Monday, September 15, 2014

My Testimony

So it's been a while since I stopped writing for this blog.  

My life has continued on, and it has been a rough road…but I need to write this post.  I need to share my story- my full story.  I will not be advertising this post, so most of you will probably not even read this.  I am writing it for me.  For Him.

You all know that I wrote this blog for a year and a half, talking freely about what I have gone through.  I stopped because I just felt it was time- but my life has gone on since then.  I have gone through hell- and while I did talk freely about it, there was a lot that happened to me that I never really spoke of.  I have only shared this complete story publicly twice, and I cried through it boths times.  It’s an ugly story.  It has no end yet.  But I need to share it in it’s entirety- because what I learned is bigger than the ugliness of it.

I have been serving Jesus faithfully since I was ten years old.  I faced some hardships growing up, but still managed to walk with the Lord.  Jeff and I met and got married while we were at Bible college- I knew right from day one of our relationship that he was my soul mate.  That he was the man I was made for.  We got married pretty fast, and a year into our marriage God spoke to us in a powerful way about our family- that He wanted us to trust Him with our family.  I got pregnant soon after that, and despite having two miscarriages we still managed to have 6 kids in 6 years.  I worked very hard as a mother, doing my absolute best to rise to what God had given me. 

But 5 years ago everything changed.  I was hospitalized for a regular infection that I just happened to get a really severe case of.  It took several days, but they finally were able to treat the infection and I was sent home on a particular medication.  10 days later, the allergic reaction I was having to the medication began manifesting itself.  I immediately began treatment with an infectious disease specialist, where I learned I had something called Stevens-Johnson syndrome.  I also learned that there was nothing they could really do to stop it- but that we had to wait it out and then assess the damage.  SJS ravages the body by literally burning everything with a membrane- skin, eyes, internal organs, central nervous system…it took me 6 months to “recover” to what my new normal would be.  I would never again be the person I used to be.

I had eye damage, issues with my liver, some nervous system issues, and some skin burning- but all in all, it was livable.  My body hung in there and I was able to live somewhat normally for a while, although never quite the same.  But 2 years ago, my body decided that it could no longer withstand the damage that this disease had done to me, and I just started to deteriorate. 

My nervous system is shot- which translates to all over pain, all of the time.  There is not a moment of any day that I am not in pain.  I am extremely weak and need twice the amount of sleep that I did before.  I have been through every test the doctor could think of, and when she ran out she sent me to a rheumatologist, followed by a year of seeing a neurologist, and now capping off with a pain management specialist.  I have had cat scans, x-rays, MRIs, biopsies, and dozens of vials of blood drawn from me.  I have been on so many medications that I stopped counting after the tenth one.  At this point there is nothing to be done to fix me, so now the focus is on trying to give me doe quality of life by helping deal with the pain I am constantly in.  To try and help with the pain, I was given pain medication- codeine, lortabs…the pain blew through those and I went to Percocet.  After that I went to straight morphine and oxycodone.  After that I went to fentanyl patches that I wear 24/7 to constantly be getting a supply of this potent opiate.  I am currently waiting to being litocaine infusions where I will sit in the hospital every 2 weeks for 3 hours while they pump my veins with lidocaine.  My body has been through so much that I just want to stop and never go through another treatment again- to just choose the pain instead of the side effects.  It is not a choice a person should have to make.

Because each of the lovely medications I have been on have heavy side effects.  I have lost and gained weight, lost my taste buds, had my hair fall out, lost the ability to go to the bathroom on my own, lost my ability to regulate my own body temperature, lost my ability to have normal female cycles, and at times, lost my ability to even remember my own name.  One night I stopped breathing three times.  
And then for each medication I have come off of I have experienced an array of withdrawal symptoms from shaking and sweating, to where I currently am at which is vomiting for the past 9 days and watching my body wretch itself inside and out.

I watched as everything I love dearest in the world got ripped away from me.  I am not the person I used to be.  I used to be so happy and easy to laugh- but now I am always concentrating on the pain and cannot laugh as quickly as I used to.  I am no longer able to be the mother I once was to my kids.  I had to stop homeschooling them and put them in a private school.   Despite wanting more kids, I am unable to have any more.  I don’t cook and clean and run the house like I used to.  I watch other people help raise MY kids.  I felt like nothing.  I felt like I had no idea who I was anymore- because I am nobody now.  Like everything that defined who I was got taken away.  

And the man who has given up his whole world to take care of me doesn’t have the wife he used to have.  Jeff quit his full time job a year ago to stay home and care for me and the kids.  He gets my medication, does everything for the kids, holds my hair back when I am sick, and never fails to tell me every day how much I mean to him.  But I can give so little back.  He has given up everything in his own life to take care of me.  Really, he has no life- my condition is his life now.  I could live a thousand lifetimes and never repay my husband for being the kind of man he is.

But I did good for a very long time.  For a long time I was staying positive, trusting in Jesus, and just really hanging in there.  But day after day, week after week, and month after month of all of this just takes its toll.  I would be lying if I said I never prayed for death.  There are times where I feel like death would be a much better alternative.  Jeff and I are very private people in some ways…what very few few of you know is that last fall we thought I was going to pass away.  I had stopped eating, barely was able to leave the bed, and I remember the night at 3am where Jeff found me passed out on the kitchen floor and had to call the ambulance.  While I was in the hospital the doctor informed me that the tests were showing that my liver was dangerously unwell.  We thought we were nearing the end.  I felt close to God and in all honesty, I was at peace.  When you are sick for a long time, death- going home to be with the Lord is a welcome thought.  Jeff and I said our goodbyes and began to get our affairs in order.  But just when we were going to start telling our families, I started getting better…better enough to just barely continue on with life.  Many times since then I have wondered why.  I am being as honest as I possibly can with you- because if you don’t know the struggle, then you wont hear the testimony.

For a long time after that I stopped talking to God.  As I watched my world get ripped away from me, I started to have feelings toward God that made me very uncomfortable- and so instead of risking these feelings coming out, I simply ignored the Lord for a very long time.  But then an old friend of mine- the pastor that lead me through my teen years- told me that I needed to talk to God, no matter what was going to be said.  He told me that God already knows what I am thinking- and He would rather me tell Him than ignore Him. 

So I did.

One night I told God exactly how I felt about Him…I told Him just how much I hated Him.  I called Him a liar.  I called Him evil.  I wasn’t angry that I was sick- I accept that bad things happen in this world.  What I could not understand was how God would lead me to have all these kids, KNOWING that I would have to watch it all fall away from me.  It felt sadistic.  It felt like I followed God and He lead me to an impossible, painful, tortuous situation.  I felt like God was a deceiver…and I told Him that.

I have been through many hard things in my life.  Some you know, some you do not.  But it had never challenged my faith before.  But there is nothing like constant, constant pain.  Nothing like wanting to be who you are but instead being a prisoner in your own body. 

I actually started to think about the apostle Peter one night.  Peter went from having faith and declaring that Jesus was the Christ- to denying Him THREE times.  I wanted to know what could have possibly happened between walking with Jesus for 3 years and declaring Him to be the Messiah, to denying he even knew him.  I needed to know the answer to that.  For those of you who ever go through hard times, you need to understand this answer too.  And I really think I understand what happened to Peter.  I think Peter followed Jesus and knew who He was because of the hope he had in his heart.   I think He knew what the Old Testament said the Messiah was supposed to be and all the things this Messiah would do…and he believed with his whole heart in this Messiah.  These people were waiting in a Messiah that was going to set them free- free from their oppressors.  They believed He was going to wage war against the enemies of Israel and then reign as their King.  Peter was waiting for this  But Jesus did not do one single thing that Peter and the others thought their Messiah was going to come and do.  Jesus didn’t do anything great or heroic- instead, he was dragged to a courtroom and tortured and the only thing He had ever done with his life was travel and talk to people for a few years.  There was no war.  There was no freedom from their Roman oppression.  Truth be told I think Peter denied Jesus because He felt betrayed or maybe just very confused with Jesus.  Jesus didn’t do ANYTHING they thought He came to do.  Instead, He just died.

Because that’s how I felt toward God.  I served Him with an unwavering faith for many, many years because I knew what the Bible said God was.  God is a healer.  God is a provider.  God is good.  I knew all yet…but yet in my darkest hours I didn’t see ANY of that play out.  I was sick and did not get healed.  I had financial hardships and there were many bills that could not be paid.  I live in constant pain and He has not stepped in.  I needed a healer- a provider- a good God.  And I never saw that.

So I- like Peter- had a time of confusion.  I thought who He was hinged on His performance in my life.  So when He did not act, I felt betrayed.  But here’s the thing: Peter went from denying Jesus to boldly preaching to thousands to becoming the leader of the first church and eventually a martyr.  What happened between Jesus’ death and Peter’s newfound faith??   WHY PETER?…What the heck happened to make you regain your faith?  To have an even STRONGER faith??  Did Jesus suddenly fulfill and become everything you thought He should be??


The only thing that happened…the only thing that Jesus did…the thing that changed everything for Peter…was that He came back.  He left the world, but He came back.  That’s it.

When I told God how much I hated Him, and I railed on and on at Him after not speaking to him for months and months…something happened.  I felt His presence.  It was as if He was right there next to me.  He did not heal me, did not pay my bills, did not take the pain…but He was there.  And just like that, He was my God again.  Just.  Like.  That. 

My faith got torn down…and I still don’t have many answers but I know that I know that I know that HE IS EVERYTHING HE SAYS HE IS.  I am sick AND he is a Healer.  I am poor AND He is a provider.  I am hurt AND He is good.  You see, Christianity is so much more than going to church.  It is so much more than praying, or talking to people about Jesus, or just living your life for Him.  IT IS ABOUT KNOWING HIM.  Weekly, daily, hourly, every second of the day KNOWING Him.  The whole essence of the Bible is not to read about what God has done- it is to reveal the essence of WHO HE IS.  You can read about all that He has done but you will never be able to comprehend His actions- they are there to reveal who He is.  He did not part the Red Sea to show His power- He did it to reveal His character.  

I am so, so grateful for all I have been through.  Because it took me to depths I never knew I was missing- it allowed me to know my God deeper than I ever could have known, and it gave me my real identity, one that cannot be taken away…and I needed to testify to that.  It took my faith, ground it to pieces, and then put it back together in a way that can never be touched- because it hinges simply on who He is.  Period.

Maybe you're having a hard time- or maybe you're not.  But if you don't know who He is- if you don't daily discover the depths of His love and goodness, then this world will be able to knock you down.  You need to understand that God isn't worthy because of His actions in our lives- because you might not see Him act the way you think He should.  He is worthy just because HE IS.  

And He is everything the Word says He is.  He is good.  He is good, He is good, He is good.  

He truly is.    

Friday, April 18, 2014

In the Grip of Grace

As soon as I read my husband's post last week, I knew in my heart what I would be writing today.  My husband never ceases to amaze me, and I love him more and more each day.  Everything he wrote and says comes from the heart of a man who lives out his beliefs daily.  Jeff walks in tremendous grace, taking on roles that would overcome a lesser man...and yet he does it as if is his sole ministry is to care for me and the kids.  He inspires me.  I am a better person because of all the days I have had the privilege of being under his example.

Last week, Jeff wrote about a "Great Grace" being upon one's life, mainly at especially difficult times being faced.  It is grace upon grace- a divine rendering of strength from the Lord when all else seems to wane.  Hand in hand Jeff and I have walked a heart-wrenching road together, and yet never for one moment have we been overtaken.  But rather, we have not only grown closer to one another but also so much closer to the Lord.  It is a beautiful thing.

But today I want to tell you what happens even beyond that.  Beyond grace, beyond prayer, beyond everything we do and experience in our darkest moments there is that second when you just exhale and let go- and that is when you are in what can only be described as "the Grip of Grace".  It is a measure of peace that literally grabs hold of you, and carries you to the end.  You do not have to fear or wonder if you are able to hold on any longer; if you are able to go one more step; if you can face the road ahead...because when you are no longer able to manage those things any more, and your hand falls limp, and your eyes fall into the heavy sleep of the exhausted, you are then gripped with a grace so gentle and so strong that it literally beckons the weary to rest and never worry about holding on a moment longer because His hand will grip with a heavenly grasp that can never be pulled loose.  It sustains, comforts, leads, guides, rests, and carries you without so much as ever faltering.  And so you rest.  You rest in heavenly comfort.  You reside in the shadow of the Almighty.  And He never lets go.

Friends, this is my last post to you all.  I have been honest with you and am continuing that honesty to the end.  It's time.  Time for me to rest and be with my family.  Time for my family and me to rest in the grip of His grace, knowing that He will walk the way with us in His perfect will.  I leave you with the best possible leave I know of- and that is with the reminder that every word I have ever written is true.  Jesus is alive.  He is good.  He is faithful.  And those who put their trust in Him do so without vain- because we will meet Him again.  And until then, He walks and He talks with His faithful, gripping us with a hand so steady as to take us through whatever trials life may bring.

I never expected that my writing would reach so many.  Nor that so many of you would continually tell me what my words have meant to you.  Oh how I will miss writing to you!  Not a single week has gone by in the last year and a half that I haven't taken to my computer and wrote what I felt the Lord laid on my heart.  The fun, the deep, the joys, the pains, the easy, the challenging- I've loved it all.  Before I ever published this blog, it began as my personal account of a 40-day fast that I did...and it only seems fitting that today, exactly 4 years to the day that I finished that fast, I am now composing my last entry.  To you who have walked this road with me and my family, I say THANK YOU.  Thank you for the support, the prayers, and the love.  I have loved every moment I have spent with you, and I know I will frequently read through the pages of this blog as a testament and a reminder to the faithfulness of my God.  My heart and my lips will never cease to give thanks the One who holds my soul, and I leave my family and my very self in His care.

Again, I say thank you.  And I dedicate this blog and all its contends to my husband- the father of my children, the man I respect and admire more than he knows, the best friend I have ever had, the one who changes my life, the one who has taught me how to follow Jesus, the love of my life, my soul mate, and the only one who knows everything I want to say to him.  I love you Jeff, now and always.

I leave you with my favorite Bible verses, and the words to my favorite hymn.  It's time to see what God wants to do with my life.  And whatever He asks of me, I will do with all my heart and soul- because I just don't know how to do anything less.

Well then...Let's Roll.

"One thing I know: I once was blind but now I see!"  John 9:25

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."  Job 13:15

I Have Decided

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus--
no turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me--
no turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
though none go with me, still I will follow,
though none go with me, still I will follow,
no turning back, no turning back.
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?--
no turning back, no turning back.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Great Grace- A Word from My Husband

**I asked my husband to write this week's blog post.  As much as I have had to say this past year, know that he is the one who not only lives it right along with me, but he is the one who carries the weight of our lives on his shoulders.  Over 10 years ago he stood before God and man and made vows to ME.  Vows I don't think he ever thought he would have to fulfill.  You see, the first 8+ years of our marriage I tried to be the best wife I could be...doing as much as I possibly could for the man I loved.  I remember after kids came along it used to be an amazing treat when Jeff would give me a morning to sleep in, or when he would send me out shopping for a couple of hours.

But now...

I could never, ever describe the things he has taken upon himself since I got sick.  Now, he is up every morning.  Now, he makes all the meals.  Now, he runs the house while putting me in bed so I can rest.  Now, he gives up his own wants, needs, desires, work options, free time, and so, so much more.  And he does it for ME.  And when he gets upset with our situation, he takes it to God- never for one moment has he blamed me, resented me, or demanded anything of me.  In fact, he miraculously seems to have fallen even more in love with me.

I didn't think it was possible to love my husband more today then yesterday, and yet that is how I feel every single morning.  My husband follows the Lord every single moment of his life and it has been an honor for me to follow him as he does that.  God has AMAZING plans for Jeff- things that we have only scratched at the surface of.  But I know my God keeps His promises- and my husband will receive his.  He will be rewarded greatly for his love and sacrifice- and simply because he walks humbly before our God.  Our children will grow with the daily example of a loving father who puts Jesus first.  I have had a hard time- a very, very hard time...but one look at the man I am married to and I realize I am the most blessed woman there ever was.  It's true.

So please- read what he wrote.  Read it and know it comes from the integrity of one who lives what he speaks and what he believes.
Here it is: my husband's perspective on living the hardest year we have ever faced.**

Its been almost exactly one year since I was asked to contribute to my wife's blog.  So much has happened in the last year and my goal here would be to reflect upon the journey and share the perspective that I bring as a husband, father, and pastor.  I would first like to say that I have been an admirer of my wife's blog since the beginning and can say without question that even though it is often very personal and a window into my life, I have on more occasions then I can count been inspired and often brought to tears by the things Ashley writes.  God has gifted her greatly as a writer and I know many have been ministered to here week after week.  I often preview the posts for her and have been challenged and blessed first before she sends it to print.  She is amazing and I am blessed to have her as my wife, best friend, and partner on this journey.  I won't match her way with words but aim to just share openly and honestly from my experience.

I have had many conversations over the last year with family, friends, and even strangers about the things we have faced as a family and how we cope with all that life has brought our way.  I don't want to give the cliche' answers because these things are worth more than a cheap, forced smile and a plastic response, but the answer to that conversation on my end has always been simple.  When people say that they couldn't face a life changing sickness in their marriage or that most people would have quit by now when they have looked at my life, my answer is simple.  What are my options?  Am I supposed to quit?   Am I supposed to give up on God?  Am I supposed to get angry at life?  You see, these don't seem like options, and the truth really is that the presence of God has been more real to me in the last year then any other time in my life.  Thirteen years ago I was still running from God, scared of the call He had placed on my life as a child.  I have run plenty in my life and I guess I have just learned that running from life, even the hard things or the intense parts of a life of faith is just not an option.  In the Bible, the book of Hebrews says that we are "not they who draw back to perdition, but those who believe to the saving of the soul." In fact, the Lord in that passage says that if your draw back, He finds no pleasure in you! That doesn't mean God is unaware of our pain and suffering- quiet the opposite is actually true.  It means that the seed He places in us is eternal, incorruptible, and can't be defiled by the troubles of this world.  There is great joy in drawing close to God when sorrow is drawing close to you.  For 2 1/2 years I worked in a warehouse and part time in a church knowing that God has more for me one day.  I hated my job- it was hard and I just hated it.  Many didn't understand why I was doing it instead of just "taking a pastorate" somewhere that I could live off of.  My only answer was and is that God called me to Amsterdam.  Those are the doors that opened so thats what I did. I didn't "make sense" to me either but it was God's place and time so we obeyed.  Last September, Ashley got too sick for me to continue working the hours I had been working outside the church, so I had to leave my job to care for her and our kids and just keep part time hours at the church.  We lost 2/3 of our income with no real warning or visible options.   Though I have been unable to take on more work since, immediately God began providing for us and though it has not been easy or without stress, I can testify that to this date we have been supplied for, our every need met.  There have been weeks at a time on more than one occasion in the last 7 months that I have wept daily over our circumstances, from Ashley's health to the trials that life and ministry bring.  I have known both a pain and a grace that I had never known before.  These are the things that you cannot predict or control, they are God's arenas of life, and we trust Him.  I know what it feels like to lay your wife, your income, your calling, and your family on the altar, placing them into God's faithful hands.  I cannot say its an easy road, because you do not enter that prayer closet lightly, it comes at a great cost because you actually have to allow part of you to die a death of surrender.  The truth is these things are not ever really ours anyway, it is all of grace.  God gives, God may take away, but just as true is that He remains worthy of all we are throughout it all.  There is a term in the Bible that jumped out at me about 8 years ago, so much so that I preached a few messages on the topic.  It is the term "great grace" and is said to be upon the early church believer in Acts 4.  You see in the Scriptures, the word grace is used many times but in Acts 4 it is called "GREAT GRACE".  It gripped my attention and I preached it with passion and shared with the people that I wanted to walk in that kind of grace.  You see I have always been drawn to those rare people you sometimes are privileged to meet who just seem to carry a weight in the things of God that is uncommon.  They are marked by great grace.  But you will seldom listen to their story without quickly finding out that they have always walked through some fires and floods in their walk with God and have come out the other side. I believe that there are many people in this life, maybe most, who will at one point in their life come to the point where their circumstances will dwarf them and they will call out for a real answer, one that is not produced out of the strength of humanity.  When those moments come they will need to have met someone who has more to offer than a shallow, untested faith.  They will need a Rock to lean on.  The only option will be the Strong Name of Jesus.  I have learned that all those sermons that got me fired up were really true, even when my whole world started shaking.  I found out that the promises of God are as true as I had hoped they would be, even preached to others that they would be.  I found out that the One I really cannot live without is Jesus Christ.  He is the One who holds all things together, even when you think they are falling apart.  Its a great grace.  Undeserved. Unearned.  But not easily forgotten.  The truth is that though I am still relatively young (34), and I have not yet finished my race or fought my last battle, I have gone through moments where I had to face the question: "If all you had was God, would it be enough?"  And I can say that the answer is YES.  He is all that I want, He is all I have ever needed, and He has let me know that He is near.  These are now not just the words of a popular Christian worship song- they matter. Because I found myself singing them all alone in my living room at 3am one agonizing night last fall with tears as I fought to give them up to God as an offering, as a sacrifice of praise.  They might one day become your song in the night.  Just know that in Him there is a greater grace than you may have ever even realized, and you can trust Him with all that you are and all that you have.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's Just Sleeping

