Experiencing Blessing After Tragedy

Just a little forewarning, this one’s a bit downcast, the first part of it anyway.

July 8th, 2021.

When I wrote my post last week, I thought the next one I’d be sharing would be me telling about my crazy, spontaneous Texas purchases (which I plan to do tomorrow) but feelings spur and I can’t skip sharing my heart through a blog post today.

Twenty years ago, to the day, my dad passed away—July 8th, 2001.

I’ve shared that story and thoughts through past posts.

For those who don’t know, my dad ran a bit on the wild side through his teen years and most of his adult life. He provided well for our family, adored my mom and us kids but he struggled cutting loose from longtime addictions with alcohol and marijuana.

Finally (in his mid thirties) my dad broke away from the toxicity and traded it for church attendance and an old time hobby of dirt bike racing. Races usually happened on Sundays so church was typically bypassed in the summer months.

My dad had almost two years of racing in (along with no alcohol or drugs) when tragedy hit.

He was racing (October 10th, 1999) at a motocross event and miscalculated a double jump that left him a quadriplegic and ventilator dependent. Nearly two years went by with him living in rehab facilities.

Taken late in 2000

Over the Fourth of July in 2001 we brought my dad home for a visit not knowing it’d be his last. He had an amazing time visiting family and friends, almost as if it were a set up…

I was seventeen at the time and although I called myself a Christian, my life choices were far from a Jesus-like example. I partied like it was a vital necessity to my self-absorbed teenage life. And during my dad’s unbeknownst last visit there was no exception from my obnoxious traits. I just wasn’t present and I couldn’t see past my vain greed.

On Sunday, July 8th 2001, (with my mom and youngest brother along) I was to drive my dad back to Lincoln, NE where he lived for temporary rehab.

Too naïve to recognize how tired I was I fell asleep behind the wheel. I still have flashbacks of my dad yelling my name, “Alicia, Alicia” as he tried to get my attention, that was the last thing I heard him say. My dad didn’t make it—a blessing in disguise I’ve always thought. My mom and brother suffered severe injuries. I was fine but the mental toll still wreaks havoc at times.

There are so many other details and events wrapped up in all of that, it’d honestly take a book to share all of it.

I look back at that time and boy I wish I could’ve shook sense into that teenage girl I used to be. We don’t physically get those opportunities though but that’s where mercy and grace step in.

Tragedies that we are completely unprepared for happen in life and we’re left with a choice—to sulk in misery or surrender to Jesus with confident hope.

When we choose the latter of the two we’re met with peace, comfort, and direction.

It took me a long time to learn that I would need to fully give my life to God in order to feel true contentment.

Yesterday I began a demo project in my home which I’ll share in a future post and the song Broken Vessels by Hillsong came on as I was reflecting on thoughts of my dad and prying up old ceramic tile from our dining area…

My dad was a carpenter and a darn accomplished one at that, I share the same love. Wearing my ridiculous looking safety glasses tears slipped from beneath them as the words from the song echoed in the background…

All these pieces

Broken and scattered

In mercy gathered

Mended and whole

Empty handed

But not forsaken

I’ve been set free

I’ve been set free

Amazing Grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

Oh, I once was lost

But now I am found

Was blind but now I see

Those words have never been truer and more life captivating to me than now. I feel the power in them and the love of Jesus stronger than ever. I indeed once was a broken vessel, without a shadow of a doubt, but God has collected, mended, and filled this vessel with an abundance of beautiful hope and for that I am ever grateful.

I miss my dad as much today as I did twenty years ago but my choices and my mind are so much more clearer and healthier now that I’ve gained Jesus as He helps me navigate.

Sweet friend I don’t know whatever your struggle may be but turn your eyes and heart to the Father and allow Him to soften the rough areas. He will guide and provide. Precious healing is found in the midst…

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.’ —2 Timothy 2:21 ESV

No More ‘Pain in the Neck’

I could probably write every one of my posts each week sharing about an experience from substitute teaching. Maybe that means it’s just that entertaining at times or there are an endless amount of life lessons offered when I’m at the schools.

Just yesterday I was teaching p.e. again and we were in an intense game of line tag when a little brown haired gal (cute as ever) quickly but cautiously made her way to me. She was holding her neck with both hands and the words that poured from her panicked voice were this:

“My neck is hurting and I can’t move it!! It hurts really bad!!”

She paused for a few seconds and seemed to examine my expression and then without wasting another moment she dramatically blurted out, “I think it’s broke! I think my neck is broken!!”

