Reign in My Heart

Love wins!

I felt compelled to declare this truth today. We have been walking our daughter through some difficult things. Her sweet heart has been holding onto guilt for things completely out of her control. 

The more that lies are said and hurtful things are done I can see how pointless it all is. Do you want to know why?

Because love wins. 

As long as I choose Jesus, forgiveness & love, nothing can compare to Him. I have started saying, “I forgive you” out loud because I want love to reign in my heart. Ever since I have started to do this I have literally seen a shift occur. Truth surfaces & a confidence in Jesus & who I am deepens. 

Dear ones, when life hurts due to the actions & words of others choose love. 

Love wins!

Romans 8:31-39

The Step in Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day is coming up & in my network of Step Mom’s I have seen posts communicating both dread & of blessings. For those that call themselves childless Step Mom’s, as in they are a Step parent only & have no biological children, it is a day filled with a bit of grief. We live in a difficult culture of double standards, disrespect & harsh stereotypes. Most of the time I hear the same thing over & over again from my fellow Step Mom network, Mother’s Day is hard. It is hard for any blended family. 

You are seen, you are known. Everything that you do matters more than you will ever know. 

Too often we can place expectations on a specific day & have it end in disappointment. This year I advise my fellow Step Mom’s to realize their important worth while releasing their step kids from responding a certain way. Perhaps this year you can give a card to your step kids to tell them how special they are. Any way that we can give our kids permission to love every family member even if they are not ready to love you in return quite yet is a way to win the day. 

Through it all, how you choose to love is what matters the most. Even if you feel overlooked, or under appreciated know that you are known. Your love is being written on your kids heart whether they show any love back to you in return. They will remember how you made them feel. They will remember your embrace, your words, & how you treated their biological parents. 

You matter. God loves you. To love your kids is to reveal a piece of God’s heart for everyone. 

This Joyful Journey

Lies are falling to the floor. Like drops of rain lies hit the ground with a gentle splash. I stomp over every single one. Joy rolls out from deep within me.

Laughter fills my belly. New wrinkles appear on my face from joy filling up my face.

My new declaration has been,

“Thank you Lord for the lies that are crumbling and falling to the ground. Thank you for filling the gaps with your truth.” 

Everyday I say this declaration. I say it even if nothing has occurred. I say it when I feel defeated or lonely. I say it after having conquered and won. I say it believing every word. 

This journey is like dancing in the rain and sleet. It is not an easy task but it is a joyful one. 

I know who my God is. He is mighty. He is powerful. He breathes life into my lungs. He is joy. He is love. I would not trade this life with him for anything else. Freedom feels good; it feels like the wind against my face running in fields of wildflowers. The sweet scent drifting up from the petals reaching towards the son fill my lungs and heal deep wounds that once made it hard to breathe. Now I breathe holy fire as if nothing had ever happened.

God is good.

He is my one-and-only. 

Working Through Scar Tissue

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(Hannah Hope Photography)

Last week I tore some scar tissue in my wrist from an injury dating back to middle school. I heard a pop and had immediate pain. Like many times in the past where I had inflamed the same injury I instantly was worried. I soon realized that this pain was different and minor soreness occurred. I now have better movement and range of motion than I have ever had in years.

When God is allowed into our lives deeper and deeper, he starts to break up our scar tissue.

Scar tissue is an amazing thing as it is our body’s way of repairing and protecting the damaged area. Sometimes it can build up too much and we need it to be worked out in order for proper blood flow to return to the area and life can return back as it should be.

Our hearts, minds, and souls are very much the same. We do things to repair and protect ourselves when we have been hurt. But too often we can either run or see it as a bad thing when our inner scar tissue begins to break up and be worked out. It feels uncomfortable. It can be extremely painful at the time. It leaves us feeling vulnerable. Sometimes it can even feel too intrusive. This is a good thing!

I have seen too many people in my life run from these moments. Just when God is getting to the root of the cause of so much of our pain, we run. Just when God is getting to the root of our sin issue, we run. No one really likes pain but when there is pain with a purpose, a purpose to bring healing and life back so that we can be free, that is pain well worth experiencing.

Too many times I have seen people decide to run away from this process when the purpose is to bring them into a greater level of freedom and joy.

I will be blunt honest on here this time. I am tired of seeing so many people who were once on fire with passion for God slowly fade into the background when things got too intense inside of them and when the painful process of working out scar tissue didn’t feel good. It got too uncomfortable for them.

