Momma, How Did Daddy Cody Go To Heaven?

“Momma, can I ask you a question?” I heard my five-year-old say. I closed my eyes and patiently replied, “yes.” This had to have been the 27th question in the last ten minutes.

“Okay, momma, can you turn the music off and come sit with me.” Her tone changed. I put my makeup brush down, paused my worship playlist on my phone and turned my attention to my daughter who sat on the bathroom floor drawing. (disclaimer—she likes to be right next to me in the mornings getting ready for school and work, so I let her draw or color on the bathroom floor while I get ready.) Her eyes were curious. She pointed to the small area in front of her, silently asking me to sit with her again. I sat.

“Momma, how did my Daddy Cody go to heaven?”

Silence.

I had known this was coming. I had been preparing myself for this conversation for about two years. Heaven is not a new topic for us. She knows Heaven is our forever home. She’s asked many questions about her Daddy Cody who went to Heaven when she was 8-months old. She understands he’s not here and he is in Heaven with Jesus. But she hadn’t put together that there has to be a physical aspect of dying to get to Heaven.

I hesitated. She’s five. I don’t want to tell her too much. But I want to tell her truth. I asked what exactly she meant? “What happened for him to go to Heaven?” she repeated. “Jesus just came down and got him, and poof, he’s gone?” she questioned.

I almost giggled at her detailed analysis. “Didn’t something happen to him for him not to be here?” she asked again.

“Yes,” I replied. “Do you think you’re ready for this conversation?” She immediately nodded her head, yes.

As tears formed in my eyes, I grabbed her hand and asked the Holy Spirit for help before beginning the toughest conversation of her five years.

“Daddy Cody went fishing one night on the lake we lived on. We had a small boat he would use when he went fishing. He texted me to let me know he was almost done and going to be headed in soon. Momma fell asleep with you and woke up hours later and he wasn’t in bed. So, I got up and went through the house. No sign of him. I started calling and texting him. No response. I went out to the pier with a flashlight, and I couldn’t see or hear anything. Momma didn’t really know what to do so I decided to wait until morning, so I could see better. I thought he went to a friends house around the lake and maybe his phone ran out of battery.” I paused. “What happened next, mommy?” she asked.  

I took a deep breath and began again, “I waited until morning, and when I still couldn’t see anything, I called a neighbor and they got on boats and went across the lake. When they returned with no news, I called 911 for help. They sent someone called a Game Warden with a big boat and equipment that can see under water to scan the lake. The boat looked all day, but they couldn’t find him.”

“Where did he go, what happened to him?” she asked. “We didn’t know exactly what happened,” I responded. “The Game Warden looked for 5 days before they found daddy in the water.”

“Five days, that’s a long time!” she exclaimed. “Yes, baby it is.”

“But what happened to him for him to go to Heaven?” she asked.

I replied, “Daddy somehow tipped the boat and went under the cold water and couldn’t get out.”

She leaned over and brushed the tears off my face. “But daddy trusted God, so he went to Heaven?” she stated.

“Yes, baby, daddy trusted God, so he is in Heaven now.”

Her curiosity continued as she asked, “But what happens when someone has no more days left on earth and they didn’t trust God?”

With this question I was able to explain that as real as Heaven is-so is a place called hell, and how our enemy, the devil schemes to turn people away from Jesus.

“Mommy, I’m going to trust God all of my life so I can go to Heaven one day too! And Daddy Cody will be there to hug me!” she said.

It’s conversations like these that plunge the reality of life and death, and heaven and hell to the forefront of my mind. How am I living my life? Am I using every aspect of my life to glorify my Creator? On the really hard days I daydream of Heaven. I wonder about the glorious colors I’ve never seen before, the beautiful worship I’ve never heard before. I daydream about being face to face with Jesus. The absolute peace and all-consuming joy it would be. And then I remember Cody is there. I remember his beautiful worship on earth- I can’t wait to see him worship in Heaven. The sadness of the loss, the trauma of the loss dissipates a little more with each thought and wonder of Heaven.

This is not my eternal home.

Heaven is.

