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We can live 3 weeks without food We can live 3 days without water
We can live 3 minutes without air
But I believe we can only truly live seconds without HOPE. This is another truth the last 3 years of walking this hard road through widowhood, singleness and single parenting has taught me!
I am not saying that I have not felt hopeless for longer than seconds because the last three years has proven that one heart can certainly experience every negative emotion, from despair to sheer agony, to loneliness to incredible physical and emotional pain, fear and disappointment you get the picture. Sometimes lasting for days, weeks and months. At times I wondered would I ever have anything to smile over again? Would I emerge this terrible season with any trace of the LOVE, JOY and HOPE that I once had in abundance in my old life?
Yet the past three years every time I think I just can't do this, there is more here than I can bear! I even have pity parties and feel really sorry for myself. BUT then GOD reminds me that there was PURPOSE in my PAIN, loss, loneliness, being single again, being a single Mom etc... Not to say it isn't okay to have a sad day or two. Or even a pity party. I just know it doesn't make me feel any better and I don't want to stay there!
I can't tell you how many people I talk to who share how hopeless they feel on a regular basis. I have encountered many precious people who have so much anxiety and depression. It is not just people who have lost loved ones or who are single people. It is successful people, married people, pretty people, even godly people, it really can and does affect everybody. We are living in a fallen, broken world full of pain and suffering and many of us are grasping for something to find HOPE in.
SO is you are finding yourself in a "hopeless" situation today. Take heart, you're not alone. God hasn't forgotten you. He LOVES you!. He desires to be your HOPE. Here are just a few verses and ideas that have helped me focus on the positive and remember that I am not without HOPE as a child of the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace.
Also I wanted to point out that there is a difference between a wish which leaves the outcome to chance AND Hope which is a strong and confident expectation and dependence on a loving God.
If God truly loves me and His word says that He works ALL things together for MY good and HIS glory (Romans 8:28) then I can trust and have faith that being stuck in the pit of despair isn't it! And believe me being in the pit of despair is truly the PITS!! After the HARD and even excruciating road I have walked I STILL believe that God is worthy to trust and is dependable even on my hardest day, He has a proven tack record of faithfulness in my life! The amount of HOPE I have isn't dependent on my circumstances but on the HOPE I can only find when I walk daily with a loving God and by trusting in His promises even when life doesn't make sense.
My biggest source of encouragement before losing Todd and now more than ever is Gods Holy Word. It is what keeps my heart and mind focused on Him and His eternal perspective. It is truly a lamp to my feet and light to my path!
~Romans 15:13"May the God of HOPE fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust Him, so that you may overflow Hope by the Power of the Holy Spirit!" I literally pray this over and over again. I know that God knows His words and promises but when I pray them back to him and memorize and meditate on them it lines my heart and mind up with His. Oh how my mind can go to the crazy, "what if" places and the dark places in my mind. I bet I'm not alone in this.
~Psalm 33:20, "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and shield." Oh how I cannot imagine if I did not have his help and protection. Sometimes my own thoughts and fears are my biggest enemies. Again I am reminded that God has allowed all this to happen in my life but he never said I had to walk this road alone or without his help and protections. Oh how grateful I am for those truths!!
~Lamentations 3:25, "The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks Him." As I have walked with the Lord and have developed some deep faith roots especially as life's trials have threatened to take me down I have learned that I can run after many things. I can seek happiness in relationships, physical fitness, worldly achievements, financial security etc... but the only times I truly have a HOPE that cannot be taken away is when I am pursuing my Father and His purposes. And I'm not saying that all those things I mentioned or I desire are bad. I just have to make sure to be seeking Him and His will first.
~ Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but when the desire comes it's a tree of life!
Well who wants to wait for something you prayed and hoped for. Certainly NOT me but another thing I have learned is that when I have certain desires that I believe to be from the Lord they are worth waiting for!! God's timing is perfect and why would I settle for anything other than his very best. I know that when the desire is based in His will and His timing it will be a LIFE giving and amazing thing!
So when I find myself today feeling hopeless I am reminded that in Christ I am never without HOPE. I am grateful that this life on earth isn't it but while I am here living amongst the chaos and pain I must choose to have an eternal perspective and ask God to give me His HOPE! Will you do the same?
If you find yourself today without hope will you surrender your hopes, desires to the only one who can truly satisfy and give you eternal Hope??
May the God of HOPE fill you with all Joy and Peace as you Trust Him and LIVE FOR MORE today,
It is hard to believe but August 13th marked the three-year anniversary of Todd's relocation to Heaven. August 21st would have been our 21st wedding anniversary and the kids started school on August 26th. Jackson has begun 5th grade and Bethany the 1st. BOY am I glad August is now behind me. My heart remembers those incredible events in my life as if they were yesterday so needless to say August can be a tough month to say the least!!
SO am I just surviving or am I thriving?? That is a great question...
So was this anniversary different? Did I experience the difficulty I experienced the previous years? Yes and No. It is funny how in loss and grief you never truly know what to expect. You prepare your heart and mind for the worse and often times it isn't as bad as you had thought. I've learned that the anticipation of the event is greater than the event itself. I credit that to a loving God who has brought people and distractions into my life to help me get through those hard days and also the passing of time is helping and God continues to heal my heart more and more every day. For some the three-year mark may be much harder. One thing I know to be true is that we all experience and process loss and grief so differently and your timetable of healing may not be like mine. I have learned to be patient with myself but sometimes wish I'd to never have to feel sadness or pain again. Which as we all know is an unrealistic expectation. I've decided it's okay and I just take it when it comes. It doesn't last as long anymore which I am so thankful for!
ON August 13th I was driving home from a wonderful vacation in North Carolina and it was the last leg of a VERY long drive so I was definitely physically wore out but felt a sense of accomplishment as I had just driven almost 22 hours all by myself, WHOA!! I mean I had my kids in the car and broke my drive into 3 days but still it was a total of 22 hours that me, myself and I drove!! As I drove that day I prayed, praised God for all He had taken me through and given me the past three years. Of course I shed some tears over sweet memories that I couldn't help but remember of my old life, one that now seemed a lifetime ago. I have learned so much in my three years of being a widow, single Mom, single women and now a women who has more than survived.
Life as a single parent has kept me super busy so it has been way too long since I have shared my heart here. So with that said, I thought I would take the next few weeks to share some of the life lessons, truths and things I have learned as I have walked this incredibly DIFFICULT yet AMAZING journey through pain, loss, grief and incredible growth!!
SO thank you in advance for going on this journey with me.
I wasn't sure after losing Todd that I'd make it through the first month let alone the first year and certainly NOT 3 YEARS!! So WHOA, I can't believe it! Praise God! Has it really been THREE YEARS??!!
The first thing that comes to mind that I have learned and experienced is what God's faithfulness truly means and looks like. Before losing Todd I had always said that God was faithful. I felt as though my faith had been tested when walking with Todd through Cancer, losing my sister Carla in 2001, years of infertility and struggling through the adoption journey and planting a church in Austin. All these things tested my faith and caused me to depend deeper on my faithful God. BUT no amount of faith, trust and strength can prepare you for the sudden and tragic death of your husband, father to your children, pastor and spiritual leader. Or could it??
What does to be faithful mean anyway?
The Hebrew root from which the words translated "faithful" and "faithfulness" in the Old Testament are derived means to prop or stay or support.
So with that said...
Would I still see and experience Gods consistent support? Was he still worthy to be trusted?
Would my belief in a loving God still hold true and strong?
Did I truly have an unwavering belief and faith or would this be the straw that broke the camels back and the one thing my faith and Gods support could not carry me through?
Would GOD show up again and see me through my darkest hour, days and months?? After all Todd and I were suppose to grow old together and live out our dream of planting a church and seeing it grow to fruition and raise up Jackson and Bethany together. Right??
Well I can say now without doubt or hesitation YES!! God has been OVER THE TOP...FAITHFUL!!!
My faith in a sovereign God has gone through perhaps the biggest personal test BUT what has been incredible is that in my pain and loss God met me there and has been the one true and constant support!
God has also used so many family and friends old and new to call, text, pray, bring meals, provide finances, give books, send cards, say more and more prayers, visit us, take us on trips, help me organize my house, give hugs, lots of love and on and on!! Not to mention how well my children have adjusted. The teachers, coaches, friends and families who have been given to my kids as an encouragers, cheerleaders, role models and father figures. Those who have watched, encouraged, picked up and just loved me and my kids so well has been a HUGE blessing and one of the big ways God has shown himself so faithful in our lives. So many have truly been the hands and feet of Jesus! I am beyond blessed by the LOVE and support shown. If you have played a part, THANK YOU does not seem enough!! May God BLESS you!
I still am AMAZED and grateful that I have the privilege to be a stay at home Mom. It still is the hardest but most rewarding job I have ever had. Especially as I walk this road alone. I am still writing and speaking BUT my primary job is to love, raise, train and provide a loving, godly home for Jackson and Bethany. Most days I still can't get over that incredible provision and the blessing that is my life!
Psalm 33:4, For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
Deuteronomy 7:9, Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."
Lamentation 3:22-23, Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Hebrews 10:23. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
As you reflect on your life and the valley of death or difficulty you may be walking through right now. May I ask, what are you placing your faith in? Who or what are you trusting? Are they faithful?? If not, will you trust in the ONE who will always prove faithful even in your darkest hour and biggest struggle??
Praying that you and I can continue to Live For More as we trust in a Faithful God,
I was feeling a bit raw and on the verge of tears all day yesterday. It was not a bad day by any stretch. I was out enjoying the gorgeous weather, it was 76 and a perfectly sunny day, I even enjoyed a nice lunch outside which was a real treat. Yet my heart seemed a bit heavy I brushed it off to my hormones and my impending time of the month. I had also not slept well the past several nights so chalked some of the "feelings" up to that as well. However I felt as though I could burst into tears at any moment, I was just feeling so sad. BUT as most evenings around here are, it was filled with the kids activities, homework, dinner, then the bedtime routine. SO even though I felt like the dam of tears was about to break at any moment there just wasn't ever an opportunity to let it go and in my exhaustion at the end of the day I was asleep once I hit the pillow. SO this morning when I woke up I felt okay and did my usual morning routine, time with the Lord (praying and reading) and then I finished up my Refresh talk, got my kids ready for school but realized as I snapped at Bethany my heart was not quite right. As I said goodbye to my kids then closed the door it was as if a Tidal Wave or Tsunami of pain hit me without warning... the dam broke and the tears began to flow and flow and flow. I was sobbing and could not stop! I had not cried like that is a very long time. I know it's only been 30 months ( 2 years and 6 months to be exact) which some days seems like an eternity but today the ache in my heart was so tangible and fresh as if it happened yesterday. What once had been a gaping wound had started to heal. I could even see a scar begin to form but for some reason today it was if it was cut open all over again. What was it that caused such a rush of pain??
Maybe it was that I had the sweetest dream about Todd the other night. We were in college and had broken up but were getting back together. He was so handsome and alive. He loved me and embraced me in a way that seemed so real! I realized that I still miss that so much. I think I always will but for some reason today it seemed especially hard. Walking this life without Todd has proven difficult most days but today feels down right agonizing! I thought I was all healed my scar was even fading but I guess like with any loss it never fully goes away. There will always be memories, things that will cause me to stop and remember. Some things make me smile and even laugh now quite often but as I looked at some old scrapbooks and photo albums from college and our first years of marriage I was reminded of a really sweet and wonderful time in my life. Today those memories made my heart ache for the life and love I had. Oh how I wish I could go back even just for a moment...
Then there is all the evidence of new love around me, whether it is people adding, "in a relationship" or "got engaged" to their statuses. Or those who have found love at last and are finally walking down the aisle. I really am very happy for all of those friends and am excited for their new found happiness. Love can be a beautiful and wonderful thing but for some it is a painful reminder of a huge void of a love that is no more. I felt that big void more so in the first year or so after losing Todd. I even struggled with jealousy over others happiness but lately that all had gotten easier so again today the tears of pain and incredible ache in my heart caught me off guard.
Then there is the whole "going out/dating" with other men which I believe has been a fairly good experience and totally healthy. I don't think God is calling me to be single the rest of my life and it is a desire of my heart to remarry BUT it has stirred up a lot of emotions. I had it so good and sweet with Todd. He knew me so well, loved and cared for me flaws and all. We had survived the awkward first dates, getting to know each other, the growing pains in dating and marriage and accepted each other for who God made us. We made each other better. I know that relationships like that still exist it is just so different and a bit scary 20 years later! Starting over again is just plain hard and the world is a much different place! Not to mention a possible blending of families, making sure spiritual and moral beliefs line up and on and on...I do wish God would just drop the perfect man on my doorstep. He could totally do that I know, lol!
