Gretchen Scruby

Discovering the beauty amid life's joy, trials, and pain. Isaiah 61:3

We’ve been talking a lot about feelings in our home lately. As we say good-bye to February it seems the perfect time to have a heart-to-heart about processing our feelings and emotions. February displays a special time of year when the world tells us we’re to be in love and spoil those we love. Although as Christians we should do all things in love, Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14. image

In my home we’re working on speaking with love. Many times when one person doesn’t get their way it results in throwing a tantrum or reacting unlovingly. A therapist comes to our home once a week to work with my three year old daughter. She has given us somewhat of a script to say when our sweet girl is having trouble voicing her emotions. It says-

  1. When you…. (Be specific) 
  2. I feel… (How you feel inside / not”you make me feel”)
  3. And I wish you would try…. (How you hope they’ll treat you)

I’d love to say that the rest of us have our emotions in check and speak gently each and every day, but that would be completely false. Not only are we using this method with our three year old to minimize tantrums and to help her voice her emotions, but we’re also using it with our strong-willed six year old son who just doesn’t like the word, “NO.” In fact, it’s even useful with our ten year old who’s rapidly entering his pre-teen world and always has something to say. But it’s not just for the kids. It works for me similarly, when I’m at my wit’s end and am simply exhausted from repeating myself. Don’t get me wrong all three of my children are amazing, and as much as they have their difficulties, they have even more incredible qualities. But let’s be honest, they’re fleshly and want their way – all the time! And if we’re being honest as adults – don’t we?
It’s important that my children learn to go kindly to the person who hurt their feelings and let the person know how and what hurt them.  I desire for my children to learn to easily forgive and not hold onto unecessary anger or hurt. And it’s great to see that we are seeing improvements by doing this with our kiddos. But I got to thinking how much easier life would be if we would use this as adults! If we just kindly told the person – our spouse, kids, co-worker, family member, or friend, when a hurt happened. Now I realize sometimes small offenses come and we should immediately let them go. We may realize it was us over reacting. Or we realize they are going through something right now and need extra grace . Nonetheless most times, if you’re like me, we just hold onto the hurt.
We may pray about it and desire to let it go, but there it remains.
Lately, the Lord has been challenging me to face the hurts I hold onto. I need to pinpoint what exactly wounded, upset, angered, or offended me. Write it down and own it! Be honest about the feelings the offense is bringing up in me. And they aren’t usually pretty: anger, jealousy, judgment, un-forgiveness, etc. Then I pray for my own reaction to the offense, as well as the person who offended me. After that I see if it’s truly necessary for me to confront the person or if it something I can work out individually with the Lord. This seems to be where I can get “stuck.” I hang out in the area of holding onto an offense instead of letting it go. “Let it Go”, by the way, is the song I loudly sing to my kiddos when they are letting the little things bug them. And sometimes I should loudly sing it to myself! Please understand I am referring to little offenses that we let turn into BIG things. I’m not referring to deep hurts that require profound healing and often take time to overcome. These little offenses we hold onto affect our moods, our relationships, and keep us down.
Recently I was helping my husband’s parents pack and move. Now when you move there seems to be three piles of stuff. A pile of stuff to KEEP, a pile to GIVE AWAY, and a pile to THROW AWAY. I got to thinking there should be piles for our thoughts: ones to KEEP, GIVE AWAY, and THROW AWAY. We should keep the thoughts that inspire us and give away thoughts that encourage others. And definitely throw away the ones that bring us down. So often we mix-up the thoughts rolling around in our head; holding onto the garbage and giving away our short remarks and unkind words. It’s so important to hold onto God’s Word and His promises. Every day He gives us a fresh start to begin anew with Him. The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease; For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23.
I think if I could clean out the thoughts in my head I could live a lot more peacefully and have a lot more joy to give away. I even find myself dwelling on offenses that may or may not have even occurred. Wondering if the comment someone said at work was meant negatively. Focusing on when one of my children said – “You’re the worst mom ever!” I spend time trying to decipher the “tone” my husband was thinking when he text me something I took as unkind during the day. Or replaying a conversation with a friend that day because a comment was made and I think it was hurtful. YES, I’m a DWELLER! And I’m not always dwelling on the things I should be.
Maybe you’ve been struggling not with something that was said, but with something that wasn’t. An invitation you didn’t receive that you thought you would. A new policy at work that you are last to know about (and you’re always the last to know about all sorts of things). Or you’re feeling out of the loop in a conversation with other people at school or at church. You desperately desire to be part of the team, group, or even your family. But it seems like you never completely fit in. image