I am so happy to be writing today.  Last week was incredible- both what I went through and then the outpouring of love and support you all shared with me.  I have been very open and brutally honest with you all through my journey, and most of the time I wrote with tears in my eyes.  That's why last week was so special to me- I got to share a triumph with you.  A joy.  And it just felt great.

What powerful freedom I have been walking in!  When God breaks chains, he breaks them- no trace of their hold nor any ability for them to claim you any longer.  My life is the same, but I am not.  Each day I wake up I am greeted with the reminder that God is not only in control, but that He has ordained a destiny for me and my family.  It is a sweet privilege to walk that destiny.

Part of walking with the Lord means learning to hear His voice and follow His leading.  Three weeks ago I wrote a painful post...the week after, I was unable to let go of that post and just felt like I needed to remain still.  So I wrote a post saying just that- that I wasn't ready to write.  That I needed to wait.  It proved to be a crucial move because it was in the waiting that God had planned a divine meeting with me.  Had I rushed- had I written something "just because" then I would have taken my mind out of focus and out of the reverie it was supposed to be waiting in, and perhaps making it that much harder for God to get through to me.  To break my chains.

I want to tell you just how important and crucial the times of waiting really are.  We live in a fast paced, always on the move, on the go, in a rush, running here, running there, catch you in a text kind of culture that is often applied to our walk with God.  I feel that in this culture there is a temptation to just go- to take steps for the sake of taking them.  I think that is a mistake- I think you miss out on a rich depth when you do that.  You see, ever since I started following the Lord I believed that He had a plan and a path for me and I wanted to make sure I lived in it.  I prayed about decisions- not just prayed for God to bless my choice, but rather prayed specifically to find out what GOD's choice was for me.  Its just how Jeff and I live.  And I can say this: I have not taken a single step on my own.  Every decision, every choice, every move, every change was God ordained...and as such, I have developed a depth- a richness in my life.  I don't just "think" things will work out.  I rest on the promises of God- promises which extend to those who follow hard after Him and walk in His ways.

When Jeff and I got married we were in the middle of our junior year at Bible College.  By the time senior year rolled around, everyone was beginning to pray and to look for where they would be going upon graduation.  Jeff and I were doing the same- we prayed about several different options.  Jeff was eligible for a full scholarship to a seminary where he was thinking about getting his Masters of Divinity, so we prayed about that.  We also met with a pastor and his wife in Boston to discuss us coming there and helping with a church plant.   Two very nice options...but as we prayed we knew that neither of those were what the Lord wanted for us.  So we prayed some more.  And we waited.  Then we graduated and said goodbye to our friends, as each went their own separate way...but we still didn't know where we were supposed to go.

So here we are, living in the married dorm on campus saying goodbye to our friends and still not knowing what we were going to do.  Now the campus is very quiet.  And now family and friends are beginning to ask us what exactly we were planning on doing.  We could either just make a decision or we could look very foolish and continue to live on an empty campus after already graduating.  But here's the thing: in our minds, there was no question.  We move when God says move.  We stay when God says stay.  And we wait when God is silent.

So we waited.

Jeff worked in the kitchen on campus and we prayed.  Friends, it wasn't until August that we moved off the campus.  For nearly three months after we graduated we did nothing, or so it appeared to anyone watching.  While everyone was pursuing their next step, Jeff and I had no answer to anyone's question of "where are you going to go?"  God chose to wait- and it was during that summer while we waited that we began revisiting New Hope Church in Albany, NY.  We had met with Pastor Keith before but pursued other we went back to New Hope.  And as we were driving up to the church to go check it out, that is when God spoke.  Jeff and I looked at each other and that is when all the pieces went into place.  We both just knew.  God had finally led us to the specific place He wanted us to go.

We finally knew our next step...and that step changed our lives.  It is still changing our lives.  But it was in that waiting time that I really began to understand just how important it is to be lead by God.  I knew that I did not want to have a life where I was the one making the decisions.  I wanted Jesus to move deliberately and specifically before I ever was to take a step.  And I can say this: I do not always understand why.  I do not always understand how.  And I do not always when.  But I ALWAYS understand that when you walk in full obedience you never have to worry for one moment about any situation, any circumstance, or any attack that may come your way, because you are moving and living under the very hand of God.  And that is a protected place.

But by God, don't do something just to do it.  Don't live your life and just include God in it.  Every single aspect of how you allow God in your life determines what kind of walk you will have with Him.  Everything is important and of eternal value if you have the courage to live that way.  The stays are important, the go's are important, the speaks are important, the silences are important, the runs, the walks, the stands, the falls- it all bears eternal weight.  Trust me.

Trust me.

My God if I have learned anything leading up to this past year of my life it is that there has been a reason- a PURPOSE- for every single moment I have ever lived.

So I urge you to obey.  To wait on God, to seek Him wholeheartedly, to put Him at the center of everything.  I have walked in zealous obedience with my God- many times without a clue.  Sometimes with major decisions, and sometimes with things as small as a blog post.  But there is a fullness- a richness in living in obedience.  It gives you a backbone.  A godly confidence.  It makes you ready in season and out.  It puts you in heavenly places and when you need God you don't have to shout- you are already in His company.

My life has taken many twists and turns- some completely unexpected.  But I am always, always under the protection of God.  And His promises can never be thwarted and the things I may see as a detour are really all a part of His plan, leading me to His promises.  Why am I so sure?  I am sure because God goes before me.  Because my actions and my speech and the very way I live are all done in integrity before God.  I follow his leading and do not take a step without His direction.

Challenge your way of thinking.  Challenge the way you view your life.  Don't get swept up in living your own life- but instead, "present your body as a LIVING sacrifice holy and acceptable to God."  If you give Him your life- every single part of it- then you will be in for the greatest walk you have ever taken.  And you won't fear the things that come, because God will always go before you.

I feel like a change has swept over- like the breaking of winter and the return of spring has ushered in a new season.  I believe the winter has ended.  God has begun a new work and a new season and I am seeing now more than ever that each new work He does is built upon each past season- that is why obedience and walking with the Lord is such a beautiful thing.  Because He ties your life together and the way you obeyed before is what ushers in the fulfillment of things to come now.  The winter kills all things living- or at least it seems to.  But they're NOT dead- they're just sleeping...waiting for spring to come and BREATH LIFE.  Like the promise God gave.  And I am excited.  Excited because I can see Him breathing life into things that seemed dead.  Things that were just sleeping...and now they are waking.  I am excited for what He has next and for what He will fulfill in my life and in yours.  Because promises were made- promises were made and I know I am going to see the fulfillment of those promises and it makes every difficult step of obedience worth it.

Next week you are going to be hearing from my husband.  The man behind everything I do- the love of my life and the man who makes endless sacrifices for me.  The last time he wrote on my blog was a year ago.  You have followed me through hard times this past year and you've heard it all from my perspective- now I want to give him a chance to talk to you from his perspective.  My husband is a true man of God in every sense of the word...he does nothing but by prayer and by seeking the Lord.  I have followed him as he follows the Lord and I rest knowing that my husband is a man who can be trusted and followed wholeheartedly because of his integrity.  He has lead this family.  He has guided me and our children and I am the person I am because of his pure example.  There is nobody I have ever respected more.

Looking forward to next week...and looking forward to what God is doing.  Be blessed and be encouraged today!

Friday, March 28, 2014

O You Afflicted One...

***The past 3 weeks have been some of the most crucial weeks of my life.  The thing about a blog is that you kind of only get a small glimpse into a very large picture.  I do my best to paint as big a picture as I can, but it never compares to the life I actually live.  3 weeks ago I wrote one of the most excruciating posts of my life and the truth is, I almost decided to officially close my blog that week.  My writing till that point was still pure- everything I wrote I still meant, but it was becoming a smaller and smaller truth.  I was losing myself.  But instead of closing the blog, I poured out the depths of my heartache with all of you- and then I waited.  Waited to see if I was still there. Waited to see if I was starting to come back.  The next week came, and still I waited.  I didn't want to wait last week- I was compelled to.  Compelled not to pen because something was still in the balance- I could feel it in my soul that something was at war.  But I was losing.  I was too tired to fight…I know you pray for me.  I know each and every one of you who have been lifting me up in prayer.  I know because your prayers waged a heavenly war on my behalf and I am not sure I will ever be able to thank you for coming alongside me- for standing in front of me and my family and defending us against attacks that almost won.  

But they didn't win.

Your prayers.  My waiting.  The tension I felt building while I was losing myself all came to a head this week.  I am going to tell you what happened a few days ago and let you know that you're prayers were instrumental in this story.  No, it's not a dramatic story- in fact, it may seem so simple to you reading it.  But my mind was bound; and now it is free.  For the first time in a long time, it is free.  And I feel peace.  

I feel like me.  

I feel ready to write again.  I have never before been ready to move forward until now.  I never fully embraced the changes my household had to make until now.  I have not had peace in my heart until now.  

So...Let's Roll:

I had an incredible breakdown a few days ago.  For a long time now I was living in a prison…I was locked inside my own head only venturing out a rare few times to talk.  I was getting increasingly isolated from everyone around me.  Every time Jeff would ask me a simple question I would either erupt or just shut down.  Neither of these actions bear any resemblance to who I am as a person- but lately I became unrecognizable.  I simply chose to live in my head…wait, that's not right.  It's not that I chose it, it's more that I couldn't find my way out.  I could not get past my grief and my fear- fear of losing my kids and grief of knowing that it would be all my fault.  You see, it's not just about the homeschooling and the chores and the meals…there were reasons I did those things.  I believed in doing things to the best of my ability, and I believe that the decisions we make have an effect on our kids' futures.  When I send them to Christian school, I am terrified of what other influences they may encounter from the older kids at such young ages- things I wanted to protect their eyes and ears from while they are still so innocent.  But now I can't.  When I diligently ran a chore chart and had Bible time it was because I wanted them to learn the value of hard work and discipline, know the Word and its principles and I wanted them to become responsible people who know the Lord.  But now I can't.  When I cooked good, home-made meals I knew I was nourishing their bodies and showing them how to properly take care of themselves.  But now I can't.  I just was lost in a whirlwind of thinking that everything I was building a foundation for was all being torn down- that my kids were now being thrown to the world, their character and minds and spirits just haphazardly being shaped by whoever and whatever they encounter when all I ever wanted and all I ever worked toward was the very opposite.  

One night Jeff just got me to open up for a brief moment.  And when he did, I let it all of this out.  

And out it came.

It was not pretty.  It was a heart wrenching mess of a mother's heart bleeding on the floor over fear of losing her children to the world.  I screamed.  I cried fiercely.  I didn't let him even attempt to offer any answers because I knew there really weren't any.  Week after week I talk about being present wherever you are in whatever way you can be.  I just haven't been able to grasp how that was going to work for my kids.   How can I be anything to them when I cannot even enforce something as simple as making their beds?  How can I be present when I am not longer able to teach them?  

I don't know why it takes me so long to talk to my husband.  Because when I finally do, I remember all over again why I married him.  He is like a rock.  A rock I can stand on in the hardest times; a rock of wisdom that doesn't come from flattering words, but that comes from the heart of God, and from Scripture.  Jeff told me the problem was that I was still trying to find a way to be present THE WAY I USED TO BE.  I was trying to do what I could, where I could, in whatever manner I could the way I USED TO…and because that is simply impossible, it was driving me crazy.  Literally crazy.  

He reminded me that God's promises do not rest on the outward- they rest on the heart.

My charts, and my homeschooling, and my home cooked meals, and my diligence as a mother were all great things- but they were things.  The real importance, was the heart that it all flowed from.  And he reminded me that my heart has not changed.  God's promises never hinged on my actions.  They were never attached to my abilities.  It was not my foundation, my doing, or my hands that were going to keep my kids on the path God wanted for them.  You see, 8 years ago when I was six months pregnant with my firstborn son, God gave Jeff a promise for our family; for our kids.  It goes something like this:

"All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:13

Oh God, I forgot.  

I forgot about the promise God made to two kids just starting out on their journey and about to have a family.  I forgot that GOD promised to put a hedge around my home with His hand and bring them up in His ways.  I forgot He promised a household of PEACE.  And most importantly I forgot that it was Him…I was never the one who was going to fulfill this promise- it was never by the strength of my own hands that my kids would be taught by the Lord and covered in peace.  It is the unshakable, unmovable, unchangeable right hand of God that established my children before they were even born. 

And it is God who is keeping them now.  

Then something amazing happened. I opened the Bible later that night to reread those verses for myself only I decided to go back a few verses- just to see what came before it.  When I did, I began to weep.  God knew.  God knew when he was giving that verse to a perfectly healthy 22-year old girl about to have her first baby that one day she would go back and read the verses that preceded it.  

Because He had more to say to that girl.  

“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:11-13

Oh God, I am the afflicted one.  I am tossed and not comforted…until GOD.  God says He will lay my stones and secure my foundation.  He will set my high places, sure up my gates, and steady my walls.  AND MY CHILDREN WILL BE TAUGHT OF THE LORD AND GREAT SHALL BE THEIR PEACE.  He gave us the promise before our children were born- and then 8 years later, in the darkest moment of my life when my health has taken away my very ability to raise my children and keep my household, He gave me the rest of that promise and reminded me that before we even had our kids, He was building up the foundations of our home.  That before the sickness came and before the rooms filled with the laughter of our six beautiful babies, God had already laid down gems and rubies and crystals and precious stones and laid them down in a way that no storm could EVER destroy it.  

This storm can not destroy it.

You see, when God makes a promise, He seals it with Himself.  One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Genesis, when God appears to Abraham and promises to make Him the father of many nations.  He promises a man- an old man with no children whose wife is too old to have any- that he will be blessed and his descendants will be more numerous than the sands on the beach.  And to seal this covenant with Abraham, God has Abraham take a certain few animals, cut them in half, and make an aisle in which they would both walk down together- him and God-thus sealing the promise between them.  So Abraham does this- he cuts the animals, lays each piece on either side making the aisle…and then he waits for God.  Waits for God to meet him so they can seal the deal; finish the promise.  So he waits.  And he waits.  And he waits so long that vultures begin to come and try to eat at the animals…eat at his promise.  But Abraham fights!  He fights for his promise!  He fights for his children!  And their children!  No God…I will have a family!  They will be blessed by You!  YOU PROMISED!  Oh how I have fought.  

And while he is desperately fighting off the vultures, he collapses out of complete and utter weariness.  

And that is when God shows up.

In an act of stunning enormity, God- as a blazing fire- walks down the aisle ALONE thus sealing the covenant promise.  Only he did not seal the promise with Abraham.  

He sealed it with Himself.

Because Abraham would not have been able to uphold his end of the bargain.  Because somewhere along the line Abraham would have messed up and then the promise would be broken.  Maybe one day Abraham's faith would have wavered.  Maybe year after year Abraham would have forgotten all about the promise.  Maybe Abraham would have gotten so sick that he no longer would have been able to care for his family the same way he was able to when the promise was made.  

No.  God sealed the covenant with Himself- the only One who can always walk in complete perfection.  The only One who will always keep His standards.  The only One that is pure.  God's promises are upheld because HE upholds them.   They do not rest on man.

For the first time in a very, very long time, I feel peace.  I fully see the scope in which my children are truly in the Lord's hands.  Homeschooling is not what would have protected them.  My vigilance in their chores is not what would have developed them.  My meals are not what would have made a home.  Because all of those things are movable.  But what is NOT movable is that which the Lord Jesus Christ establishes and when HE says something IS…then it IS.  

And He has said my children will be taught of the Lord.  And He has said great will be their peace.  I fought, and in my weariness I simply could not fight another second.  So God showed up to fulfill His promise.  The rest is up to HIM.

Later that night Jeff took my hand and walked me downstairs and I wept as I tore down the huge chore chart in my dining room.  Oh what freedom I felt.  I gave everything I had when I was healthy- and I will give everything I can being sick.  And I will finally be able to do it with peace in my heart.  I know I will still struggle occasionally with fear over my children- but now I know where to turn.  The fear has vanished because of the simple reminder of that day in the nursery when Jeff showed me the verse God promised us for our kids.  

And God keeps His promises.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

7 Days

I wrote an entire blog for today.  Then I took it down.  If you are a writer, than you will understand- I just can't write something that I don't feel.  There have been many times I have posted something I didn't feel, but I did it because this is a weekly post.  And not every single week is going to come straight from the heart- sometimes it's just going to be words on a page.  Good, but not great.  But I couldn't do that today.  Something about last week's post made me unable to write anything else.  If something else had come along, then I would have written it.  If something else had come into my heart or mind, then by all means I would have labored over it like I do most weeks, doing everything I can to perfect it until I have made sure to get my point across exactly how I want to.  But today I have nothing.

Today, I am stuck.

Stuck on last week maybe.  Stuck on the harsh reality that I revealed to you in all it's rawness.  A part of me felt like I was betraying last weeks post by writing a new one today.  I know that may seem silly, but it's the truth.  Every word I wrote came from the depths of a very hard reality that I live every single moment of- and sharing it in one emotion laced blog post didn't change on darn thing.  Even as I type now I am having a tremendously difficult time even getting my fingers to move.  I am counting down the very second until I can take my next dose of pain medication, the last one not even doing enough to get me to stop shaking.  So how, in my integrity as a writer, can I just go on writing about something else when this topic has not fully moved on from my heart?

The answer is, I can't.

I realize that I am tampering with my ratings here.  What none of you know (because I keep the ratings private) is that this blog is read by several thousand people every month.  Some weeks have been much higher, some much lower, but thats been the average.  I try not to look at numbers because that is not why I write. I write because I love the expression of my heart and soul by way of written words.   But I also know that for people to keep reading, they have to have something new to read every week.

This may blow that.

Maybe you will read this and realize you haven't really been reading anything.  And I am sorry.  I hope and pray that the Lord would move something on my heart for next week.  I tried desperately to "just write something" for this week like I am supposed to, but I have my limits.  Last week was one of them.  I showed all my cards last week.  And I am not ready to deal another hand just yet.

So I apologize.  There is a time to keep walking, I understand that.  But I have to listen to my heart as well on this one- because there are times to stand still and just respect what God is letting you feel.  I'm not ready to do anything just yet.  I went back and read my last post and the tears were just as fresh as the day I wrote it.  Gotta respect that.

