Letters from Gram

As I write tonight I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a box on my floor under my window.  The box is covered in my own handwriting and artwork, and by artwork, I mean sweet little flowers and hearts because let me be honest….my artwork cannot consist of anything else.

The outside of the box is pretty special but what is inside is just part of a story that needs to be shared.

Let me back up a little bit.  For most of my life I have lived a long car ride away from my gram.  The distance between us did not stop us from talking.  We talked all the time through the letters we penned back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again and again.

The letters I received from my gram were not just letters to me.  They were the lifeline I needed during the darkest time of my life.  Her letters were something for me to hold onto.  They were exactly what my heart needed.

I still remember the letter I wrote to my gram where I shared my distance from God.  My gram knew nothing of the details of what was going on in my life, all she knew is that I had found myself far from God and that was enough for her to completely devote herself to me in the form of prayer and letters.

When she wrote back to me after receiving this particular letter not only did she send stamps (to ensure I would send letters back to her) but she sent me words that have stuck with me, still to this day…”God never leaves us and He waits patiently for us to come back to Him.”  I will never forget writing the most precious of letters my gram has probably ever seen.  In this particular letter is when I shared with her that she was right and that God waited for me and I finally came back to Him.

In that box on my floor under my window is where those letters I penned to my gram are found.  It still feels sad to see her box here with me.  I want it to be where it belongs: with her.

I remember clearly the day my gram told me she has kept every letter I ever sent her.  She told me how she would hug my letters and even though it wasn’t as good as hugging me it would do until we could really hug again.  When I heard this I rushed to make a box for her to keep my letters in.

Before coming home from my gram’s funeral I started to read through the letters my gram has sent me.  I too, have kept every single one.  One letter I read during this time had the following:

Psalm 116:15 Death is not the end but a new beginning.  Remember this when my time comes.

My gram as always, knew just what my heart needed.  My sister looked up that Bible verse in our Bible and under the verse our Bible said the following:

God stays close to us even in death.  When someone we love is nearing death we may become angry and feel abandoned.  But believers (saints) are precious to God, and he carefully chooses the time when they will be called into his presence.  Let this truth provide comfort when you’ve lost a loved one.  God sees, and each life is valuable  to him.

This provided so much comfort to our hearts as my gram left this earth and went to her new beginning with Jesus.

The day my gram met Jesus just so happened to be the day I was born.  As hard as it is to see my birthday as my gram’s final day in this world, in a strange way it feels sort of special.  God carefully chose the day for my gram to meet Him and knowing that day was my birthday helps me to feel so close to my gram even in her death.

As I still see this box out of the corner of my eye, I think about how I now have the complete story of the power of love and care and prayer through both sets of letters.

All I can do is hug my gram’s letters and even though it’s not as good as hugging her it will do until we can really hug again in Heaven one day.

Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Please know that I am so new to loss.  I do not have a lot of experience with losing someone so close to me.  The loss of my grandmother has been the hardest my heart has ever known.  If you are dealing with the loss of someone you love, please know my heart goes out to you.  It is my prayer that God fills the places where you feel the loss the most with His perfect peace and comfort.  xoxo Diane

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Tears turned to Joy

At the beginning of the year I told myself I would commit to writing at least once per month.  Each month I would sit down to write and enjoy every moment of it!  As the year passes by I have stopped spending that time to write.  This makes me sad because writing is such a passion of mine, so here I go starting again and ready to share something from my heart.

As I type away I cannot stop glancing at the newest addition to my writing fingers….my engagement ring!  This ring is so special to me for many reasons.  My sweet fiance handpicked and designed this ring just for me with one request from my heart to his.

I just had to have a teardrop shaped stone.

Psalm 126:5 reads, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”

This verse I have come to love.  Isn’t it just like God to give us something so unexpected?  When sowing in tears, the last thing you expect to reap is joy but that is exactly what God is saying here.

One thing I think of when I think of this verse is all of the tears that have fallen from my eyes that are directly related to what was done to me by the hands of a man.  These tears were some of the most painful my eyes have ever known.  They left stains on my heart.

God knows each one because the Bible says He collects each one in a jar.  I love the idea of that because it means these tears were not wasted, as painful as they were they were important to God because He chose to keep them.  There is a purpose for each one.

Another thing I think of when I think of this verse is what God has done with those pain-filled tears.  He has turned them into joy and that joy washes away the stains left on my heart from all of the pain-filled tears.

