***Note: I know this is long, but God truly impressed it upon my heart to share. We pray it blesses you as He has been so faithful to bless us!
“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” ~Psalm 30:5
Grief: 1. deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death; 2. a cause of such suffering; 3. an unfortunate outcome; disaster, trouble, misadventure.
By this time I am sure, you all know that this is not our first time around the block with grief, pain, and suffering. If you have walked any amount of time with the Lord, you would know that there’s an enemy; therefore, there is an exact opposite plan to the will of God trying to work against you for as long as you live. When Lex and I first married, we were young, we knew of God, but we had no real relationship with Him. We married young. I met him when I was 16, and he was just turning 21. We married when I was 18, and I had AJ when I was 20. Although we didn’t have a relationship with God, God’s plan had been written for us long before we met. It was written before we were born as it was for all of us;
“Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” ~Jeremiah 1:5
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God joined together let no man separate.” ~Matthew 19:6
I believe in my heart of hearts that the enemy knew God’s hand was on our lives as a married couple and soon to be family though we didn’t know it at the time. I share this part of our testimony as a glory and praise to God, as He has been the Resurrector, Redeemer, and Hope for all things in our marriage and family.
Prior to us getting married there was always an enemy working against us through the opposite sex. And, I remember, painful as it was, the strong conviction He had given me even then to stand for our relationship in the midst of our trials. I was born and raised in the Catholic faith and my Abuelita, my dad’s mother, was a strong influence of God in my life when I would visit Costa Rica, where my parents were both born. So, if you’re a grandparent, parent, or elder person reading this, do not underestimate the power you have to influence the younger generation for God. I made quite a few stupid mistakes growing up, but I always knew, because of my Abuelita reading and explaining scripture to me in Spanish, that God was for me as I witnessed Him be there for her countless times in her various trials.
Lex was dedicated to God by his mother, but we could not marry in the Catholic Church until he had converted to my faith at that time. Therefore, we had to go through classes for him to become Catholic so that we could marry in the church. Prior to us marrying they sat us down with a married couple of 35+ years that I guess served as the standard to counsel and approve couples who wanted to marry in the church. Well, we filled out a packet of over 200 questions ranging from our beliefs on religion, how many children, raising them, favorite things, family backgrounds, dislikes, likes, etc.
Guess what? …We failed!
And, we were told that we should not marry because there were just too many differences between us. If you know me for any length of time, I don’t adjust well with being told that I couldn’t or can’t do something especially when I was passionate about it, like our relationship; like my deep and unwavering love for my beloved husband, Lex . We forged ahead anyway despite family and friends telling us that we shouldn’t marry, and when they did, I would want to prove that we could; and we did. Our wedding day came, and the priest gave his sermon about how our marriage wasn’t going to last unless we did his laundry list of suggestions to keep it together. Yes, you read that right, he gave a sermon on his lack of faith in our marriage.
Well, the first year of marriage proved tumultuous as I had learned of an enemy attack against our marriage from the opposite sex. When I went to discuss it with the priest, I was told, “Well, you married a man that God didn’t bless.” So, I began making preparations for my husband and I to separate and divorce because while I did not have the relationship with God that I should have had at the time, I didn’t want to be in something He didn’t bless. We separated right before AJ was 2 years old in February of 1997. It would be a long time before our divorce became final as there were so many hiccups along the way. Looking back now, I know it was God trying to stop us from doing so. We finally divorced in February of 1999.
