Walking In Love With a Broken Heart

Walking In Love With a Broken Heart

My brother and his wife are by far the most influential people in my life when it comes to my faith.

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My brother and I lived in a household with a single mother who gave us more than we could ever deserve or pay her back for. While she was the best mother that anyone could ever ask for, and still is, Thomas and I could have very well turned out to be children who turned from God and who chose to follow a path of sin without repentance.

I know I did for a long time.

I grew up going to church and having a strong core group of friends who were believers. I was blessed to hold leadership positions in Sunday schools, youth groups, and groups designed to help the well being of others through Christ. I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday, not only because I loved the Lord and it was right, but also because I wanted to.

I went to college fully believing that my faith would stay the same because I was comfortable and because I “knew God.” I thought I was invincible to anything that would come in my path and I thought that because I had “prepped,” in a sense, that The Lord would guide me where I wanted to go.

I spent the first few weeks looking for churches with my roommate, enjoying the message but not truly connecting, and sort of floating on the surface level idea that I was a good Christian.

Wait, stop.

What is a good Christian and how do you define it?

Thomas would define it as, “somebody who recognizes they are a sinner in need of a savior, and they strive to live out His commands.

Annie, his wife, would say, “a good, complete ‘Christian’ doesn’t exist because the world is imperfect and we as humans fall short every single day, but a ‘good’ Christian has a deep, growing relationship with the Father, is in daily need of Christ’s saving grace, and is filled with the Holy Spirit and has a life that bears good fruits.

(Once Thomas heard Annie’s answer he told me not to post his because she blew him out of the water and, honestly #goals).

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Alright, I just threw a lot of things at you and maybe you are feeling convicted, because I know I am, but try to bear with me.

Fast forward to the end of freshman year. I bet you are expecting me to say that I found God in college, I turned into a better person because of the church I plugged into, and I was on a golden path. Well, I wasn’t. I was a wreck.

I gave into sin, I directly disobeyed The Bible even though I knew in my heart what I was doing was wrong. I acted out because I was so spiritually lost. I was beginning to slip in school, lose my motivation, hang with a crowd that didn’t share the same beliefs as I did, and, honestly, I didn’t really want to be alive.

I was in a dark place as a person who identified as a “strong Christian” not even nine months prior to those moments, which ultimately made me resent the Lord.

I wasn’t ready to completely give up though, because there was a small shred of hope still left in me from all the scripture that I read and all of the advice I personally had given to those struggling with their faith.

With all of this in mind and with me trying to stay positive, God threw in one event, one singular two hour event, that would alter the way I acted, thought, and functioned for the rest of my time here on earth, and let me tell you, I had enough; enough of this Christianity, enough failing, enough pain.

I didn’t feel worthy of this God that let His only son die for my sins, die for the sins of the people that hurt me, that allowed these things to happen, so I branded myself with that title- unworthy.

I was unworthy.

Why did God allow me- anyone- to suffer like this and to feel like everything that was once familiar and beautiful has come crashing down and has molded itself into something that was distorted and unrecognizable?

When I tell you that I was ready to give up for good, I am not kidding around or saying it for the pity and attention of the masses; I was done.

I was done until I heard a sermon discussing Romans 5:8 and this sermon, this God, His son- They saved my life.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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In this darkness, this intense, brooding, overwhelming feeling of loneliness, of despair, of self hate, of this resentment of God, of His son, of Christianity as a whole – God loved me still. Nothing that I could ever do or ever will do will allow me to fall short of the glory of God, and trust me, that is so hard to believe at times, but it’s also what Christianity is – having faith.

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It’s not a pretty journey to walk with the Lord, to get to wherever it is He is leading you to. It’s not a beautiful, simple thing, this journey to feel worthy and to feel loved. It’s not easy because we are broken and sinful people. We aren’t called to be perfect, simply called to walk in love.

You never have to work for His love or work to be worthy of Him because He died for you. You never have to wonder if He is with you, because He is. His silence isn’t to hurt you, but to teach you. His plans for you are far greater than anything you could ever plan for yourself.

I grappled for a long time about why I was following the path that I was, the path of sin and utter disappointment, but at the end of the day, it was to be where I am today- knowing God and walking in a love greater than anything I will ever know. I have a small reminder over the place on my arm that was hard to look at prior to the tattoo that everyday, no matter what, He is faithful in the darkness.

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Jennifer La Bianca’s Photo

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Hook-Ups Hurt

Hook-Ups Hurt

In a world where hook-up culture is the new norm, and leaving your crush on read receipt is a way to say “I’m interested, but not too eager,” it’s hard to separate fitting in and staying true to yourself when it comes to dating.

