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.

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

Living Intentionally

gentle breeze

I’ve been in a season of quiet and stillness for a few months now, and it’s becoming incredibly refreshing. ¬†I am typically busy, running from appointment to meeting to gathering to party to… you get the idea. ¬†Since I’ve learned to allow myself to say no, and not feel guilty about responses, I’ve become increasingly relaxed. ¬†I believe it’s a lesson the Lord has been trying to show me for some time now. ¬†And I’ll explain why.

The beginning of 2016 was a huge transition for myself and my hubster, K.  He was working the night shift at his factory job, and since I work at home, I transitioned with him so we could still be connected.  We did our best to be close: eating meals together, praying when we could, talking about what we were reading, fasting for specific reasons, and hanging out, since getting together with others was restricted to weekends and sporadic events we could handle in the hours before starting our night shifts.

Loneliness, isolation and quiet were paramount in that season. ¬†We couldn’t change the way we felt about not being around other people, which was devastating and eye-opening, but the positive effects on our marriage were incredibly significant. ¬†We grew so much in our communication and we bonded in ways I know we wouldn’t have otherwise. ¬†We both were grounded in Scripture, challenging each other with questions about what we were reading, and sharing dialogue regarding passages that spoke to us. ¬†It was a beautiful, trying season.

Just before Easter, we went back to day shift. I changed contract companies, and K began a different position with a new team under him.  We both began a new journey.  Staying as close as we were, when we were all we had, has become a challenge, because now we have time for others again, and family needs, and insert any other type of distraction here.  The down time we had in the winter was a way of opening our eyes to our availability: to others as well as ourselves. And for the first time, it was a time to just focus on our faith and each other.

Something we do pride ourselves on, is being available for others with our presence, and if that’s not possible, we send cards and prayers in our physical absence. ¬†We try to stay connected to others as much as possible, because we are two social people who love people. ¬†But I must admit that I know that I am someone who needs to step back at times to re calibrate in quiet. ¬†And knowing that I’m an introvert, I had to stop considering what others might think of my absence. ¬†Saying no to things is okay. ¬†For so long in the past, I would be upset about turning something down, or saying no for fear of what someone’s opinion of me would become. ¬†It took me¬†a while to give myself permission to be okay with being true.

What I’ve come to realize as I reflect on both seasons this year, is that sometimes it is necessary to pull back and reassess our positions. ¬†As believers, we are definitely sent out into the “mission field” every day, as servants and representatives of Jesus. ¬†Divine interruptions happen frequently and we have to be ready. ¬†However, we also must admit our emptiness at times and “fuel up” so we can be who we need to be for the Kingdom.

Living intentionally as a believer means that I am living with the purpose of reflecting Jesus through my words, actions and deeds. ¬†I am a human vessel who is used by God to show the world His Son. I am accountable for that. ¬†And sadly there are times I know I haven’t done a good job of that. I can remember times when I served in ministry that my actions became obligatory, that my “I’ll pray for you”s were rehearsed and unfeeling, and my “yes”es were because I was afraid of what others would think. Just as our bodies need physical food to provide energy so we can function, our spirit needs the Holy Spirit and downtime to recharge and be filled so we can reflect Jesus.

Don’t believe me because you feel like you’ll miss an opportunity to serve God? ¬†Even Jesus took time to stop and pray, step away from the noise and reflect. ¬†We don’t have to think we’re saving the world or missing out on opportunities. ¬†The more time we have with God, the more we are able to hear His voice (John 10:27) and know what His intentions are for us on a daily basis.

When I was in the early stages of working the night shift, my physical body was a wreck (working during the night hours does something horrible to your mind and body).  However, I spent my days literally reading my Bible on my couch with my husband, sharing insights and fueling up.  Free of distractions and obligations, we both felt disconnected from others, but incredibly linked to the Lord.

I believe God wanted me to slow down and focus on Him. ¬†And He accomplished it by changing my availability. ¬†My choice to work nights was optional, K’s was not. ¬†But I wanted my husband to feel supported and encouraged, and I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did. ¬†I’m glad we switched back to days, despite how much we were growing. ¬†Because now even on day shift, I am still available for others. I am just more mindful of my time and whether or not my “YES” is because of God or my desire to please others. I have learned to pray before responding and not feel guilt, even when I get push back or disappointed responses from others. ¬†I have to be true to myself and my Lord.