What is the point of having a relationship with a loving, all knowing, faithful God when we are only willing to give him our scraps or a piece of our heart?  When he desires more of us, some just sit back allowing themselves to turn into an apathetic Sunday or once a month Christian. If my husband did that to me, we would have major issues. I would know that he had lost interest in loving me and might even be hiding something from me. I am no longer friends with people who have treated me in similar ways because there was no longer a healthy relationship that was growing.

God knows all of our junk. He knows all of our secrets. He knows that what we go to often creates more agony and pain. His ways are always best because he is good. He is love.

Let him work through the scar tissue.

It is worth it.

Freedom. Overflowing joy. Love reigns where fear once had a stronghold. Addictions are gone. Trauma is healed. Life in Christ is a life lived from victory!

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Favorite Things

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(photo: Hannah Hope Photography)

The year two wave of grief hit and it caught me a bit off guard. I found myself crying more than I had intended. The intense heartache returned with a vengeance.

Grief is never an enjoyable experience but it does change. The heartache did not last as long this time but it reminded me how long I had lived feeling that way every day, all day for months. If you are still going through that cycle of grief, please know that it does lesson ever so slowly.

Just the other day, I had been weeping over so many different things that made my heart ache. I was struggling with not only my Mom but also so many family details and seeing the solution without any way of being able to change one thing. So much of being a Step Mom has shown me how true love is a love that has grit. I want to be a woman that has grit but the process hurts!

As I was weeping I opened my Bible to Luke 19 and read verse 41, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it”.

This post is by no means an exegetical description of this chapter. But this spoke volumes to me that Jesus wept over the hearts of people in the city of Jerusalem. He knew the answer to all of their heart issues. He knew everything about them, their pain, and the depravity of their hearts. Jesus wept. Jesus knew grief.

As I listened in the quiet, allowing tears to fall rather than get stuck, God spoke such tender words. He said, “My own Son felt strongly. He wept. He loved deeply. Why should you feel wrong for feeling so strongly for people, for weeping? This is one of my favorite things about you. I made you this way!”

In that moment, in the acceptance of my Lord, I experienced healing. Inner turmoil I experienced for years for feeling wrong for how I felt so deeply and often ached for others began to release. Did you know that the very things that you may dislike about yourself could very well be Gods favorite things about you? When you realize this truth you will find yourself closer to Father God. You will realize that you do not need to do things to protect yourself from getting hurt because you will realize that God continually heals your heart and soul. God desires freedom for you. He wants to help you conquer everything that distances you from him. He loves you!

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(Hannah Hope Photography)

The Treasure

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The past several weeks have not at all gone as I had originally planned. But I guess that is life, right? I am writing this with a smirk because I have begun to find joy in these simple hiccups in plans. God has little blessings and treasures even amidst those times as long as you are able to stop focusing so much on what did not happen!

The fatigue and health issues that I have been having, which I thought were simply from stress and grieving were indeed more than just that. Unbeknownst to me, I have actually had mono. The mono then led to a flare up of tonsillitis.  Because of my diagnosis, I realized just how much I needed to slow down, and not put such high expectations on myself to do everything that I wanted to do. This meant that I did not hand out any Christmas goodies or cards to many people that I originally planned on (sorry everyone). It also meant that I have been learning the art of pacing myself while enjoying every single moment possible to the fullest measure. When one’s energy is low and food puts pressure on an inflamed and swollen spleen, you learn to enjoy every bite because it could be your last for a couple of hours.

I am grateful for everyone who has put in extra effort to help carry loads for me since I am ordered not to do so for at least a month. I am grateful for a husband who helps do laundry, pick up the house, and cook for me while I lay down on the couch. For those who know me well, I am much like my Mom…  a stubborn go-getter, never letting pain and fatigue stop me from living. This is how I have been living my life. I did not realize how serious it was until my spleen was at risk of rupturing. I am thankful that God was protecting me and intervened through the prayers of my husband and my daughter.

Despite all of the physical disruptions to my plans, Christmas has been very full of blessings, sweet surprises, and moments filled with tears as well as laughter. The art of choosing joy is the best way to live life. Cherishing every moment and not getting hung up on how things are so painfully different is also important. What will your focus be on? I choose the positive things. Those people who are right in front of me. A daughter that needs me and wants to be a part of everything even if I am so tired that I feel like the couch is enveloping me.  My husband that chooses to work hard, provide, take care, encourage, and love me as well as our daughter with every fiber in his being blesses me daily. What greater treasure is there than that of the people whom love you and you love?

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Those people are my God given treasure. They remind me just how much God loves me.