Jesus tells us in John 14, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (1-7)

Do you ever think about Heaven? I mean really think about Heaven? Think of the most breathtaking landscape you’ve seen on earth and multiply that by infinity and I guarantee it doesn’t come close to the beauty in Heaven. Imagine your most healthy, productive, joy filled and peaceful day and multiply that by infinity and I wonder if that compares to our heavenly bodies and minds. I can’t fathom. But it excites me knowing there is so much more than the brokenness of this current life.

Peter states in 1 Peter 1:3-9, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Nothing can tarnish or extinguish the secure inheritance we have reserved in Heaven with Christ as our Lord and when we recognize Him as the One who took on death, to give us eternal life. Our faith is purified through our earthly trials. I pray your faith finds no falter through your present sufferings. I pray your mind stays eternally focused, knowing this life is a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-3, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

I’ve learned so much through loss. The Lord has revealed more of Himself to me during my darkest moments. When tough conversations or grief moments arise I’ll keeping choosing to set my mind on Heaven and the glory that waits. I choose to see life over death.

Happy 5 years in the Heavens, Cody Lusk. I’m thankful for you, and the life we created. You will forever be in my heart. 1.14.2017

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

Dear Cody…

 

CML

Dear Cody,

I wanted to wish you Happy 3 years in the Heavens. I often daydream about what you could possibly be doing. Are you sitting at the throne of God? Are you in awe of the majesty and power that surround you? Are you dancing in worship, letting your radiant spirit shine? Or maybe, just maybe you’re on a pier on a beautiful heavenly lake with a fishing pole in your hand.

I wonder if you’ve met my Uncle Billy who joined you in Heaven almost 2 years to the day you went? Do you remember me telling you about him? He was my uncle who baptized me when I was a young girl. He was the one I’d wake up in the middle of the night and pray for throughout the years. You never got to meet him on this side of glory, but maybe you are friends now?

I wonder if you ever think of me or our life? I wonder what your capacity for earthly memories are? I wonder if you remember your life here at all? I wonder if you’d be proud of me?

Baby Abby is growing so beautifully. She has your laugh. Your deep belly giggle, and grin full of comic mischief. She has asked so many questions about you. “My daddy who held me when I was a baby?”, she’ll say. She asks to see pictures of you often. I’ll swipe through years of electronic photos of our life. She sees the ones with me in a white dress and she’ll gasp in excitement, “Mommie, you look like a Princess! Did you and my daddy get married!?”

Her little mind is so sharp and full of curiosity. At first the questions evoked an explosion of sad emotion throughout my soul… but now I can smile and enjoy telling her about you when she asks. She knows you loved her. She knows you didn’t choose to leave her. She knows you’re with Jesus. She knows Jesus lives in her heart, so she immediately says you live there too.

Your memory is so sacred to us. No matter where life takes us, we Love you.

I can close my eyes and remember my head on your chest. I can still hear your heart beating with life. I can see the light in your deep blue eyes. I can see the Love you had for Jesus and people shining out of you. I feel your arms around me. It used to be so hard to allow myself to remember you, to truly remember you. But grief is so beautiful when we allow God to lead us into healing. I grieve still, but I am so thankful for the memories. I’m thankful for our life, even though it was only for a few short years. I am thankful for where the Lord has brought Abby and I. He has taken care of us every step of the way. He has led an amazing man into our life. It’s weird to say this, but I know you would like him. He is a man after God’s heart. He prays for Abby and I daily. He has been an answer to so many of my prayers.

I want to thank you for showing me what Love is. I think back to that young innocent 23-year old girl who laid eyes on you and knew you were going to be in my life. I had no clue of the heartache and devastation ahead. But I do know the truth of Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I have learned to be intentional in healing and grieving. I cry out to the Lord in my grieving. He does not forsake us. He does not leave any stone unturned.

My favorite “winks” from Heaven as I like to call them, are when someone who was touched by your life and testimony comes to me and shares the difference you made in their life. One gentleman in-particular comes to mind. He stopped me at church one day and with tears in his eyes told me he learned what true freedom in worship to the Lord was because of you. He could raise his hands to our Heavenly Father without embarrassment because of how you couldn’t contain your worship. You helped so many men struggling with addiction. You may have fallen in your life, but you never gave up. You always mustered strength and faith and kept walking. That is admirable. You taught me about God’s Grace. I didn’t have a revelation of that kind of Love prior to you. I will forever be thankful for the season of “us”.

