Thursday, November 30, 2017

Five Years Without You

To my hero,

In the past five years without you, I have experienced more pain and more joy than I could have ever imagined possible. In some ways it feels as if time has flown by, but in other ways it feels like it has been an eternity since you left us. I wanted to do something special to honor you today so I am writing you this letter.

I remember the day the Lord called you home, I remember walking down the hallway, hanging on to Pastor's side for dear life, and in that moment I felt as if time were in slow motion. I remember the tears running down my face and wondering if I would ever reach the end of that hallway. I knew that the worst was waiting for me and that my life was about to change forever. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but in that room there was so much peace. Peace I had never felt before, but peace I would soon become familiar with.

Since you've been gone so much has changed. There is not one thing that is the same and I wish I could tell you all about it. God has done incredible things in my life and in the lives of other's around me. He has turned sorrow into joy, mourning into dancing, and dreams into plans. My life has certainly not turned out how I imagined it to, but God has done more good than I could have ever imagined He would. I don't know where I would begin if I tried to tell you all that He has done and that has changed so I'll leave it at this: the past five years without you have been the most challenging times of my life. I have grieved, I have grown up, and I have made mistakes, but God has taken my brokenness and transformed it into something beautiful. He has given me the best family I could have ever asked for. He has taken care of your girls in a way that only He could do. He has certainly not abandoned us in our time of need. God has done such a work in me in the past five years and it is mind blowing to me that I was once just a thirteen year old girl who lost her father. Today, I am so much more than that. I have grown up to be a woman of God, a hearer of His word, a learner of His love, and a servant of His kingdom. I can imagine that I have grown up to be everything you would have wanted me to be and I hope that I am making you proud.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about you. The hardest lesson I have learned is how to grieve and how to accept the process. Some days are easier than others, and on the other days I have to ask the Lord to help me. I never would have imagined that I would lose you, but over time I have realized that God's plan is greater than my own. I may never understand why He had to take you home when He did, but I know that He is in control.

But even with that knowledge I still miss everything about you. I miss your voice, your sarcastic tone, and your raspy laugh that would turn into a chuckle then even into a wheeze. I miss your touch, the feeling of your soft touch on my back when I was giving you a hug, your slight grip when I was holding your hand, and your gentle kiss on my cheek. I miss your writing, your words of encouragement, your words of wisdom, and your midweek rantings. I miss your preaching, the way you could captivate your audience, the way you allowed God to flow through you, and the way you got so excited while doing the very thing you loved to do. I miss our days together, getting drinks, holding hands, and sitting across from each other without saying a word.

I will forever hold every feature, quality, characteristic, and memory dear to my heart. You are the most incredible man to me and I will always be proud to call you my father.

Daddy, thank you for being my hero and my guardian angel. I miss you more than my words could ever explain and I love you more than life itself.

Love,
Madison

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You are His and He is Yours

Isaiah 43:1-3, " Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. When you are in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're in between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end -- Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior."

I want to break down these verses to really get down to the meaning, to really grasp the depth of what this scripture is saying. In the first verse it reads, "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine." We cannot forget who we belong to. When you are going through tough times and you are doubting everything in existence remember who you belong to. You are the child of the one true King. No matter what you have done in the past or what you are doing in the present, God has redeemed you. He has called you by name and you are His. Think about it for a second, think about how amazing it feels to be had by the maker of Heaven and earth. Nothing you could ever do or ever go through would separate you from being His. God says, "You are mine." You are mine despite your mistakes, your circumstances, your insecurities, You are mine.

In the second verse it says, "When you are in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're in between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end." God sees exactly where you are at. He sees every struggle you face, and every temptation you face. He knows what you can handle and what you can't handle. God is not caught by surprise when you ask for His help instead He runs to you. He doesn't want you to struggle alone. He wants to be there for you. When you're drowning in sorrow He will pull you out of your misery, and He will give you rest. In Matthew 11: 28-30 it says, "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." When your heart is in distress give it to God. He doesn't want us to withhold from Him. What can we learn from Christ's gentle and humble heart? When you're in a crisis don't panic instead find rest for your soul. It is easy to get overwhelmed in life. We take on too much and feel like we have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders but that isn't the case. God has given us a way out by taking our load and carrying it for us.

