Friday, June 30, 2017

Because I'm being honest...

There's a song called "If We're Being Honest" by Francesca Battistelli which talks about exactly what the title says- being honest.

Being honest with ourselves. Hiding behind the things which have us broken. Like if we hide in the darkness instead of coming out into the light, then maybe we don't have to face it? Or maybe it's easier to sit behind it because this world tells us we deserve happiness. We deserve feel good things- like new cars, new clothes, vacations, a life filled with sunny days. Positive vibes only kinda deal. Which don't get me wrong, no one likes a debbie downer - but it's also unrealistic to think we won't face struggles or periods of darkness. And it is EASY to make it look like we've got it together. We are livin' the dream. We are doing just fine.

Just fine? When the reality is we are crumbling inside. We are barely hanging on by a thread. We are drowning. We are living a nightmare, pretending it's just a dream. And I'd rather be better than just fine.

Why is it we shy away from the uncomfortable topics? We gloss over the pain? Or we hide from the things that are silently killing us? Yet, we love telling and sharing the good times. Like it's taboo if we are struggling?

Why aren't we being honest? With ourselves? With each other? With our Father?

In 2009, when I walked through depression & a miscarriage I shared and blogged in this little space. Shared as much I could but more for myself. In 2012, when I walked through post partum I can't remember how much I shared because honestly I felt like I shouldn't be complaining because I was a mother. Which so many others want and how selfish of me to complain? Once I broke free in October 2012 from that I also shared. In the 17 months my mom fought cancer, I shared. I poured my heart before Christ and felt incredibly peace. Those 17 months were some of the sweetest in my journey with Christ. Then my mom passed. All was well and I sailed through the first year. 

Year one, which everyone warns you about. They say it's the hardest and maybe it is for some, but that wasn't the case for me. Year one, I felt relief and at peace. I felt thankful my mom was no longer suffering. I felt God knows best and of course you don't question His ways. I mean I know what His Word says, I know His ways are greater, higher. All those things.

Then I found myself in year two. Silence. Only crickets. I forged through to finish Bible school but truthfully, wasn't really into what I was studying. It was more of a "job" than the love relationship I had before. I was tired. 

Because I am being honest and because I never want anything to think a girl who shouted His praises from the mountaintops is perfect or a saint- I am not. I am just like you, the girl or guy next door, and I am human- still flesh and bones.

I have only attended church ONE Sunday this whole year. I have maybe picked up my Bible a total of 3x to just read and sit in His presence. I can't really tell you the last time I prayed. Like poured out my heart before Him. Not the quick prayer before dinner or before I drift off to sleep.

And if I'm completely honest- I am indifferent. Numb would probably be the best word to describe it. I'm not angry necessarily, but definitely sad. Maybe even depressed based on all the sleeping I've been doing. Which I hate because I told myself I would never go back to that place. But this time, it's different because it's not the same horrible place I was before. The place I fought so hard to be freed from.

It's the realization that this is my life. I can't pick up the phone or run home to my mom to help me fight my battles. I can't have her speak truth into the dark places of my life. I can't her pray over me for deliverance. That I can't send my child to her when I'm feeling overwhelmed. That I can't call her to help me "get it together!"

While I'd love to say all the things I know like: "He makes all things new." "It's just a season." "It will get better." "Beautiful things come out of our brokenness." The truth is it doesn't diminish the pain. It doesn't change that my mom died. Or that it's been five years and not one single positive pregnancy test. It doesn't change the hurt.

It doesn't change this is my reality. Of course, I want to walk every season no matter how hard or uncomfortable it is but I also think He doesn't expect us to pretend it's easy. Because so far there isn't anything easy about this life and I know lots of people that face harsh realities.

He tells us to expect trials and suffering. No where, no where in His Word does it tell me "you deserve happiness." It does tell me to have joy, but joy can only come through Him. And joy is something that must be grow within us. It's a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) It must be pruned, watered, and nourished in order to flourish. 

