When the Fruit Bowl is Empty

My mouth watered as the aroma of coffee filled my nostrils. It was early morning. The house was quiet and dark. Early morning is my favorite part of the day. My mind is sharp, my body is most alive, my spirit rejoices in a new day. As my favorite coffee mug, marked with the words “But first Jesus” was filling up, my eyes darted around the kitchen. Low growls from my stomach signaled my eyes to the fruit bowl on the end of the counter. It was full. Beautiful bright yellow bananas lay neatly against ripe avocados. I smiled with relief. The fruit bowl was full. The fruit in the bowl was healthy and ready to be devoured. Too many times I rush in and out of the grocery store and forget the family fruit. Too many times I am not paying attention to the fruit in the bowl and it rots before enjoyment.

Not today though, the fruit was full and thriving.

As I carefully picked out the best looking yellow banana to enjoy with my morning coffee the Holy Spirit began convicting me. I was so excited about the fruit bowl being full and honestly proud of myself for keeping up with its goodness. The sweet conviction regarding my recent lack of concern with my spiritual fruit was blindingly clear.

Can I take a second and stake claim on God’s goodness—I LOVE moments like this. The Holy Spirit can and will use anything in our daily lives to continue to pursue us deeper. It’s not like I’d been running from the Lord or was hiding some secret sin or anything of the sort. But, if I’m being honest I hadn’t been living out the fruits of the spirit as of late. My mind went back to several moments in the past week. I was not gentle in my words toward my children—impatience won. I was not loving my husband the way I know the Lord’s Word instructs me to. My peace and joy wavered on my comfortability. When the house was too messy or chaotic I was not patient or kind. Don’t even get me started on when my plan for the day or week was interrupted—I did not act in a self-controlled manner. Without the manifestations of these fruits my spiritual fruit of faithfulness and goodness were buried.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” As this is true for the fruit sitting in our fruit bowls on our kitchen counters, the same notion can be applied to the spiritual fruits in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-24 speaks of the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we’re not keeping step with the spirit in just one of these fruit bearing areas it affects the other fruits of the spirit. If I’m not meeting my family with patience, how am I loving them well? If I’m not loving them well, my joy will fade. Without my joy there will be no peace. Without peace there goes my self-control, gentleness, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. They’re all connected and intertwined.

It’s a war.

It’s a constant battle between our flesh and our spirit.

It’s an impossible battle to win on our own. Thank God we’re not alone in this pursuit of daily victory to bear the beautiful God glorifying ripe fruits of the spirit.

“But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17, ESV). Paul is laying it out in these scriptures the life long battle of keeping in step with the spirit. When we are in Christ we should be repulsed by the things of this world; “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies…and those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV).

I read this list and want to immediately put on my Pharisee cloak and holier than thou response of “that’s not me, I don’t do those things.” But then my best friend—Holy Spirit—comes knocking on my heart and gently nudges me to look in the mirror (spiritually speaking). My face reddens with embarrassment as I admit my battles with levels of idolatry—the need to fit in, the desire to be seen, the idolatry of self. I realize how I’ve allowed division in my home when being vulnerable feels too hard to do at times. Or what about scrolling through social media and envy arises when I see another woman’s perfect figure, glowing hair, or seemingly perfect life? What about that burst of anger I recently had in secret because something didn’t go my way?

When we shrug off these seemingly insignificant opponents of the spirit and character of God we can quickly become complacent. Our fruit begins to have a rotten spot. But our flesh argues that it’s just one rotted spot. We’re still good, it’s not that bad. So we continue in our anger, strife, jealousy or idolatry ways until before we know it all of the fruit in the bowl is full of rot and reeks of disgust.

I.Need.Jesus

Every.Day

All.Day

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV).

Those who belong to Christ Jesus…

These words excite my spirit and calms my over anxious flesh. I don’t have to figure it out on my own. I don’t have to strive in my own power to stay in step with the Spirit. I am in Christ. Paul writes about the spiritual blessing we have in Christ when we are in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:3-10, ESV).  

