When the phrase “Jesus holds my babies in His loving arms” finally brings comfort

The grieving process is so multi-faceted!

Grief,

if not walked through to the other side can cause a person to shut down all emotions completely thus causing a person to become calloused, cold, and numb to not only the emotions that cause the pain but also the emotions that cause good feelings to bloom as well. I have struggled with this for many years. I have in the past year or so really released my grieve to God through several different ways.

I went to a class a couple of years back called Forgiven and Set Free led by my sweet loving friend Jodi Handran where she helped me through the process of my miscarriage and loss. I have also gone to a Grief Share group for the past year and I am so thankful for the people God has placed in my life to walk me through this season. Without them I would have stayed stuck in my hurt.

I am learning that grief can come to call even when we think that we are past all the pain and that this is normal and ok. It is a reminder that we have loved deeply, even when we never saw a face to go with the names we so lovingly picked out.

Dates can still cause a pain in our hearts months and even many years after.

God is so lovingly showing me that it is ok.

That I am safe in His arms to wade through the pain.

Growing up in a Christian home Easter has always been a happy celebration.

It was a time to get a pretty new dress and celebrate our savior not only dying on the cross…

But

Conquering death and sin on our behalf by rising again.

So when my world stopped 8 years ago on the blackest of Black Fridays when I miscarried my twin babies, part of me never wanted to celebrate another Easter again.

In this process of healing though,

Jesus has reminded me some very amazing things and I hope they will touch someone helping them to enter into their own understanding and rejoicing.

I am entering a new season that part of me has yearned for and part of me has feared. It’s a season of new love, new beginnings, new promises and hope.

Yet these past couple days I have felt so torn.

I can envision part of me reaching back to the memory of my babies while my other hand reaches out to the man who is winning my heart each and every day.

10492494_10152698164972791_298828570445292136_n

My mind wars with the thought that if I truly live I am in some way forgetting the memories of my babies, yet I know that life is made to live and love.

My heart kept beating on this earth even when theirs stopped.

I couldn’t help but think back in the bible times where this internal war could have been waging in those amazing people that we have come to know through His word.

I thought of the Israelite’s as they were entering the promise land without Moses their beloved leader that put up with their moaning, rebellion and fear for 40 years! I could feel the mixed emotions they must have felt as a whole generation of their loved ones perished because of their disobedience yet the longing for the land and life that had been promised to them. I totally get it now!

Then God brought to mind the often misquoted verse in Isaiah…

Isaiah 29 is a Letter to those in Exile.

People want to jump to the verse that says..

For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord,

Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.”

29:11

People want to pull that verse out of context and offer it up to someone during a trying time in their lives, during a time of grief or loss.

In studying this chapter I have learned some very interesting things and they have offered me hope in this process and start to a new season in my life.

1) These words were spoken in the BEGINNING of the 70 years of exile! That used to bring dread to my heart because I looked at that as an un-fulfillment of the promise from verse 11 for those people who had to endure the exile. Yet God gave them hope even in the exile! I have found that true in my life as well!

2)  Even though God promised them a hope and a future I am sure that in the eyes of the Israelite’s it wasn’t what they imagined. Anyone that knows about the Israelites and their ways knows that they were called to separate living. Yet in verses 5-9 the prophet was saying that God was telling them to build houses and settle, to make gardens which would have taken time to produce crops, to marry and have sons and daughters, to increase and seek peace, prosperity to the enemies that carried them far from their home! The hearts of those being told this must have been so troubled and torn by this!

3) The last thing that really hit me was that God was not taking away the pain or “punishment” but offering them hope and a new life, not necessarily where the Israelites wanted or planned but a life none the less. Also a promise for abundant life if they would learn to be content in their circumstances, if they would seek the Maker with all their hearts. He promised them that He would be found and He promised restoration.

So in this process of grieving the loss of my babies I am learning that it is ok to have moments or days of struggle but when I do I have to look to God’s word and have him speak truth to my heart so that healing can continue. I have to seek Him with all my heart and know that He promises that He will be found.

On this Easter I am finally ready to be ok and even mournfully, reverently joyful in the phrase that He holds my babies in His loving embrace.

I have to remind my vacant arms that long to be the one to hold them that His promise and sacrifice this Easter is just as real as it was 2000 years ago.

3ac99ca90f447688b4d44b87eec5f7bb

He died for me.

For my sins.

Past, Present and Future.

He died for my doubt, for my fear and for my insecurities,

He didn’t stay in the grave though!

He rose again defeating death and sin!

So that now I can stand up tall, royalty in His loving gaze.

He can take my imperfections and short comings,

Not to leave me there but by His work,

not my own so that I may not boast,

He lovingly heals.

He lovingly reminds me that it’s not forgetting to move on,

It’s not irreverence to look to this new love in my life.

That when I stumble and fall,

His grace is sufficient!

And finally…

I am content that my babies are safe in His loving embrace!

I am holding to the promise that they know how much I love them,

And I look to this Easter with a new perspective!

Will next Easter be hard?

Maybe

But with each passing year and each thing I lay into God’s patient hands for healing, the aching pain and searing loss grows less and less intense, making room for love in my heart.

I am so ready for this new season!

To unfold like the strong leaves of a

vibrant yellow daffodil,

struggling through the hard frozen ground,

waiting for that moment it breaks through the unyielding soil,

to the wonderous light of sun streaking down,

nourishing it to life,

bending its face to the sweet gentle spring rain,

knowing that this new season will be glorious!

Nature Photography

Advertisements

Secret Society

Lately every Sunday is the same for me…

I spend a couple of days before talking myself into going to church on Sunday.

Being raised in the church, my “christian-ese” mind-set tells me how I need to not forsake the gathering of the brethren,

how going to church will help me get through the week, and worse of all my mind plays the trick that I might be missing out on something.

All of these are true in a sense…

But what if right now for me the church is not the safe place I always wanted it to be…

What if instead of forcing myself to go to a building that is not safe, I instead rested at Jesus’ feet like Mary?

