I love her closeness, and I know when she is uneasy, I am able to give her some peace.

I’m sure you know where this is going.  😉

As a child of God, when I am anxious or when something doesn’t make sense, I seek out my Lord.  After pushing away other worldly attempts to become calm, I have found that only Jesus and His Word and Presence are able to relax me.

Yesterday, if you had put a stethoscope on my heart while listening to the radio and the tragic news of yesterday’s loss in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary, you would’ve heard my heart beating a mile a minute.  Instead of feeding on the details of the massacre that has a nation searching for God in this, I turned on WCRF (103.3FM, a local Christian radio station) and listened to Chris Fabry explain that he would be veering off of his normal programming to address concerns from listeners and to pray for those affected by the evil that touched Newtown, CT.

He stated how easy it is to listen to the grisly details and focus on the intensity of the situation, but ultimately, this boils down to evil.  And instead of questioning and shutting out God, we need to open up our hearts to Him and become the hands/feet of Jesus and reach out to those who are hurt/lost so that they can see/feel the light of Christ within us.

WE…yes WE believers…are the light that Jesus left behind to shine in His world.  God’s Son was made manifest into the being of a human, to carry the weight of all sin, even the sin of yesterday, so that hope could renew those who are hurting.  We are the ones who the lost will turn to, maybe to blame and throw out hatred since they can’t see God in the chaos.  But nonetheless, we are the ones who can share a comforting word that isn’t empty, provide hope where there doesn’t seem to be any, and offer a listening ear to a person who is hurting.  Service to others, is the very nature of Christ, and honors our Lord when we take the focus off of blame and intensifying hatred, and direct it to the one who is the great Healer.

Comfort seems to come in many ways, but the only comfort that can truly bring us to a place of peace, is through Christ Jesus.  When I cried yesterday listening to the news and saying, “Lord, this is a time when people may reject You.  How can we show them that you aren’t to blame?”  He responded with, “GO…”.  And however that is seen as a necessity in your interpretation, Go…

Don’t be afraid to answer questions from unbelievers.  Don’t be afraid when someone hates you because you represent the God they think abandoned them.  Don’t turn and take the hate personally.  Open up your heart and mind to the mind of Christ, and offer the words He puts on your lips to comfort.  When someone’s heart is beating a mile a minute, your touch could bring the calm they need…and point them in the direction of their loving Savior’s arms.

May all of those affected by yesterday’s senseless tragedy, find comfort in the arms of Christian believers who can offer hope.  May they find renewed hope in the news of Jesus and the grace and mercy He provides.  Lord, please give peace to those seeking answers. Please let the hands/feet of Jesus in that neighboring community reflect the light of Christ and encourage those who have questions/lack of understanding/lack of hope.  And if there’s anything we can do here, let us see your will and do it.

God bless everyone who reads this and may they take Your blessing and run with it.

Posted in Faith

Ready for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving means many things to all of us.  I’m not going to go into details about my life history of Thanksgivings or give a history of the holiday (seriously, you’re not disappointed that I’m not going to rant and rave…).  I’m just going to state that I’m extremely excited about Thanksgiving this year.  I’m going to be celebrating the wonderful holiday twice, just not on the actual day everyone else is celebrating it.  It’s a bonus day off of work for my hubby and me, and this year, I’m going to be thankful without a turkey, or the trimmings.  My delight is in being next to my husband for twenty-four full hours!

My husband works for a car company that has been in such high demand, that it recently went to four ten-hour shifts and the workers are on scattered crews working 24/7 in the plant.  He works a crazy schedule where he’s working some mornings-afternoons, and other days he works evenings-early mornings.  Needless to say, I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like with him, and we’ve been married just over a year, so I’m still madly in love with him and I miss him terribly.

Yes, I have homework for my degree and my AVON business to keep me busy when the kids aren’t here, but I really love the “curl-up-on-the-couch-and-watch-Mike-and-Molly” days, or the “grab-a-controller-we’re-playing-Black-Ops-on-Xbox-Live-all-day” days…and especially the “let’s-take-Bella-for-a-walk-at-the-lake” days.

My babe and I are like big kids….scratch that, we ARE big kids.  Yes, we own a home (thank you, Lord), have two vehicles, two daughters, a dog, full-time jobs and pay bills and taxes.  But we never want to grow up.  The main thing we had in common was a passion for talking and laughing together.  We’re constantly goofing off and it’s something I’ve come to love.  It makes me so happy to be in love.  It’s such an aphrodisiac, and it’s a great way to connect (and leads to even greater connections)!!

Working opposite shifts has definitely given us something to think about this year, and has made our hearts grow fonder.  We were used to coming home from our day jobs at the same time, having dinner together, catching up on the days’ events and planning the next few days before going to sleep at the same time.  Going to sleep by myself in our house was an adjustment.  I was so used to curling up next to him, resting my head on his chest, he would pull me close and we’d curl our legs around each other.  Now, I stretch out (for five glorious hours) while Bella curls up next to me, until she hears the garage door go up at 3:30am.  He then slowly sneaks in next to me for an hour before my alarm goes off for work (how am I up before roosters??).

So since my heartache (“kidney-ache” as we’ve come to lovingly call it after reading in the Bible that people historically thought your kidney was your heart) drove me to write this post, I’m simply thankful for a day together, to sleep in with him, to get up and make coffee and breakfast with, and then to not have anything on the schedule until I have to wake up for work on Black Friday.  We’ll be celebrating with our girls over the weekend, and my parents in the beginning of December.  But just having one day to be still with no schedule/time constraints is blessing enough for me!

I wish all of you, wonderful readers, a blessed Thanksgiving, complete with stress, chaos, family, turkey, trimmings, but most of all, an appreciation for what the craziness brings…love, laughter, hugs and thankful hearts.  However you choose to celebrate what our Lord has given you, may you take a moment to enjoy the loudness and noise of the holiday.  Family can be stressful, but it means you’re in the company of those who love to spend time with you.  May you reflect on the wonderful things this year has brought.  There is still much to come.  And if you feel so moved, look into helping out at a homeless shelter or food bank.  This time of year is wonderful to step out and give of ourselves…volunteering helps those who help others, and the rewards (internal and eternal) will put a smile bigger on your face than a twenty-pound turkey.  God’s blessings!!

Posted in Faith

On understanding forgiveness

Forgiveness is not easy.

Yes, I know that’s an understatement.  In the life of a Christian, however, it should be easy.  I know…I know.  I can almost hear you beginning to protest.  The Bible talks about it constantly, so there is much to learn about the concept.  Also, Jesus came to Earth to show us that God loved us so much that He forgave us and redeemed us.

So, as Christ followers, why is forgiveness the bumpiest part of our path?  How do we overcome something that creates so many emotions in us?

I’d like to let you in on something I learned about, during my talk with God on my drive into work this morning.  It softened my heart (I actually felt warmth in my chest), and I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Believe me, even as I write, I’m still struggling to let go.  I know I want to give God my hurts, and He was pretty insistent at telling me to do so.  Yet my stubbornness is holding onto them currently.  Talk about fighting the flesh…

John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Source: gatheringlex.org

When we choose to accept God’s call on our lives, we enter into a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  We begin to walk in the newness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:4-6) and we shed the flesh (old desires, habits or anything that separates us from wanting to be obedient to Christ).  In doing so, we develop new habits.  We begin to see needs in others and we talk with God about how to meet them.  Then we physically follow through so that the lost can see who God is, and know that they are loved.

That is the profile of being a Christian.  Simply meeting others’ needs and sharing Christ’s love, forgiving and spreading His Word.  Nowhere in that description is there room for judgment, anger, bitterness, hatred or resentment.  However, as Christians, do we still feel these feelings and deal with roots of these emotions?  Absolutely. So, in thinking about forgiveness and my resistance to let go, I needed a perspective shift, and it was this morning that God brought to my mind the concept of enemies.

To those of us who have been wronged (go ahead, you may nod your head), we have held onto a thought, word, conversation, action or anything that justifies our anger and bitterness.  We may not even consciously do it.  But something triggers that emotion again when we see that person, or hear something that sounds like the comment that put the seed of bitterness into our hearts, and we are reminded all over again of the pain we felt.  In that instance, we tend to look at that person who hurt us as an enemy.

Here’s a twist: God looks at the concept of enemies differently.  Yes, they are still people who wrong us.  Anyone who is not a child of God, who has rejected His teachings, is considered an enemy to God.  Does this include people of other faiths, following rules and regulations that are not governed by our Heavenly Father?  Yes.  The hard reality is that God said Jesus would be the doorway, and He is the only door to God.

Referencing John 1:12 above, the criteria to be a friend (child, family member, son, daughter, etc.) of God is right there.  We need to believe Jesus is who He said He was and that He loves us.  We also know that because of our belief through faith in Jesus, and grace from God, we are His extended family.  The Bible says we are no longer enemies.  Anything apart from that means we would have remained an enemy to God.  This is a hard truth, I know, but please stay with me.

Paul wrote the following to the church in Colossus regarding our position with God.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23)

Source: trulyrichmom.com

Paul is addressing Christians who, after accepting the truth of the gospel, now are no longer enemies of God.  They (we) are now reconciled through Christ’s body and are asked to follow through with what God has called us to, until He returns.  It’s that simple.  This is the transition of enemies to children of God.

