Gretchen Scruby

Discovering the beauty amid life's joy, trials, and pain. Isaiah 61:3

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
IMG_2066I was at the deli counter on my weekly grocery shopping trip. I ordered the usual items and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a new type of cheese. I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I basically talked myself into asking the nice gentleman behind the counter if I could try a piece. Confession time – I don’t like small talk! It makes me anxious. My mind turns to mush, and words just don’t form. I began this awkward conversation with myself:
“Why was it so hard for you to ask about the cheese?”
“It’s his job.”
“It’s only cheese!”
After some time contemplating the cheese, I realized I didn’t want to inconvenience him. What if I tasted the cheese and didn’t like it? Then I’d have to say “No, thank you. I’ve decided not to buy any.” All this after putting him to the trouble of cutting me a piece of cheese in the first place!
I’d love to say this comes from my consideration of others. But that’s completely false! It usually comes from me not liking to be bothered. So I assume no one else does either. There’s another reason. It’s also the anxiety of making small talk, the insecurity of having nothing to say, and the fear of looking like a fool. This time around, it had nothing to do with me bothering the kind gentleman doing his job. Instead, it had everything to do with my anxiety issues!
What’s it for you? Maybe small talk comes easy and if you want to try something at the deli, you just ask with no thought. If it’s not something as simple as this, I’m pretty sure there’s something else that makes you anxious, fearful, or insecure. We are made of flesh and bones and all lack confidence in certain areas of life. What’s that “thing” that keeps you from enjoying life deeper? Maybe you have an uncontrollable fear that even keeps you from leaving the house. Or perhaps its fear of people seeing the real you – instead of avoiding small talk, you fill every conversation with some type of surface talk. Whatever “it” is, God wants to walk you through it. I know because He’s walking me through my issues, and believe me this is only one! Also, His word tells us:
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  John 10:10 AMP
I want this live life to the fullest approach….. which is pretty cool, because my key word for 2017 is Abundantly!
So guess what? I actually did ask that nice gentleman at the deli counter for a sample of cheese. I can hardly believe I set aside my anxieties and tasted the Italian herb cheese. And do you know what? I loved it! I ended up ordering that cheese, picked up some fresh tomatoes, basil, and bread. What a yummy lunch those sandwiches made, complete with balsamic drizzle. Would my day have been horrible if I didn’t try the cheese? Probably not. But I would’ve beat myself up a little for chickening out on asking for something I really wanted to try – AGAIN! It takes work to conquer these little things that can keep us from enjoying this life in the day-to-day. It also takes work to enjoy life during the really tough days.
On January 4, 2017, my dad

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#daddysgirl

would’ve turned 63. This particular birthday was very difficult. On that morning, my husband and I didn’t have a lot on our “to do” list. The only thing on our plate was to take our daughter to school. And then we were going to walk before he left for work. But our youngest son left his lunch at home. We couldn’t even call and make arrangements for him to buy lunch that day. His class was having a picnic, and if he didn’t have a bag lunch, he wouldn’t be able to go. We don’t live close to the boys’ school and driving up there meant no time for our walk. IMG_0831

 

I already mentioned how much I love interruptions – NOT! This took my gloomy day and made it worse. We drove pretty much in silence. About half way to the school my husband pointed out a rainbow. I saw it beautifully peeking out from the clouds. I don’t think we would’ve seen it had we gone on our walk. I knew the Lord had placed it there just for me. My husband knew I needed to see that rainbow too. And of course, he knew the next thing I’d want is a picture. I LOVE taking pictures. The problem was I couldn’t see it without looking out his window. He carefully took my phone, steadied it, and drove as slow as he could to grab the shot. Did that moment take all the sadness and grief away? Nope. But it did give me the choice to see what God had done. It reminded me to focus on the good things I have. The rainbow prompted me to be thankful that my dad’s not suffering any longer, to remember him whole now, and the cancer is gone! It brought new perspective into my day and helped me be grateful for the memories I have of and with my dad.

He was a remarkable man – a wonderful husband, incredible dad to me and my husband, and a terrific grandfather to our kids. On January 15th, the 3rd anniversary of my dad going to be with Jesus, my mom and I took the kids to Disney Springs in Orlando. It’s a perk of living a few hours away we can just drive up and enjoy a brief trip. We filled the day with fun things Grandpa would’ve loved.

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#choosingjoy

We went bowling, toured the coca-cola factory, and had lunch at a down home fresh cooking place. My dad was from Illinois and loved home cooking meals.  That day we chose joy! We have a choice each day to taste and see God’s goodness, it’s there for us to reach out and grab. Most days I really believe I just miss a lot of it. I live in my bubble, behind my to-do list, and often am onto the next task before I’ve completed the current one. This year I desire to savor more moments. A dear friend of mine’s focus word for this year is “Savor.” Although it’s not my word for the year, I am grateful for the reminder to Savor more Jesus moments! This year has been BUSY and I haven’t had as much time to savor the beautiful messy everyday moments as I’d like. With Spring upon us, it’s time for me to stop and smell the flowers. I know all to well life is short and I still manage to get up in the craziness that’s called life.

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My husband taught at church last week and one of his points was – Slow Down! Oh how I needed that reminder. I don’t know where you are in this season, but if it’s a busy one, slow down and smell the roses! Find the beauty in God’s creation and those He’s placed in your life. Have a picnic, take a walk, rest, breathe, and savor!

Thank you Jesus that You love us even though we live in our own little circles, missing much of the beauty around us. May we remember in the midst of the trials, pain, and hardships this world offers, we can find beauty in You. Help us to let go of those things IMG_2070that keep us from tasting and seeing Your goodness. Let us savor more of your goodness each day. Help us slow down, sit at your feet, and open our eyes and our hearts to the
abundant living only You provide! Let us be free to embrace the messy moments around us that You make beautiful.  – Amen!

 

After a hiatus from writing this summer, I’m excited to be back! I love to write and have missed my somewhat therapeutic times sitting in front the computer pouring my heart out. I’ve found that writing my thoughts and prayers on paper help me slow down and stay focused. That being said, there have been quite a few moments I would’ve liked to write about, but nothing ever became a complete thought.  I don’t want to just write the “stuff” life throws without sharing the lesson, hope, or new thing the Lord taught me during the moment. But it’s good to be back!

We had a busy but awesome summer! We didn’t go on any grand vacations or have anything really exciting happen, but we enjoyed the little moments of fun that summer brought. The end of summer and beginning of this school year started some remarkable changes. The weekend after our boys started school was an especially exciting time. I turned forty – yes 40! Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about this. My thirties were filled with some of life’s biggest blessings, but also life’s most difficult moments, trials, and pain. In some ways I’m ready for the next decade.  And then it hits me that I have a four and a six-year-old and I’m forty! This wasn’t my timing, that’s for sure. And there are many things I’d like to be different.

img_8595I’d love my dad to be here and my mom not to feel so alone, even though we live together in our crazy house with my husband, three kids, and two outlandish dogs. I know she carries deep loneliness most days. I’d like to be able to call my brother and see him enjoying his niece and nephews. I’d love my sweet baby girl to not have the struggles of her emotional difficulties that make some days super hard for both of us. Most of all, I feel excited for what’s ahead.

This past year I started making time for myself to work out and get healthy. It’s something my husband and I have done together. I wanted to loose forty pounds by my birthday, I got close I lost thirty! “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us….” Philippians #:13-15a It’s a journey I’m still on. That journey may now include melting off the few pounds I put back on during our end of summer celebrations. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled at how much better I feel and excited to keep working toward my goals.

