Sunday, July 20, 2014 Perspective

Can't help but put life in perspective with so many of the things I have heard about this week.  Earlier in the week I heard news about a couple of people I had already been praying for who are sick with cancer, that both situations have worsened a bit.  Situations so different, yet in some sense similar.  One is a man I don't know at all, but I've heard wonderful things about him from friends whose lives he has greatly touched.  He is a great pastor, a devoted husband and loving dad to two daughters, I believe.  He found out that he had pancreatic cancer about a month ago, and the doctors have only given him months to live.  He just recently walked one daughter down the aisle, and the other daughter is getting married in August and prayerfully he will be able to do the same.  What a sad and difficult time I'm sure this must be for him and his family.  I read a recent blog post and he is just trusting the Lord for whatever His plans are.  He loves the Lord and would love to see Him and be with Him, but he also loves His wife and children and would love to have more time with them.  But He knows God's plans are best even when we may not understand them.  
The other situation is a young lady, in her early 30's, who I had the chance to meet at church and have talked to a couple of times.  She was very sweet and I enjoyed meeting her and her mom, when they came to church with another friend.  She is a great doctor, she was engaged to be married, but sadly things didn't work out, so she is just a young single woman.  She recently found out that she has bone cancer.  She was living on her own in a really nice place until she got too sick to continue living on her own, and now she is back home with her mom.  They are living each day one day at a time, traveling every week or every other to get treatment from a cancer center.  As a side note, I was able to be so blessed by her.  When she had to move back in with her mom she decided to get rid of lots of things.  She was giving things to the Goodwill, but told my friend to check with people from church or to check with anyone else she might know who might be able to use some things.  My friend thought of me and I was able to get some great clothes, shoes, bags, house decorations, a couple of outside planters, seeds, and garden tools.  I came away with so many things, not just things that I wanted, but many that I needed and now I didn't have to worry about going out to spend money on those things.  It was truly a blessing to me!  Each of these situations are so different.  One a pastor with a family, who probably doesn't have a whole lot, but has a family and a church family that he loves dearly.  The other a single young lady with a great job, and someone who could afford nice things, but also loves her family dearly.  Both are saved, and both realize the most important things are not things, but the people that God has given to them to love.  Both are finding ways to accept this path that God has chosen for them and to live the rest of their moments to the fullest with the people they hold dear close to them.    
After hearing updates on these two people and thinking of their families and praying for them, I then heard of a terrible tragedy on the news.  Almost 300 people were on a Malaysian airliner headed to Kuala Lumpur when it went down in the Ukraine.  All those lives were lost.  Some of the stories of the people put life in perspective.  Sadly, there were about 80 children on that flight. (Being someone who loves kids, that broke my heart!)  One family of three kids was just heading back home to see their parents after traveling with their grandfather.  There were young couples recently married, young college students, and even many AIDS researchers on that flight.  What an awful tragedy for these families to now endure, such senseless loss of life! 
On Wednesday I was thinking of things in a different way.  I got to hold a miracle when I was in the baby nursery at church.  Friends had these sweet little twins, but they came early, and had to be in the NICU for quite some time.  The sister progressed quicker and was able to get out of the hospital and home sooner than her brother.  He still had some serious issues that we were constantly praying about.  Being able to hold this little miracle made me think how precious life is and how God does love and care for us, even in the face of some of our toughest moments.  Sometimes it's tough to trust, but somehow we must.  He cares!  Life and death are in His control.
The next night I got a text from a friend with a picture of her son, one of my former kids, after he came out of surgery.  Now this was strange because I had just been over to their house a couple of days before.  I heard he wasn't feeling well, but it was just thought to be a bad sinus headache.  Well, when checked further it was found to be a large abscess behind his eye, and the doctor said that 50% of kids with that kind of infection don't make it because of how fast it spreads.  But this young, almost 7th grade boy told the doctor it wasn't his time to go because he hasn't fulfilled his purpose yet.  Wow!
Then yesterday, I heard from another friend whose mom has been sick with Alzheimer's.  My friend told me that her mom had to go to the hospital, she's been in and out of the hospital for different things lately.  But the doctors told my friend that she may just have a couple of weeks left.  That broke my heart for her and her family.  We have especially connected because of the Alzheimer's and she is taking care of her mom at home just like I was.  This is going to be a tough time for this family, and they, along with all of these other families are in my prayers.
