Elaina’s Story

In mid-2011, I moved to Virginia. I found a church but it was larger than the video and website lead on. I went week after week and met no one.

One day, I went to a church connecting event and sat across the table from this couple. “Hi, my names is Elaina. This is my husband Asquith or A.Q.” Once we started learning about each other, we became fast friends. There was also another couple in our church. We became a close group of 5. Standing outside of church well after service dismissed talking about theology, or life. Sitting at the coffee bar hashing out ideas. It was a highlight in my life for sure.

Life slowly changes for all of us. Elaina and AQ were called to another church. Then, I moved, then the other couple moved. However, Elaina will always be the type of friend anyone would wish for. She is fiercely loyal, straight to the point and eager to seek God’s will in any matter. It is truly an honor not only to have her as a friend but to be able to have you hear from her! Without any further ado, here’s Elaina’s story.

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My husband and I met in Miami while working for a community development ministry. After a year of friendship, we choose to commit our lives together before God and our families. Now if you knew me, you’d know I wasn’t the type of girl who longed for marriage or children. I never saw a healthy marriage and used my parents’ divorce as the picture of what the Lord called it to be. I was also told it would be extremely hard for me to get pregnant. I believed what the doctors said over what the Lord could do in my life. And because of all this, I made it very clear to my husband that children were not going to be in our future. I’m sure God laughed at me because He had some very different plans for us.

 

In November 2011, only 1.5 years after we’d been married, I found out I was expecting. I couldn’t believe it! Even with the fear and ‘what ifs’, I could feel the Lord working on my heart, filling me with a desire for children. I was reminded of something a dear friend said to me. She heard from one of our professors at Moody that, “Children are the best form of discipleship.” Those words rung in my head until I finally realized I was both happy and humbled that my God saw it fit to make me a mother.

 

I wish I could say the story ends here with a happily ever after, but it doesn’t. The day before Thanksgiving I felt some deep pain in my stomach, and my husband rushed me to the ER. After some testing and being able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, the doctors were convinced that I was ok and sent me home. I went home relieved and thanking God. The doctors weren’t right. The next morning, I woke up to find blood on the bed. Once again, we rushed to the ER. I remember the hours spent waiting were torture. I prayed and cried out to God in agony, begging Him to save both of our lives. The only option to stop the internal bleeding was to complete a D&C. I had lost my baby, and everything was a blur after that. People kept telling us you’ll get pregnant again. Another person asked me what sin I was in (*that was cruel*). A brother at the time encouraged my husband and I to get away, so we went to D.C. and stayed with a friend. It was a refreshing time for me and my husband to reconnect, for us to cry out to God. The thought of children was pushed to the back of my mind, AGAIN. But God had other plans.

“Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it.”

Our miscarriage made me numb towards children. My heart was cold towards God, other women who were pregnant or any person that mentioned they wanted children. Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it. We were serving in a church at the time that did not welcome showing any form of weakness. They thought Christians should bring it to God, leave it alone and NEVER speak of it again. Nobody asked me about the miscarriage, and I never brought it up.

 

Fast forward three years, and I found myself pregnant again. This time I was so careful. We didn’t tell anyone until I was about 20 weeks. It was an easy pregnancy considering I was a high risk due to my age (38), but when it came time for me to deliver, there were a few complications. Again, I found myself crying out to God to save this life He gave me. After 32 hours of labor, 3 epidurals that didn’t work, 2 rounds of Pitocin, my blood pressure continued to be too high. I was on the verge of having a stroke, and my son’s heartbeat was dangerously low. They rushed me back for an emergency cesarean. Within thirty minutes I was able to see my son and hear his first cry. I don’t know who cried more… me or him! I kept thanking God for this healthy baby boy, Asquith Malachi Thompson. In the hospital I felt good. There were nurses and doctors everywhere to help, and I had a room filled with family and friends.

 

But things changed when I went home. For the first two weeks I couldn’t walk because my legs were extremely swollen due to medication and the fluid I retained. I was unable to hold Malachi without my husband handing him to me. Nursing him was a struggle. Sleep was a struggle. I was tired all the time, and my son had his nights and days confused. It was overwhelming, as I battled with my own healing and taking care of my son.

 

I knew a week into being home something was wrong with me. When I looked at my son while breastfeeding, I felt nothing. No goo-goo ga-ga. No joy. Nothing. All I felt was sadness… all the time. And I couldn’t focus on anything. I went weeks and months feeling like I didn’t deserve to be where I was. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I couldn’t care for him the way someone else could, and I couldn’t be a wife the way my husband needed. I feared if I shared my feelings with anyone, social services would take my son away, and my husband would leave me because he would think I was an awful mom. On top of everything, my grandmother was going through cancer, and I couldn’t be there to support her. I felt useless, fearful, anxious and panicky all the time. I questioned God for every emotion or lack thereof, and then felt shame for questioning Him. The cycle was endless, and it was exhausting. I remember several times sitting in the car, with my son in the backseat, thinking he’ll be ok with someone else. I’ll just drop him off with a friend and go end this pain. But the wrestle was always, “I’m a Christian. I’m in church leadership.” And even though we had changed churches and the leadership was very different, I kept telling myself I still shouldn’t be feeling this way.