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I’ll just go ahead and say that hook-up culture is not for me.

There are a lot of reasons why this lifestyle is off-putting to me personally. Half are from experience, and half because I’m learning more about myself every moment I’m alive (and I am not judging anyone that participates in this lifestyle), but the main reasons are because I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I am an all-around sensitive person. I grow what I feed to my heart and if it isn’t quality substance, it won’t sustain quality life.

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When I think of love, I think of one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt:

“It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.”

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Love is a painful, beautiful, heartbreaking, heart wrenching, stunning phenomena of a feeling. Biblically, love must be sincere, deep, and is the greatest of all hopes.

King Solomon loved his bride in potentially one of the greatest love stories the world has ever read (Song of Songs or Song of Solomon). Because of the love that I have felt, received, read about, written about, and given in my past, I want nothing short of amazing.

Not only is it what I want, it’s what I, and frankly anyone with a pulse, deserves. We were created to live out a purpose greater than ourselves. We were created to give and receive a love so deep that even the hearts that are most in love can’t fully comprehend it.

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To hook-up, to give a small portion of yourself to one or many people, to continue to weigh the difference between what you know and you deserve, to how much you’re worth versus what you’re getting, is exhausting.

Much like ripping off duct tape from a surface and experiencing the adhesive component become weaker, we abuse the power of love in that same way. I certainly know that I have, but I made the choice to hold myself accountable for the way I not only treat others, but the way I treat myself.

We have heard time and time again that we accept the love we think we deserve, but we should know that we deserve more.

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Patience Through The Process

Patience Through The Process

I am having a lot of trouble these days with trusting God.

Ironic, right? I wrote a blog maybe a week ago saying how we have to get through the storm and that we have to understand that God is faithful through all of it. Which He is, but my human brain can’t quite grasp that concept.

Now, I am a faithful christian and I love God more than I could ever describe in a single post, in a million posts, rather. But I am having so much trouble trusting that He has my best interest (I know; honestly who do I think I am?)

In my heart, I know He is good and He is not trying to hurt me or make me feel immeasurable pain, but that little piece of my mind that is incredibly vulnerable is what Satan is speaking to. Saying that I am never going to get through this. That I’m never going to understand. That I’m never going to recognize the good in an incredibly challenging situation.

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I have carried these anxieties and struggles for a lot longer than I care to admit.

So, with all of this hurt and pain in my heart, I went to church on Sunday, literally begging God to speak to me. I felt like He hadn’t been listening, and that my prayers were put on pause, and I was desperate.

Now, there was a guest speaker this week who came from NYC to preach to us named Bryan Loritts. I knew nothing about this man, but my brother was incredibly excited to hear him, so I figured I should be, too.

The sermon series was called God I Have Questions and the sermon that was going to be preached was entitled God, What’s My Purpose?

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I didn’t exactly know if this is what I needed to hear, (ha) therefore I was very skeptical, but I took my seat and opened my journal.

Transformation Church is a multi ethnic church and has an incredibly diverse group of people who are 100% unashamed and unafraid of how much they love The Lord. They lifted their hands in praise to God during the songs, during the prayers, I heard “Amens!” and “Preach!” through out the room, and I was actually angry.

Why? Because I didn’t feel that love and fire that they did in that moment. Because I was resentful to God. Because things have been going so unfortunately. Because I was stubborn and bitter.

Pastor Bryan walks out and begins with his back story, leading us into James 5:7-11.

” Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

God is funny, can I just tell you that?

Hearing all of this straight out the gates, I knew that A) I was going to cry before this was over and B) that I am heard.

He then went on to use the metaphor of an oyster. He told us that 9 times out of 10 an oyster can remove an unwanted piece of sand lodged in it’s shell because that is how God “hardwired it’s DNA” (I love that). But, there are the times that an oyster tries, and tries, an tries, but fails to remove this piece of sand, so it coats it in a liquid thousands of times until it produces a pearl.

I wasn’t following quite yet until he told us that, roughly, something beautiful does not just happen automatically when we are struggling and that “passive recognition is not patience because patience is active waiting.”

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When we entire a time of trial and a season of suffering, at least when I do, we aren’t happy about it. I’m not thanking God for this terrible time and/or situation in my life because I am crying “woe is me.” I’m not thinking long term, I’m looking at the here and now. I’m not thankful and joyful, I am what I walked into the sermon; angry and bitter.