What life giving news. Even though I know this truth, it still amazes me on the days when my flesh rages war on the Spirit and my steps may not align with the Spirit. I don’t have to stay in that place. You don’t have to stay in that place. We have a loving, big, Heavenly God who chose another way for us. We don’t have to succumb to a life of anger and confusion. We don’t have to question every aspect of our lives—surrender. Surrender the bad day, the intense season—ask Jesus into it. Ask Him to reveal Himself, to immerse Himself and change you from the inside out. The most exciting thing about having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the never-ending growth He pursues us to. We have much to rejoice about as children and heirs of Christ.

When my fruit bowl appears empty or I can sense rotted spots in my fruit (spiritually speaking)—I will keep running to the truth of God’s word. I pray you do the same my friend. I pray you surrender where you are and walk by the spirit, steadily and continuously putting to death the desires of the flesh and yielding beautiful God-glorifying fruit all the days of your life.

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

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.

The Power of Making Your Bed

Bed2

Charles Duhgg wrote the following quote in his book, The Power of Habit, “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater since of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”

Making your bed is described as a ‘keystone habit’.

Did you make your bed today?

To be honest I hadn’t in days.

I laid in the darkness, only a slight sliver of what resembled sunlight peeked through the heather grey blinds that blanketed the windows. I covered my face deeper into my new plush pillows. I grabbed my yellow blanket and snuggled into its softness. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to face the day just yet. I didn’t want to play the juggler in the circus act of my current life. “Welcome to Jessica’s Circus”, I whispered under my breath as I forced the comfy yellow blanket off me and hopped off my gigantic King sized bed. Before I even had a chance to relieve my bladder in silence two little footsteps came bouncing across the hall and entered my room, “Mommy!”

…A new day has dawned. Whether I’m prepared for it or not. Whether my mental capacity is coherent enough to tackle the day of cartoon watching, a dozen snack trips to the pantry, in between work calls, quotes, and video chat meetings for work… The days are long but the weeks have been short. If that even makes sense.

Disclosure: I am beyond thankful to have had the ability to work from home and not skip a beat in my household income with the COVID-19 fiasco attacking our country. I am so blessed. BUT.

But, I am a person who thrives on routines, and excelling at tasks and goals. Whether that is health and fitness goals, spiritual peacefulness, accomplishments at work, all while feeling connected to my daughter and making sure I’m taking the time to play with her and be fully present. You know what I have excelled at the last 7 weeks or so? Eating snacks. Yep. I should have a gold trophy shipped to me for successfully walking to the refrigerator and eating. Insert laughing gif. But for real. The struggle has been REAL.

The other day I had to force myself to do the bare minimum just to get through the day. My mind and emotions were blurry, unclear and confusing. I couldn’t seem to catch a grip on the day I was in. I fell to my knees and cried out to the Lord. I know He hears my cries. I know He can see my heart. I know He knows I mean well in all areas of my life but I’m failing in all the areas I’m trying so hard in. I can hear Him sweetly telling me, “stop trying so hard, surrender, give all of those anxious burdens and fears to me, My daughter”. Why is this so hard?

When I got up from the floor after that prayer time, I immediately had the urge to make my bed.

So I made my bed.

Then I put a load of laundry into the washer. Then I built mini houses out of blocks with my daughter. Then I sat in my home office and returned clients phone calls and submitted the paperwork I needed to for that day. I even logged onto my Continued Education Training and started my Exam that had an upcoming due date. I was able to successfully complete 4 courses that day.

The Power of Making Your Bed.

Now obviously I’m not saying that making your bed releases some sort of magical powers within the atmosphere. But it does kick start your mind into productive thoughts. Thoughts lead to actions. Actions lead to productivity. Before you know it your days “To Do” list has dwindled significantly.

In these last few weeks’ potential new idols have risen in my personal life; the idol of food, the idol of T.V or mind-numbing entertainment, and honestly the idol of just being lazy. My days went from 90 to nothing virtually overnight—like so many of yours did too. It was nice to slow down. For a few days at least. But with my type of personality if I’m not setting and reaching new goals I get sedentary in my mind and how my time is spent drastically changes. I don’t like it.

