Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Little Piece of History: Grandma you will be missed.

Before I begin I would like to say a big thank you to my Dad and sister Lisa for helping me write this blog and of course my husband who reads and re reads every blog I write. Not only does he read my blogs he is also so patient with me as he listens to me talk out all my thoughts until they become clear on paper. So, THANK YOU!

This Holiday Season has been a whirlwind for my family and immediate family. A whirlwind that has caused some very strong winds, involving a rush of events and a stirring of emotions which COULD have resulted in destruction. I have learned though that through this process sometimes a whirlwind needs to happen in order for something new to transpire. Destruction is a horrible event in any situation. I mean think about it, anytime a tornado hits a city, a terrorist bombs a city, etc... loss tends to follow. A loss is never easy but what amazes me is when a crowd of people come together after destruction and work together to rebuild a city and gather around to spread love throughout the lives that have been wounded or effected by the harm that was done to them. In these moments a choice has to be made in order for the rebuilding to begin. If you want to take it a step further not only does a choice have to be made but an action must be made in order to move in a certain direction with the hope that a healthier outcome will be accomplished. 

On December 18, 2015 my family lost my Grandmother. Which meant my dad and his brothers lost a mom, my Aunt and Uncle lost a sister, extended family members lost a loved one and my grandmothers friends lost a friend. A loss effects a strand of people and each strand has a different effect and a different way of grieving. For me my grandmother was the last one of my grandparents living and I found myself not wanting to let go. I wanted to hold my grandmother close and not say goodbye as it felt we were losing a little piece of history in our family. In my world it seemed as though everything surrounding me made me think about my grandmother and the life she lived. I remember one day I went to work and the first three people I served were grandparents taking their grandkids out to eat. Then, I happen to ask a guest "so what are your plans for the holidays?" His response was "Oh I'm going to my girlfriends house to make cookies with her grandparents." What a melt your heart moment right? It is crazy to me what life brings your way in order to remind you of what is happening in your own personal life. Within these moments lay little nuggets to see beauty in what may seem to be a not so beautiful time. After many more instances I decided to take a step back and think about the situation that caused a whirlwind in my family and choose to remember the beautiful life my grandmother lived. Often times I remind myself of something I wrote almost two years ago in my "Lavender Fields" blog post when grieving from the loss of my third daughter Annabelle. And that was I thought there had to be this "Goodbye moment" but rather than a Goodbye I learned its not about saying Goodbye but rather saying Goodbye to the grief that death can bring and choosing to see the beauty in the life that all along is meant to be celebrated and remembered. 

And so this is my remembrance.

A LITTLE PIECE OF HISTORY:  
Some say you had no memory of who we were.
You didn't call us by name.
Most of the time we couldn't make sense of what you were trying to say. 
Dementia and Alzheimer's may have taken a piece of who you were but on the inside laid a piece of you that never changed.   
There you were still life of the party, that strong Italian voice you could hear clear through the halls. You were still the boss and no one had a say so, yup that's right Angela still ran the show. At the end of your life you lived life with the help of caregivers and some may say that wasn't much of living at all. But I see it differently, because a life alive still has purpose after all. You still remembered, just not the way we would hoped it would be. 

You were like a newborn baby learning this new life and just like any baby does a couple of years go by and they become aware of their surroundings and recognize familiar faces. Eventually you found your new home, you found your new friends, you even found little jobs to do, I'd say you found life again. 

The times we came to visit you seemed happy. You would show us around, tell us about your job and what a good job you were doing. We celebrated the holidays, your birthdays, had dinners and went out for treats too. Occasionally you would remember something, but then quickly forget twice as much. When you heard music you'd sing and dance, you'd tell your jokes, repeat your one liners and share with us your stories. When you saw the great grand kids they would give you hugs and kisses and that would make you smile. There were days of joy and days of sorrow.

Though you still had life we could tell this life was quickly fading. It's hard to except, hard to understand, hard to let go, hard to control the thoughts and emotions of seeing you that way. But knowing who you are on the inside made each day worth while. They say it's what's on the inside that counts and I'd say all along that has proven to be true. 

The person you are never gave up, you kept pushing through. You are a fighter, a constant reminder that at the age of 82 you lived a life that most can't comprehend. A little Italian girl born and raised in a small town called Cella Mare, near the city of Bari, Italy born in 1933, you recall how the Germans invaded your town and how medicine was not easy to get. You recalled how the Germans tried to barter for food in exchange for medicine and how you stood up to them and refused! You lived through World War II, the oldest daughter of seven kids, playing the role of the second mother not having much of a childhood. At the age of 17 holding the rails of the ship "The Constitution" braving your journey to a new land in the U.S., not speaking one word of English, only having a 4th grade school education, but that didn't stop you. In the great city of Chicago you met a man named Adolfo Lavorata to marry in the year 1954. 
The two of you raised four handsome boys Guido, John, Mike and Albert. You worked, at Salerno Butter Cookies, Motorola, and did odd jobs at restaurants to help subsidize the families income as your husband Adolfo worked construction. There you two were investing your money to keep this life going. Adolfo built your dream home in the suburb of Bloomingdales, IL where your boys grew and as each was finding their way. 
Years later Adolfo had an idea. To move to a small town so the two of you could build a prosperous business. In an unknown town called Cadott, Wisconsin their was 120 acres of land and a small cafe on the corner of the property bordering Highway 29 and Highway 27 "seemed crazy but why not, let's do it." You changed the name of the cafe to Angela's Truck Stop. Making a name for yourself, and I think that's pretty cool. As the years went by "The Lavorata Corporation" was developed and started distributing homemade Italian food: like the Lavorata's sauce, frozen Panzerotti's, Ravioli's, Cannelloni and Manicotti. Adolfo branched out and bought a Ravioli machine for $50,000 where you could mass produced larger quantities to local stores across the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. Outside of the business one tradition you shared was your capability to prepare a Saint Joseph's table filled with wonderful Italian foods that you shared with the community for over 30 years and gave donations from the meals to charity. Your legacy, traditions, time and labor was built not just for you but for your sons, their wives and kids, along with the extension of love toward so many others lives too.   
As the family grew. All the boys married, having children of their own. Pursuing their passions and dreams you and Adolpho discovered it was time to sell Angela's Truck Stop and the Land and find a warmer climate to move to. Chandler, Arizona was the place you called home for the next 18years. A beautiful home with a back yard big enough for grandpa to plant his trees and garden. A pantry, laundry room and kitchen with enough room to prep and store all the homemade Italian cooking traditions. The two of you kept up and celebrated 55 years of marriage. With this life that you two created most would say is impossible, but you two didn't look at the impossible you just did it and you did it together.

