Seasons

Fall weather is finally among us here in South Carolina. I really thought it would never come with all of the heat and humidity we experienced over the summer and well into October. I woke up to sun shining through my window and a chilly breeze in the air, and I realized the change I had been waiting for for so long was here!  I impatiently forged ahead with fall fashion wearing sneakers, booties, and jeans well before the temperature dropped. All things pumpkin made their way into my pantry and  I even got my first PSL at Starbucks before September!

Although none of those things are a direct reflection of my faith or relationship with Christ, my lack of patience and desire of waiting is telling of who I am. As a mom and teacher, my life is fast-paced with not a lot of downtime. Days and weeks fly by because of busy days, and I find myself always planning ahead for weeks in advance. While planning and being intentional with my time is important, the Lord has quickly impressed on my heart that my desires and wants and looking ahead may lead to missing out on the season I’m currently in.

In the past 3 years, I’ve learned more about myself, my faith, and relationships than I ever knew possible. I’ve had to rely on others more than I want to admit, sought strength and power greater than my own, and have been persistent in not giving up. I’ve also learned that grief is a tricky emotion that creeps in at the most unexpected times. Just when I think I have it “under control” or have dealt with all of my emotions, self-doubt and questioning overrule. I’ve coped in many different ways, but distracting myself from my feelings is an easy way out that I resort to much too often. Becoming “busy”, constantly having my mind on something, or planning our days to be full is Satan’s way of making me think that I’m okay on my own. That I don’t need the grace and strength of my Father.

Lies. Those are lies and I know it. The only one true way to overcome is through the one true Savior who wants nothing more than for me  to give it to him and stop trying to be in control of every moment of every day. Just like I anxiously awaited for the seasons to change, I keep waiting on my season of life to change. I wonder what is next for me? What’s next in my life and in Baylor’s life? Now what’s God’s purpose in all of this pain? We are 3 years down the road, and I thought my life would look different than it does now. I’m impatiently wanting the “next” without slowing down to focus on the “now”. I could look back over specific days and moments in my life that have led me to where I am now or who I am now. I know God is faithful. I know He has a greater plan than I could ever imagine. I know He is good. I know He is gentle and kind. I know He’s a Father that only wants the best for His child. I know all of these things, but the waiting is hard. It is painful. It makes me lose sight of what is to come. It makes me forget how God’s hand has been with me and His sovereign plan is still being played out in my life.

What if I’m missing out on what God wants to teach me in this season because I’m only wanting the next season to hurry up and get here? What if God is teaching me patience in waiting? What if He’s teaching me to fully rely on Him instead of myself for a change?  I need to slow down. I need to stop and enjoy where I am right now, not in five minutes or five days or five years. I could be missing out on important lessons He needs me to learn before He can bring me into the next season. As a mom, I miss out on the moments that matter the most. The unplanned moments like having a picnic lunch because the weather is so beautiful outside or reading a book and snuggling on the couch because it’s been a long day. I’m living my life as if a schedule dictates our life instead of a Savior who loves and wants the best for us. Talk about convicting!

I’ve had to take a step back to really think about how my life should look as a Christ-follower. God has brought me through a tragedy not because I deserved it but because He will be glorified and He needed me in a position of full reliance. I needed to be needy so that I could see just how generous He is. I was too weak to walk alone. I needed His sovereignty of handling all the little details of my life. When I am at my weakest, His power is perfect.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s okay to admit that I’m weak and that I can’t do it alone. That’s my chance to give God the glory He deserves. God wants me to rely on Him because He didn’t create me to do it alone or go through life alone. He’s given me a helper in the Holy Spirit,  a church body of believers, and friends and family that have helped and continue to help carry me. When I feel overwhelmed and not enough. I’m reminded that I’m not without God. When I’m in the valley, I can lift my eyes up to the Lord who is my Helper in times of need.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

So as the seasons change, some quick, others lingering, I can rest in knowing that the season has purpose. I need to be patient in waiting, faithful in prayer, and willing to listen to the Lord during the slow seasons that seem to never end. Just as a seed needs time and care to grow and flourish, maybe I do too. Maybe, just maybe, God is continuing to make something beautiful from the ashes of my past. Am I willing to be patient in the season of waiting knowing that God’s hand is at work for my good? Can I live in the moment instead of five years ahead? Can I trust that what God has put right in front of me is more important than what I could plan for myself years from now?

 

Pray. Trust. Know. That He is good no matter the season.

 

 

 

Noise

Keeping up with a blog is clearly not a strength of mine, but lately, I’ve felt the tug to share what’s been on my heart and what the Lord has been teaching me. This blog began as a way for me to share my story and how the Lord was working in my life, but it’s also been a way for me to reflect on my life and grieve. Sometimes I wonder if what I have to say is relevant or helpful at all to someone else, but then I’m reminded that there’s a greater power who is always at work in His children’s lives.

After Will passed away, I knew there would be times that grieving would seem impossible and that talking about him, our life, or life since then would be so painful. I also knew that talking about it and not letting myself hold it in would really be my way of grieving. I had to let myself feel. I had to feel every emotion that my heart contained. I had to be honest with myself. I couldn’t hold back. My heart needed to feel everything, and I needed share that. I promised myself that no matter how emotional or uncomfortable I got, I had to let myself feel.

Oh, how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them. For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.

Psalm 31:19

I’ve stuck to that and find myself sharing a little more than I usually would when someone asks how I’m doing or what’s going on in my life. I know God has handpicked these times for me to really tell of His grace and power. If I hold back, I’m not only holding back and not letting myself feel, but I’m also missing out on an opportunity to share my story and how my life is different because of Him.

Last Christmas I received Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist as a gift and made it through a few weeks of reading before I completely abandoned it for my One Year Bible as I read through for the second time.  January 1st, I wanted something different to start for the year and decided to incorporate the 365 daily devotions back into my quiet time. Again, just like the January before, every single day felt like the Lord’s word and truths were jumping off the page at me. Don’t you love when that happens? For me, it’s confirmation that I am His and that He is mine. Some truths were comforting and reassuring as they pertained to raising children and the sovereignty of the Lord, but one has been very uncomfortable to read as the same truth was woven through the past few days’ readings. Noise.

I’m so guilty of wanting to fill every moment with some sort of noise. Music, TV, friends, social media, busyness, the list goes on and on. I pride myself on keeping busy and always working on a project or doing something, but I’ve been convicted lately that being busy with all the “noise” in my life is distracting me from letting myself truly feel what I need to.

Whenever anyone goes through a hard time, there’s always advice given. In the days and weeks that followed Will’s death and even now when the random days are hard and don’t seem to make sense, I tell myself what so many told me: keep yourself busy and surround yourself with those that love you.  Those hard moments suddenly don’t seem so daunting and the time passes quicker, but since when does a band aid heal a wound? Great friends, solid support systems, and things to keep your mind off the inevitable are all wonderful things, but they can’t be the only things.  Most of my soul searching and discovering life’s hard truths have come in the moments that there is no music, no screen, no noise, no distractions to keep my mind off of feeling what I need to feel. It’s in those times that you have to decide to be brave or be distracted, to deal with your emotions or to mask them with another band aid, to be numb or to be present.  I don’t just want to live in a safe world, I want to live in a world where I’m fully present and ready to receive all that the Lord has in store for my life.

I stand silently before the Lord, waiting for him to rescue me. For salvation comes from him alone.

Psalm 62:1

In a world where being busy is the norm and distractions are so readily available, we can miss the small opportunities God lays in front of us. I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible as they prepare for Jesus to come to their home. Mary immediately sits with Jesus and visits with Him while Martha is distracted by all of the preparations to make things just right for their visitor. As a teacher and a single mom, Martha is me by nature. I want things to be just right, have a plan, and I definitely don’t like to be patient or put things off. But how many times have I missed something because I was so worried about making a plan? Probably way more than I’d like to admit. Jesus’ response to Martha was that He was the only thing that needed to be of her concern and Mary discovered that. Whoa. I’m not only missing out on opportunities that are put in my path, but I’m also missing out on the greatest reason to live. So convicting. So uncomfortable.

So I sit here writing this in total silence going against every desire in my body to want to have some background noise, hopeful that what God has placed on my heart will also resonate with someone else who doesn’t want to just play it safe. As ugly as it can be, the silence brings healing and wholeness in a noisy, distracting, broken world.

Change

Change is something that most people fear. Change requires some discomfort, maybe even some pain, and definitely flexibility. Our world is constantly changing from oceans that ebb and flow to birds who migrate every season.  Some changes are easier than others and some changes shake us to our core.