One thing I know for sure is you “fit in” with God. Not only does He love you, but He created you to be uniquely YOU! Also, God actually calls us to be different – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2.
What negative thoughts are you carrying around? What comments are you dwelling on and trying to decide if they’re meant to hurt you? Even worse, what lies have you began believing about yourself because someone else said something. May we remember to dwell on how lovely and cherished we are in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:4. Our creator loves us and we are precious to Him!
This should be what matters most to us. But we allow others opinions to take precedence. I was recently listening to a message by Pastor Levi Lusko where he said, “When you know who you are it doesn’t matter who you are not.” Oh how I love this and want to be free in this area of my life. I am praying each of you will be free too! Free to see yourself as God sees you. Free to forgive those who’ve hurt you, left you out, or constantly have a negative comment to share. Free to dwell on how much your Heavenly Father loves you! image
Heavenly Father, thank you for each person reading this. Thank you for how you love us, even when we are stuck in our negative thoughts. Lord, cleanse our minds and renew us with confidence only in You. Forgive us for the times we react in our flesh. Forgive us for dwelling on offenses and hurts that are not from you and help us focus on Your great love for us. Help us to remember we are all going through “stuff.” Fill us with your kindness so we may share it with others.

Moment by Moment

January 26, 2016


I’m familiar with the saying “take it day by day.” A couple of weeks ago was one of those weeks where it was more like “take it moment by moment.” This week comes every year and doesn’t seem to get any easier. My family faces the anniversaries of loss of three family members. Sunday, January 10th my Aunt passed away 14 years ago; Friday, January 15th my dad passed away two years ago; Sunday, January 16th my brother passed away six years ago. Also that week is filled with one of the best days for our family; January 11th 3 years ago I picked up my sweet daughter and became her foster mom. The emotions that this week brings definitely resemble a roller coaster ride, and not one with a big incline then a massive drop and you coast through the rest of the ride. It’s more like one that starts off fast, whips you around, spins you upside down and you finally come to a screeching halt back at the station.

I’m filled with comfort knowing my family members are saved and together in heaven. One day we will all be together. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20. I’m filled with peace and excitement that this year is the first year our daughter is legally ours! I’m filled with sadness because these days remind me of where I was each of the moments when I lost such important people in my life.

I’m filled with an urgency to pray! To pray for my grandma who has to face this month remembering the loss of two of her children and her grandson. To pray for my cousins who have had to endure 14 years without their mama. To pray for my mom who has to face the sad anniversary of the loss of her sister-in-law, her husband, and her son in one week. To pray for all the foster children coming into the foster care system and being removed from the family they know. I pray for foster parents, whose story didn’t end like ours, and they have to say goodbye to babies and kids they loved like their own, and trust God will protect them when the situation they’re going to may look uncertain.

I’m also filled with tears that well up in my eyes and I often hold back until I find those few quiet moments that I can unleash the flood gates. I’m filled with hope because I don’t have to carry this sadness alone, and because this fallen world filled with loss, sadness, hurt, and pain is not the end. “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.

So what do you do with one of the saddest months, weeks, days or moments of your year? I find things to be thankful for. I try to enjoy the normal of our family’s daily life. I cherish the sweet memories and special moments of my lost loved ones. I create special new memories with my loved ones who are still with me. A couple Saturdays ago my mom, mom-in-love, and I took my three kids and two of their cousins to the circus. As I sat with my daughter who was completely amazed and curious, I remembered three years ago bringing her to the circus. The day after my oldest son and I picked her up and brought her home we had tickets to the circus. My husband was coming home from a mission trip in the Bahamas, and he wasn’t able to keep her.

One of the things about being a foster parent is it’s a beautiful interruption. You don’t know when you will get a call, how long the child will stay, or how hard it will be to say goodbye. My daughter is the fifth foster child we have cared for. Each situation is unique and beautifully complex. Another thing a foster parent faces, especially with other children, is life goes on. Sometimes you get a few days to adjust and other times its full speed ahead with a new little member of your family. Off we went to the circus – my mom, my mom-in-love, my cousin, my two boys, this sweet 5 month old foster baby girl, and four of their cousins. The day was more hectic then planned, but all the kids had fun and we made it through!

Here I sat three years later with this same beautiful little girl who has grown up so much. She now not only gives hugs, she squeezes and won’t let go. She not only speaks she looks you in the face and talks a lot! She isn’t afraid to grab your hand or sit on your lap when she gets a little nervous or anxious. We made it through the whole arena with her holding mommy’s hand and not making a run for it. You see our sweet girl has come so far, but has some more obstacles to overcome. She has challenges that we are still learning to help her through. We are truly grateful to be chosen to be her mommy and daddy and have the privilege to learn to be the parents she needs us to be. That night I was humbled, over-joyed, and thankful remembering the journey from foster mom to forever mommy!