 

But what becomes of those who are Christ’s enemies?  The Bible states there are two places we go after we die: a place for those who love Him and a place for those who reject Him.  Heaven and Hell.  Both are two real places and both are not entered into, until we pass from life to death (or life to life, for a believer).

In this context, I feel a real urgency.

Because this means that if someone is not a friend of God’s, that they will pass from life to death, and never know Him.  This is a serious offense, and one that should be taken very seriously.  For those who are lost and unbelieving of who Jesus is, their fate is ultimately death.

And the insight God brought to my mind is that we can’t let these people perish.  It’s up to us to be the hands and feet of the gospel, so that everyone has the opportunity to accept or reject the truth.

So, what does this have to do with forgiveness?

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells all believers to go against their instincts of hate and rejection.  We are told to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Simple enough?  No way!  That’s easier said than done.  If you’re like me, you’re thinking, ‘Why should I be praying for them?  They’re jerks!’

Think about it this way.  Is God really concerned about the little fights/disagreements/injustices of our daily lives?  Yes, He does love us enough to love the intimate details that affect us.  But we already know where our inheritance is.  I think His goal for sharing this truth with me this morning, was to show me that their unsaved status is a little more important.  And that’s something I cannot argue with.

Source: betsyfromtennessee.blogspot.com

Any enemy of God is an enemy of ours, and we are not to reject them and give them what they deserve.  The lost may not be aware of their need for God yet, and we are to be the ones to help them.  If we’re rejecting them, we’re encouraging the lost to stay lost.  But maybe because of our injustices, we have an opportunity to show them that they are forgiven, which is not a reaction they will expect.

God showed me the bigger picture, which is this: While He is concerned for all believers and hurts for us when we are wronged; His goal isn’t to just make our lives better.  He is using our pain to help grow us in His character.  We are being asked to step out in faith, and show the person who wronged us the truth of the gospel by praying for them.

Their enemy status is not just against us.

It’s against Him.

Those who are not children of God may hate and reject us forever without any repercussion.  But if they hate and reject Jesus forever, their consequences are eternal.

I may be justifiably angry at being hurt or rejected, but the pain is ultimately Jesus’.

It’s not me they’re hurting the most.

Heck, it’s not even about me.

I’m not to seek revenge or stay the victim.  In Christ, I AM VICTORIOUS!  And not in a prideful way, but victorious in the sense that I have hope of eternal life because of what Jesus did for me.

I can overcome forgiveness issues if I keep the mindset forefront that God is primarily concerned with those who are His enemies.  He doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

In light of eternity, is anything that was ever said/done worth losing someone over?

If it is, you may need to ask God to help soften your heart.  We as believers should never have the idea that we’re good to go, and that’s all that matters.

The hurting world around us is waiting to be shown the love and mercy of Christ.  Can you look past yourself to see them as an enemy of God, and that they need grace in every sense of the word, just like you did?  Let’s shift the perspective from ourselves and put them first.  The Holy Spirit will guide us to help those who have hurt us, and instead of festering hate and anger, He will begin to produce love and mercy.  It’s a win-win.  We get to let go of the pain and someone sees the light of the gospel.

Source: heritage-christian-university.blogspot.com

If you are a child of God, you are being called to step out of your comfort zone and love those who hate you.  You are being asked to lessen your pain and put Christ’s first.  It doesn’t mean your pain is any less worthy to be worked through.  It just means that you have the supernatural spiritual ability with Christ’s help to love someone when you feel you are unable to do so.  You are able to love and forgive, even in the midst of that pain.  Can you do that?  If not, I invite you to pray and talk to God about the root of bitterness that needs to be taken from your heart.

I promise you that you will flourish and love with Christ’s love in an amazing way!  Why hinder your own growth for someone else to rejoice over?  They may not even be aware of the pain they caused you.  Please let it go.

Posted in Faith

Back to School

I know many of you just reread the title because it’s mid-June and the majority of students have been out of school for two weeks now, so to be writing about going back to school is either extremely late, or a little premature for the fall school year.

I’ll explain.  I’m just now back in school at age 32.  I started my undergraduate degree just this past January and am in my second semester (summer-what was I thinking?) at Liberty University maintaining a 4.0 GPA (raise the roof!).  When contemplating achieving my degree, my goal is to get it done in the shortest amount of time.  Naturally, I felt that taking a summer off would make me remiss, as I didn’t start in the fall.  I’d only started in the spring, so how could I give myself a break already?  And after taking six credits my first semester, I thought it would be a breeze.  My two first classes were easy to keep up with and maintain.

So, jumping in with both feet, I chose to take nine credits in the summer, not accounting for the amount of work involved, or the crazy heat we’ve been enjoying in northeast Ohio!  I’m working a full-time job at a local hospital, and then splitting my evenings/weekends between school work, being a supportive wife and stepmother, daughter, friend, etc. and trying to keep track of what has to be read, posted and written when, and then making sure that the internet connection is strong, and Blackboard (the virtual classroom) is up and running.  Was that a run-on sentence?  I’m too exhausted to even correct it!  I’m already marking down in my 2013 calendar to take the summer semester off!

But I will say that the experience itself of organizing a schedule, buying binders, notebooks, school books, day planners, school supplies, etc. has made me very determined and motivated to push forward.  I’ve always loved the first day of school, the newness of classes, seeing a fresh syllabus, and opening a brand new book where the binding hasn’t even been broken.  You can insert your “cough-nerd-cough” here.

In thinking about moving forward, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture that has been very influential in my faith walk.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]

You may be thinking, “What a cool verse regarding getting the goal accomplished- that’s totally fitting for school!”  But let’s keep the passage in context.  Paul, earlier in chapter three, is encouraging the church in Philippi to earnestly reject all that is behind them, and live in the newness of the resurrected Christ.  I’m sure this passage gets dissected often and there are many interpretations.  I don’t believe this passage is about going back to school,  even though it is now in my back to school thread.

The church in Philippi was commanded to hold fast to the truths they were learning as new believers in Christ.  Even though this passage is especially motivational, it reminds me that my desire to complete a degree in Christian counseling is definitely in line with God’s will for my life.  Two thousand years after Jesus walked this earth, I am reminded that there is still a world that doesn’t know the truth of the gospel or the reality of the Messiah who has already come, and it’s up to followers of Jesus to spread the news and exemplify Jesus to the hurting world around us.

I believe getting into the Christian counseling arena will bring many rewards.  I cannot wait to see the faces and meet the needs of those who I’ll be helping (whom I’m sure will be helping me as well).  I know that in every session, God will be alongside me, helping me as I listen and giving me insight to help his hurting children.

I know it will be humbling and I’m excited about the opportunity to serve Him in that way.  For me, learning about how many of us deal with issues is incredibly interesting, and has always been.  I know we’re all broken.  We are molded by experiences and encounters with other people on a daily basis, many times without even realizing it.  Sadly, I’ve also come to realize that some experiences can set us up for failure later in life, and we can perceive things in ways that are unrealistic, or we can respond to something in an unhealthy manner.

As shared in a previous post, there was a thought of suicide once in my life, and had I not had my faith or a small interest in God at that time, I may not have been here to write on WordPress.  But because I had the knowledge of God, at that sad moment, I was able to hear the voice of God and instead inquired about His plan for me.  After all, what human doesn’t question their existence, their skills, their purpose?  No matter what worldview you have, we all have an origin and at some point, you’ll want to explore the inner parts of yourself. 

Pauls’ words are that Jesus took hold of his life and it is up to Paul to continue running the race that will get him to his ultimate goal- the presence of Christ.

I can identify with Paul.  I long for the day that I can see Jesus and rid myself of the sin that pervades my life.  I am saved by grace, but memories haunt me of “old Grace” and what I’ve been saved from.  It is a daily struggle to move forward and choose to stay on the right path.  Satan knows just how to ruffle my feathers, and I am still in the process of claiming my victory in Christ.  I know the battle is the Lord’s, but for some reason, I keep grabbing my sword ( my mouth-UGH!).  I’m extremely grateful for His mercy.

So far in my college career, I’ve taken an Apologetics class, an intro to Christian Counseling, and now a Bible/Math/Philosophy combo before the end of August.  My mind has expanded in so many ways, and my eyes have been opened to many different ideas.  Satan, ever present and wanting to rip apart my foundation in Christ has tried numerous times this semester to have me question old truths and new ones I’ve tucked away into my heart.  He is so devious, but he has miscalculated my Lord.  And as I continue to feel the call to listen, help, pray for and minister to individuals who need godly counsel, I realize the need for it in my own life.  We all have reasons to run and hide from reality sometimes, but God calls us to fight the good faith (1 Timothy 6:2) and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) so that we can be prepared to defend and stand victoriously. 

A verse that shapes the idea of how to gradually grow in Christ, is Second Corinthians 10:5 where it says we should, “…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  It means there is a standard, that we are required to be obedient, and that our thought lives have influence on us.  If we take every thought captive and give it to God, very quickly our negative thoughts and actions will be changed and reflect more godly thinking so that we can be obedient to Him.

A friend of mine has recently shared with me the idea of being “emotionally hijacked” when someone/something causes an emotional response in us that is not usually a positive one.  She and I have been praying for quite some time to be aware of these moments when they happen, and to seek God when we are ready to reply with our explosive reaction.  By noticing the causes ahead of time, we can pray and stop our effects.  And as Christians, we have the gifts of the Holy Spirit readily available to assist us.