To the world, change is uninvited, unwanted, and unpleasant.  We as humans love to get comfortable in our own skin and do life where we can get through each day just as easy as the last. However, this totally contradicts what God’s Word has laid out for us as followers of Christ. The Lord tells us that we will face trials and sorrows, but that nothing will separate us from Him.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Over the past 16 months, I have experienced this all too well. Right after Baylor was born and we got in a groove of feeding, and more importantly, sleeping.\ I pictured life as doing the same routine day after day until we wanted to grow our family and repeat the process. I loved my job, but each day I felt myself just going through the motions of teaching math and reading, interjecting discipline and life lessons and before I knew it, it was 2:30 and time to go home.  My time with God was lacking. I spent time in prayer and in the Word, but there was not much depth. I found time for God, but it was mostly when I had a crying baby or when I felt frustrated or needed patience. I never forgot to praise God for His many blessings, but deep down I knew God wanted more for my life.

Six months after Baylor was born, change turned my life upside down.  Will passed away and I had no idea what to do, but I quickly realized who to turn to. Thankfully, God had been using moments in my life to prepare me for the change that was coming. I wouldn’t realize how pieces would fit together until later, but His plan was greater and still is greater.

This change that now encompassed my life seemed unfair, too hard, and incomprehensible.  For a while, I felt just like that. It would be easy for me to complain or be angry about my situation. Some days I want to, but that’s what the world wants me to do, not God’s calling on my life.

Almost immediately, life took on a whole new meaning for me. I no longer was thinking about my day-to-day routine, my perspective was eternal.  I think back to those hard months right after the accident and can truly thank God that He never let me feel alone and reminded me that He had a greater plan.  Now, I was thinking that if I’m still here, what does God want me to do with what’s left of my life, how can I serve Him through this tragedy, and who am I bringing with me to Heaven?

Looking back, I don’t know if my life could have ever honored God to its full capacity without the suffering I’ve gone through.  I honestly think that I would still be living a life too complacent to truly be serving God.  Deep down, part of me knows that God has used this trial to test me and draw me closer to Him in a way that I never could have imagined.  He took my earthly comfort and forced a change that could only turn my eyes toward Him.  I may never fully know how God will use this for His glory, but He graciously has let me see glimpses of the joy that can come through mourning.

I’m reminded of the verses in Romans that joy can come through trials because of God’s great love for us.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “

Romans 5:3-5

Rejoice is a strong word, especially when going through something so hard, but sometimes rejoicing is the answer for when I don’t know what else to do.  I’ve seen a strength in myself that I never had before and a confidence in my Savior that is a testimony to others who are going through the same thing.  God’s love for us is deeper than we could ever imagine and because of this great love, He will not disappoint us.

Change in my life has been nothing short of difficult, but change is what I need, what we all need, to truly understand the Lord’s desires for our lives.

The Table

What comes to mind when you think about your table? Do you see it as a place where you eat meals and share about your day? Does it serve as a “catch all” for book bags, purses, shoes, and laundry? Do you even use it anymore? This year, I  challenge your perspective of your table and encourage you to view it differently- as your mission field.
I want to share a little about what has been on my heart since last January when I went to my church’s winter retreat at The Cove. At the time, my life still seemed like a whirlwind as I was back to work after Christmas break and moved back into my home after living with my parents for 2 months. I was trying to figure out life as a single parent as best as I knew how. Time was nearing for the retreat that Will and I had always planned to go on in 2016. Instead of backing out, my best friend, Kennedi, graciously joined me so I had a roomie! I had no idea what was in store for me but I anticipated great music from our praise team and great encouragement from our leaders for the weekend.  Biblical community, inviting friends (Christians and non-Christians) to your home for food and conversation, and investing in those around you were all topics at The Cove.  Every word spoken laid heavy on my heart as I felt the urgency to create more of a biblical community around myself. I knew I needed it and figured that it was a need for many other women too. More than having a biblical community, the Lord placed on my heart that using my dinner table would be a means to serve Him.  A table is meant to be a place of gathering and enjoying the company around you.  A table gathering always consists of food and conversation, so why not make that conversation purposeful in a way to glorify Him?  Eating around a table is the perfect setting to provoke great conversations about life and the ups and downs that come with it.  We all have struggles, we all have temptations, we all have sin, and most of all we all need accountability to pursue a Christ-honoring life.
As Shauna Niequist says in her book, Savor, “The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for.  The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.  We allow someone else to meet our need.”
 I never felt the desire to pursue the Lord’s Will for my life so strongly until Will passed away and my life was turned upside down. One piece of the puzzle God revealed to me was using my table as a gathering place to serve him, but I didn’t really know how. Even as I bought a new house and diligently searched for the perfect table to seat many, I prayed that somehow God would show me exactly how He wanted to use this calling placed on my heart.  Shortly after, my mom invited me to hear my friend, Robin, share how she journals through the Bible.  I knew I needed to get myself back into a Bible study or just reading my Bible, so I went.  I was blown away by her wisdom and how God has used Bible journaling to teach her many things and bring her through many things.  It was the perfect time in my life to hear everything she said. I have no doubt that the timing was the Lord’s.  I began reading through the Bible in a year using The One Year Bible and journaling my thoughts and prayers throughout the year. 
When talking with some friends over the summer, they expressed a desire to read their Bibles more and I realized that Bible journaling and reading through the Bible in a year was what I needed to pursue. I knew I wasn’t a Bible teacher and have never felt qualified to lead a Bible study, but I knew I could definitely open my house to my friends and talk about what I’ve read and how the Lord has used it in my life. Since then, God has reaffirmed my desire in many ways.  This Christmas, Will’s sister, Blair, gave me Shauna Niequist’s book, Savor: Living Abundantly, Where You Are, As You Are.  She had no idea about the Bible journaling class I just held or my plan for the new year, yet her gift so perfectly confirmed the Lord’s Will for my life in 2017.  Savor, the a 365 day devotional that incorporates recipes, bible verses, and daily challenges with the simple fact that gathering around good food and your table enhances spiritual living, has already challenged me to focus on the precious time I have with friends and family- including our time around the table.
Today, a group of ladies from all different backgrounds and ages started reading their Bibles in anticipation for God to do great things in them and through them this year. I can’t think of a better way to begin a new year than with the Living Word of God.Each month, we’ll meet to share what God has revealed to us throughout the month and how He is working through our lives.  We’ll meet around a table where we can let go of the stress of the day, the worries of the world, and the acts we feel like we need to keep up. We will share our temptations, our victories, and hold each other accountable as we journey through the Bible.
Looking back, a year ago, I had no idea how God would use my life and still don’t know the great things that will come from this, but I do know the importance of pursuing a God that daily pursues me and seeking His guidance for my life over my desires. My prayer for you is that you will be encouraged to get to know a God who loves you and wants you to know Him and also to share your table with someone this month. Share food. Share your struggles. Share love.

