Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I will be a Published Author in 2015!!!

Hello, family, friends, and Blogosphere followers!

I have been so looking forward to writing this post for the past couple of months, and I am thrilled that I can finally share this exciting news with you. I have been very blessed to be given the opportunity to have my first children's book published with Ampersand Inc. This is the same publishing company that published children's books such as Goodnight NOLA and Goodnight Tigers. While there is still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of details to iron out, I am officially in the process of working on publishing what will hopefully be my first of many books. I want to share this journey with you guys, and I figured that my blog would be the best place to land all of the thoughts and details that go along with what is happening on the way.

The book will be called Fry 'Em Up, Fry 'Em Up, Beignet Man. It originated from my changing the words to the classic Mother Goose Pat-a-Cake nursery rhyme to include a NOLA theme for Eli. The story emerged from around that little song and basically centers on the experience that is eating beignets in New Orleans, from the sights you see to the sounds you hear. It will feature shout-outs to some local businesses, including Progressive Barge Line, Inc. and (hopefully) a popular local New Orleans beignet spot. ;)

I was put in touch with Ampersand through a connection enabled by a co-worker, and I was fortunate enough to meet with the owner of the company this past Saturday to discuss the future of Beignet Man as she was in town from Chicago to visit family. She is awesome, and I am very excited about working with her and getting the benefit of her many years of expertise in the publishing world as I go through this process.

Ampersand is a private publishing company, and this is very different than going the traditional publication route or independently publishing your work. (I will try to explain this to the best of my ability, but please note that I am still very new to this world and my vocabulary and vernacular may not be spot on.) Independent publishing is exactly what it sounds like. You author the book, illustrate it or have it illustrated, have it printed on your own, and take the book around to get it into the market. In traditional publishing, you typically get an agent for your work. The agent then presents your work to publication companies on your behalf in order to sell them your work. Once picked up, your work is owned by the publication company and you take a small commission on what is made from the book once printed. Private publishing sort of works the opposite way of traditional. Your work is presented to the publisher directly, and they can choose to accept or reject it. If accepted, they work with you on editing, illustrating, printing, and putting the book into the national market (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.). The major difference is that the author is still the owner of his or her work and the publication company makes a commission off of what is sold. In addition, because I still am the owner of the work, it will be my responsibility to pay for the printing of the book as well as get it into local businesses and markets.

After meeting with the publisher and as I move forward with this process, I am getting more and more excited about what is happening. We have finished the final edits and pagination of the manuscript of my work; we are working with a local artist on possibly illustrating the story; and once that is done, we will finalize the costs of publishing and begin that process. As a first printing can be quite expensive due to illustrator fees, print set up, and initial orders, I am planning on running a Kickstarter campaign to help offset the cost of the first publication. You can learn more about what Kickstarter is by clicking HERE! It is a terrific way for projects and products to get the financial backing they need to come to life. A local toy company called My Town Toy Company ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of their first toy, the New Orleans Food Shapes puzzle. I will be sure to let you all know when that is up and running.

Please be praying for me in the coming weeks and months as things develop. 2015 is going to be a busy, wonderful, exciting year! God is doing some amazing things in my life, and I hope to glorify Him in all things, no matter the outcomes. Baby #2 on the way and a book in the works...I am very blessed!

In Christ Alone,

Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy (Hectic) New Year

Happy 2015, my blogosphere friends!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! I know that I did, and I am so excited for all of the many possibilities that 2015 holds. I have so many things I want to share with you, and more detailed posts will be coming about each of these things in the coming weeks.

I shared in my last post before Christmas that Prince Charming and I are expecting Baby M #2 in April, and we are thrilled for Eli to become a big brother. He himself is 14 months old now, and he is amazing to be with and watch. He is growing and learning every single day, and he is so smart and mobile. Moving from a family of three to a family of four will be a big, albeit great, transition, and we are looking forward to jumping in head first. However, we have A LOT to do to get ready for Baby M #2 to arrive. First and foremost is preparing the nursery. We will be using the same nursery that we made for Eli for the new baby, and Eli will be moving into a new room. This means we have to dismantle our current guestroom and store/get rid of whatever is currently in there and prepare the room for our firstborn. He will be sleeping in his dad's crib for whatever time remains for him to do that, and we will be giving him our dresser (it is simple and will fit well) while we get a new set of bedroom furniture. The tentative plan is to do a baseball themed room, so I will definitely be making some posts soon about our baby boy moving on up to his first big(ger) boy room.