I walked away from the Catholic Church because when I shared our issues, the priest at the time, revealed it to the congregation of which many we knew and I felt betrayed. So, I wandered around without God for a while, and so did Lex. We both gravitated to relationships that were ungodly which, in turn, made us ungodly – all the while having a daughter unnecessarily suffering the stupidity of our selfish ways. But, after a short period of time in which I did drugs with an addict for 3 months, and the possibility of losing my daughter because of it – I lost everything, including my life before AJ and I submitted to God. A little bit prior to my leaving this disastrous relationship, a friend introduced me to an open-bible church. In short, God brought that church to mind again, and I went back and gave Him my life whole-heartedly – all the while weeping in what I once thought was irreparable brokenness. The sermon being preached at the time I came back to this open-bible church was on marriage, and the Pastor read the following scripture aloud,
“For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord God of Israel.” ~Malachi 2:16
As you can imagine, I was taken aback by it because I was instructed by my previous church, and godly leader, that I wasn’t in a marriage that God would bless. This church became my lifeline, and AJ’s too. I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word, truths, promises, etc. I was there 5 days out of the week taking classes, learning, praying, etc. My family and Lex thought AJ and I went “Cuckoo for Jesus,” but I didn’t care. From the point of that sermon, I began to pray and ask God to heal our marriage if that is what His will was for us to get back together. Although the pain of the past was present, I was willing to submit to Him because I wanted to be in a relationship that God would bless and the truth of that was my deep desire to have our marriage resurrected from the dead so to speak. My love for Lex had never gone away nor did his love for me, but the suffering in our relationship was being used by the enemy to keep us apart. AJ began to pray that we would remarry, and when Lex thought it was crazy that AJ and I found great comfort in going to church 5 days out of the week, he was worried that I had joined a cult. So, to ease his fears and those of my family, I was more than happy to invite him and everyone else in the family to church. Lex soon found the same peace I had received. In short, we began the road to restoration as God had always wanted for us. In fact, it was 7 months after we were divorced that we began to date again and a year and a half later after keeping ourselves pure for marriage again, we remarried on our original wedding date, 1/16/01.
Our battles with the enemy were not done. We would face the attack of the enemy through the lure and poison of infidelity a few more times. I want to take this moment for you, the reader and witness of His redemption and restoration, to not lose sight of the redemption story and to understand that our battles are not with flesh and blood. The Bible clearly states it,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” ~Ephesians 6:12
People in the world, and/or people who have walked similar walks may have given up, BUT GOD was fighting for us and I knew in my hearts of hearts that this was a spiritual battle more than it was a physical battle. Please do not judge my husband, and/or myself for the true beauty of redemption, restoration, love, hope, and faithfulness that is found in our story. Due to my dependence and love for God, I submitted my fleshly and carnal will to Him that His divine purpose be met in our trial and suffering, and so did Lex. Therefore, when those who were close would encourage me to leave, God had asked that I trust and remain standing strong for our marriage and family for His glory, for His purpose. You see, I began to realize that the enemy was trying to tear apart what God had put together many times over throughout our marriage. It was God who was fighting for our marriage and family to remain one in Him for His glory, for His purpose.
NO man can separate what God has joined together.
During our marriage trials God was faithful to bring me to a scripture that has been the backbone of redemption, restoration, healing, and love in our marriage and family. God brought the prophet Ezekiel to the “valley of dry bones,” and equipped him with some life-saving truths, and this story has kept us strong in many trials. I would like to pass along the power and strength of God’s Spirit to you.
“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He (God) brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And He led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, only You know.” Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I AM THE LORD.” So, I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. And I looked, and behold there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel (insert whatever you thought was dead and you lost hope in here). Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graces, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I WILL DO IT, declares the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 27:1-14
From the earliest ages of my life, I have had to overcome deep struggles and pains including sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, drugs, alcoholism, marriage trials, and so on. I DO NOT share this in the open in pride. God has deeply impressed upon my heart that these trials would be used to comfort others as countless others were used by Him to comfort me. However, the missing anecdote to these trials are found in the beautiful story of redemption above and the impossible being made possible again – even more beautiful than one could have imagined it to be.
This. Is. Our. God.
This is the God we serve!
