What we anchor ourselves to will ultimately determine how we respond to a crisis. So often we lose ourselves when we lose jobs, possessions or loved ones When our values is based on how others value us, then we feel like our worthiness is depreciated when others abandon or mistreat us. When we base our identity in our work, then our identity is stripped away when we lose a job or get passed up for a promotion. When we base our permanent beliefs about ourselves on temporary things, then we lose our identity when those things are gone.
If we tether who we are to outside influences, then we lose who we are when we lose those people. Who we are in Christ, who He created us to be, how He sees us is all that matters. Each and every one of us was created for a specific purpose, and it is crucial to our happiness and peace that we become who we were called to be so we can fulfill what we were created to fulfill. The only way to become that person is to see ourselves as God see us.
If we tether our faith to God based on Him giving us everything we ask for, then we lose our faith when we don’t get our way. When we base our appreciate of Him and belief in Him only on what we can understand, then we give up on our faith when tragedy strikes. But when we tether our faith to a God that is good, that loves us unconditionally, and the fundamental truths of His Word, then we are not shaken by trauma tragedy or loss.
God didn’t create us to be tossed about with the wind, to be changed by the storms, to be tied to our past forever. He called us to tether ourselves to Him. That he is the steady, unchanging God who sees us for who we are, accepts us, loves us, and wants only good for us.
“They’re supposed to be Christians” I have heard those words said about one person or another more times over the last year than I have heard in my whole life. Phrases that stem form one person judging another person’s actions, choices or behavior and determining that what they see does not align with their own view of Christianity, or being Christ-like.
There is a quote I read in the Ten- Day Word Fast, a devotional on YouVersion by Tim Cameron and Chrisma House, that says that judging others happens when we look at their actions or behavior from our own perspective, and make a decision about their entire worth based on what we see. We determine that we know the reason the other person did what they did and decide their value based on that one aspect of their life, or possible just one moment in time.
I can’t help but feel like we are on dangerous ground when we look at a snapshot of someone’s life and make a determination not only about their faith, but about their worthiness to be saved. God is clear in the Bible about not standing in judgment of others, and the more I study worthiness and judgment, the more I feel like God doesn’t want us to stand in judgment because we do not get to determine someone else’s worth – that’s HIS job.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is this quote from Brene Brown. We are worthy NOW. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.
Christ paid the price for our salvation with each of us in mind. We were bought with a price. As is. God did not design our worthiness on an accrual system. We can’t possibly earn someone dying on the cross so that we could have eternal life. We couldn’t possible do enough to be worthy of that kind of love. God chose each of us, just as we are.
While it is true that we will be known by our fruits (our actions, our words, our behaviors) it is also true that we don’t have a point reference for other people’s lives to measure where they started to where they are now. We may see areas that need maturing, but we have no idea what it took for them to make this far.
Gossip, judgment, and cruelty create church scars among people who are working to become who God created them to become. We so often derail them with thoughtless words or judgments based on our own perception and own perspective. We drive them away from Christ because of our words and because we cast them out of our inner faith circle and make them feel less than worthy of the love and grace of God.
God, may our hearts mirror yours. May our eyes see your people as you see them, beyond their appearance or behavior and into their hearts. May our ears hear beyond their words and into what they aren’t saying to hear the hurt. May our hands be an extension of your love. May our feet go where you have called us to go – to reach your people.
This past weekend I had a big reality check that I had gotten sloppy with my habit of controlling my mouth. While I have successfully tackled cutting profanity out… most of the time, I caught myself saying something completely out of character – telling a story that just wasn’t mine to tell. I have a pretty strict rule that if I am not a main character in a story, then it isn’t my story to tell and I don’t speak to it. However, that didn’t happen this past weekend.
I said something mean, judgmental, and NONE OF MY BUSINESS, and I instantly felt convicted. I was literally brought to tears and grieved by my thoughtless words and quickly ended the conversation, in tears and went immediately to pray and repent and pour my heart out to God, asking Him to correct my heart and to keep my ears to His voice that my words would bring life and be an extension of His love and grace.
It’s easy to lose track of our words, to get caught up in conversations, or to compromise our own commitment to staying in our lane. We can justify it as not wanting to be rude, but in truth, we are compromising our own integrity just to make someone else feel better about something they are doing that is wrong. While it’s not our place to judge them or even correct them, we have every right to say, “I’m sorry, I am just not comfortable with this conversation.”
Our words are the indicator of what is in our hearts. And our thoughts are an indicator of who we are, and who we will become. That whole “as a man thinketh, so is he” Proverbs 23:7 thing. I lacked discipline in my words, and tracing that back to the root cause, it stems from allowing negativity into my mind, listening to negativity and gossip, reading it, and replaying it in my mind, to the point that it got down in my spirit and eventually became my words.
