Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Grief, forgiveness and new beginnings

Let’s face it: this time of year can be difficult. With Thanksgiving and Christmas back-to-back, we can be forced to face a lot of emotions we aren’t ready for: people that trigger us, loved ones who have passed, relationships that have ended, gatherings that force us to be social, etc. Any fellow INFJs out there? ūüėČ

One thing has been made clear to me recently through my Bible study and my walk with the Lord: as a follower of Christ, walking through grief is necessary and mandatory to be obedient. Ignoring it will stifle my spiritual walk and hinder growth. Disclaimer: This post is intended to be a transparent account of one believer’s journey through trials, grief, forgiveness and eventually hope. It is not written maliciously, but with the intent to provide enough detail for comprehension and learned lessons. Please don’t misinterpret or misrepresent my words. This is not libel in any way.

grief

While the stages of grief are listed as: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, not everyone follows the pattern listed sequentially. But the end result of acceptance is the universal goal for walking through grief, and typically is an indicator for healthy mental health.

This year, for me, has brought many instances of grief, and I’ve learned more about myself coming through each one. Though not every instance has been extremely painful or one that causes me deep despair, I’ve felt the emotions come and go, tried to analyze them rationally and have learned to lean on God in new ways as a result.

Exhibit A: I am a stepmother. I’ve been married for over seven years to my best friend who had two daughters from his previous marriage. If you’re not a stepmother who has drama at times, I apologize. This is a bit of a rant. In the small family unit we have, the dynamic is clearly broken. It is not God’s design to have broken marriages and relationships that aren’t clearly marked. So much pain resides. I’m encouraged by some families who weather the differences and come to accept new family members. My dynamic has not. I remain on the outside, chosen by my husband yet completely unwanted by others.

I continue to try to love with all that I have, and have been struggling to not become bitter over repeated offenses. After so much time has passed, there are still words and actions from so many on that side of the family, that have been deliberate to get a reaction from me. I, unfortunately, get stuck trying to determine why, after all this time, we are still playing games. It’s frustrating and downright irritating. Maturity would help, but clearly that’s asking too much. Insecurity changes people and lack of going through the grief process completely stunted some. So I back off and don’t respond anymore.

But I’ll just be honest. Some days I win the battle. Some days the enemy does. Value is sometimes hard to find when you’re a “back burner”. Others’ feelings are valued higher than yours. Where a Christian spouse puts their spouse (2nd only to God), in divorced families, the lines seem to get blurred between kids, wives and even parents. Guilt inhabits my spouse at times and causes him to make decisions that put me out in the cold, and I’m left to fend for myself. This is so clearly not God’s intention. But it is so in line with the enemy’s intentions of killing and destroying. You think he’s after your family? Check the relationship between you and your spouse.¬† How’s your marriage going? The enemy is after that first. If he can erode from the center of God’s precious design, the rest will just unravel. Be on alert ALWAYS.

Sadly in our situation, the children (and others unknowingly) have been used repeatedly to carry out tasks that make no sense to me, and I’m left to question their motives and hearts. I can see the insecurity in the other parent, the need to prove something, the lack of accepting responsibility, the resistance to acceptance. I process and process, and when I feel like I’m finally okay again, something happens again to make me question my ability to love with Christ’s love. I realize I’m not able to do it in my own power. And I’m expected to keep peace and not make waves. Who can imagine why I camp out in anger? The tower Grace built has no drawbridge, a deep and deadly moat and you had better believe there are alligators in there! Just try to get to me!!

castle

But as much as my love for isolation and justified anger tries to grow, the Holy Spirit within me fights against this. I am not a new creation who is meant to harbor hurt and justified offenses. I am reminded repeatedly through Scripture WHO I am and WHOSE I am. And Jesus died for ALL of us; me, my hubby, the kids, the ex-wife, the in-law, etc. Whoever started the pain doesn’t have to end it.

So I’ve grieved the relationships I thought I would have by now. I have accepted that I helped raise two daughters who keep me at arms length because of expectations on the other end, and am hopeful some day they can be released from that obligation. But until then, I accept that my husband chose me and that is enough. It’s still painful, but he is well aware now. And we knew that choosing Jesus would do this to us. It’s worth it all.

Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. I’m not fighting people for my value. Because I am a daughter of the King, I already HAVE value. I’m fighting the enemy whose goal is to destroy my ability to see my value. And if he can destroy that, he thinks he wins. Those who continue to hurt are only being used by him. And the truth is they have hurts they need to address as well that have absolutely NOTHING to do with me. So in turn, I give the offense to God to handle, and I carry on with my life.

armor of God

Exhibit B: This year also brought a physical loss to grieve: my maternal grandmother passed away early April. Though expected due to her mental decline and physical inabilities at 91, the actual loss hit hard. A family member who abandoned our family almost 25 years ago made all of us wait EIGHT hours to show up to pay last respects while my grandmother’s body laid on a table decomposing. I couldn’t fathom the selfishness and the audacity to not care until after a shift of work was completed. Irritation took over and I had to surrender it. To me, the actions were incomprehensible.

I was able to forgive quickly in that situation, however, because I had been accustomed to the rejection by that family member and had noticed lack of healthy grieving patterns over the years I had known them. This was not surprising, just unbelievable regarding the relationship between that person and my grandmother who had passed. And dealing with the loss of my last living grandparent made me ache for Heaven like I can’t even express. Lots of emotion, but we had more pressing tasks at the moment.

I watched my mom and her three sisters grieve completely differently and was sadly able to assess where each of them were on the day we laid Nanny to rest. Prayers were going up constantly due to strained relationships and for the ability for all four daughters to get through the motions so that each could move on and grieve separately later. Since my grandmother had dementia, she hadn’t known me for a while. I had grieved her ability to do so long ago, but recognizing she was completely out of this world and onto the next took some time. That acceptance was a little slower.