I remember 3 years ago today talking with you on our front porch. Abby’s baby body was spread across my lap as she was fighting sleep. I was tired. You looked in my eyes and were concerned. I remember telling you, “I feel like I’m grieving and I have no idea why.” All I wanted to do was cry and sleep, which was abnormal. You sweetly told me to go rest. We had plans that day and I chose to sleep instead of spend time with you. I woke up a few hours later and felt so burdened spiritually. My heart was already aching before the tragedy happened. I often think about this. How could I have known devastation was looming? The Lord doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but I believe when our spirits are in tune with Christ, we can feel things not of this world.

I want you to know I forgive you. I’ve learned harboring unforgiveness, especially for someone who is no longer on this earth, is dreadful. The Lord showed me my anger and unforgiveness was debilitating areas in my life.

I forgive myself. This one was hard. I forgive myself for being angry when you didn’t come home that night. I had no idea where you were, and I was mad at you. You texted me and told me you were checking the fishing lines one more time and then headed inside. But you never came back. Hours pass and I go out to the pier, I yelled and yelled for you but you never answered. Fog blanketed the dark lake. The silence was deafening.  I stopped searching and I was mad at you. You weren’t here, and I was mad at you. I was mad for so many things I never said to you. I was mad at myself more than anything for not being emotionally present your last day on this earth. But the Lord has walked me through healing and forgiving.

Grief.

One small word that is loaded with emotion and meaning. A word that feels tangible at times. A word that has been my greatest enemy these past 3 years. A word that has become my greatest friend when I need to hide from the world and allow myself to “feel” the trauma and loss.

Though we may never fully grasp death or heaven on this side of glory we have to learn to accept it. I vowed to allow the hurt to change me in a way that glorifies God.

You’re the lucky one… Basking in glory… praising with the Angels…Giving everyone in Heaven your famous “Cody Hugs”… Living your best life…

P.S.

I will see you again one day.

Jess

 

 

“I Sat with My Anger Long Enough, Until She Told Me Her Real Name Was Grief”

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I came across the above words a few weeks ago and it hit me. Hard.
As many know, there are five common stages of grief.

-Denial
-Anger
-Bargaining
-Depression
-Acceptance

These are just the common stages. They don’t necessarily hit in this order and the stages can be repeated.
I have been extremely intentional in my healing process. I have a few select people I allow in my grief moments and days. This healing journey is beautiful and exhausting. I’m learning that it may never be over. And that’s okay. The WORST thing you can tell a grieving soul is “get over it”, “move on”. Move on to what? Pretend your life hasn’t tasted tragedy? Pretend your emotional war wounds don’t exist and burst with pain every once in a while? Pretend your Love for the lost one doesn’t still exist? No. Moving forward is the correct notion. Move forward with the aching pain. Move forward with the Love you still carry. Move forward with your new scars and appreciation for Life and Love. Move forward in the most-healthy way you know how to do.

After years of pursuing healing, the one stage of grief I seem to get stuck in is, Anger. I’ve heard so many times throughout the last two years, “you’ve handled yourself with such grace”, “The Lord is so proud of you”, “Cody is so proud of you”. But no one sees my heart. No one knows the thoughts in my mind. No one can see my midnight hours—struggling on the battle-field of my own mind while getting lost in the darkness of suffocating anger.

“I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.”

These words stroked a nerve.

I’ve known Anger is a main stage in grief. I’ve followed the stages. I completed the stages thoroughly, or at least in my mind I did. But I keep revisiting Anger. I have experienced intense Anger at Cody since he’s passed. Anger at him for fishing that night. Anger at him for traveling so much for work when we only had a few short years together. Anger at him for not being here with me. Anger at him for not being here to watch Abby grow into a beautiful little girl. Anger at him for unresolved things in our marriage. Anger at him for unfulfilled promises.