I have gone back and forth today whether to share this here. It was therapeutic just writing it out and the thought had crossed my mind that I could "not" publish it. It is definitely very raw and transparent but I think it's important to share especially for those who are walking this very difficult road called grief. I need you to know that even though the more time passes and the more my heart and your heart heals, there ares still going to be days when a tidal wave of grief may hit. There are things for all of us that are triggers. SO expect it and embrace it. God uses our tears as a way to help cleanse and heal. He also uses our pain and loss to minister and comfort others who are walking the road behind us.
Even though my heart began this day so heavy. With every tear I have shed and with every word said, written, and prayed over me has been like healing salve to my aching heart. So thank you to those who loved me through today with your words and prayers. They mean more than you know! That's another thing. People don't expect you to always have an answer to their pain or hurt. A prayer or just being there to listen, a shoulder to cry on have been some of the biggest blessings for me.
I am going to bed now a little less heavy hearted. Grateful that God once again comforted me with His big unfailing love. I still have much to be grateful for and those are the things I will focus on. I have made it through a difficult day but tomorrow is a new day and I am hopeful it will be brighter!
"Jesus is Better", a worship song that has been my prayer and anthem and I hope it will minister to you too...
In all my sorrows, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
In every victory, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
Than any comfort, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
More than all riches, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
Our souls declaring, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
Our souls eternal, JESUS is BETTER... Make my heart believe!
God help me to believe, JESUS is BETTER so that I can continue to Live For More!
December 31, 2013
It is hard to believe another year of my life has passed I guess it has for all of us… and it has been almost 2 and a half years since Todd, my high school sweetheart and husband of 18 years passed away.
2013 has definitely been a BIG year in my life as I have realized and had complete confirmation that speaking is to be my calling and the ministry I continue as Cassi Wortham, single woman no longer a pastor’s wife, no longer Todd’s wife and his supporting partner.
I have shared God’s word, my story and a variety of other messages inspired by the Lord over 20 times in 2013. I spoke at my first retreat, mission fundraiser and even had the incredible privilege to share with a group of women in a village in Haiti as well as give the Sunday message to the 300-person church also there in Jacmel, Haiti. My Dad says that makes me an international speaker, oh boy!!
One of the most exciting opportunities I was asked to do starting back in October after praying very specifically for God to show me what and where to teach Bible Study. I received a text from Chris Plekenpol the pastor of Wells Branch Community Church asking me to pray about teaching a Bible study for women during the day at the Live For More Center which is in our community and has a lot of really cool programs and other studies being held there throughout the week. As a result of my prayer and that text I felt led to say “yes” and Refresh Women’s Bible Study was born. In just 10 weeks we have grown to a good size and the most exciting part is women who have never been a part of Bible study are coming and growing and hearing the word taught every week. It is interesting that I felt very strongly that I was not supposed to participate in BSF this year but never imagined God doing something as exciting as this!! To God be the glory for all that is happening as a result of Refresh. It has truly been one of the biggest blessing of 2013!
My year of speaking ended with two special events, the first was sharing a message of Hope and Joy to a group of widows in November then sharing with 200 women at a Christmas Event in December. Both were received very well and gave me a special opportunity to share with such a neat group of women. I felt just as comfortable in the large group setting as I did in the more small and intimate setting, another confirmation that this is what God is calling me to do.
I am still praying and have taken a few small steps toward putting together my first book. I continue to feel strongly about starting with a small devotional type but have nothing concrete on that as of yet, I promise I will let you know as soon as I have something more definitive. Please pray for me to have some clarity and direction on that in the coming months.
As you may have noticed my blog is changing and is becoming more of a website, and I must give a BIG shout out to my dear friend Casey Decker for making that lovely transformation!! I am so appreciative that God has surrounded me with so many incredibly gifted friends who share their gifts with me. As the Lord is leading me to speak I needed something more accessible for that type of ministry so the reason for the change. I am praying hat God will open the door that I may be able to speak more in 2014 so that I can provide a good living for me and my kids. My passion has become to Encourage women to Live For More through Faith, Hope and Joy. Please contact me if you are interested in having me come and share with your church or women’s group.
Also, my heart is rounding the corner to the other side of grief. I have just celebrated my third Christmas without Todd and am welcoming this New Year in with prayer for all that God will continue to do in my life and asking Him to continue to use me in a MIGHTY way to bring others closer to Him in 2014. So as many of you have inquired… will I date? Will I consider getting married again? Well… As I have been praying and seeking the Lord on this I do not feel called to singleness and have come to the place where my heart is ready to date and move on.
Bethany recently asked me, “Momma will you get another husband?” I smiled and said, “well…” she said, “you will always be married to Todd he’s just in Heaven.” I think that was her way of giving me her approval to move on. =)
I have also talked to Jackson and he is good with another man in our lives as long as he is nice and likes sports. =) We discussed the criteria I have and the standard I have set and asked the Lord for.
So I have begun dating slowly... I am asking God for a man who is passionate for Christ and His word, a strong spiritual leader and someone who would love and adore me as well as love and adore my kids. SO if you know anyone I am talking applications, ha! Ha!! =)
The bar is set high but I know but God can provide that type of man I really believe. I am going to continue to be faithful in all He is calling me to do and am remembering that He who seeks the Lord lacks no good thing! This is definitely all new for me as it has been 20 years since I have gone out with anyone other than Todd... needless to say I am a bit nervous but excited about the possibilities too.
As God continues to guide and direct my path, I pray that you will join me in Loving the Lord our God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength and LOVE your neighbor as yourself. THANK YOU for walking this journey with me through these past 2 and half years. I pray the God’s very best for you and me this coming year! I truly believe the BEST is yet to come!!
Continuing to Live For More in 2014,
Psalm 71:20; though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again… And boy is He ever!
I think I am a fairly positive, glass is half full person BUT I definitely have my days when life seems to be anything BUT sunshine and rainbows! Several nights ago I had a terrible headache and it was time for dinner. My precious Bethany wanted to do watercolor painting which seems to be her thing these days. It was almost time to eat and I really wanted to get the table cleared for dinner BUT my sweet 5-year-old wanted to paint. SO instead of responding in love to her request to make me another rainbow picture, I think I already have 86. I snapped at her. I told her, "I didn't want her to make a mess and I already had more rainbow pictures than I could possibly put up."
As I looked at her she began to wilt. My words had hurt her feelings, she almost started to cry. I took a deep breath and thought, "Bethany just wanted to make me another rainbow picture, is that really a BIG deal?!" I walked away and had a few words with God. I asked Him to help me respond in love even when my head was killing me and I was tired. He did and is always so good to help in a moments notice, I then got a much-needed attitude adjustment. Bethany sat down and began painting and singing, all seemed good in her world again.
