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One Year Later

One Year Later

By: Jessica Cusano

So many say, time will ease your pain,

That we ought only rejoice, in Heaven’s eternal gain.

But our own strength is just much too weak,

Our precious Lord we must fervently seek!

One beautiful summer day, our Dad was here,

Never did we dream, his earthly end so near!

A young man would blunder, his actions would sting,

No one could realize, the grief his error would bring!

A simple phone call to quickly alter the day,

Would Dad be called home? Or would he stay?

His doctors were great, they gave their best care,

The wounds he sustained, just too great to bear.

Three days we sat, grasping Dad’s swollen hand,

All the time seeing only two footprints left in the sand.

God’s plan was not ours, the time quickly came,

God carried him home, our lives never the same!

Our God could have healed him, if it was his will,

We prayed, “Lord intervene!” He sweetly spoke, “Peace, be still!”

Our God is sovereign, mistakes He just cannot make,

He is the giver of life, author of both give and take!

You know, what they say is not really true,

Time continues to pass, and alone, we’re still blue!

Only God gives such grace, to face each day,

He’s been so amazing, come whatever may!

As we sit there beside your breathtaking grave,

We watch the flags as they gallantly wave,

You told me once this place would be your home,

But it’s really just grounds for your family to roam.


 You would have been proud, your brothers were there,

Twenty one gun salute, full dress blues, your honor declare!

A proud Marine, faithful, always demonstrating, “I can!”,

Semper Fi, a precious tribute for a most deserving man!

While we truly rejoice that with Jesus you are,

Oft times we wish that Heaven wasn’t so very far!

We miss you, Dad!  You were simply the best!

But we’ll see you again, after we complete our quest.

We’re thankful for Jesus, a way He did make.

He came, lived, and died, just for our sinful sake!

We know you are with Him, His way you did choose,

Those who do not, they have all to lose!

But seek ye first, the kingdom of God,

A chosen generation, peculiar people, odd.

We cannot earn Heaven, His free gift we must receive,

By faith salvation comes, if we just ask and believe!

My Dad lived this story, his journey I share,

That you too find sweet rest, your burdens too great to bear!

Look to Jesus, the creator of all,

He’ll heal your heart, if upon him you’ll call!

To my sweet Dad, I miss you BIG much,

I’ll see you again, and feel your soft, sweet tender touch!

I say see you later, this was never goodbye,

I love you so much, as big as the SKY!

In loving memory of my precious Daddy, James Dale Cochran, who is safe in the arms of Jesus.

December 1, 1944 – July 21, 2013


This poem was written to be a gift to my Mom today. Very special thanks goes to Pastor David Beale for designing the layout and putting my project together for me!




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Not really a shocking statement! 😉  I would SERIOUSLY love to know how our parents and our parent’s parents even survived without pinterest!!  Did they just eat the same seven meals every week?  SUCH a conundrum… :p  HA!   Seriously though, without pinterest and facebook and google… my family would be eating BORING food!  Think meatloaf… 😉  I used to (kind of… because they have always been costly) collect cookbooks.  I’d pick up the latest Betty Crocker or Pillsbury paperback addition, in the checkout lane at Meijer while I was shopping, a fairly inexpensive idea database.  I loved those things! 🙂  However, I don’t remember making very many new recipes from them.  We did survive, looooong before the World Wide Web, but I am very happy that today we have so many new (and FREE!) adventures in cooking, right at our fingertips!! 🙂  

I want to share my latest LOVE from pinterest.  It’s not fancy.  It’s not extraordinary.  It’s really not “new”.  But it’s different and it’s GOOD! 🙂  We love Mexican food at our house!!  If my husband were reading over my shoulder he would definitely want me to say that the creation that I am going to share is not “Mexican” food… it would be “Tex Mex”.  🙂  And that’s ok… it’s all “Mexican” to me! 🙂  Another reason he would definitely want me providing clarification on ethnicity and origin is because this creation that I am sharing actually officially originated at none other than……………… TACO BELL!!!  😉  A fast food restaurant that he cannot stand! 😉  Ha!! 🙂 And because he is not AS normal as I am, he does not LOVE these crunchwraps quite as much as the kids and I LOVE them, but he does voluntarily eat them when I tie him up and force feed him, bite after delicious bite…  OR when I tell him his only alternative is spaghetti!!  :p  My kiddos and I love Taco Bell!  And we should be considered true fans, because like many others, Taco Bell often tries to KILL me… I won’t elaborate, but I am sure that more than one person out there knows exactly what I am talking about when I say that… 😉  Taco Bell is NOT for the faint of stomach!! 🙂   (Still love it though… even if I do occasionally swear the place off for a while!) 

Back to the subject matter at hand.  CRUNCHWRAP SUPREMES.  You may notice that I called mine “SUPERIOR” and that is because anything you make at home, you can customize and improve upon.  I am not a huge one for completely changing recipes… usually when I do they flop because I am not one that can just enter the kitchen and start throwing things together, ending up with a masterpiece.  (We won’t talk about those that live in my house that CAN do that… *cough* *hack* *gag* MY HUSBAND! 😉  Love that man…. 🙂  

So, the first place I saw this idea was on pinterest, naturally.  The website provided was this one, http://busymamabird.blogspot.com/2012/04/yummy-crunchwrap-supremes.html.  A great place to start the building process! 🙂

I took her recipe and simply added the things that I love about making Mexican, errrrr TEX MEX 😉 creations at our house.

First you’ll want about 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef. (I always have leftovers with this amount, but like have cooked taco meat in the fridge for a quick lunch type meal!  If you don’t want any leftover, maybe just use one pound.) I brown mine with a 4oz can of chopped green chilis thrown in.  I also add a good sprinkling of onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt. This would cover having to purchase any packaged “taco seasoning” from the store.  Please!  For the love of all things, SKIP the pre-packaged taco seasoning!!  I don’t even go to the trouble of making my own up to keep on hand because it doesn’t keep that well and starts to clump.  If you just throw your favorite seasonings on your meat each time, you’re good to go and you are not just throwing on a ton of preservatives that the packaged taco seasonings contain!  Complete side note here, but have you ever really looked at what was in a package of taco seasoning?  I read the back of an Ortega taco seasoning once and the only actual spice that I could find included in long list of ingredients, was onion powder.  Why then wouldn’t a person just add some onion powder?  Save yourself the extra buck and the extra addition of fake junk, just add what you like to your taco meat and call it good!  FREE INFO there, folks! 😉  (I’d totally rather be unhealthy in the arena of baked goods than fake taco seasoning!  Come on now, be smart! :))  

WHILE the meat is browning away, I love to chop up some lovely colored peppers and saute them together in a bit of Olive Oil.  I totally cheat and buy the already sliced peppers from the (prepared) produce section of Meijer or Hardings.  It’s a cheaper way to get a variety of colored peppers.  The packages I am speaking of contain green, red and yellow peppers. I believe orange is also included in the Harding’s package.  These pre sliced (fresh) peppers usually cost around $2.00. I would not be able to buy three to four (different colored) peppers for that price if I bought them whole.  (I use kitchen shears and cut the peppers into bite size pieces to cook.)  [Tired already?  Then stop here… this combination is also phenomenal on nachos!!  Cooked meat with chilis and seasonings, sauteed peppers, and loads of cheese placed on top of tortilla chips, (on a stoneware baking pan if you have one) put under the broiler on low until melted and bubbly… talk about delish in a hurrah!!!  😉  Can’t call THAT Taco Bell… ;)]

While the meat and peppers are cooking away I get out all of the other ingredients that I want to use in our crunchwraps.  Your options are really endless.  However, here is what we use:

Large Tortilla Shells

Small Tortilla Shells (You’ll just need a few… I cut one into four pieces and place one on the top of the last ingredients (inside the wrap) to help create a complete seal, since the large tortillas will not wrap all of the way around the ingredients.)

