Happy Birthday in Heaven, Daddy.

Dear Superman,

Today would be your 54th birthday. It has been more than nine months since I said goodbye to you, my closest friend in life. I miss you more and more each day. For the first time since January, I listened to a recording of your voice. Why I have waited this long, I am not sure. At one point, you told me that there was no one you would rather spend time with than me. Oh, what I would give to spend just a few moments with you, to watch one more episode of the Office or a college football game with you, to hear you laugh and tell jokes, to see you smile at me and tell me that you love me with all your heart.

This journey of discovering how to live life without your physical presence has been far from easy. I know it’s not supposed to be easy when you love someone so much, but my goodness, it’s been rough. There have been so many days that have been quite emotionally painful. I miss being able to call you and tell you how my day is going. I am thankful beyond measure to be able to call my Nana and BigDaddy, but I wish I could call you too. Last night, as I cleaned the church while listening to my iPod, I broke down in tears as I listened to Richard Smallwood sing, “The Center of My Joy,” and I couldn’t help but sing at the top of my lungs and fall to my knees when listening to “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. I am eternally grateful to you for impressing upon me to have such a strong faith in our Heavenly Father who watches over us. He is the center of my joy and I can only imagine what it will be like when I can see you again, but more importantly, when I can see the face of Christ Jesus. I cannot wait for the day.

We made so many memories together, memories that I have thought about a lot lately. I remember fondly our road trips to the Grand Canyon in 2016 and to Virginia for the Division III Football National Championship in 2017, travelling through the Deep South while listening to the iPod that Mr. Barber kindly loaned us. My favorite was the album by Huey Lewis and the News. I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back in time and visit you, even if just for a moment. I wish we could drive through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia again or take the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or perhaps just simply watch a football game together as we cheer every touchdown and yell about every fumble or interception.

We loved binge-watching shows together such as Star Trek: Voyager, Speechless, and the Office. During quarantine, I introduced myself to Parks and Rec and the West Wing, two shows I know you would have liked too. So many things we used to do together just doesn’t seem the same without you. I miss you more than words can say.

These past 365 days have been challenging. Just a few days before your birthday last year, I had so much planned for an awesome weekend of just the two of us guys hanging out together. I was going to come home Thursday night, we would spend Friday, your birthday, at the doctor’s office (meh), but then treat ourselves to perhaps some Bush’s Chicken. Saturday, we were going to watch the Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners before watching the Baylor Bears take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Then, on Sunday, I was going to take you with me to Seventh and James so that you could visit the church I had fallen in love with in Waco and meet some amazing people I worshipped with each Sunday. We would top the day off with lunch at On the Border, our favorite place to eat in Waco. It was going to be a blast!

But as you know, it didn’t work out that way. Your birthday ended with us in a hospital room. We still watched some football together, cheering on the Longhorns even though they couldn’t pull it off (Shucks! And they didn’t this year either. Double shucks!) as you laid in your hospital bed. That Saturday, October 12, 2019 would become one of the most difficult days of my life as the doctor sat next to me and suggested that we consider end-of-life care. That’s not the weekend I had planned. I was shocked. I was heartbroken that the strongest, most fearless, hardest working, most Godly man I knew was nearing the end of his life. The following two and a half months was a roller coaster of emotions. Then, joined by our amazing friends, Karen and Adolph, our family told you farewell as you departed your earthly home for an eternal heavenly one on Christmas Eve.

In the days, weeks, and months after, so many friends and family have encouraged me and have taken care of me. Nana checks up on me every day and I have so many friends in Waco and elsewhere who bring me so much joy even in moments of deep pain and sadness. There is so much I wanted to experience with you. I wanted you to see me graduate from seminary, preach from a pulpit, fall in love and get married (you were supposed to officiate the ceremony), and spoil your future grandkids. I still take comfort in words you spoke to me nearly a year ago. You told me that in one form or another, you would be at my wedding. I know that in spirit, you will be there just as you are with me now as I type this blog post.

Grief is challenging, daunting, nerve-racking, and depressing. Quite frankly, it sucks. I don’t like it one bit. But I take joy in knowing that you are in Heaven with Christ Jesus, free from the pain and sickness of cancer. Death did not have the final say, eternal life did. You beat cancer. So, while I continue to grieve, I will also celebrate and wish you a wonderful birthday, your first in Heaven. Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you, with all my heart, beyond description. Until we meet again, see you later, Superman!