As for our new furniture, I am very excited to see how that pans out and to share with you how it does. If you have followed my blog for long, you will have noticed that I love to browse and build idea boards with items from Wayfair. Their products are so chic and comfy looking, and their prices are typically reasonable with free shipping. I have never ordered an item from Wayfair, however, until now. We made the leap and ordered the Signature Design by Ashley Zelen Four Poster Bedroom Collection in the size queen. I haven't had a bed frame since college, so I am so excited for this purchase to come in and praying it is in good shape from shipping and handling. The picture from Wayfair of the set is below.

The wall color in the picture is very similar to what is in our bedroom currently (Benjamin Moore Affinity color Sparrow), and our floors are a little bit darker. I can't wait to see how this set looks in our space. I will probably be ordering some items for Eli's new room from here as well so long as everything goes well with delivery and customer service (if needed). And I will definitely, for you my friends, put a post or two up with before and afters and a detailed review of the furniture and of my Wayfair experience in general.

In the midst of all of these house changes, it is now Mardi Gras season in the Big Easy. That means beads, parades, and king cakes. Unfortunately for me, I have just this week been diagnosed once again with gestational diabetes (thanks, genetics) and will be unable to partake of the delicious goodness that is the Mardi Gras treat. By the time baby arrives, Mardi Gras will be over, and any good New Orleanean will tell you that you don't eat king cake out of season! Oh, well! There is always next year.

As a huge surprising treat, my parents will get to come down for a visit during my week off for Mardi Gras break thanks to Southwest's great ticket deals they are running for next month! Their presence and help will be, I am sure, greatly needed and appreciated as we try to use some of that vacation time to prepare for baby. My sister, Cookie, and new nephew will also be joining us for a few days. We so rarely get to be together as a family being as spread out as we are, so I am very much looking forward to that visit.

In addition to all of this family growth, I have been presented with an amazing opportunity to possibly publish a book in the next year. This is so exciting, but I am not going into it too much just yet as it is still in the very earliest stages and may not happen at all. But it is something I am praying God will guide me through and be glorified through as the process unfolds. Hopefully, I will have more information and details to give you on that in the coming months as well.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this Miss NOLA-ssippi's world. I hope to have more opportunities to blog soon (and sew and cook and craft...), and I look forward to sharing all of the wonderful adventures in store for 2015 with you!

In Christ Alone,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas Chalkboard Printables

Tis the season to be crafty, festive, generous, and excited! I absolutely LOVE the holidays. For me, it is less about the commercialism of the holidays and much more about the feelings of nostalgia, family, love, giving, and warmth that surround the season. With a sweet baby boy in tow who is now old enough to be engaged in the festivities, I am even more excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!

It has been quite some time since I last posted. They say a baby changes everything, and boy, are they right! Eli keeps me so busy. On top of that, Prince Charming and I are expecting Baby M #2 in early April! Yes, you read that right. Elisha will be a big brother come April. He and his sibling will be 18 months apart, and Prince Charming and I are thrilled! Throw on top of all the baby bliss getting back into my work schedule, PC getting the job as head pastor of our church when our former pastor moved back home to North Carolina, and getting ready for the holiday season...it is no wonder that I haven't been able to post lately!

As an apology to you, I wanted to share some cool resources I recently stumbled across on the Pinternet and a few printables that I made with them. I wanted to get some chalkboard Christmas printables to frame around the house this year, and I found some great, premade free ones on Pinterest shared by some wonderful bloggers. I also found some amazingly talented bloggers who have shared free fonts/graphics to create your own, and that is what I have done. I am going to pass the links to those resources on to you AND put the printables I made here for you to use if you wish as well. Nothing like giving things away during the holidays! :)

First awesome resource comes from an amazing Christian military wife and mom blogger over at www.welivedhappilyeverafter.com, Hannah. She is incredibly gifted at creating graphics and backgrounds that are beautiful, chic, and on trend. She has some beautiful premade printables available on her blog as well. Visit her site when you get a chance; it is definitely worth a read!