God doesn’t long for us to struggle.  He longs for us to realize our insane need for Him and run to Him as children who run to their parent.  He is our heavenly Father, which means He is able to provide and always available.  If your earthly father lacked these values in some way, pray to forgive him and instead run to the one who won’t leave you hanging.  God is capable of completing everything He’s ever begun, because it is His creation that glorifies Him.

God has a unique plan for all of us.  Even if you’re not in school, have no desire to go back, or are maybe contemplating the idea, I invite you to talk to God about your own journey.  Many people are living lives meant for others, and that is unnecessary.  We each have our own individual, significant lives.  Each one of us has been made in the image of God, in some way, and we mirror some of His greatest qualities.  I believe there is A LOT of unused potential out there, to bring about some great ideas, and to exemplify Christ and His message of hope and love.

The Bible states that, “He who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).  I invite you to have love…have GOD.  Not the artificial kind (we’re all aware of the superficial, artificial kind), but the kind that is freeing from the inside out, genuine, selfless, other-first love…there’s no risk in adding Him to your life.  He’s desired that from day one!

We could all go back to school on letting go of that which holds us.  If we set our sights on things above, God’s love can prevail!

Was that the starting gun?  Gotta run!

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

Seeing purpose through pain

Fellow Bible readers: How many times do we read passages in the Bible over and over, but just once we seem to read it differently and where there once were just words, suddenly there are intricate jewels that are aimed directly at our hearts?

Gleaning wisdom

While reading a passage from Scripture this morning, my eyes were opened to an incredible characteristic about our Father.

In 2 Peter 3:9, the passage begins, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is PATIENT toward you…”.  I couldn’t even read on. The light bulb went on!

spiritual connection

I want to share with you two revelations I had.

My first thought was the countless times I perceived God as being slow.  Many times in self-righteous anger I had cried out, “What is taking so long?!”  I was also reminded of other times when Christian friends talked about making a difficult decision, but were still undecided because they felt God wasn’t answering their prayer.

We’ve all been there.  Don’t we initially blame God when things don’t happen the way we want them?  But oh when they do–to our unbelieving friends, we proclaim the goodness of God and miracles, answered prayers, yada yada yada…it seems we’re ready to parade Him when the outcome is what we want, not so much when we are told to wait.  We really need to check our hearts and be careful of how we “sell” Jesus.  That is certainly not His intended goal.

Let’s take a look at something about God we may have never noticed before.  In the above passage, it begins with the Lord.  God wrote the Bible using humans. He took the time to speak to all of us and state that He is very aware of our desire for him to “speed things up”.  How do we know this?  He stated how some count His being slow as slowness.  He is not a fool.  We are the created beings.

However, He also clues us into something more detailed about Himself.  He elaborates to say where we consider Him to be slow, it’s not that He’s taking his sweet, old-time delighting in our agony.  He is actually being patient.

So what is so significant about this revelation?  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break that down.  What does patience mean?  We’re usually waiting for someone or something, right?  So where we’re becoming impatient and restless, God is being patient…for who?  US!  He isn’t moving or fulfilling requests like a genie because He has a well-developed and thought out plan!  Imagine that!

Are you feeling as humbled as I am now? I can remember so many times that I’ve doubted God heard my cry, but maybe, just maybe He was waiting for ME to do something.  This reminded me of a time that I didn’t understand where my life was headed, and I was getting tired of waiting.

I was twenty-one years old and hating life because I had found out that my boyfriend of two years had allegedly cheated on me with a married friend of ours.  The pain I felt inside was pure anguish.  I uplifted this guy and thought so highly of him.  Maybe it was the “idea” of him, and not his true self that I was worshipping, but nonetheless, the hurt was unbearable.

I was working at an office in Broadview Heights then and I was on a break all by myself in the back of the office, facing the woods. It was snowing outside and I was freezing, but at the time I was a smoker.

I hadn’t had a serious relationship before this man, and in my fear of being alone, I didn’t want to leave him, though I knew I deserved better.  I was scared, because he was five years older than me, and I didn’t have the best self-image.  I figured it would be best to talk it out with him, forgive him and move forward, but the anger of betrayal kept eating at me, and I was afraid I would never be able to trust him again.

Somehow in the midst of trying to think about how to solve my relational conflict, a voice inside me said, “Maybe you should just end it.”  And I knew the voice wasn’t talking about my relationship, but more severely ALL of them….as in, my death.

Then I began to think about it…car accident, slit wrists, etc.  How would I do it?  I can’t even believe that I was entertaining details about how to die, because I knew I could never do it, however facing my boyfriend and our mutual friend was the hardest thing I’d ever faced, and I knew mentally I wasn’t ready for it.  Instead of dealing with the hurt, I wanted OUT.

Bear in mind, I realize the selfishness of these thoughts left no room to consider my parents, siblings, friends, etc.  I wasn’t worried about how my death would affect anyone else. I  just didn’t want to deal with my relationship.  Looking back, it’s absolutely absurd.

And as I was contemplating all of these crazy ideas that I’m certain now was one of Satan’s deliberate attacks on my soul, it began to snow slowly.  I was still standing outside, half of a cigarette to go, watching the snowflakes land on cars, trees and eventually my coat sleeve.

I began to cry, because I didn’t know what to do, and my feeling of being helpless was overwhelming.  I took another hit off the cigarette and then looked down at my brown Carhartt coat.

All of the snowflakes were beautiful.

I laughed to myself.  How could I find beauty in these flakes?  And inside my soul, I heard another voice, again-not my own, say, “I make each of these different for a reason.”

I almost choked.  I coughed a few times.

And I took a few minutes to see the designs and patterns of these crazy, beautiful snowflakes before they were absorbed into my coat.  I put out my cigarette and just let out the cry that was at the corner of my eyes.

I knew it was God telling me that He knew my problem seemed so enormous at that moment, and I was unprepared, but in the scope of my life, that one moment learning about the betrayal would not define me.

My Lord did.

He designs snowflakes so distinctly and unique from each other.  I am not sure if I ever took the time to pay attention to that fact, but God sure had my attention that day.

I was a new believer.  I had just given my life to God when I was twenty, and was still not fully surrendering all parts of my life to Him.  But I knew of His presence and I definitely knew His voice.  That day, I stopped the thoughts of suicide in their tracks.  That is the only time I ever considered something like that, and am thankful that God made it snow.  He took a situation that I deemed overwhelming and unbearable and gave me purpose.

I went home, talked with my boyfriend, forgave him and told him that we had to cut ties with those “friends” if we were going to stay together.  I also told him that I had trust issues and was scared.  Forgiving him and starting over at that point didn’t save us from a divorce six years later, but it definitely started a course of action in my heart that I would depend on God and choose to see the designs and intricate patterns of His creation–including myself.

The second revelation I noticed in the passage listed above is the purpose of that passage.  Second Peter chapter three talks about the end of days, or the day that the Lord returns.  To state in verse nine, that God is “not slow to fulfill His promise” means that He will not return until everyone has had a chance to hear of His love and mercy.

He is being patient in not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to have an opportunity to see Him through general revelation and meet with Him through special revelation.  He has revealed Himself, as Romans 1:20 tells us.  He definitely has constructed a well-maintained world that He is a part of, and He still interacts with.  However, He is promising that the reason He hasn’t come back yet is because there is still work to be done on our parts.  We are to continue to spread the message (Matthew 28:16-20) and when everyone has heard, through God’s patience, He will return to collect His children.

God does indeed love all of us.  John 3:16 tells us that He loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus Christ, a part of Himself, yet completely separate, to come to the Earth and die for us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a picture of the Milky Way, but it’s where we live.  For some reason unbeknownst to us little Earthlings, God chose this planet and our people (red, yellow, black and white), to be saved from the lives we didn’t choose through sin.

This amazing God who created the universe, the stars, planets, people, species, water, atmosphere, etc.  is the same God who is calling you to know Him.  He wants you to see what He’s doing, He wants you to see love in His people and come to know the truth about true love.  I live in the United States and unfortunately here, a lot of us are blessed beyond measure but we take it for granted.  We have so much, and yet still want more.

Jesus didn’t die for us to have happy lives and live until we die with no use for anyone else.  He died and rose so that we could see the power of God through the defeat of death!  Without death to fear, WHAT IS THERE TO FEAR!?  NOTHING!  May you know Him and the power of His love.  Remember that He isn’t slow in anything, but He may be patient because He has a purpose…one that includes YOU.

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

New Year, New Start

The year 2012 has just begun and already it’s the ninth day. Time to list all the good things for this coming year…

It’s tradition every year to come up with resolutions and ideas to stay more organized. How many people bought discounted Rubbermaid containers to store household items? Did anyone buy a day planner? I’m sure there’s an app for that.

Maybe you’re going to try to read the Bible in a year. (And since you’ve failed consecutively for the last four or five years, this is the one year that you’re REALLY going to do it.)

Did you buy a gym membership? It’s okay, if you make it through the entire month of January and you’re still regularly attending, I’ll buy you a cookie (or carrot stick, if that’s more you’re thing).

I’ll publicly declare a few areas I could use some revision in my life:

1) I’m going to re-connect with some awesome people.
I have some amazing friends that I don’t make time for, so I’m resolving to actually connect with them this year. Relationships need time, so that’s my first priority. Just as a believer has to spend time in prayer and in the Word connecting with God, every other relationship in our life must follow the same pattern. We have to genuinely care about those around us, and listen/speak with and love them. Then the relationships can be nurtured. 🙂

2) I’m going to stop caring what other people think.
Think it seems impossible? Scripture assures me that nothing is impossible with God, so I’m going to let Him renew my mind. My first step was admitting that I cared more about what others thought of me, than what my own Heavenly Father thinks! My second step was admitting that letting others’ opinions matter, actually changes my natural behavior because I am acting in a way that they expect of me. How is that Scripturally sound? Back up the train! There has to be a better way! And there is!

