Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inspirational Profiles: Jake Olson and the Gift of Hope

  Do you ever wonder what it would be like to know nothing but a life of fighting to live?
Just over a year ago, I was introduced to the story of a remarkable young man who has had to experience this reality. And yet, he has a hope that transcends what he has gone through. A hope that is the foundation of his faith and life.
  Jake Olson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at eight months old that threatened his eyesight. Just two months later, his left eye was removed, and he began aggressive rounds of treatment in order to save his right eye. Miraculously, the doctor's were able to do so, even though the cancer returned time and time again. Eight times to be exact. For the next twelve years, this one remaining eye helped Jake to take in the world around him. In the fall of 2009, the cancer came back again, but the doctors didn't have answers this time, and the surgery to remove his remaining eye was scheduled for a couple of months later.
 Jake's story was first featured on ESPN around that time. Then University of  Southern California coach, Pete Carroll, heard of Jake and wanted to give him his one wish: to see a live USC football game before blindness became a daily way of life. A short time before he would lose his sight, Jake got the opportunity he had always hoped for and enjoyed every minute of it, knowing that these were some of the last faces and places he would ever see.


  Because of this national exposure, and also Pete Carroll's desire to keep in touch with Jake and his family, Jake became a symbol of faith and hope to many people. When Coach Carroll became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks a few years ago, he made certain that Jake became a part of the team's "family" of players and staff, bringing him, his parents, and his sister to many games and events.
  In 2013, ESPN did a follow-up story on Jake, updating viewers on Jake's latest adventures, which included publishing a book about his story, called Open Your Eyes, and his making his high school football team as a long snapper.

 Jake had the pleasure of joining the Seahawks at their divisional championship game  in 2014 and is continuing to impact people with his positive outlook and tremendous faith. Beyond his hopeful attitude, perhaps what makes Jake so attractive to others is his undying belief in God's plan for his life and his acceptance of his circumstances. In his book, Jake says,
 "Hope is my foundation and it helped me get through lot of dark days. Faith doesn't take away fear or remove a challenge, but faith helps you get through it. I would be lying if I said my fight didn't include moments of fear...I can't imagine living my life without being close to God. He is the reason I wake up every day with hope and confidence for what the day will bring. I know he has a plan for my life, and I know he will give me the strength to overcome any obstacles that come my way." *
 Even though he is only seventeen years old, Jake teaches us all what it means to embrace God's will for your life, even when it seems hard to do so. Sometimes, life brings us challenges that we do not expect. What we do with those challenges, though, determines who we become as a result of them. Jake admits there are times when he wishes he could see and do certain things and yet, he has seen God redeem the pain in such a way that he will tell you that his life has never been better. He has learned to be grateful for what he has been given: the ability to live - even without sight. And so, he goes out golfing; he plays football; he speaks around the country and shares his story; he studies hard at school. Jake lives a full life, however altered it has become. Jake lives a life filled with hope, and he knows that it comes from the God who loves and cares for him deeply.
 What a challenge this is to all of us when trials come our way: will we be thankful for the gift of life even in the midst of our suffering? Will we make the most of what we have been blessed with and live our lives fully? Will we be filled with  hope no matter what we go through? Jake is. We can, and should, also.


To learn more about Jake and his message of hope, visit his website at: www.openyoureyes.org.


* This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2013.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Quote of the Day



" I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness and it's
giving thanks to God for this moment that multiplies the moments, 
time made enough."
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Treasure Every Day



 It is with a heavy heart that I write this today. Many of you may remember reading my December post titled: "My 2014 Inspiration Awards," in which I gave the Courage Award to my friend, Katie Elliot. Katie, as you might recall, has been fighting cancer for several years with a dignity and joyful grace well beyond her years. Just in the last few weeks, she took a turn for the worst and, sadly, passed away yesterday morning. She was eighteen years old. Several days ago, she and I exchanged emails and, in one of them, she indicated to me that her time here on earth was rapidly ending yet, as always, her main concern was for others and how they would handle her loss:
    
     "We don't know how much time exactly I have left, 
      but we know that it's winding down pretty quick for me. 
      I'm not scared, I know where I'm headed, but prayers
       of comfort for my family…are so appreciated."

 That's how Katie dealt with her challenges…with a beautiful smile and a God-given peace about the situation. She was far more concerned with how those around her would face the inevitable than how she would meet death when it arrived. Right until the end, she savored every moment she had with those who meant the most to her. Even in her final days on this earth, she was living life to the fullest: she was thrilled that her beloved Seattle Seahawks were heading back to the Super Bowl, and she told me that she hoped they would "win the Bowl for me!" In fact, she was even working on writing a post for me that I planned on sharing with all of you at some point. Obviously, that wasn't meant to be. Still, I felt it was worth sharing today that Katie taught me so much about life and what it means to treasure every day and live it to the fullest. None of us know how much time we have in this world, and how much better would it be to face our death, knowing that we lived a worthy life…most importantly, that we lived a God-honoring life. Katie loved Jesus with all her heart and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she had a far greater destiny in front of her than anything this life could give her here. Her attitude was a real challenge to me and something that I want to bear in mind in the years ahead. Don't wait to take opportunities to love people; don't waste your chances to enjoy the many blessings God has given to you; don't be afraid of taking chances on things that are challenging and hard but, in the end, produce character that leads to a more exemplary life; don't hold out until the last minute to get right with God…because that "last minute" could be right now. Someone the other day asked me why I chose to grow my friendship with Katie, knowing that we didn't have much time left together. All I could answer was the following, "In the words of the old saying, 

'tis better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all."

 Sometimes you miss out on the beautiful things in life because you are afraid to lose. I don't want to be that kind of person, and I am grateful that I knew Katie…even for a short time. I know my life will never be the same and that I will continue to think of her in more ways than one. This Sunday, as the Seahawks take the field in the Super Bowl, I will smile and say, "Win one for Katie." And I will thank God that He allowed me the pleasure of knowing this amazing young woman. Katie, you were a sweetheart, and you will be deeply missed. I love you. 



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quote of the Day




" When sight ceases, it is the time for faith to work. The greater
 the difficulties, the easier it is for faith. As long as human possibilities
for success remain, faith does does not accomplish things as easily as when all natural prospects fail."
- George Muller 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Comparisons