With all of this how can I not put life into perspective?  What is my life?  What is your life?  Are we fulfilling our purpose? Are we taking life for granted?  Are we loving those around us?  Are we seeking what is important in life?  Are we trusting God through it?  Do we have the right perspective?  Having lost both my parents and some dear friends and loved ones, I am often reminded of how precious life is and how important it is to love others and let them know.  Because life is a vapor and goes too quickly, let's make sure we keep the right perspective.
Lord, thank you for these things you are helping me to learn.  Help me not to take my life for granted, or any other life for that matter.  Help me to use it for your honor and glory.  Help me to show love and appreciation for all the wonderful people you have placed in my life, and to remember those amazing people that I have been blessed to have had in my life and who I will see again someday. Help me to keep things in the right perspective.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I'm Not Perfect, Are You? Part 2

*Here is the continuation of my previous post.*

 I  also talked to another friend recently who lost a loved one and we were sharing some things with each other about comments that were made after the deaths of our loved ones, she said she was told that she should be thankful that her loved one was no longer in pain and was in heaven, which I also heard.  She was also told she needed to remember that she would not want them back to suffer here, and she can just be thankful that she will see them again someday.  And of course those statements are true, and right in a sense, sometimes though, it may not be the right thing to say at the time.  Because of course we are so thankful for that, that is the blessed hope we know that we have as Christians, but there is a point where in our minds we would just love to have them back, even for a day.  We both said we wished we could tell people that, that we would love just to see them, kiss them, hug them or hold them again.  Even just to take care of them again, but we feel people would not understand that and we would just be thought of as selfish and wrong. So we don't say it, and keep it hidden in our own hearts and minds.  But how nice and freeing it was to share  with someone who didn't judge the thought and actually felt the same way!  I know it seems weird, but even when my mom was sick, at least it was another "being" in the house, she was there, I could love on her, hold her, kiss her, talk to her.  I can't explain how lonely it can sometimes get without her here.   Even if I was talking to her and she didn't remember what I said minutes later, at least it was someone to talk to, or laugh with each day.  Someone to share with after a long day, or a fun day.  Someone to spend time with, even if that time was just sitting listening to each other breathe, or me just listening to her breathe.  I just miss her spirit here...she was my family, she was my heart.  That's just hard to share without someone thinking it's not OK, or wrong in some sense.  This friend and I both feel that we are better about being thankful now, but it took some time for the Lord to help us get there...which I think is normal.  At the time those statements were more harmful than helpful because of the strong hurt and loss and struggle that we were dealing with.  They were almost just salt on the wound.  Now, the point of this is not to make people feel badly for things they've said, I've said things like that, too.  It's just to make us all, myself included, more aware of what we say, and how and when we say it.  We need to pray and then think so that our words or even lack thereof, may be a source of encouragement to someone hurting or struggling.
        Another issue is when we say, or expect someone to just "get over" or "get past" the hurt after a certain amount of time, that can also be hurtful.  Sometimes there just needs to be compassion for what they are going through, and instead of telling the person all the things they need to do or not do, maybe we need to tell ourselves just to uplift them fervently in prayer, and then let them know we are praying for them.  God is the only one who can help them get through the struggles and hurts.  We also need to remember God made each of us differently, so while you may be able to move on quickly after a struggle, hurt, or loss of a loved one, someone else may not have that same resolve as you do.  Our emotions are different, our situations are different, so our responses will also understandably be different.  We need to be sensitive to that.  Just because someone has lost a parent, it doesn't mean they can totally relate to someone else who has because each situation is different.  Someone that's lost both parents may have brothers or sisters or a husband and children to help them through their time, where someone else may not.  Someone that lost a child, may have other children to hold on to and cherish, to help them get through their tough time, and someone else may not have that blessing.  Someone may have been abused, but has great help and support all around them, while someone else may not have even told anyone because they fear they can't.  Someone may have financial issues that are overwhelming, but have sources of help if they just ask, and some may not have that luxury.  Yes, I have lost my mom and can be a help to someone else who has, but I can't fully relate to someone who lost their mom at a young age, or someone who lost their mom suddenly.  So when I share with them I need to be careful and sensitive to their personal pain.  One of the things I try not to say is, "I know what you're going through", because I don't know exactly.
