Choose Love. Choose Joy.

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It is a beautiful sight to see someone stand in truth even when others believe the lies. It is a beautiful thing to witness grace extended when one could choose to join the hate bashing. It is exhilarating to experience a heart becoming transformed in an instant when God reveals his perspective of someone so full of hate and bitterness.

Choose Love.

This path is not easy. Love is long suffering. It will involve heartache. Tears will fall. Some days you might wonder how to work past the pain. Other times you might feel like nothing you do matters. Loving someone, truly loving someone involves a full package that will slowly be molded into your life if you choose it. This package is simple yet complex.

“Love is patient and kind; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

If you love like this it will transform you day by day because God desires you to know his love in deeper ways. To know more of God means that you will know more of love. To love like this means to have the heart and mind of Christ himself. It is why it can be so offensive to so many. It is why it can melt a stone cold heart in an instant. Our hearts are designed to rejoice with this truth.

Choose Joy.

Rejoice dear readers! Love never fails. You know what that means? Love always wins no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how impossible things might look. Love will remain. Doesn’t that just fill your joy meter? When you choose love, you choose joy and you choose faith! And this gives us great reasons to always hope and endure during the most painful circumstances of life. We can love those who reject us. We can love those who hate us. We can choose joy amidst the sorrow.

Choose Love.

Choose Joy.

Have great Faith!

 

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Thankful

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For anyone who has lost someone close, you understand that the holidays are bittersweet. Making new memories can come easy some days. Other days, the grief comes in another wave. Memories from previous holidays come flooding back. The hole that person left in your heart feels like it expands in that moment.

During the first year without my Mom, I remember the feeling of being worried that the grief would steal away aspects of my current life. I was worried more that the holidays would be horrible. What I recognized right away and that which continues to be confirmed daily, is that everything comes down to a choice you make. In a world where we base many things on feelings, often not taking any responsibility for our actions, our lives would be less complicated if we just took care of us, instead of making drama about everyone and everything else. This does not mean that issues will not be talked out with others because that is healthy too. What I do mean is that we have a choice to live a lifestyle full of gratefulness despite our circumstances, owning what is ours and letting go of what is not.

When my husband and I look and plan for this holiday season, at first glance we see loneliness and gaps of missing people we wish would be a part of our lives. We see reconciliation that has yet to happen and very painful situations. But we have a choice to make. That choice becomes easy when Holy Spirit fills us like a breath of fresh air. Because we choose God daily, he helps us have the correct perspective. God uses everything. Sometimes when things look bleak and dreary, breakthrough may be on the verge of bursting forth like the suns rays after a storm.

We choose to be thankful. We choose grace and joy. When we do this, laughter becomes a normal part of life instead of a frown and a weakening heart. A renewed sense of love for others pumps through our veins as we choose to serve instead of wallowing our sorrows in the dark. When we choose God, we are open to new people, and new experiences that may look nothing like our original expectations. God has been molding our hearts to be open to enjoy life no matter what comes and no matter how few or how many are with us on the journey.

As we reflect on the memories we hold close to our hearts, the gift of Mom lingers. It is the gift of her that adds a unique spice to every new memory that we choose to make. It is her legacy of love from God that helps to remind us that God is good and that he makes everything beautiful in time.

Mom, the gift of you still lingers. Because of you, you showed me what beautiful looked like. You showed me how God walks with us through the pain, the heartache, and the refining fire. I am thankful I can cherish every memory of you knowing that no one can take that away.

I am thankful God gives us joy and the strength to choose it every day.

I am thankful.

Thankful.

The Journey I Started One Year Ago

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WordPress just announced to me that it is my one-year anniversary since starting to blog on their site. As I reflect on the year where I decided to not allow silence to dictate my life, and instead use the gift of writing God has given me, I see how silence would have been deadly. The enemy tried to steal my voice once. I have the choice to use my voice several different ways. Writing is one of those ways.


When I decided to open myself up and allow others to be a part of my journey of grieving, I never knew the onslaught that would occur. As I wrote it made some people very upset. Still to this day, when I write as God leads, fearlessly writing truth, it upsets and irritates people. I understand that not everyone is going to agree with what I say nor does everyone believe that God works the way that I profess. Despite the venomous words, the attack on my integrity and faith, and the rejection, I have chosen to not be silenced.