As I sit here writing out my thoughts I can't help but think about how much more there is to share. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface with the depth of this rich history between these two beautiful people. Here I am, just one out of 12 grandkids that was blessed with grandparents that understood life more than most. Sitting in the background trying to understand all that my grandparents had to sacrifice just to come to the U.S. I can't even pretend like I understand. Here I am living this life that seems like everything my grandparents worked for I have at my fingertips and I don't even think I realize it. 

After my grandfather passed I remember thinking "what is going to happen now? Is grandma going to be okay? Does this mean all the boys will have to carry the financial load providing for their mother?" But no! Even though my grandfather passed, once again he thought things through. He may have been gone from this earth but he lived on providing a life for my grandmother and made sure she was well taken care of financially for the rest of her life. Six years went by and on December 18, 2015 @ 6:00pm my grandmother Angela Pasqua Losurdo Lavorata decided to join him. 

People travel the world to behold a piece of history, but my grandparents gave us history. Something beautiful happens when history is told. People begin to remember, tell stories and keep retelling and retelling all the wonderful memories that will forever remain living. I am thankful for my roots that are planted so deep. Life is precious let's not take it for granted.

Grandma I imagine you now just like this picture. Young and beautiful, strong and witty, laughing and dancing, with every part of you functioning. You lived a beautiful life and that's what we are remembering. Rest in Peace Grandma you are now living.  




Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why 3am?

Before I start this next blog I'd like to take a minute and dedicate this blog to two of my dear friends. You know who you are. I will never forget our spontaneous trips to California. Little did I know 10+ years later our trips would serve such a great purpose at this particular time in my life, especially at 3AM. May this bless everyone who reads it. Enjoy reading.

3AM Seems to be more common in my world than I'd like. 

Can anyone relate? 

I can't really pin point the reason why this happens because it has happened on many different occasions. 

It's like having two alarm clocks. My brain has one and then my phone alarm has another. Let me just say, mornings are not my strong suite. Just wishfully thinking right now, if this were at all possible I'd like to make an even trade. If I could wake up eyes wide open, ready to go like I do at 3am and make that my usual morning wake up I'd be golden. But in my real world, alarm goes off at 7am and I can't get up worth anything. On any given normal day I swear I could sleep till noon. But I'm not a 13 year old on summer break anymore. I'm a mom who has a job that requires all of my effort and time.

So sleep would be nice but instead my 3am morning have consisted of me thinking about a project I am working on, a conversation I previously had that provoked great thought or everyday simple tasks like maybe what I want to cook for dinner or what I have on the agenda for the next day. 

Or what about the common duties of being a parent. Women you know from the time you are pregnant sleep stops. Waking up to a baby kicking your bladder that makes you go pee six times a night. The morning feedings, taking your child potty (when potty training) or waking up to your sneaking child who found their way to your bedside due to nightmares or the fact that they are not feeling well or just simply to remind you that you're a parent and so why let mom or dad sleep? I mean all parents seem to have the comfy and bigger bed right? I don't know about you but my first thought as a parent at 3am is "what now? For the love all I want is sleep." What's funny is as I'm writing this blog at 3am. Why? Well, not only did I wake up with a thought I also have a 4yr old that had to go potty so here I am writing this blog and taking my 4 yr old potty (and yes I said potty, it's just what mom's say).

Other 3am reoccurrences have involved different scenarios such as, trailing through some rough patches in my marriage, job issues, decisions that carry a great weight, and grieving, that just make for no sleep. These are the moments throughout the day that don't seem to allow us to give much time to sit or much thought to think through situations. But somewhere in between all that there seems to be a reoccurring pattern that usually happens at 3am. So, as I lay here wide awake amongst the quietness and stillness just as the water in the ocean on a dark night, I think about what my 3am's have looked like and now wonder what yours may look like. Maybe your 3am dark mornings look different than mine. You may have different circumstances than I, but I want you to know whatever the situation may be I hope you can be enlightened to know you are not alone at 3am.  

I remember a couple times (in my twenties) I took random trips to the beach. You know those random trips where no hotel was involved but sleeping in the back seat of a vehicle just beside an ocean. Food was on a whim based on the snacks you brought for the road trip or the little cash you brought along to do whatever with. Just you and a friend out to explore and change up the pace for a moment in time. As any beach seemed fitting because living in the moment was all we cared about. 

Our day went from seeing a beach full of people in the morning to just a few hours later, as night approached, the crowds of people dissipated as everyone gathered up their things to head back to wherever they came from. But there stood the ocean. The waves continued as the stars lit up the sky and beneath the surface of the water the sea life continued. 

This is 3am. I can't help but think about how all the ocean reflects so much of the constant life we live. I mean at times don't you just feel like a wave being tossed around when you get out of bed? As you knock into things and stub your toe along the way just to find a dang light so you can go to the bathroom (not that this has happened to me or anything). But other times you don't know why your are awake and there you are still tossing and turning trying to make the waves of thoughts just stop. 

Just as much as we can feel like a wave in the middle of the night we can also find rest if we look out further out beyond the shore of life. 
My family and I recently just took a trip to California. I snapped this pic not knowing I'd be waking up at 3am sharing it with you. But now that I am I have a whole new perspective of what 3am looks like. I was challenged by something as I looked at the photo and I want to challenge you to try and see what I see. If you look at the picture above and escape in your mind how you may feel like a wave of emotions or thoughts and look beyond you will see the little ripples in the water that stay steady. What I love most is to look up and see the sky line up with the ocean and imagine the creator of the universe mirroring who He is through creation. Seeing the sky line up so perfectly with the ocean reminds me how God is aligning my life so perfectly with the waves that so often occur and cause me to wake up at 3am. So instead of just tossing and turning I wake up with Him. The one who aligned the waters and the sky who set everything in motion before I was even created.  

Every time I see God's creation it unravels me to think about all the ongoing mysteries of who He is and how much He loves us. Not only did He take time to make the birds and the sky but he took time to specially handcraft each and everyone of us. He thought about you and I.
Did you know God doesn't make mistakes? He only makes beautiful things. And did you know just like creation, it was once void and empty and from that He made something quite beautiful which tells me God can make something from nothing. 

Maybe this is how your life feels. Empty, void, like a big ocean of nothingness. But maybe if you look a little further out, beyond the waves of whatever your situation my hold, your life at 3am may serve a greater purpose if we allow it to.

