Cross to Bear

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Luke 9:23

Leo was only two years old when the weight of his cross was placed upon his tiny frame. He seemed to understand early on that his life was not his own and allowed God to use him as a visual testimony.  As Leo pulled and struggled his way through life, others watched him try to find his footing. The burdens came fast, yet he clung to the cross keeping his focus on Jesus and the call of home. 

Leo’s body was beaten down, distorted but never broken, his faith remained strong. He was stripped of all he knew, yet grew to know more than many ever manage to believe. 

He was nailed to his limitations for all to see, unable to hide being lame. He was drained of life, while filling others with belief upon releasing his final breath. His body, transformed and purified, as a radiant glow overlaid all his imperfections. 

But Jesus was there beside him, as was I, and together we saw him through to the very end. Leo rose, the weight of his burdens lifted. He stood before the Lord and He expressed, well done my faithful and loyal son. 

In life we will face hardship, pain, and sorrow, but if we try to look beyond the darkness that may burden us in the moment and look rather to the promise of eternal life, we can possibly find peace within our circumstances. 

Our limitations are only from the limits we put on ourselves, for with God all things are possible. Save your life by losing it to God.

Choose Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  James 1:2-3

I strongly believe that where your focus lies, your life will be led. Even through our trials and tribulations we can choose joy. Every morning when we wake up we have the ability, to some extent, to direct how our day can go. Not necessarily by the events, but rather by our actions and response to the events that come our way. 

For twenty years, as I  cared for my two terminally ill children, my own life was in a sense stripped away from me. My time was needed for someone other than myself. These circumstances could have caused me to become bitter if I focused on what I was “missing out” on. 

Rather, these events opened my eyes to a portion of what Jesus was expressing when He said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Life wasn’t about me, it was about what I could do to serve God. In that moment the best way to serve Him was to help one of His children. I am grateful that God softened my heart causing me to choose not to suffer, but rather find joy in the trial before me. 

Every day I faced uncertainty. The trials that my sons endured made it hard to know what we would encounter. We had days that the pain was so severe that we prayed through our tears to seek comfort. Exhausted from the tireless routine, we found no rest as our circumstances looped over and over on replay, testing my patience. Yet, the whisper of God’s love fell upon my ears and into my heart. He gave me the strength to persevere and I grew stronger in my weakness. 

Only God can walk you through the trials of life. Only God can help you to have joy within your sorrow. He cultivated my heart and a garden of hope flourished as He poured His love upon us. God was a loyal Gardener and as He shined His light upon us, the weeds of worry shriveled and gave way to the blossoms of His peace.

Time for a River of Living Water

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38)

There was a stillness in time that we found while sitting outside by our Koi pond. Leo stretched out beside me, relaxing from the sounds of nature. Trent seeking serenity from the warmth of the sun. The calming rhythm of the water flowing down the waterfall and around the rocks soothed us and put our minds at ease. As the water filtered and pumped back to the surface it reminded me of how the Living Water flows in us, through us, and back onto others. 

I witnessed this example, day in and day out, as I looked into the eyes of both Trent and Leo and saw Jesus looking back at me. Although the sorrow weighed heavily on my heart as I watched the suffering that my boys endured, it was the Living Water that filtered through me that lifted my sadness away. It was then replaced with the peace of His love. 

I saw the highest level of love bestowed upon my boys. God gave Leo the strength to persevere through his illness, while shining light onto others. God provided Trent with the strength to accept it, while inspiring others. This resulted in me gaining the strength to push through my own day, while encouraging others. Their faith became my faith and God became our shield.

In my stillness I was awakened to time. Time to see what really matters in life. Time to know God’s heart. Time to feel God’s presence. I recognized that I was in a moment of earthly time, but it was God’s timing that I needed to align with. Just as Jesus boldly proclaimed the truth of His Word and God protected Him until it was His time, I will boldly proclaim my trust in God’s plan. Accepting the loss of my two sons, who were ultimately always His, was part of me trusting that the clock ticks on God’s pendulum and not my own.

As we walk in the will of the Lord, nothing or no one can touch us. Fear of the unknown can’t shake us. Only He knows our time, and until then, I will spend time in the river of His love.

Step into the Light

“In the beginning, darkness was over the surface of the world and God said, “Let there be light.” God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3-5

As I step into the fourth anniversary of Leo’s death, I could choose to walk in darkness, but Leo was lit with the light of God’s love so I chose to follow his flame.