Side-note: You guys here’s why I shouldn’t be allowed to adult most days because for a half a second I entertained the idea; I was like “oh shoot what if it actually is!?”

I’m a bit sensitive about neck injuries ever since my dad’s dirt bike racing accident that left him a quadriplegic, so I’m gonna give myself the benefit of a fair excuse.

I gathered myself and asked her what happened and if she could turn her neck slowly from side to side. I’m assuming she must have strained her neck a bit when she was running and that was the cause. Calmly and rationally we made ‘headway’ and determined her neck was in fact still intact and she’d be alright. After the reassurance, off she ran for more line tag just like that!!

Boy can I ever relate to the symbolic storyline of that whole deal when I compare it to the things I’ve freaked out about throughout different stages of life.

I was a skilled self-diagnosed hypochondriac for years…worrying about anything from my children’s health to well-being, to what people thought of me, to finances, to my premature gray hair which by the way was probably multiplying rapidly because of my worrying…the list “went” on…

And quite frankly it all made up my own definition of a pain in the neck.

I’ve come so far away from those worries…except my soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old driving in a few months…that one I’m still working on letting Jesus take the wheel entirely. I’m getting closer with this too though!

After reflecting on the “broken neck” scene from yesterday and because of the over the top drama I laugh just a smidge and it causes me to ask one question…

How many of our worries are all done in vain?

As I’ve looked back and taken inventory over how God has seen me through my trials, I’ve noticed that not one of the things I’ve ever given worry to have actually prevailed. Ever! The odds of victory are in God’s favor. They’re not for me to chase!

Some of the very first verses that I memorized when I came to faith and realized God’s word is the answer in all situations were on the topic of overcoming worry:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6

Give all your worries and your cares to God for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Those, among a few others, were such a blessing of truth and still speak to me today when I tend to wander away from practicality.

Just like I had to comfort that young fretting sweetie in my p.e. class yesterday during our game, God is always available and willing to do the same for us, no matter the amount of physical or emotional pain we struggle with. He’s a Perfect Healer and we can find relief from our burdens through worship, fellowship with other believers, prayer, and reading His word!

Tag, you’re it!! Let’s not waste any more time in unproductive worry when there’s so much more to life! To Him be the glory!!

Hello again…finally!!

I ended up taking an unexpected blogging break over the past few weeks…and it feels awkward. I’m almost overwhelmed on where to pickup so I think I’ll post a little picture/description Summer update today and a devotional thought and hopefully (next week) be back to the routine of once-a-week regular posting.

As July hit, quarantine became a long thing of the past in my world, all of a sudden I’ve been bombarded with kid’s sports schedules, an increase in helping with my grandma, a camping trip, 4-h projects and presentations, a plethora of meetings, plus the ability to catch up on hair at the nursing home (something I’ve not been able to do since March, thanks to Covid).

I think I imagined that after quarantine things would slowly be introduced into my calendar again — not at all the case. I was hoping I could gradually welcome these things back in and it would feel like a breath of fresh air but instead it’s quite the opposite, and I can’t seem to catch my breath…to be honest I don’t like it.

While I was reading my Bible recently I came to Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were fulfilling Paul’s second missionary journey. Their mission (this round) was to visit and check-up on the cities that Paul had already preached in through an earlier journey. Reaching Philippi, a Roman ran colony, they faced trouble after Paul called out an evil spirit from a slave woman who was “used” to predict the future. Verse 19 says, “When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.”

They didn’t care that Paul and Silas has just performed a miracle (through God) and meant it for good over this woman. They didn’t care that these men were there to speak ‘Jesus’ to the crowds…they were too wrapped up in worldliness and as a result Paul and Silas suffered under their physical violence and landed behind bars.

Some of us may feel like we’re emotionally echoing the lives of Paul and Silas — like we’re caught behind sturdy immovable bars. With Covid and face masks, perhaps living in the fear of uncertainty or dealing firsthand with racial injustice, or (like me) overwhelmed with a busy schedule, we just can’t seem to shake the locks loose.

Listen, in the messy situation Paul and Silas were dealing with they still didn’t get downhearted; rather they praised and sang hymns to God (vs. 25) even resulting in leading their jailer and his household to Christ in the midst. They found joy in the tribulation.

Here’s my favorite heart-grabbing piece of this story from Acts 16:40, “After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.”

Catch those inspiring words from verse 40, ‘they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them’.