I don’t like spending my time outside of the Will of God. My soul feels unsettled. I know when I’m not living to glorify my Heavenly Father and my heart aches in streams of poison. It’s so easy to get off track. Just think about it… it can be so difficult to cultivate healthy eating habits (for most of us anyway). It can take months and for some years to truly get a grip in this area—but it can only take a few days and weeks to spiral back into unhealthy habits. Addicts of alcohol or forms of drugs can spend years going around the same old mountain, years of rehab and counseling, finally life is back on track. Then they have a bad day and that bottle or high is calling their name again. What they spent years getting out of took seconds for the enemy to ensnare them in again.

Same goes for almost every area in our lives. Honing in on our unique gifts, talents and creativeness feeds our souls. Imagine your, “Best Self Days”, what if every day you woke up and you were naturally “Your Best Self”? Like without even trying…

Want to know a TRUTH? Jesus made that possible. Literally all we have to do is invite HIM into every area of our day, big or small. Invite HIM into every dark crevice of our minds. Invite HIM into every hidden area of our hearts. You know… the areas that we pretend don’t exist, our little secrets that we don’t mention to our best friends, spouses, or even counselors? Well guess what? God already knows those areas you try to hide. He is already there. He already accepts YOU as you are and where you are.

How unbelievably beautiful is that? But it takes us making the decision. It takes us to begin to hate the areas of our lives that hold us back from being our best, truest, purist selves. Ask yourself what those areas are? Is it too much self-doubt? Addiction or idolatry of some sort? Hidden sexual sin? Self-pity? Jealousy of others? Un-forgiveness? What is holding you back from the life the Lord has planned for you? It’s not enough to just hate the behavior. We have to discover the root of the behavior. Why do we do the unhealthy and life-sucking things we do? Why do we keep ending up in these same cycles of behavior that continue to keep us from living our absolute best lives the Lord has intended for us to live?

If you noticed no-where have I said mastering this mindset will protect you from life’s hurts or tragedies. Because it won’t. Jesus Himself warns us in John 16:33, “… In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

We can’t control the bad things that may come our way in this life. We can’t control the decisions of others that may have a negative effect on our life. We can’t always control what happens around us or to us, but we can control how we react.

We have to learn to ‘control the controllable’.

What are you in charge of in your life and throughout your day? Your thoughts, your actions, your mood, your attitude toward others, your work ethic, how you choose to react to situations and people, surrendering to the Lord, what you decide to put into your body- which is the temple of the holy spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). These are all things I can control.

At times I am so overwhelmed inside because I am trying to control everything around me. I am stressing myself out trying to control things that will never, ever be in my control. I forget the power of baby steps into positive thinking and relinquishing control.

Control the controllable.

For me… Every day it starts with making my bed. I pray blessings over my day as I straighten the sheets over my king-sized mattress. I ask the Lord to take captive of any thoughts that are not from Him or glorify Him.  As I move my grey velvet comforter back into place, I ask the Lord to give me His creativeness over my work and patience in my parenting toward my daughter. With each fancy throw pillow I set into place, I begin to bind the enemy for any tricks or schemes he may throw my way in an attempt to deter my walk with the Lord. Finally, as I roll my Aztec printed blanket in front of my decorative pillows, I ask the Lord to continue to remind me that I am His and that I am not in control of everything- He is.

Who knew something as simple as making the bed could become so powerful?

Did you make your bed today?

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24.

And for all of those things I simply cannot control I will continue to repeat…

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

 

 

In the Blink of an Eye

clock in waterThis morning, like every morning I had my “On This Day” memories flow through my social media timeline.

4- years ago on this day my late husband caught a 7lb bass. He had me follow him out to our tackle shed as he posed, grinning ear to ear, showing off his catch. I would have been pregnant at this time… big and pregnant.

This same picture cuts a place deep in my soul—It was a picture used during the 5-day search for him in 2017. It’s a beautiful picture. It’s a sad picture. It’s a joyful picture. It’s a picture that reminds me of what is truly important in this life.