 I have always been a student of history. When I was in school, it was my favorite subject. I have felt for many years that history has much to teach us that would apply to our present moment in life and better prepare us for the future. Those who neglect to learn its lessons usually are bound to repeat them…perhaps worse than before. This desire to mine the past has led me on many an interesting search for knowledge and has enabled me to discover individuals and events that have profoundly affected my life. 
 Recently I was watching a series that described the American struggle for independence during the years 1775-1780. As someone who has long been fascinated with military history and events, I began to observe an interesting concept as I continued to watch the series: the rag-tag group of men and young boys that made up the Continental Army had much in common with the military personnel of today, yet there were some striking differences that might give us insight into how to better understand and assist those returning home from combat. There was one big question that drove me to dig deeper into the personal lives and writings of that generation and wonder if they didn't have some profound insights to offer us on the issue of post-traumatic stress. The question was this: what was it that allowed so many to go through extremely harsh weather difficulties, to survive on less-than adequate supplies which resulted in greater casualties and insanitary health conditions, to fight a far superior military force that almost assured them of certain death on the battlefield due to poor training and equipment…why did they endure all this and then go on to live exemplary lives following these harrowing situations? After the war, many became revered public servants, giving back to their communities in self-less ways. A large number of them transitioned quite well into civilian life - something that most the service members of today seem to struggle with. The following observations are my answer to this question and, I hope, it builds on other posts I have written concerning this topic: 
 One of the first differences I noticed between the soldiers of today and their predecessors was the lack of distractions for previous generations of warriors. If you think back to the 1775 era, there were no televisions, no computers, no cell phones or video games, no cars, etc. to enable people to escape the reality of life. Living back then, you had to deal with things as they happened. The young people of today grow up with far more escapism routes than those before them. It's really easy to find ways to remove oneself from the suffering and disappointments life throws at you. And it also becomes easy to want to expect the painless path to success and growth. Take this mentality among our youth and then put them in the military, and it gets harder for them to handle adversity without their distractions (example: being in a combat zone without access to the escapism "toys" they are used to having nearby.) My feeling is that older generations were able to face their situations more objectively because they didn't have as many ways to get around the gravity of life. 
 Closely connected to my first point, I also saw that the individuals of the aforementioned  time period were more adjusted to trials and suffering. The life-span of the average person was far shorter than today, and most people had to get used to tasting adversity: infants died quite frequently, droughts ruined crops (which were a lot of people's livelihood), most didn't make nearly the monetary salary that people today make and quite often had to deal with debt and financial scarcity…especially during the war. There were a lot of factors that the average person had to deal with that just aren't a part of everyday life now…factors that, while harsh realities produced, I believe, better character in the individuals who experienced them. 
 Another interesting difference that I noticed while studying the warriors back then is that they seemed to possess a greater ability to articulate themselves and to express the emotions of their sufferings. Most people back then kept journals and daily wrote down their thoughts. Since there was no such thing as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email, or text, letters were the primary means of communication between people, and this necessitated individuals taking the time to describe their circumstances on paper. I also believe it was a release for them as they sought to deal with the more painful experiences of life. These days, social media and technology - while helpful to a point - do make it so that individuals can say whatever they want and sometime disguise their struggles. In other times, paper and ink were not necessarily an expendable thing, and you had to choose your thoughts and words clearly and carefully. Recently, I actually heard about a veteran that took this approach  in dealing with his post-combat struggles. Through writing, he was able to find a constructive way to express his emotions and feelings and discovered that it eliminated a lot of his anxiety and stress. Putting pen to paper proved to be very therapeutic for him. Because of this successful approach, he began to encourage other veterans to try it, and it began to be very helpful to them as well. On a personal note, as I writer I have found this to be very helpful to me as well when I have undergone a difficult time in my life. In this day and age, though, most people don't take the time to write anything down anymore because the digital age makes instant communication so much easier. Unfortunately, our thoughts can become more shallow and less impactful as a result of relying on this means too much. 
 Perhaps the greatest difference I discovered is that the society the warriors of 1775 lived in had a much higher estimation and respect of God. The culture as a whole placed God in a far more prominent place than today. Most people then were well-versed in the Bible and thought in far more spiritual terms than the average individual does today. This gave them a foundation for the hardships that they endured and allowed them to have a different perspective on life than we have in our modern-day era. The writings of these brave people are laced with references to God and indicate their firm reliance on His aid and assistance toward them throughout the war. For instance, Josiah Bartlett - himself one of these individuals - stated in a letter in 1776:
           
             "I believe this year will decide the fate of America - which way it will turn
              only God knows. We must look to Him for direction and protection; Job
              said though he slay me yet will I trust in Him."

It was this kind of awareness and trust in God's divine plan that provided the warriors of that time a reason to hope both during and after their combat experience. That God was overseeing their suffering made it, somehow, easier to take. For this generation of warriors, God plays a much lesser role tham before. For many, God doesn't play any role in their day-to-day lives and thus, they have no hope to sustain them when the hard times come. They are guided toward secular approaches for dealing with the haunting memories of war, and offered little spiritual explanation or foundation that would enable them to move forward toward a fuller life.
 These differences are only a part of the reason why warriors of yesterday fared better after their wartime experiences than those today. There is so much more to discover about post combat stress, and we realize that we are only scratching the surface of this important issue. However, I do believe that history is a vital part of helping us to understand how we can more effectively aid those returning home from war and help them to transition home in body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps, in learning the lessons of the past, we can better understand the warriors of the present and prepare for future challenges that they will face. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Why I Chose Not To Go See "American Sniper"

