Sea’s Edge

20150330-231259.jpgToday was one of those busy days, of getting things done and checking a lot of things off my list. I left the house around 9:45 and was still out and about by the time 2:30 rolled around. But with a coffee in hand, I set out to face the world. I dropped my brother off at the train station, stopped at the bank, went to the mechanics for an hour visit and left with a car that no longer sounds like a motorcycle (score!), then drove to another place to have a new tire put on my car which, while I waited for, I ran into Target and did some overdue shopping.

At 2:30, finally heading home, I realized in all the commotion I hadn’t eaten. I added a mental note in my mind to stop and find a salad somewhere. My day was going pretty much according to plan. Checking things off and adding new things to the mental list. But all the while, as I checked things off my list, I pondered some things that had been heavy on my heart for a while. Things that have kept me awake at night. Things I didn’t have the answer to. Things I had spent far too much time over-thinking and reover-thinking to come up empty on…because somehow my brain thinks that if I think about something long enough or hard enough, I’ll come up with a solution, but that solution just hasn’t come yet.

The running list of things going through my mind is a pretty constant way of life for me. Always have a plan, always checking things off, always adding things on.

Nearing the house and thinking about my running mental list, a new thought popped in. Make a beach visit. I glanced at the clock in my car (that always runs 8 minutes fast to prompt me to stay on task and 20150330-231334.jpgmake sure I keep checking things off the list – time is ticking  – don’t waste it) I have two hours before work. I think I can fit that in. I add it to the list. I think I’ll actually have a chance to sit down today and breathe. Because as great as I feel checking things off my list, there is a part of me inside that tries desperately to slow me down. That part of me that doesn’t want my life to pass me by, checking boxes off a list. That part of me that wants to really live and not become exhausted by running around, letting a list dictate my life.

I swung home and grabbed my journal, a pen, and some headphones and made the eight minute drive to the beach. As I crossed the draw bridge that runs over the narrows of the Great South Bay and the Moriches Bay, I felt the sun radiating my skin; it was such a nice treat for a Long Islander who has been facing a stubbornly long winter that refuses to end (even though we are ten days into spring). The peace began to set in and my checklist began to drift out of my mind. These moments are so rare that they are almost startling because I begin to see how invasive my checklist has become. How much of my peace it has stolen.

I walked through the tunnel and up the ramp and breathed in the salty20150330-231341.jpg ocean air. I stood there on the balcony for a bit. Just taking in the Atlantic Ocean in all of its glory. I passed three brave souls that stood on the shoreline on such a windy day, found a solitary spot, put in my headphones and let my surroundings sink in. The words of the song seemed to sing my heart out across the crashing waves of the Atlantic.

“I fall down on the floor, down at Your feet. I know You want me here with my suitcase full of needs. Oh my heart is heavy, and my mind is full. I let go of my pride, and empty out my soul. I let go. Empty my soul.”

(Empty My Soul by Melissa Helser)

It hit me then and there that I’ve been running around with my head in the clouds and my pockets full of my own pride. I’ve been at this place so many times. So many times I’ve been woken up and been reminded to stop living for myself – to let go of my agenda – to let go and stop trying to control things – to trust.

I throw away the mental list and release it to the Lord. I let the waves carry it away and I feel proud of myself for a moment. But the Lord nudges me further. He doesn’t want to stop there. Another wave crashes against the shoreline. This one more powerful than those previous. This one pushes past the firm wet sand and the wind sweeps the foam forward and it comes rushing towards me with an increased force. I laugh at myself as I try to escape the cold wet water. Finally the wave retreats back into the ocean, but not before it soaks my shoes and pant legs.

And that’s when I realize…the Lord wants it all…and He will stop at nothing to get it. He wants to invade my personal space. He wants to go past the fence I put up…the fence that keeps people away…that makes me feel safe…the fence that allows me a sense of control. I have to come to a place of vulnerability…a place where I choose to trust Him. I think about those things that have been weighing on my heart. Those things I don’t have answers to…and I know that’s what He wants from me.

I collect all those anxious thoughts in the palm of hand and c20150330-231327.jpglench my fist around them tightly. God, these things…they’re important to me. I need to have an answer to these things. I need to make sure these things are under control. I need to know the plan. 

The sound of the waves is almost deafening. They are so strong…so powerful. And I’m reminded of how capable the Lord is of handling my situation. How mighty He is.

And then the waves break and a name floats in onto the shore…it’s gentle…Abba. He begins so softly to remind me that His love for me is infinite…and that any hole that the surrender of these things leaves behind…is an opportunity for His infinite love to pour into and make me whole. That it’s not really about surrender as much as it’s about being filled.

And then I realize…that I’ve been choosing anxiety over His infinite love. What am I thinking?

