Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is a super special month for me.  This month is a month of not only spreading awareness of this tragedy but it’s also an opportunity for us to remind mommies that they are loved and cherished!

Pregnancy and infant loss affects more than just the woman but this loss affects the whole family!  When a woman experiences a pregnancy loss, they don’t lose “just a pregnancy” but they lose a child.  I have personally experienced multiple pregnancy losses and each one has been devastating.  I think about each child at different times and my heart aches for each of them.  My husband and I currently do not have a living child and sometimes that reality breaks my heart.

This type of loss is real.  If you know somebody that has experienced pregnancy or infant loss, please know that they lost their child.  They experienced a death in their family and that type of pain doesn’t go away over night!

Use this month as an opportunity to pray for the women and families in your life who have experienced this type of loss.  Reach out to them and remind them that you love them and that today, you remember their little angel.  When somebody loses a grandma or grandpa, we acknowledge that loss and comfort them.  We should offer that same support for a woman who has lost a pregnancy or a newborn.

I’m thankful for this month and I’m thankful that women are speaking up more when it comes to their broken hearts and are breaking the shame when it comes to pregnancy loss!!  My heart is with all of you women and families who have gone through this! I’m praying for you and I love you! You are more than a mother who lost your baby but you are a mother of courage and love!

National Grief Awareness Day

I’m so thankful Angie Cartwright founded National Grief Awareness Day in 2014.  This day is a day for us to be aware of the grief all around us.  Many are grieving and they go unnoticed.  If somebody passes away, we might hug them and tell them we are here for them but sadly life goes on for everybody.  We all go back to our days of busy work, busy families and events.  There is nothing wrong with that, that’s life.  That’s why I am thankful for a day of awareness for grief.

Be aware of the women and couples who struggle with infertility or have experienced pregnancy loss and long for a baby to fill those empty baby shoes we have stuffed in the back of our closet.

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Remember that we go through an invisible grief that some people just won’t understand. We grieve and we feel a loss that is so unique and so novel.  So, if you have a woman or a couple in your life who struggle from either of these, whether you understand it or not, make sure to reach out to them often and just love them.  Darin and I are so blessed with an amazing support system who does just this and they will never know how much their love means to us.

Today, if you have anybody in your life who is grieving, let today remind you of somebody else’s pain.  Send them encouraging words, a scripture or just simply reach out and say, “I love you.”  We don’t always want to talk about our grief or our pain but we do have those bad days where a sporadic text from a loved one can make a world of difference.

National Grief Awareness Day – It matters.

Bible Break - Genesis 18:1-19:29

Bible Break With Devoted Women

In Genesis 18, the Lord makes a promise to Abraham that he and his wife, Sarah, would have a son and went on to promise that his children would become a great powerful nation and that all nations on earth would be blessed through them (Genesis 18:18).

This same night He told Abraham that He planned to destroy Sodom and Gomorah for their many sins. Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom in order to save Lot’s life. God completely punished the city but rescued Lot by sending two angels to escort him away.

“The consequence of sin is not a bad day or a bad mood but a dead soul. The sign of a dead soul is clear: poisoned lips and cursing mouths, feet that lead to violence and eyes that don’t see God.” Max Lucado

Let this story from our Bible be an encouraging lesson for us to be the light in the dark corner and to be the one who will stand up for righteousness.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Join our Devoted Women Facebook Group and connect with some amazing women of God while you grow deeper into His Word with us!  

He Holds My Head Up High

A few days ago I got my reminder in the mail for my one year mammogram.  I can’t begin to tell you the different emotions that went through me as I read this letter.

August 15, 2016 was a HUGE day for me.  I had been having so many health issues due to an ovarian cyst that ruptured on July 5, 2016.  July 5th started my journey of different doctor’s offices and tests that would bring me to a place of hopelessness and depression.  During those weeks, my doctor found a mass on my left breast.  After this finding, she made an appointment for a sonogram on my breast.  The morning of the sonogram, my husband and I quietly got dressed.  I was filled with so much anxiety and fear.  I felt sick to my stomach and had so many questions going on in my head.  How would this effect our lives?  Would my husband be okay?  How would I tell my mom?  How could we afford cancer?  What would this mean for our dreams, family and finances?  So many different scenarios played on in my mind!  It was such a scary morning.  The drive there was quiet as well as we were both lost in our own thoughts and emotions.  My loving husband held my hand the whole time and kept gently telling me that we would be okay but I could see the fear in his eyes as well.  It was a morning of uncertainty but I knew he was right, we would be okay.  No matter what the outcome, we would be okay.

