Saturday, November 11, 2017

God Covers It All

"But my God shall supply all your need..." Philippians 4:19

I'm learning these days, more than ever, to take God at His Word. That's a good thing. Yes! It is most definitely good. 

I think we often go through life without ever knowing the full extent and taking advantage of everything God says He IS and WILL BE to us. I'll not pretend to fully grasp it all, I don't think we will ever fully "get it", yet it has become more real to me these days than ever before. 

I am hanging on with every fiber of my being...this, my HOPE.

He promised to be my Salvation, Comforter, Counselor, Peace Speaker, Provider, Healer and Heart Mender. (That's just to name a few!)

He promised He'd fight for me, extend grace and mercy on my behalf, cover me, hide me, give me rest, hold me up, see me through every valley, care for me and love me. (Again, that is only to name a few!)

Since the death of my son, I find there are so many different levels of loss and grieving that find their way into my brokenness. For instance, one day I found myself in a meltdown because somehow the falling leaves reminded me of him. I found myself, drowning in hot tears as I begged God to "make the leaves stop falling." (I know, it's alright to laugh. I was able to smile later too...much later.) 

I've found myself with questions that only a grieving mother could ask. I choose not openly share those. Just take my word for it. Making decisions on how to spend what would have been my son's 25th birthday (coming on November 20th) is also something I'm having to figure out and deal with. Next, there's Thanksgiving. Then, Christmas. Then, a new year. Some days it hurts this way. Other days it hurts in that way and a million other ways on other days. See? I'm finding that I need EVERY attribute and promise of God. 

I'm finding that no matter how I'm feeling, and which area of loss I'm dealing with at any given moment, there's one thing that never changes: GOD! No matter what I need at the time, He provides it or IS it. He gives me peace when I feel like I'm about to lose it. When I cry out to Him and plead for Him to hold me together tightly, He does. He puts people in my life to squeeze me tight and do the "hands and feet of Jesus" stuff. When I feel all alone, He reminds me He is near. His Word reminds me of His unfailing promises too. Talk about a one-size-fits-all...He covers it ALL. 

Does it ease the pain? Yes, at times. Does it take it away? Never. Does it help me get through the difficult moments? EVERY TIME! How? Because, above all...I have Hope. That, my friend, was the One Word I chose at the beginning of the year. I never dreamed I'd need it like I have, but God knew. Just another wonderful thing about Him. He ALWAYS knows what we need before we do.

He knew during this season of life, I'd need Him more than ever before...and He's shown up BIG! In every way. True, He's been there all along, but often times He brings us to things to show Himself to us in new ways. Since this is the season of thankfulness, this is what I'm most thankful for this year - that HE covers it all. Every angle. Every phase. Every detail. 

I am thankful. I am blessed. My heart may be broken, I may by grieving right now, but deep-down, it is well with my soul. I have hope. God covers it all...all to Him I owe. 

I must say one more thing. To you. If you're needing God, He'll be there for you too. Just exactly how you need Him to be too. There's no situation too big or off-limits to Him. He's good like that!

Oh, one more thing too. I write through tears often nowadays. I don't have it all together, and won't pretend to...but then I don't have to. As I write, and a fresh, hot, tear falls to my keyboard, I do so to encourage myself - and you. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dear Steffan,

This morning I woke up with you on my heart. Before I even opened my eyes, I was thinking of you and longing to pick up the phone and ring you. Then, I remembered there's no phone where you are, so I closed my eyes again to ask God to tell you for me. I don't know how all that works, I only know my heart is broken anew today. As fresh as the day we lost you.

I still find it hard to believe some days. I just want to hear your belly laugh and watch you double-over as you used to do when you got so tickled. I long to hold you tight once more. To hear you say, "Mom, no tears." But...alas, I can't make them go away today. It's amazing how much a heart can stand. I feel mine will explode sometimes, especially today.

I know God is taking care of you and you'd never want to come back. I understand. I'm happy for you, sad for me. I'm sure you would understand. I see you in my dreams and have even heard your voice call to me. Some things take me by surprise and the tears flow freely. Like this morning, I just wanted to tell you I love you and how proud I am of you.

Death has a way of changing every aspect and dynamic of life. I tell your brother and sister I love them more than ever. I've turned into that obnoxious, over-protective mom in an instant. Loss like losing you has awaken us all up to the reality that life is short and only eternity counts.

So, today I'll try to wrap these tears up and go about my day as best I can. I will think of you and smile when I see your picture because I know you don't want me to cry.  I'll do my best to live the best life I can. There are many "firsts" right around the corner. Only 17 days until we should be celebrating your birthday. I don't know how I'll get through that day except with God's help.

One thing is certain, a mother's love doesn't stop when one of her babies are gone. The bond is still there. I still love you. Always and forever!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Perfect Place for Every Cuppa

If you have read any of my posts since September 27th, then you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm in a very dark season of life. Tears. Loss Pain. Sorrow. These are the contents in my cup right now. And I'm learning to be alright and even thankful in this season; not because I'm drinking from this cup but because of Who is drinking it with me and where I'm drinking it at.

You see, the One who shares this cuppa with me has already tasted and asked for His own cup to be taken away. The Bible tells us He was a man of sorrow, familiar with suffering. (Isaiah 53:3) Gracious to His children, He doesn't ask us to drink from a cup He hasn't already tasted, which is why He is so touched by the feeling of our infirmities, and He gently comforts those who mourn. He's been there, done that, and has the proverbial T-shirt to prove it.

I've attempted to read all the verses and recite to myself all the applicable verses that I've felt go with this season of life. You know, like He shall dry every tear from my eye; it's kind of like a Pumpkin Spice Latte in autumn. It's what you expect to taste when you tip the cup to your lips; but sometimes not quite what you expected at all. Ever so often, the barista might get your order wrong and you'll find yourself with a bitter cup you didn't quite expect. I'm not saying the Lord ever gets it wrong, I'm just saying life happens and it rains on the just and unjust.