I also know and have heard from friends, that it is very difficult to listen to someone tell them how to act, react, or be in their struggle, when that other person has never been in that situation and has no idea what it's like.  For singles to hear from someone that never had to wait, never had to wonder if they would ever be loved or have the family they always wanted, telling them how they should be content and thankful for the life that they have now, can be very hurtful.  For a young person that loses a parent, to hear from other young people or even older people who still have their parents here on earth, telling them they need to keep going, and move on from this, and just be strong, that can do more damage than good.  For someone who has never been abused to tell someone who has that they need to forgive and not harbor bitterness, and not let this define them, that can bring on more bitterness or anger.  For someone who has never had money issues, to tell someone struggling financially all the things that they need to get rid of and to stop doing, that can be damaging.  We just need to be careful and sensitive to other people's hurts and needs.  Just as we would love them to be for us.  Just remember we're all broken.  We all have needs, hurts, struggles, and none of us is perfect.  We need to be able to open up to each other, and share our hurts and needs without fear of being judged or criticized or looked down on for what we say or how we feel.  Christ listened, and had compassion, and lovingly encouraged.  We're not perfect, we don't have all the right answers...we're not supposed to.  Let people get past the sadness, let people get past the fear, the hurt, the grief, and whatever else, and be there to support, uplift and encourage as Christ did.  We're supposed to simply point people to Jesus...our Savior, our Comforter, our Friend, our Rock, our Father.
Lord, help me to remember these things as I try to encourage others that may be going through tough times or struggles.  You have allowed us to go through things so that we can be an encouragement to others who may go through something similar.  Help us to remember we all handle things differently and we all need understanding and encouragement and not more hurt.  Thank You that we can come to You with our hurts, struggles, fears, and losses.  Thank You for caring for each of them, and loving us through them.  Help us to do that for each other.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I'm Not Perfect, Are You? Part 1

*I started writing this post in the very beginning of February, but only had the first paragraph and a couple sentences of the second written before I got any farther.  So, it's so interesting to me, that just a couple of days later at our Ladies' Seminar a couple of the speakers touched on some of the same ideas I was thinking of for this post.  And then Wednesday night's sermon did the same.  Which was pretty cool!*
**As I'm trying to finish the post, I'm realizing it is getting pretty long, so I have decided to break it up into two parts, so stay tuned for part two. :)**

        This has been on my heart quite a bit lately, and I've even shared these thoughts with others, but I think I have been hesitant to write it, though I'm not exactly sure why.  Sometimes it seems the words just don't want to come, but then I think sometimes it may be somewhere inside they are a bit afraid to come because of the fear of how they will be perceived.  But my blog has been a wonderful place for me to share dealing with the loss of my parents, to share little glimpses of my school life, to vent about things, to share some current events that have moved me, to help me with the loss of friends and loved ones, and sometimes just to share some silly things.  Well, as I write this post, honestly, I'm struggling.  It's hard to admit that, because I fear people may just automatically assume it's because I am not spiritually where I need to be.  But if we were honest with ourselves...are any of us?  We all have things to work on to be where we should be spiritually.  None of us have it all together.  I have to say it has helped me so much lately to talk to some real people, some that have struggled with loss, or loneliness, or fear, or heartache over loved ones, or concern for the future, and other hardships.  We shared some real and honest struggles we have felt, and it was a blessing.  And some of the best, most helpful blogs I have read lately are some where the bloggers didn't try to act like they had it all together. They were just honest and put some of their real feelings out there.  And what a help and encouragement they were to my soul!
        I would love for this post to be an encouragement to someone else.  But that would mean some real talk, and possibly even some transparency.  And as I stated earlier, sometimes that makes me a little timid.  But as I said I have been thinking of this for a while, and even after talking to some of those friends recently, it has brought it even more to mind to go ahead and share this.
