Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thankful for What Wasn't

Today's my mom's birthday... she is wonderful and delightful and beautiful and truly the best Mother! I wasn't expecting to feel inspired to write tonight, and truly I should be studying but for a few moments I have to share what God spoke to my heart on the way home from dinner with her and some other family members.

I take you back with me to a period of time over eleven years ago. It was the Fall of 1998 and I was a junior in high school. Seems like forever ago, but remebering this period tonight reminded me of how much God has done and is doing in my life. I've truly seen my life transformed so that I am a new creation. You see, in the Fall of 1998 I hit a very low period in life, so low that I felt the only way out was suicide. Now I've been known to be pretty open and raw with my blogs here and although I debated sharing this with the world, I realized that if I truly want to be a public speaker at some point, I have to be comfortable with the path my life has taken. So here I am sharing the fact that I'm grateful I didn't have the strength to follow through... to cut deeper than I actually did.

Because if I did this is what I would have missed out on...

Fun times in NYC with Friends!

Silliness high upon a mountain top with the best sister EVER!

Meeting and sharing life with one of the most gracious & beautiful women I know!

Becoming Aunt to 3 older and wonderful children who've only known me for 4 years!

Silliness in a town I've never known with a girl that brightens my life everytime I talk to her!

Adventures in a country I've never known with a pack of Guineas I've come to love!

Pajama parties with 2 crazy & wild, yet so loveable monkies!

Dinner dates with 2 precious (and sometimes serious) Darnell dumplins'!

And moments to stop, be still, and enjoy what time you have before it's gone!

There is so much more than just these pictures! I think as life goes on it truly gets better! I have so many loving memories with my family and all the times we've laughed together and built stronger bonds. I couldn't walk this road without them! If I had given up over eleven years ago I never would have known what it was like to fall in love and then discover the strength that would come as I worked through a broken heart. I truly am a grateful girl and although there is plenty I'd change if given the chance, I've learned not to dwell, that it's all in God's hands. I've learned so much in the last 2 years than I think I ever did the 26 years prior to that. I guess that even in our deepest pit of despair the Lord knows what we need and He knows how to turn it all around so that one day we can put the pieces together and discover it was just that which got us where we needed to be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

When Grief Breeds Patience

I've spent a lot of time reflecting on this day over the past few weeks. You see, on this day 2 years ago my nephew, Billy, went home to be with Jesus after only being with us here on earth for 5 months. I can still close my eyes and very vividly describe to you how that day played out. I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was, what time I woke up, what my dad said over the phone when he called... every detail I could tell you. It's heartbreaking. When I went to bed last night I asked God if there would ever be a day where I wouldn't remember the fine details so much. I will never forget the tragedy this day brought in 2008, and it would be nice to get to a point where I can share it with others without crying. It was a day that would change my life forever.

So where am I now? Well, I still cry sometimes when I think of Billy, when I struggle to remember what it was like to hold that sweet boy, to know that I never heard him laugh in person... that hurts. But here I am, God chose me to stay here on earth for there is still a purpose to fulfill. Where I'm at now is "patience." It's still a struggle at times, but I'm finding that more often than not I hear God just asking me to be still, to wait on Him, to trust in Him, and to know that at the right time what will be will come to pass. God is good about the timing thing... for Him it's perfect. So I wait and I continue to grow in strength where I once was weak. I continue to be open so that I may be teachable and trust and believe that He hears the cries of my heart and He has not left me alone to figure it all out.

There is so much to be grateful for in spite of what this day brings. When Billy died God called me to something so much bigger. It was time to stop messing around with life and get serious about fighting for His Kingdom. I hate that it took losing my nephew to "get it"... and to be honest losing Billy was just the beginning of this fight/transition. Now here I am, a changed person and somedays I don't even get it. But I guess that's where patience comes into play. As the fog has lifted, as I've been able to rise up from the ashes and see the beauty that remains I find that patience is truly one of the greatest lessons the Father can teach us.

"...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." ~ Colossians 1:11-12

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Every Season...

It's March 21st, apparently the first day of spring and this is what I awakened to...