What if in the quiet of my own room I poured out my alabaster box and with my tears washed the feet of Jesus and found peace, healing and wholeness there?

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Like I mentioned I grew up in the church and any time the doors were open our family was expected to go. To be real and honest right now I know that my family thought that best for us for many reasons but I can see where many painful events happened for me in the church.

In my personal growing up years the church has wounded more than it has healed.

I need to process through those things, wrestle with it all if I am going to find true healing in this area.

This has always been my place to wrestle.

Most of the time I avoid it because I feel too raw to wrestle through the painful things

but on days like today I know that I need to write.

So Sunday morning dawns,

 and I find I hit the snooze button one to many times.

Then I jump out of bed, get some breakfast, take my vitamins and take a cup of coffee out on the front steps so I can enjoy and calm my nerves with my first cigarette of the day.

(That fact may cause people to stop reading now and that’s ok… this is my real place and

I am tired of hiding from people because I think they won’t approve me which is what I sought after for so many years)

As I am sitting outside dialog-ing with myself on why Sunday is so hard for me right now,

and why all the self-talk in the world can’t work to get me ready in time to go to church,

why my prayer for a will and want too has still gone unanswered in my mind.

And the words start flooding in my mind for this blog post.

I get frustrated with myself

because I want to get them down right away knowing I will forget them

if I logically say I will wait until after church to write.

Again all the “reasons” flood in my mind about why I shouldn’t write instead of go to church

but then…

It’s as if a tiny small voice says… those are the law sweet child.

And its true!

~I should go to church because I need to for my salvation

~I should go to church because what are they going to think if I’m not their for the 3rd week in a row

~I should go to church because what would my mother say

~I should go to church because it’s what the bible tells me to do

And in that moment the still small voice reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha.

Mary was sitting at Jesus feet in a day when men and women did not sit or even eat together.

For Mary to be welcomed and encouraged to remain at His feet went against all cultural norms!

How out of character that must have been!

How our minds want to go with the things taught to us because it’s what has been done for years and years,

But what if we stop and ask ourselves if that is working for us?

I would have to answer a very loud and resounding NO!

The list below is what my church going years have consisted of mostly:

(Again understand that there has been many good times in church and a lot I have learned)

I have been in multiple churches ever since I was 3-4 years old.

My parents allowed the church to raise us when it came to biblical teaching.

A Sunday school teacher told me when I was little that God lets everything happen in our lives.

I was touched inappropriately by several boys growing up while at “church functions”

When I got sick as a child, people came to pray for me, because there was no healing I was told I didn’t have enough faith.

My extended family did not approve of, understand or like our church going practices.

At 16 my parents felt led to leave the church we had grown up at and attend another church.

People who had been like family to us told my parents if they left they would no longer speak to them again.

I was told many confusing things by several youth pastors thus continuing my misunderstandings of God.

Boys at the christian school I attended were cruel, joked about my size and picked on me if I ever liked someone.

When I was rebelling growing up, Pastors basically washed their hands of me because I couldn’t put a finger on why I was so angry

I would search for ways to serve, through youth groups, worship team etc. because I was told that’s what good Christians do.

When I was in need of help, direction, mentoring or anything I was told that wasn’t a possibility

I have been told over and over to be the change I want to see.

I wanted to share my testimony at a church about what God had done for me and the pastor told me that it was just too much for the congregation to handle.

A youth pastor that I liked accepted my help with the youth, flirted with me and then lead mine and many other women’s hearts on until he found his “sugar mama”

I would seek help and healing from all of the above things over and over again through out the years.

And sadly this cycle continued to play out for me over and over again.

Even the ministries I worked at told me that I didn’t have a servant’s heart.

Life fell apart when I found out about Phillip’s death, when I went to the staff vulnerable asking for help to get through the trauma I was advised that I wasn’t there to get help I was there to serve and if I didn’t think I could do that then I needed to go.

When I transferred to a different ministry center and asked questions about pay, living expenses and what my original job description was supposed to be and how it changed once I arrived, I was dismissed and told I wasn’t the one for the job.

So how do I heal from all of this pain and trauma????

I definitely don’t think it’s by making myself go to a church that has not reached out so much as a pinky finger for me to grasp on to as I drown in all that I am going through.

I don’t write all of this out to bash churches, pastors or the people in the church.

I write it to help people to see that the church is supposed to be for…

Original photo not mine. Edited via picmonkey

Original photo not mine. Edited via picmonkey

Yet we are wounding the very ones that Jesus is instructing us to love.

We tell people that they have to get involved in the church and serve if they are to get help

but how can we expect someone to give what they don’t have or haven’t been shown?!

We sit in our fancy padded seats and raise our hands to worship

but are scared to abandon all and do what our heart is prompting us to do for fear of what people will think of us.

There have been more Sundays than not

that I could have just sat at the altar and wept,

times of worship that I could have knelt down, arms lifted in abandon and worshiped,

yet my fear of expectations and what people would say robbed me of the pure joy my heart was yearning for.

The law and the whisper of the rules  kept me in line like the good little christian I was playing to be.

I can’t keep doing that any more

I don’t want to live that way any more!

We sing songs like:

 You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Or

Shane & Shane – Yearn [Lyrics]

 

How can you listen to these songs and not want to kneel down in holy abandon

crying out to God for the desire to yearn for Him and more of who He truly is?

We can’t expect people who are emotionally, spiritually or physically sick

to walk into a church and instantly have it all together

or to know how to insert themselves in what they feel is a

SECRET SOCIETY

that they will always be on the outskirts of.

When words fail… Part 2

When words fail… Part 2

I don’t want this blog to discourage anyone from comforting a friend in need or feel that their words are pointless. I just want people to be able to see that when we speak God’s word as intended, to lift up the broken-hearted, to bind their wounds instead of laying them bare and adding a few more for good measure thinking that God will use it for His good. Our purpose in this life is not to wound each other. It is to encourage and edify each other through each trial that life brings… So with that being said I want to speak truth…

The truth is

that in this life there will be

trials, heartaches, sadness, grief and losses.