Let this speak to you, whatever you are going through take upon His yoke, for it is easy and His burden is light. In verse three it says, "Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, Your Savior." Imagine you are in your prayer closet and your praying to God asking all of these questions: "God, why am I going through this trial? Why am I uncomfortable where I am? Why did you bless me like that? Why did you forgive me? God, why do you love me?" Then imagine you hear God say, "BECAUSE I AM YOUR GOD." Let that be the answer to your questions because HE is YOUR GOD you have peace of mind, you have an abundance grace, you have mercy overflowing, you have freedom to worship, you have healing and forgiveness. Because HE is YOUR GOD you have a place to rest. Because HE is YOUR GOD you will make it through.

So don't be afraid, child of God, when life gets too hard He will give you rest because He is your God.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Come As You Are

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am without a doubt a perfectionist. I constantly feel pressure for everything to be perfect at all times. Whether it's as tiny as my locker being completely organized from the smallest book to the largest book, or the perfect outfit for a certain occasion, or just constantly trying to be prepared for anything and everything. It's a little bit of my OCD but a whole lot of my need for perfection. Throughout my walk with Christ this has been my struggle, trying to be perfect in an imperfect world with an imperfect body, mind, and spirit.

See, the problem is I feel that I have to be in a perfect standing with God to give Him praise or worship, or to be in any type of communication with Him. I feel the pressure to be a perfect child in order to receive love, forgiveness, grace or mercy, or any blessing. If I feel like I am anything less than perfect in my relationship with God, I slack off. I simply stop trying because if I don't feel perfect then I feel unworthy. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as lukewarm. You are either all in or you are all out. I refuse to become lukewarm in my relationship with Christ and because of this I'll stop all together. I don't want to be something I am not, I don't want to give off the impression that I have it all together when in reality I am falling apart. This has been reoccurring in my relationship with God because I want to be my best self for Him.

 I am reminded of the story in Matthew 14:22-36, when Jesus called Peter out onto the water. Jesus didn't answer Peter's request by calling him to walk on the water with the notion that Peter already knew how to walk on the water.  It took Peter stepping out, and Jesus simply saying, "Come." Come with your imperfection, come with your struggles, come with your pain, come to me and keep your eyes on me. Of course, when Peter saw the wind and the waves he became afraid and he took his eyes of Christ. Peter started to fall, he started to lose sight of Christ, but then Jesus reached out his hand in Peter's time of need. Then Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Why do we doubt that Jesus is in control? Why is it so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the waves of our insecurities and circumstances? Why is it so hard to stay focused on Christ?

I relate to this story because recently I have taken my eyes off Jesus. I have lost sight of his comfort and of his love. I took my eyes off of Him, and I fell into the waves of fear and distraction. I  forgot my purpose but I also forgot Jesus' purpose. Jesus came for us who are not perfect, which is all of us, and He came to save us for that very reason. He doesn't want us to come to Him perfect, He wants us to simply come to Him.

So, here is my point: Don't lose sight of Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. Simply come.
There is no need for perfection because HIS perfect love makes us whole. His love covers all of our imperfections. We are not worthy, but He is!!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Aerial View

Have you ever played that game where you're shown a close-up of an image and you have to try to guess what it is then you see the full image and it's usually totally different then what you guessed it to be? Yeah well, this is how I find our walk with Christ to often turn out. God puts us in a up-close and personal situation where it is difficult to see the bigger picture. This is one of the most basic messages but it is true. This is a struggle we have all faced in life. Here are a few questions that come to my mind when I think of these "situations"... How can we trust God when we can't see what He is doing? What is God doing? How do I go on?

It can be difficult to be in a situation where there seems to be no way out. It can be heartbreaking to be in a situation where you simply don't understand what God is trying to do. It can be frustrating to be in a situation where it seems that more harm than good is coming your way and it's all at the hands of God. None of these situations or scenarios are good, but we don't have to go through them alone. This brings me to my first point: You are not alone in this. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. It can be frightening to be in a situation and feel so alone, but isn't it awesome that even when we feel alone, we really aren't? God is with us in every situation good or bad. We never have to go through anything alone. My second point is God is in control. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34. There was a time in my life where I didn't understand what God was doing and I didn't want to understand. It was heartbreaking and no matter what I tried to do I couldn't gain control of my feelings or the changes happening around me. I kept worrying about tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. I kept worrying about me instead of trusting the process God was taking me through. I had to come to a realization that God was moving with me or without me and it was my decision to follow His plan or not. There is something incredible that happens when you completely give God control even when you do not understand. It gives you so much strength and with that strength you can tackle any situation you are placed in. So do not worry when you don't understand the situation because when God finally reveals the full image you will be glad you trusted Him. Our life is like a giant puzzle, and we only see the individual puzzle pieces when they are placed in front of us, but God sees the entire puzzle just waiting to complete it. Do not get hung up on your one puzzle piece that you miss out on the others. Whats that saying, when one door closes another door opens? Or how about my story isn't finished yet? You are not in complete control of your life and while that may seem scary find comfort in the fact that God is in complete control.