I remember feeling so much anxiety as we sat in the room waiting for results.  My stomach was in knots and my eyes kept filling with tears holding on for dear life.  My heart ached at the thought of that kind of heart wrenching illness to touch our lives.  When she finally came back to the room, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest.  I couldn’t believe my ears when she said, “We didn’t see anything.  We could see some scarring of where a cyst possibly was but thankfully, you are good!  We just need to keep an eye out from now on and will need to see you yearly.”  What a relief!  I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders and I could breathe again.

I think about that day today and it reminds me of how faithful God is.  Last year was a season of loss, pain, sickness and exhaustion.  August 15, 2016 was the day we started to slowly see things coming back together.  We started to see Him rebuild and restore our hearts and lives.  I felt closer to Him more than ever.  Last year was both the worst and greatest year of my life.  It was filled with valleys and hardships while at the same time filled with His love and glory.  I wouldn’t change any of it for anything!  It was a year of bringing a husband and wife closer than ever and a year that brought us to our knees in both surrender and praise!

Tomorrow I will call to set up my yearly exam and as I do this, I will be reminded of the day that God placed hope back into my life.

“But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3

If you are going through a season of confusion, sadness or heartache please remember that He is with you.  Even if it feels like He isn’t, I promise you that He is!  He has you in the palm of His hand watching over you.  Be patient, hold on, lean into Him and allow Him to lift your head high.

It's All About Love

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear." 1 John 4:18

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the word "love" and the amazing beauty that eliminates from that one little word. 

LOVE.

Love is known to be a human's greatest need.  We all need it.  We all walk this earth with an inborn hunger to be loved and accepted.  We want to feel valued by the people around us.  We want to be valued for who we are and not just the outer appearance but valued for who we are deep down.  We want our path in life to be honored and the struggles that we have walked through in life be noticed and accepted.  None of us want the pressure of having to be perfect.  That type of love is not of God, yet we tend to walk around wanting perfection from the people we "love" the most.  

Perfection is just not a reality.  Sure it would be nice to have the perfect family, the perfect spouse, the perfect friends, the perfect job, the perfect children.....but it just isn't a reality.  If life were perfect then why would we need God?  Why would we need one another?  Imperfections and struggles are the very thing that bring us to our knees in worship and the very thing that humble us.  

God loves us so much that He gives us the freedom of choice.  Love is freedom.  There is no freedom when there are shackles of expectancy around it.  Who wants to be covered with criticism or nagging?  Love is freedom.  Love is peace.  Love is unconditional.  That is the type of love that God bestows upon our lives every single day, so why is it so beneath us as Christ followers to offer that type of love to others as well?  Isn't that what we are called to do?  To love others as He loves us?  

We each have a past and we each have made mistakes in life that we are not proud of.  That is why it is so important to have loving and supportive people in our lives.  We need others in our lives to help us with life's struggles.  To help us if something in our lives need to be corrected.  Love heals, repairs, and supports.  Love does not lecture, nag, or criticise.  Love prays.  Love accepts all.  Acceptance is loving a person for all they are and all they have been through in life, whether it be good or bad.  Love is accepting a person's history and a person's general makeup.  

People all to often are quick to reject another person.  Parents reject their children for not going to the right college or getting the right career or even marrying the "right" person.  Friends reject one another because somebody said the wrong thing or didn't wear the most stylish outfit.  Marriages are ending and families are being torn apart every day because a spouse is rejecting the other because they aren't perfect or because they allow stress to step in and take over.  Relationships end every single day because we simply do not know how to LOVE!  Love should always replace rejection and we should always hold back from being critical towards one another.  

