Ten Blue Eyes

life as we see it

Tell Me A Story

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I sat across the table from a gentleman with slumped shoulders and a cardigan. He wore his more than 80 years on his wrinkled face. Beside him was another similar-looking man who was putting ketchup on his onion rings, and beside him was a grey-haired woman. The seats at our rectangular table were full of these people. Other than my presence on this day, it was just like every other lunchtime at the assisted living facility. I was there to visit my grandmother and I was grateful that her table-mates had allowed me to disrupt their meticulous routine.

The conversation was sparse. Actually it was mostly focused on the fact that because of my presence, we were short one bowl of tapioca. I offered to part with mine, but they wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, the woman with the walker slowly made her way to the kitchen to request another cup of pudding. This is how they did things at their table, and I wasn’t about to argue.

I was so intrigued with them all. After the tapioca situation was resolved I listened to the snippets of conversation between these weathered friends. One man had finally sold his home. His children had helped work with the realtor and now finally their father could rest assured he was officially living in his last earthly residence. Others talked about their grandchildren, their health, and their plans to play BINGO or dominoes later in the day.

The mealtime came to an end and they all slowly rose and shuffled away, but I wish they would have stayed longer. I wanted to hear more. These people had lived so much more life than I had. They each had so much history and so many stories that I would have loved to hear.

How many children did they have? How long had they been widowed? Did they serve in the war? What were their occupations as young people? How did they fall in love? What were their biggest regrets and greatest accomplishments?

So many stories… yet, so little tapioca.

That mealtime reminded me how much I love to hear about people’s lives. I love true stories. Just as I could have sat there all day listening to those senior citizens share, I could spend hours reading or watching biographies. There is so much to be learned from hearing about other people’s lives.

Stories make things real. Stories pull us all in and level the field so that we can find ways to relate and understand.

Stories are powerful.

But, sometimes we shy away from telling our stories.

We may think it’s fun to hear the stories of others, but we don’t see the value in sharing our own.

Does anyone really want to hear about my childhood? Is there any benefit in sharing about the way my husband and I met and fell in love? Can I really help another mother who has a child dealing with the same disease that plagued my son? Does sharing about my frustrations with the daily, mundane tasks of being a wife and mother really touch another’s heart?

I’m pretty sure the answer is yes.

Yes.

Even if we don’t think our stories are special, they may be special to someone else. They connect us to people in a real way instead of through a virtual network or screen. They strip away the fronts and perceptions and make things real. And we like that, because life is real.

When I hear a girlfriend talk about the fatigue she feels from disciplining the same child for the same issue day in and day out, I’m encouraged. I’m reminded that I’m not alone.

When I hear an older woman tell me her love story and how she was married to the same man for decades, I’m inspired. I’m reminded that I can strive for a stronger marriage and deeper love.

When I hear a mentor share about their weaknesses and fears, I’m uplifted. I’m reminded that no one is perfect and we all deal with failures and pain.

When I hear a friend share about their loss and heartache, I’m broken. I’m reminded that I need to help carry the burdens of others and reach out to those who are hurting.

It doesn’t really matter if the people who are telling the stories are old, wrinkled, young, trendy, close friends or a new acquaintances. They may be wearing a cardigan, hospital gown, mom jeans or a jersey. It doesn’t really matter. I want to listen. And when the opportunity arises, I want to share my story too.

Sharing our stories helps us live better stories.

And sometimes you even get a bowl of tapioca to top it all off.

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GPS is bad for your marriage.

I am not exaggerating to say that my husband and I have a harmonious relationship. We rarely get to the point of raising our voices with one another or driving each other insane. We are both pretty laid back and we get along great.

However, there is a formula that we’ve discovered in our eleven years of marriage that sets us up for spousal frustration. It’s not complicated. But it is somewhat dangerous.

 Kraig driving + Christy using iPhone GPS = Uh oh.

And I’m telling you, it’s not all my fault. Sometimes I think the GPS lady and Kraig have schemed against me to set us all up for failure, but no one else is buying it.

