I’ve never fully understood redemtption until my father took his own life.

 

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If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

I’ve never fully understood redemption until my father took his own life. What I thought he stole from us that day turned out to be a gift.
Because he made the choice to leave us behind on that rainy Monday, this precious little girl now lives in my home.

My husband and I have been given the gift of parenting my teenage sister. We’ve been blessed with loving her through her pain and watching as the corners of her mouth gradually sneak up to her cheeks to form a smile.

Her story was set to be told by a very different narrator.
The road she traveled on was rough terrain.

But redemption came that day.

God’s redeeming my story by allowing me to parent her in the absence of our father.
God’s redeeming her story by allowing her to get a daily glimpse of our father through my eyes.

If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

The one and only true remedy for sleepless nights. Proven 100% effective.

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Losing Precious Time

My head hit the pillow at 8:24pm and I was sure to fall asleep instantly since I could hardly keep my eyes open since 5:30. Of course by 8:27 my eyes were wide open and my mind was going a thousand miles a minute.

What time does Stiles need to get to practice in the morning?

Did I brush my teeth?

Should I get up and pee now or chance it and try to make it until the morning?

I need to set a dentist appointment for our oldest daughter. Oh dang that reminds me, two of the triplets failed their vision test and need to go get an eye exam at the ophthalmologist. How are we going to pay for that?

How are we going to pay our mortgage, our bills, our child support, buy our groceries, buy the kids clothes, pay for gas?

Our fourth fundraiser packet just came home in the kids back packs. It’s school pictures time. Stiles needs a band shirt, a volleyball shirt, a student council shirt and a safety team shirt. How are we going to swing that.

I wonder if everyone can see my grey hairs? How much is it to color my hair? Should I just get one of those at home box colors?

How much does a tummy tuck cost these days?

I snap out of it and remind myself that I have to get up at 5:00am and need to shut down my brain and get some sleep. I take a peek at the clock. DANG IT! Did I really just lay here for 3 hours and worry about what I have to face tomorrow. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

I have to pee. I should have done it three hours ago.

Back to bed. Glance a the clock again. Serious, I now am four hours away from my alarm going off.

I finally crash.

After what seems like a few short minutes my alarm starts beeping. I cussed at it.

After thirty minutes of snoozing, I fell out of bed to face my day.

The Rising Of The Sun

Much to my surprise the sun came up. The weather was amazing. I stayed home with my daughters and we did crafts. My mom treated us to lunch. We took a walk. We went to church. We all attacked dad and fake karate chopped him. I pretended to be a blind monster and chased the girls around the house. I even got a little work in and paid a bill or two. We all went to sleep with tummies full of food and souls full of faith.

My sleepless dark night of fear was a waste of my time. God remained faithful to me with the rising of His Son.

He tells us flat-out not to worry. He’s got this covered. If He tells us that this is true then why do we do it anyway. Check out one of the most comforting verses.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:25-28

Take a look at that last line again. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” .

Wasting Time

What a fool I was for wasting three hours of precious sleep time worrying about how I was going to provide. How my husband was going to provide.

Why didn’t I just remind myself that He provides. He takes care of me. He sent His son to walk before me.
I haven’t just lost sleep in my dark hours, I’ve lost days, weeks, months, years.

I’ve spent far too much time stuck in the dark, wondering what was going to happen to me. Wondering how I was going to make it. Stressing about who I was going to become. If I was ever going to amount to anything.

What an idiot.

I Have a Hero

I have a Savior! I have a Redeemer. I have a Caregiver, a Father, a Shepard and a King to walk me through my darkest hour. All I need to do is be still and have faith.

Are you losing sleep wondering what to do and how to do it? Are you losing days stressing about how you will provide? Are you losing years stuck in your darkest hour?

Be still. Have faith. Say prayers. Do not be anxious. Rest.

God’s got this.

Let’s Pray

“Faithful Father thank you for always providing for our needs. Help us to rest in You and have faith that you will take care of us. Let us not be anxious. Take away our fears and light our darkest hours. When we lay in bed at night losing sleep over things that we are afraid to face, gently remind us that You have already gone before us and have already taken care of it. In Jesus name, amen”.

I’m passing on the hair color and rocking the greys with confidence. My insurances will cover the doctors appointments. Our refrigerator is full of food. The bills are paid, not necessarily on time but paid none the less. Most important, my kids are happy and healthy and my marriage has never been better. I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.