I've learned it's not about enjoying the cup you've been handed, for there is a time for every thing; it's about being real in the moment and sharing that cup completely- even with millions of salty tears and an extra pump (or ten) of desperate hope. During this season, I may "know" all the right verses to apply but He doesn't expect me to do anything else but keep them in the back of my mind and just be present in this season. (And, a word of warning, in advance, those people quoting verses as such mean well. Try to extend grace.) I can't skip this season, just like I can't will winter to give its place to spring. "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted", we can't trade the ugly parts for something more tasty. Grief is a process and I must go through this entire season, even though I'd rather blink my eyes and be into the next season.

I was delightfully surprised with this beautiful cup from a dear friend the other day, but I've yet to drink from it. Hello!!! What's wrong with me?! (Beside the obvious!) You see, it's ultimately my choice. I can just look at it and simply enjoy it that way; or I can tip it up and drink of its warm, delicious contents. When I do the latter, each time I will be sharing that cuppa with my friend. I will never be able to drink from that cup alone!

That's what the Lord desires that we  do with the cup of sorrow and grief which He allows to be placed in our lives. He doesn't expect us to just look at them or know they're there. He wants to share every drop with us. There is a time to mourn, there is a time to weep, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted...we don't have to be Christians of Steel during our season of grief. He longs to hold us tightly, like the little, weak children we are, and for us to know the full scope of being there, and to be OK with being nestled safely in His loving arms, finding hope in the midst of our worst pain or nightmare.

Seasons like these make ever so real to me the compassion and gentleness of my Father. I'm so much harder on myself than He is! He doesn't stand there telling me to pull myself together or the "shake it off"; He doesn't expect me to be all that and a bag of chips. He doesn't expect me to be perfect either. He knows exactly where I am. He weeps with me. He feels the pain of loss with me. He knows that I'll come through this season because He loves me and I love Him...and He's content and willing to sit with me as I drink this tiny sip at a time. He knows I'm not able to gulp it down quickly, He is patient. No, He never pushes me to move on, looking down on my broken heart with disgust or my tears with shame because I'm not a stronger representation of Him; He's a perfect Father who feels my sorrow and sits at this table hiding me safely and securely under the shadow of His wing.

Remember this when you find yourself in a dreadful season of life, when you feel like "looking on" or sticking your head in the sand rather than partaking from the cup in front of you. It might not be the cup your expecting but, like my pastor says so often these days, "You can choose to do it with Him, or without Him" - I'd never want to do this won't either.  Being strong in the Lord doesn't mean doing the hard parts of life without getting wounds and scars, it simply means resting in Him while He carries and mends the broken places for you.

There's a Perfect Place to drink every cuppa -

"Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trustees in thee: yea, in the shadow of the wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. Psalms 57:1

Saturday, October 21, 2017

As the Leaf Falls

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19

I watch the leaves slowly drifting to the ground. I love this time of year. What a beautiful display our Creator puts on for us during autumn. Vibrant reds, mellowed yellows, and joyous oranges too...such brilliant hues brighten up our days. Everyone cheers when fall rolls around. Pumpkin spice is all the rage, hay rides, fire pits, S'mores and candy apples. Delightful to the senses and a much needed break from the weariness of summer time. I too get excited.

This year will be quite different for a lot of us. We'll enter this season with hesitation. You see, I saw one of those beautiful golden-yellow leaves falling to the ground the other day. I was instantly awed and excited. Like I said, I love this time of year. My favorite! Then reality slapped me in the face and I remembered...the leaf is falling because things are dying. I know this season is all too real for me right now.

I admit I wasn't quite prepared for that thought at that particular moment and a tear came to my eye. This happens at the strangest times and places nowadays. (I'm learning to work through that better, with God's help.) I thought of the fresh loss in our lives. We are entering a new season along with everyone else, yet ours will be a bit different and we'll probably not be quite as cheerful around the fire pit or eating pumpkin pie this year. Death and tragedy has touched our lives deeply. Maybe your life has been affected by something similar too. We'll have to wade through many "firsts" this season.

I won't list them all today; I'm trying not to go there before I have to. The truth is though, there are a lot of hurting people in our world today. People who have felt the pangs of loss, tragedy, set back, disappointment, shattered dreams and heartache. We're none exempt. We all can probably find some kind of "leaf" in our lives...drifting downward.

I find it amazing how God can make this time of year beautiful in spite of things dying or coming to an end.  I've determined to believe the same is true in my life - no matter what it may look or feel like presently. I hope you will try it too! The truth may be ugly, and even seem unbearable a times; but, out of death springs life. If we can pause long enough to recognize it and look through His lenses we'll see it. It's easy to get side-tracked and lose sight of God's sovereignty. (I know this all to well too.) Of course, it's a trap but it's easy to fall into at times.

Thank goodness for those precious people that speak into my life, reminding me that through every dark storm, God has a plan. (I hope I can speak this into your life right now as you're reading this post.) I might have a hard time catching that glimpse right this second. I might have to be reminded again and again; however, that doesn't change the fact that my God makes all things beautiful. I know this to be true. It is etched upon my heart! He has never failed me and won't start now - He's got the same track record for you too. Sure, the leaves fall and fade away...but springtime will come yet again - and with it, LIFE.

I want to go find that leaf and preserve it between the pages of a book, so I can come back to it at another season and testify to it. "I made it!" Sure, it might not be an easy season and I might not come through without a few scars, but I WILL come through. You can make it too! It might not look like the dream we had anticipated, but God is still in charge. We might all be living a "new normal"; but whatever we go through today can be a phase of growth if we'll allow God to do that within us without us giving up or becoming bitter. That in itself is life.

