I haven't blogged in quite a while because I have struggled to find the right words to describe my emotions. Although the last year of my life has been filled with tremendous joy on a personal level, simultaneously I have watched so many friends experience unimaginable loss and the weight of being surrounded by loss, pain and suffering, has broken my heart.
Two weeks ago I watched my childhood best friend marry a pretty cool dude. The last time I had seen this friend was at her father's funeral 3 years ago. In a way, her wedding helped remind me that God is able to bring us through loss and tough times to a place of joy. She has battled multiple sclerosis since we were 18 or 19 years old. Life is tough for her. But she is tougher than life. And despite a devastating medical diagnosis, the loss of her father and a few other stumbling blocks along the way, she is still embracing life. There is still so much joy in the midst of her circumstances. And this little profound realization, is what I have forgotten over this last year.
I think as Christians, it is really hard to deal with tough times because we are supposed to have hope in God and that often translates to the non-Christian world as always being "happy" or "with joy". And although I am first a Christian, I am also well, human. And as humans try to navigate the tougher times in life, we need to remember it is okay to be heartbroken. It is okay to ask God tough questions and be confused when He answers. We aren't going to understand it all and that is okay. We aren't meant to understand it all. So with this context, I'm going to share a blog I wrote several weeks ago but didn't have the courage to share. I hope it serves as a reminder that even Christians get upset, confused and dare I say angry at the circumstances in life. And we can stay grounded in our faith and still ask God really, really tough questions. So here goes...
Sentiments from a Broken Heart...
It's been raining all day. And not just any rain; gloomy, dreary rain. And at the moment, I can't help but feel the rain is a reflection of my soul.
Most of my blogs carry hope and joy and (hopefully!) inspire others. Not today. Today you just get me. For the past several weeks, my soul has been overwhelmed with heartache. For the second time in my life, I have really asked God "Why?". There have been so many prayers to God asking how this is His plan and why so many people in my life are suffering. A couple of weeks ago, a childhood friend announced she is battling stage IV cancer at the young age of 33 (just turned 34!). She is a new mom. A brand new mom. She is my age. We grew up together and literally went to school from Kindergarten straight through college. Our pasts are similar and if I had to guess we share similar dreams, aspirations and hopes in life. I cannot even begin to imagine how her conversations with God go...but I know her battle has impacted my conversation with God in ways I don't even want to admit out loud. My faith does not waiver but my mind certainly has a million questions.
Today I realized the majority of my free freetime was spent checking in on friends who are having a hard time. (To my friends who are having a hard time, I am not complaining...I will always be here for you. I'm just at a loss with God as to why so many of you have to suffer right now.) I have a list of prayer requests written out on my wall so throughout the day I am reminded to cover people in prayer. When I can't sleep at night, I cover someone on my list with focused prayer. And although some of my prayer requests are simple...please encourage so-and-so or help me make wise decisions related to this issue or that issue, the majority of my prayer requests right now are hard core. Praying to comfort a friend who lost her father, praying to heal serious scars another friend got from an abusive relationship, praying to keep my many, many pregnant friends safe and healthy, praying for two mothers who lost their children this past year, and praying that a childhood friend overcomes a horrific battle with cancer that no new mother should ever have to face. It just doesn't seem fair that so many people are suffering and battling and hurting.
As I went through my list of friends to "check in" with them and let them know I am praying for them, I couldn't help but have a heavy, heavy heart. Life is so cruel. And there are just so many things that do not make sense to me. So many times over the last 6 months I've asked God "How is this Your plan?". And I've wondered how other Christians handle overwhelming sorrow. I've wonder if I am just too weak.
I love the book of Psalm for one reason...it makes me realize that I'm not the only who struggles with God's plan for their life. This long book in the bible is host to so many heart cries that resonate with me at the moment.
How long LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death and my enemy will say "I have overcome him", and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.
Despite the sorrow in my heart and through the millions of questions, I will trust in God. I will trust in His Sovereignty and the beauty of His plan. And although there is tremendous suffering now, I hold out for the overwhelming joy that is to come one day.
Rain, sorrow and delayed joy,
In the spirit of wrapping up 2016 and starting fresh, I owe my readers a blog on repentance (see #lovethesinnerexperiement from last summer). People, Christ followers and nonbelievers, find it challenging to think about "accepting Jesus" with a simple prayer, having your debt paid and having the freedom to go on and just keep sinning. And that is the problem. Trying to understanding grace and the free will of man and sin. But the concept of salvation and repentance is a lot like New Year resolutions.
Let’s say 2016 was a horrible year for you and you were just hanging on to the fact a new year was right around the corner. When the clock struck midnight on December 31st, a magical transformation did NOT occur. At the stroke of midnight nothing actually changed but you and your mindset.
This year I am setting out to be more intentional in my actions. I feel like I’ve settled into a routine of bad habits. Habits primarily centered on distraction from the things in life that are important. I feel like I’m looking down at my phone more than I am looking out at the world. So I’m attempting to disconnect from all things electronic and reconnect with God and people. It’s a simple resolution but completely reliant on self-discipline and my ability to change.
See when you set New Year resolutions, you are the one that changes. You set out to “change” for the New Year, to be different going forward. And you turn from your ways. You start working out or eating healthy or start getting up earlier…whatever the “resolution”, it involves action on your part. And it often involves slip-ups and subsequent “carry over” resolutions to the next year. You might try and fail so you try again the next year. And occasionally you conquer a change and it sticks.
This is what happens when you accept Jesus as your savior. You are motivated (by the Holy Spirit) to change, to turn from your old habits. You are motivated to try to live like Christ lived. And sure, you may slip up and sin but you keep on trying again and again and again. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you are perfect. In fact Christians are far, far, far from perfect. Being a Christian means you accept God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and try to follow in Christ’s footsteps in the same way you try to make (and stick to!) a New Year resolution.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness in intended to lead you to repetance?
So when I wrote about separating the sin from the sinner last year, I wasn't trying to convey that everyone has a free pass to sin. Your love and commitment to Christ, provides the drive to keep His commandments. You come to Him broken and trapped by sin, He frees you and gives you a reason to try to avoid sin. You won't always avoid sin because you are still human. However, Jesus provides a reason for you to continually seek Him and turn your back on sin.
And when people debate different sins and say things like you have to "repent" from your sins, I think what they really mean, is that if your commitment to Christ is true you will aim to repent and turn from sin. It doesn't mean that if you fall back into sin, you lose your salvation; sin has a powerful hold on us at times and can be very hard to conquer. But it does mean you claim Christ and recognize the power of sin, the need for salvation and the beauty of grace.
Grace, redemption and New Year resolutions,
I feel a bit guilty because so many of my friends and family have had a horrible 2016 and are counting down the minutes to kiss this year good riddance. And although I've gone along with these sentiments out of respect for those suffering through 2016, deep inside my heart, this has been one of the best years of my life.
I got married this year...twice actually. Once in Vegas and then celebrated again in the most- amazing-wedding-ever in North Carolina. I got married to a man who has taught me more about love, life and relationships than I thought possible. Life is just such an adventure with him and I can't wait to see where God takes us in the future. I moved twice this year and traveled more than in previous years. We got a puppy and my old dog Reese is still kickin'. (Reese and I have a deal that he is to live until at least the age of 14. I'm glad to report he is holding up his end of the deal.) And I realized true friends remain friends regardless of the distance put between them. I love my tribe!
Although lots of amazing & exciting things have happened this year, there's been way more going on behind the scenes to make this year so great. If you've followed my blog since it's inception, you already know I'm big on New Year resolutions. Next week I'll post 2017 resolutions but today I'm living in the moments of 2016. My resolution this past year was to dedicate more time to prayer, to learn how to be a prayer warrior and to use prayer in a powerful way. And I can't believe everything God taught me through prayer this past year. Prayer has strengthen my faith in God more than ever before and I have a different outlook on life through the lens of prayer.
This time last year, I was getting ready to get married, move to a different state and quit a stable job to start a contracted position without guarantee of a stable income. I started seeking verses about God's plan for my life and claiming them as my own through prayer. God provided more than I needed this year and definitely threw some curve balls to drive His point home, like when we moved to Mississippi unexpectedly. When this news broke in our lives, I was so thankful to have a remote-based job that didn't require a resignation and subsquent search for a job when I needed to move (again). That "unstable" job God provided me, also allowed me the flexibility to drop everything and go be with my sister when she experienced a life crisis and needed help getting things squared away. Clearly, His plan was much better than mine. Thankfully, I spent extra time in prayer learning to trust His plan.