I am intentional now about staying connected to Christ. ¬†Knowing myself as I do (imagine that), I realize that as a woman, I emotionally respond to many things. ¬†I’ve learned to slow down, filter it through the Lord’s filter instead of my human emotional filter, and have seen my responses change. ¬†I realize that my eyes are being opened in many other areas of my life as well, and in order to navigate the dark, stormy waters that are approaching, I need to cling¬†to¬†my anchor.

Now, K and I also as a couple have to be mindful of when we’re getting so busy that we’re not making time for each other. I imagine every married couple knows when that happens because you start to get irritable or angry about little things when it’s really because you’re missing each other and not making time to connect.¬†It’s an easy fix. ¬†Say no to whatever is taking you away from your covenant. ¬†My Lord needs to be first, then my spouse, then whatever God says is next, not what I deem important.

And just so this doesn’t sound like I’m knocking being there for others, K and I both have developed some pretty cool relationships with people this year and are connecting with some friends we’ve not spent as much time with in the past. ¬†We are able to say yes to spending time with others without compromising time with each other.

My perspective has changed in the area of serving as well. ¬†I know when God is saying Yes for me for something, and stepping into obedience has blessed me incredibly. ¬†A study on forgiveness that I began teaching last fall with one woman went from an eight-week study to eight months. ¬†The relationship that was forged through some many painful, tearful evenings blessed us both. ¬†The study produced a woman who now is able to transfer her insecurity to Jesus and she was able to forgive someone for 35+ years of hurt. ¬†I will never feel bad about saying no to things while working alongside the Holy Spirit for that woman’s transition.

Also, a door opened after ending my time with her, to help another woman who is struggling with her marriage. ¬†My Tuesdays are set aside for her and developing trust through her heartache. ¬†I’m enjoying what the Lord is teaching us both through her ¬†sessions.

Slowing down, focusing on Jesus and listening instead of running has strengthened my heart and faith in many ways. I’m so thankful for His leading me to rest in Him, and teaching me to depend on Him instead of working out of my own power. ¬†I’m intentionally seeking rest and stillness now, without fear of any other feelings being hurt. I am following where Jesus leads.

Posted in Faith, Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

new startcake2

candles

God's KnotThe day had finally come.

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

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

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


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

listening to In Christ Aloneso happyfrom the startrings

our new stepfamilyStarting over would be an adjustment for me.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have learned the ability to admit my wrongdoings.

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

I have learned the ability to put my partner first.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I began to sob,

and then cry,

and then mourn loudly.

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

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

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

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


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

That realization hit me so hard.

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


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

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

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


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

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

Submission to a man of God is easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Put simply: RELIANCE ON THE LORD HIMSELF.

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


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

hold everything in your hands


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where our sin is great, His grace is greater!


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

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

flowers butterflies marriage walking the future

Posted in Faith, Family

Choices (part 2)

Today, May 2nd, is an anniversary for me, and a sad one.  It is the day that the Cuyahoga County court gave my ex-husband and me, the divorce we wanted, five years ago.

Though I was the one to physically leave the home in¬†November of¬†2006, my ex-husband was the one to file paperwork in January of ¬†2007. ¬†I had no idea what I was doing or how to go about the divorce/disillusionment. ¬†I just wanted out. ¬†He and I quickly agreed to terms (I let him keep the house because he had my dog, and I had moved to an apartment where I couldn’t have an animal), we split everything down the middle for the most part, I read through the first draft he gave me, questioned if¬†there was any hope for us, and waited for the end date to come. ¬†While I waited, I drank Miller Lite like it was going out of style.

When the day finally arrived, it was a Tuesday. ¬†Thankfully I wasn’t present at the courthouse. ¬†We were told only one of us had to go, and my ex volunteered. ¬†I remember the day very well. ¬†I was scheduled to tend bar that evening and had woken up late that day around 9am. ¬†I didn’t even want to get out of bed. ¬†I felt so anxious.

Finally my phone sang on the coffee table at the rental I was sharing with a roommate. ¬†I don’t remember the exact time, but the words were in black and white.