Tostada Shells (round, flat, hard shells, found in with the regular taco shells in the supermarket)

Queso cheese sauce (will need to be heated through, I use the microwave)

Refried beans (will need to be heated through, I use the microwave)

Sour Cream


Tomato or pico de gallo

Black Olives

Shredded Cheese (could skip this since there is already cheese sauce, but why would you want to?? :))

Salsa for dipping, of course 🙂

(Need an awesome “out of season” homemade salsa recipe?  I make this one and keep it in a jar in the fridge year round… good enough for me to not even mess with fresh tomatoes in the summertime… http://www.food.com/recipe/chilis-salsa-59635… I do add fresh garlic, and just use plain salt. I also throw in some cilantro if I have it on hand.  Do not be afraid to go overboard on the jalepenos, it’s hardly even possible! 🙂 (proper Cusano pronouncation: JAH-LA-PEN-OHS) … easy peasy and yum city!)

Now for construction…

With four kids in the house, I make theirs first… I call them all out to ask what they’d like, or just let them make it their very own! (Talk about a crowd pleasing dinner… no complaining necessary when you’ve made your own! :))

I warm up the large tortillas to make them more workable. I have all of the ingredients chopped and ready to grab in an assembly line for ease.  (As well as appeal factor when it comes to getting the kids to add in the extra good stuff!) 🙂

This is the perfect time to plug in your griddle to preheat, if you have one.  Otherwise you should probably just throw everything in the garbage and go to get McDonald’s, because you’ll be cooking ALL. NIGHT. LONG.   😉  Ok… so you don’t need to be THAT dramatic, a regular skillet will work, cooking one at a time, but if you have a griddle, GO PLUG THAT BABY IN! 🙂

1. Lay a large tortilla out flat.

2. Smear some refried beans onto the tortilla, leave about an inch around the edges clear, for folding up later on.

3. Smear or SCHAMEAR (such a fancy word, eh?) queso sauce over the beans.

4. Sprinkle some prepared meat over the cheese sauce.

5. Add sauteed peppers, if using.  (I put all of the hot ingredients on the bottom, my kids usually skip the peppers)

6. Place a flat tostada shell on top of the hot ingredients.

7. Smear (yep, getting fancy again…) sour cream over the top of your tostada shell.

8. Sprinkle tomatoes (yes, it’s a well thought out system… the tomatoes will stick to the sour cream and not move!) 🙂

9. Sprinkle on lettuce.

10. Add Black olives, if using

11. Sprinkle on shredded cheese

12. Add the cut, quartered piece of small tortilla shell (you may need two pieces if you used all of the ingredient choices, because your wrap will be bigger.  For the adults I used two, the kiddo’s wraps only required one.)

13. Throw some butter (yes, the real kind… if planning to use fake stuff just throw all of your concoction thus far into the garbage and go get McDonalds, because it’s clear that you don’t even care… 😉  Ha!  Yes, I do crack myself up sometimes!! :))  on the griddle and thoroughly grease the surface area.

13.  Begin folding your outer big shell around your masterpiece.  Just grab one side and fold in, continue folding a little section at a time, folding over in that same direction, over the last section, creating a “pretty” folded up top.  (Make any sense at ALL? 🙂  Read my mind here, ok??!!)

14. Carefully flop the top of the wrap onto the hot, buttered griddle and cook until nicely browned, this seals the top together. Flip, and cook the other side.  To get the second side to brown nicely you may have to add some more butter before flipping, depending on how much you used when you first buttered the griddle.   I usually cook three wraps at a time on our regular sized griddle.  Repeat the process until your entire clan is served.  

15. WAHLAH!  Put that (seriously superior) bad boy on a beautiful plate with a generous dollop of sour cream and a generous plop of  spicy salsa and ENJOY!!  

Disclaimer: These are NOT Taco Bell crunchwraps… these are SUPERIOR crunchwraps… you may require a fork! 🙂  (NOT a spork!) 😉




In case you do not have time or the desire to whip up your own salsa, here is the perfect compliment for any SUPERIOR Crunchwrap Supreme! 🙂  (Found in the ethnic aisle of your favorite major supermarket!)




Happy eating, my Peeps!! 🙂   Don’t you dare be caught eating BORING food!! 🙂




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My First Christmas In Heaven
I see the countless Christmas Trees around the world below
With tiny lights like Heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear.
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me. I see the pain inside your heart,
But I am not so far away; we really aren’t apart.
So, be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear.
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift, from my Heavenly home above.
I send you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, “Love” is the gift, more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do.
For, I can’t count the blessings of love He has for you.
So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away the tear.
Remember, I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year. 
Author unknown ~
Merry Christmas!



“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2: 10,11



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Joy comes in the morning, praise the LORD!

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

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Eleven things that I have learned through losing a loved one
By: Jessica Cusano

Losing a loved one, a VERY special loved one, is THE hardest thing I have ever had to face thus far in my (relatively short) earthly life! This summer I very unexpectedly lost my father. On July 18th, 2013, my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday, my sister took my dad out for a lovely breakfast. On the way back home, the car my sister was driving was struck, on the passenger side door where my dad was riding, by an 18 year old young man who ran a stop sign in broad daylight. Just minutes from my childhood home, the home my parents still lived in, life as my family knew it was dramatically changed, in an instant! My dad was rushed to the hospital where he remained unconscious for three days. Then, at the age of 68 years of age, he saw Jesus’ face, as his Savior welcomed him into heaven!! While my dad had many health issues prior to the accident, this was NOT something that any of us expected, in any way, to come about so soon. Losing a loved one is a heart ache and challenge any way that it happens, but to come about so unexpectedly, so seemingly unnecessarily, brings on an entirely new level of pain and grief!

As I was talking with my sweet mom while we were out to lunch recently, she was sharing with me about a sign she had read while driving. The sign said this, “Every TEST produces a TESTimony!” SO. TRUE. The response we have to any situation tells much about us, and the things we hold in our hearts. I have been thinking about that statement ever since she shared that message with me and I want to use my testings as a testimony. I want to bring glory to my Savior, pointing others to him, even in my heartache and trial, because that is what the Bible tells me that I ought to do to please my Lord.

A few verses from 1 Peter, chapter 4:

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

And of course the well known verse in Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Did you catch that? ALWAYS!

I would like to share some things that I have learned and experienced through this process. It helps when I write and share, and I hope it can help others too! I am not a professional anything…I am just writing from my heart. My only real source for information shared here is my Bible, and things that I gleaned from the wise teachers and mentors I have been so blessed to have had in my life throughout the years. These are not necessarily in any particular order.