Yes, I realize this is just a season and on the horizon there are great things. Yes, I realize it's only a season. It will get better or easier. Or whatever all the things people so lovingly tell you. But while I'm being honest- those things don't help. They don't make things better. Or fix my gaping hole that exist in my heart and life.

One thing I've learned is showing up is way better than words. Just show up to help those who are hurting. 

Probably the most beautiful thing of being honest, is He already knows. Yet, He still pursues me anyway. That I don't have to feel guilty or bad because His love for me isn't about what I do or don't do. He loves me simply because I am His. There is no checklist or score board He keeps. Truth be told, He knew during this season I would run or hide. Because He knows me. Which is what I loved about my mom, she just knew and would show up.

But isn't He the same? Throwing us a life raft, throwing us a rope, throwing us a place to catch our breath? We just have to be willing to pay attention. We have to be willing to share with Him in our sufferings. Sometimes I think it's easier to sit in our pain than to deal with it.

Because we're taught: "God is good." "All things happen for reason." "All things work for the greater good." I mean aren't believers supposed to cling to what is good? Yes, but that doesn't mean we don't struggle. Or we don't stand in the fire and not feel the heat. 

There's nothing I want more than for us to being more real and vulnerable in our struggles. To stop pretending. To stop hiding behind the highlight reels. To know it's okay to struggle, to voice your struggles, and to know there is nothing we can do or not do that makes us any less perfect in His eyes. There's not one disciple in the Bible that didn't struggle, doubt, or question what in the world is going on? I mean God asked them to do some pretty questionable things and faced some pretty awful things. Fire, lions dens, belly of a whale, chains, prison, even death. There's an entire book written on lamenting. And Psalm is filled with songs of despair. Yet, we fear sharing in our struggles. 

When we're honest and share in our struggles, it allows others to be honest and share. It changes the conversation and narrative of our lives. It allows Him to carry our allows our brothers and sisters to help carry us. It frees us from that thing that we're carrying. It allows us to live by His strength vs our own.

"There is freedom when we lay our secrets down at the cross."

Regardless what I feel or how I act or what I do- nothing changes who I am in Christ. Nothing. So while I waffle in this season, I know being honest is more than enough. Maybe that's all He wants anyway- honest, vulnerable, broken Nancy. Nothing more, nothing less. For His yoke is easy and his burden light. And that's enough for me. Enough for me to know I don't have to be strong or portray I am. As Paul said, I too will boast in my weakness so the power of Christ may rest upon me, for when I am weak, I am strong.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Different Kind of Easter

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming. For years, I've always looked forward to Easter. It's the fun and joyous part of Easter, right? Such a gift we've been freely given.

This is the first year I haven't prepared at all for Easter. April came in like gangbusters with all kinds of fires I've been trying to put out. So I have not one decoration up, not one Easter basket item bought, not a single outfit bought or thought of. As I think to myself to get these things done, I'm quickly convicted. The Spirit whispers to me, "this Easter can be different and it's okay! I want you to experience Me, not the things of Easter."

None of the above disqualifies me from Easter. Actually, if anything this Easter is teaching me that this, this lowly and sanctified life is way more like Easter than the way I've always done it.

I think about my childhood Easters and what they looked like. They were filled with wonderful memories. Egg hunts, family, the most perfect of Easter basket (gift giving was my mama's love language), pretty outfits, and ham. They were delightful. They were fun. They were good. All things I wish for my family, but in this season of life I'm feeling less than adequate to throw together a picture worthy Easter. 

So what happens when your Good Friday doesn't feel so good? Or when life doesn't look as if you'd imagined or hoped?

Easter was my mom's favorite holiday. It was also around her birthday. April was a month, I always looked forward to because of the celebrations it consisted of. It was like spring saying, "I am here and it's a new season." New seasons feel like a fresh start and who doesn't love a fresh start? This year, I have been bummed about how things have gone and honestly just weary. We always gathered at my parents for Easter and now we have no plans. In just a few short years, my life has been completely rearranged in terms of holidays. It looks different and honestly the holidays are a visible reminder of the pain my family has faced over the last few years.

