Good Grief

Grief is guaranteed. When we are separated from those we love, we grieve. I’m no grief expert but, I have experienced grief. As a matter of fact, I am grieving right now. 

Why do we grieve? We grieve loss. All types of loss can result in grief. As with all emotions, there are many degrees of grief. There are many forms. There are many expressions of grief. 

Because we are complicated beings, grief can be very complicated. I don’t intend to imply that we can simplify the process of it nor deny the pain that accompanies it, but, I do think there are some simple steps we can take to survive it. 

First of all, if you are a Christian as I am, there is no greater comfort to be found than in our faith. It changes everything about grief as we are assured that our separation is temporary. This is one of our blessed assurances. This life is only part of our journey. But, beyond our beliefs, there are steps we can take to make sure that while we have grief, grief does not have us. 

1 – Go ahead and cry. It does relieve some of the erupting emotions of your heart. But, after you’ve cried, laugh or smile. Make sure you recall a special memory or funny moment so that emotionally you end on a positive note. Do this on purpose. This will validate your right to mourn and still feel joy. 

2 – Share your grief with others. Join a grief support group or get together with family and friends who have experienced the same or similar losses. Talk about it. Be honest. Encourage another hurting person. Don’t be a closet griever. There is great strength to be found in fellowship with like-minded folks. 

3 – Write it down. Keep a journal. For emotional pain, I prefer a real pen and paper. Something about pouring your feelings out in writing is extraordinarily therapeutic. Burn it if you feel you must when you are done. Use that pen to relieve some of the grief. You can almost feel it siphoning off the pressure of a broken heart. 

4 – Remember them with small intentional acts. My friend introduced me to Chai tea. As I’ve grieved her death, I will often make myself a cup and recall our times at the coffee shop as we pondered Scripture. Every time I make chicken and dumplings for my family, I think of my beloved Grandma making them for me. Each time I crochet a certain pattern I remember the cherished person who taught me and her smiling face encouraging me. 

5 – Give it time. We will never forget. We don’t even want to forget. But, time will lessen the intensity of the pain and make it more bearable. 

6 – Honor their memory. Donate to a charity they supported. Contribute to a missionary in their name. Mow their mom’s yard. Take their husband a casserole. Pray for their children. Tutor a child who is struggling. Help a hurting person. Whatever you do, do it with a smile and in their memory. Invest in others as a testimony of how they invested in you. 

7 – Live your life and enjoy it. Embrace each day with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. This does not dilute your loss or discount your grief. Instead it declares that each day is indeed precious and should never be taken for granted. 

8 – Ask for help if you feel stuck and unable to move on. See a counselor, confide in a pastor, find a therapist. Whatever it takes, don’t slip into a rut and settle down there. Don’t be ashamed to admit you need some guidance. This doesn’t mean you are weak of character or lacking in faith. It means you are wise enough to ask. 

My prayers are with you that are grieving. I’m praying as I write these words that those who read them will be encouraged and comforted. 

  

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Perfect

Practically everyone I know has, at this precise moment, a perfect opportunity to be anxious. If it isn’t a personal matter like your marriage or your children or your health or your bank account, there’s plenty to be concerned about in our society. Senseless murders, tragic disasters and alarming events continue to happen daily and then flood our minds and hearts with images of sorrow and fear. 

As a matter of fact it is perfectly understandable that more folks suffer from anxiety than ever before. The world is a scary place and due to social media in part, we are barely able to catch our breath before the next bad news is upon us. 

The pressure on families to face the demands of life and not only keep afloat financially but, raise your children to be decent people with a decent education and a decent character are enormous and the perfect pressure pot to simmer anxiety in our minds to a constant low boil. 

Oh, and then lots not forget health issues. Weight gained, blood pressure that is high, feet that ache, migraines that assault, diagnosis’ that alarm, all contribute to the steady state of perfect chaos. 

Who could blame us for less than perfect reactions and words and proper responses when we are in this constant state of frantically fighting the next crisis at hand? No one can blame us but, there is someone who can help us. His name is Jesus, Yeshua, Son of God, God incarnate, Savior, and PRINCE OF PEACE!

He can provide you peace that the world does not offer, peace that passes all understanding and PERFECT PEACE. Perfect, as in customized just for you and your perfect mess. Perfect, as in exactly what you need right this very moment. Perfect. 