        I have been struggling lately....struggling with sadness, discontentment, fear, jealousy, loneliness, frustration, and other things.  I'm sure the proper Christian responses are already forming in some minds to help me "fix" this, but I know them, too.  I know- the joy of the Lord is my strength; that in whatever state I'm in, I need to learn to be content; that when I'm afraid I need to trust Him; He hasn't given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind; I shouldn't covet, or want what others have, God has a plan for me, I need to rest in that, I just need to trust Him and wait on Him, and again be content; He promises never to leave me or forsake me, He is always there; when my mind is stayed on Him, He gives perfect peace.  I know these things, many of us do, and they are wonderful, and spiritual, and can be extremely helpful.  But sometimes when a person is really struggling and hurting and in so much pain, these can be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes these thoughts just make the person going through some hard struggles feel they are wrong for not having it all together...for not being that perfect Christian who wouldn't dare let these things get to them.  That's hard to live up to, and many times that is how we turn people away.
        Melinda Cazis, one of the speakers at our Ladies' Seminar said something that was just so good.  In one of her workshop sessions she said one of the things that is really dangerous, and really hurts a church is perfect people...people that act like they have it all together.  She said that is what often keeps people out of our churches because they feel as if they can't measure up.  That is also what sometimes discourages new or young Christians, and even some older ones for that matter.  But then, I also have been thinking lately that this is what many times turns our kids off.  Now I know we don't want to glorify our struggles to kids, but letting them know that we do have struggles, too, might just help them feel a bit normal.  It's hard enough to feel that with so many pressures from all around them each day.  It might also help them to realize we are normal, we're not super Christians that they have to work so hard to "catch up" to.  We are very similar to them in some of our struggles.  I know that's what I enjoyed about the other blog posts I mentioned earlier, it was just so comforting to know that someone else felt, thought, and struggled like I did.  It helped so much.  So, instead of throwing the proper Christian phrases and verses at people, first just really listen to them...really listen, listen with an open heart, then seek the Lord and listen again, carefully, to know what He might have you say or not say to someone.  Remember Job's friends, at one point Job called them "miserable comforters", let's strive not to be like them.  I talked to one young person recently who was struggling because of circumstances, but ended up struggling more just from people around them.  They have been told they can't be mad at God, that they need to just pray more and read their Bible more, that they have to be thankful even in their tough situation, that they need to get over being upset and hurt, that it's time to move on, etc.  Believe me, I understand the good intentions and ideas behind where these thoughts came from.  I get that they were meant to help and encourage.  But they didn't, they hurt them.  Were people really listening to this young person?  Were they really seeking the Lord about how to properly respond to them?  This person is already mad and upset with God, someone telling them they can't be isn't going to change that, no matter how many times you say it or whatever way you say it.  And doesn't the Lord already know this, too?  He knows the heart.  This person wasn't trying to or even necessarily wanting to be upset with God, so that advice just made them more upset.  This person is obviously struggling, they are not feeling thankful right now, and cannot just easily get over what they are feeling.  I talked to this young person and heard...that they were upset with God because of their situation.  I told them that I couldn't tell them not to be upset because they already were, I couldn't change that, and that God already knew that, too.  But I did tell them that I would pray for them...that they would feel the Lord's love embracing them.  They also told me that they didn't really want to pray, they said when they are upset with people (friends and family), they usually don't want to talk to them, and since they were upset with God they didn't want to talk to Him or pray to Him.  Through God's wisdom I shared with them that if they didn't want to talk, then they could yell or just simply cry out, just like they would sometimes if they decided to finally talk to that friend.  He is our friend, and He can handle it, but at least that way the line of communication stays open, which is so important because Satan doesn't want us to keep that line open.  So I told them, just keep communicating, even if it's not the "traditional" way.  I told them I had done it, I don't like doing it, and don't make it a habit, but it has happened.  I think it shocked them, but it seemed to relax them a little bit.  I think it made them feel sort of normal.  Even with Bible reading, maybe it's not about having them read and find all the answers, but to start them off reading some of the struggles people had first, then let the Lord take over and show Himself to them, and how He helped those people make it through.  There are so many stories of struggles and heartaches that God put in His Word for us to read, and to learn from.  It wasn't to show us how "all-together" these people were, because they certainly weren't, but it was to show us what He could make of their messes, and their struggles.  He wants to do the same for us, but if we have it all together, then we don't need Him.  He uses these examples to remind us of how much we do need Him.  But I also think He shows us that not every one comes to that same point, at the same time or in the same way.  And He didn't always say the things that it was thought that He should say.  He was a great example at meeting people at their point of need.  May we strive to be like Him.
