This wasn’t the plan.
In an instant, life changed and I desperately wished I could hit the rewind button. But I couldn’t. This moment had the power to rewrite the rest of my story, and I could not see a happy ending. I suddenly felt like I was in a dream. Day by day, trying to survive but living in a fog. Walking in darkness. Alone. This would be my life, because I could not go back and change the events that happened. And I cried for the memory of what I thought my life would look like.
Have you ever been here? In this moment? Perhaps you are right now.
As my husband was typing his Bible study the other day, I couldn’t help
but think about this. He finished his first page and in his tired state, he hit “no” when prompted to save his work. We aren’t tech savvy. This has happened to me before and I knew there was a solution, I just had to find it. I warned my husband not to touch any keys but he was somehow sure he could figure it out. And he kept trying. By the time I googled the answer, it was too late. His study was gone.
How many times in my life has this happened to me? What I thought my life would look like, disappearing within seconds. And my heart left broken like an empty page staring back at me, the cursor hovering over nothingness. What do I do now? How often I have tried to figure it out in my own strength. Trying, trying but failing. Sadly, there have been moments that turned into years upon years of me trying and missing all God had for me. Crying way too often, because this wasn’t supposed to be my life.
What do you do when the unexpected happens? When your life is turned upside down in a moment and you weren’t prepared for it at all. When the shocking trauma blindsides you, and there’s nothing you can do to change it? When this is your new normal and you are left with a blank piece of paper representing the rest of your life?
I am here to tell you that I did all the wrong things. For years. I kept writing on that paper and erasing it and trying again. Over and over.
Until the day I finally gave God the pen.
Ladies, I know it’s not easy because I’ve been there. Trauma leaves scars. It’s hard. So very hard. But God is our God of the impossible. And my life felt like a happy ending was definitely impossible.
So today, I want to encourage you with a few things I learned through it all.
It’s okay to have all the emotions, but don’t camp out there.
Bring them ALL to God.
Too often we cry about how it isn’t fair. How we don’t deserve this pain or how we do deserve to feel all the negative that our hearts are experiencing. We sit there in that muck and tell ourselves that we have every right to be angry or sad, scared and hurt or even depressed. And then we’re stuck. Exactly where Satan wants us. And we don’t even realize that we are hurting ourselves day after day with these emotions we are justifying. We begin to write our own story on that blank piece of paper, but this is not the story God wants your pain to tell. These aren’t God’s words, they aren’t even our words and in those moments we don’t even recognize that they are Satan’s. His lies. We have handed him the pen.
It would be so easy for me to just say Trust God. He’s in control. The end. But when the hard really hits you, you don’t know what trusting God looks like because you are human and you’re hurting. And it’s in those moments that we need God to remind us. He understands our emotions better than we do. Not only because He created them, but He also experienced them Himself. There will be days that you are angry and don’t want to read His words. There will be days when you’re hurting so badly that you can’t even whisper a prayer, and there will be good days when God is your lifeline and you know deep down that He’s got this. You know you can trust Him.
So what does trusting God look like?
It is all of us in our feebleness understanding that God truly is in control and we are not. We were never alone in the darkness. He was always with us and He always will be. It’s looking back at all His goodness and looking ahead to the goodness to come. He knew what was going to happen. He knew all the hurt and anger, fear and sadness you would feel. He knew and because He allowed it, we have His promise that it’s for our good and for His glory. Instead of asking why, ask God to open your eyes to the truth of that goodness.
And in the mean time, I highly encourage you to write down every single emotion you are feeling. Those emotions could change daily, and daily you will need God’s perspective. Once you’ve written them down, do a word study of each one in scripture. Google works great for this, so does an old fashioned Bible commentary. Give God that pen and let Him fill that blank piece of paper. Ask Him to take each emotion you are feeling and wrap it in His promises. Once you have God’s words written down, read them to yourself over and over. God’s words are power. Let them shout over Satan’s lies.
Each day is a new day toward a different narrative. You can choose to wallow in what happened and what could have been, or you can decide that you are going to live your best life. You can decide that Satan will not have the victory and that cursor hovering over all the nothingness will suddenly be moving across moments of time filled with promises of joy and new beginnings.
I’m not going to lie, it will be hard but God knows the outcome. I can say with 100% certainty, it will be worth it because today I can finally look back and see God’s story and His goodness.
When I chose to let go of every emotion and give them over to God, my happy ending wasn’t impossible because my God worked the impossible deep within me.
His power changed everything.
And He gets all the glory.
What story will your pain tell?
Hand Him your pen my friend.
Hebrews 4:15, 11:1, 13:5
Romans 8:26, 28, 37-39
Psalm 23:4, 34:4, 73:26, 94:19, 139
When my youngest daughter was only 5, we took our family swimming. Our beach is ideal for young families. You have to walk at least a hundred feet before the water gets deep enough to actually swim. It’s perfect for young ones to splash and play in.
On this particular day, Mike and I went out a little deeper as our kids played near the shore. Within a split second our lives could have drastically changed. We looked over to see our youngest bobbing up and down right next to the shoreline, an area where the depth of water doesn’t even reach my knees. How could this be?
She was drowning.
We never moved so quickly. Praise God, we got to her in time. Somehow right next to the shoreline there was a large hole that she had waded into. Later that night, after we were all in bed she came down to our bedroom and told us that if she had died she knew she would’ve gone to hell and she wanted to ask Jesus to save her right then. And we knew she knew.
Even at such a young age, she understood sin. She understood she needed Jesus. There was no prompting. It was of her own free will.
There are so many beautiful moments when you’re a mom, but there are also a lot of hard aspects too. From the moment they are born, if your child has been raised going to church and hearing the gospel, I think one of the hardest aspects for parents is concern for their child’s soul.
I didn’t grow up knowing Christ. I grew up with religion and rules. I didn’t have an intimate relationship with Jesus until I was 12. It was different for my children. They grew up hearing about Jesus, their beautiful Savior, from day one. It was talked about often.
And that’s where it gets hard. As a parent, you don’t want your child to make a decision just to please mom and dad; nor do you want them to make a decision because it’s what they’re taught, thinking it’s just what they’re supposed to do. You want their repentance and salvation to come out of a genuine heart that understands they’re a sinner that needs a Savior.
Every child is different. Some just seem to grasp that at an early age and others don’t get it for a long time. And that’s when the worry sets in. Mamas KNOW when they’re child understands sin. It comes naturally to them (and us 😉). There’s no mistaking it. And then you begin to wonder, what if something happens to my child and they don’t know Jesus??
I also understand that heaven can be so alluring to a child. I mean, what kid wants to go to hell? That’s incredibly scary. At such a tender age of 5, I’m sure that was a scary thought for my daughter. There’s so many things young children don’t quite grasp when they’re little, but with age comes growth.
Here’s the thing about God and His promises to us~ whether you are 5 or 95, you will always be growing in your walk with the Lord. Not once does He tell us that we have to understand the weight of every single thing the Bible teaches before we can accept His free gift of salvation. God simply tells us to have the faith of a child.
Matthew 18:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9
So what is a parent or grandparent supposed to do? I’m not claiming to be an expert, far from it. But here are some things to keep in mind through your parenting journey as you introduce your children to Jesus. I pray that they can be an encouragement to you.
1. Pray for your children without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
2. Talk about Jesus and His gift to us often. Ephesians 2:8, John 21:25
3. Make sure they understand that this isn’t religion, this is Jesus you are talking about. Their Father, their Savior and their very best Friend. 2 Corinthians 1:3, Philippians 3:10
4. I cannot stress this enough~ make Jesus real to your children!! Don’t just introduce them to your “way of life”, introduce them to the God of the Bible. The same Jesus who has radically changed your life. Make Him real to them by example. Titus 3:4-8
5. Don’t try to allure them with a “free ticket to heaven” speech. Salvation is so much more than that. Salvation is Jesus. Hebrews 2:9
6. Don’t use fear as a tactic for conversion. Jesus death on the cross had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with love. There is no fear in love. I John 4:18
7. Don’t pressure your child to make a decision or force them to say some “magic words” that they hope will get them into heaven.
8. Help them to understand that it isn’t the words they say as they pray, it’s a repentant heart that understands their sin and need of saving. Acts 3:19
9. Understand what it means in your own life to have the faith of a child, and then do just that. Have faith as a child. Don’t make salvation complicated in your mind, or in theirs. Believe what Jesus says in His word, that if we confess and we believe~ we will be saved. It’s as simple as that. Don’t add to it or make it hard. I John 1:9, Romans 10:9-10
10. And then pray some more. As a mama and grandma, you can never, ever pray too much for your children and grandchildren.
Only God knows our hearts. Only God knows your child’s heart. Don’t try to work out their salvation for them. As hard as it is not to intervene and worry and nag, remember all power and mercy, love and forgiveness comes only from God.
