August 28, 2017

How the Lord is Slowly Turning My Bitterness and Jealousy to Joy

One of the many things the Lord has been exposing to my heart in the last year and a half is how much bitterness and jealousy have made their homes there. It's not new. It didn't show up when grief became a new member of the family. It's been there a long time, grief just forced me to drop the mask and the facade, giving me eyes to see the truth that had been waiting there all along. And it is not pretty. At.all. I cannot be a good mother or daughter or sister or friend or anything, really, if bitterness is what fills my heart and thoughts.

Thankfully, the Lord is slowly chipping away that bitterness and jealousy and showing me how to replace the homes they have built with a palace of joy. He's actually doing this through my prayer times. I shouldn't be surprised by this. I know that prayer changes our hearts, but somehow, I wasn't expecting it to change mine. It's not happening as quickly as I would like, but the process is happening. And though it's slightly painful, it's also been beautiful.

In large part, it's because I started a prayer schedule a few weeks ago. Monday through Friday I have a specific focus each day to pray for my friends and family. I decided to do a schedule because, well, I just needed it in order to be intentional about praying. Without the schedule I would often forget to pray or just not make time for it. So, I bought a planner that was just broken down week by week with lots of space for writing prayer topics/needs. At first, I wasn't exactly sure how to go about it, but then I decided to choose one topic each day and under the topic I would list all of the people to pray for in regards to that topic. I often try to send those prayers to those I am praying for each day.

Of course, once I decided what I wanted to do, then I had to choose the topics to pray over each day. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to pray for or how to choose the topics. Then the Lord began to show me five areas where I struggled with bitterness and jealousy. And I knew. Those are the areas where I need to be praying for others (and sometimes myself or my children.)

So, here are the topics:

Monday: Marriage. Because they both start with "m". And I can imagine it doesn't take much thought to understand why I struggle with bitterness in this area. It's hard to look around and see all the other couples who have gotten to grow old together. Raise children together. Who get date nights and anniversary dinners. Who get to spend nights in the ER and the hospital nursing each other back to health. There's someone there to balance your crazy and provide a shoulder to cry on when you just can't take one.more.thing. As I look at all the years ahead of me without my man by my side, bitterness wins the battle. He was taken too early. Fifteen years together just wasn't enough. It doesn't take much for the bitterness in this area to well up within me. So I put it on the list. Every Monday I pray for the marriages around me; the marriages in my family, Kevin's family, and my precious friends. You know what? As I have prayed for these marriages I've slowly begun to enjoy holding the rope for these precious couples in this special way. I still have to fight that twinge of bitterness that the enemy throws my way as I start those prayers each Monday, but it's getting easier and easier to do each week. God is so good!

Tuesday: School. I'll be honest. Sometimes I am a little jealous of the families that send their kids to public school. Because I am selfish. And it would mean I'd be home all day alone, able to do all the computer work and such that I need to get done for my part-time job and other things I help with here and there. I look at other homeschooling families and I am jealous of how fun and exciting their school times appear. I am jealous that their kids seem to enjoy school and work so effortlessly. Their kids are ahead of mine and I convince myself my children will never be able to function in the real world. None of this, of course, is true. They are lies straight from the hand of the enemy. So, I decided that, not only would I pray for our school, I would pray for other homeschoolers I know to have good, successful days. I pray for many friends whose kiddos are in public school and struggling with new schools, new homework, tiring schedules, and all the conflicts that come with more than one child being in a room at a time. I pray for the amazing Christian teachers who pour themselves out daily to love children as Christ loves them and to give them a chance at an even better life than their parents have. Though this is also happening more slowly than I would like, my heart is changing in this area, too. Now I want to see these other homeschooling families succeed. I want my friends who have kids in public school see their children rise up and speak truth to their classmates. I want the teachers I know to have doors opened for them to share Jesus with their students and their parents. It's hard to feel deep jealousy when you are rooting so hard for those of whom you were once jealous. There is more jealousy to get rid of, but I am confident that God will do it, bit by bit.