I had a wonderful birthday! My mom, husband, and close friends pulled off an awesome surprise party for my 40th! I am very grateful for the people God has placed in my life. The celebration didn’t just stop that Friday night. My husband found a vacation rental house for us to stay in for the weekend. It was beautiful, down the street from the beach, and on the intracoastal. Sunday afternoon we concluded our weekend with a fun family day.

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However, the highlight of that weekend, for me, came Saturday night. That’s the night my husband was ordained as a pastor at our church. What an amazing gift to celebrate the same weekend. To say we were overwhelmed with emotion would be an understatement. The outpouring of support and love we received after church that Saturday night was unbelievable. What an encouraging time to be with our church family and share what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Many people have asked my husband what has changed for him since becoming a pastor. He will say, “Not much, my job is the same. But for my wife a lot has changed.” My husband is my biggest fan and is just as excited for the new doors that have opened for me in ministry. And I completely understand – As much as I enjoyed my surprise Friday night (and it was fantastic), I couldn’t wait for Saturday to share my hubby’s special night. We don’t do life perfectly and can very quickly get on each other’s nerves, but overall we try to do marriage well! We are best friends and still really enjoy spending time together. But yes, our life has changed in some ways.  It’s become busier, a little crazier (still not sure how that’s possible), and also more rewarding. We love serving together at our church. We met serving in children’s ministry 17 years ago and still look forward to serving together today.

When our first opportunity came to do a couple’s time of sharing during church service, we both had a moment where we wanted to respond – “No thank you!” Our church was doing a marriage series and we were asked to share on “Intimacy in Marriage.” On a Wednesday night we sat in front of our church and shared more then I’d like to, and I’m an over-sharer. LOL. As we both moved past the title and began to talk about intimacy in marriage, we were reminded it’s so much more than physical intimacy. And yes, sex, is a healthy, beautiful, and important part of marriage. (YES I just said sex in a Christian blog post as a very new pastor’s wife. Lord – you are making me bold.) We shared with the congregation that through almost 16 years of marriage we can keep intimacy alive by staying friends, being honest, respecting each other, and having accountability in our marriage. I love what my husband said, “If intimacy is happening in your marriage, physical intimacy will naturally happen.” Having a good marriage does require work. It takes planning to spend meaningful time together, especially with three kids, two dogs, along with a busy work and ministry load, and let’s not forget the extra demands that pop up daily.  But having a healthy marriage is completely worth it. I’m blessed and excited to share life with my best friend, and serving in ministry together is such a bonus! Especially when you get to see God’s promises come to fruition. img_8625

Over five years ago, I met a pastor’s wife who walked with me through one of my darkest seasons. She would always encourage me and say, “I see double for you.” And “Double for your trouble, hold on.” I knew the verse in the Bible, Isaiah 6:7, but I didn’t know what that meant for me personally. Sitting on my living room couch one night this summer talking with my mom, I told her that I couldn’t believe Michael was going to be ordained, and that I’d have a chance to serve more in Women’s Ministry. She looked at me and said, “It’s your double.” Insert happy crying face, I started balling!

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The realization hit me – that what the pastor’s wife had spoken over me years ago during one of my darkest seasons, was becoming answered prayer and a fulfilled promise. Ladies, please don’t lose heart! Hold onto what the Lord has promised you even if you don’t know what that looks like, how it’s possible, or if it seems light years away. God is always faithful and keeps His promises.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

We are now a couple months into the school year. We should be saying hello to fall, although in my neck of the woods there isn’t much of a physical change of season. However, my love of all things pumpkin and putting up our fall décor reminds me of the change of season. Recently our time has been filled with teacher conferences, middle school football practices and games for our oldest, ballet for our sweet girl and AWANA for our younger two kiddos. Car pooling and hours spent in my mini-van are at an all-time high! I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to serve over our Women’s ministry at church. I’m excited and humbled to get to do what I’m passionate about each week. I’m discovering even more the importance of crock-pot meals, using my calendar, and desperately trying to be better organized. I also recognize the importance of scheduling coffee dates with friends, one-on-one dates with my kids, and date nights with my hubby.

Today it actually feels a little fallish down south where I live. As we enter this new season –  whatever that looks like for you, whether lots of changes or more of the mundane –  I pray you desire to do it well. All the while knowing you don’t have to be perfect. I hope you’re sharing what God asks you to share, with whoever He tells you to share with. And I know that might take some courage and boldness for some of us. I pray you’re seeing God open doors for you, however little or big they might be. I pray for all of us that we won’t miss what God has for us in the valley and on the mountaintops. Happy Fall Y’all – Be Blessed!  images-1

To my mom – this one’s for you!

Two Sunday’s ago I was stuck sitting on a bench, waiting, with my keys locked in my car. There as I sat I realized quite a bit. (See previous post). Fast-forward a couple of weeks. On this Sunday I sat a lot less rested, but also realizing quite a bit. These past two weeks were completely opposite from that week when I sat on that bench. Finding a moment to breathe has been extremely difficult. These few weeks have been filled with heaps of joy and also a great deal of trials. I’ve been reminded during this time to trust – trust that God’s working even when I can’t see it. image

There were really awesome moments during those past couple of weeks. One highlight was that our oldest son turned 11! We had fun surprising him and celebrating with family and friends. There have been really difficult moments too. I had a rough time at work and our daughter had a very difficult week at home. I also had a misunderstanding with someone close to me and an unintentional mistake became a bigger issue. I was left feeling hurt and misunderstood. I also was enduring the sting of intentional hurt, which is never fun! Far tougher than dealing with my wounds, was wiping the tears of my oldest son as he faced the feelings of being excluded and unwelcome. I felt much more worn out and dragged down by the “stuff” life often throws than I wanted to be. I love the account in the Bible where Jesus heals the woman who had been suffering through twelve years of continuous bleeding, and she knew that all she needed to do was just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment – “For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” Mark 5:28-29.

These past few weeks I knew I was barely hanging on by a thread. But I also knew my Jesus was right there with me. I just had to reach out to Him! During these few weeks I cried more then I would’ve liked and felt misjudged. But how much more was my Savior hurt and misjudged as He walked on this earth. Sometimes it takes difficult moments to remember we live in a fallen world – and we are all made of flesh and bones.
Unfortunately, I will hurt people sometimes and people also will hurt me sometimes. And so will you! I don’t know what bumps and bruises you’ve suffered these past few weeks, yet I know you aren’t alone. I also learned that sometimes it’s not our job to defend ourselves. I heard the Lord telling me to say nothing. This can be the hardest thing to do when we want to explain, correct, or voice our hurts and/or opinions. But I knew through my quiet times with the Lord that I was to continue being still in Him.

Honestly, I’m not sure if these trying moments are happening more often or if they bother me more when I’m worn out and emotional. I believe it’s a little of both! I don’t like pain so I don’t have any tattoos (my husband has enough for us both). But if I did get a tattoo, I’d want a tattoo of the words – “Pasa Chara.” I was introduced to this phrase during a small group study I was in the year following my brother’s passing. It was entitled – “Reflecting God” by Kay Smith. I learned a valuable lesson during that study that has remained with me through the years. The hard, unbearable, miserable, stressful, and difficult moments allow me to workout my faith. They are necessary and purposeful. Trials aren’t easy, and my natural reaction will not be true joy. But I know I’ll get through whatever “it” is at the moment and it’s accomplishing more than I have any idea about.
The words are defined below from the Strong’s Concordance.
pás – each, every; each “part(s) of a totality”
khä-rä’ – joy, gladness, joyful, joyous, joyfulness, joyfully, greatlyimage

The highlight of these past couple of weeks came at the end of those trying weeks. My family, friends, supporters and I walked in the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) 5K. What a beautiful bittersweet day. I’ve walked in this fund raising and awareness walk four of the past five years. I thought it’d be easier this year, but it wasn’t. As I set all of our stuff out for our early morning adventure, the heaviness of grief hit me. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting up and putting “that” shirt on. Another year…. another event…..another moment my brother isn’t here. I couldn’t sleep. I knew the alarm was going to sound soon, but my mind refused to rest. I finally got up, read, prayed & wrote. Also had a good cry! Finally – I slept.

