Grace thru Brokenness – and a Blog Hop

Beth Steffaniak @ Messy Marriage

Beth Steffaniak @ Messy Marriage

When I started blogging, I had no idea how many new friends I would meet. Beth Steffaniak, at Messy Marriage, has become a dear friend.  We come from similar backgrounds…both PK’s…both have had our share of messy relationships…both enjoyed learning from Kay Arthur’s Precepts studies as young adults…both blog to encourage others in periods of brokenness.

Our differences in approach seem to strengthen our mutual respect, which is unusual…and pretty cool. While my blog often focuses on encouraging believers through divorce, Beth focuses on helping readers strengthen marriages.  Although many bloggers focus on Christian marriage, Beth is one of the few who approaches marriage from a realistic perspective, emphasizing the need for conflict management, boundaries, and multiple stages of forgiveness within the marriage.  She also recognizes forgiveness as separate from reconciliation, acknowledging that reconciliation is not always possible.

Messy Marriage is one of the few sites I would recommend to readers dealing with marital issues.

I feel honored by Beth’s invitation to participate in a special blog hop, sharing about my own writing and highlighting a couple of bloggers who have influenced me.

What am I writing on or working on?

Aside from technical writing as a structural engineer, my current writing focus is this blog. I’ve considered writing another book and probably will, someday.  Book ideas range from something as simple as adding a group-study workbook to accompany So You are a Believer Who has been through Divorce, to a major undertaking such as a second book geared toward people who are in an abusive marriage facing potential divorce, or even a broader book on the topic of biblical covenants and redemption.  Right now, those ideas are just vague concepts while I focus on this blog.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve been a Christian my whole life…raised in a Christian home…pastor’s kid…multiple church services each week…developed a deep love of Christ at an early age…learned to enjoy studying God’s word at an early age. I have a conservative understanding of scripture, believing the Bible to be the divinely inspired word of God.  I have a deep respect for covenants, seeing covenant relationship as the connective thread running throughout scripture, tying promises in Genesis to prophecies in Revelation.

I have also experienced the brokenness of life in this fallen world. I have experienced an abusive marriage.  I have experienced divorce and single-parenting.  I have experienced custody battles and trying to be a godly father to teens who were in my home only four days each month.  I have experienced the difficulties of step-parenting and of raising a child with ADHD.  I have experienced the loss of a brother, of nieces, of my father and other dear family members.

And I have learned the richness of knowing God in the depths of life’s messiness. I have seen the beauty of God’s glory shining through the brokenness of humanity.  I have caught a glimpse of God’s perfect sovereign will being worked out in a fallen world through the faulty decisions of imperfect humans operating under our own free wills.

This is what I seek to express as the central core of my writing…sound biblical teaching discussing God’s plans being worked out in human lives, not despite our messiness and brokenness…but rather through our messiness and brokenness.

Why do I write what I write?

I write to bring hope and encouragement to normal everyday people dealing with the struggles of unusually difficult circumstances. I write to remind people that Jesus did not come to give us perfect lives, perfect marriages, perfect families, or perfect relationships. He did not come for the purpose of restoring every relationship or reconciling every relational issue.  Jesus came to redeem us from the bondage of evil and to deliver us, through our brokenness, into intimate relationship with the Father.

How does my writing process work?

My inspiration for writing covers a broad spectrum.

Often, while going about my everyday life, something strikes me in a way that reveals a deeper spiritual lesson and I make a note to revisit it as a potential blog post. Other times, in the course of interacting in the blogosphere I will recognize a need for a topic to be discussed.  So, I make a note of the need and follow up with research and a post addressing that topic.

Occasionally, I will write about a biblical topic I have worked through in my personal studies. Both in my regular Bible reading and through life experiences, I encounter questions that don’t quite make sense, so I dig deeper.  I read the commentaries and come away unsatisfied.  I pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand.  I put the topic on the shelf for a while, in the recesses of consciousness…willing to leave it as yet another unanswered question…trusting God to reveal any deeper understandings if and when He chooses to.  And sometimes He does.

My actual writing process is pretty consistent. Upon selecting a post topic, I spend some time thinking about how best to present it.  I usually have significant portions written in my head before I ever sit down to a keyboard.  Yet, I’m usually surprised as I work through the first draft.  Putting the words on paper brings a new focus, pushing me to strengthen the message.  Once the first draft is complete I go back to trim any unnecessary portions.  Then I let it sit for a day before reading again with fresh eyes…which almost always results in yet another round of editing.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to a couple of friends who have inspired me by the difficulties they have overcome, as well as their willingness to transparently share painful experiences in order to minister to the needs of others.

Denise Hisey

Denise Hisey

Denise Hisey is a survivor of chronic childhood abuse. She emerged on the other side of recovery determined to transition from simply surviving to thriving. One of her deepest desires is to give hope for healing and recovery to others who are hurting by sharing her story. Denise enjoys reading, writing, and family time. You can find her blogging at www.inspired2ignite.com or on windy, back roads riding her Honda Shadow motorcycle.