Humility crashes over me like a cleansing flood. With tears in my eyes 20150330-231318.jpgI unclench my fist and let the breeze carry my anxious thoughts into the endless ocean…into the bottomless sea…into His infinite love…into His capable hands…into the hands of a loving Father whose affections are endless for me…to Someone who will never fail me…to Someone who will never hurt me…to Someone who I can trust…to Someone who is mightier than the waves crashing along the shore…to Someone who knows the plan…to Someone who will see His plan through. And until He sees it through, every time those anxieties start to creep in, is another opportunity to let myself be filled by His infinite love. And suddenly the salt in my lungs makes me thirsty…for more…more of the endless ocean…more of His infinite love…I want to tear down the fences and break down the walls that I’ve been putting up…because His infinite love is far greater…and a little is not enough…I want more…I want it all.

Things You Learn in the In-Between Moments

20150302-093736.jpgSo last night I was up until 2AM reflecting on my Grandmother and pondering the question of what made us so close and what had given our relationship so much depth.

And I realized…It’s not every kid who gets to grow up with her grandmother in the very next room. It’s not every kid who gets to know their grandmother on such a personal and intimate level. It’s not every kid who gets to see the good, the bad, and the ugly in their grandmother and have her see those things in you.

Today marks two years that have passed since we listened to her beating heart enter into a final place of rest. But until her death, my grandmother had never missed a birthday or a Christmas by our side. But I think I speak for all my siblings when I say that our relationship was so much more than that. It was so real – there was so much more depth than just knowing her as a nice elderly woman with soft graying curls and a pearl necklace who kisses you all the time. She was a real person. With real emotions, real passions and dreams, real fears and frustrations, and real issues that she was working through and we got to see those things. Many people know their grandparents as just that – grandparents…but my siblings and I, and anyone who has ever lived with a grandparent for 13 years, knows them as people.

Anyone who lives with their grandparents knows the reality of being called upon constantly for things 20150302-093726.jpg
like carrying in groceries, vacuuming rugs, reaching the bowl on the top shelf, changing a light bulb, and especially helping with anything electronic – the TV, the phone, the computer, the new confounded keurig machine, the toaster oven…you name it. And if they are especially elderly, having to help with those same things multiple times a day, every day, for months/years on end….Well it’s a given that we must learn the art of patience and gentleness. How many different times can you explain how to use the remote without losing your mind? And of course there were moments when I’d lose myself in the frustration and all attempts to veil my impatience were lost…but I tried daily to let myself see that every opportunity to serve my grandmother was a moment to really get to know her. And while I was sitting there teaching her how to use her remote or phone for the 8th time that day, knowing the 9th was just minutes away, she was teaching me all sorts of things in addition to patience and gentleness.

20150302-093717.jpgShe loved classic films and taught me how to appreciate movies like Singing in the Rain and The Glen Miller Story. She loved music and taught me to appreciate Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. She loved to dance and taught me the Lindy. She loved to laugh and taught me the art of sarcasm. She loved to cook and taught me how to make lasagna, sausage and peppers, pastina and chicken soup, and the best way to roll a meatball. She loved people and taught me how to really slow down and listen to people, to genuinely care about what’s going on in their lives, and to find sincere ways of encouraging them. She loved her family and taught me that it’s better to forgive and have them in your life, than to hold onto offenses and be separated.
But I think overall, she taught me how to truly love another person. As mentioned, we saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in each other. My grandmother is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met and was by no means easy to deal with. She was as imperfect as the rest of us. And there were a few times when both our frustrations would go flying and we’d go head to head and wind up saying things we later regretted bitterly. But after those moments, she’d come to me and tell me that I was too important to her to fight with. She’d say she had been wrong. She’d confess that she wasn’t angry at me, but frustrated with herself or her situation. Especially towards the end of her life, as she was battling cancer, those harsh words would quickly turn to sobs and she would ask for forgiveness. Then she would share her fears with me because of everything she was walking through and I’d hold her hand with her head on my shoulder as she cried. I told her I had already forgiven her and it was forgotten and that I was sorry for not being more patient. That I loved her regardless of anything she would ever say out of frustration or fear and would always be there for her as she had been there for me all throughout my life. Those vulnerable moments when she thought she was weak, were moments when I had never thought of anyone as being so strong.

20150302-093750.jpgIt’s not every grandmother who can get that real with her granddaughter. It’s not every granddaughter that gets to return the favor of all the comfort her grandmother has brought her throughout her life. For all those times she’d let me sleep in her bed when I got scared at night, for all the kisses on scraped knees when I was hurt, for all the bowls of chicken soup when I was sick. Being able to be there for her in the “weak” moments and being able to witness her in those moments was what really strengthened our relationships. I got to see how, in spite of her fear those last years, how she kept laughing, kept caring about people, kept thinking about others, kept praising the Lord, kept persevering. And those things made it so easy to forgive her rapidly. To move on from the hard moments. She was quick to forgive because of the value she saw in me, because she cherished our relationship, to look past my failures and flaws and love me and she taught me how to cherish her even though she would frustrate me or hurt me at times.