IMG_5449We all made it out for the 5k event. There were tears shared, hugs given, smiles exchanged and I can truly say that I counted it all true joy!!! One of the most beautiful things about this picture of everyone who showed up that day to walk/run in memory of my brother while supporting me and my mom, is that not one person (besides my mom and children), were “family” by definition. But they are “family” in my eyes and even more importantly, in God’s eyes. This is truly a picture of God’s love, grace, provision and mercy! And as much as I would’ve loved to be enjoying Sunday morning not walking in the MADD walk because my brother’s life was taken by a drunk driver, I can’t say this group of people would have been brought together if that tragedy had not occurred. I look at this picture and was brought to tears – happy tears – because I see God’s love and kindness in action.

I am also reminded I am not the only person facing grief, trials, and pain.IMG_5414

My brother’s two best friends and their familes who have supported our family through this loss while grieving the loss of their best friend much too young. They welcome me and my mom into their family’s lives and have grown into amazing men.

imageMy oldest friend, “cousin,” who has been there for me through thick and thin! She lives each day without her parents due to cancer. She is an outstanding wife, mother, and friend. She keeps me going and is certainly family!

My best friend who sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in me but still loves me. I met her the year after my brother passed away. Little did she know that the following year she would find out her son has cerebral palsy, and that neither his nor her family’s life would be the same or go on as they’d originally hoped and planned. We’ve been walking each other through numerous trials, grief moments, and hardships ever since. But with LOTS of laughter!

My passionate friend who runs with the pain of family rejection and faces life’s unplanned and uncontrollable moments on her knees. She challenges me, encourages me, and cheers me on.

My strong (inside and out) friend and mom of two amazing adult children, who helped organize this team – inspires me, makes me brave, and is breaking generational curses in her own family.

And these kids that come out and not only walk/run but understand the best they can why we are walking. They recognize it’s a sad day, but also a happy day. They get to not only witness God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy in action, but also be a part of it.

imageMy mom’s friend who was much more like an aunt to me growing up. She lives with the loss of her parents and her brother. She is an amazing wife, mom, and friend.

And to all others pictured walking with your own sorrows…keep moving forward. There’s a plan and purpose in your pain. Thank you to everyone who supported our team through donations, walking, and prayer! We couldn’t make it without you. Thank you!

One thing all of the amazing women mentioned above have in common (besides their inspiring impact in my life), is they are all moms. They’re facing life’s struggles with little, and some not so little eyes watching them and ears listening to them. Although as moms know, the things we’d like our children to listen to they often don’t. And the things we’d rather them not hear, they don’t miss. One of the many things that make these women great moms is that they’re real. They aren’t afraid to admit a mistake or to recognize neither they nor their kids are perfect. Most importantly, they don’t take the unbearable things life has thrown at them and allow them to define their lives or debilitate them.

One of the most amazing examples I’ve witnessed of not allowing life to keep you disheartened is my mom. My mom will face another Mother’s Day without her son, and the next day she’ll face another birthday without her husband too. As I write today, the day before Mother’s Day, my mom isn’t sitting somewhere moping. No – she’s at a nursing home with women from her bible study group. They’re having a tea to bless the elderly ladies there. My mom explained after loosing my dad that “losing David left a huge hole in my heart and losing dad is like trying to function without my arm.” I’ve seen my mom grow through unbearable pain and circumstances. I’m so thankful for the amazing mom I’m blessed to have grown up with. imageBut even more, I’m thankful for the woman she’s becoming out of the ashes of life. “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory” Isaiah 61:3.

I don’t know what you’re facing this Mother’s Day, but God does! He knows what pain you’re carrying, what trial you aren’t sure you’ll make it out of, what relationship seems unbearable right now, and every little hurt, insecurity, and difficulty you bear everyday. He knows when you should say something and when you don’t need to. He knows where you’ll be sitting next Mother’s Day and what ashes He wants to bring beauty out of in your life!

Lord I pray for each woman reading this and everything she needs to leave at Your feet, Jesus! I pray for all the daughters missing their moms, for all the daughters desiring a better relationship with their moms, and any scars they’re carrying. I pray for every woman struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and the questions left unanswered. I pray for every single mom reading this who You’ll comfort and refresh like only You can. I pray for foster moms caring for children like they are their own. I pray for all adoptive moms and the struggles they face. I pray peace for the pregnant women reading this and the new lives they’re carrying. I pray for challenging mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships, knowing You can bring a breakthrough. I pray for every worn out and exhausted mom who is barely hanging on – encourage and remind them Lord You love them and their children! imageHeavenly Father, I pray for any difficult situation any lady reading this is facing. I pray above all, that we’ll be transparent, forgiving, strong, and loving women in this day and time. I pray that we’ll fight for Your truth to stand, especially with this next generation. I pray that we’ll experience Your FREEDOM to continue on with bandaged hearts and shattered limbs, all for Your glory! Never missing the beauty Your revealing in the midst!

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I was up and out early to get a start on the day. I was headed to the grocery store as soon as they opened. We had a busy day planned and I wanted to be efficient in getting everything done. I had a mental timeline planned and was excited as I checked out of the grocery store in time to stop and pick up coffee on the way home for my mom. She was at home with my three kids and our two puppies (one who is a baby and we’ve only had him a couple of weeks). Only my youngest was up and I wanted to get back in time to start breakfast and get everyone ready for church. I even sent my mom a text while walking to the car letting her know that I was on my way home. I threw my phone, wallet, and keys on the front seat and loaded the groceries in. BAM, I shut the door and my heart sank… I had reminded myself make sure the door is unlocked before I close it. I grabbed the passenger door handle and it was locked! I walked back into Publix and asked to use the phone at the service desk. I called my husband and then my mom. No answer.  And I called them again.  Still no one answered.

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I went outside and sat on the bench to wait a few minutes before calling again. I was thankful for the kind employee who let me use the phone, thankful for the beautiful weather and even the moment of silence just to sit. I went back in about 10 minutes later and tried both phone numbers again… STILL NO ANSWER! The sweet cashier let me use her phone to send a text and tell them I was stuck at Publix. I went back out and sat on what I now called “my bench” and waited some more. The kind cashier said she will come and get me if someone responds. This time sitting on that bench I went from thankful to anxious. What if my husband was too busy at work and didn’t have his phone?  What if all the kids were up and she was into the morning chaos that three kids and our new puppy brings? How long would I sit here? Would we make it to church? We missed the previous Sunday because my youngest was sick.  We needed to make it this week. . . I NEEDED to go. But God says….“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

 

imageI reflected back on this previous week. It had been a good week! We started a new Tuesday night women’s bible study, titled – Breathe,  at our church. My husband encouraged me to go since it is only a five-week commitment. I had just finished up my last Wednesday morning bible study that ended for spring and summer. I even had an hour with my best friend to sit on the beach before picking up our kids from school. We’d planned it and went to that last study Wednesday morning with beach bags in tow. Usually I face coming to the weekend drained and wishing I had a moment to myself, but not that previous week.