“…this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans.

One day I was headed to Malachi’s appointment and decided this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans. As I was driving to my friend’s house after the appointment, for some reason He reminded me of a task my Pastor asked me to do. I turned around and headed back home. I’d do this final task and then go finish my plan. While I was completing my task, my husband called to check up on me. Before he hung up he said, “Babes, I love you…very much.” After we hung up I wept so hard. Face down on the floor. “Why God? Why have you given me so much pain? Why is this happening to me?” I cried myself to sleep on the floor, with my son in his swing. I woke up to my son crying, and as I breastfed him, I looked down at his face and cried some more. All I wanted to do was cry the pain away. When my husband got home from work that day, I said nothing to him. I couldn’t bare the shame of telling my husband I was set to walk away from everything and end my life.

 

A few weeks went by and my pastor called to see if I had sent an email to a couple at church. I told him yes, and he asked me to forward it to him. When I went to forward the email, I saw it sitting in my inbox… it had never been sent! I broke down sobbing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me! I was constantly forgetting things, unable to finish tasks on time. Afterwards, I called my pastor and told him what happened. He asked to meet with me that day, and as he came to my house, he gently asked, “Is everything ok with you?” I broke down and confessed I was struggling with postpartum depression (PPD), and I needed help.

 

At first, as the words came out of my mouth I felt like I was being a false Christian. Was I betraying God? My family? My friends? Was everything I knew to be true about God a lie? How could I even feel this way? No good Christian should feel “this way.” Christ had done so much for me… My head was a fog of lies that I had believed for almost an entire year. As my pastor listened, he suggested I step down from my role at church and focus on getting healthy again. I was open to ALL help, whether it be medical or spiritual. I met with a biblical counselor, and she told me to try the counseling for three months and if at any time I wasn’t getting better to go see my doctor for medical help as well. She also connected me with another lady who was going through PPD. Together we started reading a book called Depression: Looking up from Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch. That book gave me categories for my depression. It gave me hope when my life seemed so dark and lost. Counseling, my local church, a community of patient sisters and, most of all, the Word of God helped me face many struggles and lies. God used a misplaced email to help bring my depression into the light. And I was brave enough to cry out for help. The grace of God kept me alive, and the grace of God keeps me fighting for my life every day. For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.

For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.”  

I still struggle with my depression, but I have been shown healthy ways to live with it. It is a temporary form of suffering I endure on earth that daily draws me nearer to Jesus. Each day I have to speak Gospel truths to myself. When I start believing lies and I begin feeling my depression, I have to reach out to others. I am grateful for our church and the security I feel within. We have a saying we live by, and it can be found here: Gospel, Safety & Time.

 

Throughout it all, depression has brought me into a deeper faith and trust in my Heavenly Father. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Elaina has been blessed with a wonderful, patient, loving, humble husband; Asquith (AQ) Thompson and a very vibrant, intelligent and energetic son Malachi. They are truly the best gifts her Heavenly Father has seen fit to give her. She received her Masters of Urban Ministry from Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago in 2008 and soon after moved to Florida to serve as a Community Development Missionary in Miami, where she met her husband while serving together. Their family now lives in Newport News, VA, where she is currently studying for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Certification. She also serves as the deacon of hospitality at Hampton Roads Fellowship. Asquith & Elaina desire to grow in the knowledge of the Gospel, church planting and the importance of the local church.  They hope to plant a church in 2021 in Barbados. To connect more with Elaina contact her through Facebook @facebook.com/elainav.

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Eleven Letters

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I stared at the blinking curser. I reread the text message. I put my iPhone down. I had to pray because I couldn’t handle the hurt. I picked up my phone and wrote eleven letters. I never knew eleven letters could be so hard to write.

Before I was able to write those eleven letters, my mind, and emotions went on a roller coaster ride. Why would this person even write me? I thought. They haven’t written, texted, called in over a year and suddenly they feel bad when I lost my Dad? This person obviously still had my number. When I was hung out to dry, where were they? When I sent the goodbye email to them? Where was their response?

I could feel the anger, frustration and hurt rising up. I wanted to put my fist through the wall. But then I remembered something… I quickly looked up the passage of the Bible that was brought to mind. I counted the letters and realized that Jesus spoke eleven letters that I’m sure took every ounce of strength to say… He said, “Forgive them.”

I looked down at my phone and saw all the letters I managed to piece together “Thank you _ _ _” There were eleven letters. I knew I had to hit send. I hesitated for a moment, but was able to send it.

