Even When It Hurts

Even When It Hurts
Take this fainted heart
Take these tainted hands
Wash me in Your love
Come like grace again
Even when my strength is lost
I’ll praise You
Even when I have no song
I’ll praise You
Even when it’s hard to find the words
Louder then I’ll sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
Take this mountain weight
Take these ocean tears
Hold me through the trial
Come like hope again
Even when the fight seems lost
I’ll praise You
Even when it hurts like hell
I’ll praise You
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder then I’ll sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
I will only sing Your praise
And my heart burns only for You
You are all You are all I want

 

We can’t always prepare for hard situations that may arise in our lives. We can’t predict the negative health diagnosis, the spouse walking out on the marriage, the car accident, death of a loved one, infertility, terrorists attacks, abuse, or even losing a house or a job. These painful and life altering challenges come out of nowhere and punch us in the gut leaving a pain so deep that it feels like there is no way to continue on living. 
 
Here is the good news, you know what is predictable?  God’s character. He is reliable. He is constant. He is faithful. He is good. He is stable. He is consistent. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. He is present. 
 
I love the above song. Our greatest weapon against the the devil to trying to get us down, is to worship our God. No matter what, we will praise Him. Even when it hurts, even when that punch to the gut feels so paralyzing, praise Him. Watch Him move. Watch Him work. He will blow your mind! 
 
I think that so many times we encounter something extremely painful or difficult and we get mad at God, like He caused it. Instead of turning to Him, we turn from Him. Leaving us to turn to destructive people and create destructive habits. Leaving us in worse shape then before the difficult situation. 
 
What would happen if when something horrible happened to us, we ran to Jesus in praise and worship?? What would it speak to our unbelieving family members, coworkers, friends, and onlookers? How many people would come to know Jesus just from watching us respond to what is thrown our way? 
 
I am a firm believer that Jesus created us and put us on this earth for two reasons. To know Him and make Him known. He didn’t put us on this earth to be moms and dads. He didn’t put us on this earth to get to the top of the professional ladder. He didn’t put us on this earth to make millions and drive nice cars and live in big fancy houses. What kind of life will make you most effective for Him and making Him known? That is what He put us on earth for. It may include the wealth, success, and kids and it may not, but no matter what, impact your circles for Jesus. Make the most of the cards that you have been dealt. Don’t let your circumstances and hardships define you. Take them and run with them praising God the whole way. 
 
I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve received the difficult health diagnosis, I’ve weathered the marriage struggles, and I’ve been overdrawn in my bank account. I can tell you that the times that I chose to hide out in bed and eat Oreos all that happened was I became fat and bitter unaware of the needs around me. The times that I chose Jesus and I chose to worship Him. He grew my character. I became a better wife, mom, and friend. Jesus’ name was shouted and others looked to Him. We can respond one of two ways, inward or outward. I am living evidence of what happens in both scenarios.  I promise you, no matter how hard it is, which it is hard, the GREATEST reward is when we praise Him even when it hurts like hell. 

The Distance

My entire life I’ve struggled with my self-worth. I never felt pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or talented enough. I would overcompensate my insecurities with being loud and obnoxious, looking for a laugh or a high five. In the midst of that, I came across as intimidating, confident, and unapproachable. Because of this I have been misunderstood the majority of the time. 

I’ve had coaches, teachers, pastors, friends, and family all say at one time or another, “If you could only see what I see!” I had read the books, heard the sermons, listened to the music, and went to the conferences. I have even stood on platforms teaching hundreds of teenagers at a time about their worth and how much God loved them and had plan for them. Time and time again, I would cry and repent for the negative self talk.  But nothing really ever changed. I would constantly say, “If I could just get the knowledge to go from my head to my heart! It is so close, but the distance feels so far!” I would feel defeated and discouraged all at the same time.
 
Then September 23rd happened. Yes, 5 days ago, September 23rd.  God began to speak through an unlikely source. He wanted to make it so clear that it was Him that He used someone that doesn’t know me well to speak things over me that she had no idea I needed to hear. That was just the beginning of an intense few days where Jesus continually spoke life to my spirit. Bringing freedom that I had lost hope to ever receive. I have a hard head and since God created me, He knows that, but He is persistent and His love and grace penetrated my soul, mind, and heart. I will never be the same again.
 