I recently went on a trip to visit family in Illinois. While flying up there I was completely captured by God's creation. I couldn't stop looking out the window and taking pictures. Then I thought to myself, "Wow, this is what God sees." We walk this same earth every day but yet it looks so different from up here. Do you get where I am going? This is the bigger picture that God sees. You see a mess, but God sees a masterpiece. You see a loss, but God sees a victory. Man, I am so blown away by God. 

Whenever you get discouraged by your puzzle pieces, and your situations, remember who holds the world in His hands. 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God > Your Circumstances

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 NIV

"Joseph replied, Don't be afraid. Do I act for God? Don't you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now --- life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear. I'll take care of you and your children." Genesis 50:20 MSG

Can I just brag on God's love for a second? His love is impeccable, absolutely breathtaking. I cannot help but be eternally grateful for a love that never fails, and never forsakes me. God's love that hears all prayers, gives strengths, directs paths, calms spirits, forgives souls, comforts the weak, provides, protects, gives an abundance of grace, and so on and so on. God's love is steadfast. His love lasts forever. Wow, God's love is amazing!

How do you face diversity? How do you handle attacks? There are many circumstances we face that take us by surprise. Out of the blue we become overwhelmed by our circumstances. Some circumstances we face make us feel like we simply cannot catch a break. Have you ever felt like you were being hit from all sides? Have you ever been suspicious of things being "too good" and just waiting for the punchline? Unfortunately, these circumstances always seem to be reoccurring. Just as God is working, the Devil is too, and he is working overtime. That's the punchline. The Devil would like nothing more than to see your circumstances get the best of you. He would love nothing more than to see you struggle over and over again, or for you to be caught completely off guard just as you thought everything was going well. It can be overwhelming and you may feel like a ticking time bomb, but let's go back to the most important part. God is working. Isn't it incredible how mighty and powerful our God is? I love this verse (Genesis 50:20) because it reminds me of just how powerful God is. Who else could turn evil into good? The Lord is our Shepherd. He guides and He protects us from all harm because we are His children. Let that sink in for a second.. your struggle, even your greatest pain can be turned around for YOUR good. The Devil is doing everything he can while God is sitting back saying, "Relax, I got this." Don't be discouraged when it seems everyone and everything is out to get you, instead rest in the assurance of God's love. Only God's love will save you from your circumstances.

"Your circumstances don't define God's character." - Kathe Wunnenberg

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Power of Time

You know what will never cease to amaze me? Time.
It's always said how time passes you by, how everything changes in time, and how you should never take it for granted. I hate how we really do take it for granted but in some ways we can't really help it. We live our life, and we go by our routines. We do what we have to do and don't even think about all the time that is passing by. It finally dawns on us during a graduation, a wedding, a birth, a death, or an accident. All of sudden, we stop and pause and think "wow so much has changed". So much can change in a year.. this is true. It's also true that so much can change in a split second. There's something so magical and tragic about time. We're running out of it and that's tragic. We're living in it and that's magical. Can you believe all that God can do in one blink of an eye? Yet we still ask if He is doing anything for us at all. What can we do in the blink of an eye? Nothing compares to what God can do. He does so much for us in a split second and sometimes it is hard for us to even take a second to thank Him. Time is always passing us by so take a second and think about everything God has done for you. Think about every setback, every comeback, every healing, every miracle. God is faithful and His timing is faithful. I am forever in awe of my amazing Father.

My prayer is to always acknowledge the power of time, to always cherish every moment that passes, and to always thank God for His blessings.


