Bible Study · Faith · Real Christianity

Join Me in James

jamespicWhen I was in college, my professor said I had a knack for feature writing. She even recommended me above all her students to a newspaper seeking a feature writer while I still had a semester of college to complete. I didn’t get the job, but I got a fire for writing that helps others.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, I use my posts to share personal stories of how I overcome my insecurity, fear and struggles as a wife and mother. My hope is that you gain some encouragement and tools to overcome yourself. Because Paul declares that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Today I’m starting a study through James, which many consider the book of “how to be a Christian.” It’s practical and filled with the tools you need to grow in your walk of faith.

I have a few Bible verses around my house as reminders of the Lord’s goodness and mercy. Two of these are from James –

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

&

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12).

These remind me that the Lord is near and walking beside me through every step of every struggle.

So, I’m going to be studying this book for the next month. I need a refresher course in the “how-to” and I’d love to have you join me.

And a fun part of this is that I’m teaming up with hundreds of other ladies to do Denise J. Hughes’ James study from Feb. 17-March 24.

You can join in for free at WordWriters.us/James. You can also order the book at this link.

Drop me a comment on this post if you’re interested in joining and go grab that free reading plan. There’s even a book to write through the book of James.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts each day on my Facebook Page. Please join me!

 

 

Faith · Marriage · Real Christianity

When Love Flickers

lovealwaysToday is Valentine’s Day and it’s a day you’re supposed to celebrate your love with a lavish dinner, flowers and a sappy card. But what if you don’t?

I used to feel so left out on Valentine’s Day at school because I never got a carnation. Not once. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic so this was big stuff to my little teen heart. I wanted just once for someone to surprise me with flowers.

And then I started dating a boy who left flowers on my car once a week. I was over him in about a minute. It wasn’t the flowers. He was actually more insecure than I was and that was a deal breaker.

Insecurity stinks. It’s a fungus that grows and takes over your life if you let it. And I hate to use the analogy on the most romantic day of the year, but fungus is hard to kill. It keeps coming back and requires a new tactic to get rid of it.

Ok. Enough about fungus. What does this have to do with love?

Insecurity causes love to flicker.

A little more than a week ago, the entire north, west and south side of the town we live in was in the dark. Hubby was out of town, so I got to deal with cold, scared kids all alone. We started with some firewood, an iPhone flashlight and several scented candles. We really had all we needed to stay warm and see our way to the necessities.

My youngest slept through the outage and my older two weathered it on the couch. My oldest was lamenting the lack of internet because she couldn’t play games on the iPad.

The Man Cub was truly scared and leaned on what he knew – naming the bad guys. Insecurity in this situation was eating him up. He still talks about the night the lights went out.

So I did the only thing I knew to do. I reassured him and held him in my arms. I promised him that no matter what happened to the lights, he was safe.

Once he fell asleep, the Big Girl argued with me about reading a book. I wanted to read and she wanted to sit in the dark. Then the lights came back on.

I welcomed this interruption in our regular life. It gave me a few minutes to just sit and be with my kids instead of the mad rush to get everything done to get to bed and ready for the next day.

This pause in our regularly scheduled programming brought something to light. Love flickers if we’re not watching for it.

I’ve found myself buzzing lately with negative thoughts, critical remarks toward the man I love the most and an overall sense of doubt. I couldn’t place my finger on it until after that flicker of the lights.

When insecurity comes in, it steals love like the surprise dark of a power outage. The love flickers to a small glimmer and if you’re not careful, that glimmer can go out.

So, when I recognized that my love was flickering, I did what I knew how to do. I loved instead of doubted.

I reminisced about our early days and all the fun we’ve had. I realized that I’ve been boxing myself off. I reached out for his hand when I wanted to be angry.

I looked at the life we’ve built together and asked myself, “Do I still want this?”

I reexamined my motives for loving the man God chose for me. He didn’t ask me to love him because he was perfect. He asked me to love him because he was the right man for me to make a life with, to forgive and stick by for better or for worse. He asked me to love him because he loved me so much he sacrificed it all so that forgiveness can happen between us. He just asked me to love him.

He asked me to follow his definition of love: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:7)

So, that’s what you do when love flickers. You love until the light comes back on. You don’t have the power to turn it back on. Like I told my little boy, it just comes back on. The power comes from outside of us. All we have to do is wait and love.