Wednesday: Friendships. Believe it or not, friendships don't come easily or naturally to me. This summer I had a goal to deepen one friendship and make one new one. I failed on both parts. In fact, I made no effort on either one. I look around and see so many friendships blooming and growing and it has me in tears. I so desperately want to be a good friend, want to reach out to others, yet I just can't do it. I cannot make myself follow through on that desire. So, instead, I sit back and let the bitterness and jealousy grow as I watch others do what I, for reasons I can't name, cannot. So, every Wednesday, I thank the Lord for the beautiful friendships I do have and ask the Lord to bless those other friendships I see. I ask the Lord to build deep, godly friendships for my children and to enable me to encourage those friendships (another thing I find so difficult.) I also ask the Lord to enable me to deepen the friendships I have and even develop new ones. It feels like it's harder for my heart to be changed in this area, but He's s l o w l y doing, a little at a time.

Thursday: Children. The biggest area of bitterness and jealousy for me in this area is watching other people's children getting saved, while my sweet E just seems to not get it and not care. No matter how hard I try. He is just not interested. It means that I struggle to rejoice with others as their children are saved or show the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. So, I pray for their kids. I pray for their salvation. I pray for their obedience. I pray for their future spouses and careers and families. And then I pray the same prayers for my own children. And it has made the joy for the salvations and accomplishments for their children come much more quickly.

Friday: Ministry. Oh, how I struggle with this! I feel so passionless and useless and giftless at the moment. I think deep down, I know none of this is true, but it feels true right now. The enemy has taken full advantage of this and used it against me at every opportunity. He has me believing there's nothing I am doing now that is of any value and that, because of Kevin's choices and struggles, I'll never be able to do any kind of useful ministry. Of course, I am surrounded by those who have sold everything, literally, to go halfway around the world and serve those who so desperately need the Gospel. Those who have the most beautiful gift for knowing just what is needed and not hesitating to make sure it is provided. Those who have taken the hard steps, even when the results were not what was expected, to speak Truth to those being fed only lies. And I am convinced none of those could ever be me. Each Friday I battle those lies by laying the lives of those I know in various ministries around the world at the feet of the Father they so faithfully serve. I pray for their perseverance, friendships, open doors for the Gospel, wisdom, the loneliness that threatens to undo them. I pray for their financial support, mental support, emotional support. I pray for the people they meet with daily and the Divine encounters they will have. Some days I even pray the Lord will open my eyes to see where He would have me serve, using this crazy God-story He's given me to draw many to Him. (But I don't pray that as often as I should. It's combination of being afraid He wouldn't tell me anything and being afraid that He'd tell me just what to do and I wouldn't be up to the task! Both ridiculous things if I believe that He is always with me and enables me to do what He's called me to do.) As I pray for these sweet missionaries and pastors and pastor's wives and faithful servants, my heart is tied a little closer to theirs and I see the value and need of holding the rope from here for those all over the world.

I still struggle each day with bitterness and jealousy. It is not easily banished from our hearts. It takes the daily, intentional work of turning it over to God in prayer and believing God's truth over the enemy's lies. Of course, you have to know God's truths, so that takes intentional time in the Word. Let's be honest, there are many days we don't feel like praying or reading the word. But, the enemy wins if we choose to give in to that and do other things and forsake our time in the Word and prayer. So, some days, you don't do either with joy or passion, but because you know you need to, because you know it is what is best for you. Similar to getting up at 4:30 a.m. for that run or eating that salad for lunch instead of that large slice of cake. But, the more you choose the prayer and the Word, the easier that choice becomes. (And for the days that choice is hard, text a friend that will point you to truth, tell them your struggle, and let them encourage you to make the right choice.)