I did not know that I could speak life into my trials, pains, and suffering that the enemy would try so hard to beat me down with to the point of despair in my mind. BUT GOD is faithful and took me to these scriptures, showing me the power of speaking life into any situation, any trial. Over the years, and throughout our marriage, we have used these scriptures, Ezekiel’s testimony to all of us, and we have applied it to our trials and we have taught our children to do the same in theirs. There is a second witness to this in the Renewed Covenant scriptures in which Paul recalls Abraham’s testimony of faith;
“-as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations” – in the presence of God in Whom he (Abraham) believed, Who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” ~Romans 4:17
My husband and I have been through some challenging trials in our relationship, no doubt. And the enemy has tried to tear us apart through them, BUT GOD remained faithful to His promise in keeping us together, our family together; more importantly, in keeping our love alive and renewed in Him. Our testimony has been used countless times as a witness of His hope, redemption, and restoration in which we were both able to minister unto others in their marriage, keeping them from being torn apart by the enemy.
You might ask, “What does all of this have to do with grief and AJ?” It has everything to do with her, you, and me because grief is caused by the loss of something that was once a part of you, a part that may have died, a part that you can’t ever get back. Whether it is a marriage, a relationship with a loved one, a traumatic injury, a job loss, the loss of a loved one, financial trials, health trials – whatever, wherever, and whoever grief is attached to, God is faithful to resurrect, restore, and redeem it all! This, of course, is my definition based on our testimony and trials. I grieved, we grieved what the enemy tried to take away, BUT GOD gave us hope and strength to push past it and embrace life and our loved ones as never before through each trial.
AJ began the grief process during this trial, and you must know that the miracles that are happening are because we, including all of you, are being used to put the “valley of dry bones” testimony and the “calling of those things that are not as though they were” life applications into practice. Together we are praying for things to push past into redemption, restoration, healing, and hope. On the front lines; Lex, Joel, and I are praying along with AJ the whole healing of her spiritual man and her physical man. And, the results we are seeing are a product of these life truths that God has for everyone who believes in Him and steps into faith and not fear.
My husband received a call today at work about a 21 year old girl who had been in a traumatic car wreck like our daughter, and has suffered serious and multiple injuries. She arrived at the hospital tonight, and my husband and I were able to go and pray with her and share that what we see in the physical doesn’t have to be our reality. We can believe God and be bold enough to ask for miracles. This brought great hope to the mother. And I share that to testify that God will do a work in her of hope. Hope is powerful! We want to share with each of you as we have shared with AJ and this mother that this is what is keeping her and us pressing on,
“So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18
All this time we have been telling AJ, “This is only temporary.” Doctors are baffled and in awe of how she is coming along, but we are not because we know and believe in the impossible because He has been faithful to demonstrate it in our lives countless times. As I share these words with you, I am reminded by the Spirit of God, that it is the eternal that can’t ever be broken. It is the eternal that outlives the temporary, the pains, the sufferings, and the grief. Therefore, when you submit your temporary trial (as they only last for a season) to the eternal God, He is faithful to redeem, restore, and resurrect it again with His breath of life.
Here is AJ pushing past the past and desiring to embrace the beautiful life she has before her!
Albeit many hard lessons learned, the only obstacle that keeps us from living the life God died for us to have is in believing the lies of the enemy that “All is lost. Things will never be good again. I can’t get over it.” We are here to testify, “Yes, you can!” And like, AJ, when you believe you can with God, you will. AJ is determined to push past the past because she wants to embrace the full and exciting life God has for her. I don’t blame her. I would never want to do this life without Him again; I know what that’s like, and that’s NOT living! I truly want to embrace every drop of life that He gives me. I have a saying with the Pops, “As long as you’re living, there is still hope!” Thank you, prophet Ezekiel and Paul, for these powerful truths you walked and shared that have empowered countless others to live and believe in a miracle-working God.
I know this God story was a long one, and if you made it this far, thank you! Don’t let the enemy steal another minute, another hour, another day, another year of your life – fight for your life. Embrace it, for you only get one shot at it. Make it a good one and have fun along the journey. I pray this message of hope has stirred in you the desire to trust God for bigger things. I pray that is has stirred you to trust God to revive the dead things in you – maybe it’s a dream, a relationship, a marriage, your health – whatever it is, He can and will do it!
Because of Him,
~Laurie for the PopTribe, #TeamAniyah