Posted in Faith

Clear vision

I was seven years old when I realized that I could not read the words on the blackboard in my second grade classroom.  They had become blurry after a few days, and I wasn’t allowed to sit in the back row any longer.  I mentioned something to my parents, and shortly after, my mom took me to see Dr. Rowe, a local eye doctor who fitted me for my first pair of eyeglasses.  It’s been almost thirty years since that day, and I’m incredibly grateful for the maker of corrective lenses and disposable contact lenses.  Without them, I would not have been able to blog my first 60 blog posts (or do many other countless things)!

I was diagnosed with myopia along with astigmatism.  Reading close-up or far away truly made no difference. I was unable to do it physically.  Seeing underwater is something I’ve never been able to do, nor have I been able to see clearly across the room when removing my glasses at the end of an evening before bed. Had I been born in another time period, I would be considered an invalid.  I would not be able to see the computer screen to medically code for the veterans that I submit claims for.  I would not be able to drive a vehicle, order lunch from a fast food place, see across the room to whomever had called my name.  I had a fear of losing/breaking my prescription eyeglasses (due to my intense prescription), or having a contact lens fall out, and having to drive home from someplace with only one working eye.  These are not life threatening emergencies, but realities in the life of someone without 20/20 vision. My hope was to one day be able to see without glasses.

Recently, my husband and I made a financial decision that would allow me to undergo LASIK surgery.  So I did.

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The last picture of me with prescription glasses on. 🙂

I have been researching the surgery for quite some time.  I had watched a video that showed up close EXACTLY what happens during the procedure, and the follow-up afterward.  I spoke with people who had done the procedure and loved the results.  I had read reviews online of local surgeons, their staff, and reviews of the procedure, cleanliness of surgical space, and rates of success before choosing a location.  I reviewed pricing options, financing options, and reimbursement factors before making my final decision.  And ultimately, I found out I had money left over in a health savings account from a previous job that would cover the cost!!  SOLD! 🙂

So I had LASIK surgery this past Thursday morning, while my husband and I were off of work.  I had to put antibiotic drops in the night before, and I left my home Thursday morning incredibly hopeful, squashing the anxiety I felt in my stomach.  It’s silly how our minds wander down crazy paths when we are about to embark on something we’ve never done.  Vast were the irrational fears that began to creep into my mind: would I jerk around during the procedure and laser off my nose?  What if the numbing drops didn’t work and I could feel everything?  What if I woke up after the procedure and my vision was WORSE?!?!

Thankfully none of those things happened.

Below is a picture of my eye before the laser part began.

My husband was fascinated with this:

wp-1468173951583.jpgAnd the laser part where they began to reshape my cornea:

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How wild, right!?!

The end result, however, has been none of those crazy irrational fears I’ve listed above.  I had to go through some excessive tearing of my eyes as they adjusted to the corneal tissue growing and reattaching itself, and I also had a few sporadic moments where light sensitivity became an issue.  Overall, I woke up Friday morning with the ability to see into the bathroom and I didn’t have to reach over to the nightstand for my glasses.  It was a wonderful feeling, and still catches me by surprise!!  I’m extremely thankful and glad I did this!

It got me thinking about eyesight and vision in general.  Going through this procedure certainly was an example of trust for me.  The second that I laid on the surgical table, I could not physically see ANYTHING/ANYONE.  I had to trust the surgeon, the nurses, the laser, the pre-programmed measurements, the table, the calming medication, the numbing eyedrops, the outcome, the treatment afterward, etc.  I ultimately trusted my Heavenly Father, as this was elective, and I didn’t have to put myself through this unless I truly wanted to.  I trusted God with my choice of location, and the decision to do something that would benefit me long-term.

Throughout the procedure (Note: you’re awake the entire time), the surgeon was very good about making sure I was physically comfortable and ready to proceed.  He and the nurses would encourage me, let me know what the next step was and how long it would take, and then GO only when I said I was ready.  That helped me to feel safe and secure with them.  Understanding what was coming and having a guide to know ahead of time was essential in building trust.  If every day was like Thursday morning for me, I would be exempt from having trust issues.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But that is not always the case in life, is it?

I’m about to drop some serious truth here: ALL HUMAN BEINGS are people: individuals created by and loved by an amazing God.  Over time and given our family dynamic, we learn and develop how to respond to those around us, sometimes based on personal experience, sometimes based on our parent’s views, sometimes based on other people’s views who have significance in our lives.  We inadvertently are shaped by those who we learn from.

Value for every human being should be the same, as we all have value in the eyes of our Creator.  Sadly, though, bad life experiences with someone of another faith, religion or color has tainted our view of them as a person.  Even worse, shared stories of these events or views help children/others to take in that same tainted view, and begin to see someone through our perspective, as dark as it may be.

We go to the heart’s core function of judgement.