Our part? To fix our eyes on Him. No, we aren’t blind to all the storms brewing around us. We see them. We grieve the losses, we prepare, we work hard, we invest, we protect, we improve what we can. But, our focus, is not all these troubles. Our focus is our Lord. The result is trust because when we fix our eyes on Him we find Him trustworthy. 

This is how we can walk in perfect peace when the world is in perfect chaos. Remember, whatever you do, avoid the #peacethieves and one of them is named anxiety. 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭26‬:‭3‬ ESV)

 

Scattered

Originally posted last October, I want to share it again today. It seems to me that scattered is a good description of our lives with our hectic schedules and sometimes overwhelming concerns. 

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As we journey through this life there will be moments when we find ourselves facing God. It will be through a word spoken, a friend made, a sermon delivered, a child born, a dire circumstance, an unexpected kindness, a scripture that was read, a crisis, a great joy or perhaps a tremendous pain. That moment is a spiritual encounter that will redirect our focus and as we adjust our gaze we will see things differently. We will then have to choose to walk in that new understanding or turn our face away and stubbornly trudge on as if it had never happened.

I had one of those moments this weekend and as a matter of fact, as if time has been suspended, I find myself still there. I heard a word and it grabbed my heart. The word was ‘scattered’ and I knew that this was to be one of those times when I must choose. I can choose to trudge wearily along the path that has seemed so difficult of late or I can turn my face a new direction and step onto a new path. It will require trust. While I sometimes struggle with trusting other people and even my own self, I do trust God. He has proven Himself faithful to me.

As seasons are changing in the physical world, I feel a reflection of that in my soul. I feel a reprieve from the scorching temperatures. I enjoy a brisk breeze that refreshes me. I revel in the promise of good things to come. I am comforted. I am revived.

This verse was the catalyst of my encounter, this moment where I stand facing God and making my choice.

“A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.”
Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3‬:‭5‬ NLT

Ecclesiastes chapter three is commonly known as the ‘time for everything’ chapter. The longer I live the more truth I recognize in it’s words. There truly is an opportune time for the moments of our lives. Here is what I have decided. It is when we have done things out of order and at the wrong time that we find ourselves feeling scattered. Or perhaps we were so busy gathering so many good things in our basket that it simply couldn’t contain it all and there what we so carefully gathered now lies scattered at our feet. 

As I studied the word scattered in the Bible I came to Ezekiel chapter 34. I’ll be studying this chapter for many days to come as I linger in this moment allowing the Holy Spirit to teach me.

In this chapter God is speaking to the shepherds of His people. They have failed to properly care for the sheep and are about to lose their position as spiritual leaders due to their neglect.

“So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.” Ezekiel 34:5
After He chastises those who have failed to minister properly He declares His intentions to correct the situation.

“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.”
Ezekiel‬ ‭34‬:‭11-12‬ NLT

Have you been feeling scattered? Does your life seem to be without clear direction? Have you gotten so busy with so many good things that you find yourself a bit lost in the shuffle of it all? Have you wondered what you are suppose to do now?

I want to share what I believe The Lord is speaking to me and you can determine if it might be a Word in due season for you as well. The Lord has clearly led me to gather the stones that have been scattered. I will gather my thoughts and gather my family and gather my emotions and gather myself. I will choose to lessen my schedule and give myself permission to sit still and be ministered to. I will accept the tender care of the Shepherd and allow peace to fill my life even as I sleep. I will change directions and avoid the #peacethieves.

“I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.”
Ezekiel‬ ‭34‬:‭15‬ NLT

  

The In-Between Dad

There will be a few of you who read this who have a dad that the greeting cards describe. You know, the perfect dad, the dad who was always there, the dad who supported you, the dad who protected you, the dad who didn’t traumatize you, abandon you, come late into your life, impact your life negatively in some manner or tear your family apart. I think that is amazing if you do. I truly do. But, then there’s the rest of the world and their experience isn’t quite the same.

So, what do you do when it seems the whole world is celebrating and you have nothing to celebrate? I honestly don’t think anything has quite the same impact on a person’s life as a broken or strained or abusive relationship with a father. It is a unique kind of pain and can cause trust and relationship issues enormously. Shame is a huge factor. As a matter of fact, I have no doubt that many of the sentiments you will read this weekend are simply not true. Yet, some people will gush about their wonderful dads and their wonderful memories to make what isn’t so appear so. It brings them comfort to pretend otherwise. I believe in keeping it real. But, that’s me. Maybe that’s you too.

