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Rise Above

After I registered for summer classes today, I went out to Jorre’s grave. I wanted to tell him about my new journey that I have embarked on, and as I stood there, staring at his picture, I began feeling a bit… angry. 

I have said that I have dealt with anger before after his death, but when I feel those angry feelings crop up, I am surprised every time; for some reason, I felt as though I would be immune to anger, that it would by pass me as if I were someone special. 

I am not angry with God- let me be clear. I have never been angry with the Lord; rather, I am thankful for His presence in my life because without Him, I would not have survived the loss. I am angry because at times, I feel as though I have been robbed. I feel as though I have been robbed of a life that I truly believed would last- robbed of a happy marriage, robbed of the possibility of children, robbed of a career. And then I wonder- with whom am I angry?I have a difficult time answering that question because I simply do not know. But nevertheless, I am angry, and it hurts. 

The truth is, being angry during grief does nothing but rob me of my grief. It disrupts my ability to go to Jorre’s grave and be able to appreciate the good memories that I have with him. Anger acts as a boomerang: I catapult myself forward with the hope of moving forward, but anger does nothing but snatch me backwards. 

But God, as He always does, revealed Himself to me in very specific ways today through my anger. The first revelation was through a Facebook post I made in 2013. It was a scripture from Ephesians 4:31-32, 5:1:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Talk about an immediate attitude check. 
Sometimes we can pinpoint who hurt us, and sometimes we cannot. Sometimes the situation hurts more than the person. Sometimes, we are just wronged. We are wronged without any repayment for that wrong. It is like when someone you love passes away; you cannot bring them back, and nothing you do can alleviate the pain. 

Sometimes, the wrong cannot be taken back, and nothing we can do can alleviate the pain. 

But that is when we must rise above. 
This is what God was saying to me through this verse, “Rise above.” 

Rise above the bitterness. Rise above malice. Rise above the anger. Rise above and forgive. If there is not SOMEONE to forgive, then forgive the SITUATION. Forgiveness is a catharsis- it is a cleansing of one’s soul and it begins the healing process. Forgiveness opens the door to love, not necessarily love for a person or for a situation, but love for ourselves. We must forgive in the same way that Christ forgave us, because Christ is love. 

And then, God decided to bring this verse to life for me today. He showed me what it means to walk IN love, just like the verse. 

A beautiful soul named Jessica blessed me with a gift. We do not know each other very well; we are Facebook friends, and she works at the local pharmacy. I see her often when I pick up medications with my mom. Out of the kindness of her heart, she had a canvas made for me that said, “Though she be but little, she is fierce,” and a bracelet with Jeremiah 29:11 inscribed on it. 

God used her to show me what walking in love meant. It means loving people, even people that you may not know well, wholeheartedly. It means showing them love and supporting them during times of need. And little did she know that canvas was another word from God that pertained to what He had been speaking to me today:

Someone may have made you feel small. A situation may have shrunk your confidence and self-love. You may be but little right now, but you are FIERCE. Be fierce with your anger through Christ. Be fierce with the enemy through His strength. 

Stand toe to toe with the devil, and do not back down (those are Jessica’s words- not mine).  

Remember that anger, depression, rejection, hatred, disappointment, and sorrow are weapons formed against you in a spiritual battle, and the Word says that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. 
Remember who you are in Christ. 

Rise above. 

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

Beating Grief

There comes a day. 

When you lose someone, there comes a day when you wake up and realize that it is no longer two- it is only you. 

The past two months, I have awoken to this day. I have realized that I have been lounging in grief and have allowed it to deter me from living life. As time has passed, clarity has become more clear, and I have understood a fundamental fact that has pushed me forward: that Jorre is no longer here, and even though the pain lingers, I have the choice to refuse to linger within the pain. 

This epiphany is painful within itself. It has been easy to allow the past to dictate my life, it is even easier than putting one foot in front of the other and pushing myself forward. Grief becomes comfortable. It becomes a cushion between you and the hardest part of overcoming the hurt: moving forward. But I am learning that grief is no longer a cushion; rather, it is like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. It hinders what has been left after the other half is gone- me. 

Beating grief is not easy. It is an active effort on a daily basis. It is learning to enjoy life again, regardless of the loss of the life you had before. Beating grief is getting dressed on a daily basis. It is having lunch with friends. It is hearing yourself truly laugh for the first time in months. It is going to a friend’s gender reveal party for her new baby. Beating grief is denying its power to stifle your future and deciding to go back to school. 