We may not even know someone, but based on what Susan’s sister’s uncle’s brother went through, we may find ourselves in a similar situation.  The odds of that happening are beyond slim, but we begin to think irrationally and filter life through others’ eyes.

Is this fair?  Should we even be doing this?

The answers, of course, are NO and NO.

How does this begin, how do we end it, and how do we proceed for future generations?

In the original texts of Scripture, Romans 7 and Romans 8 use the word “sarx”, which is Greek and means “sinful nature” or “rebellious nature”.  The Bible is stating that we all have within us a nature that goes against the Lord’s value system.  We are created, born into a sinful world, and daily fight against the laws of God.  These laws are innate, since we are created by HIM.  Our nature, however, hates the laws of God, and therefore chooses to reject the laws set in place to protect us.  Only when we submit to the authority of God, and accept Jesus’ blood sacrifice as our own, can we be made right with God, and be given a new nature.  Until then, we are sinful, hateful, judgmental human beings with an autonomous nature that is inherently selfish.  See Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-25,

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[b] a slave to the law of sin.

  There is a constant war going on inside of us until it is surrendered to Jesus.

Romans 8: 1-17 tells us this:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Our flesh (sin nature) and our spirit is at war.  We have been blinded by the enemy who longs for us to stay blind and follow him.  See John 8:44 and 1 John 1:8-9.  To deny Satan’s power doesn’t make him less powerful. It means you’re already under it.  He is very much at fault.

Second Corinthians 4:4 states:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Without clear vision, we are led to believe that we are here on Earth to serve ourselves, that people’s lives don’t matter, that we can make judgments about each other, slander and degrade each other, hate, murder and kill those that think differently, and assume that there are no consequences.

That is not the truth.

We are born into sin, whether we want to admit this or not.  We are sinful people.  We will always be selfish and want what is best for us, disregarding the needs of others, or their well-being, because this is how the enemy operates.  Our nature and the wiles of the devil cause us to be selfish and have no regard for how we live.  The only way to combat this, is to recognize our very rebellious nature that wants what it wants, regardless of how it affects others, and surrender it to Jesus Christ.  He has proven Himself to be the Son of God, who loved us in our rebellious state, and died to destroy that sinful nature, and to vanquish the darkness that wants to separate us from God and others.

Seeing sin in others is pretty easy, isn’t it?  Do you know someone who gossips, who loves to share news of something that happened to someone else without the actual person being present to agree/disagree?  Do you know someone who makes vulgar comments toward a certain type of race, gender, employment status, etc.?  Do you know someone who places blame on someone else constantly without ever taking responsibility for their own actions?  We are so quick to judge others, without realizing what it truly says about ourselves.

Matthew 7:3-5 says the following:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Who are you to judge someone else?  Do you never make mistakes?  Do you never have a bad day and react accordingly?  Where is the love and grace for people who have bad days?  Where is the lack of stereotyping when someone wrongs you?  Where is the forgiveness for actions that hurt?

The truth of the matter with what is happening in America currently is corruption at its worst, and injustice that is out of control.  We are allowed to be angry when people are being murdered for no reason.  We are allowed to be angry when those who are supposed to protect us are profiling and making matters where there was previously none.  We are allowed to disagree.  We are allowed to protest these wrongdoings and state solutions that can benefit society.  These are still freedoms we are allowed to have here.

What is not allowed is incessant murder in the name of someone else.  We are not allowed to let our anger take control and take lives of those whom we deem “inconsequential”.  We are not allowed to take weapons and use them on others because we disagree with them, or feel like they no longer deserve to live.  We are not allowed to go in front of the justice system and make judgments ourselves.  We must wait for these processes to work themselves out in time.  But our impatience keeps us from thinking rationally, and our feelings of injustice have us crying out to God that He’s taking too long.

These are judgments that are reserved for God alone.  And HE wishes no one to perish without the knowledge of who He is, so He’s not advocating murder when we disagree.  Where is the peace and love for each other?  Where is the positive dialogue that can happen when we put others first?

We hate punishments, and we hate correction.  We want to be right.  We want to be heard. But we need to find a new way to do this.  And though I would love to provide a clear-cut solution to the hurt in today’s world, I don’t have the one you want to hear.

I have one name:

JESUS.

The reason people are out of control and self-seeking is because they are operating out of their blinded vision.  They only see themselves.  They have hatred in their hearts and are using their voice as a mouthpiece for justification.  They hide behind computers so their faces will be obstructed.  They write and spew words that vilify and destroy others.

We, humans, are hateful beings. Read any comments section on any news site and you’ll see people who have never met each other, destroying each other because of a difference of opinion.  We don’t care to hear what others have to say when it doesn’t support our own beliefs.

This is not love.  This is not mercy.  This is not grace.  This is not right.

This is blindness.

The only way to clarity is to seek Jesus and His ways.  We are so quick to make assumptions about others, or to predict behavior patterns.  The truth is that God says none of us know the intentions of another’s heart.  So why do we act this way?