Just like the ocean God is constant too, time with Him is always available. It's funny how when I wake up at 3am I can hear every little detail in my home and even the crickets outside. Just think, if that happens how much more will you hear from Him? When 3am wake ups happen now I say "what is it?, do you have something you want to tell me?" Sometimes I start by reading or by writing out some thoughts. And sometimes I'll scroll through social media, fall asleep and it's not until the next day I get something I needed to be reminded of or encouraged with. Whatever it is He knows and He is there, His hand is in everything. He is constantly creating, constantly shifting, He is making you new. Sometimes it just happens at 3am when He knows you have nothing else surrounding you but Him. So, ask Him. 

May this song encourage you. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Deal with Fear

I'm on my way home from a creative meeting about to pick my daughter up from school. I had about 30min to spare and thought "well instead of just dilly dallying why don't I stop at a Barnes and Noble and see if there is a book that catches my eye." So I did. I exited off the freeway, turned into a Barnes and Nobel, parked my vehicle and walked right in eye balling the new release section. Immediately, this book stood out to me. The title and the cover felt as though it called my name "hey, hey Gina over here." 

There it was Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Yup! That was for me. I mean how perfect right? I just left a creative meeting so of course I want to challenge myself with Creativity.
I grabbed the book, sat down in the coffee shop and the second I opened the book I couldn't seem to digest everything I was reading fast enough. 

You know when you sit down at a restaurant and you're so hungry, you can smell the food and your taste buds are already watering just from the smell? Then you order the food and before you know it your eating so fast to the point of not even coming up for air because the food is so good? Yeah, I know this a bit too well except not so much with a restaurants food as with my Mom's. Every time I stop at my parents house my mom instantly offers to cook. God Bless Italian mom's, they can COOK! She doesn't know this but sometimes I say "Hey Ma! I'm coming over to say hi," but really I'm coming over to see what's in her fridge and it just so happens she says "oh honey have you eaten? Let me fix you something or look in the fridge, help yourself." "Okay Ma, if you insist." 

Yeah just like I know good food, I know a good book when I see it! So let's get back to the book. All of a sudden I find myself not just reading this book but I start snapping photos of almost every page because I don't want to forget about what I'm reading. I'm thinking "well I have to leave soon so I want to snap some pics so that when I get home I can go back and re-read the things I read."
I know, let's pause for a moment and I'll just ask the question for you. "Why don't I just buy the book?" Here's the thing. If I have a book at home I don't read it. I tend to consume my time at home with my kids, cleaning, cooking, writing. Other things become more of a priority so while I'm reading this book I'm thinking "if I buy this book I know it's just going to sit on my dresser." In that moment of realization I have an idea. "I know what I will do, I am going to dedicate at least 3 days out of my week to have a date with Big Magic." Yeah, that doesn't sound weird or anything. 

Anyway, but really, I decided right then I'm coming up to Barnes and Nobel and I'm going to finish this book. Why can't I enjoy 30 minutes of my time, 3 days a week just for me? So that was my life for the next week and now I want to invite you to watch this clip that I have discovered along the way while reading this book. But first, if your anything like me, meaning, if you came from or are in a religious upbringing or were in the surroundings of a strict or very cautious world. Two things will happen when you watch this. 1) It will resonate with you and will instantly give you freedom or 2) It will jerk any negative thought you've had about this topic and you will want to challenge this thought with every tool you think you may have to squash it. Trust me! I understand. When I first heard this I wanted to argue this point and go straight to a source that would try to eliminate this topic out of my life. So, if this happens while watching this video here is what I did for you. I attached another video from another author "Brendon Burchard" that I highly recommend as well. Hopefully by watching both it will break you free and allow you to live a life beyond fear which will maximize your creativity that already lives on the inside of you waiting to burst forth in your life. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Process

As I continue with my story I first want to say thank you so much for taking time to read my blogs. Your support and feedback has meant and continues to mean the world to me. When starting the I Am Crowned Project Blog it was very important to me to be honest and real about my story. In the process of sharing my story, it has been, well, just that, a process. Little did I know being honest and real with myself was one thing but being real with an audience has put a whole knew perspective on things. It has challenged me to think differently, see differently and appreciate everyone’s life on a broad scale, realizing everyone faces something everyday. And I want you to know there is something special about your story. You never know when or how you can help someone with your story. These last couple of months I have had to face some reality within my own story. The reality of some repetitive questions that have been racing through my mind like, "how can I put everything into words?" "Is this even worth sharing?" "What was I thinking, maybe I wasn't thinking?" The fact is we all go to bed and wake up with thoughts on our mind. Some thoughts may be about the mundane things of life, but other times those thoughts can be haunting and wearing that stirs up doubt and fear. I want you to know doubt and fear are made to paralyze us in the process of moving forward in life. Anytime we are faced with doubt and fear that should tell us that it is time to face some things head on so that a new reality kicks in. Our minds have the power to create any story we want. The goal should be that we create the truth rather than believing in thoughts that are not even a reality. Realizing the truth about our situation will free us to look beyond what we see, sense, and feel in our moments of doubt and fear. In this blog I want to help you shift your perspective so that you can see life as a beautiful process. So, let’s begin the process. 

As summer comes to an end and school is back in session I couldn’t help but sit back and reflect on how far my family and I have come. This summer was quite different for us as a family than last year. If you have read my previous blog “The Why” well that was what my last summer looked like for me. The Why was a turning point in our families life. It set the foundation for us as a family to dig deeper in areas of our personal life that we normally wouldn’t tackle and it also allowed us to face some real and intimate moments with God. The results have drawn us closer together as family and most importantly drawn us closer to God.

Many of you know either from knowing us or from my blogs that we were in ministry for quite sometime. Last spring we resigned from working at a church, along with leaving the church which I grew up in for 21 years. For me not only did I grieve over the loss of our daughter Annabelle but I also grieved as I felt I lost a piece of me when we left ministry and the church I grew up in. I can confidently say my identity was wrapped up in what I did and where I was in ministry. I am not proud of this by any means but I will say I am proud of myself for recognizing truth about my situation. After realizing this I began to see my life as a blank slate and began to write my own story. Your identity should never be wrapped up based on what you do but rather who YOU are. So the real question is “WHO ARE YOU?” 
When my husband decided to resign he then pursued sports and exercise training and rehab starting in March 2014. He went through 3 different changes in that field in less than 9 months. Even though the changes were stressful for our family, financially my husband did everything he could to keep us afloat along with friends and family that helped us out tremendously. Leading up to the end of May this year my husband was approached by our very good friend with an opportunity in Real Estate. To be honest the last thing I wanted was another change. My mind and thoughts and emotions could not handle anymore and so when my husband approached me with this opportunity I gasped and all I could say was “I can’t do this again. I can’t go through anymore change.” This was my first reality. I didn’t know how to handle change.
For the most part I believe Women long for stability and security and Men long to have purpose and value. Both roles require understanding each other. 

