Looking Back

Time seems to move at a more rapid pace as the years pass.

It can be rather easy to lose track of time, waste time, take time for granted, and even forget tidbits of time we once had. 

It can also be tempting to purposefully ignore the good times because in our minds, the bad outweighs the good. But is that really how things are?

All I have seen lately on social media are copious amounts of updates blaming 2016 for so many things: crime, death, failures, humiliation, racism, financial issues, relationship struggles, misery and woe, etc. Almost every post declared war on the past year and seemed eager to put everything behind them, making idle threats to 2017 that it had better be a “better year” or else.

As if that would change a thing.

This next year will be no better or worse than the last one without effort from us. As cliché as it may be, we have to be the change we wish to see (and I am preaching to the choir here, folks). No amount of complaining and passing blame will change much of anything.

Sometimes, life is extremely difficult. It can be painful and full of situations that seem to either make or break us. In my experience, it’s the reaction during the storms that make the most difference.

As I look back on 2016, I can hardly believe just how much really has changed. It was not an easy year. If someone would have had a written account made of my year and read it to me in January, I would have scoffed at them. I couldn’t have imagined my future without some of the people I had clung to so tightly. I wouldn’t have been able to dream up the different scenarios I faced and obstacles I overcame. There was absolutely no way I would have willingly let go of certain relationships and things. But that’s exactly what had to happen in order for growth to occur.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to havest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and and time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” 

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Some chapters have to come to a close in order for the page to be turned.

Even amidst the mess, there was beauty in 2016. Yes, there was pain, heartache, and loss. Brokenness and hatred seemed to spread like wildfire. Even so, if you take the time to really look? There was also love and life. 

Couples that had been trying for years one day woke up to the beautiful realization that their prayers had been answered and a new life would soon enter their world. Kindness was shared when people chose to see the good in those around them rather than accept the status quo of fear. Lives were saved by individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving others. Children in desperate circumstances found out that home isn’t so much a place as it is a new family who gets to show them every day that they are wanted and deserve love. Elderly couples celebrated anniversaries of well-over 60 years of dedication and hard work with one another. Lives were forever changed as children and adults alike fell in love with Jesus Christ. Mothers made the bold choice to give their baby life even though circumstances were not at all favorable. Someone decided to put down the blade and has gone 6 months without cutting themselves. A father chose to quit smoking for the sake of his children. A mother has been 2 months sober and has a new view of just how precious life with her husband and kids can be. A couple decided to seek help from pornagraphy addiction and are experiencing freedom for the first time together. Someone became a grandmother for the first time- others for the third, fourth, or even fifth time. A teen decided not to take their own life and is taking things one step at a time.

There is beauty even in the ashes.

I look back over this year and I see God’s hand in so many things. It almost feels like the events that occurred did so over a span of a few years rather than one.

February was hard. After celebrating a year of life on the 9th after my suicide attempt in 2015, I said goodbye to one of my best friends on the 28th… I had been convinced that I was going to marry him one day. But after 3 years, time seemed to move forward without that promise. I was living in sin, and as much as we tried, the cycle was never fully broken. God spoke to me through my community and while I loved him, I let him go. I honestly never thought I would make it out of that and find healing or love again.

God had other plans.

On April 2nd, I traveled back to the campus of my ex and that was one of the hardest days amidst my heart trying to find healing. But that day in itself was therapeutic. I had my sister and my parents by my side, and God saw fit to speak through me to a crowd of hurting individuals who had lost someone to suicide. I saw my ex volunteering, pouring into others. It was awkward, but it was necessary to see him and for him to see me. That was the last time.

Speaking to a crowd of around 300 people about my story, which cannot be told without Jesus Christ. It was an emotional day.

April was also the month I served alongside my sister and many others who participated in Love KC with Abundant Life. It was also the month my nephew Nikolai was born! It was a month of searching and growth, and moving forward.

Precious little Nikolai

May 1st, my parents and I took the Next Steps class to become members of Abundant Life. 

May 3rd, God and answered prayer from April 27th about funds for a mission trip. He came through and I was absolutely astounded by how He provided…. this was also the first day in a year that I picked up my alto saxophone and played.