Okay, so it wasn't this image exactly (this image is actually from our snowfall in mid-February), but it was relatively close (about 10-12 inches less today). It just got me to thinking that things just aren't the way we imagine or expect them to be sometimes. If anything that is the biggest thing I've learned over the last couple of years in my season of transition/preparation. It's really a beautiful concept... to wait for the unexpected and to find it be so completely different than what you imagined. For some, this snowfall on the first day of spring was a bit depressing, a shock to the system (especially for Dallasites). For me, well... I'm born and bred Dallas. Been here all 28 years of my life thus far and well, I have to admit... I loved today. It was a much welcomed surprise. I had my doubts, thinking that March 21st was a little late for God to send us a little bit of snow. But then I realize that He has a plan and He's in every season.

I've been driving around the last couple of days with Nichole Nordeman's song "Every Season" on repeat. I love it, it speaks volumes to all that God does in us in every season of life and how it compares to the four seasons we experience each year (at least in some areas of the world). Here are the verses that amaze me more and more everytime I hear it...

"And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter...

And everything that's new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring."
~ Nichole Nordeman, This Mystery

We change, God changes us, over time and in and out of seasons. Going through a bad one or a tough one? He knows what's underneath it all... He knows the perfect time for new life to breathe again. His hand is upon us in every season and for that I could not be more grateful. I'm learning to love the unexpected and to not try to figure it all out. It may not always turn out "great" but it serves a purpose and in the end is all for His glory!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

With New Eyes

It's a week and a half shy of the 2 year mark since we lost Billy. I keep wanting to call him Baby Billy, but then I realize he would have been 2-years-old here on earth and not so much a baby anymore. It's a bit surreal sometimes... it seems like a lifetime ago and then there are times when it seems like yesterday. I was hoping to hold off on writing this until that 2-year mark, but God's been working it out in me for the last week or so... I figured maybe I should go ahead and write it out.

Many things have come and gone and changed since March 2008. In fact, if you had told me two years ago that I'd be where I am today I probably would have laughed it off. I guess I didn't realize the strength, independence, and drive that was deep inside of me. Two years ago there were a multitude of things that petrifide me... I was living a life of fear. I had no idea, I didn't know until I walked out my deepest fear and found myself surviving on the other side of it all. I still can't put into words what has happened over the last two years, I try, but it just doesn't translate well right now. I pray it will someday, it's too good to keep hidden inside.

When November 2008 rolled around and the dust finally started to settle a bit, when I was finally able to awaken from the fog I had been living in, I realized I wasn't living a life God had designed for me. I finally started asking Him, "what's next" instead of just assuming, instead of being the one to tell Him. Over time my perspective on life, love, pain, grief, sin, and a number of other things has changed. I feel as though He's given me a new set of eyes in which to see through. Don't misunderstand me now... life is not perfect, I have not figured it out by any means. In fact I sometimes still find myself in deep grief over the loss of my nephew and it breaks my heart to think Nathan will never know Billy this side of Heaven. But I can't control that, God knows the plan... He designed it and I'm good with that.

I used to pray that God would tell me why Billy went home to Heaven so soon. I felt that I "deserved" an answer. Over time my heart changed. God owes me nothing and if I never know, I can trust that He has a plan. Billy's life here on earth has left a legacy that I hope and pray will more than outlive his and his siblings' generation. I pray it is a legacy that reaches beyond more than we could ever hope or imagine. There is a season in which all things come to pass and the timeline is in the hands of the Father.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Not All For Nothing: Living a Life of Sacrifice

Alright friends, if you've been keeping track with me, I'm 61 days away from my BIG departmental exam for graduate school and just over 8 months away from graduation. In fine paranoid fashion I deleted my "days until" countdown for graduation on the off chance I have to push it back... talk about positive thinking! ; P Okay, so I poke a little fun at myself, but I think I'm entitled seeing as humor is one of the characteristics getting me through my final anxious driven days of grad school. But that's not why I'm writing, I'm actually feeling extremely positive and particularly inspirational tonight. I've decided to somehow intertwine three of the songs that have been playing repeatedly on my iTunes (and in my car) lately into this blog in hopes that it will convey what God has been up to through my graduate school studies and recovery journey.

