About Our Boy.

I have repeated his story often, but rarely in much detail. Almost like I’m trying to protect the listener, honestly though, I’m only protecting myself from the inevitable pain in my chest. In the early years after we lost Gavin, it was hard to even say his name out loud. I would get nervous, shake, and become irrationally emotional. My stomach would feel immediately sick. I felt trapped, anxious and confused and there was no way around it. Over the years, I have learned to honor his life while telling his story. Rarely do I share the whole story. I stick to the parts that don’t make me sick to my stomach or the ones that do not evoke the strongest of emotions, but that changes today! Here is our precious Gavin Paul’s story, including the raw and heart breaking details. Please read it all the way to the end. I can’t wait to tell you about the day everything shifted and we allowed God to begin the healing process in our hearts.

On the evening of January 4th, 2010, we danced for joy in the kitchen celebrating a positive pregnancy test! Only one month prior, we had suffered a miscarriage. We had no idea we were pregnant, so the news had both shocked and devastated us. Our hearts raced and minds reeled with this information as we stared at the positive test. The timing didn’t make sense, but we were young and naive. We embraced the positive test and the hope of our future. We would soon be a family of four and we were telling everybody!! Before we realized what was happening, we were at the Dr. every other day. My body was fighting every second of the pregnancy, but Gavin was a fighter! Every ultrasound, he would show off. Flipping, kicking and giving some of the sweetest facial expressions. He always measured big and he was perfectly formed. We were hopelessly, madly in love with our little boy. He was growing well and despite the insanity of my contractions and other pregnancy complications, he was the picture of health. Like any parents, we believed everything our Dr. said and truly believed we were receiving the best care possible. This Dr. was the same man who delivered my oldest son without any drama or malpractice, leaving me with nothing but trust as an option. 

During the months to follow, I would be on and off of bed rest. This was complicated to explain to my boss, but she rolled with it for a while. I traveled for my job. I remember hating being away from my husband and son, but not feeling alone, because I had my boy with me. He would dance in my womb to the beat of music playing in my car and his powerful kicks while I was working, reminded me my dream was coming true. I dreamed of the day I could see him dancing, laughing and sleeping in my backseat. Hours would fly by when I would day-dream of how he would change our family dynamic. Little did I know, I would never see him in my backseat, his tiny feet would never run across my floor and I would never kiss his round little face, but he would forever leave his footprint in our lives.

April 27th, mid-afternoon, I called my husband and asked him to meet me at the Dr’s office. Something didn’t feel right and my bleeding had increased. I was certain Gavin hadn’t moved all day and I wondered if I was in actual labor this time. Not once did I think I was losing him, I was certain he would be born safely! It is very hard to know the difference between pre-term labor and the real deal when you are fighting delivery the whole pregnancy. We did the right thing and went directly to the Dr.’s office. Looking back, I know I was in early labor that particular day. This was not the type bed rest can delay, but the type of labor that means a child may be born within 24 hours. On this particular day, the nurse who saw me decided that I was ok. After a failed attempt at finding Gavin’s heartbeat and counting mine as his, they sent us home to rest until my appointment the next week. Within hours, he was kicking again and we took a deep breath. Everything was ok. We were told this is normal and I was put back on bed rest. Giving me more time to dream of holding him in my arms, while I counted his kicks as he partied into the night. Apparently all the sleeping he had done during day meant he could not sleep that night. 

April 28th was a long day. We breathed a deep sigh of relief with every kick and movement. I was on hight alert, everything in me was saying something was not right, but my Dr. was saying otherwise. So, I waited, counted and prayed for his safety and health.

April 29th became the day I would both celebrate and mourn for years to come. I had woke up early this particular morning after a long night of restless sleep. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I knew I was in labor. Since I was in labor, I decided my husband didn’t need to come with me, because he could just meet us at the hospital after they admitted us. That’s the way it works, right? You go to the Dr., they check you, find you in labor and send you to the hospital to deliver. However, I would become the exception to the rule. I didn’t bother taking my son to school, instead, I loaded him up. We picked up my little sister because she so badly wanted to go to an ultrasound with me, from mom’s, we went straight to the Dr. office to be checked. I was certain we would meet our boy within hours. I knew he would spend time in NICU, but I just knew he would be ok!! We sat at the Dr’s office until mid-afternoon. Gavin was kicking all morning, until he wasn’t. I was frustrated and feeling hopeless as I sat there waiting and praying. I walked to the receptionist window several times, asking if the Dr. was back yet and if I could be seen. Finally, they called me back. I was praying he was just sleeping and this would be the only reason his moving had stopped, but that is not how his story was written. The Dr. performed the ultrasound and the room was engulfed in silence. My oldest child, who had attended many ultrasounds with me asked where his heart beat was. The truth was too much to speak and my sweet little sister stepped out of the room with him. His heart had stopped! I would never hear the tender swishing of his strong heart again. Everything felt final and confusing. Why did I tell my husband to stay at work? What about my oldest son? How would I tell him his brother had passed away, before ever having a chance to take his first breath? How would I comfort him and keep his heart intact through this loss? Would I be ok? I sat on the Dr’s office bench wondering what would happen next, as my mind raced with questions. I was handed a tissue box and the Dr. hugged me for a brief minute while I bawled my eyes out. I wanted my husband by my side, but he couldn’t get there quick enough. I also had to tell my husband that I was unable to carry his son. To be honest, I do remember if I called him or if the nurse did. Things shifted very quickly. Instead of being rushed over to the hospital, in the same parking lot, I was given an address to a Woman’s Birthing Center and told my husband would meet us there. I will never know where I gathered the strength to walk out of the office that day, but I did. I walked through a room full of pregnant women. I tried to hold it together so they weren’t worried… like they could have even known what was happening in my womb. My mom picked up my son and my sister. The next impressive part of the story is this, I drove an hour to my next appointment with the Dr. who would deliver Gavin into this world. While I drove, the contractions increased, however, the crushing, excruciating pain my heart was experiencing was far worse than the pain my body was in. Tears fell as I drove and I just prayed it wasn’t true. I begged God to wake me up, to perform a miracle… anything but this. My husband and I were the only ones in the waiting room. We waited there for at least an hour, very pregnant, very sad and very lost. I remember feeling safe there. The room was spacious, inviting and when the Dr. arrived, he was warm and kind, with gentle eyes. He performed Gavin’s last ultrasound. I was praying for a miracle and I was beyond disappointed at the lack of a heartbeat. I had really wanted to see a miracle with my boy. I knew his heart had stopped. I didn’t want to believe it. I was never in denial, but my faith was shook. Why would God allow this to happen to us? How could we move on without our son? We were promised this warm, inviting room the next morning. This is the space where we would hold our son, wrap him up, take pictures, count his toes and tell him that we would see him again soon. In that space, we would mourn the loss of our sweet boy and celebrate all the days we carried him. We would hold him, if only for a while. We were guaranteed a safe delivery in this birthing room and an ambulance on hold, should anything should go wrong. This provided us some comfort in this midst of the chaos. We were confused and wondering why we couldn’t deliver because I was so close, but we were thankful for a room and space to just be with him. We were promised time and a quiet space to just be together the following day. 