I also asked God to bring people into my life that needed prayer -- and this proved to be an overwhelming experience. God brought many different people into my life but one friend stands out in my mind. A relatively "new" friend of mine was accused of a serious crime and underwent a life-altering investigation. And yet God heavied my heart to pray for her. As the investigation continued, I actually didn't know if she was guilty or innocent but for some reason that didn't seem to matter. Whenever my mind wandered in that direction, I felt God sternly reminding me "I didn't ask you to judge her, I told you to pray for her". So I stopped thinking about her innocence or guilt and just prayed for her. Several months ago she asked me, "Why have you not judged me through this experience? I've lost so many friends and relationships with my family over this accusation and yet you barely know me and you haven't judged me." My reply was simple "It isn't my place to judge you. God told me to pray so my only job is to pray." For months I covered her and her family in prayer and just last week she was cleared of the accusations and life is slowly returning to normal for her. I know her journey has been tough (that's probably a huge understatment!) but I also know God has been with her every step of the way. And I learned, when you ask God to bring people who need prayer to your life, He delivers in a BIG way.
I could list many more examples of situations I prayed over to God and the amazing way He answered my prayers but instead of sharing my examples, I'm challenging you to ask God to show you the power of prayer! But I'm warning you, be ready to stand in awe.
The power of prayer to calm, protect, comfort, and change is beyond words. I've learned to study God's word and claim His word in my prayer.
1 John 5:14, 15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him.
So as I reflect on 2016, I will remember a great year of prayer followed by tremendously blessings like an amazing husband, awesome experience and a crazy puppy.
No matter the circumstances of your 2016, I wish you a very Happy New Year. And thank you for reading my blog for yet another year.
Love, joy and prayers in 2016,
I’ve started thinking about the saying “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and it just doesn't seem like an appropriate description of Jesus or Christmas anymore. I think it makes Jesus seem small and seasonal. And in my heart, Jesus is just so much more than a reason for a season. For me, He is just the reason…the reason for, well, everything.
Several weeks ago I streamed a sermon when a pastor challenged his church to learn whom Jesus was without using the Bible. The pastor explained that if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, it is highly improbable he/she believes the Bible so using the Bible to explain Jesus is an act of futility. And as I listened to this pastor use non-biblical references to provide evidence that Jesus was born, died and then lived again, I started to think about who Jesus is to me on a personal level rather than according to the Bible. So I asked myself “Who is Jesus to me?”. And in fact, Jesus actually asked his disciplines the same question:
Matthew 16: 13-15
When Jesus came to region of Caesarea Phillipi, he asked his disclipes, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
I accepted my salvation through Jesus at a very young age and grew up being taught about Jesus. And although I’m grateful for my upbringing, I think every adult has to explore their faith and determine who and what they believe independent of their parents and upbringing. Honestly, I didn’t explore my faith until I came across people in my life that didn't believe in Jesus. There is truth to the statement “faith like a child” because believing in Jesus is easy when your parents tell you what to believe and life is relatively simple. As a child grows and is exposed to "life" a.k.a. pain, loss, troubled times, adversity, etc., faith becomes much more challenging. As an adult, I had to dig deep to figure out what it was I believed (as opposed to what my parents believed) and why I believed it. And after digging, studying and reflecting, Jesus remained at the center of my faith. And as life gets tougher and I experience more adversity, I find my faith only growing stronger. And I find myself wondering how people make it without faith in Jesus.
Jesus is my hope. He is the reason I get through every single day despite the circumstances around me. When I look back on my life (so far), it is like looking at a puzzle. I see individual moments, like puzzle pieces, that made no sense when I experienced them but become perfectly clear and beautiful when I reflect back on them. I see a beautiful story unfolding that would be simply impossible if left only to chance. The only explanation for the story of my life is Jesus. I don’t need a Bible or a history book to explain who Jesus is because I feel comfort, guilt, grace, love and joy directly from Him. And I know that no matter what happens this side of Heaven, I always have my hope in Him.