Another sweet memory I have from 2014 is sitting in a court room in October 2014 at another court date for our foster baby girl. The judge was setting the date for the next hearing. A hearing we wouldn’t be allowed to attend. This hearing would decide if our case would move toward adoption. The judge announced the date and the tears started flowing. My husband took my hand and knew why I was crying. The date was set for January 15, 2015. That was the one year anniversary of my dad passing away. How fitting it was that especially with us not being able to attend the court date, it was set for that date. My dad and our sweet girl had such a special bond. She is one of the few people who could make him smile as he neared the end of his battle with cancer. My dad is the one who assured me from his hospital bed that this sweet girl wasn’t going anywhere and he knew she was staying in our family. God could’ve chosen any day in 2015 to set that hearing. But He chose January 15th to remind me that He’s involved in all the details of my life. And He’s involved in every detail of your life too. “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23. As you may have guessed, on January 15, 2015 her case moved to an adoption status. This meant we were ready to begin the adoption process. Her case that had been going slowly, with numerous set-backs, was now full steam ahead. Her adoption was finalized on March 30, 2015. The day before my husband’s birthday; another sweet reminder that God’s into special dates and memories just like me.

What else do you do during one of the most difficult months, weeks, days, or moments that youl’l face throughout the year? You face the difficulties that come with daily life and give yourself grace because little things bother you and may seem harder to complete then normal. You say “I’m Sorry!” when you miss your son’s chapel and he tells you he was sad when you didn’t make it. I thought he understood when daddy took him to school instead of mommy that day that I wouldn’t be there. But my sweet six year old just remembered me saying I’d be there. But I wasn’t. I was at my dad and brother’s grave sites having a good cry in the rain that morning before I went to work. I do know where I will be this week with my sweet 6 year old on chapel day. You celebrate life events, even when you don’t feel like celebrating. We went to my husband’s aunt’s birthday dinner. You make waffles! My aunt didn’t want a cake but waffle sundaes. I made waffles, but not just any waffles, the Amazon Pioneer Woman waffles. She happens to be one of my aunt’s favorite people! Once we made it to dinner we had fun and really enjoyed our night. However there have been a few years it was just too hard to go. It’s important to give yourself time to grieve. But please don’t allow yourself to stay there and miss out on life events God has planned for you to enjoy. Also when the rain clears and the kids are blessed with a day off from school you go to the park and ride a bike!

Also I take a lot of pictures! (In case you hadn’t noticed.) I have always taken a lot of pictures, and it doesn’t matter the event. My daughter now also loves taking pictures and I’ll find many on my phone that she took. There are random photos of her toys, our dog, her brothers, and random household objects. Sadly, my mom has to endure that fact that as the years go on there aren’t any new or more pictures of my brother.  This is a hard thing for her to deal with – especially on this tragic anniversary. It has been six years since his passing and although every year we are closer to reaching eternity and being together, the reality here on earth is there are less and less moments that include him. I also didn’t realize how difficult that would be to accept this year. These are the moments when trusting God’s timing is much bigger than our reality. Mom and I know one day this will make sense, but it doesn’t right now. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5. We cried and looked at the old pictures we do have and allowed ourselves to be sad for a moment.

I learned a lot during the past few days and weeks. Whether it is in a painful trial, a loving discipline moment from my Heavenly Father, or through His grace that I don’t deserve! God is always teaching me something.

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I learned even more that grief is a lonely road and it is unique to each person. My mom’s deep, deep grief isn’t my grief and I can’t carry it for her. Just like my mom can’t take away mine.

I learned how thankful I am for the encouragement, kindness, and prayers of those around me. I am blessed with compassionate women in my life who took the time to reach out to me on this sad anniversary.

I learned there are also people I didn’t hear from who I thought would have reached out during this difficult time. I am growing in this area and trying not to take it personally.

I learned more so that Jesus has to be first! No matter how lonely I feel He is always there. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

I have been on both sides of this equation; times in my life that I was too busy, to nervous, or to worried about me to reach out to a friend during a difficult time. I was reminded I have to forgive myself and others. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23. We all blow it sometimes and are constantly in need of God’s grace.

On the weekend of these sad anniversaries, I prayed about the moments I missed being there for others. I realized and acknowledged that no matter who took the time to reach out to me the grief and hurt is still there. But I also realized that when someone does takes the time to reach out through a text, card, phone call, etc. It helps lift your burden, the burden doesn’t go away but it gets lighter! Maybe you aren’t in a trial right now but you know someone who is. Taking the time to reach out with a few simple words, “I am thinking of you.” I am praying for you.” “I am sorry you’re going through this.” They mean more then you can imagine. God created each of us differently and it might not come easy to reach out in a difficult moment. God is always with us and has given each of us what we need to put other’s first. We are created to love God first and love each other. “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew22:37-39.

My prayer for you –

“God I pray for those reading this who are hurting. They are carrying grief they didn’t know was so deep, Lord be their comfort, strength, and peace. Bless them with godly friends to walk them through their difficult time. I pray for those You are calling to walk someone through a difficult time. Lord give them Your wisdom and peace. Father, may we all go deeper in knowing You, putting ourselves aside and following You whole heartedly. Forgive us for the times we become too busy or distracted to spend time with You. Help us allow You to lead our lives, for Your way is perfect! In Jesus name, Amen!”

