The Crystal McGinley Story: Living Through Loss

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.

Perfection Is Not a Currency for Love with Andria Flores

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

  1. Get honest with yourself and acknowledge that you are a perfectionist, and the ways that might fail you (it’s not all bad)
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously
  3. 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

A Glimpse of What God Has In Store

Yesterday I wrote a post about Raven Goff, just wanting to express how much the story meant to me. I posted a link on the Cravin Raven group, which the last time I saw the member count before posting, it was around 1200 people. I thought 20-30 people would see the blog, but really just wanted to express how I was feeling. After I shared it I noticed that it started getting likes and shares within the group, which had grown to THOUSANDS of members by that point. When it got 500 views, I thought, “God wouldn’t that be cool, if 1000 people saw it?” I went back to working on the book and checked an hour later. Over 1200 people had viewed the post. As someone who is just starting out in the social media and blogging space, I was overwhelmed. I have been praying for the impact on the ministry that God has put on my heart. I whispered, “God, are you preparing me? Are you trying to tell me that a thousand people will be reached by the message you have given me?” He told me to just wait. I went back to working on the book. When I logged in a couple of hours later, I was blown away.

I was speechless, almost THREE thousand people had seen my little blog. Again, I went to God in prayer, “God, are you saying that three thousand people will be reached in this ministry that you placed on my heart? Are you preparing me for three thousand people?” I absently thought, what if it hits 5000?

Then it did hit 5000. I began to feel the more humbled than I had ever felt in my life. What an honor to be a small part of such a powerful message. I went back to God in prayer, “God, I didn’t see this going this far. I am so sorry, I put my own limitations on you. I feel you preparing me.” Again, He said, “Just wait.” My son checked on me before going to bed, it was sitting around 8000 and said that there would be more than 10,000 by the time we woke up, but I brushed it off. I said, “No, son, I think it’s done.”

But I woke up to almost 11,000 views on the blog. Raven’s message continued to soar, and God continued to increase my faith little by little. It wasn’t about how many likes, shares, or blog hits. God was using the blog to help spread His message of hope and beautiful grace. He was also using the blog to show me that God’s thoughts and His plans go far beyond the distance of my imagination and are not trapped by the confinement of the walls in my mind.

See, not only have 15,000 people viewed that one blog post, when before I had never had more than 50 people read my blog, I am not most thankful because of the readership, I am thankful because God increased my faith. I am thankful that God showed me just a glimpse of his plan for Beauty From Ashes Media.

I launched the first episode of the Beauty From Ashes Radio Show today, and it was a success. It was God’s success. Guys, what could I have ever done to deserve a God who would not only forgive my past, but fully restore me? I could have never earned a love so great. The coolest thing about God, I think, is His perfect, unfailing love, and how He chooses each of us to love Him and to love each other.

Confession: I get terrible stage fright

This morning I spoke to a room of around 40 job seekers. I only talked for around ten minutes, and I knew what I wanted to say to them. I felt prepared, but as I stood in front of that room and talked, I could hear my voice shake and felt my hands and knees trembling.

Everyone gave me positive feedback, and I felt good about what was said, but I still get this terrible feedback that I have had for as long as I can remember. When I was in the youth group, I sang a solo one time standing on risers, They had to move me off of them because I was shaking so badly that the whole temporary stage was shaking, and the mic stands were shaking!

I don’t really know what makes me so scared, and I am not sure how it plays into those dreams I have of speaking in front of a room filled with women. I can see some of their faces as I share a specific message that God has laid on my heart. I can feel their hands in mind as we pray together. I can see their tears sliding down their cheeks as God heals their hearts. I know it is part of what I was designed to do, but I’m still scared.

I think what I am learning in this chapter is not that we have to be completely without fear, but that we cannot be stopped by it.

I think that it’s normal to feel scared, you just have to find a way to push through and do it anyway. Part of the victory is in overcoming everything that was thrown at you that could have made you stop… but you didn’t. Chase your dreams relentlessly, even when you’re scared.

And so, it begins

Today, January 12, 2020, I sent my first draft of my first three chapters to the editor. The process begins now. I am nervous and excited at the same time. I can hardly believe this day is here, but here we are, the girl behind the keyboard, typing away as she feels led.

Writing has been such an inspirational, healing journey, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to share it with all who dare read.

No matter what dream you are chasing, if you will keep moving forward, you will get there. It doesn’t matter how small the steps may be, keep taking them. If you fall, get back up and keep moving. If you quit, start again. Chase your dreams, because only you can make them happen.

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