Words have power. Written words provide proof. You can read them, and reread them whenever you want. They can speak life to someone who needs encouragement. They can speak death to someone who is being deceived. The choice lies within you. How is it that you want people to remember you? Encourager...that is the gift that God has laid on my heart. To use my written, spoken, and/or sung words to lift people up. To be one link in their road to healing, restoration, joy. I have been without those things, and I claim them to be mine again. If you want me to seek God on a prayer for a specific situation...that is why I am here. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to pray God's Word of Life over you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mourning Life

Mourning. It was a word that I would have said I understood.

I have mourned loved ones who've left this world more suddenly than I was ready for.
I have mourned family who had lived a long life and were ready to meet their King.
I have mourned three of my own babies that I never got the chance to meet.
I have mourned for those that have fought hard for every last day they had on this earth.
And I have mourned with many families of which death took a person that they were not ready to give up.

What I did not ever know...was that I could mourn a person who was very much alive.
A person whom I loved.
A person who I saw day after day.
A person who was no where near death.
I did not know about this type of mourning. And honestly, I wish I still didn't.

This type of mourning has its own rulebook. It comes with a vast array of helpless, emotional roller coaster type of feelings. It has you replay over and over what you could have done differently to prevent the very action that caused it. It has you second guess every decision you made. It has you wishing you had chosen things...anything...everything...differently.

Mourning your child, who's hair you brush. Who's tears you wipe. Who's laugh you love. This mourning is silent. It is kept secret, as a protection mechanism. It is misunderstood by anyone who has never walked down this path. And it is a lonely place to reside.

This type of mourning will cause you to give up everything you loved. People. Places. Passions. Possessions. This type of mourning will leave you starving for genuine love and support, and yet leery of absolutely everyone offering it. Do they truly care...or do they just want to know what has changed you? Trust does not come easily with this type of mourning.

I am mourning innocence that was selfishly stolen.

I am mourning the freedom to trust people that I once respected.

I am mourning saying Yes to my children.

I am mourning the life that I once had.

I know I am not the only one. I can't be. There is too much going on in this world for me to be the only one.

Moms. Dads.
Where are you that mourn a child who was taken away by empty promises?
A child that chose hollow, toxic relationships over unconditional love.
A child that can't stay away from the things that you fear will eventually pull them to their grave.
A child who has left and has promised never to return.

Moms. Dads.
Where are you that mourn a child that lives in your home?
A child who trusted because it is what they were taught to do so.
A child who obeyed because it was what was right.
A child who endured trauma because they would not tell an adult No.

We silently mourn our living children because of addiction. Of poor choices. Of broken relationships. Of undeserved traumatic life events. Of all the days that were stolen from us. And though our circumstances are very different...some days...this mourning seems impossible to bear and still function. Some days it comes out in anger. Some days it comes out in paralyzed fear. Some days it comes out in simply withdrawing from life.

Mourning isn't the same for any two people. My husband and I handle it very differently. Our phases of mourning never coincide. I thank God for that!! When I am weak, God is strong...and some days God shows His strength through the protection of my husband.

Moms. Dads.
I may not know you at all. I may just pass you in the store. But if I see the sorrow in your eyes when you feel like your smile is hiding it well, just know that I am praying for you. I am praying for those who mourn their children; both that have passed away and who are still with us. I am praying because I know that I am nothing without Prayer. I am lost without Promise. And I am angry without Hope.

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
Are you brokenhearted? God is close.
Has your child's spirit been crushed by the enemy that seeks to destroy....? God saves.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Trust Issues

I have said it silently to myself more times than I can count in my 35 years of life. My guess, is that you have too. They are those questions that just can. not. be. answered. Even if they ever were...the answer would probably not satisfy the deep longing questions in our hearts.

Where were You?
Why now?

Most recently it has not even been so much for me, but still I ask God, 'Why'...

It's been a year now since tragedy hit me like a semi-truck.
It has been a year full of change.
A year of asking.
A year of doubt.
Thankfulness. Anger. Sadness. Disbelief.
And it has been a year of watching God swoop in at the very last moment, when I was in full mental outrage, and show Himself faithful.
And yet it was a year of questioning...why?