Gossip, judgment, and negativity are like infections that start in one area and quickly infect other areas. They may start with what we see, and quickly infect what we think about, which infects our character, and that infects our heart and our heart bubbles up into words that we speak and infect others.
I had an alarming revelation about that. It would be better for me to socially distance than to infect others with my sin. If I am not going to bring life to others and be an extension of the love of Christ, people would be spiritually better off without contact with me. HARSH! But true.
I have a responsibility to myself, to the people I encounter, and to Christ to dedicate my words, thoughts, and actions to Him completely. May I become a mirror image of Him and an extension of His love and grace to His people.
Doubt has a way of creeping into our minds uninvited. Seeds planted by the enemy come in various forms. Regrets from the past, words spoken by others, and fear. We live in a society where people question what they do not understand or relate to. So many people with bad intentions have caused many to be skeptical of anyone who wants to help with no strings attached or expectations in return.
I find myself trying to keep the peace withe everyone, juggling the expectations that continue to grow as my network grows. I battle with others criticizing me, and yet part of me knows that God is preparing me for what is ahead. You can’t tell a story as raw and honest as I am in Up From the Ashes and not face judgment and criticism.
Here is the realization that caused me to stop allowing others to rob me of my calling. God called me to stand in the light and to be an extension of that light. I can’t stand in the light and hide from it at the same time. I have to be willing to be vulnerable, and open even if that means that some people don’t get it. That’s where I trust God as my defender.
The truth is that I didn’t start this ministry for everyone, I started it for those who are hurting and need hope. I started it for those who need strength. For those people, I will push forward and fight that inner battle to hide from being seen.
When I was a kid, we always went to Camp Dry Gulch in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. It was part of Willie George’s ministry. We did all of the 1980s camp things to do like basket weaving, bows and arrow shooting, canoeing, and story telling. I remember a few things about that camp, like getting homesick for the first time. I remember that they played Thy Word by Amy Grant every evening when it was time for chapel.
I also remember playing a group game where we would sit in a circle, and everyone would put their hands out – palms facing up. We would place our hands one on top of the others to make a perfectly joined circle. My right hand was on top of one person’s left palm. My left hand was underneath the other person’s right hand. As we sang a song the first person would take their right hand and clap the upward facing hand on the left of them, and then that person would clap the hand on the left of them… all the way around the circle until the song ended. If your hand was the one clapped when the song ended, you were out.
It was a silly game but we played it a lot. Enough that I remember the song we sang. “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever – Hebrews 13:8”.
I was humming that song to myself this morning while I washed dishes. I began to think about Jesus being the way, the Truth and the Life… and how the Truth never changes. Jesus is the same always – and He always will be. He is the Word of God – and the Word of God is always true.
Throughout 2020. I have had one prayer – God may my heart mirror yours. May I be a complete extension of the love of Christ. Even when I don’t feel like it, even when my emotions are on edge and I wish I could react in a way that is true to my nature – my commitment is to be a mirror of the unfailing – unwavering love of Christ.
That takes consecrating my mind, words and actions completely to God every day. It requires me to lay my burdens at His feet. God is willing to take those burdens from me, because if I carry them with me… they will change me. God can handle them – and He never changes.
God isn’t moved by the things that shake me. If I am true to my commitment to Christ, that I will be an extension of His love to the world, then I will seek to mirror my responses to His. I will seek to replay cruelty with kindness. I will seek to cast my burdens on Him I will seek to forgive those who have not asked for forgiveness. I will devote my time, attention and resources to serving Him and His people… wanting nothing in return.
If I am mirroring Christ, I am not changed by who is around me, my attitude isn’t influenced by negativity, and I don’t get deterred by attacks because I aligned with the unchanging, unwavering God. If I want to get consistent in my faith and walk with Christ, then I have to anchor to the One who never changes.
On January 11, 2020 the millions of people around the world met Raven Goff through her mom Tanner’s videos on Facebook. Raven sustained a traumatic brain injury in a terrible accident that she was not able to recover from. Tanner Trujillo, Raven’s mom and her husband Anthony along with Shane Goff, Raven’s dad and his wife Brooke, shared a message of hope and unwavering faith with the world through Raven’s story.
The message is that Raven, a sweet, brave, courageous little girl, whose organs saved seven lives, continues to touch the world and save live with the love of Jesus continues to spread through her story. Tanner and Shane lived their faith out loud for the world to see that God is good no matter what. God is faithful no matter what. Even in the worst of times, God hasn’t failed us.