The text read, “You’re free, have a nice life.”

 

 

I think that’s when I started shaking. ¬†I, who had gotten sick of his verbal abuse and finally stood up to him, now all of a sudden had a shocking realization: I WAS COMPLETELY ALONE.

I had gone through moments since I’d moved out of the house, battling the confusion I had in my mind: thinking maybe we’d work things out, maybe I’d still have to chase him to bars, maybe we’d do counseling, maybe we’d have kids and they’d never know their father because he chose not to be home with me, maybe we’d learn to love each other again even though I was completely numb. ¬†I believed anything was possible with God. ¬†After all, I’d returned to church and felt renewed in my faith.

Yet, when the text came that alerted me to the freedom I’d prayed for so much, I shook with fear, thankfulness, timidity, joy, and anger.

At that moment, I freaked out.  Had I done the right thing?  Had I really disliked his behavior so much that I went against the commitment I had stated in front of God, family, friends??  Was this even allowed?  What if my selfishness at wanting to be away from him kept me from Heaven?  Doubt and fear consumed me, and I had never felt so scared in my life.  The battle in my mind continued for months.  And my behavior declined as I began to self-destruct.  

That is one time that Satan really had a hold on me. ¬†I began doing drugs with the people who would come into the bar. ¬†A lot of the patrons were not shy about their extracurricular activities, and I finally felt “FREE” so I had no one to answer to, but myself (or did I?).

I lied to almost everyone I met. ¬†It became such a pattern, I couldn’t even keep the lies straight. ¬†I called off of work just because I didn’t want to get out of bed. ¬†When I did go to work, I went to my day job still hung over from the night before. ¬†I was working two jobs to pay my bills, and more than anything, I just wanted to die. ¬†I eventually got to a place where I was okay with my marital choice, but the shame I had caused in myself had overwhelmed me.

I met a man who I got along with really well. ¬†We talked a lot, but I even lied to him, because I began drinking so much, that my life revolved around the bar scene and I couldn’t keep my days straight, my details, my lies, etc. ¬†I was a wreck!!
I almost lost him.  My heart hurts as I remember the shock and heartache at him leaving.
I remember one morning that changed everything. ¬†He and I would go to a place by the lake that only the two of us knew about. ¬†We would go there to talk and listen to one another. ¬†Our friendship had grown over a period of eight months, and we trusted each other (or so we thought). ¬†When he showed up at my rental unannounced, and assumed something had happened (which hadn’t, but with my track record of lies,¬†I’m not sure I would’ve believed me), he sped off.
I called off work (again) and took off in my car. ¬†I went to the lake, and sure enough, found his car there. ¬†I walked to our spot, and he was just sitting there, fuming. ¬†I don’t think we talked for some time. ¬†We just both stared at the water. ¬†We didn’t sit near each other.

Eventually, we had to be real with each other.  We had become best friends, so we had to say something.  And finally we did.

We screamed, we argued, we cried, we laughed, we yelled some more.  But eventually, we broke.  We sat there holding each other, realizing our lives were both complete messes and we had to make some serious decisions if we were going to take our relationship further.

We made a verbal commitment to each other to get rid of all the things in our lives that made us less of who we were meant to be.

We vowed to never do drugs again (and I can proudly say I haven’t SINCE), and we promised each other that we would contact one another if we ended up in a sticky situation that could turn ugly.

We became accountable to each other, and love blossomed where disgusting darkness once lived.  Where I felt Satan holding on tightly to my disobedience to God, his grip began to loosen as I began to stare into the darkness without fear.

I dove into Bible study. ¬†I slowly pulled away from the bar scene. ¬†I had already quit my job as a bartender, I just had to stop going to the bar¬†on the days that I felt bored. ¬†I prayed that God would transform my mind, as I believed Scripture says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to¬†the¬†pattern¬†of¬†this world, but¬†be¬†transformed¬†by¬†the¬†renewing¬†of¬†your¬†mind.¬†Then you will¬†be¬†able to test and approve what God‚Äôs will is‚ÄĒhis good, pleasing and perfect will.” ¬†I became more aware of my decisions and my choices.