A few weeks after her passing, while visiting my parents, I had asked my mom who had gotten Nanny’s Bible. My mom went upstairs and brought it down for me. Immediately, I was actively grieving her again, this time seeing my grandmother as a young woman searching hard after her Lord. I read her notes in the margins, saw her highlighted verses, read her underlined passages with notations about soldiers, or those who suffered depression, or those seeking hope.

1

Reading her Bible was like reading her diary. There was such a connection and I wanted to respect that privacy, yet I couldn’t tell her. She was already gone, and I had to grieve that she hadn’t known me as the Christ follower I am today. How I wanted her to know that out of nine grand kids, I could say where I was – her prayers had paid off!! I wanted her to know that I fell away during my teens and twenties, but that God got a hold of me at 27 and I finally heard His voice! The ache for her to understand wasn’t rational, but I knew I could find comfort in knowing the Lord knew my decision for Him and He knew her influence on my life.

7

6

 

2

3

10

Within the well-worn pages, I found a handwritten note from fifteen years earlier when she was praying for my dad’s salvation. That broke me! Her fervent prayers, in her beautiful cursive, locked into the pages clinging to hope. And all I could think was, “What a legacy.” And yet, I have memories that aren’t all that exciting when I think about time spent with her as a child. I know she loved me and I know she loved all of us grand kids, but I also know she struggled with depression and value. I have been able to forgive my grandmother for hurt from years ago, recognizing the similarity to the people Jesus prayed for on the cross, “They know not what they do.” Recognizing her inability to stretch in certain areas allowed me to give grace that only the Lord can give. And I saw her hurting, so I forgave.

Exhibit C: I accepted two positions this year: one of them was a permanent position within the US government, and within six months, was asked to take the Lead position in the same department. Any of you who work in leadership know the isolation that can result because you are under management, but above the production. I’m smack dab in the middle and though I love the challenges, I have no counterpart to assist. So I have to go to God for wisdom, guidance and help when working certain tasks.

I have had one worker who attacks me on a routine basis. She is a great worker, but one who is verbal when she has ideas of how something should go, and isn’t quiet about suggesting them to me. I listen and implement as needed, but don’t make all of the decisions. I also have made mistakes in the course of my training period, which this person has pounced on repeatedly.

facepalm

I find myself constantly having to forgive her so that I can remain professional, and simply because I cannot respond or address the situation without having the union involved. I choose to let things go, accept the support from upper management when they are aware and step in, but I can’t say that it’s not painful. One of the hardest things for me is when someone repeatedly does something to me and I have absolutely no clue why. I am simply her lead. I have to forgive. And God has been patient with me in learning this step. I turn the offense over to Him, and trust Him with the outcome. In turn, I am respectful through email, Skype and other means of communication and let it go.

Exhibit D: Two years ago, the Lord made it clear to my husband and myself that He was asking us to leave the church we had been growing at for almost ten years, and move to another church in the same town. We went, knowing only one person there, and tested the Word. It was biblical. Kevin knew immediately that we were being sent there. I had a month’s worth of sermons before I was a believer for the move. But I began to accept that this is what He was calling us to, and a few months later, there was a clear reason why I was at our new church (they were seeking to start a new women’s ministry – WOOHOO!).

But that didn’t stop the enemy from using the new location as a means of value-shredding. Our old church was so close-knit. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. We were greeters, task-doers, project-completers, life group leaders and Bible teachers. Once I knew my spiritual gift, I jumped in response, and it was awesome to see Kevin grow too. Then we were asked to move…to a bigger church…to where ONE person knew us…to where we had to start relationships from scratch…to a place where it seemed everyone knew each other already. (I know these are lies from the enemy, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t rush out after each service each week!) [Insert panic here].

running

And to top it all off, those close friends from our old church began to fade away. Those who said they would stay in touch, didn’t. We helped one couple move and after promises of dinners over and get-togethers have been to their home once since. There’s still a bottle of wine that was meant for them as a housewarming gift collecting dust in my collection. God’s response to my heart ache? Forgive.

Proximity changes relationships. If we see each other every week, we’re probably more involved. But staying in touch with those we don’t see actively can be challenging. I’ve learned to grieve the friendships that I thought would stand the test of time. I have learned to forgive even Christians who have hurt me unintentionally, or maybe even intentionally. (People who are hurting, hurt others – Christian or not.)

The enemy uses some of the people closest to me at times to tell me that I’m unwanted. And I believe him. I know that I’m loyal, love deeply, and have always felt like only certain friends can handle me. I want to be loved back the way I love, but end up aching instead. So I get the message that I’m too much. And it hurts. And I get angry. And I wallow in the loneliness for a time. And then I stop wanting girls as friends because the pattern never seems to change. Guys were always easier to hang with and had great senses of humor. But I digress…¬†

Then last week during Bible study, I had a revelation. God spoke into my heart in one of those a-ha moments. Those who followed hard after the Lord all had one thing in common: They did it alone and on the dependence of God. Their expectations for man had to be surrendered, and the calling placed on their lives shifted to primary.¬† Are we seeking the approval of God or man?¬† Paul asks this very question in Galatians 1:10.¬† If we are seeking men’s approval, we aren’t really servants of God.¬† And I know what I want to be…with or without those I thought would be standing next to me, because I know WHO IS ALWAYS WITH ME.

New Exhibit A: David was “a man after God’s own heart”, yet if you ask some, they remember primarily his infidelity. I’ve walked in those shoes, as a recipient and the accused. I know what I deserve. I don’t need human judgement, thank you. My Lord asked for a repentant heart and since I believe in and follow Jesus, He has granted me forgiveness and grace.

David was a Shepherd who took down Goliath (murder), and then later became King after Saul died – trying to murder David! God used Him, and David didn’t have an army of his besties running with him at all times.¬† He had his faith in what God could do.

