Monday, February 28, 2011

Unconditional Love

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. 
Ephesians 3:16-18

     I heard the song “Times” by Tenth Avenue North today. I have not heard this song in a while and it took me back to my darkest moments after losing Evie. This song brought me so much comfort during the loss. I was experiencing many painful and raw emotions and felt shameful at times because most of them were directed at God. It comforts me knowing that I can come to Him in my most vulnerable moments and He will still accept and love me, no matter what. He loves me perfectly without strings attached. This song is such a powerful illustration of God’s unconditional love, grace and mercy. He doesn’t care how pretty I am, what emotions I bring to Him or how much I follow the rules. He is big enough to handle whatever I express to Him. God knows me better than I know myself so why not bring everything to Him? He just wants me, all of me and in return He gives me His love and mercy that never ends. Only God can find a way to love us this much. I am so use to human conditional love that I have a difficult time grasping the concept of how much God truly loves me. I am not sure if it is even humanly possible for us to fully comprehend this kind of love here on this broken earth. Thankfully, I am starting to get a better grasp on how wide and long and high and deep Christ's love is for me... 

I hear You say,
"My love is over. It's underneath.
It's inside. It's in between.
The times you doubt Me, when you can't feel.
The times that you question, 'Is this for real? '
The times you're broken.
The times that you mend.
The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend.
Well, My love is over, it's underneath.
It's inside, it's in between.
These times you're healing, and when your heart breaks.
The times that you feel like you're falling from grace.
The times you're hurting.
The times that you heal.
The times you go hungry, and are tempted to steal.
The times of confusion, in chaos and pain.
I'm there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.
I'm there through your heartache.
I'm there in the storm.
My love I will keep you, by My pow'r alone.
I don't care where you fall, where you have been.
I'll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

All Life Has to Offer


     We were finally able to take some couple photos (not leaving out the sweet baby bump) this past weekend (thanks to my sweet and talented sister-in-law). As I look through them, I am reminded of the beautiful love God has given us to share in our family.  
     I recently read our wedding vows and it is so amazing to see us living out the promises in our marriage. It is the promises God wanted us to make and not break. At the time, never did we think storms would actually come and we would be living out these words, but now it all makes sense. The minister's address stated, "The commitment of marriage is one of the most important decisions two people will make in their lives. The vow of marriage is a pledge of everlasting love uniting you in holy matrimony, whereby you commit to share all life has to offer, the good the adverse, with patience and understanding. For your marriage to remain strong, your faith in each other must never waiver because of the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Remember, the power of love can conquer all obstacles. A strong marriage is dependent upon many factors. Beyond the love and respect you share for one another, there must be a strong sense of commitment and loyalty that bonds you in one indivisible unit. Above all there must be true friendship and the willingness to communicate with one another. A genuine liking for each other, the willingness to accept and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, is the foundation for a strong and successful marriage." 
     By no means am I saying our marriage is perfect, but we have certainly found an intimacy that some couples unfortunately never find.  In our situation, I believe it is how we handled what we have experienced that has helped us achieve this intimacy. This is also not to say that couples must go through challenging times to find this intimacy. However, whether big or small, we all go through something that can help us grow and make us stronger. I am not sure where I heard this, but it is not the actual trial that shapes us, it is what we choose to do with the circumstance (big or small) that is significant. 
     At one point we came to a cross road in our marriage and had to decide which path we wanted to take.  With His Grace, we have been given a second chance to commit to our marriage and fulfill our promises we made to each other five years ago.  
     Danny, I am so excited about walking with you as we partner up with God on this new journey. I cannot wait to be parents and continue to enjoy every precious gift He has given us. I am also looking forward to the many years, God willing, we will have together. Here we go! I love you...

In the morning it comes
Heaven sent a hurricane
Not a trace of the sun
But I don't even run from rain

Beating out of my chest
Heart is holding on to you
From the moment I knew
From the moment I knew

You were the air in my breath
Filling up my love soaked lungs
Such a beautiful mess
Intertwined and overrun

Nothing better than this
Ooh, and then the storm can come
You feel just like the sun
Just like the sun

And if you say we'll be alright
I'm gonna trust you, babe
I'm gonna look in your eyes
And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light

Never mind what I knew
Nothing seems to matter now
Ooh, who I was without you
No one knows where it ends
How it may come tumbling down
But I'm here with you now
I'm with you now

And if you say we'll be alright
I'm gonna trust you, babe
I'm gonna look in your eyes
And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light

Let the world come rushing
Come down hard, come crushing
All I need is right here beside me
And all the love I'm swearing
Take my love and wear it
Over your shoulders

And if you say we'll be alright
I'm gonna trust you, babe
I'm gonna look in your eyes
And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light.