At some point in life we all have a moment where we just need love.  We want somebody to accept us for who we are and all the imperfections we come with.  In order to give this type of love, we must first accept Christ's love for us and be able to love ourselves with this unconditional type of love.  I have learned that love is so precious and so fragile.  It is only from God that we can truly love others the RIGHT way.  The "love" word is thrown around every single day but to truly love somebody we must not only truly be willing to accept other people for who they are but we also must accept His love above all!  If you are reading this today, I pray that you take a moment to close your eyes and just feel His love surround you and know His mercy and love are in your soul!  It is a part of your makeup! 

Be Blessed Today All!!!!!

God Searches For His Sheep

Ezekiel y'all!! I dove into Ezekiel 34 this morning and I'm so thankful that the Lord led me to this wonderful book. One of the things that has grieved my heart the past few months is the world today. And not just the world outside of Christ but the world of Christianity as well. The Bible warns us of the false teachers that surround us and it's been something that has hurt my heart more than words can even describe.

I worked at a church full time and once a week had the amazing honor of being Pastor on call, so I know first hand that there are so many hurting and hungry people out there searching for hope and searching for answers. With such an enormous amount of lost hurting people, I'm realistic and wise enough to know that this means easy prey for lots of predators. The devil knew that this would be the case and while God is raising up legit leaders, the enemy is raising up false teachers.

So as I've studied false teachers and signs to be aware of over the past few months, I have asked God many hard questions. I knew when He was ready and when I was ready to receive the answers, that He would answer. Don't you just LOVE HIS LOVE!? This morning, I received that comfort and peace I had been searching for in my studying of false teachers. Ezekiel 34 happened to me this morning and my heart couldn't be more at peace.

Ezekiel 34 teaches us that there is so much hope for those who have been led astray by false teachers. It reminded me and gave me hope that He has taken care of these details that sometimes get overlooked. Leaders are like shepherds to God and I know that the same God who rescued then is the same God who will rescue now. He sees the shepherds now who are misleading like He saw them in the past. "This is what the Lord God says: I am against the shepherds. I will blame them for what has happened to my sheep and will not let them tend the flock anymore. Then the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, and I will take my flock from their mouths and so they will no longer be their food." Ezekiel 34:10

My questions to God have been questions about the innocent ones. "What about the ones who are hungry and lost but know no better?" He answers that for me in Ezekiel 34:11-12, "This is what the Lord God says: I, myself, will search for my sheep and take care of them. As a shepherd takes care of his scattered flock when it is found, I will take care of my sheep. I will save them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day." Of course He is going to take care of the innocent and of course He is going to hand pick His children from the grips of evil before it's too late. Thank You Jesus for loving your people the way you do! Thank you for giving my heart peace in a world of false teachers preying on lost souls.

As Darin and I continue our journey in a new state, I know that God is protecting us from false teachers. I have been so timid in the new search for a new church that the process has been a slow movement. But that's OK. After reading Ezekiel, I no longer feel rushed to look nor do I feel fear to look. I know He will guide us, protect us and (if needed) rescue us!!!

His Faith In Us

Have you ever battled with your faith? Have you ever had one of those seasons where things just cannot seem to fall into place? You can’t seem to make anybody happy? You can’t seem to get the bills paid on time? You can’t seem to keep from making your significant other upset? You can’t do anything right at work? The list can go on and on of things that can go wrong all at the same time in the same moment. 

Life has taught me that things in life are never consistent. Relationships, finances, work load, and even at times our hope is not consistent. Faith teaches me that the one thing that is consistent is God’s love. His love is everlasting. He is faithful to us even when we are not so faithful to Him. He stands by our side even when we are pushing Him away. He hears our hopes and thoughts even when we are not praying. 

I have had moments in life where I literally felt drained of all hope. I wasn’t even sure if I could put my hands together to pray but then God reaches in and puts my hands together for me. He gets me out of the pits of hell when I’m not sure how I even got there. I have had moments where life overcomes me and overcomes my ability to believe but then there He is to remind me, Believe! 

Faith is sometimes a battle. Sometimes it is so hard to have faith that there really is a better tomorrow. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had the faith in God that He has in us? God’s faith in us is so remarkable. He believes in us more than anybody ever will. He knows we can change lives. He knows we can get that promotion at work. He knows we can get that degree, write that book, or get that job. He knows we can be who we want to be through Him. He doesn’t give up on us. He knows what He created us for and He knows we are capable! 