Exhibit B: Rahab? She was a prostitute. Yet God used her to protect Joshua’s spies and in return, her family would be spared when the Israelites came to destroy Jericho. She didn’t have the acceptance of her town or the people of her profession. She exhibited faith and was obedient so her family could be protected.

Exhibit C: John the Baptist. He was a desert dweller who liked bugs and solitude, until he had to start baptizing people. Then he jumped wholeheartedly into his calling and was alone. Shouting for people to repent will definitely isolate you.¬† But he kept telling the truth about what was happening (and who was coming).¬† He was even imprisoned for calling out Herod’s improper marriage, and was beheaded for it. But it didn’t stop him from doing the right thing.

Exhibit D: C’mon…Noah? Clearly thought to be insane when he began building an ark, when there had never been a flood before. But he did it with faith. He obeyed, built and reaped the reward of listening. There were no neighbors cheering him and God on. There was no encouragement from the peanut gallery.

My understanding is now this: I have to follow hard after Christ on my own. It’s great to have encouragement and biblically we are told to encourage others for accountability and such, so don’t take my revelation to be saying we should exclude people and hide/isolate/build walls. That would be counter productive to what the Lord is asking us to do.¬† But the ache of thinking others are going to come through will only lead to human disappointment.¬† Expectations lead to conditions, which leads to conditional love, and truly, that’s not love at all. So, we have to let go of the expectations and forgive those who hurt us: all of the time, not just when it makes sense.¬†¬†

The actual steps we need to take in our walk, will be completely by ourselves, holding the hand of Christ in faith.  

holding hands

Can we feel it tangibly?¬† No.¬† But we can definitely see it throughout Scripture that those who really trusted in God weren’t clinging to human relationships.¬† They were following hard after Christ.¬† They were doing the unthinkable and were willing to die for it.¬† They weren’t pleasing men or seeking approval from others who were supposed to believe the same things as them (or even those who didn’t believe the same things).¬† They were stepping out in faith, answering the call, and accepting that it may lead them AWAY from family (Abraham and Lot much?).¬†¬†

The words of Jesus: 

‚ÄúDo not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.¬†For I have come to turn¬†a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law‚ÄĒ¬†a man‚Äôs enemies will be the members of his own household.¬†Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.¬†Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.¬†Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:34-38

If that’s not division, and a call from Jesus to serve Him no matter the cost, I don’t know what is.¬† I think we have to recognize that it can be completely unhealthy to uplift our family, friendships, relationships (or insert vice/idol here) above Jesus, because it means we aren’t willing to fully follow Christ.¬†

Because the cost of Christ is truly losing things, and not having the rosy relationships we desire.¬† Sure, we may be blessed along the way with wonderful moments and happy times, dear friends who get it and are still encouraging- but we are in a battle.¬† And the goal of this present age is loving others to Jesus, not being so self-focused that we focus on the grief we haven’t moved through.¬† We have to be others-focused.¬† We have relationships that may never change this side of Heaven.¬† And THAT’S OKAY.

I’ve come to realize that forgiveness does indeed take time, but it is mandated by Christ in Scripture because it is evidence of a life changed by Him.¬† When we hold onto grudges, or justified anger (righteous or not), it’s not beneficial to the Kingdom if it creates disunity.¬† Forgive, have the conversation if it’s necessary and move on.¬† Vengeance is HIS anyway.¬† He sees their treatment of us.¬† He doesn’t need us to seek revenge and hurt others more.¬† We have to step back and let HIM fight for us.¬†¬†

We can ask the Lord for help in accepting the boundaries where they are, focus on the lost who need His truth, and continue to carry the light into the world.¬† If you have family who are walking alongside you in this, fantastic!¬† If you don’t, be encouraged that the goal of your faith is the salvation of your soul.¬† And you’re never alone.¬† Let this be your new beginning.¬† ūüôā

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!¬†In his great mercy¬†he has given us new birth¬†into a living hope¬†through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,¬†and into an inheritance¬†that can never perish, spoil or fade.¬†This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,¬†who through faith are shielded by God‚Äôs power¬†until the coming of the salvation¬†that is ready to be revealed¬†in the last time.¬†In all this you greatly rejoice,¬†though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.¬†These have come so that the proven genuineness¬†of your faith‚ÄĒof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire‚ÄĒmay result in praise, glory and honor¬†when Jesus Christ is revealed.¬†Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him¬†and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,¬†for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.¬†

1 Peter 1:3-10 

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Posted in Faith

Hope in the wake of tragedy

If you are an American, you have a target on your back. ¬†That is not a threat, it is a new realization that we are not safe. ¬†There are other countries¬†who hate us, and terrorist groups that would love to take us out. ¬†Sadly, it’s become commonplace to hear of school shootings and mass murders by mentally ill people (clearly) and then the rest of us are just left to deal with the aftermath. ¬†But what does that really look like?

Just a week ago, this happened.

“Christina Grimmie, the American singer best known for starring on The Voice, was shot¬†and killed after a concert in Florida on Friday night. Police said her killer appeared to be a deranged fan who had travelled to the venue in Orlando from another city planning to kill her.” ¬†(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/11/voice-star-christina-grimmie-dies-after-shooting-at-florida-conc/).

Though this wasn’t a terrorist attack, it was a case of a fan who became obsessive, to the point of having surgery to look like someone she might date, and then he believed they were getting married. ¬†Somewhere a switch flipped, he got his hands on a gun and shot her in the face. ¬†This is not normal, people. ¬†I don’t care how many news reports we read, this is not a situation where we should go, “Oh geez, another crazy fan…”. ¬†Tell that to the brother that tackled him and the family/friends/fans who are left to wonder how something like this could happen.