The Simple Cross Where True Forgiveness Was Found

dads cross 1

Repost.

 

He handed me the reusable shopping bag and it felt empty as I took on its weight. Not only did he not make eye contact as he handed it to me but he didn’t say a word either.

I took a peek inside and there it was.

My dad’s cross.

I’ve only seen it twice and it’s only been through pictures.

My brother let my dad’s ashes go out on our family property in West Texas almost two years ago. It was a day that I struggled with more than I thought I would. He sent me a picture of the simple cross where he laid our dad to rest.

A year later, on the anniversary of my dad taking his own life, my brother went back and took another picture of the cross, sent it to me in a text and wrote “All good”.

The cross sat hours away from me in the middle of a few hundred acres of raw land. I would have never made the trip to see it. I left it as a place just between my brother and my dad and was content to never actually see it with my own eyes.

But here it is was.
In my hands.
Still covered in West Texas dust.

My brother didn’t want an oil truck to run it over or for it to get destroyed somehow so he pulled it from the hard ground last weekend and brought it home to me.

There are two crosses in my life that mean more than I could put into words.

The cross on Calvary where Jesus willing took on my sins so that I can be forgiven and live with my Father in heaven for eternity and the cross where my brother and I were finally able to let my earthly father go and forgive him of his sins. Those two crosses symbolize a forgiveness that cannot be measured.

At Jesus’ cross I leave my sins.

At my dad’s cross I leave the hurt of his earthly life, the hurt it put on me and my siblings and the hurt that it put on him. I will not carry the burden of bitterness, hate or regret. I will not carry his sins as if they were mine or try to make up for his mistakes.

I will forgive and let go.
I will love and not hate.
I will give and not take.
I will be better and not bitter.
I will let God.

The cross where Jesus took on my sins is the ultimate symbol of grace, mercy and forgiveness and the least I could do to honor my heavenly Father is to give the same respect to my dad’s cross.

From today on it will hang in my home as reminder of what Jesus did for me and that it is my responsibility to Him to do the same for others. The cross that will hang in my home, the one that once sat in the West Texas dirt and took on my dad’s ashes will be my reminder that while we are here on earth we must show grace, show mercy, forgive and forget, let it go and let God.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. “ Mark 11:25

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father lift the weight. Lift the weight of sin, guilt, bitterness and anger so that we can live the life You intended for us. Help us to show others mercy and grace so that we may be more like Jesus and less like us.  Remind us that the cross is not a decoration that we hang in our homes or around our necks but rather the place where our sins were taken away and forgiven. Show us how to see others through Your eyes so that we can forgive and love the way that You forgive and love us. In Jesus name, amen.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” Colossians. 3:13

Be Beautiful, Do Beautiful and Evolve.

Our worth is not defined by the circumstances in our lives but rather how we react to those circumstances.

We are beautiful because we were created by the loving hand of the Lord and He only makes things that are wonderful and perfect.

Be Beautiful, Do Beautiful.

I try not to be a vain person, really I do. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look presentable but I don’t hold my worth in my appearance. I do my best to eat healthy and get some form of exercise when I can but I don’t measure any of my value from what the scale reads. But a few weeks ago I failed. Miserably failed.

I received a message from Savvy Media Marketing asking if I would be the November model for Evolve Boutique. Last month Evolve launched its Be Beautiful, Do Beautiful campaign and their goal is to highlight different women in our community who “do beautiful”.

Vanity bomb!

The last thing I really wanted to do is have my picture taken and posted on the internet. I gave birth 8 months ago and I am not one of those women that can walk the runway days after birth. Actually, I’m not one of those women that can walk the runway, ever. I’m usually pretty comfortable in my skin but right now my skin is recovering from a very complicated birth with many obstacles that have slowed my healing process.  I wasn’t ready for pictures. On top of that the owner wanted me to tell her how I do beautiful. That might have been more uncomfortable than taking pictures. I found it hard to say how I do beautiful.

Reality Bomb!

A few days before the pictures I was at church with a group of my close girlfriends and I was telling them how stressed I was about the pictures and about how to express how I do beautiful. It just seems weird to talk about yourself that way. One of my honest and hilarious friends threw a humble pie right in my face. She look at me with a grin and said “Oh you mean like you had us do for your True Beauty post, except you actually get to wear makeup and fancy clothes.”. Thank you Amber and I truly mean that.