Blessings, my friends and Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope your love is bright and strong today.

 

Family · Homeschooling · Motherhood

The Weary Days Are Worth It

trust-in-the-lord-and-do-good-dwell-in-the-land-and-enjoy-safe-pasture-4-take-delight-in-the-lord-and-he-will-give-you-the-desires-of-your-heart

I started this post a few weeks ago and got derailed, but sometimes life needs to be derailed to deal with hard stuff and to recognize the expanse of love. To look for the grace of God through answered prayers and life-changing conversations and moments of stretching your capacity to the end of yourself. So, here’s why I think the weary days are worth it.

If you asked me what life has been like since Thanksgiving, I’d tell you “great.” But that wouldn’t be totally true.

The word that keeps clinging to me is “weary.” We’ve had so much fun with holiday things and LOTS of together time and an epic Griswold vacation to Disney and Universal. I highly recommend spending your Christmas vacation in a warm climate. However, it makes coming home to freezing temperatures and frozen pipes a little unsettling.

We had one day last month that began so sweet. We did crafts and the Big Girl and I played a math game with a big die that bounces on the floor. We laughed and laughed and she learned how to do some work on the 100 chart all the while chasing Rudolph.

She asked for more school that day. What an answered prayer. We’ve had a fall of stalls and hard days centered around not wanting to “do school.”

Just the thought of those long days gives me an urge to sigh.

Then you combine my twins from different years, Man Cub (3.5) and Little One (2ish) with weeks of cold, dreary weather and it’s a recipe for short tempers (mostly mine), a lot of not listening (theirs) and weariness. Everyone gets weary when the schedule is too tight and the days are full of gray.

Big Girl thrives off social events and anything outside the house. Mama Bear likes the company and the good cheer, but she is an introvert and a bit of a homebody. Man Cub is like Mama. Little One just goes along for the ride. So, you pit the needs of an extreme extravert against a couple of introverts and a tagalong with Daddy being out of town a lot, and things are going to get messy. The house. Tempers. Sleep.

And when things get messy, a couple of us get, shall we say, out of sorts. That’s not good for anyone.

When I start the day weary, it’s a recipe for many adjustments, setbacks, do-overs and makeups. It’s a recipe for not wanting to handle the big emotions of little people.

It’s a step into a motherhood that doesn’t define my true character.

So, what do you do about weary? What do you do when the schedule is too tight to breathe, but you still want to honor commitments and give your kids an individualized education? How do you get back to celebrating the most wonderful season of life – motherhood?

Here’s what works for me. I hope some of this blesses you.

Don’t neglect the quiet times.

One thing I know don’t have as much time for this time of year is my personal development – Bible study, podcasts, books, journaling, sitting in a quiet room folding laundry or mopping floors (I know I’m not the only one who looks at folded laundry and clean floors as a helpful mind-centering activity). It’s one of the things that gets me a little off-kilter. When you have a busy mind, it’s best to occupy it with things of good – like those above – for the good of yourself and others.

Don’t forget to ask for help.

Hubby travels a lot this time of year and picked up a lucrative job in another city that’s take him away a little longer than expected this week. I heard that news with a bit of frustration. He also had a friend come into town unexpectedly. I want him to have time to invest in relationships. I want him to be whole. But by the fifth day of no daddy at home, I’m a bit touched out, touchy and ready to put on real clothes and escape.

During the phone conversation where he shared this news with me, I was being “needed” by everyone in the house. I’m pushing the Big Girl to do more independent work. She’s a bit of a “tell me what to do and sit and watch me do it” child. Oh my word. Then she does this thing where she needs something, but she won’t tell me unless I react in the perfect tone of voice.

I asked her to articulate her need and to stop haunting my door in my sweetest voice (yeah, right). I was frustrated, but I reframed my response. She said she couldn’t find something. I told her to go do something else she could work on alone.

Hubby and I resumed our conversation after three more toddler interruptions. It centered around, “We’re in a relationship. We ask each other for what we need just like you asked your daughter to do not a minute ago.” Ahem.

It’s humbling when your kids reflect exactly what you do and then you try to correct it out of them. So, I had to ask for a day off. I really never loved asking for a day off when I had a boss. I think it’s an introvert thing.