The truth is that it is in those trials and grief that God wants to

and will do His best work if we allow Him to.

It says in James 1:2

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

This coming from Paul who knew more than almost any other person about trials and a rough life. He had been shipwrecked, many assassination attempts on his life, beaten multiple times, exiled from so many places, abandoned by others, imprisoned, stoned, and eventually killed.

And why you ask?

Why would a person be willing to go through so much

heartache, trauma and pain?

Through all of this how did he find the strength to count it all joy?

How did he find the strength to lift up the body of Christ through His letters? What gave him the ability to still find hope, contentment, and a reason to continue on?

1) He kept the perspective that it wasn’t personal.

I know that sounds crazy, as soon as I typed it out I wanted to delete it however I believe that was straight from God and I will tell you why…

I know my whole life I have just wanted to find others love, acceptance and a place of belonging. So much so that many times I compromised on who I was, did what I thought others wanted me to do and sought the approval of others above anything else. This past year was a challenge because no matter what I did there really weren’t many who showed any approval or many who felt I never did a good enough job. Those people who speak those things affect us so much more don’t they?

We take to heart those negative things spoken over us instead

of listening to the people who encourage, accept and love us.

Yet because of that season, it pushed me towards God, who I didn’t understand and felt was unhappy with me. He was gently trying to speak truth to me, to remind me that even when I didn’t see Him as good, faithful and an ally it didn’t change His character or the truth that He was all of those things and more. It kept me on my knees and in the word so that I could learn who this God was that would make everything yet want to be personal and intimate with me. I am learning that He has never wanted my service, He wants me!

Can you believe that?

He wants the messy, emotional, all over the place,

caring, heartbroken shell of a person that I am.

He wants to know me and

He wants to know you intimately.

Paul knew something that I still need to learn.

He knew how much the world hated Jesus.

He knew that they were bound to hate him as well

because he was speaking truth.

He was speaking of the grace and truth that set people free.

I am definitely not putting myself up there with Paul! Trust me I have so much more to learn and grow in. I don’t think I will ever reach where Paul was yet like Paul I want to share where I am at even though I know I haven’t arrived. I need to get to the point where I know that people may not like what I have to say because it is truth and be ok with that. I want to get to the point in my life where I want to proclaim what God is doing and not worry or fear what man thinks.

2) Paul knew that He was not alone.

God had not abandoned Paul nor was it punishment from God

when Paul experienced trials, heartaches and grief.

We have to quit telling people who it is something that they are doing wrong

in their lives or sin that is causing the trial, pain or sickness.

It says in Romans 8:38

photo not mine. found via pinterest.

photo not mine. found via pinterest.

It is so easy to listen to the murmurings of others that something in your life is causing these problems.

It is easy to start believing that something you say or do can separate you from God.

It is easy to think that you have just messed up again and again which makes Him so angry with you that He would turn His back on you.

My friend those are all lies and those are the people and thoughts that we have to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong… there are times in my life when I was blatantly walking away from a God that died to know me. I was walking in my selfish ways with only a desire to get my needs met. I was choosing sin as a temporary fix to make my flesh feel better.

I am not talking about that.

I am talking about a life that is truly seeking to live a life that shines His light. I am talking about a person that has identified their need for a savior because they know that in themselves they do not have what it takes to enter Heaven. I am talking about a relationship with a God that loves you so very much that while we were still His enemies He sent His son for us.

Paul knew that when he was on the road to Damascus getting ready to go and murder more christians in the name of the high priest that God appeared to him and totally and radically transformed his life.

That is the only thing that got Paul through the trials that would play out in his life.

3) Paul knew that trials would create things in him that he wouldn’t be able to do in his own strength.

In Romans 5 it says:

Photo not mine. Found via Pinterest.

Photo not mine. Found via Pinterest.

As humans we want an easy, stress-free, trial free life.

And when trials come into people’s lives some are quick to point a finger that it must be them sinning and God punishing them.

This is a prime example of where our words and spiritual alcaldes can wound instead

of lift up, mend and offer life.

Paul reminds us that it’s those trying times when our faith is built. It is the foundation that we can build a life that is confident in the hope that we have. Not in any person because we are all just humans.

We will disappoint, fall short and say the wrong things.

But God never will.

He wants to be our hope and stay.

He wants us to come to the realization and understanding that He is not only good, BUT…

He is good to me!

 

Audrey Assad- Good to me

Last but definitely not least,

4) Paul knew that to live was Christ.

Paul knew that he had a God-given purpose for his life. He knew it would be hard, he knew there would be major trials in his life, he knew that his life was not his own. He knew that you and I would need to hear of his pain thousands of years later so that we would not lose heart or quit running the race.

Pain is a megaphone to a hurting world,

It lets us know that we are not alone in this life.

Paul’s chains were for the furtherance of the gospel, He knew it was worth it all in the end.

Paul knew that through it all he would run the race set before him and know that to live was Christ but to die for Him was gain!

Philippians 1:21-24 says:

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.

I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ,

which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”

Can I really say that?

I want to be able to.

When words fail… Part 1

When words fail…

Its been so long since I have written on here because I still am at a loss for words to say concerning the last couple weeks and months of my life.

An amazing woman of God suggested out of love that my circle of people who know the full details of my life are to board and that this could be causing more heartache than healing.

I do believe in some way she is correct.

Some people just want the dirty details of your life so that they can have the inside scoop to share with others. A gossip session that neither helps or lifts up the body of believers.

I have learned that

a small group of people deserve to speak truth

into your life and that comes with wisdom in knowing who to trust.

That seeking God above all is the most important.

And that sharing the things I am learning will help others to grow in their walk and learn from my mistakes.

When you have a life altering thing happen such as I have had in the past month often times you want to share your grief so that you can find some sort of understanding of what happened, what was your part in it and how you can avoid the pain of it again. It is easy to get lost in the need to feel justified, consoled with false statements and not seek God’s hand or heart in the whole process. As people pour out their indignation at the injustice it is easy to get lost as the victim but that is not what I want nor where I want to stay.