It is actively choosing to no longer underestimate yourself and believe that you are, in fact, still alive. 

And it is an active process within itself. It takes time, and time is not hasty. I still have days when I cry, days when I question difficult aspects of my loss, days when I become afraid of failure. But what happens when you fail? I have asked myself that question many times, and I come to the same conclusion that I came to when I lost my husband: you pick yourself up, and you try again. Grief cannot beat you- you can only beat yourself. 

You may not be dealing with grief specifically, but you are probably dealing with something difficult. We all encounter mountains that are seemingly impossible to overcome. No mountain is impossible to climb; all it takes to conquer it is one foot in front of the other. It takes faith- not only faith in yourself, but faith in a loving God. 

Adversity cannot beat you, but you can beat yourself. 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

-Lex

The Great High Priest

Sometimes it’s hard to face how we feel. 

Oftentimes, we feel alone in our situations. We feel that whatever difficulty we are facing, others are unfamiliar with the struggle, and we assume that people could never understand how we feel during those struggles. 

This is true- to an extent. 

I know that no one will ever truly know how I feel in the loss of my husband. Even those who have lost a spouse may not know exactly how I feel because we all grieve differently. Every loss is different- whether it be the loss of a spouse, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, the loss of a job, the loss of health, the loss of a relationship, the loss of trust- loss is loss and pain is pain, but each pain and each loss is unique to each individual. 

Sometimes, I cannot completely explain how I feel. I long to share my feelings with others, but I find it difficult to do so. I cannot adequately relay the loneliness that I feel to another person, and I cannot explain the weight of grief to those that I love. Jorre’s death has created the illusion that although those that I love constantly surround me, I still feel as though I am the only person in the world. This feeling creates a distance between me, my family and my friends; it creates a gulf, with me standing on one shore, desperate for connectivity, while everyone else is on another, living their lives, their worlds still turning while mine remains stagnant. 

But God reminds me that we are never alone in our grief and our struggles, no matter how lonely and distant we may feel. 

If you read through the Old Testament in the Bible, you will learn that God appointed one man as the high priest for the Israelites. This man’s primary function was to go before God on behalf of the people and seek counsel and forgiveness in His holy presence. In fact, he was the only man allowed to enter the presence of God, and no one else had the privilege to do so. 

The high priest performed his most important role during the Day of Atonement which happened once every year. During this day, the high priest offered a sacrifice for himself and for the Israelites in the Most Holy Place behind the veil, or the place where God’s presence dwelt. Although this was a day of forgiveness, it was also a day of uncertainty as man was not accustomed to being in the presence of God, high priest or not. If the high priest performed one aspect of the ceremony incorrectly, he would die, so the people who awaited outside of the tent would tie a rope to the high priest with a bell, and if the bell stopped ringing, they knew that he had passed in the Almighty’s presence. 

His significance lies within the fact that he was human- he was a man, prone to the same struggles that plagued his peers, whether it was the temptation of sin or the frustrations of life, he could sympathize with the people of Israel and understand their plight because he too experienced those things to one degree or another. This was an essential part of his priesthood, because the people knew that he could go before God, empathizing and sympathizing with them and the heartaches that they faced. 

But being that he was human, he could not truly understand the grief, trials and tribulations that each person faced. I am sure a sense of loneliness still lingered amongst the people; yes, the high priest had an idea of how they felt, but he could never fully understand the gravity of each individual situation. The gulf still existed. 

This is why Jesus’s work on the cross is critical. He is not only our Savior, but He is known as the great High Priest. He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice in the presence of the Father, offering forgiveness for our sins once and for all. Because of His sacrifice, the veil separating us from the Most Holy Place was torn, and now we have the opportunity to enter the presence of the Father on a daily basis through Jesus Christ because of His death on the cross. We will never have to tie a bell around our feet to enter the presence of God because we can freely enter His presence through His Son Jesus. 

What we often forget is that Jesus humbled Himself and became human, just like you and me. He came to this earth as a baby, He grew up as a child and became a young man. As a man He encountered the same trials and tribulations that we face on a day to day basis, just like the high priest of the Old Testament. 

On the day that He went to the cross, He faced what we feel and more. A best friend betrayed Him. His closest friend denied Him. He was spat upon and ridiculed. He was beaten and flogged so badly that He was unrecognizable. He was forsaken in every way, and for a moment, while He hung on the cross, the Father forsook Him. And it was absolutely necessary- not for Him, but for us. 

On that day, the gulf between humanity and the Father disappeared, and the Son’s sacrifice on the cross bridged the gap. I truly believe that on that day, Jesus felt every single pain that we feel today. I believe that as He hung there, painfully dying, He said to Himself, “I must endure this pain, because one day, Alexis is going to lose her husband, and she needs me.” I believe that He saw each of our struggles, and He withstood the pain, knowing that His struggle would enable us to survive our own struggles. 

Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

So we are not alone. Although others may not be able to truly understand the pain we go through, JESUS does. Why? Because He felt our pain as He was nailed to the cross, and He felt that pain so that He could truly understand our grief when we face the difficulties in life. Imagine, the God of the Universe, the Creator of the largest sun and the smallest particle, died for you, died so that when your pain is overwhelming and isolating, you will never be alone, because He has already been there, and He has already met you in your pain. 

We do not have to face how we feel in fear, because we have a great High Priest who will not allow us to face how we feel alone. 

Today I would like to encourage you to draw closer to Jesus. Know that we have a great High Priest in the presence of the Father, willing and able to help and defend us in our time of need. Draw near to Him in confidence, knowing that He is equipped to understand you when no one can. Know that only HE can ease your pain because He died for it. 

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

-Lex

The Solution

You see them.

You are at lunch with a friend, and you look over to see an elderly man or woman, sitting alone at the booth next to you. For moment you stare at them, wondering why they are sitting alone, and you come to the most obvious conclusion: they are a widow or a widower.

I remember sitting at the doctor’s office one day, and a very elderly lady in a wheelchair sat in front of me. I looked at her, and I wondered where her husband was and if he was alive. I began to imagine her as a young lady, dancing with her husband at her wedding, never imagining that one day, she would be in a wheelchair alone at the doctor’s office many years later.

Today I sat alone at a restaurant for the first time since Jorre passed away. It suddenly occurred to me that I was now one of those men or women who lost their spouses. Although I am young and my youth does not match the role of widowhood, I know that when you are from a small town, everyone knows who you are and has an idea of what you are going through during certain dilemmas in your life. It occurred to me that now someone may look at me while I sit alone at a booth and feel the same sympathy that I have felt for elderly men and women who sit alone at restaurant booths, too.

When I realized this epiphany, I almost felt ashamed, as if I wanted to hide from the world. I did not want anyone to look at me, and I was afraid that I would meet someone’s stare, knowing that silently, they may be looking at me as a widow and wondering how I felt. The last thing I wanted in that moment was attention, because the fact that I was sitting alone for the first time since my husband’s death brought enough personal attention to my situation without the help of an outside observer.

Attention. Sometimes we desire attention, and sometimes we do not. Sometimes, attention hurts more than it helps. We may feel that we dwell on our own situations enough that attention from others is more painful that it is positive. Because we fear attention from others, we decide to isolate ourselves from the world, and we choose to tackle our problems on our own. We decide that we will find the solution within ourselves.

At times, we believe that the only choice we have is to face our trials by ourselves. During those instances, we embrace solitude out of unmerited shame; we do not want others to see us as weak, we do not want people to pity us, and we do not want to burden others with our problems. We shrink from attention, believing that the less attention that we bring to ourselves, the less painful our problems might become.

The danger in avoiding attention is that we not only isolate ourselves from other people, but we eventually isolate ourselves from God. We sink so deeply within ourselves that we sink deep enough into a place where we decide that it is easier to sink rather than to reach toward the Father. We begin to look at God in the same way that we look at people; we do not want Him to see us as weak, we do not want to burden Him with our problems, we do not want Him to pity us. It is then when we ultimately decide to bear the burden on ourselves, and that is not God’s will for our lives.

That is why the Word of God explicitly tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all of your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7.

When we decide that we are better at handling our problems on our own, we ultimately decide to give ourselves over to pride- and pride is a sin. You will never climb out of your rut, whatever that rut may be in your life, if you decide to face your struggle without God’s saving grace. Refusing to accept God’s help when you need it the most is like telling Him that you are bigger than HE is. That is pride. You are saying that you do not need His help and that you can handle whatever you are facing alone, without Him and better than Him.

We were not designed to handle our problems on our own, and we were not designed to be alone. If we were, we would not need the Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.

We must humble ourselves before God, and we must admit to Him that our heartaches are bigger than we are. But then, we must choose to acknowledge that He, and only He alone, is bigger than both our heartaches and ourselves. Then, and only then, will He be able to exalt us above the pain and lift us out of the pit. We must cast our problems upon Him. Why? Because the God of the Universe, the Almighty Creator, cares for you. It is as simple as that.

Today I encourage you to open your heart to the Lord. I pray that you realize that even though whatever struggle you are facing may be overwhelming, our Savior is never overwhelmed. Remember that Christ went to the cross for the exact problem that you are facing right now, and because of that, He already holds the solution. I hope that you forgo pride and make the decision to let Christ in and humble yourself before Him, acknowledging that He is greater than yourself and your struggles alike. I encourage to cast yourself upon Him, because that is who He died for- He died for you. That is why you do not have to face the world alone, because you are not. He is always with you.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

-Lex

The Wilderness

Sometimes it’s necessary to go through the wilderness. 

At some point in our lives, we go through periods of time that feel as though we are wanderers, unfamiliar with our surroundings and seemingly lost in our environment. We feel as though we are in the wilderness, in an unknown place that seems irrelevant to our lives and leaves us asking the question, “How did I get here?”

I ask myself this question often. Five months ago, I was married. I was a teacher. I was a coach’s wife. I was content in those things, and I felt as though I had finally made it to my destination. All that surrounded me was peacefully familiar. 

Now I am a widow. I am no longer a teacher. I am not a coach’s wife. I am not content. I am in a place that is unknown and was unforeseen, and I am totally unsure as to which way I should turn next. I am in the wilderness, and at times I let it consume me. I let it frustrate me, and if I am not careful, the wilderness has the potential to dictate me. 

This is how we end up in the wilderness- we wind up there unintentionally without a moment’s notice. We believe that we have Point A and Point B mapped out, but suddenly the distance between the two becomes insurmountable, and we are lost. Maybe you encounter an unwelcomed medical diagnosis. Maybe your marriage is failing for some reason or another. Maybe you lose your job. Maybe you are lonely. 

In the wilderness we lose ourselves, and we begin to withdraw. 
We are not the only people with this problem. If you remember in the Old Testament in the Bible, the Israelites experienced the wilderness, too. They wandered for a total for forty years before they reached the Promised Land. Can you imagine? Seeing God bring judgement upon Pharaoh, seeing His judgement bring them freedom through Moses, seeing Him part the Red Sea. Surely they did not expect the next step- the wilderness. Surely they believed that they would be immune to such a test. But they were not, because well, that is life. 

Not even Jesus was immune to the wilderness. He Himself endured the wilderness for forty days and forty nights in the New Testament. He understands our moments of frustration in the wilderness because He has been there. Can you imagine? The Son of God, our Savior, who is able to call down legions of angels in one second, wandering in the wilderness. 

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, the Bible tells us that they grumbled repetitively, despite the fact that God sent them bread from heaven. Forty years of grumbling and complaining, and yet, God still provided for them. How often do we grumble in our wilderness and ignore His blessings? How often do we disregard miracles that He attempts to show us because we are too caught up in our own emotions? 

I know I can answer for myself- often. 

We must look to Jesus’s example of enduring the wilderness. The Bible tells us that He fasted during the time He spent in the wilderness. Fasting is much like prayer- it presents an opportunity to get closer to the Father, and it represents personal sacrifice in honor of Him. Instead of grumbling about His situation, Christ turned His unwanted solitude into an opportunity to fellowship with His Heavenly Father. This is where He gained His strength to be patient in His waiting and where He gained perseverance. 

Today I encourage you to draw near to the Father rather than withdraw in the wilderness. Do not look at the wilderness as period of loss, but look at it as an opportune moment to spend time with Him. Learn from Him in the wilderness, gain strength from His presence and take that time to fall more in love with Him. When you begin to grumble- “I should not be here,” “Why am I in this place?,” “I do not deserve this,” “I am miserable,”- remember Jesus’s example, and be thankful for His saving grace. Be thankful that He died on the cross so that when you are wandering, you know that you are not wandering alone. Let Him lead you and guide you onto a new path, but remember that He cannot lead you without your willingness to open your heart to His presence… even when it is hard. Even when you feel lost.  

“So do not fear, for I Am with you; do not be dismayed, for I Am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

The Plan

We all hope to have a plan.

Last night, I curled up and cried. Before I retreated to my bedroom, four of my friends had called me, and each friend told me about their day at work, their children and their husbands. With each phone call, I began to deal with a barrage of mixed emotions: gratefulness, because despite my current circumstance, they still choose to call me. Happiness, because it is good to hear about the joy in their lives. And dread, because I am forced to face the reality of my own life and the lack thereof.

By the time the phone calls ceased, I was overwhelmed with emotions that flooded my pillow with tears. As I listened to my friends’ “normal” lives with their families and careers, I began to evaluate how abnormal my life has become. Here I am, a 27-year-old widow, living with my parents, unsure about my career- my life, totally uprooted and and spun around like a top, and I cannot stop it from spinning.

I wonder to myself, how do I respond to my friends when they share their days with me?

“Well, today I gathered my deceased husband’s medical records for taxes.”

Or

“Today I designed mine and Jorre’s headstone for his grave.”

As I cried into my pillow, I looked up at my mother and told her, “I just didn’t have this planned. This wasn’t a part of my plan.”

My plan was to be a wife and a mother, if my health permitted children. My plan was to teach part-time. My plan was to look out of the window of my own home and watch for Jorre to return from work.

No, crying into my pillow in the midst of my childhood room in my parents’ home was never my plan at the age of 27.

But God reminds me of Moses.

Think about Moses’s life for a moment. He was raised in the home of Pharaoh and treated as though he were Egyptian royalty. I am sure that he had plans. Who knows? Maybe he had hoped to become a ruler of Egypt one day- it is not an impossible assumption. The Bible does not tell us much about Moses’s life in Egypt, so we are only left to assume. We know, however, that Moses was human, and like the rest of us, I am sure that he had his own plans for his life.

At some point, he discovered that he was not an Egyptian but a Hebrew- a descendant of slaves. How do you think that made him feel? Wouldn’t vital information such as that cause a person to question their entire identity? Most likely it would. Moses did not plan to be a Hebrew; in fact, I am sure that his plan involved the Egyptian dynasty and the finer things of the Egyptian life and not the background of a slave.

Maybe Moses had planned to live with this information and deal with it internally. Maybe he thought that he could ignore it and continue with his plans. Maybe. Eventually, however, Moses could not deal with the abuse that his people, the Hebrew slaves, were facing on day-to-day basis, and he murdered an Egyptian slave driver. Another wrench thrown into the plans- he was forced to flee Egypt after he killed the man.

So Moses made more plans. He met his soon-to-be wife Zipporah and her family, and he married her and became a shepherd. He even started a family. He probably thought that he finally got the plan right. No more secrets, no more running, no more changing on his own accord. This was the plan, and he was content.

But God had other plans for Moses. When God looked at Moses, He did not see a man who was an illegitimate Egyptian. He did not see a man who was a murderer. He did not see a man who was a coward. He did not see a man who was displaced. He saw PROMISE within a man who had endured PAIN. He saw a man whose own plans did not prosper because He knew that HIS plans for Moses were greater.

You see, God has a special purpose for people who made plans that only end in pain. You cannot REACH people and love them adequately if you have not experienced pain yourself. How can you understand hurting people if you yourself have not hurt? How can you make a difference in someone’s life if you yourself cannot say, “I’ve been there.” When we experience pain, we are presented with the opportunity to see God use it for good- if we choose that opportunity rather than disregard it.

The cross would have been impossible if Jesus Himself had not experienced pain. How could we trust a Savior to hear our needs when He never felt pain in the first place?

We focus too much on the PLAN and not enough on the PLANNER- our Heavenly Father. It is like my mother told me last night, “You may be broken, but He is our Carpenter, and He can fix anything that is broken.” That is why the Bible tells us that He is the Potter, and we are the clay. Clay changes and molds, but we cannot change and mold ourselves. We must put our trust into the Divine Potter, the One who can move with us and never forsake us, the one who can mold us into something beautiful out of our most difficult situations.

The one who can change our plans for His glory.

Today I hope that if you have plans that are not progressing, if you have plans that are broken and seem as though they are destined to fail, remember that the God of the Universe is willing to place you-the clay-into His hands, to remold your plans and to create something beautiful; not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. You were not made to be ordinary but extraordinary, even in your pain. You were made to shine in the light of a Heavenly Father, a Just God who turns turmoil into testimony.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for His own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

-Lex

Steps

Every story has a beginning, and with every journey, you must take the first step.

I took my first step onto the worn, beaten path of grief on September 27, 2016 after I received a frantic phone call from Lindsay, my husband’s head coach’s wife. I had sat down moments before to grade my students’ papers and work on lesson plans when the phone rang. I never imagined that what she had to tell me would uproot my life and shatter my whole world.

If you knew Jorre, you knew that he loved football. In fact, we lived, breathed and ate football at our home during our three months of marriage. He would teach me plays, he would talk to me about his players and he shared every moment of adversity and success with me after a long day at work. What he enjoyed most about being a coach was not winning; it was the time that he invested in his players and students. It was the potential to make an impact in a young life. Jorre did not look at coaching as a career, but he viewed it as his calling from the Lord.

In fact, Jorre had not planned to be a coach at all when we first started dating. He aspired to be an English professor like me. He wanted to teach at the collegiate level. Coaching was not on his mind, and it remained that way until sometime after October 13, 2013.

On October 13, 2013, I received a phone call from Jorre, and when I answered, I became unnerved because he was sobbing uncontrollably. I began to panic, thinking that something awful had happened to one of our family members.

“Calm down, Jorre. You’re going to have to calm down because I can’t understand you.”

Suddenly, in the midst of his sobs, he began to laugh.

“Jorre, what in the world is wrong with you? What happened?”

He then proceeded to tell me the most beautiful story I had ever heard. He had gone to eat lunch with one of his uncle’s friends, and after talking with this friend for about two hours on the phone after lunch, he decided to surrender his life and his heart to Christ. For the first time in my life, I heard someone cry tears of literal joy because of Jesus, and my heart was overwhelmed. He told me that he had never felt such real love, and he said that he was a changed man- and if you knew Jorre at all, you could tell that he was.

Shortly after his encounter with the Lord, we sat on the couch one weekend, watching football. He was quiet, which was unusual for Jorre. He looked at me, and he said, “Lex, God is calling me to be a football coach. It’s His purpose for me in life.”

Jorre-or Coach Mac, as he is known to his players, students and colleagues-was living out his purpose in obedience to the Lord on September 27. He was running a play with his boys when he suddenly collapsed on the field. I took my first step onto this new, unwelcomed path as I stepped out of our house for the last time and into my parents’ vehicle. I took my second step when the doctor entered the waiting room and told me that Jorre was deceased.

When the steps that I must take on a daily basis become too heavy, I think about Jesus. Jesus had to take painful steps, too. I think about His first step into the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that He was only moments from betrayal. I think about His first step into His trial in front of the Pharisees, knowing that He would be unjustly ridiculed and shamed. I think about his first step into the courtyard to be flogged, knowing that He would be marred so badly that He would be unrecognizable. I think about his first step with the cross on His back, knowing that the burden was His to bear. I think about His first step onto Golgotha, knowing that He was to die a wretched death for wretched sinners, and He accepted such a fate with open, loving arms that were nailed to a tree.

And I think about Jorre’s final steps onto the football field the day that he passed. I think about his last step on this earth before his heart stopped, and I think about Jesus. If Jesus had not chosen to walk those lonely, harsh steps, Jorre would not have been able to take his first step into eternity with his Savior. If Jesus had not given Himself as a sacrifice for all of the wrong that we commit in our lives, Jorre would have never called me on October 13, 2013 sobbing and laughing simultaneously from the joy of salvation. If Jesus had never taken those steps, Jorre nor I would have never encountered His saving GRACE.

And without that grace, I would not have the strength to choose to take another step on a daily basis. Without that grace, I would not have the strength to rejoice and be thankful for the sacrifice that He made not only for me, but for Jorre. Without that grace, life would be hopeless, and each step that I choose to take would be meaningless.

Today I encourage you to take each step knowing that God has a purpose and a plan for your life, regardless of where your steps are taking you. If your steps are taking you to the top of the mountain, know that God is there, walking with you. If your steps are taking you into a deep, dark valley, know that God is there, right by your side, and He will never leave you nor forsake you. And when you feel like it’s too difficult to take those steps, remember those painful steps that Jesus took for YOU. Remember that there’s not one step that we take that He has not already taken before us… and for us.

Remember,

“But He said to me, ‘MY grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

-Lex