 

imageThis has been my word throughout 2015. At the end of 2014 my dear sister in Christ challenged & encouraged a small group of us to seek out our word for the year. I have had a verse for my year and even certain worship songs that became my theme songs, but not one word. I learned how simply complex it can be to have a focus and direction throughout the year. When the Lord first gave me the word “anchored,” I thought how restrictive and common. I like to be unique. And honestly, I felt this word was too simple and understood. Obviously I can do nothing apart from Christ, He is my Anchor! As the Lord began to unfold His plan for me through this word, it came alive in me. I couldn’t get away from it – in worship songs, in my devotion time and a friend of mine actually showed up at my house with an anchor engraved with this verse, Hebrews 6:19. What the Lord had been showing me is I am not called to sit and be anchored. I can be quite a chicken and do not take many risks. I like the safety of the dock or at least staying in the harbor. God was revealing to me that as long as I am anchored to Him I can be bold. I can take steps of faith, begin writing, forgive those who have hurt me, live joyfully while mourning, and trust Him more deeply! This was such a continuation of 2014, my theme song was “Oceans” by Hillsong. And I still tear up when I hear it. God is weaving His story year after year in my life.
He is weaving His story into your life year after year too. Does that give you hope, peace, and joy? Maybe it gives you a different feeling – fear, guilt, unworthiness, or sadness. Maybe you’re thinking – “you have no idea what my year looked like and how much I went through!” It could be just getting through the past month of holiday celebrations was a struggle and time of despair for you. You’re right. I don’t know, but God does. I also know I’m praying every person who reads this will find true hope and peace in Jesus! I do know He brings joy…”Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b. I had a sweet sister in Christ encourage me with this verse the year my brother was killed. She assured me it’ll come – we just don’t know which morning. She was right, but finding true joy in the midst takes time.
What I’ve learned walking this lonely road of grief, is that it’s a process. I’ve also learned that everyone is grieving something – a loved one; shattered dreams; a broken relationship; Family members who don’t know Jesus; and the list goes on. You fill in the blank; _______. Thankfully, I’ve realized I am not alone in my grief, and neither are you. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2. This was one of the most difficult and freeing things for me to grasp as a Christian. image

I know God was in control and allowed that horrific accident that took my brother’s life. The first thing I had to do and still have to do, is accepts God’s ways are higher and that His plans and purposes are bigger than my pain. (From Isaiah 55:8-9). Some days this comes easy. Other days the pain of missing him makes it really hard to accept. Maybe that’s where you need to start this year – accept that “thing” that you’ve been carrying as part of God’s plan for your life and allow Him to bring beauty out of your pain.

Most importantly, I’ve learned grief is a tunnel, and it does have an end. Please understand I didn’t say missing the person, dream, or relationship ends. This has been the biggest point of confusion I have discovered in people when I share about grief. Many people misunderstand, and think I’ve said my grieving lessens, that my missing the person lessens. This is completely different! However, my load has become lighter; true joys mine; and I can be grateful for each day I’m given to continue living this life on earth. But this is not my permanent home and my grief won’t fully be lifted until I enter my heavenly home – “ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4. My focus is heavenward and I must remember I’m just passing through. My prayer for each reader is that this year nothing will hold you back from going deeper with God experiencing true freedom in Him. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36.
Ironically, this is the word the Lord has been showing me for this year…”Free!” How funny the Lord is. Last year’s word was “anchored” and this year is “free”. I giggled at my Lord’s sense of humor! It almost seems like an oxymoron. Although, I recognize that without fully knowing He is my anchor I cannot live free! I pray you get alone with God and find your word, verse, or theme song for this year. Lay down regrets from 2015, and shift your focus heavenward. New Year’s Day 2017, I pray you are less burdened and more joyful. Because this year you will experience a deeper relationship with Jesus. Happy New Year, praying you have a blessed 2016!
To know deep, lasting joy, we have to truly know Christ. 1 John 1:1-4image

 

 

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 NKJV

Last month we held a wedding in our backyard. My “cousin” said “I Do” to her high school sweet heart. My husband was privileged to officiate their ceremony. My mom was honored to walk her down the aisle, and her sister and I were grateful to be responsible for the décor. They had plans for an outdoor wedding on a much larger scale, but after my “cousin’s” fiancé became ill, wedding plans were cancelled. They were going to head to the courthouse when my wonderful mother said – “No, we will have your wedding.” This meant a month to put together a wedding! Of course, my family was up for the challenge! We are known for taking on more than we should, which can be a good thing, but sometimes we must slow down. This is one of those things we all knew we needed to do! AN3B5518

Like any good story, there is a back story…

My “cousin” is not related by blood at all. She is much more, she is family by choice. Our hippie dads left Illinois and headed to Florida in the 1970’s. They both eventually got married and settled in South Florida. Unless one of us was traveling to Illinois to visit family, we celebrated every holiday together, and spent most weekends together. Our moms became best friends and were as different as night and day. They learned from each other and leaned on each other. Neither of our moms had any family close by. My cousin’s older sister and I grew up inseparable and are still best of friends today. Her sister and I each have 2 boys who are very close in age. AN3B5339 1They are cousins, best buds, and partners in crime. We were delighted to see them participate in the wedding, along with my sweet girl. AN3B5942They had a blast and thought they were very important, which they totally were!! My cousin and my younger brother also grew up inseparable. As a matter of fact, my brother introduced my cousin to her husband back in high school.