I am not here to entertain you.  I am not here to tickle your eyes or your ears.  I am here to write and to write unapologetically.  I answer to Jesus for everything, including a little blog.  Maybe He doesn't care whether or not I write- but in my heart I know I am accountable for every word I type- because you are reading these words.  And they have to mean something.  And if I can't stand behind them, then I have lost all my integrity as a writer and why the heck are you bothering to read my blog anyway?

Sometimes I write things because I post every Friday- so I think and I write something I believe to be worthwhile.  Other times God moves and speaks so powerfully that my writing is worth a good Sunday sermon.  I can take both of those.  But what I cannot take is writing anything today.  Just not today.  If you can glean a lesson from this, I commend you and even encourage you to look for one.  I just know I have to do what I have to do.  And I need more time.

Hopefully seven days from now there will have been something on my heart and we will meet again for a good read.  But one thing you can count on with me- I will stick to my guns on this blog.  I will be honest even to a fault.  I will hold to what I believe, and never settle for a ounce less.  There are pages and pages to go back and read if you are so inclined.  But as for today...well, seven days just wasn't enough for me to move on from last week.  So I'm not.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Brave Heart

Hello!!  For some reason it feels like a while since I have really talked to you.  I know I talk to you every week, but it's been a while since I have actually sat down and talked with you about personal things.  I think this would be a good week to just catch up and update you on some minor things I have going on in my life and some bigger changes that I have going on.  So let's chat.  :)

Last week was the one year anniversary of Jeff, me, and the kids moving into our new home.  This house we are living in is the first home we have ever owned.  I remember writing several blog posts as I documented the "buying your first home" journey and what that entails!  I absolutely love our home, and after living in it for a year it truly feels like "our home."  The location is very quiet, safe, and private, and yet it is only 5 minutes from the major road in our town that has every thing on it.  The space in this home is incredible and we have a large yard the kids can run around in.  I have spent my entire life moving around- even after getting married we moved countless times.  It feels nice to be home.  

The kids are all doing well, and getting bigger by the day it seems.  I do still grieve over not being able to have any more babies.  It will hit me at very random moments and when it hits, it is like being punched in the gut.  Time just stops and I have to take a moment and just let the tears fall.  There is no hiding from grief- no pretending it isn't there.  You simply must accept that you are feeling it…and so I do.  I cry, I grieve, and I remember those beautiful moments when I would have a contraction and I would just KNOW labor was beginning.  And then I would begin the most amazing process I have ever accomplished in my life- giving birth.  It was something nobody could do for me; I had to face it myself and bear it myself…and I did.  Those moments immediately after giving birth are ingrained in my head and no matter how bad my memory gets they never seem to dim- because second only to giving my life to Jesus, there is nothing greater on this earth that I have ever done.  And I am so, so sad that I will never get to do that again.  My kids are growing up and with each new phase David passes, I know it will be the last this house ever sees.  I also miss being able to homeschool.  They love their Christian school, but I miss homeschooling.  They take a small bus with other elementary kids from their Christian school, and I wrestle with having them face the world when all I really wanted was to have them in the home.  As a family.  Learning and growing together, with me as their teacher.  Their sisters and brothers as their classmates.  But I had to give that up too- and every day as I lay in bed "resting" I realize that it has to be this way.  But that doesn't make it any less sad for me.  I wanted nothing more than to have babies; to love those babies; to raise those babies; to teach those babies; to have those babies with me as long as I could.  But God had other plans…and because I serve the Lord with all of my heart I rest assured that even in my pain His plans are not only best, but they perfect and they are GOOD.  He loves my babies so much more than I do.  

Natalie, Anthony, Johnny, & Joey- Summer 2013
Me and Anthony
Anthony and Joey
Jeff and Me

The Tylers- Chrostmas 2013

Anthony, Joey, Natalie, Johnny, & Ryza lined up to brush their teeth!
Joey's kindergarten school picture
Me and Anthony

Me, Johnny,and Natalie playing hide and go seek lol


Me and Jeffy
Anthony's 3rd grade school picture 
Johnny, Anthony, Natalie, and Ryza- Natalie's 5th B-day

Johnny and Natalie
Jeff and Natalie- Natalie's 5th B-day
Jeff and ALL the kiddos!!
Natalie and Johnny (they are best friends!)
Baby David
Me and David
David (1 1/2) and Ryza (2 1/2)
Joey sporting his glasses (which he wears on certain occasions, lol)

Kid pit
Me and Jeffy Poo

Perhaps the biggest change that has happened in the past few weeks is Jeff's ministry position has changed.  In 2005 Jeff and I graduated from Zion Bible College (now called Northpoint Bible College) and moved to Albany, NY where we began an internship with Pastor Keith Davey, founder of New Hope Ministries.  That internship turned into a relationship- Pastor Keith and his wife poured their heart and their soul into us.  They showed us how to run a church, teaching us the practical aspects of finances, running a building, keeping up maintenance, and doing the taxes.  But then they took us alongside them and showed us what it means to be a pastor.  What it means to do ministry.  To feed the poor, shelter the homeless, heal the hurting, father the orphan, fill the gap, light the dark, rescue the lost, give hope to the hopeless, and preach the gospel.  He looked at my husband and didn't see a former-crack-head-turned-newly-graduated-bible-school-student…he saw a man with the call of God on his life.  And he gave him a chance.  He gave him more than a chance- he pulled him in and took him under and make Jeff a Pastor of one of his churches.  We served under Pastor Keith and Susan Davey for 5 years before the Lord called us to leave.  And now I am extremely excited to say, that the Lord has opened the door for us to minister under Pastor Keith again!  As of a week ago, Jeff has been made the Associate Pastor at New Hope Ministries. ( Check out the ministry's website here!! ) I am so humbled and yet so incredibly excited for this chance to work with Pastor Keith and Susie again, and I know that God must have big plans.  We are still going to live in our house in Amsterdam- the Lord has not lead us to move, we feel we are to stay right where we are.  We are just going to do what we have always done- serve Jesus with all of our hearts.  If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is this: when you serve Jesus with all your heart, and you walk uprightly before Him, then you NEVER have to fear the path He leads you on.  EVERY step is directed and ordered by Him for those who have wholly surrendered their lives in His hands, and live that trust out in full integrity.