Father, thank You for the gift of prayer, even when I don't want to do it and don't see it as a gift. Thank You that even when I pray out of obligation, You still hear and You still change my heart. Thank You for the small changes I am already seeing in the few short weeks that I have been intentionally been covering in prayer, for myself and others. Please keep working! Keep molding and changing my heart. Make me one who is sensitive to the needs of others, lifts up those needs immediately, and takes any action that You ask in order to help with those needs.

August 22, 2017

Little Victories

One of the biggest, yet hardest, lessons I have learned in this grief journey I am now living is that you have to acknowledge and celebrate the little victories. Sometimes, they are all you have in a day.

Many of my days begin wanting to roll over, ignore the alarm and the day's responsibilities, and go back to sleep. Two mornings a week I meet two amazing ladies at the crack of dawn (before dawn, actually, because the sun is not up when we meet) to go for a run. I only get out of bed those days because I know others are waiting on me. The other three days of the week are a serious struggle. As I lay in bed I think ahead to my day and it wears me out, mentally and physically. And my feet haven't even hit the floor, yet! Before we've even done it, I know that math will be a struggle for all three of us, mostly involving tears. E will have to hear instructions, one at a time, over and over again before he can remember to do anything, S will cry if I edit any of her writing even though all I am changing is grammar, they're going to want three meals and a countless number of snacks. It's just too much for me to handle or think about first thing in the morning. I find myself complaining to God before the day even starts. I am questioning why in the world He would ask us homeschool, why my kids can't seem to listen, why they can't get along, why I am such a #parentfail when there's not another parent to bail my kids out. On and on the list goes of the failures and hardships that cloud my vision.

Most mornings I can feel myself slipping away into this pit and can stop, force myself to take a deep breath, and turn my complaining into prayers. Little Psalms if you will. I lay before God what I feel like my weaknesses are, thank Him that He has none of those weaknesses and makes up for them in my life, and then ask Him to enable me to see the truth about the situation, strengthen the areas where I am weak, and lead and guide me so that I can point my children and others to Christ. It's usually a long list. It takes a while. Close to an hour most days. And a good chunk of that praying is simply for the energy to even get out of bed and start the day. Once I do that, lay it all at His feet and ask Him to guide the day, starting the day doesn't feel so impossible.

Now, that doesn't mean our days are all sunshine and roses by any means. I still say mean, stupid things to my children and friends. I'd like to blame that on grief, but I think the time for that has passed and I just have to accept that I am human and sometimes I say mean and stupid things. So far, they've all always forgiven me! We've only had two days of school and all three of us have cried through math both days. And Ethan is only in 3rd grade. There really shouldn't be anything to cry about in 3rd grade math. But, no worries, we found a way. I lose my temper at things that don't matter, my kids don't listen, and I still have to take a nap most days to make it to bedtime. I quickly jump to seeing the worst in me and my children. I get easily overwhelmed by dumb things of no eternal significance. I often choose complaining, crying, or weeping and gnashing of teeth over prayer and trust as things arise during the day. I have limits to what I can handle in a day. And I hate it. I want to be able to function like I used to, before grief stole my brain and hijacked everything (or so it feels.) But, you know, when I felt like I could do everything, I rarely asked God for help or direction or included Him in anything. Now I can't imagine going through the day without stopping everything to pray multiple times because it's the only way I can focus, catch a breath, or stop the panic from taking over.

But, still, I seem to be so much better at keeping track of defeats instead of victories. I guess the defeats are easier to see and name. But, I promise, those victories are all around you, you might just have to ask God to open your eyes to them and help train you to see them. I know I sure have. He has answered and, not only has He helped me to better see the victories, He has surrounded me with beautiful ladies who help to point them out to me when I can't see them.