So here we were, both my husband and I were on this search to find stability and security, and purpose and value. I remember the night before Ryan was about to start real estate school, we were sitting on the couch and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how any of this was going to work. Yet again I never understood how anything was going to work out for us in what we had already experienced in the previous year. I asked a series of questions not to badger my husband but questions that would require us to come together and allow each of us to walk through this process to understand this next step (BIG difference). We walked through every obstacle you can imagine this night. We were both frustrated to no end and feeling like we were getting nowhere in our conversation. Reality was we actually were. We were asking each other straight up real questions not beating around the bush (hence lots of "why" questions). Something we had not done before. I finally asked Ryan “can you see yourself giving 100% to real estate?" He said “Yes.” That very next day he started real estate school and here was my chance to embrace change. The change for me was finding my identity in being a mom which I wrote about in my "Keep Climbing" blog. 

I knew I married a hard worker but there is a big difference between being a hard worker and being a hard worker who is fruitful. We have experienced both. The work we did before I can say was good and we had fruitful moments but WE, our family, was not fruitful. Meaning we were tired, drained and unhealthy. It's like we would experience good things happening but nothing would take root in order for fruit to continue to produce. Let me tell you if your marriage can stick it out through the hard times where the seed that your casting doesn't seem to take root, the fact that you are still casting that seed should be encouragement enough. Never stop throwing seed out there because one of the seeds will take root in good soil and fruit will begin to grow. The next step: Understanding the process. A healthy process. 
Nature gives us the best example of what the process is like. When planting a tree it starts with a seed and as you tend to the seed and soil and give it its daily nutrition, that seed begins to take root and something takes place beneath the surface that we can't see. The goal is that this seed takes root in good soil and then giving it what it needs to grow it begins the Process of Waiting to see a tree begin to sprout from the ground. 
When my husband and I went through counseling our counselors, Sean and Lina Flannagan, invested so much time into us helping us walk out our thoughts, questions and struggles. They did not give us a to do list, they did not separately tell us what each of us needed to do better, and they did not paint this picture perfect world that seemed so unattainable. Instead they helped us see a different perspective to be able to walk through this life together victoriously. This was the seed sowing in our process. It created a shift in our hearts and minds to realize that we both have different strengths we can offer each other through the process and that is what started the change in our lives. This part of our story has taken a lot of work, and waiting, to understand the process and although the work has not been easy it most definitely has been worth it. 

If you are desiring a new perspective, a shift to take place in your life so that you can experience a new life; “CHANGE and UNDERSTANDING" is just part of the process.

The Process of life became more clear to me as I allowed myself to be open to the process. How do you know when you are open to the process of life? I’ll tell ya! “When you allow others to speak into your life.” And not just anyone but people that have walked through some life (you know, the gritty stuff) and can be real about the process of life with you. There is so much freedom when you discover you don't have to walk out this process alone. God of course is the ultimate healer however I believe he puts people in our lives to gain counsel from. Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility. Proverbs 1:5 says “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels."  

One beautiful reality that I have had thus far as I dig deeper into my story is knowing the process is a journey, a life long journey that does not have an end but rather keeps taking me further along than I ever imagined I can go. There might be check points along the way, but the process never ends. Therefore, I am not waiting for a season to be over, rather I am embracing every season I get as an opportunity to create and recreate what used to be and what is to come in this beautiful life God gave me. I have been replaying and replaying this song all summer. The lyrics say “In the process, in the waiting your making melodies over me. And your presence is the promise for I am pilgrim on a journey.” This is how I look at my life now. I see it as a beautiful melody and new songs constantly being written over me. I love how David simply writes it in Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a NEW SONG in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” 

(The whole chapter is absolutely worth reading so I encourage you to read more).  
This summer I saw a part of our story rewritten. From last summer we were lost, frail, broken and confused, and we were hanging onto hope as if it were a fraying rope about to snap. However, we took time to embrace some necessary change to rewrite this part of our story. An unknown author once said "Freedom is found when we let go of who we're supposed to be and embrace who we really are." My husband and I are constantly reminding each other to embrace who Ryan and Gina really are. When we live a life to see beyond the obstacles we find hope. Look at each morning as a new day. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT says "Every morning we start a new day. The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." 

I encourage you to dig deep and find that place where it's time for you to allow God to rewrite your story or a new song inside your heart. I heard this at a conference I just recently attended from Craig Groeschel “If you focus on one thing that you can improve in and become at least 5% better this year than you were before than you are making progress.” Making some progress is better than none at all. All it takes is one seed to land on good soil, necessary nutrition and care, and the roots begin to dig deep. Soon the tree sprouts up from the ground and fruit begins to appear. Soon after that you will enjoy the fruit that you worked so hard for. Never stop planting and never stop growing. Philippines 1:6 says "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Allow God to write your story. There is no better author out there than the One who created you. He will lead you, but you have to Live it out! 

Before I close out this blog I want you to know it is very important to me as I share about my own experiences that I provide some great resources for you as well. The counselors that I mentioned earlier in this blog are Sean and Lina Flannagan of Solid Life International. They are honest, trustworthy, and caring people who are available to help. You can reach them @ lina@solidlifeinternational.com 

Also, as you listen to this song, may it encourage you!
"Embrace the Beautiful Process of Life"

Monday, July 13, 2015

Keep Climbing (Pause in the Blog)

My world consist of girls, girls, and more girls! Around here we embrace tutus, dolls, girlfriends, glitter, coloring, cooking, baking, creating movies, make believe, fashion shows, make up, flowers, butterfly's and sunshine. We also embrace days where we are cooped up in a house where there is whining, screaming, arguing, laundry out the wazoo, dishes like Mount Everest, and toys scattered like sea shells on a seashore. Each moment can have its ups and downs.

In my life I have chosen to be a mom. And there have been times where I have asked myself "what the heck was I thinking." Then I think of the million other things I tried to do in my lifetime and that's when I remember those other things just never seemed to work out for me.

We all from time to time can get wishful of other things or envious of another one others life. But can I tell you this. You are GREAT! You have a purpose and you have a life worth living and sharing. Your life means something. Maybe you don't feel like it does now but know that it does. Your past, mistakes and failures don't define you. What defines you is seeing every obstacle as an opportunity to overcome and become a better and healthier you.

Have you ever climbed a mountain before? If so, I'm sure along the way you've stop to look back and see how far you've climbed and then as you look out at the view you realize what seemed small at first now is a broad view of only what's to come once you've reach the peak of the mountain. Then once you've reach the peak hopefully you rest and enjoy not only how far you've come but you take in the beautiful views in which you worked so hard to see.