I’m reading a book by Ted Dekker called “The Forgotten Way” and in it, he says the following regarding our understanding of Paul’s teachings in Romans:

“Have we lost sight of Paul’s teaching?  He made it plain: The preeminent evidence shown by those who know the Father is this: LOVE.  And not just any love, but the unique kind that loves enemies, not only those who show us love in return.  A love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record of wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  This is to love as Christ loves, submitting to each other without judgment.”

The description above is the way to show the world the clarity of who Jesus is, by HOW HE LOVES.  He longs to see peace and unity among all of us.  Black lives matter.  White lives matter.  ALL LIVES MATTER!  Jesus died for all of them.  We are not to be taking these lives away from each other.  We are to encourage each other, and show love to those who are unlovable.

Something I learned a long time ago is that hurting people hurt people.  Instead of responding with another harsh word or assuming why someone says/does something, why not respond to them in love?  Turn the anger away, instead of fueling it.  Ask Jesus for the love to give to those who are bitter.  No one knows the journey of anyone else, so show grace when someone may not view life the same way.  Show mercy when someone deserves justice.  The Lord will take care of someone else’s need to “learn a lesson”.  It’s not your job.

And let’s begin to ask the Lord to help us see others the way He does.  He sees us as we are: by our hearts.  If we truly saw ourselves the way He does, we wouldn’t be so quick to judge others.  We need Him to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

Colossians 3:5-9 shows us who we really are, no matter how we deny it to ourselves:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[c]with its practices

Thankfully, there is a verse 10:

10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator

Jesus never leaves us as He found us.  He transforms us.  We can become NEW in Christ and learn to love with His heart, instead of our sinful, hateful heart.  We can see each other through His eyes, with love and compassion for each other, with a yearning for others to know Him and share His gospel of life eternal with God.

Love is possible.  Unity is possible.

Will you choose to have clear vision today?

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 — 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— 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.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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, “Jesus is Lord,” 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

Thoughts on the New Year

open door

Well, we’ve officially moved into a new year.  2016 is here!  Maybe it’s my age showing, but I’m amazed at how each year seems to go by faster than the one before.  And as I look around, I see there is always more money to make, less time to spend and many unhappy people.

With the new year comes time for New Year’s resolutions.  Since 2010, I’ve stopped making resolutions because I don’t like the feeling that I’ve failed.  Setting the bar and not meeting it means I didn’t succeed, so why put that unnecessary pressure on myself?  But lately, I am feeling the opposite.  Since I have given my life to Christ, it doesn’t matter if I set the bar and fail, because He gives opportunity after opportunity without deadline.

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve run ahead of God and how He’s been extremely gracious in my hustle and bustle.  In the past, I have loved the frantic, crazy pace of getting things done and having the feeling of accomplishment.  I’m not ashamed of it because it’s part of my make up, however as I get older, I’m realizing God is asking me to sllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww dooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnn.

Being a woman, it’s natural to just take over certain tasks, keep everyone in line, make sure things get done, and go to bed depleted.  Checking boxes makes everyone happy, especially when the bottom line is saving money and time.  But in all of the busyness of life, I’ve even recently noticed how Christian biblical women authors are encouraging women to listen to the voice of the Lord and slow down.  And I believe God is speaking through them.

Lysa Terkeurst has released the best yes,

Susie Larson wrote your sacred yes and

Karen Ehman shares how to let it go.

I’m seeing a recurring theme from women who have “been there, done that” and have learned the rhythm of the Lord is in patiently waiting and not rushing.  What a crazy concept in our fast-paced society!  We don’t like to read these books that make us admit that we’re so goal-focused and check box driven, especially when it means something in our behavior pattern will have to change.  Yet realizing EXACTLY THAT will save us much heartache and unnecessary rebuke.

What is it that sends us to the task driven life?  In social circles, what is it that we are afraid of, if we don’t DO something?  Each woman (or man) who reads this can answer the questions themselves.  Honestly, I believe the questions should be mulled over, and prayed over, with time to hear back from God before replying.  When we can recognize WHY we jump to do something, and whether or not it’s something the Lord is truly asking of us, we can answer with confidence and not hesitation.

fasting

Our church is currently in a new sermon series about spending time with Jesus.  As part of that study, we are learning to fast and actually spend quality time with God.  Doing so requires discipline to follow the suggested regimen, not eating physical food, but depending on the Word of God and what He is speaking to us.  It’s a common practice done in the Bible by Jesus, for getting closer to God, and seeking His will.  I’ve done it once, as a teenager, when raising money for the 30 hour famine.  I’ve never done it longer, and I’ve never done it with the intent of getting specific answers from God.  I believe it is not a manipulation tool, because God cannot be manipulated.  But it is a practice worth doing, to have my physical body completely depend on God during my quiet time, and to exchange my hunger for food, to hunger for Him.