Victory is: getting up at 4:30 a.m. twice a week to run; making something other than cereal for breakfast (even if it did come out of a can); reading even one chapter of a book out loud to the kids; praying before a meal; getting the dining room table cleaned off to have college students sit around it for lunch; taking a shower; not wearing today what you slept in last night; finishing a math paper in less than 2 hours; remembering to turn in your library books on time. The list could go on and on. It will look different for everyone. But, if you look, you'll see victories. Here are three of mine from today:

I know this doesn't look like much, but this little electric power washer was an answer to my prayers today. I felt so defeated after our morning of school. And it's only the second day. I wanted God to just give me one victory. One thing that I could be thankful I was able to do, on my own, no tears involved. Then I remembered that a young man in church, who had fixed my big, clunky power washer and sold it for me in order to purchase this, had delivered it to me Sunday and it was in the back of my car. I ran to get it, hooked it up (no screaming or crying at all---VICTORY!) and was able to clean my deck and one side of my house. Y'all, I forgot my deck wasn't black! I couldn't even tell you how long it has been since we've been able to see wood grain on that deck. (I know it looks black in this picture here, but that's just the reflection from the water.) It's still not the most beautiful deck in the world, but layers of dirt, grime, and mold are gone and I was able to do it without having to rely on someone else. It felt so good! #victory

 You may have seen on Facebook last week that I was tired of the poor way E's Legos were stored, so I bought some bins and a shelf and was determined to make it look neater, even if it really wasn't. The shelf came in today. First of all, just being able to carry that heavy box to the basement and not hurt myself was a victory! Second, S and I put this whole thing together all on our own. We didn't scream. We didn't cry. No curse words went flying. Now, I am quite sure it took us longer than it should have, but we did it! #victory (Now, to figure out where to hang that picture! It's too big for the spot I really wanted to hang it so now I am perplexed. I guess that will just be a #victory for another day!)
 We had an old, non-working security camera on our back power pole that I really wanted/needed to come down. But I don't do heights. And it was really high in the air (at least to me). One of the awesome guys from my small group came by today and took it down for me. E was so excited and could not wait bust the glass to get inside and take it all a part. I am pretty sure I sighed. And there was probably some eye rolling. From me. Not him. (I am almost 38. Eye rolling doesn't look good on me.) Tinkering with the camera just for the sake of tinkering with it did not fit into my plan for the day. If you know me at all, you know I do not improv well, on stage or in life. If there is a schedule it is meant to be followed. I really wanted to just throw the camera in the trash and move on with my day. But then, as I saw it sitting on the counter and the excitement in E's face at the thought of taking it apart, all I could see was Kevin in my sweet boy. So, we made a deal. He had to finish his math, then he could destroy the camera. Math was still hard (not because of lack of skill, but lack of desire to do the work), but the rest of his school work went so smoothly after he destroyed the camera. He did a great job with school and had so much fun finding all the right tools to do what he was wanting to do. I let go of the plan and let him have fun. We both won. #victory

So, as you head to bed tonight or start your day in the morning, ask the Lord for eyes to see the victories, big and small. You see, when we see those, we are seeing the hand of God actively working in our lives and the lives of those around us. When you are looking for the victories, those defeats grow strangely dim in comparison. I have not mastered this and still have to ask God for His vision each day. I sent a frantic voice text to several of my tribe today because all I could see was the defeat of math. But, you know what, our God has conquered math! I mean, if He has conquered death and the grave, math is no match for Him!

August 18, 2017

Year 7

On August 21 we'll be starting our seventh year of homeschooling. We started this journey, rather unexpectedly and having no idea what we were doing, when Sophie started kindergarten. I really didn't think we'd still be here all these years later.

I feel just as ill-prepared this year as I did that first year. And much more tired. And much more overwhelmed. And much more worried about whether or not I am getting any of this right. Because now their needing to get into college/or get a real job one day feels so much closer than it did seven years ago, all the little things of each day seem so much more important. Every decision feels huge! The last two years feel like a bit of a waste because, well, there were many days when not much got done. It makes me thankful that the Lord can do a lot even when all we can give is a little!

