I Don’t Want To Forget

FB_IMG_1547125029532

Photo by Jennifer Willard Photography

“I can’t wait to be on the other side of this.”

These were words that escaped my lips 2 years ago.

When the grief, the pain, the loss was all so fresh, so deep and still bleeding. A few weeks ago, I lay in bed clinging to the phone as I poured my heart out to a friend. I remember being so ridden with guilt for almost forgetting where I had been. How can life seem so ‘normal’ now? I had a disappointing day at work and was fuming with emotion. It hit me, how can I allow something so miniscule to steal my hard worked for joy? My life was in shambles not that long ago and look how far the Lord has brought me. How could I forget so easily? How could I allow myself to get worked up over nothing when my heart has known immeasurable destruction?

I made a vow in that moment, I don’t want to forget.

It’s in the valley’s we get to know the heart of our Savior. It’s when, our lives as we know it have been obliterated that we feel the sweet presence of Jesus intervene in a supernatural way.

I close my eyes and remember the hard days. The days of not knowing what happened to my person. The days of gut-wrenching grief and screams to God. The days of packing brown boxes to move across town. The days of rocking my baby girl to sleep as I cried silently in desperation to the Lord because I had no idea what I was doing. The days of seeing hope and sunlight only to be pushed back in the dark tunnel of grief and depression.

I want to remember these days. It keeps me humble. It keeps my heart centered on Christ and His overwhelming goodness. It reminds me of how weak I am, and how unbelievably strong my Jesus is. It reminds me to surrender my heart and mind daily to Him. It reminds me to let go and cease striving.

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

These have become some of my favorite words in the entire Bible. I speak them often. I recite them before I have spoken at events. These words put Christ at the forefront of my insufficiencies. They murder my need to please and smother my perfectionist nature. They welcome my weaknesses so that Jesus can shine His power and receive the glory He so desperately deserves.

During my many months of grief and trauma counseling I begun to imagine grief in different ways. I often allow my mind to visit one illustration in-particular. Grief is this beautiful box. The box is blue and has colorful sequins displayed on it. The box has light dispersing from it. Inside the box are my memories. My favorite pictures from my old life, or songs that resonate memories, or maybe it’s words forever captured on paper that had been handwritten to me. This box is filled with beautiful memories. The box contains sad memories too. Harsh words, ‘I love you’s’ left unsaid. It is filled with the infamous ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’s’. It is filled with regrets and gut-wrenching guilt. I put this box in a safe place. Maybe tuck it under my bed or put it away on the top of a shelf. I hide the box. I don’t want to see it every day. My heart can’t take it.

But I purposefully allow myself days and moments to look at this beautiful box. I allow myself to pick it up and touch it. I hold it close to me. Some days I allow myself to actually open the box. I delve in and touch the memories. I may cry–sweet tears or ugly cry with mascara running down my cheeks. I may laugh and laugh until my belly hurts. Sometimes I allow my baby girl to visit the box with me. I tell her about her daddy. I let her listen to his favorite songs. I show her pictures of him holding her. She refers to him as “my daddy who held me like a baby”. That is all she will ever see of him on this side of glory. My heart aches with unspoken grief of the loss she has experienced without even knowing it. I have to keep reminding myself that the Lord will cover all of her needs. I have to trust Him with her.

I’m learning grief will always be a part of my life. Grief isn’t always dark and grueling, it can be surprisingly beautiful if we allow the Lord to use our grief for His glory. Grief has taught me compassion and patience for others. It has opened my heart to a new realm of love and understanding of life. Grief has reminded me how short our lives are and reiterates the urgency to be eternally minded and heaven bound.

It hurts to go back.

But I don’t want to ever forget the hurt.

No matter the amazing blessings and sunshine the Lord allows to enter our lives, I don’t want to forget where I came from. No matter how normal life feels again, there is something so pure in being broken before the throne, with nothing to offer but your praise and shattered heart. God shows up and intricately re-creates the brokenness into a sculpture we could have never built or imagined for ourselves.

But it starts with surrender.

It requires trust.

The Lord keeps reminding me how easy it is to praise Him when life is rolling along, but what escapes your lips when life resembles heartache, broken dreams, and unmet expectations? Do you lay down and give up mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Or do you rise-up and praise Him even when the pain is suffocating and the confusion looms from every direction?

Maybe you have been through a season of devastation and grief but you’re finding yourself on the other side. Praise God for the new season. But never, ever forget what He’s brought you through. Or maybe you’re still in the season of darkness. Praise God for this season too. Allow yourself to cease striving and draw close to the Creator. He will carry you through. He will make beauty from the ash. It may not be on our timing and it may not look like what we had in mind, but that is why He is God, and we are not.

“The Lord is my strong defender; he is the one who has saved me. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will sing about his greatness.” Exodus 15:2

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

I Trust my God. I Trust my God. I Trust my God.

 

“Hold Me All Day”

Hold Me All Day

Photo by Jennifer Willard Photography

“I got a baby, and her name is Abby, and I Love her so much, so much,” I sing in a whisper to my 2-year old daughter while leaning over her crib. With her eyes still closed she purses her lips in a slight grin. Her mouth opens as she faintly repeats, “so much, so much…” Her eyes pop open as she exclaims “Hold me all day, Mama!”

This is our sweet morning time routine. Me singing silly made up tunes, her ‘pretending’ to be asleep, and then bellows charming demands like, “hold me all day”.

It’s these precious, seemingly insignificant moments that literally makes my world go around.

The innocence my baby girl exudes. The happy spirit-filled energy that escapes her in the early hours of morning. I wished I could swoop her up and tell her “I will hold you all day, baby girl”. She wraps her little arms around my neck and tells me “no leaving Abby, Mama”. I hold her to me and whisper in her ear, “I will never ever leave you… unless I’m with Jesus”.

I can’t promise her I will always be here. I refuse to make that promise. She’ll repeat my words, “with Jesus, Mama?” I explain I would never choose to leave her, unless Jesus decides He needs me with Him. She grins and again utters her delightful demand of “hold me all day!”

These last two days her requests have been granted as I’ve held her sick body close to me. I’ve been praying down her high fever with doses of Tylenol around the clock. A big red bowl that resembles a hardhat has become our bed buddy. (The emergency vomit bucket)

Yet my sweet girl still manages to awake from her bouts of sleep with a grin and immediately reaches for me and asks to be in my arms. My heart breaks with that helpless parental feeling when your child is sick beyond your means of a quick healing. But selfishly I have been soaking up the extra snuggles and sweetness. Knowing that one day way too soon she won’t need me like this. I pray she always knows she will never be too old for my arms to hold.

I can’t help but wonder how much different our daily lives as adults would be if we ran to our heavenly daddy with such urgency and excitement and requested that He, “hold us all day”, regardless of our circumstances.

Isaiah 49:16 tells us we are “engraved on the palms of His hands”. We are constantly on our Savior’s mind and heart. He is always yearning for us to look His way and simply invite Him into our day. He wants to be a part of all our moments, big ones and what we consider trivial moments.

There are so many times throughout the day I’ll be busy accomplishing a house chore and I can hear little footsteps running through the hall yelling my second name—“Mama, Mama, Mama”. She’ll find me at the stove stirring a pot of pasta or leaning over the sink washing dishes. She will be so excited to show me a toy she’s playing with or show me her fake makeup she just applied. The look on her face is beaming with accomplishment, “I did it, Mama, I did it”. She wants to share her little moments with me, her parent. She wants me to be included in her playtime. She desires my interaction. How selfish and utterly hurtful would it be if every time she came to me I refused to look her way, or I pushed her aside and told her I didn’t have time right now? Sadly, that happens. I’m sure more times than most parents would like to admit. But guess what? Our Heavenly Daddy never responds to us this way. He would never turn a blind eye and reply, “I’m too busy for your nonsense”.  No. That would never be His response.

Instead His Word instructs us with this, “…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:2-4. What do most children do? They excitedly RUN to their Mother and Father in pursuance of their attention. This is what God wants us to do. He is not a forceful God. He is a God with a perfect Will in line for our lives, but we have to open our hearts and minds to Him and what He desires for us. He does not force it. He patiently waits for our invitation.

Run to Him as if you were a small child excited to show someone you look up to a new toy or karate move. He will gladly “Hold You All Day”. No matter how old we get, The Lord upholds us. Isaiah 46:4 tells us, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

So, invite Him into your day. Invite Him into your Monday morning blues, and your Friday afternoon impatience. Invite Him in when choosing what you allow your mind to dwell on, what you allow your eyes to see, and your ears to listen to. Invite Him in when you notice irritation in your tone of voice to your spouse or children or parent. Invite Him in when you are lacking motivation. Invite Him in and ask Him for His divine wisdom and His sovereign Will over your day. Simply ask Him to be a part of every moment of your day. I promise your mindstate will evolve from negativity to thankfulness.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

 

Love.

milky-way-1023340_1280

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Love. This is the word the Lord has pressed upon my spirit for the New Year. Love- a simple four letter word with more meaning than all the words in the dictionary can define. Love is something we all desire and yearn for. For me personally I know this word has been pressed upon my spirit in regards to how Christ loves us. To make it more personal, how Christ Loves ME. I have spent the majority of this last year in anxiousness. Striving to fix my brokenness or cover my brokenness up with momentary pleasures of life. What am I looking for I ask myself? The answer is Love. I can feel my Savior whispering to me ever so sweetly—“I am Love. I am the Love you are looking for. I’ve been here with you the whole time. Don’t you see me? Don’t you feel me caressing your broken heart? I’ve never ever left you. Please come fall into my arms.” That is Love. When I think of the places I’ve allowed my mind to go these last 12 months, from deep sadness, to exploding anger, to disgusting selfishness, to icky worldliness, but yet, here is my Jesus pursuing me, calling to me in the middle of my darkness. This Love trumps any romantic shallow term of love. This Love I’m referring to is an out of this world, undefined, knocks you off your feet and challenges you to run to the cross kind of Love. It brings you to your knees in repentance and leaves your dirty ashes shining like beautiful sunflowers. The kind of Love that turns unimaginable earthly pain into a purpose for His glory. There is nothing that compares to it. So why do I forsake it daily?

I’m stuck. I am stuck in my immature mind of expectations of life not being met. I am so focused on what I am starving for when in reality I have no reason to be hungry at all. I have the answer to everything living in my heart already. I have the wisdom of the Creator of the universe residing inside of me. Why do we as Christians live weak and depressed lives when we know this truth? Why are so many of us allowing the enemy to trample our thoughts and steal our peace and joy? Where is our David kind of boldness ready to sprint on the battle field and conquer fear? Where is our warrior spirit that rises up and steps into the Love that Christ is?