With the world in a craze hysteria over the Covid-19 outbreak, my emotions are wrecked. Not in fear, but I am being reminded of emotions tied to trauma and loss. The feeling of not being in control. The feeling of your whole world being turned upside down in the blink of an eye. The feeling of losing something or someone you hold so dear to your heart. None of that is in our control. This sickness is not in our control. The way others react to this virus or any code red situation is not in our control. What we can control is what we allow our minds to concentrate on. We can control how much we allow the media to penetrate our minds and emotions. No amount of fear will render aid to this virus, or any health concern for that matter. What does fear do? Fear creates mass hysteria. Fear creates empty shelves in the grocery store. Fear creates a shortage of the good stuff on a roll—toilet paper. (For the life of me I still do not understand why this is what is being bought in mass?) Fear does nothing positive or edifying to our spirits.

Do you see what happened in such a short time? People’s plans were cancelled. People’s agendas were halted. People can no longer stroll through the store without worry of essential items being bought out. Businesses are closing, schools are shutting down. No one has an answer to what is going to happen next. People that die today had plans for tomorrow. We all have plans and agendas. It’s okay if those plans and agendas look differently now. It’s okay that our lives are almost being forced to slow down. If we’re all honest, I bet it is much needed, mentally, physically and most importantly spiritually.

Time.

Time is one of the only things we can never get back once it’s gone. I don’t know about you, but through this mandated human distancing process- I am going to take advantage of this time and spend as much of it as I can with my 3 year old baby girl. If there is anything that tragedy and pandemics can teach us it’s that time is precious. Relationships with our loved ones is precious. Material things are not important. Climbing the corporate ladder for selfish reasons is not important. Being the next ‘Jones’ on the block is not important. I can go into my storage and see an entire section stacked with my late husbands things. Tools, some of it unused and brand-new, tool bags, fishing poles, man stuff… just things upon things. They’re here, but he’s not. When the end of my life comes I want to have a clear conscious knowing that I spent more time growing what truly matters; my faith, spending time with my child and loved ones, working hard at my job- but also not allowing my job to consume me as a person.

We’re all experiencing how fast our daily lives can change in the blink of an eye. I pray this virus is a short-lived epidemic. I pray our Communities, State, Nation and World find a way to cure its spread. But more importantly I pray that we can all embrace the goodness that still surrounds us. I pray people get in touch with the compassion still alive in each of our souls and extend help to the elderly, or the single mom who may seem overwhelmed with the new task of homeschooling. Ask the Lord to show you how you can be a blessing to someone else. If you’re not a person of faith then I ask that you be a light in some way to our dark world right now. Whether we believe differently spiritually, have different views politically or come from different ethnic backgrounds means nothing when we’re talking about basic human decency and being a positive asset in our individual communities. A song that came to mind as I was writing this blog is Mercy Me’s, In The Blink of an Eye:

“You put me here for a reason
You have a mission for me
You knew my name and You called it
Long before I learned to breathe
Sometimes I feel disappointed
By the way I spend my time
How can I further Your kingdom
When I’m so wrapped up in mine
In a Blink of an eye that is when
I’ll be closer to You than I’ve ever been
Time will fly, but until then
I’ll embrace every moment I’m given”

 

I am a strong believer in God. I know He is in control and sovereign. I know He is up to something big, bigger than all of our own personal agendas. As the above lyrics proclaim, He has put us here for a reason.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8       

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

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

 

 

Dead Ends.

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Google Image.

Wrong Turns.

Dry Streams.

Dead Ends.

Have you ever been in a season of life when each direction you’re turning, you have a “Wrong Way” sign flashing intensely back at you?

Your heart is set on a dream. Your emotions are so exaggerated and taking over your intelligence. You fly past every warning sign that this situation, this career path, this relationship, this dream you’re holding onto is not God’s perfect plan for your life.

Dead ends… Ladies, what do we do when the ends of our hair become dried up and dead? WE CUT THEM OFF. We all know that by biting the bullet and cutting off inches of dead hair will in fact make it grow longer at a faster rate. I’m the world’s worst about cutting my hair. If you know me, you know my hair is insanely long. When I go in for a trim, I cringe at every inch being snipped away. But I know it’s for the best. It is the same with dead ends in our lives.