When I find my value in Christ and know that His robes of righteousness are on me, and my sins are white as snow, what the world knows of my past doesn’t matter. I am right with the King. I’m going to be myself and let God continue to soften my heart.

3) My verse for the year is Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” It’s going to be my motto for the year (and hopefully a few more after this one!).

I love the picture of Jesus smiling/laughing. How often do we picture Him that way?

I believe that to obtain joy, we have to be completely selfless, and put others first (after all, the acronym for JOY is Jesus, Others, Yourself). So if that’s the case, then I’m praying for God to show me new ways to meet the needs of others around me. I know a lot of hurting people and I’m going to listen to the Spirit so that I can show them who Jesus is. As I do my part, I’ll be filled and complete in Christ, that my strength will come from being obedient. He always follows through on His promises, and His strength isn’t like our physical strength. His strength is for the mind, soul, and body. He is the living water, and quenches all thirst. If my focus is on Him this year, then He will meet all of my needs (Phil. 4:19) and I can continue to be His hands and feet.

Finally, I’m going to let this year take me where it will. I’m truly loving being a new wife: my husband is my best friend, he teaches me daily and is surrendered to Christ which gives me such security and peace.

By becoming a part-time student again, I know I’ll have a schedule and deadlines. But that doesn’t excuse me from listening to God, being there for others who need me, and opening my heart to something that may have to change within myself. If I continue to be completely surrendered, who knows what God can do with me? And I’m actually quite excited to find out!!

I also truly enjoy being a stepmother. I love my girls, and I’ve promised them that I’ll always be in the background for them, whenever they need me. I love our talks, activities and perspectives. They are keeping me young and teaching me a lot! I’m blessed to have them in my life and am truly grateful for both of them.

May you be blessed this new year, may you turn toward the Father and see Him for who He is, not what the world has told you, and may you long to have the kind of relationship He gives that truly satisfies. I will no longer be chasing the wind.

Posted in Faith

Enough is enough

It’s time I stop believing the lies that have been put into my mind.  I don’t know when, as a believer, I started to believe that I was never good enough, or that there was something wrong with me. I absolutely despise that I’ve given Satan so much time in my life to whisper His lies into my ear, over the words of my Father.

I’ve realized many things lately.  I was born into sin (as we all are), but at the age of twenty, I gave my life to Jesus.  I know I am a child of God.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be.  I am very flawed.  Because of issues of bullying when I was younger, and dealing with verbal abuse, I don’t have the best self-esteem.  I do believe I’ve been restored in my thinking with Jesus’s help (and the loving man who is now my husband), but there are still some lasting impressions from patterns of behavior.  My defense mechanism is to lash out and make others hurt like I have in the past.  I’m aware of it.  My reaction is to apologize to make up for it, but that doesn’t take away the scars I’ve left behind.

I am a Christian who should be displaying Christlikeness (and I know I do), but, some days I feel like a constant failure because I haven’t fully released anger and hurt that has worn heavily on my shoulders.  Satan wants me to be distracted, because when I am focused on myself, I’m not making room for God, nor am I giving Him glory by showing the world what He’s done with me.

Satan also wants me to believe that God can’t truly heal my scars.  And in some ways, I guess I’m guilty of milking that way of thinking.  I hate to admit it, but I want the scars to show, to be felt by me, to be examined.  Each one tells a story and when I get to talk about them, the focus is on me.  I get to self-pity and be prideful as I describe how I went through something.  Ugh.  It makes me sick just writing that.

Maybe it’s okay, though, to look at the scars.  They represent hurt and a time of pain, however they are proof that I survived, I certainly didn’t die, and IN NO WAY can I compare my agony to what Christ endured for me.
The greatest thing about scars is that they do carry a huge amount of significance, because for there to be a scar, there had to have been a cut at some point.  And that’s where I’m at today.  I’m getting ready to cover my scars because they no longer need the attention I’ve been giving them.

So now for the good news: One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of exhortation (definition by Merriam-Webster: “using language to incite or encourage”) and that is why I’m choosing to do something with my life to glorify God by helping those where I see a specific need.  In praying for where God wants me, I feel that I should be counseling others.  I’ve looked into getting a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Christian Counseling.  And I choose to move forward with that degree come January.  Thank you, Liberty University.

I didn’t write this note to get pity comments or pats on the back, so you don’t have to respond to this.  I wrote because I like writing.  I’ve been dealing with some heavy things, of late, and in helping someone else, I’m reflecting on a lot of things in my own life.  Not for the sake of stealing the glory, but because I think Jesus wants me to see the areas of me that is fixing.  He needs me to be clay again, instead of hard rock, so He can form me.  He is the potter, after all.

I’ve been told by many that I have a gift with words, that I communicate very well, and that I should be a writer (and I’m grateful for those compliments-they give me purpose).  If you are a close friend of mine, you may at some point have gotten a card or letter or email written by me where you flipped the card over to keep reading, or scrolled for hours to see what my point was.  I obviously feel I have a lot to say (it’s okay, you can laugh there).  If you ask me, I’m still in my infancy stage with writing.  I’ve been out of practice for some time, but I do believe God is going to use those gifts in me: writing and counseling.

I would love to see something I’ve written published.  I’d love for someone to read something I’ve written and be moved to tears and into a relationship with Jesus.  I know these things will come in time.  Before any of that happens, God wants me to focus on Him and walk through every area I’ve hidden from myself and take it to Him.

God is breaking through, not just in me, but in believers all around me, who are experiencing newness and communication with God in a new way.  There are some who were intentionally drowning Him out and they are hearing Him for the first time.

I keep thinking of a story my sister told me once.  She explained how she and a friend of hers, wrote down specific names of people and issues they were struggling with, on balloons.  Then they walked outside and released the balloons, in a way symbolizing that they were going to let go of the people who were hurting them, and the issues they wanted resolved.

balloons

I think it’s time I bought some balloons.  Right after I sit down and reread some of the greatest stories ever told, in the Bible where Jesus tells me He took my sin on Him and that I am free to live under grace and with His righteousness.  I need to embrace what I know to be true.  I need to not let Satan blur the lines.  I need to be quick to forgive and quick to love.  THAT is true Christlikeness.  No more Christian copouts…”I’m a work in progress” stuff…let’s get to the meat of the issue.  If you’re still staying that, you’re not really letting Him take the problem away.  I need to start “walking in the truth” as the Bible says.

So if you took the time to read all of this, (wow, you have a lot of free time), please just pray.  When you have a moment and if I pop into your mind, just lift me up.  Ask God to continue to chisel away at old Grace so that new Grace can continue to come forth.  I know He’s working daily in me, and I have to live life the way it was meant to be lived…FREE!!  I want others to know the grace He gives unconditionally and the love He pours out without restraint.  I want to be covered in it.  Also pray for others who are walking the walk and are struggling too.  Every believer is a target, and every one of us is vulnerable.  If it weren’t true, the Bible wouldn’t equate Satan to be “prowling around like a lion looking for prey”.  Be aware and be on guard.  And stand firmly on the Rock that is higher than all of us.  Enough is enough…clarity from here on out!

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. :)”

Posted in Faith

Misunderstood

Have you ever tried to convey a message from your heart, only to have your words mistaken for something entirely different from your original intent? It can be extremely frustrating. Many times, the recipient doesn’t know the tone and may have preconceived ideas for the message, therefore any words used can get twisted and cause pain. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to explain myself, only to have my words misconstrued and the intent lost.

For example, I had wronged two people in the past with hurtful words, and after prayerful consideration and wanting to bridge the gap, I attempted to make things right by apologizing. My attempts at having a face-to-face apology went to the wayside as neither party was willing to meet, so I used email as my choice of communication. I wanted to handle the situation in a Christlike manner, but it backfired in my face. My words of apology were laughed at, only to have both people use my words against me, and make themselves out to be the victims of hateful speech.

So now what? How do I correct this kind of wrong? How do I deal with the rejection when I’m trying to do the right thing? I want to be understood, yet neither party is allowing me the time or the space to make things right. What do believers do in these types of instances? What if the recipient doesn’t allow me to apologize? What then?

Matthew 5:22-24 helped to answer my question. It was also quite surprising that in my NIV translation, the heading for this passage is MURDER. Wow, I didn’t physically hurt anyone, right? They were just words. But as I read on, the beginning of this passage in Matthew states how we have been told that murder brings about judgement. God, however, says even anger against a brother brings judgement. Whoa…back up the train…just anger? Same as murder? Yikes! This is a lot to comprehend.

Whether or not the offense was brought on by someone else and my response was retaliation, or if I was the one to provoke a situation, the purpose behind going to the one you’ve offended, is to be reconciled to God. The offender has committed an offense by their words, and in order to be reconciled to God, they must take care of business, so to speak, with the person they’ve created distance between, so that there is nothing separating you from God.

You may be reading this and saying, “That’s great, Grace, but we don’t have to do burnt offerings to be acceptable to God anymore. Jesus did His work on the cross and we’re good now.”

I say, “Nay.”

I think this passage is a reminder that God knows us best. First Samuel 16:7 states that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the inside of our hearts, and if we think we can just run into His presence with our good intentions while hurting those around us, we’re sadly mistaken. Believers represent our risen Lord and we need to walk in the Spirit.

Social media has increased our routes of communication. It’s so easy to put emotions and feelings into words and throw them out into the world wide web. But what do you do when they hurt people? What do you do when you’re slandered and you feel the need to defend yourself? Should we retaliate, or turn the other cheek? This, being a Christian blog, hopes to show you the obvious. That cheek should be readily available.

Something else I’ve learned from the passage in Matthew is that the act of approaching and seeking forgiveness from the person you’ve offended should be done in private and the reason being is to keep both parties from creating more animosity and hurt. When offenses are gossiped about and spread to others, it creates judgement in the hearts of people who are only hearing one side. By addressing an offense between just the two of you, you can control the situation and come to a safe and responsible conclusion that breeds acceptance and love.

What, though, do you do when the parties don’t want to hear the apology and aren’t ready to receive? You pray. You continue to talk with your Heavenly Father, knowing your heart is in the right place, that you are remorseful and ready to change the behavior that caused the offense in the first place, and ask for His intervention in the matter. He sees all. He knows our hearts, remember?

My words of advice to others (and especially myself) is that if you don’t have anything nice to say (even if it’s not spoken), keep it to yourself. Ask God to make you aware of your thoughts and words. If you are consistently speaking horribly of others, your heart needs to be re-evaluated. Deal with the root of your anger. Why are you attacking others with words? What can you do differently to not speak harshly of others? And do you gossip so that others will agree with you? Why do you need public affirmation? How can you deal with an offense differently in the future?

We’re all prone to sin. We were conceived in it and unfortunately in this life, cannot escape it. But God does promise us restoration, and He loves submissive hearts that turn to Him for guidance and are truly repentant. Pray that He will restore the relationship. If it takes time, wait for it, and continue to let God change you from the inside out. Being reconciled to God means that we aren’t allowing anything to stand in the way of our relationship with Christ. It means we are aware of our sin, are addressing it, and have taken the proper steps to continue to walk in His Spirit. We can’t always please people, but we can be aware of our offenses that separate us from God, and that’s not a place we should want to be.

Ask for forgiveness from God when you’ve dealt with some situations in a manner that doesn’t represent His Son well, and ask for solutions to your heartache. God is constantly at work in us, when we accept Him, and He is willing and able to show us our sin and is even more delighted when we turn from it to mirror the life of His Son. Know that your attempts are not futile, but that God sees the steps you’ve taken. Whether or not the other party forgives right away, you have been obedient and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

I will not be discouraged, and I will be more cognizant of the way I treat others in thought, word and deed. Where I am wrong, I pray God continues to work in me, so that I can better represent His Son who loves me and forgives me. Please pray for my heart to continue to be changed through Christ. Rejection hurts, but who knows that better than Jesus?

Posted in Faith

Taking chances

Five years ago today was a sunny, cool Saturday in North Olmsted, Ohio.  I was twenty-six years old and scared, yet excited.  Around ten in the morning, I was standing in the living room of the house that my husband and I had bought two years earlier, and was starting to move boxes into cars and trucks of family members and friends.  All of my belongings had been stacked into the corner of the room for quick and easy loading.  I was moving into my new apartment down the street.  My husband knew that I was leaving him, so he went into work that day.  He was still in shock that I had signed a lease to move out.  I knew he didn’t hate me, but he wasn’t supporting my decision.  It meant we would have to admit we truly had marital problems.  So, at my insistence, we were going to attempt a separation.  To me, it was the Christian solution to an unhealthy marriage, to see if we could salvage any part of our seven year relationship.

After sipping some coffee to get started, my mother, sister and brother-in-law helped me load up their vehicles.  Two really good friends grabbed furniture and loaded a pickup truck.  We worked tirelessly until every piece of furniture was in the apartment, and then everyone left me to unpack.  Within four hours, everything I owned was in my new apartment and I was free from my husband.  That last sentence might sound puzzling to some, but to me, it is justified.

The feelings I had in that initial first moment alone were incredible.  I was frightened, fearful and doubtful.  Had I made the right choice?  I was also excited because I knew some friends were taking me out that evening to celebrate my new step, but I was also feeling sorry for my husband.  He would return home to an empty home and hardly any furniture.  It would be a new step for him too.

My now ex-husband and I had many differences and we had allowed alcohol and distrust to separate something that quite possibly could have been something of value.  He was controlling and manipulative.  He was insecure in his own skin and overbearing.  And the worst part was that he didn’t see it, nor did he want to address it.  I too, had a laundry list of sins that I was working through and some that I was also not addressing, and it was just a toxic environment.  Something had to give.

I had to leave to grow. 

I felt sheltered and stepped on.  I was insecure as a result, and completely empty.  I believed in God and knew that He loved me, but I wasn’t living a noble life, nor was I proud of the shell I had become.  Leaving my husband to seek some peace was my first step at doing something out of the ordinary and I was hoping to have a resolution with my then husband.  I figured time apart would heal wounds, create love where there wasn’t any, and maybe God could fix us.

In the weeks that followed, my husband would call me to tell me that he was so alone, that he couldn’t go on without me, that it was hard to live…and for a while, I believed him.  Three weeks after I had moved out, he invited me out to have a drink with him (it was his 32nd birthday) and we talked.  He was still remorseful for his controlling behavior, for his lack of knowing how to love me, and for his lack of trusting in God.  My biggest complaint was his need to get affirmation from his coworkers who had drinking problems.  He chose them over me, and broke our covenant.  I was forgiving, but also run down from the mental and verbal abuse over the years.  His words meant nothing to me at this point.  I told him that I wasn’t seeing anyone, that I was still faithful, and that I was hopeful that our year apart would be fruitful and not without some merit.

I had just been let go from a job due to lack of work for me, and was waiting for unemployment to kick in.  I didn’t ask for money from him, even though he was still financially liable for me.  I sat next to him at the bar watching his mouth move, but inside I felt so sorry for this person I once thought would be the father of children I was certain the Lord would bless us with.  As he played his game of trying to woo me back to the house so that we could “kiss and make up”, I remember feeling a strength inside of me that I didn’t know I had, and for the first time, I stood up before he did, said, “No thanks” and just left.  It was his birthday and I’m sure he felt I owed him something, but I was beginning to change internally.  God was working in me, and even though I wasn’t constantly aware of His presence, I knew that I was spiritually protected.  Walking down the stairs of that bar leaving him with his mouth open was priceless.

Two weeks later when I thought we were going to meet to go over the separation paperwork, he invited me to the same bar to talk (I probably should’ve been skeptical at that point) and as I entered the establishment, there was a blond girl sitting extremely close to him, with her hand on his mid-thigh.  I was taken aback and was caught completely off guard.  I sat down next to his friend and ordered my beer.  It was awkward to say the least.  These two guys had gotten off work, met up with a woman who was comfortable enough with my husband to stroke his thigh and I was obviously the soon-to-be-ex-wife.   I was the outcast.  Why was I sitting there with them at all??

Then a light went on for me.  This was his way of showing me that he could move on.  I realized we would not be speaking about lawyers or separation terms at all.  I proceeded to drink beers (many of them) and do shots with the bartender.  I said some things I didn’t need to, but it didn’t matter.  My husband and this woman got up to leave, and so did his friend.  I could hardly see straight I was so angry.  I kept drinking while they left.  Then I started drunk texting him some horrible things.  I became self-destructive.  And I let Satan win that night.

After probably six drinks and multiple shots, I drove (assumedly all over the road) to the house that I had moved out of a month prior, threatened his new girlfriend and asked her to leave since my name was still on the house.  She refused and I grabbed my ex and physically pushed him against the side of the house and told him that he didn’t know who he was messing with.  He was three inches taller than me, and at least seventy pounds heavier.  He looked scared and I was asked to leave, so I got into my car, peeled out of the driveway and drove back to my apartment a complete wreck.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.  I realized that I was the one who wanted out of the marriage. I was the one who left.  I had chosen to rent another residence so that we could repair what we had built.  I believed he was able to be trusted and that he was still being faithful to me.

I, however, was the only one who wanted a commitment that would last. 

And for the first time, I also sadly realized that I had chosen a man who didn’t want anything I’ve listed.   He was simple and only wanted a woman on his arm.  And because I was asking for him to consider my feelings and goals, I was in shock because he had replaced me within a month’s time frame.

There was a woman in my house, laying next to my husband, who had a Harley in MY garage parked right next to his.  I could never compete with that.  That would never be me.  I wasn’t that type of girl.  I was a Christian who wrote short stories, downloaded music, met up with friends for drinks here and there…I would never be the barhopping wife he wanted who would help him please his ego.  He had chosen what he wanted, and since he couldn’t control me anymore, he moved on.

And the next morning, I woke up to a restraining order.  This quiet Christian woman who just wanted peace, had created havoc the night before, and now was being told to not return to the home my name was still legally attached to.  I was never violent with him; my words are my sharpest weapon.  What had I done?  And yet, it was a wake-up call I needed.

I write all of this to help myself see the difference in who I was five years ago, and to reassure myself that even though my intention to leave my husband was initially temporary, it was also the step I needed to see who he truly was.  We screamed and argued for years.  We dated (if you call it that) for six full years before getting married, and I still chased after him for a year and a half even after obtaining his last name.  The man didn’t want a devoted wife, he wanted a trophy.  He wanted someone who would dress provocatively so that it would draw attention to him.

I wasn’t that woman.  I still am not that woman.  I didn’t/don’t need public affirmation.  I just wanted a home with a dog and a family.  I wanted to write and serve God and do things with family.  He wanted parties every weekend  with friends sleeping over so we could rehash the craziness of the night before after we woke up with hangovers.  We were living two different lives under the same roof and I was oblivious because of my dreams (delusions?).

I believe I fell in love with the idea of being in love with him, but not who he was.  I’m not the first woman to do that, and I won’t be the last.  But we really need to know these things before entering into relationships with men.  They don’t need the expectations, and we don’t need the heartache.  We need to step into relationships when we know that the man is a man of God who will treat us as God would.  Or the best he can, this side of Heaven.

I also write this as a way of therapy.  This morning waking up and looking at the date, I am reminded of my independence.  I am reminded of my family reassuring me that God would forgive my divorce because I was biblically released, that I would be blessed for leaving an unhealthy marriage, and for starting over so that Christ could live in me and manifest Himself through my life without fear of what my ex would think.  I wanted to grow spiritually.  Living in that home, I was never able to do that.

I made many mistakes.  I drank a lot.  I smoked more cigarettes than I had in years.  I craved the bar scene and couldn’t stand to be alone in my apartment.  I worried about my ex, what he was doing, what he wasn’t doing, etc.  I filled my hours with beer, “friends” and “friends with benefits”.  Some nights, I was alone, other nights, I let the alcohol numb me and I shared myself with a few men in drunken situations because it filled my carnal needs.  Total shame.

Thankfully over time, I developed the realization that I was a person of value.  I was/am a child of God and God desired for me to be loved, but not like that- not in the arms of men who wanted my body but who didn’t care for my soul.  It has taken five years to let God revitalize the shell of who I was, and I am forgiven.  I am new.  It feels awesome to write that!!

I took a chance to save my marriage, but six months after I left, I lost it.  My ex husband and I were finalized by May and my name was off the house as of 7/7/07.

The road I’ve walked to get to where I’m at now is paved with a lot of tears, bloodshed, regret and sadness, but during that time, I was being renewed through Christ.  I lived on my own for a time, worked some bartending jobs, and met a lot of new people.  I never got an STD or ended up pregnant.  I put myself in some scary situations and had to learn how NOT to tell lies.  Slowly over time, I was growing in the Scriptures.  I learned the value of communication.  I learned to love others.  By April of 2007, I was going to a church in Elyria, Ohio.

I craved God.  I craved being around people who would help me instead of help me hide my pain.  I struggled with drinking the moment I left my ex-husband.  I got a DUI three months after leaving him.  I spent a weekend at a hotel as part of my sentence.  I met a man who was a great friend, but who had his own issues.  I started a new job.  I started dating said friend and began to learn many new things.  I had a love for cooking and being in the kitchen.  My brother and his wife had a new baby girl and I was craving time with them.  I began to spend more time with my parents.  I was reading my bible.  I was broke at times, and rich at others.  But this entire time, God was changing me and renewing me.

Reading Joel chapters 1 and 2 gave me a perspective of God’s great love for us.  Yes, US…every single one of us, who has walked (sometimes stumbled in a drunken stupor) off the path, and questioned His greatness, His presence, His judgement, His love…HE LOVES US.  He is slow to anger and abounding in love.

I was a wreck when I almost had a second DUI.  I had to do another weekend for 72 hours and attended the same program.  The coordinator of that weekend class was in awe.  He remembered me.  His first question was why was I there, and why would I attend the same class again?  Had I learned nothing?  I remember sitting across the table from him saying that I did indeed learned something, and I was on the road to recovery.

I had taken chances by walking away from a marriage, I had taken chances on drugs and alcohol, and I had taken chances on people I know would leave me the next morning.  I was ready to take a chance on love and hope.  He said he was proud of me, and I walked out of that hotel a changed woman back in September 2008.

I’ve rededicated myself to Jesus Christ.  I am a sinner who was once lost, but MAN have I been found!  I still mess up.  My words are still my worst weapon.  But I am aware.  I am now a wife and stepmother who knows the meaning of selflessness all too well.  I am simply me and I have forgiven my ex-husband.  I have forgiven myself and I have forgiven my past.  I have married again simply because I believe in love, forgiveness, trust and hope.  And I believe my new husband believes the same.  He is a man of God who has taught me much.

I guess through all of these ramblings, what I would like you to take away from it is if you are ever uncertain on whether to take a step, take the chance.  I’m not saying to walk away from your marriage or a job because you get mad at it.  But I am saying that if you are feeling that something is out-of-place, it’s okay to question it.  It’s okay to step out in fear, but end up leaning on Everlasting Arms.  Life is risk.  Love is out there.  Fear halts us and removes hope, but Jesus gives life.  He restored the years the locusts had eaten, and then some…simply because I took a chance…

Posted in Family, Stepfamily

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

Had to share this picture!!

My best friend and partner in life asked me to marry him in August 2010 and we were wed on Friday, September 16, 2011 in Port Clinton, Ohio before a weeklong honeymoon at a wonderful resort in Cancun, Mexico.
We’re both excited to see how God is going to use us through this new covenant, and we’re honored to have found each other and to learn from each other daily.  I love him so much and am so happy!!
Posted in Faith

Committed

I recently heard a Christian song on the radio that mentioned how God is committed to changing us to be more like Him.  Wait…reread that statement.  “God is committed…”  Did you see it too?  Yeah, the word COMMITTED stood out.  I tilted my head (as I often do when a very interesting thought captures my attention) and then I turned down the radio and started to talk with God about it.  I continued driving down the freeway and I reviewed what the word commitment means.

Commitment is a term that shows loyalty.  Whoa…God is committed??  To us?  To me?  When do we ever think of God like that?  We tend to view our commitment as believers through attending church, loving others, reading our Bibles and spending time in prayer with God.  I don’t believe I’ve ever considered how committed God is to me.  I’m sure it’s inferred in the life of a Christian, and yet expounding on the idea was intriguing to me.

Being committed means to be “wholeheartedly dedicated”.   It also entails being determined to see an end result.  Does that mean that God never gives up on us?  Sounds like it.  Let’s research this grand idea even further.

Godly marriages are the best example of people who are in committed relationships.  I say godly marriages because many people can get married today and yet, God came up with the idea of marriage and He designed the institution to represent the complete picture of a union acceptable to Himself.  I’m not inviting a debate on the tolerance of America’s idea of marriage.  I’m simply going by the truth of Scripture.  We’ve obviously seen in today’s society a lot of marriages fall apart who didn’t have God at the core of their union.  In a marriage where God is reigning along with the husband and the wife, there is a picture of leadership and submission, trust, love and true completeness.  The husband and wife devote themselves to each other and are wholeheartedly dedicated.  Of course there are temptations and Satan desires to destroy these unions, but because God is at the center, all of his advances are thwarted.  These are the marriages that represent what God designed.

Without getting off on a tangent (stick with me), I believe the true intimacy and devotion that marriage affords is a gift from God and the best marriages are those in which both parties of the covenant understand and agree to work at their union together with God’s help.  They realize they cannot complete the faithfulness factor apart from God.  Commitment realizes that errors are made, but forgiveness reigns.  Forgiveness…ah, there’s one of those church words.  What does that mean?  True forgiveness is dismissing a wrong for the sake of healing and letting the Holy Spirit work in our lives to restore relationships; first with God (Mark 11:25) and with each other (Matthew 18:15-20) .  It doesn’t mean the error is completely forgotten.  It means it is dismissed for the sake of letting God restore and letting healing take place.  Over time, the error is simply forgotten about and love replaces the anger.  If you struggle with forgiveness, you are not alone.  But may I suggest a relationship with the God of the universe?  He is the ONLY ONE who can work out the act of forgiveness in all of our lives.  Don’t believe me?  Try to do it without Him.  Yeah, He’s a very vital piece.

Anyway, back to my original thoughts on commitment: God in His perfection is committed at changing us to be more like Him.  Let’s think about that.  Didn’t He create us and allow sin to enter the world?  How is it our fault that we’re broken then?  Let me share with you my understanding.

God, in His great and infinite wisdom, and righteous and justified love, knew that He had to redeem us from our fallen nature and He designed the timeline for that to happen (i.e. By sending Jesus at just the right time in history with King Herod Antipas as king over Judea, by choosing the time period for Jesus when crucifixion was the method of torture and death in the Roman world, and by deciding to allow humanity to either accept or reject the truth of Jesus’s death and resurrection).

But why is He determined to change us?  We’re all good people, right?  We take care of each other, laugh and have fun with friends, go to work or school, obey our bosses and parents, serve on teams and committees, etc.  I’m sure a few of us have helped a few old ladies across the street.  So, why are we in need of being changed?

The answer is simply because of our fallen nature.  We are full of sin.  We cannot escape it.  It is a part of our heritage and is passed down from parent to child without change.  See Romans 5:12-13 and 5:18 for clarification on the Adam/Jesus parallel.  Through one man (ADAM), sin is carried through the blood lines of each person until death.  It’s part of our curse.  And just the same, through one man (JESUS), salvation became available to all who hear and accept the word of God (in the work of Jesus on the cross).  Condemnation becomes redemption…amazing!