For me, there is life because my son is in a better place, because my precious grand-hearts can grow up hearing how much their Daddy and "Steps" loved them, that one day we'll see Steffan again, and last but definitely not least, souls have been touched for the good in spite of the tragedy. LIFE.

"Life" takes on a little different look sometimes. Yes, sometimes life can look like a beautiful, yellow leaf falling to the ground after all. Even through ugliness and deep pain, it's there. What does life look like in your situation? Can you see it yet? If not, keep searching and I pray you find it soon. 

Just as the leaves begin to fall in this season, while we're yet experiencing the pangs of loss and shattered dreams, behold He is "doing a new thing." It is indeed well with my soul and I pray you find that peace too. Even during this season there is sweet peace and deep, undeniable beauty. I can be reminded of this promise of hope I cling to...even as the leaf falls.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Me Too's & I'm With You's

So many questions still bombard me. Many emotions are felt each day. Tears continue to flow down my face unexpectedly. I'm still missing my firstborn son. Natural feelings and occurrences during this season of my life, I suppose. Just when I think the worst has come and gone...yet another wave comes crashing in on me again. I'm in a valley, but I'm not alone. God is with me...and...

I find myself face to face with people who can share a "me too" message and those who share "I'm with you" message. I find that they are both necessary during this season of life. They both bring such comfort, yet on completely different levels. That's the beauty of community I suppose. We each have something we can contribute because God has made us in His image and has given us varying experiences, the ability to feel, love, care and we, in turn, can bring comfort to one another.

The "Me Too's" somewhat know how I'm feeling, they too have experienced the sadness and feelings of loss I am living out now; because they've walked down similar roads in their own lives. Yes, it's nice to hear from someone who has "been there, done that" and are willing to share their story. Although it's not ever going to be identical to mine and it doesn't take the pain away, does it give me hope because I see they made I know I can too.

Still, the "I'm With You's", who might not have traveled down this road, offer something I need and appreciate in a totally different way. Sometimes I just need an ear to listen. A hug. A smile. A prayer. A word of encouragement. It's nice to receive things that those who haven't been there can contribute. They care enough to listen, love and try to understand through my pain.

Two gifts - each beautiful in their own unique ways. Each priceless to me! I have found that neither is more important than the other at this time in my life. They're both desperately needed! And appreciated. 

Some speak, some remain quite lest they say the wrong things. Some take my hand or give a pat on the back; while some squeeze me tightly in a hug. One sweet lady blessed me by washing my hair - as sorrowful, hot, tears streamed down my face. Some will call and some will text or send cards. Some say, "I'm sorry." and some have nothing to say at all. I've received plants and wind chimes, comfort foods and intangible gifts of love. Every unique act of love, kind word and service has been beautiful to me. 

If you ever doubt if your way is needed, appreciated or even necessary; rest assured it is. Never feel like you have "less" to give than others. God gives each of us unique ways of showing our love to one another. We're not cloned so it won't always looks the same, but it's always necessary that we love and give in the ways God has created us. He simply commands us to love. He touches lives through his people.

I read a quote today that stood out to me:

"In life, you can't heal yourself; it takes relationships to heal you."

How true! At the end of the day I see how I need the relationships of "Me Too's" at some moments and at other times I need the "I'm With You's." It's a beautiful combination of the love of God, executed through the body of Christ, for the purpose of supporting and healing the broken-hearted. Whatever group you find yourself in, know that you are needed and, no matter what, you are part of the hands and feet of Jesus. That's what matters most! That is what is needed.

I say a simple, but heartfelt, "Thank you, for the gifts you give!" to each of you who have touched not only my heart, but the hearts of my family during this time of loss. Your unselfish acts of love, no matter what they looked like, have touched our lives in a special way...and we're better because you are there, in your own unique way, loving according to what God has given to you. 

Blessings upon each of you~

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Limping Into Your Blessing

I awoke early this morning, thinking about a message a sweet mother left on one of my recent posts. 

I'm finding it absolutely amazing right now, how God shows up in so many different avenues in my life. I realize He's always been there like that; sometimes though, certain chapters written within the pages of our lives have a way of clearing every bit of clutter and dust from our eyes. Ironically, it is often in these dark and painful times, when our world seems to fall apart, that we see so many things we normally take for granted so clearly. Like for me right now, God is loving on me and showing up in different ways - especially through community.

This dear lady who left this comment has also felt the cold, ugly fingers of death snatch away one of her  children. She received the phone call no mother ever wants to receive. She's been where I now find myself. She gets it. The questions, the broken heart, the pain and longing to go back in time...the darkness, the physical pain as well as all the other ways one can experience it. 

She is walking ahead of me on this road and although I do not know her personally, she can relate and kindly shared this tidbit that I want to share with you - because just maybe there's another hurting person out there that needs to hear this message too. 

"Our lives change forever when we have a child. And when we lose a child, you will walk again, but always with a limp."

How true I can see this statement to be. Today, I takes every bit of strength I can muster up, but I'm still walking. "How?", you might ask. The only answer I have for you: I've got a God who is faithful to carry me. When all my strength is gone, when tears blur my view, in the night when I need to be held tightly, He's there. I recall during my son's viewing and homegoing services that there were times when I just physically couldn't make my legs work. It felt so odd, unnatural. I felt so weak. 

Today, my legs don't seem to want to carry the weight of this load either. My heart seems to weigh a ton today. I'm limping, but that's alright. I know God is right there to carry me- even if my legs completely give out and I cannot even limp. He's faithful to carry my broken pieces for me a bit further, to hold me up as I limp along. After all, who would I be teasing if I told them, "I've got this!"?  I DON'T...but I know He does. 

This morning, my thoughts turned to Jacob wrestling with the angel.

He struggled, left with a limp...and a blessing. God never wastes a hurt. 

We all know God is in the business of working ALL things together for the good. We've heard it since childhood. He never changes either. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. Can I get an "Amen!" 

My friend, it doesn't stop the pain, but it somehow encourages me to keep on limping, and to let Him carry me when I cannot. Just keep on keeping on - and watching how God will make beautiful things in the days ahead. Blessings in spite of the pain. And, I cannot wait to share those glimpses with you - so you can see too. He's a great God!

If you too are limping, hurting, or find yourself with a broken heart - for any reason - be encouraged...He'll carry you too. Keep limping into your blessing

Friday, October 13, 2017

Live. Laugh. Love.

Today...enjoy life to the fullest. Pull every single bit of goodness out of it. Appreciate every breath, every hug, every smile...every chance you have to make a difference or to love deeply...DO IT.

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; 
we will rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24


I think this verse was the very origin of that popular phrase. "This is the day"...we're not promised another, or even all of this one. Take joy in every single second. No matter what it looks like, fill it with what matters most, make the most of every moment...and most of all be thankful for all the blessings of the Lord. We cannot afford to waste a single day or take anyone for granted!

I suppose in my current season of life, this "new normal" I'm struggling to live after the loss of one of my children, I want to scream it from the top of my lungs, loudly through my brokenness and pain, for myself, my family, and for anyone out there that will listen. 

Live. Laugh. Love.

This Momma heart aches to give one more hug, to say I love you once more, to make a simple bowl of soup once more, to celebrate another birthday and holiday together. I ache for the Daddy heart that longs to do those simple, but oh so important things that only Dad's can do. I ache for a wife heart that no longer has those strong arms to hold her at night. For the baby hearts that no longer have a Daddy to play with them, to put them to bed, or to make them  happy. For other family members that have a hole in their hearts too. It's amazing how just one life can affect so many people. I see that now more than ever.

I'm convinced today more than ever, that often times, we never know quite the impact we're making on someone's life or the impact others have made on ours, until it's taken away and we're left with nothing but memories to hold on to. There's a list of things in my heart, one that has to be filed away for now, one that I can never "check" the boxes on. A "to-do" list. A "to say" list. Guess what? We all have those lists and it's up to us to check the boxes while there's still time. Let's not be too busy. Too tied up. 

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." 
James 4:14

Yesterday, I sat at a table and talked about things a mother never wants to talk about. I listened to things a wife never wants to say. It's oddly strange how one can see so clearly with a broken heart. 

We have been given a choice today. To make the most of it. To love deeply. To think of others before ourselves. To give unselfishly. To appreciate each other. To make the most of today. To say that things that matter. To rejoice - maybe even through and in spite of our pain.

Although my heart is shattered in a million jagged pieces, can I encourage each of us?


During the last couple days, I know many, many people have visited my blog and I know people have been touched by our story. I thank each of you who have shown love and support, sent cards and prayed, set up benefits for our family, cooked food and sent flowers. I want to take this opportunity to send out a huge, heartfelt thank-you. We are so appreciative of everything and could never say thank you to everyone individually. However, we have been touched by each act of kindness and blessed in our pain. Thank you! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

God Is Not Surprised By This

Live. Laugh. Love.

Today, I pause, take a deep breath and then quietly sigh as I realize it's been two weeks today since my firstborn passed from this life. That's so NOT what I had on the To-Do list that day. No, I was planning to celebrate my daughter's twenty-first birthday that day. I planned to celebrate life! Needless to say, dealing with a sudden, unexpected death was the furthest thing from my mind. Life changing. Shocking. A nightmare that I couldn't wake up from, to say the least.

What an emotional two weeks it has been. I've cried a million tears, felt my heart shatter into just as many pieces, and relived just as many memories too. I've thought about the things we didn't get to do and the things that will never be. I've had some crazy thoughts. I've also had the chance to realize that just as I didn't plan to deal with death that day, neither did I plan for what had happened just the week prior to that dreadful day. 

At this point in life, even while I'm still grieving, I claim those days as a gift from an all-seeing, all-knowing God who loves me immensely. 

You see in a split second decision on a lazy, Sunday afternoon, this gal who hates to travel and hates to be without her "better half" for any extended length of time (that calculates to anything longer than twenty-four hours), packed a tote and drove all night long to Louisiana - because her mother was sick in the hospital. 

I was able to spend time with my mother and she was released from the hospital a couple days after I got there. Praise the Lord! God had so much more in store for me though. I just didn't know it at the time. However, I can now clearly see the hand of God in my going. Oh, how He loves me!

My son got up at 4:30a.m. that Monday morning when I arrived. I'll never forget that moment when he took me in his strong arms and squeezed this Momma tight. I watched as he got up each morning and went to work to provide for his little family. I noticed how tired he was in the evenings when he came home tired and sweaty from a full day's work; yet he took time to play with his children when he came in anyhow. He had grown into a wonderful man. I watched him kiss his beautiful wife and maybe even roll his eyes at her playfully a time or two. He was so full of life and always had that smile on his face. I went to church with him on Wednesday and watched him worship the Lord with his church family. I heard him say, "I just want to spend some time with my Momma." Yes, my heart exploded in an hundred bubbly emoji hearts. On Thursday, I cooked his favorite kale soup which he requested for supper (it seemed to me he ate it with a grin on his face) and played Phase 10 with him and the family. I sat on the couch beside him and just enjoyed being his Momma. 

I hugged him, choking back the tears early Saturday morning before I left for home. I remember him saying, "No tears, Mom!" (I always cry when we leave each other. That's just what this Momma does!) and he squeezed me tightly once again. I never knew that would be my last hug. If only, I might never have let him go.

I share all that to show you a bit of God's faithfulness to me, His daughter. While I thought I was going to Louisiana for my mother, and I did; God had more in mind because He sees the future. You see, I left there and arrived back home in Georgia on Friday night. I was home only four days before the day he was taken from this life. 