We’d rather just put up a sign – “I’m visiting with myself. Please come back in a week.”

So, the lesson of this painful conversation is – ask for help when you need it. It’s ok for your older kids to play dress up with their little sister or for them to go stomp in the rain for a few minutes so you can pluck your eyebrows.

Don’t neglect the pegs that keep you centered in the name of productivity.

We got in a habit of going to Chikfila after Bible study last semester. It was a chance for the kids to hang out with friends and for Mama to get some adult conversation. We became known as the “Wednesday Group.”

I decided that we needed to do a little more school on Wednesdays because the competitive dance schedule changed. Well, it’s funny how that works out. We’re back to the exact same dance schedule as last semester and now we have that breathing room for Chikfila again.

I don’t think we’ll do it every week this semester, but it was well worth the break yesterday. I got to talk through some hard stuff with a very good friend. I got to encourage her and she encouraged me. We left with a list of things to pray over for each other.

Just this morning, I was listening to Sally Clarkson’s podcast and she said that when you don’t have an in-place support system to build a network for yourself. She suggested gathering a group of women together to talk and pray and study and serve. That’s what I consider my Wednesday Group – a support network. We’re there to share life together.

So, even if it feels like you’ll never get the laundry done, who cares? In eternity, you’ll have those friends and memories. Laundry can’t talk with you, hug you like you’ve not been around for a year or give you some real perspective on a situation you’ve not considered.

Treat each day as eternal.

There’s an old adage that says we’re to treat every day like it’s our last. I’m not buying that. I’m following the advice I learned recently.

If you’re living in the freedom Christ died to give you. If you’ve given your life to him, why do you need to live as if today is your last? You’ve already entered eternal life. It just gets better from here.

Even these hard days are full of his glory. Even when your eyes spill with tears over how hard a season with a particular child is, there’s peace and rest in that promise. Today is eternity. This situation is not the whole sum of your life. This is just a bump in the road.

Romans 8:18-25 gives us a bit of this perspective.

Now is nothing compared to what’s to come. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV)

We’re to be expectant of glory and others joining us in eternity. “For the creation waits with eager loving for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 ESV) Amen and amen. I get to watch my children reach maturity and reach for Christ. I get to watch the kids I serve in my little toddler class open their eyes to God’s great dance floor (a line I borrowed from one of my favorite Chris Tomlin songs). If we are expectant, we watch for the glimmers and the weary days are worth it when we have one of those conversations you’ll remember forever.

Weary days are the days where the Lord works. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22-25 ESV)

We are weak, but we have hope. Our Lord tells us that’s when He works best.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

When I hold on to the promise that if I “Trust in the Lord and do good,” I will “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:23 ESV). It’s hard right now, but it’s worth every tear, sweat on my brow and hard conversation. He’s waiting in anticipation to make it all ok.

Blessings, mamas. God’s got this.

Faith · friendship · Motherhood · Real Christianity

When You Decide to Live Wholly

2cor517About four years ago, I made a big decision. I was going to take this life of faith seriously. I was going to listen to the Lord and see where he led me.

I was going to see what all these people meant through these terms “Give it all to God” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I honestly felt a lot of that was all platitudes and a little bit fake.

I thought that praise music was stupid. And I often felt lost and unaffected by the Bible. I felt like it was overwhelming. I can honestly remember opening my Bible and starting to read the book of Isaiah and shutting it because I was just overwhelmed. It didn’t register as truth, but as confusion.

I started one of those read through the Bible plans. I was pretty dedicated to it. I got through some tough books. I loved Genesis. I loved Exodus. Then I got into Numbers and Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Job. Some was awesome. Some of it put me to sleep.

Some of it started to stir my heart.

I honestly felt like Job would never end. The depression was almost too much for me. But I noticed that he would not renounce the Lord. And then I got to the part where the Lord speaks. I was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and the mercy he placed on Job’s life.

I also started to write my prayers down. Not every day. But some days. And then some days became most days.

I started to teach my daughter the Bible. I learned so much from a storybook Bible. I actually began to understand the love God has for me from a storybook Bible.

I started to listen to praise music. I still didn’t love it, but it started a change in my heart. I was no longer angry in traffic. Now, it’s often all you’ll find on my car radio. It’s my preference.

