And Still Praises Rise.

And still Praises rise.

I remember taking these photos; the crunching of the leaves intermingled with Mariyas joy filled laughter. The strong beautiful rays of the sun shining down on her fragile yet brave body as we were all reminded of the beauty to be found even amidst heartache and trials. I remember the way her mom and brothers love and adoration surrounded her, a beautiful protection and strength in an unexpected season of life. I remember pausing to try and comprehend the fact that she never once complained. Even after that day, she would come to my roommates and my bible study, always encouraging others and never turning the attention to herself. She made the focus about others and more importantly about Jesus.

Amidst all the heartache and confusion, there is an underlying sweetness. A sweetness that comes from knowing Mariya is home with her King. The one who so wholeheartedly had captured her kind and loving heart. The one whose love was present in her every breathe and whose strength was so perfectly portrayed through her battle with cancer.

And still praises rise.

In the silence, Gods voice is loud yet gentle, soft yet illuminating.

In the grief His love is near and fierce, comforting and understanding.

In the confusion, His peace is ever present and indescribable.

In the pain, His hands are healing and redeeming.

Even when we don’t understand, His heart is steadfast and kind.

There are no words that can give justice to the imprint that Mariya left on every heart that she came in contact with. Her devotion to God was so evident in her joy filled smile and the perspective she held through all the tough days.

She so bravely invited God into her brokenness as she declared His faithfulness rang true no matter what. When I think of her I think of the words she declared on this blog she wrote as she awaited upcoming results from her chemo treatments :

“ More importantly, please be praying for my faith and for my heart. Pray that I would be able to stand up and worship the Lord regardless of this prognosis, pray that whatever the next path may be that I would walk in it humbly and joyfully hoping only in the Lord and His perfect plan for me.”

And still praises rise.

When I think of my dear friend Mariya I always think of steadfast love and a heart that only beat for Jesus. A heart that somehow had comprehended the importance of being rooted in love in order to grow. If there is one thing I learned from her beautiful life, it is that our praises to the King are not dependent on our circumstances or the hard things we go through. Our praise is simply a response to His love for us and the way that He carries us in the hard moments.

And still praises rise.

So few people I know have walked with such devotion and surrender as Mariya did. My prayer in this time of grieving and loss is that we will all remember the joy and bravery that she carried with her even through the challenging times. There is something to be said about the way she exemplified the beauty in surrender, always letting her praise go up to her heavenly father. Her love is a reminder that life is fleeting and we must give all that we have to loving deeply and bravely.

Mariya had a way of living her life that made it near impossible to question whether or not a God exists. Rather her pure and selfless devotion to Him drew people in and shattered so many cliché or Christian stereotypes because she showed people that His love is real and that His strength truly is evident in our weakness.

Her life was such a beautiful reflection of Gods perfect and reckless love for us.

And still praises rise.

So dear friends, the ones who feel the ache of her loss and who have been impacted by her beautiful heart, let her story be a reminder of the sweetness and fragility of this life. To the ones who had the opportunity to know and to love Mariya, let her life be a reminder that our praises are not dependent upon our circumstances. A reminder that love always wins because we can rejoice in knowing her heart is finally home with her King yet we can carry her brave and joyful spirit with us as we walk forward.

And still praises rise.

This is for her family, some of the bravest people I know. The impact they have had on me and so many others is truly remarkable. Give yourself grace in this time of grieving and remember that bravery isn’t dependent upon how you feel but in Gods strength and mercy in this season. Give yourself time and space to heal, know that you have a support system surrounding you and that Gods love is ever present. Remember that you are never alone in all of this because Mariya brought us all together as family.

And still praises rise.IMG_0665IMG_0670IMG_0772IMG_0813IMG_0634IMG_0716IMG_0764

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