But if I’m honest the one I’m most angry with is, myself. I am stricken with gut-wrenching guilt about that day that changed everything. I wasn’t soft. I wasn’t nice. I wasn’t a loving wife. I was angry that day and I never even told him why. I was exhausted and felt the weight of grief before the tragedy even happened. I’m angry at myself for being mad at him when he didn’t come home that night. I’m angry for not looking harder. I’m angry at myself for not calling 911 sooner. I’m angry at myself for not having the voice I needed in certain seasons of our marriage.

I have cried in Anger toward God. I have yelled and screamed toward heaven as my fists hit the floor. I have strained my voice from screaming. The screams end in a pool of hot tears.

God knows each tear.

Psalm 56:8 tells us, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

My tears are not lost. Your tears are not lost.

I can’t wrap my mind around this fact. The Lord has a bottle of all the tears I’ve ever cried? He knows each tear that has ever fallen down my face? And your face? What Love and intimacy from our, Savior?

This vicious, yet breathtakingly beautiful grief journey reminds me of a racecar on a track. Going around and around. Fast. Breaking for an oil change and tire change. Then off again at full speed. People cheering on the outside, waving their hands in approval. But they can’t see inside of the car. They can’t see the sweat dripping off the racer’s brow. They can’t feel his heart beating with fear and excitement. They don’t see what’s happening behind the wheel. They only see the outside. I only see what you choose to show on the outside. You only see what I choose to show on the outside. We won’t always see one another’s brokenness. We won’t always see one another’s fears and sadness. People have told me that I seemed to not have even skipped a beat in life after my husband passed away. That is far from the truth. The joy of the Lord is real. The peace of the Lord is real. Without those two gifts I would have gladly chose a life marinating in self-pity, darkness, and depression. Because that’s the easy thing to do. Choosing anger is the easy thing to do.

I have broken my anger down. I have asked for a revelation of the root of my anger… anger that extends past this particular trauma. The root has been fear or sadness. My fears and sadness manifest into anger. Of course that makes sense to me. I don’t want to feel vulnerable in facing fears and admitting an ongoing season of sadness, so I become angry. Anger itself is not bad. Anger is a God-given emotion that when expressed in a healthy manner during a justified season is okay. Like Ecclesiastes teaches us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-14.

Undealt with anger is what’s dangerous. I have been treading on this danger line. The unresolved anger in previous tragedies and my marriage bleeds into my current season and relationships. I have felt my emotions snap at the littlest discomfort and unmet expectations. Maybe you can relate? If so, we need to keep in mind it’s not fair for the people in our lives who care about us. It’s up to us to be intentional in our own healing and strive to seek the Lord through each stage of grief and emotions. We may not be able to control what happens around us, or even to us. We can’t control how other people view us or treat us. What we can control is our reactions. There is freedom in thinking before we act and speak. There is freedom when we bring our hurts and disappointments to the throne of God rather than at the feet of a friend who may innocently encourage or justify the hurt, anger or gossip.

Once again, The Lord continues to use these unwanted emotions in this desperate season from a turned up-side down life and somehow manifests it for His Glory. I’m thankful for this season of anger and raw moments of questioning the Lords plan over my life. It has brought me closer in my spiritual walk. It has again, re-directed my anger and negative perspective to aim higher and remember that no matter what happens He’s got my daughter and I covered with His feathers and tucked under His wings. (Psalm 91:4)

Through the moments of anger and fleshly confusion I will mentally reside on the words of Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

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

 

 

“Where Did My Daddy Go?”

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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.

 

Is Today Worthy Of Being Your Last?

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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

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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?

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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.

I Will Praise You Through The Pain

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Photo By Brianne Campos Photography

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults. And with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalm 28:7

I made a decision a long time ago that I would praise You, always, Lord.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand what praising You meant.

There was a time in my life when You whispered to me to praise You, and I replied with, “I will not praise You when my life is a mess… fix this and then I’ll praise You.”

What a victim mentality that was.

That particular night 4 years ago is a moment I will never forget. The Lord got a hold of my heart and revealed Himself to me in a whole new light. I began to realize it’s not about what God can do for us… We shouldn’t praise Him for what He can do… We should praise Him simply for Who He is. He is The Lord of Lord’s, The King of King’s. He is worthy of all of our praise, all of the time. No matter our circumstances.