Practicing the life of following Christ is not comfortable. It’s not fun. It does not meet any of my human expectations. But it does keeps its promises. God keeps His promises. But the character of God is not what you expect.

It’s not a 10 steps to a new life kind of plan. It’s a plan with struggle and blessings and results and more questions. It’s a plan of letting go of the you you think you are and becoming the you you were meant to be.

I learned a couple of things through this early process and they led me what I’m talking about today.

Just because you make a decision of faith doesn’t mean everything is perfect. You accept the free gift of salvation, but your life doesn’t miraculously become flooded with gifts and riches and all your problems disappear.

Actually, your life is flooded with gifts. They just don’t look anything like your expectations. When you choose to walk in faith, it’s a path to healing your broken heart. You gain the gift of strength beyond your own. You gain a new perspective. You start to see others like God sees them.

You start to believe you are loved without question, without expectation. You start to see hope flooding into your heart even when you promise yourself that there will always be a wall of protection from hurt. You feel profound pain surface even after you’ve pushed it down for years, but the miracle is that you see it walk away never to return.

You see your cracks filled in with grace. The grace that fills in your cracks is so astounding that you want to help someone else understand they don’t have to live under the weight of lies or walls of protection. I lived under all these rationalizations that I could never get to a place of peace with my pain. But when I really examined them through the lens of God’s grace and mercy, they didn’t add up anymore.

So I threw them away. I no longer saw the value in carrying around rationalizations to hide my pain. It’s kind of like carrying all those receipts in my wallet. The money was spent, the food eaten, the clothes worn. Why do I keep them? Because I’m too lazy to throw them away. So, I started to examine them and dispose of them. And replaced them with truth. I’m a loved daughter of the King of Kings and if I’m going to share this love with others, I need to walk the walk and talk the talk.

When you share the love of Christ, you grow strong and bold and wake up healed. I’m not kidding about this. I really started to see a real change in my heart when I started to live in the purpose God made for me. I was breath-taken by my ability to connect with others.

For so many years, I’ve hidden behind a wall of glass looking into the lives of others wanting so badly to have the friendships and connections they had. In a way, I coveted the idea of friendship because it was the thing I struggled with the most.

But last month after a major setback in my journey, I made a new decision. I decided to pray when I felt the rejection of other people. And I examined this rejection. And realized a lot of it was my own expectation of other people. I was expecting to be rejected before there was even a connection. I also accepted that not all people are where I am. And that’s ok. There’s room on this journey for all of us.

So, I started praying through it. And then I did something bold and risky, which is not really my human nature. But it is my new nature.

I started baring my soul – on this blog and in conversation and in my prayer journal. When I became vulnerable – willing to let someone see the deep recesses of my heart – I found peace. And I’m finding friendships. Real friendships built on the unspoken connection of “me too.” What a blessing it is when we let go of our heart of stone and reveal our heart of flesh.

I found that peace that passes understanding. I found that profound strength that is not my own. I literally felt the presence of God come down and sit beside me when I prayed for someone else or spoke life over someone. When I gave unto others, my peace was sealed. When I gave up my life, I got a whole new attitude and peace is what follows that decision.

I woke up in hope and not doubt. And I woke up without the pain or expectation that my day was going to be fraught with doubt. I woke up with a drive to do something better than the day before. I woke up with a desire to serve the Lord with my whole heart.

The month of October of this year was an amazing month for me. I got to see something extraordinary happen in my life. Anxiety no longer runs my life. The more I poured into other people – serving them – with words of life and grace, the stronger my core felt.

I stopped giving my old self dominion over my heart. As Chris Tiegreen puts it in the Romans Bible Study I’m in:

“More than that [to not let sin reign], we are to make conscious choices to not present ourselves (or any part of ourselves) as tools of unrighteousness but instead to present ourselves to God for His righteous purposes (Romans 6:13). Sin no longer has dominion over us because we have stepped out of our repeated, failed attempts to live up to a standard of righteousness, accepted God’s radical grace, and submitted ourselves to His transforming work, which makes us righteous from within.” (Romans, Explorers Bible Study, p. 91)

I found a purpose – my God-given purpose. My husband told me this extraordinary healing was because I was living my purpose. He sees me the way God sees me. And I’m finally seeing me the way God sees me. Redeemed. Loved. As a vessel of His love and grace. I don’t deserve any of it, but He gives it to me anyway. He gives it to me so that I can show others the hope that is in me.