I have spent much of my life starting over and could easily fall into the despair that each time I failed.

And I have walked that uncharted trail many times, with my mind replaying each and every moment to see where I went wrong.

I have pleaded with God for clarity, understanding and wisdom into what happened. I have taken his advice through my devotion time to just wait, to just be still and that even through the silence He is still very much there.

He sometimes loves us more in His silence. It’s in His silence that He is truly listening to His child, bearing the weight of their hearts cry and waiting for the child to calm long enough to just be held.

I was transparent in my struggles.

I was reaching out for help and

thought I had found a place that would be a refuge from the storms of my life.

I had found what I thought would be a dream job.

I was sure that life would finally begin to look up.

And then the other shoe dropped.

I was left feeling raw, naked in my pain.

I once again hit a place in my life that I had vowed I would never visit again. A dark, cold, lonely place where like Elijah all you wish for, pray for and plead for is death.

1 Kings 19:4

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and

came and sat down under a droom tree. And he asked that he

might die, saying, “It is enough; now, Oh Lord, take away my life,

for I am no better than my fathers.”

That seems better than to look into the faces of the people who love you and see the pity they wear so plainly.

It’s not that they mean to wear it so freely.

They love so much that it pains them to see me go through the trials that life brings.

They long to speak life yet their words fall short from making things better.

When someone is grieving…

Whether it be the loss  of a loved on,

the loss of a dream,

or the loss of a friendship…

No platitudes will do!

Please do not be so quick to give your two cents

and expect the person grieving to just pick up

and move on in the time frame that you deem for them.

It says in Proverbs 25:20

Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart

is like taking someones coat in cold weather

or like pouring vinegar in a wound.”

When you don’t know what to say admit it to the person grieving, be willing to be vulnerable in your inability to fix the situation and just be there for the brokenhearted friend.

If you have never been in that place then you are one lucky person, however I am willing to bet that if anyone does read this there will be more people who can relate than not. Sadly trials, heartache and difficulties do not pick a certain type of person but at some point in all of our lives we will experience a life altering trauma that will shake our foundation.

Saying to someone, God allowed it to happen

or

that God never gives more than you can handle

are both dangerous things to say!

It can possibly, not only form a bitterness in the grieving person towards a God that they may still be seeking and searching to understand but it also is inaccurate.

People use the saying…

photo not mine. Found via pinterest

photo not mine. Found via pinterest

Did you know that verse is actually NOT in the bible??

Anywhere!

People refer to 1 Corinthians 10:13 when offering this platitude however if you look at the context of this verse it was talking about not being like the Israelite’s and their struggle to remain totally devoted to God and not stray to pagan gods, indulge in sexual promiscuity, test God or continually grumble as they did. Verse 13 states that temptations NOT TRIALS can be avoided because God will give you a way out. The temptations that are being spoken of in this verse are based on the temptations of the devil not of God.

It says in James 1:13:

And remember, when you are being tempted do not say,

God is tempting me.”

God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He tempt anyone.”

So when you try to console someone in their grief be sure that you are speaking truth and life into their hearts instead of incorrectly attempting to fix things in your own strength.

So what is truth?

We want the truth so it can set us free, right?

I am going to break this up into 2 blogs because of the amount of information.

As I studied and wrote it became larger than expected.

I will leave you with one suggestion from a blog that I read today on

the best way to comfort a friend going through grief and trials.

 

Henri Nouwen writes,

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. 

Used via blog linked to.

Top 12 things I want to do this Year!

I am once again relocating this year to a new place. It is definitely a mix of emotions as I start life over again in a new place! I always love the anticipation of it  until the newness wears off and the struggle of feeling connected begins. It really is such a challenge to relocate and establish your heart into another place. I definitely know this feeling. As I write I am sitting at one of my dearest friends house in Columbia, South Carolina. How I have missed South Carolina and I didn’t even really realize it until I came here for my visit. I found a saying on pinterest that speaks this so well…

Rights not mine. Found on Pinterest.

Rights not mine. Found on Pinterest.

For me my heart is in so many places that I have been… Iowa where I was born (Not so much but I do love a few people from there) Upstate New York, India, South Carolina, Montana, and now Washington!

This doesn’t even count the people that I love that have moved on to other locations themselves! Places like Dallas, Louisiana, Vegas, California, England and so many other wonderful places!

We also have a heart longing for places that we have never been either! This world is not our home and I have so many people waiting for me in Heaven that sometimes I find my heart ache more and more for this place I have never been yet heard so much about. I know that my time here is not done yet so I resolve to live it to the fullest this year and as long as God has for me on this earth!

I guess thats part of loving… At least I am learning that about love. Sadly you can’t take everyone with you when you are being called to a new place! How I wish I could though!

So the whole point of this post is this new year will come along with its own set of trials, joys and wonderful moments. When I find myself struggling through the hard times I want to create for myself a Top 12 things to do so that I can go do something fun, awe-inspiring and help lift my spirits as to why I am where I am.

My friend just text me and said that she wished I could be here in SC all the time and how she has missed me being around all the time.  She said she wished that God would give her the memo on  when He gets these Grand plans for us and why He is doing it… Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

I spent much of my life in a holding pattern with God because I insisted on controlling and knowing the when, what, why and how before I would move. People would call that disobedience, sin or a million other things that were never in my heart to be… I just wanted to be clued in on the plan. I have since learned through building the relationship that God so desired more than my obedience.  That when you truly learn who God is…

then obedience comes naturally!

It comes out of a love for the one that first loved me, who sacrificed His life and will so that I may be free and do as I desire. He gives us our free will not so that we can walk away and go do it ourselves but instead He wants it to be our choice to return to His feet and lay down our hearts and lives to be used by Him. He rejoices when just one person gets this revelation that He wants the relationship more than any other thing in the world!

So this year I want to do 12 things that will remind me each month of how our relationship has grown. I want to celebrate with my first love and rejoice in the life that we are building together!