1. It gets harder before it gets easier!

After we got word of the accident, the family gathered in the emergency room. My sister, who was also very seriously injured, was being cared for in one trauma bay and my dad was in the next room over. We were not allowed to see my dad right away, they were still working on him. It was at least an hour, maybe longer (it’s hard to remember and measure time in those situations) before we could see my dad. When we were finally allowed to come to his bedside, he was already on a ventilator. (a breathing machine designed to force air into a person’s lungs when they are unable to breathe for themselves.) He had many tubes and monitoring devices streaming out of his body in every direction, he was in a neck brace to keep his head from being able to be moved in any way, as he had multiple back and neck fractures, his clothes had been cut from his body… you can probably envision that this was not an easy sight. My mom and I went to my dad’s side. We held his hand, whispered into his ear to tell him that we were there with him and that we loved him… and waited. Sometime later my dad was admitted into the NCU (Neuro-intensive care unit) listed in critical condition. That rest of that first day was pretty uneventful for us. It was a wait and see sort of situation from the very beginning. We would travel between my sister’s room and my dad’s bedside. While my dad was heavily sedated and could not respond to us in any way, the doctors would periodically perform a neuro exam on him which involved “turning down” the heavy sedation and pain medication to see if he could follow simple commands such as, “squeeze my finger, Jim!” or “Wiggle your toes, Jim!”. He was able to respond to those commands that first afternoon as well as the next morning. The rounding doctors on Friday morning, (the morning after the accident) talked to my mom and I and told us that while my dad definitely had a very long road ahead of him, he could possibly come off of the ventilator in as soon as three days! What encouragement that was to us!! However, at some point later that same afternoon, my dad quit responding to the doctors who would come in to check on him and perform those neuro exams. He would no longer squeeze their fingers or wiggle his toes, even after longer periods of having the medicines turned down. They tried to perform an in depth, (full head and spine) MRI on my dad that Friday night, during the night hours. I remember calling several times for an update from his nurse before I went to bed, but she was not available, because she was still working with my dad. The next morning I learned that they were unable to complete the MRI because my dad’s body was just not tolerating the movement and activity going on and in turn his body was beginning to shut down even more. They were however, able to complete the brain portion of the scan… it was found that my dad’s brain was full of blood clots. Substantial blood clots passing into the brain result in stroke. During the day Saturday, as my mom and I sat by my dad’s bedside, he opened his eyes! While I desperately wanted to see encouragement in that instance, and tried to manufacture hope among my mom and I with my words, you could see in my dad’s eyes that something was very different! My father had beautiful blue eyes! (He passed those to me and I passed them to my little son… we are the only ones, family-wide, with this special trait!) That day, his eyes were a dark, hazy grayish brown. (Looking back I believe the Lord caused my Dad to open his eyes that way so that my mom and I could look into them and see the changes, and that this was no longer my Dad!) We now know that the (Friday) afternoon before, was a big change in my dad’s situation. His body was the recipient of substantially devastating trauma during the accident. His car door was the point of impact, the car rolled three times, then landed on my dad’s side! His body just could not handle that level of impact and it was determined that he would never be able to recover from his injuries. Sunday morning when I arrived at the hospital, anticipating spending another day alongside of my family, praying over my dad, that he would “defeat the odds” and start showing signs of improvement, he was actually doing just the opposite… His reliance on artificial oxygenation had risen to 100%, obviously the max for the machines, both of his lungs were reliant on chest tubes to maintain inflation, his blood pressure was so low, only kept up by large amounts of medication, his body was swelling and was so very puffy in many areas. His injures were so numerous, the list was so long!

The very kind, very knowledgeable doctor, who was head of the neuro/trauma team, gathered our family into a special meeting room that Sunday morning and basically laid our situation out before us all. We learned that my dad was only getting worse, and that the doctors and his fantastic and extremely capable medical team had exhausted all medically possible options in preserving his life, and that nothing was working. Further intervention would only torture his weak, frail body. We needed to decide if we wanted to continue relying on machines to keep his body breathing, or if we wanted to follow the wishes that my dad had previously laid out, stating that he did not want to be kept alive with machines when there was zero chance of recovery. Of course we chose to honor my father. My family gathered and literally watched my father breathe his last breath on this earth. While this unforgettable situation is one that I would not wish on anyone, the Lord was SO, SO gracious, and my dad went to be with the Savior so peacefully, calmly, and quickly! While we know that my dad wasn’t really there anyway, the doctors warned us that sometimes the process of removing life support can be a lengthy one, sometimes the patient’s body can appear to struggle with breathing and things of that nature, the process can be long, (even when there is zero brain activity in a patient) which could be very hard for a family to watch. Nothing of this nature happened with my dad. He went so peacefully! A blessing straight from God!

The next days after my dad going home to heaven were full of hustle and bustle. Out of town family was there, meetings with the funeral home were immediately necessary, preparations and details began… I honestly felt like we were planning a big birthday party for my dad!! We organized a beautiful service, full of wonderful stories about him and his life, special music to honor his testimony, picture boards and video presentations to show what a wonderful man my dad was, and the many accomplishments he had, including 10 years of service, for our country in the United States Marine Corps! It truly was a celebration of his life! So, while we were so very sad, at that time, it did not seem like my dad was really gone. It felt like he was maybe resting in bed, or out with other family members. The busyness of the days following the actual death and then the time of visitation and funeral are not really a time for the people who have lost a loved one to really begin to grieve the loss. That process begins afterward… after everyone else goes back to their normal lives and activities. This is where my first lesson learned comes in, “It gets worse before it gets better!”. It might be days, it could even be weeks, depending on circumstances, before the loss of a loved one really sets in and feels real. For me personally, it was more like weeks later. I didn’t live in the same house with my dad, so I didn’t see him every single day, or even talk to him every single day. Because of this, the true magnitude of what I would feel did not set in until a later on.

May I offer a note of advice? If you want to really encourage a person, send them a note or card (phone calls were definitely not “the thing” for us, nor were drop-in visits!) later down the time line. Sure, send one when the trial (whatever it may be) occurs, but remember them later too! Keep praying for them, never assume they “feel better”, in fact assume that they do not! I know it’s hard. Life is busy and people don’t usually live for their neighbor, but there are many references in God’s word about how we should care for one another. Galatians 6:2 says, ” Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” and Philippians 2: 3,4 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

I just want to clarify, I am not speaking of my family here… as in, please send me cards and feel sorry for me because we are still grieving. While I would say that things are still not easy for us, I don’t think that a person EVER truly “gets over” the loss of their dear loved one, the purpose of this post is just to share… maybe to help inform others so they can be aware and helpful when a similar situation arises. I will tell you, before this experience, I had no idea!! Through this situation, God has really grown my sense of empathy! You simply cannot really understand how something like this feels until you have been through it yourself! I am so very thankful for those in our life who continued to show us that care and concern later on, and even still do… it has truly meant so very much!!

2. God does NOT make mistakes!

The circumstances of the situation that we faced with my dad is one that leaves room for question. A car accident is not a “natural” event. While I certainly do not wish to minimize ANY circumstance resulting in the loss of a loved one, an accident is a senseless event that leaves much room to ask “if only…”. If only the waitress at the restaurant where my dad and sister ate the morning before the accident, had just taken a minute longer in coming to take the order, or serving the food, or bringing the bill or…….. You see where this could quickly go. If only the young man who hit the car had been stopped at a red light, out somewhere while he was driving that morning, or if he was, had caught a green light instead, resulting in him not being at the intersection right when my dad and sister would be crossing it. SECONDS could have made a HUGE difference in the path our lives all took that day! We can spend many hours, days, and even weeks thinking of different “if only” scenarios that could better the outcome of what WE desired for that day. However, if we decide to think of it completely opposite of “if only”, we can realize all that DID have to come together JUST perfectly for this situation to happen as it did. As hard or as unnatural as this approach to a great trial may be, I know that our great God was not surprised by this event! He knew when my dad would pass from this earth! God knew on December 1, 1944, when my dad breathed his first breath of life outside of his mother’s womb, that on July 21, 2013 he would breathe his last. While I do not think that God “orchestrated” this time of pain and suffering for us, He did allow it, and He was never, ever surprised by it! It was God’s timing that my dad pass from this Earth at the time he did, otherwise He would have allowed him to live, either by avoiding the accident all together or by healing his body afterward!

I love the words in this song, such a help in understanding.

God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.

I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.

Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.

O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
And purified,
I shall come forth as gold.
~ Song by Ron Hamilton

3. God gives perfect grace, not all at once, but just when you need it!

I do not believe that you can understand this statement, to it’s absolute fullest extent, until you experience a great loss, such as the loss of a life that was dear to you. Of course there are many circumstances throughout life that cause great pain and sorrow, but saying goodbye to a spouse, parent, child, close friend… those are the circumstances that leave you with a true, genuine, aching void! Earthly “things” can be replaced, people cannot!