Basically we became family! There for each other in the good times and bad. We laughed together, cried together, enjoyed many celebrations, and most of my child hood memories involve all or part of the 8 of us. Fast forward to the wedding planning; our “family” has been through some deep loss and pain. This time was bitter sweet for all of us, filled with laughter and tears.

In 2002, my cousin’s mom lost her battle with cancer, only a few months after being diagnosed. This left a husband without his wife; two girls, one in college and one in high school at the time, with-out a mom. My mom lost her best friend and me and my brother lost our aunt. Our family unit was shaken, to say the least. Their dad struggled each day living without the love of his life. He became ill and moved back to Illinois to live with his brother and passed away in 2008. Thankfully, he accepted Jesus in a hospital bed and said the prayer with his oldest daughter. My parents took on a new role in these girls’ lives and embraced them even more like their own. They were Grammy and Grandpa from day one to my cousin’s older sister’s (my other cousin) sweet boys. I shared previously about the loss of my brother who was killed in 2010 by a drunk driver. Our family again experiencing shock and awe loss, banded together and walked on through overwhelming grief. My dad was also battling cancer during this time, which he fought for over 5 years. My dad went home to be with the Lord in 2013 and my cousins were there with all of our “family.” Very few were actually blood related, but all family nonetheless! As you can see our family unit has been cut in half. There are 4 of us women left to carry on traditions, share stories of growing up, and do life together.

One can definitely see why wedding planning was filled with lots of tears; we missed some very important people. We shared many moments that were beautiful, special, and just plain sad. We could have allowed the deep scars of grief to keep us from enjoying that beautiful day, but we didn’t. I am extremely thankful that we 4 ladies have each other. But I’m also thankful that we have lots of other “family” around us too. There were not only 4 of us there that day. There was a group of family and friends- that are more like family, present to celebrate this special day. We had to choose how we could view this day, and as much as there were tears, there was also laughter. There were many people who pitched in to pull off this wedding and give my cousin exactly what she wanted for her special day.

You see, we had a choice, and so do you in whatever you are facing even with the scars you are living with. It’s about perspective-

PERSPECTIVE

: a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)

This definition was taken from the Learner’s Dictionary; http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/perspective

I love this definition. We can choose what we’ll focus on in a particular trial, and in life in general. This is liberating! And God’s word gives us scripture that is even more freeing.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV

One of the best ways to change your perspective is to be thankful. We were so thankful for all the help we received giving the bride the wedding of her dreams. We are also a lot more thankful for the people in our lives these days. We share the realization that life is short, and we are not promised tomorrow. We try to live in the moment and be grateful. I am most thankful for Jesus in my life and the grace I receive. No matter how hard I try I still fail and am unworthy of His mercy and grace. I hope you take the time to list what you have to be thankful for this year. Maybe your trials are many and Jesus is all you have, but His love, acceptance, grace and mercy are all you need.in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Through all of these years of loss and pain, we’ve become stronger and closer as a family. We’ve also become a much bigger family unit. My cousin’s older sister has been married 11 years and her mother-in-law attended the wedding. Her extended family welcomed her and made her a part of their family from the beginning of their relationship. My husband’s parents attended the wedding and his aunt and uncle catered the wedding. Both of my cousins worked for my husband’s family business and they have watched them grow up and walked with us through all of our losses. My husband’s parents became best friends with my parents through the years. My cousin’s in-laws received her from day one and she has always fit perfectly into her extended family. To say we are one big happy family would be an understatement. We do not agree on everything and being a part of a family takes work, but we love each other and are there for each other!  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13

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I don’t know who’ll be missing from your Thanksgiving table this year – whether they are no longer here on earth, the relationship is estranged, or you simply can’t be together because of distance. God knows. He has a plan for you this year in this moment and every holiday you are blessed to be a part of. Maybe you are lonely and there isn’t any family to spend the holidays with. I pray you seek the Lord and allow yourself to be open to who He has for you to spend the holidays with. It might seem scary and take you out of your comfort zone, but He will be with you every step of the way. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:6

Maybe this year you will be with a house full of people and still feel completely alone. I pray you see others as God sees them and embrace the opportunity to be the light of Jesus at your Thanksgiving table. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

In my previous post I shared about living with overwhelming grief and how it rushed over me like a tidal wave, even years after the initial loss. That day sitting in Starbucks my particular next step was a big one! I had to decide to pull myself together and function that Thursday morning. I had plenty to do that day, although I really wanted to go home, crawl in bed, and speak to no one. However, that wasn’t what I NEEDED to do. Sometimes it’s important to take a break, refresh, and allow yourself time to heal. That Thursday morning I knew I needed to continue on with my day. The next step of getting up and facing the day with red and puffy eyes, a screaming headache, and the desire to do nothing was difficult. Sometimes the actual next step in your life is the hardest. Maybe you need to put something down that has been getting you through your days, but isn’t healthy for you. Or perhaps you need to stop running on empty and the Lord is telling you that your next step is a day of rest. One way or another, we need to be in tune with our heavenly Father and realize what the best next step is. Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119: 49-50