I understand the fall, the curse and how Jesus’ death and resurrection have saved all believers.  But the more I talked with God, I became aware of the thoughts of those who don’t want to be changed by God.  Believe it or not, there are humans who don’t want God to be committed to them.

“But that’s insane,” a fellow imaginary believer cries out, “we need His intervention in our lives.”

And believe me, I’m with you in that thought process.

The reason these people don’t want His commitment is because commitment always requires WORK.  The people who wish to overlook their fallen state look at their monetarily successful lives and see nothing wrong.  They are happy and allegedly content with the things they’ve bought, the hours they put in at their childrens’ schools to look good, their comments at business meetings and church gatherings, and all the charity work they do because they want to be seen as leaders in their community, and they honestly see nothing wrong with how they’re living.

Second Corinthians 4:4 talks about how the minds of unbelievers have been blinded so they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.  From that perspective, why shouldn’t God want to change them?

And this was God’s rationalization to me.  The truth is that whether we are living for ourselves or living for Him, our lives mirror what we worship.  We do it on a daily basis, sometimes completely unaware.  Every day your behavior tells a story.  And the truth of the matter is that God wants to be included and to be part of your decisions and solutions.  To say that you don’t want to be changed because your life is going along swimmingly the way you’re running it, is to say that God is irrelevant and unnecessary.  You may think you don’t need God because you’re doing just fine, but that is a very deadly mindset, my friend.

And even as I write this, I will admit my struggle with some of the things that I’ve allowed to take up my time lately: anger at certain situations outside of my control, bitterness toward a certain person I will have to deal with my entire life, struggles with differences of opinion and my stubbornness, to name a few.  I am a beloved daughter of God, freely accepting the grace being offered to me, and yet I still act like a child whose favorite toy was taken away.  This is completely unacceptable behavior.  Could my life truly be an example of a life in need of His grace?  I would say so.

I accept my fallen state and that my heart is dark even as I continue to grow in the Spirit.  I am coming into the light.  There is a part of me that is very aware that I will struggle with sin every day of my life.

But the one thing that allows me to turn from all the pain, anger, bitterness and heartache is the truth that my Lord and Savior invites me to accept the fact that He is COMMITTED to restoring me.

He knows my desire to change, He knows my heartache, He knows my sin and still wants me to walk in the grace and truth I accepted from Him eleven years ago.  He is telling me that it is a process, not an overnight ordeal, and that He is willing to take as long as necessary to change me from within.

The beauty though, is that I’m not working to achieve salvation.  I have received that gift years ago and am reassured in Scripture that nothing can separate me from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39) and no one can ever take me from His hand (John 10:28).  Though I will always deal with sin, I am not alone.  God resides inside of me, and He will continue to work through me, but my eternal life started the moment I accepted Jesus’s truth.

The life of a Christian is a journey.  Many of us call it a “walk” because every day is another step toward furthering His Kingdom.  Every person on earth is seeking answers and determining their place in this world-that goes without saying.

But to know that the Creator of the world wants to intimately know you better and that He is committed to changing you from the inside out should not scare you, but give you the love you wish.  You are His child whom He loves and whom He wants to make into what you were meant to be!  Apart from Him, we’ll never be acceptable to God.  The sad truth is that if you do desire to be alone and to do things on your own, He will respect your wishes.  Please don’t turn from Him.  You are empty because you are supposed to be.  Only God can complete what He originally started.  Without Him, you will always feel that void.

My prayer is that you will not be a commitment phobe, but that you will take a step of faith and understand that your life is precious to God.  You may already be on the path to changing other people’s lives for His glory, but you still feel empty.  Accept that He does love you the way you are, but wants to make you even more.  Will you let God be committed to you?

I can’t think of another way to thank Him for what He did for me at the cross, than to let Him be committed to restoring me and for me to fully give myself back to Him.

Posted in Faith

From the funnel cakes to the front row

In June this past year, I went to a Chris Tomlin concert with friends and family. The music ignited my spirit and the atmosphere was holy. There is something about being in a large place with other believers in Christ, raising our arms and voices in praise and worship to God, that is completely matchless to any other outside event.

We all enjoy ballgames and the intensity of competition between our favorite sports teams. There is such a feeling of community and solidarity in those types if places. But my reflection rests in a phrase that Chris used that night at the Detroit DTE Energy Music Theatre that I want to share with you.

In Chris’s words preparing us for a song, he was sharing the truth about how as God’s children, we have access to everything we need because we are no longer enemies of God. He paraphrased Galatians 3:26 and stated how we can proudly claim that we are co-heirs with Christ. And that because of our decision to follow Jesus, we now can have anything we want “from the funnel cakes to the front row.”

He doesn’t mean that Christians are spoiled children who get everything they want. He was sharing how there is nothing too small or too big to take to God in prayer, because as His children, everything we encounter or go through is important to Him. And when something we ask for is in line with God’s will, we are guaranteed through Scripture that Our Heavenly Father will not leave us hanging.

May you be encouraged and reminded that you are important to the King of the Universe. Enjoy your funnel cake…I’m going back for seconds before I take my seat in the front row. 😉

Posted in Faith

Letter to the empty

Dear [insert your name here],
That empty feeling you have inside of you is because there IS something missing in your life…it is SOMEONE and that person cannot be seen with the naked eye.  However, His Spirit can be felt in the soul and His peace, love, mercy and grace is yours for the taking.  Pointing fingers and placing blame is a way of deflecting the act of actually dealing with yourself.  Not dealing with your own pain only hurts you.  And expecting other people to feel the same hatred/bitterness you do, is wrong.  It is a way of controlling them, NOT LOVING THEM.  Seek God and turn away from the selfishness in your life.  You will be released from the pain/pressure/fear you’ve been dealing with, and you can start a new life with His peace and His love (notice it’s not yours, because true peace and true love can only come from God).

The Bible promises we will never be plucked from His hand. But the first step is always the hardest.

That is why I am praying for you.  Forgiveness is a process, but it is necessary for release of our own pain.  By being bitter, you’re only hurting yourself.  And the Bible says it ages us.  It can steal years from your life.  I’m asking you not to die early over anger.  Release your hurt and give it to Jesus.  True forgiveness comes from Him, and revenge is never an option, because forgiveness means letting go.

It doesn’t change the past, but it does promise hope for the future.

Since the beginning of our lives, we all were born into sin and cannot escape its grip on our life.  Because of sin, there is a chasm between us and God that we cannot fix.  If you die with that space between you and the Lord of the Universe, that chasm and space will be there forever, and you will be alone.

But know this: there is ONE who has conquered SIN AND DEATH. God’s Son Jesus Christ came down from Heaven, lived a sinless life and became the sacrificial lamb who would bear our sins, die OUR DEATH, and be resurrected through the power of God, so that sin and death could no longer hold us.  And because of that demonstration of selfless love, we are able to reach God by ourselves, through Jesus, with no need for an intercessor.  The cross He hung on, becomes the bridge in the chasm, to a loving relationship with Your Creator.

Your Heavenly Father HAS made a way for you to be in His presence.  Please don’t waste away time and the life He has give you here on Earth.  Take the step of faith to believe in His Word and give yourself peace and freedom from worry and despair, by turning to the Lord and asking for His gift of LIFE.  It costs just one hopeless, broken and weary life.  It’s okay to take the mask off and hand it over.

Believing in Jesus is the only way to true freedom.  Forgiving when someone wrongs us, is the first step to actually healing, and though there may not be immediate justice in your mind, things will begin to change in your heart and through Christ, you will be able to accept that person again and love will fill the place in your heart where the hurt used to be.

I’m sharing these truths simply because I’ve lived through them myself, and what I couldn’t do on my own, Christ did, and I now am grudge-free and thankful for a place in God’s Kingdom.  I don’t deserve anything either, but that’s the beauty of grace.  It is completely undeserved.

Everything that happens down here on Earth will affect us.  We have emotions for a reason.  But if we learn to forgive when we don’t feel like forgiving, we’ll release ourselves, and we’ll speak to a watching world about the power of God and what His love truly means.  The choice is yours.  In time, I pray you will surrender.

Love, Gracie

Posted in Faith, Family

Does God take things away so we can be closer to Him?

Today I listened to Midday Connection on Moody Radio in Cleveland (WCRF 103.3FM) and the discussion was with author Dee Brestin, and her book, “The God of All Comfort.” I read through some comments on Facebook that had been posted and one of them caught my attention, enough to respond.

From Dakota Atkinson:
Question – I’ve heard that God will take away sometimes to get our attention. Do you think God would allow someone to be taken away by death in order for us to come closer to Him?

My response:
@Dakota, I don’t see why not. Death is not an end, but a beginning in Him. Ultimately, for believers, death is our way HOME. I’m not afraid of it, I welcome it, because we all must die to get into His presence. If our focus is on ourselves, then we tend to question how He could take something away from us, but if our focus is on HIM, then we need Him to heal our hurt and carry us through the grief. See Job’s response when God allowed Satan to take away everything Job had…he lost his wife, kids, belongings and STILL WORSHIPPED. I believe it questions our attachments. Do we really follow His call to leave everything and follow Him? Or do we attach ourselves to others, and grieve, not realizing that our true lover (GOD) is the one with a broken heart? Our relationships here must end at some point, and though that is heartbreaking, with time, we move on. Everything in the Christian life revolves around God and who He is. Blessings in the form of a spouse, children, family, etc. are from God, but ultimately the best gift is that of eternal life. If we lose everything, once we accept Him, that is the one thing we can still claim with confidence.