Here are links to the posts on her blog for the items I used from her site that she so graciously shares for others to use. Click on any of the post titles to go directly to the original post on her blog.
Chalkboard Backgrounds- Light Chalkboard Background and Dark Chalkboard Background
Christmas Chalkboard Graphics- Sketch Me Pretty: 6 Free Christmas Graphics
Circle Graphics- Sketch Me Pretty: 11 Hand Drawn Circle Digital Graphics
Rustic Graphics (deer silhouette and leaves)- Sketch Me Pretty: 12 Stunning Free Rustic Graphics

Click on any of the font names below to go to the site I found them on to download and use them.
Chalk Hand Lettering Shaded by fontscafe.com This site has some AMAZING fonts! Check out all they have to offer because their work is BEAUTIFUL and so versatile!
Contribute by fontscafe.com
One Starry Night by Brittney Murphy Design She makes some beautiful fonts, as well. Check out "a song for jennifer" as another great chalkboard font!
Bergamont Ornaments by Emily Lime Design I am still getting used to working with a font as a graphic, but I love the possibilities it opens up and how many you get in one place. Try it out!

So, that is all of the credit where credit is due for the creation of the components of these simple chalkboard printables. Here are some preview images of each printable:

Click on the link below to go to the Google drive where you can download my four chalkboard printables:

Miss NOLAssippi Christmas Chalkboard Printables

I am no graphic designer, but I hope you will find them as charming as I do. Feel free to share on your own sites, but please link back to this post when you do. Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and yours!!

In Christ Alone,

Monday, August 11, 2014

29 Things I Am Thankful For...

This summer, on June 3, I celebrated my 29th birthday, and it was an unbelievably busy day. Between working extended hours (7-4:30), getting my baby boy, feeding him and holding him when he fell asleep for a quick nap (yeah!), helping Prince Charming tidy up the house for our small group meeting, having small group study, and having Dairy Queen ice cream cake with everyone after, I didn't get to sit down and be quiet for myself until about 10:00 that night. So, please, don't feel that I ignored you or didn't answer your phone calls and texts on purpose...I really was just that busy. In addition to being limited in my responses to sweet birthday wishes from friends and family, my business kept me from writing this post that I had been wanting to write all day.

If there is one thing I have learned in my past 29 years on Earth, it is that it is important to slow down, be quiet, and be grateful. In our small group, we were doing a curriculum called Abide right now. The rhythm we discussed on my birthday dealt with just that...getting quiet in a very noisy world. So, without further ado...here are 29 things/people/experiences/etc. that I am incredibly grateful for from my past 29 years of life.

1. My Salvation. Because by it, I view, do, and see all other things in my life. It permeates every single part of my life. From my relationships to my career to my decisions, there is absolutely nothing in my life that is not affected by my relationship with God as my Lord and Savior. It fills me up; it gives me life; it gives me worth and confidence and strength and peace...if you don't know my God, I would be more than happy to share Him and His beautiful gospel story with you. It really makes all of the difference in the world to how life is.

2. My Husband. When I call him Prince Charming, I absolutely mean that he is in every sense of the word Prince Charming. He is a Christ-centered man, and that makes all of the difference in the world to how he husbands. He tells me all of the time that I am beautiful, and even more, he tells me that I am his standard of female beauty. I believe and can believe my husband doesn't even look at other women because he puts me so far above every other woman that to him, none compare. It is amazing because I see so many flaws in myself, and he certainly knows that I am not perfect, yet he looks at me and beholds beauty. He takes care of me and supports me. He encourages me and strengthens me. He is my best friend and my one and only. I will be eternally blown away and grateful to God that such an amazing, wonderful man would see fit to call me his wife.

3. My Son. I am not sure that before the past 18 months I would have ever thought that I would want to be a mom, but The Lord truly changed my heart and then blessed me with a marvelous baby. Eli is more than I could have hoped for and everything I could ever want in a baby. He is so sweet and gentle spirited. He is funny and loving and snuggly. He is a good sleeper (thank you, Jesus) and a terrific eater. He spoils me as a mommy, and I am so grateful for his sweet little life being in mine.