And always remember, God’s love for your children and His care for their souls is infinitely greater than your own. You do your part in being that example to your children and leave the rest with Him.
I’m not sure what sparked the thought, but the other day it hit me that I may not be here to see my grandchildren get married and have children of their own. A sadness swept over me. My love for them is so strong. I have this immense desire to protect them and pray for them and be a part of their moments, good and bad. To rejoice with them and cheer them on. But this may not be my reality, and my emotions got the best of me. It’s probably silly, but the tears came.
I know Mother’s Day is past and the celebrations are over, but this mom and grandma still has so much on her heart to share. I probably always will.
As I was reading all the celebratory quotes, one stuck with me and I’ve been pondering it ever since~
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
Wow! That stopped me in my tracks.
So mama, what message are we sending to the future? This thought went deep for me. There are just SO MANY!! To be honest, I wanted to be lazy and write a fluff piece for today but God gave me a nudge, just like He always does. It’s crazy how often I will read the daily devotional sent to my inbox and somehow my Scripture app just “happens” to be on the exact same Bible chapter that day. Today was such a case and as I worried about my children and my grandchildren’s futures, God literally spoke to me through His words. Words I would like to share with you today. I hope they encourage you like they did me.
Continually remind yourself that GOD is our dwelling place. Not this world, not our homes~ but God. He has been from generation to generation and know matter what the future holds, He will be from everlasting to everlasting.
With this in mind, let these words be our prayer as we look to the future of our children and grandchildren~
*TEACH us to number our days and in the doing, gain wisdom. (Each day is another opportunity to mold our children and grandchildren. Don’t take it for granted and don’t squander it.) 90:12
*SATISFY us with your STEADFAST (loyal, unwavering) love. (This is the heartbeat of our joy and gladness.) 90:14
*MAKE us glad ALL our days. (Not just the good days, but the bad days too. Our emotions teach our children just as much as our words.) 90:15
*OPEN our eyes to see your works and show your power to our children. (We take so much for granted. God is continually blessing us and we need eyes to see and in turn, share that with the next generation.) 90:16
*ESTABLISH the work of our hands. (This should be our daily prayer. When God is the author of every single thing we do, He is glorified and His love shines from us to others. Our children will carry this prayer with them into the future, by witnessing it in our lives on a daily basis.) 90:17
*When we dwell in God’s presence we are protected under His shadow. He is our refuge and fortress and we can trust Him with everything. 91:1-2
In the trusting we will not fear the present or the future of our children and grandchildren, because we made God our dwelling place and held fast to Him in love. He will protect, rescue and satisfy us. No matter where we are, no matter where our children are, there is so much comfort in knowing that when we have God, we are always home. 91:3-16
And when we realize ALL of this, we will give thanks to God. We will sing praises. We will talk about His steadfast love and faithfulness morning and evening because we will realize He alone makes us glad and joyful and He alone (not us) will make our children and grandchildren glad and joyful.
Psalm 93:3-5, 94:14&15~
As the floods of this present world roar against us and we fear the future for our children and grandchildren, we can KNOW that God is mightier and that **“The things that we’re afraid of are afraid of God!” We can trust Him. He will never forsake us or abandon us.
If we didn’t have these promises we would be utterly distraught, but we have an entire book of God’s promises to cling to. His steadfast love holds us up. When the cares of our heart and the worries for our children’s futures are many, God’s consolations will cheer us. When we are no longer on this earth to cheer our children and grandchildren on, His consolations will continue to do so.
He is our rock. He is our stronghold and He will forever be our children and our children’s children’s rock and stronghold. From everlasting to everlasting.
I know this was long, and if you stuck with me to the end I hope it encouraged you. Sometimes mamas just need a reminder that ultimately we are not the ones to determine the happiness in our children’s future. We want to be their rock and fortress, we want to bring them joy and happiness and we can, but our love could never compare to the steadfast love God has for them and the best way to show them that is by example. An example we will leave with them long after we’re gone.
**The Things That I’m Afraid Of Josh Wilson
The end of 2002 and the year 2003 were incredibly hard on our little church. Five moms passed away in that short amount of time, including my sweet sister in law~ less than a week after giving birth to her 6th child, and my own precious mom. We didn’t have our usual Mother Daughter banquet at church that year. The grief was still so fresh.
I remember so many tears at that time. Reading all the quotes about grief getting easier with time and yet, here I am 20 years later, and it seems like yesterday to me.
Year by year the grief has changed with me, along with my view of my mother.
The older I get, the more I understand. And I miss her. It’s almost a daily occurrence for me to wish I could ask her a question, or share in that deep love I have for my grandchildren or just give her a hug.
There were so many things I got irritated about when I was younger, when life got crazy and I needed her but she couldn’t come for one reason or another. I’m sad to admit that I never realized how much SHE needed me and now as each year passes, I understand more and more and I find myself crying for the young selfish girl
I once was and whispering “I’m sorry mom.”
Guilt and grief can often live side by side, but guilt is not the author of my words today. Love, and understanding that comes with age is.
Your mom will never be perfect.
Your mom will mess up, but..
Your mom loves you with her everything. She always will.
She will never stop loving you.
She won’t always be able to be the mama you remember as a child. She will wish with all her heart that she could be but…
She will get older and she will need you just as much as you need her.
And sadly, you won’t see it because in your eyes she is the mom of your yesterdays. The one who always took care of you.
You are who you are because of who she was and who she is. Her spark lives inside of you. She raised you to be the strong woman you are. To accomplish “all the things” whether that’s school or a job or raising a family. And as you are accomplishing “all the things”, you won’t see mom with clear eyes until one day you’re her age and you’re watching your own children as they accomplish “all the things.” All the things she taught you. All the things you taught them.
And you will wish for that time back when you could’ve said “I understand mom.” When you could’ve said “I’m not too busy for you.” When you could’ve said “how can I help?” When you could’ve said “thank you” more. When you could say “I love you” one more time.
Mother’s Day is a good place to start, but it shouldn’t end there. A mom is a mom every single day, whether her child is a newborn, or a senior citizen. She is mom. Don’t wait until she’s gone to realize how much you took for granted. You may not get to spend another Mother’s Day with her.
The grief still seems fresh, but in so many different ways than it did 20 years ago. Don’t hold on to the mess ups. Jesus doesn’t hold on to ours. Hold on to all the good. Ask God to open your eyes to that spark that lives inside you, to the woman she was and the woman she is. The mom who loves you with her everything. Don’t whisper wishes in the dark when she’s gone. Tell her today how much she means to you. Tell her thank you.
Not just today, but everyday because one day your “everydays” will become a thing of the past.
When was it the last?
The very last time your child crawled up into your lap to snuggle? The last time they reached for your hand? The last time you helped them get dressed? The last time they wanted to be with you, just to be with you? To talk about everything and nothing all at once? To lay their head on your shoulder or have you kiss their hurts away?
I don’t think any of us mamas know when the last time will be, and then we realize that somehow at some point it was the last time, but our days transitioned into months and years and we missed it. Day by day everything seemed to be the same, until suddenly it wasn’t. We didn’t soak it in, because we thought we had more time.
I watched my daughter last Sunday morning as she taught her boys a Sunday school lesson. I watched their faces light up with smiles when she was silly. I watched their wide little eyes as they listened intently to everything she said. In that moment, she was the most important person in their little worlds. I wanted to make her see it, right then. I wanted her to soak it all in. The beauty of this moment with her little men. Somehow I think she missed it. Not purposely, not because she’s a bad mother (she’s an amazing mother), but because this is her “everyday”. And it made me think of all the “everydays” that I took for granted.
The years will pass and you will miss it mama. Through the teenage years, through the young adult years… you will miss those smiles, the snuggles, the talks and the kisses. Soak it in. Soak it all in. Don’t miss the beauty of your everyday. Purpose in your heart to truly cherish all the little things your days hold. Thank God for the blessings of raising our next generation before you lay your head down to sleep~
because the older they get, the less they will want to do all the everyday things.
One day your little men will be grown men, and you will remember the days when they reached for your hand. You will wonder where the time went.
Life will go on if the dishes aren’t washed, if the beds aren’t made, if the toys aren’t cleaned up. The same tasks will be there tomorrow, but today might be the last of the snuggles and kisses. God has given mamas the unique gift of turning ordinary tasks into beautiful memories. Memories made in the “everydays”. Baking treats together in the kitchen, forts made out of blankets and pillows in the bedroom, Lego villages and Barbie houses in the living room. Snuggles with mama on the couch, and kisses and prayers in the bedroom at night.
Your babies will grow up. You will be so proud of them. You will love every phase of their lives. Your “everydays”will become different with each passing year. Oh, how you will realize these beautiful moments are a sweet gift God gives every day, moments you won’t take for granted because you now realize how quickly time passes.