I have much to pray about specifically at this time in my life: I have many unsaved friends and neighbors, stepchildren with concerns about their futures, family members who have broken relationships, a job that is inconsistent at times, clarity for a dream/passion of mine to come to fruition.  All of these things need to be placed in the loving hands of the Father and LEFT THERE.  I needn’t pick them up again.  I can trust Him and I believe that my quiet time with Him will be beneficial, as He will provide what is best for me.

fervent

Now my issue is that I’ve listed my specific prayer needs/wants, but I’ve left out the ones that the Lord has for me.  How will I know them if I don’t ask Him what He has planned or what He is asking me to do?  I fall into the trap of thinking that prayer is simply telling God everything that I want Him to accomplish and then waiting for it to happen.  Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that?  They just talk at you and walk away, and you feel as if you didn’t have a chance to share your viewpoint on anything?  It’s one-sided, unfair, and is one thing I’m resolving this year.  I’m going to take the time to wait for His response.  Who am I to make demands?  I know I am His daughter, but if anyone deserves respect and ultimate praise, it’s God.  I need to be reminded of how I walk into His presence.

And something else that is heavy on my heart, is the gift that the Lord has bestowed on my husband and me.  We love spontaneity, whether it be something we do together solely as a couple, or whether it involve other people who need us in a time of need.  We have been obedient in listening to the Lord for those opportunities and then just “going”.  And we’ve seen the fruit of that obedience.  A dear friend of ours recently said Kevin’s and my greatest gift is our presence.  That we stop what we are doing, and just show up.  And I think that will be something I pray about specifically again this year.  Where do you need us to be, in what way, and what should we bring, if anything?  Giving of time has become such a wonderful way for me to see how the Lord can use me, instead of me having an agenda, or a place to rush off to.  Time really is the most precious gift.

Have you ever done the OneWord movement for the New Year?  I’ve come up with mine and it will be something I pray over and specifically focus on for 2016.  My word is #abide.  God has been speaking into my heart for some time now about spending time with Him (which is why I’m so jazzed about our sermon series at church), but also because I have been convicted by James 4:7.  I need to be drawing near to God and resisting the devil.  So much time in my past has been given to him, out of fear or insecurity, and I’m reclaiming my value this year.  I’m going to spend more time with the Lord, actual QUALITY TIME, and immediately relinquish all thoughts that aren’t from Him.

post it         calendar        tast list

Finally, I have a challenge for you, a very simple one.  If you trust your life in the capable hands of God, do you believe He has everything under His control?  Do you know that He hears the prayers of His children and filters them through His ultimate purposes and wisdom?

A girlfriend of mine told me a few years ago that when she is in prayer about the future, or something that she is uncertain that she’s supposed to be doing, she takes the task, calendar, or a sticky note with the option written on it, and puts it on the floor.  Then she prays over it, and waits to hear back from the Lord regarding it.  She doesn’t say YES until she knows it is what He is asking her to do.

I’m going to be doing this challenge.  I’ve said yes so many times in the past, without knowing whether or not something was correct, and I’ve become overwhelmed and burnt out.  So instead of struggling to find my way, I’m going to give everything to Him and wait for Him to interrupt my plans, intercede with a better idea, and speak to my heart in a way that only I know.

Praying a special prayer for each reader, that your year would be one of surrender, hope, trust, love, grace and forgiveness.  God is trustworthy and faithful to His promises.

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. 😉  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? 😉

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

Encounter (coming soon)

Recently I was able to attend a women’s retreat in Pennsylvania for a five-day getaway, to review a book, work out some issues and ask God for healing.  The exact details are not necessary to tell my story, but the healing that resulted was intense, and that is what I intend to share with you.  I have been in prayer about the direction of my life, and a lot was revealed since the end of summer for me.  When I have a moment to sit down, I will be pouring my heart across this keyboard again to share something with you that I hope will encourage and strengthen you in your journey with Christ.  It is something that I do not wish to rush through, but something that is meant to be shared with LIFE in each word.  So, when that time comes, and I know it will be soon [ 😉 ], stay tuned for more…in the meantime, continue to build each other up…press on toward that goal!

Panoramic shot taken by Grace Hejnal, October 27, 2013 in DuBois, PA
Panoramic shot taken by Grace Hejnal, October 27, 2013 in DuBois, PA
Posted in Faith

Restless- a personal story of #FreshVision

It seemed like a regular Tuesday night.  My two stepdaughters were just leaving for the evening.  We had such a nice dinner, laughing and talking like usual, and then we said goodnight.  The only thing I could think of that would make my day complete was to relax with my husband in our hot tub.  Thankfully he had turned the heat up earlier so I just had to put my bathing suit on, and we went outside.

We sat back and relaxed our heads on the headrests, recapped the day, and shared some insights about a family situation we are praying about.  After about twenty minutes, we called it a night and were brushing our teeth side by side in the bathroom.  I took off my glasses, and rubbed my eyes.  Image

I work from home, and after being on the computer all day, I felt like my eyes were sandpaper. I was rushing to finish washing my face just so I could close my tired eyes!  And the only thought on my mind was how glorious it would feel in a few minutes to just rest.

