Posted in Faith

Reachable

Almost ten years ago to the day, I began to believe a lie that I was worthless, a mess, unwanted, rejected and outside of the grace of God.

I believed that I had made a choice that would solidify my destiny, and that I was unreachable.

And I began to live a life of lies, of masks, of walls.

The lies grew and grew between the enemy and me, and though I was acting on the outside like they didn’t bother me, my spirit and flesh were at war. I wanted to believe that I was significant, that I mattered, but everything else seemed to be against me.

“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.” -Ephesians 6:12

My heart hardened.

Those who did love me, who tried to reach out, would be blocked by my harsh, hurtful, lashed out words. Those who enticed me, got what they wanted, and I kept sinking further and further into the lies. What was dangerous and scary became fun and challenging. I was in complete darkness.


One thing I can say with grave certainty, is that the voice of the Lord is louder than the voice of the enemy.

One must be still to hear it.

A heart grieving what they believed to be true must admit there may be a possibility they were wrong. A person full of guilt and shame still wants to know they are loved. Even in a hateful, judgmental world. And every hurting person, no matter how much they’ve done wrong, deserves to hear the truth.

In my quiet surrender, in my lonely apartment that became a home, in my repentant heart that was aching so badly for what, I didn’t know…

I heard the Lord. I heard Him, not in an audible way, but in my spirit…

That He just wanted ME.

Me: full of guilt, sadness, shame, blame, accusations, anger, lust, envy, etc., was all, He wanted in that moment.

He didn’t turn His back on me. He didn’t blame me or tell me what I had done wrong.

He stepped into my quietness, in the middle of sobs and declared that:

I was HIS if I would let go of ME.

“Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins—
even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed;
you will be confident and fearless.” -Job 11:13-15


I have learned much in the last decade about myself, about those who love me, and about those who don’t.

Some people are strangers because they choose to be. They don’t want to go down the road of risking their heart to love someone that someone else rejected. They don’t want to admit they have too, judged and deemed me unworthy. They stand along the sidelines and just watch. Unsure of what to say, they say nothing. It’s okay. We’ve all done it.

I am not accusing or upset with those who didn’t know how to respond. I’m just aware that we all have moments of uncertainty about how to react when we see someone hurting.

Some people genuinely don’t care what you’ve done or who you were. They see you now. They know that something happened. They just choose not to address it, and love you beyond it. These are examples of grace and mercy. These are direct representations of Jesus.

These people are those who loved enough to risk. They stepped into my world, told me the truth about who God is, who Jesus is and what He did for me, and reassured me that I matter, that we ALL matter, and that every decision I’ve ever made in my life paled in comparison to the one that I made about my future. My ETERNAL future.

Out of obedience, they (and they know who they are) accepted the prodding of the Holy Spirit to not reject me, but love on me. Talk with me. Lovingly share the truth so I could see how I fit into the story of humanity and God’s redemption. They didn’t accuse me. (They didn’t need to- my own flesh/conscience had done that.) They didn’t tell me what the Bible says about the things I’d done wrong. (Again they didn’t have to, I had a Bible in my possession, and when I was ready, I sought the Lord myself.)

They pointed me back to the ONE who spoke into my heart.


There is an ache in all of us for more…more what, we’re not sure of. We keep trying and reaching, running and struggling, but we were never meant to fill the ache with ourselves or others.

There is ONE GOD who hears us. ONE GOD who knows the struggles we go through. ONE GOD who doesn’t reject us, or tell us we don’t measure up, or give us prayers to pray or words to say so we can be acceptable again. He pointed out sin from the moment it began in the garden and still offers an opportunity for repentance. He is so incredibly patient.

The Lord Jesus Christ already LOVES you…from conception to physical death. PERIOD.

The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost. The day of the Lord’s return will surprise us like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the heat will melt the whole universe. Then the earth and everything on it will be seen for what they are.” – 2 Peter 3:9-10

God wants all of us to be saved. He is patient. It says it right above. He is waiting because everyone needs a chance to hear about Him. He sent his Son to die and rise again (John 3:16) so HE could limit death and reject the power it has over us. He wants you to know how much He loves you and that you can stop running to find out what is missing in your life.

Let Go.