Love, Joshua

Center of My Joy by Richard Smallwood

I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me

Are There Bluebonnets in Heaven?


As I walked through the garden,

I felt the cool breeze sweep over me.

The many flowers were in full bloom;

The Indian blankets and white poppies dotted the hillside.

I strolled alongside a steady stream and listened.

I listened as the wood thrushes and mockingbirds

Performed their sweet melodious sonnets.


As I gazed across the bright blue sky,

And fixed my eyes on the distant trees,

I felt as if I were in a painting;

A magnificent work of art, inspired by God,

And placed on a canvas by a master painter.

I was in complete awe of the immense beauty.

Life sprang forth all around me.


As I continued my journey throughout this vast garden,

I heard someone singing a song with words I had heard before.

As I drew closer to the singer’s voice,

There sat my Granny, on a bench, singing “Precious Memories.”

A smile spread across my face,

As I remembered all those times spent with my Granny.

The crafts, the dominoes, and the stories filled these memories.


While she continued singing, another voice joined her.

She called for him and he came to sit right beside her with an arrowhead in his hands.

“Look what I found Granny Olene; it’s just for you.”

He turned and looked at me with a bright smile on his face.

It was my Dad, and he continued happily singing with my Granny.

The words to “Precious Memories” became even more significant to me.

Oh, how I will miss the laughs, football games, and late night movies with Dad.


Then I saw a gardener, hunched over,

planting bluebonnets;

All the while, singing along with Dad and Granny.

I knelt beside the gardener and asked him, in wonder,

“Are there bluebonnets in heaven?”

He turned to me, with soil on his fingertips and scars in his hands.

He smiled at me and asked, “Do you know the name of this garden?”

“I call it Paradise, and someday, the four of us will sing together.”


After the gardener spoke these words,

I awoke that morning,

Joyful at what I just dreamed,

Waiting for the day when I could sing with Dad, Granny, and the gardener.

Until then, I will keep these images and my Precious Memories in my heart,

As I tell the world of this gardener who assured me

That there are bluebonnets in heaven!


Originally written on June 21, 2017, the fourth stanza and mentions of Dad were added on February 17, 2020. Dad and Granny Olene, I love you both, with all my heart, beyond description!

Olene Shepherd Stewart: October 13, 1921 ~ June 13, 2017

Ronnie Dean Stewart: October 11, 1966 ~ December 24, 2019


Dad and his Granny Olene

One Month Without You


Dear Superman,

Well. It’s been one month since you went home to see Jesus. I cannot believe that it’s been an entire month. So much has happened, and yet, it seems like it has been so much shorter than a month. This is all so so difficult as I realize that this is just the first of many and many more months without you. I know you are with me in spirit, but oh what I would give to just have one conversation with you face-to-face. Nevertheless, I still rejoice in knowing that you are celebrating eternity with Christ Jesus. The sights must be amazing. I must admit that I’m a little bit jealous.

One month. So much has taken place in such a short amount of time. We began a new year, celebrated your life with friends too numerous to count, and I started a new semester of seminary. I love this place called Truett. I love this wonderful community. I know you would love them too. I am beyond blessed to have friends to play games and go to the movies with, enjoy Baylor basketball games with, and most importantly, friends whom I can fellowship with as we learn and grow together in Christ.

I am enjoying my new classes so much. I wish I could tell you about all that I am learning and see your smile as I share with you about the Gospels, early church fathers, spiritual disciplines, and the art of preaching. I wish I could read to you the sermons I am preparing. I miss you so much. One of my first assignments for Preaching I is to write a short devotional. I remember discovering one that you gave back in 1994 over Psalm 107:2. I thought I would share what the Lord has taught me through that verse in my devotional as a way of honoring you. You are a major reason I am here at seminary preparing for a life of ministry. I can never thank you enough.

Today may have been one of the most difficult days so far. Has it really been a month? Does this get easier? Everything I do now is done without sharing it with you. Occasionally, I watch those comedians, Rhett and Link, on Good Mythical Morning. I miss laughing at those videos with you. I miss binge-watching The Office with you. I miss our late-night movie nights. Remember when we used to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning to watch a good movie? You have given me so many wonderful memories. I will cherish them forever.

Dad, as always, thank you for being my best friend and my superhero. Thank you for your life’s example of how to follow and honor Christ by loving others. Until we see each other again, see you later, Superman!



Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

Psalm 107:2 (NKJV)

God On the Mountain by Lynda Randle

Holy Ground by Tim Pettigo

When I Cry


It’s been a while since my last post. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts today. This won’t be a long one, but one I feel important to share.

In my last blog post, I shared with everyone that Dad had recently entered home hospice care as he nears the end of his life here on Earth. When his last day comes, I won’t see that as cancer beating him, but rather him, through the grace of God, beating cancer. When this happens, he will be eternally healed in the presence of a Heavenly Father who watches over each of us. As I am typing this, a YouTube string of videos is playing, and I can hear Jim Hill with the Gaithers singing “What a Day that Will Be.” Let me tell you right now that it will be an awesome day. We’re also listening to Lauren Daigle, MercyMe, and more of the Gaithers.

Since my last post, we are now seeing that he is even closer to entering into the Heavenly Kingdom of God. This journey is a difficult one, and it is one that often leaves me at a loss for words. I have cried more times than I can count. I have had a number of anxiety attacks as I try and cope with this stage of life and a future life without Dad’s physical presence. Notice I said physical presence. He will always be with me in spirit. I have relived, in my mind, so many memories gained over the years. If I thought about them long enough, I could probably write a book containing all of our adventures. Road trips to Arizona and Virginia. Shorter road trips where we decided to take whichever road we felt like taking to see where it leads. Football games. Concerts to see the Gaithers, MercyMe, and Casting Crowns. Looking at Christmas lights. Movies upon movies upon movies. Lighter moments in the midst of him taking me to doctor’s visits and hospital procedures, and more recently, me taking him to appointments, scans, and chemo treatments. We have joked, laughed, cried, teased, and celebrated each other’s company and our shared moments with God.

I recently came across my first study bible given to me years ago. It’s an NIV Bible marketed towards kids. That bible served me for years. There are highlights and writings in the margins letting me know the date of when a pastor preached a sermon on a specific passage in 2005 for example. It also has a sticker page of random stickers, because I was a kid who liked stickers of course. Early on in my life, Dad helped me read the bible and understand some of its most important stories. I credit him more than anyone (plus my grandparents) for instilling in me a faith that has guided me through more trials than I can remember. He is in large part why I am now pursuing ministry and education at Truett Seminary.

A few weeks ago, we gathered around his bed as he told us his goodbyes and that he was ready to go. We sang song after song, but the one that was the most moving was “Because He Lives.” When I played it, he raised his hand to the Heavens. We did the same and he led us in a time of worship. After some time, he told us that maybe God wasn’t ready for him yet. God is with us, even in the midst of these difficult trials. If I ever need a reminder of this, Dad reminds me even when that is not what he is trying to do.

Before I conclude this blog post, I’ll leave you with a song that has meant a lot to us recently. It is a song that Dad loves. Sung by the Gaither Vocal Band, it is titled, “When I Cry.” Here are the lyrics to the chorus (see the video for the full song):

When I cry, You cry
When I hurt, You hurt
When I’ve lost someone
It takes a piece of You, too
And when I fall on my face
You fill me with grace
‘Cause nothin’ breaks Your heart
Or tears You apart
Like when I cry

This song serves as a powerful reminder to me that God understands our emotions, struggles, and pain. He knows exactly what we go through. Our God is so powerful that He created the Heavens and the universe and all of creation. Every. Single. Little. Detail. Yet at the same time, he cares for us so much that when we experience agony, he feels the same and comforts us through the hurt.

On last thing from Scripture. In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul provides the following words (2 Corinthians 1 NIV):

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Know that whatever you may be going through, God is with you. I pray you to know His presence. He is comforting me on this difficult journey. I know that He can bring comfort to you as well.

I praise God that when I cry, He cries with me too. Praise be to our God of comfort!

Gaither Vocal Band. “When I Cry.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 3 Dec. 2019.

When I Cry by the Gaither Vocal Band

What a Day that Will Be by Jim Hill and the Gaither Homecoming Friends

That’s when God wants to hear you sing


It’s been two months since my last blog post. At the time, I wrote about my amazing Dad (a.k.a. Superman). This post is also about Superman, but it is one I never wanted to write. It’s a post that, honestly, I wish I never had to consider. Allow me to provide some context.