What a gift from my Father to me. I didn't know it at the time, but God did. My sister kept repeating this phrase over and over again when we arrived in Louisiana again, for the second time in only one week: "God is not surprised by this." Indeed, God saw what was ahead and blessed this Momma with such a special gift...precious moments to hold onto until I hold Him again on the other side one glorious day.

So, I say with a broken-but-grateful heart, never take a single day or person for granted. Live each day to the fullest. Love hard. Forgive quickly. Say "I love you" as often as you can. Do the simple things like making soup and holding a hand. Make memories. Enjoy the little things. They really do turn out to be the super-big things! 

And most of all, never forget, though life may catch us off guard, "God is not surprised by this." Ever. 

"...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; 
blessed be the name of the LORD." 
Job 1:21

Monday, October 9, 2017

Grief & Love

Day 12.

Home-going services have concluded. Condolences have been received. A million-and-one tears have been shed.  And life moves on...that's a hard thing for my broken heart to do right now. I know, I'm being very transparent here. If you're not OK with that, maybe you should close this blog post now. My mommy heart hurts!

Our son, Steffan, and his sweet family
I'm thankful that "the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart" for I know He is definitely with me and I am not alone. How do I know this? Simply because when I close my eyes I can see my heart there, all of it, safely resting in His hands. Although shattered into thousands of jagged, broken pieces, I have this hope...that He is there. I think of the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept." Didn't He do so at the tomb of someone He loved? He's no respecter of persons, so I think He weeps with me today also.'s an ugly word, isn't it? A response to the loss of someone. In this case, our perfectly healthy, delightfully funny, stubborn, twenty-four year old son who was suddenly and all too quickly taken from this life in a motorcycle accident. No, he wasn't a perfect child, but he was my child.'s kind of an paradox (not sure if that's the correct word, but it will work for now) when I think about it:

One will only grieve if they've truly loved. 

So, maybe the word isn't so ugly after all. I grieve because I have truly loved; and to love is a beautiful thing and worth any risk. 

It's because of love that I can find the shattered pieces of my own hurting heart tucked safely in the hands of my caring Savior. It's because of love that I know my son is in a better place today. 

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

I'm certain God's ways are best. His will is the best place to be - in spite of the pain we may feel along the way. He is faithful and will walk us through the darkest valleys. 

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me..." Psalms 23:4

Grief...yes, it hurts. No, I don't like it one bit. I wouldn't wish this season or these feelings I'm dealing with upon anyone. Friend, enemy or stranger. Yet through it all...through the tears, the pain, the sweet memories which can never be taken away - there is love. Not the gushy, cute kind of love. No, I'm referring to the kind of love that is so strong, so deep and sweet that it blossoms even more so during times of pain and brokenness. 

"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." Psalms 147:3 

One can only heal when he is present. One can only bind up wounds when he is on the scene. And One only mends what is dear to him...what He loves. What blessed assurance that He is near during this time of grief. As my precious daughter-in-love so perfectly put it: "He's as close as the mention of His name." 

Please continue to keep our 
family in your prayers.
Thank you for all your thoughtfulness
and support during our time of loss. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What I Signed Up For?

I signed up to be a part of 31 Days of Writing for the month of October. Cool, huh? 

I DID NOT sign up for the shocking, life-shaking loss of my firstborn son, Steffan, only 24 years old.

Funny how life has a way of allowing us to experience some adventures we are eagerly looking forward to, then shattering our hearts into a million, jagged, broken pieces of those "never want to experience this" pangs. This is where I am today.

It all began a week ago today when my phone rang and on the other end of the line I heard my second-born, Rustin, crying and screaming, "Where's Dad, Mom? Where's Dad!!!" A call in the wee hours of the morning in that context shook me to my core and I knew something was wrong. He arrived at our home and fell out of his truck, trembling in fear, "I'm sorry, Momma! I'm sorry!!!" I held him tightly in my arms praying and doing my best to console him as the story began to unfold. The most ugly story I've ever been told. He had heard his brother scream...and then nothing.

Mind you, we're ten to eleven hours away from Louisiana where my eldest lives. We waited to hear he was alive when someone found him. We waited to hear if he made it until the paramedics arrived.  We waited to hear that he made it to the hospital. Then more waiting. Prognosis. Outlook. We waited. 

There were no satisfactory answers for us. Somewhere in the middle, as the scene unfolded, we mindlessly packed our bags and began the long trek to Louisiana in anticipation of being there when he awoke from surgeries and to be there for a season during recovery. 

We were physically moving in time, yet time stood still. As we traveled toward our son, we found ourselves again holding our breath...and waiting as they life-flighted him to a hospital that might be able to help him in New Orleans. While on the outside he looked pretty good considering the accident, he had massive internal injuries. The doctors said it would be a miracle if he even survived through the flight, and he did. Driving. Waiting. Praying. Still.

Then the call came...his sweet wife's voice told us the ugly truth. On the other end of the line I heard, "He's gone. We lost him."

Our world halted to a stop. Wait, we didn't sign up for this part! There were no words. We were in shock. This was not how it was supposed to turn out. This isn't how our story was supposed to go. After all, it was our youngest's 21st birthday that day. We were supposed to be celebrating life, not looking death in the face. What a birthday! What tragedy had enveloped our lives. It began to rain outside. The bright sunshiny day we had traveled in seemed to be in mourning with us. It rained so hard. My tears also fell hard. Shattered pieces of my heart fell hard too. How? Why? So many questions.

So, instead of arriving and watching, helping our boy through to a successful recovery. We arrived to see our boy alright...instead of a hospital bed, his body lay on a table, cleaned up but still in a hospital gown, draped in a brown covering. This mamma's heart screamed inaudibly broken completely in two. This isn't what I signed up for. It's not supposed to be like this! I held his lifeless hand, placed my trembling hand upon his chest in hopes of feeling that fain heartbeat...