1) January~

 I figure I only have a couple weeks when I get back to Washington so I am going to keep this one close to home! With the winter I am not sure what there is to do outside so I am going to pretend that I am somewhere else by going to India! At least for their food anyway! Gonna see if the Karma Indian Cuisine is as good as it sounds!

photo not mine. found via google search

photo not mine. found via google search

2) February~

I may miss New York by this time and need a reminder of the good times there so I will celebrate that season of my life by trying to go to this place in Tacoma!

http://www.tacomaglassblowing.com/

3)I have never been to Ireland however it is a dream of mine to go. My husbands heritage was Irish so I am going to honor the good times that we had and say goodbye to him by going to this festival. May sound crazy but I am pretty much at the point in my life where its ok to be crazy! =)

Irish Festival of Seattle

Saturday, Mar 15 10:00aMore dates & times (1)
Seattle CenterSeattle, WA

Non-stop Irish music, singing & dancing, with traditional Irish musicians & champion Irish Stepdancers from around the Pacific Northwest & from Ireland. There are genealogy & Irish language workshops, lectures, cultural displays, an Irish Reels Film Festival with contemporary Irish short films, children’s contests and activities (‘Smilingest Irish Eyes Contest’ & ‘Most Irish-Looking Face Contest’), booths selling Irish and Celtic products, etc.

 http://events.seattlepi.com/seattle_wa/events/show/337799323-irish-festival-of-seattle

4) April~

I think since I have already traveled to India and Ireland in the past months activities  it would only be fitting to go to Japan! I have had some friends that have been there and a friend from highschool that is currently a missionary over there so it would hold a special place in my heart!

Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
Festal - Cherry Blossom - Child Dancing
Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
Explore and experience the cultural roots and contemporary influences of Japan through live performances, visual arts, hands-on activities, foods and games. This feast for the senses features Taiko drumming and artisan demonstrations.
The Festival was founded 39 Years ago in appreciation of 1,000 cherry trees gifted to Seattle by Prime Minister Takeo Miki on behalf of the Japanese government in commemoration of the nation’s bicentennial. It is the first ethnic festival to be held at Seattle Center annually and the oldest in the Seattle Center Festál series.

5) May~

May was Phillip’s birth months so  I think it only fitting that I should go to Paradise!

Picture found via google photo search

Picture found via google photo search

6) June~

The birth month of my favoritest brother in the whole world! We have had some great times together and I selfishly want him out here closer to me! Lord willing some day that will happen!

Seems like the perfect month to go to the ocean and watch a sunset!

picture taken by Andrea Tappero

picture taken by Andrea Tappero

7) July~

Is the birth month of my sweet Momma! I will definitely be missing her by this time so I think I will go some place that her and I would go if she was here… Shopping and coffee!

photo not mine found via google photo search

photo not mine
found via google photo search

8) August~

Sounds like a perfect month to take a ferry ride to an island! I chose Blake Island for the possibility of having this view to be refreshed and reminded of God’s promises!

photo not mine. Found via google photo search.

photo not mine. Found via google photo search.

9) September~

Is the best month around because its the month I was born in! haha!

I want this birthday to be super special and memorable so I want to plan something awesome for this month! Im going to dream big and try to save up for a couple nights stay in this absolutely gorgeous B&B! I think out of all the rooms this one is my favorite!

10) October~

Will mark one year that Phillip was killed and 7 years that our babies have been in Heaven so I think maybe another trip up to Paradise would be nice! Its close by and after a splurge like my birthday wish just a day trip would be perfect! Who would not want to see this beauty?! God is amazing!

photo not mine. found via google photo search

photo not mine. found via google photo search

11) November~

I made a promise to one of my dearest friends to try and come to Vegas to help with one of the greatest ministry opportunities! That is my hope and plan for this month! Last year Calvary Chapel Spring Valley had this thing called Bless Fest and it is life changing! I want to be there to serve and give back in thankfulness of all God has done in my life!

Blessfest

12) December~

Well what to do in December?? Hmmm… I think going to see lights sounds like a fun tradition to start!

It may take me a little while to actually complete this list and it may change over the months however I have learned while living in so many different places that if you don’t plan something than the odds that you will get to experience anything are slim to none!

So what about you? Do you have dreams for this next year?

Have a vision and a hope for this new year that God has blessed you with! Look for all of the possibilities right around the corner! Experience life to the fullest!

photo found on pinterest

photo found on pinterest

My grief cycle- Part 2

Kutless Promise of a Lifetime w/ lyrics

The beginning lyrics of this song say…

“I have fallen to my knees,

As I sing a lullaby of pain

I’m feeling broken in my melody

As I sing to help the tears go away”

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

That was the emotions and feelings that emerged as I opened my eyes on Wednesday. It had been a long night of tossing and turning as my mind endeavored to keep the night terrors at bay. I felt like my body had just been put through a triathlon instead of slumbering in my little cocoon of a bedroom. As I lay there trying to assess what today’s emotions would bring I felt the heaviness of the anger seeking a comfortable spot to snuggle in for a long winter’s interlude.

People always tell you that grief is a process and that it is always different for each person however I am learning more and more that I am the type of person that just wants a road map or guide to the A+B= C with C equaling freedom from the emotional pain of the process.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to stuff the emotions and that I was wanting to learn to effectively grieve yet I had no idea what that really looked like or whether I was truly letting myself be free to do it. I did know that I was attempting to rush something that may take weeks and months to actually walk through. And I knew that I was starting to buy into the lie that I didn’t have a right to grieve for Phillip. It wasn’t anything anyone said in particular… more the underlying things that people don’t say that speak into the wounds of unworthiness and  ineligibility to feel the things that are flowing through you.

As I went through the day I would constantly have worship music playing so that I could try and create the peace, joy that I so desperately desired.  A song would come on that would speak to my grief or an emotion and I would find myself through tears crying out to God through the lyrics exactly what my heart was screaming, searching for just the right words to express the pain it was feeling. The words of encouragement from those around me, friends and family far and near, it helped to get others view on Heaven, Hell, end of life experiences, and  undertaking the task of putting my mind to ease.Through it all I was fighting with God on why he would allow this to happen, why my prayers for Phillip to come to a knowledge of his need for help and how these men could act out in such a hateful way. My mind, in its human-ness could not even imagine the big picture or how God had really been at work the whole time.

The reality of this came during a conversation with my mother in law again as I tried to stay connected as best I could from 2200 miles away. As we started our conversation I could tell something was a little different in her voice from when I had last talked to her on Sunday.  It’s all kinda blurred together what the exact conversation however the most important part  of the exchange was that a Pastor had called her, explained that he needed to talk with her about Phil and shared that just the day before Phillip had been killed he had come in to talk to the pastor. He shared that Phil had found forgiveness and release of the past things that had haunted him his whole life. He shared that Phillip was in heaven.

I remember the emotion of intense happiness and joy as I came to the realization that I would one day see my husband again and that though I could continue to walk through the grief process this knowledge helped immensely! It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my chest and a peace settled in. I knew I had to share this amazing news with everyone that I could! It was an answer to my prayers whether I knew it or not. It wouldn’t have been the way that I wanted my prayer to be answered however I know that its not always about the way that we want or desire things to work out. I can not see the big picture as of yet however I know that God works all things for good. What the devil thought as a victory and another life taken in the battle, God redeemed for His glorious purpose.

As I was sharing the account with my director and how Phillip had died on October 30th and our babies would have been born on October 31st and be 6  yrs old this year, she got the biggest smile on her face and exclaimed, Oh Amanda! He got to heaven just in time to celebrate their birthday with them! I hadn’t even had the chance to think of this however the remark my mother in law had told me the week before came to mind, about how Phillip loved to take anyone who came up to their house to the wooded area that we had so lovingly placed out babies little bodies, with a hand painted stone to mark their existence.  How he had loved them and the healing that did to my heart was so significant.  Phillip was free to dance and rejoice with our little ones! Joyful tears escaped throughout the night as I would think about this new revelation in the whole big picture. It was still hard to imagine I would never see his face here on earth but I could smile knowing I will be able to run into his arms in the next life.

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Was my day off and I had plans with a friend to have lunch while sharing with her all that had unfolded in the week before Phil’s death but by the afternoon, all the phone calls and talking with another friend I was so exhausted with talking about it all I began to feel numb. I know it is out of my best interest that people want me to know all of my options and what I should do next. In my fix-it and do- it mentality it is so overwhelming for me to just get through the day with the things I have to do, plus add on the emotions that come and go at the drop of a hat in the most inopportune times and tack on the things that I should do… Let’s just say that by the time 5pm rolled around I was so ready to crawl into the warmth and seclusion of my bed but I knew that I had to keep myself moving so I could sit in on a class I needed. Then I rushed to my room to begin the hibernation process!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

All the events of the week were beginning to take their toll on my emotions. I could feel the nerve endings of pain starting to surface and as the oxygen began to tickle each nerve the pain of the week brought about the feeling to just throw in the towel! How much easier would it be to just be in heaven with the man I love and my precious little ones! My raw, sensitive state was bringing those feelings of just wanting to be free from this heartache and pain that was called life. It seemed at every turn there had been something else that was constantly making my heart break. I am learning that is the curse of this life here on earth though. You will always have the possibility of being hurt when you open up your heart to another human being. I have learned also though over the last year that to not love is almost a worse prison than the pain associated with loss.

C.S. Lewis states in his book, “The Four Loves” that

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 

I am so thankful that I am in a safe place with my sisters God has placed in my life because they remind me when I start to loose sight or just need someone to listen to my rants. When I want to give up and just live a “normal” life like I think the person in the car next to me might have, they are there to help me to know that God has incredible plans for me, not to harm me but to give me a hope and future… Even if I don’t see it right that minute. And they help me to see that its ok that I don’t see it right now in this grieving process, its ok that one minute I am smiling and the next I am scream crying, and that in this process of truly feeling the pain that I will come out on the other side stronger and more able to help others through the pains of this life.

As the realization that I was missing Phillips funeral and how badly I had truly wanted the closer of being there, I knew that I had to work through these emotions and know that God had his reason, purpose and plan for me to be 2200 miles away with no way to get home. I know that being here and spending the time in my room grieving was probably what was best, spending time with the ladies and staff who have come along side  helping me through the process and coffee chats with friends sharing life stories have made all the difference. I know that taking time the beginning of next year to go home and have that closer will be the best option. It was a constant thought I had to remind myself of throughout the night.

 Its a choice to allow myself to feel the pain. We are conditioned in our lives that pain is bad and we should do everything in our power to not feel it or avoid it at all cost. And that is why we have a generation that is self-harming more than any generation alive. If instead we taught to allow yourself to feel, to truly give yourself permission to go through the process and then to come out the other side telling yourself the truth that God so lovingly tries to show is in his word, that we are loved, we are worthy, we are precious, we are one of a kind, we are important, we are needed, we are esteemed, we are thought of, and when we renew our minds to God’s truth then we can truly rest in the pain of what He is bringing us through then it helps us to allow ourselves to rest in that. It helps us to not fear the pain or avoid it at all cost but to embrace the pain of grief with the intent that in doing so it will bring you out on the other side of the Valley of the Shadow of Death to the green pastures that He has prepared for each and every person. 

In the process I had gone through grieving the loss of my babies with the miscarriage class, our teacher spoke of the Israelites when Moses had died. She explained that they were about to cross the Jordan to the Promise Land but they took a selected amount of time to grieve the loss of their leader Moses. After the time they crossed over and entered the land that was promised to them. We have a land that is promised to us. We have to be willing to leave the comfort of the camp we have created during our grieving process. We have to be willing to wade into the unknown waters of the Jordan and we have to be willing to accept and take the Promise land that He has set up for us.