Two weeks ago, I planned for a weekend of fun with Dad to celebrate his 53rd birthday. We were going to spend some time at home watching college football together and with BigDaddy and Nana. Baylor playing Texas Tech, UMHB playing ETBU, and of course, the Red River Rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. On Sunday, I was going to take him to the church I work at as a part-time custodian, Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX. Then as a birthday present, we were going to have some food at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. It was going to be a blast.

I got home Thursday evening, the eve of his birthday on October 11, and we were already talking about the food we were going to eat on Sunday. I couldn’t wait. Friday, his birthday, I took him to Scott & White for his CT scan. By the time we got home, he became quite sick with nausea and a headache, so we decided to take him to the hospital at Scott & White Round Rock. I was hoping that maybe it was just a reaction to all that nasty stuff they make you drink before the scans.

After a night spent in the hospital, he had an MRI. Then, from his hospital room, we watched the Texas game, both becoming irritated at their losing to the Sooners. Not long after, a doctor revealed to us what the MRI found. There is a spot in his brain, and if treated with radiation, could lead to significant brain damage. Then she mentioned the word that pierced my heart. Hospice. She asked if we wanted to consider end of life care. I was at a loss for words. My jaw dropped, my heart raced, and I felt a nauseating sensation in the pit of my stomach.

Hospice? I couldn’t wrap my mind around this. So many thoughts flooded my mind. I want him to see me preach my first sermon. I want him to see me graduate from seminary, to see me become an ordained minister, get my first ministry position, watch me fall in love, and get married. I had even asked if he would officiate the ceremony when the time came. I want him to spoil his future grandkids. And I know that these are all things he wanted to experience with me as well. The thought that he might not get to experience these events with me filled me with grief, sadness, and anxiety. But more than anything, I just don’t want to say goodbye to my Dad, my Superman, my best friend.

At this point, as I am typing this, I am weeping. I still can’t face the reality that all of this is happening. If a complete stranger asks me, “How are you doing?” my answer is “good.” If you know me well enough, I’ve reached the point, where I’m blunt about it. I’m not good. I’m not fine. I am in pain. And yet, I find peace in a Heavenly Father who walks with us in all of our struggles and pain.

Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by wonderful and kind people at Truett and Seventh & James. I have received encouragement and prayers from friends in Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Former high school teachers have uplifted my spirits. My church families at Lawler Baptist, FBC Florence, and FBC Belton are praying with my family and me. Pastors have helped bring me peace and comfort during this time. To help me get my mind off things, my former government teacher from high school spent late into the evening one night, conversing with me about other things. I felt we could talk for hours. We would have probably talked longer if I didn’t have homework and an 8AM class the next day. Others cried with me. One of my former teachers simply reminded me that God loves me and that she loves me. Dr. Todd Still, the dean of the seminary, gave me a hug and assured me he would be praying for my family. My new friends at Truett have shown me their kindness each day. Professors in have encouraged me more than I could ever thank them. I am thankful for all of these people. Also for close friends in Cody Earp, Greggory and Amberlee Miller, Katie Stringer, and Michael Baker. Also for so many others not mentioned here. I don’t know how I could handle this without these wonderful people in my life.

Going back to Dad’s hospital stay, I remember him thanking Jesus and telling our Lord and Savior how much he loves Him. I have never kept it a secret that the one human being who has given me this steadfast love for and faith in God more than anyone else has been my Dad. We have faced so many challenges, even before his first cancer diagnosis in 2013. In the midst of these trials, and still today, Dad gives me hope. He reminds me to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. Yes. We declare. With all our hearts. God is still good. Even when everything seems so overwhelming, God is still good.

I believe in miracles. So, I am constantly praying for one. I’m praying for a miraculous healing for Dad so he can be here for many years to come. But even if that miracle doesn’t happen the way we want it, I still have hope in Christ. It hasn’t been easy. There has been lamenting. I have also said words I so desperately wanted to take back. I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to be. But I still have hope in Christ Jesus. Dad has instilled in me that hope. Speaking of miracles, I believe meeting Christ in Heaven, no longer suffering on Earth, is a miracle too. I just hope for one that allows me to spend so much more time with my Superman here on Earth. Call me selfish if you want, but I want him to be at my wedding. Recently, he reminded me that he will certainly be there in one form or another.

Last week, Dad reminded me of his favorite verse in scripture: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Why am I still hopeful, given all of our challenges, especially this one? The answer is faith. My faith is in Christ Jesus. I am confident that Christ is with me. I trust in His amazing grace and sovereignty.