Sometimes it might seem easier to just give up and stop having faith but doing that will be more painful and a lot harder. God’s love is everlasting and His faith in us is phenomenal. Just remember the next time your faith seems to have disappeared that God’s faith in us isn’t going anywhere. Maybe everybody in the world has given up on you and you have given up on yourself but He hasn’t. 

His love and faith endures forever.

God's Wisdom Supersedes All Human Wisdom

Lately I have really had to put my faith out there. I have had so many ups and downs over the last few months, that emotions have left me at a loss.I have made some pretty drastic moves in life, literally, moves. Darin and I moved cross country from Texas to Washington. We made the leap of faith and obeyed Him. 

In all of life's ups and downs over the last year, I have held strong to His wisdom. I can't see what He can. Only He knows why He has allowed things to happen in life. He is such a great God! I don't always understand the whys or the hows and I don't know why certain things happen but I know He is a God of comfort and peace. 

I have asked myself over the past few days why there is such evil in the world. Why would God allow such evilness but then I remember that we live in Satan's play ground. My heart aches for people hurting in the world. I don't know why things are allowed to happen but I do know that we have to trust Him. We have to take tragedies and allow them to change our hearts. Take the time to cherish our loved ones and for parents to step up and love your children. We have to understand that there is evil in this world and we have choices. 

"A hot furnace tests silver and gold, but the Lord tests hearts." Proverbs 17:3

God was taken out of most of our schools years ago. Why? It amazes me that people do not see how this world is falling into Satan's hands more and more and that if we don't get a grip and allow Him back into our schools, jobs, lives.....then it will only get worse! How can we expect Him to protect us and protect our children if we are not allowing Him to? God is a gentleman and He will not force Himself on us. We must ask Him to come in. 

Trust Him today. Trust Him to guide you, help you with those changes you should make, lead you to where HE wants you to be, trust Him to help you forgive somebody today, trust Him to ask somebody for forgiveness today, or trust Him to just simply be there to comfort you. We can't do these things on our own. It is impossible. I have tried. It doesn't work that way.  We need Him. 

We need to trust Him.

Beauty of a Woman

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, 
The figure she carries, or the way she combs her hair. 
The beauty of a woman must be seen from her eyes, 
Because that is the doorway to her heart, 
The place where love resides. 
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, 
But true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. 
It is the caring that she lovingly gives, 
The passion that she shows. 
The beauty of a woman
With time, only grows..

~ Audrey Hepburn

Ending 2016 and Walking Into A New Season

Where do I begin with 2016......On the outside, I would be justified in saying this was the worst year of my life and in a way, that's very true. However, serving the kind of loving God that I do, He has made it all beautiful and for His glory! I love Him so much! There are so many things about 2016 that were terrible, heart breaking, suffocating.....but I wouldn't change one thing. It was the year of MAJOR growth, spiritual redirection and divine appointments with God. His thumbprint is on every moment of this year! I leave 2016 with complete thanksgiving and gratitude! Thank You Daddy for your amazing love for me! Thank You for your gifts of growth, change, mercy and grace! My love for you grew deeper this year and I pray that it only continues!!!

January 4th, the day that is embedded in my heart. I remember every moment, every word and every emotion of that morning at the doctor's office. The words "you're pregnant but Crystal, it appears that you are miscarrying," ring in my ears to this day, almost a year later. The drive home was so surreal. Darin and I had been on fertility medicine for two months. How could the joy of hearing "you are pregnant" be followed with such tragic and heart wrenching news? I was devastated. I was heart broken. I was confused. I was hurting. "You Are Not Alone" by Kari Jobe came on the radio.....it was like God was reminding me that through the pain, through the confusion....He was with me. I suddenly felt peace in my heartbreak. I knew the days ahead would be hard but I had assurance from the beginning, He was with me every step of the way.

The days following were a blur. I slept a lot. I cried a lot. I was mourning.

I was soon able to write a letter to my baby. This was the first time I started to feel a small step towards healing.

I learned a lot in this grieving season. I learned how to "Just Be".....how to just be in the moment of brokenness without trying to fix it myself. I learned how to just be silent and allow Him to embrace me in my pain. I learned that not having all the answers is "ok" because I serve the one who does! I learned that I don't have to be everything to everybody because I am just me.....and sometimes, I am broken and can't.....and that doesn't make me a bad person. I learned that sometimes saying "no" is loving myself, my marriage and my growth with God. I learned that I just need to be me and who I am in the season I am in and that the people who really belong in my life will be right there with me when all is said and done.....even if it means that I need distance and space for a moment. I learned SO much about the true meaning of relationships; with others, with myself and with God.