Forgiving yourself and others releases the final chains on your heart. Holding on to pain is selfish and a way we think we can control our lives. But if you really believe God has the best for you ahead of you, you have to let go of that pain and forgive the ones who hurt you. You have to make a daily choice to let the pain die at the cross.

You have to take those old hurts and put them down. They do nothing for you. They do no one any good. Sure, you’re scared to see what life is like without pain to hedge you in. But when the grace of God hedges you in, you still have protection. Protection of your wholeness.

In Psalm 91:14-16, the psalmist writes:

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Alexander MacLaren, a Scottish pastor and Scripture expositor, calls this section of the Psalm “The Answer to Trust.” I love this. God loves me and offers me all of this just because I trust him. He protects you from the fear. He makes you whole. He delivers you from the lies.

When the devil is on the prowl, you are prepared for battle. I went away this past weekend to spend three days with the Lord – serving, singing, training up my heart. And I returned to my regular life with a plate of hardship that would normally knock me off to a place of criticism, self-doubt, panic, worry, yelling at my kids, pulling away from the people who love me, going through the motions, being over it all the time, being tired before the day began.

I fully expected the old patterns to take my heart and wrap it in lies. But I fought back. I prayed when the pain tried to invade my cracks. I told the pain where it would lay – at the foot of the cross. Where I believed the lies of doubt before, I took them and turned them around and asked the Lord to reframe them as truth. I took these negative thoughts and took them captive to the truth Christ has planted in my heart. I reached out to a fellowship of prayer warriors. We went to the throne of God asking for His power, for His strength to overcome.

And just when I was ready to lay down my sword to doubt, He showed up with an answered prayer and another. He sent His people to rescue His girl.

Yesterday was an incredibly hard day. But God walked beside me as always. And this time I chose to lean on Him when I couldn’t walk one more step or throw one more punch. He poured out His love and kept me whole. He filled in my gaps when I wanted to just fall to the doubt, the anxiety and the lies.

And today was not an easy day. I had to go to battle again for my child’s heart. I’m not proud of a few of those moments of fight. But when I went to the Lord for His protection and provision, her heart responded to His power.

She saw the Light. She turned away from the ugly lies that were ready to engulf her. I know this battle for her is not over. I know the battle for my heart is not over.

But I do know who wins in the end. I do know that I can rest in that truth. He wins. And I can trust that promise. So can you. You can be whole and at peace if you just choose it.

I’m praying that this post blesses each of you and that if you don’t know this love, you ask someone to share it with you. I will be happy to be the one to do it. Just drop me a line and we’ll talk – amandacbrandon at gmail dot com.

Faith · Family · Motherhood · Real Christianity

Do You Know What a Treasure You Are?

quotescover-png-15I recently had to have one of those talks with my big girl where you lay out a feast of soul food.

She gets frustrated and I get frustrated with her because I see her starting to walk down excuse alley when she’s faced with something hard in her schoolwork.

She’s a bit of a perfectionist like me. She’s very competitive (like me). And the person she competes with is herself.

And I often forget to see this frustration as a need for connection and refocus on a simple truth – Do you know what a treasure you are?

We had the angry outburst and she ran off to her room to sulk. I gathered myself by folding a load of laundry. Housework is a balm for me. It gives my busy mind a task to focus on while the emotional side levels out. It helps me rewind the conversation (or fight) and look at where things went wrong. I highly recommend cleaning to gather yourself.

After I finished with the laundry, I sought my big girl out. And my little shadow of a man cub followed, of course. I sent him on a few errands so she and I could talk. I sat in her chair and she laid dramatically across the bed with her bottom lip out.

I sought her forgiveness for losing my temper and nudged her to do the same. She’s not quick to seek forgiveness. And while I used to not love that about her, I think it’s a good thing that she has to get to the other side of anger to make that request. It means she processes it and can point out where we both went wrong. That’s a gift from her daddy. He’s not one to quickly apologize either because he knows you need to get to the root of a battle and cut it out.

And let me tell y’all, I can see a heart of strength and grit on the other side of these outbursts. As much as it pains me to go through the battles with her, she’s being refined. (As am I.) She’s got that incredible ability to stand firm. I think it’s called steadfastness in Biblical terms.