Every night, no matter how busy I get, and right now we’re in the middle of midterms, so I’m talking busy, I take time to video chat Dad. This is something I look forward to daily, and that is ending my day seeing his smile and us telling each other about our day and how much we love each other. Sometimes, there are WiFi issues, so occasionally, we must settle with a simple phone call, but the point is that I end each day spending time with Dad even when I’m at Baylor.

I’ve been singing numerous songs lately. This includes hymns such as “In the Garden,” “It is Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and my all-time favorite, “Because He Lives.” I’ve also listened to some newer songs on repeat. “Holy Ground” by Passion, “All My Hope” by David Crowder and Tauren Wells, “Way Maker” by Leeland, and “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters.

I love music. It’s uplifting. It reminds me of the faith I have in Christ, the same faith Dad has shown me my entire life. Growing up, a wonderful couple of evangelists, Paul and Vanessa Cherry, would lead revival at Lawler Baptist each year. A song they sang by Greater Vision that I have listened to and have sung to myself for years is “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” The chorus goes like this:

God wants to hear you sing
When the waves are crashing round you
When the firey darts surround you
When despair is all you see
God wants to hear your voice
When the wisest man has spoken
And says your circumstance is as hopeless as can be
That’s when God wants to hear you sing

Now I find myself singing even more often. In crowds at worship events and sometimes with a hymnal in my apartment. In the midst of everything around me, with the weight and burdens I’m carrying, when everything seems so overwhelming, I am singing. I am using these songs to cry out to God. I am using them as a source of encouragement. I am using them to remind me of God’s goodness. I am using them in prayer and in my lament. God has granted me with so many wonderful songs of his love, grace, and the blessed assurance that He is there.

To my Superman, I love you. Thank you for this level of faith I have in our good, good, Heavenly Father. You have been and continue to be the strongest person I know. I love you beyond description. Though this challenge is great, God is greater. When sadness overwhelms us, I will continue singing, “That’s when God wants to hear you sing!”

Griffin, Rodney. “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 25 Oct. 2019.

God Wants to Hear You Sing by Greater Vision

All My Hope by David Crowder and Tauren Wells

Awaiting the News

As I sit here typing my thoughts into this week’s blog, one question keeps going through my mind, “Does Dad still have cancer?” Last week, he had some scans done to see if there is anything left, and obviously I am hoping and praying that it is all gone. So, as we wait for the news, all I can do is pray, pray with everything in me, that the cancer is gone.

I still remember when he beat cancer the first time. It was Christmas Eve 2013 when I received a call from Dad after he visited his doctor. My heart leaped for joy, tears streamed down my face, as I praised God for the second best Christmas present (second only to the birth of Christ) He could ever give me… a cancer-free Dad. And so that is what I am hoping now. I am waiting for that call, waiting for him to breathe a sigh of relief as he tells me that God has once again helped him beat cancer.

And yet, for some reason, I am not as nervous as I was before. I am not as nervous as most people would be. Sometimes, I even forget that we are awaiting this monumental news. And why is that? Why am I not on pins and needles waiting so anxiously to hear the news? Is it wrong for me to not be too nervous? It’s not that I don’t care. If you have read any of my previous blogs or know anything about me, you know that of course I care. So what is it? Why am I not as nervous and scared as most people would be? After all, this is the question of whether my Superman still has cancer. It’s a pretty big deal!

As I wonder why I am not all that nervous and scared, I think it’s because I know that God is in complete control. He is in control of every situation and every circumstance. He knows what we go through and what is still to come. He is always there to lift us up and always simply be there for us. Every which way I turn, I know I can turn to Him, even when the rest of my world is crashing around me.

This is something that my family has shown me throughout my life, especially throughout the past couple of years. They have shown me that God is in control. As my Dad has raised me as a single, hardworking father, getting his degree, beating cancer the first time, and going through it the second time, he would tell you that God is in control. As my BigDaddy has been recovering from heart surgery, he would tell you that God is in control. As sweet 11yr old Isaac has battled Juvenile Dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disorder that causes his immune system to attack his muscles when he gets really sick, he would tell you that God is in control.

So I guess that is why I am not as scared as some would be. I guess that’s why I am not as nervous as some would be. Because I know that my Lord and Savior has everything under control, and that anything that we go through, no matter what happens, God can use our stories, our examples, for His glory.

