“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.

 

God Hasn’t Forgotten You

He hasn't forgotten you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….He hasn’t forgotten you.

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

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

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

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

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

God Hasn’t Forgotten You.

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

Is Today Worthy Of Being Your Last?

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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.

Turning The ‘Extra Ordinary’ Into Extraordinary

Make me broken

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

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

Extra Ordinary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to trust like Mary did.

I want to have a God confidence like David did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God is in it, little is much.

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

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

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.

2017- The Worst Year of My Life & The Best Year of My Life

 

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Photo By Shala Gean

I have found myself saying lately, “This has been the worst year of my life, but has also been the best year of my life.”  How is that possible?

January 14, 2017 will forever be a day that divides one section of my life from the woman I was to the woman I am now.

The woman I was… was lost that night when the Lord called my husband, Cody into glory.

This has been a year of pure trust in the Lord.  Though as a Christian I should have been living in that trust with the Lord for years now.  But I wasn’t.  Experiencing the disappearance of Cody and going through the gut wrenching 5 days of the search before his body was recovered from the lake… Those 5 days were dark and scary.  Those do not seem sufficient enough words to describe it.  Breathing was agony.  But I’m thankful that his body was recovered.  So many families are not that fortunate when a loved one disappears.  For that I will be forever grateful.  That was the beginning of the Trust I found in The Lord.

Walking this season as a widow—(I despise the title of widow by the way)… The Lord has ‘wooed’ me to Him in such an eternal romance type of way.  To say I am head over heels in love with Jesus is an understatement.  To witness Him take such brokenness and despair and begin to remold all of the broken pieces together again for His Glory—has changed me from the inside out.  I don’t want to be the person I was the day before deep tragedy struck my little world.  I realize how selfish I was.  I was living to build ‘Jessica’s Kingdom’…not Gods Kingdom.

I didn’t look at every faucet of my life through the lens of Christ.  I looked at it through the lens of Jessica.  I was living inwardly, pleasing myself.  Though as long as I’m on this side of glory—I will struggle daily with fighting my flesh—but I can say it has definitely gotten easier to get myself off my mind.

I have learned to enjoy the simplicity of life.  I find such beauty and laughter in the smallest of things.  I have learned to love more selflessly, to cherish the people I care about.  I don’t want to take people for granted, ever.  Because they may not be here tomorrow.  We never get a better chance to grow relationships and friendships than the present.  I have learned to truly enjoy and be thankful for the mundane of everyday.

In May of this year the Lord pressed upon my spirit the revelation that all of the trials I have faced in life and may face in the future… are not about me.

Every trial we encounter in our earthly lives is to ultimately glorify God.

A couple of months ago while preparing to speak at a women’s conference, I came across a note in my journal.  It was Cody’s handwriting. He had written notes from a sermon by Jason Harris at Evangelistic Temple on October 2, 2016.  These words are full of truth and are almost prophetic for me to read after his death.

God is sovereign over all suffering.  All suffering infinitely exists for God’s glory.  God’s aim in your suffering is to take your mind off yourself so you rely completely on Him.  Suffering in the life of a Christian is an opportunity to show the world that Christ is worth more than life itself.  The proper response to suffering is Faith and even Joy.  Suffering points us to the HOPE we have in Christ.  God is a good, good Father.”

Every single word above is pure truth and is exactly what the Lord has revealed to me this year.  Joy and peace can be found in the midst of the darkness of this world.  The Love the Lord has showered on me and my daughter this year has been so real and humbling.  It has changed the way I view the body of Christ.  There is power in prayer and power in Gods people coming together in unity while standing in the gap on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is power when we surrender everything to the Lord. For me this consists of surrendering the grief, the guilt, the bitterness, all of my desires, my dreams, my fears… letting go of it all.  I have to do this daily.  It’s hard, but it’s necessary.  I have to trust God that He will continue to grow beauty from the ashes.  I have no doubt He is sovereign.  I have no doubt He has a great plan for me.  He has a great plan for you.  I am praying Jeremiah 29:11 over all that are reading this, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am excited to bring in a new year.  I am excited at what the Lord is doing.  I am looking forward to growing more in Christ, growing more in love, growing more into the woman the Lord has called me to be.  Though this has been by far the most trying and saddest year of my life, it has been the most God seeking, and love abounding year of my life as well.  When we have no place else to run but the arms of Christ—oh the love He lavishes on us.
I will forever be grateful for 2017.

As Danny Gokey sings, “Tell your heart to beat again.  Close your eyes and breathe it in.  Let the shadows fall away.  Step into the light of grace.  Yesterday’s a closing door.  You don’t live there anymore.  Say goodbye to where you’ve been.  And tell your heart to beat again.

Beginning—Just let that word wash over you.  It’s alright now.  Love’s healing hands have pulled you through.  So get back up, take step one, leave the darkness, feel the sun.

Your story is far from over and your journey’s just begun…”

I pray 2018 is a year of restoration, a year of deep peace and joy overflowing.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  1 Peter 5:10

It’s time to tell your heart to beat again…

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

It Is Well With My Soul

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Though these 6 words are so simple—It Is Well With My Soul—they are the difference between spiritual life and death. Literally.

For the last 10.5 months I have been dreading this holiday season. The first holidays without my Cody. When I allow my mind to think too much, my heart feels as if it will palpitate out of my chest. Memories of Cody holding tiny 8-month old baby Abby across his lap as she opened her first Christmas presents invade my mind. The smiles on both of their faces are forever burned in my memories. Never imagining his smile would forever vanish on this earth only 3 weeks later.

But…

It Is Well With My Soul.

No matter the pain, no matter the memories, no matter the grieving times… It Is Well With My Soul.

To say those words and mean them, is truly freeing.

I have such a pressing in my spirit to share what a good, good Father we have. His love is so real. His faithfulness is never failing. So many people base their trust in God on their circumstances—I’m so guilty of this too. But that only hurts us. It’s easy to love someone when they love us and give us what we may think we need or want… But to love when it’s hard—that is the true test of our character.

Our love relationship with our Heavenly Father is the most epic never ending, adventurous love story of all time. I don’t want to stop loving Him or seeking Him because His plans differ from what I had pictured for my life. His plans—though not of this world—are so much more beautiful than we can fathom.

Let go, and let God.

Let go of the hard stuff. Let go of the un-forgiveness. Let go of the shame and guilt. Let God take your burdens. Let God restore your relationships. Let God heal your life and make you white as snow.

He yearns for His children to say—‘It Is Well With My Soul’. No.Matter.The.Circumstances.

“Oh, my soul

You are not alone

There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know

One more day, He will make a way

Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

‘Cause you’re not alone…” Oh My Soul, by Casting Crowns

These song lyrics stir my spirit. They are words testifying that our troubles and trials do not have to dictate the status of our soul.

Jesus took care of that status at the cross. He sacrificed His life so we can say ‘It Is Well With My

Soul’.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea. Though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:1-10

With God as my fortress— I have the confidence to enter a new year and a new season of deep healing as the Lord writes the rest of my story. I pray I will always sing… It Is Well With My Soul.

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