No matter how much we strive to push a square peg into a round hole, it is not going to work. There have been seasons in my life that I forced myself onto a particular career path only to find my soul was miserable because it was not God’s plan for my life. I’m sure we have experienced this in relationships. We hold onto a vision we had in the beginning or a feeling of safety. We hold on with every fiber of our beings only to find that we’re at a dead end. A dead end filled with dried streams that used to overflow with life-giving water in this area of your life. You wake up one day to no more cross roads. No more options but to turn fully around and go the opposite direction.

Change hurts.

Change is scary.

Change is growth.

Change is good.

For years I have feared change. God has used nearly every faucet of my life to face the fear of change. I faced the change of finding a new dream after the loss of my husband. Our entire life built was that of a team. Business partners, remodeling a home, raising a child together. All of it shattered in one moment.

Change hurts.

But feared change produces so much trust in our God when we choose to stop running from it and face it with a faith that comes from Christ within us.

I have envisioned myself kneeling at a stream. I am standing on stepping stones, kneeling at the slight running water at my feet. My fingers are touching the top of the streaming water. It’s moving slowly, but it’s moving. I look further down the stream, to the right and to the left. The streams are dry. I know where I’m standing won’t be life giving much longer. I know I’m being called to move forward. But the stream is so beautiful. The stream was healing. The stream gave me water when I was dying of thirst. The stream exudes peace and comfort. But I’m not to stay. I don’t know what is after the stream. But I know I have to be obedient and move forward. I’m to trust in something bigger than myself.

Change is scary.

Freedom begins with obedience.

This reminds me of Peter in Acts 12. King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church and had every intention of persecuting them. He took Peter captive, imprisoning him. He was handed over to four squads of four soldiers each. Herod had planned to bring Peter out for a public trial after Passover. Here Peter was imprisoned, but God’s people were diligently praying for him to be set free. Scripture tells us the night before Herod was to bring Peter to trial, Peter fell asleep between two soldiers. (Because I mean who wouldn’t be sleeping like a baby with this much stress in their life… It’s not like he wasn’t about to possibly be persecuted for his faith or anything)

I see you Peter.

I see your unwavering TRUST in your God.

He was bound with two chains and wedged between two soldiers. He was in bondage, physically but not spiritually.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and struck Peter’s side. “Quick, get up!” the angel said. “…And the chains fell off Peter’s wrist.” Acts 12:7

And…. THE CHAINS FELL OFF PETER’S WRISTS.

Obedience.

I’ll say it again- Freedom begins with obedience.

Peter had to get up before the chains fell off him.

YOU have to get up before your chains will fall off you.

What is the Lord calling you to do that you haven’t yet?

The Lord has been revealing to me since August that I have not surrendered certain areas of my life to Him. I was scared of what His plan may look like, so I was holding onto my own.

I recently shared with a friend that the Lord gives me a word for each year. At the beginning of this year He gave me the word Love. But I know it was not in the romantic sense. It goes deeper than that.

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 place’s I’ve allowed my mind to go, 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.

I’m learning that His purpose for our obedience is rooted in His Love for us. This revelation has equipped me to embrace change on another level.

Change is growth.

What happened to peter when he obeyed? Not only did the chains fall off him but he stepped out of the prison walls. He was at a dead end, stuck between two soldiers who were commanded to keep him a prisoner for Herod’s entertainment. How many of us get comfortable in our own prisons? (Insert hand raise emoji) We can become quite comfortable in our own dysfunction. But the change that Peter experienced in his situation due to his obedience of “getting up” was quite literally instantaneous. Instantly the chains fell off, he walked out of prison and was a free man.

The evolution of change can be so many things… it can hurt, it can be scary, it can grow you… but oh change can be so good in the bounds of God’s will over your life.

What if you embraced the change the Lord has set before you? What if you surrendered whatever it is that is holding you back? What if you were whole-heartedly obedient to the commands and callings Christ has set specifically on your life?

You never know… A simple act of obedience can change the course of your life and blessings and freedom could begin to flow instantly. Your seemingly never ending ‘dead end’ could turn into a boundless open road full of Life, Love, and Growth.

Change is good.

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

“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.

 

 

I Don’t Want To Forget

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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.

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“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.