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Blessings In The Midst of Raging Storms

“Blessings in the Midst of The Raging Storms”

It is so easy to take for granted the MOST precious gifts of life! Sitting in this airplane flying away from my family, I ponder how very blessed I am! In fact, I am reminded in the quietness with God the abounding and overwhelming blessings He’s bestowed upon my life! God is near, even when we feel alone!

Listening to our wedding song “I Will Be Here”, I’m reminded of my amazing & Godly husband! He loves and cherishes me! Leaving him is never easy, but the time apart is always a reminder of the depth of our love! Absence truly makes the heart grow fonder! He is patient in many ways and has never tried to guilt or manipulate me for personal gain. He’s always put my needs above his own, this was evident even in our dating days. He never pressured me and has always supported me! He is an amazing father! He always listens to, provides for, challenges, and supports our children in their dreams and endeavors! He is the Godly man I prayed for as a child. I am ever so grateful!

Leaving my children never gets easier. When they were babies, I thought it would be easier to leave when they were older and more independent. Nope, leaving them ALWAYS feels like I’m leaving my heart behind. Man, these amazing people God gifted us… I am blessed! They are kind, loving, silly, respectful, considerate, and they all have a desire to be the best version of themself! The best part is that they love me and forgive me when I’m human! These four keep me laughing all the time, even when life feels overwhelming and difficult.

My family is a gift! They can drive me crazy at times, that’s a part of life! I even love the “crazy times”… because these are the growth moments that draw us closer together. I know this is God’s plan, to have a place on Earth where you feel safe and loved for who you are. I didn’t grow up with this gift and know the fear, heartache, loneliness, and miserableness of a lack of love and security in a home. I made a decision to follow God whole-heartedly and do everything in my power to ensure my children grew up in a home of love, stability, and security. Obedience to God and continually searching our hearts offers us the most rewarding gifts Earth has to offer!

Sure, I tell them everyday that I love them and often how proud of them I am, but do I tell them they make my world a better place? As this airplane flies to the other side of America, I am reminded of the amazing gifts God has given me! My husband and children absolutely make my world a better place! I need to tell them this more often! They’re the sunshine that I love to come home to after a long day! They’re the reason for the tears that spill from my eyes every time I leave them behind for a trip! Life is hard! The past several years have brought one trial after another, God has been faithful through the storms. The storms are scary, God has never left our side! He’s given the blessing of family and friends to hold us, cry with us, pray for us, support us, and make us laugh in the trials! My heart is full of gratitude for the answered prayers and presence of God in my life!

Friends, when life is hard, Satan works overtime in our minds! He wants us to be so caught up in the fear of the storms, that we’re unable to see God at work in our lives! In fact, he convinces us that God has forgotten us, that he’s not present, that we’re alone, that our trials will never end. It’s not true! Today was a reminder of God’s goodness, even when the storms have been raging! The goal of our life is to live victoriously, not perfectly, or without pain! Live victoriously through Christ! Blessings, Crystal

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Choosing Faith Over Fear

My heart is breaking today for a fellow mother of a child enduring the MIS-C nightmare, not once but now a second time. This is every parent and child with MIS-C’s worse nightmare. That MIS-C may reoccur and to see the data being made in real life is unsettling! It is a relatively new condition and there is little information to provide answers. Being the pioneers for this illness is terrifying. Thankfully, we now have a support group to pray for, encourage and help each other through the hard times, and to celebrate healing and victories!

I know all of us parents have asked the infectious disease, rheumatology, and specialists doctors this question about 100 times throughout the duration of the journey! “Can my child get MIS-C again?”

As time passes the data “our very own children’s health occurrences” are filling in the blanks. Friends, this is terrifying! I am not going to lie! I DO NOT like it and absolutely wish my Sweet Caroline didn’t have to be a part of the MIS-C club. We are now a part of the club, wishing we weren’t, living in denial and fear, and throwing tantrums is not going to help! Trust me, I’ve cried so many tears, felt my heart would beat in angst right outside of my chest, and I’ve wrestled with God about “why”? The only thing that has kept me sane throughout this entire process is God!