"The Light" by Sara Bareilles

Wedding Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, 
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, 
For each of you will be warmth to each other.
Now there is no more loneliness for you,
For each of you will be comfort to the other.
Though you are two bodies,
There is but one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And, may the days of your life 
Be good and long upon the earth.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Loving Others

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

Whether you believe Christ was who he said he was, he taught us a very important lesson on loving others and on humanity. We can all learn from his teachings.  Through scripture, we can witness him showing more concern for the poor than the rich. 
For the past couple of days I have been feeling spoiled and selfish, but grateful to be a U.S. citizen.  This country is certainly not perfect, but we have rights, opportunities and freedoms that other countries fail to offer.
            I read an article in “Compassion” magazine this morning called “Lessons from the Trash Heap.” It was about a girl named Aury from Guatemala. She grew up, literally, on the city dump. The president of Compassion International described it as: "The stench was overwhelming in the sweltering heat. Hordes of flies immediately swarmed us, and we could barely hear each other over the roar of the bulldozers." The volunteer team asked Aury what she knows now from having grown up in this awful place. She responds with, “I know two things. First, I know what it feels like for people to look at you and think you are garbage. When I was very small, the dump trucks wouldn’t even swerve to avoid hitting me, the drivers thought I wasn’t worth the effort. If I had been killed out there among the dogs and vultures, probably nobody would have even dug a grave for me. I was already where I belonged, garbage in the trash heap.”
            Wow, I am not sure about you, but this leaves me with a heavy heart. Can you imagine feeling like Aury? Can you picture yourself living in these types of conditions? Like myself, it is probably really hard to imagine what she went through in this experience. This leaves me feeling disconnected from the world I live in. I just can’t relate. I personally feel self-absorbed. Aury is a person just like you and me. She deserves the same opportunities we all have received.
This story also brings me hope. Her perspective was even more amazing by saying, “I know that nobody is garbage. We are all loved by God and He has a perfect plan and purpose for every life. That’s what I know.” It was incredible the way she looked at her tragic situation as an opportunity to bring God into her circumstances.  God has also brought a sponsor in her life (an opportunity) offering her support so she can enjoy what this life has to offer. Through this experience, I believe Aury has gained spiritual wisdom, strength and maturity that is much more rewarding and valuable than earthly things. Aury has since graduated from college and started her own business.
            Aury is a prime example of courage and perseverance. She inspires me to continue to look at every opportunity, good or bad, as a way to get closer to Christ and to see Him in everything. This story encourages me to continue to look at my challenging circumstances as an opportunity to grow spiritually and humbly. I hear many times:  “life is what you make of it.” Yes, this is much easier to say if you have had the right opportunities. 
            It is overwhelming to think of all the needs in this world, but Aury’s story moves my heart to help provide opportunities for others using the resources God has given me. I do not have to help everyone, but by helping one person I am making a difference. I think we should all be inspired to get involved in providing opportunities for others. Christian or no Christian, we should work together to connect this world and help others.    
            As I am writing this blog, I think of the devastation an earthquake caused in Haiti, a girl or boy being sold into prostitution in Thailand, the tragic situation in Egypt, the extreme poverty and disease in parts of Africa. I even think of the poverty in our very own country.
I pray that we are all challenged to look at how much easier we have it in this life. Even if some of us have not had it so easy, I encourage you to look at it with a new perspective by being positive, strong and courageous, not allowing it to knock you down without getting you back up. Let’s put some of this energy that we put into ourselves into others with conviction, love and humility.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

From My Inspiring Husband, Danny.

Since becoming a follower of Christ, I've noticed many changes within myself.  One of the most prevalent changes is the fact that in the past my heart ALWAYS followed my mind.  Now it is rather clear to me that my mind has been more willing to follow my heart.  It may not seem like a big difference but it's a world of difference to me.  You see, my mind leans towards logic, self-sufficiency and survival.  While none of those may be independently negative, together they can easily destroy the foundation needed for faith.  My heart, on the other hand, is intuitive, generous and carefree.  In short, I feel that "my mind" is me driving and "my heart" is the Holy Spirit driving.  So therein lies a paradox of sorts because generally speaking, individual decisions are ultimately driven by only one or the other.  Perhaps this is what Paul meant in Romans 6:18 (You have become free from sin and have become slave to righteousness).  Perhaps faith in Christ frees us from our own minds and enslaves us to the Holy Spirit which lives in our hearts.  Or perhaps not but I certainly feel that my heart has been winning a lot more battles since I began my walk with Christ. 