May 7th, I spent the entire day with my brother, Jeremy, and my dad. We went fishing and I caught the only fish for the day. That was the first time since we were little that we spent quality time together. It was awkward but fun, and hasn’t happened since then but… I am hopeful. God can restore even the most broken of relationships.

My brother, Jeremy, and I enjoying the breeze at the lake.

May 15th, I became an official member of Abundant Life, my new home where God has me spreading my wings and growing roots.

June was an exciting time! 

From June 6th to June 10th, I went on my very first mission trip. My sister, Brianna, was right there with me. We went to Detroit, Michigan with a team of fantastical individuals and that was a pivotal time for me. Seeing the desperate situations and experiencing what it is to show love and overcoming racial divides was something I will never forget.

Our row of excited faces on the plane about to head off on an adventure to be living proof of a loving God to a watching world!

June 26th, Brianna’s birthday and the day of my third and final baptism. I was surrounded by loved ones as myself and 49 other individuals of varying ages were baptized in the Blue Springs Lake. It was a beautiful day and I will never forget that experience. It felt amazing to be out in nature, following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps- a picture of my old life dying and the new life beginning.

My mom captured my smile right after the public profession of faith. My heart was so full that day.

Even during the blissful and life-altering moments, I had weak moments, too. Moments where flesh won out. Moments where, despite my best intentions, I went against everything I told myself I would never do again. 

Never say never.

I met a young man at Paradigm. He was not who he appeared to be… and I was wounded in more ways than one after that brief and highly toxic relationship. Insecurities resurfaced and new ones formed after that door was closed… insecurities I am still struggling to stifle. However, I needed to go through that storm. I needed to grow and learn more about myself and God, and gain even more perspective. I thank God for that experience- there were sweet moments within the bitter. I discovered two toxic relationships because of my time with him and have since then moved on. God showed me exactly what I didn’t need and prepared me for what He had in store. He gave me comfort and reassurance that He would accomplish infinitely more than I could ask or imagine…

And He did.

August held so much growth within it. August 19th through the 21st, I experienced my first Paradigm Retreat: AWAKEN. Testimonies were shared, love and truth were spoken, bonds were made and chains were broken… Sky Ranch in Oklahoma will forever hold a special place in my heart. God is using a people at that place to rejuvinate His people.

The prayer walk at Sky Ranch in Cave Springs, Oklahoma.

Throughout the next few months, I experienced personal growth through Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued and Uninvited. Those books and the studies that occurred because of them are such a blessing. Rejection and emotions can be hard to deal with, but God uses His Word and the words of His servants to reach the hearts of others… 

My baby, Chewy, and a few of my favorite things: my Bible, my journal, and Uninvited.

September 8th through September 10th, I experienced my first Women’s Retreat with Abundant Life: BRAVE. Oh my goodness. The amount of healing that occurred that weekend… my mother and I shared that experience together. I am so thankful for the growth that we have shared since then as mother and daughter.

The dynamic duo: my momma and I right before leaving for Oklahoma.
Conquering fears and embracing Joshua 1:9 at the BRAVE retreat. This rickety bridge was an obstacle on the hike up to the zipline.

October brought with it new challenges and experiences. As a result of a Digital Media and Design class, I had an internship that was interesting to say the least. God used that time to grow my spiritually and I am thankful for that. 

Sunday October 23rd, God brought a man into my life who has since then been showing me exactly what the answered prayers of a 5 year old girl look like… God has blessed this relationship. It has become abundantly clear to the both of us why we met when we did. It took two churches falling apart for us to meet. It took years of heartache and a lot of personal and spiritual growth to prepare us for one another. As we experience life together and talk about where we have been and where we are now, the things we both went through make sense. Everything is clicking. Obviously things won’t be easy, but knowing we are on the same page with one another in innumerable ways makes my heart soar. There are no doubts, no gut-checks from the Holy Spirit, no constant undercurrent of sin-issues, no lies…. just answered prayers, God’s grace and obvious fruits of the Spirit on both sides… and love.

This fantastical human being has been such a blessing… God truly provides for His beloved. That much is clear. I have found the one whom my soul loves.

November and December have been a whirlwind of activity since our first date on November 5th. I said it that night and it rings true even now… it’s as easy as breathing.

Thanksgiving was my first away from my family and I spent it with Joel and his family. They are so full of love and life- already I feel as though I’ve known them for years on end.

Ladies vs. Guys photo: who wins? Ladies from left to right: Leah, Karina, Jill, and Laura. Gents from left to right: Josh, Chuck, Joel and Christian (such goobers).

December 18th, my family had a game night and Joel got to experience our silliness… He fit right in.

Heads Up shenanigans at the Battaglia household!

Christmas was busy, but worth it. I was able to spend it with Joel and his family, and my family as well.

Our little family. We have grown so much closer together this past year. My parents have helped me through some of my darkest moments and their love for one another has withstood copious amounts of trials. They show me every day what it means to love and be loved.

December 29th, I met my sweet niece Lilianna and held her for the first time in the NICU at Children’s Mercy hospital. 

Sweet little Lilianna. Holding her for the first time, I was overcome with emotion.

There have been so many coffee dates, testimonies shared, laughs and hugs throughout this year and I am so blessed to be able to go through life with such inspirational women by my side.

Coffee and Bible study dates have been a big blessing this year! Doing life together with my community has brought me so much joy and I have learned so much from the ladies I’ve met with.
My community group. We are experiencing life together, supporting one another, loving each other and growing through the difficulties… together. You cannot do life alone!
Alyssa and I: another sister of mine. She is a bundle of cute, sassy and geekiness. She is beautiful inside and out! I am thankful for her presence in my life.
Community Halloween Party!!! I won the costume contest as a sugar skull hehe. I’m beyond thankful for this lady pictured beside me. Kirstie is an inspiration and I love her heart!
Lauren, Brianna and I: my sisters. I love them dearly and cannot wait to see where God takes us!
With the Christmas Concert ended my year of serving alongside some of these ladies. God has done amazing things through ParadigmKC and I can’t wait so see what He has in store for us all next year.

2016 was full of growth. It was full of laughter and tears. I am not the same woman I was upon entering January 2016… since then I have let go of toxic relationships. I have gained community and new friendships, as well as strengthened the existing ones. With God leading my every step, I was able to overcome some difficult circumstances and close certain chapters of my life permanently. I have been able to move forward, looking back fondly on even the most painful of happenings because they have made me who I am. I will not stubbornly and foolishly choose to forget my past. I want to learn from it. I want to be able to look back and see God’s protection, His provision, His blessings and even the lessons He allowed me to learn and grow, and I have more thankfulness in my soul for Him now than I ever have, and I cannot wait to see even that increase.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

– Ephesians 3:20

This is why I journal. This is why I blog. I know I am not alone, and there is someone out there right now that is searching. I pray that God would use me and my words as He sees fit to reach those who have felt as if they were alone, or as if they somehow didn’t matter. 

This life is not easy. And each year brings forth new struggles but with those struggles are moments to strive for. Moments where you feel the most alive. Moments that remind you why you are here in the first place. Moments that take your breath away, and moments that push you to keep breathing, even when it hurts.

Your year, your 2017, is what you make it. If you want it to a better than 2016, then you have to be the one to make the change. Look over the past year and find the things you are most proud of. Recall the blissful moments, and yes, even recall the moments filled with sorrow. Look at where you are today and instead of complaining, find something to be thankful for and make it a goal to be somewhere else tomorrow. Even if it is a small step- like starting a budget, changing eating habits, losing 5 pounds, changing your hairstyle or cleaning out the garage- whatever you need to do to move forward? Promise yourself to take that baby step and do it. If not right in this moment, then mark the calendar and set an alarm to get started tomorrow.

Don’t let the time you have pass by without having done something meaningful with it.

My constant reminder to do the things I am most anxious of, because God did not give me a spirit of fear! Courage is NOT the absence of fear, but rather the conquering of it in the scariest moments… push through the anxiety. Push through the fear.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

– Joshua 1:9

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Level-Up!

Each year as I gain levels in this dungeon of life, I tend to pause and think of how far I’ve come. There have been many boss battles that I have narrowly escaped, and most of those battles were not won alone. As I ponder upon this past level, I recall some wonderful memories… and of course some not-so lighthearted ones tossed into the mix.

It’s strange to think that I am now at level 23. How did time pass by so quickly?

Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I can get stuck in stinkin’ thinkin’. Those moments can be dangerous, because I dwell on the “could have beens” and “what ifs”. I look at others besting dragons and making life seem so easily conquered and compare my successes (and failures) to theirs.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with wise parental units that encourage me through these self-defeating moments. I also have many trusted friends, some of which have been with me since the lower levels of the dungeon, others I have met along the way. These allies remind me who I am when I lose sight of me.

The 22nd level was no easy feat. There was more conflict than I had expected, and it took everything in my power to resolve things rather than run away and hide. In fact, more times than I can count, I did hide. I refused to face my fears head-on. That’s when I had to rely on the one who knows all- the mighty Dungeon Master (God). Even though I was afraid to move forward, He helped me put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time, we conquered each fear together. I still shake in my boots occasionally, but I can rest assured that I am not alone in this dungeon. I have my sword (the Bible) and the DM’s guidance to get me through. Sometimes I can look at the Walkthrough to get some helpful hints as well from those who have gone before me.

I had to learn to let go of things and people I held dear… and there were days where it felt like there was no point in continuing to the next battle without them by my side. At one point in time, I held on so tightly to them that it was as if my next breath was dependent upon their exhale… No human can be my life-force. That is way too much pressure for anyone to handle. So I have been learning to let go. It definitely has not been easy, but I must admit… it can be rather gratifying to let go of the past and move forward. I have gotten to the point where I can look back and smile at what once was, rather than break down in a puddle of tears at the thought of what might have been. I will always be thankful and grateful for the lessons I learned and the people that were my teachers, whether they are still around or we have parted ways.

Towards the beginning of this year, I wandered in darkness for a while. I let things cloud my vision and my thoughts, and though I had a flashlight to guide my steps, I still couldn’t see the path before me. I felt like I was blindly going through the dungeon, stumbling over both good and bad things as I went. Once I finally had the sense to take a leap of faith and turn off what little man-made light I was relying on… I discovered glow worms illuminating the way out. Now I am in the light and let me tell you, it is a glorious feeling to have somewhat of an idea where you are headed.

On the other hand, there were miraculous things that occurred on this level that I never would have anticipated. I met some fantastic travelers who were each on their own path. I am so grateful that our individual journeys have intertwined, whether for the time being or for more years to come. We’ve had many fun adventures together, and I am excited to see where we each will go as time continues on.

Recently, I set off on an adventure that is proving to be quite the blessing. This experience has been very eye-opening thus far, and I feel like I have finally found my niche in this world. I have hope again- hope that I haven’t had in 5 years. Acellus is a phenomenal program and just to be a part of something that is impacting millions of children for the better is special and so worthwhile. I still don’t know exactly what twists and turns lie ahead of me, but I am trusting that I am in this position for a reason. Thankfully, I don’t have to be in control- that’s the DM’s job!

With each boss battle I’ve walked away from, I’ve left with scars and ample lessons learned. I wouldn’t take back any experience, though, no matter how horrid it was. These scars, in their own way, are beautiful reminders that I have survived the very things that I feared I wouldn’t. Though some of those battles I never would have willingly walked into, I can honestly say that I am thankful for having experienced them. With each scar comes a story, and with each story is an opportunity to help someone else through the same battle without facing the same dangers, toils and snares that I fell into.

Level 23 is already shaping up to be full of surprises. So many unexpected things have already made themselves known… I’m excited to traverse down this path, and I’m thankful that I won’t be alone (because we all know it’s dangerous to go alone). Who knows what could be in store right around the corner?

When “I love you” Isn’t Enough

To those whose hearts are hurting,

My sweet friend, you are worthy of love. I see the bittersweet tears cascading down your cheeks and I have cried them, too. I know that ache in your chest all too well and I promise you this isn’t the end of you.

I know what it is like to open your heart and let someone in. You allow the walls surrounding such a tender thing to crumble, entrusting it to this person who is just as scared as you are. You notice his smile, you fall deeper in like with his character and the simple, mundane activities you do together, like washing dishes. You crave time with him, and feel as though there is never enough of it.

Before you know it, you have fallen. Hard.

It doesn’t matter how long it took- whether it was a few months or a year. The fact of the matter is, you can see yourself with this other human being for the rest of your life. You allow yourself to daydream, thinking of what an adventure it would be to endure life’s hardships together. Let’s face it, this life is messy! There would be arguments and misunderstanding, hurt feelings and confusion. There would be stress and frustration, but amidst the not-so good moments… there would be moments of bliss. Moments where you sit in a candlelit room together listening to instrumental music while reading. Moments where you poke fun at one another and laugh until you cry, then laugh some more. Moments where you find yourself staring at them as they light up about something they enjoy, and you can’t help thinking how much you adore them.

You have already thought about the “L” word, and when would be an appropriate time to finally say it aloud. Those darn butterflies flutter around in your stomach at the thought of being so vulnerable. You blush when you think of their reaction to the words…. and you absolutely do not want such a tender phrase to lose all meaning.

So you wait.

You continue getting to know this person, and as they slowly open themselves up to you, you feel the “L” word at the tip of your tongue even more often than before. You start to over think, wondering if they feel the same as you or if you’re the only one falling faster and faster as the hours tick by. You start to feel those doubts and nagging insecurities creep in… You try your hardest to ignore them, but it’s as if they’re screaming, “You’re not good enough! How could they ever love you!?”

So you wait.

And wait…

Finally, something wonderful happens. This person, who seemed so closed off before, has a moment of vulnerability with you. He paces and distances himself from you as he speaks, unsure of how to properly articulate how he’s feeling. You wait patiently, understanding how difficult it is for him to be so open after being so hard and cold towards the possibility of a relationship. As you wait, he fills the air with words that tickle your ears and cause your cheeks to flush. Those words coat you in a dazzling warmth as they make their way to your heart. You hear him telling you, for the first time, how beautiful you are to him. He tells you how much he admires you, how proud he is of you for making it through so much turmoil in your life and still being who you are today. He tells you so many sweet things and it overwhelms you to the point of tears. He tells you he didn’t fall in love with you for your appearance but for your character…. you noticed he mentioned the “L” word and you can’t believe this is happening.

And then he really says it.

“I love you.”

Your heart skips a beat and you smile, feeling so giddy you could fly if you wanted to. He repeats himself and you embrace… surrounded by his warmth and reassurance, you finally feel safe enough to let him in completely. You know that once you say that phrase, you mean it. Once you say that phrase, you’re “all in” and don’t intend on giving up easily.

So, you take a deep breath… and you let him know that you love him, too.

In that moment, things seem to be going so well. You both finally reassured one another of your feelings. You’re both happy and are willing to figure the relationship out, one moment at a time.

He has met your parents, and they care deeply for him, whether he is aware of it or not. He asked them for permission to date you and they were beside themselves- no one had taken the time to do so before. They respect him, and expect him to take care of their daughter. Especially because he has talked of building a future with her, publicly and in private.

The day comes for you to meet his parents and you’re so nervous that you go all-out. You wake up early so you can get ready. You take a shower and primp. You pick out a lovely dress and heels to match. You take the time to put on makeup and do your hair just so. Your heart is beating a mile a minute, but you want to make the best first impression possible. His parents mean so much to him, and you want the evening to go smoothly. You look in the mirror and feel confident, ready to meet the most influential people in your boyfriend’s life.

The evening takes a turn in another direction, and you’re told that he is having doubts about your relationship. Your heart sinks and you begin to panic. You tell yourself to calm down, not wanting to ruin the work you did on your face. You try to reassure yourself that everything will be okay. You love each other, right?

You end up going home, dress and all. You’re shocked and don’t know what to do, and you’re hurting more than you let on. You start thinking about the worst possible scenarios. Your mind is reeling as you sit there in your dress, humiliated, explaining to your parents why you’re home early instead of meeting his parents.

Soon, you find yourself fighting against insecurities of your own. And it hurts that he doesn’t seem to understand, that he isn’t as patient with you as he said he would be. He even gets frustrated with you when you don’t immediately articulate what’s wrong. He distances himself and doesn’t comfort you when that’s exactly what you need.

You feel him pulling away. He told you he loved you, yet he is closing himself off to you. He told you he wanted to marry you, and you were perfectly fine with waiting for his debt to be taken care of. His goals were important to you, too. You wanted to see him succeed. You were excited to continue getting to know him as the months passed on. You were intent on being there to support him and love him through whatever trials and hardships came your way.
In the end…. your love wasn’t enough.