I climbed into bed, locked my legs with Kevin’s and closed my eyes.  Kevin fell right to sleep, and I laid there awake.  I rolled over slightly, and felt completely restless.  I was so exhausted, and it was now time to be falling asleep. So why wasn’t my body cooperating??

I rolled over again toward the dresser and laid there for about five minutes.  “Okay, seriously?? This isn’t right…Lord, please let me go to bed.  I’m so tired…what am I doing UP!?”  His response: Nothing.  For a few minutes…and then…

I rolled over one more time toward Kevin, took his left hand in my right hand and complained to God again. “God, please help me fall asleep.”  When it was clear I was awake for a reason, I prayed again, “Okay, I’m up.  You obviously are keeping me up for something.  I’m listening.”

As I clung to Kevin, I began to drift off, but not to sleep or a wonderfully relaxing dream.  God began walking me through some painful memories.

Okay, WHAT?!

Let me jog back a few months so it makes sense.

Around the month of April, I had heard about a study at our church that the women’s ministry was doing called Captivating.  The study focuses on explaining a woman’s true identity in Christ, and how we are made in the image of God.  It also explains how the deception that Satan used in the garden of Eden against Eve set the framework for how Satan still lies to women today.  Because of this deception, we grow up not understanding how much Jesus really loves us, and we tend to believe lies that Satan tells us, because we believe God is holding out on us.  Because of that disconnect, we have emotional scars, and a skewed image of who God really is.

Needless to say, I was intrigued.  One of my friends in my life group had actually given me the book for Christmas last year, so I already had the book.  And being a divorcee, I wanted to go- obviously I have scars.  But because of my school schedule, I couldn’t take the time to devote to it that I wanted, so I planned to attend another event when it was available.  ImageWhen a time finally arrived where I could go to the study, I did.  It opened my eyes up to so much about myself, God and some issues I knew were there, but I didn’t know how to deal with.

During the actual study, I had prayed to God to reveal to me the root of many of the lies that I had believed.  I had asked God specifically to show me these moments so that I could learn the root cause of my sin, and see the path it set me on, so that I could truly accept His grace.  I wanted to examine each and every time that I had allowed someone else to take God’s place.  And I wanted to know exactly what I was holding onto, because I knew something was blocking me from fully being joyful.

God happily obliged…at 10:30pm on August 6, 2013.

 He spent all night replaying images of past events and times that I had been blinded to His truth.  ImageHe replayed many moments of my weaknesses, times I had felt left out, abandoned, lost. Image He also let me feel the physical and emotional pain of decisions I had made while feeling the above listed emotions.  Image

I remember laying in bed feeling completely frozen, and pinned down.

Images flashed in my mind of being young and in grade school.  I saw the faces of those who made fun of me, my appearance, my height, my awkwardness.  I saw images of being in high school and the faces of those who laughed at me for dressing differently.  I saw coworkers from a previous restaurant job picking on me, for choosing to “date” the guy who just got his ex-girlfriend pregnant.  I saw the younger version of me getting into a car of an airline pilot who wanted to take me out to a steak dinner, just so he could show me his boat later that evening, and try to get me drunk.  I saw someone who was supposed to be part of my new family making fun of me with someone I trusted, and I felt the humiliation when a certain ex-wife felt the need to get her girlfriends involved in my life, but I couldn’t say anything in retaliation for fear of what my stepdaughters might think about me.  And when I finally did snap, I saw the way certain family members turned things around to make everything my fault.

I saw my weakness in not being able to say no, I saw my hatred for those who made fun of me and tried to use me, I saw my disgust at my own actions, and I saw my shame.

God replayed the period of time that I was dating my first husband, and I visually reviewed in my mind the times that comments would fly out of my ex’s mouth about me while we were dating…comments that should have sent me walking, but in my desperation to not lose him, I let him say whatever he wanted, because later we would be intimate, and I believed that he loved me anyway.

I trusted people that should never have been trusted, and I tried to believe that they had good intentions, but I learned the hard way that adults can still play games just like high-schoolers.  I learned that no matter how badly I wanted to see the good in people, I needed to realize that some people are just bad, and you have to accept it.

Slowly but progressively, every incident began to deteriorate me.  Any self-image I had, was gone.  Any self-esteem I had, was depleted, and any belief I had that I could do better, was non-existent.

He brought to my mind how often I had tried to replace Him, with alcohol, men, busyness, all because I was seeking someone to let me know that I was loved and when God tried to answer it, I didn’t want to hear it.  I had married my first husband, knowing my heart wasn’t completely into it, but thinking if I was with him (my ex) long enough, he would change and things would get better. My heartache and drinking had only intensified when I realized what a fool I had been.