That night I was home with my 2 youngest children, my husband was teaching the men’s study at church, and my oldest was at his grandparents working on a social studies project. As I sat with my little ones, I enjoyed toddler life for a moment. It isn’t often that we delight in a quiet house with just us 3, and I could have missed it if I had checked out for the day. When my oldest got home we worked on his project on the computer. I was NEEDED that night and you are too. I could have asked my mom to miss her small group that night or called a babysitter, but that wasn’t the best decision. Maybe you don’t have children at home and you’re thinking no one cares if I checkout. I promise you God cares and if you allow Him, He will place people in your life who NEED you in theirs. They can learn from both your trials and your joyful moments. You must to be open to letting people in! The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:8 That night I did have some quiet time before going to sleep and another good cry! As a matter of fact, I cried a lot in the next week and a half, and I was comforted in knowing that the Lord saw every tear.

Three days after my Starbucks moment, my husband had the privilege of officiating a funeral. Yes I say privilege because it is a privilege to share someone’s life story and remind their family and friends of the hope we have in heaven. I was late getting to the service and sat in the back of the church, just in front of a sweet woman who works and serves at our church. Funerals are hard for me. My brother is not the only loss my family has suffered in the past few years, and going to a funeral still reminds me of the deep loss that I carry. This woman I learned about had a beautiful life and she was honored. Then toward the end of the service, the music started and so did my tears.

I had a conversation with God that afternoon. I was very much struggling with my brother’s death. I didn’t get to see my brother walk out his faith, although I did walk up front with him at church and hear him say the sinner’s prayer. My dad passed away from cancer almost 2 years ago and I have this peace about knowing where he is, and that he isn’t suffering anymore. I don’t always have this with my brother. The enemy likes to get in my head and question my confidence in the knowledge that he is with the Lord. I began telling the Lord- “I wish I had that peace with David that I do with my dad. If you could just show me he’s ok I would be so thankful.” The song ended and my husband concluded the service and I sat there grateful. Grateful that I can pour my doubt at my Savior’s feet, even if I’ve done it before. My God is big enough for all my doubt and fears.

After the service ended I spoke with the sweet lady sitting behind me. She informed me she had a dream the other night – a dream about my brother. And she saw his face shining with a huge smile! I couldn’t believe. This sweet angel never met my brother because he was in the military and spent so much time overseas. She served at his service and has been a prayer warrior for my family ever since. God spoke to me that day. He used an angel who I wouldn’t have been sitting near had I been on time. HE is good all the time, especially in the midst of our fears, doubt, and brokenness. This sweet angel is going through grief of her own. She recently became a widow and is living with deep personal grief. But she didn’t allow that to stop her from sharing that day.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (
Isaiah 55:8-9) The Lord gave me this verse shortly after my brother’s passing. I have memorized it and referred back to it many times over the last 5 years. God has a purpose and a plan for your pain. He wants to use your story to reach others. It is healthy to grieve while being open and honest with God. But not moving forward from your pain is unhealthy. One of the best ways I can honor my dad and brother is to keep living. My family makes an effort to keep their memory alive in everyday life, as well as special days. We also continue living and enjoying this life we have been blessed with. If you feel “stuck” right now and don’t know if you can make the next step, laying down a difficult relationship, or living with the loss of a loved one, then trusting God to provide when you don’t see how and believing His ways truly are higher will go a long way to your healing. I encourage you to not loose heart and hold onto hope. Have a “real” conversation with your Creator; He knows what you are thinking anyway.

I have been listening to this song on repeat lately, Enjoy!!!

Grief we meet again…

October 21, 2015

I mentioned in my previous post about the staged rooms set up for viewing different life events at the UNSHAKEN Conference. (For more on this conference, please see my previous post) The room pictured at the top of this page is the “room” labeled GRIEF. This is a “room” I know all too well, (I honestly wish I was more uncomfortable with grief). Yet in the bitter sweet moments of grief where you can see God bringing something good out of the pain, it’s a blessing you would not experience without the suffering. Being able to appreciate the blessing doesn’t make the grief any easier, but it shifts my focus heavenward.

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I often say grief ministry is one of those ministries you don’t ask to be a part of. However grief is a part of life; there is no getting around it. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT) tells us – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. Whether you experience the loss of a loved one, a marriage ending, loss of a job, a season change or location change, grief will come. Sometimes it’s grief that smacks you in the face, takes your breath away, and stops you motionless in your tracks. Other times it’s a slow process you are walking in or waiting for, but can’t fully understand until you and grief meet head on. Why???- is one word with a great deal behind it….And although you might find some reasons this side of heaven,  what I’ve learned is that most of my questions won’t be answered until I get to heaven. This is when I fully understood “cry out to the Lord,” it’s coming from a place deep with-in that is filled with much more than words leaving my lips. Crying out to God in grief and painful moments are usually accompanied by tears, emptiness and even shaking. Have you experienced this? If so, then you have felt the type of comfort only Jesus can give when you truly reach for Him. Psalm 18:6 reminds us; But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry to Him reached his ears.