But you will also remember…
Today is so important. So stop what you’re doing. Sit down on the couch with your child and just listen. Don’t think about all the tasks, truly listen.
Because these are the “everydays”that dreams are made of.
Precious everyday moments talking about everything and nothing all at once.
Depression can sometimes feel like a dirty word to a believer.
A few weeks ago I got into my own head and once there, my thoughts spiraled downward. I have some physical problems that left me in a dark place. Nothing life threatening, but two unrelated, painful issues that will stay with me the rest of my life.
And that really bothered me.
Due to flare ups, I wasn’t physically able to do normal, day to day activities. I couldn’t leave the house for long periods of time or do easy household tasks. I couldn’t even do the things that I enjoy, like my sewing or simply playing with my grandkids.
Slowly, day by day the darkness crept in. “Is this it, is this how it’s going to be from now on? What am I even good for? What if I’m never the same again?”
I have this picture in my head of what I’m supposed to be as a Pastor’s wife, as a mom. I tend to over analyze my performance in these areas (which is a root of worry over what others think of me, and a sin I tend to battle) Satan knows this, and by the end of the week depression had made a home inside my head. I felt like a huge disappointment, worthless and unloved.
All within 7 days.
I had no other words and found myself just asking God to please help me over and over, not so much from the physical pain, but from where my thoughts had taken me. I stayed in His word, reminding myself of His goodness and blessings~
but even when we do these things, sometimes the “hard” is still very hard. By Sunday night the tears wouldn’t stop and decided I was going to stay in bed all day Monday because~what was the point of getting up anyway, right?
But God didn’t leave me in bed. Even when I was 100% sure that my thoughts were real, He broke through and showed me a different picture.
He always does. I have been here before. Times that lasted much longer than 7 days. Over and over again throughout my life, He has delivered me when I was sure there would be no deliverance.
Did my pain and physical issues go away? No, but all that darkness in my head did. God used a simple text from someone going through their own darkness, a podcast that stumbled across my path, a song that could’ve been written for me…
I listened to the words of someone else who had the same fears I did, who was saying exactly what I was feeling… “What if this was it? What if I’m never the same?” His words stayed with me and I asked myself, “Do you believe God is still good and that He loves you? Do you believe He knows exactly what’s going on and He is in control?”
I believed and I whispered to God, “Help my unbelief.”
What if my greatest calling now was simply to be my husband’s cheerleader from the sidelines? His prayer warrior and safe haven. That would be enough. Even if I could never leave the house for long periods of time, or pick up my grandchildren or pen a note of encouragement. Even if I couldn’t play the piano, sew or garden, run or simply hand my husband his dinner plate, I knew in that moment that God was still good.
And that He loves me.
And I suddenly felt freedom from all that blackness that had collected inside my head.
It’s scary for me to even share this, to be vulnerable and honest. There is a stigma attached to Christian’s and depression. The thoughts can easily get to me again. Worry over appearing overly dramatic or attempting to seek attention. But I am clinging to that gift of freedom God has given me, because maybe it could help someone else who might be having dark thoughts of their own.
God has not given up on you my friend. He is good. He loves you. He’s not going to let you stay in that bed of depression. He’s going to continuously use His words, His Spirit, people and things to pull you out from under the covers of despair.
Because He understands.
What a comfort and peace that brings!
And then, the miraculous will happen. He will use you to help others. Your darkness and deliverance has purpose. He will use you to break through someone else’s darkness. He will use you to share His love.
Your circumstances may never change, but there is freedom in releasing that to God, knowing He is good. Knowing He loves you. Knowing you can be used by Him. Suddenly you will no longer see the negative, but all the goodness wrapped up in the words~
YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.
Today I am sharing a guest post written by my daughter in law Shannon on the topic of infertility. Our prayer is that it will help others who are going through this heartbreaking experience as well. Shannon gives us a beautiful look into her heart and pain, but also into the hope she has in Jesus.
He Weeps With Us
By: Shannon Goforth
April 23rd marks the beginning of National Infertility Awareness Week – a week I never thought would have any significance to me, let alone know it even existed.
Infertility is a topic that is personal, vulnerable, and even intimidating to share, but it is something that I have been praying about for months. I feel like God has finally pressed on my heart to share my story.
I never thought I would be that “one in eight.” You get married and dream of starting a family one day, but you never think it will be difficult.
After struggling with infertility for almost five years, being told we have a 2% chance of having a child naturally isn’t what I imagined we’d hear. This devastating news was horrible and scary from the beginning. As we began to process and cope with our new reality, I began to read stories of other couples who had struggled in the same way. Hearing others’ miracle endings gave me hope. It made me feel less alone seeing how others could beautifully articulate the pain infertility brings. But what about still being in the middle of the waiting? Wondering if you’ll ever get your miracle at the end of your long journey…
Infertility isn’t something many people talk about. The waiting is extremely difficult. It has been one of the loneliest, darkest valleys Michael and I have ever had to walk through together – and still are. Despite this being such a heartbreaking struggle to endure, it has also been an amazing season of refining in our marriage. God has used our infertility to strengthen our relationship in such a remarkable way. We’ve experienced an incredible closeness with each other that has been so beautiful. Michael has been an incredible comfort to me throughout this entire process, all while experiencing such deep pain of his own. I could not get through any of this without his constant encouragement. We’re in this together, and I love that.
As we’ve slowly started sharing our story with others, I’ve been blown away with how many women have reached out to me and shared that they’ve silently struggled with infertility as well. This is ultimately why I’m sharing this uncomfortable topic: to help even one person know they’re not alone in their journey, as I thought I was for so long.
Being able to open up and share your story, then having an army of people praying behind you in response is so worth it, but I know that doesn’t make it easy.
I want to share some truths that have comforted me while walking through this difficult journey. I pray these reminders can be an encouragement to anyone who is in a valley reading this — something you can turn back to and reference in Scripture when you are in your darkest moments.
There’s a well-known story in the Bible that comes from John 11. Mary and Martha are grieving over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still looked at the tears of those around Him and was so gripped by their pain that Jesus, the God of the Universe, wept.
From this passage in Scripture, we learn that God doesn’t just see our tears, He weeps alongside of us. This has been an amazing reminder to me that Jesus is always near. He sees me when I’m questioning His goodness and asking how any good could come from this. In the darkest moments when the enemy tries to get in my head and convince me that God has forgotten about me, I can look back on all His faithfulness in my life and know that’s the farthest thing from the truth! He is near. He is weeping with us in our pain.
Not only that, but Jesus understands our pain more than we ever will. While Jesus is fully God, He is also fully man. He felt the pain that sin brings. He went to the cross for us on our behalf and felt the agony of pain leading up to that dark day. In Luke 22 He says to the Father “If you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” This passage goes on to say that He was in such agony over the cross and prayed so earnestly that His sweat became drops of blood. Can you imagine that pain?
When I’m tempted to feel as though Jesus doesn’t understand my deepest pain, I’m reminded of this incredible truth. Not only does He walk alongside me through this, but He weeps with me and knows the pain I’m enduring.
I would never choose to endure this pain of infertility, but the intimacy I’ve felt with the Lord and this beautiful realization He’s taught me during our devastating season has made it worth it. Had I not chosen to lean into Him a year ago during some of my darkest moments, this isn’t something I ever would’ve been able to say.
God is still writing our story. Even though I don’t know what the future holds, I know He has a better ending for us than we could ever imagine.
If you are currently walking this painful road of infertility, just know I see you and you’re not alone. More importantly, God sees you and weeps alongside you.
My baby is having her first baby.
There’s such a distinction between your oldest baby’s first pregnancy and your last baby’s first pregnancy. Each carries a myriad of emotions specific to them.
As with all your children, so many unique memories are wrapped up in your last. I remember her little face. I recall listening to her babble as a toddler, smiling and wondering what it would be like to have a conversation with her as an adult someday. I remember crying on her first day of kindergarten and then I blinked, and I was sobbing on her last day of high school. Each step marking the end of a chapter full of “firsts”, but also “lasts”. Moving and college hundreds of miles from home, marriage and her first house. And now a baby. My last baby is having a baby.
She loved to stay home with her dad and I more than going out with her friends. She went to bed before it was even dark sometimes. She wasn’t one to play with baby dolls and Barbies but preferred snakes, mice, lizards and turtles. She is beautiful and unique and she fell in love with a man who understands her crazy better than anyone else.
And this July, my baby will have a baby. I honestly tear up at the thought. It is almost too hard to wrap my mind around. Even though I had already had all four of my children by the time I was her age, in my eyes and heart she’s still my baby.
Time flies by so fast, yet never so fast that it erases the fact that they will always be your babies.