In the end, his goals were more important. You became a distraction. An obstacle. You were no longer a person, and your feelings no longer mattered. Somehow, in a matter of days, he took you from planning a future together to ending the relationship.

And you know what?

You, my friend, are going to be okay.

I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. You’re frustrated and hurting, and rightfully so! You poured yourself into another person only to find out that it wasn’t good enough that they were not ready for a relationship. They were not ready for someone with such a big heart and great capacity to love so much. This is NOT your fault.

You, sweet sister, are not broken. You are not unlovable. You are so full of life and joy that it might be intimidating to the weak of heart. God has a purpose for you, even amidst the pain you’re feeling in this moment. You are His beloved daughter. You are immaculate! You are so beautiful, inside and out. He designed you with His own hand, He looks at you and sees a flawless masterpiece. What you see in the mirror is a distorted view of what He sees. Why? Because we are our own worst critics. And we have the enemy pouring ideas into our minds that we are less than what we are.

When “I love you” isn’t enough for someone else, that is their loss. Not yours.

When your words of encouragement and support aren’t enough for someone else, they have no idea what they are missing out on.

When things like this happen, it is obvious to me that the other person has some growing to do. They have their own demons to fight, and until they sort themselves out on their own, you don’t need to be a part of it. The mental game that was played is toxic for your mind and heart. If you have to constantly be worried that they will pull away when things get tough, that is not healthy for YOU.

It is okay to think of your well-being! It is not selfish to protect your heart from further damage. You are allowed to lick your wounds and take time to heal. Allow yourself to mourn the loss of a potentially wonderful relationship, and thank God that He saved you from something you thought was for you when it obviously is not. Not right now, anyway.

Who knows what the future holds? God may work on the both of you and bring you back together in His timing. He may take you separate ways. Either way, He knows what’s best for you. He is on your side! He is FOR you, not against you.

Girlfriend, you have so much to offer this world. Don’t let one person determine your future. Don’t allow the pain from your past dictate how you will live in the present. The past mistakes and failures are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ- there is absolutely no need to keep looking over your shoulder!

You owe it to yourself to keep moving forward. Take this time to focus on your relationship with God. Spend time with Him daily and lean in to your community. God places people in our lives for a reason! He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. Those people surrounding you? They each have a valuable role to play. Some will teach you hard lessons. Others will encourage you and lift you up. Be willing to accept the help that God has surrounded you with.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10

God will HIMSELF restore you. In this world, we will have pain and we will struggle. He reassures us many times throughout the Bible that He is with us. This verse reminds me that my struggles have a purpose. He allows me to go through them so I can grow, learn and ultimately lean on Him through it all. I have hope in HIM alone because I know He will never leave me broken or defeated. He HIMSELF will bring me back from the pain and I will be stronger for it.

 “… Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of opposition, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

– Isaiah 43:1-3

He calls us by name. He is with us no matter what the circumstance. We have nothing to fear in this world. Not even heartache.

Ultimately, our worth and contentment should come from God. Not another human being. Why? Because we are all flawed. We all are broken in a way that only God can heal. Each of us make up a mosaic of pieces that have been shattered in one way or another. God is the glue that pieces us together to make something beautiful out of the broken mess that we are. He can see the completed image- we cannot since we are in the midst of the mess. That’s the point. We need to humble ourselves and realize who He is and who we are. We need Him.

When “I love you” isn’t enough….

God’s grace, mercy and sacrifice is. His love for you cannot be measured by time or space. He will never leave you brokenhearted and confused. He will never take advantage of you or lead you along. His love is pure and unhindered by selfish ambition. He just loves you as you are. He loves you right now, flaws and all. He doesn’t love some future version of who you could be. He accepts you in your mess, with that past you’re ashamed of… those insecurities and fears that control you? He can set you free from their grip. All you need to do is ask.

Chin up, darling.

You are cherished. You are beloved. You are desirable. You are wanted. You are talented. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

God is not finished with your love story. He hasn’t given up on you. Don’t you dare give up on yourself.

– Love,

Leah ♡

Brimming With Blessings

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime- until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”  – Isaiah 46:4

Sometimes, I find myself wondering why God hasn’t answered my prayers. Do you ever feel that way? As if we are entitled to an answer- as if we are worthy of getting what we want whenever we desire it. We may as well snap our fingers and demand that God peel us a grape.