Recently the Lord placed on my heart to read Levi Lusko’s new book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, an amazing book! I saw someone post about it on social media and wanted to check it out. That night the Lord knocked on my heart and said, “read it now.”  I said “OK Lord. I will get it this week and begin.”  Again,” READ IT NOW!”; I thought wow I have to download this book. I began reading it on my iPad as soon as it downloaded. I heard Pastor Levi speak at a southeastern pastor’s conference over a year ago and was somewhat familiar with his story. As I read I recognized Levi’s transparency, honesty and most of all his desire for pointing people to Jesus. After the great loss his family suffered I could see this was their mission. It kept me reading, then fear set in, Lord “WHY, am I reading this?” Please don’t be preparing me for the unthinkable as a parent. I watch my mom walk through this life carrying this unimaginable grief and it is difficult to bear. I began praying for my kids, especially my 5 year old, the same age as their beautiful daughter who went to heaven. I could sense the fear rising and yet couldn’t stop reading. I realized this fear was not from the Lord and began praying against the attacks. Finally a few chapters in and after prayer time I finally fell asleep.

In the days following I continued devouring “Through the Eyes of a Lion.” I am a slow reader and must admit I do not finish all the books I start. I COULD NOT put this down! I prayed for this family, had lots of “WHY?” conversations with God, and prayed through my own fears while reading this book. I also began planning “my moment” to post my #EyesofaLion picture. Many who know me understand I LOVE pictures, hashtags, and anything creative. In this book the challenge came to post your picture reading this book and mark it #EyesofaLion. I began following this on Instagram and people are reading this book during chemo treatments, in hospitals, enjoying beautiful places, on mountains, and many, many more amazing places / moments.  I thought – OH when I get the book and the Lord reveals to me “my” spot I cannot wait to add my mark to this group of warriors who are posting their moments. Those who want to see this life more heavenly-minded then earthly-focused, while carrying the battle scars of life.

But that’s not where my moment came; it came in Starbucks, before work, and reading on my Ipad. In Chapter 9, Homesickness, An Ache You Can’t Shake, there it hit me. Grief came bubbling up like a volcano and my eyes began to fill with hot tears. This chapter began with a military man on his way home from a deployment. (I will not give away the story, because I do encourage you to read this book.) I will share that for me anything military is a trigger of the grief I carry deep with-in. My younger brother was in the Air Force and completed 3 tours in Afghanistan / Iraq. I remember praying him off and celebrating his homecomings. He was set to get out of the military and return to Florida and begin his civilian life. About a month before he was supposed to return home for good he was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident. All those nights wondering if he was ok while overseas were supposed to be over, but God had different plans. David was called to his eternal home, at the age of 25, much sooner then I would’ve liked.

Sitting in Starbucks that morning unprepared for the emotion this chapter dug up, the words – “His sister looked so proud of her brother in uniform,” jumped off the page and punched me in the stomach! In that moment I knew God saw me and my pain. He was there for me to catch every tear that fell. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. “ Psalm 56:8  This pastor writing about his families deepest pain and he adds a couple of pages about a military man and his homecoming. “Lord, that was for me. But WHY? I have been carrying this grief for over 5 years.”

I finally composed myself as best I could, and finished the chapter. I prayed that I could function at work after after my stop-you-in-your-track grieving moment with God. You see this moment didn’t bring up fear or even anxiety, it brought up buried pain that I carry daily. As hard as it was, I knew it was a “good” cry and the Lord was reminding me for a reason. This was not how I planned or where I pictured my #throughtheeyesofalion moment occurring, but that’s just when God reminds us He is in control and has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11) Yes I snapped my picture and it is at the bottom of the page.

This is not where the Lord left me either, sitting at Starbucks paralyzed by my grief, but He used it in the coming days and weeks. I will share more about this next time. God doesn’t want to leave you where you are either, with buried pain you didn’t realize was still there or maybe pain you’ve never dealt with. He wants to mend your broken places and use you to reach others for His glory. Will you allow Him in a little deeper?