Then during the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, a gunman goes into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando (same city) and using a semiautomatic rifle, takes out almost 50 people with bullets, and was known to struggle with his sexuality and faith beliefs. ¬†I’m sorry, but this is another case of mental illness at its worst. ¬†There are thousands of families who are dealing with the aftermath of someone who took a permanent route to a temporary emotion.

I’m not a political writer, and I don’t even know exactly where I stand on the gun issue. ¬†It’s still something I’m getting information on. ¬†I see/hear pros/cons for both sides. ¬†Growing up in a nation where rights and freedoms were freely given compared to other nations that had none, it’s easy to see that everyone should be able to do what they want to do. ¬†However, that is why we are now at the place we are in. ¬†At some point, what one person wants may conflict with what someone else wants. ¬†Who is right? ¬†What is our compass? ¬†How do we know which direction to turn?

Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked his Facebook community for some silent prayers. Many people were quick to reply that they had prayed, were praying or would pray. ¬†We do that so quickly because we want our friends to know that we stand beside them. ¬†Who wants to feel alone in the midst of stress/tragedy/loss/whatever it is they’re going through?

Then a few days later, the same friend posted a video from Samantha Bee and her almost eight-minute late night rant against guns and the issues with them. ¬†He stated how he was in love with this woman because of her views. ¬†I’m including it here, and be advised of strong language, but many valid points.

I do agree with many of her points. ¬†We are allowed to be frustrated with the deaths caused by guns in this nation, and I fully applaud her justified anger. ¬†I don’t disagree with much of what she has to say. ¬†There have to be changes made, somehow, someway.

What I take issue with, and I want to be clear, is her thinking about prayer. ¬†And as a believer who practices prayer, I’m allowed to speak on the subject.

Around 4:40, she makes mention that the governor of Florida should comment on what could be done to prevent this from happening in the future. ¬†The screen shifts to CNN interviewing Governor Rick Scott from Florida, who becomes evasive with no set plan. ¬†Samantha Bee wants to see something done (as we all do), but she gets further upset at 5:40 when CNN gets the governor on the phone and asks the same question, and his response is to “pray, pray for the victims, pray for their families, pray that this never happens again.”

Her comment about prayer being an act of “sit[ting] quietly in a room with your eyes closed, talking to nobody” struck a nerve. ¬†I agree with her James 2:17 reference as faith without works IS DEAD, but don’t count out prayer.

prayer

What the world doesn’t realize is that prayer: something Jesus practiced, talked about, modeled and taught us, is a means for intercession with our holy GOD. ¬†Prayer is NOT talking to nobody (and I meant that to be a double negative). ¬†There is our Heavenly Father on the other end of that connection. ¬†He is available 24/7, and listens to prayers/needs/selfishness/whining/complaining/etc. ¬†AND HE NEVER COMPLAINS in return. ¬†To say that we’re talking to ourselves is a slap in His face. ¬†He listens to believers AND UNBELIEVERS who love/praise/question/reject/spit in his face/accuse/argue/judge Him and HE STILL LOVES. ¬†Because that is who HE is.

In no way, shape or form was the governor saying we should just sit in a room with our eyes closed, talking to nobody. ¬†He was saying that we should be going to the Lord with our requests, which is something we are to do in the face of adversity, trial, fear, lack of hope, distrust, hate, anger, and judgement. ¬†Prayer affects much, as James 5:13-20 states, ”

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

We are quick to say that the Lord isn’t hearing us when He’s not responding quickly enough, or when things aren’t going the way we want them to. ¬†I agree that it’s hard to sit and wait for Him to come through, or not, due to His will. ¬†But I know He hears us. ¬†He tells us to come to Him. In Philippians 4:6-7, we are taught to not be anxious, but to present our requests to God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Hope of the World, Jesus, gives peace like none other. ¬†It does transcend all understanding and it provides safety and security. ¬†It’s funny how even as we shout for gun control and better policies, what we’re really asking for is some security and safety.¬† That can only be provided by our Lord. ¬†We are unsafe. ¬†We live in a nation that is under attack, and these are only the birth pains. ¬†Other countries have come to live with terrorism, hate crimes, mass murders and executions as day to day activities.

Prayer does something to us. ¬†To the outside world, we’re putting our heads down and talking to ourselves. ¬†But to the Lord, we are in a position of surrender, sharing our hearts with Him in connection, for the purpose of understanding Him, His ways, and His intentions. ¬†We are meant to be connected to Him.

This article by NPR suggests that we are changed by doing so.

Scientists are making the first attempts to understand spiritual experience ‚ÄĒ and what happens in the brainsand bodies of people who believe they connect with the divine.

The field is called “neurotheology,” and although it is new, it’s drawing prominent researchers in the U.S. and Canada. Scientists have found that the brains of people who spend untold hours in prayer and meditation are different.

There is a scientific and spiritual connection that happens in the act of prayer. ¬†God designed us that way, and it is because of His grace that He allows us to come to Him. ¬†Prayer is also designed as a way of communication for nation leaders to go to God for direction, His wisdom and insight when making decisions that affect that nations’ population. ¬†King Solomon, King David, King Hezekiah all prayed. ¬†They had a relationship with the Father, and knew to go to Him during times of trials and hardships.

And likewise, it is our duty to do the same.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people‚ÄĒ for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ¬†This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” ¬†1 Timothy 2:1-4

When our country seems divided by opinions, beliefs and trials, we ALL can go to the same God to ask what He desires of us, how He wants us to live, how we can love others for His name, what we can do about gun control, how we can respond in the face of fear.  Prayer is not hiding out, nor is it talking to the walls.  It is having a two-way conversation with the One who created us to have a relationships with Him, and presenting our requests, fears, hurts, anger, complaints, etc.  It is also complete TRUST that He hears us, loves us, has the answers, and will implement them in His time.  We are to follow Him and be obedient.