Can I be transparent? I am tired of being sick and tired. I am tired of allowing fear to win. I am tired of waking up every day and remembering how life used to be or allowing a desire to enter my heart of what I think I need, want or deserve and my life reflects zero of those expectations so I mentally and emotionally throw a fit and raise a fist at God. How selfish. This life is not about us. How have I become so self-centered in my journey? Maybe you feel this way too. I feel so off track spiritually.

I feel like the Apostle Paul when he writes “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15. So contradictory, yet so true. Don’t we all do this? It is time to wage war on the things of this world that tarnish the gospel. It is time to wage war on what we allow our minds to dwell on. It is time to wage war on what we allow our ears to hear or eyes to see. It is time to wage war on all that keeps us from running into the Love that is Jesus. We are the only thing that separates ourselves from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He does not withhold himself from us. Can you imagine that kind of earthly love? Where someone never withholds themselves, their feelings, their affections or emotions? A kind of love you can trust without a shadow of a doubt? A kind of love where you never question where you stand or wonder if you’re even loved at all? A kind of love that you know would always sacrifice? A kind of love that you trust would never leave you or forsake you? I don’t think that spotless and flawless love exists in human form. But we can experience it through our relationship with Christ when we surrender our fears and brokenness. Our spiritual walks become blurred when our minds are focused on this world.

Romans 8:5-8 tells us “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of  the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

To operate in a spiritual Love is getting yourself off of your mind. It is living to glorify the Lord in all you think, act and speak. Love is waging war on all the filth that enters our minds and homes. Love is walking in God’s Will for our lives. Love is living in obedience to His Word. Living a life of this kind of Love is passionate and thrilling. It should never be boring because living a life with Christ is far from boring and the most epic, passionate, life-altering Love story our human minds can possibly imagine. It is being an intricate part of something that is galaxy sizes bigger than our selves. It is partnering with the creator of the Heavens and the earth and allowing Him to work through us to save souls to live out eternity in Heaven. That is our purpose. That is what our goal should be. Not to have a nice home, comfy job, perfect family, or great wealth and fame. Those things all fade and are gone in the blink of an eye. This epic Jesus Love compels us to run out of our comfort zones in the name of Christ. It creates an urgency in our souls to become more eternally minded and live with spiritual reckless abandon because we know that we have the power to show someone the hope of heaven rather than watch them live a life that heads to hell.

Love as Christ Loves. Do not treat people how they treat you, treat them how Christ Loves you. As Christ followers we have the power to change the world and show others a life-changing Love.

“Love is patient, is kind, does not envy, or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things hope’s all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

I challenge you to join me in pursuance of this kind of Love for 2019.

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

“Where Did My Daddy Go?”

father-daughter-1476167_1280

I watched as my husband held our daughters sleepy body against his chest. I watched as her head rested on his strong shoulder. His eyes said it all. Absolute adoration. Through my new mama exhaustion I sat up in the bed and took the sight in. I’m so glad I did. I never imagined that sight would be cut so short.

The last year and a half has been full of amazing spiritual revelations. The Lord is continuously walking me through healing that can only be done in His sovereignty. I have come to a place of acceptance… for myself.

But then I look down at my beautiful blue eyed, blonde haired baby girl and I lose my breath sometimes from the heartache.

Several weeks ago I was by myself in the line at Chick-Fil-A. In front of me were a gentleman and a young girl. I watched in a trance as this little girl took the man’s hand and began twirling. She looked up at him with such love as she giggled and sweetly repeated, “daddy, daddy”. His smile went from ear to ear. My heart started throbbing as I watched. The kind of throbbing that leads to tears. So there I was in the middle of the Chick-Fil-A line gulping down tears like a lunatic. I blinked as fast as I could so they wouldn’t fall. They fell anyway.

Grief happens so randomly and has no respect for your settings. I’ve learned to live with this.

Lately my grief surrounds my little girl. I have so many memories of being a daddy’s little girl growing up. I remember him teaching me how to do pushups and fight better than a boy. He taught me to ride my bike and then go-carts and 3-wheelers. He was the dad that was literally cleaning a shotgun when a boy came to pick me up for a date (let’s just say that date was short and the boy never asked me out again). My daddy taught me how to drive. He was there when I graduated high school and then college. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. All of these life long memories surrounding the man I get to call daddy, and I look down at my baby with fear that she will miss all of that.

I see my daughter watch other young children with their daddies. I see the wheels in her mind turning with questions. She is aware that something is missing. Then the dreaded day came. We were playing in her room, putting puzzles together, and building block towers. We were giggling and naming the pictures on the puzzles. All of a sudden she looked up with her piercing eyes and asked as clear as a cloudless day, “Mama, where did my daddy go?”

I stared in disbelief. I thought I had more time before I had to face this question. I was wrong.

How do you explain death to a 2.5 year old? After stuttering a few times I blurted out, “Daddy is in heaven”. How do you explain heaven?

She looked at me repeating the words daddy and heaven. She covered her face with her little hands and shouted “Noooo”. All she was hearing was that daddy isn’t here. The moment lasted less than a minute and of course being 2 she was on to the next attention grabbing thing. But this moment has set the tone for the weeks following. Every time we’re in the garage she will go to Cody’s tool bag and ask, “Is this my daddies?” I knew this time would come. The time of questioning. The time of searching for the right words and tone of voice. I feel selfish allowing this to engulf my thoughts sometimes… I mean there are so many children who grow up without parents or without both parents. It’s almost as if a home with both mom and dad are the rarity these days. I know I’m not the only parent who has the dreaded responsibility of trying to explain death and heaven to a young mind.