Believe it or not, though I ended up with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, I actually started out as a Secondary Education History major. This major was chosen based on two things: I love history and, at the time, it made sense that it was a job I could wear a costume for every day. Clearly, no one was surprised when, barely halfway through the first semester (and without having taken even one education class), I switched my major.

So I was probably the most surprised when God whispered homeschooling into my ear. I have no training at all in education. I had barely even ever taught a Sunday School class, let alone being in charge of the entire education of a child! But, the Lord has been gracious to us. He has surrounded us with many who are ahead of us on this journey and can offer us wisdom. We have a great Co-Op that fills in a lot of gaps and makes school lots of fun.

I wish that I was more creative when it came to teaching, but we've made it, one year at a time, so far. We did lots of fun stuff when she was younger, but I find that harder and harder to do as she gets older. And is learning things I barely understood when I was in school. See why I am a little worried for their future? Oh my!

In the seven years we've been on this journey we have yet to repeat a daily schedule. We just kind of go with the flow and change things around when needed. In the last year or two I've realized they actually do better with doing some lessons in the evening after dinner. Family devotion works best at breakfast. Just little things that I've switched around here and there. This year will be the same way, trying things until we find what works. I am trying an entirely new curriculum for Ethan (other than math) this year. This makes me nervous, but I am hoping it goes well. He needed a change. I hope this is the right one!

I am praying that this is our best year yet! Father, fill all three of us with a love for learning. Give us eyes to see how our lessons and subjects teach us more about God and who He is, as well as how they equip us to tell others about Him. Lord, lead and guide each day. Give me wisdom to know what needs to get done and what needs to be dropped from the schedule each day. Give me a sensitive spirit to know just what each of my children need, day by day. Oh, Father, draw us to You as we spend time learning about the people and the world You created! Use this gift of homeschooling to draw us together. Grant us sweet memories, laughter, and a year of knowing You more!

August 09, 2017

518 Days

I didn't really count days until May 2015. That's when we started counting how many days Kevin had survived without fentanyl. Since March 10, 2016, I've been counting (some days trying not to count) the days we've lived without Kevin. It's 518, by the way.

Part of me feels like a bad Christian that I look at it, most of the time, as the number of days I have lived without him. Shouldn't I be looking at it as the number of days he's been healed, whole, and living with his Savior? Some days, that's what I think. But honestly? More often than not it's the number of days I have survived without him.

Without him here to speak logic to my drama. Without him here to clean the kitchen. Without him here to lead our family devotions. Without him here to deal with insurance companies. Without him here to prepare Sophie for middle school and the youth group. Without him here to teach Ethan how to be a loving, godly man. Without him here to take out the trash on those really cold nights. Without him here to watch The West Wing with over and over. Without him here to wipe away the tears of insecurity and worry and fear. Without him beside me for year 7 of homeschooling.Without him beside me to laugh and rejoice and fight with and fight for and grow old with over the years. Without him. Without him. Without him.

And it sucks. Most days involve tears at some point. Some are tears of frustration. Some of loneliness. Some of fear. Some of confusion. Some just because I don't know what else to do. I shed more tears than my kids will ever know. I am sure they shed more tears than I know. His absence is felt in every moment, whether in that moment or when replaying that moment later. The regrets are piled high. The guilt and shame follow me everywhere I go. Most days it's a fight to find a silver lining and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It's hard not to compare my life with the lives of those around me. It's hard not to be jealous that other daughters and sons get to have their daddies around. Hard not to be bitter that others around me get to grow old with the love of their lives and I don't. It's hard not to wish I was sitting in a hospital room taking care of my man, regardless of why he's there, because that would at least mean he was still with us. It's hard to see why others can walk away and leave addiction behind but it plagued Kevin until the day he died. Did I not pray enough? Trust enough? Fight hard enough?