By praying for our leaders, who’s to say that we’ve not changed a heart that was malicious, to be soft and follow the word of the Lord? ¬†Who’s to say we’ve not stopped wars or ended a conflict before it escalated? ¬†Only God knows the outcomes that have changed as a result of His people going to Him. ¬†Prayer affects much. ¬†It is not in our power that things change, but that the Lord moves.

In my devotion this morning, I read the following sentence, “Jesus did not come to this world to make us better. ¬†He came to make us NEW.” ¬†We are awful. ¬†Humans have ultimate selfishness and hateful hearts at our core. ¬†You may deny it, but without Jesus, you are going to look out for your own agenda, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. The truth is that none of us can do ANYTHING apart from Him. ¬†We can build our mountains to ourselves and worship US because we are capable of much, but the truth is that everything comes from God.

“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” ¬†Romans 11:36

We don’t need to be changed. ¬†We need to die. ¬†Die to ourselves and our agendas that conflict with the Lord’s agenda. ¬†In our promotion for Man, we have squashed the Holy Spirit, but according to the Bible, our world is doing exactly as predicted over 2000 years ago. ¬†We are living in the times of distrust, corruption, godlessness, and we are in need of a Savior who can save us from all of it.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from Heaven and died on Earth, carrying the sins of every person, so that we could be reunited with the Father, and have eternal life.

‚ÄúEveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.‚ÄĚ Romans 10:13

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” ¬†John 1:12

“If you declare with your mouth, ‚ÄúJesus is Lord,‚ÄĚ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” ¬†Romans 10:9

God is capable of sharing with our leaders the knowledge and wisdom they need to effectively lead us. ¬†Whether they adhere and implement is between¬†them and God, but situations have changed as a result of God’s people going to Him in prayer. ¬†I encourage you to “sit quietly in a room” and talk with your Father. ¬†Policies and laws will¬†come later and will benefit those who they are meant for.

Don’t count out prayer. ¬†It is vital for the good of all of us.

Posted in Faith, Family

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

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

Time has passed.  At times so swiftly, other times without regard for my impatience.  But it sure seems fleeting.

Four years of marriage is not a normal celebratory year, at least in popular circles or in card shops.  Typically, we tend to celebrate the first, fifth and every fifth year after that for patterned events.

So why is four such a big deal to me today?

Because I want to share where God has moved in the lives of two simple people in Ohio, out of the entire Universe. ¬†And I finally am ready to share a deep hurt that was healed and overcome. ¬†But first, some highlights of one of the happiest days of my life…becoming Mrs. Hejnal.

new startcake2

candles

God's KnotThe day had finally come.

My husband and I had a lot of strife getting to that day.

As with every wedding, there are moments that things don’t go as planned, and ours was no different. ¬†Leading up to our wedding day, we had a few hiccups: reservations and contracts for locations that went missing (gasp!), family issues with¬†unforeseen miscommunication (with people who weren’t even part of our day) (YIKES!) and deadlines we didn’t plan for (seriously!?). ¬†Waking up the morning of the wedding, I just prayed for God to handle it all, and we would soak up every minute.

And on the day of the wedding, everything fell into place.


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

listening to In Christ Aloneso happyfrom the startrings

our new stepfamilyStarting over would be an adjustment for me.

I had been divorced for a few years, and I was used to doing things on my own. ¬†My personality is independent by nature. ¬†For as long as I can remember, once I conquered something, it was on to bigger and better. ¬†I didn’t like someone telling me what to do or how to do it. ¬†I would figure it out and then move on.

So, I definitely had a lot to learn about submitting to a man. ¬†Obstacles, schmobstacles…

It couldn’t be that hard, though, right? ¬†I mean, this guy and I seem to get along so well. ¬†We play video games together, go to church together, grocery shop together. For those who are afraid we do too much together, we do have separate interests and hobbies, but they are done in moderation. ¬†We truly enjoy each others’ company. I’ve never had such an amazing and supportive guy best friend. ¬†So moving into the¬†house that was now ours, and sharing EVERYTHING shouldn’t be so bad, right?

Sadly, I didn’t prepare myself for everything. ¬†I did what I normally did, which was to jump into the abyss and run full speed.


We had those who opposed Kevin’s and my marriage, and I felt obligated to try to change their minds, quite verbally, I remember. ¬†I had those who slandered me on a regular basis, so I found myself in defensive positions constantly. ¬†And I felt I had to prove to everyone that I was capable of being a stepmother, since I’d had no previous children of my own. ¬†How hard could this be? ¬†(Just reading this, I’m exhausted.)

Another factor I didn’t really see ahead of me that would test my patience and willpower were his daughters. ¬†At the time, they were 14 and 17. ¬†They are both beautiful women now, and have always been loving and understanding. ¬†They have grown a ton, and so have we. ¬†But let’s be honest ladies, learning to love someone else’s children seems to come easy, but it comes with being on the back burner and being rejected A LOT. ¬†If you keep your eyes open for the lessons, however, it also teaches you humility and compassion.

I was young (and I say that to be humorous, but also to indicate my maturity level in all of this). ¬†I expected things to go swimmingly all of the time. ¬†I am not one for confrontation, so I didn’t have to worry about arguing with the kids. ¬†They rarely voiced discontentment. ¬†They were eerily silent more than I could stand at times. ¬†But I learned about them, I stretched myself and spent time with them when they were in our home, and I shared as much about myself as I could with them. ¬†They were adjusting too.

Was our daily life all roses and gumdrops? ¬†Absolutely not. ¬†I can remember a few days where I stayed in our bedroom and avoided them, after an argument with their mother, or someone else in the family who wouldn’t accept me. ¬†I had to become aware of the times that the enemy would try to pin Kevin against me, and when the enemy would isolate me. ¬†Sometimes I felt excluded, unwanted or just plain ignored. ¬†Those were painful times, but they passed. ¬†We all grew.


