Through the Darkness

Two years ago I️ woke up to what would intensify an incredibly hard season. Trying to formulate the words of see you later to my dad was difficult. Seeing the pain from my brother was heartbreaking. The anxiety and grief was becoming a beast I️ couldn’t face alone.

I️ remember hoping that I’d never lose a close family member or friend until I was married, so that I️ could be comforted by my spouse. Yet 2 years ago I️ was single and faced 2 great deaths. This is something I’m thankful for. The road I️ was on seemed to head to more sadness, but the hand that held mine was sure.

It may sound crazy but there are days I️ miss that season. When you trust God and can’t find even a hint of satisfaction on anything else but Him His presence and faithfulness are so evident.

People often say I’m strong yet I️ feel so weak. The strength they see is something that is beyond me. When I️ chose to forgive my dad I️ had to rely on God. When I️ hasn’t seen my dad in 9 years and I️ chose to go see him because he was dying, I️ had to rely on God. When I️ had to see not only him but my grandpa die in the same week, I️ had to rely on God.

Even in the darkest seasons. The ones where anxiety seems to rule and depression greets you in the morning. In seasons where bitterness encases your heart. When it’s hard to forgive. The secret is found in going through those valid feelings with God. The natural thing we do is try to fix it ourselves. Yet God wants us to go with and through.

I️ know I️ wouldn’t have made it through all of the without Him. Every prayer from every person doesn’t go unnoticed. Even today I’m thankful for each prayer for my family during that season. I️ know there are more times than I️ can count that they carried me through.

Dear Sojourners,

Forgiveness is possible. Redemption is real. Guidance from Our Daddy is necessary.

Dad I️ know you’re enjoying heaven. I️ miss you but thankfully one day, we will be united again.

Joy for the Season

The desires of our heart have a way of making us impatient. Waiting can be so hard, so what do we do while we wait? This past year I’ve found my self I desiring things, some silly, yet they represented so much of my heart. And when I couldn’t get it, I did what ever mature 26 year old Christian does, I threw fits. I’ve told God I was done talking to him, was angry at the people around me, and bitter towards the ones I serve. This past year has been a mess. And I was ok with staying that way.

My mind goes back to one particular moment. In the midst of this cycle, I knew I should do one thing. Text my best friend and ask for prayer. Though I didn’t want to talk to God, I also knew my perspective was skewed.

As I talked to her I realized the lie I was believing.

Sometimes God’s protection feels more like a prison than provision. Sometimes His will feels horrible.

As I asked to her about this Jesus started talking to me about the time He was in the garden.

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?””

Matthew 26:36-39 MSG

Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross. He plunged in agonizing sorrow. He said, “This sorrow is crushing the life out.” He desperately sought God, hoping to find another way to save us. I’m sure thoughts and temptations invaded His mind, making it hard to think yet He pursued. He knew there was no escaping this. The promise in a sense was a prison. In order to save the human race, He must die a unthinkable death. Jesus was messed up.

In this situation I stayed grumpy for a few days. Realizing the lie I believed wasn’t enough this time, because it didn’t change. I know that no matter what, if I want to remain in God’s will I must go through this season that I am in. The constant going. The grading. The testing. The writing, work that I frankly didn’t care about. I was in it. I have avoided it, but He’s always brought me back.

Plowing through life emotionless is never worth it. To be alive is to be engaged. To be able to offer hope to those around you you must be alive. Choosing to do what you’ve been called to isn’t about simply doing it while you let your heart die. It’s about answering the call and finding ways to allow your heart to live deeper. Wider. Expand. Let more people in. Give more love out. To live this way is not possible when your perspective is to trudge through life not connecting.

When I finally let go of what I believed my life should look like and held onto the hand of the one guiding is when I found love for the calling. To be in the same physical place yet an eternity away from where I was spiritually astounds me. My mindset was bratty last year, yet God still blessed me. He still called me. And He gave me the joy for the season.