Our kids are so resilient and forgiving aren't they? I felt like such a terrible, unloving Mom! I wanted to cry at how I crushed her spirit, how I let my headache and uncontrolled emotions get the best of me. I was reminded by Bethany that just as she loves me with a very pure and unconditional love, my Heavenly Father loves me that way BUT so MUCH MORE!!
We all have days that are not sunshine and rainbows, life can be so hard BUT that doesn't mean we let those days get the best of us. I mean there is nothing wrong with being upset or needing to cry, get angry and vent BUT take that to God. Take it to a trusted friend, a mentor don't take it out on your kids. I think we all have done it from time to time. I have to ask my kids for forgiveness often. The beautiful thing is that they area always so quick to forgive. Most of the time they have forgotten about it almost immediately.
I LOVE that Bethany loves rainbows. She knows the story of Noah and the flood, she looks at life as if it is all sunshine and rainbows. I often look at life through the lens of my pain and suffering or what is missing. Yet I have faith that is deep-rooted in the promises of God, so shouldn't I look at life differently? God gave Noah a rainbow as a sign of His promise that He would never flood the earth again in Genesis 7-9. I like Noah can be reminded that there are many rainbows in my life and am asking God to help me change how I see things so that I can focus more on the rainbows instead of the storms. Although I know God uses both.
God has given me the great privilege to share my heart and His word on Thursdays to a special group of women at Refresh Bible Study. What a sweet blessing and is definitely a BIG ray of sunshine in my life!
What promises can you remember today? Ask God to remind you of the rainbows in your life. I bet there are more than you realize.
If you are struggling today, my prayer is that you will be reminded that God has a plan through this season and in this storm. And like after many a storm there will come some sunshine and maybe even a rainbow!
Praising God for what began as a tough week but has ended with sunshine, rainbows and reminders of His great promises!
Because of His promises... I can Live For More,
For some reason today was a sad day for me not sure why exactly I guess just one of those days. So after a good cry I decided instead of sitting in my pity and sadness that I would write and here's what came out.
- I am thankful for God's constant love and presence in my life, without it I would not be able to make it!
- I am thankful for God's word, it is new every morning and helps keep me on the straight and right path. It fills my spiritual cup! Last week I began waking at 5:30 am to spend an hour in my Bible and to pray before my kids wake up. It has been an act of obedience but a sacrifice too as I LOVE to sleep in!!!
- I am thankful for Jesus who died on the cross for my sins, so I can live a life that pleases Him. I fail often but by His grace I am still righteous and keep going!
- I am thankful for my health. I am reminded daily by many who I love whose bodies are cancer ridden or have other illness with bodies that are failing them.
- I am thankful for my church, Wells Branch Community Church. I took a year away to heal my heart but came back to open arms and hearts and have never felt more at home. They are truly a people who are LIVING FOR MORE!
- I am thankful for my family who love me unconditionally! For my children who give me so many reasons to keep going and smiling as I do it!
- I am thankful for my home, it is a bit big for just three of us but I continue to have the opportunity to use it as a place for ministry and is one of the biggest reasons I have stayed.
- I am thankful for financial provision so that I have the great privilege to be a stay at home Mom, God has provided for all our needs above and beyond!
- I am thankful to get to volunteer at the school and love on the precious kiddos there.
- I am thankful for dear friends old and new who continue to walk life out with me, pray for me and just simply love me.
- I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had to share my story, it is a calling and I do not take it lightly.
- I am thankful that I get the incredible privilege to teach God's word to women in my community at Refresh Women's Bible Study, which began just three weeks ago. I am thankful for each heart that is present and is learning to love God more.
- I am thankful for answered prayer. I marvel sometimes at just how God answers my prayers.
- I am thankful for really small things like a great gym with amazing classes that motivate and encourage me to take care of my physical body.
- I am thankful to live on a street with such great neighbors who have great kids that my kids have the opportunity to be outside playing with.
- I am thankful for the forgiveness of my loving Father who even though I mess up again and again He always forgives me, always!!
- I am thankful for second chances.
- I am thankful that I have suffered and will continue.
- I am thankful that when I am weak Jesus is strong.
- I am thankful for new beginnings
- I am thankful for the what is yet to come...
It has been 26 months since Todd was called home. My life looks noticeabley different. I have to be honest I still miss a lot of my "old life", some things are still hard, maybe they always will be. YET I am super excited about the things God is doing in my "new life."
If you are like me finding yourself in a sad, lonely or hard place today. Will you write a list of thanks? It really does help shift your focus. I can dwell on what I don't have or what I have lost or I can choose to dwell on all that I have to be thankful for! I was reminded of so many things I am thankful for as I wrote my list, too many too mention here.
What will you choose to focus on this month of Thanksgiving? I am challenging myself to be grateful for one new thing everyday but to not stop after the month is over. I hope you will join me! I have so much to be thankful for and when I focus on those things I can Live For More!
Thank you for reading and for giving me another reason to be thankful,
Isn't that a question we often ask our selves? It is one I know I have thought and often asked myself. Over 300 churches in Austin are participating in the Explore God campaign. You can visit www.exploregod.com to find out more. Anyway, we are asking some great question each week then the pastors of all the participating churches are unpacking the question.
So far we have addressed:
1. Does life have a purpose?
2. Is there really a God?
3. Why does God allow pain and suffering?
So this past Sunday Chris Plekenpol the pastor of my church, Wells Branch Community Church asked me to share my pain resume as part of the message, "why does God allow pain and suffering?"
My Pain Resume
-Parents Divorced at age 10
-Future husband cancer at age 18
-Infertility for 8 years (25-33)
-Sister died at age 31
-Failed adoption at age 37
-Fight for adoption of Bethany at 38
-Planted WBCC at 38
-Husband died at 41
Although my pain resume reflects much pain and suffering I can still sit here and say, God is good, He is faithful, He is a God who has purpose in my pain. Chris nailed in on the head when he said, "Suffering provides a platform for Gods glory to be displayed."
When Todd passed away one of his dear friends who spoke at the funeral looked at me and said, "Cassi you will have a platform as a result of this." I had no idea what he was talking about.
SO fast forward 23 months later and I think I am beginning to understand what he was talking about. God is using my story my "pain resume" as a platform for His glory to be displayed. WHOA! Speaking, writing and not to mention the day-to-day personal interactions and relationships have been a HUGE part of my platform and as I have shared my life and story. I have heard from so many who have been touched and the cool thing is, it has helped my healing process also. I am not wasting the pain... God has turned my pain into my passion.