I have to remember the song that is at the beginning and what the rest of the lyrics say…

“Then I remember the pledge you gave to me,

I know your always there

To hear my every prayer inside

I’m clinging to the Promise of a lifetime

I hear the words you say

To never walk away and leave behind the promise of a lifetime”

My grief cycle- Part 1

Cycle of Grief—

Sunday morning,  November 3rd, 2013,

 at 6:41am I got a phone call that would change my life forever. My mother in law was on the other end with news that I had feared and dreaded since June 18th, 2007 when I last saw my husband Phillip. We legally separated due to many circumstances that I now believe were out of our hands. Phillip had been incarcerated from age 17-21 and I truly believe that what he experienced and saw in there lead him down this path of trying to cope with life through drugs and alcohol. I hate saying that people don’t have a choice because all my life I have been taught that you do. However I am starting to see that when mental illness, post traumatic stress is partnered with drugs and alcohol and the societal stigma that men are supposed to be strong and not need help it makes for disaster! Phil knew that there was a beast inside of him, he knew that his mind was not always well yet he always thought it was something that he should be able to control.

I want to write about my cycle of grief since I found out the news that the man I’ve loved for the last 7 years was never going to come back to me and be restored like I had so earnestly yet silently hoped and prayed because they had found him beaten to death in an house in Corning, NY. You know you hear all of those amazing stories of how the wife waited for the wayward husband for year and years then one day he wakes up and realizes how much he was loved, comes running back and sweeps the wife off of her feet again?! No…?? Well that’s what I wanted my story to be. And I have heard a few stories of families being restored during this time as an intern for Teen Challenge, however I am learning that it is usually the exception and not the rule.

Please understand that on all  outward appearances I had attempted to move on with my life including going to India and volunteering at an orphanage for 6 months, moving down to South Carolina to get away from all things familiar in a town where every place screamed with memories of “us”. And ending up back up in New York with the intent to go back to India for a year. I knew that I had to “keep myself busy” and focused on God while everything in me screamed to want to be back in the arms of a man that had his own ghosts and demons to fight.

I shut myself down to pretty much all men or any opportunity to become close to a guy because of the pain and hurt that I still carried around with me like a wounded bird needing love and affection. I coddled that fear until it had built a fortress around me so tall that no “Prince Charming” could have ever gotten around it or scaled the walls of my self-imposed prison. I had finally identified that I grew up in an abusive home and that played a part into the men that I found myself gravitating towards yet I didn’t know what part I played in the dysfunction so it was just easier to avoid revealing my heart to anyone dreading I would find myself in the same situation or worse. I did attempt to let one guy in only to be hurt again with his silence and games which once again in my mind confirmed that the problem was me. I was the common denominator so I was the one broken.

I found the opportunity to do an internship with Teen Challenge, a faith based 12 month residential drug and alcohol alternative discipleship program, located in Montana and I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to help people with life controlling addictions. The thing that I’ve learned since I arrived though… no one can change anyone. It was my biggest frustration to find out that I could not love someone enough, support someone enough or say enough to instill that need for a change… the only thing that eased my frustrations was the knowledge that only God could. This came with mixed emotions as anyone that has read my blog can attest to God and I have had a pretty rocky relationship! My views of Him were skewed by many childhood traumas and faulty doctrines taught to me growing up. These 10 months have been spent learning what His real nature is for myself and not based on what everyone around me feels that God is or is not. My foundation is becoming stronger because I am seeking His truth first hand for my life. This fact is the only thing that is getting me through these painful days. That along with an amazing support system of people here that allow me to just be, to feel what I need to feel that day, and love me through the process of finding out who I really am and the woman that I aspire to be.

I am going to share more of what each days emotions have consisted of so that I can look back and see how I grieved. Also I hope it will help someone to see the process and to know that each person needs to experience the whole process to find lasting freedom, though each persons process looks different based on things that they know and believe… If you find yourself camped out in a certain step like anger for instance it will wreck many areas in your life including relationships with other, your well being and happiness. In Psalms 23:4 it says…

“Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear or dread no evil,

for You are with me; Your rod [to protect]

and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.”

God wants to bring you THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death.. not let you camp out there for the rest of your life.

Sunday- November 3, 2013

I found out that Phillip was found in an abandoned house beaten to death.

My mother-in-law shared what details that she could with me, we talked, cried and grieved over the phone..

The initial emotions I felt:

 Shock, sadness, emptiness, loss, continuous crying,  a setting in of depression, wanting to be held and comforted but in the same moment not wanting to be touched by anyone.

An intense desire to just crumple to the floor and never get up again, yet an intense fire inside of myself that wouldn’t give myself permission to do so. As these first emotions swept over me a lie started to take shape in my mind that

I didn’t deserve to mourn the loss of Phillip because…

we had been separated for so long,

I had spent so many years mourning him already,

I had spent so many nights the last 6 years hurting because of the choices made,

I had shown anger at him for hurting me.

I still loved him,

I still needed him,

I wanted it to be untrue

and most of all,

If it was true then all hope of restoration was dead.

As I went through the motions of getting ready for church I knew that it was going to be one of the hardest days. I knew that I couldn’t just go home and crawl in bed letting the depression wash over me, and I knew that I couldn’t go home to New York and be comforted by the friends and family that I wanted.

As I walked in church with my friend the worship team began practicing the song that held so many memories for Phillip and I. I rushed out of the church so that I didn’t have to hear the words. I sat behind the wheel of the car and let the tears flow freely down my face, I yelled at God that I didn’t understand and I asked why over and over again. I regained composer enough to get from the church to the center where I knew 16 women would potentially see me and know that something was wrong. I made it to my room to drop off my luggage from spending the night at my friends and was able to compose myself again. As I looked in the mirror my eyes took on that glassy lifelessness that I remembered from when I had miscarried, I knew I was on the edge, I knew I was about to break.

As I came out of my room and up the hallway I was relieved that the rest of the ladies had already left to go to church somewhere else. As my friend Liz saw my face she asked what was wrong and once again as the news spilled from my lips the tears flowed freely. She took me in her arms and held me until the sobs subsided. I made it through church, barely. I only had to leave for the ladies room once to compose myself and when I saw the blotchy red skin around my eyes in the mirror I knew it was a bad idea to even try to hide the grief. I let myself be raw, I went back to my seat and cried through the video sermon that Billy Graham made for his 95th birthday and final farewell hope for the world. I cried through the last worship song as I sang out through my tears. I cried as my dear friend Mercury came up and hugged me asking if he could pray for me. And I cried waiting for my ride to take me home. Once to the house I knew I could not take much more so I attempted to get some rest from all the emotions and thoughts flowing through my mind.