Now the kicker: I’ve shared previously on this blog that I wanted to go back to school when God revealed that He wanted me to go into Christian counseling. ¬†What I didn’t share was how I made that decision solely by myself, signed up for, was accepted into college and THEN told my husband. ¬†Who does that!?! ¬†Ugh, I hate that things went down that way.

Kevin and I have had many conversations about US adjusting to each other. ¬†And at the height of one of our saddest but most raw arguments, he admitted how hurt he was by that, and I was ashamed that I’d not even seen that I had done it.


My point for all of this is to share what my view of marriage is, and how it’s taught me to rely on my Lord and my husband. ¬†And to share that through some of the heartache, pain and humbling heart condition checks that were necessary, God is not done with Kevin and me. ¬†There is more to come, and it can¬†WILL be accomplished with our Lord and my unselfish, unconditional loving husband.


A ceremonial addition we incorporated into our service was God’s Knot. ¬†It’s a cord of three colored ropes that you braid during your ceremony. ¬†The groom holds the ring and the bride braids the three colors together. ¬†Below you can see the description, and the shadow box I made of our knot after the wedding.God's Knot cord 3 strands

I loved this aspect of the ceremony, but the truth is that I didn’t know how to incorporate it into my marriage.

I had my faith, Kevin had his, and we would meet in the middle, I was sure of it. ¬†We were growing as a couple. ¬†We were going to church. ¬†We were attending life group, and I could see Kevin’s growth, and it just fueled me to do more at church because God wanted me to be helping others in their lives. ¬†After all, mine was perfectly fine…

Yet in all honesty, for the first two and a half years of our marriage, I was running my race to the goal line (whatever event I had created in my mind), and Kevin was jogging behind, lovingly supporting me, but keeping silent.

Newsflash, brides: That’s not journeying through life together.

That’s living as though you’re still single, and just having the guy’s last name. ¬†What could be more emasculating to an amazing man (or any man for that matter)?

I have learned so much in the time since I’ve walked down the aisle.

I have learned the ability to admit my wrongdoings.

It’s not that I didn’t know how to do it before, it’s just that in the past, my lips seemed to go numb, and my mouth wouldn’t open to get the words out. ūüėČ ¬†I mean, come on, who loves to say, “I was wrong”? ¬†If it seems hard to say, take a few minutes to repeat that over and over…it gets easier.

I have learned the ability to put my partner first.

Kevin is so simple, and I mean that so lovingly. ¬†He really doesn’t ask for much. He’s not extravagant, he doesn’t have unrealistic expectations for me, he just lives so simply, and if he sees a need somewhere, he does it/fixes it/helps someone/loves on people. ¬†I couldn’t ask for a better example of who Jesus is.

Kevin really is a living example of someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to see others love their lives and Christ. ¬†But my nature (and let’s be honest again, it’s not a personality flaw, it’s my sin nature), was to put myself first. ¬†And I have a background, so here’s where I used to justify it.

Coming from a first marriage that ended in my leaving abruptly, I wasn’t used to putting the other person first. ¬†I had been dealing with someone who had so many expectations for me to live up to, and a facade I couldn’t pull off…well, it just was such a relief to get away from someone trying to change me and I could finally have an opinion without him making fun of me, or calling me a name because I thought differently. ¬†But unfortunately, my desire to overcome that part of my past, left Kevin in the dust! ¬†I had opened a business and gone back to school all by myself. Surely, you’re proud of me, right, honey? ¬†Honey??


I’m going to take you back to a moment in time that is forever seared into my memory. ¬†It’s painful, but becomes beauty from its¬†original ashes.

Thankfully, God got a hold of me one morning/afternoon in February 2014. ¬†And let me tell you, where I should have been treated harshly for the words I let spew out of my mouth during a Valentine’s dinner to my sweet husband, God wrapped His arms around me and said, “Tell me what’s wrong.”

The afternoon¬†after that dinner, when I was alone in my living room (Kevin was at work), I had such shame. Have you ever been so mad at something, but had so much going on, you didn’t know who to blame or where to put the pain? ¬†I was at my wits end! ¬†(Clearly.)

¬†I had allowed myself to become so overwhelmed, overworked, disappointed, and so angry at everyone and everything, that I didn’t even want to go into the Lord’s presence. ¬†Quite honestly, I figured He didn’t want to talk to me. ¬†He was there at the restaurant the night before, when I unleashed venom against my husband (who had done nothing wrong), and made him my punching bag for my built up anger. ¬†Surely, God’s back would be to me.

I wrestled in the living room. ¬†I went from couch to chair to couch and thought, This is ridiculous. ¬†I can’t even muster up the courage to talk to God. ¬†And though I wanted to cry (and for those of you who know me- that’s not a hard feat for me to accomplish), I couldn’t get any moisture from my eyes. ¬†How sad…now what?

And so I texted a few of my soul sisters from church: “Will you ladies¬†pray for me? Without going into detail, I’ve hurt my husband and feel like I can’t pray.”

Within minutes, my dear sisters countered the enemy’s lies and told me to press into God, to seek Him with my heart and He would reveal a way to redeem myself with Kevin, that I need to resist the devil, draw near to God (James 4:7-8) and just boldly go to Him.

I stretched myself out on the floor facing downward.  And then I laughed.

How absurd, I thought! ¬†I have no words to even say. ¬†Obviously I’m sorry, but where do I begin?

So I stayed on the floor, arms stretched out in front of me. ¬†And I started, “Lord, I don’t even know what you want me to say…”


Within seconds, He spoke into my spirit, not words of condemnation or ridicule, but peace and truth. ¬†He somehow got me to the point of repentance. ¬†I can’t even explain exactly how, but with my arms out in front of me,

I began to sob,

and then cry,

and then mourn loudly.

I hadn’t let tears out in a LONG TIME! ¬†On my knees, still facing the floor, I knew what I had done wrong. ¬†I knew I had gone before Kevin and hurt him, but God was letting me know that I had RUN IN FRONT OF HIM AS WELL! ¬†Talk about a 2×4 to the face! ¬†I’m just living my dream, without regard for anyone. ¬†What in the world is wrong with me?!?

The Lord is our judge, yet also a loving Father. ¬†That day, when I should have had Him laying out the record of all of the times I had wronged my husband, God chose to show me His grace. ¬†(And if you know 1 Corinthians 13, Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, so this clearly shows you where my belief about God didn’t match up with His character.)

He spread out such merciful, totally needed, completely undeserved GRACE.

Still sitting on the floor, I cried endlessly, and felt His love, compassion and clarity. I knew within minutes that I had to back out of school, close up shop on my business, and put my focus on HIM and my husband, and then my family.


Words that echoed in my spirit, which will never go forgotten, were the following: “Grace, you’re calling me the Lord of your life, but you’re not letting me do it.”

That realization hit me so hard.

I had such remorse for my treatment of Kevin. ¬†He didn’t deserve my tongue-lashing. ¬†I had immediate sadness at knowing my dream of finishing college would again go to the wayside. ¬†But knowing that I was a fraud to myself and my Lord was the most painful. ¬†Who was I kidding? ¬†Yes, my grades were high where I wanted them to be, but the grade for my contribution to my marriage was F after F. ¬†My priorities were so skewed. ¬†Devastated, but hopeful, my heart ached horribly, but I couldn’t wait to talk to my husband.


Later that evening in our bedroom, I finally had the opportunity to apologize to Kevin. ¬†He had been quiet all day when he got in from work, and my stepdaughters were over. ¬†I certainly didn’t want to do this in front of them, so I asked the Lord to give me the words at the right time. ¬†Kevin listened so intently, and yet his face would look away at times. ¬†I shared with him all that the Lord revealed to me during my quiet time, and when I was finally done, he looked at me, and said, “I can never stop you, Grace. ¬†You get something in your mind and you just run with it. ¬†I’m in awe of you. ¬†Everything you’ve ever wanted to do, you can do it. ¬†But what killed me was that you’ve never asked me, not that you need my permission, but that you would consider me. ¬†You’re still living like you’re single.”

Dear friends, if I can impart wisdom to you regarding marriage- which is a holy, beautiful, institution using two broken, imperfect people (one man, one woman), take my words to heart. ¬†YOU CANNOT CLEAVE TO SOMEONE BY YOUR OWN WILL. ¬†The Bible is so full of wisdom and truth regarding marriage being an institution that reflects the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. ¬†That one would lay down their life, they would cleave to each other, they would forsake all others, they would lead, serve, submit… ¬†I wasn’t doing any of that. ¬†And I had been so blinded because of my own selfishness, I didn’t realize the pain Kevin ¬†even felt.

I used to pride myself on telling others to “put the shoe on the other foot”, but I couldn’t follow my own advice. ¬†And because I had squashed the Holy Spirit, I wasn’t hearing His gentle rebukes to consult my husband, pray before deciding, wait to see if it was something the Lord wanted of me. ¬†All of these steps I took were “GRACE-driven”, but not grace-driven.


I have learned the ability to squash the enemy instead of the Spirit.

If you are married or considering it, your primary concern will always be for the other person. ¬†Yes, you have dreams and goals, but trust me, if they don’t include your spouse, you live a life of secrecy and darkness. ¬†These things always come to light, Scripture says. ¬†Even in the midst of a godly marriage. ¬†If we’re not seeking the Lord and our spouse’s approval on things, are we truly surrendered to their ideas, opinions, viewpoints? ¬†And let’s not gloss over the fact that the enemy HATES marriage, so he will do anything he can to separate, isolate and KILL off any part of you that works in conjunction with your spouse. ¬†Instead of running ahead of your mate and figuring things out, seek your spouse’s opinion (communication is sexy, people) and see what he has to say. ¬†You may be surprised by his wisdom and acceptance of your ideas.

Submission to a man of God is easy.

If a man loves the Lord, and follows His commands (most importantly to put YOU first in his life, and love you like Jesus loves the church), you can easily walk alongside him and submit to him.  I know every marriage is not like this.  But if you are a godly woman, you are not alone.  Your Lord is your husband and voice of wisdom until He gets through to your husband.

I learned that my husband “gets” the idea of unconditional love (and it’s something I cannot take for granted)

When I screwed up royally, Kevin never held it over my head. ¬†We have thousands of dollars in college loans for a degree that I never finished, and he’s never said another word about it, except to tell me that we have to remember a certain amount coming out monthly. ¬†He said it’s a lesson that we learned together.

Talk about GRACE!! ¬†Could you do that? ¬†If your husband cost you THOUSANDS of dollars for a dream that God called you out of, would you be able to NOT talk about it? ¬†I mean, we may want to tell our girlfriends why we can’t go out for coffee or dinner, “because let me tell you what my husband did…”.

He NEVER did that. ¬†He just moves forward with me, seeking God for our next step. ¬†That’s insane, but possible with God. ¬†Kevin’s love for me overshadows my mistakes. ¬†Sound like anyone else you know? ūüėČ

I’ve learned God’s plans for me do coincide with my dreams (after all, He put them there), but I can wait for His direction and timing to execute them.

My frustration and becoming overwhelmed was because I was putting pressure on myself that was never meant to be there. ¬†I needed to seek God and His Word regarding my steps, but I was too busy running to stop and read (or listen). ¬†And out of that journey of running, I realized many reasons why I was pushing to prove myself. ¬†I am now equipped with Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. ¬†I know the schemes against me, I know the tactics the enemy uses, I know his cunning behavior. ¬†I cannot prepare myself for everything, but I can be aware, and that is what is required of us. ¬†We need to watch and know that he seeks to KILL us and DESTROY us. ¬†This is your ENEMY…the one that knows he loses in the end. ¬†So remind him of that.

