The Price of Love

Motherhood-1

Grief never ends … But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith … It is the price of love. ~ Unknown

The early hour of the morning made the usually active household silent and still. In the quiet I slipped out of bed…the grayness of the sky matching the color of my heart. In the silence I needed just a few moments to collect myself before my beautiful boys would awake and expect their mama to be ready to celebrate this day dedicated to honoring mothers. Although, truth be told, every boy in my house knows that this day above all in the calendar year is the hardest for me.

Mother’s Day is a little like Russian roulette. I never know what it will be like until it is here. This morning it was exceptionally difficult. Maybe because this year marks the 10th Mother’s Day I have spent without my daughter. Maybe it is because in the last several weeks my mind has wander more often than usual to the thought of “who will take care of my youngest son with autism after my husband and I are gone.” Or maybe it is because I see my oldest and my heart aches for the innocence he lost so long ago…innocence that was shattered by autism and death.

Motherhood did not turn out how I expected it to be at all. I never would have imagined that the source of one of your greatest joys could also be the source of your deepest heartache. I have a good friend and mentor that often reminds me that the depth of love we have is what makes the depth of emotion so strong.

This morning the emotion overwhelmed me and the tears flowed. My arms ached to hold my precious girl, my mind screamed at the cruelty of autism, and my heart ached for a childhood lost. Then it happened…as my sweet husband held my hand while I cried my youngest son came out of his room. First he pointed out a picture on his iPad…yes, when you have autism an iPad is always close by. The picture held no significance it was just a freeze frame of a movie. But he tenderly came up to me, as if sensing something wasn’t quite right, showed me the picture and said “isn’t it beautiful?” And in that moment it was beautiful…his sweet, tender care melted this mama’s heart. But then, as if knowing why my heart ached, he looked up at the pictures hanging on the wall, touched my face and said “look, Baby Cesca.” How did he know? And if that wasn’t enough…my oldest son proceeded to give me a card with a hand written note. I will not share the details, some things are meant to stay private, but I will say it was the most beautiful note I have ever received.

These, my dear sweet friends, are God hugs. They are little ways that God is all around us working in and through the people in our lives to remind us that He sees us and He loves us. When our hearts ache, His heart aches. When our tears flow not only does He catch them but He weeps for the pain His children must endure this side of heaven.

This morning I was reminded of the bittersweet symphony of motherhood. To love so deeply costs us the largest portion of our hearts. I once had a very wise friend tell me, actually right around Mother’s Day early on after my daughter passed away, that God didn’t intended for me to live brokenhearted. This morning I realized how true those words really are. Our children are such a precious blessing that God gives to us. An opportunity for us to have just a taste of His love for us. The cost of that taste is always high…no matter how the story ends. A mother always gives away parts of herself for the betterment of her child…there is no greater cost than that and no greater love.

This is why the bond between mother and child is so strong. It begins the moment that God knits together a precious knew life in their mother’s womb. It is a bond that cannot be full explained or fully understood…it just is. I believe it is God’s way of giving us a precious glimpse of supernatural love…a love beyond anything we can comprehend. A love that we pay a very deep price for but the return is priceless. Isn’t that exactly how God loved us when He allowed His Son to die for the betterment of all His children?

For this reason we celebrate and honor mother’s. For their love, their sacrifice, and their willingness to give it all for their children. This is also why today is so gut wrenching for many. For the ones who long for heavenly reunions and the ones who long to have one to call their own. For the ones who worry after prodigals and the ones who cling beside hospital beds. But this day is also difficult for children too. The ones who long for their mother’s touch or the sound of her voice just once more. And the ones who ache for the mother they never knew or the strained and broken relationship that has caused distance and separation.

The price of love is always high but the reward is much greater than any risk we must take to have it. The reality is, we were created for love and it began before we were ever even born. God’s love has always been with us and always will be. On the days when we feel the most isolated and broken He longs to wrap His arms around us and open our eyes to the beauty in our lives. Today if you have all of your children with you…give them an extra squeeze and make sure they know how much you love them. Today if your mom is still with you make sure you tell her how amazing she is and how much you love her. If your heart is aching today know that you are not alone…you are never alone…God is always with you and His love is always around you. He sees your pain and He longs to ease it…if you will let Him.

Today I have a heart full of gratitude. I am thankful for a beautiful mother who has taught me how to be loyal and passionate, loving and giving. The gifts she has passed on to me have been numerous and she will never truly understand how much my bother and I adore her. I am also thankful for two boys that show their mama in so many ways how much they love me. I am thankful for beautiful friendships that know my pain and speak to my heart in so many ways. I am so so thankful for a husband who cherishes me as a wife and encourages me as a mother. But I am most thankful that this is all just a journey…a pilgrimage home. Where heavenly reunions are sweeter than I could ever imagine and the price of love is fully realized.

 

 

New Beginnings…

Hello…remember me?!?! You know the would be blogger that has become an occasional writer. And by occasional I mean two blogs a year, if I’m lucky. Well I’m back. Some might be happy about this grand announcement while others might roll their eyes and say “who cares!” Whatever the case may be I have reminded myself this morning that I don’t write for the applause of an audience, I write because God has wired me for it. Writing is in my soul, my artistic expression…the page is my canvas and words are my symphony. It really doesn’t matter how they are received…well maybe just a little. When God stirs the words in my soul this blogs come back to life.

So where has God been? Why hasn’t He stirred anything in me for months? Well rest assured my friends…God hasn’t gone anywhere. It is your friendly writer who has let the busyness of life drown out all the words God has stirred up in me. Who knows how many I have sped right by in the frantic pace I have been living my life.

When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. ~ Lysa TerKeurst

Several months ago we were in a sermon series at our church called Encounters. This series journeyed through the Gospel of Luke breaking down different encounters Jesus had with people during His ministry here on earth. During the series I preached a message out of Luke chapter 10 about two sisters, Mary and Martha. Now if you are not familiar with the story let me break it down real fast. Jesus, with His disciples, are traveling through a village named Bethany. They stop at the home of Jesus’ really good friends Mary and Martha. The story is only 5 verses long but Jesus, known for making the most of His time, teaches a lesson that has been stirring in me since January.

Two sisters…two very different encounters with Jesus. As Jesus enters the home Mary is content to simply sit at His feet. A position that suggests, according to first century  tradition, that Mary was ready to be instructed. She was hanging on every word Jesus said…it was her lifeline…her source of how she would continue to live and serve. Mary was in a posture to receive all that her Lord wanted to pour into her. Meanwhile the story tells us that Martha is distracted by all her preparations. The Greek word for distracted means “to be dragged around in circles.” Martha is literally running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Can any of you relate to that?!?! How often do you feel like your hectic pace has you being dragged around in circles…running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Now you have to know Martha wasn’t busy doing frivolous stuff. It says she was busy with her preparations. The Greek word for preparations means “serving” or “ministering.” Martha is busy doing really good stuff…she’s serving others. But the story tells us that all this busy work has left her frantic and it has caused her to become worried and bothered. She’s mad at her sister and she’s losing her patience with Jesus. Two people she loves dearly are frustrating her on every level not because they are doing anything wrong but because they aren’t falling in line with her agenda and expectations.

