Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beauty From Ashes

Moving to the Big City a year ago was so much harder than I anticipated. Everything was difficult: finding a place to live, the move itself, finding a church, Micah's job - just everything. I had high expectations for this place. Too high. It's not the first time my expectations got the better of me. When Micah came home from Afghanistan for good, I remember breathing a sigh of relief thinking that the hard part of our life was over. God had different plans.

The last few months have proven to me just how little control I have over my life. You'd think I would have that figured out by now. But these few months have also been a sweet reminder of how deeply Jesus cares for me and my family. He has shown Himself in incredible ways.
Let me explain...

Ben got really sick with a urinary tract infection. We didn't know that's what it was until we ended up in the ER with a fever of 105 one night. Jesus looked like a borrowed car, sweet friends who rushed over to stay with Alexis, and a blonde haired doctor who - at the last minute - decided to run a test for a UTI just to "rule it out." Because of Ben's previous bladder issues, we were referred to a urologist after our ER visit. Because Ben had been so sick, the doctor decided to run some further tests on his bladder and kidneys as a precaution. The test results were concerning. At the very least, we were told Ben would need another surgery (he had one when he was a baby) to correct some reflux of urine into his right kidney. What was more concerning was the abnormal shape of his bladder. As the doctor explained that could mean Ben actually had some kind of neurological issue, my heart began to race. We decided to do another test right before Thanksgiving to try and determine the severity of the reflux and the cause of the abnormal bladder shape. I fully expected to walk out with a surgery date. Instead, we were all a bit shocked to discover that there was no reflux showing with this test and that his bladder didn't need any immediate attention. Whaaaat!

A few days before that second test, I attended a mom's group at our church. Feeling especially vulnerable and incredibly overwhelmed, I tearfully shared what was going on and listed all the other things that were beginning to pile up for the coming week, including other doctors appointments for the rest of us. For that entire week, Jesus looked like homecooked meals, babysitters, extra ears and hands and an incredible amount of encouragement - some from people I never even knew before then. I am still blown away by it.

In the midst of all that was the overwhelming umbrella that made everything else seem crazy... we were moving. Micah had been talking to a company in the northeast and, frankly, I thought that's where I'd be typing this right now. But God had other plans. Our plans were derailed (in a good way) when Micah was offered a job here. The kicker, though, was that we still needed to move out of our apartment. Finding a place here that we could afford and that was in an area we were comfortable with was not going to be an easy task given what had become a very short timeline. That's when Jesus looked like an angel of a realtor and a miracle house.

I started to describe the events that have taken place lately to a friend just the other day and I just chuckled because of how sweet it has been. How Jesus has made these ashes of the last few years into something so beautiful. Some of this may seem trivial to you. You may be thinking that all of this is just normal. I'm so delighted that this is normal life for you, but it has certainly not been for me.

As I sit here and reflect on what's taken place, it's natural for me to go back to all that we've endured - all the hard, the mess, the ugly - those ashes.

And then I'm thankful.

For without the ashes, I would have missed the beauty.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Live it Anyway

I remember the first time it happened. We had just moved to Mayberry and she was in her new room. I scooped her up out of her crib, changed her diaper and carried her out to the living room. I realized that it had been the first time I had walked into her room in the morning...unafraid.

Until then, going into her room and scooping her up in the morning made my heart pound out of my chest. There was so much I felt like I didn't understand about cystic fibrosis and so my mind would wander. I was so afraid of what I would find every morning - or not find.

One of Alexis' early appointments at the CF clinic went something like this: "...and if there's ever an emergency situation like, say, she stops breathing... call 911, tell them she has CF and they'll call us." There was more information that day, but I couldn't stop the tears as the respiratory therapist held my hands and explained that, though rare for most kids, that situation was more of a possibility than she'd like to admit. And as if I wasn't afraid already of what I'd find every morning, I'd say that (completely necessary) conversation pushed me over the edge.

Until that one day.

People have opinions about kids like Alexis, Jaxon or even Abigail. Many people's unfortunate opinion is that their lives are not worth living. That keeping them is a selfish thing to do. As a culture and sometimes even as Church, we believe life isn't allowed to be hard. That "God wouldn't allow that." I believe the truth is that He allows the hard, the unexpected, the immense darkness so He can show off. After all, light shines brightest in the darkness. He knows that - He created it. As much as we'd like to assume otherwise, life wasn't meant to be easy. He knows that - He created it. If life were always easy, we wouldn't need Him.