The person on the other end of the text wanted to continue the conversation, but I didn’t feel the need to respond.

This blog was started a year ago, but I remembered it tonight because this individual reached out for a second time.

I don’t feel the need to get into all the details, but I think it’s important to understand that when boundaries have been crossed, confidentially broken and an alignment is made with the side that is not trustworthy, or truthful, one needs to keep his/her own boundaries.

I had a very godly leader tell me that just because he’d forgiven someone who had crossed boundaries with his family (multiple times) that individual was not to be around his family. Every situation is different.

However, I think it’s important to understand that forgiving doesn’t mean allowing the one who has not sought reconciliation to walk back into your life. Quite frankly, they could do more damage.

I really wrestled with what to do with that text message. I cried from a deep part of me that still is tender to talk about at times. It’s a place that unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand. The pain goes so deep. It’s hard to know how to explain it. I’ve never been hurt as badly as I have by those few people. But time, and healthy relationships have helped more than I could have imagined.

Writing those eleven letters, took a lot of pray and supernatural strength. I could not do it on my own. But, if I believe in grace and have received grace then when someone is showing a glimmer of remorse, I need to extend grace. This does not mean I open my life to them, but I can be kind. God is love and love is kind and because God loved me, and was kind to me, I can love and be kind to others. But, I cannot do this on my own.

Forgiveness is a process and a powerful tool.

Lessons From Migraines

I was at work when the headache I had kept intensifying. I thought I would be okay to hold off a little bit longer on taking something for it. I was wrong.

By the time I took pain relief, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Everything sounded 100x louder than normal. I kept checking the clock waiting for it to be 6:30 so I could leave. When the arrows of the clock fell in place, I knew I wasn’t headed home.

I made it to the bathroom and threw up several times. I called my sister and asked her and my mom to come pick me up— there was no way I could drive the 20 minutes I needed to get home.

I got out to my car blasted the cold air and threw a jacket over my eyes. It was already dark but the little blue lights in my car felt like a cop light searching for a man on the run.

I reclined in the driver seat chair hoping the jackhammering going on in my head would stop. It didn’t matter my position, the pain was persisted.

My mom and sister got me into their car. My sister drove my car home. The drive felt so long. I felt every bump. By the time I got home, I tried to lay down, but I ended up in the bathroom throwing up a few more times. I couldn’t tell you what time the medicine kicked in, or what time I fell asleep. I was done for, until this migraine passed.

I don’t know exactly when I started getting migraines. I remember one time when I was young that I couldn’t go to a soccer event because of a severe headache.

As I got older, they would sometimes come frequently. Other times, I’d go for a long time without them. Migraines don’t really have much rhyme or reason. They just tend to show up. I will do my best to eliminate triggers but sometimes even with all the triggers eliminated, I end up in my bed unable to do anything , sometimes even sleep, until the migraine passes.

A thought occurred to me as I was thinking about migraines. I think sometimes God gives us migraine seasons in life. Let me explain. Sometimes things happen to us in life that debilitate us like a migraine. The things we used to have no problem doing are impossible. The little things that weren’t an issue before suddenly become unbearable. We just have to hunker down until the migraine or the season passes and I think that’s okay.

You know why?! Because for me, the day after I have the migraine I am very flat. I don’t have much energy. I feel exhausted. I try and take it easy, and eventually, I feel fine. Something about migraines tends to balance me out.

Normally (not always) before I get a migraine, I’ve tend to be on the go non-stop. Then, the migraine hits and makes me stop everything. I can’t do anything until it passes. I think the same is true for our migraine seasons, sometimes they come to recalibrate us. Recalibrate our spiritual lives, our emotional wellbeing and even our physical wellbeing.

I think this is similar to desert seasons. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and many of the people we look up to had their desert seasons. They couldn’t do much if anything in the desert until their season was up. I think the same is true for our migraine seasons.

In those seasons, you’re not any less than you were. God isn’t disappointed because you may not be able to do what you used to do. He cares enough to allow a migraine season, as painful as it can be, to work for your ultimate good.

I share this because I have felt as though I am in a migraine season. I’m beginning to realize it’s okay. It’s a part of the journey.

Let’s hear it for the boys

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different guys I’ve talked to over the years… I think because recently, I experienced another let down.

This is by no means a blog to bash men. Thanks to the good men in my family and the good men who’ve I’ve met along the way, I appreciate men and know this world needs you.

But, sometimes, I know as a woman, I wish I knew things I could work on to be a better sister, friend and possibly spouse one day… So here’s a blog to the single guys.

I’ve talked with guys who I’ll call Mr. Stuck. They are great guys who want to get married, they work hard, they know the things they need to get in order before seriously dating someone, but they seem to be stuck. Instead of trying new things or plugging into a community, or taking a missions trip or a trying things to see what they might like or not like, they seem to be stuck. My encouragement to this guy would be to wait for your spouse actively. Try things, make new friends, ask God for open doors and take them. Life is too short to stay stuck.