4. My Parents. I am fortunate enough to have parents who are still HAPPILY married, and I strongly attribute that to the fact that they are both Bible believing Christians who have relied through the years not on their own strength, will, or feelings but on their bond through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross as the foundation of their marriage. They showed me throughout my life a strong example of a gospel-centered marriage, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for as I navigate my own marriage. They challenged and supported me in everything I do. They offered guidance and advice and protected me from many stupid decisions that I am sure I would have made if they had not been with me every step of the way through my early life.

5. My Sister. At 22 months old, I was granted the privilege of receiving my incredible baby sister. From the time we were able to play together, we were thick as thieves. We certainly fought as sisters do over the years, but far more often than that, we were just best friends. We shared clothes and secrets. We sought advice, consolation, and support from each other. We went on adventures in the backyard and on road trips. She is the one I call as soon as something new or exciting or scary or overwhelming happens in my life, and she is always there with a bended ear and real advice. She isn't afraid to call me out when I am being ridiculous, and she isn't afraid to stand by me even when she doesn't agree with me. She is an amazing woman whom I love, and I cannot imagine my life without her.

6. My In-Laws. Not everyone can say their extended in-law family is great, but I am one of the fortunate few who can say it full heartedly. Prince Charming's parents have accepted me from day one with open arms into their family and lives. I think they were able to do so because they knew he wouldn't bring home just anyone...with him, it had to be the real deal. They have always been kind and generous, and they treat me like their own. I also hit the in-law lottery with my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law. My brothers-in-law truly treat me like their sister. They make me laugh; they pick on me; and they listen to me. My sister-in-law and I are very close, and I am so thankful for her! She makes any situation more fun. She is great with people and has such a passion for life. She inspires me to be better in so many ways, and I am so blessed to have her to share part of my life with. I really hit the jackpot here, people!

7. My Friends. I will highlight a few in particular, but let me just say that over the years, I have been so fortunate to have amazing, Christian friends. Some were in my life for a season, some are in my life for good, but they have all been irreplaceable figures in my life who helped me grow and learn. From church friends to school friends to work friends...I have been incredibly blessed to have them all! Specific shoutouts: Krissy- I have known her since I was 5, though we were separated by distance for about a decade from then to high school, and she has been my best friend since I was about 16. I share everything with Krissy- as much as with my sister, really. She is kind and sweet and talented and loving. I am amazed and awed to be able to count her as best friend. Erin- Everyone has that lifelong best friend that they don't meet until college. For me, that is Erin. She is the most unique person I know. She is silly and hilarious and talented and fashionable and beautiful. She is an absolute hot mess, and we had the best time through our college years together. Kalee- Also from Mississippi, our NOLA boys brought us together, and I will be eternally grateful for that. Her hubby and mine have been best friends since pretty much birth, so we were naturally introduced as we were dating them. I would never have thought that I would get another best friend out of it. She is such a joy to know. She is a woman of strength and wisdom. She is an awesome mother and is always open and willing to share her knowledge and experience with me when I need it. She gets me in a way that no one else in NOLA does because she comes from the same place (on many levels) as I do, and I count her among God's greatest blessings in my life. Tara- God put Tara in my life. Period. When Prince Charming got his new job at our current church, Riverside in River Ridge, I wasn't sure what kind of relationships I would find. Tara was a welcome surprise. A godly woman who was in the same place in life as me, in the same field, and who went through pregnancy with me (although a few months behind) for the first time. She shared her life here with me (another NOLA transplant) openly and honestly, and I so greatly enjoy spending time with her. She has in the past few weeks had to move away with her sweet little family as the Lord wills, but I will always treasure her friendship.

8. My Extended Family. In the style of Lilo & Stitch regarding family: it's spread out and busy but still good...yeah...still good. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between. Our family is large and numerous, and fun. Of course we have the crazies and the dramatics and the black sheep...every family does...but it is still mine, and it is still good.

9. Our Church. I grew up in a wonderful church in Mississippi until I entered college. Then, I went with the college minister when he planted a new church in Jackson. Shortly after that, I went with Prince Charming to a Methodist church where he served as youth minister. We attended Prince Charming's parents' church for a short while after we wed and moved to NOLA. After we purchased our first house, PC got his first ministry job at a local presbyterian church. Then, in December of 2012, God called us back to the church where he grew up to serve as associate pastor. It has been amazing to walk in the will of the Father, and we are so incredibly thankful for the congregation there. The body of believers at Riverside is so kind and so hungry for the Word of God and Will of the Father. It is such a joy to serve and worship there, and I am very grateful for God's grace in sending us there.