People are critical, hurtful and say all the wrong things... love them anyway.

Emotions are overwhelming and have a mind of their own... feel them anyway.

Life is hard, unpredictable, often terrifying and dark...
live it anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2015

When You Don't Know What To Do

I'm in this incredibly reflective, peaceful season of life right now. Sometimes I'll just sit and rest in complete thankfulness for what Jesus has brought me through as a wife and a Mama. I know my story isn't over, but I also know - so deeply - that Jesus loves me and will continue to carry my tired feet every step of the way.

Because I feel like He has taught me so much in the last few years, I have a hard time expressing it all in a way that isn't repetitive which is probably why the blog has fallen off the wagon a little the last few months. I have this deep desire to share Jesus and to share our story but I get in my own way.

I'm not typically a list person. The whole idea of writing things down and crossing them off makes me sweat. I'm pretty easy going, I'm not a planner, and I'm not terribly organized but nonetheless, I thought this subject could use some specific, life-speaking, grace-giving bullet points.

We've all been there. You've seen somebody's world crumble and you've thought, "I have no idea what to do." When there's a major tragedy or a huge life change within your circle of people, it's hard to know how to react. It's especially difficult when you haven't walked a similar road. I've been on both sides of those tracks, but I've probably spent more time on the life change side. I've seen the ache in people's hearts as they wrestle through finding the right words.

A few tips from the other side...

What to do when you don't know what to do:

1. Nothing. One of the most valuable things you can do for someone who's world just crumbled is to sit in the mess right along side. Be content to just be there. No words. No nothing. Just be. A simple, "I'm bringing coffee and a hug" or "Can I just come sit with you at the hospital?" is plenty.

2. Pray hard and tell them when you do. I can't tell you how many times I got texts and voicemails from people simply saying they were praying for me at that moment. Simple encouragement can make a huge difference.

3. Avoid cliches and statistics. "I'm so sorry" or "That sucks" is so much more meaningful than "God is in control" or "My best friend's neighbor knows a girl with CF who's 28 and doing fine."

4. Make it specific. Everybody wants to help so the most common phrase is usually, "Let me know if you need anything." While that's commendable, it's also useless. A broad statement like that eliminates nearly any hope of that person actually contacting you. A more effective way to help is having your own plan. Offer to watch babies, bring coffee, give a break, bring a meal. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant, but I remember feeling so overwhelmed with life that I physically couldn't pick up the phone to ask for help - let alone remember who said they could. So keep the ball in your court.

5. Know your people. Personalities vary. I personally love people and welcomed visitors with open arms (and usually a tearful face). I'm totally fine with wearing my heart on my sleeve, but some people aren't. Be there but be respectful of boundaries.

6. Check up. It's so easy to feel like the dust has settled in someone's life when the reality is that it's just beginning to brew. Appearances can be deceiving so check up periodically. A quick text, a sweet voicemail. Again, it doesn't have to be anything earth shattering. Just be there. (I can't stress that enough).

Six seems like an strange number to end on, but there you have it. I know ideas like this circulate social media from time to time but everyone needs a reminder.

Oh and my dear list people,
Don't stress about this checklist. If you're guilty of doing all the wrong things in a tough situation (I know I am), know that there is abundant GRACE. Nobody gets it right and that's okay. Just be there. Be present. Be available. Be Jesus in the flesh and just love.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dear Planned Parenthood: Stop Killing My Kids

I have wrestled and agonized over this post for weeks. I even wrote one, launched it, posted it on Facebook and took it down a couple hours later. Truth is, as much as I'd like to, I just can't seem to approach this without being angry and in your face, so I'm just going to be angry and in your face. If you are a Planned Parenthood supporter, a pro-abortion advocate, if you've had an abortion or you're thinking about having one... just know that ultimately you are loved so graciously and know that there is a way out of whatever you're facing. Just take it in stride. One step at a time. One step away from Planned Parenthood. You can do it.  

Dear Planned Parenthood,

While I fully believe that your entire viewpoint is flawed and hateful, I also fully believe that you are loved by a gracious God. You probably have people like me writing to you everyday. You've probably heard things like this a hundred times by now, especially since the start of this new debate. But this is how I get emotions out.

And this is me angry.

I've seen the videos. At this point, who hasn't, right? We're at number six now and nothing's changed in the message behind them. You're selling body parts for profit whether or not you're ever convicted. We've seen you sifting through piles of parts, naming each one, assessing the quality and labeling how much you think you'll get for them. We've heard the callousness in your voice, we've seen you chuckle and joke about what you're doing.