In our own lives we can often feel like we are in the dark searching for the light. Our circumstances that we face can often weigh us down. God wants us to know that He is with us through every situation that we encounter. Although God didn’t cause the situation that we are in, He wants you to be aware that He can help us through it.

I had a light enter my life with the birth of my son Leo. His love for Jesus beamed out of every pore of his broken body. His belief and trust in God’s plan helped me through the wilderness of darkness and gave me the ability to step into the light of God’s love.

Your circumstances don’t have to define your happiness. As a mother that watched two of her sons be planted in a garden of hardship, I was transformed by witnessing the way they plowed through their trials and cultivated a garden of glory. They both looked past the mountain that was in front of them and found peace in the promise of eternal life.

It is during your darkest moments that spending time in God’s Word is so important. His light will cast over you and be a lamp to your feet. It is the light that will keep you from sin. Flip the switch on and step into the space filled with the light of His love.

Rooted in His Love

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

I asked God, “What is the word You have for me?” I heard the soft whisper of God’s response echo in my mind.

“Rooted.” It came without delay.

I sat with this word as I closed my eyes and pondered what it meant for me and the direction of my life for the year to come. As I looked up the meaning of rooted, the word grounded me and I began to clearly see God’s vision. As I went deeper and directed my attention to scripture, the lens of His love embedded even deeper into my heart. 

So much of the wonders of God’s works are unseen, much like the root of a plant. It secures itself unground and pushes its stem upward to the light. The reel of His love began to play in my thoughts as I envisioned myself rooted in His love. What my year could bring if I faithfully follow God’s direction and not my own. If I thirst for the Lord and desire His Living Water to flow through me, holding me firm in the place that He desires, rooted in His truth.

As I walked the fields of the farm at my parents home I could see the vast open space of the harvested fields. They were left empty, waiting for spring and the hands of the farmer to rework the soil and be reseeded. It had me reflect on how many times God has tiled the soil of my heart to entrench the seed of His love and mercy. Protecting me so that my roots grow deep in Him and the enemy will be unable to uproot them. 

Jesus loves me and my heart. I want Him to root out any areas of my life that I have put my identity in anything other than Him.  He showed me that I am rooted into the family of God. My identity has taken hold in the soil of His family and I have been marked by His love.  By being rooted in Him, I have been blessed with a stem, connecting me to the sweetness of His love. This stem provides the nourishment to produce shoots for His glory. For what is in my heart will be the fruit of the words in which I speak. For I cannot help but speak of the things in which I have seen and heard by bearing witness to the good works in which God did through my sons.

The Salt of my Wounds

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14 

Like the pure white color of salt, I witnessed the purity of God’s love cleanse the hearts of both Leo and Trent as well as my own. I saw it be sprinkled over our sorrow and bring zest to our lives. What could have been a life of bitterness, became Divine flavor as God seasoned us with His love. 

The open wounds that my heart felt when I was delivered the news, that not one, but two, of my children would face death was much like the sting of salt in an open wound. This sting was an awakening to create a thirst within me. This thirst was for Christ. 

My heart was decaying. The brokenness that I felt was guiding my thoughts and decisions. The salt awoke me as I watched the light of Jesus shine within the eyes of both of my sons. I had become salt, the preservative that Jesus intended me to be. By rubbing my wounds with the salt of His love, I became aware of the slow decay caused by my sinful ways. 

God helped me counteract the destruction I was causing within myself and replaced it with His light. This light in turn has helped create an opportunity for me to share my wounds and the way God has healed them. 

God also warned that we can lose our saltiness. The lessons in my life experience have shown me that I am stronger with Him. Therefore I will continue to shake my salt on those that I encounter and season them with the salt of His never ending love.

The Soil of My Heart

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 8:5-8)

When you purchase a package of seeds and open it, the contents inside don’t look like the photo on the label. Much like our outer selves can sometimes mask how we feel inside. The seeds need to be cared for, and so do we. Once the seeds are planted in the rich soil and fed with light and watered, they take root and flourish. We too need to be fed with the Word of God and washed over with Living water.
Prior to the birth of my son, Leo, the seed on my heart sat upon soil that was hardened and dry. God tried to take root, but thistles and thorns also grew and choked out precious space that blocked the ability for my faith to take hold. I believed in God, yet many of my actions didn’t align with trusting in His ways.
Fear was navigating my path and guiding my steps. Then Leo spoke three words that forever changed my life, “I see Jesus.” During this time of isolation, Leo cultivated my soil and allowed the seed that sat upon my hardened heart to take root in God’s love.