Please don’t misunderstand, there are some wonderful dads and they deserve to be celebrated. Then there are the abusive, mean men who don’t even deserve the title of dad. There are men who have committed crimes and inflicted terrible abuses upon their children. Those dads fall on the extremes of the dad measuring scales. But, then there are the in-between dads. That’s who I’d like to discuss with you for a few moments as we approach Father’s Day weekend.

If you are the child of an in-between dad, you already know that I imagine. You already know all about his faults and his failings. The first thing I’d like you to consider is forgiving him. Forgive him for not being there, saying the wrong things, forgetting important dates, being overbearing or cynical or critical. The beauty of offering forgiveness is you benefit more than the person you are forgiving. Let it go and set yourself free from the heaviness of carrying a grudge all these years.

In-between dads are far from perfect but, they often have a good heart and good intentions. They also often have their own issues and don’t follow through on those good intentions. So, this Father’s day instead of buying him a pair of slacks, how about just cutting him some slack? Here’s one of the fringe benefits of that plan, you’ll find that it’s easier to cut yourself some slack if you do so for him. Let’s face it. Those of us who are parents now ourselves have learned a few things and one of those is that we aren’t perfect parents either. Oh we tried, we intended to do all the things right that our parents did wrong but, well, we tried.

The second thing I would like you to consider is celebrating in earnest by celebrating the good and doing so truthfully. You don’t have to dwell on what he didn’t do right. You can focus on what he did do right. If, as an adult, your relationship with your dad is strained, recall better times and hope for their return. If your relationship now is at a better place than ever before, focus on the now. There are good things, good moments, good to be celebrated.

Never knew your dad? That’s certainly the case sometimes. Then celebrate the other dads in your life. There are many men who step into the shoes of dad when the man who should have worn them left them empty. Perhaps there is a coach, a mentor, an uncle an older brother, a Sunday School teacher or family friend who was like a father to you. And let’s not forget step-fathers, foster-fathers, grandfathers and father-in-laws. For many of us there’s a lot of celebrating to do when we stop and think about it.

For those who will face Father’s Day with grieving hearts you are in my prayers. Some of you may be mourning the loss of a dad. Others may be waiting for their chance to be a father. There are some who are separated by many miles or oceans from dads. Even so, there is love to be celebrated and as for me, I intend to do so.

I will celebrate my own dad who calls me his little girl and likes to discuss the Bible with me. I will celebrate my step-dad who has a huge heart and is generous and giving. I will celebrate the memory of my grandfather who loved me and filled in the shoes of dad many times. I will celebrate the memory of my father-in-law who called me ‘Girl’ and loved my homemade pickles. I will celebrate my husband who father’s my children and is giving them what so many never experience, the joy of having an in-between dad.

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Is Love Black and White?

Ask a lot of folks about love, about relationships, about family and they’ll offer a disclaimer, “It’s complicated.” Perhaps they are right with their perspective but, I have a different view. It’s rather black and white. 

I think love can be at it’s very core very simple and straightforward. I’d go as far as to say it is black and white. I believe the complications arise when we rely upon emotions and feelings versus choices and commitments. 

I’ve had sincere people ask me with all honesty if it was really possible to love a child you adopted with the same depth as a child you birthed. I always assure them that yes, absolutely it is possible. I often see the hope reflected in their eyes that I am right but, a bit of skepticism bordering that hope like a thin veil of protection keeps them from fully embracing it. 

When considering adoption, people sometimes ask about guarantees. Will they bond, will they blend, will they rebel, will they love them back? I always answer their honest question with an honest answer. “No guarantees.”, I tell them. But, then I remind them that there are no guarantees with children you birth either. 

What about adopting a child who has a different skin color than your own? What about a porcelain skinned girl giving her heart to an ebony skinned boy? Can it work? Can you overcome the obvious differences and be a real family? See, here’s why I say love really is black and white. 

Today when one of my sons laid his hand over mine comparing his man-sized one to my petite momma-sized one on the drum we were discussing, I felt the warmth of his hand and the overwhelming warmth of love in my heart. I did not carry him in my womb but, I’ve carried him in my very soul, in my thoughts and on the wings of my whispered prayers. Yes, love is black and white when you come right down to it. 

You don’t fall into it. You don’t fall out of it. You decide. You choose. You commit. You determine. You take a chance. You risk everything. You love. 

And this I know, in the end, love wins. 