Even when we’re hurting.

Especially when we’re hurting.

There is power in praising God through the Pain. There is power in praising God through the storms of life.

And I’m not talking about a flat tire kind of day storm—I am referring to the hurricanes and tornadoes of life… broken relationships, dreaded news…death. Through the dark chaos of life—God still deserves our praises.

Through learning to praise God during what was my greatest fear at that time—a near failed marriage (which God redeemed)… That trial changed my praise. God showed me the power of praising Him through the darkness. A supernatural power arises within us and around us when we lift our hands and eyes to the heavens and pour out our praises to our Creator. Some may think it’s weird, uncomfortable or mystical even. But we were made to praise God. There is something threaded in our souls that yearns for fellowship with Christ. We may not even realize it. But I am living proof of the strength that can be born from praising in the most un-praise-able scenarios. The above picture was captured at my late husband’s funeral on January 24, 2017.

When I look at this picture a swarm of emotions arise within me. I look at my face and don’t even recognize the woman in that picture. I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. It was one of those moments that changes who you are… forever. I will never be the same woman I was a moment before this photo was captured. The praise happening in this picture was one of absolute and complete surrender to God. I woke up that morning not wanting to face the day of burying my husband and the father of my then 9 month old baby girl. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do this hard thing in front of me.

But God.

Getting dressed that morning was a blur. The drive to the church was a blur. Entering the building and being guided to a secluded room was a blur. The walk down the aisle to take my seat in front of the cedar casket that held my husband’s lifeless body was a blur.

But when the music began… When the words of worship emitted through the air… Something happened inside of me. I have always considered myself a ‘worshipper’. But this day changed that meaning to me.

The Holy Spirit came and ministered to me in my seat. He began to engulf me in peace. He began to shower me with an out of this world strength. In that moment—I knew I was going to be okay. I knew I was not alone. I knew God was bigger than my pain. I could feel the Holy Spirit tell me to surrender. He told me to TRUST. He told me this was not about me.

This tragedy was not about me.

This pain was not about me.

It was not about the cedar casket in front of me that held my husband.

It was not about anyone in that building.

It was about my Jesus.

My Redeemer. My Creator. The One who lives and reigns forever. Because of HIM I had the assurance to know and see in the spirit my husband was ALIVE.

He’s not in that cedar casket. He’s not lifeless.

He is living out his eternity with Jesus. He is more alive than we are.

I couldn’t stay seated any longer. I had to stand and praise my creator for giving LIFE to my husband and all that believe in Christ as their savior.

Christ was to be glorified through this tragedy. I was not to bottle up my hurt and sink into a dark pit.

The Holy Spirit whispered His love to me. He whispered parts of His plan to me. I knew it was going to be a hard road. I knew the grief that lay ahead would be gut-wrenching… But I knew I would survive with Christ living in me. By His power—not mine.

And you will survive the pain of whatever you’re facing too. God is bigger than our earthly pain and sorrow.

I hesitated posting this picture and this blog… But the pull in my spirit is someone needs these words. The pain is real. The pain of death is very real, almost tangible. Grief is its own entity. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to grieve. Just remember not to stay there forever. Ask God to help you through the darkness. Ask Him to guide you minute to minute. Ask Him what His purpose for this pain is. He will show you. Going through these last 12 months navigating life after deep loss has allowed me to feel others pain as if it were my own again. The compassion that has been etched into my heart specifically for other widowers is so real. I am thankful for that new emotion. I will carry it for the remainder of my life. I will always pray strategically for ones who face this same road. A road no one wants to travel or thinks of having to travel—This road is hard, but allow God to change your heart on the journey. He will not leave or forsake you, Ever. Even on the hardest and darkest day—HE is there, holding you, breathing life into your loss.

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. John 4:23-24.

Praise Him in those moments. Praise Him when it hurts the most. He will show up in the middle of your pain. I promise He will.

“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the LORD…” Psalm 9:9-11.

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6.