 

Dan Erickson

Dan Erickson

Dan Erickson is an author, poet and songwriter. He’s the author of The Cult Trilogy. The first book, A Train Called Forgiveness, is based on his own childhood as the victim of an extreme religious cult. The second book, At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy, continues the saga, following the cult leader into his next venture. The third book of the trilogy, The Track to Redemption, will be published in 2015. Dan has also published a book of poetry, Incandescent Man Walking, It’s a collection of poetry about nature, love, music, God, and our place in this world. Dan is also a college instructor and a single dad.  You can connect with Dan at his blog, danerickson.net.

Through what brokenness has God worked out His plan for your life?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Unforced Rythms, Wellspring ]

 

14 thoughts on “Grace thru Brokenness – and a Blog Hop

  1. First of all, your words about me and Messy Marriage humble me, Joe. I feel so honored by all that you’ve shared–much more than I expected. Thanks so much! And secondly, as far as your writing, I think your book ideas are all such incredible directions to write and would be much-needed topics to tackle. I know the divorced in my church don’t have nearly enough topic-specific studies that, I’m sure, you’d write in a deeply theological and biblically sound way. So I will pray that God blesses you with time, energy and insight, my friend! You’ve certainly blessed me with new insights and understanding every time I visit here.

    • Beth, I’ve actually been thinking for several weeks about working a post to highlight your blog, and this seemed like a good opportunity.

      I visit quite a few blogs. I tend to especially hit those that focus on abuse and those that focus on marriage. Most of the Christian marriage blogs give advice that would be horrible to an abuse victim. By extension, the advice also fails to address the root issues of less severe marital issues. They tend to oversimplify the complexity of human relationships and the complexity of God’s word to a few verses which they attempt to apply to every marital situation.

      If the only tool one has is a hammer, every piece of hardware begins to look like a nail…

      You don’t fall into that trap. You are one of the few willing to go past the facade and really deal with the heart issues in a realistic manner.

      I am very thankful for your voice and your heart!

  2. As a fellow structural engineer, I can relate to the way you organize your writing…and I can also relate, strongly, to the why.

    Perhaps the iterative process of design, leading to a ‘best fit’ but imperfect solution, is analogous to Jesus’ efforts to work with what He’s got…the imperfect “us”.

    Now to your question…about brokenness.

    I don’t really think of myself as broken. Beat-up and scarred, perhaps. But I’ve been fighting hard for most of my life, either with a rifle or with my will to prevail, and I could never allow the concept of brokenness to enter my consciousness.

    But I did see the potential, because one day…you’re going into the last contact, and you’re going to get greased.

    I learned to see God as a corpsman, who, on hearing the call of “Corpsman up!” would be at your side to offer what aid he could. Morphine, dressings, and most of all the touch of an understanding hand to ease the passage through the veil of transcendence.

    With God, you don;t die alone.

    • “With God, you don’t die alone.”

      No, we don’t. With God we neither live alone nor die alone.

      He is our one friend who is faithful through both this life and the next life, as well as the transition between.

      Thank you, Andrew, for adding your perspective to the discussion. I appreciate you, my friend!

  3. Isn’t it wonderful how God uses all our brokenness for His Glory!
    I often feel like my words mean nothing and obviously from the lack of writing on my own blog I’ve been struggling with that a lot lately.
    Until this morning. This morning, after much prayer, I felt God speaking to me in such a direct way.
    Our stories of brokenness and our need for a Savior need to be told. Even if only one person, just one, reads our words and find encouragement, hope and strength that’s all that matters.

    Blessings for what your words and not being afraid to share your brokenness.

    • Yes, I struggle with that feeling, sometimes, too, Amy.

      Although I’m thankful for the insights God has given me in some areas, sometimes it feels like I’d be better off just keeping those as personal glimpses of His heart. I sometimes wonder why I would expect my perspective to matter to anyone else.

      But every time I’ve considered ceasing blogging, someone will comment or e-mail telling me how much a particular post meant to them or how blessed they were by reading my book.

      And that really is what it’s all about. No, my words won’t click with everyone…and many will think I’ve gone of my rocker. But that’s okay…because those aren’t the people I’m writing for. I’m writing for those who will be blessed by what I share…and God knows how to connect them with my writing.

      You have powerful words, too!

      I loved your comments on another blog, yesterday! Words written by one who has been thru the fire and can describe both the pain and the victory of those experiences.

      Keep sharing your story!

  4. Joe, your writing always leaves me feeling refreshed, yet curious for more. I have always admired how you connect Christian living in the R-E-A-L world. ie: the world full of hurts, bumps, and bruises.
    I’m looking forward to looking at Beth and Dan’s blogs, and appreciate you including me on this blog hop. Thank you for your compliments and connection.
    The broken road gives a rough ride, but there is much to be grateful for including meeting people such as yourself.

    • “Joe, your writing always leaves me feeling refreshed, yet curious for more.”

      What an inspiring compliment! I tend to think of reading scripture this way…as being refreshed, yet always thirsting for more.

      Thank you, so much, Denise, for your encouragement, your friendship, and your ministry!

  5. I enjoyed this opportunity to get to know you more, Joe. I absolutely love how God uses the blog world for His glory as His people of the courage to tell their stories. Their brokenness. And, of course, His grace. As you say, “God’s plans being worked out in human lives, not despite our messiness and brokenness…but rather through our messiness and brokenness.” Thanks for linking at Unforced Rhythms.

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