10. My Pets. I know it may seem silly to some to be thankful for this category, but I am an animal lover, and I have been fortunate to have some pretty amazing pets in my day. Our childhood dog, a standard dachshund named Max, was SO AWESOME! He was so chill and fun, and everyone who met him loved him! Then, my first pet of my own, Molly Jones came along. She was a gift from Josh and Kalee, and she was an absolute doll. She had the sweetest little spirit, and she loved life. She was an amazing dog, and I didn't get to have as much time with her as I would have liked. With her, and still, was our sweet, unique Desmond. A Christmas gift from Prince Charming's parents, Des is such a cutie pie, and he has proved to be one tough pup. He isn't the most social dog with strangers (especially kids and other dogs), but he is fervently loyal to our family, and those whom he loves, he loves hard. For animal lovers, pets are such a joy, and I have been favored to have good ones.

11. My Job. I am so fortunate to have a job that I can honestly say contributes to the well-being and care of my family. Being a working mom is not an easy life for me...I always hoped and pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom while my children were small. But, clearly, God has other plans. While it isn't always easy for me to accept, I know He has a purpose and reason for my stay-at-home mom desire to not be fulfilled at this point in my life, and I trust that promise. In the meantime, I remind myself daily of the fact that I don't work to be away from my family, I work for my family. My job enable us to have health insurance and some extra financial stability. For that, I can be grateful, and I can find the will to say goodbye to my sweet baby boy in the mornings.

12. Financial Stability. Building on number 11, I am grateful that I have been blessed in my life and in my marriage to have a stable financial life. While my husband and I by no means are wealthy by monetary standards (he is a preacher, and I am a teacher for crying out loud) all of our needs and even many of our wants are met. Not everyone can say that, and I count it as a gracious blessing from The Lord.

13. My Hobbies and Talents. I will never claim to be great at any of the things I do as hobbies, but I will absolutely claim that I love them all! From singing to sewing to cooking to writing...these are the things that have given me a source of joy, peace, comfort, and patience. I am thankful God has blessed me with the abilities and opportunities to get to do all of these things, and I hope to get to do them all for years to come.

14. Living in New Orleans. As hard as it is sometimes, even still, to be so far away from my friends and family I grew up with, I wouldn't trade getting to live in the lively, soulful, awesome city of New Orleans, Louisiana. There is simply no place like it in the world. The food, the events, the people...it digs into your heart and doesn't let go. People who are NOLA people just get it. 

15. Traveling. I am so grateful for every trip I have been privileged to take. Whether national or international, the opportunities I have had to travel in my life have made me a more open-minded, well-rounded person. It has taught me to appreciate people, places, and cultures other than my own. I hope I can give my own children chances to travel.

16. Nursing Experience. This one is a delicate one. I prayed during my pregnancy for God to give me a good nursing relationship with my baby. While it hasn't always been easy, it has been absolutely amazing and wonderful, and God answered my prayer in abundant ways I couldn't have imagined. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to nurse, and I will hope and pray that I will be able to do likewise for any future children I have.

17. Air Conditioning. This one is a must when you live in the south...especially the deep south. I forget how much I appreciate this until I don't have air conditioning. 

18. Memories. I am thankful for the time I have spent with everyone and anyone in my life and the memories those times have made. I may not be in touch with everyone from throughout my whole life anymore, friends come and go and people move or pass away, but the memories of good times, hard times, and exciting times all last. 

19. Freedom. The United States of America, for all of its faults and short-comings, is still one of the greatest countries in the world to live in because we do get freedoms that are often denied to people in other places. I can go to church without fear of persecution. I can choose what career I want to pursue or work and do it. I can go for a walk with my sweet husband and son without fear of bombs exploding around us. This country is not perfect, it is far from it, but it certainly has benefits that other countries do not get to boast. 

20. Snoballs on a Hot Summer Day. Not a snow cone...no...a snoball. It is a NOLA thing, and they are like mana from Heaven on a scorching summer afternoon in New Orleans. They turn your mouth colors and give you brain freeze, and they are decadence in ice form. Not much can beat it.