The other day I watched my two girls with their two girlfriends carry around a mini case full of make up. That evening my girlfriend and I took the girls to three different locations. At every location the girls would put on their make up, then they would pull out the make up remover wet wipes, wipe off their faces and reapply more and more make up. This occurred multiple times within the evening. A couple days later I was looking through my pictures and every time I looked at them one thing came to mind. "These girls were sure embracing their life and living it well." I cherish these moments because within these moments kids tend to show you the practicality of life that we so often times forget. So, I paused to take it all in and in this moment I grasped on to my thought "Embrace the life you live and live it well." I reflected and remembered there was a time I used to look at motherhood as a meaning less task. It was something I chose so therefore I had to do it. The enjoyment and fulfillment wasn't really there because I was just doing it because I had to. Motherhood has been one of my mountains so as I've been climbing it I stopped and I looked out at my view and what seemed so small at first just got WAY bigger. I didn't just see it as a meaningless task, I now see it as meaningful lives that were given to me as a gift and this gift I don't take lightly. Some people may have seen two moms talking away and there were our daughters putting bright red lipstick on their lips and glitter eyeshadow all over their eyes. Rather than getting caught up in what others may think I thought "this is my life and I think I'm living it pretty well.
Maybe you've experienced this or maybe this is new news to you. Whether your a mom, a dad, own a business, career driven, a student in college, a grandparent, retired or still searching, I want to encourage you. Just like my viewpoint on motherhood at first was pretty small and pretty crappy to say the least. Here it is: "The more you climb the better the view gets." Life is not easy and at times it's pretty crappy but along the way take moments to pause and reflect. Think about all the things you've been through and how far you've come? Guess what? Just like you have come far in some areas, whatever you are facing today you will get through it. Life is also beautiful and rewarding too. Keep climbing.

~E M B R A C E  T H E  L I F E  Y O U  L I V E  
A N D  
L I V E  I T  W E L L~

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pause In The Blog

I have moments within my days in which I might come across something that catches my attention and causes me to pause and reflect on life. They are little reminders for me to embrace the now in front of me. Time passes by so quickly doesn’t it? And I think we all can use little reminders and gain new perspectives on the little things that we tend to just pass by. But what if what we pass by has so much meaning? What if it is there to help us with our everyday life?

I’ve had this on my heart to do for a while now and I guess there is no better time to start than now. In-between writing blogs about my story I want to introduce to you what I call a “pause in the blog” moment. So pause with me and enjoy a new view.

Today I passed by a small field. I saw a few men working and tending this field. I stopped and was reminded of a time back in January when I was sitting in church listening to our pastor speak on “Pick Up Your Plow” He encouraged us rather than starting off the New year with all these expectations why don’t we ask God what fields he wants us to tend to. He went on to say our lives are made up of many different fields. Marriage is a field, work is a field, each of our children is a field, our destiny is a field and so on.

So today take a moment and think about the fields in your life. What are they? How are you tending to them?
Plowing is involved, planting is involved, time is involved, work is involved and a harvest is involved. Life is process, don’t rush it, tend to it and take care of it so that you can enjoy it.
Enjoy listening to the full teaching here:

You will never take new ground until your hand touches the plow. ~Pastor Preston Morrison

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Why

My world began to get very quite. Anyone who has grieved before knows that the quietness can be scary. No matter how hard I tried to remain positive it seemed like my world just kept crumbling. There was a lot of chaos going on in my life. In my previous blog I stated how our life completely changed in a matter of 2 months. Within those 2 months and the months following a lot of chaos started to creep into our lives. Little things that were happening were trying to scream louder than the true hurt and pain that me and my family were experiencing. I learned quickly what chaos try's to do is it try's to matter. And we let it. It distracted us, made us numb to truth and overrode our actions and emotions. I hated the feeling of what this chaos brought into our lives and I wanted it gone.

What I'm about to share with you in this blog challenged every part of my human existence. It reached the deepest part of my core and exposed the lies that I believed about myself and the God I believed in. I pray that as you read this blog it is not just my story you are reading but that you discover the truth and the reality of how much you are loved. Not the kind of love that we know as human beings but a kind of love that is unchanging. No matter what your situation is, whether you believe in God or not my hope is that this blog will help you in areas that maybe you have questioned yourself. But, before we move on will you take a second and read this prayer with me?

Hey God, thanks for being here with me. Even though I can't see you I have faith that I know you are with me and if I don't have faith help me become aware of the love you have for me. As I read this blog help me to discover the truth and reality of what love is. Help me to know you more and for me to know that you are real in my life. Help me to see what you want me to see and be open to learn more about how deep and how high and how wide your love is for me.
Amen.

Imagine with me, you see a bug in your house. If your anything like me when I see an ugly bug in my house I tend to freak out just a “little.” I remember one time there was a cockroach in my house, my husband was not home and my two little girls were only about 1yrs old and 3yrs old at the time. My first reaction was to scream and run. So I did, all 3 of us ran outside until mommy worked up the guts to kill this ugly bug. Before we went back into the house I noticed there was young boy about 7 yrs old playing. The light bulb went on. I thought, “what if I ask this boy if he likes to kill bugs and then maybe he will just kill it for me?” So I did and sure enough he loved killing bugs so we asked his mom if she wouldn't mind him coming over real quick to kill this bug. She chuckled of course and let him. So he came over and killed this ugly black cockroach for me and everything was great. But what happens once you've seen a bug? Even though the bug is gone and died you are still on the look out for another bug, Right? Now, I wish for every other bug story I had someone saved my day and killed the bug for me but that is not always the case. Either way I had to take a step back, breath and realize I am bigger than that bug and there is no reason why I can't show it who's boss. Same goes for the chaos in our lives. Chaos creeps in to distract us and makes us feel like everything is way bigger than it really is. The truth is there may be a real problem at hand that we have to deal with but that chaos is trying to matter and take our focus off the real problem. Here's the good news even though there might not be a 7 yr old boy that shows up to kill our bugs, there is ALWAYS someone there to kill our chaos. I learned two simple words while living in chaos “Ask God.” Sometimes all you need is a new environment to gain a new perspective and insight for the questions you need answers to. Ask him “God what is it that I need to do? Are you trying to tell me something? What am I missing?” Whatever you feel you need to ask him, he's there.

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble....” then it goes on to say in verse 10 “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!” So this is what I began to do. BE STILL. When I started to intentionally practice this it was like I created this bubble in my world and the quietness that I was talking about started to happen.
Every now and then I'd give in to the chaos by indulging in meaningless conversations or trying to solve problems that seemed to never end. I quickly realized I had no strength, words or energy to run in circles with drama. I slowed down and limited my time with friends and stopped responding to the chaos through emails, social media, phone calls and text messages. I had a couple friends who would text me almost everyday to check up on me and I remember it would take me days, sometimes weeks and sometimes NEVER to get back to them. I was so blessed to have people who didn't expect anything in return from me and weren't afraid of my ugly chaos that was going on my life.