One song that has been in my mind quite a bit lately is the song “Good Good Father,” and as I think about the lyrics, I find the answer as to why I am not absolutely scared or nervous.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You’re a good good Father

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways

I guess I am not scared and nervous because I am the child of such a good, good father. I know that I am loved and treasured by Him. I know that many times we search for answers, and that only He can provide the answer. His love is truly undeniable, His peace completely unexplainable. He loves me and is perfect in any situation. He is without a doubt a good, good father.

That is why I have so much peace amidst everything that goes on in life, because I have such a good, good father. So why be afraid? The Bible tells me in Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV), “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Therefore I will have peace and not worry, because He goes before me. He has promised to never leave me and to never forsake me. So, I will glorify His name. I will shout His praises. I will sing of the goodness He has shown in my life. If He holds the whole world in His hand, then shouldn’t I trust Him in every circumstance life throws at my family and me? In all that I do, and in everything I go through, I will give Him the glory.

So as I await this news, I will be at peace and remember that I serve a Good Good Father!

Chris Tomlin. Good Good Father. By Housefires, 2015. K-Love. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Good Good Father by Casting Crowns

Glory by Phil Wickham

When my faith is tested…

For the past few weeks, I have seen my faith tested in various ways. I have seen those I love struggle with so much, and yet they remain steadfast in their belief that God is greater than every situation. I have found it at times difficult to keep up with assignments and other obligations. I have cried and I have laughed. I have become angry every now and then when I think no one is looking, often times at little things. So many emotions have flooded my mind recently as my mind ponders various circumstances. And occasionally, I find my faith to be tested, as if I were questioning God why things were happening.

As many of you know, I often write of my family. They have become the cornerstone of my life as they have encouraged me, inspired me, and have pushed me to always trust in God, no matter the situation. Since Freshman year of high school, I have battled Crohn’s Disease, although I didn’t have the right diagnosis until Sophomore year of college. This has often been a struggle of dealing with constant stomach pain as I try to juggle my health with every other aspect of my life.

Meanwhile, my Dad is going through chemotherapy to treat his second round of colon cancer, and my family has gone through so many other things in addition to that over the past few months. All of this, among other things in life, have caused my mind to wonder, and at times cause myself to lose focus on the goodness of God and His plan for all of us.

As I was on my way to Wal-Mart one day, my faith felt as if it were on a roller coaster. I don’t really have the words to describe what I was feeling, other than simply saying that my faith was being tested. In the back of my mind, part of me was questioning God. The simple question of Why?

And then a song started to play. I don’t exactly remember what song it was, but in that moment, I felt God was asking me a series of questions, the questions, “Why do you doubt?” and “Can’t you see my goodness in your life?” “Can’t you see that I am going to use you and your family to glorify my name and spread my love to the nations?” And in that moment, a calm peace came over me, as if God was saying, “Don’t worry. I’m in control.”

If you were to ask my Dad or my grandparents about their faith in Christ, at any point for as long as I can remember, they would tell you, “He is in control!” And that is what I love about them. Instead of questioning why things happen, they constantly choose to give God the glory. My Dad, my grandparents, and all their wonderful adopted kids, have been the source of my inspiration. Any time I have felt my faith being challenged, they have motivated me to fully trust in God, no matter the situation. They are my superheroes, indeed!

So rather than questioning God, thereby weakening my faith, I will praise Him for all that He has done in my life, and in the lives of those I love. I will never cease to praise Him, to glorify Him, to seek Him in every situation, and to let my light shine for the whole world to see that I believe in Jesus Christ. He is my way. He is my truth. He is my life.

If my family has taught me anything, it’s to praise HIS NAME! Praise Him when times are great! Praise Him when times are not so great! We all face challenges, we all struggle, but He can use us for His glory. So why question? Why not shout His name at the tops of our lungs? I am not perfect, and my faith will most likely weaken again at some point. But I will strive, nonetheless, to see my faith grow, as I sing His praise!

Last week at ONE (a huge, awesome, monthly worship gathering on campus), a song stood out to me more than anything else that was sung or said during the entire service. It was “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. With arms stretched high, I sang at the tops of my lungs as tears rolled down my face.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

As I listen to this song, how can I not get excited about singing His name for all to hear? Let every bone in my body, let every breath that I breathe sing glory to His name! God is life. God is love. He is the reason I have hope in various trials in my life. When hearts break, He is the only one that can fully restore them and make them new. And because of that, because He is so awesome and glorious, I will shout His name with every fiber of my being, so that the whole world hears how awesome our God truly is!