There is NOTHING you’ve done that can keep you from His love. There is NO PLACE you’ve run that He can’t reach you. There is a loving God who is our loving Father who sacrificed His Son and shed blood for our restitution.

You are redeemable.

You are reachable.


I give you this song that warms my heart.

It reminds me of how the Lord stepped into my sadness all those years ago, fought the lies of the enemy in my heart with HIS truth and sought me out so I could see His love as it has always been.

Listen and BELIEVE. You are never unreachable. NEVER!

Love, Gracie 🙂

Posted in Faith, Stepfamily

Open letter to stepmoms and some reflection

Recently, I was on a website for stepparents who struggle with their issues, need encouragement and are dealing with heartache.  I don’t read the stories to get stuck in each individual encounter, nor do I read them for feelings of affirmation for myself.  I read them to remind myself that my own situation as a stepparent has grown remarkably in the last three years, and the family I’ve been a part of, for over five. It helps me to celebrate the small milestones and to thank God for what He is doing/has done.

This past spring, I completed a study on forgiveness and began to put into practice the steps necessary to release the hurts/anger/offenses.  The change in my heart was proof of Christ’s conviction, release and freedom.  I couldn’t shut up about the changes, the prayers, the weight lifted!  It was no surprise that when our class ended, I was asked by the leader if I would teach the study out of my own home, for the benefit of women who struggle with areas of unforgiveness in their lives, not just stepfamily situations.  Without hesitation, I said yes, and I can truly see God’s hand in it.  It’s been amazing!  And I pray it continues.

In reading the post for this particular day, one of the moms who was sharing her heartache was at the end of her rope.  Normally I would skip past and move onto another topic, but I felt compelled to share some hope with her.  Below is my response.  Keep in mind I have no idea of the woman’s faith or lack of, and am just sharing my heart with a complete stranger.

As a stepmom of a little over three years, and dealing with the BM for over five, I want to share hope. I still deal with painful moments, and heartache. I’ve got many moments of ambushes, intended public humiliation, childish behavior in my memory, and am praying forgiveness through them. I have learned/am learning that my reaction to intended hurt says a lot to those who watch: primarily the children I’ve come to love as my own, and to my husband who chose me as part of his journey, and extended family, friends, extras. Ladies, we aren’t machines, so pain still hurts. But I’ve found my faith in the Lord is my mainstay. I keep praying to Him for strength He has willingly given, and I keep the long-term in my focus. When my girls are a little older (they’re 20/17 now), I know in my heart, they will know that I kept myself from retaliating, spoke kindly of the BM even when she didn’t deserve it, and put them first MANY TIMES over my own happiness.

As stepmothers, we end up on the backburner many times. IT HAPPENS (much more often that we feel we deserve), but we chose to enter into an already existing family, with hurts/damaged feelings/ high emotions, etc. It’s not as much about being the bigger person, as it is about remaining strong in the commitment between your husband and yourself, and your value in Christ.

Remembering every incident that created a wound had begun to make me bitter and hurtful. Having learned to give my hurts to Christ who died for these moments and asked me to let them go so I can live, I am finding it easier by saying, “Jesus, take this moment from me. Help me to love with Your love and remember this moment no more. Thank you for the grace you freely give that I don’t deserve. Help me to continue to give it to those who hurt me.” Does it take away the wound? No, it leaves a scar. Does it remove the memory? No, sometimes seeing the repeat offender makes the memory more vivid. But I have to continually give the hurt to Jesus. He has helped me heal and look at my scars lovingly. In the palms of His hand are the scars I’ve given to Him that He didn’t deserve either.

With time, comes healing, and with Jesus, the freedom to not stay in bondage to bitterness, but to free ourselves to love those who hate us, and to show our children how to be overcomers. All of the children have pain we can’t imagine, and loyalty issues we wish they could move past. We have to be mindful of that and allow time to work in their lives too. But I do know from Scripture that LOVE heals a multitude of sins.

When I let my guard down and began to treat the BM like another human being, even when she didn’t want to acknowledge my physical presence, I saw Jesus at work. Over a few months, she began to talk to me like a human being, and I kept praying for Jesus to soften her heart as well as mine. I believe in miracles because I see evidence of forgiveness everyday. My prayer for all of you is the same. Go to God and let go…continue to love the kids, and your hubby, and even your enemies. It changes you, and you can still live. The ex, if she wants to remain in the past, chooses bondage. You CAN be free!”