I realized that just because a peer wanted to do something, didn’t mean it was right, and I was free to say NO if I wanted.

I also attended a bible study at my church which was based on the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  

The truths that were provided in that book helped me realize that I did have a voice, I could make my own decisions, and not everything I did had to end in shame/regret.

I began to protect my body, my mind and my heart. ¬†I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ and walked away from a lot of the temptations that used to have a hold on me. ¬†I’m still a work in progress, but where sexual sin used to abound, it no longer even entices me. ¬†Satan lost the battle on that one.

My best friend stayed close to me, believed in me, and began to go to my church with me. ¬†His eyes were opened to the truth of the gospel too, and he recommitted his life to God as well. ¬†He changed his harmful behavior and let the Lord open up his heart to the idea of loving again, knowing this time it would be reciprocated. ¬†We made choices that¬†benefited¬†our own lives, but also each others’ lives. ¬†We gave God complete control of our lives, and learned to step back and wait for His response in certain situations. ¬†The love that blossomed from the ugliness of our pasts grew into a full-blown relationship, dating season, engagement and now a new marriage.

I trust no other man as much as I trust my husband. He has seen me at my worst, and never rejected me. He loved me when I felt unworthy. He endured watching me let go of “old Grace” and rejoiced with me when I was able to get my license back, name cleared, a new job, new car and a new home. He stood by me when I thought all hope was lost, and he provided constant attention and encouragement. He is such a remarkable human being.

I catch myself staring at my husband every day and in my mind, I let myself go back to one of my old memories. When he asks me what I’m thinking about, I just reply, “You” and we both smile.

I wish every wife would take a moment to look deep into the eyes of the man they married, and remember the newness of meeting him, getting to know him, and falling in love with him. Initial feelings of lust do subside, but the longevity of love, trust and commitment can withstand time. With time, comes familiarity and a closeness that bonds us together so incredibly. And with Jesus at the helm, we are accomplishing much.

Though I divorced my first husband and felt guilt at leaving a then-hopeless marriage, could it have been saved?  Knowing what I know now about the power of God, my answer is yes.  Yet, I live in the present.  That time is gone.

I did have to forgive myself for not believing God could restore what my ex and I had broken. ¬†I had to learn to love myself again and see myself the way God does, covered in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness. ¬†I will not rejoice that my first marriage is over, but will continue to pray for my ex-husband that he sees the need for God in his life, that he surrenders to him, so that maybe we can see each other again when this life is over (who knows, maybe even before).

And for now, I’ll be happy with the choices that brought me Kevin’s love, and the desire to know my Lord more.

Every disgusting memory I had in my old life is blurry, every unfathomable scene that haunted my mind in fear of losing God’s grace is gone, every lie that Satan told me has been conquered with the truth of the gospel. ¬†

I’m not indestructible. ¬†I’d like to say that I conquered sin, but that was Jesus’ job, not mine. ¬†I know now to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) to fend off the darkness that consumes us even though we can’t see it. ¬†We are at war with the unseen, in a struggle for power over our souls, and I am not letting Satan have me. ¬†God claimed me long ago, and I am now strong enough to stand under His protection. ¬†My choices now are to accept my past faults that led me to a new life in Christ, accept the forgiveness for my sin and the redemption of my life from my Heavenly Father who fought for me, and accept the outpouring of love from a man who overwhelms me with his adoration.

Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Marital statistics

If you’re like me, you hate stats. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out.

I don’t like them simply because I believe people can beat odds, no matter what the numbers are (I’m a Christian-miracles happen daily and often). I’m not a math whiz, and never figured out a really cool formula, so I’m pretty sure that THAT fact alone may keep me out of the statistical nerd bracket. If you’re a bean counter and love numbers, formulas and theorems, I do envy you, but my strength has always been more in language.

However, something interesting to me was a few stats I read from a stepmother blog. I’ll share with you an excerpt from the “Stepfamily Love Maintenance” edition from February 25. The blog opens with numbers, then shares a few practical ways to stay in touch with your mate, and make time for each other, because obviously life and other things can get in the way.

Let me state that our children are not an interruption in our lives in any way, but they do take time away from quality spouse time. Hence, one of the obstacles marriages have to overcome; how to NOT lose each other when family takes precedence. Christ says spouse first, then family, then yourself.