I once allowed silence and the fear of not pleasing certain people dictate my every move. That life was horrible. I was caged in. But I was like a songbird longing to sing and take flight. It took several years for God to show me that he had unlocked the cage and it was my choice to get up and walk out of it. He helped me to pick up his sword of truth and take back from the enemy what he had stolen. Ever since that day, God has been bringing me into places of renewed freedom and victory.


By choosing God daily and choosing to use my voice so many other people have been encouraged. Thank you dear readers for letting me know that my journey written out has helped you. Thank you for letting me know that I was not alone. Thank you to those who desired to bless me rather than curse me.


We all have choices to make. I have seen how bitterness causes such destruction. My heart aches for you that have chosen this path. Love will always be waiting with open arms to welcome you back when you so choose it.


In the meantime, be brave dear readers. Do not let fear of what others may think silence you sharing your story. Your story is powerful. Your story is important. You matter so much more than you may ever fully realize.


You can choose to allow God to make something beautiful out of your messy life. After all, the dirty grave did not bother him at all. He is ready to resurrect the dead in your life.


Choose Him. Choose beauty.

When Everything Changes

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 With Jesus, it does not matter what is going on. All that matters is that he is there with you. I am so thankful that he does not leave us. He chooses us every single day. Life is so beautiful with him!


For the past year or more I have been struggling with what family looks like for us. Not that we do not have family that love us because we do. I have yet to hear of any family without some kind of issue or drama. Family is messy. Our family is messy and it is beautiful at the same time. I am sure most of you can relate to this.


My deepest struggle has been with feeling a huge loss of blood family. We live far from my in laws and so the gap often feels rather large. I have prayed for God to show me what family looks like.


When we take our struggles to Jesus, everything changes.


As I have taken my desires for family and placed them on the altar, all my ideas of what family looked like changed. I have to admit that I still have an inner battle when I begin to miss what family used to be. But when I crawl into the arms of Jesus, he reminds me that through his blood, he transformed what family was, and it has nothing to do with having the same bloodlines as the other person, or being married into one. It has everything to do with being a part of Gods family.


As I reflect and battle whether to continue to hold on to my old family ideals, I have come to a decision. I will embrace Gods way of family. I understand that this will look different. I understand that I must learn to let go when God shows me that I am putting my hope in man-made possibilities rather than in his powerful love.


I understand that with the loss of Mom, our family will never be the same. She was the glue, the peacemaker that helped buffer issues so people would gather together. Do we allow God to heal us? Do we allow him to be the glue? Do we allow him to shape what family looks like?


As my heart says yes to God, I know that he is changing my thoughts, my expectations, my ideals and my desires. This is often hard because there is grieving still being done in regards to this. But this is also something so beautiful!


Choosing God every single day and laying everything in his hands; allowing him to change everything to match his own; crying in his arms giving him every part of you; that is when everything changes. When this happens, the beauty cannot be described adequately with human words. My soul sings with gratefulness.


Everything changes in his presence. This is where I belong.

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!

 

The Calm And The Sunshine

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I have to admit that I was in rebellion against my own process of working through grieving since I last wrote. Each time I would start to write I just felt a little frustrated that I was struggling the way that I was. Instead of writing I chose to pack or unpack. This transition in our lives has been more difficult than I expected even though it has been one of the greatest changes for us.


 

Every time that I have moved I always had my Mom to help organize my kitchen. Each time I went to unpack I had feelings of extreme sadness, and frustration. I know that it has only been 10 months since she passed but there is a part in me that feels like I should be feeling happier and not still be breaking down in tears. To be perfectly honest though, my heart has hurt more this past month than it has for the past several months. It feels as if her death just happened. Because of this, I can often feel inadequate. I know that this is a lie but to feel such sadness makes me feel a sense of guilt. I know that Mom is in Heaven. I know that I will see her someday. This makes me feel like that truth should outweigh my sadness.


 

But I truly miss my Mom so much that it hurts. So much change has occurred in the past several months. These changes are all very good, but growing pains certainly have hit. Everything that seemed to be of some kind of discouraging opposition has shown itself to make us better. Because of our recent move, we are now able to focus on certain details of our lives that we were unable to do before. As this happens, the growing pains have increased. God is purifying the gunk that has occurred in previous months. I pray daily that I am obedient. I want to allow God to uproot anything within me that should not be buried in my heart. This can be painful at times as well.