My nugget of hope in that stubbornness is that this girl will stand firm when her values are questioned and her faith is tested. The hurricanes of life are going to get blowback from this girl. And I’m so proud to be her mama.

But back to the heart conversation we had.

I led with “Do you know how special you are?”

She pouted and didn’t answer. She did her favorite almost 8-year-old gesture – the shrug.

I could see a crack. I was starting to get in.

I continued, “Do you know what a treasure you are to me? To your daddy? To your brother and sister? To your dog? To God?”

More mumbling.

So I laid out a card I wasn’t sure she was ready for.

I’ve told her she was a child I prayed for. I’ve told her she changed my life. I’ve told her she saved me from darkness more than a few times.

But today I added a little more context to that story.

I told her about a loss she walked through with me. Five years ago this fall, my world shattered. I got pregnant accidentally. We were really struggling financially. I had a diseased gall bladder. I was sick and weary and now pregnant.

Nothing about that pregnancy felt right from the moment I suspected it. I knew deep down that something was wrong, but I was too afraid to let myself go there.

We went for a sonogram. The nurse said, “There might have been a baby. I’ll get the doctor.”

In two sentences, my world came to a screeching halt. My unexpected expectancy was over. I was floored. I was sitting under a paper napkin feeling exposed inside and out.

And after hearing the diagnosis of molar pregnancy, a problem at conception and a quick and necessary operation to end the pregnancy and a plan to get my gall bladder while they were in there, I was a bit overburdened with information. I was withdrawing by the minute.

I needed to escape. I needed to process all this.

I needed to tell my little girl she wasn’t going to be a big sister after all.

I needed to prepare myself for up to a year of facing this loss every week. I had to have a blood test every week for nearly 4 months to make sure I didn’t suddenly develop cancerous growths and need chemo.

I needed to hug my baby. I needed to see my mama. I needed to fall at the feet of Jesus and ask a million questions.

I needed to get ready to go the hospital on Monday.

I needed to be prepared for a sudden, natural termination of the pregnancy.

The word that keeps coming up is prepare. I wasn’t prepared for this. I wasn’t in control.

The only thing I could do was grieve, pray and adore that beautiful gift who sat beside me.

Telling my big girl about that loss was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. She wasn’t quite three, so she didn’t really understand. She didn’t understand why I had to go to the hospital. I saw my baby in fear for the first time in her life.

Even today, that sweet little cry of despair over me having to go in the hospital still pinches my heart.

We got through the surgery. I felt empty and lost and hurt. So hurt.

The gallbladder surgery recovery was pretty awful. I don’t care who says that’s an easy surgery. Nothing about getting your gut cut open is easy.

I started to feel somewhat normal again and went to the beach to see some dear friends. It felt so good to laugh and not worry for a couple days.

Then, we got home and hubby went back to work. The phone calls and texts of checking in started to dwindle. I got to be alone with my pain.

I got to see the ugly side of loss again. You see, I’d hidden it away ever since my brother died 25 years ago. Tomorrow is his birthday, so this memory is a bit fresh in my heart right now.

When you suffer tragic loss, you aren’t ever really whole again. You’re a little cracked. You’re a little scuffed. But you’re still alive.

I had a new crack in my heart. I had a bunch of new scuffs. I had a lot of work to do to get that glue to stick to that crack.

I had another child to care for, to love, to hold.

And you know what, that child was the glue that held me together. Her joy, her laughter, her wisdom beyond her young years kept me getting out of bed every day.

I remember telling the Lord, “I’m not going to let this destroy me. You gave me that girl. I’m going to walk through the motions right now and give you my heart to heal. She needs to see her mom alive. She needs to know she is loved.”

And you know what? That little sparkly gem of a girl went to that doctor’s office every week for that blood test and held my hand.

She asked questions of the lab technician. She talked to me about dance class. She talked to me about how her name was not spelled RL, but RLB. She gave me a different focus. She gave me hope because God knew I needed her.

Do you know what a treasure you are? Do you know God has big plans for you? It may not be clear this instant, but there’s always hope – the belief that there is something good for you in the future.

Be blessed my friends, and please know that God is good all the time and All the time God is good.