March brought some amazing joy!! My mother and step-father FINALLY got married! After years of praying for them to seal their relationship with marriage, they DID IT!!!! It was such a joyful moment in our family!!! A moment that made 2016 beautiful and reminded me that God is faithful!

Through the loss of our first child, Project Purpose was birthed. One of the things I was so saddened by with our loss is that we would never be able to see our child live out his God given purpose. I made a promise to myself that I would give his short life purpose! Project Purpose started out as my cause for the Mrs. Texas pageant but has formed into something amazing! Project Purpose is about helping others walk in purpose by encouraging, inspiring and giving back to the community. On June 9th, I realized that this was more than a cause but it was a mission! 

July 5th, I had an ovarian cyst rupture. That cyst rupture would be the cause to a domino effect of health problems that lasted until mid November. Talk about frustration! The rupture caused my hiatal hernia to inflame, which would then cause my esophagus to inflame, which would then cause a TON of physical pain for months to come. I was in and out of doctor's appointments, tests, ER visits....it was a nightmare. In the midst of trying to find out what was going on with my body, the doctor's found a lump in my breast which turned out to be a cyst, which caused another set of doctor's visits and honestly.....another set of big fears! Thankfully, everything turned out fine. I'm on some meds and getting back on track with life and GREAT health!!!! God is good and even though I was frustrated and in physical pain, I felt God close to me. He was near me, leaning into me more than ever and I Him. Our relationship grew deeper in these moments of sickness.

It was in these months that I dove into scripture like never before and it was in these months that my spiritual life would be redirected. I started to view things so differently. I realized that things I thought were important really were not! I loved working in the church but it wasn't what my heart desired any more, the mission I was working for wasn't what God wanted for me in this season. I realized that spiritually, I was heading in the wrong direction. A direction that God doesn't want for me as a Christian. I idolized too much. I idolized worldly ways to reach out to the lost and expected worldly ideas and creativity to be what captured their hearts. I put God in a box and didn't use scripture and His love be what captured the hearts of those who didn't know Him. I followed the masses of using pop culture, worldly creativity and idols to guide me. I was so wrong. It was in my sickness that I truly found what God wanted for me. As Christians, we should be helping the elderly, loving on the sick, visiting the incarcerated, giving to the orphaned and feeding the homeless. I realized, I had been doing it wrong. My Christianity had been about what something looked like from the outside and not about what God saw in the inside. God changed me even more during these months and it hurt like crazy. It hurt bad because I felt like I had let Him down my years of being a Christian.

It has taken some time to forgive myself but I'm thankful for a God who forgives me because He has taught me in these past few months that He loves me and I am worthy of forgiveness. He has reminded me that it isn't the journey that matters but that I get there. I still have SO much to learn and I realize that in a few more years maybe even weeks or months, there will be another growth spurt and I will realize I had gotten something wrong again but I will embrace that! God WANTS us to seek Him consistently....and even if it takes days, weeks or even years.....He wants us to GET it! So, I will keep seeking Him and leaning into Him!

My last day at the church was December 14th. It was a bitter sweet day but obedience isn't always easy. I was saying goodbye to an amazing church family and a job I loved dearly! My love for God will always be stronger though and I had to be courageous in walking into the next season! God will never ever ask us to let go of something without a reason or without giving us something back! He is a loving God like that! I grew so much and learned so much in the past two years of working at the church. I was surrounded by people who led and taught me. It is the only church I have ever been a member at and I will forever be thankful for the people, learning and growth that took place there.

My husband and I are walking into not just a new year but a new season! We are leaving behind so much heartache and valleys in 2016 but walking into 2017 with so much growth, wisdom and new beginnings! I pray for all of you to look back at this past year and see how God used the good and bad moments for your good. I pray your 2017 is a year that brings joy and happiness and growth! God never promised us this life would be easy but He promised us that He would never leave us! He really does make beauty out of ashes!!! I believe that....I'm living that.