I’ve also talk to guys who I’ll call Mr. I Can’t Commit. Sometimes this isn’t even intentional. They are really striving to do things right, but somewhere in their past, they never let something go (ex-girlfriend, their own singleness, etc) they by default choose something over you because what they had is “comfortable” and you’re an unknown factor so they stay with the familiar. My encouragement to you is a quote by C.S Lewis, “There are far greater things ahead than what you leave behind.”

Then there are the Mr. Hesitation. I’m just going to say this because I needed to hear it at one time too. One date or coffee DOESN’T mean you’re obligated to marry the girl you take out! I once turned a dinner with a guy down because I was so paranoid I’d have to make a commitment that night. It takes time to get to know someone, so if you go out a few times and it doesn’t work out — It’s okay! Let it go and move on. I once had someone ask if they could give my number out to a guy and I said sure and he never called or texted. He was sure that I’d say no. But the fact is, I GAVE my number willingly. I was already saying “I’m willing to give this a shot.” So, guys, give her a shot. Sometimes girls will say no, but in the words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

And then, Mr. Where’d-you-go? I have had some situations where the guy just disappeared. To this day, I still don’t understand it. If you decided to go a different direction or you don’t think it’s working out, just tell the girl. Even if a girl is confident in who God made her to be, pulling a disappearance act will cause her to question herself. Just tell her you’re headed in a different direction and you wish her well.

Lastly, to the guy who I’ll call, Mr. Keep My Cards Close… who holds back information, this goes both ways. If there is something that you need to discuss that could harm the relationship, just say it. The thing is, if you’re contemplating doing life with this person, you need to be upfront. If they can’t handle the information you share, then you shouldn’t be with them anyways. Relationships are built on trust and if honesty isn’t mutually shared, you will have a ton of issues in your future.

So, those are my few tidbits on relationships. I don’t know a lot but what I’ve experience has helped me define more who I shouldn’t date and who I should give a chance to. Overall, I’m grateful for every guys that has crossed paths with me— good and bad.

Life is about learning, so whatever relationships you’ve had, learn from that and while you’re waiting, learn to be active.

So to recap:

• Don’t get stuck

• Give the past up

• Give her a shot

• Give her an explanation for your disinterest

• Don’t withhold your secrets If you’re wanting to share your life with her.

Hope this helps! And guys… we really do need you!

In a world full of protests…

This week was full of unexpected things. Things were rough personally, the goals I’ve been pursuing were greeted by road blocks, and there were protests taking place on one of our work properties.

We live in a very polarized world. It’s almost like the Red Sea has parted (again). But, instead of walking through dry land, there are one set of people in one side of the waves; and, the opposing side in the other wave. The line is drawn and no one is meeting in the middle.

I once heard a very wise man say, “You don’t win anything by stating what you’re against. You win by stating and exemplifying what you are for.”

I thought about that for a while. I had to let it sink into my brain. What does that mean?

I think I understood it a bit more in light of this week. Before I get there, let me explain what I do for a living. I am the Executive Assistant| Grant Writer for a non-profit pregnancy center. This week, we had protestors in front our one of our clinics saying that we were a “fake clinic” and that we “coerce and shame women” into having their babies and a slew of other things. The thing is, they don’t know us.

First of all, the women come to us come at their own will. We do not drag women under false pretenses to come to our clinic.

Second, we have filed all the necessary documents needed to operate a state qualified medical clinic as a legal non profit organization.

Third, we simply give the women the medical information about either birth or abortion. We also tell the women we do not refer for abortions. If someone were to call as ask, we would tell them we don’t. We offer early pregnancy verification which every woman will need regardless of her choice.

The thing that makes me sad is that we have become a culture that just screams at each other. We don’t take the time to get to know how the other-side thinks and acts.

This week, in the midst of the chaos and confusion and accusations, a beautiful thing happened. I have a really good friend, who if you looked at us, you’d probably think, “how are they friends?” We don’t always see eye to eye on everything but she has been such a good friend to me. For example, she drove over to my house to help alleviate a task I needed to do when I was scampering to get to my Dad after the accident. She sent cards, brought me gifts and just listened to me when I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

When it comes to certain topics, we have different viewpoints, but this week, we said and talked about our differences on a certain topic. She shared her viewpoint and I shared mine. We weren’t trying to jam information down each other’s throat, we just talked and we listened to each other. This… This… is what I wish the rest of our country could do.

I realized the statement that the wise man said pertains to this… My friend and I may disagree on more than we may agree on but what we agree on allows us to discuss what we disagree on because we are for each other. She has my back and I have hers.