He is the reason why when I experience loss or pain or suffering, I ask Him to use it for good. I ask Him to use it to bless others. Because I’ve learned we have only one hope in this world and that is Jesus. And if you allow him to use all the positive and negative experiences in your life…if you allow Him to use the gut-wrenching pain we experience in this world, He will do amazing things to only grow and strengthen your faith. And you will find not only hope but comfort. As long as your hope is in Him, there is nothing that will steal you from the shelter and refuge of Him, King Jesus. And after the road comes to an end, you will be in His Glory. And if the comfort and love I’ve felt from Jesus, is just a glimpse of what His Glory will be like, that I can’t wait to see Him face-to-face.
So although Jesus is the reason for the season to many people, to me He is just my reason. And I can't think of a better reason to celebrate not only at Christmas but every single day.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Hope, joy and a very Merry Christmas,
Chris and I adopted an Angel Tree child through a military event for Christmas this year...we intentionally sought an older kid with a hefty wish list since we do not have children and are in a position to help make Christmas extra special for someone in need. So with that we set out to create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. for this child. I mean...I was all about it. I put my 'perfected' Black Friday shopping skills to the test and aimed to get as many presents possible with what money we had to give. Of course, this was mostly online shopping since we live in a small city and shopping is sufficient but not abundant.
Four days before the gift drop due date, I got a delayed shipping notification from Old Navy stating the order would be delayed...delayed past the gift drop deadline. I was beyond frustrated because I bought a ton of clothes for a price I was not going to find elsewhere, on a non-Black Friday shopping day. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Old Navy explaining not only my predicament, but my dissatisfaction with their delivery service. Although they kindly offered to reduce the cost to only 10% of the full-price total, it still left me in a bind. The cost was not the issue…timing and the inability to find the same quantity of clothes was my issue. Again, I had “THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.” mentality and now this was going to be harder-than-ever to accomplish.
So with 4 days left, I set out again to shop for clothes and re-create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. I headed to JCPenney’s to get the best bang for my buck. And although I didn’t do as well as my Black Friday shopping, I was able to get our child exactly the clothes he asked for plus a “cool” Nike outfit (I did splurge a bit on this but I couldn’t resist!).
Due to some other crazy circumstances, I found myself gift wrapping two hours before the gifts were due at social services. I got all the gifts wrapped and started wrapping the clothes only to find the security ink tags still attached to two articles of clothing...my “splurge” Nike clothing. At this point…I yelled out to God, “I’m just trying to create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. over here…what gives?” I was frustrated and felt like an Angel Tree giver failure. And honestly, I was frustrated with God because we were just trying to do something good for someone less fortunate than us. But I took my frustration, collected the gifts minus the Nike gear and headed to the drop-off location.
Sometimes God is just SO much bigger than us. I wish I would remember this during times of my frustration. Sometimes I am just the little lost sheep, completely disconnected with His plan. This was one of those times.
When we got to social services to drop gifts, we learned there were two boys (brothers!) that did not get their names on the Angel Tree and were in need of Christmas presents. And do you know one of them just so happened to be the same, EXACT size as the Old Navy clothes being delivered to my house? The moment I looked down and saw the size, I knew that Old Navy shipment was never meant for our original Angel Tree Child. God had a different, more perfect plan. And naturally I immediately jumped on board with His plan because it involved creating THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. for not one child but three. So I walked into JCPenney with my ink security-tagged Nike gear and exchanged it for 4 outfits for the younger brother and a mini drone toy for the older one.
Sometimes we think so incredibly small compared to His plan. Sometimes we are the lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Thankfully He always gathers us up and points us in the right direction.
Many are the plans in a person’s hearts, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Lord never stop taking my small plans and making them BIG.
Christmas morning, gifts galore, and three boys,
Most of my blogs are intended for everybody, especially those who haven't had the pleasure of knowing Jesus. I (try to) write my blogs with a tender heart for those who aren't familiar with the Bible. I try to be nonjudgmental and loving in what I share and how I share it. However, today I'm specifically addressing Christian men and women. I am going to be a bit more direct with my brothers and sisters in Christ...because I'm angry. And I may lose a few friends in what I write today but my purpose is to live for Jesus not to live for others. And I have a heavy, heavy heart.
