Like the fall leaves, brilliant and changing

Right now I smell crisp air and burnt autumn leaves. I see the bright orange branches dancing against a brilliant blue sky. I hear the crunching of a thousand maple leaves as I speed past on my bike. I feel the wind rushing through my hair and I feel alive in a season that is revealing its beauty through change and loss.

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I wonder if a tree looks forward to its time where its color and brilliance leave us staring up in awe at the wonder of God. Or is it saddened knowing that all its leaves will soon be dead and gone? In a Bible study (Bible Study Fellowship) I attended this morning, I am reminded as God’s beloved daughter, my suffering and loss is for a purpose and it only lasts for as long as it’s necessary to bring glory to Him. I also realized that God is completely faithful. Of course He cannot prove his faithfulness to me if I am afraid to risk and step out in faith. And His light and brilliance will not shine inside of me if I am not willing to let go, to let go of my leaves and be naked and bare before Him.

I am studying Exodus right now. Its unbelievable the faithfulness of God. In Genesis 15:13, God tells Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.” God knew the hard future that lay ahead for His people. He also had a plan to deliver them and carried it out on the exact day that He had promised. Exodus 12:40-41 says, “The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the exact day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land.” The 30 years when the Israelites lived in the land of Egypt but were not slaves was the generation of Joseph and his brothers. (Genesis 1:6-8) God fulfilled His promise to His people on the exact day He declared. His timing is perfect and reveals to me that He is in complete control of those who love and put their trust in Him. 

I have experienced suffering and I have experienced loss. All of us have experienced suffering and loss and hardship. And I have realized that it can shine God’s brilliant glory and faithfulness if I am willing. I am continually changing and being refined by a designer, a healer, a teacher, a Father. He is creating within me a heart that is drawn to others who are experiencing suffering and pain, a heart that is willing to risk and love unconditionally and a heart that says yes to Him no matter the cost.

There was one more thing this morning that hit me and I want to share it with all of you just like if I was sitting down with you at Starbucks sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I would look at you with sincerity and share how I have realized that I am apart of God’s family and I will choose to always be apart of God’s family but the relationship that I have with the Lord Almighty can change. I can choose to become more intimate and more dependent despite my circumstances or I can choose to slowly drift away from His heart. After a pause of processing these words I would then tell you that I am going to choose to fight for that closeness, that complete dependence and that vulnerable and intimate love with God, my Savior, and I need you to help me and pray for me in doing this.

Pray for me friends that my life will be like fall leaves, brilliant and changing, that I reflect Him in all His wonder and beauty.

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Gabby and Grandma

Dear Gabby,

We are leaving tomorrow to go see your Grandma who lives in Pennsylvania. Your Grandma had cancer about 3 years before you were born and now she has it again. Your Grandma is a strong woman but cancer makes life hard and she will need us now more then ever. I will be there to take her Doctor appointments and make meals. I will be there to have late night discussions, to encourage and support. I will be there to assure your Grandma that in whatever circumstance I will be here to take care of her and she does not to worry.

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But you, my daughter, will be there to give your Grandma something I cannot give her. The incredible joy that you give to people astounds me. To a complete stranger you have a wave and smile. For any friend who comes into our home they are not left without little arms wrapping around their legs. And for Grandma, you give wide open mouth kisses over and over and over again. The two of you giggle until you have to catch your breath. The happiness and joy that you will bring to your Grandmothers soul is more powerful then anything I could ever say.

The reality of loosing your Daddy will always be with you, but instead of resentment and anger I encourage you to remember that you can be a brilliant star shinning brightly in the darkness of fear, sadness and pain. Your name, Gabriella, means, “The Lord is my strength” Let The Lord be your strength my daughter and the infectious joy that he has given you will radiate into the lives of everyone you meet.

There are a lot of people who are hurting because of cancer. Your life and your story connects you to those who are hurting and struggling with this disease in a very intimate and personal way. Some of your Mommy’s closest friends came from this shared struggle of cancer. And your Mommy knows so many people who have had to battle with this disease or walked closely with someone who they love so dearly go through its pain. When you’re older, it is likely you will know even more people than I. Take courage, my love, for we know that one day God will make all things new. Revelation 21:5

While we are anxiously awaiting, we are here in this world to love people unconditionally, to cry with people when they are hurting and laugh with them when they are, for that one day, feeling better. You’re only 16 months old, and I see already the compassion and love you have for people. Don’t hold back! Love God and love others, even when you might get hurt, it’s worth it every time. I John 4:10

Confessions and Conversations (Confessions to single women and a private conversation with God)

In the last several months I am learning how to be single after being married for 7 1/2 years. Single women, especially with kids, I have the utmost respect for you. I am now walking in your shoes. My pain might be different then your pain, but I now understand the weight of making all decisions on your own. Always hoping you made the right choice. Even if I did think I was doing the right thing, I was always at complete peace when it was confirmed by my husband who I respected and loved. Its not only my husband that is no longer gone, but that peace I was given from his wisdom and discernment.