I became self-destructive during my first marriage because I knew I had made a mistake and didn’t want to own up to it.  And instead of asking God for help, I closed the door to Him and allowed Satan to let men try to answer the question of who I was.

Through the images, God kept repeating how He had loved me the whole time, but I kept drowning Him out.  As much as He would provide a sunrise, or a song on the radio with lyrics meant for my heart, I would avert my gaze, or change the radio station.  I was disgusted with God trying to love me when I felt unloved.

I felt helpless and weak reviewing these moments, but I had asked for them.  And as the tape replayed in my mind of these hurtful moments, I could see how I wasn’t willing to see God in the picture of my life.  I had always pushed Him away, because I wanted to be able to take care of myself, but my choices had cost me a marriage, and trust with any man.

And surprisingly at one point, he brought to my mind a conversation that another woman had posted about in the Proverbs 31 Online bible study website for the first week of “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”.  This particular woman had brought up the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.  In the story, found in John 4: 5-26, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman (which is clearly forbidden in that time, as He was a Jew) at a public well, and in His brief, yet powerful encounter, He tells her to go get her husband.  The woman replies that she has no husband, and Jesus replied that He already knew that, and that the man she was with then, wasn’t even her husband.

God clearly explained to me that in that story, the Samaritan woman had never had a wedding ceremony.  The truth is that she was never married.  She was being rebuked by the Lord of the Universe for sleeping around!  He knew she wasn’t legally married, but that she gave herself away over and over again to men who would take her.

And even more bizarre, God took me back to room 100A at Lutheran West High School and a moment in time in Mr. Jim Fenske’s Christian Ethics class.  I could picture Mr. Fenske standing in front of his chalkboard, stating that anytime we sleep with someone, we give ourselves away.  Mr. Fenske wanted us to understand that when we make a choice for sex, it needed to be within the boundaries God provided.  That is where the blessing is.

God revealed to me that He designed marriage and He has made it clear, about the connection/bond/union that happens when two bodies consummate and become one.  His point was that we don’t have to marry someone in the legal court system for God to see us as married.  NOTHING GETS PAST HIM.  He sees everything.  And any time we give ourselves away to someone else during sexual acts, we are “marrying” them.  We become part of that other person, hence why the physical act of sex is reserved for marriage, because God explains that the unity of a man and a woman is beautiful and not distorted when it is preserved for just one person.  God blesses us when we don’t misuse this gift of our body.

What He was telling me was that we don’t have to be legally married to be considered an adulterer or adulteress in God’s eyes.  The second we sleep with someone other than our spouse (which means if you’re not married, you’re in a very bad spiritual position!), we are committing adultery.

I was blown away!!  I was scared, and moved to repentance for years already past, but boy did that insight answer a lot of questions for me!  He also reminded me of the verse about lusting after someone with our eyes.  Our heart has already sinned by doing so.  I believe God wanted me to really understand how serious my past had dragged me away from Him.  He needed me to understand how I had misused a gift from Him and how it had separated me from His true love.

During this evening with God, He was letting me know His reason for being upset with my previous decisions.  I hadn’t realized that something I had done as a teenager was blurring my understanding of Scripture.  I didn’t realize my view of love was messed up because I had tried to view sex and love, marriage and devotion through tainted lenses.  I was ashamed and repentant, overwhelmed and amazed.

Needless to say, I was emotionally drained after the events and these revelations going through my mind.  I felt completely exhausted and I remember coming back to consciousness with tears just all over my face.  Kevin’s alarm for work was going off…great, it was 4:30am!  I was planning on starting work at 5am.  I had no idea if I had even slept, or just gone through visual memory hell!  I prayed and told God that I understood what He had shared with me, and that I wanted Him to keep revealing things since it made me feel so close to Him.  I wanted to heal.

As Kevin got up and started brushing his teeth, completely unknowing that I had gone on the largest spiritual journey of my entire life, I prayed, “Lord, I’m so tired, and I want to start work…”

  Image

He answered, “I got you through the night, I’ll get you through the day.”

Kevin came back into the bedroom and held me.  I didn’t say a word, I knew I had to get up and start working and I didn’t want to make Kevin late for work.  So I hugged him back, kissed him and told him that I hoped his day was quick.  He left the house, and I walked into the office and turned on the computer.

I began shaking my head.  I was in awe of what had happened.  I couldn’t believe that God had come through, that He had heard me and wanted to heal me, but that He was waiting for obedience…radical obedience from me first.

I have recently joined an online study that I’ve spoken about previously.  The whole premise is opening up to God and letting Him use us as we are, so that He can change us, teach us, lead us and grow us for His purposes.  We have to be willing to step out of the box.  When I had signed up for the study, I didn’t know when I was going to fit it in, or if I could even do it, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to be part of a Christian community, devoted to letting go and surrendering to God.

Because I chose to say Yes to Him for this study, God chose the first week of this study to be the time that He overwhelmed me with some answers that would help me heal.  Because of radical obedience, He came through.  I knew He had heard me, but was just wondering when He was going to answer.