Jen Hatmaker and a few other prominent Christian leaders have come out and stated their beliefs that homosexuality is not wrong from a biblical standpoint. Although they have publicized a fancy rationale for how they came to these conclusions, I'm going to spare you my rationale of what is right and wrong from a Biblical standpoint and just go with what the Bible actually says. I figured this is the safest way to make an argument of what the Bible says. So here goes a direct quote:
1 Corinthians 6:8-11
Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you now know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Re-read it again if you will, but the bible lists acts of same-sex sex as sin...along with having idols, being an adulterer, being greedy, being drunk, being a cheat, etc. (An important note...many sins I'm in fact guilty of!) I'm not singling out homosexuality as a sin and forgetting all the other sins...I'm just saying the bible does identify homosexuality as a sin.
First a note to the LBGTQ community...I love you. God loves you. I look at you no different than any other person because we are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Sin is sin...clearly defined in the bible. But PLEASE do not miss the last part of the verse...you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Your sin is no different than any other person's sin and you are free to accept God's grace like any other sinner according to the Bible.
Now, a note to the Christians who are putting their "own spin" on the Bible. YOU are putting Christians who've decided to follow what the bible says, in a very bad place. YOU are making it harder for me to stand up for my faith because it's now YOUR interpretation (a much more "popular" interpretation) against God's Scripture and if I stand up for God's Holy Word, I'm painted as the "bad" "judgmental" or "hateful" person. YOU are supposed to be on my team and be united in Christ with me. But YOU are making me feel horrible for believing the Bible among all of my friends who are active in the LBGTQ community. YOU are dividing the Christian community instead of uniting it. And it makes me heartbroken. And it makes me angry.
I have such a tender, passionate heart for sinners that do not know Jesus...because I was once one of those people. Even within my own faith journey, there have been times I got caught up in my own sin and was not walking with Christ. And it was loving people who called out my sin according to the Bible and helped me repent and turn away. I'm okay if someone doesn't want to believe or disagrees with what the Bible says because that is between God and them. But the fact you are misleading what the Bible says is scary and a huge disservice to people in your community. So although it is not the "popular" thing to do or way to believe...I have to choose God over your modern day interpretation of His Word. It might not be easy but it's what is right. I might lose some friends but I won't lose God. I wish you would take time to reflect on what you are doing within the Christian community and just stop. I wish you would realize you can love others and still stand by Scripture.
Heartbroken, angry and divided,
As we approach the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election tonight, I am shouting to myself, "BRACE FOR IMPACT". I do not think there’s a single person in our country who would argue this election season has not been ugly. Maybe even the ugliest election to date…definitely the ugliest I’ve seen in my lifetime. I'm not going to sit here and tell you why you should or should not vote for the candidates. In my opinion, that is adding to the ugliness of the election and I'm tired of reading why "this leader" or "that friend" passionately feels one candidate is wrong. I think both candidates are lousy and I do not want either of them representing me to the rest of the world. So as I face the final results tonight, I’m bracing for the worst because I fear the worst is yet to come. However, although I anticipate a tough road ahead, I am not without faith. In fact, faith is all I have left and (I’m realizing) all I ever needed.
I haven’t blogged in awhile because life has been fairly crazy in my personal life; there have been some really tough challenges for a few loved ones and in a way it has consumed me both physically and emotionally. If I took the time to describe the last 3 months of my life, all the ups and downs and twists and turns, you wouldn’t believe it. So for the sake of time (and privacy), let’s just say life has been crazy ugly with a few shining moments of hope (like finally celebrating my marriage!). But through the crazy, I have felt firmly grounded in my faith. As I reflect on my personal life, I see so many parallels to what is going on in our country. And I’m reminded God is sovereign. He has a plan. His plan is perfect. And His plan is whole. We just have to be patient enough to wait for the whole plan to be revealed. And this is where I land regarding our country.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
I have never prayed for our country so often or so sincerely as I have leading up to this election. I mean, I’ve prayed A LOT…for the people, for the politicians, before and after debates, for voting discernment, how to vote, what to vote for, etc. And although it’s been tiresome and at times discouraging when I felt like my prayers went unanswered, I’m reminded that although my timeline ended today (Nov 8 – “Election Day”), God isn’t living (or acting!) according to my timeline. He isn’t looking at the next four years…He is staring straight into eternity. And His priority isn’t our economy or foreign affairs. His sole focus is building His Kingdom. And if I shift my focus toward Him, everything going on in our world (both in my personal life and in our country) seems a whole lot less important. Everything going on around us is just noise, distracting us from His Plan and Purpose. And although this noise is going to create a tough road, it is not a road we set foot on alone. God carries us. All we have to do is keep the faith and let Him.