But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that His ways are higher than my ways. I cannot know the plans or reasons of the Lord here on earth. Once in Heaven, I am not sure those ways or reasons will matter all that much. There is a time and a season for everything, whether I understand or ever know the reason that accompanies the season. Still, I must trust. Can I say, as Job did, even with a broken heart (as I am sure Job had), "You give and take away, blessed be the name of the Lord?" Do I sin by charging God with wrongdoing or do I let go of my agenda and need for control and trust that He knows best? Do I believe that Psalm 147:3 (He heals the brokenhearted, He binds up their wounds) is true? Do I believe Psalm 139 when it says that He knows all about me and has seen every one of my days already? Do I believe that He is with me, has left His perfect peace within me, and leads and guides me in every moment?

If I am honest, I don't always. I spend a lot of time whining and complaining and throwing temper tantrums because this life has not turned out the way I wanted it. I question God's wisdom and decisions. (Why let me get married when You knew I would be left here without him? Why allow us to have kids when you knew the heartbreak they would face living this life fatherless? Why give me dreams and hopes for my marriage and family when you knew both would be torn apart?) I want everything to be back to normal right now. I want renewed energy right now. I want life to be happy and easy and nothing but joy. Right now. But this is a broken world filled with sin, so that is not possible.

On the days that I am intentional to start the day in the Word and prayer, I find myself to be more productive, more joyful, and less bitter. Yet, I still, far too often, choose laying in bed and letting myself wallow over choosing what I know is best for me. As it says in Romans 7:15-20, 24-25 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it...What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Oh, how desperately I want to stay close to the Lord, to trust Him with everything on this crazy planet, and to live my life in a way that brings Him glory and points others to Him. But I also want to stay in bed all day and not be a parent. I want to hide away from the world that often now feels foreign, harsh, and cold. I don't want to reach for my Bible. I'd rather just sit and cry and throw myself a pity party. It's so much easier to be a slave to all the emotions.

That is not what God wants for me. John 10:10 assures us that Christ came to give life. Not just the surviving by the skin of your teeth, holding on with white knuckles hoping to make to the end of the day, kind of life. He came to give full life. Abundant life. But I can't have that life if I leave Him out of the equation. No matter how easy it is to forget about Him. To walk away from Him and toward the grief and despair.

So, yes, it's another 10th of the month. And another 10th that happens to be a Thursday (he died on a 10th that was a Thursday). Yet, today can be a day of hope. Peace. Trust. Rest. Being rooted in the only One that enables me to grow and find joy. In just about a month I will be speaking to a group of precious women and the Lord has had a word in my mind for months as a theme: Rooted. Oh, how I wanted to be rooted in Christ. To be rooted in Christ I must be rooted in the Word, in prayer, and in community that will point me to Him at all times. Man, it's hard when He makes you live out the words He asks you to speak!

Oh, Father, fill me with Your hope today. Let this be a day of sweet memories of days gone by, sweet memories made in the moment with my kiddos, and of choosing celebration for Your gifts of forgiveness, healing, and an eternal home with You. Fill this day with Divine energy. Divine motivation. Divine grace. Oh, Father, give me abundant life through You. Remind me of Your promises and all the ways You have filled them.

August 02, 2017

One Little Picture

It's amazing to me how powerful pictures are. When I was in college we didn't have cell phones (I know, I am old) or digital cameras, so taking pictures was actually a bit of a chore. I didn't take very many pictures. I wish I had taken more just so I could remember more of that fun, life-changing time.

Thanks to time and the many seasons of life I have lived, I now value pictures much more than I ever thought I would. I take more pictures than I know what to do with most days. Of course, I take pretty much every picture on my phone and print very few of them. But, thanks to technology and Google Photos, I can pull up those pictures anytime.

It wasn't until after Kevin died that I really felt the power of pictures. Even one single, simple picture can make years seem to melt away and drastically change my mood to match the mood of the day captured in a picture. I can't explain it, but just looking at a picture of Kevin makes it seem so surreal that he's no longer with us. It tricks my mind into thinking he's just out on a job and he'll come through that door any minute. It makes the years of addiction and pain melt away to look at a picture of him before addiction. Happy. Young. The man I married.