You see, when Paul and Silas were finally released from prison they didn’t mope around, they didn’t waste time wandering where to start again. They boldly faced their God-given mission, ‘meeting with their brothers and sisters and encouraging them.’ It would seem (to most) that after enduring such hardship they would be the ones in need of encouragement, but their faith flipped that thought-pattern right around and they embraced the opportunity to be the encouragers and God was glorified because of it.

I don’t know what struggle you may be facing (or what may feel like prison walls) but I pray that we would all have that ‘Paul and Silas mindset’ in trusting and praising the Lord regardless of the obstacle. God is so much more than good enough to stay with us — no matter what side of the bars we’re on. He’ll break them down in His perfect timing but it may not be until we reach Heaven.

When we share stories of God’s faithfulness we encourage others and point to Him, just like Paul and Silas did some 2000 years ago…and note how it’s still talked about all these years later.❤️

Thanks for reading, before I end here’s some of our July adventures:

Cherry picking in the backyard

4th of July celebration

Camping trip

Soccer season

Plus these two (below) actually getting along:

4-h week

Football League (he begged for and now dreads going)

Lastly one of my husband’s best friends passed away this weekend; he was such an amazing man — full of life, loved giving gifts (and a hard time) to anyone, and made the best BBQ food ever…please throw some prayers up for the family and friends of this man.

Sunday a sweet and humble uncle of Nate’s passed away after a long battle with cancer…praise for no more pain or suffering but prayers for peace and healing for family and friends.

Thanks so much!

Removing the Mask

Incase you hadn’t read last week’s post, my grandma ended up sick a few months ago, to the point she spent some time in the nursing home…she’s home again now. Since then I’ve been helping with housework, grocery shopping and errands, and running her to doctor visits.

I’ve not been staying caught up on the Covid hype these days (besides praying over the situation) but I’m well aware that mask are required (no exceptions!!) when visiting the health clinic my grandma goes to each week. The first time I took her to an appointment there was another little old lady who entered the building without wearing one and caused quite a fuss which helped me see that I definitely won’t be trying that anytime soon! Needless to say, she was masked along with the rest of the waiting patients within seconds!

I usually walk my grandma into the clinic to help her get checked in, all along the bottom half of my face remains covered with a handmade mask. It’s one I purposefully sewed for these doctor visits with my grandma. It’s kinda cute if one could ever be, but it’s uncomfortable and a chore to wear; the moment I walk out of the clinic doors I happily peel it from my face and ears and wait in the car until my grandma’s appointment is finished.

Masks are something I’ve been familiar with long before Rona was ever a thing. There was a time I made a habit of wearing a “mental mask” every time I’d step into the presence of public. To anyone who didn’t know me well it looked as if I was healthy — wearing a smile and confidence all the while.

But the truth is that mask I habitually wore covered shame, regret, fear, anxiety and was as high maintenance as they come.

It honestly wasn’t until I began writing again and started this blog that little by little with each word and post that my miraged mask started coming apart one ingrained thread at a time.

And it felt good.

Every feeling, emotion, and experience poured out in this blog has helped encourage this idea of unmasking blocked pain and has brought me closer to Jesus as I learn to let go of hidden feelings.

Our youth pastor had us play a game via Zoom last month where our kiddos had to guess if the celebrity in the picture was smiling or frowning behind a “virtual” mask that had been placed over their nose and mouth. The kids would guess and then Pastor Trevor would click to the next slide where it showed that same celebrity photo but this time the virtual mask had been removed, revealing their actual look. In most of the “masked photos” you couldn’t tell at all if he or she was smiling, straight faced or frowning when their face was covered.

My point is that while mask cover facial expressions — mental mask disguise raw emotions.

…But hiding our trouble can cause us to give way to dishonesty.

It’s a heartbreaking reality.

And I just wonder how many others have been walking around mentally masked (with a mislead feeling of safety) way before this virus showed up?

Friend, if that happens to be you I want to encourage you with a few verses:

1 Peter 5:7-10 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”

Writing (which has been therapeutic for me) doesn’t have to be your thing, but going to Jesus (with your afflictions) should be! He is our ultimate cure and promise of hope and mending.

While health mask are “debatably” meant to protect, mental mask destroy opportunities of healing through their ability of false representation.

When we follow Jesus, get into the Word of God, connect in prayers and worship, and form Christian friendships we unravel tightly woven threads of past hindrance and unveil the beauty of the heart in our radiant faces created by a God who never intended for us to be masked with emotional seclusion.