As I was preparing to share this past Sunday and thought about all I have walked through I could look at back at each pain or struggle in my life and remember how the Lord had used that pain and suffering.
Some of which I was able to share last Sunday which you can listen to at this link: http://wellsbranchchurch.com/sermon-audio/
(click on "Why does God allow pain and suffering?")
I did not have much time to share so I wanted to give a few more verses and nuggets of truth here. I hope you will take time to listen as it was one of the best messages on pain and suffering I have heard. Chris nailed it at the end so be sure and listen all the way through.
-Parents Divorced at age 10
God called me to himself when I was 10 and I asked Jesus to come into my heart and life after my parents divorced, which was the BEST decision I would ever make! (John 3:16) Plus my family size grew which is more people to love and have family drama with, ha!!
-Future husband cancer at age 18
My dependence on Christ became stronger as I learned how to walk the hard road of cancer with Todd and learned how to love someone who has an illness you cannot make better but can only pray and be there physically and emotionally for support. I know prayer is a HUGE part of healing and walking with God but remember I was only 18 and still growing my faith roots at this point, boy did this one test just what I put my faith in... BIG TIME!! Todd was only given a 35% chance to survive!!!
-Infertility for 8 years (25-33)
This one lasted the longest and definitely was one of the most challenging. We had dated for 6 years then were married for a while and were working with kids as God has called us into student ministries. Everyone in our lives were having children many even their second and third ones. People stopped asking us about having kids. We loved them and desperately wanted kids of our own BUT Gods timing was not our timing. One BIG thing God taught me during that time was Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Our plan was to have children two years or so after we were married but as the Lord would purpose it, Jackson Todd came into the world 6 weeks shy of our 10 year wedding anniversary!! BUT he was totally worth the wait. =)
-Sister died at age 31
Carla's passing was the first time I had lost anyone really close to me and although I always felt that since she had a chronic illness and had spent most of her life sick she was not going to outlive me. However the finality of her death and no more visits with her or phone calls to talk about our crazy family or just her HUGE love and support really rocked my world! I found myself crying and crying and missing and missing her more than I thought I would. After all she had really suffered in this life and now was in Heaven with a glorified body and was feeling no pain but my heart ached and longed to see and be with my sister again. God gave us such a special and very close relationship one that was hard to get over. I realized one day months after Carla's passing that I was missing Gods peace. While praying and crying out to God I looked in my Bible and found, Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." My heart was not focusing on God but on my pain and loss. Pain and suffering can sometimes skew our perspective of God and who He is. I had to readjust my thinking and with time began to experience Gods peace again This was a lesson I had learned from my previous pain and suffering... I just needed a gentle reminder.
-Failed adoption at age 37
This was one of our worst fears come true, we had agreed to parent a baby that a young women in our church was placing for adoption. The church had even had a big shower for us and our nursery was all ready, our hearts and home were ready to welcome our baby boy, Travis Isaiah. Then a week before he was to be born the birth mother changed her mind. Even though we had not laid eyes on him we had already made plans in our hearts and life for what our lives would be like with our new son and so it was like a death. We had to grieve another loss. I remember sitting in BSF shortly after and the teaching leader saying, "Often times God uses difficult circumstances to accomplish His will but it is on the other side of that difficult circumstance we see the goodness and His glory." At the moment of hearing that I was not on the other side but I knew God was going to use it and boy did He! 6 months later we got a phone call on a Tuesday about a baby girl who had been born and needed a family to adopt her she was just waiting at the hospital so we left the next day, Wednesday and met her on Thursday and brought her home on a Friday! Talk about wild and crazy and God doing more than would had ever asked or imagined!!
-Fight for adoption of Bethany at 38
After the 6 month waiting period and one week before our final court date to make our daughter a Wortham forever I got a call from our attorney saying the birth father had surfaced. So after another 4 and half months of me worrying but ultimately trusting God. Todd and I placed our baby Bethany on the altar and like Abraham when he lay Isaac and trusted what God was asking Him to do we to trusted and asked God to provide a ram. We believed in our heart that God had given us this miracle baby and it was not a mistake. We also claimed James 1:2-4.
-Planted WBCC at 38
Church planting is a whole BIG scary leap of faith as you trust God when you feel that He has clearly called you to something so much bigger than yourself but at every turn you are facing some sort of opposition! People think you are crazy as you are trying to be intentional in relationships but they feel like you are asking them to join your cult. Especially in Austin where 85% of the people here are unchurched. Todd was just a little too friendly for some folks. God gave Todd the spiritual battle cry of "Live For More" than this world has to offer during the initial church planting stages and also, "In the community for the community" which was our way of loving on people and serving people in our community with the life changing reality of Jesus Christ. The church still lives by both of these today.
-Husband died at 41
So as I have walked this road of widowhood a little over 2 years now and am rounding the corner to the other side of grief. I can say that this by far has been my life's greatest pain and suffering. It has trumped anything else I have walked through. All the other pain and suffering I had the Lord of course but I also had Todd (all but my parent's divorce) to walk through it with me as well. His incredibly loving presence with his great BIG hugs, or when he would prayer with me, cry with me, make me laugh and so on! Boy how I still miss all of that!! There have been many verses and nuggets of truth I have learned from walking this road. I will share a few and the others will most definitely be in my books, I promise. There are just far too many to list here and besides that I know you are ready to listen to that message. ;)
Initially I could not help but think of Proverbs 3:5&6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Here was the time in my life where the world was watching to see if I really believed what I shared in all those Bible studies and claimed to believe. I did not understand God's ways in Todd's sudden death but I chose to TRUST nonetheless and chose also to NOT lean on my own understanding because it fails me every time!
I LOVE, LOVE Isaiah 41:10,
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. And can I just say after you husband dies you are not sure you will breathe again let alone stand on your own two feet!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you...
As I said earlier this is only a sampling of a few favorite verses and if you are new to my blog I have shared many other verses that hit me or God used at specific times in my life in other posts. I would love for you to take a read and experience a part of my story. I had an amazing life with an amazing man but I have not always lived a charmed life and I do believe the BEST is yet to come. What about you??
We all have a pain resume.... How will you use your pain resume as a platform to glorify God?