 

I was even on the same page as my husband about our plans that night as he had a volunteer dinner planned at church for Sunday evening and needed my help. My husband and I have been walking together in the later evenings once the kids are settled for bed, which gives us time to talk and catch up. Our middle son is in a reading race in his class at school and was constantly reading in the prior week. What a joy it had been to hear him reading all week and seeing his love for books develop. Our oldest (who is the youngest on his baseball team and has struggled with confidence this year), hit a stand up double last Wednesday night in his game. Our youngest is still going through some difficulties, but I had a good meeting with her teacher and her therapist. There are some new things we are trying and my husband and I were able to talk and share some ways to better move forward in our parenting. My sweet girl and I even celebrated her with a treat after school one day before picking up the boys. I’m saying it was a good week! These are all the things I reflected on as I sat on that bench waiting.

So why was I so anxious about what this unplanned moment would do to our day? Why was I worried I would literally be stuck at Publix and no one would ever come for me? I could’ve even walked home. It would’ve taken awhile, but I could have done it. I realized without my phone I couldn’t reach anyone and was afraid if I walked and left it would make things further confusing if / when someone was coming to get me. I realized without my phone I couldn’t pass the time while chatting with a friend or scrolling other people’s Sunday plans to aimlessly pass the time. I even prayed if there was someone the Lord wanted me to talk to or share His Good News with that day. NOPE! He wanted me alone and attentive so he could to talk to me, even if that meant locking my keys in the car. It was just me and Jesus sitting on that bench. I had to accept there was nothing I could do. I had to stop chastising myself in my own head for forgetting to unlock the door before closing it. I had to stop worrying. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:6-7 NIV

I had to realize how not checking that one thing affected the day. I thought about how many times in a day the Lord asks me to check something and I miss it. It doesn’t always have the same immediate effect because I don’t even realize I miss it. Every morning I start my day in prayer and most days in God’s Word and ask for His direction for the day. But then I get so busy doing “my” tasks I miss opportunities. Maybe there is someone at work who needs encouragement, a friend or family member who would benefit from a text during their day, or maybe you need to sit on your “bench” and hear from the Lord to be encouraged and instructed! That day as things went on it all worked out. My husband came to the rescue and called a friend from church who could try to open my car. He took me home and there was my mom cooking bacon for breakfast, my daughter was playing with the puppies, and my boys were still sleeping. Everyone survived!

lets go on an adventure free printable artisbeautyWe went on about our day with a new adventure – getting mom’s minivan open. I had to wake the boys up and we had to jump in the car for my mom to take me back to the grocery store to meet the locksmith. We did stop on the way and made sure my mom got her a much-needed coffee.  And so did I! We made it to the parking lot, met our friend. My oldest stayed with me. As I said goodbye to my daughter, she begged to stay with mommy, and I realized in that moment, she needed some more girl time. Then I promised her right there, that afternoon we would make it happen. It took my realization that Jesus had orchestrated some much need one-on-one time with me that morning, for me to recognize that she needed some one-on-one time with me. After a few unsuccessful tries, finally his metal curved tool thingy hit the unlock button on my keys and we heard it unlock! It wouldn’t unlock the button on the door. I had to giggle at that and be thankful I threw my keys on the front seat. God knew exactly what I needed that morning – for me to sit on the bench.  And He knew exactly what was needed to open the door and continue on my day…with a bit of a different plan.

imageThis week my schedule is jam-packed. Finding time to sit for a minute will be much more difficult than last week. It’s filled with juggling my work schedule, helping out more with the kids  car-pool, to chaperoning my little guy’s field trip, and then a birthday celebration for our almost 11-year-old.  But I know in the busyness of this week, it’s even more important for me to find time to sit, be still and hear from my Savior. Praying you will do the same. I hope you had a great week last week too.  But maybe it was just OK.  Or maybe it was a terrible week. Regardless of what last week looked like for you, this is a new week! Full of new opportunities to sit, be still and be open to a change of plans.

Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

image“Heavenly Father please don’t let us miss the moments we need to just sit and hear from you this week. Protect us from the busyness, distractions and our own agendas so we don’t miss out on opportunities to share your love. Prepare us for the difficult moments this week might bring that stretch us and may they bring us closer to You. Keep our minds focused on You and not the worries that this world so often brings. Thank you for Your grace and forgiveness that we need daily! In Jesus name I pray. Amen”

We’ve been talking a lot about feelings in our home lately. As we say good-bye to February it seems the perfect time to have a heart-to-heart about processing our feelings and emotions. February displays a special time of year when the world tells us we’re to be in love and spoil those we love. Although as Christians we should do all things in love, Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14. image

In my home we’re working on speaking with love. Many times when one person doesn’t get their way it results in throwing a tantrum or reacting unlovingly. A therapist comes to our home once a week to work with my three year old daughter. She has given us somewhat of a script to say when our sweet girl is having trouble voicing her emotions. It says-

  1. When you…. (Be specific) 
  2. I feel… (How you feel inside / not”you make me feel”)
  3. And I wish you would try…. (How you hope they’ll treat you)

I’d love to say that the rest of us have our emotions in check and speak gently each and every day, but that would be completely false. Not only are we using this method with our three year old to minimize tantrums and to help her voice her emotions, but we’re also using it with our strong-willed six year old son who just doesn’t like the word, “NO.” In fact, it’s even useful with our ten year old who’s rapidly entering his pre-teen world and always has something to say. But it’s not just for the kids. It works for me similarly, when I’m at my wit’s end and am simply exhausted from repeating myself. Don’t get me wrong all three of my children are amazing, and as much as they have their difficulties, they have even more incredible qualities. But let’s be honest, they’re fleshly and want their way – all the time! And if we’re being honest as adults – don’t we?
It’s important that my children learn to go kindly to the person who hurt their feelings and let the person know how and what hurt them.  I desire for my children to learn to easily forgive and not hold onto unecessary anger or hurt. And it’s great to see that we are seeing improvements by doing this with our kiddos. But I got to thinking how much easier life would be if we would use this as adults! If we just kindly told the person – our spouse, kids, co-worker, family member, or friend, when a hurt happened. Now I realize sometimes small offenses come and we should immediately let them go. We may realize it was us over reacting. Or we realize they are going through something right now and need extra grace . Nonetheless most times, if you’re like me, we just hold onto the hurt.
We may pray about it and desire to let it go, but there it remains.
Lately, the Lord has been challenging me to face the hurts I hold onto. I need to pinpoint what exactly wounded, upset, angered, or offended me. Write it down and own it! Be honest about the feelings the offense is bringing up in me. And they aren’t usually pretty: anger, jealousy, judgment, un-forgiveness, etc. Then I pray for my own reaction to the offense, as well as the person who offended me. After that I see if it’s truly necessary for me to confront the person or if it something I can work out individually with the Lord. This seems to be where I can get “stuck.” I hang out in the area of holding onto an offense instead of letting it go. “Let it Go”, by the way, is the song I loudly sing to my kiddos when they are letting the little things bug them. And sometimes I should loudly sing it to myself! Please understand I am referring to little offenses that we let turn into BIG things. I’m not referring to deep hurts that require profound healing and often take time to overcome. These little offenses we hold onto affect our moods, our relationships, and keep us down.
Recently I was helping my husband’s parents pack and move. Now when you move there seems to be three piles of stuff. A pile of stuff to KEEP, a pile to GIVE AWAY, and a pile to THROW AWAY. I got to thinking there should be piles for our thoughts: ones to KEEP, GIVE AWAY, and THROW AWAY. We should keep the thoughts that inspire us and give away thoughts that encourage others. And definitely throw away the ones that bring us down. So often we mix-up the thoughts rolling around in our head; holding onto the garbage and giving away our short remarks and unkind words. It’s so important to hold onto God’s Word and His promises. Every day He gives us a fresh start to begin anew with Him. The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease; For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23.
I think if I could clean out the thoughts in my head I could live a lot more peacefully and have a lot more joy to give away. I even find myself dwelling on offenses that may or may not have even occurred. Wondering if the comment someone said at work was meant negatively. Focusing on when one of my children said – “You’re the worst mom ever!” I spend time trying to decipher the “tone” my husband was thinking when he text me something I took as unkind during the day. Or replaying a conversation with a friend that day because a comment was made and I think it was hurtful. YES, I’m a DWELLER! And I’m not always dwelling on the things I should be.
Maybe you’ve been struggling not with something that was said, but with something that wasn’t. An invitation you didn’t receive that you thought you would. A new policy at work that you are last to know about (and you’re always the last to know about all sorts of things). Or you’re feeling out of the loop in a conversation with other people at school or at church. You desperately desire to be part of the team, group, or even your family. But it seems like you never completely fit in. image