"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." 2 Peter 3:8

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture." Psalm 100:1-3

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pursuing the Fire

Imagine you're in a desert, where there is no rain, no sunshine, and not even a breeze. You're standing in the middle and all is still, simply calm. There is nothing happening in the desert and it feels like you are so alone. We would all be lying if we said we never faced a dry season in our walk with Christ. A season where it feels like there is no rain, no shine, and no breeze. A season where it feels like there is no way out of the stillness.

Ezekiel 37: 5-6; "This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord."

Whenever you are in a valley of dry bones, a season of silence, you long for something. A drop of water, or a taste of a blessing, or the comfort from your Father; anything to make you feel again. So, I had a thought. What if we used that one drop of water as gasoline to fuel our fire? What if we focused on one thing to push us to pursue the fire within? I think so many times when we go through these dry seasons we want a flood. We want action and we want this flood of feeling to come back into our bodies, but what if it is just one thing we need? Maybe God prepares us for the flood by sending us through the desert. Maybe there is just one thing we need to find before we dive into the flood. Find your fuel, whether it is reading, writing, singing, or taking out the trash. Find that one thing that makes it all worth it to you. God is amazing, and He himself is what makes this walk all worth it, but what is that one thing that sets you on fire? Let God send you one drop in your desert storm and let that one drop fuel your fire. The best thing to do when you feel alone, and so far away from God is to pursue Him more than you ever have before. Pursue your fire and watch God send the flood.

Hosea 6:3; "Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord, His going forth is established as the morning, He will come like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Unexpected Blessings

It's no secret that we constantly go through different seasons in life. Time is always moving, and it seems as our situations are always different. One day you're a freshman preparing for the next four dreaded years of schooling and high school drama, then before you know it you're getting close to finish the line, and preparing for your final year. Wait, maybe that's just me.. but whatever your circumstances are I'm sure you've come to the same realization I have. Time doesn't slow down for anyone and the things you face in that amount of time that has flown by is simply mind blowing. 

I am no stranger to road trips. I have taken family road trips all of my life and they are very dear memories. These road trips are a wonderful experience and they make for really good conversation. While on a recent road trip I was talking with my parents about how far our family has come. Four years ago, I would have never imagined that my dad would pass away. Two years ago, I would have never imagined that my mom would get remarried. What I thought was the worst possible thing to happen to me has become one of the best parts of my life. Taking two families and turning them into one is not an easy process. We've had our struggles but to think about how far we all have come is such an amazing thought. 

Growing up with a sister is so different than having brothers. I never wanted brothers or any other siblings then the one I had. It could be that my sister is just so wonderful (which she is) or the fact that I wanted to be the baby and threatened my mom and dad that I would run away if anything other then that happened. Anyway, I never imagined having brothers let alone having three. At first the news of our family merging was hard to hear but now my step dad, my brothers, and my sister-in-law are some of the closest and best relationships I have. I loved my little family then, and I love my big family now. It's amazing how God works things out. 

My life is proof that things don't always turn out how you want them to. Certainly, things have taken place where I thought there was no good possible out come but here I am almost 3 years later and completely content with how God turned things around. It's hard to understand His plan, most days I still find myself questioning it, but even with that I trust His will. Time is flying by and I'm holding on for dear life. I'm praying the Lord prepares me for whatever crazy changes come my way, and that He will always help me to see the bright side. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Define

At the beginning of the year most people make New Year resolutions, you know things they swear to do or to work on but it never really happens. While others choose one word to focus on throughout the year. Personally, I like that better. It doesn't demand attention or a strong commitment. You don't have to swear you're going to change or that this one thing is going to happen, but it's an idea and an encouragement to yourself. Here's what you need to focus on this year.. that seems simple enough, right?

At the beginning of the year I didn't have a word. It wasn't that I couldn't think of one but the exact opposite problem. I thought of too many, there is so many words I can relate to. There's so many things I personally need to work on and grow on, so it was hard for me to pick just one to really focus on. So here we are a few weeks in and I have finally picked a word.

Define. You may ask, define what? What does that mean? This year I want to focus on defining myself. I am not perfect, I do make mistakes, I do let God down, I do let myself down, and I do let others down. But one thing I truly need to learn is that my mistakes don't define me. I am not going to let my past direct my future. I am not going to let my mistakes define who I am. What is important to me is that I define myself and who I am in Christ then let God deal with the rest. This year is about letting God have his way, and giving him complete control over my life. This year is about finally seeing who I am in this world, God's Kingdom. I can't wait to see what the rest of this year has in store.