Through a blog I wrote, I am able to track a small portion of Raven’s reach. I wanted to give an update since my post on January 24th.
Raven’s message how now reach 112 countries. She has flown across 17% of Africa, 31% of Asia, 64% of Europe, 58% of North America, 24% of the Oceania countries, and 57% of South America.
Since my last post, Raven’s Reach has extended in Africa to Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
Complete list of Countries in Africa that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
She has reached 11 new countries in Asia, including: Bangladesh, China, Cocos Islands, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, and Syria.
Complete list of Countries in Asia that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
United Arab Emirates
She has reached 10 new European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Iceland, Isle of Man, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Complete list of Countries in Europe that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
Isle of Man
She has flown over seven new countries in North America: Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, El Savador, Greenland, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad.
Complete list of Countries in North America that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
She has now extended her reach to Papua New Guinea and the US Outlying Islands.
Complete list of Countries in the Oceania Regions that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
Papua New Guinea
US Outlying Islands
In South America, her reach now includes Uruguay and Venezuela.
Complete list of Countries in South America that Raven has reached (only pulling from the blog, not Faceboook):
If you’d like to add your location to the list, or add a picture to Raven’s gallery, please leave a comment below.
Last night on Beauty From Ashes, we talked about living through loss. I was joined by Crystal McGinley, who has faced more loss in her life than most of us will ever know. We were also joined by Jessica Shipers, a lifelong friend of mine, coworker of Crystal’s, and one of the funniest and I have ever known.
“You can’t tell by getting to know someone on the surface, the losses they carry with them.” – Crystal McGinley
Crystal has survived the unthinkable losses of four of her seven children. In addition to that, she understands that the grieving process applies not only to the loss of children and loved ones, but to the loss of dreams, the loss of hope, the loss of love, the loss of marriage, and the loss of communication with someone you love.
Crystal became a mom at the age of eighteen. Just two weeks before her son Jason’s second birthday, Jason went went with his dad to the family farm, as he often did, playing in the yard as his dad worked nearby. Crystal arrived to the farm and asked where Jason was, his dad thought he was inside with grandma, grandma thought he was outside with dad. He had wandered off. Frantically, Crystal began looking for him, she got on the four-wheeler to search the property, hoping to find him playing on the acreage somewhere. But, she found him in an irrigation pond that he had fallen in. She pulled him out of the pond and started CPR. Crystal and her family spent five days at the hospital with Jason on life support. He had been declared brain dead. With an eight month old baby in her arms, hoping and praying for a miracle, at the age of 19, Crystal and her husband had to make the decision to remove life support and let her precious son go.
Crystal battled with grief and emotion after Jason’s death. She found purpose in living for her other child, pushing through the overwhelming emotions and clinging to faith. She battled most with reconciling that she had asked for a fence to be put around the pond, and it hadn’t been. The sting of that bitterness lasted for a long time.
“I remember praying, and in my 19-year-old mind, I was praying, “God let everything be OK. It took me a while to realize that even after Jason died, that everything was OK. It’s just that my OK looked different than God’s OK.”– Crystal McGinley
With two sons and a daughter at home already, Crystal learned that her life long dream of having twins was coming true. She was ecstatic as she prepared for her two bundles of joy. Four months into the pregnancy, Crystal noticed that her stomach was shrinking. The doctor’s office laughed a little when Crystal called, knowing that she was understandably cautious during this pregnancy after losing a child. They explained that as babies move around, her stomach would change shape and appearances. However, her mommy heart knew that something was wrong.
The doctor agreed to do an exam to easy Crystal’s mind. Upon further examination, they found only one heartbeat, one of the babies had died the previous week. Normally when the baby dies in utero, it seals itself off, but in this case, it didn’t. So as the baby decomposed the waste circulated through the live twin. Her brain disintegrated due to the waste clogging her circulation. The sonogram showed that Kacey would be born with only a brain stem, but not the top part of her brain. The doctor tried to get Crystal to abort Kasey, and even called her cruel for making the baby live when Crystal declined the abortion.
“I did not make her life, I allowed her to live.” – Crystal McGinley
Crystal went in every week for bloodwork to make sure that the waste from the deceased baby did not endanger her own life. Kacey was born with only a brain stem. She had visible differences as a result, her skin was shriveled on the top of her head, and her head had a “walnut shape” to it.
When Kacey was two weeks old, Crystal’s two-year old daughter was severely burned and had to spend three weeks in the burn unit in a Denver hospital. There was a day when Crystal was in the store with Kacey, that a stranger gasped in horror at her, “What is wrong with your baby?” Crystal wasn’t fazed, in her calm, matter of fact manner, she stated, “She was born without a brain” The lady replied, “You must hate God.” Crystal stared in shock.
“It had never even occurred to me to hate God.” – Crystal McGinley
Kacey lived for eighteen months before she passed away in her sleep.
On February, 3, 2019, twenty five-years to the day from when Kacey died, Crystal received a call from her ex-husband. Her son Ryan, who lived in Colorado, and Crystal had been estranged from for fourteen years. Against advice, Ryan and his best friend took the Snowcat onto a frozen lake. The ice on the lake was not thick enough to support the weight of the Snowcat, a huge piece of equipment designed to move snow. Ryan didn’t come home the next day, so his dad sent his cousin out to search for him. Once he found the truck Ryan had been driving, he was able to follow the tracks from the Snow Cat across the lake to a giant gaping hole.
The first team of divers weren’t able to complete the dive because of the altitude and temperature. Through research, Crystal’s son in law found a diving team that had a specialized drone that had a retrieval mechanism attached to it. They were able to locate both boys bodies and retrieve them with the assistance of specialized dive teams and the drone.
One of the hardest losses Crystal faced was the loss of that hope of reconciliation with her son, which had a different, but very real grief process that proved to be harder than even the loss of a body.
Despite all that she has endured, Crystal continues to shine with compassion and grace. She lives out her calling every single day, working in education, pouring into the lives of children. Anyone who has witnessed her in action, knows that she loves kids. Crystal is recognized by all who are around by one word: grace.
“I have learned through everything I faced, I cannot control what happens in life, I can only control my reaction to it. My goal is to react with grace. I want to live gracefully no matter what happens.” – Crystal
One the most important lessons in this story is that death is an event, life is not. Going on with life means allowing the process of grief fully. Crystal’s advice for anyone who has experience loss is to allow themselves to go through the process of grieving in their own way. She recommends finding an outlet to express yourself, whether it is talking, singing, art, or. Talk about loss and tell the story. It brings strength and comfort.
“Grieve with a purpose. There is not a set of rules for grief. There is no time limit, or expectations. Just go through the process.” – Crystal
Crystal also found tremendous peace and strength in surrendering to God. The phrase has never rang truer, “Let Go and Let God” as when Crystal says it to describe her approach and coping with losses far beyond what many of us could ever fathom.
The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show is officially here! In episode 1, I was joined by Andria Flores to talk about perfectionism, and her upcoming book “type A, plans B”. Andria is an author, an editor (I’m proud to say she is my editor) and an overcoming type A perfectionist.
The introduction: The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show airs live on the JoCo Community Radio Show Facebook page (click on the link to watch the show) and can also be heard on the Tune-In app every Tuesday form 6PM – 7PM. I started the show because I believe we all have a story to tell in our own way. The show was designed to facilitate conversations with warriors, overcomers, survivors and thrivers, to spotlight their messages of hope, healing and victory.
In the What Are You Reading segment, we highlighted what Andria and I were both reading. Currently, for me, it’s the The Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I recently started this book, that is totally stepping on my toes! It starts with a description of what your life would be like without boundaries, and then, it describes my whole life.
Andria reads for a living as an editor, so she doesn’t always get to read for fun as much as she would love, but she has recently been moved by the poem She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose, which has a powerful message about perfectionism from the point of view of people pleasing.
Andria’s powerful message on perfectionism:
Andria has struggled with perfectionism since childhood. From an early age, she connected love and approval with performing well. Her adoption of perfectionism stemmed from the belief that if she did well at something then she was worthy of love, but if she failed at something, that indicated that she was unworthy of love and acceptance. She formed a lifelong habit of striving for perfection in every relationship in her life. Until she realized that the very thing she thought would earn hear love, was the exact same thing that was preventing her from having deep connections with the people around her.
“As an adult, I realized that the thing I wanted most, to connect with other people, was torn apart by perfectionism.” -Andria
Perfectionism can work for a while, it can even drive success, it just isn’t sustainable. Andria went on to share a very vulnerable message about how perfectionism impacted her as a mother. Andria has always been a proud mother and motherhood was the one thing she had dreamed of being her whole life. Take a look at the AHA! moment at 43:04 in the video that lead to her realizing that perfectionism wasn’t an effective parenting technique, it was actually going to break the spirit of her sweet little girl. Andria sought to find an answer through prayer, studying, and life transformation.
“When it all began to unravel for me, I realized pretty quickly, that I even had a perfectionist relationship with God.” – Andria
After the collapse of the white picket fence life, Andria maintained a white picket fence image for several more years. Even her mom, the closest person to her, didn’t know what was happening. A passing comment that Andria’s mom made about her being “one hell of an actress” led to a realization that even though she acted out of devotion to her marriage, family and faith, she had been playing the role of supporting actress in her own life.
“It never occurred to me that working so damn hard to be perfect, had actually made me plastic.” – Andria
Andria went through a journey of self discovery, traveling through the mess that brokenness and shattered dreams had left behind. As a natural planner caught completely off guard by sudden chaos, Andria found that you have to walk through the ugly cries, snotty noses, and a few cuss words to go through establishing new boundaries and figuring out who she was without the burden of expectations. She finally opened up to God in the realest way. She poured her heart out to Him, and unburdened all of the things she has held inside for so long.
“I knew that God was saying finally. I have been waiting so long for you to just be real with me.”
God continued to heal Andria as she found new ways to be honest with herself and those close to her. She gain the strength and courage to not only overcome perfectionist thing, but to open her life of in vulnerability to be be truly loved for the amazing person that she is.
At the end of her writing, Andria had an unexpected revelation… that she actually didn’t need a plan B at all. Jeremiah 29:11 said that God knows the plans He has for us, and she just needed to be open and curious about what those were.
ACTION ITEMS FOR FELLOW PERFECTIONIST
Get honest with yourself and acknowledge that you are a perfectionist, and the ways that might fail you (it’s not all bad)
Don’t take yourself so seriously
Breathe, take a minute to inhale and exhale before making your next decision
For a sneak peak at Andria’s upcoming book release, download a FREE e-book “type A Parenting” on Andria’s website www.andriaflores.com
Today was the Celebration of Life for sweet Miss Raven Goff. Her story was told, and it was told in the most beautiful way possible by the people who loved her the most. The words that come to mind are: eloquent, grace, strength, courage, awe, brave, and inspiring.
As the family walked in, the song, Reckless Love by Cory Asbury played. The Celebration started with those sweet words, “Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me. You have been so, so good to me. Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me. You have been so, so kind to me.” I think that is the most beautiful part of this story and this message, that even in tragedy, God has been glorified, and His goodness has been proclaimed over and over.
Pastor Rick of Pathway church had the perfect mix of love, humor, and hope. He gave a powerful message about Raven’s story and how she helped the world to forget all of the things that separate us, even if only for a moment.
Tanner Trujillo and Shane Goff stood on stage with thousands of people watching and they told their love story. It was perfect, because it was real. They spoke of their divorce without the venom or anger that we associate with that word. They spoke of working hard to be in unity for the sake of their child, yet another message I hope the world sees and hears.
As Tanner stood near the podium, she watched Shane with the fierceness and protectiveness that only a mother could. She stood by him in unity, #TeamRaven all the way. Protecting her daughter’s message from speculation or rumor. As Pastor Rick said, there are no sides, it’s about Raven’s Side. It’s about Team Raven. Tanner displayed unconditional love and respect for her child’s father, while honoring both of their current spouses and families. Throughout the service Raven’s family, biological and bonus, were honored. This is how it should be. This family’s willingness to fight for love and fight to glorify God together, that is what is reaching the entire world.
We naturally reflect on the story and it triggers memories in our own life, perhaps times of loss. For me, I think back to losing pregnancies. I lost a child before I knew him, I was twenty weeks pregnant. I was mad at God about it. I quested everything, because it didn’t go how I planned for it to go. I had a total of five miscarriages, and each time I don’t think I handled it with very much grace and dignity. I appreciated Tanner and Shane showing their emotions and deep wounds that this has left. In total strength, Tanner expressed how much she feels and battles and the human side of it all. She did it with strength and grace, like she always does. However, I connected with her, knowing that keeping her eyes on Christ and resting in His faithfulness is exactly what’s holding her together.
I think what stood out to me most was how the service ended with Elevation Worship’s song, Do It Again. It was the perfect reminder that no matter what you are facing, God has not failed you, He hasn’t left you.
When nothing else makes since, this one thing we can rely on, God is good and He is faithful. Even when we fell alone, He hasn’t left us. Even when we don’t understand, He is at work. Even when it feels like we have lost it all, He has never failed us.
Walking around these walls I thought by now they’d fall But You have never failed me yet Waiting for change to come Knowing the battle’s won For You have never failed me yet
Your promise still stands Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness I’m still in Your hands This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet
I know the night won’t last Your Word will come to pass My heart will sing Your praise again Jesus, You’re still enough Keep me within Your love My heart will sing Your praise again
Your promise still stands Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness I’m still in Your hands This is my confidence, You never failed
Your promise still stands Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness I’m still in Your hands This is my confidence, You never failed me yet