God loves His children and longs for our souls to be quieted in His presence. Once calmed, I remember to ask myself…

What are my choices? I ask my clients this all the time… It’s the best question to ask ourselves when facing insurmountable trials.

1.). I can be crazy scared, act frivolously, and move into absolute “control” mode.

Admittedly, more times than I can count… I’ve had the thought to run to the school and pull her out to homeschool her. Thankfully, I calmed down quickly and turned my fear into prayer! God reminded me that “our” little girl is relational and is so happy at her school, she loves her friends, and being in school is good for her spirit. I calmed down and didn’t run to the school and demand to bring her home to her momma bear! Lol! I remembered to check my fear at the cross.

2.) I can take my fear and anxiety to God.

This calms me and grounds my fearful heart. In His presence I learn that I can exercise caution and be careful with her care and symptoms. This is a much better option!

I’m God’s presence he continually leads my wandering and fearful heart back to option 2. Therefore, I’m not acting in hysterics, fear, and attempting to control everything and everyone around me!

Covid is REAL! It is directly impacting each of our lives! It is hitting close to home in more and more families. If I had a magic wand… I’d wave it around and wish away all the brokenness due to this Covid pandemic. I don’t have this ability and neither do you… Even our finest doctor’s still have limited information. I have something better and so do you… FAITH! Faith in a God who is in control! Lean into Him with your fears and concerns! He is walking through this pandemic with us and has a purpose for all our pain. He will redeem this and return what has been taken from us in His time… He will redeem!

Since the start of this Covid pandemic we have all been faced with the absolute uncertainty and vulnerability of being a human! We are not immortal, contrary to what we like to think and convince ourselves! We are mortal beings with a beginning and end! Not a single one of us knows our final day. None of us know the outcomes, if there will be answers, or if the virus will ever be contained. God knows! He will use this, ALL of it for good! It breaks his heart to see His children suffering! This I know! He is near the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Some of us have experienced nothing more than a bad cold! Some of us have faced near death experiences that have woken us up to what is important. Some of us have witnessed our children face near death experiences. Sadly, many of us have lost loved ones during this pandemic. Shockingly, there are still some who say it’s nothing more than a “flu”. Everyone of us has been impacted by Covid-19, either directly or indirectly. It’s heart breaking, frightening, and comes with much uncertainty!

There are many things we don’t have control over… The pandemic is one! And… how others respond in the midst of the pandemic is another.

There is one thing we have control over… How we respond to the pandemic? What do you choose?

1) Be crazy scared, frantic, and attempt to control everything around you… All in an attempt to quiet your own fears.

2). Take your fear to God and allow Him to lead, guide, direct, and comfort you during a difficult time. Allow God to quiet the noise in your soul and calm, comfort, and ground your spirit.

The choice is yours. I choose… 2!

Over and over again I run back to option 2, it is the ONLY THING that calms my spirit!

Today, I’m praying for God’s mercy, wisdom, and healing over this pandemic! I’m praying for the individuals and families impacted by Covid! I am praying for all children and parents whose lives have been turned upside down due to MIS-C. I’m praying for my very own Sweet Caroline!

Please join me in choosing option 2. Let’s flood heaven with fervent prayers for healing!

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 & 7

Blessings, Crystal

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Finding Joy In The Trials

This little girl is getting her heart checked to ensure it’s healthy and doing well since the MIS-C diagnosis. She’s a trooper! She’s happy, confident, joyful, and tough!

Right before having her heart tests, she asked me if she could have some of my coffee. I’m like … “Ummm.. no!” Caffeine before heart tests is not a good mix! Lol! Doc be like “Why is her heart beating so fast???” We sure had a good laugh! Haha! Finding joy in the trials! I sure love this huge smile! She’s come so far since the day in the hospital, 3 weeks ago, when she was lifelined to All Children’s in St. Petersburg, FL! Thankful for God’s provisions!

Friends, if your world looks dark, depressing, painful, and overwhelming today… Borrow my hope for awhile, joy is around the corner! Joy may look different than it was before, but we grow through hardship!