One of the ways in which God has done this is through my fiance.  Being with Jordan has brought healing to my heart.  There have been many times with Jordan where I cry not because I am sad or hurt but because I am so happy and feel so much joy for what God has done in my life.  Never did I think God would use a man in my life for a good thing, but Jordan is my very good thing from a very evil thing I endured for years.

Never did I expect to find healing from what a man had done to me through the man God handpicked for me.  But it is just like God to give us something we least expect.  Joy from tears and Jordan are two of my favorite least expected gifts from God!  The teardrop on my finger is the perfect reminder of these gifts from above.

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fight Right

I started writing this post several months ago.  In fact, what I am about to share has been on my heart now for over a year.

I am currently in a season of life that I do not like all that much.  It seems crazy to even admit that because truth be told I have nothing to not like.

I have an amazing apartment with a walk in closet and a pool (dream come true for me) and a roommate that I share such a special friendship with, and added bonus she makes amazing waffles…what more could I ask for?

I am working at a job that I love and have honestly prayed (even though I had no idea my prayers would lead me to this specific ministry) for years now.  Even more incredible, while I was away I was praying about volunteering in this ministry when I came back home, and God provided a job in this same ministry I was seeking to volunteer at.

God has brought an incredible man into my life.  This is HUGE for me!  Really…if you know me you know that I do not date.  I have been waiting and praying and waiting some more for the past five years for God to bring the man He has for me into my life.  While others thought I was crazy for not putting myself out there enough with men, I held true (most of the time) to my desire to wait for who God has for me.  This was so hard!  Sometimes I was tempted to give in and take matters into my own hands.  I still remember trying a free trial of some online date thing and when it showed me my “matches” it said none found!  How terrible I thought, but really I knew it was God telling me He already found my man for me and I wasn’t about to find him online…clearly!  I am thankful for His protection from all of the wrong men throughout the last five years and am even more thankful for the right man He has found for me.

I have an amazing sister who encourages me and inspires me on a daily, actually moment by moment basis.  I have incredible friends God has brought into my life and I am the happiest aunt in the world, especially when I get to influence my nieces and nephews for Christ.

Reading all of this I seriously wonder why the struggle.  As I think about the “why” behind the struggle I realize woven in between all of these blessings from above is a fear and a doubt and a defeat I have never known before.

Since coming home from my time abroad I feel I have lost a part of me: the part of me that fought against this defeat ever becoming a reality for me.  So now that I am feeling so defeated I equate this with no other thought than I have lost the fight.

The reality is that this thought is the furthest thing from the truth!  In fact, I do not even have the capability of losing a battle that was never mine in the first place.

…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  2 Chronicles 20:15

And, the One whom the battle belongs to is the One fighting for me.

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.  Exodus 14:14

And, the One whom fights is already victorious!

…but victory belongs to the LORD.  Proverbs 21:31

And because He is VICTORIOUS, I am victorious.

but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.             1 Corinthians 15:57

When I choose to fight this defeated feeling, I am fighting a battle that was never mine to fight.  The enemy would love to keep me in this place of losing heart with every attempt to fight against something that was already won by God on the cross.

The longer the enemy keeps me in this place, the longer I am stuck believing I have lost not only the fight but a part of me also.

My fighting doesn’t look like gaining victory, it looks like losing control.  I cannot gain something God has already won for me.  I can lose control of my “battles” give them to the Lord and pick up the victory He fought to death for me to have.

Maybe like me,  you have been fighting against something for far too long.   It is my prayer that you start to see with a heavenly perspective the truth about what you have been fighting, and that you have the strength to give the battle over to the Lord and rest in His victory!

 

 

 

Reminders of All He has Done

When I first started my job, simply walking through the door to start the day was hard for me.

Not because I didn’t want to be there but because that walk through the door reminded me of everything I did not want to be reminded of.

I was reminded of a time in my life when I felt so much shame and guilt for all of the decisions I was making as a result of things that happened to me or as a result of my own ignorance.  My life was spiraling out of control and I held onto people and things that caused nothing but pain and heartache because I simply didn’t know how to hold onto anything else.

By the grace of God, I found His hand in my mess to hold onto.  God brought me to a safe place: His arms.  God renewed my life and all of my old ways and traumatic past was gone and all that was left was a new life in Him.

Instead of remembering all of the ways God had saved me and remade me, I was focusing on all of the awful things I once did.  Then one day it hit me: I can either walk through this door and think of who I used to be or I can walk through this door and think of what God has done for me.

God has done a miracle in my life.  Years ago you could have found me walking through those doors defeated, desperate for help.  Now, when I walk through those doors each day I am nothing other than God’s redeemed daughter.  Because of Jesus I have victory and because of Jesus I am now able to help those God brings through the door.