 

The past year has been very hard. It has been full of much pain. But it is this pain that God has used to mold us, shape us, make us stronger and prepare us for the things ahead that are much bigger and greater than we ever would have been able to imagine on our own.


 

So far, we have been overcome with such love from our new church family. We have walked into a family who has made it clear that they will love and support us for who we are. When one has lived through a storm, experienced much opposition, and then that changes to sunshine and encouragement, it almost feels like a dream. We are still processing this. We are so thankful!


 

It does not matter what you are going through. God is for you. No matter the storm, and  no matter your struggle, God is for you. He is protecting you. He is holding you. Remember, the storm does not last forever. He still calms the waves, and brings forth the sun.


 

Psalm 118:1 (ESV)

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

 

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.”

 

3 weeks ago… A Thankful Heart

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So much has happened within the past several weeks. I am just now getting to a place where I can actually sit down and write something other than, “hey guys, a little busy here!” There are so many thoughts going through my mind right now as I think back over these past weeks. I feel emotions ranging from sadness, disappointment, frustration, to joy, and gladness. I understand more how much life is a painful journey of letting go and allowing God to mold the hardest parts of my will. These past weeks have felt like a glorious breaking of every part of who I am.


 

We have gone from one big event to another major transition, all while being sick 4 out of the 6 weeks. Stress does that to your body after having endured so many long days. I have to admit that I am ready to be back to “normal” and actually get some rest. In the meantime, let me share with you a little part of my journey from 3 weeks ago.


 

I had 9 minutes left until I had to go on stage. I was doing my best to work through the vast majority of my nerves and excitement before Kids Convention was to officially begin. Earlier that day I had run into the arms of Jesus as a wave of extreme sadness and longing for my Mom came upon me. Kids Convention has been the closest to a personal dream coming true in my life. As a child I sang as often as I could. I had dreams of being a professional singer on tour around the world. When my world crumbled down on me with my own tragedy in high school, all my dreams were buried in their own graveyard. It was not until about 4-5 years ago, God was showing me how he wanted to take back from the enemy what he had stolen. My Savior, and Lord helped me take back my voice!


 

8 minutes were left before I needed to go on stage. There I was going to find my water bottle and put a cough drop in my mouth when an amazing woman asked me if I had any significant prayer points. It was then that the floodgates opened. In that moment, the longing for my Mom was beyond what I could hold within myself. My sciatica was also really causing me pain. As I cried and told her how I felt she put her arms around me.


 

7 minutes left before I needed to go on stage. As the tears fell, she anointed me with oil and prayed for my aching heart and hurting body. 6 minutes left and she still was not done. Inside I was thinking how my timing could not have been any worse. But the waves of grief do not ever come in good timing. I have had to work through feelings of guilt when it strikes at the worst of times. I made a conscious choice to cast the guilt aside from feeling this grief.


 

5 minutes were left and her prayer ended. It was in a sense a perfect timed prayer as I was able to run to my position and begin a weekend I will treasure in my heart forever. The tears were gone. Strength was renewed within my mind and body. And there I was using my voice against the enemy once again. I know that my amazing Mom was celebrating. I could imagine her doing her air punches with her lips firmly pressed together followed by a victory dance.


 

I am so thankful that I do not have to walk this life alone. Healing and grieving is a painful journey. There are times that it can feel dark. Other times you can feel overwhelmed. I am learning that even in the grief, and even in the pain, God is so much stronger. His goodness surpasses anything. His love furiously invades every aspect of life. Because of God there is so much beauty in the journey.


 

Thank you God for walking this journey with me. Thank you for the beauty.

 

 

 

Pure Craziness!

Life has been so incredibly busy lately that it is crazy. I look at my work week the past week and a half and it is no wonder I am desperate to just sleep ALL day long! I know that there will be a day soon when I get to rest. And when I do rest, I can look back and smile at all the good things that God has done.


For right now, please be praying that we get time to rest uninterrupted. It has seemed like anytime that I actually plan time off something else comes up to threaten that time.


Blessings to you and yours this beautiful week.


You are loved!

Letting Go and the Victory Dance!