Several months ago I decided to begin to read for the purpose of fun. Escaping I suppose. A way to stop my mind from constant thought.

Even after the decision had been made...it took me a few weeks to know where to start. Which author? Fiction or non? Did I want to dive into a self help type of book or just thoughtlessly encounter someone else's storyline.

I dove into my new book, head first. I read every spare moment I had. I waited up late and got waaaaaay too little sleep. I took loooong evening baths (almost daily) and stayed extra long in the tub. I had to see how the story all worked out in the end. I was addicted.

One night in particular I was intent on finishing the book that I had been sneaking in at every opportunity. I was so close. I sat with my cup of coconut cream coffee and...escape.....

Just a few moments in there were those words that I have wanted to speak scream time and time again.

Where were You when this was happening God?!

I closed my eyes and looked away. The second I read those words my breath was gone. When I opened my eyes again, I could no longer see through my tears. I knew that what came in the next paragraph was the reason God had chosen this book for me. I was angry at first when I realized the base of the story was very close to what I was dealing with personally. Of ALLLLL the fiction books in ALLLLLL of the libraries...I had to choose THIS one. Ugh. But I read on because I knew God had something to tell me...and I was unsure I could handle His response...

I. was. there.

How could I have doubted that He was there? How dare I think he would ever turn away? How did that simple reality make me feel both comfort and disgust? Why were there hot angry tears running down my cheeks?

They fell because I had trusted Him. But what about now...do I still...? How do you remain faith-filled when you feel as though the wind has been knocked out of you and you lay there struggling to simply breathe? What kind of God........I couldn't even finish that thought.

Sometimes we have to get gut honest with God. We have to lay it all out before Him. I have both a reverent fear of God and an open line of communication with Him. I tell Him more brutally honest things than I do any one person on this earth. He knows me completely. Every thought. Every glare. Every tear. He knows my heart intimately. He formed my inmost being...and He can handle my wrath.

That night as I read through the blur of my tears; I could not help but to silently weep. Alone. There wasn't a person in this world who could fix my struggle. It was up to me. I had to choose to fight my way through what the enemy was using to try to destroy the faith and purpose of myself and my family. I had to admit to myself and to God that I was angry with Him. I had to voice that I felt as though He had closed His eyes to what HE SHOULD HAVE STOPPED.

Should have.
As if I have the right to tell God how my story will go.
As if I think I know what is to come.
As if I was there at the beginning of it all.
As if I can say what it will take to make me into the woman that He knows I am capable of becoming.

I lay down my weapons.
My harsh words.
My doubt.
My trust issues.
I lay them at His feet. I do not deserve any of the wonderful things He does for me because of anything I have done.

I remember the first Sunday that I was to lead the Lauren Daigle song, Trust In You, during worship. I could barely make it through. There was a spiritual battle going on in my head, and I was the only person invited to the fight. It wasn't about learning the song...that had been fairly easy. Practicing the song with the worship team was a little bit more of a challenge. But then came worship...

There is a huge difference between practicing/singing and worshipping. During worship that day...it got real. It was that day that I knew I had no right to sing those very words if I didn't truly believe them.

A single tear ran down my cheek. I knew that I wanted to believe them. I knew that I wanted to trust God with the life and safety of my family. I also knew that He could see through my voice. He could see through my worship. He could see straight to the place in my heart where the struggle was raging.

And it was that day...I knew we had won. I did trust God and I belted those words out because I believe(d) that God is for me and for my family. Romans 8:28 will forever be true. God will use this tragedy. I don't know how. I don't know when. But I will wait for glimpses of good....because it is there that God will be.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Faith is More Than Words

Have you ever gone through something so incredibly difficult that there were

Nothing that was offered seemed to be of any real help. Even though you knew that the intent of each person's hearts was pure, and you knew that their purpose was to uplift...somehow before their words could pierce through to your heart...it was as if they had already lost their life.

This is how many hours in my days have been over the last few months.

Unable to participate in regular, every day life because it felt far away and impossible.
Many well-intended words from friends/family that seemed barely valuable enough to let sink in.