But I shouldn’t be.

If there is anything that I took away from that incredible sermon, a sermon that I have listened to three times now, a sermon that changed my life it’s that God has not forgotten about us or put our prayers on pause. God hasn’t put us into this season of trial to hurt us, rather to prepare us for the moments and the person that we are meant to be.

If things were perpetually good, would we learn anything? Absolutely not.

It’s easy to thank God for the good, but almost impossible to thank Him for the bad. Pastor Bryan said to us “prosperity is a terrible teacher” and went on to discuss David, Job, Joseph, Paul, Moses- men who God had shown favor to, but men that God had given seasons of trials.

They were joyful in their sufferings, whether it was a few months or 80 years- something James commands us to be at all times, because the season of reaping highly depends on the season of how we sow. I am incredibly bitter person more often than I would like to be and I think realistically, which is often negative. I’m not joyful in my sufferings, because why would I be, right?

God says that even though you wake up everyday feeling like He has forgotten about you and your trials, He is preparing you, molding you into the person that He has designed you and destined you to be.

The holding pattern He has put us in is not designed for our frustration, but for our good and for our prosperity.

God has the long view. Down here on earth, we think we have it made and believe that we know what’s good for us, but God, The Beginning and The End, says no.

James commands us to lean into the terrible times, the thorns in our side, the trials that shatter us, to lean into our broken hearts, because they are being used for good, which is really still challenging to grasp. Pastor Bryan said “the only thing worse than failure is a premature success” and I believe him.

A pearl isn’t made from 5 coats of it’s oyster liquid, heck no. It is made out of thousands and thousands of layers rather, hard times and frustration. It is not something that happens over night, which is why James commands us over and over again to just be patient

All we can do really is not enough until we couple it, pair it, with God and His work, His plan, His unfailing and unending design.

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Choosing joy is important because, yeah, the hard times are freakin’ awful and feel unbearable, but the gain we receive from it is joy incomparable, completely created out of God’s unfailing love and compassion for us.

I may be a grain of sand now, for an incredibly long time, but until I become a pearl, I’ll do my best to be the happiest grain of sand around.

Here is the link to such an incredible sermon: http://transformationchurch.tc/sermons/?gigq/my_purpose/&utm_content=bufferd1a81&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer 

 

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Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm

Life is not easy these days. It seems tragedies come in pairs or triplets and disappointment is truly running ramped.

Have you ever felt like you’re throwing your prayers into an empty void and God sees them but maybe just doesn’t respond for some reason?

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Yeah. That’s where I’m at.

So, with all this disappointment and sadness heavy in my heart, I made my way to uptown Charlotte to see a dear friend of mine. I was driving close to dusk and looked at the sky to see an opening of sunlight.

The beams of sunlight were radiant. Not too far behind it though was a rain cloud. It was the kind of rain you could see from a distance; you knew it was a downpour. I thought to myself how could something so beautiful be next to such a disaster?

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Don’t snap and drive, folks.

Then it hit me.

This is temporary pain and God hears me through it. When has He not seen me through a storm? Never, because He always has.

Sometimes, you need a visual representation that it will be okay, and I’m so blessed that I saw it tonight.

Cheesy, but you need rain to make a rainbow, and I think this will be the prettiest one yet.

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Word Vomit & Forgiveness

Word Vomit & Forgiveness

It’s been a while since I have been here.

I never wanted to be the person who screwed up, who did the wrong thing with pure intentions, who hurt the most important people in my life because saving face and everyone’s feelings was more important than those who truly mattered to me.

But I am.

My brother is getting married at the beginning of next year to one of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and is a follower of Jesus unlike any I have ever seen. She has a heart of pure, absolute gold and she isn’t afraid to admit where she came from. Her testimony gives me chills anytime she uses her past to relate to her present, her inspiring, encouraging words are some that I could never forget if I tried, she isn’t afraid to put you in your place, but she does it with such grace and love, and she knows that we all fall short and is okay with that.

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Pictured on the left is my bomb, inspiring sister-in-law.

I don’t think I am, yet.

I want to be like Job.

God literally stripped everything away from him, but Job wasn’t phased. Well, he may have been, but he got down on his knees and said “But He knows where I am going, and when He tests me, I will come out as pure gold.”

This is a man who has everything and ends up with nothing. This is a man who could turn his back on God and fall into sin but doesn’t. He says “suffering does not destroy life’s purpose” and “those who suffer he speaks to in affliction.” He literally says “I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end, He will stand upon the Earth.” What a guy.

