Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Grief, forgiveness and new beginnings

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

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

grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

castle

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

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

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

armor of God

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

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

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

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

1

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

7

6

 

2

3

10

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

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

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

facepalm

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

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

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

running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

holding hands

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

The words of Jesus: 

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

Matthew 10:34-38

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 1:3-10 

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Posted in Faith

Hope in the wake of tragedy

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

Just a week ago, this happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Faith, 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. ūüėČ ¬†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… ūüėČ ¬†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

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. ¬†ūüėČ

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

Taking chances

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

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

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

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

I had to leave to grow. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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