James 1:2-6 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Blessings,

Crystal

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Conflict is What’s Making This Global Pandemic Unbearable

All this hatred and discord over masks vs. no masks, vaccines vs. no vaccines, makes my heart sick! To be completely honest it increases my anxiety and I know for a fact that I’m not alone! People are being pushy, judgmental and lacking understanding & empathy. Everyone operating at these extremes is making this pandemic more uncomfortable, upsetting, challenging, and frightening!

We are all in this together! But, we’re acting like our friends, neighbor’s, and even family members are our enemies!

Wake up call…

To all the people pushing tooth and nail masks and vaccines to the point of stirring anger and bitterness… there’s still so many unknowns! The data is showing that the vaccines aren’t the complete answer to our suffering! I’m not saying we shouldn’t get the vaccine, I’m saying “WE DON’T KNOW… NOBODY DOES! Even the best of the best medical doctors and biologists are still trying to figure out Covid.

Wake Up Call…

To those acting like this pandemic is just another flu, my daughter almost died from a rare condition caused by Covid, MIS-C. Don’t think for a minute I haven’t endured fear over whether she can get this condition again, the top doctor’s DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT have enough data to answer that question. I have found myself at times feeling tightness in my chest over what our future has in store over this Covid “hell” we’ve all been living! I have decided to trust God and trust that He holds the future. He knows the answers to the questions regarding the future. He holds our tomorrow! I’ve come to realize that if I allow this fear to be my primary focus it will continue to scare the living daylights out of me. My living in fear is not going to help my daughter, my children, myself, my marriage, my relationships, or the people around me! In fact, fear will hurt myself and my relationships!

I choose to spend my time loving and leading people to the hope of Jesus! I choose to pray fervently and heed the Holy Spirit for answers.
I choose to seek the Holy Spirit for guidance over masks, vaccines, and how to live wisely in the midst of this global pandemic.

I refuse to control what I don’t understand!

This pandemic is real and there are so many unknowns! Let’s all stop acting like we know everything cause we DO NOT!!! During this time of uncertainty and tremendous unknowns, I know a few things are absolutely certain…

1.) We all NEED Jesus and God is in control!

2.) We NEED each other to ensure that during this time of tribulation and difficulty that we come out stronger, still standing, and mentally and physically put together!

3.) We NEED to pray for others and not judge, ridicule, or slander!

4.). We NEED to ensure our eternal lives are secure and work to love others to Jesus. We need to do our part to be sure we all make it to Heaven together! We can’t do this when being unkind and judgmental!

5.) We NEED to allow this time of uncertainty to build our empathy and compassion!

6.) We NEED to trust God!

We’re all suffering and hurting! Please STOP causing unnecessary hurt and suffering! It’s not helping and we all know it! Trust me, as a counselor I hear the hearts of people and everyone is afraid of the pandemic, even those who say their not. We’re all fearful on some level, because it’s impacting us all!

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Blessings, Crystal

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What is the Answer to The Chaos of our Culture? Love!

I was just thinking this morning about how broken hearted my sweet & Godly great-grandmother would be if she knew all the things going on in our present day culture!

Our culture has spiraled out of control in the past 20 years. My heart aches tremendously! God knows all and has a plan and purpose even in this chaos.

Rise up Christians, we can not be complacent!

We need to live and love for Jesus! We need to be wise, vigilant, and STOP living in denial! We need to use our energy and all our resources and begin fighting the evil schemes of Satan, by loving people to Jesus! Not “shaming” them or judging them… not trying to change their vote, lifestyle, or choices.

When we love people to Jesus… Guess what happens? God changes their desires, choices, votes, and lives! It’s God’s job, not ours! This is the only way to change the condition of our world! People are looking for hope and are desperately longing to figure out how to fill their God-sized hole! Only Jesus can fill our God-sized hole and only Jesus can complete and fulfill us!