I've thought about becoming distant from everyone.
I've wanted to just pick up my family and drive away.
I've longed to forget.
I've screamed at the devil for how utterly awful and absolutely ruthless he is.
I've been selfish with my thoughts and prayers.

Over and over I have magnified the scheme of the enemy INSTEAD of choosing to focus on the power of the cross.

Where do we turn when words suddenly seem empty? How can we combat an enemy who wants us forever silenced? How do we fight off the pull of darkness when the usual fluffy spiritual answers just aren't leading us to hope this time?

I've never claimed to have it all together. I'm sorry if this comes as a surprise to you. Some days I crumble under pressure. Those days, I doubt if I will ever know better. I fall and I fail. And sometimes, sometimes...I get knocked down while completely unsuspecting. I get blind-sided by something that I could. not. have. seen. coming...and my faith is tested. The war becomes glaringly, in-my-face, real...and I find that I am very much in it.

Will I win...or will I give in? 
The first seems harder than the other. 
The latter offers ease, accompanied by empty promises. 
It is my choice. It always is.

I am turning to worship. Some days I cry while I sing...because my efforts seem feeble. Some days I don't feel a difference...because somehow I am still choosing to focus on me. Some days I smile and almost laugh while I worship...knowing that the enemy is furious and cowering. Some days I gain strength while I praise my King. Those days I stand firm in my calling...and I wish to be no where else.

I am turning to Truth. Even when I don't feel like it...I am finding Truth in the Word of God to cling to. On the days that I can't feel that Truth...I still believe. I know better than to trust how I feel. I'm a mess. He's the Maker. I trust His inspired Word over my thoughts! And He is revealing His truth loving, living, speaking people to me. It is a hard lesson to learn. I did not ask for it. I did not pray for it. But I will remain thankful for it.

And I am turning to you. You, who have been led to read this little blog of mine. I am asking for your prayer. The road that I have found myself on is hard. Not impossible...but hard. I don't know how to walk this road. I can't see the end of it. I am fairly confident that the end is far off. I can only see where I am. Some days seeing where I am is overwhelming.

If I have not love...I have nothing.
If I have not hope...I have less than God has for me.
If I have not peace amidst this storm...I am believing the whisper of the enemy over the proven Truth of Christ.

My strongest days are Sunday. My favorite days are those spent with the ones I love MOST! As for today, I will choose to win. Giving up is not an option. I have too many people who will go to war for me. I am loved...and I am thankful for that.

I will see Romans 8:28. It will become evident. I will listen closely for the voice of God to continue to lead me when I am looking...and I will feel the Hand of God guide me when I am struggling to focus.

I will win. Truth will win. I need only be still and know that I serve the One and only True God.

He is enough for me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Living in a World of Inappropriateness

One thing I say often....that I honestly never knew before having kids...is that they would teach me. Most times it is not something that I never knew...but rather something I forgot. Maybe a better way to say it, would be to say that they often remind me to have the same good morals I ask of them and to do all things with a more pure way of thinking. I didn't realize that my kids would constantly be asking hard questions; that would in turn keep me in line without them even realizing it. And I never knew that taking the time to see the view from where they are...would, more often than not, show me a perspective that radiated Christ.

One thing that my kids love to do is help me check out at the store. They fight...literally fight...over who gets to put the most things on the conveyor belt. Then they race to the other end and begin loading the cart back up with the bags full of groceries...in a quick...I don't care if your bread gets squished-I will do this before anyone else gets a chance to...type of manner. It keeps them occupied. It keeps their little unsatisfied eyes away from all of the candy, pop, toys, and beef jerky that the grocery store staff so cunningly place in the isle of our Wal-mart. So, I break up the squabbles as needed...and let them go.

A couple weeks ago I had my three youngest children with me. Ariel-8, Titus-6 and Levi-4; loaded up the groceries to be purchased as normal. But then they stayed at the back of the cart. I thought it was unusual...but since I was buying bread that had not yet been squished...I decided to let them be. They were behaving. They weren't handling all of the candy and toys and looking to me to buy it all. They were talking. Like normal little people. (I love it when they act, within view of the public eye, as though we normal!!!!) 