You see, it's not about what we sign up for. Life happens to us all. The good, the bad, the is no respecter of persons. It rains on the just and unjust alike. No, my story wasn't supposed to go like this; but the Author of my story still holds the pen in His Almighty hand and I trust Him for His will in my life. No, this isn't what I signed up for, but somehow deep within this hurting heart, I trust Him to know best. He holds my world in His hand. 

No, I probably won't write for thirty-one days this year after all, it's taken me a couple days to write this, but that's alright because there is plenty being written on my heart. The Author, my Peace Speaker and Comforter, is busy writing a new chapter and I fully intend to be a part of it. I don't know how yet, but I know I will see it, as God turns this ugly chapter into something so much more. 

You see, I have this consolation that I'll see my son again one day. I cannot hold him on this side any longer, but one day, after a while...

I'm back in my home now, taking one breath at a time, taking one day at a time, trusting my very life in the hands of the Lord. I know it won't be easy, but I know God is faithful. He's shown Himself in so many, many ways and continues to do so daily. He is our strength when we're weak. He's our shelter in the time of storm. He is close to those who have a broken heart. He is the Rock I stand upon. The prop that keeps me upright. 

We are in His hands, He loves me and is writing my story - and...


Please keep our family in your prayers during this time of bereavement.  

In loving memory of our son,
Steffan Russell Hardesty
November 20, 1992 - September 27, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Little Flash Back to First Grade

Remember with me. Go back as far as you need to. Don't be afraid, just go there for a moment!

Yes, back to whatever "First Grade" looked like in your world. I know, we probably could visit any number of "grades" but that's just the one I chose because it was a very memorable grade in my story for a number of reasons. It doesn't matter if you were in a one-room schoolhouse, went to public school, or if you were home-schooled. Just go back to that first year. 

Everything that teacher planned for me during that year was simply "training" me to go to the next grade. I walked into First Grade with some knowledge and life experiences; but there was more to learn. I knew my ABC's, but I had to learn to put all those together to form words. I knew my numbers, but I had to learn how to stack them on top of each other and add or "take away." I knew about relationships, but there was more to be learned both in the classroom setting and on the ever menacing, merry-go-round on the playground. Well, I'm glad to tell you, if you must know, that it wasn't a cakewalk, but I made it to second grade. And beyond.

Maybe you have your own horrific flashbacks when you go back there; that's alright. Learning is a scary thing sometimes, right? We all have stories of the bully in the hallway or the words that broke more than sticks and stones ever could have harmed. We'll not even mention those failed tests, or grades for that matter. For those of you who loved first grade, I'm certain there was another grade you can look back at and reminisce with me there. Whatever the case, I'm finding that at 44-years-old, I'm still in training for the next level. 

There are still things to learn. I do things wrong (unintentionally, of course) and the Lord takes me through situations to teach me. He's the best teacher ever too! There are things I learn the wrong way and He has to take me back to the wheel and "learn me" all over again the right way. Been there, have you? Oh, it hurts so badly at times and it can be an ever-so-confusing time too. Yet, learning is a way of life. I think it's safe to say that if we're not learning, then we're not truly living. I'm thinking about that phrase about "learning something new every day." It's so true!

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers. Neither do I do everything right every time. No, I don't make a 100% on every assignment handed out by the Teacher. Yes, I see those dreadful red "X's" on my test and I shudder in disappointment and want to run and hide out. Yet, my Teacher...He knows that I must learn to lay aside some things and focus on others, He knows if I'm going to be a fruitful, successful, Christian who represents Him well, I must have my own share of hard-knocks and blows from the dreadful bully (and I must learn to respond well), and He knows I'll want to give up if He isn't there to console me and be there for me to lean upon. Talk about "Teacher of the Year"!

 Psalms 32:8 says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."

God is a patient teacher and is not willing to let us walk around in life without learning important lessons. He's not content to leave one of His "students" behind. He teaches us, tests us, and if need be, He tests us again and again until we pass the test. He keeps His eye upon our progress. He watches us and is invested in being sure we are learning it the right way. He wants to see us make it to the next level - and ultimately eternity with Him. Those red marks on the text are there to remind us of His investment...His blood on Calvary...they are there to remind us of His grace and mercy. We can pass the tests set before us!

So, if you're feeling the effects of "time-travel", remembering situations where you felt like giving up, classes where it felt you were anything but the Teacher's Pet, during those times of failing and detention and maybe even being paddled by the principal, it's OK. All of those times brought you to where you are today. You've learned along the way. That's what counts! And...if you're failing in the class of life right now, as an adult, remember our Lord is a gracious teacher. Yes, He chastises those He loves, but He doesn't leave us there...the object is to learn or re-learn it well so we can graduate to the next level. With honors! 

It's true, we live from glory to glory. Don't give up. Let's all get ready to celebrate in the grandest Graduation Ceremonies won't be long now till we be celebrating those lessons learned - in robes of white, walking down streets of gold. What a celebration, my friend!!! Let's do this~

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

For Those In the Vicinity

I lay in my bed, mind rambling here, there and everywhere. If my body isn't in shape, my mind should sure be fat-free as much as it exercises. (I know, a little of my "special humor" for ya!) OK, back to my think-tank time.

The story of Lazarus has been on my mind for the least several days. We know the miracle. The disappointment of Mary and Martha at Jesus not getting there quick enough. (I'm sure we can all relate to that. How many times have we deemed the God of the universe to be "late" in our opinions? If only He were on our time-frame.) We know Jesus lagged His feet for a few days and Lazarus was "stinketh-ing" (according to Martha) by the time they rolled the stone away. Jesus called out to him and the dead man came bouncing out in his burial clothes. What a miracle!

The thing that struck me, that left me in awe, was the idea that Lazarus had absolutely NOTHING to do with the situation. He was merely a pawn in the story. He was dead. 