One thing I know for sure is you “fit in” with God. Not only does He love you, but He created you to be uniquely YOU! Also, God actually calls us to be different – “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.” Romans 12:2.
What negative thoughts are you carrying around? What comments are you dwelling on and trying to decide if they’re meant to hurt you? Even worse, what lies have you began believing about yourself because someone else said something. May we remember to dwell on how lovely and cherished we are in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:4. Our creator loves us and we are precious to Him!
This should be what matters most to us. But we allow others opinions to take precedence. I was recently listening to a message by Pastor Levi Lusko where he said, “When you know who you are it doesn’t matter who you are not.” Oh how I love this and want to be free in this area of my life. I am praying each of you will be free too! Free to see yourself as God sees you. Free to forgive those who’ve hurt you, left you out, or constantly have a negative comment to share. Free to dwell on how much your Heavenly Father loves you! image
Heavenly Father, thank you for each person reading this. Thank you for how you love us, even when we are stuck in our negative thoughts. Lord, cleanse our minds and renew us with confidence only in You. Forgive us for the times we react in our flesh. Forgive us for dwelling on offenses and hurts that are not from you and help us focus on Your great love for us. Help us to remember we are all going through “stuff.” Fill us with your kindness so we may share it with others.

Moment by Moment

January 26, 2016


I’m familiar with the saying “take it day by day.” A couple of weeks ago was one of those weeks where it was more like “take it moment by moment.” This week comes every year and doesn’t seem to get any easier. My family faces the anniversaries of loss of three family members. Sunday, January 10th my Aunt passed away 14 years ago; Friday, January 15th my dad passed away two years ago; Sunday, January 16th my brother passed away six years ago. Also that week is filled with one of the best days for our family; January 11th 3 years ago I picked up my sweet daughter and became her foster mom. The emotions that this week brings definitely resemble a roller coaster ride, and not one with a big incline then a massive drop and you coast through the rest of the ride. It’s more like one that starts off fast, whips you around, spins you upside down and you finally come to a screeching halt back at the station.

I’m filled with comfort knowing my family members are saved and together in heaven. One day we will all be together. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20. I’m filled with peace and excitement that this year is the first year our daughter is legally ours! I’m filled with sadness because these days remind me of where I was each of the moments when I lost such important people in my life.

I’m filled with an urgency to pray! To pray for my grandma who has to face this month remembering the loss of two of her children and her grandson. To pray for my cousins who have had to endure 14 years without their mama. To pray for my mom who has to face the sad anniversary of the loss of her sister-in-law, her husband, and her son in one week. To pray for all the foster children coming into the foster care system and being removed from the family they know. I pray for foster parents, whose story didn’t end like ours, and they have to say goodbye to babies and kids they loved like their own, and trust God will protect them when the situation they’re going to may look uncertain.

I’m also filled with tears that well up in my eyes and I often hold back until I find those few quiet moments that I can unleash the flood gates. I’m filled with hope because I don’t have to carry this sadness alone, and because this fallen world filled with loss, sadness, hurt, and pain is not the end. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

So what do you do with one of the saddest months, weeks, days or moments of your year? I find things to be thankful for. I try to enjoy the normal of our family’s daily life. I cherish the sweet memories and special moments of my lost loved ones. I create special new memories with my loved ones who are still with me. A couple Saturdays ago my mom, mom-in-love, and I took my three kids and two of their cousins to the circus. As I sat with my daughter who was completely amazed and curious, I remembered three years ago bringing her to the circus. The day after my oldest son and I picked her up and brought her home we had tickets to the circus. My husband was coming home from a mission trip in the Bahamas, and he wasn’t able to keep her.

One of the things about being a foster parent is it’s a beautiful interruption. You don’t know when you will get a call, how long the child will stay, or how hard it will be to say goodbye. My daughter is the fifth foster child we have cared for. Each situation is unique and beautifully complex. Another thing a foster parent faces, especially with other children, is life goes on. Sometimes you get a few days to adjust and other times its full speed ahead with a new little member of your family. Off we went to the circus – my mom, my mom-in-love, my cousin, my two boys, this sweet 5 month old foster baby girl, and four of their cousins. The day was more hectic then planned, but all the kids had fun and we made it through!

Here I sat three years later with this same beautiful little girl who has grown up so much. She now not only gives hugs, she squeezes and won’t let go. She not only speaks she looks you in the face and talks a lot! She isn’t afraid to grab your hand or sit on your lap when she gets a little nervous or anxious. We made it through the whole arena with her holding mommy’s hand and not making a run for it. You see our sweet girl has come so far, but has some more obstacles to overcome. She has challenges that we are still learning to help her through. We are truly grateful to be chosen to be her mommy and daddy and have the privilege to learn to be the parents she needs us to be. That night I was humbled, over-joyed, and thankful remembering the journey from foster mom to forever mommy!

Another sweet memory I have from 2014 is sitting in a court room in October 2014 at another court date for our foster baby girl. The judge was setting the date for the next hearing. A hearing we wouldn’t be allowed to attend. This hearing would decide if our case would move toward adoption. The judge announced the date and the tears started flowing. My husband took my hand and knew why I was crying. The date was set for January 15, 2015. That was the one year anniversary of my dad passing away. How fitting it was that especially with us not being able to attend the court date, it was set for that date. My dad and our sweet girl had such a special bond. She is one of the few people who could make him smile as he neared the end of his battle with cancer. My dad is the one who assured me from his hospital bed that this sweet girl wasn’t going anywhere and he knew she was staying in our family. God could’ve chosen any day in 2015 to set that hearing. But He chose January 15th to remind me that He’s involved in all the details of my life. And He’s involved in every detail of your life too. “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23. As you may have guessed, on January 15, 2015 her case moved to an adoption status. This meant we were ready to begin the adoption process. Her case that had been going slowly, with numerous set-backs, was now full steam ahead. Her adoption was finalized on March 30, 2015. The day before my husband’s birthday; another sweet reminder that God’s into special dates and memories just like me.

What else do you do during one of the most difficult months, weeks, days, or moments that youl’l face throughout the year? You face the difficulties that come with daily life and give yourself grace because little things bother you and may seem harder to complete then normal. You say “I’m Sorry!” when you miss your son’s chapel and he tells you he was sad when you didn’t make it. I thought he understood when daddy took him to school instead of mommy that day that I wouldn’t be there. But my sweet six year old just remembered me saying I’d be there. But I wasn’t. I was at my dad and brother’s grave sites having a good cry in the rain that morning before I went to work. I do know where I will be this week with my sweet 6 year old on chapel day. You celebrate life events, even when you don’t feel like celebrating. We went to my husband’s aunt’s birthday dinner. You make waffles! My aunt didn’t want a cake but waffle sundaes. I made waffles, but not just any waffles, the Amazon Pioneer Woman waffles. She happens to be one of my aunt’s favorite people! Once we made it to dinner we had fun and really enjoyed our night. However there have been a few years it was just too hard to go. It’s important to give yourself time to grieve. But please don’t allow yourself to stay there and miss out on life events God has planned for you to enjoy. Also when the rain clears and the kids are blessed with a day off from school you go to the park and ride a bike!