I think that so many times we look at ourselves in the mirror and our perspective of ourselves is so far off from the truth. We see our inadequacies, we see our “deformities”, we see where we are lacking, and we see our failures. God’s heart breaks. He weeps over us. He wants us so badly to see ourselves like He sees us. But until we make that distance from our heads to our hearts, we will not find freedom. Here is the tricky part, we can’t make the distance on our own. It is a journey where we intentionally press into Jesus, drowning out all of the negative voices…including our own! 
 
Comparison is the thief of joy. Nothing good ever comes out of it and yet social media makes it so easy to slip into. Outlets for our peers to post what looks good and polished. Not the real life, the bad days, the numbers on the scale, the messy house, the screaming at our kids, or the arguing with our spouses or significant others. We look away from Instagram or Facebook feeling less than. 
 
Without the truth of who we are in Jesus burned into our hearts and minds, we will get lost, never really knowing true contentment. 
 
Enough is enough! Stop the lies! Surround yourself with people that speak life and encouragement into you. Create boundaries with people who tear you down. Most of all, soak in all that Jesus has to say to you. YOU are His child! YOU are His joy! YOU have purpose! This life needs YOU and YOUR gifts. 
 
What are the lies that you have been believing? What is holding you back from getting out of bed in the morning? Love yourself enough to do whatever it takes to make the distance to your heart.  Call an encouraging friend or family member. Put on some worship music. Go to a church. Join a Bible study. Dust off the Bible. Sit in the silence and tell God that you are not going to move until you hear from Him. He is faithful. He is good. 
 
The more of us that can make the distance, the more freedom there will be in our lives and through our lives for others! Think of the freedom passed down to our kids and our kid’s kids…Victory is ours, we just need to take it and run with it! 
 
Join me? 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Come Out Of Hiding – Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger

Come out of hiding
You’re safe here with Me
There’s no need to cover
What I already see
 
You’ve got your reasons
But I hold your peace
You’ve been on lockdown
And I hold the key
 
‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
 
Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home
 
I’ll be your lighthouse
When you’re lost at sea
And I will illuminate
Everything
 
No need to be frightened 
By intimacy
No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me
 
‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home
Keep on coming
 
And oh as you run
What hindered love
Will only become
Part of the story

Bellamy Mercedes

It was February 2013 when Jason came upstairs into the mom’s group at church and asked me to speak to him in the hall. I knew the call had come.  Sure enough our social worker had called Jason to tell him that there was a little 19 month old girl that needed a forever home. She was currently with family friends, but now that it appeared to be an adoption case, they wanted to find her a good permanent home. Our social worker emailed me a few pictures and I melted into this baby’s huge and beautiful brown eyes. 

After some prayer, discussion, and meeting with mentors we decided to meet the baby to see if we all clicked. Before I knew it we were driving out to meet her. 

We met her and fell, fell hard. The most adorable little girl ever. Weiland was only 9 most older than her so we were signing on for Irish Twins, but I didn’t care! I was so excited to bring this little girl home. I was excited for Jason to have a daughter and Weiland to have a play buddy. 

On March 3rd, Bellamy Mercedes moved in with us. 

The next 7 months were by far the hardest months of my life. There was continuation after continuation of court hearings for her birth mom’s pending termination of services. This was difficult because we were told that the decision for her to legally move into the adoption phase would supposedly take place 2 weeks after she moved in. In the meantime I had to drive her to visit her birth mom twice a week 80 miles round trip. I would drop her off at the sketchiest CPS office in a sketchy part of town and then take Weiland to Starbucks for an hour while we waited. 

The mental and emotional toll became so unbearable that I decided that I needed some help. I got some anti depressants, cleared my plate of anything that I did not absolutely have to do, and asked Jason to do the visit transportation. The depth of pain was excruciating.

As the October 1st court hearing drew nearer, my anxiety level heightened. Panic attacks were frequent. There was not a candy bar or size of french fry serving that would take away the deep ache.

At the hearing the judge did a 180 and decided to give Bellamy back to her mom. We had 24 hours to pack up her stuff and have her ready for the social worker to take her “home”.  I remember those 24 hours like they were yesterday. My life was forever changed October 2nd, 2013. This level of pain could only be touched, healed, and comforted by a BIG and capable God. 

I am forever thankful to my sister, Jamie, who drove out to be with me that day. She went through the house and bagged up anything and everything pink so that I wouldn’t have to. Such a gift from Jesus to have her there with me. 

We went on one last family walk that morning, gave her a bath and as I brushed her hair, I prayed over her and sang, “Jesus loves Me” through tears. At 1:00 the worker knocked on our door, we loaded his car down, and said our good byes. I remember Bella wiping my tears telling me in her little words not to cry because she was going to have fun. She thought she was going on a visit so she didn’t understand the magnitude of never seeing us again. 

Jason and I watched the white county car drive away and then lost it in each others arms. Thankfully Weiland was with his 64 year old BFF, Chrissy so he didn’t have to experience the horrible, horrible moment. I remember being bent over the toilet throwing up and sobbing all at the same time. To date, the worst day of my life.  

I miss my little brown eyed girl everyday. I pray for her and think of her all of the time. I feel sad for how abrupt it all was for her, but we were at the mercy of the courts. It was a solid year before Weiland quit asking for Bella. The confusion and hurt that he endured killed me. No 3 year old should ever feel that kind of pain. 

Her mom did what she needed to do to get her baby back. She loves her little girl so much and for that I am so grateful. I know that she is with a mom that did everything in her power to get her baby girl back. Never missed a visit even though it was hours on a bus each way, never showed up without snacks or toys, did every class and training, and stayed consistent. Very sweet, just young girl that had to learn a hard lesson. 

Last I heard Bella is doing great, going to a good preschool, playing t-ball, and a big sister to 2 little sisters. Friends sent us a picture of her and she honestly looked so happy. It was a relief to my heart to see her look so great. 

I am still processing it all. What we did right and what we could have done better. I am so grateful to Jesus for the people he placed in my life to help carry me. His healing hands that were constantly wrapped around me. He is good. He can be trusted. He is hope. He is strength. I am living proof! 

One thing I know is that I will always pray for God to put people in her life that will teach her what it is to know, love, and follow Him. 

I love you my bella-boo!

 

Beauty from Ashes

It was 9 months since our brown eyed girl went back to live with her mom. In this 9 months I had wished and prayed for a little boy and more specifically that would be half black like his big brother. As silly as it sounds I even hoped and wished that we would be able to pick this baby boy up from the hospital and that I would get to ride in the wheel chair to get some of the birth mom experience. After I would hope/wish/pray for these specific requests, I would push them out of my mind and call myself ridiculous. 

It was June 29th, 2015 at 9:00 in the morning and Jason and I sat down with our social worker. We spelled out to her our conditions to going back on the list to be matched with a child. I told her I would like a baby straight from the hospital that was safely surrendered. I didn’t have it in me to do visits again, let alone the fear of losing another child. She didn’t have high hopes for us, but said she would only call with extremely “low risk” cases. We signed the papers and she was on her way. All day I was sick with anxiety. An emotional wreck almost paralyzed with fear. Questions running through my head like, “Are we doing the right thing? What if we lose this child? Are we putting Weiland another painful experience?” It was a Monday night, coincidentally, women’s Bible study night at church. Jason and I had decided not to tell anyone about going back on the list except for our family and mentors so when I went to church that night I wasn’t free to share or ask for prayer for this huge decision that we signed up for. 

A beautiful friend of mine that has an AMAZING voice, like heaven is going to sound like her voice, I’m serious, she is SOOO good! Anyways, she was leading music that night at Bible study. She started singing a song called, “Come Out of Hiding“. I immediately fell to my knees sobbing. It hit me like a ton of bricks. “He is my peace!! Stop with the fear and run to Him, Elizabeth!” It was as though at that minute that His peace rushed over me. Fear was gone, I knew that He had my family in the palm of His hand and He could be trusted. Little did I know that I was in “labor”.

June 30th, about 24 hours after signing on the dotted line with our social worker, there was a little half black baby boy delivered and left at the hospital. A social worker from the hospital called at about 3:00 in the afternoon to let us know that there was a little baby boy left at the hospital that needed a forever home. I told her that I needed to call and discuss it with my husband, also known as call my husband and scream and cry and not make any sense to my husband. Jason came home from work and we put the social worker on speaker phone to tell her, “YES!”. We immediately called a sitter for Weiland and hit up Target. I can still feel the excitement in the depth of my gut as I type this. 

July 1, we headed to the hospital to meet our son. He had to stay an extra day for an infection, but we were not going to wait another day to meet him!  On our 30 minute drive to the hospital, I looked at Jason and said, “Huh, we don’t have any boy names!”  Jason has a thing about naming his kids after lead singers of rock bands, so we started wracking our brains. My same friend that sang the song that kicked me into “labor” was texting me name ideas and sent us a winner! We were going to meet our Martin Maverick. 

July 2, we loaded up Weiland and headed to pick up the newest Shafer. My sweet, sweet boy with the deep dimples was waiting for his final feeding that Jason and Weiland got to give him. The nurse then brings in a wheel chair and says, “I know it may seem silly, but Elizabeth needs to ride in the wheel chair and hold the baby.” I would have started sobbing right there, except I couldn’t stop laughing at Jason’s response of disbelief that I got to ride in the wheel chair and I didn’t just have a baby. (He didn’t know about my secret conversations with God about this)

I was up during one of the midnight feedings just baffled by the little miracle I was holding. I was curious what was going on in my life when he was conceived so I calculated back…He was conceived the month we lost Bellamy. I immediately went into shock..My Marty was my beauty from ashes. Jesus saw me in my despair and tears and held me. He knew that He had created such a beautiful gift that would soon be given to us. What a good, good God that gives such amazing gifts. 

Contentment

I have had an enlightening week. I wish that I could say that it has been an encouraging and happy enlightening. But it has been a really difficult week of internal struggle and ultimately a HUGE reality check for me. 

Jason has been sick in bed most of this week, like down for the count sick. It isn’t very often that he goes to the doctor or stays in bed so I knew that he really wasn’t feeling well. I wish that I could say that I was understanding and an awesome nurse for him. Instead, I had this ugly black heart of bitterness and frustration emerge. 

I didn’t truly realize how much he does around the house and for the kids until he wasn’t available. Instead of feeling grateful for the amazing husband and dad that Jason is, I was just angry, tired, and frustrated. 

Throughout the week I complained about how much I was doing. I would sulk and have pity parties that no one was taking care of me and my needs. 

My poor husband and kids did not have a pleasant care taker, and the sad thing is that they haven’t for awhile. This week just brought about what has already been inside all along. 

Contentment. Finding joy in all circumstances. Being thankful for all that God has give me. Unfortunately, I’ve been discontent. I’ve been looking around and lost in comparison of what I don’t have, losing sight of all that I do have. Anything from the numbers on the scale to the flooring that I want in my house. I had gotten so deep in the pit of entitlement and ungratefulness that one day Jason and I were driving about a week ago and I was grumbling about who knows what and he stopped me and said, “You have so much to be thankful for.” I quickly responded with, “Like what?! Name one thing!” I am not proud to admit to this, but this is just a simple example of how derailed I had gotten. 

Friday evening I was able to go see “All Sons and Daughters” at a nearby church with some friends. God so gently and lovingly gave me the word “derailed”. That is exactly what had happened, in the last 5 months  I have been so derailed. Whether it was the foster care system making decisions that I didn’t agree with, teething babies keeping me up at night, living in our home while renovating it, or my 4 year old having a hard time transitioning into his new school, the life was being sucked out of me. 

My eyes were not fixed on Jesus, they have been fixed on my circumstances. Circumstances that change and fluctuate. No wonder why I was derailed. I took my eyes off  my source of consistancy! 

As I sat down in the seat in the middle of worship, peace overcame me. Remorse and repentance to the Lord, Jason, and my kids. I was so mad that I let satan steal my joy and believed his lies of not having or being enough. God is so faithful to gently guide us and be there ready to forgive us as soon as we ask for it. I came home renewed. 

Then Sunday came, yes just 2 days later.  You see, it isn’t just any Sunday. It is September 18th, the day I have been counting down to since the beginning of August when I decided to cross something off my bucket list and purchase tickets to see Garth Brooks.  

Saturday night Weiland was up most the night with a stomach ache, Marty was up twice with a horrible cold,  and Jason was up coughing. I thought I was being so loving and considerate when I told Jason that he didn’t have to drive to Orange County with me, he could stay home and “rest”. “Rest” taking care of our 2 sick babies, and a VERY high energy Weiland. It was either that or I have our sitter come watch the kids while Jason lays in bed and takes care of himself if he needed anything. Those were the only two options, right?! And then it hit me, “Elizabeth, this is not the time to leave town. Embracing this season and thriving in it is being home and present with your sick husband and kids.” So, I let go of the ticket and stayed home to take care of my family. 

If it weren’t for that gentle and liberating time with Jesus the Friday before, I don’t think that I would have been able to make the right choice for my family on Sunday. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my good, good Father. He is so patient with us. So kind. So faithful. So gentle. He is relentlessly in love with us. 

This lesson of contentment is not super easy for me. But I am committed to learning and growing until my days on earth are done. 

Thanks for reading 🙂 




Keeping it Real…

I woke up this morning, actually the alarm clock that my 4 year old set, woke me up at 5:00 this morning. I am the type that when I am woken up I have a hard time falling back to sleep. So tossing and turning began until 6:00 when I heard my second son’s usual morning scream to let the entire house know that he is awake. If I don’t sprint (stumble violently) to him immediately he will wake up Weiland who he shares a room with. YOU DO NOT want to wake Weiland up before he is ready, I repeat YOU DO NOT want to wake up Weiland before he is ready. Hence, the dramatic entrance morning by morning to grab Marty as fast as possible.

The babies have a massive gated in area full of toys that we put them into play, or sometimes I use to keep them safe and out of outlets so that I can crawl up into a ball and take a nap in there. This morning was no different, I grabbed a couch pillow and curled up to try to get even 10 min more of sleep while Marty crawled all over me thinking that it was hilarious when he would pull my hair and I would moan. This lasted for about 30 minutes until the cutest little dainty squeal emerges out of the door in the hallway. It’s official, no matter how NOT READY I am, the day has begun.


With fresh diapers and smiles both babies are strapped in their boosters for breakfast. Marty who apparently doesn’t like food, well, unless it’s french fries and ice cream, is throwing every option I try with him on the floor. Molly, who eats more than her weight has inhaled a banana and is screaming for a bit of anything and everything I try on Marty. In the middle of getting whiplash from feeding the babies on each side of me, Weiland comes out with a big smile…This is never good, my friends!


“Mom! I forgot to put my pull up on last night!” All I hear is, “Mom! I left 2 additional loads of laundry for you in my room!”


I put Molly on the ground to partake of the buffet that Marty has provided for her so that I can run and strip the bed to have it ready in time for Weiland’s nap when he gets home from school. In the time that it took me to take Molly out of her high chair and walk to Weiland’s room to strip his bed, he has successfully spilled an entire cup of orange juice all over the floor including an abnormally big and soft blanket that he apparently likes to cuddle with while eating breakfast. What’s another load of laundry at this point?!


Both babies decided to poop at the same time.  Which led us to our usual wrestling match to pin them down with one hand and change them with the other, looked at the clock and it was 8:00.


Striving to Embrace today…

Here it goes…

Embracing and Thriving, two words that have become very repetitive in my vocabulary in the last year. Not because I have arrived, by any means, but because I am learning what the words mean and what they look like in the context of my ever changing life.

My friend Katie and I got home this afternoon from a conference discussing purpose, figuring out what it is and how to successfully achieve it. It was okay, honestly. Had some good points and inspirational pushes, but it really served for me as a follow up/check in from earlier this year when Katie and I attended the If Gathering in Austin, TX. I left Austin changed, awakened, and affirmed. God spoke so clearly that He sees me in my current season, He has given me dreams and passions that will come in time, but for now I need to embrace and thrive where I am currently; which I will go into as we go on this journey together. Hence the blog 🙂
In Austin I realized that I was missing an outlet for my passions, even on a small scale. You see, in the last year God opened the door for my husband, Jason, and I to bring home 2 babies. Two amazing and awesome miracles through the foster care system. We already have a 4 year old, Weiland, and we wanted to grow our family and get some siblings for him. We just didn’t realize it would happen all at once! Once the exciting newness wore off and sleepless nights got to me, I began to forget who I was, what I loved, what made me laugh, and what it felt like to take a shower and brush my teeth. So as I was drowning in diapers and teeth plaque, I felt forgotten and lost. I was tired, dirty, sad, impatient, tired, lonely, grumpy, tired, and then some more tired. Because of my exhaustion and discontentment, I could not be pleased. My marriage was suffering and my relationship with my 4 year old was suffering. Who had I become?! And then my eyes were opened in Austin, God sees me. He sees me in the midst of the diapers. I am not forgotten. This is a season that I need to embrace because it is short and Jesus is walking through it with me. But I did need to carve out some time for me, and not just for a shower, but to pursue my dreams and passions in reasonable increments. It is time to start Investing in what I feel like God has given me as my story to share.
After If Gathering ended I sat with Katie over a delicious meal and we discussed all that God was speaking to us and encouraging us to pursue. I told her, “how hard is it to really dedicate one nap time to writing my book?! I will write a chapter a month.” I even wrote it down!
So today, 8 months later,  driving home with Katie talking about how this weekend reminded me of what I committed to almost a year ago. Enough is enough. So, it’s blog time! 🙂 I will be sharing about my journey of writing a book that I am so excited about. I have dreamed of being an author and speaker for over a decade. Time to put some feet to the dreams as I embrace this season and thrive while doing it!
Thanks for joining me on the journey!
Elizabeth 🙂