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" - which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:33

Leading up Jesus' death, it was a hard road. A road with much suffering. There was grief, sorrow, doubt, weeping, and even feelings that his Father had forsaken him. While this week or leading up to Easter hasn't been the usual planning or excitement in years past, it's been one that has my spirit wrestling in ways that has led me to sit at His feet, rather than rush around them. It is one that has caused me to feel the pain and hurt that this world brings. It is one that has me stripping away the nonsense, forcing me to focus on only Him. It is one that doesn't feel good, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.

It's forced me to focus on the suffering of Christ and not just the resurrection. As believers, we love the resurrection part. The rising up of life. We love the Sunday of Easter because it's a celebration. 

But how often do we overlook the Friday before and what it means to us? To us, individually. Or even the church for that matter. How often do we skip the hard, painful parts to get to the glory part? This Easter, I don't want to skip the brutal reality of Good Friday. Yes, Sunday is coming but there was much that happened before than. I recently read something that I keep thinking about: "We all want to go to heaven, but none of us want to die." 

Isn't that the truth? Kind of like we all want faith, but don't want to work for it. Or we all want to be blessed, but don't want to open our Bibles. We want resurrection Sunday, without the Good Friday.

Christ came to the earth as the Son of God- clothed in flesh. He came so He could know exactly what it would be like for us here while we walked the earth. His flesh poured out for us. So when He would redeem us on that Sunday, He would have already experienced every thing his children might experience.

Scripture tell us he was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.  

But oh how we love to put on our brave faces. And decorate our homes and hearts, even when the closets are filled with such mess and clutter. Filled to the brim with things no one even knows, yet He does know. We are only cheating ourselves when we don't let him into the darkest places of our lives. Maybe it's in the lowliest and yuckiest places of our lives, He loves us to meet us at, not at the picture worthy tablescapes or to do list.

We decorate with lovely things from Hobby Lobby, beautiful things from Target or HomeGoods and set the table just perfectly for all to see. A celebration fit for a King. Or if we're being honest, it's really for ourselves. Don't get me wrong, I love pretty tablescapes and things, but that is not what God is after. And if I'm being honest, my mom's house is still filled to the brim with things she did not take with her. They are simply that- things that occupy space. None of those things bring Him glory.

I've been criticized for being too open and honest. For putting too much out there. But here's the thing, we are all broken. We all issues. We all have hurts. We all have cluttered closets full of things that Jesus carried for us so we wouldn't have to hide or carry them ourselves.

Jesus cannot redeem the things in which you don't give Him. Jesus cannot heal the broken places in your lives, if you aren't willing to hand them over to Him. Jesus cannot raise the broken to life without you giving Him that part of your life.

He already did the work on that good Friday so many years ago. Now it's up to us to do our part. To come to table to experience His grace. To pull up a chair and sit with Him. To lay down our hurts. To come to Him- broken and falling apart.

He never expects us to get it together first, then come to Him. We aren't capable of getting it together anyway. Only He redeems, restores, and heals. Only He lifts raises the dead to life. We only get to partake in the goodness of what this days brings. And thankfully, we don't have to wait until Easter or Sunday to experience His resurrecting power. 

Good Friday. A day filled with pain, sorrow, and death. 

There was not an Easter decoration in sight, an Easter hunt to be had, or the perfect outfit picked out. Those who crucified Christ actually tore up his clothes so they could divide it amongst themselves. Casting lots to see what they would get.

It's in our pain, which we can learn the characteristic of Christ. It's in our closets, where when we clean them out, He can fill them with holy redemption. Removing the lies, hurts, and sorrows- replacing them with truths that free us. It's where Good Friday becomes a manifestation of the sacrifice poured out on that very day. 

3He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.…
Isaiah 53:3-5

It's where we can seek refuge in Him. It's where we can declutter and rearrange in such a way that is good. It's where He heals us.