I will admit, that I am directionally challenged. When receiving directions from someone I don’t like to hear terms such as; “head east,” or “It’s on the southwest corner,” or “go north on the highway,” etc. These terms are confusing to me. If instead the GPS lady would say things like, “Turn right when you are beside Wal-Mart,” or “Do you see that Applebee’s up there? Great! You’re going to want to slow down and make a left there,” I’d be all over it. But the GPS lady never uses landmarks.

What’s her deal?

But anyway, I want to help Kraig out, and more importantly, I want to live and not have him get us all killed while looking at his iPhone while driving. So I take it from him and then I pass on to him what the GPS lady tells me.

And somewhere in this step of the process is where things begin to break down. Sometimes that thing is me. But most the time I don’t cry. I just get us lost.

For example, we recently drove to visit my cousin who lives out of state. We had never been to her home before and so I put her address into the phone and we happily followed the little voice until it told us we had arrived at our destination. However, since I know my cousin doesn’t live in a tanning bed called, “Sun Your Buns” we were actually not at our destination.

The GPS people are out to get me.

Kraig says that I didn’t put the correct address into the phone but I think I did.

Maybe you’re beginning to see our problem.

The “Sun Your Buns” debacle is unfortunately not the only time my skin’s gotten hot with embarrassment and frustration. In fact, it was in the beautiful, sunny state of Florida where our Spousal Frustration Formula was really in full swing while on a family vacation.

We were headed from Orlando to Daytona Beach. It was a nice day. Kraig could sit back, relax and just drive. I had the phone in my hand and I had the address of our destination correctly entered into the phone. All was well.

I began to tell Kraig each and every turn he was to make on our 90-minute trip to Daytona Beach.

And we made a lot of turns.

We turned into a mall parking lot and followed it around the perimeter of the mall where we came out and then entered a subdivision. We made several turns in the subdivision before entering another parking lot… and another subdivision.

Kraig was beginning to sweat.

He was trying not to rip the phone out of my hand because I kept telling him that I was watching the GPS and this was EXACTLY what the lady was telling us to do. AND I had the address inputted correctly. SO JUST FOLLOW MY DIRECTIONS!

Kraig was really getting antsy now and telling me that he understood I was following the directions, but when did we get on the highway that connected Orlando and Daytona Beach? “There is a highway!” he stated. “I can see the highway over there!!” “When do we get on it?!” “Pleeeeeassse tell me we get on the highway!!!!”

So I checked the phone.

“Nope. We never get on the highway.”

“WHAT??!! How can we not get on the highway?! This is going to take us forever to get there on back roads! Why is it taking us on back roads? How long does it say this is going to take?!”

This is when I knew we might have a problem.

I looked at the estimated time of arrival and it said we’d be in Daytona Beach in a mere 2 days and 14 hours.

Maybe we should get on the highway.

Suddenly I realized the GPS was giving me walking directions from Orlando to Daytona Beach. Therefore, the GPS lady with the monotone voice was apparently kindly keeping us far away from dangerous highways to walk beside and busy roads where we could get hit and instead was directing us around mall parking lot perimeters where we’d have a nice cozy sidewalk.

Uh oh.

And so I switched it over to driving directions and told Kraig to get on the highway.

I hate GPS.

But, I love my husband, and he loves me and he even still lets me ride shotgun in the car. And sometimes he even lets me hold the iPhone.

We have a pretty harmonious relationship, Kraig and me.

If only the GPS lady would stay out of it.

 

 

 


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25 Years.

DSC_0707I panicked. I should have known what to do, but instead I was frozen in fear. My dad was shouting at me to call 911 and even though I was almost eleven years old, I just couldn’t remember how. So instead, I traded places with him and I held my mother on the kitchen chair as he used the phone to desperately alert the help we needed.

I held my Mom upright in the chair and I was terrified. What was wrong with her? Why was she falling over and not responding to us? Could she hear me telling her how much I loved her and that I thought everything was going to be okay?

After a painfully long wait we finally heard the sirens of an ambulance as it pulled into our driveway. To this day, I feel a pit in my stomach when I hear an ambulance wailing.

The sounds of that night changed my life forever.

I can hear the murmurs of neighbors who had gathered outside in the dusk to watch the tragedy unfold.

I can hear the doors of a police car close me in as my dad, brother and I followed the ambulance to the hospital in shock.

I can hear the silence in the awful little room where sat and waited for news. It was small and sterile and soon held neighbors and a close friend who sat beside us.

And I can hear her words. The doctor who came into that room and told us the news… news that shakes me to the core even today.

“I’m sorry. We couldn’t save her.”

I can hear the crying of those who had gathered.

I can hear my thoughts as they flew through my head and swirled in confusion and painful, piercing shards of realization.

I try not to do it, but sometimes I hear the sound of my grandma wailing as she walked onto the front porch of our home a few hours later.

I can hear my grandpa crying. I didn’t like it then and don’t like to hear it now.

I can hear the sound of my dad talking through his sobs as he called family to deliver the awful and life-altering news. My mother had died suddenly at the age of 34 from a heart arrhythmia.

I can still hear it all. Even though it’s been 25 years.

25 years. How can that be?

Instead of being almost eleven years old, now I’m almost 36. My life has changed drastically since that night… and because of that night.

Time really does march on even when our worlds are rocked.

And though it’s been a long time, I haven’t forgotten the sounds or the emotions.

I haven’t forgotten her either.

In fact, I can still hear her sometimes too. It’s not as easy as I wish it was, but I can. I can hear her laugh and I can hear her voice.

I can hear the sound of the lid popping off the plastic tub as I open it and look through her things. I love to look at the pictures, flip through her Bible and open her purse.

I can hear the healing that comes as I tap on this keyboard and process this loss in my life… so many years later. It helps my heart to remember her.

It’s been 25 years since that awful night. My life has been changed forever because of all that I heard and saw on March 24th, 1989.

And as difficult and painful as it is to remember, I don’t want to forget.

 

 

 

 


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What A Mess.

I jolted upright in my bed awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of crying. I clumsily got up and walked down the hall in a stupor. The crying was coming from the Pepto Bismol pink bedroom of my girls. As I entered I continued to hear wailing sounds, saw two pj clad girls writhing on their beds and I smelled vomit.

What was happening here?

I kept blinking my eyes and tried to get a clear view of the situation. Had my girls gotten sick at the exact same moment? Who had tossed their cookies? Why were they both crying? What time was it? Why did it smell so awful?

I was so confused.

I continued to stand there assessing the damage. I tried to shake the fog of sleep out of my head.

The reports were coming in now and I was beginning to get word that one daughter had gotten sick and had made quite a go of it and had sprayed both beds. The other daughter was (understandably) crying because her pillow had been hit. As I continued to stand there looking back and forth from bed to bed the crying children got up and walked past me downstairs to get a drink of water. Thirty seconds later the youngest came back upstairs and said, “But Mama, where is our water?!”

At that moment I wasn’t really sure either.

Motherhood is like that for me. At times I see it with bright clear eyes and I feel like I’ve got things figured out for the time being.

Other times I have no idea what is going on.

Just the day before I had a brief moment where I felt like I not only had my head above the motherhood waters, but I was actually swimming along quite nicely. I had the laundry done, the house cleaned and my children were playing together outside in the sunshine. Yeah, I felt pretty good. I’ve got this.

And then the Pillow Puking happened and started a chain of events causing me little sleep and much frustration. One kid sick on the couch, laundry in nasty piles, a little one wanting another breakfast and a son asking me questions about the Iroquois Indians for a school project.

I go from feeling like all is calm and under control to feeling stretched thin. Sometimes in a matter of minutes. Okay… seconds.

But I’ve been learning that it’s just going to be like that. I’m never going to have it “done.” I’ll never be “all caught up.” It’s not like I can accomplish all the needs and demands of motherhood and then just sit back and feel the wind on my face as I smoothly sail through these years.

On the contrary, it’s a bumpy, smelly, mess.

I don’t want to wait to feel good about my life and my role as a mom until my kids are grown and the laundry piles are small and simple.

I don’t want to feel like I’m failing just because my kitchen table is covered in toys.DSC_0717

I don’t want to base my worth on appearances-whether it be of my home or my family, but instead I want to realize how much the mess is worth to me.

So I roll up my sleeves and hold my daughter’s hair as she looses her lunch once again. I act like I care deeply about Native American festivals and I put peanut butter on crackers for yet another snack time.

