Welcome GraceBreak Cycles, Embrace Grace
Friends, A disclaimer:
I do not presume to claim that I have marriage figured out. But I do claim that with God at the center, he is able to guide us through. I know that marriage is a beautiful hard. It’s beautiful because it’s a picture of God and his church. It’s hard because it’s two imperfect humans on the road to sanctification.
I’ve joined 29 other bloggers at Tiffany Montgomery’s blog for a month long series on marriage. Women will be sharing their snippets of wisdom through their ups and downs of marriage. Friends, it’s good stuff. Your heart will be touched.
Twenty years ago, I (Jessica Van Roekel) brought heavy baggage and high expectations into my marriage. Since then, I’ve discovered that God uses everything to build a marriage that glorifies him. Our strengths, weaknesses, expectations and disappointments all work together to show His Greatness in this marriage puzzle.
Does Marriage Feel like a puzzle?
We had differing expectations and ways to solve problems. We were determined to build our marriage following different “puzzle box tops.” Once we surrendered control to God, we learned that God was creating a new puzzle.
- God threw out the pieces that didn’t fit.
- He refitted things
- Tossed new pieces into the puzzle
And waited until we relinquished a cherished puzzle piece to create a beautiful masterpiece.
The Mystery Puzzle Piece….read more here
I’m in the heartland, where the latest risk to my life was almost catching on fire while lighting a paper lantern. My evening enemies are no-see-um bugs and mosquitoes. My daytime struggles involve teaching the components of a literary essay. My troubles seem so puny.
My blessings seem too loud: My sunset colored evening amidst the cooling of the gloaming. My home that’s dry and a family that’s tucked safe into cozy beds seems too large too me tonight, too rich, too much. Not when there’s too much devastation happening to my fellow countrymen.
What do I know of watching waters rise higher and higher until they consume my home, my shelter, my refuge? What do I know of natural disasters? They seem unnatural. Devastating. Irregular. Unwelcome. Not natural, not expected, not normal. Not fair.
I don’t know what it’s like to suddenly be without home or roof over my head. When my children were small and we would have safety drills, they wanted to grab their cherished belongings so our safety drills were too long, with much hollering and concern. My children couldn’t grasp the magnitude of a serious disaster and the idea of leaving their treasures behind filled their hearts with indignation.
Belongings can be replaced but people cannot. And so we are here: I am safe in my second story bedroom: cozy in a chair, feet propped up on the bed, and cat purring. I’m surrounded by all things familiar: pictures, books, kids, dust bunnies, and a hundred year old floor covered in scars.
And someone, somewhere is surrounded by strangers. Possibly clinging to nothing except what they hold in their hearts and my heart breaks and cries for those affected by devastation to know this:
God sees you.
He hears your cry.
He is with you in the devastation. He is holding you close and whispering his love into your ear. He is holding you upright and he sees your heart breaking. He sees the shock and anger and fear that threaten to overwhelm. He sees and he cares. He calls you to himself in the midst of the devastation and promises to be your everything.
He is your bread of life and your fountain that never runs dry. He may feed you the bread of affliction, but he is with you in the darkness. He encompasses you and rallies around you and is for you, not against you. Cling to him, rely on him, let him carry you through.
When the waters of doubt and fear and anger overwhelm you and feel like the truth, know this Truth: God is. He was. And He will be. And you can take his faithfulness, steadfastness, and love and build your life on him. He wants to be the One who handles your fear and anger, and he wants to take the honest, gut-wrenching fear that you’re feeling from your shoulders and be the truth that sets you free.
Could he have diverted the storm? Yes. Does he still care for you? Absolutely. Does he still love you? Unequivocally. Does he still have good for you? Yes and yes and yes again. He is only good. He is your rock in the storm. And he hears your heart.
God hears our hearts. He sees us in the darkness and offers himself to be our light. I know that there are times when hope seems impossible to find, but God says that with him all things are possible. Even hope. Hope is Jesus. Hope is resting in who he says he is. He is peace. He is comfort. He is the rock we stand on when all else is sinking ground.
May God hold you close and may you make him famous in whatever you face today: emotional flood waters, literal flood waters, or unexpected disappointments. I’m praying for us all.
God is so good. He meets me where I am and he’s my safe place to pour out my heart when I’m feeling rejected. I know this sounds silly, but sometimes I wake up and feel like all my friends don’t like me anymore. By the end of the day I have myself convinced that I am friendless and un-likeable and rejection lurks.
I run to God, and I pour out my heart to him and tell him my fears and within his refuge he reminds me of myself. He reminds me that I am a child of God, that I’m redeemed, and that I’m secure in Him.
He reminds me that in him I am loved. He reminds me that my thoughts need to be brought captive and by thinking that all my friends hate me because of some imaginary thing I did is pretty inward focused. He gently redirects my heart to what is true: I have friends. They like me. I like them. I’m going to disappoint them. They will disappoint me. But that’s what forgiveness is for. I can forgive myself when I fail my personal friendship standards. And I can ask forgiveness when I fail theirs. God also reminds me that my battles with insecurity don’t make me weak, they make me strong because I run to him for strength and help.
Do you ever feel like your heart is about to vomit all over the place? That there’s so much inside and some of it’s great, but some of it’s really ugly and like mold it spreads and takes over the good stuff?
There’s some word vomiting happening around us. Too often someone speaks before they think and in the process spews dissension and hate all over the place. Too often we hid behind screens and keyboards failing to consider the consequences of our words. Social media is not our personal journal. Not everything we feel or every opinion we have needs to be aired in public.
Yet, we need a place for these ugly feelings and thoughts to go. Some of us have trusted friends that we can share the “uglies” and they will point us to Christ and his word for direction. Sometimes, though, we choose someone else to spew our uglies at and it becomes even messier than before because we’ve created a super-cell super-destructive storm of emotions.
Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the relatability of God. In the midst of our awareness of his awesomeness and majesty, we forget that he is also supremely interested in us. In all of us–the good stuff and the bad.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
Our trust in God is related to how open open our hearts are to him. I don’t think God wants our sanitized hearts. Our sanitized hearts look a lot like the produce drawers in my fridge: clean on one side and nasty on the other.
In our world divisiveness rages. People hate on one another, turn their backs on their fellow man, use words to kill and destroy, declare tolerance in the name of hate. Our hearts fill with rage or disgust and so we speak. And sometimes in the speaking, we wound.
We wound because we haven’t taken the pain in our hearts to God and let him sanitize our pain so our words become life-giving instead of life-taking.
At times, our hearts have a difficult time separating righteous anger from regular anger, gossip from a prayer request, or conditional love from unconditional love. We need God to sift through the feelings and purify the things that don’t please him so that our hearts honor him with everything we say and do.
Pouring out our hearts to God can become the single most important thing we can do in our personal walk with him. He is the first to receive our confusion, our frustration, our questions, fears and anger. Only then, once our hearts are empty can he fill us up.
He fills us up with his peace, wisdom, guidance, joy and love. He becomes our refuge–where we’re kept safe and held close to his heart–so that we can know his heart. And when our hearts are filled with his heart, we can share words that give life and pour love onto the weary hearts around us.
Run to him first with all your care and concerns. Find solace in his word. Find power in the Holy Spirit. Live in his wisdom not your own and remember that your poured out empty heart has room for him to fill you.