In a rare burst of energy the other day I decided to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen. That's when I found this picture:

I remember this picture. It was the summer of 2001. I had just graduated from college and I was spending the summer traveling with a few other members of Praise Song to do a camp at Windermere. Our group was with the 6th graders and we were leading worship for them. (I promise, I was doing actions for the song "Ain't No Rock" when this picture was taken. "Ain't no bird, gonna flap it's feathers...") Kevin and I had only been dating since February, but I already knew he was the one. There was not a doubt in my mind. I fell even more in love with him on this trip. He was such a gifted worship leader. I know those that only knew him in the last 4 years wouldn't believe he was much more than a good guitar player with lots of issues, but believe me, he loved the Lord. He loved using his gift of music to point others to Christ. He was a natural worship leader, despite his numerous other faults. I wish more of the people I now know and love could have known the Kevin from this picture.

But when I found this picture (which I am fairly sure had been on the driver's side sun visor of his truck for years), I noticed something I had never noticed before and it quickly became my favorite picture. He's looking at me. Really looking at me. And he's proud of me. And he loves me. And because honesty seems to be my thing, it felt like he hadn't looked at me, really looked at me, in years. Addiction got in the way.

He knew I was there. He didn't doubt my love or support, but he didn't look at me. Didn't see me. And, honestly, it felt like that meant he didn't really care about me. Need me. Want me. Because that's what the enemy does. He lies. He is the father of lies. Every nightmare and bad dream I have had about Kevin since his death, and even before, have been rooted in this: he didn't see me. He didn't love me. I was nothing to him. He's not even on this earth anymore and the enemy is still using that fear and doubt to lie to me and make me question everything about Kevin, his life, our marriage, and our family.

And it's the same thing the enemy does in our relationship with God. Satan convinces us that, because life is hard and not what we envisioned, that God doesn't see us. Doesn't care about us. Doesn't need us. Doesn't want us. He never did and never will. And that makes it easier to walk away. Easier to choose anything but Christ. Anything but joy.

Please believe me, no matter your scars, poor choices, or hard circumstances, God loves you! He sees you. He knows you. He works things for His glory and your good. Dear brother or sister, listen to the words of life those who love you speak over You. He has not left you. He has not forsaken you. He has much more love in his eyes for you than Kevin has in this picture. There's no comparison. He wants you to grow and know Him more deeply. Sometimes that means a change in jobs. A change in relationships. A change in homes. A change in marital status. A change in continents. A change in family number. Sometimes it doesn't feel good. That's when satan swoops in and begins to plant those lies.

Please believe me when I say that I've had lots of moments of doubt in the last few years. I've done my best to be open and honest, but I don't share everything. I don't share the temper tantrums I throw at God. I don't share the times I shout at Him for leaving me here on my own or crying over not being seen. I don't share the complaints of having to be the one to deal with insurance, take out the trash, and kill all the bugs. He hadn't done most of that in at least two years (a loving God graciously preparing me for what He already knew was ahead in the picture of my earthly life), so I've been complaining about those things for a long time. I get it. I know your hurt. Here's what I want to say: scream. Shout. Tell God how you really feel. He can take it. He's so much bigger than we even realize. Your questions and doubts and misunderstanding Him won't change Him or make him smaller.

But, when you've exhausted your words and your energy is spent, sit. Be still. Listen for Him to declare His love to you. It could come through His word, a sweet friend, a card in the mail, someone at work who doesn't even know God. Be still. Let Him speak. Let Him move. He'll prove that He sees you. Every.time.

Oh, Father, remove the lies. Show Your love and care for us each day. Fill our minds with Your truth so when satan's lies come our way we can recognize them immediately. Break through the darkness of our circumstances with the light of Your truth.