And out of everything He shared with me that Tuesday night, He reminded me of Jesus and His death, the cost of my sin, and the debt that is gone.  Every moment that had replayed has been forgiven by Him, and has been forgiven by me.  He needed me to see what He was healing me from, and how His love covered the shame and disgust I felt toward myself.

When I sat at the computer on the morning of August 7, I had a peace I cannot explain inside of me.  My focus for work was on target, my heart was at rest, and anything that I heard about during the day that normally would trigger heartache, anger or pain, didn’t have the same effect.  My view on life has changed so dramatically.  I’m writing this a week after the fact, just to confirm that the peace is still here.

On the night of August 6, God cleansed me from years of hurt and disobedience to Him, He showed me His truths that overruled years of lies, and He gave me peace that has proven to last over time.  I believe God forgave me years ago, on the cross THOUSANDS of years ago, to be exact.  But He met me at 10:30pm on a night when all I wanted to do was sleep.  He took me out of my comfort zone, and messed up my body clock just so He could tell me that He loved me and has always loved me, and that my life will never be what it was.  And I know that to be true.

I see now how my husband is one of my biggest blessings from God.  Kevin is so undeserved, yet so faithful!  I have someone who knows every intimate detail of my life story, and treats me the way God showed me that night- with undeserved mercy and love.  My husband reaffirms me every day, tells me audibly that I am beautiful, and reassures me that he isn’t the same man he once was.

God, the God of the Bible, is longing to share with every broken human heart that there is NOTHING that we can do that would be so bad that He won’t forgive us.  He needs us to ask Him for help to see sin in our lives.  When we live every day as if what we say/do doesn’t matter, we mask the need for Christ and we believe lies from Satan that we don’t need God.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Any time apart from Him is not truly living.

Jesus came to give life, but we have to seek Him out to find it.  Work is necessary on our part to turn to Him.  Jeremiah 29:13 is a promise from God that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.  If anything in life is distracting you from Him, He can’t be found.  But you can find Him when you make time in your schedule, when you call on Him first thing in the morning, when you are driving to work and need reassurance of His grace, when you royally mess up and you need His forgiveness, when you ask for truth and painful memories.  He will show up.  He will answer your deepest, darkest questions, and He will restore you like He did with me.  He will provide peace you can’t even comprehend (Philippians 4:7), and strength for the day when you haven’t slept a wink.

Will you choose to be radically obedient today?  Step out of your comfort zone and ask Him to show you what is holding you back from a peaceful time with Him, and an understanding of His true love?  If you know of something in your life that is preventing you from experiencing God truly, you need to repent and let Him love on you.  It’s overwhelming, but incredibly necessary.  God will provide #FreshVision for you when you ask Him.

May you have a “restless” night, and may our Lord’s peace be on you. 🙂

Posted in Faith

Back to School

I know many of you just reread the title because it’s mid-June and the majority of students have been out of school for two weeks now, so to be writing about going back to school is either extremely late, or a little premature for the fall school year.

I’ll explain.  I’m just now back in school at age 32.  I started my undergraduate degree just this past January and am in my second semester (summer-what was I thinking?) at Liberty University maintaining a 4.0 GPA (raise the roof!).  When contemplating achieving my degree, my goal is to get it done in the shortest amount of time.  Naturally, I felt that taking a summer off would make me remiss, as I didn’t start in the fall.  I’d only started in the spring, so how could I give myself a break already?  And after taking six credits my first semester, I thought it would be a breeze.  My two first classes were easy to keep up with and maintain.

So, jumping in with both feet, I chose to take nine credits in the summer, not accounting for the amount of work involved, or the crazy heat we’ve been enjoying in northeast Ohio!  I’m working a full-time job at a local hospital, and then splitting my evenings/weekends between school work, being a supportive wife and stepmother, daughter, friend, etc. and trying to keep track of what has to be read, posted and written when, and then making sure that the internet connection is strong, and Blackboard (the virtual classroom) is up and running.  Was that a run-on sentence?  I’m too exhausted to even correct it!  I’m already marking down in my 2013 calendar to take the summer semester off!

But I will say that the experience itself of organizing a schedule, buying binders, notebooks, school books, day planners, school supplies, etc. has made me very determined and motivated to push forward.  I’ve always loved the first day of school, the newness of classes, seeing a fresh syllabus, and opening a brand new book where the binding hasn’t even been broken.  You can insert your “cough-nerd-cough” here.

In thinking about moving forward, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture that has been very influential in my faith walk.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]

You may be thinking, “What a cool verse regarding getting the goal accomplished- that’s totally fitting for school!”  But let’s keep the passage in context.  Paul, earlier in chapter three, is encouraging the church in Philippi to earnestly reject all that is behind them, and live in the newness of the resurrected Christ.  I’m sure this passage gets dissected often and there are many interpretations.  I don’t believe this passage is about going back to school,  even though it is now in my back to school thread.