I am so happy for Jeff.  This is the kind of ministry he was born to do.  And even more so, I am grateful not only for this ministry opportunity but for the way they have accommodated for my illness.  They have arranged Jeff's schedule in such a way that he is able to be home as much as I need him to be.  Albany is almost an hour away from our house and I am very sick…which is my next update for you all.  I hate these updates- I feel like I should have more to say, or at least better things to say.  Last week I had a biopsy done to test for small fiber neuropathy.  If you remember the blog post I did when I posted pictures of the zapping test I had done, that was a test for large fiber neuropathy.  That was when they stuck needless in my legs and then tased me lol.  It was very painful and only was able to test the large fibers, as the small fibers are too small to test that way.  So they did a punch biopsy in two places on my leg- one on my upper thigh, one on the front of my foot.  This test had been talked about for the past 4 months, but had been put off.  As of a month ago I started exhibiting some symptoms on my legs and feet that warranted this test to now be done.  I was terrified!!  I felt so silly because it's not really a big deal, and after everything I have had done this really shouldn't have had me so worried!!  I had all natural, drug-free child birth for cryin' out loud and I am afraid of a 20 minute out-patient procedure- done WITH anesthetic??  But it turned my fears were somewhat founded lol.  I had a few shots of local anesthetic and then in each spot he basically dug out a hole and had the skin and tissue and nerves sent to be biopsied- it was a very small hole, but something about having a hole in your foot and your leg just really freaked me out.  And after the anesthetic wore off it hurt like crazy!!  It's been a week and it still hurts.  He poured something inside the hole to cauterize it and stop the bleeding.  I didn't get any stitches so it's healing naturally and I was told there will be a scar- but not getting any stitches made it so much worse because I kept taking off the bandage and looking at it even though it was gross and it really freaked me out to look at!  
Other than that I started yet another medication a few weeks ago.  It was one they tried to put me on last year but I couldn't take it because Jeff was working nights and this medication really knocked me out at night.  But now that Jeff is home every night, I asked to give it another try- and it certainly does knock me out at night!  Oh man, sometimes it's like I've been knocked upside the head with a barstool!  (Because of course I know exactly what that feels like.)  But I think that's one of the reasons I am having some success with it- because I get a full night's sleep most nights, which is something I was never getting before.  So between all the medications, I am holding it together…but just barely.  I don't know what to say folks.  My medication is keeping me breathing and eating and talking, but not much else.  This pain is just out of this world- it slowly conquers everything they give me.  My body is a shell of exhaustion and fatigue, always hurting and weak.  And the medication that just keeps me going has taken away so much of my memory and my basic ability to think and reason- such a terrible trade off.  
So what next?  Well, either the biopsy will confirm small fiber polyneuropathy or it won't.  If it doesn't, my neurologist wants to send me to the Mayo Clinic or to a specialist hospital in Boston.  Either I agree to that or I simply stop the process and accept the unknown downward spiral of my health.  Accept that the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome I got 5 years ago most likely destroyed my central nervous system and it is progressively getting worse over time.  

I feel like I have lost everything.  I wake up in pain.  I go about my day weak and in pain, barely able to just do the minimum and needing Jeff every day.  A trip to the grocery store once a week is something I wait to do for the day I most feel up to it.  By the end of every day Jeff usually is carrying me up and down the stairs.  On Sunday I get dressed, do my hair and make-up, and go to church- sometimes falling asleep right in the middle of service.  Sunday is an exhausting day.  I realize I am sharing a lot with you right now…I am sharing everything with you.  I dunno, maybe someone out there reads this and feels these same gritty emotions that I feel.  And for that one person I feel that every bit of honesty is worth it.  When Jeff started his new position in Albany last week I felt like everything came crashing down on top of me.  I felt like he was happy- like he got this position doing everything he is called to do and I am just being left behind.  He has a routine with the kids now and can get by fine without me.  The kids have their new school and they have their dad, Jeff has his life's calling and is doing his passion…and I have nothing.  Because they were my everything.  And now I cannot do that anymore.  And their lives are moving on and they have adjusted and accommodated for my absence and inability and are now able to do life without me.  Completely without me.  It is almost too much to bare…it is like the ocean has just swallowed me up…one minute I had it all- I was staring into the eyes of Jesus walking on water, and the next…

I am under water.  Hopelessly sinking and drowning under the very water I was standing on only moments ago.  Now it is drowning me.

I have nothing- except something.  I see one thing in the midst of all of this.  When I cry, and when I think of how much I have lost, and when I am laying in bed and I can't stop the pain, or when I can't even make my own body move- I see one thing.  I see eyes.  I see a hand.  I see Someone whose face is so close to mine I don't even have to move to touch Him.  Jesus takes my hand every time.  Every time.  

Every. Single. Time.

He does not stop my tears.  He does not make me happy.  He does not take my pain, give me movement, put me back in my life, or make everything better.  But he does lift my mouth above the ocean that threatens to drown me.  And in that moment, I breathe.  I stay nose to nose with my Savior and I make it another moment.  Another hour.  Another evening.  

Another day.

I don't know how to be anything but real with you.  This is the hardest thing I have ever walked through.  Life is hard right now.  I am grieving.  The physical pain I am in every waking moment is trumped only by my emotional pain at not being able to live the life I once had with my family.  But I am NEVER, EVER alone.  Jesus is not some nice feeling, some "glad it works for you", some religion, or some among many.  He is Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shammah, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Raah….He is God my Provider, God my Healer, God the Present One, God my Peace, God my Banner, and God my Shepherd.  HE IS.  Whatever I need, whenever I need it, however I need it, in whatever way I need it HE IS.  My soul longs for nothing because HE satisfies it all.  I may grieve at present and I may grieve in this body and I may grieve in this life but there is not a single part of my soul that grieves…because one day I will shed this grief and pain wracked body and every single longing will be met and satisfied in HIM. 

Friends, HE IS.  There are no trials or troubles in this life that can overtake you, because if you've placed your hope in the Lord Jesus Christ then your soul has been redeemed.  I write and speak and live and move with unapologetic conviction because you weren't there when I needed a savior.  You weren't there when my ten-year-old spirit cried out to be united with it's Maker.  You weren't there in my prayer closet as my life was guided and directed in it's every step.  You weren't there when I was given a choice and I chose the darker path- yet the one I knew I was called to.  You weren't there when I was told I wouldn't be having any more children.  You weren't there when I woke up every hour shaking and crying and unable to take any more medication.  You weren't there when all we had was God.  You weren't there when I had to put my kids in school, you weren't there when my body started shutting down, you weren't there when I told the kids mommy was sick….you weren't there when I lost everything.  

But HE was.  

HE still IS.  

I set out to update you on my life.  To tell you what the Tyler's are doing.   The Tyler kids are doing amazing- they are growing and thriving and are more beautiful than ever and growing in the Lord daily.  Jeff is the new Associate Pastor at New Hope Ministries and is doing incredible, amazing inner city ministry and absolutely loving it.  Ashley Tyler is very sick, but she is so in love with Jesus.  And they are madly in love- so much more now even than the day they got married.

I would have to say that the Tyler's are doing wonderfully. I truly would.