After leaving the second Dr’s office for the day, we realized that I had not eaten all day. We drove to the nearest restaurant, which just happened to be a KFC. I will never forget the mashed potatoes and gravy I ate that day. It was the worst food I had ever had or maybe just the worst day I had ever experienced? Either way, it was seriously the worst. It could be because my world was falling apart or it might be directly related to the two people that asked me how far along I was and when I was due. They were kind as they told me I was beautiful and glowing. They could not have known my reality. I just replied, “Soon.” This was the truth and it would have to work. Soon I would deliver my son. He would be born sleeping. The concept wasn’t one I had prepared myself for and I had no idea how to do this. I had only delivered a child that was fighting for his life. Now, only I could fight for Gavin. My last act of care for him would be to deliver him safely into this world. I had hours to fight through before I could deliver him, so we shoved food down our throats and headed home. I am not sure how I got home. I remember the first song to play on the radio though. It was called, “Your Hands” by JJ Heller. What a beautiful song and gentle reminder from the Lord. Our world was shaking, but his hands were not. Through tears and contractions, I followed my husband as he led the way home in his vehicle ahead of me. We arrived safe at home an hour later. Remember that young and naive part I mentioned earlier in this story? I should have been in a hospital room by then, instead, I sat on my couch all night. With worship music playing quietly, I cried, begging God to change this somehow. I watched the sun disappear on what I believed was the worst day of my life and watched the sun rise on the day that would become the absolute worst day we would ever experience together.

April 30th arrived too quickly. It was time to deliver our son. The child who only I knew so well. On this day, 9 years ago, I would have my son ripped from my body and I would never see him again. It is all a blur, yet every second of the day is engraved in my memory. If I close my eyes, I remember the drive there. Jason at the wheel, the brutal silence, the immense pain, relentless contractions and the ominous feeling, life would never be the same for us. No one could have prepared us for the amount of heartbreak we would endure that morning! We met my god-mom on the way to deliver Gavin. To spare you reading extra words, I will call her, Mom, from here on, because that is exactly who she is to me. The medicine they had given me to induce labor made me so sick. I was already in labor, but I followed the rules. When prescribed, we understood this medicine was much like pitocin, just in the form of a pill.  We would learn years later, it was an abortion pill. It was meant to force labor. The pain was unbearable. I will never forget the way my mom wrapped her arms around me. I do not know how she reached around both the chair and me, but I was held. It didn’t stop the contractions, but it calmed my anxiety and fear. She reminded me to breath and broke the silence with prayer. After 30 more minutes in the car, we pulled into the Women’s Center we had been at the day before. Everything was different though. There was a large, old truck parked near the entrance. Massive, disgusting signs leaned again the truck. Pictures of mutilated baby bodies. Words, I do not remember, telling us not to kill our baby. Every sign, descriptive and sickening. We were shook, but in need of medical attention and immediately. My husband dropped us off at the door and my mom accompanied me inside. As soon as I was out of the car, the old man near the truck whipped out his mega-phone and began to yell at me. He told me to stop and not to kill my baby. I was obviously very far into my pregnancy. I’m a small woman, so when I am pregnant, I look very pregnant. He told me that I was murdering my child… It felt like a bad dream. I don’t think it’s completely important to tell you all I said, but among the words I threw back, I did scream back, “MY BABY IS ALREADY DEAD!”. I wish I could find the words to express the way I felt in the exact moment, but they still escape me. I was angry. Angry at the man for judging me and doing what he was doing, my doctor for lying to me, and so angry at my body for letting us down. I was not angry with God at that moment, but it would happen and without me even realizing it. As I was screaming at him, we were walking in the doors. Quickly, we were surrounded by nurses and I was carried up a flight of stairs, we turned and went up one more. They did not want me to scare their other clients away. I could see down a long empty, grey corridor. No one was there, just light from a window at the end. We turned one more time and went through a locked door. They placed me in the first room to the right and shut the door behind me. They asked my mom to leave the room, so she did, telling me she would get Jason and send him to me. I would only be alone for a few moments.