 

Walking through the door for work is now something I look forward to as it is a moment to stop and give thanks to God for all He has done for me.

It is a true gift to be reminded each day of God’s transforming love and an even greater gift to share that love with the people I meet in this life that have found themselves in a place I once was.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:2-3

 

Hope-filled Brokenness

This morning I wanted to reflect on one of my favorite chapters in Isaiah, Isaiah 53.  I have read this passage many times and there is always something sweeter about reading it in my own Bible.  The page is creased with probably a few tear stains.  There are circles and lines around certain words that have touched my heart.  There are places I have been and people I have met written next to certain verses.  Each time I read through this particular part of Isaiah it is an opportunity to go back in time and remember the faithfulness of God throughout my life.

As I traveled back in time remembering the first time these words touched my heart, a new verse struck me and my pen quickly underlined the following:

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  Isaiah 53:10

When I close my eyes and think of Jesus during the time of His life leading up to the cross I become overwhelmed with the idea that He probably didn’t like that time very much.  Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father even though that meant being crushed and suffering immensely.

Jesus was crushed and suffered for all man kind.  Each person that ever lived, each person that ever will live, Jesus was, IS, the Ultimate Sacrifice.

This level of crushing, this level of suffering, I cannot even comprehend.  Jesus knows it well.

Recently I read the following in a book:

“God will always break what is offered to Him.”

When we think of brokenness it comes along with words like hopeless, ruined, destroyed, helpless.  In fact you can probably think of at least one situation in your life right now that has left you feeling broken.

I like to think that when God thinks of brokenness He think of Jesus.  After all, His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ was broken and that break was the furthest thing from hopeless.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  God took the brokenness of His own Son and transformed that very brokenness and the suffering that went along with each blow and used it to fulfill His Will.  He used it to heal and make a way for each one of His children to find Him, to come to Him, to be His.

**I cannot ever write these things without tears filling up in my eyes.  Every time I try to find the words to express the gratitude or the feeling I feel when I am reminded of all Jesus has done I come up empty. **

Jesus, as the Ultimate Sacrifice, was broken and as a result fulfilled the Lord’s will.

In this world we will experience brokenness.  When we offer our lives to God, he will break us.  This is not a hopeless break, in fact it is just the opposite!  We are broken to allow our lives to be a showcase for Jesus that others may find Him through the breaks and come to know Him as their Lord and Savior.

So as we continue through this life with the threat of brokenness right around the corner let us shift our sight on the most beautiful sight brokenness has to offer, Jesus Christ.  We can find peace and hope to continue through any brokenness we face holding onto Jesus and remembering that He knows this brokenness and He sees the very thing that this brokenness is producing.

 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4

 

 

 

 

Nothing to Fear

I remember the day I thought my “triggers” were over.  It had been two years and I thought to myself, surely that is the last trigger I will have.  I was ecstatic.

Shortly after, I had another trigger and currently I find myself in a season filled with a lot of triggers.

I could give you the dictionary definition of trigger if you are not familiar with the term, however I prefer my definition because this is exactly how I experience one.

It comes out of the blue, when you least expect it.  You are just going about your day and BAM all of a sudden something happens, you are not sure what, but you go back in time to that awful memory running through your mind.  It is as if you go back to when that memory wasn’t a memory at all it was when that awful memory happened for the very first time.

After the tears and shaking you try to trace back the trigger.  You wonder was it the smell, the way the word was spoken, the feeling, the touch.  Sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t.  Then you tell yourself I am never going to do this or that ever again because if that is what may have caused this trigger, I never want it to cause another trigger.

You avoid any and everything that may cause a trigger.

But, in this season God is not letting me avoid anything.  He is lovingly and gently allowing me to face these triggers and stop the avoiding game I have played for so long.

I trace back the roots of the avoiding game and every time will come up with one thing: fear.  I am simply scared of triggers.

The reason for the fear is because triggers are the only moments of my life when I truly feel separated from God.  To say this is the worst feeling is an understatement.  It is a horrifying thought.

But the truth of the matter is that feeling, that thought is a big fat lie.  In fact, I actually have nothing to be afraid of.

God’s Word says so:

…“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…

Isaiah 43:1-4

The price that God paid?  Jesus, His only Son, being separated from God while His beaten and bloody body hung on a cross so that mine never had to be and so that I never ever will be separated by God.

Just writing those words fills my eyes with tears.  I will never know the weight of each word I just typed.  Only God, only Jesus will.

All I know is that God promises me that no matter what comes my way He will never leave me, never forsake me.  Jesus was separated so that I never need to be.  This is amazing love.  And it is this love that carries me through each and every trigger I face in this life.