This place is a mess and there’s much work to be done. That’s the way it’s going to be.

And what a privilege it is to be the mom of this mess!


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The Masterpiece.

DSC_0397The cry derailed my train of thought and interrupted my task of emptying the dishwasher. I looked up and watched as my two daughters, who were painting with watercolors at the kitchen table, dramatically expressed their feelings. My 5-year-old daughter had tears streaming down her face and her 3-year-old sister was crying as well and sat crossing her little arms in stubborn indignation.

I sighed and rested my hands on the countertop where the bowls and plates sat waiting to be put back into the cupboard so that they could rest in peace. I was wishing for peace as well. Playing referee to these two can be draining.

When the crying didn’t stop I sent the youngest, who seemed to be the cause of the problem, up to her room and I followed a few minutes later to have “a talk.”

“What’s the deal, Kenzie?” I asked her as she wiped her tears while sitting on her bed. “Why are you so upset and frustrated with your sister?”

She drew her breath in quickly several times while trying to speak. Finally she said, “But Mama! Karly said she was painting a boat but I don’t think it looks like a boat at all. I think she’s painting a rocket ship!”

I had to do the old “parent trick” of looking sideways and pretending I suddenly had to scratch my cheek so that I could cover the smile that spread across my face. What could I say, it did look an awfully lot like a rocket.

But Karly had said that she painted a boat and who was I to disagree?

So I gently explained to little sis that even though she was right in thinking that it did look like a rocket, it also looked like a boat too. And more importantly, Karly painted it.  It was Karly’s masterpiece, and if she said it was a boat then we need to encourage her for painting a boat.

It was Karly’s workmanship, created to be a boat no matter what the rest of us thought it should be.

The paints have long been cleaned up and the dishes have been through the wash cycle and back into the cupboard countless times since that moment. But I’ve continued to chuckle to myself about Kenzie’s honest assessment of Karly’s painting.

And actually, that moment has made me think about something more.

I’ve thought about the fact that I am a masterpiece too. I was created and I am supposed to be something specific. Not a boat or a rocket ship… but me. I am God’s masterpiece, and no matter what anyone else thinks I should look like or should be, I am His creation.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The word “handiwork” in this verse is the original Greek word  “poiema” which, according to Strong’s Concordance means, “that which has been made; a work: of the works of God as creator.”

I’m God’s masterpiece. I am called to be who He created me to be.

Sometimes I worry about being what others think I should be. Am I still valuable if I’m “just me?”

I have friends who juggle both careers and motherhood and they don’t drop the ball in either role. I don’t work outside the home. Does that make me less valuable than they?

I know children who are amazing and committed athletes and musicians. My kids have never had a single piano lesson. I’m not the mother of a prodigy. Am I less significant than those who are?

I have a college degree, but much like my computer, which falls asleep when it’s not touched for awhile, my skills and practical application of my schooling feel like they’re dormant and hiding behind a blank screen. Does this mean I’m unsuccessful?

So once again I go back to Ephesians 2:10. I was,

“created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance.”

God has prepared works for me in advance so that all I have to do is be me and be obedient to Him. If I’m made in Christ Jesus then I certainly have been equipped to accomplish what He calls me to do because Jesus is full of power and never-ending grace.

I don’t have to force myself to be a rocket ship if God created me to be a boat.

I can just be me because that is who God made me to be. I am significant and beautiful in His eyes. He will go with me and help me to accomplish what He has prepared for me to do. And it’s extra beautiful because it’s all for His glory.

That watercolor boat was Karly’s workmanship, created to be a boat. I am God’s workmanship, created to be me.

No matter what others see, my Creator knows just who I am.

And I am His masterpiece.


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One In A Million.

My son’s bus came to a sliding stop this morning on the ice rink/road near our home. As my boy started to make his way up the steps and on to school, I jokingly reminded him of his teacher’s name. I was only half-kidding. Due to snow and cold weather our local schools have been closed as much as they’ve been open this winter. It’s been crazy.

Crazy… and kind of fun.

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of many of my local friends clicking the “unfriend” button. It seems from the status updates of many that I am alone in my enjoyment of this crazy snow and winter schedule.