Alone and afraid, I waited. He never came. I would find out years later, he was afraid, in a waiting room. He tried to get to me and was not allowed. 

The small room filled up quick. A guy beside me, two nurses at my side, a Dr. between my legs and an attendant behind him. The Dr. forcefully and without a numbing agent removed the stents used to help me dilate completely. This is when I became undone. Nothing was going as promised. I was in a cold, small room without my husband. Yelling, protesting, begging for my husband and asking to leave is the last thing I remember. Apparently abortion clinics do not let you leave. They immediately pushed medicine into my veins and I woke up later. When I woke up, I was in a recliner, surrounded by off-white curtains. There was a table near me with a small floral dixie cup and saltine crackers. The curtain to my left moved, a sweet, tear stained face stared back at me. She wanted to know why I did it. Why did I have an abortion? I think this is the moment I realized what was happening to my family. I don’t remember the words I said to her, but we held hands and cried before the nurse quickly broke us up. I started in on the care team again, this time, in sheer panic. I begged them to bring me my boy. I was demanding they bring my husband to me, instead they offered to bring my phone. They tried to calm me down before telling me I would not see my boy. I forced the issue and they brought me a medical blue, rectangular box. In a box, just like the one in her hands, was my sweet boy. He had been torn from the safety of my womb and dismembered to fit into the small box. The moments after this are vivid for me. My husband was not there for me, my baby was gone, God felt unattainable and silent. Seeing red, I knocked my water and crackers over as I stood up. Lightheaded and using the curtains for balance. I gathered the hospital pad I was sitting on and made an adult diaper out of it. I pulled my pregnancy pants up over it. I demanded a few more bed liners for the road, because I was bleeding so heavy. I was helped down the stairs and led to the receptionist counter. I composed myself, so I didn’t scare anyone in the waiting room. We paid them. Let me repeat that, we actually paid them. The cost was $500 to rip my son from my body, maybe more, but I believe that was the physical price paid. There is no amount great enough to explain what we lost on that Friday morning. What we lost could only be restored by God. 

We spiraled from there. It looked like the beginning of the end. 
When I am faced with awful situations, I like to remind myself God has kept me from something worse. Most of the time, I have no idea what “worse” could be and other times, I’m 2 minutes late to the 5 car pile-up. It’s easy when hit with disaster to spiral out of control, to jump to the worst of feelings and more often than not, we stay there for a while. This is exactly what we did. We grieved. Neither of us had ever known this type of loss before in our lives. There were many things I had lost, but nothing could have prepared me for this. For the next month, I was sick, fevered and spent most of my days crying. The medicine kept my mind from racing, but it couldn’t stop the dreams from playing. This is when the nightmares started. A month later, we rushed to the hospital for a d&c, only to learn I was still carrying parts of our son in my womb. As if knowing he was ripped from my body wasn’t devastating enough, I had carried parts of my son with me for an entire month! 

But God. He was not done with us. Gavin’s story was far from over, it was just the beginning. There is no perfect place to start, so I will just begin with the one closest to my heart. 

To the day, my reoccurring nightmare takes place at the top of the stairs of the abortion clinic. My body is held by arms clothed in scrubs, one yellow and one pink, I deliver my son into the arms of a man wearing surgical clothing. He immediately turns and walks down the hallway into the light. It is silent, except for the blood curdling scream that escapes my body and I wake up every time begging for my son. When I’m asleep, it feels like an eternity. It takes me back to a place I do not want to be. 

When I’m awake, I see the purpose. I see the light at the end of the corridor. God gave me a hands on experience to one of the most traumatic things a woman could endure. The mistreatment, dishonor and lack of respect for women in these clinics make me sick. Maybe it’s not this way everywhere, but I guarantee you, it’s more common than not. It is so easy to stand on the outside with your sign and yell scripture verses at these girls, begging them to not move forward with their decision, but what you don’t realize is this isn’t helping! How many women see your signs and turn around? What if the initial contact happened years prior? What if, instead of yelling, you held their hand? What if, instead of posting about your hate for abortion on social media, you found a way to actively impact the youth in your city? What if, instead of judging the single mom or the woman shamed by rape, you showed up? I do not know if there is a solution to this, but I do know there is love. The type of love that Christ exemplified while he walked as a human and the love he poured out on the cross. He gave his very life for the redemption of our sins. Who are we to judge another?
I had the privilege of laying alone in a small room, terrified speechless. I had the privilege of waiting alone, wishing my reality was not the truth and walking out of a building filled with so much shame. I was not sure how I could ever tell anyone what happened. I can empathize, because I know. Empathy is a powerful and life changing. The only difference between me and the other precious women that day, is our baby had already met the Lord. I like to think he was involved in welcoming the other babes into heaven that April morning. While we mourn, heaven rejoices for these precious babies whose feet now run on streets of gold. You see, God does not make mistakes. He allows us to make decisions and he continuously pursues us with his never ending love. I wish I knew the name of the woman next to me in the recliner, but I know God does. I pray for her often, asking the Lord to lead her to the men and women that will walk out unconditional love right before her eyes. I ask him to heal her broken heart and redeem her story for his glory! I do not know what haunts her, the shame she lives in or the way she is judged for her choices, but I do know that she immediately regretted her decision. Every moment I hear hatred breathed towards women who have had an abortion, I ache, because I am her… I know her pain.

