Gratitude

Faith

For some time now (as in, the last two weeks), I have been reflecting, wondering, and praying over what my “word” for 2017 would be.

Now, I know choosing a word for the year is a very blog-y and social media thing, but I truly love the idea behind having a “theme” to help set your focus and intention for the year ahead. It can be hard to remember and to fully live according to that theme throughout the year, but it’s definitely something worth striving for.

Last year in 2016, my word was abide and I think it fit me well for where I was at this time last year. I was coming out of 2015, a year that completely changed my life from the losses of my maternal grandmother and aunt less than 48 hours apart to my decision to take my career in a new direction. I was in the midst of a season in which I felt the indescribable peace and joy of Jesus’ presence in my life so deeply and abiding in His undeniable presence and love in that season was such an incredibly beautiful place to be.

But as I’ve written in the past few weeks, I began to realize towards the end of 2016 that things start to look and feel different when you’ve “come out” of that immediate season of grief. While I certainly am not “over” the six losses that I experienced, the grief and the pain have gotten significantly easier. Now that life has returned to a sort of state of equilibrium, how then do I continue to root myself in God and abide in Him?…

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I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since everything changed. In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in others it seems as if it were a lifetime ago. From December 2013 to January 2016, I lost six of my close family members but it’s these losses, these two in September 2015, that grabbed a hold of me and crumbled every wall and every barrier that I hadn’t even realized I had built. One year ago, not long after this post will go live, I stood at the foot of my grandmother’s hospital bed as she left this world for God’s kingdom. Less than 48 hours later, I stood outside of her house at 1:45 in the morning as her youngest daughter, my Aunt Shelia, joined her.

Grandma & a Baby Ashley

My grandmother was one of the strongest women that I know and to know my grandmother was to be loved by her. She raised her ten children to be the best aunts and uncles (and mom) I could ever wish for, something she did primarily on her own. Though her first taste of work was growing up on a tobacco farm, she worked as a waitress, a cook, a hairdresser, and a third-shift textile worker to help support them before eventually settling into her role with an organization that provided residential services to adults in the community with intellectual disabilities. She loved on her clients just as she loved on her own family, something that I hope I carry on in my own current role as a teacher to children with special needs. And although she had 15 grandchildren, she had a unique way of making each of us feel special when we were with her.

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A Joyful Heart

A Joyful Heart

It’s no secret that we all experience hardships in our lives. To be human and to be alive on this Earth pretty much guarantees that very thing. Life isn’t going to treat us as we think it should. There will be obstacles, failures, and losses that will bring you to your knees. In fact, that very saying that we use so often in our culture gives insight into the deeper meaning behind the pain we may be feeling. If something is so powerful over us that it is bringing us to our knees, I can’t help but believe that we were brought to that point for a reason. It is on bended knee that many of us cry out to God for help and he does have the power to do that. I found myself reflecting on my own hardships after hearing a beautiful sermon at church on joy that remained with me well after returning home.

For me, I have found myself at this point many times over the past two years. Seeing my aunt and uncle, my dad’s brother and sister, grow so weak and ill from the cancer that had invaded both of their bodies, eventually being called home ten days apart. My father being in the hospital less than a year later with what was an unknown illness at the time, praying that it wasn’t cancer that had made it’s way to him also. Standing at the foot of a hospital bed in September, surrounded by my aunts and uncles, praying Psalm 22 as my maternal grandmother took her last breath and entered the kingdom of Heaven. Less than 48 hours later, standing in the front yard of my late grandmother’s home, seven hours before her funeral, reeling from the unexpected loss of my beloved Aunt Shelia. Four months later, telling my paternal grandmother over the phone how much I loved her and losing her just days later. And finally, a week after that, losing my maternal grandmother’s cousin; a beautiful, loving, and Godly woman who had taken it upon herself to be a mother and grandmother figure to my family after losing our grandmother four months prior.

You will find that story, that testimony, mentioned many times if you explore this blog. I share it, not to receive any sympathy or pity, but so that I may share the love of Christ and the joy of the Lord with you all. Before this journey, I would have never understood how joyful and grateful one could be after enduring heart ache such as this. But as I’ve said many times, this heart ache of mine is the driving force behind the blog and my writing. This joy that I feel in my heart and soul was put there to be shared with the world. Sure, my family’s circumstances were, and are, tragic and full of sorrow. But pure joy, the kind that can only be found when living a life that has been rooted in God and his great truth and hope, transcends any circumstance.

As Mother Teresa beautifully said, “A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.”

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