I could have chosen the other route. It would have been easy to sink into the misery of what my body has been feeling for over a month and allow that to overtake my thoughts and feelings. I am stubborn.

I choose joy. I choose to be thankful. I want to be the type of woman that has grit! I want to be tough as well as sweet and gracious. I want to be like Jesus whose life was not always full of great circumstances yet he knew whom his Father was and why he needed to choose his ways. Life is not about us. Life is about love and choosing that love above all else. Life is about pointing others to the source of our joy. Life is showing others why we choose the way of living lovingly and joyfully. Life is full of twists and turns with blessings and treasures at every single one of them if we take the time to see them.

Life is beautiful!

God is the source and he is good.

 

 

What Do You Choose?

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Life is full of choices. We all know this. Many times we like to blame others for our poor choices and the attitudes we choose to have. Growing up my parents told me from the time that I could remember that I had a choice to be grumpy, and mad. This was such a hard thing for me to grasp because I felt so deeply. It surely could not have originated from my heart. Turns out, it always has.


 

Time and time again, God has placed me in situations where I have had to choose between my feelings or to look past them and see things his way. Through this past year of grieving, I had to constantly choose him over how I was feeling. Grieving takes you through exhaustion, sleepless nights, and bursts of emotions depending on the memories that come flooding into your life again. I have learned that just like love, joy is a choice and it is hardly based on feelings. Yes, there will be times where you feel an immeasurable amount of happiness but joy is always a choice.


 

I would have days where I would wake up, body aching, heart aching, and all I wanted to do was to curl back underneath my covers. But I had a choice to make. Was I going to live life? Was I going to choose to love my husband, my daughter, and those God placed in my life? Was I going to choose joy despite how I was feeling? My answer was always, yes. No matter how hard it was I did not want to get stuck where I was. No matter how much my heart ached, I still chose to embrace God everyday knowing that it was only through him that I could work past the grief.


 

Still to this day, as the grieving process has taken a different turn and a new normal has set in (somewhat… what is normal anyway?), I have a choice to make. Will I choose Love? Will I choose Joy? All of those things come from God. The more time I spend with him, the more of those things I will have in my life. It is not always an easy journey. More often than not, God shows us areas we must be willing to let go of and change. The moment you choose to let go of control and let God have control, your life becomes full of freedom. Misconceptions of who he is get thrown out the window when you spend time with him. Wrong thinking and wrong behaviors sift to the surface and then you have a choice to get rid of those or keep them and rot.


 

When I think of choosing to rot, I think of a video I watched where a six-year-old girl asked her parents to “not let the monster take over them”. I also have heard several songs talking about how sin, the monster, needs to be overcome. How many of us have chosen the monster to take over us simply because we wanted our own way? At one point in our lives, we have allowed this to happen. Our sin nature leans us to do so. But thankfully, when we choose God, to spend time with him daily, hourly, and with the intention to obey his every direction, freedom from the monster is what takes place. Only then, can true love and true joy become a part of daily life. Even when love and joy take root instead of bitterness and sin, we still have the choice to make it for ourselves.


 

God never forces his way with us. But he is in constant pursuit of us when we choose to ignore him. I see people make choices everyday that affect everyone around them more than they realize. And when we do not choose God, unfortunately everyone else suffers and loses out with them. It saddens my heart to see kids be so gravely affected. There are days where my heart aches over the loss that many of these kids suffer because someone in their life chose to rot.


 

Our lives will be the most stable and peaceful place it will ever be when we realize that we must give up our control for Gods ways to dictate every thought and action. Until we allow God to be a part of everything, will we realize that choosing love and choosing joy is a daily discipline, forever to be molded by our Creator.


 

What do you choose?


 

Lord, I want to choose you daily! Help me to choose love and joy and may it permeate everything I say and do.


 

Galatians 5:22-26

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Gods Love Never Fails. The Year Mark

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I have found myself smiling and laughing a lot more these days. Life is a beautiful journey. Words cannot begin to adequately express the gratitude within my heart that God has answered so many prayers in this new journey that we are on. We persevered through a very hard, tumultuous season and it was worth it all.


The year mark has begun. Before I go on further, let me first say how good God has been and continues to be. He has carried us and given us strength. He has helped us through all of the heartache and given us many times full of joy. His joy is our strength and because of his strength, we have joy.