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Man, I want to be like Job. I want the confidence that he has in God and in his suffering, but sometimes it’s really really hard. Sometimes, I really feel like I won’t be delivered through the pain, and right now the pain is almost unbearable. I scream and shout to God, angry at Him for His will. Who do I think I am? The sovereign Creator who knew me before I was even a thought, who loved me before the world knew what love was, heck, before the world, The Beginning and The End, the One who wounds and also bandages, I think I know what’s better for me more than He does?

I fall short.

I don’t even reach the mark. I am literally no where near it. And I have a really, really hard time forgiving myself for that.

I’ve made mistakes recently with the purest of intentions and hurt, even lost, the people I truly loved the most in my life. And here I think that I know more than God; not even that, more like I’m not willing to see how He is going to use my sufferings for good.

Because I don’t feel good. 

Mostly, because I don’t feel worthy of forgiveness, especially after losing something I considered to be a forever. But who am I to ever know that?

And then I think of Ecclesiastes.

“As you do not know the path of the wind, so you cannot understand the work of God, Maker of all things.” “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” “God makes everything happen at the right time.””He has made everything beautiful in His time.” Solomon knew. He knew adversity built godly character because Solomon had seen and experienced it all, was incredibly wise, and did everything in his life to the fullest.”

Solomon knew looking back at his past mistakes and mess ups would do no good and wasn’t pleasing to God. Someone that God pursued and loved so dearly even messed up and learned from it.

Solomon gives me hope. Job gives me hope. The Lord gives me hope and even though I have such an incredible argument with myself any time I fall short, which is often, I should know that God doesn’t do anything to hurt us, rather to help us grow. I can’t understand everything (or anything) God has planned. I can’t understand why He allowed me to screw up and hurt so badly. I can’t imagine the reasons that God would ever let me feel the pain I am feeling right now.

But He is good. He is sovereign. He is righteous. He gives and takes away. He is The Beginning and The End, and just because I can’t imagine how it will get better doesn’t mean it won’t, because it will.

I’m going to fall short and that’s okay. I’m going to have my intentions mistaken and that’s okay. I’m going to wreck things in my life because I think I know what’s best and that’s okay. I’m going to be uncomfortable and that’s okay. I’m going to be a hypocrite sometimes and that’s okay. I am going to question God a lot and that’s okay. I’m going to really, really mess up and that’s okay.I’m going to be really upset with The Lord and that’s okay.

Because I am growing and God is near. I am forgiven and loved. I am broken, but in Him I will find strength. I got a tattoo about three days ago for Romans 5:8, a life verse of mine, and I believe it applies here.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

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He loved me at my darkest and always will.

I’m going to trust Him, or try my very hardest to, because, like Job and Solomon, I believe and know in my heart that He is, and always will be, good.

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The Present of Presence

The Present of Presence

You know, I’ve found recently that while I have so many wonderful and enriching memories, I’m not present for them.

I want to catch the moments through the lens of a camera, whether that be videos or photographs.

I want to create something that is different than anything else that anyone else sharing the same memory is creating, and I want to be the one who posts something on Instagram that’s ~artsy~.

(I hate myself for that one, if you were wondering).

I’m so selfishly caught up in trying to remember them and trying to be trendy while I do so that I forget to cherish them.

So, I did a minor experiment on myself during New Years Eve where I didn’t take my phone out for photographs until the very end of the night, in order for me to fully experience why I was there and who I was in the company of.

I went downtown with my best friend, whom I rarely ever see, her boyfriend, and my own boyfriend to watch the crown be dropped over the city (Queen City, get it?!). There were food trucks, lights, people selling everything 2016, performers, and a DJ. My boyfriend is a ball of energy, energetic, fun, and a lover of dancing, so naturally I would document these moments, but this time I partook in them.

Think of the most outgoing person you know and then think of their opposite; that’s me. I am introverted, self-conscious, and not much of a risk taker when I’m around people I care about, so dancing in public and making a fool of myself was really not at the top of my to-do list, but yolo, am I right?

To his and my best friend’s surprise, I jumped right in, danced with him, her, myself, even strangers, and I literally had a ball (no pun intended… Okay, some pun intended). 

We swing danced, danced through the latest trends, danced like fools, and laughed until we hurt. Those moments are something I will never forget.

Rounding out the night and getting closer to New Years, the countdown began. I was in a sea of cameras, snap chat, Instagram, and cell phones. Did I want to remember it through their forms of technology and social media? Yeah, of course, but I didn’t. I made myself a promise.