21. Rainy Days at Home. I absolutely love rainy days that I get to be home, snuggled up with my best boys watching movies, playing games, eating comfort food, and just having fun. Thunderstorms are even better! This only applies to the days I get to be home.

22. FaceTime. This one wasn't such an important thing to me until I had a baby whose grandparent's live 15 hours away. I am absolutely thankful for this technology. It lets my parents interact with Eli daily, so they can see in real time how he grows and changes. He recognizes them when he sees them even if he hasn't seen them in person in months. This is an invaluable tool, and I cannot imagine having to raise my baby so far from family without it. 

23. Our House. While not without things I would love to change...bigger bathroom with a huge tub, more linen storage, etc...I am so grateful to have a home that I can call my own. A home that I helped create. A home that keeps me warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot. A home where I can spend time with my friends and family. A home where I can make a mess or be a neat freak. It is our home, and it is full of love!

24. Health. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with good health throughout my life. Granted, I have terrible allergies and sinus problems, but other than that, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any major health issues thus far in my life. What a blessing!

25. Books. I am an absolute, 100%, self-proclaimed and proven bookworm. I cannot get enough of getting lost in stories. Fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, drama...whatever. I love them all! It is a joy to me to sit with a book and get lost in its pages. It provided me with a means of escape during my middle school years when I was a victim of bullying, and it still gives me an oasis even in my hectic life now. 

26. Kindness of Strangers. As Mr. Roger's always said, in times of trouble, "look for the helpers." As I get older, the kindness of strangers becomes even more elusive and even more precious. From holding a door, to letting me cut in line at the grocery store because of Eli, to helping with bags on an airplane...never underestimate a kind gesture to even those you don't know.

27. Laughter. Sometimes, only a good belly laugh can help. Even in our deepest despair, one laugh can change our entire perspective. I love laughing until it hurts and I can't catch my breath and I have tears in my eyes. Those laughs are few an fat between. I don't always remember the reason I laugh like that, but I always remember the feeling.

28. Food and Clean Water. This is one we readily take for granted in the US, but I cannot forget how incredibly blessed I am to have these most basic needs met on a daily basis. It is overwhelming how many people struggle to have either or both of these things day to day, and I pray I never take for granted the gift of these necessities.

29. Forgiveness. This sort of goes back to the idea of salvation, as all in my life does, but I am grateful for any and all forgiveness bestowed upon my in my life. Lord know that I need it daily, and it is a gift of grace and mercy. Being forgiven is being set free, and that is an indescribable, priceless gift.

So...there are 29 things I am thankful for. This list is not exhaustive, but it does help me keep things in perspective. Thank You, Lord, for these 29 years. I pray for many more years to come and that each of those years would be spent seeking your kingdom, honor, and glory.

In Christ Alone,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings of a Heavy Heart

I have debated whether or not I should post this at all. It has been sitting in my drafts section of my blog for almost a month now. I wrote this right after losing my grandmother very suddenly to pancreatic cancer at the end of July. I have decided I will share it because it is honest...it is the thought process I went through as I dealt with the pain and grief of losing someone precious whom I loved so dearly with all my heart. It is unedited, so forgive the typos and stream of thought. While it may not all be clear, I hope that the thoughts that lay on my heart can speak to the heart of those who are hurting for any reason.

In Christ Alone, 

Staring at the cursor blink on this blank page through bleary eyes right now leaves me with little confidence that I will be able to make a single coherent thought in this post. But during this time in my life, I have so many thoughts running through my mind that I needed to get down somewhere that I decided my blog would be a good landing spot. This post will be a stream of thought, so forgive me any places that seem disjointed. You see, I am experiencing a difficult loss in my life right now, in the midst of other major life changes, and I am not alone. Close friends and family are also experiencing the loss of those closest to them. It is heartwrenching and difficult during these times to make sense of pain, death, and grief. Some people want to try to comfort you by saying that death is just a part of life. It is a natural event that all experience. Here's the thing that a Christian knows with certaintly: death is the least natural thing on the planet. Man was not made to die. Man was not made to be sick...to break down...to decay...man was made to live and to thrive. Death was a result of man's actions in the beginning telling God we don't love you, don't need you, and don't accept your rule and reign over us (aka sin). As a result of our rebellion, death entered the scene and has remained since. It isn't natural. If it was, it wouldn't be so difficult. It wouldn't be dehumanizing, painful, and ruthless. Those left living wouldn't have to deal with the incredible pain of feeling like a piece of you has been ripped painfully away out of the grasp of your longing-to-hold-onto-life fingers.

