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.

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!