STOP right there. This blog is not meant to shame anyone…it’s sole purpose is to communicate what God has revealed to me and quite possibly might want to speak into you as well. However, I have to ask the question…how many of you, in the busy and hectic pace of your lives tend to lash out or get frustrated with those you love the most; your spouse and your kids usually suffer the most at the mouth of the frantic and rushed. Don’t worry I won’t make you post your answer in the comment section but I do want you to be honest with yourself..no matter how much it might sting. Ok…i’ll go first…my name is Nikki and I am a Martha! Yes, sometimes my husband says to me “why are you so nice to everyone else and have nothing left for me?” And if that doesn’t hurt enough how about the moment last week when my mind was so overcrowded with a to-do list that I lost it on my son for a really stupid reason. In a wise beyond his years kinda way he looked at me and simply said “mom, you’re better than that.” OUCH!!!!!!!! Dagger meet heart, insert and twist. It’s OK girls! We are all works in progress. We will never get it all right. I’m just praying to keep Sammy’s future therapy costs to a bear minimum.

Let’s be honest, Martha is the poster child for the modern day multi-tasker and most of us can identify with her. But in reality she has allowed a lot of really good stuff get in the way of what was most important…spending time with Jesus. Jesus, her good friend, had become so familiar to her…His presence had become so ordinary to her that she failed to slow down long enough to simply be present in the moment with her Savior!!!! She traded in the awe and wonder we experience at His feet for an overwhelming to do list. How often do we do that? We justify our lack of connection and intimacy with Jesus because of the busy season of our lives. We act as if He should understand being shoved to the back burner because ,after all, He is Jesus…He’s not going anywhere. Well, maybe not you but I am sure you have a friend that can relate.

As the story progresses Jesus tells Martha “you are worried and bothered by so many things but only one thing is necessary. For Mary has chosen the good part and it will not be taken from her.”  What Jesus is saying in a nutshell…”I don’t care what you are doing!!! How good it is, how beneficial…even serving me. NOTHING…NO activity is more important than spending time with Me…PERIOD!!!!” And don’t miss the most important part…Mary CHOSE the good part. I love that! Mary had to make a conscious choice to put Jesus first!! That means if Mary can choose it so can Martha.

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself…the challenge is to silence the mind. ~ Caroline Myss

This past Friday night I had the awesome opportunity to preach at a revival service. Revival is no small thing. It is God’s people crying out for a supernatural movement of God…an igniting of the Holy Spirit that will sweep our land like wildfire…a movement of the name of Jesus like our generation has never known…accomplishing the things that can only happen with the overwhelming power and presence of God. As I prepared God laid these precious sisters on my heart again. I wasn’t sure how it would all play out but I knew this was the message God wanted me to share.

Revival or the reawakening of God’s people is not something we can orchestrate…we can’t work harder to make it happen…it doesn’t fit neatly into our agendas or timing…and our expectations will always limit it. You see revival ALWAYS begins at the feet of Jesus…in our Savior’s presence…listening for His still, soft voice. You cannot do revival you have to be revival. As the presence of Jesus consumes you He will overflow out of you into others…that is how revival starts. It’s personal, individual, and it happens at the feet of Jesus.

The congregation I spoke to is singularly focused on revival for the next 21 days. For anyone who has ever done the 21 Day Fix workout DVD knows “It takes 21 days to start a new habit” So for the next 21 days I challenged them to give Jesus their undistracted devotion. A true devotion…not a rushed 5 minutes of rattling off everything you want Him to do for you…but a time of quieting their souls at the feet of their Savior. Ultimately this was a challenge to deepen ones intimacy with Christ. I wonder what would happen if all of God’s people challenged themselves this way. Call me crazy but my guess would be…REVIVAL!!!

When you’re a preacher or teacher of God’s word it’s funny how He lays a message on your heart to share with others only to discover that He actually wanted to speak to you. I have no doubt that God wanted to use Mary and Martha to speak into the people of the church I spoke at. But I know with 1000% certainty He also wanted to grab my attention. Over the last several days He has posed this question to my heart…”how many times will you study these sisters before you put down the mantle of Martha?”

For so long I have wondered where my words have gone. Why haven’t I been inspired to write in months. Through the most controversial election our country has ever known I never felt I had the right words to share…why?!?! Because I have been so busy being Martha. On paper I am doing really good things but i’m missing out on giving Jesus my undistracted devotion.  My soul misses her Savior…she longs to sit quietly at His feet. To rediscover the awe and wonder that happens when we linger in His presence rather than rush right by Him.

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on. ~ Zayn Malik

The beauty of God is that He never leaves His children stuck. Stuck in old patterns, stuck in bad habits, stuck in the messes we make when we try to do things in our own strength. He reveals truth, not to shame us, but to remind us there is a better way. So today my underwhelmed soul publicly declare “NO MORE” to my overwhelmed schedule. Just like Mary, I am choosing the good part…I choose Jesus. I, like so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ long for revival but God has made it abundantly clear to me that collective revival MUST begin with personal revival.

Today I turn the page. My story is not stuck…a new chapter is simply beginning. A chapter that will consist of boundaries and margin, sacred spaces and silence, Jesus’ presence and God’s heart. In this season I may have to say “no”…a lot. Please don’t take it personally….it’s not you, it’s me. Sometimes in our quest for more of Jesus we have to let go of others expectations of us. We have to be willing to sacrifice some of the really good stuff for the very BEST stuff.

I read in my devotional today that the presence of God is free but His heart will cost you. It takes time and intentionality to know the heart of God. However once you discover the treasure of God’s heart then you can dream BIG God dreams and be free to chase them. That is a price I am more than willing to pay. How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The Silver Lining.

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” ~ James Earl Jones

My name is Nikki Cat and I miss my blog. Writing has become my outlet and by neglecting my blog I have become like a sculptor with no clay or a musician with no instrument. Part of me is missing. The part of me that brings harmony to the discord and chaos. The part of me that finds humor in laughing at my self or finds joy in the movement of beauty around me. There is no outlet so it all stays bundled inside…with no place to go. Thoughts swim in my head…constantly in motion but going nowhere. The writer puts the words to a page so infrequently that slowly a dream begins to die.

Over the last several days I have been reminded that dreams are goals just waiting to be achieved. A person who doesn’t dream and doesn’t set goals is someone sitting on the sideline of life. They are merely are going through the motions as they pass through this life into the next. Today I decided I wanted my dream back. I set the goal…I will carve out time in my schedule to blog. I even got myself an accountability partner. One who is so serious about her role that she texted my husband and said “Sorry buddy, no Parenthood  on Netflix tonight my girl needs to write.” Well that is a loose paraphrase but that’s what she meant. Good girlfriends are the BEST!!!

As I pondered what I what would write I started with a title “The Silver Lining” How surprised I was when I open WordPress to discover I had started a blog with the exact same title nine months ago but did nothing with it. I had a title, a picture, and a quote but absolutely nothing written. Now I am not a coincidence girl…I am believer in timing…it is everything. So today I will complete what my heart longed to say nine months ago but didn’t quite have the words.

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depth it has its pearls too.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

The new year creeps in the way it does every year. Sometimes in a flurry of activity, sometimes in the calm stillness of a quiet evening, for some it will even pass by without a second thought as sleep consumes what is too painful to face. Yes…for some the new year brings to mind what has been lost, what has been fractured, what has been broken and the heart aches for what will never be again.