And I’m so glad that we walked that road together…my family and her. There were so many little in-between moments that we got to share throughout those 13 years of living with her. We cherish those years, as hard as they were at times. It was an honor to know her as intimately as we did. To see God’s hand of faithfulness in her life. She wasn’t dealt an easy hand in life and she had a lot of baggage to sift through, but every morning I’d see her underlining a verse in her Bible that spoke hope and freedom into her life. I watched her as God renewed her life through daily struggles. A progression of change that requires unending humility as God removed ugliness from her life. So thank you Grandma for allowing me to love you even in your ugliest moments as you loved me in mine. You brought so much joy, comfort, and love into my life and I wouldn’t have traded those years for anything.

So to all grandchildren out there, I would encourage you to really know your grandparents as much as you can…there is so much richness in it…and you won’t ever regret it. There’s so much to learn.

Mary Morgan
August 22, 1927 – March 2, 2013

 

 

how to not remove a splinter 101

flower-pastels-pink-typewriter-Favim.com-654261So maybe it’s time to start writing again. And maybe it’s time to stop making excuses. And maybe it’s time to stop focusing on something that God clearly isn’t bringing a solution to at this point in time. Maybe it’s time to stop letting my circumstance control me. Maybe it’s time to actually start living my life.

I have a one track mind sometimes. If I start a task, I have to complete that task…because I know sometimes I can just get caught up in the next best thing and lose my motivation to complete any tasks.  This undesired trait has left me tumblr_lum0p4kruF1qfqudho1_500with numerous half-completed crocheting projects, a stack of books I’ve never finished that’s higher than the Empire State Building, a few second languages that I know some basic words to, a library’s worth of unfinished novels, and at least five instruments that I can play extremely poorly…like worse than going to a ten year old’s recital…and not those protege kids…like those kids who you keep checking your watch to see how long he’s been playing for…as if that will get him off the stage any faster.

I know what you’re wondering at this point…so where does the splinter come in?

My answer…it’s coming.

 
This insurmountable pile of unfinished projects leaves me daunted. I look at them nearly everyday, or more accurately avoid looking at them, pretending that they don’t exist…because if I’m honest with myself they scream of my failures. My failure to be able to complete anything worthwhile.

 

diet-donx27t-give-up-donx27t-stop-fit-Favim.com-625261So I came up with this solution quite some time ago…I won’t let myself move on to another task until my current task is finished. And this fear of failure drives me…stay focuseddon’t you dare quitnot until it’s finishedif you don’t see this through nowyou’ll never see it finished. And although this solution seemed to be cleverly disguised as something I tried to call perseverance…I’m beginning to think it’s actually something quite different.

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And this solution…or at least I thought it was a solution at the time…resurfaces not just when I’m working on a task, but when I’m facing a problem. Any sort of problem: social, emotional, intellectual…I just can’t seem to move on until it’s done. Until it’s over. I wan’t to move on. I don’t want to let something bother me over and over and over again. I want to remove the splinter. Ahhhthere it is…

beauty-clock-fashion-four-girl-Favim.com-114177But the Lord is funny that way sometimes. Sometimes He is quick to remove a splinter and it’s so easy to run to Him and thank Him – God You’re so good, You run to our rescue….But sometimes He decides to let the splinter stay beneath our skin for a while. And sometimes it makes it harder to run to God and say those words: “God You’re so good”…even though they’re true. We know they’re true. And although my “solution” tells me that I have to get this splinter out RIGHT NOW, it’s just not happening! I want it out, not only because it hurts like crazy, or because it’s distracting, but because more importantly, I’m afraid if I don’t get it out of my skin now…I’ll never get it out. My skin will just grow over it and no one else will know, but I’ll go about living with a splinter beneath my skin for the rest of my life…knowing I have this problem that the Lord never fixed…and yet everyone just expects me to go around praising the Lord because He’s “soooo good”. And He is…but if I’m honest…sometimes it’s hard to see His goodness even though I know its true.

It seems that God is definitely taking His time removing splinters from my life right now…He’s tearing my solution to shreds. And even though I’m scared of the failure to see this splinter removed, the Lord asks me to trust Him. He tells me He is at work removing the splinter and that I need to stop trying to pull it out on my own and just be patient.

But it’s more than just not pulling it out.., it’s time I stop staring at the splinter, asking God when He’s going to take it out. He told me He would take it out. His heart is to remove it…and He will…just…not right now.

And suddenly I realize that God tumblr_lxnu5o4aHM1qg2xooo1_500doesn’t want me to focus on the splinter anymore.  That He’s got other things for me to focus on in this season. A different task. And even though I know that splinter is still beneath my skin, I have to accept that I can’t remove it right now, and trust that God knows what He’s doing and won’t let it stay there forever. That this problem will come to an end. There will be a solution. But that solution is not an immediate removal or focusing on it until it’s been removed.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

– Proverbs 4:25

And one day, while I am deeply engrossed in this new task, or a different task as it may be, I will find that while I was at work, the Lord had never stopped working on that splinter. That He was carefully overseeing things as my skin pushed the splinter out of my body through a healing process that only God could have designed. So God is at work and I can either waste my time by having a fit similar to that of a two year old who doesn’t get her way and questions why God isn’t moving faster, or I can work on the things He has called me to during this season of waiting and hold fast to the knowledge that God really is as good as He says He is. God doesn’t want me working on the splinter right now, but He does have something else in mind for this season. And I won’t let my unfinished problem distract me from living my life.

tumblr_static_somewhere_meIt’s strange…but since I’ve stopped focusing on the splinter I feel like I awoke from some sort of deep sleep. Like it’s been a while since I actually lived my life. And suddenly when I’m not thinking about the splinter, and how much it hurts, and how it’s making my hand swell, and how unexpected it was, or disappointed I am, or wondering where God was when I received it or why He’s taking so long to remove it…instead of being miserable…life is exciting again. Filled with so many possibilities. Filled with awesome opportunities that God is putting in my path. I had been keeping my head down, focused on finishing a list of tasks. I boxed myself into life based on finishing a to-do list…but when God rips up the list…there’s no point in gluing it back together to continue it. My life is out there waiting for me and I think it’s high time I started living it.

Unsent notes to a friend

tumblr_lg1ys4bsvv1qcjjioo1_500_largeBack in September I had a friend undergoing some struggles and I wrote a few things down that I thought would be an encouragement…but I wound up never actually sending it to that friend. After listening to Pastor Zarlengo’s message today and Pastor Erdvig’s last week, I felt it was just as suited for me today, than it was for my friend a few months back. I am writing them out here in hopes that they will be an encouragement to someone else, as I know many are facing the same mountains of surrender that I am and my friend was.

September 2014:

“Being disappointed is a part of being human. It’s an ever powerful reminder that God’s ways are not man’s ways. We’ve all faced bampw-black-and-white-bus-girl-sad-favim-com-403582them. They are often the result of recognizing a promise from the Lord and then trying to fulfill it by our own means and failing miserably at it. The most potent example I can think of comes out of the story of Abraham. Abraham and Sarah both recognized God’s promise of an heir and went about making it happen, yet God had His own plan.

After Abraham slept with Sarah’s maidservant, I’m sure there was much regret on many accounts. And then to know on top of that, that it wasn’t even a part of God’s provision for an heir…it must have been a heartbreaking disappointment. This is because our desires for the fulfillment of God’s promises are from the Lord, and when that promise is not answered right away, we try to start answering it ourselves.

tumblr_lyen595ZZ91qkynm4But Abraham learned the art of doing God’s will to the point that he was willing to let God take Isaac’s life. Promises belong to the Lord and they are His to give and take away. He had learned that God’s will ought to be done, as far as His promises were concerned. He laid Issac down on the altar. He was in perfect submission to God at this point. Where he had spent so much time trying to impose his ways on God and his rationale on God in the past, Abraham had learned: even when I don’t understand what God is doing, I know His heart is good, and although I don’t understand His ways, I will pursue them.

3754_94c5Abraham had a profound understanding of the goodness of the Lord. Isaac was Abraham’s most cherished thing in the world and yet he was willing to lay him down for the Lord.

I’m sure it wasn’t a hallmark moment for Abraham. I’m sure he wept and questioned God all the way up Mt. Moriah. But the Lord knows that it is not beneficial for any of us to have something that we aren’t willing to put on the altar for the sake of the Lord.

The Lord doesn’t want you to put things on the altar that don’t cost you anything. He wants those things that are difficult to surrender. He wants that thing you’ve been trying to deal with in your own way. The Lord wants you to leave that altar with a greater dependency on Him. Dependency is learned on things that cause us to realize we are finite and don’t have an answer. When we’re willing to surrender it’s because we realize God truly does know best. His plan doesn’t always make sense to us, and often it isn’t very easy. But the Lord is faithful and patient to extend His hand to the doubting Thomas in us. He knows we need to grasp His heart and be reminded of His great love for us.

Dependency isn’t easy, but it’s what we’re called to and it’s humbling and so very necessary in allowing God to have His alone-seasideway in our lives. And the enigma is that it may have felt to Abraham as a weak moment because of his struggle to lay Isaac down, but the point of his willingness to lay down his son’s life was probably the strongest moment of Abraham’s life.

The Lord truly does make himself perfect in our weakness. To be fully surrendered to God is the strongest place we can be, although we are at our weakest human point. The Lord sees your obedience and blesses you for it and His promises will come to pass, but they will come to pass in His way and in His timing. He doesn’t need our “suggested routes”, or for us to point out the “fastest route” or the “cheapest route”. In fact, often He will choose the route that costs us the most, because that is the route He will be the most glorified in and we will receive the most from. The route where we are accomplishing His will and kneeling at His feet, adoring Him for His goodness and faithfulness because we are so utterly and fully dependent on the Savior who died to ransom us.

tumblr_mz24rfcpM71qlvesxo1_250Surrender becomes easier when we remember that God Himself knows the cost of surrender. That He required surrender even from Himself. See…we need to stop equating our surrender with just the pain and hardship it brings. Out of God’s surrender came the greatest victory the world has ever known! It ushered in God’s plan. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

God knows how hard it is to surrender. He’s not calling you to surrender simply because He wants to be glorified, or because He gets a power high from watching you stumble over the loose rocks on the mountain side, but because it is the catalyst to victory, power, and strength in your life. And that is the outcome He wants for you: victory, power, and strength.”

It’s funny how we know these things, and then how months down the road they become so real in just a short moment. I guess I thought I had climbed Mt. Moriah already…but I’m finding maybe I just took a breather on the way up. So here it goes. Back on the trail. Thanks for paving the way Abraham. I owe you one. And to my friend, I guess I should start eating my own advice, rather than giving it out so quickly.

Good luck on your climb up the mountain side.

And I don’t know exactly where He’s leading me but I will trust His perfect plan

– Journal Date: June 21, 2014

Holding her hand through the valley of the shadow of death.

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They say that the death of a loved one is something that gets easier with time…365 days have come and gone, and yet there is still an emptiness. They said, “when you return back to normal life things will get better”…but how can I ever go back to “normal life” when she was a part of my “normal”? She was such a significant part of my life, every single day, for the last 14 years.

I was fortunate enough to have a bedroom that was connected to her apartment…The walls of this house are so thin and as a result I could hear every movement she made throughout her day. I heard her make her daily phone calls, talking to our dog who loved her dearly, cooking dinner – the pots clanging, the cabinets opening and closing, all the while she was listening to Everybody Love Raymond…sometimes she would watch the same scene over and over…at the time, I thought I would go insane if I heard Raymond say the same line one more time…but the sound of silence that rests in her apartment now creates feelings that are much harder to deal with. I have the ever present reminder of her apartment door in my room that I have to face every day. That door that never opens. That door she will never come through again. No, I will never be able to go back to normal. But that day…I will never forget it as long as I live…that day we sat for hours listening to the beats of her heart slowly fade away to nothing…that was the day my life would change forever. Life would never be “normal” again.

Having to “move on” has been so difficult. But God is faithful, He was faithful to her all throughout her life and He will be faithful to me…and the promise of seeing her in heaven again certainly makes her loss easier to bare.

I will always cherish the last year of her life. What bittersweet memories… It was a difficult year for her to say the least. If you say the word “Cancer” you will see a grave look come over the faces of each one of my family members. We have seen more of it than any family ever should – Great Aunts and Uncles, an Uncle, a Mom, a Sister, Cousins, and now a Grandmother – It can be traced through each generation. So you can bet that she knew what kind of road was ahead of her when the doctor gave her the news.

It was hard for her. The feisty, independent Italian woman was forced to depend on the people who she had once been the caretaker for…but she was such a trooper about it. I took her to countless doctors appointments and had the opportunity to sit with her and hold her hand through chemotherapy treatments and emergency hospital visits, dinners together at her rehabilitation center. There were so many times I wanted to make it easier for her. I would watch them put the IV in her arm, how she hated it, I wished I could bare that cross for her…but all I could do was be there for her…so we’d sit there and eat some Italian bakery cookies together… I’d hold her hand until it was over, bring her some coffee, tuck her in with some throw blankets because it was always freezing in that office, be a shoulder to lean on when she needed help walking to the bathroom – struggling down the hall with a walker, and IV, and an 82 year old woman. It was all that I could do.

Sure, she had her weak moments. Moments when she was so riddled with fear it was hard to watch. But for every moment of sheer terror, there were moments when the love of God would just come out of her in abundance and she would fill the room with laughter. She never stopped cracking jokes. Not when she was stuck in a hospital bed, not when she had an IV in her arm, not even the day before she died.

Her doctors and nurses all knew exactly who she was…she would walk in and you would hear them say, “Hey! Mary’s back!”. She had a way about her…she could be a complete stinker at times and would really drive you up the wall, but you couldn’t help but love her. She loved to be the center of attention and light up a room…and she certainly left an impression wherever she went.

She was so Italian…she had three core values…God, Family, and Food…and she served them all well.

She loved being with family. It was her happy place. Being a Grandmother was such a pleasure for her, such a joy. She loved the fact that she had 20 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. So many times I would hear her on the phone bragging about each of our latest accomplishments to one of her friends…then when she had hung up the phone, she’d call another and share the news all over again. One day she came in and was so happy because her friend had made her a gift. She held it up proudly. It was a sweatshirt with all of our faces on it. If her friend had gotten her a key to Windsor Castle, she couldn’t have been more happy. It became one of her prize possessions. When I would come in to help her with her daily routine in the morning, there were many times when I would find her pouring over her Grandmother’s Bible. She would say, “Katie, come here I want to show you this. There is a beautiful prayer in here,” she would point to the heading…today it read “Prayer for a Granddaughter” . She took my hand and said, “I prayed it over you this morning”. One day she was praying for me, the next it was a different grandchild. “I prayed this over Melanie this morning,” “I prayed this over Diana this morning,” “I prayed this over Brian this morning,” “I prayed this over Kevin’s boys this morning”. It was such an honor to catch a glimpse of her prayer life and her devotion to the Lord.

I will never forget the smell of her house on a Sunday afternoon, the way she loved to dance to big band music, the laughter she shared with her sisters over their erroneous wedding gifts, her look of disapproval which was usually followed by a hearty chuckle, her chicken soup, the way she praised the Lord in church, her love for Frank Sinatra, the huge crush she had on the actor from “Love’s Long Journey”, the bedtime stories she would read to us when we were little, the way she laughed at her own jokes simply because she loved to laugh, the memory of her freezer being filled with Squeeze Ice Pops which never failed to cut up the side of your mouth, the countless times we were so content to just play in the dirt with a kitchen spoon in her backyard, the way she would critique your driving, the time she took me to Carvel to soothe my childhood nighttime fears, the way she would bring me a glass of orange juice every morning, the time she would take to just sit and ask me about my life and future plans, the way she would still try to tuck me into bed even into my adulthood, and how close she would sit next to you as if she couldn’t stand to be apart.

I will never be able to go back to normal without her…but I can smile remembering the love we shared, the memories we made, and the truth that we will one day be united again in Heaven. I hold onto these things with everything in me. The Lord has been faithful to be near to my family throughout the last 365 days and I know He will continue to uphold our hearts. We can have joy knowing she is pain free and being loved on by her faithful Father.

Today I am abundantly thankful that the Jesus conquered death! What can separate us now? “Nor life nor death”!

Happy Birthday Nina!

Hi Nina!!!

Because I am going to be in Belize for the next few days I don’t know if I will be able to contact you on your birthday! And a sister never misses a birthday no matter what country she is in! So I am writing this and hoping the scheduling works that it pops up on facebook on your birthday!!!

So here goes!

photoWatching you become a mother this year was the most surreal experience I have ever had in my life! You are such a great mommy! Kara is so blessed to have you. I know she is going to grow up to be a beautiful woman of God because of the role model she has for a mother! You are one of the most dedicated people I know and I know this is going to be a challenging year, especially with the added fact that you are a working mom! But if there is one person I know that can persevere through it, its you! And I have come to learn that the years that are the most challenging have brought the most growth in my life!

So be encouraged!!!

Thank you for giving me something so precious to love! IMG_1637Kara Jayde McMahon is possibly the most beautiful child on the face of the earth and she brings so much joy to our family. I cannot think of anyone who has stolen my heart in the way she has. I know you will raise her well. She is in great hands.

I hope you enjoy your day and feel like the strong woman of God that has created you to be – the woman I know you to be.

I love you dearly and cannot wait to see you in September!!!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINA!

32 Weeks of Hope – Week 3

IImage know I am a few days late with this, but I am so glad I waited. I just didn’t feel I had anything worth posting, but today God broke through and spoke to my heart.

God has seriously been cracking down on my self-control this year. For years things have run unbridled in my life, but this year, God is bring me into a deeper intimacy with Him, and with that He is helping me learn how to steer my ship. It seems He has been specifically targeting my thoughts.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ“. – 2Corinthians 10:5

What do you do with passed pains and hurts? Where are you storing those bitter memories? Are you recalling to mind that Imageperson’s weaknesses? hurtful words? that heated argument? the upturned nose? the eye roll? the careless words? selfish actions?

When we think on these things, we are allowing the devil to have a foothold in our lives. We are giving the devil ammunition to wound our hearts.

“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold”.  -Ephesians 4 26-27

Pain is real and it tries to embed itself deep in our hearts, wedging the bitter memories into every open wound, and we are left with a broken heart that is ready to lash out whenever that person is around.

But instead of focusing on someone’s failures and the negative situations you’ve walked through with that person, God asks us to “believe all things”.

“Love believes all things, hopes all things”. – 1 Corinthians 13:7

If we love God, we have to choose to love. We have to choose to see the best in someone. We have to choose to meditate on their positive attributes, rather than the negative. This Imagewill create within your heart, not only healing, but also a sense of gratefulness towards that person. Love chooses to believe the best in someone. We have to be intentional about our thoughts. When a negative thought floats into our mind, we have to stop and submit that thought to God. We have to choose to think in a manner that is pleasing to God. When we let our minds reflect on the negative attributes, we are hurting God. God intensely loves that person, and we are tearing them to shreds in our thoughts.

It’s time to start thinking differently. When a painful memory or tense situation that causes anger to begin flickering a flame in your heart, rebuke those thoughts. Ask the Lord to help you forgive that person. Ask the Lord to help you believe the best in that person. Because if we let the pain and anger go unchecked, that flicker will turn into a raging fire and it will melt our hearts. Cover those painful memories in love. Make the hard choice to forgive.

It is a hard choice to forgive. To let go of all those painful moments. But when you do, you will begin to feel the weight of anger, pain, bitterness, rage, frustration, disappointment and hurt fade from your heart. You will begin to walk in freedom and love. You will begin to feel your heart beating, normally, healthy.

God wants to set us free.

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Distractable Me

ImageIf I’m being honest with you, I have to admit that I felt like I was living out the story of Martha this week.  I felt as though there were so many distractions crowding my mind that I couldn’t really hone in and hear the Lord. My life, my schedule, my job, my friends (although I love them dearly), even my daily Bible Study, even though I was faithful to do it every day this past week, I felt all of it was getting in the way of actually sitting down and listening to God. I couldn’t hear Him. I couldn’t hear His heart.

Luke 10:39-40 says, “And she had a sister called, Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted...”. Can you believe it! Jesus is sitting in Martha’s living room!!! Every one else is in there listening to His word, His heart – except for Martha…because she is too distracted! My first thought is to go to Martha and be like “Are you crazy?!?  JESUS is sitting in your living room!!!! Are you telling me that you are going to sit and brood in your kitchen and miss the experience of sitting face to face with Jesus and hearing His heart?!?

But if I’m honest with myself, how many times do I let things distract me from sitting at His feet and listening to His heart? ImageToo often. Because I am “worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). I want to plan everything out. Have everything perfect. Do it in my own way. All of this causes me to become troubled and worried…meanwhile I am obsessing over something and I am missing God’s heart! God looks at Martha and says, “One thing is needed”. We are stressed about so many things…but really only one thing is needed…and that is taking the time to push away the distractions and hear His heart.

32 Weeks of Hope – Week Two

jesus-on-cross  I have never been fond of images of Jesus hanging on the cross. It’s hard for me to look at. I don’t want to see Jesus in pain. It makes my heart ache. This ache only increases when I dwell on the fact that it was for my sin that He suffered.  I would much rather see an empty cross or an empty tomb. My heart is moved towards God when I dwell on the fact that He has overcome the grave and the power of sin. That my debt is paid in full. My heart floods with love for Him at the thought.

As a child, I was never the one that needed to experience and inordinate amount of discipline before I learned my lesson. If someone sat me down and loved on me, I wanted to do the right thing because I loved them. The same situation is true when God is changing my heart. He surrounds me with His love for me and I walk away longing to walk in righteousness and obedience. Love has always been more of a motivator for me than pain.

But today I’m struck by the realization that if I want to know love, I tumblr_lfgm1pBm0f1qas7d8o1_500must also know the pain that He suffered on the cross. I have to look at Him hanging there. I have to notice the bruises. I have to note the scars. I have to view the weakness in His body, the mockers that surround Him, the ones who love Him but do not understand. Love isn’t easy by any means.

If I am going to love others, especially the unlovables, then I need to be willing to suffer.

The scripture that I chose for Week Two of 32 Weeks of Hope is 1 John 4:7:

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There wasn’t a single person that Jesus died for who hadn’t grieved His heart or hurt Him in some way. We cannot understand this love, or God in the fullness of His character unless we make the choice to love those who hurt us or grieve our hearts. If you want to know God more intimately, then you must seek to love others. God is lovtumblr_l6k3nmsc001qclpv8o1_500e. His nature is love. It cannot be separated from who He is…but how can we truly know Him, understand His heart, unless we love others…unless we love those who have hurt us? I would even say, especially those who have hurt us.

Only the love of God can accomplish this. It is from God. When we love the unlovables, He is transforming our hearts to make them more like His. He is restoring us to a place of intimacy with Him. He is cutting away the bondage that keeps us from understanding His heart. Where the devil wanted to create a web of anger or bitterness, God is creating a web of love that stretches all throughout our hearts.