Listen, I get it. It's your job. Nothing more; nothing less. You've become numb to the idea that these "tissues" actually have a heartbeat you're stopping. You've convinced yourselves that they're not actually important and you count on the fact that others will believe that, too. And it's working for you. It's worked for you since 1973.

You're proud of what you're doing and that right there... that's the problem. 

Here's my take on all this. I'll make it simple. Are you ready?

You're murdering my kids.

With every new video, that's immediately where my mind goes. I hear, "This one's a 15 weeker... 18 weeker... 21 weeker" and I think, "I wonder what was wrong with them."

The fact of the matter is that, though many are aborted out of convenience, many, many, many more are aborted because of a diagnosis that may or may not even be true in the end. Down syndrome statistics alone are at a staggering 90% or higher in their abortion rate. And I get it. Hearing a diagnosis is tough. It's gut wrenching. If you can convince these Mama's that they can avoid that kind of heartache, then you've got them hooked, right?

So, congratulations. You've successfully convinced entire generations that these children... my children aren't actually worth having. You've managed to "counsel" mothers into believing that they have the right to decide what their perfect family looks like. You've even convinced the government that murder is worth funding with our tax dollars. I'd say you deserve a hell of a clap for that one. Well played.

Here's the deal, though. It doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to do this. You can stop convincing, stop the nervous laughter, stop feeling numb, stop this crazy mindset any time you want. You don't have to be proud. You have to know it's not okay. Everybody knows you're killing babies and everybody knows murder is not okay and yet here we still sit, with more and more abortions taking place every single day.

Here's an idea. How about instead of pushing women to abort their babies, we tell them they have other choices. How about giving them actual, productive counsel instead of just giving them papers to fill out. How about letting them meet Mama's who get it. How about instead of just saying you're helping women... how about you actually help them.

These videos have launched the pro-life movement farther than we've been in decades. We're working hard at getting into the driver's seat and we won't stop fighting to get there.

I guess we've just figured that if you're not going to back down... neither are we.

Good luck.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Life is Your Worst Nightmare

I wrote this post two years ago. In some ways it feels like I wrote it yesterday; in other ways it seems like it was ten years ago. It still stings to read. I still remember how it felt to type those words.

I'll be honest - Alexis' first year is a bit of a blur. I was there, but I was certainly not present. The ache of grief that I felt lingered for most of that year. Figuring out how to care for her and the reality of what life was going to be like for her, for us, was so incredibly overwhelming. 

I remember the days following that phone call. We hung out with friends and I remember sitting on the couch holding my baby girl, wishing so desperately I could just cry and scream and tell them all what was going on, but I sat silent. I felt both numb and in excruciating pain at the exact same time. The words just wouldn't come. 

I've had the opportunity to share my story since then. As I sat writing out what I wanted to say, there was a side of me that wanted to start with, "I'm Amber and my life is your worst nightmare." I dwelled on those words for days before finally backspacing my way out of it. I wanted to say that because my life, my children, my story was my worst nightmare. For a good chunk of time, that's how I felt; that's how I lived. Finding out Alexis had CF was my nightmare. Coupled with everything else we had been through in the years prior; please. I was a ridiculous mess. 

But even last night, as I sat in the midst of new friends hearing bits and pieces of their stories, I couldn't help but feel thankful for mine. There is something so beautiful about the way Jesus rescued me out of that pit of darkness. Believe me, there are still dark days and I know my story is far from over, but when He makes you realize that your nightmare is actually your biggest blessing, that's something to celebrate. 

So here we are, two years post diagnosis and Alexis is doing incredibly well. She still does treatments and takes medicine every day. She loves Sofia the First, mommy's makeup and she always wears shoes. She loves to dance with Brother and go swimming. She is a total joy! We go to the CF clinic every three months and it's been a good while since we've received any discouraging news. I don't think too far into the future because I don't need to. We live one day at a time, celebrating every single breath. 

I know. You don't know how I do it, right? 

That's okay. I do. 

It is only by the grace of God. It is only because His mercies are new every morning. 

Maybe my life really is your worst nightmare. Maybe I'm okay with that. 

God is still God. God is still good. 

Where there is fear, there is faith. Where there is heartache... there is hope

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When Christians Fail

I can't tell you how many stories I've heard throughout the years of how people came to know Jesus. I love hearing about transformed lives and the powerful story of grace and mercy. One of my favorite people to follow is Brian "Head" Welch from Korn. I love him for a lot of reasons but the main one is because of his authenticity and how he has helped change my view of Christianity.