"This is not how it should be, this is not how it could be, but this is how it is, and our God is in control. This is not where we planned to be, when we started this journey, but this is where we are, and our God is in control..."

Yes graduate school is where I intended to be right now, but the path it has taken, the journey I've traveled the last two years is not at all how I thought it would be or had even planned for that matter. I was not expecting to walk this journey alone. And before I start getting comments or emails about how God never leaves us and is always with us... I know that, that's not what (or rather whom) I'm talking about. When I started this journey I thought I had a partner, or at least I thought I would somewhere along the way. Someone that would keep spurring me on and I would be able to talk to and vent or cry with when my grades came in because it proved again and again that I could manage it all. Someone to challenge me, to hold me accountable to studying, and someone who despite how much time I was spending with my head in the books would be patient and still love me at the end of the day. God has shown me differently and through the process I've come to appreciate it so much more. I've come to see my own discipline and drive for a dream that has been on my heart for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I've had the spurts of encouragement from friends along the way, but the one constant along this journey has always been God reaffirming that I am indeed on the right path. I so appreciate Him for that and adore the story that has unfolded despite the unexpectancies of it all. I can't wait to share the testimony of it all, and I especially can't wait to see how it plays out in the future.

"This is not how it will be, when we finally will see, we'll see with our own eyes, He was always in control." ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, Our God is in Control, 2009

"Yeah I'm ready to feel now, no longer am I 'fraid of the fall down. It must be time to move on now, without the fear of how it might end." ~ Lady Antebellum, Ready to Love Again, 2009

This one has been a bit harder concept to grasp. It's all true, but I left out the last line of being ready to love again. I'm not saying I'm not ready, but I think what I am saying is that I've learned that love is very different than what I thought two years ago. God has taught me so much through life, death, grief, and forgiveness about what love truly means. So much so that I don't even think I can find words to convey it to another. I truly believe it's all a journey we must travel on our own and in our own time. I'm not saying my perspective is right or wrong, but I do know that it's not what I thought it was and I firmly believe that is from the Lord. I thought I was a very loving, compassionate, and understanding person before and the person I see now, the person I am now is light years ahead of the girl who thought she knew it all. The girl I am now knows nothing other than God loves me, He's created a purpose for my life and until that purpose is fulfilled I'm here on earth to love others as He loves me. It's rather a hard concept to grasp, but I love learning it... I guess you could say I love learning to love. I look forward to the day I can take what I've learned and put it into practice and continue to grow with another.

"Hello world, all the empty disappears, I remember why I'm here. Just surrender and believe, I fall down on my knees, So hello world, hello world, hello world." ~ Lady Antebellum, Hello World, 2009

This song is what brings all of this together. All that I've learned in the last two years since my nephew died and in the last year since I've began recovery from some life long addictions has opened my eyes to life, love, and happiness.
Almost as if I've awakened to life, to the world, again. Might it be just a momentary high? Well, yes, it might be that I've found myself atop a mountain only to find myself in a valley a week or so from now. But I've come to accept that about life. Life is peaks and valleys and all the things we learn in between. I've done hard in life, a number of times, and I get it now... it's all about letting go, about giving the control to God... where it belongs and how it should be. This doesn't mean I'm gonna walk it all out perfectly and always smile. I'm not, if I did I wouldn't be human. Life is also about feeling, walking out emotions. I foresee being angry with God again, but I also have learned to walk it out, to talk it out and not to stay stuck in that feeling. I'll feel it for as long as it takes to get through it, but I've learned enough to know that staying stuck isn't going to make it better.

I don't know what the future holds, but I sure am glad I've faced my past and am learning from it. I have some high aspirations in life, but I know they can change at the drop of a hat and learning to be open to that is probably one of the greatest concepts I've ever come to terms with. I'm praying for you friends, praying that you will learn to embrace the unexpected and have hope that even in your darkest days or in the moments where you are particuarly confused you'll trust that God has a purpose and a plan in it all. What He's doing in you and through you is not all for nothing.