Sometimes I want to go back just for a moment. I want to look into her little face. I want to hear her baby babble and hold her close to my heart as I sing soft lullabies to her. But then I would miss out on all the beautiful moments in between, especially living the reality of experiencing all the happy, sad or silly adult conversations with one of my best friends. That’s what our children become as adults, our best friends.
Whatever firsts you are going through today with your own baby~their first kindergarten graduation or their high school graduation. Your baby leaving for college in a few short months or saying “I do”, or your baby having her own baby~ each comes wrapped with emotions that are almost too hard to contain.
Don’t feel bad for the tears mama. Embrace them. Take each wrapped up moment and tuck it away in your heart and every now and then, open it up and remember. Not with sadness or longing, but with joy at how God has blessed you with such a beautiful gift. The gift of being a mama to some amazing children.
And then with equal joy, look ahead to the gifts that are to come. Gifts upon gifts upon gifts yet to open. My baby is having a baby. A double portion of God’s blessing. My daughter will soon experience that joy at receiving such a gift from the Lord. The gift called motherhood. She will truly understand how deeply she is loved when she looks upon the little face of her own sweet baby for the first time. And that in turn will become a bond that we both will share.
The mama tears will flow, but they won’t always be sad. There’s so much excitement and “firsts” still ahead and when you’re a mama~
you get to open that gift every moment of every day.
My baby is having a baby.
Can you imagine being the very first person that got to walk into Paradise with Jesus immediately after His crucifixion? I weep at the thought. I can almost picture it, the two of them entering Heaven’s glory. The thief weeping and laughing as Jesus smiles and hugs him. What hope this story gives to us all! A hope of redemption. A hope of new life when all seems lost.
Hope has been the theme of my story since I started this blog. Today I am here to remind you~
Don’t give up hope.
Not on a child who has gone astray, not on a loved one who you’ve prayed desperately for, and not on yourself.
There are so many lessons from the story of the thief on the cross. The account is only mentioned in one gospel, but the message has a huge impact. The thief did nothing to deserve forgiveness. The thief did nothing to merit him walking into eternal paradise with Jesus. He simply believed.
As the scene unfolds, I can see Mary the mother of Jesus weeping at the foot of the cross, but I also wonder about the mother of the thief. Was she there as well? Was she weeping for her son? Was his wife there, or perhaps his sister? Prayers seemed unanswered for the son, the husband, the brother. There had been no repentance. He was being crucified. All seemed lost. This was the end.
But it wasn’t. With his last breath he saw his sinfulness. He understood Who Jesus truly was and He understood that only Jesus, the Son of God could forgive his trespasses and take him to heaven.
Hope was not lost.
Jesus did not give up on that thief. Through horrifying agony and pain, He loved unconditionally. He gave mercy and grace. He forgave. As He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind, the agony and pain He endured were for that thief. They were for your son or daughter, and for your spouse. They were for your brother or sister and they were for you.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, keep bringing it to Jesus.
Your past, your present or your future.
There is always hope at the foot of the cross.
Walk into Easter simply believing that because of Jesus there is hope with every breath you take. Walk into Easter holding on to that hope. Walk into Easter holding on to the thief’s redemptive story. Walk into Easter holding on to Jesus, the Son of God Who gave Himself for you.
I John 5:13-15
Psalm 16:8-9, 31:24, 71:14, 112:6-7
Romans 8:37, 12:12, 15:13
I Corinthians 13:7
Philippians 1:6, 4:6
2 Peter 3:8-9
As I post this, we are traveling home from our family vacation. We had been so excited for this vacation together, counting down the days until we finally arrived. My kids, spouses and grandchildren all staying together in a beautiful house right on the ocean.
Three days after our arrival, the entire family came down with the worst stomach flu I’ve ever encountered. Mike and I, and my daughter in law Shannon were the only ones who avoided the “plague”. Parents were too sick to take care of sick kids. This mama was desperate for healing for my family.
And then, the day we thought the worst was over and everyone might actually sleep through the night, we were awakened at 4am by startling alarms on all our phones. A tornado warning. Winds were shaking the house and lightning was flashing across the ocean, lighting up the entire sky.
And in the midst of that storm, not wanting to disturb incredibly sick kids, my husband stood out on the balcony watching for imminent danger so that he could protect his family.
Knowing he was out there watching somehow made me feel safer inside.
Many of our adult children were awake and asking what we should do. Could my husband prevent a tornado from hitting us? Absolutely not. But he could calm the storms inside our anxious hearts by watching the ocean for the danger that might be coming.
My husband has a way of doing that. There’s a strength about him. He’s the one you can always count on. Always.
This seemed to be the perfect illustration of the strength that God gives us during the storms in our life. The protection that only He can give. The comfort and peace among the raging winds that beat us down and the calming faith against potential danger. Oh, how true all of this is. Grab on to that truth.
But there’s another bit of biblical advice that I want you to grab a hold of today.
Find a man who gives you strength. Pray for a man who makes you feel protected. Someone who doesn’t run from danger or difficult situations, but protects you from them. A man’s man.
Sadly that’s something that’s almost unheard of in todays society. Is it even politically correct to say that nowadays? A man’s man? Not a man who embraces his femininity over his responsibility, (although there’s nothing wrong with your man having a tender side, and shedding tears over things that move him) but a man who embodies what scripture tells us to look for in a good husband.
A man who loves you like Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it.
The world is constantly shouting at women that we don’t need a man, that we can do anything that men can do. Well, I’m over here waving my arms and shouting back! I do need my man and I’m not ashamed to admit that.
My husband isn’t perfect. He doesn’t excel when it comes to romance or empathy. We’ve gone through some very hard storms that I wasn’t sure we’d get through. Through those storms I have found comfort in the fact that he is continually going to the One Who is his ultimate example and asking Him for help in loving me better. He continually tries to be a better man. And in doing that, I feel safer. I feel protected and I desire to pray for him even more.
Let me tell you ladies, if you are single, that’s the kind of man you should pray for; and if you’re married but your marriage is struggling, that’s also the kind of man you should pray for. There is power in the prayers of a wife. Don’t ever stop praying. Don’t ever give up. Remember last weeks post? Nothing is impossible with God. He can change any situation for your good and His glory.
And if you have a man like mine~ a real man’s man~ grab him and kiss him and thank him right now. Praise God that he has given you such a treasure. A man who stands against raging storms in order to protect you. A man who will love you and give himself for you, just like Christ.
There are certain things I’ve been struggling with lately. I am ashamed to admit that my perception of people has been a big one. Just this morning I realized how completely messed up my perception is.
I can “preach” on this platform about how “God can change your life” and how “you don’t have to remain the same once you know Christ, because His power lives in you”, and yet…
This morning I had a conversation with myself that sort of went like this~ ‘What are you supposed to do Charisse? Past circumstances have led you here. Trauma that sucked the life out of you and left you weak. You can’t help it that you feel this way. The situation is hopeless. It is what it is. Just accept it and live with it.’
Immediately I was convicted. Nothing is hopeless with God. No past circumstances or feelings I might have are stronger than the power of God in me. He can change anything and anyone. And here’s the shocker~ the change starts with me, not with the person I am perceiving to be in the wrong.
If I build up walls and raise the white flag of defeat on relationships in my life, I do not know the love of Christ at all, because He did the opposite. He loved the very unlovable. And despite past circumstances in His life~ He continues to love the unlovable…
and I am at the top of that list.
Do you know why I felt that immediate conviction this morning? Because Jesus lives in me. The Holy Spirit lives in me. God’s love lives in me. And because of all of this…
Change lives in me. I thought darkness had a permanent dwelling in my heart, and the perceptions I had were truly hopeless situations. But I was wrong. The past is the past. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is THE POWER that lives in me. And today that light has permeated the darkest recesses of my heart, because I know that
Every day is a new day with
Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God.
Psalm 51:6, 55:18
Proverbs 19:21, 21:2
When I was in the 4th grade, my parents bought an old farmhouse that sat on 12 acres of property, property that was surrounded by endless horizons of beautiful land. We affectionately called it “The Farm”, and I loved it. When I recall that time, my heart feels free. My imagination could soar there. I could run in all the beautiful openness of the unknown, and feel as if I was flying.
But then, my parents split up. My world was turned upside down. That freedom was quickly taken away and replaced with the chaos of things that I could not control.
Praise the Lord that He continually pursues us. Through all that heartache and pain, we came to know Him.
My parents got back together and purchased a new home, away from the painful memories of the past. This home was so very different. It was a cookie cutter house located only a few feet away from all the other houses that looked exactly like it~ in the middle of a subdivision full of similar houses. House upon house. No freedom. No flying.
But for some reason, my heart took comfort in the familiarity of it all. All the past chaos was outside that perfect little suburb. I was safe in this new, controlled setting. And my journey of familiarity and control began.
At that time in my life, my flesh associated the comfort of my parents being reunited with my controlled situation, when all along it was Jesus. Jesus is what changed our lives. Not the cookie cutter house, in the cookie cutter subdivision.
I have found that almost 50 years later, I still look for comfort in familiarity, in everything being predictable. In control. In planning. In a cookie cutter life.
It occurred to me today that a large part of that process has to do with fear. If I write it down and accomplish it, if I plan, if I have control, I don’t have to fear. Life will be predictable, and I find comfort in predictability.
But not in God.
But then when life hits me with a curve ball, suddenly all my comfort is whisked away and I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the future and what that looks like for my marriage, for my kids, for my church, for my blog. I’m afraid of the opinions of others. I’m afraid I won’t accomplish what needs to be done. I’m afraid of pain and heartache. I’m afraid of the unknown.
Circumstances can hold us hostage to the fear of the unknown.
My anxiety over that unknown can become so strong that my control seems lost. Inside that anxiety I am paralyzed. I don’t long to be placed in my cookie cutter house in a subdivision. I long to run away and fly. I long to just be free…
and it’s there in that moment that God teaches me again and again that freedom and comfort only come from God. Not from all my control.
Slowly, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I learn to put my trust in Him. Sometimes daily, sometimes minute by minute. It’s something that only He can provide. A comfort that only comes in trusting Him, and not in my own control.
And suddenly in that trusting, when life throws me another curve ball~ the unimaginable happens. I have peace. I am free from the bondage of my fear of the unknown because I know that HE knows. And everything God allows in my life is for my good.
You can have freedom from whatever might have happened in your past that makes you want to hide within the cookie cutter walls of your control. You can have freedom from the fear of the unknown. When life throws you a curve ball, you have one of two choices. Remain paralyzed with fear and anxiety; or catch it and throw it back. Throw it back towards endless horizons of beauty, and watch it fly. Feeling the freedom of complete trust, having no idea where it will land but knowing that God will catch it. His goodness is written all over it.
Today and tomorrow and every day ahead, I want to watch it fly.
Psalm 11:1, 27:5, 51:12,
55:5-8&18 , 61:1-4,
90:9-10, 12, 14, 17, 139:9-10
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I Peter 5:7
I could hear her little voice as they entered the bathroom, and I chuckled to myself. “It’s messy in here mommy!” She continued to babble about her little brother, the stall, the toilet paper, and the changing table. As I washed my hands I think I heard the words “don’t touch that” a dozen times.
I remember those days, but not with disdain. With longing. In that moment in the Meijer bathroom, my heart had an incredibly deep, unexplainable yearning for one more moment like that. One more moment just to hear my daughter’s childhood voice talking to me about everything her little mind could think of.
I don’t know why there are times that that longing grabs a hold of my heart so fiercely. Some days I miss it all so much. The giggles upstairs and the reprimands to “go to sleep!!” The toys all over the house. The forts built under the piano. The laundry EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The constant “I’m hungry”. All the talks. The fun conversations, but also the hard ones. The “talks” about changing bodies and crushes and heart breaks. Talks about mean kids at school, but the reassurance of the forever love of mom and dad. And Jesus. A deep love from Jesus that is not fickle like the friendships of adolescents.
Yes, some days I yearn for it all. I yearn to hear my little girl babbling in the bathroom as I try to change her sister’s diaper. Maybe it’s the remembrance of unconditional love looking up at me through the wide eyes of naive innocence. Mommy could fix everything and do no wrong. Or, maybe it’s because at times~as hard as motherhood seemed to me back then~I can now look back and realize that in those moments, life for my children was so much easier. I long to fix everything for my adult children just by saying the words “I love you” and with a simple smile and a hug, watch their life become beautiful again.
When our children were little they could bounce back and in a moment, life goes back to being care free. But the older our children get and the more time that passes, the more mom realizes that at times life can be very cruel for the ones we love more than anything in this world.
And that’s when the hard truly hits.
So today I remind myself of the talks. The talks about the love of mom and dad, but more importantly of Jesus.
Today I want to remind my adult children of that love. The incredible, deep love I have for them, but more than anything~Jesus. A friend Who sticks closer than a brother, even closer than mom and dad. Jesus, Who literally loves with His everything. Jesus, Whose heart yearns for carefree moments for my children even more than my own heart yearns for it. That’s a fierce yearning. That’s a love deeper than I can imagine.
As much as I long to hear that babbling again, Jesus wants to hear it from our children too. He wants to hear ALL the babbling. He wants to hear our children talk to Him about every single thing their minds can think of.
And He wants to hear it from me as well. He wants me to tell Him all about it. So today, I did. Today I babbled on and on with Jesus. I told Him all about it. I cried. I laughed. I asked silly questions.
And in that moment, just like a child who feels deeply loved~
Life became carefree again.
Psalm 37:25, 42:4-5&11, 51:12, 62:8, 142:1-2,
Isaiah 49:15, 66:13
My daughter Andrea has always loved fairytales. She was in the 9th grade when the words “Once Upon A Time” began her own fairytale journey.
I watched her the other night. I had come to babysit. It was a rare and beautiful moment. The sun was shining, so she said she wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and walk to church. I stood in the doorway of the very home she used to dream about owning one day. She’s 34 years old, but somehow I thought I could protect her if I just made sure she made it to church ok. Our home and church are visible from her front door. The home she grew up in.
And then I watched her husband. He was giving instructions to the boys and running a bit behind, so he decided to take the car. He slowly drove up to her as she walked. I could see her laughing. Her hand rested on his open window as his car crept along side her the rest of the way.
In that moment my mind was transported back 20 years to that 9th grade girl and her crush, as she walked home from school and he pulled up along side her in his royal blue Ford Escort ZX2. He had cut off the tail pipe to replace it with a “cooler” tip, and the car had a sticker on it that said “Xtreme Racing”. To top it off, he installed blue lights, lights that caused our local police to pull him over (on more than one occasion).
Many rules were enforced during her high school years. To be honest, I was scared. I had all these dreams for her future, and I knew how quickly one bad decision could change the course of her entire life. I was scared because I didn’t put enough faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the power of Jesus and prayer. In the sovereignty and providence of God.
That 9th grade crush became her Knight in shining armor. A man I am so proud of. God has worked miracles in his life. A life once headed in the wrong direction. A heart changed by the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross and His complete grace, forgiveness and transformation.
Mamas, this mama never prayed so hard. But my daughter’s fairy tale wasn’t a result of me, it was a result of Jesus.
Too often parents try to control every aspect of their child’s life~ “Stay close to home when you go to college. Don’t move too far away. Marry a man that will keep you financially secure, or a women that doesn’t pose a threat to mama.”~ Don’t get me wrong, parents should have a say in every area of their child’s life, and in turn their children should honor and respect them. What I am trying to say is, yes we as parents have a tremendous responsibility and influence on our children, but we are not God. We are not the Holy Spirit, and there will come a time that we need to hand those children over to God and trust that He knows what is best for them.
Mike Francavilla was best for my Andrea. Joey was best for my Jessica, Shannon was best for my Michael and Josh was best for my Kat. And the older I get, and the more I observe, and the more I relinquish my desire to control their futures and hand that over to God, the more I see fairytales unfold in their lives. Fairytales that only God could write. Fairytales with God’s “Happily Ever After” written all over them.
I realize this isn’t always the case~
When it seems like unwise decisions have been made and our children’s path appears to be going in the wrong direction, remember that God never gives up on His kids, or ours.
I know you might be scared mama, but I also know that no matter what situation your child is in, God can rewrite their story. As a mother I will always have a strong desire to protect my babies, but the more time that passes, the more I realize that the best way I can protect them is to give them to God. Every single day. Continually encourage them in His word. Love them with my everything and never, ever stop praying for them…
I closed the front door and smiled down at her youngest as he gazed up at me. Tears of joy filled my eyes. I could write a book about her fairytale life and the hand of God upon it. As much as she realizes this now, one day she will realize it so much more as she watches God pen the words to her own children’s fairytales.
Today I will savor this chapter and pray for the chapters ahead. The generations and books yet to be written with God’s “Happily Ever After” written all over them.
“This is the LORD's doing; It is marvellous in our eyes.”
Romans 8:27-28, 31-32
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Philippians 1:6, 4:5-7
I Corinthians 5:17
I can remember getting my first biopsy. Watching the needle go in on the screen. Holding my breath. So many emotions wrapped up in such a small amount of time.
As I look back over my life, countless moments were held captive by two words. ”What if”. My todays were taken away by worry over my tomorrows. Always wondering what would be on the other side of this mountain of “what ifs”. Somehow believing every worst case scenario and sometimes living through them. Maybe hope was lost. And in that believing~denying Christ power by giving up and giving in. Not only allowing the devil to believe he had won, but believing that lie myself.
Recently I have pondered Christ sacrifice on the cross for me. I have thought about that dreadful day when all hope truly seemed lost. I have wondered about all the emotions his disciples were feeling~ so many emotions wrapped up in this moment. This wasn’t supposed to be the end. How could this be? Can you imagine their discouragement? All the incredibly powerful miracles they had witnessed and yet, it appeared death had won. Satan had won.
Pretty sure that’s exactly what the devil believed too.
But Jesus’ followers did not know what was coming.
Neither did the devil.
When it comes to scripture, at times I think we tend to take the outcome of mountain moving stories for granted. The faith isn’t spectacular to us because we know how the story ends. But when faced against our own mountains, the “what ifs” overwhelm us and we convince ourselves that we won’t be able to get over them to the other side.
Let me remind you today of your beautiful reality~Satan doesn’t know what’s on the other side of your mountain anymore than you do because unlike God, Satan is not omniscient. He is not all knowing. He doesn’t hold your future, God does.
There is so much power in that statement.
Take heart in the fact that the very men who LITERALLY walked with God on this earth~those handpicked and chosen by Christ~ went through discouragement as they faced a mountain they thought was unclimbable.
Even more comforting is the fact that Jesus~being all God yet all human~asked His Father if there was any way possible to avoid the overwhelming sorrow that was upon Him. He knew the deep love He had for His followers, and the heartbreaking emotions and confusion they would be faced with. He knew the mocking, the beating and the physical agony that was coming. He knew that He would be taking the sins of all mankind upon Himself. Jesus knew what was on the other side of that mountain He was facing, yet in that moment, He poured out His heart to God.
Jesus understands completely what you are going through. We might say we trust God. We might even believe we have mountain moving faith, but that doesn’t mean the trials we go through will be easy. Trials that can overwhelm us. “What ifs” that can loom heavy over our souls. Don’t focus on this idea that the devil knows the end of your story and that he has already won. Instead, focus on the fact that only God knows what’s on the other side.
On that side of the mountain is the irrefutable reality that the same Jesus Christ who defeated death and once again walked with His awestruck, astonished disciples upon this earth, is the same Jesus who is alive today~ daily making intercession on our behalf. He is the victor of every “what if” mountain we face. And that side of the mountain?
It’s always good. Always.
Because God told us so in His word.
There is no “what if” scenario that God doesn’t have an answer for. There is no “what if” scenario that God will not provide comfort for.
There is no “what if” scenario that God doesn’t give peace to face and weapons to fight.
There is no mountain you will ever climb alone.
Matthew 17:20, 26:37-39, 28
Isaiah 51:12, 52:7, 54:10, 55:12
Mark 11:23, 14:33-36, 16
Luke 22:41-44, 24
I John 2:1
I Corinthians 15:19-23, 56-57
Philippians 2:10-12, 4:7
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 10:4
Last January as I was taking down my Christmas decorations, I decided to put my 7 foot Christmas tree away all by myself. My husband wasn’t home that night, but I didn’t want to wait. I found the perfect shelf for it out in our garage, all I had to do was haul it out there and hoist it up on to that shelf.
The shelf was much higher than my head. I was sure I could do it with a ladder and a little gumption. I set the tree bag upright and then climbed the ladder, grabbed the tree and pulled. It was very heavy and awkward, but I managed to get it over my head.
That’s when I got stuck. It was too heavy to hoist above my shoulders and onto the shelf, and I began to lose my balance. I couldn’t put it down because if I moved, my balance would be off and I would fall backwards. I didn’t want to risk just dropping it and somehow breaking it. So I stood there on that ladder, holding on to that tree as it balanced on top of my head. My spine began to feel like an accordion, I was all alone, I didn’t have my cell phone and my husband wouldn’t be home for two more hours.
I don’t know how much time went by, or how many ideas and scenarios went through my head. (My husband coming home to me lying on the garage floor under a Christmas tree~probably dead~was one of them.)
So, how did I get out of it? I think somehow God miraculously helped me because when I didn’t think there was any possible answer for the situation I found myself in, I prayed. Why is it so often our last resort? Maybe I felt like it was hopeless. Perhaps I felt foolish going to God about the stupid mess I got myself into~ thinking I could do it all on my own~ but just like that, He answered. He gave me an idea, I tried it and within minutes that tree was on that shelf.
It seems to me, in my own life I can catch myself doing this same thing. So many loved ones and friends have been going through heartache and it’s a heavy, heavy burden. Add social media to the mix and the barrage of bad news on a daily basis, and you can feel like the weight of it is too much. With friends on Facebook and Instagram and instant access to requests for prayer, often you close your computer feeling utterly heartbroken over the trials many are going through.
And you feel helpless.
I find myself wishing I could make their pain go away or that I could physically do something, anything to make them feel better. The suffering of loved ones and friends is a constant weight inside my mind. Even as I prayed about what to write to you today, I felt helpless. I asked God how I could help those of you who are reading this, how I could encourage and uplift to make other’s lives a little better.
And then I opened His word, and I knew He heard my prayer. He showed me that I can’t fix everyone’s pain. I am not the answer because I am not God. Suddenly I found myself picturing the hundreds of hurting friends, loved ones and acquaintances.
Just like the hundreds begging for help in Jesus day. It was never too many. He did not turn any away. Long lines, throngs of people pressing in.
And the beautiful compassion of Jesus.
And He whispered to my heart~
“Bring them to me.
Don’t carry that heavy burden on your shoulders, I will carry it for you, all you need do is bring them to me.” And so, I have. Every time my heart feels heavy and helpless for the needs of many, I bring those needs to Jesus. It might seem like such a small thing, praying for the needs of others when you wish you could physically do something for them, but my friend~ it’s the most powerful gift you can give them. The compassion of Jesus.
Maybe you’re trying to fix things on your own, not wanting to wait for help. Maybe your burden is for the heartache of others. Maybe your burden is for your own heartache or maybe you’re just trying to balance life’s ladder, holding all of your baggage and ashamed of the messes you’ve gotten yourself into. There is not one burden we’re meant to carry alone. There is not one burden that is hopeless.
As much as I wish I could, there are no fancy words I could pen to magically make everything better, but the needs of many are not meant to rest on my shoulders. When we continue to worry, to think of every worst case scenario, to feel like the situation is hopeless and help is far away, we will end up flat on our backs under the weight of it all, just like I almost did with that tree. God wants us to hand it to Him and trust that He will take care of it.
So today, I talked to God about you. He took you.
He lifted you up.
He set you up on a high place,
under the shadow of His wings.
A place of peace,
where the weight of the world becomes weightless.
And I know~
There is no better place for my friend to be.
Psalm 3:3, 28:7, 31:24, 34:17-18, 40:2-4, 61:2, 91:14, 121, 145:18
Matthew 9:36, 11:28-30, 19:26
I Peter 5:7
I had been hurt deeply. Again.
And not by a stranger or acquaintance, but a very close friend.
And I was tired. I know this is awful, but I was tired of forgiving. I was tired of having to be the strong one. I didn’t want to fight for this friendship anymore.
I’m ashamed to say that I allowed the hurt to keep me from God’s word and prayer. It wasn’t because I was blaming God, or even angry at God. It was because I was grappling with my feelings. This was a friendship that made forgetting and moving on nearly impossible. It was close, and the hurt was deep. I lost my trust in this friendship. I didn’t know how to move past the pain. I was stuck.
I concluded that I was not bitter, but I was angry. Angry at sin. I was angry that this continued to happen to me. I got stepped on. I continually got my hopes up that this time things would be different. I got disappointed. Again. And I questioned why. Why me? The overthinking, people pleasing, insecure girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.
I believe God answered me, but I didn’t want to listen. The Holy Spirit got a hold of all those grappling feelings that I couldn’t put into words. I felt a whisper tug at my heart. “I chose you because this child of mine needs YOUR help.“
I argued~ I am not strong. I am weak. So weak. I didn’t want to help. I wanted to be the one who could lean on someone else for a change. I wanted to be the one taken care of, not the one taking care of everyone else.
I’m sure my emotions were dictating the response of my heart. It’s easy to tell others to love and forgive just like Jesus, until you are the one who has been crushed.
My heart screamed that I was done fighting, but God’s Spirit convicted me and drowned out all my arguments. My lack of time in God’s word did not phase Him, because His words are alive and powerful. Scripture overwhelmed my soul~ I can do all things through Him, because HE LOVES ME. He will NEVER hurt me. He will NEVER disappoint. Instead, He will strengthen.
I wouldn’t be alone. I didn’t have to be strong, because I could lean on Him and His strength is always enough. The power of Christ rests upon me and when I am weak, I am strong. He will take care of me and in turn, I can encourage a soul. A soul deeply loved by God. I can fall to my knees and bring them before God’s throne of grace. That grace. That grace that He bestows on me every single time I fail Him. Again and again.
Sometimes it is a daily battle. A battle that almost seems impossible. But I surrender because I know, God is fighting for me in this battle for love. And His love meets our deepest need through any disappointment or defeat.
“And in that love is the energy for faith and the very sap of hope.”
I John 4
I Corinthians 15:10
II Corinthians 12:9
Every day I see the posts, the pictures, the memories~
“Happy Birthday in heaven Daddy.”
“Today is the day God called Mom home.”
“I miss my son/daughter every single day, even more so today.”
Mamas and Daddies, sons and daughters, husbands, wives, grandmas and grandpas.
Loved ones and friends~
The loss of someone we loved incredibly.
As hard as we might try, we can’t escape the date on the calendar. It will always be there. Year after year. A reminder of how much we lost. We relive that moment in our hearts and minds, and it breaks us all over again. The shock of it is as real today as it was yesterday, last year or ten years ago. We hide our tears in pillows or in the shower, alone in our grief because culture makes us believe we should be past this pain by now.
I still find myself gazing at our “Pops condo” in utter disbelief that my dad is really, truly gone. I still have fleeting thoughts that I need to call and check on him. I still look into my grandchildren’s eyes, unable to control my tears as I think about how much my mom would have loved them. I still have dreams of my sister Amy and for a split second, wake up believing she is still with us.
Even though I know God’s Word and His promises to me, even though I know my loved ones are in Heaven with my Savior, even though I know they are experiencing remarkable glory~
I have hope, but I also grieve.
The bottom line is~ I miss them terribly, I still grieve them, I still wish I could talk to them every single day. I still randomly break down and cry. I still feel lonely.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay sweet friend. Don’t let society dictate to you how you should grieve someone who was your whole world, especially if they have never lost theirs.
When it comes to the grieving process, one of the most important things society seems to forget is this~our pain is a direct result of our obedience to God’s second greatest command.
Hold on to this hope~
Jesus will NEVER be disappointed in us because we loved so deeply. He will not leave your side as you grieve. Jesus will not be angry as you cry, sometimes again and again and again. His Spirit knows when your grief is too deep for words. He is touched by your feelings and longs to comfort your broken heart as He whispers~
“It is okay sweet child.
It is okay.
I am with you.”
Today I am here to remind you~
It is all okay.
The tears, the memories, the pain
But most important~ the love.
It is ALL okay.
Romans 8:18, 22-27
I Corinthians 13:13
Hebrews 4:15, 13:5-6
I John 4:7&8
Many years ago when all my children were still living at home, my precious grandma passed away.
A specific moment of that time is etched in my memory. On a drive home with my husband one day, we had a conversation about my parents. Life for us was crazy, 4 children, a million extracurricular activities, being in the ministry and all the demands it entails~ yet my heart was hurting for my mom. I asked Mike if it was okay to call her when we got home and tell her I was coming to stay with them for a few days, maybe a week~just to be with her as she grieved.
I didn’t get a chance to make that call because shortly after we got home, my dad called me~ accusing me of not thinking of my mother and what she was going through. I cried myself to sleep that night. I can remember the deep sadness I felt in wishing there was some way my mom could know my heart for her.
With age comes wisdom. Not because we get smarter, but life makes us wiser. At the time, life had not hit me hard yet. I was naive. I was hurt. Today as I look back on that time I can honestly say that I understand my mom’s pain. The agonizing pain of losing a parent and the grief that seems to engulf you.
People will hurt us. The hurt cuts even deeper when you know within your heart of hearts that you have done everything in your power to love on them and be there for them, yet they accuse you of the opposite.
I spoke with a good friend about this very thing today. Her truth filled words are those we often forget~
It becomes easier if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and try to understand what they are going through, even if they have accused us wrongfully.
That conversation made me recall a quote I read this week~
”Let’s always treat others the way we long to be treated and remember, we’ve never walked a mile in anyone’s shoes.” My immediate thought as I read this was agreement, and then utter awe and praise to the only One who HAS walked in my shoes. Jesus. Whether we are the one hurting or the one who received the consequences of that hurt, Jesus is literally right there with us, in our shoes. We are never walking alone.
He understands every emotion we are feeling. When we’ve been wrongfully accused and we want to scream “Please see my heart!! See my motives!!~ Jesus does.
When we’re hurting and feel like no one else could possibly understand the heart crushing emotions we’re going through, when we’re tempted to think no one cares~Jesus does.
Jesus. Accused wrongfully, denied by those He loved deeply, then crucified. Enduring more than we could ever possibly imagine. A perfect Savior who could do no wrong, hung on that cross for us.
Sometimes the hurt feels too hard. When it’s the hardest, we need God’s word the most. When you don’t think you could possibly put yourself in another person’s shoes and try to forgive~ “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”~ and put yourself in Christ’s shoes instead.
Not only did He forgive, He loved.
How often do we hurt His cause in our day to day lives, yet Jesus forgives us, He loves us and He understands. He continually walks with us through the “hard” we are dealt. Greater love hath no man than this.
Never forget~Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Put on HIS gospel. Walk in HIS shoes.
Matthew 5:3-12, 41, 44-48
I John 4:4
“I’ve never wanted to breathe for someone else so badly.”
Her words touched me deeply.
I don’t think I will ever forget them.
I’ve been sharing posts this week about little baby Amelia. These were the words her mama posted today. I have never physically met her and she may not know this, but she has been a tremendous blessing in my life.
When I first began my Facebook page, I stumbled across another~ Practical Living for the Christian Girl. I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to sweet Meghan, asking for help with my own page. Even though I felt like a complete idiot for not knowing simple things, she never made me feel that way. Instead, she loved on me and helped me and because of her selflessness, her time, and her love~ she has invested in the thousands that follow Holding Hope today.
She humbly allowed herself to be used of God.
And today her little girl is being used to bring thousands to the Throne of Grace.
My own heart has been pricked with conviction this week. How often we waste our thoughts and our words, even our time. We go about our every day moments and mundane activities and don’t even think about talking to God. Even when life may not necessarily “feel” good, it’s normal. We complain easily and forget to be thankful. Quite often we even forget to talk to our Savior throughout our days.
But then a tiny precious soul touches us all and as we do our “normal”, we cannot help but think of her and go to God for her. Suddenly our petty complaints about our normal lives seem selfish, because honestly~
Her sweet mama wrote~ “Where I cannot give her breath or a steady beating heart, He can.”
Amelia has given this gift to us all. A steady beating HEART unified in the prayers lifted on her behalf. She has breathed LIFE into the prayers of thousands, as she fights for her own.
This little one has done mighty things for God.
Let us not forget this. Realize how abundantly blessed you are. As the days turn into weeks and you go about your “normal”, continue to talk to God throughout your day. Use your words to speak to your Savior, and in turn allow Him to speak through you to others. Lift each other up in prayer, but also in purpose. Help those in need. Give of your time. Be selfless. Be loving.
Let your Amen always remind you of Amelia. A tiny soul who changed us all.
Matthew 18:20, 26:41
Psalm 5:3, 19:14, 42:8
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
The tears fell as I listened to him sing.
This wasn’t new to him, his mama often cried when she sang solos or gave testimonies. I don’t think he really understood why though. I could picture him catching a glimpse of me, shrugging his shoulder a bit and running to find his brothers. But he didn’t see me cry. My 9 year old grandson singing about His Messiah, our precious promise. I didn’t think my heart could get any fuller.
Why did I cry?
“Messiah, a baby born to save us all.”
My baby was singing about the Baby born to save us all. The significance of the words resounded deep within my soul.
“All we longed for, all we needed shining in a child’s eyes.” Jesus. Just a child yet a Savior. The innocence of childhood grasped me in that moment. My little Ethan. Ethan who has not yet experienced the pain that this sin cursed world can so cruelly throw at him. The heartbreaks that come again and again as we age. No, right now he is just a child singing about His Messiah. One day though, he will remember this moment. Singing with his mama. The words will whisper to his heart when it’s hurting…
“Hope forever. Death defeated.
Because of this one holy night.”
Why did I cry? Because I have known death. I have known heartache. I know what lies ahead for this little man, but I also know his Hope. Jesus will be with him through it all. Everything he longs for, everything he will ever need. His Messiah.
I listened to his little voice as he reminded me of a future he has yet to live and a promise I can cling to. I don’t need to fear the future. I don’t need to fear the future of my children or my grandchildren.
And I smiled through the tears.
“O come, let us adore Him.”
So many emotions were wrapped up in that moment. That God would use my grandson to remind me of His love in sending His own Son for us all.
The older I get the more I realize how truly sinful I am, and the impact of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness on my life. I realize the hardness of life, but the promise of a Savior Who walks with us, and sometimes even carries us through it. This brings me to my knees. Someday Ethan will understand. Someday he will cling to the words he sings.
Words that show me a future made beautiful by the past.
“Because of this one holy night.”
What a precious promise.
On our knees we fall.
When I was in the third grade my parents told me we were moving. My little heart was broken. I think I cried for a month. I didn’t want to leave my friends, and the home I loved so much. I can remember throwing rocks at the For Sale sign in our front yard, I even pulled it out of the ground once and hid it.
But then we moved, and slowly I came to love our new home. The one we endearingly called “the farm”.
My imagination came alive on that old farm. I began writing stories in the fourth grade. It was a place to dream, and I sat and dreamed a lot.
I sat at my piano overlooking our beautiful apple orchard. I sat in the apple trees.
I sat in the kitchen shucking corn and snapping beans.I sat on the hills overlooking acres and acres of breathtaking land. I sat in bed as my mom read to me each night. I sat in church and I sat in confessional every week. I sat on our horse and I sat in our hayloft. I sat on our cellar door and on our milk house steps. I even sat in our out house.
I sat and cried when we had to move again.
I loved that old farm.
God had given me something beautiful and then taken it away. It wasn’t the first time little Charisse went through something painful, and it certainly wasn’t the last.
Here’s the thing though,
Today I can sit and I can see why.
Not only did I become “me” on that farm, due to heartbreaking circumstances involving the move, my family came to know Christ.
And today I sit at His feet.
What a beautiful place to dream.
Time and time again I thought God was taking the wonderful things I loved away from me because I did something wrong. Surely He was punishing me. But that wasn’t the case at all. Each time God took something, He replaced it with something so much better.
He did it because He loves me.
And now at the age of 57, I can’t even count the number of times God has done this in my life. Given me something better. With His grace in my heart and His word on my lap, today I sit and smile.
When people invite you to sit, you know that old saying~ “Take a load off”?
That’s literally what Christ tells us to do.
Give Him the load.
Imagine if we made a New Year’s resolution to sit more. I think people would laugh if you told them that was your intention. Sitting is such an easy thing to do. How often do we do it without a thought…
but what if we actually did think about it every time we sat down? Giving all your heaviness to Christ and recalling all the times He blessed you with something better.
Whatever you might be going through today, sit with Jesus. You might not understand things now, but if you will just sit with Him through it, you will see that His “beautiful” is always so much better than our own.
No striving. No trying to figure things out.
Just sitting with Jesus.
What a beautiful place to dream.
what a beautiful place to be.
Psalm 77:1-14, 78:4,6-7
My daughter gave me a precious gift this Christmas. A dainty bracelet with the inscription Proverbs 3:5-6. A daily reminder to me. One that I have thought about so often lately, and one that I shared with my girls on our last shopping trip together.
Back when I was in high school, our school put on a little production. I will never forget one of the production leaders teaching us a catchy tune to the verse Proverbs 3:5-6. That tune has stuck with me through the last 40 years, but the meaning of the verse has grown in its significance as each year passes.
Lately it has been my life line and I find myself wondering why I didn’t truly live it for the past 40 plus years. My words said I did, my head thought I did~
but my heart and soul did not.
I often leaned heavily on my own understanding, especially when life hit hard.
Oh, if I had only truly trusted His sovereignty through everything. Through all the tiny inconsequential mishaps that I allowed to ruin my days, to the heavy grief that seemed to engulf my every waking moment~
My emotions ran ragged.
Worry, stress, irritation and anger took over. Wishing things could be different took place too often, and at times fear overshadowed my days.
I never stopped to fully take in the fact that God was in complete control of every single thing. Nothing was a surprise to Him. Nothing.
If we could only grasp this fact as we head into a new year. Every morning waking up and praying this verse before our feet touch the ground~
“Lord I trust you. Help me not to ever lean on my own understanding, but to acknowledge you in every single thing today so that you will direct my paths.”
Paths that lead to reactions that glorify Him no matter what life throws at us, because we trust Him and know it’s for our good. This simple prayer has literally changed my life. There’s an incredible comfort each morning as I place each future moment in His hands, and fully surrender my trust to Him.
In the beginning God.
January 1, 2023.
A new beginning.
A beginning with complete trust in the God who has been here before there ever was a beginning. The God who gives us no ending. The God of grace and hope and love.
Trust in the Lord of new beginnings.
Trust Him with all your heart.
Last week I wrote about missing my yesterdays…
Let me tell you about my today.
I ponder this day as I reflect on Christmases past. Christmas Eves full of excitement. Trying to get children to sleep so that presents would appear under the tree the next morning. Late nights and early mornings every year. Joyful laughter filling every corner of the house.
Of my home.
As parents around the world relate to this happy noise Christmas Eve brings, others are experiencing a silent night. The kids are grown and the house remains quiet.
I couldn’t help but ponder the moment Jesus was born as I thought on this.
God’s silent night.
The earth’s Holy night.
Jesus left His Father. Despite knowing the incredible sacrifice, sadness did not engulf His Father’s silent night, for the inexplicable love that God had for us took all sadness away. With joy unspeakable, His Son left the happiness of home and heaven. In the gift of Himself, He took away all silence and replaced it with a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. He gave us glory and hope.
He gave us Himself.
Always with us.
Never alone again.
My kids might not be under my roof anymore. My home may be silent, but my heart can be full. Your heart can be full.
On this night, that excitement that was once a part of my home lives on. It lives in my children as they share hope with a world that can sometimes feel hopeless. As they sing praises to God on this Holy night. As they share the good news of God’s gift with strangers and friends, loved ones and children. It lives in my grandchildren as their parents try to get them to sleep and then a few short hours later, in the laughter coming down stairs of expectation and joy.
Tonight is not silent. Tonight is Holy.
God came down.
He came down to give us expectation and joy. Forgiveness and hope. From the star that led the way, to the cry of a newborn~every moment of this night leads us back to our Father. And oh that our hearts would pierce that silence with our songs of deliverance.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace goodwill toward man!!
I miss yesterday.
There’s a strange emptiness inside me at Christmas. A hole that seems to get larger with each passing year~
It’s the memories of Christmases past and the ones who made this season so beautiful for me. A house full of children and magic. Parents and grandparents coming to visit. Cookies baked and Christmas carols playing.
Life has changed so much. It’s not the same. And I miss it. I know I shouldn’t long for the past, but at times I find myself pining for it. I know I should be rejoicing in Jesus, the entire meaning of Christmas, but sometimes I still find myself looking back to my yesterdays and wishing for them back…
I miss my kids being right upstairs. I miss my parents. I miss my In-laws living only a few hours away and their frequent visits to see us. I miss all the Christmas parties at aunt Mendi’s. I miss family. I miss Christmas dinner at Mom’s.
Maybe I’m the only one who feels this type of emptiness. Deep down, I’m a nostalgic sap.
Today I listened to my grandchildren all huddled around me, sharing in their excitement. “Only 10 days till Christmas grandma!!” And I yearn to make my daughters understand how beautiful these moments are in their lives. Right now. Moments with mom and dad right down the road, with excited little voices in every room. With cookies and carols and all the Christmas chaos. I want to tell them to soak it all in. Every last second. Even the exhaustion as their heads hit their pillows each night. Today. Right now. It will never be here again.
What marvelous, majestic gifts God gave me year after year each Christmas. Gifts I took for granted. Gifts I opened each Christmas season, smiled, said thank you to Jesus and then forgot about. Until now.
He is still giving me marvelous gifts, if I will just open my eyes to see them. They might not look the same but in my remembering the days of old, I am reminded that I am a part of the gifts He is giving my children and grandchildren. Gifts they will one day recall and cherish. I can choose to pine away for my yesterdays or I can make those gifts beautiful. The same way my parents, my in laws, my grandparents and aunts all did for me.
In this moment as I sit and listen to the quiet, God shows me that I am looking at Christmas all wrong. I wanted my yesterdays and all the joy they brought, until it dawned on me that my tomorrows are not promised. It’s not what I can get every day leading up to Christmas. It’s what I can give. What will my loved ones and friends remember?
What will your loved ones and friends remember? What will your children and grandchildren remember? Instead of focusing on the memories of your yesterdays, I want to encourage you to focus on the moments of your todays. Ask yourself~ “how can I make the lives of everyone around me better?”
Somehow my parents, my In-laws and my aunts all made magical memories for me. Memories I cherish. I’m sure they were missing their yesterdays now and then too, but they never showed it. They made my life better, sweeter. They taught me how to give of yourself to those you love.
I don’t know what next Christmas holds. Perhaps God will choose to take me home before I celebrate another season.
And so, today I will take my own advice. I will soak it all in. Every second. I will make magic for my children and grandchildren. I will fill that hole to the brim with the gift of giving. Not of things, but of memories. Beautiful, majestic Christmas memories. And one day I pray they will realize,
Those are the best gifts of all.