When these things happen, our first instinct is to simply ask, "Why?" Why has this person been taken away from me? Why has this person had to suffer? Why can't I stop it? Why couldn't I do more? Why didn't You do more? Why didn't You heal? Why...why...why? The whys keep pouring into my mind like a river down a mountain...and they definitely seem to end in a valley. I can't begin to tell you a specific reason, aside from the one mentioned above, that these things happen. I won't pretend to know the answers, the thinking of God, because how arrogant of me to think that I could grasp, as the Bible calls them, "the secret things that belong to God." God asked Job when he asked why, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?" In other words...it isn't for me to know why God does the things he does because whether "good" or "bad" by my own small-minded definitions of those words, they are His things to do...and ultimately...all good. But while I cannot say why it is that these things happen, I do know for a shadow of a doubt what the reasons can't be. It simply and utterly cannot be because God doesn't love us. It absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt cannot be because He doesn't sympathize with us in our loss and suffering. And it cannot be because He doesn't understand our pain. We only need to look to one thing to know these things to be true: the cross of Jesus Christ.

At the cross, God demonstrated a love for us that goes beyond what we could ever hope to imagine to understand. He sent his only Son to die in our place for sins He had not even thought to commit. He spilled His own innocent blood on our behalf and all so that we could be made right with Him even in our sinful state by repentance and belief in Him. That is love incapable of being measured and love incapable of ever being squelched by anything in Heaven or on Earth. It is an unstoppable, imeasurable, unfailing, never-giving-up love. So this loss and hurt can't happen because He doesn't love us. In sending His only Son, he suffered a loss that we can't fathom. He allowed His innocent, perfect, righteous Son to humble himself to a painful, humiliating death on the cross. So he understands, even in ways we don't, our loss and suffering. Not only was this His one and only Son, but He was the One who had been with Him for all eternity. "In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God." I was able to spend 29 amazing years with the life and presence of my grandmother with me, and my hurt is massive. How much more must the hurt of the Father and the Son have been when He had to turn His face away from Him on the cross as He bore the wrath of The Father for our sins and transgressions? My friends, it cannot be that He doesn't understand our pain...oh...it cannot be. 

So, as I sit here and break under the weight of loss and hurt and grief, I look to the cross as my source of comfort and strength. And not just for what the cross has meant for me, but what it meant to my grandmother. As a Christian who proclaimed Jesus as her Lord and Savior, I can be dually comforted by Christ's work on the cross. Not only does it shout at the top of all forms of volume that God loves us and sympathizes with us, but it also radiates the hope that lies within what was accomplished there. Sin has lost its power; death has lost its sting. For those who believe, this life does not end with death. Oh no, by all means...it just begins. As an adopted son or daughter of the Most High God, regardless of what or how death took us from this life, we are awakened to an eternal life renewed. Healing comes in many ways in our lives in many circumstances...and this is His ultimate healing for those who believe. We enter the presence of The Lord and all of the believers who went before us to never have to live under the effects of sin or sickness or death again. To live is Christ and to die is gain...even in the darkness of grief that surrounds me, this flicker of hope, this light of joy, cannot be undone. It is a flame that burns as eternal as the life given by God, and it shines even through the darkest despair this world can muster. It is the reason a Christan can boast a joy even in the tears...it is the assurance of this certain promise of life in Christ that allows a grieving Christian to be flooded with a peace that passes understanding even when we are overcome with the loss of those we love who believed in Christ...it is our very source of life even in death. Does it mean that we don't hurt? That we don't grieve? That the pain of our loss vanishes into thin air? Indeed not because, as we said before, we grieve the unnatural nature of death and the loss it brings. But through it all, we can sing a song of praise in our hearts and give thanks to The Lord for His love that endures forever...through life...past death...and into the ever after life in His presence in glory.