The Princess and the Poop

This morning sitting out on my front porch, just a swinging....I feel like breaking into song as I write these words. Okay so I just did.  How fun, to just have a song in your heart.  But that is not what this is about....

So we were just swinging and playing with our little "Princess".  Throwing pinecones and letting her chase them down, her tiny little legs running as fast as she can and then running back with the pinecone clenched tightly in her itty bitty cute mouth then dropping it gently at our feet.  Then we would start all over....sounds silly but it is fun for us.

Then my husband threw the pinecone and Princess took off after it and suddenly dug her feet in the ground and almost toppled over as she did everything in her power NOT to touch the pinecone. Her rear legs still in motion, she looked almost like a cartoon doggie as she came to a sudden stop.  She circled it, smelled it and then backed away.  She turned her head towards us as if to say, I am not so sure about this....Turns out the pinecone had landed in a big pile of poop.

Isn't that the way life is sometimes.  You are just running and playing, happy go lucky and suddenly there is a big pile of poop.  You just didn't see it coming, I just didn't see it coming.  But there it is, messing up the plan, messing up the fun.  Somebody elses stuff just starts affecting you.  Then we have the choice, the stinking choice.  How are we going to respond?  Will we quit playing?  Will it ruin our day? Will we step into it or keep our distance?

We made Princess stay away from the poop, it was no longer her pinecone to play with.  It had been contaminated by the big dog poop.   I am not sure what dog the poop belongs to but I know for sure it wasn't hers.  She is a tiny little dog, with tiny little poopies, this was a big dog poop.  We chose to go looking for another pinecone.  I suppose I will go out later today and clean the poop out of the yard and throw the pinecone away.  I don't want her to be tempted by it.  Like we so often are....

So often in life we get involved in the poop that doesn't belong to us.  Rather than changing course, being flexible or looking for whatever the new thing is God has for us.  We run full speed ahead into the poop and then wonder why we can't get the stench off us.  Poop stinks.  Everyone has it, but we don't have to be involved in everyone elses.  Let's keep our yard clean and invite them into our yard and help them scrape off the mess.   Such a simple lesson....Stay out of the poop, don't step in it.  It doesn't belong to you. Let's face it we have enough of our own....hahahaha....

Dear Lord, help us not to step in other people's messes.  Help us to stay away from things that are not of you, to have healthy boundries, and when we accidentily step into it will you help us to not let it rob us of our joy.  Help us to scrape it off just like we scrape poop off our shoe.  Help us to keep the right focus and not take on the stench of this earths poop.  Help us to bring the smell of heaven to this earth.  Help us be the air freshner for the poop. We declare we are not going to step into it and drag it around with us.  No way.  Help us Lord to let love lead us in all things.  Amen.  

Expression is the Opposite of Depression

Expression is the opposite of depression.

I saw this on instagram, I knew this but had never heard it like this. It hit me like a ton of bricks or like a big fat truck.  This is the story of my life.  At times I struggle to hold everything inside, to only let parts of me show.  Those times always lead to times of darkness.  The effort to hide my heart, hide my feelings leaves me feeling unknown and isolated.  It takes me right back to the path I have fought so hard to get off......the smoke and mirror me.  The real me hidden and scared she will be rejected so she puts up a smoke screen.  The perfect little princess, the put together, the earn your love, this smoke screen was exhausting.  

The old me, went out the window when she had no ability any longer to keep it all in and then the new me took over.  The real me came roaring out and turns out the real me could be really happy.  So I paint and write and expose parts of me that are vulnerable.  I am honest about the pain, the joy and the struggle.  

Not that I have figured it all out, just some of it.....and I trust God to protect my heart.  It's not my job anymore to create myself into someone others will approve of.  Its my job to create an expression of love for my Heavenly Father and reveal what freedom looks like to others.  Freedom is always fueled by love, and it can't be held in.  Love is a creative roar, and it looks different for each of us.  

Turns out I like to ROAR.  Who knew this could be so rewarding?  This lioness thing, this hear me roar thing?  So be brave my friends, live in freedom and express yourself.  I think you will find a loving community that prefers character, brokennes, and vulnerability to perfection and facades.  I believe with all my heart we are meant to live in community that celebrates truth in all things.  That freedom can be found in community; Freedom to be authentic, freedom to be accepted, freedom to grow, freedom to live as God designed us, it is ours to live and ours to show to the world.  

You are an expression of His great love, now express it to the world.  Find the good, find the glory, find the hope, find the joy, find the love and let it roar.  And just in case you can't find that, then roar out your pain....thats okay too.  People please give us and by us I mean all of us... the freedom to be sad sometimes.  He wouldn't have sent a comforter, if we weren't sometimes going to need comfort.  If you are sad and stuggling let it out, express it...stay in the light as much as may teeter on the edge but God will not let you out of His grasp.  Let's all find our way to our true freedom, to our roar, to our true expression of who we were created to be.  

Much love to you my brave friends. 


Turning broken into beautiful

We turned our broken into beautiful.....a few of my notes from that powerful message.  Love you ladies so much!

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Cor 3:17-18 (NASB)   #glory2glory
That word transformed in the greek is the same root word for metamorphosis just like the butterfly, in the greek it was meant to signify something going from ugly to beautiful. 
·         This is what it means in Isaiah when it talks about Jesus giving us beauty for ashes. 

      3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
     That is what our Jesus does, He brings the beauty of our struggles….He takes the hard things and helps turn them into beautiful things.  Places where we see His hand, feel His presence, know His goodness even when what we are going through isn’t good,  etc. 
·        WE must be willing to give him the ashes of our lives. Or as Paul said I count it all as rubbish compared to the riches of Christ….
These ashes, these struggles become points of growth and depth and strength…those things push us along our journey towards contentment and love…..from glory to glory….
·        I have never met a strong person with an easy past.
We are meant to grow stronger from one destination to the next….not from mess to mess but from glory to glory.
     This means that somehow in order to get to the next level we have to figure out how to bring the glory into our current struggle.  Take the mess and build glory out of the broken pieces. 

     Take our pieces and invite the Holy One into the mess!  Bring the presence of God right into the center of it all, change your mess into place of holiness, redeem it by filling that space with grace that comes from Jesus. 

It is something like a mosaic….taking the broken pieces and turning it into something glorious…. I found this quote on my grief journey and thought it was so impactful….

People can’t know how beautiful you are until your brokenness is lit from within. Please hear me I am not saying go look for things that will break you so you can be strong….Life will give you little trials to develop your skills without even having to look…But let that brokeness be redeemed and used to shine the light of Jesus!  

Sure you can look all sparkly and shiny from the outside but….
 In the darkness when all you have is the light that is when you shine in the most beautiful of ways….

Thats when the pieces of broken dreams, shattered hearts and empty places get put back together with Jesus glue we become lit from within and all the scars turn out to be the pieces holding the beauty together. 
That is what redemption is after all….taking broken humanity and restoring it to it’s original beauty.  It’s the divine exchange.
It happens instantly, but also over time as we let go of the old and reach for the new….as we bring Jesus into the mess of broken pieces and allow the Master to piece it all back together with Jesus glue!!  

What No One Tells You....

I am blessed to be a Mother!

I used to cry myself to sleep at night.  I used to wake up crying.  The light of dawn filling the room, for just a moment I would feel peace and like the old me then I would suddenly remember that life as I knew it was over.  There is a marker in my life on that day; The before Justin died and the after Justin died.  They seem like two different lifetimes; like that me was just a shadow of this me.  This me is battle tested and nothing compares to this.  The beating of grief has washed over me day in and day out like torture.  No one tells you it will be like that, no one tells you the dark thoughts you will have.  How you will lay in bed wishing you could die(nobody wants to admit that).  How regret will cause you to question everything in your life.  How time stands still and yet suddenly weeks have gone by and you can’t remember how you functioned every day.  No one tells you that anger will fill your heart,spilling over unto those closeset to you.  How you will look for things to distract you but in the end your mind will always return to the pain.  No one tells you how alone you will feel even when you are surrounded by people or how hollow everyone’s words will seem.  No one tells you how your theology will get tested and twisted.  No one tells you how dark the darkest depths are and that when you are there you will want to claw your way out but you will be paralyzed and unable to do anything.  No one tells you that God will seem distant and hope will seem bleak.  I suppose they are hoping it will be different for you, not so horrific.  

The cold hard truth is it is impossible to describe the pain, there are no words in the dictionary that can adequately express the madness of it all. That your worst imaginations will never measure up to the true pain.  No one can tell you that eventually you will find your way back out of the darkness and that faith will be increased, if you just hold on.  You just can't believe them.  You have to figure that out for yourself, moment by moment, day by day.  

Yet, at the very heart of it is this one fact… does gradually get easier, it never goes away of that I am certain.  If a day goes by and I don’t think about Justin, then just as soon as I hit the pillow there he is.  A thought, a memory, will flood in and drown me.  No one tells you how often you will be thrown back into the depths.  How someone who looks like your loved one will make you want to run and hug them, how some smell will remind you or how every holiday will be different because that loved one is not there.  There is a longing that will never be filled on this side of heaven and so we simply put one foot in front of the other and keep marching onward towards the finish line.

Along the way there is plenty to celebrate and enough joy to overcome the sorrow (most of the time).  I refuse to be defined by this tragedy, but it has certainly changed me.  Grief has shaped me and even more so God has used it to shape me.  He has remodeled my heart and repurposed my life.   I am a completely different person in so many ways, that is not to say I don’t like the new me.  I think I do, it’s just hard to get used to her.  This new me cares very little about perfection, appearances or what anyone else thinks about me.  This new me, cares more about love than loss, more about others than self, more about hope than reality, more about heaven than hell, more about grace than the “in your face” truth that I used to feel so strongly about, I care more about surrender than winning, basically this new me is an upgrade from the old me

 It’s a hard thing to say God can turn all things to the good when it is your child that is missing from your life.  But I can say that…..He is(meaning it is a process) turning all things to the good.   I can emphatically say that healing comes through both laughter and tears and the struggle does make you stronger.  No matter what you are walking through, it will not last forever.  One day we will step into heaven and there will be no tears there.  So in the meantime find some laughter and shed some tears.  I promise, it will get better. Celebrate what you do have.  I have two wonderful sons and I am thankful for that. 

 It is getting better, I am getting better, I am celebrating....except when I am not.  There is grace for the back and forth pace of grief. 

I just finished the “trifecta” of grief events; Justins birthday, Together in His Arms 5K and Mothers Day all in one week.  
I thought I was doing okay with it, even a little proud of myself until........ I lost my sh*t over missing tables at church.  Seriously, lost it.  Acted like a crazy woman.  Something about losing things makes me a mad woman.  I have already lost something so huge that I don’t want to lose anything else….even if it is just tables. So my pattern when this happens is to get ridiculously worked up, search and scream until I find whatever is missing.  I suppose it has something to do with having no power to find my son and so I want to exert my power to find anything lost.  Then when it is found, I realize that I wasn’t rational at all which is embarrassing and so I start to cry.  I repeat over and over again I just wanted to find it, as if that makes any sense.  Yesterday, after we found the tables,  I saw our ushers face as he was trying to talk to me and I was starting to cry and mumble, I just needed to find them.  He was slowly backing away completely perplexed and I realized I am a bit freaky. Thankfully he is full of grace.  

Anyway….. I made it through, which is my point.  In the end, we make it through.  Whatever it is, however it looks, we win in the end.  It gets better.  I know letting go of my grief isn’t the same as letting go of my Son and memories of him.  Letting go just means trusting God to keep Justin alive in my heart in the good days and the bad days until we get there. 

Thank you to all my friends and family that extend grace and shine the light in my life.  We live in hope that our lives will light the way for those that walk this journey behind us.  Make the world a brighter place people!  

My Boy Has Two Birthdays

He was my baby once.  It is easy to forget that when you see the pictures of him all grown up.  He was my baby that changed the course of my life.  I say He rescued Me.  My party-party lifestyle immediately halted the moment I found out.  I would choose my baby.  I would keep it a secret, take my last semester loaded with college classes in order to graduate In time.  All the while knowing my body was making a baby.  The minute I felt the butterfly wings of his tiny little body move in my stomach I loved him.  I was scared but I didn’t care. 

His delivery is etched in my heart.  That shocking pain that no amount of classes can prepare you for, the brutality of pushing a baby out and the beauty of falling unbelievably in love in a matter of moments.  
When I first looked at Justin I literally felt love like I had never experienced before.  The rush of hope and joy that filled my heart as I looked into his eyes was overwhelming, this was my son.  No amount of commotion going on in that room could cause me to stop looking at my boy.  

As I stared at him, a sweet peace descended as I thought to myself; everything has changed, I will never be the same again.  

And I wasn’t the same; it was never the same again.  Life became more than me, it became us.  That new life would lead us to California and eventually into a life with Christ.  He changed me, he made me better and I will forever be grateful for that.  He was funny, the funniest of all my boys, he brought laughter and tears.  He was complicated, sensitive and passionate.  He loved with his whole heart, no holding back.  That passion could be a good thing or a bad thing.  When he was good, he was very good but when he was bad you had better watch out.  His imperfections made him vulnerable but not any less loved.  In the end it isn't what he wasn't that we remember but what he was. Chosen and loved.  The life of the party, any party.  Funny and passsionate.   And he was made in me,  in my belly.  He will always be a part of me.    He was perfectly imperfect like the rest of us.  Just a sinner saved by grace.    

Now, my boy has a new birthday….a heaven birthday.  Born into heaven on Sept 23, 2013 and on that day I sat at my kitchen table and thought to myself….I will never be the same again, and I am not. 

But Love Remains.

Justin Drake Shoppa        May 7th, 1988-Sept 23, 2013

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