Rather than covering our feelings (risking truth and freedom from burden) let’s embrace our Jesus who will guide and direct us in removing those self-fabricated emotional mask…His love for us through the blood shed on the cross is really the only perfect covering we should desire.

I’m Over You Fear!

Forewarning: this is a sensitive one…

Maybe you’ve noticed my absence in writing lately. I’ve honestly been trying to avoid this post and I haven’t been able to write anything else in the meantime…but I can feel the Holy Spirit whispering “write this out!!!”

So I’m going to be obedient — here we go…

“Why do you care what anyone else thinks about you?” she asked, almost begging it out of me with deep concern.

My eyes zeroed in on hers and my words went something like this as I revealed to yet another friend my very real and ongoing personal struggle , “I don’t know, I guess it goes back to my people-pleasing motives. As much as I want to think it doesn’t, I suppose the sexual abuse from my childhood probably messes with me still, subconsciously…and that’s why I’m bothered if I think someone has a problem with me.”

That conversation between my friend and I isn’t too terribly seasoned, the words of encouragement she spoke over me as we visited are still fresh on my mind.

Fear is something I struggle with almost daily. And fear of acceptance is my biggest battle.

I want people to accept me for who I am. I don’t want to let them down. I want them to be pleased with who I’ve become.

There are times when I feel like I’m okay and other times when I think I could largely benefit from temporarily living in a mental institute to sort out and nullify my crazy. My friend had caught me on a not-so-good day. Continue reading “I’m Over You Fear!”

I’m So Glad You’re The One Taking Care Of Me Today (PART 1)

Warning: Sensitive material for some

It’s been eighteen years (today) since my dad died. It’s hard to even put those words together. He’s someone who hasn’t made it easy to ‘just get over.’

When you love someone so much and then lose them, it changes everything.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts the story of my dad, but for new blog followers and my own thought process (and anyone else) here we go…. Continue reading “I’m So Glad You’re The One Taking Care Of Me Today (PART 1)”

Error 101…

Oftentimes after I hit publish for a blog-post I’ll go back and read through the published copy which has been sent out to anyone who follows my blog; and the post is also available to anyone who may be interested in that particular blog-topic…

More often than not, I’ll read not too far in, and the grammatical errors begin to stand out like a vegan at a steakhouse…and I’m like how in the world did I miss that one?!!  Continue reading “Error 101…”

Come As You Are

Last month during worship-time at our church, the praise team asked the congregation, “if you could only sing (or listen) to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?” We were then supposed to simultaneously speak out the title of the song. I heard someone say Revelation Song, another said Jesus Loves Me, while others stood temporarily speechless.

I was one of the mute ones…

That’s a loaded question and it would take me more than a two-second prompt to come up with a reasonable answer. In the days following, I’ve thought a lot about it.

There’s so much good music out there and the idea of narrowing my choice to one song overwhelms me in a thought-provoking way. To really constrict it down I think a person has to self-evaluate, consider what season of life they’re in, and then select what speaks and resonates within their heart.

Years ago (as an early teen) I probably would’ve chosen something from Janis Joplin. I loved her raspy voice, and belting out Me and Bobby McGee to the top of my lungs always felt so powerful. Continue reading “Come As You Are”

Bottles Down, Bibles Up

the moment when you finally realize life is so much sweeter with Jesus involved makes even candy seem bitter when compared—my story of redemption, grace, and hope…

1505255808990-1565157331Embarrassing, ashamed, regret, guilt…we all have felt those emotions at one point or another whether we care to admit it or not. Negative situations do not show favoritism to certain individuals, instead as a ramification of sin we’re all at risk of being held objective to negativity. It can come from poor self-made choices, an innocent accident, or even someone’s misconstrued idea of us.

I’ve been there, more than once, more times than I care to acknowledge. I’ve felt those negative moments of despair where I’ve felt so lost and broken that I’ve almost become numb to feeling anything at all. Sometimes recalling those shameful experiences means revisiting dark corners where deep memories hide.

Too often we vacate the idea of “speaking up” about a difficult encounter we’ve struggled with or currently struggle with. We cower to the idea of becoming vulnerable to someone else’s opinion of us if we would happen to open-up regarding a particular situation that seems less than favorable to ourselves and society.

One of my most disconcerting memories occurred when I was just a few years over the legal drinking age. Little did I know at the time it would serve as a humbling experience and a much-needed building block for my faith to grow a few years later…

Continue reading “Bottles Down, Bibles Up”