So regardless of the election outcome, I’m holding tight to my faith. I’m going to brace for impact but not in the way you brace for a crash. I’m going to brace for God’s impact…I’m going to watch His plan unfold and be thankful for His sovereignty. Because His plan is solid and His Kingdom will be plentiful.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation who God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Election Day, faith and an impact,
We don't get to pick our family. And we don't get to pick our spouse's family. Family is simply put, a gift from God. (I know a good majority of readers are laughing or crying or both right now!) I know there are times when family feels more like a White Elephant gift than a gift to actually be thankful for. And maybe your family feels like a curse rather than a blessing. However, I promise that crazy family of yours is a gift and they serve a purpose in your life.
Last week, my sister and I were talking about dysfunctional families and how the way a family functions shapes the way children develop. And we talked about how much you learn from the relationships in your family. Forgiveness. Understanding. Patience. Acceptance. Love. So many lessons can be learned through family. We were specifically remembering huge fights we've had between us over the years and how we learned to forgive one another and then develop and maintain a relationship through the hurt. I never really thought about it in such delicate detail, but it made me incredibly thankful I had a sister to learn forgiveness, loyalty and love from over the years. I believe family serves a significant, specific purpose in our lives. The purpose of your family may be different from the purpose of my family, but each of our families serve a purpose.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Ashley Lucille you have no idea just how dysfunctional my family is!! The only purpose my family serves is to make my life a living hell". And you know what, you're right. I have no idea how dysfunctional your family is and YOU have no idea how dysfunctional my family is or is not. Thankfully I don't need to know the details of your family and you don't need the details of my family to realize family serves a purpose. God uses our families to carry out His purpose for our lives, no matter the depth of dysfunction embedded in our families.
That's not to say, this purpose will be without pain, frustration or a battle along the way. Whenever I'm particularly frustrated with family, I somehow find my way to the book of Genesis and read about Joseph. Joseph's life is so "complicated" it would be hard to truly capture the dysfunction without a long dissertation but I'm going to paint a quick picture of his family:
I could go on but I think you get the picture. Joseph was no stranger to the concept of a dysfunctional family. And yet a very unique thing happened in Joesph's life. God used Joseph and the experience with his family for an amazing purpose. God used his dysfunctional family to carry out His purpose for Joseph's life. Joseph was not defined by his family. His family was not an excuse for him to follow in their dysfunctional footsteps. Joseph's family was the reason he overcame so much in His life.
Genesis 45:5, 7-8
"And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you...But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt."
(Note: Joseph is speaking to his brothers when he found them after they sold him into slavery. Can you hear the forgiveness and love in Joesph's tone?)
His dysfunctional family was the reason God was able to accomplish great things. Joseph ended up being a ruler in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Joseph ended up saving lives through the circumstances and lessons he learned from his dysfunctional family. (To understand the saving lives part, read the entire story in Genesis 37-50.)
So although we don't get to pick our families, our families also don't get to pick how God uses them in our lives. Your family may be completely functional and serve the purpose of unconditional love and support or your family may resemble something like what you might see on The Jerry Springer Show and provide endless opportunities for you to learn difficult lessons. Either way God is using your family to carry out His purpose for your life. And that makes family a gift to cherish.
Family, lessons and purpose,
I seem to be surrounded by pregnant friends or friends trying to get pregnant. And although I don't have kids of my own, I absolutely love the excitement around pregnancy and the joy that comes with being a mom. However, I find it interesting to watch mothers-to-be often contain or hide their joy and excitement until they deem it "safe" to share with the world. And while I understand the fear embedded in the many uncertainties that come with pregnancy, I wonder if fear is stealing our joy at times.