“This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you,” 2 Kings 20:5

Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it. #EyesofaLion

Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it.
#EyesofaLion

 

The school year is in full swing at our house already. With our kids in pre-k 3, kindergarten, and 5th grade it’s a big year for each of them in different ways. Also in this season my husband has started a new role at church and I have begun this journey of blogging. On this adventure to write I have also been learning about blogging, widgets, and much more technological lingo that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I am not sure why I am surprised that my children have had trouble adjusting to change and the new school year, it took me months and a brief Jonah season before I basically threw my hands up and promised my Heavenly Father I will actually stop talking about blogging and just do it! We have all had our stretching moments in the first month of school. I have shed more tears than I would like to admit. Thankfully, that is ok! My creator loves me and knows every tear before it falls. Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:4-6 NLT

Our youngest child is our brave, beautiful, and strong willed princess. She is learning patience, listening skills and self-control. These are neither fun tasks, nor are they easy tasks, even for me as an adult. Thankfully, she is also learning to make friends, bible verses, imaginary play, and coloring; lots of coloring. She loves to help her teacher and help at home even if it is isn’t needed. The word “NO” is a difficult word for her to hear, it usually results in an immediate crying fit and pouting. She is usually pouting loudly and can’t even hear if that “NO,” means “not right now.” This can be challenging when you are in a classroom with other children and results in her having to visit the director more times then I’d like to admit. We have already been in for a conference this year; I believe it was the 2nd week of school. Lots of prayers for our sweet girl and what this year holds for her and us as her parents. The growth I have seen in her is amazing and fills me with hope, a hope that only my Heavenly Father can provide!

Our youngest son is smart, stubborn, sensitive, and a super-duper 5 year old who entered kindergarten this year. He embraces the term middle child like no one I have ever met. I did not even realize middle child syndrome existed until he was about 3 years old. I grew up with only one brother and I was eight years older so my poor brother grew up with 2 moms or at least more of a really cool aunt than just a big sister. Needless to say, middle child syndrome does exist and the struggle is real! My kindergartener is an over achiever. As a matter of fact, when someone in class learned the bible verse of the week before him, he refused to go to sleep that night until he could recite his verse without any mistakes. Like most kindergartners, he is learning to share and that can be difficult especially when he is constantly sharing his time with an older brother with lots of homework and a younger sister who only wants her way, (what girl doesn’t right)? In the midst of our crazy life, his sweetness is a blessing and he is such an excellent peace maker.

Our oldest son is our awesome 10 year old who can be shy and strong-willed. He always finds it necessary to add his 2 cents, whether good or bad. He is learning to manage his locker, organization, responsibility, and to be himself. He is trying desperately to figure out who he is while trying to fit in. His best friend from last year started at a new school and this has been tough on him. He has had a difficult time adjusting to studying and bringing papers home; then getting them turned in. He loves all sports and would rather be outside playing and/or competing in something, then doing homework. We are half way through the first quarter and he is really starting to grasp his independence and improve his study skills. I am delighted at the hard work he has been putting in to be diligent in school. I am not sure what grades he will have on his report card, but I already know this will be the one I am most proud of thus far.

This school year has started off more challenging then I would like. My amazing kiddos have had me on my knees and filling my prayer journal, nevertheless most importantly thanking God no matter how tough it is I get to be their mama. I would love to be able to say I haven’t lost my temper and that I’ve handled the many challenges with grace; but I haven’t. Thankfully my Heavenly Father has grace for me each day. Jesus tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9…“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” We will have our weak moments whether it’s this season dealing with a crazy school year, changes at work, finding a job,or family stresses, the list goes on and on; just fill in the blank __________. We must allow the grace that only comes from Jesus to fill our weak areas and bring peace.

I was blessed to recently attend the UNSHAKEN Women’s Conference at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale. What an amazing day! I cannot wait to share more about the conference at another time. They had staged rooms set up for viewing different life events. I definitely connected with more than one, as I looked in the window of a room that mirrored different stages of my life. It made for a powerful emotional and spiritual connection. The one that came to mind while writing this, (love how God does that), was the room labeled “BROKEN.” When you peered in that room, everything looked perfect. The implication of the room is the dweller may seem to have the “perfect” life on the outside. However she is broken on the inside and “keeping it all together”. I can definitely relate to that. Although my house is far from perfect; because there’s always a cup in the sink, even if I just did the dishes, and laundry waiting to be folded. But, boy do I try to “keep it all together!” Don’t we as women tend to put ourselves together and plaster a smile on our faces, all the while feeling completely broken inside? I know I do this, even with God. I can “look” like I have it all figured out, but God sees everything! It’s not our job to “look” like we have it all figured out, and it’s also not healthy to throw a pity party and lay on the floor and cry like my 3 year old. Although at times we all probably feel like doing both. Thankfully we have a Savior who takes our brokenness and brings it to the surface so He can ever so lovingly repair us. The start of this school year has been tough, and at times I’ve felt like a failure as a mom, wife, friend and daughter. Each time I sat a little longer at my Savior’s feet, my load was a little lighter and the cracked pieces could be mended. Even if I had just had a tantrum, thank you Jesus for loving me anyway. He loves each of you too, and wants to meet you right where you are!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” – Hebrews 12:2-3

Here is the picture of the BROKEN room from the UNSHAKEN Conference.

This quote was hanging on the wall above the bed in the room-

“EVERY BEAUTIFUL FAÇADE CONCEALS ROT AND RUIN THAT IS ALMOST SEEN.”

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BROKEN

 

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