In case anyone is still reading, let me explain.

I’ve not loved it all.

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of schedule. I’ve been bored with the monotony of the same scenery, same people, same things to be done day-in and snowy day-out. I’ve been challenged to keep a kind attitude and gentle voice when disciplining my kids for the umpteenth time over the same disagreement. And I’ve been just plain cold!

But there are many things that I’ve actually enjoyed about being snowed in with my people. Granted, I’m a stay-at-home mom and so I’ve not had the difficulty of juggling a work schedule with these snow days. For those who have, kuddos for making it happen! You are amazing. But, like I said, I’ve just had more people at home with me lately.

And, I live in a heated home with people that I actually like to be with quite a bit. So, more time with them has been a bonus for me.

I know, I’m probably losing more of you. You’ve had enough and simply can’t stand to hear any more of someone stopping to smell the proverbial roses.

But just indulge me a tiny bit longer. I don’t want you to miss it.

I don’t want you to miss the beauty in all of this snow. Yes, I know it’s a pain. I’ve personally helped push a stranger’s car out of a snow drift (Have you seen my muscles? If so, you’re doubting that last statement… but I had help!) I’ve slipped on ice and had a sore body. I’ve been delayed and stuck. It’s not all been wonderful.

But I’ve seen beauty in it.

Yesterday I was outside with my kiddos as they worked on building yet another snow fort. While they were busy playing I had my face about two inches from the snow, just staring at it as the sun was bouncing off of it. And it took my vaporized breath away.

When I stopped to look at the snow, and I mean REALLY look at it, I could actually see the individual snowflakes piled on top of each other making up the frozen tundra that is now our yard.

And it was beautiful.

ALL of that snow and I could see one little flake. One in a million. One in a billion.

One. Beautiful. Snowflake.

Now, I’m not a photographer, but I got my camera and snapped away. My photos don’t do it justice, but they will give you the idea.

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Beautiful. Each snowflake is beautiful. And usually we miss them. We miss the forest for the trees. We see how this snow has wrecked our schedules, cars, and sanity, but we miss the beauty it has sprinkled along the way.

The beauty of more time with those whom we love the most.

The beauty of anticipation of routine and of Spring.

The beauty of quiet, slower days that force us to stop the chaos and be still for a moment.

The beauty of gratitude for things we usually take for granted, like school teachers and calendars.

The beauty of the snow.

The beauty of one single snowflake. One in a million.


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I’d Lost That Loving Feeling

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Dear Reader,

Each month I blog for my church’s women’s ministry about a topic that is assigned for that month. This month the topic was INFERTILITY and MISCARRIAGE. It was a tough one! I have experienced three miscarriages, one just this past October. I was unsure if I should share such a personal story, but I decided to start writing and see what happened. As I typed… and deleted… and cried and typed some more I felt the healing process begin. Through writing and sharing my story with other ladies at my church I have actually been the one who has been blessed. I guess that’s how it often works!

I hope you too are encouraged and that you will seek to find joy and peace today — no matter your circumstances!

Thanks for reading!
Christy

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I knew it from the first moment I looked at the screen. The ultrasound technician was silent, but I didn’t need her to tell me what was so obvious in front of my own eyes. As she desperately tried to find signs of life on what should have been a wiggly, busy, tiny baby with a rapidly beating heart, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces.

And for the third time, my husband and I tasted the bitter loss of miscarriage.

The tears flowed heavy and often over the next several days. I was so very sad and my heart continued to break as I watched my three children grieve in their own little way. They had wanted this little baby to join our family too. We all missed this little person that we didn’t even have a chance to meet. It wasn’t fair.

Yes, of course I took great comfort in the hugs and kisses of my children. Their presence was a balm to my wounded soul. As they wiped my tears or cried along with me at the dinner table when my hormones were raging and my efforts to conceal my pain were useless, I felt extreme love and gratitude for them. But even surrounded by our three precious children, I knew I had lost another one. A life was gone and off-handed comments of, “Oh, maybe you’ll still have another one!” felt empty, as if this life was so easily replaced.

And I got angry. I was angry with almost everyone and everything, but most of all, I was mad at God.