As the clock struck midnight, beautiful arrays of fireworks exploded into the night sky, leaving silhouettes of their previous form only to be replaced by brand new light forms. (Talk about artsy, right?)

I was surrounded by my best friends, my family, and strangers who’s happiness was contagious. Best part was I didn’t even need a camera to commemorate it, in fact, I remember it better now that I don’t have a ton of pictures because I wasn’t seeing it through a camera, rather my God given eyes.

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I snapped a picture of the crown in all of its golden splendor right as we were about to leave, marveling not only that I got to partake in this memory, but this was the life I was allowed to live. I realized two things:

  1. Just because you photograph a memory doesn’t mean you’ll remember it any better. 
  2. Presence is a better present than any photograph will ever be.

Now, you’re talking to someone who really loves pictures and social media, but there is a time and a place for one or both of those things.

You haven’t got as much time as you think you do, so my best advice and realization is to be present as often as you can with the people that you love the most, because I promise, you won’t regret it.

Maybe you won’t remember it all, but what you do remember is worth far more than any artsy Instagram post will ever be.

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One Thing Remains

One Thing Remains

Have you ever walked down the street and just looked at people? Not in the creepy way, but just kind of taken a look at their face and their body language?

I was walking down King Street recently and looked at the men who were homeless. They had maybe a back pack to their name, yet they had this joy on their face that was undeniable. One man’s clothes were tattered and the cross around his neck was rather rusted, but his smile was ever present. Their wrinkles held stories from the times they laughed, they cried, they were high, and they were low. The long gray hair showed experience.

I kept walking and passed a couple who appeared to be rather well off. They were dressed in business clothing and in a very large hurry. Even though they were with the other, they didn’t pay each other much attention. Creases sat next to the corners of their mouths as they formed that downward frown, worry flashed over their faces, and bags piled under their eyes, stressed and worn. Smoothing the hair to fall perfectly over her shoulders, the woman noticed me looking at her and gave a warm smile. Though the smile was genuine, there was still a coldness to it, as if she was trying so hard to suppress her demons. A face tells so much.

I wonder what my face told.

A girl that I went to high school with suffered a brain aneurism and passed away yesterday. It was so sudden and so unexpected. Though I didn’t know her more than the occasional chatting and passing smiles, and I won’t pretend that I did, her face always held a very sweet, gentle smile- all of her sisters had that same gentleness to them.

Amie would always be backstage to help with a costume change that someone (mainly me) was overly stressed about or hand out programs to people while they came in to see the shows.

Reading the posts made about her on almost every form of social media made it evident how many lives she touched without even trying. Her memory will live on, as will the stories that her face told, and that same sweet smile.

I thought about it all day yesterday, life and death that is. I know I just recently wrote a post about this, but it is so scary. It hurts me that this family is suffering, that her sisters are torn to shreds, and that she was taken so young.

I went to RUF that same night, still a little shaken. What I have noticed about death is that you don’t have to know them like the back of your hand to be affected by it. The simple act of passing them for four years in the hall ways or just growing up in the same time is enough to tug the strings of your heart.

The sermon was a parable from Luke explaining that all that you have is there to please you and your plan, not The Lord and that what you own is as important as what you do with it. While the sermon was great and I loved it, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know that God knew everyone was hurting and that our heart broke for, not only Amie and her family, but for anyone going through this kind of hardship. Lost in my own thoughts, I heard the beginning chords of “One Thing Remains.”

“Constant in the trial and the change, this one thing remains. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”

God knows.

He always has and always will.

I cannot even imagine the pain the family and close friends of Amie are feeling, but this song is the ultimate reminder that God is faithful in every circumstance. It is so comforting and overwhelming to know that. I actually have goosebumps as I am typing if we are being honest.

I so often take for granted the ways that God works and why He works. I don’t understand, but I don’t have to to know that He is at work with His plan, not ours. Anything that I have planned will crash and burn miserably because I am trying to trust myself and trying to overcome a fight that has already been won.

As I was singing last night, I was holding back tears, not of sadness, but of joy. I was so relieved that I had this God that loved me for whatever reason and suffered death for my life.

Amie is at peace with The Father and while we don’t understand now, one day we might.

Until then, I know now that I will wear my kindest, biggest, and most genuine smile with eyes to match on my face. I am thankful for situations like this because it is yet another way of so many ways to feel His great love. I

t’s not about what you have, rather what you give. Maybe it’s time to give the world a little happiness in every circumstance.

http://www.gofundme.com/PrayersForAmie