I am learning so much about triggers.  I am seeing them no longer through the lenses of fear but rather through the lenses of truth.

As I avoid the “avoiding game” I see so clearly that God is with me in each and every trigger.  This knowledge removes the fear and allows me to confidently embrace life freely hand in hand with God.

On a personal note: one of the main things in life I chose to avoid for years was men.  I was sure they would cause heartache and a bundle of triggers so I avoided them.  I still had a desire for one to be mine one day but that desire was not strong enough for me to actually risk opening up my heart to one.  I came face to face with this fear of mine the day I met my now boyfriend.  I was so distracted by my fear of kayaking (which is what we were about to do together on our first date) that I forgot about my fear of actually meeting a man with the intent of letting him know my heart.

Being with this man has not meant no triggers, quite the contrary, it has meant lots of triggers.  I am learning one thing: I would not have it any other way.  After avoiding the “avoiding game” I find myself embracing God in each trigger that comes my way instead of embracing fear.  How thankful I am for a man on earth who loves me through each one and a God in Heaven who not only loves me through each one but sees me through and knows how each one will be used for His good and for His glory.

Thank you Jesus!

 

Seeing Life

It is hard to believe exactly one year ago at this time I was writing my annual Human Trafficking Awareness post while living in an aftercare home for young girls and boys rescued from the brothels in India.

My eyes were opened while living in that home.  It was in that home God highlighted the issue of the value of life.

I say this because many people from all backgrounds would argue that the lives of those children I grew to love while in India should have never existed.

In our world there is an argument about the idea that a life brought into adverse circumstances should not be a life at all.

I know this argument because I used to fall silent when I heard the comments.  “That child won’t have much of a life at all, why didn’t they use birth control.”  “Those parents are irresponsible those poor children are going to suffer, why were they born?”  “That abortion saved that child from growing up without stability.”

In the silence is where my heart wrestled with what I knew to be true; that every life has value.  The reason for the wrestling match in my heart is because I could understand never wanting to see people suffer.  I used to think if suffering can be stopped before it starts, it definitely should be!

I understand these arguments in a different light after going through my own experience of suffering.  Suffering has a way of turning our worst into God’s best.  To keep people from suffering is an injustice in itself.

My heart still breaks for those children I lived with last year at this time.  Their wounds are wide open, gushing pain and suffering.  I learned in that home: the wounds they possess do not affect the value they possess.  Their value was determined for them before they were born into brothels.  Anything they have gone through and things they are yet to go through will never change the value of their life.

God didn’t wait to see how we handled this life before He chose us to be His own, He chose us before we were born, still in our mother’s womb.  He did the same with these precious children.

God created our lives for a purpose and with value.  Do we believe that in our hearts?

So often I think we fight for causes because we are covering up the pain that comes from the lack of purpose or value we feel in our own lives.  We want to feel significant, we want to prove our life has value so we do something, we fight something.  Meanwhile, the cross and empty grave prove our significance and value.  Jesus fought and won our biggest battle for us so we could hold onto His victory.  Any battle we now face, we face holding onto God’s victorious hand.

The injustice of human trafficking can feel overwhelming because it does have so many aspects.  Yet we face this injustice with God’s victory.  He is fighting for each life impacted in one way or another by slavery.

He is also fighting for you.  You cannot give someone something you do not have.  If you struggle to find value in your own life, how can you possibly tell someone who is held captive, trapped in misery, that their live has value and purpose?

Let the reason you “do something” about human trafficking be embracing and professing the value and purpose God places on every life before they are ever born into any set of circumstances in this world.

Little Disclaimer: Since being home I have felt my passion to do something about human trafficking fade away. I had/have a hard time understanding this as I believe God is the one who put that passion in my heart to begin with.  As I write this post, I see so clearly how God wants my passion for “doing something” to be motivated by His heart not my sight.  It is easy for me to see a need and fill it, yet God has called me to see life and proclaim it valuable.

There was a time in my life, more recent than I would like to admit, that I struggled knowing and believing the value my life held.  When I read the following verse in John every lie I believed about the value of my life was washed away: children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:13.  I am more than my parents plan for a family, I am God’s plan.  You are God’s plan and so are all of those children that melted my heart in India.

Currently, God has me in a season where I find myself constantly confronted with the question: Do you believe this life is valuable?  I am learning the value of life in ways I never have.  God is not taking these passions away; He is simply strengthening them in Him.  It is not a simple process but it is necessary and I am thankful that in this new season, His love remains.