Also I take a lot of pictures! (In case you hadn’t noticed.) I have always taken a lot of pictures, and it doesn’t matter the event. My daughter now also loves taking pictures and I’ll find many on my phone that she took. There are random photos of her toys, our dog, her brothers, and random household objects. Sadly, my mom has to endure that fact that as the years go on there aren’t any new or more pictures of my brother.  This is a hard thing for her to deal with – especially on this tragic anniversary. It has been six years since his passing and although every year we are closer to reaching eternity and being together, the reality here on earth is there are less and less moments that include him. I also didn’t realize how difficult that would be to accept this year. These are the moments when trusting God’s timing is much bigger than our reality. Mom and I know one day this will make sense, but it doesn’t right now. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5. We cried and looked at the old pictures we do have and allowed ourselves to be sad for a moment.

I learned a lot during the past few days and weeks. Whether it is in a painful trial, a loving discipline moment from my Heavenly Father, or through His grace that I don’t deserve! God is always teaching me something.

image

I learned even more that grief is a lonely road and it is unique to each person. My mom’s deep, deep grief isn’t my grief and I can’t carry it for her. Just like my mom can’t take away mine.

I learned how thankful I am for the encouragement, kindness, and prayers of those around me. I am blessed with compassionate women in my life who took the time to reach out to me on this sad anniversary.

I learned there are also people I didn’t hear from who I thought would have reached out during this difficult time. I am growing in this area and trying not to take it personally.

I learned more so that Jesus has to be first! No matter how lonely I feel He is always there. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

I have been on both sides of this equation; times in my life that I was too busy, to nervous, or to worried about me to reach out to a friend during a difficult time. I was reminded I have to forgive myself and others. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23. We all blow it sometimes and are constantly in need of God’s grace.

On the weekend of these sad anniversaries, I prayed about the moments I missed being there for others. I realized and acknowledged that no matter who took the time to reach out to me the grief and hurt is still there. But I also realized that when someone does takes the time to reach out through a text, card, phone call, etc. It helps lift your burden, the burden doesn’t go away but it gets lighter! Maybe you aren’t in a trial right now but you know someone who is. Taking the time to reach out with a few simple words, “I am thinking of you.” I am praying for you.” “I am sorry you’re going through this.” They mean more then you can imagine. God created each of us differently and it might not come easy to reach out in a difficult moment. God is always with us and has given each of us what we need to put other’s first. We are created to love God first and love each other. “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew22:37-39.

My prayer for you –

“God I pray for those reading this who are hurting. They are carrying grief they didn’t know was so deep, Lord be their comfort, strength, and peace. Bless them with godly friends to walk them through their difficult time. I pray for those You are calling to walk someone through a difficult time. Lord give them Your wisdom and peace. Father, may we all go deeper in knowing You, putting ourselves aside and following You whole heartedly. Forgive us for the times we become too busy or distracted to spend time with You. Help us allow You to lead our lives, for Your way is perfect! In Jesus name, Amen!”

 

imageThis has been my word throughout 2015. At the end of 2014 my dear sister in Christ challenged & encouraged a small group of us to seek out our word for the year. I have had a verse for my year and even certain worship songs that became my theme songs, but not one word. I learned how simply complex it can be to have a focus and direction throughout the year. When the Lord first gave me the word “anchored,” I thought how restrictive and common. I like to be unique. And honestly, I felt this word was too simple and understood. Obviously I can do nothing apart from Christ, He is my Anchor! As the Lord began to unfold His plan for me through this word, it came alive in me. I couldn’t get away from it – in worship songs, in my devotion time and a friend of mine actually showed up at my house with an anchor engraved with this verse, Hebrews 6:19. What the Lord had been showing me is I am not called to sit and be anchored. I can be quite a chicken and do not take many risks. I like the safety of the dock or at least staying in the harbor. God was revealing to me that as long as I am anchored to Him I can be bold. I can take steps of faith, begin writing, forgive those who have hurt me, live joyfully while mourning, and trust Him more deeply! This was such a continuation of 2014, my theme song was “Oceans” by Hillsong. And I still tear up when I hear it. God is weaving His story year after year in my life.
He is weaving His story into your life year after year too. Does that give you hope, peace, and joy? Maybe it gives you a different feeling – fear, guilt, unworthiness, or sadness. Maybe you’re thinking – “you have no idea what my year looked like and how much I went through!” It could be just getting through the past month of holiday celebrations was a struggle and time of despair for you. You’re right. I don’t know, but God does. I also know I’m praying every person who reads this will find true hope and peace in Jesus! I do know He brings joy…”Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b. I had a sweet sister in Christ encourage me with this verse the year my brother was killed. She assured me it’ll come – we just don’t know which morning. She was right, but finding true joy in the midst takes time.
What I’ve learned walking this lonely road of grief, is that it’s a process. I’ve also learned that everyone is grieving something – a loved one; shattered dreams; a broken relationship; Family members who don’t know Jesus; and the list goes on. You fill in the blank; _______. Thankfully, I’ve realized I am not alone in my grief, and neither are you. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2. This was one of the most difficult and freeing things for me to grasp as a Christian. image

I know God was in control and allowed that horrific accident that took my brother’s life. The first thing I had to do and still have to do, is accepts God’s ways are higher and that His plans and purposes are bigger than my pain. (From Isaiah 55:8-9). Some days this comes easy. Other days the pain of missing him makes it really hard to accept. Maybe that’s where you need to start this year – accept that “thing” that you’ve been carrying as part of God’s plan for your life and allow Him to bring beauty out of your pain.

Most importantly, I’ve learned grief is a tunnel, and it does have an end. Please understand I didn’t say missing the person, dream, or relationship ends. This has been the biggest point of confusion I have discovered in people when I share about grief. Many people misunderstand, and think I’ve said my grieving lessens, that my missing the person lessens. This is completely different! However, my load has become lighter; true joys mine; and I can be grateful for each day I’m given to continue living this life on earth. But this is not my permanent home and my grief won’t fully be lifted until I enter my heavenly home – “ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4. My focus is heavenward and I must remember I’m just passing through. My prayer for each reader is that this year nothing will hold you back from going deeper with God experiencing true freedom in Him. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36.
Ironically, this is the word the Lord has been showing me for this year…”Free!” How funny the Lord is. Last year’s word was “anchored” and this year is “free”. I giggled at my Lord’s sense of humor! It almost seems like an oxymoron. Although, I recognize that without fully knowing He is my anchor I cannot live free! I pray you get alone with God and find your word, verse, or theme song for this year. Lay down regrets from 2015, and shift your focus heavenward. New Year’s Day 2017, I pray you are less burdened and more joyful. Because this year you will experience a deeper relationship with Jesus. Happy New Year, praying you have a blessed 2016!
To know deep, lasting joy, we have to truly know Christ. 1 John 1:1-4image

 

 

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 NKJV

Last month we held a wedding in our backyard. My “cousin” said “I Do” to her high school sweet heart. My husband was privileged to officiate their ceremony. My mom was honored to walk her down the aisle, and her sister and I were grateful to be responsible for the décor. They had plans for an outdoor wedding on a much larger scale, but after my “cousin’s” fiancé became ill, wedding plans were cancelled. They were going to head to the courthouse when my wonderful mother said – “No, we will have your wedding.” This meant a month to put together a wedding! Of course, my family was up for the challenge! We are known for taking on more than we should, which can be a good thing, but sometimes we must slow down. This is one of those things we all knew we needed to do! AN3B5518