Psalm 34:1-3 (NIV) says this…

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

In every situation, praise His name. Will you join me? Will you join me in exalting His name, in glorifying His name? He is worthy of all of our praise. He gives life. He gives hope. My family has shown me that in Christ, we can have hope, so why not praise His name!? Why not glorify the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!?

Join me! Together, let’s pour out our praise!

All Sons & Daughters. Great Are You Lord. By. Leslie Jordan, David Leonard, and Jason Ingram, 2014. AZ Lyrics. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters

Great Is Thy Faithfulness/How Big Is God/How Great Thou Art (Medley) By Anthony Burger

It is well with my soul…

The last few weeks, I have thought of various songs that give comfort in some of the most challenging times in our lives. They have been songs that have reassured me that God has everything in control, even when I feel nothing but chaos. Last week I shared with you the fact that my father’s cancer has returned for the second time. When I first heard of the reemergence of his cancer, I was shocked. I certainly could not have ever imagined that this could happen, especially not twice.

This made me think of all the times when we wonder why these things happen. Honestly, I don’t know why these things take place, and I never will. What I do know is that I serve an awesome God, and more than anything else, I am reminded to trust that He is sovereign.

I have now been back on the UMHB campus for almost a week as I prepare for welcoming the new class of freshmen for Welcome Week. I am beyond excited to play a role in mentoring and encouraging these new faces as they transition into the college life. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in their shoes, going off on my own for the first time.

As I prepare for the school year ahead, I cannot stop thinking about my Dad. He absolutely means the world to me, and I can’t imagine what he’s going through and will go through once chemo starts next week. All I know is, is that God has a plan. He has a plan for me, He has a plan for these new freshmen and transfers, and He has a plan for my Superman Dad.

While the next six months will be challenging for my family, I know that God will use all of these circumstances for His glory so that His name will be exalted among every nation. He uses our weaknesses to give hope to others, and although I don’t always understand what’s going on, I just have to trust that He is sovereign.

As I type this entry, I can’t help but get emotional. I have so many thoughts running through my mind. It is in these moments, that I ask God to calm my heart so that I may know that He’s got this. Never has He left us, and He never will. I also pray this feeling of calmness for Dad. The next six months will be tough. Chemotherapy is never easy. Yet, I know God has a purpose for my father, and so I pray that when he becomes anxious and when fear tries to take over, that he never forgets that God is right there. God can calm our fears and worries when we trust that He is sovereign over all. I know that if anyone can conquer cancer and chemotherapy twice, it’s my Dad. He is the toughest, kindest, most determined person I know. After all he is my Superman.

I still pray, though, that when he gets anxious, and when we all worry about tomorrow, that we never forget to seek the face of God, that we continue to trust that He is sovereign, and that we ask Him to calm our storms.

Recently, I thought of an old hymn by Horatio Spafford, “It is With My Soul.” As I read these words, I pray that it is well with my own soul, and that I learn to trust in the majesty and sovereignty of my Lord and Savior.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
And the clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

No matter what life throws our way, we must learn to trust that He is sovereign, and that He leads us every step of the way. Sometimes we just have to proclaim, “It is well with my soul.” In the end, no matter how horrible various circumstances may seem, we will all stand before the throne, and as believers in Christ, we will one day know no suffering. What a day that will be. Until then, may we sing praises to His name. May our souls long for Him and trust in Him in the midst of all uncertainty.

I am constantly reminded of Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging (NIV).

In every trial, God truly is our refuge and strength. Even though so many things in life seem terrible, and tomorrows often seem uncertain, God never changes. He goes before us and calls on us to trust in Him.

So when the uncertainties of life come your way, trust in Him. Let your heart proclaim, “It is well with my soul.”

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

As I meditate on Psalm 46, and as I thank God for all that He has done, for all that He has given me, including the most Christ-like Dad, I say, “Be still my soul. God can use all of this for His glory and He will use it!”

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that God is in that future. He’s in my future. He’s in my Dad’s future. He’s in your future! And so, even though the Earth trembles, and the storms of life rage on, I ask God to still my soul, for the God of Jacob is my fortress.

Therefore, may I always proclaim, “It is well, it is well with my soul!”

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.

Spafford, Horatio. “It Is Well With My Soul.” MetroLyrics. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.

It Is Well With My Soul by The Isaacs

Be Still by Kari Jobe