I know that if I opened my own non-profit that she didn’t agree with, she wouldn’t come protest in front of it… Because she knows me and if she opened a business that I may not agree with, I wouldn’t protest her because we know each other. We can talk to each other about our differences.

My Dad used to say, “Build a friendship strong enough to handle to truth.”

I think if we saw the story of the person holding the protest sign, we’d understand their need to be heard. People go through situations that often shape their viewpoint. I hope I learn to look beyond the sign and listen beyond the yelling to hear what that person’s story is. Everyone has a story and instead of protesting or getting angry at one another, I hope I find the opportunity to hear their story.

This is how Jesus treated people. When everyone saw a prostitute, he saw a woman with pain. When everyone saw lepers, Jesus saw men who were desperate for healing. When everyone saw Matthew, the tax collector, Jesus saw someone who could be a writer, disciple, teacher.

So, in a world full of protests, I pray we have ears to hear and eyes to see that those people are each uniquely made. They have a story and they’re longing to be heard.

Strive be the ears so that one day, someone will trust you enough to ask you for your voice.

Where’s Donavan?

I got to work and was ready to get going. I was working a double so I needed to be on my A-game. I had a good closing crew so I wasn’t worried.

Donavan had become my favorite closing guy. He was much older than me and everyone else who worked there. He worked really hard and would keep the cashiers in line.

“Get back to work, Sarah!” He’d yell from the back of the store as he plowed through stacks and stacks of dishes.

Donavan was never late, so when 4 o’clock came and went and Donovan didn’t show, I knew something was up. I called in help to fill the shift but was pretty annoyed I hadn’t heard from Donavon at all. This wasn’t like him and I really needed him.

The next shift came and went and no Donavon again. I was pretty sad at this point because I realized there wasn’t much of a possibility of Donavon keeping his job when he now has two no calls no shows on his record!

By mid-week, we had scratched Donavon’s name off the schedule and filled the rest of his shifts.

I was at work again on another shift when the front door rang and I looked up and saw Donavon. He looked pretty sullen. He walked straight to the back after he asked if the boss was in.

I looked in the back to see my boss and Donavon talking. They looked like they were having a pretty serious conversation. I looked away and continued my work. A few minutes later, Donavon said goodbye and walked out the door.

I quickly went to the back to ask my boss what was going on.

“He was in jail.”

“What?!?!”

“With the wrong crowd and got picked up, but they took him in because of his record.”

I was starting to worry a little bit. What record? I thought. Donavon and I talk a lot. I wonder why he never mentioned it.

“What’s on his record?” I finally asked.

“Manslaughter.”

I about fell over. “Manslaughter?!?!”

“It was in the 80s and he’s served his time. He’ll be in tonight to close.”

I didn’t show it but I totally freaked out on the inside. I thought I am going to be closing with a man who killed another human? I don’t feel safe. My mind wandered wondering if all the worst possible scenarios.

I was filled with fear. I was trying to think of ways I could go home early. But, suddenly a thought came to me.

“You used to feel safe with Donavon. He was your favorite closer. He always did his work, did extra things to help you. And got the cashiers to do their job.”

I realized that this piece of information was in Donavon’s past hindered my ability to see him for who I had known him to be. I decided right there that when Donavon came in, I needed to treat him like I had before I knew he served time in jail for manslaughter.

So, that night came and went and it was just like old times. Donavon, like he always had, made sure I didn’t leave the store by myself and worked just as hard as he always had. Eventually, Donavon was having a hard time keeping up with two jobs and was let go. I never saw him again, but I haven’t forgotten that lesson.

Recently something happened that caused me to reevaluate someone I thought I knew. I think we all have gotten to know someone and thought them to be one person and in the end, they weren’t really who you thought they were.

There have been several times in my life that I’ve spend a lot of tears over individuals because they turned out to be someone I couldn’t imagine they’d be… But just like Donavon, I was reminded of something.

Jesus doesn’t look at me for who I am, but for who I will be. How many times have I been disappointed with my own self for not being who I want to be. I fall short all the time. I screw up. I get so angry. I quit taking to him. I want to quit all together. I have not become who I will be, but Jesus sees me as complete. He sees the final copy of me.

As I was given startling information about someone I know, I remembered, I need to see them as who they can be— not who they are right now.

Some people are harder to do that with because in the case of abuse or betrayal, you have to acknowledge that certain things took place. You have to work through those issues and it will take a lot of time and energy. But, I think I need to do some reevaluating in my own life and remember that just like I am not complete — they won’t be either.

Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Peter hadn’t become the rock yet, but that was Jesus saw him as.

We use this tactic is karate too. I have always been taught to view yourself as the next level belt. I am currently a brown belt and I often picture in my head the moment I am awarded my black belt (and sword). It helps me to remember where I want to be.

I think we need to do the same with ourselves and other. God says we are complete, so we are but we keep working towards it. I need to keep that in mind for when I see others too.