It’s a ridiculous thought, isn’t it?

There are moments in life where I just want to stomp my feet and have things go my way. We all have been there:

“If you would just give me this job, Lord, then everything would be perfect!”… “If I just had more money, then none of this would be happening,”… “If I could just get that guy to notice me, I’d feel better about myself,”… “If I could just be thinner, life would be going more smoothly for me,”… The scenarios are endless.

As it turns out, our way leads to more destruction than production. The very things we crave and desire more than anything can become our imprisonment.

For example: I have been without a job for about a week and a half now. It was my doing because I didn’t exactly think things through, so now I’m having to deal with the consequence of the dreaded job-searching and penny-pinching. My yearning for the “perfect job” landed me in my own little self-afflicted prison. I was so stubborn and thought I had things planned out perfectly; I told myself that once I quit the two jobs I had, God would immediately open the door to Commerce Bank and that would allow me to serve Him fully with more time on my hands.

Oh how silly of me! To put a time limit on the Creator of the universe? To demand that He work quickly as I will it rather than in His timing?

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” -Romans 8:28 

Note to self: God can use me no matter where I’m at in my life! His timing is absolutely perfect and always works for my good! It doesn’t matter if I have a job or not, nor does it matter if that job has the perfect schedule, salary or environment. He can use me exactly as I am right this minute- jobless and poor.

“May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” – Hebrews 13:21 

He meets us right where we are in life. Why? He doesn’t call the equipped- He equips the called.

I felt the pull to dive in and serve where I attend church, and I got a little overzealous. In my mind, I couldn’t properly function if I had a job that demanded so much out of me in regards to time. If I wanted to be on the Worship Team, I would need to be available! And if I wanted to serve at Paradigm, I would need to be free during service times, maybe even more than that. My solution? Rushing God and acting too quickly on my own.

Honestly, I was frustrated at first. Here I was, without my jobs literally taking a leap of faith… and God didn’t move.

Or so I thought.

I realize now that God is always on the move. Even now, He is working in my life to make things happen that I haven’t the slightest inkling of yet. His movements aren’t always visible to us. Sometimes He works behind the scenes, be it through others around us, different opportunities and situations, or orchestrating a big change without our noticing til much later (hind sight is 20/20). His works are often that way, in my experience.

God opened a door for me to serve in June on a mission trip to Detroit, MI. It would be my first mission trip, and I was eager to go. I hadn’t thought of the final deadline being May 8th. I was quickly running out of time. The trip is $500 in total to cover the cost of airline tickets, housing and other things, not including food. I have maybe $6.00 in my personal bank account, and had only been able to pay the $150.00 deposit towards the trip. I have 3 days left.

Last week I was encouraged to ask for help, so I wrote a letter explaining what we would be doing in Detroit, asking for prayer and support. After sending out just over 23 personalized letters, God showed just what putting my faith in Him can do.

Two days ago, my Aunt called me over to her house before leaving for Paradigm that night. I was able to visit for a little while with her, and upon entering her home she gave me a check. I did a double-take at the amount written on the line and immediately was overcome with emotion. I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t the FULL AMOUNT of the trip. God had spoken to her heart after receiving my letter. At first she didn’t think the full amount was appropriate, but God kept urging her to put $500.00 on the line.

So, after prayerfully considering it… that’s exactly what she did.

As of today, I have $1,050.00 for missions trips, accumulated in less than 5 days after sending out those letters- and the week isn’t over yet.

God has been working behind the scenes in this, even when I was worried that He had abandoned me to living with no income and no way to possibly fulfill the deadline in time. At one point, I know the enemy put thoughts of doubt in my head, telling me that God didn’t want me to go to Detroit. “Maybe it’s just not meant to be,” a voice whispered in my ear. “Otherwise, God would have given you the means to earn the money yourself.”

I didn’t believe the voice… but I was getting anxious. I kept praying and delving into His Word, which helped to give me comfort. I knew He wouldn’t leave me or forsake me. If it was His will for me to serve, He would work out the schedule and finances. He would equip me so that I could bring Him glory.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”   – Ephesians 3:20

He spoke through my Discipleship Mentor, Lona, to encourage me to write those letters. He moved in the hearts of those who have helped me financially and prayerfully. He went above and beyond what I could have ever imagined- I now have enough funds to not only go on this trip but also save for another opportunity.