John 4:13 & 14 “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

What is our job? What can we Christ followers do to make a difference in our broken world? Love people to Jesus! That’s all Jesus asks us, not to change them. As a counselor
I’ve encountered my share of overwhelming days and feel inept to make a difference in the midst of heartache and pain. On these difficult days the Lord has said to me… “Can you just love them? It’s not your job to change them, but to love them! I am their Savior and I am the only Savior they need.” Yes, Lord, I can love them! Love them to Jesus! It’s our calling as disciples of Christ!

Mathew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

People are leaving the faith because instead of loving well, (c)hristian people are judging, being indirect and passive aggressive out of pride, fear, and insecurity. Christians, we’re the ones making Jesus look bad. In the name of “Jesus” we’ve been the exact opposite of what Jesus looks like. We’ve made Jesus look insensitive, insecure, mean, heartless, judgy, unfriendly, unkind, impossible to please, and everything He’s not. We MUST stop acting like we have the power to change people… We DO NOT! Only The Lord has that kind of power. Time to recognize our prideful hearts and learn how to love like Jesus!

What power do we have? The ability to love Jesus completely, grow in our own relationship with Jesus Christ, love others as ourselves, build healthy connection, and always be ready to tell the Good News!

Mathew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Friends, I am so thankful to be walking this spiritual journey with you! Serving God and living for Him is the greatest calling on Earth!

Blessings,

Crystal

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Parenting Teenagers & Managing Technology In Our Families

Raising children in our present cultural is tough! As a counselor, I hear stories and my heart aches at the condition of our world! Parents, pay attention! DO NOT ignore your gut! Listen to that still small voice inside! Pray! Pray! Pray! Have accountability on all phones and computers. DO NOT allow children and teens to use technology in their rooms and have a room where technology is supposed to be used openly! Children and teens should not… SHOULD NOT have privacy on their cell phones and computers! In fact, adults shouldn’t have privacy on cell phones, we’re all prone to temptation! We all need accountability! Family wide computer/cell phone filters are essential! We are not above being lured by Satan’s evil schemes! Satan is working hard to pull our children away from love, grace, truth and lead them into darkness! Our children need us on our toes! We have to be intentional and proactive in our parenting! We have to pay attention! Our kids need us!!! They need us to continually point them to Jesus, hold them accountable, and love them unconditionally! Most importantly our children need us to love them unconditionally! #myheartthisevening #parenting

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Happy 21st Anniversary to my Best Friend and Soul Mate

We’ve raised 4 amazing kiddos together! You earned a bachelors degree and a PhD from Indiana University! I’ve earned a bachelor’s degree and an M.A. and became a counselor… we did this all together! We’ve explored the world together! We’ve had amazing moments of success, tremendous joy and faced tremendous sorrow… together! You’ve stood by me through thick and thin! You’re definitely my better half! God knew we needed each other to face the joys and tribulations that we’d face in our lives!

Happy 21st Anniversary, to my best friend!

I love you!

Here’s to a lifetime of memories still to be made… together!

Robert Ridlon, I love and admire you more each year!

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When I don’t Understand, I Choose To Trust!

Living in 3 states in less than a year is not easy! Especially, when we thought we’d retire and have our children and future grandchildren visit our home in Bloomington, IN! Where we called home for 20 years.

I would be lying if I said, “I understand it all”. I’d also be lying if I said, “It’s been easy and I haven’t doubted God’s plan, more than 100 times!” I don’t understand! There has been a lot of fear, tears, hurt, and discouragement! I have clients all the time ask me for “specific answers” to the difficulty they face in their life. I am always quick to tell them…

“I don’t have all the answers! Trust me, if I did, we wouldn’t be walking through the wilderness we’ve been enduring. What I have is faith, knowing that God is who he says he is and he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do! I know he’s never forsaken or abandoned us. He’s always provided every step of the way and his plans have always been to prosper us, even when His plan is contrary to my plans. This is my hope! This is the very thing that sustains us when life gets scary, uncertain, unfamiliar, and discouraging!”

I know I make this sound like it’s been all scary and it has been quite unnerving! But… there has been beauty in the trials! Complete moments of joy and close family moments! God has been near and it’s the very thing that has held us together!

