The Holy Ground of Heartbreak

Last week I got a call. It was one in the morning and when I saw who it was, tears immediately came and I knew what my friend was about to tell me.

And as I sat on my bed sobbing with my dear friend on the line, my heart was literally breaking for hers.

An hour earlier her little sister had received her miracle. She was healed and whole and with Jesus in Heaven. Her family was surrounding her as she stormed Heaven's gates and joined the angels.

And there at that moment, I felt every emotion I felt four years ago as I remembered walking the same painful road, the road that never ends and the hurt that cuts so deeply.

And I remembered a year and a half ago when in one moment my life was shattered and our entire world was literally stolen. And the heartbreak that cut so deep...when I had no words to describe what had happened and what is still happening today.

But there in the heartbreak...in the seemingly darkest and hardest moments...one finds the holiest of places. It's the ground where heartbreak and supernatural hope are literally intertwined into a beautiful picture of the Father's immense love for us.

Because in the deepest heartbreak, the presence of God literally comes in and surrounds you with Himself. His holiness. 

There are tears yet overwhelming peace...helplessness yet secure comfort...despair yet the deepest hope one can ever find.

I think Isabella put it perfectly in her post, "here we are...utterly broken...and experiencing that reality so tangibly. He's so close. We're hurting so deep. We're in the wilderness, and even still, His presence is immeasurably thicker than the mountains and the seas that threaten to enclose on every side."

And as we talked through our tears, we praised Him together. We may have been separated by half the country, but we were together. Sobbing together in spirit. And there...in that midnight hour full of heartbreak...we worshipped Him.

The darkest hour of the night when surrounded by total darkness...total heartbreak...He was there with His light, and His hope, and His presence... and we were together on this Holy ground.

This journey which is so hard. There is no guidebook. No mile markers. It's an unpaved overgrown road no one wants to walk.

But here we are. Surrounded by darkness but in this darkness we find His presence filling it with light. And here in the heartbreak surrounded by holiness, we will celebrate. We will celebrate Gianna and her life. Because her life is touching so many around the world.

She is a warrior. A fighter. A beautiful miracle who has brought so much sunshine to so many and continues to change so many with her radiant joy.

Our hearts are broken, but here in this brokenness, we have the ultimate Healer. The one who can bind up any wound and heal any scar. And the One who surrounds us with His presence on the most broken of days.

When nothing seems to make sense and life feels shattered, He brings us comfort and hope that can only come from Him.

So here we are. This overwhelming peace in the middle of helplessness. This comfort in the middle of uncertainty.  But most of all there is hope. Overwhelming...unrelenting...hope.

Because here in this heartbreak, we are walking together on holy ground that is filled with Him.

Together we will walk on our knees day by day until one day when we will all be reunited in Heaven.

And what a beautiful day that will be.

Cannelongo family, know we are praying and thinking about you every moment. Our hearts are broken with yours yet we know this broken path is filled to the brim with hope. We walk alongside you and trust that God has amazing plans even when they don't make sense. Keep praising Him and keep knowing He is good even in this heartbreak. Celebrating Gianna along with you because her life is so so worth being celebrated. We love and beep you all so much.


When It Doesn't Seem Good

I had an entire post written for Good Friday. I was ready and prepared to reflect and share all the meaningful moments that have happened on Good Fridays in the past. Carlie's heart surgery, celebrating with Rosie, Pre-approval for Adam, etc etc. All the beautiful and "good" moments.

But instead the Thursday before Good Friday I got sick. And now, three Fridays later, I'm still battling this sickness. I've gone to multiple doctors and with a few tests in the next couple of weeks, I'm hoping to find some answers.  And as the sickness carried on from what seemed like a stomach bug became something more serious I wondered just how long it would take for me to feel "good" again.

And two hours away from me I hear the cries from a courtroom. The prayer of hope. And the desire for truth to prevail. I anxiously wait for the text...the text of prayers answered...the movement of something that's been so stagnant and so under enemy territory. But the text doesn't come and another month carries on and I wonder again how any of this "good."

And halfway across the country, a little girl is fighting for her life. What seemed like a simple sickness one day turned into a seizure and a cardiac arrest and is now fighting for her life surrounded by her family. This little girl who is such a warrior and has fought through so many heart surgeries and battled through so much. This family who loves so fiercely and so freely and so beautifully...who is such an amazing family. And as I watch them surround their daughter and sister's bed, my heart is literally breaking because this is the farthest thing from "good".

But I'm wondering... maybe our view of "good" has been clouded by the lens of this world. The world tells us that it's only good when classes are easy, best friends are around you, and your dreams are being filled. The world tells us that when we're happy and healthy we're blessed. When we post our bible studies on Instagram and spend afternoons in cute coffee shops with cute little friends. But is that really good?

As I've texted with my friend, the sister of the little girl who is fighting, I've sat in my room sobbing. I've been in her shoes. twice. Wondering...waiting...and crying out to God.  And as I've spent the last three weeks in this dorm room I'm learning. I'm learning what "good" really is.

Missing this laughter filling our house

As followers of Jesus, we're called to see our life through a heavenly lens. And the standards and the perspective from eternity are so much different than the standards of this world. 

Maybe when our hearts are breaking and life feels destroyed, is really when Jesus steps in and becomes the good. When nothing here in our lives on earth seems physically "good," maybe that's when we start to fully rely on the Lord to be our hope... to be our strength... to be our joy.

And maybe when we do that? maybe we draw closer to the Lord than we ever have before. Maybe when everything you thought brought you happiness is stripped away... you find a pure and unrelenting joy in Christ and in Christ alone.

And suddenly life is good. So good. So much better than you could have ever asked for. And not because your dreams are suddenly fulfilled or your sickness suddenly disappears but because you are emptied of the world and filled with Him and Him alone.

On my lowest days. When sickness clouds my view and texts remind me of how many are fighting for their lives, I open my closet door.

And there taped to the door are the prayers, the verses, the times I poured my heart out to God on paper, and the written praises of answered prayers.

It's my war room of sorts...the battleground for this war. Because it's a daily battle to get out of bed and see the good...it's a daily battle to choose deep lasting joy over temporary happiness from worldly items...it's a battle to choose hope when surrounded by despair.

But life is good. It's good because we know who's on the throne and we know who's in control.

It's good because of Him. Because he gave up His life so we could have abundant life. Abundant life on the emptiest of days. 

So Happy Easter friends... I may be three weeks late, but may we never stop celebrating the overwhelming goodness found through Christ and Christ alone.


To the Grieving Sibling: What I Wish I Could Tell You

I had no intention of posting this anytime soon. I wrote this post a while ago but never felt comfortable sharing all of it. But I just felt this nudge from God telling me to share this because someone who is hurting right now may need to read this and realize that they are not alone.

So wherever you are and whoever you are, know that God does indeed have a plan and a purpose for your life that will far exceed any of your greatest expectations.

I don't know your story. I don't know your heartbreak. I don't know your seemingly hopeless situation. But I do know mine and I know the pain of grief and the pain of the road my family walked three years ago and the hurt we've been walking the past fifteen months.

I've lost two siblings. I've experienced days where numbness takes over and life is walking through the motions and attempting to act as "normal" as possible.

I've hidden my grief on days to the point of where my life looks complete and I've almost convinced myself that everything is okay and that my life is fine.

But there's been days and moments where I've sobbed in my room and let it out to caring friends and the tears have freely rolled down my face. Days when the pain becomes too much and it spills over the top and I can no longer hold it in. Sometimes I shut my bedroom door and cry and pray and worship and I wonder. I wonder how God will take the ashes of a broken heart and use them for His glory.

I struggle to go back to the hospital. The hospital where I said goodbye. It hurts me to walk past the elevators I went up and down so many times. Yet at the same time, I long to go there. I long to be in that room again. For just one more second together. One more moment together. One more tear together.
my sweet sweet Rose. Oh how I miss you.

If you were standing here face to face, I'd tell you that grief is a crazy thing. Sometimes a reminder will make you smile and other times it brings on the tears.

And sometimes grief catches you at the worst moments. When you would usually shrug off a minor issue, the next thing you realize is that there are tears streaming down your face. You really never know when it's going to hit and it always seems to be at a bad time.

Another thing I'd tell you is that no one will completely understand your pain. And as hard as you might try, it is impossible for the average person to understand the amount of pain you're feeling over losing your sibling.

Whether your sibling was with you from the day you were born or was adopted two months ago, they are just as special to you and just as important to you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I wish I could cry with you and hold you tight and whisper God's promises to you. Because it's not only a sibling you've lost. It's a friend. Someone who you understand no matter the circumstance. Someone you laugh with and cry with and someone who does life the same as you.

Don't be offended when people don't ask. They just can't completely understand it. Sometimes all I want is someone to ask. To ask me how I am. To share a sweet memory of my sibling with me. But others are so afraid they might mess it up or say something they regret.

People will make comments that are meant to heal but really hurt. They will say that you should move on and continue with your life. That you can't change the outcome but you can make the future better. But please don't listen to that. You don't need to move on. And you are only expected to survive one day at a time. One hour at a time. Try not to get angry, instead fill yourself with the Word. The constant truth's found throughout the Bible.

Because when your hope meter is empty, God will fill it.

When your life feels destroyed, God will begin rebuilding it.

When your joy is stolen, God will restore it.

When you cannot walk, God will carry you.

When you feel as though grief overwhelms every day, God will redeem those days.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

And the amazing thing is that when God fills and rebuilds and restores and redeems, we are made new and amazing though him.

Somehow through such deep grief, God can take our hurting and emptiness and fill it with Him and only Him.

God somehow takes the ugliness and the ashes of our past and turns them into a beautiful picture.

If you were here with me now I'd tell you this.

Your grief will be used for good.

Because God can use even the worst situations and turn it into a reason to praise him on the darkest of days

"God sees the broken as the best, & He sees the best in the broken, & He calls the wounded to be world changers." -Ann Voskamp

My friends, we are the wounded. We have battle scars. Scars that others might be able to see but don't know just how deep they go. And these wounds? These scars? They will be used for a greater purpose.

Just keep holding on. Find joy in the hidden places. And keep going. God's got you. I'm standing beside you and cheering you on. You got this. And I bet your sibling in heaven is cheering you on too.



Looking Back on My First Semester

I'm sitting here in my chair in the middle of my room eating dinner. I just finished my last final and I'm somewhat excited, dazed, tired, and hopeful all at once. School has settled down but there's a whole lotta crazy going on in my life right now.

I had five finals this week and I finally understand what people mean by finals week.

Even if you're fully prepared for your exams, it's still a stressful week of exams. Add gymnastics practices and strength training to that, it makes a pretty busy week.

So yeah, here I am through my first semester of college and I wanted to jot down some things I learned from being a student athlete at UK.

First thing I learned, was that if you don't like football don't convince yourself that it will be fun to go to the game. I went to one football game this season and I disliked every minute of it. Of course I picked the game that was sold out and ended up sitting in the nose bleeds. People say it's fun but I guess they are lying. :)

Another thing I've learned? Always always set an alarm if you decided to take a ten minute nap between practice and classes. I fell asleep at 12:20 woke up at 12:50 for a 1pm class and made it to class in 9 minutes. It's usually a 15+ min walk. #winning Also don't set a phone alarm when you're phone is about to die. You just might be late for a 7am practice. I know from experience.

I've learned that saying goodbye to mama is hard but thank goodness for phones and text. I literally call her everyday when I walk to classes. Even if I have nothing to talk about. I just miss her and home and of course my dad too :).

One sign that I'm at the right school? The main street of campus is Rose st. Literally saw that the first day of classes and cried the entire way to my class. It's just so perfect.

I've learned that I have an obsession with decorating my dorm. It no longer looks like the picture below, I've already switched up my decorations. And the sunsets here? absolutely gorgeous.

I've learned that I'm not like the typical college student and that's okay. That being a follower of Jesus isn't on the top of everyone's list. That I don't need to agree to be friends and I don't need to fit in to be happy. That I can be alone and not be lonely and I can be content without excessive worldly items.

I've learned that it's all about perspective. I was complaining to my mom one day on the phone about walking to classes, cooking food, school, etc. Then I realized what I was doing. We have so many issues. So much noise coming from all different directions and it's easy to complain about the blessings. Because really? These are all #firstworldproblems

Everything I get to do and have the ability to do is a blessing. And walking this painful road this past year, the little things don't seem to matter nearly as much. What a blessing it is to be a gymnast and student here at UK.

I learned how to solve a mystery using DNA (maybe useful someday). And I learned how to make a packing tape sculpture (not useful at all). I experienced a bad class (hello chem 105) and one that was hard but I had a fabulous professor (I love you Dr. O'quin and I semi-love you bio!).

So much has happened this semester both at school and at home.  The battle still rages on back home and what seemed like a major breakthrough a few weeks ago has now been stalled and will be stalled until spring. Choosing to trust that God's clock keeps perfect time.

Well that's all I've got today, friends. Christmas is coming and I gotta go pack up my dorm so I can head home for the holidays in a few days. It's going to be a tough holiday season but choosing joy even when all I want to do is curl up and cry. God is good. And I know He's got this.

Love ya friends.



2017: By Faith a Year of...

The past few years, I have picked a word and a Bible verse to be my theme for the year. My word for 2016 was peace. The verse I chose for 2017 was Romans 8:37 (Be on the lookout for an upcoming post about this!).

I started writing this post in January. It's now the middle of November and I have sat down many times to write but my words have failed me. I opened up this post today and deleted most of what I had written. Because I have seen things recently that have shown me that I had a distorted view of the word I chose for 2017.

The word I chose for 2017 was restore. 

I somehow thought that if I chose this word, God would restore our family. That if I claimed restoration over my life then God would surely fulfill my dreams. My hopes.

That if I chose the word restore, He would restore my life to its fullness. To what I wanted. To what it used to be.

But I was wrong.

You see these were my dreams. My desires. My plans. It was as if I was saying, "God I know you're better and wiser than me but I really want this so if I post all it on my blog where hundreds of people will read it will you please restore these areas of my life to where I want them?"

I remember praying during this battle I've been walking saying, "Lord, surely you won't let this last the entire year. You will definitely restore my life this year in just the way I want it. I just know it."

But here I am. The middle of November. The hurt still happening. The pain still raw. My broken life waiting for the restoration I long for.

The plans I had dreamed up weren't coming true. The goals I had written were gone. The rebuilding hadn't started. The resolve hadn't come.

But maybe? Maybe God's plans for restoration are so much better than mine. Maybe my plans? Are flawed. Maybe my desires? Are all unimportant things in this world. Maybe my dreams?  Are nothing compared to what God has in store for me.

When my life feels like it's in shambles maybe it's really just God taking over and turning it into something better than I could ever imagine.

Maybe God is in the process of changing my selfish attitude and restoring me to be more like Christ. Maybe He's already rebuilt so much of my life.

Maybe I need to change my prayers to say, "Lord, lead my steps. Lead me today where you want me to go."

I need to surrender my plans and dreams of restoration and realize that God has already begun to rebuild my life. When I gave my life to Christ I said goodbye to my own worldly dreams and opened my heart to follow His dreams. His plans. His desires. And the hope He gives me for my life.

But I had missed it. I kept waiting. And waiting. Saying to myself that God would surely fulfill this plan of mine and I could someday post my word of the year on my blog and say, "wow look at how God had restored my life this year."

But ever so slowly, I'm learning.

I'm learning that...Maybe I don't need to wait. That's He's already been restoring. From the minute I said, "Lord, my life is yours," He's been changing me and restoring me into something better than I could ever imagine.

And as I sat on my bed the other day and thought to myself, the Lord really hasn't restored much this year. I realize just how wrong I am.

Each morning I can get up and realize that he is rebuilding my attitude. He is restoring my hope. Giving me the desires of His heart.

Looking back, I can see that every day there has been miracles and moments where God has so evidently been at work rebuilding. I have been so caught up in what I wanted and what my hope was that I missed out on the moments where the hand of God was restoring my life.

That God is taking the brokenness and nastiness of my life and giving me the opportunity to be rebuilt and restored each and every day I get up and say, "God, my life is yours".

And that every morning I get out of bed I can say to myself that God has fully restored my life to where I can live each moment to the fullest because of Christ.

Will you join me?

Give up your dreams. Your plans. Your desires. And start running after His. Because the plans and dreams He has for your life are pretty dang amazing.