I have a friend who has miscarried more than once in the past; she lost a baby late in pregnancy and hasn't had a baby survive through delivery. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult her pregnancy journey has been. It's been hard enough to watch her live it. My heart breaks for her. And I cover her in prayer regularly. However, I have watched her transform her pain and loss into hope and it has been absolutely amazing. She's pregnant again and she refuses to let fear of losing another baby steal her joy in the experience. I rarely catch up with her outside of social media, so I'm not even sure she realizes how incredibly inspiring she is to others. I've shared her story and her journey with friends struggling through the same fears. She posted their pregnancy test results the day they found out. She said every day counts for them so they were basically breaking the rules regarding waiting to tell people. They waited in the past and it didn't impact the end result for them. So they are taking a different approach and it has been beautiful to watch. They've shared excitement in every step of the journey and although I imagine they do hold onto fear of the unknown, she's not letting that steal her joy. I wish all my pregnant friends could come to this realization and not hold back the excitement and pure joy that should come with having life form inside you. Heck, I wish my non-preggo friends would realize how often we let fear steal our joy in everyday life. Because at the end of the day, bad things are going to happen. The great news is there is nothing that will happen in this world the Lord will not see you through. He will be your strength and perseverance through the bad experiences And its how we persevere through the bad times in life which make the greatest impact.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.
This is a great reminder for all of us. If we live in constant fear of the many "what ifs" in life, we lose out on enjoying life. So cast your fears to the Lord and soak up the journey. Celebrate the here and now and leave tomorrow, well...for tomorrow.
I should probably add a small disclaimer that I have no idea what it feels like to lose a baby or lose a child. I don't even know what it feels like to be pregnant. However, I've stood by many friends who have miscarried and I've cared for many dying babies in the hospital setting. And there is an unique heartbreak in putting a dying baby into the arms of a mother or father when your entire job is to make their baby better. So I confess, I'm writing these thoughts from a tender place of observation and not personal experience. For those parents who have gone through this horrible experience, I understand fear is very, very real to you. I'm just sharing an outsider's perspective and admiring one mother who has seemed to conquer her fear to live out her joy.
So don't miss out on the joy and excitement in life waiting for something bad to happen. And to my many pregnant friends...I am praying for you on this beautiful journey.
Pregnancy, babies and bundles of joy,
It's been an incredibly emotional week in the wake of losing a friend to a drunk driving accident. Yesterday I was a crying mess. I cried as I tried to work. I cried in the car. I cried at Walmart and Petco. Tears even ran down my eyes as I tried to fall asleep last night. The emotion of the week definitely got the best of me. Tears of sorrow and tears of anger.
Last night another friend from childhood summed it up best with a Facebook post reading "With one bad decision from a stranger, her future was taken from us in a heartbeat. I've been sad and hurt but more than anything I've been angry. Angry at a stranger." This describes the roller coaster of my emotions this week; emotions that have landed on anger. I'm angry at this stranger who stole her life and I'm angry at myself for the times in my past I was behind the wheel of a car and shouldn't have been. And I'm broken hearted because Caroline had so much living left to do.
However, my friend continued his Facebook post by reminding us we need to try and forget the drunk driver so we can elevate the memory of Caroline. The lives she touched (she was a teacher) and the fact she always marched to the beat of her own drum. And he is 100% right (Thanks Tom!). I've let myself focus on the evil in the situation and if I focus too long on this stranger, I'm going to lose the memory of Caroline. I'm going to miss the lessons she taught us. If I let anger dwell in my heart too long, the stranger wins. Evil wins. And evil never actually wins in the end.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently from him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more, though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
Sometimes I have to remind myself evil doesn't win in the end. I mean, I know that and I read that in the bible but I don't always live that out in a confident spirit. We are surrounded by evil people and evil things and it's so easy to get lost in your present circumstances, whatever they may be, and lose sight of the hope we have in Jesus. It's easy to focus on the evil but when we do not make a conscious effort to shift focus, we run the risk of anger and bitterness taking up residence in our hearts.
And Caroline would never have allowed anger and bitterness to permanently reside in her heart. She always moved on. She always moved forward no matter the setbacks. So I'm following her lead.
Tears, memories and hope,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.