God gave me an absolute PERFECT grace to face this trial in my life! He did not give it to me all at once to get me through the entire day or week or month, he gave it moment by moment. Just when I thought I couldn’t take the next step, there he was, almost like an IV, slowly injecting perfect peace to continue on. This does not mean that I never feel sad, or that I never have moments where I break down and just cry. However, looking back to particularly the time of my dad’s passing, standing beside his bed, and on to the visitation and funeral time, God was right there with us, helping us to maintain “composure” and get through the moments! If you were to look at my dear, precious mother, she was a SOLID ROCK!! She was so strong the entire time. It wasn’t even me who noticed this, it was many around us who would constantly comment on her strength! She would encourage those around her, when they ought to have been there to encourage her! She was (and still is) always pointing people to the cross, praising the Lord for His goodness to her! But it wasn’t her that was the solid rock, it was the Solid Rock that she was leaning on, and that was her Jesus!! We can know that God will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). ” And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus promises comfort and blessing for those who go through the process of grief and mourning: “ Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

4. The dying Christian is not the one who has lost!

This lesson was a harder one for me to grasp and understand, and it was my dear husband who helped me to see this truth. When a person who has accepted Christ as their Savior passes away from this Earth, their life has really only just begun! Philippians chapter one teaches that “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If we are living for the Lord, we live our entire earthly life preparing for heaven, gaining eternal rewards. It is true that when a person enters heaven they leave some things behind… those things consist of sickness, pain, sorrow, suffering, death, tears… Revelation 21:4 – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The things left behind are not a very desirable!! Heaven is a perfect place! Our minds are not able to begin to fully comprehend the joy that awaits the believer in heaven! There have been times where I thought the life I live on this Earth is “good enough” for me. As in, I am not ready to go to heaven yet… I like my life here, right now serving the Lord from the Earth. I believe that is simply a fear of the unknown, absence of the familiar. However, after knowing that someone so special has passed on and entered heaven’s gates, it makes me so much more interested in learning what heaven is really like! If only I could just hear my Dad’s voice right now… I just know the sound of it alone would tell me EVERYTHING that I needed to know!! 🙂 I can’t understand, in my finite mind, how heaven could be so grand, and what all waits for us there… but I know one thing, and this is how I explain the unexplainable to my children when we have this conversation… the Bible tells us that heaven is PERFECT!! When I get there, everything will be PERFECT and honestly, that settles it all for me! I don’t need to “understand”. I take the word of God for what it says and believe it. The definition of FAITH!

Those of us that are left here on earth feel the sadness and pain. We cry. We can even drown in sorrow, if we are not careful! But coming to the realization that the person who has died would most likely not return to this wretched earth, even if they had the opportunity, can really help those deep feelings of mourning! We are actually selfish to wish them back here with us! The word “heaven” or “heavens” appears almost 700 times in the King James Bible!! I plan to study these passages more in the very near future, because I am pretty sure that I have been missing out on learning more about my next home!! Information that would help me to look forward to this grand, perfect place even more than I already do!

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ~ C.S. Lewis

5. Jesus knows, first hand, what it is like to lose a loved one!

Before I begin with this point, I certainly do not want us to forget that GOD gave His very own, one and only, precious, perfect son to die a torturous, most horrendous death on a cross, as payment for the disgusting sin of this wretched world, so that WE, the most unworthy, worthless beings could have eternal life with HIM someday. SOMEONE had to pay the price for our sin… there wasn’t anyone worthy except for JESUS CHRIST, the one and only spotless lamb of God!! So, this would be the greatest example of our great God knowing the sense of loss, and the death of a precious loved one… far beyond what we could experience, in that he GAVE His son for us!!

I would also like to draw our attention to another instance from the Bible, that really struck a chord with me, soon after losing my dad. While Jesus was living on this Earth, in human form, He experienced most things that we as humans experience. I say most things because the Savior never experienced sin. He experienced temptation of sin, when he was tempted of the devil, but never sinned. If he had, he could not have paid the price for OUR sin!!

Jesus experienced what it feels like to lose a loved one from the Earth! One of the most “popular” verses in the Bible, known because it is the shortest verse in the Bible, is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”. I have known this verse for a very long time, but, to my shame, I am honestly not sure that I ever took the time to understand and focus on exactly why Jesus was weeping. Jesus was weeping because his friend, Lazarus, had died, because his friends were saddened by the loss of their loved one. Jesus knew that Lazarus would not remain dead, because Jesus was life! If you are familiar with the story you know that Jesus did bring Lazarus back from the dead, but the passage tells the story of how He experienced the sadness and grief that comes from losing a loved one!

Isaiah 53: 3- 5 says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

The Lord knows our sorrow! He grieves for us. Thankfully though, He has provided a way that we need not grieve for the idea that death is the end! We can see our dear loved ones again, and that is the truth that we must cling to in our earthly sorrows! “With HIS stripes we are healed!”

6. God is faithful to do what He says He will do regardless of how I feel or what I believe.

After a shocking loss, (or any loss I’d imagine!) it is easy to get caught up in the feelings! Our human nature, our fleshly nature, takes over and may bring doubt. We ask questions and even seek to place blame! This allows the doubt to creep in to what we know and believe to be true! Obviously, the devil is always on the prowl, raring his ugly head to place lies wherever he can, to draw the Christian away from our walk with our Lord. He doesn’t want us to grow closer to the Savior and “seeks to devour wherever he may.”

There are many stages in grief, and one of them often includes doubt. I found myself questioning what I knew to be truth. Is God really ALWAYS good? Does he really ALWAYS know what is best for me? How could a senseless accident taking my precious father from me be in God’s perfect and best plan for my life? The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways! I cannot define “good” for my Lord! Talk about a hard pill to swallow! It is easy to fall into the questioning that we as humans manufacture, because we cannot possibly understand all that God has laid out for us. This is not trusting in Him! He doesn’t allow us to see everything or see His entire plan for us all at once. This is part of the walk of faith He has set before us, this is what it means to TRUST! I believe that the Bible teaches that the very best remedy for doubt is simply to be IN the Word of God! Romans 10:17 is such a great reminder, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God!” Reading God’s word helps us maintain our walk with Him and helps arm us for the attacks that the devil will wage against us! We have to take God at His word. Sometimes, in our fleshly nature, that is just so much easier said than done. However, just deciding to DO it and waiting on God to show us the next step will bring so much clarification and assurance. He promises He will take care of us, if we just yield and allow Him to direct!

Jeremiah 29:11-13 tell us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Thankfully the Lord is ALWAYS the same! He does not change with emotions! He has had a plan, from day one, and he never strays from that plan, like we finite creatures do every single day! It doesn’t matter how I am feeling TODAY… God has NOT changed! Even when we chose to yell and scream at Him in anger, or cry out to Him because we just do not understand!

7. Turn the WHY? Into HOW!

I mentioned earlier in my post about how easy it is to ask questions… there are countless “if only’s” and WHY?’s! It is really easy to find myself constantly coming back to doing this. We may never get answers to the tough questions we have after losing a precious loved one, or going through a substantial trial of any kind, on this side of heaven. So to dwell on them is not going to get help us grow toward healing. The Lord would have us to turn those “why?’s” into “HOW’s!” Instead of why did this happen to me or my family? HOW can I use it to bring glory to the Lord? How can I help someone else through what the Lord has done for me, or taught me in my situation? It’s truly amazing how ministering to others in MY time of need can bring about SO much healing!! God promises to honor our obedience to Him and He will heal our wounds when we are seeking to please and honor Him, simply for who He is!!

1 Thessalonians 5 teaches us to “edify one another”. I love that word, “edify”! The definition of edify is: “to teach (someone) in a way that improves the mind or character.” This word reminds me of my very favorite youth pastor in my teenage years, Pastor Jason Valentin. If during any youth activity or event, any conversation would begin to turn from the positive he would simply say, “Edify!”. Wise words that have always stuck with me! I just recently taught this word to my children and encouraged them to use it when there is an issue with their friends not building each other up.

I want to share a portion of 1 Thessalonians 5, specifically verses 11-24. I believe it is a help to what I am trying to share.

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

When we take the message of 1 Thessalonians 5 to heart, edifying one another, supporting the weak, showing patience, praying for one another, giving thanks in EVERYTHING, rejoicing evermore! God can use us in a mighty way. The commands in this passage are not easy ones! It’s not easy to give thanks in grievous situations! But if we allow the Lord to work in and through us, that allows Him to bring about the healing that we so desperately long for and need, as well as allowing us to bring glory to Him, which in turn build our eternal rewards. A great big lesson: to always remember to live NOT for this life, and what we can see in the here and now, but to live for the next! If we could just remember to constantly keep our eyes on JESUS, so much easier, this short earthly life would be!!

“Until God opens the next door for you, praise HIM in the hallway!” ~ author unknown

My sweet Pastor’s wife, Mrs. Trish Harrison, recently shared a thought with me. Blessing another person in our time of hurt can bring about healing!! This statement did not stem from her losing a loved one, but from a different situation that had left pain and hurt. When we are injured whether it be physically, emotionally, spiritually… we focus on us. Our nature is to sulk. How can *I* feel better, as fast as possible? What can other people do to make me feel better and to meet my needs? This is not a biblical response, but a fleshly response. I challenge you to take the next opportunity you have, when you are down and have been “injured”, to use that time to bless others! Possibly even those who are responsible for that pain or hurt. Respond as Christ would respond. He will honor your obedience!! Imagine a world where everyone put one another before themselves… we’d solve so many problems, no one would be wanting for anything!

8. There is a time for everything. You are normal!

I have to insert some humor here… I have always had an ongoing understanding with my husband and some of my closest girlfriends, that I am THE most normal person that I know! Think about it, what you do, you do because it comes naturally to you! Therefore, that would be considered what is normal to you! Therefore, *I* am obviously the most normal person I know! Of course I do everything I do because it’s what is normal to ME! 🙂 Now I am totally normal to all of you as well, right?!

The first eight verses in Ecclesiastes 3 laid my seventh lesson out clearly for me:

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

When something bad happens, most people do not usually go on with their lives like they did before the life changing event. Hence the term, “LIFE CHANGING”. There are many stages and steps in dealing with things, to help you through your situation properly and in a healthy way. Losing a loved one is a major life changing, life altering ordeal! Your life simply cannot be how it was before, despite your best efforts! This stops people in their tracks! I lost my father, someone I was not even able to be around and talk to or see everyday. Imagine the person who loses their spouse! How do they go on after such a tremendous loss? The answer… one step at a time! And sometimes you have to stay on the same step for a while, not necessarily visibly moving forward… just not looking back! This goes back to God’s perfect grace. He doesn’t just pour it all onto you at one time, he gradually shows you His precious face, helping you to cope… one small footstep in front of the other! No two people on this Earth are exactly the same and we should never push a person to “get over” a troubling life event faster than they can. SHOW them love, encouragement, grace… show them Christ! And PRAY! Take the appropriate time to heal, or like a physical illness that isn’t properly cared for and nursed back to health, an emotional one won’t be healed either!

I feel like this might be the appropriate time to mention a fantastic resource available for any person who has lost a loved one. A dear, precious friend of mine who experienced an extremely difficult loss in her life, recommended this program to me after my Dad died and I so appreciated it, it has been a tremendous help to me, and I know for my Mom as well! Griefshare.org is a website that you can visit to help with the grief process. They have a number of resources available, but my favorite one, and one that is completely free, is the daily email subscription called “A Season of Grief”. For one full year you will receive a daily email on various topics and stages of grief. These emails are full of encouragement, suggestions in coping, and Bible verses to show how God’s word can provide so much help, and ultimately healing, in such a dire time of need! If you or a loved one have experienced a loss, please check out this website. Even if it was not recent, this could be of great help!

9. God gave us promises in his word, STAND ON THEM! Claim them for your own!

My parents had me in church from day one of my little life! I have heard all of the Bible stories, sang all of the hymns, heard countless special music numbers, participated in numerous Bible studies, attended youth group meetings and activities, even grown into the teaching role where I began to teach others about the things I have learned. You get the idea. Much to my shame, hearing some of those familiar, often quoted Bible passages, hymns and songs had become just words to me. Words I had memorized and recited often, but the opportunity used to think on, and prosper from, had become more mechanical than meaningful! A form of complacency. This is obviously not pleasing to my Lord. The one who has given ALL for me!

After my dad’s passing, hearing those same passages of scripture and songs began to become new to me again! The Lord was (He always has been!) near to me, so real to me! He was showing me HIS face, in such a special way. One of the first hymns that spoke greatly to my heart and soul was one of the oldest songs I knew. “Standing on the Promises” by Russell Kelso Carter:

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

The words of this song speak for themselves, and don’t need explanation. My mind and heart were refreshed in that I needed to lean on and take God for who He is, not what I feel He has done for me or for anyone!

You can’t think of any promises? Go find them! Be IN the word and let God use His word to comfort, guide, and heal! He alone can and will if we only allow! The book of Psalms is a great place to start!! (I will also include a great little collection that was once provided for me, towards the end of this post.)

A promise that I’ve always held so tight to, throughout all of the bumps in my life is Romans 8:28, a verse that I claimed as my “life verse” when I was a young teenager and really struggling during some years filled with sickness and trial in my life. “And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We cannot pick and chose what we want to believe and receive out of God’s word. So many just want to feel good, without any effort. That isn’t usually how God works! He tells us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ps. 37:4 “Yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” James 4:2 b Pour yourself out to the LORD! Seek Him and you’ll find His promises awaiting, special for YOU!

10. Tomorrow is NEVER promised! Live your today as though you will never see your tomorrow!

This concept is probably new to no one! However, when you experience a loss like mine, it comes full circle in a hurry!! The last time I saw my dad before the accident was three days prior. I had to take one of my kids to the doctor for an unexpected visit, and my parents live near the pediatrician’s office, so I will often drop anyone who does not need to see the doctor, off to their house so I can have a more focused appointment with just the doctor and the child in need. In hind sight I praise the LORD for the need of that doctor’s appointment, whatever it was! Because of that appointment I was able to see my dad, one last time!

That day, I remember my dad was sitting in his specific favorite chair in the living room. I don’t remember him ever getting up while I was there. There were many days where he just didn’t feel well, he had many other health issues before the accident. I remember dropping the kids off, going to our appointment and then returning, when I went in to visit for a bit. I don’t remember what we talked about or how long the visit was, but I do remember getting ready to leave… I have four children. Getting them to pick everything up, gather whatever belongings they had with them, put shoes on, and get out of the door, while at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, can be a challenge!! Grandparents are SO interesting and their stuff is SO much more interesting… so distractions are at a premium! 🙂 All of that to say, “proper” goodbyes have not always been high up on my list of priorities when trying to get everyone out the door! However, that day I specifically remember going in and saying goodbye to my dad, and leaning down to give him a hug and a kiss on his soft, warm, slightly squishy, and often prickly cheek. I am so, so glad that I took the time to say goodbye that day, instead of being in a hurry to get out and get on our way! I will always remember that special last memory I have of him, the last time I saw him conscious on this earth!

When you leave your house tomorrow morning, you do NOT know if you will make it back home later that night! You do not know if your precious loved ones will make it home later that night. There are simply NO guarantees in this life!! “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Prov. 27:1) There are a couple of very important lessons that we can gather from this verse. First, we ought not leave things unsettled between ourselves and a loved one or friend because we may never have the chance to mend a broken fence. Secondly, love others the way you would want to remember loving them if this were the last time you were able to see them on this earth! Always be kind! Always kiss them goodbye!

James 4:14 is clear when it states, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Picture a vapor when you read this verse. How quickly a vapor is here and gone! And what does a vapor leave as proof that it was once here? Nothing! Possibly a small scent for a short time, but there is no tangible remembrance left when a vapor is gone. This is a sobering picture, and quite frankly, extremely hopeless in theory! Thankfully, the Bible offers more! The Bible offers promise and hope! Our lives can be more if we allow the Spirit of God to move in and through us!

11. You cannot depend on PEOPLE, you have to depend on Christ!

Do I sound like a broken record yet? I can’t help it, I speak the truth! 🙂 I have many dependable, loving people in my life! The Lord put me in one of the most wonderful families on planet earth, He gave me the world’s most loving, caring, and sensitive parents who worked tirelessly to provide for me! He then led me to an adoringly special man that I would call my husband and gave us four beautifully precious children! I have many, many wonderfully supportive and encouraging friends, all over this world! My family is part of what I would describe as a truly out of this world church family, complete with a beloved Preacher and his dear wife, outstanding assistant pastoral staff families, and the most graciously sweet and loving church members I have ever met! When it comes to good, Godly people in my life, I am definitely not lacking!

However, people are human! None of the absolutely wonderful people that I described above can see my mind and my heart. They all have responsibilities… commitments, families to take care of… lives to live! Other people, as completely compassionate and well meaning as they may be, cannot always be completely focused on or even always aware of the specific feelings and needs of those around them, try as they may! There is only ONE who CAN do that!! Our Lord, who is both omniscient and omnipresent! He knows our hearts, our minds and our desires! He is well aware of every physical short coming, every emotional area of weakness, for HE created our very being!!

I think Psalm 139 lays this out so clearly…

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

If we want to lean on someone that cannot fail us, that knows everything about us before we can even know it ourselves, and will NEVER let us down? There is only one option… the Lord Jesus! Do you know Jesus, personally? Did you know that you can have a REAL and personal relationship with HIM? He is honestly the source of all of my strength, and my ability to keep a positive response when dealing with the great loss of my father. He gives me the strength that I need through his precious word, through a song He may send to me, or through a friend He’s sent to encourage my heart with a note or other gesture! I can honestly say, HAPPINESS IS THE LORD! I have spoke much about my comforting relationship with Him and I want to share how this comes about, and how you too can have this intimate relationship with our great God! Where do you start?

It’s all very simple actually, but I want to begin where the story begins… at the beginning! 🙂
We read in Genesis about how God not only created man, in His image, He also gave us a free will, a will to chose how we will live our lives. Unfortunately man proved our imperfection fairly quickly, in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve exercised their free will and chose to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. At that time sin and with sin, death entered the world. Because of sin, man could no longer be apart of God’s perfect holy kingdom! God is holy, and our sin immediately separates us from His holiness!

The Bible tells us that there is not a perfect person on this Earth. We are all born sinners, and everyone sins in their lifetime. (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Romans 5:12) (“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Romans 3:10) (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23) The Bible very clearly states in the first part of Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death”. We are all familiar with what a wage is, another word would be payment. Because of our sin we deserve death and complete separation from a perfect God! So now what? I’m sharing a story full of doom and gloom? Where does the loving, comforting God that I mentioned before come in?

Thankfully, Romans 6:23 didn’t end at death. It continues on to say… “ …but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” A very familiar verse to many, John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” While our God is a loving, comforting God, God is also a just God, and a perfect payment would need to be rendered for the atrocious sins of this world! There was only one option worthy to pay the cost it would require for this payment to be possible! That was Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. God sent His one and only son to stand in our place, and pay for the debt we owed, but could never repay!

God has offered a gift to us. A gift that would allow us to escape the eternal damnation that we deserve in a wretched awful place of torment and suffering, called hell! Did you know that hell was never intended for mankind? Hell was intended only for the Devil and his angels! However, because Satan knows he has messed up, and there is no turning back for him, he wants to deceive as many others as he possibly can into believing his lies, so that they too will one day join him, and be cast into the lake of FIRE to spend the rest of FOREVER! What an absolutely horrifying thought! Some make hell out to sound like a party… a place where they can go and be with their buddies and live in the same “fun” sins that they lived in here on this Earth. That is a LIE! The Bible tells us that the pleasures of sin are only for a season! I have this discussion with my girls often! It’s hard not to notice that when we look around, we see many on earth who seem to be “doing so well”. Lots of money, nice home, material treasures abounding, etc… AND… they aren’t living for God. What’s up with that? The devil is so, so good with his perfect deceit! He knows just how to trick people into believing that “living it up in this life, living for themselves will offer them so much here. And he is right. You can have it all here… for this short season of life. I would much rather live for the Lord HERE and NOW, like he’s asked of His children, all the while earning lasting eternal reward for my obedience! Pleasure for a season? Or lasting ETERNAL rewards for our obedience to HIM? Remember, our ways (what we think is best!) are not His ways!!

After God so graciously provided this perfect, holy, free gift for us, through His Son’s shed blood on the cross, He offered this gift to anyone who would receive it. Like any gift, when it is offered we must reach out and accept, or take the gift. Otherwise the gift is there, it’s offered, it’s available, but it is not actually ours unless we reach out and physically take and accept whatever the offering. Salvation from the Lord is that same way. The Bible tells us in Romans 10 :13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” You must ask. You must “reach out” an accept the gift for it to be yours! It’s not automatic, while God is loving and does not desire that any man should perish, He is a just God, and requires that we accept Him, in our own earthly will. His salvation is not an earned gift, we could never be good enough to “work” our way to Heaven, it just cannot happen, the spotless sacrifice was needed to erase the sins of the world, and HE gave that, HE is the only way! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) A person must ask for salvation, believing that God is able to save us from our past failures, and to take us to Heaven when we die, whenever that may be! “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10: 9, 10)

What a glorious offering! What a Savior who would DIE in our place! Why wouldn’t someone want this gift? Along with His precious gift comes His unfailing love and promises. He will never leave us, nor forsake us! You can have a relationship with the Lord, a relationship unlike ANY earthly human relationship possible! In those times when we feel so lost, because things on this old Earth are crumbling around us, maybe various situations, maybe when we’ve lost a loved one… we can turn to HIM, He will ALWAYS be available, and longs for a real relationship with His dear children, the children that He gave SO very much for!!

We must walk by faith, and not by sight!

Just because we have a personal relationship with the Lord does not mean that we will never endure hard times, or that we will not suffer. Because of the fall of man and the sin in this world, we will endure hard times. However, He has promised to:

(A list compiled and shared with our congregation by my Preacher, Pastor Tom Harrison of Prairie Baptist Church in Scotts, Michigan.)
Scripture from the King James Bible are in italics.

1. To be with you Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy god is with thee withersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)

2. To give you victory – For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)

3. To give us a Messiah and Deliverer – Unto the woman he said, I will greatly muiltply the sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow though shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)

4. To be your refuge – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1)

5. To supply sufficient grace to you – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

6. To uphold you – I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. ( Isaiah 41:10)

7. To provide for you – But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

8. To renew your strength – But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

9. To settle you – But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)

10. To work all things for good – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

11. To do the impossible – But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

12. To deliver you – Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalms 34:19)

13. To love you – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

14. To give you perfect peace – Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

15. To comfort you – Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

16. To give you help for your need – Let us therefor come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

17. To draw close to you – The LORD is night unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalms 34:18)

18. To protect you – When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:2)

19. To give you stability – The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalms 18:2)

20. To give you hope – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Romans 5:3-4)

21. To sustain you –He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (Isaiah 40:29)

22. To care for you – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

23. To direct you – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

24. To strengthen your heart – Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. (Psalms 31:24)

25. To be for you – When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. (Psalms 56:9)

26. To show mercy toward you – For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. (Isaiah 54:10)

27. To give you the Holy Spirit – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

I keep this list containing only a FEW (by no means all) of God’s “exceedingly great and precious promises” on my refrigerator where I can see it everyday. Sometimes when life isn’t good to us, we tend to forget that God always is! Praise the Lord, HE is so faithful!

I very much appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and gatherings from MY journey, thus far, through a great trial and challenge of this life. I am sure it is only the first of many I will have to experience in this broken world that we live in. How thankful for the promise I have of heaven, because I have accepted God’s precious gift to me! As well as the priceless promise that I can someday see my Dad again, because he too had accepted God’s gift for him!

If you have any questions for me about anything, please feel free to send me an email: jesscusano1@gmail.com
I would be happy to help you in any way that I am able.

“God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart”
~ Chorus from the song, “Trust His Heart” by Babbie Mason

To God be the glory, GREAT things HE hath done!

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The sappy in me….

I have been told I can be sort of a “sappy” person. I don’t however really consider this to be a bad thing!! I looked up the definition of the word “sappy” and here is what Merriam-Webster.com had to say.
Definition of SAPPY
1 : abounding with sap
2 : resembling or consisting largely of sapwood
3 a : overly sweet or sentimental
b : lacking in good sense : silly

Now, definitions one and two are not what I am thinking when I use this word… 3 a and b both fit, however! 😉 It’s December now and the Hallmark channel becomes my FAVORITE in December. Why, you ask? Because it’s FULL of SAPPY Christmas movies!! Who doesn’t love a good, clean Christmas movie from the Hallmark channel? Well, besides MY husband and probably yours too! 😉 That’s ok, they don’t know what’s REALLY good for them anyway! 🙂

Another thing that might make me considered “sappy” are these blogs and things I find to read. It’s not that I set out looking for sad or sappy stories, but once I come upon them, I can’t help but to get all sucked in and read. Usually from beginning to end! Just last night I stumbled upon a story… a story that REALLY pulled at my heart strings!! I follow a lady on facebook who writes a cooking blog. Her page is called “The Baking addiction”. Stay away from her page if you know what’s good for you! 😉 Health-wise anyway! 🙂 I was reading a story on her blog, about a lady who had just very unexpectedly lost her husband. She is also a cooking blogger. Of course when someone loses a loved one everyone wants to know how they can help. This lady picked a day and asked that anyone who wanted to help honor her husband and his memory make a peanut butter pie on that particular day and enjoy it with their own families. That was his favorite. The food blogging world shared this idea around, and tons of peanut butter pies were made. The Baking Addiction posted a link to the lady’s page, and I’ll share it with you here. (http://www.injennieskitchen.com)

After reading Jennie’s story I felt completely heartbroken!! For this lady, for her two VERY young children! 😦 It doesn’t appear that this lady is a Christian, she needs lots of prayer. I don’t know HOW on earth you’d get through such an ordeal on your own, without God there to turn to. Jennie’s husband was not sick. There were not any outward indications that he might be facing death so soon. They were having a normal Sunday… at 4:30pm he was helping his daughter learn to ride a bike, and by 5:55pm he was dead. This could happen to any. one. of. us. And it could happen at. any. time! This leaves me with many thoughts!! One, is that we all need to be ready to meet God at any moment! For anyone who is waiting until “a better time” to get things settled with him, you might not get a chance to decide that there is a better time. This poor lady may never get a chance to see her loved one again. If he did not put his faith and trust in Jesus and ask him to forgive his sins and to save his soul and take him to heaven, they will never be reunited again. There aren’t any glad reunions in hell. Do it NOW, don’t delay, don’t put if off for another day!!!

Secondly, and the initial reason for my writing this post is… how would we treat our loved ones if we knew that today was their last day here on earth with us? If later today, we knew they’d be gone, that we wouldn’t have any more chances to make amends with them over disagreements. No more chances to tell them how much you loved them. No more chances to hug and kiss their face. Would you act differently with them for this day? Would the things that once bugged you SO much about them matter SO much anymore? Why is that? Why is it that we can’t always treat each other like it might be our last day with them? How different would this world be!! For one, we’d be completely UNselfish people. We wouldn’t mind if our loved one wanted to take some time for themselves and do an activity that they loved to do for a little while. We wouldn’t mind if they took just a few extra minutes to finish up something before coming to do whatever we were asking them to come do. We would want THEM to be happy… we wouldn’t be putting ourselves first!! What a concept. I know this is not rocket science… but it just really hit me hard last night. I got to thinking about MY husband and how much I love him!! How I want to make him happy!! I wouldn’t want to lose him and be stuck thinking about how awful I had treated him or how things weren’t that great those days before he passed. This situation could obviously be applied to any loved one in our lives. It was a challenge to me… a challenge to make SURE my family knows I love them!! My family is my LIFE and they are all I want and need. I need to make sure I am treating them like that!! 🙂 It’s so easy to get caught in the day to day, I am just as guilty (if not more) than the next person… but it’s just not right!! I need to apply “sappy” to my every day life!! And yes, I do do that sometimes, but I could sure spread a little more love, more often! 🙂

I don’t mean to be all “preachy” with this post… I am really just “preaching” to myself, if anyone at all. When I read stories like this, I can’t help but to want to just wring the neck of the world and say “LOOK PEOPLE!” To shout it from the mountain tops… Sometimes we just don’t know how good we have it! It’s not about the THINGS in our life… it’s about the people!! Don’t wait until those special people are no longer here to realize that!! If the world just had a big attitude adjustment, how pleasant a place we’d have to live with one another!!

I encourage you to read some of this lady’s story. To feel her raw emotion. To feel her broken heart. She felt like her life ended the day her husband passed away, as I am sure most of us would. She didn’t have a chance to make sure he knew she loved him. (it does sound like she did a pretty good job of that normally though!) Make a challenge for yourself… to treat those you love like it’s their last day on earth!! Just apply the basic golden rule… to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” Even just baby steps… just do one simple thing for someone that you know they’d really appreciate… it doesn’t have to be BIG or even cost a penny!! Maybe even spread the word… challenge others to do the same. What if this world started thinking about how others feel instead of worrying so much about *I* feel??? We could start a revolution!! A SELFLESS revolution!! 😀

Tonight I am making a yummy dinner for my family. A true comfort food meal. I decided to go the extra step to make MY husband happy. I am making homemade mashed potatoes for one of the side dishes. Homemade mashed potatoes are not *MY* favorite thing to make. It’s mostly laziness… and the fact that I, personally do not mind the ole 2 minute box of Betty Crocker instant potatoes! 😉 However, I KNOW my hubby likes them so much better homemade! And it’s much more economical to purchase that big ole bag of sale potatoes at the store that I can use for more than just this meal anyway, right?!?! It didn’t take me long to peel up those potatoes and cut them up and throw them in a pan of water to sit there and boil, without my attention. This is a simple act of selflessness… I want my hubby to be happy!! And guess what? In turn that makes ME very, very happy myself!! It’s not all hard things. We can start small!!

Live your life today, like you might not have tomorrow! Better yet… live your life today, like your loved ones might not have tomorrow!! ❤

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14

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Wow, so much has happened such I last had a blog entry!!  We’ve welcomed a brand new child into our family… and not just ANY child, a BOY child!!! 🙂  Good thing too because this blog is called “threes a charm in GIRLville”!  We can still keep the name! 😉  Three is a charm for the girls, but one is the biggest blessing of all for the boys! 🙂 I STILL cannot believe we had our little BOY!! 🙂

I went in on May 4, 2011 at 8am to have a scheduled Amniocentesis, which is a test done to check for lung maturity on the baby in utero.  The test is done by my doctor who pokes a MASSIVE needle through the outside of my stomach, guided by ultrasound, into a pocket of amniotic fluid to draw a small amount out for testing.  The needle really isn’t THAT huge, but it’s a VERY intimidating procedure when you are laying there 100% conscious and your doctor wants to poke into your very, VERY pregnant belly and you see your sweet baby in there wiggling around on that ultrasound screen!  This was my second test like this, I had one with Chloe as well!!  We then had to report to the Labor and Delivery department for monitoring of the baby since I had an invasive test.  The amnio triggered my body to start contracting.  I was having steady contractions every 2 minutes or so.  They weren’t horribly painful, but I could definitely feel them.  We thought we might be staying to have that baby whether the lungs were ready or not! 😉  The tests came back and the lungs were NOT mature.  If we had the baby there was a big chance the baby would be admitted to the NICU, possibly with a breathing tube! 😦   My doctor ordered IV fluids for me to see if they could stop the contracting that way, and sure enough after about 10 minutes of fluid draining into my veins very quickly, the contracting stopped and we were released to wait 6 more days to meet our little guy or girl!   I thought I might NEVER make it that far! 😉

May 10, 2011 rolls around… time to meet our sweet little blessing.  We were scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 8am for a 10am c-section.  The girls stayed with my parents the night before and skipped school for the day to come and meet their new sibling as soon as Mommy and baby were out of recovery and into a room.  After all of the prep and paperwork was done… we were off to the OR.  Let me tell you, even after 3 previous c-sections that walk into the OR is still an intimidating one!!  Surgery is never nerve free! 🙂   As always, when you have a c-section your support person has to wait in the hallway while you are prepped for surgery and given your spinal block.  Mike waited out in the hallway and I went in to the (always) FREEZING cold operating room.  There was a regular anesthesiologist as well as his assistant or student or something… I am not sure what his title was, but he ended up being the one to give me my spinal… when you have someone putting a long needle into your back, the last thing you want to hear is his teacher or “over-seer dude” 😉 say is “I think you missed it”… YOU THINK HE MISSED WHAT EXACTLY???????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!   That was pretty uncomfortable!!  I remember asking my nurse “he missed what?”  And she didn’t answer me! 😉   Probably smart.  Anyway, there apparently didn’t end up being a problem because I ended up completely numb from the chest down and all was well! 🙂

10:15am and we hear a sweet little baby cry!!! 🙂  WHAT DID WE HAVE???  My doctor, who is the best doctor on the planet, I must say… 🙂  had worked it out with Mike that she’d pull the baby out and Mike would tell me what we were having!! 🙂   That moment could NOT have been anymore exciting!  I am SOOOOOOOOO thrilled we waited to find out!!!   Well, I heard the baby cry and no one was saying what it was.  Mike was in shock!! 🙂  He was trying to get a picture of our baby coming out, and trying to speak at the same time and it just wasn’t working! 😉   WE HAD A BOY!!!  We have been in that delivery room 4 times now and never before had we seen those parts! 😉  LOL  It was the greatest thing ever! 🙂   Of course we LOVE our girls and what Momma isn’t completely THRILLED she has a daughter, but this boy was something special!  Lincoln Michael Cusano was born weighing 9lbs 2oz (HOLY COW!!) and was 21 inches long.

About 13 months prior to our little Lincoln being born we suffered a miscarriage.  We had NOT planned on getting pregnant so soon.  We weren’t even sure we wanted to have another baby.  Going through a loss is very hard, and we had been through it twice in our lives already.  I didn’t think I could handle that again if it came to that point.   I’m not sure why I still question what *I* can handle though really, because my God knows what I can handle, and he promised never to give me more than I can handle… he is always there with me helping me through whatever he sends my way.  And in everything he “deals me” there is a lesson to learn, trust to be gained, faith to be built!!  God was molding me through those times.  I prayed to the Lord that if I were ever to be able to have another child that he might give us a little boy.  I knew that I was only allowed four full term pregnancies, because of the fact that I have to have c-sections due to my medical history and circumstances.   I love girls and really enjoy having three girls!  They love each other and get along so well.  But I really wanted to experience a boy as well, and just over a year later God answered that prayer.  Not only were we NOT planning another pregnancy, that was definitely a surprise gift straight from God, he decided to REALLY show us himself and his love and grace by giving us a little baby boy.  A direct answer to my prayers!  🙂   Our Lincoln is a gift from God.  (As all children are, but this one was so specifically prayed for it makes it all the more exciting!!) 🙂

After Lincoln was born he had some breathing problems.  I had had gestational diabetes and expected to hear that the baby would have sugar issues after birth.  His sugars were completely fine!  He was monitored for 24 hours for sugar levels and never had a problem!  PTL!! 🙂   Lincoln ended up being sort of whisked off to the NICU very shortly after he was born. I got to give him a quick kiss and then he had to leave. He required 100% oxygen assistance via a nasal cannula.  I was off to the recovery room while baby and daddy went to the NICU! 😦    My spinal block was a pretty good one, because it took me almost my entire two hours of recovery to be able to wiggle my toes and move my legs at all.  They won’t let you leave recovery until you can move your legs around somewhat.  I thought I may never get out of there! 😉   Finally I was able to move them and the nurse said we could “stop by” the NICU and see the baby on our way upstairs to the Mother/baby unit.  We went into to see Lincoln and I thought I would only be able to touch him in his little bed.  I hadn’t been able to hold him yet or really even see him much, since they were in such a hurry to get him the help he needed so quickly after birth.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to hold him and OF COURSE I did!! 🙂  He was in only a diaper since they needed to see his chest and how he was breathing, so they had me hold him skin to skin.  What an amazing time with a newborn baby!  He was SO precious and warm and sweet and cuddly and WONDERFUL! 🙂  While I was holding him his little nasal cannula came out and he was without oxygen assistance for a minute or so.  We called the nurse to put it back in and she noticed his stats were still doing just fine even with losing the oxygen for a short while.  After our mommy/baby time Lincoln started being able to wean off of the oxygen and eventually not need it at all.  That was such a great experience… he just needed his mommy and was able to start getting better!!! 🙂  I was able to hold him for an entire hour before my nurse made me leave to go up to my room.  He ended up being released from the NICU around 5:30 or so and was able to come up to Momma’s room.   We couldn’t have been happier!! 🙂

Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Lorrie brought the girls up to meet their new baby brother as soon as we were all together in the room and the rest is history! 🙂  They were the happiest new sisters in the world!! 🙂  They finally had a baby brother!!  They are all the biggest helpers and love taking turns holding him.  The newest thing is “can I stand up and hold him?”  Don’t they know it’s SO much more comfortable to sit and hold a new little guy?? 😉  Not to mention SO much safer and easier on Mommy’s nerves! 🙂

I remember being so concerned about my life as I knew it completely changing, and it did in a lot of ways.  But only in wonderful ways!! 🙂  The things I thought might never come back to me, mostly came flooding back without delay and life has only been more exciting!!  I have the three biggest helpers ever! 🙂   Life is grand… 🙂   It’s a month later now and I am STILL smiling from this experience!  I have said several times that motherhood the “second time around” is for sure the way to go!  I had had one child, then another 2 1/2 years later, then another one only 13 months later.  At that point, I needed a break.  We all needed a break! We had been in “babyville” for quite a while and as much as I love babies, I needed some time and my babies needed some time to have Momma… not another baby vying for her attention constantly.  Now with older children around to help, and a rested up and recovered Momma ready to be at the “top of her game” again… we are all able to enjoy this, our last baby, in a more quality way… a much more SPOILED way!! 😉

Here we are, 34 days later, counting our blessings… naming them one by one…. Ainsley…. Paige….Chloe… Lincoln!  🙂

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