Still, I grieve with deep groaning’s from the soul. I grieve for my baby girl. I grieve for other fatherless children. I grieve for children who are growing up without their mothers. I grieve.

Just like any good parent I want to shield my child from any hurt. And when she hurts, I hurt.

Psalm 10:14 tells us, “But you God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

When my protective mama-bear side surfaces I am reminded of the ultimate parental protector. Jesus. He doesn’t promise us a life of rainbows and butterflies. He doesn’t promise we won’t experience heartache and devastation. He just promises that we are never, ever alone. Ever. He is the daddy that trumps all human forms of the title daddy (or parent). I pray that Abby knows this with every fiber of her being and every inch of her heart from a very young age.

When we’re committed to seeking the Lord’s face in the midst of life’s chaos and triumphs we will not miss out on anything. When we put our hearts and minds in a place of daily surrender (sometimes minute to minute surrender) we are being guided exactly where the Lord wants us. Even if it means going through a season of devastation. I have to continue to believe that there is purpose in the pain and on the other side of grief there is joy unspeakable. I have to remain steadfast in hope that the Lord continues to choose to build beauty from all of the dark ashes floating around in the midst of our lives. I refuse to give up hope.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

 

God Hasn’t Forgotten You

He hasn't forgotten you

My heart was heavy and my breathing labored as I made my way up the steep hill. I looked over at my friend who matched my steps. We caught our breath from the hill and begun our jog in the woods again. Our conversations went from laughter, to politics, to heaven, to the meaning of life. I looked at my friend and through tears uttered the words, “I feel like God has forgotten me.” I went on to describe how I had felt like a lost little girl as of late and how deep sadness had penetrated my soul.

Have you ever been through a season in life when you feel all alone and lost? A couple of weeks ago I was struggling a lot. Relentless grief and emotions had made their home in my mind and heart. It felt like the Lord was so far away. I could listen to worship music, read His Word and feel absolutely nothing. All I wanted to do was weep and complain about lost dreams and plans, or cry that my life is 100% not the way I had pictured it. I know my bitter heart and emotional head space were creating that distance between me and the Lord. Hebrews 13:5 tells us “… Be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””

I was allowing life to frustrate me. I was not being content with what I have right in front of me. I struggle with always wanting more, or wanting to get to the next season of life without truly enjoying and embracing where the Lord has me right now. My expectations were not being met in areas of life so therefore I momentarily lost my joy. Do not allow unmet expectations to steal your joy and peace. Your unmet expectations are a part of God’s bigger plan for your life. His ways are always good and much higher than ours. My mouth can say these words but my heart does not recognize them when I allow self-pity in.

I know Gods truth. I know I am to trust Him. I mean that has been my mantra for the last year and a half—I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God. But can I be transparent… Some days I don’t. Some days my trust is on shaky ground. Some days I feel so heavy with hurt that I feel like there is no relief in sight. Some days I look around and see beautiful families. I see daddies who get to love their children and children who look up at them with irreplaceable adoration. I see smiling faces and hear laughter and joy exuding from families. I see all of this and I get jealous and resentful. I look at my daughter and beg God that she will never feel like she’s missing out. My heart literally feels as if it will burst out of my chest with hurt and anxiety over the uncertainty of our futures.

This is where my mind was during this particular run in the woods with my friend. My heart was desperate for relief or some kind of eternal comfort—the kind of comfort that only comes from the Holy Spirit.

The next morning I decided at the last minute to attend a Women’s Conference. I had a pulling in my spirit to go. Sitting through the conference I had an expectancy in my spirit. I didn’t want to feel distant from the Lord like I had been the last couple of weeks. When the conference ended I remember still feeling a bit empty. It was a joyful experience no doubt, but I was craving something deeper and more personal.

I left immediately following the conference. As I was walking through the parking lot I heard a voice saying my name. I turned to see the face of the woman who led worship at the end of the conference. She ran to me and introduced herself. “My name is Liz,” she said. “I know you don’t me, but I have followed your story and blog.” She went on to say how she has diligently prayed for me and my daughter during this season. Through tears she said—“I feel like the Lord has a word for you and I feel like I’m supposed to tell you that God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forgotten your daughter. The Lord has an amazing future for you both and this is just the beginning.”

….He hasn’t forgotten you.

The tears streamed down my cheeks. All I could say was thank you to this woman who ran after me in obedience to the Lord. She had no idea that I had spoken the words “I feel like God has forgotten me” to my friend just the day before. She had no idea the internal struggles I was having. But God knew. He spoke, she listened.

This five minute interaction in the parking lot was why I was supposed to be at the conference. This was the divine expectancy in my spirit I was sensing. I needed that personal word from the Holy Spirit. I needed that affirmation. Even though I already knew the truth that had been spoken I wasn’t receiving it on my own. God uses others to keep us lifted up and accountable to His truths and goodness. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tell us “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

Thank you, Liz for helping me up. Thank you for your obedience and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

To those reading this, maybe you’re in a season of feeling lost and deterred in life. Maybe you feel like life is passing you by. Maybe you feel like what you lack in life is magnified daily. Maybe your pride has been so thick that true healing seems impossible to reach… Remember it’s in these seasons that surrender is the most powerful and freeing. Let go and let God write His story for you.

Isaiah 42:5-9 speaks of Gods sovereignty, “Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

God Hasn’t Forgotten You.

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

Is Today Worthy Of Being Your Last?

ocean-2203720_1280

I sat up in the bed to wipe away my hot tears. I continued watching the woman on my television. She was in disarray. She locked herself in her apartment. She ate junk. She didn’t clean. She cried. She wept deeply. She was a complete mess. She was in the tunnel of grief. My heart ached. I remembered thinking to myself, “It’s just a movie”.  I sank back in the bed and turned to my husband next to me. He was sound asleep. I pressed into him, snuggling him, thanking God he was mine. I never wanted to be like the woman I saw in the movie. I never wanted to lose my husband.

My heart wouldn’t stop pounding and the ‘what if’ thoughts ran rampart in my head. The tears continued to spring forth. I remember pressing my lips so softly on my husband’s back, whispering faintly, “I Love you.”

The woman I was watching was the famous Hilary Swank and her heart-wrenching performance in ‘P.S. I Love You’.

It was the night of Thursday, January 12, 2017. Less than 48 hours before I would become a version of the woman I was watching on T.V.

Irony at its best.

Life is crazy, full of irony and so unpredictable. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out and we are ‘safe’ in our bubble wrapped lives—everything can change in a split second. Everything we know becomes everything we knew. All of our ‘to do’ lists become insignificant.

I remember this night in such detail because it was the last night I would ever lay next to my husband. Friday, January 13, 2017 was his last full night on this earth. After a fun-filled evening of making a bonfire and eating s’mores with our then 8-month old daughter, we had made plans to watch a movie together as a family. He ended up working half the night in the yard and finishing office work for our company. He never came to bed.

I often wonder, had he known that was going to be his last full night on this earth, would he have chosen to spend it differently…?

What he was doing that night were great things that were assets to our home life. But he chose that over quality time with his family. We all fall short in this area. I have been so guilty of wanting to scratch out my to do list before taking the time to spend with loved ones. We get in a mind state of “tomorrow”.

But what if tomorrow never comes?

Everyone has a first day, and a last day, a first breath and a last breath. After experiencing great loss I try to be so aware of my actions every day. At the end of the day I have begun to ask myself—“Did I live this day like it could be my last? Do the people I care about know how much they mean to me? Did I laugh and smile today more than I cried? Did I live for this day or wallow in the past? Did I walk in integrity and represent Christ to the best of my ability? Was this day worthy of being my last?

Truthfully… The majority of the time the answer to these questions is no. I have good intentions when the day dawns, but I seem to get lost in life’s mundaneness while beginning to question Gods sovereignty when there’s so much darkness and heartache within. 

Have you ever waded through a season of life and the sadness and disappointments seem unrelenting? I find myself telling the Lord as of late… ‘I don’t want to walk this walk anymore. You picked the wrong person.’

How selfish and weak.

No thing is too great to go through with Jesus carrying us. Through my questions and experiencing Christ’s overwhelming presence when nothing else in life makes sense, I know He is good. He is always good.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The worst thing we can do when we experience life’s tragedies is to stay the same. I invite the Lord to continue to change my mind and mold my heart for His glory. A trying season in life is just that… a season. This too shall pass.

A new day is dawning.

A new season is approaching.

Healing is for the taking.

I challenge you to reach out and take what God has already left for us… His peace, His joy, His unrelenting Love.

Embrace each moment and walk in the healing presence of Jesus. His power to overcome resides inside of you. Become unified in that power and anointing. He will change your life and your view of spiritual mountains and giants. My prayer is that you will seek Gods ultimate and sovereign will for your life. I pray if you don’t know Christ as your savior then you won’t let another day end before asking Him to be Lord of your life. I pray you choose His will over comfort and satisfying the flesh. I pray the Lord gives you a supernatural insight on the importance of being eternally minded.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Is today worthy of being your last?

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

You Are Mine

You Are Mine Blog

Photo by Shala Gean

I stood uncomfortably in front of the glass window that was open halfway. I shivered from the cold air circulating the waiting area. The lady behind the window shuffled paperwork and sighed in frustration at her slow computer. “Thank you for your patience, we’re starting a brand new system and we will have to do all of the paperwork from the computer.” I nodded, my hand holding my throat that was on fire, I managed to mutter, “It’s okay.”

I am blessed with rarely getting sick, but not that morning. I woke up swallowing what felt like needles and guessed immediately I had strep. So here I was.

The receptionist muttered in a semi excited tone telling me the system was loaded and we could proceed. She began asking me a series of questions. Nothing out of the ordinary. But then the question came that pierced my soul like a knife. Her tone unchanging, so normal… “So are ya married, single, divorced?” Such a normal question. A question that undoubtedly is asked on paperwork. I stuttered, both from my burning throat, and because I was forcing the hot tears down.

She just stared at me waiting for an answer. I managed to mutter, “Uhh, I guess widowed”. Her eyes studied me up and down. There were three others in the small area behind her who had been lost in conversation, but they must have heard my quiet answer and all eyes shifted to me. I wondered what was going through their minds. I could tell I was younger than all of them by at least two decades. I noticed all of their hands wore wedding bands.

The rest of the questions were a blur. I made my way back to my seat to wait for the doctor. That question still ringing in my ears. I hate the term ‘widowed’. My whole life anytime I’ve heard that title I immediately thought of an elder who got to spend the better part of their life with their spouse, but the one no longer here just beat them home. I didn’t think of a young person, barely into adulthood with a small child/children to raise alone.

This scene was weeks ago, but it keeps dwelling in my heart. I find myself asking God why? And He’s showing me how much I have always put my worth into titles in my life. Wife, Mother, Daughter, Journalist…

I have struggled with feeling like I have lost parts of my identity in many areas of my life this past year.

I mourn the loss of the title, Wife.

I don’t want to claim the title of widow. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

Though I believe the Lord honors us when we are the best sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers here on this earth. But the Lord has been revealing a deep truth in my spirit. Those titles are but a blink of an eye. They do not define us. If we put our entire worth and value into those titles, into our careers, into something that we’re known for on earth, when tragedy strikes, when the rug is pulled out from under us, when life happens, we would crumble on the inside. When our eyes are on the titles of this world they are not on Who Jesus is and who He says we are in Him.

This is the journey the Lord is taking me on. He is showing me through loss and other deep hurts just who I am in Him. He is showing me His strength that permeates through a broken and shattered soul. It hurts, but I see the beauty of Christ’s sovereignty shining through the darkness and the unknown.

Last week I had the opportunity to go camping with some great friends. As I lay alone in my small tent in the middle of the night listening to the wind, and the hundreds of overlapping chirps and screeches of insects and animals, my thoughts circled on just how BIG our God is. I thought of my life. I thought of all the events that led me to this still moment in that tent. I was alone. But I could literally feel the God of the universe surrounding me with His presence. I began to talk to Him. I asked Him,” Who am I, Lord?” I told Him how lost I have felt lately. I shared my fears with Him (though He knew all of this already) I just wanted to speak it. In my spirit I could feel the words, You are Mine encamp around my heart.

You.Are.Mine.

Those three words wrecked my heart. Though many parts of my life feel so messy and in shambles, I am where I am supposed to be because no matter how things appear through the flesh—I am His. And His plans are far greater than I could ever dream of for myself. His ways, His character, His love, and grace, are things I would not understand without experiencing my plans and dreams being shattered overnight.

One of my favorite songs is Lauren Daigle’s ‘Trust in You’. The opening words have been my hearts cry, “Letting go of every single dream, I lay each one down at your feet. Every moment of my wandering never changes what you see…No matter what I face You’re by my side.”

I’m finding myself daily taking to heart His words for me, You are Mine. With that truth—It compels us to want to lay down our dreams at His feet. I don’t want anything that is not from Him. I don’t want a life where He is not the center. I refuse to live a life of complacency and wandering aimlessly with no real vision of being in the center of Gods sovereign will for my life. All other options are just not options at all anymore. Period.

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

The Lord is showing me that no title is greater than being called His. I am protected by the Creator of the Universe. I am loved by Him, I am set a part. So are YOU.

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Isaiah 49:16

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

Cease Striving

jess&Abby

Photo by Chera Zwar

I walked quickly behind the frustrated cries of my daughter. I could see her ahead of me standing at a chain linked fence. Her little fingers intertwined through the fence with clinched fists. Her feet jumped up and down in an exasperated impatience. She began shaking the fence. I looked upon her with a half laugh, as well as awe of the strength that flooded out of her two year old body. She kept looking at me with confusion and almost anger. Then her hands pointed in front of her. What lay ahead was a kingdom for a toddler. A playground with many adventures awaited just beyond the fence. Just beyond her reach.

“Baby girl, we don’t have to climb over this high fence to get to the playground. Cease your striving,” I said calmly making my way to her.

As soon as those words left my mouth, I stopped walking. “Cease Striving”, I repeated. I turned to my friend who was next to me and I remembered those same words have been spoken over me these last few weeks.

Cease Striving.

What my daughter couldn’t see because of her limited view of the “bigger picture” was if she just continued walking straight, we would enter into an opening of the playground. All she saw was the playground but couldn’t get over the barrier. But she wasn’t supposed to ‘strive’ to get over the barrier—in this case being the chained linked fence. She just had to walk a little further and not get distracted by the sight of her hearts desire. She was supposed to trust me to lead her in the correct way to go, a way that caused no harm to her, or unnecessary striving. She was to just simply trust me.

In that moment, I felt the Lord pressing upon my spirit to cease striving in certain situations in my life. All I see is what is right in front of me. It’s a narrow view. I see something that I want, but there is this barrier in front of it and I want to climb the barrier. I want to kick it down. I want to scream. I want to jump up and down until God removes the barrier. I am spiritually throwing a temper tantrum. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this from time to time.)

When I pray… I hear the words ‘Cease Striving’. It’s not my barrier to kick down. God sees all. He has a view of the full picture. I pray, “Lord Your will be done, not mine. Let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” But then I find myself striving in my own power to carry my burdens. I find myself so broken and on the verge of an emotional rage and deep sadness because life hasn’t gone the way I wanted. I feel knocked back on so many levels in life and I’m striving to regain what I think I need to survive. Reality check—Christ is the ONLY thing needed for survival on this side of heaven.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” ‘Be still’ is also translated into ‘cease striving’. The phrase ‘cease striving’ in Hebrew actually means “let your hands drop”, “let go”, or “relax”. I believe the Lord will not immerse Himself into a difficult situation in our lives until we let go of it.

Are you holding onto something the Lord is telling you to let go of? Maybe it’s something that has actually created great joy in your life. But now He’s asking you to let go of it. Some of us even hold onto things that have caused immeasurable pain and grief, but it has become so familiar to us, that we don’t want to let go of it for fear of change.

My flesh cannot understand the letting go of something good, especially after walking through a season of great loss. My flesh doesn’t want to let go of anything resembling goodness. It scares me. But then I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Trust me, Jess…For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

This scripture tells us that the Lord does have a plan for each of our lives. And it is a good plan. But it gives no indication of what that plan actually is. I don’t know about you, but I am a planner. I have never been ‘a go with the flow’ kind of gal. My flesh screams in agony when my plans are disrupted, when I feel a loss of control. I literally can have an emotional meltdown inside. Trusting God is one of the HARDEST tasks in my walk with Him. Lately I feel as if I’m fumbling around in the dark searching for a light switch and there is NO light switch, only the Lord whispering to keep putting one foot in front of the other and follow Him.

I love the words of Dwight L. Moody, “Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.”

I know I have to follow Him. In my mind there is no other option. I may sit down in a slumber and squall for a minute or two, or a week or two, or sometimes even a month or two… but eventually I know I will always get back up and walk toward that still small voice wooing me to Him once again. I’m so thankful He never leaves or forsakes us in our midnight hour.

Just like me lovingly taking my daughters hand to lead her in the way that she should go to achieve her heart’s desire (getting to the playground), The Lord never stops leading us in the way that we should go.

I no longer want to strive at this fence with clenched fists.

I don’t want to strive in my own power to heal from my past. I don’t want to keep touching my open wounds, hurting them even more. The Lord is my healer, my helper, my calm in the middle of a storm.

My desire is to cease striving.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

Cease Striving. Let your hands drop.

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

But Aren’t I Enough?

father-child-walking-silhouette

Photo By Charles Evans

My face buried in my hands, my cheeks burned from the streams of hot tears rolling down as the sobs escaped uncontrollably and out of nowhere. My body ached from the emotions released. A million thoughts bombarding my mind at once… Memories of a life that could have been. So many memories of being on my face in prayer for that life. A life that seemed so far away. The tears keep rolling at thoughts of the future… just mere thoughts though—because I have no clue about the future. But then who really does? We can all make plans, but our tomorrows ultimately aren’t ours to decide.

Fears are overwhelming me. Fears of never having the deep desires of my heart met. Desires that were fulfilled for a short time and then vanished into thin air as if that life were a dream. I opened my mouth in between the deep cries, words of gibberish escaped. I have no idea what to pray, but my spirit does. I just talk to my God. I talk in anger, I talk in transparency, I talk in sadness, I talk in thankfulness… I just talk. And then my spirit hears a faint whisper… “But Aren’t I Enough?”

My sobs stop immediately. I rise to my knees from my crumbled position on the floor in my prayer area. I lift my head up as if aiming to the Heavens. I repeat the question I just felt pressed upon my spirit—“But Aren’t I Enough?”

Before another thought swarmed my flooded mind, the word “Yes” flowed freely.

“Yes, Lord, YOU are enough”, I whispered. “You are more than enough.” As these whispers left my lips I pictured a daddy leading his child. A good daddy would never leave his child to fend for themselves. How much more can we depend on our Heavenly daddy to lead us?

I continued to pray. Words began to come to my mind… fear, anger, grief, sadness, confusion, un-loveable, rejected, impatience, unworthy, unclean… all of these words that have defined my emotions for a long time. These words are not true but hold power when we don’t strike them down with the truth of God’s Word. It doesn’t matter what words the enemy throws at us. When we make the decision to believe them is when we give our power away.

I’ve been giving my power away.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a 3 day women’s ministry event. During a pivotal moment in the weekend a young woman testified that the Lord revealed something profound to her. She stated that she realized she needed to Love Christ more than her children, more than her husband.

Ouch.

I cannot get that revelation out of my mind. When she spoke this truth, her words pierced with a supernatural power. How many of us love our children more than Jesus? Our spouses?

After experiencing deep loss, I have gone through a season of not trusting God with my baby girl. That sounds ridiculous as I read it out loud right now. How could I not trust Him with her? He created her. But I was inflicted with deep fear of losing her after losing my husband, her daddy. I didn’t want her out of my sight. I wanted to keep her all to myself all of the time. It was unhealthy. I have definitely come a long way in overcoming those fears. But that fear can still creep up and paralyzes me out of nowhere.

Fear is the opposite of trust… the opposite of love.

1 John 4:18 tell us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

When we surrender every faucet of our lives to Christ, it frees us up to trust in a supernatural manner.

In my moment of disheveled tears and transparency before the throne in my prayer area—I begun to see how I have allowed fear to slither in nearly every area of my life like the slimy snake it is. I have lost sight of the throne. I have lost sight of truth. I have been so focused on something I think I want or think I deserve and my eyes fell off of the One who those things would derive from in the first place. The Lord gave me a vision of a huge rock. On this rock I built a house. I built a family, a career, I have titles. I have ‘purpose’. On this rock my entire earthly life is built so beautifully. But a storm comes and knocks down everything I built on that rock.

All that’s left is The Rock.

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

When our lives don’t work out how we want them to, when our lives seem to be falling apart, when we are disappointed, fearful, impatient, … The Rock still remains, unshaken, unmoved, acting as our shield.

Christ is the ONLY steadfast thing in our lives. He is the only constant and true centerfold. Everything in our lives should ultimately point to glorifying Him. Every relationship, every position we hold, every place we enter we represent Christ. If He is all we had, all we could depend upon and trust in… Isn’t that enough?

“But Aren’t I Enough?”

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

In Him we already have more than enough… everything else in this life, every other relationship, our children, significant others, our titles, careers, nice homes, beauty, handsomeness, earthly riches… EVERYTHING else is ‘extra’ and less than essential for the journey to our forever home in Heaven.

He is ENOUGH.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.

Turning The ‘Extra Ordinary’ Into Extraordinary

Make me broken

I have always found the word ‘Extraordinary’ to be funny and full of irony. Being a writer I like words—obviously. I like to break words down. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines Extraordinary as, “going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary, extraordinary powers, exceptional to a very marked extent.”

Going beyond, exceptional… Those are words describing Extraordinary. But looking at the word ‘extraordinary’ it is made up of two words… Extra and Ordinary.

Extra Ordinary.

So being extra ordinary makes up the word Extraordinary… something exceptional, to go beyond…? Ironic.

This is exactly what God does in His people. He calls extra ordinary people to do Extraordinary things through Him and for His glory.

There have been many times in my life when I have had a dream to accomplish something that is bigger than me. A dream that I want to chase down and lavish in but then I hear those whispers…’ you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, they won’t take you seriously, you’re not exceptional enough.’ I know we all experience those whispers in our minds. Those thoughts are obviously not from the Lord.

I am reminded time and time again that perfection in human form does not exist, nor will it ever exist. The more I grow in my relationship with the Lord the more I proclaim the notion that there is NOTHING good in me apart from Christ. Nothing. My flesh is totally fouled and continuously failing. But with Christ as my Savior and with Him residing in me… I become new and spiritually pure. My ‘extra ordinary’ becomes Extraordinary through Christ.

I love the Word of God. The Holy Bible is our physical connection to our Heavenly Father. The power in scripture, the truths, the testimonies of people that God has used gives us hope when we may otherwise have none. The Word of God continuously breath’s life into us.

I want to revisit some of my favorite testimonies in the Bible. Mary was just an extra ordinary young girl who had a dream of being a wife and a mother one day. God took Mary’s dream and multiplied it by infinity.

In the Book of Luke chapter 1 verses 26-28 and verses 30-35 it says, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”… The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”

God chose this extra ordinary girl to carry, birth, and raise the Savior of the world. He chose her to do something Extraordinary through Him.

David was just an extra ordinary shepherd boy, the youngest of seven brothers. The Lord chose David from an early age. “Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward…” 1 Samuel 16:11-13.

In chapter 17 we read that through the power of God—as just a boy David took down goliath with a sling and a rock. He had God confidence and knew Who resided in him, making him Extraordinary. God continued to do Extraordinary things in David’s life and he later reigned as king… this extra ordinary shepherd boy became Extraordinary through the power of God.

I love the story of Esther. Another story of an extra ordinary girl—a Jewish girl. King Ahasuerus was seeking a queen. His officers gathered all the beautiful young virgins. Esther, who had lost her mother and father and was being raised by her Uncle, Mordecai, was among these beautiful young women gathered to the Kings palace. It says in Esther 2:9, in reference to Hegai, who was in charge of the women, “And the young woman pleased him and won his favor.” Hegai then chose to advance Esther. In verse 17 it says, “The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen…”

A plot was being planned against the Jews and Mordecai overheard the plot. He told Queen Esther of the plot. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther was an extra ordinary Jewish girl who was obedient. Queen Esther had won the favor of the King so drastically that she was able to go to him with the information of the plots against her people and with the King’s help she saved her people. She became Extraordinary.

I could go on and on with testaments of Gods power and how He exchanges our ‘extra ordinary’ for Extraordinary. We serve that same God today.

I don’t know about you… But I want that power in my life every single day. When Christ resides in us we are powerful beyond our comprehension.

I want to trust like Mary did.

I want to have a God confidence like David did.

I want to live in obedience and grace like Esther did.

We don’t have to live mundane and defeated lives. We don’t have to be overcome with complacency, depression, and joylessness. We were made for so much more. We were made to be world changers. We were made to be representatives of Christ. We were made to be powerful in Christ, to rise up and out of the darkness to proclaim the power and goodness of God. I don’t want to remain the same. I don’t want to accept mediocrity in my Christian walk. I want to KNOW God more and more every day I am on this earth. I want to live a life that draws others closer to Christ.

I want my daughter to grow and witness a life of power in Christ. I want to allow God to transform the extra ordinary into something Extraordinary for His glory.

I desire a constant expectancy in my spirit, almost as tangible as if I were physically carrying life inside of me waiting to birth this new life. That is how I want to expect the extra ordinary to grow into something Extraordinary through Christ.

I challenge you to reject the complacency in your walk with Christ. I challenge you to get in a quiet place in your mind and heart and seek Him. Ask Him into every area of your life—not just the easy places… but the scary and hard to reach places in your heart, mind and emotions. We all have things we want to lock away and hide—but then those things will always hold us captive. Lay it down.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Ephesians 5:20

When God is in it, little is much.

When God is in it, the extra ordinary becomes the Extraordinary.

I Trust my God, I Trust my God, I Trust my God.