8:28 

When people hear about what 2015 looked like for me and my family I usually get one response. “Oh my gosh. You lost both of them? So close to each other. I’m sorry.” The shock of all that I’ve been through is one thing but the thing that continues to shock me is that I am still here. Today has officially been a year since my dad left this world. 
When I was younger I remember sitting in the various apartments that my mom brother and I shared. Every night my mom would come home tired from working. We would get our homework done as she would make dinner for us. After eating together at the table, yes we had nightly family meals, we would get ready for bed and my mom would read us a devotional. Before we prayed she would pull out these different color cards that had verses on them that we memorized as a family. 
“Ok guys,” she would start, “what does Romans 8:28 say?” 
“For we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God.”
Those who love God. 
Do I love Him? Like really love Him?
Last year has taught me that I do. Beyond the cute go to church with your family, post worship lyrics, and read the latest christian books type of love; I have found that my roots go deep. I have found that they go farther than the “if I don’t get my way then I am leaving.” Nothing in 2015 went my way. My favorite job, I lost. my best friend; she moved. my mind couldn’t be trusted. Anxiety attacks, nightmares, depression, the whole nine yards. And then November 9th, 2015 hit and boom my dad; dead. 54 hours later my grandpa died too. 
Life was winning 2,000 to 0. I was losing and it felt like I was constantly being kicked in the teeth. but something within me, something peered from the deep sorrows of depression and the chaos of anxiety and told me, there is something more. 
All things Work together for good
All things.
Not just some things. 
All.
Before my dad passed away I remember telling my mom that I knew without a doubt that God could heal him on this earth but I also wasn’t going to put all of my eggs in that basket. For some that may sound like I did not fully trust in God’s ability to heal my dad. Some may look at me and say, Shame on you, you should of prayed harder, agreed with the Bible more, fasted more etc. But truth be told I did fully believe God could and would heal him. In fact I believe my dad got the ultimate healing. The healing of the body soul and mind. The healing that never gets re injured or reminded about the reasons they felt hurt in the first place. I knew that even in the hurt and pain, that this situation fell under the umbrella of all things. All things in my life would make me better if I allowed them. All things that happen to me can positively affect the world around me if I spoke from the right perspective. All things would be made good because I loved Him and more importantly, He loves me. All things. 

When my mom was having us remember verses as children she may not have realized the full picture of what would spark in my life, but as I look back I see that this verse has been a core belief in my mind. Even in the hardest days I have known that God would work something good out of it for me. One of the good things that sparked from losing my dad and my grandpa was me seeking help with anxiety that I faced on a daily basis. From those hard dark months I became so hopeless that I couldn’t hide the fears that paralyzed me anymore. grief has a way of knocking your hands off of the things you tirelessly try to suppress. So I gave in. I chose to be weak, but in reality I found how strong God in me was. 
For we know.
How do you know something? 

How do you really truly know? 

Through reading? maybe. 

But the things you truly know are the things you have experienced or keep experiencing.

 I kept experiencing grief last year, but by some miracle I made it through. Was it my strength? Not at all. It couldn’t have been. I felt like an unpredictable ball of fear and turmoil. One night I woke up out of a dead sleep because my heart was racing so fast. I put on my Apple Watch to check my pulse and the numbers read 187 bmp. 187. I rarely reach that when I am running. But this was a regular thing for me during this time. Anxiety attacks and lack of motivation were real demons that I fought relentlessly. Why? During this time I didn’t know. But as I look back I see that everyday I didn’t think I would make it to the next day, I would pray begging God to just take me too. Yet I was still on Earth. Because of Him. He is the one that orders my footsteps. And He stayed with me through it all. He brought friends to my side, songs to my mind, and pictures to my eyes. He was constantly reminded me of His presence. And because of this dark time I can now say I know. 
My story about my dad has been something that has gone beyond me. It has carefully found it’s way to other ears of sons and daughters hurting with pain from the choices their parents have made. It has found it’s way into the hearts and minds of those wondering if things will ever change. It has found it’s way and nestled a seed of hope for those hurting souls. Not because of me, but because of God. He has made the good come through this mess. He will continue to make good come from the messes we humans make. That’s why I can not be paralyzed because of an election, diagnoses, lost job or relationship. 
2015 was a hard year. But even in the lose I have found the things I gained. An even closer relationship with my best friend. Freedom to think and speak up and work and live without anxiety. Happiness in life. Joy in the mourning. And most importantly hope for the future where I will get to praise my God with my dad by my side.
Dear Sojourner,
Come to know that all things will work together for the good of those who love God. He has you. He loves you. Trust Him. 
Love Mo

Why 2014 Ruined my Life

The beginning of this year I was challenged at my young adults small groups to pick a word that I wanted to cling to and make my year about. That’s where the journey of my word believe started. I started this year simply telling God that I wanted to believe something different about myself and Him by the end of the year. In January I had an idea of what December would look like. Relationships would be great, jobs would be secure, I would be doing exactly what I wanted because simply believed God would give these things to me. Sounds like bliss right? Little did I know 2014 would forever ruin the way I lived life.