The miracle was performed for those in the vicinity. 

The onlookers. The over-hearers. The people who heard Lazarus was sick. The neighbors and friends. Jews who were busy comforting the sisters during their time of grief. Yes, probably even the nosy, busy bodies just standing around waiting for a chance to spread the word ("gossip" - put nicely) to the Pharisees and chief priests. The miracle was performed for these people! You see, Jesus could have easily just spoken the word when He first found out about it, while He was still in another town, but He purposefully chose not to...for the good of those in the vicinity.

Need proof? 

In John 14:42, Jesus prayed saying, "...but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me." He did it so that others who were watching on would believe.

Again in John 14:45, the Bible says, "Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him."

The next chapter summed it all up, John 12:11, "Because that by reason of him (Lazarus) many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus." 

I believe maybe sometimes we see our "trials" in the context of something we did or didn't do, about God exposing something hidden in our lives, etc; and maybe sometimes this is true. However, maybe it's not about us at all sometimes, but about those in the vicinity.

From a personal vantage point, I watched two dear friends who were suddenly and involuntarily thrown into seasons of house-hunting. While I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they were each affected, their situations had an affect on me too. These situations forced me to take a deep look at what I believed about trusting God. Each of these friends circumstance turned out a little bit differently, and not exactly how I'd petitioned God at all, which caused me to take a deeper look at God's sovereign plans. Another friend went through a traumatic time in her life and it made me question God's timing and what is most important to me, God's will or my own. (Yes, I know without a doubt the answer to that question. Just in case you're wondering.) Recently, a transmission issue in my car while I was on a road-trip was followed up by a miracle which left my friends and family (not to mention myself) encouraged at the provision and all-powerful ability of God to supply our every need.

What I'm saying is that I believe sometimes God delays things, and works miracles on our behalf, sends us through the fire, and turns our situations and lives around - not only for us, but for the sake of those in the vicinity. That, as others peek in on our lives and watch how our circumstances develop, somehow their beliefs in God, their trust issues with the Master, are somehow altered and strengthened. It just might have nothing to do with anything we're doing or not doing. Just simply so that someone else might be encouraged or believe. 

How simple, yet complex, is that, my friend?!

Let's share our stories, testify, cheer each other on, and realize that God works in ways which are far beyond our wildest imaginations. "It makes no sense, people!", is alright. While we're going through life's "bad stuff" let's remember that God might be using it to help someone else along the way. Pastor always says God doesn't put us through something without going ahead of us and preparing the way. We're not alone, we can make it, and there's a cheering section in Heaven roaring loudly for us...even as we bounce out of the grave wrapped in burial clothes. Yet, the real miracle just might be for those in the vicinity. Be encouraged today~

Friday, August 4, 2017

Little Pot Syndrome

So, my dear hubby decided to surprise me with roses a couple months ago. Isn't he a sweetie? However, instead of buying me cut roses, which would fade away in a week or so, he brought me a miniature rose bush - so "they wouldn't die." I'm sure you know the type, a cute little rose bush, snuggled safely in a small throw-away container. It's meant to be planted.

Well, all this time (I'm in a brown-thumb season!) and I've still not found a place to plant it. It's sitting on the banister of my front porch...struggling to survive this hot, Georgia heat. You see, this little bush wasn't intended to stay confined to a pot. It has so much more potential than what I'm allowing it. *Sigh*

I was thinking about myself, and you. Sometimes we wonder why we're not reaching our purpose and potential. Why we're miserable in life. We have greatness inside us, God has great plans for us too, but we're struggling to survive. Why is that?

While I'm sure there are many reasons, don't you think one reason might be because sometimes we're afraid of change? We're used to this "little pot" we're in, the way we've been doing things, yet we continue, struggling to thrive in what we consider the safe confines of our comfort zone. We're not intended to be in a pot.

We each have been created according to a plan, carefully and skillfully drafted by God - before we were ever conceived:

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

We'll never be completely satisfied and fully thriving until we are doing that work (purpose) He instilled within us to do from the very beginning. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

It's not always going to be easy, we come into this world as babes, but we grow, fall, we change, and we move on. We don't stay confined to a pot. It's crippling! 

It's the same way in our spiritual walk. God has things only we can do. It requires us getting out of our comfort zone and taking what may seem and feel like a huge risk on our part. The truth is, as I'm finding out is the case many times, is what we feel isn't really that at all. God wants to nudge us out of our pot and into action fulfilling His purpose. 

"What's the answer?" you might say. I'd look at you, with my own set of yet-unconquered fears and say, "Give up the pot." 

Give up our safety. Our comfort. Our desires. Be willing to step out, to move from where we are - even when we're a little bit (or a whole lot) afraid of what might happen next and even if it feels a little (or a whole lot) yucky or messy at the moment. Even my tiny rose bush will have to acclimate to it's new spot. We will too! 

Scary? Maybe so. Worth it? Certainly!!! Every time. God has never had a plan that failed. He is a Master Designer and knows every ounce of potential you have inside you (and me) because He put it there. You didn't arrive on the scene with certain gifts and talents just because. He put them there for us to fulfill His purpose in our lives and without moving in that direction, we'll continually struggle to live life abundantly and flourish. Let's not be content to stay in the pot when we can be so much more. 

If you find yourself struggling, be sure you're not stifled by your own will and being contained to a container that's too small for the purpose which God intended for you. Join me in breaking free from the "safety" of our little pots. There's more to life than our own little spheres. God intends for us to spread our roots and connect so we can be fruitful and effective for His glory and honor. 

Now, I've got a rose bush to get out of a pot. Who will join me?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Brain Fog, Truth & Promises

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise..." II Peter 3:9

Shout out to all the wonderful people who have issues with "foggy brains" today. Bless your (our) hearts! Isn't God good anyhow!?

