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.

 

But Aren’t I Enough?

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Photo By Charles Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been giving my power away.

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that’s left is The Rock.

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

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

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

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

“But Aren’t I Enough?”

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

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

He is ENOUGH.

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

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

I Will Praise You Through The Pain

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Photo By Brianne Campos Photography

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

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

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

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

What a victim mentality that was.

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

Even when we’re hurting.

Especially when we’re hurting.

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

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

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

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

But God.

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

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

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

This tragedy was not about me.

This pain was not about me.

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

It was not about anyone in that building.

It was about my Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are so much stronger than you know…

Just repeat after me…

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