I now understand the nights of loneliness and how easy it is to fall into escaping your life with the TV, a Sci-Fi novel or Facebook. Spending your night writing honestly or in prayer before God will mean that everything in your life is real and bloody. I never had this much time before and as much as I don’t want it now, I do know its a gift and I feel guilty for not using it wisely.

I now understand what its like to feel that you don’t belong even in your own house. I understand how you accidentally pull away from all your friends who are still married, its just not the same anymore is it? And I understand how you don’t belong to any single gatherings unless you want to do more then just talk. There is lots of support but emotionally and mentally you just feel homeless.

There is a lot more I understand now and a lot more that God is teaching me. I am learning to walk in the dark and please don’t mistake this for a bad thing. In fact, I am able to listen clearer, notice more and judge less based on appearance when I am in the dark. Its scary but what better way to trust God completely then not being able to see whats in front of you.

So now, I’d like to share a conversation with you. One that I had with God a couple months ago. I wasn’t originally going to share this publicly, but I have come to realize that keeping it to myself would completely defeat the purpose of the conversation that I am about to share.

Me: Why can’t I sleep?
God: I believe you know why.
Me: Yes, perhaps I do.
God: I called your name, but you did not answer. Where were you?
Me: I . . . was distracted, watching a movie.
God: I see, and will this become a regular occurrence now?
Me: I don’t know, Sometimes it feels better then just the silence.
God: It’s numbing.
Me: Yes.
God: Is that why your distant?
Me: I don’t really know how to answer that.
God: You’ve been cheating on me.
Me: No . . . no its not the same. I just want to be in a different world, somewhere thats not my world.
God: to escape the pain and loneliness.
Me: Yes, I suppose . . . You took him away from me. You gave him to me and then you took him away!
God: I know you are saying this out of what you are feeling and not what you know, I am so sorry my love.
Me: You had the power to heal him and you choose not to.
God: My daughter, why is it now that you do not trust me?
Me: I trust you-
God: and yet you doubt my goodness.
Me: . . . forgive me, I know you are good.
God: Listen to me, and do not speak to quickly. You are trying to escape into something that is not real. And living an illusion, a lie. will only destroy you.
Me: Watching one movie is not going to destroy me.
God: Its not the movie, its the desire to escape your pain. A host of other things can do the very same thing- food, work, alcohol. Anything you want to do in order to block out the pain of being alone.
Me: I suppose I knew that, but it feels better to not think and be me, alone.
God: Then you have allowed yourself to be deceived.
Me: I guess so.
God: Tell me why?
Me: This is pointless, why must I answer you when you know? You understand better then I understand.
God: I know this is hard for you. It is not my intent to cause you pain but to clean your wounds. Please, answer the question.
Me: Sometimes an illusion is better then reality.
God: I could understand that if you were lost and you did not carry my very light inside of you. Please. . . open the eyes of your heart and ask me to take away what is covering that light and weighing you down.
Me: . . . fear? but what am I afraid of?
God: What are you trying to escape?
Me: From pain and sorrow and loneliness.
God: You are strong and you are not afraid of the pain itself. You are afraid that it will not end. You’re afraid it will knock you down and consume you.
Me: Yes, and it will if I allow it.
God: Allow it.
Me: What?
God: You have to trust me. You have to trust that I will take you out of it all when it is time. You cannot do this on your own, but if you want my help then you have to let me do it my way.
Me: This is insane! You want me to let the pain and sorrow consume me? You don’t want me to fight?
God: Lay your weapons down my love, keep your eyes on me and trust that I will deliver you.
Me: I don’t know how to not fight.
God: I will teach you. And in the end you will be complete.
Me: I don’t know if I can do this . . . what your asking is beyond what I can handle.
God: I know it is. Oh, and this is not a one time deal it is a decision you have to make day after day to not fight and surrender instead.
Me: Ok . . . this seems ridiculously impossible right now.
God: On your own, it is. I promise you, its worth it if you surrender to me, if you trust me. . . I love you, don’t stay away for to long.