For a large portion of my life, being a Christian had little to do with Jesus and everything to do with lifestyle. How Jesus changed your life was based on your outward appearance; what you did or didn't do after you "got saved." Ten years ago, I would have taken one look at Brian and instantly called his bluff. I used to say things like, "People should be able to just look at you and know that you're a Christian. Continuing to play in a secular rock band? Covered in tattoos? Please. Surely a Devil worshipper." While some of you may think there's some weight to that argument, I think we drastically miss the point when we decide how to measure a person's relationship with Jesus. We miss the point of grace.

Non-believers are often quick to tell you that they don't believe in Jesus because Christians are hypocrites.

They're right. We absolutely are hypocrites. We preach grace and love and acceptance and then, not only do we not deliver that to those who believe and think differently than we do, but we eat our own kind. We put Jesus in a box and we completely miss the point of why He died for us.

Christians aren't perfect. We make poor choices, we hurt people, we fail miserably. Why? Because we're no better than anybody else. Regardless of how we choose to live out our faith in the end, we're still sinners in desperate need of a Savior.

The only difference between believers in Jesus and non-believers should be grace. I say "should be" because Christians suck at showing grace. We really do. We know the grace and mercy that comes from Christ, but our first reaction toward differences and mistakes is often ridicule and hate.

Maybe you have a past. Maybe Jesus brought you out of something drastic and you've found that immeasurable grace only He can provide. That's awesome!

Just don't forget that He loved you just as much in your past. His love was there and free to you then even if you didn't accept it. When you meet someone like Bruce Jenner, Rachel Dolezal, or even Josh Duggar or Tullian Tchividian - anybody with a different viewpoint or who lives a different lifestyle, anybody with baggage or mistakes - don't forget to love them like Jesus loves you. Don't forget your own baggage and your own mistakes.

Don't ever, ever, ever forget GRACE.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dear Church: Daddy's Perspective

I think I've attempted a blog post about once a day for the last two weeks. Words fail me. Or maybe they don't fail me... I just have too many to work through. Truth is, this Big City thing has been tough. I pictured this move (our ninth) to be the easiest, but it's actually been the hardest. Everything about it has been hard. Everything. 

One of our biggest hurdles has been finding a church home. Again, I expected that to be easy. With so many wonderful churches in the area (we are in Texas after all) I wanted to walk into our first pick and feel at home. When that didn't happen and continued to not happen after going to at least a half a dozen churches, I felt defeated. I sat in the car and cried after being turned away one Sunday. "I just want to feel welcome" I told Micah. 

I know our family is different. Believe me, I understand how overwhelming it can feel for me to explain that my almost two year old is terminally ill or that my four year old isn't potty trained. I get it. I live it. 

As Micah and I have hashed out our frustrations to each other, he also wrote this. With his permission, here is Daddy's perspective...

Readers of my wife's blog are very familiar with our situation as she tends to wear her heart on her sleeve. I tend to keep my cards closer to the chest and vent my frustrations to a select few. 
We have been on the church hunt since we got to the metroplex in December. This past month alone, we got fed up with one church and received depressing emails and voicemails from two others we had visited. 

It is always interesting watching people react to the information about my kids diagnosis'. It used to bother me. People like to tell me that my kids aren't that different, but they are. And that's ok. I know my family is an anomaly and I know a lot of people don't know how to handle our situation. I've seen a lot of moms pull their kids closer to them and dads turn their kids heads away from Alexis when they hear her cough. I'd do the same thing; I get it. I grew up with scoliosis, wore a full body back brace for three years and know the looks people give you when they find out something is wrong. 

We were established in a great little church in East Texas when we got the news about Ben. It shook us up, but the church we were in really rallied around us and supported us in ways I was not really expecting. When we went back to Florida, Amber found another very supportive church and people rallied around us. We were in the same church back in East Texas when we found out about Alexis. Once again, people were there to support us. 

Parenting is tiring, in fact it's straight up exhausting. Alexis takes a little extra work every day; there's a lot of hand washing and, yeah, we pay extra attention to that sneeze or those sniffles. Ben needs a little extra time with most things because he is delayed. He just turned 4 and he's not potty trained.

I'm not discounting any parents. It is exhausting for everyone. As I've gotten older and other friends have kids, I have seen how much living closer to family can be such a help, but we've never had that luxury. 

There are some weeks where the only break we get is on Sunday morning. I know we are not alone in that, but it has been especially true this move. Coming to DFW was the first move we'd made where we didn't have a lot established friendships close by. With my job, I don't make it to church every week so Amber is left to shuffle the kids in and out of church.

Coming into the area we were very excited to attend a certain church. Alexis' Sunday school teacher was a respiratory therapist. It seemed perfect. After multiple attempts to get plugged into a small group we were told there was simply not a group available to us and that there wouldn't be in the near future. After having our kids turned away from the nursery several times and not being able to get plugged in, we got fed up with it all and moved on to other churches. 

We found another church that had a special needs ministry and they even advertised hosting free babysitting on certain nights to give parents of special needs kids a night out. We excitedly emailed the contact person that very Sunday afternoon hoping to get in on the babysitting that coming Friday. Five months later, I got a response asking if I was still interested. 

We visited another church, did a welcome class with the pastor and some elders. After the intro class, we talked to some very nice ladies who asked about the kiddos. We got a voicemail today from the head of their children's ministry telling us that they did not have the resources to deal with our children and they could refer us to some other churches in the area if we were interested. Thanks. But no thanks. "It's not like you're not welcome, but you're not welcome." 

Then we went to what we're hoping is our new church home and here's why. Dropping the kids off and explaining to the teachers that Ben has Down syndrome and is still in diapers didn't phase the teacher. Dropping Alexis off with her bag with the laminated explanation of what CF is and what to do with her was not an issue. We got invited to several small groups our first day there. I knew the songs, there was a good mix in the sound, they had a real drum set, the pastor was great and they gave away coffee in the foyer instead of posting a giant sign next to a trash can telling me to keep God's house clean. See? It's nothing earth shattering. 

There are a lot of families like mine. Feeling alone, different, and just barely hanging on some days. I know Jesus said to take care of the fatherless and the widow, but where do we fit in? Special needs families are there in your community and whether or not you realize it, a lot of us feel ostracized at a time where we are questioning all aspects of life, God and Christianity. 

We just need your support. 

I know there are bound to be a lot of reactions toward this post. My (or Micah's) intent was not to hate on you, Church. Our intent was to tell you what we see as visitors, as parents, as a family and as people who are different than you. Many of you are good at what you do. But many of you probably needed to hear this. 

See us. Love us. Welcome us. Be there. That's all we want. That's all any of us want. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

More Birthdays

We celebrated Ben's fourth birthday on Sunday. FOUR. Can you believe that? 

Four incredibly short years ago we welcomed our little (literally... 5 pounds, 11 ounces) man into the world. There was a lot of joy that day. A lot of joy. I often reminisce about March 29th and recall the immaculate feeling of holding a newborn baby. There's absolutely nothing like that feeling and it's so hard to put into words.  

March 29th was the calm before the storm, let's say. The day before my world collapsed and my body went crazy. The only day I remember being easy, comparatively speaking. So I love March 29th. 

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. Not so much because of the party or the material aspects of the day, but because of what they represent. A lot of that stems from Alexis. Cystic Fibrosis is a terminal illness. While I don't focus on that phrase often, I can't ignore it. A diagnosis like CF puts a timeline on our little girl and, in turn, has changed the way we function, how we prioritize and even how we celebrate birthdays. 

To me, every birthday is a reflection of how far we've come as individuals and as a family. Ben has achieved so much over the last four years. Physically, he can run and jump, kick a ball and build tall towers with blocks. He loves reading books and playing with "choo-choo's." He can count to 10 and can identify every letter in the alphabet. He loves music (Florida Georgia Line is his favorite), can work YouTube better than I can and turns our whole house into a drum set. His smile is contagious, his kisses will make you melt and his hugs are the absolute best. Developmentally, he's not your average four year old. Professionals and charts would tell you that he's only two, but who cares. Age is just a number. 

We celebrate our days, weeks, months and years. We want more of them but we'll cherish what we are given as best we can. 

Ben is four. 

And he's amazing. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Don't Make It Complicated

There have been many times over the last few years where I've only been able to see the mud. That complicated, thick curtain of yuck that just overwhelmed the crap out of my heart. I knew there was good but I couldn't find it.

I felt so overwhelmed when Ben was first diagnosed with Down syndrome. I missed the joy of having a newborn baby and focused on what I didn't like about my life. There I was navigating through what had just happened... all alone. Micah was gone, my friends were distant and I was angry at God. For months, I threw myself a huge pity party.

I'd love to tell you that I had an epiphany one day and everything just fell into place, but that's just not true. Having now processed two diagnosis', I know that each pit of mud is totally different. As much as we would like for there to be a magic button that makes it all okay, there's just not. Mourning comes in waves, heartache creeps in - even still.

I remind myself constantly that life is as easy or as complicated as you make it. People tell me all the time that they couldn't live my life. That they somehow expect me to curl up and let life pass me by because clearly having a child with Down syndrome and one with Cystic Fibrosis is just too much. Everytime someone says that to me, I think back to when each of my kids were first diagnosed. Why? Because I thought the same thing. I told God many times that this was just too much. That I couldn't do it. I even asked Him what in the world He was thinking - giving me, of all people, these cards to play.

"Don't make it complicated," He would gently remind me. "You are not alone." The way I see it, life is simple. True, I had to crawl out of the mud to see it that way, but it's simple. Jesus loves me. He proved that love long ago by dying in my place, freely and easily forgiving me, and walking this life with me - mourning when I mourn and rejoicing when I rejoice.

My only job?

Love people with that same love. People including my children. People including those who think differently than I do. People including those who may never love me back. My only job is to love those people well enough so they see Jesus. I'm not good at it. As human beings, our innate desire is to do the exact opposite. Which is why we need... Jesus. His everlasting, powerful love is the only way we can succeed in fulfilling our one and only job.

We celebrated extra chromosomes this past Saturday. 3/21 is World Down Syndrome Day, chosen because those with Down syndrome have 3 copies of the 21st chromosome. We wear blue and yellow, we eat cake and we acknowledge that our children are beautifully different. Wouldn't it be cool if we did that every day? Celebrated differences instead of hating them. Wouldn't it be nice if we could master the art of mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice? Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all see the beauty in the mud, the joy in the storm and the happy in the tough.

I'm certainly no expert, but I'm learning everyday. Ben teaches me the simplicity of those things with the beautiful way he sees right past differences and imperfections and just loves people because they're people.

Life can be messy, unpredictable and hard.

But it can also be simple and lovely.

God is good. People are worth loving just because they're people.

Don't make it complicated.


P.S. I had the opportunity to speak at a women's retreat last month (part of the reason for my blog hiatus lately). If you're interested in hearing some of my story out loud, you can listen to it by clicking HERE. I am still so humbled by that experience and thankful for the love and support that Fellowship Bible Church gave us while we were in east Texas. Sometimes I miss Mayberry and people like those at FBC are a big reason why. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Your Circumstances May Never Change

Something incredible happens when we face our mortality. Micah faced his head on; I faced mine inadvertently. When you have no choice but to survive the moment at hand, when you have no choice but to forget everything except what's happening in your life at the time, something remarkable happens when you pull yourself out of the rubble.

You start living. 

I've had conversations with friends, family, even acquaintances that have left me baffled. They've even made me angry. "How could you possibly be worried about that?!" In the midst of my ocean, I would beg God to take it all away; to let me start over. I'd plead for small stuff. I wanted to desperately to see where these people were coming from because at the time, I just... didn't. I wanted to be worried about the small things. I wanted to fit in. 

There are still times that I wonder what my life would be like if there was never an ocean; if I never had to be picked up out of the rubble; if I never got the chance to get to know who Jesus really is; if I never faced my mortality. Whether we voice it or not, I think prayer sometimes becomes a "fix it" method. "If I ask God for it, it's going to happen." I think that's why we get pissed off so easily when He doesn't allow our circumstances to change or when life doesn't turn out the way we planned. It's easy to blame God and throw fists in that direction, isn't it? We so often miss the point of God's goodness. It's not so much whether or not He's good (He's already proven He is)... but whether or not we choose to see it.  

You probably have oceans. Everybody's got a story. Whether you've had to scrape the bottom or you've just begun to sink... grab on, Sister. Eventually you'll begin to reach the surface. Eventually you'll look back with intense thankfulness to a Savior who knows you better than you thought He did. You'll thank Jesus for the rain and you'll never, ever look at life the same again. 

That's where I'm at right now. Sitting in the Big City, writing, preparing for a humbling experience next month and so incredibly thankful to know a loving God who is not interested in making life easy, but rather proving His goodness by allowing us to see outside of our circumstances. 

Hang in there. I won't lie to you...your circumstances may never change. But you will.