“Most of us know that the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50%. For every re-marriage one has, the divorce rate goes up. So second marriages are in greater danger. Third marriages in even greater peril, etc. If one or more partners has children from a previous marriage the divorce rate spikes to 75%. There is very controversial research that says if a brand new stepmother enters a family with stepdaughters ages 12 to 17, the divorce rates shoots up to 99%. This research does not include families in which the stepmother entered the family when the children are young.

Scary numbers, right?”

http://becomingastepmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/stepfamily-love-maintenance/#wpl-likebox

The hardest stat to accept was the one about a remarriage that has two teenage daughters. Guess which bracket I fall into? Unfortunately (yet fortunately for me), Kevin is on his third (and last) marriage to me. I’m on my second. He has two teenage daughters, so if I believed what I read above, I should be closing out a bank account and looking for someplace to live. Seriously…99%!?!?

However, I feel empowered by this statistic. Truly empowered, challenged and motivated more than ever before. And here’s why: I dated Kevin, knowing that he had earlier issues that have been dealt with, he didn’t truly know Jesus (he was raised Catholic and felt something was missing) and he longed for the intimate, caring part of a relationship that he had never had. All he kept telling me was that he wanted a best friend.

I had weaknesses that grew out of insecurities and a verbally abusive first marriage. I, too longed for someone to be my best friend. I didn’t want to go down the “bar” road again, though. I knew the person I wanted to share my life with, would allow me to be myself, have faith in Jesus and let me worship with wild abandon. I need freedom to write, sing, and be worshipful, without being judged and scoffed at.

Kevin never laughed at my faith. He was encouraged by it, and often encouraged me to learn more so that we could talk about it.  I would read my bible and complete a bible study and then talk about it with him.  We grew in Scripture and learned how some of our behavior was unacceptable.  We learned of true repentance, asking forgiveness, and letting God renew our minds from the inside after we accept Him as Lord.

It is through these faith talks that God opened my eyes to his hurt and gave me a love for Kevin that I never imagined I could have. And Kevin saw in me, the best friend he’d always longed for. We are the other half of each other, yet wholly unique and full in Christ. It’s awesome!

Kevin and I overcame many obstacles in our five-year (so far) friendship. And we grew to love each other, love Christ, and give Him all the dark parts of ourselves. So, entering a committed marriage, knowing the ODDS were against us, seemed like nothing, since we gave our lives to Christ and are loving and supporting each other daily.¬† That’s not to say that there aren’t trials and heartaches.¬† We have them, but hardly ever with each other.¬† It’s usually other people in our lives that tend to put stress on us, but we in turn, TURN TO GOD AND EACH OTHER, and hold hands, knowing it’s all or nothing.

If one of us stands, so does the other.¬† We face things head on.¬† We don’t run, we don’t play ostrich, we don’t pretend¬†things didn’t happen.¬† We are raw and real. And I think that the foundation we’ve built, in helping each other through some tough struggles at the beginning of our relationship, and the glue of Christ, will help us beat the statistic that the world is almost hoping we won’t make it.

I love my two teenage stepdaughters.¬† Are they perfect? ¬†Absolutely not. ¬†Am I? Goodness, no…not even close.¬† But do I live a life now that is honest, fair and forgiving?¬† Yes, and with Christ’s help, Kevin and I can last forever, until we are called home.

If you fall into one of the statistics above, I pray you are seeking Christ in your decisions.  Satan WILL try to separate the marital bond. Remember we are dealing with things unseen, not so much the humans that carry out some of the evil.  Satan hates unity, he hates love and he hates God.

Newsflash: If you represent God, then he hates you too. ¬†He doesn’t want us to succeed.¬† But I’m aware of his lies and deception.

So, stand firm on the truth of the gospel, pray often and daily with your spouse, for each other, your loved ones and the lost, and never give up.

May God build a fortress around the THREE of you, and when you are called to serve, step carefully from your tower, knowing God has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not let Satan have you.

I believe in the power of prayer, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the love that Kevin and I have for each other. Nothing is getting through these walls!

Posted in Family, Stepfamily

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

Had to share this picture!!

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

Committed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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