“With each new thing I learn about You… With each new verse that speaks truth into my life… With every sermon that touches my soul… With every answered prayer… With every change and with every blessing, Lord… You amaze me.”

– Prayer Journal Excerpt from Tuesday, May 3, 2016

God is good. He is mighty and all-powerful. Majestic and pure. My Lord and Savoir is KING! He is sovereign! Lord most high! My Creator is marvelous in all He does- His creation is vast and grand in all of its splendor! He is my Father, full of compassion and unfailing, unconditional love. He calms the storms in my mind and in my life. His comfort is unlike any other. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is the light of my life! He is worthy of all praise!

May every part of my life worship Him, be it through my music, art, writing, actions or words. He never ceases to astound me. I am in awe of His works and the love He has for us!

My cup runneth over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things…

At this point in my life, it is extremely important to find things to be thankful for each day.

For example, I may be living with my parents for the time being, but I have a sanctuary of a room to come home to that my parents worked so hard on out of love for me. A loving support system that is here for me as I slowly get back to myself. This home may be miniature in comparison to those around it, but it is full of love, life, and hope. The hope of a better tomorrow keeps us moving forward. And we do so together.

Since I am still on the search for a job or two, here lately I have been a bit of a hermit. Which, for those of you with depression and anxiety, you know that it’s super easy to just stay in your pjs all day and maybe binge watch some Netflix shows. So, the mere fact that I got out of bed and out of my nightgown in general is “Huzzah!– worthy.

Not only did I get dressed (woo), but I actually made myself breakfast before noon! And no, not my usual bowl of cereal. Since I have also started a new healthy lifestyle, I have been cooking waaaaay more than the college-aged girl inside of me wants to. I like lazy- laziness is what’s comfortable. Pizza rolls and ranch all the way, man! Or cereal for dayyys- I used to eat cereal as though my life depended on it, but that’s a different story.

No siree. This morning, I took to the skillet and fried some bacon, scrambled an egg, and even chopped up some red pepper, sausage and fresh avocado and put that in the mix. Sprinkled a tidbit of cheese to top it all off and mmmmm- mmmm- mmm! Deliciousness.

I know. To some, it seems so pathetic to be celebrating these small tasks. And I get that. I used to not understand, either. Now, after living it, I can tell you that sometimes these “mundane” tasks are quite the challenge.

And, to top the charts today, I was able to spend some time with my Lord and His Words. For me, that’s a rather rare thing. I know… tsk tsk! I’m trying to be better about getting into the Word every day. Today was Day 1 in that journey. You’ve gotta start somewhere, right? It’s also nice that my accountability partner has me taking pictures of the scripture I read each day.

And, finally, the weather outside was GORGEOUS. Not that I noticed it all that much because I opted to stay inside.

That is, until my Dad came home, humming the Smurfs theme to himself. If I ever refer to him as Papa Smurf, you’ll understand why.

He sensed my downtrodden mood and made me put on shoes and walk our little furball. During our walk, we had blissful sun and subtle winds to enjoy, as well as some deep father-daughter discussions (I use “deep” lightly there- he was keeping things lighthearted in order to get some smiles and giggles out of me, which is always his goal).

After the walk, I did feel better. My thoughts hadn’t gone away, but the cloud over my head definitely had. There is something to be said about sunshine and depression; my psychologist recommended getting at least 20 minutes of sunshine a day, preferably with some physical activity such as walking. And if you can’t bear to leave your home, which can be an issue with severe anxiety cases, look on Amazon for a Happy Lamp. It’s supposed to mimic sunlight and improve overall wellness. They can be a bit steep, so search elsewhere if need be for something in your price range.

He and I then cooked dinner together- grilled chicken and zucchini, and homemade mashed cauliflower. We watched Flash together as we enjoyed our delectable masterpiece.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is just how much happiness is hiding between those dark and desperate moments. I could have looked back on today with a negative view and had absolutely nothing to write about. Instead, I made myself seek out the lights in the darkness that had been surrounding me.

It’s the little things. (:

 

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