How could He allow this? Was He trying to teach me something? Had I done something wrong? Was I to learn from this?

I wanted a baby, not a lesson.

The anger and frustration from this loss built in me, and my tears were hot on my cheeks. It didn’t seem fair that I had spent weeks dealing with morning sickness and had worked hard to hide the fact that I was always on the edge of queasiness. I had fought the super-fatigue of the first trimester and dealt with the guilt of needing to nap during the day while I allowed my preschool-aged daughters to watch too much TV. My body had already started physically changing and, as if I needed another reminder of what had been, it held on to the weight that I had gained.

Emotionally, I had allowed my anticipation and excitement to grow along with that little baby in my womb. I had been constantly daydreaming about its arrival and wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and what name we would give it.

And even though I was only 10 1/2 weeks along when I had that shocking and awful ultrasound, I was 100% in love with that child.

It hurt to the core and my anger toward God came to the forefront.

Intellectually, nothing had changed for me. I knew God was sovereign. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all of those “right things.” But I didn’t feel them. Emotionally I felt empty and alone.

If God loved me, then I felt like this was a rotten way of showing it.

Through the long days of physical healing that followed I had a lot of time to think. And feel. It seemed that my emotions were winning every battle and though my rational thoughts of what I knew was true were trying to come to the forefront, my anger and bitterness were pushing them back down.

I realized after a day or two that I couldn’t trust my emotions. I was a wreck. I wasn’t in control of my feelings and though I was trying to rally them to help me feel what I desperately wanted to feel… God’s love… it wasn’t working. I was going to have to call upon what I knew was true instead.

It wasn’t easy. My feelings of loss and hurt and pain were so strong that my efforts to see glimpses of God’s love were strained and difficult. But little evidences were there. I decided to take mental note of them and store them in my mind as ammunition against my anger. Perhaps over time I’d have enough to once again feel God’s love, though for now I’d have to be content without the feelings, and take what I could get from the knowledge alone.

And God didn’t disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy or enveloped in His love. On the contrary, I felt like He was distant and even harsh. But I kept looking with my eyes since my heart wasn’t playing along.

And I saw.

At first my teeth were gritted and my arms were crossed. They stayed that way for several days. I took a lot of deep breaths and used a lot of tissues as the days ticked by and the list began to lengthen.

I still didn’t feel God’s love the way I wanted to feel it. But I was seeing it.

In fact, the evidence of God’s presence and His love was obvious to me in a way I’ve never known before. His love did not feel gentle, but oh it was there! It seemed undeniable. It wasn’t the easy, sing-songy “Jesus Loves Me” kind of love, but the love of an all-knowing, Almighty whom I knew with my mind that I could trust.

I felt as if He’d taken me through a dark place of brokenness, emptiness, anger and desperation so that His love and His truths… HE would stand out in stark contrast. And He did. He was so obvious in the darkness that at one point I actually wondered if He was enjoying showing off!

I had to make a choice. Would I surrender to what my eyes had seen, His love and His presence in the midst of the darkness, or would I continue to wait for my emotions to shape up and start feeling the way I wanted them to feel.

And so I leaned on what I knew to be true.

For days my emotions continued to lay in shambles. I was still angry and I said and thought things that I didn’t mean. But God was okay. He could handle it.

For days my heart was hard and stubborn. But as I saw God’s love so evident around me, eventually my heart started to warm and I began to desire a contrite heart. The softening of my heart wasn’t immediate, but I could tell that the thawing and molding was happening in God’s hands.

To this moment, my mind cannot figure out what the point of this loss was in my life and where it leaves my family’s plans for the future. But my biggest desire now is for peace and joy in the midst of the unknown. I want to be ok with simply trusting God completely for the future, though there is nothing that feels simple about the process.

And in my surrender I knew this truth from 1 John 3:1,

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I’m a child of God. I am His precious little one that He loves and delights in as I love my own children. No, His love is even more powerful than that. His love has been lavished on me and He calls me His child.

This loss was difficult. It hurt. It still hurts. But when my heart is broken and my emotions are all over the map, I can rest in this truth.

No matter what I am feeling, I am His child, and His love is there.

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