A Letter to my Poppop

Dear Poppop,

You are missed. As the 21st anniversary of your death is approaching it still feels like yesterday I lost you. I walked beside you as you fought a good fight to stay alive. I remember being beside you as you lay in your hospital bed. I remember the pain in your eyes yet your love and humor never ceased to make me smile.

I still remember the smell of cigarettes and leather with a hint of double mint gum on the rides to church. I remember sitting in the garage watching you doing what you love and never backing down from a challenge. I remember you falling asleep watching wrestling or NASCAR and we would try to change it and you would wake up and yell at us.

I’ve held onto 11 years of memories but I’ve held onto 21 years of hurt. The last words from you I remember are, “Tanya, give me one more hug because I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again”. In the moment I was quiet, I took it like a champ just like you’ve would’ve wanted, I was dying inside. A week later we got a phone call, you went home.

But I lost the man who loved me unconditionally, the man who couldn’t get mad at me regardless of how many times I messed up and acted up. I lost my best friend, my grandfather, I lost a piece of me.

God gave us a time together that will go down in history but I’m still struggling with my 11 year old self trying to get passed this hurt today. I’m not who I was 21 years ago. The root of my pain and is driven by the hurt I felt the day you took that last breath. I ran away from God. I pretended he didn’t exist for many years. I filled my void with alcohol, pornography, and men beginning at the age of 13. I lost all self worth and identity. I stopped believing in who you told me I was. I blamed myself for your death, “If I only prayed more, if I was there more, if I was a better granddaughter, if I loved more”

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I never found myself until I got a glimpse of the God you believed in, I met Jesus. I got to finally feel the love you had for me. I got to witness the man you tried to be for me. I want to say that from that moment I was a completely different person. But I wasn’t. My life changed drastically, roads I was going down rerouted to where God wanted me but it took years to dig through the sin and it’s still taking time fighting the enemy and my flesh to get back to who I was before you died. There’s still shame, guilt, and more I’m still digging up I have to work through. But with Jesus I can do all things, you taught me that, I was just too blind to see.

Thank you for loving me like your own daughter. Thank you for teaching me even though I was too blind to see. Love you Poppop. Until we meet again.

Your Granddaughter,

Tanya

The Seed

2006. My first true freshman year of college. I was at High Point University. A university I never actually applied to because we couldn’t afford to pay the application fee. But I got the letter anyway.

Anyway, it was my first time being away from family. My first time I felt true “freedom”. I went into college as political science major, my dream at the time was to be lawyer. So since I knew I would stressed out, I decided to do the thing that would ease anxiety and stress, sing. I joined a group called University Singers at my college. We would sing at events and one time we event went to NYC to sing at a church. It was an unforgettable experience. I’ve never had experienced anything like that before.

In University Singers was this amazing young woman, Stephanie. There was something different about her. She was handicapped but she didn’t let it stop her. She shared her faith with me when I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind the only thing I could think about was “I wonder what I’m doing on Friday night? Whose having a party?” I didn’t care at the time what she was saying but my soul cared because it longed to be like hers. It envied her.

That year I was almost suspended from school because I was caught drinking and completely wasted throwing up in women’s bathroom in my dorm. And It wasn’t the first time. I talked my way out of the suspension and a large fine by getting community service and a minimal fine. But even through that Stephanie never gave up on me, I would tell her what I did and she didn’t care. She loved me through it. Something different.

My glimmer of light and hope shattered suddenly. Stephanie passed away unexpectedly. I can’t say it shattered my world because I was more focused on me and my fleshly desires. But it opened my eyes. The school did a dedication to her so the University Singers got up and sang a few of her favorite songs. I Can Only Imagine was one of them. This song resinated in my soul and every time I heard it, I cried. I had no real idea of what the song was about but my soul cried for it.

I transferred schools that year because I wanted to be “comfortable” next to friends. So I transferred schools to Lynchburg College. My flesh took over full fledge and hatred for Christianity began to stir up inside of me. I would debate it until my face was blue. I had all the answers. I would mock it. I would be mean to anyone who believed in it. I was an unpleasant person.

There were times I would listen to the songs we song at her dedication because it took to a place I couldn’t let go of. These songs were her light shinning through. They were hope. But I hid them from everyone. I didn’t want to be a “softy” or a hypocrite. So I only would put it on when I was completely stressed to the max.

6 years after the seed was planted, I found Jesus. That hope they sing about was found. My soul that holding on to those words was home. I felt alive for the first time.

Life happens but it’s what you take away that’s important. People come and people go. But there are people who you might only see for a very short moments that will end up changing your life forever.

Love like Jesus. Live with your faith in your sleeve. Never give up hope. And always listen to the spirit inside of you. We are chosen, sons and daughters of a living God. This world is not our home. Our father has a place for us in heaven…. I can only imagine.

Untapped Power

Prayer is an untapped source of power to so many. Many of us unknowingly put it off as just another task to do or we just need to check that religious box, “I prayed today”. But it’s so powerful and we shouldn’t neglect it. Why do we open our lips before we get on our knees? Why do we think we have it all figured out, when in reality we know only a small amount of anything?

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We can do NOTHING of the spirit without him, yet we think we can rule this world and this flesh without him. We think that if we don’t pray, it all will work itself out but it’s a wrong way to think.

Prayer is so powerful we shouldn’t neglect it. We need to cry out for our city, our neighborhoods, the lost, our nation. We should cry out to God about the darkness in this world because it is not okay. We should cry to God to surrender all of us because we need to be filled with all of Him. We can’t change the world by ourselves but with God anything is possible.

This world needs Jesus. This city of Baltimore is in desperate need of Jesus. We can’t expect mountains to move if we never get our knees.

Picture of the Past

So tonight I can across a picture with my niece and me. I was watching her and then taking her to church the next day. However, behind the facade of my goofy face was a terribly hung over broken woman.

What my niece didn’t know is that the night before I went to celebrate my friends birthday. But I just kept drinking. I didn’t see a limit. I paid for it. I blacked out. People who “knew” me saw a side of me they hadn’t seen… but wait a few months prior they did. You see I did the same thing a few months earlier at a party. I was drinking and drinking and just not caring about me or anyone else. It was my escape from the darkness I was living in. It was my “high”.

The night with my niece hurt me. I could not offer the love, support, or even fun times. I couldn’t keep anything down. My insides and head were throbbing in pain. I was defeated.

The next day was church and my niece was so excited! I put on a happy face and we went. I never felt more like a lair or failure that day. Anytime someone would try to ask questions, I simply deflected them and just try to push through for my niece.

Later that night, after saying goodbye to my niece, I fell to my knees and I wept. I was still in pain, hungover, and broken. I remember screaming out to God in frustration because I was reliving my life before I got saved. I was moving backwards in faith of what felt like deliberately, because part of it was in my hands of control or at least I thought it was.

God changed my heart that night on those knees. He turned me around and covered me. He took those burdens, that shame from me and put it on himself. I surrendered that night to who I was and to be molded into who God designed me to be. That was three years ago today.

Alcohol was my drug of choice it was one of my secret sins that I didn’t want people to know about so it’s actually one of the hardest to talk about. Where I didn’t drink much, when I did it was ugly and nasty. I used to tell myself I drink because it makes me comfortable in my own skin or it allows me to be “me” because there is no filter. Let me tell you those are all lies the enemy tells you to convince you to have one more drink because the more we numb ourselves the more we focus on this world and our flesh. So I was never “me”, I was the ugly version of me because I was closer to the enemies mouth than my ear was to God’s voice.

Alcoholism is real. Drug addiction is real. Luckily there is help and hope. God states he will never abandon you nor forsake you. He has and will always love you. You are his Son or daughter. He cares for you. There is hope found in Jesus. He died so that you might live.

Sacrifice

The other night in growth group one of the ladies asked “How do you even begin to know what Jesus went through?”

I answered with something our Pastor said awhile ago.

“Love is rooted in sacrifice.” – Pastor Tally Wilgis

God sent his Son, Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb. He sent Jesus to die for us so we didn’t have to.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

He sent his Son because he loves us because he wants us to be with him for eternity. We get the free gift of eternal life, but Jesus lived in this world and then voluntarily hung on executioners cross and died for our sins just so all of us can have the gift of eternal life.

Think about that for a moment, Jesus died for you. He voluntarily got up on the cross. He is God in flesh, he could’ve stop it. But he didn’t. He didn’t want to die in Matthew 26:39 Jesus says “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In another Gospel it says he was so anguished that he was sweating drops of blood. Can you now imagine what he was going through? I still couldn’t.

But I said to them for us to experience even a glimpse of what he went through. Try doing something for someone else when you don’t want to or don’t have the time to. It might be a silly sacrifice but when you had a hard day at work and all you can think about our pjs and your favorite shows and someone you know is hurting or is having a rough day, try switching your plans around to put them first above your own. You’ll get frustrated and you might even get mad because you don’t want to sacrifice the time or energy of your own time.

One of my big things I tell myself is when I don’t want to do something it probably means I should be doing it. Meaning that when I evaluate something by my mere flesh and worldly views my automatic response is I don’t want to. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. But when I evaluate through the lens of the spirit I immediately go through it differently. I ask is this purposeful? Does it impact a person? The Kingdom? Is it meaningful? So when I don’t want to do something a lot of times it’s my flesh fighting back because my flesh doesn’t want to put others above me.

One of my pet peeves is when people say they follow Jesus and “live it out” but there is no sacrificing for others and it’s always about them.

God is Love. Love is rooted in sacrifice. And in order for us to show the love of God we have sacrifice time, talent, treasure. We have to be willing to give something even when there is no return.

Meeting you at the point

In Genesis 22, Abraham was to sacrifice his son after God told him to do so. But the beauty is when they go to altar, God showed up. God had Abraham free his son and provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. God met Abraham in the place after he placed a calling on him and Abraham was following through.

God will meet you where he called you, just not on your timing. I’ve been struggling with faith, I’ve been struggling on whether this life is what God has called me to do, I’ve been struggling with connection with God, I’ve been struggling with a relationship with God. It’s been rough. It’s been battles with the enemy, internal struggles and some very dark days. God promises me he will never leave me nor forsake me. He promises he will always love me and he is working all things for good for those who love him.
But I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear the goodness of God. It was as if I put myself in this box and the enemy decided to trap me in there and tried convinced me that God had forgotten me, and repeatedly told me if he truly called me then I wouldn’t be going through this pain. But all this time, God was out there telling me to hold on because I had to endure this moment to get to where God wanted me but I couldn’t hear him over the words of the enemy. I was right where the enemy wanted me, trapped in my own thoughts.

But I was set free. You see there was this moment I had to pull over and allow tears to just flow down my face and be broken before God. At this very point was the point at which God met me. I yelled. I screamed at God. But a peace had come over me. It was in that moment that I knew I was free and all I had to do was let go. 
God will meet you where he wants you. Today I walked into church with more happiness and joy than any Sunday over the last few months. I got to serve Jesus today and for that I am thankful. 

Nailing the Nail in Deeper

It’s Easter time so it’s time for bunnies, eggs, and candy, but most importantly it’s time for Jesus.
It’s time to celebrate his resurrection from the dead. It’s time to celebrate the victory of all victories, the victory of death itself. But he had to die first. 

He had endure torture, he didn’t deserve. He had to endure pain like no other pain. Those nails had to pierce through his flesh and bones. 

So many of us stop Christianity there. We stop and we want the resurrection but we don’t want to face the killing of Jesus head on. We don’t want to face what Jesus actually died for.

He died for our transgressions. He died for our sins. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He died for you and he died for me. But the problem is every time we walk that path of flesh and we give into that sin we are nailing the nail in deeper. 

Every time we put a little pride behind our speech, every time we are a little bitter to that co worker, we are nailing the nail in deeper, crushing him, killing him little by little. 

Some of you maybe thinking “But that’s what grace is for”. Yes, but it neglects that fact that you hang Jesus every time you sin. It neglects the fact that God doesn’t call us to live in sin. He doesn’t say “it’s okay to sin now”. He calls us out of sin. He calls us to glorify him, we can’t do that if we are sitting there trying to pull Jesus off the cross before he even died because all we want is the end result of forgiveness.

Jesus bleed out to heal us. He can’t heal us if we don’t give him all of us because if there is still a part of you in this world, then there is still a chance for infection, for the enemy and sin to engulf  over your life. Which means every day is a battle. Which means that some days you will nail the nails in deeper, but you cannot sit there and keep nailing it in, you need to take a step back and examine yourself to see what part of your flesh you have to give over to Jesus.