Point taken.
Vanity in check.

I went home, wrote how I think I do beautiful  then stood in front of the mirror and reminded myself that my worth and value do not come from the reflection in the mirror but from the reflection of my heart and God’s amazing love for me.

I am honored that Evolve Boutique and Savvy Media marketing chose me to represent them. I am thankful that they looked at a curvy, fluffy mother of five and decided that it’s what beautiful looks like to them. Evolve carries beautiful clothes that allow women to be stylish yet modest and I’m all about dressing modest. Their goal is to enhance the beauty you already posses inside. Expose The Heart photography did an amazing job helping me look and feel feminine and beautiful and I think we can all agree that proper lighting doesn’t hurt a girls confidence. . But honestly, aside from all that silly earthly stuff, this entire experience humbled me and made me even more grateful that God has a plan for us and that He will put us through test so we have a testimony, give us a mess so we will have a message and give us the gift to be His hands and feet.

Visit Evolve Boutique Blog to see their Be Beautiful, Do Beautiful campaign.

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I got to sit down with Erin from Savvy Media Marketing and Victoria, the owner of Evolve, and we talked about what makes someone beautiful. We talked about how having a special needs child has impacted my family’s life and how we know that it is easily one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us. We talked about forgiveness and we talked about God.
In our conversation I mentioned to Victoria how brave it was of her to put scripture on her company website, not because I think  she should hide it, I am proud of her. It is simply a bold move by a business owner to post her religious beliefs on her company page knowing that it might lose a few customers. She responded with amazing grace. She said that the store was an act of obedience to God on her part and if she didn’t put God in the center then it simple wouldn’t be anything.

God is good and days like today are a reminder that He makes good people.

Victoria has decided to donate some of the proceeds from her online sales to the Autism Community Network in our family’s honor. This makes my heart want to leap from my chest. Please visit her at Evolve and not only grab something classy and modest for you or a loved one but help support autism awareness at the same time.

Justin Graves Band Ministry and Giveaway!

A few years ago my family went through something that shook us down and stripped us to our core. As we began to rebuild ourselves we made a choice to very intentionally release all of the toxic things in our lives and make an effort to no longer allow anything in our lives that didn’t bring us closer to God. It was work, lots and lots of work. One of the things in our lives that we never really noticed had such a negative influence on our thoughts was the music we listened to. A catchy beat can suck you in and the next thing you know you and your kids are singing words that would normally never leave your lips. That had to change for us and for our children.  We made a decision to only listen to Christian music. Well, that’s a small white lie. I’m married to a country boy who loves his country music so we do occasionally listen to country music, only if it’s appropriate and sometimes we allow the kids to listen to some of the song that we approve. However, in the car the radio is always set to KLOVE or AIR1, always.

There’s truly nothing like hearing your children singing songs of praise from memory. I love when all the girls are jamming out to Christian songs that are uplifting and positive.

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite families and their amazing ministry. Justin and Michelle along with their precious daughter Gabi travel all over to spread the love of Christ through their music.  Known as The Justin Graves Band , this family is touching lives everyday not only through their music but through their kindness, compassion and unstoppable love for the Lord.

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Michelle recently sent me some CDs along with donations for my daughters homeless ministry because they are always thinking of others and always freely give of themselves. Today I want to give you a chance to win two of their CDS, Live To Love and Happy To Be Me.

Live To Love has been blasting in our car for weeks and we are all constantly humming the tune to Flip My Attitude. It’s our families favorite song on the CD. I dare you not to bounce your shoulders to the beat while it’s on. This is a CD that I can pop in and with confidence let every song play, knowing that each song is not only family friendly but amazingly done by Michelle and Justin.

I have two favorite songs, wait make that three. Shout For Joy is so special as it has sweet Michelle speaking scripture to start the song off for Justin.  A true testimony of love for my kids to witness.  Thank you Michelle.  Hallelujah is beautiful and Make Me What You Will is a song of great obedience to the Lord. I’ll admit that when I’m along in the car I repeat Make Me What You Will several times. It’s become sort of prayer for me.

Sweet Gabi is on several songs and has a brave and strong voice. She is clearly being raised in a confident and loving family. You can hear her singing prayer on the song My Prayer as well as several others. I love that the whole family is involved. I also love that they take Gabi everywhere with them and let her experience the world as a servant for Christ.