Today, July 27th marks the day that Mom had her stroke. My Dad had sent me a message on Facebook asking for us to pray for them as he thought that Mom had a stroke in their hotel room. I remember telling my younger brother and my sis in love what had happened, since they were over at our house for lunch. Instantly, we stopped what we were doing. It was a time of devastation. A time that we all had dreaded might come someday, yet it felt too soon. I can recall my sis in love come around us and say a few words. I cannot recall what she said. I can only remember that I was impressed by her and was thankful that she was there. We agreed to get a hold of family members as a team. And we prayed.


This time last year we were anxiously awaiting word on how things were going. Our only form of communication was Facebook messenger. This time last year marked a beginning of sleepless nights, checking our phones for any news and updates and praying unceasingly. We had to wait hours and hours before getting our next update. This was incredibly difficult for me. I am assuming it was for everyone else. Sleep was hard to come by and I was worried I would not hear my phone beep with the next update.


Looking back, I am thankful that I was able to see God’s hand working out special details just for us, while things were happening. My younger brother just happened to be over at our house when I got the message. God knew we needed to be in person with each other for that news.  It was a miracle that Dad was able to get Mom back into the states since the doctor’s on the island did not want to send her further than the neighboring island. He had to convince the doctors on the island that Lupus was real and how serious it was. They did not even have her on the proper medication to help with the pain she experienced before her stroke, so her body was going through a lot of trauma. Our Dad fought a battle for her. He was persistent. I am thankful that God gave him the strength to be able to do this. I am thankful that the last moments that Mom was aware of things that they were able to communicate last words of love for each other and for us, even though she was unable to speak. Love does not need words.


I am thankful for the ones that helped pay for all of our flight tickets within hours of finding out that the doctor in Florida had told our Dad to get the family there as soon as possible. I am thankful for the church family that helped our Dad in Florida, especially when we could not be there. I am thankful for a sis in love who let us use her credit card so that we could get our tickets and then pay her back later. Then after we had been making payments, my other sis in love had helped pitch in money as well. I am thankful for the other people who also contributed to the rest of the family to fly out and have money for food. When a crisis like this hits, and there is no human way of things working out, and God uses others to help, neither words nor actions are adequate enough to show our gratefulness.


I am thankful that because Mom was flown to Florida, each of us was able to make it to her side. We were also able to be in person for a time with our incredible Dad who went through the first couple of days alone without any belongings on him. It was hard to leave him there for the last several days before Mom passed. I like to believe that God wanted special moments with our Dad even though in my mind, it was brutally hard to know that we could not be there to support him.


The hardest part now is working through the first year mark, which has presented itself to be difficult as expected. I know that everyone grieves differently. Because I have a tendency to be a perfectionist I can look at my own journey and feel like I am not doing it well enough. As I write this I can laugh at how ridiculous this is. The past year has been filled with much loss, much change, unfair expectations weeks after burying my Mom, betrayal from those who were supposed to support us, disappointment that a death of someone so close would not cause reconciliation, death of a family unit, death of who we once were, new family, church merge, job change, and a move to name a few.


As I reflect I realize how ridiculous it is to put expectations on myself that I should not be struggling right now. A lot has gone on. God is still healing me. I am thankful to say that I harbor no anger or ill feelings from the past year. I struggle more with trusting people. I struggle to trust that when someone tells me something loving and supportive that they actually mean it and will not go back on their word. But God is helping me with this. I am certainly not perfect. God’s goodness and love never changes. He is trustworthy.


Through it all, Gods love has overwhelmed us. As each wave crashed over us, his love consumed our hearts. He loves us so much.


He loves you! Our Mom, died giving everything within her so that others would know how much God loves them. It is my belief that the prayers she prayed for so many are being answered still today.


God is for you. He loves you! No matter what happens in our lives Gods love never fails.


Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Encouragers

 

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It is an amazing feeling to walk out of discouragement into encouragement!


 

When I began this blog I was determined to be as open about the grieving process that I was going through. It has been healing for me. I wanted to help others through my honesty. I wanted to send a message that grieving is not wrong, but that it is a part of life and that we must support one another through the different stages.


 

Too often, our current culture does not allow time to grieve, or even support and acknowledge that people are. I know that part of this stems from our busy lives we all carry. For those who have not been touched by the loss, they often can forget that an individual is still processing through the loss and separation of their loved one. Because they forget, they begin to question why someone may be tired, sad or discouraged. People can come across very insensitive. Because of these people, it highlights those who are very encouraging. The “encouragers” are the ones that give you permission to grieve. They cry with you. They will hug you. They will listen. I am thankful for these people!