I looked back at them again and noticed something strange. My daughter had her arm oddly stretched across the end of the isle. After getting her attention, I asked what she was doing. She looked at her two little brothers and then back at me. She slightly lifted her hand from the magazine it rested on, while still watching her little brothers and shielding it from their view. She looked up at me, widened her eyes and mouthed one word. "Inappropriate!". I looked under her little hand and saw the massive amount of cleavage she was covering. I mouthed back two words. "Thank you!"

This world is full of inappropriateness. FULL! Commercials. Magazines. Ads on YouTube. Movies. Billboards. Christians. Ugh...it hurts me to type that last one. But alas...it is sadly true. The enemy will use anyone and anything to put seeds of inappropriate thoughts into a child's head. My children are constantly confused by how some people choose to speak/act/dress while claiming to be a Christ-follower. I want my kids to be sensitive to such things. To set their standards high no matter what is popular, accepted and easy.

I am the one who has to answer a lot of their hard questions. I am the one who is desperately trying to teach them to freely give grace WHILE still refusing to lower their own, self-set standards. I pray protection over their eyes, hearts and minds. I even go as far as to avoid 'repeat offenders' of inappropriate talk/dress/behavior when my kids are with me. They. are. mine. and more importantly...they were His before I ever knew them. I take my position, to equip them with a base of Godly morals and good character, very seriously. 

There is no guarantee that they will turn out well by chance. That is just not how life works. We are to live life purposeful and conscious. My children will have traits of Christ because I relentlessly prayed for them in the most secret places of my heart. They will know what it means to be a genuine Christian because my husband and I taught them the best we knew how. Because we led with our lives rather than our dictation. Because when we messed up, we asked for forgiveness...from our kids and from our Father.

My kids are setting their standards higher than I did as a child. I love to watch them choose what they are unwilling to allow into their life. Sometimes it is their own friend who makes them uncomfortable by the things they choose to do/say/watch. Sometimes it is an adult who dresses in a way that is scant. Sometimes it is an unwanted, non-Mom-approved advertisement that pops up while they are waiting for the newest TobyMac video to load. Sometimes it is a movie that has what they deem as evil. I give them room to choose. I respect their choice.

I'm raising up a generation in my house. A generation of leaders. Of servants. Of bold warriors. A generation that prays. That loves. That forgives. Because when I forget....they will remind me. <3

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some Days..I Wanna Be a KID Again

I can hear the struggle from where I sit. I can't see it...but I can surely hear it. My two youngest are apparently battling. Again. Many times in a day they wrestle. Many times anger rises and falls...and yet, I can learn so much from them. It happens when I choose to take the time and watch how they are. Today...it is a lesson in love and forgiveness.

As I sit on my bed listening to them play on this beautiful summer morning, I notice their laughter and yelling takes a turn toward anger. Injustice is rearing its ugly head and I can hear the voices getting more and more heated. My 6-year old, Titus, is the one who usually comes to me in tears. My 4-year old, Levi (my baby) he. is. tough. He is still learning. He's still growing. The struggles that he has with hitting when he finds himself angry...are the ones that his older brother used to get in trouble for...OFTEN! Titus has since learned that there are consequences. He prefers most at times...to not endure them.

I don't always immediately rescue my kids at the first sounds of a disagreement with their siblings. I leave them room to choose wisely. I give them space to learn from experience rather than constant reprimand. On this morning...after a few moments of struggle...I decide to stop the fight before it escalades to the hitting phase. I begin to stand and what is it that I hear? Laughter? Yes...they have forgotten why they were angry...and they are laughing. Like for real, belly laughing. It. is. my. FAVE!!

I plop myself back down, smiling. I did not choose for them today. This one time...they chose what was right. They chose what was pleasing. They chose what was good.

I can no longer sit and listen. I want to be with them. I want to see what is funny...and I want to be joyful with them. They are teaching me...and I am learning.

Kids so often get it right when it comes to relationships. I am aiming to be more like my kids. (For real...I am!) I sometimes have to even remind my brain that they don't need to hang onto MY relational setbacks. If I am the one who's been hurt/offended...they don't need to take that offense on as their own.