10 years ago this month our son was diagnosed with autism…

8 years ago this week our precious baby girl went home to Jesus…

Do you hear it?!?! The sound of shattered dreams. The shards of glass that encompass the dream of a well lived life splinter everywhere. When your dreams explode like that how do you ever dare to dream again?

“Dance on broken glass, build castles with shattered dreams and wear your tears like precious pearls. Proud. Strong. Unshakeable.”      ~ Anita Krizzan

The light at the end of the tunnel…the silver lining…anyone who has walked a painful road has struggled to see it. Some don’t even long to see it because the pain and the darkness keeps you connected to all that has been lost. But what if there is more? What if there is salve so powerful that it will take away the sting of facing a new year? What if your shattered dream actually becomes the catalyst to your greatest dreams?

This week I have been reminded that dreams are a gift, a gift from God. Life is hard and it can flat-out suck at times, how’s that for brutal honesty? But shattered dreams are not a confirmation that God doesn’t exist or that He abandons us. Rather, shattered dreams are the evidence of how broken our world actually is. They remind us that pain and suffering do not discriminate in a dying world.

But there IS a silver lining…

Will you open your eyes long enough to catch a glimpse of it?

When we walk in the valley of shattered dreams we can choose to curse God and abandon any hope of ever dreaming again or we can embrace Him and dare to do the unthinkable and dream bigger than we ever thought possible. I think we must first understand that the dreams for our lives are not are own. The dream for our lives was actually originated as God created us with His own hand, breathing His life into us, and in His very own image. He had a purpose for us. But the brokenness of sin entering this world fractured that dream. However, God was not content to let it end there. Instead He would suffer the greatest shattered dream ever known as His Son hung on a cross  so that we, the broken, battered, and disconnected, could once again be reunited with the One who loves us. The silver lining in the midst of the pain was the beauty of the reconciliation and restoration that would come. The dream that was shattered by the death of God’s Son , Jesus Christ, was the catalyst for His greatest dream…Jesus conquering the grave so His beloved children,all of us, could be redeemed. Out of much pain came much joy. He took what was meant to destroy and He turned into the greatest victory dance ever known. And God has that same desire for His children. As our hearts break so does His. He wants to take the pain  that was meant to destroy us and turn into the very source of all that we can become as He heals us. But you have to open your eyes and see Him, our silver lining. You have to look for the hand print of God and open your heart to His healing touch.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost.

Dreaming anew is a choice…

The new year is the greatest opportunity to ignite the flame of old dreams whose light has died or discover new dreams lurking deep within our hearts. We all have dreams, some of us have just done a really good job of burying them under the rubble of crumbled expectations and shattered dreams.

When our dreams are shattered the easiest way to protect ourselves is to never dream again. If I had chosen this option my heart would have been hardened by the bitterness of disappointment and loss. My eyes would have been blinded to the love and grace all around me. I would have been content sitting on the sideline of life. However, I took the road less traveled and it has made all the difference.I decided to trust God. Even when I didn’t understand and even when I hated the process…I believed He could see more than I ever could.

Does the pain of the crumbled expectations and shattered dreams still exist for me…I wouldn’t be human if I said “no.” But the ultimate silver lining is that this isn’t the end. The ultimate dream has yet to come true…the day I walk in the heavenly realm where autism no longer exists and reunions are sweeter than I can ever imagine. Until that day I choose to trust the God who shattered His own dream for the greater dream of loving me. I choose to dream BIG and make a difference in the name of my Savior who carried me when the weight of the shattered dream brought me to my knees and healed my broken heart.

The silver lining is that with the new year comes a new opportunity to reignite the dreams that God ignited in me when I was too scared to dream again. The melancholy of the writer with no words is diminished in the presence of the One who gives meaning to everything worth writing about.

The silver lining is that every day of every year I get the privilege to serve the One who loved me first and loved me most.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” ~ Cinderella

 

Be Kind

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” ~ H.D. Thoreau

When you are a communicator whether by the written word or oration you want to grab people’s attention. You look for that catchy phrase, the story that can weave the web that will draw your audience in. However, sometimes simplicity says far more than grand tales or sticky statements. While culture tells us to bling it out or enhance its appearance with flashy baubles and accessories, simplicity strips it all away and shows us beauty in the rawest form. Simplicity reminds us that in its purest form God’s creation has a natural beauty that we often miss in the rush of insignificant details.

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” ~ Jay Danzie

Today was a day like any other day, I had a schedule and I needed to stick to it. It’s the first of the month, which for me means a trip to our local county office for the department of community mental health. I had to turn in paperwork for the aides who work with my son. This is always a quick trip…in the door, paperwork dropped off, and out the door. The whole process usually takes about 5 minutes at most. However, today was different…today I met Ken.

As I entered the office I encountered a severely disabled man and his care giver. I soon discovered that the reason they had come to the office was a situation that this particular office could not help him with. What struck me instantly was neither the care giver nor the receptionist had a smile on their face. In fact both ladies looked somewhat annoyed with the man. As he continued to ask questions the receptionist seemed increasingly agitated. Now, I’m not going to lie, normally I would have been slightly put out because my 5 minute experience was already sitting at about 10 and I had yet to drop off my paperwork. However, I was calm, not irritated at all. Finally, the man said to the receptionist “I remember you. You were my first case worker. It is nice to see you again.” and with no smile and no warmth the women replied “nice to see you too.” Her attitude was so cold she could have solved the global warming issue in an instant.

In the moments that followed, the man exited my day as quickly as he entered it…or so I thought. With my paperwork dropped off I was on my way. But as I left the man and his care giver hadn’t gotten far in their own quest to leave. Not wanting to be rude, but needing to be on my way, I carefully maneuvered around the man’s wheelchair to make my departure. That’s when the course of my day totally changed. As I passed by I heard the voice, that I now recognized, say “are you a caregiver?” I turned with a smile “No, I have a son with autism and I had to drop off paperwork for his caregivers.” He smiled back, “My name is Ken” I couldn’t walk away now, “Hi Ken. I’m Nikki, it’s so nice to meet you.” He told me was 40 years old, just a year older than me, and he had been on his own with caregivers since he was 18. I tried to wrap my mind around his circumstances but I just couldn’t. Then his face changed a bit, he was pondering what he would say next. “Can I ask you a question?” Of course he could.  “Is it hard to have a child with special needs?” From that point Ken and I carried on a wonderful conversation. I admitted the challenges I face as I watch my son struggle but I also shared the joys of celebrating every little accomplishment like it was reaching the top of Everest. In turn Ken shared how humbling it is to need help with everything, from putting on his shoes to going to the bathroom. I soon realized Ken just wanted someone to talk to. Someone who was actually interested in what he had to say…he longed to be known. He also longs for a girlfriend, he told me she hasn’t come along…yet!

“I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! ~ Psalm 116: 1-2

I felt it…I knew it was coming as the Spirit began to stir in me.  I knew this was a God ordained moment so I let all my inhibitions melt away and the words tumbled from my mouth, “Ken, can I pray with you?” Without hesitation Ken grabbed hold of my hand. I praised my God for the gift of Ken, for blessing my day with his presence, and prayed that he would remind Ken, often, that he was wonderfully made for a plan and a purpose. With tears in his eyes, still holding my hand, Ken reminded me that God would never give me more than I could handle and I needed to stand firm on God’s promises because He is faithful. To which I reminded Ken that he could do all things through the One that gives him strength.