I serve a Mighty God! A loving God! A God who loves, provides, and guides unconditionally!!!

“When I don’t understand, I choose to trust!”

Friends, life is hard! The Bible warned us thousands of years ago…

“In this world you will have troubles, but take heart I have overcome the world!”

I can’t imagine living this life without the Hope of Jesus!

Hang on to Jesus!

Blessings, Crystal

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God’s Beauty Trumps Anxiety

On hard days it’s the little things that remind you of God’s beauty! Yesterday, was a discouraging day and I found myself struggling with the current demands and the overall stress of life. Walking into the kitchen these beautiful flowers caught my attention! We have been keeping fresh flowers to make the house look nice for showings. However, these flowers were like a song to my spirit! A reminder that God is in control and makes all things beautiful in His time. They reminded me that there is beauty everywhere in our world, we just have to stop and pay attention!

Mathew 6: 28-32 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

We need to allow God’s beauty and blessings to grab our attention and yank us out of our anxious spirals! Look for beauty, blessings, love… God…. and you will find it!

What we focus on increases! Focus on God and his good deeds and beauty all around us!

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Blessings, Crystal

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The “Meaning” Junkie!

This morning during my devotional, God whispered to my heart! It was a powerful and much needed word. God spoke in the way only He does, straight to my heart, not an audible sound, but a direct message to my spirit!

Here’s the story!

There is tremendous uncertainly in our family’s life, once again! Looking for God’s heeding, guidance, and fervently seeking wisdom. The past several days my spirit has been a bit down and doubt has been attempting to invade.

There seems to be more questions than answers. This is a true challenge for this girl who likes to have things figured out! I’m a “meaning” junkie! If I can see the spiritual meaning in a challenge, I can thrive! Yet, presently this has been more unclear than clear. I’m praying, seeking, and awaiting for answers and understanding!

In all honesty, I’m fighting the fight! The battle is thick, but God is greater! Thankfully, I have been allowing the struggle to send me to the feet of Christ, prayer, God’s word, worship, and fellowship with other Christians. I don’t want to think about where I’d be emotionally, physically, and spiritually if this weren’t the case. Trust me, I’ve been there too many times to count! I’m learning, slowly but surely!

It is during these times that God speaks in gentle, yet firm messages! This morning I continued reading slowly through Psalms and today was a continuation of 119. Powerful and in depth passage of scripture! What a powerful word to the heart of one unsure of the path before? To one who is desperately searching and seeking God’s wisdom regarding next steps. I am a girl, who desires to be in God’s will more than anything! This is my heart! My prayer is to always be close enough to God to discern his voice and his will!

During this precious time with God, my heart was drawn to ….

Mathew Chapter 6, where the message is clear… “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough trouble of it’s own. God cares about the birds… How much more does he love and care for us, His beloved children.”

Wow! What a word of comfort for one caught up in a fearful place of uncertainty and fear! Thank you, Lord!

Sitting there with tears gently flowing down my cheeks… God whispers to my heart, “Crystal, remember the man you met yesterday?” What a reminder!

Wow! Here’s that story…

Driving to lunch after church, there sat a homeless man at the bus stop and he had his blue tooth speaker and was jamming to one of my favorite worship songs. I said to him out the car window, “Great song! One of my favorites!” He responded, “I may be homeless, but I still love Jesus!” Wow, his comment took me by surprise! I replied, “Amen, brother! Keep the faith! Happy Easter!”

Philippians 4:11-13 “As I sat there this morning plagued with fear, uncertainty, and disappointment… God reminded me that through Him we can be content, joy filled, and at peace regardless of our present situation. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I was reminded that I don’t need to fear my circumstances, because God is our comforter no matter our situation! I don’t anticipate being homeless, but even if life takes me one day in the future… With a Christ, I will be okay! With Christ, we’re always okay!

Friends, Are you weighted down by fear, confusion, and uncertainty? God is there in the uncertainty and struggle. Lean into Him! He’s got you!

“Keep the faith!”
Blessings, Crystal