I proofread it and hit send.

And then I read it again.

And I read it once more.

And then I cried.

Happy tears for the growth in my heart and faith,

and sad tears for the moments I’ve given up to the BM that I couldn’t be a part of.

Happy tears for the girls who are loved regardless of their behavior toward me at times,

and sad tears for the bad moments I pray they forget.

Happy tears for the man who loves me and whispers words of encouragement and praise when he sees my growth,

and sad tears for his heartache at missing his girls at times.

The life of step-anything is hard, rough, rewarding.

I know when I was younger, I never thought, “I’ll grow up and become a stepmom.  I’d love to be name-called, made fun of, judged, slandered, alienated, pranked, stalked, brushed aside, etc.”

I wanted children of my own, a small version of Gracie who would love books like me, and show off wit to impress me and make me belly laugh, and have a heart of selflessness that would be evidence of Christ in her life.  My dream daughter would exhibit a love of working in the garage with her daddy, and run the mower for him, and tinker with electronics like he does.  She would love to write, and snuggle.

And I don’t have that.

At least from my own blood.

I have two girls who came prepackaged, with their own abilities, humor, mindsets, and gifts.

I had schematics and formulas for the child I was supposed to have, but God has been changing my heart to show me what He did give me.

The booklover I wanted happens to be BOTH of my stepdaughters.  They are relentless readers who escape for hours with huge books.  Their memory retention blows my mind.  And I’m amazed at their lack of having to study.

The wit I throw around at family gatherings happens to also be in both of my stepdaughters.  The youngest is always pushing the envelope to get me to laugh (and she succeeds) and I love to return the favor.  When she throws her head back and silently smiles, it makes my heart beam.  And it’s even better when she emits sound!  That really makes me happy!

Selflessness is coming…I can see it. 😉  Kids and these darned electronics…

Our youngest does work in the garage with her father, is mesmerized by helping him take things apart and put them together.  She’s never been afraid to make sure that things work and if they don’t, she wants to know why.

The writer is our oldest.  For Christmas, I got her a real leather-bound journal with fresh, paper.  If she gets it wet, it’s TOAST!  It even has a really cool emblem on the front, like it’s from the Hobbit or something… 😉  Since I’ve known her, she’s had notebooks, diaries, journals and paper somewhere on her person.  I don’t know what she writes, or about what, but just cultivating that practice is healthy.

Snuggling…well, I’m settling for sidehugs and leg pats.  Both girls have an issue with personal space, so I respect that.  My nieces fill my love tank with their hugs, “I love yous” and lap-sittings.  And my husband is an incredible snuggler.  Even at night, when he’s dead asleep, he still reaches for me.

I am also entranced by what they are capable of.  The youngest loves tennis and finished her varsity tennis career this Senior year.  I’ve sat through almost every match, watching her do her best, and watching her get upset with herself when she blew it.  The oldest is in school for nursing, and where she lacked motivation in her high school senior year, she now prioritizes things for her classes, meets deadlines and even changed schools to get the program done faster.

So, in a way, I do have what I’ve prayed for.  Either through osmosis, or through the power of God and what He is able to do, or both, these kids have somehow embodied the essence of me, and I am content.

Two amazing young women who challenge me every day
Two amazing young women who challenge me every day

Could there truly be light at the end of the tunnel?  Or maybe better yet, instead of looking to the end, I should enjoy the journey itself.

When I said this life is rewarding above, I meant that it is truly rewarding.

I dish out time and money like crazy, but I would have done the same with my own children.  I can’t imagine missing something that is important to them, because I know it matters to them, and it matters to me.  And it makes me feel extra special when they ask me to be a part of something.  I easily would slip into the shadows, but they don’t make that happen.

Time has healed, and is still healing.  Forgiveness is a practice that must be utilized daily.  Assumptions have to go out the window.  Judgment has to take a backseat.  Humility is forefront.  And Christ MUST BE the head.  The enemy would love nothing more than to keep us hating and playing games.  But I refuse.  We have lives to live, and so do the kids.  And honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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

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

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, 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!