* You have probably figured out how that ended, or began- depending on how you look at it. And now you have a little more context to explain my last post. Yes, the pain feels very consuming at times but how can we ever get rescued if we are never in trouble? And how can we ever be healed if we are never sick or broken? All of this, friends, is not a bad thing. Do not try and fight against the great pains and trials of this world. God, our lover and rescuer will give us joy out of our circumstances, a deeper love and understanding for others and a faith so unwavering that it can never fall.

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Daddy’s Eyes

Dear Gabby,

Do you remember your Daddy’s eyes?  His eyes showed you who he was, and who you were to him. If you can’t remember I will tell you about them as best I can. When your Daddy looked at you, love and adoration was spoken into your heart. When you first started to smile it was because of an uninhibited reaction by your Daddy’s look of unrelenting love that radiated from his eyes. Image

When his eyes looked at you it was his very spirit gleaming out from underneath his eyelids. To a stranger, they might have seemed ordinary and of no significance, but your Daddy’s eyes were powerful. His eyes had the power to comfort and to heal. His eyes inspired perseverance and they demanded respect. No one knew that better then me, and probably most of his students.   IMG_1517

His eyes burned his competitive spirit when he raced around your Uncle Matt to throw ball for a lay up in the hoop above. They revealed his vast knowledge and understanding in our conversations at night, time alone with a book or his classroom, in front of 30 pliable minds. And they shown forth great integrity and truth throughout his entire life road. Never once can I recall I time when a lie protruded from his lips or deceit hid behind his eyes.275-IMG_2214

Your Daddy had eyes that a person can not forget. They had a way of looking into who you really are, it was impossible to not be affected. Those eyes are what I miss most. In the end moments when your Daddy would soon be with Jesus, his eyes radiated acceptance, peace and joy. While his body was weak, his eyes were alive and strong and focused.

I still see those eyes in my dreams, they exhibited his spirit which can never be tamed or forgotten. Like a brightly burning flame, his eyes showed forth the true light, the very light of God. And that cannot be snuffed out.

Love,

Mommy

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Envy in a Broken world

 

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This will probably be my most vulnerable post yet. My hope is that those of you who can relate to my story will not feel that you are alone, because I sure hope I am not the only one.  Along with the loneliness and sadness, I have felt recently some unexpected feelings of envy. It doesn’t stay because I talk about it with God, laying it bare before Him. Looking back I can picture my confusion as a child confessing that he has no idea how to get all the vasoline off his hands. I am assuming that this is normal, but its weird to me and I didn’t like it, so I asked God to get rid of it. In my weakness I have learned that its important to bring everything before God who already knows, but also trusted friends or family who don’t already know. I cannot be open and honest with God if I am not willing to be open and honest with others. So, I have already shared with a close friend my struggle and now I am sharing it with you.

A few days ago I listened and laughed and cried (later that night) to a life story from a couple of friends of mine. Married now with 4 beautiful kids, a heart to serve others and a deep love for each other, I allowed the thoughts of, “thats not me any more” to settle in deep. So many stories they shared I could relate to the same feelings, the same struggles, the same joys Chris and I had together. The same hardships in their marriage were very similar to ours, and we also experienced a deeper love and understanding of each other as we came out of those hardships. Their heart for God and desire to serve was one both Chris and I possessed as well. Hearing their adventures of faith, laughing together and choosing joy rather then focusing on the struggles took me right back to my life as a wife and even back to my life as a mother of 5.

On my drive home I battled with envious thoughts. “More than anything, I wish I could have that life back.” “I wish I had my husband back.” “I wish I had a house full of five kids running all around, laughing.” “I wish I had a life that was chaotic, full of life but dependent on God for what we need.” I knew I was wanting something else that wasn’t mine, I knew I was wanting it because it use to be mine but was taken away. I surrendered this to God but its still hard to be joyful, content and satisfied with what God has given me and what God as taken away.

Today I struggled with envy again, only in a little different way. One great thing I have realized that has come out of all of this is time for things I would have never had time for before. Tonight I saw a movie with one of my 13 year old friends 🙂 I don’t feel so old when I hang out with middle and high school students. Being a widow kinda makes you feel old. So, we went to go see “Heaven is for Real”. The movie was good, the book is way better, like most of the time. Afterwards, I am at home and Gabby is fast asleep. I think about Heaven. I think about Jesus and His love for me and wanting to be with Him. I think about Chris in Heaven and wanting to be with him. Then, I think about how Chris is there . . . with Jesus, but not me. My want and longing is so strong.  I feel anger and I feel envy. My anger is stemmed at Jesus and I ask Him, “What on earth could be so important for having me stay here when all I want is to be with you?” And my envy is at Chris. He’s there and I am here.