 

I am the type of person that does not want to stuff issues down. I have intentionally been working on dealing with the grieving process head on as best as I have been able to in certain environments. I am thankful to be in a place full of love, and incredible encouragement. It has allowed me time to breathe. Dreams begin to resurface in a place of love and encouragement. Hope grows. One is able to break free from penetrating sadness that can often come and go as grief hits. Freedom reigns.


 

If I could give any sort of advice to anyone trying to support someone who has lost a loved one, it would be this: Give the other person permission to grieve when you are around him or her.


 

God does this for each of us. He acknowledges how hard it is. He sympathizes with us and gives us grace. He holds us, carries us and cries with us. He does not say, “Suck it up. Stop crying. You need to work harder to be happy. You really need to pray more since this shows you have sin in your life…” I could go on further but I will not.


 

Instead this is what God says, “My child, I love you. You will make it through this. The pain you feel reveals a heart that loves deeply. Sin caused this separation. I did not design you to experience this separation. It is why you struggle so much. Let me heal you, guide you and renew life to your aching soul. I will continue to listen to you, encourage you, and give you grace as you learn a new life. I understand your loss. It is hard. But you are stronger than you feel. I am holding you. I will pour my spirit into you to renew your soul. I love you.”


 

We all need to be more like God. We all need to extend mercy and grace to each other no matter what. We all need to encourage and love one another. Romans 12 describes very clearly how a true Christian is to live. Love should be greater than anything else. Love should permeate everything that we do, even when we might not understand what someone else is going through.


 

Romans 12:9-15

Marks of the True Christian

“9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” ESV (read the rest of this chapter. It is so good!)


 

Since my last post, I have been blessed by so many who have prayed for me, loved me and sent encouraging notes. Thank you fellow encouragers!

 

When Two Worlds Collided

Two worlds collided over Memorial Day weekend. It was a weekend that was full of many different emotions: heartache, pain, sorrow, yet full of joy for our Father. It is so hard to describe exactly every little feeling. It all felt so surreal.


 

It is most difficult to process two worlds that do not make sense quite yet. One full of memories of what once was, and the other that is now. The sorrow is ever present. It is a constant friend or foe depending on your perspective. Yet, there is joy, there is hope knowing that God is our strength. Life is bittersweet.


 

Our Mom was a most extraordinary woman. She loved us in such a way that no woman ever has. There was no doubt in each of our minds that she cared for every single one of us. She made sacrifices for us. She gave her life for others. It is this love from her that makes the void feel so deep. We can all be grateful that we had a taste of heaven through her in our lives.


 

Now, as our Father, whom we have only known with our Mom embarks on this new beginning it seems so strange to see him with anyone else other than our Mom. He loves each of us enough to want us to be a part of this new journey. It is a foreign way of living when it seems like all those happy memories of someone so dear to you feels as if it all is slipping away to be forgotten forever. Yet, I know that is not what is happening.


 

It is all these feelings that pollute being rational. I have learned to be slow to action during this time of grieving. To be perfectly honest, my husband has received the worst of these struggles within me. He has been so gracious as I battle through every emotion, rational or not. I am thankful I am not alone. He has learned to bring me coffee in bed (this is a nice perk!). For those of you who know me well, you can laugh knowing how amazing I think this is. I wish I liked mornings better.


 

Many have asked me how I was able to officiate the wedding for my Dad and Step Mom. To put it quite simply, Love. I knew from the beginning that this was God. It was more than evident to me that God brought my Dad and his new wife together and they gave me the greatest honor to be able to officiate it for them. I was able to talk through the tears because God gave me the strength I needed. God is strong in the broken places.


 

I also feel like I need to explain the tears. Some people thought I was just sad. Other people thought I was simply happy. It was both for me. Two worlds collided in that moment and I was overwhelmed with grief, and joy all in one setting. It was a definite and more solid ending to what our family once was and who my Dad used to be. But it was also a beginning to a new joyous journey with an added gift of a wonderful woman of God whose love and care for our journey up to this point has been rather remarkable.


 

My tears also represented a huge miracle for my husband and I personally. We saved the flower girl spot for our daughter J, for our wedding (for those of you who do not know, I am a Step Mom to a beautiful girl). When this did not happen because of unfair actions from the other party, it was hard for both of us. J was able to be a flower girl for my Dad’s wedding. I was crying because it was truly a miracle that she was there. I also felt like this was something that Mom would have wanted and prayed for herself.


 

God was showering us blessings in multiple ways. These realizations came upon me, wave after wave within the ceremony itself. I found myself shaking as emotion after emotion flooded my heart. And the tears just fell. It was beautiful.


 

 

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”