And ultimately, I have a few dreams that are in my think tank. ¬†I know the Lord put them there. ¬†He is slowly revealing timing for certain things, but I’m more patient than I’ve ever been. ¬†I know when I see myself putting on tennis shoes in my mind’s eye, I need to sit back on the bench and consider him and my husband first.


The cord of three strands is essential to a vital, godly marriage. ¬†Kevin is a flawed human being. ¬†As am I. ¬†And there is only one other person involved in our marriage, who has a vested interest in our marriage, who is not flawed. ¬†God designed it, He knows the obstacles, but He has the power and the resources to conquer them. ¬†And He’s given us the wisdom to learn how to do it.

Put simply: RELIANCE ON THE LORD HIMSELF.

I can come up with some pretty awesome ideas (brushed knuckles on chest), but if I haven’t sought the Lord or Kevin, I will be devastated at the loss of time spent by choosing to go the path alone. ¬†I’ve witnessed after a long day of work, Kevin come home and say something that neither one of us has talked about, but that I know the Lord must have put on His heart. ¬†That is evidence enough for me that He is present in both of our lives. ¬†And He has to be! ¬†We are so prone to going our own way, but in a marriage, it’s always about the other person. ¬†Sacrifice to self is essential.


Something else that the Lord brought to my mind in the living room that day was that friends lay down their lives for each other. ¬†I hadn’t done that. ¬†For me to be successful as a wife, submitted to my husband and completely surrendered to the Lord, I had to lay down my hopes/dreams/college credits/Avon makeup business for the sake of Kevin and my longevity. ¬†It’s not that these were bad ideas, but sometimes the Lord asks us to give up things that are in the way of what He is trying to accomplish through us. ¬†If my grip had been so tight on school or my business, where would that have left Kevin?

hold everything in your hands


I’ve learned to let go of hurtful, hateful moments and live in the NOW.

Earlier, I had mentioned how things went wrong leading up to our wedding day. Life isn’t perfect, and moments aren’t as tidy or neat as Pinterest tries to convince us. ¬†Over the last two years, the Lord has been working on my heart of unforgiveness. ¬†I’ve been holding onto so much, about so many people, that it had become a huge wedge in our marriage. ¬†I had to come to the realization of three things:

  1. Kevin wasn’t responsible for the actions of those who hurt me, so I had to stop treating him as if he was.
  2. Holding onto the anger for what others had done wasn’t hurting them. ¬†It was hurting me. ¬†And Kevin. ¬†And other family members. ¬†My responses weren’t Christlike many times, and if I was trying to be a light, I wasn’t accomplishing it very well.
  3. Forgiveness is able to be done by humans, but the peace that comes as a result, is something only the Lord can give. ¬†I have said I’ve forgiven and forgotten a ton of times. ¬†But I hadn’t ever given the situation to the Lord. ¬†Then, all of a sudden in 2013, God started messing with my sleep schedule. ¬†He would keep me up, replaying an incident or how I handled it. ¬†My anger would rage, my thoughts would get wound up, and I would want to scream. ¬†But when I learned to take those moments and hand them over to the One who already died for their mistakes, and mine too, I was able to let Him deal with that person and no longer hold it over their heads. ¬†I cannot tell you the freedom I have, and the lack of weight on my shoulders for doing this! ¬†If you need help with forgiveness or unforgiveness, call me, text me, email me. ¬†I will be doing a bible study on this topic because it is so beneficial to our mental and physiological well-being.

I’ve learned that where God said No for now, it doesn’t mean forever.

I still have dreams. ¬†I also have a husband whose work schedule might change, and stepdaughters in college. ¬†I want to be there for them. ¬†This doesn’t mean my goal of counseling will fade. ¬†It means that the Lord will be faithful in what He told me: He will give me what I need when I need it. ¬†And I can rest in that.

I’ve learned that everyone needs second chances, and third, and eighteenth, and ninety-seventh, and…

The beautiful truth about the God of the Bible is that He is full of grace and mercy, justice and truth. ¬†He gives grace much more than He punishes. ¬†Like the loving parent that He is, He disciplines those He loves, but He doesn’t leave us in timeout, or in prison! ¬†He conquered death so we could be with Him. ¬†Is He happy with our choices and behavior all of the time? ¬†That depends on your walk with Him. ¬†But the good news is that when we screw up, He is faithful and just to see the sin, cover it with the blood of His Son, and grant us newness. ¬†Out of that thankfulness, we need to be appreciative and turn our lives in another direction.

Where our sin is great, His grace is greater!


So that’s my story. ¬†At least for now. ¬†Four years may not seem like a long time, but for me, it’s been packed with lesson after lesson and grace upon grace. ¬†I’ve titled this post “What’s Next for us”, but to be truthful, only God knows that.

I just know that we’re all in, whatever that looks like. ¬†And we’re going to do it hand-in-hand until He calls us home.

flowers butterflies marriage walking the future

Posted in Faith, Family

Shaken to the core

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

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

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

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

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

That I don’t matter.¬†

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

I wasn’t even included.¬†

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

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

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

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

I have two lessons learned from this:

ONE: Realize what is really necessary. 

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

TWO: My reaction matters. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Faith

On understanding forgiveness

Forgiveness is not easy.

Yes, I know that‚Äôs 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‚Äôd 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‚Äôm 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, ‚ÄúYet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôs physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation ‚ÄĒ 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.‚ÄĚ (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 ‚Äúlove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.‚ÄĚ

Simple enough?¬† No way!¬† That‚Äôs easier said than done.¬† If you‚Äôre like me, you‚Äôre thinking, ‚ÄėWhy should I be praying for them?¬† They‚Äôre jerks!‚Äô

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.