And then I ask God to help me with my discontented heart. “Father, help me to not be jealous of what my friends have here on earth in their relationships and love for each other.  Help me to say yes to your will with joy and peace and patient endurance. I look forward to being with you one day, but I know you want me here right now so I will be patient.

Life in the Woods

Dear Gabby,

 

This morning, as you were napping soundly with your little gray bunny, I stepped out into the sunshine.  Its light was streaming down to the deck outback of your Grammy and Grandpy’s house. I stood there very still. There was so much life happening around me, and I felt that after a season of hiding indoors, I was the alien. There were Robins calling back and forth to each other across the wood, a woodpecker’s lunch preparation echoed loud, the Looking Glass River, only about 50 yards away, moved with a sweeping force over rocks and toppled trees.

I walked down closer to the river. I am drawn in like all the trees that bow to the life-giving source. Dead leaves crackle and crumple beneath me, and new stems grow up beside me. The light shines through the wooden giants creating beautiful long shadows throughout the area. My thought was to come out here and think. And I did but it was not in the way that I thought. I was distracted by so much life. In the cold months it is still and peaceful. There is no life. It is dead. And then spring comes, awakening new life. The life was not ever dead, it was hibernating, waiting, on hold for the sun and the warmth to break through. But this life is never the same, it is renewed after every stilled winter.

I sat for a long time out there, hoping that all this new life would rub off on me. I observed the sparkling river flowing at a continual pace through the forest. It had carved its own way. Close in front of me as I meandered through the wood, was a stagnant pond that had collected in a pocket of earth. Its murky waters were still and content. It had made its home and made no attempt of moving. Both made of the same element and they are so different. I am drawn to the river. It gives and brings forth life by its continual persistent force. It’s wild and dangerous and cuts through the earth. I am repelled by the stagnant pond. For even though it seems to give life, it brings disease and death often results.

I don’t know what the future will look like for us, I have so many questions I ask myself every day. I try and ask God my questions and allow him to answer them in His own time so I am not prone to worry. The life He has already created helps to answer some of those questions. When you are older and you have questions, I would say to try and sit and listen and observe of what God has already made. Knowing that He made everything skillfully, creatively and with unquestionable love we are left with ears and eyes open and our mouths shut.

Since you were sleeping, I took some pictures for you of what I saw as I was thinking of all of this. I love you princess!

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I had to add this picture too. This was you later that day on your new princess bike. I don’t know what you were laughing at but you though it was really funny.

New Life from Dry Bones.

Easter for me is all wrapped up in tradition. Not tradition from my side of the family, tradition from Chris’s side of the family. There were some traditions that we held this year, but it took great effort, like Grandma baking her “to die for” rolls. Motivation in keeping the traditions alive was dead. There was no fire this year and frankly I think we all thought, “What’s the point?” and “It’s not the same.” Chris was the one who felt so strongly about tradition and fought for it. Now, can we really keep the same traditions? Should we, in order to keep it alive, to keep the memories alive? Today, as I was with family, it was like we all just got through.

One think I do know, is that my focus was not on family and traditions this year. This year was quite different. In my remembrance and sorrow of not having Chris here, I clung to the wonderful weight of the Spirit living inside of me. I wept with joy over the story of Jesus raising to life the widow’s son because of His great love and compassion for her. (Luke 7: 11-15) And all of my thoughts keep coming back to how utterly lost I would be without Him. This easter was very different then it ever was before. I was not as busy, distracted, self dependent, and put together. It brought me to my knees realizing the incredible gift that was given to me. Without His sacrifice I would be blinded with darkness and despair. There would be no hope, there would be no life.

But He has created NEW LIFE, by rising from the dead and bring us out of the grave. His gift was new life, because of His great love for us. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Its hard to even put into words. I am overwhelmed by the whole thing and end up in silence because I have no words. The gratitude in my heart is overflowing, and its because of my dependance, my entire identity in Him. He is the one, and only one who has saved me, and He is constantly creating me into something new.

 

 

my soul cries out
my soul cries out for you

these bones cry out
these dry bones cry for you
to live and move
only You
can raise the dead
lift my head up

Jesus, You’re the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus You’re the one who finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new