Like any good story, there is a back story…

My “cousin” is not related by blood at all. She is much more, she is family by choice. Our hippie dads left Illinois and headed to Florida in the 1970’s. They both eventually got married and settled in South Florida. Unless one of us was traveling to Illinois to visit family, we celebrated every holiday together, and spent most weekends together. Our moms became best friends and were as different as night and day. They learned from each other and leaned on each other. Neither of our moms had any family close by. My cousin’s older sister and I grew up inseparable and are still best of friends today. Her sister and I each have 2 boys who are very close in age. AN3B5339 1They are cousins, best buds, and partners in crime. We were delighted to see them participate in the wedding, along with my sweet girl. AN3B5942They had a blast and thought they were very important, which they totally were!! My cousin and my younger brother also grew up inseparable. As a matter of fact, my brother introduced my cousin to her husband back in high school.

Basically we became family! There for each other in the good times and bad. We laughed together, cried together, enjoyed many celebrations, and most of my child hood memories involve all or part of the 8 of us. Fast forward to the wedding planning; our “family” has been through some deep loss and pain. This time was bitter sweet for all of us, filled with laughter and tears.

In 2002, my cousin’s mom lost her battle with cancer, only a few months after being diagnosed. This left a husband without his wife; two girls, one in college and one in high school at the time, with-out a mom. My mom lost her best friend and me and my brother lost our aunt. Our family unit was shaken, to say the least. Their dad struggled each day living without the love of his life. He became ill and moved back to Illinois to live with his brother and passed away in 2008. Thankfully, he accepted Jesus in a hospital bed and said the prayer with his oldest daughter. My parents took on a new role in these girls’ lives and embraced them even more like their own. They were Grammy and Grandpa from day one to my cousin’s older sister’s (my other cousin) sweet boys. I shared previously about the loss of my brother who was killed in 2010 by a drunk driver. Our family again experiencing shock and awe loss, banded together and walked on through overwhelming grief. My dad was also battling cancer during this time, which he fought for over 5 years. My dad went home to be with the Lord in 2013 and my cousins were there with all of our “family.” Very few were actually blood related, but all family nonetheless! As you can see our family unit has been cut in half. There are 4 of us women left to carry on traditions, share stories of growing up, and do life together.

One can definitely see why wedding planning was filled with lots of tears; we missed some very important people. We shared many moments that were beautiful, special, and just plain sad. We could have allowed the deep scars of grief to keep us from enjoying that beautiful day, but we didn’t. I am extremely thankful that we 4 ladies have each other. But I’m also thankful that we have lots of other “family” around us too. There were not only 4 of us there that day. There was a group of family and friends- that are more like family, present to celebrate this special day. We had to choose how we could view this day, and as much as there were tears, there was also laughter. There were many people who pitched in to pull off this wedding and give my cousin exactly what she wanted for her special day.

You see, we had a choice, and so do you in whatever you are facing even with the scars you are living with. It’s about perspective-

PERSPECTIVE

: a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)

This definition was taken from the Learner’s Dictionary; http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/perspective

I love this definition. We can choose what we’ll focus on in a particular trial, and in life in general. This is liberating! And God’s word gives us scripture that is even more freeing.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV

One of the best ways to change your perspective is to be thankful. We were so thankful for all the help we received giving the bride the wedding of her dreams. We are also a lot more thankful for the people in our lives these days. We share the realization that life is short, and we are not promised tomorrow. We try to live in the moment and be grateful. I am most thankful for Jesus in my life and the grace I receive. No matter how hard I try I still fail and am unworthy of His mercy and grace. I hope you take the time to list what you have to be thankful for this year. Maybe your trials are many and Jesus is all you have, but His love, acceptance, grace and mercy are all you need.in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Through all of these years of loss and pain, we’ve become stronger and closer as a family. We’ve also become a much bigger family unit. My cousin’s older sister has been married 11 years and her mother-in-law attended the wedding. Her extended family welcomed her and made her a part of their family from the beginning of their relationship. My husband’s parents attended the wedding and his aunt and uncle catered the wedding. Both of my cousins worked for my husband’s family business and they have watched them grow up and walked with us through all of our losses. My husband’s parents became best friends with my parents through the years. My cousin’s in-laws received her from day one and she has always fit perfectly into her extended family. To say we are one big happy family would be an understatement. We do not agree on everything and being a part of a family takes work, but we love each other and are there for each other!  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13

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I don’t know who’ll be missing from your Thanksgiving table this year – whether they are no longer here on earth, the relationship is estranged, or you simply can’t be together because of distance. God knows. He has a plan for you this year in this moment and every holiday you are blessed to be a part of. Maybe you are lonely and there isn’t any family to spend the holidays with. I pray you seek the Lord and allow yourself to be open to who He has for you to spend the holidays with. It might seem scary and take you out of your comfort zone, but He will be with you every step of the way. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:6

Maybe this year you will be with a house full of people and still feel completely alone. I pray you see others as God sees them and embrace the opportunity to be the light of Jesus at your Thanksgiving table. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

In my previous post I shared about living with overwhelming grief and how it rushed over me like a tidal wave, even years after the initial loss. That day sitting in Starbucks my particular next step was a big one! I had to decide to pull myself together and function that Thursday morning. I had plenty to do that day, although I really wanted to go home, crawl in bed, and speak to no one. However, that wasn’t what I NEEDED to do. Sometimes it’s important to take a break, refresh, and allow yourself time to heal. That Thursday morning I knew I needed to continue on with my day. The next step of getting up and facing the day with red and puffy eyes, a screaming headache, and the desire to do nothing was difficult. Sometimes the actual next step in your life is the hardest. Maybe you need to put something down that has been getting you through your days, but isn’t healthy for you. Or perhaps you need to stop running on empty and the Lord is telling you that your next step is a day of rest. One way or another, we need to be in tune with our heavenly Father and realize what the best next step is. Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119: 49-50

That night I was home with my 2 youngest children, my husband was teaching the men’s study at church, and my oldest was at his grandparents working on a social studies project. As I sat with my little ones, I enjoyed toddler life for a moment. It isn’t often that we delight in a quiet house with just us 3, and I could have missed it if I had checked out for the day. When my oldest got home we worked on his project on the computer. I was NEEDED that night and you are too. I could have asked my mom to miss her small group that night or called a babysitter, but that wasn’t the best decision. Maybe you don’t have children at home and you’re thinking no one cares if I checkout. I promise you God cares and if you allow Him, He will place people in your life who NEED you in theirs. They can learn from both your trials and your joyful moments. You must to be open to letting people in! The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:8 That night I did have some quiet time before going to sleep and another good cry! As a matter of fact, I cried a lot in the next week and a half, and I was comforted in knowing that the Lord saw every tear.

Three days after my Starbucks moment, my husband had the privilege of officiating a funeral. Yes I say privilege because it is a privilege to share someone’s life story and remind their family and friends of the hope we have in heaven. I was late getting to the service and sat in the back of the church, just in front of a sweet woman who works and serves at our church. Funerals are hard for me. My brother is not the only loss my family has suffered in the past few years, and going to a funeral still reminds me of the deep loss that I carry. This woman I learned about had a beautiful life and she was honored. Then toward the end of the service, the music started and so did my tears.