The drive home was silent and heartbreaking. Not knowing what was next, but understanding nothing would ever be the same for us. Looking back, I realize this was exactly what we needed to draw us to the Lord.

Prior to finding out we were expecting Gavin, we were active in our church. We loved God. However, he was just a Sunday God to us. We felt good about our Sunday morning church visit, but we weren’t walking away changed. We weren’t living out God’s Word or walking the path he wanted for us. We had never realized the depth of our need for a Savior, but we would soon.Quickly we were falling apart. Unable to communicate with each other, both grieving our immense lost. We felt isolated and alone. It wasn’t long before our marriage crumbled right before our eyes. 

We have the privilege of understanding a broken marriage and the honor of leading other couples through tough seasons with the Lord’s help. The strong bond between my husband and myself was not easily broken. We loved each other fiercely and through our entire separation, he pursued me. We dated, we cried, we began to heal.  We also fought… hard, sometimes politely and other times, it could make a grown man run home to his Momma. Over time we learned to fight hard for what was right. Our marriage was right, our family was right and we would eventually learn that God was the only factor missing. Within the same year, we were back under the same roof and learning to live again. Shortly after moving back in together, we moved out of the country and into the city. Making us even further away from family and knowing no-one. Our son transferred schools and we jumped right into our new life in the city. 

I stand in awe of the way God orchestrated every step of our life, even when we were not pursuing him. We were actively running the opposite direction for quite a while. Occasionally, we would try a new church, but we would always have a reason why we wouldn’t go back to church again. Trust me, our list was impressive. It’s ironic how judgmental a sinner (talking about myself) can be of God’s house and his people. We were doing anything to hide from God! It was during this season of hiding when I met my friend, Mildred. We laugh and joke about the times she tried to be kind to me. It would be freezing outside at the school bus stop. She would ask me to sit in her warm car and I would politely decline every time. We all know it’s not ok to get into the car with strangers, right? One day, she got out of her car and stood in the freezing cold with me. For a year, she listened as I talked, supported, comforted and eventually began to speak the truth my heart needed to hear. She never had to get out of the car, into the cold, but the step of unconditional love was the catalyst of change for me. Because she was willing to be cold for 5-10 minutes with me, I was able to be loved, to be invited to church and to see the Light of the World through the way she walked and talked. To this day, she is my friend who I can trust with the ugly details. We will cry together when our hearts are breaking and set each other in our place if we are being crazy. This isn’t a friendship of convenience, this is a God ordained set-up for his glory. Her faithfulness introduced me to a church where I would hear God’s word preached, feel his Spirit in a way I had never known, I would be healed there, my husband would find God there and it would be the beginning of our serving in God’s Kingdom. 

My first visit to church would be the last time I ever spent a Sunday home because I was running from God! Goosebumps and tears… the whole service. God was in this place. I quit running and his embrace was the beginning of my healing. We spend so much time running from the only one who can heal us, adding more pain to our story than what he intended. The beautiful truth is, he is waiting for you to stop running, how far you run is your choice. 

While it would seem we were right on time to the 5 car pile-up, God protected us still. We took the long way to healing. He made a way out and made sure we were placed in a neighborhood, church and environment to heal safely and come to know him personally. What the enemy meant to destroy us is actively being used for God’s glory. We are relatable to others, our faith is stronger and we are not afraid of our future! 

Speaking of not being afraid, one of my greatest fears as a mother was the fear that I could not keep my children safe. I understand they fall and get hurt, their feelings get hurt and sometimes their hearts are broken, but my fear reached beyond these normal things. All the what if’s flooded my brain when I was pregnant for my first and then for Gavin. The grief and shame that filled my soul when they brought me the blue box defined me for quite some time. Never externally. I fought hard against the lies that filled my mind and I never won. I couldn’t win by myself. As a mother, my heart’s cry is to keep my children safe from my womb and for the rest of their days. Knowing I had failed Gavin left me shattered and broken into tiny pieces. When God started putting the pieces back together, I was amazed by the beauty there. I had protected Gavin. I had carried him for all his days. I had cared for my body well, showed up at all the Dr. appointments and then some, and I honor his life daily. With peace replacing the chaos in my mind, I was able to see clearly. My son’s body could not be put together here, but he is whole in heaven. While I do not love the blue box part of Gavin’s story, I know God is sovereign and one day, I will know what it means to be complete. Until then, I will praise the one who heals our bodies and redeems our broken stories! 

We had the privilege of knowing the power of God’s redemptive love and healing. Losing Gavin helped us realize how precious our children’s lives are. We treasure the very air our children breathe. We understand the gift they are to us and the world they touch. They are entrusted to our care. We are teaching them to know the Lord. This weight isn’t one we carry begrudgingly, it is one we embrace and cherish, because we know the value of this life. We know the immense and unmeasurable pain loss brings. The amount of time we have to make sure they know who they are and who God has called them to be is passing quickly. We have the honor and privilege to lead them to the foot of the cross, where they can learn who God truly is. The gift of Gavin’s life paved a road straight to the foot of the cross for our family. We can’t go back, because we have come too far!

Gavin’s story isn’t finished! I continue to grow daily. I am learning from him still. God continues to shift the way I view my pain. Yes, it is painful to lose a child. Yes, it is painful to know that I will never carry another child. Yes, the enemy of my soul loves to tell me I am not enough, but the joke is on him… I know I am not enough and all of my strength comes from the Lord! 