Good Good Father

A year has come and gone and now we’re about to celebrate Thanksgiving again. This is my most favorite time of year because it means lots of extra time with friends and family and a time of reflection of the many blessings I have to be thankful for.  Now with an almost 2 year old, it will take on a totally different meaning as I teach her the meaning of this season.

Last year at this time, only a month had passed since Will’s accident and I remember feeling so lost, confused, and not myself. I remember Christmas shopping and going back to work a couple of weeks later and just thinking to myself, “What am I doing here? Lord, what is Your purpose for my life if it’s not being a wife? I’m only 26 years old, what am I supposed to do now?” So many questions came to mind as I worked through my emotions, stayed faithful in prayer, and reflected over my life as the Lord began to reveal to me more about His plan for my life.

One truth that I have learned is what a Good Father God is.  I remember back to hearing “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin for the first time as Will and I sat in the evening service at church. I was pregnant with Baylor and I couldn’t contain my emotions as I pondered over the words of the song and thought about how good He was to bless us with such a responsibility and honor.  Hearing that song after Will’s death took on a whole new meaning.  How could He be a Good Good Father when I just lost my husband and father of my child? How could He be a Good Good Father when I thought my purpose in life was to be a wife and mother?  Then I realized just how wrong I had been for my whole life.

Growing up, I dreamed of a fairytale wedding and having a husband and kids like every other little girl.  I thought that was the extent of what my life was supposed to be. Our society makes it seem that way.  The media portrays perfect lives and marriages. I thought that was what I had. However, on October 23, 2015, everything I thought I was supposed to have to complete my life, was taken from me. I quickly realized that my life here on earth is not for myself. It’s not to be a wife.  It’s not to be a mother or teacher. It’s not to do what I want to do and enjoy the things around me. Most importantly, it’s not the end of my life. My purpose is to share Jesus with every one I know and further His Kingdom through my relationships, actions, and service.  This sounds like something so easy to understand, but I was in a rut of going through the motions of every day busyness that I didn’t see it until the only thing I had left to look at was God.

As soon as I heard the news about Will, my immediate thought was, “Lord, take me and Baylor too. I have no other reason on this Earth. I’m ready to be with You.” In the same moment, God impressed upon my heart that His plan is greater than I will ever know and that He wasn’t done with me yet.  I held to that truth over the next few months and committed to using my story as a way to share His love. I began to see glimpses of where God’s hand had been through the tragedy.  I heard story after story of how Will shared God’s love with different people, how he had impacted their lives or their children’s lives, and also how my reaction to tragedy was a testimony of my faith in my Savior.  Looking back, God was so gracious to allow me to hear how He’s used Will’s death for good. I wanted confirmation. I wanted validation. I wanted to know why God called him home so early.  God owed me none of that, yet I’m still seeing His Hand working through our friends, family, and other lives that Will touched here on earth.