Later that day I was reminded of a verse that I had once learned about God being close to the brokenhearted so I searched the reference and read it again.

Psalm 34:18

                     The Lord is close to the

brokenhearted

    ; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Flyleaf – All Around Me [Lyrics]

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Monday dawned, and though I have never been a morning person as my eyes opened, I knew I just wanted to roll over, throw the pillow up over my head and drown out the thoughts that came flooding back as it all became more real with each passing moment. I knew I had to do something, I couldn’t just sit still and let my mind wander for fear that I would let the lies in and sink deeper into the hole of depression that used to be just a toes length away from me for so very long. I had to find out the process I needed to go through to stop the court proceedings I had started for the divorce.

Before this all happened, a friend of mine had asked me if I was even ready to start the divorce proceedings again and suggested if I was still uncertain of my feelings that maybe I should wait a little longer. I know that in my heart of hearts I didn’t want to be divorced however I knew that I couldn’t stay stuck in the cycle I had been in for the last 6 years. As I was beginning the process of renewing my mind to God’s truth, I knew looking and living in the past was a dangerous and hard place to be. As I walked up the steps of the beautiful marble stairs at the courthouse, the inside of me felt as cold and lonely as the empty marble staircase must have felt. As I entered the office and disclosed my reason for coming a gasp escaped the ladies body as the shock of my reality hit her like a cold wet rag slapping her face. I didn’t know how to make it less of a shock to people as I stated my reality so I just said the facts of it, which seemed to have the reverse affect of what I was trying to come across. The lady was so very helpful and she made the process as painless as possible as I numbly tried to follow along with all of the legal lingo and mumbo-jumbo. Finally I was finished filling out the dismissal, it was signed, notarized, photocopied and I was off to the door right around the corner labeled Clerk of Courts. The gentleman that helped me did a little better job hiding his shock at my news of why I needed to dismiss the divorce proceedings that I had just a few short weeks before started. The gentleman stated that I would get an email from the judge when it was officially dismissed and that was it. I remember shuffling one foot in front of the other as I walked back down the pristine marble stairs to my metered parking spot. As the tears started to flow I remember telling myself I needed to pull myself together because I was out of meter time and was afraid an ill willed meter maid would give me a ticket and add to my already cumbersome day.

It should probably be illegal to drive right after a death because as I went through the motions of driving back to the center I would find my mind wandering to memories of Phillip, a song on the radio would bring me to tears and I would quickly wipe them out of my eyes so I could see the road. Thank God I made it back safely and into my room without to much of a break down.

 As the day unfolded I was actually going through the Denial process in my mind and kept thinking, maybe it wasn’t really him that they had found. I tried to trick myself into all kinds of ways to cope with the news however nothing could really take away the grief of it all or make the pain lessen in any way.

Tuesday- November 5th, 2013

Today I woke up ANGRY!

Mad at myself, Phillip, God, the boys that took his life. I was angry with myself because shortly after I had arrived here in January I had recieved a facebook message that was just a few short words from Phillip…

They said ” Babe I miss u n love u” and “Sweetie ur needed”…

I let my anger, hurt, sadness, fear and stubbornness to cloud my vision and cause me to react out of the hurt and unhealed spot. It didn’t show him unconditional love. People want to say to me now that there was nothing that I could have done and I will accept that I could not have done anything to change him. But I will take responsibility and say that in that moment in time my love was not kind, it only kept record of the wrongs done to me and it was demanding my own way. For that I will always be sorry. I will not carry a burden that I could have saved him from himself because like I mentioned above… I have learned that saving people is not my job, its Jesus’!

I was mad at Phillip for leaving me when I needed him the most. I was mad at him for choosing something over me and I was mad that he couldn’t be what I needed most at that time. It had been 7 years of anger, bitterness, fear, sadness, hurt, feelings of abandonment coming out in one morning and I did not know what to do with it all other than allow myself to feel it… to cry when my body wanted to cry (though I did attempt to stop myself from crying in the middle of Wal-Mart!)

I was angry at God for all the lies that I believed that He had taken Phillip away from me because it had been an unhealthy relationship, that He was punishing me because I had put Phil on a pedestal in my life and mind, angry with God because in my mind he was taking everything I ever loved when I had just cried out to him a few days prior to save Phillip.

When I initially started taking notes about this process I had put a side note in about verses talking about it being ok to be angry and to sin not and one about not letting the sun go down upon your anger… Well I was so far past all that. I had let so many suns and so much time create this anger in me. I know that it is going to be a process, I know it is going to once again be a renewing my mind to the truth that God was none of those things, that God is only good, He is always love and what we learn from the bible about love…Well only the always quoted but hardly ever lived out 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God is not a mean God that sits on his thrown shaking his head or even his fist at you.

He is slow to anger, He is compassionate, He is keeping no records of my wrongs because of one reason alone,

The shed blood of JESUS!

I did also realize Tuesday night as I attempted to get out of my mind and watch a show I have always loved to try to relax from the days events and my minds wanderings, I can’t watch shows I would have  before like Bones, CSI, SVU or pretty much any crime cases right now. Its just to fresh with just the little details I know and makes me think of what the scene may have looked like. I could feel the anxiety of it all creeping in like so long ago when I needed anxiety meds to help control the pain. I knew that this may be a thing that I have to abstain from for just a time or for my own well being it may be a change I need to make indefinitely. It took me hours to be able to calm and soothe myself into a semi- peaceful sleep and that was only with the help of worship music and speaking truth in my mind of different scriptures.

Forever Reign~One Sonic Society (with lyrics)

I am going to do this in a two part because this is really where the turning point is for me and the news that I received the next day!

It is amazing to me how even through all of this God has been found. He has intricately woven His love, grace, mercy into this story and I can’t wait to share this next part with you!