When Strong & Courageous plays my daughter Myleigh always says “Well this is catchy” and we’ve nicknamed it the “catchy song”.

Please check out The Justin Graves Band website and facebook to learn more about this precious family and their ministry. You can also follow them on twitter at @jgband.

Today we are giving away a set of CDs that will include Happy To Be Me and Live To Love to four winners. To enter the giveaway just leave us a comment here or on our W3 facebook page letting us know your favorite Christian song or hymn. We will pick 4 random winners to be announced tomorrow at noon.  If you aren’t one of the lucky winner then make sure to grab one off of their site. You will not be disappointed!

 

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A big thanks to Primary Graffiti

I want to thank Primary Graffiti for featuring me on one of their stories. Thank you for the acknowledgment and for the tweet! Head on over , check them out and follow them on twitter at @PrimaryGraffiti.

Here’s the link to their story page.

Primary Graffiti

 

 

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What I desperately need my daughter to know about her autism diagnosis.

team justin

 

My Sweet Justin,

It’s April again and you know what that means, Autism Awareness Month.
There are some things I want you to know, listen closely my sweet girl.

During the month of April I shout about you as loud as I can but make no mistake, I fight like a bull for you every single day of the year. I’ve made it my mission to make sure you have every advantage  life has to offer. Go big my sweet girl.

When you choose to play alone instead of with the group of kids it makes me proud of your independence. A huge smile flashes across my face because I know that you’re in your happy place. Do your thing my sweet girl

I don’t feel sorry for you. I never will. I refuse to. I know that you don’t feel sorry for yourself. I know that you are proud. I’ve watch you march up to complete strangers and introduce yourself with “Hi my name’s Justin and I’m autistic. That just means I see the world differently”. Wear it proudly my sweet girl!

For the rest of your life people are going to try to understand you, study you and figure out why you are the way you are. They are going to give you their opinions on what caused you to be the way that you are. They’ll blame vaccinations. They’ll point the finger at me and my actions while I was pregnant from what I ate to where I lived. They’ll blame red dyes, TV, bread and anything else they can think of.

This is when I really need for you to listen to me. Listen carefully.

You are special. You are unique and you are definitely one of a kind.

You are autistic.

I know why you are the way that you are and I want you to hear it from me.

You are the way you are because God makes everything perfect and that’s exactly what you are. There was no mistake made when He crafted you with His very own hands. You were intentional, thought out, planned and formed in my womb by the hands of our Creator just the way He wanted you. You are not flawed. You are not less. You are Gods gift, His work of art, His child.

The angels ran to God and pointed you out while shouting to Him “There she is! She’s the one!”. They danced and sang has He told them how wonderful and unique you were going to be here on earth. Tears fell from their face, not because they were sad for you but because they delighted in the generosity that God was going to lay on you.

I have no idea why God look down and picked me. I haven’t accomplished anything huge. I’m not famous, rich, brilliant or talented. I’m simple and haven’t done anything in my life to deserve the honor of being your mommy but I promise to spend the rest of my life honoring the gift that God gave me. I promise to always honor you.

Justin, you’ve always had autism my sweet girl but autism has never had you.

You are my sunshine.
Love
Mommy.

My Prayer For You Today

Heavenly Father help us unpack our bags. We have spent years filling them with bricks that weigh us down. Bricks of guilt, shame and unforgiveness. Bricks of greed and gluttony. Help us unpack our bags. The weight has become too much to carry and there is no more room left for the things that truly matter. The bricks are taking away from our relationship with You and our relationships with our family and friends. They slow us down and prevent us from truly being Your hands and feet. Empty us. Help us unpack our bags. Let nothing come between us. Show us how to let go of all the things that are taking up room in our lives and are stealing the joy of an uninterrupted life with You. Let today be the day that we let them all go, the day that we remove the bricks from our lives and free ourselves from the burden of carrying them with us. Heavenly Father help us unpack our bags.

You’re A Duck

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20,000 ducks took the plunge into the beautiful river that flows through our downtown. We sat under an umbrella on the bank and watch them start to make their way downstream.

Our family had 12 ducks in the charity duck race that helps employee the homeless. We knew our chances of winning were slim but the excitement of watching the ducks and knowing that we were helping our homeless community was good enough for us.

Firemen stood at the drop site and gave the ducks a start by showering them with the powerful fire-hoses.

They were off!

I noticed that one little duck somehow got wedged under the rock of the river bank and couldn’t move with the rest of the racers.

One of the firefighters noticed too.

He put his hose on that little duck and would not give up. It seemed like it wasn’t going to budge, but neither was that firefighter. He was relentless and kept trying to free the stuck duck.

I wondered why he was wasting so much time on that one little duck. After all, 19,999 ducks made it and were on their way to the finish line.

He didn’t give up.

After most of the ducks had already finished the race that one little duck finally escaped the rocky bank and was on its way down the river.

He might not have been the duck that crossed the finish line first but he had someone who did not give up on getting him back in the race.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:4-7

Like the firefighter who refused to give up on the little duck stuck on the rocks, Your heavenly Father refuses to give up on you. Even as His children run towards the finish line singing His name in glory, if He has one child that is left behind He will go back for that child.

You’re His duck. He will never leave you wedged in a place that you can not escape from. He will rescue you. He will make sure that you are able to get in the race and head towards the finish line.

You are so worthy in His eyes that He could never abandon you in your time of need. That is when He focuses His eyes on you, points the powerful hose and relentlessly tries to free you from the river bank.

He will not leave you.
He will rescue you.
He will never give up on you.

You are His duck.

In the moments when we feel abandon we can always turn our eyes to our Lord and know that we are not alone.

Today you’re a duck.

Let’s pray

Heavenly Father thank you for your relentless quest for our love and safety. Help us rest in knowing that You will never leave us and that even in our deepest moments of despair You always have a plan for us that is more beautiful than anything we could ever dream of. Thank you for the cross. In Jesus name, amen.

None of our ducks won the great race but our girls had a blast and we enjoyed the day together as a family. What I didn’t enjoy was the duck noise makers that my husband proudly bought for the girls..

rubber duck

Cross Of Forgiveness

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He handed me the reusable shopping bag and it felt empty as I took on its weight. Not only did he not make eye contact as he handed it to me but he didn’t say a word either.

I took a peek inside and there it was.

My dad’s cross.

I’ve only seen it twice and it’s only been through pictures.

My brother let my dad’s ashes go out on our family property in West Texas almost two years ago. It was a day that I struggled with more than I thought I would. He sent me a picture of the simple cross where he laid our dad to rest.

A year later, on the anniversary of my dad taking his own life, my brother went back and took another picture of the cross, sent it to me in a text and wrote “All good”.

The cross sat hours away from me in the middle of a few hundred acres of raw land. I would have never made the trip to see it. I left it as a place just between my brother and my dad and was content to never actually see it with my own eyes.

But here it is was.
In my hands.
Still covered in West Texas dust.

My brother didn’t want an oil truck to run it over or for it to get destroyed somehow so he pulled it from the hard ground last weekend and brought it home to me.

There are two crosses in my life that mean more than I could put into words.

The cross on Calvary where Jesus willing took on my sins so that I can be forgiven and live with my Father in heaven for eternity and the cross where my brother and I were finally able to let my earthly father go and forgive him of his sins are two crosses that symbolize a forgiveness that cannot be measured.

At Jesus’ cross I leave my sins.

At my dad’s cross I leave the hurt of his earthly life, the hurt it put on me and my siblings and the hurt that it put on him. I will not carry the burden of bitterness, hate or regret. I will not carry his sins as if they were mine or try to make up for his mistakes.

I will forgive and let go.
I will love and not hate.
I will give and not take.
I will be better and not bitter.
I will let God.

The cross where Jesus took on my sins is the ultimate symbol of grace, mercy and forgiveness and the least I could do to honor my heavenly Father is to give the same respect to my dads cross.

From today on it will hang in my home as reminder of what Jesus did for me and that it is my responsibility to Him to do the same for others. The cross that will hang in my home, the one that once sat in the West Texas dirt and took on my dads ashes will be my reminder that while we are here on earth we must show grace, show mercy, forgive and forget, let it go and let God.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. “ Mark 11:25

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father lift the weight. Lift the weight of sin, guilt, bitterness and anger so that we can live the life You intended for us. Help us to show others mercy and grace so that we may be more like Jesus and less like us.  Remind us that the cross is not a decoration that we hang in our homes or around our necks but rather the place where our sins were taken away and forgiven. Show us how to see others through Your eyes so that we can forgive and love the way that You forgive and love us. In Jesus name, amen.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” Colossians. 3:13