I had a conversation with God that afternoon. I was very much struggling with my brother’s death. I didn’t get to see my brother walk out his faith, although I did walk up front with him at church and hear him say the sinner’s prayer. My dad passed away from cancer almost 2 years ago and I have this peace about knowing where he is, and that he isn’t suffering anymore. I don’t always have this with my brother. The enemy likes to get in my head and question my confidence in the knowledge that he is with the Lord. I began telling the Lord- “I wish I had that peace with David that I do with my dad. If you could just show me he’s ok I would be so thankful.” The song ended and my husband concluded the service and I sat there grateful. Grateful that I can pour my doubt at my Savior’s feet, even if I’ve done it before. My God is big enough for all my doubt and fears.

After the service ended I spoke with the sweet lady sitting behind me. She informed me she had a dream the other night – a dream about my brother. And she saw his face shining with a huge smile! I couldn’t believe. This sweet angel never met my brother because he was in the military and spent so much time overseas. She served at his service and has been a prayer warrior for my family ever since. God spoke to me that day. He used an angel who I wouldn’t have been sitting near had I been on time. HE is good all the time, especially in the midst of our fears, doubt, and brokenness. This sweet angel is going through grief of her own. She recently became a widow and is living with deep personal grief. But she didn’t allow that to stop her from sharing that day.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (
Isaiah 55:8-9) The Lord gave me this verse shortly after my brother’s passing. I have memorized it and referred back to it many times over the last 5 years. God has a purpose and a plan for your pain. He wants to use your story to reach others. It is healthy to grieve while being open and honest with God. But not moving forward from your pain is unhealthy. One of the best ways I can honor my dad and brother is to keep living. My family makes an effort to keep their memory alive in everyday life, as well as special days. We also continue living and enjoying this life we have been blessed with. If you feel “stuck” right now and don’t know if you can make the next step, laying down a difficult relationship, or living with the loss of a loved one, then trusting God to provide when you don’t see how and believing His ways truly are higher will go a long way to your healing. I encourage you to not loose heart and hold onto hope. Have a “real” conversation with your Creator; He knows what you are thinking anyway.

I have been listening to this song on repeat lately, Enjoy!!!

Grief we meet again…

October 21, 2015

I mentioned in my previous post about the staged rooms set up for viewing different life events at the UNSHAKEN Conference. (For more on this conference, please see my previous post) The room pictured at the top of this page is the “room” labeled GRIEF. This is a “room” I know all too well, (I honestly wish I was more uncomfortable with grief). Yet in the bitter sweet moments of grief where you can see God bringing something good out of the pain, it’s a blessing you would not experience without the suffering. Being able to appreciate the blessing doesn’t make the grief any easier, but it shifts my focus heavenward.

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I often say grief ministry is one of those ministries you don’t ask to be a part of. However grief is a part of life; there is no getting around it. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT) tells us – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. Whether you experience the loss of a loved one, a marriage ending, loss of a job, a season change or location change, grief will come. Sometimes it’s grief that smacks you in the face, takes your breath away, and stops you motionless in your tracks. Other times it’s a slow process you are walking in or waiting for, but can’t fully understand until you and grief meet head on. Why???- is one word with a great deal behind it….And although you might find some reasons this side of heaven,  what I’ve learned is that most of my questions won’t be answered until I get to heaven. This is when I fully understood “cry out to the Lord,” it’s coming from a place deep with-in that is filled with much more than words leaving my lips. Crying out to God in grief and painful moments are usually accompanied by tears, emptiness and even shaking. Have you experienced this? If so, then you have felt the type of comfort only Jesus can give when you truly reach for Him. Psalm 18:6 reminds us; But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry to Him reached his ears.

Recently the Lord placed on my heart to read Levi Lusko’s new book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, an amazing book! I saw someone post about it on social media and wanted to check it out. That night the Lord knocked on my heart and said, “read it now.”  I said “OK Lord. I will get it this week and begin.”  Again,” READ IT NOW!”; I thought wow I have to download this book. I began reading it on my iPad as soon as it downloaded. I heard Pastor Levi speak at a southeastern pastor’s conference over a year ago and was somewhat familiar with his story. As I read I recognized Levi’s transparency, honesty and most of all his desire for pointing people to Jesus. After the great loss his family suffered I could see this was their mission. It kept me reading, then fear set in, Lord “WHY, am I reading this?” Please don’t be preparing me for the unthinkable as a parent. I watch my mom walk through this life carrying this unimaginable grief and it is difficult to bear. I began praying for my kids, especially my 5 year old, the same age as their beautiful daughter who went to heaven. I could sense the fear rising and yet couldn’t stop reading. I realized this fear was not from the Lord and began praying against the attacks. Finally a few chapters in and after prayer time I finally fell asleep.

In the days following I continued devouring “Through the Eyes of a Lion.” I am a slow reader and must admit I do not finish all the books I start. I COULD NOT put this down! I prayed for this family, had lots of “WHY?” conversations with God, and prayed through my own fears while reading this book. I also began planning “my moment” to post my #EyesofaLion picture. Many who know me understand I LOVE pictures, hashtags, and anything creative. In this book the challenge came to post your picture reading this book and mark it #EyesofaLion. I began following this on Instagram and people are reading this book during chemo treatments, in hospitals, enjoying beautiful places, on mountains, and many, many more amazing places / moments.  I thought – OH when I get the book and the Lord reveals to me “my” spot I cannot wait to add my mark to this group of warriors who are posting their moments. Those who want to see this life more heavenly-minded then earthly-focused, while carrying the battle scars of life.

But that’s not where my moment came; it came in Starbucks, before work, and reading on my Ipad. In Chapter 9, Homesickness, An Ache You Can’t Shake, there it hit me. Grief came bubbling up like a volcano and my eyes began to fill with hot tears. This chapter began with a military man on his way home from a deployment. (I will not give away the story, because I do encourage you to read this book.) I will share that for me anything military is a trigger of the grief I carry deep with-in. My younger brother was in the Air Force and completed 3 tours in Afghanistan / Iraq. I remember praying him off and celebrating his homecomings. He was set to get out of the military and return to Florida and begin his civilian life. About a month before he was supposed to return home for good he was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident. All those nights wondering if he was ok while overseas were supposed to be over, but God had different plans. David was called to his eternal home, at the age of 25, much sooner then I would’ve liked.

Sitting in Starbucks that morning unprepared for the emotion this chapter dug up, the words – “His sister looked so proud of her brother in uniform,” jumped off the page and punched me in the stomach! In that moment I knew God saw me and my pain. He was there for me to catch every tear that fell. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. “ Psalm 56:8  This pastor writing about his families deepest pain and he adds a couple of pages about a military man and his homecoming. “Lord, that was for me. But WHY? I have been carrying this grief for over 5 years.”

I finally composed myself as best I could, and finished the chapter. I prayed that I could function at work after after my stop-you-in-your-track grieving moment with God. You see this moment didn’t bring up fear or even anxiety, it brought up buried pain that I carry daily. As hard as it was, I knew it was a “good” cry and the Lord was reminding me for a reason. This was not how I planned or where I pictured my #throughtheeyesofalion moment occurring, but that’s just when God reminds us He is in control and has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11) Yes I snapped my picture and it is at the bottom of the page.

This is not where the Lord left me either, sitting at Starbucks paralyzed by my grief, but He used it in the coming days and weeks. I will share more about this next time. God doesn’t want to leave you where you are either, with buried pain you didn’t realize was still there or maybe pain you’ve never dealt with. He wants to mend your broken places and use you to reach others for His glory. Will you allow Him in a little deeper?

“This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you,” 2 Kings 20:5

Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it. #EyesofaLion

Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it.
#EyesofaLion

 

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