After a few more words exchanged my new friend drifted out of life. I wonder if Ken will ever know how profoundly he impacted my day and my life for that matter? It would have been so easy in my busyness to pretend like I ever never heard Ken call out to me. I could have justified the brush off all day long in my head. But as I stood in that office with the unsmiling caregiver and receptionist I couldn’t help but think of my own son. What happens when I am not here? Will people treat him with the same cold disdain? I had no idea in just a few moments God would test my ability to choose what matters most, to say a best yes and truly experience intentional investment.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures.” ~ Bob Kerrey

All day I have reflected on my encounter Ken. The single thought that has been etched in my mind is how he grabbed my hand and held it as we prayed. I wonder how long it has been since anyone has held Ken’s hand simply as a gesture of kindness, friendship, or love? When was the last time he felt a tender touch that told him that he had value and worth?

As I ponder I hear the echo of my Savior words “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Second to loving Him, God wants us to love one another. But in order to love one another we actually need to slow down long enough to notice people. We have to strip away all the baubles and the bling and to find the raw, natural beauty found at the heart of the simplest of concepts…kindness.

“In the end, only kindness matters.” ~ Jewel from the song Hands

Had it been left up to me I would have walked right past Ken today. Busy in my own thoughts, my own life, my own world. I would have missed a tremendous blessing. I cannot help but wonder how many blessings we walk right past every day? Little ways that God shows us He is always with us we miss because we are too distracted by the details to notice the important. How many opportunities to be the light and love of Christ do we squander because the noise of our chatterboxes has tuned out the still, soft voice of the Spirit prompting us to move?

Tonight as I write I am reminded that my Savior was never too distracted to invest in people. I see Jesus with the woman at the well, calling Zaccheaus down from the tree, eating at the table of Matthew the tax collector, healing the woman who was bleeding, and the list goes on. Kindness, born out of love, flowed out of Jesus and into those who encountered Him. The very people who society showed a cold disdain for, Jesus showed the tender touch of compassion and love. Today I was blessed with a Jesus moment…his name was Ken, the humble man who chose to intentionally invest in me. He illuminated the light of our Savior as he showed me kindness and reminded me of the beauty that can be found when we simply follow Jesus’ commands to love others as we desire to be loved. What a special gift I received. I will treasure it by following Ken’s example and investing in others, even for the briefest of moments.

 

 

Comfortable In Your Own Skin

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Be yourself. Sounds easy enough, yet at some level it is the very thing that many of us struggle with the most. Why? Probably because we have parked ourselves on the corner of  Comparison Dr. and Not Good Enough Ln. which often leads us to one of two places… down the Insecurity Highway or along the Discontented Freeway. I mean let’s be honest, all one needs to do is enter the vortex known as Facebook to see how AWESOME life is for everyone else. The ultimate highlight reel to show you just how imperfect your life really is.

It’s funny, I actually wrote the above paragraph twelve days ago. My heart had been aching to write for quite some time so I set out to find my sweet spot once again. I got as far as that paragraph and then abruptly I stopped. What does a writer do when they have no words…I mean, literally the words would not come and they are somewhat essential to a blog post. So I walked away.

This morning I sat in staff prayer in tears. I was so defeated and I found myself confessing to God that just yesterday I longed to be anybody but me. I was beaten up…defeated and deflated. And even this morning in a room full of people I felt all alone. I was once again transported back to the place of isolation where nobody around me really understood my struggle. Part of me longs to keep it that way…because if I can convince them the struggle is minimal then maybe I can believe it too.

When you are a mother of autism you long for the day when you won’t see your child struggle at every turn. You cherish every little victory and rejoice when every hurdle is jumped. However, the unfortunate reality of autism is that just because a hurdle has been conquered doesn’t mean it will not reappear… 10 feet taller than it was the first time around. This is where I am living right now. Hurdles my son overcame years ago, I mean like 8 years ago, have resurfaced. We are back to melting down multiple times a day, obsessive compulsive behaviors off the charts. What is happening? I feel like I have climbed half way up Mt. Everest just to have someone kick me back down to the bottom. I gave everything I had to make the first climb and now part of me just wants to lay at the foot of the mountain and cry. It’s too big…I can’t make it move or wish it away, and I’m not sure I have the strength to climb again. So for the briefest moment I lay there wondering what it would be like to be someone else.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglass

The beauty of who we are is not actually us at all, but rather it is whose image we were created in. That truth pierces my heart. My desire to escape, to be somebody else shouts “God you messed up!”  I am so consumed with the struggle that I lose sight of who I am. In the moment, however brief it is, I have forgotten whom dwells within me and the power He gives me.  I am so willing to concede defeat to autism when I have yet to fall on my face in prayer to the One who can actually remedy the situation. My spirit cries out “NO” while my flesh wants to crumble. As I cry it all out to Jesus…clarity settles in and I am reminded that His power is made perfect in my weakness. While the struggle is real and it is hard, it does not have the power to defeat that which belongs to God. We all have these moments, as hard as it is to admit…where the truth of our faith meets the reality of our circumstances. The world tells us to wallow, and believe me you can have a moment…but you cannot stay there. Because it’s in the midst of the struggle that God does His greatest work. It’s in the struggle that the power of the Holy Spirit comes alive within us. But…yes, there is always a but…will you let Him? the choice is always yours.

All around me I see it…the struggle. People looking into other people’s lives through the highlight reel longing to be someone else. When in reality, we all have struggles. We all have mountains before us at some point in our lives. Face to face with the mountain we all have a choice to make…we can lay at the bottom crying about how it’s too big and impossible to climb or we can trust that the One who dwells within us will give us provision for the journey. He promises that he will not fail or forsake us…but will we be audacious enough to pray without boundaries and bring every need before Him as if we TRULY trust He can and will meet our needs?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~ Psalm 139:14

Tonight I sit here and these words, like soothing balm, wash over my beaten up spirit. I am reminded that autism doesn’t change this fact for my son…he is beautifully and wonderfully made. His identity is not defined by autism. His identity is wrapped up in one single truth…he is an image bearer of God. Uniquely created to serve a plan and a purpose far beyond what this worried mama could ever imagine. Because the one who created him loves him more than I ever could. Ahhhh…but here is the kicker… if I am going to embrace this truth for my son, then I must embrace it for myself as well. I too am fearfully and wonderfully made, uniquely equipped serve a plan and a purpose far more important than my own agenda and my own desire for a seemingly “normal” life.

Here I stand at the foot of the mountain again, I am weary and worn out. Climbing the mountain is hard…getting kicked back down is brutal. But as the dust settles from the haze of defeat I am reminded that I never made the first climb in my own strength and I will not climb again alone. I go with the full armor of God to protect me and the power of the Holy Spirit within me.

When I started this blog twelve days ago I would have never guessed this was the route it would go. That it would be a place where I would put the rawness of my own struggle out on display…to stretch out of my comfort zone to find comfort in who I am.

I guess to be comfortable in our own skin is being able to say “here I am” flawed and imperfect, worn out and weary, yet fearfully and wonderfully made. To be comfortable in our own skin is to recognize that what makes us beautiful and whole is not a physical attribute, or a picture perfect life. It comes when you know who you are and I know that regardless of my circumstances, I am a chosen daughter of God, created in His image to do His work, He will not forsake me or fail me…this I know full well.

 

A Mother’s Heart

“How many kids do you have?” Such a simple and straight forward question, yet it is the most difficult question for me to answer. When I first meet people and small talk ensues that question lingers on the horizon. My heart races and my palms sweat. I paste a smile on my face and politely the word “two” passes my lips all while my brain is screaming THREE!!!!! I remember years ago as I would give my standard “two boys”, I had a few people who  excitedly said, “are you going to try for a girl?” The bile would rise and I would choke out “no, I think we are done.” Through it all, the smile on my face never reaches my eyes. In the moment the lie of omission is easier than the truth. Inevitably after the “how many kids do you have?” question is answered the follow-up question is always “how old are they?”  I have never felt comfortable saying “my oldest son is 13, my youngest son is 11, and my daughter is deceased.” Seven and half years later just typing the word deceased brings tears to my eyes. Why in the world would I ever want to share such a deep corner of my heart as I am first making someones acquaintance? I guess deep down I have come to a place where I am protective of my daughter’s memory…I love to talk to about her and I treasure moments when others talk about her. But to me, her memory is too precious to merely share as I engage in blase social niceties. So I politely answer “two”…it escapes my mouth as easily as “fine” rolls off the tongue of the deeply broken person answering the question “how are you?”

“Her absence is the like the sky, spread over everything.” ~ C.S. Lewis

When a heart grieves it has to jump over the hurdles of all the firsts. The firsts are the worst…for each first brings a fresh wave of the pain and loss you foolishly thought was easing. When the firsts conclude days begin to flow into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it the months have flowed into years. Yet no matter how many years pass by there is one day of the year I struggle with more than any other day. It is not my daughter’s birthday and it’s not the anniversary of her death. No, on those days I often find myself celebrating the precious life that God blessed us with for just the briefest of moments…on those days my heart has opened to the beauty of how God used her short life to make an incredible impact for His kingdom…on those days I sit back in awe of God and I truly celebrate the author and the giver of life. However, with this blog I have always promised full transparency and the reality is…I struggle with Mother’s Day. It is the single hardest day of the year for me. For me, motherhood has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known and the most intense heartbreak. In the paradox of joy and heartache I struggle to celebrate. I often smile at whatever gift my precious boys bestow upon me when all the while my heart aches for the one gift I can never have…all my children with me on Mother’s Day.

“On a day when I should be rejoicing for all the blessings motherhood has brought me, and I have been blessed abundantly through motherhood. But I find myself reflecting on the thought that while motherhood has brought me overwhelming joy it also brought overwhelming heartbreak. I never imagined how many ways a heart can be broken until I stepped into the role of motherhood. Not that I would trade a single one of those moments. It just gets to be too much @ times. How to explain the indescribable void you feel on mother’s day when all your children are no longer with you. When you long to hold them all close to you and you cannot because one of them is gone…”

Journal entry Mother’s Day 2010

I remember it vividly…Mother’s Day 2011. I started the day with the same pit in my stomach that had been there the three previous Mother’s Days since losing my daughter. As I sat in church, the feeling came…it felt like the walls were starting to cave in around me. Although my breathing was normal, I felt like I was gasping for air…panting like someone who was a breath away from running out of air. Then it happened…the need to run. I bolted out of the sanctuary and into the bathroom. A meltdown ensued. In that moment I wanted to be anywhere but there. I didn’t want to see anyone and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my husband out of service so we could just go home. The door crept open and as I hid in the back I prayed that whoever had entered wouldn’t even realize I was there. But God knew exactly what I needed. Through the door came a precious friend who proceeded to hold me as I sobbed uncontrollably. On that day I collected myself and I made this declaration…”I just need to accept that for the rest of my life I will be brokenhearted.” The words flowed out of me like bricks that would build a fortress around my broken heart. As if by simply recognizing my ailment I would no longer suffer from public meltdowns because I had safely locked it away behind the wall of “I’m fine!” As I exited the bathroom that day I honestly never thought my friend and I would ever revisit the moment. However, a week later she came to me…hesitant but determined. God had spoken to her about me in her prayer time and she obediently delivered this message. “I don’t think you are meant to be brokenhearted forever. God did not give you Francesca to break your heart” I was stunned…by the courage it took her to speak those words to me and by the power of what she had said. Can you even comprehend the freedom that was wrapped up in those words? I didn’t have to live a facade…pretending to not be hurting all while carefully guarding heart that I thought was irreparable. In her words came the power of healing. They didn’t erase the struggle but they did remind me of something I had forgotten…God truly does heal the brokenhearted…in the beauty of His presence and grace He binds up our wounds. But like any wound the scars of a broken heart still remain, always there to remind me of the journey, the hand print of a life that deeply and radically changed the course of my own. On some days the scar gets irritated, its presence is more pronounced…for me that day is Mother’s Day. It’s the day when the joy found in my boys meets the ache I still have for my daughter.

“A sensitive soul sees the world through the lens of love” ~ Anonymous

Mother’s Day truly is a great day. Motherhood is a precious blessing that should be celebrated. It’s a very hard and often, a thankless job. Honestly it’s the single hardest, yet, the single most rewarding accomplishment of my life. So I am all for taking a day to celebrate all the ladies who are mom’s…biologically and of the heart. However, this is a day when many mothers and children come face to face with a pain or a hurt they tucked away. In my own loss God has made me acutely aware that while this is a day of celebration, there are many who suffer heartache on this day. The woman who so desperately wants a child yet motherhood has alluded her wrestles with her emotions, the orphan who has never known their mother feels more alone, the child who suffers from the loss of their mother longs for just one more touch, children and mother’s feel the wounds of fractured relationships, a mother sits and cries for the prodigal in her life, and there is the mother who will ache to hold the child that is no longer present in this world. The list of the hearts that will ache this Sunday are many. A tender touch, a simple hug, a word of encouragement…these could be the very things, while subtle, that take away some of the sting that Mother’s Day brings. I’ll never forget the day my sweet friend came to remind me of who my God is. The sensitivity of her soul made her available to help soothe the ache of my heart. Her kindness and love were one of many ways that God began to bind my wounds and heal my broken heart. My prayer is that this Sunday we would all be sensitive to the hearts that ache around us. To recognize that as we celebrate we may know someone who is silently weeping. Be sensitive…God might just call you to be the blessing that a hurting heart so desperately needs.

 

 

 

Simply Grace

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet…”

Human nature…it gets me every time. I read it in the headlines, see it on the television, and who am I kidding…I struggle with it. This idea of grace, it is so foreign to us. It doesn’t come naturally. We are conditioned to think and feel a certain way about people based upon a whole lot of things that matter not. We allow appearance, status, accomplishment, or lack of all the above to formulate what we think or how we feel about one another. Even if there is depth to a person character, passion within their heart, grace flowing from their soul we sometimes miss it because we struggle so deeply with our own inability to understand the full selflessness of grace.

So many of us are so desperate to be heard that often times words flow from our mouths before the full weight of our words can be considered. I cringe as I type…how often have I said an insensitive word, vented my anger before thinking a situation fully through, been rash to judge based on the superficial? How different the world would be if we were truly the change we wished to see, if we offered the same of kind of love that was lavished on us when we were so undeserving of it. What is so radical about Jesus Christ is this small, unassuming five letter word…G R A C E. Who knew five letters could carry so much weight…could be the catalyst to change the world. Yet so many of us who claim to love Jesus struggle with showing the very thing He lavished so freely upon us. Grace often alludes us even as we desire to grow closer to the Savior who is the very embodiment of it.

“Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped…”

As turn I on the evening news I cannot help but be discouraged. In fact I often find myself avoiding the television rather than engaging in the current events of the world. It is difficult to keep your head above the all consuming cultural wave that claims we have the right to demand things our way. Race riots rage, crime flourishes, relationships fracture…as the human condition slips further away from what we were created for…to be worshipers of God. We have been caught up in the vortex of self and if you do not serve me or my desires you are disposable…not worth my time. The image of God has become so distorted that for many it’s hard to remember that this whole thing called life is not about us at all but all about Him. Even in the realm of knowing Him we still stomp our feet when things don’t go our way…we debate to prove we are right…we shout truth only to find that where there is no grace there will be no one listening.

“Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us…”

When will forgive each other of the unpardonable sin of being different? Now that is not fuzzy theology…it’s actually not theology at all. You see, we humans struggle with our differences all the while God shakes His head in disbelief. Our differences are all the beautiful elements that make up His collective masterpiece and yet we miss it over and over again. Instead of picking one another up we delight in each others shortcomings or weaknesses…it makes us feel better about ourselves. Or even worse we exploit the least of these instead of taking care of them. We harbor bitterness and anger…refusing to offer forgiveness. Why oh why do we hold ourselves in the bondage that Christ died to set us free from? Why oh why do we not emulate our Savior? As His blood heals the wounds of our sin why do we struggle to extend the grace He so richly showed us?

“Charity is expecting the best of each other.” ~ Elder Marvin J. Ashton

I write this blog not to condemn others for I am also guilty of not extending grace. For letting my wants, desires, opinions, and preconceived notions override and cloud my vision. No, I write this blog to remind us all that we were meant for so much more…God desires so much for us and from us.

I have a friend that I often tease, I tell her that she needs to teach a grace class and I can be her first student. She exemplifies the simple, beautiful grace that our Savior Jesus Christ demonstrated. It’s in the softness of a gentle touch, the encouragement of a kind word, a new perspective offered when disappointments and anger arise, it’s the sweet symphony of acknowledging a wound or a hurt yet understanding that with every set back and trial comes a great opportunity for growth. It is in the knowing that life is messy and hard for everybody and sometimes we need to step aside of ourselves to recognize the season of life someone else is in. Grace is understanding that it’s not all about me, it looks at the big picture. Grace is what will resonate with someone long after a moment is over.

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

What is so radical about grace is that it is so counter-cultural. It defies everything we have been taught to be true. That life operates on some sort of merit scale, the more you do the more you earn. The beauty of grace is God exclaiming His love for His people regardless of their brokeness, regardless of what they can or cannot do, regardless of their social status, wealth, or accomplishments, regardless if the world finds them appealing or not. God’s grace is demonstrated so powerfully in that he loved us enough to save us, through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, from the sin that separates us from Him. God loves us all and He has uniquely created us for a purpose in His kingdom…His desire is to transform lives. Those who live in the dark do not even realize this and those living in the light often allow their focus to become blurred from what matters most to God. Be the change we wish to see in the world…if Christ followers lived a life of radical grace, grace like Jesus demonstrated, how the world might change, how they might stop to pay attention. Grace is indescribable until you receive it…then it doesn’t need to be described at all. It was never meant to be an essay or a short-story…it was always meant to be a lifestyle.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

Tonight I had a gut check. I desired grace to be demonstrated in others when I struggled to extend it myself. As I sat down to type I recognized that grace is something many of us struggle with. I was prompted by a holy discontent burning within me…a discontent with myself. Grace and love have been lavished on me through my Savior, Jesus Christ how can I not in turn pour that very grace out unto others? He is the hope of the world and He chooses to use me and every other Christ follower to be His light…to illuminate a darkened world. What an honor and privilege that is. There is NOTHING greater that I can do in this life than be the light of Jesus Christ. How can I do that? I will be the change I wish to see in the world by living a life of radical grace. I will show kindness and consideration. I will give the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgment. I will show compassion and understanding. I will remember what matters most to God should matter most to me and that is the heart of a person. I will recognize that God does not make mistakes. He creates us all uniquely to bring something fresh and vibrant to the tapestry of life. We all matter, we are all important, and Christ died so that we all may live. That my friends is what grace is all about.

 

Undone

“And they lived happily ever after…”

I don’t know anyone who wishes for a life of difficulty or uncertainty.  In fact, I can confidently say that most of us sign up for the fairy tale at a very young age.  You know…knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress and they live happily ever after in a 2 story Cape Cod with a white picket fence in a Mayberry like town. Sounds about right doesn’t it?  It’s interesting because there are two very distinct definitions for fairy tale and it is very obvious which one we all prefer…

fairy tale (noun) 1)  story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending 2) a made-up story usually designed to mislead.

I have to be honest, that second definition never even crossed my mind, yet as I read it I realized that this truly is the correct definition.  Do fairy tales not mislead us?  Do they not make us believe that the lowly servant girl can marry a prince, that true loves kiss will erase all difficulties and when the dragon is slain all will live happily ever after.

“Authenticity ministers far more than put-togetherness.  And vulnerability builds a far stronger bond than perfection.” ~ Michele Cushatt

An unexpected life…who cannot relate to that…are we all not living one?  If we all think back to our childhood aspirations, I bet few of our lives actually turned out they way we dreamed they would.  Well maybe I shouldn’t speak for you, but last time I checked I didn’t end up with a law degree from Georgetown, I never entered the Washington political scene, and I am not running for president in 2016…LOL…nope my fairy tale did not come true…not even close.  In fact, when I think about the dreams of my youth I wonder if God would have been able to speak into my life louder than my own ambitions.  Thankfully, I’ll never have to know.  At 18 the reality of an unexpected life put me on a very different road…one that lead me directly into God’s plan.  Of course, I took the scenic route and I was derailed a time or two but God used this time of unexpectedness to speak His truth into me.  I would love to say that as I gave my life to Christ my “happily ever after” came to be, but the reality is that the most difficult parts of my life came after I became a Christ follower.  A child diagnosed with autism and losing a child to SIDS is where the reality of my life shattered any childhood fairy tales that lingered in my dreams.  It was in these valleys that I had to make peace with an unexpected life.  My words fail me as I try to articulate the ferocity in which the pendulum of emotion swings when you walk the darkest roads of life.  I have often wondered if there would ever be a way that I could fully communicate what it feels like to be empty, when nothing makes sense and you cling to God with what little strength you have left.  You wrestle with fear and doubt…you cannot help your mind from wandering to all the things that should have been…the very things that would have made your life normal and good, the fairy tale the child in you dreamed it would be.  In the end, I think the one thing we all long for more than anything is the simple knowledge that we are not alone.  That in a world that loves to put on the facade of perfection, there are people who struggle…just like we do.

“Character is not born of stillness.  It requires the hammer blows of affliction” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

Have you ever met someone and instantly felt comfortable in their presence?  The kind of person that exudes a certain special something and you want to soak it all in.  This past July I walked up to a  hotel suite door like a nervous girl on her first day of high school.  I was at the She Speaks Conference and I was about to enter into my speaking peer critique group.  Would the other ladies like me…would my speaking coach like me?  Uggghhhh…what if she hated my speaking and told me I misunderstood God’s calling on my life?!?!  Yes, these truly are the doubts that fill your head when you attend a conference with 600 other ladies who are gifted and called by God to a ministry of writing and speaking.  My stomach was nauseous as I wondered what in the world I was doing there.  Then it happened…I opened the door and on the other side was a group of some of the sweetest and most talented ladies I have ever met.  In just a few short minutes that hotel room became a safe zone…it was a place where 12 strangers were bonded for life by the God who brought us together.  An environment of encouragement and grace enveloped our group as those qualities exuded from our speaking coach, Michele Cushatt.  From the moment she began to speak to us she soothed our nerves with her honesty and transparency.  She reminded us that nothing we did or did not do in our group negated God’s call on our life…He had called us, of that she was certain.  As her confidence poured into all of us our nerves began to melt away.  In those moments God brought a mentor into my life…a mentor whose beautiful spirit and grace reminded me that one of the  greatest blessings God gives us is this family we all belong to, the Body of Christ.

“Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion.  Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God.” ~ Michele Cushatt

In real life very few people get to ride off into the sunset and bask in the glow of their happy ending.  In real life things get messy and hard…real hard.  However, it is how we navigate…or better yet, how we allow God to navigate us through the tough stuff that matters most.  You see Scripture tells us in Philippians 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  But what happens in the rawness of your world crashing in around you?  What happens when the devastating twists and turns of life try to rob you of the presence and the peace of the God who loves you?  How do you make peace with an unexpected life?

You might not have realized this but this blog post is all about my beloved mentor, Michele Cushatt’s new book, Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. I have honestly never written a book critique and I am not really sure I know how.  But when I was given the opportunity to be on the launch team for Michele’s book I jumped on it.  Besides being a mentor, Michele is up there with some of the best communicators I have ever witnessed, there is a reason why she is on the Women of Faith tour, just sayin’.  With such ease and grace I witnessed her weave stories around the beautiful truths she desired to convey. I knew that anyone who had been so gifted with words would write a fabulous book and I was not disappointed.  You will find no spoilers in my brief summary of Undone for I do not want to rob you of unwrapping this book like the gift that it is.  This blog is merely a tease…it is the build up to the real gift, Undone.  I chose to write this blog as I did because I wanted you all to know who Michele is to me, I’ve never had the honor of personally knowing an author before.  I wanted to give you just enough so that you would know what an amazing gift God has for you on the pages of this exquisite memoir written by a precious sister in Christ who has made a tremendous impact on my life.

I had the opportunity to write a little blurb on the Undone website and that is what I will share with you…

“The unexpected life is something we all have in common, however it is how we choose to walk the journey that makes the story uniquely our own.  Michele Cushatt’s “Undone” is a refreshingly transparent memoir that tackles some of the biggest obstacles that one can encounter on life’s path; pain, heartbreak, divorce, blended families, betrayal, forgiveness, and cancer.  A master story-teller, Michelle easily draws her readers in with her honesty and sense of humor.  But it is the vulnerability in which she shares her deepest struggles and the grace that flows through her words that reminds us we never struggle alone.  It is in the raw truth that we truly see how God’s story intersects with our own story, if we would just open our scared, bewildered, and broken hearts to Him.  One cannot read this book and not walk away blessed by the beautiful soul that is Michele Cushatt.  Her hand print highlights to us that God is good…all the time He is good!”

Undone will be released this coming Tuesday, March 10th and I HIGHLY recommend it.  It give it two thumbs WAY up…honestly I wish I had more thumbs cause two doesn’t seem like enough.  Head over to Amazon to pre-order your copy today…buy one for a friend while you’re at it, it’s that good.  What is most captivating about Michele’s story is that we can find ourselves in it.  Even if the circumstances of our struggles are different the reality is that we are all trying to make peace with an unexpected life on some level.  And peace is something that God desires for us, in abundance.  Whether you are walking through a valley or not, the wisdom and transparency of Michele’s story will touch your soul in a very special way and you do not want to miss it!

For more info go to http://undonebook.com/

 

 

Hopeful Expectation

catharsis, noun:  the act or process of releasing a strong emotion especially by expressing it in an art form.” ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

What does a writer do when they have not been prompted to write?  The desire to do that which one loves is overwhelming yet the muse they rely on for their words has not spoken.  I never really considered myself a writer.  I am not trained at all in the written word, at least not in a formal way.  But over the last few years I have developed such a passion for it.  When I sit at my computer I get lost in the beauty of the experience.  It is both cathartic and creative.  There is a secret place in me that has always wished I was more creative.  I have such an appreciation for the arts yet I have always felt as if I was on the outside looking in.  Not really talented in any medium of art…and that is not being modest, it’s brutal honesty…I have often felt like my appreciation of the arts has been a longing to be a part of something creative.  When God birthed in me this desire to write I was both elated and terrified.  I am not a writer.  A communicator, yes.  A writer, no.  But He was giving me this opportunity to dabble in something creative and that excited me.  When I began my blog in July I never could have imagined how much joy, how much release, and how much intimacy with God writing this blog would give me.  As a one who has written in prayer journals for years, you would think this revelation would not be a shocker but of course, it was.  I often think God must sit back in the throne room of heaven and get a great chuckle out of me.  I tend to be slow at catching on sometimes.  I imagine Him giving a dramatic, “DUH!” with a shake of the head…cause in my mind God is Italian so His gestures must be off the charts.  He probably talks with His hands too.

What makes my writing so unique is that I never just write to write.  In fact, I can’t.  Don’t believe me?  Well I tried it tonight.  I sat at my computer with the full intention of writing about a Group I am currently teaching on Wilfredo De Jesus’ book In The Gap.  I got through the first paragraph and I paused.  What I had written felt empty.  I had the best of intentions but as I reread my words I knew God had stopped me.  Why?  Because He never prompted me to write on this topic.  In that moment He reminded me that my writing has always been about what He lays on my heart.  To share snapshots of my life and my journey, through the events and episodes that He uses to shape me.  The circumstances and struggles of life that He desires for me to share.  Whether funny or serious, my writing at its very core is never about me but always about God.  He is the One who gives me the passion to write and therefore when I try to step ahead or around Him to write…it simply does not work, the words do not come.

Tonight I had such an overwhelming desire to write.  Since going back to work a month ago I have had little time to think about my writing.  The adjustment of schedules and the transition into a new role took precedent over pretty much everything.  Yesterday, I was sitting in my office and I was gripped by fear.  Not an “I’m afraid” fear but rather it was a dread fear.  In a moment this horrific thought crossed my mind…”What if I never write again?”  It was a fleeting thought at a random moment, and it left my mind as fast as it entered it. But my heart sunk at the very suggestion that I may never write again.  Truth be told, tonight I sat at my computer so that I could prove to myself that my fear was unwarranted…I would indeed write again.  Yet, as I sat here, completely unprompted by God, my words were flat.  They didn’t flow forth the way they usually do.  They lacked everything that made them even worth sharing…they lacked God.  Hitting delete never felt so good!!!  Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?  We have all made decisions that we know full well we never consulted God on.  We impose our will on Him and then expect Him to bless it as if it was all His idea in the first place.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we were just a delete button away from a “do over”  when we put our desires before God’s will.  Alas, we do not have that luxury.  However, we do have the beautiful gift of knowing that our God goes before us.  He has prepared in advance all that He has for us.  Where we are going…He’s already there.  Instead of trying to beat God to the destination maybe we should just treasure the gift of knowing He is paving the way.  When we are on the road paved by God delete buttons are not necessary.  When we trust God, He even uses our mess ups for His purpose and His glory…this blog post is proof of that.

This morning during our staff prayer time God laid two words on my heart…”hopeful expectation”  I didn’t know what they meant and I honestly did not have the time to ponder it either.  Those two words, jotted down in my prayer journal, were followed by the line “I have hopeful expectation.  Father, I don’t just hope you will move…I know you will!”  It’s amazing how something you write down at 9:30 in the morning comes back to speak to you at 10:30 at night.  Hopeful expectation..I am full of hope because of who God proves Himself to be over and over gain in my life and in the lives of those around me.  His hand print is everywhere.  Sometimes my vision gets a little blurry and I need to get refocused, but that’s my issue.  God never changes and my hope is firmly rooted in my Creator, Almighty God, the One who reigns over heaven and earth, He who is the same today as He was yesterday as He will be tomorrow.  My hope rests securely in all that God is and one thing I know for sure…God is a mover.  He never slumbers and He never sleeps.  His watchful eye is always upon us…His presence is always among us…His Spirit is longing to ignite a bold movement, a movement of His children; bringing the truth and the grace and the love of Jesus Christ to those who so desperately need His touch and His redemption.  I bask in hopeful expectation not so that I can write again, no this hopeful expectation is my “I’m ready” stance.  Ready for a great movement of God. Ready to be used when God calls upon me.  Hopeful expectation…the anticipation stirs in my heart as I am engulfed with the excitement of being in the middle of something so much bigger than I can even imagine.  Is there any greater place to be than in the center of God’s plan…in the middle of His movement?  I can tell you this, there is no place I would rather be.

As I get ready to hit publish I recognize that this may be one of those blog posts that is simply my journal entry in an open forum.  If the lesson is only for me, I am okay with that.  Sometimes this is exactly what I need for God to walk me through certain thoughts, emotions, or attitudes.  There is so much freedom when we take off all the baggage and just walk in honesty with our Savior.

Timing is Everything

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“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” ~ Dolly Parton

I am a writer, it is what I do.  No, I’m not an author…simply a writer.  My thoughts are best communicated when words flow from my mind to my hand, from the pen to the page.  Maybe this is the reason I have kept prayer journals for years.  I struggle to quiet my mind when I pray, yet when I write my prayers they effervesce out of me.  I wonder if this is how composers, song writers, authors, and other truly gifted artists feel as they come alive in their craft.  I am no Mozart, I don’t belong with the likes of Lennon and McCartney, and Shakespeare, Austen, and Hemingway would cringe if they thought I was even suggesting to be in their league.  LOL…I am amateur at best with my feeble attempt to write yet when I sit down to journal my heart to God or to answer His prompt to blog…that is when I find words…words He has crafted in me to share and words I return to Him is praise, worship, acknowledgment, anguish, despair, confession, and intercession.

Seven years ago…

There were no words, they died with my broken heart.  All that remained were the muted cries of anguish that screamed from the depths of my soul but the pain was too great for them to manifest into an audible sound.  I didn’t worry about whether I would ever find the words to journal again, I was more focused on trying to make sense out of the heartache that weighed down on my chest like a freight train.  As I sat in my living room the night my daughter died, rocking my body back and forth in a futile attempt to soothe the unsoothable ache, the thought that nothing would ever be okay again consumed me.  I cried out God to fix what seemed broken beyond repair…our hearts.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything” ~ Unknown

One week after my daughter passed away my dear friend and grief counselor gave me a prayer journal.  The words of my heart flowed to the pages of that book like the haunting and aching melody of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  There is such beauty in the rawness of the human experience…crying out to the only One who can heal a heart that broken.  Of course at the time I didn’t see beauty, I felt the pain.  But in those moments the gift of communicating my deepest hurts, desires, fears, and hopes to God through the written word returned to me and the healing process had begun.  As I scour those journal entries now I am transported back to a time when God’s presence in my life was so strong…He was everywhere…I felt Him with me, physically.  His people showered love down upon us so lavishly that as I reflect I am awed by how much God took care of us.  His hand print was everywhere.  In my desperate prayers I begged Him to help us survive.  He did more than help us survive…He transformed our family through His love so that we could thrive.

“I AM ABLE to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine…Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered.  Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark.  The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My power and glory at work in the situation…Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.” ~ Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Tomorrow will be seven years since losing our precious Francesca.  As I sit here tonight I am in awe of just how far God has taken our family since that fateful afternoon in 2008.  I asked for survival and He gave me beauty like I’ve never experienced amidst the ashes.  I asked for healing and He gave me peace and purpose.  I asked for my daughter to be a miracle and every day I live, every breath I take I do so knowing that I walk in the miracle of my precious girl’s life.  It is through Francesca that God was able to mold me into all that He created me to be.  She was a miracle…my miracle…she helped me fall hopelessly in love with my God, to fully surrender my life to Him…every part of my life.

Timing is everything.  Seven years ago I sat in the middle of the destruction of my imploded life.  Tonight I sit here in awe of my God and how His plan and His purpose far exceeds anything we could ever imagine.  Seven years ago I wondered day-to-day how I would get out of bed…This morning I got out of bed to start a new chapter in God’s plan for my life.  In the rhapsody of this paradox I could feel the words coming alive inside me waiting for the right moment of release.  The awe I felt reflecting on the road I had traveled…the road that God has carried me down.  Three years after Francesca died I felt God place a call on my life.  He guided me back to school because He desired to use me in ministry.  I had no idea what it would all look like and I really didn’t care…I had learned to just trust that still, soft voice.  It was the voice that had brought me comfort, healing, hope and peace.  I trusted Him to guide every aspect of my future so on to school I went.  I graduated over a year ago and have been in a holding pattern since the day I put my last period on a research paper.  God had told me to wait…the time wasn’t right…so I waited.  Believe me, waiting for a Type A, Doer is not an easy thing to do.  But I trusted God’s purpose AND His timing (even if I thought He was kinda slow at times).  Today of all days the wait came to end and I began my journey into full-time ministry.  Some will say the timing of this is pure coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidence…I don’t believe in chance.  I believe that my God is always at work in the details.  Beautifully crafting the timing of certain events for His purpose…even if it’s merely to remind us that His hand print is everywhere.  To illustrate that He does make all things new.  To demonstrate how He turns the pain, that evil would like to use to destroy us, into the catalyst for His plan and purpose for our lives.

Tonight I go to sleep with words of celebration as vibrant as any heavenly scene Michelangelo could have ever created in my head.  In a  dream I am one of the great artists creating a masterpiece of praise.  Praising the love and grace our Creator God showers upon us, a love that is faithful and limitless.  And I  Celebrate the beautiful life of my precious Francesca, the one who pointed my life straight into the will of God.  Seven years ago I would have said this blog entry was impossible…tonight I say “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13