These are the things that come most naturally to my kids...
-To quickly forget what made them angry in the first place.
-To easily let go of bitterness.
-To live as if they will not be hurt.
-To go from I-wanna-hit-you-angry to carefree-joyful in a moments time.
They don't need to be talked into forgiveness...it comes naturally.

Some days we adults aren't willing to get past our own anger. We feel entitled...and so we wallow. We cling to it. Or better yet...we allow it to attach itself to us. It becomes a part of us. It refuses to leave.

And when we allow a little anger here and there to become part of us...eventually it can overwhelm. Eventually joy will seem like a dream. Eventually we will struggle to see anyone without hardness in our heart.

I am learning to take my cues from children. I aim to love easily...even when it is not easy. I strive to forgive immediately...even when I want to feel entitled. And I will forget the sting of those who hurt me...and instead look for the love of Christ to fill my heart again.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On That Day, I Married...

The one who would be my first love.
The one who would be my last boyfriend.
The one who would be my only husband.

The one who would know how to push my buttons.
The one who would never stop making me feel beautiful.
The one who would push me to succeed.

The one who would hug me tight when the world broke me.
The one who would kiss me softly when the world hated me.
The one who would tell me the truth when the world lied.

The one who would watch me struggle through loss.
The one who would give me my dream of life...to mother a child.
The one who would see me fail and still choose to love.

The one who would teach his sons about the life of a man.
The one who would take his daughter on her first date.
The one who would learn to love hugs and kisses from little hearts.

The one who would love to be present for every Christmas gift purchased for his children.
The one who would watch countless children's movies just to hear his kids laugh.
The one who would bring home pizza and make the house squeal with more excitement than necessary.

The one who would see all the worst of me.
The one who would rarely get my humor.
The one who would make. my. day. if he laughed at my joke.

The one who would quickly become my forever favorite worship leader.
The one who would prove to me that I could do things I doubted.
The one who would see me through a different set of eyes.

The one who would provide for his family.
The one who would serve at his church.
The one who would pray for anyone who asked.

The one who would do as Jesus did.
The one who would walk with confidence like few others.
The one who would say only what he meant.

The one who would hate the phone and always call while he was gone.
The one who would text me, from the couch, to bring him a Pepsi.
The one who would not enjoy reading, but still encourage me to write.

The one who would write songs for his King.
The one who would sing with more passion than I ever knew he was capable.
The one who would be gifted more than most people would ever take the time to know.

The one who would teach me.
The one who would help mold the best me.
The one who would speak highly of me.

The one who would (Nerf) sword fight me in the kitchen (and break a glass) to make the kids laugh.
The one who would have to tell me when he was flirting because it was always painful. (Haha!)
The one who would wrestle his children on the floor.

The one who would think constantly.
The one who would be spontaneous if he was in the mood.
The one who would spend and re-spend $ many times in his head before ever entering the store.

The one who would be capable of almost anything.
The one who would say (and believe) that he was invincible.
The one who would hurt easily, but hide it well.

The one who would submit.
The one to whom I would submit.
The one who would stand alone, if it was for what was right.

Although this man I chose would often be misunderstood.... I would always try my hardest to understand him. I am his prayer warrior. I am his cheering section. I am his forever faithful friend. I am his partner in life. I am the one whom he loves more than himself. I am all his and he is all mine. I love him more than I show some days. I love him more than I say some days. I am the one his parents prayed for. And he is the one I asked God for.

My fourteenth wedding anniversary was last Saturday on April 18th. I woke up just a little bummed. Back in January, my husband's grandmother had passed away. Since she lived in Florida during the winter months, her husband waited to do a memorial service with her children and their families back in PA. When he picked the date for the service...guess which day he chose? =/

The morning came and I awoke, fancied up my family and myself and off we went to the service. I had told my husband the night before, when we were out on our celebration date, that I felt like the day was not going to be at all about me. I laughed. He smiled. I was mostly joking...and only very slightly serious. ;-)

It seemed unlikely to me that God would speak to me during a service such as this...and yet He did. My husband's grandmother's husband got up to speak after the pastor had finished. He began to tell the story of the last months of his wife's life. He struggled through as we all watched in silence. Most of us had no idea what those days were like for him. As he was talking about how difficult it was to see her so close to the end...he said something that hit me hard.