 Ten years ago today, a young sixteen-year-old girl made a phone call to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her desire was to send letters of appreciation to injured service members who were recovering in the hospital. That girl was me…and little did I know at the time how that simple phone call would launch me on a journey that would change my life and the lives of countless others. A decade later, I find myself reflecting on the amazing opportunity I have had to get an insider's perspective on the daily life of those who serve our nation. Over the years, I have had the honor of sitting down with WWII veterans and recording their stories; I have attended the joyful homecomings of hundreds of soldiers and seen them reunite with their loved ones; I have corresponded with dozens of other service members during their deployments and received first-hand accounts of what they are facing on the front lines; I have comforted the grieving family members whose dear one didn't return; I have personally experienced the loss of a Marine that I knew who died while serving in Iraq in 2006; most recently, I have assisted a young Marine as he struggled to deal with his injury and subsequent post-combat transition. All of these interactions and experiences have provided me with an interesting outlook on the military issues of today. 
 Recently, someone was asking me about my take on the movie "American Sniper." He wanted to know if I'd seen the movie yet, and I had to tell him that I hadn't…largely by my own choice. Since I have spent so many years of my life around the military, this probably surprised him but, after I explained my reason for not going to see the film, he asked me to please write a post and share my thoughts. Contrary to what many might think, it wasn't because I didn't think I could handle the realistic elements or graphic scenes of the movie - I have read many books and heard many veterans' stories that closely resemble that of Chris Kyle: the main character of the movie. It wasn't because I wasn't interested or that I didn't think I could learn something from the story. Rather, the simple reason why I chose not to go and see "American Sniper" is this: I know people who have lived through the things described in that film, and I have journeyed alongside them through it's traumatic effects. Having spent a decade of my life around these brave individuals, I do not need a movie to explain to me what they go through. I already understand it. These people have taught me everything I know about the life they gladly choose to live and have trained me…a humble civilian like everyone else…to think the way they do. To see the world the way they do. It has been an unfiltered perspective that I have been privileged to have and one that I do not take lightly. The lessons I have learned from these courageous service members have shaped who I am and how I live my life. 
 On the other hand, I realize that not everyone has been offered the same opportunities to meet and learn from a service member and their family. There are many people in our society today who have never met one military veteran or service member in their entire lives; others feel uncomfortable talking to a wounded warrior and get uneasy because of their physical injuries; still others may walk up to a service member and say, "Thanks for your service," but be unable to say much beyond that. You see, even those of us who truly do appreciate the sacrifices of those who serve in uniform, will not fully understand how to help and support these individuals unless we take the time to really get to know them. Unless we earn their trust by our kindness and listening ear, they will continue to feel alone in their transition back to the civilian world. They have so much to teach us, but we have to slow down enough to learn. While thanking them for serving is certainly better than saying nothing at all, going a step further and inquiring, "How are you transitioning? Is there anything we can do to help make your post-combat adjustment any easier?" will speak volumes to them. There is so much about their experiences we will never fully comprehend and, for our sakes, they will never tell us everything they went through. But as a society, it is our responsibility to go the extra mile for these brave individuals since they have done the same to protect all of us! For this reason, I am glad that so many have had the chance to go and see "American Sniper" and really learn, for themselves, what life as a service member on the front lines is really like. By hearing the personal story of someone like Chris Kyle, others are given a glimpse into the challenges of military life that are largely unknown to the civilian population. Perhaps this film will help the average person to gain a new-found gratitude for what our military members and their families go through on a daily basis. It is my hope that those who see it, and have a change of perspective because of it, will build on what they learned from watching the film and will be motivated to give back to those who serve in a greater way. 
 It's been ten years since I first began working with the military community in a closer capacity, and I have never regretted that decision for one minute. Just maybe, the public interest that "American Sniper" has created will be the start of a nation that re-discovers its need to embrace those who give life and limb for its defense. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Little Things