I intentionally started to change my environment. I took my girls out to parks, bike rides and out on walks. Then I began to intentionally change my physical appearance. I would look at my wardrobe and dislike what I saw. Before, I was so caught up in the way I looked so I went from getting ready everyday to embracing the simplicity of life. So here I was.
  • Hair in a bun
  • T-shirt and Jeans
  • No jewelry
  • A dab of powder on my face
  • Mascara
  • Eyebrow liner
  • Chap stick or maybe lip gloss if I felt like being fancy
  • High heels were out and Flats were in
I was okay with all this intentional change until I noticed there was one that I had no intentions of changing nor did I ever expect to experience. I realized after days and months I had absolutely NO desire to open up and read my Bible.
Here I was a girl raised in church, who can preach all day long how Jesus was my very best friend, nothing anyone could say or do could take me out of the doors of the church I grew up in since I was 10 years old, worked in full time ministry since I was 19 years old, would pray with anyone at the drop of a hat, I remember as a kid I used to dream about building a bedroom at the church, that's how much I loved being there and serving people. But I had not one answer for myself and nor did I believe the God that I had believed in for so many years cared about me. I was so confused. Sounds like an identity crisis right? Well in a sense it was, I was rediscovering Gina.

Things became very real and they became very real, very fast. I shut down physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. How was this happening when just not to long ago like I stated in my last blog I was kneeling at the alter raising my hands in surrender and now I feel like this? None of it made any sense.

I was a delicate glass walking around and eventually my glass not just broke it shattered. I will never forget one day while we were still living with my parents a big argument happened between me and my family. Later that evening my husband and I went on a bike ride and my parents came to talk to us in the garage and I began to ball my eyes out. Out came the truth and I shattered “I wanted a divorce.” A couple days later I was at the park with my girls and on my way home my husband calls me and I was in a daze. He could tell I was not okay. He said “Gina what's wrong?” I pretended I was okay. He said “No, I'm not hanging up this phone, I don't care if we sit in silence I am not hanging up this phone with you” I started to say “I don't want to live, I want to be in Heaven and see Annabelle, I already know what life is like and I know you, my family and my girls” and I hung up the phone. I ran in my parents house handed the girls to my mom and ran upstairs and balled my eyes out. I fell into a deep and dark depression.

My husband got me some immediate help.
  • Marriage/life Counseling
  • Acupuncture
  • Social Worker
  • Went to a Bereavement grieving class
  • Met with a friend who lost her husband
  • Moved out of my parents house
  • Read a book on boundaries...the list goes on.
For the first time in my life medication sounded very tempting, but I just knew my issues went deeper than what medication could offer me. (If you are on medication or need medical help please go get that help. God can use anything to help you in your situation. Everybody's story is different and will have different elements to it.) I knew deep down in my heart that even though I was honest with my family, husband and to the people who I went to for help. The last person I wanted to be honest with was God. I had only one question running though my head and the question was WHY?

All these years growing up I would hear from pastors to never ask the question why, because on this side of Heaven we will never know and you will spend your time running around in circles and it will do you and your family no good” Before, all this made so much sense to me and I would give this same response if I knew someone going through a hard time. But this time now that I was the one faced my own struggles I couldn't help but ask the question why? I was so scared to ask though because I thought it would prove that I didn't have faith or that it would open my thoughts up to thinking really negative. The truth was I was already way past that point. So my why quickly changed into “Well, Why NOT?”

Immediately I thought about my two girls and every other kid and how they are notorious for asking the question Why? And if you're a parent you know that if they don't get a good enough answer they will keep asking the question why until it makes sense to them or until they find out for themselves. My daughter Cadence who was 5yrs old when Annabelle passed, came to the hospital to visit us and without any thought she had two questions for us “Why did Annabelle die and Where is she?” She wanted truth and she wanted it now. I saw bravery in my daughter that day. She knew she could come to her mommy and daddy in a very real moment and not even hesitate with the questions running through her mind. In that moment my husband and I made a vow that we want our girls to know they can always come to us with questions. We may not have all the answers but we were going to try our very best to help our kids walk through life situations. There comes a point though when we grow up and as a mom and dad our kids are not always going to have us for every situation.

My parents at the time when I was going through all of this were hurting too. I was trying to understand my pain from my daughter's death and my parents were seeing their daughter want a divorce and die. To call on each other for help was very hard. And obviously me relying on myself was doing no good because if all I had was my own strength then I know I would have ended up in divorce and/or suicide. I only had one more shot and I took it with God. My WHY was my surrender and in my WHY was when the depth of my pain was exposed too!

“God Loves when we become Real with Him, so He can Become Real to Us”
So that's what I did. I came face to face with God. Real emotions and real questions. I was holding nothing back. I was taken back to when I was a teenager leading into my adult years. I remember almost every night I had a routine. I would stretch, do some push ups, crunches, practice my dance routines, and then once I got upstairs in my room I'd get out my journal and write letters to God. I would usually start with complaining about drama, like boys, parents, sister issues or school problems that happened within my day and it never failed every letter would end in letting go of the drama and thanking God for helping me through the situation. Right then, I knew it was time for me to pick up a pen and paper again. So I did.
I would flip back and forth and at times I could feel God's loves and at times I was completely empty. I knew nothing was tangible yet. But I already started the process and I was determine to find out truth. So, the why's began. I had no idea I would share my why's with you one day but I feel so confident that what I walked through was not only for me it was for you too.

The more and more that I asked the more and more God continue to pour out his love in truth. I remember weeks and months would go on and I would tell my husband “I feel like I can see clearer and think clearer” I was not afraid of the unknown anymore. The reality of God is to love me. He would constantly remind me during this process and still till this day that in Ephesians 3: 16-20 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from who, his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of this glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

God wants you to know how much he loves you and care for you. It's time to start popping your bubble of all your doubts and unbelief's.
Let the why become what's normal in your life and in your home. When we did this it freed us up to know that we don't know and we don't have all the answers. The pressure we used to put on ourselves and kids to be pretend, put on a fake smile, get happy, and tell everyone how perfect our world is, is SO overrated and Untrue. This is true grace. To know we can come to our Heavenly Father without limits and without man's opinions. My faith is not based on how much good I do but instead on when I fail I know who to fall to. I want to fall every time into the arms of my heavenly Father, the one who loves me, holds me close, and who is safe and always secure. The one who's love is unchanging.