Thankfully, after feeling the Spirit move in me as I typed the words, I said a prayer that it would be received well, and went back to working.

Coming home this evening, I was relieved to see another person’s response to what I had said.

From Michelle Oliva:
@Dakota, I think Grace is on the right track here. I experienced several losses last year, and boy was I clinging on to God like I hadn’t in a while. Not only did I reach out to Him, but I began to step back and pray and ask about my God given purpose. It was only through God’s strength and comfort that I was able to grieve and come out on the other side, still faithful and hopeful. Best of all, I have a clearer understanding of my God give purpose right now and I have a real thirst for His words and presence in my life. I think if not for all the losses, I would still be on the same train…Grace, I might use some of what you said for my dad’s one year memorial ceremony.

May you be encouraged in trials, and not question out of lack of faith, but for reassurance of what He is doing, even when we can’t understand it.  Faith ALWAYS beats FEAR.

Posted in Faith

HE IS RISEN!! ALLELUIA!

I woke up this morning and the tears just fell…I know it’s Easter morning and my spirit is rejoicing today because I know I’m free!! One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Matthew 28: 1-10,

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Jesus did just as He said He would. And in Luke’s account, He states how two of the disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and were actually discussing with Jesus (though they didn’t know it at the time it was Him) and their understanding of His death. They were questioning where His body was and Jesus rebuked them saying they were foolish.  Didn’t they know that Christ had to suffer those things to bring His Father glory? My Quest Study Bible says in the sidebar that the reason Jesus called them foolish was because they were so caught up in their dreams of the Messiah establishing an earthly, political government that they missed His true intent: to rule the world through Spiritual power.

Continuing on in the story, Jesus then went to their house with them and after breaking bread with them, revealed to them who He was. God opened their eyes and they knew He was among them! (Luke 24:13-35)

My heart has been singing for the last hour because I know I’m free. The Bible also states that each believer should, “…Set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

I know the reason for the hope that I have. I was lost and am now found. I was blind, but now I see. Those words from the hymn “Amazing Grace” resonate within me so deeply because I know who I could’ve become if I’d stayed who I was, but now my life has meaning to it. I have a purpose and God has a plan for me. He disciplines those He loves, and I welcome those healthy boundaries so I can be under His protection. I delight in Him and am honored to be His child. Jesus rose from the dead to provide a way for me to go to the Father. Before I would’ve been TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE in my rags of sin and cloths of shame. But He dressed me in Himself and presented me to God to say, “She is mine.”

Good Friday was good because Jesus became human and died a human death to conquer death. He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and rose three days later to prove that He was (is) who He said He was. Nothing else is required by Him or us. The door is open to God and we can go to Him directly. We are free indeed! My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!

May you go forward and live as people of light. We are no longer restricted by the darkness, but are free in Christ!! That is certainly cause for celebration! If you were walking in darkness (1 John 1:6), I pray for you today, that you may walk in the light and be transformed! YOU ARE NOW ACCEPTABLE TO CHRIST!!

May He dwell in you richly! I love you.
God be with you and may He bless you!

Posted in Faith

Hey there…how are ya?

Hello all…this is my first blog and I just want to say hi and thanks for stopping by. The majority of my writings here will be for self-reflection and to see how God has been a part of my life.  Some days I like to look back and see the road that I’ve traveled.

Currently I’m 29-years old and living in an apartment in North Olmsted, Ohio.  A ruined marriage by both parties due to lack of maturity and lack of commitment led me to making life decisions I thought I’d never make and choosing to drown myself in lack of reality.  I also wandered quite far from the safety net of being under Christ and learned some of the repercussions of having done so.  Thankfully God didn’t leave me in the pit where I put myself. 🙂

I was reading the book of Philippians in February and was awakened to verses 12 and 13.  Growing up in a Christian home, I knew Philippians 4:13 by heart.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  However, I had never paid attention to the preceding verse, about being content-knowing what it  is to “have plenty” and knowing what it is to be “in want”.  That made me stop and think a bit.

I’m glad I did.

I would’ve missed the statements that I am allowed to claim for myself.  (And you too…)

I have been in both situations ever since I left my ex-husband.  God has never failed me.  I am claiming these verses because I know very well that I’m undeserving of Christ’s love and forgiveness, but HE STILL LOVES ME.  AND He still wants to use me.  It took some time for me to realize this.  I’ll explain below.

A defining moment in my spiritual understanding came around March 2007.  I had been laid off from a medical billing company in Middleburg Heights due to “lack of work” a week after leaving my husband.  Trying to settle into my new apartment, I was jobless and bills were starting to come in.  I took a job bartending in Avon, Ohio.  Working at the bar provided for me financially, but where I was excelling with money, I was bankrupt in self-esteem and value.  I was not in a good place, emotionally or spiritually.

Six months after leaving my ex-husband, I was craving LOVE.  I knew I had failed God, had fallen away and needed to be fixed, but because of my divorce, I had second thoughts about myself, my worth and whether or not I had done the right thing.

One Sunday morning, I was listening to the radio and flipping stations in my car.  I had just pulled into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot and parked.  I was about to step out of the car to go get a cup of coffee and a bagel.  I heard a man’s voice on the radio, and the only word I caught was, “…divorce.”  It made me stop and listen to what he was saying.

The radio station was 103.3FM (WCRF in Cleveland, Ohio) and I was listening to a church sermon.  My mother had played this station on the radio when I and my siblings were younger, so I was familiar with the station and their method of playing sermons from local churches to reach shut-ins and people who couldn’t make it to church.  Neither reason applied to me.  I was physically able to go to a church, but hadn’t decided which one.  And let’s be honest, I wasn’t really seeking one either.  My Saturday nights had been binge-drinking evenings, so my Sunday mornings really were Sunday afternoons…

Anyway, I was intrigued by this man’s voice.  The pastor was sharing a story about how he had recently been approached by a newly divorced woman who was questioning whether or not God still loved her.  After hearing that, he definitely had my attention!

This woman’s concern was that the Lord wouldn’t need her anymore because she had gotten a divorce and was broken.  She was scared because she thought she would be viewed as a failure for not staying married.  Again, my curiosity was piqued!  I had been questioning the same things in my own heart!

To backpedal for a second, I had grown up in a church all of my life.  I had seen how the church treated people who had been divorced, and people who had children out of wedlock.  So, this woman in the pastors’ story about her fear of being rejected seemed reasonable and also mirrored my current dilemma.  I really wanted to hear this pastor’s response.

The pastor was bothered as he sat with her and heard her pain.  He said that he started thinking about how HE could help women who were/are going through divorces, but how he was limited (he was happily married and had never experienced divorce).  As the proverbial light bulb went on above his head, he said he suddenly realized that God allows us to go through certain things, so we can take our pain and use the redemption process to prove God’s love in our painful stories.  This woman would be able to reach another divorcee much more than he would!!

He explained to this wounded woman, that though he was the pastor of a church, he would never be able to touch peoples’ lives the way she could, because he had never been “in her shoes”.  She had gone through something he’d never experience.  He realized and helped this poor young woman realize that God needs and uses ALL of us, especially those of us who are broken, because we all have something to offer His people.  He said that God needs wounded healers because we can identify in ways other people can’t.  And I thought, “THAT’S ME!  I want to be a wounded healer!”

I was spiritually broken, but desired more than anything to know that God still loved me, even though I had walked away from a marriage that He could’ve fixed.  I chose to walk away for my own safety and out of hope for a better life.

I cried in my car for at least twenty minutes in the middle of a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot.  In my heart, I had recently been wrestling with “being okay” in the presence of God, since I had chosen to leave my husband.  I was scared about standing in front of God, knowing He discouraged divorce.  I justified my action of leaving because there was no growth, no desire to grow emotionally together or with Christ, and I had felt so alone.  I was pretty sure God had written me off, and I was uncertain of my spiritual future.

However, after hearing this message on the radio, I was determined to find this church, listen to this pastor, re-establish my relationship with Jesus (I was a previous convert who had fallen away and embraced disobedience), and see how God could use me.  My life was not over!

I’ve grown immensely in relationships since my divorce.  I’ve also allowed Christ to heal my heart where human failing had torn it in half.  I’ve mentored other people with my story and I’ve stepped out in faith into a ministry that forces me to speak in front of other people about the life-changing life of Jesus.

I mentor to the young women housed at the Lorain County Detention Home in Elyria and it’s been such a fun journey for me to express my faith and it’s also a great stepping stone to see the faces of the hopeful.  God can use wounded healers to help heal others.  If you’ve experienced something that was painful and scary, question it.  Talk with God about it.  Ask the hard questions, and read the Bible.  Scripture reaffirmed me in places I was definitely spiritually void.  I learned of Christ’s love and forgiveness in a new way since my divorce, and I firmly believe God can use all of us, especially those of us who have walked dark paths.  His redemption is real and His love neverending.

I’m not sure exactly where my road leads now, but I definitely believe that God is present and loving.  I know He is my judge, but also my Heavenly Father.  He has me in the palm of His hand, and nothing can take me from that place….ever again.

My goal is to use this blog to examine some special times in my life, from my past and present.  I write because I like to write.  Sometimes writing out certain experiences helps me to see something differently, and if I can help you see Christ from a different perspective, than I am accomplishing my ultimate goal.

Thanks for reading, and be blessed!