April 29th, 2012, fell on a Sunday. I debated skipping church because I couldn’t stop crying, but I went anyway. Every worship song they sang talked about God’s healing rain and provision. I walked to the front for prayer. A sweet woman prayed over me and while she prayed, I gave my boy back to the Lord. I had carried the weight of losing him for 2 years too long. As I prayed and released every fear related to letting my son go, it felt like warm water was pouring over me… but I wasn’t wet! This is the moment healing began. We wait for healing, like God will just do it, forgetting he is a gentleman. He wont force himself on us. He is waiting for a willing heart and complete surrender! When I am tempted to pick him up again, God gently reminds me, he is sovereign. I can not live in healing and brokenness at the same time. If you see me crying, it is for one of two reasons, I miss my boy or I am remembering all the ways God has healed my heart and redeemed our story! 

I have learned this loss did not happen to us, it is something we carry with us. Our loss does not define us, rather it describes the goodness of God. Every time we tell his story, we can’t resist the urge to tell you about our Savior’s redemptive plan.

As a woman, I am not only designed to carry life, but to carry loss with grace and the strength the Spirit fills me with. This isn’t a death sentence, it is a license to live. 

God’s voice whispers in the stillness. His voice rises above the other noise, calming my fears, drying my tears and reminding me of his unconditional love and healing. God’s promises remain true as I recall his goodness. I’m not afraid of the future! He is making a way for me to do exactly what he has promised years ago. Faithfully, I will passionately serve God, my family, my church and the people I encounter daily. God has been preparing my heart for something greater than I could imagine or dream. Every season has cultivated ground in my heart and planted seeds for the seasons to come. Every tear I have cried has watered the soil of my vulnerable heart. Every heartache and healing encounter with the Lord has prepared my heart for the seasons to come! I wait expectantly for the future, knowing I am held and not one weapon formed against me will prosper. I will not be shaken! I will stand strong and courageous on the Holy Ground of my present season, because God fights for me. 


You Shall Be Called.

In a time when we are quick to hand out labels and speak our minds, I am learning what it means to be set apart. As a child, I viewed the abuse I endured as isolating. As an adult, I viewed the abuse I endured as shameful. During both of these phases, I was very wrong! Living through physical abuse taught me one of life’s most important lessons; I was set apart and for a purpose larger than I could imagine.

I do not need to hand out labels or receive them.

For years, I allowed labels to define my life. I was too loud, too talkative, too anxious, too skinny, too divorced, too single… I wore a never ending strip of labels as I fought my way through life. These labels began to hold me back. I could see them rolling out of the printer, never ending, and I would stick them on without thought. I wore them and claimed the lies as my new truth and often, owning them… not in obvious ways, but deep inside. They whispered in the dark and changed the way I saw myself and ultimately changed the way I interacted with others . I struggled against them, fighting to prove that I had something important to say, acting like anxiety had no hold on my life and skinny is just what my body decided to be. I would choose unhealthy food and stand in front of the mirror anticipating weight gain. It never came. My personality might have been the hardest one. It is too big to fit into a box! Before I chose to let only God decide when I spoke, I walked a tightrope. Falling more than I’d love to admit and regretting the words that spilled from my mouth nearly ever day. I have not mastered self-control, but I am making progress! Ironically, what was spilling out of my mouth was coming straight from my unguarded heart. Let me clarify, my mouth wasn’t the problem, my heart was!

I found that even after I was re-married, there was always something for someone to say about me and my family. The married status changed nothing. About a year into marriage, I was told I was not the marrying type. They were so wrong. My marriage would bring the love of God to life right in front of my eyes!

Why would I try to change for anyone, when what God says about me is all that matters? In Mark 6:3-4 Jesus heard their words, rebuked their labels and carried on doing exactly what he became flesh to do.

Making our mission simple, embody love and disciple his creation.

We pursue change, for family or for our circle of friends. We long to be loved. We seek approval and we find it in all the wrong places. In the Old Testament, the Israelites did this, Hosea says, “The more they were called, the more they went away.” Labels corner us in, creating deep rooted bitterness and insecurity. We can’t live free when we are held captive by the words we allow to be spoken over our lives. We will never be free if we continue to speak the lies the enemy has planted.

 We have allowed these words to stick, but who does God say you are?
It is time to allow God to tear the labels off.

Isaiah 61-62 tells a story about God’s chosen people who didn’t choose well. It is prophesied four times, very specifically that God will call us what he wants us to be called. Only God truly knows what he formed us for, even before we took our first breath.

1. You will be called “Righteous Trees” planted by the Lord for his glory. 61.V.32.
2. You will be called “My Delight is in Her and your land married”. 62.V.43.
3. You will be called “Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed”. 62.V.124.
4. You will be called “Cared For, a City Not Deserted”. 62.V.12

This is who God created you to be. Labels are a part of your past. He has called you by name and set you apart for his glory!

You will be called {let God fill in the blank}.

In Over My Head.

It was a random Tuesday morning. I had escaped my routines and schedule, heading straight to the beach. I pushed my toes further into the sand and found myself completely at rest in my beach chair. A little fun fact or two about me… I love the feeling of sun on my skin. My absolute favorite sound, is of waves spilling over and crashing into the sand. Oh, just one more, I love the sound of shells crunching under my feet.

In addition to completely resting at the beach, I truly enjoy watching people, which is commonly called staring, but I treat it as a hobby… earning the title “People Watching”. I’m intrigued by the way we {humans} react to life, our family and the world around us. I think humans are the most interesting of God’s creation. We are all so unique, yet we bear this stunning resemblance to each other in the way we respond to the world in awe and wonder. People watching is my favorite hobby.

On this particular morning, a woman caught my eye. She was older than me, but I wouldn’t call her old. Her skinned kissed by the sun, telling me, she has been here before. She did not appear to be a tourist, but she was heading for the water… which seemed like a touristy thing to do considering it is still Spring. Her walk to the water was a short one. Once there, she dipped her toes into the surf and must have decided that it wasn’t too cold, because she stepped in rather confidently. A few steps in and her pace noticeably slowed. The sun was so warm, in the beginning the cold water probablg seemed refreshing, but reality set in within seconds. While the water was clear, blue and inviting, it was ridiculously cold. I had convinced myself, this woman would turn around before she made it in knee deep. I was wrong, she had some grit! She persevered. Until a wave came. I could not have anticipated from her confidence rushing into the cold water, she would rush back several steps in an effort to avoid the wave. She wasn’t fast enough and the wave crashed into her. After regaining her balance, she pushed forward and was soon met with another wave. This time, she stepped forward and planted her feet, turned slightly and allowed the wave to swell past her. She had been there before, knew what to expect and avoided the crashing of the wave by thinking and acting strategically. She skillfully navigated many more waves and was quickly in calm, deep waters. She had arrived. Now what? She was alone. I speculated she may float. I mean, what else was there for her to accomplish out there, other than complete relaxation. I was shocked that she stayed for only a few minutes. I wanted to ask her this question, “Why? You made it so far, why come back so quickly?”

The whole time I watched her, I was fully aware of the lesson God was teaching me. Are you ready for what I really saw? I saw myself.

More times than I can count, I have answered the gentle call of my Savior into the deep, but I haven’t stayed faithful to them all. I saw myself standing before my life, answering the call into the unknown and making serious progress, only to run back to shore to the safety of my chair. I watched as I dipped my toes into the water and decided I could manage the temperature. Stepping boldly into the uncomfortable situations, I realized I have learned how to navigate these tricky waves with confidence. Sadly, many of life’s waves still surprise or overwhelm me. I heard the Lord clearly that morning, these situations are the ones that I have not surrendered to him. I’m holding so tightly to my own abilities and forgetting that my confidence should only be found in God. Every time I am trusting in my own strength, I will fail. As I continued to watch, I celebrated the progress I made. Through persevering, I made it. I was in deep, still water. I wasn’t distracted, no waves were even near me. I had answered the call and was resting. I could see the waves, but they weren’t upon me. Rest was my only option. Then out of nowhere, I just start heading for shore. Quickly to avoid the waves, I found my way back to the chair. I was weirdly disappointed with this vision in my mind. I asked myself, “Why? You made it so far, why did you return to where you came from?”.

I must have been deeply engrossed in my thought process, because when I looked around, I was encompassed with people. Tourist have set up camp very close to me. It is clear, they have not been here before. Tourist behave differently at the beach than those of us who live here. Children are flipping sand up in my face, screaming at the surf as it rushes towards them, the couple on my right were enjoying their music loudly, laughing and soaking up their time together. As I’m observing my surroundings, a dear person set up camp RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, blocking my direct view of the waves and receiving the first touches of the incoming tide. I was slightly annoyed for two reasons. 1. I had waited all morning for that tide to rush at me and sweep over my feet. I had created a little pool for the water to collect and cool my feet. 2. It is my opinion that it is rude to set up camp right in front of someone.

This was not my idea of relaxation… until I realized, I could be in deep, still waters. Maybe not literally, because the water is still too cold for me right now, but you get my point.

I chose to come back to the shore. The chaos the shore offers is exactly what God has called me away from. On the shore, I can walk, talk and sit where I want. I also am surrounded with a different set of tests there. A lot of the tests I encounter there are self-inflicted, not all, but many. On the shore, I can become overwhelmed easily. The noise is louder there and the distractions are greater. When I’m on the shore, I long for the deep!

In the deep, my feet do not touch the bottom.
I am relying on Jesus for everything.
In the deep, I do not talk. I’m focused on not
allowing salt water in my mouth.
In the deep, I’m swimming or floating.
There are no chairs.
The rest that happens in the deep, is worth every ounce of the fight to arrive!
The stillness that happens in the deep, only requires complete trust in the Lord.

This is not the first time I have found my way back to the shoreline, but it is the last. I refuse to experience lessons that I am willing to throw away. I refuse to answer the call of my Savior and intentionally waste precious time. I refuse to allow the enemy of my soul to distract or entice me with “rest” again. Instead, I will be where my feet do not touch and I am surrounded by God’s perfect peace. Finding peace doesn’t mean you will not be surrounded by chaos or deep water, it simply means you are abiding in the stillness God has freely given you.

In over my head, that’s where I long to be!
I will not be a tourist in the place God has called me to live.
I desire to live fully immersed in his presence.

Three More Days.

If you knew today was your last day with your child, would it change anything?

Nine years ago today we heard Gavin’s heart beat for the last time. If we could have known what came next, we would have stayed in that moment longer. I would have asked for a recording, so I could listen to that familiar rhythm whenever I missed him. Three days later, everything changed. A heart that beat wildly in my womb, just stopped, with no warning or even a second chance to save his life…. he was just gone. Along with every dream I had ever dreamed. It appeared as though his end came before his beginning, but I was very wrong. Our story didn’t end there, Gavin’s life would continue to shape and mold our hearts over the years, reminding me of another great story.

From the moments leading up to Jesus conquering death, until the day that he appeared to his dearest friends, everything changed!! Because of his sacrificial love, our loss is met with unexplainable peace and the darkest of our days are filled with his perfect unconditional love. We have an eternal hope!

God is the master storyteller, from breathing creation into existence to the tiniest details of our individual lives, he is telling his redemptive story over and over again! We just have to be willing to slow down and hear his voice through the chaos attempting to drown it out.

No wonder we call you Savior… You have redeemed our story. You have picked up our broken pieces and created one of the most stunning works of art. You alone have saved us and we will worship you forever!!

“See the light tearing through the darkness

Hear the roar of the rugged cross

Jesus Christ You alone have saved us

We worship You now

No wonder we call You Savior

No wonder we sing Your praise

Jesus our hope forever

You made a way, You made a way”

-No Wonder by River Valley Worship

I Am Judas.

Prior to the day I pushed my way to the foot of the cross, I had spent my entire life crucifying the only one who continued to invite me to his table. He knew my deepest thoughts and welcomed me anyway. Sitting in his presence, he would feed me, wash my feet and love me right where I was. Despite the example of grace and unconditional love, I found myself secretly measuring my sin against another’s beside me. I would decide in my heart that my sin was less uninviting than the sins I had judged. The author of my redemptive story sat waiting for me to pass the pen back. He wasn’t keeping track of my sins, his blood washed them clean… so why was I? Today, I sit at the table with a million distractions attempting to pull my attention away from my Savior. As I pray, “Lord, search my heart…” I humbly accept the truth.

I am the betrayer.

When I am filled with pride, I am Judas.

When I am quick to anger, I am Judas.

When I am slow to forgive, I am Judas.

When I am judgmental, I am Judas.

When I am selfish, I am Judas.

There was one Judas at the table in the Easter story, but do not be fooled. The enemy continues to dress itself up and deliver unfair judgement daily. We find him around our dining room tables and bleachers at the soccer game. We sell our souls for far less than the immense price paid on Calvary.

The truth has never been more daunting than on Good Friday. This day serves as a sobering reminder of the consequence of our sin. Today calls to memory the price paid for the remission of our sins. This is the sweetest story of unconditional love. There was no amount of torture, exhaustion or even His complete innocence that would change the heart of our Savior. His heart has always been for you and me!

Instead of receiving the free gift of salvation, Judas tried to buy back his conscious by returning the money he earned from betraying Jesus. Because of the cross and the powerful victory over death, our story doesn’t have to end like his did!

It was finished…. but the story wasn’t over!

My anticipation for Sunday only grows as I reflect on the depth of this day!

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

John 19:28-30 ESV

Set My Heart On Fire.

The book of Joshua might be one of my favorite books in the entire Bible. In every season of my walk with the Lord, the words have come alive and set a fire in my heart. They have brought excitement and joy, filled my heart with hope and left me on the edge of my seat, waiting for what God would do next. This time around, the fire is slightly different. I still feel all those things, but with a new expectation. God has been convicting my heart, with the type of fire that you learn is good for you. Rarely does discipline feel good, it is not like the fire you soak up heat from on a fall evening. It is the type of fire that a diamond is exposed in or pottery is cooked in. It has been hot. I might not be a diamond, but I am def pottery. Daily I am held in my Master’s hands and he is working on me.

Back to Joshua… As we have read, he followed God’s command and burned down Hazor, which happened to be the head of all kingdoms. Out of all the cities and chaos, there was one territory that decided to make peace with the children of Israel, they were known as the Hivites. All the other territories and men of war, came face to face with the wrath of God and complete devastation. Every city that came against Israel was met by a force stronger than any they had ever known before. The power of God worked among the children of Israel and through their obedience, they witnessed the victory that was promised for them.

Joshua 11:10-15 tells this short, brutal story of a city that was the head of all the kingdoms. Not one person escaped the wrath of God that fell on them and after their quick demise, Joshua burned the city down. The Bible says that the city was utterly destroyed and not one was left breathing. Not one…. men, women and children… gone. We have learned that sin leads to death, but do we fully grasp the depths of it’s reach? Do we understand that something or in the case mentioned, someone dies when we sin? In this story, it was a total wipeout, representing God destroying the root of sin. A city known for their idolatry and power, ceased to exist because of their sin.

Let’s pretend for a second that our heart is that city of Hazor. Our first response is to say that we do not sin like they did and that our sin is more forgivable than theirs. We may have even convinced ourselves that we are innocent and beyond reproach. Before you talk yourself out of freedom, allow God to speak to your heart. He knows what we harbor and the roots that have grown within the secret places of our hearts.

I am asking God to search my heart and expose what is hidden from me. I asked him to reveal the pieces of me that are cloaked in personality traits and habits. I asked God again, to seal my identity in HIM. I desire to be a woman of valor, integrity and grace, for his glory.

I am visual, so the next step included a pencil and my journal. I mapped out the issues God exposed that have been lurking in my heart. My daughter was sitting beside me and she wanted to map her heart out too. I was amazed out how quickly she identified the territories in her heart. Oh to have child like innocence and faith like hers. Like little wild fires, they pop up when not expected. I have made many excuses for most of them in the past, but with God’s help, I am setting a holy fire to them! I wish I could say that it’s easy to light them on fire and put each one in the past, but my week is teaching me that through this fire, my heart is being refined. This HOLY FIRE is not a surface fire, only burning at the surface. It is burning deep and removing every bit of sin that separates me from walking in righteousness and innocence with my Savior.

What is God asking you to set on fire?

Are you willing to let it burn?

Lord, set our hearts on fire. Refine us and find us pure and blameless in your presence. Define who we are in you! Let our identity be rooted and grounded in your word. Amen.

Planted vs. Potted

Whether you are planted or potted, you have a lot in common. You are surrounded. You are in the dark and it is messy. I was quick to jump right into the deep end there, but here are some of the prettier attributes. You are growing. Depending on the plant, you are providing shade. You are bearing fruit. You are adorning a table. You are a beautiful centerpiece. You are food. Do you get what I am saying? You are needed, growing beautifully or a new seed in the soil. God wants you planted in good soil with room to grow, not potted with walls around you or cut and placed in a pretty vase to be admired for a few short days. The purpose for your life can only be found in growing in relationship with God. Growth potential exists for the planted and the potted, however, one will thrive while the other eventually decays. A few months ago, our pastor delivered a message asking us what we were doing with the seed in our hand. It moved me into action! In my search for it, I was slightly humored that this particular message bore no title. It’s title is “Untitled”. Oh, the countless times I have tried to label something that God has already named or the times that I have tried to fit a situation in a box, only to be reminded that I should never make God so small. Anyway, I could attempt to re-tell it, or you can click the link below to hear it for yourself.

Before I walk you through the journey of my mind, let me clarify that I am talking about myself and you. We are holding seeds in our hands and we are the seed. We are the plants and we are planting. God is our gardener and the only one we need tending to the complications of our heart. From our heart flows life and death. In my journaling years, I have been shocked at the tone of my words as I read them back. They have pierced straight to my heart. There is nothing quite like staring at your reflection in the mirror and seeing who you were. To counter-act those heavy and devastating words, are many journal entries that have left me breathless. I realize the potential that I have. My words can speak life beautifully and fluently. This is my only desire, to know the gardener of my soul and be good soil for him to use for his glory. I intend to walk with the Lord, daily, constantly aware of the weeds of bitterness, comparison, hate or discontent that spring up as the enemy attacks. My prayer is that your desire is the same.

Let’s talk about gardening and all things plants. Jesus used plants many times in his parables… and not by accident! There is so much knowledge at our fingertips and all through God’s creation, we are reminded he is sovereign! In an attempt to be completely honest, I have killed every single plant that I have ever purchased or been gifted. Due to my lack of gardening knowledge, we won’t do a deep dive into the science of such things. First, let me share my observations from my outdoor plants. They are thriving! I don’t have to do much of anything to them to keep them alive. They just live. My husband prunes them, which is a conversation for another day. I would be a fool not to acknowledge the source of their flourishing, to not call attention to the rain that pours from the heavens, quenching the thirst deep in the plant. What about the sun that rises and falls at the Lord’s command? It bathes the plants in light and as morning turns to evening, they rest in the shade. Night breaks and morning rises, leaving them kissed with the morning dew. They stand, rooted deep and flourishing right where they are. The plants do not cry out asking to be moved, complaining about the roots of the bush or tree beside them. No, they just continue to grow.
Why, as humans, do we? Why do you complain about where you are? Why are you bothered by the needs or the position of those around you? Nature celebrates itself, yet you fight against the process. Every time you struggle against the process, you are fighting God’s plan for your life.

What if you embraced this God-life, allowing the rain to saturate your weary soul?
What if you embraced this God-life, allowing the shade to give you rest?
What if you embraced this God-life, allowing the night to fall and trusting God even when you can’t see the way out?
What if you embraced this God-life, allowing the morning to expose your heaviness and refresh your anxious heart?
What if you embraced this God-life, allowing the dew to awaken you to God’s grace and mercy?
What if you embraced this God-life, allowing your roots to dig deep through releasing complete control?

When you are planted, you have endless potential to become deeply rooted and full of life. It is easier to grow in a favorable environment than a dried up and parched place. This doesn’t mean difficult days won’t happen. Like a plant, you will experience seasons as well. These seasons hold the potential to block out sun, dry up the rain, burn us with heat and leave us shivering from cold. Yet, we know situations can not separate us from the love of God. As long as you allow God to continue to tend to your heart, you will be stronger than ever in the next season. Season are crucial to spiritual growth. Think of them as stepping stones or direction for the next season of life. What you learn now, you will use again in the future. How you learn the lesson now, determines if you need a repeat in the future. Remember, what you see right now may look dead, but it is more than likely dormant. God is behind the scenes, speaking new life to your situation and shaping the way your heart responds to what he allows to shift in your life.

[Ecc 3:1-8 ESV]
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

When you are potted, your roots have a limit and odds are you will be admired for a short time until you cease to thrive, wither and die. This is not God’s design for you. The roots in a plant can only stretch across the pot and reach as deep as the pot allows. I have witnessed many plants live potted, many even thrived in the pot… but often they have someone looking after them or their root system does not require more than the space it has. What I have witnessed the most with indoor plants, is how they are pushed back into the corner, neglected or placed up high to collect dust. This was not the intent with you. You are a stunning creation and loved by the creator of your soul. Dear friend, you may have started out in a house, being tended to and loved on, but it is time to request a transfer! Fight your way out of the corner. God has soil prepared for you. The environment outside will be more harsh than the life you lived under the shelter of a roof, but know that the gardener of your soul is all the shelter you will ever need. He knows you better than anyone else. Wherever God plants you, you will flourish as you depend on him for every single thing you need!!

Be Planted and Start Planting.