On a not so good Friday, you allow yourself to the feel the pain or grief. You give yourself grace. You take your weary and burdened soul to Him and you lay it down. You lift up your face. You go home to the only One who knows what you are feeling. You fall into the One who carried your brokenness and nailed to a tree, in order to set you free. You allow yourself to be okay with the lack of decorations, Easter outifts, and your shortcomings. And you let yourself sit at the table with Him, instead of the ham & fresh baked rolls. You get real with yourself and hand over the cluttered you've been hiding away. Then you break bread with Him and drink from His cup, the one which never runs dry and you eat the bread which was broken for you. You offer up the only thing which you have- whether it be your broken heart, marriage, addiction, sin, your anger, or your pride and you let Him rearrange and spread His unfailing love upon the walls of your broken heart & sin. You remember the suffering in which He endured on that Good Friday. & you remember that it's Friday, and Sunday is coming.

That this season won't last forever, but while it lasts you don't want to waste the very thing in which He is doing. You might not do the things you've done before, and that's okay because of the sacrifice on the Cross. The crucifixion should force us to change and transform us. But He can't resurrect what we aren't willing to nail to the Cross. 

We can't experience life without death and we can't experience Him without the Cross. God’s way is always the way of suffering— the way of the “long road home.” Not to punish us but to transform us. Letting go of the old and creating us anew. We don't have to be brave, because He was and is brave for us. Just as we should never stop sharing His story of the Cross, we should never stop sharing what He has done for us in our own lives: transforming and redeeming. Holy redemption where earth has no sorrow, that Heaven can't heal. 

Let all that hinders us from experiencing His resurrecting power be tossed to the side, just as easily as we toss the eggs out on the lawn. Instead of gathering eggs this Sunday, may we gather His truths and goodness and pin them on our hearts for the days and weeks to come. May we experience Christ in such a way that transforms us into the people He died for.

People of broken, weary places- raised to life through death. People who drink from His cup rather than the worlds. People who allow their brokenness to be a nailed to the tree, in exchange for freedom. Transformed in the way of a Cross. Arms stretched out. Exchanging sorrow for life. Broken and free. Written and redeemed. 

There's no other way I'd want to live on this Good Friday.

Broken, yet free. Dirty, yet clean.

Perhaps not feeling so Easter-y this year is just what my heart needed to understand the sacrifice of the Cross. To transform my broken to life. To fill my heart, instead of my basket. To know and feel the greatness of a man who without knowing I'd follow Him, would still die and carry my sorrows and grief. To experience true redemption. Again and again.

And that my friends, is what makes today good. Even when it didn't feel good and He felt forsaken, He still carried out the task before Him saying, "it is finished." 

Redeeming mankind. Redeeming every square inch of our broken, tattered lives.

My hope for you this Easter is you experience His grace like never before. That the walls you've built up around you, are torn down. That the clutter that consumes your mind would be replaced with sweet whispers from His spirit. That you would come to the Jesus who longs to dwell in that space- transforming you. Setting you free.

That today or the Cross isn't wasted. That even when life isn't good, you know He is still good.

Instead of rushing around getting things done for Easter, I hear Him saying, "come as you are, Nancy. For earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal. I carried your transgressions so you didn't have to, so lay them down." Instead of stressing over the to-do list or Easter baskets or outfits, this Easter you can find me at His blood stained feet, letting Him pour over me. Laying it down, once and for all. That's the most beautiful thing about our Savior...He never rushes around or keeps busy, instead He waits for us.

May He be lifted high as we lay down our burdens. May our life be a song that sings of His goodness, even in the places & days/seasons that aren't so good. May our Easter be more about His goodness than the things of Easter. May He helps us be brave enough to endure the Good Fridays in our lives. Transforming us into what He wills vs what we will. Redeeming us for His future glory. May His crimson blood pour over us, washing us clean of the clutter and messes we've made of ourselves. May the Cross beckon "welcome home" on this heart of mine.

I've never been more grateful for a different kind of Easter or for my not so Good Friday.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Paper Pregnant

After almost two years of announcing, we are finally in the process of ADOPTING! We are a few months in and we hope by summer to be logged in to the China's welfare system.

Yes, China. A sweet baby girl on the other side of the world, we are praying is our daughter

Time kind of stood still for us as we put things on hold as my mom's health declined. Then it took some time for me to come out of the fog and for God to make a way. With anything, we want to rush things or see things happen now - but with God's plans you have to just learn to roll with the punches.

I also think it takes time in our hearts and minds to fully understand exactly what He is asking us to do. Like, you want to me do?! Go where?

I'm going to do this sort as a Q&A to help answer some questions we've gotten from others:

So, why adoption?

For us, it is a calling. It is a personal choice between us and the Lord above. Something we felt He has put upon our hearts. Many years ago, I attended a ladies group where we read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. I was a new mom and honestly adoption was far from my mind. I came home and mentioned adoption to AB, kind of just in passing. I didn't put much thought into because honestly I didn't think he would go for it. It wasn't something we had ever even discussed. To my surprise, AB didn't flinch when he said "yeah, let's adopt a girl from China." We kind of left our conversation at that, thinking we would have another baby before going forward with adoption. 

So the short answer: We feel God has called us to add to our family through adoption. And I haven't gotten pregnant in the last five years and so we feel now is the time! Plus, Brady is more than ready to have a sibling!

Why not just have another kid? Or do IVF?

Well, because God has other plans. I never imagined not having another baby. I just assumed like most of my family, you do things in x,y,z order. I mean you graduate, get married, have kids (few years apart), and you live happily ever after. Am I right? Wrong, again. I have learned that the life I have pictured in my head, is totally NOT the life God has planned for me. God knew exactly what was to come after I had Brady and I'm so thankful that I didn't have a baby in the mix of my mom's sickness. Also, I didn't think much about having a baby while my mom was sick the last two years. Now looking back, I know God was using that time to prepare my heart for adoption.

Yes, we could do IVF instead of pursuing adoption, but we don't feel that's for us. It's not even something we've ever really even discussed. We have discussed and looked into private domestic adoption and foster to adopt. For whatever reason, we still feel drawn to international adoption, specifically China. 

How long will the process take?

Our hope is to be done SOON with the home study portion.  After that is completed we will work on completing our dossier. Once our dossier is to China (DTC) and we are logged in over there, our agency can start the matching process. The matching process could take anywhere from 6-9 months. Once we are matched, we'll get ready for travel. Our hope is to travel to China late spring, early summer of 2018.

Isn't it expensive? Why not just adopt here?

Yes. Very much so. To the tune of a car actually. We're expecting to pay anywhere from $30-35,000 (this includes travel, including Brady). Considering we feel like it's our child, we can't just walk away because it is costly. To us, following Jesus means costing us everything if that's what He ask of us. We did consider adopting domestically through the welfare system in Texas. After much consideration, conversations, and meetings we didn't feel that was for us. Private adoptions here in the states are also very expensive with a lot of parameters we didn't feel fit our family needs. We still haven't ruled out expanding our family that way in the future, but for now international adoption is where we are and we're excited to see how God works through what really seems impossible. 

We are anxious, excited, scared, and over the moon that we will be adding to our family soon! Adoption is definitely a trying process, but we know God is ever so faithful and we are trusting Him to bring us through difficult process. We ask for your prayers more than anything as we wrestle through the massive amount of paperwork, fundraising, and preparing our heart for what is to come. My prayer and hope is that God redeems so much of the devastation in my life through this process and adoption.

Speaking of fundraising, I have been working on a project for nearly FIVE years. Okay, the last 4 years it was simply a vision God gave me. It's taken me that long to submit to this or maybe He needed that time to lay the groundwork. Either way, I have set up an Etsy shop called DryBonesLiving where I will sell handcrafted monsters. Each monster has been pieced together by me and there will never be one like another. All unique and different, flawed just a little - just the way Christ made us. I'll slowly be adding monsters to the shop as times goes on, but I'd love for you to share & follow me on Instagram @drybonesliving - the name Dry Bones is based on Ezekiel 37, where God can breathe new life into us, creating us anew and renewed. That's how I view adoption. These babies are given a new life, a new hope, and are so loved. No matter what imperfections they might have or where they've come from or the hard places they've seen, Christ hopes to redeem them- bringing dry bones to life. Sitting them in a new land, with new hope and giving them a forever family. Just as He as adopted us into His Sonship. The money from each monster sold will go directly into our adoption fund. 

We're excited to share this journey and we covet your prayers during this time! Feel free to ask us any other questions you might have. :)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Isaiah 61

"His final breath upon the cross is now alive in me. 

By your spirit, I will rise from the ashes of defeat. 

In your name I come alive to declare your victory.

The resurrecting King is resurrecting me."

...Bind my wandering heart to thee. Even in the can we keep from singing?! Isaiah 61 talks about how the Spirit of God was sent to bind up the brokenhearted. To proclaim freedom. To comfort all those who mourn. To proclaim the Lord's favor. Making beauty out of ashes. Dust. Made alive. That once was desolate, He would rebuild. It's one of my absolute favorite verses. Last December, I fasted for 3 days and He gave me Isaiah 61 to proclaim over my mom. We read it together. I read it daily while I poured out my heart to Him. I had no idea she'd pass a month later. I thought surely it's "the year of the Lord's favor"...2016 was sure to be the year she'd be a walking miracle. 

To be honest, I never thought my mom would die. No matter how grim the reports were or how much people told me I was "looney" or "disillusional" - I just never believed she would die.

One of the most profound things I was told when my mom was put on hospice was "it was a praise report, as believers to be going home to the Father. It's where we belong." Back home with our Father. Of course, it is sad and I miss my mom more than anything, but that has stuck with me now for almost a year.

In Christ, there is no death. He conquered death. Not even death can separate us from Him.

The fact that the air that is in my lungs is the very thing that He has breathed into me - blows me away.

His breath in my lungs. 

His Spirit living and breathing inside me.

"Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing...great are you Lord."

The fact that He formed me out of the dust of the ground. Breathing into my nostrils.

Overwhelms me in the most glorious way.

After my mom passed and I remembered the promise He gave me of Isaiah 61- I felt cheated. I felt like well this doesn't feel like the year of the Lord's favor. More like the worst year of my life.

I didn't understand. But I did trust. I trusted Him to do everything in Isaiah 61. Because I know when He makes a promise, He keeps His promise.

Also, if anyone was going to turn my mourning into gladness - it would have to be Him. 

Not by me, my husband, my family, or by any human hands.

The depth of grief would be too much for mankind. The wreckage too much for human repair.

Only Him.

Little by little, He has managed to do amazing things through my pain. Each piece requires effort on my part. I must let go for Him to work through it. I must sift through the ashes, uncovering each piece. Turning it over. Allowing Him to breathe new life into me.

It's been a struggle. For me- not Him. To carry my sorrows to the feet of Jesus is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I want to carry them for myself, fixing them for myself. In sharing them, requires I must feel them. Requires more sifting. More turning.

More surrender.

It requires looking at myself in the mirror and owning up to the calamity, when I'd rather run. Or pick a vice to ease the pain. "Vice for a vice" is what I'm constantly telling myself.

It not Him, then what?

The funny thing is while yes this is partly about my mom - it's really not. None of this life is about anyone else other than Jesus.

He created me for His purpose and His purpose alone. 

Because of Him, I will see my mom again one day. Because of Him, I know my mom will forever live. I carry her in my heart and feel her presence all around me. Until we meet long as I have air in my lungs I will sing of His praises. I will walk through the fire, if it means it brings Him glory.

Consecrate us, oh Lord.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

If it means, He is refining, purifying, and purging me of the things that weigh me down. Things that hinder me from being 100% committed to Him.

Only Him.