I don't want to waste the pain so even though it's not easy, I choose to Live For More,
Friday September 13th marked the 4 year anniversary of Wells Branch Community Church. For those of you to new to my blog or story. Wells Branch Community Church is the church that my husband Todd and I along with 28 other charter members began on September 13, 2009 in the North Austin suburb of Wells Branch. It was many years in the making and was a dream come true for Todd and myself. It was our greatest privilege to get to live life with our friends and neighbors in Wells Branch. God truly was changing our community as we shared the life changing reality of Jesus by loving and serving our community.
SO when God called Todd home on August 13, 2011 just one month short of the churches two-year anniversary the church and so many were left wondering what would happen to this young church?? How would it survive? Well God had a great plan for WBCC and loved and cared for those people so well especially right after Todd's passing. Our two elders stepped in and took charge along with the church that directly planted us. Then as God planned, the church hired a dynamic leader, Chris Plekenpol to take over as lead pastor. It had been 6 months since Todd's passing. Chris had his work cut out for him. Not only had he not pastored a church before but he was a newly wed. I believed he was the man for the job but I knew God was going to have to do some pretty BIG things to make this work! I always believed in Gods plans and provision but I also had to grieve the death of Todd and I's dream to see this church grow to fruition a pastor and his wife. God kept me at the church for a year after Todd passed then I felt it was time to see what else might be out there for me. What did God have in store for the single Cassi who was no longer as pastors wife? I gracefully bowed out of all church responsibilities and just sat under good teaching for almost a year at another church. Then by Gods gently leading and lots of prayers and even some resistance by me I felt prompted to return to Wells Branch Community Church. I wasn't sure how my heart would handle being back but I trusted that if God wanted me back He would work through my discomfort and reservations AND oh boy did He ever!! I have been back for several Sundays now and all the things that made my heart sad or uneasy have completely left! I feel so at home and was received with very loving and open arms!!
Oh and the church is doing AWESOME and has grown to almost 300 people, with two services... which is incredible! GO God and a BIG THANK YOU to all those who serve and are giving their lives to something so much bigger than themselves!! To GOD be the GLORY!!!
So as I sit here 2 years and a month after Todd's passing I can tell you that even though my heart bears the scars of being ripped to shreds by grief and pain over losing Todd. I have turned a corner and feel a new sense of peace, hope and there is a new song of JOY in my heart! When I read Psalm 126:5, "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy!" I can for the first time say that I have felt like all the tears that poured out over my grief and pain, the ones I thought may never stop have now turned to songs of joy! My heart will always love and miss Todd and never forget the incredible life we lived BUT I can finally say, It is well with my soul!
There is a famous hymn titled, "It is well with my soul" that I have always loved and then when I heard the story of the man who wrote I loved it even more. Horatio G. Spafford wrote this famous hymn in 1873 after losing his four children in a ship accident, but that was only a piece of his story. You can google and read about all the pain and tragedy God allowed him to walk through yet He still trusted and found JOY even is a life marked with much pain and suffering! This is a good read especially if you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself, I have those days.
I had been unable to sing this song fully since Todd's passing even though it is one of my favorite hymns. Not that I did not trust Gods hand in allowing Todd's death, I truly believe it was part of his plan , that He is sovereign in my life and that there is purpose in it but it was just hard nonetheless to sing those words, mainly the refrain or in todays language the chorus. =) Then a week ago I was speaking at retreat and the worship team played it AND for the first time since Todd's passing I felt a connection between my heart and mind and I could sing with feeling and meaning, "Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my soul."
Thank you Father for being patient with me and for being so faithful. Also for allowing me to come back home to the church we started 4 years ago! May I continue to be one that no matter what my life circumstances say, "It is well with my soul!"
I pray whatever your life circumstances has you walking through. You too can say, "It is well with my soul."
Living For More,
It is well with my soul...
1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Refrain: It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul. 2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul. (Refrain) 3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Refrain) 4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul. (Refrain)
So with the beginning of the school year my life for the first time in 10 years finds me without a child at home! Can anyone else relate?? Did you send your baby off to Kindergarten this year? I know I am not alone and yet I did have a moment of oh my goodness what am I going to do with all this peace and quiet and TIME!!? It is funny how when your house is full of children, laughter, their messes and then possibly whining and fighting you just cannot wait until school starts then when it does you immediately miss them and cannot wait to hug and squeeze them once their school day is over! So as many of you have gotten to know me you know I am learning to live in the moment. I am embracing this new stage of life! I am still beyond blessed even though I do not have a husband bringing in income to have the privilege to stay at home. I consider it one of the BIGGEST ways God has loved on me and blessed me as He has provided income so I do not have to go back to work, just yet! =) SO as I embrace this time to write, read, volunteer at the school, be more involved in church ministry and prepare for my future speaking! AND that is all before 2:45 because it is then that I pick up kids, then we go to dance or swim, work on homework, eat dinner and be together after our full days! I think I am really going to enjoy my new season. I was at the gym on Tuesday sitting in the cafe reading a great book and watched several groups of Moms with toddlers walk in a realized in the blink of an eye a decade had passed and Jackson is a 4th grader and Bethany is in Kinder. No more babies at home, WHOA!! Did I think I'd ever be in this place sitting leisurely without time constraints enjoying my book. When I was wiping hinnies, noses and making lunches and keeping nap schedules did I ever think I would not be doing that?? NOT really. Well Moms, the time has come and now my daytime is very quiet and I could get sad about it but I am choosing to live in the moment and make the most of those 8 hours! If you are a SAHM enjoy the time with your kids because it will not last forever and before you know it will be gone!!
I also wanted to share that as I prepared for the first day of school I was a little nervous as I knew I would be emotional about Bethany starting Kinder and without Todd's very encouraging spirit here to make me feel at ease I was honestly dreading it a bit. BUT God in his goodness gave both my kids amazing teachers. They were so excited for the first day and because our school had a new check in policy I wasn't able to take Bethany in and that actually worked to my advantage emotionally, Yay!!
As we are in our third week of school, my kids are still LOVING it although they both LOVE sleeping in and would be happy with a later start time, me too come to think of it!! BUT in spite of our early morning wake up call my kids still wake up joyful and ready for their days at school. My BIG prayer for them this year is that they would fall more in LOVE with God, His Word and that they would LOVE people and be a light in their school!
As my kids grow and my life enters a new stage, I am still Living For More!
August 21, 2013 Today marks what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. I remember my wedding day like it was yesterday, I was so excited but very nervous as I was finally marrying the man I had dated and dreamed of marrying for 6 and half years!!! We began dating the end of my junior year of high school and the end of his senior year. We were a match made in Heaven and even though we were complete opposites we had grown into a couple who complemented one another very well. Even though our dating relationship had been less that perfect with our fair share of ups and downs we had committed our hearts and lives to the Lord, we had completed a quite extensive premarital counseling and felt ready to embark on the rest of our life committment as we entered into the covenant of marriage. We got married in front of God and 350 of our family and friends on what was the hottest day of that summer! Todd's uncle officiated the wedding as he is a Methodist Minister which made it extra special! We had an appetizer reception in the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Texas. We even had an Elvis impersonator perform at the reception as Todd was a HUGE Elvis fan!! Oh boy do I have stories to tell of our Elvis adventures, more on that later. =) As we left the church Todd was dressed in an Elvis jumpsuit he had been given by his groomsmen and I was wearing a 60's style dress with my hair in an up do so everyone commented that we looked like Elvis and Priscilla. We headed to Maui for our honey moon and thus began what I though would be our Happily Ever After...
August 13, 2011
I remember that day as if it happened yesterday as well. This day was a day full of excitement as we had driven 9 hours the days before with a team of about 15 from our newly planted church in Austin to Joplin, MO to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we were there to help in the relief effort as they had experienced one of the worst and most devastating tornadoes in US history just 3 months earlier. We had two teams working and the team Todd and I were one had the job of clearing the rubble and remaining debris from a house so that the foundation was clean and ready to begin the rebuilding process. All seem good until Todd began feeling bad. To the point he stopped working several times, sweating profusely and then in an instant was on his knees to weak to stand. When I asked him if I should call 911 he said, "yes" and it was then I knew something was terribly wrong. The next minutes and hours became a complete blur as Todd was taken to the hospital where Dave one of the men on our team and I followed behind and within minutes was told Todd's heart had stopped and they were not having any success getting it started. How could this be happening I remember thinking?? He was fine just a minute ago??
It was at that point I think I was going into shock but everything in me said, I need to see him. I said to the doctor, "I am not sure if you are a man a faith but I am a women of faith and I want to pray over my husband." He said, "okay and we haven't given up but I just wanted to let you know it's not looking good."
So as we walked into the room and I saw Todd laying on the table with tubes coming out of everywhere. There were about 8 or more people in the room, one person after another doing chest compressions on him and my once, strong and very larger than life husband was laying there pale and lifeless. I threw myself over his body and began to pray and cry out to God to start his heart again! "Oh God your created his heart and I believe you can start it back again. I NEED him, his kids NEED him, his church NEEDS him!! Oh GOD PLEASE I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT HIM!!!! In that moment I had GREAT FAITH that God could heal Todd and make his heart start BUT God said no. God chose to take Todd home to Heaven that day leaving me and so many of his family, friends, church family and thousand of others wondering what God was up to. He passed away just 8 days before our 18 year wedding anniversary.
August 13, 2013
As much as my heart wanted life to stop on August 13, 2011 my mind, trust and faith in Gods plan for my life and all those whose knew Todd did not let me throw in the towel. My kids are one of the biggest reasons I have kept going and the countless prayers, texts, messages and love from so many friends and family are a HUGE reason I keep going as well! Life has moved on as much as I really, really did not want it to many days. Oh how I LOVED my old life BUT now I am adjusting more to my new life. It is good and full of new JOY, PEACE, LOVE and HOPE for the future!
Psalm 91:1&2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."
Proverbs 3:5&6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight!"
So instead of having a day of sadness on August 13th we chose to celebrate a life well lived!! I learned so many things from my amazing husband and one of those things was his love for life and family! He always made sure we celebrated all the good things in our lives and if he could make a reason to celebrate we would! So I decided to take my family to one of Todd's favorite places... S. Padre Island! We headed out with our camper , this was only our second trip since purchasing the camper one month ago =) We spent Todd's homecoming at the BEACH!! The ocean, sand and sun have always made me and my kids happy, and my mother in love joined us as well! Her birthday was August 14th and I wanted her to have a special day and she also loves the beach!! When we arrived my mind was flooded by so many sweet memories of this place with Todd. The last trip we had taken was 3 years earlier where we had actually borrowed my Dad's pop up camper and stayed in the same park that we did this time. My kids had a blast, we enjoyed every bit of our time in SPI. We remembered many old memories and created many new ones! I praise God for allowing us to have such a special and sweet time on a week that could have been much different!
So we have now officially made it two years without my husband, soul mate, spiritual leader and my kids have adjusted well to life without their Daddy. We are making it by Gods grace and with His strength, love and support and with the prayers and love of so many of you! For which I am eternally grateful!
I realize on this day, what would have been our 20th anniversary. That this life no matter how hard I try to plan and create a fairly tale world. God is ultimately in control. Psalm 139:16b, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevail."
I learned a long time ago that my best laid plans pale in comparison to the incredible things God has in store for me. I do believe I will see the goodness in the Lord in the land of the living. My life today is not as good as it gets! I am choosing today to trust in Gods ultimate best purpose for me and know that my Happily Ever After is coming, just not in this life!
Happy anniversary Babe, I will love you always!!
Because of Gods GREAT LOVE and Purpose, I can still Live For More,
I had the opportunity to speak twice with my Haitian friends on my most recent trip to Jacmel, Haiti. The first time was Friday night, which I shared about in an earlier post and the second time was Sunday morning. I had offered to speak to the women since that is definitely my calling and comfort zone and I thought sharing with the women would be a real treat. BUT then they said, they wanted me to preach a message on Sunday morning to the whole church! OH MY, I am a speaker to women not men, I thought to myself and I am really not a preacher. After realizing that if God had brought me here He would equip me with what to share and He would speak through me. SO I prayed and felt like I needed to share a message on LOVE.
One of my favorite parts of attending church in another country is the worship! Worship has always been one of my favorite parts of my Sunday morning church experience so when I am privileged to be in another country there is something so incredible about hearing it in another language and this case the Haitians praise God in French Creole. I love that even though we speak a different language we are singing and worshiping the same God! The Haitians have learned several songs in English as to include us Americans when we are there in worship with them. So as we sang "How Great is our God" in English I felt at home and then they went into the bridge where they sang, "How Great Thou Art" in French Creole. That was Todd's favorite song, even though I do not know much French Creole I could recognize THAT song in any language!! The tears began to flow pretty good then as I remembered my two past visits and worshipping along side my husbands booming voice and presence. It was such an incredibly bittersweet moment!
It was time for me to share and I decided to start my time by showing the following video which if you have followed my blog closely you have probably already watched it BUT for those of you who haven't here it is again: http://vimeo.com/27926061 (it is a 9 minute video overview of highlights from Todd's life with many picture and even a small video clip from Todd's last trip to Haiti)
After the video was done I stood before the 300 or so in attendance and said, "I had the privilege of being married to that great man for 18 years! We came to Haiti twice together before and now I am here without him. I proceeded to share the story of how he passed away. I then shared that Todd loved Jesus, Todd loved people, Todd loved Haiti and Todd LOVED them!! But why did Todd love with such a GREAT BIG LOVE? Because GOD FIRST LOVED HIM!
I went on to share several passages about love; 1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us.." I believe Todd really understood just how much God loved him and loved people out of that great overflow!
I continued on with, Matthew 22:34-40,34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I shared how God commanded us to love Him and love our neighbors. Who is our neighbor? I believe it is anyone who crosses your path. Todd embodied loving the LORD and loving others better than anyone I knew. He modeled what that looked like to the world. Many were watching... I was watching!! I paid attention and I realize as much as it would have been easy to checkout of life after losing Todd I realized that I had to continue to spread Gods love. I realize there are many unlovable people in our lives. I at times am unlovable but what I love so much about God is that no matter how I act toward Him and whether I chose to love Him, He loves me still!! He loved me so much that He showed the greatest act of love in allowing His one and only son to die on a cross for me! I have a son, I don't know if I would give him up for a unbelieving, unloving world. BUT HE DID!! Now that is some pretty incredible unconditional LOVE! I don't deserve His love yet He loves me anyway! He LOVES you too!!
I shared just one more scripture that morning John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, s0
you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As I continued to share with the Haitians I told a story from after Todd's passing. I was speaking with a board member from our community and she said, "the thing I loved about Todd is that he didn't tell you how to live, he showed you how to live."
Todd loved Jesus and because He understood how much he was loved, he in turn demonstrated that GREAT LOVE, BIG time!!! EVEN to those the world would say were unlovable! He also understood that people would know His Jesus and that he was a disciple by how he loved!!
God uses us to love on the other to CHANGE the world!! Todd said that time and time again!!
I told those sweet brothers and sister in Haiti that I came back to Haiti because I loved them and that God loved them!! I challenged them to LOVE God and LOVE others BIG!!
I then sat down and the pastor stood up and said, "We no longer have Todd but we still have Cassi." I began to cry! Oh have I have such mixed emotions over that!! I paused and thanked God for that opportunity... through my tears.
Some of you reading this have never met Todd and I recently had a friend say, "I don't know much about how Todd died but I do know much about HOW he lived!"
Todd's death has made me think a lot about how well I am living this life God has given me and what people will remember when I die. I want to be remembered as someone who LOVED BIG!!
Is your life marked with BIG LOVE, unselfish acts that display BIG LOVE? BIG LOVE can take on many forms. A hug, a phone call, a card of encouragement, a meal to a neighbor, serving and loving the poor, watching a friends children, loving those who have wronged you and the list could go on and on... Do people see a LOVING God at the center of your life? I pray that FIRST you know and have experienced the BIG LOVE of God the Father THROUGH his son Jesus Christ and if you have that you are busy showing that BIG LOVE to everyone around you!!
I Live For More and LOVE BIG because HE FIRST LOVED ME!
PS. I received confirmation that I had shared the right message when I attended church the following Sunday in Austin and the pastor shared, Mark 12:28-34 (below) needless to say I hear Gods message loud and clear and with His help I will live it! =)
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
I did not expect to be so overcome with such intense emotion while in Haiti like I had experienced before. I did not think that my heart could break all over again as I took in the poor condition of this Caribbean country that I previously visited not once but twice before. As I helped in the feeding program I observed the children sitting patiently for their bowl of rice and beans. For some of these children, many of them, this would be their only meal that day. I could not help but think of my own children and so many children born in the USA who have an abundance of food. My kids are so impatient at times waiting for their next meal! My heart could not help but wonder and even think, "If God loves us all the same, why are these precious ones born into poverty in Haiti while me and my children are privileged to live in plenty in the USA??" I do not think there is anything wrong with asking why? I however chose not to dwell on the why but instead ask, how and what? How can I help with the knowledge I now possess and the resources I have. How can I help these precious ones? What is God asking me to do with the knowledge I have of these conditions?? After all if I was in the place of asking why? I would then ask God, "Why do some people get to grow old with their husbands and then some like me and many others have their husbands die an early death cutting that time short?" "Why do sweet young children get cancer, why do wildfires have to happen taking the lives of 19 men fighting to save lives?" The list could go on and on... I read a quote that has stuck with me written by Martin Luther, "Obedience is the fruit of faith. A true believer will put to death or crucify the question, "why" yet simply obey." There are just some things I will never understand yet I know that God is wholly good and wholly sovereign and I chose to completely trust and obey Him and His word. Some people may think that is silly or may not understand that concept but it has served me well and besides that dwelling on the why does not solve the poverty problem in Haiti, bring my husband back or cure cancer!
As I spent 5 days in Haiti each day God showed me ways that since my last visit 3 years earlier life and the conditions in Jacmel had improved. Since our trip in June 2010 approximately 300 more children had been sponsored through Restore Haiti's feeding program and are now being feed 5 days a week in the feeding program and are in school. Several wells have been dug and are working to provide clean water for the village residents. A medical clinic has been established in the village as well and serves as a place where the people can get basic medical treatment. I was able to visit several houses which had been built with the help of Restore Haiti. SO I can see that many others have caught the vision of Restore Haiti and are doing their part to help this poor country.
As I was there I kept feeling like I just wanted to grab up as many kids as my arms would hold and take them back to Austin with me to care for and give them a better life, I want to heal this beautiful country and I want to see it look different. I was then reminded that God loves Haiti and he brought me there 7 years ago for the first time to make me aware that they need help. They need Gods love and grace first and foremost but in order to receive that intangible gift they need to see the tangible action behind it which means helping provide food, shelter and schooling for their children. God is transforming Jacmel, Haiti one life at a time with the help of hundreds of people who have committed their resources to help the least of these. The kids and I are doing our part by sponsoring a child every month in Jacmel and you can too. Will you pray about how you might help Haiti? You can check out more information on the Restore Haiti website at www.restorehaiti.com, I promise if you invest into the lives and hearts of these precious people you will forever be changed, for the better!
Beyond grateful for the privilege I have but never forgetting how I am changed because I choose to Live For More by LOVING Haiti!
Thanks for reading,