 Snowflakes fall gently down from moisture-laden skies. It is the first major snowfall in over two months. For my area of Alaska, it has been a strange winter with far less snow accumulation than normal. Even though winter is my favorite season, I am particularly happy to see these unique and beautiful bits of frozen crystals floating down to a bare world. We have waited so long for this to happen, and we seemingly cheer on every snowflake. The frozen earth is being transformed. Beauty is returning to it once again, particles coming together to form a blanket of white. 
 I stare outside and think back to all the times it tried to snow before but left us only with dashed hopes. To see it falling again reminds me that it is the little things that make life special. It's the little gifts from God - often preceded by times of waiting - that bring that extra touch of grace to the human heart. When one is truly intent on experiencing God, one will begin to see His love manifested in thousands of little blessings every day. This empty world can make one lose sight so quickly of what truly matters, and we can begin to miss the countless ways in which God reveals His care. The most vital aspect of life - gratitude - slips right through our fingers, and we are left with nothing. The only way to find true abundance is through acknowledging the grace-moments - the little things that remind us of the Creator and His unconditional love. 
 As the drifts pile deep, and the flakes keep on coming, I breath a quiet, "Thank you," for yet another instance where I am gifted the opportunity to be grateful to the One who orchestrates all this for His pleasure…and for mine. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

"What if instead of discounting the current moment, the uncontrollable, the simply given - what if I counted it - and on the God who controls all? What if all our running around is only our trying to run away from God - the great I AM, present in the present moment? What if I woke to now and refused to hurry because I didn't want to refuse God? What if I didn't discount this moment but counted it for what it is - God here? It is only the present moment alone that holds the possibility of coming into the presence of God."
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Power of Kindness

Nothing drives away hatred and anger like the power of kindness and love. Retaliation never did get anyone very far. This young man has taught many a great lesson: you can change your situation for the better just by taking time to listen to others and be kind. We all have stories to tell…we all have hidden struggles that we deal with. Often, it is because someone takes the time to love us and show that they care that we are given the strength to get through our challenges. Josh proved this in his local high school. Today, wherever we may find ourselves, let's take a moment to reach out to someone who is hurting and let them know we're there for them. It just might change their life…and ours, too!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Quote of the Day

"…Maybe this is why the word hemorrhages - if we think God doesn't care, why should we? Isn't it easier to blame Him? When I believe the Edenic lie that God doesn't care - is that the excuse to turn away, to spread the lie that God doesn't care - when maybe the truth is that it's humanity that doesn't care? If we love Him because He first loved us…do we now care, because we know He did first care, has always cared, will always care - and has the nail scars to definitely prove it. If all the world believed the truth of God's character - that God cares - wouldn't this world become a caring place? He cares, so we care; He loved first, so we love now."
                                       - Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When Life Gets Broken

 I listened to this song awhile back and immediately connected with the beautiful words. So many times, I have felt as though God had left me and the pain was too much to handle. But I have discovered that these are the times when He draws the nearest to us. These are the times when His arms carry us because we are too weak to stand on our own. These are the times when His grace gives us hope because we think that we have none. When life gets broken, He is the only One who can help us begin again.  


Monday, January 19, 2015

Quote of the Day


" Mercies received after long and great difficulties,
come with the sweetest manifestations of divine love."
- William Gurnall in Voices From the Past

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Boundless Love



"Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there!
Thine wholly, Thine alone, I'd live,
Myself to Thee entirely give.

O Love, how cheering is thy ray!
All fear before thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow melt away,
Where'er thy healing beams arise:
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire, or seek, but Thee."
- Paul Gerhardt

Quote of the Day



"But if my heart hadn't broke in two,
I never would have run to You,
You loved me in my loneliness,
And I found I was never alone."
- Jason Gray in
"The Best Days of My Life"

Friday, January 16, 2015

Forever Good

 Oh what a beautiful place it is to arrive at when you can say, "If none of my desires come to fruition, God is still good." 
  I reflect back on my life, and I see that there was once a time where, as the story was being re-written, I placed demands on its Author in an effort to be in control: "God, if you'll do (this), then I'll be happy. God, if you would only make (this) happen, then I'll trust you." But, every time, God kept saying no. I interpreted His delays as being denial - as a sign that He did not love me and did not care. And this made me angry. I felt as if I deserved to be granted certain things I wanted. I wanted to keep something or someone…just for a little part of the story to go "my way." But, in time, I came to realize how very wrong I was to believe this. It became clearer to me that God's delays were not because He did not love me - they were because He wanted something better for my life than anything I could dream or hope for! 
  As He has turned one page after another, I see that the greatest act of submission to God is to accept the "if not." We all have things we wish would take place in our life-story, but we must subject those desires to the wisdom of the Author of Life. Only He truly knows what is best for us. Were we left to write our own story, we would fail miserably. 
  Today, I see my life as it unfolds, and I am thankful for every blessing. But I am also resigned because I know that, no matter what, He is forever God…and He is still good.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Verse of the Day



"Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is
light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said,
'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will
shine on you."
-Ephesians 5: 13-14

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Because of Grace


Because of Grace

Shattered, our lives in pieces lie;
All hope seems just about to die;
We sit and mourn the life we knew -
Moments of joy seem very few.

Held within our pain so deep,
Night after night, we cannot sleep;
"Where is God?" - we wonder why
He seems far off instead of nigh.

But, in the darkness, Light appears
And seems to wipe away our tears;
Hope returns within our soul,
Cleanses, then makes fully whole.

We do not choose the time or place
Where God will meet us with His grace
But in that moment, love will find
Its way into our heart and mind.

The hurt we carried for so long
Has been replaced by wondrous song;
Open, we take and now embrace
The life we have because of grace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quote of the Day






"God shines the Light of Christ through the fragments we place in His hands, transforming the disorder into beauty and symmetry, splashing the colors of our brokenness into fireworks across the sky."
       
                        - Claire Cloninger from When God Shines Through 
                                 as quoted in Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World  






Monday, January 12, 2015

From Darkness To the Light

 Every day, I need hope. If I am truly following Him who is the Light of the World, I may see the darkness around me, but the darkness will not live inside of me. There will always be love, hope, and life because of the One whose presence dispels the dark. In looking back at my own journey, I see this progression of walking from darkness into His light and experiencing joy that I never thought possible. There's a reason why the verse John 8:12 has a special meaning for me. The promise contained in those few, short sentences holds so much weight: 

"Then spake Jesus…saying, I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall
have the light of life."

There are days when life brings sorrow, but the Light is always there and tells me, in those moments, that it will never leave.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Quote of the Day


"I won't fear my journey's end
because the Author is my friend;
Whatever comes tomorrow, beauty or sorrow,
I know when I look back I'll see that the good 
times and the hard times were the best I ever had,
Because You were beside me, above and behind me,
Lovingly leading me home."
- Jason Gray
"The Best Days of My Life"

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Only Story That Counts

 I once heard Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin say it best: "A storyteller's worst nightmare is becoming the story themselves." Long before the ideas expressed on this blog were even a thought in my mind, I was a storyteller. I always have been. Primarily, I was an aspiring historical fiction novelist. I created interesting plots and characters and wove themes throughout the story as I wanted to. I wrote it the way I thought it should go. And I treated my own life-story the same way.
  Then, the life-story took a twist I wasn't expecting…several twists, actually. Twists that I didn't write into the story. Twists that I didn't want or ask for. The nightmare had begun, and I - the storyteller - was the story. I didn't want to believe that. I still wanted to be the author of my story. I wanted to be in control of the narrative. Over time, I would realize that my skills as an author could only take me so far. They got me as far as the bedside of my then-ill dad; they got me as far as the newspaper which told me my friend Michael had died in Iraq; they got me as far as the phone call when I found out my childhood friend had nearly died in a car accident…but those skills could take me no further. Someone else was writing the story, not me. Deep in my aching heart, I knew that "someone" was God but, for awhile, that hard truth made me resent Him all the more. I felt like the tables had been turned and, now that I was the story, I didn't know what to do. All I wanted was to fade into the background, to be left alone to spin the tale as I wanted to. To once again live my life through characters and to forget the reality of the life I was being asked to live out myself.
  It took quite awhile for me to realize that I had never really controlled the story at all…that I never would fully control the story and that I had to accept it the way it was or be left to live a miserable existence thereafter. January 9th, 2009 was the day I began my journey back toward God and a life of grace and blessing. I so clearly remember that afternoon, and I remember exactly where I was when I finally hit rock bottom and acknowledged for the first time that my life wasn't really mine to begin with and that I needed a Savior to help me out of the mess I had created. I wanted to live again. I remember praying from the depths of my despair and asking God to do what, at the time, seemed impossible: to make the broken me beautiful. Inspired by the example of another young person I had seen, I approached God and said, " I want to impact others like that. I want to have that same joy." Then I said the most daring statement I had ever made: "I don't know what it will take for me to get from where I am to a life like that individual has, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I am giving you every aspect of my life. Do with me as you wish." Perhaps at the time, I didn't fully realize just how daring that statement-prayer really was; however, I knew that I had reached a turning point. And, almost immediately, God began working a miracle in my young life. Within a mere few days of uttering those words, I started to see the evidence that He had heard my daring request and was willing to answer…even in ways I had yet to understand.
  The next year-and-a-half would be a discovery of sorts, of finding out what this new life-abundant was that God was leading me toward. I couldn't completely comprehend what He was doing, nor could I totally grasp what it was that He wanted from me. But unlike other times, this time I was willing to listen. My eyes and mind were open, and I was searching. He was leading, and I was slowly but surely beginning to follow. The Fall of 2011 was when it all came to a head, and I finally made my decision to surrender completely to the God who had been relentlessly pursuing me for several years. He had made it clear to me in the months leading up to that time that He was after my heart. The journey had just reached a crossroads, and the choice had been left with me: would I acknowledge Him as the Author of my life-story and be willing to accept and embrace my role in the narrative He had been writing for the previous twenty-three years? I chose to lay down my so-called "rights" as the author of my own story and have never regretted for one day that I did so. I realized that, while I did not initially like becoming the storyline, there was no other way that God could do the work He wanted to in my life without such things taking place.
  Six years later, on this January 9th, I look back and see that He has crafted the story in ways that I could not have even begun to imagine at the time. What seemed, in the moment, to be the worst days of my life were, in reality, the beginning of the best days. Light always overcomes darkness. Hope always emerges from the greatest tragedies. And that's what happened with me. When I let God redeem the story…even the chapters which were the most painful…the broken me really was turned into something beautiful.
So much good has resulted in spite of the despair I once carried with me everywhere. Deep in my heart, I know that this blog would not have a message, my writing would not have a purpose - my life as a whole would not be what it is today if the prayer that was uttered out of a hurting soul on January 9th had not been voiced. There would be no smile, no love of life, no passion to help people, if God had not been willing to answer. The story could've ended in hopelessness. But, instead, it is being added to - enhanced and expanded - by the creative and masterful hand of my Savior. His story is the only story that really counts. And when we learn to embrace His narrative for our lives, there is no limit to the miracles which He can produce in and through us. Because of Him, our "worst nightmare" can turn into glorious reality.
  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Quote of the Day

" When you look at your life in retrospect, you start realizing there is a bigger story being written. I had to trust things to work out instead of fighting it and getting frustrated when things didn't work out the way I thought they should have. The Author of the story of my life has written new chapters that have created my story exactly as it needs to be."
- Danny Gokey in Hope In Front of Me

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Seeing In the Dark Places

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I thought I should share this beautiful song by one of my favorite singers, Jason Gray:


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In The Dark

 Saw this video awhile back and was profoundly moved. The thoughts of this young man really echoed my own journey…and the journey of many I know. It may even echo yours. Have hope because in the darkest seasons of life, God will speak peace to your heart. He did to mine. 



Monday, January 5, 2015

Quote of the Day

" To bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving means to sacrifice our understanding of what is beneficial and thank God for everything because He is benevolent. A sacrifice of thanks lays down our perspective and raises hands in praise anyways - always. A sacrifice is, by definition, not an easy thing - but it is a sacred thing. There is this: We give thanks to God not because of how we feel but because of who He is."
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Quote of the Day



"He who is grateful for little is given much laughter…and it's 
counting the ways He loves, this is what multiplies joy."
-Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year's Resolution Worth Keeping!


"Resolution 1: I will live for God.
Resolution 2: If no one else does, I still will."
- Jonathan Edwards

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another Year Is Dawning

Happy New Year everyone! May God bless you. 


Another Year Is Dawning

Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in Heaven,
Another year for Thee."

                 - Francis Ridley Havergal