"I still meant the vows I spoke when I married her. For better or worse. In sickness or health. I was going to stay with her to the end...because I promised that I would."

I needed to hear those words. My husband is not sick...and neither am I. Our relationship is strong and centered in Christ. The thought of either of us leaving is not a thought at all. I just needed to be reminded that God values those vows. He heard them. He longs for couples to remember those words that they promised to each other...before Him.

It is hard to find couples that live and love like they still believe those words. I say couples...because it only takes one to destroy the hope found in them. One cheating heart. One fallen away from faith. One willing to give up and leave the other without a choice.

What then? Romans 5 has something to say about someone who feels as though they are in a hopeless situation. Starting in verse 3  and going through verse 5 it says, "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts but he Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."

Hope does not disappoint us. I LOVE THOSE WORDS!!!!! I have used them many times to change a friend's pity party into praise. The difference between someone who wallows and someone who rises above...is Jesus.

I have seen marriages all around me end. And in the midst of it...I have seen absolute brokenness turn to unexplainable strength. I have seen dependency on 'man' shift to independence with Christ. I have seen lack of faith turn into faith unbreakable. Unshakable. Faith restored. Hope found. And joy....no longer dependent on world-measured happiness.

The question was recently asked of me, "How would you define the joy of the Lord?" What would you have said? Think about it. How is it different than happiness? I encourage you to write down your definition if you'd like.

Here was mine...
The joy of the Lord...
Is joy unexplained.
Joy unbreakable by circumstance.
Joy that is not, can not be faked.
Joy that can be seen through solemness and through pain.
Joy is more than happiness, because it is more real than just a smile, kind word or gift.
Joy is the presence of God and an intentional spiritual mindset in all times, at all times.
The joy of the Lord is Jesus in us, actively and regularly moving through us, no matter how it is perceived or whether it is accepted...and yet we do it with a heart of gladness as onto HIM!
Joy does not always appear happy...but is instead always content.

God will speak to us some days in the most unlikely of places. He will help us to find solid hope and unexplainable joy in Him...when it makes no sense. His ways are not ours. (Can I get an Amen?!) His thoughts are higher than what we can fathom. Yet He chooses to speak in ways that we will understand.

Hold tight to hope in Christ.
Find joy in all places.
Remember promises that you have made before God. He heard them. He remembers every word you have said.
Take pride in holding true to your commitments.
Your relationships matter...work on them. Pray for them. Try to hold others more highly than yourself.
Love. It is the most important...and it covers all things.

I'm so in love with the man God gave me to experience life with. It isn't always sunshine and roses...but we always have love. It softens the hardness. It lightens the darkness.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teaching Sacrifice

Sacrifice. It seems almost impossible to teach such a thing. I honestly never really thought too much about teaching it to my children. I guess I could've encouraged them to want to learn about it. I could've tried demanding it, but then again, you can't demand sacrifice. A person that truly understands the heart behind sacrifice...can't be forced. They must simply be given the option...and then willingly choose...what Christ would. As we near Easter, God gave me a front row seat to a lesson in sacrifice, by my 8-year old daughter.

What I witnessed this past weekend was extremely hard for me to watch, and at the same time absolutely beautiful. Many tears were shed. Some of them were in view of those around. More important to me, were those done in secret. They were not tears of shame. They were tears of awe. Tears of pride. Tears of thankfulness. Oh how I love the days God allows me to see His hand. Even more I adore the days that He chooses to let me see evidence of His Son in my child's heart.

It was the day before we were leaving and we were all so excited about our trip this past weekend. It was our last 3 hour trek to watch my son in his final swims of his amazing season. He had qualified for the 2015 Pennsylvania State Championship Swim Meet and I was not willing to miss it. (Even though I was fairly convinced that I was getting the flu.)

The seemingly ever-struggling procrastinator in me had once again...won. I still had literally every thing left to do before we could leave. Even though the plan was to leave promptly at 8:00 am the next morning...I could not stand for one more minute. I had cooked dinner for my family, on the verge of getting sick all over it. (Sorry for that mental image.) I had loaded the washer and dryer one last time. I just could. not. stand. Packing was not going to happen that night (as had been previously planned).

The next morning I woke up...no improvement. I pressed on. Showered. Completed barn chores.  Packed clothes, shoes, swim suits, snacks and toiletries for 6. Fed the littles. Loaded in the mini-van...and off we went. Shortly into our twisty turny trip I was struggling. I could not take my eyes off the road for fear of getting sick. I could not even speak. In my silence I kept thinking of all the things I had eaten the day before. (It was not helping.) We finally reached our destination 4. hours. later. and I just wanted needed a bed. And it was there that I stayed for the entire afternoon. And evening. And most of the next day.

Two full beds, one roll-a-way bed, six people...one which now had confirmed having the stomach flu. Before our first night was spent in that hotel...there was a conversation that needed to be had.

What were our sleeping arrangements going to be?

1. My husband had other kids to think of besides just our own. You see, he was one of only two coaches that was allowed on deck for the State meet Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday morning. There were other kids counting on him to be there. He was their last minute support when their parents were not permitted to offer it. He was their reminder to relax and breathe. He was their voice of encouragement. He needed to stay healthy.

2. My oldest son was the reason we were all there. He was the nine year old that earned his way to this State meet. He needed to stay healthy.

3 & 4. My middle son and my youngest son are almost identical when dealing with flu-like symptoms. Sit/stand/lay where you are...and let the vomit fall where they needed to stay healthy.
it may. Seeing as how we were not in our own home, I had a limited number of wardrobe options and absolutely nothing with me to clean such a mess,

5. That left one. My sweet Ariel. I sat her down on the bed next to me. I explained everything that I just wrote above. She understood that sharing a bed with me for the next two nights, significantly increased her chances of getting what I had. She agreed that it was the best decision.

Sacrifice. Whether she or I realized it at that point or not, that is exactly what she did. She was given the option...and she chose what was best for everyone but herself. I was so proud of her. I was shocked by how easy the decision was for her. She did not need me to plead my case to try to convince her. She knew what she needed to do, and she did it with a smile. Jesus was there, and I know He was pleased with her.

Fast forward to Saturday evening. My time of misery was passing...and Ariel's was just beginning. Even through her fever and chills, she slept fairly well. It was now early Sunday morning. It was Aiden's turn to take the pool and our hotel stay was quickly coming to an end. No matter how sick any of us felt...we had no choice but to leave.

We arrived at the natatorium just before 6:30 am. My goal was to find a seat at the top of the lowest section, to assure that it would be easy to rush to the restroom if needed. We were too late. It was not even 7:00 am...and there were soooo many people already planted in their seats for the day. We ended up half way up in the highest section. This is where the lesson was hard to watch.

My baby girl spent her entire morning laying on a cement seat, with a fever. She would sleep. She would wake. She would run down three flights of stairs. She would wait in line...to throw up...in a public restroom. Wash hands. Rehydrate. Repeat.

Not once did she complain. Not once did she seek attention for how awful she felt. Not once did she wish it had been someone else.

All day long I fought back tears that would likely not have been understood by those looking on. A large part of my tears were definitely driven from how awful I felt that I was the clear cause of her misery. But most of all, they were in reaction to what her sacrifice cost her.

When I saw her....I saw Jesus. I know without a doubt that He lives within her, made possible only by His selfless act of sacrifice on the cross. She proudly asked Jesus into her heart to be her Savior at a young age. She knelt on the floor of our dining room, and by the invitation and prayers of her older brother, she made the most important decision she will ever make.

I could have demanded the same scenario. I could have simply told Ariel that it was her comfort and health that I was going to choose to sacrifice. But if I had...I would have missed the blessing. I would have missed the heart of Jesus so evidently portrayed through her act of selflessness. And I would have missed the promise that Romans 8:28 always leaves me wanting.

When I look at my daughter, I can clearly see that God is already instilling in her, the instincts she will need to be a godly wife, mother, friend, servant. Sacrifice is a big part of all relationships. She will sacrifice many times in her life. And even when her sacrifice leads to discomfort and pain...her reward is not here. I would hate for her to settle for earthly compensation. Heaven awaits this little daughter of the King. And her reward...will always, ALWAYS be worth the selfless sacrifice.