More often now than ever, I have those moments when my brain just won't catch up, catch on or catch anything for that matter. Those days when I feel like a complete goofball when asked a question, put on the spot or have to remember an important number. Debit card number. Huh? Phone number. Umm... Anybody else out there brave enough to admit there are times when those common place numbers and names escape your field of grasping? Lol  (I'm learning that it's much easier to just stop and laugh at myself than to get upset. That makes it worse!)

Anyhow, enough of that.

I lay in my bed with my eyes closed this morning, asking God, "Remind me of the promises you've made me. Tell me one more time again about myself in Your eyes. I need help remembering today." Don't we all suffer from the occasional "forgot who I am" moments?

Suddenly, I was humming the tune to an old song I remember singing as a child:

Roll back the curtains of memory now and then
Show me where you've brought me from
And where I could have been
Remember, I'm human and humans forget
So remind me, remind me, dear Lord

Wow! That was waaaaaaay back there...but today I was reminded again. Maybe God did it. I think sometimes we just need to be reminded of the TRUTHS life can cause us to temporarily forget. They supply us with hope and ignite our faith (and memory) once again.

Who & Whose we are.
What we've been promised.
What He's capable of.

I don't think there are more important things to remember than those. Those facts are much more important than my phone number or alarm code. While I'm definitely NOT an expert in this field, nor do I have this "concept" working to perfection in my life, I think it's something worth thinking about. They affect our lives on so many levels. From spiritual to emotional and even relational. How can we be productive and victorious in life when these truths and what we've been promised get clouded from our view?

Remind me, God.

If you've forgotten some of those important promises of God, if you've lost the sense of who you are, your purpose, or maybe even Whose you are. Let this post serve to jog your memory. The Bible is full of instances to remind us, stories of others who have forgotten also, and promises that will refresh our hearts, souls...and minds. If you're a friend to someone who has lost their way, take a moment to remind them of things/promises they might have forgotten and about who they are. You might just be the match that brings light and clarity into their darkness once again.

As I lay in my bed, with my eyes shut, waiting on God...He began to drop a few promises into my heart that I'd forgotten. He reminded me of some important information that I'd allowed to get stuck near the back of the filing cabinet of my soul. (Promise. Purpose. Shouldn't be stuck behind the "Z" file people!) Later, I was reading a text I had received earlier in the week...and once again God jogged my memory. Oh, how do I allow these things to be forgotten?! Oh, yeah, back to the song lyrics...I'm human, and humans forget.

Truth is still truth, promises are still in tact, God is still God and we are still who and what He says we are...even when we have a temporary brain lapse. 

Just because...we all need reminders on those forgetful, foggy-brain days and those days when life can get somewhat overwhelming. Be encouraged today~

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Race

Run the race
No matter the ride
Strive each day
To win the prize
No matter what is seems
Keep walking - even limping
The victory will come
If you just keep on - winning
Day by day
Moment by moment
Don't quit, don't give up
He's holding you - your Father
Don't be discouraged
The race is almost over
Get up
Arrive a conqueror

"I press toward the mark for the prize 
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 3:14 

It's On the Table

I've spoken a lot about the "messy" parts of know, the ugly parts we can't seem to escape from quickly enough, the parts we don't scrapbook or post to Facebook or Instagram. The parts that aren't Pinterest pretty! We've agreed that each and every one of us have those awful-feeling days and moments in our lives - yet they probably look different for each of us.

I was reading today, one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible and one verse poked at me really hard, Psalm 23:5 -

"Thou preparest a table before me 
in the presence of mine enemies:"

What?! The word "enemies" here translates to being cramped, be in affliction, to be in distress, to be in trouble, vexed...I had never looked at it that way before today. It wasn't necessarily someone who was provoking me. 

I thought about how my mind, emotions and feelings play tricks and get the best of me at times. Yes, God is working on this with me - daily. When they aren't "for" me, they're against me...thus, I think it safe to say I can label them as enemies. 

When these things (thoughts, emotions and feelings) get off track, as they often do, life can feel mighty messy. However, I can still take rest in knowing that even in those moments of shifted focus and weakness, God prepares a table for me. I can be at peace even when everything within me is screaming, "This isn't a time for peace. I don't like this season! Everything is crazy and upsetting!" Yet, I know my God. 

Although at times I forget and become blinded to this truth, He can do anything, whenever He gets ready. So, preparing a table for me to sit down at and get exactly what I need to be victorious isn't a problem for Him. Goodness, if I can just remember that! Everything I could ever need, He supplies. It's on the table!

Who prepares a meal for someone without sitting to enjoy it with them? When I prepare a meal for my friends and family, I want to sit with them, to enjoy the time together, as well as the food. I want them to feel safe and to stop everything else and just be present. I think God longs to do the same thing with you and I. 

During messy parts of life, He beckons you and I to get our eyes off of our "enemies" and join Him at the feast He's prepared in our honor. A safe place too. Truth is, sometimes I fail to look beyond my situations and circumstances. Anyone else have a problem with that? True statement though: one thing God won't do is MAKE us sit at the table, we have a standing invitation though.

The banquet room is always ready...there we can find peace and safety - even in the midst of our enemies. He longs for us to sit and share what we're feeling with Him; for us to cast our cares upon Him. There's always a seat there with my name on it! Yours too. This table is a place of refuge. Of relationship. Of healing. Whatever we have need of, it's on the table.

Let's pull up a chair today, forget about the "messy" that makes us feel weak and brings confusion and lack of focus into our lives. Our enemies have no reservations at this table! What a blessing.

Let's enjoy peace, rest and all the goodness God longs to share with us. I invite you to join me as we look into His eyes and receive rest for our wearied souls. Hope. Everything we need, we can find in Him. Our enemies aren't welcome, my friend, but everything we have need's on the table.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this world
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace