Grieving Through Answered Prayers

As many of you that have been a part of OAM for very long, or maybe follow us on Facebook, YouTube, etc. know that one of the things we try to be is transparent, at least as much as possible. For better, for worse that is one of the goals we established from the very beginning of starting this ministry. For the most part, majority of people seem to appreciate how much Joe and I try to truly and openly DO LIFE with our OAM community. We are after all, family and this is what family should be about.
Most of you know that our little family has recently been faced with a heart wrenching loss. On January 17th, Joe and I were faced with the news that I had miscarried what would have been our 5th beautiful baby. I was 17 1/2 weeks along and had gone in for what was to be a simple, routine check up: weigh in, check blood pressure, listen to the baby’s heart beat. Something we have done many times before and several times with this little one. However, in just a few seconds, our world came to a screeching halt and we would be gripped with news that would all but paralyze us. From one minute we were joking around with the nurses, picking back and forth on who was team boy vs team girl, to seeing the color drain from my doctor’s face as she began doing her BEST to find a heart beat. In hopes she was having a computer malfunction, we all walked up two flights of stairs, transferring me to a more advanced machine, HOPING that what she had feared would be incorrect. She was doing her best to stay positive, to stay hopeful, trying to maintain a normal conversation with us. I had a hunch something was wrong. Joe had a look on his face that he was feeling the same. She even pulled in a specialist come in to check. HaShem bless her, she was doing all she could to be wrong. Then…the finality of it came to a head as she quickly turned off the sonogram machine (before I saw too much) and turned to me saying with tears in her eyes, “I am SO sorry but there is no heartbeat”.
I remember that I had been able to take one last look at the screen on the wall before it went black, just to see the outline of my little one. A tiny little figure that should have been rolling around, being active and stubborn like it had been showing signs of just the last check up. Yet this time….it was perfectly still and quiet. No little leg kick, no little tooshie sticking out…just like the baby was taking a nap. Joe and I were in complete shock and at a loss for words. How could this be? I had never had any other issues, had carried every other baby just fine. Asher, whom I delivered just a little over 2 years ago was no problem and just the check up before this baby was healthy with a heart rate of 179. We were good to go. Now, instead of us heading to the store to run a few errands and talking about what we thought the baby would be, we now were having to figure out how we would be telling our girls and Jojo as well as the rest of our OAM family that I had lost our little one. Our doctor DID confirm that there was nothing we had done on our part, nothing that we COULD have done to prevent this, it just happened to be one of those 1 in 10,000 situations. She also confirmed that the baby would not have lived longer than a couple of days had it gone full term. However…her words all sounded mumbled and mixed together as we were faced with a decision we NEVER dreamed of. We had to decide when I wanted to deliver….
That drive to pick up our girls from gymnastics and then home to grab an overnight bag was the longest 1 1/2 hours of our lives. It was one thing for Joe and I to be crying, but to hear my girls in the back seat, weeping because all of THEIR excitement and the plans that THEY had for their new baby sibling had been ripped from their hands. Having to hold back the screams in my head, the “they must have gotten it wrong” thoughts, and the trembling that wanted to consume my body, so we could get my babies to their grandparents and Joe and I could head back to the hospital.
The drive back to the hospital was somewhat quiet, Joe just held and squeezed my hand, letting go only to wipe away a stray tear that had rolled down his cheek. Then, a still small voice sounded in my mind and reminded me of a prayer that I had BEEN praying from the beginning of this pregnancy. I had asked HaShem from the beginning, that if something were going to be wrong with this baby, that if it was going to be sick or if there would end up being complications with me during pregnancy or delivery, that HE would step in and take care of it. Now to some, that may sound like a horrible and selfish prayer, however I did not want this baby to have a miserable life due to illness nor did I want my babies now to have to grow up without their mommy. It was in that moment I reminded Joe of that prayer and told him, “how can I be upset over an answered prayer? That for some reason, I felt deep down that I, that we were walking through this for someone else”.
Now, was I still hurting? Of COURSE I was. I still had lost my baby. Now whether you are one that believe it is or isn’t a “baby” until after a certain amount of time, THAT is not up for debate in this post. Frankly, I don’t believe it is any of someone’s right to add their input unless it is THEIR situation, and I truly pray that you never have to walk this path. When you begin to feel that little one move, hear the heart beat, see that little jelly bean wiggling and kicking….your world and your perspective changes. Our hearts were breaking, the reality of our future plans being silenced were overwhelming, and then we drive up to the hospital to go through the process of delivering our little one, knowing it would not be coming home with us.
Yet again, HaShem stepped in and went ahead of us. Every nurse that I came in contact with had walked in my shoes. The caring and gentle staff that I was surrounded with almost seemed hand picked just for me. They knew what to say, how to interact, and exactly what I needed almost before I needed it. My main nurse came in one time, looked at me and said, “There is such a feeling of peace in this room. Outside, the rest of this floor is nothing but chaos and drama, but this room, where there should be sorrow and pain…….is nothing but calm and peace”. So, this momma took a deep breath, focused on what I needed to do, and let HaShem take care of the rest.
The delivery was quick and painless. Again, HaShem stepped in, my doctor had JUST come in to check on me, and just like that, it was over and done. Previous arrangements that we had made were followed through and they kept me a few hours to make sure I was okay. Those last few hours still seem like a blur, the ride home was quick, and then the reality of everything that had happened began to hit. Now, though HaShem had answered my prayers and Joe as well as I believe this was TRULY for the best, we now had to go through the grieving process. The loss, the loneliness, the heartache, the waves of sorrow that seem to consume you are relentless. You are faced with so many thoughts that take over and overwhelm you within your own head, then you add in “littles” that have their own questions. However, now, not only are they hurting, but they also seem nervous around their mommy. Not sure how to act, don’t want to upset her, not sure if SHE will be the same….and as a mommy….that HURTS. It is OUR job as the mommy to protect our babies, make them feel safe, and heal the boo-boos, yet knowing that you are not in control of your emotions and that you can’t fix it, make it all “okay” is a layer of insecurity that no momma wants or needs, especially at this time. This only adds to the silence you feel swallowing you, which brings me to the point of this post.
After the first week where I mainly cried and slept, again I was reminded to take a breath, open my eyes, and listen. HaShem still wanted to give me space to grieve, but He also knew that it was time to get my focus back and that would be when the TRUE healing would begin. I realized that in this, there are two types, those that haven’t walked this path and those that have. Simple right? No deep revelation there and a pretty easy observation to make. Yet it is so much deeper than that, because where the two groups are extremely diverse, they BOTH play such an intricate part in the healing and moving forward of those that are in the middle of this storm.The reality is that anyone walking through this is going to be surrounded by people in both categories. However, HOW those people react make a world of difference and this is where my observations and maybe a few insights will hopefully encourage, relieve, provide insight and maybe better prepare those on both sides.
Now I am going to preface my last couple of paragraphs by stating that these observations, understandings, and insights are from MY experience. It may be as if I am putting your exact thoughts and feelings into words or you may not be able to relate to them at all. Either way, I feel that these things NEED to be shared, because SOMEONE needs to hear them.
The first group that I am going to address, is the group that have never had to walk through this loss, personally. Because I was you just a mere few weeks ago, I can still honestly relate and understand. You see, last year, I had a dear friend miscarry and lose her baby girl. Embarrassingly enough, because as a pastor’s wife you should ALWAYS be prepared, I had NO clue what to say or even do. I had no idea what she was going through, how to help her pain, how to relieve some of the weight she was carrying. In a sense, felt like I was failing her not just as her “pastor’s wife”, but more so as her friend. Then, months down the road, I find out that I am again pregnant and a huge wave a guilt came over me. How would I share with her that I am now expecting what she recently lost. Would it cause her pain? Would she be angry? You can imagine the thoughts running through my mind…however…it was mainly because I STILL didn’t know how or what to say. Then….it was my turn to walk this walk and my best friend did the most appropriate and perfectly timed thing she could have done. She simply said, “I don’t know what to say. All I can say is that I am here if you need me. If you need anything, I am here. But until then, will give you time.” For you see, there really ARE no words anyone can say at that moment. Whether they were 6 weeks or 6 months along, it is still gut wrenching. There is nothing that can be said or done to take away or even lessen the hurt, the loss, the confusion, etc. You have to realize that is okay. One of the best things you can do is BE HONEST and say “ I DON’T know what to say and can’t imagine your pain. However, I love you and am here for you when and if you need me. Just let me know what you need when you are ready.” One of the worse things you can do is not say ANYTHING. We know you don’t have a magic recipe to make it go away, but what we don’t want is to have complete silence and hear NOTHING from you.
As women, in times likes this, our first instinct is we want to DO something. We want to FIX if we can. We want to do whatever we can think of to make them feel better, to take away the pain, etc.. My suggestion, which is what I had someone who had walked this before do for me, simply text or message saying, “I am so sorry and understand your pain. Take your time to heal, text me back when you are ready. Just let me know what YOU need”. Those who know me, know that I am not really a “social” person. I don’t care for attention, I prefer to work in the background, and do not like “big deals” made about me. So for me, I wanted to hermit up, have my family close, and just be left alone. What best for me was having little surprises delivered to the house. Beautiful flower arrangements, spa sets, small figurines, hand written cards, etc. Each knock on my door reminded me that someone was thinking about me and every time I looked at each gift, it gave me strength and reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. Now this next sentence isn’t a “cry for attention” but purely and observation and was confirmed through a friend who has walked this as well. The first week is always the hardest and usually when you get the most attention and showering of thoughts and prayers. However, the second week comes and goes and you may get a few texts or a card. Then the third week comes and it is just one or two texts. Please understand, I GET it, life goes on, people have their own drama and schedules to deal with. However, and like my friend commented, there are times we feel like people assume we are to just get over it, heal, and be moved on after a week. That there are times we want to scream, “Have you forgotten me and what I have lost?! Do you realize I still NEED you and to know that you are there?!” So my encouragement would be to remember this is a deep and serious loss that one doesn’t get over in a week. From what I understand, it does get easier, the crying does lessen, and the hurt does ease, but you will never “get over it”. So maybe, try to make a conscious effort, at least for the first several weeks, to be there. Send a text, mail a card, if you feel so, send a some flowers or a thoughtful gift, but mainly all we want to know is that you care and that you are still thinking of us. If there DOES come a time where we are ready to talk….just LISTEN….don’t try to fix, don’t try to relate…..just listen because THAT communication is VITAL to the healing process.
Finally to my girls who have or who are currently walking through this. I am truly sorry for your loss. For those new to this, please allow yourself to grieve. However is best for you, DO THAT. If it is crying then baby girl make Walmart restock them tissues. If it is sleep, then turn them lights off and snuggle under the covers. If it is being around people, then hug them tight and soak in their love. However YOU need to work and walk this out, you DO IT. This is an unimaginable pain and indescribable heartbreak. But I CAN promise you, that in time, the tears won’t fall as much and you will begin to live again. There WILL be things that will trigger you. I still have certain shows, see certain things that will cause it all to rush back to the surface. But you take you a few deep breaths, get to a safe place, and let it out. It is okay and no one is expecting you to be superwoman, a lesson I had to learn myself. I remember being asked at my check up how I was doing and how I felt I was handling this all. I know I must have had the goofiest look on my face because….how do you GAUGE that especially when you have never gone through this before. I felt like screaming “my world is falling down around me, I can’t stop crying, I don’t want my husband farther than 10 inches from me, and I don’t want my kids out of my sight. I sleep a lot, don’t really have an appetite, my normal personality is gone, I don’t know who I am anymore, and am still wondering how, why it happened, and what do I do now? So….I have no CLUE how I am doing because no-one gave me a chart that says, ‘if you fall between this and this then you are okay’”. Now, I have to add that I have an INCREDIBLE doctor who would have not been surprised if I had done that and would have totally understood. She is one of few that truly GET me, lol. So, I simply looked at Joe, then over at her and said, “You need to ask him, because how I THINK I am doing maybe not be honestly how I am doing. He knows me better than anyone and can tell you where I am”. Joe’s main thing was, “Doc, she is talking to me. We are communicating.” and that is exactly what she needed to hear.
Her number one thing was wanting to make sure I was just grieving and not headed into depression, which I totally understand. That is what makes this next statement SO vital. If you are going through this, FIND people to talk to. Keep the lines of communication open with your husband, share with him what is going on inside of you and what you need. They aren’t mind readers ladies, but I promise you they want to help in any way they can. But PLEASE remember…THEY are hurting too. THEY are carrying the weight of a loss as well as trying to protect you and keep your daily lives afloat. Also, find someone that has gone through this before and TALK to them. Tell them what you are feeling, what you are thinking, etc. That was one of the BIGGEST things for me, was having a couple of beautiful friends that could and still do, confirm what I am feeling and thinking, that I’m not losing it and that this IS part of the process. They also are helping prepare me for the “down the road” because this IS a forever walk. I was/am so very lucky because I have a an amazing sister in law that is a licensed counselor and has been able to walk Joe through steps and signs. I also have a brother in law and his beautiful wife (another amazing SIL) that work with a nonprofit organization called Maddie’s Footprints that specialize in providing support for families with this type of loss. So please, if you don’t have anyone to reach out and talk to, and would like to connect with one of these ladies, please let me know. The main thing I want you to realize is that you are NOT alone. There are so many of us out here that have and are walking through this, we are here if and when you need.
I will end on this…because I have read so many articles and my heart aches at some of the responses that people have made and the audacity they have. Whether the momma is 25 or 55, whether she is overweight or underweight, whether she has several children or none at all, unless you are her doctor or she asks you specifically for your insight and wisdom, keep your thoughts to yourself on the prospect of her may or maybe not “trying again”. It doesn’t matter if you are her family member or closest friend. She doesn’t need your “Word from God”, and her “lack of faith” had nothing to do with this or whether she should or shouldn’t try again. YOUR job is to be her support, be her encouragement, and pray HaShem’s wisdom over her.
As for Joe and I, we are doing better day by day. I am beginning to have more good days than bad, but do have occasional break downs….which is okay. As far as my health, according to my doctor (aside from some weight I could lose, but can’t we all) I am stronger and healthier than some of the teenage moms she has come through. Mentally and emotionally I still have some work to do and some healing to happen, but it is coming. I am realizing my limits right now and focusing on the present. We still have other weights and loads that life seems to keep throwing at us, that are needing the majority of our attention. As for the future, we are putting ourselves in HaShem’s hands and listening to His voice. Whatever HIS plans are, is what we will follow and will trust that He knows what is best and will be there walking beside us no matter what.
Thank you everyone who has reached out with your love, your support, and your prayers. Our family has gained so much strength and encouragement from them.
To my amazing husband, there are no words to thank you for everything you have been for me these past three weeks. Life has seriously used us as a punching bag these past few months, things have been thrown at us that should have crippled us. Your love, your strength, and your support are what has kept me focused and refusing to give up. Like you said, we are a team and as long as we are together, we can take on anything. Thank you my love, you deserve more than I could ever give, but will spend the rest of my life trying.
Though we are still hurting, though this isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, sometimes….we will have to grieve through answered prayers and trust that HE is taking care of it all.


Exploring HaShem with Others

My congregation offended me… and that’s a good thing.


Before I really get into the nitty gritty of a hard truth, I want to make a clear disclaimer first:

I will never condone belittling, condescending, intending to tear down one another behavior. Don’t think this is the permission slip you need to justify being unkind because it’s not.


Many of us have been pulled away from churches and fellowships that only demonstrated a toxic relationship dynamic. That’s a great thing. We saw that they were not being true to the image that Adonai teaches and demonstrates to us. A lot of us left that experience and never looked back.


Except that we never got over the hurt from that experience. Worse, some of us use that as an excuse to point blame at other people for what our relationship with Him looks like.


There are people that have said, “I walked away from my faith because of them.” That is absolutely the fault of people giving false testimony. They have completely abused authority in His name. What they’ve done cannot and should not be ignored.


What I’d also like to submit is our own responsibility in that. Our relationship with Hashem should not be founded on others to such a degree that it makes or breaks it. If we’re being honest, there are some people that look for a reason to run from the relationship through past hurts because living a life with Him isn’t for the faint of heart. He forces us to deal with the hardest parts of ourselves that we intentionally ignore, and you have to be ready for that. You have to be ready for the commitment of what it means to be His.


Sometimes, He will use the people around you to get the lesson across. It’s no mistake that the Torah teaches us to gather with other Believers and places high importance on community. What’s interesting is there aren’t a lot of stipulations in that.


We aren’t commanded to be on the same page with every issue. Of course we need to have a general agreement of foundation with some basic things like agreeing that Hashem is the one and only God, that His word is ultimate, etc. Nowhere does it say that we all need to have the exact same agreement on how we walk out what He teaches, and this is the where things get uncomfortable for people. We don’t know how to disagree without every issue being a make or break to the covenant.


Waiting for a congregation or fellowship that is “perfect” in a space where we look for reasons to leave can be more dangerous than beneficial. While not every fellowship is meant for us, if you find yourself withdrawing from fellowships repeatedly over things, it may be time to do some digging on what needs to heal in you.


Disagreeing brings growth. Being able to have a civil conversation about different interpretations is good. Discussing varying viewpoints with no intent to convince, only to learn and develop relationships more, is healing. The ability to discuss with anyone and still learn something, no matter if you feel you’re more or less knowledgeable than another, is how we grow humbly.


By no means should that disagreement lead to questioning in your faith. If it does, the issue isn’t in the congregation. He’s using the congregation to say there’s deeper work that needs to be done between you and Me. If you listen and do the work, your relationship will be stronger for it in the long run. Even if your viewpoint on a matter never changes, the exploration with Him in finding the answer is where intimacy is built.

So don’t use the congregation to do all the exploring for you because then you’ll have a false sense of security in faith. But let the congregation challenge you to explore with Him deeper.


All Who Are Hungry, All Who Are Thirsty

When I say I love food, I mean I LOVE food in the way that it’s the highlight of my day. It’s always been there for me. Ice cream and chocolate consoled broken hearts, thick and spicy gumbo warmed the family up in the winter – and any time of the year if we’re being honest, and BBQ grilling is my all time favorite type of gathering because there’s always a lot of laughing and singing and even some alcohol-induced dancing.
Fasting is a regular topic in Scripture, and I know a lot of friends that practice this mode of discipline and worship on a regular basis. I can usually get away with it for Yom Kippur, but fasting outside of that sounds more like a death sentence to me than anything else. I’ve tried it a few other times but would always forget or cave and eventually just stopped trying, even though I kept feeling the strings tugging at me to keep trying.
Suddenly, I didn’t have a choice in eating anymore. My wide range of taste got cut significantly to become no meat. Not long after, all forms of potatoes or chips, rice, even pasta got cut off the list. I just kept choking on everything and eventually had to stop taking the risk of really getting sick or injured. I was down to protein shakes for the sake of getting some honest to goodness nutrients.
This lasted about a month.
It didn’t take long before drinks got hard to swallow. I started choking on them too and was forced to stop drinking anything for a few days because I absolutely couldn’t risk getting pneumonia at a time like this, with COVID, and unable to take any medicine for it which would send me straight to a hospital bed with an IV.
Life goes on though, and I was around others that of course got to keep on eating and drinking. We had loads of food in our fridge, gallons of water because I’m accustomed to drinking a gallon a day… and I couldn’t have any of it. Not even in the blistering heat of a Louisiana summer. I would see others chug down a cold bottle of water, and all I could feel was the aching pain of my dry and sore throat. Getting to smell all of the delicious food was enough to make my stomach turn from hunger pains to the point that I thought it might shrivel into nothing.
If you’ve ever heard the term, “hangry” I was the living version of it sprinkled with the emotions of a pregnant lady PMSing all at the same time. When you’re that desperate for nourishment, you can’t sleep. You’re weak and can’t carry anything you’re used to carrying and walking pretty much guarantees getting lightheaded. Don’t even get me started with what kind of stress that brings with it.
When Yeshua starts talking about those that hunger and thirst, I personally have an idea of the kind of hunger and thirst of someone that has been in a dry, hot place with nothing to their name.
That’s the kind of do-or-die, single minded need we should feel when we seek Him. The pain in the pit of our stomach, the desperate craving for a drink. Seeking and longing for that connection as if desperate for living nourishment. We can’t live to eat and drink, but our lives can be a testament to how that nourishment of a relationship with Him is helping us to grow and flourish as a Believer created in His image.
You can only get there though by creating a lifestyle that consistently carves out time to be with Him. What better time than when you’re enjoying your meals throughout the day?


Finding Home in His Kingdom

Some people know how talented they are growing up. They know exactly what they’re good at, know they can be great at anything, and know exactly what they want to do in life.
I was not that person even a little bit. It’s actually a running joke between my siblings and me that we have no life skills because we weren’t really taught anything. (So thanks for the people that are willing to teach us and not make us feel less than for not knowing!)
We did have some other interests though. I used to write every free moment of my day – poems, stories, with other people, about my life. Every year I can remember in school, I won a writing award and was published in the Beauregard Students Write book.
In about sixth grade, I fell in love with french braids and made it a personal mission to learn how to do them. Since there was no one to practice on but myself, I got really strong arms before I finally mastered the skill. By the time I was graduating, everyone knew me as the person that loved to style hair in all sorts of ways but with a specialty in different braiding techniques.
I was always the baker in my family. When someone wanted dessert, they put me up to the task, and I gladly took over and fell in love.
I was the classic nerd. I always had a book with me. If it wasn’t a book, I was ready to take notes or ask questions. Boy, can I ask a lot of questions! Consequently, this meant I knew lots of little bits of information that I never realized were “odd” to know. People would ask me questions all the time about different things. Sometimes it was advice on tough situations. Other times, they asked me random trivia. Then at other points, they would ask me to teach them. They expected me to know.
Later in life as I started discovering my faith in Torah, I was almost overwhelmed with how much there was to learn. I did the kid Bible classes at church for about 5 years, and that isn’t a lot of stuff to know because it was mostly memorizing verses in the workbooks they gave us. My own family didn’t push religious beliefs on us, so not only was I the one kid in those classes thinking, “What are they talking about?” when they started asking questions about specific people and events, I was also the one that might as well have been an atheist in a church. (Yeah, fun years.)
But like I said before, I was the classic nerd. Learning wasn’t new territory or hard for me to get my head around. Not growing up in the church actually left me a blank canvas in a lot of ways that prevented me from needing to unlearn mistruths like many are having to now. It was actually the doing part that was overwhelming for me to learn.
Needing to learn about tzitzit, when to observe the Feasts and the nightmare confusion that caused with calendar debates (and why in the world DO we ignore the moon if Scripture says to go by the moon?), how to observe them and what the terms “High Sabbath” had to do with working or not working, what in the world is a siddur and why do I need to do it, is it okay to cook with this fat or is that the fat we aren’t allowed to have, if you want to plant trees and eat from them what years can we do that in or does that even count since we’re not in the Land, what’s the difference between dresses for ladies and what men were wearing were practically dresses so how do we dress differently…
The doing was incredibly overwhelming for me. Particularly because we weren’t raised in a family that honored doing to begin with but also because I was trying to grapple with these concepts in a belief system that, as far as I knew, was nonexistent here. It didn’t help that I felt massively incapable of doing any of them. Having to schedule, cook, prepare ahead of time, make all these beautiful things, actually stop to rest for a whole day every single week, and somehow live a life that is accurately teaching others about Him? The perfectionist in me was nearly crippled with anxiety. The girl that was sure she had no capabilities to bring to the Kingdom was ready to make a run for it.
Fortunately for me, I had a close friend that had been walking in the Torah for 10 years to carry the burden of my incessant questioning and took the lead in a lot of ways for the big stuff. I trudged on the first year in an ungracious way that also came with the innocent, child-like excitement of constantly talking about it when I definitely had no business talking about it yet.
When she told me to prepare for a feast, I did. When she told me to bring something, I did. I read and learned but it wasn’t clear yet, so I stuck to what I knew: following directions. I didn’t have to understand the calendar arguments because at least I had someone that had already fought through that and was giving me the heads up to be ready for it. I didn’t naturally think, “Get rid of all the yeast!” but she reminded me. It took me up until the day before to realize the second part is also, “Eat unleavened bread.”
Eventually I took on the challenge of making my own tzitzit. I saw a popular how to video on it and finally something felt familiar: braiding! It was actually kind of sad how excited I was about it, too. I was confident this would be a no brainer for me, and I was right. I made all sorts of styles of braids and had sets of them for days. My favorite part is that it was something I naturally felt inclined to, so I got to actually enjoy it without wrestling too much with myself on getting it perfect.
Those small fringes dangling from our clothes is what made me feel like I was actually part of the Kingdom without having to ride the curtail of someone more experienced than me. The story of the lady desperately clinging for Yeshua’s tzitzit resonates with me on a different level than it does for some. One, because I felt like her: desperate to just get to that point of wholeness. Two, because when she finally got to that point, she was whole again. I finally felt whole even though the rest of the doing was still foreign.
The more time went on, the more things started to click for me. I love to bake and braid: tzitzit, challah, nearly every Feast we have being related to milk and honey and baking in general. I love to write: I get to share my journey with Abba with others as they learn. I love to learn: I get to study nonstop, all the time, and questions are a good thing to know how to ask. I love to teach: I get to live my learnings daily and when others ask questions, I’m almost always able to help because I’ve had the same questions before. I love to be organized and prepared: hello Shabbat!
There are countless ways I’ve had to grow and nurture new skills that I wasn’t capable of before. Often, I don’t even realize it’s a skill until I start falling into place with what to do and someone else hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
I knew I found my home in Him when I found my own heart’s longings and desires matching readily with His. The doing was a testament to those heart longings. For someone that has never felt part of something before, finding Him and the people of His Kingdom gave me a renewed idea of who I am in the best way.
It’s an amazing thing to grow in that identity, and for everyone that has ever lifted me up throughout the learning process, thank you. He helped me find that purpose I felt was missing and also a home to pour those purposes into in His people. The doing with others really made it all come to life because I’m not just thinking, talking, or reading about it. I’m getting to actively bring Scripture to life with others. And He used me in all my capability and blessed me with even more.


The Kingdom in Solitude

Right now, more of us are spending time away from the outside world in the safety of our homes. For those of you that aren’t and are helping bring order to the chaos, thank you. You’re noticed and deeply appreciated.
For the rest of us in our homes, it can be boring and even lonely. It’s not easy to be able to go out anytime you want without second thought to feeling as if you’re cut off – and suddenly needing to meet new demands (shout out to the new home school parents! You’ll get through this!)
If we’re being honest, most of us have no idea how to be alone. In fact, we struggle so much with the concept that we have created technology that keeps us connected to others and information at all times. If it’s not social media, it’s TV. It’s video games. It’s anything that distracts us from the feeling that we’re afraid to face.
Learning how to be alone is one of the most valuable, crucial things we can learn.
Messiah spent a great deal of his time withdrawn from others and creating an intimate relationship with Abba. There’s a great quote I love to overuse, “Intimacy. In to me, see.”
We can’t fully see the amazing Creator of the universe if we’re allowing distractions in. We can’t fully experience what it means to let Him see us if we’re not in a place to embrace the situation we’re in. Sometimes we don’t even know that we’re in pain or what we’re in pain from because we’ve gotten so good at focusing on distraction.
Scripture shows us that we should seek prayer in all circumstances. When we’re heartbroken, full of shame, fearful, angry at Him, doubtful and especially when we’re joyful, thankful, filled with the Spirit.
The way we can truly encompass these aspects of joy and praise in His spirit is by seeking Him in our brokenness.
Trials in relationships strengthen them when the parties are able to come together in them, be honest, and seek to improve. It makes the bonds richer. It makes the goodness in them sweeter. It makes us appreciate what we’ve built and worked so hard for.
We can’t get there without being fully present with Him, though.
He wants us to seek Him and build a personal relationship. When we are able to meet Him in those moments of solitude, we become centered in His healing presence and wise guidance. We’re able to be restored. These things aren’t just for the Sabbath, though that is the number one time we should be building this intimacy. We need Him every day, every hour.
Then when we’re able to center ourselves in that love, peace, wisdom – we can bring that renewal into the world through our actions. This is how we can continually bring order within ourselves to then extend to the world. This pattern is shown over and over through Messiah’s story, and it was important enough that it was documented a LOT.
So while we’re able to practice the art of being alone, let’s learn how to pray.
Let’s learn how to turn away from the noise.
Let’s learn how to be still.
Let’s learn how to quiet our minds.
Let’s learn how to be honest with ourselves.
Let’s learn how to bring that honest before Him.
Let’s learn how to embrace His presence.
Let’s learn how to hear what He’s telling us.
Let’s learn how to walk out the wisdom that love and healing brings us.
Let’s learn how to spread these things to others.
Let’s learn how to be the Kingdom.
Jesus’ Solitude and Silence – Soul Shepherding
Here is a chronological survey of Bible verses from Mark that highlight Jesus’ solitude and silence. (I’ve added a few verses from the other Gospels. All verses are NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.)
“At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12)
“Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee… ‘Come, follow me,’ he said.” (Mark 1:16)
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) [Everyone was looking for Jesus, but after his time in prayer he told his disciples that it was time for them to move on to another village.]
“[Despite Jesus’ plea that his miracles be kept secret] the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16; see also Mark 1:45)
“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.” (Mark 2:13)
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and his disciples walked along.” (Mark 2:23)
“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” (Mark 3:7)
“Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” (Luke 6:12-13. See also Mark 3:13)
“Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables.” (Matthew 13:1-3. See also Mark 4;1.)
“When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)
“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)
“After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone.” (Matthew 14:23; see also Mark 6:46)
“[Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” (Mark 7:24)
“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’” (Luke 9:18. See also Mark 8:27)
“Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.” (Matthew 15:29, ESV)
“Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:2)
“After his brothers had gone up to the feast, then [Jesus] also went up, not publicly but in private.” (John 7:10, ESV). [Jesus walked 90 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, which gave him about five days in solitude.]
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” (Luke 11:1)
“Again [the religious leaders in Jerusalem] sought to arrest [Jesus], but he escaped from their hands. He went away again [walking about five miles] across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him.” (John 10:39-41, ESV)
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32.) [Apparently Jesus kept silent for most of the 22-mile hike. Luke says Jesus was “resolute” (9:51). He told them that he’d be tortured and killed in Jerusalem.]
“When [Jesus and his disciples] had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26). This was Jesus’ “usual place” to pray when he was in Jerusalem. (Luke 22:39)
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” (Mark 14:32)
“They crucified [Jesus]… Darkness came over the whole land… Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’” (Mark 15:25, 33; Luke 23:46)


Healing in Scripture

Scripture has the best wisdom to share on allowing the healthiest version of ourselves to exist. We don’t read it for this purpose but the more we look for His guidance on how to take care of ourselves, the more we begin to see it.
While we like to think that science is opposed to Scripture, there’s lots of gems hidden of wisdom that can be proven and backed by science. Science and medicine has proved that when we live in fear, anxiety, anger, oppression – in a bad energy – our bodies chemically respond in a way that makes our immune systems weaken and more susceptible to illness. Similarly on the reverse, science and medicine have also proved that if we live in love, kindness, awareness – in a good energy – our bodies chemically respond in a way that boosts our immune system and tells the cells in our body to get into its natural state of resistance.
The most important lesson we will ever learn on how to be more healthy is in our inherent ability to create.
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…” -2 Corinthians 4:13
“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – mediate on these things.” -Philippians 4:8
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” -Matthew 21:22
If you’re living in fear, you’re creating more of it for yourself. The more you respond to it, the more you hang onto it and allow it to continue to “poison” you. (This is also similar to the algorithms that social media works off of – if you’re responding to negative and fearful posts, you’ll start to be shown more of it because you’re reacting.) This is the very real version of, “If you are looking for opportunities to be thankful, you will see more of them.”
We must shift from a space of fear to awareness because they are completely separate things. The facts that medicine can show: the factors of the host outweigh the facts of the illness. For example, it doesn’t necessarily matter how strong the illness is. It matters more that we have good immune systems, practice good nutrition and sanitary habits, take care to get deep and restful sleep, and live in a place of peace.
The fear response is this: “I’m not okay. I have to fight disease. I have to fight the virus. I have to control it and the things around me to avoid it. I can’t surrender.” Similar to not focusing on the sin, we can’t focus on the illness and the fear. We must turn our attention to God, love, our body and health, and how to improve it. While this can often be mistaken as doing nothing, as inaction, by stepping into a place of peace and serenity and focusing on our health, we are telling our cells to do their job and join us in the battle in which they’re able to show up in their best state to give their best work.
When we wish someone to be in shalom, we really don’t grasp the depth of how powerful this state of being is for our well being.
“Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer.” -Proverbs 14:30
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7
There’s a space around the heart that’s similar to its own brain that has a higher frequency – a better energy – than the beliefs and thoughts of our brain. No matter how hard you think about it, if you’re in the mind, you’re never going to get the answer because it’s a different frequency. You must get aligned with the heart.
There are many verses about the light revealing the darkness, darkness being overcome, and we – Believers – stepping into the light of His goodness. For the darkness to become light, we have to be vulnerable and honest in where we’re at in the darkness. We have to bravely step into His light, in all of our darkness, to be healed.
To do so, we need to actively relax our body by taking deep breaths and becoming very present. Take deep chest breaths, slowly, with your eyes closed. Relax every part of your body from your face to your shoulders to your abdomen to your hips to your legs to your feet. Don’t worry about doing it wrong. There’s no wrong way. Just keep doing it.
As you feel the emotions, don’t try to suppress them. Remember: the fear, the anger, the anxiety – these things are not toxic. Holding onto them is. When we suppress them, we hold onto them. These emotions are part of our energy and are meant to move through us, not stay with us. What we resist, persists. You feed it by resisting it. Embrace your experience as it is, exactly in the now. Don’t try to change it, fix it, or chase it away. Feel it and breathe through it. When we do this, our hormones and immune system can function at its peak, simply by harmonizing with ourselves. Simply let the fear and anger go.
Find the peace and serenity within you through your breathing and relaxation and focus on it. Even if you’re barely relaxed or only have the concept of relaxation, focus on it. By doing this, you’re inviting the cells in your body to participate and expand the peace you have. This allows the wisdom of God to be heard because you’re getting out of the way.
As you begin to think or act through this process or your daily life and are faced with the various beliefs, thoughts, actions, and habits: “I need to learn more. I’m so scared. I’m going to cancel my trips/events,” get curious. Ask yourself, “Is this driven by fear or awareness/love? Is this belief true?”
There’s a very subtle difference between making your family eat healthier out of panic or serving your family healthy dishes out of love. The key to identifying and changing the approach is awareness. Once we find our centers of peace and love, we can more readily serve others more fully.
Further, Scripture is riddled with herbs and oils that are healthy for us. For example, burning frankincense and myrrh was tested to reduce bacteria by 91% and fungi by 80%. This was a common purification practice in Scripture. Often when tribe members became sick, they were to be cut off (quarantined) until fully healed. There were frequent washings in order to be kept pure (hygienic).
Follow His wisdom, dig into how to keep yourself clean through these practices, and trust in a peaceful, loving center that He has taught us how to take care of ourselves if we are willing to listen and receive. Focus on Him.



I love and know God as Abba, Father. This is my way of being most connected to Him and His love and reminds me of how specifically I am a child to the Kingdom.
Like many ladies, I didn’t always have a great role model of a father or even what it means to be a man and what kind of role they play in the lives of their wives and children. While my mom was my very best friend and the hardest working lady I’ve ever known, she couldn’t be the father every child needs.
This played an active role in my life growing up because without an example of the father that provides, disciplines, teaches boundaries, protects, leads – you are left with little girls that have a skewed understanding of what relationships should look like.
Beyond romantic relationships, this is true for family, friends, and coworker relationships. You lack boundaries that a father teaches and ultimately lack an understanding of how valuable you are.
I read recently a shared Facebook post about a church that started reaching out with kindness to local strip clubs. After giving their own personal testimony of building a relationship with the dancers and the dancers being able to truly confide in them and ask for prayers on the truly hard things they were experiencing, the writer shared this:
“A few years ago, I met with another pastor’s wife across the country who shared with me a similar ministry, although after months of developing relationships with the dancers, they asked the owners a crazy question.
They asked to hold a Bible study.
Just for the dancers.
Surprisingly, they were given a yes.
(Something about it building morale in the employees, but whatever. It was a yes!)
So, they started leading a Bible study in the club.
But, something was missing.
And those ministering knew it.
The women they were ministering to needed to be led by a man – not because these women were incapable, but because of the damaged, skewed image they had of men. They needed to see a man who was safe – they needed a man who knew Jesus.
This woman’s husband (who was a pastor) stepped up and took on the challenge. And, for months the dancers wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
But he kept showing up….
Soon, one by one, the women met Jesus through this pastor’s humble, gentle leadership.
There were prayer sessions.
Women were set free.
And many went on to lead, healthy restored lives.
All because this group of women and this pastor were unafraid to go where God was leading them.”
In today’s world, we are learning how important women really are as the necessary other. I’m so unbelievably grateful to the strong, empowered mother that gave us every bit of herself to take care of us, no matter what that meant for her.
I want to urge how important it is we don’t lose sight – or take offense – to walking alongside men and even feeling comfortable enough to follow the ones that exhibit Godly leadership.
When I was able to learn how precious of a daughter I am to Abba, Father, I was able to recognize how closely He had kept watch over me all my life. He was always leading the way, guiding me, and never allowing me to stray too far. When I was able to accept the Fatherly love I needed but had resisted out of distrust, I was able to experience a self-love in a more whole way and truly understand His calling on my life.
We don’t have to dim the light that men have to embrace our own, ladies. Wisdom is discerning when to lead and when to follow and knowing that both are equally important.
The full article from the excerpt:


Hear and Know

I find myself frequently praying for Abba to constantly show His presence to me recently. Slowly, I am beginning to recognize how He has been for a long time that only increases as time goes by.

There have been numerous people, including me at one point, who have looked up to religious leaders and teachers as if they were somehow uniquely connected with God on His personal line and that the only way to reach Him was through the people who had the number to it.

In the same token, people accredit certain actions and beliefs to Abba and even Yeshua and question how people can know the difference between when something is of Him or not.

Here’s the thing:

The reason teachers are usually a wealth of information on wise counsel of Abba is because they have built a life that revolves around intimacy with Him.

They dedicate time to Him by seeking counsel alone in prayer, presently meditate on the awareness of His constant presence, talk about Him and reference Him often, seek understanding by challenging ideas with others in a loving way, and the most important part of all of the relationship building that can be done is to actively interact with Scripture.

While not all teachers are great by any means or even so perfect that they are 24/7 absorbed in Him, they have chosen to be dedicated to a relationship just like we (hopefully) do in our marriages.

When we are married to someone and establish a household and a family, that is the center of our focus. We are constantly nourishing what we build, working for their ultimate good, running ourselves ragged to provide every need and be a good example, and take care to set aside time for them in a way that allows true connection.

The best part about connecting with those you love is being able to really see them for everything they are. Even if you can’t describe in words who they are, you understand them because being in their presence becomes something familiar. Recognizing that and honoring that is the purest form of relating with others because it’s unmarred by our own images and ideas.

While we can’t understand Abba for everything He is, we absolutely can learn to understand and build a connection with Him through Scripture by learning His character. Starting with the Torah is such an important foundation for doing that because it lists in detail the exact kind of “person” – being – He is.

He gives us a detailed map of exactly the kind of life He wants us to lead based on what is good. When our parents raised us, they did exactly this over the period of our life and even still teach us wisdom when we are outside of their covering.

Everything about what our parents teach us compiled into one, uniformed image is a look at their identity and character. When they call and you answer, even without looking to see who’s calling, you know their voice. When someone tells you something they’ve said or done, we sometimes say, “That sounds like them!” Because we intimately know their character after years of walking in their presence and teaching.

The more we establish that kind of intimate relationship with Abba, the more readily we can identify what is or isn’t of His character and guidance to us simply because we learned to recognize His voice.

The greatest part about Scripture being an instruction for our daily lives is how we can relate with it on a regular basis. If you’ve ever had to learn a hard lesson from someone by making a mistake and got punished for it, I bet you recall that person or event frequently when you are approached with the same scenario. The same principle applies but on a much grander scale. When I choose to eat something clean over unclean, I think of Him. When I wear my tassels and consider my actions, I have a physical reminder that brings up a passage of instruction saying, “This is His wisdom versus your wisdom.” In our house, music was really important. The more I listen to praise music and fellowship with others, especially when Hebrew is in it, I recall those songs in my daily life without any prompting, while I’m waking up from dreams and falling asleep at night, because it’s a natural reaction for me to sing. How beautiful to know that my mind is meditating on Him without any intention of doing so – because my life has become an intentional one for Him.

If you want to hear His voice, take initiative to welcome Him into your life and seek to be part of His Word. Sit with Him at the family table without any outside influence to interrupt and build that relationship. Ask Him to show His presence and speak to you throughout the day the way you may meet up with friends at lunch or send a text message to someone throughout the day, prompt Him for feedback as a welcoming into your life the way you ask your significant other for feedback on things.

Make the effort.



The gifts of the Spirit used to be some mystical superpower in my mind. I struggled with what my “superpower” could be, if I even had one, and how I could possibly grow in them as if to force them. I even thought some of them would be better than others. “Who cares about the power of tongues?!” and later when I was able to better define myself as a servant, “But that’s not special at all.” I learned later that teaching was something more natural for me to fall into, and that’s when the greatest spiritual growth began to happen.
Studying on the topic of teaching was an eye opener that we are all teachers, all the time.
People sometimes misunderstand the calling to teach as a glamorous position that makes you highly regarded somehow. Particularly in this walk, and especially those new to their faith, it’s easy to find Truth and build your suit of armor, shield, and sword for battle. One of the biggest mistakes we make is using that armor to tear down the very covenant we have been called to serve, protect, and build up.
Teaching is more than standing in the crowd and giving a speech. There’s years of study under other qualified authorities, entire themes and ideas that have to be made into concrete steps of a path that leads to deeper relationship with Abba, different learning (or receiving) styles have to be considered to best get the message to those listening, hours of heartfelt prayer on where He is calling you to go next, and being the center example as a leader for what others are meant to be.
While you don’t necessarily have to have a following to be a teacher, the people around you every day are learning from you. They are learning how you speak to others, the way you dress, the energy you give off, what your actions reflect of your character. As Believers, what are we teaching to the people around us? The ones in our congregation, on our timelines, at work, strangers?
When we mistake teaching – or correction – for aggressive assertion, we are completely devaluing what we are called to do.
2 Timothy 2:22-26 “So, flee the passions of youth; and, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart, pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love and peace. But stay away from stupid and ignorant controversies — you know that they lead to fights, and a slave of the Lord shouldn’t fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated. Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth, come to their senses and escape the trap of the Adversary, after having been captured alive by him to do his will.”
While we can be so excited to share Truth with others, and equally frustrated when others can’t see it, it’s crucial to understand it’s not our job to turn hearts. It’s our job to be a light to people so that when they are ready because Abba calls them, they have others to look to and learn from – and most importantly – with. It’s also important to consider who your audience is when you’re speaking to them. Not everyone receives information in the same manner. When we speak with aggression and accusation, we can find ourselves calling the wrong people and teaching others the wrong things. Not necessarily because what we believe from Scripture is wrong but, instead, that Abba calls us to be anything but wise, gentle, and firmly grounded in Him.
Be careful not to be grounded in things not of Him.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”



by: Casey Carnicle

Grief – a deep sorrow usually caused by someone’s death.

Let’s talk about grief. Scripture has a lot to say about grief and eventually each and every one of us will experience it.

It is generally accepted that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are some variations to the model, but this is the most widely accepted.

Grieving the loss of a loved one can be earth shattering, compounded by the physical effects that can manifest in the body.

“Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and create new ones. It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can weaken the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome”, a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.” – WebMD

One way I find solace in my grief is through reading God’s word. I know, I know…that might sound cliche, but I find great comfort in the continuity of the human experience from the beginning of time between the covers of my Bible.

Take for instance, David. This man was who you might call a “manly” man. He worked hard tending his father’s flocks as a boy. He fought off bears, lions, and eventually Goliath. He was made a general over King Saul’s armies and married the King’s daughter; only to then have the King turn around and put a hit out on his life. Eventually David becomes King, but how did a man like David deal with grief?

“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:11-12

David’s grief was so overwhelming that he tore his clothes and wept. It says he fasted until evening also. Have you ever felt pain that intense? Have you ever been so overridden by emotion that you have no desire for food? I have.

Another example of a people dealing with grief is in the Book of Lamentations. A little background here: whoever authored this book (probably the prophet Jeremiah) wrote it sometime after the third deportation of the people of Judah to Babylon. These people have been forced out of their homeland, their beloved city and Temple has been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

The author describes his emotional state as:

“My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies faint
in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11

He was all cried out, every last tear spent. I can imagine them red, swollen, irritated. I can identify with those types of tears. He goes out to say his “bile is poured out to the ground”. The destruction, terror, and death he was witnessing made him physically nauseous to the point of vomiting.

We’ve been blessed so far as to have not suffered any foreign invasions here in the US over the centuries. However, maybe you or someone you know has been displaced due to a fire or a natural disaster. You’ve lost all of your possessions. Your friends and loved ones are now scattered or lost. This is what the people of Judah were experiencing at the time Lamentations was written and matters only made worse by the cruelty of a foreign regime.

There are numerous qualified examples within Scripture to shed light on the most grueling of human experiences that we know of as grief; but this last one…Ah, this last one just gets me. When I read it, it’s like a thump to my heart.

I’m going to give a little background as to what is taking place here before I share those two little words that resonate so deeply in my soul when I read them.

Our Messiah loved people. He loved being among the common folk, partaking in the life experience. He ate, drank, celebrated all of the beautiful moments and gifts that life gives us such as weddings, and children. He laughed. He made friends. He partook of the human experience as we all do.

Jesus…Jesus was close friends with a trio of siblings; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. While he was off on his travels sharing and ministering to people, Lazarus became critically ill.

We know Lazarus was on his death bed because we’re told the Jewish community in their village was there consoling his sisters. The women caught wind that Jesus was on his way to the village, and Mary, Lazarus’ sister, rushed out to find him. She knew he had the power to heal, yet when she found Jesus; well, you will see…

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

Anger. Blame. Denial. She knew Jesus was a holy man. She knew to show reverence as he was anointed by God, that’s why she fell and knelt at his feet, but she was angry at the situation. Angry that not even her brother who was close friends with the anointed one of God could escape death. Angry that the one person who could have saved him was not there when her brother needed him most. She blamed Jesus, but really in all actuality, she blamed God; because after all Jesus was God’s image bearer.

Whewwww…Just pause. Just pause and reflect on that. If you have never felt that type of anger and emotion towards the Almighty, kudos to you. Really, much applause; but I have, and I can identify with the rawness of this encounter.

And how did Jesus take it?

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” John 11:33

Now this is important, so very important, for those of you who may not be grieving but know someone who is, or maybe you’re grieving to a lesser extent than the other person. It says our Messiah was deeply moved in his spirit. I imagine at this moment Jesus is empathizing with Mary’s sorrow and grief. We are told he is greatly troubled, as he begins to internalize the news and his own grief begins to rise. Maybe he was greatly troubled even because Mary just projected her anger onto him.

What is important is to watch how he responded to it all, and this is the part that sends a thump to my heart. Those two words that get me every time.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Just let that sink in for a moment…

Our Messiah knew he had been given the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew he was going to do it. But in that moment, seeing the brokenness of his people, his friends, he joined them in their mourning and “Jesus wept.”

That’s my kind of King right there. That is someone I’m not ashamed to give ownership and rulership of my life over to. Not some mystical deity that plays Cards Against Humanity up in the sky. No. Someone who lived the human experience. Someone who walked, talked, breathed, lived, laughed, loved, sweat, bled, and yes, wept.

It is these dark, grievous moments in life when sometimes all we have is our faith to carry us through. I think God knew that about us. He knew that we needed someone tangible whom we could relate to, so He sent Jesus.

And there’s hope in him. Hope is a very valuable force in the human experience.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

…and Scripture gives us that hope, in Jesus.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

If you are mourning or grieving, please know that you are not alone. It is part of the human experience. Consider finding solace in God’s Word. Talk with loved ones about your process. Pray. Get out into nature. Exercise. And if depression sets in, don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk to a medical professional to help you climb out of the valley. Many a great men and women before you have experienced the different stages of grief. You’re in good company and it’s just another part of the human experience.



Come in whatever state you’re in. Just don’t stay there.

The best way we can seek Abba’s presence is through prayer. For me, this was something abstract and at the most in depth taught with an ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method. While this was a very basic approach and helped, it didn’t build the connection that I needed to truly experience the Holy Spirit.
Even though I was seeking to build my relationship with Abba by studying Scripture and doing my best to live out His will through the Torah, I found myself shrinking away from actually speaking with Him. The truth was, my own shame was preventing me from being transformed because the judgment I was putting on myself was all I could see, and ultimately, I was making it too great for His forgiveness and presence, because I hadn’t really forgiven myself.
This is one of the most dangerous things we can do in the relationship is to be so ashamed – or even prideful and distrusting that He knows best – of where we come from that we run from Him rather than to Him with a genuine wholeheartedness.
“Come near to God, and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded!” James 4:8
There is genuine consequence of willfully being outside of the holiness of Abba’s presence, but more so, He invites us to seek Him because He wants to love us wholly. In the most unclean parts of ourselves, in the parts we want to hide and run from, is where the relationship deepens the most. Even though we have no deserving of our own doing to be welcomed, if we ask to be transformed, He comes near.
If you’ve ever had a valuable relationship (parent-child, significant other, friendships) that has gone through a trial, when true remorse took place and then true forgiveness, that relationship became much more solid than it was before. Something that had to be in place before remorse and forgiveness was a state of true vulnerability in being seen for everything that you are. When He accepts us in our raw state, we can begin to build a relationship of trust that when something bad happens, we can immediately run to him in earnest and say, “Abba, I messed up. I need Your help.”
Much more than only judgment and reflection, prayer is service of the heart. This is when we can connect with the spirit within us that is filled with His light and begin to cultivate growth. This is a fundamental tool that is graciously given and commanded as a practice to allow holiness to take place in our lives – this is for our sake. When we allow growth to happen through Him, we begin to shape the raw form we have come in into something beautiful and valuable for the work we are called to do. We can begin to cultivate the natural goodness we are created with into something powerful and holy – and reconcile the natural bad we struggle with so we can repair the relationship we have with ourselves and those around us.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
When we use that goodness inside of us to want nothing more than genuine connection with Abba, we seek to be bound to Him. In my journey to learning how to pray, a teacher pointed out that we aren’t always great at seeking Abba the way we think we are. When we get sick, we go to the doctor before we pray. When we need information, we can seek other people or Google before we pray. In this man’s daily life, he says that he allows countless opportunities for Abba to play a role in his life by simply asking for His guidance in even the most mundane things. While there’s not always an instruction to be given, by opening himself up to being directed this way, his life has been much more aligned with Abba’s will and has allowed great blessing to be carried out for the good of others. Even this small window of opportunity is a way that prayer takes place as an avenue for us to be bound to Him.
If you’re coming from a place that keeps some part of you reserved from Him, whether it be shame or distrust or pride, I pray that you be brave enough to want to seek Him with every fiber of your being and truly experience the relationship that can take place because of it. While your relationship may be formal at best in the moment, laying everything about who you are at His feet and asking to go on the journey with Him is the only way you can come to a place of genuine peace, understanding, trust, and love.



by: Alyssa Goodeaux
Most of my life has been a string of events that shaped the foundation of who I am. These events were all-encompassing, trying to a great extent, and completely out of my control. Life was something of an event that I figured out how to survive in. It wasn’t until many years later, apart from those circumstances, that I could look back on my journey and see clearly what had been happening and how truly important all of the good, bad, and ugly were for where I am going.
There’s a neat idea that if you go back to the Torah portion told on the weekly Sabbath of your birthday, you can gain profound insight into your life. While this isn’t an end-all be-all to existence, the story that I resonate with most in Scripture does directly relate with the portion related to my birthday: Beshalach (Exodus 13:17–17:16).
This is the telling of His people, rescued from Egypt, going through the dessert and how they carried that out. While constantly being cared for, despite all they had been through, they were in a state of raw survival and from less than kind circumstances – and anything but gracious to Abba for being cared for. As we His children do, there were requests, defiance, and complaints. It’s what I think of as the period of transformation and transition for them and what I now can identify with in my own story.
Waiting in my own Egypt was more than a period of passivity that can be mistakenly associated with the word “waiting.” Waiting in my own Egypt was absolutely necessary preparation for where He leads me today. If you’ve been in Torah observant circles long enough, you’ve heard the coined phrase that there are only two periods of the year: the festivals and waiting for the festivals. “Waiting” for the festivals means lots of background planning. You don’t wait for the festival to come to start putting money aside or deciding where to go and who with and all the details that have to be addressed to properly carry out His will. In the same way, waiting became an intense period of preparation and especially one of building emuna.
Emuna means faith, faithfulness, and is closely related to “being sturdy or firm,” but not of oneself – being faithful and firm in Abba.
Even at a time when I barely understood who He really is, I would find myself desperately seeking Him for salvation from a situation that seemed hopeless. The reality is, I was being tempered into unshakable faith because what was inescapable before changed as my relationship with Him changed. After He drew me out and separated me, over time, I was able to recognize how His hand had been on my life all along, gently but consistently pushing me forward.
G‑d said to Moses: “Why do you cry out to Me?
Speak to the children of Israel, that they should go forward” (Ex. 14:15)
As they stood at the shore of the sea, the people of Israel split into four factions. One faction said: “Let us cast ourselves into the sea.” A second faction said, “Let us return to Egypt.” A third said, “Let us wage war against the Egyptians.” A fourth said, “Let us cry out to G‑d.” Thus Moses said to the people: “Fear not; stand by and see the salvation of G‑d, which He will show you today. For as you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again anymore, forever. G‑d shall fight for you, and you shall be silent” (14:13–14).
To those who said, “Let us cast ourselves into the sea,” he said: “Fear not; stand by and see the salvation of G‑d.” To those who said, “Let us return to Egypt,” he said: “As you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again anymore, forever.” To those who said, “Let us wage war against them,” he said: “G‑d shall fight for you.” And to those who said, “Let us cry out to G‑d,” he said: “And you shall be silent.”
These “four factions” represent four possible reactions to a situation in which one’s divinely ordained mission in life is challenged by the prevalent reality.One possible reaction is: “Let us cast ourselves into the sea.” Let us submerge ourselves within the living waters of Torah; let us plunge into the “sea of the Talmud,” the sea of piety, the sea of religious life. Let us create our own insular communities, protecting us and ours from the G‑dless world out there.
At the other extreme is the reaction, “Let us return to Egypt.” Let us accept “reality,” recognizing that it is the Pharaohs who wield the power in the real world. We’ll do whatever we can under the circumstances to do what G‑d expects from us, but it is futile to imagine that we can resist, much less change, the way things are.
A third reaction is to “wage war against them”—to assume a confrontational stance against the hostile reality, battling the “unG‑dly” world despite all odds.
A fourth reaction is to say: It’s wrong to abandon the world, it’s wrong to succumb to it and it’s wrong to fight it. The answer lies in dealing with it on a wholly spiritual level. A single prayer can achieve more than the most secure fortress, the most flattering diplomat or the most powerful army.
G‑d rejected all four approaches. While each of them has their time and place (it’s important to create inviolable sancta of holiness in a mundane world; it’s also necessary to appreciate the nature of the prevalent reality and deal with it on its own terms; it’s also necessary to wage an all-out war against evil; and it’s always important to recognize that one cannot do it on one’s own and to appeal to G‑d for help)—none of them is the vision to guide our lives and define our relationship with the world we inhabit.
Rather, when the Jew is headed toward Sinai and is confronted with a hostile or indifferent world, his most basic response must be to go forward.
Not to escape reality, not to submit to it, not to wage war on it, not to deal with it only on a spiritual level, but to go forward. Do another mitzvah, ignite another soul, take one more step toward your goal.
And when you move forward, you will see that insurmountable barrier yield and that ominous threat fade away. You will see that the prevalent “reality” is not so real after all, and that you have it within your power to reach your goal. Even if you have to split some seas to get there.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
I know I’m not alone in my journey. We all have beautiful, raw, and heartbreaking testimonies of trials we have had to go through to get to where we are.
If you’re going through one now, I pray you take heart and make yourself firm in His constant assurance and presence. Your life is a beautiful work of art with careful, decisive purpose for His will. As we wrestle with being the best parent we can be and sanity, balancing the necessity of work and spending time with our families, and navigating the waters of being Torah observant with family that challenges that, I pray that you move forward one step at a time, trusting that He has never left you in any of it. While the first steps can feel and look scary, you’re walking right into Abba’s arms by letting go and allowing the state of preparation to happen. The moment you allow His Spirit to work in you freely is the moment that He wins anything standing in the way.
To find out your birthday Torah portion: