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.

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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.

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6

 2

3

10

Within the well-worn pages, I found a handwritten note from twenty 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 those who produce. 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 personal 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

The time is NOW

graveside
Death.

It’s going to happen to all of us at some point. ¬†And on Earth, it is final. ¬†When someone we know and love dies, they are now physically gone, and that is/can be extremely painful. ¬†We can feel helpless, lost, scared, uncertain and afraid. ¬†And something I’m sure we never consider is how unresolved issues with those we had negative experiences with will never be resolved, and closure will escape us. ¬†Why am I posting so morbidly?

Because recently God brought a passage to my mind that has been working its way through my thoughts and prayers for the last two weeks. ¬†It’s Proverbs 6:16-19.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

I could write volumes on the first six items listed, but my focus for this post is on the last one: ONE WHO SOWS DISCORD AMONG BROTHERS. ¬†And the reason I’m tying this into death is because the time to reconcile and “make things right” is now. ¬†It’s while those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt are still alive. ¬†The goal as believers should be to keep and maintain peace in our families, our relationships and everyone we encounter.

Discord that is being sown is usually in the form of words against someone else. ¬†It’s mainly gossip or speaking about someone in the family/relationship who isn’t present to defend themselves with the intent of getting someone to think negatively about someone else. ¬†The speaker shares just enough information to help you “form an opinion” about someone who isn’t even present. ¬†Of course they wouldn’t say these things in front of the actual defendant, but they’ll definitely plant seeds to make you reconsider their character or motives. ¬†And the truth is that the one sowing the seeds is the one who has the ulterior motive. ¬†It also promotes unforgiveness and bitterness toward others. ¬†It’s destructive.

I’ve been in many Christian circles where some want validation for their hurts and wounds brought on by others, and to share that is fine for the purpose of prayer, healing and restoration. ¬†But to stay in the position of unforgiveness or anger is not healthy, spiritually or otherwise. ¬†And it truly has no place in God’s Kingdom.

Sin, and namely the sin of pride, is what hinders us from moving into a place of forgiveness for those who have wronged us. ¬†We think, what was done to me was so significant, I don’t have to forgive. ¬†I get to be the victim, and nothing is required on my part. ¬†But that kind of toxic thinking is harmful to yourself and others around you. ¬†Was the sin against you truly worse than what you’ve done against Jesus? ¬†Be honest.

Did someone pop into your mind just now? ¬†Someone who hurt you, or whom you’ve shared misinformation about? ¬†If you find yourself perpetuating events over and over again, ruminating on them for your own self-gratification, you need to stop. ¬†You are sowing discord, and God hates it. Why? ¬†Because He is about unity. ¬†Sin has been dividing us since the Fall. But to those who have given their lives to Christ, your life is not your own, and your reactions and responses reflect what you believe and the power of Jesus to a watching world. ¬†Are you letting Him move you in compassion to a place of forgiveness so you can love those who hurt you, serve those who anger you, and provide a place of safety for those who think differently than you?

And be advised: If you do not believe that the enemy prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), you’re mistaken and deceiving yourself. ¬†The goal of the enemy is to separate, divide, kill and DESTROY. ¬†You are made in the image of God, and because Satan hates God, he hates YOU. ¬†His tactics haven’t changed. ¬†He still tries to use US against each other, and he’s working mightily in those of us who struggle with letting go of hurts. ¬†This is a serious problem¬†that needs to be addressed for ALL of our relationships, but primarily the one with God.

Christians, it’s not okay.

1 John 4:19-20 says, “We love because God first loved us.Whoever says, ‚ÄúI love God,‚ÄĚ but hates his brother is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love the God whom he has not seen.”

Many families are divided because sisters are against each other, in-laws disagree and pull away, brothers are competitive, and children learn to cut off those who don’t think like they do, because it’s been modeled for them so well. ¬†But this is not the way of unity and it is not okay in the eyes of Jesus.

Caveat: I realize there are harmful, abusive situations where boundaries have to be made. That is not the discord God is talking about in this passage. ¬†And I also realize there are issues within families between believers and non-believers. ¬†We can’t expect those not walking with Christ to follow His laws. ¬†So, we need to be prayerful about forgiving them, loving them and modeling Jesus to them. ¬†Seek a Christian counselor or a trusted pastor if you are having trouble forgiving.

My plea is for those who are walking with the Lord to search deep in yourself and ask if the rift that was caused in your family is worth the remorse you will feel later in life when that person is gone. ¬†Can you truly turn a blind eye to it? ¬†Search your heart and reflect on why you won’t open your heart to the idea of that person being in your life. ¬†Is whatever happened really worth losing the relationship for yourself, your spouse, your children, and future generations? ¬†Is it worth acting in a way that is hurting your relationship with God? ¬†It’s easy to parade around on Sundays acting like we have it all together, but God knows the discord that is being sown in our families, and the way we hide so we don’t have to deal with ourselves. Denial is a safe place for many but it is still inexcusable in this instance.

Again, this is not okay. ¬†So if there is any truth to what I am saying, AND I KNOW THERE IS, Christians, I am imploring you to stop and repent of the words that are coming out of your mouths to character assassinate those you are hurting. ¬†Be alert of who is trying to get you to do the character assassinations, and don’t give the devil a foothold. ¬†Do not let him use you to hurt someone else. ¬†It’s divisive and truly hated by God. ¬†Do not feed into the lies spewed by those who try to sway your minds. ¬†Go directly to the person to set things straight, and don’t let gossip take over your conversations. ¬†We are accountable for our words and how we represent the Kingdom.

None of us who are believers should let time pass on these crucial relationship missteps. We need to pray about reconciliation, be willing to let Christ give us the love we need for others, and let ourselves be humbled to the point of forgiveness and restoration.

THE TIME IS NOW.

**If you do not have a relationship with Jesus and want to learn about Him, I invite you to go to the following link for great resources. ¬†And if you’d like me to pray for or with you, you may contact me directly at grace.hejnal@gmail.com.

https://needhim.org/knowing-jesus/

With love, G ūüôā

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