Lord, You know I desire for the things I write in this post to honor You.  I know you've put this on my heart, and I pray that I shared this first part in the way You would have me to.  And I pray the next post will do the same.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Snow Games

As I woke up in the morning, there was anticipation in the air.  I knew what the day was, and what was going to be expected of me.  I got up and got my little girl Bella dressed.  Then I got myself appropriately dressed so we could go check things out.  It was just as they had said, there was a cold, windy, biting chill in the air.  I took Bella out for a little bit to take care of business and to get a little taste of what it was really like out there.  I quickly convinced Bella to go back inside, I knew she was too little to be out in those elements for too long.  I was going to have to be the one to handle the situation, and take on the challenge.  After I got some nourishment and a little rest, I decided it was time to go out and participate in what I could hear was going on all around me.  There were scraping sounds and motorized sounds filling the air.  I went out, chose my weapon of choice...a shovel, and got to work.  I felt strong, and felt that things were off to a great start.  I was getting through the snow at what I felt was a good pace.  I wasn't going to let it get the best of me, and it wasn't.  Not long after being out there a different element came into play...the wind.  The wind came hard and made me wonder if I was going to make it.  It was trying to bite through my coat, hat, hood, pants, and especially my gloves.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to continue on, or if the wind was going to win out.  As I kept going...determined, I realized the wind was not going to win out.  I was stronger than the wind, it really wasn't as bad as I had originally thought.  I could do this!  But then came a new mountain of snow that I needed to think about getting through.  I needed to conquer it early because it was just going to put more of that snow on my driveway.  I also had to think about a new weapon for this new challenge.  For this challenge the weapon I chose was a broom.  This was a great choice and was getting through the new challenge well.  Once that challenge was complete, I could continue on in my plight to finish this driveway.  I went back to my original weapon, my shovel.  I was doing well, still feeling strong.  Then another element was thrown at me, at a certain point in this game, the sun started shining brightly down on me.  That brought a new challenge; a horrible challenge, an awful challenge, my toughest challenge yet... sweat.  Now sweat for me is a game changer.  Right away it breaks me down, makes me want to quit and go right inside to get a shower.  So, I really had to determine to either stick it out or take a break for a few minutes, which would probably include a shower, which would mean spending more time inside, which would make it harder to want to head back outside (at least not any time soon).  At that moment, as I'm trying to make that tough decision, I hear something in the distance.  As I stop and listen closer I realize, it's my little girl, Bella inside the house screaming for me.  Her curiosity was getting the better of her and she was anxious to know how I was faring in the game.  I wanted...needed for her to know I was doing just fine, so I brought her out with me for a little bit so she could see for herself.  Again, I only let it be for a few minutes...I didn't want her out in that for too long, I didn't want her to get all worked up about the others around us who had also chosen to take on the challenge, and...I just simply needed to finish.  I was doing this for her, and for myself, of course...but for her, so she could confidently leave the house and not have to be confined to only a few feet of space to comfortably move.  I brought her back inside, but that little time with her gave me that extra boost of energy that I needed to keep going strong.  I got through the biting wind, handled the mountain of car snow wisely, pushed myself through the awful sweat challenge, and now I was almost finished with this game.  But the Town had one more challenge to throw my way to try to keep me from finishing.  Big orange monsters with shovels much bigger than mine were sent out to throw me off.  They would grab more snow...chunks of it, and push it right onto my finish line.  Did I have enough left to handle these extra mounds...these large, chunky mounds of snow?  Well, I was surely going to try, I was almost finished, may as well just keep going.  I kept going, although my shovel was no match for theirs, I felt that I wielded it well and started making my mark in those mounds.  Through the wind, the sun, and the sweat, I kept plugging away.  It seemed as if it would get the better of me, but I knew I was strong enough.  I could do it, I could beat this.  I kept chipping away.  It was heavy, and there was lots of it, but I wasn't going to give up.  I had a point to make...the Town and their big orange monsters couldn't break me down.  I would finish, I was determined, I kept plugging and chipping away...and finally, I did!  I finished strong!  I had conquered the elements and challenges and was able to come out on top...victorious!  The games were over for me, and there was not going to be a part 2.  I fought, finished, conquered, and came out strong!  I was a victorious winner of...The Snow Games!