Lord,

In my own strength, I will never be able to conquer this. I will never be able to create withintumblr_mjvy3byEJY1qhmhdfo1_500 myself a loving heart. Will You impress upon my heart an image of Your Son on the cross. I know now that when I suffer, I am not alone in my sufferings. You have gone before me and suffered infinitely more than I could ever imagine. Help me to recall this to mind. Help my feeble hands to do Your work. I want to love others the way You do. Give me Your strength to endure the pain of a difficult relationship. Make my heart right before You. Remove all of the ugliness that my flesh clings on to. Help me to take control of the emotions when they come coursing through me like a raging river. Make my heart like You. Renew my heart, transform my mind. I want to know You more intimately than ever before. I want to be free of the things that keep me from knowing Your heart. I love You. I desire to be like You. 

I pray for those in my life who are hard to love. I pray that You would give me Your heart for them. I pray that You help me to view them as You view them. That my heart would delight in them when Your heart delights in them. That my heart would be ravished for them when Your heart is ravished for them. I pray that they would be overwhelmed with the love You have for them. I pray that You would touch their lives in a radical way. I pray that You would open up opportunities for our relationship to grow healthy and strong. I pray that eyes and ears would be opened. I pray that the Holy Spirit would invade every area of both their lives and mine. I pray for wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent. I pray that I would be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Give me patience. Lord, I need You. Help me to walk this road alongside of You and to never grow weary in doing good.

Amen

If you have a similar story or a situation and you’d like to share it, I’d love to hear it. My heart is richly encouraged when I hear of God’s faithfulness or that others are facing similar struggles. If you’d like to find out more about what 32 Weeks of Hope is all about just click here. If you missed week one just click here. 6cdd07a644c0015c6b2850f047f3288e

I’m Gonna Be an Aunt!!!!

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Yeah, she is!

We found out two days ago that my older sister is having a little girl! We are so excited to welcome little Kara Jayde to the world! I can hardly wait for her arrival!

This little girl’s birth brings such joy to my heart. I have to agree with God when He says that children are a gift from the Lord!

Little Kara will be stealing a little bit of my spotlight as the last born girl in our family, but I am happy to move over and share the spotlight with her, in fact, she cant take all the spotlight!

This marks the beginning of a new era in our family’s life, as she breaks my parents in to grandparenthood! Hopefully they will be well underway and have plenty of baby-safe rooms and toys by the time my children come along! All thanks to Kara! But most importantly, I am finally becoming an AUNT!

But seriously now…its funny how much you can love someone that you have never even met!

Hi Kara,

We are so thrilled about your arrival! If you ever doubt that you are loved, know that before you were born, your whole family was already in-love with you, and before we even heard about your arrival, God was already in-love with you. Image

I know that we might be a little crazy, okay I can’t hide the truth…we’re a whole lot of crazy…and we’re loud, and we eat too much, but we also know how to laugh, have a whole lot of fun, and most of all we know how to love each other and be there for each other. I might be biased when I say that God picked the best family on earth to bring you into, but I mean it with all my heart. 

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With the amount of prayer I cover this baby in, she better move mountains! haha.

I can’t wait to have someone who will share my childhood whimsy and love for A.A. Milne and H.A. Rey. How lucky are you that you have the BEST bedtime storyteller in the world for an Aunt?! You are so blessed! I can’t wait to watch you learning to walk, even if it is over facetime sessions. I can’t wait to hold your tiny squishy little self all adorned in soft pink fabrics (as much as your non-girly-girl mother will allow, at least!).

And you are truly blessed to have a set of pretty awesome parents too. Let’s not forget to give credit where credit is due! They will always be there for you, no matter what. They will never stop trying to be the best parents they can be. Yeah, they’re gonna make a mistake once or twice (okay, maybe three times) but Kara, all parents do. Believe me when I tell you, that they will never stop loving you and looking out for your best interest.

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You can bet I won’t let you walk this earth without a scarf to spruce you up!

Enough with the serious though. When you are 13 years old and you are sitting there wondering why you are obsessed with scarves and need to wear one even when its summertime, or root for the Yankess when your dad is a devout Red Sox fan, or why you know every song that Raffi ever wrote even though you were born 20 years after the height of his singing career, you can blame it all on your Aunt. I apologize ahead of time for brainwashing you. I love you too much not to. 

I’m gonna brainwash you, I’m gonna hug you too much, I’m gonna buy you too many things, I’m gonna brag about you until you’re bright red in the face, but I whole-heartily promise to be the best Aunt I can be. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly I will never stop loving you. And I promise to refrain from fashioning you into the image of Kaitlyn, but to always let you be Kara Jayde. I can’t wait to see who you turn out to be. I can’t wait to watch your personality grow. I can’t wait to watch you become a beautiful, strong woman of God

I love you Kara Jayde and you can bet I always will.

Love,

Your Aunt Kaitlyn