Ephesians 1 7-8 NLT says “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ, everything in heaven and on earth. “

I'd love to pray with you one more time and encourage you. If you've never accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior will you? If so, I'd love to read this prayer together. Will you take a second and read this prayer with me?

God I recognize that I have not lived my life for you. Thank you for coming to this earth to die for me. Forgive me of my sins. I ask you to come into my heart, wash me, cleanse me and make me new and whole again. Today I make this covenant with you to be my personal Lord, Savior and Friend. I want to thank you that as I step into this new life I will no longer be controlled by sin but come to know you more and desire you in my life. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

I want you to know what you just did was the most important decision you could have ever made. God is so proud of you and loves you so much. I'm so excited for you. I pray God continues to become real in your life and you will experience freedom like never before.

I want to leave you with this to listen to. It's the most beautiful realization of God's love I have ever heard let this bring hope and encouragement to you in whatever you are facing. Enjoy it.



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life Begins at Surrender

Last year right around Easter a big shift happened in my life. The dust started to settle from the loss of Annabelle. A lot happened in our lives in a very short amount of time. Two weeks after we lost Annabelle we had moved into my parent’s house and then 2 weeks after that my husband and I resigned from our jobs. Then 4 weeks after that we had left the church I grew up in since I was ten years old. I remember sitting in my parent’s house thinking to myself “here I am living with my parents and it’s not just me. I have two little ones, my husband is in a huge transition, and I’m trying to cope with a loss of my baby. What just happened?” Everything I ever thought my life would be had just changed within a matter of two months. I had no clue how I was able to grieve with two little kids yet alone I didn’t even know how to express to them all that was happening. As kids, you look to your parents for answers and I felt like I had none. I did not know at the time what was happening. I was living day by day because that is what you do when you’re grieving.

I remember imagining myself on a battlefield feeling as though I had just been shot in the middle of an open field and it was as if everything played in slow motion. I could see it playing out just like the movies show it. A soldier gets shot, you start to see him collapse, his knees hit the ground, everything in his hands drop. A film strip of his life flashes before his mind’s eye, his wife and children playing, childhood memories, and there the solider lies where he just surrendered his life. This was how I felt. I felt like my life just ended but the only difference is I’m still living. So now what?

I knew with all my heart Annabelle was in the arms of Jesus. She was whole, free, and perfect. I wanted to feel and know that same experience and the only place I knew that was to be at the feet of Jesus. At this point all I wanted was to soak in worship. I craved worship like never before and I wanted to feel the arms of Jesus as He would wrap me up like a new born baby would be wrapped up in their mother’s arms. I will never forget my first time back at church. It was two weeks after we had lost Annabelle, we were still on staff at the church as Junior High Pastor’s and I didn’t care about anything else but to get in the sanctuary to worship and my appearance showed. I walked in wearing workout pants, gym shoes, a t-shirt with a zip up jacket, hair in a pony tail and hardly any make up on. I didn’t want to face people, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and the last thing I wanted to do was to pretend to be okay. I wasn’t there to socialize; I was there for a purpose. This was by no means easy for me. But I did it. As we walked into the sanctuary to find our seat the only thing I knew to do was to hold my husband. I held him so tight during worship. He was that safe and secure place for me just the way I felt in the arms of Jesus. A few songs in I whispered to my husband “I have to go kneel at the front of the stage and worship. All I was imaging was that soldier on the battlefield and Annabelle in the arms of Jesus. So I let go of my husband and walked down to the front of the stage and knelt down; I lifted my hands to the point of surrender and began to sing out my praise to Jesus. My husband joined me and I felt like the room was completely empty and God was just pouring out his love on us.
Something happened in me that night. I was at a point in my life where I truly felt like I had nothing to give. I want you to know we all experience this at one point or another. Maybe in a relationship, marriage, career, parenting, health, self worth, finances, ect. In these moments it is very natural to want answers, change and to experience freedom in your life. At this point we tend to feel hopeless, helpless, all strength is gone. The thoughts going on in your mind don’t seem to line up with anything, your faith seems so weak to the point of maybe questioning your it. These are the moments where you truly feel you can throw in the towel and give up. When these moments hit in our lives, rather than throwing in the towel and giving up, what if we can understand the pain that is truly going on? To understand that what seems to be the end is just the beginning.

Having lived through ALL of those moments and truthfully still going through a few of them, what I learned that night in worship was to be vulnerable, real and raw to myself and to God. Even though I felt like I had nothing left to give, I did. I gave my worship. All my doubts, fears, questions and weaknesses I surrendered to God. When I lifted my hands it was my true picture of my surrender.   
I want to share something with you. Even though I have a husband, kids to love on and a church to go to I still felt very alone when I was grieving. When grieving you feel no one can understand your pain and it’s true no one will. No one has the perfect answer or recipe to cook up for you to make things all better. I remember saying numerous times throughout my grieving moments how I wished a Fairy God Mother was real. I wanted someone to show up with a magic wand and make everything better. Well, no fairy god mother showed up. But, at my point of surrender this was my film strip that played before my eyes. 

I saw Jesus at the cross as Jesus surrendered His life and God surrendered His son. This was true surrender. It amazed me to think about how I felt alone but to know Jesus felt alone at the cross too. In the Bible it says God turned his face and when Jesus cried out in Mark 15:34 "My God, my God why have you forsaken me." Jesus was alone in that moment. Then I thought about how He knows more than anyone what it feels like to be venerable, real and raw. He was nailed to a cross for man to see, thorns on his head, nails in his hands and feet, covered in blood for you and for me. Here I stood in so much pain when to think how He was exposed to all the sins of the world where there he hung in ALL pain. In this moment I realized there is no one on the earth that can possibly know my pain better than the one who bore ALL pain, Jesus. That one moment of feeling alone quickly left me and there I was in the arms of Jesus. He knows every detail of what you are going through and when you feel alone God’s got you right where He wants you to be because He wants you to turn to Him, the one who felt alone too. The most beautiful moment happened in all of History the day Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus surrendered and God took action. In other words, The Kingdom of Heaven began at Surrender

Check this out here is the most beautiful exchange that took place! God took Action!