In our stillness I learned how to be like a tree, planted by the river of water, and meditated on the Word of God. It was Leo’s example that hydrated me and grew my thirst for the Lord. In our stillness, we were moved by God.
As I watched the calmness settle upon Leo’s mind despite the excruciating pain that he endured, I began to really see that we can rise above our circumstances and choose to be in the light of God’s love. Leo’s joy and belief were watered daily with the love of the Holy Spirit. His faith grew deeper and his roots spread. His love embedded into my heart, my family’s heart, and the heart of the community that surrounded us. Leo’s light burned bright which allowed those around him to also believe. His joy became their joy having them reflect on their own life and wanting more. In return they believed they could have more.

By feeding your mind with the truth of God’s Word our roots take hold and the enemy loses control over what holds us captive. As a result, we become free with belief. And with belief it is only natural that joy will become a part of our lives. We weren’t meant to be consumed with worry and carry burdens. We were meant to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time, casting all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us. (1Peter 5:6-7)

On this four year anniversary of Leo’s death, I will not let my heart be hardened, but rather sprout life into myself and others so that many will see the love of God shine through me.

Breath of Life

“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)

God’s breath is in every Word He spoke. With every word spoken, we breathe. With that being said, it shows me just how much power our words have. We need oxygen to survive, and we need spiritual oxygen to breathe through the stresses of life.

It is God’s breath, His Word, that breathes life into us. With a deeper relationship with Him, we are able to fight off the forces of evil. Scripture equips us with the mind to walk through adversity. It provides us with the strength needed when we are depleted and have grown weary from our circumstances.

As I watched life be slowly taken from two of my sons, I witnessed the light of God’s love fill their spirits. Their acceptance and obedience to God grew stronger as their bodies grew weaker. They allowed God to use them as visual vessels of His love for others to grow deeper in their own faith.

Many were able to see in both Trent and Leo, the reflection of God’s grace and faithfulness. They were able to see that it is not our bodies that grow stronger and carry over to the next life. God grooms our character and our souls to stand beside Him in our spirit for all of eternity.

Feed your mind with God’s Word. Let the Holy Spirit wash over you. Breathe in the breath of God, and exhale your light for others to find their way to Him.

Permission to Grieve

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We all have suffered loss in our life and we need to give permission to ourselves and others to grieve at their own pace. Loss doesn’t only fall into the category of a loved one, it could be the loss of a job or a dream that never came to be. 

In my life I have experienced loss in many different ways and on many different levels. There was a season that I endured letting go of seven loved ones within an eight year period of time. Each one of these was significant in their own right to my life but to lose them all within such a short time period was extremely piercing to my heart. 

I lost my mom and dad, my brother, my aunt and uncle, and two of my four sons. These are unimaginable losses to weigh on the heart of one person. Thankfully, my faith was not shaken, yet grew stronger. I was able to cope and step forward into a new day from the beautiful example my son Leo portrayed. His example in return, prepared the hearts of all those that I lost and the ones that were left behind.

Thankfully I also had the comfort and support of my husband to fall back on. We allowed the space that each of us needed and seemed to realize that our own way of processing and grieving weren’t always going to line up with each other. By giving the grace that each of us deserved, we found a way to climb the mountain before us, maybe not always at the same pace, but we willingly waited for each other to catch up. It was through this level of patience that we were able to see things from opposite perspectives at times, and yet still find each other by the other’s side. 

Thankful for My Trials

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

It is not always easy to appreciate our struggles. I will openly admit that I am better as a caregiver than I am as a patient. I never imagined that I would actually be grateful for my hardships. In the moments of being beaten down it was sometimes hard to feel grateful for anything other than surviving through the day. Yet, it was through my trials that I have grown stronger in my faith. A supernatural presence that I welcomed in, knowing I couldn’t do it alone. With a thankful heart I have seen God walk beside me, which is way better than walking through the tough times alone.

My trials built my character and as a result they have placed God at the center of my life. He is why I found it possible to be thankful for my struggles. For it is not God that caused my pain, but rather God that saw me through it.