The grieving process is murky business. There are so many reasons why this is the case. For me, I was already in a grieving process regarding several things in my life before my Mom passed away. Her death has helped me process and let go of some other things in my life. I am learning that choosing joy, choosing Jesus is worth every bit of pain. Just recently, as hard as things have been for me emotionally, God has been so good in helping bring healing in the letting go process. Sometimes, he uses one pain to help heal another.


A few things that I have let go of are my ideas of what my family would look like, as well as a relationship that I know I will never have again. In the past, I thought that I had done a pretty decent job with “letting go”. Looking back now, I realize that in letting go of one thing, I had picked up an expectation of what would take place after this happened. Each time I would feel more turmoil because I thought that surely change would occur in the way that I had envisioned it. The process felt like a battle. Certainly I did not have control issues. But as we become more honest, each of us has our own set of control issues.


This past weekend I finished a journey. When I say I finished a journey there should be a significant “hip hip hooray!” I know that God is up in heaven smiling proudly and my Mom is doing a victory dance (yes, we would do these either in person or miles a part). I smile just writing about this thought. You want to know why? Because this journey that I finished is really a beginning. It is a journey that my Mom cried over, prayed over and yearned for. I finally have an understanding of letting go with the intention of not picking anything up in that process. Not having control is actually a very freeing experience when you do it in the correct way.


So this weekend, I reconciled things deep within me. God has done something miraculous within me. As I have given up and let go of this hindrance to my heart and soul, I no longer am pinned down.  It is a wonderful feeling to continue on a journey of forgiveness while not feeling tied down to what was holding you back. I cannot fully describe how this feels as I thought that I would only feel this way when reconciliation of the relationship occurred. I am still in awe.


I read a quote the other day about forgiveness that truly pertains to what I am talking about: “Forgiveness might not mean that a relationship is saved but it certainly frees and saves you.” I would have to say that this has been my journey. So many times I was told that I did not forgive a person because our relationship did not go back the same. I battled with this so much because I chose to forgive this person on a daily basis. I had owned up to my part and I had attempted to talk and address issues in order to move forward and heal. I never admitted to doing everything correctly or perfectly. I lost track of how many times I said that I was sorry. The song “Unloveable” by Plumb pretty much sums up how I felt. I still can feel this way.


I got to a place where attempt after attempt to restore this relationship just turned into a constant wound that never would stop bleeding. Part of this was my own fault because I should have known that no matter how much I tried I could never force someone to love me back and have a relationship with me. See, there’s my control issues right there. I wanted to be loved by this person. I thought this person understood how much I loved them and wanted to enjoy life together. I thought this person wanted the same as me. But I was in denial about the fact that I was being rejected simply because we were two different people. I should have let go in the beginning.


My Mom was pained greatly by this. I have had to work through feelings of anger knowing she died without ever seeing this relationship reconciled. I remember nights my heart was so broken and the pain ran so deep that even my tears were trapped. Through the grieving process of my Mom, I was surprised with the feelings that arose within me again about this relationship. Questions of why, disappointment and the yearning for this person to be my friend rushed my heart once again. There I was learning how to reconcile and forgive again. Thankfully with Gods grace he has never stopped teaching and refining me.


He has been a part of this painful journey, allowing me to bleed while getting dirty with me in the mess because of how much he loves me.


There is something truly extraordinary when we reach a place where we have worked through much of the mess. Healing comes flooding inside in a surprising rush. This is what I have experienced. As I have continued to let go, this time around, God has helped heal the pain in my heart. What a relief! Victory dance!


I cannot deny how God has used one person in my life so significantly. My husband has helped me more than I could ever ask of anyone. He has listened to me process time after time. He has held me as I cried. Sometimes full body crying I might add! He has encouraged me to keep on forgiving. He has prayed for me. God has used him to show me that letting go does not mean giving up. Letting go allows you to choose freedom and joy.


This time around, the chains that held me down, the pain, has been broken from me and I can dance a victory dance. Freedom!


Experiencing this brings such relief to my aching soul. I feel cleansed. I feel like I am a different person.


Thank you God for all that you have done! Thank you God for making a way to freedom.


Somewhere up in heaven, Mom is dancing and cheering.


Ultimately, knowing that God is pleased with me matters so much more.


I am choosing Joy!