What happened after Jesus gave his last Breath? In Mark 15:38 it says “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” What was that curtain? In Exodus 26:33 it tells us that the curtain was made to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The curtain was used to separate man from God’s presence. The curtain was too High to reach and to thick to tear so only God could have carried out such an incredible feat. This means NOW that the curtain was torn God’s presence was now accessible to all. God sent his Son Jesus so that we can now have access to Him. In Hebrews 4:16 it says “We can now boldly enter into God’s presence" and in Hebrews 6:19-20 "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf." So you know what this tells me? When we feel like we are in bondage or the pain or hurt we are experiencing seems to be unbearable that is the curtain that wants to hold us back but remember God tore the curtain for you and me to run to Him so that when we come with pain His presence can heal us.
This Easter I want to encourage you with something? To come broken, come with pain, come with thanksgiving and come boldly so that His presence can heal you? Lastly, I want to share this song with you. One of my favorite worship bands just release another new album and it seriously could not have come at a better time. I have played this song over and over again this week before Easter to remind myself that when something comes up in my life and I don’t have an answer for it I know I can run to Jesus and surrender whatever it is in his presence. Take a minute and listen to it and maybe hit repeat a couple of times. You will defiantly be encouraged.
Happy Easter Everyone!



Friday, March 6, 2015

Lavender Flowers

So, I had this idea. You know those ideas that you can’t get out of your head? Those ideas that consume you to the point of what was determination, but turns into obsession? Yeah, well unfortunately I get those kind of ideas A LOT. Some ideas do actually happen and some I have to just calm myself down and be patient. That’s hard, for me at least. Remember in my previous blog I said my husband brings the perfect balance to my ongoing sweet ideas? This would be one of them. 

I realize when I go through sad, mad or painful moments I tend to want to run. To run far away and hope I can escape the pain.  My escape place is the “Beach.” Well I wish I could say I literally go to the beach, but I mean in my mind I take a trip to the beach. I imagine the waves crashing against the rocks making their way up to the shore as my feet soak into the sand and as I look out I see flocks of birds chirping as they fly away. Then I get lost in how big the ocean is and it doesn’t matter how far you look all you see is water and a sky so big, I never get tired with how beautiful creation is. It’s my resting place. 

I knew we were approaching the one year mark and all I wanted to do was escape. I didn’t want to be anywhere near familiar territory. All I could imagine was watching my girls running and laughing because that’s all I imagined Annabelle doing in Heaven. So, where could my girls run and laugh? Yup, “the beach” but not just the beach why not “Disneyland” too. Ha. Sounds like a great idea! Well, I forgot to mention my husband is in his first year of building a business debt free (I'll save this story for another blog). So, if you can imagine with me this was not the best idea or timing to bring this up. If there are any entrepreneur's out there reading this you know what I'm talking about. However, if you know me I at least have to give it a shot. So here we are stashing away any bit of cash we could get our hands on and then wouldn't you know a radio station started advertising “A Trip to Disneyland” so yeah guess what I did. I was one of those crazy callers, listening to the radio 24/7, checking their Facebook page for any hints to when they were giving away Disney tickets. I had their phone number programed into my phone and ready to call. Sooner or later February 15th was creeping up on me and the beach and Disneyland seemed so far away. It hit me. I realized I had become obsessed about something that I wasn't even excited about anymore. I thought back to when I held Annabelle and all the feelings flooded my heart. In a moment of pain something so beautiful happened. I finally understood  and felt the joy of simplicity. Time stood still and nothing mattered except embracing the moment that was right in front of me and being present in the now. I had forgotten about that moment and was letting what society calls “the happiest place on earth” become what I thought could be my happiest place on earth. If you've ever been to Disneyland there ain't nothing simple about it. 

Without pouring one more ounce of effort into that idea I threw it out the window. I know the beach and Disneyland will happen but it will happen at the right time for us. This time there was something else we needed to do as a family. We needed to take a Hike and not just in my mind but literally. So we did. We packed up some snacks and headed toward Superstition Mountains. It was an overcast day, the most beautiful day we could have ever picked out to go hiking. Now, with an almost 4yr old and 6yr old the hike started off pretty exciting...
Cadence wasn't just walking she was running and yes laughing too. Mylee on the other hand, our very girly girl who loves to be clean, was trying to find her safe place in all this dirt and cactus everywhere (I have to add that the 1st time we took a trip to the beach with Mylee she sat in a tent the whole time with paper towels trying to get all the sand off of her) so this was nothing new for us. She eventually perked up but as time went on things slowed down a bit. Both girls started to loose their interest and they were asking “why are we doing this again?” and there goes my mind “great, see Disney would have been perfect, what were we thinking?” But then the sweetest thing happened. Out of nowhere beyond all the dirt and cactus we could see green and a field of lavender flowers. I stopped and said “look it's Annabelle's birth stone color.” Not even a minute after I said that Cadence came running over and starts picking the flowers.
We had a long way to go until we reached our destination but we took a moment and all stopped. Makes me tear up just thinking about how beautiful this moment was. In the middle of no where there we stood over looking the valley and it took me back to my escape place “the beach.” the same feelings I get when I'm standing in the ocean is what flooded my mind standing on top of that mountain watching my girls play in a small field of lavender flowers. It was like we all took in a breath of fresh air and from that point on we embraced the moment right in front of us. We hiked and found a place just for us to sit and enjoy. We talked about all kinds of stuff. But the best conversation was when Mylee and Cadence would randomly make comments like “Annabelle is playing in heaven right now. Oh now, she's taking a nap, Oh now she's laughing” hearing them talk about Annabelle was so precious and it reminded us why we did this. It was quiet, peaceful and absolutely beautiful. 
                                           
It was the 1st day from the day I held Annabelle in my arms that I truly felt like I was present in what was happening right now in my life. We went and visited Annabelle at her grave sight later that day and I sat there in awe. I spent that last year feeling like I was always missing out of something. I had wished over and over again that I could hold her one more time or know her the way I know my girls. All I wanted was to be with her and all that is so normal when you are grieving. I didn't know any different. Someone once told me “there will be a day when you have to say goodbye to her” and I thought that is what was happening but instead I didn't say goodbye to her. I said “Thank you Annabelle for giving us the most precious gift to hold on to, mommy will never say goodbye.” Even though I don't have her to physically hold or to tuck in at night I still have her just in a different way. One little life changed our life, it was unplanned and unexpected and that's what was so beautiful. I wasn't expecting those lavender flowers and those unexpected moments I never want to pass up.

What is it in your life that maybe you said goodbye to, but you know it's still there? Trust me, I know the feelings are real and if I were to have said goodbye I would have passed up those Lavender flowers and told myself “just forget about everything and move on.” But I realized something and I want you to realize this too. Its okay to go back and remember the field that was once so painful. Allow yourself to walk through that field and tend to the soil. You might be surprised at what starts to grow. On February 15, 2015 even though I didn't say goodbye to Annabelle I did say goodbye to grief. I found the beauty from the pain. Beautiful moments take place everyday of our lives. They may not be where you think you will find them, but they are there. Where is your Field full of Lavender flowers?