The church in Philippi was commanded to hold fast to the truths they were learning as new believers in Christ.  Even though this passage is especially motivational, it reminds me that my desire to complete a degree in Christian counseling is definitely in line with God’s will for my life.  Two thousand years after Jesus walked this earth, I am reminded that there is still a world that doesn’t know the truth of the gospel or the reality of the Messiah who has already come, and it’s up to followers of Jesus to spread the news and exemplify Jesus to the hurting world around us.

I believe getting into the Christian counseling arena will bring many rewards.  I cannot wait to see the faces and meet the needs of those who I’ll be helping (whom I’m sure will be helping me as well).  I know that in every session, God will be alongside me, helping me as I listen and giving me insight to help his hurting children.

I know it will be humbling and I’m excited about the opportunity to serve Him in that way.  For me, learning about how many of us deal with issues is incredibly interesting, and has always been.  I know we’re all broken.  We are molded by experiences and encounters with other people on a daily basis, many times without even realizing it.  Sadly, I’ve also come to realize that some experiences can set us up for failure later in life, and we can perceive things in ways that are unrealistic, or we can respond to something in an unhealthy manner.

As shared in a previous post, there was a thought of suicide once in my life, and had I not had my faith or a small interest in God at that time, I may not have been here to write on WordPress.  But because I had the knowledge of God, at that sad moment, I was able to hear the voice of God and instead inquired about His plan for me.  After all, what human doesn’t question their existence, their skills, their purpose?  No matter what worldview you have, we all have an origin and at some point, you’ll want to explore the inner parts of yourself. 

Pauls’ words are that Jesus took hold of his life and it is up to Paul to continue running the race that will get him to his ultimate goal- the presence of Christ.

I can identify with Paul.  I long for the day that I can see Jesus and rid myself of the sin that pervades my life.  I am saved by grace, but memories haunt me of “old Grace” and what I’ve been saved from.  It is a daily struggle to move forward and choose to stay on the right path.  Satan knows just how to ruffle my feathers, and I am still in the process of claiming my victory in Christ.  I know the battle is the Lord’s, but for some reason, I keep grabbing my sword ( my mouth-UGH!).  I’m extremely grateful for His mercy.

So far in my college career, I’ve taken an Apologetics class, an intro to Christian Counseling, and now a Bible/Math/Philosophy combo before the end of August.  My mind has expanded in so many ways, and my eyes have been opened to many different ideas.  Satan, ever present and wanting to rip apart my foundation in Christ has tried numerous times this semester to have me question old truths and new ones I’ve tucked away into my heart.  He is so devious, but he has miscalculated my Lord.  And as I continue to feel the call to listen, help, pray for and minister to individuals who need godly counsel, I realize the need for it in my own life.  We all have reasons to run and hide from reality sometimes, but God calls us to fight the good faith (1 Timothy 6:2) and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) so that we can be prepared to defend and stand victoriously. 

A verse that shapes the idea of how to gradually grow in Christ, is Second Corinthians 10:5 where it says we should, “…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  It means there is a standard, that we are required to be obedient, and that our thought lives have influence on us.  If we take every thought captive and give it to God, very quickly our negative thoughts and actions will be changed and reflect more godly thinking so that we can be obedient to Him.

A friend of mine has recently shared with me the idea of being “emotionally hijacked” when someone/something causes an emotional response in us that is not usually a positive one.  She and I have been praying for quite some time to be aware of these moments when they happen, and to seek God when we are ready to reply with our explosive reaction.  By noticing the causes ahead of time, we can pray and stop our effects.  And as Christians, we have the gifts of the Holy Spirit readily available to assist us.

God doesn’t long for us to struggle.  He longs for us to realize our insane need for Him and run to Him as children who run to their parent.  He is our heavenly Father, which means He is able to provide and always available.  If your earthly father lacked these values in some way, pray to forgive him and instead run to the one who won’t leave you hanging.  God is capable of completing everything He’s ever begun, because it is His creation that glorifies Him.

God has a unique plan for all of us.  Even if you’re not in school, have no desire to go back, or are maybe contemplating the idea, I invite you to talk to God about your own journey.  Many people are living lives meant for others, and that is unnecessary.  We each have our own individual, significant lives.  Each one of us has been made in the image of God, in some way, and we mirror some of His greatest qualities.  I believe there is A LOT of unused potential out there, to bring about some great ideas, and to exemplify Christ and His message of hope and love.

The Bible states that, “He who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).  I invite you to have love…have GOD.  Not the artificial kind (we’re all aware of the superficial, artificial kind), but the kind that is freeing from the inside out, genuine, selfless, other-first love…there’s no risk in adding Him to your life.  He’s desired that from day one!

We could all go back to school on letting go of that which holds us.  If we set our sights on things above, God’s love can prevail!

Was that the starting gun?  Gotta run!