“And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness And Your praise all the day long.” Psalm 35:28

When life brings pain, remember you are never alone. The Lord is our strong tower, our ever present help in times of trouble. He makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, Romans 8:28.

You are so much stronger than you know…

Just repeat after me…

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

I Love You… Eternally

I Love you Eternally

Photo By Daniel Dockweiler

So many emotions the last few days have taken camp on my heart as I face the 1-year mark of Cody being home in heaven. But of all the emotions I’ve faced—Thankfulness is the most prevalent. I am so thankful for having experienced the Love of Cody Lusk. I am thankful to raise the life we created. I am thankful for the new appreciation of life I have. I am thankful for the people the Lord has brought into my life this last year. I am thankful for the deep grief, pain and sorrow, because it has allowed me to experience true joy and peace on a new level.

Tragedy doesn’t have to define you. We do not have to be victims of tragedy for the remainder of our lives. God does not allow tragedy to penetrate our lives for it to be forgotten in the ground… He put in us a strength and a faith that can erupt like a volcano when we Surrender to HIM. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t mean questions don’t come—but it means we can accept and TRUST that God has us in the palm of His hands—“We are covered under His feathers and under His wings we will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4. I don’t know about you, but there is no place else I’d rather be than covered under His wings.

The word eternity has pierced my heart this last year. I now have a deep desire to be more eternally focused. Over the last year I have re-read dozens and dozens of letters and love notes from Cody over the years of our marriage. Every single one ended with, “I Love you, Eternally”. The definition of eternally is, “in a way that continues and lasts forever; permanently.” That makes my heart smile. Over the last couple of months I am ashamed to admit I have struggled with anger in regards to unresolved things in our marriage. I would angrily cry out to God hundreds of WHY’S?

On New Year’s Eve while praying in my special prayer area, I had my face buried in my hands sobbing and I felt a little hand on my shoulder. I looked up and baby Abby was standing inches from me with her arms outstretched. In that moment I felt the Holy Spirit say, “It is finished. Cody is with me. He Loved you with all that he had and I left the best part of him with you.” In that moment the burden of the unanswerable ‘why’s’ that were haunting me dissipated. The anger was released and replaced with that unexplainable peace that exists when we surrender. In that moment as my daughters little body was wrapped around mine, her little face nestled in my neck, feeling her heart beating and her breath on my skin, a new strength and love arose. I began to see a part of my heart neatly wrapped up with a pretty bow on it—that part of my heart was Cody’s and our life together. I then saw a huge part of my heart beating that I never knew existed. I’m realizing it’s okay to desire certain things again. It’s okay to look to the future with excitement. It’s okay to stop asking why.

It doesn’t matter why.

It doesn’t matter what happened.

It doesn’t matter.

That may sound cold, and I don’t mean it to at all. I just mean I am coming to a place, a new stage of healing and I’m realizing no amount of screams and cries to God or Cody in anger will change anything. Accepting that it was ordained for me to only get 4.5 years with him and Abby was only to get 9 months with him… But we have eternity to look forward to.

When I read the words “I Love you, Eternally” written by my husband, my heart soars and breaks at the same time. But you know what is marinated in my soul even deeper than my husband speaking those words? Is my Heavenly Daddy speaking those same words over me—He Loves me eternally. He will never leave or forsake me or my daughter. He has more than taken care of us these last 12 months and I trust and have faith He will continue to do so.

Romans 5:2-5 tells us “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

I’ve had people ask me over the last 12 months if I have felt guilty for laughing or having fun. My instant answer is ‘NO’. I will never feel guilty for laughing or for exuding joy and God’s Love. Because joy and love is the essence of life. Cody was one of the most exuberant souls you would have ever met.

He would never want me to live my life in darkness and sadness forever.

So I refuse to.

Grief changes you, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent sad kind of change.

It can be a strengthening change.

A brave change.

A learning to Love deeper kind of change.

A let’s not take life for granted kind of change.

So yes, grief and tragedy has changed me, but not in the worlds way of thinking. God’s eternal love has penetrated my life on so many new levels this year that wouldn’t be had it not been for experiencing deep loss. I would have never chosen to walk this walk, but here I am. So every day I ask the Lord for help and continue to repeat…

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