- Danny Rakovec

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saved By Grace

Consider it a sheer gift, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4 MSG
I have been praying for some time now to start a blog, but my fears and insecurities have held me back. This may be my one and only blog, but who knows how God will use this or if He even wants me to continue. As of now, at this very moment, I feel led to just write. My past motivates my heart to speak out and share. I feel in my heart that God is saying, “Mika, reach out to people with this beautiful story. My hands are all over this.... do not tuck it down deep, share it with others.” My pastor's recent message has been on boldness and how we should use our experiences and gifts as Christians to help others.  So, here is my “boldness” by reaching out, talking about my faith and how I found God in hopes that it blesses someone else.
I have never felt that I am the evangelical type of Christian. I feel that this is just not my gift and I am perfectly okay with this discovery. However, I do believe God has gifted me with the ability to persevere through challenging circumstances by walking with Him through it all. Even through the anger, confusion and sadness. I feel that my story can help people potentially get a different perspective on God.  There is a misunderstanding that He is all about the rules, but instead He provides His Grace to whoever will open their heart up to Him.
I know that some of you out there do not believe in God or if you do, have a hard time understanding Him. We have something in common because I have not understood Him for a very long time. It is just in the last few years that my heart has started to see Him in a different light. I do not think He wants us to understand Him completely; He just desires our heart and wants us to believe in what we cannot see, feel or understand. My prayer is that God works through my story to give others some hope and/or some clarity on His Grace.  There is a huge possibility that some of you may read this and think I have lost my mind. That is okay too. I just know if you do, we are just in different places. I can certainly embrace and accept our differences.  
I am reflecting on sweet Evie Grey today. She went to be with Christ on February 11, 2009. She was delivered at 9:15pm on February 12, 2009.  She weighed 6lbs 8oz. and was 19 ½ “ long. She was absolutely beautiful. Her hair was dark brown, just like her Daddy’s hair. She had a pouty mouth just like her Mommy. She would be turning two years old. Her big brother, Luke William, also went to be with Christ in 2007. I guess this is my little way of celebrating my children because there is no birthday party to plan. As I reflect on these experiences, I am reminded of God’s Grace.  He has got us through so much pain, anger and sadness. There is healing, peace, happiness and acceptance in our hearts today. We miss them so very much, but know they are in the best place ever!
I have had a long road of discovery through suffering. I was not quite certain I wanted to put my trust in this God that can take my desires and dreams away in a matter of seconds. But, I decided to put my faith in Him anyway. I am so happy that I did. It has not been easy. I have gone through many peaks and valleys to get to where I am today, but it is not over. My story is still being written and my faith is still growing every single day.
God has helped me see things so differently through the loss of Evie and Luke. My relationships have flourished because of this faith and things are not as chaotic as they once were before. I deal with my bouts of anxiety and depression differently. I can forgive more easily. I know that alcohol, at one point, was a source of numbing for me, but God has helped me get away from this self-medicating tendency.  
Other things have happened in my life, but it is because of these two experiences that helped me look up and ask for His help, His unending Grace. It was just the right time for me to realize I needed Him. It was in God’s perfect timing! 
I am also reflecting on the decision God has made for me to take this experience and use it for His glory. When I went back to my former job right after losing Evie I just couldn’t do it anymore. I felt that my heart was being led in a different direction. My husband and I prayed for God to guide us onto His path. Shortly thereafter, I felt moved to go back to school. My goal is to become a family counselor and to help those that are battling with grief and crisis within the family. I hope to spiritually encourage others who have experienced similar pain and suffering that results from the loss of a loved one. 
As I write this, Evie’s little brother/sister is kicking around in my belly, reminding me of how joyful this time is and how thankful I am for the blessings (spiritual and earthly) in my life.  This new little one is not all of our happiness, just a part of it! Christ is our ultimate happiness and we hold this truth close to our hearts daily. We are getting the nursery ready and will share pictures soon. We are so excited about this new little one’s arrival!:) I believe that this is another way that God can move someone’s faith: through children. They are the closest thing to heaven on earth so I cannot wait to experience this new journey as a mother. With lots of prayer and time to heal from the former losses, this was also another leap of faith that we decided to take by getting pregnant again. God is guiding us and we just keep moving along as He leads us on this uncertain path of trust with peace. We know that regardless of what happens, He will get us through it. Oprah has recently said, “a part of forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different by letting go of it and moving forward with the Grace that God has given you.”  I have certainly learned to forgive and accept what life has thrown at me. 
The losses are sad, but there is light shining through the darkness in this story. My husband uses the analogy of a flashlight shining in the dark. For some of us, we can see God’s light so much easier when we are faced with pain and suffering.