I have written in my Bible "burn the fake straight out of me!" next to the above scripture. Being proven genuine and true is something I never want to get weary of.

And the good news is my mom is more alive than ever! As believers, we leave this earthly place to dwell in the Heavens. We live because He lives. This place was never meant to be our home. Our home is where He is. Living and breathing in us.

Scripture tell us, "He is our dwelling place."   

No guilt in life. No fear in death.

So while I'm here on earth, I'll dwell in His presence. And for me, His presence is Heaven to me. It's where He breaths new life into what once was destroyed. It's where His glory meets my suffering.

Great, are you Lord. You alone make all things new.

Only You can redeem and restore our brokenness. Only You can resurrect.

Raising the dead to life. Turning ashes to beauty. Our sorrow to joy.

You alone carry our sorrows. You alone make beautiful things out of us.

Oh how can we keep from singing? You give life. You give hope. You are love. You restore. Great are you Lord! No matter what comes my way, as long as I have air in my lungs, I'll praise You, Lord. I've never been more thankful for the birth of Jesus than I am this year. I'm thankful that even in my brokenness, He is gentle and kind. That even when I can't see what He is doing, He is weaving something more beautiful than I could ever imagine. That His Word tells me that He has bottled every tear that I've shed. That it's in my brokenness that I'm fully able to catch a glimpse of Heaven, here on earth.

That His Spirit dwells in and over me. Renewing me day by day. Breath by breath.

May we breathe in every ounce of His goodness this holiday season. Letting Him turn our ashes into beauty. Bringing dry bones to life. Surrendering ourselves for the sake of Him. That we may walk in the land of the living, rather than in our despair. So He can raise up the broken to life. For it's in the broken, we live. Fully live in the goodness of our Father & Keeper. From the ashes a new life is born, raising the broken to life.

Everlasting life.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,

    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:8-9

Monday, April 11, 2016

Press On

This morning I woke up with a heavy heart, missing my mom. I hadn't picked up Jesus Calling since January. My sister would read it to us & my mom during those last 3 weeks. It and My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers were the 2 devotionals my mom read everyday.

I decided to pick mine up this morning instead of my usual study. I also decided that instead of using homework & bible study homework as my quiet time, I would start reading through Philippians. Today's Jesus Calling spoke about not looking back or forward, but how to enjoy abundant life in His presence today & the best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Him for them. Yes. Thank Him. Even when it hurts. Ouch. To rejoice for today.

But then the scripture reference...was the exact scripture I read at my mom's service. Phil 3:13-14. I snapped this picture & realized later that it had green in it. I wore green (her favorite color) at my mom's service. I have no idea where the green came from.  

A year ago today, I had just arrived in Costa Rica for my first mission trip which is the coffee cup I grabbed this morning. Getting on the plane to CR was a huge test for me. My mom was in the hospital with a very serious infection and I heard Him clearly tell me, "you get on that plane." I had waffled back & forth if I would actually go on the trip. My mom insisted I go, but I feared if something would happen while I was gone. My friend/pastor assured me that we'd be close to the airport & if I needed to fly back, they'd get me on a plane asap.

It was a last minute decision if I would meet the rest of the group at the airport. My mom never wanted our lives to stop because of her illness, but let's get real- it's hard living "normal life" (whatever that is) when you think your mom could die. She said one of the things she always wanted to do was go on an international mission trip & she didn't want me to miss out. She wanted to live the experience through me...but yet I thought about what if something happens & I'm in another country.

I knew it was a test. A test, that I trusted God enough to get on that plane. That He had it handled. I'll never forget when I came into Houston Friday evening and went to MD Anderson to see my mom. She had just taken a shower, hair still wet. She loved & almost always showered before she went to bed. She had a light blue nightgown on that went to her ankles. She was sitting in a chair with her laptop in her lap. My brother on the couch next to her. She had the biggest smile. She looked like nothing was wrong. Like she was well. Healthy. She had just spent 5 days in the hospital. I'll never forget her sweet smile & face beaming when we walked into her room.

The best part was my friend/pastor told the rest of our group how well my mom doing, even after having Ebola. Hahaha! She had e.coli. but it gave us all a good laugh!

The next morning, my dad and Allen drove us all to the airport and saw us off. While waiting to board the plane, I got a text saying they were discharging my mom that day. Home.

I boarded that plane and looked out the window in awe of Him. The trip to Costa Rica was unforgettable experience. One I'll never forget and one that stirred my heart in so many ways.

Actually last April was an unbelievable month for me. So many good things. I spent less than 10 days at home. I went to Costa Rica then Galveston then Marble Falls/Fredricksburg and spent lots of time in Houston for Easter & my mom's birthday.

When they say so much can change in a year, they aren't kidding. This April doesn't have fun, exciting trips. And it will be first time I physically won't be able to celebrate with my mom on her birthday.

I want to be sad and I am but what better place to have a birthday than Heaven? I am certain calories don't count there.

While I am incredibly sad and at times the grief feels so heavy, I am so thankful for glimpses of His glory like this morning. For His faithfulness. For how He takes every detail into account. For how He loves us- even when I question or doubt His sovereignty and goodness. For the promise of Heaven because of His sacrifice on the Cross.

Took this picture at the base of La Paz waterfalls in Costa Rica

That this world is only temporary. Praise the Lord. We are only here for a short time, a vapor, a mist.

Learning to live after a loss is like learning to walk again. One of the last conversations my mom had with me was about how to go on after she goes home. Homeward to Christ Jesus. I often play over in my head her telling me, "Nancy, it's time to stand on your own two feet." She told me how I can and I will go on. That my faith is strong & it would only get stronger through this. That she's carried me for 33 years and given me the tools to carry on the rest of the way.

I told her well that's all easy & good for you to say...

Over Easter, I told my dad I was going to get him an "easy button" - do you remember those from the Staples commercial? Ha! Sadly, there's no such thing but what we do have is the hope of heaven. That we can press on towards the goal/prize. Which as believers, heaven is our goal/prize.

There's nothing that should and can compare to that. No more pain, no more suffering. No bad hair days.

Most days I feel like my thoughts are so jumbled and escaping the world is the greatest idea ever. I'm an introvert by default anyway so closing myself off to others is a-okay with me. And I just thought the whole dealing with the cancer part was hard.

But I know it won't be hard forever. This is a season. This is where God uses the broken parts of my life and restores them. Where God refines me.

Where God shows up on a Monday morning. The overflow of His presence. His presence is where He gives strength for the journey.

In the beginning of Philippians 3, Paul is explaining how there is no confidence in the flesh. He also says that he considers all things a loss, compared to surpassing worth of knowing Christ. All things. That he wants to know Christ in such a way- even participating in his suffering, "becoming like him in his death." He hasn't attained the prize yet but he will press onto it because he knows the greatest prize is to be in the presence or heavenward with Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote this from a prison cell. I'm writing this from my couch.

I want to understand. I want to be bitter. I want to crawl into a hole most days.

I also want to do this season well. I want to grieve well. I want to love well. And I want to serve Him well. Because I know He waste nothing and I don't want to miss out on Him while I'm attending my own posh pity-party...from my couch.

Paul said ALL things. It's in the dark places where we see God meet us like never before. And from the looks of my track record, He sure knows how to turn a test into a testimony. 

Understanding is putting my confidence in the flesh, but trusting is putting my confidence in Him. Trusting that He has it handled. He handled it over 2000 years ago.

I don't have to understand to trust. I probably don't even need to understand for His ways are higher.

Whatever prison cell you're sitting in, know He is faithful. There's not a place He'll take you that He hasn't already stood.

That He will finish what He started.

It's just up to me if I want to press on towards the goal to win the prize regardless of the weight I carry...when I know His burden is light.

And when His goodness is like heaven to me on a weary Monday morning, I stand on my own two feet and press on, rejoicing for great is thy faithfulness.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 3:7-14