This is what the LORD says: “Babylon will be powerful for seventy years. After that time I will come to you, and I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the LORD. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! I will let you find me,” says the LORD. “And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place, but I will gather you from all the nations, from the places I have sent you as captives,” says the LORD. “And I will bring you back to this place.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29‬:‭10-14‬ NCV)

This past week my mom took me to Sylmar to see this owl that I read about on the Internet. His name is Zeus and was in some type of an accident that left him blind. The incredible thing about his blindness is that the cataracts in his eyes left these white dots that look like stars in his eyes. When I heard of this owl I kinda flipped out. Stars and owls are two of my favorite things. Not because they are a trend but because they symbolize so much more.

When I saw Zeus this past week, it left me with so many thoughts. Zeus has had some sucky cards dealt to him. I know your probably thinking, why are we talking about an owl? It’s an animal. But just track with me. Owls need their sight to live. They rely on their sight to see food and to see if predators are coming after them. But now Zeus is blind. Sucks right. But to me Zeus is a huge symbol for choosing to be blinded not by circumstances but instead by God’s promises.

If I look back this years circumstances it was hard. Lots of tears, lies, broken promises, having to pour out beyond measure, being exhausted. But that’s why 2014 has ruined the way I will forever live. It has taught me that I don’t have to be blinded by the circumstances but instead I’ve chosen to be blinded by the promises He has made me. When I choose to look at the strength and courage that came from hard situations I see God’s faithfulness. When I choose to look at the love and relationships that came from places of fear I see God’s faithfulness. When I look at the grueling hard times of pouring out and feeling empty continually I see God’s faithfulness.

I’m sure the Israelites didn’t like when God said they’d be in captive for 70 years. That sounds super horrible but I know there were ones that held onto the promise that he had great plans for them. I was listening to a sermon by Steven Furtick and he said,” the plans may change but the promise still stands.”

2014 has completely killed every excuse to say I was handed a bad year. It has taught me that I can be blinded by circumstances or I can be blinded by His promises for my life knowing that He has GREAT plans for my life. I hope that as you look back on this year you will see the faithfulness of God and that it will propel you choose to respond to the hard times in the future instead of react out of hopelessness. He has you even when it’s chaotic.

So let yourself dream in 2015. Let your plans be pliable in the hands of the greatest planner. And hold on to His promises with hands of availability.

I have to say I’m sad to say goodbye to 2014. It has changed my life for the better but I know the great is just getting started. Here’s to a grand year.

Count the Stars

Earlier this year I saw a quote on Pinterest that said, “You’re the daughter of the star breather.” Needless to say I have been obsessed with that thought.

The saying comes from Psalm 33:6, “The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.”

This year has presented some of the hardest challenges I’ve faced within myself and the beliefs I’ve adopted as truth. I’ve been in a process of truly renewing my mind and understanding, believing, and owning my identity and who God is. At times I forget the size of my challenges compared to the size of my God.

Even in the night God knew there needed to be light; so He breathed and stars were created. I can’t help but think, if in the darkness of space His breath created light, the same breath once created light to invade the darkness of this world. That light is me. That light is you.

Last night I dreamt that I was with a friend on a mountain and stars were everywhere. My mind was blown. I had never felt like that before. An overwhelming sense of aww drew no, compelled me to God. Obviously I’m still lost for words because of the beauty of this dream.

When I woke up it took me a while to remember the dream but as I did I asked God why stars were so huge to me in this season. He reminded me of the words He spoke thousands of years ago to Abraham. At this time Abraham knew God’s promise to him, but he had not seen the fruit of it yet.

“He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:5-6 NLT)

Again in chapter 22 of Genesis God tells Abraham, “I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:17, 18 NLT)

As I read these verses God said, you are one of the stars.

When God made this promise to Abraham, I imagine that Abraham had no idea his descendants would reach the year 2013 and beyond… But God knew. God keeps His promises. His promises are not small. They are bigger than what we have planned. And they impact the world forever. He is an eternal God, He doesn’t just do things for a moment but He does things for a lifetime.

He’s calling us. He’s reminding us to go outside of our circumstance. Acknowledge the darkness around us. But most importantly He’s saying look up. His promises out number the stars, so start counting.

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