So, how can I claim that God is a Good Father even in tragedy? It’s having faith in a plan much bigger than mine. It’s having trust in a heavenly Father that has never once let me walk alone. It’s having hope that God will continue to use my story for good. For His good. For that, I’m thankful.

My Story

October 23, 2015. That date will forever bring a lump to my throat and an ache in my heart.  That day forever changed my world.  That day, my frame of reference became “before Will died”or “after Will died”.  Time in my life revolves around October 23rd.  Although the days after October 23rd were confusing and full of anguish, the Lord graciously opened my heart to a peace and hope that were indescribable.

Friday, October 23, 2015 Will and I woke up and went about our morning routines of getting ready for our day and getting Baylor ready. Will always took Baylor in the mornings since my commute is longer. That morning was no different.  He got her dressed in a brown and pink dress and came to tell me goodbye as I was getting ready.  I vividly remember that day like no other. Will said to Baylor, “Say bye Mama!” as he always did, I hugged and kissed them both lingering longer than normal.  Almost as if I knew it would be the last time we would all three embrace.

The rest of my day went on as normal.  I planned to leave school right after dismissal to get back home and pack up for our planned trip to Virginia for a wedding.  I called Will as soon as I left work and he didn’t answer. I never thought anything about it until I got home and packed and still was waiting around to see if he was picking up Baylor before coming home.  Just then, I get a call from my parents, who were already in Virginia, saying that they just read about a fatality at the company where Will worked.  I told them I hadn’t heard anything, but would find out what was going on.

Immediately, I told myself that Will was dealing with the family and friends of whoever died because that’s who he was.  He was there in times of trouble, in times of fun, in times of confusion or worry. He was there.

I still couldn’t get a hold of him so I decided to go to him because I was sure he needed comforting too. The whole drive there, I prayed and begged God to not let it be him.  I knew this couldn’t happen to me.  It doesn’t happen to a 26 year old wife and mother to a 6 month old. It doesn’t happen in Anderson, South Carolina.  It wouldn’t happen to Will who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and come home safe.  I screamed and cried in the 10 minutes it took me to get there. When I pulled in the drive, my deepest fear became an instant reality.  I immediately knew it was him. The way his coworker looked at me as if he was the last person he wanted to see that day, the way his boss and his wife came running toward me, the way I looked around and didn’t see Will coming to greet me with his usual pep in his step. It was him.

The rest of the night was a blur, as were the next few days as I still couldn’t process what was happening to me.  I felt as if Will was out of town for work and would just come home in a week.  A week turned into months and months have now become a year, and I still feel like he could walk in the door at any moment.  In the blur, there was a peace and comfort that I still can’t describe. I felt “too normal” for this to be happening to me. I look back on those first few days and know that God was carrying me and holding me as tight as possible. He still hasn’t let go and His promises give me confidence that He never will.

Sadness is still overwhelming at times and questioning why looms over me some days, but the unexplainable peace I have experienced can only be explained by my Savior’s love and grace.  With so much sorrow and hopelessness in our world, my prayer is that my story can somehow in someway help someone else find their peace in the Jesus Christ.

So, why a blog? I’ve shared bits and pieces of my story to friends and family whenever it comes up in conversation, but I have never been able to fully share what God is teaching me. In conversation, I freeze up and get lost in the words I want to say because I am afraid of getting too emotional. Writing my words flows better and  will reach more people than I could on my own, so a blog seemed like the logical avenue I should take to share my story.

This blog has been in the works for months in my mind with wavering thoughts of what to write, when to write, should I write? So many conflicting thoughts entered my mind when the Lord laid on my heart to capture my journey through a blog. Although I don’t know why this happened and may never know this side of Glory, I do know that my story and Will’s life will bring glory to God’s name, all I have to do is share it.  God has made it very clear to me that sharing my experiences can bring others to Him while allowing me to record my experiences for myself and my daughter.

My prayer is that my journey and the Lord’s grace will touch someone’s heart and bring them closer to Him.  I want others to experience the hope that I have in the Lord even in the storms I’ve faced.

The Bible tells us, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. ” Romans 5:3-5

I am thankful to serve a God who loves me so much that He gives me such a hope that there will not be disappointment. His plans are better and greater than anything I could ever imagine, and I’m excited to see where He takes me!