Life Sucks Sometimes

It’s a privilege to have my sweet little sister, Jessica, be a guest writer this week!

I have seen her grow leaps and bounds through one loss after the other. She really has been like an perfume bottle that has been shattered and leaves it’s unmistakable and beautiful fragrance at the feet of Jesus. I have seen her grace towards others abound as well as her kindness despite the jabs she’s endured.

She has taught me a lot by how she lives and I’m grateful to have her in my life. I know you will be encouraged by what she has to say.

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I remember saying as a little girl, “that isn’t fair!” But my Dad would calmly say, as most parents do, “Life isn’t fair.” That never made me feel better as a child and quite frankly, it makes me feel even worse as an adult. Why do we think life is supposed to be fair? Why do we expect others to treat us as we ought? Why do we think bad things should never happen to good people?

Life isn’t fair. I’ve experienced its unfairness closer than I would like. Way too close. Actually, it’s cut my heart pretty deeply this past year. Not only have I experienced it but so many precious friends and family have too. You hurt for yourself but your pain is doubled when you see other struggling through their own trials; and, you can do nothing to fix.

Friends turn on friends. Significant others choose to not only walk away, but hurt you. As if you never meant anything to them leaving your heart utterly confused and in pieces. Others twist the truth and even discredit your character despite how much you try to make amends. Illness and emergencies hit the families who deserve the best. Instead, they have one trial after another. You’ve tried for a baby for so long and you see other mothers aborting theirs. No matter how hard you fight to get ahead in life, get the job offer, get the raise, get the promotion. You’re overlooked and brushed aside. Again. There have been many prayers that were only one sentence: God, I’m so tired of losing.

In the moments where you feel so low… do you ever crave justice? Crave for life to be fair? Crave to win one? There’s something in our inner gut that is screaming out for justification. For our situation to work out right. But knowing you’re powerless to ever make that happen? It doesn’t matter if you’ve done everything you possibly could to change the situation. You still want the person who hurt your heart so effortlessly to feel every bit of bitter pain they caused. Or, you’d like for the healing to finally come from the hundreds of prayers said in tears bellowing from trials you’ve experienced. That would make everything fair, right?

I wish I had a nice neat bow of happiness to wrap up this blog, but I don’t. Life doesn’t always give that gift. Praise God for the times and seasons of blessings and comfort. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate it now more than ever. But sometimes life just sucks. I’ve come to realize I can give all of it to God while still saying I don’t know why it’s happening. In the midst of the unfairness and the ache, in the middle of the night, in the worst of storms, in the hours spent by the hospital bed. Do we believe God can truly work it out? And much more than that, can He work it out for our good? Is our God capable of doing that? To be honest, I’ve struggled with believing it. That’s where faith becomes action. Its where the rubber hits the road.

Pain brings faith to life.

Friends, I have no other hope than that. Is He able? If He is, take a breath, and remind yourself of that truth.

Even though I feel he was taken too soon, I’m glad I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head. Especially when I’m tempted to get angry or bitter over life’s unfairness. Yes, life sucks and it’s not fair. Sometimes just saying life sucks while biting into a Klondike bar is healing in itself. Life can suck while God is still good and in control.

Listen: Life Keeps Moving On, Ben Rector

What Grief Has Felt Like…

If you know me, I am not a verbal processor (I process through writing), and if I can not figure things out in my own head and get it on paper, I feel silenced. But I’ve been trying to force myself to write and to take the next step.

There have been more months than not that I’ve felt numb. It’s so hard for me to talk about the accident last summer. It’s so hard for me to talk about that week. And it’s especially hard for me to look at pictures.

Things that happened behind closed doors in a hospital room feel sacred and should only be shared with those you trust because quite frankly you’re inviting those people into your hurt. Into a place where words fall short and emotions and logic are unreliable.

The fact if the matter is, some cannot be trusted with your experience. It could do more damage to your already mangled heart. Please understand, I am not trying to be mean, but several times I spoke up to people and it made it worse… I know they mean well, but it’s too sensitive of a topic to discuss with just anyone— even some friends. It’s not that you can’t be friends, but this topic should just be left out of your catch up talks. And that’s hard too because what happened inside those hospital walls have now become a part of you… and that you cannot always be shared.

I purposely haven’t reached out to some because they don’t understand. The littlest things could hurt more than you know. I’ve gotten hurt several times and had I not lost my dad, I don’t know that I would trust myself with the sacred information of loss. I still don’t.

Ironically, I’ve found, that there are some people that become closer because of loss. And some times you become friends with the most unlikely of people because they share the same grief road that neither of you foresaw being on.

I decided to write on grief for two reasons:

1) This week will be one year since my Dad’s accident… And, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he’s gone.

2) Because I haven’t found much help on the topic— maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but recently, I finally found a good podcast on it. It was like a breath of fresh air. I thought, “this guy knows. He gets it.”

Before last summer, grief was just a word to me. Yes, I have lost two new found friends, and three grandparents, but nothing prepares you for the moment your mom walks in the door and tells you, “Dad’s been in an accident. I’m waiting for the police officer to call back with more information.” And the phone from your sister, after she arrived at the hospital and says, “You’ve got to come. I don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

Several weeks ago, I went on Facebook and on three separate occasions I saw a post from three different families about a loss in their family. My heart aches for them because I know they’re now thrusted against their will onto this what feels like God-forsaken road called “Grief.”

Grief feels like you’ve been on vacation, relaxing on the beach soaking up the warm sun, and suddenly you’re picked up and dropped in the middle of the a turbulent ocean. You’re fighting to stay above the cold waves smashing into your face as you look up and see you’re surrounded by dark skies. The chaos causes fear and panic. On top of that you feel as though there is a rope around your ankle trying to pull you under. And yet, somehow, you’re supposed to get back to the shore that you simply cannot see. You feel like you can barely stay afloat and sometimes, you do get pulled under, but you know you have to fight to stay above the waves. Nothing seems sure and it feels like no one understands and no one can see.

People will be talking about their life (on the beach) and all you can think of is “I’m about to drown!” But, in real life, if you brought up your situation, you’d make others feel bad… So you keep silent fighting every wave that threatens your existence. I don’t remember hearing one thing someone said that has helped… Words fall short… But you know what has helped? Having someone understand and having someone be there.

I think we as a culture are so scared of not saying something … Instead of having the courage to just let silence speak and linger while we hand someone a tissue and create a safe place for them to let their tears fall. Some of the most helpful times were when a friend just let silence sit in the midst of us… tears were allowed and those tears became a gift.

I have a friend who lost her Dad just a few months before I lost mine. After I lost my Dad, I apologized to her… I said I was sorry because I had no idea how hard it was to lose a Dad — even though I thought I knew.

People forget about your loss after the service, or, if you’re blessed with amazing friends, a few months after that. We all do, me included… But when you’ve lost someone, and someone else’s loses someone else after you, you remember because you know the pain. Because, you will forever have a hole in your heart and so will they. You’ve been branded forever by grief.

What most people don’t remember is (including me before this) there will ALWAYS be someone missing in my family. We will NEVER all be together on this earth. Family get together will always be bitter sweet because there will ALWAYS be an empty chair. As Nicholas Wolterstorff put it in his book, The Lament of a Son:

“Only our death will stop the pain of his death.”

Do we look like we are drowning from the outside? No, we look fine. But on the inside there is an incredibly dark storm that makes us want to quit nearly every day. It makes us not want to not wake up in the morning. It makes us just want to go to heaven— Now.

The reality of grief brings waves that threaten our hope, heightens our fears, and tests our resolve. It pulls at the very fiber of our being and the foundation of our faith.

If God is sovereign, and I believe He is, what is the purpose of this? It’s too much heartache for one human heart to bear. It seems downright cruel. My Dad had 23 grandkids when he died… 2 will never know their “Padge” and several will not remember him. My sister and I will never have the privilege of having him “approve” who we date or have him walk us down the aisle. Although, he said he cared more about preforming the ceremony than walking us down the aisle. We will miss that too.

I used to think that people that posted often about their loved ones weren’t very strong… I am ashamed to even write that… But, I didn’t understand why they’d always post dates. I simply didn’t understand the magnitude of the weight that grief brings. The loss of a loved one’s life alters every life that, that loved one’s life became a part of.

It wrecks you. And the worst part about it is that you never asked for it. It’s like a wrecking ball was dropped into your life you’re somehow supposed to figure out how to go on with it and somehow make order out of the life it just wrecked. You can’t just put it down. It’s a part of you now. I hear that grief lessens over time, but it doesn’t ever go away…. How could it?! I will always miss my Dad.

Unfortunately, grief is a part of life. Which to say that sounds oxymoronic because grief is brought about by the absence of a life. I’m on this road and I still don’t understand it. It’s confusing, it’s hard to know how to share it and hurts more than words can express… Speaking about the events that took place last summer have muted me because I feel like I’ll fall apart if I visit that road again.

But, the one thing that is a comfort is the people who do understand… And although, I’ve doubted His plan for my life more times than I care to count, Jesus is the “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

God chose to face grief so that when my grief came without my consent, He’d know how to walk me down the road…

Quite frankly, I can’t wait for the day where there will be no more pain and no more grief…

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey.

Note: this picture was taken by a family friend the morning my Dad passed. My brother (Brian) and sister (Rachel) and my Mom stayed by my Dad’s side until he passed. Linda, Stephanie, Jessica and I were at the hotel when they pulled up… Somehow we all ended up in the same place in the parking lot. We hugged, cried and prayed… I don’t know what I’d do without them and my brother (David) who joined us later… Hard times but we face them together.

Who Needs Men?

My order at Chick-fila was quite large as I was ordering for other people as well. I took the drinks out to my car so I would be able to carry the rest the food without having to struggle.

As I waited, I noticed a girl who looked as though she were just about to get on shift, or had just come off break. She had crimson red hair and didn’t quite seem to have the same disposition as the other employees. I don’t blame her, life is sometimes rough and I’m sure it’s hard to say, “my pleasure” all day everyday (especially when the customers may not be pleasant).

“Christi” they called my name to retrieve my food. The man behind the counter said:

“You got all this?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“My pleasure!”

Suddenly, I heard, “That’s right, tell’em you don’t need a man.”

I turned to see the same girl that I had just observed moments before. I was so surprised by her comment that I was speechless.

“Tell ’em you don’t need a man!”

The words seem to echo in my head. Remembering that literally hours before she said this, I had shed tears with a woman over the loss of her dad and mine.

I began thinking about the men I’ve been honored to know. Just last night, I was swapping emails with my friend’s dad who used to take me camping. He’s done so much for my family over the years.

I thought of my brothers and their protection over me and their encouragement to pursue my passions.

I thought of my brother in laws who have helped me assemble furniture, fix computers, laugh, taught me to shoot, and to find good places to eat and just watch out for me.

I thought of the men in the church I grew up in. They were my Sunday school teacher, the teachers on Sunday and also the men who would lend a helping hand whenever necessary. As well as written more recommendation letters for me than I can count.

I thought of my Sensei who, under his even keel, I healed from a damaging work relationship.

I also thought of some of my guy friends who have poured wisdom into me and shown me some tricks of the trade or who taught me to love production.

And the friends who were there when I needed them the most. And would drop everything if I needed their help.

And of course the most important— my dad. His wisdom, his kindness, his love of sports, the scripture and being available. He taught me not to settle and to keep pressing on no matter what. To leave things better than when I found them and to love God and His word and be there for people.

So, to the woman at Chick-fila, here is my response:

This world needs men. I’m not sure what your experience has been, and if you’ve been hurt, I’m deeply sorry. But not all men are bad. Yes, there are some that are a real pill and I’ve met several, but I know the person I am today is because I have had amazing men in my life.

Those men (who you say I don’t need) have taught me to stay steady; despite hardship. They’ve taught me the power of an encouraging word. They’ve taught me to think and figure things out. And they’ve taught me that I’m worth being pursued because I’m made in the image of God… So, I am not ashamed to say that it is because of the men I have known, I am who I am and I needed them every step of the way.

So, who needs men? I’d say I do. And thank you to the men who’ve helped shape me into the person I am today. I’ve needed every single one of you 💗!

To the one’s who are left…

For whatever reason, the way my life has gone, I have been the one to go more often than not. I went away for a year of Bible school. I went to stay with my brother and sister in law for half a year and then I moved to Virginia for 5 years.

But, I stopped and noticed something about a few people I know who have been “left.”

Being “left” categorizes a lot of individuals: Left behind as someone moves away, left behind from a trip, left as an organization moved on without you, left by a boyfriend/girlfriend, left behind by a spouse, a Dad, a mom, a family member who passed on before you. I think we’ve all been left a time or two.

As I was discussing this with my younger sister, two individuals came to mind… My sister, Linda, and my mom.

There are times my other family members have been left, but today, I want to focus on them…

My sister has been the local anchor for my family. She’s lives close by and does the airport runs, extra shopping, filling love tanks, dropping off flowers, coffee, and just being available. Seeing her day to day perseverance, you would have no clue how many times she’s been left. She and I were thick as thieves in high school and then I left. I left again two more times and every time, she’d cheer me on even if there were tears in her eyes.

And my mom. She’s been left by two husbands who both went to heaven before her. She is the biggest cheerleader for marriage, family and the church even with her broken heart. She’s also been left by friends time and time again.

But, the thing I’ve noticed in both Linda and my Mom is a deep strength. Like their strength is a thick 6inch rope that is tied to the anchor of their souls. They press on and press in every time another trial comes. “When the going gets tough— the tough get going.” That’s a perfect picture of them both.

Their being left has made them into some of the most beautiful people I know. My heart breaks recounting all the blows they’ve taken, but they turn around and find someone else who have been left and help them in their way.

There is a deep seated hope and endurance inside of them and I know it’s the God of all hope that helps them keep pressing on… It’s truly an honor to be family with them. I learn so much from them.

And my little sister, Jessica, is following suit.

My encouragement to us all is to know that even in your season of being left know that God is producing a strength in you — even though strength is the last thing you feel.

The more I grow, the more I want to be like them.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. –Helen Keller