  

Things Are About to Change 

I was honored to be able to speak briefly during the Encouraging Words session at the Southern Chistian Writer’s  Conference in Tuscaloosa last weekend, June 5, 2015. This blog post is that inspirational speech that I gave there. I hope the words will inspire you as well. All of us have dreams and aspirations. With a few determined steps – Things are about to change! 

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When the Sloans asked me to speak my first thought was “But, I haven’t published anything yet.” And then my next thought was, neither have most of you. And so today, I say what I say as a fellow wannabe that’s still in the trenches with you. 

No, we have not yet arrived. We have not yet reached our final goal, but, we are here and ready to take the next step of our journey. We may still be in the trenches but we are determined to avoid the ruts of complacency and the ditches of defeat. 

We are here at this conference and ready to focus on the next step even though the whole journey feels a bit overwhelming and intimidating. 

We are willing to learn and ask and invest our time and money and energy into what we so long to do. To write, to share, to encourage and in my case, as I like to say, ‘to give cause for pause’. 

I want my readers to stop and think new thoughts and have new perspectives and see things differently than they have before. 

I do so love to write. I like to create stories of fiction, I pen devotionals, I enjoy blogging about my two greatest passions, The Bible and Adoption. 

You see, I am the mother of seven adopted children whom we adopted from the foster care system of Alabama. They range in age from 11 to almost 21, five boys and two girls. 

I believe that if people could see adoption differently, in particular older child adoption, they might be willing to take a chance on love and adopt one of the many waiting children. And that my friends, would be better than being published or having a best seller. 

Today I hope to inspire you to take a chance on your dreams. Whenever I need direction or encouragement or inspiration, I look to the Word of God. So, I’d like to do just that and share a story that is tucked in the pages of the Old Testament in 2 Kings chapter 7. 

Our portion of the story begins in verse 3 but, let me give you a little background before we get started. 

The city of Samaria was under siege by the Aramean army. The city is closed up tight, shut down, people starving, horrendous things happening. Things are hopeless and people are desperate.  The king of Samaria is mad at God and mad at the Prophet Elisha. Elisha has spoken and told them that things are about to change and they’re going to change suddenly, drastically, miraculously. They don’t believe him. 

Things are About to Change!

In verse 3 we find four lepers sitting at the city gate. They are desperate themselves. They have no where to go, mo resources and no chances. The scriptures say that they began to discuss their situation and said to each other, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” That leads me to the first thing I want to say to you. “Why should we just keep sitting on our dreams until they die?” Maybe the walls are high and the gates are shut and you feel like you are out of options. But, what those lepers didn’t know and what we often don’t realise is God was already at work preparing the way they just needed to get up and take the steps to get there. 

The lepers decide in verse 4 that they might as well go out to the army surrounding the city and take their chances. Here’s the next thing I want to say to you today. Maybe it’s time for us get up and go ALL out and take a chance by trying what we haven’t already tried no matter how unlikely it seems. 

When the lepers arrived at the camp they were shocked at what they found. The soldiers were gone but they had left their tents behind with provisions. The lepers ran from tent to tent discovering food they were so hungry for and drink to quench their thirst. Then they began to find treasures and they began to gather them and hide them. 

Guess what, here in just a few minutes you’re going to go up those stairs and find yourself going from room to room   In those rooms you’ll find what you you’ve been hungry for and be strengthened and encouraged. You’re going to discover some treasures too. Are you going to hide them?

Finally in verse 9 it says that the lepers declared, “This isn’t right! We have good news and we aren’t sharing it with anyone.” They went and told the people of the city that they had made this wonderful discovery. But, the people reacted as people often do, hesitantly, suspiciously and cautiously. 

Don’t worry if after you leave the conference and try to share with others about what you’ve discovered that you find they aren’t quite excited as you about it. Your part it to share the good news. How they react is their part. 

In closing if like you to consider these two WHAT IF’s?

What if because you were willing to make yourself vulnerable and share your treasures (thoughts and words) a life was changed-altered-saved?

What if I found my courage and took my chances and pulled myself up by my bootstraps even while my knees were still trembling, and took that next step?

There’s a contemporary group called Leeland that re orders a song called _The Great Awakening _. The lyrics are inspiring as they remind us that one person awakened can change another and it can MULTIPLY! Surely then it multiplies!

I’d like to challenge us all with this scripture found in Genesis 9:7. 

“Now, as for you (and you and you and you and me) Go forth, be fruitful and multiply!”